Adventures in the Windy City

I went to Chicago last weekend. Jason’s cousin Heather was getting married and we took the time to have a mini-family reunion as it’d been a while since we’d seen Jason’s parents and brother. We then took part of Sunday and all of Monday for sight-seeing in Chicago proper. My full photo set.

Here’s some photography I took of Jason and his family. And then, of course, the photos of me were taken by others.

On Sunday, we headed into Chicago and went to the Lincoln Park Zoo. Lincoln Park’s a free zoo in the middle of the city. It was packed as the day was hot and everyone was outside. I love looking at animals, but wow, do people need some lessons on biology and not to be rude to animals. Continue reading “Adventures in the Windy City”

Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics Recap

The Olympics were awesome.

Jason and I drove up to Vancouver on Monday to my friend Sarah and her sweetie’s home. (Unlike all those suckers who waited in long border crossing lines on the weekend, we breezed through.) They were fabulous hosts and we had a lot of fun with some geeking out. I made these chocolate soufflé cupcakes with mint cream as they are gluten-free for Sarah and the cupcakes were a delicious hit. We went out to awesome Thai food that night and explored some of the highlights of Vancouver Olympic Nightlife. Including standing in a large crowd watching ice dancing and everyone getting emotional. (Jason and Brad were so stoic.)

The next day, we got up early and I was a bad guest who can’t handle the morning and black tea on an empty stomach and got sick. Fail. But I was all better by the time Jason and I trudged off to find the bus to take us to Curling! We just followed the masses to the arena.

And to our complete surprise, we had 1st row tickets! Like you had to be banging a curler or disabled in order to get better seating. We saw Canada vs China (Canada killed them); Norway vs Great Britain (Norway had fabulous pants); Sweden vs Denmark; and Switzerland vs France (they were closest to us). It was awesome and a lot of fun. We drank overly expensive crappy Canadian beer and tried not to yell “Sweep.” (It’s rude to yell while the stones are moving as the players need to hear each other.) I did find it interesting that a lot of non-English speaking teams’ skips mixed their native language and English while making calls.

Some lovely older Canadian women tried to explain curling to us, until we informed them that we knew all about it and had even played it before. They said we could be honorary Canadians for the day. I was also amused by the guy next to me over explaining curling to his 10-year-old daughter when she asked questions. She got on her cell at one point and informed whoever was on the other line that curling “was kind of interesting, but boring.” Adorable.

Then Jason and I went to forage for food near the hockey arena. We ended up eating sushi and watching Canada destroy Russia in hockey. (Poor Ovechkin!) There were a few very loud guys yelling every time Canada scored. We were afraid sushi chefs were going to lose fingers.

We then went to see the Slovakia vs Norway hockey game. It was awesome. Again, I was surprised that we had 5th row tickets. We were to the left of the player’s benches. There were some crazy puck bunnies (hockey fangirls) trying to get the Slovakian players to notice them by throwing themselves as the players during warm-ups.

Only six minutes into the game, one of the Slovakian players was checked to the head and neck and went down. The EMTs came out and hauled him away. And then they cleaned the blood off the ice. It was weird because no one said anything over the announcements the entire time; even after, they only ever announced the penalty the other guy got.

Anyway, the rest of the game was great. It was 3-3 until the 3rd period when Slovakia scored another goal to win it. The crowd was going nuts the entire time. Though it was funny how people cheered for almost everyone or, you know, waved their Canadian flags. Slovakia was definitely the better team, overall. Two or three pucks ended up flying over the glass into our area and then at the end, a player tossed a stick and three rather large men fought over it. The guy who got it’s girlfriend was embarrassed by his behavior.

Oh, hockey, you are awesome sport.

If the photos weren’t enough, there’s video too. Video I took on my phone. Curling is so much easier to video than hockey.

We had a great time, lovely hosts, and everything went pretty smoothly. Winston missed us a lot.

Facebook — To delete or not to delete

Erica's Facebook

I think a lot about deleting my Facebook. I don’t use it for networking; that’s why I have LinkedIn. I don’t use it to contact my close circle of friends. We have face-to-face visits, phones, e-mail, and other methods of communication.

