Friday, March 27, 2015

Daffodils Are Important

Daffodils Are Important

My Dentist has this thing about daffodils.  Locally, every Spring, there is something called the “Daffodil Festival”.  It’s a local thing – like the “Artichoke Festival” in Castroville, California.  Or the “Corn Festival” in Hayes, Kansas.  Other than these celebrations of specific plants, sometimes animals – like the “Oyster Festival” in a neighboring town – there would no reason whatever, to go to, or even stop except maybe to get gas, in these hamlets of rural integrity.

As you would be driving along through most states, small towns like ours are not even an exit.  Seriously, there is no designation of on the Interstate that my town is even on the planet.  You have to get off on a state highway to find the first sign to take you to a county road to take you to a rural road to get here.  But every year we go nuts for our very special daffodils.

And we do have daffodils.  By the ton, by the woodsy fields and fields of daffodils.  There is no need to plant them.  If anyone has every stuck one daffodil bulb in the ground, give them a few years and they are popping up like bamboo in the Amazon.

They are extremely eye-popping yellow, have a cute sort of design – a cuplet in the middle with radiating perpendicular petals.  Pretty.  Not like beeyootiful, like maybe orchids or tulips or roses.  But very cute.  Kind of humble.  Like a button nose little girl with freckles. 

So what does this festival entail?  About a thousand paintings, watercolors, drawings and photographs of – say it together – daffodils.  Booths lining the town’s main street, which is easy to find, not only because it is pretty much the towns only well paved road, but because it is named “Main Street”.  Each booth with a singular artist’s unique interpretation of the daffodil.  Considering the daffodil comes in two varieties; big yellow ones and small yellow ones, there is not a great deal of true uniqueness each artist can throw at the subject.

Now, I realize there will be some folks out there who will say, “Hey daffodils can come in a yellow middle and white petals around it, or vice versa.”  Actually, in rural Virginia this is not true.  All we have here are the all yellow ones.  SO butt outta my blog on that one.

What I like and must say is the most important thing about daffodils, is that they do come up and blossom every year as almost the first evidence of Spring.  Like today, it is raining the temperature is clammy cold and it is raining a solid rain.  Everything everywhere you look is still dirty winter gray-brown and mostly winter dead.  In short – today is a depressing day.  Really I-have-had-enough-of-this-shit day.  I NEED Spring day.

Yesterday evening I heard crickets going at full volume and this morning, driving into town – daffodils!  Daffodils everywhere.  Beautiful little jewels of color splattered amongst all the dead gray and brown of late Winter and early Spring.

Every time I visit my Dentist I see how much she loves Daffodils by all the posters and paintings she buys every year at the “Daffodil Festival”.  This Artwork hangs on every available wall in every patient room in her clinic, including the waiting room.
When I am having my teeth cleaned or a filling done, I am staring at daffodils.  When I have been having a root canal, of which I have had several, in her clinic, I am forced to stare at daffodils.  No matter what season I am in one of her chairs in her clinic, I AM STARING AT FUCKING DAFFODILS!

So I will not say I hate daffodils, because my dentist tends to shove them in my face all the time – when I am stressed and in pain.  And, I cannot say I love them because they are a wonderful harbinger Spring.  But I kind of must say, if you are a person who tends to be influenced a great deal by real depression, they are pretty important.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pants, Socks and the Guy Next To Me

Pants, Socks and the Guy Next To Me

So in my last blog I talked about Traveling Companions; or, important stuff I always take with me when traveling (if that’s not obvious).  I sort of mentioned socks, but I didn’t get into pants.

Pants are pretty important, unless you’re going some where not wearing pants is legal.  I am sure there are such places, but I have never really looked into it.  Florida? Scandinavia (in the summer)?  My favorite, a marvelous invention, are the ones where the legs zip off, giving a person the option of transferring to shorts … if the day gets hot.  And then, like a miracle, back to pants in the evening when all the mosquitos and other flying nightmares arrive.

