Monday, December 21, 2009

The Reason For The Season

Axial tilt: My friend Benia brought to my attention that axial tilt is the reason for the season. Our earth revolves around the sun with a rotational axis that is akimbo to the plane of its orbit. This means that as we revolve, we have seasons. If our axis was perpendicular to our rotational plane, we would have a planet nicely layered with climates that ranged from hot at the equator to cool at the poles, a smooth gradient, and within each band, a uniform climate throughout the year. Each of our days would be exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. Other than changing star patterns as we went around the sun, there would be no reason to note the passing of a year, one revolution. But we sit tilted, 23.44 degrees off perpendicular, so that during part of our rotation, up here in the northern hemisphere, we tip toward the sun and as we rotate, more than half of our 24 hours are spent in light, and less than half in darkness, so that the surface can warm up for longer than it cools down, resulting in warming temperatures. During the other half of our rotation, we are tipped away from the sun, with a longer period in darkness than in light, allowing the surface to cool. So we owe our seasons to axial tilt. The change in temperatures happens gradually, as the energy in the atmosphere accumulates, so that the temperatures lag behind the times of daylight. So even though the change has snapped from days getting to shorter to days getting longer, we have our coldest bleakest leanest time yet to come. Yet because the change to days growing longer HAS occurred, we know that it will indeed warm up on schedule. And past civilizations have known these colder seasons as times of less plenty, of dwindling resources such as green plants and plant seeds to eat and less game that is out and about to hunt. And so, people have recognized that the days got shorter, then again got longer, and watched carefully to count out those turning points.
The point where the days ceased to grow shorter and began to get longer again represented a sign of hope to people that the warmer seasons were going to return again, and food and warmth would be plentiful again. And so they marked that time with a festival. December 21 is approximately the day on which this turn takes place, and archaeologists and anthropologists and sociologists agree that nearly all societies scheduled holidays around this time of year. Indigenous Scandinavian peoples held feast to a goddess of fertility and sanity on the winter solstice; the Greeks celebrated a feast to Bacchus. We are perhaps most familiar with the Jewish Hanukkah and the Christian Christmas, coincidentally the same day that the Romans marked winter solstice. Many cultures begin their new year on this winter solstice date and celebrate it less as a religious holiday than as the marking of the beginning of another year. Most cultures celebrate with a feast with symbolic foods, many celebrate with gifts, such as in India where sweet treats and sweet fruits were and are exchanged. Many of the New Year celebrations give nod to the celestial nature of the passing of one year and the beginning of the next with some sort of tradition that involves light or the sky, such as flying kites in India, fireworks in China, and candles in Scandinavia. Celts and Druids and many others build markers so that on the exact dates, the sunlight would shine in alignment with some mark. Zuni, May, and Hopi marked this winter solstice as the beginning of the new year with plant and fire rituals and feasts.
Gifts are symbolic of our interdependence on each other and on the abundance of the seasons that are promised to us with the lengthening of days. Light and fire symbolize the sun on which the cycle and life depends. Foods and feasting celebrate the return of abundance as well as our relation to each other.
So whatever your religion, you probably celebrate something this time of year, whether a god or goddess or saint or spirit is honored, or it is a celestial event, the passing of one year to the next. But the giving of gifts, the lighting of special lights, the preparing and sharing of special foods are all ways that we celebrate hope for the future and recognize that it is in the lengthening of the days and the return of warmer seasons that will bring us abundance, but also in our dependence upon each other and our associations with each other that we find our greatest satisfaction and joy as people. Celebrate the season of the lengthening of the days in whatever ways you wish and treasure the people around you who make your life worth living.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Please DO Assume

