Posted by: Travis From: the office
So, taking a moment here for parental indulgence.

Simon is currently in love with writing. Mostly he sticks to his alphabet and his numbers 1 to 10, but he also really likes making these long lists of the names of his friends in his class (with a sprinkling of whatever words he might hear on the tv during his sessions). When he's done he'll have a small manifesto.

This weekend, he was in the middle of such a litany and I was inspired to do a quick sketch of him hard at work. I also thought it would be neat to include the type of work he was outputting into the drawing, so I compiled and copied some of his sheets of paper as well.

(BTW, when he noticed what I was doing, he was highly amused and decided he wanted to draw a picture of me as well.)

Posted by: Travis From: the office
Not too much to say - just wanted to share this.
Posted by: Travis From: the office
I am way, way behind on this - and, yes, Lent is already over. I'm working on a wrap-up/recap so this still kinda counts.

I think this sketch would work a lot better as a painting, or a photoshop since I'm (obviously) not stellar at drawing buildings. There are also a hell of a lot of liberties that I took with recreating the actual setting that I kinda regret - I feel this picture would work better if it was closer to looking like the actual place. The place, by the way, is the famous Citgo sign at the top of the hill around mile 25 of the Boston Marathon route.

Like many runners, the Boston Marathon is my white whale / delusional pipe dream ... which I think is all the set up one would need to figure out what my intentions were here.
Posted by: Travis From: the office
I can't say much about this particular quote project unquote, but I did want to post something to show I'm still working on this thing as much as I can.

More later
Posted by: Travis From: the office
So, I *did* get a chance to come back to yesterday's sketch.

I like the way the turtle shell turned out even if it's not quite even. I usually will sketch things with a bunch of smaller strokes, so it felt weird trying to do these longer, more deliberate lines. Still much work to do in this arena, but feels like a good step.

Posted by: Travis From: the office
Been falling down on the job a bit, but did get a chance to do some sketching today. I've been trying to get out of my comfort zone a bit - I generally don't have a steady enough hand for any kind of non-cartoony lettering, and I think this sketch more or less proves that.

I saw a thing on a running webpage showcasing some running-inspired tattoos; thought to myself that this quote (from the 311 song 'And A Ways To Go') would be a decent selection for such a thing. The turtle shell is there because it's the only other thing I've ever seriously thought of getting for a tattoo (also, it works with a long distance running theme).

Anyway, I'm not super pleased with the finished product... I think I will give it another draft tomorrow.

Posted by: Travis From: the office
Yesterday I wrote a short sketch of an awkward scene that I thought about posting. Ultimately I decided against it as the thumbnail of the story was inspired by actual events, and though the story itself was essentially 100% fiction, I didn't want anyone involved to discover it and misinterpret anything. Not that I have a whole bunch of people who just stumble across content on this site, but still.

Today, I made a sketch that was inspired by the story. That felt far enough removed from the original event that I have included it below.

I would probably want to do another draft of this -- while I like the overall picture (and I really like the whirly awkwardness swirls) the faces in the bowls are way too small (and wouldn't even line up on the faceless peoples' non-faces). I could also see this working a little better as a watercolor -- could be a little less concrete that way. Maybe I'll give that a shot over the weekend
Posted by: Travis From: The Office
So, this probably doesn't exactly count as something creative; but I wanted to write about an event I attended tonight -- and writing is creative, so I've decided that's close enough.

Let me first say that this post is in no way coerced, was not suggested by, nor is intended to be treated as a direct endorsement of the Bing search team or Microsoft or anyone.

That said, I signed up for and attended a "Bing Insiders" meet and great... thing ... at a local Microsoft store this evening. And it was really interesting - and it also was a little weird and maybe weird in the right kind of way.

As far as gatherings go, I feel like I generally understand why we have them -- sporting events, weddings, fan clubs; all straightforward enough. I've got to think that gatherings where people get together to discuss their search engine choices are probably pretty rare on the spectrum of gatherings, though. Among the group of people you might expect would respond to an invite for a search engine discussion, though, along with those presenting where a handful of employees. People that actually worked on the things that they put out in front of the attendees (and soon in front of the general pop), which was really neat. I got to chat directly with people - like, actual people - and that is rare enough even with just calling in to a company help line.

