Friday, February 29, 2008

Free Money! (ShareBuilder and Costco)

I finally decided to investigate ShareBuilder yesterday, and I was pleased with what I found.

First, if you're a Costco member you can use the coupon in your Costco coupon wallet to get a free $70-$90 account bonus. Create an account with the promotion code and membership number, then after you complete your first transaction you're eligible to receive the bonus. With this deal, Costco members are also eligible for quarterly rebates on all automatic transaction fees. As a regular gold-star member I'm eligible for a 10% quarterly rebate. Executive members are eligible for a 25% rebate. That covers the free money part.

Second, if you set up an automatic investment, it only costs $4 each time.

Third, if say, you've always wanted to invest in Berkshire Hathaway, but couldn't afford Class A shares (today around $140,000) and even find Class B shares (today around $4,600) a little pricey, you can purchase partial Class B shares through the automatic investment program. The symbol is BRK B -- although on other sites it may display as BRK.B or BRK-B.

(Berkshire Hathaway is Warren Buffett's and Charlie Munger's company. If that's not your cup of tea, you might try saving the minimum for a no-load index fund like one of the Vanguard funds.)

4-6 weeks later you'll have $70-$90 free money in your account, to do with whatever you like. The end.

Disclaimer: I am not any kind of financial professional and you should always do your own research before selecting a financial strategy. Also, this is just my opinion and I'm not paid by anybody for it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Operation: March Weight Loss

I've just returned from the grocery store with 71 items, and now I am ready to begin my "diet" on Saturday -- quotes used because the word is loaded but it's short and gets the point across.

I have my chicken breasts, tuna, string cheese, raw almonds, ingredients for a vegetable/lentil soup, whole grain bread, frozen spinach, and weight control oatmeal. My V8 is in the fridge next to my fat free yogurt, my granola is in the pantry, and the Golden Delicious apples are ready to be sliced. That should get me through the first week.

Steaks were on sale too. I bought a set of 4 for half off and stuck them in the freezer for later.

I haven't decided if I will be counting calories this go around, or just eating small meals frequently and doing lots of cardio. Probably the latter. Also, I think I will cut back on my alcohol intake but won't force myself to give it up entirely. I don't want to give up all my fun.

As for photos, I haven't made any progress in the last couple of days. I am planning to submit an application to the Bite of Seattle soon; I have a couple of weeks before it's due. I plan to mat some prints tomorrow night and then do a bunch on Saturday night and Sunday morning. And that's that.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I Do All My Own Stunts

Minutes -- nay seconds -- after posting the last entry I realized I'd left my credit card at a bar downtown.

So I drove back downtown and got it. I parallel parked perfectly. Then rewarded myself with a Subway Club.

Friends, do yourself a favor. Never forget to close your tab.


I didn't realize how long it's been, but today I have bangs again.

My stylist said, "Bangs?" and I said, "Okay." So here we are.

On Friday, I am very excited to go to a Great Cheese Unveiling. My friend has created cheese, you see, like some sort of ripened curd god. I have anticipation.

There is nothing left to tell. Bangs and cheese. You heard it here first.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bizarre Sleeping Habits of My Cat

I walked into the bedroom and saw this:

Vash has always preferred to sleep under the covers, but I guess it was just a little too warm to fully commit this morning.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sonics vs. Blazers at Key Arena

The Sonics game was interesting -- what I saw of it. I had a hard time grasping why Chewbacca was our mascot, but it was explained to me several times that it was actually a Sasquatch. Because that makes more sense.

Backing up a step, a group of us went to JaBu's Pub before the game and drank $2.50 pints for several hours before heading over to Key Arena. Not being a fan of crowds or noise, I can't remember the last time I've been in a bar on a Friday night. We had a good time though.

As for the game, we only watched the first quarter, then we ate some hot dogs and eventually decided to go to another bar. It was quieter by then. A few of us shared an order of tater tots and another few pints and then it was home again.

