Friday, January 13, 2017

At LAST! I Have Proof: Socks Really Do Run Away!

Don't let her fool you, she turned
her head to hide her smile!
     I don't know about you, but in the 50+ years I have been doing laundry (yes, first in high school, my mother wanted me trained so that I could do my laundry in college, though I escaped that when my houseboy beat my clothes on a rock during my Peace Corps years, but resumed as a batchelor back in the states, then when married and finally single again) one of the great mysteries of life is where do the missing socks go?
     This morning after numerous attempts to get me to go walk, you see it was raining here in Palm Springs; I tried and tried to get my dog Maggie to go pee in our new backyard. She was not amused. In fact she was relentless. So after several hours of staring me down despite several exiles into the backyard rain, loudly sighing, then finally half climbing on the bed to get her point across, I crawled out of my nice warm bed and got clothes on. Now I was sighing. Really? We have to go out in the rain?
     Yes, I can hear you all now. Palm Springs is in the desert. It doesn't rain in the desert. Well, yes, Palm Springs IS in the desert and yes, it CAN rain here. In fact rain is so rare no one can actually drive in it. I haven't had the news on today but I am sure there are more than a few rescues underway as foolish people still manage to drive through flooded low spots in the road and discover, yet again, that stream of water they saw covering the road really was a temporary river and it will stall your car and you may float away. Ask the rescue people. Or watch the evening news. They'll be on there!
      But I digress.
Missing sock?
     We were no sooner out of the complex, crossing the driveway when there, in the gutter was a black sock, in fact a athletic low cut black sock suspiciously like the one that disappeared from my laundry Monday! Did I finally prove that socks really do run away? Was that my sock whose mate joined others on the stack in my feeble attempt to reunite them on another laundry day?
     Why is it that you never find that missing sock? I mean it came from the same drawer. You wore the "pair" one whole day. Then they both were put in the laundry basket to be washed. You wash and well, one, at least one, seems to come up missing! In fact, just about after every wash.
     Why do they run away? I pondered this as we slopped through the puddles getting my shoes and socks wet. Do socks like to get wet? Wet and in wet and smelly shoes?
Wet and socked in those smelly old shoes.
     Was that sock a right sock or a left? Does the left sock run away because it can't get along with the right (one)? Are socks political? Well, are they? I don't know about you but I mix them up willy nilly. Maybe that's why they run away. I mean think about it: a left sock probably always wants to be worn on the left foot, maybe it tends to be more liberal. After all, it is on the left! It must be anathema for a left sock to have to reside on a right foot. Maybe that's why sometimes a sock gets bunched up and makes you miserable all day no matter how many times you put it back on. Maybe that is what I have been missing. Next time that happens maybe I should switch socks. The bunching up is a way for the left to say they don't belong on the right! Or the conservative right just can't stand the idea of being considered a lefty!
     Or are socks tired of being worn all the time. Worn in a dark, smelly shoe and then after the day is over put in a dark laundry basket and at some time, all smelly by now, washed, helplessly drowned and tossed about in soap and water and when finally clean then, the supreme disgrace, thrown in with all the other, wet clothes and tossed about in the heat of a dryer. Once dry, they are folded together (I grab whatever running socks look alike and fold together, sisters or brothers alike), stuck again in a dark drawer awaiting another adventure in those old smelly shoes. No wonder they yearn to breathe free.
     Well, that is my take on the story. To tell the truth, can you blame them?
     Now the dilemma is how to prevent their escape? How do we entice them to stay until finally, all filled with holes they are put out to pasture ... in a smelly old dump. Ah, the poor life of a sock. Maybe they are right, running away is the best option!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always have. Comments are always welcomed!
   

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Finally, A New (Dream?) Kitchen

