Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Paw Stockings

Ever since I was a kid, the cats have always had a holiday stocking stuffed with toys. I'm not sure why it took me this long to come up with a more appropriate shape. I had some awesome patterned fleece that I've been carrying around for years, and it seemed perfect for a paw print (plain red stockings are so boring). The bonus is that I've got enough for several projects.

I'm also using this stocking to revive my Etsy shop:

Photos of the process after the jump...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Mace Windu

Yes, we're digging deep into the archives this week, but fear not. I've got all kinds of new stuff in the works; I just can't show you until after the holidays. So for now, I give you a high school drawing of Mace Windu:

Speaking of characters named Mace, bonus points for anyone who knows what movie this guy is from:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Seattle Atheists goes outside the bus

In 2009, Seattle Atheists decided to run a visibility campaign with a few varieties of interior bus ads. They featured freethinking quotes from famous figures like Carl Sagan, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. Besides outreach to other non-theists, the ads' intent was to educate the public about the legacy of skepticism and critical thought in American history. Despite what religious fundamentalists would like to believe, America was not established as a Christian nation, but rather founded on secular principles that included, for good reason, the separation of church and state. The campaign got a lot of great feedback, so our goal for the next round was to take it to the next level and try for a few ads on the outside of the buses. Two years and some generous donations later, we were finally able start working on that project.

Thanks to a lot of intense work from our dedicated volunteers, our new bus ad campaign launched this week. Twelve local buses are now displaying banners with photos of regular folks in different everyday scenes. The theme: "1 in 4 Washingtonians is an atheist," a stat is based on the 2008 ARIS (American Religious Identification Survey) report. The key idea, again, is visibility. As the website points out:
Many of your friends, your family, and your coworkers are atheists. We help build your bridges, deliver your mail, and heal you when you're sick. Whether you realize it or not, you know plenty of atheists. We'd like to be open about who we are. An atheist is someone who doesn't believe in a god. So open up, come out, and get to know us.

While I recognize that there's been a bit of chatter trying to nitpick the "1 in 4" number (some want to argue that being agnostic, irreligious, having no religion, etc., doesn't necessarily mean you don't believe in god), which is fair, the real message is that those without a god belief do, in fact, make up a noticeable portion of the population, especially in the greater Seattle area, and we deserve to be heard. If you're an atheist, we simply want to say that you're not alone. If you're looking for information about atheism, humanism, skepticism and the like, we can provide you with those resources. And if you're a theist, we just ask that you don't discriminate against others based on religion, and if there's something you don't understand about atheists, feel free to ask us! We're an open book. This campaign is about encouraging dialogue and dispelling myths that surround a perfectly healthy and wholesome worldview.

In closing, I especially want to thank our photographers (Josh and Mike) and graphic design artist (Kyle) for an outstanding job on these ads. Amazing work, guys!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Winter Fractals

This week I'm pulling some fractals out of the archives. These seemed appropriately snowy and icy for the season. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Slinky Dinks

It's Shrinky Dink time! Who remembers these ridiculous things?

Okay, I admit it -- I've wanted to execute this silly little idea for months, and I finally got around to doing it last week. I couldn't wait to make a Shrinky Dink of our cat Slinky, but unfortunately things didn't turn out so well.

It started off great. I sketched a picture of a black cat in permanent marker, filling almost the entire sheet of plastic. Of course I spent more time on this than I intended, but what the hey? Nothing like some good ol' nostalgic family fun. Um, minus the family, I guess, but you know what I mean.

After cutting it down a little and adding some holes around the edges, now it was time for the oven...and disaster. It wasn't until I was watching it in the oven that I remembered the plastic's tendency to curl while heating. I tried waiting it out like the instructions recommended, but it was a big sheet and it just kept curling as it shrunk. When it started to fold on top of itself, I attempted to bend it back in place, but it wasn't working. It folded into a weird mushroom shape and wasn't going flat, so I pulled it out of the oven in defeat. Having a useless piece of warped and partially shrunk plastic, I got a little frustrated...

