feeling the night

Posted on Sunday 10 April 2011

sense :: taste // gunpowder tea

If I were to tell you I’d been busy these past several weeks, it would be such a tremendous understatement that it’d be an insult: not just to you, but to the sheer volume of activity. First of all, I didn’t really get to check out the cherry blossoms this year the way I really wanted to – not because I wasn’t in town, but just because I was entirely too busy.

Now that begs the question: why was I so horribly busy? Before I get into that, I said last time I spoke that I would get you guys the photos from the cruise that Raevyn and I went on to Cozumel, and here they are. We had a more than wonderful time, and looking back on them I’m thrilled – so thrilled that I’d still love to take another cruise.

But as to why I’ve been so busy lately: it kind of dawned on me how soon it would be before I had to move out of the apartment I’m in now. Raevyn and I immediately started looking for a place to live, and for the past two weeks we’ve been scouting neighborhoods, driving around them in the daytime and at night to see how safe we thought the neighborhoods were, and start looking at hits on Padmapper to see if we could find a cozy place to live.

Sure enough, we found one, in a beautiful high-rise tower located in the Navy Yard neighborhood of Washington DC. It’s a gorgeous neighborhood, and even though it’s mostly populated by offices and buildings at this point, it looks like a great part of town. It’s actually part of town where I — when I was in college — used to go clubbing, where I used to spin. Now though, the clubs are gone, the warehouses are leveled, and it’s all been replaced with shopping, restaurants, condos, and office buildings. Plus, our place is less than a block from the metro, so it’s a quick hop to anywhere in the rest of the city.

We get the keys at the end of the month, and move in slowly over the course of May, since Raevyn has to be out of her apartment by the end of the month and I have to be out the middle of the next. It’s a smaller place than we’re used to having, but I’m actually looking forward to minimizing a bit and streamlining my life to the things that I actually use, would use, and really love.

To that end though, I have a lot of organizing and packing I need to do in pretty short order. We’ll see how it all goes.

Aside from that, it’s worth noting I’ll be writing for a new outlet: you’ll be able to find my work at Geek.com! I’ve been a fan of the site for a long time now, and having the opportunity to write for them is a huge benefit, and I’m really happy about being able to contribute. I’ve been posting over there a lot lately, and you can find everything I post at my author profile there.

Speaking of author profiles, I finally found out that you can see all of the work I’ve done for PC Mag at my author’s profile there, as well.

I’ve been making a harder push to my writing as of late: I set up a twitter account @novawerks for all of the articles that I write, and post them to Twitter as they go live. It’s like an always-updating, constantly refreshing portfolio or resume of my work.

Between things at Geek, AppScout, Gearlog, PC Mag, and eventually over at ExtremeTech, when they finally re-launch (which I’m also really looking forward to!) I’ve been pretty busy. I’ve got a couple of other things I’m looking at, but trust me, those are enough to keep my busy right now. I’m really glad the Geek.com work came through. Let’s see what else is in store.

As if – between the writing, the day job, the move, and studying for my PMP exam at the end of this month – I don’t have enough going on.

phoenix @ 3:01 am
Filed under: my so called life
we can have it all

Posted on Friday 4 March 2011

sense :: taste // crispy grilled cheese
Washington Monument and Cherry Blossoms

Yes – those cherry blossoms? They’ll be back soon.

Last week I took a vacation. A serious, well deserved vacation – the kind where I actually unplug from the net (not that I wanted to, the nature of the trip forced me to,) spent time with the lovely Raevyns, had a great time relaxing, got some reading done, and saw some amazing sights.

Thanks to her company, every year the staff get to take a big vacation together in celebration of the company’s performance the previous year and for surviving the holiday season. So this year, they booked their employees and their families and significant others for a 4-night western Caribbean cruise, aboard the fabulous Celebrity Century, a ship awesome enough to have its own Wikipedia page.

I’ll work on getting you guys the photos soon, but the vacation itself was incredible. Sure, we had satellite television on board (I got to watch the BBC World Service! and Sky News! and Cartoon Network in Spanish!) but Internet access was so prohibitively expensive and the trip only a few days that it didn’t make sense to spend the money on it just to check email and post to Twitter. So I put my phone in airplane mode, carried it around as my camera, and didn’t think twice about it.

Now if there’s anything you should know about me, it’s that I’m not a huge fan of unplugging. My idea of vacations and relaxation tend to involve fiddling around on the Internet for leisure activities, so it was something of a culture shift for me – but it’s not one I had a problem taking to. There was enough to do on-board, enough people to hang out with, enough to drink (Raevyn sprung for the unlimited premium drink plans – which included tasty adult beverages,) and enough other things to see that I can’t say I was ever bored. Whether I was taking photos of the port of call at Cozumel, Mexico or I was relaxing on the deck just reading, I don’t think I was ever wanting for things to do.

