Sunday, September 28, 2008

Thanks for coming to ARTWORKSx6!

A big thank-you to everyone that came to yesterday's show, ARTWORKSx6. We had a constant flow of visitors from opening until closing, and we all enjoyed it greatly!

I'd particularly like to thank everyone purchasing art. I know all of us appreciate your support. You cannot imagine how good we feel knowing that you're willing to buy our work. The kind of validation we get from you is invaluable. Again, thank you!

For those who've never done a show, they can be both draining and invigorating at the same time. It's a lot of work to prepare for a show - more than most people imagine. Beyond that, the actual day or days of a show are long, even if we are spending them with people who appreciate us. The truth is that shows are physically a long, tiring events. To counter all of that, we get the boost of your attention and appreciation, and often come away with new creative ideas.

The balance of these things affects each artists differently, of course. For myself, I'll probably be using the next few weeks to catch up on things that I've put off to prepare for the show and finalize my the preparations for winter around the house. My work, though, is slow to produce, and I need time to plan it out. Trust me, the ideas are bubbling around.

Thanks again for coming, for buying, and for the chance to talk and hear your great ideas. I'm inspired, and I will get moving on some new work soon. Please check back here for information and details as they become available.

All the best!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Introducing Danno, the Artist

In addition to my own art, I am now the publicity vehicle for the art one of our dogs creates. I'm sure this will be a big thing in the future, and that Danno's work will long overshadow my own. Oh well. When the universe hands you an opportunity like this, you don't just pass it by.

Please review Danno's Art Page and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another Long Overdue Website Update

I know this isn't art related, but I've finally gotten around to organizing and uploading pictures at (or as a result of) some of the local fires in the past couple of years. These supplement the old Croy Fire photos I had on the website before. Anyone curious about them can click here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New Garden Sculpture Done!

For those who come to this blog looking for art related information and keep finding other things, I can only apologize. Life, as they say, is a bit crazy of late.

But there is good news. Just now - less than 30 minutes ago - I put the finishing touches on a large garden sculpture. It's about 30" tall, 30" wide, and probably 18" thick. It's carved from pumice, so it will survive weather, but not kids climbing on it. (Of course, any kid that climbs on it will get scratched up rather nastily. Pumice is sharp.)

You'll note there are no pictures of this new work here. That's deliberate, sort of. This piece - I haven't even named it yet - will show for the very first time this coming Saturday, Sept 27th. For details about attending that show please click here. If you'd rather wait for pictures to appear on my website, I hope that happens sometime next week. I might post it in here too.

There are a couple of other new pieces - finished up in the last week or two - appearing at this show as well. And if anyone out there has been wanting one of my fins - paperweight sized pieces shaped like stylized shark, dolphin or whale fins - I'll have nine (yes, nine!) new ones at the show. Well, technically I'm going to be giving one away as a door prize, so there will be only eight for sale, but you get the idea.

I hope to see you at the show!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

House Concert

Last weekend Anne and I attended a house concert up here in the mountains featuring Ed Miller and John Taylor. These are traditional Scottish musicians (Miller plays guitar, Taylor plays fiddle) and it was a wonderful show. Seriously, these are some of the best Scottish musicians out there. Previous house concerts have featured Brian McNeil as well, and if you follow Scottish music you know who these people are.

My neighborhood is lucky to have someone hosting such shows, and clearly the musicians love to play here. If you've got a similar thing happening in your neighborhood you should definitely take advantage of it. An intimate audience of 50 for a couple of fantastic musicians in an intimate setting simply cannot be beat.

Costco Makes Me Feel Like A War Criminal

I went to Costco today, and as usual stood in line. Twice. Once to checkout - why do they never have enough registers open? - and again to get out the stupid door. Someone has to check my receipt and make sure I haven't stolen anything, or forgotten something, or whatever, so I wait in like with all the other sheep.

Why do they do this? Do they have a huge problem with theft of 24 packs of toilet paper or something?

The only other place I know of that has a similar policy (in our area, at least) is Fry's Electronics. I hate shopping at Fry's for various reasons, and I will go out of my way to avoid it if at all possible, but once in a while I wind up in there, and every stinking time I regret it. And that last little slap - "show us your receipt and merchandise" on the way out the door - just rubs it in.

Can someone please tell these companies that their "stop 'em again at the door" policies are pointless, stupid and irritating? I haven't got the contacts, but someone out there does.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mountain Living - Water Part VII

The water purification equipment is installed. It took most of the day, yesterday, but it's all in place and seems to be working.

Now we give it all a few days to settle in and get the last of the gunk water out of the lines. At that point I'll be able to report more about the experience. Thus far, things are fine, but it's still a bit hard to tell. And we still need test results back to confirm what things are doing in terms of water quality.

