Tag Archives: Urban Planning

I’ve Got A Secret

I’ve been a bit quiet about this, but today I will share my secret.  I am unemployed.  It happened on Friday the 13th, just over two weeks ago.  I kept quiet about it because I was in the process of interviewing for two jobs and well, technically, my severance package wasn’t up until about an hour and a half ago.  I just got word back from the second and my anticipated dream job, that it’s a no-go.  They went with another candidate.  Boo.  Oh well, pout-fest is over.  It wasn’t meant to be and I’m moving on.

These past two+ weeks have actually been really nice, minus a few minor “I’m unemployed breakdowns”.  I was miserable at my old job.  I had been miserable for three years there.  It wasn’t necessarily the company, it was more that I wasn’t doing what I really wanted to be doing.  I had been looking into leaving for a while but the recession hit and the job market dried up so I felt stuck there since they hadn’t laid me off.  At the time of the recession, my job as an urban planner totally changed.  I was no longer their urban planner.  I became the marketing girl.  I got very resentful and that’s when I became miserable.  What kept me my job; doing all the marketing; was what made me want to leave every day I was there.  I played the marketing girl for over two years and I stopped growing professionally in terms of an urban planner.  They finally hired a marketing girl this past fall so once I tried her, I was off the hook for the marketing and I could move back to urban planning.  Except there really wasn’t any urban planning to do.  Bored , not stimulated, and totally under-challenged as an urban planner, they saw how miserable I was and they let me go.  Granted, it would have been nice to have a job already lined up, but in retrospect, I should have quit a long, long time ago.  On the upside of being let go, I got to enjoy a 2+ week paid vacation!

So for the past two weeks, I’ve been taking care of a lot of things that hadn’t had time to do otherwise.  I also went up to Cleveland for the dream job interview, which was fun in itself!  I’ve come to appreciate the fact that I don’t have to iron a single piece of clothing now.  I can structure the day the way  I want to.  It’s totally fine and acceptable to go to the gym at 3PM and start prepping dinner at noon.  Jackson and I have had lots of bonding time.  My portfolio is finally finished and I love the final product.  I finally have time to help Nick with his iPhone game graphics.  And I can focus on finding another job that is a much better fit for me.

While it’s stressful knowing that I won’t be contributing financially to our relationship come the next payday, Nick and I will get through this.  Honestly, if I didn’t have Nick by my side, cheering my on and reassuring me that it’s really for the better that I’m no longer employed there, I would not be doing so great right now.  (So thank you babe, for being such a huge support!)  Things will work themselves out.  They always do.  As for right now, while very scary, I’m trying to embrace the excitement of not knowing what will come next!

Portfolio Overhaul


It seems as though every other yea or so I do a design portfolio overhaul, updating it with new projects and, well, just completely changing the look of it.  My latest overhaul started over the summer and I’m happy to report that I completed it this week!  Obviously, I wasn’t working on it non-stop for the past six months.  I tend to pick it up, do a big chunk, get bored and put it down for a while.  To be honest, designing a portfolio is a pain in the butt.  It’s almost as bad as writing a cover letter.  I hate rehashing projects that I’m not that pleased with, so this time around, I decided to rework some of my projects from grad school.  Most of that consisted of touching up and reworking the graphics.  I am much happier with the quality of them now and it makes me more proud of my finished portfolio.

I’ve learned the lessons over the years that while an odd shape, say 10″x10″, is really cool, it’s not efficient when it comes to printing, since 10″x 1o” is not a standard paper size.  I’ve also learned that having the color bleed to the edges is not a good idea either.  Most printers don’t bleed to the edges, which means having to go up in paper size and trim it down.  I’ve done portfolios that were too busy, which takes away from what I’m really trying to show.  I’ve done portfolios that were just flat-out a mess.  Of course I didn’t think that at the time, but looking back at these old portfolios, I think to my self, “what the heck was I thinking!?”  Here are a sampling of portfolio covers over the years.
This was my very first portfolio (cover) from 2005.  The materials in it are all over the place.  (Sorry, I’m not posting whole portfolios over the years.  It’s way to embarrassing!)  I had no clear direction of what I wanted to show, so I showed just about everything, from urban planning projects, to GIS maps, to art work from my studio art classes in undergrad.

In 2006 I made a smaller work sample document featuring some of my projects from grad school.  This was much more focused, but the layout wasn’t particularly great.

