A California Girl On A Short Drive In The Midwest

The first leg of this trip began with a 12:50a redeye flight from SeaTac to Chicago O’Hare.

The airport at 10:30pm was the emptiest I’ve seen an airport. The security line was short, the terminals were peacefully quiet and empty and even Starbucks was closed.

I think the weirdest thing was brushing my teeth in the airport bathroom and having strangers coming in and out. It’s one of those things I’ve never really thought of. I have zero problem doing so around people I know, but strangers seeing me brush my teeth? Weird. Not uncomfortable, really, just weird.

Everything seems slower at night when it’s quiet. Boarding felt slower, the waiting to taxi and take off felt much longer, but it really wasn’t.

Us on the plane
Plane faces

I had taken a 2hr nap after work and before making final preparations, and the sleepy was starting to kick back in. Perfect!
I was a tad worried when a little one was very clearly upset on the plane, but she had calmed down before takeoff. I don’t have children (yet..?) but I’m pretty sympathetic.. I felt bad for the parents who were probably getting all kinds of angry looks from travelers hoping to get some sleep on a 1am flight in which passengers lose two hours.
Foregoing the neck pillow purchasing, getting into a comfortable position that wasn’t going to destroy me was quite difficult. Luckily, this plane’s seats had those head wing thingies that you can position outward to lean on. They were very helpful, and I didn’t need any additional cushion. It was still uncomfortable, and sleep was difficult, but I got a bit. So yay 🙂
Landing at almost 7am on a weekday at O’Hare did not lend well to my hopes of seeing the actual city of Chicago. Our destination today is in Indiana so heading towards Chicago was not the best of ideas. That’s okay though; I was so sleepy anyway!
We grabbed something quick to eat and began the drive. A car nap stop was necessary, because safety. After seeing signs for a candy factory, a candy shop stop was also necessary.

Albanese Candy Factory sign
Albanese Candy Factory

Definitely necessary. From Albanese Confectionery, I picked up only a tiny bag of dark chocolate almonds, pretzel balls and amaretto pecans. And a bag of gummi bears. That tiny bag really should have been a medium. It’s taken so much willpower to not devour it’s delicious contents over the course of like five miles. A stop there on the way back out miiiiight just be a trip requirement.

So Indiana is flat. At least the part that I’ve just ridden through. It’s very green, which I love! I have this thing, however, likely due to growing up with the Santa Cruz Mountains or other tree-covered hills as a constant background nearly everywhere I looked.

I never noticed it until I traveled across the country. If I can’t see big level changes, the landscape automatically feels boring to me. No matter how gorgeous the immediate area is. It’s a silly thing, and I have to tell myself that it doesn’t make a place any less beautiful. Maybe it’s too much sky and not enough everything else? I dunno; It’s just a quirk of mine, I suppose.
Overall landscape aside, I’m awed by how much open space and land there is between each of the cute little houses!! It’s so cozy, adorable and refreshing to see after living in and around larger cities. AND I WANT ONE! OR ALL OF THEM!
I’ve always wanted a house that’s cute and mine. It doesn’t need to be huge at all. I figure I’ll be able to fill it with everything that makes it into a true home, regardless of size 🙂 A girl can dream… And hopefully not be disappointed later in life, hah.

We’ve almost reached our first real destination now 🙂

Medium

The silence of the blank canvas is overwhelming. Any clank or clatter, a welcome distraction from my mind that tries so hard to sing the notes yet no sound comes out.

But what is the picture? I feel the rhythm, but as soon as I reach for it, it ceases. The color fades to a dull whiteness.

Out of reach. There are no words. There is no sound. There is no color, no lines.

Just the emptiness of my soul longing to reach and find something. Anything.

Being a Cookie Brigadier at PAX Prime

[This post is so late. PAX Prime happened like two months ago, I wrote this piece over one month ago. Better late than never, right? I’ll post all of the recipes I used some day, too!]

After my first PAX Prime, I was hooked. My second PAX Prime, I had the surprising opportunity to compete as an Omeganaut. This third PAX of mine, I volunteered as a Brigadier for the Cookie Brigade.

The Cookie Brigade is a volunteer-run organization that distributes cookies to fellow convention and event attendees, for free. Any donations collected are donated to the Child’s Play Charity to help bring toys and games to a network of children’s hospitals.

Convention + cookies + charity. Not even a question, I SUPPORT ALL OF THIS!

My baking extravaganza consisted of the following:

  • Classic chewy chocolate chip
  • Star Wars gingerbread
  • Vegan peanut butter
  • Peanut butter chocolate chip
  • Brownie bites (non-cookie)

It took about two days to get everything done.

