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Friday, January 12, 2018


I've tried my best this past year to avoid blogging political posts. I mean, why bother? If you voted for the Cheeto Benito, I'm not going to change your mind. And if you thought I was sexist for not being fully enthralled with Hillary Clinton, well, I'm probably not going to change your mind either.

I got a response the other day to my comment that Trump calling for an examination of our libel laws, so that someone who makes false and defamatory statements can be held accountable, should be careful lest he be hoist by his own petard. "You're still upset about losing the election?"

I'm like, are you even awake a few hours a day? I'm not upset that Hillary isn't President. In fact, I blame her because in the cockamamy scheme we've created, she was the alternative to an obviously bigoted and ignorant jerk. And she was a shitty candidate. I voted for her, but I puked in my mouth a little bit doing so.

So this week Trump is supposedly negotiating a bipartisan deal on immigration, and he complains about why we can't have more Norwegians and fewer Haitians and refers to African countries as 'shitholes.'

Now calling African countries or Haiti 'shitholes' isn't automatically racist in my view. Good government is unknown in Haiti and honestly most of the African continent too. American and European foreign policy is a lot of the reason why these countries are, to varying degrees, shitholes, but that doesn't change what they are.

You prefer Norway? Well, yeah, those people are mostly white. They also have a robust social safety net and universal healthcare so how exactly do you propose to entice them to emigrate to a country where what little of that they'd have is under fire from you? What is the big force driving Norwegians to emigrate to America?

But even if those African countries are shitholes, leaving aside the fact that a head of state should know better than to talk of his peers that way, are you upset that people want to upgrade from their shitholes? Norwegians might not have much to envy in American life, but folks in Haiti, El Salvador, the Congo, etc, even with Donald Trump as prez we might seem like an upgrade.

The people who come from these places enhance our country, they contribute to our economy. And when we 'chain migrate' their families in, that's a plus, too. If you had to start over in a strange country where you might not even initially speak the language, are you less of a burden for having no family and community links there? Personally, if I had to learn Hungarian and figure out life in Budapest, having a dozen family members who had already navigated this world would make that all seem much, much more doable.

Wanting to emigrate to America to make a better life is not a goddamn crime. Even people who do so 'illegally,' pump your brakes. Betting on NCAA brackets is illegal, speeding is illegal, we don't throw people out of the country for it.

I'm not upset about 'losing the election.' I didn't lose it, but America did. I'm skeptical of Democrats as an alternative, the enemy of your enemy is not automatically your friend. Trump isn't a Republican, he isn't a conservative, he's an existential threat because he doesn't even know what he's gotten into and wouldn't care about anything that matters if he did.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Through the Eyes of a Copycat?

Just to get it out up front, I am a Picasso fan, and nothing about this makes me less so. Like Miles Davis and Salvador Dali, he managed to reinvent himself over and over, and understood how to be a rock star at whatever you do.

The Through the Eyes of Picasso exhibit at the Nelson features a lot of Picasso paintings and sculptures, and that alone makes it worth the price of admission.

And not to digress too badly, but memberships at the Nelson are worth the price, too. On street parking around the museum is scarce, and the membership gets you free parking in their covered garage; for a hundred bucks I got me and Corinna the 'duo' membership which includes up to four tickets per day for their special exhibits. Between the tickets and the parking, the ROI is about two visits.

Anyway, unlike the Met, the museum generally is free will donation as far as admission goes, something which made it a go-to destination for me and my kids when I was struggling with the single daddy thing, but if you can find the scratch to join it's well worth it.

But back to Picasso. There's a lot of his works on display, and even if you've seen a piece online or in books or whatever, it's never the same. For one thing, scale, your mind fills in a size when you see an image online or in a magazine. Like how people comment about how small the Mona Lisa turns out to be, I found myself repeatedly thinking, I didn't know that was so big. Or in one case, so small.

See what I mean about scale?

Speaking of scale: size doesn't matter? Please, go on...

There's also a lot of African art he collected. And it's astonishingly hard to tell which is which sometimes. Sure, the canvasses are pretty much all Picasso, but the sculptures, I can't tell without the plaques which is which. And a lot of those canvases look a lot like objets and masks he had in his collection.

