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by Karen Fayeth

This Old Dog

This has been one hell of a week, I mean, just top to bottom really something else.

I have had good days, and bad days (…but when the day is through, I’ll always get lucky with you…this song goes out to The Good Man on an overcast and rainy day in the Bay – thus ends my Merle Haggard rendezvous) but overall I can actually say I learned some things this week.

Yes, that’s right, this old dog has seriously learned some new stuff over the past several days and I want to share it with you.

Maybe I should start by sharing something I learned just right now: the distance between typing “share” and typing “shart” is only two keys away on the old keyboard. Dangerous.

Now seriously, let’s get to the learnin’

1) It turns out that the song Let It Be, made famous by the Beatles and written by Paul McCartney, was actually originally intended for Aretha Franklin to record. And record it she did.

Unfortunately, some fiddle-faddle with her label prevented the song from being released, so the Beatles went ahead and recorded it and released it first.

Give the Aretha version a listen and tell me if you don’t get chills, because I started crying when I heard it, it’s so beautiful and so different from the Beatles version.

I know that song became a bellwether for the Beatles, marking when the group first broke apart, but damn I wish the Aretha version was first to the scene.

It’s stunning.

Link: http://youtu.be/w09Jcjj_QOI



(If for some reason the video doesn’t play or the link to the YouTube above doesn’t work, please just Google “Let It Be Aretha” and you’ll find it.)


2) Then there was a space item of edumacation I discovered. Here it is: If there was air in space, the sun, our own little fireball, would make sounds like ringing of cathedral bells at a volume just above that of a train whistle.

If space were replaced with air and we could hear the Sun, it would be incredibly noisy – the output of the Sun is equivalent to 10 million keys, or notes, of a piano. In fact you would struggle to hear little else! Throwing out an energy of 383 yottawatts per second, we get a translation of 290 decibels which makes for a very, very loud Sun indeed.

And it would go on ALL THE TIME.

It seems like that would be cool at first and then it would be like “rip my ears off my head, I’m done now.”

But profoundly cool to learn.

Reference: How Loud Would Stars Be If Space Was Full of Air.


3) I even managed to learn something about my Fair New Mexico this week. On Facebook I noticed a graphic with all of the applicable New Mexico State symbols, most of which I knew quite well.

One I did not. Let me drop my new knowledge on you.

New Mexico has a state slogan and that slogan is:

Everybody is somebody in New Mexico

Is that because no one is anyone everywhere else? I mean, huh?

It’s certainly a noble thought but of course brings out my inner comedian. I’ll spare you.

By the by, there is also a State Motto (that I already knew) which is:

Crescit eundo (loosely translated to mean “it goes as it grows”)

And what about the state nickname “Land of Enchantment”?

Since I am a good soulless corporate drone, I think we should create efficiencies!

New Mexico: Somebody grows in enchantment

Let’s call that good, huh?



And there you have it. Is your mind blown? Mine is.

Actually there is no more space left in my brain. Better start drinking so I can clear out some brain cells for next week.









Image from the Visit New Mexico Facebook page.




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The Art and Science of Rejection

As longtime readers know, I have been trying for a few years to get my little ol’ words and stories published out into the big, cold literary world.

To that end, I have been using a really lovely submission service to assist. For a fee, these kind folks proofread my work, do market research and help me get submissions out there.

Which means that every three months I go out to somewhere between 25 and 30 magazines and journals, asking them nicely if they will publish my stuff.

What this also means is that I receive piles and piles of rejections. When magazines were still mostly paper submissions (not that long ago, actually), my mailbox would fill up with my self-addressed stamped envelopes returning home with a form letter tucked inside.

Now that most submissions are online, my email inbox gets loaded up with rejections by the dozen. They always seem to find their way to me when I’m having a bad or cranky day and that rejection is like a little sparkly topper on my crap cupcake.

Last time I had a check-in session with my support team at the submission service, they quoted some stats for me. As of a month ago, I had sent out something like 400 submissions, which had resulted in five acceptances. (one of my essays was actually accepted to three places)

What I’m getting at here is that I get a lot of rejections. A lot. And over the course of something like 400 submissions, I have become fairly immune to them. Another day, another no.

I am quite sanguine with rejections and don’t take them much to heart anymore. It’s all a numbers game. My submission service says their long and vast history shows that the average is about one acceptance for every 100 submissions. Average. Which means some people go less than that, and some people go more. But over the course of many quality writers, it takes 100 nos to get to one yes.

Those aren’t great odds.

Early in this past calendar year, I ran across this really funky short story contest. It was being put on by a well-known luxury brand and was open to everyone on the entire globe for stories written in any language.

They offered a prize worth €5,000 (~$7,000USD) and worldwide publication in a new literary collection that would coincide with their new product line. The collection would be sold online and in retail stores around the world.

I was really intimidated by this contest but couldn’t get it out of my head. I hemmed and hawed and finally read all the rules and restrictions. I even searched for and downloaded the special font they wanted submissions to use.

I twisted and agonized and worried over this contest. Then I made a deal with myself. I had to enter. I made myself promise to simply submit a story, even if I knew it was crap. Just…I had to simply write SOMETHING and submit it.

What happened next was just short of magical. I wrote a story that wasn’t crap at all. It was one of those “in the flow” moments where the words poured out of me like clean fresh water and splashed beautifully onto the page.

I sincerely believe it is the best thing I have ever written. I often worry that it is my pinnacle and I may never do better. Then I get mad at myself and proclaim I can probably do better but I will have to work really hard at it.

At about an hour before the deadline (in June), I sent my beautiful little work of art off to the good people in Europe and I walked away.

After 400 submissions and counting, I have learned to send it and forget it.

But I couldn’t forget it. This contest and this story haunted me. I had dreams about it and would catch myself thinking about it with some frequency.

