10 September 2011

iTech Tips

I kind of resent the book titles that end in "for Dummies" or "for Idiots" because I can be self deprecating enough with a book insinuating I might be less intelligent than I am.

Prime example, I've had my iPhone for several months now.  My mobile phone stopped working when we were dealing with the accident and my dear hubby was able to pick up an iPhone 3 quickly so that I could stay connected.  Completely distracted by more important things at the time and too lazy as they calmed down, I never really investigated the ins and outs of best practices when using my iTechnology.

This week I was teaching a class and one student asked another "have you been turning off your applications on your iPhone when you're not using them?" and then showed him how to do that.  I just stood back and watched and then gave it try when I returned home, feeling silly that I never bother to learn this little battery saving trick.  It applies to all the i's - iPhone and iPad and iPod, and because I don't want anyone else to ever feel "stupid" for not knowing, this is how you do it.

This button on your iTech product is called the "home button."

If you press it two times quickly, the current screen will slide up a row and a new row of icons will be displayed.  These icons represent what is currently running in the background of your iProduct.

row of icons
Using your finger, double tap on an icon you want to turn off will cause it to do that cute little jiggle icons on your iTech products do to allow you to delete them or move them around on your screen.  In that bottom row they will have a little red circle with a minus sign in the upper left corner of each icon.

fuzzy because they are jiggling
Tap one time with your finger and it will turn off that application running in the background.

tap minus sign to turn off application
Doing this regularly will make your iTech product run much more efficiently, including extending time between the need to recharge your battery!  How cool is that.

Conversely, if you are in the middle of using one application and need to switch to another, when you want to return to the previous application double click on the home key so that the row of open applications appears and single tap on the application to return it to open on your screen.

09 September 2011

Packing Lite

This is my fourth journey overseas and I'm getting really good at packing light.  I'm going to be traveling for three weeks and I'm only taking ONE carry on bag and a purse and THAT's IT!

There are a lot of reasons I'm committed to this:

1. When traveling in Europe there's no guarantee you will have an elevator or escalator and you may be faced with lugging your bags up tons of stairs.

2.  There is NOTHING I own that is going to impress anyone overseas, so why try?  I go for flexibility, layering and most of all, comfort.

3.  I hate checking luggage and avoid it as often as possible.  Within Europe you frequently HAVE to check your luggage, but they are very strict on weight.  One trip my mother and I bought wine and ended up paying so much for the weight overage we could have bought the wine at home cheaper.

I bought this bag a few years ago because it was the right size to carry on but looked different than most carry-on bags so I'd be less likely to unzip in my hotel room only to find it full of someone else's belongings.  A whole new meaning to the question "did you pack your bag yourself?"

You can't see it in the picture, but this is a roller bag, and with the exception of rolling over cobblestones, it works very well.  There is a zipper about six inches from the bottom that opens into an easy access flat area.  When I'm traveling with my computer, it fits perfectly in this space and is super easy to remove at security without exposing my packed delicates to the rest of the line.  I'm only taking my iPad this trip so I will likely put the two pair of shoes I'll take with me in the lower space, wedging in socks and jammies for a tight fit.

I use those handy dandy squeeze-the-air out compressed packing bags (or "squishy bags" as I like to call them) to put my clothes in the top part of the bag.  I pretty much only take knits and denim, so these bags work great.
photo borrowed from Amazon
Throughout my journey I reorganize the bags to contain only dirty laundry, or only what I need for the one night stay-over somewhere.  My last trip I hand-washed laundry on the fly. This time I should have access to laundry facilities; either way, much easier than carrying too much luggage.

Packing light takes a bit of planning.  Last week I pulled a hanging rack out of the laundry room and started placing items on it to look at and decide what's necessary and what to leave home.  I packed for a shorter trip without the rack once and ended up leaving the two dresses I sat out for the ceremonies we were attending on the chair in my bedroom!  Note to self, don't change the routine.
All of this should fit in my carry-on luggage with the help of the above squishy bags.

