February Update

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I was trying to finish up stuff for a meeting on Thursday, had my phone off all day Wednesday. Checked my voicemail late Wednesday night and had a message from a friend from college that I talk to every now and then. She said, “You might be out foraging for nuts and berries to make into a lovely gruel. I just called to see how you’re doing. Call me when you get a chance.”

This is what I meant in my Pecha Kucha presentation when I said my friends all know I’m crazy, they just ignore me.

For the record, I was not out foraging for nuts and berries, I was finishing up work, and I think the main project I’ve been working on since August, which is mostly done right now, will be completely done next week.


In the meantime, I’ve been working on the revised $40 burrito recipe and am getting close with that. I need to make it at least one more time in its revised form to see how it goes. I also have a revised sesame noodle recipe that will go up soon. Both of those had a makeover to get the cost down and to make a more reasonable quantity.

And I’m reading a book I picked up last week called Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly which caught my eye on a day I was thinking about organic food and farmer’s markets and food costs and things like that. I’ll let you know if there’s anything worth sharing.

A Belated Valentine

Monday, February 21, 2011

I know a lot of people who abhor Valentine’s day, and there are a lot of holidays I don’t particularly care for (New Year’s Eve springs immediately to mind) but Valentine’s Day is not one of them. I find it easy enough to ignore, and my mom usually sends cookies, so for me it’s basically just another day except that a box of cookies comes in the mail. And any day that a box of cookies comes in the mail is a good day, as far as I’m concerned.

I was out of town last week and got behind with my newspaper reading. (I’m moderately addicted to reading the newspaper, but it feels good to take a break every now and then.) Over the weekend, I was checking to make sure I didn’t miss anything important and read the Valentine’s Day comics from last Monday and feel compelled to post this because I think it’s one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time.

I think this is one of those things you’re either going to get and think is hilarious or not get at all. (This comic strip is like that; half the time I don’t get it at all.) So I’m not going to give any commentary.

The strip is called F Minus, and is written by Tony Carillo. You can check it out here.

F Minus

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone, and may you be neither the bear nor the chimp in this scenario, but find love and happiness wherever you look.

Moving Boulders

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A few years ago a friend of mine was thinking about some financial investments that I thought were a bad idea. I was trying to discourage her without telling her what to do — it was her life after all, she didn’t need me to tell her how to live it. But one of the ideas actually went beyond being a bad idea and moved into being moderately illegal. I pointed that out to her and thought she’d say, “Oh yeah, you’re right.” But she didn’t. She said, “Well maybe if you look at it like that it would be, but if I did it like this, it would be fine, and anyway, who would know?” And I was like okay that’s definitely fraud and we need to stop talking about this.

So I stopped talking to her about it but felt like I needed to give her my full opinion and wrote it out in a letter that I sent it to her in the mail, telling her that she was free to do anything she wanted but I would not be participating. (And, for the record, she did listen to me in the end.)

After getting the letter, she thanked me, and I told her a story that had been useful to me in trying to decide whether or not things were a good idea, and when to decide that they probably weren’t.

A few years ago, there was a terrible tragedy involving a family who were driving home to San Francisco from a holiday in Seattle. They were going to spend the night on the Oregon coast, but missed the turn off the interstate onto the main road and decided to take an alternate route. The alternate route had warning signs that it was not always passable in winter, but they didn’t see the signs, or saw them but chose to ignore them.

It was late at night and the weather was bad, then got worse, and they took another wrong turn onto a remote logging road that should have had a gate up to close it but didn’t. After twenty miles, it was very late and the weather was too bad to continue. They stopped for the night, and the next day found themselves snowed in. No one knew where they were, and they couldn’t reach anyone for help because there was no cell phone service in the area. After six days, the gas in their car was gone, their food had run out, they had burned the tires of the car trying to light a signal fire, and still no one knew where they were. The husband set out on foot to see if he could get out and get help. He died in a river bed a few miles from a fully stocked hunting lodge, after walking for two days. His wife and two young children were rescued by helicopter after a massive search.

This story sounded so strange to me.

