Sunday, October 11, 2009

Austin Under Graffiti Snail Attack

Yesterday we ventured out into 'Hill Country' about 30 minutes outside of Austin, TX to check out Hamilton Pool. With overcast skies and temperatures in the 60's, it was a pleasant brief hike down the trail to reach the natural spring grotto.

When bacteria levels in the water are safe, visitors are welcome to spend the day swimming at the pool. Otherwise, it is an extremely peaceful and beautiful spot to check out.

By no means am I a geological buff, but I couldn't get over the layers of seashells embedded in limestone from thousands of year ago. If you disregarded the 'warning, this is a fragile environment - stay on the trail' signs posted every five feet, you could literally pick full shells out of the rock.

My 'discoveries' for the day included a painted snail shell once inhabited by a slimy friend. I also lucked out and snapped a shot of a giant blue dragonfly resting on nearby berries.

After our hike, we stopped in at a local townie bar, Bert & Ernie's. It had redneck charm with its mix of bait shop, general store, and back-room bar with minors selling beer. I couldn't help but smirk; the townies were getting worked up when a rival biker gang showed up clad in leather. The locals were muttering about which ones they'd take in a fight, and a leathery-faced guy who resembled Chong said, 'I'll take the women'. Wouldn't recommend eating here or hanging out after sundown, but it was entertaining and friendly enough.

Rewind for a moment - graffiti snail?! It was amazing to be hiking and find Pikachu snail art loitering on a mossy rock on a rainy day. No other signs of graffiti or kitsch for miles around. Upon conducting additional research, graffiti snails are more common than you'd think. Artist, Slinkachu, as part of his 'Little People, Big Streets' project, decorated snails all around London. The project was called, 'Inner City Snail'. Has the graffiti snail wave hit Austin, yet it has taken on a Manga spin? Exciting!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Update: Artist Frances T. Trammell

Earlier this month I blogged about a wonderful email I received from a stranger (now friend, Robyn, pictured below) that was inquiring about a painting marked with a 'Frances T. Trammell' signature.

Robyn lives in Boulder, Colorado and purchased the painting at a secondhand store. Upon sharing with her that the painting was in fact Frances' and remarking how fun it was that it surfaced in CO (keeping in mind Frances spent her whole life in Maryland), Robyn responded:

What a shot in the dark to find you and information on your grandmother. I found the painting in a secondhand store here in Boulder, Colorado just a few days ago. It just spoke to me, she definitely was an accomplished artiest and you can feel the life in this little painting. Having said that....I would love to send it home to you if you would like. Maybe your grandmother tapped me on the shoulder that day to buy it then find you so you could have this bit of her in your life to inspire you. You wrote about the dream you had of her. I don't know, there is just something about it that is very solid and peaceful. Let me know if you want it and where I can send it.

I thanked Robyn for the incredibly kind gesture and insisted she keep the painting. The exchange prompted great dialogue with my mom, her sisters, and my cousin recalling Frances' life and her work, and for me, brought happiness knowing that Frances' work and story now bring a new friend joy. Robyn shared that she too is an artist (and married to an artist), so hopefully they'll get a smile on their faces when they look at their great secondhand store find.

No wonder I love to share this story - it includes some of my favorite things: technology, thrift stores and art!

Evolution of social marketing & tagging - what's next?

It was announced this week, that Google released an improved version of Picasa photo software (v. 3.5) that integrates with Google Maps.

PC Magazine explained, "Now you can add location info to photos - one photo at a time or several photos at once," Google wrote. "Simply select pictures, click the Places panel, search or surf to a place, and drop a pin in the right place on the map. Once you've added geo tags, you can select a group of photos and see where they were all taken."

Associating images with geographical locations on Google Maps isn't something new, Picasa's feature to tag images with geo data upon uploading them shows where tagging is going - mobile.

Personal Travel Tip: Site note about Google Maps and images, when I moved to Austin last month, I used the 'More...' menu on Google Maps (pictured at right) often to see photographs of restaurants in my area. This feature was extremely helpful and expedited getting acquainted with my neighborhood.

Tags are getting more sophisticated. The Dell
Lounge utilizes a tag cloud as an alternative way to navigate the site. The more Web 2.0 users gain comfort with tagging, there will be an increased likelihood sites will do away with traditional site navigation (menu bars) and only have a tag cloud.

Tagging on photo sharing sites or applications is something web users have strong familiarity with. On Facebook tags are utilized to identify 'friends' or for humor.

With the surge in corporate fan and group pages, there has been an increase in tagging friends in corporate promotions or coupons as a way to share consumer information with friends.