I really didn't intend on only taking black, gray, white and denim, but that was the most readily available for purchase and mixing and matching.  The weather will be all over the place, from chilly to hot, so layering is key.  Furthermore, almost everything I'm taking is either older or if purchased new, very inexpensive (like, $15 or under) from the TJ Maxx or Ross.  I do this on purpose so if I acquire something new on my travels I can discard something I brought with no regrets.

I always take an extra duffle bag that is folded and zipped down to the size of a pack of playing cards JUST in case I get carried away with purchases and need the extra room to carry them home.  I've yet to unzip it.

I don't take a hair dryer and make-up and toiletries are put in ziplock bags for easy wedging (and pulling out at the security line when necessary).

While packing light is adverse to the norm in the U.S., making it work while abroad, particularly when traveling alone, really simplifies life for the above mentioned reasons as well as limiting choices so that it's actually easier to get dressed and start enjoying the day.

Six days and counting!

08 September 2011

Cool New Art Ideas

I've always been fascinated with computers.  In high school I was the lone female in the BASIC computer class offered through the AV department, taught on T100's.  We saved our work on cassette tapes at the end of a session.

I doubt my 18-year-old remembers life before computers.  I was expecting her when I read about this exciting new resource, "the internet."  I asked around, focusing on my favorite geeky neighbors, if anyone had access to this new information pool; no one did.

And now I use the computer to do everything, include create art.  Even more exciting, today when I did a Google search for "kaleidoscope" my Youtube video came up on the first page. Not sure how as the viewing numbers are still single digits, but I'll take it!

There are two types of "digital art," computer generated and user driven traditional emulation.  Most of the time the computer generated art is based on vectors, or numeric algorithms that create paths, fills and strokes.  Flash and Illustrator are vector driven programs.  I prefer pixel driven digital art.  Pixels are tiny colored dots, or really squares, lined up to created a picture.  I think of them of little pools of paint.  Working with pixels in Corel Painter is more intuitive and feels more natural if you come from a traditional painting background.

I've been using Photoshop and Corel Painter (both registered trademark names) for many years.  The learning curve for Painter was steeper, but in the long run it has been far superior for painting intuitively in a traditional manner.  That's not to say that there aren't some great tools included that I only wish I had in my wet painting studio.

I bought my first digital camera about ten years ago.  A creature of habit I still had my prints done at a retail kiosk and I remember a conversation I had one day with the clerk about how cool it would be if you could somehow create a kaleidoscope from an interesting image.

Corel did a major overhaul of Painter this year and released in June a significantly different, and I think much improved (and I loved the old one) product.  As a fun addition it includes a plug-in that will create a kaleidoscope based on what you draw in a section of the pie shaped grid it provides for you.


I made this little video just for fun while I was figuring out how to use screen capture software to make videos.  I honestly don't know for certain how this kaleidoscope tool is driven, it almost seems like it has a vector based influence while I push the pixels.  Best of both worlds?  My vision for future use is as part of larger painting, almost as if doing a virtual collage and incorporating a kaleidoscope creation.  In the mean time enjoy the visual curiosity.

The discussions about digital art have changed over the years.  I submitted a body of work to the federal copyright office in the early 2000's and actually received a call from an indignant representative of the office saying "So what did you do, just scan some photos and press a button on the computer?"   While that was not my process and I laughed and said "I wish!" and gave her a few details about the complexity of the digital painting process, this was a sentiment resounded many times over the years.  I don't hear that question anymore, more often it's "can you show me how to do this?" and the explanation is more education than defensive.

Now I can easily say "It's just another tool for artist.  And like any other art tool, some will use it better than others and after a while we will be able to distinguish who has a mastery of skill and who just pushes a single button on the computer."

Questions, comments and intelligent discussion about this baby genre of art are welcome.

06 September 2011

I'm Writing a Novel

I read somewhere that the feeling you get from discussing a new concept before you attempt to execute it often discourages people from following through, to bringing the concept to fruition.

