A polar vortex has invaded and seems to be turning everybody in the northern hemisphere into popsicles.
And I'm petitioning for warmth for everybody. Not in a bad world-ending Global Warming kind of a way but a kind please give 'em all a break way.
I hate the cold. I really, really hate the cold. When I heard about this frozen invader, I counted my blessings.
In England, the arctic blast shut airports, snaffled roads, and brought commuters to a standstill.
Wisconsin, I heard from Holly, is colder than Antarctica (okay - it is summer in Antartica but still...)
A snow plow driver died in Germany when his vehicle fell into an icy river.
In Moscow, it's always mind-numbingly cold in the dead of winter, I've seen the movies.
Things are looking up though.
This weekend promises some warmer air will be pushing its way northward.
And, of course, on Saturday, it's Groundhog Day. Punxsutawney Phil has our meteorologic future in his grubby little paws.
February 2nd is when Americans set their hopes for warmth on a poor relation to beavers and squirrels. Groundhogs / Woodchucks (same thing) don't even have a cool tail like a beaver or a squirrel.
Remember the tongue-twister, "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?"
No, Well, nowhere in that little ditty does it mention the weather.
Groundhog Day is just like all human celebrations. It's time to make merry and send cards to each other. Oh - sorry, that's Valentines Day. Or maybe it's Christmas.
Nevertheless, we all like a little celebration every once in a while, don't we? I do.
So, let's celebrate anyway, spring never comes along soon enough. And people have to conjure up some hope to get through the rest of the winter.
It doesn't matter if Phil says sees his shadow or doesn't see his shadow, officially, winter won't come to a close until March 20th at the Spring Equinox. That's at least six weeks away.
But bring on the buck-toothed prognosticator:
Have at it, Phil of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. I'm anxiously waiting on your prediction. Give everybody some hope, will ya?!
Until next week, I wish you warmth and peace too.
This week I bring you, Timmy Ham. Sloth used to be his "tag" name, but Sloth is now a thriving art business.
He has commissions from large companies like Logitech. He seems to always be on the move and creating something.
Part of his artwork is digital, and part of it is physical. I like how he bridges the divide. His style is all his own. He began as a graffiti artist and still does a lot of his work with spray cans.
His company produces t-shirts, caps and other merchandise (merch as he calls it). I love a lot of the innovative things he does to get noticed.
He sometimes does free art drops in and around the Phoenix area. A free art drop is where he'll put some piece of art wrapped in a parking lot or some other public area. He'll tweet the location so people can come and pick it up. I think it's a fun concept.
He'll do larger than life murals or produce an original work on a pair of Van's for you.
He has been a prolific YouTuber and has a large following.
I like his art and his drive. He's a young guy on a mission.
See him at these places on the internet:
Flowers remind me of a peaceful existence. They are at one with nature. I drew a little abstract flower this week to remind myself what peace there is all around us if we only notice.
"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” King James Bible, Matthew 6:28-29
I needed the reminder because I spent the better part of an hour and a half yesterday on the phone. It wasn't productive phone time. It was a useless interaction with several automated attendants that caused my blood to boil.
I'm sure this is nothing new to you. Each of us has, at one time or another, submitted ourselves to the ignominy of the automated phone attendant.
Your Call Is Important To Us
Whenever I hear, "Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line, and your call will be answered in the order it was received." I picture myself being put in the hopper of a meat grinder until I come out the other end as the mushy remnants of what I used to be - a strong, confident soul. I know, without a doubt, that my call is NOT important to them and that I have become sausage.
I'm a number in a queue. I've become a statistic in a clickity-clack number-crunching system that depends on my compliance. As Pink Floyd would have said "Another Brick In The Wall."
Please Listen Carefully
Who's kidding whom, when they say, "Please listen carefully to the menu because our options have changed." Bullshit, your options haven't changed since Galileo was jailed for telling people the earth was round and rotated around the sun.
So, why are they lying to me? Oh yeah, they don't want me to hit zero to get to an operator/a helper/a real person. That would cost them money.
Please Anwer A Few Questions
There is the point at which they pile insult onto injury. After prompting me to enter my account information, my security pin, the name of my first pet, my mother's maiden name, a bottle of scotch, and the color of the underwear I'm sporting today, they have the gall to ask for the information again when I get on the phone with a representative. It's like the first interaction never took place.
