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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Donating Plasma

This is one of those situations where Biomat ended up on my spite list. I'd heard about donating

plasma for money from a facebook group, and they listed Gilfols as a place that you could donate plasma for cash.
Now, I don't give much in society, but what I can do is give blood. I have O-; the universal donor. And I will gladly take time out of my day to donate as much as I can. The process of giving blood is pretty quick - usually takes about an hour (including the prescreen, the blood draw itself takes about 17 minutes) unless they are slammed. But plasma is a bit different. With plasma, you are hooked up to an aphresis machine and it separates your plasma and returns the red blood cells back to you along with saline. Due to this, the process takes roughly one to two hours. Plus, plasma regenerates in the body very quickly. While whole blood takes 56 days, plasma takes about 48 hours. Another downside to plasma is that it takes 6-10 donations from the same person to make just 1 dose of medicine for someone, where as whole blood can save up to 3 lives for one donation. So, because of these caveats, it makes sense that companies have to entice people with monetary gain in order to keep coming back to donate. A sad but realistic truth.

Anyway, I'm here to tell you about the process of donating plasma in case you were interested. Gilfols is only one company out of dozens that do this and each place is a bit different, but this was my experience. And I can tell you straight up that they really really need to streamline their process. Although returns visits will take under 2 hours, first timers (me) took 5. Yes, FIVE HOURS.

So the reason that Biomat [Gilfols] was on my spite list was because on my first trip out there they ask you to fill out as basic form that lists your medications. Well, being a good citizen, I noted that I take Phentermine but only once a week. However, they didn't like that and wanted a note from my doctor saying it was okay to take it and donate plasma. Fine. Sent my doctor an email and she said no, she will go by whatever they recommend. FINE. So, I stop taking the phentermine. I go back. I fill out the form again. Then they say I need a note from my doctor that I had stopped taking the phentermine. Sigh. So, turned away again! Finally get the note that I stopped and now we can proceed from stage 1, which was a quick nurse assessment of the form/medications.

Stage 2 was a quick vein check and was told to read a binder about plasma donations and medications I can't take etc. If you give blood, this is similar to that. Then back out into the waiting room.

Stage 3 is watch a short video on an ipad about how donating plasma saves lives etc out in the waiting area.

Stage 4 is getting called back into the prescreen area where they ask you to answer 65 questions about sexual history, tattoos, needles, diseases, travel etc. Again, similar to the whole blood questionnaire. And then they take your vitals. Anything here can disqualify you. Hematocrit, temp, blood pressure, protein levels. My temp was too low and had to wait 15 minutes for another retake.

Stage 5 Getting called back to do the physical. He/she will make you do a urine test and has you rewatch the short video while that's processing (really?) They then read from a booklet that basically restates what you just watched (really?).  Then they will check your reflexes, eyes, nose, ears, ankles, abdomen, basically checking for any sign of infection or needle injection sites.
[By the way, the guy whom checked me and who was the same paramedic who stroke me off the list for the phentermine (which only has a 28 hour half life ffs!) is such a cocky bastard. I can imagine how much of a joy he must be to work with.]


Stage 6 Eat, and wait. Because you've been here for almost 4 hours at this point and you're damn hungry and need to eat before you donate plasma, and they have cup noodles and Gatorade. Yay.

Stage 7 DONATE. This is a bit different than whole blood. They want you to pump your fist the entire time that it's drawing from you. I'm not sure what the cycle timer is but it feels like a while, maybe 10 minutes, and your hand gets tired. Then, the pressure on the cuff will release and you stop pumping your fist as your red cells get returned back to you. You can watch as each cycle drops more plasma into the container and you can see how much longer you've got. I watched an episode of The Flash on Netflix while I did it. You just have to be cognizant of when you pump your fist and when not to.


