Posted on Monday 1 October 2012

sense :: taste // a hot cup of pg tips
autumn nymph

It’s been a long time since I’ve used this image, but it’s still one of the first ones that leaps to my mind when I start thinking about autumn – the changing colors, the bright beauty, the fading light, and the coming cold…they’re all there. I fell in love with this long before I realized the character in it is Shameimaru Aya, from Touhou Project. Even though I’m not at all versed in Touhou’s incredibly deep and expansive lore and history, I still love the imagery here, and how frequently this character is associated with fall and falling leaves. I kind of dig her old school camera, too.

That said, we’re looking at October now, and 2012 is heading rapidly for a close. I’m kind of surprised at how quickly this year has passed: everything seemed to move so slowly at the beginning of the year, and then somewhere during the summer everything picked up the pace. Still, I’m speaking from a place of personal perspective – I just hope that the holidays this year aren’t too difficult to deal with.

Salty Air by J.Viewz on Grooveshark

I’ve been slowly but surely making time and space for my personal and pet projects–a little here and a little there, nothing drastic or major just yet, but the key to being more productive for me is to better manage my time, and I’m glad to report that at least some of that it working well for me. I still think I could use a vacation, and I’m certain I’d be able to take a day off here and there in the coming weeks (maybe even for my birthday), but with Raevyn starting a new job herself, I don’t think any week-long getaways will be in order for a bit. Still, a couple of spare days just to pick up some of the latest video games would be enough recharging for me, I think. I’m a dork like that.

In other news, I’ve been working pretty hard to minimize my “urban guilt,” as they call it – having moved into the city, I try to make sure I get out on the weekends to experience the city for all it’s worth. All of the farmer’s markets and espresso shops, new businesses and budding districts…I know it can be tough on Raevyn sometimes to get dragged around town to a new shop or restaurant, but I’m hoping she’s enjoying the lifestyle a bit too, as long we don’t go overboard. Just a couple of weeks ago we discovered that a historic market in DC recently reopened, and the place is brimming with great shops, nice people, and a killer Peregrine Espresso bar. Our usual haunt for fresh veggies and quality meats and cheeses is no slouch either, but it’s always good to have selection, especially considering when I lived in the suburbs, the only “selection” I really had was which chain grocery store to drive to.

The Only Way (feat. Keenhouse) by Futurecop! on Grooveshark

That all said, some of these wonderful markets just make me miss New York City, and the beautiful Union Square holiday market that pops up there every year. I went a few years back when I was in town for the holidays, just taking an impromptu vacation on my own, and I still miss it – and miss the city. It might be time for another visit, but I’m sure I’ve said that before.

So even though I wrote about them at Lifehacker today, I really have to send some love over to the folks at Relaux for their killer playlists. I’m listening to one – biomimicry, as the name implies – right now, and I adore it. It’s one of my favorites, but not quite the fave. If you give the site a shot, I’ll be curious to hear what you prefer. Personally, I find the music is the perfect sweet spot of interesting and work-oriented, so I can focus on the task at hand and get things done while I’m listening. Kind of like Freefall in that respect.

Anyway, if you’ll excuse me, it’s about time I brought out the long sleeves, fluffed them a bit, and maybe stretched out the wrinkles from storage. After all, this is my favorite time of year.

phoenix @ 5:54 pm
Filed under: my so called life
when we were young

Posted on Saturday 15 September 2012

sense :: taste // Schlafly Pumpkin Ale

I’ve been in love with Toradora! for way longer than I’ve been able to see it. I think I found out about it about two years ago, and I’ve been wanting to see it ever since. It popped up on Hulu a couple of weeks ago, and we’ve been watching it ever since. We finished it last night, and suffice to say, it’s pretty moving. I mean, sure, it’s a high school slice of life anime like many others, complete with very typical characters, but it does a great job of exploring the complexities of love and the hard choices that come with it. It cut a little deep personally, but I think part of it is that I have so much history with this story, so take that with a grain of salt. I hear the manga is still running in Japan. I might have to give it a shot, if for no other reason than that the story doesn’t have to end yet.

