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Archive for the 'School' Category

Back to school

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

School started back up on Monday. I’m taking a full load again this semester.

I didn’t feel ready for school to start, but I’m getting back in the swing of things pretty quickly. My classes are all interesting, and once again, as a General Studies major, I get to take a variety of classes:

  • Social Informatics
  • Roman Culture
  • Production
  • Photography

In addition to being interesting topics, my production course is actually hands-on this semester, which is exciting. We got to see the TV studio where we’ll be doing some of our work, and it’s very impressive. I can’t wait to learn how to use some of the crazy equipment they have there.

Photography is in the darkroom this semester. I’ve done darkroom work before, but it’s been a long time, and I’m very excited.

The Social Informatics class is a prerequisite for another class I want to take, but it looks interesting in itself. It looks at how technology shapes society, and vice versa.

Roman Culture fulfills a cultural studies requirement. I chose it because when I was growing up, we always studied the Greeks, with promises that we’d cover the Romans later. But, we never did. The topic isn’t as fascinating to me as some of the others, but it is interesting, and it’s cool to have such a different kind of class. It’s going to involve a lot of reading, and I’m actually looking forward to some of it. Also, the professor seems engaging, which could make a huge difference in a class like this.

I’m trying a different approach to carrying my junk to campus this semester. Last semester I used a milk crate, and it worked OK, but it was a little cumbersome having the weight so high on the bike, and it took a good 10-15 minutes to get the crate on and off.

I looked into some messenger bags that could attach like panniers, but they were all expensive and I wanted something more flexible. So, I bought a grocery pannier. I ended up with an Axiom Hunter model, I didn’t put a lot of thought into it, just picked up the best one the shop I visited had. They had a Blackburn model that seemed sturdier, but it was smaller and less flexible, and I’m pretty sure my backpack wouldn’t have fit. Here’s my new setup:

P1150082

P1150092

P1150095

It’s not perfect. Sometimes my foot hits the bag (though I think I can adjust that problem away). And it’s still cumbersome sometimes, but it’s a lot easier to get the grocery pannier on/off when needed, and the weight is lower, even if it’s a little unbalanced. We’ll see how well this setup works out.

Another photography assignment

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Finals are over now. One  by one, my grades are rolling in. So far, it looks like my hard work is paying off. I’ll post an update about that when I get all my grades.

For now, here are the 10 images I turned in for my third photography project. I actually took these shots in early April, but I haven’t really had time to write about them. Note: Some of these are from the burlesque set I posted before, so once again, they might not be safe for work.

The assignment had five categories: directional force, texture, repetition, color, and symmetry.

Directional Force

The effect of having lines or shapes that draw the viewer’s eyes along a particular path is known as “directional force.”

JohnsonM_directional_force_1

The following image was inspired in part by Henri Cartier-Bresson’s amazing (and famous) cyclist photo (though of course I can’t compete with his shot).

JohnsonM_directional_force_2

Texture

I chose two contrasting shots for this topic.

JohnsonM_texture_2

JohnsonM_texture_3

Repetition

I don’t think this next shot is one of my stronger ones, but it does communicate the theme.

JohnsonM_repetition_2

This one I like a bit better. They’re just flowers, but it’s a little different angle than you usually see, and the B&W definitely works for me.

JohnsonM_repetition_1

Color

I really like the bold blue against the softer flesh tones in this photo.

JohnsonM_color_1

This one is nothing special — just more flowers — but the colors are nice.

JohnsonM_color_2

Symmetry

I took some liberties with this one. The first shot really has diagonal symmetry. I don’t think it came across as obvious symmetry, but I like the stark shot and the sparse composition … and the subtle symmetry.

JohnsonM_symmetry_1

I was really lucky the ladies were seated as they were, in the next photo. Perfect for my assignment.

JohnsonM_symmetry_2

I’m happy with most of these shots, but I am trying to push myself further and some of these don’t really stand out. In particular, the flowering tree and the large building I used for repetition are nice photos, but not as interesting as they could be. Also, I feel like I’m still trying to discover my own, distinctive style. I am taking more photography classes, so I look forward to further developing my style and technique.

State of the bicycle commute

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Bicycles make a lot of sense on college campuses. There’s very little parking, and there are a lot of small paths where cars can’t go anyway. Plus, my wife and I share one car, and want to keep it that way. Using my bicycle for transportation helps facilitate that. In general, commuting by bicycle has been working very well.

That said, since I started school in January, I have changed my commuting strategy slightly. Before then, I was a very dedicated commuter. I commuted by bicycle every day, no matter what. Lately I’ve changed my stance a little bit. Oddly enough it wasn’t the cold, wind, snow or ice that made me change that. It was rain.

Frankly, I’ve never enjoyed commuting in the rain, but it’s worse when I’ll have to slog around campus all day. Sometimes I do enjoy rain on country rides, but in general, rain is one of my least favorite riding conditions.

Eventually I decided that I didn’t need the aggravation of commuting to class in the rain. And I have to say, giving up my stubborn, I-must-always-commute-by-bicycle attitude felt quite liberating. Now when it rains, I take the bus. And while on the bus, I read a book and listen to music. Then I have to walk a ways to get to class, but I don’t really mind walking in the rain, so long as I bring an umbrella. And again, I can listen to music while I walk and see more of the world around me as I go.

So, am I less dedicated to bicycle commuting now? Maybe. Bicycling is about different things to different people. For some people riding no matter what gives them a lot of pride. I’ve been there myself. But sometimes my bicycle commute had started to feel like a chore … and for me, riding is about fun. I’m glad to have some alternatives.

I still ride nearly all the time, but I don’t feel bad about taking the bus when I need or want to.

I had an interesting mishap last week. I had my hardest midterm Thursday morning. I got up earlier than usual to give myself plenty of time — in fact, ironically, I had just started writing this post about how well bicycle commuting is working. But, just as I was maybe 1/3 of the way to class, my chain broke! I called my wife, and asked her to look up the bus schedule (I was right by a stop). But the bus wouldn’t be coming for 45 minutes or so. I’d be too late for my midterm. Fortunately, Sarah was able to leave work for a while, pick me up, and take me to class.  I was only about 5 minutes late for my midterm. Whew!

I’m not sure what caused my chain to break, but I later bought a new one, and fixed it. Not without some frustration, of course. Sometimes I have trouble with even the most basic bicycle repair tasks.

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