Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fahrenheit 451 all up in here

The truth is I am... tired. I woke this morning to a cat on my sternum demanding breakfast, hopping to rest on top of the defunct television pausing to paw at the blinds, until he finally jumped on my book pile to gnaw their covers.

The destruction of books is always the final straw. I suspect he knows; I fed him.

My illusion of control swings in and out of orbit. It's a beautiful sunny day and all I want to do is stare at the floor. I want to throw up my hands and say, "I'm out." Like the time I went skiing, fell down and twisted my knee -- still pops all these years later -- and spent the rest of the day in the lodge with my leg on a chair drinking beer. To me, skiing will always remind me of medicinal quantities of booze.

I have no opinion on snowboarding.

I picked up my package containing Adobe Lightroom from the post office this morning so I've just installed that. Now I have to learn how to use it. I have a strong urge to throw myself back into playwriting, specifically to finish a play I began several years ago. I am drowning in words that I can't release quickly enough and when they do bubble to the surface they are not always the right ones. Does that make any sense? Shakespeare's Hamlet said it better with, "Words, words, words."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A photo tip

On the D700 camera the WB button is right next to the ISO button.

Background: WB stands for white balance and is used to compensate for the color of the light, like when a photo has a bluish tint in the shade, or you have a greenish tint from fluorescent bulbs or an orange cast, you can correct for that. ISO measures the sensitivity of the film sensor.

So these 2 buttons are side by side. The other day when I was snapping pictures of Jet, I somehow changed the WB setting to incandescent. All my pictures went from being golden in the afternoon sun with this lovely rim light halo around heads and fur, to being blueberry colored. Over half of my shots were blue.

Since I shoot raw format it was simple enough to correct in Photoshop, but seriously, rookie mistake right here. So my tip to you is to learn from me and use white balance correctly. It is a powerful tool, but in the wrong hands it'll leave you feeling blue.

hahahaha. yeah. i went there.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pictures of my friend's dog

About a week ago, Courtney stopped by so I could meet her new puppy, Jet. Of course I brought my camera along. Of course. With my newly installed Photoshop and fancy monitor, I present to you two of those shots:

The tongue shot is a little blurry, but I think it's a good representation of the little guy's energy.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Little by little

The most recent version of Photoshop is on its way to me. I ordered it, as well as Lightroom, on Friday and they've both been shipped. This is very exciting because I will finally be able to edit photos again (raw files from the new camera didn't open in the version of Photoshop I owned), and although I've never used Lightroom, I'm excited about its organizational capabilities.

My computer hardware was recently upgraded to Jer's hand-me-down parts so all systems go! Two months without being able to edit and I'm ready to get back into it.

I played a lot of World of Warcraft this weekend. I got my Tauren warrior to level 55 and created a Draenai Death Knight whom I named Thalia, after the muse of comedy. Then I created a Blood Elf Death Knight on another server I named Gradiva, after the 'woman who walks through walls,' and the sometimes muse of surrealism. Thank you Wikipedia, for all the insight.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This decade has been unsatisfactory

My monitor shipped today. I'm still trying to figure out where to get PhotoShop...

I'm not sure how I keep finding myself in these crazy, drama filled, work situations. Is it the corporate world? Is it me? Does it matter? The highs are high, the lows are low, and more often than not, it's all low. Impossible problems. A lack of resources. People cracking. Endlessly waiting for it to improve, hanging onto that last shred of hope, until it's all too much.

Sounds glamorous, right?

For what it's worth, I found some calm since last week, and I am far less twitchy. I'm still not sure that what I'm doing makes me proud. Some days I'm certain; lately, not so much. Here is a generality I've grokked in the last 6 months: you can't lay off half your staff and expect productivity to increase. You can't even expect it to stay the same, logically. It seems like basic math. Yet I've discovered this new world of fuzzy math, where if you wish hard enough, the impossible is turned into plausible PowerPoint presentations.

I will stop there. You get the drift.

Meanwhile time keeps on truckin', as time does. And now it is time for all good men to go to sleep.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Business taxes paid!

Well that's a huge load off my shoulders. I filed my city of Seattle and combined excise tax returns tonight. As a reward I give myself... wine! And taquitos! Two great tastes together at last!

Feeling better and the story of Shin-Chan

Since last entry the crazy has been slowly draining. It always helps to reassert my dominion over the chaos that is my schedule. To that end I put together an electronic calendar of all the government dates my position must accommodate and prioritized the work for the next two weeks. So I'm feeling better.

Jer and I went across the street for cheeseburgers for dinner and watched "Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs" (2008). To that I say, eh. I'd seen quite a few of the jokes before -- bricks dropping from Bender when he's frightened -- which didn't feel like in-jokes, but more like laziness.