Example posted below: My friend, Amanda, was tagged in a Coldstone Creamery image by a friend. The friend included a promotional caption, 'Cold Stone Creamery now has delicious cupcakes for a limited time only! Get a 6-pack for only $9.99...Oh what a bargain!' and tagged all her friends she wanted to share this information with.

Where will social marketing and tagging of corporate / promotional content go?

Will there be promotions to tag an image to enter a contest?

Or will technologies eventually track early adopters (the first 100 people to tag a popular promotion) and strong influencers (people that tagged all of their friends) to learn about how how friends influence buying decisions in the social marketing space?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Artist, Frances T. Trammell

Several months ago, I blogged about sources of inspiration and focused briefly on my late grandmother, Frances T. Trammell. Frances was a local artist in the Maryland area that towards the later part of her career, focused on nautical paintings. She had a MFA from University of Maryland, taught art in Hyattsville, is referenced in the Pola Nirenska Collection of the Library of Congress, and even had a local artist exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in D.C.

She died approximately one year before I was born, but as an aspiring artist myself, I am extremely interested in learning about her and tracking down her pieces of work. To the best of my family's knowledge, some of her work had been at local galleries and was lost / never returned. I believe these pieces included Punch & Judy puppets and paintings.

This morning, I received an email from a woman who found my blog entry about my grandmother. She was researching the painting pictured below, Googled 'artist Frances T. Trammell' and found my post. She emailed me with photos of the painting inquiring whether the piece is in fact hers - at first glance it looks like her work and is her signature / appropriate year (Frances Townsend Trammell = Frances T. Trammell).

Although I am a self proclaimed online marketing 'geek', I've been disturbed by the social disintegration of our culture at times. Less in person chats at coffee houses, more following on Twitter or 'friending' someone on Facebook. At my office, every web developer has an iPhone, and people can't even walk to the printer without having their phone in front of their face - as though it is a compass to navigate around an office making zombies of us all.

Moments like this though - spontaneous connections made through online and unlikely to happen in the 'real' world - that is the power of this tool and our modern technological age. It is remarkable to try to think how a granddaughter of a late artist would be connected with a woman on the opposite side of the country researching a painting she perhaps purchased / saw in small local gallery. Wild. Humbling. Very, very cool.

More updates to follow as I gather additional information on the painting and other pieces of work by Frances.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Quirky on Good Day New Mexico / KOB TV

Ah, small claims to fame...

This morning on KOB's Good Day New Mexico, a previously taped interview is airing highlighting me discussing online marketing services provided for Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Specifically, in May we launched a social marketing campaign to compliment the existing paid search, email marketing, and analytics services. The results have been very strong - high engagement and measurable ROI (taking online surveys, buying merchandise, growth in quantity of Facebook fans, etc.).

The interview airs today at 11 am MST but will also be accessible on for the next month.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Beauty in the Breakdown

It is time to let go, and let your internal compass guide you.

Those instincts that scratch at your sides.
Heaviness sitting on your chest
as you try to fall asleep,
making it hard to breathe.
Nagging. Tugging.
Chaffing. Weight.
Thoughts of 'what if'.

I can't find peace of mind
looking to prose and poetry
neatly organized into numbered chapters
to point to a clear path.
Or sitting on benches
looking onward
as one directs the masses
from a far off, pristine pulpit.

There is chaos in this world
with energy and magic.
Spontaneous connections. Sparks.
Encounters not missed.
New faces. Connections.
All around us. All the time.

I am the welder.

I understand the capacity of heat
to change the shape of things.

I am suited to work
within the realm of sparks

out of control. I am the welder.

I am taking the power

into my own hands.

Cherrie Moraga
This Bridge Called My Back

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Things I'll miss about Albuquerque...

We are almost a month away from moving to Austin, TX. As the date nears, I'm taking a more discerning look at Albuquerque and appreciating all this area has to offer.

I've lived in Albuquerque for the past three years of my life. It was a bumpy transition from Chicago to here in 2006 - Mike and I had just been together for a few months and were moving in together in a new town, I had just left a group of amazing friends, a great job, and found my self in the land of adobe, tumbleweeds, kitche Route 66, and vistas without a clue how to make it all work. To add some 'spice' to my situation, I additionally had a health issue that emerged (while w/out health care) and my mom in Maryland was diagnosed with breast cancer. A lot for anyone to stomach, let alone all at once in a new and unusual area.

It takes a really grounding place to keep one's life stable during a turbulent time. One by one, each of life's dilemmas worked themselves out, and through the process I started figuring out what matters: enjoying life, being kind, having fun, adding value to others' lives, and not taking oneself so seriously.

