Sunday, January 30, 2011

Peppers, baby!

I can honestly say that I had a full and productive week.  What a nice feeling.  Unfortunately, that nice feeling is somewhat offset right now by the bad feeling that comes after drinking cheap wine and pushing off brand whiskey shots on people.  What can I say?  I'm a mountain of class.  

Yesterday morning I got the urge to replace the stock photos on the wall by my dinner table with original work.  Half an hour later I was returning from the grocery store with $12 worth of a variety of delicious looking peppers.  A couple hours after that I was hanging the prints on my wall.  Pretty darn quick turnaround on this project.  The best part about working with food though, is that you get to eat everything when you're done.  Granted, I was stabbing these things with pins to get them to in position... but I'm pretty sure I took all of them out.  
I did baby pictures this morning which was something entirely new to me.  I had no idea how I'd respond to working with a mini person, but it actually seemed to go well.  The two situations I didn't want to happen, didn't happen (I neither damaged the baby nor got pooped/peed/puked on).  As tends to happen, a flood of ideas started coming in right as the baby decided he had had enough of all the flashing lights.  It was a good experience and something I'd do again, based on the assumption that all babies are well behaved and cooperative like Max was.  

Time to use an Abita Strawberry to help shut down the brain in preparation for another busy week.  

Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy Website Update Monday

So I've finally gotten my little website to a point where I'm not ashamed to show it to people.  Hooray!  The main page is slow to load, but I'm hoping that gets balanced by the fact that there's not much clicking around to do beyond that.  Very simple.

Everybody, go update your websites.  You'll feel accomplished for a Monday night.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Limits? What limits?

I say this because I'm not really a runner.  At least, I haven't jogged regularly for probably six months to a year and even then, I was maybe going four miles at most.  So this week I ended up running three times.  The first time, on Monday, I went 3.5 miles.  Hey, not too bad for having let myself fall out of shape.  There's one stretch of the route I did that had me running alongside some warehouses and empty industrial lots for a while.  For some reason I seem to enjoy my most lucid thoughts while passing that stretch.  I don't listen to music when I run, so it's just me and whatever pops into my head, and that gets amplified when I pass out of the more populated areas where I don't have to worry about cars honking at me or playing chicken with other joggers / bikers.  Along that stretch I seem to experience the transition from exercise to meditation.

Back when I was running a few times a week, I would always follow one of a few variants of routes around where I live.  Even though they weren't long runs, I would come back a panting, tired mess.  Still, as I plugged along past a darkened stretch of warehouses, I had this silly thought - I've never really pushed myself.  I'd been going along the same routes over and over again.  The only challenge here was in getting my lazy ass off the couch to do anything.

So Tuesday night I figured I'd experiment.  It was a bitterly cold night (for southern Louisiana anyway), probably in the high thirties to low forties, so I bundled up with pants, sweatshirt, gloves, and hat, and made my way out.  I started out along the normal route, but instead of turning where I normally would down warehouse row, I kept going straight.  Why the hell not?  Rather than do what I've been comfortable doing, I'll try something different, go somewhere I haven't gone.  I was being observant of how I felt along the way.  The odd thing was, I felt fine.  Around what I later found to be mile five of the six miles that I did that day, I had some slight pain in my left foot and a brief cramp in my right inner thigh.  Other than that, it was strangely easy.  I opened up the mind to new possibilities, and the body obliged.

I figured I'd give myself a couple days to see if I was sore or in any pain, but I didn't experience any more soreness than I had after my 3.5 mile run.  So by now my thoughts were churning more rapidly.  What next?  The answer seemed pretty clear.  A longer run!  Keep pushing the outer boundary between can and can't.  Or better, get rid of can't.  Can't isn't there.

Saturday morning seemed perfect to try another experimental route.  On what was thankfully a much warmer morning, I suited up and went out.  Down the same path that I went the first time and past the first turnoff.  This time past the second turnoff.  Across a busy street and over to the river where an endless stretch of bike path sits atop the levee.  This was another one of those quiet, serene moments where it was just me and my thoughts.  Occasionally I would look over to the left and see some barges floating along the river.  To the right, businesses drifted by.  Then houses.  Then a golf course.  Then more houses.  I didn't really have a good idea of how far I was going.  I just kept going.