My big news this morning is I was able to order another wing for my note card display rack, so now it'll have all 4 sides filled instead of just 3. The wasted space was playing havoc on my already fragile mental state. And by fragile mental state I mean my anal-retentive-need-for-balance/order. It just looked lop-sided!

It's a beautiful day outside and it's warm enough where I can finally crack a window and get some air in here without freezing. I'm still feeling lazy but eventually I need to buck up and mat some prints. Or go for a walk. Or something.

In case you were wondering, I heard later that the Sonics won. Chewbacca must have carried them to victory!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My First Basketball Game

My pal Courtney is accompanying me to a Sonics game tomorrow night. It'll be my first trip to Key Arena and my first visit to JaBu's Pub, not to mention my first basketball game ever. Chance of alcohol consumption hovers around 99%.

At lunch I jog/walked 3 miles on the treadmill in 44 minutes. That might not seem fast to you, but it's a personal best for me. The downside is it made my head hurty and I finally had to take a Motrin to feel normal again. I dislike taking pills but not enough to eschew them altogether.

Spell checker wants you to know that "hurty" is NOT a word.

I haven't worked on anything photo related this evening, which means I will need the weekend to catch up. Instead I took the recyclables downstairs to the giant blue recycle dumpster and then watched "The Biggest Loser: Couples." Occasionally I brushed the cat and watched the moon rise yellow and round over the football and baseball stadiums, out across the bay.

As you can see, it was a fabulous evening.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

A photo of tonight's lunar eclipse:

I wish I had a better lens...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Next Steps

I mailed my application to the University District StreetFair today.

It was technically due on the 15th, but their website says they'll still accept it. I couldn't have submitted earlier because I didn't shoot the booth photo until yesterday, but now that that's done, I'm ready to get my other applications in order. Next I plan to submit to the Bellevue Festival of the Arts. And I plan to do so way before the deadline.

Tonight I'm taking it easy -- eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in front of the TV -- and planning to turn in early. I'm not sure what I plan to turn into exactly, but I hope it can fly.

Next steps: settle on a credit card acceptance method, order plastic bags, identify what vacation days I'd take if accepted to a festival, take inventory then put in a print order, a note card order, and maybe a mountboard order, and consider reshooting product pics. Also, figure out how I'm going to weight down the booth, and don't forget to make lots more product. w00t.

In other news, I'm starting a contest at the gym in a week and a half, so I will probably start yammering about low fat snacks. Or tuna. Diets sure do want you to eat a lot of tuna...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Meet the Booth

It's been a long day. I drove downtown this morning, picked up my new spinning note card rack, drove home, cleaned the worst of the grime off of it, Jer woke up, we ate breakfast, and then we assembled the booth.

Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to my booth:

Jer is the best. After helping me set it up, he drove me to Georgetown to shoot the cold storage ruins at the magic hour. And then we went to Costco to pick up a copy of my booth photo so I can send it out in an application tomorrow. I am exhausted, but I feel great that we got so much accomplished today.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Aiming for a Mellow Evening; Missing the Mark

I bought some blue tablecloths at Bed Bath & Beyond tonight, and tomorrow I'm planning to attempt a booth photo. Little nervous about that, but it'll get done. With hope we won't have to fight the gardeners for space; I can't remember when they come. Put in another print order specifically for notecards, and still need to inventory everything I've done so far so I can figure out where I need to go.

I am trying to put all of this out of my mind now and enjoy the evening with my husband. Deep breaths and alcohol are key. Unfortunately whenever I have a few free moments to think, my mind drifts back to credit card acceptance and festival applications.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Retro-Live Blogging Friday Night

I used the wrong word in the previous entry. I said I was gluing, but there's actually no glue in anything I'm doing. I found some awesome double coated (stick) permanent photo-safe tape at the art store up the street, along with a bone folder, and a fancy eraser, so I've been assembling for the last couple of hours. I'm going to have to switch to matting the 8x10s soon, because I don't want to spend all my time on the cheapest item in my store. Got to balance these things out.