If you've been there, you've wanted to kill. Maybe it was a school project, maybe it was at work. Let's say it was your boss, and he was griping that you did something wrong, made some wrong decision based on wrong data, and you make the critical mistake of using the word "assume". His face lights up, his mouth twists into a grin: I think "glee" might be the word to describe what he's feeling. He grabs the chalk and scrawls in huge capital letters ASSUME, and if he's smart and has done this before, he leaves space between the letters for what he is about to do, so it looks like A S S U M E. Then he says smugly, oh so very smugly, probably feeling like the spider just before she pierces her victim to suck out its juices, "You should NEVER assume" and here he pauses pregnantly then goes on "Because when you assume", another pause,"You make an ass" as he circles the A S S with a flourish, then separately circles the U and the M E, crisply clicking the chalk on the board with each circle, and finishes, almost quivering with delight "out of YOU and ME!" Then, in that moment, the normally calm passive compliant subservient sweet you would, if you were "packin'", pull out your weapon and blow his stinking brains all over the room. And you would walk away feeling justified. For just a short moment, you hate him more than you ever have or ever will hate anyone.
Imagine if at that moment, due to his smug lesson, you learned said lesson and ceased to assume. First you would have to check before every step if the floor were still solid. You would have to ask him if you should come in to work the next day, even if you should go home that evening, if you should continue to work on the same project, if you could continue to work from your office, if you would still be allowed to use the company rest rooms, if you should wear clothing to work, if you were still going to be paid for your work and if so, in money? You would have to call the Secretary of State before you could drive home to see if the traffic laws were still the same, you would have to call your spouse to make sure you were still married and still lived in the same house; you would have to ask at the grocery store if the groceries were safe to eat and if they took any of your formerly useful means of legal tender. And even with all that asking, you would have to ask if they were telling the truth or lying that day and we all know how those games go round and round.
No, your boss was the only ass in the room at that moment when he laid out his cute little visual aid for you, because we do and must assume thousands of times every day, constantly all day long. We assume the laws of physics and the laws of the land and the social mores still apply like they did yesterday. The dictum to "Never assume!" is preposterous beyond measure.
Instead of his useless theatrics, in this that could have been a fine teachable moment, he could have asked questions about what you assumed that was lead you astray and helped you understand why that particular bit of assumption was not appropriate and how in the future to differentiate between the few things that you must verify and all the rest of the things that you could safely assume.
If anyone ever pulls this on you, don't stand for it, but please don't blow them away either. Chances are, if anyone on your jury has been there, you will be acquitted, but don't risk it. Besides, your tormentor might have family. Just calmly begin to ask them questions about things that we normally assume until they get the point. Make it a teachable moment for them and save future students or employees the ridiculous lesson. Together, we can stamp out the smug and completely erroneous "Never assume!" and its aggravating little anagram.
And if you have ever done this to anyone, DON'T EVER DO IT AGAIN. DON'T. EVER. DO. IT. AGAIN. In fact, I suggest that you owe a sincere apology to every single person to whom you have committed the "Don't assume" atrocity and you should track them down and apologize. Perhaps with chocolate. And John Ostrander, this does mean you!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My "Addiction"

I will glare at you if you call it an addiction, but that probably won't stop you. You think it is cute to make fun of it, but it secretly makes me hate you deeply for just a fraction of a second before I forgive you, like so many others before, and move on. If I were diabetic, would you call my insulin an 'addiction'? If I had high blood pressure, would you call my medication an addiction? If I were ADHD, would you call my Ritalin or Adderall an addiction? Well, I AM ADHD and Mountain Dew IS my Ritalin!
You can read about the theories of what in the brain causes ADHD symptoms, and you can read how mild stimulants like Ritalin and Adderol help moderate symptoms. I won't bore you with it. The caffeinne in Mountain Dew is a stimulant. A 12 ounce can has 54 mg., or roughly the same as 1/2 of a NoDoz tablet, which has 100 mg. That 54 mg is about half the effective stimulant as the lowest dose of Ritalin used: Does the sugar boost the stimulant effectiveness somehow?
For me, caffeine does not give me a buzz. It has the opposite effect. One of the main symptoms of ADHD for me is racing thoughts. I have heard others describe this as many movies running simultaneously at different speeds so that you cannot grasp on to any one theme or plot. Sometimes these streaming thoughts are related to a topic I need to think about, such as solving a problem at hand or thinking up new designs, but sometimes, they race in a random uncontrolled sort of way that is mostly useless and a prevention of clear thought in any one direction. Sometimes, I don't NEED anymore new ideas; I just need to settle in and pick one and implement it, and the racing stream of new thoughts gets in the way. If things are going wrong, racing thoughts of worry lead to terror or panic or useless action in the wrong direction. Do something, call someone, make demands, act! In those cases, a dose of caffeine slows then settles the thoughts into a more normal pattern so that I can be reasonable and focused and calm. Keeping a regular steady dose in my body prevents episodes of racing thoughts and means I will be 'stable' if something goes wrong.
So my morning routine includes a cold Dew, first thing. Another with lunch, another mid afternoon, and another at dinner. Maybe one more before bed to calm me into a state where sleep is possible. Yes, caffeine to sleep. I know that seems odd, doesn't it? One doctor believes that caffeine having a calming effect is a marker symptom of ADHD. His diagnostic test first asks if caffeine calms you and if you answer yes, your diagnosis is complete: You have ADHD. If you answer no, you still might have it, as determined by how you answer some 20 other questions. So not all people with ADHD are calmed by caffeine, but all people who are colmed by caffeine have ADHD, he says. And if you are not one of the minority of ADHD people who are calmed by caffeine, it will affect you in the usual way and actually make YOUR symptoms worse, which is why the studies are so varied in their conclusions.
One of the issues with self-treating my ADHD with Mountain Dew is that it isn't always available. Backpacking or camping or staying in a hotel with the wrong brands in the soda machine are all potential problems. Many a time, I have been frantically nearly hysterically searching though my tent or backpack looking for something out there in the wilderness, only to remember my 'meds' and get out a half tablet of NoDoz. The trick is to sit back and wait out the panic, for in ten minutes or so, a calmer me will find the lost thing with no problem. If I don't remember what is missing when I am in one of those 'fits', other people can get hurt. I can snap at them, reject their sincere attempts to help, snarl insults, and feelings are bruised. "Jeeze, are you off your meds?" is not a good way to remind me at that point, but "Oh, look a squirrel . . ", a saying from a t-shirt which denies the wearer is ADHD is a shared joke among my friends and I, so that is a fair way to remind me that I am 'acting out.'
Mountain Dew: It's my 'med' so no cracks about addiction and we'll all be better off.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Worrying with AD/HD: Waiting for the School Bus