 
The original kitchen
     Pondering whether to buy the condo I ended up buying, the one room that stood out as first a horror, then good enough, then the realization that the first feeling was right (ever read Gladwell's BLINK where he says most judgments are made in nanoseconds and are usually correct?), I realized that before I could move in my new condo, I needed a new kitchen. Not just any kitchen but my own,
     Besides a backyard, something very rare in condos, one of the other selling points was the dining room that freed space in the kitchen. I had just about two months to do it.
     Another rare find was to find a hall closet that had been removed with the plumbing and venting that took both that space and part of closet in the small bedroom ... soon to be my studio for a stacking washer and dryer. The kitchen didn't have cabinets that went to the ceiling inviting both dust which is ubiquitous here in the desert, it also invited open storage that I didn't like, yet needed.
The gutted kitchen. Only the refrigerator was saved.
We had an electrician look everything over and increase plugs.
      After I took possession, I looked more carefully at the kitchen and realized that it barely functioned. The faucet was frozen in one position, cabinets were filthy and no amount of scrubbing was ever going to get the rings off the glass top stove. So ... biting the bullet I began what I guess would be called the rejuvenation program that became my new kitchen!
     It has no window and the wall backs up to my bathroom. Since I am on the first floor I can't have skylights either. So, much to my contractors horror, I found the biggest, brightest LED kitchen light I could find and replacing the fluorescents, had LIGHT! (I should add here that when we were nearly complete they also bought the same light so they could see in their kitchen too. Sometimes lovely needs to be functional especially when chopping with cleavers!) The existing ceiling fan was replaced as well.
After the electrician and before cabinets installed. 
     I really have a one butt kitchen meaning I can cook at the store, reach the sink and open the fridge with hardly any movement at all! The friend that helped me move and made Chinese dumplings from scratch, loved it. Two can be there at the same time but its cozy. So, to give the kitchen a bit more room I decided to use the wall that I had been using as the dining "area" and continue the same style of cabinets there so it made the kitchen appear bigger. The pass through to the dining room was a generous 52" so I wanted a kind of pantry on both sides with a bar between the bases and glass doored cabinets overhead. Measuring and measuring again, we headed over to Home Depot's kitchen design department and worked with our designer.
     Because I had a cream colored tile (that also had to be scrubbed professionally and sealed), I decided that I wanted a dark wood on the base cabinets to more or less match my table and glass case with bright white cabinets above the counter. After making sure this was what I wanted we designed the new kitchen from the walls out for you see, the old kitchen was gone ... gutted and the detritus out in the patio.
Out with the old ... in with the new
     One Sunday, after placing my order for the cabinets that would arrive December 8th, there was an article by a designer in the Desert Sun Sunday paper talking about kitchen design. It turns out what I had done, using two colors of cabinets was all the rage, worldwide. I was surprised and have told everyone that I should become a designer. I will always be on the cutting edge! Well ....
     Next came the destruction of the existing kitchen down in many cases to the studs. Frankly, I have no idea how this place ever passed inspection. The box that held the A/C vent was painted, scrap wood. I know that my inspector for our second story addition would have had an epilepsy fit if he had ever seen anything like that. The cabinets didn't even have dry wall behind them. The mud on the counters holding the filthy white tiles was so heavy they had to be broken apart inside to be dragged outside. Since I had given notice to be out of my rental condo behind my new one ... I was sweating.
     We ordered the cabinets after looking them over, reviewing them several times yet when
The kitchen in pieces
they came and we started to install them, realized after the bases were in place, the walls were anything but plumb. Curvy would be a good word. Then, many of the wall cabinets came in the wrong sized boxes and we saw the number 48 even when they were actually 42." We had them picked up to be reordered. Going back to Home Depot my designer said, "They are 42", come see." And they were. So after going back and forth about re-delivery I made four trips loading them in my Mazda CX-5 and took them back to be installed. That we were so wrong and that the numbers stuck in all our minds shows you that you can't always trust what you see.
Beginning the installation
     The back wall units were correct (as it ended up they all were, more or less) so they installed the white cabinets over the dark wood. WOW! The monolith from "2001: A Space Odyssey." Two of them in fact. Well, it was settled I would now have lots of storage!!! The glass doored cabinets were only 12" deep and perfect for me to display many of the old and antique cameras I have collected over the years. Many of them hadn't seen the light of day for 20 years!
The monolith. We thought only the base cabinets
would be deep ... surprise! I can store bodies
     The wall cabinets went up first one side, then the other but another glitch happened. Looking over the plans again we realized the designer had assumed the sink was centered on the back wall. It wasn't. The dishwasher forced it over to the left and in fact that caused problems as it had to open and avoid hitting the stove! Ah, the joy. So, we had cabinets that didn't fit, well not the way we imagined.  
      Measuring the remaining space we realized that in juggling cabinets we could make it work. Not quite the way the designer laid it out, but good enough. The deadline to be out was fast approaching and we had to get all my stuff, let's be honest here, all my crap from one place to the other. My friend couldn't believe what I had and he hadn't seen the studio belongings that I had already moved myself! I am forbidden to buy clothes, shoes, and any art supplies, probably for years!
     I had slowly begun the weeding process but ... well, time got away from me. So now while I struggle to find things, I have a giveaway box and trash box.
     He arrived December 21st, so we began moving the very next day. I bought red plastic tablecloths, we taped that down and were all ready to cook Christmas dinner three days later. I stuck the turkey in the oven after a few tense hours getting it to finally thaw and then continued Christmas morning with the trudging from one side of the complex to the other. Even my dog was exhausted as she just had to follow us on every trip. Neighbors pitched in for dinner and we had a great feast, a combination of American, Chinese and Japanese and Korean cuisine.
   
The kitchen counters brings all together. You can see here the sink is off-center but we were able to adapt.
New cabinets and bar ... the perfect place to eat!
      January 5th was the day my new quartz counters were installed. Watching the two young installers try to fit the rigid quartz against these wavy walls was challenging. One side was so bad he had to cut an angle in one corner. The backsplash covered up a multitude of sins. They were simply amazing. The counter pulled it all together. At some point I will choose some kind of tile to go under the cabinets to the backsplash but the dark grey fits in well with the white cabinets and my red kitchen items.
     The monoliths, bar and the Amazon barstools I bought are where I eat now. The dining table is set up with lovely Chinese table runners all ready for guests. I walk a few steps to the bar and read and eat. We even drilled a hole to connect computers, iPads and iPhone cable down to the USB ports in the plug.
     I am still learning my way around the kitchen. Is it perfect? No. You adapt. However, each corner cabinet has a hinging door so there is no lost space there. One side has coffee and nibblies and the other spices, rice, spaghetti, noodles and sauces. Moving the microwave to the right side of the fridge opened up a great deal of usable counter around the stove.
     I would be amiss if I didn't admit it was challenging. I was surprised at how many things I ended up buying on Amazon. I got four bar stools for the price of two here. Same thing too! I couldn't find the door handles I wanted and ended up paying about $2 each for 5" brushed metal handles I couldn't find in any hardware store here at any price. The faucet and over-the-stove fan came from Amazon and at prices that blow a big box store out of the water.
     This wasn't cheap but as I have told everyone, this is my last home and hopefully one that I will leave feet first! The lesson also is to be brave and know what you like and what you want. I just didn't want to settle for what was usual. I wanted a bit of sophistication but not a kitchen that looked like a library. My kitchen is functional, easy to clean, bright and cheerful and incredibly easy to use. What more can a bachelor or two people ask for?

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always have. Comments are always welcomed!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Graffiti As Art Except When It's Not!

