Sunday, December 31, 2017

To Auld Lang Syne

The fire is dying, and a chill is taking over the room again. But I've got my love--and a hefty eggnog with Johnny Walker Red in it (thank you Todd)--to keep me warm. This great house with its masses of windows is impossible to keep warm when the temperatures drop below 30. Today, New Year's Eve, is our traditional day for watching movies. We have spent every New Year's Eve that we've been home for the past 22 years watching up to six movies. but not today. Dave and I did watch Hellboy tonight (brought on by our recent viewing of Guillermo de Toro's The Shape of Water), and we resolved to take a day soon where we can all veg out and watch our movies together.

Today I wrote SQL doc and worked with Jessie on her dresses. She's still on the gold ruffle on the white dress. Until she gets the ruffle done and the dress off the mannequin (it's pinned on with the ruffle), we're not going to be able to start the bodice of the blue gown. We have a pattern for the blue gown and the pattern should fit her model, but J wants to modify the bodice to make it strapless with stiff sleeves draped over the arms, and I'm thinking a back zipper would be better than a side zipper. But enough of sewing--I need to think of something else for awhile. No, not SQL either (although it felt good to knock out the rest of the aggregations pages for the reference section).

Everyone has their little superstitions, and I have always had one about dates with seven or eight in them. For me, seven is momentous, and eight is lucky. Momentous is like the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times". It's a rollercoaster of jumbled up big things. 2017 lived up to being a true seven year as we just closed our eyes and hung for dear life.

In 2017 I embarked on a great new friendship, had serious health issues, saw my beloved uncle married at last to my beautiful aunt, and entered into a new stage in my relationship with my daughter. There was upheaval and turmoil with the contractors. A botanical garden came into existence in our yard which is now inhabited by bees and fish. The glass studio in Atlanta sold and we moved everything in here. We put in a wood shop and started renting out the apartment. We didn't get the bathroom remodeled or the bedroom floors redone, but those will happen in time--we're not in a rush.

It feels like all the big changes we're going to do now are done. The year ends with a gentle exhalation, and the pop of one last low-burning ember. Outside I can hear the wind scream and howl (really), but we and our four-legged family are all snug inside. Sweet dreams one and all, and Happiest of New Years!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Switching to Tea

I have gone from rum to tea. My tea tonight is called Zen, and it's from Tazo. My child made it for me. It will be the last thing to touch my lips (save my spouse) before I drift off to sleep. Sleep, how I long for thee! I live in a sweatshop in the garment district of Austin--at least it feels like I do. But Jessie is working just as hard as I am, and I am so proud of her! She is staying positive and cheerful even though cold rooms (the fabric studio), and sewing--much less sewing all day--are not at all her things. She has also contracted my cold (as has Dave) so she's pretty pitiful.

Today on the Great Dress Front we had to completely redo the gold shoulder ruffle because we determined we needed a shoulder strap to sew it to, that it just wasn't going to support itself and stay together. J has been working on it since 10:30 this morning with a short break for lunch and a longer break for dinner and Jumanji at the Alamo Drafthouse (hey, all sewing and no movies make Jessie and Brenda dull girls). J also finalized the deep blue satin gown. I posted pics the other day of J's original design and the red gown gown she also liked for the sleeves. She really wanted big swooping curves along the bottom of the dress--as opposed to a bunch of little ripples. My best option for getting that kind of stiff curves was to put a stiff plastic cord or vinyl tubing all along the hem. She didn't like that idea. We found a a vintage Vogue pattern from 1957 at JoAnn Fabrics last night and she decided she wanted the skirt to go out like it did. I told her that effect was achieved with a crinoline. She said a crinoline sounded cool, but then I reminded her that if she made the skirt shorter in the front (she really wanted to see the gold lining) she would see the crinoline instead of the lining.

We went round and round on the design and she finally ended up with the sleeves and top of the gold gown above, and the skirt from the Vogue pattern at left--but extended all the way to the floor. The skirt is heavy deep blue satin with a soft gold satin lining. I had to go back to JoAnn's this afternoon and get several more yards of fabric as we barely had enough for the godets (the wide panels in the skirt between the front panel and the side panels and between the back panel and the side panels. They make the skirt a complete circle. Tonight I found a ballgown crinoline on Amazon (of course they have them!) with prime shipping and when it comes we're going to add gold netting to it (it's white).

 So at the end of it all, the skirt will almost be as big as the red one at right. I haven't sewn anything this big and extravagant since my wedding dress (and I'm thinking it paled in comparison--even with the lace bodice and the boning).

Friday, December 29, 2017

Why is The Rum Gone?

My daughter is making me an eggnog as I post. With rum. There was only a tiny bit left in the first bottle, the second bottle was empty, finally the third bottle had rum. Jessie's question was, "Geez, are you guys pirates?" Which led to to ask in my best Johnnie Depp voice, "Why is the rum gone?"

Day four of dressmaking is done, the first dress is not. We're closer! And farther away! Why is the rum gone? Tomorrow we're hitting the ground running like marines on the beach. We put together our plan of attack tonight, synchronized our watches, and at oh nine hundred tomorrow, the sewing begins. Before the sewing, however, is a run to Home Depot by Dave for a space heater to fill in for the split wall unit in the fiber studio that went on the fritz today. It was originally a screened in sunporch off the house and is not tied into the home HVAC system. It also has patio doors (six sets of them) on both long sides of the room which do not keep the heat in and the cold out well at all. On these 44 degree days, we'd freeze without a space heater.

Tomorrow, pictures of dresses. Please, God, plural dresses!


Thursday, December 28, 2017

It's a Strange Life

In two and a half weeks I am going to be a very happy person as I won't have anymore external deadlines. It's sort of like being retired to work at your own pace, and employed to work at someone else's. Right now I am definitely employed with two full-time jobs. Unfortunately I did not get the SQL documentation done for before a prior commitment--helping Jessie with her fashion show pieces--came due. Now I'm working on both (alternately) pretty much from when I get up in the morning till when I go to bed except for mealtimes and posting. Oh and showering. I am trying to stay hygienic through this difficult time. I am left with very little thought or energy for anything else. To finish up the poor pitiful me whine, I am still sick with the lousy cold I got last Tuesday on vacation. So I'm off to bed to dream of brocade vests and beaded trim waltzing with GROUP_CONCAT and SELECT *. While coughing in my sleep. Wish me well.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Haute Couturière

Either I don't bounce back as fast as I used to, or I'm really sick. Yesterday was better than today. Today I have mostly lost my voice, and I felt like death warmed over. I had a piano lesson at 9:00 (the first one in a month) and I tried to play my warm-up. I say tried, because I could play each hand separately, but when I tried playing hands together, I sounded like I was learning chopsticks. My brain was all all fuzzy. After piano I worked for a bit with Dave on the SQL documentation, and I felt like the entire time I just sat there and looked at him with a bemused look on my face.

Then it was time to sew. And it went surprisingly well! A couple of hours into the process we decided we really needed to line the dress. So while J practiced piano and had her lesson, I ran to the fabric store and picked up lining and boning. As I was paying, the sales clerk said, "Oh you're not 55 so this won't help you", and when I informed her I was 56 she gave a 20% off everything coupon for Joann Fabrics on January 3. Hey ho, my first official senior's discount!

 When I got home and we got back to sewing, J cut out the lining and the dress, added the dart lines, sewed the lining pieces together and almost sewed the dress pieces together--all before dinner. Tomorrow we make the final decision on to bone or not to bone (the model wearing the dress has a 32" bust, a 25" waist, and 30" hips--I don't know how much structural support she's actually going to need), and we sew the lining to the dress. Then come the zipper and the gold flounces/ruffles. I don't know quite what to call them as ruffles is too frilly a word, and flounce is too floppy. These puppies are going to be wired up and have some serious structure. I don't want to take this dress too far as my dressmaker's form has 35" hips so the dress is already too big for the model and we'll probably have to take it in. If we wait until the lining is all sewn in it'll be a helluva job to size it down. I hope J will be able to try it on the model first thing next week so we'll have time to resize it.

