Pen and ink drawings

I started using a pen for drawing in my sketchbook because unlike pencil or charcoal, pen drawings don't smudge. And unlike watercolors, I don't need a complicated setup to start making a mark. Of course, the downside is that once you've laid down said mark, there is no going back, you've committed to it.

Despite that, I feel drawn to pen and ink sketches. Maybe it's from all those years of doodling in my notebook in school instead of taking notes!

Koi, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

My first Heinlein novel

I just finished reading Heinlein's novel Stranger in a Strange Land. For someone who's read a bunch of science fiction, this was the first Heinlein novel that I've read, and I'm glad I picked it up. I never realized that the word "grok" came from this novel. The word is fairly prevalent in programmers lingo, and after reading the novel I grok what people mean by it a little better.

In these older SF stories, it's fun to see what technologies are mispredicted. In the novel, Heinlein has people riding flying cars, and appliances that cook for you. And yet video cameras still required "tape", and phones were firmly tethered to the wall.

Of course, as with a lot of good science fiction, it's the ideas, story, and the characters that make it a good read, and this one is pretty good. I already have a copy of Starship Troopers sitting on a shelf, I hope to tackle that next.

What do four way stops tell us about America?

I was driving back home early this afternoon from work ahead of the impeding Snowmageddon!!! (maybe). On the way out of campus, there is a four way stop; and since everyone seemed to have the same idea as I did, there was a bit of a queue to get to the stop. And yet, everybody patiently waited their turn, as cars stopped on the stop sign, let the others who stopped first go first, then go. It is an orderly kind of choreography that, if you haven't seen it before, is quite astounding.

Stop Sign
(stop sign by "felix the cat")

Someone (I forget who) pointed out how four-way stops worked when I first came to the US. I was amazed that it actually worked. There was no policeman to direct traffic, or stoplights to tell you when to go! So used was I to the crazy roads of Manila and my hometown Cotabato. In the Philippines, when there is no stoplight or policeman at a busy intersection, there are basically no rules. Everyone fends for themselves... oftentimes, drivers actually get across an intersection. Of course, at other times, you get a real life deadlock:

The American (it's probably not just American, but I've only noticed it here) four-way stop seems to be much more reasonable: if everyone follows the rules, then everyone will eventually get their way across an intersection. But there's the crux of it: you have to trust that people will follow the rules. And, miracle of miracles, people around here actually do. What is it that we can know about US society from the fact that I can largely trust Americans to stop at a stop sign?

"Cyborgs had already existed..."

" goal was to make them hot," said William Gibson, about Neuromancer. He was in town today and read a few essays from his new book Distrust That Particular Flavor, and answered a few questions from the Microsofties in attendance. You could say I braved the snow to come to work and listen to William Gibson talk about how "the present" is so short, we have lost "the future". He was actually giving his talk in the same building as my office. One of the perks of working at Microsoft.

Sorry for the blurry picture, my phone camera was not up to the task.

William Gibson giving a talk at Microsoft, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Winter snow is falling...

For being so high up in latitude, the Seattle area doesn't really get much snow. We maybe get one or two snow events a year.

At church today, which is on top of a hill, the snow was really coming down. The priest joked that instead of a sermon, we could just watch the snow falling for 7 minutes. It's a wonder how snow brings such a sense of serenity.

I'm secretly hoping for enough snowfall that we get a snow day tomorrow! :)

Snow!, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Let's start cooking again

I really want to redo my kitchen. But it's really expensive, and it doesn't seem worth it if I don't actually use the kitchen. So I'm trying to start cooking more often again. It's also probably healthier for me in the long run :).

Simple noodle soup, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Portrait drawing

I've been going to the Kirkland Arts Center drop-in figure drawing sessions recently. I really hope my drawing skills are still improving. The model for this drawing is named Bob. It's a 25-minute pose... he kept on nodding off!

Bob, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

It's a new year, let's begin

I'm off to a good start this year, visiting my cousin Anjing and her husband Mao in Vancouver. Another cousin Mel was there too, he was visiting from Calgary (this Pacific Northwest weather must have been warm for him!). Vancouver is a really nice place, it reminds me of Hong Kong a lot, especially the Richmond area. The food is great, and the company even better.

I guess I'm not dreaming, and I really have a green card. Going through immigration was a breeze. Quite a nice change after all these years where entering the US was a big pain in the butt.

My only resolution for 2012 is to face it with optimism. Let's begin...

Steam clock, originally uploaded by flyingroc.