However my favorite pants are classic, plain old blue jeans, or jeans as is the modern lexicon.  Jeans are tough, don’t show dirt easily and these days can be worn with formal impunity almost anywhere.  Since the zip-off pants/shorts tend to have cargo pockets, which tend to fill up with an amazing amount detritus (stuff), they are not that comfortable on airplanes and can be a hassle to empty out all that stuff (once again) when going through the TSA.  Plus I have found the zippers halfway up your leg tend to chafe when stuck sitting on an airplane for five to twenty hours.

Now since jeans are cotton and bulky, like cotton t-shirts, how do you avoid the overloaded luggage syndrome?  You wear them.  They can’t overstuff your bag if they are on your butt.  When I get to where I am going, I carefully hang them up and only use them for the return trip.  If I am continuing on by rented car, or some such land mode, where I do have to squeeze them back into my luggage, it doesn’t matter as much because the bag doesn’t have to be jammed into the overhead.

That overhead compartment is a big complaint of mine.  On some airlines you couldn’t get a shaving kit in there. (Or, make-up bag … really small thing?  Whatever?)  And there are a lot of overhead pigs, or people who spend half the passenger loading time trying to push a manatee sized sack of shit into a skinny compartment where it is obviously never going to go.  Then the stewardess, or steward, has to climb over everybody stacked up behind this idiot in the aisle and politely, ever so politely, ask if they could tag the manatee and have it put in the cargo hold.

You can just see the look on the airline steward(ess) face, “Jeez, every fuckin’ flight!  Some jerk just won’t listen to the boarding announcements!  Which they say about a hundred fucking times!  Big bags are NOT going to fit in THIS aircraft overheads!!!.” 

I NEVER check baggage, after having it lost a bunch of times or waiting at the baggage check for an hour for it to come whanging down the conveyor while my wife or conscripted friend has to circle around the arrival road about a hundred times.  Airport cop angrily waving at them to move on every thirty seconds.
So pants are zip-off miracle fiber pants/shorts and jeans.

Socks.  Socks are tricky.  Best avoided when and where possible.  But to get through TSA you have to be wearing socks – even if you are a woman (unless you are a woman who really doesn’t mind dirty – with god knows what grunge is on the floor on her feet.)  Men just can’t get away with it.  That really is a nasty look.  Socks through the flying stages.  Oh and taking your shoes off after sitting down on the airplane is only okay if you’re wearing socks.

What kind of socks?  Nylon, polyester, more miracle fiber.  Never cotton.  Cotton will droop, smell bad and never dry out.  Now colors – fortunately white is no longer the only option, or black either.  Lots of really cool choices these days.  I take advantage of that.  Red, blue, green, stripes, checks, whatever.  My new thing is to not care if they match.  A third of them get lost in the sock laundry paranormal alternate universe anyway.  Not half, but a third.  Half would make sense and be symmetrically workable, but it seems to be a non-symmetrical mathematical function.  So who cares, it happens to everybody.

I just think, “What are you looking at my feet for anyway?”  It’s like I don’t know if women actually do try to go through TSA barefoot.  I never really looked or cared to notice.  I do think I’d have noticed if a man tried to do that, “Now that’s gross.” Going through my mind.

This is once again long enough, I’ll get to “The Guy Sitting Next To Me” next time.

Thanks for reading along.  Really, thanks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Traveling Companions

Traveling Companions

There are a few things I always take when I’m traveling, which I seem to do a lot these days.

I always take a ton of my own tea.  We seem to be living in a world of coffee.  Coffee is available in two hundred and fifteen flavours with frothed toppings and a dozen or two drizzles … chocolate bits, added caffeine.  Or, half the caffeine, three quarters caffeine, just a teeny-itsy bit of caffeine, or even, yes it’s true, no caffeine.
Coffee is available in sizes from way-too-much to you-have-to-kidding.  Bladder busting, ADHD inducing to full on brain coma overload.