Finding myself was part of the process. Literally I also morphed into a different twist of me - pescatarian for almost 2 years, agnostic, flaming liberal, second tattoo, etc. This area helped me sift out some things I wanted and didn't want to be moving forward.

Things I'll miss about New Mexico the most or just general Albuquerque classics:
  • The mountain - how humbling to wake up to a snow-capped mountain and understand why it is called Sandia (watermelon) at sunset each day.
  • Artwork - the city oozes with creativity and quirkiness. Whether giant-sized sculptures of Paul Bunion, murals, carved tree stumps in a sunflower field, to day of the dead folk art, it is hard to not feel inspired here.
  • Balloons - every morning around sunrise the horizon is speckled with gumdrops ascending towards the sky or gently floating down towards the Rio Grande and tree tops. Around Balloon Fiesta, you become accustomed to laying in bed and hearing the primal hissing sound of gas burners guiding a balloon over your house. Or watching colorful shapes morph and grow out of fields to then ride an invisible escalator to the sky - gorgeous.
  • Outdoors - whether hiking Tent Rocks, La Luz trail, Pecos river-side camping or even up around Durango, this region is gorgeous. I hope it remains a secret and the people who think it is in Mexico, remain thinking they need a passport to get here and never come.
  • Quirky - Albuquerque is brilliantly weird and understanding its charm is something earned not given away. Small mountain towns in Madrid and Tijeras with funky saloon bars... colony in Taos of hippie Earthship dwellers... alien influences at Roswell or Taos hum... monster trucks, roadrunners, haunted Press Club... it's all here, you just gotta find it.
  • Food - smoked green chile is divine. Breakfast burritos are an art form. Pinon coffee - delightful. And it all tastes better looking at the amazing views in town.
I could go on forever with this list. Albuquerque is special. I hope Austin will be equally as queer and brilliant. There's one way to find out... that reminds me, I better get back to packing.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cryptic 4th

The pomp and circumstance associated with the 4th feels ill-suited to me now that I reside in the Southwest.
(Picture at right:

Growing up outside of DC, it was hard to not feel as though you're part of the political machine. On a middle school field trip, we stood next to Hillary Clinton and heard her address a small crowd on the Hill. When you live near DC, you ooze with self-importance because you feel so close to it all - or maybe it is just the East Coast attitude.

In Albuquerque, local news usually isn't national / international news, and I feel more in touch with the real roots of this country - the people who founded it after crossing over the Bering Strait and lived in harmony nature and the land.

When driving home from work the other day, I passed a private school on Paseo del Norte with a sign posed out front, 'Happy Birthday America'. This sign reminded me of East Coast culture and relative perspective on our country's history. It didn't dawn on me until visiting Santa Fe and enjoying local history, that I realized how my childhood field trips to Williamsburg and Jamestown pail in comparison to our Country's true founders - conquistadors, native tribes, etc.

Although I 'get' the fun associated with the 4th - watching fireworks and sitting on lawn chairs imported from Shanghai, drinking a beer brewed in Mexico - like Thanksgiving, I find it hard to get puffed up over this holiday.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tattoo Numero Dos - phase 1

Several months ago, I started planning my second tattoo.

As a 'martini woman artist', I've always wanted to incorporate elements of my artwork in a body art piece. I wasn't sure how to make it work, until I started falling in love with Day of the Dead artwork. To me, I interpret this folk art as a celebration of those past and a reminder to live each day to its fullest.

So, I developed a sketch of me / my artsy patron saint (my Grandma) as a cay-eyed day of the dead martini woman. I lack formal training in sketching, and my original drawing lacked much detail as compared to phase 1 of the tattoo (pictured at right) that I just went to Albquerque's own Custom Tattoo. The gap in the smile is intentional - both Frances (Grandma) and I have a gap.

I determined I wanted rib placement, went through a consultation, and made appointment number one to get the piece (which I chickened out and cancelled day of). After another round of thinking it through, I put down another deposit and gathered myself for the actual appointment (this past Tuesday night).

Three hours of tattooing on your ribs, well, hurts. The first two hours I was doing remarkably well handling the pain and "sitting like a rock" as my artist told me. Hour number three didn't go so well and included wincing, twitching, sweating, and squirming. I made it through the majority of the tattoo except for a section of hair on the figure and Manny still needs to go back in with white for highlights. He anticipates the second appointment will take roughly an hour to do touch up and final work *fingers crossed*.