Stage 8 Wait to get paid. For the donation center up here, the pay scale goes like this:
$75 for the first and $75 second donation (they teach you that you must donate at least twice or the first batch gets tossed. That makes me sad)

$50 for the 3rd and $50 for the 4th donation

$100 for the 5th donation (which is weird because they say they need at least 6 to make a dose of medicine so I'm not sure why it's like that)

$50 for the 6th donation (if it's within the same month) and every subsequent donation adds $5 to your running total that month [In a new month, it starts at $25]. Since you can donate basically up to 2x a week that can add up pretty quickly, but remember, its 2 hours out of your day. So, it's a toss up. Just think though, it's not just about getting money; you are saving lives, even if it's the pharmaceutical companies shilling for your bodily fluids.

I just donated for my 6th time. I will get up to 7 before I turn around and donate whole blood on September 1st. Then I have to wait 56 days before I can donate plasma again. My body needs a plasma break anyway. I've started to bruise easily and I have to take a double dose of my iron pills just to keep my levels high enough to pass the screening. Not to mention that I need to slam back even more protein with weight training and plasma donation. It can be tough. But, I thought I'd let you guys know the process just in case you were interested!



Thursday, August 24, 2017

I AM STILL IN AWE

You bet your bottom dollar that I would travel to see this eclipse. I may never see another one again in my lifetime, and a little travel and traffic isn't going to stop me from experiencing the greatest astronomical event ever.

Leading up to the big day was very stressful for me because I had planned on photographing it. Reading up on it and doing research (including downloading Photopills to my phone which gave me data about places, times, direction and azimuth) helped, but I am very much still an amateur and I knew I was only going to get one shot at this and if I messed it up I was going to be really upset. I wasn't going to expect perfection out of myself, but I needed this to be decent at least, which is why I knew I was going to do a time lapse.

I had also made my own solar filter by buying a flat sheet (certified of course) of material and cutting a circle to fit in between two UV filters. That worked amazingly well. I chose Lime, Oregon for my destination solely on it being in the direct path of totality (for the longest exposure time). I will talk more about my actual trip in another post, though. For now, I want to focus on the eclipse.

I do not have the words to express how amazing, how awesome, how incredible seeing the eclipse was for me. Let me try to describe it for you.

You're sitting in a camping chair at 9 o'clock in the morning, surrounded by hundreds of other people that are just as excited as you to watch this phenomenon. It's already at least 80 degrees outside; the sun is beating down on you and trying to burn your skin but you were smart enough to put sunscreen on. You begin to get anxious. At 9:08, you put on your very uncomfortable solar eclipse glasses that you got for free from the library and look up at the sun.

You see nothing.

But then, other people proclaim "I can see it! It's starting!" You look back up at the sun and finally notice it - just a little tiny shadow over one corner. Your heart beats faster. The heat from the sun sears your sensitive skin but you don't care. You lean back in your chair and stare at the sun until your eyes begin to cross. This is a very slow process, you think. You're excited, but can't look up forever. You take several breaks as the moon creeps closer to the center. You notice that the temperature is seeming to drop even though it should technically be getting hotter as the day goes on. The moon is not only blocking the light but it is blocking the heat. It's flipping awesome and very relieving. Staring up at the sun all this time was making you second guess if the amount of sunscreen you put on was enough.

You begin to feel an anxious excitement again as the moon gets closer and closer to the center. The sun is just a sliver now as you start to realize that the world around you is getting duller. It's not exactly getting darker per se, just oddly grayish, as if everything around you is losing color. What was once a temperature of 85 is now closer to 75.

Then, all at once, totality. There is a bright flash as the last remaining bit of light is being blocked by the moon, and you remove your solar glasses so that you can see what is going on. The world immediately plunges into darkness as if someone hit the light switch of the planet. It's not completely black - more like an early morning or late twilight. You notice Bailey's beads... they're little red specks on the corner of the sun before the moon completely covers it.Your heart seems to stop as the corona of the sun is now visible; undulating white wispy waves coming out of a black hole in the center. It reminds you of angel wings - you know this is what they look like even though you've never seen them. It's hard to breathe. You can't even think but to repeat how beautiful it is. A couple of stars appear, winking at you as the moon hogs all the glory in the moment.



