Monday, January 28, 2008

A memorable first day

I didn't realize that when I heard people in Seattle freak out at the slightest mention of snow, it would impact my "commute" to my first day of my internship this afternoon. We got, oh, about half an inch where I live overnight, and after waiting for a bus that never came, then resolving to walk the 2+ miles to the office (and be late), I called Tim and learned that the bus schedule was rerouted to an "adverse weather" route. Wow. I eventually did catch up with the bus (or it caught up with me), but man, if it's so much as raining hard I am going to check the route from now on.

Nothing about my actual first day at Seattle magazine was eventful--like most first days most places, there wasn't much for me to do--but I did witness a man getting arrested outside our office window. We're up a floor from the street, luckily, but a whole crowd of cops chased a guy down right outside our building and blocked off the street with their cars. I saw them put him in a car, wearing handcuffs, and one of the other interns told me that I should carry mace when I walk around. The office is behind Pike Place Market, which is cool but a little seedy. In fact, I walked through a questionable crowd (alone) on my way back to the Market, which I cut through to catch the bus home. So now this is my list of things to bring to the office: water bottle, hand lotion, Kleenex, mace. Hmm.

The other notable thing was that when the office manager set me up on my computer (shared with a morning intern who leaves before I arrive), it was a Mac. A MAC! I laughed and told her that Tim would not be proud, working at Microsoft and all, and then got very serious and said I hadn't used a Mac since first grade. She thought that was funny and then went away. But seriously, I haven't! They aren't that hard to figure out, but it's definitely going to add to the learning curve at the office. And that was Day One.

Friday, January 25, 2008

P.S.

The other thing that makes me happy (and necessitates two posts in one day) is that last Friday I finished the first draft of my novel! It kind of surprised me, and the ending may not stay as it is, but it is basically all there. Tim and I celebrated with ice cream sundaes and a little bubbly (if you have the occasion, why not?) and then I was off to the store for a big stack of paper to print it out on. The whole thing. 236 pages. And yes, that's double spaced, but it will get longer: my ability to condense is like my ability to fly--nonexistent. I think I was born, however, with the ability to elaborate, so I'll probably stay happily in the average novel length of 60,000 to 100,000 words (right now I have 71,304).

I'm going to give myself a couple of months for revisions, which I started today. It's going to be a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun, too! Plus, I get to play professor and give myself check marks in the margin when I stumble upon particularly elegant passages (haha). Although I think I'll have to do it all at home: I've discovered that the best way to recognize clunky, verbose sentences or thin paragraphs is to read it aloud. Finally, a valid reason to talk to myself.

Mountains!


Mountains make me happy (even if telephone lines get in the way).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dear Ms. Psiaki

I'm part of a network of Cornell alumni who volunteer to meet with prospective students, and yesterday I got my first assignment. I sent the girl an email and asked if she'd like to meet to talk about my college experience and answer any questions she might have.

Today I got an email back from her that began, "Dear Ms. Psiaki," with the "Psiaki" obviously copied and pasted (it was in a different font) so that she wouldn't spell it wrong. I had to laugh, since it's nearly every day now that someone asks how to pronounce (or, more likely, just mispronounces) my married last name. But for goodness sakes, Ms.? I'm 23 years old! I wrote back and told her she could call me Cameron. Maybe I should just be on a first-name basis with the world from now on. :)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Something really gross and also kind of cool

So on Saturday night I met a couple of Tim's friends at his company party who said they were vegans. Then yesterday we decided to make a recipe out of the Gourmet cookbook for pasta with chorizo and mussels. After Tim slid the chorizo out of its casing he looked at the package to see what the casing was made of, and also saw the ingredients:

Beef salivary glands. Lymph nodes. Fat.

Gross!

Did we still eat it? Well...yes. I ate chorizo in Spain for months without knowing what was in it, and the truth is, it tastes good. But I will never look at it in the same way again. And I'm glad we have the Moosewood cookbook if we ever want to have our vegan friends over for dinner.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Do you Zune?

I know everyone in the world has an iPod, including us (shh, don't tell Bill). And there hasn't been much hype that I can tell as a non-reader of WIRED magazine about the Zune, Microsoft's answer to the iPod, though the commercials are pretty cool (and I think the Mac v. PC ones run by Apple are lame, personally).