And a lot of the paintings are basically faithful reproductions of ceremonial masks and whatnot. I guess it's true that talent robs and genius steals.

In his defense, while you can clearly see that a lot of these things didn't just spring from Picasso's fertile imagination, there is some originality in the fact that he pursued art traditions outside Europe at a time when most trained artists considered those traditions lesser disciplines (or not even disciplines).

I'm going to go back. I had Mo with me, and that dictates a little bit of pace. She doesn't have the patience for me to read everything, and there's a lot there. Being a fan of the artist, I had seen a lot of these canvases online or in print, but chills went down my spine when I encountered the real thing.

I had similar experiences when I went to the Met on my New York pilgrimage about fifteen years ago, and when I visited the Modern Wing at the Chicago Art Institute

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Infinity and Infinite Aggrandizement

When I was coming out of Through the Eyes of Picasso, I wasn't really spending much time on the work that fills the Bloch addition as we made our way up to the Dreams of Kings. But this caught my eye, a neon and mirror affair that has a really cool infinite loopiness to it. I think I need one of these for my house.

I didn't spend much time in the second exhibit actually, I was pretty wore out from the Picasso. The artifacts included a lot of jade, the pale kind the Chinese were into back in the day (the dark green stuff a lot of us think of is a latecomer). The stone is hard to work, and this king's burial suit was made of over 4200 plates of the stuff sewn together with silk and then bound with gold wire.

The resources that went into this burial suit, the hours of labor to mine the jade, cut it, polish it, fit it together, sew it, I wonder how many poor Chinese people starved to death or went without basic necessities so this cunt could be buried in the most expensive set of pajamas ever conceived. On behalf of the subjects of this 'king' I want to ask, who the hell do you think you are?

Don't show this suit to Donald Trump, he'll want one of his own.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Are You Mocking Me?

Long tradition: I don't think Mo has ever not struck this pose when passing the wax guard at the Nelson.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Sub Zero

Set a personal record today. A record I'd just set yesterday. Prior to that, in February of 2011 I rode to work when it was 2ºF, that was a record that stood for almost seven years.

So New Year's Eve, in my neighborhood, there is an unfortunate tradition of shooting guns in the air starting about 11:00 p.m. and going into the wee hours. It's asinine and dangerous and enough idiots do it the cops really can't do anything about it. So while Corinna and I were stoked at the prospect of setting a new record for a cold bike ride, we weren't going to try a midnight ride on New Year's Eve. A roof will do a lot more to stop a bullet than a bicycle helmet.

So we figured we'd try a short ride about 8:00. It was in the low single digits as we got dressed to go get ice cream from Tropicana. Here's the thing: people on Facebook and whatnot have been asking me if I'm insane to ride in such weather, and the answer is no. Not if you dress for it.

The Hawaiian shirt is mainly for aesthetics, it doesn't provide a whole lot of warmth, but everything else I put on serves a purpose. Wool socks, then think layers: bike shorts under light thermal underwear under heavy thermal underwear under pants; long sleeve cotton t-shirt under cycling jacket (mainly a windbreak) under a heavy virgin wool sweater under the Aloha shirt. Heavy balaclava, extra face guard, ATV goggles (ski goggles would work but they have tint, and winter riding tends to be riding in the dark). Mittens (I have some Carhart mittens that get downright sweaty even in single digit cold, a pair of black mittens almost as warm, and some army surplus sniper mittens from the Korea/Vietnam era that pair a heavy wool inner mitten with a leather and canvas outer mitten.

We rode up towards Tropicana and when we got to a bank that shows the temperature it was reading 0ºF. We took the obligatory selfies, congratulated each other on a new record (Corinna isn't 100% sure it was a new record for her, she thinks she may have seen -1ºF once a long time ago), then set off to find ice cream.

Yes ice cream. I know it's cold, but think about it, cold weather makes you crave fat and calories in general, ice cream is fat and sugar.

Anyway the ice cream shop was closed when we got there even though their Sunday hours said they were open until 10:00. So we rode home and I toasted my chilly toes by a space heater. The thing about riding in the cold, if something's uncomfortable you figure out an improvement to your setup for the next time. Chemical toe warmers would have been nice, we were only out for about an hour, but I made a note of that, I have a station of them, I just hadn't thought of them. And in the army mittens, I found my thumbs got a little cold too.

