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Kendall

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Dranksgiving! [Dec. 1st, 2009|11:50 am]
Kendall

Dranksgiving!, originally uploaded by KendallAnn.

"Who made those sweet potato puffy cookies?"
"Um, those are biscuits."

The 4th Annual Dranksgiving feast (transplanted to DC instead of Cville for the first time) this past Saturday was a resounding success -- we enjoyed cocktail hour, stuffed ourselves, gave thanks for each other, and then had a big old dance party for the rest of the night.

Can't wait til next year!

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Very Important Foodie [Nov. 24th, 2009|05:09 pm]
Kendall

Very Important Foodie :), originally uploaded by KendallAnn.

I was invited to the UVA Planning Department's 4th annual 100-Mile Thanksgiving dinner last Friday - as a V.I.F. The meal was delicious, the people were wonderful, and the entire event only confirmed my belief in the work I do. Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Boy Friend [Oct. 31st, 2009|12:58 pm]
Kendall

The Boy Friend rehearsal, originally uploaded by KendallAnn.

It's opening weekend for my first show in nearly seven years. Hurrah! (http://www.playontheatre.org/)

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Life changes! [Aug. 7th, 2009|04:12 pm]
Kendall

I'm often amazed at how the things that initially look unpleasant actually aren't bad at all.  Or maybe it just takes time for the bad to change to good.  Either way, I'm experiencing something like that right now...

I was hired at PQA back in January with no attempt to hide my utter lack of IT background, which apparently the hiring team was ok with, leading me to believe that I would gradually ease into tech work.  Ha!  My first real assignment, my first or second week on the job, was to write the User's Guide for Drupal and Testlink Programs Integration -- um, I literally had not a clue as to what either Drupal or Testlink were, let alone how to explain them to other people.  Great.  While I was floundering around with that clear-as-mud project, my project managers took off for a business trip to New Zealand and Australia.  They were gone a full month, and in the meantime I was entering data into Testlink incorrectly and probably mucking around with other things as well.  I realized what I had done with Testlink maybe two days before the managers got back, and then had to spend several days undoing my mistake.  (Actually, incorrect data entry is a gross oversimplification: there were two versions of Testlink and they kept morphing into each other -- I would log onto the correct version, enter something, and then see that the URL had magically changed to the other version -- whaaaat??)  My managers were less than pleased with me. 

Next up, the other data analyst that worked with me on one specific project had been a good guide for me throughout the first few months I was at PQA.  Unfortunately, I knew she was moving to Philadelphia when her husband graduated from UVA's business school, so they'd probably take off by early June.  Turns out Megan left PQA mid-April -- and when did I find out she was leaving?  A week beforehand.  Not only was my PQA teacher leaving the office, she was also leaving me behind with her user support responsibilities, so I had one week to learn all of the extra stuff she had been doing (each task on a different program that I'd never seen or used before, naturally).

Around May and June, I started getting involved with the New Zealand project work, and began to feel like I was finally, maybe, starting to get the hang of things.  Wrong.  Even though I was working on a different project in the same team, the same team that uses the same web platform for all of their work, the domestic work I had done throughout the spring didn't translate into this new international project.  I wrote the test cases wrong (but the way I had been taught to do so previously); I wrote the requirements wrong (but the way I had been previously taught); and so on and so forth.  The biggest frustration came when I was assigned to write a section of the NZ Requirement Specification Document.  Having nothing to go on other than the sections other people were writing simultaneously, I completed my section and waited to hear something.  My waiting was pointless because I didn't get one bit of feedback.  Two weeks later, I was assigned another section of the newest NZ Requirement Spec Document and wrote my part the same as before.  This time, the feedback I got from the project manager was that my section was not done correctly and she had essentially re-written my entire part.  ...And I didn't hear that the first time why?

Finally about three weeks ago, in the middle of July, I met with my team's supervisor and the PQA VP and they told me that they knew I was trying, but that it just wasn't good enough.  (Note to self: figure out how to delicately inform your supervisors that they did a shoddy job of telling you just exactly what was good enough...)  I think they did really feel genuinely badly about the way everything had panned out, but I wasn't quite in the right frame of mind to appreciate that at the time.  My brain was more focused on how I was never going to be able to find work in this economy (it had been recommended that I find a new job by the end of September).

