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
another year

Posted on Tuesday 18 October 2011

sense :: taste // PG Tips
think different wall

A number of things have happened recently to remind me of the time passing. Obviously one of them was my birthday yesterday, an always curious reminder of my actual age and the progression of time. Others have been the passing of Steve Jobs, which I’ve written about at The Classy Geek and Dennis Ritchie in recent weeks. Still more was the half-asleep realization that a year ago I was wistfully wishing that someday I’d be able to make my passion a full-time job. More specifically, I thought to myself: “Man, I wish I could get paid to read my favorite blogs on the internet and then write about the cool stuff that I find.”

Yeah. How about that? Pretty incredible how that turned out.

That said, it’s not like it’s easy work – I have to keep reminding myself that sometimes doing the things that you love is often very difficult work to do: it’s hard, but if I had to trade it for getting up in the morning and putting on business casual clothes and heading off in my car for a long drive to an office I didn’t want to go to every day, I don’t think I could. I’m pretty happy doing what I do now, and frankly, I’d like to keep it up as long as possible.

That said, my birthday itself was lovely, as was the weekend prior, and hopefully as will be this week and the weekend coming up. At the same time, I do have a tendency to get a little melancholy on my birthday, and wonder whether or not I’m spending the time as well as I possibly can. Every year, my birthday winds up making me wonder whether I am where I want to be, whether I’m spending my time the way I want to be. In fact, as I was drifting off to sleep, I asked Raevyn whether or not she thought I was making the best use of my limited time: reaching for my dreams and living the life I want to live in my head.

After all, I’ve come a long way in a short period of time. I’m living in the city like I’ve always wanted to, I’m writing about technology and lifestyle like I’ve always wanted to, I’m pretty much exactly the person I’ve always wanted to be, with some caveats, of course.

And of course, as with any caveat, I summarily obsess over whether or not I’m making enough rapid progress towards addressing those caveats. Am I working out fast enough? Am I eating right? I need to make more time to exercise, and get out of the house and try new restaurants. I need to clean up my budget and tweak my finances. I need to unpack the apartment. It goes on and on and on. Part of me knows full well that list will never expire, I’ll never be able to exhaust it, but that knowledge doesn’t minimize my need to try. It’s a strength and a weakness, I suppose.

To that point though, I’m desperately on the lookout for a new and better productivity system. I love ReQall, but it’s often too difficult to get tasks in and out of the tool, and I get the distinct feeling that the service is on life support because the developers and support staff have been impressively quiet with regard to new features, updates and improvements, and even questions from users on their own support forums. It might be time to move on, and I’m definitely the kind of person who can benefit from a good task management system – I remember when I started using ReQall; I started being more productive just so I could use it. If you have suggestions, send them my way.

Heck, if you have any suggestions for getting out of a rut and getting in gear, send them my way. I’d hesitate to say I’m in a rut, specifically, but I definitely need to find a way to harness a little more energy and fire on a few more cylinders than I am. That may be saying a lot, since saying I’m busy is an understatement. Still: smarter, not harder – more rewarding, not just more – is my goal.

phoenix @ 8:21 pm
Filed under: my so called life
you’re locked in

Posted on Friday 23 September 2011

sense :: smell // earl grey tea
miku heart

I’m woefully missing the catharsis here. One of the things about taking your passion and making it your day job is that sometimes you still need a break from your passion when you do it enough: which means that I need more opportunities away from a keyboard than I’d like to admit that I do. Might be time to pick up another hobby-or at least hit the gym more often. It’s not like we didn’t move into this building partially because there was one on the first floor, free to residents. Working from home should give me plenty of time to drop in for a half-hour workout, right? Right?

In the time since I’ve started working full time at Lifehacker, I’ve written more than I thought I ever would, researched more than I ever thought I would, read more horrible stories and DIY projects gone horribly wrong than I ever thought I would, and waded through more self-entitled commenters and attention-hungry PR reps than I ever thought I would. And for the most part, I love it – all of it. I may not love getting up as early as I do to make it all happen, but I wouldn’t trade it in to go back to a day job, commute to a cubicle, and slave away at work that I don’t find half as interesting.

To that end though, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster that I totally thought I was ready for – maybe with a few known weaknesses, but I thought I had shored up my mental and emotional defenses, knew where my weak points were, but this has been more challenging than I anticipated. There’s a reason I posted this video to Gears and Widgets, and if I said I didn’t have at least a moment a day where I wish I could force at least one person to watch it, I’d be lying. I know eventually I’ll get used to it or ignore it, and honestly I think that thicker skin is coming in, but I wish it didn’t take so long, or suck so much.

So in the past few weeks, I inherited an iPad for my ailing mother, who has a second-gen iPod Touch that’s just too small for the emailing and blogging that she’s trying to do with it. Oddly enough, using it for a few weeks while I got it ready to give to her made me want one pretty badly: not that it fills any essential need in my life–it really doesn’t–but boy is it a handy tool to have around.

I also finally upgraded my old OG Motorola Droid for a shiny new Droid Bionic – I’ve been sitting on an eligable upgrade for months now, and I’ve been waiting for the Bionic since CES in January, when the phone was the star of the show. The reviews have been largely positive, and while people note that Samsung is likely bringing a new phone to Verizon Wireless in October or November (the Galaxy Nexus or Nexus Prime, depending on who you’re listening to, and it’ll be the first phone to run Android 2.4 “Ice Cream Sandwich,”) I figured if I keep waiting and clinging to whatever the “next best thing” will be, I’ll always find myself waiting for the “next best thing.” All things considered, I love this thing – it didn’t take me too long to configure, and really appreciate the extra speed.

