Monday, February 28, 2022

Down the Google Rabbit Hole

I awoke yesterday and found myself in something akin to a Steven King movie, just without the popcorn, the large Diet Coke, and an Exit door. Meanwhile my pups were jumping about on the bed, enthusiastically, as if exclaiming "Good Morning, It's another wonderful day! Can we go for a walk now? Can we? Can we?" However, before I gave in to their demands, my first action was to get my phone, turn my 5:30 alarm off before the obnoxiously merry tune started, and then check my email. Well, I TRIED to check my email. I could not open it. Phones can be temperamental so I dismissed that, climbed out of bed, and took the pups on their morning constitutional.

After that was done, they were fed, and I had made my first cup of iced cappuccino, I sat down at my laptop to start my morning pre-shower ritual. First - check email. This is where the White Rabbit appeared. A blue and white Google screen came up and simply said, "We have detected an issue with your Google Account and it has been deleted."  I immediately went to a clean Google search screen, typed in the Gmail url and entered my username. It said, "No account found with that email address. Please try again."  

I "Googled" 'Deleted Gmail account'.  Not only was my email gone, so were my contacts, my blog, my pictures, and anything else I had connected with Google. In other words I no longer existed. Now I was down the hole with the Cheshire Cat. And, to matters worse, I only had, at most, 48 hours, to figure out how to recover it before the Lords at Google deleted it forever and there was no going back through the Looking Glass.

Quickly, I logged into my Blog, it no longer existed. There was no link to my picture, no way to access Photos, nor my contacts that were attached to my email. To add to this madness, one of my laptops is a Chromebook that only works off my Google Cloud account so the morning was now officially a Mad Tea Party and the Croquet field was in sight.

Next I "Googled" 'How do I recover my Google account?' Basically I saw entry after entry of horror stories from folks like me who found themselves greeted with that ominous message. To make it worse, the Google forum, started, "This will not be easy, but there is a 15 step process. Start with this url . . . "  (Hell, AA only has 12 steps!)

So, I entered the url, prayed to the gods of the internet, and waited. The first question: Your username - done. It moved to No. 2 (this was encouraging). Second question: Last exact date you were able to log into your account: - done, yesterday before. On to No.3 (I finally breathed - there was hope.) Then the Queen of Hearts appeared - 'What was the date you first opened your Google account?'

Are they sh*%%*$3 me? Going back to the forum they suggested I go back to earlier email accounts and check for the initial email from Google congratulating me on my new account. No problem - except there was a problem - both my old Yahoo and Hotmail accounts had gone through changes and only retained the past 24 months of emails. 

Best I could come up with was that I got my Gmail account before Google went "live" with the program. In other words, I was one of their first users (among many millions I am sure). Best guess was summer of 2005. Great - the summer has three months in it.

I took a deep breath and entered "August 2005". It accepted my answer and I moved on. 12 questions to go. The forum went on to say one of these would be - the 3 addresses you email most often, and other questions only the account holder could answer. This not bode well.

Then there was a light at the end of the tunnel - a Log In screen appeared with my username asking me to create a new password. I carefully did so, and I was back among the living. I checked my contacts, pictures, saved folders, blog, etc. It was all there, as if it had been a bad dream. 

Being anal about my photography, I back up my regular laptop redundantly to 2 external hard drives, as well as the cloud. Lesson learned, now I will also back up my email and contacts. Google is the best thing since sliced bread and Google is the worse thing since mankind discovered sugar. Can we live without it? Not very well. A bit of advice from the Caterpillar - back it up and, for God's sake, find out the date (month/year) you first opened your account and you should be OK. If you can get to step 3, you will be home.

I also learned that there should have been a notification sent via text to my phone or emailed to a third party (in this case my daughter) advising of this issue. At that point I would have been given the chance to change my password and the meeting with the Queen would have been avoided. However, in my case, I never got the warning and the account went down in 18 hours.

Off the grid is one thing, off Google is a nightmare - like it or not.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Laugh Lines and Sweater Sets

 I'm not old. I'm young at heart. You're as young as you feel.

