December 22, 2012

Song: The Austerity Bomb

illustration by Susanna King
People keep talking about the "fiscal cliff," but Brian Beutler at TPM points out that that's not a very accurate metaphor. He coined the term "austerity bomb," and Paul Krugman picked up the term and ran with it. I agree that "austerity bomb" is much more descriptive, so I decided to see if I could write a catchy song to help popularize the phrase.

Quick caveat: I'm not so good at this recording thing, so please consider this a reference for the tune rather than something to listen to for enjoyment. This song is under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial license, so I hope if you like it you'll record your own (better) version!

The Austerity Bomb

Red and blue just can't agree
How to fix the economy
So the standoff doesn't last too long
They went and built the austerity bomb

CHORUS: Who's gonna stop the bomb-ba-bom-bom?
                 Who's gonna stop the bomb-ba-bom-bom?
                 Who's gonna stop the bomb-ba-bom-bom?
                 Who's gonna stop the bomb-ba-bom-bom?

If the bomb goes boom, will it seal our doom?
Hope we don't have to find out soon
Something must be very wrong
If they think they've gotta use the austerity bomb


Speak up now, this is our hour
Make your voice heard by the ones in pow'r
Can't sit still, it's hard to stay calm
Thinking about the austerity bomb


Lyrics with chords (PDF)

December 17, 2012

My Attempt at No-Bake Cookie Bars

Right now, my kitchen looks like this:

I was invited to a cookie exchange this past weekend. I wanted to go, but baking was not an option, and I'm too honest to try & pass off goods from the Publix bakery as my own. So I scoured Pinterest for no-bake cookie recipes.

Most of them involved peanut butter, which I know is not universally beloved. Some of them also required too much actual kitchen equipment, despite the "no bake" moniker. I currently have access to a microwave, a toaster oven, a coffee maker, a wok, (all conveniently located in the dining room) and a refrigerator (pictured above). My "counter top" is one of the doors off our old kitchen cupboards sitting on the corner of the dining room table. So I needed a recipe that was dead simple.

Photo from Cookies and Cups
No-Bake Cookie Bars seemed to fit the bill. They were made of chocolate and Oreos and sweetened condensed milk. I could make them in the microwave and the fridge, and even if I screwed them up they would probably still taste good.

And they did taste good, even though I did screw them up. My boys had fun smashing the Oreos inside ziploc bags, first with their fists, then with the can of sweetened condensed milk, then with a rubber mallet my husband brought from the garage (It's not real baking unless tools are involved; just ask Alton Brown.).

The problem arose when it came time to stir the semi-sweet chips into the white chocolate-cookie-milk mixture. Even though I let it cool for over 5 minutes, it was still too warm and the chocolate chips melted. I tried to fold them in gently, but the mixture was tough and sticky and it was hard to incorporate the chips without letting them melt completely.

Of course, I made them only a couple of hours before the cookie exchange, so the cookies didn't have enough time to sit in the fridge and set. The ones in the middle were still a little gooey when I tried to cut them apart. If I were an organized sort of person, this probably wouldn't have been a problem. But then, if I were an organized sort of person, I would have baked and frozen three dozen cookies before we tore our kitchen apart.

My considerably less photogenic cookie bars, accented by festive greenery.
I wonder where I went wrong. Should I have used a food processor to crush the Oreos instead of children wielding mallets? Should I have mixed the ingredients in a glass bowl instead of aluminum? Did I add too much white chocolate? (I couldn't find the scale to measure 10oz. precisely, so I eyeballed it.) I may never know.

Oh well. At least they tasted good. And I was able to exchange them for two dozen other delicious cookies of every variety imaginable. Not bad for someone without a kitchen!

December 5, 2012

My Presentation to the CEO Roundtable

Today, President Obama and House Speaker Boehner are making presentations to an organization called the Business Roundtable. According to their web site, they are "an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies." They wield a lot of political and economic influence, so getting these CEOs behind one's deficit-reduction plan would be a coup.

