Thinking Visually

Due tomorrow at 8am is my proposal for my final project. The assignment is to “Tell a compelling story through the use of still photography and words. Use of music and video is permitted but not as the main focus of your story. Use Powerpoint (or other presentation platform) as your delivery method. You’ll show the presentation in class then engage in a Q&A with your colleagues. You will get 25 photographs to tell your story, supplemented by single words, if desired.” 

Maybe it is because my life is currently on hyperdrive where I am focusing on completing tasks, but I don’t see a lot of interesting stories happening in my life right now. Which means, I’ll have to find a story somewhere else to tell. Which means I’ll have to slow down long enough to see a story going on around me.

Maybe it is because I was an English major in undergrad, or maybe it is because of all those books I read, but I don’t think I think visually. I think I think in words. I have a very visual memory, but it is more natural for me to present a story through prose rather than visuals.

I am approaching this project from the mindset of the graphic novels I read last quarter. Maybe there is something there that I can use here.

What AM I passionate about right now?

The biggest challenge here is finding something physical to take photos of. At least with writing when you need something you can just create it out of thin air.

A story should be more than progression, so watching the birds build a nest in the tree and then hatch their babies isn’t really a story, it is just a timeline. Something interesting should happen.

My office is moving buildings soon. Maybe that would be an interesting story. Still, there is risk we don’t move and then I have nothing. Or, maybe the story isn’t interesting at all.

25 photos is a lot. I think of photojournalism and unless it is a huge event, there are rarely this many photos and often a lot more text attached to the story than a few words “if desired.”

Do I have any events coming up? No…

Maybe I’ll tell the story of the Midsummer Renaissance Faire. That could be perfect. Maybe there wouldn’t be a “story” per se, as in maybe there wouldn’t be an arc. On the other hand, maybe I could craft one out the photos I take while there.

This is what I finally turned in:

I will be attending the Midsummer Renaissance Faire in early August. I think this event will contain fascinating stories of a time long past and how modern-day people pay homage to that time. I know that people dress up for this event, there are reenactments and other performances including, arts, magic, dancing, equestrian acrobatics, and more. I will spend a day at the faire absorbing everything it has to offer and clicking away the camera. Throughout this, will be able to create a story of pounding hooves of Knights horses, clinking of mugs of ale with the Ale House Wenches, puppets performing magic, thundering booms of pirate’s cannons and dancing faeries! I too may be transported to another time and place throughout the day, eating foreign foods while listening to foreign music and tales of another time. If the faire isn’t enough, just the drive to get there will be an experience! I hear a vital road will be closed and we will have to navigate our way through unfamiliar Bonney Lake. We may even have to stop for refreshments or fuel. The tale is not yet told, but will surely be a day to remember.

Now we wait to see what she thinks of my proposal…
To be continued!

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Plated: Oven Fried Chicken with Corn and Lima Bean Succotash

Another week, another Plated dish!

This week was Oven Fried Chicken with Corn and Lima Bean Succotash.
Sounds good!
Also, one of my assignments this week for grad school was to create a story using photographs so, I decided I would tell the story of my Plated creation!

Review of this dish?
I really liked the succotash, I just have a weird thing about eating chicken off the bone.
Overall, I liked cooking this one. It was fun to bread the chicken, I had never done that before. But I HATED peeling the skin off the chicken, that was the absolute worst. I practically lost my appetite.

I’ll just make sure not to order chicken on the bone next time! 🙂

 

Plated- An unboxing: Garlic and Lemon Roasted Chicken with Spinach and Asparagus

Plated served me several targeted Facebook ads before I decided I would check them out. Being someone who doesn’t like going to the grocery store, doesn’t really have a lot of cooking experience, is single and short on time, I am exactly their type of customer.

Plated delivers (almost) all the ingredients you will need two-serving meals right to your door. It eliminates the need to go to the grocery store to pick up all the ingredients for a healthy, and in my opinion, fancy home-cooked dinner. Their prices are reasonable –with a monthly membership ($10/month) and ordering about 4 meals a week, or 16 per month, the average cost per meal comes out to about $13/serving. Not bad, considering it is delivered, there is no waste (assuming you eat your food) and the ingredients seem to be very high quality, considering they are shipped.

For my first box, I decided to order 2 servings of Garlic and Lemon Roasted Chicken with Spinach and Asparagus. This is something that I would never have undertaken to cook myself, had not all the ingredients been bundled together. There are a total of 8 ingredients for the recipe, which, buying at the grocery store, would have amounted to much more than $26 ($13/serving).