Who said anything about feelings? Certainly that is a reference to a state of mind not the physical state of my body. I can handle the former because I am in denial. As for the later, the aches and pains are catching up with me. I find myself lingering in front of the anti-aging cream section of the face cream shelf. Although, I doubt seriously these very expensive bottles of miracle potion can change one's life. Seriously, most likely they are concocted of monkey dust. But, I digress.

Age is a state of mind. If that is so, then I am in a state of confusion. In my mind I try to dress in a very stylish way. However, when I look through my closet, I realize that "stylish" is a vague term, one up for interpretation. I am in style, if one's taste is that of June Cleaver, complete with sweater sets, a string of pearls, and nice pumps.

Well, scrap the heels, they are now safely stored in boxes on the top shelf of the closet. Why not wear sweater sets, they are comfortable and practical. Except the paisley one -  every time I wear it, a family member (who's name I will not give) states that "It looks like you". A comment I realize is the kiss of death.

I like clothes that are in style - today. Well except for the pants they are now wearing with bell bottoms. Who looks good in bell bottoms? Never mind the pictures of me in 7th grade. I'll spare you my other thoughts. You know you are old when "Retro" fashions refer to what you wore in junior high school.

Those lines around my mouth (referred to as nasolabial folds in medical journals) , commonly known as "smile lines" or "laugh lines", the creases by my eyes, and the discolored spots on my face are just signs of experience. So they say. No doubt "they" are in their late 20's. These days I am comfortable in my clothes unless there is a full length mirror, a current copy of vogue, or a swim suit involved. 

All that said, there are some bright moments. Last week while wearing a traditional pair of Weejuns (aka Penny Loafers) a young lady commented that she had seen those in a fashion magazine and wanted a pair. Silently I was thrilled - I'm ahead of my time, I thought. But, then I'm assuming that it was a current fashion magazine and not one she found in an old books store.

Friday, February 25, 2022

What Should be Easy Isn't

 Sometimes I have great expectations of my ability. I have always been optimistic, which has served me well until now.

When I paint, I never know exactly what is going to be the final product. Usually, I'm happy with the outcome, with a few exceptions. But, I digress.

A week or two ago, I created a painting I was very enthused about. When I posted it online I received many (very appreciated) positive comments. I also received several emails, texts, and IMs asking to purchase the painting. I was thrilled. Certainly I could reproduce it (at least, one like it). After all, I created it, no doubt, I could create other works very similar.

So I sat down at the same table with the same paints, same colors, and same canvas. Inspiration was not the problem. Recreation was the problem. My first attempt was too pink. My second too orange. I was totally disillusioned by my third attempt. Now I was second guessing my ability. How could I not recreate something I did just a week or so ago?

The answer apparently was: easily. 

I paint as a way to relax. I find it is an avenue of expression. However, in cases like this, it is an endeavor of total frustration and humility. What I thought was raw talent, what was true aptitude, ability, and technique, is simply just me and my ego being pretentious, smug, arrogant, grandiose, egotistical, and pompous. It all boils down to pure damn luck.

If you build it they will come, miracles happen to those who believe in them, believe you can and you’re halfway there. None of those who spoke these (so called) words of encouragement were ever a creator of original inspirational visual expression. I justify my work as personal expression in color. Talent is a 'hole 'nuther ball game.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Leave Well Enough Alone . . .

 . . . for me, not so much. Last night I finished a small (8x8) painting that I was very happy with. Then this morning as I was looking over the piece, I saw a small, minute, minuscule, single piece of sand in the bottom left hand corner. With my little finger, I gently touched the speck. However, I did not realize the painting was still wet. Instead of removing the grain of sand, I left a fingerprint size mess.

The paint was smudged. The good news is that it was in the bottom corner and not that large. The bad news was the smudge was in the middle of a complex swirl that matched 2 or 3 other swirls in that corner. Naturally, it did not occur in an area of solid color. Of course not!

I added a bit of purple into the mess to (hopefully) match the surrounding area. The new paint was too thick and instead of blending in, it made the mess darker and larger. So I added a half drop of water hoping it would diffuse the purple and coordinate with the interrupted swirl. 