In a perfect world we'll start the second dress tomorrow. J made some modifications to her original design now that she has learned a bit more about the form and structure of clothes--and what makes them stay on the body without scotch tape. Now she wants something more like the top of the dress on the right. In blue satin. She's surely learning to sew on the hard stuff! And the model for this one has a 36" bust and a 27" waist. She's going to need some support...

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

I Put on a New Hat

Today my cold is much improved--and none too soon as today began a new creative endeavor for me. Well it's not my creative endeavor exactly, it's my daughter Jessie's. She decided for some strange reason to participate in the art department's fashion show this year. I am still puzzled as to what inspired this fantastical adventure, but we're on it now! I get that she likes to draw models with fancy haute couture clothes. But she doesn't sew. She made a pair of pajama bottoms in middle school and hated it. Now she's not only signed up to do the designing, but also the pattern making, sewing, embellishing and fitting of two evening gowns. In a week. With no one to help but me and You Tube. Thank heaven for You Tube! How did we learn before it? Sure you have to sift through the chaff, but there's plenty of wheat to be found.

I grew up sewing. My Mom made all of her and my clothes and a good portion of my father's. But my Mom never had a dressmaker's form so I never learned how to use one. I learned how to sew with pre-made patterns. You picked the pattern, you picked the material. You laid it out, cut it, and sewed it together following the instructions. Almost nothing i ever made fit the way it should have or turned out looking as I had envisioned it. Probably because I never made the connection between what my hands were doing and why they were doing it. I just followed the instructions, I didn't try to understand why they were written as they were. I learned to cook the some way. I followed directions without questioning the reason for each step. I never tasted as I was cooking, and I didn't try on as I was sewing. It's no wonder I wasn't very good at either.

As I've gotten older I am more inclined to color outside the lines. When I decided to make my wedding dress I went looking for a pattern, but I couldn't find anything I liked. However I found the top I liked on one pattern and the skirt on another. My mom said she would help me combine them, and then she also did all the hand sewing on the heavy lace for the bodice and sleeves. A few years later, the first time we moved to Austin, I bought a dressmaker's form and made a long, formal gown of bronze and black raw silk. It was stunning, and the learning process bumped my clothier skills up a notch. Now I am very conscious of what I am doing each step of the way through a process and why. And it's a good thing too as nothing I've done is anything compared to this first lovely swan dive of my daughter's.

She is creating off of nothing but a sketch that was a vision in her head, and she's going to turn out a fitted garment for a model to wear on the runway... Breathtakingly audacious. SO how did we begin? We got a dressmaker's form and started draping a dress. At the end of the day we have pretty much refined our first stab at  draping a pattern (we draped, we turned it into a paper pattern, we cut out the dress from sample fabric and sewed it up, and now we're repinning it and refining the lines. Tomorrow the goal is to complete the white brocade sheath and start on the gold ruffly shoulder and and trim around the bottom. Oh yes, and maybe to start beading the band for the neckline...

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas to All! Christmas is better without a cold. Today for me was all about napping, and hot tea, and keeping the fire going. It was a lovely day. Now I'm going to finish watching the Hogfather with the family (couldn't make it all the way through last night) and trundle off to bed for a very full week to come.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, we're back in the house.
All the creatures are snuggled up tight on the couch.
The child's wrapping presents in the laundry room now,
To put under the tree in hopes we'll say WOW!
I made a big fire, so I'm glad that it's cold, 
The size of this fireplace never gets old!
Lasagna and champagne for dinner tonight,
and watching Hogfather by low firelight.
Tradition is always a wonderful thing,
But this year we won't watch the Lord of the Rings.
As trilogies go it is really quite good,
But my butt would go numb if I sat still that long.
It's obvious now I'm all out of rhymes,
So to bed I go, it's long past the time.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Just Right

No matter how long or short vacation is, it's just the right amount of time. By the night before we go home I'm ready. For the last night Dave played in the Hold 'Em finals tournament, we had left-over lobster in the buffet for dinner, and J and I watched Dunkirk on the big screen out by the pool. You could tell we weren't in the Caribbean anymore it was so cold. I wore a sweater and still had to swaddle in four deck towels. J remarked (several times) that Dunkirk seemed like an awfully odd film to show on a ship. After all, all those ships sinking. I think only Titanic and the Poseidon Adventure would be worse.

Now all that's left is packing. And another night of hacking and coughing. I tried to buy Nyquil at the general store and they were sold out. Tell you anything about how many sick people are on this ship?

Friday, December 22, 2017

Gambling... Again

So I posted yesterday that gambling is kind of like watching paint dry, or something equally negative, but I had a different experience tonight. Turns out I should just stick with blackjack. Craps is too fast for me to play well. I need the time it takes the dealer to lay out everyone's cards one at a time to process my play. I also need to be seated fourth or farther down the table so I don't have to decide first. With those caveats, blackjack is a fine game. I played a bit tonight and after I had 2.27 times my original stake in front of me, I cashed in and walked away. It was a far cry from my walk of shame back to the room last night. Tomorrow is the spouse's big gambling day as he has the Hold 'Em finals tournament at 9:00 pm. Prize? Free cabin on a cruise next December for the cruiseline-wide finals and a chance to win $100,000. Now my eyes are drooping and it's time to submit to my coldmeds and sleep.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Craps is Not For Me

At the end of a two-trip-long experiment, I have determined that gambling is not for me. I used to like blackjack--and I still do to some extent--but as entertaining as it is, it's not worth the cost of playing in a commercial venue. And as much as I love Zaga (and love watching her win consistently), playing craps is the same. It's fun, but I'd rather spend the money on some other form of entertainment because as sure as goddess made little green apples, the money will disappear when I play.

Outside of busting out at craps, I spent the day working on doc and trying to get over the cold I picked up on Day 1. I heard tonight that there are 91 people with the flu on the ship. That's over 2% of the ship's guest population, a number that seems pretty significant to me. Of course I don't know if that's diagnosed instances--in which case the actual number could be quite a bit higher--or even just speculation. The ship IS a floating petri dish after all, and they are not being nearly as aggressive with making everyone use the antibacterial gel at the entrance to the buffet as they should be. We don't have it as bad as the two Royal Caribbean ships in the past few weeks which had outbreaks of norovirus, but, hey, there are two more days left on the ship. Anything can happen!

Tomorrow, Cozumel for some and more doc writing for me--along with several hours with the J doing whatever she wants to do (arcade games, Johnny Rockets for burgers and shakes, the water slides and pool, just hanging, whatever!). Tonight, my eyelids. G'night all, sweet dreams (and no bedbugs).

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

I Made Chocolate!

The port at Roatán
Today was our day in Roatán, Honduras, and it was also the only departure we're going to make fro the ship for the duration. After rising and breaking our fast at the buffet this morning, our group split into two and Jessie and Zaga went to see the sloths and then do some snorkeling on the reef, and Dan, Dave and I went to the botanical garden for a hands-on chocolate making demonstration.

To get to the gardens we had to cram our large American bodies onto a small Japanese bus. I was unfortunate enough to get the seat over the wheels so my legroom was non-existent. I put my feet on top of the wheel housing with my chin to my knees and off we went. After our arrival at the Carambola Botanical Gardens, we took a walk up to the covered outdoor teaching area (good thing too as it rained in the middle of the demo) passing by cashew, mango, coconut, and cocoa trees. The cocoa tree is very interesting as it only grows 7-10 feet tall, and the fruit is born on the trunk--not the end of the branches. Flowers come out of the trunk, and after they're pollinated they turn into pods or fruit about the size of an oval baseball or softball and they just hang there on the side of the tree. When they are ripe they turn yellow and they will ripen on the tree or off.

Once they're ripe, the natives cut through the thin skins (much like you do with a pomegranate) and crack them open. The seeds, or beans, are covered with a white, slimy goop that the natives like to eat. When ripe it's supposed to taste like a sweetish citrus. The one we tried today wasn't quite ripe so the white was firm and pretty bland. After the beans are removed from the ripe fruit, they are fermented on banana leaves for about a week. After the fermentation is finished, the beans are roasted. We started our process today with roasted beans.

