Monday, March 31, 2008

Concrete words, mostly

Grocery shopping after work. Wobbly cart. Filled it to the brim. Hail outside.

Four trips up the elevator and down the stairs and back again. Hot dog buns and hummus, Lean Cuisine, and facial cleanser. Tired. Plastic bag handles cut into my flesh, three per arm, balancing to lift my key to the lock, and not dropping the eggs.

I swing the door wide. Cats peek around the corner, I switch on the light, shut the door with my foot, hobble into the kitchen and unload the stuff into the refrigerator. Who hid the turkey slices under the Fig Newtons and why? Cold stays with cold. Remove the rubber band from the styrofoam container of eggs. Slide the extra hash browns in the bottom of the freezer, side-by-side fridge and freezer, mustard yellow. The kitchen is all brown and yellow, hard to believe popular colors thirty years ago were excrement-themed.

I probably should've bought a vegetable.

No points for lemon juice.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

What I do when I procrastinate on posting to the photoblog

It is Sunday morning and that means it's time to experiment with coffee and various types of alcohol. On the menu is Tully's Full City Roast, brandy, Kahlua, and Godiva chocolate liquer. Pour some of each into a mug -- preferably your largest contribution will be coffee -- and then drink it. Over time, refine the amounts to your liking. For example, I was left with too much brandy at the bottom of the cup and the taste is all out of whack. You can do better.

You know I should have my own liquor show on the food network. It would be amateur hour for sure, but they could televise it to high school kids to scare them straight with how stupid you sound/look when you drink. I would have a panel of stupid drunk guests and we would all have our private jokes that make the live studio audience go WHA? and one girl would inexplicably start crying halfway through the show about her boyfriend and try to drunk dial an ex. That's my kind of party!

Friday night I had the original version of the coffee drink I described in paragraph 1 at West 5 Lounge & Restaurant in West Seattle. They call it the Coffee Nudge and it is awesome. In fact, the entire meal was awesome. I don't know how it happened, but it was our first visit to West 5, which is odd because it's the sort of place Jer and I really like and tend to frequent when we leave the house. They serve a variety of comfort food -- I had the red beans & rice with Andouille sausage and Jer had the pulled pork sandwich -- and a full bar of great drinks. I had my first Sazerac and their Scarlet n Black (Stout plus Chambord) which tasted a bit metallic and some other things. If I tell you all my secrets you will probably judge me.

Jer drank some things too, mostly Jack and Coke and a Chimay, I think. We were both impressed by the quality and quantity of the food and the atmosphere of the place. Next time I will order either the mac n cheese or the meatloaf. Because I believe in plans!

Fortuitously, the state liquor store is only a few doors down from West 5, so after LOVING the Coffee Nudge, we could walk over there and pick up some supplies. Because we are DIY-ers through and through.

And with that I just thought of a name for my Food network show: DIY Drunks.

I rule.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What he said.

I wish to live ever as to derive my satisfactions and inspirations from the commonest events, every-day phenomena, so that what my senses hourly perceive, my daily walk, the conversation of my neighbors, may inspire me, and I may dream of no heaven but that which lies about me.
-- Henry D. Thoreau

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My friends, malt and hops

I don't expect you to believe me, but I try to avoid the Internet after imbibing of the alcohol. Yet somehow I am drawn to it. Like a moth to celery.

So here we are, world. The future, she is a wonderful place. For lunch I ordered Thai food on the Internet. It was broccoli and chicken with brown rice in an oyster sauce. I picked it up from Mae Phim at 12:05pm, walked down and ate at the pier, where my breath was tangible. And now the rain is coming down sideways and frontways and every which way.

I am a bum and have done no photography anything except weasel out of a scheduling conflict. I need to mail another check to some place somewhere and secure my application. It is all very mysterious. I haven't worked out AT ALL this week, and my new pants won't fit if I keep it up. But my belly is full and happy. I think it is a fair substitute.