Oh, odd fun fact - I've been banished to our second bedroom in the house, because I'm not allowed to sleep in the same bed as the pugs. Dogs like to lick the ointment off of tattoos and you can get ringworm from it! GROSS!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bearded Women Santos

Since childhood, I have been fascinated with the traveling circus. My grandmother, an artist, used to do etchings of circus scenes, and when I discovered painting as a hobby I found myself deeply connected to portraying myself as a jester. In college I took several feminist studies courses and was required to write a thesis on an area of interest. I wanted to study women's role in early traveling freak shows (a topic I hope to explore more in depth later in life). I narrowed focus to Venus Hottentot, an amazing woman stolen from Africa to be in a circus act. Today, I still collect books, vintage circus posters, and scour antique stores for circus items like clown barrels or performers' trading cards.

Last night, in Tijeras, New Mexico, population 474 at the 2000 census, I enjoyed seeing a proud bearded woman at a bar, Molly's. Side note, sign above the door at Molly's reads, "
The Greatest People On Earth Walk Through This Doorway." Wearing relaxed jeans with torn holes on the knees, a broad rimmed hat, and loose fitting shirt, she sat back and enjoyed a few beers with friends while listening to the band. Her beard, perhaps a badge of feminist pride, tumbled in shades of grey at least ten inches from her chin (note: Guinness World Record holder is Vivian Wheeler; in 2000, her beard was 11 inches long). I, an outsider in this towny bar, appreciated in the back mountains of Albuquerque, she had a home where she was appreciated.

The experience sparked curiosity as to the role of bearded women in culture. Within merely a half hour of scouring the Internet, the prevalence of references to mystical or saintly roles of bearded women impressed me.

July 20 or January 20 tend to be Saint days that celebrate bearded women:
  • July 20: Santa Librada/St. Liberata Patron of liberated women because she grew a beard, she is revered in New Mexico as a Penitente saint, as she was crucified by her father for disobeying his wishes. Source.
  • The festival of Saint Paula the Bearded is still celebrated every January 20th.
  • July 20th is the Feast of St. Wilgefortis, she was the daughter of the King of Portugal and another rumored Bearded Lady.
  • 14th century Spanish nun - and bearded woman - was sainted.
  • St. Uncumber [or Wilgefortis] July 20th ORC, a bearded woman saint, also known as St. Liverade (France), Liberata (Italy), Liberada (Spain), Debarras (Beauvais), Ohnkummer (Germany), and Ontcommere (Flanders). She was often represented as a bearded women on a cross. Source.

Literature and arts from previous centuries portray bearded women often with special powers:
  • In the chapters 40 and 41 of the second part of Don Quixote, the Dueña Dolorida and other ladies wear fake beards. They tell Don Quixote that the beards are the result of an evil charmer, and the knight has to ride Clavileño to undo the charm. Source: Wikipedia.
  • In the fifth century B.C.E. Hippocrates himself documented a bearded priestess named Athena. It was believed that her beard empowered the priestess with special clairvoyant abilities.
  • A famous painting in Toledo, Spain at Hospital de Tavera features Ribera's unusual portrait of a bearded woman. Source.
Beyond religious and arts references, feminists have entire schools of thought dedicated towards the role of body hair and women. They contend there is no biological or hygienic reason for women to remove body hair, yet most women do with harsh chemicals, sharp blades, and expensive removal treatments. Women's body hair has political implications - shaving legs / not, how hair is styled, armpit hair, pubic hair... Emma Chaplin wrote an interesting blog entry on this topic that is worth browsing.

On a final note, I enjoyed a YouTube video of a woman with a beard who thoughtfully encourages everyone to, "just be yourself."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sources of Inspiration - Friday the 13th

As an artist, sources of inspiration are all around me. Tonight, these are my top picks for artistic inspiration throughout the weekend...

* Frances Trammell, my grandmother (that I never met) and an accomplished artist. Oddly enough, had a dream where I spoke with her the other night. Woke up extremely emotional. The next day sold a painting (for the first time in two years) and have experienced an interesting trend of artsy good luck since.

* Recent painting I'm working on in reds and yellows - title to be determined.

* Douglas Bean, pug extraordinaire and expert at sneezing on things. My dedicated sidekick. AKA drag queen pug, Deebleton, Deebey, Doug Bug, Ms. Douglas, etc.

* Pineapple Lick, favorite self-portrait. Did when I was 18 in my first year in college. Pineapple 'found' object from thrift store. Expensive purchase at all of $0.30.

* Oates, named of course after the infamous John Oates (Hall and Oates).

* Naughty Face. Me, as a drag queen, of course, putting on my face in the mirror.

