When I put up my butterfly picture the other day, I mentioned that it was taken in or near a town in England called Ironbridge. I mentioned that there was a bridge there made of iron, but since I put it in an off-hand way, it might have been overlooked that it is considered a fairly significant bridge. Tish Farrell, who Arkenaten has informed us lives near there, has put up a couple of posts on the subject.

Here are some of the other photos I took that day. I could have sworn that there were some more closeups of the bridge itself, but either I was mistaken or they have gotten separated from my larger collection of photos. These pictures were taken back in 1996 and I scanned them.

The-Ironbridge

We started our walk very near the bridge itself.

Walking-Path

This is the path we followed. (Rant: I originally wrote something else, but WordPress seems bizarrely intent on making their program worse, and my original captioned disappeared.)

Butterfly-ofw

A butterfly.

Buildwas-Abbey-1

Buildwas Abbey.

A very quick post. I’ve been up all night trying to finish a dress and now I’m totally bleary eyed. However, there is a photo I’ve been meaning to throw up for a while now. Arkenaton, if you are not already aware, has quite a talent for capturing bugs. Ark lives in South Africa now, but he is originally from England. I like to take pictures of bugs myself, and it just so happens that on my first trip to England I took a photo of a butterfly. A few weeks ago, I organized my photos, so I now knew exactly where it was and intended to post it. (“My first trip” – I better ‘fess up now, I’ve only been twice.)

Then, today, or yesterday, or sometime recently, Daz put up a post about Ordnance Survey Maps. As it happens, shortly before that first trip, I read an article in the paper about them and how they showed, among other things, rights of way, and you could order some maps and take some fascinating walks. I am exceedingly fond of walking and to my mind this is the best thing to do if you go to Britain. In the end, I didn’t order any of the Ordnance Survey Maps because I didn’t really know where to go and I happened to find a book of recommended walks, although the walks in that book were based on those maps.

So, I took a walk from a town called Ironbridge, best known for a bridge made of iron, and walked along the river to a place called Buildwas Abbey. Along the way, I took this photo:butterfly-in-england

Blown up, it looks like this:

butterfly-in-england-croppedIf anyone knows the species, please leave a comment telling us what it is.

Now, I need to get a little nap before I start typing very strange things.

I don’t know why I’m always drawing faces.

drawing of faceThis was done with Photoshop. I created the background texture, but then instead of drawing on a separate layer, I drew on the background layer. After drawing the first few lines of the face, I couldn’t clean it up by erasing them because it erased the background. Ooops.

The other day, I wrote about ripping my vinyl records and Noel said that he was interested in getting a turntable. The vinyl revival hasn’t escaped me, although it has puzzled me a bit. A compact disc revival I could actually understand. It did get me thinking to how these things change and that most alternatives have both pros and cons.

One thing that I believe has more cons than pros for many people is the laptop, as contrasted with the desktop. The main advantage of the laptop is that it is portable. Beyond that, I think they’re terrible. I have both a laptop and a desktop and I almost never use the laptop when I’m not traveling. I couldn’t imagine have that as my only machine. Almost everything I use a computer for I can do faster and better on my desktop. I can type more quickly. Editing photos is easier. I simply don’t do any graphics at all on the laptop. Plus, laptops are usually far worse for your posture. It’s much easier to find a comfortable position while using a desktop.

The screen on a laptop is almost always too small. I was surprised one day by someone saying that it was great to see their photos on a television because the screen was so big. For a moment, I was puzzled and then I recalled that many people have laptops. My own screen is so big that I’m pretty comfortable backing my chair up a few inches and watching a video, and it’s my favorite way to view photos.

I suspect these days people often choose a laptop without giving a desktop much thought. When my mother’s last computer finally died, her friends said, “Just go to the store and buy a laptop,” usually naming a particular line by a specific manufacturer. Instead, I built a desktop for her.

I would really encourage people, especially young people who may have never used a desktop at home, to try one.