I was unreasonably unhappy upon waking this morning, so tonight I guess I will attempt to slumber even earlier (than 9:15pm). That means PJs now, listening to the rain, and wrapping myself in alternative down. Possibly looking at words in a book I will never retain, except the memory that there were words and they were good. Y'dig?


Monday, March 24, 2008

First Day Back

It was a good day.


Not much else to report, besides that it's strange to get off the bus at a different stop after almost 2 1/2 years. One of these mornings I am going to forget and then I will be sad.

I heard word about another festival I was accepted into, but it conflicts with another I applied to. Frankly I just didn't realize they were the same weekend, and also I didn't expect to be accepted to both. Now I have to see if I can honorably withdraw from the one that has cashed my check but not officially accepted me yet. Versus the one that has officially accepted me without having my check. A pretty pickle.

Speaking of pickles... dill pickle relish in my tuna salad sandwich is very tasty.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Glimpse my World

After I posted the last entry I read Saturday's Wall Street Journal and then skimmed "The Intelligent Investor" for awhile. Finally I logged onto Fidelity and picked the funds I want to invest in once my 401(k) rollover goes through. I wish I could say all that translates into my being a financial genius, but that is not the case. I am just having fun. Non-traditional fun, but fun nonetheless.

Don't worry about me; being a big nerd keeps me warm at night.

It is what it is

Sunday night. Last night before I start my new job. I am having some trouble figuring out what to do next, so maybe writing this out will help me focus. I'm trying not to worry about things I have no control over, which has the end result of paralyzing me into inaction.

I feel very grateful for all of the things I have and the people in my life. Jeremy and I have been blessed with many opportunities and gifts. And we have these things because we worked for them and took advantage of chance when it presented itself, not to mention the fact that we've been very very lucky. But right now I wish he didn't have to work so much on account I won't see him again until Friday evening. It's always hardest the first day of the week when I realize how long it'll be.

So it's been a productive week off and I'm excited about beginning a new chapter in my life. I'm thrilled at the chance to learn new concepts and take on new challenges. But tonight I'm feeling just the tiniest bit sorry for myself, because Jer has worked 30 hours of over-time in the past two weeks and we really haven't seen each other, and now we won't see each other at all for 5 days.

The big picture is still there. We are working hard now in the hopes we won't have to work so hard later. And in the grand scheme of things my little issue is nothing. We will see each other again eventually and our schedules won't always resemble a Venn diagram. Outside I hear a siren go by and I know someone else is having a much worse day than I am. The most tangible thing I can complain about is that my feet are cold.

Okay. Time to shut down this computer and be present. And maybe put my Cthulu slippers back on.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Saturday is for dreaming

In the last few days, I've seen two TV shows on first-time home buyers in Seattle and how do-able it is. Granted, I didn't look up what years the shows were filmed, but it made me pretty excited. I can't wait to go out and look -- well, a year from now. Our lease expires in a year, and if we could stay longer to save more for a down payment, I'm sure we would. But it's nice to dream.

In the meantime, it should inspire me to reduce our clutter so we don't have to move with all that dead weight. I see more trips to Half Price Books (and Goodwill) in my future.

Poor Jer. For the last 4 days he's worked 11 hour days due to some mandatory training. And tomorrow his new shift starts, right on the heels of his old shift, so he gets no days off. Since I'm not making any money at the moment, his overtime pay will be welcome, but I'm sure he'd rather sleep.

New job starts in two days! Last night, to prepare, I worked through the first 40 pages of documentation I was sent, made lots of notes and jotted down some questions. What I love most about being a Technical Writer is the opportunity to learn new things. It's a job where you can be dropped into almost any situation, and (in theory) with your set of skills, really help improve processes and communication. I don't mean this to sound like I'm bragging because by that definition many other positions also have transferable skills, I just love what I do, when I'm allowed to do it.