Tell someone you're going to write a song and feel their heightened excitement as they ask you questions about your idea and you've achieved the "feeling" of achievement as IF you had completed the task.  Having that "feeling" is enough to stop the creative flow.

I'm taking a risk here.

I'm writing a novel.  It's been in my head for a few years now based on an observation I've had about human nature, materialism and the merging of the two thoughts "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" and "never judge another until you have walked in their shoes."

I am a reader, sometimes reading three or four books a week, many at the same time.  I read several newspapers and e-zines daily.  It has come to my attention that we are in a significant time of change in the world as information becomes available to those previously excluded by virtue of geography or other significant obstacles.

If you watch the series Mad Men, it's interesting to hear the scripted comments of the 1960's that are repeated today, but have expanded meanings.  Then, advertising was the driving force alerting people that they wanted more than they had.  Today, I would say it's reality television as lifestyles that really do not reflect what is typical for most people show what the extremes of consumerism can be.

Store Front in Venice
One of the main themes of my novel is how people can have the same things, but their reasons for having them and their feelings about these things will be vastly different based on their root values.  Not a condemnation of any perspective, just an awakening that there are many perspectives even about the same things.

So there I've done it.  I'm sharing what I plan to do at risk of feeling satisfied enough with the sharing that I will fail to complete the whole story.

Facebook ~ Helps you be Lucky!

My husband and I have long believed the definition of lucky is preparedness meeting opportunity.

Last year I was "friended" by a guy who was a little bit more than an acquaintance from my high school days in the midwest.  Turns out he lived about ten miles away as the crow flies, here in Georgia.  As we prepared to venture back to the midwest for our 26th (not a typo) year class reunion we decided, via Facebook, we should meet for dinner with our spouses.

There is something really fun about hanging out with people who understand where you came from.  We both live very differently than we were raised, but you can't change your roots.  Since that dinner date we have created a great friendship and enjoy spending time together as couples and I've also adopted his wife as one of my closest friends.

She is Missy.  The friend who invited me to join her in Paris.

Last spring I received an apologetic private note on Facebook from a gentleman asking if I was the daughter of my parents, high school friends of his.  He currently lives in Amsterdam.  I was in the middle of dealing with the accident so I didn't respond right away.

After she returned from a gathering of high school friends I thought to ask my mother who this fella was and should I respond to his inquiry.  She emphatically said yes, I would probably enjoy chatting with him, my aunt had been corresponding with him for some time.   And while we have never met face to face, because of common friends, and again, a common history by virtue of being raised in rural Indiana, we are looking forward to meeting when I extend my European journey by a week to visit Amsterdam.

Thus, participation on Facebook has manifested some serious luck for me, if you abide by the definition preparedness meeting opportunity that is.

Ten Days and Counting

I'm on the ten day countdown to landing in Paris and starting my second "Love, Eat, Create" journey (thank you Elizabeth Gilbert).  In 2009 I took my first one, a solo trip to Italy and Slovenia with the intent of figuring out who I was artistically and regrouping following a rough 2008.  I came back renewed and full of energy that lead to, literally, people begging me to show my art.

Trieste Italy - Adriatic Sea

Early this summer I decided I needed to do it again.  My youngest was preparing to leave for college, mostly recovered from the accident and I was going to go from constantly "on call" to being faced with letting go and letting her grow.

Money was tight and art sales were down, with not much expectation for change in this arena, but I put it "out there" that I was going to Europe.  Didn't know how I was going to get there, what I was going to do while there or when, but I was definitely heading overseas in the fall.

Then out of the blue, sometime last June, my friend Missy called and said she had just heard on Clark Howard's radio show that British Airways was offering a round trip ticket overseas for signing up for their credit card.  She went on to say that while her husband had no interest in seeing Paris, he did have a slew of Marriott points we could use to stay there and would I please go with her!

One thing lead to another I am heading overseas again.

Half the battle is knowing what you want.  The other half is believing you can decide what that is, not worry about how it's going to happen, and accept it when it does.  Manifestation?

Living life well.