Happy 2017!!!

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Happy New Year, Friend!*

Enough people have pointed out what a maddening year 2016 was, so I won’t dwell on that. Instead, I’m focused on the future, and that includes making the effort to stay in touch with you.

For those who don’t know, I left my insurance career a few years ago to go to art school and study animation. It’s been challenging, but it’s a decision I feel good about. Since I finished school, I’ve gone back and forth between trying to make a go at freelance work versus looking for something full time. Recently, things have been looking up on the freelance front, so I’m turning my efforts more in that direction. I learned just enough about a lot of animation topics to make it hard to choose one to focus on, but I’ve finally settled on Data Visualization. It’s in demand, it lets me be creative, and it gives me the opportunity to take advantage of my left brain skills while I’m at it. I also think that, by helping people become better informed, I can do some good in the world. It’s a win all around. Now I just have to hone my skills and build up a portfolio. Challenge accepted.

Outside of work, things are great as well. I’m living on the north side of Chicago with my boyfriend (of three years as of January 2nd) Bill. We were matched up by an algorithm on OK Cupid, so there’s another reason for me to be a fan of data science! Bill’s a musician also a freelancer (web stuff). We spend a lot of time in coffee shops.

When I’m not working or trying to keep holiday catch-up letters from reading like employment cover letters (I give up – I’m just going to go with it), I’m probably knitting. And if you want to see the overlap between knitting and animation, I strongly encourage you to seek out Mochimochiland.com. I’ve been working with Anna for a few years now to make her little knitted creatures come to life in short, funny films. It’s highly gratifying work.

I put out a year-end survey recently (again with the data science) to see if I could glean some insights about my social circles. I didn’t get enough responses to build any cool charts, but I learned that my friends tend to be big readers and sci-fi nerds and that they are not immune to the charms of Hamilton. (So good, right?) Next year, I won’t rely on social media to get responses, so email me back if you want to be included and make your opinions known on books, music, and the appropriate number of bottles of mustard per refrigerator.

More importantly, email me back and tell me about your year and about your life and about your plans for the future.


*Friend: Maybe I used to take a class with you and we’ve lost touch. Maybe we met once at a podcasting event and you made an impression on me. Maybe we’re blood related, but I just didn’t have your address to send you a holiday card.

Where else to find me:

4637 N Spaulding Ave., Apt. 3
Chicago, IL 60625


External Motivation for the win! (Weather Project, Day 1)

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I ran across a really appealing job posting today. Among other things, however, it requires a writing sample. My technical writing skills have always been pretty solid, but it’s been some time since I’ve had to write anything. And most of my writing was so full of confidential information that it wouldn’t be of use even if it was current.
I decided that the best way to generate some current, relevant writing is to start a new project. I have lots of ideas I’d like to explore, but I’m going to keep it simple and do a study of the weather.
The idea I’ll be exploring is that Chicago doesn’t have much of a fall and spring. It’s something that we say all the time around here, but how true is it? How much Confirmation Bias is actually at play? I mean, nobody makes this complaint on a seventy degree day.