When We Were Young by Sneaky Sound System on Grooveshark

Today was fairly busy – we got up relatively early and headed out to our local farmer’s market to pick up a few things, then over to District Taco for lunch. I freaking love that place. We filled up the tanks, and then headed over to the newly opened Union Market in DC to check out the sights and sounds. A lot of the vendors have yet to move in, but the atmosphere is still really nice already, the place is nice and open and airy, and the food looks delicious. We picked up some freshly baked bread and makings for dinner tonight, and the Peregrine Espresso stand was a sight to behold. Tons of long-necked kettles, pour-over coffee stands, and one stunning mocha, made just for me. I think it helped that I was wearing my Refill Required t-shirt. Still, gentleman making the brews was incredibly nice, and waved to us long after we’d finished our coffees, browsed a bit more, and left the market. Suffice to say we’ll be back.

Tonight though, it’s all about the spoils from the market before heading off to bed, and hopefully looking forward to another day of adventure tomorrow. We’ll see, though.

The past few days Raevyn’s been getting up really early for training at her new job, which has kind of put me off for a bit admittedly – it’s thrown off my exercise schedule a little, and while I don’t think my writing has really been affected, it’s definitely taken a little getting used to. I feel more like a stereotypical blogger, working in my pajamas and cleaning up whenever I get the chance, instead of having the kind of tried and true “going to work” ritual I had when I was the first one to get out of bed. I suppose that’s the trouble with working from home. Still don’t think I’d trade it.

Fader by The Temper Trap on Grooveshark

Earlier today Raevyn and I were talking some things over – mostly about how hard it’s been for me the past year or so, even without me really knowing or understanding it. Even before my mother passed away, things were getting harder-for a number of reasons, not just my mother’s passing-but while I’ve tried to take them all on the chin, I’m coming to see the cracks in my armor for what they are. The immediate danger has mostly passed, so it’s difficult to ignore them anymore and just keep pressing on. I’m starting to see the damage, I’m starting to feel it, and the worst part of it all is that I’m not entirely sure what to do about it.

It’s one thing to just say “sheesh, I need a vacation,” but taking time off to recoup and recover only works if you’re actually recharging during that time. If you’re not recharging, not taking care of yourself, and just brooding and feeling worn down and weary the whole time, it hasn’t done you much good, has it? I don’t have answers honestly – I don’t know what I should do – but I know I really have to do something. I’m the type of person that knows how important it is to live now, how essential it is to live right now, in this moment, and yet I can’t keep my mind off of how things aren’t what I want them to be, which is healthy enough in small doses, but when it takes over like it has, it’s a constant distraction from the present. It’s getting to me.

Come Down by White Lies on Grooveshark

It’s pretty rough all around. I look around and see things I want to change but don’t have the energy or the power or the expertise to handle on my own, and I see problems that I know have solutions but I can’t figure out what they are. I feel like I need to be more creative, more inspired, more active, and yet I don’t feel like there are hours in the day to do what I need to do to get there. A lot of it is taking a step at a time, making lists, and so on, but I’ve been writing at Lifehacker long enough to know that making a to-do list to get you where you want to go is a great step, but it’s just that – and it doesn’t get the job done. If you spend all day making to-do lists, the sun will set and you won’t have really gotten anywhere.

Venting, I think. Like I said, I don’t have answers, just tons of questions.

That said, I have little to complain about, and I’m aware of that. It doesn’t make any of this weigh less heavily on my mind when I wake and before I sleep.

Maybe I do just need a vacation.

phoenix @ 10:32 pm
Filed under: my so called life

Posted on Thursday 30 August 2012

sense :: taste // nori strips

My, it’s been a long time. That’s unfortunate, but like I often say, I don’t want to get bogged down in blogging about blogging, so let’s move on, shall we?

