Jackie Visits Mono Lake

by Jackie D on March 15, 2014

Mono Lake“After everything that’s happened, how can the world still be so beautiful?”
–Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake

Mono Lake Mono LakeMono Lake

Mono Lake looks like a remnant of the apocalypse. Obviously, this means I’m a huge fan.

This lake formed over 700,000 years ago in a basin that has no outlet to the ocean. For those of you familiar with science (I am not, so I had to Google the information you are about to read), the lack of an ocean outlet here means that the lake has really high levels of salt. We are all learning something today.

All of the weird, rock-like formations you see here are actually a form of limestone called tufa. So much science.

As is the case with many things I discover when I am exploring, I study them not with a scientific brain but with an artistic one.  When I was wandering around Mono Lake I noticed the way the evening light hit the tufa from different angles and the shadows these limestone towers cast on the lake. I watched the other photographers in my group, taking note of the things that they personally found to be interesting.

When I am in an unfamiliar place my mind tries to relate the setting to things I’ve read or seen in a movie, or quotes from other explorers I admire. I imagine that if my father and I were to go out and stand in front of Mono Lake, we would have entirely different experiences of the place. I would think, if I move slightly to the right, it looks like the moon is starting to set right between those two tufa towers, while my dad’s thoughts would be more along the lines of something you’d read on a Wikipedia page.

Either way you look at it, I think I want the setting of the brilliant science fiction novel I someday write to resemble parts of this weird little lake in the mountains in the middle of California.

*Here’s a little more of Mono Lake for those of you who are more artistically inclined like myself (soothing music = bonus)
*And, just to be fair, here’s something for you science nerds (some new form of life was discovered or something, I don’t know, it sounds important and NASA is involved)
*And here’s something that you will enjoy simply if you are human (Hint: it’s a Huell Howser video and it’s titled Lord of the Flies. You’re welcome.)

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Changing of the Seasons

by Jackie D on March 9, 2014


“Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.”
– stanley horowitz

So, last October I did something without telling you — I went on a photography workshop up in the Eastern Sierras. In my defense, I mentioned this trip briefly when I posted about the ghost town Bodie several weeks back, though I didn’t go into much detail about the rest of the trip.

The trip was called a “Fall Color Workshop” because our main goal was to capture the ridiculously orange-gold hues of the trees. I can’t even accurately describe this color — it is the most unreal shade of orange I have ever seen. My first view of these trees was out the car window, turning into the mountains, and there was this trail of bright orange trickling through the brown like a stream. Whenever anything looks like it should only appear in a painting and not actually in real life, I am immediately a huge fan of that thing.


I love the changing of the seasons as much as the next person (have you ever heard anyone say, “I HATE seasons?” We all love saying we love seasons) and when I actually get to experience the changing of the seasons firsthand (so, anywhere outside Los Angeles, pretty much), I appreciate it.

Now that Daylight Savings Time has just happened and Spring is just over a week away, I’m wishing I could be somewhere where the snow is melting and the first blades of grass are coming up through the sidewalk. I don’t miss all the weeks I was freezing cold in Chicago, but I do miss that first hint of Spring. It’s so wonderful that it’s almost painful. IMG_9971

In the meantime I’m enjoying Los Angeles’s version of Spring — random, 85 degree weather — although it does mean that I’m nursing a sunburnt nose.

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February was for Finances

by Jackie D on March 2, 2014

central american currency
I began this month with a post about money, and that’s exactly how I’m finishing the month, too. In between that post and this one, I’ve been dedicating all of February to my finances. My goals ranged from things as large as filing my taxes to something as small as making a coin jar to hold all of the random pennies and dimes I keep finding all over my apartment.

Here is a list of all the little goals I made to keep myself on track this month:

1. Do your taxes. My dad has always helped me with my taxes because he loves things that have to do with numbers while I am mortally terrified of them. This year, thankfully, my taxes were fairly straightforward and freelancing screwed me over exactly as it is supposed to do. Success!

2. Figure out your credit card rewards. Recently I used my credit card rewards to book a flight to Ireland — the first time I have ever cashed in any rewards. Now I am looking to cash in on another credit card that I plan to cancel later this year, but I also want to keep earning as many points as possible on my other two credit cards, so I decided to make an effort to read the fine print and learn more about the rewards system so that I can earn as many rewards points as possible. Turns out it’s just as confusing and frustrating as it seems like it is from afar, and even now that I’ve spent hours studying the fine print, I honestly don’t feel like I have a full grasp of it all. But I feel closer than I was last month, so that’s something.

3. Use your gift cards. This was a fun one! I had three gift cards that were just sitting unused in my wallet for years. Literally years. I forced myself to go out and spend them before I forgot about them or lost them completely. One of them was a Tiffany’s gift card with $75 on it. I wish all goals involved gift cards.

4. Make a coin jar. I must sneeze pennies or something, because I find them everywhere. They are in my kitchen. They are in my bathroom sink. They are in my bed. My lofted bed. I don’t even use pennies when I’m shopping. Anyway, I finally took a stand in the War on Pennies and now they are safely tucked away in the coin jar on my bookshelf.

5. Pay for something in coins. Speaking of pennies — since I apparently have so many lying around, I decided to gather my coins and make a purchase using those coins and only those coins. I realize that this isn’t such a feat for someone living in another country — there are like 50 different euro coins, for example (or, according to Google, 8) — but for us over here in the US, paying for something in coins is really impressive (or annoying, if you’re a salesperson trying to count them.)

6. Make $25 dollars. I challenged myself to make $25 outside of my two jobs because, despite the fact that I have two jobs, I bet I make less money than you do. As someone who is very experienced in selling off her belongings to the highest bidder, I knew this wouldn’t be too difficult for me to accomplish. Selling an old chair and some old books accomplished this goal, but I’ve also submitted two pieces of writing that, if accepted (and I’m 90% sure at least one of them will be) will each earn me at least $25.

7. Do the receipt surveys. You know how any sales receipt you ever receive has a link to a website survey on it, with the promise that you’ll be entered in a drawing for $500 bucks or store credit or something? I’ve done about a dozen of those this month. Will report back if I win any of these alleged “drawings.”

8. Use coupons. I’m already pretty good at this, as I am likely one of the cheapest people on earth. I hate paying full price for anything if I don’t have to. This is an excellent quality to have when your favorite hobby requires you to purchase plane tickets on a regular basis. I use all of those Groupon-type websites frequently (even used one of these deals for a trip to Mexico last year), I have a couple coupon phone apps, I pay attention to the discounts listed on my CVS receipts, I always have my 50% off coupon opened on my phone when I get to the front of the line at my favorite craft store (shut up, I like crafts) — I love coupons. I believe in coupons. I am coupons.

Before you start feeling too intimidated by my success, there are two things I did not manage to accomplish this month:

1. Open a retirement account or invest or something, or however this kind of thing works
2. Reach a certain amount of money in my savings account before the end of the month (thanks rent, passport renewal fee, parking permit renewals, taxes, and general cost of living in Los Angeles!)

I’ve been sweating the whole money issue lately and I think that’s why I’ve been talking it out so much, to remind myself to stop sweating and keep moving along, because I’m actually not doing so badly and I need to cut myself some slack. I also need to figure out where all of these pennies are coming from. Seriously, I just found another one as I was writing this. How.

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