Anyway, the thing that made my head go weird for a second was thinking about the goals of the event; from the company's, from an end-user's, and from an employee's perspectives. There was an odd mix of priorities in play and I was more than a little distracted from the presentation considering them.

For me, as an end-user, I was interested in sharing feedback and maybe getting some 'insider' information about a product. The company, I assume, was there to deliver that info to me, but I also assume the idea was to get me excited enough that I wanted to tell people I met all about the stuff I saw, to generate the ever-valuable word of mouth -- and I guess this post is proof enough that I was activated by the proceedings. The employees, though, seemed really interested in just saying "Look at this thing! Do you like it? I made it!" - showing off their new redesign with the same self-satisfaction that I have when I demo something I coded to my family members (they, however, had the added bonus of an audience who a. cared to watch and b. knew what they were looking at)

I thought to myself, this has got to be a special kind of terrifying and (hopefully) gratifying to those employees. I mean, I'm thrilled when people at my work show even a passing recognition of my name or a past project I worked on; I can't imagine the energy level that would be associated with some random person from the 'real world' bringing it up to me during a road show or something.

It also made me think about our charity events -- how neat it is when we can help artists make a similar type of connection with the 'general pop.' I mean, it's more common for a musician or a film maker to meet up with their 'end users' than maybe a search engine programmer, but when I've been a part of the connection between author and audience, it is always truly encouraging to hear the passion that comes out of both parties during the discussion.

Maybe I need to add another goal to my list to plan a new event or two this year...


Also, I do want to throw one small endorsement here to the Bing homepage. If you have even a passing interest in photography, they have a new homepage picture every day, and it is rarely any less than stunning. Sometimes they even run contests where they ask for user submissions (which, btw, I have on insider confidence tends to generate more submissions than their servers & reviewers can handle sometimes).

I'm including an example below (hopefully with all the copy write info needed to display it here).
Posted by: Travis From: The Office
Nothing too major today; did another sketch, you can see it below.

When I was in school and endured however many hours of lectures one of the things that helped me stay awake has drawing in my notes (whether or not I actually took any notes was, of course, a different story) - one of the things I constantly drew was mugs of coffee, usually with steam coming out. My first idea tonight was to continue a quasi-series of drawings I've been doing for my wife and her co-workers loosely based on commercial mascots (eg. an owl with a tootsie pop, a bandit dog with a bag of cookies, etc) but decided instead to do something more original (even if it is a bit of a throw back).

I actually kind of like the way the french press turned out - the shading reminds me of the illustrations for 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs' -- but the wolf head on the coffee mug coulda been better. Alas
Posted by: Travis From: the office
Today's project was one I did the groundwork for back in December when I ran the Dallas marathon. The original idea being to set up a picture of the shoes I had trained in (complete with hole by the big toe!) with the medals I got on a backdrop of the poster they gave the participants. I staged the picture, dug out an old point-and-shoot digital camera from the closet and pointed and shot.

Then I made the critical mistake of not checking the results on the computer. I checked on the super tiny preview screen and things looked just fine. The next day I threw the shoes out. Today when I opened the files to edit... they looked kind of terrible.

So, I did what I felt I could with things, the result are below. Not my proudest work, but not terrible either. Plus, if you count all the training I did and the marathon itself - this would be the most work I've ever done for a single piece. Commitment.
Posted by: Travis From: the office
So... maybe I was just a bit too quick to claim any kind of success in this project, as day 2 handed me my first big miss. I didn't really mean to skip my self-assignment; I was just too tired to stay up and work on it. But call a spade a spade, and I'll have to do some catching up this weekend - an event that I can't let become a habit lest I have 38 projects to do over the last few days.

I'll count today as a 'complete' though as I spent a while playing the piano. Well, trying to play the piano and only nominally managing to do so.

It's something I've always wanted to be able to do well - but having never taken any lessons, I always struggle to get through any piece. A few months ago, I bought a few books of sheet music for some of my favorite video games, figuring they would be fun to play and be familiar enough I could at least figure out the right-hand parts easily enough.


Flipping through my book of Final Fantasy VII piano compositions, the tricky arpeggios and key signatures made me cross-eyed before I could hit on a recognizable melody to ground me in the mess of notes. What I will really need to do to make any head way here, I think, is to pick one song out and spend some time to read it, make notes on flats, sharps, and potential fingering and then try taking that to the key board - you know, like a real pianist might do - or else I'll just be lost and frustrated each day that 'piano' is my assigned task for the day.
Keep tryin' though
Posted by: Travis From: The Kitchen
So, it's hard to call one day any kind of a success... but 1 for 1 is a decent start.