Part of met thinks that I haven’t hammered out how I’m going to use it just yet. Is it networking, keeping track of life lived a long time ago, or connecting with friends? I think this when I get connection requests from co-workers that I don’t like all that much. (Obviously, this does not apply to all, and probably doesn’t apply to you when you think it does.) Or when yesterday, I received and accepted a request from a woman I went to 2nd grade with. And since I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, I don’t really mind those requests. I don’t put overly personal things on it, and since I’m not into partying and one beer at dinner is my limit, I’m not going get caught in some saucy photography.

Mostly I think about getting rid of it due to the voyeur factor. Facebook gives you just enough information to stalk someone, but not enough information to really know them. I suppose that you’re suppose to message people or write on their walls or compare your movie capability. But those still seem like only surface connections.

Sometimes my reactions to Facebook remind me of when my mom was going to attend her 20th high school reunion. Her friend Carol was over and my mom pulled out her old high school yearbook. Carol and myself stood around as my mom started going through her memories and looking at the pictures of the people she used to know. Her high school years, like my own, were not her shining glories. She was an average student and not popular or overly involved.

After we giggled at my mom and my uncle’s ’70s hair, my mom started recounting the people she hung out with. But then it got to the people she hated. The ones that stole her boyfriends or snubbed her friendship. The ones she hoped she looked younger than. The ones she guessed had gotten fat and ugly with age. Or the ones she thought deserved to have landed themselves in jail by now, based on her judgments of them for what they did 20 years ago. She was so bitter. So full of ill wishes and mockery.

Facebook sometimes turns into that for me. I see people I used to know and some of them aren’t people that I like very much. Some of them hurt me and some of them were assholes. Facebook becomes my yearbook, only updated every moment of every day. Unlike my mother, who can leave her yearbook the shelves, I can access Facebook any time of the day, from anywhere. That is why I think about deleting my Facebook account and putting the past on the shelf.

More Snow

We survived the Snowpocalypse ’08, only to see more snow last night. And freak out.

Thankfully, the warm sun has melted everything. But here are some photos from the last snowpocalypse. The one that caused me to work from home, Jason’s original flight out to get canceled, and for us to go a little stir-crazy when our DVD player went belly-up.

Nightviews:

Nightview Seattle in snow Nightview Seattle in snow Continue reading “More Snow”

I’m Still as Pretty as a Turtle

Erica as a babySaturday is my 25th birthday. I’ll be a quarter of a century. Wow. (Yes, this picture is of me when I was a baby.)

My mom is here visiting with my fake!daddy in tow. This time, she let him get his own seat on the plane instead of packing him in her makeup bag. (For I have successfully taught my mom about men-in-jars — the ancient art of shrinking a man down, storing him in a jar, and pulling him out at full-size to use when needed.)

I love birthdays. They are awesome. To celebrate on Saturday, I am having a girls’ day at the spa and treating myself to a massage. (There are many ways that I am treating myself like a lady of luxury.)

While there are unsettled things in my life, I do think that at 25, I am pretty happy. I also think about different my life is than the other women in my family as they turned 25.

My mother was either engaged or almost engaged to my father when she turned 25. She married him shortly after she turned 26 and had me several months after she was 27. This turn in her life made her move to a smaller town, drive in the snow, and become a housewife. (Seriously, my dad took pictures of the hospital grounds the day I was born and there was snow everywhere. See why I live in Seattle now?) At 25, all my mom wanted to do was get married and be a mommy.

My maternal grandma had two small children and another on the way. She lived on a farm in rural South Dakota. She and my grandpa eventually moved to Oregon. It might’ve been when she was 25. But I am not sure of this. (Grandma, any help?) She likes to tell us stories about getting up every morning and butchering 25 chickens to take to market. To think that I don’t even have to grow my own tofu. Can you imagine how everyone would’ve laughed at a vegetarian then? The relatives already think that I’m weird enough.

At almost 25, all I want to do is read comics and hang out with my boyfriend and my totally awesome friends. I mean, we have important debates to consider — like who would win She-Hulk or Wonder Woman? Or maybe I want to ramble all over the interwebs and have conversations with with friends in other cities that I miss so much. Then I’m going to have a spiritual crisis as I drive by a beggar on my way home from my web design job.

I am amazed at just how different my life is. I couldn’t imagine being married or having children. I feel like such a young person myself, and right now, I don’t think I’d trade that feeling for anything.

I Do Dream of Electric Bunnies

I’ve been thinking about solace, and the times I had solace. Solace is something that I want in my life. I want a “happy place” to go to.