Happily, this is where the story turns around: I immediately got in touch with Brent Beringer, the head of UVA Dining, to tell him I was looking for new opportunities, etc.  He's been a huge force behind enabling me to implement my Green Dining ideas, and has told me again and again to call on him if I ever needed anything.  Brent put me in touch with the HR rep of Dining, so just last Wednesday I met up and had lunch with Jim.  Our conversation wasn't an interview; more of a chance for networking/exploring what may be out there and applicable for me.  Well, Jim called me less than four hours later after our lunch and let me know that he had talked with Brent and Brent had decided to go ahead and create a dining Sustainability Coordinator position -- something Brent and I have talked about on and off for over a year now.  On Monday I was interviewing with the head chef and marketing manager, Tuesday they were calling to offer me the job, and this morning I was in the office signing the paperwork and making it official.  HALLELUJAH!!  This is truly, truly, my dream job.  I've been fantasizing about creating a job for myself with UVA Dining since I was a student, and I keep having to remind myself that this very position not only now exists but is becoming a part of my reality in just over a week.

I can't wait!!!
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Save the environment? [Aug. 6th, 2009|10:34 am]
Kendall
I feel like I've been noticing these environmentally-geared signatures on people's emails more often lately: "Please consider the environment before printing this email."  What I want to know is, how often do people actually print emails??  I'm ready for those phrases to be phased out in favor of, say, a Wendell Berry quote, or a link to the local famer's market website.  Next trend, please.
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On the homestead [Aug. 3rd, 2009|08:00 pm]
Kendall

Harriet and The Spy, originally uploaded by KendallAnn.

Yesterday I went to the 5th annual VICFA Food Farm Voices symposium here in town, and it reminded me more than ever why I spend so much time reading sustainable ag magazines, keeping chickens in my backyard, writing foodie articles, talking up the benefits of local produce, volunteering at my CSA farm, shopping at the farmer's market, and otherwise focusing on local/sustainable food. Farm food is freaking tasty. And it brings people together.

I came home from work today and poured myself a big glass of "illegal" milk that I'm taking off a friend's hands for the three weeks she's out of the country and can't pick it up herself. I hadn't had a taste of unpasteurized milk in close to a year -- but I hadn't forgotten how deliciously creamy it was. It went well with my pasta and homemade batch of pesto (courtesy of an extra bag of basil from my friendly CSA farmer, Steve).

After dinner I went out to check on the chickens -- they were completely absorbed in watching a squirrel frantically hurl itself around the nearby cage Ben set up on Friday. Silly squirrel; we weren't after you. We're out to get the vile opossum that is presumably still roaming free through Belmont (and perhaps terrorizing other poor urban chickens).

Last week I was leaving the house for work when I noticed an opossum's tail sticking out from below the stairs -- making sure I had plenty of room between myself and it, I craned my head around to confirm that the tail did in fact belong to the body of an opossum. A little beady eyed opossum, to be exact. I yelled to Ben that there was an opossum under the stairs and then went on my merry way.

The next evening, I was out in the backyard with Ben while he fed the chickens and collected their eggs. He reached into the henhouse and came back with two eggshells -- broken and with no sign of the yolks. We were worried that one of the chickens had developed a taste for its own eggs (I've seen it happen before; really freaky), and I speculated that we might be having chicken stew next week once we found the culprit. Ben mentioned that one of the chickens may be getting sick, too, since he had found a bunch of its feathers scattered around the coop. Mysterious...