Instead of matting prints last night, I did the work stuff, so I'm behind on the photography front. The first festival is only two months away, so it's go time. I need to start cranking out product and finalizing all the loose ends. Although I've only been officially accepted to 2 festivals, 4 festivals have cashed my checks, and 1 will do so in a couple of days. So my money is good enough for 5 of them, but I could still be rejected and refunded by 3 of them after the juries' scrutiny.

I don't know if I should be worried, but I went to one of the festival's websites yesterday and the domain had expired. Then I noticed they had just cashed my check. I hope it's just an oversight and not an elaborate scam to separate me from $100.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Litany of Chores

Another day of chores. My last vacation day -- err, last day of being unemployed (KNOCK ON WOOD). I'm brewing a pot of coffee to fortify me for evening as I wait for the king-sized mattress pad to dry and the sheets to launder.

Tonight I give myself the gift of clean sheets -- as opposed to the gift of dining in Hell... if you're at all familiar with "300" I am referring to the phrase, "Tonight we dine in Hell," which doesn't actually make any sense in retrospect but it stays because it amuses me.

First I went to the post office and mailed my passport renewal forms, then I met my trainer at the gym. Post-workout I walked over to Aerosoles and purchased a few pairs of comfortable, dressy shoes, which I didn't even think existed. I even branched out of my comfort zone and opted for a wedge heel, so bully for me.

Then I drove up to Capitol Hill and went to the art supply store to buy notecard supplies. And then rewarded myself (I am all about the pampering) with lunch at the Baguette Box. I am happy to report my French Bull Dog photo is still on display, and that their truffle fries are fantastic as always.

On the way home I stopped at Home Depot and bought fluorescent lights for the kitchen, since they've been on the decline for several months and are just barely lighting up now. Got home, called my parents to thank them for the Easter chocolate they sent, and now I'm washing the sheets.

Later I will mat prints like a mad woman and read some literature to prepare for my new job.

For a week off, this was maybe my most productive week ever. I should resign more often!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My Glamorous Thursday

It's a day for itemizing chores. The good news, the fantastic news is this: I left the house, in my car, for about five hours. How long has it been since I ran errands all day by myself, I couldn't say. At least not this many errands.

  • Drove to Costco: got passport photos (I need to change my name on my passport and have to reapply), bought my favorite cereal (Nature’s Path Organic Flax Plus Granola with Pumpkin), changed my name on my Costco membership card and had a new photo taken, and got gas for the car.
  • Drove to Half Price Books and turned in two boxes of CDs and books. Received $18.50 in cash, and then spent $14.63 on the new Matchbox Twenty double CD and the book, "I am Legend" by Richard Matheson.
  • Drove to the Mongolian Grill and ate an excellent meal. I like it spicy and they sure do deliver. -- If you've never been to one, you grab a bowl and move down the line filling your bowl with vegetables, spices, and noodles. Then you hand your bowl over to the grill guy and choose a meat. They dump it all out on a big hot metal circle (aka a grill) and in a few minutes you have your food.
  • Drove to the mall and bought clothes for work. Mostly from JC Penney's but also a dress from Macy's. If you're keeping track at home, I now own 3 dresses, which means I am going to have to buy shoes other than loafers at some point.
Writing it out like that, it doesn't seem like all that much. But it was, so there. Clothes shopping, by the way? Way more fun when you can actually fit into the clothes in the average people's section. I have more weight to lose, true, but it has been YEARS since I've had to go back and get a smaller size, usually I need bigger. Today, I needed a smaller size on a couple of occasions. Hallelujah.

Now to pre-post a photo to the photo blog and then I'm free of this accursed machine.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Must Skip TV

"The Moment of Truth" is probably the worst show on television at the moment. Its premise is a contestant sits in the hot seat, supposedly hooked up to a polygraph machine -- though wires are mysteriously absent and movement is not constricted in any way. The host asks inappropriate questions, we watch the contestant squirm, and after an hour it ends.

I don't mind the squirming. What I HATE, is that no one ever wins and there doesn't seem to be any way to win. Even for people who are clearly not lying. A female voice says true or false and there's no way to prove it. It's a brilliant premise for never having to give money away, but it's completely unbelievable.

