Being Dog’s Best Friend

When I was 21, I spent five months living in India. It was only the second foreign country I had ever been to, and the first was Australia, which didn’t really prepare me for what I was about to encounter. The conditions people existed in—both their own physical bodies and the environment around them—were horrific. People had all manner of rashes, diseases, infections, open wounds, and missing limbs. They lived six people to a single room or two people to a single patch of sidewalk. They were dirty and hungry and desperate. Every time I would walk down the street to run a simple errand or go somewhere, people would touch my light hair or my pale skin, or tug at my clothes and ask if I could help them. It was a shocking but crucial formative experience in my development as a compassionate human being and a critical thinker. Continue reading →

The Design of Everyday Things

I shamelessly poached the title of this post from a book I’m reading for professional development: The Design of Everyday Things, by Don Norman. I don’t include books I read for anything other than pleasure in my semi-annual book reports, but product and user experience design has been so much on my mind lately that I felt compelled to write about it. This is especially because when I encounter bad design in the real world, there’s generally no one I can provide my feedback to who has any level of influence. Not that anyone reading this blog has influence over any of these issues either, but I feel better writing out my frustration. Here are a few user-unfriendly experiences I’ve had this year. Continue reading →

Eight Days in the Mid-Atlantic (Part 2)

I spent the second half of my trip back east in “DC and Baltimore”. Or is that “DC-Baltimore”? I was there to see a friend who used to live in Boulder. According to her fiancé, who works in urban development, Baltimore is part of the greater DC metro area, and the region should be referred to as a whole, similar to Minneapolis-St Paul or Dallas-Fort Worth. This led to some debate, as neither my friend nor I consider DC and Baltimore part of the same area, though they are extremely geographically close. The question of “Denver and Boulder” or “Denver-Boulder” also came up, although given Boulder’s habit of buying up all the land around the city limits to prevent urban sprawl, this seems a much harder sell than DC-Baltimore. But the bigger question my friend’s fiancé raises is this: should experts refer to areas of their domain by the technically accurate but pedantic definitions of their industry? Or refer to them by the terms preferred by the public at large so as to better connect with their audience? I’ve posted previously about my own internal debates concerning whether to use proper grammar in certain situations, so I couldn’t help thinking about his instance on DC-Baltimore for longer than I should have. Continue reading →

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
Silver bells and cockle-shells,
And pretty maids all of a row.

On the surface, this rhyme is innocuous, inoffensive (or is it?). Flowers are lovely and it sounds like Mary might have some serious gardening skills, which is not to be scoffed at. It would be better if she were growing beets and carrots and peas, learning how to provide for herself, but flowers do make the world lovely. However, I have to wonder why Mother Goose describes Mary as contrary without offering any evidence to support this characterization. Given Mother Goose’s bad track record when it comes to portraying women, I wonder if she doesn’t like that Mary is working outside, doing something on her own, instead of sitting around, taking orders and taking care of the house and children. Continue reading →

What is Authentic?

I went to Tim Horton’s in Madrid. Being from Buffalo, New York, and having spent a lot of time in Canada before this fast food chain opened in my home town, I have a soft spot for Tim Horton’s. So, seeing one right outside my hotel window a few weeks ago, I had breakfast there one morning. The horror.

Here’s something else you might find horrifying – wherever in the world I am, I like stepping into McDonald’s and 7-11 to see what they sell. I generally don’t buy anything, but I’m curious. Personal feelings about McDonald’s aside, it is undeniably successful and popular. And it has become so, in part, by conducting careful research and tailoring its menu to each country it operates in. Therefore, going into McDonald’s is part of experiencing the culture of another place.  Continue reading →

Return to Spain

Against my own personal rules for how best to take advantage of a life that is far too short to absorb everything the world has to offer, I have traveled to an international destination twice. Two weeks ago, I went to Spain. Fourteen years ago I lived there, working in a summer camp in Andalusia with kids who by now are somewhere around the age I was during those brief moments when we knew each other, young adults out in the real world.

