Adventure Map for 2015 Road Trip

I’m following this rough map as I continue south then east then north on this road trip. So far I’m only at the first dot. Something like five days of driving to go, fortunately with things like eating, sleeping, and spending time with others in between.

RoadTripAdventureMap

I find it interesting how the shape of the path looks like a character from my old comic Behold The Cheese. This was not intentional. Also unintentional was how I wasn’t sleeping much the night before I started driving south. I swear.

sleepingpeanut

The question is then, why go to all these places, in that order?

In Columbus, OH (my current location), I’m visiting one of my best friends, her husband, and their two animal children. We’ll eat, drink, and be merry.

In Kingsport, TN, I’m visiting family that I used to see once a year in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for family gatherings. Feels good to visit someone who normally makes the long drive. I’m looking forward to those blueish mountains too. So much so that I changed my phone wallpaper to be blue mountains.

In Asheville, NC, I’ll be mostly exploring around. I have a friend living there that I’ll probably have dinner with. Everyone keeps saying, “Oh man, Asheville’s great.” It’s time for me to find out why.

On the way between Asheville and Dallas, TX, I’m sure I’ll see some kudzu, country music, and hot springs. The days between are a little bit less planned intentionally.

In Dallas, I’ll be catching up with old coworkers and friends, and also seeing a show at the historic Granada Theater.

In Austin, I’ll be pretending to be hip and seeing a show at Stubb’s BBQ.

In Houston, I’ll be getting lost and seeing a show at Warehouse Live.

In New Orleans, I’ll be looking at architecture and musicians, while seeing more musicians at The Civic Theatre.

In Atlanta, I’ll spend time with my cousin whom I also normally only see once a year, and—you guessed it—seeing another show, this time at The Tabernacle.

In Raleigh, I’ll be looking for Maffé sauce. I’ll also be seeing a show at The Ritz, which is rated terribly on Yelp. I like going to places rated terribly and then being pleasantly surprised. Example: Lewis & Clark Motel in Bozeman, MT.

In DC, I’ll stop by 826DC, which is a sister nonprofit to the one I normally volunteer at, 826michigan. I also have family that lives around there.

NYC has so many BuzzFeed and Thrillist articles about what to do. I’m sure I’ll find a way to spend some hours. I better find a way to spend the night. 826NYC is also there, another sister nonprofit.

Finally, the last “planned” stop is Providence, RI to see a show at The Parlour. I love Rhode Island. I can’t wait for coffee milk and looking out at the water.

At some point I’ll drive back home, too.

Behold The Cheese in Retrospect, Part 8

Today we’ll have a look at five more old cartoons from my old website beholdthecheese.com (defunct). They haven’t been hosted anywhere in a long time and I’m brushing off their digital dust.

Old-time music is folk music with roots from the musicians’ cultural ancestry, typically acoustic, traditional. That wasn’t what I meant below by “old-time”. I think I meant something like “country time”, like the lemonade, but I drew this cartoon in a few seconds and didn’t really think about the words. (This cartoon comes from 2007, when I doodled lots of fast cartoons to substitute for my face in my Facebook profile picture. Detail didn’t matter to me.) I’m not sure why Pac-Man thinks old-time is bad, or why the jar of probably mayonnaise is also upset about this.

oldtime

Here we see three otters. One is a respectable detective with a deerstalker hat. The detective otter seems to know what happened to the otter with its eyes closed. Appears that it feel asleep, and it’s not appropriate in this context. Could be a wedding going on. Man, you’d get in so much trouble for falling asleep at a wedding.

otters

This cartoon was drawn rotated 180°. I scanned it flipped, and I thought it was a lot funnier this way, so it stuck. I think the intent was that the fish skeleton was floating on its own through a museum (still surrounded by glass), and the security guard was confused about this. This was drawn not long after a related movie released. Turned 180° as it is below, it seems more like both the guard and the fish skeleton are suspended in a bizarre space, and the guard gives up on trying to rationalize it, as if giving in to dream logic. Notice the punctuation after the word “Huh” is not a question mark. That’s surrender to the Absurd.

policefish

This here cartoon is about a rebellion we can all afford to participate in. The bank I use has printed labels above the door handles to offer a hint at what to do with the doors, much like the ones in this cartoon. This person here has decided not to follow the imperative offered. If the person is trying to enter a bank, they’ll need to wait until someone else opens the door, because physics won’t allow a push here. I suppose the person could tailgate a door puller into the bank. But is dependency on others’ compliance really rebellion?