Cocoa fruit growing off the trunk of the tree
Our native demonstrator was a grandmother who has made chocolate all her life. She requested two volunteers and I made sure I was one. She reheated the roasted beans in a dry skillet until they began popping like corn, and then we took them and removed the papery skin coating on them. Apparently the skins are boiled ot make a great relaxing tea. After all of our beans were peeled, we took a hand-crnaked grnder which was clamped to the table, and we put the beans through it. This point in the process was another continuity break for us as the beans (now called cocoa nibs since they're out of their skins) are run through the grinder up to 19 times to turn them into paste. To save time, we did the first grind on one batch and the last grind on another that had been prepared for us.

Then we added melted cocoa butter and powdered sugar to the bowl of chocolate paste and set it in a bowl of water on the stove. The goal is to take it to 122 degrees F, but their cooking thermometer was broken so our demonstrator just told us when it was done by looking at it. After heating, the bowl of paste is put into an ice water bath and the chocolate is stirred until it's cooled and stiffer (but still moving). Then it's heated one more time before being poured into molds. This process of heating, cooling, and reheating is called tempering, and it prevents the cocoa fat from separating out, prevents the greyish bloom, and gives the finished chocolate its dark, even, glossy color.

We didn't add anything to our chocolate, but if we had wanted milk chocolate we would have added powered or condensed milk after the first heating, and nuts after the second heating right before pouring. We finished by pouring the chocolate into candy molds to cool. The cooling process takes 40 minutes so, after a lovely lunch of chicken with rice and beans cooked in coconut milk, and plantain chips, we were given some of the chocolate from a previous class that was already chilled. Then we piled back onto the bus and headed the short distance back to the pier. The rest of the day was spent napping and relaxing. It was incredible.

I know it didn't happen unless there are pictures so tomorrow I hope to have pics of me making chocolate!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Things to Take on a Cruise

In my normal blithe fashion, I approached this trip with an if-I-forget-to-pack-it-I-can-always-buy-it attitude. Hah. So this post serves both as a cautionary tale and as a list for me for next time.

This ship may cruise from the US, but it's a European ship and almost all of the electrical outlets (except for the two in your stateroom) are European. If you plan to spend extensive time on a laptop, say, writing SQL doc, you should bring an adapter. We have several, I just didn't think of it. We only found two US-style outlets onboard, and they were't in places you'd choose to sit for an extended period of time.

Sunglasses and sunscreen seem like an obvious item for the list, but I managed to forget them. While I could buy them onboard, my thrifty heart refuses to pay the vig. So I stay out of the sun and squint a lot.

Last, and most important for the aging population, I brought my daily meds (of course), but I did not bring a full pharmacopeia. Alka Seltzer--never leave home without it. At 3:00 am I woke with the worst heartburn EVER and when I rummaged through my toiletries bag I discovered there was no Alka Seltzer. So I dressed and toddled down to the promenade shops. They were, of course, all closed. So I went to the front desk and rousted the clerk from the back. No they didn't have antacids, but I might could get them from the vending machine in the medical area on deck one. But the vending machine only takes quarters. The desk clerk helpfully offered to change money to give me quarters, but I didn't have any cash,  just my seapass. Apparently the only transaction that can't be done on your seapass is getting quarters for the vending machine for medications.

I didn't want to go through getting quarters if they didn't even have antacids so before going to my room for cash, I headed to the the morgue, er, medical wing on deck 1. The bottom of the ship. There is a morgue, it's located next to the medical office. There I was, on deck 1 at 3:00 am next to the ship's morgue. If the zombie apocalypse was going to start on the ship I was surely poised to be its first victim. There were no zombies, but there were antacids and an Alka-Seltzer-like fizzy tablet, so I trooped back up to my room on deck 7 and got a couple of dollars to change for quarters, then back to deck 5 for change, then back to deck 1 for meds, then back to deck 7 to drop exhaustedly into bed while swearing never to forget the Alka Seltzer again!

Another entry in the pharmacopeia never to leave home without is colds meds--Dayquil, Nyquil, Chloraseptic, and cough drops. Dayquil and Nyquil can be found in the general store for ruinous prices, but Chloraseptic and cough drops arenot to be found. Zaga and Dan, of course, were fully prepared so I got Dayquil and Nyquil from them. Zaga also carries Oragel for tooth ache. I would add Alleve, heavy-duty pain meds, and Imodium just to cover all the bases.

Last, but not least, though it is ubiquitous throughout the ship, I would carry my own little refillable bottle of hand sanitizer hanging from my lanyard wth my seapass. On a floating petri dish there's no such thing as too much hand sanitizer.

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Festive Ship!

The one sure thing about being on a show with a few thousand other people is that the Internet will be slow. And difficult. And finicky. Yeah, yeah. I get that the point of going on a cruise is to unplug and turn off, but I still want to blog. I am in the home stretch of blogging for 365 straight days (with a little bit of wiggle-room). I also need to work on my SQL doc tomorrow 'cause I sure didn't today! 

Tonight on the ship was a formal night (none of us participated) and people really went all out. There was one group of men who all had wonderful Christmas suits. I asked the two gentlemen at right if I could take their picture and they were happy to oblige. What fantastic suits!

Today was all about food, and drink, and gambling. Dave entered the first hold 'em tournament of the cruise and won! He now advances to the finals on Saturday. Dan, Zaga and I entered the first black-jack tournament and Dan won his round, but lost the finals today. That tournament only went seven hands per round so it wasn't just about winning, but winning big, fast. Then Z and I sat down at a regular blackjack table and we both were up very nicely from our stakes when we left the table. That was all before 5:00 pm...

After dinner Dan, Z, and I headed back to the casino for a few hands of blackjack (we had a table all to ourselves) and then Z and I went off to (finally!) play craps. It was the first time today the table was open. I threw a really long streak, and Z and I both walked away from the craps table up even more! Jessie ice-skated during the teen skate tonight and Dave and I watched, then we went for family ice cream (I watched them have ice cream and had one spoonful of J's). 

Now we're back in the room and it's time for lights out. Tomorrow another fun day at sea. At 19-23 miles per hour, it takes a heck of a long time to get to Honduras from Texas. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Day 1 on the High Seas: It's Not Really Cheating

Yesterday was Day 1 of our cruise to Roatán Honduras. As D, J and I are all sharing a (very small) room, there was no way to stay up and post last night without keeping everyone else awake so I deferred till this morning knowing I can back-date. It's not really cheating as the post is about yesterday...

The key to a successful cruise departure is to get to the port an hour before sailing because by that time all the lines are gone and you can pretty much walk right on, to reserve your special dinners and buy all your beverage and wi-fi packages in advance so you don't need to struggle through the crowds to do that when you arrive, and to take a carry-on with a recreational devices. Then you get an adult beverage from the bar, take it to your stateroom and sit out on your balcony enjoying it while the ship gets underway. We succeeded at some, failed at most. I'll know better next time.

The best part of the day for me was the mystery theatre dinner. The main action took place in a lounge before the dinner and Dave was selected for audience participation by having the mob guy's floozy sit in his lap, play with his hair, and call him Bob. Repeatedly. Then we went to the Italian restaurant on the ship and had a wonderful meal family style while trying to figure out who done it (and watching "Sally" fondle "Bob" some more).

When we got back to the room we had an interesting shock: Instead of having a pull-out bed for Jessie, there is a bunk bed that comes out of the ceiling over the top of our bed. What 16 year-old do you know who would like to sleep right about her snoring parents? The J opted to take the pillows and the bedding from the bunk bed and to sleep on the couch. Poor thing, When I got up this morning she was asleep on the couch with pillow under one ear and over the other. At breakfast she confirmed I snored VERY LOUDLY. I'm going to try to find her earplugs today.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Packing and Preparing

I guess I should have seen it coming. It was an intense week following a previous intense week, and the result was that I fell asleep during Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark tonight. It's not even that late. But I fell asleep, I was caught out by my family, and now we're all headed to bed. Tomorrow a post from Galveston. Tonight, the inside of my eyelids.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Day Five and You're Out!

