28 May 2012

Memorial Day redux

On this particular Memorial Day with 82+ degrees, high humidity, and none of the promised thunderstorms, I am thankful I do not have to spend it marching in two parades like the days of old.

For the six Memorial Days between 1986 and 1991, I wished for hard morning rains, but they never came. There were some overcast years, some sprinkles, but no escape from the parade. All I wanted was to sleep in, but instead by 9:30 I was gathering with my bandmates next to the town's firetrucks. Marching band wasn't in any way special or prestigious at my school; since the whole band was fairly small, it was just something we all had to participate in whether we wanted to or not.

In early May, we started holding our weekly full band rehearsals outside in the parking lot so we could practice walking in formation. Dress right, dress forward: which is to say keep in line with the person all the way to your right, and keep in line with the person in front of you. Though the number of rows could vary from year to year depending on how many people were in the band, I always held the right-most position for the saxophones (a small honor as I set the spacing between my row and the row ahead).

To give our marching group a bit more heft, it included band members from 7th through 12th grades. A couple of 6th graders would get the "honor" of carrying the banner in front. For drum major, a few factors weighed in to the choice: would his or her instrument be missed from the group? did he or she want to do it? and most importantly, could he or she fit into the small white uniform with gold trim?

The rest of us wore maroon suits with gold stripes down the sides of the pants, a white overlay with a stiff uncomfortable collar, and the stupid tall fuzzy hats. Unfortunately, the uniforms were bought when the band still marched for a Halloween parade, so they were made of heavy wool. For certain portions of the parade (it was actually 2 small parades), the band had to stand in the full sun while several speeches were made, the poem "In Flanders Fields" was read by a pretty, attention-hungry girl from the band, and "Taps" was played and then played again in the distance for an echo effect. Here we'd lose one to three people to heat exhaustion despite my Mom's efforts.

Of her own volition, she brought water and passed the bottles through the ranks during the speeches. They were the original (now old) style green Gatorade bottles with the long straw coming out of the top. Eventually we convinced our band director to let us take off the helmets during the speeches, and still we were all dripping with sweat.

The parade started in one town cemetery and ended in the other. There we dispersed, stripping off sweaty layers, packing up instruments, and walking to the VFW for free sodas. Then I'd go home, rinse off, and change clothes before heading to the annual picnic at our band director's house. Getting up for the parade may not have been what I wanted to do at the time, but it's certainly memorable.

A year ago on TTaT: Life of Art SitRep #16

27 May 2012

Temporal Transportation

I pulled the screen door closed and it shut with a clang. A familiar and unexpected clang. The high heat and humidity, the bright sun outside, even the sound of something like cicadas.

I was looking out my grandparents' screen door over the hood of a faded red pickup to the analog clock-style thermometer hanging along the short border of their carport's roof.

As quickly as I was there, I was back, looking over the deck to a bunch of leafy green trees in my back yard.

My mother's parents have both been gone over a decade. It's been even longer since I've been to that house, auctioned off after my granddad died.

I blinked back the water in my eyes and closed the inner door.

A year ago on TTaT: Epic Memorial Weekend Sale. See the current 2012 sale here!

25 May 2012

Life of Art SitRep #120 Buckles and Memorial Day Sale!

So I'm super stoked that Zazzle is now offering Belt Buckles. I've added a bunch to my Rocklawn Arts shop and there are more to come!

Also cool is that they are offering several more necklace designs, more sizes, a locket version, as well as other finishes. What's super awesome is that these new styles are available on all of my existing Necklaces right now.

[Cue cheesy game show host voice] And that's not all!

To celebrate Memorial Day, I've got a sale running now.

60% OFF Wrapped Canvas

50% OFF Prints and Cards

40% OFF iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch/BlackBerry/Samsung cases and Skins

30% OFF Stickers
20% OFF Everything else at Rocklawn Arts

Use code: MEMORIAL2012

Offer is valid until May 29, 2012 at 11:59pm PT.

Downtown Kansas City Card
Downtown Kansas City Card by RocklawnArts
Check out other note cards online at Zazzle.

A year ago on TTaT: This is what I'm talking about

23 May 2012

Surprised? Really?

Has anyone else watched Who Do You Think You Are?, the genealogy showed that shamelessly promoted Ancestry.com?

I find genealogy interesting, so I caught most of their episodes. The episodes that have gotten under my skin, however, are the ones in which the celebrity discovers s/he had ancestors who had slaves and they act all surprised about it.

Really? You're Caucasian and your family has been in the US for a long time and this surprises you? Unless you're descended from indentured servants (who sometimes went on to have slaves), chances seem pretty high someone in your family tree owned slaves. The further back you go, the more branches your family tree has.

Acting surprised about it just strikes me as ignorant or hopelessly naive.

"Acting" is probably the key word here. They don't want to be associated with relatives who had slaves. But to opt for shock and surprise? It reads as uneducated to me.

Of course slavery is wrong, but acting surprised that it touched your family tree seems like denial, and denial doesn't help prevent atrocities from recurring.

