Turn Out the Lights & Close the Doors

I bet you’re probably wondering where the Hell I’ve been for the last 6 weeks or so. Actually, I bet you haven’t been wondering at all, but that’s not going to stop me from telling you anyway.

First, the bad news. Or at least, the irrelevant news: I’m shutting down Tiles in a Mosaic. Now, before you go whipping yourself into a frenzy and threatening to down a bottle of Tylenol PM, let me explain. No, there is too much; let me sum up.

Essentially, I started Tiles as a sort of laboratory. It was a place for me to try to some things out, see if I liked blogging and, most importantly, get some writing in. In the 6 months since Tiles’ inception, I’ve learned some things about blogging, writing for the web, marketing, etc. With your help, I have developed a lot as a freelancer, both from the writing side and the business side.

And now, after leaning all that, I have learned that the time for Tiles is over — at least for now. I may resurrect it in some form down the road, but for now, it will lie fallow. I will keep all the content up just in case anyone wants to come back and re-visit their favorite posts…or have proof for their friends that literally anyone can get published on today’s Internet. Either way, you’re covered.

Yes, this means I won’t be blogging the new season of “Jersey Shore” (alternate title: “Now We’re Hated On Two Continents!”), but to be totally honestly with you, I probably wasn’t going to do that anyway. They hurt me one too many times.

Fear not, however! You see, I have been putting the time that I have been absent from Tiles to good use, launching my own website earlier this month. Launched via the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE), my new writer site contains my portfolio, professional profile, contact information and some other fun stuff — yes, including a blog. You can find it at danatkinson.naiwe.com. I highly recommend checking it out.

(As long as you are updating bookmarks, note that I have changed my Twitter handle to @DTAtkinson.)

As always, thanks for reading, cats & kittens.

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More Winning in the Craigslist ‘Free’ Section

Perhaps nowhere in the modern world is the proverbial rough in which diamonds can be discovered* better represented than the ‘free’ section of Craigslist. If you are patient and thorough, you can occasionally find some good stuff in there. It’s not all boxes of porn, though; sometimes it’s just, well…

I have no words. Actually, that’s not true, I have one: ew.

(See actual post here.)

*Does anyone actually know what this cliché actually means? Is it a golfing thing? Do people literally find diamonds in the tall grass off the fairway on hole 16? Is that how Tiger got so loaded? And is that why he’s addicted to them hood rats? I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS. (Link to the Kanye video is the clean, SFW version.)

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The Sugar Free Project

Fueled by a recent health kick, as well as a perceived challenge from my girlfriend, I am going sugar-free for the entire month of June, as are a couple of my friends. All told, there are four of us embarking on a month sans sugar, which began in earnest 3 days ago.

I would like to say that I am doing it for my health, because refined sugar is bad for you and diabetes runs in my family and blah blah obesity blah blah heart disease blah blah instant death awaits you at the bottom of a bottle of Pepsi. (Ed. note: Claims that Pepsi is lethal can neither be confirmed nor denied by the Food and Drug Administration, PepsiCo, or the Surgeon General. But Michael Jackson was burned during the filming of that commercial. Just sayin’.) No, as with most things in my life I am doing this entirely for my own ego. Specifically, because I 1) like to join in on other people’s quitting efforts just to show off how easy it is for me, a la Sick Boy in Trainspotting; and 2) I want my abs to pop out like Whack-a-Moles at Chuck E. Cheese. If I happen to be healthier for it, then so be it, but fuck if I care. I just want to show off and look better naked. (Incidentally, I’m told that my efforts on this front to date have been effective.) (No, that link is not a nude picture of me. As far as you know.) (OK, seriously, it’s not. I promise. It’s SFW, unless your workplace is uberuptight.)

So far, it’s going fine. The problem isn’t so much major cravings like ice cream (I’ve been known to kill a whole pint by myself), but incidental things, like iced coffee and protein bars. Do you know how hard it is to find sugar-free protein bars? I think they’re all kept wherever the unicorns are. This challenge, though, gives me a new-found appreciation for me mother, which is pretty amazing, because I have an extremely deep appreciation for her already.

My mother, you see, is diabetic. She developed gestational diabetes while she was pregnant with me, and, as sometimes happens, it just never went away. (I hope that’s accurate, otherwise she’s gonna read this and wonder where the fuck I get my information from and why I haven’t been paying proper attention for the last 27 years.) She practices a strict diet and fitness routine to keep her blood sugar in check, but I know that sometimes she has an extremely difficult time finding foods, especially snack foods, that are sugar-free. If nothing else, I expect this month will give me a deeper understanding and appreciation of her challenges…even if I don’t get six-pack abs.