Again, I was keeping a close watch on how I felt, looking out for the pain in my foot or any cramping at all.  Nothing.  No muscle pains, no cramps, no joint pains, no feeling winded.  What was there after a while was a lack of water and energy.  Even on a cool day, I was sweating lightly in the late morning sun.  I decided to break off of the levee path and head down to the busy street that I knew followed the course of the river just beyond some houses.  Luckily enough, I popped into civilization right across the street from a Winn Dixie grocery store.  I'm sure they didn't mind a sweaty jogger making his way through the store to the drinking fountains in the back.  I was probably in there for less than a minute, then back out.

I found some streets I recognized and zig zagged my way back to where I live, making it back feeling surprisingly good.  I got on the computer and calculated my distance.  Just shy of ten miles this time.  Ten miles with no pain or tiredness.  Ten miles is about the longest I've ever gone in a single outing, and the last (only) time was about five years ago.  Today I expected to be hurting, but here I am and I feel fine.  Again, no more soreness than the first 3.5 mile run.  I'm pleasantly surprised with how this is turning out.  I went from effectively zero to a ten mile run in a week.

What is this telling me?  Maybe the boundaries we set for ourselves or let others set for us are misplaced.  Maybe we don't experiment with pushing those boundaries enough because it's just easier not to.  Maybe we're capable of more than what we're told to expect.  

Or... maybe I'm reading to much into this.  Either way, I'm enjoying the experiment.  I think I'll be taking it further, only next time I'll be humble enough to recognize that I am human and that extended periods of physical activity require replenishment of water and energy.  As bold as I am, I don't need to dive head first into dehydration and heat stroke.

Until next time.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Time management and bad cat breath

My time has been getting gobbled up by various pursuits the last couple of weeks.  Since I made the effort to put together some serious goals for the year I'm actually making an attempt to complete them.  My wife makes fun of me for meticulously tracking things on Excel spreadsheets, but firing up the daily log with everything listed is the only way I've found to stay on top of anything.  Otherwise, I start thinking about things on Saturday, which is way to too late to finish the week's assignments.  Schedules, tracking, color coding red for failure or green for success; it's the obsessively obsessive that will make progress.  Even when the goals have no immediate consequence, something inside me hates having to admit to myself that I didn't do what I set out to do.

I'm thrilled that I've started the year off with more motivation and drive than I can recall having in quite a some time (or...ever).  The reality of having ambitious goals, however, means that you have to really start prioritizing and working only on those things that will progress you toward your targeted end.  Fill your time with what you really want or need to be doing while eliminating as many of the distractions around you as possible.  If you read time management books they'll tell you to start off by keeping a log of how you currently spend your time.  I'm guilty of hitting snooze for about half an hour before dragging my groggy bones out of bed in the morning.  30 minutes a day?  That's not much, right?  But look at it over a year.  30 minutes a day for a year is over 180 hours.  That's like losing a month's worth of work time doing something that's neither restful nor productive.  I'll let you calculate how much time you're giving up if you spend three hours a day watching TV...

It all comes down to opportunity cost.  The fact is that for every minute of time you spend doing one thing, that's one minute that you can't spend doing something else.  We simply aren't capable of effectively doing multiple things at the same time (at least not anything requiring higher brain function).  I've come to realize this more as I've given myself more stuff to accomplish over the last couple of weeks.  The blog posts haven't been as frequent because I've been spending more time reading and learning and doing other things.  I enjoy writing on here, but come to think of it, it didn't even make my goals list (I suppose it's never too late to add more).  The challenge here is that I've committed to including pictures with all the posts.  That can take time, especially if I have to set something up to do a post-specific shot.  More often than not, there are better things I can be doing with my time than burning two hours writing and shooting pictures for my little bloggy.

So, where does that leave us?  This isn't goodbye by any means.  This is just a heads up that I'm no longer setting a target for how often I put something on here.  The hope is that you'll be able to notice a difference because what does make it on here will be as originally intended; the thoughts or images that had been boiling over and absolutely had to come out.  Until next time that happens - Happy Friday.

p.s. Speaking of distractions, I think I'd write about 30% faster if I didn't constantly have one of my cats shoving their enormous heads between the keyboard and my hands.  I might not care if his breath smelled like something other than putrid carny feet, but it does, and he insists on licking my arms...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Read books -> learn stuff. Wow!

It feels kinda nice when I make it through a book on a piece of software cover to cover.  Oddly enough, if you read things and practice what's in the book, you learn stuff.  Amazing!  Check the Lightroom book off my list.  Next up - Photoshop for photographers.  This might take a little longer considering I have next to zero Photoshop knowledge currently.

