Tuesday, September 30, 2008

word to the wize

If you don't want to make your employees nervous, don't schedule an all hands meeting from 4-5pm on the last day of the month which also happens to be the last day of the quarter and the day after the worst point drop in the stock market ever.

I'm just saying.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

2009 Calendar of Seattle Photos

Here's a sneak peek of what I'm working on:

Click to view it larger

It's a 12-month calendar for 2009 featuring my best selling photographs of Seattle -- the lowest cost way to get them all in one place. I ordered myself a sample copy and once that arrives then I'll send an announcement to the On Focus Photo mailing list (Sign up here).

You'll be able to order the calendar here and experience the many faces of Seattle all year long, no matter where you find yourself.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I'm Greek so I have opionions about body hair

It's not that I particularly like hairy armpits on women, but I was just thinking about all the body modifications we do everyday to stay "normal." Hair grows from a lot of places. Some of it we encourage and some of it we rip, electrocute, slice, and pluck.

Who decided what to keep? Is it because head hair grows the longest, so it wins? We can "style" it and create a "look"? Or are we trying to distance ourselves from our close relative, the chimpanzee? Incidentally, if creationists were truly comfortable with their lack of evolutionary ties, shouldn't they be campaigning for not shaving at all? Who cares if we have hairy ape armpits because we're *not* related to them anyhow!

Just seems like we built complexity into our daily routine where it wasn't really needed. If it weren't for the cultural factor and the popular assumption that one way is better than another, we could shave a bunch of useless procedures out of our lives.

I would urge you to throw out your razors, creams, gels, wax, and cancel your electrolysis appointments, fight the power!, but frankly I don't care what you do with your body. It's too late for me anyway. I've already been conditioned to prefer the properly groomed, but I think it's always worth examining -- the mindless activities that preoccupy our time, especially the repetitive tasks. Examining and making conscious choices about how we spend our time are the only ways to reliably extend the quality of life -- since quantity is anybody's guess.

Friday, September 26, 2008

oh what a tangled web

I smooshed a HUGE spider on the shower wall this morning. Also I lost $2800.

Good morning!

What have we learned today, class?

Hindsight is 20/20. Regret doesn't help anybody. Blah blah blah platitude.

But if I were to regret then I might say I should've bought a D700 instead.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

WaMu News

JP Morgan Buys WaMu

WaMu Fails, Is Sold Off to J.P. Morgan

class and travel plans

My first Japanese language class was a great experience. The campus is beautiful. The teacher was engaging. The material was presented at a quick pace, but not too quick. It made me happy.

After all those fairly dull Technical Writing courses I'd forgotten how much fun it is to learn a new subject. And the facilities are amazing. I arrived early and wandered around to take it all in. You know I spent 9-ish years at the University of CA, Santa Barbara campus -- 4 years to get a degree, about 5 working full-time -- and it's amazing how much I've forgotten about actual student life. The cafeteria, the long lines for textbooks, the parking weirdness. Must've just blocked it out. I even sat in a left-handed chair at first but I figured that out soon enough.

All the work I did studying for our Tokyo trip really paid off. I had a head start on pronunciation and basic greetings, so that was nice. I'm really glad I signed up - even if the GPS died half-way there and all the extra stress of driving and parking somewhere new in the rain and dusk.

I keep pushing myself into change forgetting that it totally unnerves me.

In unrelated news, it seems like the distance between weekends is directly proportionate to how short the weekends seem.

This morning I booked a short trip to San Francisco for the beginning of next March. With that and our trip booked to New Orleans it is turning into a major travel month. The good news is if I don't take any vacation time between now and then I will have exactly enough Personal Time Off (PTO) saved up. Better not get sick then!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pahk the Cah

In preparation for my return to school, I went to bed about 8:30pm last night, which means I missed "Fringe" and "House." To be fair I made the decision while still conscious, meaning I could've forced myself to stay awake, but I was reading "The Watchmen" and the covers were so cozy and the pillows so soft and I said, screw it. They'll be on again.

