Previous 10

Feb. 2nd, 2009

hand on head - b&w

On being in tune

Shadow of a Writing Hand
Image by lowjumpingfrog via Flickr

From an article on writing the perfect pop song in the Guardian:

For Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch, songwriting is not a choice, but a therapeutic necessity. “When I’m not writing songs, it’s cryptic crosswords and Countdown on the telly. Everything gets a bit fuzzy, a bit bleak.”

Yeah. I’ve been in a funk lately, and I think this is partly why. I need a healthy dose of songwriting fairly regularly to make sense of, well, everything else.

Is everyone like this in some way? Is there some thing that you need to do for the world to be right? What is your thing?

Originally published at Sticky, Sweet, & A Little Overdressed. You can comment here or there.

Mar. 16th, 2008

hand on head - b&w

Things that probably deserve their own post

Yes, each of these probably merits a post of its own, and my blog has been sorely neglected of late. But since I’m powering through my to do list, I’m giving them each a bullet point, and I may choose to come back to one or more of them later.

  • I’ve been working very, very hard. If you visit over the next few months, you may see some cool changes start to take place.
  • I’ve been traveling a lot. Since the beginning of February, I’ve been in San Francisco, New York, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, Chicago, and Boston. And not in Nashville very much, clearly.
  • My 17-year-old cousin (well, first cousin once removed) has lymphoma. But she’s got a great attitude and a lot of fight in her. I’m thinking a lot about my cousin and her family.
  • My coworker’s 10-year-old nephew just died from cancer after 9 months in the hospital. And then, at the funeral, the same coworker’s mother-in-law collapsed, had a heart attack, and died. I’m thinking a lot about that family.
  • Karsten and I are about to go on our first cruise. It’s a vegetarian cruise.
  • This weekend is the fifth anniversary of the crazy little experiment Karsten and I performed that we like to call “getting married.”
  • I finally convinced Karsten to join Facebook. We’re now married on Facebook! I feel so hip.

Share This

Originally published at The Bee Hive. You can comment here or there.

Feb. 9th, 2008

hand on head - b&w

The fieldstone effect

Detail of front walkway at gate
Detail of front walkway at gate,
originally uploaded by Kate O’.

One of the interesting things about getting deep into any major project, like renovating a house and yard, is that new metaphors sometimes emerge throughout the process. For me, one of the best new metaphors to come out of the work we’ve been doing in the front yard is the idea of replacing the paved sidewalk around the house with a fieldstone walkway: the paved sidewalk, not only visually incongruent with such an old and charming house, encourages brisk walking, whereas the fieldstone walkway with all its inconsistencies in level and varied surfaces nearly forces the walker to slow down and look around at the garden and the house.

It’s not uncommon for Karsten or me to make references now to the “fieldstone” effect in our lives, of something having a welcoming slowing-down effect. I really love that about this house, and I’m also happy that Karsten and I can both appreciate what that does for our quality of life.

See? As much work and expense as this house has been, it’s actually rewarding us in unexpected and deeply meaningful ways. I wouldn’t trade a moment or a penny of what we’ve invested in it.

Share This

Originally published at The Bee Hive. You can comment here or there.

Jan. 28th, 2008

hand on head - b&w

Always make new mistakes

I have a magnet on my desk with the message “always make new mistakes.” When I saw it at Wild Oats I bought it because, at the time, I was involved in several projects at work that felt like instant replays of projects from my distant and not-too-distant past.

But even now — and in fact, every day — it comes in handy as a reminder that making mistakes can be extremely valuable, just as long as you learn from them.

Last year, I managed the redesign of our web site’s checkout function to allow new customers to pass through without having to register. When we finally launched it to 100% of our audience, it had a glitch that prevented many users from being able to check out at all. In one day, that error cost the company about $17,000.

Luckily, we resolved the issue and re-launched, and the checkout process has been successful, certainly earning back many times what it cost that day. (The CFO jokingly asked me that day if he should just take the $17K out of my paycheck, and I said sure, as long as I get to keep what I bring in, too.)

Today I realized that even while redesigning the checkout, I completely overlooked a similar process on the site that is totally inconsistent with the way we handle checkout and very probably confusing as hell for our users. I mean, of course there are loads of things wrong with our site — we’re working on a complete overhaul, but it will be a gradual process — but the two processes in question are areas that I personally touched last year and attempted to optimize, apparently blind to how unnecessarily different they are.

It’s always tempting to beat myself up at a realization like that, and think what a terrible job I’ve done. But I haven’t done a terrible job — I’ve incrementally improved two important areas of the site, and now the right thing to do is to make them work well together.