I should warn you, if you're new here, that I go through (obsessive) phases. If this photo stuff doesn't interest you, I will probably switch to speaking about exercise and diet soon enough. And then swing back around to finances. Or playwriting. Oooh, or buying a house. So hang in there. The only thing I can promise you about content is that I bore easily. But then maybe you do too?

It's better when it rains.

This episode of "House" tonight is a little too interesting so I've moved to the floor in front of the coffee table. I drank some coffee; I hope to make up the "wasted" time after.

Better get mattin'.


I feel lighter today, even though I'm not technically. I've been eating lots of french fries and gulping down steins of delicous beer, but beyond that, I am on an upswing. It is Friday. Life is good. Things are not so bad.

Yesterday Jer came downtown and met me for lunch at the Steelhead Diner. We shared a plate of poutine and a sandwich, which was very nice and sweet since it required him waking up 2 hours earlier than normal. Then on the walk back to work, I saw a bookstore with a closing sign and dallied in the doorway. I love books, I frequently buy them, and here was a book buying opportunity but in someone else's misery... so I went inside.

Not only were their books on sale, but also their display items. I bought a nicely constructed wooden box to display my matted prints for $5 and a dozen book holders for $10, to also display my prints. As I was chatting with one of the owners about how they lost their lease after 18 years, I asked about the note card spinning racks they have out. Will you sell those too? He said, yes, $5. So I bought one and can pick it up next week. It was bittersweet, but I couldn't believe the serendipity.

Last night I enjoyed Happy Hour with Courtney and her husband and his coworkers, and then went home and shot the city skyline for awhile. One of those shots will be Monday's photo of the day at the photoblog. It features the word "LOVE" spelled out on the WaMu building out of strategically lit windows.

This morning I signed up to participate in the Henry Weinhard's St. Patrick's Day Dash, which is 3.5 miles through downtown Seattle. I have 1 month to train, and I'm going to use the event to get my motivation back. And maybe as a reason to stop eating so many deliciously seasoned fries.

Received another shipment of mats last night, about 110! Snow white alphamat with black core in 3 sizes! Very cool. My 3-day weekend will involve a lot of time at the kitchen table, matting and gluing, probably ordering another batch of prints, and getting my festival application schedule organized.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Exhibit B is for Boxes

Chiana is most interested in all of the mysterious boxes that I am about to inventory. Here is a window into my life:


UPS delivered my canopy! Jer says all the boxes are 5 feet tall! I can't wait to go home and tear into it. Whoo hoo!

No, I'm not at all excited. What gave you that idea?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mean Reds

I've got a mild case of the mean reds lately, which is another way of saying I am very much looking forward to the upcoming three day weekend.

My inner child is throwing a nasty tantrum. I tried to bribe it by eating chocolate chips directly from the bag and washing it down with two lite franks, but no dice. My inner child wants booze.

UPS tried to deliver the 3 packages today but didn't try very hard. They left two info notices. One was labeled with my info but a dud number and the other was completely blank with a valid number. I just don't understand.

As expected I was rejected for the first festival I applied for. I'm not surprised because I didn't have a booth photo when I applied, so I improvised poorly. Plus I set my prices lower than I wanted, so it's kind of a relief. Just shows how important it is to have a good presentation and think these things through. I am thankful though that the process of applying to that festival kicked me into gear and forced me into pursuing photo sales seriously. After sending in that application I got my business license, invested in a great booth, and came up with a real plan, so I'm actually thankful that it happened. Next year though, they better watch out. I'll be ready.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Minor Booth Update

Two of the five packages that make up my new canopy/booth were delivered today. The other three are apparently still "in transit," even though they all shipped together and were being tracked together. So that's a bummer.

