Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Can You Read This?

A few weeks ago, The Young One and I visited The Strange Life of Objects: The Art of Annette Lemieux  currently on exhibit at WAM. One of the pieces was a large installation of words from Holocaust survivors. The piece was printed on a deep red canvas in beige and black. The words and colors create a visceral impact.

I turned to see how The Young One interpreted this piece. I could see her taking it in, but realized she was struggling to read it since it was printed in a script font.  She admitted it takes her much longer to read script than print. That fact shocked me as I take the ability to read script for granted.

Not long after, I had a spirited discussion with a group of young people whether penmanship should be taught in school. These were all teens and twenty-somethings. My take, of course, was penmanship should be taught in schools, and not just during third grade and then forgotten. How can one attain skill if the skill is not practiced? My real concern was how would historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence be read and interpreted if one couldn't read script? There was a who cares attitude from many of these young people, and many were math majors and claimed they had no use to read script. They could print just fine and they were convinced printing was faster than writing script.

It saddened me to hear their remarks. They wouldn't be able to read historical documents like the Declaration or even mathematical treatises like Isaac Newton's work (ok, they would have to be able to understand Latin, too) and interpret for themselves the meaning of the word? I suppose it falls into the same category as many of us having to rely on someone else's translation of Egyptian or Mayan glyphs.

But worse, they wouldn't be able to read letters or diaries written by their parents and grandparents. Their own family histories would be lost. I'm beginning to feel like one of the book people from Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451. I'm the keeper of lost arts, and worried I won't be able to find a young person to hand down the legacy before I'm gone.

So, of course, I'm curious. Do you think penmanship should be taught in schools? Do you think it should be given as much time in the curriculum as math or language arts for elementary and middle school students? Is it important or am I worried over nothing?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday Night at the Movies - A to Z

My choice for the letter I is the costume drama Ivanhoe, based on the novel by Sir Walter Scott. Himself calls this movie a horse opera in armor. Normans versus Saxons. Romance, loyalty,  chivalry, forbidden love, damsels in distress, and an epic showdown battle, this movie has it all.

When King Richard the Lionhearted is kidnapped and held for ransom, Wilfred of Ivanhoe (Robert Taylor) takes it upon himself  with the help of Jewish merchant, Isaac of York and Isaac's lovely daughter, Rebecca (Elizabeth Taylor),  to raise the kingly sum necessary to free Richard. Thwarting Ivanhoe's plans are Richard's younger brother, King John who would rather have the throne than his older brother ruling as England's rightful king.

Do you have a favorite movie that starts with the letter I?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tools, Gadgets, and Widgets

I am especially fond of desktop widgets. Widgets are small programs that run in the background on your computer. One widget I rely heavily on is called Due and written for Yahoo Widgets. Due is that predominately blue Venetian blind looking thing on the left of my desktop.

Blog topics, reminders for phone calls, and when to pay my bills and my dad's bills all go into the mix. The widget can be customized with type face and colors to flag up coming and overdue tasks or items. My code is blue for future items, yellow as a warning that an item is coming up soon, and red for past due.

The widget can be visible on your desktop or hidden in the Yahoo Widget dock, that block in the bottom center of my computer screen. For me, if I don't see the widget, I'm apt to forget what needs to be paid or get done, so Due is visible when I boot up my system.

Yahoo has lots of great widgets: calendars, clocks, to do lists, email notifiers, weather. The dock can be positioned along any edge of your computer screen.  One downside of the Yahoo widgets, is the dock doesn't display them neatly and uniform in size as the Vista/Windows 7 Sideshow gadgets. Some of the widgets can be quite large. Overall, they are functional and look good.

I haven't had a problem using the Yahoo Widgets written and authorized by Yahoo.  Other widgets like Due, come from third party app writers so caution should be taken before downloading and running these programs.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Friday Five

A friend's daughter had her wisdom teeth out this week. Five things I remember when I had my wisdom teeth removed.

1. I had just started working at the cement company, my first really big job. My boss told me to go to the hospital to have my wisdom teeth removed because the insurance plan would cover everything.

2. I was 25 years old.

3. I didn't want to go to the hospital where I used to work. Was too embarrassed for all the people I knew and worked with to see me looking like a chipmunk. Not to mention the ribbing I would take so I went to a hospital next town over.

4. The hospital food service sent up a piece of very dry fish for dinner which I couldn't eat because my jaw hurt so bad. I stabbed the fish a few times with my fork, gave up and just ate the jello.