I'm sure Obama and Boehner will each present their plans to avoid the austerity bomb (fiscal cliff), and make the same arguments we've all already heard. But if I had the opportunity to address this group, here's what I would say. I'm not an economist, so I'm kind of talking out of my ear on this, but it would be interesting to see their reaction.

My Imaginary Presentation to the Business Roundtable

Look at this chart:

The red line is the percentage of GDP represented by corporate profits. The blue line is the percent of GDP represented by wages. These days, the word among VC's is that consumer-focused startups are out, enterprise-focused startups are in. You can see why: the enterprise is where the money is.

The only problem is, that blue line represents your customers. 

Take a look at this:

Look at the red line. It shows the change in available disposable income for your customers. It's recovered since the recession ended, but it's still down from the pre-recession high, and on a recent downward trend.

Think about this: Your employees (pointing at random guy in front row) are your customers (pointing at another random guy), and vice versa. If your customers don't have enough disposable income, they will not buy your products. Profits will suffer. Share prices will drop.

There are two solutions to this: the government solution, and the free-market solution. In the government solution, the government raises taxes on your income and your companies' income. The government subsidizes your employees' basic needs, like food and health care, that they can't afford. 

The other solution, the free-market solution, is for you to choose to raise your hourly wages in the U.S. and give people who want to work full-time the opportunity to do so. Your employees will have more disposable income, they will be able to take care of themselves, and the government doesn't have to get involved. As a matter of fact, that would increase taxable revenue while decreasing entitlement spending. And the potential increase in demand would ensure that all of you still have customers who can afford your products five, ten, fifteen years from now.

Either way, you're going to be losing money in the short term. But will that money go towards increased government entitlement spending, or will you allow your hard-working employees to earn it the old-fashioned way? It's your choice.

November 28, 2012

Illustrated Tweet Collage

I created a new header for my Twitter profile page using a bunch of the images from my the Illustrated Tweets drawings I've done. I hadn't realized until now just how many of those little cartoons I've accumulated!

Unfortunately, the profile space is too small to let you really see the whole thing well, so I've posted it here in all its glory. Click on it to see the full-size image.

November 21, 2012

Illustrated Tweets: @snookca

A whole weekend to myself coming up. Kinda not sure what to do with myself.

November 20, 2012

Trigger Topics at the Dinner Table

Thanksgiving will be here in two days, a day when millions of Americans sit down to dinner with their extended families. Some gatherings will be amiable, some will not.

In an effort to make dinner table conversation more pleasant, I thought it would be useful to think of a couple topics that are triggers for rants or arguments. If I know ahead of time what my trigger topics are, so if the conversation goes in that direction I can either reroute it or step away. Even better, if I share these topics with a couple of family members, they can avoid those subjects as well. And if I know their trigger topics, I can do the same for them.

Conventional wisdom says that you should avoid talking about politics and religion, but those two topics, in general, don't provoke me. The subjects that make me go off on a ranting tangent or expound embarrassingly from my limited knowledge are not what you'd expect.

The topics below are ones I know I tend to either go on and on about at length or else start arguments about. For pleasant holiday dinner conversation, it's best to avoid them. I'll save these for the wine-fueled late-night debates after the kids are in bed.

My Trigger Topics

  1. Transportation infrastructure
  2. Ronald Reagan
  3. Economics
What are some topics that you (or your relatives) should avoid? Current events, or that one family story your mom likes to tell? Post yours in the comments.

November 15, 2012

Digital collage: Terry Krishna Become Destroyer of Compassion

A few days after I lamented that I couldn't find a scary person for my October photo collage, I found one on the editorial page of The State. The letter was a response to this piece by Leonard Pitts. The woman who wrote it showed a shocking lack of compassion for the abused woman in Pitts' column, saying that, regardless of the circumstances, anyone who broke the law for any reason ought to be treated as a criminal, pure and simple. No mitigating circumstances, like coercion or fear for one's life, ought to be considered. The letter writer's name was Terry N., and apparently I didn't save a link to her letter. I can't find it in The State's archives, either. This is all to the good, I think, as I'm not trying to vilify this particular person, but rather use her as an example of an attitude endemic in America today.