What I know is that the well is still not producing quite enough water, and now we'll be burning some water backwashing on the new filter and softener, but it's necessary. It will be interesting to watch the water level in the tanks during the coming days,

More when we know it.

My Birthday Present

I have some, ah, "interesting" friends.

One couple recently gave me an aebleskiver pan for my birthday. Tonight I used it for the first time to make something almost - but not entirely - unlike aebleskivers.

For those not familiar with them, you can google them, I suppose, or you can just take my word on it that they are a Danish dish, much like a pancake, but cooked in a very oddly shaped pan that results in their looking a bit like two inch diameter baseballs. Usually they are sweet - like a pancake, as mentioned - but they can also be savory if made differently. They might also be filled with fruit or other things to make them even more interesting.

Tonight I tried a simple whole wheat pancake recipe, and it worked out well. My cooking technique needs work - the results looked a bit like misshapen, damaged footballs, but they tasted good, even the filled ones.

My wife doesn't like the recipe I used - she claims she can taste the baking power or some such thing - but it worked for me.

I'll keep playing with this pan from time to time, trying different - and progressively weirder - things. It should be fun.

Thanks to Alan & Irene - the previously mentioned "interesting friends - for the birthday gift!

Monday, September 15, 2008

John McCain Wants Money From Me?

Another in a series of (no doubt) poorly thought out political posts. If you'd rather not know what I think on divisive, political issues, please look at the sculptures instead.

A couple of weeks back - before anyone outside of Alaska had heard of Sarah Palin - I got a letter from John McCain asking for money.

Of course I am well aware that it wasn't really from him. Someone in his campaign or the RNC bought an address list and my name was on it. That is a fascinating thing in and of itself - I cannot imagine why I was on that list - but it isn't relevant to this post.

Rather than just throw the request for funds away I read it, just to see what sort of tripe it contained. I was well rewarded. Consider this gem:
If liberals like Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi control the White House, Congress and statehouses across this country...

... they will raise your taxes. Already, the Obama Democrats have laid out plans to pass record-setting tax increases.

But if Republicans win, we will make the present tax cuts permanent, work to cut additional taxes and simplify the tax code. Republicans know that raising taxes in tough economic times is a recipe for disaster, but tax cuts are proven medicine for getting the economy growing again.
If all of that is true, why does every Obama spokesperson I hear - and Obama himself - claim that he's going to be lowering taxes for the vast majority of Americans? Perhaps it's because he will, and the extraordinarily wealthy few - mostly Republicans - are afraid of the fact that they might have to pay their fair share of taxes again?

And why did McCain originally oppose the Bush tax cuts, but now wants to make them permanent? Perhaps he is pandering to the extreme right wing of his party? Not exactly the "maverick" thing to do, I know, but it seems possible.

Let's move on to the next ray of Republican sunshine in this letter:
If the Obama Democrats and liberal organizations like have their way, our troops will be recklessly pulled out of Iraq and our enemies will be handed a victory they have neither won nor deserve.

But Republicans will not give up. We will see the way through to victory and make sure the radical Islamic extremists have no sanctuary and no victory.
Where to start on that one? How about this: why are we in Iraq in the first place? It had nothing to do with 9/11 and as we are now certain, they didn't have WMD either. Sadam - for all that he was a terrible guy - was no threat to us. Getting him out of power was a good thing, but it wasn't our job.

"But," I hear someone say, "we're in there now and we need to finish the job. If we pull our troops out now, the place will collapse and become a haven for terrorists." Maybe so, but let's start with defining "victory", shall we. What would victory mean in this case? I honestly have no idea, and neither does George Bush or John McCain. There is no way to fight our way out of this, and the longer we stay there the more Americans and Iraqis will die. What, exactly, are we fighting for and how will we know when we're done? If you think about it, it's clear there is no way to know. What I am sure of is that no matter when we leave, the terrorists will move in. We need an entirely different - non military - approach to the problem.

"But the surge worked!" I hear. "Bull****!" I answer. Several things happened before or at the time of the surge. Maybe it played a part, maybe it didn't. A far as I can tell, the Sunni Awakening and the cease fire declared by Muqtada al-Sadr were a lot more important than the surge.

Let's also ask an interesting question about the surge: why did we do it? Because we had too few troops over there, right? And why was that? Because Rumsfeld and Cheney wanted to do this war on the cheap. (I suspect Bush himself was clueless about the results of this choice, making him a really great "decider".)

Invasion plans for Iraq drawn up before Bush was in office called for 300,000 to 450,000 troops, but we did it with less than half that number. In other words, we staffed to win the war, but not preserve the peace. Talk about stupid decisions. How many Americans would have been saved if we'd had armed troops on every street corner in Baghdad? Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are directly responsible for the deaths of all those Americans and Iraqis because they wanted to save money on their war.

