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Almost Time for Norwescon!

Once again, it’s about time for my annual mini-vacation at Norwescon. This is my second year as part of the ConCom (_Con_vention _Com_mittee — those of us who are crazy enough to volunteer to assist with planning and running the con), and I’ve really been enjoying it.

While for the first year, I had one official position as photographer and one unofficial position as “the guy who knows about Twitter,” this year I’ve had two official positions. I’m no longer simply “Photographer,” but “Lead Photographer,” complete with a staff of two minions assistant photographers (so I don’t have to make another attempt at shooting an entire four-day convention on my own); I’m also the “Information Network Manager”…which is kind of a fancy way of saying “the guy who knows about Twitter” again, but also encompasses handling Facebook updates and occasional website posts.

While the photographer position will be a lot of fun at the con, it’s so focused on the four days of the con itself that most of the lead-up time has been wearing my “Information Network Manager” hat. I’ve really been having fun being the primary Social Media guy for the convention for the past year, and I’m hoping that I get to keep this position for the next year (or two, or three, or…etc.).

(A quick note: While the next few paragraphs concentrate primarily on Twitter, the same basic ideology works for Facebook as well, and I have our Twitter and Facebook accounts connected so that posts to one appear on the other.)

I’ve found myself quite interested over the past couple years with the growing utilization of social media by companies and organizations as a way to create more personalized interactions with their customers and fans. I’ve had some good personal experiences with this kind of thing, when I’ve tossed out random comments on Twitter that have then been noticed and responded to by the companies in question, and I’ve really come to value the perceived personal touch that results. When companies take the time to actually interact with their followers, instead of seeing Twitter solely as another one-way broadcast medium, it makes a huge difference in how the company is perceived by the customer. It only takes a few moments, and suddenly the “little guy” doesn’t feel so little anymore — rather, there’s a real person somewhere behind the corporate logo that’s actually making a connection.

I’ve done my best over the past year or so to ensure that Norwescon’s social media presence is an interactive one. I watch Twitter and the web at large closely for any mention of Norwescon, using saved Twitter and Google keyword searches, and whenever appropriate, I try to answer any questions or concerns that I find. If I can’t provide an answer myself, I pass the question or comment on to the appropriate department. I’ll reply to people on Twitter, even if they’re just mentioning Norwescon in passing (as long as it’s appropriate to do so, of course) — not only does this let them know that they can contact the con directly, but it also helps to let more people know that Norwescon has a Twitter account. Over the past month, I’ve been watching for artists, authors, and pros announcing their schedules on Twitter and retweeting those announcements.

Basically, I’ve been running the Norwescon Twitter account like I prefer other official Twitter accounts to be run — and hopefully, I’ve been doing a decent job of it. Anecdotal evidence seems to say that I am, but it’s always hard to be sure when looking out from the inside.

I’ve also been enjoying prepping the photography side of things. Having a couple minions is going to be incredibly helpful this year (and thank you very much to Philip and Graves for volunteering to be part of the photography department!). Having three roving cameras will allow for better coverage of the convention while also allowing each of us to get some much-needed downtime and off-duty time where we can just do our own thing for a while. I think I’ve pretty much prepped most of what needs to be prepped, with only a few outlying pieces that need some last-minute followup before next weekend.

One personal triumph was creating public photography guidelines. This is one area that has often been a mild frustration for me, as an aspiring amateur photographer — when going to an event, what’s allowed? Are there any restrictions on my camera equipment, or various particular events? I didn’t want that to be an issue, and while perhaps I could have gotten this posted earlier, at least I got it up, and it will serve as a good template for years to come as well.

So that’s been a lot of my non-school-related work over the past few months. I’ve been enjoying it, so far the feedback I’ve been getting has been very complimentary, and I’m really looking forward to running around with my “nerd friends” (as Prairie likes to call them) next weekend. I should be arriving at the hotel by noon-ish on Thursday, am rooming with a couple friends again, and will be there until early afternoon on Sunday, when I’ll be leaving early enough to make sure I’m back home to Prairie in time for Easter dinner. Should be a good weekend, and hopefully I’ll see a few of you there!

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My first computer: The Osborne 1

This Sunday marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of one of the first “portable” computers, which also happens to be the first home computer that my family had. This was the machine that first got me into much of the geekery I’ve been into for years.

From Osborne!:

The Osborne 1 had a Z-80 processor (like Radio Shack’s TRS-80 and many other early systems) and a generous-for-the-time 64KB of RAM. It had two single-density floppy-disk drives, each of which stored a relatively skimpy 102KB of data, plus a handy pocket for extra disks. And it ran Digital Research’s CP/M, the popular operating system that was very much like Microsoft’s later MS-DOS.

