Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Graceful Envelope Contest

It's that time of year again. Time to get out your inks, paints, pens, brushes, and imagination. The call for entries for the 18th. annual Graceful Envelope Contest sponsored by the Washington Calligraphers Guild and the National Association of Letter Carriers.

This year's theme is "D-liver D-letter D-sooner D-better." Entries need to be postmarked by 30. April 2012. The envelope must be artistically rendered and mailed through the U.S. Postal Service. There is no entry fee and no cash or trophy prize. Winners receive the oohs and aahs of friends and family, and a nice certificate from the Washington Calligraphers Guild.

The envelope pictured was my 2009 entry for "Addressing the Environment". The envelope didn't win, place, or show, but was fun to work on. Yes, that's a working pinwheel constructed from a straw and recycled packaging from bottled water. I had a lot of time on my hands that day.

The contest also has a children's division.  What a great way to have children practice the dying art of hand-addressing an envelope.

Contest rules and regulations can be found here. N, S, be ready to open the stamp vault. I'll be stopping by later today to pick out my stamps.

Monday, February 27, 2012


When the girlies were 12 and 8, or there abouts, my friend, Teague, wanted to take them to the theater to celebrate birthdays. Teague's aunt introduced her to live theater when she was young, and she wanted to share the excitement with my girlies. I was invited to tag along.  After a few go arounds with what to see, we decided on Cats. Neither Teague nor I knew much about it, but from chatting up moms while waiting in the school parking lot, the consensus was the girlies would love it.

The production was at the North Shore Music Theater. It's a theater in the round, and in high school, I saw a fabulous production of MacBeth at this theater. Some of the actors sat in the audience and then jumped up with a "Here, my lord." and made a their stage entrance. Very exciting. I was sure this would be an equally spectacular production. We were excited. The house lights dimmed, went out, and then...

And then crushing, excruciating boredom for the entire first act. Now, I'm not a fan of musicals. Sorry. There are a few musicals, I like, but for the most part, I find them inane. Even if the musical has cowboys in it, I wince and grind my teeth. The costumes were interesting. The actors obviously spent time observing how cats move. (Though the cat actors can't hold a candle to the actors who played horses in a mesmerizing production of Equus I saw and was in, when I was in college. That's another story!) But there was nothing to the first act. No story. No plot. No hero, heroine, or villain. Just a ridiculous song from at T. S. Eliot poem (don't care for his stuff either) and cat actors strutting cat-like across the stage.

It was a relief when the house lights came up for intermission. The girls and Teague had hated the first act as much as I did. All around us, crowd comments were "Isn't this spectacular?" and "This is awesome." Teague and I just looked at each other with a what the hell look.

The second act was marginally better. At least there was a thin story thread to follow, but  our general consensus was Cats sux. There is a lesson good, or bad in every experience. Cats became our measuring gauge.  "Well, at least having root canal, wasn't as bad as Cats."

Have you seen Cats?

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Friday Five

While poking through my dad's papers, I found this picture from The Boston Daily Globe dated Friday, January 22, 1943. Five things that were reported in the paper:

1. Range oil arrives at East Boston and the dealer is immediately swamped with holders of five-gallon cans. The big guy in line wearing a cap, second from the left, is my Uncle Mario (Dad's kid brother). He was built like a refrigerator with a head and had hands the size of hams. He was big and gruff, but had a heart of gold. He reminded of me of The Duke, John Wayne.

2. 507 British seamen, including 68 officers were lost in the torpedo sinking of the aircraft carrier, Avenger

3. A seriously ill Senator MacDonald was administered the oath of office in his bed at his home by Governor Saltonstall. Governor Saltonstall said it was the first time in the history of the Commonwealth the oath of office had been administered in this fashion.

4.  Samuel Pinanski was elected treasurer to replace Maj. Forrester A. Clark who was serving in the armed forces. This is from the back of the photograph so the article has been cut. Have no idea what organization Mr. Pinanski was elected treasurer of.

5. Jordan Marsh Great Basement was having its 92nd Birthday Sale

I love finding these bits of history. Are you a history buff?

Thursday, February 23, 2012


The word of the day is tessellation. A tessellation is a repetitive pattern of one, two, or three shapes. Each shape fits perfectly with no gaps or overlaps. The pattern must be able to repeat indefinitely. We see tessellating patterns all around us. Brick walls, bathroom tiles, chess or checker boards. M.C. Escher is the master of tessellation.

Technically, my drawing isn't a true tessellation as the cat faces are all different. I just wanted an excuse to play with a 12 pack of Derwent Inktense Watercolor Pencils, but this would be a fun project to combine math and art. Search on tessellation to find sites that show how to make a simple pattern to tessellate.

The Inktense pencils certainly live up to their vivid reputation. They have a lovely, creamy texture when applied dry.  I did make a discovery, though. The set of 12 isn't enough!