We should never have gone into Iraq, but if we were going in anyway, we should have done it with enough force to be sure of finishing the job right from the start.

One last comment on this: McCain is way out of step with the American people on this one. The overwhelming majority want us out of Iraq. I'm not even sure he's pandering to the far Republican right with this stance.

And one last tidbit from the letter before I recycle it:
If the Obama Democrats have their way, government spending will skyrocket as they implement government-run health care and resurrect their entire portfolio of the failed welfare state programs of the 60s and 70s.

But not if we Republicans unite and work together. Or free-market solutions and conservative principles are better for America - and that has proven true time and again.
Wow. There is so much crap in those lines it almost doesn't pay to respond to them. But putting my hip waders on first, I'll try.

Spending worries? Not with Republicans, right? They're the party of "smaller government" aren't they? Well, not really. Regan presided over the largest peace time military buildup in American history. And our current president came into office with a surplus on the books (thanks to the Democrat Bill Clinton), but he's turned it into a deficit of enormous proportions, the largest dollar amount in history, in fact.

Bush is so bad about this that the White House keeps taking things out of the budget so they aren't counted as being in the deficit. Iraq war spending? Off the books. And so on. The deficit he's racked up is vast, and only getting bigger. Does anyone think McCain will do anything differently? I can't see how.

And as for the concerns about "failed welfare state programs", let's see:
  • Social Security: seems like people want that to stick around
  • Medicare & Medicaid: those look like a requirement
  • Head Start: seems good to me
What, exactly, are the failed programs McCain is claiming would be resurrected? I don't hear Obama talking about bringing anything odd back from the dead.

And about those "free-market solutions" McCain is so happy to support. They gave us the savings & loan crisis of some years back, and the housing and mortgage finance crisis we're living through now, among other things. I think a bit of regulation is needed to keep things in check. Our founding fathers thought so about each and every branch of government (despite what George Bush may think) and went on to create a mechanism for doing just that. A bit of a check on unrestrained free market capitalism seems like a fine idea to me. Nothing huge - I'm not promoting Socialism or Communism - but something to keep those in power from taking advantage of everyone else by virtue of their position.

Finally, let's talk about those "conservative principles" the Republicans are so proud of. Here are a few:
  • Torture. That must be one of them, since they support it, right?
  • Spying on Americans without any limit must be another, based on their actions. And in fact it looks to me like the Republicans favor the most intrusive government possible. Clearly they want to control your most private of actions and choices. I suspect - if they could find an effective way to do it - that they'd control your thoughts too.
  • Government support of oil companies via huge subsidies is clearly a good thing, but government support of clean energy research and development is not.
  • Equal rights for the lucky, affluent few must be the thing, since equal rights for all, regardless of race, gender, religion, and so on, clearly isn't supported.
  • The merging of church & state? Clearly they think that is a good idea.
  • Winner take all economics? That's way up at the top of their list.
Those don't look like simple, honest, American values to me. Instead they look like ways for a small group of people to have their way with everyone else.

When I was growing up I was taught that a good way to evaluate the actions and beliefs of others is to look at how they treat the least fortunate among us. If someone gives back to his or her community in meaningful ways, and tries to help those in need, that's good. If someone rakes in the money and can't recognize the pain and suffering going on around them, that's bad. Simple stuff, I know, but I was just a kid.

It looks to me like many Republicans never get beyond "what's good for me" these days. McCain falls into that realm now as well, given all his position changes since starting his campaign., In addition, McCain's trickle down economics don't work. We've tried them several times now and they fail, every single time.

I cannot claim the Democrats are perfect - I'm certain they have their flaws - but under Clinton they were the party that created the budget surplus, kept us out of war, and tried to help those in need to some degree. They didn't always succeed, and I don't completely trust any politician, but I trust them far more than I trust the Republicans. That's why McCain won' be getting any of my money.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Table formatting issue resolved

Yesterday saw me find the source of the issue in table formatting, and it is now fixed. It only took half an hour or so of google searches to find the answer, test it out, and get it running properly. The problem is a subtle one.

Something about DOCTYPE certain statements causes tables to decide that images are to be printed in text rather than block context. Fixes are being discussed by the HTML and style definition folks, but that's long term. For now, there's a way to override the issue, and since what I am doing is pretty limited in scope, it worked.

What am I doing? Reworking the navigation headers on my website, again. I know, I just finished installing them the other day (mostly - the gallery is automatically generated and I haven't had the time to fix that yet) but once I did it all I found they blended in with the rest of the page too well. They needed to be bit distinctive so that visitors know what they are and could concentrate on the rest of the page.

To accomplish that they needed to use a different background color, and that lead to putting them into a table, and that lead to finding the bug, and so on.