Even by 1981 standards, the Osborne 1′s 5″ monochrome CRT was puny; today, there are smartphones with displays as big. It could display only 52 columns of text at a time–less than the eighty you really wanted for word processing, but more than the Apple II’s forty. The screen size was chosen in part because 5″ displays were readily available, having been engineered for a 55-pound behemoth that IBM had optimistically marketed in 1975 as the IBM 5100 Portable Computer….

Osborne 1 (Image via Wikipedia)The sewing machine-sized Osborne 1 weighed 24 pounds (slightly more than ten modern-day 11″ MacBook Airs) and sported a handle; it created a class of PC that would forever be known as “luggables.” It was famously touted as fitting under an airplane seat, but you couldn’t actually use it on an airplane–not only because you would have busted your tray table, but also because it had no battery. Just getting it from place to place involved effort. Felsenstein has written that “carrying two of them from my car four blocks to the [West Coast Computer Faire] had nearly pulled my arms out of their sockets.”

The fact that the Osborne 1 was a fully-functioning personal computer in a portable case captured the imagination of techies in 1981. But it was only the second most innovative thing about the system. The most impressive part of the deal was that the computer gave you absolutely you needed to be productive for one remarkably low price: $1795 (about $4370 in current dollars).

I spent hours entranced by the machine. I learned to type (with the help of my mom’s vintage typing class book from when she was in school), I figured out the intricacies of the WordStar word processor (which gave me a leg up in learning HTML a decade and a half later, as the printer control codes used to create bold and italicized text in the not-even-close-to-WYSIWYG interface of WordStar mapped very closely to HTML tags), and I used BASIC to translate entire Choose Your Own Adventure books into simple text-based command line video games.

Not only did our family have one of these, but we eventually ended up with three. A few other families that we were friends with had had Osbornes, and as newer, smaller, more powerful computers from competitors like IBM and Compaq came on the market, they upgraded and gave us their old Osbornes as hand-me-downs. Not only did this let us upgrade ours with some goodies that we hadn’t added — like the state-of-the-art 1200 baud modem — but I was able to keep one working for quite a few years by cannibalizing pieces from the other two.

Eventually, of course, the machines either died out or simply got shoved away into storage as the family upgraded. I saved up and got myself my own computer — a Mac Classic, with 1MB RAM and no hard drive, just a single 1.4MB floppy disk drive — in 1991, and though I’ve occasionally pieced together a Frankenstein PC, Macs have always been where I feel most comfortable. Interestingly, the same article excerpted above points out that the Osborne itself may have influenced why the simplicity and “it just works” attitude of the Mac has always appealed to me.

Price was only part of the appeal of the Osborne 1′s all-in-one approach, Thom Hogan, an InfoWorld editor who became Osborne Computer’s director of software, says that the company’s greatest achievement was:

Something that Steve Jobs eventually learned from us, actually: simplicity of customer decision. At the time the Osborne 1 was launched, your choices at that level of capability were basically CP/M based systems from a number of vendors or an Apple II. In both cases, those other choices required you to make a LOT of decisions as a customer. For an Apple II: memory, drives, monitor, sometimes boards to add those things, plus software. A typical customer had to make five or six, sometimes more, decisions just to get the boxes necessary to build a useful system, and then they had to put it all together themselves…So Osborne not only saved the person money, but time and agony on the decision-making. Note how iPads are sold: two decisions: memory and communications. And they work out of the box, nothing needing to be assembled by the user.

The Osborne 1 was the first personal computer product that really did that (even the Radio Shack TRS-80 forced you into a number of decisions). Basically, plop down US$1795, take the box home, unpack it, plug it in, and start using your computer. One of the things that was integral to that was a stupid little <1K program I wrote. Previous to the Osborne, the user had to CONFIGURE CP/M. Even once configured, you’d boot from CP/M, then have to put in your word processing disc and execute from that. When you got an Osborne, you put the WP disk into the computer and you ended up in WordStar. In other words, we booted through the OS to the task the user wanted to do. Again, simplification of both process and pieces. As a result of that the Osborne was a no-brainer in terms of selling it against any other computer that was available in 1981: any sales person could demonstrate “put in the disc, turn it on, start writing” compared to “assemble the computer, configure the software, start the software program, start writing.”

(via /.)

Ellensburg Update

Well, we’re here! We’re finally officially out of Kent and living in Ellensburg, in a cute little one-bedroom apartment just a block off of the CWU campus.