Starworshipper by Futurecop! on Grooveshark

When you’re confronted with a situation you’re hard pressed to deal with, I think the biggest challenge is how to manage your feelings about the situation. I’m not talking about how you approach the issue in terms of action: usually that’s something that’s all laid out for you already. Either you can do something or not, and those options are usually laid out in front of you and it’s up to you to pick the best one. That in itself can be difficult, but it pales in comparison to controlling how you feel about it.

I bring this up because the weather is starting to turn cold again, and with it my melancholy is inching back – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but it does make me take notice of my own behavior. I feel like I’m in a creative slump, even though I feel like I’m on the cusp of being more creative (seasons changing always does this to me), I feel more sensitive to the perceptions and opinions of the people around me even though I know better than to be. I’m worried I’ve made mistakes that I can’t take back, even though those “mistakes” have made me immensely happy. I’m a little on the depressed side.

And yet, what to do about it escapes me. I have these glimmering moments of clarity – the ones I always enjoy so much – where watching the steam rise off of a hot cup of tea makes me inspired in ways nothing else could, or watching an ice cube slowly melt into a finger of scotch makes me feel creative like no brainstorming session or roundtable ever would. The key, of course, is to make those moments the norm, and the doubt the exception to the rule. Maybe I just need more music.

Pop Culture by Madeon on Grooveshark

Fall is coming. It’s my favorite season, if for no other reason than the chill temperatures, the opportunity to put on sleeves again or sport hoodies around town (although clearly I have to be careful doing such a thing, apparently), and the changing colors and smells in the air. The year will come to a close soon, and I’ll be confronted with the first anniversary of my mother’s passing. It’s a complicated topic – one I’m not even entirely sure I’ve addressed completely, but I don’t know if there’s much need to. We keep walking because we have to, we keep breathing because we can, and we should live as much as we can in the time that we have.

I’ll admit, I’ve had an odd obsession with mortality since my mother’s passing, but I at least hope I’ve managed to temper it into something that will make me appreciate my time more than live in perpetual fear of the day I’ll eventually be lowered into the ground. Now then, off of morbid topics, eh?

Willy Wonka’s House by Farleon on Grooveshark

I’ve been meaning to make more time for myself lately. I love my work at Lifehacker, but I find it’s entirely too easy to catch myself working from sunup to sundown when I work from home, doing little other than waking, working, napping if I can, working some more, tidying up and cleaning the house, doing chores, eating, and then sleeping to do it over again. My colleagues seem a bit more adept at fiercely defending their personal time than I am – an issue I faced when I was working at my previous jobs as well – I kept wondering where my coworkers found time to do things like go out for cocktails or exercise regularly when there was so much work to be done.

And yet, here I am, writing about productivity and motivation and organization on a daily basis, and how important it is to go home from work and leave work at work, and how important it is to have work/life balance, and how great it is to be organized, and I have yet to apply many of those principles to my own life. Some of it is because I do what I love, but a lot of it is because it’s just really damned hard to do, really damned easy to read about, and not that hard to write about either. When I crack that nut though, I’ll have a hell of a feature to write.

If anyone has any insight on that one, let me know.

Ghost Assassin (Hourglass Bonusmix) by Maduk ft Veela on Grooveshark

Maybe I need to do some traveling again.

I tend not to, aside from visiting my father on a regular basis, but those days in New York City, Las Vegas, and San Francisco were some of the most inspiring and creative I’ve had. I need to find a way to make those things happen again, one way or the other. Ever since I was a child, visiting new places and seeing new things have been immensely magical for me – my years living in Europe shaped me in that regard, I suppose.

Maybe Europe. See some of the things I saw as a child. I should add that to the list, I think. Winter’s usually a good time to travel, as long as it’s not over the peak holiday times. Then again, there’s always cruises, trains, and cars for more nearby destinations.

