Saturday, December 31, 2011

Once more with feeling

Elk Dawn at Black Lake
I am a writer of journals and blogs, a maker of goals and affirmations, a believer that the future is a gift we have the opportunity to shape. So with the last day of 2011 before me I pulled out my journal and looked back to the same time last year. And then the year before.

I had begun 2010 with a lofty and extensive list of goals. I accomplished less than half. I was grateful I did that much but it did effect my list for 2011. That list is only 6 items: 1) Move beyond the events of 2010, 2) Be more positive in my outlook, 3) Set my own directions, 4) Set more adventurous directions in my art, 5) Look at doing poetry/art book, 6) Keep website more current.

I have failed miserably at number 6 which now adorns my todo list for 2012. And I will admit that it took me almost all of 2011 to get number 2 and 3 accomplished. And I can still be overwhelmed by grief from time to time. I am busy working on poems to fit various pieces of my works and have tracked down an on-line publishing option. I bought the latest version of Wordperfect office to assist in this goal. Dare I list Complete poetry/art book on the 2012 agenda?

I am most happy with my accomplishments on number 3 and 4. When I listed them in the short list for 2011 I had no idea what shape the achievement of them would take. So in that regard they were more affirmations than todo list items. Or even resolutions. I only knew that I was vaguely unhappy with the "eye candy" paintings I was turning out for shows and exhibits. I wanted to be more meaningful. And last year was filled with new departures on subjects for paintings. And surprisingly I found myself leaving a gallery that had long represented my work, and looking for new ways to exhibit my art. And I found myself deeply involved with photography. The year 2011 found me entering three exhibits with my photos and winning prizes in two. I also won a prize with one of my "dark" paintings.

I like the directions I have explored artistically because of those two affirmations and I want to continue to move along that path. I use the big artistic change as the reason I am behind on my website. I think it requires rethinking it entirely. (PS another computer crash did not help). No, I do not have the completed list for 2012 yet. This is the beginning of that process and I am somewhat behind if you go by dates on the calendar. Maybe I will just try harder on the 2011 list once more.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Magpie Tales 96 - The Real Thing

Laughing Marilyn Monroe by Bert Stern

Pearls
Laugh lines
Laughter
Non-airbrushed flaws.

Blonde
by Clairol
Body
by Mother Nature.

No plastic
no Botox
no implants
The real thing.

Except maybe the laughter

J. Binford-Bell
December 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Day Photography

Christmas Morning Elk
Every photographer knows what a gift it is to have a close friend, or in my case a sister, to go a photographing with. People that have not looked at the world through a view finder don't understand when we yell, "Stop. Pull over. No, back there." And other assorted exclamations of excitement. Nor do they see the necessity in going out at the crack of dawn in sub zero weather (-12 F on Christmas Day) to seek the elusive elk.

This year's Calf

Studying the Dawn
Or to catch that early morning light on the surrounding mountains and hills. Most people miss this entirely.

Dawn on Cat Scratch Mountain

Dawn on Wheeler Peak
My sister and I returned after the morning expedition to a Christmas Morning breakfast of eggs Benedict on homemade English Muffin bread. And then it was out for the afternoon off-road tradition begun last year. So Nikon and Cannon in hand and fur kids in back we set off to find unexplored territory and went through Cimarron Canyon and up Ponil Creek to a wildlife management area. Morning was elk and afternoon was turkeys.

The Girls

The Boys

Hopping the Creek
Lots of great pictures and lots of new memories. No doubt regular readers of this blog and Creative Journey will see more photographs from Christmas Day.

Debbie and I had our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve: Ribeye roast with English horseradish sauce, sauteed golden cauliflower with garlic, and French Silk Pie for dessert. We had plenty of leftovers for Christmas day. Giving us ample time to download and cull through our digital captures. Important things.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Trust me I am not Suffering


I live in the mountains of northern New Mexico not Siberia.  Yes, we get snow. But the last totally paralyzing storm was 2006. We got 6 feet in three days. Things came to a stand still for about four days. And that was basically because all the snow clearing equipment in our area was pulled out for the plains. They got it worse just like they did on this storm.

A friend just posted a story about a couple heading to Angel Fire to ski who got buried in snow outside Springer. Springer, NM is in the plains where snow is compounded with blizzard force winds and total whiteouts. They obviously were under the misconception that their SUV would get them through the closed roads. They were wrong. I blame the commercials. Pay enough for your vehicle and/or tires and you are suppose to be able to make it through Noah's flood. Wrong.

Most of us that live in this rarefied atmosphere know when to stay home and hunker down and when we can make it through. I have lived in New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas City, Missouri. The latter may have had the worst winter weather to drive through - or at least driving from Denver to Kansas City across the plains of Kansas - was the worst.  That particular snow storm one Christmas was rather bad but I hung in between a couple tractor trailer rigs and made it.