And my intense work week at has come to an end. I haven't finished the writing yet, but it'll be done before we get back from vacation. Better still,  I am finally comfortable that it's going well. While it has been a good experience, I do not feel compelled to run out and find myself another corporate job. is the best of the best and an incredible place to work, but I need to make cheese now.

Tonight as we were sitting in the great room winding down from work I asked Dave if he was still looking for a Christmas present for me. He asked what I had in mind and I pointed him to this urban cheese making kit I found at the Grommet. I had been eyeing it for a couple of days and it was available today with free shipping. He said no. No! He said I don't need any more hobbies. I said, but it's cheese! Speaking of cheese, I haven't heard anything from my sister-in-law on the package I sent her. UPS said it was delivered today. I'm not taking it as a good sign that she hasn't called...

Tomorrow is all about cleaning for the house and pet sitter, packing for vacation, the bills I didn't get around to paying last weekend, looking in on the bees who have been on their own for weeks now, depositing the checks that have languished for up to a month, and communication with glass clients about their orders. It's also going to be a day for getting my laptop all tricked out so I can continue to run queries and document SQL while on a boat in the middle of the Caribbean. It's a hard job, but someone has to do it!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Day Four: Kicking Butt and Taking Names

The day picked up where the night of incoherence and fatigue left off. But in between the two was a good solid night's sleep with no four am wake-up calls to let out dogs. They either didn't need to go out, or they peed in the front hall. Frankly I don't care which. Sleep was more important last night.

Today began with putting together all the gift baskets for my secret pals and loading them into the car. Then I had a short ceramics class--I had three pieces that had been bisque-fired that I needed to glaze and that was all I did for class today. Because I finished in ceramics early I was able to get in to Discount Tire and get two new tires before I had to pick up Jessie from school. She had early dismissal today because of finals and she was released at one. I dropped off my secret pal gifts in the office, met J at the car, and took her for a quick Micky D's lunch before running her home and then hying myself to for another afternoon of doc writing. Names were taken, butts were kicked.

It's ten pm, and I'm still coherent. I consider today a win. Tomorrow I will be at d.w all day. No interruptions. No breaks. No time off for good behavior. I don't know how far I'll get on the docs, but I know it won't be as far as I want. I can't complain though--this has been a pretty great fall for accomplishing things on time and under budget (where budget is applicable). There are a few things on my to-do list that I really should get to before heading off on the high seas, but there is nothing urgent that can't wait till the week after Christmas. Or later--that week is scheduled to be The Week Of High Fashion and Sewing... the arrival of 2018 is actually going to be a relief.

As I previously mentioned, I mailed all my Christmas gifts the other day, and now I am on tenterhooks waiting for my sister-in-law's gift to get to her. I thought it was a brilliant gift idea and I spent a lot of time, effort, and care on it. But now that it's off in the mail, I can't help but think she's going to open it and say, "What was she thinking?". I can't go into detail now because I don't want to give the surprise away in case she reads this post, but suffice it to say that the the first indication there might be a problem was when Dave and I got into his car at the end of the day on Tuesday (the packages has been in the car all day) and drove the packages to the post office and UPS for shipping. We both kept asking each other, "What's that smell?", and we finally figured out it was Jan's present. When we got to the post office I took the set of packages for there in and dropped them off, then I carried Jan's box next door to UPS and dropped it off. When I got back to the car Dave was appalled that I had actually mailed it. I don't know what he thought I was going to do, open it? It was meticulously packed and needed to be shipped then in order not to spend a weekend in transit (the contents are perishable, don't ya know). And I'm sure most of them are fine. But it was a bit smelly. I called her today to let her know it was on the way and to advise her to open it right away. And maybe outside.

Okay, bedtime for all good little boys and girls and me.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Day... Three?

Time begins to go by in a hazy blur... a blurry haze... a fuzzy something. Today random people at the company had meetings with me to talk over parts of the project I'm working on. I almost felt important! That didn't come out right, but I'm not sure how to reword it.

I have just rewritten this paragraph four times--each one with a different topic--because every time I wrote a bit, meandering along a path, until I couldn't remember where I was going and what I was doing with that hand basket. so I started over. Three times. I am so tired, I'm not even going to attempt something coherent tonight. G'Night, Sweet Dreams! is the best I can manage.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Day Two: Life is Complicated

It's a sad state of affairs when you are looking forward to going on vacation so that you can get in uninterrupted work... I to for the entire day today hoping that proximity to genius would make my brain spin faster. My brain, however, chugged along at its normal pace and I found myself inordinately distracted by the conversations and goings on around me. *sigh* Tomorrow I take headphones. I did have a lot of fun, however, asking Dave questions on Slack, and if he didn't answer me in what I considered was a timely enough fashion (immediately), I would lean a bit to the left and pointedly stare at him waggling my eyebrows until he took the hint. More seriously, it was also good to be there to participate in project meetings and to do more meta-data brainstorming. My biggest take-away from the meetings and the day was that shipping on time is the most important thing I can do, and "on-time" means before the end of the year. Sadly I keep coming up with bits and bobs of expansions that would greatly improve the end result, (exercises, for example), but there is no coming up with more time. My time is already restricted as I have to spend the week between Christmas and New Year's helping Jessie (teaching her how) to create her fashion show pieces.

We'll see what I can do with the rest of this week. I cleared everything but my last ceramics class Thursday morning (and getting new tires on the minivan) off of my schedule for the week, and I shipped the glass orders and all the Christmas presents I had to mail today. I'll wrap our Christmas presents and stocking stuffers when we get back on Christmas Eve, and I'll clean the apartment in the morning on Boxing Day before our guest arrives. Somehow it will all work out, and I WILL get a vacation and all the rest and relaxation that comes with one, and I WILL meet all my deadlines. Dave is most insistent that I get a vacation as when Momma isn't happy, nobody's happy.

Happiness tonight is going to bed so my spouse can stroke my back while I fall asleep. He's a keeper!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Day One Down

Ever have one of those days when you're just not that smart? You find yourself making basic errors well-below your level of knowledge and experience, and you can't seem to grasp even low-level concepts. I had that day today. It was supposed to be a solid writing day--and I put in the time--but I ended it with one page written. I think. Maybe I wrote another. I don't know. I don't know if I wrote it completely last Friday (or whenever Dave was helping me write complex SQL queries to join the tables in my dataset), or if I only started it then and mostly wrote it today. *sigh* I feel my brains leaking out my ears as I sit here. Tomorrow I'm going in to the office all day and I hope I absorb smartness and savvy from the air and people around me. And tamales. Apparently the office orders lunch in on Tuesday and it's tamale day.

On fronts other than writing, however, it was a solid (if somewhat lethargic) day. I worked out. I packed two glass shipments that I will mail tomorrow. I packed three Christmas packages also to go out tomorrow. I didn't make it through the bills, but I will hang the stockings by the chimney with care now, and then I'll head off to clean up dog pee on my way to bed. Thank you Baxter.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

I Gird My Loins For the Week To Come

Because we'll be on vacation next week, this is the week before Christmas for me. Everything that needs to be purchased, wrapped, packed, mailed, or delivered must be done before Friday. My tech writing gig must be almost finished. My glass orders must ship. And my normal, full life must occur simultaneously including working out, taking the dogs to the dog park, going to ceramics class, taking a piano lesson, and dealing with home repairs (a water leak from the second floor bathroom). There are bills to be paid, new tires to acquire, prescriptions for refill, and a car to go in for service before taking it on a long drive. And there are five days. Five. I am not counting Saturday right now as it's going to be a catch-whatever's-left day. Breathe. Don't chase the squirrels. Don't go down the rabbit holes. Don't get stuck on the hamster wheel (also known as squirrel-caging). I think Dave's worried about me. But he shouldn't be, for I have list!

Tonight we saw The Shape of Water, and it was every bit as wonderful as I had hoped it would be. Too often a movie with a seemingly  beautiful, complex story in previews is rendered banal, trite or shallow as a full feature film due to poor writing, poor acting, poor direction, or a combination of the above. As with Three Billboards--my other recent favorite--everything about this movie is perfect. Del Toro is hands down my favorite director working today. One of the things I love most about his films is his intentional attention to color.