pullopen

Any time I see three circles with even some overlap I see the iconography of Mickey Mouse. The creature on the right is wearing shorts, gloves, and shoes that look like something Mickey would wear. (Always seemed strange to me that Mickey didn’t ever wear a shirt and Donald never wore pants.) The Mickey cap is there too. Easy to see a mouse here. Don’t mind the menacing eyes and teeth. The creature to the right of the worm is not wearing shorts, gloves, or shoes. So, which one is the real mouse? What do you think, reader? I hope we don’t have to settle for the old conclusion that we may never know.

realmouse

Sharpie fun,
Art

Reflection on 2014

I recently created a Facebook Year In Review for 2014. I called it Millimeters By Intravenous, or MMXIV as an acronym, which is also 2014 written as roman numerals. Facebook could only create a review based on what I posted to Facebook. There were definitely gaps in the narrative from when I was deliberately offline. My offline times were my most transformative, and it felt strange to get on Facebook and write about what happened while offline. I don’t think the Facebook Year In Review was the right place to share what happened. In fact, quite a bit of hullabaloo came about when terrible life events were framed as celebratory in the Facebook Year In Review for others. I’ll avoid adding to that discussion. Instead, I’ll focus below on details of my own life, especially ones where I think my blog is a better medium.

Note that this entry touches on parts of my life I may not have revealed on this blog thus far. As I continue writing in 2015, I want my blog to be my primary outlet to the world, so expect additional personal entries like this one. It would be difficult for me to write about learning without sharing what went into my own learning, struggles and all.

The format of this entry is going to be a retrospective, or retro, format. As I’ve learned from my new and current employer, Detroit Labs, a retro typically covers three categories:

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn’t go so well?
  3. What needs to change?

I’m going to keep the details fairly short on each item, only elaborating where it affects the scope of the year as a whole. I’m sure I’ll write more entries about specific items, and I’ll hyperlink to those entries with future edits of this entry.

What Went Well?
I read a book called Self-Parenting, where I learned about psychographic profiles that most of us have called the Inner Parent and the Inner Child. I learned that most of my inner conflicts can be acted out as dialogue between the Inner Child and Inner Parent. When I found ways to keep the dialogue civil and constructive, I was better able to work out my inner disputes.

I started regularly running again, and this time all on my own. I hadn’t run seriously since 2012. Back in 2012 I lived around Dallas, TX, and I had trained with my friends for the 2012 Chicago Marathon. I ran only some of the recommended training runs (and yes, I did finish the marathon with this inadequate training, but that’s another story), and only with my friends and never on my own. Turns out I love to able to run on my own for my own health and peace of mind and not for a race or any other goal.

I took journaling to the next level. I had been carrying a journal with me to most places since 2012, and I had used the journal to record little thoughts and observations at random intervals. This year I instead used my journal to write three pages of whatever comes to mind in the morning. This is Julia Cameron’s idea of the “morning pages“. Writing this amount has helped me see further into what’s really on my mind. A journal is a cheap therapist.

I went on a major road trip through North America’s northwest. I haven’t typed up my collected experience of this road trip yet, so I’m not sure if it will take multiple entries to explain. Essentially, the trip started in Seattle, WA where I hung out with friends for a few days. I then drove my rental Jeep Compass through the deserts of Washington, past the sapphire Ceour d’Alene over the Continental Divide of the Americas, in a Y shape around Montana that I loved and will visit again, across the green prairie of Alberta to Calgary’s metropolis, through the mountains and lakes of Banff and then British Columbia back down to Seattle. I followed a course similar to the one in the map below.
Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 16.53.44

I wrote out a vision of where I want to be in five years, and I have defined my life’s mission statement. I worked on these while on my road trip. When I type out the final versions of these, I’ll make them pages on this blog.

I saw some of my favorite acts live in concert. Throwing Muses is one of my favorite bands, and I caught their act in Seattle during my road trip. They haven’t played together in a very long time. I saw Tacocat at a block party concert by Calgary’s Luke’s Drug Mart (also a stop on the road trip), and they were kind enough to chat and take a photo with me after their set. I saw Sharon Van Etten at The Loving Touch in Ferndale, MI, and also chatted with her after the show. There were a few other great acts, but that’s for another post.

I officiated the wedding of one of my best friends and her husband. That’s right, I’m ordained.

I left my job in medical devices for an apprenticeship in mobile application development at Detroit Labs. For three months I learned about Java and Android in downtown Detroit with a handful of other apprentices of all different backgrounds (no computer science majors). It was the most supportive and simultaneously most challenging education experience I’ve been through. There’s plenty more to write about this experience, another time.

I graduated the apprenticeship at Detroit Labs. I’m now working as full-time developer, making Android apps for clients. I never thought I would write that.