And there was that year when the rain in Kentucky (I was living in North Carolina) suddenly at the Mississippi River changed to wet, heavy snow. Not a room in the Inn or any Inn in St Louis was available but the hotels were allowing travelers (again at Christmas) to hang out in lobbies until the roads opened up. The roads, btw, are closed more often not because of snow depth but wrecks or visibility issues. SUV's, snow tires, and OnStar are not helpful with any of that.

Smarts are your best weapon. Check road conditions before heading out. Have a full box of emergency gear in the car (btw it probably should be where you can reach it and that might not be the trunk), and don't be in a hurry. When in doubt stay put.

And the weather channel might not be your best source of information. Every state has a DOT hotline or website with more current information than weather.com. The last snow storm was not that big of an event here. And the current storm is a total fizzle.

And I would rather put up with the worst snow storms than hurricanes, tornadoes or even triple digit heat. I choose to live here because it has none of that and no fleas or ticks or centipedes. It has clean air, and no light pollution and wonderful silence broken only by the howl of a coyote or bugle of an elk.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Next to Last Monday of the Year


I find it hard to believe the year is almost over. Been a relative good year. Especially in relationship to 2010. I suppose I should be thinking about a year in review blog but my focus at the moment is on the gathering storm.

Storm reports are fodder for us locals. We all have our opinions. The tourist center and the ski resort are currently picking up on the weather report with the greatest snow depth forecast - 12 inches. But then this storm was suppose to actively begin at midnight and when I looked out the window at 5 a.m. there was not a flake. As I write this (9 a.m.) there is only two to three inches. I think I am being really generous with the three. But the ravens are celebrating over the trees. They generally go into this party dance when they know they might have to roost for a while.

We all have our little signs we look for to bolster our opinion. I think maybe only about 6 to 8 inches at my house. It is wise to remember I live in the mountains. And weather and snow depth can vary drastically depending on which side of the hill you live. Velarde on the dry side of the mountain does not have snow yet. And Raton, out toward the Texas boarder is having a full out blizzard.

When potential tourists ask how much snow we are going to have at Christmas (frequently asked in July) it is difficult to keep a straight face. It is difficult to know how much snow we will get today let alone six days from now. Wiser people than me will have to come up with predictions 6 months ahead.

I do know it is suppose to be warmer and drier this year. And storms thus far have largely skirted to the south of us. That area of the state has been so very dry I do not begrudge them a single flake. Same with the east side. So while we welcome the snow pack to aid in reducing summer forest fires I won't do a snow dance to get it here instead of the Sandia's or Zuni's.

Wiser gods are in control of the weather and they do not ask my permission. May we all get what we need even if it isn't necessarily what we want.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Morning


That time of year again. How quickly it seems to come around these days.

I love decorating trees. Love the smell of them (the fresh ones). It looked like I might not get my tree this year. For the longest time only one place in Angel Fire had trees for sale and they looked dyed and plastic, definitely were not freshly cut, and had no place to place decorations the branches were so jammed together. I considered a fake tree. Even went internet shopping for one.

Disenchanted with that possibility I thought of any variety of ways to make a tree substitute. I had done one in college which was stacked tumbleweeds sprayed white and adorned with Christmas lights which my room mate and I swore blinked to Tchaikowsky's 5th symphony. I have used potted Norfolk pines also. And for several years when space was limited due to mask making for Mardi Gras just hung ornaments from the ceiling. I was dreaming up a mobile tree to hang from the studio rafters when I returned to my search for the real thing.

And I got it. A fresh cut New Mexico pine that just smells like the great outdoors. Nice when you are closed off against the weather in a heated house. No doubt why the Norse began the tradition. Course they had their livestock also in the house and I just have the fur kids.

I do make some of my own decorations and every year I have tried to buy a new one or two or three. As a result I have a wide range of options for adornment and can rather pick and choose. I do like the flowers and bows I did last year. They add a Victorian Flair. As do some of the tin ones I have picked up.



One of my hand painted ornaments in behind this reindeer I got last year. And one of my collection of moose. Stay tuned to this blog for more featured ornaments in the weeks before retirement to the boxes again.

Monday, December 5, 2011

TW3 - Winter Arrived

December snow by J. Binford-Bell

Winter arrived this week. All my bargaining did not work. Still with a forecast by NOAA of three massive storms we only got the second. And currently the third has been downgraded from 16" to as little as 8" additional. But it looks as if we are not going to escape the bitter cold. It is 6 F this morning as I write this and destined to only get to 10 F today. Plunging to -13 tonight. The good news is there is currently not a breath of wind. But it seemed like a good time to start a morning fire in the wood stove.

The first blast of winter weather always seems so rude. Yes, it is bound to come. And yes, we need the moisture. But I really would rather do it without gale force winds and sub zero temps. But I can deal with both easier than summers in the triple digits. I can always put on more clothing but there is just so much I am willing to take off in public. And New Mexico, is by in large, just pretend winter. It comes and goes. I found out what real winter was one year in Vail, Colorado. Thank you but no. Here, come Wednesday, we are back to sunshine and temps over freezing. December is the cruelest month here.