And I knew this was Not Good. Overthinking never comes to a good end for me.

In August when I was on a trip to a family reunion, and I was in the car with The Good Man and my beloved cousin, I brought up the topic. These are two safe and supportive people and I knew I could be completely vulnerable with them.

They heard me out, gave me many comforting words and sagely suggested that I do my best to simply forget it before I made myself certifiably nutty. They had both read the story and knew what I was worked up about, but they also knew I had to let it go. Just let it breathe.

Their words were soothing and I did my best to heed them. I pretty much let go of thoughts of this damn contest and would only think of it now and again when something would remind me.

Well, long way around the barn, last week I got notice from those folks at the lux European brand. I didn’t make it.

Of course I didn’t win. I knew I wouldn’t win. I think somehow I found myself a little too in love with my own story and that blinded me. And hopeful. I was too hopeful.

So yes, I didn’t win and I took it very, very hard. You would think after 395 rejections that one more wouldn’t matter. For reasons I can’t quite articulate, this one really got under my skin.

My callus is not quite strong enough yet, because this one story that makes me actually believe I am a genuine writer (and not a dilettante) can still work a blister on my tender psyche.

I think my cousin (who is also a writer) calls the submission process a meat grinder. Or maybe that’s what I call it? No matter. It is. A meat grinder.

What’s next from here?

December brings the next cycle of submissions through the service I use. I will pull out one of the many stories and essays I have built up and I will edit and sculpt it and I will submit it. Then I will receive another thirty or so rejections.

In 90 days I will submit something else and I will get more rejections and the cycle will continue on, as it should.

And this one really sore spot, the unexpected blister, it will harden with time. It will add another layer to the callus. It will make me that much more resilient the next time around.

To any who might wish to give me the well known platitudes like “Each rejection brings you one step closer!” can hang on to them. 395 rejections and five acceptances mean that I’m well past platitudes. I’m not a newbie. I know what I’m up against.

And I know I wrote one hell of a story. Perhaps one day I will give it another chance to weather the mean old world on its own. But for now I’ll hold it close and hide it away until the owies stop.

It’s an exquisite pain, really. One I have earned.









Image found here.




Que Bonita

This past weekend was something like a “what weekend?” as I worked my tail feathers off both days. About 1/3 of the tail feather workout was due to my job. Yes, I get to work for free on behalf of my employer, even on my days off. The joys of being a salaried employee.

The other 2/3 was working on my own sideline creative stuff. I did about 25 story submissions, I edited a photo that I will be showing later this week (that takes such a long time…a little burn here, a little dodge there), and I wrote a story for the first round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest.

The contest works this way: They give you a location, a genre and an object. All three have to be there in the story. This can be both liberating and constraining, depending on what you get. My draw for this first round was romance/haunted house/marshmallows. Not bad, not great.

Sunday around noon I found myself starting at that cursed curser blinking at me and I tried to find a story idea that was scary and lovey and marshmallowy all at the same time. A challenge. I was writing words but they weren’t coming easily. My iMac sits on a table near a window, and something caught the corner of my eye as I labored. I looked out the window. Seems on that sunny creatively frustrating Sunday I had an auspicious little visitor.

I grabbed my camera, put on the longest lens I own, popped the screen out of the window and started clicking away.

I’m so glad I did.




Photo copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth

This gorgeous lone Monarch Butterfly was just hanging out in the warm sun, using the ol’ proboscis to gather some pollen and doing its butterfly thing. As I watched, a couple bees were highly displeased at the presence of the butterfly and kept strafing him (I say him correctly, I looked up Monarch butterflies online and the dots around the wings signify a male. edit: Upon further Googling, I think this is actually a female).

These bees were executing deep aggressive fly bys that only caused the butterfly to flap his wings a bit but stay put. Man those bees were persistent. And I kept snapping away. I have some awesome action shots that I’m still editing.

After a while, the butterfly flew off and I downloaded and looked through my photos, very pleased with the results.

Then I sat back in my chair and I smiled. After the visit from Mr. Butterfly, I felt totally motivated and completely creative. I turned back to my story and banged out about 1,300 words in one sitting. Then set it aside and let it percolate while The Good Man and I went to local street fair.

When we came back I edited the beejeezus out of the story, got it to 999 words (the limit is 1,000) and submitted it about 45 minutes before the deadline. Man oh man hitting send on that story sure felt good.

I owe my creative surge to a visit from a pretty orange butterfly on the first day of Autumn.





Photo copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with a Canon Rebel, edited lightly in Elements.




The Supreme Court of Monty Python

Blog post written for and on behalf of The Good Man.
_________________


Late last week we all got the news that the Supreme Court had handed down their opinions regarding both the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Prop 8. There was much news coverage all around as same sex couples are now allowed to marry and receive federal benefits.

As in any Supreme Court case, there is the majority opinion and the dissenting opinion. Each must be written up as a point of record.

In the instance of DOMA, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion and it was Justice Antonin Scalia who wrote up the dissenting opinion. I actually made it a point to read Justice Scalia’s opinion as I was interested to hear what points he might make in his dissenting case.

What I got was a blast of vitriol, indignation and sarcasm.

My favorite line in the whole piece, however, was this:

“As I have said, the real rationale of today’s opinion, whatever disappearing trail of its legalistic argle-bargle one chooses to follow…”


Did he…did a Justice of the Supreme Court of these United States just use the term “argle-bargle”? Is that for real?

I looked around and confirmed in several spots that indeed, yes, the term argle-bargle is now a part of the legal and constitutional history of our country.

Wow.

So of course I immediately sent this over to The Good Man. We are both big fans of the television show Boston Legal which often featured a doddering old judge (played to perfection by Shelly Berman) who would use terms like “stop all this jibber-jabber” and then proclaim “I am the decider!”




So good they made a meme


But it was The Good Man who reached even farther back into the folds of his brain and pulled out an audio recording he remembered from his youth.