If you do so, I’d also encourage you to build it yourself if you are so inclined. If you haven’t done it, it’s probably much easier than you think. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

The other day, I went to Micro Center, an electronics store, to pick-up a few items. If you’re not familiar with Micro Center, it’s a chain of 25 stores around the U.S. They sell computers as well as some other electronics, but where they really stand out is that they cater to hobbyists and sell computer parts and electronic components. As I was on their website making my shopping list before schlepping out to Brooklyn, I noticed that they had a video of Micro Center’s CEO being interviewed by the founder of Adafruit Industries. It’s a little embarrassing, but I fucking love Adafruit. I have to control myself when I look at their website because I can blow through an absurd amount of money. Actually, now that I think of it, maybe the video was on the Adafruit website. (Trigger Warning: The following website might cause excessive salivating in sensitive individuals. (OMG! OMG! OMG! I wanna make this!))

At one point in the conversation, Lady Ada, the interviewer, asks Rick Mershad, “Do people still go in and build a computer by, like, getting a motherboard and a processor?”

Mershad responds, “It’s funny you asked. That customer is so important to us. I mean, there must be in every market that we serve… there must be fifty thousand people that want to build their own pcs, the reason being that they have a lot of specific uses and a lot of the manufacturers they don’t build pcs that were…”

Lady Ada at this point suggest some uses like gaming or engineering. Mershad adds graphics, which only confirms that he really does know his market. As an artist, I know that some of the most processor demanding tasks are involved in producing graphics. For some reason, it doesn’t cross people’s minds as readily as gaming does. Ironically, programming is one of the least demanding tasks, unless you need to test a program which is itself demanding of processor power. One of the reasons I built my own computer was that I wanted a beast of a graphics machine. Hence the great big screen. I keep threatening to buy a second one for a dual monitor set-up.

One of the great things about building your own pc is that you can have one that is suited exactly to your needs. As I said, it’s easier than most people seem to think. I just got a book. The book had several sample “builds,” but I didn’t follow any of them exactly. The kind people on the subreddits buildapcforme and buildapc suggested parts – just be prepared for everyone to disagree about what’s “best.”

You probably won’t save a whole lot of money building it yourself, but since you’re getting exactly what you want it will be a better value.

Here’s the whole interview. I actually thought it was pretty interesting. Also, a fun thing to look up is to look for images of computer case mods.

…out on parole? …still on the dole? …a mole in a hole?

Have you ever had the feeling that you were glamorous beyond your means? That deep down inside there was a fabulous person just screaming to get out… and the key was something bright and shiny? But every morning the alarm clock rings and pulls you from your glitter filled dreams. You plod down the hallway and are confronted by irrefutable evidence that you are not a star. What a rude awakening.

I try not to complain about my apartment… but the flesh is weak… or maybe it’s the will. I don’t know. The neighborhood is great. But my apartment… let’s just say that I’m not a star. What a drag.

Okay, my bathroom. For starters, the entire apartment was painted badly, huge drips all over the woodwork, the lights and the tiles in the bathroom. I don’t even know how someone does this. It looks harder to make this much of a mess than to do it neatly. When I first moved in, I cleaned some of it up, but I eventually got tired of ruining my nails, and I don’t even have long nails. However, I never got around to doing much of anything in the bathroom.

The bathroom has marble tiles on the floor and around the tub, which has a shower in it. However, there is no place to put a shower curtain rod. I got one of those tension rods, but it kept falling down. Have you ever been in the middle of taking a shower and had your hair all shampooed up and had the curtain rod fall down. Water is spraying all over the bathroom, you try to pick up the rod. You bend over and soap is now going in your eyes. You don’t know what to do, so you turn off the water and finish bathing sitting in the tub, cupping your hands trying to pour water over your head to get the shampoo out.

Darlings, this is not how a star wants to start her morning.

Finally, I said to myself, we’re going to fix this!