I started taking habit tracking seriously. I use an app on my iPhone called Habit List, where I can record how many days a week I kept to a habit I want to build. Among the habits tracked: getting more sleep, meditating, running, journaling, and eating well. My final project of my Detroit Labs apprenticeship was an Android app I made called HabiTrack that helps the user keep up chains of good habits following Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret.

What Didn’t Go So Well?
My visit to Canada this summer as a whole. I enjoyed seeing Tacocat live in Calgary, and it was gorgeous to drive through Banff, but I did not do the right amount of planning for the rest of my stay. I’ll spare the details for now, but I’ll just advise against not having a data plan in Canada and driving through British Columbia in one sitting.

Sleeping in a Jeep Compass without good blankets or coats. There’s nothing wrong with a Jeep Compass—I actually really liked driving it. I just don’t recommend sleeping in one. On cold nights, without my coat or blankets, I wrapped myself in trash bags, to wake up to dew coating my legs. Sleeping in the back of the Compass is worse than sleeping in the seat. I would wake up with a sharp pain from my neck to my feat, almost wishing I hadn’t slept at all.

Finances. I won’t divulge numbers here, but I have not been staying within my budget this year. I leave this year in the black, but there’s a lot to do to improve saving.

I lost my grandfather. He was very important to me throughout my entire life. He’s the reason I ever started liking math, wordplay, and comics. He believed in my creativity and nourished it. I miss him. When he died, I vowed I would live a life as great as his.

What Needs To Change?
I can call Discover and Verizon before I do any international travel to enjoy my stay more.

I can save up more for travel and stay in more hotels or motels on future road trips. A bed is worth it.

I can get serious about systems for saving money. One trick I learned this year is to save $5 bills instead of spending them. It stacks up faster than I thought it would. To take this further, I plan on working out an envelope system of saving, where every dollar is allocated to something, even flex room. I can also create a habit to spend time on finances on a consistent basis.


There’s plenty more to work on in 2015, but I’m glad I made it through 2014. Discomfort and loss were major emotional tones this year, but I think I was in a better place to work through them. I have a job I really like and I’ve got the momentum of the habit changes and hard work I’ve done this year.

2015, let’s do this.

To the future,
Arthur Hovinc

Flood of Tweets, Winter 2014–2015

You may have noticed my Twitter account has been a lot more active recently. Up until October this year I was silent, but broke that silence when I wrote a tweet to commemorate a great man. I started writing many more tweets since then.

Now, for the next ninety days or so, I am writing a new tweet that is also a haiku everyday. If creativity is a muscle, the more I exercise it, the stronger it gets. These tweets/haiku don’t need to be “good”, they just need to be created everyday. (And if you know Lynda Barry’s work, you know that the questions “Is it good?” and “Does it suck?” cripple innate creativity.) By writing everyday, even seventeen syllables, I quiet my fears of creating “bad” or “sucky” work. The more I write and collect experience, the more I realize how I would revise even my “bad” work. As Brenda Ueland said,

“If you write a bad story, the way to make it better is to write three more. Then look at the first one. You will have grown in understanding, in honesty. You will know what to do to it. And to yourself.”

Moreover, the work stacks up. Seventeen syllables for ninety days makes 1530 syllables. At my old rate of a tweet a month, I’d have only produced 153 syllables in the time I spent silent. That’s a tenfold increase!

Creativity/
Inexhaustible when used/
Signature haiku,
Art

Reflecting on Reflecting

I’ve been reflecting a lot more often recently. Autumn has that effect on me, and this autumn has had a lot to reflect on (more on that in other posts). I’m trying out a new reflection technique at the end of every meeting I have and at the end of every workday. It’s pretty straightforward, but I don’t see a lot of people doing it.

Reflection Technique:
I simply take out my pen and a piece of paper and I write down the thoughts in my head after each meeting or after the workday. When I say “meeting”, I mean any discussion with another person or other persons, formal or informal. At the end of day reflection, I answer the questions “What went well?” and “What could go better?” The whole technique takes between two and fifteen minutes each time. It’s time well spent.

I’m finding written reflection very useful to my learning process. My brain generates a lot of ideas, but if I don’t write them down or dictate them to my phone within two minutes of their creation, they are gone forever. I’m finding that I can consolidate my fleeting thoughts into long term memory just by writing down what I’m thinking after an experience like a meeting or a full workday. I may never read the notes again, but it doesn’t matter. The act of writing itself commits the thoughts to memory. Writing it down puts clear words to what I was thinking and feeling, and these clear words are retrievable in my brain, unlike fleeting emotions or vague thoughts.

I had left meetings and workdays in the past with many thoughts storming around my head, and not doing anything about them but letting them sublimate. Collecting those thoughts is analogous to finishing up a piece of art and properly stowing all materials and tools used to make it. It’s tidying up, leaving a meeting or workday cleanly. It helps me see what to-dos come out of meetings and what I want to focus on the next workday.