On that note. Happy Friday.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

This evening's artistic inspiration

I explored my art desk at home to find lots of small sources of inspiration this evening...

paint chips, photograph from Durango trip where I discovered gargantuan dandelions, selection of hand-made cards I've been working on resting on top of a rusted box recently purchased from a thrift store, paint brushes against my Super Friends lunch box with ET lunchbox underneath, napkin art gift from Bruce McCullom, and picture of my Aunt Sally in her teens as a professional dancer seeming to float over a rose garden...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Life's Soundtrack (at the moment)

Feeling very 'High Fidelity' at the moment, I'm inspired to try to determine top tracks that not only represent my life to date, but if I were stuck listening to a soundtrack of my life - what would it be? Admittedly, a work in progress, this is the list of top tracks of my life as of today, March 5, 2009:

* 'Mad Word' - Fears for Tears: 'Donnie Darko', a random flick, now top ten favorite films, solidified passion for this song.

* 'Just What I Needed' - The Cars: It rocks, need I say more.

* 'Crocodile Rock' - Elton John: nod to my childhood, dancing on a trampoline to Elton John (being played on vinyl), often with my rocking pops (Jim, aka 'Doodah') dancing with me at midnight when I should have been long asleep.

* 'Moonshadow' - Cat Stevens: pure nostalgia. Childhood memories + favorite album on vinyl + loving 'Harold & Maude'. I dig.

* 'I'm a Different Person - Turn My World Around' - : viva living in Boystown in Chicago for one of the best years of my life. Honestly. Kyle... best year ever. Rum & Diet, glitter, drag queens prettier than most females, identity, Roscoes on Sundays for 'dance-offs', what a great time period.

* 'Had I Known You Better Then' - Hall & Oates: Where do I start? Mike = pure, ruthless, Hall & Oates addict. We went to show in Denver to hear Oates. He played this song, and it was already one of our favorite tunes, but the experience solidified it. After the concert, I thanked Oates in person for playing this obscure song. To add to the myth of the song, when Mike proposed to me this year, he had this song in the background.

* 'Such Great Heights' The Postal Service: music that helped me find me, and in turn, my artwork. Three of my favorite paintings were developed after listening to this song on repeat. Simple. Concise. Transparent. I like.

* 'Scarlet Begonias' Grateful Dead: Oh, college years. This song fits and reminds me of my best bud, Kate. This song also inspired one of my favorite paintings ever... and somehow I blame this song for me going skydiving my freshman year in college. It's all good.

* 'Can't Always Get What You Want' - Rolling Stones: I remember singing this song out my window of my CRV with Kate, of course, my freshman year in college, roaring through neighborhoods in DC. It not only fit for the time period, but is a good song to keep in my back pocket for life.

* 'Girl from Impanema' - Astuad & Joao Gilberto: Grow a soul if you don't love this song.

* '1812 Overture' - Tchaikovsky: my childhood, my beloved old man with glass of Jack Daniels in hand, simply, honestly, intending to lead to the orchestra through this intimate piece. Perhaps, this song could be, the most appropriate piece to salute my dad, in all his glory? I just love the memories of climax of this piece with cannons & reminiscing about seeing splashes of cocktail in hand conducting an invisible symphony.

* 'Small Things' - Blink 182: Sadly, proudly, I used to 'heart' Blink182. Claim to pretend egotistical fame - I met them at Warped Tour in 1998 and have pictures will all band members minus Travis (drummer).

Such a tough topic... more modifications to this list to come...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Beauty in the chaos

We've lived in Albuquerque for 2.5 years now - it seems like just yesterday I was in Chicago walking up seventy-five steps to get to my tiny studio apartment that had such poor water pressure, we had to use a spaghetti pot with water to help flush the toilet. Ah, memories.

Lately Albuquerque feels more like home than previous homes including both Chicago and even Maryland. We're in love with the weather, mountain views with plateau sunsets, smokey green chile local food, down-to-earth residents, and overall enthusiasm towards life out here. Things have fallen into place for us we feel largely because we followed our instincts to move out here together (yikes - after only knowing each other for four months).

I find pleasure in the small things in life - the random chaos that seems to weave throughout my entire day of lots of small, unique connections if less awake I'd miss. As a web geek, largely my recent 'wow' moments have been inspired by online experience that trickle over into 'real' world.

In Albuquerque, there is a local community site, Duke City Fix. The site was started by a small group of locals that had a vision to connect the community in an online meaningful format. The result - the site is up to 4,000 avid participants (out of a city that is 800,000 residents) and drives real world connections in meaningful ways.

Last month I planned a networking gig that pulled LinkedIn contacts and invited them to connect in the 'real' world for a happy hour. It drew about 60 local professionals out after work, and was a great success. However, after four hours straight of intense discussions and fake laughs, one can't help but feel a little drained.