I've seen it twice, so I must be an expert, right? What can I say? It's on after "Two and a Half Men" and I've recently decided that that's the funniest show on television at the moment. Okay, I'll grant the stupid show one thing. I do enjoy watching how shocked everyone is all the time, but other than that it's rancid.

U District StreetFair: Accepted!

I just got word I've been accepted as On Focus Photo to sell my work at the University District StreetFair!

It runs Saturday and Sunday, May 17 and 18. It'll be my first festival of the year, so it'll also be the first true deadline. I'm super excited! Coincidentally I was just over there this morning taking photos of cherry blossoms at UW, but that's another story for another time.

Sample Product Photos

It's been awhile since I last posted a product photo so I am pleased to show you two examples of my newest size offering, 13x19 prints in 18x24 mats. A pair of scissors is included for scale. First is Sunken Forest, Fire Island, NY:

Up next is the view from Kerry Park at twilight. You can just see Mount Rainier in the background:

The size experiment was pretty successful, so I will definitely have a few more printed for festivals. I plan to frame at least 4 of these and hang them on the back and side walls of my booth.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fremont Fair: Accepted!

I just received word I was accepted into my first festival: Fremont Fair! It bills itself as Seattle's largest crafts marketplace and I'll be there as On Focus Photo selling matted prints, notecards, and bookmarks!

In addition to crafts, Fremont Fair is also for celebrating Summer Solstice and is a fundraising opportunity presented by Solid Ground, a non-profit dedicated to fighting poverty in the area.

Can I get a yay?

The dates are June 21 and 22, Saturday 10am-8pm, Sunday 11am-7pm. Eventually I will post all the dates in the sidebar and set up a notify list, but that comes later.

Greek food and naps

It's probably naptime. That's what you're supposed to do with lots of days off, right? Take many naps?

I've been up since 5:30am. Rode the bus downtown, went to the dentist, worked out at the gym, took the bus most of the way home, and then walked the last 1.5 miles or so.

I made a tuna melt and now I'm contemplating naptime. You're all caught up.

Yesterday I finally bought (okay, Jer bought) a bookshelf for my cookbooks. It is most exciting. Best $30 ever spent and the easiest to follow directions I've ever read. And then for dinner we went to Kokoras Greek Grill in West Seattle. Very very tasty and highly recommended. We had two specials which involved a ground lamb mixture wrapped in phyllo and baked. The special also included a very tasty salad, pita bread, and an interesting rice pilaf with cinnamon and raisins, which Jer actually liked. (I liked it too but it's a bigger deal if Jer likes it.) In addition we had the hummus and we each ordered a different glass of red Greek wine. Everything was spectacular -- the pita bread in particular.

So I don't know what to do now. Maybe I will make coffee. Or maybe I will read. Or... there's this whole nap thing I've heard so much about.

As a follow-up to the St. Patrick's Day Dash, I tried looking myself up in the race results and for whatever reason I do not appear. I was able to look up Courtney, who finished about the same time as me but maybe a little faster, and her official time is 46:48. I consider it a good first effort for me. Yay.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Survival of the (Not) Fittest

It was an exciting morning. I jumped out of bed at 5:30am, chewed through my peanut butter English muffin, drank about 5 pints of water, showered and dressed. Eventually it was time to meet Courtney, and she swung by and picked me up.

She chose a parking garage by the finish line and then we walked to the corner of 1st and Royal Brougham for the bus that would take us to the start of the race.

Fast forward.

People. A crush of people. In green. Some clever uses of the color, but also some very tight spandex green pants, green hair, and a lot of parents pushing strollers into the backs of other people's legs. People. Everywhere.

I forgot I'm only a few steps away from panicking when I find myself in the center of a crowd. And fun runs are essentially one big crowd playing dress up.