The hyperactivity of AD/HD really shines when it comes to generating ideas. You tell me a problem and I can 'brainstorm' ideas for it as fast as anyone. They may not all be good or useful, but each can lead to a handful of others and on until a whole web of possibilities exist. That is a good and wonderful thing when one is in a creative field, provided one can catch hold of one and shift from ideation into production, which doesn't always happen. Sometimes too many ideas can become a handicap to progress, but fortunately the hyperactivity comes and goes in cycles and periods of brain calm allow me to evaluate the ideas and choose and move on to actually accomplishing something.
But at no time does the flurry of ideas kick into high gear more than when I perceive that a loved one might be in harm's way. When my mother does not answer her phone, when a friend is late for an appointment, when my kid is late getting home from the school bus, then I can fast as lightening think of thousands of horrible scenarios, each one more terrible and gory and awful than the last. My kids never understood why I was so frantic when they were a mere 20 minutes late after school. To them, it had been a lark, the school bus late arriving so they messed around in line outside the school waiting, or the school bus stuck in construction or taking a wrong turn, giving them a novel but thoroughly safe ride home. But try as I might to generate innocuous possibilities for why they were late, the flood of nasty ones was unstoppable and richly varied. Accidents, crimes by the bus driver or dastardly others with various nefarious motives, attacks by wild dogs or gangs of roving drug-crazed teens or pedophilic predators working in concert to nab my children on the walk from the bus stop to home, visits by the police, reports of sightings by eye-witnesses that were only false leads, years of them being missing. Oh, no mystery novel ever written or horror movie ever filmed could begin to equal the plots and disasters and horrors that I could imagine in a few short minutes.
Such is the stuff of AD/HD worry. The creative twists and turns and the sheer quantity and speed of thinking can generate a thousand seemingly plausible logical reasonable terrible possibilities for everything from the results of a medical test to the diagnoses resulting from a routine doctor or dentist visit to a letter with an official return address to someone not answering a phone call or not showing up for a appointment to the noise you can hear from the basement to simple things like driving a car or even just leaving the house. Sometimes, these fears turn into actual phobias, and sometimes, those rampant possibilities lead me to fail to make the medical appointment or to snack on some ancient box of crackers instead of going out to the store. I make myself aware of all the phobias and their names and try to recognize when I am beginning to give in to one and take steps to counter it immediately. Fears and worries are just one layer of brain buzz that someone with AD/HD must manage on a daily and nightly basis. It is not undoable, but it does take energy and sometimes it works better than other times.

The Hunter-Gatherer / Farmer Model of AD/HD

When I was learning about this years ago, I found this a helpful way to think of the differences between 'normal' people and people with this 'disorder':


This model has been criticized by anthropologists and sociologists but it does fairly accurately summarize the differences and put them in a good useful light for both kinds of people, and it does show how society would benefit over time by having some of both kinds of people.