The Next Available Professional
Companies say they're using an automated attendant to better route your call to the next "professional" who can best serve their bottom line, oops. I mean to serve you. What they're saying is, "To better serve you, please tell us how we can help:
I Apologize For Your Wait
If you finally get the "next professional" on the line, they've been trained to defuse your irritation and their disinterest with feigned minion-like profuse apologies for your wait, though it was probably because they relieved themselves in the bathroom while you were waiting. The representative answers with such self-effacing kowtowing that's just embarrassing enough to assuage your anger. You might even feel like apologizing for putting them in the unenviable position of lying prostrate at your feet. Me I'd rather kick 'em.
The Service Cost Center
Your call is NOT important to them. Your call has become a disturbance; it has become a bother, a nuisance, your request is now a line item in an income statement to show investors how efficient they are. Most companies count customer support as a cost to be slashed rather than a service that can be provided to bolster loyalty.
Unusually High Call Volume
"Unusually high call volume," my ass. Okay, when you're experiencing unusually high call volume every day for three and a half weeks in a row, can we still call it unusual?
It's time to start calling it what it is: bad management, ignorance, and disinterest.
Proper Customer Support
A long time ago I worked in customer support, on the telephone for eight hours a day, for the better part of five years. I learned a bit about customer service during that time. I learned about talk-time and ASA (Average Speed of Answer).
It was crucial we took each customer request seriously, and to make sure we answered each call quickly and to the best of our ability. We were measured on how well we resolved the issue rather than how long we spent on the phone. When ASA went up, we hired more people. When questions went unanswered, there was additional training.
That was proper customer service.
I have concluded, without a doubt, and you can quote me here:
"Automated Attendants are tools of the devil designed to impersonalize, denigrate, create confusion, promote inefficiency, and dash the unsuspecting human heart against the rocky shores of incompetence and disinterest. They allow a company to disguise their apathy and tell the most blatant lies. "
There, I've said it.
I feel much better now.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
Last weekend we spent some time on Magen's Bay Beach. It's been rated one of the top ten beaches in the world.
The reason I bring it up is we found a budding little artist on the beach. He was a bit young for me to plaster a photo of him on the internet. So, we'll let him be anonymous. I think he was about 10 years old. Let's call him Young Jake. I like the name, Young Jake.
This prolific little sand artist was impressive. At about ten years old I was still drawing stick figures, and my sandcastles looked like the buckets they came from - maybe.
Here is some of the work Young Jake left on the beach.
I love that he was out in the open making work for everybody to see and enjoy.
I'll bet he just thought he was playing. He worked diligently on his creations and always kept his attention on the task.
I think this kid might have a great future in the art world.
Sorry, he has no web locations.
Go out and make some art!
Everybody seems to have a smartphone nowadays. I think I've seen six-year-olds with smartphones.
Okay, I know not everybody has a smartphone (Brian, Peter, and Frederick you know who you are - though I know Frederick has a super cool real camera). I imagine if you're in my little artsy update audience you might have a smartphone, which has a camera.
It's funny how we still call them phones. They're more like a mini-computer that happen to make phone calls.
Though my smartphone camera does a pretty good job at almost everything like panoramas, videos, timelapse, slo-mo, zooms-in and out, I'm looking for a better camera because I like taking pictures and some things about my iPhone camera frustrate me.
Because I have a camera on me almost all the time, it's changed how I live my life, at least how I remember my life.
I've taken somewhere in the neighborhood of six billion (exact number about 16K) photographs with my phone.
I try to keep a diary of the things that I do from day to day by writing down things that happen during the day. Some days I write more than others. I wish I did it every day, but I don't.
I use a program called Evernote for my diary. For each entry, I add a couple of photos to the mix.
I use the photos as a reminder, as a touchstone for future reference. When I go back over my journal, as I often do, the pictures help me remember where I was and what I was doing.
As I ride that highway to addle-mindedness, I'll need all the help I can get.
A fancy new camera might help me take better quality photos but do I need that for the way I use the images?
Maybe a new camera can help me document my trek on the Appalachian Trail.
I've seen a lot of great videos from hikers on the trail, though I haven't seen any videos from a sexagenarian. I know there has to be some of us out there.
I've personally met people in their seventies on the trail. So it can be done.
But do I really want to have to carry a separate camera around? It's all about weight when you're "carrying a wardrobe on your back", as Bill Bryson mentioned in his book, A Walk In The Woods.
I think, for now, I'll stick with my iPhone and the camera that comes with it.
It does the job. I don't think I need a better one right now.
Right, now that I've come full circle and I've cleared that up for myself ...
