Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reality Bites Less

There are times when it becomes painfully obvious what a good thing it is that I don't have children. Take, for instance, this neglected blog. If I tended to a kid the way I tend to my blog, one of us would be in jail by now.

Speaking of raising kids and how I know nothing about it, have you seen all the lousy parenting going down on Too Fat For Fifteen: Fighting Back? Wait a minute, you've never heard of TFF15:FB? How is that possible given that it airs in what is commonly referred to as the "real primetime," 4:00 a.m. Mondays on the Style network? Are you already using all available tuners on your DVR at that hour to record Shark infomercials? Well, buy a Dyson and free one of those tuners up, because you should really watch this show, if only to give me someone to talk to about it.

But first, a few disclaimers. As the overwrought title might suggest, it is not a particularly well-produced program. It's technically an hour-long drama, but once you fast-forward through all the commercials and extensive Dateline-esque "Coming Up!" bumpers, it's only thirty minutes. And while it is a reality show that follows obese teenagers at fat-camp boarding school, none of those kids is actually fifteen. I'm also not sure what exactly they're fighting back at. Poverty? Injustice? The system? Probably not. If these kids are fighting anything, it is themselves.

But the show's low production value is what makes it so good and, seemingly, one of the more "realistic" reality shows I've ever seen. Sure, the editors took some creative liberties with timing in an effort to create a story line--which is most apparent when the length of one boy's hair changes from scene to scene. But it's nice that, compared to other reality programs, there are no convoluted competitions or teams or alliances or producer-encouraged binge drinking to up the dramatic ante. It is just fat kids at boarding school. Most of them do not want to be there, yet they admit that, at home, they were teased and bullied about their weight. All of them want to lose weight, but, like adults, most struggle with committing to the actions necessary to meet their goals. It's interesting that, as kids, they don't have a lot of the fat excuses you hear from adults on The Biggest Loser, like stress at work, never taking time for themselves, baby weight, etc. While these kids sometimes whine and cry about their new fitness "program," they all seem to accept the fact that they are heavy because they eat too much and exercise too little. For me at least, it was a lesson in taking responsibility for how you got where you are, weight-wise and otherwise.

And then there's the parents. The parents--who come from a variety of backgrounds--have suffered endless criticism. I'm willing to give them a little credit. For one, they are interested in the well-being of their children. The tuition for the boarding school is more expensive than that of most universities, and one family had to cash out the father's 401K to send their 510-lb. daughter to the school. But the more you get to know the highlighted kids, the more you realize how each of their problems stems from the way they were raised. First, all of the parents are also overweight. Second, it is clear the parents expect their kids to stick to the "program" but have no intention of eating healthier themselves or exercising with the kids. As a result, most of the kids thrive while away at school but regress when back in the home, and then the parents have the nerve to criticize them for gaining weight. Why should the kids be expected to resist temptations the parents are not willing to resist (or even remove from the home)?

There are other issues. Terrina's Seminole Tribe sent her to the school. We never meet her mom but by all accounts (and all accounts are Terrina's), she's a lousy drunk and Terrina has spent her life acting up in order to get a modicum of attention. Terrina is 17 and has tattoos up and down her arms. I've got nothing against tattoos (unless they are of Looney Tunes characters, that is) but I'm surprised one could have so many before reaching the age of majority. Terrina suposedly lost a lot of weight her first year at the school, but the show begins during her second year, where her commitment is nominal at best. Although she's definitely a driven person, we're not given a lot of hope at the end of the season that she'll apply that drive to anything worthwhile.

Scotty, 13, has NEVER been told no by his mother. As a result, he has the mentality of a toddler and literally throws an embarrassing crying tantrum every time he is asked to exert himself. He loses a lot of weight at school despite giving about 30% of the effort of the other kids, but then goes home for the summer, lets everything slide, and gains 20 lbs. within a week. Mom tells him the "cheap" scale must be wrong and takes him to the doctor where they weigh him again and tell him he's gained 22 lbs. Mom theorizes the doctor's scale is also wrong, then stresses out so much about how what should have been a "happy day" for Scotty has turned bad that she starts bawling herself.

Emily is only 11, yet her wealthy parents sent her away to the boarding school, making her the youngest student there. She's basically told she will be in a boarding school-summer camp-boarding school cycle until she reaches the magical weight of 120 lbs. As you can imagine, being separated from one's family at such a young age is very difficult, and Emily struggles with homesickness like crazy. The joke's on the parents, though, because, having sent their little girl away to live with sassy teenagers, they essentially get a sassy teenager back. On her trips home, she talks back to them, swears, gets her nails done and her hair highlighted, and otherwise behaves to my great entertainment. I don't think they ever found out that she essentially went to the boarding school's version of a prom with a boy--yes, at AGE ELEVEN. She was one of my favorites, though, and she really flourished, both socially and on the program, and she lost a lot of weight.

But as much as I love Emily, nothing compares to Miss Tanisha, age 17, the most inspiring person ever to grace reality television, and the real reason to watch the show. If you don't believe me, read all these gushing comments on a Facebook fan page for her. Do you think Snooki's fan page reads like that? Because it doesn't, it really doesn't. In the first episode, Tanisha is identified as the largest student they've ever had at the school. She can barely walk due to a disease she has, compounded by her weight, and has to be driven from her dorm to the cafeteria. All the kids track their progress by how fast they can walk/run a mile--her first time it took her something like an hour and forty-five minutes. But Tanisha arrived on campus fully committed to changing her life, and her commentary is always positive rather than preachy. By the end of the season/semester, she is 130 lbs. lighter [they emphasize slow and steady weight loss on the show, so don't expect to see Biggest Loser numbers], walks everywhere, busts dance moves with her classmates and sisters, swims all the time and is just such a lovely person. When she goes home for the summer, she continues losing weight and even resists temptation on her family's many trips through fast food drive thrus (subconscious sabotage, anyone?). I dare you to watch the episode where Tanisha asks to participate in a local 5K--one which the other kids are moaning about having to participate in--and is told she can't for health/liability reasons. And I dare you to watch it without crying. I DARE YOU!

Well, I wasn't intending to recap/spoil the whole season, but whatever. For all its imperfections, I really like the show and, as I'm participating in my own "program," sometimes referred to as a "diet," it has been good to realize that if those dorky misfit chubby kids can do it, so can I.

Also, my renewed legal career has caused me to resume judging all contributions towards anything on an hourly basis, and given the hours I've "billed" to this blog post tonight, I feel good about neglecting it for another month. Happy Halloween! And, just to be safe, Happy Thanksgiving!

Time to go bill some sleep.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

RETAIL!

It's been a long time coming, but I FINALLY updated my website with a list of shops that are now carrying some of my screen prints, bags and cards (the selection varies according to shop). If you're in the neighborhood of one of these fine retailers, be sure to drop by and check out all their fabulous wares. Remember, only YOU can improve the economy through good old-fashioned American consumerism. (Heaven knows I'm doing my part.)