The following is from an interview he did did with the folks at Loot Crate:

"For our readers who are studying film, or are interested in filmmaking: What are the universal aspects of your craft that you feel apply to everything you do, whether it’s a period love story like this or a big, futuristic action film like Pacific Rim?

Well, the same very, very careful and minute color-coding, texture and shape coding, the same impulse… to use audio-visual language to tell the story, other than just the screenplay. [The type of] dramturgy that you can share with theater and TV, you can use to tell the very language of film, and tell the story. When we color-code we do so for content, you know? Not for looks. We assign each color in the palette a specific reason to be there.  For example, in The Shape of Water, blues and cyans are [Elisa’s] apartment, because she’s a creature of the water. Every other living space – Zelda, Giles, Strickland – all of them are color coded for daylight, in ambers, oranges, yellows. They immediately exude daylight. We use green for the future, very pointedly, even in the dialogue. And then we use red for love and cinema: Only for the theater seats, the theater door, and her clothing once they fall in love. And I could walk you through a very different use of the same colors for example in Crimson Peak: red signifies the past, the warm colors are for America, the cool colors are for the old world.

Are there films, or even artists, that have used a similar strong approach to color or light that you feel influenced you in a big way?

The moment I felt it gelled was very early on when I was a kid, I read an interview with Fellini. He said, very pointedly, “When I went from black and white to color, I wanted to make color tell the story. I wanted it to count for something.” And I thought, that’s true, and the same applies to light, color, texture, everything.  Every time you’re using an audio-visual grammar, there are directors that use it almost in a casual way, and there are those that use it in a painterly way. And when I say “painterly,” I don’t mean “pleasant.” But actually, as part of the energy of the painting. If you have a sunset by Van Gogh, and a sunset by Turner, and a sunset by a classical painter, they will be completely different, and they could be depicting the same moment. The thickness of the paint, the boldness of the stroke… the color palette they use. They are read in a way that we don’t read film, but I try to write it in that way. I try to write it in a painterly way."

Such a beautiful movie and one that I know I'll see more details in the next time I watch it. Makes me think I want to pick Crimson Peak as one of my choices for our New Year's Eve movie fest this year...

Saturday, December 09, 2017

I Write SQL, Therefore I Am

There was more to this beautiful day than the writing of SQL queries, but that is what occupied my time for the past couple of hours. I took three years worth of the raw intake and outcome data from Austin Animal Center--a no kill shelter here in Austin--and put it up as a dataset in my workspace on From there I wrote some queries (with help from my spouse as a SQL refresher) that I'll use to make new tables, and the documentation I'm writing for will go against this dataset. What does it say about you when you rush through your day (laundry, delivering a loom, Christmas presents and decorating, and making glass for orders) so that you can finally get on the computer and play with SQL? I'm honestly finding it as addictive as I did Diablo when I first started playing it. (Whatever happened to...?)

This is the last weekend at home before we go on vacation so I'm trying to get the house ready for the house sitter, the apartment ready for the renter, and Christmas presents ready for us so I don't have to wrap everything on Christmas Eve when we get back. This week is my big push for the tech-writing gig and I really want to do the minimum possible on non-writing activities during the day. But the dogs need to go to the dog park, bills need to be paid, orders need shipped, I need to work-out (I know, right?). It's a very needy week.

Before I dissolve into a whiny, needy, little puddle, I'm going to hie myself off to bed. I'll work more tomorrow.

Friday, December 08, 2017

End of Day, End of Week

It's already after 10:00! Where do the days go? I have been really enjoying working for in my contract writing gig. Today I went in for much of the day and had my own desk in an empty office. Next week I'll go in some more and take over an unused desk in the data pen next to one big brain and across from another. I'm getting sharper and smarter through osmosis.

Today the snow melted here--though temps are still in the mid 30's--and new snow dumped on Atlanta. Winter has us in his icy grasp. Guess I won't be looking in on the bees till it warms up a bit.

Tomorrow is a glass, home admin, and Christmas day. I have three orders to get out, presents to order (sadly not make) and ship, and bills to pay. It's like I was a regular 9-5 person home for the weekend's chores!

Now, after this excruciatingly brief post, I'm off to snuggle the spouse under a big down comforter.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

And Now We Have Snow!

 It has been a very long, very full day. The way this tech writing gig has worked over the past couple of days is that I get in an hour or so in the morning, a couple three hours in the afternoon, and then three four hours after dinner. It gets me a decent number of hours (especially given that I haven't had any full writing days yet), but I am pretty wound up by bedtime after the hours of intensely focused work. Tomorrow is the first full, uninterrupted, otherwise-unscheduled, writing day and I am looking forward to it. Much of my first day was spent installing software, getting accounts set-up, and beginning the organizational process. I also did a lot of concept review. Yesterday I didn't feel like I made much headway, but today I finalized the structure I'm using for the docs, the meta data, and the individual page format. Now I feel like I'm moving forward on the real meat of the writing.

Enough about work though. The real topic of interest tonight is snow! I have seen snow in Atlanta, and ice in Austin, but I have never seen fluffy white snow on the ground in Austin before. Dave said our botanical garden in the snowy night is beautiful, but I didn't make it out to see it--too busy writing. In typical southern fashion, school is closed tomorrow and Dave's company is suggesting employees stay home in the morning until the risk of icy roads is past. So we'll all be cozy together. We had a big fire tonight to celebrate winter and snow, and I think I'll go ahead and have one going all day tomorrow. There aren't that many times here where a roaring fire is more than decorative, but we're in one now.

Speaking of time, it's time to make my way under the down comforter so visions of SQL can dance in my head.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

It Rained All Day

What's with all the rain? I don't have a rain gauge up, but it didn't stop raining all day. Seriously. It rained heavily all last night and it's still raining now. That's a lot of water!

I spent another day slaving over a hot laptop... well at least part of another day. The rest was spent working on learning a skill (piano lesson), being healthy (working out), and being a good parent (having lunch with my child and taking her out after school to photograph architecture for her photography class assignment). Tomorrow I have more time to devote to writing so I can get past the first page hump.

A first page doesn't seem like much, but when you are learning a new writing platform and tweaking your outline for the rest of the doc, a lot else gets done along with the first page. Tomorrow will see me writing example queries against my test database and finishing the format for the next major set of pages. My goal is to get through all of the Basic material by the end of the week. I doubt if I can finish Intermediate, Advanced and Reference by the end of next week, but I need something to do while we're on vacation besides relax and have fun!

Speaking of relaxing... Tonight gets another short post and I'm off to bed.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Exhilarated and Terrified

'Tis a night fit neither for man nor beast. The rain is sheeting off the roof and the wind is blowing it hard against the windows. The storm is both exhilarating and a bit terrifying--much like my new contract job at Data.World. This morning I got a Mode account and used it to review the Mode SQL tutorial, and I also got a GitHub account. At 1:00 pm I attended the kick-off meeting for the project and signed a six-page independent contractor agreement. When I got home from the meeting (3:00), I added Data.World to my heretofore unused Slack account, installed and configured Atom (per the website, a hackable text editor for the 21st century), and added a new Data.World shared board to my Trello account. I even started writing the first doc! All that was before dinner. After dinner I wrote the complete outline and hierarchical structure for all the docs--really delving into what I need to write to successfully complete my contract. I am simultaneously exhilarated and terrified. I don't have any doubt that I can do it. My only question is, can I do it to my (and Dave's) standards before the end of the month?

Now it's after 11:30 and my head is spinning from so much writing. I have to go put it on a pillow. In a dark room. Next to a spouse. (Mine).

Monday, December 04, 2017

Let the Day Begin...

...let the day begin, let the day... start. But not this minute as it's 10:00 at night. (This is another listen-along post: play the video below while you read.) When the day does begin, it will be with a new chapter in my book of life. Tomorrow I start a career as a full-time, contract, technical writer! Oh it's not a long contract--only a couple of weeks--but if it goes well, I can see myself eventually taking on more contract writing. I'm not quitting glass anytime soon--or giving up on my other creative pursuits and projects--but it's time to take writing out for a spin again.