But what to do about the curtain rod. You see, I’m a renter and I don’t think it would be okay to start drilling holes in the tiles. I don’t worry too much about the walls, because that can always be put back, but landlords get mad about changing things you can’t reverse. Which also brings me to the door. The door is wooden and has never been painted, unless you count those big drips. Frankly, they are average hollow core plywood doors and I would paint them, but as I said I rent. Also, the woodwork is of low quality wood and I’d paint that, too.

Plus, add to all that, there’s a spot on the wall next to the tub that was all mucky because the previous tenants apparently took no care about whether or not they were splashing the walls – or maybe they just decided to shower without a curtain. I’ve been tempted myself. The sloppy painter made an attempt to fix it, but hadn’t primed the area and now, on top of looking like a lumpy mess, the paint was peeling.

Lastly, the water pressure is highly unpredictable. Sometimes, it’s low and then I would have to angle the shower head towards the back of the tub. The next time, I’d turn on the water and the pressure would be higher and the water would hit the wall and spray all over the place, mainly on that mucky spot.

So, it started with the shower rod. I said to myself, there must be a solution. I toyed with a few different ideas, including suspending a curtain from the ceiling. Finally, I decided to use pipe fittings to make a rod that I could attach to the wall where the tile ended and which would sort of cantilever over the tub.

While I was at it, I decided I might as well give the bathroom an entire makeover. My sister came up to help. We had just set about working when it occurred to me that I should take some before pictures. My sister took a couple with her phone.A very boring bathroom.As you can see, “dingy” would be just the right word to describe it. You can see the unreliable tension rod. Below is another angle. We already took the towel rod down, but you can see it’s just sad. The purple was from the bathroom in my previous apartment.

Corner of bathroom showing door.There was paint on the light fixture, the towel rod, the door and the toilet paper holder, but there was not paint over the spackle* filling holes where a previous tenant had hung something. Go figure. But it didn’t matter at this point because we were going to fix all that, or at least try.

Now, my own theory of decorating is if you can’t make it elegant then you should have fun! In the past, I’ve had a bubblegum pink kitchen and a high gloss black bathroom. This time, I decided to paint the walls with a metallic paint. We also painted the ceiling with a high gloss white.

Here is a close-up of the curtain rod solution:

Shower curtain rod and shower head.

The paint on the tiles was already there.

The pipe fittings are from Simplified Building. After I ordered them I noticed that they have fittings for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant hand rails which fit inside the pipe to make a smoother transition on a hand rail. In retrospect, that might have been a better choice. Still, this works, and is certainly an improvement over the rod that kept falling down. Behind it, you can see that I installed a shower head that has an extension arm. I’m hoping this will help a little with the problem of angling the shower head as the water pressure changes. I haven’t used it enough to know if it’s a great solution, but so far it seems to be fine.

Bathroom-through-doorIt’s hard to see in the photo that the walls are in fact metallic, but they are. The color is called “nickel” and is warmer than silver but not as dark or as warm as bronze. I also got a new shower curtain. I would have gotten a sparkly or shiny one if there had been one in the store.

Bathroom-sinkHere’s another angle. In the mirror, you can see what happened to the door.

Bathroom-doorWe covered the door and the door jamb casing with adhesive shelf liner. I’m hoping that it stays in place long enough to at least have been worth the effort to put it on. I’d been puzzling for sometime about what to do with the ugly door.

Glitter covered wall plate.Finally, the light switch cover. It was a cheap plastic one which, like everything else, had blobs of paint on it. I roughed it up with some sand paper, coated it with glue and dipped it in glitter. When that was dry, I put a couple of coats of varnish on it. I’m not sure how long that will hold up either.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with my budget bathroom makeover given the constraints of being a renter.

*Wikipedia informs me that “spackle” is a genericized trademark not used outside the U.S. They say that elsewhere it is called “wall filler.”