Not much else to report. I assembled about 10 note cards tonight, and should probably order some more blank cards and the floor display for the cards. I'm afraid I'll have to buy a van to fit all my booth stuff by the time I'm done.

The new American Gladiators show is weird. It's like reliving Saturday mornings of my childhood in bizarro tv-land.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

But is it Art?

When the flush of a new-born sun fell first on Eden's green and gold,
Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mould;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves, "It's pretty, but is it Art?"

-- from The Conundrum of the Workshops, Rudyard Kipling

First time I posted that on the internets (to explain a thing I was too lazy to find the words for myself) was June 25, 2001, on a previous iteration of this journal. Google Desktop tells me so.

Hours of matting prints at the kitchen table brings this quote to mind again. Alone with my iPod, two slumbering cats, a plate of reheated enchiladas, and "Northanger Abbey," it's full speed ahead.

Devil be damned.

On paper I guess you do.

I just said the most offensive thing I may have ever said to another person, and it was completely unintentional.

I was at the mailbox and my neighbor was there, picking up her mail and making small talk. She said, "I get the weirdest mail. I mean, do I *look* like I need two copies of Victoria's Secret?"

And me, in my brilliance, only half paying attention, and DEFINITELY not meaning it the way it sounded, said, "On paper I guess you do."

I turned away, realized how it sounded, flushed completely, and said, "Oh no. I did not mean it like that. I'm so sorry! I didn't mean that."

She laughed and said she understood and wasn't offended. But I feel terrible. I honestly just meant they must think she REALLY liked the catalog. THINK, Christy. THINK before you speak!

Friday, February 08, 2008

A Productive Day

Received a shipment of mats, mountboards, and prints today. Assembled 16 pieces while semi-watching "Bones," "House," and the last few minutes of "Bridget Jones's Diary."

Will probably have nightmares about murder victims, internal bleeding, and letting love slip through my fingers, narrated in a faux British accent.

Such is Friday.

Grand Plan, Poor Execution

I had a minor misadventure with my camera last night involving its battery, a white sheet, a garbage bag, and my tripod.

Let me back up a step.

I am submitting an application to the Northwest Crafts Alliance and I need 4 pictures of my work. I want these pictures to be really good, since that's sort of what I do. So I set up a makeshift studio on the kitchen table, with an artfully draped white sheet over some cardboard boxes, another box to prop up the matted print, and positioned my tripod and flash.

Only the white sheet washed out the white mat in front of it (obviously) so I rooted around the house for some black fabric. I came up with a garbage bag and my exercise shirt. I happily clicked away for a minute, when all of a sudden, my battery dies. Poof. Dead. (This happens when you go a whole month without charging it.)

Only then! Then I couldn't remember where I'd put my charger. I hadn't used it since my trip to San Diego. (It didn't help that I was mildly inebriated.) I spent one whole hour wandering around my apartment, opening drawers, unzipping backpacks, and staring forlorning at the wall. Eventually insight struck, at about the same moment as my bedtime. I opened my desk drawer and found it under my newly acquired business license.

Guess I'll try again tonight. Bah.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Dusting off the doldrums

This week I *know* that everything I've purchased is legitimate and necessary for starting my small business, but I have such a deep aversion to debt that it's all weighing heavy on my mind.

I find myself reloading my credit card page to see if charges are out of the authentication stage yet so I can submit payment. (They're not.) And then coming back 5 minutes later to see if anything has changed in the interim. (It hasn't.)

This has all been making me question my risk tolerance, not to mention what I've taken on. But here's the thing: I believe when people see what I've made, some will like it enough to want to hang it on their wall. With each print I mat or card I put together I sit back and think, "Wow. I made that. If I saw that at a fair, I would buy it." And that's ultimately what keeps me going. That's what I need to remember when I think about how much I've already invested -- both mentally and monetarily -- and that even though the world is dark and dreary, it's not a time to get discouraged.

A good night's sleep will help.