Today we (Dee, Todd and I) unloaded the minivan after the weekend's art festival and then I took it one step further and vacuumed it out since all the removable furniture (including the center console) was out. Then it was time to take them to the airport so they could fly home to Atlanta. My afternoon was spent curled up with an old romance novel I first read in the 1970's by Kathleen Woodiwiss and a nap. I gave myself an afternoon off--free from cleaning, bills, email, or work of any kind. It felt great, and now I'm recharged to start anew.

The art festival was a really good experience, and all that remains is a wrap-up meeting and sending an evaluation form to all the artists and vendors. All in all it went much more smoothly than it had any right to--and it was because there were a lot of parents and students volunteering to help out. Students set up and broke down the cafeteria, unloaded and reloaded artists' cars, and worked the Students Making Films table taking donations, and selling food tickets and bottled water. Meredith, Carlotta and Kim did graphic design, Facebook and Twitter feeds, Jason managed all the set-up and show logistics, and Ken wrangled musicians and student volunteers. The show would have failed without them. We also had all the other parents who signed up to work shifts at the table with the students. I'll admit it--I overstaffed. But I figured it was better for students to be a bit bored for a couple of hours than for the patrons or artists to have  long wait for service. I have had first hand experience of just how bad things can get when a show is not properly staffed and logistics is run badly (and not just for one year--can anyone say Chicago Tardis?).

So now to bed, but eager to Let the Day Begin tomorrow.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Peace On Earth, Goodwill Toward Men

A Fair of the Art is over! It was a good weekend, and a good experience, but I'm ready to get back to normal life. The food vendors were not as happy as they could have been--they had a pretty bad show. One of them only did yesterday, the cotton candy vendor didn't come back today either, and the face painter never showed up at all. Nor did she let me know she wasn't coming Nor did she reply to my email and text messages asking her where she was. I was polite, but unless she had a major emergency, her behavior was pretty bad. All the artists I spoke to had mostly good things to say about their experience. Now it's all over but for the artist evaluations and the wrap-up meeting.

Tomorrow I am declaring a day of rest and doing nothing more than unloading the van, taking Dee and Todd to the airport, and firing a kiln load of glass. As I look at that list it doesn't seem like much of a day off after all... But it's what I'm going to get as I start a new tech-writing gig for two weeks on Tuesday. Yep, that's right I am trying out a new profession, and if I like it, I'm going to expand on it! The only thing I'm not thrilled about is that it is going to have an impact on what I do for Christmas. I had a bunch of presents I was going to make for family, and now it's going to be tough to find time.

I could have made Christmas in the evening, but I found out last night from my child that her designs for the fashion show were to be finished by last Thursday. We just went and bought the fabric today. I also coaxed out of her that the girl she was partnering with did her own designs and sewing. Originally the deal was that Jessie would design and the other girl would sew. Guess who's doing the sewing now (and before December 13th)?

The first dress is a form-fitted white brocade sheath with large gold ruffles over one shoulder and around the hem and a beaded band around the top. Like this one, but fancier, and sleeveless.

The second is a v-necked, sleeveless blue satin with a gold lining under the skirt and a stiff interfacing in the skirt. It's somewhat like this red one, but has shoulders and a beaded lace shawl (which also needs to be made).

I don't have a pattern for either of these dresses--I have sketch. A couple of sketches, and a week and a half. This is going to be a challenging project! Then there is the men's suit she needs to make as the last piece in her collection. We're going to do it next, or her work partner is going to have to do that one for her.

Now I drag myself to bed and hope for ten straight hours of sleep.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Live From A Fair Of the Art!

It was a lovely afternoon at McCallum High School and a great day for everyone to come out and buy ART! The emerging artists at the festival were so cute I just wanted to hug all of them. I did some mentoring, I did some shopping (from all of them). It was a good day. The only down note came when I discovered that I had put the wrong hours on the website (!). I had 10-4 Saturday and 11-5 Sunday. Thanks to this faux pas, Meredith had the wrong time on the poster, and I had the wrong time on the postcard. Oy. So we left it up to individual artists and vendors as to whether they left at 4:00 or stayed till 5:00. They split about 50/50, but everyone was gone by 4:45.

Organizing a show is an incredibly difficult endeavor--especially with only two months from conception to inception. I was awake at 4:00 and and had to get up and take my phone into the bathroom so I wouldn't wake Dave and I could add things to my list of all the things I needed to take and do today. Tomorrow will be a much more low-key day. I'll take Jessie shopping for her Fashion Show project fabric tomorrow morning before heading to the At Festival. There is another project I have just added to my plate and that is seamstress for my daughter's two fancy dresses for the Art Department Fashion Show in January. Jessie designed two dresses, and other girl on her team is supposed to sew them. I have a feeling I might be picking up that slack a bit.

I would love to write more both about the art festival and about the fashion show project, but I have already fallen asleep 3-4 times during the course of writing this post. So I'll do a recap tomorrow of all the new and wonderful projects!

Friday, December 01, 2017

'Twas the Night Before the Art Fair...

...and all through the house, all the creatures were drinking, even the mouse. The scotch it was flowing... Okay done rhyming, back to drinking. Dee has wine, Todd has scotch, Dave has scotch, I have scotch, and Jessie has diet coke. It was a hard day in the Griffith household--and Todd and I still aren't set up. Got to be back at 7:00 am tomorrow to finish and be ready for the masses of public who will undoubtedly swarm the doors starting at 10:00. Except that all of McCallum is going to San Antonio tomorrow for the football game. Apparently the McCallum Knights are 12-0 for the season and the last time that happened was around 1966. Back then when they were 12-0 they played the same San Antonio team they're playing tomorrow. Let's hope there are plenty of other people in Austin who need art and are coming to shop tomorrow. And those McCallum people better show up Sunday!

Scotch in bed is my next step. I take it now...

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Loooong Day

The synthesis of my day came at 2:30 when Dee texted me to let me know she and Todd had landed (they flew in for the art fair this weekend) and I wrote back that they couldn't have landed because they weren't due in till 5:00. Her response? "You are such a hot mess this week". Yep. Yep I am. I am juggling lots and lots of stuff--not all of it having to do with the art fair. Christmas is coming, I start an intense two-week technical-writing gig next week, and then we head out of town for the week before Christmas. Hot mess is probably putting it kindly. On the other hand, I am still consistently throwing the best pottery I have ever done, and I no longer have the fear that's it's accidental and I'm going to wake up and not be able to do it again. I can finally feel the clay--not feel the sensation of the clay in it's state of inertia, but actually feel the intention of the clay and know where and how to move my fingers to make it do what I want. It's a heady feeling.

Tomorrow I get up and unpack all the work I moved from Atlanta and the work that Todd recently made and shipped here. Then we'll go through it and decide what to take to the festival this weekend. Then we'll dig through everything to find display furniture and maybe stands and table cloths. At some point we're going to have to price it. And I should probably have business cards. Oh fan me, I feel another hot mess coming on.

Though I am a bit embarrassed that recently the blog entries are barely longer than Facebook posts (and some of them could almost be tweets), I am nonetheless to tired to write more. I need some ice water and to crash next to my already snoring spouse. Tomorrow will be killer.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Christmas Season is Officially Here

The tree is trimmed, Christmas music is on rotation for the next four weeks, and tomorrow the stockings will be hung by the chimney with care. Tomorrow the lights go up around the windows too--and Dee and Todd arrive to do A Fair of the Art! I am very excited to see them both and to do a little festival again. I haven't even unpacked all the work I moved from Atlanta yet so I'm not sure what all I'm going to sell, but I know I have plenty! And Todd shipped me three boxes of wire and glass so we are set there too.

Tomorrow is also ceramics class--we didn't have one last week due to Thanksgiving, and I missed it sorely. I have a Christmas present or two in process--and I still hold out hope for finding the rice bowl I made Jessie for her birthday, oh, quite some time ago. I understand it can take a long time to fire pieces, but come on! It's been almost two months since I put it in for the glaze firing! The school has a very clear No Production Work policy, but there are definitely people who are making quantities of pieces to sell. It's very frustrating for those of us who only make a couple of pieces a week--at best--to not have our work fired because some people have way more than their fair share of the kiln space. I know I sound whiny, but I made that piece last spring and put it in to glaze the second week of last session so I'd have it in plenty of time for Jessie's birthday the first of November, and it still hasn't come out. I hope the one or two Christmas presents I made can actually get fired in time.