I saw news of Prince’s death today. And it put me in mind of a brief episode that wouldn’t make it into a “memoir” if I was writing it as a book in the normal way rather then recounting episodes as I remember them.

I’ve been putting off writing about anything that happened during the last couple of years of high school because my family moved and that introduces a whole new group of people and a new environment.

My new school was very different from my previous school, which was different from the one before that. The town was bigger. It was also richer. People refer to the town as “diverse,” but in some ways it was the least diverse, unless you’re talking about skin tone, which is of course what most people mean when they say “diverse.” That, however, is a tirade for another day.

There were some distinct advantages to going to a larger school. We had all sorts of enrichment classes available with didn’t exist in my other school. Instead of gym, you could take ballet or modern dance. There was a variety of music classes, as well as drama, set design. There was a larger choice of languages. There wasn’t just “art class,” either. They were more specific, including, believe it or not, a weaving class. It wasn’t really a “basket weaving” class, since we wove other things as well. For some reason, there were no boys in the class and the class was really small. Most of the girls in the class were not in my other classes and none were in my larger social circle, so it had the feeling of being a little respite from the larger track of my life. A couple of days a week, I’d head to the art room which was located at the end of a hall where I had no other classes and never otherwise went. We all sat around a table in the back of the room. It was even physically isolated. With so few students, there was no real need for the teacher to keep order and she allowed us to bring in a boom box and play music. It was just a really nice pleasant environment.

The was one girl I remember quite well. I can still conjure up her face in my memory. She was a petite, pretty girl with dark skin and delicate features. She was soft-spoken and gave the overall impression of being gentle and dainty. Sometimes, there are people about whom, after that part of your life has passed, you think, “I should have reached out more.” I liked her and she was always friendly to me, but we never became friends for the uninteresting reason that our social circles did not overlap. She was not in any other classes with me that year, but the next year she would be in my history class. Otherwise, I rarely saw her.

Like me, she was relatively new to the school, but unlike me she came from much further away. Her father, was an executive with a large international corporation and her family had been living in Kenya. I believe they were all American, but it was so long ago I can’t be certain if I knew that for a fact or it was something I just assumed.

One day, she came in with a bootleg cassette. This wasn’t the usual homemade tape where someone had smuggled a cassette recorder into a live show and you could barely make out the music. I don’t know where she got it and she wasn’t telling, but she was obviously thrilled to have it. They were studio recordings of an unknown artist whose album that was about to be released. “Everybody,” she said as she commandeered the boombox, “listen up. You’ve got to hear this. This guy is going to be the next big thing.”

And that was the first time I heard Prince.

Needless to say, I’m incredibly excited about my upcoming trip to China. A few years ago, there was a student at my mother’s school who had recently arrived from China at about the age of fourteen. My mother tutored him in English and sort of took him under her wing. Now, we are invited to his wedding. I’ve never been anywhere in Asia before, let alone China.

So, in preparation for the trip, I got one of those language learning programs and I’ve been doing a little bit everyday. I don’t expect much, really, but since I don’t know a word of Chinese, I figured anything is better than nothing. In Europe, if I’m in a place with a language that’s either Germanic or Romance, even if I don’t really know the language, I can take a guess. At minimum, I can read street signs. I’m a little bit apprehensive about China, though. A website I found suggest that these are some useful words to recognize.

Supposedly, these say toilet. If not, do let me know.

Supposedly, these say toilet. If not, do let me know.

The language learning program is done entirely in the target language. It shows pictures and words and you hear a recording of voice. You have to match the picture to the words. Sometimes, however, the meaning of the picture is unclear. Sometimes, it feels like you’re picking it up quickly. Other times, however, when the picture is confusing, I feel like a total moron. I click and click and get a big orange x and a sad sound.