The first thing I need to do is to find a database. This is all the more reason to start with a weather-related project. There’s plenty of information out there for the taking. NOAA has data at surprising amounts of granularity. That’s where I plan to start.
In the past, I’ve done most of my analysis in spreadsheets, but that’s not going to cut it here. I tried to import just one year of NOAA data into Google Sheets and it wouldn’t even open. It’s time to move on to something real. I’ve done a great deal of SQL training, but I have yet to put it into practice. I’m downloading PostgresSQL and doing a quick training session to learn how it ticks, then I should be able to at least begin my analysis in there.
Beyond the technical aspects of the project, I need to spend some time defining my project. When I say that Chicago doesn’t have Spring and Fall, I’m not talking about the calendar or the position of the sun in the sky. What I’m saying is that it feels like we go directly from cold weather to hot weather and back to cold without many days in between. How am I defining cold? How am I defining hot? These are subjective measures. There are some who consider fifty-five to be downright balmy and others who need a jacket as soon as it drops below seventy.
Once I’ve defined my temperature range, do I count a day as spring- (or fall-) appropriate if the day’s mean temperature is in range? Or do the high and low need to be in that range as well? Is a chilly morning enough to disqualify an otherwise perfect spring day?
Finally, how many good days is enough to feel as though we’ve had our smooth, seasonal transition? Three full months would be the ideal, but that might be a bit inflexible. Is there an acceptable number, or should I be comparing to the seasonal transitions of other cities? Nearby cities? Cities known for their stable, clement weather?
Additionally, even though it’s not directly part of this question, it might be interesting to compare contemporary results to those of 10, 20, or more years ago. Just in case people are nostalgic for the seasons of their youth.
I plan to get my database up and running first, so I can dig into the NOAA databases and see what I have to work with before I finish designing my questions. I’ll keep posting here as I fine tune things.

Let’s try this again.

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Nothing to quite tempt fate like a post that says I’m back on track. I actually missed posting on Thursday because I was so hard at work on a Mochimochi Land project. There was some unclear communication about how polished of a storyboard we were sending to the client, and it led to lots of iteration. That, and some After Effects errors that I still haven’t tracked down. (I was able to come up with a work-around.) I should have written about it Friday morning. Instead, I goofed off in the morning and then had to finish Mochimochi stuff in the afternoon.
I still don’t know about the job, by tthe way. They’re interviewing other candidates, so I guess it depends on whether or not they can find someone sufficiently competent and more devoted. I should know by the end of this week. If I get it, I realize that I’ll have to put a lot of things on hold for a few years. I can work on database and graph stuff in my spare time, because that’s relevant to work. I can probably do a little sketching on my lunch breaks too, but I don’t see myself having time for any larger projects. Is it worth it? Time will tell.
I’m drafting this post on a site called 750words.com. It’s a place designed for regular, stream of consciousness writing. I’ve used it in the past, but I’ve fallen out of the habit. I’m hoping that it will improve the content of my posts. So far, they’ve just been play-by-play of my day. Not the most exciting content. I’m new to this, though. And, fortunately, I have no readers. (If you’re reading this now, it’s probably not July 2016 anymore.)
I’ve heard “You don’t write because you have something to say. You write to find out what you have to say.” If this is true, look forward to more interesting posts as I figure out what I have to say.

Back on track!

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The meat counter at Gene's Sausage ShopYay! I worked on Blood Diamonds tonight! Nothing really to show. I did some cleanup of a (virtual) camera that I’d set up inefficiently before. More importantly, I went through the most recent draft of the video and listed out all the things that still need to be done and put them in OmniFocus, so I can keep track.
Now would be a good time to start the first task, but I’m so tired. Today has been a full day. I started with Boot Camp at 7:45. From there, I bought some necessary groceries at Gene’s Sausage Shop (it’s a slightly different experience when you get there right as the store is opening) and then went home for a shower and breakfast. I did a little email and apartment cleanup before a 1:50 appointment and then Mochimochi Land shooting. I took a little break after that when I found out WS was around the corner, having coffee. But then I did a second grocery run before coming home. Yeah, I’m pretty tired.
I’m going to prep some hard boiled eggs (so I can start tomorrow with a short run) and then I think I’m going to call it a night. Tomorrow will be Mochi in the morning and back to Blood Diamonds in the afternoon.
No word on the job yet. I’m realizing that, If I get this job, polishing my reel won’t be quite the immediate priority it is now. I’ll have to rethink what I’m going to focus my free time on for the next few years. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I haven’t gotten the offer yet.

No more excuses… after this one

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Today was my job interview. I think it went very well. I was honest with them about the fact that my long term plans aren’t their long term plans and I reassured myself that it was a place I could be happy working for a few years.