On an album entitled “Monty Python’s Previous Record” released in 1972, there is a track named “Teach Yourself Heath”.

In the track, the Python crew mocks the accent style of British conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath. This would be something akin to the Saturday Night Live tradition of sending up the US President.

Click here to give it a listen if you wish. It’s at about the 3:22 mark (for reasons unknown this clip is subtitled in Spanish):



In the clip, the phrase argy-bargy is used. A short Google search shows that argy-bargy is a rather low-brow bit of British slang used to describe a lively discussion or vigorous dispute.

So this begs the question: Did Justice Scalia really use modified British pub slang in his dissenting arguments?

and

Is he just a big ol’ Monty Python nerd?

Either way, it’s pretty fascinating. Usually American politicians tend to shy away from anything British, especially anything relating to British politics.

As we get very near the day of celebrating our independence from the King of England, Justice Scalia went all Monty Python. (Do you think he has his own funny walk under that robe?)

Wow.

‘Merica! With a British twang.







Judge Robert Sanders photo found here and Monty Python photo found here.




Dealing with My Affliction

As mentioned yesterday, last week at work included a roomful of auditors which meant that we not only had to be on our best behavior (for a whole week!!), but we also had to entertain these auditors for the duration of their stay.

When my Boss Lady informed her very own team of minions that we were each expected to attend a dinner with the full audit team, I replied, “But I don’t wanna eat dinner with auditors!”

Not to one to be easily swayed, she replied, “Well you’re gonna!”

And so I did.

Wednesday night last week we went to a local, popular and well Yelp-ranked dining establishment. It is an old warehouse converted to an eatin’ place, as is so hipster cool these days.

I found myself seated right next to one of the auditors, a pretty decent guy from Chicago. Conversation was formal and challenging at first. We were both very guarded.

The fare at the restaurant was simple and good. Not great, but got the job done. Thankfully they had a nice wine selection which helped lubricate the conversation over dinner with a bunch of stilted business folks.

At the end of the meal, and full of enough wine to matter, we were all chatting like old friends. As plates were cleared, dessert menus were plopped on the table in front of us. Since it was a busy night in the warehouse food place, the waiter asked us to share dessert menus because they were running low.

Chicago and I leaned in to look over the selection of sweet treats to end the meal.

Since I’ve had to concede that I actually *do* have lactose intolerance (despite all my best attempts to ignore it and pretend otherwise), looking over the dessert list has become a bit more difficult than has been in the past.

I have to be more thoughtful about my choices.

“So, what are you thinking about having?” Chicago asked.

“Well,” I said, “I’m not sure. Maybe that berry crumble?” He looked at the listing then sat back in his seat and sighed.

“Berries not working for you tonight?” I asked.

“It’s just that…” he faltered. “You see, it’s served with ice cream. And I was recently diagnosed with lactose intolerance.”

“You too!?!” I asked, way too over-excited to find someone else with my gastro intestinal dairy related woes.

We lamented together. He told me that he really misses milk, especially a big glass of cold moo juice with a stack of chocolate chip cookies. I lamented the loss of a late night cereal snack. I told him I’m using almond milk these days and he shook his head, “Yeah, that’s ok. Not like the real stuff though.”

“Yeah,” I couldn’t help but agree. “And I miss ice cream. Oh, wait!” I said, then dug around in my purse and withdrew four Lactaid packets. Enough for us both.

So we both got sort of happy and turned back to the menu and looked again. “Maybe that ice cream…” he said.

It was my turn to sit back with a thud. “As I am sure you have also discovered, Lactaid is an imperfect solution. I don’t know about you, but it helps a little, but not that much.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. And then we both looked sad.

Then Chicago reached out and turned over the menu to the coffee and aperitifs section. “You know,” he said, “We could solve this problem by skipping dessert and having a glass of port.”

My eyes widened and I said, “You. Are. Brilliant.”

And so we did. Two glasses of ten year tawny port were ordered and consumed and I felt nary a tummy rumble after.

Later, without even knowing it, The Good Man was also pleased with my choice.

Because lactose intolerance doesn’t just trouble the afflicted. No, it impacts loved ones too.

I guess I’m learning to live with this terrible, awful affliction.

Good thing I still tolerate wine okay. *grin*








Image found here.




In Memorium for One Of The Greats

Over the weekend came the very sad news about the passing of Hollywood legend, Ray Harryhausen.

The Good Man was a lifetime Harryhausen fan and introduced me to the magic that Ray made only recently. How badly I had been missing out.

At 92, Ray lived a good long life and he leaves behind a legacy of work. His stop motion animation paved the way for so much of what you see now in this CGI-heavy film world.

Mr. Harryhausen will be missed, along with his best friend, Ray Bradbury. Tough to lose both Rays within the course of a single year.

To remember Mr. Harryhausen, I am reposting something I wrote back in 2010 when I first learned to appreciate Harryhausen movies. You can tell from all the exclamation points how totally into his movies and the animation I was (and am).

For you, Ray.


———————

This old dog learned a new trick
Originally published February 5, 2010

At Christmas, my husband received a great gift from his step-mom. He unwrapped it and exclaimed, “A Ray Harryhausen collection! Honey, look, we got a Ray Harryhausen collection! Wow, thank you!”

And I was like, “who?” My sweetest is an educated film guy, so I figured it was some obscure director of strange and dark independent films. So I said, “hey, great!” with a shrug.

Who knew I was TOTALLY missing out?

In my ongoing film education (The Good Man is keeping a list. I’m working through it….) he popped “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad” in the ol’ DVD player while I was eating lunch one weekend afternoon.

I was immediately hooked in. Yeah baby! I figured out just who Ray Harryhausen really is. A master of creating amazing creatures in stop motion animation.

