Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Journal!

I started a new journal today! Actually, I don't think any of y'all have seen my old journal, since I started it when I was at the cabin this summer, and I don't have any 'real' internet access there. OK, I do have dial up, but you just can't upload files of any size using dial up these days; it times out too quickly.
I made this book cloth by painting cotton fabric.
First off, here's a picture of my last journal, which ended up being titled Cap'n Midnight's Museum for Exceptionally Intelligent People. The title came from an essay in Joseph Mitchell's Up in the Old Hotel about Captain Charlie's Museum for Intelligent People. I don't remember which story it is; you should just read them all; they're wonderful. It had one less signature than I usually put in my journals: eight instead of nine. I'm trying to downsize and lighten my journals, once again, to lighten the load that I carry.
A few of my favorite things: Kenny inspecting my journal, and my cup of coffee.
Here's the new journal, titled Crazily Paisley. It's the brightest journal I've ever had, and possibly the brightest one ever made. It glows in the dark... Well, it glows in the dark if you have a black light, anyway. I was hoping to marble end sheets for it with day glo paint, but they were just too transparent to really see, except with the black light. I ended up painting stripes on paper instead.

Yipes, stripes!
This journal is even smaller than Cap'n Midnight whose pages were 7 1/8" wide by 8 1/2" high. Crazily's pages are 77% smaller: only 5 3/4" wide by 8 1/8" high. It's very hard to get two columns in unless I concentrate on writing really tiny.

To protect this journal - and the last - I'm carrying them in a plastic baggie in my purse. (Thanks, Roz, for that tip!) I feel somewhat odd about this, because the idea is to make semi-indestructible journals. There is some kind of a varnish you can put over day glo paint to protect it, but for now I'll use the plastic baggie. As you can see from looking at the top of the pages, there are two sheets of black cover stock in the journal for me to color on. I like coloring on them with my NeoColor watercolor crayons. Here's a paean to Pierce Bros Fogbuster coffee and non-electric coffee grinders.

The electricity went out at the cabin for over a week this summer after Hurricane Irene swept through the Catskills. I can live without lights - especially if I have one of those little headlamps - but I cannot live without coffee. So I had to beg and borrow a hand crank grinder. Then I found one at the flea market in Woodstock, a real beauty and capable of grinding for espresso makers, little Bialetti Mokas.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I'm typing this from my new iPhone...

When the iPhone first came out, I held off from buying one for several months... At least three, anyway. I lost my cell phone in May, right as I was getting ready to go to the beach with my Dad and his wife on what I called the 'Fogies Trips.' Dad and Ginger and two other couples - and sometimes a couple of other people - would rent a house on Bald Head Island for a week. Dad was in a wheelchair and needed help doing stuff, so I would go along as his 'nurse.'

I was really upset when I lost that phone. I knew the iPhone was being launched in another month and I really wanted one even though I'd never seen one. No one had. All I really knew was that they played music. I mentioned this when I went to the AT&T store, and the lady who helped me said that lots of phones played music, and wasn't I just being silly to want an overpriced phone. Who knew then what an iPhone really was?

I happily bought a Razr phone, which played music and connected to the web and did email, if you didn't mind hitting a key three times to get a 'C.' So, when the iPhone launched at the end of June, I put my hands over my eyes and went around saying 'Nyah, Nyah, Nyah, Nyah, Nyah," like a PC person.

It wasn't until I went over to my friend Clark's house right before I left for the cabin that summer that I saw my first iPhone. I played with his phone the whole time I was there and drove from his house to the AT&T store and bought one. It was a completely different animal from the Razr... Completely! Evolutionary speaking, it was a new species, or maybe even a kingdom!

My first iPhone's screen cracked after a year, but it still worked. I got the 3G eventually. Im not slavish about it. I buy the new one when my old one craps out and I'm eligible for an upgrade. I didn't get the 4 when it came out because of reception issues. I was eligible, but I waited. And then, two weeks ago, it rained.