The first day, I made the dough only for the gingerbread cookies, and managed to get through the entire double batch of chocolate chip!

I also made the brownie bites, start to finish, except bagging. For these, I kind of cheated. I used a Duncan-Heinz brownie mix and a well-greased mini muffin tin.

I’m super grateful that @rabbd came by to help and make me real food to eat for dinner. Thank yoooou!!

On the second day, most of my time was spent rolling and cutting the Star Wars gingerbread cookie dough! Last Christmas, I picked up the Star Wars gingerbread cookie cutters from ThinkGeek for @rabbd. They hadn’t gotten any use yet, and I figured this was as good a time as any! Luckily, he let me borrow them 🙂

Second-to-lastly, I made a double batch of the vegan peanut butter cookies. Un-veganizing half of it, I split the dough in half and added chocolate chips to one of the batches. These batches were much smaller and it was nice to have them over quickly.

The last step, individual bagging, was probably the most daunting, even though I completed it in about 40 minutes.

Phew!!

I did get to help distribute cookies at the convention as well, but my time this PAX ended up being way more booked up than I had originally thought. Though I didn’t end up distributing as much as I would have liked, it was still a blast! The Cookie Brigade raised over $20k over all 4 days!

Thank you to all who supported the Child’s Play Charity and I hope you all enjoyed your sweet treats!

I Helped Make A Game!! (Seattle Game Jam)

For the past few years, I’ve toyed with the idea of making games. I love games and I love making things.

Not only are there a zillion avenues to begin learning how to make games, which is intimidating in itself, it’s a huge undertaking when you do pick one.

In addition… Although it’s not uncommon, I have this bad habit of not starting things out of fear that I won’t finish or keep up with them. Game development is one of them.

I’ve always wanted to do a game jam, but somehow always found out about them too late and am unable to attend.

This year was different, and I found out about PlayFab‘s Seattle Game Jam with weeks to spare! I didn’t have a full time job yet, and it was on a weekend anyway. The reservations were free, too. I nervously contacted the event coordinator, asking if it was newbie-friendly. The response I received was very positive and encouraging, and that made me feel better. I made sure to thank Tom for that when I figured out who he was 🙂 

Over the weekend, our team made this game, called Gravefighters. A 2D, top-down pseudo-tower defense with 3D animations and all custom music and sounds!

Here’s my general conclusion about participating in my first game jam, and below is the day-by-day breakdown of my experience.

Overall Thoughts

I know I was with a really talented and accepting team. Even though I know next to nothing about how the building of a game actually works, am not an artist, I felt welcome. THANK YOU TEAM!!

I wasn’t able to help as much as I wanted to be able to.. The other teammates were definitely more busy than me, most of the time. For this, I felt so helpless.

At the same time, I do know that my contributions were valued and that it’s a great feeling to be a part of something bigger, even if it was a much smaller contribution than others. It’s also in the nature of the roles and timing.

Simply being around every aspect of the development was totally worth coming for! I’ve learned a lot about the project management of a game, how the teams and timing work together. It was a completely invaluable experience!

It’s re-sparked interest and furthered motivation in the field, even as a hobby. I’m excited to pursue more development aspects and do this again some time!

THANK YOU TEAM!!!

I was so impressed with our game and all of the other teams during presentations. The results of hard work, creativity and each team’s take on the theme was great to see. So many possibilities had come to life!

Though we didn’t win, the two teams that did were more than deserving!! Read about them here on PlayFab’s blog post.

Day-by-Day

Day 1: Pitches, team formation and planning

The theme was “It’s Alive”. I was only able to come up with a small, open-ended concept, but with no idea how to do anything behind it. I did choose to pitch it, and it was received well, but not enough to make the main cutoff. Which was TOTALLY OKAY!! because there was no way I could lead a team when I had never done anything like this before. 

I chose to check out one of the other pitches that I found really funny and that sounded like it could actually be done in two days: Grave keeper by day, necromancer by night.

At night, you resurrect your buried bodies to defend your graveyard from rival graveyards’ undead to keep your graveyard the nicest. Silly, right?! 

Though I have no experience, I was accepted to the team. It had grown quickly to 10 of us. I offered to help with sounds, organization and UI design. 

Narrowing down the concept to a two-day project was difficult. We all had really awesome ideas! But we needed to make sure that the scope wasn’t so farfetched and the gameplay concepts were sound.

With a fairly solid lead, we parted for the night, preparing for the grind the next day.

