the view at 65 is worth it

Friday, July 30, 2010

Warning: cyber eyes!

I’ve spent the last month working at home on a summer elective course called “Digital Tribes.” Really good stuff. Probably spent more computer time studying on eClass than anything else. I did manage to begin a large silverpoint drawing in the studio, but it’s only 50% finished after one month. When I do a detailed drawing, I really have to watch out for eye strain. Sometimes I draw for so long, when I’m finished the whole world looks like tiny pencil strokes. However, that does not compare to the effect of spending hours staring into a LCD computer screen. I call it “cyber eyes,” and it’s a real problem. I have low prescription glasses for driving, and I use quality reading glasses. But, even with those, after hours on the computer, I feel fatigued and my eyes can actually get bloodshot. Funny thing. Not so when reading a book. And I don’t think it’s just because I’m 65. It’s a warning to all computer users. Take good care of your eyes. And “cyber eyes” don’t make good “bedroom eyes.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

It’s my dime

The real satisfaction of graduate research is what matters most and that is how I think about things. It’s not just about gathering what everyone else thinks and then collating the findings into some sort of order that suits my point of view. What if no one thinks like you? Or you have a distinct and not-too-popular viewpoint? The matter is complicated because you know deep in your heart you’ve got a lot to say. It’s been perking there for 65 years. Yes, I’ve said it before in essays, newspaper columns, commentary, etc., but now it’s different.

I have chosen to embrace a scholarly art form called graduate studies for the sole purpose of helping me articulate what it is I’ve been thinking about, and to say so in an intelligent, critical, and comprehensive way, with all the input I can get from texts, reading materials, and the valuable contributions of my fellow cohort and professors. It also means not being afraid to step outside the box and create my own independent study as an elective. Some may say I am verbose, wordy, but that’s just the way I do critical thought. Gone are my advertising agency days when a small paragraph of copy and a catchy headline, or an 8 word billboard, were all I needed to write. That by the way is a lot harder to do than you may think.

I write for myself. I present it for others to read and respond to. I participate in an open source dialogue and a greater discourse among many. I submit essays and research papers. I write more than is required. One paper required 3500 words. I wrote 6000. But, hey, it’s my dime. I’m paying over $20,000 for this part of my creative journey and the money is not coming from savings and investments. It’s my old age pension. I intend to make every dime count. I’ll do the editing after two years, when I have to present my Research Portfolio. Do I detect the beginnings of a rant?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A long entry about back to school challenges

(from my online group discussion on Grant's "technological dependency").
If my 2010 online graduate study does anything at all, besides the acquisition of knowledge, it keeps alive ( at least in me ) the tension between traditional study and research with “warm” books and paper, and the “cold” techniques of computer mastery.
Many of the skills required for this online course were in some form or other pre-existent, such as typing. After all, I had an electric typewriter back in the 70’s and my first computer sat staring at me as long ago as 1987. DOS. Brrrr. Like hypertext later on. Bizarro. But, I still “hit” my keys as if it’s a manual Underwood typewriter, and my skills of using more that two fingers is as yet undeveloped.
I decided with my summer elective course to do all the work paperless, at least to the best of my ability. Rather than spreading books and essays all around my desk, I choose to read everything on my glaring 24 inch screen. No special task-lighting to feel very comfortable. Now all the lights in my study are on, to balance the brightness of the computer flat-screen.
A major adjustment was learning to read documents online, especially pdf files, printed in “mice-type.” The golden rule of intelligible typography is called the “book face,” and its minimum size is 12 pt. Hard to find these days, when a lot of text is as small as 10 pt. type.
Squinting, bending forwards, adjusting reading glasses, etc, may seem trivial, but they are part of my adjustment to online study.
Indirect contact with my writing, using a mouse (just can’t handle that itty-bitty finger pad), is a step backwards from real-time, real contact between pen and paper. I bought a large tablet not long ago. It sits in my closet collecting dust. I can still draw faster and better with a pencil, than I can with all those intermediaries between my brain and a “paper-like” visual surface. Maybe I’ll give the tablet to my godchild. She’s young but she’s an avid and computer-savvy anime artist. I still write and edit my poetry first-hand longhand, and only transcribe into a digital file later.
And if computers have any “life” at all, it is a clandestine conspiracy to mess with my head, every step of the way. A pen, a pencil, I have mastered them, but Microsoft Word? I know how to type, cut, paste, edit, save etc, and I’m fairly proficient. Have to be in order to have any peace while writing epic poetry and my third novel in progress.
But, all the time, there’s this invisible techno-wizard who keeps changing at random my font from Arial to Times New Roman, from medium to bold, and from black text to grey. Not to mention those arbitrary margin changes and indents, or the bullets I never asked for. I try hard not to hit two keys at a time ( God help those with Blackberries ), but sometimes even the best of keyboards are too small for my flying two-finger typing. Then suddenly, without warning, the screen freezes and I panic because I haven’t saved my writing as yet. Sometimes, even the toolbar with file, edit, view, insert, format, tools, table, window, and help, are still a mystery. When I turned 65, my children bought me a Staples-brand large calculator, 12 X 19 inches. Awesome.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Digital tribes

It’s back to the books, or to be precise, back to a computer screen in the absence of books. Although I have to print some of the material, just to give my eyes a break,I do have a large screen as big as a double page spread. After a generous month of studio work since the university's Spring Institute of May (did some nice drawings), I am ready to punch the clock again for my summer elective course. It has an adventurous title: “Digital Tribes.” Some oil for the gears, my pith helmet and jungle outfitters gear, and I am ready to explore and discover digital tribes in the heart of cyberculture. Might discover a rare virtual community, and who knows, perhaps even encounter the mythical proprietary hacker, King Kong. We're supposed to have a heat wave this week, so I'll do my eClass early in the morning, and keep studio work for the afternoons. I’ll keep you posted.

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