It's so hard to look away, but you want to see what everything around you looks like. It's far from silent with so many people. The twilight seems very unnatural; it would be unnerving if you didn't know what was happening. Since not all the light is gone, the only stars you see are the two next to the sun - they are probably Venus and Mars. But, you can't look away too long - the eclipse is finite; you don't want to miss a single moment.



It's almost as if everything is taking in a collective breath and holding it. You wonder if time has stopped, but then another flash appears as the Diamond comes out - a bright ball of light in the corner, and you know it's over and you must put your uncomfortable solar glasses back on again. The light immediately returns and people clap and woot and yell as if the sun would bow at its performance. I would, if I were the sun.

Many people begin to pack up and leave now that the "best part" is over, but you can't tear yourself away. It's not over yet. The moon still has to pass over the other side. Color begins to return to your surroundings as the temperature begins to rise again. The only stragglers left are the astronomers and photographers.

Once it's finally over, time seems to resume. It's almost as if you were on another planet for 2-1/2 hours, where nothing existed but the sun and the moon, competing for space. 

Totality was so short, but it's now seared into your mind forever. The time, the travel, the traffic. It was all worth it for those two fleeting minutes of your life. A moment you will never forget for as long as you live.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Gel nails and IBX

My nails suck. And I've been trying to fix them for many years. The ends peel and thin the nail bed to the point where they are soft and pliable and then can easily tear. I haven't been able to grow my nails long for basically my whole life.

I've tried just about everything from Sally Hanson's line of Hard as Nails, to Essie's Millionails, to products like Nail-Aid Maximum Collagen builder. My diet has drastically improved over the years and I get enough iron and other nutrients; plus I've tried putting collagen powder in drinks and eating several months worth of Skin and Nails Biotin. I've also tried just soaking them in vitamin E oil and almond oil, which is basically all vitamin E only less viscous. I've tried gloves when I shower (although that didn't last very long; it's surprisingly annoying plus water still gets into the gloves) and painting my nails week after week to try and protect them from my hot showers [and life in general], which has been the main culprit in damaging my nails further. Nothing has worked. The problem with all these attempts is that they take several months of doing before you realize it's not working once the nail grows out. 

I'm pretty sure my issue is genetic at this point, but that's not stopping me from trying things. My latest attempt was deciding that gel nails was my answer. After buying all the stuff and painting it on, I was astounded. I loved the stuff; it made my nails hard and it lasted a good week before I even needed to make touch-ups. The problem was taking the gel off. As I went through the process each time, I was thinning out the nail plate while trying to get the base gel layer off; each subsequent application was making my nails thin and weak. Although I managed to keep the length of my nails in tact (they were growing, omg!) I was still making them worse.

And then I was introduced to IBX. I'm not sure how I heard about it online, but once I started seeing pictures and reading reviews, I was sold.



IBX works differently by sinking into the nail plate and fusing all the keratin layers together. Now, it is technically a long-term application system, which basically means you'll have to use it for a long while before you see any results, but I can tell you right now that after one application I have already noticed the difference and that's why I'm writing about it today.

My nails are still thin and pliable thanks to the gel, but they're not peeling. They've only grown a tiny bit for the last week but they haven't torn at all from being so thin. It's amazing.  (I clipped them all the way down in order to "start over" once I started using this). In the meantime I'm not applying any gel; just regular polish, so nothing is stopping my nails from tearing, and yet they're not. I'm almost crying in joy.

There's just one issue you need to know about before you rush out and buy it.
It is for "professional use only". It's not sold in stores anywhere. Technically, it's for nail salons so that they can charge a customer some $10 to add IBX to their gel regimen. But, thanks to forum posts, I found a website that supplies it (and no, not ebay, although you can find it there for super expensive). It's called beautysupplycanada.com, and you actually need to register an account and be approved before you can even see the price (hint: it's $46.95 for the duo pack). So yeah, it's not cheap, but if it works it works and it's definitely worth it to me.