Good time to stay inside and paint in my studio. Or finally get around to updating my website. I need to add photography to that. Being snowed in is good muse time. Though yesterday during a break between storms I shoveled the driveway under blue skies and then tested out the snow tires on the new to me vehicle. The sun was melting off the 10 inches from the day before storm. Long range forecasts say it will be a dry and warm winter. This current week is just a fluke.

And I like the sound of a crackling fire in the morning. It goes so well with a hot cup of coffee.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Traditons


I suppose it is natural to think of traditions during the holidays if only in the manner and style in which we prepare the meal and set the table. But a friend of mine here in blog land recently recalled an old man fishing that stood with his hat off in silence while a funeral convoy passed. I have not seen many funeral convoys or corteges of late. But then I live outside a small community that until recently did not even have a cemetery. But I do remember my Uncle Ray passing this bit of behavior to me on his lawn in Kansas City.

My father also always stood in silence with his hat off and over his heart when the United States flag passed by in a parade. It is in there will all the other passed down knowledge given to me by my elders. And I was of the generation that believed traditions like wedding ceremonies held back progress in society. Age has changed me. I now see so many of these stumbling blocks to progress as glue that holds a society together.

The fisherman that stood in silence with his hat off as the procession of cars passed was acknowledging his part in the human condition. One day he might be the body in the lead hearse. Will anyone stand for him? My ex-husband's wife did not even hold a memorial service for him so that the community he lived in for over twenty years could say goodbye. Such traditions or rituals are a step in the process of healing - of closing the open wound left by a member's passing. But a lot of smaller traditions are a way of cementing a society even if it is only opening a door for an elderly citizen. Or a woman with a baby in her arms. Or a young man on crutches.

Automatic doors or the hurried pace of the life we have set for ourselves seems to preclude these traditions taught to us by our parents. I might be part of the last generation that remembers these things. Have I passed them on to anyone younger. As anyone younger listened? Obviously not because we now think it is perfectly okay to bust down doors and run over the weak and frail and pepper spray others to get the best bargain on a big screen TV.

This time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is suppose to be on most church calendars a time of reflection on our own lives (not a make others wrong). What are you doing to tie yourself to other humans, to acknowledge your commonality and not your differences? What oil are you spreading on the wheels of society? Are you letting someone with less items and a screaming child go first in line? Are you parking further away in the big box store lot so someone who needs it can have access to the handicapped space? Are you opening the door for anyone that might have trouble doing it themselves.

What little traditions or common courtesies have you learned and buried in some recess of your mind? Time to revive them and share them openly. Time to make our society a kinder and gentler place to reside.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shopping in Taos


I was reminded this morning when I considered my topic and searched my brain for a lead photograph that when I originally began this blog I used old photos I had searched in Google for. This was one of the first ones I used. Fortunately blogspot keeps them all in Picassa albums so I was able to get it back for today's topic of shopping in Taos.

The wagons now have wheels but I don't know that the look of my fellow customers have changed much. Taos residents can be an odd lot. Especially at Walmart.

First stop yesterday was Albertson's. I had made a list of items I needed for my after Thanksgiving open studio event and I am more familiar with their layout of products than Smith's. And I was trying to avoid Walmart to be honest. I seldom, if ever, go into Walmart once the holiday season has kicked off. I am obviously not a good American consumer. Albertson's also has the bogo sales on things - buy one/get one. They had extra thick organic pork chops perfect for stuffing but I digress.

My goal was to get one or two things I was out of but all else for the green chili stew, biscochitos, cheese plate and hot spiced cider for the Friday and Saturday event. Ever notice how fast you can shop when it is your usual list but how slow things go when you have some unusual items on it? And so it was in the paper aisle yesterday trying to decide on paper bowls, plates, napkins, and hot drink cups. None of the numbers were what you would expect. Experienced shoppers know it is 10 hot dogs and 8 buns per pack. But quick what is the number of paper bowls in a package? With Hefty it is 10 or 25.

And how many might you use for an open (as in advertised to the public) event? That is highly problematic in Angel Fire and this time of year weather has a lot to do with it. I chose my menu because it would all freeze (green chili stew) or be eaten by me (cheese and rice crackers) or could be mixed in smaller batches (hot apple cider). I think I can cope with anything from one to 50 so I got fifty cocktail plates, bowls and drink cups. And an almost infinite amount of plastic spoons. Experience has shown that I use plastic spoons for everything from yogurt to go to mixing paint.

I think I am all set for the party. And the next couple of weeks of other stuff like canned dog food. My goal is to not have to drop into the local market for anything. With gas going down and their prices going up it almost becomes cheaper to drive over the mountain for more than three items. The one thing I could not find was sterno. Had planned to put the apple cider in the chaffing dish. So had to go to Walmart anyway (camping section in case you are looking for any) but they had only the little cans. Finally decided it was more economical to but a little crock pot (my big one will have the green chili stew in it). Used to have two but I think I was in a decluttering mode. Oh, well, the old one was in harvest colors (picked up at a garage sale?) and the new one is black to match the big one.

