Friday, January 15, 2010

A bit of news

Last week I got a new job, which I started Monday. I am an “office assistant” for a small downtown firm. After being technically unemployed for six months, it felt very good to secure employment for myself.

It’s been quite an adjustment. The work is quite manageable, easy even. My predecessor still works for the company, and is happy to help me with any questions I have. I’ve been taking the bus to work, which is fairly efficient. The job is really pretty good for me at this point in life.

It’s had some interesting effects. For example, lately I have felt indescribable joy at small, simple things: putting on a thick, soft pair of cotton socks; taking a steaming hot shower; lying down and reading or watching television.

Something that has also given me pleasure is riding the bus – what a relief from the hassle of driving and parking, and what a budget-friendly way to get around.

This may sound odd, but I find it weird, and kind of uncomfortable, that the stock market opens and closes in the course of one of my workdays – basically that I’m in the same place that whole time. A larger problem is that many businesses (like the photo lab down the street from my house) are only open Monday-Friday from 9 to 5, preventing me from ever visiting them. (I do get an hour for lunch every day, but since I don’t drive it would be difficult to get anywhere and back in that time. It probably could be done, though.)

Overall I feel tired, but very pleased to be supporting myself again. I never thought I was capable of working full-time. That probably sounds lazy, but it’s true. This job is sort of easing me into it.

Even better, I have had a week to learn how to do things with the CEO out of town. He is apparently a little high-maintenance (the outgoing receptionist told me he needs a fresh cup of coffee every hour), but I don’t think it’s going to be anything unmanageable. I did get a feel for his personality during our interview and I don’t foresee any big problems.

Anyway, I just wanted to give sort of a life update. I know I’ve been absent for quite a while, and I plan to get back to blogging at least a couple times a month from here on out.

I am really excited about the weekend. I’ll have time to do laundry, go shopping (I have been craving a trip to Target and I need groceries), and relax. TGIF!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


My Uncle Vern is one of the only democrats in the family he came from. I have a close relationship with him and his daughter, my cousin Cathy.

This week we spoke via email. This afternoon, I asked him what he thought of the proposed health care legislation. Here is what he wrote back a little while ago. Joanne, his wife, just had a knee replacement done and is currently in the hospital recuperating.

I just watched Obama's speech and the last part of it was as good an inspiring oration as I have heard. I support reform, particularly any way to clamp on insurers. I hear Republicans rant about government interference and as a Medicare recipient, I think they do a lot better than insurance companies. The time Joanne can stay in hospital and her rehab options are not her doctors decision but the insurance companies. No such concerns were asked about my treatment of [kidney] stones under Medicare. The ongoing political story is still compelling. There is as much hatred of Obama on the right wing rant as there was of Clinton. It seems that a portion of our population is so sure of their convictions, however misgotten they might be, that we will be required to hear it ad infinitum. I strongly believe in a pendulum theory of human behavior so I hope that still in my lifetime we will see the swing back to civilized discourse, not the loony toons that seem to be unavoidable.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Reflections and Fantasies

It’s been one year since I graduated, and I’ve been reflecting on the experience of college and thinking more and more about the future. (The recent loan-repayment development has me thinking about it as well.)

Something I can’t get out of my mind is the $40,000 I owe in student loans.

I thought that getting a degree would free me. It did, in a way; I feel I accomplished something important and I definitely learned a lot. But the problem is, I now feel I’ll be stuck working some job I hate for the next 10+ years just to get rid of this debt. It is a huge burden.*

I dream of moving to Europe. It’s just that, if I try to think realistically, it would be exponentially more difficult to find work there (particularly the countries I’m most interested in, which are Italy and France) than here in the States. It’s also generally more expensive to live in Europe. And there are many other factors that might make life difficult in, say, Italy (the language barrier, for one - which would take a lot of Italian lessons to surmount).

At this point, I have a journalism degree, little job experience, and no money. On paper, that’s it.

I can barely make payments on my loans right now (most are in deferment), in addition to barely paying my other living expenses. I owe my parents an absurd amount of money. And I let friends buy me meals a lot – admittedly without much guilt.