When I was growing up, I largely did two things for solace — read books and raise rabbits.

Himalayan rabbitsI didn’t have a few rabbits. No, I had anywhere from 10 to 80. While my peers were moving from sleepovers to dates, I was busy every weekend showing my rabbits all over Oregon state. My rabbits were award-winners as I never like to do anything halfway. I was cleaning cages and trimming toenails. I’d get up earlier than anyone who knows me might believe to feed them every morning.

While I had many types of rabbits over the years, I mainly raised Himalayans. Himalayans are smaller rabbits that are white in color with dark points on their noses, feet, tail, and ears. They’re also know to be very docile and go into rabbit trances where their heads move back and forth almost like their meditating.

I always loved them because of those qualities. They were my solace. When I had a bad day due to hormones or an ugly incident at school, I could retreat to the detached garage that housed all my rabbits (and my cats too). We’d just hang out and listen to NPR.

They always had the radio going so they would be used to noise. My mom always joked that my rabbits were very well-informed. But really, we lived so far out in the country that there would be silence. Silence where I could hear my rabbits eating hay or drinking from their dishes. Or hear them bounce around their cages when there was a loud noise. The radio helped them from freaking out too badly.

Now that I live in Seattle, sometimes I miss that silence. Right now, I can hear my upstairs neighbor walking around, a car on the road, a train, and Jason playing a game on the other computer. I didn’t really notice the lack of silence until I visit my mom’s house.

The drive from Seattle to Bend is long, and the last couple times, I’ve arrived just after midnight. No one is out and about in the country, on my mom’s 20 acres. Everyone’s already in bed. (Or my brothers never came home or are at dad’s house.) The dogs might bark, but they soon settle down for more interesting things like sleeping.

Then there’s silence and crisp, dry air and bright stars.

I think Himalayan rabbits are like that — silent and bright. They’re also soft.

The day I broke up with an ex-boyfriend, we went to a Humane Society together. They had one rabbit. (It was a Satin, not a Himalayan.) I held it and touched it. I let it sniff my face with its flat, wide nose and curious whiskers. A worker told me she’d never seen that rabbit be so friendly with anyone. I couldn’t take it with me. I was moving. Logistics and rental agreements. But for one moment, I was there with my bunnies and it didn’t matter that my life was in upheaval.

I keep telling Jason I need a holiday rabbit. Wouldn’t a surprise pet be the best present ever? (I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to not being able to bring home lost and stray animals on a whim.)

I just need a moment to find that solace. The solace in a four pound rabbit that found my painted nails to be the same color as grass.

Five Things to do in Seattle in the Fall

It’s definitely fall. I’ve started wearing a scarf and mittens and my office heater is working away. This was the view from my balcony a few weeks ago when the leaves were just starting to change.

Seattle fall leaves

Five Things to do in Seattle in the Fall

1. Celebrate Halloween

Complete bias in that Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year. You’re never too old to dress up, especially since there are many adult (21+) parties you can attend if you’re not already invited to a private party.

One of the most important fall activities is searching for that perfect costume. I’m not a fan of the expensive out-of-the-bag costumes as they aren’t kind to my budget or my skin. Too much polyester. This year, I’ve already hit my favorites, Goodwill (the one on Deerborn is the largest) and Red Light (the one in Capital Hill has the largest assortment of pre-made and accessories costumes I’ve seen). I’m still in need of a skirt…

2. The Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival

This festival is currently running. When I’ve gone, I’ve always had a lot of fun. They always host a variety of films from cheesy horror flicks to popular films to documentaries. Everyone goes for a good time, and some have discussions afterward or audience participation. You might even get to meet cast members.

Plus, the movies are always at little art house theaters and it’s a good way to get to know other movie theaters. (Much better than paying $10/person to see commercial “successes” at generic theaters. Am I bitter about paying to see W. last weekend? Just a little bit.)

3. Winterfest at the Seattle Center

Two words: Ice skating. I mean what girl who watched the 1992 Olympics didn’t want to be Kristi Yamaguchi?

Okay, there’s lots of other stuff like jazz and choir performances, Worldfest, Solstice Fires, and more. I imagine that if I had children that some of these could be activities out with children. The Seattle Center is a hoping places and is always conveniently located on a bus route or four since parking isn’t always ideal. Think of it, a whole field trip including learning how to ride public transportation.

