Monthly Archives: April 2012

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Thank You!

I’ve watched the Grammy’s dozens of times, and I’ve heard hundreds of people say exactly this:

“I wouldn’t be here without my fans.”

But I never really understood or believed it… until now.

Blogging is really fun and rewarding for me, but it also takes a lot of time.  Sometimes I stress out about the world-wide mockery I must be inducing or I wonder whether my two cents is worth any cents.  I also blog right before bed, which often means late nights and lost sleep in the frenzy to publish.

I’m like:

All of that is to say that, on multiple occasions, I’ve considered quitting altogether.  It would mean one less thing to do, one less craft to hone, one less thing cluttering up the interwebs.  But then I remember – I have actual, real-life readers!  They count on me!  (Don’t even deny it).  So I decide to see if I don’t have one more post in me after all.

All those tiny steps and small victories have brought us to this, my 50th post!!!

There’s no way I would have made it this far without all of your encouragement.  So thank you Anj, J, KV, Matt, Starbuck, and Keight for stopping by and gracing madeyemaryann.com with comments!  I know that takes a lot of effort and pluck, and I really really appreciate it.

Thank you D, L, A, M, A, J, T, D, B, and A, for lending your support through other channels.  I’m always thrilled (and shocked) when people mention something to me about the blog in email, text, person, carrier pigeon, whathaveyou.

I’m like:

And finally, thank you to anyone who reads here that I don’t know about yet!  There’s no not much shame in anonymous patronage ;)   I am humbled that you lend me your ears.

Is publishing 50 posts the same as winning a grammy?  Sadly, no.  But still, I know I wouldn’t be here without my fans.

*All images are from this must-read tumblr.

Pass it forward

Hey, did you know you could boil eggs IN THE OVEN?

I heard this on this blog that I regularly stalk.  She heard it on Pinterest, who in turn heard it from Alton Brown.

And now you’re hearing it from me.

Here’s how you do it:

1. Put eggs in un-preheated oven
2. Set oven to 325*
3. For medium boiled eggs, go away for 24 minutes (aka, watch 1 episode of Parks and Rec or half an episode of Deep Space Nine).  For hard-boiled, wait 30 minutes.
4. Retrieve delicious eggs (I use tongs).

Remember, eggs are gross, but they can be good under ideal circumstances.  In this case, you’ll want to chop yours up with a spoon in a bowl and sprinkle seasoned salt liberally.  Then, eat with spoon.  Make sure to get a crumble of yolk with every bite.

* I usually end up doing mine for 24 minutes in 350-375 degree oven because I’m warming up fake chicken meat at the same time.  Still turns out!  I’ve only had one instance of outer hull breach, and the fallout scraped right off the oven floor in one big cooperative solidified chunk, no fuss!  (I did not eat the fallout – ew).

Try it out, tell a friend!

NEVER eat alone?

When I’m not otherwise occupied in the world of Westeros, I occasionally read “practical” stuff.

never eat alone by Keith Ferrazzi

Some takeaways:

1. GREAT TITLE

2. You’ll be far more fulfilled and successful if you fill your professional and personal lives with meaningful relationships.  Relationships first.

3. Connecting is all about helping people.  Always be looking for ways to help a sister out by introducing her to a contact, sharing a link, telling a joke.  If you help someone with Health, Wealth, or Children especially, they will love you forever.

4. Networking should not be a whole other side job – invite people to things you were going to do anyway: eating, exercising, clubbing, church, etc.  Dinner at your home is the ultimate!

5. When you can’t clone yourself, clone the event.  Have 5 people to meet in one weekend?  Invite them all out to the same happy hour!

6. Your network is a muscle, not a bank account.  Use it often and it will grow stronger, not smaller.

7. When you give a speech, you’re an instant celebrity.  When you go to a conference, be a presenter.  Otherwise, be the first person to ask a question afterwards – you get residual spotlight on you that way, making people want to meet you.

Fun Fact: Paul Revere was well liked in his town and the next ones.  Hence he was entrusted with the task of notifying the people of the British approach.  Furthermore, his friendship with the sexton of the church gave him access to the tower where he hung his lanterns.

This book starts out great.  A few chapters in, I was convinced that no man is an island, and that connecting is an important, maybe THE most important, key to success and happiness.  I was ready to drink in the wisdom and transform my life!