Though the official ceremony won’t be until June, I am now officially a CWU graduate, having earned my Bachelor’s degree from the Law and Justice program. Not only that, but I graduated with honors, Magna Cum Laude! I’m not sure what my final cumulative GPA was (the one that’s used to calculate honors status, after combining the CWU GPA with the NSCC GPA from when I was earning my AA degree), but my final CWU GPA was a very respectable 3.925.

After winter quarter finished, Prairie came over the mountains to Kent, and we spent the next week and a half packing up everything in our Kent apartment. We donated a ton of stuff to various local organizations (over a trunkload of food to Northwest Harvest, two trips totaling roughly a carload and a half of stuff to St. Vincent de Paul, and our old pay-as-you-go cellphones to the Domestic Abuse Women’s Network), almost completely filled a 10’x20′ storage unit with the majority of our belongings, and took us and one final carload of stuff back over to Ellensburg. A day or so of unpacking and organizing, and we’re nicely settled in.

The first week in Ellensburg has been pretty good to me, as it turns out. Over the past two quarters, I’ve been working with CWU-Des Moines Law and Justice department head Professor Reimund on putting together some outreach material, one Des Moines-centric, and one covering the entire CWU Law and Justice department to be distributed to alumni. As we’ve been working on this, we’d started playing with ideas on how to improve the LAJ department’s online outreach. Well, it looks like I’ll be able to continue working on those ideas, as thanks to a recommendation from Professor Reimund, I’ve been hired by CWU to work with the LAJ department on revamping their website. It’s a temporary part-time position through this spring quarter, but not only is it better than being unemployed, with luck this may lead to other opportunities in the future.

So, the next few months are going to be a mix of some fun part-time work drawing on my geek tendencies and generally relaxing and exploring eastern Washington, with a jaunt over to Norwescon come Easter weekend. I think it’s going to be a good spring and summer.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Meat My Valentine

Would you be my meatheart?

Last Den of Sin

Friday night, I went out to the final Den of Sin Friday fetish night at Club Vogue at Neighbours Underground. I’d been looking forward to this for a couple reasons: one, because it had been a while since I’d been out to the club, let alone on an “event” night; two, this would be my first time out with my new D7000.

Long story short: I love this camera! I’m still getting used to the differences between it and my old D70s, so I’m not entirely comfortable and will definitely be fiddling around and tweaking settings until I get it down, but I’m already incredibly impressed with how well it performs, especially in extreme low-light settings.

Here are a few shots from Friday night, the rest are Facebook or Flickr (which includes a few shots too risqué for Facebook, if you’re logged in with a Flickr account). Everything was shot without flash — I had my flash with me, but never got around to putting it on the camera. I haven’t been able to go completely flash-free at the club in years…no matter how I pushed my D70s, it just couldn’t quite handle the low light of a goth club. The D7000, though, doesn’t even pause. This is fun.

Vogue Night- Den of Sin 10
Hands of Kali

Vogue Night- Den of Sin 15
Bianca

Vogue Night- Den of Sin 34
Hands of Kali

Vogue Night- Den of Sin 29
Bianca and DJ Eternal Darkness

Vogue Night- Den of Sin 37
Hands of Kali

Moving to Ellensburg, Part III

At the end of Part II, I mentioned my “we’re outta here” letter. Here’s what I sent to Ellensburg Property Management:

Dear [redacted],

I am writing to you on behalf of Prairie, as she does not currently have internet access. Thank you very much for your assistance with the problems Prairie had with the unit yesterday and throughout today. Unfortunately, due to those issues and others that she has discovered, we are giving formal notice that she will be contacting you tomorrow morning (Wednesday, Jan. 5th) to make arrangements for leaving the property at 606 Tamarack, Unit #1.

The following is a list of issues we have discovered with the property over the past 36 hours. Some we might have noticed during the initial walkthrough if we had had more time, but many, including the most serious issues, would not have been noticed until we had taken possession of the unit.