The stumbling roaring Cyclops from the late 1950′s is every bit as creepy today. In fact, in a lot of ways, I actually like that better that today’s overly CGI’d movies.

At the end of the “Seventh Voyage of Sinbad” DVD, there were some special features. One was clips from when Harryhausen got an Oscar (presented by his best friend, Ray Bradbury. What a pair they must make!) and at the conclusion of Harryhausen’s acceptance speech, Tom Hanks comes onto the stage to bring on the next award.

He makes the segue by saying, “I know for some people it is Gone with the Wind or Casablanca, but for me, it’s all about Jason and the Argonauts

I looked at The Good Man and said, “Well we have to watch that next, then.”

And so we did. We watched as Jason and his merry band of Argonauts fight a huge bronze statue of Talos that had come to life and, oh man this part was cool, a whole army of sword wielding skeletons! Skeletons! I *love* skeletons! They clacked and grimaced and fought. Aw damn, how very cool!

Then we watched “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad” and I remembered that I saw this movie when I was a kid, most likely on TV. I watched it with my big brother back in the day. I remembered the blue Shiva with swords in all the arms. (and let’s talk about the very naturally endowed Caroline Munro. Rowr! It’s so rare these days to see an un-surgically enhanced actress.)

And finally, we had to get to THE must see film in the collection because, well, it’s set in San Francisco. The next in the series of my SF film education.

The movie was “It Came from Beneath The Sea.” Yeah baby!

What the movie lacked in dialogue and story (and it lacked A LOT), it more than made up for in great animation.

Oh, that angry squid snapping the top off the Ferry Building and wrapping tentacles around the Golden Gate! Whoa! And that far-reaching tentacle slapping down Market Street, squishing unsuspecting citizens!

Good stuff!

So I’m now up to speed on Harryhausen. I have also watched the Dirty Harry movies. Then we did the Hitchcocks set in SF (hello Vertigo!).

I’m excited to see what’s next in my ongoing film edjumacation! I have so much to learn.






Image is a still from “It Came From Beneath The Sea”.




Tints My World View

Lately I am all about my Kindle. I had an actual Kindle eReader for a while and then I migrated to using the Kindle app on my iPad and iPhone.

Love, love, love it.

As a writer, I am interested in the people who manage to self-publish and get a little traction on Kindle. As in, who are these people who are making it into the Kindle 100?

As a commuter, I like quick, lightweight and fun reading to pass the time on long BART treks.

With all of this in mind, I went and scoured the Kindle 100 list for downloadable fun. On the top seller list, I found mostly genre books, and most of the genre stuff falls squarely under romance.

Hey, look, cheap romance novels and I go way back. I was reading Harlequin paperbacks when I was in mid-school. My Grandma loved those inexpensive books so much. She’d read one and then my mom, sister and I would pass it around when she was done.

Not much has changed in the romantic genre since moving to Kindle. I looked at all the cheap and tarty romance eBooks and paid anywhere from $1.99 to $7.99 for three different titles.

I have made my way through two of them and am working on the third. I find that immersing myself into this world of genre fiction has sort of tinged my world view. The real world and actual human romantic relationships look a little weird after living in genre world.

In no particular order, what I’ve learned from $13 worth of literary cotton candy:


Everything old is new again.


The basic formula for a good Harlequin romance goes something like this:

There is a dark and brooding man. There is a troubled and innocent woman. Their worlds collide in some fashion. Usually the man is some brash worldly guy like a sea captain or an army general (most Harlequin’s are set in a historical era).

She hates him or he hates her or they hate each other and they fight. He curses the headstrong woman, she alternately loves and hates how manly and forceful he is.

One or both of these characters has a secret. This secret means they can never truly love. That said, a little roll in the hay and it turns out that the love of a good person can cure all their problems.

Cue riding off into the sunset.

Yeah. Not much has changed. Instead of sea captain insert Chief Operating Officer of a big marketing firm, CEO of his family’s insurance company, and famous rock star.

I’m not making any of these up.

Apparently the new brash sea captain wears a tie and worries about his stock portfolio.

Also, apparently male victims of sexual abuse seem to be the new theme. In one it was his step mom, in another it was his foster mom, in the third there was physical but not sexual abuse because his mom was a junkie who died thus preventing him from ever truly loving a woman…blah blah blah.

*sigh*


One really cringe worthy success spawns many, many more. Like evil bunnies.


I am learning about this phenomenon called Fan Fiction, which has been around for ages, dating back to early Sci Fi books, and perhaps older than that, even.

In a nutshell, people love a book and then take the same characters or the same setting or both and write a new work. Rarely is the fanfic sanctioned by the original author. It’s written largely for other fans of the original work.

Just so you know, the author of the weirdly successful “Fifty Shades of Gray” series admits that she took her inspiration and characters from Twilight.

Hackdom begats hackdom begats hackdom.

I realized post-purchase that the authors of one of my three eBooks also took their inspiration from Twilight. Edward is now named Jake and wears a suit and is a surly corporate executive. Bella is now named Chloe and is an MBA intern.

Yeah. I might note here that I got through one and a half of the Twilight books and hated them immensely. So fanfic based on a series I can’t stand isn’t really working for me, but oh damn is it working for a whole lot of other people.


Careless disregard for the English language, grammar, readability, and formatting does not prevent the sale of books or degrade the author’s credibility.


So that book I just referenced, the Jake and Chloe one? Reached number nine on the New York Times bestseller list for fiction (and higher than that on the ebook list).

This, despite the fact that it was riddled with formatting issues, typos and grammar errors.

Just cuz ya popular don’t mean yer quality.

Whooo doggies. The language abuses I’ve seen.


Character development? Pfft! Who needs it?


Apparently writing about lots and lots of sex, in rather graphic detail, trumps the need to actually develop the characters.

Usually when reading a book I can “see” the characters. They take on fully formed beings in my head and in a book I like, they become like friends I get to visit with for a while.

