I did this little lighthouse painting last year or maybe even the year before. It came out okay, so I thought I'd include it today. It has nothing to do with the subject of this post, but I don't think I've used it in a blog before, so here it is.
Sometimes it seems like people all over the globe are trying to rip me off in some way or another. There are a lot of shady characters in the world, and I expect them around every corner.
That's what I was expecting this week.
Last week my ex, Tammie (our kids call her mom), had a car problem. It turns out it wasn't a big car problem, but we didn't know that at the time. Tammie was at the vet picking up flea medicine for the little bundle of joy we call Peanut. His friends call him Nutter. He thinks he's king of the world. Probably rightly so.
She walked out to her car and nuttin', no spin, no whine, no click, nuttin'.
I'm in England, so I can't very well run to the rescue. Tammie got the car towed, and I got a call.
"Scott, I've had the car towed. It wouldn't start. Can you call Dan and find out what the problem is?"
Me, "Sure, no problem."
What's going through my mind is, "This sounds bad, this sounds like money, this sounds like Uggggh..."
So, I called Dan. Dan's been dealing with our cars for many years.
"Hi, old friend, how are you. Yes, Tammie did call. Yes, the car is here. We probably can't get to it till tomorrow, but we'll look at it."
Dan's just midwest friendly. I call him maybe once a year, and he recognizes me every time before I even say who it is. (I've been calling him for 30 years.)
"Thanks, Dan, give me a ring when you find out what's wrong."
"No problem, Scott. Take care, friend."
Dan called me up later to let me know what's going on. He said, "Well, I've got some good news and some not so good news. First, the car is up and running, so that's good. The problem has to do with the starter wiring harness. It's the pig-tail to the wiring harness. They don't sell those things separately. We could order the whole wiring harness, but that would cost about five hundred dollars plus a couple of hours service charge to do. The thing is, we don't have the expertise here to do that repair."
Dan pointed me to a Chrylser dealer in Lebanon. When I heard that I had to have it taken to a dealer, my heart sunk. How many thousands of dollars would it take to get a dealer to do that kind of repair?
I appreciated Dan's candor, and we made arrangements to take the car to the Chrysler dealer in Lebanon. It was the same outfit I bought my Jeep from 20 years ago.
I got a call from Kevin. I suppose he was the service manager. I tried to tell him what Dan said was wrong with the car, but my explanation was woefully inadequate. I suggested that Dan give him a call to explain the situation. Kevin let me know there was a $125 diagnostic fee. He'd let me know what repairs might be needed.
All I heard was, "ChaChing!!!!
Dan and Kevin got together and talked mechanic-talk. They probably said, in three words, what I had attempted to say in about a ten-minute monologue.
Then everything went silent. Crickets.
Several hours later, when I was on my way to bed, I got a call from Tammie. She said, "Can you call the guy at the Chrysler dealer? I think the car's ready."
I thought, "Oh crap, they said they would call before they did anything. I want to know the cost before authorizing the work." I saw money rolling out the door and not very slowly.
So, I gritted my teeth, straightened my back, and I called Dennis. I was ready for it.
Dennis got on the phone. Before I could ask what had happened? Before I could ask why he hadn't called to get authorization, he started with, "Hi Scott, I think we've got some good news.
"First, we tried to order the part and found out they don't make it anymore."
Him, "But my mechanic happened to find a similar part from a newer car in the shop. We fitted it to your car, and voila, it worked just fine."
"That sounds good."
Dennis, "Sure, since we couldn't get the exact part, we're just going to charge you for the part and the diagnostic fee. That's $147."
I thanked him profusely, pulled out my credit card, and paid immediately - before he had a chance to change his mind.
It is such a pleasure when you run across folks that want to help. I am grateful that I occasionally run into them to restore my faith in humanity.
Kudos to the collaborative car guys.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
I would like you, this week, to get to know Greg "Craola" Simkins. Why Craola, you say? Well, he started out doing graffiti under the name Craola and he's just kept it.
His paintings are a representation of the big mashup that goes on in his head. He then spits them out in a strange assemblage of creatures in make-believe land.
The paintings come out of his imagination. He calls it some kind of "Morphed Madness." I would call it cool art. Getting lost in the work. He likes to finish a session of work and see what has happened in "the zone."
Here's a painting he calls The Escape Artist.
He says, "Hey I have this idea or I have that Idea. Maybe I should paint that."
His characters live in a world of his imagination and when he paints them they come into our world in some way.
His paintings really lure me in. They are both cartoonish and yet realistic with fantastical characters and creative storylines. I love his work. Sometimes I just hope some of his creativity rubs off on me.
Please take the time to check out his work.
Visit him at these internet locations
Now go out and make some ART!
Not everything goes as planned. Not everything works out. That's why I'm including this painting. I planned for it to be something else, but it turned out like this. I'm still not happy with it and someday I might make it better. Just in case you think everything turns out great. Well ...
The actual quote is, "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley." - "To a Mouse," by Robert Burns.
Adaptation, "No plan survives first contact with the enemy." Helmuth van Moltke, Prussian Military Commander.
Traveling long takes a lot of coordination. You can't just hop in the car, start the engine and point the car in a reasonably accurate direction and make adjustments along the way. My mother was that kind of person.
In 1994 we were heading to an Attenborough family reunion in Maine and starting our journey from Ohio. Attenboroughs from across Canada and the United States converged on a little place called Westways in a small Maine village of Center Lovell.
My mother, myself, and my two younguns piled in her white Volvo pointed the car in a general north-easterly direction, and commenced our journey. We'd been on the road for about an hour when I asked, "Hey ma, is there a map stowed away in your bra or some other hidden container?"
She said, "Scott, where's your sense of adventure? Where's your 'joie de vivre'? I thought I taught you better than that. Half the fun is not knowing exactly where you're going. You know that! Why I drove two thousand miles from Detroit to Redwood City all by myself in your dad's brand new Buick Skylark in 1968 when maps were spare, and signs on the highways were almost non-existent."
Of course, driving for almost 24 hours with my mother was an experience that takes some nerve and tolerance. It was not for the faint of heart. There was the regular consumption of vodka with tonic or with orange juice if she wanted to feel a bit healthier (I was driving - no vodka for Scott). We'd listen to Jacques Brel's 'La Valse a Mille Temps,' a thousand times, and Edith Piaf's 'La Vie En Rose' or 'Je Ne Regrette rien' until we began to regret it. I was almost completely worn out by the time we got out of Ohio, and we still had twenty hours ahead of us.
Ah, those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end. Frustrating, fun, and I do miss them too.
Travel, the way we approach it today, takes a keen eye for detail, a sharp intellect, and nerves of flexible steel. That's why Andrea takes care of all arrangements, coordination, documentation, and reservations. She is a logistical genius, a veritable transportation savant.
I have, at times, volunteered to make arrangements. Those overtures are routinely turned down. There is some trepidation on her part with handing the reins over to little ole me. I understand - I do. I sometimes question if I will remember my name in the morning sometimes.
Andrea and I have different ways of approaching things because we are different kinds of people. No two people would handle any situation precisely the same way, but sometimes two people can have approaches that are diametrically opposed. That's us.
Andrea is the kind of lass who likes to time things to the millisecond.
If you have a domestic flight departing at 10 am, you are required to check in an hour before your departure. Simple, right?
To Andrea, that means showing up at 9 am. Of course, that makes sense. Check-in at nine - fly at ten. Simple!
I would say, make sure we get to the airport at 8:30 in case there's a line at the check-in counter. Then there's security, which is a slog at the best of times, but when it's busy, it's quasi controlled chaos which can back up through a snaking barrier that turns you into the tail end of a coiled serpent when you join.
So I say, "Hey, let's get there at 8 am just in case we have problems or delays."
Andrea gives me that look. That look that says, "Oh, we're going to have that discussion again."
Eventually, after some barter, cajoling, and back and forth, we come to a reasonable compromise. This means neither of us is completely happy with the solution, but we think it might work.
Sometimes I'm right, and we're glad to have the extra time. Sometimes I'm wrong, and we end up reading a book or having a coffee before we have to board the plane. I'd rather be wrong and reading a book rather than right and biting my fingernails.
You see, I don't like pressure. I used to think that I loved last minute arrangements; I imagined I was at my best in the middle of a cyclone - a seat of the pants kind of guy. But, I'm not really that guy.
I'm the kind of guy who doesn't like stress. I thrive on knowing what's going to happen and when. I don't like guessing if I'm going to get to the airport on time. So I like planning extra time.
After our negotiation, on Wednesday, we were up at 7 am to ready ourselves for an Uber at 8 am. Things were going swimmingly.
