Posts Tagged seattle

I’m So Chicago…

As often with Facebook, there’s been this trending post of “I’m so Chicago…” where people who’ve grown up in Chicago recall some of their on personal memories.  Most of these are generally revolved around defunct establishments (such as Funtown, Jew Town, etc.) or monumental periods in our history such as the 85 Bears or the Chicago Bulls Dynasty of the 90’s. After reading through some of the posts, I couldn’t help but feel a bit reminiscent for my hometown.  And that’s a really foreign feeling for me.

I haven’t been home to Chicago in over 12 years.  for reasons not delving into, going back home never appealed to me.  Not that I had a horrible childhood or anything, but I couldn’t e wait to get out of there.  In fact, I never really understood the whole idea of living your entire life in the same area you grew up in. I understand that’s how it works for many people but it never suited me.  Once I left, I never looked back til now. Sure, I miss my family, but they’ve always made it a point to visit me everywhere for the holidays. But the lousy hot and humid weather, the subzero winters, the immense crime, and  all that other nonsense. Yea, I have yet to have any reservations about leaving.

For the first time in a long time, these posts has a guy thinking back on all those moments growing up there. I’ve been talking about going home many times the past few years, but never made the trip for one reason or another. But one thing is for sure, it is long overdue. There’s too many places I need to so and people I’d love to reconnect with that doesn’t require Facebook or any other form of virtual communication. For all intents and purposes, Seattle is my home now. But Seattle and the PNW in general that sense of regional pride or connectivity. There’s a more superficial esthetic here.  It’s missing that sense of unitedness within the city. Regardless, Seattle is a lovely city that fits me and the direction my life is going. But Chicago is always going to be a very strong part of my identity. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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The Seattle Cupcake Showdown

I’ve been living in Seattle for the better part of a year now. During this time, I’ve frequented quite a few food establishments, especially cupcake bakeries. Here in Seattle, there are two major cupcake bakeries: Cupcake Royale & Trophy Cupcakes. There has been countless debates from both camps about which is better.  There is no clear winner; but I figure I’d still give my two cents on the topic anyway.  On that note, let the Seattle Cupcake Showdown begin.

First, a few caveats I should mention.

  • For starters, I am in no way a foodie or any sort of professional food critic.  Quite frankly, I have a pretty simplistic palette.  That said, I will try my best to explain my thoughts in a relatively comprehensive manner.  Just don’t expect a highfalutin, expert critique. Save that nonsense for the molecular gastronomists.
  • Second, I’ve begun frequenting Trophy for only the past few (3-4) months; unlike, Cupcake Royale which is in my own neighborhood. So I may have a slightly biased opinion because of that.
  • And third, I’m limiting this to only two basic cupcakes: white cake & chocolate cake.

That said, don’t let this amateur write-up sway you from visiting either place as they have a lot to offer.  Both have a wide variety of other cupcakes you need to try and will definitely enjoy.  And with that…

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Cupcake Royale

This is my default cupcake shop due to how close it is.  The Cap Hill location is fairly spacious with a subtle hipster-esque vibe.  But surprisingly enough, you’ll find a wide variety of demographics here.  It’s quite interesting to see really.  In any case, on to the cupcakes.

The cupcakes are a bit oversized for my appetite.  Generally, I only eat half and save the other for later.  Or I get the mini-cucpcakes (pictured below) which suit me perfectly.  Oh, be sure to visit a few hours before closing time for cupcake happy hour.  You can buy six cup cakes for the price of three (roughly about $9).  That’s practically a steal.   But enough free advertising, here’s the breakdown.

Cupcake Royale Minis

White Cake:  The white cake is really solid and firm all the way through.  It has the perfect texture and sweetness making it an ultimate treat.  The majority of cupcakes I get usually have a white cake base.  The frosting, however, is an explosive sugar overload.  Truth be told, I take off a bit of frosting due to its overwhelming sweetness.  Otherwise, I feel like a cavity deposit is being made with each bite I take.  While we’re on the topic of frosting, the plain vanilla frosting is fine (albeit too sweet).  But there’s something a bit….off with the chocolate frosting.  It has a somewhat ‘earthy’ taste that doesn’t quite agree with me.  I’m assuming this has to do with the all-natural ingredients used.  That said, I still buy cupcakes with chocolate frosting. So it’s no deal breaker by any means, just something worth mentioning.

