Tuesday, February 27, 2007

from the workshop/studio

The snowy weekend had at least some good come out of it. I had some extra time in the workshop since we couldn't get out to go anywhere. Being housebound because of the snow sometimes has advantages. (And I managed to avoid having to strip the last of the wallpaper on the stairway walls by throwing my artistic temperment around and threatening to cut off an ear if I couldn't vent my creative energies. Mary bought it, but only after suggesting that I might lose more valuable body parts if that wallpaper stays there much longer.) So I finished the wood vase series that I started last Fall. Here are some pictures of the pieces.

The first two pictures are of the basic concept I had in mind when I started the series. I wanted to take the idea of a vase as a receptical and approach it from a slightly different perspective. The first pictures show the vase as fragmented, with areas to hold the flowers other than the usual typical top opening.

These next photos show the fruition of the idea. There is still a vase, but the flowers and leaves are not where you would normally expect to find them in relation to the vase. Still, the vase serves as the receptical and so it continues its life as a vase. And the plants still have a home.





Three different vases, three different illustrations of the concept. I'm pleased with the result. If I were to continue the series, I feel like the logical result would be a vase in a flower. Maybe I will follow up that idea next winter when I get snowed in again. Until then I have another cane in the works and another wall sculpture for the cottage to ease into being. The sawdust is getting thicker in the shop.

As always, if you would like to see more pictures of these pieces, go to the "my flickr" link on the sidebar and then select the sculpture set and browse around for awhile.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

winter extended

The local weathermen keep hyping the coming major snow storm, even going so far as to call it an official blizzard in the making. All day all we've been hearing about is the potential severity of the storm, with a possible accumulation of 10-18 inches of snow accompanied by winds up to 40 mph. Yippee! We got nearly 6 inches of snow last night as a preliminary warmup to the coming onslaught. Mary and I are both relieved that we did indeed stay home this weekend instead of going to the cottage. Traveling would have been not just foolhardy, but dangerous.

So here we are awaiting the latest hammer blow from Old Man Winter. Our contracted snow plower showed up this afternoon to clear the driveway of last night's 6" snowfall, and we expect to see him again sometime on Monday to clear a way for us to get out after the anticipated storm. Unfortunately he doesn't clear the sidewalks as well, so I still have to fire up the snowblower to do that as well as clear a space for the dog to get out into the yard to do what ever it is that dogs do. Doo-doo? Plus I have always taken care of our next door neighbor's sidewalk and area around his doorway and garage, since he is quite disabled and unable to do that himself. The sidewalk in front of our two properties runs for about 300 feet. For the last thirty-five years that we have lived here I have done that for him as well as always snowblowing the entire driveway that we share with him as well as our own section of driveway (total area to clear is about 300 running feet by 12-14' wide, plus a common area from our garage to his that is about the size of a full basketball court. I know that a basketball court will fit there because I marked it off years ago for the kids to play full court games.)

In past years we have rarely called upon a snowplow to do the driveway--I was always able and willing to snowblow the whole thing. But in the past couple years it has become increasingly difficult for me to physically handle the job, so we contract with a plower to do the heaviest work. I hate the idea that I can't do it all myself and do it to my standards, having to rely on someone else to help me. Of course the snowplower guy never meets my stringent standards of excellence--snow removed completely down to the blacktop, nice crisp and clean lines along the edges, snow gone right up to the edge of the lawn and absolutely no damage to the landscape. It is extremely difficult for me to tolerate the lack of precision shown by that plow. My sense of order is assaulted and offended. God, am I an anal twit.

In anticipation of the snowbound weekend, we have laid in a store of essential provisions to see us through. A fresh bottle of Brandy, a new bottle of Peppermint Schnaaps, and an extra bottle of wine (Shiraz) should help us weather the storm. We shall dream dreams of warm sunshine and new Crocus blossoms. The fact that baseball opening day is only a little over 5 weeks away, that the golf courses will be open in about 6 weeks, and that I will be cutting grass in about 8 weeks gives me hope that there is a warm season to follow this cold one. But I can't escape the feeling right now that Spring is a merely theoretical concept. Time will tell if theory can prove true.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

lost weekend

We intended to head to the cottage tomorrow for a long weekend (Mary has Monday off), but the weather report has us thinking second thoughts about that. A winter storm warning is in effect for Saturday and Sunday for most of Wisconsin. So driving anywhere could be a stupid and hazardess undertaking.