Around 10pm that night we were just hanging out when Ben paused the computer and pricked his ears up. A few seconds later I heard what he had already instinctively known (seriously, maternal instinct here) -- the unwelcome sounds of chickens squawking for help after dark. Ben ran outside while I stayed put, but I got the story from him later: sure enough, the opossum had weaseled its way into the chicken coop. Actually, it was inside the henhouse while the chickens were all cowering in a corner of the coop sounding the alarm. Ben got it to retreat out of the coop, but then the nasty creature apparently just sat there watching him as if to smirk, "Don't worry -- as soon as you leave I'll be back." Ben started getting fustrated and threw rocks at the opossum, causing it to freak out and spit and hiss at him. Altogether a thoroughly unpleasant experience.

Since then the coop has been doubly reinforced and the trap has been set up near the pen. We shall see what happens... though to be honest, I'm going to be potentially more traumatized by having to deal with (dispose of??) a trapped opossum than by vaguely hoping it now won't be able to get into the pen/fortress.

So continues life on the homestead.

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Wedding Photo Booth. So typical. [Jun. 5th, 2009|01:53 pm]
Kendall

Ben and I went to a wedding out at King Family Vineyard a couple of weeks ago. Besides being beautiful and stock full of (King Family) wine and all that, the photographer, Sarah Cramer, set up a photo booth. I think I had more than my fair share of the thing (unfortunately after having lost track of how many glasses of wine I'd had...), and this picture in particular cracks me up. It's just... so typical: I'm looking confused, and Ben's holding a beer. Welcome to our relationship!

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River adventures [Jun. 2nd, 2009|03:05 pm]
Kendall
This past Saturday Ben and I went on a canoe trip down the Rivanna River, a river that runs through part of Charlottesville and continues on towards Richmond.  Our friend Stefan organized it, and for whatever reason, apparently everyone that he invited made good on their promise to come.  After literally close to two hours of getting situated, taking cars to the pull out site, and finding a stray puppy, our thirteen boat/eighteen member (well, twenty counting the two dogs) crew set off around 12:30 -- and we had a twelve mile paddle ahead of us.

Several hours into the fun, we and another canoe forged ahead to make better time; it worked out really well because the river quieted down and we had the whole place to ourselves for a few more hours.  At one point we were paddling along and saw a deer bobbing along downstream of us in the water.  Apparently deer ford rivers?  We noticed that there was a much smaller deer in tow behind it; precious.  The mama deer got to the other side and clambered up the tall, steep bank without a backward glance, but the fawn didn't have as easy of a time.  The four of us saw it scrambling repeatedly to get a foothold in the slippery mud and sliding back into the water -- and as we got closer, we could hear it making this plaintative bleating sound (think sad, lost lamb).  We all sat in our canoes, sort of frozen with horror at potentially witnessing natural selection up close and personal, but as we drifted past the panicked baby deer, we picked up our paddles and ended up, after a fashion, herding it along to a slightly less slick part of the bank.  There was definitely applause on our end when the fawn finally made it up and over and out of drowning danger.

Other paddling/animal highlights include: (the aforementioned) rescuing a stray puppy from the Rivanna, seeing a mama duck herding her downy ducklings along, watching river otters dive in the water, and getting too close to the bank and letting a snake -- possibly water mocassin, at that -- somehow get into Ben's and my canoe.

We made it back into town that evening and rounded out the day with a stop in at the International Rescue Committee's spring fundraiser -- Ben had been asked to be a male model for a fashion show that also included a silent auction for the clothes, $75 per ticket, etc (pretty hoity toity).  Luckily there was a back-up for him because the river float seriously took all day (and also luckily we got in for free), so we made it in time for their catered wine and hor d'oeurves reception (ha, you would almost think we planned it that way).  The final cap on the day was a wine and cheese gathering at my old roommate Shannon's place where we all had a great time catching up with each other.  Hurrah!
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Waterpenny Detox [May. 20th, 2009|12:22 pm]
Kendall

Chicken hunting, originally uploaded by KendallAnn.