I’d like to think that if I didn’t have this debt, I could just get up and leave. Or, to put it in different terms: I could work for a while, save a little money, then get up and leave.

I could sell my furniture, pare down my wardrobe, and go.

I think up schemes sometimes in my daydreams. (Being jobless provides a lot of time for such things.) I could teach English. I could market my photography/prints via the internet. I could write freelance. I could finally do something with my massive collection of audio recordings.

Of course it would never be easy or remotely simple. I have family and friends here; roots. A cat. Normality.

* * * * * * * *

I guess I’ve always been a dreamer. Recently I finished Summer by Edith Wharton, and I identified with the protagonist more than I should probably admit. She, Charity Royall, was definitely a dreamer – one to head off into the fields and lay in the grass for hours, never mind her duties at work. Unfortunately, one to not really protest when the boy she loved ran off with a prettier, more attractive young woman.

Such is life in rural 18th-century New England.

*The new law means that I should be able to make smaller payments on my loans; also, if I still have student loan debt 25 years after I finished school (when I'm 50!) it will be forgiven. The latter feature is merely depressing; the former kind of nice.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Coming to national PBS this fall. The website isn't quite up yet.

I had a pretty busy spring. I worked as a communications/office assistant to an independent filmmaker, which was basically a job that paid part-time but demanded full-time attention. I learned a lot, and got to work for a really interesting woman, but it's a relief to be done with our work (her film is done and coming out this September on national PBS). Hard to believe that even June has slipped through my fingers like sand.

So I'm going to get back to blogging, but keep your eyes peeled for changes around these parts. I plan to move the blog to WordPress in the next couple of months and shift its focus somewhat - or just create an all-new blog there to complement this one.

Monday, April 20, 2009

foodie memoirs

Hi people! Nice to see you again.

Just thought I'd post about a couple of great books I've read lately. The first one is Julia Child's fabulous memoir about her time in France, called My Life in France. It's a really feel-good book, and the best part is its conversational, easy-to-read tone. Also, it's got photos taken by her husband, Paul Child, an excellent photographer. I read the book last year and loved it, and have since loaned it out to two friends, both of whom have loved it.

Several weeks ago, I checked Judith Jones' The Tenth Muse out from the library. Judith Jones has worked for Knopf for decades, and was Julia Child's editor. A really interesting person and a passionate cook. For whatever reason, I didn't even look inside the thing until last week. Since then, I've been hooked! So I'd highly recommend either of these for anyone interested in food, particularly in the history of America's foodie scene.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

admittance of a 'guilty pleasure'

12:30 p.m. Friday. At the library, after my friend returned to work from our lunch out, I found the two Arthur DVDs on hold in my name and went to check them out. I made sure no one was looking as I cheerfully inspected their contents and prepared to use a computer terminal for the check-out, avoiding human contact. Alas, I couldn't find my library card! It had somehow disappeared from my wallet. Distressed, I finally sauntered to the help desk and explained that I lost my card. The young man who was there (slender, about 22, bookish) checked my ID and efficiently scanned in the DVDs. "Enjoy!" he trilled as he handed them over.

Friday, April 03, 2009


David Clugston

This month's issue of Wired magazine features an article about brain mapping. I have to confess I don't usually read Wired - despite having subscribed for a few years, I generally give the magazines to my brother each month unopened. But this time the cover story (on power grids) caught my eye and I ended up reading almost the entire issue. (There's a good story about a diamond heist too.)

Anyway I just wanted to share this lovely photo of a couple brain slices. Warning: there is more bloody content on the page of the article. It's a bit gruesome but a really fascinating topic.

I will blog more soon, I promise! The new job has me bushwhacked.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

my quiet life

There are certain things - many things really - that I've recently realized I take for granted about my life, specifically regarding the city/location I call home. Considering the prospect of living halfway around the world for a year has made me think about this stuff in a new way.

