Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pumpking Carving and Dead Computers

So, I'd like to open this post with some bad news. Remington, my beloved laptop, has died. He is suffering in the no-computer's-land of fried hard drives. He got me through college and dozens of papers, study notes and countless hours wasted on Facebook. I perfected my resume and cover letters, watched hours of TV and movies, and kept up to date on the news, Cake Wrecks and icanhazcheezburger? He housed my photos and music, and fought valiantly against the many viruses attacking Windows.

I'd appreciate if you would bow your head for a minute and then pat your desktop, laptop or netbook and be grateful for all it's done for you.

Okay, on to happier news. My friends and I had a pumpkin carving get together yesterday at the house, and it was a lot of fun. I love carving pumpkins, and though my carving skills are limited to large shapes, I love to check out all the really cool designs online every year.

I did a traditional cat, and the boys did a jack-o-lantern meets Pacman. Two of my close friends asked another if she would carve them Edward and Jacob pumpkins (yes, from Twilight). Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mysteries on Hump Day

Okay, so it's been a while since I finished the Tamara Siler Jones books, but you know how it is. Finish one book, move on to the next...and so on.

"Ghosts in the Snow" was well-written, and I thought the plot was well done. I don't read many mysteries, so it takes me a little longer to figure things out sometimes, but I really liked trying to keep track of all the clues and put them together. And not be thrown off by the red herring(s). You'll know what I mean if you read the book.

But besides the plot and mysterious fun, Jones takes the time to shape her characters. They show their true colors in their actions and you understand why they act the way they do. I think that I like Lars and Dubric the best.

The next book in the series, "Threads of Malice" is much more intense and darker than the first book. If that's possible. Dubric, Lars, Dien and Otlee have to leave their home this time and travel north into a deeply rural area. There are ties to the mage wars mentioned in the first book, and the area is where Dubric defeated one of said mages.

"Threads" deals with incredible violence against young boys, and that's the part of the evil Dubric has to stop. Some person is kidnapping, torturing and killing boys in the area, and Dubric has to relive some of his past to stop the killings. There's a lot of growing up to do for the main guys.

They all change in reaction to the events of this installment and I'll have to read the third book, "Valley of the Soul," to find out how much. It's interesting to look at Dubric a little more closely, and to see how the events open old wounds and heal others.

I highly recommend these books, but why? Well, I've never seen anything similar to them. I would categorize them as forensic fantasy. Set in a totally original world, and Dubric uses rudimentary forensic skills to solve murders. Footprint, fibers, etc., are what interest him. He likes science, but also has a difficult past with religion.

I also like the interesting history with the mages that has had a profound impact on the country. Hints of a technologically advanced society taken over by evil mages, and now basically operating in an equivalent Dark Ages where magic in shunned. A nice commentary on science, technology and too much power.

Another series I recently started is the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden, wizard/P.I. is the main character, and he's most of the reason I'm reading the books. I like his humor, his chivalry, his ingenuity and the hints of a sordid family past. I've only gotten through the first two books -- pretty tidy mysteries with lots of subplots -- and now I'm left hanging.

Basically I'm short on cash and the library is missing the Dresden Files 3-6 and 12. Bleh. Maybe when I get a real job, I can get the rest. Or, request them from the library.

So now that I've gone gushy on two series, I have to break your heart. "The Snow Queen" is the fourth in Mercedes Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms series. I couldn't get enough of her Valdemar series as a teen, and I ate up the Kingdoms books. But "Queen," well, I just can't love. I want to, really, but the climax killed it.

I know, I know, it's a fairy tale and that's how things work under the influence of "The Tradition," but it doesn't make for a very realistic reading. I feel as though everything was tied off too neatly, and sometimes where it wasn't warranted.

Like Aleksia's feelings for Ilmari, Lemminkal and Veikko. She only knows about them from afar, which doesn't make for a close relationship, but Aleksia is on the verge of tears over their misfortune because she feels so close to them. What? And then at the end they're best buds! Feels like too much "Tradition" at work.

