Thursday, December 31, 2015


I don't know about you but moving from one place to another is NOT my idea of fun. After living in the same home for nearly 30 years one tends to get rather rusty at this. And to be truthful, being older, a LOT older, doesn't help much either.

Packing to move!
What is amazing is how much stuff you manage to accumulate! Even in the assisted living home with pretty much bare minimum space and resources in a room, one manages to collect a load or three of items that need to be moved!

Empty shelves, boxes to stumble over, lists of things to be sure to take or get, moving is a kind of gut retching, cathartic event that helps, or more likely makes, you take stock of what you have and even more, what you need.

We don't realize the quantity of things we have collected until that very moment of moving. Seriously. I think that when the time should ever come where I felt I needed a storage unit, it will be the time to start culling. Some of us try it before the move, others after they move and find there just isn't room for everything they brought. "Where did this come from? Why did we buy it?" What's worse is that often, we can't bear to get rid of it. That's what's made places like PUBLIC STORAGE, A-1 STORAGE and the like a booming business. Those commercials showing the happy homeowner storing their "extra" items also creates a much darker side when you watch "Storage Wars" on cable TV. People just abandoned the items they felt at one time they just couldn't live without. I guess they could.

You tend to forget that when you're setting up your new home from just about nothing, what you have to get just to make it function! The last time I did this was when I was 24. While it has been fun in its own way, it has been back breakingly grueling too. Yet, I look forward to it eagerly.

While I will start with minimal furniture, a bed and reclining chair, a few lamps, my studio work table and a few metal shelves, it will give me a chance to see just what I really need. First off though, I will need a desk. I guess I will finally have to assemble the computer work station I bought several years ago and never assembled (thank the Lord - it's still in the original box) to see if it can double as both a computer work station and office desk. It is L-shaped with a hutch and space for a file cabinet. I doubt I would need much more than that, at least to start with.

The adventure begins. Luckily while I will most likely live in the world of boxes and "stuff" sitting all over the place, my rental condo does have a great deal of storage space. The smaller guest bedroom will be come my studio. I figure the large bedroom can host the computer furniture / office as well as a bed and comfy chair. After all it will be just me and my dog!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please check out earlier blogs that discuss the everyday design of living in our lives. AND, a wonderful, Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Open Letter to Richard Branson of Virgin America

December 23, 2015

Dear Mr. Branson CEO,

On Tuesday, December 22nd, I had a flight of two stages starting in LAX (Los Angeles) on Virgin America's flight 941 to San francisco. Because of a series of storms (Californians freak at the first sight of rain) my flight of 6:50 pm departure was delayed until 8:30 pm. We were assured that our connecting flights, San Francisco to Portland, were also affected and we would be able to continue on. Why we had to stop in San Francisco is anyone's guess. I found out that if I had flown from Palm Springs, CA where I am moving, I could have flown non-stop directly to Portland. However, the reservations were made in September ... months before.

We finally boarded where I noticed the flight was only at best 50% filled and yet we were stacked three to a row as if the flight was full. We finally arrived in San Francisco around 10:00 pm. I asked an attendant where I could find my connection and she directed me to gate 54A, the gate that we flew from. Well, everyone was there, including the plane. We waited and waited. I figured that since we were here so long my suitcase would easily be loaded on the plane. Silly me.

We didn't even take off until after 11:00 pm. Sitting on the tarmac at least a half an hour more we didn't see or hear another flight ... we just sat there engines running as the minutes ticked by. Finally we were airborne and after a very long day of one hectic frustrating moment after another starting at 3:30 am, I fell asleep. We arrived in Portland around 1:30 am the next day.

I went to my carousel to await my suitcase ... waiting and wanting and feeling increasingly hopeless. Every other person including those who were on my flight from Los Angeles got their luggage and I was left with nothing. All of my Christmas presents, many of my medicines and all of the clothes I planned on wearing for a week were in that suitcase. Maybe I should have been one of those piggy passengers who cram as much as they can in their carryons into the overhead compartments holding everyone getting on and off the plane. At least I would have my luggage.

There was an attendant there at the carousel and as I explained my predicament she took down my cell phone number, the address I was staying at then looked at the baggage number on my original boarding pass and assured me that the suitcase would be delivered the next day. Inconvenient but what more could I do or say?

Today, December 23, 2015, is that next day and NOT A WORD OR CALL FROM VIRGIN. We have called and talked to a variety of Virgin American people, all day long and each and everyone is utterly clueless with customer service and all we have learned is that it shows the suitcase is in Portland. However, THERE IS NO ONE AT THE VIRGIN DEPARTURE OR TICKET BOOTHS. We found out they are open only at 5 - 8:00 am and 8:30 - 10:30 pm. What a sweet job that is. How do we know? We called and even went to the airport looking to find someone that could help us. There was no one and we finally gave up, went to eat and and went shopping. I had to buy underwear, socks and a new shirt as well as deodorant as I literally have only the clothing I wore from Los Angeles.

I have never dealt with a company as poorly run as this. Why are you even in Portland? There is no one there, the people on the phone are simply clueless. WHO would ever go to the airport at 5:00 am in the morning. Even more, why would you travel back to the airport at 8:30 pm at night?

I had read a report giving the ratings of world airlines and in the US, Virgin America was chosen as the best. If Virgin America is the best, what on earth is the worst like? This has to be the poorest run and managed airline on the planet. I have flown from Zanzibar, from the Ivory Coast, even Peru and Aswan, Egypt and have never, EVER been treated like this. I paid $25.00 to have Virgin America loose my suitcase. Not only did they lose it, they don't even have the decency to followup on what has happened.

The Christmas gifts in the suitcase were hand crafted painted items that I created. Now, they are gone along with the rest of my belongings ... electric shaver, underwear, shirts, belts, shoes, socks and all the additional medicines I need to use on a daily basis. I am 1,000 miles from home and since my pharmacy is CVS and there are no CVS pharmacies in Portland, I am well, screwed. Luckily at the last moment I removed the crucial daily medicines that keep me alive. The rest are necessary and will have to be replaced, at great cost, when I get home.

Other than going home on Virgin America, confirmed reservations, with what is now merely a shopping bag of belongings only I could lose, I WILL NEVER FLY ON VIRGIN AMERICA AGAIN. I hope that anyone and everyone reading this reports, as I will, to the FAA about this companies deplorable treatment of their passengers. Best ... what, best of the worst?

Mr. Branson, I would suggest you concentrate on either a rocket to the edge of space or an airline that flies each and every day. To you Virgin America may be a hobby but to those of us who use or used it, it is an experience that I simply will not allow you to handle again. May you fly on one of your planes and have your luggage lost. THAT would be sweet revenge.

Alan Krug

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Starting All Over Again

My new home
The last time I set up an apartment as a single man, I was 24. Just back from a two year stint in the Peace Corps, I rented an apartment down the way from where my mother and sister were living in Albuquerque, NM, 50 years ago. I can vaguely remember setting it up, being very poor and trying to find gainful employment in the 1970 recession. I am sure it was very barebones as I ate many of meals at "home," bought a bed, a chair and had not much else.

The first Target run
This time around, well, I am stunned by what it takes to live alone! Who designed this manner of living? Most of my expenses have come from setting up a kitchen! I like to cook but I'm discovering every room in the house needs things! I have made a variety of runs to Target and Big Lots, Kmart, even The Dollar Store and as each room gets further along in getting set up, I find that I need to get more things, so many "more" things I need to make lists! What you forget is that each room needs many of the same things; trash cans and they all can't be the same, Kleenex, hand soap, towels, paper towel holders, placemats ... the list goes on and on.

My condo, while not all that large is for a single man more than big enough. It has a living room, a dining area, two bedrooms, two baths, a huge walk in closet and storage all over the place. I just discovered a closet in the hallway! There is an interesting covered patio with access from either the kitchen or the master bedroom, bigger than the room I currently live in. Every room has a lighted fan with a handy movable remote no less, even the "patio" area just outside the kitchen.

Kitchen ... now there is another word for money pit. I like to cook so started off simply ... plates, cups, glasses, silverware. But then I realized I needed pots and pans, and knives and then the list got bigger and bigger. Friends gave me a crock pot and a microwave luckily but I needed a coffee maker, larger than the tiny one I currently have in my room, mixing utensils, a wine cork screw opener, beer opener, whisk for eggs, even casserole dishes. OMG! I am sure every woman reading this is getting a big laugh out of this. They KNOW! Their husbands are clueless! The drawers are now full of things as are the cabinets. All I can say, is I better cook. The investment, even if most of it came from Big Lots is impressive. The one thing I can't find is a good cast iron skillet. I make a mean Chinese soup that requires one and so the hunt continues. I'm sure Palm Springs and environs has a complete kitchen store. Many men like to cook and out there usually want the best!

After I get what little I have here out there, furnishing comes next. Currently I have a very comfortable bar height table and chairs from Kmart of all places. At $199.99 with a table that could seat 6 and four chairs I couldn't resist. The neighbors came over to put it together for me and were amazed it was so well designed and sturdy. Those chairs and table are rock solid.

Living Room View
Is it worth it? Well, see for yourself. This is the view I get every morning from my living room windows. As the sun rises the huge mountain range west of Palm Springs turns salmon colored. It is simply stunning. During the day its rather bland, a collection of tans, fawns and grey but IS impressive in its size and scope climbing to over 13,000 ft. The mountains are actually a threesome, one higher than the one in front of it. We already had a dusting of snow and even rain!

Am I glad I am moving? Yes. It gives me a chance to start all over again in a new place and continue to do the things I enjoy ... create, cook, travel (the Palm Springs airport gets you all over the country and thus the world) and make new friends. Something is always going on here and it feels like a small town. With the winter snowbirds you meet people from all over. Here its "live and let live."

If you have suggestions on how I can set up an even better condo, please feel free to comment. Friends are going to take me consignment shopping. You get to choose from a wide variety of items being sold after an owner either moves, dies or remodels ... a kind of passion out here in the desert!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please check earlier ones ... all have a focus on design, the designs of our world that we live by! Happy Holidays.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Why I Will Never Use Über Again: A Cautionary Tale

I am 70 years old. I have been using computers since I was probably in my 30's, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Because I appeared to be "with" it by taking a class in "Basic Computer Language" the company I worked for made me their internal computer expert. We won't into that but suffice to say for about 40 years I have had some kind of a working knowledge of computers or at least technology.

My first foray with Über was last week when I had to be at the courthouse in Pasadena, probably a 6 or so mile drive. Since I have already discovered using buses in Los Angeles and environs is a sometime thing, I was scared of arriving too late. After all my lawyer told me, "Be on time!" So, I turned to Über for a day before dry run. What a mistake that was!

The problem begins with your entry of HOME on the Über iOS software that runs on my iPhone 6. I could enter my address all I wanted but it would show me addresses I had no idea where they were. The receptionist here at the home was familiar with it and tried to help. She didn't get any better results than I did even after closing, deleting and doing a hard restart on my phone. What was really frustrating was that it kept showing the driver, who was going to pick me up, a street address that I didn't even know where it was! Finally he called and I had to ask where he was and give him directions to the home. I mean how hard can it be? Commonwealth crosses Garfield, a major north south street in the San Gabriel Valley two blocks south from Main St. An hour into this he finally arrived. Can you imagine arriving late for a court date?

I gave him the address of where I wanted to go explaining this was a dry run for tomorrow morning. I had to be in court and couldn't take a chance with buses. One of my connecting buses has a very bad habit of just not even coming! We chatted and once underway there were no problems. His phone was calling out directions and while I wouldn't have gone that way myself we got there in about 15 minutes as opposed to an hour on the bus, assuming the bus came. Once we got to the courthouse I said fine, lets go back. The fare was around $15, far more expensive than the bus. What I didn't know was that I was being charged for EVERY mile he drove hunting for me. So the hour he was hunting me down at the wrong address, I was being charged.

I complained at their followup email saying I was very unhappy. It wasn't the driver it was Über's buggy software. They gave me a $10 credit back. Evidently I found out they could follow the drivers path and they agreed with me, the starting and ending points were wrong. Well, now I was a happy camper. I would use them for my trip to the airport.

However, happy or not I still didn't want to risk being late to court so asked the home if they could drive me there. They agreed. Our driver, however, didn't come to work until 8:00, would that be enough time? Since it is nearly a straight shot I said yes.

After getting back to the home and not eating my lunch, a friend said why don't you leave now. I am free and can pick you up in San Bernardino earlier. By now I had the key to my truck but not having driven in 10 months, then finding a way over to get it, I didn't feel up to it, especially a 90 minute or more drive to Palm Springs. So, you guessed it, I texted Über. I needed to get to the CalState Metrolink Station, probably by car a 15 minute ride. There was a train leaving at 1:00 pm so I would make it in time when I texted them at 12:30. I was packed and ready to go.

Again he had trouble finding the address. On their real time map he was minutes away on Garfield. Where he went next is anyone's guess. About 10 minutes later, and yes, I was outside looking for him, he drove down the street going east. When he saw me he started a u-turn and was nearly hit by oncoming traffic. The adventure began.

Using Über's software we listened to the instructions they gave. I tried to tell him how the bus did it but before I knew it we were flying down the freeway heading west. We flew by the Metrolink Station. I finally made him pull off the freeway before we entered downtown Los Angeles. "Where are you going?" I asked (probably yelled). He was following the robot's instructions. Maybe theres a CalState Metrolink Station on Mars, I don't know, but by now it was 1:00 pm. Suddenly I see Union Station on my left in downtown LA. Stop I yelled. Let me out. He tried to pull another u-turn again getting us nearly broadsided. I ran into the station but discovered that the train had left and the next one was about an hour away.

As if missing the train wasn't bad enough, it turned out my fare was $16 for what should have been at most $5 (its 25¢ on the bus), my fare leaving from Union Station was doubled now to over $13 and I had to wait about an hour for the next train. Tell me, is this any better than riding the bus? It took an hour to get to the LA Convention Center on the bus Thanksgiving Day. It cost me, as a senior about 50¢. Today I tried to leave before my usual bus service begins. I did get to San Bernardino about 90 minutes earlier but I had to ask, was it worth all the aggregation? I think not.

The bad thing about Über is you must make arrangements at that very minute. You can't say, can I have you pick me up tomorrow at such and such time? Or make sure I can get to the airport on the 22nd. No. It has to be done now, when you want to leave with a different driver every time with varying abilities. It seems strange. They have your phone number and have to call you anyway. Why not book in advance and have them check on the pre-arranged date? I surely would opt to do that. My complaint with Super Shuttle or Prime Time is that they try to cram as many people in their buses as possible going around and around the arrival concourse hoping for one more body. Then once underway give you literally a cooks tour of your area. I have had them drive by my exit where they could have dropped me off and been back on the freeway in a flash. After a long flight you can count on another 2-3 hour ride home. I know its Los Angeles but even then there are limits.

There have been more followup emails. I wrote and said that after two awful experiences in two days, back to back, that I would never use them again. They apologized and said they would apply a credit on my next ride. I wrote back and said, just give me a credit on my card as there will never be another ride with them. Now I keep getting emails asking if the problem has been resolved. No, I say, it hasn't. Where's is my money? Or as Jerry MacGuire said, "Show me the money!"

What AM I going to do? Another friend said I should take the bus to the South Pasadena Gold Line Station, ride down to Union Station and walk up to the Fly-Away bus that is pretty cheap; $8 last time I rode it. However, I will be dragging a suitcase and a computer bag and dragging that on the first bus, then the Gold Line car and finally through Union Station all the way to the bus terminal seems daunting. I am 70, not 30. I guess I could drive my truck out and park it at some long term parking lot and after I compare the costs, that is probably what I will do.

Oh, I might add that in talking to another friend his experience was similar to mine. If that is true, he was in Chicago, how on earth has this company grown? Why would anyone use it if their software is so buggy and literally unreliable? I get rid of buggy software sticking with those that actually work. Über has a lot to learn.

Thank you for reading my blog. I discuss a variety of topics because I believe anything that humans touch is a conscious design that works or in this case doesn't! Please check some of my earlier blogs.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Planning For Christmas Gift Giving

Ah, the possibilities
I don't know about you, but I am always reluctant to give items I have created as gifts. I am always afraid that it will be considered cheap, not something anyone would like. This year, with vastly reduced finances I find that I have no alternatives.

Whether it is a canvas, or in this case a birdhouse, it begins as a blank slate. Because of my advertising training in Journalism School, and the directors insistence that we make pencil sketches of the ads we were to create (yes he even collected those too!) I always make a sketch of what I want to do. It may not always look that way but I find that it gives me a place to start, a kind of roadmap of where things are supposed to go. Like, with all things artistic, I often go on a tangent and what I originally design may not look like that at all. We try but, well, what can I say? Here is a case in point.

While this birdhouse is a bit bigger than the tiny ones I am used to working with, the original design called for a snowman's holiday. By that I mean snowmen all over the place.

The first step was painting the background ... of course! I used a variety of colors to give the feeling of distance. Even the trees got lighter and smaller as they moved away from the front. Somehow, along the way, I felt that even while bigger, this birdhouse was still too small for a bunch of snowmen. Instead I created a small village on the front and one side letting the hills and forests follow around the rest of the birdhouse.

The piece de resistance was the roof. You can see the star side here, the other has a half moon similar to the one used by Proctor & Gamble. I don't like dull boring roofs anymore so always want to jazz them up. I then used some Elmer's glue mixed with water and coated the entire roof. Once that was done I sprinkled gold glitter all over the surface letting it fall and stick wherever it wanted. The effect is of a snowy, wintry day with the moon and the stars overhead. It doesn't get better than this! The ladies at the home loved it!

The other lesson here was creating the trees. While they were indicated with triangles, I remembered seeing a technique using a brush, perpendicular to the surface, and dabbing on the branches. This was the first time I had done this, other than in classes I had taken in Las Vegas. Using a very small brush I found that I didn't have to be so precise and that let a little color show though from behind it. I loved the effect. Then to jazz it up a bit more there was random snow giving the feeling of a forest and a snow covered village. The final touch was making all the trees up front look like Christmas trees using red dots of color. The effect is truly amazing.

Everyone here at the home loves it and I think secretly pine for one of my creations as a gift. I have sold one in fact. No one realizes the amount of work each piece takes. It is literally a painting ... but on a wooden surface.

Using the original sketch I have in fact begun a new birdhouse, this time larger that has snowmen all over the place! The hills are there getting lighter and lighter in the distance, the trees are also smaller and lighter as they move away from the front. But there are snowmen everywhere and I think soon to be added to the roof as well. The trick will be to make them appear to be standing on it in some kind of 3D look! Ah another challenge.

I still have time and only a few people to give gifts too. There are some other items I have created here at the home that may well end up wrapped for family and friends.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please check out the previous blogs. I try to cover all things that man designs from birdhouse, haircuts and beards, computers, movies, software, Apple and all the rest. I want to make people aware of the fact that everything in our lives is designed. Nothing just happens.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christmas Shopping at the 99¢ Store

My oh my ... what you can buy!
Every now and then my assisted living home has trips to various local businesses. They make bank runs, trips to a nearby Indian Casino, Walgreens, Target and even Wal-mart a few cities away. I had a chance yesterday to go shop for items at the 99¢ Store with my list. 

Since I am on a very limited budget, 99¢ for very simple things is a great deal. I had never been to one during the Christmas season before but after checking it out yesterday I was stunned at what you can get. Lots of Christmas wrap, ribbons, Christmas cards, decorations, ornaments ... the list goes on and on. Goodness. Considering that much of this has a lifespan of at best a month and much of that one day why spend more? You can completely furnish your home for less than $100.

My concession this year, and I do love Christmas, is to help decorate our facility. I bought the little red tree you see above to grace my room. I also bought some Christmas cards ... that actually say "Merry Christmas", a pack of 18 for 99¢

What really drew me though was getting the 81 mg aspirin I need to take each day. For 50 pills, you got it, 99¢. For not many more at the local RiteAid or CVS its $5 and often more. So, since I didn't have to drive, this was a deal! There are many drug store items, many with name brands available ... toothpaste, mouth wash, bandaids, alcohol and hydrogen peroxide and so very much more. The only drawback is that what you see today may not be there tomorrow! For makeup mavens, they have a lot of that as well. Since I have no idea of how good or bad it is, I noticed many such items in carts.

Also I spotted a hole puncher that I wanted for projects I do here at the home so got one of those as well. You always need to make a hole in something so the price was irresistible!  There also was paper, notebooks, folders, paper clips, scissors, pens, mechanical pencils and much more. The dividers you put in your notebook weren't here today. Tomorrow? Who knows? There was also a variety of cheap frames that when grouped probably would look pretty good. Insert interesting images and no one will notice a 99¢ frame.

To be a good shopper I recommend that you make a list, before you go. Be flexible.  Check off each item as you find it. However, depending on how much quality you want, you could just about add nearly every accessory you could ever want for your home. Glasses, coffee cups, plates, glass and a wide variety of plastic bowls, an amazing assortment of kitchen utensils, pots, pans, foil, aluminum pans for turkeys and ham. Besides these items you can also purchase a wide variety of food items ... canned, packaged, items in both refrigerators and freezers. A wide variety of fresh items, both fruit and vegetables are available. You could really live cheaply for sure. However, you have to live cheap with whatever is available at the time.

While I'm sure saying this is not what the big box stores want to hear, I feel that there is a place for such a store, especially for items with a life of at most a day. Judging from the absolutely packed parking lot, I would say I'm late to the show! The secret is definitely out!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to read earlier blogs on a variety of subjects based on  design ... ways that we have designed our lives and the objects we use!