No Words Describe the Total Eclipse.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

You were expecting a big giant blank here, weren’t you? “If she has no words, what’s she doing writing a bunch of them?”

I live in Tacoma, Washington. On August 21, 2017, 95% of a total solar eclipse would be visible here. Ordinarily, that would be enough for a good many things. Not so with solar eclipses. One astronomer on the radio said the difference between totality and 99% eclipse is like the difference between being dead and nearly dead. I knew I would kick myself around the block every day until I died, if I didn’t see this solar eclipse in full.  So I committed to the trip, mostly winging it.  Continue reading

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God Does Not Like Your Life-Squashing

Reading Time: 3 minutes

(More updated notes on actual conference below.)

So a teenage girl relative is fundraising to attend a Baptist youth conference next month. After a little research on the event, I tossed a small donation her way. Up until now, the kid hasn’t really traveled far, and she’ll be with teenagers her age, and as I recall from my own church-sponsored youth experiences, there’s plenty of trouble one can get into between praying and skits. It can be fun. And hopefully she’ll meet some smart kids who can encourage a little free thinking as an antidote to the conformist religious indoctrination they’re likely to get. I’d like it better if she went to summer camp playing outside, or spend the money on a bike, but it’s her choice and I’m willing to bankroll the part where she gets on a bus and goes away from home.

How did I form such a quick and hearty suspicion for the people putting on the conference? I looked at the NVBC website. Generally, they seem well-meaning, and tone-deaf.  Continue reading

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Urban Geese and Their Fake Migration

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In Seattle there are a good many Canada geese in the city. They’re tame, with a deep sense of entitlement that leads them to take ownership of your dock, your lawn, and your dog’s food. It’s goose paradise, with no predators, plenty to eat, and a temperate climate that doesn’t force them south in the winter. Lake Union can host major conventions of them at one time.

Geese, however, are migratory waterfowl. Their hardwiring runs contrary to this static form of comfort they’ve stumbled onto. And so you see them several times a day, gathering, honking, taking to the sky, circling the lake a few times and then… landing in the same place they were.

Sometimes, as I proceed with a new career or new area of interest, it seems I’m an Urban Goose, moving with some exertion and competence, taking flight, and landing pretty much in the same place I started. Humans often go through the same domesticated patterns, as the days and years and lives go by. I really didn’t want this to be me. You hit a certain point in life, you know? There go the geese, bon voyage, have fun in Alaska… what? You’re not going to Alaska? Aren’t you getting bored here in the park eating the food that people toss you from the Ivar’s fish bar dock? You’re all packed. Why are you still here?

I’ve gotten myself a career coach and am halfway through the nine sessions, in order to figure out reasons to be aloft and how to leave the urban lake and free french fries behind.  Can purpose be discovered, uncovered, flying just high enough above the safety to catch a tantalizing view of the edge of one’s future? Is it already there, or is it invented? Do we make meaning up, to feel significant? Can we serve humanity and also wheel around the lake in a flock in a show of unfulfilled potential? Is comfort the enemy? Is a planned exit better than Pulling a Chuck?

I’ll get back to you on all that.

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Ten Small Non-cultlike Things I Learned from Tony Robbins

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Last November, 2016, I listened to the shocking election results, went to bed, woke up in a surrealist daze, and got on a plane to San Jose. I immersed myself for four days in Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within, an arena event geared to push the outside world out of my head so I could better hear the inside of my head. Tony Robbins’ timing couldn’t have been better.

For those who don’t know of Tony Robbins, it’s possible you’re young enough to have missed the late night infomercials for his self-help books and CD sets. Here’s a bit from his Wikipedia page: Tony Robbins is an American businessman, author, and philanthropist. He became well known from his infomercials and self-help books: Unlimited Power, Unleash the Power Within and Awaken the Giant Within.

He’s a mighty presence in person, and people flock to him for an infusion of what seems to be his boundless energy. Here is my Cliffs notes version of the event: Robbins isn’t your guru. He’s adamant about that, so adamant that he made a Netflix documentary with that name. Regardless, months earlier when I arrange to go to his Unleash the Power Within event in San Jose for the week, I resolve to throw myself into the four days 100%, drink the Kool-Aid, do whatever he tells me, and hire a deprogrammer later if I come home with unfortunate behavior that scares my friends.