By the middle though, Never Eat Alone becomes overwhelming.  It’s full of tactics upon tactics, so much so that you don’t see how anyone could manage it.  By the end, Ferrazzi admits that he makes HUNDREDS of phone calls a DAY, just to “touch base” with the thousand+ people in his network.  He finds time for this when walking around or riding in cabs.  He maintains lists of people to touch base with monthly, quarterly, or yearly.  He holds large dinner parties at his home every month.  He sends emails from the bathroom (um, tmi).  He reads the newspaper every day so he’s ready to converse.  He flies first class because you can make excellent business contacts there.  Basically, he makes you want to give up.

But don’t give up!  The key here is to read this more as a textbook to be mastered one chapter at a time.  For now, I’ll be focusing on Chapter 11: Never Eat Alone, Chapter 13: Follow Up or Fail, and Chapter 22: Be Interesting. :)

Anyone want to do lunch this week?

Whiskey, Chainsaws, and Babies

Matt and I went to his sister’s wedding this weekend, where we had the serious privilege of hearing the maid of honor share this insta-legend:

A year before the bride and groom met, the bride (V) and the maid of honor (A) were talking with an acquaintance.  Said acquaintance was a 30 year old man who lived with his mother and specialized in playing video games all day.  He shared with them his theory that once he’d met that special someone, he’d move along and start building a life with her.  Surely there was a woman out there who’d be up for that?

While A considered whether or not to tell him this was “the stupidest thing she’d ever heard”, V piped up: “Well yeah! Sometimes you do want a boy who plays video games and smokes a lot of pot.  But sometimes, you want a MAN who likes whiskey, chainsaws, and babies.”

A year later, A gets a call: “I met someone… and he really knows how to use a chainsaw.”

I don’t know which part I love most - the hilarious scolding, the highly specific but undeniably reasonable list, or the happily ever after - but I do know this is the type of story people will be telling for years, long after we forget where it came from and maybe even who the original characters were.

Whiskey, Chainsaws, and Babies: A 21st century fairy-tale.


But please, do not mix.

Congratulations Peter and Vanessa!

Q2 Goals!

New quarter, new goals!

In case “win friends and influence people” sounds like an egomaniacal conspiracy to you, know that it’s taken from the title of this classic Dale Carnegie book:


Courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library

Strength and honor.

Old Faithful

I have one and only one criteria commandment for a car:

Thou shalt never ever break down.

In this respect, my little old car has earned my love many times over.  It doesn’t have a key clicky thing or simultaneous interior/exterior climate control (the inside can be heated OR the windows can be defogged, but not both), but this car has never ever broken down.

Ne’er been I stranded on the street.  Nor been abandoned to my feet.  Not in a house, not with a mouse.  Not here or there – not ANYWHERE!

Old Faithful I am.

Since moving to the bigger city, I’ve been (fortunately) able to switch to walking as my primary mode of transportation.  Meanwhile Old Faithful sits… day in and day out, steadfast and true, waiting for the bat signal that will inevitably come.

That’s ok.  I’ll be here, resting my weary bones.

One such bat signal came about five weeks ago, when I was headed to my first ever guitar lesson.  I had planned to walk, but with my shower running long (desperately need some sort of shower egg timer) and 15 minutes to go, it was time to call in the cavalry and get the job done.  I turn on the car… and am immediately heralded by a something akin to a lawnmower running over concrete.  Uh-oh.

After rebooting a few times (all things are computers to me) I realize that I have been abandoned to my feet! And I take off running.  13 minutes to go, 1.3 miles.

So off I go, street shoes, jeans, sweater, wool coat, bolting across Fisherman’s Wharf, over to the beach, up through the park, dodging my way through sidewalks full of strolling tourists on foot and biking tourists on bikes.  Sweat mixing with shower drench and a fresh layer of moisturizer to create an awesome goulash on my face.

I manage to get there only 4 minutes late (and earlier than the teacher), thankful that a long last my running habit has paid off in a practical sort of way.

Relevant?

Why, Old Faithful, whyyyy?  Working beautifully one day and exploding the next?  And in a time of great need, no less?  I’d always assumed you would age gradually and gracefully before the end.  That I’d have time to patch you up and find you a new loving home where the car commandments are more agreeable to your life situation.  I expected some warning!

I mean, I’ve never had to take you in for anything, except for that one time waay back when you sounded like a lawnmower running over concrete.  But that time it wasn’t even your fault because the bad people had tried to take your catalytic converter!

Wait…

Man!

A catalytic converter sits between the engine and the muffler, depoluting the air.  So when it’s missing, there is no muffling, and you fail your emissions test.  It’s also full of platinum and other precious metals, so melted down, it’s worth some non-zero amount of money.  Lame.

And so we began the long drive of shame to the muffler shop, turning heads and scaring children and wild animals everywhere we went.