One of the issues with AD/HD is that last letter of the acronym that stands for 'disorder'. Just because there are so few of us, our way of being is seen as 'abnormal' and Hartmann's idea is that maybe we are just one kind of normal and that our differences might actually be useful.
Yes, they are bothersome in today's school system which is designed for everyone to sit still and do worksheets: A school system designed for the 'farmer' child, that is. But other school formats can work better for the 'hunter-gatherer' child. They just happen to be more difficult to manage and usually require a higher teacher to student ratio. AD/HD kids often suffer self-esteem issues when they do not thrive in school. Is that fair? We might be putting one kind of normal kids in a school designed for a different kind of normal kids. Same with the workplace: The office job or factory job or anything where there is a set time schedule and routine activities is a system that is compatible with the 'farmer' adult but not the 'hunter - gatherer' adult. Are we expecting one kind of normal people to fit into a work world designed for another kind of normal people and punishing them for not succeeding there? Whether your paradigm of AD/HD calls it an abnormal disorder or a disease even or whether your paradigm calls it just a variant on normal, a different kind of people, but valuable, will certainly effect how you value AD/HD people or how you see your own AD/HD self. Is it abnormal, or is it just normal but different?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Day With AD/HD

A friend said "I don't think of you that way, I think of you as wonderful and talented, so you shouldn't bring it up all the time." It seems obvious that she buys into the last D of the acronym, which is "disorder". But the truth is that I DO 'have' AD/HD. It is something that I deal with every day and every night, all day, all night. In a world where everyone was like this, it might not be an issue, but a world where 90 to 95%* of the people are NOT like this means that schedules and social norms are not optimal for me.
It starts most days at 4:00 a.m. when I wake up with my brain in a state where thoughts are racing. "What woke me up, was it one of the kids? Are they okay? Is it the house? Is there a fire? The plumbing? A break-in? Is something wrong? What could it be? Listen, is it TOO quiet?" If I try go to back to sleep, I am haunted by worries and concerns and every thought turns to a dozen others exploring possible worse scenarios. I have learned to just get up and put a stop to the cycle of thoughts. Sometimes it doesn't take much. Read email, look at a project, write down a couple ideas, read a bit of a book, fold a little laundry. Alone at Mineral Point, I can go down to the studio and actually work on a project, but if there are family members or visitors present, I have to sneak around so as not to disturb them. After getting the brain reset, I can usually get in a few more hours of sleep.
But when I am up to stay, options open up. It is my understanding that 'normal' people operate in sort of a routine at that point, but I do not habituate easily. Patterns of doing the exact same thing at the exact same time or in the exact same situation do not settle into my brain as easily, so I need to think what to do next. Shower or have some breakfast or do a little of something in my jammies? When I do hit the shower, I often look at the array of bottle and have to think "Which shampoo am I using these days?" The pattern of tooth brushing and shampooing and soaping and hair conditioning is not automatic. Some days, I forget the conditioner and wonder why my hair is so hard to comb, if I remember to comb it. Other days, I get the conditioner on and forget to rinse it. It is unpleasant to be out in public and discover that your hair is not drying because it is full of conditioner, and the number of times I have rinsed it in a restroom sink and tried to dry it on paper towels is embarrassing indeed. Once dressed and ready for the day, well, the good news, is that the day is open to a million possibilities. I can see before me a dozen things that all seem equally attractive and useful and necessary. The bad news is that I must decide and each decision is cluttered with an enormous amount of data that should go it the decision. Sometimes, my brain finds it easy to choose and sometimes, the monumentalness of the task of choosing is paralysing, leaving to accomplish nothing at all. So I have found that lists are good. Lists narrow down the choices to some things that I thought were important in a time of clearer thinking and if the list was prioritized in that time of clearer thinking, I can just pick the top thing on it. I have lists that go for weeks, as things are added and things crossed off and sub-things fit in between things.
If the thing that needs doing is interesting to me, I can pop my brain into hyper-focus and devote myself totally and completely to that task without stopping for hours and hours. While I am working, my thoughts are racing of course, but they are racing in a focused way about ways to make the project work, about related designs I want to try, so sometimes, I have to stop and sketch out some idea, or sometimes I can replay conversations from the past or rehearse conversations of the future or compose something that I need to write, but that might require stopping to make a note now and then too. But I can zone into hyper-focus for hours until extreme hunger or exhaustion or some muscle pain sets in and brings me back to the real world. Often I have skipped a meal or missed an appointment, and certainly I have failed to do the breakfast dishes or to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer.