Edited to add: UGH. I slept in a bit today and then got up and redid the website, which always takes longer than expected, and then posted this and only after it was posted did I look at the date. Kind of a cheesy post given the occasion and I'm sorry for that.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eyes Alive

I apologize for the lack of recent posts. As some of you have already heard, I recently (and thankfully) landed a full-time job in my other profession (re: as a lawyer). Other than the fact that parts of my brain, dormant for the past nine months, are a little sore from being called to active duty, things are going just peachy at the new gig and I couldn't be more happy with how things are working out.

But as some of you also know, I don't blog about my day job, which leaves me nothing of late to blog about. Except for maybe...





My new Kat Von D eye primer. I know, I know, I'm not a product blogger, but bear with me for this one. I realize that some people like Kat Von D and some people really dislike her. It seems that most of the people who fall into the latter category base said dislike on the fact that Ms. Von D has stars on her face, while the general population has no stars upon thars. To those people, I will recommend Dr. Seuss's The Sneetches and leave it at that. But whether you like Kat Von D or dislike her or are indifferent or don't even know who she is, you have to admit that the woman takes her eye makeup very seriously.

Such was the logic running through my reignited brain when I recently wandered into my local Sephora (which is not too hard to do since it's one elevator ride and 34 steps from my front door). You see, I've been having a bit of a problem with my eye makeup starting out on my eyes but ending up on the rest of my face within a few hours. Friends and family have recommended various primers and so I went to Sephora to do a little comparison shopping. And that's when I ran into Kat--or, more specifically, a cardboard cutout of her likeness hawking her new makeup line for Sephora.

I couldn't help but notice that Cardboard Kat was wearing a LOT of eye makeup--artfully applied makeup, mind you (I mean, she's a famed tattoo artist after all, so I'm sure it follows that she's pretty handy with a liquid liner brush)--but just gobs of it. I'll bet Kat is making weekly trips to the MAC counter to trade in her empty eye shadow containers under their recycling program. If anyone ever needed an effective eye primer, it is Kat Von D. And so Cardboard Kat convinced me to purchase her product (namely, High Voltage Eye Primer in Skin; the one pictured above is in Smoky) instead of all the ones recommended to me by real, non-cardboard people that I know and trust.

And do you know what? Cardboard Kat was right. I tried it out today and it was uh-MAZ-ing. First, it made my eye makeup so much more vibrant than normal. In fact, my makeup was so vibrant and yet my job was still so new that I grabbed a cotton ball and tried to wipe off a bit. Guess what? It didn't budge. It's going to take some industrial paint thinner to get this eye makeup off before bed, but it's still worth it. Do you know why? Because it's almost bedtime and yet my too-vibrant eye makeup is still, for the most part, intact. It sure beats greasy raccoon eyes.

And so, I know I'm not a product blogger, but this was seriously one of those "How did I ever survive without this?" consumer moments.

And, admittedly, I had nothing else to report...

Friday, August 20, 2010

INTERVIEW: Megan Eckman of Studio MME



By far the smartest thing I did when moving to the Bay Area earlier this year was to join the SF Etsy Street Team immediately upon arrival. I've met a ton of local artists through various SF Etsy events and feel like I know even more through the team's happening email listserv. Our fearless yet friendly leader, Jen of Mama's Magic Studio, deserves serious props for all the time and energy she puts into the team.

A week or so ago, team member Katherine had the brilliant idea of organizing a blog interview exchange where, as you probably guessed, team members pair up and interview each other on their respective blogs. I was fortunate to be paired up with Megan Eckman of Studio MME, whom I had met at Renegade just a few weeks prior. As you will read, Megan's a real pro, and I feel so lucky to be able to spiff up my blog with some of her lovely work.


(Megan talks about painting this little Scottie on her own blog, and she uses it on
Etsy to illustrate a listing for a custom portrait of your pet.
I, however, would like a custom pet created from this portrait.
Is that possible?)


RN: Tell me a little about your background as an artist. MME: I grew up with an artsy father and a not-so-artsy mother who enrolled me in every art class our North Dakota city had to offer. I continued taking art classes all the way through college when I graduated with dual BA degrees in creative writing and drawing.


RN: What is your favorite medium? Have you tried any new techniques lately that you've just fallen in love with? MME: I've been in love with pen and ink for the last 3 years but am now being drawn over to the Wacom tablet and Photoshop side (no!!!). I hope to be able to merge the two to allow me to work more diversely for freelance work.


RN: What are your thoughts on the business-side of being an artist? MME: I truly believe that it's AS essential as the artist part. My mother is a business major and she made me a deal that she would fully support me getting two artsy degrees if I opened a business before I graduated. It was the best deal I ever made! The best thing about being a professional artist is sharing my work with other people and seeing it hung up either on their walls or the walls of an art gallery. The worst thing is the constant hair-pulling that comes from trying to think of new ways to get your work in front of the public. I'm just lucky I have fast-growing hair or else I'd be bald.


RN: Do you have any tips for people just getting started on an arts or craft business--things you wish you had done or known from the get-go? MME: I certainly wish I'd known about SEO and keywords when I started. I took all the time to build my own website and then had to write all the content over again because it wasn't being found by google search bots. So, spend a few weeks researching and writing BEFORE you jump into anything. Believe me, you'll save so much time later. [As someone with a copy of SEO for Dummies on her nightstand, I couldn't agree more.--RN]


RN: I saw on your blog that you recently moved to the Bay Area (me too!). Where did you come from and what brought you here? MME: I moved all the way from North Dakota with my boyfriend, who will be attending San Jose State University for their photography graduate program this fall. I think, in my heart, I will always be a Midwest girl, but I'm certainly already in love with the Bay Area.


RN: What's your opinion on this chilly summer weather? MME: Haha, what cold summer? It was sweltering for me! I've never had to wear so much sunscreen and giant hats. I think you all need to go up to North Dakota and experience our -40 F winter days. You'll think anything's sweltering after six months of that.


RN: And just for fun, what's your prediction for the next "it" animal on Etsy (i.e., in the grand tradition of owls, deer, octopi and foxes)? MME: Ooh, good question. I heard rumor it was going to be a sloth but I hope it's a giraffe. I think that animal could use some attention again.

As a reminder, you can learn more about Megan on her blog and through her website; her work is available at her Etsy shop:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

TREASURSAURUS REX

So, at the risk of boring people to tears with another Etsy-themed post, I think it's about time I talked about Treasuries. Do you know what an Etsy Treasury is? If not, Etsy's answer is that the "Treasury is Etsy's ever-changing, member-curated shopping gallery." Note that they diplomatically left out the part about it being the Etsy equivalent of crack.