Years ago I discovered that my own bladder did not like coffee.  I liked it, but for some unique reason every time I drank it, I had to spend the better part of my day finding men’s rooms.  One cup = five trips to the bathroom for a drop of urine each trip.  It was beyond enduring.  After innumerable trips to the Doctor, including specialists like Urologists and Allergists, thousands of dollars, dozens of very uncomfortable brands of probing – they found nothing.

So, just on a hunch, I gave up coffee.  It just took a couple weeks of skull squeezing headaches and I got off the stuff.  Poof – all the bladder problems went away.  I mean, just gone.  I found I could drink all the tea I wanted, just no coffee!  So I haven’t had any coffee for going on twenty years.  But I have to have my tea!  And I have found in many hotel rooms and even many coffee shops, they don’t have tea.  None.
And, they look at me like I’m some kind of unicorn for even asking for it.

Which is annoying.

So now, I lay out my stuff for traveling and I always include a zip-lock bag of tea, lots of it.  Oddly enough in Central America, they always have hot tea everywhere, but they always put two tea bags in a small cup.  Which makes it way too strong and bitter, so I have to take one of the bags out right away and then they look at me like I am loco.  Plus they always want to dump a kilo of azucar in it.

Next, I always take, and wear almost exclusively, miracle fiber safari shirts.  These are some kind of nylon, Dacron, polyester (I really don’t know) with the mosquito repellent nature.  I tried t-shirts for many years, but t-shirts, especially cotton ones, got dirty easily, had no pockets (need a lot of pockets when traveling) and couldn’t be squashed down very much (too bulky).  It’s amazing how much room a cotton t-shirt can take up in an overhead size bag.  Plus when it gets wet, it’s like wearing a beach towel.

My safari shirts squash down to nothing, unwrinkled quickly, can be washed right in the shower and dry the next morning – even in high humidity – and look good enough for a casual dinner out.

Underwear and socks are a given; that is one pair per day up to five pairs.  After that plan on more shower laundry.  And take camping cake soap.  Liquid soap the TSA will confiscate.

Always, always, always try to get a toenail clipper through.  TSA might take it, but if they don’t, it’s worth the hassle.  Nothing worse than blisters and hot spots on your feet during the middle of a hike up a volcano because of toenails that are too long – even a tiny bit too long can be nearly crippling from hard hiking.

Just to be sure though, I always take the time before I leave to check all my nails, fingers and toes, to get them cut as close and correctly as I can.  Just in case my clipper is taken away.  I always do this after a long shower or bath, when my nails are soft.  This avoids splitting and rough ends.

Good quality flip-flops are essential for when the day of walking is over.  Gives the ole footsies a chance to breathe and stretch out the toesy-wossies.  Flip-flops can be like heaven on the footsies in the evening.   And they take up very little room and they can double as slippers.  Cheap, plastic crappy flip-flops are just torture devices.  Don’t bother.  Gotta be good ones, broken in, trusty ones you know well.

I also make sure my hair and beard are trimmed as close as possible before leaving.  Haircuts, etc. are always a gamble when traveling.  Sometimes, tragic. 

I always take a high quality non-electric toothbrush.  I’ve had a battery powered toothbrush go off in my luggage and in an airport that grr-rrr-rrr-rrr sound coming from your luggage is not a sound that promotes a happy ending. 

Then an extra pair of glasses and sunglasses.  I have lost good glasses in cabs, busses, hotels and B&B’s all over this country and a couple others.  I got hit in the face with a rock in Barcelona (somebody didn’t like Germans – I am often mistaken for German – for some weird reason).  This fun welcome broke my glasses and I did not have a spare pair.  I saw a lot of Spain peering through the telescopic lens of my camera.

I generally buy a new hat when I get where I’m going.  For one, as just a cheap chotchky to remember the trip, but also it saves luggage space.  For the trip home, I chuck out one of the dirty pair of socks or underwear to make room for the hat. 