Speaking of which, on the trip I managed to tear through Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It! in about a day, and it was incredible. Virtually every tip for building communities, attracting attention to your work, and living your passion are things that I absolutely plan on doing. It may sound cheesy, but after you hear what he has to say, you won’t think twice about building your “personal brand.” I then moved on to The Unfettered Mind: Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman by Takuan Soho, which is a thinner book but much more of a dense and philosophical read.

So reading Crush It! got me thinking about the technologies that I currently use and whether I’m making the most of the ones available to me. I started thinking about some of my blogs that I love but that I update out of principle, not because I think they’ve beneficial to my writing, and thought about what I’d like people to focus on when they find me on the Web. I thought about ways to make my brand more focused, and put out more content at the sites that matter the most for where I’d like to go. I’ve got some work to do – I picked up a couple of new domains to keep in my back pocket, and I’m already planning a move to PicPlz instead of my moblog, moving to my Flickr account over maintaining Gallery over at PhotoWerks, and even pondering a Tumblr account for those quick-hit videos and things I want to share but don’t want to burden my friends at Twitter or Plurk with.

We’ll see – it’s a lot to do on top of everything else, but I’m pretty excited about doing it.

I’ve also got some other things on my mind that I’ll keep under wraps right now for fear of jinxing them or making the wrong move publicly, but I’ll just say that good things are afoot, no matter what.

Now then, I’ve got work to do. Someone remind me not to sleep the weekend away?

so far, we are

Posted on Monday 7 February 2011

sense :: taste // de alhambra tacos from Zapatas
Windy Miku

I really can’t begin to explain how busy things have been over the past few weeks. First it was guest posting at Lifehacker, which I’m so incredibly thrilled to have had the opportunity to do (and hope they ask me back again soon!) and then dealing with my apartment community and the fact that my bathroom floor (my only bathroom, mind you) had been torn up for the bulk of a week while they repaired some water damage that I discovered under the tub, and then a visit to my parents’ place, and then beginning to make plans for Otakon later in the year and then thinking about where Raevyn and I should move to downtown in DC come summertime, and I’ve had more than enough on my mind to keep me up and buzzing at all hours.

It also doesn’t hurt that Raevyn and I are going on a cruise to Mexico (sponsored by her work, thankfully – as kind of a “yay we made it through the holidays have this vacation all expenses paid) at the end of February, and yeah, I’ve got a lot on my mind.

The day job has been an incessant source of stress at the same time – and while I could wax for ages about my many disappointments about the day job and how things are going there right now, I don’t think that’s horribly interesting to anyone, even me. It’s not going to help me de-stress to write out and whinge about all of the things at the office that are irritating me. I’ll keep plugging away at it and see where things go from here.

Aside from all of this, I still have this odd feeling (that I’ve shared several times) that I could really use some time off of work and at home to recuperate and do some of the things I’ve been meaning to do, but it’s quickly getting to the point where I’m not going to have the luxury of picking and choosing a time to do things like digitize my CD collection or get rid of some of my old books and things before the weather is warm and it’s time to move. I’m thrilled about the prospect, I just know there’s lots of work to do before then to get things in order, and February is probably the last month I have to not even look at any of it if I don’t want to.

It’s kind of an energizing challenge, actually. I’m looking forward to it in a way I really can’t describe.

Of course, there is the whole matter of finding a place to live that works though – I suppose it’s time to start wistfully making a list of things that would be nice to have in a new home. Maybe after a good night’s sleep.

Oh, who am I kidding.

I need to stop waiting for the perfect opportunity and get started now. it’s easy to want to take a few days off so I could organize myself neatly and perfectly and get started on the work I want to do, but in reality no one has time for that kind of thing, so they do what they can when they can. No sense in trying to be any different.

There’s a lot to do, and if I sit around waiting for the ideal time to do it, I’ll be waiting for entirely too long, and then wind up hurrying to the point where I wish I had the time to do it right. That said, anyone have any spare boxes?

phoenix @ 9:20 pm
Filed under: my so called life andother entertaining things
the future smiles

Posted on Tuesday 18 January 2011

sense :: taste // Zeke’s Nicaraguan Selva Negra Coffee
winter miku - by eroji

The beautiful rendition of a winter-themed Hatsune Miku is courtesy of eroji at DeviantArt, whose page I found the artwork on. It’s really pretty – and definitely fits the mood right now.

