February Micro-project

This one may ending up being more than a micro-project. I played in a pit orchestra for the first time in years, and the pros were through the roof: better musicianship, decent eustress, more musician friends. The New York Opera Exchange puts on a few performances each year, and I'm considering joining their semi-regular roster of musicians, if possible.

This month's opera was Mozart's The Magic Flute.

The next one, in May, is Verdi's La Traviata, which could be another great experience. (Or, alternatively, a serious source of stress, which all too often my choice of extracurricular activities become when I don't have enough time for them.)



January Micro-project

Double winter micro-project! First: snowshoeing and camping with Don at Floyd Bennett Field (Queens, NY), then hiking in Harriman State Park (Stony Point, NY). 

Don in snowshoes, Floyd Bennett Field

Our tent! Floyd Bennett Field 

Path to the beach, Floyd Bennett Field

Harriman State Park

My friend Kelly in front of a frozen waterfall, Harriman State Park

Civil War-era graveyard, Harriman State Park


Re-evaluating / New Year

Don and I were talking about the small things in life that make one happy, and realized that we both agreed on projects. The idea of small projects: doing many exciting, interesting things and, more importantly, being able to create the energy and the mental space in which to do them. Something like being in high school, except running the extracurricular activities yourself.

I'm not really concerned about my happiness on a macro level -- I've always found ways to adapt and explore -- but I think it is important to evaluate your life deeply and often on a micro level. I want to catch myself before I flatten out! It's the sneaky, micro things that often destroy people's lives, relationships, and passions. I'm afraid of people who use the phrase, "...and then one day I woke up, and..." I don't want to ever wake up and suddenly realize something. I want to be aware of myself constantly.

On that note, my New Year's Resolution: monthly micro projects. These can be anything from weekend camping trips to making pasta to finally buying that weighted hula hoop I've wanted since I leanred hula hoop tricks at Burning Man. I got boxing gloves for Christmas, which I think is a pretty good place to start.

Aiding me in this venture is my semi-new job: freelancing. I've gotten to a place where I am working on many small projects at once (projects!), for many different clients, and making enough to live. It's the best. I work at home, I take two-hour lunches, I exercise more, I cook more often, I spend less money, I pet the cats whenever I want to. The only downsides are the endless forms (quarterly taxes, contracts, hours tracking...) and the capricious payment schedules of my clients, which I'm currently very unhappy about (and so is Chase bank).

But the pros outweigh the cons by far, and I'm hoping I can get enough work to keep this going for years. It's the flexible dream job: Don and I could sublet our apartment while we rent a different apartment half a world away, and still do our jobs. (Did I mention Don is a part-time investor?) We make our own schedules and can take vacations whenever we feel like it. I'm living the antithesis of the American Dream -- unmarried, no kids, no 401K. It's awesome.

Christmas Skype with Megan in Bangkok (re-posted from Megan's blog, which you can see here)

The New York Public Library

Blizzard in New York, Times Square

Wolcott Pool, Levittown

A Very Levittown Christmas, Wolcott Road

Rocks Bros., Wolcott Pool, Levittown

Christmas, Levittown

New Year's Eve on a rooftop in Times Square... before the cops kicked us off


Little Life Updates

Things have been busy, so I'm focusing on the basics: staying in shape, doing my homework, paying my bills. The latter has been the most difficult. I forget how much the city beats you up sometimes!

Wedding with Don and his family: Junction City, Kansas

Ropes course/ziplining with friends from UD: Newark, Delaware

Halloween. I was Max: Harlem, New York

The famous Roman cage cup at the Corning Museum of Glass: Corning, New York

More Corning glass


Notes from New York

The things I love and find strange and beautiful about New York City... especially things in Astoria.

Mural in Astoria

Giant sticker on a wall in Astoria

Mural in Astoria 
Socrates Sculpture Garden... in Astoria


Brooklyn Wort

Another beer competition! Don and I managed to squeeze into the Brooklyn Wort, an annual local homebrew competition. Brooklyn Wort judges picked the top 30 homebrews, from a pool of 85 contestants. We just barely made the cut (got in as alternates with our Fat Wizard Wheat!), and attended the final event/competition a couple weeks ago.

Simpleton Saison: 7.8% ABV, 26.5 IBUs

We showed up to the event with 5 gallons of my Simpleton Saison, so-called because I tried to stick as close to style as possible. It was also the first beer I brewed alone (i.e., sans Don). We took a cab to the Bell House, a venue in Gowanus, where hundreds of people were lined up and waiting to sample our beer. More than three hundred people attended -- they received a free sandwich and tasting glasses, with which to sample all 30 competition beers -- and we got some great feedback and many positive notes on our saison. We were seated at a table in between an amazing Imperial Coffee Stout and an American pale ale.

Don at the event table

At the end of the event, all attendees voted for their favorite beers (People's Choice), while a handful of judges voted for the same (Judge's Choice). We didn't end up winning any awards, but it was pretty damn cool to have been a part of the event as a finalist. We also got helpful feedback from the judge's scorecards: "relatively clean beer with lots o' phenols and peppery notes"; "head retention could be better"; "wonderfully long finish."

There is a small part of me that thinks it's funny that these adult beer judges are taking my beer seriously; I feel like a kid messing around with recipes in a grown-up's world. I guess I'll keep playing along!


Vacation #4: Burning Man

Last push of liberty and leisure! Don and I had plans to meet up with his friends at Burning Man, an art festival-cum-temporary city built out of nothing in the middle of the desert in Nevada. Burning Man is currently in its 27th year, and is bigger than ever (about 70,000 "citizens").

Describing Burning Man is like trying to describe a dream. It's wonderful, makes no sense to others, and lends itself to childlike storytelling ("and then we met up with our friends, then we swung on a trapeze, and then we took a nap, and then we wandered the desert for three hours, and..."). It was a week of Constant Fun, no holds barred. There is physical activity (plenty of it), music, art, beauty, nature, and lots of kindness. Using currency is not allowed; all experiences are in the form of "gifting," or giving to others without an expectation of compensation. An example: Ashram Galactica serves cold drinks to strangers every evening. They run out of beer the next day. We have lots of extra beer, so we give them some to serve at their bar. New friends, fun had by all, everyone wins.

We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to apply these wonderful concepts to a sustainable model in the "default world." Gifting is impossible when you have mean people, money, and an uneven distribution of wealth. Hmmm.

There is also a slightly alarming disregard for safety ("safety third!"), incredible music, lots of dust, and most of all, sincerity and effort. The sheer amount of time, money, and elbow grease it took everyone to prepare their camps and art pieces was astounding. Want to build a giant fish covered in LED scales? Why not! Want to put some flame throwers on top? Sure! Now let's add the best subwoofer we can find.

Unfortunately, I have no night pictures -- I took a couple with my disposable camera, but they just looked awful and didn't really develop. Just imagine a misty black sea filled with colorful moving parts: schools of fish (people on bikes), sharks (mutant vehicles), beachcombers (Esplanade partygoers). Eventually there is just the black desert, unlit and unpeopled.

In Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco

View from Golden Gate Park

The pre-Burn crew, in Palo Alto
Driving over the Sierra Nevadas

Reno (a sad, sad city...)

Nevada scrub
Our solar concentrator, with John and Javed

Across the playa at sunset

The road to the Man

Best camp! Don learned how to use the cyr wheel while I got hula hoop lessons

Just your average shipping container movie theater in the desert

The Photochapel

Howling Wolf, the Man in background

Sunset over the giraffe