We stood around, in the crowd, for about 45 minutes as people pushed closer and closer together. Courtney was a great sport, she stuck with me the whole time. When we finally got to start, I jogged for awhile and then I got tired of -- the slight incline we were on -- dodging bodies. Some girl tapped us on the shoulder to get by. It was a constant crush of moving bodies, wanting to be where you were, for most of the race.

I didn't like that.

So I stopped trying. I just walked as fast as I could, which isn't so terrible. It was a beautiful day, a little chilly but manageable, and the course took us over the viaduct in a rare opportunity to tread on road normally reserved for high speed motorists.

I should mention that Courtney's pace would have been faster but she walked with me instead. So when I tell you that a man with a bar strapped to his back -- a wooden shelf and several large bottles of booze -- passed me, jogging, you can infer that he only passed her because she was being nice. And no, I was not hallucinating.

I'm not sure of my exact finish time but it was somewhere less than an hour and somewhere more than 45 minutes. Results will be posted today.

At the end of the race we scored some free cheese and potato chips, and I got a little cup of soup that hit the spot. The beer gardens were packed, but we couldn't go to a St. Patty's Day Dash without having at least one beer. So we walked down the street to the Elysian and saw out the afternoon.

And that's the story of Christy's first race. The end.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Break a Leg, Me

I don't know a whole lot about jogging/running. When I train, I mostly pretend something big and scary is chasing me. I wear basic sneakers, sweat pants, a cotton shirt (if it's not too cold I wear a wicking shirt), and a light-weight jacket. On a highly motivated day, I clip up my hair. So it's a little weird to be thinking that tomorrow is my first timed 3.5 mile event.

I wouldn't call it a race exactly, because I won't be eligible for awards. (Even if I were eligible, the only award I could hope to receive is Good Effort or Showed Up On Time) And I'll be walking just as much as I'm jogging, but heck, I'm signed up. I've got a number and some sort of timer and it's on.

I even decided to eat pasta tonight in my lame ass attempt at carb-loading. Water is boiling on the stove now in anticipation. Or at least it will eventually. Stupid long time boiling water.

So please, cross your fingers for me or knock on wood. Mostly I just don't want to die out there. I will be totally and completely happy if I meet that goal.

Happy Ides of March!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Ides of March Eve!

A couple of things. I was paid out for vacation and my last (almost) two weeks at work. Once the rollover goes through I will have no reason to think about it anymore. And that's a good thing.

It's fun to plan how I'll invest the money in my IRA. (Surprise) I am leaning towards paying the minimum on a bunch of Vanguard index funds. I am so predictable.

I finally broke down and reinstalled MS Word on my main computer. For the last few months the program crashed every time I opened it. I was lazy and used my laptop instead of reinstalling, but now it's done. Also, my anti-virus software was having problems, so I installed the free home version of avast! and it's already found 2 trojans. When I say its name I silently add the word "matey" to the end and know that the pirates want me virus-free. Also, I get such a sense of strange accomplishment each time the program notifies me of a problem. I call it the "pop a pimple" principle. How can something so wrong feel so right?

I blame the pirates.

On, this, my second day off, I aspire to shower.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Festival Update

The payments I sent out a couple of days ago for festivals are starting to go through. Some of the festivals deposit your checks immediately and then refund the money later if you don't get in, so it doesn't actually mean anything yet. Still, it's exciting to know they're receiving the applications and I'm in the running.

This year I've applied to:

  • Bellevue Festival of the Arts
  • Bite of Seattle
  • Bumbershoot
  • Fremont Fair
  • Issaquah Salmon Days
  • Seafair Pirates' Landing
  • Seattle Central Area Community Festival
  • University District Street Fair

My application for West Seattle Summerfest is on the kitchen table. I just need to mail it. I'm supposed to find out in the next few days about the University District Street Fair. It's the only application I turned in late (due to not having a booth until then) so that may have hurt my chances. Fingers are crossed.

I added all the dates to Google Calendar and it looks like July could potentially be the busiest month ever, what with an event every weekend and a full-time job. But hey, sleeping is what August is for. Also, it looks like my tax refund should be deposited in the next few days so that'll definitely help out with the booth fees.

