Art School: Semester 3, Week 4

Hello once again from Vancouver, BC, where it’s been warm(ish) and nice for far too long. Four weeks or so. The locals love it, but I want some rain.

The last week hasn’t seen all that much of interest going on, sadly. At least not here. As I write this the Orange Nitwit in the Whitehouse has apparently decided to start a trade war with everyone, so that’s fun, but my life has been pretty calm.

Well, calm except for the water leak. You haven’t heard about the water leak yet. Hmmm. Where to start? OK, How about here…

We’re renting this old house in North Vancouver. The rent is high enough to qualify as a (large) mortgage payment on its own, but for technical reasons we aren’t looking to buy a place at this time. Maybe someday, when things settle. And given we have three big dogs, an old rental is probably best. In fact, at some level it may be the only choice. (Our previous place was a tear down, so you can see we have a habit of renting things that aren’t exactly new.) Anyway, we’re here.

It really is an old, funky place, but they clearly plan to rent it out for a long time, not tear it down and build something new. It’s got a new furnace and water heater, as well as a reasonably new dishwasher and microwave. There are some “oddities” about the layout, but it will serve. We moved in and discovered that it has a roof leak. Enough rain and water comes out in the crawlspace and laundry room. So we report that. The roof is also newish, we’re told, and this is a warranty repair. The roofers were finally out last week and they say it is fixed. We’ll see when the next round of significant rain arrives.

While that was in process (mostly waiting for the roofers, who missed the first day they said they’d be here, then rescheduled, missed that, rescheduled again, and then finally made the new date two weeks later) we started hearing a noise in the living room. A noise like running water in a pipe. But a check around the house revealed no leaks, and a check in the crawlspace showed no leaks there. The noise was loudest in the main line coming from the water supply out in the street and faded as you got farther along the pipes from the entry point in the crawlspace. Thus, if there was a problem it was out in the front yard somewhere. But no water was visible there, so it was either deep, under the driveway, or both.

I talked with the landlord and we decided to wait a bit because the city (well, technically it’s the District of North Vancouver, not the City of North Vancouver, which is a totally different geopolitical entity) was about to replace the water main. Perhaps they would inadvertently fix the problem, we thought. Also of note is that we’re not on metered water. The residents of the District of North Vancouver pay a flat rate every year for their water, regardless of how much they use. For that reason there was less urgency about shutting the water off to stop any leak, even if doing so set my Californian, water conservation demanding teeth on edge.

Anyway, they replaced the water main and connected the house to it and the problem got worse. Meaning the noise got louder. The other morning they rang they bell and explained that they had discovered the water supply line to the house is ancient, stiff, and was already leaking. They tried to replace some of it to get around the issue, but they had no luck. And of course what they did disturbed the system, so now we have wet ground in the yard, and the puddle is getting steadily larger.

The landlord was consulted again and a plumber came out to confirm the issue (the landlord doesn’t know me, so I can’t blame her for wanting confirmation). Apparently, tomorrow (Saturday) morning a different firm will come dig up the line and we’ll see what happens then. I expect we’re going to be without water for a while. Particularly when they see how nasty this replacement is going to be. The house has a U shaped driveway. The water line goes under it, and comes up in the crawlspace. It also appears to go under a raised flower bed made of mortared rock, under the front windows and between the house and the driveway. So this install may be… exciting. And costly.

Still, it’s not our problem, and not our expense. We only have to put up with the inconvenience, and keep the dogs from getting out while workers are here. With luck, by the time of the next week’s update this will all be but a memory.

If you’re keeping score at home, I need to ask: did I share the dishwasher story already? If not, someone email me and let me know. That way I have another story for next week. I suppose I could go back and reread my earlier posts, but this way at least a couple of you might email me and say “Hi!” in the process.


English class this week didn’t have all that much to write about. There was a quiz about two stories I mentioned in last week’s summary list, and in theory I’m supposed to have started working on my first paper. I haven’t, though. Still two weeks to get it done, so I am procrastinating.