On my way out of the bar, a stranger tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a napkin - with a portrait of me on it. It is a deliciously wonderful gesture, something that made my whole night, and the words written around the edges of the sketch were raw - "A night, an evening, time spent, time lost, begin again." I could not have summed up the networking experience better myself, and here, a breath of fresh air stands Bruce McCollum, a local napkin artist and musician in the band Martini Tones, making my night.

Inspired by the interaction, I zipped home and blogged about the experience on Duke City Fix. The post gets featured on the homepage, and feedback starts rolling in. Lots of people in Albuquerque have met Bruce, loved Bruce, and been lucky enough to receive a napkin portrait as well. There's more - a local gallery, Wooden Cow, exhibits his work - both the napkin sketches and the sketches blown up on canvas. Then, even better, Bruce himself catches wind of the online fervor about his work, joins the site, and gets the positive feedback that there are tons of locals who love him. Full circle.

Simultaneously, I enter a random "I love Albuquerque" contest where within twenty-five words you have to write a love poem to the city. I type out a sarcastic entry, hit send, and get a phone call a few weeks later - "Ms. Marshall, you're a finalist in our contest". Oh shoot, should have put more energy into it, and hope I can remember what I wrote!

The hosts of the contest, Local iQ (an independent arts publication) and AIBA (Albuquerque Independent Business Alliance), throw a party at a local Irish pub on last Thursday. Not only do I go, but I of course rally a group of pals to come along with to part take in the shenanigans.

Upon arrival, I run into lots of people that I know, and meet a handful of new, wildly interesting people. One of which is Raine Klover, the owner of Wooden Cow Gallery and one of my Duke City Fix pals. She recognized me from my 120x120 pixel image on the site - small world. One thing leads to another, Raine mentions that my artwork (martini women) might be a fit for her gallery, and now I'm in the process of organizing some pieces to submit for review.

Oh, and to add to the 'pay it forward' karma train, after the poetry party I had a vivid dream that my deceased artist grandmother, Frances Trammel, visited me and we had a long talk about art and continuing to paint. Then two days later for the first time in two years I sell a painting through a wonderful new connection I made on Twitter.

Beauty in the chaos. Wonder in the small details. There is something to say about a city this size filled with people that wear their hearts on their sleeves.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Winner - I Love ABQ Contest

Yes. The rumors are true. My entry for an 'I love ABQ Contest' has been selected as a finalist. Join me (if you have nothing better to do) Thursday, 2/26/09 at O'Neils in Nob Hill for the party from 6-8 pm. Winning entries will be printed in local paper, Local iQ.

About the contest
What do you love about Albuquerque? Tell us! Win great prizes!
Local iQ and AIBA want to know. Tell us what you love about your town in 25 words or less! Submissions can be in any format — poetry, prose, pithy comments, limericks, haiku, or whatever you come up with. Send your entries (limit two per person) via e-mail to Deadline Feb. 14, 2009. Include your name and phone number! Hard copy entries can be mailed to:I Love ABQ ContestLocal iQPO Box 7490, ABQ, NM 87102
Prizes for "Quirkiest," "Most Romantic" and "Best of Show."

My entry:
Green chile beer, dive films at the Guild, cold Balloon Fiesta mornings, roadrunner sightings – no ‘Q’s’ about it. You had me at 'hola'.

Could it be - that QuirkyABQ takes the prize for quirkiest love poem about the 'Q'?

Winners will be printed in Local iQ.
Prizes and party on Feb. 26 at O'Niell's Irish Pub, 6 to 8 p.m.
Prizes include dinner for two at Slate Street Cafe; a lovely gift basket from Martha's Body Bueno; and a selection of luscious salsas from Cervantes. Plus, you get your name in the paper and here on the web site!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Global Game Jam '09 - Team Albuquerque

Superbowl Sunday. Where were you? My guess is comfortable with friends eating lots of food and watching the game (or like us advertising folks, watching the commercials). A core group of gamers weren't so lucky, as they had just stayed up for thirty-six hours straight developing Chromogeist, their submission to the Global Game Jam '09.

On January 30 - February 2 over 1,600 participants competed world-wide in a video game development and design challenge. Albuquerque's team was led by Eric Renz-Whitmore, UNM Arts Lab professor. The group included Luke Nihlen, Elaine Raybourn, Eric Geusz, Ben Pogge, Peter Hague, Jonathan Whetzel, John Nipper, Chase Palmer, Ryan Knudsen, Jim Evilsizer, and Mark Smith.

The team was presented with the challenge of developing a game in 48 hours that could be played for five minutes. The team chose to focus on the concept of 'blindness' and developed a game, Chromogeist, that takes place at night. Through cooperative gaming techniques, players utilize their flashlights to 'zap' creatures of the night with the hope of surviving until the sun comes up.