Until we meet again, I wish you peace.
Let me introduce you to Gwenn Seemel.
She is a prolific artist and frequent YouTuber.
I love that she posts her videos in both French and English. I listen to the English version. Then I switch to the French version to see how much I can understand.
She has, what I think, is a unique style I like very much. Of course, I like it, I don't include anything I don't like - not yet anyway.
In her YouTube videos, she often explains her process and how the art market works for independent artists. Most of her videos talk about some part of the struggle of being an independent, full-time artist.
I find many of her videos insightful and helpful as I try to navigate how the art market works. I think you will like her artwork. I do.
You can find her online by clicking below.
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Sometimes I need a bit of motivation.
I need a bit of a boot up the backside.
Let's call my metaphorical boot - gratitude.
Life sometimes throws some horrible things at you. Atrocious stuff like somebody I had to fire yesterday and the emotional blowup/fallout everyone had to endure afterward around me.
There was the passing of my extraordinary father — what a great dad.
Sometimes I get in a funk, and I'm my own worst enemy.
These things are all part of life.
Then there are things like getting together with my friend Dale yesterday, whom I hadn't seen in years.
I got to play golf twice this week.
I got to spend two weeks with some good friends visiting from England.
So many things come my way unexpectedly and at just the right moment.
It's difficult to see how anybody could have planned my journey.
Let me tell you a little story.
When I was about 14 years old during the Age of Aquarius, when the moon was in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligned with Mars, my mother, God bless her, went out to an astrologist, probably after one too many Screwdrivers, to get a reading done on her number one son (and possibly his brother as well). What do the stars hold for their future? Where will they end up?
In that report were charts and graphs in triplicate (everything was done in triplicate in the 1970s, or it wasn't done at all). There were hieroglyphs, petroglyphs, moons, stars, and constellations rising and waning planets. It was more detailed than a D-Day battle plan with arrows, and cliches, ships, guns, and even euphemisms. It had all the trappings of a big ole “You bet your sweet bippy,” astrological report. It had lots of stuff in it, that to this day, I don't understand or even believe.
I was quite an insecure young man.
Fast forward about forty-five years and the predictions made in that forecast have been eerily accurate.
Honestly, I do think astrology is a lot of malarky. Maybe that report planted some seeds in my head to give me confidence and provide some kind of assurance that things would be okay.
Without getting all mystical and freaky, I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been placed on the planet where I was, in the right family, at the time, and in the body/mind, I occupy.
So, when I feel like crawling into bed with a bottle of whiskey and a wet blanket, I pull out my metaphorical boot, and I apply that boot generously to my backside.
Life - it's all we got, we gotta be grateful.
Until next week - I wish you peace.
This weekend we took a trip up to Prescott, AZ. Prescott has a beautiful downtown area. There were two places I visited that were particularly interesting.
The first was an outdoors outlet that sold all kinds of gear for the trail. Then, on our way in to have a beer at the famous Hotel St Michael on the corner of Gurley Street and Whiskey Row. Guests of the Hotel St. Michael have included great icons of the old west like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. Teddy Roosevelt and Zane Gray also stayed there. It has a real old time feel to it.
The complex that houses the hotel (110 S Montezuma St) houses the studio and gallery of Scot A. Weir. Scot's paintings captured my attention immediately and drew me into the shop. When I interrupted him, he was working on a canvas and talking with potential customers as they wandered in and out of the shop.
Scot was indulgent and humored me while I peppered him with questions. Far too many to put down on this little article. I didn't get hardly enough time to talk to him. I was with friends and I was summoned to move on. I'm sure he's glad they hurried me along.
Scot just recently moved to Prescott from Wyoming. His style of artwork fits the old west. His landscapes are stunning, and many of his paintings have a whimsical twist that I like very much.
His gallery is right in the middle of town, and his shop gets plenty of foot traffic. People were continually in and out of the shop, and he sold one of his original paintings while I was there. Congratulations Scot!
I can see why he's so successful, he puts his head down and get's on with the business. No fanfare, no hoopla, just a hard-working, exciting artist with a great eye, and what I thought was a good heart.
I hope to stay in touch with him.
If you want to see some of his work I'd suggest the following places online.
Sometimes you have to be wary of being a target. I don't know what list I got on over the last several months but my travel back to Arizona last week was a comedy of errors and inconveniences.
The ride to Heathrow was smooth as silk. Forty minutes down the A1 and M25 straight into Terminal 5. We whizzed down the highway in a way only my friend Peter can do without being pulled over. Though I don't relish leaving, it's so nice of him to give us a ride.