   
Drawings from the caves of Lascaux, France
 Graffiti is as old as the cavemen of the Neolithic era. It may be older but the earliest records we have of man as an artist, that we are privy to is the amazing graffiti in the caves of France. Considering they are at least 40,000 years old, it is remarkable they still exist.
     When Pompeii was uncovered in the 1800's after being covered by ash from Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., one of the surprising finds was graffiti that had survived even red hot lava on the walls of the city. Some of the inscriptions were "X" rated while others were a form of advertisements for "X" rated services.
    So ... graffiti is pretty much as old as modern man (homo sapiens about 50,000 years old) who became used to advertising ... something. Some critics have been known to say art is nothing more than a form of advertising.
Romans were masters of the
intricacies of advertising
    In modern times, especially since my memory from the 50's, graffiti has been used by young men in groups or gangs marking their territory, much like a dog urinating on a fire hydrant letting other dogs know, this land is theirs.
Berliners making their thoughts known on the Berlin Wall
     I have come to admire graffiti as an art form especially after noting that in Europe ... the Berlin Wall, a few isolated spots in Prague, Mexico, Brazil and all over Southern California, that there seems to be a style, almost an internationalist style for graffiti art.
     The Long Beach Art Museum admired it so much, they put their collection in storage, painted their walls white and invited known and sketchy artists to decorate their walls. From what I heard, the show was a success and very well attended. I wrote about it a few years ago. What those artists created was every bit as inventive and considered as any Impressionist, Expressionist or Modernist work of art. It deserves to be admired and valued.
Street taggers caught in the act
     Up to a point! While I worked for a paper in East Los Angeles, then Monterey Park and finally Pico Rivera then becoming Block Captain in Rosemead, the scourge of the public and police was the graffiti by all the competing gangs. At one point it was ubiquitous, one gangs tag competing and often written over another's. Rosemead had a hot line that you could call and they would send out a crew to remove it ASAP because to neglect it only invited more. Some thought these crews actually encouraged the gangs so they would always have a job. However, it was successful and in a short time, the plague of graffiti vanished.
   
Graffiti becomes a problem when its in your 'hood!
     Well, until today when I noticed this "ABM" written on a transformer on the sidewalk in front of my Condo complex here in Palm Springs. I had seen this before but usually I walk my dog in the dark of night (she has a perchance of eating around 4:30 am) so unable to sleep we walk in the dark.
     I know from experience with law enforcement officials that they always know what gang has done what tag but say they can't make an arrest unless they see it happen. I questioned them then and again today; why do you have to "see" them? Tagging is just like a signature. When you write a check, does the clerk at AT&T, Edison, Macy's or Sears need to see you to sign the check in person before cashing it? Even in the 21st Century more and more entities are using "Digital" signatures on the Internet and they are considered valid enough to have the force of law. Goodness, I even signed 99% of my loan papers over the Internet having to only have one document that required a notary.
     So, since law officials know the name of the gang, usually most if not all of the members, when they tag a building, that in effect is their signature and what they are doing is against the law ... defacing private or public property.
     Tagging is not a victimless crime. There is time and expense for the victum to repair or paint over the damage done. Some cities have enacted laws that if and when caught, parents are responsible for their minor children caught tagging. The cities that have done this have seen such actions drop dramatically. If the parents don't pay, their wages can be garnished until the cost of the damage is repaid plus the cost of the court costs. Parents that thought it was funny when their child was caught were not happy at the cost of their "humor" when they had to pay and parents became parents again not tolerating continuing humor. Ah, as a wise old friend said, "Money turns the crank!" I would add either the getting or the going of that money turns that crank.
     The time has come to honor quality graffiti and time to punish those that generate tagging used as a guise for graffiti. Everything is known about them except maybe seeing them in action. If we can honor a check that is signed presumably by ourselves, mailed three thousand miles away and honored as payment, we can also say that any individual or group using a "signature" must be held responsible for their actions.
   
     Graffiti is also becoming and may have always been a tool for revolution. Here we have very elaborate artwork promoting "Jihad." If you were to see that on any building here in the US you can bet law enforcement would be over it like white on rice. There is no tolerance for such signage let alone the behavior that created this. Are those marks made on your wall, your school, your whatever else building any less important? I think not. The time has come to separate art from vandalism.


Thank you for reading my blog. Please, I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

