Time flies when you are having fun!
This quarantine period has really demonstrated this proverb in a strange way since it feels like it has been 9 years since the beginning of March.
On a more fun note, 9 actual years ago today my friends and I performed this sketch in Wolfville.

after a long hiatus I have made strides towards resurrecting website and turning it into something functional. for too long it has been in a half completed state of disrepair as a result of my choice to use it as a learning opportunity.

I recently concluded that I need my website to not be a project, but instead a tool that will enable me to explore ideas related to other projects and events in my life. as a result this iteration of my website is a wordpress install that I will modify to meet my needs. sometimes reinventing the wheel just isn’t a productive avenue.

as the header states I plan on writing about teaching, programming, and communicating ideas more generally. over the last few years these have been the subjects that have remained consistently relevant and interesting through life changes. I have also brought along the old posts I wrote, primarily for my own benefit. looking through them inspires some interesting reflection.

there has been little activity here the past year. this is a side effect of many things. including, but not limited to, the process of rebuilding this very site. I made this video recently in an effort to push through the creativity block I have been experiencing. the goal is to make more of them. some will get posted here, others will not. they will all be available at vimeo.com/thatguygriff, as well as other video projects I have done.


what motivates us to create? where do we find our muse?

I haven’t been creating much lately. not music, not photos, and not words on a page. I have a theory about why this is.

I am happy

the friction I need to overcome to create seems to be greater when I am happy and everything is going well in life. when I am unhappy the words seem to poor out of my soul. when I am unhappy I don’t want to let go of my camera for fear that I would miss capturing the next moment of pure beauty or emotion that I am around.

looking around the world a lot of art is created through the lens of pain. music is often sung from heartbreak. painting as an expression of deep desires of the soul. this is not something that I will take exception with. to do so would belittle the work these people do.

the question should instead be “how do I continue creating when my soul isn’t grieving”. I don’t have an answer to this. if I knew how to find a muse and continue creating when life is rainbows and sunshine I wouldn’t be writing this post. I do think that it has to be a two part question. I believe there are spiritual and practical components to it. the ability to create feels like something that should be a result of being balanced and healthy in both of those areas in your life. both spiritually and practically you should not be willing to sit on the sidelines and consume. instead you should be making a mark somehow.

so go make something.

even if you feel like you don’t need to.

I often have found myself picking on the church. I do this not because I have been wronged by it any way but more because it is the environment that I know. the following thoughts can be applied directly to any church although really it is directed towards the “moral authorities” whoever they may be.

I have written many times about ideas of love and interactions with the people of our lives. I am beginning from a similar place although going in a different direction. another appropriate title for this post might have been “strangers”. regardless of affiliation the community you belong to has a profound impact on how we are raised and this in turn sets us into motion for how we will interact with the world. one of the first ideals that we strive to instill into children, partially because it is aided by their biological instincts, is trust. specifically who to trust and who not to trust. we are constantly telling children to not talk to strangers and definitely not to take things from them. we teach about authority figures and how children can ALWAYS trust them (which is always a good plan right up to the moment when it isn’t true).

as children continue to grow, social interaction and relationships are a big focus of education. teachers will notify parents if a child doesn’t interact with others well, a heavy focus on sharing, etc. this is important because relationships are the thing that defines our lives. sure there may be other accomplishments but the ones that really matter are the people in our lives that will always be there. because of the importance of this we teach from a conservative place. always concerned with safety and injury — either physical or emotional — because we don’t want them to have to experience our own pain or fears.

the peak of this educational strategy comes when we teach teens about romantic relationships. these are often the cause of most of our own pain so they receive the closest of instruction. the teaching often takes the form of “guard your heart”. don’t let anyone get too close unless you are sure they are worth it, or have earned it.

brief disclaimer, I am not saying we shouldn’t teach caution nor would I ever say that. my issue with this is that we have taught future generations to be closed, to hold tight to what they have so that they will never have less. the process of loving others, romantically or platonically is an action of pouring yourself out, making yourself vulnerable and showing those people that you value you them enough to risk yourself.

the scope of this is not limited to troubled or stifled social interactions in the future. it is a killer for creation. our culture is often lambasted for it’s consumerist or sheeple type ways. a cookie cutter culture if you will. the way to overcome this of course is to develop people who are creating art, creating music, leaving a mark in ways that I cannot define. however art and creation is an act of pouring oneself into something, often bigger then themselves. however the guards and walls we teach people to build around their hearts are killing art before it even has a chance to form.

art comes from pain, from tragedy, from hope and hopelessness alike. these are all states that we teach children and teenagers to avoid. we should be teaching the process of embracing these things, how to move forward when it feels like we have no more forward in us.

we need to embrace our own pain that has us teaching things like “guard your heart” so that we stop killing the capacity for great creations of others.

it once again has entered into the realm of too long since my last post but I am going to break that spell with an idea. I believe this to be a super important idea that will absolutely change your life and thus I shall keep it brief so that the there will be no excuse for missing it.