Phew. Time to take stock and make sure I'll have enough product!

The Day After My Last Day at Work

Good morning, world! These last couple of days have been... a real whirlwind. I walk a fine line of wanting to say what happened and not wanting to leave a tangible record, so I'll tell you what I learned.

I learned that I need a tougher skin. (And I don't just mean less moisturizer, yuck yuck.) I learned how much I value fairness, and how much the lack of it stings. That was a big lesson. I learned that I had friends who were willing to share their evening with me on short notice, which made me feel very honored even though I was abysmal at moving around.

And now I'm really done. This morning finds me with the shreds of a Naughty Nellie hangover and a colossal thirst. The weather is just how I like it, drizzly and gray. I am focusing on the part of my lesson where I toughen up, let things go, and put the rest behind me. This is a new day. A new chapter. And I have things to do.

Is it bad that I just read the phrase "Southern-fried fantasy" and got really really hungry for bacon?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Rollercoaster

Today was a rollercoaster. There were twists and turns and loop-d-loops. But in the end, life goes on.

The very short story is that I find myself with an unexpected gift of time. After tomorrow I will have a week and a half off from the working world, to do with as I please. It was a surprise at first, but I think it will be the best possible thing.

I haven't had time off like this since I was last unemployed in 2005. My immediate plans are to sleep a lot, read a lot, walk some, and think about photography. Not too shabby.

Monday, March 10, 2008

On Focus Photo update

Today I mailed out 4 vendor applications to local festivals, and if I happen to get accepted to all of them, then it could cost me as much as $2,000 just to pay the booth fees. That is a little bit scary. For $2,000 I could buy a new camera body, or that lens I've been drooling over for years. Or a whole lot of chocolate.

This puts me at 6 festivals at which I have open applications, and there are still 2-4 more I plan to apply to.

Later if you see my photos and wonder how I determined their prices, know these fees definitely factor in. Also, I made a pretty neat spreadsheet that automatically calculates how much I should charge based on materials cost and taxes so I can theoretically someday break even. Do you like how I qualified that?

Of course, this presupposes I'll pass the juries' scrutiny and even make it into the festivals. That is even scarier, the worry that I won't be good enough. For each application I've included pretty good product photos and a price list and a materials description. I've tried to gussy up the presentation as nicely as possible to convince them that I am a consummate professional who will make their festivals look good. Well, I did my best anyway; I'd let me in!

So now I wait -- for them to cash or not cash my checks or charge or not charge my credit card. And in the meanwhile, I'll go home each night and mat my prints and hope for the best. w00t.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Life without a 401(k)

I am about to work for an employer who does not offer a 401(k) plan as a benefit. I feel strongly about the value of retirement saving, but I also believe this is the right opportunity for me, so I am going to make it work.

Since I already have a Roth IRA -- and we are within the income limits -- I will make the maximum contribution for 2008, which is $5,000. Next there are two options. We can either max out a Roth IRA contribution for Jer -- if you are married filing jointly and together earn less than $159,000 in 2008 then each spouse can contribute up to $5,000. Or I could take the extra money and invest it outside of a retirement account. If I did that, it wouldn't be earmarked as "retirement" savings and would be subject to capital gains and losses, however it would still add to the wealth building process. I risk tapping it for other projects pre-retirement however, but the huge benefit is that I *could* tap it before age 59 1/2. Say, if I wanted to retire early.

Here is what I know for sure: I prefer a Roth instead of traditional IRA because even though we can't take tax deductions on contributions, the fact that withdrawals won't be taxed (after a qualifying age) is powerful.

Ultimately my decision will be based on our short-term and long-term goals. If we stay on track, these are basically: buy a house and develop passive income streams.

I am very tempted to use this as an opportunity to build my non-retirement investments. Probably the safest thing (as far as safe goes) would be to max out both Roth IRA contributions and then build investments with what's left over. But the more fun thing, and the thing that would help me build wealth now, would be to invest it in a brokerage account.