One example is my cat. He is so much a part of my life that I often don't think about him much. It's automatic for me to glance over at him, curled in a ball on the sofa, to wake up early in the morning when he meows in my ear to be let outside, to hold and cuddle him as soon as he comes in so he can get on with his day (he requires this cuddling, not me, but I usually don't mind it), to let him sit on my lap as I use the computer and pet his extremely soft bright-orange fur. I like having him around.*

Second is the incredible cheapness of Cincinnati as a place to live. I live less than two miles from the center of downtown, but pay only $300** a month to rent a 350-square-foot studio apartment. Sure, it's basically only one room; my kitchen's tiny but I have a decent bathroom with tub. The house is 119 years old (high ceilings and big windows, check, plus exposed brick!), and the door and windows let out a lot of heat so my gas & electric bill isn't cheap. Still, my rent and utilities rarely top $400 a month. They're usually about $350. As a bonus, I can park my car right out on my little tree-lined street, often within 50 yards of my door. This is a good value. I will probably never live in a cheaper home, anywhere.

A third thing is my parents. Right now I live less than ten miles from their house, and it's nice to be able to drop by - especially now that Andy, my younger brother, has moved out (they're still adjusting to being empty nesters).*** I have a thing about the phone. I really dislike it. I'm very much an email person, but with my closest friends and family, I largely prefer in-person contact.

I'm a very solitary individual. I lead a mostly solitary life. I live alone (with aforementioned cat). I shop alone. I even go to movies and restaurants alone. I have just a few good friends, and a few close family members. But having those people around is quite nice. I would really miss them.

*Needless to say, if I were to take a job teaching in Asia for a year, Zachary would have to live with a friend that whole time. And I would have to, before leaving, find a friend who could and would house and love him, which wouldn't be easy. He's kind of high-maintenance.

**About five years ago, I got a summer job as a leasing agent at a large apartment complex. I learned a lot about square footage and leases and market values. That summer was the summer I moved into my current place, and my negotiating skills were sharp. The asking rent had been $350. After my first year, I'd established a friendship with my landlord, and he hasn't raised my rent at all. I'm on month-to-month now, but I've told him I might well move out by summer. I have outgrown the place, much as I like it.

***Andy is currently living in New Orleans and working as an intern for a nonprofit - building houses and other things and doing a lot of other stuff too. He'll be there until the fall.

Monday, February 16, 2009

all is not lost

So, the job interview did not go well.

I did many things wrong, including showing up 3 minutes late, and everything went downhill from there. The interviewer (it was a group interview with only one woman presiding) was completely humorless and did not smile once during the entire four-hour session. Japan is not the place for me. I've read a lot about the culture and I just don't think I could handle it.

To be honest, as much as I love Chicago, I was thrilled to leave on Saturday and I'm very happy to be back in Cincinnati.

Anyway, I have not abandoned the idea/desire to teach English abroad. I'm checking out China right now, specifically Hong Kong and Taiwan. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


A random picture of Zach, whom I will dearly miss if I go to Japan.

I've been working two jobs, though that's not really any excuse for not blogging lately. For the next week+ I'm doing a (very easy but nicely paid) data entry job in the evenings in addition to my regular gig.

Anyway, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the future. I have an interview in Chicago in about a week and a half for a job teaching English in Japan. I have to come up with a lesson plan and give a demonstration of it in a group interview. If that interview goes well then I'll have a personal interview the following day. I'm excited about going to Chicago because I haven't been there in about nine months, and I miss it. Also, I'll be staying with a dear friend of mine who is living there.

I think I shall shoot some color 35mm this time, like I did in New York. That was really fun, and I ended up with some very solid shots from that trip, if I may say so. (Apologies for the excessively alliterative quality of the last two sentences.)

More to come. Thanks for hanging around.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

uncertain times

I just heard a story on NPR's All Things Considered about high school seniors who are struggling over whether to go to their (expensive) dream colleges or (less expensive) state schools. Here's a link.

click the box above to visit and listen

College determines so much of a person's life path, and as I listened to the seniors in the news story nervously describing their plans, I thought back to my own senior year of high school eight years ago. Throughout high school, from about 9th or 10th grade, I wanted to go to college in California. Berkeley was my dream school, but I would've settled for UCLA or USC or even UC Santa Barbara. I applied to those four. I was a good student in high school, taking several AP classes and doing extraordinarily well in English and language-related subjects (like French, Shakespeare, etc.), but I never excelled at math or science. I got a fairly high score on the SAT, and did even better on the ACT. (This is probably too much information, but for the sake of the story I'll reveal that I got a 29. Pretty good, but not really stellar.)