Then, I heard, "Bloody Hell! from the kitchen."
Sheepishly, from the bedroom, "Can I help with something, dear?"
"Our flight's been put back an hour!"
In my mind, I'm thinking; the Gods are with me. We'll have extra time to get to the airport; things will be hunky-dory.
Eight o'clock rolls around, and I'm wondering where our fabulous, handsome, Uber driver was.
Andrea, "Oh, I moved the Uber back to nine-thirty."
Me, "Okay, so the plane was delayed by an hour. Obviously, we need to move the Uber back by an hour and a half."
Andrea, "Well, we won't have to worry about the traffic so much because it's a little later, and traffic will have died down."
*Keep your head down, Scott and don't make waves. You can handle it either way. Just stay calm and don't over-react*
We began puttering around, making sure we closed up the house properly. About eight-forty-five, the airline sent a text saying our flight was moved back to its original time.
Then came the wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Then came something that I wasn't expecting. Nay, it was probably never uttered before by those beautiful lips.
... "I can only apologize. I was wrong. I'll fix it."
Uber was rearranged, I was told he was showing up in ten minutes. That would get us to the airport on time if we didn't have any problems. God willing, and the creek don't rise.
I don't think I breathed between the house and the airport — nerves on edge. We tried to tell the Uber driver how urgent it was, and how grateful we were that he was in the neighborhood as we genuflected before his Nissan Pathfinder.
With luck on our side, the creek didn't rise, and the security line was short. We walked through and were just in time for boarding to begin.
The rest of the trip came off without a hitch. We made it safely and on time to Heathrow a little bit ahead of schedule. Our friends Marilyn and Peter were there to greet us. Andrea got smiles and a big hug!
Yeah, I know she deserves it.
We're glad to be in England for Christmas and the New Year. It's gonna be a rip-roaring December full of fun, festivities, and frivolity.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
I first started watching Jon Peters on YouTube because I was trying to understand how to frame a painting. He gives excellent instruction and is a wonderful woodworker.
I like watching his videos because I learn something new all the time. He does top-notch woodworking videos (BTW - Woodworking = Serious Art). But he's a pretty decent painter as well.
Though I first went to his site to learn about making picture frames, I've learned quite a bit more from him as well. Whether it's painting on aluminum, stencil painting, or even making small landscapes, he's one of my go-to demonstrators.
Here's one of his woodworking videos where he teaches how to make a picture frame. You might find it interesting. I know I have some woodworkers in my audience. I think you'll love it.
This crazy little painting came to mind because I felt like someone was sneaking in and looking over my shoulder in a creepy, weird kind of way. I felt a bit invaded.
Therefore, creepy, weird eyeball painting.
Last week, to my bewilderment, my computer started freaking out. Here's what happened.
I sometimes go to Goodreads to check out authors I like and follow. I just finished reading Stephen King's novel, 11-22-63. If I ever had trouble remembering the Kennedy assassination date, I probably won't have any problem anymore.
I love reading Stephen King because he sucks me right into the story.
Now, I was looking for the next decent book to read.
We have tons of books in the house, but I do like looking around for something to read almost as much as I like settling on something I'd like.
This time I clicked on a link to the website of an author I follow. I thought I Goodreads is a reputable website, and I trust the author; there should be no problem whatsoever. It surprised me when the author's website said I needed to update my Flash Player. It was such an innocuous thing. I did it without thinking at all - all it took was a click. I could update my laptop, and I would be on my way.
The internet is so easy to use. Sometimes it's just too easy. I was like Nike - I just did it.
When it comes to downloading software from the internet - that IS NOT the best advice. I should have been skeptical. Instead, I was gullible. It took me a few minutes to figure out what was happening, and I immediately a hollow, "Oh my God, what's happening?" in the pit of my stomach. I think I was experiencing a little bit of shock.
What happens if somebody gets control of my computer?
What happens if they get a hold of my passwords?
What the hell is happening anyway?
The next thing that crossed my mind was - my security software license had lapsed.
I had no idea what to do. I disconnected my computer from the internet by turning off wifi access. I shut down my computer and rebooted it.
When my computer came back to life, it had pop-ups telling me that my computer was infected. My laptop got hijacked by software that took control of my browser. The first evidence was my browser went to a search engine called Searchmine.
Had somebody had just violated my privacy? I was angry.
"They've" invaded my space. I wanted to lash out and felt like screaming. That would have done no good whatsoever. Why should I upset the rest of the world for something that was undoubtedly my mistake?
The fault may have been the bastards that planted that little nugget out there for me to download, but it was my fault. I didn't heed that voice in the back of my head. I'm usually pretty good about that.
Luckily, I had another computer.
I went to my other computer and looked up how to rid myself of this pesky malware.
Hopefully, that will keep the jackals at bay.
Andrea, she's often the calm in my very stormy brain, left me to my devices as I tried to figure out how to fix my problem.
There are plenty of sites that talk about how to remove this bug. All of them promote downloading their "clean up" software to take care of the problem. I tried downloading one of them, which did nothing, or did it? Did I inject ebola into my computer? Were the various viruses swimming around in my laptop duking it out for world domination?
My panic ratcheted up to DEFCON 1.
What do you do at DEFCON 1?
That brought to mind the drills we did at Selby Lane Elementary School in the late 1960s.
So I crawled under my desk, laced my hands behind my head, put my head between my legs, and kissed my @$$ goodbye.
Quick, "Andrea! Where's the scotch! Not that one, the good stuff! We're going under here!"
I was scared. Had I just destroyed all of the work that ever contained on my computer? I could see pictures of paintings melting, my blogs disintegrating before my eyes. I sat paralyzed by the biological warfare taking place in the bowels of my solid-state hard drive.
I think I was on the verge of tears because I couldn't figure out how to fix this.
Remember your training, Scott!
No, not my Marine Corps Training.
It was the wisdom of Douglas Adams from "Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy."
Do you know that "Arthur C. Clarke said Douglas Adams' use of 'don't panic' was perhaps the best advice that could be given to humanity."
When you are your own IT department, you have to be vigilant and always on top of your computer's security.
I hunched over my computer for hours trying to figure it out.
Finally, I found a set of directions designed to delete and uninstall the malware. I followed the instructions and rid myself of the problem.
I know a little bit about computers. I've worked on computers since the 1980s. I know the ins and outs of doing stuff. What I realized while I was trying to solve this problem is there are billions of people out there who don't have my experience and don't know what I know. I'm not saying that I'm a genius on the computer, far from it. I failed my first computer programming class, dismally.
I still have nightmares. Nightmares where I was supposed to turn in a program, and I just hadn't worked on it at all. I turn up in class, and I am more than clueless — nightmares imitating life.
I wonder what people who haven't had my background would do. If I can get caught out, I think anybody can.
The best thing that came out of this incident is I realized how relaxed I had gotten about my computer security. I don't remember my computer ever being bit by a bug or infected by a virus. This infiltration taught me a lesson. My anti-virus software is now up to date, and I'm even more conscientious about what gets downloaded to my computer. I don't click on any external links unless I'm absolutely positively sure about their origin. I thought I was okay before, but I wasn't as good as I thought I was. You can't let your guard down for a second. There are bad people out there that want to do bad things.
I hate that there are bad people out there.
It's time for an adult beverage, and, of course, it's time for the weekend to begin.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
Trail - 137 DAYS
Mark Carder is a self-taught painter who has developed quite a good reputation and business.
He not only creates fabulous paintings, but he also develops products used in oil-painting. I like his line of premium paints.
He markets his high quality, hand made, oil-paints and accessories at Geneva Fine Art Supplies.
Mark has been commissioned to paint two United States Presidents and a Secretary of State. His paintings are barely distinguishable from photographs.
The goal of his "DrawMixPaint" YouTube channel is to "... eventually, cover all essential instruction for painting realism in oil so that anyone can learn to paint for free."
Sounds good to me. Mark has been posting "how-to" videos for the last seven years. If you want to learn how to paint realist paintings, his channel is a perfect choice. I hope you get a chance to see those videos and learn a little bit more about the process. You can see his work on his art website, you can learn from him on DrawMixPaint website, or you can buy any of his products on his Geneva Fine Art website.
Now go out and make some ART!
When you're away from home for any length of time, the garden is bound to need some attention when you get back. Because we spent the summer in England, the yard needed some tender loving care when we returned. We're lucky that there's no grass to cut, but there are weeds to keep down, shrubs to trim, and trees to cut back.
If you get the chance to watch landscaping crews go to town at Sun City Grand, it's worth a watch.
About half a dozen young, muscular men hop out of a truck with saws, trimmers, spades, rakes, blowers, and other specialty landscaping tools. They're like a swarm of locusts and kick up dust all over the land. It's like the Tasmanian Devil descends to the garden.
We used to have a gardener who came by every two to three months to keep the foliage at bay, but he was not very honest, and he didn't follow instructions very well. I told him not to come back.
Sometimes it sounds like Silverstone or the Indy 500 outside your window at about 7:30 in the morning. Saws are revving, blowers blowing, and orders shouted over the din in a language I don't fully understand.
About an hour later, trees have lost limbs, bushes have been transformed into topiaries, and the flurry of leaves created is scooped up into the waiting truck bed. Then, the crew loads up like keystone cops they're off on their next adventures.
As for me, I thought, how hard could it be. It just takes a bit of time and stick-to-it-iveness. I haven't got the spry muscles of a young man anymore, but I can get out there, putter, and do a bit at a time.
It feels good to be outside in the sunshine laboring a bit. While I'm at it, I get the feeling that I'm getting a pretty good workout. It feels good to bend, reach, stretch, and downright muscle some things around. I can feel old sinews stretch and muscles getting a good workout.
The other day after a reasonable turn in the garden, I came in to get a drink and said to Andrea, "You know gardening can be a great workout, getting the old muscles working. It feels pretty good."
The look on her face was precious. One side of her mouth turned up, the other side of her mouth turned down, and a slight frown moved in between her eyes. She said, "Ooooohhhh ... Could we really call it a workout?"
Many things crossed my mind at that time. Not all of the comments that crossed my mind are suitable for a civilized audience. I kept them to myself.
Sure, it's not like pumping iron or an 80-mile bike ride, but it does get you to use muscles you don't often even twitch when you achieve the kind and delicate age I now inhabit. Hell, I can get a pretty decent muscle twinge emptying the dishwasher or taking out the garbage.
It's my opinion that using muscles leads to a better condition, which leads to better health. It's a simple formula. Every little bit helps!
I suppose if my gardening were constant and less sporadic than it is, it would be better for me. But, when I do it, I feel good about myself.
You'd think doing that kind of stuff would make you feel better afterward, too. But, no, it doesn't. Those sinews stretched become tight as an archers bow, they cramp, and twitch, and require some TLC of their own.
Not only that, because plants here fight back (here in the desert they've got spikes and thorns of Biblical proportions), there comes the ritual inspection of extremities, and the application of bandages occurs. We stop offending rivulets of blood leaking from my body before my scarred creaky corpus is allowed to settle delectably between the clean sheets.
Andrea said she had a similar gardening/workout conversation with her college friend Tony. After telling her about what a good workout he had in the garden. Apparently, Tony got the same, "Ooooohhhh ... Could we really call it a workout?" conversation with her.
I said, "Andrea, you're horrible. You can't stop yourself, can you?"
She reluctantly agreed.
Tony, my friend, I'm sorry, I can only apologize.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
Brad Teare is a painter in the tradition of van Gogh. I love the thick application of vibrant paint in his landscapes.
He calls himself a landscape painter, but to me he's more than that.
I think he's a bit of a pioneer in the way he develops his landscapes and the way he thinks about art.
His career has spanned several decades. He's freelanced for the likes of the New York Times, and has done book covers for James Michener and Anne Taylor, and he occasionally teaches art at Weber State University as well. He and his wife shared a studio in Salt Lake City until she passed away in November 2018.
I enjoy reading what he writes about art on his blog and look forward to watching his calm and instructive videos on YouTube very much.
Brad's been on my watch list for quite some time. I hope he'll now be on your watch list too.
You can see him on these fine internet venues.
Now go out and make some ART!
This little entry may be short and sweet.
I've felt a bit adrift, lost in a sea of vanishing data.
The painting I attach today is old(ish) one, and I sold it from a Gallery in St Thomas a while back, but, hey, I like it.
I've been logging a bit of overtime working like the devil on a spreadsheet. Unfortunately, I forgot to heed alarms in the back of my head.
You see, I didn't pay attention to an Excel warning that if I saved my file in .csv form, much of the formatting and formulas in the spreadsheet would be gone. In my mind, I'm saying, "I didn't use many formulas, I didn't use any special formatting - at least nothing that I couldn't redo. I'm sure it will be okay. Go ahead, save your work in .csv. What harm could it do?"
What I didn't realize when you save multiple worksheets to a .csv file, the system only keeps the current worksheet. Which, in this case, means when I turned the computer back on, what was my work, was a blank worksheet.
There it was, staring at me and grinning as only a spreadsheet can. It was empty, devoid of contents, a smoldering shell of its former self.
That meant hours upon hours of meticulous effort was lost, gone into the ether. My diligent work evaporated into a smattering, a virtual scattering, a useless spattering of unrecoverable electrons, making their way across the universe laughing at me merrily as they went. I'm not sure electrons can laugh. But if quarks can be charmed, strange, and spin, then certainly electrons can laugh. At least I think they were this time.
What did I do? How did I handle this travesty of justice handed out to me, well, by me?
My heart sank like the Titanic. I felt like Leonardo de Capuccino floating on a piece of flotsam in the vast Atlantic. I could see myself drifting into the deep with Kate Winslet staring down helplessly at what she hoped was her future. Why didn't she make room for him anyway? There was plenty of room on that big ole piece of wood for both of them.
Okay, don't cry. It's not worth it.
But it was forty or fifty hours of work. Poof.
I was devastated. I was so distraught I thought of getting a glass of whiskey at 9 am and blowing it all off. The angels of my better nature, sitting watchfully on my shoulder, forbade that indiscretion. The devil was silent.
I got up from my chair and walked outside. Several deep breaths later, I came back in to see what I could salvage from the smoldering embers of my blunder. Was there anything I remembered? Was there something I could quickly reproduce.
I tucked into the work and started over again. I thought, "at least I have the benefit of how I did it before. I know the process and understand the formulas. I can do this." "Figuring it out was the hard part," I told myself.
As I started back at work, I noticed a couple of things that I could have done better. I saw some things that I could do more efficiently. I saw some different tweaks in how I was evaluating the content.
I started to feel like I was making the six million dollar man.
We can make him better, faster, stronger than he was.
Something better came as a result of losing all that information. In about eight hours, I've almost caught up. I think I can even breeze through the rest of it in the next day or so.
It doesn't always happen that way. Sometimes a little screw up like that can leave you on the side of the road weeping for your mama in a glass of gin.
This time, calmer heads prevailed.
I've won. I did it. The "Come Back Kid"
Sometimes it pays to relax. Panic would have served no purpose.
Of course, getting on with it is all we can do. So get on with it.
Then I remembered a little poem I wrote.
This day is done.
I'll clear the decks.
I'll stow the baggage,
And bury the wrecks.
Today has passed.
I can't have it back.
Did I do the right thing?
Am I on the right track?
There's no use churning over
What woulda been?
What coulda been?
What shoulda been?
Cause today was perfect,
Right in every way.
I can't change it now,
I can't make it stay.
Today was perfect,
And I can't hold on
Because tomorrow will come
And today will be gone.
I'll clear the deck,
My blank check.
Was, just as it should've been,
Perfect in every way.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
I first became acquainted with Rodgers Naylor at the London Online Conference about 9 or 10 years ago. That's when I met his other half, Ellen, representing the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP) We had a brief conversation, and I went on my way.
It took me a little while to look up his work, and when I did, I think I drooled a bit. His plein air paintings are beautiful. They capture the light in a way I can only dream of achieving.
He uses broad, confident strokes that can only come with experience, patience, and practice. I often visit his website and flip through his Instagram feed to study his paintings, and admire his work.
Rodgers teaches weekly classes at the Park Hill Art Club in Denver so I wish I were going to the 2020 AIIP Conference there in April next year. I might have even skipped out on a session or two to take a lesson from him.
Rodgers travels to art festivals across the country to show and sell his work. Just this last weekend, he was in Carefree, Arizona, only forty-five minute drive from our house. I wish I would have known; I'd have driven up to see his work in person. Hopefully, there will be another chance.
Here's Rodgers Naylor in Carefree, Arizona, last weekend.
If you’d like a larger dose of Rodgers Naylor here are some interweb sites where you look up his paintings.
You can also find his work at the following fine Art Galleries if you’re lucky enough to live close by.
Button Gallery, Douglas, MI
Susan Calloway Fine Arts, Washington, DC
The Rice Gallery Of Fine Art, Overland Park, KS
Now go out and make some ART!
Today I am presenting you with a bee. Bees are cool. They make honey, and they're responsible for pollinating a whole bunch of the food we eat.
This one looks a little like a battle bee rather than a honey bee.
Because I chose a bee this week, I wanted to say something about how important bees are, and I thought of a statement by Albert Einstein.
"If something eliminated bees from our planet, mankind would soon perish."
I believed he said it. One of the first things I found when I started writing this was is it can't be traced back to old Al at all. I guess I was wrong.
Well, it's unlikely he said it according to a Snopes article. Einstein died in 1955, and the first time the quote appeared in the press or popular writing was 1994.
We've got to be careful about what we believe. It's easy to think it's something that Al said because he was a smart fella (or as my dad would say "fart-smella" - I'm sure a lot of dads said that),
Fake news is insidious because it's so believable sometimes. People make stuff up all the time, and we believe it. It's infuriating.
Snopes.com and Factcheck.org have become a couple of my best friends. These are places on the internet that you can try to find out if something's true or fake. I can't say they are always right because I just don't know but at least there are some people out there who do the research and try to get at the truth. But can we even believe them? I don't know.
I knew a guy who once who would claim some of the most outrageous stuff and stick to his guns regardless, even when faced with actual indisputable facts.
(I'm using Roger here. His name wasn't Roger - the names have been changed to be sure I don't get killed for this. You see, Roger was a volatile soul. )
Here's an example conversation:
Roger: "Yeah, when I first bought my Ford, it was a Chevy. Did you know the South Americans came up with the name Chevy Corvette? Sure, yeah, Generalisimo Francisco Franco created the name Corvette sitting in his bathtub in Cuba during the revolution. I know because one of my friends was with him in the Cuban Revolution, and he told me. I believe him"
Me, "Hey Roger, I'm pretty sure that didn't happen. Cuba isn't in South America, and I think Francisco Franco was a Spanish dictator, not South American."
Roger, "Sure, it is. It was him. Are you stupid or what? Go look it up. I'm sure you're wrong."
Me, "I'm pretty sure I'm right."
Roger, "Go look it up. I know you're wrong."
That friendship didn't last long. You can't argue with stupid. Or, as Steve Miller said, "You can't argue with a sick mind."
Some things we believe because we want to accept them because they sound plausible.
People like to believe pesticides are the reason for the demise of the bees. It's easy to hate big chemical companies and they're sneaky buggers. But there are other factors, too, like:
We're all to blame.
If you want to read a bit more about it, you don't have to go far.
Pollinators In Peril, Center for Biological Diversity
Colony Collapse Disorder, Wikipedia
More than 700 North American Bee Species Are Headed Toward Extinction, Time Magazine
Some people would say that it doesn't matter if Einstein made that statement about bees or not. If it's true and furthers the cause it shouldn't matter.
We shouldn't bandy about false statements because it bolsters our argument.
You should use real facts to back up your argument. Don't make stuff up just cause it sounds good.
I've got to stop being so lazy. I've got to start researching for myself.
Am I saying I don't believe there is a problem with bees? No.
Should we look at and try to mitigate the loss of honey bees? Yes, we should because they're in danger, they're important to the planet, and it's probably the right thing to do.
However, let's not tell fibs about it even if we mean well. Let's try to stick to the facts even if they're boring.
Should I get off my soapbox? Yeah, probably.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
This week, you're in for something a little bit different. Off the beaten path so to speak. This week's artist of the week is Ann Osborne.
Ann creates splashy type paintings. She calls herself an acrylic painter and mixed media artist. Totally abstract. I love the random things that happen when she splashes, smacks, pours, and floats paint on a panel or canvas. I think she works mostly on panels because they're much more rigid.
I ran into Ann a couple of years ago on YouTube and her style was so random it was intriguing. She just reached over 60,000 subscribers on YouTube. She has quite a following. Here's one of her videos to get you started. This is such an interesting technique.
Dragonflies are extraordinary creatures. Why do they have four wings anyway? They're both creepy and beautiful at the same time. This week, I bring you my take on a dragonfly just because I like 'em.
However, last weekend found me under the kitchen sink.
I replaced the kitchen faucet (tap) and the RO (Reverse Osmosis) Water Filter over the weekend. They were at least 15 years old and looked like they'd never been serviced.
Water in Arizona, at least this part of Arizona, is harder than getting a straight answer from a politician. Hard water will clog your pipes and faucets and cause your water to have that distinctive yucky taste. I know our water softener isn't working. I had to turn on the bypass because it was leaking water. I guess, after a while in the harsh Phoenix summers, rubber seals and gaskets will wear out.
Off to Lowes and Home Depot. I know I've mentioned it, but just in case you haven't caught it, Lowes and Home Depot will give veterans a 10% discount. I like that.
Ordinarily, I just like to get things done. That would mean I go to the store, buy the equipment, install the equipment.
Andrea has introduced me to an all-new technique called research and comparison. She says, "It's called shopping, dear."
I'm not a great shopper. I'm an excellent buyer, though. Send me to the store for milk, I'll come back with milk. If you want 2% milk, you'd better tell me so. If you'd like 2% organic milk, make a point of mentioning it. If you rather have 2% organic milk delivered by free-range cows in the field rather than by machine, I can get that. But, if you ask for milk, you'll get milk - the kind I like.
Okay, sometimes, when I go to the store for milk, I'll go a little off-piste and bring back beer and, or a bottle of scotch as well. That's a risk you take when you send me to the store for anything.
It works, but it doesn't always produce the best results.
Andrea, in comparison, is the high priestess of retail exploration and evaluation. She'll compare everything.
So the expedition was under-way. Decisions had been made. Scott was sent into buying mode. Off to Home Depot. Home Depot carried the brand and type of softener and filter we wanted. I headed straight back to aisle 45, where the water softeners and water filters are. All the way to the back of the store.
We passed so many things we needed too. Didn't I need a pole trimmer to trim the ironwood tree out front? "Hey, there's that drill I always wanted!" "Didn't I say I wanted a new saw as well?" "Oh, wow, there's that pegboard to organize my tools!"
I guess it's all the equivalent of coming home with that six-pack of beer and a bottle of scotch.
I'm like a puppy chasing a squirrel.
With the drill, the pegboard, and the pole trimmer in the cart, I made a bee-line back to aisle 45. You do know bees don't really travel in a straight line, don't you? If they did, how would they discover new flowers?
We knew which water filter we wanted, so that was in the cart right away. Needing somebody to install the water softener, I wanted to check if Home Depot had any professional plumbers who could do the job.
So, I went to an employee in the kitchen area.
I stood beside her desk for several minutes. I startled her out of one of those inane "satin or silk, leather or lace, coffee or tea?" conversations she was having with her colleague. When she finally noticed I was there, she had that look in her eye: "Unexpected customer in the shopping area!!!"
I started to explain that I needed a plumber to install a water softener for me. She cut me off halfway through my explanation and pulled out a piece of paper. "What's your last name?"
I thought, hmm, I guess I'll play her bureaucratic game. Maybe it's necessary. Maybe it'll be fun. After playing the "fill out the paperwork form" game with her, she said somebody would call me. Don't expect them to call you today, maybe tomorrow. Couldn't you send an email? Couldn't you make a call? Could you be helpful? I guess not.
The upshot of it is, I got the water filtration system home. Again, Andrea to the rescue!
"Scott, shouldn't you take the parts out of the box and make sure they're all there?"
I explained that I wasn't going to start the project until the weekend, and there was no need to go through it now. I'll go through it on the weekend.
I got that Andrea look that said, "Don't be a fool, you're going to start the job, and you'll have to waste time going back to exchange the part. It'll happen when you've already taken the old faucet and filter out, and you're ready to install the new one. Don't you think it would be a good idea to check it now so if you go back now you could order a new one, and they could deliver it before the weekend?
Okay, I'll do it now.
Yes, you guessed it. All the fancy-schmancy fittings and fixings were missing. Arrrrrg... The next day I was off to Home Depot to return the filter and pick up another one.
In the meantime, I got a call from the water softening engineers. The young man on the other end of the phone said he was from Acme Water Filtration Company (not the name to protect the innocent). Wiley Coyote said he'd like to come out and test our water to recommend the best system for the job. I said, "Sorry, all I want is somebody to install a water softener I bought at Home Depot!".
The kid was very polite and said. "Oh, we don't just do installations. How much were you looking to spend?"
"Listen, my friend. I want somebody to come to my house. I want them to politely ring the doorbell and tell me they're here to install the water softener I've already bought."
"I don't want you to recommend an internet-ready, wifi-enabled, smart-logic, HydroOrgasmic, gold plated, whistleblowing, hornswoggling, whole home water purification system that'll do backflips into my swimming pool for $2,700!"
"I want a bloody PLUMBER!"
Wiley said their service was probably not the best for the job I had at hand - Beep Beep. He thanked me, and I thanked him.
Then, with the grace of a major league baseball pitcher, I gently laid the phone down on the floor on the other side of the house. It followed a flight path that traversed my office, the living room, the dining room, and careened off the wall in the kitchen. Not wise as the phone would cost more than a new water softener to replace.
I searched the archives of my brain and remembered some very competent folks at Paradise Plumbing who replaced the water heater here a couple of years ago. I talked to a man named Ron on the other end of the line. Within three minutes, we agreed on a price and scheduled an appointment. Water softener sorted.
That left me with the faucet and the under-sink water filter to install, and that was accomplished by me last weekend. No major hiccups.
Of course, the job started, as all projects do, with a bit of staring, some rubbing of my chin (beard), and the ritual organizing the tools.
I removed the old faucets with minimal cussing and frustration. Then it was hooking up the new.
I needed a sous-chef for the installation. "Andrea!"
You always need another arm when you're installing something under the sink, don't you?
Well, the installation, though a bit laborious, was going rather smoothly. Hook this bit up here. Tighten that bit down there. When I crawled under the sink, Andrea was laughing her backside off.
I said, "What's so funny?"
She said, "I can't see how you actually fit under the sink. The proportions look all off. It looks like you're trying to stuff a whole loaf of bread in a single slice toaster all at the same time."
To be honest, it was a bit of a tight fit. She does have some brilliant observations.
I emerged with all the hook-ups hooked up. The water was flowing nicely with no leaks. The filtration system was installed, and the new faucets were in place. Then, a rookie mistake. I can't believe I did it. I followed the instructions to the letter.
Nevertheless, as I was testing the water to see if it was okay, I noticed, it was bound to happen, the hot was on the right, and the cold was to the left. How did I get the hot and cold switched around? It was that great sinking feeling you get when you thought you'd done an outstanding job only to find out something fundamental went very wrong.
Instead of just crawling back under the sink and fixing them, I asked Andrea what apparently was, one of the most blatantly stupid questions in the world.
"Andrea, Would you mind if I just left it like that?"
Well, you would have thought I just asked if she didn't mind if I stopped brushing my teeth for the next six months.
The look I got was sufficient. You know, the look that says, "You stupid man."
But, it's true, as a guy, I would have probably just lived with it until I burned my hands a couple of times. Eventually, it needed to be done.
Back under the sink to do what I should have just done anyway. It would have saved me vast amounts of humiliation and the ritual eating of crow.
We now have a new functioning water filtration system and brand modern brushed nickel faucets topping our kitchen sink.
By the way. Here are some rules that will help you with your next DIY Project. I'm sure you'll recognize some of them.
DIY Rule # 1:
To the uninitiated and inexperienced, even things that look relatively easy, are not as easy as they look.
DIY Rule # 2:
If you do DIY, make sure you have plenty of ibuprofen, Tylenol, and Band-Aids.
DIY Rule # 3:
Don't always take the word of a Home Depot Store clerk.
DIY Rule # 4:
Watch plenty of YouTube Videos.
DIY Rule # 5:
Don't assume, because you've watched the YouTube videos, that the job will be any easier.
DIY Rule # 6:
Even relatively easy things take about twice as long as you think they will. I started the job at 11 am and finished as it was just approaching 4 pm.
DIY Rule # 7:
Don't even remotely assume the lazy option will promote domestic tranquility.
DIY Rule # 8:
Don't ask stupid questions. Of course, the hot water needs to be on the left.
DIY Rule # 9:
Be sure to have a refreshing adult beverage on hand for the end of the job. You need motivation.
DIY Rule # 10:
I do get a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction, seeing it working as it should, and knowing that I did. But sometimes it's better to call a professional. Preferably, someone you know and trust.
I continue the quest for my DIY merit badge.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
I ran into this guy on the internet a couple of months ago. His name is Stuart Davies.
Even though his father had plans for him to become a police officer, Stuart's artistic talent was discovered early. He went to Eastbourne Art College, where he graduated. He then went off to seek fame and fortune as a freelancer. He was commissioned to paint "legal-forgeries" for people who wanted originals but could pay the million-dollar price tags. He's was very partial to Vermeer.
As many artists do, he also supported himself in his early career in various positions in an advertising agency. This job allowed him to draw and represent concepts and live an artistic life but get paid for it at the same time. He also became the Art Editor and Design Editor for "the Queen's favorite magazine," Country Life.
Nowadays he likes to paint landscapes. Mostly things out of his own imagination.
I caught up with Mr. Davies on YouTube, where he provides excellent instruction with a calm and clear style.
All this activity has afforded me the pleasure of haunting the aisles of both Lowes and Home Depot.
I've got to hand it to both of them. Veteran discounts and Veteran parking spots etc. Normally, the services are pretty good. Normally, I walk away with a good feeling.
Then, for an encore, I decided the water softener and under sink water filtration system needed to be replaced.
The under sink water filtration unit is easy. I'm positive I can do that myself. The water softener, not so much. There are soldering and piping and very complex stuff involved. For me, dealing fire and cutting things like knives or saws, are skills I have chosen not to master.
We don't want Scott involved with sharp burning things when his anxiety level crosses the idiot threshold.
For example, last night while we were watching television the sound suddenly disappeared. This has been an ongoing problem since we got back to Arizona. I'd had it, it was time to figure this out.
So Andrea and I stared at the television. We scratched our heads. After reviewing all of the settings with still no results, we rebooted the whole system. After the system reboot, we had to log back into Roku, log back into Amazon, log back into the WiFi, and jump through several hoops I didn't know were there. After everything was reinstalled and we had followed the directions to a "T" the sound was still off.
I said I was frustrated. I said, "I'd like to step away from the television at this point because my level of frustration has just exceeded the limits of my tolerance." Actually, I said, "Fuck it, I give up!" And I walked away.
This was a very good move on my part since, if you're dealing with delicate and expensive electronics you don't want to accidentally throw a hammer through the screen by mistake or anything.
So, I thought I was doing the right thing. I was doing the proper thing. I was proud of myself for stepping away for the problem for a few moments.
While I was patting myself on the back I went back to the task of preparing dinner. Salad Niçoise, yum.
Andrea had opened a can of tuna and it was sitting on the counter. I picked it up and put the tuna in the salad. Things were going swimmingly. I was quite smug.
I went to wash out the can to put it in the recycling bin. What a good citizen I am - helping to save the planet and such.
I ran my finger around the inside of the can to clean it out.
Did you know those buggers are really sharp? I think I cut my finger down to the bone. (not really, I'm just a big sissy and I'm exaggerating.) Well, as with everything that I do, blood was getting everywhere.
Then, I knew it was coming. I knew I was going to get it. There it was, right on Andrea's face. She gave me that look of disapproval, disbelief, and a complete lack of surprise. She trundled off, "I'll get the plasters (band-aids)."
A momentary loss in concentration. I'm really glad I wasn't trying to text and drive at the same time.
Anyway, back to the television. The sound came back on its own. We really did nothing. It just appeared, poof! That was almost more frustrating.
Later, Andrea discovered a setting buried way down in the user's manual the way all good answers are. Her perseverance, research, and patience trumped my bullocks, bluster, and bravado. Damn, again.
So, now I'm all bandaged up and ready to attack Lowes and Home Depot once again. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” Henry V, Bill Shakespeare.
BTW - I'm having somebody else install the water softener. See, I'm learning.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
There are several videos about him on YouTube. There's even a forty-minute documentary on him in Dutch. I watched it (there are English subtitles). I like the effort he puts into his work.
If you want a little introduction to his art, you can watch this YouTube video. It's only about two minutes long. I think you'll like it. No subtitles required.
I'm not a fan of flying. It is just such a necessity if you want to make your home in different places.
So many things can go wrong with your journey before it even starts. You just don't know what you don't know.
That's why we (Andrea) has a process. And, of course, process mitigates catastrophe. Though we can't do much about what happens in the air, we can do our best to be prepared on the ground.
Last week, it was time to take the suitcase down from the loft, dust it off, and fill it with all the goodies we wanted to take back to the United States.
We've started to get plenty good at packing. I'd say we almost have it down to a science. At least I think Andrea does.
Andrea is Ms. Checklist.
You could start the space shuttle with one of her checklists. It's a marvel to see. Everything is itemized. All tasks are prioritized, and a clear plan is put into place.
Mr. Phelps, your mission should you decide to accept is to make a clean getaway from Olde Cottage, St. Evenage, and arrive safely on the doorstep in Springboro, Ohio.
Operation Saddle Up
Objective: Smooth departure.
Everything starts about a week and a half early. T-10 Days. Little things like chocolate, tea, biscuits, and other delicacies like marmite, jelly babies, Cadbury's, and Hobnobs begin to pile up in the corner.
Next, we start what we call, "The Eating of The Fridge."
No more unnecessary food purchases are to be made. Nothing can be bought that cannot be consumed in the remaining time allotted for our stay.
There comes the point when absolutely no more food is allowed to go into the fridge.
The eating of the fridge includes an examination of expiration dates. We need to eat this by such and such a time. We need to make sure we have enough fruit for breakfast. Don't buy too much fruit. How much milk do we have? Exact measures now - We don't want any guesstimating going on.
When you see clothes start to appear on the couch downstairs, you know things are getting down to the wire.
Andrea looks me straight in the eye, "Okay, Scott, you have a week left. Don't tell me you have something more to take at the last minute."
"Aye, Aye Captain!"
As things get added, the piles start to get bigger.
Trial packing is completed, calculations made, estimates estimated, proportions were portioned.
Slide-rulers calibrated, weighing devices uncovered, and calculators are engaged.
All is ready.
Sometimes we are a bit off. It's usually my fault.
We were planning to take only ONE suitcase to Cornwall.
When I say ONE suitcase, I mean one bag plus, two carry on suitcases, a rucksack (Backpack), one large purse, and a briefcase. But, only ONE large bag.
Our packing was going as was expected.
The trial pack went well.
Then, Scott said, "Hey, I'd like to take my oil painting set."
Andrea, "I thought I said no last-minute surprises?!?"
Scott, "Well, it looked like there was enough room in the suitcase."
Andrea, "I haven't included my toiletries yet."
I bowed my head, put my shoes on, and said, "Shall I get the other suitcase out of the garage then?"
Andrea, "Yes, you'd better."
We ended up taking two large suitcases. Thank you, Scott.
When we travel back to the States, it's not like going on holiday, we know we already have clothes and toiletries in Dayton. Packing is really minimal, however, meticulous account of contents is a must.
Andrea starts packing. Each suitcase has a packing list, a catalog of items and a photo reference of all things included. The reference sheet is included with carry-on packing materials, a copy to the file, and a copy hermetically sealed in an empty mayonnaise jar at the patio door.
If anything is lost, we're covered. Check and double-check.
Then comes the weighing of the suitcase. Fifty-one pounds is the limit.
I've got really good at this. I can usually estimate within a pound or two how heavy the suitcase is. My forearm is a calibrated machine. I'm usually right.
If it's too heavy triage needs to take place, or Scott goes to get another suitcase.
For the most part, everything goes smoothly. No big surprises.
Then there is leaving the house on the day.
The water is turned off, the suitcases staged, and Peter and Marilyn pull up in the drive. Peter is the loadmaster and Andrea directs traffic. Then - final checklist, please.
There is the obligatory last-minute checklist.
If you wonder why we have that checklist, well it's because one or the other of us has forgotten one of those essentials. Then there is complete panic.
One day I should tell the story of how an iPhone was left on the kitchen counter on departure.
Or how I've left my sunglasses at just about every place I've ever visited.
This time it was smooth sailing. Mitigation procedures - successful.
I'm back in Dayton. We're corporally intact with relative mentally stable.
Now, we need to plan for Phoenix.
Until next week, I wish you peace, health, and happiness.
Sara Sandoval is a very creative stencil artist. I didn’t know stencil art was a thing. Apparently, it is.
She creates a wide range of images using stenciling techniques. The is something mesmerizing about watching her cut the stencils.
I was watching her YouTube channel because I thought the stenciling technique she uses might help me make the images I like to create as well.
Her intricate paper carvings are beautiful, even without the spray paint.
I can’t say that I have watched all of her videos, but I’ve seen quite a few.
In one video, I saw her create a poster using USPS shipping labels. It’s a creative out of the box approach.
Sara was born in Mexico and ended up in the United States as an undocumented immigrant through no fault of her own.
I will not try to tell her story here because I'll undoubtedly get much of it wrong.
I think the United States should have a more flexible way of dealing with her situation. She finally got it sorted through DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
If you want to hear more, please watch her video here.
If you came around the house over the last couple of weeks, you might have found us wearing sackcloth and ashes lamenting our summer in England coming to an end.
I drew this view of St Uny Church in Lelant while reminiscing about our trip to Cornwall. It's one of our very favorite spots on the planet.
It's always sad to leave England at the end of the summer. Leaving this time has been made a bit worse for a few reasons. Foremost is that I will not be back next summer. It is the beginning of the quest we shall not mention.
Also, it's the end of an era in Stevenage Old Town. We found out earlier this summer that the Waitrose store close to our home will be closing on the 27th of October for good. There was much consternation and copious gnashing of teeth when we heard the news.
Waitrose is the kind of store that makes service a priority. At least the store in Stevenage sets itself apart with top-notch service.
If you want to find your way to the fresh potato chips and ask someone stocking the shelves, rather than grunting and pointing the boney finger of the grim reaper, they'll get up and walk you to the right area of the store and help you find whatever you're looking for. If they can't find it, they'll call out the cavalry and track down someone who will know.
It's the kind of store that replaces items bought or gives a refund with no question asked. "Excuse me, I got this and didn't like it."
"Why certainly sir, would you like to substitute something else or have your money back?" No problem, no hassle, no worries.
Not only that, but if you buy something and it has somehow gone off, you bring it back, and they will give you your money back AND get you a fresh whatchamacallit right away or a thingamabob if you'd rather. You may even walk away with a voucher or two in the process as an apology.
That's something special in England. I'm not trying to be unkind, but service in the United States is just different than England. The English just aren't comfortable with overly cheery helpfulness and sycophantic servitude. It kind of creeps people out here.
There's even an advertisement on television for Enterprise Rent-A-Car (Care Hire) that kind of acknowledges there is a difference. They say it's UK car hire with US customer service!
I think it's funny. Give it a gander. Ya might be glad you did.
I think the people at Waitrose and Partners really care about providing top-notch service. They're called partners because each stock clerk, each cashier, every person working in the store from the manager to the meat counter rep are partners. They are each part owners in the business and that, in my mind, makes a big difference.
Their people are always friendly. I'd say, "English Friendly." Warm and helpful without being overly familiar. It's a little more formal friendly.
Waitrose is also the kind of place where you'd go to do your shopping and then stop for a cup of coffee or to read the paper.
You'd see people from the neighborhood picking up a few things after work. I wouldn't say it was a gathering place, but it was a place you could see people you know and wouldn't necessarily see otherwise. It's nice to see people you know out and about.
People from the neighborhood would often make a trip out of their shopping as well. I know we'd go for lunch at a cafe around the corner called Flower Power, then pick up something from Symonds Bakery (lovely Belgian Buns, bread, scones, or something yummy), and make Waitrose run all at the same time.
It's not the least expensive store, but there is something civilized and comforting about walking into Waitrose. You feel like you matter. I don't get that feeling from any other grocery store around here.
I found it extremely pleasing to walk in after being away in St. Thomas for several months. It's like stepping back to civilization. Fresh food, clean floors, and helpful staff make a huge difference. They make life more comfortable to live. It's quite a contrast from the dingy, half-lit, half expired produce, bugs, and staff that couldn't give a flying Frito Lay if you were happy with your experience on St Thomas.
Waitrose may not be the perfect store, but it is a familiar part of the makeup of this town, having been here for 41 years. There's a cachet to having a Waitrose in your neighborhood. It raises the standard of living, and thus the raises the value of your property.
There is so much good about the Waitrose here in Stevenage Old Town. That's why it's so sad that it's going.
It also brings up the elephant in the room. What in the world will be taking its place?
There are already more than six Indian restaurants in the old town, so I hope it isn't another Indian restaurant. There are at least 15 proper restaurants, there's Pizza Express, Dominos Pizza, Perfect Pizza, Bingol Kebab and Pizza, Papa Johns Pizza, and Pizza Hut. Please, no McDonald's or Burger King.
There are more than 12 pubs and bars up and down the High Street, by a conservative estimate. The place becomes a bit of a zoo after dark. Immature women tottering on heels the height of circus stilts combined with over-drinking, underthinking hormonal young men bebopping up and down the town is a recipe for disaster. We need no more bars.
There are lots of things the Old Town does not need. But the worst of them all of them are the three betting parlors, Betfred, Ladbrokes, and William Hill are blights on the town. God, please don't introduce any more shops where people slink in and slink out devastating their family's livelihood.
I hope any business would need to apply to the Council to trade on the High Street, but I have no confidence in the Stevenage Borough Council to make the right decision.