At the risk of sounding like I’ve been buying too many toys lately (which I probably have,) I also picked up a Sony Nex-5N – my first camera that’s not on a phone since my old 5MP Pentax (which I donated before I moved last because it was on its last legs anyway) and the first one I’ve had with interchangeable lenses. It’s a powerhouse, and I’m still learning my way around it. Thankfully my colleague Adam Dachis has an excellent guide to the basics of photography that’s been a huge help so far.

To that end, maybe this Sunday I’ll take that camera to the market and do some shooting, if I can muster up the nerve. It takes a certain amount of fearlessness to take photos in public when no one else is: fearlessness that I don’t know if I have quite yet. I know a lot of people who post beautiful photographs on a regular basis, and I used to do it with my phone (until my poor OG Droid’s camera stopped working,) I’d love to be one of them again.

Anyway. Back to the real world. Things to do, places to go. Still struggling every day with living that life in my head. It keeps changing, which I suppose is what makes it beautiful. Here’s to the weekend, and here’s to you.

she’s the competition

Posted on Monday 1 August 2011

sense :: taste // fresh pasta
tropical paradise

I almost don’t want to talk about how ridiculously busy and life-changing the past few months have been. For those of you in my personal circles, you’re aware of some of the things I’m keeping closer to my chest, but for those of you outside, you all likely know about my leaving “the day job,” where I was a full-time project manager for a large database marketing company and going full-time freelance as a technology writer….if you haven’t, you’re clued in.

Yes, that’s right – I ditched a tidy salary and benefits to go chasing my dream. It sounds so silly and awkward now that it’s done, but it was such a huge leap at the time, especially in the face of circumstances that I thought to myself were only going to get progressively intolerable, that I wasn’t sure whether things would pan out. That said, I knew full well that if they didn’t pan out, I could just as easily go back to what I was doing and find somewhere else to draw a check for something that I – while talented and skilled at it – wasn’t passionate about.

So I went full-time freelance, partially in order to take advantage of the additional work the fine folks at Lifehacker wanted me to do, and to ramp up my efforts over at Geek.com and the newly relaunched ExtremeTech. Less than a week after taking the plunge to go freelance, I was staring at a full-time job offer from Lifehacker. Apparently I’m doing something right, or at least I hope so.

I accepted, and at this point we’re still working out the details and mailing paperwork back and forth, but for all intents and purposes, I’m a full-time member of the Lifehacker crew. That’s where I am every morning, that’s where I spend the majority of my time writing, and if you follow any of my other sites, especially The Classy Geek or Gears and Widgets, you’ve noticed it in the lack of updates over there. I’m just getting into the swing of things and balancing out the work between Lifehacker and other places I tend to write, so I’m hoping to have it evened out and to be able to do my hobby writing as well soon.

All of this happened to coincide with Raevyn and I moving downtown to our dream apartment in DC, which while small is still large enough to serve as my home and my home office while I work, and gives us the urban lifestyle we both always wanted. I have to be up a little early for my tastes to cover the morning shift at Lifehacker, but I’m getting used to it – as long as I can make myself go to bed the night before.

Still, it’s lovely to be able to walk out of our apartment and less than a few steps to our trash chute (much closer than any dumpster I ever lived near) or downstairs a few flights and up a half-block to grab a burger at Five Guy’s or a sandwich at Subway (or a few light supplies at the corner CVS pharmacy.) We happen to live in new construction in a part of town filled with office buildings and a military base, so during the weekday there are tons of people mulling around and food trucks for delicious lunchtime eats. When the sun goes down there are concerts at the waterfront park a couple of blocks away. It’s a lovely neighborhood, and I’m very lucky to be in it.

Now, if only I had the time (or the organization) to manage to make use of our building’s lovely gym and spend some time getting back in shape. I’m sure it’ll all come in time. Right now, all of my energy has gone to keeping my head above water at Lifehacker and at the other venues I write for, and trying to relax on the weekends and get some rest in between the days.

That said, I should probably be abed. Morning comes quickly, and while I’m thrilled to even have the time to fill in the gaps here, I should probably be using to rest. Even so, I’m okay shaving off a few minutes here and there to write without having to do it for someone.

So then, how are you?

phoenix @ 1:01 am
Filed under: my so called life
the golden age

Posted on Sunday 17 April 2011

sense :: taste // chipotle chicken tacos
Windows 7 Tan

Remember when I was rambling on about how busy I’ve been recently? Yeah – this past week has probably taken the cake for being one of the most busy and challenging I’ve ever had, especially as a writer. In addition to writing for AppScout and Gearlog every day, I’ve also been posting at Geek.com every day. If that weren’t enough, I picked up a side gig over at Sound and Vision Magazine.

But here’s the clincher: I was invited to guest post all day today over at Lifehacker, which means I provided the entirety of today’s content there. I like to think I did well, but head over and check out today’s (Sunday the 17th, that is) posts! Your comments and thoughts are more than welcome, I’d love to hear what you have to say!

Now that it’s all over though, I have a little bit of time to breathe, relax, and think again about the move, which I’ve promptly ignored all week. We still have permits to get for the moving truck, move dates to set and schedule with the building, change of address forms to fill out, utilities to set up, and I’ve got an HTPC to set up so I don’t have to get cable television when we get into the new place.

So yes – it’s been so busy that a lot of the things I would normally spend this time worrying about – like the move and my day job – have gone by the wayside. I’m glad to be able to pay attention to them again – I like having a headstart on tasks, especially if they’ll only be in the next few months.

At the same time, and as much as I’ve noted that it’s been a busy and challenging week, I can also happily say that I’ve loved it all. In fact, the only thing that’s crossed my mind is wondering when I’ll be in a position to leave my day job behind and do this all of the time. I think I might be looking forward to it.

phoenix @ 10:55 pm
Filed under: blogging about blogging andmy so called life