All I Know by Matrix & Futurebound Feat Luke Bingham on Grooveshark

I’m awfully introspective for someone who really is by all accounts relatively happy. I mean, I’ve made a point to start exercising again like I did back in the day, I’m eating better, taking care of myself, and I have a great job and a wonderful living situation. Perhaps it’s a matter of melancholy happiness, if that’s not an oxymoron. Maybe I’m just having a hard time letting myself be really happy. Hell, maybe I just need an ice cream.

In any event, it’s time to pay more attention to my pet projects and personal needs. I think I can make the time it. Besides, I do owe it to myself.

phoenix @ 6:55 pm
Filed under: my so called life andrants, raves, and reflections
boldly they rode

Posted on Sunday 18 March 2012

sense :: taste // Guinness Meat Pies

cozy miku

It’s been unfortunately long, I have to admit. A lot has happened, and even more hasn’t, so I won’t complain very much. I hope you won’t either. To that end, I’ve been sitting with my arms deep in hacked WordPress installs, partially due to old and outdated themes and now-defunct plugins that I allowed to stay active and installed when I should have deactivated them a long time ago. Part of me had hoped to go ahead and try some new themes on my blogs this weekend, but another part of me knows full well that I have a hell of a time deciding what themes to apply to what blogs, and then have little desire for all of the back-end changes I’ll have to make to header images and embedded videos to make the posts look good once the changes have been made. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, but could never really muster the effort to. Maybe eventually. I really just haven’t seen any WordPress themes lately that spark my fancy enough to really want to implement them. If anyone has suggestions though, I’d love to hear them.

I will say this though, Lifehacker has my hands full, so much so that I’ve been neglecting my other sites. I do hope to turn that around a bit soon though. After all, I come across tons of great articles and stories every day that aren’t a good fit for Lifehacker, but they’re still great stories. I’m glad to have somewhere else to share them, and I’m not ready to just give that up yet.

In any event, things have been settling down and stabilizing a bit in the past few months. I really wish I could take a vacation, and I suppose I really could, but not without a pretty significant bit of preparation–enough that I’d have to plan pretty carefully. Carefully enough that I haven’t bothered putting it in just yet. I’m in a weird place where I have a lot of things that I really want to do–have been meaning to do–but just not enough hours in the day. I should probably make a better, more comprehensive list of the things I want to do. For some reason, I can’t tell if I’m just too busy, low on willpower or energy, or just need to muster up the drive to get started. Either way, I should probably figure it out.

It’s not as though I haven’t been up to a lot. This weekend brought me my brand new iPad-the first one I’ve owned, and a worthwhile purchase, I think. Now I just need to load it up with some apps that are worth having. I have a bunch I tested a while back, but now that I actually have one, finding a good case and a few worthwhile apps is more difficult than I anticipated. I’ve set up a bit of a musical outpost over at This Is My Jam, if you guys would like to join, or are curious what I’ve been listening to these days. Aside from that, apparently I have a lot to do. I would say wish me luck, but I think I’ve played that card a time or two before.

phoenix @ 7:42 pm
Filed under: my so called life
favor the bold

Posted on Wednesday 28 December 2011

sense :: sight // shooting stars on starry nights

I’ve been sitting on this post for a long time. Pondering how exactly I’m going to approach it, what I was going to say. It’s been a while, obviously, but that’s not the reason I’ve hesitated. Let’s get some of this stuff out of the way first, okay?

Still Still Still by Kaskade on Grooveshark

My mother’s health has been iffy for several months now, and while things were largely okay through November, she and my father made the decision to stop the chemotherapy she had been on for the past year or so because it was getting too difficult for her to move from first her chair, and then eventually from her bed. Shortly after that decision, her health began to deteriorate–not unexpected, but still–and finally on December 13th I got the call that “it could be any time now,” and that I should be there as soon as possible. My mother greeted me when I arrived later that evening, we sat together and talked for a while, and eventually she fell asleep. From there she hung on, in and out of coherent consciousness, until Friday the 16th, when she heaved one last sigh of relief and passed away, out of this world and on to the next.