Chocolate Cake:  Now something just isn’t jiving with me on the chocolate cake front.  The taste, texture, firmness, just everything about it reminds me of the white cake.  There4’s no other way to illustrate my issue. They’re fine, just not my first choice. Again, I think it may have to do with the natural ingredients. But again, I still buy them so it’s not a deal breaker.

Overall Score: 9 out of 10 / Outstanding! This place is just top notch hands down.  I love this place.  Throwing in a few bonus points for their heavy community involvement as well.  There always seems to be something going on whenever I drop in. Though, I will dock a point due to the hyperglycemic sugar frosting content, but that’s just my own little nag.  I know many other people who don’t seem to mind at all.  Other personal favorites include the Lemon Drop, the Tiramisu, and the Gay (a rainbow themed cupcake).  I give this place my blessing. spac

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Trophy Cupcakes

As I mentioned earlier, my experience with Trophy is still relatively new.  But I believe I’ve been there enough to form a fairly, solid conclusion.  A quant little shop, it has a very surreal Stepford Wives vibe going on.  As for the cupcakes…

Vanilla Vanilla

White Cake:  The first cupcake I had was the vanilla vanilla (white cupcake with vanilla frosting).  Not the most flavorful experience.  Overly moist, spongy (almost doughy really), and disappointedly bland. I didn’t want to be too dismissive, so I marked it off as a fluke. So I tried another, the vanilla chocolate (white cupcake with chocolate frosting).  Slightly better, but not by much. On the whole, I find the white cake too moist and slightly bland tasting.  On the plus side, they do hit the mark with an appropriate level of frosting.  Not too sweet or dull, but  just right.  Some types of frosting are a bit buttery; but even then, it doesn’t have that waxy sensation like most standard butter cream frosting.

Dr Seuss' Lorax Cupcake (Vanilla Chocolate)

Chocolate Cake:  This is where Trophy shines.  I generally prefer white cake over chocolate, not this time.  Just like Cupcake Royale’s white cake, Trophy’s chocolate cake has the perfect balance of moistness, texture, and quite frankly tastes really damn good.  Combine that with their delectable frosting and it becomes one perfect cupcake, period.

Overall Score: 7 out of 10 / Decent! I actually like this place, even if atmosphere reminds me of a post modern ‘Donna Reed’.  The prim and proper decor almost feel stifling and a bit uncomfortable.  And docking a few points for the shortcoming with the vanilla cake.  Still a respectable score.  And I’m sure my impression will change with more visits.  Trophy will still maintain my customership, so not all is lost.

And the winner is ….

Cupcake Royale

Even though my time with Trophy is still relatively unseasoned; I believe I’ve had enough to form a fairly, solid conclusion.  But I gotta give the edge to Cupcake Royale for the the following reason: heavy community involvement.  If there is any kind of community event or social movement occurring (especially on the GLBT front), Cupcake Royale will most likely be on board as one of the sponsors.   Not to mention, over half of their ingredients are locally sourced.  How cool is that?  Make no mistake, both are great establishments with much, much more to offer than what I mentioned.  Regardless of what camp you fall in, you’d be a fool not to at least visit both occasionally and enjoy the ride.

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Inked Up (or My First Tattoo)

Logo for Extra Life 2011

This post is long overdue. Back in October I participated in a charity event to help support my local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital: Extra Life. As an effort to raise money, I promised that I’d get a tattoo if I reached my goal. With just a few hours left, I surpassed my goal thankfully. And true to my word, the following week I went out and got this…

This is slightly more detailed version of the Extra Life 2011 logo courtesy of Lucky Devil Tattoo Parlor here in Seattle. I was one of those people that always wanted a tattoo but wasn’t sure what to get. But this choice seems fitting: it portrays my passion for gaming. At the same time it’s not for entirely selfish reasons. It’s also a reminder to me that there’s people out there who need more help than I ever would; as such, I should really be grateful for what I have in this fleeting life.

I can’t wait for Extra Life 2012. I’ll definitely be participating again. And I’m definitely considering getting another tattoo if I reach my goal. But this time, I may leave the decision to my sponsors as to what I’ll get. Stay tuned.

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The Unemployment Experience

A few people wanted to get some insight on what’s been happening with the job search. That is one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place. Honestly, I have been thinking about this post for a while. I’ve been struggling with how I want to approach it. So I think I’ll just hit the topics as they come to mind.