Upon deciding that she would be the subject for my October collage, I went online and searched for her on Facebook. Her last name is fairly unique and I immediately found her page. (Ironically, one of the causes she listed was anti-bullying because her daughter had been bullied in school.) Lots of pictures of her family and friends, but there was only one picture of her: a small, black-and-white photo of her face. A Google search turned up the same photo in a profile on another site.

Without much to go on, I decided I needed to add to the theme of the photo. Along the same lines as Jack Valenti-Cthulhu, Karl Rove-Puppetmaster, I decided to do Terry N.-Destroyer of Compassion. I was inspired by the quote from the Baghavad Gita, made famous by J. Robert Oppenheimer, "I am become death, destroyer of worlds." In the Baghavad Gita, this phrase is spoken by Krishna. So I went to Flickr and did a search for Creative Commons-licensed photos using the word "Krishna."

Unfortunately for my purposes, most of the pictures showed Happy Nice Krishna surrounded by his happy, celebrating followers. I had to dig a bit to find anything that looked even remotely threatening or scary (I suppose if you have terrible allergies piles of flowers might be scary). I ended up using a photo of a statue of Krishna fighting snakes taken by abrinksy, a photo of a tapestry by dabera, a picture of a Hare Krishna praying and another picture of one of their festivals by Klaveius. To these, I worked in tiny bits and pieces of Terry N.'s profile photo.

So I created a sort of anti-Krishna not defeating the snake Kaliya, but joining forces with him. I personally think the scariest part of this picture is the cobra with the red human eye.

Click to see large version

Here's a side-by-side comparison of original Nice Krishna and Photoshopped Mean Krishna:

November 13, 2012

Illustrated Tweets: @amyhoy, @Greeblemonkey

Selected tweets from people I follow, taken out of context.

I'm experimenting with including a watermark on these drawings to make sharing easier. Since the CC license I use requires attribution, I thought it made since to include the attribution in the image so anyone who wants to re-use it doesn't have to look up where it came from.

arm's almost better -- hooray!!

Usually I feature tweets from the day of the post, or at most the previous day. But the one below, from last week, never got posted when I drew it so I decided to include it today. I hope Aimee is feeling better now.

How many times can your fever break during the flu before you gain magical powers?

November 9, 2012

Inspired by the Best and the Worst

photo by Jason Michael
I started reading Brandon Sanderson's new novella, The Emperor's Soul, today. I'm only a few pages in, but already I'm inspired. What if the little signature stamps that the Japanese and Chinese put on everything had magical properties? From that simple premise, Sanderson has built a rich fantasy world, a complete magic system, and a compelling story.

Stories like this make me start looking at the world in a new way. Ideas start fermenting in my head and I can't wait to write them down. This is what the best books and the best authors can do.

However, I am also inspired by the worst books I've read. One I often think back on is James Patterson's Kiss the Girls. It was so terrible that I threw it away after finishing it (Of course I finished it! It was a mystery and I had to know whodunit.). I couldn't in good conscience inflict that book on anyone else by giving it away. His debut novel was a steaming pile of poorly-edited crap, and yet it got made into a big-budget movie and Patterson remains one of the best-selling authors of our time. I don't know whether the rest of his books are any good because I've never been able to bring myself to read one, but if he can start out that badly and end up where he is, there's hope for me, too.

October 31, 2012

Veggie Tray Characters

Flush with success from my Elmo veggie tray experiment, I decided to try some different designs for my boys' class Halloween parties today. I probably should have looked at reference images and not just winged it, because now that I compare what I was going for to what I actually ended up with, this is starting to look more like one of those Cake Wrecks wedding posts (except that I'm not a professional, and nobody paid me or hired me to do these, thank goodness).

What I tried to make:

What I actually made:

What I tried to make:

What I actually made:

October 30, 2012

How I Think

graphic by Susanna King
An email from company HQ suggested that everyone in my division consider getting the Insurance Industry Generalist Certification. It's not mandatory but the higher ups suggest it would be useful. I took a look at what that training involved, and I saw that while it would be useful to have that certification on my resume, doing the required training to get it would be rather tedious.