Though we already have two chickens from Waterpenny Farm, Ben wanted a few more to round out the urban flock (he's seriously attached, which is actually quite sweet). I went up with him to Sperryville a week and a half ago to pick up the recently arrived pullets on the farm, and, just as I expected, it was a strange trip. It was the first time I had been back to the farm since my job ended there last November, and since then my only real update about that world dealt with the fact that my co-worker, Liz, had asked our bosses for a letter of recommendation this spring, they said they would and "good luck" too, and then the place where she applied emailed her back and attached the terrible recommendation they wrote: calling her rude, unfriendly, immature. Needless to say, having Liz tell me that had only caused my resentment about the farm experience to resurface --that just made it even more glaringly obvious that those people are completely out of touch with reality. That's all good and well but for the fact that they manage others, and so we all suffered as a result.

Before Ben and I left the farm with our chickens, I went up to the house to briefly chat with Rachel. When I politely asked her how the season was going (in terms of the veggies), her tactless reply was, "Oh, SO much better than last season. We have a wonderful group of interns this time; really motivated and easygoing. It feels like we're finally back to having a normal season, now that the personality clashes of early last season aren't making things difficult."

Well. My response to that follows:


Dear Eric and Rachel,

Thanks for letting me and Ben come up to the farm this weekend and get two more chickens for our slowly growing urban flock (actually, the neighbors just a few houses down have about six, and there's apparently an organization in town called CLUCK -- Charlottesville League of Urban Chicken Keepers -- so it looks like we're in good company!). To be completely honest, though, returning to Waterpenny was a strange experience in that it brought back quite a few unhappy memories. I've been mulling over my visit since Saturday and have realized that there are a few things I need to share with you.

I'm glad this season is going much more smoothly than last (it probably wouldn't take much for that to be the case), but I was surprised and saddened to hear that Rachel believed that the problems of last season were attributed to personality clashes early on. I agree that things got off to a very rocky start, and that the strong personalities made the internship far more challenging than it otherwise would have been to begin with, but I think the problems not only persisted but actually worsened long after Reuben's departure. I was fortunate to only rarely be on the receiving end, but I witnessed and experienced dehumanizing confrontations from your most experienced worker throughout the following seven months.

I know that Steffany is a strong and capable worker, and that was important early on in light of the fact that the rest of us were all brand new to farming; however, her appalling communication skills completely undermined her credibility as a leader and guide for the rest of us in the field. Those sorely lacking communication skills can in large part explain our constant battle with efficiency: Steffany was insistent at giving us directions, yet often incapable of concisely explaining those directions. As we struggled to understand what she was trying to convey, her emotions nearly always escalated into anger towards us, which caused a general feeling of defensiveness and more time lost before we resolved the confusion. This time sinking scenario played itself out countless times; often, incomprehensibly, in the same setting as the previous confrontation.

In hindsight, I think that you and Steffany should have established clarity in the role she was expected to play, or assumed of her own accord. There was a discrepancy between our view of her (as a fellow intern), your view of her (as an accomplished farmer that could provide counsel while we learned and grew on the job), and her view of the experience (as someone that wanted a less demanding year but inexplicably felt compelled to manage anyway). I'm disappointed that those discrepancies were never resolved, particularly as they became the source of much resentment and hostility as the season continued.

Good luck with the 2009 season, and with avoiding future intern dysfunction.

Sincerely,
Kendall

So that's that. I don't know if I'll ever actually send that letter, but I needed to at least get my thoughts organized so the mere mention of Waterpenny didn't just immediately fill me with resentment. I hope that eventually I can let go of the bitterness I feel when recalling some of the absolutely sickening things Steffany said and did to my co-workers, or when recalling Eric and Rachel's virtual love affair with her (because, again, they're out of touch with reality). I want to be able to think back to my Waterpenny internship as a valuable learning experience, and to put that knowledge gained to good use. After all, I'm optimistic about my basil, lettuce, squash, cherry tomato and tomato plants this season.

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Oh my Lord [Apr. 16th, 2009|10:40 am]
Kendall

I just came this close to walking inside the men's bathroom.  Like, was pushing the door open, taking a step forward, and then wondering why I felt so disoriented from looking at an inverse of the bathroom I'm used to seeing.

Hello, self!!  I already feel like the dumb blond of the office; now is not the time to keep doing stupid things.

Thank god nobody saw me.
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