I have another desk-top adage in the form of a cardboard sign with an image of Snoopy and, in German (I found it in Germany 15 years ago), “As long as you learn new tricks, no one can call you an old dog.”


Share This

Originally published at The Bee Hive. You may comment here or there.

Jan. 1st, 2008

hand on head - b&w

How about a REALLY happy new year?

I thought about writing a year-end update yesterday, but the truth is, not all that much of note happened. And that’s a pretty good thing, as it turns out, because I was also thinking yesterday about how I’m feeling more balanced and centered than I have in — gosh, what? — maybe 8 or 9 years.

In the meantime, the highlights were clear:

  • Karsten and I celebrated our 10th anniversary of being together and being crazy in love by going to Paris, world capital of romance. And it was romantic. The trip wasn’t 100% perfect all the time, but it was wonderful on balance. As for being together 10 years: wow. Our ties to each other just keep getting stronger, and having that is the best thing life can offer in any year.
  • I started working at in January of 2007, and it’s been a really good move for me. I worked a lot (so much so that I seem to have lost my ability to update blogs), but I’m really OK with it. In fact, by far most of my efforts and energy in ‘07 were directed towards helping make something really special happen there. And it looks like that will be the case in 2008, too, and again, I’m OK with that. (Although if that’s still the case in 2009, I will have to re-evaluate my effectiveness. I want to be able to find better balance around then.)
  • We got the front porch, doorway, and fence built, and the front of the house is transformed. I find so much pleasure in those last few yards of my drive home, coming up over the top of the hill in front of us, looking at such a charming house and being perfectly content to live there. I’ve never had that feeling about a place where I’ve lived before, and I don’t take it for granted that I’m this lucky. (And who knows — we might even be able to begin the major addition and renovation in 2008.)
  • Karsten and I got close to another song placement, and although it didn’t ultimately come together, we ended up having much-needed clarifying conversations about our level of commitment to our songwriting (both still very committed) and how to refine our writing process under our current highly-unavailable circumstances (maybe more on that later). That clarity should help us over this next year, too, as we both continue to be heavily distracted by other areas of work (me with my job, him with renovation and visual art) — we should still be able to make progress, as long as we continue to want to. And so far, we still want to.

There were other events, of course: stressful conflicts at work, pests in and around the house, disappointments, disagreements, and so on. But they don’t stand out in hindsight, and that tells me exactly what my resolution for 2008 needs to be:

I resolve to find as much happiness in the current space of every moment as I possibly can, remembering that, in the end, it’s the happy moments I’ll want to carry with me.

May 2008 be the happiest of new years for all of you, as well.

Share This

Originally published at The Bee Hive. Please leave any comments there.

Dec. 2nd, 2007

hand on head - b&w

Gifts that really do keep on giving

Over at Music City Bloggers, Malia asks:

will all your holiday dreams come true if there’s a little velvet box waiting for you under the tree?

My holiday dreams? Do not involve jewelry boxes. At all. As I said in the comments at MCB, diamonds suck. That whole industry is evil and I don’t get why they’re so damned expensive. Sure they sparkle and sparkly things are appealing, but I can get a heck of a lot of pleasure out of looking at and wearing much less expensive sparkly things.

As for my jewelry preferences in general, I’d much rather have an unusual piece with semiprecious stones — something that reflects my personality. One year I asked Karsten to have my favorite ring — one that I made when I was in high school, and I wear every day — polished as a Christmas gift, and that was a wonderful treat. (It could use it again, now that I think of it.)

For that matter, why limit it to jewelry? I prefer unusual gifts that reflect my personality. Besides the aforementioned ring polishing, one of the lovelier gifts Karsten has given me was, at my request, to have one of his original art pieces framed so it could hang in our bedroom. I love that piece, and it meant a lot to me to be able to look at it every day.

Was the gift any less wonderful because it wasn’t a surprise? Not at all. I love surprise gifts, but meaningful gifts trump surprises, in my book.

And hey, it’s hard work to think up a meaningful, surprising gift just in time for the holidays. And that’s the thing: I really prefer not to play into the pressure of holiday gift-giving too much. I LOVE the idea of giving gifts; I just don’t like the idea of being socially obligated to give gifts.

After all, I buy myself indulgent little things all the time; if I’m going to be given a gift, I prefer it to be something meaningful and representative of my relationship with the gift-giver; the cost and timing of the gift truly have nothing to do with its value to me.

The editor’s note in the latest issue of Domino magazine talked about great gifts: how they’re special and surprising, but most importantly, they reflect the best interpretation of the relationship between giver and recipient. That’s one of the biggest things that bother me about the consumer-driven holiday culture we’ve (d)evolved into: it feels so much like checking an item off your “to do” list.