Day 2: Get a move on!

Everyone knew their role and they quickly got to work. Since we had another person on UI/project management, I took the lead on sound effects and made a mini studio out of a conference room table, USB mic and beanbag. 

For never doing them for reals before, I think they came out pretty well! I’ve cut and done basic mixing/editing for fun before.

Using Adobe Audition, I was able to record various noises, add audio effects, mix and edit. The engineers were able to initially implement most of them by mid-day. 

I had help and inspiration from our youngest teammate, the son of another teammate, to use a tablet to work with music. Using MAGIX Music Maker Jam on my Android tablet, I was able to put together some loops to use as one of the background music loops.

I must say that that app is way too much fun. Especially the pack called “Bro Step Vol. 2.” That generated a lot of laughs! 

The artists were working hard to make things really pretty, and the engineers got things to actually work. 

It was so awesome to see the progress throughout the day!

Day 3: Crunch time and Judgement Day

All of the sounds, music and UI screens were completed, so I didn’t have too much to do since I don’t know Unity. 

A couple of us collaborated on story, introduction and instructional copy, and I was able to help edit one of the 2D art pieces! I added a highlight..YAY I’M USEFUL!! #IAmAnArtist (HAH. No I’m not.)

We all got a chance to playtest and point out major bugs and the occasional spelling error. Seeing everything in action was fantastic! 

Every little bit by each person made it silly, fun and actually functional. Priceless!

I Hate Running But Ran My First 10K

The Decision

Five months ago, I moved to a new city without a job lined up after my temporary contract with my old position ends. The first thing I did was cut down every monthly expense that I could, which included my gym membership. I knew I needed to stay moving.

Hey! I’m living right where The Oatmeal hosts his race, Beat The Blerch! I love The Oatmeal he’s awesome and inspiring!

I also needed a goal..

So I registered for the 10K. I got a friend to commit to running also, though he signed up for the half marathon. I’ve only run 5Ks before. Slowly, but I’ve done it.

I’ve pretty much always said that I hate running. This summer, I’ve learned a little more about myself and that it’s not running that I hate. It’s the exhausting, out of breath, feels-like-dying feeling that running brings. Just thinking about going for a run, my chest tightens up, and I get into my own head.. I can’t do this, it’s going to feel awful, I don’t want to go. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t!

Wrong.

The Training

The two-month journey after my investment in a spot in the race was actually exciting. It wasn’t without minor injuries or getting caught in the rain, of course, but the small achievements, my accountabilibuddy, and the fact that I paid to be there kept me going.

I needed to find what worked for me. I knew that pushing myself too hard would lead to potential injury and failing myself would be mentally painful.

I decided to meet myself in the middle and try run-walk intervals. I read a little about it, and even though it may inhibit a super awesome pace, it’s good for keeping up momentum late in the game. The less feeling like death, the better!

As much as I despise it, I’m not new to running. I started out with 1.5 minutes running followed by 1 minute walking. Repeat. Hey.. This isn’t so bad.. I’m doing it!

Once that was comfortable, I upped the run time but left the walking at a single minute. Then repeated that. 5-second increases were hardly noticeable when I made them, but over time, I found myself wondering if my audio cues were even working! I use Seconds Pro for custom interval timing, and I LOVE it!

Eventually, I settled with a 3:25 run and 1:00 walk. I’m confident I can totally do 3:30 now!

I tracked each of my runs with a series of apps (MotionX GPS and the eventually FitBit app) so I knew what my timing and pace was, give or take a few seconds to start and stop the app each time.

I did a few at the 10K distance, even! I knew I could do it.

I was ready.

Race Day

I was pretty excited. It was finally happening! There were some nerves, but I think those kept my energy up.

It was also raining. Mainly sprinkling, a little rain-rain, but I was definitely pretty soaked by the time I finished.

I checked my apps after I finished and got my medal… And my pace was a good :45/mi under what I had expected.. WHOA!!

My guess is that this is due to to the extra excitement of finally doing that thing I set out and trained for, plus being distracted by all of the other runners, trying to pass others appropriately and making sure not to get in their way, especially when I slowed to the walking interval.

Official Results

Time: 1:10:06
Distance: 10K / 6.2mi

Overall
: 386/947
*All female: 222/666 (667)
*Age division f20-29: 67/176 (177)

*Somehow, I was registered as a male.. The number in parentheses is with me added to the female total. Sorry, ladies after me, you’re now ranked one less!

The Future

Would I do it again?

Yes. Now that I know I can, and it doesn’t feel like horribleness!