All you need is an Etsy account (not a shop) to make a Treasury. You start by window-shopping through the entire Etsy site until you have collected the Listing Numbers (basically, Ety's version of a SKU) for sixteen items that work well together in color or theme--or, if you are a Treasury expert, in color AND theme. In doing so, bear in mind that the number one rule of Treasuries is that you never feature your own stuff in your own Treasury. The distant-second number two rule is that you should only feature one item from any given seller. The third rule is that you should have a variety of items (i.e., a mix of jewelry, fashion, bags, artwork and paper goods) unless the type of item is your theme. Once you've culled your Listings, you plug them into the proper blanks on the Treasury page, you move them around until everything is where you want it, you give it a clever name and, if you're a polite curator, you convo the sellers with the link to let them know they've been featured. In the event you're having a hard time visualizing this, here is a simple rainbow-themed Treasury I put together with a link so you can see it on Etsy:





Does this sound silly to you? Does it sound like a blatant marketing ploy by the powers that be at Etsy to get its own users to generate mini-promotional campaigns for other users and Etsy itself? You're probably right.

But have you tried it?

There are two things that make the Treasury a downright brilliant idea and they are two things that also contribute to the larger success of Etsy as a whole: (1) creativity, and (2) competition. As to the first item, there's no denying that people who lurk around Etsy are a crafty folk. Curating Treasuries gives them a break from working on their own projects and lets them create art from the art of others and obtain instant feedback via the comments section. It's also a lot cheaper than a regular craft project in that it is free.

As for the competitive aspect, Etsy is a capitalist marketplace at the end of the day, despite the feel-good communal vibes it is always generating. The Treasury used to be a lot more competitive and complicated than it is now. I will not go into all the old rules of waiting into the middle of the night for the Treasury to "open" and life spans and whatnot, but suffice it to say that Etsy got rid of them. And when they did, die-hard Treasury curators got MAD. Back in May, I went to a meet and greet for San Francisco sellers with Etsy Administrators right around the time that the Treasury rules changed. There was a Q&A session that I thought would be dominated by questions about SEO and marketing co-ops; instead, it was a bunch of angry crafters whining about the Treasury being less competitive. They apparently derived a high from the race aspect of it and were experiencing serious withdrawal. I hope the Administrators had the sense to use the buddy system in returning to their cars after the event lest they got shanked by a rug-latching hook in the parking lot.

However, two competitive elements remain. First, the Treasuries are ranked according to how "hot" or popular they are. Second, and more importantly, the best of the best Treasuries are rewarded by being placed on Etsy's famed Front Page for twenty minutes or so. It is the goal of most curators to have their Treasury make it to the elusive Front Page--which is a pretty awesome, feel-good communal goal given that they cannot include their own items.

So making Treasuries is fun and addictive, but being featured in Treasuries is also a great perk of selling on Etsy. I don't make Treasuries that often and I've never had one make the front page, but I have had three or four items of mine featured on the Front Page by virtue of being included in someone else's beautiful Treasury. I can attest that the Front Page's rewards, in terms of increased shop traffic, hearts and sales, are everything they're rumored to be. But more importantly, it just feels great everytime someone (usually someone I've never met from another part of the world) contacts me to let me know they liked my work enough to include it in their Treasury.

If you want to see some of the Treasuries featuring my work (well, at least since Etsy changed the Treasury rules and made them searchable), look here:

http://www.etsy.com/treasury/search/rileynoehren

(Be sure not to miss the Royal Tenenbaums-themed Treasury. As a film geek, it's one of my favorites.)

And this is a Treasury I recently put together as a virtual Thank You note. It features the work of sellers who had recently included my stuff in a Treasury. It was a challenge to find notes of common ground in such a diverse collection of shops, but that's part of the fun of making Treasuries.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

OLD NEWS = NEW STUFF



I FINALLY got all the new stuff I made before Renegade up and listed at my Etsy shop. I can't believe I thought this was going to be a minor "wrap it up" post-fair event. It took three days, during which I snapped over 400 photographs, retouched about 300 of them, and listed over 60 new items. That's right, I more than doubled the size of my Etsy shop. I nearly tripled it. Okay, I like 2.79-ed it.

Did I mention I made multiples of each item listed? I knew I had made a lot of stuff, but in the thick of it I didn't appreciate the numbers because I was so focused on all the things that time constraints forced me to cross off my list of things to make. In retrospect, it's no wonder I was so exhausted in July.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record...

New goal: Set fewer goals.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

BUT DO YOU HAVE ANY PICTURES OF THREAD CATS?*

One of the few places Wing and I managed to visit while she was here last weekend was The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse in the Temescal District of Oakland. I had always wanted to go there but was afraid to do so solo. It had been touted to me as "half art store, half thrift store." I think those numbers would be more accurately stated as 15% and 85%, respectively, but the idea is a good one. Despite my fear of using an already overused word, I guess you could call it a "curated" thrift store, one which stocks thrifty stuff (sometimes known as "trash") that is especially suited for repurposing in art projects. All of it is fascinating, but only some of it in a good way. However, after talking to a few people about it, I am realizing it is an acquired taste and have no doubt I'll find myself back there in the future.

One of the more brilliant things they sell are hundreds of tangible, processed photographs (remember those?) from random people who do not appear to be professional photographers. They even have a whole drawerful of negatives if that's your repurposing preference (and it would probably be mine as I once repurposed my own developed negatives into a cover for a report on women in film and now I'm sad I don't have those negatives anymore). Someone has also taken the time to sort some of the photos by subject, as pictured below.


Any takers?

*I just mentioned thread cats in the title to freak Kate out again.

Monday, August 2, 2010

WE SURVIVED RCF!



I'm suffering a serious craft fair hangover (stiff muscles, bruises in strange places, zombie stance, mental drafting of random checklists) as I write this, but I just wanted to let you all know that I survived Renegade this weekend. To everyone who stopped by or sent electronic well-wishes, THANK YOU!


I'm trying to talk my booth-helper Wing into guest blogging a thorough recap of the event that highlights some of the other great artists we met there, just like I tried to talk her into going without any sleep, hauling around leaden coat hangers and living on a diet of smoked almonds, fruit snacks and gum for two days straight. So far she's fallen for everything, so I've got a feeling a great blog post is in our collective future. Did I mention she flew out from New York City after work on Thursday night just to help me with this shebang and returned last night on the red-eye so she could be back to work on Monday morning? I think if she asked me to clean out her rain gutters with my tongue, I would be compelled to agree under the International Treaty on Owed Favors.



This is our booth, before the fair started and before the people behind us even arrived. The table arrangement evolved throughout the fair as Wing and I conducted and adapted to the results of our amateurish, guerilla marketing analysis. Because I was trying to keep the cost of the display down, and because I have limited room for display storage in my apartment, ours was one of the simpler ones, but it worked just fine. Still, we finished our setup 1.5 hours before the fair opened. Lesson learned, I guess...