(Which I had no clue how to do until I went to Europe when I was 16 and got lost in London. Which was the most awesome part of my vacation even if I was scolded.)

4. Mt. Baker

Ski season is upon us. Or so I’m being constantly told by the outdoor enthusiast graphic artist who’s cube is on the other side of the office from mine. (In fairness, he just received his new skis which he did the design for.)

I’ve heard that Mt. Baker has the best skiing for those living in Seattle. It’s a short drive for a day trip to the mountain.

5. Explore your Seattle Farmer’s Markets

That’s right, in Seattle, farmer’s markets are open in the fall and in the winter. (This varies depending on the neighborhood, so check the schedule to see what’s open when near you.) In addition to fall harvest vegetables, you can also find meats, eggs, and other farm products.

It’s never to early to start practicing making the holiday dinner. Or just making seasonal food. I love pumpkin pie if anyone’s interested. Don’t forget to shop locally just because it’s no longer summertime.

Pants Magic: Another Adventure in Photoshopping

One of my biggest work projects is to take the raw clothing photos from the photographer and edit them by removing the background (and mannequin) and color correcting. By color correcting, the photographer only takes one photo of a product and I, via Photoshop, transform it into the many colors it comes in. The helps cut back on expenses, especially when a single shirt or pant can come in three to five different colors.

Photographers have a lot of product to shoot and not every shot comes out picture perfect. Most all of them have editing software, and they do a good job at adjust for major changes, which I deeply appreciate. However, sometimes I’ll still go back and fine-tune it.

On this particular pant, the leg was bunched up over the foot in an angle that would have looked especially strange without a foot present. So I built a new bottom for this pant leg.

Pants before Photoshopping Pants after I photoshopped them

Register to Vote and Check Your Voter’s Registration

Uncle Sam wants you to voteI believe it’s the patriotic duty of every eligible citizen to vote. When I turned 18-years-old, I was so excited that I could vote, especially since I was 17-years-old when George W. was elected the first time. My frustration was paramount, especially since only 60% of voters voted in that election. To say I disagreed with Bush v. Gore decision was an understatement.

Deadlines to registrar to vote for the November 4th election are fast approaching. In Washington state, there’s 2 days left to register by mail and 17 to register in person. You can use this handy Google map to find the specifics for your state.

What’s scarier still is already registered voters have been purged from the system. Specifically in OH, LA, FL, MI, KS, NM, CO, and NV. These purged voters have largely been in swing states and lots of them have been targeted at traditionally black communities. Thanks to the internet, you can check the status of your voter’s registration. Hint: You want it to be active.

If you live in Washington state, like myself, you can both registar to vote and check your voter’s registration status online. It’s ridiculously easy.

And while, I have my own biases about the election, what I really want is for every eligible person to vote on November 4th and for every vote to be counted correctly. I want everyone to be informed and vote with his or her brain. (Not their heart, Ladies Home Journal.) Even if my preferred candidate doesn’t win, I want to be satisfied that the American people have spoken and this is what they said.

Friday Hope: DonorsChoose.org

Today is dark and drizzly here in Seattle. I remain even more disillusioned about yesterday’s VP debate and the current bailout.

A link from a friend pointed me to a website called DonorsChoose.org, where public school teachers in the United States are asking for outside donations to fund projects in their classrooms. Projects come across the curriculum from literacy and math to science and music.

In an era of ‘no new taxes,’ we all know that public education gets its budget slashed early. Bill Gates testified before Congress to let him hire more immigrants in high-level computer sciences because there are not enough qualified Americans to do the job.

Public education holds a strong place in my heart as with the exception of three years, my K-12 education was in public schools of varying qualities. Same with my two younger brothers. I have friends who are teachers and I agree with them that No Child Left Behind has left millions of children and schools behind. Even those gifted children Bill Gates wants to hire as college-educated adults.

While I have chosen to not to have children of my own, I vote for every school levy because I remember going to a poor and unpopular high school. I had wonderful teachers who got me interested in literature, politics, art, and foreign languages, and I had an equal share of horrible teachers who discouraged me in science, math, and physical education. To quote Shakespeare, “The past is prologue” and I can’t help but think that those formable years had their impact on where I am today. I wonder what my own schooling would’ve been like had there been better funding.

I think it’s sad, unpatriotic, and inhumane that these teachers can’t get funding elsewhere. But at least, they have somewhere to go to seek the help they need and we can give it to them.