There was one series of pictures which showed three on top and three on the bottom. On the top, one was of a man and two women walking down the street, another was of a woman in a street talking on a cell phone and a third was of a man talking on a cell phone. The top three would have been confusing, except the word for France, fàguó, had already been introduce and the lesson involved names of countries. Okay, great, so the sentences are saying something to the effect of “They live in France,” etc. (Since there’s no translation, I’m left feeling a little unclear if it’s “They are from France,” “They are in France,” or “They live in France.” Sometimes a more exact meaning becomes clear a little later. Once I took a psychological test in which I tested very highly for something called “ambiguity tolerance.”)

Beneath the photos of the people in France, however, there were another set of three photos that were highly mysterious for me, and I kept getting the question wrong. One photo, is of a woman wearing a cowboy hat. The caption for this says, “tā shì cóng měi guó lái de.” Great. Comparing it to the French photos about, I’ve got the idea that this woman is from some country, the name of which we have not yet learned. Obviously the point of this screen. Hmm. Cowboy hat. What country is that? Argentina, perhaps?

Another picture, however, has a baseball player. Do they like baseball in Argentina? It certainly wasn’t an association of mine. Maybe it’s Cuba. But they don’t really have cowboys in Cuba? Uruguay? Do they like baseball in Uruguay? They play baseball and have cowboys in Mexico, but there’s that third picture. It’s a picture of some little girls in colorful costumes. They’re wearing shirts with a blue square with white stars on it and red and white stripes on the rest of the shirt. They have little flags and pinwheels and look like they could be at a party or a parade. Cowboys. Baseball players. Little girls in red, white and blue outfits with stars and stripes. Where could these people be?

I was staring at the photos racking my brain. Are these people all from the same place? Where could the be? When I finally figured it out, I felt so stupid. I laughed out loud at my self.

Where on earth could she be from?

Where on earth could she be from?

altacocker /al-tə-kɐ-ker/ or /al-tə-kɐ-kə/ n, slang, from Yiddish : old shit

“My mother’s friend looked at Bernie Sanders and rolled her eyes. ‘I can’t believing I’m going to vote for this altacocker.'”

I still trying to get a whole bunch of off-line things done, but I came across a paragraph today that nearly made me do a spit-take on my keyboard and I thought I’d share it with everyone.

James Howard Kunstler has an amusing post up at the moment about why our choice of candidates is so obviously lousy. He informs us, “The reason is that the problems are unfixable, at least not within the acceptable terms of the zeitgeist, namely: the secret wish to keep all the rackets going at all costs.” Essentially, the shit is going to hit the fan and no sensible person will want to be sitting in the oval office when that happens. The following paragraph made me laugh out loud:

It must be obvious that the next occupant of the White House will preside over the implosion of all these arrangements since, in the immortal words of economist Herb Stein, if something can’t go on forever, it will stop. So the only individuals left seeking the position are 1) An inarticulate reality TV buffoon; 2) a war-happy evangelical maniac; 3) a narcissistic monster of entitlement whose “turn” it is to hold the country’s highest office; and 4) a valiant but quixotic self-proclaimed socialist altacocker who might have walked off the set of Welcome Back Kotter, 40th Reunion Special. These are the ones left standing halfway to the conventions. Nobody else in his, her, it, xe, or they right mind wants to be handed this schwag-bag of doom.

I haven’t heard the word “altacocker” in ages, though it was one that my mother’s friends used to use, especially as they got older and so did their friends.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with “Welcome Back Kotter,” it was a U.S. television sitcom, aired during the seventies, about students at a high school in Brooklyn. The following video might give you a flavor.

Kuntsler goes on to note that, while the GOP establishment would like to find a more respectable candidate, they may have difficulty finding a willing victim.

But what poor shmo will they have to drag to the podium to get this odious thing done? Who wants to be the guy in the Oval Office when Janet Yellen comes in some muggy DC morning and says, “Uh, sir (ma’am)… that sucker you heard was gonna go down…? Well, uh, it just did.”

I keep looking at the news regarding the primaries and find myself shaking my head wondering how we got here.

I’m starting to think maybe we should just hold a lottery.

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