Here is a view of the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason from our booth, also during setup time (the only time I had to take pictures, apparently). This view represents about 25% of the space used in the Pavilion. It was huge and packed. One woman dropped by our booth when the fair opened on Sunday, saw something she liked and said she'd return after visiting all the booths to buy it. When she finally made her way back, I commented that she had been gone a long time and must have been having fun. She said, "I finally made my way through all the booths. How long did it take me?" I checked my watch. "Two hours!"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

HOW I FINALLY CAME TO TERMS WITH THE FACT THAT I AM OLD AND DATED

In my free time, I volunteer as a leader to the youth at my church. And by "volunteer," I mean the up and ups asked me to do it and I reluctantly agreed because I didn't want my friends to think I was lame for not accepting the call. In other words, I cave easily to peer pressure and let others' perceptions of me be my guiding light in making major life decisions. I can't think of anyone more qualified to advise teenagers.

I've got to be honest, though, that this particular group of youth is one of the best that I've advised (Can you believe they've asked me to do it more than once?). We don't have enough teenagers in my own congregation to make a solid youth group so the up and ups have combined the youth from a couple of different congregations and the result is both substantially numbered and substantially diverse. The majority of them are from inner-city Oakland, but others are from the fancy, hilly areas surrounding Oakland. In terms of ethnic diversity, we've got the range of an entire Benetton ad campaign, hardly any of them go to the same school, and yet somehow they all manage to get along with one another. When you look at the way adults refuse to cooperate based on far smaller differences, it is clear these kids are the ones who should be advising us. I would totally vote any of them into public office should they decide to campaign.

I had the pleasure of spending all day last Saturday with them when we went on an annual water skiing trip. I did not expect it to be a pleasure. In fact, I was dreading it. First, I knew it would be all day. 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on a Saturday. I've got a touch of the ol' ADD and don't really like spending all day on any one thing. The idea of devoting all day to one thing triggers my well-documented commitment phobia like you wouldn't believe. When I spend all day on something, my DVR gets backed up and starts deleting precious unwatched material on its own like it's on some sort of a Hal 9000 power trip. Second, I had heard that, despite their residential proximity to a large body of water (i.e., the San Francisco Bay), the majority of the kids did not officially know how to swim. This just caused the legal issue-spotting portion of my brain to go haywire despite the repeated affirmations of the other adults that "they all wear life jackets" and "nobody drowned before." Third, it was going to be sunny. Fourth, it involved boats.

But, of course, I caved to the peer pressure and went. And it was fun. It was a perfect 80 degrees. The kids wore life jackets. Nobody drowned. They can't swim but they had no fear of riding a large inflatable tow-along and trying out water skiing and wakeboarding. All in all, it was a great day.

The only downside was the music issue. I drive these teens around a lot. When I do, I let them pick the radio station. It is always a hip-hop station. They sing along loudly and bounce around in the car and I am generally grateful for this because in their revelry they don't notice that I've circled the same block three times because I got lost in Oakland again. But on Saturday as we were driving out to the body of water to ski on (which, incidentally, was far smaller than the body of water we all live by), we traveled so far out that we lost radio reception. We had forbidden iPods on the trip because last year a few ended up in the lake, so at this point my passengers had no choice but to flip through my CDs. My indie rock CDs. I warned them they would hate them. They said it was okay. But then they started asking questions like "Do you have any CDs with fast songs?" during the fastest song on the CD and "Do you only like music with girl singers?" during a song sung by a guy. Finally, they just gave up and fell asleep.

I've never felt bad before about not being into hip-hop, but this scene was nothing more than a modern remake of a million similar scenes from my own youth, where the kids wanted to listen to grunge and all the leaders had in the car was Neil Diamond: Live at the Greek. And I'm not saying anything against the Diamond--I love the guy--but I was sad to realize that my indie rock was not the magical fountain of musical youth I assumed it was, but rather the Neil Diamond of my generation: soft music for middle-aged white women. Alas...

(FYI, I've got a ton of super-cute pictures from the water skiing activity that I'd love to post, but I'm a firm believer that you shouldn't post pictures of minors on the Internet without some sort of permission. Perhaps I'll add a few later...)

Friday, July 23, 2010

THESE ARE THEIR STORIES

I know the news that Law & Order was cancelled, just one season shy of beating Gunsmoke's record, is months-old, but I'm still reeling from it. As a member of the Ess fam, I was pretty much raised on its various incarnations. Over the years, I'm sure I've watched hundreds of hours of the original Law & Order and successful spin-offs Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent. (I've also watched more hours than I care to admit of the many unsuccessful spin-offs launched over the years.) You may like your Farmville or your Sims or your World of Warcraft, but I have always preferred the Law & Order universe as my mythical world of choice. I will concede, however, that like those other fantasy worlds, the New York City of Law & Order operates according to different rules than real life. Here are a few of my observations:

(INSERT AUDIO FX: Cuh-Cunk)

I find it strange that, although it is clear the same Law & Order universe covers all three shows, only one person (Det. Mike Logan) that we know of was ever promoted from Homicide (Original L&O) to the Major Case Squad (Criminal Intent), and he was like the most troublesome Homicide detective ever. Can’t the union do something about this?


If you are considering becoming a detective in the Law & Order universe, be forewarned that, if you have no real personal life, it will stay that way. Even worse, if you do have a personal life, it will fall into complete shambles. No exceptions. But while the job will leave you no time for your family, it will apparently provide you ample free time to become an arts, culture, psychology, conspiracy, club scene and linguistics expert.

If you are a detective in the Law & Order Universe, here are a few notes I've gathered about perps that could help you solve your case:
  • If a high-powered male judge or politico shows up in your case file, he probably molested a family member.
  • If a high society matriarch shows up in your file, she probably had someone killed.
  • If an urban youth admits to killing someone, take sympathy; he only did it due to (a) a misunderstanding, (b) justifiable vengeance, or (c) being under the psychological control of another.
  • If a right-winged religious person shows up in your case file, he or she likely killed someone in the name of advancing his or her cause. Whatever you do, do not point out the ideological discrepancy between the suspect's beliefs (goodwill to men) and actions (murder) during the investigation. The D.A. will be so mad if you do, because she likes to spring that one at trial, causing an emotional breakdown on the stand.
  • If an old friend of yours “from the academy” or when you were “working the beat” shows up, he probably killed someone.
  • If a wheelchair-bound person shows up in your case file, he or she is likely faking the extent of his or her disability.
  • It pains me to say it, but if someone who experienced a personal loss during 9/11 shows up in your case file, he probably killed someone.
  • The person in your case file who most closely resembles a famous actor did it. If two people in your case file happen to resemble famous actors, the one who resembles the more famous of the two did it.

And here are some other notes for detectives in general:

  • If you are a woman, you are not allowed to have a female partner.
  • The upside of being a female detective, however, is that you get to dress business casual while your partner wears a suit and tie. Men can only dress down if they previously worked for the Narcotics Squad or are classically-trained musicians.
  • But the most important tip I have for any detectives is not to worry: you will most likely have a 100% solve rate. You have proven time and again that you can handle a case better than the Feds. And when it comes to cold cases, you only crack them, you never file them.