  • Apartment-wide:
    • Frozen pipes (only partially thawed after 4 and a half hours of intensive work by Roto Rooter, requiring a team of three technicians and two specialized thawing units). Because the pipes were only partially thawed, water pressure is extremely low. In addition, Roto Rooter recommended leaving the apartment heat on high so that the pipes do not refreeze, making the apartment unbearably hot.
    • When water started flowing from the pipes, metal shavings were ejected along with the initial flow of water. Due to the metal shavings, the age and type of pipes, and the water quality, the Roto Rooter representative recommended that the tap water not be used for drinking or even for cooking.
    • The fuses seem unable to handle electrical loads. Four fuses blew over four hours, exhausting the supply you provided and requiring Prairie to buy the entire stock of appropriate fuses from Fred Myer to ensure she would not lose power.
    • Dust and cobwebs throughout the apartment show that it has not been cleaned in quite some time. Cobwebs even exist within the vents of the gas furnace, potentially a serious fire hazard.
    • There is no fire extinguisher provided (though this may not be an issue, as we admit we’re not positive on the requirements in this instance).
  • Exterior:
    • The odd extension cord that terminates inside the main room of the apartment appears to lead to some exposed wiring near the floodlights for the parking spaces, which may present a fire hazard.
    • Though a mailbox key was provided, Prairie was not told which mailbox it belongs to.
  • Living room/kitchen:
    • Once the pipes thawed, it became apparent that the pipe leading to the sprayer nozzle on the kitchen sink has a steady leak.
    • The kitchen stove top was dirty.
    • The electrical socket underneath the kitchen counter is not physically attached to the wall, and requires cautious steadying when attempting to plug or unplug anything.
    • There are no brackets for the shelves in the living room closet, so the shelves (currently laid against the wall) cannot be used.
    • The refrigerator is powered by a jury-rigged system consisting of an extension cord (plugged into the loose electrical socket) with a triple-socket adapter that the refrigerator plugs into.
  • Bedroom/bathroom:
    • The bathroom window does not open.
    • The water heater is ancient, filthy, and has areas that are apparently plugged with paper towels.
    • The shower head literally fell off of the pipe when we first touched it. When we attempted to replace the pipe (to attach an extension pipe along with a new shower head), the threads of the pipe broke off inside the pipe within the wall, requiring a call to a plumber before the shower was useable.
    • The bathroom door does not close properly due to a loose upper hinge.
    • The doorknob to the bedroom closet is loose.

Due to these issues, quite a few of which seem to question the safety of the unit, Prairie was uncomfortable staying there a second night and has left to stay with a friend from work. Because she will not be present overnight, she was uncomfortable leaving the furnace set at its maximum, and left it set to 65°. She has also left the water slightly running to keep water moving through the pipes. We sincerely hope that this will prevent the pipes from refreezing overnight. She will be contacting you at her earliest convenience tomorrow to make arrangements for leaving the property and getting her rent and security deposit refunded. Thank you very much for your kind understanding in this situation.

Sincerely,

Michael and Prairie

Wednesday morning, Prairie went off to begin the transition that should have started the day before, and I split my time between homework and hunting down every apartment listing I could find for the Ellensburg area. Things weren’t looking good for a while, as the town tends to revolve around the school year schedule, and every apartment complex I called either didn’t answer (and didn’t return calls) or was entirely full. Finally, though, I got a hit off of a Craigslist ad, and left a message for Prairie with the details on how to contact the landlord.

And, finally, pieces started to fall into place.

Since detailing things working the way they’re supposed to isn’t nearly as interesting (or, frankly, as fun) as complaining about things falling apart, this part will be a little bit briefer.

The new place is great. It’s a little more expensive and not nearly as big as the first place, but those little details are so far from being issues that they’re not really worth mentioning except as comparisons. It’s in a building directly off the CWU campus, just about five minutes’ walk from the Writing Center. While it’s an older building, it was originally owned by the University, has been very well kept up over the years, and was remodeled just a few years ago. Even better, the unit that Prairie got was remodeled even more recently to make it ADA compliant for a former tenant, so it has everything from a ramp up to the door to a shower big enough to fit a wheelchair in (or, as Prairie pointed out, four people at one time…though we seriously doubt that anything like that will ever be going on). It has relatively new appliances, even including a washer and dryer in the unit.

Another good sign: Andrew, the landlord, is very connected to CWU. His firm gives a scholarship to the university, the majority of his tenants are faculty, staff, or grad students, and he’s often recommended by the university as the person to talk to for off-campus housing. Prairie even had one of the Writing Center staff hear a little bit of her story of apartment woes and come up to her to ask if she’d talked to Andrew yet! He’s been much easier to work with and get ahold of than the other landlord was, and in general, has helped make this apartment experience be the exact opposite of our first try.

The moral of the story? If you’re looking for rental properties in Ellensburg stick with Andrew at Hatlestad Investment Group, LLC. He’s great. Highly recommended (and obviously, not just by us)!

Update: We need to strongly withdraw our recommendation. While I haven’t gotten around to detailing our experiences (and I do need to), we had problems when it was time to leave the apartment. We do not recommend renting from Andrew Hatlestad and the Hatlestad Investment Group.

I took some pictures of the new place while I was there this weekend, and will get them posted eventually. As it is, I’ve taken too much time making these posts when I need to be getting caught up on my reading for this week’s classes, so I’ll call this the end.