All my paper dinner wear (isn't that an interesting term they have picked up?) is in red. What does not get used for this event will be serviceable at Christmas and then at Valentine's. Small party like events are suppose to be the way to promote your art and studio these days. And what I spent on food and accessories was a great deal less than the standard booth fee at a fair. And that is without the gas and labor to get there.

Last year I was in the Rio Grande Holiday show watching people walk off their turkey dinners. This year I will be sitting in my warm studio probably painting Christmas decorations until someone shows up. Ambiance sounds better.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Summary of the Week that Was

Mt. Wheeler with snow cap
Finally got back from vacation mentally. And moved out of idle into a gear that at least got something done. Biggest thing was getting the desk moved out of the studio. It gives me so much more room and the person that came and got it is really enjoying it. With it gone it makes it easier to rearrange things and prepare the studio for my Holiday opening, November 25 and 26.

Another boon to mentally returning from vacation is I got out the camera and snapped some more photos. Though honestly I was still thinking of fall when a snow capped Wheeler Peak revealed itself from under the clouds.


The weather was nicer than I though given the really cold nights we have been having - like the single digits. And so my walk up the lane to look in at a friend's cats invited lingering to get that just right photo.

Fir tree cones
And then some lingering over captured images on the computer and Corel Paintshop Pro 4x.

Seed Drill

Some Modifications
And I made some modifications in my life beyond the studio. Finally gave into buying a Kindle. Tired of struggling with reading in bed print that is too small or the light not just right or holding up a heavy hard cover book. I am having trouble waiting for it to arrive but I continue to work my way through The Private Patient  by P.D. James with its tiny, tiny little print.

Time to put the peddle to the metal and get busy with the studio re-arrange for the Holiday opening I have planned. A return to unseasonably warm weather might be nice but currently it is gale force winds and more snow. Even the dogs don't want to go out.

Focus in
Meanwhile I need to tighten my focus on what needs to be done and do it. Guess I am still not totally back from vacation.

Monday, November 7, 2011

TW3 - Lost Time


Not sure where the last week went. Yes, there were little things I got done but there were also huge blocks of wasted time. Almost as if once back from vacation physically my mind took its own vacation. Yes, I caught up with laundry and I got all the photos I took edited and organized. Still need to upload to FlickR. But the list of things I was going to jump right back into like sewing projects (though I have the area to do them established) and cleaning up the studio (the bags are unpacked and no longer in the middle of the floor) are not done. Every other day I have been doing 20 minutes of light weights but not moving beyond that.

I did join the Angel Fire Chamber of Commerce but I have not done a write up and e-mailed in in to the membership manager. It is the end of the first week of November and I have to get the peddle to the metal soon. No more watching streaming videos all day long. Or playing computer games past my bedtime.

Yesterday the local firewood supplier delivered a cord of firewood and I had to get out and stack it before today's scheduled snow. The physical exercise felt good. Today I have assigned limits to my computer time. I do have to do that CofC write up today. And I want to sew up the pj's I cut out so a streaming video or DVD while doing that. And I need to work on the todo list. I seem to have lost the before vacation one. And never made one afterwards. Too much freedom obviously goes to my head.

Are you a list maker? I have gotten so I cannot survive without one. Can you?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Making a Shopping List


I do try to support local businesses but I no longer ski, have a complete stock of Angel Fire t-shirts, and cannot figure out the open/close schedule of our restaurants in off season. In spite of gas being 20 to 30 cents more per gallon than Taos I usually fill up on this side of the mountain unless I need to go to Taos for another reason.

Since the Taos branch of Artisan's art supply closed these trips had become less frequent. As a solo household I often just picked up food stuffs at the local store. The Valley Market was recently bought and remodeled by Lowe's, a Texas chain. The remodel enlarged the store but most of the new footage has been taken up by a much expanded liquor section which is arranged so it cannot be avoided. My favorite brand of ice cream is gone. Organic foods are relegated to one half aisle across from wines. Whole wheat flour cannot be found. Their bread is that white foamy stuff that when wadded up makes a great cleaner for paintings. And your ability to find organic milk is dependent on being there on stocking day. They said they were keeping on the neighbors that worked there but I think the last one just got forced out.

I have continued to try mainly because of my schedule before vacation but the items on the list I cannot find grow and finally I have a list long enough to justify the 50 mile round trip to Taos. I see that this will be a twice a month event and while there I will fill up on cheaper gas. If I pop in the local market it will be for the odd can of dog food, but even pet food sacrificed space for more liquor. One hopes they can make a profit on tourists because most of us locals are spurning the place, and they spent a lot on the remodel. I was one of the last "give them some time" people.

Well, back to that shopping list.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Made it at last

Painted Desert
After I graduated from high school my father gave us the grand tour. Not the grand tour of a year in Europe which some of my later college friends enjoyed but two weeks with the family seeing the parks of the intermountain west. It was an ambitious list of must see's and early on two parks got cut: Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. The argument was we lived in a painted desert and that you could buy petrified wood everywhere. So for years both remained on my must see list if for no other reason that they got cut.