Which is why, as a side note, I hate the trend of giving gift cards as presents with a burning, boiling passion. In the past ten years, it seems to have become so common that I feel like all people do is end up getting the same amount in gift cards that they give. If they’re lucky.

We all might as well write each other $1,000,000 checks and tear them up — at least that’d be more memorable. In fact, why not? Let’s all get together, drink some Silk Nog, write checks to each other in ridiculous sums, talk about what we’ll do with our gift money, and then laugh and tear them to pieces. Who’s in?

Share This

Originally published at The Bee Hive. Please leave any comments there.

Feb. 1st, 2007

hand on head - b&w

Beautiful awkwardness

Today at work they had some contractors in to do some wiring in the ceiling near my cubicle. Those guys were here most of the day, and every time I passed one of them, we’d make some kind of joke or friendly comment at each other. It was nothing much, but it was pleasant and it helped pass the day.

When they were leaving, they all made sure to say goodbye to me and wish me a good day, but one guy lingered after the others had gone. This was a guy I hadn’t really interacted with very much, but he nervously stood at the entrance to my cubicle saying a long goodbye. Finally he said, “I just have to tell you, and I hope this isn’t too forward, but you’re really very beautiful. I hope this is OK, but you know, you really have this whole intellectual look going on, but you still look like a model. And you’re just really, really beautiful.”

Here’s the thing: it really did make me a little uncomfortable, just because it was so out in the open and all (although it definitely would have been more awkward had I been in an office all by myself), but not so much so that I felt the need to say or do anything to address it. I mean, really, it was a nice thing to say and all, and at the risk of sounding conceited, it’s not the first time this sort of thing has happened, but it’s the kind of thing I guess that makes me feel like: what do you want me to do with that information? How are you hoping I’ll react? I’ve complimented people on something they’re wearing, or their hair if it looks really nice, or something discrete like that, but the overall “you’re so beautiful” comment leaves me genuinely wondering how to respond.

So what did I do? I’m sure I blushed and stammered some kind of thanks, and wished him a good rest of the day.

And hey, at least he wasn’t trying to ask me out or anything, which has happened, and at which point I definitely would have alerted someone at the company to notify his employer of inappropriate conduct. This felt very polite and I felt duly flattered; I just honestly have no idea whether the whole exchange went the way he was intending it to go.


Share This

Originally published at The Bee Hive. You can comment here or there.

Nov. 28th, 2006

hand on head - b&w

Hitching my liver to the wagon

Originally published at The Bee Hive. Please leave any comments there.

I haven’t mentioned it here, but I stopped drinking any alcohol for the month of November. I overdid it really badly on our company offsite retreat in Alabama, and I couldn’t stand the smell, sight, or thought of alcohol for days. And then I had a series of night sweats that I thought might have been detoxification. And so I thought I should probably dry out for a while, so I decided to give it the whole month.

And I really don’t miss it. Much. Well, sometimes when I get home from work after a particularly stressful day I think about pouring a vodka and tonic, but the thought actually stops there. With mixing the drink. I think I get just as much enjoyment out of preparing my drinks as I do from drinking them.

I don’t know, though. It’s getting close to the end of the month, and I’m kind of looking forward to my first drink in December as a test to see if I’ll still have the taste for it.

Share This

Nov. 11th, 2006

hand on head - b&w

Veterans Day ponderings

It’s Veterans’ Day, and it’s my niece’s birthday. Prior to last year, that was a point most often acknowledged by the joke about how, the day my niece was born, it was also Labor Day for my sister. Last year, the overlap gained new significance as my dad — her grandfather — had just died (on 11/5), and was to be buried in a veterans’ cemetary. The funeral was on 11/10. I thought a lot that day about how hard my niece’s birthday the next day would be for her. In fact, one of my most daunting challenges all that week was trying find a birthday card that said the right variation on “hope you have a happy birthday anyway.”

= = =

My dad’s service in the Army back in the ’50s was as an Arabic linguist, so his work was in Military Intelligence. We didn’t discuss it often when I was growing up, but we knew it. I’ll never forget the first argument we had after 9/11. He’d been visiting me and Karsten in Portland on 9/10 while traveling on business, and then had to go on to Vancouver, BC. Following the restrictions of 9/11, he was stuck in Canada for a few days. When he came back a few weeks later to complete his business trip, we walked along the Cumberland River and got into a heated argument about why. If I could have it to do again, I’d shut the hell up and listen to him. I didn’t have to agree with him, but he was an expert on the region (albeit with dated expertise), and I just might have learned a thing or two instead of presuming he was coming from a place of conservatism and closed-mindedness.