And that’s the story of our adventures (so far) in moving to Ellensburg.

Moving to Ellensburg, Part II

Okay. So at the end of Part I of this little adventure, I’d left off with ominous words about how moving in to the new apartment did not go smoothly. That’s actually something of an understatement!

(Facebook people: most, if not all, of this post is copied directly from my original Facebook note. You can probably skip it, unless you really want to re-live the drama.)

When all of this began, we started looking for one bedroom Ellensburg apartments for Prairie, searching real estate websites and Craigslist from our place in Kent. Since we were calling around on Christmas Eve day, we weren’t terribly surprised when we couldn’t get ahold of many offices, but we were able to get ahold of one of the most promising looking places: a 1-bedroom unit, half of a duplex, that was listed on Craigslist. The landlord sounded decent on the phone, and was willing to do a short-term four-month lease, so we set up an appointment to look at the place while we were in Ellensburg so that Prairie could have a few meetings about the transition to her new job.

We got there, and while it’s an old building and the place looked kind of funky (in a fun, quirky kind of way), it was actually quite a bit bigger than we expected, and we agreed that it would fit our needs perfectly. We signed the lease, got a key, put the utilities in Prairie’s name, and (after the work meetings) came back home to pack for the move.

On Monday the 3rd, with the help of Prairie’s dad, we schlepped all the stuff she’d packed out to the new place…and it wasn’t long before things started to look a little pear-shaped. There was an extension cord sticking out of one wall that could be plugged into one of the few interior outlets, and les outside, apparently to the floodlights for the parking spots, but it didn’t seem to actually do anything. We weren’t entirely sure why that was, but Prairie’s dad looked at it and said that it looked like there’s some disconnected and possibly exposed wiring. The electrical socket in the kitchen underneath the counter was kind of falling out of the wall, and because there’s no other socket close to the refrigerator, there was an extension cord (just barely long enough to reach) with a plug doubler on the end running from that socket to the fridge (I added a power strip to the mix so that the cord wasn’t quite so stretched, and so that we could plug in the toaster and microwave). There were cobwebs in a number of places around the apartment, indicating that it hadn’t had a good cleaning anytime recently. When we touched the shower head in the bathroom, it literally fell off of the pipe. Initially, this wasn’t a big deal, as we were planning on putting a newer shower head on anyway, but when we tried to remove the old pipe, the threads broke inside the socket, rendering the shower unusable. However, even the unusable shower paled in comparison to the realization that the pipes were frozen, and there was no running water.

So, by noon Monday, we’d had electrical weirdnesses, cleaning grumbles, broken plumbing, and frozen pipes. We called the landlord, and I (reluctantly) left Prairie to wait for calls from the plumber and Roto Rooter (since the plumber didn’t have the equipment to deal with frozen pipes) to let her know when they would be arriving, and Prairie’s dad brought me back home to Kent. That evening, Prairie let me know that the plumber made it out that afternoon to fix the shower, but all she’d gotten from Roto Rooter was a statement that they’d “probably” be out to her place between 8 and 10 Tuesday morning, though they wouldn’t actually make a definitive statement.

By 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Prairie’d heard nothing from anyone, and was justifiably pissed (especially because she was supposed to be on campus beginning the transition process for her new job, but was stuck at home trying to get the apartment livable). After filling me in, she made another round of calls to Roto Rooter and the landlord, and Roto Rooter finally showed up just before noon (perhaps coincidentally, but perhaps not, just before the 24-hour window where landlords are legally required to respond in instances where apartments lose water or heat). As the Roto Rooter guy started to try and work, he wasn’t sure where the pipes came into the building, so Prairie called the landlord…who didn’t know. The Roto Rooter guy went over to ask the neighbors in the other half of the duplex, who weren’t sure about where the pipes were, but did say that frozen pipes are apparently a pretty regular occurrence for the building. Great.

So, as the Roto Rooter guy got to work, Prairie went off to the store to find space heaters, as one of the things tenants can do to avoid problems it to keep space heaters near the interior pipes during cold weather. She got back home with the heaters, plugged them in…and not much later, a fuse blows and the entire place loses power. And, of course, these aren’t circuit breakers, but old screw-in style fuses. So, another call to the landlord…and that’s when I asked Twitter about whether there is such a thing as the rental equivalent of a “lemon law” or “buyer’s remorse” clause. At this point, it was looking like if things didn’t improve fast, we’d be better off just getting out while the getting was good, and finding Prairie a different place.

