Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy New Year, back from the dead, and updates

Last year, I took an unplanned hiatus from blogging when life suddenly accelerated. But when I look back on the second half of 2008, I feel gratitude and joy about the things I was able to participate in, and the things I was able to accomplish. Some personal highlights:


Continued to take voice lessons.

Enrolled in the German Art Song class in the SF Conservatory Adult Extension program (the class I was interested in taking earlier). The focus this semester was on the songs of Schubert and Brahms. This class was an incredible opportunity for me - it stretched my brain in ways that engineers don't usually get to do, and helped me take my first big steps forward as an artist and performer.

Sang in two student recitals - my first as a solo performer. Another huge milestone. The first was a NATS student recital. The second recital was the culmination of the German Art Song class and was held at the beautiful recital salon at the conservatory. You can listen to clips here and here! There are also pics of this recital on Facebook.

Performed as soloist a couple of times with my choir. I don't think I'm at the same level yet as the best voices in the group, but I do think I am getting my foot in the door on the regular soloist roster.

Sang the A above the staff in public, by myself, more than once. This was during the recitals and concerts above. Not exactly an earth-shattering achievement for a soprano, but look, it is for me!!! We have to celebrate the small victories!!! B-flat, here I come!!!

Sang the Fauré requiem for a benefit concert and recruited a bunch of singers for same. The woman who organized the concert did it to celebrate her 50th birthday!

Sang some choral music at a concert at Stanford to commemorate the centennial birthday of Armenian-American author William Saroyan. Got a very fancy free catered dinner out of it, too. Mmmm, will sing for food...

Went to the Stanford Messiah Sing- and Play-Along for the umpteenth year. This is a favorite holiday tradition of mine. Each year, we try to go with a bunch of friends and get together beforehand for coffee/dinner. This year, we managed to assemble a bunch of Sugar Daddy's violin-playing friends to attend with us.

Watched and listened to more opera recordings!

Stravinsky - Rake's Progress
Mozart - Le Nozze di Figaro
Bizet - Carmen
Puccini - Madama Butterfly
Wagner - Das Rheingold, Tristan und Isolde
Massenet - Werther


Started my own business doing freelance Drupal/PHP website development for nonprofits! Scared about whether this will be financially viable in the long run - but I have to try.

Took on the Diabetes Society in San Jose as a pro-bono client, to build my portfolio. Did tons of work to convert their website to Drupal - and learned a crapload about Drupal in the process. Successfully launched their new Drupal website a couple weeks ago! Hurrah!

Created a website for a book launch, also on a volunteer basis. The book is Your Money or Your Life. It's a personal finance book, but not of the get-rich-quick variety. Rather, it's about living within your means, asking yourself "how much is enough", and becoming financially liberated enough to do values-based work regardless of pay.

Found out through the grapevine that the nonprofit where I wanted to work so badly a couple of years ago is now in the midst of an identity crisis and organizational meltdown. When I couldn't get a job there, it was bitterly disappointing at the time. But now it looks like the universe is looking out for me in mysterious ways. Nevertheless, it's still a bit heartbreaking because they were doing fabulous work.

Met with a nonprofit in East Palo Alto that does youth technology training, to discuss how Drupal could fit into their program. Judging from our discussion, I think it will be ambitious for them, but I am willing to give them some mentorship and coaching so they can give it a shot. I'm going to have to be very careful to set boundaries with them. They are sending out a lot of neediness vibes (which is not uncommon with small nonprofits) and I am learning the hard way that boundaries are needed in order to work positively and productively with such groups without getting sucked dry.

Attended my first Bay Area Drupal Camp (BADCamp). This is an amazing event. It's shocking what a high-quality conference this is, considering that it's FREE and sustained entirely by volunteers and a few very-low-key sponsorships. I've been to conferences that charged good money and didn't hold a candle to BADCamp.

Also attended the Nonprofit Software Development Summit. This is another amazing event, conducted in "unconference" style. The emphasis is not on "keynote speakers" and other expert muck-a-mucks handing down their knowledge from the podium. It's more about assembling an amazing mix of attendees and then throwing them together in various small-group formats to talk about topics of common interest and share expertise among themselves. Everyone gets to be an expert (and schedule a session if they want), and everyone gets to be a learner. And the event organizers put a lot of effort into getting a good mix of participants - one of them even said "we keep the jerks out". Ha ha. Truly, the strength of this event is not so much the sessions as it is the people. This is the place to go to meet technologists who are doing brilliant things for the social good, and tap into their knowledge and professional networks.

Had a meeting with World Centric, a sustainability organization in Palo Alto, to discuss a new position they are creating that will involve website development, content management, and writing. There are potentially a lot of good fits for me here. I also have to say that it is exciting to be approached about a job because the people hiring specifically have you in mind for the job. I am motivated to make this work - we'll see if we can hammer out the details and come to agreement on a work arrangement where I can put my special talents and strengths to work for them while still being able to maintain my own work/life balance.


Santa Barbara - spent time last summer with my best friend, her husband, and her two adorable terror-children!

Detroit - also last summer, we and the in-laws flew to Detroit to visit Sugar Daddy's aunt, uncle, cousins, and grandmother.

Tahoe National Forest - A Fourth-of-July camping trip with the in-laws. Lots of hiking and exploring. It's sooo nice on Fourth-of-July weekend to enjoy the beauty of the Sierras without the crowds!!!

Other Stuff

Took a tour of Far West Fungi's mushroom farm in Moss Landing, organized by Slow Food Santa Cruz in conjunction with MSSF. This was all-around fun. For a nominal tour fee of just $5/person, we got to see their fascinating mushroom farm operations, enjoy the beautiful coastal landscape of Moss Landing, and then eat a fabulous potluck lunch afterwards, to which the mushroom farmers contributed a generous amount of their harvest. I highly recommend any potluck that involves Slow Food people. Those people know how to cook! Sugar Daddy had to roll me out to the car afterwards.

Successfully crashed the San Francisco watershed mushroom foray. Signups filled up really early, but we just showed up on the day and were permitted to join. This foray is of particular interest because the area is so pristine and there are certain edible mushrooms known to be in the vicinity. I can't go into further detail or else I would have to kill you.

Went mushroom hunting at Salt Point for the first time. I have to say that six hours of driving and four hours of hiking yielded just a few spoonfuls of mushrooms! It's partly due to our lack of familiarity with the area and lack of experience hunting for boletes, but also the weather has been really poor this winter for mushrooms, with little rain. On a more positive note, we did get to try a few new mushrooms from this trip - slippery jacks, a Queen Bolete (delicious - never tasted anything like that before), and some oyster mushrooms (I've bought oysters and grown my own, but this is the first time I've gotten them from the wild).

Went to Calstar again in the fall - this was Sugar Daddy's first time at Calstar with his new astrophotography equipment. He was really excited and obsessed about it! You can see his photos here, and I've included one of the Dumbbell Nebula below. What's really impressive to me is that he gets these photos with low-budget equipment. Amateur astronomers can spend thousands and even tens of thousands on photography equipment and telescope equipment, but his setup is more in the hundreds range.

Well, that's the big update for now. I can't promise that future blogging won't be spotty or have more unplanned hiatuses - gotta go with the flow of life sometimes! Let's just keep our fingers crossed.