Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Art of Making A Place A Home

     If you have been reading this blog lately, you are well aware that I have been almost buried in getting my condo renovated and livable ... for me. This week marked the final major change or stage of reaching that goal. While some of this may be a repeat, there are other things, especially images that show the transition for when it was purchased to when it is 99% done!
That's me on the bottom right - facing east
A 25' x 45' yard in a condo is very rare in Palm Springs
As you may or, may not know, I heard about a condo for sale at a condo board meeting in September, I met with the owner, a board member, talked the purchase over with friends and spent hectic weeks getting all the paperwork and closing October 24th!  Ever since then we have done major remodeling to the condo. In fact, I am paying only a little more for the HOA dues, mortgage, insurance and taxes than I was paying in rent … for a larger space with a wonderful yard for my dog!
The gutted kitchen
The contractor ripped out the kitchen to the studs, I got an electrical contractor to upgrade some of the plugs and put ceiling fans in every room. So we had holes in the ceilings and a gutted kitchen.
The newly renovated kitchen
As you can see, it doesn’t get much worse than this. At the same time, I had no choice, it was pretty bad. So it was time to redesign everything but there were restraints. Water, room for stove, fridge and dishwasher. Only the fridge remains. BUT, as you can see, it was definitely worth it! Since there is no window I wanted bright lights to see while cooking. I found a big round LED “klieg” light you never turn on first thing in the morning. The contractor liked it so much he ordered one too! His dim kitchen is far more usable.
I have two different colors in cabinets. A kind of dark cognac below the counter and a white bead board design above the quartz counters. It looks really nice. No sooner was this stuff ordered than there was an article in the Sunday paper talking about kitchen trends and yup, I was a trendsetter and didn’t even know it. Two tones are now all the rage. The other things I did since I have a dining room was use the blank wall to the left of the kitchen for more cabinets and a bar that I use far more than the dining room.
Totally new to this kitchen! A bar and lots of storage
I have a huge amount of storage and a place to finally show my old cameras. With a fan there you would rarely open the cabinets anyway so … why not show them off? So they are.
There were many challenges though and every room had awful colors to me. My original colors were pleasant but as the lady at Home Depot said, “Um, aren’t they a little girlie?” So, after fighting the urge not to use grays, I settled on a cabernet red for the entry and dining room, a dark gray for the kitchen and master bedroom, baths are white and the “studio” is a pale cream that is bright and cheerful, the perfect place for me and my crafting and a light grey hall and living room.
Two greys and a red accent wall replace beige textured vinyl wallpaper
I did all the painting myself. Every room was tan or green or both and the living room, hallway and foyer were covered in beige textured vinyl wallpaper that we couldn’t remove without tearing the paper off the drywall. That was carefully glued back and painted over. Here I used a light grey that went with the off-white tile and walnut colored wooden shutters. With red accents it looks nice.
Green and Tan? I think not!
I think the grey, below,  is much better
The master bedroom was a tan and green that literally turned my stomach. It had a window that my rental did not so facing east I get the morning light. Sliders were replaced with white French doors that give it a homey feel. I can open the door and go outside if I wish. I haven’t had time for the yard but will after my trip in February. The dark grey walls look quite nice.
Basically I used three colors for the entire condo, light grey, a dark grey and cabernet red. By limiting colors it all goes together quite well.
 I knew I wanted a red dining room and that was one of the first walls to be painted. With the wood floors and the white trim, it looked really classy. The only piece of furniture I wanted from them was a lighted cabinet to display my glassware and cobalt glass collection. It seems rather dramatic and can be seen from the entry even!
Since I couldn’t afford two rents I gave my notice November 1 promising that I would be out by the end of my lease December 31st. Oh dear. You would think that since the condo was behind the rental it would be an easy move. It wasn’t. I spent two days getting all the things out of the studio … some into the new studio and the rest into a much larger storage room. I have TOO much stuff. However, I soon realized that I had a challenge of getting things redone in the condo and moving at the same time. My friend from Hong Kong flew in the 21st of December to celebrate Christmas here and help me move. I couldn’t have done it without him. Trip after trip was made using the handcart / wagon I bought at Harbor Freight! Best $60 I have ever spent!!!
The original dining room. I have an aversion to green
Somehow, we got me moved, cooked and had Christmas dinner here at the new condo with Dollar Store plastic tablecloths over the underlay waiting for the counters that arrived January 7th. 
I don't think any of us realize just how much stuff we have. There is a reason that Public Storage and places like this exist. WE HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF! Not only that we are far too reluctant to get rid of things that we will probably never use ... again! I was urged to buy no more clothes, no more shoes and definitely no more art supplies for awhile ... maybe a long, long while!
Doesn't this look more inviting?
The bookcase reborn.
After he left work continued in the condo and the biggest challenge, finished this week was a bookcase I really wanted but they had destroyed. After much thought we were going to rip out the edges, drywall the space and use floating shelves to give me the space I wanted.    However, when the molding was removed we discovered it was a bookcase cabinet with drywall behind it! So, I added new shelving stained to match the contrast of the kitchen cabinets and suddenly, it all fell into place! We used the same molding as the front door with stark white inside and trim and stained dark cognac colored shelving. It makes a nice bridge of color between the foyer and living room and gives me space for all my books (which I have already started to weed out).
     I am not totally done. There are handholds to put in the baths, new fans for the baths so they don’t sound like a 747 taking off, and changing the light fixture in the foyer. It is simply a wonderful place to live and I am very, very happy it turned out so well. As you can imagine, I wondered if it would ever get done and done in time!!!
A real studio at last. I can walk in and not duck anymore!
     Next is the yard. My neighbor and I have the two largest yards in the whole complex. Right now there are pavers covering just about everywhere except an area that can be used as a garden. I even have a mature and bearing lemon tree with fantastic lemons on it right now. Because of the rains, there are also weeds everywhere. However, once summer hits they may well be gone.
     I can go out the back gate and my car is right there! If there is any downside it would be the airport is close and we can hear planes taking off but its not that noticeable and when windows are closed up rarely heard at all. The big plus is that I can walk to the departure gate in under 15 minutes! 
     It has been a great deal of work but sitting in my chair the other night surveying all that had been done, I feel that it was more than worth it. I hope that this is the last time I will ever have to move and with the work that has been done, it is mine.