Watch YouTube video on Chromogeist team:

What blew me away about this group was the raw talent it took to pull together a well designed, fully functioning game is such a short amount of time. Even the feet on the characters in the game moved! And the attention to detail - they recorded several tracks of grunts that at random rotate as the game goes on. And for background music, a team member had his friend write a song and come into the studio and record it for the game. Amazing!

To young graphic designers, programmers and game enthusiasts, these competitions are an eye-opener that gaming is here to stay and will continue to become mainstream as time goes on.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

HPV Vaccine Killing Girls

If you want to help a young woman in your life, stop reading this blog entry and Google 'HPV vaccine girls death'. Yes, the vaccine that only protects against certain strains of HPV is being improperly administered by doctors thus incurring hospitalization and in some cases death of young girls.

1,637 adverse reactions have been reported by Judicial Watch, a public interest watchdog, including three girls who died shortly after receiving the immunization. Judicial Watch obtained the reports from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration using the Freedom of Information Act.

I was aware of the pharma hype associated with this controversial vaccine, what I was unaware of is that when this shot is administered with any other vaccine severe sickness and / or death can result. I first learned of this through a close girlfriend, Blair. Her husband's client's daughter received the HPV vaccine and when the doctor administered it he additionally provided other shots. Later that day, she became severely ill and had to be taken to the hospital where she has been on life support - for several months.

Don't believe me, see these resources yourself:
* FDA report states 1 death / month from HPV shot
* CNN reports girls that received Gardasil shot can become paralyzed. 7,800+ reports of adverse events submitted thus far.
* As of August 31, 2008, there have been 10,326 VAERS reports of adverse events following Gardasil vaccination in the United States. Of these reports, 94% were reports of events considered to be non-serious, and 6% were reports of events considered to be serious.

Bottom line, before encouraging your daughter, niece or friend to receive this shot, please do your homework.

Happy adoption day Oates

Tomorrow marks one full year since Mike and I adopted Oates (previously known as 'Willy'). It has been an eye-opening experience adopting an adult dog through a local rescue. The experience has gone so well in fact, we adopted a second pug in May and even encouraged my folks to adopt an adult dog last month.

Oates has always had bittersweet luck. He was homeless and wandered into a local radio host's garage on South side. Later that week the host commented on the wandering pug on the radio, and connected with NM Pug Rescue to find him a home. Oates was fostered by several families, although several of which found him too energetic and puppy-like. At a Pug Rescue fundraising event, Oates bolted from his foster parent and was hit by a car thus resulting in a shattered hip and blood loss. The dedicated Pug Rescue Director wasn't about to let his story end too soon, and Kelly rushed him to a local vet and pleaded with them to treat his injury.

Legend has it, one of the nurses on staff offered to pay for Oates' reconstructive surgery (estimated around $1-$2k) under one condition - that Kelly place him with a loving home for life. Several months later, Oates was back with foster parents in a body sling to use the potty outside, and constrained to a crate by day.

Meanwhile, while Mike and I were living in an apartment in Albuquerque, I started hunting for pugs online. Since I was 18 I have always wanted one as a pet. I found NM Pug Rescue's site through, and I combed through the pet listings. There was the happiest little Puggle I'd ever seen, and I couldn't help but email the Rescue to learn about his story.

By the time Kelly got my email, Oates had been placed with a family and we were unsuitable to adopt him because of our apartment's rules & regulations. The timing was such that by the time Oates healed from his injury, failed placement with foster families, and his posting was back on Pet Finder... I found him, and by this time we had a house with a back yard!

I hope over the years our experience adopting an adult dog might inspire some friends and family to consider adoption before buying a puppy. Oates was lucky he wasn't taken to a pound... and lucky he survived being hit by a car... many other adult dogs aren't so lucky.

So, Oates. Cheers to you my furry pal on the eve of your adoption day. We're glad we found you.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pictures from inauguration '09

A few snapshots from travels to Inauguration '09.

Man flying Kenya flag near where we were standing and shot of press.

A common Obama trinket sold - Obama flag, and a shot of the jumbo screen near where we were standing. I was extremely thankful to be tall so I could see.

Peaceful masses shut down all streets surrounding the Mall. This crowd was just blocks away from Pennsylvania Ave at 9 am walking to the Mall. Second picture - Mike and I bundled up to brave the cold temperatures. For most of the festivities we were in the National Monument's shadow, thus making it easier for fingers and toes to numb up through multiple layers.