Then I thought to myself, I could make it less tedious. I could imagine that the rules of insurance are the laws of a strange kingdom (call it "Seguridad"), and I must understand and master these arcane laws in order to win my freedom from the evil queen who has enslaved me. I could even write down the story of my quest (in my copious free time?).

And then I thought, if I have to do that in order to learn these things, should I really be trying to learn them at all? The problem is, I have used this strategy for so many years to stave off boredom that I've worn a pathway in my mind. At my age, I don't think I can erase my proclivity to turn everything into a story. I can only let my imagination have its way, refuse to write it down and try to carry on and be productive.

October 28, 2012

Halloween Wreath

I was inspired by this wreath I saw on Pinterest and decided to make my own.

But after hot-gluing the plastic snakes on the grapevine wreath, I thought it actually looked pretty good unpainted. Then my husband had the idea of gluing on all the cicada skins my boys had collected. I really like the end result. It's a little creepy from far away, really creepy up close when you notice the cicadas.

Like the original blogger who posted the top picture, I also had trouble finding large plastic snakes. I was able to find small ones at Dollar Tree, and I finally found the large ones at Wal-Mart in the toy section. The wreath and the spray paint that's supposed to adhere to plastic (which I didn't use) are from Hobby Lobby.

I bought five snakes, but only ended up using three because my boys wanted to play with the other two, and I didn't have the heart to take them away.

October 26, 2012

Song: Straight Ticket Voter

This year, with South Carolina's elections being so messed up, with so many write-in and petition candidates, it's especially important to think about who you're voting for. If you vote a straight ticket, you may be giving up your chance to vote for some offices, as well as voting for some real lemons.

Here's a little song I wrote about straight-ticket voters:

Here are the lyrics, in case you can't hear them very well over the twangy mandolin.

Straight Ticket Voter

I'm a straight ticket voter, 
Don't want to think it over
'Cause I believe the party line right to my core
I just push that button 
And I don't worry 'bout nothin'
'Cause I know our crooks and liars are better than yours

Well this candidate is shifty 
And he isn't very thrifty
He drove his daddy's business straight into the ground
His nanny is illegal
And he shot his neighbor's beagle
But he's one more vote for our side, so let's keep him around


Well this candidate ain't stellar
But she's written a best-seller
Her list of wealthy donors is half a mile long
To the party she is loyal
Though she has some friends in oil
But the ethics charge against her really isn't very strong


Yes, I know our crooks and liars are better than yours

October 22, 2012

The Irony of InnoMobility

In South Carolina, "transportation" means cars. "Public transportation" means government-run buses and vans for people who are too poor to have cars. "Transportation infrastructure" means roads for cars to drive on. Sidewalks are a genteel amenity, and walking and cycling are recreation, not means of getting from one place to another. Trains are those things that carry shipping containers to and from the port in Charleston and tie up traffic in Columbia.

State funding for transportation infrastructure comes from the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank. Theoretically, they have a list of funding priorities created by experts at the SCDOT and they dole out funds accordingly. In practice, the SCTIB board funds projects in the districts of the legislators who appointed them, regardless of what's actually needed. FITSnews has a good example of this cronyism in Senator Harvey Peeler's summary of the I-526 debacle.
Last week I wrote to you about the horrible system of highway funding in this state, and how our state continues to funnel funding away from the areas that actually need it. The prime example of that was what recently went on down in Charleston with the I-526 extension – where the State Infrastructure Bank promised money above our borrowing capacity to pay for road a lot of people in the area didn’t even want.