I like no-load index funds, if you're curious.

Or we could try to do it all and eat ramen every meal!

Actually that would make a good saying for the 21st century: Instead of "Let them eat cake!" it's "Let them eat ramen!"

Disclaimer: I am not a financial professional. These are my opinions; your situation may differ. Always do your own research.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Good News, Everyone!

Hi ho. My news is this: Today I accepted a new job. Of course, it's bittersweet. The job I'm leaving is the first one I had in Seattle. I've worked there nearly 2 1/2 years, and in that time I've made some good friends and learned some important lessons. But hey, it's time. Goodbye, office with a window. Goodbye, door. Goodbye, bagel Friday.

My last day is two weeks from today.

In bizarre and related news, it looks like Jer is starting a new position at his company with more responsibility. We were both in interviews at the exact same time and day earlier in the week. What are the odds?

Distract Me

I am useless today. I feel like the inside pieces that make me up are all stretched taut and the slightest breeze makes them twang like a guitar string. Brrrraaaang. That's me.

I am waiting to hear, what I hope, is good news. And then begin the chain of events resulting from the cause of which I am not yet prepared to impart.

I can share with you that my first week of weight loss has gone well. The scale shows about a 7 pound loss. Half of that is from loading up on water before the initial weigh in so really shouldn't count, some of it is a direct result of the pyruvate (fat burn) I've been taking, and the rest is good old fashioned diet and exercise. I'd like to thank the soup I made, for being so filling and so nutritious. And also Lean Cuisine. For satisfying my cravings for sodium.

As for the rest of it, I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Slice and Dice

Today was a long day. Things happened. I made soup. It looked like this:

- prep work, the little plastic yellow round container is full of saffron my sister brought back from Morocco

- after bringing the carrots, celery, onions, and stock to a boil the first time

It's actually quite tasty, and it's FULL of vegetables. It is like the Noah's Ark of vegetables. Or maybe it only seemed that way because of all the chopping. The true test will be tomorrow after the flavors have a chance to meld.

Also I cooked lentils for the first time ever for this soup. Two things about lentils, which are probably DUH to every one else in the world. First, they need to soak. Second, they need to simmer for a really long time. Together this may put a damper (at first I wrote hamper) on your plans if you (like me) forget to read the instructions on the bag. Hi, soup I started two days ago. Welcome to my belly.

A note to future self: that 3.5 quart dutch oven you used there? It just barely fits all the ingredients. If you like this soup it would be a really good time to upgrade.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Class Action Suit

I went to Brooks Institute of Photography for about 9 months, or a third of their visual journalism program. Then I dropped out. It was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made; I felt like a failure. I'd just been accepted to the school trip to Costa Rica, I was working part-time at the school computer lab and at Barnes and Noble, and I was deeply conflicted. I was not learning enough to justify what I was spending.

In my initial tour of campus and subsequent application, I was assured there'd be no problem finding loans, grants, and scholarships. It's my own fault that I wasn't more cynical, but I guess I wanted to believe and they were certainly willing to lie to me. Eventually I found a private loan to help pay for school, and it was a variable rate that would later rise and rise... Tuition was around $3000 every couple of months, plus camera equipment and film expenses, which for just one class was about $3000. I didn't mind it in that class though, it was the only one I learned anything technical.

I was accepted the same day I applied, without them ever seeing one of my photographs. That should have made me more suspicious. Later I felt I was accepted as soon as my check cleared.

My main instructor was smart and experienced and I liked him. The secondary instructor I never felt comfortable with. And more of my classes were being taught by him. Also, I made a mistake in choosing to study visual journalism. It was a brand new program and it was not as rigorous as the more established programs. Thus I found myself wandering around outside trying to find a feature that would never be used, when what I really wanted was technique.

It's true, I already had a Bachelors degree, but they didn't account for that. I had to take all the general education courses just like everyone else. I couldn't test out of them and finish the program at a different rate. That mildly irritated me, but not as much as the other things.