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Viewfinders: The Value of Looking Through a Hole

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I’m about to go on and on about the value of looking through a hole. There are no metaphors involved, just a method that can save hours of dithering and frustration when composing a painting or sketch.

I carry a plastic shutter-style viewfinder, called a ViewCatcher, with me, for quick composing of drawings and sketches. Sometimes I just muse through it, which makes me look a like a freak. This little plastic square has made my work a great deal more efficient and harmonious.

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The Log on the Ice

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Log on Waughop Lake

So near Tacoma is a lake I used to walk around in high school, nearly every day. It’s a small kettle lake, with a tree-lined paved road that has seen nearly no car traffic in 60 years. It’s a great place to watch nature and the seasons change. Last winter, with a long spell of very steady, very cold weather, the lake froze over.

Continue reading

Posted in Screw Fear | 2 Comments

Always Sit in the Bar.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

barWhen you go to a restaurant with a bar, don’t waste time waiting to be seated in the restaurant. Do what my mother taught me at an early age: Go directly to the bar. Here’s why, and here’s a list of my absolute favorite bars you should make a point of visiting:

Continue reading

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REVIEW: “100 Ways to Change Your Life”

Reading Time: 2 minutes

So I’m in Cleveland working on some webdev bloggy projects at my friend John’s house and one night I’m staring at the computer screen feeling stuck. The weather is hot and humid and airless. After googling longingly about those Dyson fans, I google “how to get unstuck.” I find Nora Dunn of Wisebread’s article, Feeling Stuck? 100 Ways to Change Your Life. Sometimes making changes in your life seems forced and inorganic but we try these things anyway. Sometimes simple things work well. She found one of these exercises.

This exercise includes two of my very favorite pieces of subconscious brain-work, a brain-dump and hiding the results from your conscious mind so the subconscious can get to work without all the hectoring. It requires  Continue reading

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Get Anything Done: Go Stand on the Dock.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Years ago I rowed at a rowing club. I rowed singles, doubles, fours and eights. As a sculler I’d get thrown into any kind of boat where I might be needed. Even when I rowed a single, I usually went out on the water in the company of other rowers. The typical time to go on the lake was 5:30 AM for the calm water and a choice of boats. So I’d get up at 5:00 and show up at the dock at 5:30, get in a boat, row for an hour or two, and then go to work.

There is a bit of sacrifice with such a schedule, especially if you’re training every day and not all that competitive. It means  Continue reading

Posted in Syndromes & Solutions | 1 Comment

Eight Ways to Find People Like You

Reading Time: 6 minutes



Pipers with their pipesI may well have found the secret to getting unstuck.

Find a place to belong. Find people like you.

A young woman at Chris Guillebeau’s 1000-maniac gathering in Portland, Oregon, the World Domination Summit, discovered that after enduring geographic and social isolation, she traveled 5000 miles away, and there was the answer to her isolation – she found “People Like Her.” In a place that says “You Belong Here.”

It occurred to me that this is also, for me, at the very heart of every frustrated moment in my current life. I’m not where I belong, with People Like Me. When this is in place, everything becomes easier, faster, more streamlined. When you’re not where you belong or with People Like You, even the basics become an unnecessary struggle.

So. HOW do you find People Like You? I’ll jump right to the eight metaphorical hurdles:

  1. I can’t find people like me.
  2. They already have each other and there’s no room for me.
  3. I can’t figure out how to reciprocate.
  4. I can’t afford to be with those people.
  5. I’m not sure these people are people like me.
  6. I’m not worthy.
  7. Fill your calendar with interesting possibilities.
  8. Exercise leadership and assemble your own group.

Continue reading

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Working Small: Refining Your Perfect Pocket Watercolor Travel Kit

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Watercolor boxHaving something small and portable with which to be artful can be a great thing. Aside from painting something and mailing it off to a friend, there’s something about being prepared to record the colors you see around you. Drawing skill isn’t required; just a vague affinity to paint. Everything you need is in your coat pocket because you put your little 4×6 box there last night… 

For travel this summer I refined my usual watercolor paint kit of loose stuff in a zip-loc.  The key component in my new kit is a $3 4”x6” plastic Iris photo storage box  found at places like Michael’s and JoAnn Fabric that pulls it all together without a prolific use of rubber bands.  The kit doesn’t slow you down at airport checkpoints, fits in a pocket and is unobtrusive to use. The Iris 4”x6” photo storage box serves as an easel, drying box, and carrier. It stays securely shut and is rugged and easy to clean. Continue reading

Posted in Be Artful | 3 Comments

REVIEW: Arm & Hammer Spinbrush Doesn’t.