Once I grow my nails out for a full cycle, I'll start putting gel polish back on, which makes me super excited. I keep ordering new colors from Wish for like $1 each and they take a whole month to come but who cares lol they're stacking up and I can't wait to try them!


Sunday, June 18, 2017

WTF Lyft?

Dear Lyft,

I have a suggestion for you. Do you have a suggestion box? Probably one that looks like this:



But I'll try anyway. This is a change that probably wouldn't be too difficult to implement and wouldn't cost you any money (hooray!) I mean, now that you have a dedicated driver app, which you like to point out that that means more features can be added (detailed driver summary anyone??) I would hope this would be something that can be easily changed. Here it is.

Why do we, as drivers, need to know how much we could have made? I'm trying to figure it out.
Here's my example:

That big number in bold at the top? Not what I made. Not the "driver payout". That number is the tiny one under "balance". In other words, Lyft took its cut of $13.98 and I get paid the rest.

This has two possibilities that I can think of. They want us to feel like we're making more money than we actually are. Or, they like the bait and switch technique.

Lyft: Here's how much you could have made if we hadn't taken out 25%! Haha!

Lyft: Here's how much you made but not really.

Why - WHY - would I ever in my life want to know how much I would make before Lyft took its cut, and why is it so prevalent at the top of the screen to confuse me? If I wanted to know how much money I made without the 25% cut, I could do the math. But I have no reason to. If I really cared, I could look at my driver summary.

The reason I bring this up and the reason it really really bugs me is a ride I gave just yesterday. The guy asked me how much this trip would cost because he's not the one who ordered the ride. I told him that I didn't know until after it was all said and done. Well, he stuck around (unloading his stuff) and after I rated him I let him know that I made $11.98 so he would probably be charged a bit more.

Well that was my last ride of the day, and because of that incident, I specifically remembered that fare so I went home and got onto the Lyft website to look at my detailed driver summary (again - put this on the Lyft driver app I hope???) and did not see an $11.98 payout anywhere. No, the total was $8.98.
Wait.
Are you trying to tell me that not only does Lyft give a big bold number at the top of my app for an amount I'm not getting, but it also TELLS ME THE AMOUNT BEFORE LYFT'S CUT FOR EACH RIDE?

Are you fucking kidding me, Lyft? Sorry for the language but what the hell?! Why in God's name would you want to make drivers feel good about their payout just to be disappointed when they look at their summary/actually get paid? Now I feel disheartened. Now, I will do a long drive, see a payout that feels good for the amount of driving I did, and then remember that that's not what I'm actually getting paid. Gee, thanks.

This is stupid. It makes no sense. Uber doesn't do this. For all it's faults, at least it gives you a detailed summary of each payout and tells you exactly what you're getting paid. It doesn't throw these happy numbers at your face just to make you sad later. Ugh I am so upset by this, mostly because I don't understand why your system was built this way in the first place.

Please, please change it.

/end rant

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Canopy Tours NW

For the record, this is not the first time I've done a zipline. Unfortunately, I never finished my previous blog post about going on the zipline at NW Trek because it included a write up about the whole facility and I never finished editing the many many pictures I took. I know, sad, because I had the most freaked out experience ever and I really should just post it as a separate entry but anyway, I digress.

Despite the "issues" I had at NW Trek, I flipping loved the zipline and knew that I wanted to do it again someday. Fast forward to yesterday. I got invited to a friend's reception dinner (he got married at the courthouse on Friday) waaaay up in Marysville, which is like an hour and 10 minutes from my house. I figured, if I'm going up there for a dinner, I might as well make a day of it and find something else to do.

Line 2
I'd been toying with the idea of going to Canopy Tours NW, especially because they keep winning Evening Magazine's Best of Western Washington (this link is a good video of what it's about), but they are way up at Camano Island, and it's like $103. So, I kept pushing that idea aside. But yesterday I decided to be impulsive and just go with it. Now, Camano island is still 30 minutes north of Marysville but it was a heck of a lot easier to justify the drive up there now! It was going to be a nice day, and I was still able to buy tickets only a few hours in advance.

