Author Archives: fionaharlan

The Haggis, a documentary

Choose a subject you are passionate about. I am pretty passionate about haggis, whenever I am back in Scotland I aim to consume at least my body weight in the stuff and for many years my dad and I whenever we were out and about would attempt to try as many different haggises as possible and then rate them based on their taste, texture, greasiness etc, (if anyone is ever in Scotland and interested the best we found was from a butchers in West Calder, the worst came from a Scottish shop in Vancouver).

Scottish Highlands

There could be haggi in them thar hills!

I decided to try and do a sort of pseudo nature documentary around the common fib told to tourists who don’t really know what haggis is and since I don’t have any actual haggi lying around I decided to do it as an animation. Initially I was just going to do still images but decided that wouldn’t be very exciting so decided to play around with making animations in Photoshop, I’m not going to claim any brilliance but its at least more interesting that still images. I thought it would be funny to enlist some other Scottish people (namely my parents) to do the narration and really ham up the accent and the lowland Scots dialect then add subtitles in “normal” English. Getting the subtitles in place was a bit of a bear, tantrums were nearly thrown but I won out in the end.

I certainly need more practice with Premiere to get my audio sounding right, I messed with it in Audition as best as I could but I’m still not sure its right. The same probably applies to the whole video, much like anything else you make yourself and stare at for probably 40 to 60 hours I have no concept of whether its all that great but there we go. Doing the animations was kinda fun and I may revisit it again but possibly after a lengthy break and a lie down in a darkened room!

By: Fiona Harlan


Eat Your Greens

When set this assignment the first thing that came into my head when thinking about 5 was 5-a-day which may speak to the power of advertising but I decided to run with it. I had had a notion in the back of my head to try some sort of stop motion for a while so I figured this was as good a chance as any. Plan A was going to be claymation but then my modeling clay fruit and veg didn’t want to stay upright so it was back to the drawing board and a quick trip to Albertsons to get some actual fruit and veg!


Poor fruit and veggies, denied their time in the limelight.

After I took all the photos I started thinking about what else I wanted and got to thinking about the Baz Luhrmann song (Everybody’s Free) to Wear Sunscreen and wanted to go for a similar vibe of having the somewhat techno music overlaid with facts about why you should eat five a day. I managed to find on the internet a list of 5 five a day facts and then since I didn’t much want to have to listen to my own voice again I outsourced the audio to some friends at which point I decided to continue the 5 theme and get 5 different accents reading my 5 facts.

Once I had all my bits recorded it was time to put it all together along with background music from the free music archive. Having never used Premiere before it was a bit of a learning curve and in order to get the look and sound of what I wanted I ended up assembling the stop motion in a different program and inserting the resulting video clip into Premiere then editing my audio in Audacity before adding that the premiere. With all my bits in place I could then play around and add titles and effects until I got something I was reasonably happy with.

I don’t think this is a perfect piece, far from it. One of the problems with getting audio recordings from people on the other side of the country/planet is that I was relying on them to record the audio so the quality isn’t quite what it could be. I also spent a lot of time playing with how I wanted to use the audio, originally I had everyone reading all 5 facts and just staggered but that just sounded messy.

Hopefully it’s at least moderately entertaining and if you are wondering who that odd guy at the end is go watch this and get an insight into what passed for children’s entertainment in the UK in the 1980s…

Selkie tale

I think I came at this project from a strange angle, my story was the last part to fall into place rather than starting with the story and going from there.

Since I have the funny accent I figured I should do something that incorporates that and that got me thinking about Celtic music and the sound of the ocean. So I took that idea and ran with it and that got me to Scottish folklore and the selkie mythology. There are many different tellings of the selkie stories with a lot of common threads so since I was trying to do something around the two minute mark I wrote my own variation on the theme that ties in a lot of the elements but  for the sake of brevity leaves out a lot of the exposition. Hopefully there are enough mythological tropes that it makes some sense.

The hardest part of this project was getting the reading of the story to sound decent, I think i did about 15 takes to get to this point and there are still some issues I think. I had a real problem with getting the speed right, I don’t exactly talk slowly so tried not to rush it which meant that my first few tries sounded vaguely like I was having a stroke then of course I went too far in the other direction! Interestingly my husband (American) told me I was laying the accent on thick, which I wasn’t aware of, but then my dad (Scottish) said I sounded like I was doing posh voice so I guess its all about perspective! I am pretty chuffed with how my music and effects worked out, just a shame about the reading.