I didn’t understand how this could happen. I wondered if it was a case of people being so reliant on technology (GPS, cell phone) that they were literally lost without them. I got obsessed trying to find news articles about them to see if I could learn what had happened.

By the time I started researching, it had been over for a few weeks, so most of the articles were about what a hero the husband was, dying to try to save his family, or how shameful the rescue effort had been. But I still didn’t understand how someone could get so lost, in this day and age, that they ended up driving into the middle of nowhere, were completely stranded for more than a week, and died.

I eventually found some articles that gave more details, and some of them were pretty fascinating.

The signs warning them that the road was not open in the winter were not small obscure signs, they were giant. There were branches and tree limbs down all over the road; it was nearly impassable in many spots. In fact, in places the road was almost completely blocked with rocks and boulders. But instead of realizing they had taken a wrong turn and going back and starting over, for whatever reason, they kept moving forward. It was reported that they had even gotten out of the car to move obstacles out of the way, including huge boulders, so they could keep going.

Obviously without having been there, we can never know what really happened, but the story as told seemed like a good analogy for a lot of things.

If you’re going along and everything is really hard and there are constant obstacles, maybe that’s not what you should be doing. Maybe you should turn around and go back to where you started and try a new route.

Because anyone can make a wrong turn, that’s easy to do. But don’t spend energy moving boulders out of the way so you can keep going in the wrong direction.

20 x 20

Monday, February 14, 2011

Anyone who has ever actually heard me tell a story knows that it often takes me at least six minutes to get the part where I say what the story is about, so you can just imagine the challenge of putting together a Pecha Kucha presentation on the Dollar a Day Project — twenty slides, twenty seconds per slide, for a total presentation time of six minutes and forty seconds.

That’s hard!

I was not swayed by the tight timing and decided to begin at the beginning, with my adventures in indentured servitude at my first job out of college in Princeton, New Jersey.

I didn’t have a script at all, I was thinking I’d use the slides as my guide, with each slide representing a key point, and the change of slide would trigger the change of topic. So deciding on the point of each slide was really important, and I spent nearly eight hours getting things ready for a six-minute presentation. Holy cow.

It seemed like things were in good shape, but a couple of hours before the presentation I started to get nervous and decided I needed to go through it all in my head to make sure I knew what I was saying and that I’d be able to do it all in the time allotted. So I went over everything a bunch of times trying to make sure I got to the point for each slide and everything would work — and I was in a coffee shop with free refills, so I was totally wired by the time it was all figured out — and once the presentation started I just took a deep breath and went straight through and got to the end and was like okay I have no idea what I just said. I’m going to have to watch the video.

And I don’t know when the video came out, but someone last week told me they saw me on YouTube, so I looked it up and watched it and I think it’s hilarious.

You couldn’t see the slides very well even in the live presentation — I tried to use the same color scheme as on the blog but the green is too light — and also the lighting in the video isn’t great (it was in a bar), so I’ll include a PDF of the slides and will point out a few additional things here:

(1) the graph on slide three is in fact actual data about my food purchases that I tracked in Quicken and now have in a Filemaker database. It is not a fake graph just for show.

(2) the points on the Google map are the actual stores I shopped at — and I don’t remember exactly how I put together that map and it seemed like it shouldn’t have been a problem but it was a big pain.

(3) everything I said is true, which is why I think it’s funny. Especially things like saying that reading How to Cook a Wolf made me glad that I was poor so I could be like M.F.K. Fisher. True! Sad, but true.

The other funny thing is that I had never put together a Power Point presentation before, this was my very first one. I’m a big fan of Edward Tufte, and like very much his essay on the The Cognitive Style of Power Point, and I love more than anything Peter Norvig’s fabulous parody Gettysburg Address as PowerPoint presentation. (I especially love the graph of how many nations there were 87 years ago and how many there are now, but the whole thing is brilliant.) So previously I just had experience with people making fun of PowerPoint, now I’ve actually used it. That’s progress, I think.

The presentation was on December 16 and I knew it was videotaped but didn’t follow up on finding the link. But since I heard it was up, I managed to watch it when I was visiting a friend last week. (For anyone who has ever sent me a video to watch and it took me two months to get to it, don’t be offended, it takes me two months for me to get to videos of myself that I actually want to watch.)