Stay tuned for updates on my June without sugar. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go solve the protein bar problem the same way my mom would: I’m going to make my own.

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Meet Gizmo. And Follow Him. Forever.

This is Gizmo. For nearly 10 years now, he has been my best friend, constant companion, and a subpar vermin hunter. He’s also exceedingly neurotic, and he may or may not be a revolutionary. Actually, this is him about 5 years ago, striking his most triumphant and visionary pose. These days, he’s a little grayer:

And he spends considerably more time napping in the sun:

Despite his years, he still makes an excellent camping companion:

About 12 hours after that picture was taken, Gizmo found himself on the losing end of a transaction with a skunk. He hiked his tiny ass off, though. This is Gizmo’s new Puppy Tweet:

This is Gizmo wearing his new Puppy Tweet:

See what I was saying about the gray?? This is what Gizmo thinks about having to wear his new Puppy Tweet:

Follow Gizmo on Twitter @babyFgizmo.

And while you’re at it, follow his owner @tilesinamosaic, or like us on Facebook. And, if you’re really feeling saucy, may I recommend subscribing to Tiles in a Mosaic by e-mail? That way you can get e-mail updates every time a new post goes live! Start by clicking the check box that says “Subscribe to this site by e-mail” at the bottom of this or any other post.

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Judge Reinhold’s 54th Birthday Is REALLY Gonna Suck

Wow. Cee Lo’s voice is not nearly as good without Autotune.

This guy was making the rounds outside my window for a few hours on Thursday. Although the clip is less than a minute, trust me when I say you get the gist of it. He proceeds mainly in that vein for quite some time. It took me a while to decipher what he was saying — at first I thought it was an out-of-rhythm chant of “USA!” — so in case you’re missing it, he’s yelling out “You just wait!” He’s also occasionally interspersing an ejaculation of “FIRE!!” which I’m sure was not alarming at all to the passing motorists. Some of the other gems he belted out during his patrol on 4th Avenue were:

  • “He’s gonna do it again!” (To me, this sounds more like a tag line for Billy Madison II: Billy Gets His Baccalaureate than a warning about God descending to Earth to judge the living and the dead, but then again, I’m no harbinger.)
  • “Save yourself!” (This he would yell to individual drivers stopped at red lights, while making eye contact and pointing menacingly. Again, I’m sure this did not alarm any of the operators of the 2000 pound, gasoline-filled steel vessels. I feel confident in saying we were fortunate not have a cataclysm happen 16 days early, right in front of my favorite 99 cent store.)
  • “There’s gonna be a huge earthquake!” (At least we’ll get a warning. Not like seeing the “May 21″ printed on our calendars won’t be enough. Which reminds me: is there a specific time this is set to begin? Is it right at midnight, or will God wait until sunrise? What time zone is Heaven in? Where can I find more details on this? Oh right, that’s coming up next…)
  • “Matthew 24!” (This he screamed at someone who calmly asked him what book of the Bible he was getting his information from. He then worked this into his repertoire of randomly shouted phrases, along with “Fire!” and “Earthquake!”)
  • “Read my lips!” (Right then I knew he was lying.The last time I heard this phrase, it was uttered by a Bush, and I don’t trust that family any further than I can throw the collected lot of them. Nor do I mess with Texas, for that matter. Side note: how awesome is it that the “no new taxes” clip is on YouTube? God bless the Internet.)

I’ve mentioned the May 21 Crusaders (that’s what I’m call them now) before, although at the time they whole notion was foreign to me. As I would have guessed, efforts have ramped up since then, as we approach the deadline for Judgment Day. What started (for me) as just a lone man in a windbreaker on the A train has since become a message which I cannot shake from my consciousness despite my best efforts.

You see, a few weeks after snapping covert pics of the dude in the above linked post, my girlfriend was handed a pamphlet in Target detailing the 5/21/11 apocalypse. I read some of it, but both the logic and the underlying Biblical math were shaky at best and I stopped reading after a few short paragraphs, lest blood shoot out of my nose. Last week, I saw two men wearing signs decreeing this prophecy parading around my local corner store. Then, on Wednesday, I ran across a Gothamist article about a billboard that was recently constructed alongside the BQE. Apparently our Lord has an advertising budget now. (I recommend taking a look at that Gothamist link. It’s brief and gives a bit a background on just where this craziness comes from. Turns out the same “prophet” who is preaching the May 21 date also predicted that Judgment Day would occur in 1994. Unless he was talking about the fashion abomination that was the grunge trend, I think he was a bit off on that one.)