For a while, things seemed like they were improving…or at least on the way to improvement. By Tuesday afternoon Roto Rooter hadn’t succeeded in getting water flowing, though they were certainly trying: they’d gone from one guy to two vans, three guys, and a “big scary machine” working on the pipes. More importantly, though, when the landlord came by with more fuses, Prairie was able to get him to agree that after all the problems, if the water didn’t get going soon (by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning) then he would be willing to let Prairie out of the lease so that she could find another place. At that point, we were still hoping that it wouldn’t come to that — there were enough good aspects to the place (price, size, the short-term lease, etc.) that we were hoping to keep it if it could be made livable, and the process of finding another place (quickly) and moving (quickly) again wasn’t terribly appealing — but at least we had been assured that we wouldn’t be locked into a lease on an apartment that wasn’t actually livable.

As the evening wore on, though, it became more and more clear that staying there just wasn’t tenable. When Roto Rooter was finally able to get water flowing, it was clear that the pipes were only partially unfrozen, as it was only a small trickle of water. Futhermore, when water did start coming out, it was an unpleasant color and was spitting out small metal shavings. The Roto Rooter guys told Prairie that the pipes were really old and in bad shape, and recommended that not only should she not drink any of the water, but she shouldn’t even cook with it. When they left, water was still just trickling, and they’d advised Prairie to keep the water running, the heat in the apartment cranked as high as it would go, and the portable heaters she’d purchased trained on the exposed pipes, in the hope that this would keep them from refreezing overnight.

Of course, constantly running water plus the heat on high effectively turned the place into a sauna, and then to top it off, Prairie discovered a leak underneath the kitchen sink spilling water across the kitchen floor.

At that point, enough was enough. She called me, we talked it over, and (after putting a pan under the leak), she got ahold of her old boss (who she’s also good friends with) and went over to stay at her place that night, and I wrote a “we’re out of here” letter to the landlords.

Here’s a small video that was originally shot the day we first took a look at the apartment. At the time (and as evidence in the audio track), we still thought that it was a funky but functional place that would work for our needs. As that was far from the truth, I’ve added subtitles pointing out some of the more egregious issues.

Next up: Getting out of the slums, and into an apartment worth living in.

Moving to Ellensburg, Part I

We’re moving to Ellensburg!

Bet’cha you never expected those words to come from me, did’ja? But you did, and this is the point where I can finally publicly ramble on about what I haven’t been allowed to talk about until now.

(People who know me on Facebook know some of this already, since I could ramble there and lock the posts away from the public eye. Feel free to just skim over to look for stuff that doesn’t look familiar.)

Here’s the deal.

For the past two years (for those of you who don’t know this already), Prairie has been working as the Assistant Director of the Central Washington University Writing Centers. Though CWU’s main campus is in Ellensburg, it has a number of branch campus spread along the I-5 corridor on the west side of the state, and Prairie has been overseeing the writing centers at each of those branch campuses.

Sometime in December, Prairie found out that her boss had received a very generous job offer from another school, and was planning on accepting the position. We knew that this was going to create a fairly major shakeup, we just weren’t exactly sure how major or what the final outcome would be. Prairie and I discussed a number of possibilities, and far down at the bottom of the list, filed away under “longshot idea that’s kind of fun to think about but would never happen” was, “what if they offered Prairie the directorship?” We briefly discussed the idea, but didn’t give it a whole lot of thought.

As it turns out, we probably should have put a little more thought into it than we did, because that’s exactly what happened. On December 21st, Prairie got a call from her boss’s boss offering her the directorship on an interim basis, with the option of applying for the formal search process. Of course, this is a huge boost for Prairie’s career, so it didn’t take a whole lot of time for her to accept the offer. However, there were two “catches” that have created no small amount of upheaval in our lives.

Catch number one: She’d have to move to Ellensburg.

Catch number two: She’d have to be able to start her new position on January 4th.

To put this into some amount of context, she was getting the offer on Tuesday, Dec. 21st. That gave us just under two weeks between when Prairie received the offer and when she had to be available in Ellensburg for a rapid one week transition. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, those two weeks included both Christmas and New Years, both of which removed a couple days from actually being able to get anything substantial done. And if that wasn’t crazy enough, one of Prairie’s sisters was getting married on New Year’s Eve! Prairie was helping with flowers and parties, and I was the photographer, so we had to be in the Vancouver/Portland area from the 29th through January 1st for all the wedding festivities (bridal shower on the 29th; rehearsal/family dinner on the 30th; final setup, decoration, and then the ceremony and combination reception and New Year’s Eve party on the 31st) — and that’s four more days that weren’t available for the Kent-to-Ellensburg transition.

