10 minute Writing – 9/18/17

A snort came suddenly in the middle of the night. It was a very cold November evening, moreso than it should’ve been. The snow hadn’t come yet, nor should it have – it was November 28th. But, still it was cold. At about 3:30am and the chill had led to a frost web coating the entirety of John Hawkin’s bedroom window when he heard the first snort. The first one had only made him stir in his deep sleep and caused his dreaming to wander into a scene from his childhood where he was feeding the cows at his uncle’s farm as he turned over in bed.

Then came another snort from the backyard. Then another. Then came the scream. A high-pitched whistle that jolted John immediatly from his cow-dreams with a burst of adreneline. It sounded as if something was screaming in his backyard. It trembled into a low-pitched snort and faded. Then it started again, but this time it was joined with a second squeal and John looked at his frost covered window in absolute fright. He couldn’t help but think that it sounded mostly like giant pigs fighting with each other. The snorts and squeals kept going and the noise grew so loud that John had to cover his ears.

He got out of bed, a bed made for two which he was currently occupying on a solo basis. His wife had taken the kids that weekend to see her parent’s in upstate New York. He pretended that it was a planned trip, but the truth of the matter was that there was good chance she wasn’t coming back to his house in Plymouth New Hampshire anytime soon. They had had “a real blowout” (a term his father would use to refer to the fights he’d had with Mrs. Hawkins back in the day).

So he was alone as he approached the window. No one was hearing what he could hear. His nearest neighbors maybe, but that they were over a mile away. With his ears covered he approached that cold frosted window that had a strange moon glow. As he tried to see what was squealing outside he could see some shadows, but not clearly through the frost. He was shaking now. He knew these weren’t pigs, it couldn’t be. His hands reached down and pulled on the storm window to open it. It wouldn’t move. It was frosted shut.

Angrily he jerked at it again and it slide open a hair, but then became stuck again. The house was old and it had those strange dumbbell windows that often would start opening only to get stuck again. He leaned into the pull and forced the window to become unjammed. It flew open and John, not really as awake as he’d assumed he was had put one hand under it to leverage the window open. As the window flew open his hand slipped and John found himself flying out of the second story of his old house and landed flat in a bush.

He blacked out, unconcious for 10 seconds. When he came to he felt the arbor vitae bush he’d planted right on that side of the house had cushioned his fall and scraped him up something fierce.

“Fuck! FUCK! FUCK!” He yelled to himself feeling all the scraps and bruises of the fall forming in and on his body. He pulled himself up, still with his eyes closed. The pain was so great he’d completely forgot how he’d ended up in the backyard in the first place. Then as he grumbled to himself as he got his footing he heard a low snort.

John’s eyes flew open and he realized he was looking directly at the siding of his house. The moonlight illuminated it, but as John looked down he could see shadows forming on the house. They were large and horned. John spun around with fright to see he was surrounded by a herd of over 100 elk standing silently looking directly at him.

10 Minute Writing – 9/11/17

Colin McCalnick looked out his back window at the old chicken coop in his grandparent’s field. At least he thought it was a chicken coop. The truth was that he’d never asked them what the structure was. As a kid he was too busy watching Nickelodeon or getting scolded into doing the dishes to have any sit-down conversations with his grandparents. Pop-pop died when Colin was 13 and Nana died last year, right before Colin turned 25. It was only now, now that they were both gone, that he’d wished he’d made more time to talk to them. To ask them questions about the “maybe” chicken coop.

Now, he was sitting in the vacant house, looking out the window, and wondering what to do next. Two weeks ago he left his apartment with a few bags of his things. He wasn’t sure how to get the rest of his stuff, but figured it would be better to wait and check on that when things had calmed down a little.

“Colin, its fine for you to go to the farm, I just don’t know how healthy it will be for you to be out there all alone. Well, though, I guess if you can start cleaning the place up so we can get the lot onto the market you’d be helping us all out. Maybe you getting a divorce isn’t such a bad thing.”

His mother had a way of making every situation into a positive one, even if it stung a little. One of the things Colin loved about his mother was that she said whatever came to her mind. He liked that. It made him trust her. Even when she said shitty things, they were always the truth. She didn’t really know how to hold anything back.