Each line gets more progressive and kind of builds up your confidence as you go. There are 6 in total, although line 5 is the longest (longer than the Space Needle is tall) and has the camera. I have to admit, I still felt a little trepidation stepping off of each platform. It didn't really get any easier! But, I have no irrational fear of heights so that wasn't an issue.

 Line 4
Line 5 

The views and scenery are amazing, the guides were awesome, and I felt safe the entire time. They taught me how to control the zip so that I wouldn't end up spinning around or landing backwards, and by line 5 I'd had it down perfectly enough to pose for the camera!


Although I had a great time, I'm still not getting that always talked about "adrenaline rush". I keep trying, but I kept wanting the zips to go slower so that I could look around and admire the landscape. I was concentrating too hard on keeping straight, and it was so fast that all I could really do was prepare to "land" on the next platform. That's the only part where my heart rate spiked, because you're coming straight at a tree going quite fast and the only thing that is going to stop you from slamming into it is a pully brake that the guide uses.

The last thing we had to do at the end was repel down 47 feet. This scared me a bit too, but turns out it was incredibly easy. 



















This is the view from on top of the repel tower


Now that I've done this, I don't think I will ever do it again - I don't need to. I still loved it, and it was a great experience, but I'm cool with just the one time.

What about you guys? Would you ever try this? Let me know in the comments!


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Brownies or not-Brownies?

What makes a brownie a brownie? Is it like fudge? It is like cake? Is it a flat fudge cake? What if it had no flour?

What if it had no sugar?

Here is my recipe for flourless, "sugarless", healthy brownies.

5-6 prunes
2 eggs
1 scoop chocolate idealshake (can use whey or casein)
3 (or more – up to you) squares of intense dark twilight delight Ghirardelli bar
1 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tbs coconut oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Several drops of vanilla-flavored stevia (or other artificial sweetener)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
Using a small pot, melt the chocolate squares and coconut oil together. Once melted, incorporate the tablespoon of cocoa powder. Put aside to cool slightly.
Add the prunes, vanilla extract and eggs to a blender and blend until as smooth as possible. It will come out thick. Add to a small bowl. Add the scoop of protein powder, baking soda and baking powder to the egg mixture and incorporate together.
Add the melted chocolate to the egg mixture and mix together. Spray an 8x8 pan liberally with non-stick spray and pour mixture into pan.

Cook for 12-15 minutes. Cool before serving.

As long as you don't expect it to be sweet, they taste really good. You can always make them sweeter by:
A. adding more stevia/splenda 
B. using milk chocolate instead of intense dark chocolate
C. sprinkling some powdered sugar etc on top

This comes out to about 145 calories a piece for 9 servings. Not bad if a chocolate craving hits, right? The chocolate is pretty intense thanks to the three types you add to it. Believe it or not, these come out kind of cakey. I'm not sure how; but they do not come out dense and fudgey like you'd expect they might without the flour. Just a head's up!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Uber Update

Uber has become synonymous with ridesharing. It's even a verb now - "Ubering". (Kind of like how Kleenex is a brand but that's what we call tissue.) Which is too bad considering the myriad of scandals plaguing their company - which of course is all their fault. 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClJS1dQ-7q0uiB6xbMiuetg

Casually scrolling through The Apprepreneur's posts, there's scandal after scandal; it's becoming almost commonplace at this point.

But there are two things I hate most about Uber - and Lyft, because even though Lyft seems to stay out of the limelight, their app is no better than Uber's. 