Into this morass, we welcome InnoMobility 2012, an international conference for "industry, academia, entrepreneurs, and investors who are interested in exploring partnerships to develop emerging business opportunities from the global transformation of mobility." [1] Why, one might rightly wonder, is a conference about cutting-edge transportation being held in South Carolina, of all places? According to the conference web site,
The southeast region is an epicenter of a large, transforming global mobility industry with an innovative ecosystem of forward thinking mobility companies and academic centers.
On this morning's South Carolina Business Review, John Warner listed some of these companies and academic centers: BMW, Michelin, Clemson. Granted, they are car-centric, but change has to start somewhere. At the very least, we do possess the knowledge and expertise to drag our state's transportation network into the 21st century. But do we have the will? I doubt it. We can't even figure out how to actually fund the road projects we mean to, or how to run buses in our state capital.

So on November 7, InnoMobility will come and show off exciting creations that could change the way people and goods get around, innovations that could change our way of life for the better. Meanwhile, on the same day, the people of South Carolina will be voting to maintain the status quo. And then on November 8, everyone will pack up and go home, and nothing will have changed. 

October 19, 2012

Margin Doodles No. 34

More doodles from my freshman Latin notebook. I'm getting a little tired of wallowing in the 80's, so I'm being a little more selective about what I scan. Only a couple more pages' worth before I reach the end of the notebook.

I included this as an example of the side ponytails
I drew on a lot of my doodle girls. Dig the scrunchie.

October 17, 2012

A Moderate Pinner Is a Popular Pinner

Just because you created a new Pinboard doesn't mean you have to fill it up right away. Because although you may feel a sense of satisfaction upon seeing your brand-new board filled with pins, your followers will log on to Pinterest to find their pinstreams clogged with 100 images from the same damn jewelry site, or 50+ uncredited scenic landscape photos from tumblr. For example.

Think of your followers, and remember that they follow people other than you. People whom they actually know and like and who are more selective about what they pin. Those who pin with careless abandon may find themselves losing followers, namely, me.

October 15, 2012

Living in the Future

Today while driving home, my 3-year-old son was chatting about the moon. He has quite an imagination. He said that there were robots on the moon.

I replied, "There aren't any robots on the moon. The robots are on Mars."

It was a perfectly factual statement, but the true impact of what I had said hit me in that moment. We are living in the future. We are living in a time of human history when there really are robots on Mars, robots that we built and sent there.

It's a good time to be alive.

Artist's rendering of one of NASA's Mars Rover robotic vehicles

October 13, 2012

Slashdot Chai

Years ago while browsing Slashdot, I came across a recipe for chai in one of the comments. I'd never tried chai before (this was before Starbucks had infiltrated South Carolina), so I copied down the recipe and made it.

The recipe was imprecise, using measurements like "2/3 of a latte mug" instead of cups or milliliters. But the resulting chai was rich, spicy, and delicious. I adjusted the recipe to make it a touch less sweet and more tea-y and to have more familiar measurements, and now it is my favorite cold-weather beverage. Every other chai I've had since has paled in comparison.

I've also had good luck using Splenda, skim milk, and decaf tea with this recipe. It's very forgiving, so adjust it according to your tastes!

Slashdot Chai

3 c. water
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
4 green cardamom pods
black pepper to taste
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. milk
3 black tea bags (or 1 tbsp. loose tea)

Pour water into a small sauce pan. Add spices and a few grinds of black pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat, covered, for 10 minutes. Add sugar and milk, stir well, and return to a near-boil. Turn off heat. Now add black tea, cover, and steep for about 7 minutes. Strain and enjoy. Makes 4 cups (about 3 servings).

Tip: The original recipe said "strain into your latte mugs," but I like to
use a giant measuring bowl with a spout for straining the whole pot at
once. Unless you have a saucepan you can easily pour out of, this step
can get a little messy!

October 12, 2012

Margin Doodles No. 33

Really, the 80's weren't all that different from today. Another doodle from my freshman Latin notebook:

October 10, 2012

Who I'm Really Afraid Of

Ever since I started making my desktop picture Photoshop collages, I've done something a little bit different with the October collages. Instead of selecting random images based on a word or phrase, I create the October collage to represent a scary person.

Jack Valenti Summoning Cthulhu, October 2002
Karl Rove: Puppetmaster, October 2003

This year, I've had a hard time coming up with a subject for my October collage. It's not that there aren't plenty of scary people in the world. But I haven't been able to think of anyone who truly scares me the same way past collage subjects did. I began to wonder why this was so.