To give credit, Lackey's characters are well-developed and dynamic as they often are. You want to hear their stories. And her creative use of traditional fairy tales in this series is both entertaining and informative. Overall, "Queen" was worth it for those facets, but the first three were much better.

Monday, October 19, 2009

When they get their names in lights

So the other week, I noticed a film crew at the corner of Baker and Peachtree Street. My first thought was "Cool! More stars and hit shows in Atlanta, and not just those darn Housewives!" I also hoped that the production company was paying the liquor store and restaurant next door for their time. Probably. Anyone know about things like that? And who would be coming into the liquor store at ten a.m. you ask? Believe me, people here do! I've seen plenty of folks leave with their brown paper bags as I head to my internship.

I found out that the crew was filming some footage for an in-the-works Fox show called "Past Life." It's based on the book "The Reincarnationist" by M.J. Rose, which I actually have, but for some reason or twelve, haven't gotten around to finishing. Maybe it was that weird jump in time after the main character realized he was having deja vu fo sho'. Really annoyed me, but I've decided that I will finish books before passing final judgement.

Film is big in Georgia -- like, millions big. According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD, who oversees film, music and tourism happenings in the state) companies invested $521 million dollars in the GA economy, which equals $929 million dollars in economic impact to the state.

There are two hot shows being filmed in Atlanta right now -- "The Vampire Diaries" and "Drop Dead Diva." Parts of "Zombieland" filmed here as well, and word is that Robert Redford is coming to Savannah to start filming. I checked and after searching under film locations, I got back over a thousand TV and movie titles. Granted, individual TV episodes are listed, so the actual number is less. Some samples from the list include "In the Heat of the Night," to "Cape Fear" to "Driving Miss Daisy."

So why is Georgia such a great place to film? For starters, the state gives production companies up to thirty percent in tax incentives to "qualified" projects. Twenty percent is a tax credit on their investment, and the extra ten comes if the production agrees to slip in a Georgia logo in the credits. AND, productions can get immediate sales tax exemptions on certain purchases.

Georgia also has a strong network of production companies and workers. GDEcD's website writes that there are 4,000 entertainment pros and 800 production related companies in the Peach state.

But, as is often the case, I think that money is at the heart of this. In Georiga, the cheap cost of living is a draw for companies and indivduals. Land, food, gas, and other necessities are cheap relative to other large cities and states. The good weather, an extensive highway system, and the varied topography that make the state fun to explore probably create a great deal of flexibility for location scouts and film crews.


-Fox Past Life page Entertainment page

UPDATE: According to AJC's Radio and TV Talk blog, Fox has stopped production on "Past Life." This seems to be the new favorite thing of networks (remember "Southland"?). Bummer for the crew, and I know I was hoping to see more bright lights in Hotlanta. It also seems like a crappy business model to order filming and then shelf the project. If anyone has any insight into these things, I'd love to hear it!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Benefits of Networking

Today was my day off, and I spent most of it working on job application materials, job searches, ideas for posts and, of course, networking!

My uncle Lynn -- thanks, Lynn! -- helped me get in touch with Randy Achee, who is the CEO of H&A Media Group. And no, I'm not gonna give you his contact info, go get your own well-connected uncle!

We were able to talk for about an hour (!) and he gave me some good common sense advice about how I can approach my job search and networking.

1. Look for an area that has need for my skills, but one that has also weathered the recession better than other areas, and that will grow well in the next couple of years.

2. Find ways that best showcase my skills in my resume. I have a couple of bullet points that expand on my skills and successes, and Mr. Achee reminded me that I need to be detailed and give examples of how I have been successful and how I've developed my skills.

3. Build my web exposure. I have a good head start with this blog, a website of my senior year projects, and I have a Twitter account that I use...sometimes. I think I'll get more use out of Twitter now that I have a blog.

4. Network! I hear this all the time now, but Mr. Achee pointed out to me that 30-40% of lower and entry level jobs will show up online, but the higher up you get and the longer you're into your career, the less positions you'll find online and in public sphere. Achee said that's when my social and business contacts will be most important.

I was relieved to hear from Mr. Achee that he felt I had a good journalism/new media foundation. It's been difficult at times for me in applying for jobs and talking to people about the experience I have.