Now if you don't live in Texas, you may not know that it hasn't really rained here in a really, really long time. Months, really. Johnson grass was growing in my backyard and the soil was too dry to pull it out. So the morning after it rained I went out into the dewy grass with my cup of tea and my iPhone to weed. Because the ground was really wet, I didn't want to place my phone down on it, so I very carefully balanced it atop my mug of tea. Ahhh, I hear you gasp. Sadly, you are so prescient. Indeed, my iPhone dunked itself in that mug of tea.

I tried to order the new iPhone online, but the wait was already backed up. Since I still had my old Razr, I went straight over to AT&T and had a SIM card put in it so I'd have a phone for the duration. I mentioned the long wait to the AT&T kid and he said, "Oh we'll have plenty of them in stock; just come to the store on Friday the 14th!" And that's where I was just after 9am Friday... In line at the AT&T store.

It only took me an hour to get inside. There I talked with the Director of Sales for Central Texas. I told him and my sales rep the tea story. They thot it was very funny. I said, "That's nothing; my daughter dropped hers in a White Russian!" (Laugh.) "Then she got her replacement phone and dropped IT in a White Russian. That's when I told here she had a drinking problem!"

So I have the new phone. Frankly, I wasn't expecting much, so I've been completely blown away by it... Sure, sure the camera is awesome (or at least more awesome than the old one.) It's new and shiny. But it was the feature most hyped - Siri - that I expected the least out of. I had the Siri app on my old phone and it was coolish, but not integrated into the phone itself. Now it is and...

It has a sense of humor!

The folks at Apple took the time to think about and program these things into their personal assistant. They anticipate their audience.

It's not that I'm smart, or even that my phone is smart.

It's that the people who make my phone are smart...

Friday, October 14, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

If it weren't for Steve Jobs, you wouldn't be reading this, because I wouldn't be typing this.

Many, many years ago, perhaps back in 1970, I took a computer course in college. It was actually a 'computer graphics' course. That's in those little quote marks because to do computer graphics in the early 70s you first had to learn how to program. So I was also taking a course in Fortran and flow charting as well. I can't remember if they were the same course; I think they were, but it was very, very long ago, and it was very, very painful.

The object of the computer graphics course was to write a program that drew a little tetrahedron - on a CalComp plotter - that could send the tetrahedron spinning across an XY grid. This would be drawn in black on that white weird paper with the perforated edges. Not only did one have to write the program - which frankly was beyond me - but one had to punch the little cards that were used to tell an IBM 360 to tell the CalComp plotter what do do. It involved hundreds of cards, at least in my memory.

I not only proved completely incapable of writing the program, I couldn't, for the life of me, punch the damn cards right. This was not surprising, really, as I didn't know how to type at the time. It took every ounce of conniving, wheedling and ingenuity I possessed to copy someone else's cards and take them over to the basement of some science building where the 360 resided. And there, walking in the through the doors, I bumped into somebody. My cards flew into the air and came down like leaves around me. Lovely disordered leaves, floating all about, unnumbered and so impossible to reorder. I had to borrow another student's cards and run them to get the little drawing of the little tetrahedron poised on one edge of the little grid getting ready to jump forward into the future.

This was NOT cheating, at least not in our department, the Design Department. We were being trained to be generalists who interacted among specialists, and I, along with several others in the CG class had quickly figured out that computer graphics was a specialty... And not one any of us were going to be taking up anytime soon. As generalists, it was our job to find out who could do things and to get them to do it, so running someone else's cards was a perfectly viable solution to the problem. A few people in the class were able to write to the program. Many of us could not, and so we formed a club - the only club I officially belonged to in college - called the Fraternal Order of Computer Fuck Ups, better known by its acronym: FOCFU (pronounced FOCK PHU). We took a solemn vow not to touch a computer until they could talk to us.

All thru the 70s, I waited.

In the early 80s, I waited.

I had told the FOCFU story to many people, people who seemed to be able to use IBMS to do things, but, even though doing things no longer involved those stupid cards, it still involved programming... Or at least writing 'commands,' which is not my style.

It's not like I was holding my breath or anything. Frankly those computers, with their black screens with the green or blue or amber monospaced fonts didn't interest me in the least. They didn't SPEAK to me.

Then one day, I think in the spring of 1984, my friend John Salik came over to my house. He said, "I have something for you. I have a computer that will talk to you." And he put a Mac 128 down on the table and started to leave the room. "But, John," I said, "I don't know how to use it!"