A year ago on TTaT: Pre-CT

18 May 2012

Life of Art SitRep #119 List fatigue

It's not like last week was the first time I made to-do lists. I get more done when I make them, and yet... there is an unrelenting quality to them that puts me off. There is always more to do.

It is nice, however, to complete a task you keep putting off. The one I finished wasn't critical, but it needed doing eventually, so it kept staring me down in the meantime. The beauty of this task is that I don't need to do it again, or at least not for a very long time.

Another task I incorporated into my workflow so I can keep up with it moving forward. Prevent the bog from getting deeper!

Do you have any suggestions for combatting list fatigue?

Besides the usual Rocklawn Arts tweeting and blogging, I created a Green and White Chevrons design.

Check out the complete collection of Green and White Chevrons products.

I also got out to photograph five days this week which was nice.

How are your pursuits going?

A year ago on TTaT: Caveats

11 May 2012

Life of Art SitRep #118 Small Scale Clarity

So it's true, when you make to-do lists, you get more done. Naturally, there's a catch. Several, no doubt, but here's what's working for me so far:

Start with a to-do list for 1 day. (Today or tomorrow.) This lets you focus on the present and small accomplishable tasks. Big picture items that will take longer are fine, just break them into small steps so you can chip away at them over time without getting overwhelmed.

Include things which are already part of your daily schedule. For example, I get up and do some easy yoga most every day. By putting "workout" on my list, I get to cross something off right away which is satisfying and gives me some momentum for the rest of the tasks. I also include things like appointments and errands.

Have a reasonable expectation of what you can accomplish in one day. I'm pretty good at this but trial and error will help you out if you need it. Start by listing more than you think you can do. Generally people underestimate themselves in this regard. You don't have to cross off everything on your list by day's end, but I'd suggest tweaking your list length until you're getting at least 3/4 of it done. The main thing is that you don't want to be stressed out by what's left on your list. At least I don't.

Including some fast, easy tasks provides momentum when you need a break from more time consuming tasks.

Include something fun or relaxing on your list. If there's something you want to watch on TV or read or a game you want to play, put that on there. It'll give you something to look forward to and let you take a break or wind down. It's just as valid a part of your day as anything else.

What I'm liking most about the daily to-do lists I've been making is that they give me a sense of when I've done enough. And that's pretty great. I still have adjustments to make to my list-making, but this was a productive start.

I added 131 new products to my Rocklawn Arts shop including the final skins for electronic devices from my existing designs and a new design, Blue and White Chevrons.

Tweeted and FB'd a sale:
Rocklawn Arts is having an epic sale this week in honor of teachers. If you're not a teacher, don't fret! You can use the sale code too. :)

60% OFF Prints and Calendars (You can customize calendars to start at any month you choose.)
50% OFF Buttons and Magnets
40% OFF Folio Planners, Notebooks, and Notepads
30% OFF Binders and Labels (Return Address, Shipping, Gift tags)

Offer is valid until May 13, 2012 at 11:59pm PT.
Shot 37 photographs.

There was a bunch of other stuff as well, but blogger's getting glitchy and if I finish this post I get to cross it off, so I'm going to do that before this gets lost. Select All and Copy, folks, before you hit that publish button!

Two years ago on TTaT: When Star Wars and The Simpsons collide

09 May 2012

Free Comic Book Day for those who missed it

So the first Saturday in May is traditionally Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) at participating comic book stores. Though I've known about it a few years, I've never actually been to one.

I was game this year but the one comic book store in the area closed last I heard. The store front still has its sign in the window, a series of printed pages, one letter each, taped to the window spelling out its name. I could've called to be sure or just stopped by but I over-thought it and didn't. I reckon it's more accurate to say I was game in theory to go but got psyched out by not knowing quite what to expect.

Anyway, I was a little bummed because I knew there were Buffy, The Guild, and Serenity comics written for FCBD.

But fear not, gentle reader, Dark Horse Comics is cool and has digital versions of the comics available to read on their website. The stories I mentioned are currently in the top row: Free Comic Book Day 2012 (Star Wars/Serenity) and Free Comic Book Day 2012 (Buffy/Guild). Fun reads! There are a bunch more as well.

The only downside is that you have to sign up for an account. It's free though and simple enough.

Until next year's FCBD!

A year ago on TTaT: Otherwise Known as the Human Condition

05 May 2012

Curly Girl: The Handbook

Curly Girl: The Handbook23. Curly Girl: The Handbook by Lorraine Massey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Recommended for the curly-haired folks out there. There are even chapters dedicated to kids, guys, and chemo curls. The expanded second edition also includes a video with demonstrations on it.

I knew some of the tips from the web already (naturallycurly.com), but I haven't tried them all yet. Massey explains why they are important, and I'm pretty much on board.

Using an old t-shirt or a microfiber towel instead of a terry cloth towel to dry your hair is definitely worth doing. I gave up brushing/combing my hair a couple years ago, so I know that helps. Giving up the suds of shampoo will be harder, but I'm ready to try a sulfate-free cleanser and botanical conditioner once I track some down.