No so much. Now the watered down purple paint had spread and occupied even more of the corner. Using a wet brush, I attempted to save the spot. The true blue was now a baby blue color that matched nothing around it.

Then, Eureka! I found a small puddle of wet paint on the paper below the painting that still contained striations of the colors in the swirl. Carefully (very carefully) I picked up a bit of the puddled paint with a tooth pick and dropped it into the wet purple mess. The gods were with me, 2 drops of the new paint mixed with the debacle on the corner of the canvas turned into a colorful swirl that somewhat matched the original spot. 

I surveyed my miracle. Smugly I gave myself credit for saving the painting. (. . . well myself and a Hell of a lot luck). As I turned to put away the toothpick, I noticed a bit of blue paint on the side of my finger. Looking back at the painting, I saw that I had somehow, once again, smeared the corner. I sat back and justified the mess. Perhaps, this is how masterpieces are created. OK, maybe not. For this debacle I will claim creative license and, if questioned, explain the "diffused" spot as the making of a master piece. 

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Southern Women and Nervous Breakdowns

As Boz Scaggs (for you children of the 70's) so famously said, "Danger, there's breakdown dead ahead."

Isn't everyone entitled to a nervous breakdown every once in a while? Now southern women all know about pity parties. Oh, you may deny it, but each one of you is guilty of throwing at least one of these in your honor. What woman hasn't gone to her bed for a day or two (with a pint of ice cream - or a box of chocolates in my case) and cried her eyes out over some (at the time) most horrible thing, that now seems almost frivolous?

Don't laugh. There is a time and place for these hysterics. A proper southern lady is one who knows when and where to pitch her fit, air her grievances. It is the ones who choose to have a hissy fit in public who give the female gender such a bad reputation.

Ladies retire to their rooms in moments of reflection - ie they are pissed as Hell, their feelings are hurt, and they are plotting revenge. The general female population, on the other hand, makes sure God and everyone knows who has wronged them and what they intend to do about it. The former find greater satisfaction in their quiet retaliation since generally when the dust settles they are far above the fray, while the later find themselves bruised and battered but proud to wear the sash and crown of revenge.

But a nervous breakdown is a whole 'nuther ball game. This is a card carrying medical condition diagnosed by a physician requiring serious treatment - far more than Aunt Pitty Pat's smelling salts and a good bath. A trip to Bob Ellis on King Street, with all its miraculous therapeutic powers, cannot save one from a "melt down". Two pints of Godiva Double Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream will not soothe the "anxiety" or relieve the "depression" of an emotional collapse.

Every family has "that" female relative that is spoken about in hushed tones. The one where tales of her "break down" are legendary, so much so it is hard to tell fact from fiction. Did she suffer more than one? How long was she "away"? Rumors of shock treatments, years of psychotic drugs, and idle gossip about whether or not she will ever be "right" are whispered at every family gathering.

We all have at least one such kin among us. Right? The beauty of being southern is that we don't hide the skeletons in our closets. No, we open the doors and let them dance on the front porch. It is not the dancing skeletons one should fear, rather it is the scorned southern women in their rooms seeking retribution. 

Even when we feel we deserve one and are even entitled to one, who has time these days for a nervous breakdown. 

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Mama's Way of Saying It

 My dear mother had many sayings. Some I had heard before, some made sense, a few were funny, and there were also some head scratchers.

She commented once, referring to a handsome man, that, "[He] is so good looking, he could put his shoes under my bed anytime."

"He's tighter than Dick's hat band". Never knew what this meant until I stumbled across the definition. This refers to Dick Tracy's Hat. He could jump out of a flying plane or ride on the to of a moving train and his hat never came off (as in his hat band had to be tight enough to hold it in place under any circumstance.) Who knew? I seriously doubt Mama did.

"That lasted about long as Pat stayed in  the Navy" 

"Heaven's to Betsy", which I have learned is just a southern way of saying, "Oh, for heaven's sake." (Only in the south would we use "Betsy".)

"Well that's the cat's meow."

"Katy bar the door." Who knew this originated from a Scottish ballad called 'Get Up and Bar the Door' published in 1776.

"That's Jim Dandy" (originated form baseball??)