= = =

Here’s a bit of trivia: I almost joined the military myself; did you know that? I was all set to follow in my father’s footsteps, as a military linguist. I scored very well on the ASVAB and absolutely rocked the DLAB. Highest score ever recorded in the state of Illinois, they told me. When I told my dad, he beamed and said he’d scored the highest ever recorded in the state of Maryland when he took it, and then he hugged his little language-learning-freak daughter. Over the next few weeks, though, the Army stalked me. Recruiters called me morning and evening, recruiters tried to give me rides home from school, recruiters made a nuisance of themselves. And I felt positively cornered. So I told them to get lost. It took a lot of repeating myself to get the message across, but eventually they did give up and go away.

So, this is embarassing to admit, but on 9/11, one of my first feelings was guilt. With my score on the DLAB, I knew I may very well have been an Arabic linguist, and there may very well have been something I could have done to better prepare us as a country. I know, I know, it’s a ridiculous, arrogant thought. Like I said, it’s embarassing to admit. But it was an honest reaction, and a well-meaning one.

= = =

My boyfriend during the first few years in college was an Army Ranger. He was in the reserves, though, so after basic training, he only had to report for duty one weekend each month. He came over to see me on a break from his duty one weekend, but there was a miscommunication and no one knew where he was. He was actually AWOL, which both freaked me out (AWOL? just to see me?!) and amused me greatly. The scariest part was when his grandmother found out. She got really mad at him. The Army should have recruited her as a drill sergeant. She was terrifying.

= = =

After writing all this out, all that’s left is to sincerely thank the people who’ve actually put up with the recruiters, gone through with enlistment, and who’ve done something for our country. There are many ways to serve a concept you believe in, and the military is one dangerous way to serve the concept of the greatness of the USA. It’s a concept that we don’t always live up to, but I deeply appreciate the work of those who believe in it enough to risk their lives for.

Share This

Originally published at The Bee Hive. You can comment here or there.

Aug. 17th, 2006

hand on head - b&w

Quote Whore

Originally published at The Bee Hive. Please leave any comments there.

No, I’m not talking about me and my predilection for collecting famous quotations. (They make great songwriting fodder!) Not this time, anyway. This time, there are bigger quote whores than myself out there.

I’m talking about Paul Fischer, who is called out in this LAist blog entry for giving positive reviews to what is obviously a piece of Hollywood garbage intended for an adolescent audience.

One of the facets they take issue with at LAist is that, well,

The problem that we saw was that typically in a big time movie trailer, the quotes come from different sources. And when they quote those sources there really is a column or a review attached to those raves. The problem with Mr. Fischer’s quotes (”Total Triumph”, “Raucously Funny”, “Deliciously Subversive”, “One of the Best films of the Summer”) is that they’re advertised as being from a review from — but Dark Horizons, while showcasing some of Fischer’s work, doesn’t have this review, nor does Rotten Tomatoes, which also hosts many of his reviews, most of which, you guessed it, were swooningly positive.

Now, when I worked at that online DVD rental place, heads were known to roll if a studio used a review blurb written by one of our affiliated writers (like a certain Movie Crazy fella) in a film’s promo pieces and we didn’t have the review up on the site. This happened one morning when the aforementioned movie critic was blurbed in a movie ad in the LA Times and attributed to our then-reasonably-obscure start-up web site. Our site traffic spiked but no one knew why for an hour or two. Once we figured it out, an onlooker might have thought Cuba was about to invade and we were responsible for putting up the protective forcefields — such was the rush to get the review pushed out to the live site. (What, you didn’t know we have protective forcefields? The truth, she is out there.)

Anyway, my point is: Dark Horizons would surely have felt the same urgency to get the review all linked up and working once they knew the blurbs were being used in a TV trailer. Something definitely smells rotten about this arrangement.

Like they say at LAist, it’s not like I take issue with someone wanting to make a quick buck. Movie criticism ain’t exactly foreign affairs journalism, know what I mean? (If it were, you’d have known about the protective forcefields.) But there’s still a certain amount of faith placed in movie critics by the moviegoing public. It seems, I don’t know, sleazy to mislead people that way. I mean, I compared it to prostitution, but that’s not even the same. People pay prostitutes for sexual favors; getting the prostitute to declare publicly that your sexual performance is “a total triumph” is not part of the usual deal.

But is it really wrong? I guess not. I don’t think prostitution is wrong, either. Most of the time, I just find it distasteful. So maybe it’s not such a bad comparison.

Share This

Previous 10

hand on head - b&w

February 2011




RSS Atom