HealthNet , The GOP & The Origins of Consumer's Entitlement

   
 While not totally unexpected, I still had my second medicine shock in two years today. You see, when I turned 65 I turned my Medicare medical plan over to HealthNet. After a series of illnesses and a regimen of medicine to keep me healthy, I got the shock of my life at the CVS Pharmacy here in Palm Springs when they said the medicines I had been taking, that cost in December 2015 around $198 a month were now in January 2016,  $1400. On that note, I might question that line, "A better decision" because it sure wasn't for me.
     Calling HealthNet I found out that the three medicines I needed to take daily had been bumped up to HealthNet's Tier 5, the "you're screwed" category. When I got some assistance help to pay for these medicines, easily about 30% of my monthly income, I finally got a new doctor who changed the medications. We got rid of the most onerous of the three and changed first to two medicines a day and finally one. That new one was the one that went from $112 a month from July to December 2016 to $806 in January 2017.
     Calling HealthNet yet again, second sticker shock call in two years, I was told that my new medication was now a Tier 5 medicine. Since I had already gotten it, I then asked if there were also medicines that were equivalent, as effective but in lower tiers. There were and she gave me two (though she admitted there were others) names and the cost per month would be $90 for one, $30 for the other. However, she warned me that I should talk to my doctor before changing my medication.
     Talk about letting my fingers do the walking, that was my next call. My doctor is out this week but will be back next week and her receptionist was going to leave her a note and she also suggested I also call just to be sure she got the message. I put that call in my calendar for a week from today.
     I think, the thing that bothers me the most about this scenario with HealthNet, and I'm sure all other providers as well,  is that I was given no notification, ever, that my medicines were changing tiers and that there were alternatives for me and my doctor to consider that were affordable and would work about as well.
The Grand Old Party is not 
so "grand" anymore
     What also bothers me and I would imagine many other HealthNet, Medicare and anyone in Obamacare, is that our politicians seem to think that the citizens of the United States feel they are "entitled" to these "expensive" entitlements given to us. What they fail to understand is that these programs, originally created as trusts, are and have been paid for by the people!  Politicians themselves raided these trusts literally for the money and now moan that this money is a drain on the government and these programs are again running out of money. Let me tell you and them that if over a period of 40 years I had invested the money I have paid to the government in taxes for my Medicare and Social Security, SSI and whatever other ways to grab my money have been added ... monies that I would invested myself, I would be a multimillionaire, many times over. Instead, I have a piddly monthly check that I nightly hear politicians moan about having to give me as if it were free money and I was on the dole. In a sense I am. My 40 years of payment money is doled out to me at a rate that would keep a church mouse even poorer!
     A visit to the local Social Security office is also very enlightening. In fact, the one near me had only one other native English speaker, an African-American rent-a-cop that was a holdover from the SS. Everyone else was speaking either Spanish, Cantonese or Mandarin. And, from the look of most of them, had never put a penny into the system. So Social Security, in my mind, is not for those who put money into it, but a feed the world's poor program paid for by the citizens of the United States. Is it any wonder they are running out of money? It's a program to feed the world's poor!
Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan
     My father died when I was 16. In watching Paul Ryan, in a variety of programs, most recently "60 Minutes" talk about Obamacare and Medicare and Social Security and what a drain they are and create a big government, realized of course that he also lived in circumstances similar to mine. Yet to hear him spout off the drivel that he does, I am sickened.    He knows the struggles his mother and mine had to raise children when the main breadwinner dies at 40.
     I can say this because I too am a Republican and probably have been since I was about 6 handing out "I like Ike" campaign buttons on street corners in 1952, putting up Goldwater signs on section roads in Oklahoma, cringed during Watergate and more. To hear my party put down the common man while they themselves with even one term in office get a healthy pension and medical care for life, not having to struggle like the rest of us for the very things they bemoan, sickens me. You can rest assured that if every politician in this country had to depend on the same programs the rest of us do, Social Security, Medicare, there would be sweeping changes.
     Life in the United States is not Orwell's ANIMAL FARM. Or, it is not supposed to be. Some animals are not supposed to be better than others and yet, and the old guard still doesn't get it, that is what brought defeat for the Democrats, the pollsters and all the insiders. They had all the answers, or thought they did. So busily talking to each other they truly missed the angst of the country and as Peter Finch said in "Network" they were mad as hell and wouldn't take it anymore.
   
The Capital of the United States
 The Chinese have a very old curse, "May you live in interesting times" ... and already even before Donald Trump is sworn in as President, we are. In just about every radio broadcast, on the nightly news on television we hear, just like the talking heads on ESPN missing with every broadcast what we and they have seen, say that we are entering the abyss. Maybe we are but then 2018 is just two years away and if "the Donald" doesn't deliver, the by-elections will create a new House and Senate and he will be a lame duck president.
     I spotted a headline the other day where I believe the New York Times asked the question "Can There Be Too Much Capitalism?" I would hazard a guess and say yes. Watching our government cozy up to the very entities they are supposed to watch over protecting the citizens, many of which were created by another Republican president, Teddy Roosevelt, the Epi Pen boondoggle, the Takata airbag disaster with millions of potentially unsafe cars on the highways, taking over 100 years to provide national healthcare to all citizens, something every other industrialized nation has had for over that same 100 years, you have to wonder. Maybe the question is, have we gotten too big for our britches? Has our government and its elected officials gotten too big and overreached their original Constitutional mandate? To think this isn't design is to ignore reality. In typical fashion what we have created was designed and designed some more until what we have today is, to many, is design gone haywire. A few, and I might add, a very few, have gotten theirs and left the rest of us in the dust.
     So again I say, "May you live in interesting times" because I think we are and maybe, just like on your smart phone, we need to hit the reset button!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design and art affects our lives ... and always has. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

New Beginnings: Creating a New Kitchen

The original kitchen
When I purchased my condo, I knew that the kitchen was at best dicey, but after I took possession and inspected every nook, corner and cranny the one thing that stood out that needed fixing or replacing was the kitchen. While it was different than other kitchens ... the originals from about 1983, this one had been upgraded ... sorta. The cabinets didn't go up to the ceiling, the Formica counters were now white tile, the stove was deeply scarred with divots in the glass top and rings around the burners that could not be scrubbed out. The old fan was dim, unbelievably greasy and the dishwasher didn't work. So while looking at it, and obviously not very closely, I didn't realize the job I had in store for me. Now I do.
   
The kitchen down to its ribs
     Since I had done a kitchen remodel before, I more or less knew the drill. If it can go wrong it will. However, since the space is small and cozy for two I realized that I couldn't do much more than replace the cabinets with those that went to the ceiling, put in better lighting, a new ceiling fan (the only one in the entire condo) and since I had a dining room, that left me free to decide what to do with the wall behind the kitchen. That would be a challenge as well.
     I hit upon the idea of a two toned kitchen. White cabinets above the counters and darker wood below. I would select a counter top that honored both colors and settled on white appliances. So we went over the ideas, dimensions and wants with a designer at Home Depot. I had used them before and pretty much knew the steps involved. After several ideas, layouts, etc., my contractor and I settled on a plan. I think he was very happy I didn't use red cabinets below the counters though we saw a brochure that did exactly that. The idea of two toned cabinetry seemed different to me and then Sunday I read in the Desert Sun that this has become all the rage both in the U.S. and Europe. Who knew? I did it because there is no window and without bright lighting, the kitchen is dark. Watching a friend fix dumplings in my relatively dim kitchen now, I realized you need to see where your fingers are when chopping! He agreed as well.
   