5. The nurses were very concerned because my blood pressure was very low, 98/60. That's like near death. They came in every 15 minutes to take my BP. I tried to tell them 98/60 was normal for me and was probably on the high side. Took a lot of convincing or whining before I was allowed to go home with ice packs.

Have you had your wisdom teeth removed?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pansies or Heart's Ease

This journal page was created by spreading blobs of paint on the page. When dried, the blobs reminded me of pansies. It probably helped that pansies were sitting on the table waiting to be planted. With colored pencils, I defined pansy blossoms and leaves. A search for quotes about pansies turned up the poem How Pansies or Heart's Ease Came First by Robert Herrick.

The face shape of the Dover version of Gibson Girls and their elaborately piled tresses reminded me of pansies. The clipart was printed on Canson vellum, cut out and applied with Yes paste. Colored pencil was applied to cheeks and lips. Ziller Winter white ink, Gillotte 1068A

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Night at the Movies - A to Z

The Hunt for Red October based on the novel by Tom Clancy. The book is thrilling and the movie doesn't disappoint. The Soviet navy just launched its newest, technically superior nuclear submarine commanded by Capt. Marko Ramius. Ramius is driving the boat to the east coast of the United States. Is he a madman bent on planning a nuclear attack on the US or is he trying to defect? CIA analyst, Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) has only a few hours to decide and to prevent a nuclear and political disaster. Next time Jack, send a memo.

Great cast: Sean Connery, Scott Glenn, James Earl Jones, Sam Neill, and Alec Baldwin. This is my favorite of the Jack Ryan novels and movies and I like Baldwin's preppy look over Harrison Ford.  Let me know if you love this movie. Just ping me. One ping only.

Broaden my horizons. What's your favorite movie that begins with the letter H?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tools, Gadgets, and Widgets - Social Media

Last week, I mentioned Twitter. Twitter can get overwhelming with the amount of tweets and trying to wrangle statistics. Where do you go to find tools to help manage social media? You go to Oneforty. Oneforty was founded by Twitter For Dummies co-author, Laura Fitton, aka @Pistachio.

Oneforty is a convenient place to find tools to help manage your social media. Signing up is free. You can build your own tool kit with items you find helpful, for example, Tweet Stats, Tweet Deck, or Social Oomph for scheduling tweets when you aren't going to be around. You can look at toolkits used by others and read their reviews on tools they find most useful. The Oneforty blog is also a good way to keep up with the changes in social media.

Go check out Oneforty.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Friday Five

Last weekend, The Eldest graduated from college. Five bits of advice for new grads.

1. Squirrel your change at the end of the day in a jar or piggybank. Pennies add up.If nothing else, you'll have a ready supply of toll money.

2. You'll have to get a credit card so later on you have a credit record to buy your car or home. Don't get a credit card until you have a steady job and earning decent money. Don't purchase with the card, unless you know you can pay the balance at the end of the month.

3. Develop a thick skin. All those rejection letters stating how your resume will be held on file, are just business not personal.

4. Don't take yourself so seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself. A sense of humor will get you through tough times.

5. Once in a blue moon, call your mother. You may march to the beat of your own drummer, but  no one in the world will applaud your achievements as loud or readily offer a sympathetic ear or shoulder than your mother.

What advice would you give to a new graduate?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Old Tool, New Use

How do you make a template to address navy blue envelopes?  The envelope paper will be dark so you won't be able to use a light box. Each envelope will have to be hand lined. How do you make a template so the process will be a little bit faster?

I was pondering this problem while I was eating a piece of Himself's birthday cake. As I was enjoying the chocolately goodness of the Devil's Food cake, I happened to catch sight of the cooling rack on the table. Light bulb!

Since the bride wants her envelopes addressed in Copperplate, the width of the rack would be perfect as baselines. A quick wash and dry of the rack and down to the drafting table. I found a black piece of scrap paper  to use as a test. The paper was positioned under the rack and lines were drawn using a slate pencil. The slate pencil lines were easily erased and didn't leave too much of a residue on the paper.