Have you used these watercolor pencils? What do you think of them?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Comment Moderation

Dear Blogger,

Would you kindly fix your "new" Captcha words for the comment moderation? I have no problem with the concept, but the practice is another thing. One word is perfectly legible, but the other is beyond comprehension even if I wasn't having problems with my vision. Sure, I can click the reload button to try again, but  the next group of words isn't any better, or the group after that, or the group after that. I have the same complaint with the audio. I couldn't hear any intelligible words above the babble when I tried that option. I'm apt to not leave a comment just so I don't have to waste ten minutes hitting the reload button for a second or a third option. Not being able to leave a comment punishes the blog author.

None of us want automated programs to abuse our blogs. Just make it a little easier for the humans to leave a comment and move on.


Am I  the only one having problems with the "new" Blogger Captcha?

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Friday Five

Robin over at Pink House Studio had played a game creating new definitions from the comment moderation words. Those words you type in when you want to leave a comment on someone's blog to show you're human and not a computer.  Here are five words I picked up during the week

1. Nomerabi. Hammurabi, the 6th. king of Babylon wrote a  law book. Nomerabi, the king's brother, stated rules were meant to be broken.

2. Xesass. A large backside

3. Theigis. From the Redneck dialect: "They just" as in Theigis don't git along.

4. Oualite. An artificial sweetener that has less calories than oua.

5. Missols. The hole in the yard you don't see until you step in it and roll your ankle.

Play along. What definitions can you come up with?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Charlie on the MTA

 The other day while cruisin' to my favorite Oldie station, WARE, the song Charlie and the MTA* by The Kingston Trio came on. I hadn't heard this song in a long time so I started to hum along.

The song celebrates a fare increase from ten cents to fifteen cents. Charlie couldn't get off the train because he didn't have the extra nickle.

One verse of the song, "Charlie's wife goes down to the Scollay Square** station  every day at quarter past two
And through the open window, she hands Charlie a sandwich, as the train goes rumbling through."

MTA stood for Metropolitan Transit Authority. In 1964, the agency name was changed to the MBTA, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority or simply the "T"

Scollay Square (pronounced Scully) is now known as Government Center. It's the station where the Green and Blue Lines cross. I think the signs in the station have been changed to Government Center - Scollay Square as a nod to the city's past. In my parents' day, Scollay Square was the burlesque and theater district. My mother and a group of her cousins saw the famed tassel dancer, Sally Rand perform at a theater in the Square.

"T" riders no longer use cash or tokens to ride. At each station, day riders can purchase a paper ticket known as a Charlie ticket. Commuters purchase a Charlie Card which acts like a debit card. You load a certain amount of money on the card. Riders scan Charlie cards and tickets at the turnstiles to enter the station.

The "T" is coincidentally involved in town meeting discussions about another fare increase and ways to improve commuter service.

Just for fun, why do you think Charlie's wife never tossed him a nickel so he could get off the train?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Need New...

I handle my dad's bank account so the other morning I went online to check the account. I noticed a charge for BOBS of MA that I didn't recognize. I called Himself at work to see if he had used Dad's debit card to make a purchase. Nope. BOBS of MA. Hmmm...

Back in September, the nursing home wanted us to buy Dad a recliner. One of the symptoms of Alzheimer's is wandering and Dad is constantly on his feet. As a result poor old dude has severe swelling in his ankles. When he sits down, he won't elevate his legs. We had gone to a few furniture stores looking for a small recliner. We happened to stop in at Bob's Furniture, but the chair that would fit the room was sold out and not expected for several months.

Since I was going to be at the bank to get Dad's monthly allowance, I'd ask about the charge.

I explained the situation to the manager and she called up the account.

"What's the transaction in question?"

"It's from BOBS of MA in the amount of $186.47

She turned her monitor so I could see the screen.

"You mean this transaction from BCBS of MA. Blue Cross and Blue Shield?"

Would you like me to make you an appointment for an eye exam, Mrs. Magoo?

To the manager's credit, she didn't call me a maroon. Though it was painfully clear I need new glasses. I have scheduled an eye exam. Hopefully, Bausch and Lomb will be able to grind the same kind of corrective lenses they made for the Hubble telescope.

When was your last eye exam?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Museum of Science

We finally got to the Boston Museum of Science. It was the last day of the Pompeii exhibit, but we didn't get to see it. The exhibit was sold out, and there were no spaces left in the museum parking garage. Deep sigh. Forlorn look. We ended up taking a long detour before getting our bearings and parking around the block at the Cambridge Galleria.