Would I run longer distances, like a half-marathon?

I am undecided. I would still like to increase my maximum distance, but at the moment, I don’t really feel like making that commitment. Perhaps if I increased at my own pace instead of with a race date in mind.

Don’t you need to do different things to keep your body from just “getting used” to a routine??

You betcha! I really want to get back into weight training 🙂

Any advice?

START. Start small and go from there. It will suck at first, but I promise it gets better! Give yourself time to improve.. Just do a teeny bit better each time. Don’t forget to rest. Do happy dances 🙂

I need a good brain distraction so I’m always listening to music. I’d like to try audiobooks or podcasts to see if I can pay attention.

An Open Letter to Rite-Aid Regarding Thrifty Brand Ice Cream

Hello there!

I would like to express my saddening disappointment in your store locator function. I have recently relocated to Seattle from California (you probably know where this is going) and was elated to find that I could filter my store search to include only those with hand-dipped ice cream.

In doing so, I was excited to find that one store (105 Washington Ave, Kent, WA) was not as far as I thought it may be! I had heard rumors that ice cream was not sold there by the scoop… so I made sure to call. And alas! The woman on the phone had told me that, no, they do not have Thrifty’s ice cream by the scoop.

Widening my search, a second store was found on the radar (691 Sleater Kinney Rd. SE, Lacey, WA). Upon calling this store as well, the response was the same.. No scoop’d ice cream here either!

My hopes had been so high when finding that I could still indulge in the delightful, hand-dipped deliciousness that is Thrifty’s chocolate malted crunch ice cream on a sugar cone… Only to be confronted with the truth that the internet does, indeed, lie. 🙁

With that, I would like to request that the stores’ Specialty features be properly updated to reflect those features that do truly exist. I would not wish this tummy grumbling experience upon anyone else.

Many thanks,
Melissa

PS, Any idea where I -can- find Thrifty ice cream, even by the container, in the Seattle/Washington area? 🙂

New Photo Set! 10-25-2014 – Rock The Ship Concert – Thee Parkside – San Francisco, CA

Link to gallery page: 10-25-2014 – Rock The Ship Concert – Thee Parkside – San Francisco, CA

A few weekends ago, I had the pleasure of getting to shoot [photos at] Pirates Press’ Rock the Ship festival in San Francisco. Oddly enough, this was my first daytime, outdoor concert.

The show itself was a ton of fun and I was brought back to my early high school days when I got to see the Bouncing Souls again. Insert a bunch of hashtag-reminiscing with old friends via text here. Even moreso when a few members of Rancid were pointed out to me.

Thee Parkside was also great! More punk rock playing inside the bar, free (for the event) photo booth, silent auction and even caught some of the Sharks game on TV. Didn’t really get much better!

Lineup

Cock Sparrer*
Bouncing Souls
Street Dogs
Bishops Green
Suede Razors*
Bum City Saints
Smalltown
Lenny Ashley’s Gang of One*

*No photos of this band..Sowwyyy

The Photos

WordSprint – Treacherous Journey

110 words, but I started late (psh, no excuses) It was also my first one.

When I got to the chasm, I stared through the windshield with a bewildered look on my face. Anyone around would have thought I’d seen a manticore or something. Good thing this place is so isolated, I said to myself, looking back across the sandy desert I had just crossed.

This wasn’t even a bridge. It was, literally, a 30-foot set of monkey bars. Couldn’t have been more than two feet wide. Yet, on the other side, I could see it. Pure gold. The fruits of my labor. Blue, sparkling water.

I had to cross. There was no way other than the obvious.

Swing, grab. Swing, grab. Don’t.. Look.. Down.

A Really Quick Weekend in San Diego

Last weekend, I visited San Diego with the JBuddy (@rabbd). I guess I’ve been once, but that was for a few hours for dinner and walking at Belmont Park back in 2008. After this experience, those few hours pretty much don’t count anymore 😉

Airport Park ThingAfter landing, we found a little park thing right across the street from the airport that we were able to walk around and catch our first glimpse at a pretty sweet harbor view while we waited for the bus. Now, I haven’t been to *too* many airports to know whether or not this is a normal thing, but having a place like this to just walk across the street to was quite a treat for me.

For that Friday night, we chose to stay in a hostel just a bus ride away so we could jump right into San Diego things on Saturday, then high tail it to Carlsbad to spend time with my auntie and uncle. It was great to see them and spend some time with em! They made perfectly lovely hosts (Rusty, too!) Thank you!!!

Transportation was super easy and reasonably priced via bus, trolley and train! We walked a lot, too, but I have zero issue with that..yay!