You can bet I'm insufferably pleased with myself. Hopefully, this application will work on the real envelopes. I haven't seen them yet. Don't know if the paper has a matte finish or is slick. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Have you ever used a tool for a different application than it was meant to be used?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sticky Journal Pages

Some of my journal pages that were painted with tube acrylics were sticking together. Not happy. An online search to the problem turned out to be using Dorland's Wax Medium or Turtle Wax. Not having either of those items on hand, and too lazy and cheap to go out to buy them, I tried an even simpler solution to the problem. I rubbed a white candle (unlit, of course) over the sticky pages and buffed with a soft cloth. Ta Da! It worked. Bet if I used a scented candle it would make the pages smell purty.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Night at the Movies - A to Z

One of my favorite movies to watch when I'm alone, the haunting romance The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Gene Tierney is so beautiful as widow Lucy Muir and Rex Harrison very dashing and commanding as Capt. Gregg. This is probably the movie that gave people the idea it's very easy to get a book published and you can make a fortune to boot. (-;

Expand my horizons, what's your favorite movie that starts with the letter G?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tools, Gadgets, and Widgets - Social Media

By: TwitterButtons.com
By TwitterButtons.com

In the olden days we had paper media to promote ourselves. You handed out your business card or sent out a brochure that described yourself and showed off your stuff. Though these are still around, the new trend to promote yourself is through social media.

I heard Twitter described as a cocktail party. You wander around the room balancing your plate of horses' ovaries (as my late father-in-law called hors d'oeuvres), and eavesdrop on conversations. That's fine but how can this be effective to show your stuff?  It's a great place in 140 characters (called micro-blogging) to announce your latest blog post, class, book, or what you do.  Remember this is social media with the emphasis on social. You don't just talk about yourself, but participate in the conversations going around you, or start a conversation. Answer the Twitter question: What are you doing?

When I first began using Twitter, I thought there's really nothing exciting about my day. I'm not discovering a cure for cancer, or running for president. And it just can't be all about "hey, look what I made" or "read my blog"  Where does the social come in, and how can I be heard above all the chatter? Share.

We're all so much more than our business, and that's where the real value of Twitter can be found.  We can share our likes, dislikes, and in doing so, find other like minded individuals. Did someone in your Twitter stream say something amusing, informative? Pass it along. Retweet it. Did you find a funny video on YouTube or a great How to video or blog post? Pass along the link.

It's not a quick process. It takes time to build your followers. Your tweets are just like business cards. You'll never know where they'll end up, and what opportunity may come your way.

Now, I'm not a Twitter expert, just a geek that likes the tool, and these are just some of the things I've heard or observed along the way. Click on the Twitter bird or the Twitter Cowbird in my side bar to follow me, and I'll follow you back.

What are you doing?

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Friday Five

Besides listening to classical music, I also listen to semi-classical music. Oldies. Music from the 50s and 60s especially Doo-wop.  Hard to pick only five, but five favorite doo-wop songs

1. Blue Moon, The Marcels

2. Sh-Boom, The Chords

3. Earth Angel, The Penguins

4. Little Darlin', The Diamonds

5. There's A Moon Out Tonight, The Capris

Are you a fan of the oldies? Doo-wop?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday Night at the Movies - A to Z

Make some popcorn to enjoy the sci-fi thriller Forbidden Planet starring Walter Pidgeon and Leslie Nielson (before he took on comedic roles).

Expand my horizon. What's your favorite movie that starts with the letter F?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tools, Gadgets, and Widgets - GPS

I'm late to the party with owning a GPS device. I don't travel very far from my hole, and never thought I would need a device to get me there and back again. Recently, Himself had to rent a car while his was in the shop. The rental car had a GPS device. It also happened that we had a trip to take where we have never been before. The female voice of the device was pleasant, and gave us turn by turn directions. After getting there and back, I thought it would be cool to have one of these gizmos, and we had an Amazon gift card that was burning a hole in our pocket.

Researching which brand to buy was a different matter. Magellan, Tom Tom, Garmin Nuvi. All had strings of numbers. Some had lifetime maps. Some gave live traffic updates (how to avoid congestion due to construction or accidents). some did both.  Comparing brands was like comparing apples and oranges.

Erica Vetsch told me she had a Tom Tom XXL 550 TM. Her husband had done a thorough research. She said when looking for a device to make sure it had the letters TM after it for the lifetime maps and live traffic. Some devices you had to pay a fee to download updated maps. The device also allowed you to download different character voices to use.  Cool! Since her husband did the research, I was all set to purchase this device when Himself emailed me with a special he received from Amazon on

Magellan Road Mate 5045-LM. It had the same 5" screen of the Tom Tom, lifetime maps and live traffic. It was also ridiculously priced on this special sale and when combined with the gift card, our out of pocket expense was $19.

Overall, I've been pleased with the device performance. Easy to use out of the box. Intuitive main menu. The female voice is pleasant though I am disappointed I can't have an alternate guide like Yoda providing directions. It would be very amusing to hear Turn left at Walnut, you must. You can store locations you routinely travel to. You can also find thousands of POI (points of interest: museums, dining, shopping, gas, ATMs) In settings, I programmed the device to show dining, gas, and ATMs. It's fun to see logos of some of the restaurant chains glide by, and it's comforting and reassuring to hear "You have arrived Home."

