For you, the dress code is casual.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Really Friggin' Mad

I shoulda fuckin' listened to my scooter mechanic. He said my new shock was a bit too long to put on my bike, and he didn't really explain it WELL enough thanks to his broken English so that I'd realize that parking my bike would be volatile, and I shrugged off the too-high thing because I thought it'd be nice to have an extra inch clearance when going over bumps.

WELL. Tomorrow I'm going back in to throw more money at the fucker to change it back to my old shock, which should really be replaced -- but that'd cost $100, and that's money I can't afford to spend right now. Pretty pissed. I'd bought the shock a couple years back from a guy I know who bought one for his bike -- the same as mine -- and was all thrilled he only paid $30 for his online and offered to sell me the other one he'd bought for the hell of it.

Jesus. I'm just mad. I should've listened to him, and now I'll have blown $70 on installs that could've been spent on new clothes I really need for work.

What was supposed to be a really nice weekend is shaping up to be a real downer right now. Sigh. Blah. Mad Steff. Mad at myself and a little bitter he didn't drive the point home hard enough for me. He should have just refused to install it -- it's friggin' unsafe as it is. But I'll get it fixed in the morning. Whatever.

mm, friday! peace perchance to be peaceful? and a movie review

wow. i've had nearly 4,000 page hits on my other blog today. more than 2,000 visitors have popped into the site today. been a while since i've seen numbers like that -- i've only seen 4,000 maybe two or three times, and that all happened last may. numbers are going up fairly quickly. nice. surprising, but nice.

i'm pretty tired tonight, but i lucked into noticing that Judgment at Nuremberg was showing on PBS at 10pm. unluckily for me, it's a three-hour movie, but one hell of a fantastic one so far. it's not just about the trial -- it's more about one incredibly fair-minded, inquisitive man (Judge Haywood -- Spencer Tracy) forced into the position of judging over justices who'd presided during the Nazi regime, ordering sterilization (aka: enforcing eugenics -- a new word for some of you, i'm sure, but as "Nazi" as it sounds, even Alberta, Canada had eugenic practices in the early to mid-20th century. someone somewhere figured Natives and "retards" shouldn't be allowed to breed. people are fools if they think only Nazis thought in those terms. our governments have done the same; they've just been able to better justify them and cover them up) and other such inhumane practices.

it's considered one of the greatest movies of all times, yet you'll seldom see it on lists. after all, who sits home on a saturday night thinking, "gee. that movie about the Nazis would be really entertaining to watch tonight!"

but it is. it's all talk, but it is utterly transfixing. the judge is remarkably torn in having to consider the evidence against these justices -- one of whom was of great note when it came to being a progressive legal mind (Burt Lancaster) and who stood for equality and freedom, not anything the Nazis pushed. yet there he is on trial because he understood the tides of the time, and knew his choices -- to sink or to swim.

and there is nothing more exhilerating to me than an ethical exploration in fiction. it's fantastic when it's well done, and what better debate of ethics could exist than one of being Just Another Person in the midst of the powerful machine that was Nazi Germany? i would like to believe that i would have stood for right and good. i probably would have. i can be a force of nature when i believe wrong is transpiring. but what if? how could i possibly conceive to understand such an unfathomable political climate? imaginative i may well be, but my prescience has plenty to be desired.

and, yeah, Spencer Tracy & Burt Lancaster (and a freakishly young William Shatner!) know a thing or three about that acting dealio.


so, a good movie is great after a 10-hour day that was absolutely non-stop literally without having a break. god, it was a challenge today, but i did well and accomplished a lot. and now i'm too spent to see the end of my movie, hence i'm taping the conclusion, having a bath, and turning in before the clock strikes midnight, or a reasonable fascimile of that.

but i have now decided: i will once again order the "extra" cable. i'll finally be all caught up on most bills this month, so i'll spend the extra 20 bucks a month and get myself Turner Classic Movies again. the older i get, the more i appreciate all the movies to come before the birth of Steff. some good shit out there, y'know? i'm well-versed enough on movies to see the listings and know what i oughtn't be missing. this 28-channel shit's a drag!

a bath, perchance to soak. ooh. quel thought.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Um, Hi, I'm Steff, And This is My Blog

I should write but I have little to say. I've been a busy bee at work this week.

My back and body is arguing about the exercise I've been doing. I'm getting mini-spasms all over my back, so I'm taking a break today and tomorrow in order to stretch it all out and will resume Saturday. My scooter goes in for repairs, so I'll rent a bike and ride the sea wall for a couple hours as I wait. Better than spending $8 or 10 for a coffee and a bagel, eh?

My friend's getting my bike fixed up this week, too, so I'll be able to cycle from work soon. I'll throw my bike on the bus before work and then cycle home, about 17 or 18 km along dykes and water -- bliss. I'm sure to really enjoy that, to be honest. The first couple times will be a chore, but I should be all right. Looking forward to renting a bike on Saturday. :)

Grey's Anatomy is on in a few minutes. Yay. My patty melt that I made for dinner (on homemade bread with caramelized onions) is heavy in my belly in a good way. Yogurt will soon follow. I've had different yogurts in the past, but this "Activia" that Danone is pimping really seems to do a lot for my digestive system. What a difference. It may have some gelatin in it, but that stuff's really getting my system working on a good schedule and seems to even help me sleep better. Weird. Just one of the small things I'm doing on this health kick. Aside from patty melts, that is. Ahem.

Tomorrow, work, followed by beers with the coworkers. Then: A weekend with no obligations other than the scooter repairs. Yay. Fuckin' time to have a weekend for me.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Lush Alert! Bad Steff!

I bought some Hardy's "varietal reserve" shiraz tonight, which at $8.29 a bottle is a hell of a deal. I drank too much tho. But I work at 11, so I can sleep in. Ergo, who cares?

Today at preschool the kids began taking home their papier mache "dinosaur eggs" in honour of paleontology month. Miss Steffani (that's me!) was joking with all the kids I caught exiting sans other kids, and I'd ask, "Are you gonna scramble your egg for breakfast tomorrow?" In horror the kids would respond, "No!"

"Well, that's pretty wasteful! There's a whole lotta yolk there!" I'd say. The kids and their folks would invariably snicker and laugh. I'd wander off, all pleased.

Tomorrow, I start photographing the classes and such. I'm aiming to make the ho-hum boring website into a pretty rocking place. The text is already shaping up to be highly readable and very personality-riddled, which the school definitely deserves. They offer curriculum *I* can be proud of, with highly-decorated faculty, so it's pretty cool to contribute to their well-being. If it was some shitty little school, I wouldn't care, but it's not. The teachers are incredible, the owner is a three-time woman of the year award-winner, and the facilities are beautiful and serve their highly-reputable name. Why the fuck not do them proud?

You know, I was looking forward to last week because it was spring break and I believed I'd get so much done. I was pretty stoked about it. Ironically, the week came and went and I got the same amount done as ever, and I missed the hell out of the kids and the social-group parents that would gather from 9-925, 11:30-11:55, 12;25-12;55, and 3:10-4:15. It's FUN with all the kids and their folks. It baffled me that I was more stressed without the chaos than I was with it!

And today I managed to do a hell of a job on a few of the web pages. Sure, a few mistakes slipped past me, but I reviewed my work in the sanity of my bedroom tonight, and I know what I need to fix first thing in the morning. Thing is, though, is that I'm limiting the amount of questions I'll have to answer in the future because folks will be able to use the site as a reference point instead of the bare-minimum of advertising it has been. My web work? Fucking AWESOME compared to the mind-numbingly boring text that was before. Nevermind the total lack of aethetic that existed before. It's a fucking art school! How can the website lack aesthetic?! Good god! But never you mind. I'm on the case now, honey. It's getting sexed-up aplenty.

I'm pretty pleased with my contribution, and I'm only going to improve. I had a very rewarding day today, all the chaos and stress aside. I enjoyed myself. It was good. Kids were fun. Parents were cool. I'm enjoying how so many parents are telling me how helpful and refreshing I am, and I love how the kids make a point of stopping at my desk to say hi & bye as they enter and leave. (Insert shit-eating grin here. Really. I'm as smiley as can be as I think of the little people who like me at work. They're so friggin' cute, and such an antidote to the cynicism of the real world.)

But, really, parents are THANKING me in writing for my helpfulness. They keep saying things like "you've been so pleasant and informative to deal with, and I really appreciate it" and I feel awesome as a result. It's wonderful. I've always felt appreciated at my last job, but that was by the same people all the time. This is so different. It's a good thing. I've always loved being appreciated!

Anyhow. I'm counting the minutes, practically, until Friday. Then I'll finally be able to buy my three-month membership for the gym that's a block and a half from work. Can you say four-days-a-week-workouts? I sure can. $61.50 for three months, to boot. Gonna buy a few workout clothes if I can budget it in with the pay period (given that I'm doing much-needed repairs to my bike, including a new tire, on the weeked) because I need the pride. Ahem.

Hiccup. Good cheap wine. What a fabulous thing. Off to bed I go! I'm gonna be in a world of hurt in the morning, too. I've been weightlifting all night and went for a three-km walk/jog tonight. Soon I'll be feeling pretty damned good.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Brave New Steff

When I think of jogging, I think of high school and the one-kilometre jog that would kill me every time I attempted it. I wouldn't learn until nearly two decades later that I wasn't just fat and out of shape -- I needed orthotics and should have had them long, long before. I have very little flexibility in my ankles, a non-correctable situation. I have maybe 60% of the mobility of a normal person's ankles. It explains so much of why I've always had the feeling of daggers in my calves when I walk much, and why jogging has been a hellish notion for me. My calves are pretty fucking huge -- think Popeye. They're as tight and pained as they can be, and on a daily basis.

Nonetheless, today I start jogging. Started, I should say. Not much, not far. Baby steps. Just a 15-minute jog around the neighbourhood. It killed me a little, but not entirely, suffice to say. I don't care, I'm going to keep doing it. One, it's free. Two, it's close to home. Three, it doesn't close at 5pm -- like the stairs in the highrise down the street. (Now that I work a 9-5 job, I can't do the stairs as the office hours are right when I'm working across town.)

But I can start jogging around the point near my work after I finish for the day, and around the homestead when weather dictates it a bad day to be on the water.

Mostly, I just want to stop feeling like I can't do what other people can. I just have a few things to prove to myself, I suppose, and think this is a good way to start doing that. I couldn't go too far on my first try, and I'm a little scared of what an impact sport like jogging (v. low-impact like cycling and swimming) will do to my body after all the injuries I've had over the years, but whatever. I'll go for another baby-jog this evening before supper to make sure I get a full 30 minutes of cardio in for today. Now I need to lift some weights for a bit.

I'm only now really getting over my bronchitis, so it's a good time to get active. Add to the mix only the second or third day of nice weather since the month began, and it's a double-nice time to get a new me on the go.

And I need to get my bike tuned up so I can begin taking that home from work soon, too, but that costs bucks that I can't spend for a couple weeks, unless WhippedBoy finally has some time on his hands to do something for me, but I don't see the skies parting over his world anytime soon, so I guess this one's on me. Soonish.

Hmm. Yeah, I think there's a world of issues in my head around my body and body image, all dating back years and years, and jogging's up there with swimming as being one of the sports that brings all my issues to the forefront. If there's any hope of my getting over them, then it's through confronting them and cutting them (and me) down to size. This isn't about being size 6. I couldn't give a shit about that. It's about feeling good, having energy, and feeling a little more comfortable in my own skin. Losing a little certainly wouldn't hurt. :)

Hey, it's a start. Starts are good. I'll still chronicle shit here. Everything with exercise came apart on me when I lost my job and got thrown into a tizzy. Now I'm starting to find a routine in life again, so maybe this is the time this sticks with me. Anyhow, weights beckon, and some yoga-ish stretching.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

People Spotting at the Game

Sat behind Colin Cunningham at a hockey game tonight. (Giants won 5-4 in sudden death overtime after their fucking goalie gave up four goals in SEVEN shots. The backup closed the door and gave our guys the chance to get back into it -- and, boy, did they. But then they outshot Chilliwack something like 35 to 10, so, go figger. Great win.)

Colin decided to amuse some kid sitting next to him when the dad wandered off for beer -- he did magic tricks with coins and wowed the little tyke. It was pretty cute. I've always loved Colin's work -- he's one of those solid "b" actors you always recognize but never know who it is. He's like a chameleon and can do any role he chooses, from Best in Show and Sixth Day to little odd films and television standards. But he seemed like a pretty cool guy. Nice to see my suspicions were right.

Nice ass, too.

(Rumour has it he had a small cameo, uncredited, in Little Miss Sunshine. I don't remember, but we'd smoked a joint for it, so I'll have to go back and look. Ahem.)

Friday, March 23, 2007


GayBoy's taking me to a hockey game tonight, but he's riding all the way out to UBC on his scooter to grab his folks' car. The rain had let up and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to head out for that 20KM ride... and now, about five minutes after he's left, the rain has resumed with a vengeance, falling now in sheets, blowing hard sideways. My alley's a river again.

Jesus. Poor guy! Someone needs to buy that boy a beer. Looks like that someone's me.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Well, I Can't Stop NOW.

Dude! I got off work late, and I don't know how long I can leave bread thawing in the fridge for, so after nearly 36 hours in the fridge, I figured my bread NEEDED to get made tonight.

Well, two hours at room temperature, and it's still as cold as can be. What the hell? So, I'm trying to give it a zap, in a bowl over the oven's exhaust element. Maybe soon it'll be warm enough to shape and allow it to rise. Sigh.

Which means I'll have fresh bread at midnight.


But talk about your midnight snacks. Geez. MmM. There's that. I'll have to make some tea! The weather's supposed to get hellish tomorrow, so a late night and some tea and a sleep-in might be what the doc ordered. Methinks. :)

yawn, yawn, and more yawn.

i slept for nine hours after a long, nice dinner with my boss, her husband, and her sister. i'd done a resume for her sister last month, a very accomplished violinist trying to get into one of the continent's preeminent Philharmonics, and the sister wanted to thank me and took me to dinner. the boss & hubby tagged along.

i had scallops & baby artichokes for tapas, steak'n'frites, and finished things off with an espresso creme brulee. very decadent stuff. oh, and wine. mustn't forget the wine.

but i'm that tired-well-rested this morning and would love to stay at home and relax, but i have a long day ahead of me. i'm supposed to have a date, but i suspect i'm blowing that off tonight. i'll probably be working until 7 or so, as i have the day off tomorrow and want to finish my week off with lots of accomplishments.

i'm redoing their website, which is tedious stuff, but my mad skillz are impressing the shit out of the boss. huzzuh. i'd be stunned if the end of my probationary period came without a raise. i mean, really. but we'll see.

i'm outtie. time to make eggs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Link of the Day!

Ha! Some cool shit here. Number five, for decogesting a stuffed nose, seems to work! 'cept I used my thumb to press against the roof of my mouth instead, for greater pressure. Cool!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Few Pictures & a Review of My New Camera

(This posting has been edited. Another photo has been added, and at the end, a review of my new camera.)

I got out to the Point after work and took some snapshots. Here you go, what few worked out. It sucks not have a decent-sized memory card, but that'll come soon enough. Might be sunny, but the wind made it a coollllld day on the water! I didn't wander too far.

And the requisite first shot of flowers this season. Coming soon to a Steffblog near you: Cherry blossoms! Yummy. Loves me my cherry blossoms! I swear to GOD, I'm going photo hunting on the weekend, even if I only can save 12 pics at a time. Yeesh.

Oh, and a review on my new camera? Powershot A640 by Canon. The pluses: 10.0 megapixels. Yeah, that's right, bitches! Envy me! FREE, too. Crazy-ass scene options for the amateur. There are the standard "landscape, portrait, night portratit" and manual, et al, modes, but then there's "scenes", in which there are lighting options for indoor fluorescent or tungsten, kids and pets, underwater, snow, et al. There's a SWEET option for removing the factory lens and adding in your fancy-ass lenses. The menu's pretty easily manipulated and I like the controls. The on-screen display re: menu are animated and very cool.

But it ain't all milk and honey. There's a 2.5" display, which is nice if size is all that matters to you, but then there's the old school folk who knows it's how you use it that counts, and sadly, this ain't being used right. Okay, so I can flip out the display screen, rotate it, angle it for overhead shots of parades and fireworks and shit like that, but the resolution is fuckin' crap compared to my old 1.75" one, on which what I saw was what I got.

Also, it overdevelops everything, so I need to darken shots by about 25 points in Photoshop and sex it up a little thattaway. The focus is pretty tight, but then again, the camera's slow to shoot and sometimes needs focusing a couple of times in order to get it right.

But then there's the MANUAL FOCUS, which is a pretty rare feature on these guys. That very nearly makes up for it. The lens is 4x optical with a setting that allows for 3.5x digital (plus a couple step-downs if you don't want to be zooming in that much.)

The body's a decent size, and it has a good grip on the right side that makes it feel a little more substantial. Unlike a lot of digitals, it's a metal body, which is also nice. The flash isn't as powerful as my old one, but it's good enough for most scenarios. The lens is 7.3 - 29.2mm 1:2.8-4.1.

Gotta tell ya... some days I really fuckin' miss f22 on the old manual film-loading SLRs. But still.

For $600, this camera offers some serious-ass bonuses to your enthusiast, and room to grow for your amateurs. I'd recommend it for about anything... unless you're shooting sports shots a lot, then you want a faster-thinking camera than this one is.

But I'm really looking forwards to getting some great new shots and then blowing 'em up and mounting 'em. Nice thing is, I could actually do a perfect-focus 24 x 36 enlargement now. Know what? I'm GONNA, too. Soonish. Gotta be the RIGHT shot, though. That's a matter of time, and weather. Stay tooned, baby. (Oh, and the flowers, click twice for maximum size -- which is a quarter the size of the original shot [that was razor-sharp focus] but THAT is only about a third or so of the max, about 4000x3000 pixels, with great DPI res to boot.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Potpourri A La Steff

There's nothing more painful than the inevitable moment of being asked by some amateur writer to read their overwrought, syruppy, trite work. It happens. It happened recently for me and all I had to do was scan the odd line down his story to see, yup, cliche, cliche, trite, cliche, hackneyed, cliche. Sigh. And it sucks, 'cos they want an opinion, right? Like mama taught me, when I've not much good to say, I'll think twice about saying it.

Fortunately, most people don't seem to realize this blog exists, so I can indeed rant a little and have at it.

Not that I'm a brilliant writer by any stretch of the imagination. Fuck, no. Competent? Quite possibly. Good? I might have my moments. Great? Ha! Gonna die tryin' to be, honey.

But a critic? Fucking right I am.

[I was going to write about how not to write badly versus how to write well, since I'm still a student of writing well, but believe I do not write badly at least, but then I got a call from a friend feeling down and now my headspace is in a whole other world after an hour of that conversation.]


So, without ado, let's 180 this posting.

I've actually been thinking a lot about what makes a good friend this weekend, after a little episode happened last week that may or may not mean one particular friendship has come to an end, presumably because the other person doesn't seem to understand my headspace on what I believe friendship requires. But that's another can of worms.

I'm not as social as I should be these days, this much I know. I don't call people as much as I should, and I never really have, so these are things I need to improve as a friend. But I do call. I do try to make plans. I'm pretty communicative, I try to share some of my personal troubles and fears and such, and I try to be open to hearing my friends' woes, too. I make a pretty good listener and I'm as generous as they come (in some ways... not financially, but in spirit, and I'm a gracious hostess and a generous feeder of friends, so...).

But this recent incident began making me question my standards a little. Are they too high? Do I expect too much? So, I started second-guessing my actions today when I was feeling moody and a bit depressed on yet another gloomy, wet spring day.

Then GayBoy heard about my mood and my headspace, and promptly rode in on his white horse and kicked my ass for doubting myself. Apparently I'm too good a person to consider lowering my standards. Apparently I deliver on my end, so expectating others to deliver on theirs is not only logical but acceptable.

So I feel a little better, but I was pretty blue earlier... Blue but not thinking of changing my stance. Fuck it. If people can't do all the basics in a friendship, they shouldn't be friends. Not of mine, anyhow. Let them be friends with self-involved, petty people like them, instead. I'd rather have fewer friends than more of the substandard ones.


Got my first PayPal donations since last summer. That rocks. Let's hope there are more to come. I bought myself a lottery ticket yesterday after having been given a free meal and getting a free newspaper the night before. What the heck. I'm not a gambler, and I dislike gambling for a lot of reasons, whether it's in casinos or on lottery tickets. I think people just keep trying to chase fucking pipe dreams when they get into these things -- spending $10 a week or whatever on the lottery's a fucking joke, in my books.

I knew some guys who ran a lotto stand in the Yukon, and the one guy John and I got into a chat one day when he was making me a quadruple Americano after "Buck a Beer" night at the Kopper King Lounge (ergo the quadruple...), during which I asked him how he was able to reconcile the notion of constantly selling futile tickets to the same people who lost every single week.

His response? "I don't sell tickets. I sell dreams. Dreams they might not otherwise ever entertain."

But I bought a ticket. What the hell. Just the one.

My aunt was actually the person who taught me to do the lottery responsibly. She gave me two bucks when I was eight and spending a month in Toronto sans parents, sent me on my way down the block from her hairdressing shop, and got me to pick a couple scratch and wins.

She told me she'd had some good luck that morning and thought it was a good day to try pressing it (the luck, that is) ergo the ticket purchase. But it was a great way to waste money, and not a good thing to be doing more than once in a blue while, she said. I always remembered that. I don't know why. So, now and then I buy a ticket or two. Maybe, what, four times a year?

I spent five bucks on the slot machines on my birthday a couple years back, too, and won something like $120. Nickel slots. I lost $40 in a casino in Dawson City once, and that soured me on some of the gambling pursuits in casinos.

So, gambling? Now and then, but pretty fucking infrequent. This week's the big $20 million pot. That'd be pretty sweet. I'd be content with a couple grand, though. :) Shit, even a couple hundred.


Now, I think the morning brings the first day of spring. I'm always confused -- I always thought it was the 21st, but sometimes it's the 20th. Weird. Whatever. Soon. Spring. Yay. Bring it, sez I.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Saturday! It's Bread Day!

Woohoo! Bread Day! I'm trying out Jamie Oliver's recipe today and seeing how that shapes up. Looks pretty fucking good so far. I'm freezing half the batch for a mid-week loaf, and the first half is just rising to shape now. Should be a really nice bread. It's got honey in it, which rocks, and he's the first one to call for a reasonable amount of salt. I'm finding every recipe to be pretty bland thus far, so when I saw that Jamie called for an OUNCE of salt, I was curious. That sounds about right.

I'm working all weekend -- but just a half day tomorrow, in the morning. I'll be working a reasonable amount this week, but a little less than I was planning to. It's spring break, and I've already amassed enough banked time for a day and a half off this week, plus I'll put in about 15 hours at the other job. All in all, I should earn a fair bit extra this week. Yay.

Monday's my day off, and I'm spending it shopping on Commercial Drive for all those things I've been wanting these past three months, plus I'll splurge for some cheese at my beloved cheese shop.

Over the coming week, I'll be trying to make a bunch of meals for lunches, plus trying some new healthy salads and such for dinners. I haven't been that bad with food lately, but I haven't been as good as I've been wanting to be, either. So, now that I can AFFORD to buy healthy, good food, that's the plan. I've been on such a tight fucking budget for so damned long now (10 weeks, not including the penny-pinching from December!) that even buying a steak is going to be a liberating experience.

But that's the new life of Steff. I'll have more money now, but I'll continue being reasonably fiscal. I've bought lunch three times in the last week since I ran out of prepared lunches -- my chicken wraps -- and that's just not cool. Buying lunches means between $100 - 200 of additional spending a month, and buying lunches is what put me into debt in the first place. My first four weeks at this job, I didn't buy a single one! So, that's the habit I need to get back into, and it just requires me setting aside a night to make a big batch of some kind of curry, followed by the rice, and then establishing an assembly line -- laying out a dozen or so flour tortilla shells, scooping rice onto each, then topping with the mix, and then wrapping 'em up and freezing 'em. It takes a good three hours, but it's enough lunch for three weeks.

So, yes, work, work, work, and cooking. That's the week's plans. Oh, and a gym membership. FINALLY. Meanwhile, I'm going to peak at my bread. :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Promote What, Bitches?!

Someone asked how you, or did they specifically mean I, promote a blog.

Pfft. I don't know much about it, really. I'm complacent on that front. If I spent half as much time selling myself half as well as I know I could, I'd be making a mint off this blogging shit. Trouble is, I much prefer the writing and couldn't give a fuck about the selling. Leaves me in a dubious position. But I remember once sitting on the sand on a beach in Oregon and thinking (then writing a promise to myself) that all I ever wanted to do was be able to write. I didn't want recognition, fame, fortune, anything. I just wanted to write. I'd been creatively blocked 5 years by then. Being creative and writing was all I ever wanted to do. Now being read is important to me, and while I'd love the money, I sometimes think public appreciation is more important. But the money would be nice. :)

Anyhow, how I first got hits, and how I first got an audience, was through commenting on blogs by people I respected -- and having something worth saying when doing so. You need to put a lot of thought into saying something entertaining or thought-provoking that is concise and catchy.

In the beginning, I did what more esteemed bloggers frown upon (and now that I have a decent readership, I see it happening on my blogs) and that's hotlinking in their comments to their own blogs. It's seen as cheap and petty, and most good bloggers feel they're being used when it happens to them. When I was doing it, I didn't realize that was the perception. At least I was original about it and used to sign off with "Rise up and stab them with your plastic forks!"

Besides, when my comments were once in a blue moon as good as they get, the hits came. And you won't get hits from comments praising writing or saying something about yourself. Use good anecdotes, and funny appeals more than anything else, I found.

You need to track your statistics with a hits counter, and don't obsess about the number -- obsess about where you're generating hits. When hits materialize, somewhere you're doing the right thing.

I've been paying a little more attention to my own hits on the other blog and I'm concerned, because more than half my traffic is being generated through one specific image (and I know it's the image because the text is less than 300 words). That's worrisome because all I need to have happen is have that image slip in Google's image search for whatever term they've been seeking it with, or have the gods of Flickr deem it unworthy and remove it. I'd be far happier if my top hit-generating pages were coming as a result of links through others' blogs and such. But on the upside, people are fickle and blogs disappear and postings become untimely. Having my traffic generate through a public archive like Flickr is probably the most desirable thing, now that I think of it, as what's popular in a group of people will probably continually repopulate the site and grow in hits generation. (You think? Thoughts on this internal debate of mine?)

Then you need to join all the blog-ranking sites and put ranking tools (like my "smutty brilliance" link and such on the other place) on your page to ensure people are finding you.

You can also use tags, which I've never really understood. I don't use them and perhaps should, but hey. However, when I write, I'm like a pop-trivia nutbar. I throw the weirdest analogies out there and I name drop a decent amount, so I get some pretty obscure search results from people looking for random things. I write about everything under the sun and have a decent vocabulary, and I think the pop trivia angle and the wide scope has me landing better on search engines at times. Beats the shit out of Missy writing about her pissy coworker again and how she was 45 minutes late for the bus to the concert last night. (Go to a concert, then mention who and where, not just the concert, y'know? It's about being found on search engines in the midst of those 75 million+ blogs, baby.) Keywords are important, and I could do well to learn more about them and slyly slip them in amongst other topic streams. K-Fed!

And then I'm sure there's much more you can do -- like writing about someone else's work and ensuring they see it in case they want to address your thoughts and give you a link back, et al. It's a little underhanded, but it works. Most people are glad to have had your link, so.

But, shit, man... It all comes down to posting. Have something worth saying, write well, but most importantly, write one hellalot. If you're not posting 4, 5, 6, 7 or more times in a week, you'd better be pretty fucking special to carry off your blog when it's only refreshed once every week or two.

And don't do what I do, which is fill space with lameass postings when nothing better's coming to ya. Weirdly, I've been getting much more traffic since doing so. ;)

My Chicken Soup Recipe

So, soup's not exactly the rocket science some people think it is. It all comes down to the stock. I do a darker chicken stock, a la Anthony Bourdain*, and I like the richer flavour that comes with. I'm single and live alone, so I make a small batch (for 2-4). You can easily add to it and feed more.

Steff's Spring Chicken Soup

½ medium onion or a little less of a large sweet/Spanish onion (my preference) diced
1 small leek diced
2 baby Yukon gold potatoes (skins on) chopped small
2 tablespoons butter

Saute all above for about 10 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons flour, stir, and let cook for about one or two minutes.

Add 4 cups good chicken stock and mix well. Allow to simmer. Add:

1 cup chopped leftover roasted chicken**
½ c. 1"-chopped spring (thin) asparagus
1½ c. mixed frozen vegetables
2 bayleafs
1 - 2 tsp dried thyme (fresh if ya got it)
Salt & pepper to taste

Mix well and simmer for 20 minutes. Very chunky soup!

Serve with good bread and be happy.

*The quickie stock method a la Bourdain: I use the carcass roasted bird that I tend to stuff into the freezer until stock-making becomes necessary. Then, it's 50% onions, 25% carrots, 25% celery. These get tossed in olive oil then heavily salted and are roasted in the oven until tender and barely beginning to char. That's where Bourdain stops and I take my cue from the good folks at the stock market: Add a bunch of thyme & parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns, et al. Fill huge stock pot with veggies, seasonings, and filtered water. Simmer for what could be three or four hours. Let it cool completely, scrape the fat off, and strain it very well the next day. Then put it away as you see fit. This makes me about 20-25 cups of stock. I freeze it in old bottles 3-6 cups at a time, and thaw what's needed when it's needed.

**I roast a 6lb chicken now and then and live off it for most of a week. When day four rolls around, I start sticking some of what's left in the freezer. There it sits until I decide to use it in soup, salads, sandwiches, whatnot. I just keep it in freezer bags and break off what chunks I need. It's a good life.

A Recent Conversation

The boss says, "This one's for you." Apparently the old office manager had shrewdly agreed to a survey about our "computer buying practices" in exchange for $50. All right, so I get on the phone, a little cynical about it all.

"So, your role there... you're the purchaser who makes decisions?"

"I can be the deciderer."

Surveyor chuckles. That's her job.

"Okay, and your title is?"

"My title? Office Chick, I think it is."

To my left, my boss is howling. She starts shuffling around. "Office chick," she mutters to herself, still chuckling. I think she was envisioning my business cards.

The conversation goes on. I can see as clear as day that we're so not who they want to pay $50 to for a computer buying habits survey thingiemajingie.

So, she moves onto the more serious questions.

"How many computer, being used by all members of your organization, would you say you have in the whole entire world?"

"The whole entire world?" I manage to keep myself from laughing.

"Yes! The whole entire world."

"Wow." [pause, dubiously] "Five?"

"In the whole entire world?"

"I think that's all we've got including space, too, actually."

She starts laughing.

"Five, huh?"

"Yeah. Not what you were hoping for, eh? They're running Windows XP, at least."

She laughs more.

"Yeah, I think we're gunning for some bigger numbers."

"So are we," I said. "But we're starting small."

But I lied. We have SEVEN.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

And the Hits Keep Comin!

Wow. I should stop writing at this blog, period. I get about 100 hits here a day, a waste of my time, really.

The OTHER blog, though... boy, it's starting to grow like mad. I've gained more than a thousand hits per day in the last month or six weeks. When I first lost my job, I was getting 1,000 - 1,300 hits a day. Now I'm getting 2,000 - 2,700 a day, and I'm not doing all I can to promote it yet. Then there's the fact that I have 210 subscribers to my daily feed. That's been shooting up every weekend, too. It'll probably settle to 195 or so by Tuesday, but I think this is the last week I'll be under 200 subscribers again. That's the part that freaks me out -- subscribers. They're the ones I don't want to disappoint. So, what's next? 225? 250? 300 subscribers? I know that when I get up to 400+ that that's when I'll be playing with the big boys. Right now I'm in the minors, but I'm clearly here to play!

I'm back, traffic-wise, after a lot of things that rightly could've killed the traffic all together last year. First, my relationship was dying, then I had the horrible experience of discovering my employment insurance was expiring BEFORE I had a job, then I had that shit job and 3 months of the worst chemical depression EVER, then I got FIRED, then I had 5 months of total insecurity employment-wise WHILE knowing I had zero EI if the worst was to happen. That's 8 months of my life in a nutshell.

I'm SO proud of myself for keeping the blogS running through all that shit. That I wrote anything readable at all is a good thing. Now I need to keep it going.

I'm not at that point yet where I feel absolutely certain I'm going to be employed for the longhaul. LOGICALLY, I know I will be. Yes. Absolutely. But, emotionally, I've had three highly unstable years for employment (some self-inflicted, of course) and I'm having a hard time believing it's done. It is, of course, but my emotions need to catch up with my reality. :)

However, my writing's definitely starting to feel like it's coming back too. I'm feeling like I want to be more creative, like I have the urge to write it out. Hopefully my writing continues getting more optimistic and self-focused. I need to start writing about loving being single... which I don't love yet, but I'm working on.

What I have to try to do is update the blog 5 times a week for a while, though. I bet I'll be up near, what, 3,000+ a day in another month? Just keep writing, right?

But good for me. I've worked hard. I deserve this. I have earned it. I was angry when I was getting only 600 hits a day, or even 1,200, for a while there. My numbers have been down since last June, but I felt lucky to have any traffic at all -- and then I felt angry at myself for letting my problems interrupt with my creative pursuits too much. But that's all over. THIS is the nail in the coffin of my last year! I'm back to where I was before everything came apart at the seams! Fucking FINALLY! :) Yay.

How often do YOU get a do-over? I've just gotten mine. Happy weekend! Now... coffee, breakfast, and Fargo, which I just bought for $7.99. But I'm making dough for French Bread baguettes, too! Woohoo.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Enter Happiness

I'm a chill'un chillin' on a Friday night.

My dear buddy GayBoy had a job interview today with a building management company. He'd be awesome in that capacity. He's the kind of manly-man gay man who can fix broken sinks, tunes up his scooter and motorbikes, and all that. I'd be pissed 'cos I'd stop getting free coffee beans every week, but I'd be happy for him. He likes to tinker with shit and knows how to schmooze. Talk about a round peg in a round hole. Go, GayBoy.

I'm making butter chicken. Let's hear it for comfort food after a long week.

It's good to be working in a job that uses my problem-solving abilities yet allows my other skills to shine, too. There's a sales aspect to this job -- I need to sell the school and its calibre of programs, sell registrations. And I do, I tell ya. There's a lot of rolling-with-punches in this job because there's so many more factors at play -- weather, parents & their timetables, kids and their issues, health of the public/teachers/kids/management. And when you have hundreds of people to deal with on a daily basis, it gets frenetic.

But it's awesome to be in a public job again. I forgot how GOOD I can be with people! I forgot how quick-witted I can be. I had it intermittently at the last job, but it wasn't a social job -- I sat wearing headphones at tv monitor/computer station -- by myself. For 8 hours on a stretch. No, talking wasn't the order of the day.

Talk is everything now. And I'm getting sharp again. I was a butterknife found in a yard after two years of rain. That's how dull and rusty I was. Now I'm a steakknife I'm so sharp. Soon: Cleaverville, baby. Razor!

And it's fun. I had a PARENT come up to me and tell me that I've made a huge impact -- every staffmember seems to be more relaxed, voices are quieter, faces calmer. That's pretty fucking cool to have a casual outsider repeat the same thing all the STAFF are telling me.

Plus, the sickness has almost entirely subsided. Things are good.

But I'm real fuckin' tired tonight. The school has a half-block long hallway to the preschool that I run up and down a dozen or so times a day, plus a flight of stairs to the upstairs office I run up a dozen or so times a day, probably 20 times, or so. I'm always running around the office, lobby, change room, and dance studio. Keeps me mobile, and my back and neck are doing great. I finally got a chiropractic adjustment on Weds. after more than THREE MONTHS without! I was supposed to get one the day I was being laid off and cancelled, and that was seven weeks ago. I used to have to get adjusted twice a week. The film job was horrible on my back. Now I'm seeing what a difference it makes!

Yep, employed one full month today, and I've already made such an impact, parents can see it. I love it. I decided I had nothing to win by playing it safe. So I came to play, yet haven't ruffled any feathers. Even the last job I had -- and stayed at for seven years and STILL go back for more on weekends, and will continue to do so -- had a very rocky start. This one? Fuck, man. I've never had such a good start, 'cept maybe the bookstore, but you don't become a GOOD bookseller until you've read compulsively on the job for a year or so.

Sigh. Good to finally be getting more fulfilment all the way around in life, you know? Stuck in single, but that might be a good thing. And spring's a heartbeat away. Life's a good thing some days, and I'm enjoying every stitch of it.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Some thoughts on The Black Donnellys

I just finished watching last night's The Black Donnellys with my breakfast (coffee & last night's homemade bread as toast with blueberry jam -- beats the shit out of storebought bread!) and in a second I'll have to jet.

But a couple words on the Donnellys. This is your dose of Irish drama that's been missing on the tube for a while. Trouble is, there are a few things that irk me. The omnipresent narrator, Joey Ice Cream, who is inexplicably being interrogated by cops and tells all these stories of how the hood came to be, yada yada, back in the day, yada yada.

As I learned in English, there's always the "unreliable narrator" -- the one you can't trust because of whatever's going on in their head (ie: Poe's Tell-tale Heart) or in this case, the narrator who knows everything when they weren't even there.

It's hard to swallow. So, that's a pretty major sticking point. The trouble with having trouble with THAT is, it's great narration. Informative, low-key, fills the holes as it should, and imparts another level of flavour to the story. Nonetheless, all its perks don't necessarily negate the overwhelming negative: How does the narrator know, if everything came to happen on the down-low?

THAT said... it's a pretty good show. It DOES have a lot of potential. I see it setting the scene for something crafty, smart, and duplicitous. I see it as potentially maturing into a Sopranos-meets-The Wire (season 2) story about a crime family. The birth of something wrong yet great, in some words.

Me, I love my violent shows, and since they stole Studio 60 from me, I would like to tune in and see where Paul Haggis is really going with this story. (Dude who helped bring us Million Dollar Baby. Talk about writers with a headful of reality, eh?)

But the trouble with the troubles I have with all that? Well, I dunno that the American public's buying. Word on the ratings is, last week's premiere lost about 40% of its viewers from half-hour one to half-hour two. That's the kiss of death. Also, it debuted lower than the initial premiere of Studio 60. Not a good thing for the studio.

Some surprisingly good stuff got the axe last year when the public proved not smart enough to get it, like Ray Liotta's Smith. I foresee this show as going in the tanker, it's more of a HBO show. And unlike something like the Wire, network execs wanna see results and FAST. The Wire took 4 hours to even set the story. This one's going on two, and we're barely out of the track.

So, anyhow. Here's hoping people catch on and this one lives long enough to crack its story nut far enough open to get a real glimpse of where it's going. It's smart, despite its ridiculous narration choices, and the cheesy retrospective looks back at wishes and dreams of the past interspersed throughout the story. Whatever. Still, it's a horse to watch, and with many shows nearing their seasonal end, that's not such a bad thing.

Monday, March 05, 2007

the Sick Little Baker

Ah, it's 24 day. But I probably won't watch tonight. I'll tape it for tomorrow.

I'm making bread. I started it last night. I'm in no mood to finish it, but I'll finish it because I have to. I'm sick AND tired at the end of a long day. I guess I have bronchitis now. Typical. I need me some new fucking lungs is what I need.

This is one of those artisan loaves. I made a starter yeast sponge last night, let it rise a couple hours, then tossed it in the fridge. Tonight I've sort of rushed everything thus far. I haven't kneaded it as long as it wants me to, for starters. I'l probably shortchange the kneading again in 45 minutes, when I'm supposed to tackle it once more. But still. It's probably going to beat the shit out of any bread I've had yet.

I want to master breadmaking though. Making dinner -- well, shit, I got that down. Done, over. Pretty near anything I want to cook, I tend to be able to pull off. Sauces, I still have some to learn about. Likewise with anything "delicate". But most dishes I can do. Quite competently.

It's easy. Fudge it. Granted, there are a lot of areas I need to expand in -- all the Asian foods, for instance, and Latin American, or any ethnic, really. I know one or two of every discipline, and I leave it there.

BAKING, though. Specifically: bread. Science. Absolutely art and science, but heavy on the science for the first god knows how long. THEN comes the artistry.

I want to get a really good book on bread, like the Artisan Baker, and just throw myself headlong into making bread. Thing is, as a passion and a past-time, you really can't get cheaper. For five bucks you've got 10 kg split between white and whole wheat flours. Add five bucks in yeast, and you can make yourself bread at LEAST weekly for two months. I spend $4 for a quality baguette, dude.

And the thing is, if anyone can master the art AND the science of baking, it's me. I know I can. I've appreciated the science of cooking for a long, long time. I get it.

Baking bread's interesting. It's kind of like love. There's this point at which you take your dough to, when you just know it's ready. You KNOW. But you never know until you've finally gotten there. Like anyone who's never been in love, they don't know what it's like. They also don't know what it's like until about 50 seconds before they get hit with that brick wall of "like, oh my god. I'm in love!"

Baking bread is like that, too. You should reach this point in kneading when you suddenly have this realization that you've kneaded enough. The bread will have this springy elasticicity. I guess you get this point where it just stops splitting and it moves a different way under your hands. I once knew what it felt like, but until now all the recent breads I've been making have been low-knead yeast breads. Quick, dirty, gets the job done. Now, though, I'm making character breads. Tonight's the first time I've really kneaded since I was about 12 or 13, baking in our old big kitchen as a kid. Pizza dough and the like.

I'm looking forwards to a culinary challenge. I'm enjoying the notion of learning this the hard way. I'll report on the progress.

Gee, I can even photo document the progress now that I have a working camera again! SCORE! :)

And in the meantime, I'm still sick. But hey. It's cool. Soon I'll have bread! Another 20 minutes and I'll knead again. This time I'll put more into it and hold out longer.

The only crime is... I have no butter. :( Seems a crime to labour all this time only to use margarine. No butter, tho, likely before the next pay period. I have serious pennies to crunch before then.

It's later now. The bread is in the oven! I've chosen to be a Bad Renter and go ahead and do the authentico steam method. I've been wanting to do this since I was 12! Mom vetoed the use of steam for making a baguette way back in the day. Now that I'm a renter, what's the worst that can happen? The building buys me a new stove. Two words: fuckin' a! Anyhow. I'm excited. Titillated, even! In six minutes the oven goes down to 400. In 35 or so, the bread is done. And I'm having homemade soup with my homemade turkey stock, some leftover asparagus, carrots, leaks, garlic, peas, and corn. Simple, but tasty. The stock smells incredible with that asparagus. $1.99 a pound the other day!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A picture: Promenade on a cloudy day

I haven't had the energy to take pictures since I got my camera, save one or two short walks. This is one of about 25 pix I've taken since taking possession on my new toy. I decided to take another crack at the first bunch. The other 10 are still on my camera. :P

Being sick SUCKS.

Dammit, they cancelled my show!

I just surfed some TV sites. I didn't realize Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip has likely been cancelled for good, and that the Black Donnellys, a middling Irish not-so-melodrama (whose ending packed a hell of a punch, but which comes fraught with significant shortcomings that may or may not be surmountable) is its mid-season replacement.

And I blame the (average) American public* for not being fucking smart enough to get something as smart as Studio 60.

I think HBO or some such could do well to pick it up, if NBC doesn't have the balls to better market and situate s60 on a better night. (Oh, yeah, a bunch of middle-aged sardonic funny guys tackling current events is really going to perform well against a night dominated by Jack Bauer and pulse-racing escapades circling around the demise of modern man and all.)

Fucking hell, man. What's network tv got to do to inject intellect into dramas again? Studio 60 is, was, for a long time will be a cut above a lot of what television has to offer. It's up there with Weeds (and if ever there was a show that should be an hour long...) and wry, biting shows like that.

Fortunately for us all, I have not yet had my coffee, so committing hari-kari with my remote control seems like too auspicious a plan for my late morning. But, ooh... the French press sits ever so sexily on my counter. My time might yet be nigh.

And, really, fuck yourself, NBC. I want my Studio back.

*And I still blame them for never having grasped the brilliance of Arrested Development, too. What, should they talk slower? Would the jokes work then?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Saturday = Slackerday

I'm taking the weekend off from the world. I'm still sick. I've been kicking the bronchitis can all week. I think it's just a vengeful sinus infection, and this madcap week of weather is the reason for it. We went from warm, clear days to a sudden deep-freeze with a few days of snow and now we've settled into a cool, wet pattern that will last the next couple weeks.

Me, I'm exhausted and a little sick. I could be a lot worse, but I've been sleeping a lot all week and keeping to myself without missing work. I cancelled all my OT this weekend, and I'm going to spend my two days sleeping a lot, watching television, and lightly cleaning up.

I've just made some bread and it's rising -- about 35% wholewheat flour, the rest white. Brown sugar for a niftier flavour. When I'm flush with cash in a couple weeks, I'll buy a big thingie of honey and start melting a mix of butter-honey on the stove and brushing the bread with it before baking. I've done it once and it's sensational. But I usually make 70% whole wheat, so I'm misbehaving a little. The flour's 'white, all-purpose', which I bought because I was unemployed and terrified, and $2 less than unbleached. Next time I get unbleached flour. I think it's a much more sophisticated taste. After all, Ecco il Pane agrees with me, and they're the final say on bread in this city -- and even according to David Steingarten of the New York Times. Unbleached is as good as it gets for bread, next to organic.

I guess I haven't filled y'all in about the new job. It's different from anything I've worked before.

I'm the office manager of an arts school that teaches everything from ballet through to painting. I man the front desk, tackle phone calls, solve administrative problems, do all the publishing for making new signs around the school and invitations and notices (which I've brought my artistic flair to, and is already yielding a lot of positive comments from the administration and faculty).

I deal with problem parents, keep the faculty in order, and toe that line between being a light-hearted morale boost to the office and being a firm, authoritative leader. It's really allowing me to show a lot of my better colours, and it offers me challenges every day. I've been there three weeks now, and I'm finally feeling like I belong a bit.

And through all the challenges, I see some of the cutest, sweetest little kids coming in and out all day long. It's hilarious. I have great camaraderie with youngun's, so I really enjoy the mix. The little kids call me "Miss Steffani". And I like that. :)

So, yes, I'm sick, yes, it sucks, yes, I want to be over it, but whatever. I'll be well soon, and my life's looking better all the time. The end of my stress will arrive on March 15th, when I finally get a FULL paycheck for the first time in almost two months. I haven't had to borrow from anyone or juggle too much. And in another month I'll be caught up on all my bills. Then it's easy living. But it has been anything BUT easy for the last several weeks. The relief will wash over me like I won't believe, I bet.

The school's talking to me about having a week off from the desk duties in order to lead a photography camp for kids during the summer. :) That'd be pretty neat. I really dig teaching kids. I'm just nervous about teaching photography. I shouldn't be, though. I used to be the lab supervisor in college, and I'd have to help people with printing problems and teach them the finer points of manual developing.

I watched the movie Born into Brothels not too long ago, about a foreign worker living intermittently in India who decided to give a couple dozen cameras out to a bunch of poor kids being raised by parents in the sex trades of Delhi, I think it was. I loved seeing the impact that being able to photograph made on those kids' lives. I like the idea of introducing an art to kids. I could teach them about different photographers, we could talk about the pictures and what makes 'em good, then go and take in some of the local sites in a field trip, and take photos, then go back and load 'em onto computers and workshop 'em. Fun fun!

Anyhow. Consider yourself Enlightened as to the Affairs of the Sick Steff. Now it's chill time.

Friday, March 02, 2007

LOOK! A link turned into a post!

Heed This.

Yeah, but... okay, yes, I do use a lot of cliches sometimes.

I might just take a gander on that list for a spell.

Obviously the list is hardly comprehensive.

I definitely need to vamp up my conscious use of phraseology in the future. Mm, lookit them big wordz. Girl's got vocab skillz, but girl gets lax. Complacency is a bitch. But I really do want to start focusing on editing a bit more. Now that I don't do it for a livelihood, it shouldn't be so unbearable to go back and nitpick.

I must go. Mac & Cheese is the delight of the night. I hear my pot a-bubblin'. Pasta, meet pot. Reader, meet end of post.