Eventually this guy ran out of steam, although I can’t imagine why, what with being in such good shape and being imbued with the divine power of the Almighty and all that. He left his post along the 4th Avenue median and went on about his day, laughing all the way to the bank at the thought of those unenlightened fools who splurged on calendars that go beyond the first five months of the year.

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If T-shirts were zombies, our brains would already have been eaten

On Wednesday, I discussed my efforts to declutter my life, both of physical possessions and other unnecessary attachments. The idea is that stuff carries not only a financial cost, but a psychological one as well, in the form of stress. This battle is an ongoing one, with progress coming slowly and systematically. There is one area, though, where I am so woefully overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff that I have yet to even attempt to make any progress: clothes.

Due to a combination of years of accumulation, irrational attachment “I know it’s a size XXL, but that’s the shirt I caught out of the cannon at that minor league baseball game in 2003! I can still use it as a pillowcase…”), thrift store binging (“A child’s medium lavender Mr. Wizard crewneck sweatshirt for only $2? Done.”), and a relentless inability to say no to a good deal, I have a massive amount of clothes. Maybe “massive” isn’t the word; it doesn’t seem big enough (that’s what she said!). What’s the opposite of “Lillputian?” What word describes that fat guy in Seven who’s forced to eat until his stomach bursts? My wardrobe is that size. I haven’t shopped for clothes (to speak of) in at least a year, and yet my wardrobe is still completely unruly. I swear that I have 60 T-shirts if I have a single one. I could clothe 20% of the population of my hometown for a day. Provided they all brought their own underwear. Otherwise it’s just gross. But you don’t have to take my word for it –I have pictures:

This is my every day supply of clothes: the drawers under my bed. Yes, I bought a bed with drawers included, mainly because it reminded me of the one I had as a kid. Oddly enough, this is progress for me, as I slept on a futon until I was 22 years old. At this point, we should just all be relived that my bed isn’t shaped like a spaceship. Oh, and I don’t own a dresser. I’m a child.

This is my closet. It extends to the left there a bit, so there are more clothes hanging in there, but more noteworthy are the two laundry baskets stacked one atop the other. Some of the laundry in there has maintained “dirty” status since prior to moving into my current apartment more than a year ago. I only recently re-discovered the duffel bag that I stashed away on the floor of the closet, where I had stashed away all my excess dirty laundry back in February 2009. It was a frightening discovery. Also note the collection of ties which, while impressive, are now almost entirely useless to me. Well. not entirely useless, if you’re picking up what I’m putting down.

Speaking of dirty clothes, here are two full bags ready to be dropped at the laundromat. Each one weighs about 15 pounds, according to the scale at the laundromat on the corner.

Here are shirts, pants and sweaters that need to be dry cleaned. Like the ties, I don’t have much use for “dry clean only” clothes these days. The basket does give me an opportunity to make Mitch Hedberg references, however.

And finally, here are the two boxes of clothes I’ve already set aside to be donated. The one on the right has been hanging out, waiting to leave since Christmas. Five months of wardrobe purgatory is a hell of sentence for apparel that did such a noble job outfitting me for so long. I feel shame.

Before you ask, I took all these pictures within a minute of one another, so there’s no overlap between these groups. What you see here is my entire wardrobe, and of course it begs the question “What. The. Fuck?” Why do I have all these clothes? I have clothes that I literally have not worn in a year and half or more. I have so many clothes I can’t remember the last time most of them were clean at the same time. In short, I have more than I need. Much, much more. To quote one of the great films of my generation, “In the immortal words of The Doors, ‘the time to hesitate is through.’” It’s time to get rid of this excess, and the first step in that effort is to formulate a plan:

  1. Donate all the clothes I’ve already set aside.
  2. Launder the bags and baskets of dirty clothes so they can be properly sorted through.
  3. Over time, identify items that do not fit/are torn or damaged/unnecessary and donate or toss them as appropriate. Fortunately, since I’ve been working out for the last three months, a significant portion of my clothes are now too small for me, so they are easy to get rid of.
  4. Don’t. Buy. Anything.

These are preliminary steps, but to me it looks like a good start. In the end, although I may save some money on the cost of laundry with smaller loads, the real benefits here are reclaimed space and the peace of mind that accompanies simplicity. The goal is to pare the whole wardrobe down to the point that every item is something that has utility, and that I actually wear. Or, barring that, at least to  a point where my closet doesn’t look like a hoarder died. Baby steps.