But there always seemed to be grander parks to see or more important places to go. But this vacation with my sister I at last made it to both. Let me say for the record that you can buy petrified wood everywhere. But the colors and scope of the painted desert, which continues into the petrified forest park, is not to be seen just anywhere. And for a photographer it should not be missed.


I really want to go back. Mostly because the light changes the colors so very much. It is one of those places, like the Grand Canyon, I can imagine setting up the tripod and waiting for the sun to rise or set.

My quilted purple mountain

And with the colors there are such interesting shapes and contours. It once was a primordial forest. The petrified wood huge towering trees that grew there. The two parks are joined because the painted desert continues into the once lush forest of the petrified trees.

Cascade of Petrified Trees
We took one of the walks to the bottom of the colored hills. The world above vanished. The trail marker at the top said to take time to listen to the silence. I felt as if I had been transported to a world before there was time or noise.

Maybe another planet.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Time Slipping Away


This last year seems to have gone so fast. And the last two months like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. I have changed so many things it is hard to find equilibrium it seems. And it isn't just me but the world around me as we race from fall to winter in New Mexico.

I normally post a weekly blog here on Mondays and just this morning (in the hours before dawn) realized it was Wednesday. Vacation with my sister begins tomorrow. We are off to photograph more of our beloved Colorado Plateau. This time the southern edge of it. Have cameras and laptops and will travel. Only this time we are doing it on day trips or overnight turn arounds. Works best with fur kids and changeable weather.

I need the vacation. But not because it is a change of pace. Pace has changed a lot all on its own. A bit of boredom would be nice. No computer crashes, no extreme allergic reactions with a pet, no more friends being diagnosed with terminal illnesses, etc.  Same oh, same oh sounds very nice actually.

But I seem to have no control over time or what happens in that time. I just feel a bit old to go with the flow. And we are too close to winter to throw caution to the winds.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Spending time with my camera


Storm clouds

I have been spending time with my Nikon D90 and my newest version of post processing software: Corel Paintshop Pro 4X Ultimate. So much time you would think I was enrolled in a post graduate level photography course. And in a way I am. I am using other photographers I know as my instructors and dissertation committee. I consider the things they post as assignments and take to the street or computer.

Terry Atkins Rowe has posted several very illuminating links on our D90 Ladies Club page on Facebook. And they have served as my text book. A recent one she posted was on achieving good black and white photographs. Frankly since I left my darkroom at college I have not been successful with B&W. And having my sister and friend, Terry, excel at it has been a bit intimidating.

My natural tendency is to quit the table when I don't like the game or lose a lot. But this is about me, my camera and my computer. It is an inner competition with self and not just about photography. So armed with camera I set out. The really great thing about the digital era is photography becomes a really cheap activity once you have the camera, lenses, and software (and ignore the I-really-want-this-list).

The above picture was really fantastic in color. I tried it in B&W because very active skies are suppose to be very good for B&W and a photograph I saw at a Taos art exhibit this weekend proved clouds could be just as stunning without color as with. The picture leaves just a hint of lilac in it and the one below with just a bit of blue.


Then there was the raven. I have finally managed to lure one close enough to get a picture but it was through thermo pane glass which was anything but clean. The grass it was standing on was anything but brilliant green and ravens are black. The composition of the photo was solid so why not. I am a believer you cannot save an awful photo regardless of what you do in the darkroom, dry or wet.


It is necessary for B&W I have read to have light from one direction. This picture was taken in the early morning and light was coming from the direction of the bird's tail and gave great definition on the feathers because of it.


Textures are also suppose to be a good thing for B&W so when I downloaded this picture of a ram at the Taos Wool Festival I was immediately drawn to the textures around the face and neck of this beast. This photo is good in color in its entirety but the sun coming from the butt of the sheep washed out all contrast on the rest of the picture. So I cropped down to the most interesting textures before taking out color. Totally B&W in this and the raven.

So in conclusion I have learned a lot. In part that those that do a lot of B&W post processing are quite likely considering that when they take the picture: Texture, active skies, strong light source from an oblique angle, etc. That in and of itself gives them a huge spring board for black and white photographs. It isn't just something you do with a bunch of pictures you took which failed in color. But the same things that make for a good black and white photograph also add to a good color photo.

Next lesson is to go out with camera and shoot specifically for black and white.  Lesson after that is shoot for color pictures and find out if my black and white experience as improved the shots I get.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Driven

Facebook Report Card


I don't do apps on Facebook so why I got sucked in with this one when I was tagged by a friend I haven't a clue. But once I had it posted on my page it immediately sucked me in. And it has not been a happy experience.

Report cards were a major thing when I was a kid. We had to excel. And let me say for the record that this card would have been a major event at our house. C's and D's were never tolerated. Regardless of the fact that in the end I have a B average.