But Tim received a Zune as his year-end company gift, and the thing really is pretty cool. I admit I was skeptical at first, especially because the navigation button, purportedly called a "squircle" (hard c) looks really silly. Tim said he chose a red one instead of green so I wouldn't steal it (green is my favorite color), and his fears may have been correct. The Zune has a bunch of cool features, including radio with a fantastic signal and great video. You can share songs with other Zune users in close proximity to you--wirelessly--and they can listen to the songs for free for three days before they disappear (like all our Napster songs did when we left Cornell). Songs themselves are only 79 cents, and a full album can be had for $8. Plus the interface is really nice and easy to use. Probably what sets it apart most from the iPod, though, is that the actual Zune will last much longer than the iPods people currently carry around. Whereas Apple makes you buy a whole new iPod if you want the cool upgrades, like video, Microsoft has designed the Zune so that it will function through several upgrades because you download new software with all the cool new tricks instead of buying an entirely new product. Sounds like a smart deal to me.

It's not perfect, though. My first gripe about it is that you have to go online to set it up, the way you sync your iPod up to your computer to recharge it and get your latest downloads. But that's just a preliminary hassle. The other thing that Tim and I find really silly is that in addition to podcasts, video, pictures, music, and radio, the Zune has a feature called "the Social." It's like Facebook for Zune users, and we pick on it mostly because of the name. But hey, I'd be up for an ice cream sundae anytime, if our new little Zune could spit one out.

Will the Zune conduct an immediate takeover of our mp3-obsessed society? Probably not. But if you're in the market for one of these products, I think the Zune is worth checking out.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Finally!





As I just told the three lovely folks from my previous job at Cornell U.P. who offered to act as a reference for future positions, I think I am no longer the boy who cried wolf!




For months I've been hoping that something great would come along eventually (and they have been witness to the eventually part), and something finally did! I've been offered an internship with Seattle magazine (seattlemag.com), a great publication that my mom first signed me up for when we found out we were moving out here. It's six months, part-time and, though unpaid (sigh), a great way to get on my feet in the Seattle literary/journalism scene. I'll get to work in their downtown office right behind Pike Place Market (photo of my dad and me this Thanksgiving, courtesy of my mom and her awesome new camera!) on mostly the front and back sections of the magazine, where you usually see short articles about goings-on around town, sidebars, facts, events calendars, and all manner of fun Seattle info! There might even be an opportunity for a short book review or larger project at some point.




And a great thing about it, too, is that I'll still have ample time for writing. I'm two-thirds done with the plot now, people! :)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Iron Chef America: Battle Olive

One of the good things (and there are just a few) about reality TV is that it has largely escaped the writers' strike currently keeping lots of shows off the air. I'm not used to having cable--I didn't watch TV in college and had a TV only for movies in my apartment last year--but now that we have it, one of the shows Tim and I like to watch is Iron Chef America.

The basic premise is that some worthy chef challenges the Iron Chef (there are several, including Bobby Flay) to a kitchen battle, and they have to create unique dishes on the fly using a secret ingredient. Around Thanksgiving it was turkey; I've also seen carrots, beets, sturgeon, and all manner of obscure and ordinary ingredients. At the end of the battle a panel of judges samples all the dishes from each chef, often ranging from cocktails to main dishes to dessert (even sturgeon ice cream!), and names a winner based on points given for taste, plating, and originality.

Tim and I had our own little Iron Chef competition on New Year's Day. Having been to the Cash & Carry store I've written about before (where we got that 50 lb. bag of flour) and picked up an enormous can of sliced olives--for pizza, pasta sauce, and whatever else we can use them in (Tim's idea)--we decided to do an Iron Chef America/Psiaki: Battle Olive.

We headed to the store and got some ingredients with a budget of just $10 each (on the show, chefs have every ingredient imaginable available to them), and while trying to keep our dishes a secret from each other, managed to dirty every pot and applicance in the kitchen. I made a Moroccan-style couscous and chicken dish with olives, raisins, and pine nuts, and also a bruschetta appetizer. Tim made olive tapenade and a sun-dried tomato-olive pesto served over linguini.

We didn't have a separate panel of judges, so we sat at the dining room table and sampled all the food ourselves. It was good! Having had just an hour and limited ingredients to work with, I was impressed. Tim won for originality (my olives were really just a garnish but his were actually the main ingredient in his dishes, which is how it's supposed to be), and I won for taste and plating.

Then Tim brought out the surprise dish: olive gelato! I had seen him scalding milk with olives on the stove and had no idea what was going on. We received an ice cream maker from a friend for our wedding, so he used that. It was actually pretty good, with just a hint of olive taste.

Now you know what we come up with to do on these dark, rainy Seattle evenings! Happy New Year!