Not from this book. I know very little about the characters other than he is tall and has tousled hair. She is short and skinny with dark hair. And has big boobs.

There you go. Characters for the ages.


Euphemisms! I got your euphemisms right here!


This is the most awkward part about reading these books. Look, even Harlequin used euphemisms for body parts and particular actions. You’d think some thirty to forty years later we’d be better at providing color commentary.

Nope. We’ve graduated past “towering manhood” and “her most delicate flower” but not by much. Now the in-favor euphemisms seem to be “his sex” and “her opening”.

I cringe just typing those words. Ew.

Can we just agree that “thingy” and “hoo-ha” are the generally accepted nomenclature and be done with it?


Everything ends up “happily every after” unless, of course, the author is working on grinding out a series of books.


And then it makes sense to leave your character lying in a pile of leaves in the woods, distraught over a break up (ahem, *coff*Twilight*coff*) and the fans begging for the next book.

Nice work if you can get it.

I had a rather in depth conversation with The Good Man last night over whether I have it in me to crank out some of this genre stuff. I *can* do it, meaning I have the skills and capability, but somehow it feels, to me anyway, a little soul deadening.

So this was a good sashay into the current state of publishing. Not sure what it means for my writing. Though my commutes have never been hotter, all that thingy on hoo-ha action!

Or, you know, not.

I guess at this point in my life, you gotta make it GOOD to get this old girl rolling. And by rolling, I mean something other than my eyes.





“Coffee Flavored Kisses” — java, my true romance!




Image Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone 5 and the Camera+ app, and sweetened by a little iPhoto touchup and an Instagram filter.




Let’s Get Caught Up

There I was complaining about Monday and suddenly it was Thursday. Where do the days go?

Oh, right, twelve hours engaged in job plus commute, eight hours sleeping, let’s see, that leaves exactly four hours for having a nosh and nuzzling my husband and using the ladies room. That is not much.

Excuses, excuses! Let’s get caught up!

Last week I told you about the new Photography Group that I had joined at work and my anxiety about it being a predominately male group (only three ladies) and men of science at that.

Well, I attended my first meeting yesterday. The cost of entrance was to upload two photos to our sharing site that are in line with the assigned theme. This month’s theme was depth of field/bokeh.

Fair enough, I had a couple photos I wasn’t ashamed to show.

Turns out it was a pretty nice group of guys. Yes, very scientific minded. Quite nerdy really, in that cool way that scientists who do major world bending research can be. Think the middle aged version of “Big Bang Theory.”

Let me just tell you this: Having an optical physicist evaluate your photo brings a whole new perspective to photography.

This guy showed off a little by asking what lens was used and what f/stop on one of the team’s photos, and then told us why the bokeh bubbles were shaped the way they were (if you look at bokeh photos you’ll see some are round, some are pentagons, some are hexagons, etc). It was actually fascinating, not that I could recite it again for you.

Something to do with the angle of the light and the shutter speed and the curvature of the glass on the lens along with focal point. He called the sides of the bokeh bubbles “blades”. Weird, yet cool.

Plus, his eye for the lighting and focus in the photos was like none I’ve ever seen.

All in all, it was a successful first meeting and we talked about the club’s upcoming photo show. I’m already trying to decide which photos I will add to the exhibit. Evidently they set it up near the cafeteria and as people walk by and see the photos, they are encouraged to vote for their favorite. Well ok!

In other news…

The meeting was held at the main site for our employer and I work at a remote location. I was able to secure the official department car to make the journey.

This ding-dang thing is a Ford Escape hybrid. My first issue was turning the thing on. I turned the key, it did nothing except blink a few lights at me. Now, in my beloved Jeep, if I turn the key and only get lights in return, it’s time to visit the mechanic. Not so with this thing. I kept cranking the key and it kept blinking at me.

Maybe it’s just me, but I like a nice solid rumble to my car’s ignition. Nice American metal that growls a little at start up and purrs at idle. Not the “oh yes thank you” silence of this thing! Bah!

The next problem is that the car was made for a Lilliputian, which I am most certainly not. I drove with my knees at my earlobes and when I whipped my head to the side to see if one lane over was clear, I bonked my head where the roof meets the window. I can’t even imagine the very tall Good Man trying to drive this thing.

The third problem is that my destination is at the top of a very steep hill. I usually drive my straight six Jeep up there, an engine made for towing and scaling hills. This little hybrid bucked and faltered and demurred the whole way up. I wanted to put one foot out the door to help push the thing up the hill. Lame!

But it got me there and since parking is quite limited at the main site, company cars get reserved spots. It was totally worth the trouble.

In other, other news…

After a long string of beautiful California days, it’s raining again. *sigh*

Though I’m not surprised. When I moved here a wise native gave me many rules of thumb for life in the Bay Area, one of which was, “It always rains for Easter.”

Indeed it does.

Well that’s where it’s at for this Holy Moly I can’t believe it’s Thursday.






Bokeh-riffic!




Photo by Abhishek Jacob and used under a Wikimedia Creative Commons license.




I’m So Arty. And Maybe A Little Farty.

It’s been two months now at the new gig and I’m really getting into it. The job, the management and the culture are all really in my wheelhouse. Even though I’m crazy busy and working hard, I really do like the job.

So I guess at sixty days into this gig I am making plans to hang around a while. When I went through new hire orientation, they talked up their employee activities program and mentioned that there are a lot of strong clubs here at the company. It seems most employees participate in at least one club. It’s not required, people just want to be involved.

Cool!

I took a look at the list of clubs and the one that jumped out at me was the photography group. Rock on! I haven’t been shooting much lately and I certainly need a kick in the butt. I belong to a photographer’s salon group where once a month we meet and critique images, but I felt like this new group would really expand my horizons.