Let me explain they have the friend number wrong. I have more friends (well, a few more) than that. But my grade school report cards often had a special note from the teacher that I did not play well with others. Not that I was mean or anything. I just found my classmates on the whole boring. I would rather sit in a corner of the playground and draw or write. Doing that in class because I found the teacher boring often also earned me the classic line, "Does not use time wisely." Since I am now an artist and have been a freelance writer I want all those comments resended.

The D in videos is definitely because of "Does not pay attention in class" and the "Does not play well with others." I was never one of those that chased fads or popular music or could name the artist and song or the movie and the actor. It is definitely hard to look something up on YouTube if you don't know those things. Oh, not that I don't use YouTube exhaustively but I look up things like how to stretch canvas or do a half double crochet stitch or fix the car. Maybe I will start posting those to my Facebook page to improve my video score.

As to the friend score: If you are reading this and on Facebook but not currently a friend go to my profile and invite me. I am a rather quiet (see remark about corner of playground) and low maintenance. I also have a fanpage which my father would say was under performing because I do not push like some of my friends. I would have flunked salesmanship and never been able to be an evangelist.

But what I choose to do I am good at.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

That Was a Week!

Aspens turning
First my sister found out she had won first place for one of her photographs in the 35th International show in Raton. So she made plans to drive up Friday morning after she got off work. Then the repaired computer at last arrived on Thursday. Its hard drive had been replaced so what was once suppose to be Charley VI and became Charley VII because Charley VI would not boot up should probably have been renamed Charley VIII because it has a totally new mind that I have been trying to set up. But I digress again.

Friday came too fast and we drove out to Raton to pick up my sister's award. Her first big award for her photography so she was soaring for sure. Then Saturday we once again went four wheeling with her Jeep Rubicon. The Aspens were turning. Where oh where did the year go?


And my weekend with my sister was all too fleeting. But she taught me to use the cloning tool on my photo editing program. How to successfully shoot macro pictures. And to microwave scrambled eggs.


Sisters are priceless.









s

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

TW3 - Time to Move On



Moving does not mean packing up the household belongings and hitting the road. As a child with a father in the military, and then later in my youth working for a major construction management company I got to redo my life on a regular basis via United Van Lines. Home was just where my parents lived. And given their lives not anywhere I had lived often.

Now I have lived in the same house for almost 15 years and in the same geographic area for almost 23. I until recently would image moving house just to not have to be trapped. But I have at last discovered that movement can be a rather static thing. It can be just a shift in attitude. Or turning just a bit to be aware there is another path to follow. It can be not calling the same friends for lunch or belonging to the same board of directors.

It can be like the newly emerged butterfly just quietly pumping its wings full so it can fly - a movement so still as to be almost no movement at all at first. Then that leap of faith. Leaving that comfortable space.

I have done a lot of moving this summer. Changing people and goals if not place. And while a bit scary it feels good. And it seems that the universe has united behind my shift in direction. Or should I say directions. To a lot of my old friends it seems that I am going all ways at once; that I am leaving behind what they believe is important.

The biggest visible shift has been to photography. But, never fear, I am still painting. I just am not painting for fairs or the expectations of galleries. I am painting what I want to paint. And I am painting at a pace my muse can support. A lot of energies are going into the photography just now but that is understandable. It is new and exciting to me especially given my success with it thus far. To the outsider this seems all so sudden. But it was a change in some ways long coming.

In some ways I was pushed by the economy, the down turn in fairs, the death of the Astro Van that took me to those fairs, my stand against giclee prints of my paintings, and just plain got to move off this damn leaf I am on. If I hadn't moved I could have been gobbled by some frog.

But yes I am still here. I have not moved house as the Brits say. I am still blogging but the focus of my blogs may have shifted a bit. More poetry on Creative Journey. Less politics on Travels with Charley. A tad more introspection here. And I have left groups I began on Facebook as I consider new groups I might want to start.

Times they are a changing. Like the butterfly whose new wings are at last dry: Move or die.

Monday, September 12, 2011

In Praise of the Cloud


After having put Fedex and HP down in a couple blogs I thought I ought to say something good about a company. After the external hard drive crashed last October and then the computer service tech I took it to erased the hard drive on my desktop I signed up for the Carbonite Cloud. It is an ethernet back up service that takes the worry out of backup.

I am an artist and I admit for losing complete track of time about backing up my computers. Or loading photos into my FlickR account. With the cloud I just have to be on line and anything new I post is backed up. And I can be on any device to access the cloud and pluck down information. I first used it when I had forgotten to download a file from my desktop to my laptop before taking off to a fair. Then again when the desktop failed yet again. I bought a new computer and upon receipt of it could immediately get the backupped data from the cloud and put it on the new one.

Now my desktop (still under warranty with HP) has failed and just before a couple exhibitions I want to enter or need to print photographs for. The 7-10 working days for repair is already past 6 and the computer is still in my living room because HP forgot to include the shipping label in the late arriving Fedex box. It won't even go to repair until tomorrow if Fedex delivers the label on time. Day 8. So I have been into the cloud more than once and no doubt will go there again.