Before we go too much further, it’s worth noting that I’ve never lost anyone super-close to me. I’ve heard of old friends passing away at untimely young ages, far off relatives who had died, family of friends, things like that. My mother’s funeral would be the first one I would have to sit through, and I had to sit through it up front. Her internment was, thankfully, not as dramatic as I had feared it would be, but still the first I’d ever been to.

I’ll fondly remember our Thanksgiving-one of the last times we had family surrounding us and all talked together as though there were nothing going on–in fact, even in her last days my mother would tell everyone she was “doing fine” when asked, and she her strength is something I can only hope to channel when it’s my turn to go.

All of this happening so close to Christmas would normally cast a long shadow over the holiday, and it did, but my mother wouldn’t have approved if my father and I sat around feeling sad and sorry for our loss. We miss her, we miss her terribly, but my mother wasn’t one to have anyone mourn her. “If you didn’t cry for me in life, don’t cry for me in death,” she said.

Starry Eyed by Ellie Goulding on Grooveshark

So we did have Christmas–Raevyn and I visited my father for the long weekend, traded gifts, made a delicious Christmas dinner. In fact, it was the first Christmas dinner I’d ever had to cook inside and out. We started the afternoon with curried crab dip and steamed shrimp, and moved on to prep dinner. We roasted a fat, seven pound chicken, made sweet potatoes, sauteed squash, made kale, and sipped wine, and it was lovely. Obviously the table was short a person, but it was a beautiful evening regardless. My extended family, all of whom had come from miles around to attend my mother’s funeral, went out of their way to give us a few gifts here and there to make sure we had a Christmas, and they were all lovely.

When Raevyn and I returned home, on Monday evening, we had our own Christmas, and suffice to say that we went ahead and spoiled each other, partially because we had to do all of our shopping after my mother passed away, getting deliveries to the apartment the week before Christmas, when Raevyn had to go back to work and I had to attend to funeral and internment arrangements. All of the gifts are unwrapped and the wrapping paper is tossed away, and our home is full of books, anime DVDs, Portal 2 related gear, cable management tools, and a new coffee mug that looks a lot like the ones used for sipping Raktajino on Deep Space Nine, among other awesome gifts.

This Love (Will Be Your Downfall) [Mille Remix] by Ellie Goulding on Grooveshark

Frankly, I’ve been so busy these past few weeks and so drained otherwise that I haven’t had time to post pictures of any of it – or any of the other photos I’ve taken since I got my shiny new Sony NEX-5N a while back. The photos are on the SD card, I just haven’t plugged the camera–or the SD card–into my computer to have them copied. I think part of it is that I use a Mac to write every day, and at the end of the day I switch over to my Windows PC for browsing and gaming, so I’m stuck trying to figure out which system (and which app on that system) would be best for managing my photos. I’ve usually gone for just a folder system I keep organized myself in Windows, but I’ve been pondering giving up and letting Picasa manage my photos in Windows (since it’s already installed) or iPhoto manage them on the Mac. We’ll see. Either way, I’d love to get them up at my Flickr account sometime soon.

All of that aside, the holidays treated me well, all things considered, I’m thankful to the team at Lifehacker for keeping an eye out for me while I was running around dealing with issues that kept me from the keyboard, and even more thankful for the love and support from Raevyn and the friends I’ve been able to talk to about this up to this point. I know as soon as I post this there’ll be more of you, and I’m grateful for you as well.

When We Were Young by Sneaky Sound System on Grooveshark

For now though, I have plenty of work to get back into, a new year to look forward to, and a lot to do even between now and the beginning of the new year. I have some freshening up to do, both virtually and in my physical space, and I’ll need all of the luck I can get. Here’s looking forward to 2012.

phoenix @ 8:53 pm
Filed under: my so called life andrants, raves, and reflections andstorytelling