Laundry is especially problematic for me, as it requires that sequence of steps so far apart from each other and sometimes laundry sits wet until it gets musty and has to be rewashed or sits in the dryer until I NEED it to wear next and well, that wrinkle-release spray has saved me from my neglect of dried laundry on many occasions. Meals are an ongoing issue. Sometimes, I am hungry on schedule with the rest of the world, but more often, if I am hyper-focused, by the time I am hungry for lunch, it is 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. so by the time I am hungry for dinner it is 8:00 or 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. and if I have failed to plan ahead by stocking food in my kitchen, there are now no restaurants open and well, such a schedule does not jive with that of a family or friends, so I skip that lunch and overeat at dinner. AD/HD can make writing easy, as the ideas just flow. My racing thoughts are always a few steps ahead of my pencil or my typing fingers and can have the next thoughts organized and ready by the time my fingers ready to put them to words, but sometimes, if things are moving too fast, there are too many options presented to me and I can see where each paragraph could lead in any number of directions and I see too many options. It is then that my writing become run-on and disjointed and flies in too many directions. If I know I have to produce a piece of writing, I will try to write an outline in what I know to be a more balanced state so that when I am in a hyper-productive mode, I can translate that outline to words and resist all the attractive and interesting tangents and subtplots that rush into my brain during the production writing.
Now, if the work I need to do is not interesting to me, that is when AD/HD is its most torturous. When I have to add up the long columns of numbers two different ways to get the numbers to match in order to do my books in order to pay my state sales tax and write checks to my artists, I am pained. It is all I can do to force myself to sit down to it and go through the steps. Since I do not habituate well, and only do it once a quarter, first I have to study it and remember the steps and why they are the way they are. Then I can begin to painfully laboriously tediously boringly ploddingly mind-numbingly crunch the monotonous repetitive wearisome dull numbers. A thousand things tempt me away. It is a constant process of attempting to resist them. So many important other more interesting things demand my attention and try to call me away from my boring task. It truly is an awful chore to stick to task at this point. Only fear of the faceless formless nameless Wisconsin tax "man" and concern for my artists keep me at it. It seems to take forever and each step is a new horrible tedious painful boring chore. It is worse than these words can describe. Cleaning, doing dishes, sorting papers or closets or laundry all approach the same level of tedium and the same taunting tempting teasing siren call of distraction to a thousand other more interesting fabulously fascinating things. A picture must be hung, a broken thing must be glued, a phone call must be made to someone, a run to the store for supplies must be undertaken, a snack must be had, a different pile in a different room suddenly seems more important than this one, or as the t-shirt says "Oh, look, a squirrel . . . " "Maybe I should go for a walk" . . . and take the camera along and get some pictures and come home and down load them and post them on Facebook and well, you can see where the cleaning or organizing project went, can't you?
Bedtime? What is that? I might be exhausted at 8:00 or I might be zooming in hyperfocus making design notes or writing a lecture or carving a block print or reading a magazine at 2:00 a.m. and still not sleepy. If left to my own scheduling, I would work feverishly for about 6 hours, take an hour nap, work for another 6 hours, take another nap, work for maybe 4 more hours, then take a big sleep for 6 hours. Add some meals and a morning shower and just a tiny chore or two to that and we are up to about a 26 or 27 hour day, which is very hard to compress into the 24 that we are given. If living alone and working on projects, I kinda tent to live on my own schedule like that, pushing my long sleep period around the clock over time. That does not work very will when I am expected to keep store hours or meet people for appointments or dine with people. So I try my best to comply to the real world with a more 'normal' schedule.
And so you can see, AD/HD keeps my days interesting and it represents a challenge, not only for the management that it requires to get the right things done, but also for the added challenge of fitting into a 'normal' time schedule and to interact with 'normal' people and comply to 'normal' priority schemes, and I must admit that I do not always do a stellar job at it. Sometimes, I forget to even try!
*Thom Hartmann says that if a population has 5-10% of a 'type' of people, it cannot be a defect manifesting itself as a disorder, but that it has to be of benefit to the overall population somehow, just like the population needs very strong people but if they were all very strong, they might have trouble keeping themselves fed. He sees it as a variant that has benefit to the society, for example, to keep the society flexible, creative, spontaneous when it needs to be. I wish society saw it that way and valued us.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