It’s been cold lately – very cold. I haven’t said too much since New Year’s because – at the risk of sounding like a blogger who’s blogging about why he hasn’t blogged – I’ve been pretty busy and under a good clip of stress and feeling the overwhelm. I’ve been writing a lot – not as much as I have in the past, but a really good amount, and some new opportunities are on the horizon that could swing either way, so I’m looking cautiously at the future hoping for the best. Regardless, I think things will turn out okay, no matter what happens.

Still, I could always use a few more gigs, and I’m hoping I find more to do. I do fear, however, that I’m rapidly coming upon a point where I’m stretching my time and sanity to its limit on both the day-job side of things and freelancing side of things. I may have to make a real decision soon about which I would rather prefer, or whether there’s a good and solid way to blend the benefits of each into a way that will make me happy but won’t drive me nuts. I keep thinking to myself that if I had the time to really focus on my writing, I could do so much more, and do so much more meaningful work….and at the same time I think if I had more passion and time (but note the passion) for the day job, I could probably rock that gig more than I already do. Right now I have things at a very interesting and unique balance. At least I have the power to choose where to go from here – or to maintain the status quo.

Along with all of this on my mind I’ve been thinking about the inevitable move downtown to DC this coming summer. These first few months will be behind me before I know it, and it’ll be very quickly time to start minimizing my things, looking for an adequate place, and making sure that we get everything we want in a home without any of the ick that we don’t want. I’m looking forward to the experience more than I can say, but it’s pretty scary at the same time. Those are the things that build character, I suppose.

Even so, it’s a new year, with new opportunities and chances to do new things differently. I’m hoping to kick off 2011 with a bunch of simple self-improvements, some of which I’ve already done – if you head over to Nova Netwerks and my professional portfolio, you can see some of my handiwork. The best part about both of them? I did the right after New Year’s. Great way to get some resolutions under my belt, eh? Pondering similar redesigns to other sites, but then again, when am I not?

Speaking of New Year’s, it was lovely – I spent the evening watching the ball drop, nibbling snacks, and sipping Prosecco with Raevyn, which is always a good time, and of course blowing up Twitter when midnight came around. Since then, it’s been enough of a mad dash – especially with the day job – that I haven’t had much time to feel the post-holiday blues. Still, the snow and freezing rain we’ve been getting on pretty much a weekly basis hasn’t done much to help things. I normally don’t say things like this, but I’m definitely ready for spring – partially because spring is about the same time I have to get ready to move.

Right after New Year’s though, I got to watch the festivities at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) from all the way over here – next year I’ll definitely make it out there, but this year I figured it would be better to save some dough and make sure I’m not stretching my finances for an event that I wouldn’t have gotten a ton of extra money to go to. Still a little bummed I missed some of the events, but all in all I think I got the bulk of the cool stuff secondhand, and I wrote about a ton of it over at Gears and Widgets, so go peek if you’re curious what I thought of the show. All in all though? Tablets and smartphones – that’s all you need to know.

Now then, to take a few moments and make a little plan for myself to organize and minimize. I’m looking forward to getting back in the swing of things here.

phoenix @ 5:00 pm
Filed under: blogging about blogging andmy so called life
crash your christmas party

Posted on Thursday 23 December 2010

sense :: touch // yards of wrapping paper
Toradora Christmas

I’ve had this Target commercial in my head for the past couple of weeks. I think it’s my unique way of being festive. The gifts are all wrapped, the cider is mulled, the apartment smells fantastic, and there’s some cold eggnog in the fridge and rum on top of it. The holiday season is in full swing, and on this Christmas Eve Eve, I’m happily sitting back and enjoying the atmosphere, pondering gifts and New Years events for next week.

Over at Plurk, Narilka asked the question: what’s your favorite holiday memory? I thought it about it for a while, and sadly didn’t get a chance to respond before the thread kind of went off the rails into hilarious territory, but I figured it would be a good thing to blog about.

When I was a kid and living in Germany, a lot of the other children I used to hang out with were part of the military community and kids that I went to school with, so I knew a lot of English speaking children. At the same time though, we learned a lot about Christmas traditions that aren’t necessarily the American style, and considering how old I was, it makes sense that some of those German Christmas traditions tend to resonate a bit more with me than some of the more happy and fluffy American ones.