And once the latest batch of mats and prints arrive in a few days, I'll be able to keep my hands and mind busy assembling pieces. There's nothing like a sense of accomplishment to dust off the doldrums.

Caffeine's not too shabby either.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

On Its Way: Photographic Evidence

The canopy is shipping in 5 packages, weighing in at 200 pounds. Here's a screenshot so you cannot doubt the veracity of my integrity:

Luckily I've been bench pressing at the gym so I can totally lift this. I think I'm up to 45 pounds now!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Yes I Can-opy

On my lunch break I ordered a canopy from Arkansas. It has a skylight and a vent and mesh walls for hanging prints. It is like the Cadillac of canopies. I went with the one I'd thought was more expensive until I did the math and realized it was about the same price as the runner-up canopy after tallying up the necessary extras. It will also allow me to use the frame for an indoor show without buying additional equipment. And I confirmed with the salesman that I could handle setup almost single-handedly once I got the hang of it.

In a week or so this means I can start putting my booth together and taking photos of it for applications. And that's a little scary, but exciting.

I'm doing this for real.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

I am addressing people who aren't you, of course

A couple of days ago I noticed somebody "borrowing" one of my photoblog images. Normally this would be flattering, except they were linking directly to the image and using my bandwidth without giving me credit. So I added a big ol' URL across the middle of the photo and I'm waiting to see what happens. Hey, free advertising!

In case you were wondering, my philosophy is that it's not cool to flat out steal images or written content. You can sugarcoat it however you want, but when you copy and paste anything without giving credit, especially when you can't be bothered to host the content on your own server, that's pretty much stealing to me. I don't mind anybody re-using my work as long as I'm credited and, for commercial purposes, written permission has been obtained. But for general Internet usage, I'd settle for a byline or a link back. To me that's just common decency.

I realize lecturing the Internet on common decency is about as futile as buying a lotto ticket, so I went through all of my images on the photoblog and stamped my URL across each one. I was hoping I wouldn't have to do that, but I'd prefer this didn't happen again. Bandwidth costs money.

I successfully made a batch of fudge last night, which is exciting. My previous attempt several years ago ended in a soupy brown mess, but this turned out pretty tasty. I also put together a few more note cards last night and made my first T-hinge to mat prints.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

A Game of Let's Pretend

I may be wrong and I hope I am, but I suspect one of my neighbors has been purloining my Wall Street Journal. I went downstairs early this morning to tape up my FedEx notice with my buzzer # -- since one of my neighbors (not so) helpfully taped it to the wrong mailbox and I want to make sure FedEx can find me -- and noticed a stack of papers outside, which I brought in. On top was my Wall Street Journal, a publication I ordered free for trading in some airline points a couple of months ago, but hadn't received yet.

What a coincidence! The very first time I go downstairs early, is the very first time I receive my paper. What are the odds?

I guess I'll have to make it a point to go downstairs before 6am and see if I can find my paper more often. It is clearly labeled so that's not the problem.

Let's just pretend this was the first day I received it ever. Then I may look upon with the world with less suspicion and judgment.

Suffice it to say, I can't wait to own a house.

Happy Groundhog Day.

Friday, February 01, 2008

A Cosmopolitan Evening

I bought folding tables tonight. At Costco. Then I bought Baileys. At the liquor store. Also a wine called Sangre del Toro with a little plastic bull strung along the foil top. The liquor store also sold absinthe, but I did not buy any; they were out of Lucid. Then I bought ink for stamps. At OfficeMax. It was not easy to find; ink is not a popular item. And last night I ordered a bunch of mats off the Internet. I was paid today, you see.

I guess I'm going to have to buy the canopy and start applying for festivals now. What with all these tables...

In other news, there really isn't any other news. Work is work, home is home, and my brain is filled with figures, both numerical and trapezoidal. Maybe I will lie to you and tell you I am going to watch Torchwood, but really I will probably break out the ink and practice stamping the backs of my notecards.