"Have his cake and eat it too." According to Wikipedia - this refers to a phrase found "in a letter on 14 March 1538 from Thomas, the Duke of Norfolk to Thomas Cromwell as 'a man can not have his cake and eat his cake'. This begs to ask - why does someone still have a copy of this letter from 1538? 

“That thing is all catawampus.” (Of course Mama pronounced it 'catiwampus')  or put that 'Cati-cornered from the other.'

"Well, if that's not the cat's pajamas!"

"I'm plumb tuckered out." (or 'He's plumb crazy')

"Hill of Beans", 

"Lord knows"

"I'm fixin to . . ." 

"I  recon",

"Well, she's got gumption."

"Well, I swanee" or "I'll swanny". Some research says this originated with the Old English term “I shall warrant.”

"More problems that Carter's Liver pills" (of course this was Mama's version of "Carter HAS Liver pills."

She never asked for a "Coke", it was always a "Coke-a-Cola"

"Taking her sweet time . . ."

"High on the Hog"

" 'Till the cows come home."

"Too big for his britches."

"Three sheets to the wind."

"Hissy fit"

I realize that none of these are unique. We have all heard most of them, well that is if you are southern, Like it or not, this is just part of our culture. But, each of these reminds me of my mother. No doubt everyone has such memories. Reading through the list, they sound silly. But, in context, they all make sense to me. I knew exactly what she meant.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

My Anxiety with Tardiness

 I hate to be late.  I am forgiving to others who are late. That is unless their tardiness delays my being at a particular place at a particular time for a particular reason - such as attending a movie, meeting someone for dinner (ie being there on time for a reservation) or arriving at someone's house when there is a set time. (A caveat being when the invitation is for "some time around ...") The former situations or tardiness on my part, honestly, makes me anxious.

Personally I feel it is rude to make someone wait. In my opinion, even calling ahead to say one is late (although it advises the other party of the delay) is still an inconvenience for those who are waiting. We all have friends we know are habitually tardy. In those cases we often take that into consideration. "Well we will plan to eat at noon, but since we all know Harry is going to be 30 minutes late, it will be 12:30 at the earliest before lunch will be served."

I am an early riser, a morning person, and have been most of my life. I usually get up around 5:30 in the morning and by 8:30 in the evening, unless I have other plans, I am in bed reading. (In full disclosure I actually do not fall asleep until 9:30 or 10.)

As many of you know, I have 2 pups  - Marshall , a full size Yorkie, and Ellie, a 'Norwhat' (A Norwich terrier, who thanks to DNA we learned is actually a Norwich/ Cairn mix).  Honest to God, Ellie's little internal Mickey Mouse watch alarms around 5:25 every morning, usually before my alarm clock rings. If I am not already awake, she makes it very clear that I should be. With her consistent whining and/or standing next to my face staring at me, I am awake, whether I want to be or not. However at that time on these cold mornings ,when the temperatures are in the 30's at best, the idea of crawling out of bed to bundle up and go for our morning constitutional, is anything but inviting. Tell me who really enjoys walking their dogs when one can see their breath in the cold dark air and the frost on the ground is 'crunchy'. 

On these mornings or those when I am not working, I am not given to enthusiastically jump out of bed and hurry outside. Often I find myself negotiating with Ellie. "We really do not need to get up this early, please go back to sleep." I will cover my face (to avoid the guilt her pleading visage evokes). I will offer enticements. "Just 30 minutes more and you'll get a treat if you go back to sleep." This may get me 15 additional minutes at best, but rarely much more. With her tough Scottish breeding, cold mornings are not an issue. 

Perhaps our Harrys should have such a companion, with an internal watch and the persistence of a terrier, to keep them on time. Just saying.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

To Resin or Not

 One reads about artists and their inspirations, their muses. Sometimes it is just sitting in front of the canvas and letting my imagination flow. Other times, I have an idea I hope I can articulate with the paints. In both cases, sometimes I am successful, other times I am not.

Over the years I have read more about painting and taken advantage of advice offered from successful artists. I have accumulated supplies that I think I need, trying to balance the best quality for the money, keeping in mind the idea that "professional" products will not make one a professional.