Reading Time: 1 minute

Spinbrush headThere’s a lot to like about the Arm & Hammer Spinbrush. For $8 you get an electric toothbrush that’s

  • battery-powered with AA batteries,
  • has a replaceable head a cap will fit on,
  • is ideal for travel,
  • isn’t “disposable” and
  • doesn’t cost $200 like a sonic toothbrush.

It’s amusing to use and does a great job cleaning back teeth with its spinning round head. Tonight I noticed two things about it.  Continue reading

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Oh, good lord.

Reading Time: 1 minute

Natural Flavor with Other Natural FlavorsI followed a link to a new product page for Fig Newtons thins. Imagine my relief that the fig and honey version contains… (wait for it…) Natural flavor with other natural flavor.

 

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#trust30: Emerson-Inspired writing month

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Emerson postage stampLinks to thirty days of divergences in sidebar…

Create something original every day of June! #Trust30 is an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on your now, and to create direction for your future. 30 prompts from inspiring thought-leaders will guide you on your writing journey.

This is a stellar opportunity to write and create in a community of thinkers and writers without getting too thinky. Jump in, even if you’re a little late to the party! Links below. Below that, links to my 30 pages.  Continue reading

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“Pulling a Chuck.”

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Two things happened recently that I thought related nicely to each other.

  • A friend of mine just emailed me to tell me he had just “Pulled a Respectable Chuck” (more on that in a minute) and quit his job. He decided that the ambiguity of having no employment is more bearable than the  job that unambiguously kills him a little each day.
  • I read with interest an article written by Alison Doyle of About.com called “Good Reasons to Quit Your Job” and wanted to tell everyone I know to read it.

Dumping a job seems like heresy in this day of hard-to-get employment, at first glance. At second glance, it reminds me of all the bad crap that snowballs on your sorry ass when fear rules the day, your decisions, and your life.  Continue reading

Posted in Screw Fear | Tagged | 3 Comments

Limit: One Gimmick Per Design.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

wade sans light

I took a really great class at Seattle Central Community College last year, called Typography for the Web, taught by Mike Sinkula. One of our first assignments was to design a monogram or logo for ourselves. I really thought that I was going to end up with something disappointing, having never designed a graphic thing that satisfied me in the past.

Our design process started with looking at tons of fonts for the letters we wanted to use. (Here are my typography class files if you want to see my youthful efforts. Be merciful.) I found a fantastic and ususually elegant font, Wade Sans Light, which I used to write my name. Then I thought about branding and constraining, like, if I put braces or brackets to contain the name, you know, like for coding, or a box, or something boxlike, or a shaded box background, and what if I put the letters on end or rotate them a little? Drop shadow. Everyone loves a drop shadow. I pretty much hated it all, except the letters themselves.  Continue reading

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Signs from a bus

Reading Time: 1 minute

1. There is a handwritten sign stuck to a chainlink fence in front of an empty old building in downtown Tacoma that says:

“REALLY LOVE SOMETHING”

Heartfelt.  Wistful. Ironic….

2. There is a woman near the freeway ramp adjusting a large triangular metal street sign on a sidewalk tripod. She does something that makes perfect sense in the breeze: she places the sign broad side down, and steps back to consider her work. She nods in approval, drags deeply on her short cigarette, and as the bus I am riding rounds the corner I see the it is a “YIELD” sign, upside down.

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REVIEW: Three Classic New Thought Authors on Prosperity

Reading Time: 2 minutes

There are three very good, comfortably quaint books on prosperity thinking that were written in the early part of the 20th century. They are

  • It Works!
  • The Magic of Believing and
  • The Science of Getting Rich

Before The Secret came roiling out of the publicity mill all Hollywood and Mythology, these uncomplicated little volumes served up prosperity thinking with a positive, down to earth helpful simplicity, and originally were available in affordable paperbacks aimed at the masses.  Continue reading

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Organize with Organic Triage the Big Stupid Box

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Kid with BoxJust three steps to digging out

Let’s say your house is in disorder and you’re too disorganized to start to organize your organizing effort. Hey. It happens. Rome wasn’t organized in a day. You don’t have time to find a “system” or products to get started. You just need to get started. You’re too disorganized for methodology at the moment or you wouldn’t be in this mess, right?

