Tip of the Quill: A Journal
And, not ten minutes later…

So I posted that little “Not dead yet!” note, then refreshed the page, and felt guilty at how small and lonely it looked sitting there on the page. You, my friends, deserve a more detailed update on my own personal la vida loca. Therefore, I will now take a brief break and procrastinate some more to fill you in on what’s been going on.
First up, the Big News: I have been accepted into the Grad Program of My Dreams, the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT. I’m not kidding when I say it’s the program of my dreams – my bestest friends will recall that I first discovered this program somewhere around 2000, and I’ve been checking up on their website every year ever since. Every year I was also deterred from applying by my own fears of inadequacy, largely dealing with the half of my brain that deals with math and science. I used to believe wholeheartedly that I was an arteest, and if it didn’t have to do with the humanities, forget it. Well, sometime in the last five years my brain somehow got reformatted into someplace right smack dab in the middle of the two lobes – I’ve been spending a huge chunk of the last decade learning how to make art and science play well together. I’m not just talking about those guys who make prints of fractal patterns and hang them on gallery walls (although that can be cool too – look at Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia for a brilliant example of the use of chaos theory in modern theater) but also “how do we use the computer to do digital storytelling?” And, more recently, “How do we use the computer to optimize our lives?”
Once upon a time, my motto was, “If it works.” This was subsequently amended with “break it,” but the root principle was, “Find a solution, no matter how screwy it sounds.” This has grown over the years, until recently my mantra (if not exactly my motto) has been, “All of life is a system, and all systems can be optimized.” For some reason my twenties have been dedicated to building the tools and the resources I need to do What’s Next, whatever that happens to be.
As of last week, What’s Next is grad school. Suddenly having a concrete date for starting What’s Next has caused me to kick the aforementioned life optimization system into high gear. I’m working like a fiend to pay off my credit card, get my taxes settled, pick up the last of the tools that I’d had my eye on for the last year, and draft a budget for the next two years so that I have some idea of how much cash I need to stockpile while I can still spend 80 hours a week working. Yesterday I went up to the AAA in Skokie (a suburb north of Chicago and slightly west of Evanston) and picked up a big map of Boston, which I now have set up on my desktop easel next to my monitor. Between that and maps.google.com, I’m starting to get a better idea of what’s where in the Boston area. 24 hours ago I couldn’t have told you where Somerville was in relation to Cambridge or Back Bay, but now it’s all starting to click. That’s the goal of this current exercise – making it all click as much as possible. I’m also entering six months’ worth of bank statements into Quicken and making sure my master Excel spreadsheet is up to date, so I can fend off the panic and that “What have I done?” feeling and get back to the euphoria that I enjoyed for the parts of last week that didn’t have to deal with my grandmother’s passing.
I should mention that too, I suppose, although I don’t like to delve too deeply into family matters here. It was nice to hang out with my family for a while, and Grandma’s passing somehow seemed to mend some fences with my great-uncle, who had been exceptionally cranky ever since his wife passed away last year, but I think coming together like this helped remind him that he’s not as alone as he thought. I hope so, anyway. Grandma’s calling hours went quickly awry, in a way – when Grandpa died over a decade ago, or when my great-aunts and uncle passed away over the last five years, the calling hours were all solemn and somber. This time, since Grandma had suffered a massive stroke last fall and had never recovered, there was a greater sense of release and relief, the “She’s in a better place” sensation. Further, word had gotten out (partly from me, partly from mom) that I’d been accepted into MIT, so there was joy there as well, and finally just getting to see people whom I hadn’t seen in too long also lightened the mood considerably. On our way to the funeral home I’d joked (ah, gallows humor) that we should have thrown Grandma a “surprise wake”, and much to my surprise that’s sort of what happened. I want to thank my friends Rob Carter and Laurie Bower for coming out, and Kris Berkey for showing up with her kid. Man, that’s weird having your old friends breed. The munchkin was really cute, though, all big eyes and constantly astonished, and he was a real trooper, barely fussing at all. The ‘big trooper’ award also goes out to my cousins Phoebe and Chloe, who had never met my Grandma but came out anyway, and I remember being dragged to some stranger’s funeral when I was a kid and feeling all awkward and uncomfortable. Those two just earned major brownie points in my book.
So, yes – now I’m back in Chicago and, as I mentioned above, working like a mad fiend. I just launched the first version of a new site for a local art rock band, Thadeus Project, which is a very cool blend of HTML and Flash that promises to get even better here in the next 30 days as we keep adding in media. I’m also about to launch a site for a local law firm, I just landed a gig to create a site for a company that organizes field trips for students, a couple of the old regulars are once again in full swing, and I’ve got a couple of photographers lined up to start using some neat new techniques I’ve been working on. I’m also hitting the exercise bike hard again – I haven’t lost as much weight as I would like lately, but now that there’s at least the promise of warmer weather outside that should help – and my efforts to learn to cook are really starting to work. Earlier this week I made burritos using brown rice, fresh-chopped red peppers, grilled chicken and a blend of four cheeses. Chipotle, eat your heart out. I’m also the proud new owner of a KitchenAid stand mixer, which is going to help me in my resolution to not eat any cookies that I don’t bake. I’m not sure exactly how well these ‘learn to cook’ and ‘lose weight’ resolutions play with each other, but the way I see it, if I can cook her fabulous meals, any woman should be slightly more forgiving of my lack of six-pack.
So, to quote old Uncle Cronkite, “That’s the way it is.” There’s been a ton of new stuff popping up on the media scene lately that warrants comment, but right now I need to get on top of this whole MIT thing. Once I feel like I’ve got things more or less sussed, I’ll be right back here fielding ideas about inventions and harping about new movies and whatnot. As always, dear readers, stay tuned!

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