Here are a couple basic contact sheets that I now realize you can throw together in about three minutes in Lightroom...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Four years later: Remembering Costa Rica

My post yesterday mentioned going to Costa Rica, and with good reason.  Four years ago today, I said my goodbyes and made the flights from Columbus, OH to Houston, TX to San Jose, Costa Rica.  This trip was one of the pieces of a carefully orchestrated year of my life in which I was never living in the same spot for more than three months at a time.  A winter on campus, a spring with my parents, a summer in Detroit, a couple weeks in Europe,  a fall with my parents, a winter in Costa Rica, a couple weeks in Ohio, and then a permanent move to New Orleans.  The change was constant and invigorating.  I can't help but feel a longing for those days when my life was lived in three month increments.

Not many people are in the fortunate position to have extended family living in Costa Rica, so for that I'm thankful.  They gave me a home base and provided a natural social connection, something that you start to miss after long periods on your own.  I established a second base in the first three weeks I spent at the CRLA.  This little language academy was a great find, and brought together groups of students and travelers from all over the world.  We would study during the day, gather at the local bar in the evenings, and spread out around the country on the weekends.  Monday mornings back at the school were full of ear to ear grins and countless stories of adventure.

After a few weeks with fellow travelers, I made the move to my family's house in Barva, a small town overlooking the country's central valley.  Accomodations were vastly more comfortable, and I got the chance to know some family better than I ever would have otherwise.  From the house's vantage, perched on the slope of an old volcano, you could see beyond the western edge of the country and on to the endless pacific.  One thing I share with my uncle is an obsession with books.  His library allowed me to divide my weekdays between jogs around the town square, writing in the local internet cafe, and zipping my way through books and shelf after shelf of old National Geographic magazines.  Weekends were once again spent taking long drives to obscure places that most people can't imagine; cloud forests, sky blue volcanic rivers, old forts and ruins, giant trees, fields of stinging ants, beaches empty except for the local farmers going by on horseback.

Not all was perfect by any means.  I actually think that was part of the fun.  I got to argue with unlicensed cab drivers, got passed some counterfeit currency, got to see public officials requesting bribes.  The sense of anti-Americanism was rife with "No al TLC" found graffitied everywhere ("no to CAFTA").  People in small town Panama could not take their eyes off of me because they'd probably never seen such a pale individual in person before.  Things were dirty, small, and you didn't know if the next bus you took would be the one to fall off the side of the road for that day.  But it was beautiful in that it was genuine.  If I wanted a glossy, superficial version of a place, I'd look at a brochure.  You can't know a place by staying in a resort.

The worst part of trips like this is that eventually, you have to come back.  I had a few short weeks to travel back to Ohio so I could pack, say another round of goodbyes, and move to New Orleans for work.  Seeing volcano tops drift away from the plane window's view made it seem like I was just waking from a fading dream.  Was I really there?  Did all of that really happen?  It's not until some time later that you realize that details might drift away, memories will become a little fuzzier, but the deeper impact of experiences will never leave you.  Peoples and places will carve their names into your brain to be seen and felt for a long time to come.

So here I am, four years later, looking at pictures, reading some of my writing, and once again wearing that ear to ear grin brought on my countless stories of adventure.

~Pura Vida~

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Crappy New Year!

Yup, it's been one of those weeks.  The first week of the year can be tough.  Crappy weather, no holidays in sight, and the continuance of full work weeks.  Who wants to go to Costa Rica until March?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's: Sickness, Goals, and Drool

The wife and I seem to be taking turns staying in sick on New Year's eve.  This year it was my turn to witness the televised dropping of the ball and the muffled sound of fireworks from my plague ridden apartment nest.  Truth be told I was already back on upswing of health after being hit by a sudden stomach flu type sickness.  Could I have ventured out?  Probably.  Am I glad I didn't?  Definitely.  I think the fact that I'm awake and feeling somewhat normal instead of fighting the usual New Year's hangover validates my decision.

I'm almost thankful that I didn't get to roam the streets taking photos last night.  Instead of spending today editing pictures, I'll get to sit down and do some good old fashioned goal setting for 2011.  There are things that I'd like to do with this life.  Best not dilly-dally in getting them done.  While I'm scribbling notes to myself at my desk, I figured I'd release some photos from last New Year's in New Orleans.  I'm really starting to impress myself with my ability to catch people in really bad moments. For your enjoyment - Girl drooling after having thrown up in potted plant on Bourbon St.

She gets at least 50 points for that stream of drool that must be almost a foot long.

Don't worry.  I'm sure she made it home ok ... eventually.

Happy 2011!