I only bring this up because as we get older and I, in particular, get less physically capable, we seem to pay more and more attention to the weather reports. This is obviously a trait that takes nearly 60 years to incubate, since I can specifically remember several times when our parents were reluctant to drive anywhere if there was any reported possibility of snow falling within the appointed travel time. We scoffed at them and rolled our eyes, wndering how they could be so ridiculous. But age inspires caution I guess. Or maybe timidity. Or maybe the realization that we are not indestructible. Or the wisdom to acknowledge our deficiances.

In years past we thought nothing of packing up the kids after school on Friday and driving the two hours north to the cottage for the weekend. We would do that once a month during the winter and even spend Christmas week there. No big deal. We had these incredible physical reserves back then that allowed us to do those things. Now it feels like planning the Normandy Invasion every time we condsider making the trip at this time of year. How did we do it back then? How do we recapture that energy?

So now we are faced with a long weekend here at home, disappointed that our plans have been thwarted once again by the weather. And I can only hope that the anticipated snow storm actually materializes, because if it doesn't, I will be faced with coping with a very pissed off wife, who will undoubtedly blame me for the weather, or lack of it.

The only thing that could possibly get me to brave the snowy conditions would be her insistence that, since we are stuck here in the house anyway, we use the weekend for stripping more wallpaper and painting the hallway. I might even walk all the way to the cottage to avoid that. Without my cane. Naked.

Monday, February 19, 2007

annual tease

That much anticipated annual event, that mid-February tease, that little ray of hope that winter is fading, came to pass last week. The anuual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue arrived.

Call me old or jaded or maybe both, but I didn't actually pick it up to page through it (I do read the articles, but first things first) until this morning. And then I just flipped the pages without really registering what I was seeing. I've seen so many of these swimsuit issues over the many years I've subscribed to the magazine, that I fail to be, shall we say, "moved," by the display of skin so artfully revealed by the lack of swimsuits.

All the while I was turning the nearly 240 pages adorned with the best examples of the female side of the human species, I couldn't help thinking that someone was messing with my sense of reality. All the models on those pages were too impossibly perfect to be real. They surely were the result of a skilled technician wielding the latest version of Photoshop. Those young women are too ideal to actually exist in the real world as we know it.

Which brings up the question, do you know anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone who has ever seen one of those models in the flesh? They certainly have never been seen prancing around my back yard posing suggestively and taking off the tops of thier bikinis. I'm willing to bet that no one has ever actually encountered any of them out there where we live our real lives. They are obviously figments of a very fertile imagination, a god who is yanking us around, teasing us with a vision of perfection that is impossible to attain.

Another example of the unreality presented in those pages is the cost of those so-called swimsuits. (First of all, anyone attempting to actually swim in none of those microdots of fabric would surely end up naked. But maybe that's the point.)
The four $50 bills it costs to buy any of that swimwear would cover more than the dozen or so square inches the money would purchase. Why not just paste four one dollar bills in strategic places. You'd get away a lot cheaper and be more modest to boot.

So after all these years of drooling over the show of female perfection, I have finally come to the conclusion that it is all an elaborate hoax. Those pictures are so alien to any real life experience that to believe in the existance of those perfect young women would be like believing that man could walk on the moon. And we all know what a hoax that whole thing was.

Maybe if next year when the annual tease is published once again, one of those models shows up at my door, dressed, or more llikely undressed, to deliver my copy, I'll believe they actually exist. I'll even be willing to overlook the cold February induced goose bumps.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

too much, too soon

I find the current state of presidential politiking more than a little disturbing. Here we are a full 20+ months away from the next presidential election, and already the campaigning process has swung into high gear. I fear that by the time the election finally rolls around, I, and many like me, will have soured on the process so completely that voting will become a desparate act of excorcism of the candidates that bedeviled us for so long, rather than the exercise of a right to choose who will govern us for the following 4 years.