Plated Box Arrives

It’s here!

I was thrilled when my first box arrived at my doorstep and was excited to see if it would really be like they said on the website. When I opened the box I was impressed by the organization and how well insulated it was. Of course, you would hope this was the case since they were delivering raw chicken, but you never know what you’re going to get when you order something off the internet.

The plated unboxing

The plated unboxing

The plated unboxing

I decided to cook the chicken meal first since it has ingredients that will go bad faster. The recipe card comes one very nicely printed piece of 8 ½ x 11-inch paper. On one side, you will find the recipe and on the other, cooking tips and a glossary of cooking terms used throughout the recipe. When I signed up for the program, I knew it would help me eat better and cut down on my pasta intake, but I didn’t realize that I will also be learning valuable cooking skills as well.

Plated Ingredients

Step 1 on the recipe was to Prepare Ingredients. This was easy, the hardest part was chopping rosemary, i would have to sacrifice freshness, but I think I would rather have that come pre-chopped, primarily because my knives are sharp enough to chop that type of plant very well.

Plated Step 1

Step 2: Sear Chicken

Chicken has always somewhat intimidated me because it can make you so sick if you do it wrong. They also noted in the directions that it was natural to have a slight “odor” to your chicken after it has been vacuum packed. They were right, it smelled sort of like the vinegar we use at Easter to dye eggs. I decided to trust them on this one and go with it. And, with the helpful cook instructions, I felt like I could be successful. The worst part was handling the raw meat. Call me “chicken,” but uhgggg.

There were a couple other challenges as well. First, I didn’t have any olive oil. I know, at this point you are probably asking yourself, who is this girl? Stick with me. I did have coconut oil. So, I used that knowing that my version may come out tasting a little more tropical than the chefs at Plated imagined. Second, I don’t have a “large oven-proof pan.” I think all my pans are from Ikea. Likely not oven-proof. So I had to improvise a little. Regular pan + some sort of oven dish (I need a glossary for my ovenware too).

In the end, the chicken seared a beautiful golden brown.

Plated Step 2

Step 3: Make Sauce

Ah yes… really this should be step 2.5 since you need to be doing it while the chicken is searing. I, on the other hand, was writing the introduction to this blog. So, I found myself in a bit of a pickle when the chicken was done searing and there was no sauce yet made. In Plated’s defense, they did specifically call out that I should read the whole recipe before beginning. They tried to warn me. Instead, I just moved the chicken off the burner and made the sauce. Seems like it was okay, no burnt chicken and no missing sauce.

One thing to note here as well, the sauce did call again for olive oil, which I again replaced with coconut oil. Granted, coconut oil is not a liquid, which made the next step more interesting…

Step 4: Roast Chicken

Remember how I mentioned that I don’t have an oven-proof pan? I had to somewhat wing this step with my make-shift oven dish. The main issue with not using the pan is that the sauce kind of runs all over the place and isn’t well contained around the potatoes and chicken. The other issue was the fact that I was using coconut oil which is clumpy at first. I just spread the lumps around hoping it would melt somewhat evenly while in the oven. What ended up happening is the sauce sort of burned around the pan, but it still smelled delicious. When the timer went off at the minimum time recommendation of 15 minutes, I pulled out my dish, and checked the center of the chicken for pinkness. I didn’t see any, but because I am afraid of chicken I put it back in for two more minutes.

Plated Step 4

Uhg, so blurry – Sorry!

Step 5: Cook Vegetables

This means, transferring potatoes back into the original pan and adding the rest of the prepared veggies. I was a little concerned because their photo showed a lot more liquid in the pan and since I burned all mine off, I thought I may need to add more. But, after the spinach wilted, it looked a lot better. Their directions said it would take about 3 minutes, but since my asparagus was really thick, much thicker than any asparagus I have gotten at the grocery store, I left it on for a few extra to try it to soften. Overall, a very easy step.

Plated Step 5

Plated Step 5

Step 6: Plate Chicken!

Sounds easy, right? Well, their photo looks amazing while I had asparagus rolling around and spinach flopping. I cleaned up the dish a little and I think it turned out pretty appetizing. Sure smells that way!

Plated Complete Dish

Ta Da! Garlic and Lemon Roasted Chicken with Spinach and Asparagus

Unfortunately, I had a family birthday dinner I had to attend that night so I couldn’t eat all of one serving. I did taste it and am amazed at what I have created with the help of Plated (also, no hint of coconut)!

Truly, this is something I would normally never have considered for just an average day dinner. I am so happy with how this first dish turned out. My inner chef has been unleashed! And, I bet I can tell you who is going to have the best lunch in the office tomorrow!