To give those of you not familiar with the selkie myth a bit of background: common to Scotland and Ireland especially around the northern islands the mythology centers on creatures that can change form between seal and human. To change to human they remove their seal skin and then put it back on to become a seal. Many of the stories follow the theme that fishermen would steal selkie skins which they were in their human form (most commonly selkies are female) and then essentially hold the human form hostage. If you want a much better telling than mine check out Song of the Sea a sweet little animated movie based on Selkie stories.

A Peek into the World of Podcasts, with Allegra Ringo.


Image courtesy of Allegra Ringo

Podcasting as a media is still very much in its infancy. It has been less than 15 years since the first real podcast was unleashed on the world, however, in that time the podcast industry has exploded. Last year 36% of Americans said they had listened to a podcast at least once. That’s close to 100 million people. In addition to that being a big number it represents a 10-year growth of close to 230%. According the Infinite Dial 2016 survey, on average people listen to 5 podcasts a week, that is a lot of podcast listening going on.

There is not a shortage of podcasts out there. No hard number exists on how many podcasts there are but iTunes, one of the biggest distributors of podcasts, has over 250,000 unique shows. This means trying to get noticed can be tough. People are noticing though- iTunes also lists having over 1 billion podcast subscriptions.

To find out more about creating content for this expanding medium I chatted with Allegra


Image courtesy of Max Fun

Ringo, LA based comedy writer and host of the hugely successful podcast Can I Pet Your Dog? on the popular podcast network Maximum Fun. Having majored in Film and Electronic Arts and writing articles for various websites, Allegra is no stranger to digital media. She finally took the plunge into podcast in July 2015. She says of her impetus for getting into podcasting “It was totally Renee’s ([her] cohost’s) idea! She suggested we have a podcast because it would be a great way to do something fun and funny on a regular basis. I was recently laid off and thought “what the hell” so we did it

She credits the success of her podcast to two distinct factors. First, she has a fairly unique style of podcast: “We did get lucky in that there, weirdly, weren’t any other comedy podcasts about dogs, so there was kind of a space in the market we filled. I do think that if you have a specific topic (e.g. dogs, true crime, knitting) it is really

helpful. If your podcast can be summed up in a logline easily, that goes a long way.” Secondly, being on an existing network provides more exposure than going it alone, although getting onto a network has challenges all of its own, “We called them. Specifically, Travis [former producer] called them. Since he was already on the network with his other podcasts, he approached Max Fun and said he had a podcast that he thought would be a good fit.  I know a lot of people who have pitched to networks and gotten rejected. There’s a chance we still would have gotten on Max Fun [without the referral], but it’s very easy to get lost in the queue of submissions if you don’t have an “in”

The rapid success did come as a surprise to Allegra, “I just wasn’t expecting a lot because it feels like everyone and their mother has a podcast. So, I was very pleasantly surprised that we seemed to have hit on something a lot of people like. I’ve also been surprised at the community that has sprung up around it. I just couldn’t have anticipated it. It’s like a whole little town now!”. Of course, the success doesn’t come without it challenges: trying to coordinate host schedules for recording, the schedules of the guests and then the technical challenges that come just recording the podcast, the sound quality can after all make or break a podcast. Podcasting is a fairly efficient art, Allegra tells me that their podcast is a 3-woman operation and that each episode takes an average of an hour to record and an hour to edit.

We also talked about what she has learned during her time podcasting. Among the better choices they made were to break the show into segments, have a catchy theme and an eye-catching logo. The latter can go a long way towards drawing in viewers on subscription sites in our “judge a book by its cover” culture. Having weekly guests is also a big part of their podcast and I asked how they go about asking people to be on the show “Generally one of us will reach out via email (if we have the person’s email) or via Twitter. Sometimes we will reach out through a third party who we know knows a guest. But Twitter is a surprisingly effective way to get guests. With hugely famous people your tweets will often get lost in their feed, which is understandable. But people who see our tweets are really responsive to it”.

Having dabbled with the idea of podcasting myself I know how tough it can be to get started, so we talked about what advice Allegra would give herself if she were to go back to her early days as a podcaster: “I would tell myself not to be nervous at all. I was kind of nervous our first few episodes and looking back, there was virtually no reason to be, ha-ha. As Travis often pointed out, it’s not live, and you can cut anything you don’t end up liking (we cut one segment from our very first episode). Also, I would tell myself to keep in mind the question “what is my ultimate goal with this podcast?” I think different people have different goals and it’s helpful to keep yours in mind when you’re doing a weekly thing. Also “it’s ok to take a week off”!