That the aspiring candidates feel it necessary to bombard us with their thoughts for so long a time before we cast our votes, makes me think that they think they have a lot to say, when in fact they have little to say but want to say it a lot. In the time between now and the election, issues will come and go, the import of decisions made by the current administration will swell and ebb as the political tide flows, and the would-be presidents will have made numerous blunders, gaffes, and changed their minds many times in a boggling display of political agility, futility, and spin. They have too much time to embarrass themselves and us.

So many of the fledgling campaigns have no chance of succeeding--and the candidates who run them must realize that--that you have to wonder why they go through the hell of trying. I can appreciate the desire to serve and lead, but where do some of these would-be presidents get the idea that they have the necessary attributes to call themselves leaders. I understand that having a variety of choices makes for a lively. and hopefully informative, campaign, but I still think that the political waters will be more muddied than clarified by the plethora of fools wading in that stream.

When you consider the amount of money it takes to run a campaign, where that money comes from becomes an issue itself. Special interest groups can’t be held at arm’s length for long when the millions of dollars start to roll into the campaign coffers. We don’t like to think that an office like the Presidency can be bought, but when the dollar figures keep adding more and more zeros to the left of the decimal point, only the richest campaigns have a chance of succeeding. And with riches come corruption and obligation. I don’t care how often a candidate avows that he owes no allegiance to the contributors to his campaign, there is always the perception that those who give the most, get the most in return. The longer the campaign season, the more that perception, and the real possibility, of a candidate being bought and held hostage by the contributors will seem a reality.

The solution? How about an amendment to the Constitution limiting the length of the campaign season. The usual state primaries could be held, but anyone who intends to enter a state primary would be forbidden to enter that state for any political purpose for a period of 6 months and one week before the primary is held. No signs, no advertising, no door to door canvassing allowed until one week before the primary. Then one week before the primary all the announced candidates could woo the voters as best they could for that week. Once the primary is over, no more politiking would be allowed in that state until the actual presidential campaign season starts. Of course, spending would be limited and every candidate would get the same amount of money to spend in the primary. Then how about limiting the would-be presidential nominees of their respective parties to 30 days before their party’s convention to state their case and win the hearts of their fellows. If you can’t explain your stand on the current issues, and what you feel qualifies you to take on those issues, in 30 days, then you are wasting our time. That 30 day window of opportunity would allow anyone with the desire to serve an equal chance to state his/her case for inclusion in the process. Money would be capped at a reasonable figure for everyone and would be provided by a national campaign fund open to anyone who meets the necessary qualifications. After that 30 day run-up to the nominating conventions, the parties involved would choose the candidates they want to represent their interests, and the presidential campaign between the chosen candidates would take place much the same as it does now. The only difference would be that all the chosen candidates would receive the same amount of campaign money from the national campaign fund. How they use the money is up to them. And mandatory weekly debates among candidates would ensure that we the people got to hear and see our potential President in action.

I will leave the details to the lawyers and the constitutional experts to iron out. If nothing else, I think a case can be made that the current long drawn out process we are subject to violates the VIII Amendment to the constitution.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

double whammy

The wind is blowing, the snow is falling steadily, it's cold. No one in his right mind would venture willingly out into this weather without a really good reason. A reason of great importance. A reason rife with desperation. Life and death.

I had to venture out today. My reason? I HAD TO GO TO THE DENTIST for a routine checkup and teeth cleaning.

According to Mary, if I don't go twice a year to the dentist for routine maintenance, I will surely die an excruciating premature death and rot in Hell for my negligence. She simply won't allow me to slide on these routine appointments. So despite the horrific weather I was forced to keep my appointment with the hygienist. Talk about a double whammy--first the nasty winter weather and then a trip in that nastiness to the dentist for more nastiness. I think I'd rather take my chances with damnation and Hell.

Friday, February 09, 2007

now that she's dead, get a life

I want my 15 minutes of fame, too. So I hereby throw my sperm into the mix and make a claim to being the father of Anna's baby. Since potential fathers seem to be coming out of the woodwork, I figure one more possibility won't muddy the paternity waters all that much. And maybe I can wrangle a cut of the half billiion she might still get even though she won't be able to spend it anymore.