When Colin was young, and the family would visit the farm, his mother would always clam up. She seemed to be afraid of her mother a bit. The car rides to the farm, all six hours of them, we so tense that silence sounded worse that the fighting…

10 Minute Journal [ Duality ] – 9/8/17

The Gulf Stream (1899) by Winslow Homer.

Process vs outcome. Duality. Alan Watts talks a lot about the duality of actions. For instance, the big one, good vs evil – he talks about how foolish he believes it is for someone to want to defeat evil. How would you know what good was without it? The contrast provides clarity and without it good can’t exist because there would be nothing to compare it to. He then goes on to give a further example of how he is grateful for those who argue with him because it isn’t until someone argues with him that he knows where he stands on a particular subject. Instead of being angry he says, “thank you”.

Last night I was talking with someone about process versus outcome. Today I’m thinking of it again. With Watts’ in my head I keep thinking about how we can never ever be outside of the process. Process is a verb, an action. Life can only be lived inside of action, so we’d better learn to feel at home inside of the action because we’ll never ever be able to experience anything inside of a static noun – an outcome of a process. Yet, without that outcome how do we choose a process. You could be working to make gains in your career, you could be smoking pot to escape a feeling of dullness, or you could be drawing a comic page that is one in a series towards the goal of publishing a book – they are all processes that are guided by outcomes. It is with an intended outcome that we understand how to judge the success of our actions.

Anne Lamott once talked about how the vision for your journey guides you in the initial direction 0f that journey. That with each step towards your destination you should let go of the vision so you can properly experience the real journey as opposed to be locked into the imagined one that got you to start the trek. I think about that, too. But there isn’t ever a time where you completely let go. Life is and isn’t a dark room we’ve been thrust into that we are feeling around for familiarity within.

10 Minute Journal – 9/6/17

I feel like I’m all over the place and getting nowhere at the same time. I’m drawing this griffin again for a page of comic art that’s coming out in a month or so. The project is for MIT. It’s frustrating because the art was done once already, but I realized I did a lot of it incorrectly and had to redo it. It looks great, but it is one page out of a huge sum of pages that needs to be done and it feels like it isn’t getting done. One feather. Then another. Then another.


Principles & Elements of Massive Open Online Course Design

For each course I’ve designed for massive open audiences I revisit this series of graphics. I made this in 2014 so that when I would bring new collaborators onboard to design a course with they would be able to understand the basic building blocks of my approach to course design. Each time I finish a course I update this.

A Note: I do not think this applies only to what we’ve classically designated as “MOOC” (which to me has taken on a meaning related to the platforms that dominate the field – coursera, edx, udacity, etc.). This is my thinking on how my own pedagogy interacts with courses designed for massive access. Accessibility is important to me and in these slides I address the idea of accessibility in a multitude of ways.

10 Minute Journal – 9/5/17

Things that cause me anxiety:

1) Trips (almost all trips cause anxiety – but especially plane riding)

2) Days without an established routine

3) Deadlines on projects

4) Social interactions

5) Conversations with just about everyone (except for K and my mom)


10 Minute Journal – 9/4/17

I was asked recently to reflect actively on what “my needs” were and how that corresponded to how I envisioned success for my future self. Time has been a problem for me recently. I’ve been going through a lot this year, my 34th year, that has me learning to accept the temporal nature of my own life. This may sound depressing or dire. Sometimes it is.

When I was in my teens and early twenties I experienced some of the worst depression that I’ve ever gone through. The darkness of that time was onset by really not feeling as if I belonged in the world. I don’t feel that way anymore. I do feel as if I belong. I also feel powerful in my own life. Being a young man felt like suddenly being thrown into a pit. A pit kind of like that one in The Dark Knight Rises that Batman is thrown into after (spoiler) Bane breaks his back. Like, I didn’t know how to climb out of the pit. For a long time I thought I just was going to be a run of the mill failure and never get out of the pit. I wallowed in that sadness.

But, even in that sadness I would not accept that this was “all there was” for me. I think that if I had I might have contemplated suicide back then. There was always a small voice that said, “try again. Maybe you can find a way out”. Over a decade later and that voice comprises something like 70% of me. The tenacious me that climbed out of the pit and became a man* is now in the driver’s seat.

(*In this situation I’d define “man” in its most simplest – as being able to provide and take care of myself without reliance on others.)