The gaping void left in the High Street by Waitrose will be hard to fill. I'll try to be optimistic. I'll try to be upbeat. I'll hope for the best.
In the meantime, I'll wait and wonder with everybody else what new force will fill the void.
I look forward to seeing my friends in Dayton, but I'm still a bit somber about leaving England behind.
We'll be back in December.
Until next week, my friends, I wish you peace.
Trail - 207 DAYS
This week, I'd like to present an artist that does some very creative and intricate drawings.
I first saw John Kennedy, aka Jedika, on the Colour in Your Life program. His drawings and his process caught my attention. I go back and watch that video periodically because it provides me with some motivation to loosen up my work as well.
I like how he starts with the image of a face and that image of the face is the jumping-off point. He starts his drawings and lets his mind discover the images that come out of the scribbling. I'm sure he has a direction that he wants to follow, but he discovers different things in the process.
As he goes along is images become intricate montages with abstract and surreal connections.
He is also an art teacher of fine art at the Levers Art in New South Wales, Australia.
I hope you'll go check Jedika out. You can find him on:
Now go out and make some ART!
Since starting to receive my updates, I think you've learned a bit more about me than you knew before or perhaps even more than you ever wanted to know. I'll leave that up to you.
For example, I can draw a strange and obscure abstract critter like the Hare I included in this weeks update.
Also, some of you might also know that I'm a decent cook. At least I think I am. I like all the parts of the cooking process. I love the prep, the assemblage, the spices, the seasoning, and the application of heat.
The only part of cooking I sometimes don't enjoy are the comments from the peanut gallery. I can hear her ladyship now,
Regardless, I like it all. I even love the peanut gallery.
My favorite part of the process is the prep. I love slicing and dicing and prepping the food. I ended up with the job by default cause Andrea keeps mentioning she'd much rather instead stick needles in her eyes than chop vegetables.
I like it because there's something methodical and meditative about it - at least the way I do it. Let's call it, "Mindful Chopping."
When I was a young Marine I was put on Mess Duty (KP in the Army) for a couple of months as a sort of punishment. I was put in a room chopping vegetables for eight hours at a time. I pealed tons of potatoes. I chopped onions until my eyes were raw. I sliced carrots for hours at a time. I ended up loving it. I was a bit disappointed when my time was up.
Today, I get up every morning and cut up kiwis, strawberries, oranges, mangos, and flat peaches. I add raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. I love my fruit in the morning. For me, it's made even more special by the prep.
I'm not like one of those TV chefs whose knives fly around like whirling dervishes at lightning speed. Their knives appear to have a mind of their own. It even looks like the knives are in control and the chef is just holding on waiting for the flurry to end. I watch those programs in complete awe. If I tried to move that fast, I'd leave bits of myself on the cutting room floor - and nobody wants bits of Scott in their sushi, especially Scott.
Aside from the meditation, what I like about doing the prework is using a very sharp knife. I've been told when you use a dull knife, you're more likely to fillet your finger instead of the fish.
I've acquired what can be described as a slight obsession with sharp knives. I love sharp knives, of course, but I also love the process of honing the steel to a razor-sharp edge. I find the feel and sound of slowly drawing the steel against the whetstone extremely pleasing. I get a shiver up my spine just thinking about it.
You also might know that I'm a bit of a bull in a China shop. When I do walk into a China shop, it's like the honky-tonk where the piano stops, it becomes very, very quiet, everybody in the joint slowly turns, and looks at the door.
I've been called Shrek more than once. It's also been said that I should carry a medic-alert tag warning others of my clumsiness.
My story begins one sunny day when I grew tired of the old knives in the house. Some of the knives were only sharpish because the rust had pitted the blades at strategic positions. Time to buy a new knife.
We headed up to the Hitchin Kitchen Shop. I'm sad because that particular shop no longer exists. Harumph.
I walked in and stared meaningfully at the knives for a long time. I was studying each of the options behind the counter thoroughly before I chose my blade.
I could see a slight look of panic in Andrea's eyes. She said, "Pay attention and be very careful now."
I said, "I know. I know. I will. I will. Don't worry. Don't worry. No, really, don't worry. I am not a freaking child"
I asked the shop assistant if I could please take a look at that shiny, sleek, curvy thing in the glass case behind her. She carefully pulled it down from behind the glass and handed it to me.
I could see beads of sweat forming on Andrea's forehead as the knife came across the counter.
I put my glasses on to look at it more carefully.
Slight inhale from Andrea's direction.
I ran my finger down the side of the blade.
Andrea bit her lip.
I ran my finger down the blade again.
I felt a shudder from the peanut gallery.
I turned around and said, "Yup, I think this is the one."
Just then, I could see the little rivulet of blood approaching my sleeve.
Andrea planted that, "I told you so!" look firmly on her face as the shop assistant rushed back to get a bandage.
There were some choice words hurled in my direction. I think it was something about my being an idiot. I'm sure the words, "You irritating man!" were used somewhere in her soliloquy as well.
After leaving my DNA on the knife, I couldn't very well let the knife be bought by someone else, could I? I had to have it.
"That will be 56 pounds, twenty pence."
Another sharp intake.
The transaction was done. Knife safely in the box and the box safely in the bag. There was no imminent chance of destruction, at least for the time being.
Since that day, I have taken outstanding care of my blade. It lives in its special box in a special drawer. It's as sharp today as it ever was, and I look forward to visiting the sharpening stone regularly. It gives me that peaceful, easy feeling.
Sure, if you combine my fondness for very sharp knives and the fact I don't tread lightly on this earth, you might question the wisdom of my slight obsession with very sharp things, but I love a finely crafted and perfectly honed tool.
I do pay very close attention when handling the knife, and it pays very close attention to me. I happy to report no body parts have been deposited on the chopping block, and for that, I am truly grateful.
Apparently, I AM a bit of a child. Sigh.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
Trail - 214 DAYS
I thought, this week, I would introduce you to someone who can really help you learn how to draw with pencil and pen. Drawing is an important part of making art that people recognize.
I realize that's not always the objective, but in case you want to create recognizable drawings (I realize that isn't always the objective) you can not go wrong by looking up this next artist.
His name is Alphonso Dunn. Alphonso was born in Jamaica and moved to the United States when he was 17 years old.
I first spotted his instruction on YouTube a few years ago and his instruction has been fundamental to helping me practice my drawing.
If you want to learn how to draw I would recommend watching and studying Alphnoso's YouTube Videos. Here's one to encourage you to draw every day.
He says his YouTube Channel, "is dedicated to helping you deepen your understanding of the drawing process and helping you develop and refine your drawing, pen and ink, and watercolor painting skills and techniques."
I think he does a great job.
If you want something you can put on your shelf and refer to often he has two books out now "Pen and Ink Drawing: A Simple Guide" and "Pen and Ink Drawing Workbook."
Last weekend we were traveling in a crabby little ship up the A1(M) to North Yorkshire - as Tony, a new friend in Sutton on the Forest would say, "God's Own Country."
I remember reading in a book last year. "Don't ask a man if he's from Yorkshire. If he hasn't told you in the first minute of meeting you then he obviously isn't from Yorkshire and you shouldn't make him feel inferior."
It's about a three to four-hour drive to York. Driving in England doesn't bother me much. I've got used to driving on the left, so it's not a problem.
I have to say though - I've done 'em all.
It's all become natural for me, but some unexpected things can happen to change your driving nirvana into a freak horror show with no warning.
Last weekend, it was a bank holiday. Just think of it as an official federal holiday in the States. Roads can get packed when everybody has a day off at the same time.
Combine a long drive, a hot day, a bank holiday, with mechanical issues, and you have a recipe that can turn you into a blubbering puddle of goo.
The car we drive in England is possessed with demonic disposition. With no warning, usually on the hottest days of the year, the spawn of Hell will open a vortex to the Lake of Fire. In other words, the air conditioning goes haywire.
It's a computer glitch, and in a traffic jam on a hot day, it is horrible. You can't adjust the temperature; you can try to block the vents, but you can't turn it off.
To make it worse, it only seems to happen when it's a sweltering sunshiney day. The sensors take a day off. It's like driving through the desert with the heater going full blast.
It's fickle too. We don't always know if or when it's going to happen. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it doesn't. We do know the demons will come-a-callin' at most inconvenient times. Like last summer, when we were driving back from Wensleydale.
Because it was a bank holiday that weekend too, there were more cars on the motorway than there was motorway to hold the cars. The traffic was ambling along with all the urgency of a New Orleans funeral procession. Velocity, shall we say, was lacking.