Our Capital a few hours after the celebration. Teleprompters at left included messages about Metro closings - not too convenient for pedestrians several blocks away trying to push through crowds to get to closed stations. Second picture - my best friends from college, Nerissa and Erin, with Mike and I out near Adam's Morgan the night before. The whole bar starting dancing around midnight chanting 'O-ba-ma'. Good times!

My favorite item I saw the whole day, an Obama puppet that ordered a victory beer at a pub in Columbia Heights. Second picture - a balcony just a few blocks away from the Mall in the morning. I think the patriotic donkey has a gold tooth?

There were tons of guerilla marketing campaigns on the mall ranging from Guantanamo Bay protests, PETA, to Jesus people. Shots above were taken behind the National Monument. People were provided with 'Hope' posters where they wrote in things they hope for. Also saw some t-shirts sold in DC where you could write in what your hoped for in '09.

This shot was taken with my back to the Lincoln Memorial facing the National Monument. Note the wave of people taking up every square inch of ground on the Mall. The ground was dusty and cold, and I love the clouds that were stirred up by foot traffic.

MSNBC was one of many stations set up on the mall, most of which outside of the Natural History Museum. We stood outside the 'fish tank' and waved to Rachel Maddow - I hope she saw us. We love you!

Last but not least, Mike took this shot of the 'Wonder Ball' at a bar called Wonder Room in Columbia Heights. It was just one of many posters of Obama we saw the weekend. We were tempted to try to tear this poster down, but were unsuccessful.

Inauguration '09: Part II - Planes, Trains, & Homecoming

Buzzing cell phone alarm. Drive to airport in darkness. Quiznos for breakfast. Making our flight on time. The trip is off to a good start.

We flew from Albuquerque into Midway (Chicago). Our flight had a short delay before departing from Midway to Philly. Luckily we beat ice storms that were looming overhead. Young female who looks like my first college roommate sits next to us, hopefully it isn't my old college roommate - we didn't get along very well to say the least.

Lindsey is from Phoenix, about 22 and works in local government. She took a hiatus from work to join the Obama campaign for approximately two months - turns out she was assigned to Las Cruces, NM during that time period. Fastest way to make friends - share some free drink tickets. Trip is off to a good start.

Lindsey became our partner in travel crime for the next few hours. Shared stories about her campaign experience as a volunteer recruiter, managing the status of grants in her office, and her passion for wine (she's a bartender / manager at a wine bar in Phoenix). She shared that her next trip after Inauguration is to take a one-week cheese course so she can become a master cheese monger, a cheese connoisseur of sorts.

Smooth arrival into Philly. Typical East Coast skies - grey, cloudy, with lots of chill in the air. Three of us split a cab ride to the 30th street train station, just a few hours earlier this was where Obama kicked off his train ride into DC.

Delays were experienced, but not half as bad as we anticipated. We kill time hanging out in a pub enjoying vanilla stout beer, hummus and bruchetta. Pieces of confetti and wrist bands on the floor of the station from grandeur earlier in the day.

Train ride from Philly to New Carrolton, MD. Sit next to a woman from town (Bloomington - Normal) next to Mike's hometown (Chapaign, IL). Her daughter worked on the Obama campaign and has tickets for them to attend a ball. She also scored a hotel reservation within walking distance of the Mall.

Arrive in New Carrolton, just ten minutes from my parents' house in Glenn Dale, MD. Familiar spot. Many childhood train rides on field trips to museums commenced at this location. In high school I celebrated new found independence taking the train to loud concerts. This is also the station I'd navigate to from College Park, MD for food and laundry visits with my folks. Full circle. It feels good to be home.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pre-Trip: Inauguration '09, Washington, D.C.

'Jen, they're putting up thousands of port-a-potties, thousands... are you sure you want to go?' Since early November, my family has forwarded Nostradamus-esque emails to me predicting the crowds and chaos that will be Inauguration '09. Most recent reports include an estimated 4-5 million people descending upon DC and closures of all bridges into the city (even the Woodrow Wilson Bridge).

Our trip will start next weekend on Saturday the 17th. Due to exorbitant flight costs going into BWI or DCA, we're flying into Philly. For the past few weeks I've been going back and forth weighing whether to rent a car or take Amtrak from the 30th street station. I caved last night and purchased two round trip tickets only to find out this morning that Obama is taking the train that day too!

Obama is taking Amtrak from Philly on the 17th and traveling to Wilmington, Delaware to pick up Senator Biden. From there, they are riding into DC - a nod to Lincoln's route to DC for his inauguration. See Washington Post article here.

Once in Maryland, our current plans are to visit with friends and family, and go into DC Monday night. We're staying in Adam's Morgan with my college roommate, Erin, and then walking to the Mall the next day.

More anecdotes from our adventure to come!