Oh, and one last little thing: Because I’m in the final quarter of my bachelor’s degree and as the lease on our current apartment isn’t up until the end of April, I can’t move to Ellensburg with Prairie right away. While she’s moving to Ellensburg and jumping headfirst into the directorship position, I’m staying behind in Kent and living a pseudo-bachelor lifestyle for the next three months. It won’t be until April that we get to close things out in our current apartment and schlep me over the pass to join Prairie in Ellensburg.

So…things have been a little bit crazy. Actually, they’ve been a lot bit crazy.

In the week after we got the call, we managed to get the ball rolling quite quickly. That Tuesday was the initial offer and the day we took to talk things over with ourselves. Wednesday Prairie formally accepted the offer, and Wednesday and Thursday we started the process of figuring out what Prairie would need to start things in Ellensburg on her own, checked Craigslist for available one-bedroom apartments, and called and set up a viewing on one for after the Christmas weekend. Friday was Christmas Eve and Saturday was Christmas Day, so we took those two days to rest as much as possible and have a quiet Christmas for ourselves. Sunday we took down all the Christmas decorations and prepared for the next week of running around.

Monday we went over the pass to Ellensburg, managing to dodge winter storms and make it over without any issues. We met with the landlord of the property we’d found, took a look at it, decided that it would work just fine and filled out the rental application, then got together with Prairie’s old boss for a nice dinner at her home. Tuesday Prairie had meetings with her former boss and new boss to hammer down as many details of the transition as they could, then we came back over the pass for a night at home. Wednesday we were back on the road again, and made it down to Prairie’s mom’s place in Vancouver to begin the wedding festivities. Finally, Prairie was able to sneak away to notify her west side writing center staff, and while we weren’t quite comfortable with announcing things publicly before the torch had officially been passed over to Prairie, I was able to make a private Facebook post to let some people know the basics.

Also going on during all this, and adding its own little bit of stress to our adventures, was the question of whether my new camera would arrive in time or not. We’d originally ordered it from RitzCamera.com on November 2nd, figuring that even with Nikon’s notorious supply line issues on new cameras, two months should be plenty of time for the camera to arrive before the wedding. We waited, and waited, and waited…. Eventually, about a week and a half before the wedding, we called one of the local Ritz stores to ask if they knew anything about when D7000s would start shipping out. As it turned out, the brick-and-mortar stores had been getting shipments to customers for the past month, and they had no idea why their online store (which is run as a separate company) was stalling. So, after checking warehouse stock to be sure, we cancelled the online order and placed an order with the store.

Unfortunately, we managed to hit the breaking point and swap things around just as the warehouse ran out of stock. Thankfully, the manager of the store was quite sympathetic to our frustration, and was willing to sell us the floor demo model to use for the wedding, and then allow us to return it afterwards and get our money back. We waited until the last possible moment, but once it was clear that my camera wasn’t going to show up on time, we took him up on his offer. So, part of that one night at home between Ellensburg and Vancouver was a quick run out to the Southcenter Cameras West to “rent” (ahem) a D7000 for the wedding. While I never want to deal with the RitzCamera.com online storefront again, Travis and the crew at Cameras West were wonderfully helpful.

Anway, back to Vancouver and the rest of the wedding festivities, which ended up going quite well. I haven’t started going through all the photos I took yet, but I have posted a short video of the bride and groom dancing during the reception/New Years Eve party. Saturday we drove back up to Kent, Sunday we packed Prairie up (and I returned the D7000), and on Monday her dad helped us haul what little she took over the pass. We got to her new apartment, started unpacking…and then began the next part of the adventure. Suffice to say, things did not go smoothly. That story will come momentarily, in Part Two of our Ellensburg adventures.

Doozy of a Dream

I very rarely remember my dreams, and usually when I do, it’s just a few very vague bits that fade almost immediately upon waking up.

Last night, though, I had something of a doozy. I was living with my parents and brother in this apartment, and we were all a good decade or two younger…or at least, Kevin and I were in our teens, I think. I had an idea for a photo I wanted to try to shoot, but Kevin was being a pain-in-the-butt little brother, and was hogging all the photo equipment. I couldn’t get any of the pieces I needed for what I wanted to do, and I knew that he was just doing it to get under my skin. I was getting madder and madder, until I burst out, “Find something else to do…!”

And blinked, and realized that I was awake, and I’d actually just said that. Out loud. Not only had I talked in my sleep, but I’d been loud enough that I’d managed to wake myself up doing it. Even better, with the peculiar logic of the half-awake, I was then even more ticked off at Kevin for making me wake myself up.