"You'll figure it out," he said and walked out of the house.

How hard could it be? It only had one button on it. I pushed the button and a black and white, low-res screen came up with two icons on it: a word program and a paint program. Of course at the time, it wasn't a low-res screen, and I didn't know those little things were icons. I used the weird little thingy attached to it by a cord to move a pointer around the screen - the mouse, as I later found out it was called - and touched one of the little icons.

When John came back an hour later I was painting happily away.

A computer had talked to me. Thank you, Steve Jobs.

The first computer I got was not that one, but a used Mac 512. The second was the only non-Apple computer I've ever had, an Atari Mega STE. It was great, actually, because it could switch between Apple and Mac platforms and had a great desktop publishing program. The next computer I got was the iMac in August of 1998, one of the Bondi Blue ones. I got the iMac G3 in tangerine a year later, and have been hooked ever since.

They talk to me. In my own language.

No punch cards, all love.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I encountered an interesting word this morning: hedonics. I have been meditating on nuclear power since the recent unpleasantness in Japan, which is how some nuclear proponents seem to be viewing it. Mitch McConnell said that we shouldn't let what was happening in Japan affect how we think of nuclear power in the US. I guess Mitch has been listening to Frank Zappa's It Can't Happen Here.

The lead Talk of the Town New Yorker article is about nuclear power and mentions that, at its inception under Eisenhower in the 50s, insurance companies decided it was too risky to insure. They said they would only insure plants to one tenth of what they estimated a nuclear accident would cost. A government insurance pool was created for the nuclear industry instead.

All power generation has environmental costs, of course, even solar. I wondered what the effect of solar panels was on the resale value of a home, mostly because there are a LOT of houses with solar panels in my 'hood. The city of Austin, which owns its own power company, has generous rebates and citizen-friendly incentives for putting panels on your house. It's still freaking expensive, but pays out in a bit less than 10 years, with a life rating of 20, so you get perhaps 10 years of free electricity. Not a bad thing for someone hoping to retire...

I couldn't find a lot of info on the resale issue, but this little blurb from the Christian Science Monitor caught my eye:

This study uses a large sample of homes in the San Diego area to provide some of the first capitalization estimates of the resale value of homes with solar panels as compared to comparable homes without solar panels. While the residential solar home market continues to grow, there is surprisingly little direct evidence on the market capitalization effect. We find evidence using both hedonics and a repeat sales index approach that solar panels are capitalized at roughly a 3% premium. This premium is larger in communities with more registered Prius hybrid vehicles and in communities featuring a larger share of college graduates.
he·don·ics (h-dnks)
n. (used with a sing. verb)
1. The branch of psychology that studies pleasant and unpleasant sensations and states of mind.
2. Philosophy The branch of ethics that deals with the relation of pleasure to duty.
hedonics [hiːˈdɒnɪks]
n (functioning as singular)
1. (Psychology) the branch of psychology concerned with the study of pleasant and unpleasant sensations
2. (Philosophy) the study of pleasure, esp in its relation to duty

The part of the abstract where it says that the 'premium is larger in communities with more registered Prii' cracked me up. I joke that in my neighborhood you're most likely to be run over by a bicyclist or a Prius driver who's talking on their smart phone while sipping their green tea from a eco-friendly cup.

And, finally this morning, a present from the NY Times... Pictures of clouds.

A couple of recent-ish journal spreads...
pages 60-61 from Red Lead...

pages 72-73 from Red Lead...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Post 2...

I'm almost caught up with my envelope exchange doo dah. I mailed my February envelopes off today, and feel totally inspired for the upcoming months.

Pen and ink... And really cool Abstract Expressionism stamps from the USPO!
These ones went much more quickly than last month's. That's supposed to be me, saying the names and addresses of the recipients...

Last weekend, I went to the rally in support of the unions in Wisconsin. Felt kinda cool, 'cos I knew that some of my friends were up there protesting. The funniest thing about the rally here in Texas were the anti-rally protesters... All six of them. They were motorcycle people, five guys and a woman, and the guys were all rigged out in their leathers and colors and caps and boots and were carrying a sign that read "Protect us from the Union thugs!"