In the next blog on Traveling Companions, I will go over my techno list; since now we all carry so much of that stuff.  That is computers and other gizmos we can’t live without these days.

Thanks for reading and your subscriptions.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Obsessive Compulsive Resistance

Obsessive Compulsive Resistance

My students who are learning to design objects with Computer Aided Design (or CAD) software are, of course, focused on cars.  Right now – and it does bother me – the only kids who seem to be attracted to getting into this kind of really technical mathematical and engineering type of subject are boys.

I can’t get very many girls to take up the challenge.  But that’s only temporary, I believe.  When it comes to the 2D digital Art, the girls are just as good, or better than many of the boys.  So eventually it will not be matter according to gender.  It’s just that right now, in the beginning of this course, all they want to do are cars.

Teen age boys think about two things generally – girls … and CARS.  Now this software is complex and functions in two complexes of x,y & z and Δx,Δy & Δz.  In brief, this means that everything a designer does, exists as far as the computer is concerned in full 3D.  It is very real to the computer.  We’re talking Tron here.  Xbox worlds.  It is totally safe, but it is not flat and finger painting – to me, like PhotoShop. 

It’s fairly easy to put together primitive blocks and carve them, in CAD, like soap.  That’s what I call it – carving soap.  Once they get done carving the outside as a primitive glop of shapes.  I require them to hollow it out and work out the interior.
When you can dig into your brain and get enough of the skills with this programming to take root, something else begins to happen.  The world of 3D design and creation becomes almost godlike.  Soon enough you are making, what your brain thinks, is real.

The whole involvement becomes nearly an addiction.  It’s worse, I think, than video games or social networking websites (FaceBook, etc.)  For the young men (boys), they can create their total fantasy car.  A chick magnet they could, and most likely never will, be able to build and if they could, they could never afford it. But there in the world of 3D CAD, they can have it.  They can be the creator and the owner of a famous actor’s ride, in their fantasies.

The next step is to put their fantasy creations into some kind of 3D world.  In their worlds, this always seems to mean some kind of Startrek world.  Never like downtown Detroit or St. Louis, but Planet 56_Y in the Whamfargle Nebulae.  Floating islands and highways.  Compared to a video game, which they love, being the god and creator of your own unique fantasy, this world evolves.  They don’t just get better at beating a game that never changes, they get better at creating more and more stuff in their fantasies, plus at making them more and more realistic. 

I have taught both young men and young women with ADD and ADHD, and other learning differentials.  The main difference is that young men tend to be far more physically expressive.  They have a very hard time sitting still and NOT breaking things.  A very hard time, NOT being discipline problems in a classroom setting.
I let them chew gum and listen to their own choice of music on their own earphones, when they are actually working on assigned CAD projects.

Their focus is intense.  A good teacher is gauged on the per centage of time students are involved in class.  75% is a good rating – or, the kids are engaged with the class material at least 75% of the time.  I have students who come into class, politely say hello, go to their assigned computer and remain absolutely glued to their work for 85 minutes at a stretch.  (We have extended studio classes at my school).   And I mean glued!  There could be pole dancers and strippers in the room and they wouldn’t even look up.  Or at least, they wouldn’t look up for very long.

For my own part, I also get completely sucked in.  I don’t care much about flashy concept cars, but I do really get into designing tables, lamps (furniture) and building rooms around my designs and playing with the lighting and so on.  I get so obsessively compulsive  about it, I have worked for 24 and 48 hours straight some times.  Not a healthy thing to do – especially at my age.  Not eating, just caffeine and sugar is all.  It can be horrible to come down from that.

So I have to practice Obsessive Compulsive Resistance.  I now truly give myself eight hours in any one work session and then I force my self to “put down the needle”.  Jeez, it’s hard.  Such power, such omnipotence. 

“Friends don’t let friends learn 3D CAD.”