So when I woke up New Year's morning and the temperature had dropped to -6ºF, I was excited to set a new record. Not excited enough that I didn't hit snooze a few times and stay in my nice warm bed, but we got up and moving way earlier than we would have if there wasn't a new record to set. So it had warmed up when we got by the bank at 7th and Minnesota. -5ºF. I had my toe warmers in, and my hands were actually sweating up the Carhart mittens.

We delivered a bit of holiday cheer to a friend of ours in Strawberry Hill, and I thought that would be about it for me. But I was comfortable enough I went ahead and rode with Corinna to her office over in the Crossroads district. Hung out there for a bit, drank a hot tea and three coffees (I rarely drink coffee, or hot beverages in general, but somehow they hit the spot today).

Riding home I spotted a few more cyclists out, but mostly I noticed the handful of car drivers giving double-takes that anyone was out riding in such weather.

It was tiring but truly fun. It's challenging, mainly figuring out the wardrobe. But as I've pointed out to people who can't believe someone would ride in such weather, you wouldn't cancel your ski trip because it was cold in Colorado. You'd just harden the hell up and dress for the wether.

Truly, the hardest part is keeping your phone from dying. Those chemical warmers are pretty good for that too, I figured that out today. Two toe warmers on the phone case, then put the phone in a pocket of my cycling jacket shell so it was under a couple of layers and relatively close to my body. Cuz without Strava, it's like your ride didn't happen.

Friday, December 29, 2017

When the Customer Really Isn't Right

According to the file name, the brochure art that was forwarded to me was on its seventeenth revision. The client had either fired the designer or the designer had quit, I couldn't tell, but he was hoping I could make 'a few quick edits' to his website.

The designer in question, forwarded the WordPress login info with a note saying she was more than happy to let someone take over the edits, and warning that they were not easy edits to make.

Apparently, once he was more or less happy with the brochure, he then decided to have her do a website, but he didn't understand why the website couldn't be 'exactly' like the brochure. Looking through the pages of the brochure, I could well imagine the difficulty of coding stylesheets that would deliver the mix of fonts, sizes, alignments, etc., on the pages of the brochure.

For one thing, you don't really get to pick exact fonts with HTML/CSS code, you designate a neighborhood of fonts an let the browser render in whatever it thinks is the closest available font. If you've picked an exotic font that most people aren't going to have on their computers, you're not going to get 'exactly' the same result. Getting the complicated nesting of elements in the brochure, too, while I'm sure it could technically be accomplished by a stylesheet virtuoso, but it would be an epic effort.

I won't claim to be an expert on web design, my wheelhouse has always been print, but if he'd started building the website with me I would have told him to forget about matching the brochure exactly. Ink on paper doesn't look the same as a screen shining light directly in your eyes anyway. No the green won't be quite the same, no the fonts might not all match your brochure (depending on whose browser is rendering it). Get over it. Nobody is going to take your brochure and hold it up to your website and compare that shit, only you are doing that.

I'm pretty sure the fired/quit designer told him the same thing but this is not a person who listens to such things. So I gather the designer did the only logical fix: she made PNG images out of the brochure's elements and place those images in the WordPress template. Which is fine, except it isn't.

First of all, in terms of search engine optimization, if your text is rasterized in PNG files, you're invisible to Google. If nobody comes to your site because Google's crawlers can't figure out what the hell you're going on about, it doesn't much matter what your site looks like.

Another reason it's not okay is when you want to just 'quickly fix a few typos,' you're going back to the brochure, making the edits, then trying to figure out the dimensions those PNGs were exported out at so you can replace them. I was facing four pages of handwritten notes about things the client wanted tweaked or fixed and each line he'd written was a time consuming mess.

I was tempted to take the client's money. If the site had been coded in WordPress to begin with in a sensible way, it was maybe a half hour to an hour of work. As it is, it would probably have taken me six to eight hours and there were a couple of things on his wish list that I probably couldn't have managed (I won't say they're impossible, but they might be impossible with my skill set). If he's willing to pay upwards of $600 in shop labor because he didn't listen to sensible advice from the last designer, I'll play.