I chose to start out easy; just doing a quick sketch to anticipation of the new Legend of Zelda game which is coming out tomorrow.

Aforementioned picture is below. Let's go for 2 for 2, eh?
Posted by: Travis From: the office
So, I generally don't do the whole Lent thing; seeing as I'm not a Catholic. In fact, I'm guilty of using the now-trite joke response of "Lent" when being asked what I was giving up for Lent on more than one occasion. Still, I do tend to think about things I might possibly be able to do without for a full 40 days when Mardi Gras rolls around and this year was no different. This year it occurred to me that what I really need to give up on is the act of giving up itself.

I'll spare you a lot of navel-gazing self-reflection here -- suffice it to say that I have a list of things that I've been meaning to do - projects that have been on hold, some for years now - that has grown to an unsupportable length. These are things I'll spend all day at work thinking about, then decide I'm too tired to attempt when I have a free moment that evening. Things I tell myself I should be doing, but give up on the moment any kind of resistance is met.

So, this year for Lent, I'm making a commitment (among other things) to give up on giving up.
My plan is to report on my progress each day. Hopefully, by Good Friday, my to-do list will have been reduced and I'll have a few new things to put up on the site.

Please wish me luck.
Talk to you soon
#Lent #GU-GU
Posted by: Travis From: The Office
Surely I am not the only person who struggles with motivation from time to time -- who has an intense desire, a drive, but burns so much energy in excess heat that the torque of their internal engine suffers. Often letting the carrot at the end of the stick dangle in place long enough that the knot comes undone. In the regrettable case that this happens -- that the intensity of a goal once held firmly in mind fades -- most of the time there is no system shock, no punishment handed down, no slap in the face. Most of the time, you don't even notice anything is amiss. How can you hope to notice the evaporation of a possibility unless you were actively pursuing it?

Recently the evidence of such an evaporation came to my attention. A reminder scrawled on a calendar page informed me that the date of a potential harvesting, of return on investment had come and now gone with much of the required leg work left undone. There were no apologies to give -- no one really even knew that they should be disappointed aside from myself -- but I felt a twinge of shame all the same.

In a moment like that, sometimes you are granted a second chance, a second opportunity to fight or fly, to quietly place your cards face down or to redouble your bet. The last few weeks I have been doing what I can to put everything back on the line -- to a least put enough at risk that I will know when the moment of success or failure is determined, to commit to elation or depression rather than mild discomfort.

Heres hoping that any observer will be able to tell immediately which efforts I had in mind when I wrote this down.
(and hopefully not due to the spectacular failure it was)
Posted by: Travis From: The Lab
So, slightly more progress on revamping the gallery. Slow but steady, I suppose. You can even see it below if you so choose.

Also, some planning for new and exciting events has taken place. I won't say any more now, but I'm really excited to move things forward.

Posted by: Travis From: The Lab
Here after follows the sad tale of the baseball trophy I made once.

Once upon a time in corporate America, the days were long and boring. A ray of hope shone forth in the guise of the 2014 baseball season beginning. In celebration, my wife and I attended the Texas Rangers' opening day game. To spare the gory details, the game was lousy with scoring and the poor, shell-shocked starting pitcher (his name has been removed to protect the innocent) left the game with a double-digit ERA. The following day, a colleague and I were discussing the outing and how much a pitcher's ERA can swing in the first few games of a season. The next Ranger day game was shortly thereafter, and to amuse ourselves, my colleague, and few friends and I all guessed an ERA for the pitcher that day. The aforementioned colleague ended up being closest and as a reward I gave her a Twix bar.

Every Rangers day game since, we all guessed the starting pitcher's ERA when he left the game, and random prizes were distributed to the winners.

At the end of that season, we declared a winner and I hatched a plan for what the winner's trophy should be. "There's baseball, there's guessing, the trophy should be a magic 8 ball, but a baseball one", thought I.