Design class was more work on our plan, which is ongoing, but for which I don’t yet have great visuals. And the instructor wanted us to use the laser cutter, just to do it. I did so:

Laser Cutter Work

As you can see, I grabbed a well known logo and used it. There’s a bit of a story story there.

On the first day of the design class, the instructor had a bunch of books out and asked us to go through one or two and find images that might inspire us on the project we are undertaking. These were to be photocopied and hung up, as often happens in design shops. One of the images I picked was of a bat with fully extended wings. Organic shade, I thought. Interesting.

Another student grabbed a sticky note, wrote “Batman!” on it, and stuck it to the image I’d copied. That combo is still up on the wall in the room.

So when it came time to use the laser cutter I figured I’d go with the theme. I grabbed a Batman logo from somewhere on the net, and began an Adobe Illustrator odyssey. First I needed to turn a JPEG into a vector image. It happens that is called “Trace Image” in the menus, but figuring that out took some Googling. When you do find it and click it, you get a menu with no active controls — everything is grayed out. Turns out you have to target a layer with a raster image in it to get the controls to come alive, even if the only thing on the only layer in the document is a single raster image. (That’s more Googling, by the way.)

Then you see all the defaults for the tracing, leave them alone, and click the button to process the image. And the image on screen turns white. No visible results. Literally, the image you were working on seems to disappear. Surely you’ve done something wrong, so you go off and do more Googling. Later you realize that Illustrator’s defaults make everything invisible after the process completes. Some random clicking around and eventually you can see the vector image.

So now you want to save it, right? But don’t just click “Save”. You opened a JPEG file, and if you save it you will save one of those, which won’t have the vectors. For that you need to Save As an Adobe Illustrator file. No, that’s not the default, even if the stuff you’ve done has created entities in memories (like vectors) that cannot be saved in anything other than a Adobe Illustrator file. And no, it won’t even ask you about that as far as I know.

It is very clear that Adobe could make the user experience in Illustrator vastly better. I have no idea why they have not done so. My forehead is still heavily bruised from banging my head against my desk as I attempted all of this.

Once that’s all done, though, you get to use the laser cutter, and that comes with its own set of weirdness. For starters it has to be driven by Windows XP. Yes, XP. So old it isn’t supported anymore. Virus heaven. No, you can’t even use Windows 7, let alone 8 or 10. No idea why not. Though I am told the laser cutter actually uses a parallel interface for its connection to the system, so there’s that.

And once you’re in the laser cutter software there’s all kinds of other lore you need to know. An example: red is for cutting, black is for engraving. Your document must be in RGB mode, your cut lines in red (FF0000), and your engrave lines in black (000000). Cut lines need to be less than 1 point in thickness or they won’t cut. Engraved lines need to be 1 point or more thick, or they won’t engrave. Any deviation and they don’t work. As I say, lots of lore.

It’s rather amusing, actually. But as you can see from the above images, I did get it to work. And I have batman logos to spare.


  • Here’s a recommendation: an apocalyptic novel about the fall of civilization. Well written, and interesting, it’s called Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, and I really enjoyed it. (The link will take you to’s entry for it.) I tripped over it in an article I was reading and went off to buy the book. It’s unique in my experience in that it tells the story of an apocalypse (caused by an incredibly fast and lethal virus) from the perspective of those few that survived it, as well as some that didn’t. A series of stories are woven together around a few characters whose lives intersect in various ways as the end happens. If this kind of thing interests you, I think it’s a good read.
  • And here’s the usual index of art school posts and other things here on Medium, because Medium’s display isn’t chronological, as far as I can tell.


Nothing else this week. Honestly. I apologize. There were no interesting ships in the harbour, and I’ve not seen other things that seemed relevant. (Do you want a picture of the puddle in the front yard? I didn’t think so.) I did see a woman with a six foot long, inflatable lobster (fully inflated!) hanging off the back of her bike as she was riding down the road, but I was on the bus and my phone was in my pocket. No chance to get the shot, I’m afraid.

And In Conclusion…

You’ve all done very well!

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.