The device is sitting in a Bracketron GPS Nav-Pack. I purchased separately from Target. The nav-pack is a combination weighted dash mount and carry case.  Some of the reviews of a lot of the devices complained the suction cup windshield mount was not very secure and the device fell while driving. The nav-pack  fits neatly in the change console (as the gear shift in my jelly bean of a Taurus wagon is located on the steering column). The device sits securely and doesn't rock and roll. The nav-pack wouldn't work in Himself's Toyota Corolla as he couldn't position the pack on the dash so he could glimpse the screen and he has a console gear shift. Himself ended up using the suction cup dash mount that came with the Magellan. Haven't heard any complaints yet. The weight in the pack can easily be removed for carrying around. The device zips neatly into the case, has a handy carry strap so you can take the device with you.

Do you have a GPS device or do you like the thrill of being a real explorer?

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Friday Five

I've seen social media comments that many have watched the latest Disney movie, Tangled. My girlies have long outgrown the Disney movies so I probably won't see this one. But five Disney films I love are:

1. Sleeping Beauty, I think this is my favorite from the Disney pantheon. I love the stylized medieval look to the animation and the adaptation of Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty ballet score. And I think Princess Aurora's gown at the end of the movie should be blue.

2. Fantasia like the Warner Bros. cartoons this movie was part of my classical music education. I'm especially partial to Beethoven's 6th symphony, the Pastoral. I can't hear The Sorcerer's Apprentice without seeing  Mickey and the brooms. 

3. Snow White, was the first Disney movie The Eldest embraced when she was five years old. She got a big kick out of the dwarves.

4.  Dumbo, Who doesn't cheer for for the little elephant who turns a negative into a positive? I also love the dark Roustabout's song.

5. Pinocchio a tale of making choices and the consequences that follow.

I have to add one more to the list. Of the modern Disney movies my favorite is Mulan. I liked seeing a strong female character. And the lesson of being who you really are instead of what those around you expect to be.

What's your favorite Disney movie?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mash Up

This is a work in progress based on my reactions to a performance of Karl Jenkins' The Armed Man, A Mass for Peace sung by the choruses of the Worcester Consortium., the news that Osama bin Laden was killed, the Strathmore Visual Artist Journal work shop 3, as well as turmoil in my personal life.  Whew, that's a run on sentence.

First, the performance by the consortium schools (Anna Maria College, Assumption College, Clark University, Holy Cross College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (The Young One is a member of the WPI Festival Chorus), and Worcester State University) was to say the least incredible.  The music, the voices were amazing. Through the music, the audience is transported through the stirring glory of war trumpeted as the armies prepare to battle and  through the horror of battle for combatants as well as innocents. Finally, out of all this doom, a song of hope arises out of the smoke and ash.

The following morning I awoke to the stunning news that Osama bin Laden was dead. I experienced mixed emotions. There was a certain measure of relief that a terrorist, serial killer, mass murderer, whatever label you want to apply, was removed from the face of the earth. Justice served? Perhaps. I'm not sure all who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attack would agree. bin Laden's death, doesn't bring their loved ones back. Does it give them a sense of closure? I don't know as I didn't lose anyone close to me. I was also bothered by the jubilation and dancing in the streets. Shouts of USA! USA and We're number One! As if this was a football game. I thought as a nation we were better than rubbing dirt in the enemy's face.  The fact that this one man is gone doesn't make the threat of terrorism go away. bin Laden has inspired hundreds, maybe thousands, with his violent ideology. I wonder if we just cut off the head of the hydra, and it will only be a short time before another follower takes the helm. I also thought of comedian, Jeff Dunham's routine and Dunham points out to his ventriloquist dummy that 72 virgins could also be male. That would be ironic justice.

The 3rd Strathmore workshop, Building Your Journal from the Page Up, also began.Lesson one was to prepare some background pages to be used during the workshop. I started the lesson and this is the page and colors that started to evolve with all those thoughts swirling in my head.

What are your thoughts about the events that transpired at the beginning of the week?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Monday Night at the Movies - A to Z

Today's feature brought to you by the letter E. Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands. I love Tim Burton's slightly askew take on things. This off-beat fairy tale is about a man wanting to be loved and accepted just like everyone else. Though Johnny Depp is the star, there's a very nice homage to the master of macabre, Vincent Price

Expand my horizons. What's your favorite movie that begins with the letter E?