Organizational products won’t help you just yet. Organizational methods, systems and tips won’t help you just yet, either. You need to dig out. (I trust you’re not one of those people on The Learning Channel’s “Truth be Told” show, who could do with less organizing and more pharmaceutical intervention.) I offer you, my beleaguered friend, the quickstart non-method: Organic Triage and the Big Stupid Box.  Continue reading

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Biology Trumps Poetry: The Antidote Next to the Poison

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Slug on Nettle Leaf

It’s midnight and I’m with four high school biology teachers and a couple college bio students. We’re campers on private Speiden Island, one of the lesser San Juans, and enjoying a bright full-moon hike, looking for owls. One of the college girls goes after some small nocturnal animal in the bushes, hoping to catch it. She stops and announces that she stumbled into nettles and has nettle stings all over her legs.

Anyone from the Northwest knows that nettle stings aren’t fatal, but they burn and itch like a bastard and there never seems to be a treatment at hand. You can’t pee on them like you can a ray sting; antihistimine pills and creams don’t help, either. (Do a Google search for remedies and you’ll find that there aren’t any good ones.) And of course, on a private island far from a druggist (much less one who will open for a nettle victim at midnight) there’s never anything handy. Or is there?  Continue reading

Posted in Anything for Science | 2 Comments

Be Arthouse Cool for Pennies – Learn to Paint Watercolor Anywhere

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Roitan box

One day I lamented that my life was lacking old-school artfulness, and I wanted to take up some art form that was compact, inexpensive, and that I could do anywhere. I thought I’d try watercolor. It proved to be less difficult than I’d thought, with the right instruction which I found for free. Here’s how I successfully got started:

Watercolor requires as a bare minimum, paint in three colors (red, yellow and blue) from which you mix all colors, a paintbrush, water, and paper. After some experimentation I came up with a nice inexpensive kit that resides in my small handbag ready to use whenever I sit down with coffee to kill an hour. Watercolor can be easy to learn with the right resources. We’ll get to learning how to paint in a minute. First, gear up for a life as a traveling artist. Continue reading

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Recovering From Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The year Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way came out, I was given three of them as gifts. I found the book unreadable, and re-gifted the volumes to those more appreciative. All the same, I knew there was good information lurking in the treacly prose as I scanned the pages.

Challenge Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” products in public and prepare for a beating from her mostly female fan base. The variety of items in her empire is large enough that you could receive a fortnightly beating with a different volume for about a year.  Continue reading

Posted in Be Artful | 21 Comments

REEELAAAX… Bradley Thompson’s instant hypnosis audios reviewed

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Angels underfoot
Musing can be Dangerous

I enjoy meditation recordings because my mind is too squirrelly to meditate without a lot of help. In yoga classes I’m the twitchy one flipping the corner of the blanket with my toe. So when I find a hypnosis recording that claims it can help me in my ever-futile quest to find my Life’s Purpose, I decide to try it out on behalf of all the cynical seekers out there. (You know who you are, twitchy.)

Based on an emailing from Bradley Thompson, who seems like a reasonable and helpful guy who offers a phalanx of self-help products, I go to the web site Instant-hypnosis.com and peruse what they sell.  Continue reading

Posted in Consult Yourself | 1 Comment

10,000 hours or 100 Set-ups? How to Get Good At Anything Fast

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Graphic View 4x5
Graphic View 4×5 monorail

Ask a New York City cab driver, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” and you will be told, “Practise, practise, practise.” There are lots of anecdotes about practise. In Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell goes into detail about a concept of putting 10,000 hours of practise to become an expert at something. And though I never became an expert myself at large format photography, I was subjected to an exercise in repetition that gave me an excellent shot at competence.

Back in the 1980s I hauled my old Graphic View 4×5 camera to Vermont to study with artist Fred Picker at one of his workshops. Every day we’d take our behemoth cameras on wooden tripods out and take photographs, then come back to develop the sheet film at night. If we lost a picture opportunity due to fleeting light, a moving subject, or attack by cows, it was usually because we failed to set up our cameras fast enough. Fred could set a picture up and make the exposure in about a minute, a task that took me at least ten minutes. Continue reading