My Standing in the Rat Race…
For me, unemployment hasn’t been too bad quite honestly. Outside of bills and the student loans, I can’t really complain about anything. I don’t have a mortgage, kids to feed (besides my dog Maxx), and the cost of living here is relatively inexpensive allowing me to prepare for my next career. Yes, there are a lot of depressing days, but life is good. I try to keep the days fresh by checking in with contacts, seeking out new leads, and trying to maintain an active existence. I’ve said this many times before and it’s still true today: Even being unemployed is a job in itself. Just trying to stay sane and relevant in today’s economy can be extremely trying. In the meantime, I keep plugging away. I’ve tried the volunteer route locally only to be turned away due to lack of opportunities in this area, and a 45 minute commute to the greater Portland area is not a viable option. I even went to the employment agency, Worksource, which lead to them telling me to look at bigger markets outside of Oregon. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do. My progress so far…..well, things have been moving at a somewhat glacial pace.

  • Recurring Comment: You have an MBA and some good work experience. You should have a job in no time.

At first, hearing those words was comforting. Now, I just want burst into the biggest fit of nerd-rage, because the past four months have indicated otherwise. It makes me wonder what is it I’m doing ‘wrong’. Am I applying for ill-suited roles? Am I not working my network enough or properly? Some of the questions I can answer right off the bat. For starters, I’ve focused my search just to the greater Seattle area. Second, many of the roles I’ve applied have some strict job requirements requiring 5-10 years experience with certain tasks or applications. This isn’t so much a barrier as it is a small hiccup. My professional background covers a few areas functionally. I wouldn’t label myself as a pure supply chain professional, or a hardcore number-crunching financial analyst, etc. Being a jack-of-all-trades does have its advantages, but today it’s more of a gamble than an advantage. In today’s market, companies are holding out for the perfect candidate who hits all the check marks. In fact, I have been told by recruiters and hiring authorities that they’ve selected another candidate due to more years of experience in a certain area. I’ve heard the inverse of this stance as well: I’m over-qualified for the role (which is sometimes code for candidates who are ‘too expensive’). I know I’m not the hottest commodity on the market; but you’d think someone with a master’s and some credible work experience would have something lined up after four months.

Recruiters & Career Coaches
Sometimes I feel bad for recruiters; they get a bad wrap generally. On one hand, they have to deal with a growing pool of impatient and resentful candidates. On the other, they have to work with their clients who can be just as frustrating. Some of the resentment comes from their lack of follow-up and candidness. My frustration actually stems from their clients with their “hot” requisitions that need to be turned around in 1-2 weeks. But after 3-4 weeks, I find out the position’s either been cancelled, put on hold, filled internally, or the manager is on an extended vacation. Regarding recruiter follow-up, I understand they can’t respond to every candidate. But it does show a lack of professional courtesy when they fail to adhere to follow-ups and appointments they set-up. No one’s expecting a five-minute hand-holding session, but a few quick lines or automated response would go a long way in quelling some people’s frustration. Thankfully, the recruiters I’m working with have kept me in mind for other requisitions they come across. It’s important to note that one shouldn’t put the strength of their job search in the recruiters hands. That ball is in your court; recruiters are just a convenient resource while you search.

I’ve also entertained the idea of collaborating with a career coach. This isn’t a bad route to go if you’re looking to penetrate a new field or just new to the job search game. The big draw here is that they’re supposed to provide you with “real job finding” tactics, evaluate your job skills, help structure resumes, prep for interviews, and how to access the “hidden job market”. This is good and all, but most of this information is readily available online for free. Plus, their services are terribly expensive. Not to mention, you’re not even guaranteed securing a job offer. I admit, it is something I’ve considered; but I’m just not entirely convinced of its worth it.

LinkedIn, Social Media, & Networking
I would say the most progressive aspects of my job search have come from LinkedIn and Twitter. I used to be one of those people who didn’t “get”Twitter; but has it become one of the most useful resources in my job search. Plus, it allows potential employers to get a partial glimpse of your social skills. I’ve been able to interact with a wide network of people and formed some genuinely, great relationships. That, to me, is one of the best aspects of Twitter. There’s also these weekly, job-related movements on Twitter such #workwednesday and the more popular #hirefriday. The idea is for job seekers to tweet about the kind of work they’re looking for and link to their resume. Then recruiters and employers can scour through the feed picking out specific people. LinkedIn serves as a great resources for networking with other professionals.

But even LinkedIn and Twitter have their shortcomings. For example, outside of a few recruiter accounts, I’ve yet to see any job seekers come back to vouch for the validity of the #hirefriday. It’s a good idea in theory but I would really like to see some numbers comparing the level of activity against the numbers of actual response (phone screens, interviews, direct hires, etc.). As for LinkedIn, the networking events are great opportunities in themselves; but it takes quiet some time establishing a solid, reliable network. This is especially true when you’re new to the area.