In reading articles, I learned that you prep your canvases days ahead of putting paint to cloth.Then the art of mixing paints and how to clean up my mess. In looking at the works of other artists, I saw that there final products were bright, with a glass like finish, and spectacular colors. As I watched my paintings dry, the colors become darker and more dull. Obviously I was missing something.

It didn't take me long to find the "something". It was resin or varnish applied to the painting 3 or 4 weeks after the painting completely dries and airs out. Reading further I saw that there were multiple types of medium to use, and naturally, there is much controversy and differences of opinion over the best to use. Reading through the pros and cons of the process and different products I found myself overwhelmed by both the number of choices as well as the process involved. Little did I know that the creation of the work is the easy part.

There were articles about the number of layers of resin needed. You need to mix the resin and the hardener in exact proportion. The mixer needs to be stirred for exactly 3 minutes. The canvas has to be exactly level. After applying the resin mixture it is necessary that all bubbles be removed. Then the canvas needs to be covered so no dust or hair get into the resin coat.

Reading further says that additional coats are up to the artist, according to their preference. It take 8 hours to reach the "tacky" stage, 12 hours before it can be touched, and then 24 hours to completely harden. However, should one want to apply an additional coat (naturally 2 or 3 are recommended), that needs to be done 3 hours after the initial application. Oh, and did I mention that one needs to be sure the resin mixture does not get on any unwanted surface.

I was exhausted just thinking about all this. There had to be an easier way. Then, eureka! There is a spray varnish that is easy to apply as well as any additional applications one wants. I purchased a can. In reading more (which I should have never done) I found that the use of "spray" resins is frowned upon. The result is not  nearly as effective as using traditional resin. Back to the drawing board, and Amazon to order some traditional resin.

The package arrived. I read the instructions that were intimidating at best, confusing at most. But I soldiered on, carefully following the steps. I will spare you the details of the application. Needless to say by the time I was finished, I was totally frustrated with the process. There were places on the canvas where the resin refused to adhere, bubbles in the finish, and cleaning up was almost impossible.

How bad could the spray be after all? Perhaps a true resin coating is over rated. . . . But then that thick glass like finish is hard (no pun intended) to resist.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Circling Hell with the Cellular Carrier

 I understand why the American public despises 2 entities - the Cable Company and their Cellular Phone service. My issue today is the later. Dealing with the Cellular carrier makes me feel as if I am falling into Dante's Inferno.

We changed mobile carriers 9 months ago for reasons I will not go into. Then I found myself descended into the First Circle of Hell (Limbo).  I continued to get billed for service I do not have and a device that was completely paid for.

The lines being very busy, there was often a wait or they had a call back service. The wait times averaged around 5 hours.  Initially I was told that there was still an active line even though all the numbers had been ported and devices returned. The issue was taken care of, so I was told - the line was cancelled, and a refund was being sent in a check. 

However my bubble of satisfaction was burst when, the following month, I received a bill that showed a credit being issued (in lieu of the promised check) and a monthly billing amount being taken from that credit. At this point I felt as if I were in the Sixth Circle of Hell - Heresy. The question then - was it worth the time and aggravation to call the carrier? Given the amount I was owed, I decided to try. (Ah, the optimist.)

Same song, second verse. I was promised that NOW the line was cancelled and a refund check was to be issued. Once again my happiness was dashed when I received a bill from the carrier, and the amount once again, taken out of my "credit". Was the idea that if they made it difficult enough to get a matter handled, disgruntled customers would stop trying and just accept their fate. Now, I was certainly in the Fourth Circle (Greed).

Not to be defeated, I cast myself into the Third Circle (Gluttony) and called once again. Once again I was put on hold, luckily for "only" and hour and a half this time. The unfortunate customer service rep who took my call had to listen to my wrath about what was going on with my account. He was most patient and asked a few pertinent questions. After being on the phone with him for a while, I was assured, once again, that the matter was handled. The account was closed and a refund was being issued by direct deposit.

Now, I just wait for the credit to be issued to my account. The question being  - will I be satisfied or once again find myself in the Divine Comedy.