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The Bathhouse

Reading Time: 4 minutes

THE BATH HOUSE

by Lucia Joanne Novara
illustrations by Gail Boysen-Preset

After ten months of living in China, there is one aspect of the 5,000 year old civilization that I enjoy more than all the rest- “water culture”. Water culture refers to the uniquely Chinese custom of going to the local bath house and washing up in style. For the price of a designer coffee you get cleaned, massaged, and reconnected with your group grooming instincts. So drop your inhibitions, drop your towel, and let’s go to the bath house…

With the help of a smiling attendant you are shown to your locker and commence to stripping naked. You don’t look down, it makes the walk into the shower room feel less like that dream where you go to school, sit down, and then realize you forgot to get dressed. The attendant leads you to a shower cubicle, walled on the side so you can’t see the person next to you, but open to the rest of the crowded, steamy room. She turns on the high pressure shower head and adjusts the heat to exactly the right temperature before you’re allowed in. Armed with a wash cloth and disposable toothbrush, you step into the hard hot stream of water. After a thorough scrubbing and some blissful moments with your eyes closed and the water running off your face, you turn off the water and head out into the steamy jungle of the common area.

There is a giant hot tub in the middle of the room. Along the wall opposite to the showers is a row of stone seats in front of mirrors, also equipped with shower heads. On the far side of the room behind a half wall a dozen massage tables covered with plastic wait for use. On the other side are cedar saunas designed to target any evils in your system and make them evacuate your body in full surrender, carried out by giant, authoritative drops of sweat. The whole area is alive with women of every age and size washing and chatting, grooming and calling. You think of a Discovery Channel special on a group of extremely social monkeys playing in a jungle lake. Before shame, before Puritanism, before Adam and Eve got little bunches of leaves, this was how you got clean. It’s a family affair.

The hot tub. You sink in and let the bubbles push against that spot in your back that even your attentive lover’s hands couldn’t quite find. Little girls splash each other and giggle, two young women help a stiff old one ease into the tub. She lets out a long sigh and closes her eyes. You imagine the water worming its hot fingers into her muscles and tendons, bunched up like knotted twine until they begin to untangle a little. You take a minute to look around at all the women engaged in various stages of washing and relaxation. Everyone is naked but for jade pendants on red string. There are young women with knife flat stomachs, peanut shaped babies with crowns of soap suds splashing in little plastic tubs, and the women easily identifiable as belonging to the tribe of motherhood. These women look the same as others from behind, but when they turn you can see the markings; bag breasts and distended stomachs. The battle hardened warriors have long, wickedly smiling scars bisecting their stomachs like a tear in the skin of a peach. One woman sits at a stone stool and as she holds the shower head over her, the curve of her waist and the strip of black hair almost down to her buttocks seem to describe the very first form of the female. The mold and the essence.

Once their hair is clean, the women pile it on the top of their heads in upright buns. They look like ancient monks, Bath House Confucians capable of reaching enlightenment through sweating in the sauna.

But before the sauna is the “sorbet”. After a serious soak in the hot tub it’s time to hand your body over to a powerfully built woman in a two piece Speedo. She lays you out on a massage table and gears up with a towel wrapped around her meaty right hand like a mitt. She begins at the top of your head, scrubbing away dead skin, and she won’t miss a square inch until she hits your toes. The amount of skin that comes off is spectacular. You didn’t know you had that much skin to begin with; linty black clumps she sweeps to your chest and rinses off with oily water. Her scrubbing is powerful, but not painful. From somewhere deep in your psyche the knowledge that you were once a small cat and your mother bathed you like this bubbles to the surface. After you’re stripped of your dead skin, she puts a small box of milk in warm water and mixes a potion of bath salts and cow juice. While it simmers she gives you an aggressive full body massage, snapping your fingers and digging into your tender nooks. When she hits a sore spot and your eyes pop open she smiles; she’s a friendly sadist. Finally she cups the milk potion in her hands and gently rubs it over your tender new skin, allowing the exposed cells to absorb their first food. The warm mixture runs over your body, covering your nakedness with a thin rose scented film. Finally she notices you shivering a little, pulls you up from the bed and directs you towards the sauna. Not wanting to turn your milk blanket into yogurt, you head for the showers instead. It’s time to dry off, and put on the Official Bath House Pajamas- soft cotton shirt and shorts that proclaim “Tuesday” no matter what day you chose to visit. You sit at a vanity and allow another woman to comb and dry your hair, but decline the offer to have your ears cleaned. It’s time to go upstairs, munch on the buffet and choose a giant padded chair to snuggle down into and doze off. You’re so much more than clean.

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