Now I wait. It’s possible that they’re going to pass me over in favor of someone who wants to make a career there, or it’s possible that they’ll appreciate that three to five years is as much as you can reasonably expect from anyone.

I didn’t make any progress on the reel. The interview, while not at all stressful, was draining. By the time I got home, I didn’t have the brain power for Blood Diamonds. I did a bunch of administrative and clean up work on my computer and I’ll make a fresh start tomorrow.

Day 4: So Distracted

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I keep thinking about tomorrow’s job interview. I think that’s why today’s attempt at a run was not particularly successful. And why I don’t have any Blood Diamonds progress to share.
I’m of so many minds about tomorrow. On the simplest level, it’s a job interview and those are always a little scary. I’ve already talked to the interviewer though, and the process seems to be going really well. There are two other candidates though, so nothing is a lock. But I’m pretty confident of my chances.
Getting this job would solve a lot of financial problems. And the work sounds like it’s right in my wheelhouse. Which is why it feels so crazy to realize I might turn the job down. There are one or two red flags and, if I can’t reconcile myself to them, this might not be the right job for me, despite all the many positives.
Time will tell. I’ll know more tomorrow. I’ve spent a lot of mental energy on this today and I’m ready to get a good night’s sleep.

Day 3: Constructive Procrastination

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I didn’t get *anything* done on Blood Diamonds today, but I got so much other stuff done in the process that I don’t feel that bad about it. Especially after I spent the morning locked out of my apartment.
I got the day off to a great start with a workout in the park. I was feeling very proud of myself until I realized I didn’t have my keys. I’d dropped them somewhere in the grass and hadn’t remembered to pick them back up. I spent 45 minutes combing the places I’d been before I finally gave up. By the time I got back home, I’d put in four miles of walking. Not what I’d planned, but a pretty good silver lining.
One of my friends was able to lend me a jacket for Monday’s interview, which means I can return the one I bought yesterday and stop quietly resenting its beige-ness. I got several weeks worth of mess cleaned off my desk – and really cleared up too, no piles of things to deal with later. And I worked around an Adobe Media Encoder issue that was messing up progress on Sesame.
Since I’m going to revise my schedule Monday, after I have a better idea how this job interview goes, I’m going to spend tomorrow (apart from a scheduled yarn-based event) working on Blood Diamonds. It’s (literally) the least I could do.

Day 2: A total bust

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Elmo and Grover had a rough night

I got a little bit more done last night, but not much. I think I was too wired from finding out about the job interview. *Something* kept me up until 2:00 anyway.
My late night led to a late start and I spent the whole day running around. Nordstrom Rack for a boring blazer, a bunch of other shops in failed attempts to find something less boring, home long enough to drop of my bag and pick up my laptop, then to Mochi. Very productive meeting on the Sesame Workshop project. Back home for a nap and dinner and off to the Esquina opening party. That was a bit much after my long day (and with no booze), so WS and I ducked out for a bit.
Now it’s the end of the night and I haven’t even opened Blood Diamonds. I did, however, get an email from another company. I’m going to go deal with that now and maybe I can fit some Blood Diamonds in tomorrow between Sesame and laundry.

Day 1

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Here's my man Theo!Day 1: Progress on Blood Diamonds

Blood Diamonds is a song that William Steffey wrote in 2014. I offered to work with him on a music video for the song and I’ve been working on it on-and-off (mostly off) this whole time. I created a CG robot character called Theo, animated him and integrated him with the footage. I also did some animated text for the chorus sequences.

The video still needs work. We came up with a story and filmed it, but it’s too linear and slow moving for a music video. Also, in the time since I started, Steffey formed a band (Boolean Knife), so we want to integrate the band into the video. One way we’re doing this is to add footage of the band members playing into the background of the chorus footage. To help break up the linear timing, I decided to also cut to band footage during the storytelling part of the video.