I can't believe it's already 11:00! The Barenaked Ladies are singing Three Ships, and that is a good place to end the night. Peace on earth, goodwill towards all.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

I Have Done What I Can

I have Liked, I have retweeted, I have updated the Featured Artist on the website. I have sent out booth numbers and requests for load-in times to artists. I have monitored the sign-up sheets for volunteers to make sure we're covered there. I have communicated with food vendors. I have done all I can do--including making my own art!--to get ready for this weekend.

Today was a beautiful day here--sunny, cool, a light breeze. In short, it was perfect studio weather so I succumbed to the urge and made glass. I filled the two larger kilns with pieces for Todd to wrap, and I'll do it again tomorrow. I wish he were staying longer so I could put his little fingers to work and get a bunch of new pieces to photograph and launch before the winter markets. If we're going to do this whole not-do-shows thing we really need to get the website working for us! Maybe I can get him to stay just 2-3 more days. I could send him home Thursday and have a LOT of new glass work to put up.

But for now, I keep my nose to the art fair grindstone, and I look forward to this weekend being over.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Austin City Limits Taping

I think you're not supposed to take pictures of the musicians,
but I just couldn't resist this shot of the lights above the stage.
I was fortunate to be invited to be a friend's guest at the Austin City Limits taping of Dan Auerbach tonight, and it was amazing. At one point he was joined on stage for a couple of songs by an older black man wearing black leather pants, a long, black leather duster, black cowboy boots, a black leather cowboy hat, and dark sunglasses. He was wearing a shirt too, and it was nice, but the rest of his ensemble was extraordinary. And then he sang. He had the most beautiful voice! I wish I had caught his name. It's not on the program. Man oh man, he rocked those leather pants! And his voice! He really had personal style and charisma, and he had the audience howling for more.

The rest of today was pedestrian in comparison. I took the child to school. I got a B-12 shot. I worked out. I took the child to lunch. I swept the floor. I worked on A Fair of the Art. Some days are like that. And some nights are like tonight--great Italian food and live music with a friend.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Thing of Beauty

A few days ago I posted that I had had an epiphany about what constitutes art. Tonight I went to see Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri with my spouse. I am so overwhelmed with the sheer beauty and artistry of that movie that I am compelled to finally put virtual pen to virtual paper about art.

Some people might claim that something is "art" because it evokes an emotional response in the viewer. It isn't about beauty, it's about the message and the visceral reaction. There is a scene in the Square where a floor cleaner accidentally sweeps up some gravel that is part of an exhibition made up of piles of gravel on the floor. The message that goes with the exhibition is that "you have nothing". Okay, fine. The artist had an idea that (s)he wanted to convey about the superficiality of our consumption-based lives or some such. And it might be a valid message. And the piles of gravel might be thought-provoking. But it's not art. An article in the Telegraph about the film just after it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year mentions the same scene and ties it to real-life:

"In one scene of the film, a cleaner sweeps away an art installation by West's character.

It echoes a real-life event in 2001, when an installation by Damien Hirst was thrown away by a cleaner at the Eyestorm gallery, London, who had mistaken the piles of full ashtrays, empty beer bottles and newspapers were the remnants of a party the night before."

Yeah, okay. ashtrays, beer bottles and newspapers arranged artistically are not art. They can be (and probably were intended to be in that instance) artistically arranged to maximize the statement--but that still doesn't make the installation art.

So what makes art? I believe that in art you can see the anima, the spirit force, the soul of the artist peeking through. There is something of the artist in the art--something more than a message. An installation can be as slick and polished as wet marble in its presentation, but that doesn't make it art. In fact the whole notion of an installation flies in the face of art to me.

And yet there was art in the movie The Square. It wasn't all mocking of modern art. The protagonist was a man who clearly believed passionately that the installations in the museum were art. He was sincere in his attitude that the art was in the presentation of the message. But a statement alone, a message alone is not art. Art can make a statement, but there has to be some art there, not just the statement. The movie was art--it had soul and life and humor and pathos. It made a statement about art in an artistic way.

Three Billboards is also a piece of art. The acting, the direction, the script, the music was all beautifully interwoven. I'm listening to Just Walk Away Renee by the Four Tops (one of the most powerful musical pieces in the film--and that's saying a lot as it's up against Townes Vandt and a beautiful operatic piece) right now as I write. I don't know if the movie has a message per se, but it pulls your heart from your body. It's one of those rare movies in which almost everyone is flawed, but you really care about them and can relate to them all anyway. In the course of writing this post I have watched the trailer below three times--and I just saw the movie. Soul. Anima. Art.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Today I am a Web Master

I have spent entirely too much time on the computer today to do a post now. I reworked the entire A Fair of the Art website in preparation for the event itself next weekend, and I am really pleased with it. I left the applications up, but I will take those links off-line tomorrow. I also slipped the new Siyeh Studio website up last week with no fanfare. I don't know if email is working (a good thing to have, email)but the rest of it is up and functional for now. Tomorrow is soon enough to talk about the upcoming holidays and their decorative impact on our abode.

G'Night All!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Friday Was Not Black Here

I did shop today, but it was to buy a wreath and a couple of red chili swags from a lady and her son in a pick-up on the side of the road. I did not enter a store. In other shopping news, we didn't get around to buying a Christmas tree, but I'm going to roust everyone out of bed in the morning so we can beat the crowds and get one tomorrow. And that's enough about shopping.

This past week has been a time of profound thought for me, but my thoughts haven't done more than swirl around in my head and peek out a bit in my writing. I'm not sure if it's that I'm still processing them, or if I'm just too tired to reformulate them coherently at the end of each full day, but I need to get at least a couple of them out before they fade back into obscurity. The first big one is that I am finally able to articulate why I don't think piles of gravel arranged on the floor in a grid, or an led light cable put into paving stones (both in the movie The Square) are art--even though they might be in an art museum and have a fancy artist statement behind them. I have also (finally) fully synced my mind with both my body and my anima, and it is not only the most liberating feeling, but it also affects my every interaction with people around me.

Both of these streams of thought and the resultant realizations are worth exploring here on virtual paper. Tonight, however, is not the night. Maybe I'll post earlier tomorrow. I wish I weren't so tired and the spouse weren't waiting for me, but I am and he is. I wish I had time to puzzle through that last grammatical construction a bit more (subjunctive in English) as he weren't feels much more awkward to me that I weren't, but I believe both are correct.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

This lovely day began with leaving Las Vegas, and though I was sad to leave friends old and new, I was glad to get back to the bosom of my family. We shared a lovely meal with three generations of friends, and are home ready to snuggle into bed. I didn't go wild on the cheese plate--I teetered on the verge, but I pulled myself back and served about half of what I got (which was still way too much). It was appreciated, and I anticipate many evenings of cheese and gaming in the coming weeks. The spouse is calling (figuratively), and I must go.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and to all a good night!

Austin Bound

Last night in Las Vegas, heading back home for a family Thanksgiving before dawn has even cracked tomorrow. It was a good day, it was a good trip. I was somewhat reluctant to come (even though it was a big thing to get the invitation) because I was hesitant to leave my family right before the holidays. But this trip was an unexpected growth experience for me. On it I returned to my jubilant younger years when I loved to meet people and socialize and spend time with them. I contrast this pre-Thanksgiving time with last year's ore-Christmas time (the holiday party for Dave's company) and it's not just night and day, it's a different time stream. Last year I remember not wanting to talk to anyone and going off to basically hide in a corner while my husband trooped up to sing karaoke with everyone else. Talk about a reversal of roles! This year (this trip) I was enthused to meet new people, learn their stories, probe their ideas, experiences and philosophies, and to share mine with them. It's hard to reconcile myself then and now as being the same person.