Meanwhile, poor Prairie, who’d apparently already been having a bit of a nightmare, had just been awakened at the scariest part of her dream by her boyfriend yelling at her to “find something else to do,” for no apparent reason whatsoever, and was lying in bed half-awake, confused, and petrified, trying to figure out what was going on.

Of course, neither of us found out about what was going on with the other until this morning, as I had spent the next half hour calming down and drifting back to sleep, and my poor girl spent the next hour and a half doing the same thing.

In retrospect, not my finest moment.

Kinda funny, though.

Now.

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2010 Wish List

Dad asked me (through Mom, via Facebook chat) about my current wish list. I hadn’t been paying much attention to wanting “stuff” lately. Prairie and I do most of our book shopping through second-hand outlets, and my (mostly complete) camera upgrade has done a masterful job of taking care of the majority of my technolust — a good thing, too, as that counts as my Christmas, birthday, and graduation presents combined!

But, as I’d hate to let my parents down, I took a little time to go through my Amazon wishlists to see what was sitting in there. After a bit of editing (removed some, added one or two items), here’s what I’ve ended up with, in rough order from most realistic (less expensive) to least realistic (but hey, that’s the “wish” part of wish lists…and who knows, maybe someone else will go for a major combination über-gift, you never know).

Wishlist #1: Print Media

Books and a few graphic novels. As usual for me, tilts heavily towards science fiction, though I do deviate from time to time.

Wishlist #2: Movies and Music

While I’m collecting far less physical media, there’s still a fair amount of good audio and video that’s not available digitally just yet.

Wishlist #3: Electronic Gadgets and Gizmos

Only two things on this list. The first is the Vestax Spin DJ Controller. While it’s been years since I’ve done much of anything related to DJing, it’s still a bug in my system, and I occasionally get the urge to dink around. Unfortunately, as I sold off my equipment a few years back, its not an itch that’s terribly easy to scratch. This would basically be an expensive toy…but a fun toy to be able to play with from time to time.

The second is the iPad 2. I’ve been lusting after an iPad since they were first released, and the recent upgrade just made them look even sweeter. I’m not terribly concerned about the capacity, wouldn’t mind the 3G option (though you definitely pay a premium for that), but given the choice, black is definitely the way to go. The white one just looks like a toy to me.

Wishlist #3: Photography Bits

And here’s where things are definitely slipping into the realm of “not very likely, but it’s fun to dream.” One accessory for the D7000, and eight lenses that I’d love to add to my stable.

  • Nikon MB-D11 Battery Pack: This is a combination battery pack and portrait grip for the D7000. In addition to allowing the D7000 to hold two batteries at a time, drastically increasing the time before a recharge is necessary, this also makes it more comfortable to hold the camera rotated 90° for portrait-orientation shots.

  • Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye: Not really an everyday walkaround use-all-the-time lens, this is more of a special-purpose lens for dramatic effect shots. Manual focus only, but fisheye lenses tend to have a very deep depth of field, so that’s not a major concern, and omitting a focusing motor keeps the lens lighter and a little less expensive.

  • Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D: Considered by many to be the “perfect” portrait lens (well, perhaps the 85mm f/1.4 should get that designation) due to the medium-range focal length and low aperture.

  • Sigma 30mm f/1.4: A highly reviewed fast lens (good for low-light shooting) that, on an APS-C DSLR like my current D70s or the D7000, is very close to the old standard 50mm f/1.4 “normal” lens that many old film cameras came with.

  • Nikkor 70-300 f/4.5-5.6G: This is kind of a whim. While most of my shooting is more suited for primes (indoors, close to the subjects, often in lower light), there are times when having a decent zoom lens would come in handy. I have an acceptable midrange zoom (the Quantaray 55-200 f/4-5.6), but this lens has higher quality optics, a longer reach, and vibration reduction. Not at the top of my lust list, but wouldn’t mind having it available.

  • Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D: Not quite as wide of an aperture as the 30mm f/1.4 listed above, but a little bit wider. Again, not at the top of my lust list, as I already have a 24mm f/2.8, and this is only a little bit wider than that, but when shooting indoors, sometimes you can’t back up enough to get what you want in the frame, and even a little bit wider can come in handy.

  • Tamron 70-200 f/2.8: A lower-priced, worthy competitor to Nikon’s 70-200 f/2.8 fast zoom. The combination of a decent zoom range with the low f/2.8 aperture makes for a very capable distance portrait lens that’s able to use low depth of field to isolate subjects from a distance.

  • Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Micro: While this is a nice length for a portrait lens, and I’ve seen it used as such, it’s real strength is in its macro capabilities. Perhaps more of a play lens than an everyday lens.

  • Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8: The higher-quality, and much higher-priced, version of the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 listed earlier.