Are you the little guy making all that big noise?

Last time (in Seattle) the bandits only got through 90% of the connecting pipe, so with a little welding you were as good as new.  This time (in San Francisco) they snatched the whole enchilada.

Last time (in Seattle) the mechanic said: “Where do you live???  I gotta make sure not to go there.”  This time (in San Francisco) the mechanic said: “Ah, got your catalytic coverter, eh?  Yep.”

Old Faithful, you have stout and loyal heart.  I know now that you won’t let me down.  I brought you to the big bad city and parked you on the street.  It is I who let you down.  Pray good sir, do not take vengeance!

nasaguy

It’s amazing what the smallest thing can do.

4 days ago, I could only do a partial chin-up.  We know this because we have it on video.

2 days ago, the Fates (aka Youtube recommendation engines) looked upon me with favor and sent a digital guardian angel (aka nasaguy) to my page.

1 day ago, I looked at the bar, told Matt to grab the camera, and I did my first chin-up.

That’s it.  A little faith and some gentle prodding from an internet stranger was the missing link.  The gust that blew the final straw off the camel’s back.

I read nasaguy’s comments and thought, “Couldn’t I get a little higher on that first one? Am I really giving it my all? Is this all in my head?”.  I decided to try again, except this time I was going to pull until my ams gave out.

When exactly did this go from being a feat of strength to a feat of will?!?  How long have I been sitting on this ability, but “psyching myself out”?  How much longer would I have continued to sit? **shudder**

nasaguy, you are the wind beneath my wings.

I am now TWO epiphanies wiser, as you are about to be, my young padawans.

1. Tell people what you are doing, so they can help you.

It pays to expose yourself (decently), on the Internet or otherwise.  Trouble yourself not with the haters.  For all we know, dozens of jerks have mocked my videos.  That doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that ONE guy swung by, left an encouraging comment (earning his karma points for the day), and now I can do a chin-up!

When I grow up and become famous and have to answer for this blog and these videos, that is the story I’ll be telling them.

2. Be generous with help and encouragement.

In 30 seconds you could change someone’s life! Sounds cheesy, but it’s true.  True story: A friend of mine once mentioned to the cashier at Trader Joe’s that one day, she’d love to go to Stanford to study aerospace engineering.  His response: “Why not today?”

Why NOT today?  The next day, she started her application, and a year later, she’s studying there!  The craziest part of this to me is that Trader Joe’s guy is still out there somewhere, spewing optimism willy-nilly, with no idea what a difference he’s made.  I want to be that guy.

Note the time.

Tofu Kimchi Eggs Benedict

Shipping is hard. 

Like when you’ve “finished” your term paper, but you still have to add page numbers (but not on page 1!), do a bibliography, and scrub the footnotes for grammar and idiocy.  Like when you’ve “finished” your code, but you still have to push all the pixels into place, run beta tests, and fix bugs - soo many bugs.  Like when you’re “ready” to walk out the door, but you still have to check the weather, put on a scarf, find your keys, and make sure your scarf matches your shoes.  Then drive back down the street to make sure the garage is closed (always is).

Shipping is hard.

I always mess up some mundane detail!
(Shoulda set up a test environment, fool)
photo credit

Because I know this fact, I almost always give the benefit of the doubt to things that have shipped.  If an idea was conceived of, deemed worthy of being brought forth into reality, and run through even the most basic of sanity checks (“Honey, do you think I’m pulling off these red boots?”), then how bad can it be?  I mean, if something manages to navigate the perilous trail between inspiration and fruition, at worst it’s gonna be “not-quite-my-taste-but-I-can-see-why-you-might-like-it.”  N’est-ce pas?

So when I went to brunch this Sunday and saw “Tofu Kimchi Eggs Benedict” on the menu, my first thought was “sounds gross and weird,” but my second thought was “must taste way better than it sounds.”  I mean, someone cooked this, wrote a description of it, and printed it on the menu.  They sat around figuring out how much it should cost and what to serve on the side.  How bad could it be?

Answer: Bad.

Imagine an oily slab of fried tofu in place of the English muffin, and a slop of kimchi instead of the canadian bacon.  It’s problematic because the tofu and poached egg are too similar in texture, and the kimchi adds to the mushiness of it all.  You need the English muffin and the meat/vegetable to soak up the goop.  Accept no only adequate substitutes.

I should have known better.  Eggs are gross, and eggs benedict tastes good only because the other layers overcome the egg.  Under no circumstances should I have expected the egg to be the miracle worker that makes fried tofu and kimchi taste good. 