So now I go home to my family whom I missed a lot even as I was having fun, and to socializing again--this time with known friends. Thanks to the past couple of days, I feel much more confident in my ability to enjoy it and not stress out. Thank you Zaga-Jackie for inviting me on this marvelous adventure!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Las Vegas Love or Hate

If someone asks you what you think about Des Moines Iowa, you may or may not have an opinion. But everyone, it seems, has an opinion about Las Vegas--and a strong opinion at that. There are many things about Las Vegas that I dislike, but also many things I really like. What I like most about Vegas is the humanity. This is a sybaritic town devoted to enjoyment and pleasure so the majority of the people who live and work here are in a service industry. All around you all day are waiters, receptionists, store clerks, dealers in the casinos, valets, housekeeping personnel, and a host of others working day and night to make sure we visitors have a good experience. What I have noticed the most this visit is how happy and friendly the vast majority of them are. Maybe it's where we're going and what we're doing (craps seems like a very happy game for the most part), but the dealers last night all went out of their way to help Gina and me learn craps--even reminding us to place specific bets and to turn some of our bets off at certain points in the play. All of our waiters, receptionists, store clerks, spa personnel--everyone, in short--has been smiling and friendly. This is not a place where the surly make it. The other people you trip over everywhere are the tourists. I could happily sit and people-watch here all day. This is the world's great melting pot with all races, ages, and sexes represented.

I could talk about the disproportionate number of homeless people and drug addicts here. I could focus on the extravagant waste of water and resources that go to support this town in the desert. Both of those are real, but so is the contented joy of the people I have interacted with over the past day and a half. There is a good side to Las Vegas, and I am enjoying it to the fullest for these few days. I wish I weren't so happily exhausted because I could make a much more compelling case, but my eyelids have closed so so must the laptop. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Viva Las Vegas!

It's 9:00 pm, we have been tucked up in our adjoining rooms for at least a half hour, and I am going to do a quick post before closing my eyes for the night. I am in Vegas till Thursday morning with my friend/neighbor Zaga and a bunch of her friends. Tonight was just Zaga, another friend of hers from Boulder, and I. We hit the buffet about 4:30 for dinner, and then went into the casino to play some craps. Zaga already spent an evening teaching Jessie and me the rudiments of craps so I could maneuver my way around a little. I must say it was exciting! I got to throw the dice a couple of times and the first time I had a really long streak. I managed to throw an all small roll and there were two people betting on it. It pays 34:1 so I was pretty popular for a moment!

Back in the room I took this picture of the bathroom. Directly in front of me at the end of the tub is a window that looks out into the main room and then out the window to the Strip in the distance. To the right _in the middle of the mirror_ is a television! In the mirror! The shower is behind the glass door ahead front left, and the toilet is in another glass-doored room just opposite the shower. What incredible luxury. I can't help but be impressed.

But back to craps. I like craps. I know that it has the worst odds for players and is considered by many to be a sucker's game, but it's great entertainment when a shooter is on fire and everyone is betting on lots of different numbers and combinations. I won a ton tonight on hard six and a couple of times on hard eight (two three's and two four's). I love the way everyone at the table cheers for each other and gets into the superstitions of betting and rolling. Tomorrow I'm going to take my $3 in winnings out for a spin. I even have a marquee card which the casino uses to track how much you play in order to decide who should get comped rooms and meals. We're in comped rooms now--thank you Zaga!

Now sleep before more food, drink, gambling, and excess.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Friends Around the Table

There are few things as satisfying as welcoming friends into your home who have traveled a long way, feeding them, and providing them a cozy place to stay. Tonight we were so privileged as to have four wonderful people from Atlanta arrive at our door on their way west to the Grand Canyon for Thanksgiving. It has been so long since we've had such a lively crew sitting around the table laughing and sharing stories and wine over a good meal. Tomorrow morning they are off for a 10 am showing of Justice League at the Alamo Drafthouse, and I leave for Las Vegas before they get back. But I'll see them for breakfast. Jessie is going with them to the movie even though she's already seen it.

So Las Vegas! I have been invited by Zaga to join a small, eclectic, dynamic, opinionated group of women on their annual Las Vegas Thanksgiving revelry. I'm only staying till Thanksgiving morning and then coming home for the rest of the holiday with the family, but I have a feeling the three days I'm there are going to be a wild ride.

For Thanksgiving my spouse asked me to curate a cheese and charcuterie plate to take over to some friends' house for dinner. I may have gone a bit over board. I have 19 kinds of cheese, three kinds of thinly sliced smoked meat, two kinds of sausage--duck and wild boar, two pâtés, three fruit spreads, three kinds of pears, two kinds of apples, four kinds of olives, three preparations of almonds (including marcone almonds in honey), three kinds of crackers, pumpkin seeds, ginormous grapes, and a pomegranate. I think there are six adults and four kids. We'll be having another games night/party (or five) (or ten) with the leftovers.

As I think of how to layout this marvelous spread of munchies, I picture a 7 feet long 2 X 12 plank of some interesting wood (maybe blue pine!) that runs the length of a dining room table and has a beautiful inlay pattern in it. Everything would be laid out on the plank and would meander the length of the table. Oh that would be so cool! But not this time. At least not for the inlay...

Saturday, November 18, 2017

I Was So Tired I Forgot a Title!

What a beautiful, windy, fall day! I have lots of windows open, and I wish I could have the door in the jewelry studio (greenhouse) open, but the cats are hanging here with me and I don't want Pavlova to develop a hankering for outside.

For those of you who have heard and been curious about my neighbor/friend Zaga, now you can see her for yourself! She was interviewed on ABC this morning about her customizable children's book "The Adventures of Princess Insert-Name-Here" That's me and Gallifrey on the right. (Okay, "I". "That is I". Ultimately though it may be grammatically correct, it still sounds pompous. However "That's Gallifrey and I sounds fine--and is also grammatically correct so I guess I should have just used that construction instead of meandering down this obscure path.)

After a quiet evening at home playing Five Tribes again, then watching a really good movie (Predestination with Ethan Hawke) and eating an incredible cheese and meat platter (again) for dinner, it's time to go to bed. I actually just dozed off for a second sitting up on the couch with a cat in my lap, and when I woke up there was a line of periods (like this: ............................................)  after the word "Bed". Must. Close. Eyelids.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Oppressive Weight of the Holidays

The week has ended. Today is truly a TGIF day. I love Saturday because it's an everybody's-home day and it feels like we start with a blank slate. For me Saturday is both the end of the week (because you feel like you get to enjoy yourself after finishing a hard week) and the beginning of it (because the hard week is in the past and it's all green grass and high tides forever in front of you).

Next week is not a normal week. It's Thanksgiving week. The week of giving thanks for all our many blessings. It's also a time when we make too much food that we couldn't possibly eat in a week of Sundays, some of us shop till we drop, and others of us begin the Christmas decorating. It is the beginning of the most stressful season of the year. It's a season full of excess--in fact it epitomizes excess: Excess in eating, drinking, spending, decorating, and celebrating. This year I dread it. I don't feel physically well enough for the ordained whirlwind--especially with all the restrictions I am discovering I have with eating and drinking. And yet I also don't want to give up the traditions I have held onto from my family--many of which involve excess. It's a conundrum.

Tomorrow the family needs to sit down and put together a plan for what we're going to do... no, that's wrong. The family is not the problem--I am. So here's my plan. Here's what I'm going to do. We have been invited by friends for Thanksgiving. Dave will cook a little, but we'll keep it low-key, and our fridge (and ourselves) will not be overstuffed at the end of the day. We'll get our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, and trim it and decorate the house on Saturday. What we get done Saturday is what all we'll do and the boxes will be put away until it's time to take it all down. There will not be what seems to be unending decorating for Christmas. I will pick a thoughtful gift or two for those I love over the next couple of weeks, and then I will stop. I won't keep frenziedly buying right up through Christmas Eve. None of us need more STUFF. I'm not going to try to make everyone something from my hands.

I don't have to make this stressful for me or anyone else. Let's see if I can stick to that resolution.

P.S.--The workout wth the trainer went GREAT today! I'll see her again next Friday. After getting the Christmas tree.