I asked a coworker for parking tips downtown and he suggested parking out by the stadiums, and so I did, saving myself at least $12. I feel good about this because I have roughly $50 in my checking account and for some reason I'd rather use that for food. I might feel bad about this later since it's a game night, but I will chance it to buy lunch another day.

In my parking research -- I take parking very seriously -- I came across a student's review of the community college where I'm taking my class. He said you have 3 types of people who take classes there: The middle-aged working stiffs who want to change jobs, losers who couldn't get into a real school, or people like him, overachieving high school students who want college credit. I remember when I was just as snotty. Feels like only yesterday... I would like to point out the flaw in his logic but I'm afraid he'd just retort that 30 *is* middle-aged.

I've taken classes at this school's North campus but this is the first time I've been out to the Main campus, hence the parking conundrum. I'd prefer to take a bus but I live in no-buses-after-7pm-land. It can be a bummer sometimes, but I forgive it for the view. You have to have a free parking sticker to use the school's lots on the Main campus, so I will try to pick one up tonight. Maybe since that's settled I can stop dwelling on it. What say you, brain?

More effort has gone into figuring out how to get to the school than acquiring school supplies. Practically unheard of! Before my dentist appointment yesterday morning I stopped into an Office Max/Depot and the binders were $7.99! And they weren't even Trapper Keepers with a bunch of pockets and zippers and Velcro. They were just stupid 3-ring binders with a fancy cover. I was not impressed. What's the point of a binder if it doesn't have secret pockets? I will just go back to my trusty Levenger folio until I have to clip papers into something.

Whoops. I started looking at Levenger when I copied the link. Bad bad bad. Now I want everything again.

Levenger is one of the only stores where spending $200 seems totally reasonable to me.

Okay. Time for almonds!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Back to school

I start my first Japanese language class Wednesday night. It's a 10 week course, 2 hours per week, and I'm really excited. Previously I've only taken Spanish and Ancient Greek, and I ended up dropping them because of the time commitment. Well, truth be told I dropped Spanish from my life because I can't roll my r's and Ancient Greek because I was trying to get through two majors in college that had nothing to do with Ancient Greek.

Third time's the charm, right?

TV Goes Pop

The fancy 26" Panasonic we bought in 2005 (see this post) fizzed into the great beyond yesterday afternoon. I hit the On button on the remote, looked over at Chiana, heard a faint pop, and the TV stayed Off. After a quick Google search, I learned this is fairly common for the CT-26WX15 model.

Well, dang.

It's our only TV and it was about 4pm -- too late to call a repair shop -- so there was some sitting around trying to decide what to do next. Outside was drizzly, we had already gone to the Greek Festival earlier in the day, so the original plan had been to catch up on recordings. We were each at our own computer in the office and I looked over at a stack of computer books.

"Which ones can we get rid of?" I asked.

So we sorted through a huge stack of computer books, I checked their half.com values (almost entirely $0.75 each, the lowest you can price an item) and then loaded them all into sturdy bags.

"What if we take these in now?"

Jer smiled and said. "And then we could go to Chipotle..."

Our plan was set. We ended up making $8.50 for 3 full tote bags of sci-fi and computer books at Half Price Books, which we negated by picking up a Gene Wolfe book for $8.15. The book we chose is the first half of "The Book of the New Sun," since we already have the second half.

After dinner and some more window shopping, we came home and stared at the TV.

"Try it again."


Except... I keep my laptop in the living room. And it has Ubuntu installed on it. Idea! Jer loaded the MythTv frontend on it, installed MythVideo and there we were. Live TV is a little choppy, but we could watch our recordings and it was good enough to see us through. By the time that was figured out though, I fell asleep.

MythTv is what we use as our Tivo, basically. It's a free program that runs on the computer and is hooked up to cable. We have a backend server in the office that handles the recordings and a front end in the living room that is hooked to the TV. So we just made my laptop be the new front end so we can watch TV and recordings, is what I'm saying here.