1. Google maps. Or lack of an efficient GPS map of their own. Several things are dangerous and stupid about using Google Maps - and it's not the same exact Maps that you would get if you were to plug in an address yourself; one integral difference I noticed is that Google will have you go up and around a block to make sure you end up on the right side of the street, which is probably where the cool factor ends, because Maps will more often than not send you down dark back alleys to find your passenger when they're in the front of their house, not the back. And because Uber's GPS map leaves a lot to be desired, Google operates independently of the Uber/Lyft apps which causes problems of its own as well. It will 
A. Tell me I've arrived (at an apartment or retail complex) before I found the right spot so my map disappears. (Then I have to rely on Uber's pin) 
B. Run in the background even if my rider cancels or I drop them off early so I have to go back in and shut it down (while driving, usually!) and 
C. Is too eager and tells me I've arrived before I physically do. If I need house number 1370, it will say I've arrived at house number 1365. I've learned to drive another couple hundred feet or so every time.
Maps makes me look like an idiot in front of my passengers. I'm probably calling or texting them 80% of the time to ask where they are because I'm on the wrong side of the house or in another parking lot. Sigh.

2. Their rating system causes a buttload of problems. If Lyft wants to stand apart from the pack and be better than Uber without much effort on their part, it would be to revamp the 5-star rating system. There is post after post about what they could do to improve it, including explaining to passengers how it works (and how a low rating can get a driver kicked off the app), forcing them to either type in or choose a reason why they give anything less than a 5-star rating, and not counting low ratings for things not under our control, like traffic.

But the real reason it needs a revamp is because of something I have now experienced as a driver and should never have had a chance to occur. I got my first creepy drunk passenger. He made my skin crawl. And he sat in my front seat. It was 6:30 at night. It wasn't even dark; and he was already plastered. He smelled like weed when he got in my car, stared at me for an uncomfortable amount of time, and mumbled something about me being beautiful. He asked me if I was drunk. Before we reached his house, he asked me if I was smoking weed because it smelled like weed in my car (Duh! From you!). Then, when I reached his house, he invited me to dinner. Um, no thank you. And you know what my response to him was, besides my answers being curt and short? To be nice. And why? Why didn't I kick this man out of my car? After all, my safety should be my number one priority. (I did have a taser and I considered pulling it out but I wouldn't take that step unless and until he tried to touch me.) Because he could give me a bad rating. (Here is an article about it, it's a long read but a good one if you're interested.)

You see, Uber (and to some extent, Lyft as well) does not allow you to dispute any ratings. Passengers don't have to give a reason why they gave you a sucky rating, and there's no way to get rid of it once you have it. Once you reach a 4.6 average, you are kicked off the platform, and it takes a hell of a lot to get you back on once that happens. I read that it takes somewhere around 19 5-star ratings to offset one 1-star rating. It's ridiculous. 

And obviously it doesn't have to be as serious as sexual harassment. It could be something stupid or simple, like telling them to turn down their music because you can't hear the directions, or asking them not to smoke in your car, or any etc situation. They can give you 1-star ratings willy-nilly, and that's just wrong, especially when it has more to do with your ability to drive than the passengers even know. Guess what - you can give them 1-star ratings as well, but does that affect them? Nope. If a passenger's star rating is low, you can choose not to pick them up, but then that affects your acceptance rate (although that doesn't matter anymore like it used to) So there's no winning for the driver in any scenario. The only plus, I suppose, is that if you give them a 1-star rating, you won't be paired with that passenger again. Wooptie do! It's not like *they* get kicked off of Uber for being assholes. Hell no. Uber wants all the passengers it can get. Drivers are a dime a dozen.

UPDATE: Uber is going to trial with Google for stealing its Waymo secrets. I'm probably not thinking as far into this as I should, but I hope they crash and burn and die. Then only Lyft will be left, and it will allow other ride-hailing services to come forth from the ashes. It means two things: Not as many drivers are using Lyft, so if Uber crashes, demand will be high, at least for a few days while those people scramble to get signed up for Lyft; and I'm ready. (As an already full-time employee can be. Hopefully they crash on a weekend lol) But that also means monopoly. And as most of us know from being forced to sign up for Comcast, monopolies are never good for the consumer. Hopefully it doesn't all go to Lyft's head as they reel from all the profits. 

Uber needs a good kick in the dick to stop acting like they're above the law. Even if this doesn't cripple them beyond repair, it better get them going in the right direction.