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!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The CEO Test

Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Maybe he was
having trouble using his software too?
Today, in yet another day of frustration using a variety of products, I have come up with a solution in the design world that would benefit us all. Before ANY products are sold, marketed, put before the public in any way ... every CEO in the world must use it and it must be witnessed and certified that THEY could make that item actually WORK. Isn't that a novel idea? Can you imagine, there would be no more need for Dilbert.
     If you don't know who Dilbert is, he is the creation of Scott Adams who used to work for AT&T. From the incidents there and emails he received after Dilbert was published in the daily newspaper, the number of things, ideas that didn't work but were verified by the senders were almost unbelievable. He said he got at least 200-300 such emails a day.  Yet as we may laugh, we also cry. No wonder modern life is so stressful. Just too many of the things we depend on simply don't work very well.
     Case in point. Today, I was trying to see if my iMac would show Netflix movies. It has a 24" screen so, when I am crafting, why not have something larger than an iPad screen, right? I have an account but have never tried it on my iMac before. It works just fine on my TV and my iPad ... I even imagine it would work on my iPhone as well. 
Here are Netflix instructions. Forget it on a Mac.
     Not so on the iMac. Before you can watch it you are given a prompt that tells you you must download Microsoft's Silverlight. Leave it to Microsoft and Netflix to use a different standard than the rest of the world. So, I clicked the link and downloaded it. 
     Nothing happened. I clicked it again. Again nothing. Then I clicked a link that said here are more detailed instructions. And they are too. Before using on a Mac you have to click and click and click. And for all the effort all you get is a link to something else that doesn't work. I trashed, restarted and tried again. There is another link at the bottom of their instructions that asked if it worked. Of course it doesn't. That is why I am complaining here.     
     I realize Netflix and Microsoft are not alone in this domain. There are plenty of products out there that simply don't work ... well. It just seems that after 30 + years with companies like Apple Computer or Xerox trying to simplify computer, phone or tablet use, using the focus groups of ethnography that came out of the studies of anthropology, companies have not seemed to learn anything about making things easier to use. Remember the VCR and its flashing 12:00? It was such a pain that one wag, on TV of all places, showed the audience how to solve that dilemma ... put a black piece of electoral tape over the 12:00 and it would never bother you again!
Go ahead, try to peel!
This morning, as I was completing the last major renovation to my new condo, I got hungry. I had walked the dog, was tired of anymore coffee and too lazy to fix anything so decided to eat a couple of cheddar cheese sticks. Well, try is the operative word here. Individually wrapped in plastic, they have a "pull apart" at the top. Only, you can never pull the two halves apart. Ever. I grabbed the scissors and carefully cut along the plastic as close to the cheese as I could. Finally I got the plastic pulled apart on the sides. I wondered, did the CEO ever use the products he makes? Ever? I think not.
If you had a Yahoo email account, you didn't know for years
that it had been hacked. So much for the concept of privacy.
     Adams once noted that to find the CEO of a company start asking employees how much RAM, memory, they have in their computer. When you find the one that doesn't know, you've found the boss. I know from experience that is true. I had a client who, more than a decade younger than me, that not only didn't know how, but refused to learn to use a computer.
     Other examples abound. It isn't enough that things don't work well, they are also hard to use and are notoriously insecure. The bad girl of the Internet of course is Marissa Mayer. Yahoo, for me at least, was difficult to use and I gave up using a Yahoo email account years ago. Good thing too! It turns out her company had breaches of their email servers that they took, I believe, over three years to reveal to their customers. It is a breach so heinous, now considered to be over 1 billion users, it has caused our government to start investigating and may very well bring charges and fines for these lapses. Not only did the hackers get your account name and password, they got any other information that you might have used including purchases, credit card numbers, addresses, even Social Security numbers.
     We have become so dependent on computer systems that not only is a failure at your local whatever, it is a failure systemwide, like the various airlines snafus, TSA being unable to check anybody entering or leaving the United States, charges at banks, retail stores and a variety of infamous online breaches.
Few follow Coco Chanels famous
dictum: "Less Is More"
      Is it any wonder that people worldwide feel stressed? Rather than actually designing products that work simply (easily?) they have instead become more and more complicated. Look at Ford. It took them years to finally replace one of the worst info/entertainment systems in the industry that was sold in every car. It neither connected nor worked and made it nearly impossible to use something as simple as your car radio. Did that CEO ever drive one? Consumers of all ages, dealers and even CONSUMER REPORTS downgraded their cars for this very feature.     
    The examples and lapses of making our lives easier to use, not more difficult, are many. Whether it is the packaging for the food we eat, the cell phones that we use, computer or digital software we use, even the TV and cable remotes, as we age, and you can definitely trust me on this, the harder each of these new things is to use. Is it so? I don't know. I do know that I am not embarrassed anymore to stop and ask someone younger, much younger than me, how to use something. Yet I wonder, especially as it takes about 4 remotes to use my DVD player, whether there is anyone out there listening.
     That is why I propose a "CEO Test," with proof listed on the label of every item we buy that certifies, just like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, that the maker of that product has actually used it and can vouch for the ease of simplicity of its use. I do know one thing, there certainly would be a lot fewer items for sale in the marketplace!

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 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.