I dropped an email to the co-presidents of the group, two female coworkers, who were listed on the webpage and told them I’d like to be part of the group. They answered pretty quickly and said they were actually the last year’s co-presidents (the webpage is out of date) and handed me off to the new leadership. In closing, one of the women said, “I’m so glad another woman is joining the group. It’s mostly men right now. They are all nice but it’s all men!”

Oh. Well ok! My photography teacher and mentor has spoken about this. She has been a professional photographer for a long time and has dealt with the male dominated world of photography for years. I’m unsure why it’s still so heavily male dominated, but fair enough. I know my work can stack up.

I got an invite to the online user group and to the meeting coming up next week. I also got access to the club’s site where members upload their photos. Each month there is a theme and a contest to pick a winner.

Whooo doggies, the photos on that page are really good but they are all very technical. I don’t feel a lot of emotion in the photos. Then I recalled that I work with mostly engineers and scientists. Yeah. These are the kind of folks who will sniffily say they only shoot in manual and can calculate the exposure triangle in their heads.

I have taken other photography courses, including a class from a well-known and well-respected landscape photographer. That guy wasn’t too uptight about the stuff, but several of the men in the class were. One guy challenged me on the spot to calculate the exposure triangle for a particular photo and I said, “Nope. I don’t need to. I shoot in Aperture mode and am happy there.” He looked like he had bad gas and walked away from me.

Look, I know *how* to calculate the exposure triangle. I just choose not to.

So we’ll see how this group thang goes. I decided I should put together a quick portfolio of photos to show the rest of the group what I’m about.

What do you think?





“Knob” — I feel this piece speaks to the inaccessibility of the world and the challenges of just getting past closed doors. Should you walk away or bang on the door demanding to be heard? That is for you to decide.





“Elusive” — This is a study in hiding behind false coverings, like the fur that covers a Cranky Feline. And the need to hide behind artificiality and illusion. The grain reminds us of the blurry nature that life presents and the need to have better lighting.





“Have A Seat” — The black and white really captures the moodiness that comes with the decision of whether or not to have a seat. The push-pull of subverting yourself to the will of powers greater than you or maybe standing up to fight instead. This thought provoking piece required meticulous set up and lighting.



I think I am a shoo-in for high praises and honor from this new club. I can hardly wait to reel in all my accolades!





All photos Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons in the right column of this page. (why would you steal these masterpieces anyway?). All three taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.




You, there! Stop That!

Yesterday was quite an important day for me at work. As a still fairly new employee, I am required to complete a whole list of mandatory training courses and over the past six weeks, in addition to being thrown into the deep end of the pool on work matters, I have been finding every spare minute possible to knock my training items off the list.

Most of the subjects are online courses and can be started and stopped at will, so that helps. There are a few, however, that are required to be taken in person.

Yesterday I had to travel some distance to another building at a far flung campus in order to attend : cue very dramatic music : Safety Training.

Oh yes, I am employed by a very safety minded entity, and that’s actually quite ok. There are lots of people here who perform very dangerous work and making sure those employees are safe and looked after is of vital importance.

However, in the parlance of The Good Man, I pilot a desk for a living. So do the kind souls who are forced to report to me. This means the risk factors tend to drop off dramatically to include things like aggressive paper cuts and oh damn I tripped on the copy machine.

But rules are rules and every manager MUST take this training regardless of function.

So of course about 85% of the training class didn’t apply to me. As I sat there listening to the types of harness that can be used for overhead work and then a hearty debate about whether or not a lab worker should be required to wear safety glasses when looking in a microscope, my well documented monkey-mind took a whole other journey.

I recalled back to the very early years of my employment when I worked for Sandia Labs and as part of employment I had to take both rattlesnake and coyote training. That’s right, we had to learn to spot, avoid and deal with these common inhabitants of the New Mexican desert.

Even though I also piloted a desk back then, rattlesnake training certainly grabbed and held my attention for the duration of the seminar. Today’s detailed dissertation on eye-wash procedures less so.

So then I started thinking about other safety courses that would be fun to take. Advanced crocodile wrestling, perhaps? How about Zip Lining To Freedom for Beginners? Dog Sledding and You: How to remain the leader of the pack? Or…Golden Gate Bridge painting, how to cling to the wires on especially windy days.

C’mon! That’s actual safety! That stuff is not only cool it matters!

No, instead I learned that while typing your wrist can bend to between zero and 25% and you should be ok Carpal Tunnel-wise. More than 25% and I need to fill out a stack of forms and evidently point and taunt. (Ok, not actually on that last part but would that be fun? “Jimmy’s gonna Carpal! Jimmy’s gonna Carpal!”)

Well I can tell you, those two hours of a dry PowerPoint presentation really made a big impact on me. I’m now fully compliant and safety trained. I’ve already warned The Good Man that safety walk around of the apartment is coming soon (surprise inspection, of course). Oh yes, he and The Feline are gonna get inspected real good. “You there! That fuzzy felt mouse with one eye ripped off is just lying in the middle of hallway! Trip hazard!”

A monkey-minded woman with a little bit of knowledge is a very dangerous thing.

Next course: Surviving Life With Karen, a primer for man and beast.









Image from Clay Bennett.




Am I Missing The Point?

So here at the new place of employ, we have a very nice building to work in. It’s an old warehouse in a now gentrified former industrial district that has been updated with all the conveniences of a modern office.

It’s a pretty nice place to work and probably the nicest of all the buildings my employer leases or rents for us minions.

For the 150 or so people located in this building we have a pretty nice break room that includes fancy steel microwaves, up to the minute toaster oven and even a dishwasher.

And then there is the “coffee system.”

Yes, I said system.

In lieu of a good old glass pot of coffee burning on a hotplate all day, we have two Keurig devices. These devices utilize what are called “K cups” for the brewing of single cups of coffee.

My company only provides the machines and the water. Employees have to bring their own K cups.