One thing I noticed, looking back at past collages, was that none of these people scare me anymore. Heck, I couldn't even remember Jack Valenti's name until I looked up the blurb on my web site archive. It's like all my past monsters have been, not slain, but diminished. They've lost their power to inspire fear.

Tower of the Neocons, October 2004
Jim DeMint's House of Horrors, October 2005

Finally, I realized something: at the time I made each of these collages, I felt that their subjects' power was underestimated. What made these people scary to me was not just their ideas or their agendas, but the fact that they were power-hungry and almost no one seemed concerned about checking that power.

The World According to Glen Beck, October 2010
(Yes, I'm aware there's a significant gap in my ouvre.)

Since I made each of these collages, the people in them have all either been fired, retired, or acknowledged as a threat (sometimes all three). Nobody underestimates their ability to manipulate or their lust for power anymore.

And that's why I'm having trouble thinking of a subject for this year's October collage. Bashar al-Assad? He's a scary guy, but he's also got half the world trying to stop him. Texas Judge William Adams? Also scary, but also a known quantity. Plus, since this is about people I personally am afraid of, I do have to consider that a judge in a distant state has very little power to affect my life.

When it comes right down to it, there are only two people I can think of who really, honestly, scare me, and I don't know that either of them are a fit subject for a picture collage. The first is an unnamed North Carolina social worker who took a friend's child away; I don't have any way to get a picture of her to use for the collage. The second is a local businessperson who's running for political office, and I'm leery of vilifying someone I occasionally see around town (I live in a very small town), even though I know this wouldn't be the first time she's been portrayed negatively.

I'll keep trying to come up with a truly scary person to immortalize in pixels before the month is over. On the one hand, it's good not to be afraid. But on the other hand, it's bad for my art.

October 9, 2012

October 7, 2012

Mic Fright

I have no problem getting up in front of people and performing. I've been doing it since I was a five-year-old squeaking out "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on the violin. Two people or two thousand, friends or strangers, solo or in a group, it doesn't phase me. Want me to put on a pink wig and sing a song I composed myself in Spanish? Dance to "Baby Got Back" in front of the entire student body? Earnestly recite poetry or psalms or lead a group discussion? Been there, done that. Needless to say, I don't suffer from stage fright.

Put me in front of a microphone, in front of an audience, and I'm fine. But put me in front of the same microphone and hit the "record" button, and my nerves turn to water. I forget everything I've practiced, everything I know. All I can think is "No mistakes! No mistakes! This is permanent! Don't mess up!" Every tiny flub is magnified a thousand times: A slightly misplaced finger that would otherwise be smoothed over becomes an obvious wrong note; a tiny glitch in the rhythm becomes a stumble, and suddenly I'm hopelessly lost.

I don't know why I suffer from "mic fright." Maybe I haven't had as much practice recording myself as I have playing for others. Maybe I'm too much of a perfectionist. Maybe I just need to get really, really drunk before I try to record anything so I'm incapable of stressing out. I don't know.

What I do know is that I have 32 years' worth of songs I've written stored inside my head, and if I want my music to outlive me, I'd better start backing it up somewhere. That means recording my songs, whether I like it or not. I've tried to do it before, and was always able to find some excuse to stall. I couldn't record yet because I needed this piece of software or that piece of hardware. Well, basic sound recording is so brain-dead simple now that I have no more excuses.

I'm setting myself a goal of recording one song a week. They don't have to be in any particular order. They don't even have to sound good. They just have to get done. If this helps me to get over my mic fright, so much the better, but that's not the point. I need to push past what's holding me back and get my songs out in the wild, where they can be heard and sung and, with any luck, enjoyed.

October 6, 2012

Sailormoon Theme on the Mandolin

image from the Sailor Moon Wiki
Last time, I played the closing credits. But that's not the song everyone knows and loves, so here's the main Sailormoon theme song on the mandolin.