In 2007 I expanded on the work sample of 2006.  I decided to make this portfolio 10″ x 10″, a horrible decision because of the increased cost of printing.  While to cover looks fairly simple, the content is all over the place graphically speaking.  This was a “what was I thinking” portfolio.  Nothing clean and simple about it!

In 2009 I decided to go back to the 8.5″ x 11″ format, except the pages bled to the edges, which still required printing on 11″ x 17″ and trimming down.  The content was much more streamlined but there wasn’t a lot of white space to give the eyes a break.

Alas, we come to 2012.  In my mind this is the most thought-out portfolio I’ve made so far.  I’ve grouped projects based on “The City”, “The Neighborhood”, and “The Site”.  There is plenty of white space, clean lines, and efficient page structure for printing.  Perhaps in five years I will look back at this portfolio and have another “What was I thinking” moment, but for now, I think it looks pretty decent and for your viewing pleasure, you can check out my “master piece” of 2012 by clicking here!

What do you think?  Look okay?  Would you hire me after seeing this portfolio? 😉

**Update** The covers don’t read very clearly in this post, but if you click on each of them, they will pop up much larger and clearer.

Twinkling Lights

I don’t care much for flying.  In fact, I was petrified of flying for a few years.  Now I just don’t like it.  But I love landing at night.  I love flying over cities, watching the twinkling lights of the street cars and the lamp poles.  When we are low enough to make out the outlines of houses, I wonder what the people are doing inside of them.  Watching television?  Eating dinner?  Laughing? Crying? I like to watch the traffic on roads; little ribbons of red and white.  From the sky, I can see patterns of the city.  I can see strong neighborhood grids and suburban sprawl.  I can see the city’s “voids”, perhaps a body of water or an open field.  From the night sky, cities are peaceful like the first winter’s snow, yet pulsing like a beat of a heart at the same time.    The lights become crisper, more unique from one another as we get closer.  The organic shape of the city becomes more defined.  The buildings become clearer.  The cars become more than a candy cane of color.  The trees separate themselves out from the clusters.  The beautiful city, so peaceful and serene from way up high becomes more rigid, more real.  Then BOOM, thud, thud, we are on the ground.

Crazy CAD Monkey

I debated on what to write about today, finally deciding on sharing my workspace with you all.  First off, it’s lunchtime (my usual blog writing time), so I’ve got my Kashi Spicy Black Bean Enchilada ready and waiting for me to eat.  (I’ve already scarfed it down and have moved onto the apple.)

Since right around the holidays, I’ve been working on and off on a project that I refer to as The Suburban Hell Project.  Well, I haven’t actually called the project out loud to anyone here at work, but that’s what I call to myself.  If you couldn’t tell, I’m not so fond of the project!
(Again, sorry for the poor picture quality.  I’m limited to the camera on my phone.)  I have two monitors so I can spread my work out and easily move between programs.  Working at an architecture firm, I pretty much only use AutoCAD (open on the left monitor), Adobe Photoshop (open on the right monitor),  and Adobe InDesign, along with a few other programs used here and there.

I get a lot of curious looks from people when I tell them I’m an urban planner.  The first question I get asked is, “What’s an urban planner?”  It’s a very broad profession that can cover quite a lot, but the best explanation I’ve come up with in regards to my current job is that I count parking spaces.  All the work I’ve done here is very dependant on the car; screw the people, all that matters are if there enough parking spaces in the design.  Or at least that’s how I’ve (sarcastically) learned to approach my part in the part in the architectural design process.  I think the car is the devil.  It’s a devil that we can’t live without, just like plastic (but I’ll save that devilish rant for another blog entry).  As a society, we are so dependant on cars that they drive the design of our communities.  (No pun intended).  There is some crazy statistic that for every car in the U.S. there are eight parking spaces.  That’s a lot of asphalt!  Wouldn’t it be nice to have eight homes?  You could have a home on the beach, in the mountains, in the city, in the country, in the north, in the south, and two other great places.  Well, every car in America has eight homes.  Aren’t all those cars lucky!?

Okay, you get my point.  Moving on.  I try to keep my desk neat.  I can’t stand clutter.  It makes me feel out of control.  (OCD issue, I know.)
I’ve got an assortment of papers taped to my overhead storage for quick reference.  There’s my 2012 calendar that Nick made me which has yet to be hung up, my water, banana, and a box of Kashi Granola Bars.  There are also two books on my desk which I bought and “donated” to the office library, but I’m thinking of bringing them home.  And last is my paper storage bin.  I used to keep this on the other side of my desk (area shown in the next picture), but one of my bosses kept moving it every time he came to explain a new project to me.  Well, you know me and my order.  He kept messing with my order and it drove me so crazy I had to move the damn paper storage bin to the other side of my desk so this particular boss would quit moving it every time he came over to talk to me.  (OCD again.  I can’t help it!)
The other side of my desk (where the paper storage bin used to live).  Here, I have a rescued bamboo plant, tissues, and a bobble-head that I picked up at a conference a long time ago.  I also have my running scheduled taped down to the desk (so nobody can move it) for quick reference, although I have my workouts memorized by heart.