The minions of Hell opened the vortex.
We stuffed towels, pamphlets, and any debris we could find into the air conditioning vents. The next exit was five miles ahead. In these motorway conditions, that could take forty-five minutes. We thought the forensic team would discover our desiccated bodies on the side of the road, roasted like chickens on a barbecue spit.
We sweated it out and pulled over at the next available services exit. As we stopped, we jumped out of the car like it was on fire to call for an exorcist!
I had a fix, though — a universal fix. I found if I disconnected the battery and let it sit for at least five minutes to reboot the computer, everything would be set right.
The more sophisticated cars get, the more strange and unusual things can go catastrophically wrong. It's like there's a mystery guest under the hood.
Luckily, I've done tech support before. "Okay, pull the plug, let it sit for five minutes, and turn the computer back on." It's a "go-to" script for modems, computers, and in this case, cars.
So I got out the tools, disconnected the battery, and let it sit for at least five minutes while Andrea went into the shop to get a drink and soak up some of their air conditioning. I said a few silent "Our Fathers," Hail Marys," and some "get thee behind me Satans," and started to reconnect the battery.
We were back on the road with the icy air conditioning blasting us in the face. Ahhhhh, the sweet soothing balm was working again.
With a heatwave gripping England, I was worried we'd have a repeat performance again this weekend. The conditions were right. It was supposed to be another scorcher. We were traveling to Yorkshire to do a bit of walking with Jan and Brian and visit with Tony and Susan in Sutton on the Forest in North Yorkshire.
On our drive up, everything was going well.
Then, without warning, hot air started coming out the driver's side air conditioning vents. The passenger side was still frosty.
Andrea (Nav and Coms): "Quick, shut the vents! Battle stations! Test the controls! Run diagnostics! Arrrrrrgggghhh! Watch for Klingons!
Me (pilot): "Damnit, Andrea, I'm a driver, not an air conditioning mechanic."
I shut the vents on the driver's side.
Me: "Aye, Aye, Andrea, Driver's side AC/DC shut down. "Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap!"
Lucky the passenger AC was still working. We could limp along on that like an aircraft with one engine out.
Again, without warning, the passenger vent slapped Andrea in the face with hot air.
Andrea: #)($ O#IP *(()@**$) - translated for this blog, "Oh crap! Check your side!"
Me: "My side's good now, Cap'n."
Andrea: "Quick! Shut all passenger vents! Transfer power to the driver's side!"
Me: "Roger, Wilco!"
A few minutes later. The dilithium crystals stabilized. The transporter was back online, and the warp drive was again available.
Andrea: "Hold it; my side's working again!"
Me: Hey, my side's still working too!"
Andrea: "Stop messing around and drive!"
Me: "Damn, there's no winning here!"
Andrea: "Stop whining and just drive."
We made it to Yorkshire with no further incident and had a lovely weekend.
We had planned to spend a touch more time in York to do some sightseeing. But when we got up to drive home, we didn't want to dilly-dally because the sun was already over the horizon, and it was forecast to be a hot one again. To avoid four hours of sauna therapy on the A1(M), we decide to hit the road early because:
"Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul to waste…
... Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game."
Whooo Whooo, Oh Hell yeah, ain't that true.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
T - 221 DAYS
Today, I bring you, Luke Adam Hawker.
Luke is based in London and his subjects include some of London's most iconic architecture.
He studies interior architecture and design at Nottingham Trent University. You can see in his drawings he understands how his subjects are constructed.
I started following this guy's art on Instagram. When you watch him draw it seems like he's just scribbling, but bit by bit the image starts coming alive. I love his free form expression of London's architecture.
Some of you might know that Big Ben is undergoing some restoration. Here's one he did of Big Ben covered in all of its scaffolding glory. I love this because it's a bit unusual.
Luke travels around London looking for interesting venues to draw in pen and ink.
Here's a video that gives an overview of the process he uses.
I have been many things in my life from an ice hockey player, a US Marine, an artist, a father, and a friend. There might be a song in that, might there? I don't know.
I look back at my many years, and some of the most challenging times have been as a Marine Drill Instructor (DI). As a DI, I was good at being mildly aggressive. Okay, I was at least extremely proficient at raising my voice. We all have a talent. I think I got this one from my mother; she was a great voice raiser. You'd know if you ever went to an ice hockey game where Neale or I were playing. Mom wasn't shy.
Honestly, one does not want to hear me raise my voice.
I was thinking about that this week.
End of vacation (holiday), a nice man came to pick us up at our little hideaway. He got out of the car to hoist the suitcases into the car. The poor guy had great intentions, but he was moving with all the grace and deftness of a man who was awaiting his next injection of embalming fluid.
I kindly intervened and said, "No, please don't put the suitcases in the car. I wouldn't want a lawsuit to develop from a cab ride. Please, let me put the cases in the car."
I felt pretty good about myself. I assume the cab driver felt pretty good he tried to help with the suitcases. As he shuffled back to the driver's seat; one painful step at a time, I quickly lifted the fabric-covered anvils with wheels into the trunk.
In the end, he was friendly, and I gave him a tip for giving it the old college try.
Six hours later, we arrive at Paddington Station, and with our suitcases in hand, we made our way to the taxi stand outside. Not an easy task because barriers blocked us from taking our bags up the escalator, and as there were only two lifts (elevators - but we'll call them lifts cause I'm here) and one of them didn't work.
No worries, we got to the taxi rank, and we were like the second group in line. Smooth sailing, right? Au contraire mon ami.
The cabbie pulled up, and he opened the door automatically from his hermetically-sealed cocoon in the driver's seat. This guy was not exiting his royal box for all the jewels in the Tower of London.
Andrea got in the cab, I maneuvered the suitcases into the car and followed in after her. Still not a word from mime in the front seat.
I leaned over and said, "Kings Cross Station, please." No response. The car just moved out and I fell back into the seat. I had to assume we were going in the direction I wanted to go. At least I know my way around London a little bit. I did know he was going in the right direction.
Andrea said (not under her breath but loud enough for him to hear), "No tip for him, then." Andrea's got that subtle way of making her displeasure easily known.
Now, Andrea and I have entirely different philosophies regarding tipping.
I believe in tipping; she doesn't believe in tipping. Well, it's not that she doesn't believe in tipping. She believes tipping should be for service over and above the standard service expected. I do agree but I grew up in the United States where tipping says more about the character of the tipper than the service of the provider.
In the United States, as a rule, we tip in restaurants, cabs, the guy that opens the door at the hotel, the babysitter, and other various professions or service providers. Here's a good article that reflects a more American approach. Normally, fifteen percent of the total bill. It ain't like that here. Tipping is becoming a bit more common here, but the philosophy is totally different.
If you want to read about tipping London Cabbies, it might be helpful. It's a bit of propaganda for Black Cabs (Uber and Lyft are mentioned nowhere in the article) but useful nonetheless.
I've found cab drivers, in general, to be a bit prickly. They're often offended when the coin doesn't come gushing out of your pocket. I expected this guy to find his voice on the other end of the ride when he saw he only got what was on the meter and no more. I don't exactly relish that kind of confrontation.
My mind went into overdrive. I ran through all kinds of scenarios between Paddington and Kings Cross if he made a fuss. I was a Boy Scout. I do like to be prepared.
I thought of saying something cute like, "Service paid for service rendered." He probably wouldn't have got the subtlety.
I thought of ranting about how he could have lifted a finger to help and giving him a finger of my own.
I thought of just looking at him in the cab and rendering unto him a primal scream of epic proportions; a cry that would be worthy of being locked up for mental instability. See the vague reference to my screaming ability above.
I concluded I would simply ignore anything he had to say about the situation. The gratuity was at my discretion (in this instance - Andrea's discretion - she had the credit card).
So, that's what I did. I was silent — no Edvard Munch (The Scream) moment at Kings Cross. We paid, and not another word was said. The mime kept his counsel.
I was very proud of myself for not making a scene. Then again, I'm not a big scene maker.
We caught the train to St. Evenage. On the other end, a lovely young man waited for us in the taxi rank.
The guy practically did a Usain Bolt to get the bags. He was helpful, friendly, and enthusiastic - a strong and strapping young man. He got a tip and might have even got a little extra.
What happened with the guy at Paddington? Well, he might have just been having a bad day. Everybody has struggles you know nothing about, and it's not worth piling on. I'm glad I didn't.
I'm no Zen Master, but today, I, externally at least, displayed some equanimity (inside - turmoil and tribulation). I didn't make things worse.
That's about all we can do in life; not make things worse. And by doing so make things a little bit better.
As for you, until I see you next week, I wish you peace.
T - 228 DAYS