For instance, I reflected after an all-team meeting last week at work. The team was discussing being open and honest in communicating. Easier said than done. One of my thoughts after the meeting was that I could host some Lunch and Learn sessions about the techniques I’ve learned to communicate clearly and actively listen. I wrote it down on my notepad with my pen. Now I can recall it even without referencing my notepad, as I type this. It matters to me, and I intend to study more on the subject of communication and listening, and then implement and teach what I learn.

The act of reflecting is one level of the Four Levels of Learning. I’ll be writing more about these levels in the future, but I’ll list them below. Credit goes to ZingTrain for introducing me to the Four Levels of Learning.

Level 1: Listening or Reading (where good and active listening is an art and good and active reading is a system)
Level 2: Reflecting
Level 3: Assimilating and Implementing
Level 4: Teaching

Reflecting,
Art

Behold The Cheese In Retrospect, Part 7

Ah, another cheesy review of my old cartoons and comics website, Behold The Cheese. I drew most of these cartoons and comics between 2007 and 2011. The oldest ones are what I would now call Two-Minute Comics, which are scribbles in permanent marker capturing a silly idea. The latest ones (most not shown yet, saving for later entries in this series) were comics of two or more panels that were drawn all right. Today’s cartoons come from mostly 2008, except the obvious permanent marker cartoon, which comes from 2007. In the summer of 2008 I worked at an internship in Forrest Gump’s Savannah, GA, and I was drawing mostly with a Pilot V-Ball pen on printer paper. I had most Fridays off at that job, where we practiced “four tens”, or four days of ten hours each day. I spent most Fridays doodling and reading. The results are the cartoons that look like the ones below. Keep in mind that this retrospect series had not been chronological much at all.

Oh wow, it’s Batman! Anyone remember Bat Boy from the Weekly World News? That’s the reference here. I think this evolution follows most of the Pokémon conventions, in that later forms get more spikes and are notably cooler. Batman also has a lot more money than Bat Boy. He buffed up quite a bit too, but so did Christian Bale in changing roles from Trevor Reznik in The Machinist to Bruce Wayne/Batman in The Dark Knight Trilogy. Speaking of which, I’m pretty sure I drew this around the time The Dark Knight was in theaters. Does Bat Boy relate to Bruce Wayne in any way? Has anyone watched the TV series Gotham? Does actor David Mazouz (young Bruce Wayne) resemble Bat Boy? These are pressing questions. Someone has to know.

batevolution

Here we see a couple that is upset about professions. The woman is upset with the man about his being a clown, and the man is trying to deny it even though it is very obvious he is a clown. Maybe they are in some kind of relationship where keeping secrets about professions—however comical—is frowned upon. It’s unclear. I was playing around with expressive eyebrows here, having never really drawn them before. The clown eyebrows are very Peanuts, and the woman’s eyebrows are just horizontal lines (that were supposed to represent frustration). I like how the clown’s hair came out. Someone told me tonight these cartoons reminded him of The New Yorker cartoons. The single panel cartoons definitely had The New Yorker as an influence. These very literal paragraphs surrounding the cartoons have The Monkeys You Ordered as an influence, where I think the literal interpretation of something silly is even funnier than a punchline. In fact, being a fan of situational humor, I don’t really like or use punchlines. I much prefer reversals of expectation.

clown

In this next cartoon we see what happens to your batteries when they die. They hold funerals. The tears are actually some kind of magnesium dioxide solution, not saline water, so don’t get too close. You can see that I’m referencing the Duracell and Engergizer brand names here. I’m glad that competing battery brands can get together and respect their dead. I got a nice comment on this cartoon when I used it as my profile picture on Facebook. A friend said, “This belongs in a newspaper.” What do you think, readers?

deadbattery

Next, we see some bananas with faces and limbs getting very excited about being bananas, probably after being something else for some duration. What did they used to be? Are they actually bananas if they have faces and limbs unlike most bananas? Is this actually just a visual play on the adjective “bananas”? If so, why would they be excited about being nuts? Does that mean they are actually nuts and not bananas? They don’t look like nuts. We covered what nuts look like in Part 6.

finallybananas

Good, here’s another Two-Minute Comic of some creature leaping up from the grass. The image file was called “nemnoo.jpg”, where a nemnoo was an imaginary creature I came up with that is mostly eyes and feet. I think the nemnoo is checking for predators by jumping up above the grass. What eats a nemnoo? Do nemnoo taste good?

nemnoo

That’s all for now.

Keep your eyes open and wonder,
Art