State Changes

It is just one degree. One point along the temperature gradient. One point in time as the temperature rises or falls. Above, and all water falls as rain, soaks into the ground, runs along the surface until it finds a crack or crevice or opening of some sort, and then follows the pull of gravity down into the earth. Some flows on to creeks that fill streams that fill rivers, some that soaks in seeps back out of the ground on the banks to feed the streams and creeks. It is clear and flowing, moving.
Below that point, all water falls as snow or ice pellets or sleet or some other form of solid water, and it drops, lands, and stays there. Solid, accumulating, piling up. Deeper and deeper. Unless the winds grabs and moves it to another place, still above the surface of the earth, so stop and stay somewhere else.
Raining raining raining bam snowing snowing snowing. The earth goes from dark, saturated, absorbing all water and and much of the light to BAM white, bright, resisting the snow that piles up above ground and reflects back bright light from the sky. One day, all is brown and tan and grey and black and the next, it is bright glistening shining white. Everything is like that, but we seldom see the change points quite so obviously. A word changes the way you think about an issue, a person. A moment, a single event, a single act, changes forever the course of a day, a life, a civilization. To see those moments and accept and adapt and adjust is a gift, a talent, a skill, and on that can hinge ones happiness or ones very survival.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Writing My Own Ending

A customer came back to show me the bracelet she bought from me last year and was hopeful I had found the artist and stocked up. She said she loved her silver bracelet and I believe her, because I'd had him make me one many years ago and loved it so much that I asked for more like it for the gallery, which is how she came to have hers. She was hoping for another with maybe a stone or maybe one of the narrower designs. I did not have good news for her.
You never know when you are seeing someone for the last time. You never know when it is your last phone call with them. I remember the many times at the powwow when we stood at his booth, watching him work, for longer than anyone else ever did, he said, and that earned us his respect and some stories and tales and maybe even some extra care when he made things for me. My boys were like that, though, interested in how things were done and willing to invest time in learning the process of an art. Every year, he had some gripe about the committee or the set-up or the way things were being run and said it was his last and every year, he was back again anyway. I never mentioned that last year he'd said that too, about not returning. But one year, there was no pow wow and so, he could not return, but that was not him sticking to his threatened boycott, exactly. And so, I called him and arranged to have some jewelry sent and later, called to tell him it had arrived and thank him for it. Once, when I complained of our winter weather, he told me how the snow was so deep, the bears had discovered his birdfeeders hung high in trees because the snow had moved the bears up to their level. I learned never to complain about the weather here, for he could always best me. Summer was hotter in Sauk St. Marie than any summer in Illinois and winter there was colder than any winter here and his springs wetter than any springs anywhere and mosquitoes were larger and ticks more blood thirsty and well, there were bears. Once, early in the war, he told me how they'd tested out some sort of military bridge on the shores of his island and how since nothing ever happened there, it was big entertainment and people set up lawn chairs to watch and left them there to go back the next day and it sort of stopped all usual activity on the island for a few days. And then one year, my order letter was ignored. I sent another and included a check just in case he was low on supplies. It was never cashed. Then I started to get calls from people who saw his name on my website and had tried to call him: They said his number was disconnected. Well, I have my theories and they are not happy ones and I don't want them to be so. I want him to be alive and well and happy somewhere. So here is what I am going to say: I am going to say that my silversmith witnessed a crime while rescuing a victim of that crime. I am going to say that as a result of that rescue and witnessing of said crime, he was called to testify against serious bad guys, resulting in their being put away and more lives being saved. I am going to say that because of his heroic efforts, he had to enter the witness protection program, and under his new identity, had to change the design of his silver so that he would not be recognized, identified. I am going to say that he is happy in his new off-island home in his new government-supplied digs with his art studio attached to his home and that he is thriving in the challenge of his new designs, which he is selling in some other galleries perhaps on the east or west coast. That is what I am going to say: He has entered the witness protection program after carrying out a brave rescue of a crime victim and I am not allowed to have contact with him, so that is the last of his work in that style.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

People Who Hate

I know people, people who are considered sane and rational and reasonable, who hate people without cause. Oh, they think they have reasons, but they have no cause.There are people who make judgements about other categories of people based on stereotypes instead of actual experience. There are people who make judgments about categories of people based on the mean-spirited words of someone who wrote a letter some 1800 years ago and who himself had no actual cause to make such statements. But even if he did, should we not make up our own minds today, based on personal experience and modern scientific, sociological and psychological and biological, data?There are people who hate and who insist on speaking their hate because they are guaranteed the freedom to speak it. While technically correct, they are not ethically correct, for what is the value in speaking hatred against a category of people?There are those who would do violence based on their hate. And there are those who only speak their hate and insist that they would never harm anyone. Yet, in speaking their hate, they give validation and support to those who might actually commit the harm, and therefore share in the blame.If you spread hate and suspicion and rumor and ill word about a category of people, you are doing wrong. No matter what your reasons.If you have been done harm by an individual, speak ill of that individual if you must. Better that you forgive them and lose your hatred and stop speaking ill of anyone.If you have been done harm by an individual from a category of people, and you can prove for certain the ill was done to you due to their being of that category, go ahead and speak ill of the group as warning to others. But only if you are certain that others in the group are likely to do ill because of their inclusion in that category. If others are not likely to do ill because of inclusion in that category, you do them harm to speak ill of their group just because of the individual that harmed you.And listen to this: If you think another who is doing you no harm and doing others no harm is somehow an affront to your god, that is none of your business. Their actions do not harm your relationship with your god and they do not harm you in anyway, so it is none of your business.You may have the right to say what you want and have all the reason in your own mind to speak hate, but when you do so you are acting in violation of ethics and morality, no matter whether you think you have your god on your side.Speaking hate is wrong.Spreading hate is wrong.Hating is wrong.I can't change how you think, but I can tell you that if you keep speaking hate, I judge you immoral and unethical. And if there is a god like the one you claim to believe in, you god will judge such groundless hate to be immoral and unethical as well. Of that I am certain.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Most Beautiful Place on Earth