Here's what the demonstrators looked like:

Really thuggy looking folks! I learned lots of interesting things at the demonstration, mostly from talking to the State Troopers on bicycles. Who knew Texas had State Troopers on bicycles? The bikes have flashing lights and everything! They told me about how they can use their bicycles to form crowd barriers in riot situations and how much they LOVE being on bicycles. One of them told me he'd done time in the military and been in law enforcement for twelve years. He said the only time he's almost been killed was while riding his bike - as a Trooper - when a lady turned into him. Fortunately, she saw him in time.

Otherwise it's spring here! The trees are all blooming and going for my afternoon walk is a joy because of the flowers and warmth... And the beautiful blue skies...

Friday, February 18, 2011

What's up!

I'm supposed to be participating in an envelope exchange with the San Antonio Calligraphy Guild. Somehow I'm very behind on doing my envelopes! These are January's. As you can see, I have to do four envelopes a month... Through May! I've got my idea for February's and hope to catch up in the next couple of weeks....

A couple of other things. In my latest journal, I added two fold out pages of black Fabriano Tiziano to play with. I really like using pastels, colored pencils, and watercolor crayons on black stuff. Of course I get to these pages and they interrupt of my flow, since I don't have the time to work on them just then... But they're so fun! And, if you've read my recent (sort of) posts, you'll know that I've mostly given up coffee. I get a cappucino (decaf, with skim milk) once, maybe twice a week these days. It's my big treat! This was done with Caran d'Ache NeoColor II crayons (water soluble).

What else? Ahh, here's a recent page. Not great art, but colorful. Again with the C d'A crayons. I truly love them!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Freezing in Florida

I guess if you're going to make a NY's resolution about posting daily, you should make sure you have internet access where you're going.

For those who are wondering... I have quit coffee, and don't even seem to be craving it, in the sense that I don't slobber when I smell it brewing... But giving it up forever? We'll see.

I'm in Florida with my family. We're staying on a 300 acre ranch with a huge lake, groves of oranges, and hydroponic strawberries and blueberries. We haven't actually found the blueberries yet, but we have found the strawberries and the oranges are all around us. One of my stepsisters gets up ungodly early every morning and goes out and takes pictures of birds and wildlife. This morning she awoke us all just past the crack of dawn and told us we had to get up, not to change into our clothes, just to grab a blanket and come. Fortunately, I put some pants and shoes and a sweater on. It was FREEZING outside! She drove us to the road alongside the ranch and there we saw icicles all over up to about 3 feet. The lower oranges on the trees had them. The light was shining through them. It was beautiful, very beautiful.
Sprayer with oranges and icicles.

Cold Les and Ginger!
It was also bloody cold! The earth is sandy here. The irrigation lines lie on top of the ground, so they wouldn't be good for a hard freeze, but it's supposed to be in the upper 50s today, so that's fine. I'd love to be able to enjoy all this frozen orange juice, but oranges and grapefruits aren't on the elimination diet for some reason, so I watch others drinking it. Strawberries are on the diet, so I can eat them! There's a little park a couple of miles from here, Lakeland Highlands, it's called. 250,000 years ago it and a few other highlands were all there was of Florida, although 65,000 years ago there was apparently a lot more of it. Who knew?
Lovely longleaf pines grow there, and everything here is covered with spanish moss. There are lots of birds: ibis, egret, Sand Hill cranes, great blue herons, anhingas. I'm not good at taking pictures of birds; that's Pam's job.

Here's Ginger looking for what's making the little trails in the sand... Pam says it's worms... Leslie confirms it.

Are we having fun yet?

You betcha!

Friday, January 7, 2011

It's fixing to get loud... And weird...

I finished the first wax resist in my new journal, Red Lead. I started it on December 22nd, but had trouble completing it until this morning. It was bugging me, sitting there at the beginning of the journal, unfinished.

The problem I was having was with my crayon holder. I got one from Jerry's Artarama, stuffed my favorite deep blue crayon (Caran d'Ache NeoColor I Wax) into it, and couldn't get the crayon out when I was ready to switch colors. I did color with the other colors holding them by hand, but after I broke two of them - they're very brittle, these crayons - I gave up and went looking for my other crayon holder. It's the same kind, but I couldn't find it.