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4 “First” Steps to Making Life Simpler

As part of my decision to take my career — and life — in an entirely new direction, I also made a commitment to simplifying and decluttering my life, both physically and otherwise. Over the years, I have acquired an unfathomable amount of absolute shit. For example, I have 5 of the same Reebok duffel bag in assorted colors. Why? Because they were on sale. I only use two with any kind of regularity; the rest are still in the packages. This is the kind of thing I’m talking about. To make matters worse, I have been called out as being a hoarder by no fewer than two people who are very close to me. Admittedly, I have some hoarding tendencies, but I also consider myself a minimalist in many ways, so I have a constant struggle going on between these two pervasive traits.

So, as I carry on down this path toward happiness, I have been gradually making efforts to purge my life of inconsequential stuff — and obligations — which only really serve to make my life more complicated. Some of the steps I have taken toward this effort have included:

  • Selling off items with value to others, but no demonstrable utility to me. Among these have been the TV I kept in my bedroom (which I used literally once in the four months prior) and my vintage turntable (I bought a new one last spring, so that left me with two turntables, but no microphone). This put a little extra cash in my pocket, but more importantly it relieved me of the burden of having these useless items in my life. Also, with the TV gone, I had wall space for my sweet, handmade-from-sacavenged-curb-finds skateboard shelf:
  • Trimming and consolidating my bills. In my last job, I had to field calls from my staff, supervisor, and outside agencies 24/7, so I needed a lot of cell phone minutes. With that responsibility gone, and since I hardly ever talk on the phone (I abhor it, in fact), I scaled back my plan. I kept Netflix, but switched to the new streaming only plan, since I have a Roku box but no DVD player. I transferred all my credit card balances — I’ve been paying down  debt which oce topped $12,000 for the last 5 years — to one card that offered me a 0% promo APR, then set up that card to auto pay each of my bills. This way, I make one payment each month and I get to use the accumulated rewards points to further pay down my debt. Make no mistake, debt = clutter.
  • Systematically wearing out and then disposing of my shoes. I used to have a lot of shoes. I’m a closet shoe fanatic, as is my brother. I make it a point to avoid shoe stores altogether. My roommate has physically removed me from the shoe section at department stores in order to save me from myself. I’ve been good about not buying any new pairs lately, but I still had too many cluttering up my room. So, I devised my system whereby I would wear one pair of shoes every day until they wore out, then toss them. This has killed off three pairs of shoes so far, with another one knocking on death’s door. The goal is to get down to the bare footwear essentials, namely my Vans, my Tims, a pair of running shoes, my cleats, and a pair of flip-flops.
  • Cutting down on major purchases. I used to spend money just because I had it, and I used stuff to make me happy. I once bought a new laptop, despite already owning 2 others, just because it was a good deal and it seemed like it would be fun to have. Since then, I’ve implemented a practice of thinking potential purchases through before laying down my hard-earned cash for them. Most of the time, I determine quickly that the item I so lusted after just 10 minutes before was both surplus to requirement and would just clutter up my house. I still make some purchases that aren’t strictly necessary based on the “good deal” justification, but these are generally things that have not only value, but utility and flexibility. For example, I bought heavily discounted gift certificates for eBay and American Apparel, because I knew I could use them eventually on something I needed.

You will notice that these efforts save not only space, but also money. I have grown to realize over the last few months that stuff creates not just physical clutter, but it also comes at a cost that is both financial and psychological. To me, the non-monetary benefits were but a helpful side effect. To others, the savings alone is well worth the effort of uncluttering. For more reading on this and other clutter-related concepts, I recommend checking out blogs like Unclutterer and Zen Habits as a start.

I will also note here that as a general rule, the rules of clutter do not apply to books. I continue to acquire books with impunity, albeit almost always at a discount. For example, of the six books pictured above, 3 I found on the street and took home for free, 1 I bought at a used bookstore, 1 I bought on clearance at a Borders that was closing (this Borders, in fact), and 1 is borrowed. Books are objects that I value too highly to part with or stop acquiring. If I had a life that consisted of five pairs of shoes surrounded by walls of books, I would be off to a good start.

By no means am I done with this effort, however. In the next post I will reveal the one department in which I have accumulated a frightening amount of physical clutter. It is not for the faint of heart. Stay tuned, cats and kittens.

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