After a week alternating between the redwood forest and Pacific beaches, where I said on a frequent basis such exclamations as "This is so beautiful!" and "Isn't this amazing?" I drove through a portion of the driftless region of Wisconsin today, in its leanest time of year, late fall, after the leaves of autumn are all gone and before any picturesque snow has accumulated. And as the hills rose and fell, as the sunlight shot from behind clouds, as the rolling land and the overlaid patchwork of fields and pastures was revealed to me, I once again exclaimed "This is the most beautiful place on earth." It is and I get to make it one of my part time homes. That is a delight.

My Amazing Enviable Life

The eyeglasses took a critical hit on vacation when I dropped my flashlight on them in the tent, resulting in a bend whose repair lead to the screw dropping out of the joint somewhere in the San Jose airport. A paperclip made a functional but hideous repair at which polite friends tried not to stare. So when I went to the optometrist for an exam and to order new glasses, I asked them if they would replace the paperclip with something less obvious so that I could look more professional for the special event at the gallery this weekend. They found a screw that would hold, at least for as long as it will take for the new glasses to arrive. In the process, one of the women admired my earrings and the one who had heard about my 'event' asked if jewelry was the kind of art I did for the gallery. I explained about the other media I work in and the optometrist himself then asked whose gallery I had this work in and I said "Mine." Eyebrows were raised and exclamations exclaimed and soon I was writing down the URLS for my websites and apologizing to the doctor if his employees were distracted after I left by looking at my art and that of my other artists online. They were obviously impressed and a bit envious of the whole thing, which left me wondering why it is that I am so much less enthusiastic and impressed at my "enviable life".

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

House Done Furnished Lived In October 2009

Due to some recent conversations about the ceilings, the hanging canoe, the furnishing and such, I realized that I had photographed the building process and then the close-ups of the furnishings but never really posted a good shot of each entire room or area. This is one attempt to document that on a cloudy day on my way out.
We start by looking from the living room over the dining area back at the entry where the borrowed painting is propped, waiting to return to the gallery. The console table just inside the entry holds keys and such. Be sure to sign the guest book when you visit.
The dining table, handcrafted by Randy, is being used to sort laundry!
The living room features the sleeper sofa whose color sets the golden yellow tone for the rest of the interior accents and a low coffee table works well for games such as Thomas's Scrabble.
Recliners by the gas fireplace make the living room comfy. The wool rug matches that in the dining room.
The kitchen has its own smaller dining area with a matching smaller table made by Randy and visually unobtrusive metal framework chairs.
I love my stone sink with its botanical carving, maple cabinets, black granite countertops, and all the windows.
The area under the stairs serves as a relaxing napping or reading area. This center bay from entry to back has slate tile floor while the side bays have bamboo flooring.
The deck faces the lake, with glass panels in the railing to keep the view open and direct access to the stairs that lead down the steep hillside to the lake and the dock.
The back wall features two stories of windows. The second floor stops six feet short of the back wall to form a balcony so people can converse from floor to floor. The arch of the top window echoes the arch of the truss with its acorn pendant, the artistic flair of Paul Swan of Swan Timber Frame.
Wood ceilings and exposed timber frame make for great expanses of wood.
Back by the entry at the base of the stairs is the first bath, with maple and black granite vanity that matches the kitchen and a small shower. The laundry room is in there along with crawl space access.
From the top of the stairs, you can see the railings that match the balcony railings. Swan provided the wood for the stairs and posts and railings and Randy and Thomas crafted them into functionality.
Looking down to the living room. Randy cut slate floor tiles to use behind the fireplace.
Looking down to the kitchen, you can see details of the framing and how the black railing spindles, black cabinet hardware, and black granite play off each other.
Looking from the 'bridge' to the outdoor balcony that faces the lake. This is a great little balcony for a morning cup of coffee or to read a book on a hot afternoon.
Looking from the bridge toward the small bedroom that is above the kitchen. This opening from first to second floor really makes the spaces flow into each other and keeps things light and airy.
The small bedroom has beds made by Randy and Thomas using some leftover railing material and new posts.
The map shows an aerial view of the lake.
The 'master bedroom' and the 'guest room' share one big space, there by sharing views of the treetops of the woods on the hillside and the night sky.
The canoe hanging against the rafters has a pulley system so that it can easily be lowered to be carried to the lake. The antique quilt is from Randy's mom's family.
Randy and Thomas made the matching beds from railing leftovers and they have wheels so that they can be moved into position for the best views of the night sky or the best morning light.
Toward the front, above the entry, is the 'reading nook' with comfy wingback chairs and a small chess table.
Note those awesome trusses with acorn pendants that Paul designed and carved. Right of the 'nook' is the second bath with a huge bathtub and shower.
The top portion of the bathroom wall is glass to keep the wood ceiling exposed and allow light to fill the spaces.
Both baths have two vessel sinks and showers and ample hooks for towels and such.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Small Kindness