Things look a lot better with drywall!
     A lot had to be done before we could install the new cabinets. We had an electrician put the wiring in for the new fans, and add outlets in the kitchen. There had to be new drywall to replace the open areas that for some reason the cabinets covered. Drywall had to be mudded and I painted the areas that would show.
     Painting became an interesting process. While I was tempted to continue the red from the dining room, I realized that I needed a neutral color for all my red appliances. The toaster, coffee maker, canisters and even the waffle maker. While I looked, I couldn't find just the right tiles I wanted above the backsplash. The way I was burning through money, I figured a charcoal grey, the same color as the master bedroom was the way to go.
Painted drywall on one those areas cabinet couldn't conceal
The base cabinets went in fairly smoothly
     The counter man had come and gone ... measuring with a laser the exact dimensions of the quartz top. A close friend and I discussed these counters and I wanted something to match a strongly veined granite in both baths. He noted though that you wouldn't see the crumbs. "I'm a bachelor," I said. "We are expected to be messy." He demurred and suggested something with far less pattern, more white with subtle veining that would show those crumbs. I guess that means I clean the counter a lot more! However, those counters won't be here until the New Year so I move into an almost complete kitchen. I got red vinyl tablecloths to cover the plywood underlay so we could cook.
   However, the fun didn't stop there. When my contractor started opening the wall cabinets, he noted that the boxes said 48" high. Even though he measured one the number 48 stuck in his mind. Lining up all the cabinets that were supposed to be 42" all he could see was 48." We went over to Home Depot, had them come and get them and then got them reordered again.
Oh my! Those cabinets are huge!
   
 
     When I went over the next day to see my designer, he came back to me and said, they were 42", the right dimension. So after calling the contractor he said that would be right so then the dance began to get them back. Finally, after two days of waiting to get them the 2 or so miles Home Depot is from me, I drove my little Mazda CX-5 over and in four trips got them in and out myself so we could continue. Remember now, I must be out of my rental and into my condo by December 31st. Talk about a driven man!!!
     The interesting wrinkle though has been my kitchen item purchases from Amazon of all places. Really! I couldn't find the hardware similar to that on my dining room cabinet, a 5" brushed metal handle. I found them on Amazon for about 3 times less than in a store. Then I didn't see a single sink  faucet I like ... again Amazon. Then the fan over the stove at hardware stores was very expensive. Yup, Amazon again. It seems that you can get just about anything in the world on Amazon and at a much, MUCH better price.
     We didn't lose much time as the back wall cabinets were there and could be installed. The surprise though was that the upper white cabinets were 25" deep, not 12" like the two thinner cabinets with glass in the doors. They offered so much storage that I could even fit wine racks, a small fridge, store bodies! I may have lost the hall cabinets due to the addition of a stacking washer/dryer space but in the pass through to the dining room, there was plenty of storage.
     One other addition to the new wall unit design was the addition of a bar. It was 60" wide, wide enough for two, even three people to eat at without having to mess up the dining room. There is a large space to mount a TV if I want and a cutout to the new four plug outlet that included two USB charging ports!
A place to show my collection of old cameras
    Since I figured that this would be my last resting place living on my own I wanted to make it easy to care for and use! One of the hallmarks was that I finally had a place to display my old cameras. Maybe not antiques yet but some, the Polaroids especially, almost my age now. There is one more treasure I have yet to retrieve, a 4 x 5 Speed Graphic, a prize I snared the day of the Northridge Earthquake for $100 in its original case and holders, flash and meter that you would ever need.
     The hopefully last snag was that the designer, and we watched him do it and even had the printout in our hot little hands, put the sink directly under the A/C duct that I wanted to hide under a cover. When we went to install that cabinet, we made the discovery it wouldn't fit. However, once everyone calmed down we realized
Recreating the duct box and installing the cabinet next to it
that if we changed the wall duct box over to the left, everything would fit. The 42" wall cabinet to the right, and the short 12" high cabinet under the duct box.
     The kitchen is small ... as you can see with the contractor installing the heart stopping cabinet. It will have to be asymmetrical because the sink is not centered either because of the dishwasher. In its own way, the duct box will be centered over the sink with a small cabinet under it.
     Obviously it is not done yet. I put in all the cabinet shelves last night ... the counter isn't there but all the appliances work, we will have water and a dishwasher so we can cook Christmas dinner with turkey and all the fixins'. Cooking a turkey will be a first for me. The rest is easy. If I'm lucky my friend might add fresh, homemade Chinese dumplings! My sister wants me to send her some overnight they're that good!
     The floor is being cleaned today (December 20, 2016) and I pick up a friend tomorrow who will help me over the next week move in and clean up where I am now. I have already moved my studio into the new condo and put a ton of things in the mercifully large storage room that is mine in front of my parking space. One way or another, it will be done. The new place won't be completely ready but isn't that the way it always goes?
     This is a perfect example of design ... how we design the spaces around us or let someone else do it for us. This is going to be my place, my last place when you're 71, so I decided to design it to suit me at this stage of my life. I have been toying with getting a Roomba. I have a black Lab that sheds all the time. I hate to vacuum and well ... it may chase her around the condo at times but at least it would keep the dog hair at a minimum.
     More to come. Will show the results with the counters in place, clean floors and all cabinets installed. For now and until the end of the year "moving" is the key word! Happy Holidays!!!


Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design and art affects our lives ... and always has. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Designing The Food We Eat

THE LAST SUPPER by Leonardo DaVinci
You have to consider that the food we eat, each and every day,  often three times a day is something that we design. Each time you prepare a meal, you are in effect designing something. From the mundane bowl of soup to a Thanksgiving feast, food has fascinated man ... and some of the most famous paintings in the world reflect that! Anyone who ever seen THE LAST SUPPER knows that food was as important to the disciples as to anyone. The feelings of breaking bread together are timeless and eternal.
     As I was making bread today, from scratch I might add, it hit me that cooking or baking, is as much an art as painting, writing or singing a song. Food is our sustenance and we ignore it to our peril. Every era, every time in history
They really knew how to eat in the Renaissance!
celebrates food yet many of us seem to ignore that fact. Even fast food, believe it or not, is designed in some kitchen somewhere and then copied like a Xerox copy all over the world. (I might add that in most cases there might be very little difference between the taste of some fast food and that copy of paper). Anyone who has traveled much knows that food is the subject of much of the fine art they see in the worlds greats museums, temples and monuments. Amazingly paintings on the walls of Ancient Egyptian temples still show people offering food to the gods. (Why is it that that paint is still there 4,500 years later and we have to paint our houses at least every 5 years?)
     Even in the midst of the turmoil of moving I had "ripe" bananas ready to be baked and a can of pumpkin puree begging to be cooked. Cook or move that can ... you decide.
Ingredients are out - let the mixing begin!
     As I write this the two - banana and pumpkin breads are baking. As I was mixing the ingredients it made me realize the steps are really no different than getting a painting ready to paint something and then well, paint it.
   
Banana batter ready to bake
I dug out the trusty cookbook and started pulling the out the ingredients off the shelves and refrigerator. Here, sugar and flour are kept in the freezer because the ants will be all over them before you can even say bug! So the flour, eggs, sugar, spices, oil, mashed bananas and the final addition - chopped walnuts are put together into a mix that hopefully will turn out to be bread. And trust me, anyone that has cooked or painted hopes for success. It doesn't always happen either!!! If you've been there you know what I mean.
   
The kitchen supervisor
      No kitchen would be complete without a supervisor and my kitchen isn't any different either. There in the middle of the floor, blocking an exit or entrance to the fridge is my supervisor. I guess I could move her but she would be back the minute my back was turned. She is however, a wonderful cleanup crew. You drop it, she'll eat it!
Pumpkin and banana bread, all ready to go!
   













     After mixing the batter for the banana bread, next came the pumpkin mix. I had never made this before and was amazed at how different the recipes were. They both were to be cooked in the same size pan, same time and even same temperature. Neither is dietetic but really how often do we splurge like this? My friend from Hong Kong loves my bread and specifically asked that I make some for him. Who knows, we might just be able to eat it in my own new kitchen!

The finished product: pumpkin and banana bread!
     The new counters won't be in but as the guy who came to take the final measurements Monday said, get a plastic tablecloth at the Dollar Store to cover the underlaying plywood. Yes, how perceptive is that! For a buck or two I can have the use of the kitchen as the appliances are in, the cabinets should be ... all that is missing will be the new counters. So, as I make my final hurrah in one kitchen, I am looking for to getting to use my new and very
     Here's to all the cooks, those artists of the culinary arts, wishing you much success with the cooking that mark the holidays.



Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design and art affects our lives ... and always has. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

An Apology

     In the pressures of getting my condo completed and myself moved in by December 31st, we made mistakes. The biggest mistake was measuring. Yes, the cabinets that we thought were supposed to measure 42" were in box numbers that ended in 48 and that figure stuck in our minds. Even when one of them was taken out of the box and measured we read 48" on the tape. Since all the boxes appeared to be the same height, we assumed the cabinets were too big, that they were all 48". Never assume anything! Remember ... assume means make an ass out of you and me!
     Going over to Home Depot this afternoon, my designer told me that the cabinets measured 42". Asking how tall the ceilings were I replied 96" or 8 feet. Calling my contractor he repeated the ceiling height. I told him the cabinets measured 42" even though the box numbers said XXX48. We all agreed that this would be correct and so, the mystery was solved.
     Visually the number stuck in minds eye and even looking at the measuring tape we saw 48 rather than the true measurement.
     At least we can get the cabinets back and continue to get the condo ready to move into by the end of the month ... the end of the year. My designer was going to contact KraftMaid to stop the replacement order. What was still needed were just a few small things that would make the kitchen look nicer but not be of the magnitude a reorder would take.
     However, there is an apology due and I offer it here. I am very sorry for the confusion. Yet, I also stand by some of my reactions in how this was handled. I do credit my designer at Home Depot for helping us see our mistake patiently and kindly. He is helping us to return the cabinets, luckily not far away, and allow us to move forward.

Alan Krug

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design and art affects our lives ... and always has. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Living in LA LA Land And Wondering How It Will All Turn Out!