We saw a fun demonstration of illusions and mind games before heading to the planetarium to see Cosmic Collisions. I expected the show to be narrated by Leonard Nimoy (the actor who played Spock in the original Star Trek just in case you're too young or grew up in a cave and have no idea what I'm talking about.) Nimoy grew up a few blocks from the museum and does the voice over to demonstrate the sound system at the museum Omni Theater. Instead,  the planetarium show was narrated by actor Robert Redford (Google him if you don't recognize the name) which took the sting out of missing Pompeii (at least for me) The planetarium has a new camera which projects some incredible images of planets and objects and galaxies far, far, away.

The last exhibit we saw was Electricity. I've seen the show a hundred times, but was surprised with the addition of the musical Tesla coil. Too fun.

What did you do this weekend?

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Friday Five

Five amusing items from my spam folder.

1. Senior People Meet. com. Guess I'm too old now for the regular Meet.com

2. Belly Fat Blast. This appeared a couple of times this week so must be a not so subtle hint.

3. The Lint Lizard. Must crawl through the dryer eating all the frafuss (belly button lint) that collects in the screen, hose, and vent.

4. I received not one, but two invitations to the Rich Club. Auntie Rose must really love me.

5. Take a Coffee Survey. Ok.  I hate it. Not really. I hate the taste of it, but love the smell. I loved to stand by the coffee grinder at the A&P when I was a kid and snort the coffee bean fumes.

What's in your spam folder?

Monday, February 6, 2012

I'm A Real Artist

Last month, I sent a proposal for an opportunity as an artist in residence. The artist would spend a week on site creating art that would then become part of a permanent collection. I want to thank the Academy, and Andy Fish for answering all my questions about the process and for cheering me on. Thanks also to Erica Vestch for helping to edit my proposal.  The winning proposal was announced last Thursday. The winning proposal was not mine. I didn't expect my proposal to be accepted, but was still a little disappointed.

No, I'm not looking for sympathy here. This was my first time for applying for such a post. The purpose of the exercise was to get out of my comfort zone and actually submit a proposal. I did that even though I was weak in areas the jury was considering. I have not exhibited my work in many juried shows. Oh, I've particiapted in the faculty art museum shows, and a few shows through my guild, but not in any shows where I my work had to compete for attention and space.

Still, I submitted the proposal. It's so easy to listen to the inner critic complain about not being "good" or not being "good enough". I could have made a number of excuses of not having a "good enough" idea, or not enough time to prepare the proposal, or the sky was cloudy the day I sat down to write my bio.  So pardon me while I pat myself on the back. With my first rejection letter, I have proof I am now a real artist. I can now set my goal to apply to other shows and artist opportunities.

What have you tried lately, that's been outside of your comfort zone?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Family Tree

While the big game is on, I'll be swinging in my family tree. I've pieced somethings I remember my dad telling me along with the sketchy notes he left. I found a boatload of relatives I didn't know I had!

If you're not watching the Super Bowl, what will you be doing?

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Friday Five

Five things about the Super Bore, or other sports championships

1. The media hype. Maybe it's worse when the regional team wins the playoffs. The start of all news broadcasts is about the TEAM as if no other news is happening around the world. The way the news casters talk you would think these men could walk on water.

2. Female  news anchors sent to cover the big game ask inane questions such as which quarterback would you rather date? I suppose this fluff question is to pull in the female demographic as if women would have no knowledge of the game other than who is cute. Why should we care?

3. Though some of the big game commercials are fun, thoughtful, or clever, why do we have to be teased to watch them before the big game? Don't show me snippets of a scantily clad woman with a checkered racing flag dropping in front of her. Save it for the big day. I don't care.

4. If hearing about the game all week isn't bad enough, the focus is also on the celebrity who is performing at half time. Yawn!

5. The final whistle doesn't end game. There will be endless yapping about who won or lost. And fans going overboard with their celebration or disappointment. People, it's only a game!

I'll spend my time watching paint dry.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hello, Dolly

Wandering around the Interwebs, I came across a dammit doll. What's that? It's like a voodoo doll without the pins. You take your frustrations out on the dolly. Most of the dolls I saw required sewing. I can barely sew on buttons. There was a pattern for crochet, but I can only manage simple granny square patterns.

I remembered a doll I had made in Girl Scouts eons ago. It only required a head made from the leg of an old pair of pantyhose and yarn. I love the color yarn I found.  Now I'm trying to decide if the doll should have button eyes instead of a blank face. Makes me think of Coraline's Other Mother in the movie Coraline. Black [buttons] are traditional, but you can have any color you want.

There's also a little poem that goes along with the doll:

Whenever things don't go so well,
And you want to hit the wall and yell, Here's a little dammit doll,
That you can't do without.
Just grasp it firmly by the legs,
And find a place to slam it.
And as you whack the stuffing out,
Yell "Dammit, Dammit, Dammit."

There was another variation of the poem for computer problems, too.

 I can think of a few people who could use a doll like this. What do you think, button eyes or leave the face blank?