Carbonite just reminded me that my backup on the desktop is a week late. I replied that Charley VII was broke again and received back a very nice e-mail from them offering a link for downloading the data from my sick computer when fixed and an 800 number to call if I had any problems with that.

I was amazed they had an e-mail that was not a noreply one like Fedex and HP. So right on Carbonite. I could not have made it through this year without you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fed up with Fedex and HP



My HP computer broke again. Mother board this time. And of course it crashed on the first day of Labor Day weekend. It was under warranty and I have a laptop, but my desktop is where I do all my company business and all my photo editing. And, of course, I had a deadline on getting some photos printed for a show I was accepted in.

HP agreed that only 8 months old the computer was under warranty. They would send me a shipping box. It left their center on Tuesday with second day express shipping. It was schedule to be delivered by Fedex on Thursday.

That delivery date was critical because I could then box the offending computer and call for pickup on Friday. With any luck it would be in the repair center on the following Tuesday at the latest. I cancelled all appointments to not miss the Fedex delivery van. I rushed downstairs after making the bed just in time to see it pull out of my driveway.

No box on porch where most drivers leave packages, no box at my renter's apartment. She saw the Fedex very distinctive white truck drive away too with nobody getting out of it. Checked with my immediate neighbor to the west. He gets constant Fedex shipments of chemo drugs. No the driver had not left it there. I called Fedex Help line (now that is a misnomer) and they said the driver could not find my address.

I mentioned he was in my driveway. They asked if he had left an attempt to deliver tag. He had not. He did not get out of his truck because it was raining. Pony Tail Joe has quite a reputation in the Angel Fire area for non-delivery. As 29 comments to a community Facebook page attest. This is just a sampling:

  • We would have to start a new page to list all the complaints about Fed Ex deliveries in Angel Fire. My new skis were dropped at a local business that was closed the following 4 days. Home delivery was never attempted despite the tracking saying the package was delivered to my house.
  •  does seem to be the norm here with Fedex. He recorded that he could not find my address even though he was in my driveway.


  • I wonder if it's the same driver that lied about (not) picking up our package at the Resort last week. Even though it's not a public drop-off, the Resort has been kind enough to allow us to take our overnight lab work to their Fed-Ex drop off for the last few years because it (was) the most reliable pickup spot in town. We left our box in the usual spot and Fed Ex hadn't picked it up in 3! days so we took it to the Chamber. When Jo at the Chamber mentioned it to him she said he rudely said, "that box hasn't been at the Resort" - liar!! They need to get Fabian back as a driver - he was great!

  • This guy needs fired. And I plan to collect all these experiences and put them in a blog and mail it to Fedex

  • If it was the younger kid then yes! I filed a complaint just last week! Er
  • I never saw him because he did not get out of his truck

  • He better show up with my new Mac tomorrow after I paid for overnight shipping fees

  • I used to accept packages for people at the old bookstore. One of the reasons I quit doing it was because I had sooooo many problems with Fedex. Never had a problem with UPS.Fedex delivered a package to me yesterday....I met him at the top of the pass. I asked him if he was the regular guy and he said no...he was probably mid-to late 40's, with a pony tail. Heavy-set guy. White econoline van with FEDEX on it. That's all I can tell you...didn't get his name.
The Fedex agent on the phone insisted my box would be delivered later Thursday evening and to call back in a half hour. I did and the computer record had deleted the bit about the driver could not find my house. Package was not in the truck on Thursday for delivery. They apologized for the inconvenience and promised it would be delivered on Friday - hardly second day air I was paying extra for.

It has not been nine days since my business computer crashed. I did finally get the box on Friday at 6:30 but only because I saw the Fedex truck parked in the middle of my county road ready to once again drive off. I understand from a friend that Fedex is now commercializing their service in rural areas. I can only say . . . . well, I try to keep my blogs clean. I have for sometime tried to avoid all FEDEX shippers when I shop on line. This recent experience with them (see previous blog about VAS too) as validated that decision.

I am definitely worried about my computer being picked up and delivered to HP in a timely manner now that I finally have the box. I would drive it to a repair center if I knew where that was but HP forgot to include a return pre-paid label. So add that I am also fed up with HP.

Just got off the phone with Pakistan and HP will be sending my return label by the same company that took three days for an 2 day express air. You guessed it. Fedex. This is a computer company that has not yet gotten that you can e-mail Fedex labels to be printed out by the customer.

Friday, September 9, 2011

VRS is an Oxymoron

Ernestine
In the old days before technology ran wild you had a chance of talking to a real receptionist or a real operator. Note I did not say human. Ma Bell, the mega telephone company we insisted on breaking up, gave all their operators and service personnel a list of questions and responses from which they could not vary. One of Ernestine's lines on the old Laugh In comedy show was, "Is this the person to whom I am speaking?"

I was reminded of Lily Tomlin that made Ernestine famous yesterday in a series of telephone calls to HP and Fedex concerning the undelivered package to ship my broken computer back in. Both have a set list of questions and responses from which they are not allowed to vary regardless of how inappropriate the are.