Climbing out of that pit did not prepare me for interacting with others, just gave me the ability to understand how to use others for my own benefit. Now, I’m in the fourth year of my marriage and I find myself wanting a new way. I want to be able to symbiotically support and rely on others (namely my spouse). I’ve learned a lot about how to do this, but I feel as if I have so much more to learn.

Training Your Way Towards Your Goals

This was written as a response to one of my students in the “How To Make A Comic MOOC”  within our new “MakingComics.com” Slack online community.

The Question:

I know that the challenge is to write within 16 panels for the course assignment. I also know its good for me to write within that constraint. But, I have a much longer comic in mind. Why is it so hard to write within a 16 panel constraint? (paraphrased question).

My Answer:

Concision is key! I’m also a person who likes longer form better as well. However, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is how to hone in on that feeling of “done-ness”. Without crafting a feeling of completion you can run into the bigger roadblock in the creation process – not knowing how to finish. Small projects are really key.


Abandoning Dehumanizing Systems

Once, an eleventh grade student came to me during break in between classes. He looked excited. I was gathering my things and getting ready. This is a busy part of the school day, especially for the kind of teachers, like myself, who had 5 classes with 30 students each to teach within the day.

Needless to say, I was distracted.

He came up on me quick, “Patrick!”*

(*There were a few students who used my first name, even though I’d asked them all to.)

“Down the hall, there is a local police officer giving a presentation to one of our classes.”

“That’s nice. Why are you telling me this?” I didn’t look up at him because I was busy, though I did feel confused about why this student was so excited.

“Do you hate him? Don’t you want to tell him?”


A Tough Day

I don’t know exactly what I thought I was going to feel at the end of this election. Angst with a bit of disgust with the entire process. Go back to my corner. Work on my projects. Move on. Something snapped for me this time though. I couldn’t sleep last night. I don’t know exactly what I was feeling, but it has definitely had me in a contemplative mood for the last 12 hours. I am struggling to understand myself and what I my role is as a human and American citizen.

My Political Tapestry

Age 5 I start reading Newsweek magazine, specifically drawn to political cartoons. I announce, “I will be a political cartoonist when I grow up!”

I become obsessed with the mythology of the American revolution. I want to visit all the landmarks regarding the formation of this country that New England has to offer.

I remember the first Clinton election. We held a mock vote in my school. I was particularly interested in Ross Perot, but as a good catholic democrat – I backed Clinton.

I hear Sublime for the first time. “April 26, 1992” informs me about the tapestry surrounding the Rodney King trial and riots in LA that I only peripherally understood when watching the news with my parents.

I’m a freshman in high school. It is announced one day during class, over the loudspeaker, that President Clinton was acquitted of all charges and remained in office after a year long media blitz about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Limp Bizkit plays “Break Stuff” at Woodstock ’99 – riots ensue. (thus cementing a very different relationship between my generation and Woodstock than the original).

Gore wins the popular vote but Bush wins the electorate. Controversy ensues. I stay up all night to see who is announced as winner. My jaw hits the floor as I get my first feeling of disillusionment with American government.

August – I turn 18 and get my driver’s license right as I enter my senior year of high school. A receive a draft card in the mail. I get nervous.

9/11 happens. I get mad as classmates of mine talk about wanting to kill “towel-heads”. I get up and walk out of school.

Bush is up for re-election. The DNC is in Boston where I’m in college, coincidently taking my Poli-Sci requirement. The teacher arranges for both a republican and democrat to come in and answer question. The democrat seems condescending to me. The republican is unabashedly honest, despite the fact that I agree with almost nothing he is talking about.

Obama gets elected. I barely noticed as I was completely checked out of politics at that point.

Economy crashes followed by an unprecedented federal bailout of Wallstreet. Nobody is tried in court for mishandling the American economy.

Occupy Wallstreet captures my attention, but not enough for me to join the protests. (I still don’t know why)

Donald Trump is elected POTUS.


Today was hard because all of this history, my history, flashed before my eyes. I have spent so much time as an adult feel lethargic about American politics and government. I feel something else happening now. I don’t feel like sharing just yet, but I did want to share that I am resolved to not let this go. Something needs to change. We all need to act in a direction that aligns our values with our actions. We cannot be passive consumers any longer. That got us what we have today.

A reality TV star elected to be the leader of our country.

Now is not the time to be sad. Now is the time to mobilize. Before you act though, take a step back and truly ask yourself what your values are. I guarantee you don’t value hating or judging anyone.