To my back is a window…. leading out to the beautiful parking lot.  Look!  Homes for all those cars!  I’m a hypocritical urban planner.  I have a car out there in the parking lot.  In fact, not only is it a car, but it’s a gas-guzzling SUV.  But to my defense, I got it when I was in Michigan and Four-Wheel Drive was more appropriate there.  Besides, I might not stand a chance of survival in anything smaller than an SUV if I were to ever get in a car accident in Texas.   Everything is bigger in Texas, including the cars!  I keep radiating towards talking about cars today for some reason.  Back to the window.  I’m happy and very fortunate to sit by a window. I know Nick’s office is miserable without any windows in sight.  When I first started working here, I sat in the middle of the studio (Studios are what architects call architecture offices) without any natural daylight by me.  I found it very depressing and jumped on the opportunity to move to a desk by the window.

Below my desk is my computer (to save precious desk space) and a blanket.  I know, the blanket is very dirty being on the floor, but it serves a purpose being there.  As you can see, we have concrete floors (über architectural), but unfortunately the exposed garage is right below this floor, without any insulation.  The floor is VERY cold, which leads to cold toes.  So I put the blanket on the floor as my impromptu insulation.  It helps.

And to round out my workspace (I know it’s been a trilling tour and you all are sad for it to end) is this cute holiday card I got over the holidays from another architect friend.
 A cityscape!  What a perfect holiday card for an urban planner.  I think I might try to recreate the card using my graphic know-how and give it out myself next holiday season!

And that concludes the tour of a crazy CAD Monkey’s workspace!

A Journey In Mary Kay: Why I Did It

I’ve had this post topic in the back of my mind for a while, but I’ve put off writing it because I didn’t really know how it fit in to my blog.  But heck, it’s my blog, so I’ll write about whatever I want.  If you remember from The (un)Lucky Little Blue Dress post, I mentioned that I did Mary Kay for a while.  Here is the story of why I became a Mary Kay consultant.  Tomorrow’s blog will be part 2- why I got out.  (I’m breaking it up over two days because I know it will be long.  That, and I want to keep you keep you curious!)

To start this story, I have to go back before the beginning of Mary Kay, all the way back to graduating from the University of Michigan.  The day of graduation brought mixed emotions.  I was finally done with school, seven years of higher education, and no job lined up.  I was eager to be employed.  The grace period of the first batch of student loans was something minimal, like 60 days.  I didn’t want to waste time and money by going into deferment so I took the first job I was offered, packed up, and moved to Texas.  Unfortunately urban planning, and really the field of architecture, is the lowest paying profession that requires a professional degree (compared to doctors and lawyers), so my starting salary was measly.  I was getting by over those first few months, but another round of student loans were about to come out of their grace period.  Now, seven years of higher education didn’t come cheap.  I went to a private liberal arts school for undergrad, which my mom helped to pay for (thanks Mom), but I still had to take out loans to pay for the rest of it, and well, grad school, that’s another financial rant, but to give you an idea, all in all, I racked up six figures in student loans.  (I actually don’t know the exact number, but I have a rough idea.  Thinking about the exact number is too depressing for me.)  After calling the loan companies and changing the payment plans from regular to graduated (in other words, the same payment over what seems like a million years was changed to the same payment over two years, then increased to another level for the next two years, and so on over again what seems like a million years), I realized that I still didn’t make enough money.  It was getting close to the holiday season, so I decided I could pick up a retail job to bring in a little extra cash each week.  I landed a sales job at Pier One.  It was convenient, just across the street from my apartment (again, this is Dallas, so just across the street means crossing six lanes of traffic, lack of sidewalks, and walking through a huge strip mall parking lot).  So three days a week, I would go immediately from my day job to Pier One for a four-hour shift.  I didn’t get home to eat dinner until 10:00 PM.  It sucked, but a little extra cash was nice.