Being a journalist is a bit like being an actor in that many others want to be the same thing. It can be a struggle to make myself stand out, and to not worry about being underqualified for positions.

Mr. Achee also mentioned that being young, fresh out of school and cheap in the way of salary are also distinct advantages for me. Before and right after I graduated, I wasn't so sure these factors would help, but it's nice to hear so from a successful executive.

Another reality is that starting in communications -- PR, marketing, magazines or online -- I have to be prepared to act as an apprentice. I won't get paid much, if at all, the first few years because it's about gaining experience and finding my voice as a writer. Just like the the craft apprentices of yore, I gotta work for free under the masters before they'll help me set up my own shop.

Even knowing this, it makes all the difference having people around me that care aboutwhat I'm doing and are willing to help me find my way.

Thank you, Mr. Achee for giving me your advice and being so generous with your time!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chattin' Up the Editors

I've been making the rounds of the editors -- slowly, but I will get them all! -- at Atlanta Mag, basically having quick conversations with them about what they do, how they got to their current positions, their views on the industry now, and of course, any and all advice they can give to a young journalism kid. I also have shamelessly offered my help for anything.

It's been fun to hear how the editors have made their way in the industry -- and a little scary. Their stories confirm really how hard it is to be successful. I guess part of me -- the innocent five year old part -- hoped that opportunities would be available, even though I knew I would have to work hard. The economy and seeing the skeleton crew of a staff here has killed that hope.

But, there are other bits of hope still alive! People are still reading papers and magazines, even if they aren't paying for them or paying as often for them. There's still a market, it's just the matter of figuring out how to draw readers in and making it worth their time and money while balancing our own work loads and integrity.

The conversation I most enjoyed was with Rebecca Burns, former editor with a capital E. She currently heads up the website. Her insight into how the magazine developed the website into something sustainable and profitable opened my eyes and answered a lot of my questions. Atlanta Mag works really hard to balance online and print content, and I think they've done well for their audience. In general, the whole staff, editorial and marketing, works incredibly hard.

There's new content on the site in the form of blogs, extras to the print articles, contests and picture galleries, as well as a digital version of the book on sale for ninety-nine cents! Something that has also been successful is the Atlanta Magazine Insiders program. People can sign up to receive newletters, alerts and event offers. All of this is voluntary, and Rebecca says that they have been very careful not to force content on the public.

Having seen things from the inside, I have to say the staff is doing their damndest to make Atlanta Mag a great city pub and a profitable one, and I'm thankful for being able to work with and learn from them.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Walk for a Memory Cure

This weekend, my family and I participated in the Northwest Metro Memory Walk. There are twenty-one Memory Walks in Georgia this month, and you can think of them as a sort of Relay For Life for Alzheimer's research and support. The walks are overseen by local people -- Georgia has 887 teams -- under the supervision and guidance of the national Alzheimer's Association. Teams raise money for the AlzOrg, which goes to research, help hotlines, support groups and educational programs.

The walk starated at the Maple Avenue Methodist Church right near the Marietta Square. We arrived about 9 a.m., and the morning started out sunny, but the clouds rolled in soon after. For one, I was glad, since that dropped the temperature down quite a bit and the weather was perfect for a brisk walk. We began our Walk a little after ten, and there was an oops! moment when our trust train of the Square passed by. There are trains that pass by the west side of the Square at regular intervals and unfortunately, we'd just started!

We crossed over South Marietta Parkway and walked around the Square, looping back around on Cherokee (I believe) towards the neighborhood near Maple Avenue. Mom, Dad, Ben and I chose to do the three mile walk, which included the Square and neighborhood. As early as it was, I really enjoyed just getting out with the family, talking and walking. Mom and I were definitely raring to walk faster, but the guys weren't so much into that. She and I walk for excercise, so we're used to moving at a quicker pace! The neighborhood we walked through provided a great view. The area is historic, and there are many cool old houses that reach back to the earlier parts of the century. We had a couple of lively discussion about the colors, styles and historic "characteristics." Like the shack (literally, but the walls were even) that served as a garage. But alas, no one can tear it down because its...historic!