Summary
Pros:

  • Saves time by eliminating need to go to grocery store for dinners and it only took me about 50 minutes to cook the whole meal
  • Saves stress by planning your meals and delivering all the ingredients and easy directions to your door
  • Saves money by eliminating waste due to inability to purchase small enough quantities for just one to two servings of a meal
  • Increases nutrition by providing balanced meals with high-quality ingredients
  • Makes cooking fun and easy with short recipes and helpful photos
  • Increases cooking confidence and skill by showing hands-on how to use ingredients and walking you through the cooking process
  • Makes dinner much more yummy by getting me to eat something more than my unenlightened pasta with fake cheese and cut up sandwich ham (don’t ask)

Cons:

  • There are a lot of dishes to clean up (but I think it’s worth it)
  • I didn’t have all the ingredients, but in this case substituting turned out just fine
  • As part of the packaging, Plated sent two giant freezer packs that I have no idea what to do with now. Am I going to get these every week? The customer service is closed on Sunday, so I will have to chat with them tomorrow and find out. **UPDATE** After talking with the customer service, they informed me that the ice packs are non-toxic so they can be tossed.

Will I do it again?

Definitely! I am thrilled with my first meal and cannot wait to make my second, Zucchini Papparadelle Arrabbiata with Chickpeas and Almonds (that’s a fun one to type). I have also set my account to auto select my meals based on my menu preferences. I am lactose intolerant and don’t really like spicy foods so I eliminated those from my meals. Looking forward to what comes next Saturday!

Interesting in trying out Plated? Check it out here!

March: Book One – A review of color, style and storytelling

The tone of March: Book One, the graphic novel of the first part of Congressman John Lewis’ life and role in the Civil Rights Movement,  was primarily depicted through the way the design of the pages, the location of the words, and the stylistic decisions made throughout. These stylistic traits really crafted the experience and feeling s of the story while reading. First, the whole book was in black and white, immediately highlighting the differences and separation between the whites and black in society at the time. The fact that there was frame around the whole story and that John Lewis was telling the whole story from first person but to an audience drew you in as though you were those little boys in the office talking with the congressman as well. This frame also ties the novel inseparably to the speaker, Congressman John Lewis, and his life story.

The imagery in the book was dramatic with dark shadows further darkening the black and white on the pages. For example, on page 93, when they are describing one of the sit ins, the whole page illustration while they are all sitting at the bar and there is just one word “klik” resounding throughout the day. The anticipation builds as you take in the whole scene. In this frame, you see a lot of black filling the page, which is interesting because it contrasts what the environment would likely literally look like. Instead, the diner is likely brightly lit, the darkness highlights the tension, the insecurity, and the fear that is present in the room. You also see fear and determination on the characters faces who are participating in the sit in. In the background, you see the white people who are angry, standing with crossed-arms and formed almost as a wall, a resounding force in the frame as well.

Contrasting that, when the congressman is talking in his office with the boys, there is a lot more white on the pages and a lot more humor throughout the language. In fact, this is the only place where humor pears in the novel throughout. It is presented through the naiveté of the small boys with the questions that highlight how far the society has come since the Civil Rights Movement. What is also apparent, is the aging that John Lewis has gone through. The book of course, only covers the first part of his life and his entrance and rise in the Civil Rights Movement, so the distance in time is even more apparent. While John Lewis is more than willing to share his story with the children and mother, he also appears very strained while telling the story, very exhausted. This shows how his work in the Civil Rights Movement has worn on him, it has become a part of who he is, it is apparent in his outward physique.

Why Congressman John Lewis chose to present his autobiography in a graphic novel is an interesting thought. I didn’t do research to find his official answer on this, because I wanted to first consider what benefits he could take advantage of. First thought that comes to mind is the idea that this format stands out amongst other biographies, however, I do not feel this is enough of a reason to publish in this format. Maybe, the main advantage is this style makes the feeling, the experience, and the tone all very experiential. Like discussed above, you feel drawn in to the scene, you see the emotions, the colors (or lack thereof) tell you what the scene felt like instead of depicting what it actually looked like. This is very difficult to accomplish through words on a page, especially in a typical auto-biography which can be very dry and lack that same descriptive ability.

One other note, I wanted to mention, I read the book on both the iPad and in a hard copy and I feel that that the intensity of the imagery came through substantially more dramatically in the hard cover version. Part of it was due to the tactile aspect of holding the pages, but the main effect was the intensity of the illustrations was more impactful. The back lit screen of the iPad removed the darkness from some of the scenes.  And the technology added a layer of detachment from the time period being described.