 "Your driver failed to deliver the chemo drug package this week and my husband has died."

" We are sorry for your inconvenience."

"The funeral is Wednesday."

" We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused."

AND both have Voice Recognition Software as do several other companies I can mention. I had several well chosen words to say about VRS last night. None of which I think the software recognized. But then it also did not recognize what is was designed to recognize. In short, Voice Recognition Software is an oxymoron. It does not recognize voices and it is more hardware than software.

VRS might work with your home security system because you get to program it to match your voice and is not filtered through two telephones and miles of, if you are lucky, fiber optic cable. But VRS as used by companies on service lines make absolutely no allowances for the device you are speaking from, your sex, your regional accent, or any speech impediments, static on the line, or a major lightning storm. Most VRS used on customer service sites are programmed for the male voice in the lower registers (name the last time a man placed his own service call?). Screaming at it when it fails for the fifth time to know the difference between J and K just raises your voice an octave and makes you harder to understand. It does not like repetitions unless it is asking for it, will not start over if you say, "whoops, I meant 5 not 9," does not get that Alpha, Beta, Charlie is ABC, . . . well this list could go on. And there is a lot of GIGO as with HP last night that wanted one zip code to match one telephone number when for my problem they had two of each. Any one remember set and subset theory?

Let me say that the first few times I had to repeat something, because what it read back to me was so far from correct, I was a bit amused. When it thought 2300 was 1350 I pressed zero (once operator now what passes for a human voice) and figured I would rather talk to Ernestine. Instead I got Pakistani who had only a fleeting acquaintance with English and Ernestine's canned script. Even reverting to my 6th grade vocabulary did not help. In the end I reverted to screaming which had the same effect on him as it did on the VRS.

"Sorry if this caused you any inconvenience. Is there anything else I can help you with?"

I declined to mention he had not helped me with anything to that point and hung up. Sometimes all you can do is hang up and see of you can find an e-mail address on the website to which you can send your queries. Or never use that company again! Bring back Ernestine.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

I have fall fever


It has been raining this week. The grass as greened up and every wild flower that didn't bloom this spring because of lack of rain has burst into bloom. My neighbor has put his horses back in the field behind me. I throw on a hoodie and sit on my studio stoop with my camera and coffee. Life is good.

And so is the light if you like taking pictures. What a rotten time to have my desktop computer with the Corel Paint Shop program down. So I have contented myself with cropping on my laptop.


Meanwhile the list of things to do before winter settles in grows. But I just cannot pull myself away from the photographic opportunities visible from my stoop.


Oh, well, maybe next week the weather and view will not be so nice.

Monday, September 5, 2011

September already???

If this is September can scenes like the one be far behind?

Typing this from my laptop, Traveler. No, I am not traveling except in my mind. And once again my desktop is awaiting shipment back to the mothership of HP. I had cleaned my laptop of excess photos when Charley V failed and Charley VII was on order. That was end of November 2010. One thing would lead to another and I would not have my new desktop until almost the last day of that year. So when it failed yesterday I was well within my warranty time.

Tech support always creates chaos in my not that orderly desk area. Which led last night to found things and lost things - including my temper. But in the cool light f predawn I find myself wondering where the last year has gone, how many photos it is possible to put on a hard drive in less than nine months, and maybe it is time while the desktop is gone to rearrange the office area like I thought last December. And is there a way to organize my  computer desk so when the tech guy says remove all the cables from the back it is easy to do?

I think I have asked that last question before. Nothing has changed? Well, the Carbonite Cloud backup was a changed. And so when the desktop failed with all my latest photos formatted to go to the printer, for an exhibition I was accepted in, my panic was not as great as last September when four years of photographs and documents vanished in the ether at the computer nerd's house. And when HP delivers my desktop back with a new motherboard I can restore all data (but not programs) from the cloud. Now to figure out while programs I directly downloaded and which I ordered the CD's for. And it is that question that moved me from Photoshop to Corel Paint Shop Pro, but I digress.

Sometimes I have to have change thrust upon me and that has to be the theme for the last 12 months. Astro Van failed and forced me to look at my commitment to fairs. The new desktop allowed me the space and speed to more actively pursue photography. Marc's death a year ago made me look at moving on or not in relationships. And now some eager classmates from high school are planning a reunion. Oh, what I don't remember (thankfully) from high school. And what I do remember might be best forgotten. Might be some interesting blogs in that including David Rhodes who I had a crush on but he had a crush on my best friend. Stupidly asked me for her phone number!

But once again I digress. I have the photos I need now downloaded from the cloud to my laptop. I can copy them to a jump drive or just e-mail them to the printer I use in Taos. Downloading them proved that the cloud works and if HP techs lose my data I can reload the fixed Charley VII upon its return to me in two weeks. I will have the printed and framed and into the show in Raton before that.

Life moves on regardless of what is lost: computers, cars, people. I just wish sometimes it would slow down a bit.