Reflection and worries – part 2

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A few months ago Derek started the process of applying for professor jobs. He applied to one in a semi-rural snowy mountain town, a place that I wasn’t too sure I’d be happy living in. Derek got a call back a day later, and my anxiety shot up. You can read about that here: https://texastalesblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/10/reflection-and-worries/

Well, nothing more came from that interview, but there have been other opportunities since then. Each week my anxieties change. I wish I could be in the present and not worry about the future. What is going to happen will happen. Easier said than done.

Derek applied to a few schools in December and January. Aside from that one call back, we didn’t hear anything.

There was one school and place, not in Texas, that I would have been ecstatic to move to. Derek heard back from that school, and was told “no, however…” It turns out that this school thinks Derek is a good fit for a two-year fellowship. A fellowship at a large school such as this one would really set Derek’s career off. The deadline is Monday, and Derek completed the application for that one last week. My thoughts change about this job possibility almost daily. I would love to move there, but I have reservations about it being only two years. What would happen after that? I’m ready for some long-term stability.

He also applied to a school right here in Houston. That was back in February. I have no patience. I feel like he should have heard back from now, but multiple people have told me that academia is “slow.”

We thought that the round of job openings for professorships were over after the January deadlines. So we thought, maybe a teaching job wasn’t going to happen for Derek right away. However, a few more have been opening up recently. It makes sense, schools probably know of a lot more openings now. Teachers decide to move on or retire by the end of each school year. He has a few in mind that he will apply to once he graduates, which is a week and a half way.

At least I can say that I feel better about the possibility of moving to these places instead of the snowy mountain town, but this doesn’t change the fact that I would prefer to stay in Houston. Derek will apply to some design firms right here in Houston, just in case none of the professor jobs work out.

We have no idea what will happen. I feel like when I reserve myself to thinking that we’ll leave, that’s when we’ll end up staying, and vise versa.

I have been putting a mental list together of some of the easier things we want to do in Houston this summer if we have to leave by mid-July (Most start dates for professor jobs are August 1). Go to NASA, Brazos Bend State Park, etc. Some of the bigger things won’t be plausible, like weekend trips to Dallas and Austin. I am comforting myself some by reminding myself that we could always take a week long vacation from where ever we live in the future and visit both Dallas and Austin. The two cities are not disappearing any time soon.

I am quickly losing patience. I hope we hear back from some places, even if its bad news, soon. I just want to know for sure or not what will happen to us. Stay tuned.

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MFA Thesis Exhibition

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All of the students at University of Houston graduating with a master of fine arts put on a show of their artwork, the MFA Thesis Exhibition. Derek has been working toward this show for the entire three year program.

The opening reception for the show was held last night, and we both had a great time. Derek’s pieces in the show seemed to be a big hit, and attracted a lot of attention all night long. Some of the elements were hands on, so Derek was happy a lot of people got involved.

Derek’s artwork in the show as a whole looked at the history of mass media and the early press, and various problems that arise during different times in history.

The individual pieces in the show included: (these are his words, not mine!)

  • Three abstract pieces that are speculations on the future of virtual reality technology.¬†
  • A roll of paper that features tweets from the @TEN_GOP twitter account, which was a fake account that effected American politics in 2016. For the tweets, Derek needed to make his own emoji font in order to print the tweet collection. The roll of paper is 72 feet long!
  • A sentence on the wall, made with vinyl, which is the definition of the graphic design term, gestalt, which Derek compares to the long-term, emergent effects of mass media.
  • Two recordings, one explaining his work, and the second was the original 1938 broadcast of the War of the Worlds by Orson Welles. Though its possible that the panic that this broadcast caused was exaggerated, it is one of the earliest case studies in the effects of mass media.
  • Pamphlets that he has created from historical documents from the 1600s to today. There is a book binder machine, and Derek invites people to take some of the pamphlets and make their own books from them.

It was so great to see people coming up to Derek all night long and shaking his hand and hugging him, students, classmates, friends and professors. It was good to see some classmates that I’ve come to known over the past few years.

I even met the wife of one of the classmates, for the first time in the whole three years, and she said, “I have heard so much about all of you!” to which I replied, “We have heard so much about you too!”

There was a toast to all of the graduates in the show, and when everyone was applauding, I tried so hard not to cry. I succeed for the time being, but both Derek and I agree that there will be no stopping the tears during graduation.

Some of my friends from work, who have become friends of Derek too, came to the show. It was great to have their support too.

The pamphlet binding part of his show was a success, and lots of people took pamphlets home. Everyone seemed to be in awe of the roll of tweets too. Someone came up to Derek and said his work was “brilliant.”

About two months ago, Derek was extremely stressed out, but then everything just clicked and came together rather quickly. The last two weeks were hard, getting everything put together and set up, but that big hurdle is done now. Last night was a great way for everyone to say, “WE DID IT!” In the meantime, Derek, and the other exhibitors, have to give artist talks next week about their work. He also has two write two big papers for another class. Graduation is 41 days away!