So, I set out to find one. "Surely," I thought "this is the kind of thing you can just buy from Mattel or whoever makes those things" -- but I was wrong. After much internet searching, I found a couple sad examples; one with a Mets logo... one that was off-color and not very appealing. I was dissappointed but not defeated. "I'll just make one!" I resolved, and set off to buy a regular magic 8 ball.

...and had much of the same results. I'm sure this was just luck, but no store I searched had one; not Target, nor WalMart nor HobbyLobby, nor anywhere else I searched for a couple days' worth of lunch breaks. Ultimately, I found one at Toys R Us, so if you ever find yourself in a similar predicament, I suggest you just start there.

8 Ball in hand, I bought some white spray paint, set the ball on some cardboard on my back patio and sprayed that thing down. Returning to see if it had dried, I realized I had missed most of the bottom section. "No worries" said I, "I'll just do a second coat." After doing so and leaving the ball overnight to dry I woke the next morning to check the results. I found that the paint had dried, gluing the ball to the cardboard, which led to a thick ring of torn cardboard remains around the viewing window... which was covered in this semi-transparent residue -- I guess from the preliminary sprays before the paint was properly shaken? Or maybe from the upside-down sprays when I attempted to coat the bottom? I'm not sure, but the thing was a mess.

I half-heartedly tried to salvage the wreckage with rubbing alcohol and an exacto knife and only managed to come out with a relatively clean, unusable, mangled white 8 ball. It was terrible.

Many months passed before I tried again.

The second time, older and moderately wiser, I took a few extra precautions:
* I covered the viewing window with masking tape before spraying my replacement
* When spraying, I set the ball on a soda cap so that it wasn't sitting directly on the cardboard
* I also set the thing up a bit higher so I didn't have to stand on my head to get the bottom parts
* I also tried to get as much coverage with one coat as possible -- one thing I noticed trying to spray too much on the first attempt, the paint that had partially dried made an odd caked texture on the surface... it looked rather... unappealing.

Anyway, the second attempt wasn't a thing of beauty, but at least it wasn't a complete train wreck. I'm almost proud to (finally) give it away. The lettering on the ERA Champ paint leaves something to be desired and it wouldn't take a well-trained eye to see that the stitching isn't even, but I'll take it.
(Painting is hard)
Posted by: Travis From: The Lab
So, a thousand years later, here is a second thumb to be viewed...

...How's this strike ya?
Posted by: Travis From: The Lab
So, I've been thinking about giving the site a fresh redesign. I mean, it's been overdue for a hell of a long time. I kind of pieced this thing together without actually learning much about MySQL, PHP, CSS, or really any kind of language that a respectable web designer might use, and, like with many other projects, when it worked for me, I was happy and said that was good enough.

I do want to rescript the page to be a little less of a ball of duct tape, but that's not exactly riveting conversation. One of the big things I would like to do is make the gallery pages load a bit faster. Due to general laziness, right now, the preview images are just the full-sized images resized to fit more of them on the screen. This is one of those things that works fine for me sitting at my desk on a high speed connection, but I could see how that might be an issue for people on mobile or with a slower connection.

Anyway, I'm thinking about making smaller thumbnails for each picture which, admittedly, will be a lot of work, but I hope will make the page look cleaner, open up faster, and be less of a burden on data plans.

Here's a first example... nothing much, but I'm going to try to do a handful to see how they look more stacked together and less like the laundry list that the gallery currently has...

Posted by: Travis From: The Lab
Well, I managed to finally muster up the energy to make an easy way for me to post things in here... I'm hoping that making the process as easy as possible on myself will minimize the amount of effort it takes to overcome my creative inertia.

This place has been on my mind a lot recently. Honestly, it always is, but I feel like it is once again time to refresh the overall design, maybe clean out some old stuff and see about moving forward with mission 0 here.

Assuming I can keep my motivation up, I might even have the energy to record a podcast this weekend... but I guess we'll see when that time rolls around.
Until Later
Posted by: Travis From: The Office
So, I'm going to start posting these. I'm not going to announce it or anything, aside from this, I'm just going to start throwing them in here.

"These" will be little updates about whatever project I happen to be working on at the time -- journal-type entries just to document what I've been doing, what has worked, what hasn't, etc.

I am not announcing them to anyone, because, until whatever project is done, who cares? Maybe there would be a slight bit of interest after the fact, so maybe then I'll make it easy to come in here and see what I had already posted about said project -- I don't know.
Anyway, until then, radio silence.