Overall, I thought the choice to write in a graphic novel was very effective and the stylistic choices made throughout only added to the experience of reading. The fact that this is only book one, and the story cuts off somewhat abruptly, builds anticipation for the next book. However, this also left you with a sense of lack of closure. On the other hand, this could have been intentional, as Civil Rights is still an issue in many parts of our society. The work is not done. The story is not over.

 

 

The Digital Dilemma –Key Findings and Reflection

When I started my experiment on the effects of new technology on our minds and culture, I already knew the answer, in that I knew that technology has changed our thoughts, language and behavior. It is undeniable. This is, as I found, an age-old question and fear of whatever new technology is altering the current culture. Even Plato, discussed in-depth the effect of the new technology of his time, writing. Specifically, in Phaedrus, character Phaedrus is discussing the negative effects he predicts will plague the culture due to writing becoming accessible to the masses, “[Writing] will enable them to hear many things without being properly taught, and they will imagine that they have come to know much while for the most part they will know nothing… And they will be difficult to get along with, since they will merely appear to be wise instead of really being so.”

But I was curious if I could prove this among the 5 participants that agreed to be a part of my experiment. I wanted to see what else I could find out besides an all encompassing “yes.”

My participants were somewhat diversified, but also a lot alike in many ways. One key part of the experiment personally was to see if I would be accurate in my assumptions about participants’ responses since they are all people who I have known for some time.  See table 1.1 Significant Discoveries for more information on how each participant reacted to the presence of digital technology, specifically mobile phones, in their lives and my assumptions.

The key findings were that the Millennial generation had a stronger negative relationship with their phone than I assumed. It is so common to see Millennial on their phones that you would assume they really liked it and were getting some sort of pleasure out of using the device. However, throughout the experiment it was constantly reiterated that the phone has become like another responsibility to manage. Friends expect them to respond to a text or call in a matter of minutes or hours, and when they do not, it can be a point of real-life disagreement. At the same time, the one participant of an older generation found that the phone is a highly positive presence in her life and wishes that she knew how to operate it even more efficiently. However, it could be that she would feel the same way as the Millennials if she developed a comparable skill level.

After presenting my findings, I asked the audience for their perspective on the influence of digital technology, especially mobile devices, on our lives. It spiked great passionate conversation each time. One common thread of conversation was that the presence of digital technology does not need to be a negative presence. Instead, it is a matter of properly managing their presence in our lives. For example, in reference to the anxiety associated with being too accessible or needing to call someone back within a certain time span, the individual needs to set boundaries. One person may not be able to access their phone while at work or after 9pm. Another may prefer to answer messages when they are ready to answer the question. One solution would be to promise to always answer within one day. The stress comes from lack of understanding. In reference to the second most cited trouble with cell phones, distraction, individuals need to learn what standards for themselves will create an effective strategy to manage their time. It could be turning the phone on airplane mode while doing homework or eating dinner.

In my project I cited Lord Henry Wotton from The Picture of Dorian Gray when he states, “Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passion. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sin, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of someone else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him” (pg 16).  My question was, is the influence of digital technology influencing us and thus making us echoes of our real selves? Have we given our souls up to technology? Among my audience, there was concern that people, and perhaps society as a whole, is basing a lot of self-worth, self-esteem and self-image on what is posted to social networks and the engagement those posts get. This too needs to be managed by the individual. The fear expressed is that our real selves are becoming echoes of our digital personalities. However, I would take this a step further to the possibility that we are losing sense of the real people around us and they appear to us as specters of their digital profiles, almost regardless of what they present in the analog. This needs further investigation as it is beyond the scope of my experiment.

Ultimately, this technology is not going to be the end of humanity. But it will be the end of humanity, as we know it. It will evolve our thoughts, our behavior, our language, and us. It will take a new type of management for us to learn to effectively use the technology in a way that is primarily beneficial to us and to our society. I am excited to see what the next piece of disruptive and disturbing technology is!

Table 1.1 Significant Discoveries

Participant

Age

Tech Savvy? (1-5)

Assumption on opinion of smartphones

Generally Positive Response to Technology?

Discoveries

Win

22

4

Not connected to phone, uses for practical and some games. Will believe tech is good but also a hassle. Yes, but it makes him too accessible. He doesn’t like feeling like he needs to constantly be available to reply to a text. Also sees it as a distraction. Feels negative pressure to respond to calls/texts in a timely manner.