My coworkers seem very whipped up and excited about K cup coffee and tea. In order to play along, I went to Safeway and invested in two boxes of (highly overpriced) K cups, one box of coffee, one box of chai tea.

This Keurig machine seems all very futuristic. You put in the plastic K cup, clamp the machine down and press “brew”. The machine whirs quietly and makes important beeping noises then it creates your warm mug of beverage.

Only…couldn’t I just dump the contents of the K cup into a mug, add hot water, stir and have the same results?

That’s when I realized these Keurig people are a bunch of really smart and somewhat evil entrepreneurs. They have employed the Hewlett Packard home printer model to coffee.

The Hewlett Packard model is thus…charge $100 for a small personal printer. Then charge $70 for the ink cartridges to use with the printer. They make a couple bucks off the machine, they make a LOT of bucks off of what they call “consumables” (i.e. something that gets used up and needs to be replaced).

Keurig has done this brilliantly. They have made the end user experience feel special with blue lights and soft whirs and beeps. They make you want to run to that machine and slap in a K cup that runs about a dollar to a dollar fifty each. Starbucks and Bed Bath and Beyond are in on the scam, selling their own versions of K cups.

Meanwhile I’m thinking this is just instant coffee all tarted up in a new way. What really boggles me is the people who “loooove” (<- direct quote) the green tea K cups. Because, ahem, dunking a tea bag in a cup of hot water is just too much work?

The name Keurig led me to believe this was a european company (the name is the Dutch word for excellence) and I was going to make some comment about the Euros having one over on us Americans. Then I looked up the company and discovered they are from Massachusetts.

That there is some Yankee ingenuity.

You brilliant b*stards. I know I'm being hornswaggled and yet I play along anyway.

Well done Keurig-onians. Well done.








Image from theburr. Click the link to see how to recycle K cups.




My Awkward Little Canvas

At the end of last month, I attended an artist’s salon hosted by my mentor and photography teacher Marty Springer. At these monthly events, a group of photography students and artists come together to review each other’s work and provide feedback and critique.

The ticket for entry is that you bring a printed photograph for review.

I’ve been feeling pretty unartistic lately, so I went to the salon, but I was unable to bring a print (long story involving the horrific lack of possibilities for serious photographers to have their work printed) and endured the mild chiding from my mentor.

We went forward and had a really good session. The people in this group are fantastically talented.

As we wrapped up Marty issued us a challenge. In addition to teaching, mentoring and being a well-paid professional photographer, she also curates a small gallery at a local public library. This is the venue where we have our annual photography show, and the rest of the year the gallery hosts all manner of art pieces including photos, paintings, mixed media, quilts and more.

Marty told us how she had booked an artist for a show to span the month of February, but he had shown up with all of his pieces so poorly and cheaply framed that they fell off the wall moments after she had hung them. The artist didn’t have the desire to fix his errors, so Marty was left without a show.

This was Sunday night and the show was due to open Thursday.

She told us she wanted to go ahead with an exhibit and we were all invited to contribute. Something was going up on February 1. She spoke to us about February and celebrating Valentines, but more than that, Marty wanted to put a show on the walls that was about love and about healing.

In the wake after the very tense election and then the horrible tragedies in Sandy Hook, Colorado and Oregon, she wanted to have a show that wasn’t all lacy Valentines and light, but something that showed love and strength and healing.

She asked us if we were up to the task. Turns out we were.

I had an immediate idea for a mixed media piece that had been simmering in my mind for a while and seemed perfect for this show. I asked if mixed media was ok since most of the pieces would be photography. She told me not only was mixed media welcomed, but encouraged.

That night I came home, pulled out a blank canvas and gesso’d it (to dry overnight) wondering just how in the HELL I was going to get this done in time. At that point I was two weeks into a new job and still adjusting to a pretty long commute. My hours of free time for working on art were pretty severely limited, but I wanted to try.

This meant I had to edit myself A LOT. I guess watching all the seasons of “Project Runway” had put that thought in my head. “Edit yourself,” I kept saying as I wanted to add more, embellish more, get more complicated and advanced in the few hours I had to complete this piece.

If I was going to make it in time, this needed to be simple, quiet and powerful.

On Wednesday night, only two days after I started the piece, I turned in a mixed media canvas with glue and varnish still a bit damp. My mentor gasped and danced a little when she saw it.




It’s a bit hard to see, but the canvas is actually ripped through, then closed up with thread and staples.


I was so very unsure about turning in this piece because it felt a little…intimate…to be sharing with the world. There is a lot of me in that canvas. Also, other than a county fair a couple years back, I hadn’t exhibited any of my art pieces and showing my creations to anyone other than The Good Man makes me a bit shy.

As I handed it over, I could only see all of the many errors I needed to fix. If only there was time. My nerve began to waver, but I relinquished my canvas to my mentor with the belief she’d find the right place for it in her exhibit.

This past weekend The Good Man and I finally got a chance to get over to the gallery to see my little humble canvas. I almost cried. She found a great spot for my piece and it flows into the show really well. It both stands out and blends in.

It is so very gratifying to see my little mended heart hanging proudly on a gallery wall.




Side note: No wonder the cartoon I posted for Valentine’s Day got to me so deeply! This idea of a broken and repaired heart has been on my creative brain for a while now.

Much gratitude to The Good Man, the great State of New Mexico, The Crafty Chica for the inspiration and know-how.

Photo and canvas are both Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Photo taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.




Some Thoughts On February

Here we are already in the second month of this crazy New Year. I’m not sure I’m even over my New Year’s Eve hangover and here it already is February.

So to honor the shortest month of the year, I’m going to borrow from a couple of my own previous February posts.

First of all, my cross-cultural thoughts on Groundhog Day. Seems not all the world has an annual rodent pulling day:

—————-

From the post titled “You Do What, Now?” originally posted February 7, 2011.