Oh but have I mentioned how much we love Shin Chan? (Warning, if you click that link there is sound and it's NSFW). The humor is South Park-ish. The show was originally a manga and anime series (a much safer link) that's been re-scripted and dubbed in English to be more outrageous than the original, though judging by the original animation it must have been pretty wacky to start.

It's about the Nohara family and their five-year old son, Shin-chan, whose favorite topics revolve around his butt and everything inappropriate. He goes to an American school in Kasukabe, Japan, and the peripheral characters are his classmates and the family's neighbors. The first time I saw it on Adult Swim I had no idea what I was watching, but I knew I wanted to see more. The show also features a TV superhero named Action Bastard that Shin idolizes and is always trying to get his mother to buy the merchandise.

That is to say, Jer received some of the DVDs for Christmas so we've been catching up on Shin-Chan. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

it's winter and i'm raw

This week the crazy bug has been visiting. On the one hand I recognize the urge to reach up and tug my hair is not what normal people do. I understand that being twitchy is not an acceptable state. The occasional self-murmur is also frowned upon in polite company, and yet... I am so wrapped up in my head and unravelling -- what can only be called -- a giant stress ball, that the only thing I can do is wait it out and hope nobody notices.

Of course pointing it out like this doesn't do my cause any favors.

It happens every year about this time. I get restless. I want everything to change. Everything I'm doing and have done is stupid and I've compromised and life is hard and why am I so afraid to write? I can't even say I'm a professional writer anymore because I traded the title for a handful of magic beans.

Oh I wish I was kidding.

Maybe it stems from all the time I've spent in books lately. On the bus, before bed, when I should have been doing my taxes or writing out thank you cards. I've finished 3 full books in the last two weeks and partial others. "The Book of the New Sun" by Gene Wolfe, Books 1 and 2, "Hokkaido Highway Blues: Hitchhiking Japan" by Will Ferguson, most of "The Great Gatsby." About 30 pages left in that one. I've also read about half of "blink" by Malcolm Gladwell, which I scan whenever my characters are on the flight path in World of Warcraft, the first few pages of "Bone" by Jeff Smith, a large graphic novel, and some of "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In."

I'd never read "The Great Gatsby" before. It is a masterpiece.

Then class started again last night, so I spent an hour in the college cafeteria eating an apple fritter and studying hiragana. There was a woman at a fold-up table with information about the university and I asked her if she had any brochures on graduate programs. She said, "No, well sometimes. Which one?" I said, "Oh, I was thinking, like, an MBA program?" She rummaged in her bag and handed me the contact information.

I don't even know where that came from. One minute I was eating a donut, the next I was asking about a masters program.

"There's evening classes, too!" she said.

I created a bank character in WoW. Bank characters are not intended to be played or levelled. They are typically just throw away characters that you mail your extra items to and they sell them on your behalf so your regular players don't waste their time. I named my bank character Ponzi, and I made him look like Fabio. I should really take a screenshot and share. Red shades, pink shirt, tight black pants. He is teh awesome.

i wrote this yesterday but it's still true

This week I broke again but I have been very careful to keep it out of the papers.

When my fairy godmother peeked over the bars of my crib on tip-toe, she saw a squalling, angry mess. Where she could have chosen any number of gifts to bestow, I like to think she looked down at me and pronounced: "Stubborn." And as an afterthought she scratched her chin, squinted and said, "Jack of all trades, master of none. Or some. Whatever. Gah, I wonder what other jobs are on craigslist. Cuz this blows."

It is all fine and good to have a paycheck. I know this. But I am quickly approaching decision junction, which is out by the rest stop over by the pizza place just past the biker bar. It's not a pleasant trip -- too much traffic, bad roads -- but it's heavenly on the other side. All the chocolate malt you can drink and the air smells like pine trees and honeysuckle and freshly cut grass.

Or maybe I'm the frog. And I just realized the water is boiling.

It is a totally ordinary day, not any more or less stressful than the 90 before it. But we are building sandcastles and each turrett sits on walls and the moat's been dug and just know that the sandcastle started as a grain of sand and then it kept growing until it became unstable and collapsed in on itself because of physics and gravity and the science of tides. (This is how it sounds in my head all the time. I generally run all this through a real-world language filter before I post. Be glad you aren't telepathic or you would go mad from the non-sequiturs bouncing in there.) So I am the sandcastle, see? And lately it has been harder and harder to keep my tower from falling over. The hands that made me are busy elsewhere so no sand reinforcements and you know, I think I could keep going with this metaphor all day, but I won't because I think you get the drift. SAND DRIFT. Ha. My kingdom for a spade and a bucket and a glass of wine.