So there the page sat looking pale and unfinished. I needed to be able to color really hard on a hard surface so there were no uncovered bits of paper showing. Finally this morning I found the other crayon holder, went out to the studio and colored away.

Red Lead, pages 2 and 3.
The odd thing for me about wax resist is that it's unlike many other media that I use. When I get to the part where everything is blocked in and a preliminary coat of color is on the paper, I have to go back over the whole thing and 'color hard,' to fill in those spots. It's boring. I usually do it while listening to podcasts. You might not want to watch a movie, but something is needed to occupy the mind.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


In the picture I posted yesterday, you might notice a poster on the door beside me. That's what happens when you live in an 800 sf house and you have a lot of art; you run out of walls and start putting things on the doors and ceilings.

It's a poster I did back in 1992 for my friend/bandmate Brad Massengill who was part of or was allied with - he'll correct me on all this, I'm sure - the 100th Monkey Project.

It's one of my favorite posters that I've done, even though it doesn't really work too well as a poster; it's too intricate. Here's a detail from the lower left border...

See the monkeys? and the mushroom clouds? and little nuke symbols? Yep, you have to be pretty damn close up to this poster to see all this stuff, which is why I think it doesn't work so well as a poster.

Gall (Pizi in Lakota) was a war chief at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. He was in the area attacked by Major Reno. His two wives and several of his children were killed. "My heart was very bad that day," he said.

After the battle, many of the Indians fled to Canada and didn't come back for four or five years. Gall surrendered to the US government in 1881, and settled on what became the Standing Rock Reservation. He became a Christian and a man of peace. He turned away from the Ghost Dance movement, which Sitting Bull had become involved in. This is all much more complicated than I can tell here, but the Indian Agents were terrified of the Ghost Dancers and orders were sent out to arrest Sitting Bull. A shoot out followed and he was killed, along with seven of his followers. Other Ghost Dancers, led by Big Foot, fled through the snow to Wounded Knee Creek, on the Pine Ridge Res where they were massacred by US troops.

Why was the government so spooked by the Ghost Dance movement? Who knows... It's just one of those things that seem to inflame people. Valentine McGillycuddy (how's THAT for a name), a one-time Indian Agent on the Standing Rock Res, said "The "The coming of the troops has frightened the Indians. If the Seventh-Day Adventists prepare ascension robes for the Second Coming of the Savior, the Unites States Army is not put in motion to prevent them. Why should not the Indians have the same privilege? If the troops remain, trouble is sure to come." 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

favorite things

I get on kicks where I eat the same thing for several days... Sometimes it's peanut butter - well, not now on the ED (elimination diet) - or onion soup, or squash soup, or raspberries. I am perfectly happy eating these things, but then, one day, I'll want something else, or, at least not want what it is that I've been eating avidly, and it's over. This week it's avocados... Avocados with lime juice, lemon pepper and pink Himalayan salt sprinkled on them. The ones I've been eating are the big ones, from Florida, and I only hope that I'm still on this kick when I'm in Florida next week.

It's the same with clothes. Last year I was into leggings with big shirts and a vest cinching it in. This year it's been blue jeans that are more like leggings with a couple of shirts... And my space boots.

I bought them from Zappo's a couple of years back. They're bronze metallic and they made me laugh when I saw them, so I bought them. Who knew they would be so comfortable? Just before Thanksgiving, I sprained my good knee. Within two days my bad knee was out as well. Strangely, these boots were the most comfortable footwear I had. It's not that I don't have other flat-heeled shoes, just that these worked the best. They're warm, too, but most of all they're shiny! I'm also wearing my favorite winter shawl, one that I got in Mitla, in the state of Oaxaca. It's wonderfully warm and cozy, and makes me think of Oaxaca...

When I was younger I used to say contemptuously "Oh, yeah, I'm shaking in my space boots."

It's nice to actually own a pair to shake in...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 3...