When I am travelling and I pull off at an exit or stop in some small town to fill up the gas tank, if there is a Cenex station, I will choose it over all the other 'big name' stations and here is why:

I was on my way to a meeting once and I realized too many miles out of town to go back and still make my meeting on time that I had no wallet with me. No ID, no credit cards. I drove on but watched my gas gauge and about the time that I decided I had just enough to make it back home, thereby missing the meeting for which a half-dozen people were already assembling, I pulled over at what happened to be a Cenex station. Before I pumped the gas, I rooted around the van for cash, checking in all the usual stash places, but there was none. Too many last minute school lunches and stops for ice cream and a recent thorough vacuuming of the van had depleted it of any cash. I did find one checkbook in the little storage chamber in the door, but it was more than a little warped and distorted from having been dampened when the door was open during a few too many rains. I took that pathetic check book in and gave the people in the Cenex my sad story and the woman behind the counter contemplated how much trouble she would be in for taking a check with no ID and the men having coffee suggested that she'd be in better shape management wise if I could find SOME other document that at least had my name on it like the car registration or an insurance card, both which were in the glove box. So I went out for those, pumped my gas, and then remembered I actually knew my credit card number if I didn't think about it too hard. So I went back in and said "Write this down." and rattled off the number, then explained that was my credit card number and she could use it instead of taking the check if that was better for them. She punched it in by hand, after she looked up the directions for doing that, and an approval number popped up and we were all happy. But they were willing to take the chance and help me out, and so I made it to my meeting only a few minutes late. For that small consideration, I am forever a loyal Cenex fan!

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Aunt Alice was my maternal grandmother's exotic glamorous sister. She was tall and thin and had long wavy hair. She wore pants. In the 60's. She had modern eyeglasses and separate prescription sunglasses. Her smallish efficient house in town was furnished in snappy new modern curving sweeping chrome and glass assemblages. It was not a particularly warm place, nor was she personally, at least not compared to my grandmother and her big house with wooden and upholstered furniture and wood floors and wide arching doorways and cooking smells that constantly radiated from Grandpa's kitchen. Aunt Alice and Uncle Melvin took exotic vacations, probably on airplanes. They talked of their children who lived far away because of exotic jobs. Uncle Melvin had slicked back hair and I remember his clothes as being rather glossy somehow. He had some of those cool shirts that you didn't have to tuck in from some exotic foreign country. Ah, yes, they were the most glamorous couple I knew. And Aunt Alice herself was the keystone of that glamor, I was certain. And one of the most glamorous things about my glamorous great aunt was that she smoked. She had crystal and chrome ash trays everywhere. Enormous wonders that were more a shrine to the glamor of smoking than functional, for she would never ever let any but the tiniest bit of ash accumulate in their massive bowls. Some had lighters build into them. Best of all, next to her sleek accent chairs, even in her kitchen next to the dining table, she had smoking stands. A little shelf or perhaps a small drawer held cigarettes and the top was solely dedicated to the holding of the resting cigarette and the collection of the ashes. I remember a chrome and black smoking stand and another that had a chrome base and chrome bowl separate by a sculptural exotic wood stand. I remember the crystal and silver bowl of another. I remember her gesturing, sometimes broadly, sometimes in little quick movements, with a cigarette in her hand, smoke curling and twisting and rising. I remember her telling some story and the measure of how upset or excited she was about the goings-on could be had by how much her hand shook when she went to flick the ashes into the ash tray. I have vague memories of my sister and I sitting cross legged on the floor, our elbows on our knees and our chins in our hands, doing nothing but watching this exotic creature do her glamorous exotic things with rapt attention, but I am sure we were never quite that blatant in our astonishment and admiration. Ah, it is a wonder I am not a smoker just to emulate Aunt Alice. What accumulation of effects in my childhood made the desire to be good and healthy, to refrain from smoking, overcome the lure of the glamor of Aunt Alice?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Golden Views from the House

The golden mustard color scheme of the decor and the warm golden hues of the woods and bamboo were completed by the third part of the gold triptych, the fall leaves. It was the house's finest moment when out every window there was warm gold.