Class tonight or I would crawl into bed. It'll be good for me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

As big as any dream

In this episode of, "If I were an heiress..." Christy finds herself on a stretch of pristine white beach at sunset -- a margarita in one hand and a camera in the other. There's some old pyramid or something she wants to see, but first there is this matter of framing the sun just right as it is absorbed by the horizon. Orange, retinal burning light drenches everything in gold, a cool breeze, a humid night, probably a jungle in the background with lots of sturdy vines and green tangled undergrowth, maybe some tiki torches, a few winged insects flitting about. The hoots and squeaks of monkeys in the encroaching dark.

"Refill!" she shouts. And the glass fills itself.

Sweet and sour and salt, a tongue-puckering good drink.

And if she could have a really good tamale in this fantasy? She wouldn't mind that either.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Because there isn't enough going on already...

Before I start this topic, the answer to pretty much every question is: I don't know.

For the last several years, maybe longer, Jer and I have had a loose goal to buy a house. We've lived in apartments together for about 9 years. Let's take a look back:

The first apartment we shared was conveniently situated across from the International House of Pancakes and the freeway. It was two floors, more of a townhouse really, and the insulation was terrible. In the summer, it was very hot. And in the winter, very cold -- almost a magic trick in our temperate Santa Barbara, CA climate. The pilot light on the stove always blew out, so if I wanted to cook I had to lie down on the floor and wave a lit match up inside the broiler. The fridge leaked. I kept a large bowl to collect the drippings which would freeze, then unfreeze, then I would dump out the large bowl-shaped ice cube in the sink and watch it melt.

It was also next to a prison. Once after an escape, a bunch of officers ran through our complex and helicopters hovered above. But it never seemed that scary. The washing machines were about 50 feet across the courtyard and took rolls of quarters, and there were only about 4 washers and 4 dryers for something like 50 units.

My favorite bit about the place was the funky layout. The master bedroom upstairs had shutters you could open and look down below. This feature also made for difficult sound-proofing. Late night TV watching in the living room could never be blocked out. We had 2 parking spaces, which was nice, lots of natural light, a spacious master bedroom with two closets, and two bathrooms overall. Those things were attractive.

Our second shared apartment was also in Santa Barbara. We moved for some of the reasons listed above, but also because we wanted a cat. Or really, after we had acquired a cat, we wanted to keep him. This next place was the front half of a duplex. The owner referred to himself as a capitalist hippy and he enjoyed sailing. This unit was all one level, 2 small bedrooms and 1 small bathroom, but only 1 shared wall. Also, we had our own washing machine and dryer, tenant supplied. No more collecting quarters! The kitchen was slightly bigger than our previous place and more open. The main set of pantry cabinets were completely dominated by a hot water heater, so we purchased a cabinet and set it up on another wall.

The unit was in an actual neighborhood, a real suburb, on the west side of downtown Santa Barbara. Most days I took the bus to work, necessitating a transfer at the downtown bus stop. We had a little closed in patio out front, where we kept our unused barbecue, and a small plastic set of table and chairs. I also watered a few plants and bought a nectarine tree we ultimately left behind after the owner trimmed it to death. Thanks, owner!

We parked on the street in front of our place and had an interesting neighbor who was a Buddhist with a strong Brooklyn accent. He had two small cats and played the same song on his piano every night and occasionally invited his Buddhist chanting group over and we would hear a lot of low harmonic humming for awhile. He lived in the house across the driveway from us, a tenant of the same owner, and he would often knock on our screen door and admonish us for never letting our cats outside. Finally we bought a harness for Vash and walked him around a bit, but he hated it and we gave up.

Eventually my company site was shutdown and I was laid off with a reasonable severance so Jer and I decided to move to Seattle and we found this place we're in now.

It was a difficult move, which I've covered in other entries. We used a great company called ABF U-Pack (liked them a lot) and they drop off a semi-trailer for a few days, you load all your stuff, and then they drive it to your destination. The hard part was unpacking the trailer on the Seattle end with just the two of us, but I digress.

Our place now has a great view, is fairly spacious, we don't have to hide our cats, it costs the same as the last place we lived in Santa Barbara, and so far we've never had a problem with parking. I feel safe here since the building is secure and it's easy to commute by bus. It's hard to have real perspective until we've been gone for awhile, but the worst parts are really the age of the building and that there are some maintenance problems. (This is why I wouldn't want to buy the place we rent)

So all that said, and it was a mouthful (I congratulate you if you're still here), we are beginning to actually consider buying a house. The only thing I know for sure is how much money we have to do this thing, and a vague idea of what would be a dealbreaker. We are open to where and mostly when, which are both big questions.