I don't know if we can get the TV fixed or if we will have to buy another model but I'm pretty happy that there will be no interruption in Fringe.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Nemesis is Revlon ColorStay Overtime in Mulberry

It has come to my attention that for the last 3 hours I've had a major amount of lipstick on my front two teeth. In that time I have also had a successful meeting with 4 people and won 2 games of Foosball.

If I could get past the pride issue I would do this way more often.

Poking the wound

I am doing the opposite of sticking my head in the sand. I am practically hovering over my investment accounts -- sort of like picking at a scab. Before I started investing, I read a lot and came up with a basic plan for myself.
  1. No matter what is going on in the market, continue to invest small amounts regularly.
  2. Take a long-term approach. Buy and hold. Reinvest dividends.
  3. Keep expenses down.
  4. Don't be afraid to be contrarian.
  5. Take advantage of credit card rewards, but pay off the balance every month.
  6. Maintain an emergency fund.
My risk tolerance is fairly high, as shown by some of my recent purchases which I don't even want to talk about because you will probably judge me. I tend to gravitate towards index funds, but I also buy individual stocks because the chance of reward is higher. Lately I check the amounts in my IRA and wonder if this has been a stupid plan. But I am pretty stubborn, so I just keep contributing money and checking the value and crossing my fingers.

We want to buy a house in the next 6 months and I'm a little concerned about what all this will mean for our chances of getting a loan. Did all those optimistic people who are now defaulting on their mortgages ruin it for people like us? People who have rented and saved instead of jumping into something they couldn't afford? We don't have 20% saved yet, but we are halfway there (saved in a money market account not the stock market). That used to be okay for a first-time homebuyer. Is that still true? On the one hand I think it's a shame that people are defaulting, but on the other I'm resentful. No one wants to take responsibility for their actions. Zero down loans were handed out like candy as far as I can tell and now the homeowners think they deserve to be bailed out because they were misled. Believing what you want to believe is not being misled. Not taking time to make an informed decision is not being misled.

And now it's all falling apart.

The only thing I can do is go back to my original strategy and keep saving. Keep investing small amounts regularly. Stay focused on a long-term view. Sure, I'll lose some money, but if past trends are any indication (although past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance) then we will climb out of this mess eventually.

Until then I'll just keep plodding along.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Blur

The weekend went by quick. Friday night: Rode bus to 1st and Pine, met Jer, ate dinner at Serious Pie, stopped at the Hurricane for Bloody Marys, saw "Dark Knight" at Pacific Place. Saturday: Haircut downtown at 10am, then Jer and I dropped off a donation to an auction in Ballard (framed print from On Focus Photo), then ate a couple of very tasty Cuban sandwiches at Paseo in Fremont, and drove around looking at neighborhoods (love the GPS), and ended the night by watching "Idiocracy." Sunday: Drove to Green Lake and clapped for 2 1/2 hours for the 3-day walkers (Go Courtney!), came home and made breakfast, watched some tv, then said goodbye to Jer again.

I'm considering making a pan of brownies now, but I worry I would eat them all by myself.

And now you're entirely caught up.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Annie: I lived in my head mostly.
Cooper: That's not a bad neighborhood.
Annie: There were some pretty strange neighbors.
- Twin Peaks

Monday, September 08, 2008

This and that

I've watched about 10 hours of "House" in the last 3 days. I'm not so sure it's good for me. Really tests hypochondriac tendencies to engage in medical drama immersion. You start to suspect every bruise and mole and pang of being something sinister.

The seals are barking loudly tonight. Never actually thought I'd live in a place where I could hear seals from my living room...

I put together another action figure auction which will go live on Thursday night. Next I'll be selling Ash from Army of Darkness, Move Maniacs 3 series. This rare 6 7/8 inch figure comes with a cute little evil Ash -- the original mini me. (The current 2 auctions go through this Sunday and you can see them here.)

In other news I am trying very hard not to spend any money, or at least to minimize spending. So to help reduce dining out costs, I put in an order for Tasty Bite. (If you join their mailing list they'll send you a coupon.) Voila. Add some brown rice and you've got a complete, cheap, easy, and satisfying meal. Plus you can pretend it's an MRE.