I stuck it out at Pier One until right around Easter, at which point I was dreading the shifts.  I wanted to have some time to myself and a second job in retail wasn’t giving me the “Me” time I needed.  Somehow, I was able to make due on just my full-time income and I did without a second part-time income.  And then the recession hit.  I saw coworkers being let go left and right and somehow, I still remained employed, but at a cost.  Our salaries were quickly cut to 80%.  My lease was up and uncertain of my future employment status, I packed up and moved in with a former coworker, renting a bedroom from her.  It was a month-to-month deal, no contract.  It was perfect for the uncertain times and it was cheap.  A few months after I moved in with her I hit the two-year mark on my loans, which meant a graduated increase.  Now my federal loan had a nice, easy increase of about $20.  While $20 was a lot during the economic circumstances, it didn’t compare to my private loan that had a one-time graduated jump of $300.  I couldn’t afford the $300 increase on this one particular student loan but I couldn’t find a way to make it go down.  Since it was private, I couldn’t consolidate it with my other loans.  I looked into moving it over to another private loan provider, but I was denied because I didn’t make enough money to support the loan (um, yeah, I don’t even know where to begin with that rejection statement).  I refused to go into deferment since the interest would keep building while I wasn’t paying.  To make the payments every month, I had to charge all my monthly expenses (food, gas, basic living needs) to my credit card.

The months passed by and I kept an eye out for other part-time employment opportunities that were worth their while.  (I learned that retail really just isn’t worth the money).  All the while, my credit card debt went up and up.  Then, by chance, a friend through the Delta Gamma Dallas Night Alumni Group asked if we could do a Mary Kay party for her.  A bunch of us girls got together on a week night some time in the middle of August of 2010 and she told us all about the company.  I had one other experience with Mary Kay several years back, but was never told all the information about the company.  She listed off all of the great things that you could earn as a Mary Kay consultant or director.  There was the cars, the trips, the jewelery, the extra cash, and the flexibility to do it when I wanted to do it.  It sounded great.  The business model was already set up.  All I had to do was follow it, and I could make some extra cash.  I filled out a “Tell Us What You Think” form and circled, “I’m interested, but need more information” and went home to tell Nick about the experience.  Nick’s first reaction was “Don’t do it”.  I told him I needed to think about it and that I was going to talk to my friend’s director later that week.

That night I went to sleep and I had a dream about Mary Kay.    Now what person in their right mind has dreams about Mary Kay, especially someone who wasn’t a consultant or director!  I took it as a sign and as I drove to work that next morning, I thought, really, what do I have to lose?  With the 90% buyback guarantee, there really wasn’t that much risk in giving it a go.  So within a day or two of my “revelation” I signed up and became a Mary Kay consultant!

Stay tuned for Part 2: Why I got out!

Hooked: SAMCRO

About a month ago, I mentioned in a blog entry that Nick and I don’t have TV.  Let me correct myself.  We have a TV, two in fact.  However we don’t pay any sort of cable bill or have rabbit ears to get the basic 13 channels.  When we turn the TV on to TV mode, it’s black and white fuzz no matter what channel we change it to.  Instead we use our Roku box to watch shows and movies through Netflix or Amazon Instant Video.  We’ve found this to be a huge savings.  I find we watch a lot less television this way and we can watch a whole season (or multiple seasons) of a show within a few weeks.  We don’t have to wait a week for the next episode to come out.  The major drawback to watching shows over Netflix or and to some degree Amazon Instant Video is that we are usually a season behind all of our friends who have cable, so we dodge conversations about the latest happenings of whichever show we are hooked on.

Running low on our favorite shows on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, I was grateful to come across a blog post over at Ten Things I Like- Ten Things I Like: Must Watch Series.  I found four shows on that post and ran over to our TV to load them in our Netflix Instant Queue.  That evening, I gave Nick the choice of which of the four we should start watching and he picked Sons of Anarchy.

We started to watch the pilot episode and I wasn’t sure if I would like the show.  It was super intense.  So graphic and intense that I thought the show must normally be on HBO or Showtime or some other premium cable network.  But to my surprise, it’s actually on FX.  (Which makes me think that there is more leniency as to what can be shown on regular television these days.  I guess a lot has changed in the last 2 years!).  Anyway, I was a little gun-shy (literally) from the first episode, but we continued to watch and I can’t get enough.