Sailormoon Theme Song (mp3)

This has been one of my warm-up songs for years. I play it almost every time I sit down to practice. Of course, as soon as I hit the "record" button in Garage Band, I turn into a complete butterfingers and forget all the notes. This was the third take, and I think it turned out well because I was so mad at the effing software for messing up the previous two takes that I almost forgot to be nervous.

October 5, 2012

Margin Doodles No. 32

Today's ancient doodle comes with a riddle. I liked to make up my own secret codes and word puzzles, and the phrase with the missing letters below is an example. Unfortunately, I can't remember what it was supposed to say.

Other than that, another perm makeover doodle, a declaration in Spanish that I am strange, several decorative monograms, and the oh-so-80's command to "Twip out!"

Update: I've decoded the message, and it's kind of embarrassing, scary, and hilarious all at the same time: GEORGE MICHAELS, PATRICK SWAYZE, AND LARRY (FROM THE NEW MONKEES) ARE FINE!
What did they all have in common? Blonde mullets.

October 4, 2012

Variety or Success

Variety or success: Pick one. As I near the middle of my life, I'm having to come to terms with a lot of the choices I've made. One that occasionally frustrates me is that my success is not commensurate with my potential. But when I think back on what I could have done differently, I realize that, faced with the option of single-minded pursuit or variety, I always chose variety.

I'm glad I had the opportunity to try cheerleading.
That's me on the far left.
One reason I chose to go to Sewanee was that they didn't require me to declare a major until my sophomore year. Looking back now, I do wish I had maybe majored in art, but at the time, I had studied so much art already, I was eager to try all the things I'd never tried before: film history, cheerleading, religious studies, Greek life. I was eventually forced to pare down my activities because there are only so many hours in a day, but I continued that eclectic approach to my studies for the rest of my time on the Mountain, taking electives in choreography and Japanese.

Making an ice cream cone out of feathers wasn't part of
the official curriculum at AIA. This was a project for a
creative club my friends & I started.
When I realized that I needed to go back to school to get a job in the field I was really interested in, I chose the Art Institute of Atlanta over the other available art schools mainly because their new Multimedia degree program let me take classes from several different disciplines: design, video, animation, and web/interactive. I did well enough there that I got a good internship, which turned into a good job. But once I was settled there, true success eluded me because, once again, I couldn't make myself focus on one thing to the exclusion of all else.

I could have taken off on my own to create a start-up, as some of my co-workers did, but that would have meant putting all my time and effort into that one thing. I wanted to keep playing in a band. I wanted to have a boyfriend, and get married. While I do regret some missed opportunities, I don't regret any of the things I did. I don't know that I could have made any other decision and been happy.

My career, such as it is, has been like crossing a stream by hopping from rock to rock. There's no particular goal in mind other than not falling in and drowning, so when one rock seems about to tumble away beneath me, I hop to the next closest one. I figure as long as I'm safely above water, I'm doing all right. And now that I'm carrying a family with me, jumping in and letting myself sink or swim isn't a viable option.

So I'm trying to find peace with the fact that I just don't possess the sort of single-minded drive required for true success. I am grateful for all the wonderful life experiences my pursuit of variety has given me. I need to remember that gratitude, and somehow translate it into happiness and contentment, because at this point in my life, I am who I am, and I don't expect I'm ever going to change.

October 1, 2012

Half-Mask with Glasses

I've decided to participate in BlogHer's NaBloPoMo for October. The theme is "Mask."

It's hard to wear a mask when you wear glasses. The glasses just get in the way. Because I've worn glasses since the age of four, I've either had to sacrifice the mask or the glasses each year for Halloween.

But when my husband and I went to a charity masquerade ball recently, I got an idea for how I could wear both. Here's my half-mask, with glasses.

I bought a cat mask at the Halloween store and added maribou around the ears and a jewel
on the nose to jazz it up a bit.
Then I cut the mask's elastic band, wrapped it tightly around my back-up pair of glasses, and
knotted it.
Voila! I have a mask, and I can still see! Also, no elastic to mess up my hair!