At the airport check-in and security was a breeze but frustrating nonetheless. The attendant couldn't check our bags through to their destination. We had to pick up our bags at Kennedy International and slog them via the Skytrain to the Delta counter.
We found ourselves with about two and a half hours to burn before the flight. We had to then take a shuttle out to B Gates because we flew out of Gate B65.
After sitting in a very crowded British Airways lounge until my backside was close to blistering, we were summoned to board. After the wait, I was looking forward to boarding and beginning the journey. The attendant at the gate attendant took my ticket, scrunched up her nose, and looked at me like I was from Mars or at least a refugee from some Greenlandish glacier. She said, "Mr. Attenborough, please, go with this gentleman for additional screening."
The security agent swabbed every bit of gear I was carrying on the plane, including me. At this point, I was wondering if my nitroglycerine tablets would set off some explosives monitor. It is, after all, an explosive.
I guess there were no WMDs found and they let me board the plane.
When we got to JFK more tedious screening was in store. Instead of going through the US Citizens' line I chose to go through the "everybody else" line with Andrea. She used to be able to go through the US Citizens line, but something must have changed recently.
Anyway, I got the third degree from the immigration officer wondering what I was doing out of the country. I would expect that from the UK Immigration but because I am a US Citizen I was surprised to be scrutinized so severely. I am coming back to my own country after all. Nevertheless, we were allowed to pass and moved on to Customs.
Oh My God, another bout of additional screening. Are you carrying any meat? Do you have any fruit or vegetables? Are you transporting marijuana? Are you bringing any narcotics into the country?
At this time I was wondering what list my name was on and why was it there?
I was tired, frustrated, and just a bit intimidated by all of the patdowns.
JFK has to be one of the most inconvenient and illogical airports. The Airtrain is a fair walk from the terminal, and as we breached the outer doors to walk across the road to the Skytrain, I was glad I put a sweater in my luggage, and I was wearing it now.
I had been worn down, subdued. I was resigned to my fate and stoically made my way to Terminal 2 to check in to Delta and drop off my bags.
Oh - an aside. When we first booked our flights we thought we allowed enough time to make our Delta connection. Then Delta moved their flight up an hour. We had to rearrange our onward flight resulting in me becoming a lounge lizard for another almost five hours at JFK.
You'd think that was the end of the story. But no, it gets more tiring and more frustrating as time went by.
We arrived at the Phoenix Airport - The friendliest airport by the way, and received a text message, "Your luggage has not arrived as expected." That's not the kind of message you want to get when you've been up almost twenty-four hours.
A little good news here. The luggage arrived on the previous flight and was waiting for us at the Delta counter. Whew!
We had arranged a shuttle to take us home. The problem was, according to the dispatcher, "There's been a lot of cancellations and delays, and it will be about half an hour until someone can pick you up." Unwelcome news.
The shuttle finally came. It was a bit quicker than the thirty minutes promised. I thought that was great.
We got in the van and headed home. As we were approaching the turnoff to our house, the driver announced that we were first going to drop off the other couple in the van — a round trip of an additional forty minutes after we passed our house. I was just about ready to lose it.
Alas, I was too tired. I was too worn out. I was just too, too, too everything.
When I got home, I told the driver there was no tip coming from me. I said, "You seem like a very nice man, but I am so angry right now there is no way I could fathom giving you a tip."
I was home. I was asleep shortly after that. Bad dreams and all I was so happy to be unconscious, undone, un-awake. It was good to be inspecting the insides of my eyelids.
The next day was the next day, and when the sun came up, I was relieved of my anger and angst. Things look brighter in the morning.
Obviously, the target above is not original artwork so here's one of my drawings to amuse and entertain you.
Until next week, I wish you smooth travels, and I wish you peace.
I love clouds and the sea, and I love seascape paintings. Janhendrik Dolsma is one of the best seascape painters I've discovered.
I've watched and bought his videos. I love his calm and settled demeanor. He's like a zen sky painter. I can watch him over and over again.
His skies, seas, and beaches are stunningly realistic and evocative. His clouds are amazing. You feel like you could walk right into one of his paintings.
Janhendrik is based in Groningen, Netherlands but displays his work in Germany, Taiwan, Spain, Belgium, and the UK. People all over the world purchase his work.
This video is of Dolsma working on his oil painting 'North Sea Breakers'. A process that took four weeks is boiled down to a nine-minute video.