Thus concluded my Slinky Dink experiment for the night. I couldn't bring myself to draw another one, but a few nights later I decided to do some less ambitious projects. I was curious how stamps would work, so I guess it wasn't a total waste:

Citi, you are now my #1 Enemy

It's no secret that I'm not the epitome of wealth and success* right now. There are reasons (not excuses) for this, among them a misguided choice of a college major, an expensive degree that I'll be paying off well into my thirties, an early divorce and followed by another breakup that left me...stumbling...for a while, putting a little too much time into volunteering for a nonprofit, coming out of the closet a little late (and jarringly), taking care of my mental/emotional stability first instead of focusing on my career situation, being unable to find the right long-term living situation and moving a lot during my time in Seattle, and having a noticeable lack of safety nets and cheat codes. Do I have regrets about any of this? Sure, some, I guess. That's what I'm supposed to say, right? But I also realize I did the best that could with what I was given, considering my background and all the circumstances leading up to my current situation. Now thirty is right around the corner, I'm childless, still renting, and most frustrating of all, I'm still "tied to the system" with all my debts.

And that's what I want to talk about here: debts, and banks. In the last year or so, I've finally had some breathing room to start thinking about how to turn my financial situation around. It's a challenge to begin with, since I don't inherently value money and grandiose displays of wealth. But I do want to get rid of my debts, to distance myself from the corporate gluttony of banks, to get myself back in school, and to find a career that is more suited to passions.

I'm starting off with simple things. I had been banking with WaMu-turned-Chase until earlier this year. It's stupid that I didn't switch to a credit union earlier, but I was mostly lazy, since my account was still free. Chase itself lit the fire under my ass when they decided to start charging fees for essentially not being rich enough for a free checking account. Goodbye Chase, hello Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union.

I'm glad that the country is waking up and realizing, despite whatever good the banks may have created for us historically, the greed and sliminess at the root of the current system. Of course, when it comes to both easing up one's budget and screwing the banks, the real culprits are loans and credit cards, not personal checking accounts. The truth is, Chase (14% interest) and Citi (23% interest) are still reaping in a small fortune through my two credit cards, and Bank of America is making a nice chunk of change through the interest on my car loan. The student loans that I have left seem endless, true, but at least their rates aren't quite as bad.

I'm not proposing a Fight Club-style take-down of the banks and credit card institutions. I've seen a lot of talk going around about simply obliterating these debts, but I know that's taking it too far. This is my problem, even if I've used those two credit cards out of desperation for food and health expenses and sometimes to pay another bill. What I do have a problem with is the percentage of money they're making off me every month.

A decade ago, following the typical middle America advice about building credit history, I got my first credit card -- a Citi Mastercard. I didn't use it much at the university. I might put my books on it, just for the sake of using the card, then pay it all off in the next month or two. That was how it went. I think it was my junior or senior year when I got a Chase Visa card, which gave me piddly reward points (I'm embarrassed I actually thought that gimmick was worth it). When I entered the real world and moved to Seattle in 2005, that was when I started consistently carrying a balance, which slowly grew into the thousands over the course of the above-mentioned life trials.

And despite those trials, I never let my debts get out of control. I guess if there's one thing I can be proud about, it's that I never paid a bill late. That's my one pathetic victory. When it came to loans and credit cards, I wasn't paying as much as I would have preferred, but even at my worst, as I got sucked down into the depression of a life turned upside down, I still scraped together what I needed each month to survive. And thank goodness, because it means that I still have a not-too-shabby credit score in the 700s. I think a lot of the credit score game is bullshit, but I'll save that rant for another time. The point is, I've kept my head above water for the last six years and have the credit history to prove it.

That doesn't matter to Citi, though. Their rates have continued to skyrocket for no good reason, and at my current rate of 23%, I feel like I'm being robbed every month. So much for customer loyalty, eh? I don't use this card at all anymore; I just try to pay it off. On a lucky month I might have $150-$200 to put toward that balance, but then I get charged a hundred in interest. I just want to cry the months I can only afford the minimum payment. So if there's one bank who's really on my shit list right now, it's Citi. That's the debt I need to focus all my energy on, and hopefully even transfer to a different line of credit whose rates aren't so atrocious.

* Success as defined in the typical American Dream sense of the word. [Straight-]married with kids, white picket fence, a 9-to-5 job with spectacular benefits, and lots of expensive toys to show off said success.