But my employer decided this was a bridge too far, and that was probably the most ethical decision. Like I say, you might as well leave the mistakes in the site since nobody is going to find it anyway. I always cringe when I see someone still designing websites using tables like it was 1996 or something, but this was by every measure even worse. Plus, having dealt with this client before, let's just say I've already experienced him asking me to do something that's not actually possible, and having him decide it meant I don't know what I'm doing.

And as frustrating as he is to work for, lest you think I'm just trashing my client, I think he's a decent guy. And I think the business he's trying to start sounds like a great thing if he can get it off the ground. Hopefully he'll grow ears at some point.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Tale of Two Cities (Sorta)

So I take Mo to the bar sometimes to watch sportsball, especially the Chiefs. Generally, she seems to like it. Even when the crowd is noisy, sometimes especially so.

I've caught her giving high-fives to strangers when the crowed erupts over a big play. She'll even tomahawk chop.

Autism is tricky, though. Her ability to express a desire to, say, leave, well, that leaves a lot to be desired. Earlier this year, I had taken her to Johnnie's on Seventh, one of my favorite dives. They have the game on, the crowd gets into it, they have cheap draws of light beer (diabetes has made me appreciate that anew) and an astonishing selection of Irish whisky.

The last time I took Mo there for a game, about halfway through the second quarter, she grabbed my pint of beer, and I panicked, thinking she'd drink the beer. She's almost 21, but still, autism, seizures, the meds to control the seizures, I'm not keen to add booze to that mix. My anxiety was misplaced though, she smiled and threw the glass to the floor, shattering it.

I don't know if she knew that would get me 86'd from Johnnies, but it had that effect. I tried to apologize to the bartender and offered to do to the cleanup, but he was like, 'I'm cleaning it up, but you're done here.'

Fast forward to Christmas weekend. We'd had family stuff on Friday and Saturday for the actual holiday, and on Sunday, Christmas Eve, I figured to take Mo to Episode VIII of Star Wars (I'd seen it myself the weekend before, but it's the best since Empire Strikes Back so an easy second viewing for me and she seemed stoked about it). There was a 9:15 showing, and I thought that was perfect because then we could catch most of the noon Chiefs game when the Chiefs stood to clinch the division.

The movie part went just fine, and we got to a bar in Mission in the middle of the first quarter. Mo asked for and I retrieved her art bag from the car. Her favorite beverage, Sprite, was obtained. Quesadillas, too. And just before halftime I heard the shattering of glass and looked down to realize she'd thrown her Sprite behind the bar like she was spiking a football in the end zone.


The difference in reactions of the staff was notable. My local dive, I was kicked out without ceremony. This joint was like, 'accidents happen, does she need another Sprite?' I'm like, no, she definitely doesn't need another Sprite, and I'm at a loss as to how to communicate to her how fucked up it is that she repays me for taking her to a kickass movie and then to get her favorite soda and foods by making someone behind a bar do unnecessary extra cleanup work.

The Chiefs clinched the division on my car radio while I chewed Mo out for what she did. I don't know if I got through, that's one of the things autism takes away.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Plaza Lights

I think I need to go back late at night. Between people walking into my shots and car traffic, it was a challenging thing to get good photos of the Plaza lights this evening.

A person even asked me, 'Are you recording?' I said yes, and then she walked right in front of the camera anyway. Like she was only asking to make sure she was fucking up my shot.

I was shooting with my ultra-wide Tokina 11-16mm. It'll go to f2.8 as far as wide open shooting goes, but for a landscape situation at night, a lot of times the long exposure at the higher f-stop is the winner.

My D7000 doesn't autofocus, generally, in such low light. Which is frustrating. Seems like at one time I was able to get it to do so more often in these situations but that may be a faulty memory. It's hard to manually focus as crisply as the autofocus when it's working. I use the selective focus where I can target a spot in the viewfinder that I want to be tack sharp and let the depth of field work itself out from there. Looking through the viewfinder or chimping after the shot is pretty limiting, you get home and see it big and up-close on your computer and it's a whole different shot.