Having said that, I have to admit that Anna Nicole Smith is really not my type. I've never really been into golddigging bimbos with big tits who have nothing else to recommend them. Sorry, bottle blondes with bodacioius boobs and silicone brains aren't enough to keep me interested. Which makes me wonder how she came to be a celebrity. She had no talent other than a willingness to bare it all for magazine "readers." That, and the ability to con a semi-demented billionaire octagenarian into marrying her are her only claims to fame. Why do we care?

This latest "tragedy" involving a pseudo celebrity has me perplexed. Where did this ridiculous cult of celebrity originate? Is it the need of so many people to live vicariously through these airhead cultural parasites that feeds the frenzy? Do people really want to be as worthless as those they idolize? How pathetic is that? Surely there are others out there in the world that deserve our attention for actually accomplishing something that benefits all of us. Instead attention is heaped on an augmented set of tits that has those idolizers drooling on themselves.

Get a life of your own people. You really don't want to be that worthless do you? Please tell me this, and her, are all a bad joke.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

we get cards

The latest issue of the AARP magazine arrived the other day, but it wasn't until today that I had the chance to look at it. But before I started to read any of it I had to do the usual chore that accompanies the arrival of that magazine. I had to spend a few minutes paging through it to find and remove all the card inserts that clutter it up and add to its heft.

Is it just me being a cantankerous old curmudgeon or does the insertion of mail-in cards and informational cards and solicitation cards bug the hell out of you, too? Most magazines are not too guilty of overstuffing their pages with garbage, but AARP seems to think that we want or need to have all that possible info falling out of the pages of their magazine. I counted 13 cards this issue. That is fairly typical for that magazine.

I can understand the marketing concept behind inserting those cards in magazines, but what I don't understand is the apparent need for duplication. Three of the cards were soliciting my membership in the AARP. Listen up, dimwits, I am already a card carrying, dues paying member of the AARP. That's why I get the freakin magazine. You don't need to ask me to join. I'm already there. So stop already with the cards begging me to join. Some of the cards were trying to get me to buy real estate that only the top ten percent of the population could possibly afford. Some of the cards want me to buy health insurance to suppliment medicare. That shouldn't even be necessary but that's a another argument for another time. The rest of the inserts were for life insurance that nobody could qualify for or afford. Remember, we are all old farts reading the magazine. We don't need life insurance anymore. At least not in the amounts those marketing geniuses are touting.

Aside from the annoyance factor those cards raise, there is the issue of the making and disposing of all those cards. How many trees had to die to make all those cards? How many tons of waste are added to the country's dumps when we toss out those cards? The magazine must have a circulation of at least a couple hundred thousand, maybe more, so even without a calculator I count around 2 million cards with each issue. The magazine is issued bimonthly, so that means in a year's time 12 million cards are tumbling out of its pages. That's a lot of landfill.

Why not just print up a page or two with all the info that is printed on the cards so readers can then go online or call for the information they want. That would save a lot of trees and reduce the pile of garbage. Just a thought. But then I'm not a marketing genius.

Monday, February 05, 2007

I was a male stripper

Cut it out. It’s not what you’re thinking. Although I don’t necessarily want to disabuse you of your fantasies. No, today I was a stripper of wallpaper.

Mary gets these ideas in her head and she just can’t let them go. Unfortunately her ideas generally mean more work for me. These cold winter days are especially bothersome, because she has more time to look around and see all the things that she suddenly thinks need to be done. Things that need “updating.” Rooms that need a new color. Furniture that needs to be replaced. Nevermind that I just hung that wallpaper 25 years ago (it seems like yesterday), just painted that hallway 15 years
ago, that the couch in the livingroom is only 20 years old (it still feels just as comfortable as the day we brought it into the house).

I’m of the school that says “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And if the wallpaper is still stuck to the wall, leave it there. If the paint is still in the same general shade as when you slapped it on the wall, leave it alone. If the couch’s springs aren’t poking you in the ass, sit quietly and enjoy the comfort. The status quo is the status I am most fond of. So I have a tendency to balk whenever the need for change takes over her otherwise pleasant personality. But my attitude seems to just add a bit more challenge to her quest for change. Try as I might to ignore her, somehow she always gets her way and I get more work to do.