I'm slowly updating all the pages to use the new navigation header format now. It will take several days to get it all done, but the most forward and visited pages are now updated, so things are getting better.

I'm always interested in feedback on my website, so feel free to contact me about it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where does all the time go?

You cannot imagine how much time disappears down the rat hole that is page formatting for web browsers. And I have this fundamental issue - I dislike using PDF to format pages.

Yes, I understand that I could get perfect layout using PDFs, but I want my pages to load quickly. PDF files are huge, load slowly, and every browser I use asks before downloading them. Sometimes they don't even display within the browser window.

And beyond that, I don't really like style sheets. I've seen way too many sites that setup some area for text to appear in, but the text doesn't fit in that area, so it runs over onto something else (usually other text, rendering both illegible) or it disappears under something else. Not good.

Nope. I use tables. Everyone hates them but me, I know, but even that may be changing.

Right now I'm chasing down a table formatting issue that I don't understand. Tell the row that it's a certain height. Tell the cells they are the same height. Tell the image tag the image is the same height, and yet the row is still taller than the image, and nothing I can find fixes that. At this point I don't even know if it's Firefox that is causing it, some subtle bug in my HTML, or something else. I'm down to asking people with other browsers to send me screen shots of the page so I can figure it out.

I think I need to do something else for a while.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fog! Wonderful Fog!

For the first time in weeks we got fog last night. Deep, thick, serious fog that makes it sound like it's raining outside as it drips off the trees.

It's been way too long since the last time we were fogged in, and every plant out there missed it at least as much as I did.

Now, of course, I have to go walk the dogs in it. Leah may complain, but I won't.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mountain Living - Water Part VI

The numbers are in and a date is picked. We should have people working on our water system next Monday.

Keep your fingers crossed!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Mountain Living - Too Much Fruit Redux

This post comes in two parts:
  • Young quince trees are dumb. They grow so much fruit that limbs break off under the weight. And just what good are quince anyway? This will get me in trouble with my wife, but as far as I can tell all you can do with them is smother them in sugar. Seems kind of odd, but she's in charge. And as a result we have many quince - harvested from the dumb tree to keep it from losing the rest of its limbs - that she will have to do something with.
  • Grapes grapes grapes. We have a couple of neighbors with vineyards, and it's harvest time. They call all the folks around to come help them harvest the fruit, and then stuff us full of good food and wine to thank us for the help. Twice last week I assisted with the harvest in one of those vineyards. My waistline is complaining from those efforts, but tomorrow I do it again. I think this is the last time this year. Collectively we harvest thousands of pounds of pinot noir grapes. Talk about too much fruit.
That's it for tonight. Gotta get some sleep before hauling five gallon buckets of grapes around tomorrow.

Mountain Living - Water Part V

Today we had the water purification expert out to our home. We reviewed the nature of the existing system and went over the equipment we need. Based on a conversation yesterday morning and the follow on today, the cost has come down somewhat. Instead of needing $6000 worth of stuff, we've reduced it to something like $5500. Based on what I think we're getting, it's actually pretty good deal.

The final quote isn't ready just yet. We need to get a question answered from the manufacturer of one thing and make a final determination on where things will be installed, but we're pretty close.

Thankfully the expert thinks he can do a lot for the quality of our water and make us happy with it again. The installation sounds really good on a number of levels too, including things like getting chlorinated water into all the lines in the house to kill off any bugs that are in them now.

The equipment to be installed includes:
  1. A water filter system that removes sediment, turbidity, iron, and hydrogen-sulfide gas
  2. A water softener to remove dissolved minerals
  3. A reverse osmosis unit to purify drinking water
It's a ton of stuff, but the UV system that was originally recommended has been removed, and installation isn't as hard as it could have been.

I should know more early next week. At this point I just want to get this done. Now. Or Yesterday.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Art Show Coming Up!

It's past time I announced this...

I'll be participating in an art show with five other artists on September 27th, 2008. It will be held a few miles from my home in the Santa Cruz Mountains for just one evening, so if you want to see my latest work along with works from some other great artists working in various media, you need to join us.

You can find all of the information you need to make that happen here.

I hope to see you at the show!

The Distractions of Web Hosting

I'm starting a very gradual update of my website- You may note that some pages have a title/navigation bar across the top while others don't yet. That's a part of it. It's needed to unify the site and make it easier to get around, but it sure does take time to get it right.

If you find anything not functioning properly on the site, please let me know about that. I hope to keep that to a minimum, but it may happen as I tweak things around.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hot hot hot...

Have I mentioned I hate hot weather?

I have less than a month before an art show. There are quite a few things I need to get done before then, but unfortunately every time I go outside to work on something I wilt in the heat.

Someone please turn the thermostat down at least a dozen degrees!