The Road Ahead…
Looking back, this post seems as though it’s laced with a thinly veiled, passive aggressive tone. But the truth of the matter is, I’m not really bitter, frustrated but not bitter or resentful. Yes, this situation does suck. And it perplexes me as to why I keep hitting dead ends. Disappointment aside, the last thing I am is a quitter. If anything, I’m one of the most persistent individuals you’ll ever meet. And I’m always exploring new leads and staying active from day-to-day. Something is bound to turn up at some point…hopefully before my benefits expire that is.

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The PAX Experience

This was my first time attending the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX).  And I’m proud to say it was one of the most exhilarating and insightful experiences I’ve ever encountered.  The sheer amount of diversity among the gaming community is amazing.  But even more surprising was the congenial nature of the event.  It didn’t matter what type of gamer you are, personal background, or any other discriminatory factor; everyone came together and just had a great time.  It truly was a beautiful event and I will definitely be there next year. First, I’d like to a give shout out to Dave (from Ontario) for procuring my PAX badge on such late notice.  Dave was even nice enough to let me join his group for awhile and grab lunch.  We’ll definitely hook up again for next year’s PAX.  Another shout out to Tom (from Couchsurfing) for allowing me crash at his place during PAX.  Tom and I have so many hobbies and traits in common it was frighteningly weird.  But seriously, Tom was awesome and look forward to many future outings.

Most of my time was just spent bouncing around from different panels, visiting various booths, and socializing with other gamers.  I even played my first tabletop game, Battlestar Galactica, and a really fun dice game called Zombie Dice.  While I did enjoy myself, next year I’d like to go with a  group of friends instead of solo.  Being alone can be  a bit bothersome at times, but I was fine with it for the most part.  Regardless, there was always someone in the same boat as me, so it wasn’t too bad.  In hindsight, the whole point of PAX is not about checking out the latest, upcoming games and the free swag.  But it’s to create a welcoming environment where gamers of all sorts can convene, have fun with one another, and just be themselves.

Highlights of PAX 2010 :

  • Meeting Ed Boon practically five minutes after entering the expo hall, EPIC WIN!
  • Microsoft Kinect was actually impressive and a lot of fun.
  • Twisted Pixel continues to create simple, yet highly impressive fun games, Comic Jumper will be their best game to date.
  • Meeting some of the great people from MS / Xbox. Shout outs to: DMZilla (who forgot who I was the next day when we were in the elevator), EverettGresham (you still owe me a drink), MacheteBetty, Esko, and EpicAndyB
  • Most Impressive Game: Dead Space 2
  • Biggest Surprise: Brink
    Quite honestly, the FPS genre has been played out these past few years in my opinion.  But something about this game has a certain charm that grabbed me.
  • Most disappointing Game: Fable 3
    This series has always been underwhelming and just bland.  And quite honestly, this game is even more streamlined and “simple’ than the previous incarnations, which is hard to believe.

As awesome as PAX is, there were some shortcomings and disappointments.  I’d like to see more…’unique’ discussion panels.  Do we really need to have yet another panel dealing with “the Myth of the girl gamer”?  Yes, we all know there are women gamers out there.  Hell, I’d even say quarter, if not a third, of the PAX attendees were women.  They made up a larger portion of the group more so than the minorities.   Point being: it is no longer a myth or a rarity even.  Let’s focus on something more unresolved such as the lack of diversity in gaming (from hiring to the game characters themselves) or ways to bring gaming to disadvantaged people and / or less fortunate communities, or investigate ways gaming can be used for more educational / professional training purposes.

Additionally, some of the lines were just too long.  You could literally spend all day in 4-5 lines to play a 10-15 minute demo and that’d be your whole day.  Either they need to add an extra day to the event or secure more space for some of the larger developers / publishers.   This way attendees (especially for one day attendees) can see and try out a good portion of games without feeling rushed.

Next year, I’m looking forward to more games, more parties, and more fun overall.  This was a much needed excursion for my soul.  But alas, the vacation is over and now it’s back to the daily grind of hunting for my dream job.  But not to worry, this experience has invigorated me with a stronger resolve.  I have a good feeling about my future.

In the meantime, here are few pictures. I know the quality is crappy. But that is due to the iPhone 3GS camera being utterly horrible.

Me and Ed Boon

Me and Ed Boon

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood

Portal 2

Portal 2

Tron Legacy

Tron Legacy

Dragon's Age 2

Dragon's Age 2

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