I didn’t feel like much of an adult at that age, but I certainly do now, which is why I didn’t mind retracing my steps a bit. That summer camp job was a lifetime ago and I was another person. I have only a few handwritten notes and photos printed from film to remind me of my previous adventures in the land of valiant conquered and intrepid conquerors. This time, I’m transferring what I jotted down into this blog post, structured according to the chapters in Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel. De Botton is a modern day philosopher whom I greatly admire. The Art of Travel was the first book I read with Ironman, who accompanied me on this trip, for our long-distance book club, one of the many ways we have of staying close while we are geographically distant.

Continue reading →

What’s New for Dinner?

I can’t resist making an easy buck. Some part of my mind still thinks I’m in my early 20s, earning $25k a year, instead of being nearly 40 and earning much, much more than that. So, I take on freelance work and odd little side gigs, as long as they pay enough. I don’t think I’m entirely alone in this hustle; I have friends in their 30s who still babysit, dogsit, or do other little favors for cash or beer. I mean, I don’t have kids, so what else am I doing to do with my free time? Go out and spend money, or stay in and earn more money? Plus, I get to work on some really cool projects!

Recently, I had a taste-testing gig for a market research company. The session itself was only 25 minutes long, and with driving to the place and back and checking in, I was all-in for 40 minutes. And it paid $50 just for eating some food and telling people what I thought about it, which was worth it to me. Fifty bucks fills up my tank and buys me a beer (or two on happy hour!). And it certainly was an easy buck.</p>
Continue reading →

Italy by Number

I have so many thoughts to share stemming from my two and a half weeks in Europe. My route was
Flight to Zurich→
Train to Innsbruck→
Car share to Bressanone→
On foot across the Dolomites to Cortina d’Ampezzo→
Bus to Venice→
Rental car to Padua→Verona→Bergamo→Milan→
Train and kayak to Bellagio→
Car share to Zurich
with a lot of little stops in between. Everything I saw was stimulating and new, and I took dozens and dozens of pages of notes. Since most of that time was spent in northern Italy, let’s kick off the onslaught of upcoming blog posts with a lighthearted comparison of Italy and Boulder. Continue reading →

Sanctuary 2.0: The Line

I love nature. I love nature in little ways, such as letting spiders stay in my house in whatever corner they decide to weave their webs. I love nature in medium ways, such as not getting mad about the goats peeing on my yoga mat at goat yoga because I was so thrilled a goat was getting cuddly on my mat with me. I love nature in big ways, such as sobbing uncontrollably while watching the whales bubble netting in Alaska because I was overwhelmed from witnessing such a majestic event that is so perfectly designed and so completely out of the control of humans.

DSC_4920

But there is a point at which I stop communing with nature. The squirrels that killed my garden this year brought me pretty close to that point. Pretty damn close to making use of a pellet gun. But this…this is the real line. Nope, nope, nope. Nasty! Uh-uh. No way. Continue reading →

The Portland of My 49th State

When I was young, my family took a lot of road trips up, down, and around everywhere east of the Mississippi, and even once all the way out to Montana. When I moved to Colorado, I took a lot of road trips around the western states to see everything I could before getting my master’s degree and moving back overseas. When I stuck around after graduation and found that travelling internationally from Denver was kind of a pain, I took some large pseudo-domestic trips, such as to Hawaii and Alaska. After all this travel, I found myself at the beginning of 2017 with only two states remaining to set foot in: Oregon and Idaho.

And now, there’s just Idaho. This is my somewhat-creative writing blog, but by day, I’m a technical writer and I work for an excellent and successful company. So excellent, in fact, that they picked up the tab for me to attend the Write the Docs conference, which happened to be in Portland, Oregon, this week. I have to specify Oregon because as an east-coaster, I still think of Maine first when I hear Portland, and I imagine some of you do too. I won’t go into all the details of what one learns and talks about at a technical writing conference, but if you’re curious about the career, I highly recommend Tom Johnson’s blog. He’s a tech writing guru, and he totally had groupies (including me) at the conference. Here, I’ll sum up some of the other highlights of the trip and save the show notes for my coworkers. Continue reading →