I used the music to determine where the band footage would go. Today’s task is to trim and move the narrative shots around to make sense with the breaks. I also decided to add another shot with Theo. I still have to animate that and maybe shoot some background footage. (Did I mention the locations are are all pretty nearby? It’s nice to live in a good looking neighborhood.) Moving the footage shouldn’t take much time, so I should be able to get a lot done on the Theo shot today. There’s a decent amount of work still to be done on the choruses, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

For those of you kind enough to jump in early and help me with my progress, I’m sharing an early draft of Blood Diamonds. As always, I welcome your feedback. Does it move too slow? Is anything not made clear enough? Do you find Theo convincing or not? These are the kind of things I’d like to know. I’ve looked at this so many times, that it’s hard to notice some of these things.

Your friend, Maux

8:30 p.m. update:

I moved the footage. It took a little longer than I anticipated, but the real reason I didn’t get more done (apart from this being Day 1 and I’m out of practice with deadlines) is that I had a phone interview for a job! It went well and I’ll be going in to the office on Monday for a proper, in-person interview. Very exciting. I took a long walk after the phone interview and then I had some follow-up emails to write.

The day’s not over, and I plan to put in another hour or two. Clean up a few jarring cuts in the video and then maybe spend some time on Cinema 4D. The job, if i get it, will change my 30 day plan. So will the outstanding Mochimochi Land project that I forgot to allow time for. I have a meeting on that tomorrow, but I’ll wait until after my job interview to make any changes to the schedule.

30 Day Plan

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The road aheadI have been trying to do a lot of things with my life lately, one of which is finding a job. But that’s not going to happen unless I focus on one thing at a time. And, for now, that focus needs to be on putting together a great demo reel. My student reel was mediocre at best, and it hasn’t been updated in ages. I’m giving myself the next 30 days to focus entirely on improving my reel. That’s going to require focus on my part and, the more people I have holding me accountable, the better I’ll be able to do that.

Here’s my plan:

July 21: Show progress on the Blood Diamonds music video (in progress)
July 22: Show progress on the Blood Diamonds music video (in progress)
July 23: Finish what I can on video and add a 5-10 animated clip to my reel

July 24: Come up with a concept and storyboard for an Explainer Video*
July 25: Choose a 5-10 second clip to develop. Select visual style and palette*
July 26: Show progress on Explainer Video clip*
July 27: Show progress on Explainer Video clip*
July 28: Add clip to my reel*

July 29: Come up with a concept and storyboard for a combined live action/graphics video*
July 30: Choose a 5-10 second clip to develop. Select visual style and palette*
July 31: Show progress on Video clip*
August 1: Show progress on Video clip*
August 2: Add clip to my reel*

* During these ten days, I’m also getting back up to speed on Cinema 4D for next project

August 3: Come up with a concept and storyboard for a Cinema 4D video**
August 4: Choose a 5-10 second clip to develop. Select visual style and palette**
August 5: Show progress on Video clip**
August 6: Show progress on Video clip**
August 7: Add clip to my reel**

August 8: Come up with a concept and storyboard for a Typography video**
August 9: Choose a 5-10 second clip to develop. Select visual style and palette**
August 10: Show progress on Video clip**
August 11: Show progress on Video clip**
August 12: Add clip to my reel**

** During these ten days, I’m also learning what I need to know to capture data for next project

August 13: Choose a data set to explore, look for potential stories to tell
August 14: Settle on a data set
August 15: Select visual style and palette
August 16: Show progress on Video clip
August 17:Show progress on Video clip
August 18:Show progress on Video clip
August 19: Add clip to my reel*

Those of you reading this, if you could keep following either this blog or https://twitter.com/boyleanimation and watch for me to post some progress every day. If I don’t, leave a comment or send me tweet and let me know that somebody is watching. Thanks. If I do post, feel free to let me know what you like or don’t like. Or ask questions. All feedback is welcome.

As a start, here’s a little intro footage I made in April, but somehow never added to my reel: