New Year’s best illusions

4 01 2011

It’s the beginning of 2011 and time to make New Year’s resolutions. While I sort of cringe at the thought of caving in to “year pressure,” I mostly kept my resolutions from 2010, and it helps to think ahead, so why not? This year is a whole different ball game than last year. FIrst, it’s a milestone year. My fifth anniversary at work is in May, and I’ll be attending my 10-year high school reunion in the fall. So, I’m naturally thinking about my life right now. Also interestingly, people I know are moving around left and right, thinking about their futures, building their families and relocating to different states or even countries. 2011 may be the most mobile year in recent memory; while I’m not planning any big moves at the moment, watching everyone do this to themselves despite (or because of) the rough economy is sort of a wake-up call for me to assess where I currently stand and make any needed improvements — big or small.

I’ve tried to come up with a list of things that are both easy to do and hard to master. In other words, I can dabble and succeed, or I can really delve in and take it and run with it. Maybe I won’t keep these resolutions, but thinking about the things I want to do is probably the best step in actually making them happen. Hopefully I’ll turn back to this list and try to make it happen, and hopefully I’ll be inspired to take on and achieve even more cooler things this year.

Here’s my somewhat banal-but-important list of 13 things for 2011:

1. Get my thoughts on real and digital paper. Writing is what I do best, and if I don’t actually write, I won’t get any better at it. Write at least one poem per day, even if it’s a silly haiku about wikipedia. Dream up storylines and explore the human condition through the power of the written word.

2. Read more of everything — eat a more balanced media diet. I hate buying paper books, but I’m kind of addicted to eBooks, so maybe getting a reader is in order. Allow the inner geek out to play, and investigate comics and films in that vein.

3. Blog more. Tumble often. Sign up for tons of sites that I never use, and find out why I keep coming back to the few that I do. Continue to explore online communities and the management challenges therein. Find out what the creative types are up to, and get to know them. Maybe meet up with some community organizations.

4. Shoot and edit more video outside work, even if it sucks; experiment and go crazy. Doing a video project can be very intimidating because it’s hard to do it really well, but as they used to say in the Arizona Lottery, you can’t win if you don’t play.

5. Play more music, even if it’s just GarageBand. Better if it’s something I do on an instrument. Pick up the clarinet every now and then, and then obtain a guitar or keyboard that I could potentially hook up to my computer. I have a decent keyboard at home, but it’s too big to take back with me.

6. Try to shoot at least one photo per day; preferably of but not limited to hat wear. Finish the 365 hats project from 2010 and carry it forward into 2011 in all its, um, glory.

7. Educate myself informally and perhaps even formally — educational resolutions might even be their own category in and of themselves. This is really something that I started in 2010 but want to continue. Expand my vocabulary, and continue to read up on world history. Learn about the city of Atlanta and the southern region; and even though it’s sometimes depressing, read the local news and try to feel like a part of the community. If I was a community reporter in this town, like maybe working for the college paper or something, what would I report on? Reconnect with my alma mater and catch up with former classmates, which I’m traditionally pretty horrible at. Figure out where I stand on furthering my education, and maybe take a class or so. Keep up with sports, music, languages, the cosmos and humanity’s Big Questions.

8. This is kind of cheating as a resolution, but there’s something to be said for setting goals you can keep: Travel to new places this year as well as old favorites. Do the midwest and SoCal in July. Maybe go to Europe in the fall. Hopefully make it out to the mid-Atlantic again this year, and maybe do the Northwest and New England, which are both kind of mysterious to me. Could a trip to Austin also be worthwhile this year? What about Disney World and Miami? Any good day treeps in Georgia? And of course, head out to the American west.

9. Eat more nutritious foods and fresh fruits and vegetables. Order the healthy stuff when eating out, and rely less on frozen dinners. Fire up the stove once a week. Keep my calorie counts within daily recommended limits. Alcohol in moderation as always.

10. Pay attention to my physical being. Work on exercise and balance, and defeat arthritis. Just a little a day goes a long way. Refresh my wardrobe and replace things that have overstayed their welcome in my closet.

11. Nurture an optimistic spirit and ignore negativity as best as possible. Try to be more forgiving and less judgmental of other people’s foibles and quirks and occasional self-absorption. Continue to work on understanding my fellow human beings, socializing more and feeling less anxiety in unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations. If we all listened better and raged less, the world would be a better place.

12. Become geographically independent. Knock off the Atlanta must-do’s list; eat a Ghetto Burger for God’s sake. Feel at home wherever I am. Live in the present and make my apartment feel like a place I want to come home to. At the same time, dabble in other geographies and try to understand where people who prefer tree-infested landscapes over the desert are coming from.

13. Get more wheels and rolling things in my life, from cars to bikes to balls. Do trains have wheels? Planes do. Actually, this might be the first thing to tackle out of the whole list, perhaps Priority Numero Uno. I’ll get started on that right away.

I think that rounds it up. The Lucky 13. Here’s to an awesome year.

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365 hats in 2010: Cheesehead trucker hat

5 01 2010

This entry announces a fun project that I hope will turn into something cool at the end of the year. I’ll be chronicling the year in hats by uploading one (or two or whatever) photo per day to a special Picasa album set up specifically for this purpose.

When I run out of hats, I’ll have to get creative to find headgear. In my humble opinion, that’s when the fun will truly begin. Not that my hat collection isn’t fun.

For example, the photo at right shows a cheesehead ballcap/trucker hat obtained during a trip to Madison WI a few years back. The benefit of this hat vs. a traditional cheesehead is it’s a little less cumbersome, while at the same time being a little more subversive.

Hat date: January 3, 2010. And that’s me backlit in shadows. Never let your light source be behind you. But, in this case it kind of works.

I can’t claim to have completely invented this concept, but I hope to put my own spin on things. It’s been done by many others and the inspiration here is a few of the projects I’ve seen in the course of my work, as well as a few more on YouTube. It’s been done, but I thought I might as well do it, too.





The New Year’s Resolution Game

2 01 2010

The time has come to take a hard look at where one has been, and where one is hoping to go. These rituals are nice to do because they provide you a measured interval at which to gauge your progress. The actions I aspire to take, as well as my perspectives on the current state of things, evolve each year and every day just as I do.

Of course, you can start a new initiative any day, but the first day of the year is a good day to reinforce this behavior. I’m not going to get into any arguments about whether this is the beginning of a new decade (I don’t think it is), but do believe that adding a new “10” digit to the year is a big milestone.

Here are my public goals, along with the overall objectives they are designed to achieve (I’m a big-picture girl):

1. Laugh and smile more — You can never do this too much. If there’s one thing I’d say about myself this past year, it’s that I needed to stop and smell, er, water, er, nurture the flowers more often at times (and at others, I’ve needed to get back to work!). And that’s just what I’ll do. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Improve social relationships

2. Domesticate, just a little — Martha Stewart, I have no desire to be, but it wouldn’t hurt for me to keep my place a little neater and learn to cook a few things. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Become more independent

3. Use more fossil fuels — Other people want to cut back on their environmental footprint. But I need to make mine a little bigger in order to foster my own independence. I hate driving, but I love the open road. If I can get over that synaptic hump, I’ll be able to take more trips and have a more fulfilling life. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Become more independent

4. Spend less on the “bear necessities” — Currently, my rent and bills consume a lot of my wages, leaving little for me to use for other things. My food expenses are also fairly extreme. All the traveling I’ve done this year has really tested my fiscal security. I should try to cook for myself when possible and use other tricks to cut my food costs (probably easiest for me to control), followed by my other living costs. My lease is up in the fall, so I’ve got about eight or nine months to hunt for a new place to live if I decide to move. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Become more independent

5. Get over my fear of mornings — Probably Issue #1, 2 or 3 for me right now at work is my ability to get to work on time. I’m doing better, and coming in a full 2 hours earlier than I used to, but I still need to push that back a little and become more consistent in my a.m. appearances. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Become a better employee

6. Learn about popular culture — I avoid TV and music news and gossip and all that, but that’s what people talk about! From a fun standpoint, I’m missing out on opportunities for enjoyment and enrichment. From an intellectual standpoint, I need to keep my consumption updated so that my mental connections are optimized. From a purely utilitarian standpoint, I won’t have much to add to conversations if I don’t do my research. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Intellectual enrichment

7. Find my niche at work — Not much has really changed at work, but I do have some stories and projects under my belt. With the economy throwing my field out of whack, I have a unique opportunity to focus my ambitions toward carving out a niche and looking at the Big Picture. What this means in concrete terms is I need to do some abstract thinking and translate my actions into a uniform plan. I know what that means, even if everybody else doesn’t. 🙂 OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Become a better employee

8. Be funny — My sense of humor needs attention. I’ve got to feed it, because it is awesome when it is on top of its game. Thus, I shall make more jokes. Good jokes. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Improve social relationships

9. Try some cultural and social media experiments — One of the first projects I want to try is photographing myself wearing a different hat every day for the entirety of 2010. That starts today. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Intellectual enrichment

10. It’s cliche: Eat better, exercise more — My experiment in getting more exercise and working on losing weight was actually somewhat successful. I hit a few roadblocks, but managed to lose about 8 pounds. I may have gained that back, or maybe not. Being sick for over a month did not help and I may have overextended myself at times. So in 2010, I will revive that effort and make sure to get my daily exercise (walking, basic weightlifting, gentle sports and other activities) in a safe way. OBJECTIVE: Maintain and improve health





Wow, that sucked: A look back at the “naughty oughties”

31 12 2009


Unopened bag of 2004

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

This is a year-by-year look at the decade that saw me becoming a journalist and solidifying my identity, as well as blossoming from an awkward teenager into an semi-awkward adult-ish being.

There is a lot to go into here, but I will start out just going year by year. And, a look at my love of beer. It changed, you’ll see here.

I hope you enjoy this look at history through the lens of me. I mean think about all the politics, the economy, it’s all interrelated. I mean we started out with the attack, then the war, then the cycles of optimism and fear. Interesting decade.

  • 2000: Wrote for the school paper. Was the assistant fine arts editor, and then became entertainment editor. Was known as “Slim Saidi.” Dreamed about graduating from high school and hitting the big time, going all over the place, rocking the world. But first, settled on ASU.
  • 2001: Went to Office Max for Senior Ditch Day, a momentous milestone in my life (and the day I purchased Incubus’ Make Yourself at a Sam Goody-type establishment). Actually graduated from high school. Went to ASU, majored in computer science. 9/11 happened. I found out about it by overhearing conversations in the dorm restroom — about cars on fire, the world burning up, explosions everywhere, they said, and it was simply terrifying. It took a while for classes to be canceled, and I remember everything was so quiet.
  • 2002: My kitty-corner downstairs neighbor in the dorm died and it took three days to find him there — it was really sad. He had the room to himself. There was a burglary and ID theft at the family house while I was away at school, but reality didn’t hit until I was home for the summer. Had major ID theft problems for the rest of the year. Got my first real-ish job, by becoming a road service phone schlock at U-Haul HQ. Lasted a whole two months, but learned a lot and met some cool people. This experience convinced me that I was capable of holding down a job at a national company.
  • 2003: Snuck in through the back door of The State Press over winter break (figuratively speaking) and became the associate Web Devil editor. Decided I no longer wanted to be a computer scientist, and instead wanted to be a journalist, a humanities major, a geographer, a cartographer, a computer geek, maybe an engineer or scientist, really I couldn’t decide. Identity crisis a-go-go. Interned for the media office at the Desert Botanical Garden. Had my first beer this year, thankfully not around any cacti. Somehow I’d avoided it that long.
  • 2004: Became one of two “campus and administration” reporters for The State Press, and discovered I was obsessed with reporting. Worked at the City of Chandler a couple days a week, which created an insane schedule for me given everything I was doing. Turned 21 just before summer and right in the nick of time: Over the summer, traveled to Washington, D.C., and interned for Common Cause’s press office. Learned a lot, had a great time, decided that Budweiser was my Beer. (Not Bud Light) The third presidential debate was held at ASU in October of this year and I got to report on it, and even interview Triumph the Insult Comic Dog for the Web Devil.
  • 2005: The economy was still booming and ASU had ideas and new buildings practically coming out of its orifices. Got a reporting internship at the not-quite-defunct East Valley Tribune and then became Web Devil editor. Couldn’t find ONE job, so I got TWO jobs instead: Media specialist at Pan-American Initiatives at ASU, and also as a writing intern for Choice Hotels International. Drank.
  • 2006: Continued with my jobs but then at some point decided that the current situation was OK, but it was time to move forward. I somehow stumbled on CNN.com, applied on a whim, was accepted, freaked out, grabbed my father and four suitcases, flew out to Atlanta, found a lot of bad apartments, found a good apartment, said goodbye to my Dad, cried a lot, grew up and became a multimedia journalist in Atlanta! Drank a little, here and there.
  • 2007: Moved to a new user participation group that did mysterious things with “iReports” and “Exchange.” Got hired on full-time, and then became the first associate producer (full-time) for the budding User Participation group. Got my first taste of gourmet beer, in the form of a Blue Moon served at a going-away party for a colleague. A coworker explained to me that it was a “Belgian White” and I nodded and said mmm-hmmm-wow-awesome and then went home and did some research. Tried the Sweetwater Georgia Brown as well as the Hummer, and I was well on my way to beer snobbery.
  • 2008: The economy had been teetering a bit, but this is the year it really started going into the pooper. On the plus side, iReport started coming into its own, and I became a Senior Associate Producer. Moved out of my apartment in Dunwoody to a convenient place in midtown. Dealt with serious cockroach problems, moved to a less-convenient and more-expensive place and then went to Los Angeles to chill with the Murray scholars. While there, I met Kato Kaelin. He was pretty chill. Right after that, President Barack Obama was elected on a historic election night. Meanwhile, my taste in beer became increasingly snobby. Phoenix light rail launched December 27.
  • 2009: President Obama was inaugurated and the whole event was a big global Thingy that seemed unprecedented. The economy was much further into the pooper and we called it a recession. I didn’t seem to notice, as I single-handedly held up the country’s gross domestic product by traveling a ton and visiting San Francisco, Paris and London for the first time. Saw Cousin Julie get married in Wisconsin and was reunited with the family, most of whom I see maybe once every five years. Saw the World’s Largest Six-Pack in La Crosse. (Well I mean, just look at the Year in Review. You’ll see what I did in 2009.) My circle of friends practically doubled. Beer snobbery got even worse and maybe a tad pretentious, and the beers got darker and darker. Light rail celebrated its second birthday.
  • 2010: Let’s see what happens!




All that year in review stuff

31 12 2009

Wow, wasn’t 2009 awesome? Crickets.

OK — So I’m busy getting ready for a road trip tomorrow, so I don’t have as much time as I thought I would to crank out this Year in Review thingy. Nonetheless, here’s the basics, month-by-month, followed by a roundup of the factoids and numbers that you can’t get enough of.

Month-by-month, blow-by-blow:

  • January: Inauguration madness defined the month.
  • February: I can’t remember much from this month, but I remember I went to Phoenix and we took Grams to the Desert Botanical Garden.
  • March: God only knows what I did. The economy was going down the pooper, I know that for sure.
  • April: Uh… I turned 26, on my birthday.
  • May: The weather was getting warmer…
  • June: Wisconsin to see my cousin get married. And just to dink around in Wisconsin.
  • July: San Diego Comic-Con! And my first-ever trip to San Francisco.
  • August: No clue what I did. For all I know, I might have done nothing. Well I know my parents visited and we went to Chattanooga and looked at fish and met a gnome and bought a tiny SEE ROCK CITY birdhouse for my soul.
  • September: Went to Paris and London.
  • Some time in the fall: Road tripping, river rafting, corn mazing, etc.
  • October: Wild Halloween partying!
  • November: You know that band Soul Coughing? Well yeah, that’s my band for November. For you see, Coughing was a major pastime after catching some sort of flu-like-symptom-causing illness. And then, Thanksgiving at work.
  • December: Two-week treep to Phoenix! Lots of stories written.

Yeah, so anyway, seeing as that was oh-so-insightful, here are the vitals:

  • Total flight itineraries flown: 12 (not including 2010 return flight)
  • Major car trips: 5 — Rafting, corn maze/hike, Chattanooga, Helen GA, upcoming New Year trip (excludes drive from Minneapolis to La Crosse)
  • States/countries visited: 8 — Tennessee, North Carolina, Arizona (3+jump-off to WI), California, Wisconsin, Minnesota, France, England.
  • Aquariums visited: 4 — Tennessee Aquarium, aquarium under the Mall of America, carpy aquarium at Wisconsin Dells, Georgia Aquarium (parents mostly).
  • Major offbeat tourist attractions seen: Approximately 8 — Babyland Cabbage Patch Hospital, Upside-down White House, World’s Largest Six-Pack, World’s Largest High-Wheel Bicycle, Ruby Falls, Rock City gardens, San Francisco sea lions, Coit Tower.
  • Major must-see landmarks/attractions: About 6 — Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, London Bridge, Big Ben, Golden Gate Bridge, Mall of America
  • New cities discovered: 5 — Paris FR, London EN, San Francisco CA, Chattanooga TN, Helen GA
  • Sci-fi/fantasy conventions: 3 — San Diego Comic-Con, Dragon*Con, that new ‘con that is being held at the Renaissance Hotel in midtown.
  • Electronic devices purchased: 2 — Apple iPhone, Nikon point and shoot.
  • Social/media networks joined: 7 — Foursquare, Tumblr, Plurk, 12 Seconds, last.fm, Pandora, blip.fm
  • Phrases coined: “Rubber babushka”
  • Major music performances attended: 7 — Bob Dylan, U2/Muse, Yo La Tengo, Death Cab for Cutie, NIN/Jane’s Addiction, Guster, and yes, Captured! by Robots.
  • Music download volume: Approximately 20 GB (all-time high)
  • Job positions held: 1 (first-time result)
  • On-camera appearances: About 10
  • Hair growth: Approximately 6 inches
  • Major hats accumulated: 10 — Green Knit Hat, Bison Horns, Bunny Ears, Blue San Francisco Hat, Moose Antlers, Christmas Tree, Pink Cap, Purple Cap, Varsity Hat, Atlanta Braves Hat.
  • Photos uploaded to Flickr: Approximately 3,000 (not all public)
  • Tweets on Twitter: 1174, as of 12 a.m. December 31 (not the tweets after this post) — via TweetStats
  • Total tweets: 1,976
  • Average tweets per day (all-time): 2.6
  • Former desk number: 26
  • Age: 26
  • (Withheld): 26
  • Lucky number: 26