A few notes about the Law & Order courtroom that differs from my experience:

  • Criminal defendants always testify in their own defense despite their right to decline to do so, inevitably opening themselves up to ruinous cross-examination.
  • A lawyer is permitted to make repeated outlandish editorial comments without reprimand by the court so long as he or she offers a snarky “Withdrawn!” immediately after objection is raised.
  • Prosecutors have no duty to turn over evidence to the defendant that was discovered during trial.
  • Prosecutors frequently engage in elaborate play-acting ruses with the detectives and witnesses meant to entrap the defendant into making a confession.

If you live in the Law & Order universe and are not in the mood to discover a dead body, you should avoid the following high-risk activities:

  • Sneaking off (from work, the office party, your babysitting job, etc.) to make out with someone;
  • Working a blue collar job (especially in the sanitation [for men] or janitorial [for women] fields) and gossiping with your coworker about your relationship woes;
  • Discussing the results of “the game” with a friend;
  • Taking children to Central Park;
  • Hanging out with other people;
  • Using telescopes;
  • Cracking jokes;
  • Opening doors; and
  • Looking out windows.

If you do find yourself in the unenviable position of being a material witness to a homicide case, don’t worry. You can always get out of extensive questioning by having someone call your cell phone, hand you something to sign or otherwise interrupt the conversation and then saying to the detectives, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to take this” as you walk away. They’ll just give up and move on. It will never occur to them to say “Don’t worry, we’ll wait.”

However, if it turns out that you are more than just an innocent witness, that you may, in fact, be a suspect, you should immediately go through your house and workplace and glue down all trinkets and valuables using an industrial-strength epoxy. Because, you see, the detectives will come to your home or office and, while they’re talking to you, they WILL try to move those things around just to mess with you. And it WILL mess with you!!

And one final observation: unlike real world statistics, nearly half the women in the Law & Order universe are redheads. Major Case Squad almost exclusively employs redheads (see below). However, they all tend to grow blonder with age. So if you're a redhead that doesn't want to go blond, maybe you should switch to bottled water or something.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I AM THE MacGYVER OF CRAFTING

As I said in the last post, I've been doing TONS of sewing lately. While I love sewing, I hate doing it for long periods of time. More specifically, my neck and back hate doing it for long periods of time.

A lot of the canvas bags I'll be selling at the Renegade Craft Fair and on Etsy have sturdy seatbelt webbing handles trimmed with grosgrain ribbon. I'll be honest, the primary reason for this is that it allows me to stock a single color of webbing (black) but then alter it to match the bag. While it's pretty easy to sew the ribbon to the webbing (i.e., it's no double-welt pocket), it requires sitting in the same (painful) position for a long period of time. You just can't rush that thick seatbelt webbing through without making the machine all kinds of mad at you. Last week, I mentally prepared myself to sew over 100 yards of the stuff in order to make handles for multiple bags. Did I mention that each of those 100 yards had to be sewn twice (once on the left and again on the right)?

After the first 14 yards I said "Enough!" Within two minutes I jimmy-rigged a guide system on my sewing machine where the webbing fed itself through at the proper place and I was able to just sit there with my foot on the pedal. And after about three minutes of that, I thought "Why sit here at all when I've got better things to do with my time?" and put a weight on the pedal and walked away. In other words, I trained my sewing machine to sew by itself:


video



By "walked away," I mean I walked two feet over to the ironing board and got some ironing done while keeping an eye on the whole rig, pausing only to shoot videos. (And yet this garbage was the best I got. Go figure.) While the first side was already sewn in this red batch, I later figured out how to make it do that part, too.

And I know my mom is going to see this and call me to talk about how horrible my Bernina sounds and how I need to get it serviced asap, but she only ever sews on cotton, not seatbelt webbing. That's just the way it sounds. Like a machine gun. Or a sewing machine breaking. Okay?

Of course, the big question is, will the bags still count as handmade?

(Oh, and apologies for my thread-filled office floor as there's been a lot of thread-trimming going on around here. I am always walking around with bits of thread all over me as if I have eight cats with thread-fur crawling all over my apartment.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

TWO MONTHS AND TWO DAYS...

... since I last blogged. Up until then, I was being unusually prolific for the year. Oh well. In the meantime I have been working (at a freelance gig), playing (on a trip to SoCal with my mom to visit Lil' Gee and his fam, then returning with her up here for some NorCal adventures before sending her home to AZ), and working, working, working again (for me, see below).

As I may have mentioned once or five thousand times, I'll be featuring my wares this year at...



... and I've been working like crazy to make sure I can fit in with all the experienced craft fairians there. All the other working and playing I did seriously condensed my production timeline to get all my inventory, display and business details ready for RCF at the end of the month. During the past few weeks, there hasn't been a moment where my entire apartment wasn't covered in prints...

...bags...

...bag innards (here, interior pockets)...

... or the like. My poor little sewing machine has been running nonstop, which I'm sure amuses my downstairs neighbors to no end. I've also done quite a bit of huddling over a steaming iron during the hottest days of summer. Many times I have stopped and asked myself (1) if it's possible to finish everything I've set out to do, or (2) if all my efforts will be worth it in the end. But how does one judge "worth it" for something like this? I've tried not to set any sales expectations and I am approaching it as much as a promotional opportunity as anything else. Thus, I think just the satisfaction of having pulled it off will be all the "worth it" I need. Stay tuned...

Monday, May 17, 2010

I've been working... really

So, the lack of posts lately has to do with my return to a day job, albeit temporary. In my downtime, I have pounded out a lot of stuff for my Etsy shop but have been unable to list any of it due to never being home during prime photographing hours. Hopefully I'll be able to post a belated Etsy Monday list soon. In the meantime, I have enjoyed being back on a strict routine as mandated by my working-for-the-man schedule and have even enjoyed the exhaustion that comes with it. We'll see how long that enjoyment lasts...

I'm also adjusting to life as a full-time commuter via public transportation. Whereas in LA I was able to just get in the car and go, here my morning is a series of walking (okay, sometimes running if I'm a bit behind schedule), shuttle buses and BART trains. Mileage-wise, my commute into the city is almost identical to my former LA commute into downtown, but even with the referenced walking, shuttle buses and BART trains, the new one takes about 15 minutes less and saves me about 20% (based on cost of gas vs. BART fare; in reality, it saves me more as I would have to pay about $35 per day to park in SF. It cost about $40 per day to park in downtown LA, but my old firm paid for my parking space; hence, I have left parking out of the equation). My pie-in-the-sky notions of being able to read or write while publicly transporting are, as of yet, unrealized as the train is always so crowded by the time I board that I'm lucky to find an empty handrail to grip onto. However, I see other people with superior balancing skills reading books while in such precarious positions and I am determined to work myself up to that point.

Sometimes when I see Vespas buzzing around up here I am sad I sold my sweet red wonder back in LA, but I have to be honest that I have not yet considered buying a replacement. Who needs a Vespa (and a second insurance payment) when you've got the free Emery-go-round? And while reading a book while aboard a rush-hour BART train might be difficult, it is next to impossible and highly inadvisable while driving a Vespa.