Now you know my terribly delicous secret. Use it well.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

2 days, 0 human interaction

I haven't left the house in 2 days. It's been fantastic. I did some laundry, I watched a lot of "House," caught up with my parents, cleaned a bit but not enough, and worked on a 10-minute play. With the exception of 2 phone calls to Jer and 1 to my parents, I haven't spoken to another human in over 48 hours. I could really get into this lifestyle. Too bad writing is so hard.

Oh wait. Writing is my day job. It's different though. Creative versus technical. With creative you pick threads out of the air. With technical you get the whole sweater to unravel. And sometimes you have to make diagrams. There's that.

I would just like to point out randomly, for no reason whatsoever, that writers have editors. Editing is a different skill set. But generally, in the business world, if you're employed as a writer then you're also expected to be your own editor. And so I spend most of my time writing a paragraph, deleting every other word, starting again, and I very rarely let myself hang loose like I do here. It is such a relief not to cross out every other word for clarity. Not to refer to a style guide and figure out if it's a menu or a combo box or a drop down so I can be consistent. (Or a delightful sentence fragment.)

But hey, I earn a living doing what I love to do and that's pretty awesome. Even if sometimes it sucks out all the joy by being pedanticly precise. It's still way better than answering phones.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

another typical weekend

Jer is in Chicago for his uncle's memorial service. I'm here.

I went to the gym the last three nights and now it hurts. Cause, effect. The stock market has not been kind to my retirement accounts, so I guess that means it's time to buy. Or maybe that is just what They want me to think.

We bought Jer an iPhone 3G and he's been IM'ing me during his trip. It's been pretty convenient. If you're wondering, I chose the free phone. Because I hate phones, even when they're disguised as fancy mp3 players. Does that surprise you? Probably not if you've met me.

It's a really beautiful day here. Sunny, a little cool. I'm not sure what to do. It's my first free Saturday -- free even of Jer -- in, I don't know how long. Not saying that's good or bad, it just is.

I've decided to begin my day by sleeping through some troubling dreams (likely due to the book I finished reading before bed, "Grotesque" by Natsuo Kirino) and pouring myself a large mug of coffee laced with Baileys and Cool Whip. Good morning! I will now take a lesson from the lounging cats and Chill. Or watch "Scrubs."

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Hi, I'm a Nerd

I'm selling action figures on eBay. (Mint and near mint on card) Finally. Eight years after packing them away to keep them collectible. Here are the first two auctions:

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Over It

Thanks to fantasizing about your comfort food choices my readers, I regained some of my old familiar spark! I went to the gym after work and rode the water taxi home for the first time in a week. Go team, Folly.

The new season of Bones starts tonight, so that's pretty great too.

I also made sure to use one of the machines I've never used by myself before. One of those gnarly weight machines where you have to put the weights on yourself and show your manly muscles. Of course the moment you start saying "manly muscles" equals automatic fail, but nevertheless, I see your paradox and raise you a win.

So I might be a little delirious. I am not seeing the problem.

Breaking the 4th Wall

I'm curious. When you're having a less than stellar day, are there any food items, beverages, or restaurants that you crave for a quick pick-me-up?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Not so shiny

Some crummy things have been going on lately. One of Jer's uncles passed this weekend. I only met him once or twice but he was an awesome guy. Way too young.

My sister had to evacuate over the weekend. She just bought a house in New Orleans a few months ago. I haven't heard from her in a couple of days but I am guessing she's okay.

The bathroom ceiling just started leaking.

Ever since I saw the water taxi "bump" the pier I haven't wanted to get on it. Silly, huh. At the same time I realize it's silly, I keep finding excuses not to get on it.

Since my trainer left, I haven't been back to the gym. I am in full avoidance mode.

Found out my parents had to put their dog to sleep. I was in high school when we got him. It was for the best.

I know I can choose how I let these things affect me. And there's no reason to let it pile up. Pay your respects, acknowledge your limitations, cut yourself some slack, take a break, take a deep breath... easy to say.

It'll pass.

I hesitate to even post this, but seems like there should be some kind of record. Strange this all happened in the last few weeks.