My boss has a sense of humor about to the level of mine, so lately we have this ongoing riff.

It goes something like this:

Boss: “So, what is this, um, let’s see what do they call it…yes, this day of groundhog you people celebrate in the US?”

Me: “What, they don’t have this holiday in the UK?”

Boss: “I don’t think so, what is this all about?”

Me: “So, wait, you’re telling me that in the UK they don’t pull rodents out of the ground in order to determine the extent of winter?”

Boss: “Not as such, no.”

—————-

Really, how do you explain Groundhog Day to someone who doesn’t understand?

Hell, I don’t even understand, but my personal confusion not withstanding…

When the poor burrowing rat, Punxsutawney Phil, had bright lights shined directly in his sleepy eyes yesterday, he did not see his shadow.

I guess that means we are game on for an early Spring.

I’m totally ready.

I love this time of year. Spring makes me so utterly happy. It’s all full of fun and color and happy expectations.

Here’s some thoughts on February:

—————-

From the post titled “An Ode To The Shortest Month” originally published January 18, 2011.


The second month of the year. The shortest month of the year.

February is a beautiful month.

In February, winter is not quite over, but spring is not quite here. In February we start to see the brilliant yellow of blooming daffodils against the monochrome hue of stormy skies. Daffodils are the harbinger of warm sunny days to come. They give the cold body hope.

I believe the daffodils and tulips and the snowfall of Cherry Blossoms in February are meant to keep us going like the carrot at the end of the stick. The “something wonderful just around the bend” that helps the human soul stay willing to endure the cold and damp days that are yet to be endured.

In February, Punxsutawney Phil, pokes his burrowing animal’s head out of the ground and lets us know the score. The planning can begin.

The ground begins to thaw. Birds start to think about coming back this way. There is hope.

Heck, February is also the birth month of at least three of my favorite people (wait, four! Just thought of another).

I’m looking toward the second month of the year with a not-so-secret anticipation.

So I will get all poetic and speak of daffodils and warm days.

—————-


Speaking of daffodils, I optimistically purchased three bunches today. Their buds are closed up tight and I am not sure they will find a way to break free. Only time will tell.

For today they tell me, “not yet…but soon”.

Sort of the same message that February has for me.

I feel, dare I say it, optimistic.



Hope springs a daffodil.




Photo Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.




Hot Clamp, I Love You So

Ok, I have another totally hot photo gadget product review to share. I was not compensated in any way for this. In fact I paid these good people for the right to be one of the first to try this out.

It is no secret that I love photography. That much is clear if you’ve been hanging around this blog for a while.

While I was trained to take photos using a DSLR, I have become more and more enamored of taking photos with my iPhone. I think that Flickr reports the number one camera used by its members is the iPhone.

It’s great to have an always ready to use camera that also makes great shots. So to that end I am also enamored of many of the gadgets out there to help make iPhone photos that much more cool.

There are a lot of little lenses out there, most come in a package of one fisheye, one wide angle and one macro lens. The form factor on these isn’t always great. I have a set that sort of sticks on with a gummy ring and the lens is a magnet to the sticky ring. Ugh. A *nightmare* if I’m outside where it is dusty (hello? New Mexico?). Plus the ring is pretty tiny and hard to use. There are some that are a kind of jelly stick on lenses that are in one piece but offer up the same sort of issues.

Along came the Olloclip and I loved it. The clip slipped onto the phone and voila, the three lenses were all attached and it was good to go. The Olloclip is pretty spendy at $70. The wide angle and macro lenses were great but to be honest, I don’t really like the look of fisheye photos so that lens never got used.

But the Olloclip and I got along great. I used the wide and the macro quite a bit on my iPhone4s. Photography life was fabulous.

Until I got an iPhone5. Then the Olloclip didn’t fit anymore. I was not really in the mood to blow another $70 so I figured I’d make do with what I already had in my kit (i.e. the sticky lenses, ugh).

Then I heard some rumors on Twitter about a company working on a lens kit that was like a clip or a clamp which meant it could be used on any make or model of phone, regardless of size, shape and thickness and if I desired could even be used on a thin point and shoot.

Well sign me up! Only…the product, called Mobi-Lens, wasn’t available yet.

Images could be found on the company’s Kickstarter page. I had not yet taken a foray into the world of funding a Kickstarter, so I thought I’d give it a chance. For just $40 I was able to choose a red clip that came with wide angle and macro. The fisheye lens is a separate clip so no need to order that.

So here we go, the cost is more reasonable, I don’t have an extra fisheye lens lying around I will never use, and this clip will work on generations to come of whatever phone I choose to have.

Yes, please!

The Good Man warned me that one of people’s biggest complaints about Kickstarter is that even if the project gets funded, oftentimes investors never see results from their investment. The product or project just never comes to fruition.

I read the Kickstarter page carefully and I watched the videos and I felt like these were decent people who had a great idea. They already had some finished test product and they just needed money to go into production.

SO…yes…I took a gamble with forty of my hard earned dollars. This was back in October.

A few weeks ago, my gamble paid off when this little beauty arrived:





It’s so pretty! It’s red! It has really nice glass lenses!

It is very easy to use and I’ve only begun experimenting with it.

So far I think this is the best macro cell phone lens of all the brands I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a lot!).

Here is a test shot of my work keyboard:





Pretty great!

I have much left to explore with my little Mobi-Lens but so far I am totally hooked and totally in love. I am happy with my lens and I hope this company continues to blossom.

They gave me an awesome lens and made me a believer in the power of a good project on Kickstarter. Win!




———————-


Image of Mobi-Lens Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth and taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.

Image of keyboard K Copyright 2013 Karen Fayeth and taken with an iPhone5, the Camera+ app and the macro Mobi-Lens.

Both are subject to the Creative Commons license found in the right column of this page.




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