It's interesting the things you notice when you do these long shots. Fountains that seem like really good subjects until you notice the shit floating in them or the jets that aren't functioning.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

From the Meadery

So I tortured myself over the bottle labels for my Morat, Raspberry Melomel and Pear-Autumn Olive Melomel. But I was making the perfect the enemy of the good, I realized, and I also realized that if I kept putting it off, I was going to end up getting bottles mixed up. Especially the raspberry and mulberry, the color of the wine is so similar.

And it's not like I'm a huge commercial winery with thousands of bottles to label. My morat yielded 20 bottles, I think the raspberry 23 bottles, a couple of which have already been consumed. The pear & autumn olive one, I kegged part of it and started with five bottles, three of which are extant.

The photography here, well, I have two SB-800 speed lights for my Nikon D7000. But my house is a terrible environment to shoot in, and so far my skills with the speed lights, the soft boxes and reflectors, are just not quite up to the task of taking good photos of these wine bottles. So much to learn about photography. And meadmaking.

And like Mr. Carlson after the turkey drop, God as my witness, I thought Mulberry had two L's in it.

Thursday, November 23, 2017


I love Cranksgiving. It's a food-raiser for want of a better term, for a local church's food bank. You can compete in a few ways: be the fastest to get one item from ten different stores, or bring in the heaviest load, or bring in the heaviest load for a team of eight. Oh, and for the individual, there's gender specific prizes, fastest man, fastest woman, heaviest load dude, etc.

My old friend Eric won heaviest load individual with a Y Chromosome.

But it's a fun deal and a good cause. I felt kinda of embarrassed only bringing in 28 lbs. I didn't even try for fastest rider, I got no chance at that. And heaviest load? I've ridden upwards of 100 lbs in this event and that's not enough to be competitive. Financially, I wasn't really in good shape to play heaviest load anyway this year, plus you really need to be towing a trailer to realistically compete in this category. Or like Eric, a trailer towed behind a Big Dummy cargo bike.

So this was the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and it was a really uplifting experience other than my getting another confirmation that my blood sugar gets out of hand when I drink good beer and eat the sort of food that was on offer at the after party (chili, sweets, breads). As much as I love Boulevard Pale Ale, of which I drank several, the feeling shitty and lethargic for a few hours after kinda makes it less tempting. I allow myself one indulgence a week, a meal or dessert or beverage that's just completely out of bounds for trying to manage my diabetes with diet. I still take the Metformin, I still try to stay active on the bike (though I've been missing a lot of rides lately).

So then several factors including my freelance work, transportation arrangements for the holiday with Mo, a nasty cold, I hadn't been back on the bike since Saturday's Cranksgiving when Thanksgiving Day proper came around. Temps in the upper sixties and no plans on the actual day (my family is doing tons of stuff this weekend, just on on Thursday: I think everyone is so afraid to set up something that would conflict with someone else's plans that nobody ends up doing turkey on Turkey Day). So I put on my cycling shorts and sandals and went for a ride.

Sandals. Shorts. Bare arms. On November 23. Climate change is, as we know because or Maximum Leader said it, is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Quite the elaborate hoax.

Anyway, I realized I was out of test strips for my blood glucose monitor. These things are proprietary, Walgreens, CVS, WalMart, they all have their own monitors and the supplies aren't interchangeable. Bastards. Mine happens to be the Walmart brand.

So I pedaled my way to the Walmart in Argentine hoping they'd be closed. It's Thanksgiving Day for crying out loud. But nope, they were open, as was the Dollar General and Sav-A-Lot next to it.

I asked a worker if she was at least being paid time and a half for working on Thanksgiving. Nope. I'm like, are you fucking kidding me?

If there's a perfect opposite to the warm feelings Cranksgiving inspires in me, it's seeing that WalMart not only doesn't respect families, it doesn't even think it should have to give a little extra for taking one of the last family holidays away from its employees. I think I might switch to a different glucose tester just so I can shop there even less often. Talk about a work force that needs an effective union.

Cranksgiving set a new record, by the way. I believe it was over 10,000 lbs of food (up from 8,000 lbs last year, which led the nation in Cranksgiving events) plus $1000 in cash raised for St. Peter's social services/food bank.