The book also includes tips for trimming your own hair and recipes for a variety of hair potions.

Strewn throughout are both a myriad of hair puns and various curl confessions. I found the confessions from curly haired people interesting. They reminded me of all the times I would look at haircuts and pick ones that were straight. I wasn't teased about my curls growing up, but for whatever reason, I always wanted them to be different.

I like my curls now but was sort of resigned about them as well. This book encourages me to think they can look better. I look forward to trying out her routine and fine-tuning it for myself.

Worth noting: she has routines for several curl types. Though she describes the different curl types and gives a method for determining your curls' spring factor, my curls have qualities of different types. For me the spring factor is less helpful because my hair is short. Shouldn't be a big deal even if I pick the wrong routine to start with though as they are all similar.

The book has lots of pictures to help you out. Definitely worth a read if you're fighting with or straightening your curls.

A year ago on TTaT: A mind of my own?

04 May 2012

Life of Art SitRep #117

So I'm looking at my list of what I did last week to figure out what to write and it just doesn't look like much. I mean, I feel like I was working on stuff, but it's a pretty short list compared to some. Best not to get hung up on that, I reckon; this is a new week (at least by my Friday to Thursday reckoning).

I posted 49 products to promotional blogs, added my store link to 6 lenses, tweeted and FB'd a sale.

I watched 2 Creative Live workshops on the Canon 7D and the Canon 5D Mark II.

I also caught a good chunk of the Zoe Keating interview/performance on Chase Jarvis live. She's a self-described avant-cellist. I'd heard her music before (love!) but it was really interesting to learn more about her. For example, she started playing when she was young but when she turned 15 or so, she got hit with terrible stage fright. At college, she found she wasn't afraid to play rock n roll, improvise, or her music, just classical pieces since they are supposed to be perfect. The fear went away when she made the music hers.

Anyway, I want to see the rest of it, so I'll be on the lookout for it if they archive it on youtube (which they usually do).

What else? I made some more skins templates for my vertical images and added 14 more electronic device skins to my Rocklawn Arts shop.

How was your week?

4 years ago on TTaT: Rock Paper Scissors: Extreme Deathmatch

02 May 2012

Where Everybody Knows Your Name...

Several months ago, my local bank was bought out and the branch that was most convenient for me was moved to a supposedly more convenient location a bit further away and next to a new grocery store. Mostly this means the parking lot is generally a hassle and there's more traffic to contend with.

The new bank is also very oddly designed, no doubt the result of some misguided consumer research to make it seem more personal. Instead of walking up to a counter, there are a couple of pillars which each accommodate two teller stations and have chairs for the customers by them.

I don't want to sit down when I go to the bank for a quick transaction and I don't want anyone else to either. It begs for people to sit and chat and take forever.

That's not the biggest problem though. There's rarely 4 tellers working at once, so typically they pick the far sides of the pillars where you can't see them and vice-versa when you walk in.

There's often a great deal of bafflement caused by the pillars. For example, if a lot of people are waiting, just where do you stand to be next? One main line? Smaller lines for each teller?

I'm also annoyed by the acronym plastered everywhere which is not made from the bank's name but rather, their idiotic slogan.

I endured the branch for a couple months while wistfully looking at the empty branch I used to go to. Apparently a new bank would be going in there eventually. Some law against monopolies prevented the property from being converted into something else.

About a month after I'd given up on the moved branch, a new bank went into the old branch I liked. I must've been one of their first customers because they were still figuring out their computers, rates, and such even though they'd officially been open for a day and had had a soft opening the week before.

The manager was busy with someone else so I had to wait quite a while. The two tellers introduced themselves, did their best to answer my questions, and checked in with me while I was waiting. The manager's office had glass walls and every time it seemed like they were wrapping up, it got dragged out a bit longer.

Eventually, the other customer left and I set up my account.

The next time I went in a little over a week later, the same three people were working and all greeted me by name which caught me off guard. The tellers at the previous bank had seen me a few times a month for a year and though they recognized me, they didn't really know my name.

I started doing a quick mental check of the tellers' names before walking in to the bank so I could greet them in kind without hesitation.

The catch is that a couple of new people have started working at the branch. The first tellers still say, "Hi, Claire!" when I walk in, so the new people have also picked it up, but I don't know their names. Actually I think one is Shelby but that's based on a quick scan of a name plaque by her station. I haven't been confident enough to try it out yet.

Remember Norm on Cheers? The enthusiasm of their hellos is pretty close to that; they just don't say it in unison. Maybe it's because there's rarely any other customers there. It feels weird to me.

Why weird though? It's just good customer service on their part. I suppose I feel singled out even if I'm the only customer there, a pack of attention on me. There may also be mythical associations: knowing a creature's name gives you power over it. They all know my name.

Hmm, fairly sure I'm the one that's weird here.

Two years ago on TTaT: Sketchbook, page 25 (It's the Taj Mahal!)