One of the cornerstones in the German tradition was that Christmas Eve is the big evening, not so much Christmas Day – and that Santa Claus to Americans is somewhat analgous to Saint Nicholas, but instead of dropping down chimneys to deliver presents under the Christmas tree (which we still indulged, don’t get me wrong,) all of the children left their shoes (and in many cases, their parents too!) outside of their doors for Saint Nicholas – patron saint of children – to leave treats in. Because the the community was semi-urban with lots of apartments and townhomes, and because the people in our community were a combination of US Military families living near base and German families who lives and worked on or near base as well, there were plenty of shoes to fill. Saint Nicholas clearly needed help.

So what did all of the good little Army brats do? With the help of our parents, we cooked up lots of popcorn ball treats and treats and put them in little clear plastic bags. We filled sacks with them, dressed ourselves in white (I think we were supposed to be angels) and went from door to door, leaving treats in the shoes, the same way Saint Nicholas does, according to legend.

Admittedly, Saint Nicholas’ feasting day is December 6th, not Christmas Eve, and it’s very possible that we did this on the 6th and I’m just compressing time in my memory – but it felt like Christmas Eve, what with everything going on, and the fact that I had the distinct impression that I had to be home soon to be abed myself, or else I’d miss Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus’s visit to my own home.

Of course, upon returning home under the guidance of another soldier in our community who somehow was tasked with sheperding most of us children back to our respective apartments and flats, I celebrated with my parents with hot chocolate, holiday specials on television, and of course, a good night’s sleep to prep for the gift-opening frenzy of the following morning.

Maybe it’s the fact that it was a holiday well spent doing things for other people in the community, maybe it was the opportunity to indulge a Christmas tradition that wasn’t the same as I’d been used to, but that holiday definitely ranks as one of (if not the) most memorable I’ve ever had. All of my holidays have been filled with love and laughter, but that one was unique and it’ll always stand out in my mind.

In other news, now is usually the time of year that I look back on my resolutions to see how well I’ve done. As usual, and as with most years, my progress is usually determined by how well I can generally insert those resolutions into my day-to-day life. I don’t, especially when the year gets into the swing of things, start thinking about my resolutions and look back on them in the spring or summertime, for example.

So, let’s see…what did I say last year? Oh, that’s right – I didn’t make specific resolutions last year, because there was so much going on. Travel to New York City for fun and for New Year’s, travel to Las Vegas for CES (which I regretfully won’t be on the way to come Jan 2011,) and so on – I committed myself to making more progress on my standing goals from the beginning of 2009, and I think they still hold water.

I’ve been doing really well on all of them, strictly – I’ve traveled more in the past year than I have in the past several years, and CES notwithstanding, I don’t want that trend to stop. I do much more on the weekends than sleep – I’ve been to wine festivals and happy hours, visited amazing creperies in downtown DC and revisited a fantastic diner a little closer to Baltimore. Suffice to say I’m much happier with the state of my activities than I used to be.

I could stand to get back on the horse when it comes to working out, but that’ll come on its own. I think I need a Wii – I’m so tired of the tracks in my copy of DDR for the PS2 that it’s not even funny. Oh! I said I need to take more pictures. I’ve been doing that but slacking in recent weeks. Nice reminder.

Beyond that though, the technical stuff are all things that I haven’t managed to do – my VHS tapes are still sadly decomposing quietly, and my CDs sit stagnant behind me, both groups waiting to be digitized and saved from their eventual destruction. I think next year – especially with my plans to move into a place downtown in DC – will be a year of minimizing, so there’ll be new motivation to make sure that those tapes and CDs go digital and get backed up…and hopefully then get put into boxes from which I won’t need to remove them.

I also suggested that I revive my Livejournal theme, “Before I Sleep.” There’s something I haven’t even looked at for a few months, and since I’ve spent less and less time at Livejournal aside from using it for my own little moments of Zen, I’d forgotten about my plans there. Another good reminder – I might get started on some of the foods and drinks I said I wanted to learn to make sooner rather than later. After all, one of my old bosses used to explain that he got so good at cooking and bartending because he challenged himself to learn how to cook and mix something new every week, without fail, regularly.

All it takes is practice – something I’m proud to say is definitely its own reward sometimes. After all – it’s been just over a year since I put all of my blogs on an at least once-weekly update schedule. The only one I’ve let myself slip on is this one since it’s purely personal, but all of the others have been regularly updated. Here’s hoping the readers over there appreciate the fact that they can bet on new content every week. Now if only I had even more time to write, maybe I could toss something up on each of them daily…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

So. With all that said, and a little attention paid forward to the New Year, I wish you and yours a happy, healthy, and safe Holiday. Seasons Greetings to all of you, and here’s looking forward to 2011.

phoenix @ 11:43 pm
Filed under: my so called life andrants, raves, and reflections andstorytelling