Last night Jer and I went to Staples and bought a 3-ring binder to begin getting our financial paperwork together -- for loan documentation purposes. We've already discussed -- we're literally on the same page and that page is in his notebook -- what features we are most interested in, and ranked them. Soon we will actually have to go out into the world and do something, but since we are first-time buyers, I have a lot to learn about this process.

This will not be my only time bringing it up, but if you know of anyone in the Seattle area who could help us with this process -- real estate agent, etc. -- now is the time to refer them to us, either privately or in comments. I'd be grateful for any personal recommendations we can get. :)

Our lease isn't up for a few months and the landlady has agreed to move us to month-to-month then so we're not in a hurry. I am just trying to ease us into this big ol' process now that it's the new year and all.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Retail therapy is the new black

Warning: Another camera/computer related post.

I briefly mentioned this earlier, but my new camera is needy. It needs a new remote control, a new fisheye lens, new filters, new software, and a new monitor. The software will have to wait until I can upgrade my computer, which I haven't done in a few years, but today I ordered the monitor. It's a special order item so it'll take a few weeks to arrive. (I will be upgrading my computer soon with Jer's hand-me-down parts)

It's an NEC MultiSync 2690WUXi 25.5" Widescreen LCD Monitor. (I'm a BH Photo affilate and recommend them highly) This monitor is very good at photo editing and even comes with its own color calibration software. Truly what you see is what you get.

Yeah... so my current monitor is 17". It has permanent smudges that are difficult to distinguish between image flaw and equipment defect. I can't even wrap my head around what this is going to mean to my editing.

I think I just squeed a little.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

So there's this island...

There was a moment today when it occurred to me I was stuck in a nightmare. I sat in a small conference room before a projected screen, filled with people many levels above me, people with power, and there I was about to give the second demo of my career. I knew the material in an academic way, but academic is not the same as having a reliable and repeatable presentation.

I stuffed down the part that said, "You don't know what you're doing. You don't deserve to be here." But you know, there's always an echo.

And so I sat, and listened, and did the best I could, knowing there is much to learn, feeling just like I showed up naked to book report day. And I read "Island of the Blue Dolphins" when I was supposed to read "Where the Red Fern Grows."

I will say that they were kind.

This is a very strange world I have found myself in.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Craft Vendor Apps Again

I've filled out 2 applications so far to be a craft vendor this summer. One of them I still consider a long shot because they have a wonky application that doesn't actually explain what they are looking for and even if you, by chance, figure it out then you can't suitably annotate what you've done because the interface doesn't allow for it.

Apparently I have strong opinions about craft vendor applications. Who knew.

I joined this Facebook fad I've been hearing so much about, and in the last week I've been contacted by 3 people I haven't spoken to in approximately 14 years, which is just weird. They were all performers of some kind back when I knew them, and guess what, they still are and I'm not. I've totally sold out. I work in a cube and wear business casual. I am like one of the supporting cast of Dilbert. And they are... sparkly.

Don't get me wrong. I don't regret. I suppose Facebook is just good at this sort of thing -- whacking you upside the head with the Other bits you conveniently let go. Or forgot. Or let define you way back when. Or maybe I ascribe way too much depth to social networking.

I have been seriously avoiding doing my business taxes. I just thought you should know. In case you were wondering. It's a fact.

Monday, January 05, 2009

A Dinner Story

It snowed again last night, but it was the good kind of snow -- the kind that melts before you wake up except for about an inch you have to stand in waiting for the bus so everything is still pretty and slushy and not as cold as it could be. That kind.

But with the snow I started thinking, I should really buy some food. During the last storm we ate everything. After devouring the last 4 meatballs and a can of soup last night, we were left with some slightly past-its-prime rice and a few boxes of Tasty Bite. So I took the car and went to Costco.

Oh Costco. You are always crowded and you always have my favorite cereal. Thank you for that. (Nature's Path Pumpkin and Flax Seed something or other, so tasty mixed in yogurt. Trust me.)

As a result, for dinner I enjoyed a feast of apples, a turkey roll up, and a bowl of edamame. The end.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

2008 in Review

Here's my 2008 Recap (2007 is here):


Still at previous company. Told to move from one office to another for no clear reason. Applied to be a craft vendor. My friend Courtney, took another job, which made me happy for her and sad for lonely me. Created a myspace page for On Focus Photo.

I legally changed my name.

Went to Discovery Park and Kerry Park and Green Lake for the first time.