But… how did this even end up on the menu?  How?  Only 2 scenarios come to mind.  Scenario 1: Chef is a maleficent dictator with weird taste buds and no tolerance for dissent.  Scenario 2: Chef is also Grandma and her taste buds are dead but nobody has the heart to tell her.  But maybe I owe them more credit… Scenario 3: Chef is a capitalist and knows the likes of Maryann will order the weird sounding thing, so he puts it on the menu regardless of probable gag reflexes.

Really, I should have known better.  My logic-meets-optimism-meets-curiosity approach also led me to order a stout float at my favorite place (never do this), and shrimp and banana spring rolls at my second favorite place (sounds insane, tastes even worse).

I started this post earlier today, and had planned to end it with an uplifting tale about how Ben and Jerry’s Free Cone Day today provided such abundant deliciousness that all past anti-deliciousnesses were washed away.  But alas, curiosity reared its ugly head and I ordered Schweddy Balls – “Fair Trade vanilla ice cream with a hint of rum loaded with fudge covered rum and milk chocolate malt balls.” 

This was merely “good” on the “dessert” scale, but “below average” on the “ice cream” scale.  I had hoped the malt balls would compensate for the rum and vanilla, known agents of anti-delish. 

Nope.   Next time I get strawberry.

Goals Checkin: March Edition

Another month, another goals checkin.

Meh.

I try to be positive, especially on the blog, but I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with life lately.  Or maybe more accurately, I’ve been feeling underwhelmed with myself lately.  The space between my expectations and my reality seems to be growing.

Problem to solve?  Time for a list!

Option 1: Fundamental Laziness
Ugh, I hope not, but probably maybe.  Is there any cure for this?  Am I doomed to a life of mediocrity just because I can’t be bothered?

Option 2: Mouth bigger than stomach.  Biting off more than can chew.  Other eating-related metaphors.
Is it possible that I’m expecting too much of myself?  I think not.  There are people out there scaling mountains and running governments, certainly I can handle a handful of personal goals.

Option 3: Deer in headlights
I haven’t read Paradox of Choice, but I imagine that something like that is at play here.  I have far too many options, good options at those, which overwhelm me on any given day.  Because if I’m practicing guitar, that means I’m not coding, or blogging, or going for a walk, and so on, and so on.  Optimizing my day becomes this harrowing ordeal that leaves me drained and unable to actually do anything.

But as I’m typing this, just like that, it occurs to me that I’ve already solved this problem.  Here:

I’ve managed to settle on RESOLUTIONS FOR 2012/LIFE:

Set fewer, smaller goals (dare I say SMART goals) and celebrate the small stuff.

It doesn’t necessarily sound like much in the way of world-domination, but I expect it’s gonna make a huge difference (positive direction) in what I accomplish and how I experience life in general.  So, instead of making an 8 item todo list every morning, getting only 4 things done, and then having sleepless bed-rage nights, I’m going to start off more realistically by putting just 3 items on the list.

Ok.  So I’m recommitting to this.  Set fewer goals every morning.  Do the hard stuff first thing, enjoy the rest of the day.

I’ll also remind myself that while March wasn’t as productive as I would’ve liked in terms of goals, it was filled with good things.  Visiting family, a last minute trip to New York, watching the Hunger Games.  If giving myself a few extra weeks to finish up means I get to do all that, then I guess I’ll find a way to deal with it!

Without further ado, here is my final goals checkin for this first quarter.  (Sighs of relief sweep across the crowds).

Pullups
In progress.  The huge breakthrough is that I can now do the top part of a chin-up.  Prepare to be amazed.

Concerts
Yes!  First, I went to the Creator’s Project music festival and saw SquarePusher and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  Then, I went to a nearby open mic and saw several intimidatingly awesome acts.  This was true fist-pumping fun, and I’m upping my concert going frequency to twice per month from now on.

Tech Ninja
I’ve made considerable progress on my apps, but like they say, the last 20% of the work takes 80% of the time.  Meanwhile, I did update LinkedIn, which, by the way, has become rather useful and populated since I last logged in 5 years ago.  Career-havers of the world, take note!

Music Arsenal
I was going to write a song this weekend, but then decided to chill out instead because… it was the weekend.  As a reward for containing your anger, and not grabbing your pitchforks and chasing me out my house, I give you this.

Feats of Fun
No progress this month, but who cares?  I went to New Haven and had hours of fun I shouldn’t have had instead!  (Remind me to tell you about this, the most efficient evening of fun ever).

Phew.  I feel better already.  April goals (few but meaningful), coming up!