Keli

22

4

Very connected to friends via texting. May not use voice calling often. Sees technology as a big positive. Yes, but proves to be almost as much a distraction and as much as it adds to productivity. Doesn’t like being able to be found too easily. Actually sees positives of phones as a potential negative when adversely affects productivity.

Tim

29

5

Very connected to phone through texting. Uses phone for research and apps predominately. Believes tech is very good and would miss if gone. Yes, but it is a big distractor in life. Too many text messages and ability to pick up the phone and quickly access information. Doesn’t use to call hardly at all. Sees phone primarily as a source of distraction over productivity.

Greg

27

5

Generally connected. Sees phone as a way to be responsible and connected. Uses for access to social networks and friends. Views it as a Yes, but finds it causes trouble in relationships when he does not respond quick enough. Believes that the phone is for recreation and emergencies. Feels negative pressure to respond to calls/texts in a timely manner.

Laura

50

4

Generally connected. Texts and calls almost equally. Uses some apps but more likely to use tablet or PC for internet searches. Yes, believes there is a lot more that she could be doing with the device than she currently can take advantage of. Likes connectivity. Uses for entertainment and social. Most positive about presence of phone despite being of older generation.

Not Just for Profit

I loved hearing Steve Butcher from Brown Paper Tickets talk this past Saturday. The whole concept of “Not just for profit” is simple yet revolutionary. I was astounded to hear about his road trips across the country to theaters and small locations where he simply offers his assistance with a show or repairs and then eventually will talk to them about Brown Paper Tickets, but only if it feels right. I read recently about a dentist who offered free dental services to patients without insurance from 7 AM to 7 PM. He called it the Dental Hope 2014 event. He brought on sufficient staff and was able to serve over 40 patients in those 12 hours. The press kept asking, why are you doing this, no really, why? The answer was simple: To give back. 

I believe organizations of all sizes and industries could benefit from this type of mentality. Everyone has one day they can donate to a cause. There is always room in the budget to make a positive impact on people’s lives. At first, it feels daunting to shut down an office for a day and go out to make a difference, but in the end, you can afford it. We get so wrapped up in our day-to-day tasks, our deadlines and our scheduled meetings that we lose sight of what impact we can really have. Think of all the appointments Justin Coke, founder and CEO of 7to7 Dental, gave up that day to offer free appointments to patients without insurance, then think of the number of appointments he was actually able to fit in that had a huge impact on those people’s lives. I would say the benefit far outweighs the costs.
I hope I will be able to keep this in mind when I run a company some day. I also want to emphasize this type of mentality at my current workplace. This is about more than the giving tree at Christmas or the food bank at Thanksgiving, this is about looking for what you can do every day to make sure you are leaving the world better than you found it. It is about going the extra mile for the customer because they are relying on you to find the answer to their question. It is about helping out a co-worker with something outside of work. It is about taking a day for the company to serve the community and stop worrying about the meetings or emails coming in.
I really enjoyed Steve Butcher’s mentality and hope to keep this inspiration with me as I move throughout my life and career.

Givers and Takers

Give and Take has been a very interesting read. While I believe I am definitely on the far side of the Giver spectrum, I was uncomfortable with the villainous descriptions of the Takers. There are people who are self-serving, who will do anything to get to the top, who take all the credit and who believe that they are better than other people, but no one is arguing (except maybe those people) that is an effective way to do business. How many companies do we see fall into scandal while being led by a leader that fits this description? Also, I believe there is something to be said for the incredible and invincible self-confidence it takes to create a company and believe it will be industry changing. This type of genius and bullishness may not be appealing, but it is still incredible and impactful. This is reminiscent of the fine line between genius and insanity.

Overall, I found the analysis of the success of Givers in various situations interesting, but limited because it appears that every study proves his point, and when it doesn’t prove his point, he stretches the scope of perspective to the point where he is supported. I also felt there were too many case studies or scientific experiments mentioned. One or two per concept is sufficient rather than three. The book may have been more efficient to cut out 100 pages, however, perhaps this is a side-effect of being a Giver – you just want to credit everyone and give them their time to shine.

I did enjoy considering what type of person I am and the type of people I work with. I was able to better understand the behaviors of some of my co-workers with this added information. For example, it becomes evident how ineffective taking a Matcher approach can be in the workplace, maybe even less effective than the Taker in the long- and short-run.

I took the quiz on the Give and Take website to see if I am accurate in my assumption of how I fall within the spectrum (at least based on how I see myself!). It turns out that I am mostly on the giver side but I also have matcher and taker tendencies.

Give and Take