Friday, May 7, 2010

In Chicago? Visit my stuff at Renegade Handmade.

So, I blogged a bit about the Renegade Craft Fair, but did you know the megafairs are run by folks who own a brick-and-mortar shop in Chicago called Renegade Handmade? I did, and so I was super excited when they contacted me about selling some of my stuff in their store. Be sure to check out their darling online shop packed with crazy-cute and creative finds (only a few of my things are listed there) and, if you're in the area, definitely drop by.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What are those black knobs for again?

This is not a cooking blog and I am not a cook. However, I think that, somewhere in the middle of constantly blogging and/or tweeting about restaurants I like and shoving my goal to eat out less in everyone's face, I have given people the false impression that I do not even know how to cook. I do, I swear.



Cooking for one is an odd thing. In the past, it has resulted in my throwing away tons of unused food because what tastes good for the first time on Sunday night never tastes good for the fourth time on Wednesday night. My present success on the home-eating front has resulted from the fact that (1) I now have an entire freezer compartment to myself, and (2) when I cook a "regular" (i.e., family-sized) recipe, I immediately freeze at least half of it for future use.



So, as proof of my basic culinary skills, I have tried to photograph a few things I've made over the past several weeks. These photos make it look like I never eat vegetables when I eat plenty. I guess when I'm having a veggie-centric meal, I assume it's not a photo-worthy occasion. Also, as these photos demonstrate, I don't have the best lighting circumstances in my kitchen and I prefer to eat on appetizer plates. So be it.



Pot roast. I messed one up when I was cooking for family over Christmas, but of course this one for little ol' me turned out perfect. I don't like to eat a ton of red meat, so I immediately shredded and froze the majority of it for future use in enchiladas, etc. The rest I recyled on leftover night into delicious barbecue sandwiches:


Mmmmn... Had a bag of spinach that was on the verge of wilting, and I can't stand it once it reaches that point, so I cooked it up and made it into a deep-dish version of my pizza bianca recipe with a cornmeal crust and smothered it in blender-made marinara.

And these are some lovely pupusas I made with a sweet potato and cheese filling. I'm pretty sure sweet potato is not a traditional pupusa filling (any input, Mrs. Dub?), but I had a lonely one that I needed to use, so I nuked it, mashed it and mixed it with cumin and other seasonings before loading it into the dough. They were so tasty!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New People


As an admitted Japanophile, I can't get enough of New People in San Francisco's Japantown. In addition to a full theater that runs Japanese films, New People has a cafe, an art gallery and two distinctively different merchandise floors. On the lower level is an expected but vast assortment of pop culture and anime-inspired bags, toys, tees and office supplies. The second level, however, contains two fashion boutiques, one of which is for the premiere Japanese Lolita brand Baby the Stars Shine Bright ("BTSSB"). If you are not familiar with the Gothic Lolita style, then get yourself a-Googlin'. I am far too old for such things now, but if this had been the rage ten (okay, fifteen) years ago, I fear you would have seen me traipsing down the street in my Alice in Wonderland inspired frock, curly wig, bonnet and parasol. Indeed, when I sew clothes for myself they always end up looking like this somehow (which is why they are rarely worn). However, I intentionally drew the inspiration for my latest handbags from this movement's love of lace, skulls and sweetness.

So, I had seen the BTSSB clothes online and in the Gothic and Lolita Bible, but it was a real treat to see them in person at New People. I assumed they would look very cheap up close but was amazed by their excellent construction and attention to detail. Being in the showroom felt like being in a fable princess's closet (a feeling that was promoted, in no small part, by the fact that they were all an adorable Japanese size 2). Unfortunately, from the quizzical looks on the salesperson's faces, I think I was their first truly interested customer in weeks.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The top five ways I made a fool of myself at the Whitney Awards

This just in: I am a winner.

This also just in, albeit for the millionth time in the past thirtysomething years: I am a loser.

***

Early this year, my little self-published novel was named as a finalist for a Whitney Award in the Best General Fiction category. The Whitney Awards are for fiction written by LDS authors. If you didn't know, I am an LDS author. I don't usually address my faith on this blog for a variety of reasons, but there you have it. However, I do not write "LDS fiction." None of the characters in Gravity vs. the Girl are either expressly or implicitly LDS and I made no attempt to incorporate my religious beliefs into its theme. Lucky for me, the Whitneys acknowledge authors of both LDS-themed and general work. Indeed, if you read the roster of finalists, you will probably recognize the names of a lot of nationally best-selling authors that you did not previously realize were LDS. You will also wonder how on earth I ended up on there. I honestly have no idea. If you are one of the people who nominated me, THANK YOU.

But if you know me in real life and you still nominated me, I must question your sense of social responsibility. As the title of this post suggests, I kind of made a disaster out of the Whitneys, and I am holding you personally responsible for failing to foresee this outcome. This list could easily be seventy entries long, but I've got stuff to do (I do!), so I'm limiting it to five:

5. I got a cheap hotel. The Whitneys were held in Provo, Utah--on the fifth anniversary of my graduation from law school in that fine city and the day I was last there. Because my mom (who attended with me) and I had some friends and family to see in Salt Lake City, I chose to stay halfway between the two in Draper, just a stone's throw from the state penitentiary. It wasn't a Motel 6 or Super 8 or anything that bad--it was just a member of the economy brand in a respectable chain. The walls were paper thin and children's high-pitched voices echoed down the hallway and people were walking around upstairs all night and I didn't get any sleep. I found myself fantasizing about bunking at the prison instead, what with the concrete cells and lack of children and guards to beat people into observing lights out. Needless to say, my energy and mood suffered the whole weekend.

4. I didn't attend the LDS Storymakers Conference. The Whitney Awards ceremony caps off a weekend-long writing conference. When I made my reservations a few months ago, I anticipated having a legal job by now. Since recently-hired associates generally aren't allowed to take any time off, including Saturdays, I decided to forgo the conference but gamble that I could make the awards, even if I had to fly in hours before. When I didn't get a job, I neglected to change my plans. Not only did I miss out on what sounds like an awesome conference, but I showed up at the awards without the bonding experience everyone else enjoyed. It was like crashing somebody else's prom and then wondering why you weren't crowned the queen.

3. I didn't buy a new dress. Given my love of shopping and new dresses and valid excuses for both, I am still not quite sure how this is possible. In short, I was bombarded in the week preceding the Whitneys with new church responsibilities and business for my arts and crafts goods. The day before I left, I was running my own personal sweatshop out of my apartment to fill a big order (more on that later this week). I packed a back-up outfit but convinced myself I would have time to buy the real deal in Utah. And then I didn't have time. The backup outfit became the real outfit. And it wasn't even an outfit, it was just a mess of black. With my dark hair and fear of tanning salons, it's not hard for me to come off a tad goth in perma-highlighted Utah, but in that outfit I looked like I was attending a Wiccan-Mennonite interfaith funeral. The only upside is that, technically, I still owe myself a new dress and, to be fair, a pair of shoes and some earrings.