Anyway, to make a long story short, I was declined admission to all four universities and had no "safe choice" to fall back on. (The fact that I wasn't a resident of California may or may not have played a role in the decisions.) In the spring of my senior year, distraught, I managed to gain admission to San Francisco State University, but eventually decided that I didn't really want to go there. It certainly wasn't Berkeley. By that point I was completely discouraged. One of my desires was to get very far away from Ohio. But I also wanted to go to a good, highly-ranked university.

Finally, that summer, I settled on the University of Cincinnati, which was about 10 miles from my childhood stomping ground. UC is a good school, and I moved to an apartment near campus to avoid living with my parents or in a dorm my first year. (I live pretty close to that apartment now.) I got a fairly good education there. But the whole process of deciding where to go to college, and then applying, was so dreadful. Looking back, and listening to the voices of these kids - who are becoming adults in the midst of such a phenomenal economic crisis - I can definitely feel their pain.

The job market is so dismal right now, especially in creative fields like the media, it's easy to get kind of down. I graduated seven months ago and mostly gave up looking for work in my field after five. It's very discouraging, too, as I've mentioned previously, to read news like this article from the New York Times last month: Younger Job Seekers Have it Worse (Lead: "IN the first year of the recession, older Americans gained jobs at an impressive rate. But younger ones lost them. The recession provides a double whammy for the job prospects of those trying to establish themselves. There are fewer jobs to go around, and older Americans who can do so are either delaying retirement or seeking to return to the work force." Scary charts here.)

More on this topic is to come.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

an end to the silence

It snowed this morning. When I woke up around noon (I'm off work today) and looked outside, a smile involuntarily crossed my lips.

I've been pretty depressed. Sometimes it feels like I worked half a decade to get a degree that can't be used for anything... for about a month I stopped even looking for a real job. But I'm back on my feet now, after the holidays. I thought about a lot of possibilities, like grad school, which is something that interests me a lot. And I do think I'll go eventually, but I've come to the conclusion that it's best just to wait a year or two. Anyway, my time off afforded me some space to reflect on my situation. And I feel better about things now.

I've been applying for some media jobs that look cool, but honestly I don't think I have the slightest chance of getting any of them. (For reasons like these - I've got a lot of competition.) So today I applied for a different type of job: a job teaching English to school kids in Japan. I've been thinking about doing this for several months, and this particular company is going to be in Chicago the week after next to conduct interviews so I just filled out their application and hopefully they'll invite me to come speak to them.

I'm sure my parents won't like the idea*, but frankly I'm at a point in my life in which I need DRASTIC change to survive. I've been in the same situation, the same city, the same apartment for way too long. My life needs to move forward somehow, and the job market is so horrid right now that I don't want to rely on just getting any old job. That's where I'm at right now.

*ETA: They're actually quite fine with it, and excited about the opportunity!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Credit: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

I know both that I rarely talk about music and that it is currently the dead of winter, but I must declare I have fallen in love with a band from Miami. The Spam Allstars first entered my radar months ago when NPR featured a clip from a song on this album... lately I found myself updating my Amazon wish list and stumbled over them again. Thank goodness I had an iTunes gift card balance! Campanario 64, the first track, is my favorite right now. Very talented group.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

New York photos

The financial district as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk.

The Conservatory Garden in Central Park.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in Morningside Heights.

Home Restaurant's front window seat.

Jackson Square Park, a tiny little triangle-shaped patch in the West Village, a neighborhood I fell in love with.

My favorite feature of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the European Sculpture Court.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

fall is in the air.

Washington Square Park, Nov. 6th.

Mmm. I am sipping some ridiculously rich hot cocoa right now, keeping warm in a thick bathrobe while rain patters away outside. I am planning to make a very awesome audio slide show describing/showing my travels in New York. Until then, here's a teaser, and there are several more photos up at Flickr. I hope that you are staying warm and cozy like me!

It appears that Europe has officially entered a recession. We can't be far behind.
Uh, yeah. It's been a year since it started.