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Texian Market Days

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Texian Market Days is a large living history event that takes place at George Ranch Historical Park, which is about 30 minutes south of Houston. The park follows four generations of a family through 100 years of Texan history, starting with an 1830’s farm, an 1860s home, a 1920’s Victorian home and a 1930’s cattle ranch. Each area had reenactors and demonstrations.

This was one of the first events that I wanted to go to, but was disappointed because of my original work schedule having mid-week days off. Two years later, I finally got to go.

The 1830’s area had Texian (residents of Mexican Texas and, later, the Republic of Texas) and Mexican reenactors. I got to watch some demonstrations of cotton batting, a cannon firing (they did it so differently than what I was used to!) corn husk doll making, and learned about some animal furs. There was a skirmish, but honestly it was not organized well. They told everyone to get behind the fence line, but not everyone did. So the people who followed directions (me included) could not see much. I was disappointed in that.

However, the Civil War skirmish was excellent, and it made up for the first one. They had a neat skit, with the Yankee’s ransacking a southern home. The Confederates won. We are in the South after all. In the Civil War section, there was a sugar cane press demonstrations, a quilting bee, a hospital tent and dance lessons. I enjoyed this area the most of all, obviously, because of my experience as a Civil War reenactor. It felt like home. At the same time though, it felt weird to be on the spectator side of things, listening to information that I mostly already knew about. One of my favorite moments of the day was getting to watch the demonstration on the 1861 parrot rifle, and I ended up getting an amazing photo of the cannon blast.

The park is over some swampy ponds, so you have to cross bridges here and there to get to different areas. I was happily surprised to see my first wild alligator. It only took over two years. (My parents saw one only two minutes into Texas at the welcome center!)

The 1920’s sections featured a temperance movement, a 1890s beekeeper demonstration, blacksmith demonstrations and cowboy camps. I think there might have been more to see at this point but I was petering out fast!

Same goes for the 1930’s cattle ranch area. I was getting tired, but I checked out some WWII camps, some old vehicles, and watched a dancing performance by the Ballet Folklorico Herencia Mexicana de Houston before calling it a day. I had a great time and I’m glad the opportunity finally opened up for me to go.

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Derek at the University of Houston

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I have written all about our day to day life and our little adventures on Texas Tales for two years now, but I realized that I hardly ever mention what Derek is up to at school, which is the number one reason why we moved here in the first place.

Derek is starting his third and final year in the graphic design masters program. I am impatient and I want the year to go by fast, and he is the opposite. He wants it to s-l-o-w down.

This year he will be quite busy. He has to spend the whole year working on a thesis project. He has narrowed down the topic he wants to do the project on, now he just has to just figure out exactly WHAT to do. The third year students will have a thesis show at the end of the school year in the spring.

The University of Houston has provided Derek with some great opportunities, but he has also chased a few opportunities on his own time as well.

Derek has taught two graphic design software classes to undergrads. This opportunity is offered to the best students during their second year of the masters program. He will continue to teach this year as well. In addition, an unexpected teaching opportunity popped up as well. There were some summer openings, so Derek, along with one of his classmates, taught a six-week summer software class.

Derek also was the Teachers Assistant for one of his professors last year, and was set to do that again this year for a print production class. However, this professor was recently named the interim associate dean, which is making her extremely busy. She has trusted Derek enough to let him teach the class on his own! This is perfect, because when Derek was in the workforce (seems like ages ago) his job was in print production! He is excited to get this class started.

Last fall, Derek submitted a pitch for a session at the National College Media Convention in Dallas, and his pitch was picked! We went to Dallas for the weekend and he spoke to college students about typography.

Derek, and one of his classmates, also submitted a research poster for GRaSP (Graduate Research and Scholarship Projects). The event showcases research taking place at UH and is typically a STEM event (science, technology, engineering and math), so it was new for a graphic designer to join. It gave the graphic design program good publicity.  Here is a link to an article about the event:https://www.uh.edu/kgmca/about/news/2017/11-01-grasp-research-posters.php.

He also spent a year working for Gulf Coast Journal, which is a literary magazine that is published on campus. He helped design pages of the magazine. He was specifically recommended for the job, because of his magazine experience, and was able to get class credits for this.

All of this reinforces the idea that moving to Houston was a good thing. Derek hopes to be a professor after graduation. We are hopeful because there are plenty of higher education places in the city.

Exploring Rice University

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There are a ton of higher-ed schools around Houston. Rice University is just a stones throw away from us, right across the street from Hermann Park, which we frequent.

We have always seen the buildings from the roads as we drove past, but never stepped foot on campus until last weekend.

Rice University is a prestigious, private university. Their mascot is the owl. If you look hard enough, you can find owls all over campus.

Their campus was so peaceful, covered with large oak trees and plenty of tables and chairs for relaxing. The architecture was impressive as well. I felt as if I were at an Ivy League school in the northeast, or as someone else put it, Hogwarts.

We also stopped at Rice Coffeehouse, their cafe inside the student union, for some cold drinks. We also saw a French cafe/restaurant on campus called Flo, might have to check that out another time.

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