So, without further ado (it probably took more than six minutes to read this post), here’s the video.

And anyone in the area should come out for the next Pecha Kucha Night Raleigh, which is being held on March 9 at Noir in the Glenwood South area of Raleigh (the same location the December one was held, where the video was shot).

Not Working

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Okay so I was supposed to be working on Friday, and I don’t usually work on Fridays because no one really ever needs anything at the end of the day on Friday, they’re not going to look at it until Monday, and definitely no one ever needs anything from me on Saturday, so I really have until Monday morning to finish things, so Friday and Saturday are my days off and Sunday is a work day.

But I’m going out of town next week and there’s a bunch of stuff I want to get done before I leave, so I worked Friday and was trying to work Friday night (that’s not totally weird, usually I work nights), but I have so much trouble trying to make myself work during hours when I don’t normally work. I did manage to have a good afternoon and get some things done, and then took a break for dinner and then looked up some things online to ease myself back into work and got completely sucked into reading about Tim Ferriss and Penelope Trunk.

Did I really need to spend two hours on that? No, I did not.

But in an effort to not have it be a complete waste of time, I decided to write a blog post about it and share what I learned with the world at large. Which buys me a little more time of not working. And allows me to delude myself into thinking this was not a complete waste of time. Even though we all know that it was.

And what’s even worse is that most of what I was reading was from two (or more) years ago. I’m so out of the loop!

I definitely heard about Tim Ferriss when his book The Four Hour Work Week came out and I thought it sounded like a total crock and I googled it and him, and everything I found was like wow this looks so fascinating, what a genius is Tim Ferriss. I was like what? How do other people not think this is a total crock? Am I crazy?

Then a few months ago, I learned that there is a whole class of people involved in “lifestyle design” — they call themselves “lifestyle entrepreneurs” and engage in things like “geographic arbitrage” and I’m like wow this all sounds like a crock too. And it all sounds very Tim Ferriss-y. And it turns out that in fact huckster Tim Ferriss did spawn a whole industry of 25-year-old male people attempting to follow in his huckster footsteps.

At some point while I’m avoiding work and looking up lifestyle design and trying to figure out what the heck it is, I find this fabulous website called Beyond Growth that calls bullshit on all of the hucksters and has a great parody article about the whole lifestyle design thing.

Love it! Totally dead-on.

I’ve had to try to make myself work a lot lately on something that is almost but not quite done, but that I am definitely done with. (It’s unfortunate when the two things don’t coincide.) So I’ve been in a desperate search for new things that I can do on my computer without actually working. (I really should just install solitaire or something and solve this problem for good, I can only play solitaire for so long before I realize I have to go work, but I can follow links forever … and then write blog posts about what I found following links … which makes me feel like I did something productive. When I did not. Could I write a blog post about solitaire? I do not think that even I am capable of writing a blog post about solitaire.)

So last night when I was desperately seeking procrastination options I was like Beyond Growth! I haven’t checked that in ages, I wonder if there’s anything new. And I discovered that Tim Ferriss has a new book out. So of course I had to read all of the posts about that.

The site has a great review of it (“In his new book The 4-Hour Body, author of The 4-Hour Workweek Tim Ferriss makes the giant leap from get-rich-quick guru to extreme fad diet guru”), and referenced Penelope Trunk, who is a famous blogger who I had never heard of (I guess I need to get out more … or less?) so I did a search for “Penelope Trunk Tim Ferriss” and got lots of interesting things including this metafilter post about Penelope Trunk and Tim Ferriss that I thought was completely hilarious.

So if any of you have heard of Tim Ferriss and couldn’t understand how people wrote favorable reviews of his book and/or if you have been trying to understand what lifestyle design is, feel free to follow the links contained in this extremely important post, that I am offering to you all free of charge.

You should read this one too, it’s funny.

If I can’t work, the least I can do is keep other people from working. Because really, that’s what I’m here for. To keep the world from working.

And now the internet is going OFF.

Off off off.

And I am going to work.

Hope all is well with y’all.

More on food soon. After my work is done. And my vacation is over. And I cook something worth writing about. Which hopefully will be soon.