In all, it was a great event, with 357 walkers. Everyone seemed very upbeat and enthusiastic about what the Memory Walk is all about, which gives me hope for the success of Walks everywhere. As of Saturday, the NW Metro chapter had raised nearly $48,000, which is phenomenal. My mom helped start a team at her wokr, and according to the NW Metro site, they raised $2,237. Way to go, Administaff! And thank you to everyone who donated!

For me and my family, the Walk was about more than service. My paternal grandpa has Alzheimer's, as did his sister, Ivalue, and my family has lived what Alzheimer's means. I can't compare the pain and sorrow to anything else, because this is the most serious disease a close family member has faced. But it is painful, because the rest of us understand and see what has happened. We realized for certain about four years ago that Grandpa had the disease, after seeing some warning signs and getting a diagnosis after he stayed in the hospital for something unrelated.

Granpda was bron in 1919 and grew up a farmboy in Britton, South Dakota. He served in WWII as a clerk and translator, and then started his career as a public school teacher (mostly history, I believe). He was so smart, and had such a vast store of knowledge. He and my grandma would do crosswords every day. They had their little stations set up in their home with Sharpwriter mechanical pencils, crossword dictionaries and notes. They would bring their supplies with them when they visited us. Sharpwriters always make me think of them. And his jokes! I'll never forget the story about the "ice cream." During one family gathering, back in the day, he and another relative served up some mashed potatoes to look like dessert, gave it to a third relative -- voila! Sour puss look and laughs. His dinner joke was to stick your thumb in the stick butter as he passed the dish. He always kept us on our toes.

Grandpa still has a lot of his humor, and some of his old grumpiness. But the tragedy of Alzheimer's is that his memories and most of his personality are gone. His Alzheimer's progressed pretty quickly, taking his speech skills and memory at the same rate. The tragedy of Alzheimer's is that your loved one is still here, but they are no longer aware of themselves, their lives, or anyone around them.

This is part of my story with Alzheimer's, but the disease reaches much farther. Every seventy seconds, another person develops/is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and over 200,000 Georgians suffer this disease. It is progressive, fatal, and the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Baby boomers are the largest group at risk right now. I encourage everyone to do their own research on Alzheimer's, and to take your own steps to protect your mind and body because no one is immune to this disease.

The NW Metro chapter will continue taking donations until Nov. 15, and you can make donations to AlzOrg any time during the year.

Extra stats (
-35 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's
-5.3 million people in the United States have Alzheimer's
-By 2050, there may be up to a million new cases a year equaling 16 million people with Alz
-Half of all nursing home residents have some form of Alz/dementia
-Nursing home costs an average $42,000, but can be even more expensive in parts of the country

Links -- more information, and where I found many of the facts mentioned here
Alzheimer's Association
Northwest Metro Memory Walk
CDC Statistics
Global Statistics
Impact on America
Championing the Cause

Friday, October 2, 2009

Intern Fun Day Pt. 1

So, Tuesday, Amy, Jackson and I ate at a new restaurant called Flip Burger Boutique and it was delicious.

I got the Falafel Burger and a side of their french fries (which are fried in duck fat). The fries are big enough to share with two people. They were both great. I got the burger because I had a hankering for falafel a la my trip to Europe. We ate a lot of kabobs and falafel during the trip because it is cheap and tasty. The burger itself was light and really hit the spot. The falafel wasn't heavy or greasy at all and the greens, red onion, cucumber rounded out the flavor.

The restaurant probably seats less than a hundred people, so I'm sure it fills up quicktly. We arrived soon after Flip opened, and there was plenty of room. There are booths along two of the walls and two rows of high tables filling the rest of the space. I would say go early so you're not sharing your meal with the person in the next party.

We decided to split three of their milkshakes and I'm glad we did! We had the pistachio and white truffle, nutella and burnt marshmallow and georgia peach versions. I usually like pistachio a lot, but I wasn't crazy about this one. The nutella was definitely the favorite of the night, but the peach was a close second.

Everything is made fresh with really nice products so the slightly higher price tag is totally worth it.