So today I was compelled to spend the afternoon stripping the old wallpaper off the upstairs hallway so that those now naked walls can be repainted. I had been fighting the good fight for several weeks, but her withering and unrelenting siege on my peace of mind finally won the contest and I gave in. And my worst fears were realized as soon as she saw the naked walls. She decided that as long as I was at it, I might as well redo the entire staircase hall as well. She even acted like she was doing me a favor by running to the paint store to buy the paint so I could just keep on working. Big of her, wasn’t it?

For the next few days I will be employed as a painter. As long as I have to do it, I will do it well. She knows that and takes advantage of me. I guess it’s my own damn fault for being so painstakingly talented in so many ways. She knows that I will do a better job than anyone else she could get. Her threats to hire someone to do these jobs always gets me going.

But if she decides to hire a male stripper, all bets are off.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

wait till next year

Thank goodness that's over. At least I don't have to put up with a Bears' win. Actually they didn't show up to play so there was no danger of their winning. I can tolerate the Colts win if only because it means the season is finally over. Wait till next year. Go Packers.

Prince at halftime? Who exhumed that cadaver? Isn't he/it sort of irrelevant? I was sort of hoping for an electification with the rain (not purple either) coming down. No such luck.

Spring trainiing is just around the corner. Let's play two.

super blow

Here it is, Super Bowl Sunday, and I find myself not caring a whole lot. I suspect the reason is the two teams involved fail to move me to any sort of passion. Saying that sounds disingenuous coming from a rabid Green Bay Packers fan, but rooting against the hated Bears means possibly, by default, having to root for the carpet bagging Colts.

Being a football fan of a certain age, I find it difficult to associate the name, Colts, with any city not named Baltimore. I can never quite forgive the sneaky underhanded move that stole the storied franchise of Unitas from its home. The Colts are an unlovable team now because of their "moving" history. It doesn't help that they have a quarterback named after a soap opera, either, whose histrionics at the line of scrimmage leave me disconcerted at best and apoplectic at worst. Call the freakin play in the huddle and then run the goddamn thing without all the finger pointing and shouting and attention grabbing prancing around. But while I deplore the Colts association with a foster city and their unsettling sissy-named QB, I would be more likely to cheer for them than have to raise a voice in favor of da Bears.

It is genetically impossible for any true bred Wisconsinite to look favorably on anything associated with the Bears. They have absolutely no redeeming value at all. We allow them to exist only for the opportunity to beat up on them twice each sesson.
Finding them in the Super Bowl is an abberation of the universe's alignment that seems to occur only in twenty year cycles. We let them win a few games every few years just so they won't give up and drag their sorry butts home in despair, never to return for another whipping. But allowing them to participate in the championship game is carrying the concept of allowing them to win a few too far. I may have to ignore the game entirely so as not to acknowledge their participation.

So today is set to be a tortuous exercise for this football fan. The best of alll possible outcomes would be for both teams to acknowledge their unsuitability for participation and call the whole thing off. Bunch of losers. Still, I will feel compelled to steal a glance or two at the tv during game time just to feed my need to see at least one of them fail.

Super Blow Sunday, indeed.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

deepfreeze

If it gets any colder around here, Hell is in trouble. I plan on being housebound for the next week until the current deepfreeze gives way to more reasonable weather. Think Spring.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

geekhood

I have officially left behind my computer neophyte status. At least I think so. Yesterday I installed, all by myself, an Airport Extreme card in my iMac. This was one time when I followed the directions and didn't screw it up. Then I installed (ok, I plugged it in) an Airport Express wireless router. And miracle of miracles it worked. Now I can access the internet anywhere in my house with my laptop. I can take it in the kitchen, in the living room, in the bedroom, and in the, yes, if I am so inclined, the bathroom. I can probably take it out to the deck too, but I am not going to test that theory now since the temperature outside is close to zero. That will have to wait until Spring when the outdoors is more congenial. The point is, I am now officially untethered from the cords that bind me to my desk. And I am so proud of myself that I am claiming
Apprentice Geek status for myself. Look out, Bill Gates, here I come.