If you’ve never seen Sons of Anarchy, the basic plot revolves the motorcycle club, Sons of Anarchy also known as SAMCRO, that illegally traffics guns.  The club vice president and main character, Jackson, struggles with the original intent of the club and the direction it is currently going in.  There is great character development and although I want to hate some of the members of SAMCRO, I can’t help but really like them because of their complexities.  The storyline is so gripping that I don’t think I could wait an entire week to see the next episode if we had cable.  Nick and I normally only watch one episode of a show a night, but we’ve been so transfixed on the storyline that we’ve watched three episodes of Sons of Anarchy in a row, several nights a week.  That says a lot!  It’s like television crack, you just need a little more to get your fix.

And so I don’t go totally astray from my blog intent (which I’ve done a lot of lately), it all ties nicely back to Urban Planning as we see the relationships unravel between the law and the outlaws in the small town of Charming, CA.  The lines quickly get blurred as to what is right and wrong and from an urban planning perspective, it makes me wonder who really has to power of shaping our cities and towns.  (Oh Professor Roy Strickland, you would be so proud of my analysis of a great television show and how it relates to urban planning and urban design!)    Update- Another urban planning topic I forgot to mention which fits nicely into my analysis: In season two, eminent domain is mentioned several times…  Oh yeah, urban planning issue in mainstream television!

We just finished the last of the first two seasons last night and I was thrilled to find out that seasons three and four are available (to pay for) on Amazon Instant Video!  We will definitely be continuing on with this series.  We are HOOKED!  Thanks Ten Things I Like for the recommendation!  Oh, and if any of you were wondering what SAMCRO stands for, its Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original.  (Nick and I had to look that up on Wikipedia.  If it was obviously stated in the show, we somehow missed it.)

Do any of you out there reading this have great Netflix TV show recommendations that you are hooked on?  We are always looking to add to our instant queue!

Jumping Through Hoops

First off, thank you everyone for all the support during my half marathon training.  I wanted to give a full report of it today, but due to the lack of pictures I took with my phone and the professional pictures being published tomorrow, I’m holding off one more day to blog about the event.  Instead, today, I am reporting on my recent and upcoming J-O-B interviews!

Now, I don’t want to write too much about them or what organizations these two positions are with just yet due to 1. disclosure: I don’t know who is reading this out there; and 2. as you may remember from an earlier post, I’m superstitious.

So I recently blogged that I had two upcoming job interviews.  The first one was last week.  It went really well and I am super hopeful.  The interview was a phone interview and was very casual.  I really enjoyed talking to the lady interviewing me and from my research, I discovered that she, just like me, has a Bachelor degree in English and Master degree in Urban Planning.  When I discovered that, it made me like her even more.  I often get strange looks from people when they find out about my diverse education background, at least from people in my profession, since my undergraduate and graduate degrees are seemingly totally unrelated.  While this may be true on the surface, I still beg to differ and think a Bachelor of Arts in English was a wise decision.

So back to the interview.  Like I said, it went well and I am very excited about the opportunity.  The trouble is, is that the lady interviewing me left the country over the weekend and won’t be back until right before Christmas, so I won’t hear anything for 3 weeks, which will torture me.  But at least I know that is the reason why I haven’t heard anything and it’s not because I don’t have a chance.  My fingers are crossed that I will be hearing good news come Christmas about moving on to phase 2: the in-person interview!

Interview number two is at the end of this week.  Before I mention anything about this one, I want to rewind back a month or so ago to the interview I had for the job I didn’t get.  When they asked me to come in for an interview, they requested that I put together a PowerPoint presentation on previous project that I worked on regarding zoning regulations.  Having working at an architecture firm for the past four plus years, I had to stretch to pull together this PowerPoint.  I decided on a project that I worked on that did relate to zoning regulations, however it was a design guide interpreting these zoning regulations; not quite what they were looking for, but I made it work.  At any rate, the request of a PowerPoint presentation on zoning regulations was a telltale sign that this job was not for me.  I am much happier doing planning work as it relates to design not boring zoning codes.

Okay fast forward to my upcoming job interview.  No PowerPoints required for this interview, however I just found out that there will be four parts to the interview:
1. A panel interview
2. A written test
3. A design test
4. A one-on-one interview
This is a little intimidating!  It sure seems like interviewees have to jump through hoops in order to land a job these days.  I understand employers want to make sure they cover all aspects to make sure they select the right candidate, but that sure puts a lot of pressure on the interviewees.  Back when I graduated graduate school I had only one interview that was this intimidating, which also included a test.  Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.  The rest of the interviews I had were much more informal and I felt like I could be myself.  In my mind, they were more successful than these demanding process interviews.  I’m very interested in the position that I will be interviewing for this week, but I know that these types of rigorous interviews don’t suit me well.  Until then, I will just mentally prepare myself and hope for the best!