when presented with something, be it an opportunity, a job, a responsibility, or even a physical object, it is your responsibility to make it yours and to own it. to do any less is to deny yourself and to disrespect those that presented it to you.

at some point in my life the word creative became a synonym for the arts. or at least creativity as an ideal has been appropriated by the arts. now I am not suggesting that they are abusing or misusing the word, more just hogging it. or rather that the rest of us have forgotten that we have just as much claim to creativity as ‘artists’ do.

for the better part of my life I knew that I was a ‘smart’ student. math and science always came easy and when directions are laid out in front of me I can follow those. however when ever I was given free reign to be artistic I would manage but not excel like other subjects. this lead me to believe for a long time that I was not creative and that creative things should be left to others. recently I concluded that I simply had no idea what it means to be creative and that is why I get lost, not because of a lack of creativity.

as a math teacher the most common statement I have heard from students is ‘I don’t have a math brain’ or ‘I just can’t do math.’ both of these statements are foolish for a number of reasons that are tightly linked with ideas of creativity. describing something like math (or any other skill) as a process where you take numbers and plug them into formulas that you have memorized is like describing painting a portrait as simply identifying colors and applying the brush strokes you have learned in the correct order. any artist will tell you there is more to painting something than a rigid formula describes and I would suggest the same is true of math or problem.

at work I spend a lot of time doing user interface design. there is an old saying in computer science that programmers should never be allowed to design the user interface and I have to say there really is a lot of truth in that saying. computer scientists are really creative when it comes to solving problems and implementing solutions in creative and efficient ways but things like UI design often fall into the category of ‘it is a feature so there should be a button for that feature.’ no thought is given to ideas like ‘does the user ever need that feature exposed’ or ‘why in the hell would a user ever need to see that!’ in my case the work I do is seen by students and professors, two groups of people who can be immensely intelligent in their chosen field but for the most part are clueless when it comes to computers. I have to spend my day coming up with creative interfaces that convey meaning and intention while remaining simple and easy to use.

conveying meaning and intention is a lot of what being creative is about. efficiency as well plays a big part of creativity usually. whether it is efficient use of space and resources, or use canvas and colors both art and unart (in this discussion that includes all things that are not consider ‘artsy’) share underlying principles. creativity isn’t a scale of not creative to more creative but instead it is a tool that can be used in any aspect of life.

go and make something, be it a work of art or a rocking spreadsheet for a tps report, just be creative.

So this week I decided to update the visuals of my blog, this is not news of course as I have mentioned it before in a previous entry. What is new is that I used to have a very primitive set of analytics data built into my blog and as part of the refresh I took the opportunity to say ‘Hey! Lets make this more robust so I know even more about the people that come to my blog.’ Well that was all well and good but it just ended up creating hours of work attempting to get the site online and working. I eventually did and all was swell.

That is until today when my friend Ryan linked to my blog and I said something about no comments. Hmmmm I thought, I am positive there were comments. The more robust solution I had resorted to was in fact an even greater hack to my blogging software than the previous one and it managed to take down the entire comments system along with all the lovely comments people have left.

My instant reaction was ‘OH NO!’ But then I thought about it for 3.9824 seconds and realized that it really doesn’t matter at all. I often think, talk, write about how we shouldn’t cling to the past because then we aren’t present in our own lives and miss out. So after another 10 seconds of thought I realized exactly what the solution needs to be. I don’t need analytics about my site. If you feel that you want me to know that you were here or that I know you exist then you will make that clear, either in a comment or through some other means of communication. Anyone that has ever used analytics about a website knows just how addictive it can be, and for no reason other than ego. It is weird the affect that it has on people.

So here we are with a clean start. Not in the traditional sense, what with all of my old entries still around, instead it is just a clean start in terms of what you my peers/readers/online stalkers want to say to me. Too often we hold on to things that are of an infinitesimally small value. Take the picture above. That is a stick figure batman that a coworker drew on the whiteboard on my door. It became a part of a year long running joke between us until one day someone erased him to leave — of all things — a note for me. We weren’t very impressed at first because so much had gone into the little guy. Was he important? At the time, probably. Later on? No not at all, in fact I had forgotten all about it until I found the picture I took.

Do we need to purge things from our lives more often? Especially if we don’t want to?

Seeing that it is the end of another university school year, the sixth time I have witnessed this event, thoughts and discussions have turned inevitably to employment. For me personally I have been constantly answering questions about what I want to teach, where I want to teach, or ‘Why the heck did you take this degree at all!’ That last one is my own personal favorite of the bunch. Personally I love teaching and I love the teenagers that I get to work with when teaching however I am not a super big fan of the school system. Just not the kind of place I really want to spend my life.

I personally think that loving what you do is the most important thing when it comes to a job and that money is a lesser consideration (There are people I know that will give me grief about this but I am okay with that). Having the desire to go into work and the ability to love what you are doing contribute to your mental health, your productivity at work and also your happiness outside of work. Of course I have nothing firm to back these claims up but as I like to do I will leave that up to someone else.

I came across an interesting interview about the Love/Growth/Cash Triangle on the internet that go me thinking about this. Read it here.