Since no man or media exists as an island we finished our conversation discussing some of Allegra’s inspirations for podcasting. Many of her inspirations show how important it is to explore other forms of the media you are involved in: “I really love Karen and Georgia from My Favorite Murder. I think they’re great examples of how podcasting is more about passion than anything. They’re not experts, they’re just enthusiasts on the subject and that makes it great. I also really admire people like Karina Longworth of You Must Remember This, and Phoebe Judge of Criminal. Those podcasts are very different from ours in that they’re very research-heavy, and I have a lot of admiration for people whose tasks are so much more complex than ours”.

My chat with Allegra provided great insight into the world of podcasting and she offered some valuable advice for anyone who is interested in starting their own podcast.




By: Fiona Harlan


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(yes yes I know that isn’t real CSS, I was being clever okay!)


Simple clean design, but can you spot the advert?

Confession time: I am kind of a dork. Exhibit A: I love CSS. The number of things you can do with what boils down to fairly simple code is fascinating to me. With maybe 30 or 40 words you can completely change the look of a site, from some basic text with little formatting to a visually appealing website.

Which leads me to CSS-Tricks, almost every time I sit down to work on a webpage I think how can I do this crazy design I have in my head and CSS-Tricks has some really great resources for making your vision a reality. Both in depth tutorials and quick references guides (for example the most recent post detailing 50 interesting properties and values) mean that no matter whether you are trying to learn something completely new or just need to brush up on something you haven’t used in a while they have you covered. Its not all dry book learning, interspersed with the CSS how-to are other articles related to web design and the internet so there is always something interesting to read, such as names that break websites. If you are just on the hunt for how to get that one piece of code to do what you want and the boss is breathing down your neck their snippets section provides a really handy collection of code snippets covering multiple languages and platforms. If you are at all interest in building websites bookmark this page you’ll thank me later.

As you would expect with a blog on web design concepts the site is really well produced, its clean and the articles are easy to read with nothing crowding the page and detracting from the content. There are some nice design features but nothing that is too distracting to the reader. The interface is easy to navigate though there there are some ads snuck in there that are hard to distinguish from the actual articles.

So, to you, my fellow dorks if you are looking to learn CSS, read some interesting articles about web design or just have a giggle at some of the idiosyncrasies of the virtual world I say you could do worse then checking out CSS-Tricks.

by: Fiona Harlan

Angus and Sorsha tour the Media Arts Resources


1. Hey Sorsha, check out all this cool equipment you can checkout!


2. Well Angus. I found this blue wall so I can make it look like I’m in a giant mud puddle.


3. Ooh the Student Engagement Center has free popcorn, we like popcorn.


4. These shoes in the Main Art Gallery look like they would be great to chew on.


5. What does this crazy Art-O-Matic do?


6. Since they don’t let dogs ask questions at the Reference Desk we had to take a covert snap.


7. Hey look you can see mum in this shiny Statue outside the Health and Wellness Building!


8. Mary Jo Kreindel’s Office has lots of fun jars, jars often contain treats. We like jars.


9. We stopped by the Media Creation Lab but since we don’t have thumbs its hard to use a computer.


10. We stopped by Judy Gates’ office to say hi!


11. The Indie lab seemed like somewhere else that thumbs are required.


12. We went to the Students First building and found mum’s flag.


13. Before we left we stopped off to check our p-mails!

By: Fiona Harlan.

Who Am I?


Angus and I on the beach in Florence

Greetings and salutations, I am Fiona and I’m 33 years old. I am originally from Scotland but moved to Oregon in 2010 after marrying a native. I already have a bachelors in Biological Sciences from the University of Edinburgh and for the past 6 years have been working for a small biotech company here in Eugene as both the head of biology and general computer related body. I rebuilt the company website last year and do all the design, advertising and social media aspects.

I have recently however burnt out on the science side and have gone part time to pursue my interest in media arts and web design as this is the aspect of my job I enjoy the most. Ideally I would like to either move entirely into multimedia at my current job or work as a web designer.

Outside of work and school I split my time between craft and animal based pursuits. I have two dogs: one who is old, grumpy, and my canine partner in crime who is a 2 year old border collie/husky named Angus. Angus and I are a certified therapy dog team and we are currently doing visits on the UO campus and part of the program through the Eugene library where kids can read to dogs. Angus and I also do agility and are working on trick dog titles, hopefully this year we will add flyball to our repertoire.

In addition to dog sports I also ride horses, I started riding when I was 10 but took a break of probably 15 years, getting back in the saddle on my 29th birthday. I ride English and for the past few months I have been competing in dressage competitions online via video entries, with varying degrees of success.

On the craft side I knit, quilt and do other sewing including making bandanas for dogs that I sell via Etsy. I also like to bake but have to keep that to a minimum for waistline reasons.

By: Fiona Harlan