Basically one day I did the math. I realized at the rate I was spending, I'd be in $100,000 of debt by the time I finished. Then I looked up how much a beginning photo journalist could make. And I cried. Granted, I should have done this much much sooner, but it was so easy to want to believe what you're being told by people you trust are more experienced. I remember, vividly, walking through the Montecito campus and our tour guide casually pointing at an iceberg photo on the wall. "That photo has earned one of our instructors at least $400,000 in licensing alone." It was implied this was a common occurrence. I should have asked right then: Why is he still teaching if he's made all this money? Why isn't he on a beach somewhere?

The $20,000 I spent at Brooks taught me more about doing due diligence than it did about the art of photography.

So now there's a class action suit, and the school is being forced to be more honest in their statements. Apparently I was not the only one who was misled.

Do I believe I wouldn't have attended if I knew the real cost of my schooling (rising private loan rates and zero opportunity for other funding)? It would have given me pause and if I had still attended, I would have switched to a more reliable program. Also, the tuition rates went up while I was there, so they were never really open about how much it would cost in general.

The truth is, I was so devastated by my experience at Brooks, I didn't pick up my camera for another two years. I'm just starting to enjoy photography again. It helps that I've finally paid off my high interest loan. Also, the only job I could find when I left Brooks was around $27,000 per year, and that was just plain tough, living in Santa Barbara. I'm happy to say I've since rebounded.

It's an odd thing to talk about Brooks. Some good memories there, but mostly I came away with disappointment, in myself and the school administration. When I went in to ask for help finding other funding options, I was ignored.

If you are considering attending Brooks and have made your way here, I would just suggest you do a whole lot of research. I found out later that the school had been sold to a corporation not too long before I started attending, so there's no way I could have known its real track record. But be prepared for huge bills, and working very hard to create your own financial opportunities. Chances are you'll have to subsidize your photography by working in unrelated fields. For what it's worth, I recommend technical writing.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Numbers for Day One

And... it's March again. Sorry Caesar.

I was fortunate to attend C Ro's Great Cheese Unveiling last night. She set out a fabulous spread, including three homemade cheeses, and infinite wine. Friendly people, tasty cheese, and excellent wine, what more could you want? Though after getting my butt kicked at Scene It for the umpteenth time, I finally had to call it a night.

I'm not good at that game.

Morning arrived sooner than I expected, as did the first day of my diet. I hydrated and slowly chewed through an English muffin (100 calories) coated with chunky peanut butter (180 calories). At 8:30am, I went downstairs and met Courtney to walk up to Alki and back, with a quick stop at The Alki Bakery for hot beverages (hot apple cider, 125 calories.)

It was a beautiful morning, marred only slightly by the ghost of a wine hangover and sore quadriceps. Yesterday's workout was particularly strenuous and my trainer promises they will continue to be since we're in contest mode. During the walk I drank my fruit-punch-flavored Accelerade for about 200 calories, to assist muscle recovery. Not sure if it helped.

I got home, took a nap, got up, and made a turkey sandwich (425 calories), a glass of milk (110 calories), and a little less than an ounce of raw almonds (150 calories). The sandwich breaks down as:

  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread, 200 calories
  • 2 slices of turkey breast, 100 calories
  • 1 slice of Jarlsberg Lite cheese, 50 calories
  • Mustard, 5 calories
  • 1/4 avocado, 70 calories

I'm excited to have a free evening where I can work on my prints. I'm currently constricting my brain's blood vessels with a big mug of coffee and a dash of low fat milk. I'm at about 1300 calories for the day, with dinner left to eat. I plan to load up on steamed vegetables and maybe make a batch of brown rice. I'll be happy if I end the day around 1700-1800 calories. I probably shouldn't have had the Accelerade -- took a chance it'd help with recovery -- or the cider -- it was a treat -- but there you go.

I don't plan on detailing all my meals from here on out, but it's useful for getting back in the right mindset.