     For those of you who don't know, I live in California; Palm Springs, CA in fact. Palm Springs is  a city with a multitude of distinctions ... land of the winter snowbirds, retirement city, Gay Capital of the U.S, home of Modernism Week, film festivals, prestigious art festivals, huge outdoor music concerts, a weekly street fair that closes down the main drag every Thursday night, HOT summers ... the list really can go on and on. That said, I also live in a state that voted 66% for Clinton and hates Donald Trump. As just about everyone in the world knows, California is a liberal, to many, a very liberal state. Bill O'Reilly, the ultra conservative, once observed that the Los Angeles Times should use a hammer & sickle in their masthead, it's that liberal.
     It is a state led by Democrats in both houses of the legislature, the governorship and just about every other office in the Golden State. It is also replete with those elected officials that think they know better than you or I. If they did I might add, we would be living in paradise ... however, we aren't, and they don't know much more, maybe, from the many I have met, less.
     What is interesting however, is the breakdown of the state. In the north from San Francisco to Oregon you have a strong loyal, liberal base. However, in the far more populous south, Los Angeles, it is liberal but moderately so, some might even say shakily so. It is these population centers that wag the dog. As you can clearly see, the majority of the landmass with far fewer people is either moderately or extremely conservative.
     What brought this to mind was an article in the Sunday Desert Sun that, with the media still wringing it hands, wondered how California would bear a Trump Presidency. They observed the actions of Texas where the attorney general of that state filed lawsuits against the Obama Administration daily as a matter of course. The editorial urged our newly appointed attorney general to do the same thing.
     I guess the question remains, when will liberals, and by that I mean the media, talking heads, pundits and those that "know" how to run a political campaign realize, and admit that much of the result of the Trump presidency was of their own making. One insightful article by a renowned journalist admitted the hubris of the liberals including himself. When by chance he ventured out of the beltway to Podunk Iowa, what he heard and saw convinced him in June that Trump had a chance. Why? Because the administration wasn't looking out for them. Democrats were convinced the working class was theirs. Only the working class felt it wasn't being served and protected by the Democrats with decades of their jobs going overseas, a slower than normal recovery had left them near starvation levels. Their hope for a better life had vanished. They took a chance on Trump. You have to realize, that no matter how cheap products are, if you don't have a job you will not be able to buy them. The only winners in NAFTA, the now failed Pacific Trade Agreement and any other trade agreements were the CEO's who would make even more money and the countries that got the jobs exported from here, certainly not the workers who lost their jobs. Watching PBS specials interviewing the workers who had lost good paying jobs many felt that Trump being vilified by both Democrats and Republicans was enough of an outsider who just might actually do what he promised. Certainly the deal he wrought with Carrier saving about 1400 jobs from going to Mexico proves, in their minds, he really does care about them.
     However, it wasn't just a few jaded voters that voted for Trump. Take a gander at the entire United States and see how they voted county by county. All that red is a sobering reminder that while we have more voters in our cities, there is a great disconnect between the citizens of this country. It is the issue that has and may well continue to divide this country.
     Many of my friends still can't get over the election results. There is a sense of foreboding in the Gay community, many of the residents in the valley are undocumented and many of the grand projects of California (Big Brother) seem to be in peril.
   
The election may be over but the feelings haven't!
     How will it all end up? No one knows. Hopefully, the status quo is broken and finally, as one journalist admitted, its time for everyone to stop talking to themselves and talk to the people of this land. What is needed and done in New York City, the beltway, and just about any large American city is, as we have seen, very different in the heartland. If you are a small merchant, farmer, oil field worker, fisherman, there is a good deal of brokering. The art of the deal is alive and well. Isn't that what Trump has said about himself all along? Once filled with strong blue-collar voters, decades of jobs fleeing overseas has seen our workforce decimated and both parties are held to blame.
    And all blame cannot be placed on the Democrats shoulders either. The GOP has been as intransigent and acting like they know better yet have refused to sit at the table and compromise. If there is any hallmark to the success of the United States beginning with the creation of the Constitution, it was that various political followers 1. talked to each other, 2. learned the spirit of compromise. Nothing is perfect and on this earth nothing most likely will ever be. To move forward you have to do some horse-trading, do a little give and take so that while no one ever gets everything they might want, the country moves forward, both sides give some and get some. As everyone knows, not much of compromise on anything has been done for something like about 16 years. The country has become polarized and it has been become a battle between competing ideologies.
     Watching "60 Minutes" last Sunday was sobering. First Paul Ryan, a voracious critic of Trump says that he is willing to work with him. They are united in undoing much of Obama's legacy.
     The next feature talked about the "Golden Triangle" in Alabama that has had a resurgence in new industries that have slowly begun to replace the ones that fled to China. However, even here the sobering fact remains ... what will we do with all the people when the requirements for any new factory is a fraction of what it was? Fact, a steel mill used to employ around 4,000 workers. The new one, with great pay for the 500 workers is the problem. Much of the old muscle work has been replaced by robots and men and women now sit behind computers monitoring every action in the mill. Industries my be moving back to the US but the job requirements will be far less than before.
     There is a reason robotics are replacing more and more jobs; they can work 24/7, need no breaks or lunch, vacations, health care, 401K plans. Sure they require maintenance but nothing like the numbers of workers once required.
     Education is the key but for what? No one can predict the future but the days of a high school diploma being enough isn't good enough anymore. In fact, even a four year college degree is looking pretty slim to many companies.
     While I can't predict an answer here, I can predict that if both parties don't sit down and talk to each other, work out a plan that protects their constituents, simplifies the daily business of both small companies and their employees there will be even more drastic election changes opening up even more extremes that will continue to polarize the country.
     If there ever was a need to design a plan of action, that time is now! Write your congressman, your senator, any and all of your elected officials. They are to represent you, not themselves. TELL them what you think. Make them hear your voice, not the voices of each other. I tell friends vote incumbents out ... each and every one. When they tell me their incumbent is good I reply, "No they are not. They are part of the problem!" Think about that and let your fingers do the walking over those keyboard keys.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design and art affects our lives ... and always has. 