Point Loma Hostel

The only other hostels I’ve been to were different places throughout Europe. Maybe it was the summer heat and mosquitoes in Italy that has me biased, but the one in Point Loma was awesomely clean, super adorable, staff and volunteers were involved and it had a full kitchen for guest use. And DIY pancakes for breakfast. You guessed it! Mine had an excess amount of chocolate chips 😀

I love hostels because of the total diversity of the other guests. Anyone you talk to is most likely from some distant place, doing some crazy thing and have awesome stories. Conversations over spaghetti dinner, once again, had me itching to run off and visit every possible place I can. The prospect of travel always feels so out of reach, but when I think about it, I realize I have been to quite a few places. Many of them earlier this year. Perhaps now I’ve realized that my visits aren’t at the depth that I’d like them to be.

Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens at Liberty Station

On Friday night, we walked down to Stone. It was located in one of the restored barracks buildings at Liberty Station.

It was a lot larger than I expected, and there were so many hidden areas and wings that you don’t see at first. I love that 🙂

But Liberty Station was just awesome to walk around! They were beautifully renovated, but it still had the unified feel to it. There were large grassy areas, too. It was nearly 11pm and the sprinklers were on. Warm, San Diego weather…sprinklers. You bet we ran through a bunch of them!

There was also a building for the Commander! That night, I was Commander Mew Shepard so it was only appropriate that I take a photo.

Commander

It was a pretty neat place to see and I wish I had more time (and light) to wander more

Petco Park

I like baseball. I also really like that baseball stadiums have those little unique things about them. I’d always seen the Western Metal Supply Co. building seating area when the Giants played down in San Diego.
Petco Park
Without knowing anything else about the park, we wandered over to see if there was a tour or something that would allow us to see the inside of the park. Turns out, that wasn’t even necessary! There’s a little area that’s open each day called Park at the Park where, on non-game days, you can just wander on up to the back fence of the park, no ticket required! There are some seats and even sand over there! It had a perfect view of the Western Metal Supply Co. portion. And look, there’s meee!

Of course we also visited Tony Gywnn Plaza and took some fun photos with the statue.

Tony Gwynn statue

Coronado / Star Park / beach!!

Coronado appeared very well-kept and upscale. Easily million-dollar homes. BUT THEY WERE SO PRETTY!!! The shops around were the same. It felt quaint, except new at the same time.

Star ParkStar Park was actually a stumble as we were walking from a bus stop to the beach by the Hotel del Coronado. The park itself was surrounded by a circular street, Star Park Circle, and it had a few streets branching off. Yep, like a star. See it on Google Maps.

At its center was a star with a flagpole and plaques for each branch of the U.S. Military. That was really great to see 🙂

Only later, I had found that L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz had lived on Star Park Circle!

Distracted by heat and the prospect of jumping in the ocean, we kinda skipped The Del and headed straight for the water! It’d been a good while since I splashed around in the ocean, and it was just as fun as I remember. It wasn’t as warm as I was expecting, but it was definitely do-able (obviously). We could have been more post-water prepared, but it was warm enough that being a little wet didn’t really matter in any way other than my skirt having a giant wet spot on the butt for a few hours 😉

Birch Aquarium at Scripps (UCSD)

Now, the only other aquariums I’ve been to are the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey and the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

In comparison, Birch Aquarium was pretty small, but it had all kinds of fun things like a giant octopus and lots of seahorses. There were leopard sharks! I love leopard sharks. (And San Jose Sharks) Though it wasn’t a leopard shark, I was rescued from a shark that day, as depicted here. My hero *Insert emoji smiley with heart eyes* (haha)SharkRescue

The cafe located right outside was surprisingly really good and the view out the back of the aquarium was just stunning! This photo doesn’t do it as much justice as I’d like it to.

Check out that view!

Since it was the first full weekend of the month, admission was free by showing our Bank of America cards. It was still worth way more than free! More info on the BofA Museums on Us program. Unfortunately, the Museum of Photographic Arts was closed for renovation during our visit. That was my top choice of the three, but you can’t beat free, even if it’s your second choice!

Carlsbad Village

I just have to say that Carlsbad Village area is extremely adorable and a great place to wander around!! Coyote Bar & Grill pretty much had live music at the three times we wandered past it.

The village area is a ~10 minute walk to the beach, too. We watched the sunset here and it was soooo gorgeous! We only played in the water a little before dinner time. By this time, the trip was in its wind-down mode and I can’t think of a more relaxing place to spend that outside time.

Carlsbad