I am definitely affected by the weather. Today was one of those grey cold days - ok, it got up to 60, but, somehow it still felt cold - and I never seemed to really wake up. I suppose the decaffing is really catching up with me. I feel terrifically proud that I haven't bitten anyone's head off! Of course, I didn't see that many people today, so that may have something to do with it.

I did get up, make my pitiful allowance of coffee, and start writing in my journal, so at least the day started in a wonderful way. I wrote about one of the most wonderful winter things: the light... And the color the sky is, a deep pure blue.

Pages 10 and 11 from Red Lead.

I love to look at the sky and at clouds. I can still remember clouds I saw in my childhood. My Dad would pull over to the side of the road and stop the car every now and then and say "Look at that cloud!" and the two of us would sit there and admire it. He didn't usually do this with my Mom in the car; it was our thing. It wasn't that Mom didn't like clouds; she loved the house she had after my parents split up because the living room windows faced the west and she could watch the sunset at night.

You see a pair of glasses peeking out from the margin. I bought them - tiger print on a silvery-purple color - at Central Market yesterday. Somehow I have lost my other glasses, perhaps a symptom of the fuzzy thinking that comes with caffeine withdrawl. Hopefully at some point I'll start thinking straight again...

And writing about something other than coffee!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day two...

For the New Year, I started an elimination diet, one of those ones where you eliminate all the foods that are most likely to annoy your body: dairy, wheat, beef & pork & shellfish, most citrus, nightshades, alcohol, and caffeine, as well as assorted other items, processed foods, etc... The Usual Suspects as it were. I've done this before, but I never even tried to give up caffeine. I might cut down a bit... Up the ratio of decaf that I use, but QUIT caffeine? Not going to happen!

This year I figured, why not go whole hog? Why not give up caffeine, or die trying, which, I swear to the gods I don't believe in, is what giving up coffee - my form of caffeine - and the primary one they're talking about, feels like to me. There are the headaches, the lethargy, the sleepiness, the general fog that come with a serious coffee drinker giving up their drug of choice.

Pages 6 & 7 from Red Lead.

Now for those of you who may be thinking that this is a blog primarily about my journals, let me just say that an awful lot of coffee drinking goes on in my journals. An awful lot. There are coffee rings on pages of  journals, photos of coffee mugs, commentaries on coffee, shoot, there's a lot about coffee...

So quitting drinking coffee has serious repercussions, on top of the lethargy, fatigue, sleepiness, wooly thinking and all the other stuff. I'm losing something to write about!

Perhaps I'll start writing paeans to herbal tea.

Detail of really cute mug...
Perhaps not.

Now in case you're wondering about that mug... I saw it at the HEB (the large family-owned chain of grocery stores here in Texas) and it was $2. You can't tell it from the drawing, but it's H U G E! (Actually, it seems like an interesting approach to putting up Christmas lights...)

So, I've cut down daily for the last three days on my ratio of caffeine to decaf, and cut down on the amount I make, and, yup, the headaches - I never get headaches, for pete's sake - have come, and the lethargy, and the wooly thinking and the sleepiness. Last night I went into my bedroom around 8 thinking I would sit down on my bed for a bit and look at a magazine I'd gotten. I fell fast asleep immediately, with the lights and my clothes on, and didn't wake up until midnight. I sat up, and thot "Uh oh, I won't be able to go back to sleep now," changed into my pjs, lay down and woke up at 8 am. That's twelve hours almost of sleep. TWELVE HOURS! Teenagers sleep for twelve hours; adults do not.

Well, apparently caffeine-deprived ones do...

And thank you to all of you who posted encouraging words.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


My friend, Ricë, has once again been guilt tripping me about my blog, so I'm writing. I've just started a new journal, titled Red Lead. My last one was Mellow Yellow, so maybe I'm on some kind of a roll here, or maybe not. Red lead is a pigment that was used by scribes to make the initials in red. This morning I wrote 111 1, and it made me quite happy. I threw a bunch of gold in between them, and was even happier!


My friend, Roz, thinks that you should set your intent for the coming year by doing what you want to do in the year on that day. So today I'm writing on the blog, doing art in my journal, and eating healthy food. I may try to paint a bit, and, of course, I'll read.

My grandson, Arlo, came over for a bit this afternoon, and I take that as a good sign, as well.