Monday, December 5, 2016

Remembrance of Things Past

First spotted on Farrell & Baristo at 4 am in Palm Springs
     One of the things I must do everyday for my health is walk. Also, one of the things I must also do several times a day, is walk my dog. Should I feel lazy or not be active enough you can bet she will be there to remind me.
     There are the potty walks about the condo complex and there is the walk, a 30 - 45 minute walk I have dubbed the WPP (walk, poop and potty). How do I know its time? Well, first there is the stare. Then she gets closer smiling and bumping me. When that fails a paw touches my knee over and over again until I get up.
   On one of the routes we take there is a memorial to someone on the corner of Baristo and Farrell here in Palm Springs. I assume that someone died in an accident but it been there for several months and includes solar lights that glow when we take our now infamous 4 am walks through the dark desert landscape. Seeing it that first time made me pause and begin to remember how humans remember the past, loved ones, success in war, success of the heart.
   
The evolving memorial in daylight.
While we usually walk very early ... that 4 am feeding you know ... but sometimes I feed her then crawl back into bed. Occasionally I walk our nighttime route during the day and was amazed at how much the memorial changed from day to day. Clearly someone cared and was deeply missed.
     On a sad note though, today when we walked past during a glorious sunrise, the memorial was gone. Only a few pieces remained scattered across the empty land.
     Why are memorials so important to us? What do they signify? I began to notice shrines appearing in our neighborhood when more and more Asians, many from Viet Nam or China placed them on the ubiquitous fireplaces that every one of the houses had on our street. In the early morning glow you would see red electric lights on a mysterious, to Western eyes, shrine that had little statues, fruit and the ever glowing red lights.
Like Shelly's "Ozymandias", nothing besides remains
   
Home Buddhist Shrinemore intimate and immediate!
      On inquiry, I was told these shrines kept the memory of past ancestors alive to the living and each light was a person they would pray for. Not all that different from some Christian traditions ... only we usually do that in a church. This is
Memorial Flowers for Princess Di
     When Princess Di died in the car crash the sudden and spontaneous cascade of flowers that appeared in London brought worldwide attention to this phenomenon. Who can forget the days of memorials and scenes of thousands of mourners who paid their respect with flowers? Thousands of flowers.
     Suddenly it became okay for people to create scenes such as this in memory of those that passed ... for whatever reason.

Road Side Memorials are
everywhere today
 
     Who has not driven along the a highway and not witnessed a scene such as this? In passing you have to wonder what happened, what tragedy was here that caused loved ones and others to return to pay their respect? As we scurry by, I am sure that more than a few of us hope that such a need will not be required for us. Do we slow down just a little? Do we watch the road a bit more carefully? Do we think of those that died here? 
Entrance into Jerash, Jordan
     The tradition of celebrating some event has been with us through the ages. I can remember my visit to Jerash, Jordan. To enter the ancient Roman city, you went through a memorial arch constructed by Hadrian in celebration of defeating whomever lived there at the time. Of course, the effect of such monuments is both inspiring as it reminds us of past victories and the people who won them. Such Roman monuments litter the ancient Roman Empire and have inspired far more modern men to erect them too! Napoleon's "Arc de triomphe" in Paris, the Arch in Washington Square in NYC and the famous Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. All iconic sights that instantly bring to mind where they are. And, I might add, owe their design and inspiration from Ancient Rome.
 
Memorial to those who perished in the OKC bombing
   Sadly, we only seem to remember the tragedies of life. When I was traveling to Memphis with my daughter with the car we were giving her, we stopped along the way at a variety of places. One was in Oklahoma City. After eating a wonderful meal in an area of old warehouses converted into a trendy attraction of shops and eateries, we were encouraged to see the memorial of those who has died at the bombing of the Murrah Building by Timothy Mc Vie. Since it was Memorial Day weekend we weren't sure of what we would see but we later found out it is open 24 / 7 and that people come to pay their respects rain or shine.
     To not be moved by the serenity of the scene and realize the enormity of the building, the site is in the footprint of the original building, you have to gasp. 168 people died. There is a chair for each and every one, large for adults, small for children, with a light underneath and during our visit a small American flag alongside each chair. The site is marked at each end with a marker that tells the time it started and the time it ended. I cried. Only a minute had passed.
     Across the street, the parsonage of the old Methodist Church was also destroyed. In its place is a stature of Christ, hands covering his face, crying. The inscription reads simply, "Jesus wept."

The 9 / 11 Memorial in New York City
    There are countless memorials to humans, their deeds and often misdeeds. However, for many, especially those living on September 9, 2001, no memorial brings greater sadness than remembering that fateful day when so many died and so many structures came down with them. When I was in NYC before the new memorial opened I just couldn't visit the site. The memory of seeing the second plane hit Trade Tower 1 as I waited for the Super Shuttle to take me to LAX for a flight to Chicago that morning was just too much. I remember walking my dog the next day and looking up startled, and just a little bit scared when a military plane flew overhead.
     There are many monuments and traditions that cover the world ... all designed by men and women that remind us of what has been. To forget them, is to then relive these same events or as the great
Spanish philosopher Santayana said, "Those that forget history are doomed to relive it." Is that what we really want?
Oakland,  CA rave fire memorial
     How many times, how many lives do we have to lose to learn this very basic lesson? Right now we are mourning all those that died in Oakland, CA at a Rave concert because of senseless practices that many knew was a time bomb just waiting to happen. You have to wonder, how many fires, shady prevention practices, do we need to forego such senseless tragedies? Even sadder yet, no matter who is found to blame, no matter how large the fines and long the jail sentences are, the dead will not, cannot be, brought back. There will always be accidents, things that we cannot predict nor protect against, but those that can be and are not is unacceptable. Not today, not ever.
     So to all those people out there that hated and often flunked history, there is a lesson in all of this. Start remembering and stop making the same mistakes over and over again.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design and art affects our lives ... and always has.