2. I failed to take advantage of networking opportunities. The Whitney Awards committee was kind enough to sit me by two best-selling authors. And yet I was so tired, unconferenced, inappropriately dressed and generally feeling inadequate that I completely squandered the opportunity to pick their brains and get the inside scoop on their publishing successes. Rather, I talked a lot about being a lawyer because it's the only thing about which I feel I have any expertise. This prompted one of the famous authors to ask me if I was interested in abandoning the law and writing full-time. The truth: ABSOLUTELY! THE SOONER THE BETTER. The answer I gave him: No, writing's just a hobby. He also told me he would read my book because he had met me. My reply: No, don't read my book. What is wrong with me?! I'm pretty sure that if I had attended the LDS Storymakers Conference, one of the very first things I would have learned is that you should always encourage people to read your book, especially if they are best-selling authors.

1. I didn't prepare an acceptance speech. Long ago, when I was an optimistic youth working in the film industry, I had a sort of mental acceptance speech prepared for the moment when I became the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar. Why I concocted that speech but neglected to prepare one for an award for which I was actually nominated is beyond me. As I was donning my all-black getup in the hotel, my mom asked me what I would say if I won. I rattled off a list of things that I didn't remember five minutes after I said them and I don't remember now. As I expected, I lost the Best General Fiction Award to Jamie Ford for Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and figured I was off the hook as far as speeches were concerned. Then, to my complete surprise and, I'm sure, the outrage of many, I won the Best Novel by a New Author award. I actually tied in this category with Dan Wells for I Am Not a Serial Killer (which is ironic, because "I am not a serial killer" is one of the daily affirmations I say in the mirror each morning). They handed us our awards and asked me to speak first.

Here is the award as they handed it to me. It is glass and the size of a standard book.


When I got to the podium, I set the award down on it and soon discovered it opens up like this:




Thus, my strongest memory of my rambling excuse for an acceptance speech is not anything I said but rather nervously playing with this award by opening and closing it over and over like an idiot. My mom's summary of my speech: You did fine. But you didn't say any of the things we talked about at the hotel. In retrospect, it probably would have been better if I delivered my Best Director speech, however irrelevant. Now that Catherine Hardwicke has broken the gender barrier, I don't really need it anymore. Fortunately, Dan saved the day by following me with a super witty and, I'm assuming, prepared speech. He probably learned how to do it at the Conference.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Etsy Monday



(So, this covers two Mondays, as I neglected to blog about my new items last week. And... there you have it.)


Monday, April 26, 2010

Etsy Monday -- I'm in the Storque!!


So, I have so, so, SO VERY much to report about what has been one of the craziest weeks of my life (in a good way), but I'll start out with this announcement: one of my screen prints has been featured in an article for Etsy's blog, The Storque! I've known this was coming for several weeks now and am so excited it's finally here. Please check it out along with all the other wonderbulous, beautastic work done by the other featured artists that really puts mine to shame.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Redesign

I've been working on a new Internet look for myself for awhile and finally launched it tonight/this morning (it may have taken longer than I expected). Anyhow, check out the blog, the website and my Twitter page. Soon, I'll be updating the Facebook fan page (still feel silly saying that), launching a mobile site and providing an RSS feed for this blog, Twitter and Facebook updates on the homepage of my website. I would have done it tonight, but after trying out about twenty different widgets, I couldn't find one without a totally cheesy look. Alas, it seems that learning how to write my own widget is next on the to-do list unless anyone has any fabulous suggestions.

Have I ever mentioned how uncomfortable it makes me to constantly promote myself in such a manner? And yet, I know I need to do a better job at it. Consider yourselves warned.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

When Legalese Kills

My sister, Mrs. Gee, has lovely hardwood floors throughout her entire SoCal home. In my new apartment, I have some lovely-enough laminate floors in the entry and kitchen. They're pretty slick--so slick that my little entry rug never wants to stay in place. When Mrs. Gee observed my rug problems on her recent visit up north, she couldn't say enough about this special rug double-stick tape that she uses to hold all her many rugs in place. I made a mental note to get some, but I think both Mrs. Gee and myself have little faith in my mental notes.

So, because she is thoughtful, when Mrs. Gee sent me a thank-you note for hosting her, she included a roll of the tape:

(Ummm, for the record, I have spent many nights at the Gee home and even treated it as my own personal hotel back when I had regular court appearances and depositions in the area, and never did I send a thank-you note. So... thank you, Gee fam.)

Mrs. Gee was right, the tape is a miracle. Why, then, is the packaging so lame? Not only does it not include any instructions for the tape (How much should I use? Should I apply pressure for a certain amount of time?), but it has one of the stupidest legal disclaimers I have ever seen:



If you can't make it out from my blurry photograph, it says "Decorative Items Not Included." Oh really? Because I thought there was an area rug and a wood floor stuffed into that 4"x4" quasi-box. Now I want my money back. Errr, Mrs. Gee's money back.

Did I mention this is a Wal*Mart product? I don't know if it says more about the average Wal*Mart customer or Wal*Mart's stellar opinion of the average Wal*Mart customer, but it surely says something and yet nothing about how to use the tape.

Also, does anyone know if Wal*Mart's legal department is hiring? Because I could seriously write these things. All day. While surfing the Internet, no less. And taping rugs to the floor. And wearing a blue vest.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's official: I am a renegade

So, last year I attended the world-famous Renegade Craft Fair in Los Angeles and immediately thought, "I have found my people!" I made a goal right then and there to be a RCF vendor in 2010 and the resumption of cast-aside arts and crafts hobbies and the birth of my Etsy shop followed shortly after that.

This year, I started to have doubts when applications came due for the 2010 San Francisco RCF. The vendors at the Los Angeles show last year were established names like Jen Skelley and Poketo and I was wondering if I would fit in or if I was still a little too handmade for the "handmade" crowd. However, I remembered all that I managed to accomplish towards my arts, crafts and business goals over the past several months despite major family drama and life changes happening during the same period and figured I owed it to myself to at least apply.

Then the rumors started--Renegade had received twice as many applications for the SF show as they had booths available. I was sure a rejection letter was in my future but then I got word and the word was: I GOT IN!

So between now and July 31st I have plenty of work to do, but I have headed large activities and prepared for complex civil trials and therefore know that I am capable of putting together a good showing at RCF. I'm sure this won't be the last time I blog about it, but if you're in town during RCF, drop by the Fort Mason Center and say hi! And if there's one in your town, by all means check it out. You might end up selling at it next year.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

Ruffled


Here is my niece, Miss Dub, who is three going on thirtysomething. I am positively ga-ga (I'm stealing it back, Lady G) over Miss Dub's Easter ensemble. Does that mean I'm thirtysomething going on three?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

So my besties from Los Angeles came to visit this past Easter weekend. As it was the first visit to San Francisco for one of them, we hit the usual spots. When we were in the city and I was offering various options for getting around town, they suggested we walk from Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf so we could pass through Chinatown and North Beach on the way.