I interviewed to be a Project Manager but did not get the job.

I started to hear the first rumblings of recession.

Ordered business cards and found a printer for my photos, ordered mat supplies. Business license!


Bought lots of booth stuff: tables, canopy, tablecloths, card racks. Started reading the Wall Street Journal everyday. Went to my first Sonics game. Finally set up account with ShareBuilder.


Quit the old job and started a brand new one at my current company as a Technical Writer. Jer accepted a new role on the same day.

Applied to 4 more festivals, found out I was accepted to some of them. Participated in my first 5k, the St. Patrick's Day Dash.


More On Focus Photo prep. Went to La Conner to see the tulips and saw Eels in concert. Set up a merchant account so I could accept credit cards. Worked my way through "The Artist's Way."


Had my first show for On Focus Photo: University District StreetFair. Most of the month was spent getting ready for that. Visited the Japanese Garden at the Arboretum for the first time.


First visit to Ezell's Chicken. I bought a new 80-200mm lens. Attended an Anthony Bourdain lecture. Lost power twice in the month. Jer and I saw Avenue Q and ate at Icon Grill for the first time. Was a craft vendor at the Fremont Fair. Bought a rear door and a French wall for my booth. Learned that Jer's cousin was injured in Iraq.


I visited the Seattle Art Museum for the first time. Got some great shots of Fourth of July fireworks. Worked two shows as a craft vendor: West Seattle Summerfest and Bite of Seattle. My friend Gina drove all the way to Seattle from Idaho for the day to see us at Bite of Seattle.

I bought a plane ticket to Tokyo.

Got a new camera bag, suitcase, monopod, changed USD into Yen, and saw Jer off at the airport.


Narita Airport! Shinjuku! Humidity!

Held a D700 in my hands for the first time at Yodabashi Camera. Rode the subway and JR Rail. Day trip to Kamakura by myself! Tsukiji Fish Market! Getting lost on the way to Rainbow Bridge. Gardens and unfamiliar insect noises and so many people...

My trainer at the gym quit.

I turned 31.

Worked as a vendor at Art at Marymoor Park. It was... hot.

Members of Jer's family visited. Fun exploring times. Discovered an alcoholic root beer float recipe that is fantastic. Went to PAX.


Jeremy's uncle passed away. Bathroom ceiling started leaking. The TV broke.

I enrolled in a Japanese language class.

I lost a lot of money when WaMu failed. My company had layoffs; I got drunk.


Hungover. I became a member of the executive team. Tried to learn about agile methodology and scrum very quickly.

Discovered Tom Waits. Learned to make Japanese curry. Saw "Spring Awakening" and wasn't all that impressed. Saw Dar Williams in concert and loved it. Ate at Mitchelli's for the first time. Released my calendar for sale.

Jeremy bought me a DS Lite.


Replaced all the burnt out lights in the kitchen, finally. Experienced a lot of growing pains with my new position.

Voted and was happy. I didn't know if I was getting a paycheck that month. Fun times. Rolled some money into a Vanguard IRA.

Blogsgiving with CeRo. Japanese class continues. Shooting at the mall, while I was in the dressing room and Jer was nearby.

Ordered Christmas gifts. Very important business dinner with (who would soon be) new owners. Celebrated Thanksgiving at Salty's with Jer. And... I ordered a Nikon D700.

Started playing WoW again.


Saw Quantum of Solace. Tried to learn everything I could about XML, XSD, and XSLT. Quit posting regularly to the photoblog. Saw Jonathan Richman with Courtney.

Jer's company Christmas party.

It. Snowed. A. Lot.

My bus got stuck, I was stuck at home, company got sold, had to scan and email a bunch of important documents. Received many lovely and thoughtful presents.


If I had to choose a theme for 2009, that theme would be Progress. Whenever I'm faced with procrastination or progress, I hope to have the discipline to choose correctly. And if I don't, to not beat myself up too much and try again.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a terrific year.

Friday, January 02, 2009

the dawn of a new tree ring

I never made it outside to shoot fireworks on New Year's Eve. The rain falling in front of the streetlight convinced me to stay inside where it was warm and dry, but I did enjoy watching all the people scurry around below, dripping wet. The mood was subdued jocularity. Fireworks off the Space Needle are pretty darn cool looking though, all shooting out the sides and up and down. I will just have to remember it.

I worked a bit on a 2008 retrospective entry but then I got bored half-way through, so I can only imagine what you would think. It might still get posted. We'll see. Basically this year I changed my name, went to Japan, started a business, and became an executive, at least for a little while. Now I am back to being a small fish in a very big pond. So not much has changed.