Here we are in Chinatown. (You'll have to trust me on the "we are" part as I promised my friends I wouldn't post pictures of them, and then I succumbed to the peer pressure and didn't post pictures of myself.)

One of my visiting friends has been fortunate enough to spend time in the country of China, as opposed to just the town. When she goes, she fulfills her American tourist duty by picking up all sorts of kitschy souvenirs for her family and friends, including things similar to the bag pictured below.


Unfortunately, such was the bag she brought with her to San Francisco, and such was the bag she was wearing while walking through China (the town). Her friends from China (the country) have previously told her that, while such souvenirs are readily available to tourists, the locals are actually (and understandably) offended by things featuring Chairman Mao and communist propaganda. Since she's a sensitive gal, she hung her coat over the strap so it covered the image--no small sacrifice as it was in the forties while we were there.

We were also treated to an indie parade of sorts. When I could hear the drums and see dancing dragons up in the distance, I got really excited as the Chinese New Year Episode of Reading Rainbow made a lasting impression on me as a child. Unfortunately, it was not the best-organized indie parade and the tail kept having to confer with the head (see below). And yes, seeing this did kill the magic. Butterflies in the sky my eye.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Time After Time


Yes, I added this to my Etsy shop on Monday. Yes, it is Wednesday and I am only now posting about it. Back when I was working 50+ hours a week and commuting 10+, I thought I would have all the time in the world to get all my hobby projects done as well as stay on top of daily maintenance stuff if I ever quit my job. I was wrong. Perhaps it is because I have about five million hobby projects going right now. Perhaps it is because, try as I might, I have a hard time sticking to a regimented schedule when I'm flying solo. Perhaps it's because the grass is truly always greener on the other side? Whatever it is, I do get a little frustrated when people assume I've got oodles of free time on my hands, but then I have to remember that I assumed the same of others in similar situations back when I was working. For that, I sincerely apologize. I now realize how one can "work" about 12 hours a day, six days a week for oneself.

I will say that the major benefit of my current situation is that it is loads more flexible than my old one. For instance, I was able to take several days "off" this past week when my sister, Mrs. Gee, came for an extended weekend visit. We pretty much ate our way across the Bay Area. Our favorites were Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe right here in Emeryville and the seafood stands in Fisherman's Wharf which, depsite being a tourist trap, were dee-licious and pretty cheap. Unfortunately, we both forgot to take our cameras anywhere. This weekend I get to do it all over again when some friends from L.A. drop by, so hopefully I can right my photographic wrongs at that time.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Now experiencing Kogi withdrawal

Fact One: There is a TON of good food by my new place, not to mention the Bay Area as a whole, and I have barely scratched the surface on sampling it, so I'm sure some new favorite haunts will be developed in the near future.

Fact Two: Both calorie and cash-wise, I have been working hard at eating out less. When I was living and working in Los Angeles, I think I ate out an average of 12 times per week (every day but Sunday for lunch and a few breakfasts and dinners to boot). I have now successfully curbed this to three times per week. I should be proud of that and stick with the program, right?

Fact Three: Despite Facts One and Two, I sometimes find myself craving LA food that is unavailable to me here, namely the following:

1) Kogi tacos. LA's infamous Korean BBQ taco truck that also serves hamburgers. Absolutely nothing in the world tastes like it. Although it was only around my last little while in LA, the former roommate and I may have spent a late night or five racing around town and parking illegally just to wait in line at the truck.

2) Tito's tacos. Old school tacos. Very cheap. I love their quasi-authentic quacamole/sauce/dip and their super-thick chips. (And I hope you all clicked the link and enjoyed that new jingle they've got on their website in both English and Spanish.)

3) A decent shawarma. I lived the Persian part of town in LA, and we had great Middle Eastern food within walking distance--Zankou and Sunnin were favorites.

4) Urth Caffe tortilla soup. Yum. I am working hard on perfecting my own recipe for home consumption, but it is difficult when you don't have the real thing to compare it against.

5) Also, would it kill them to build a Wahoo's closer than Palo Alto? I assure you, I haven't driven the substantial distance to satisfy my green sauce craving. Yet.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is it hoarding if you compusively hoard shows about hoarding?

I was going to steal a picture of a hoarder's home off the Internet and post it here, but I felt too guilty. If you don't know what hoarding is or what it looks like, then feel free to look it up. Or feel free to walk away. I might suggest the latter...

So, the backstory, much of which has already been stated here: I recently quit my job, moved to a new area and commenced a job hunt. I knew that, given the economy, the job hunt would take some time, and prior experience had taught me that I do not do well when all I do all day is sit around and think about finding jobs. So I put myself on a regimented schedule where I work on the job hunt, arts, crafts, writing, cleaning, exploring the new area and improving my health--all during specified hours of the day. Indeed, despite the fact that I am unemployed, I am working about ten hours a day and I have eaten more home-cooked meals and put in more gym time than I have in years. The apartment is pretty spotless. I love where I live. In all, things are pretty great.

At the end of the day, and only then, I let myself wind down with a little TV (sometimes I will also have it on in my office as background while I'm working on projects, but I don't like soaps or talk shows or commercials for vocational institutions, so I usually end up turning it off). Sometimes I have DVR'ed stuff I want to watch, but sometimes I'm left to my own devices and 200 channels to fill the void. My go-to during such occasions was usually to find whatever channel was running a Law & Order marathon for the night, but I actually got kind of burnt out on it. And then, one day, while exploring what was available on my free "On Demand" television listings, I came across a program about compulsive hoarders. Having once seen a show that just featured a single hoarder and finding it fascinating, I was immediately hooked.

If you didn't know, hoarding shows are all the rage these days. A&E has Hoarders. One of the lesser Discovery Network channels had a show called Hoarding: Buried Alive, which appears to have been revamped for airing on the more popular TLC. For the most part, all follow a couple of hoarders each episode as they try to tackle their problem. Sometimes it does not seem like they are trying very hard. In fact, for the most part, it is one argument after another between hoarder and therapist or hoarder and hoarder's family member about throwing away a single item, which is probably some half-melted Happy Meal toy from 2002, while mountains of similar items awaiting similar arguments sit menacingly in the background. On Hoarders, they send dump trucks to the home and actually clean it out quite a bit. On Buried Alive, the therapist works slowly with the hoarder one room or area at a time, so when they give you a "one month later" update at the end of the show, the house is not clean, but the hoarder is proudly pointing to a new walking path and saying "Look, I can walk into the kitchen now without having to take those dangerous stairs I built out of discarded Igloo coolers to climb over my stuff! I am on the road to recovery!"

These hoarding shows are about 20,000 times more shocking and depressing than any of the murders or sex crimes regularly featured on the Law & Orders, and yet I cannot stop watching them. Like, I get really excited when I know I have a new one sitting on the DVR waiting for me to watch it. WHY? Is it just the usual can't take your eyes off the train wreck syndrome? And if not, what is WRONG with me?

Perhaps I'd be better off if all I did was stress about the job hunt all day...