September 2008 Archives

Last night Daniel commented to me that I had become more politically interested than before. Why? Good question. After thinking a bit I told him that I think it is because before I always sort of trusted "smarter people" to make the decisions. Now at my age, I am the "grown-up" and that smarter person, and that brings responsibility. And after enjoying the prosperity and then watching the country's economy tank over the last few years, along with our retirement fund evaporating yesterday with the 777 drop, I want my voice to be heard. Maybe its coming of age, maybe I don't like where this country has been and I an kicking myself for not being more informed the last election. Whatever it is it has turned this non-political artist into a political junky.

Here is a preliminary list of resources that I have been using to keep myself sane and hopefully clear headed while candidates run around like chickens with no heads, and media gorges themselves on feverish gossip, mud slinging and lies. I will try to add to this list as the clock counts down the next 40 days and do the "reading" not just the watching. My apologies for not creating the links just now...cut and paste will have to do.

• Keeping the facts straight on both sides of the fence, if you read nothing else between now and the election make it be They did a great job of dissecting the last debate and pointing out the misleads and mistakes from both candidate :

• Up to the minute political articles:

• Keeping slander in the conservative media in check:

• Obama's voting record:

• McCain's voting record: also has all the campaign spending. Although Obama's is in a handy breakdown piechart compared to McCain's 177 page itemized list (making it hard to tell what was spent where at a glance) it is still a great resource.

• Who will actually raise taxes? Skip the rhetoric and do your own math. This is a great calculator that plugs in the candidates policies and your fiscal numbers and spits out the actual taxes you will be paying.

And if you are interested in the top contributors of each candidate, lobbys and other interesting tidbits try

• McCain's Top Contributors:

• Obama's Top Contributors:

• And some more dig deep type stuff on the Capital Eye. We like to think it is all principle and virtue but doesn't it all come down to money? This article was a sobering read..."Finance Sector Gave 51 Percent More to House Bailout Backers":

• Lots of fun widgets to be had there too:

• Oh and if you want to compare who sponsored, co-sponsored what bills (who was working and who wasn't) there is a handy search engine here:

or gives lots of this info broken down in and easier read:



champagne and roses


Yesterday was kinda important. Not so important in the scheme of world issues, campaigns and such, or even monumental wedding anniversaries. But we have found that celebrating even the lesser moments actually make the bigger moments possible. It could be the momentum created when small kindnesses accumulate to create big feelings. It could be the act of not forgetting and so allowing those moments to be consistent reminders of what is truly valuable. Call it romance or whatever.

My husband is very good at it.

Bryan came through the door with flowers and champagne last night. Later we went to our favorite sushi place for an elegant late dinner. All to celebrate a moment in time that looked awkward and funny and completely unlikely, but was the beginning of something no one could have predicted.

The moment was our first date.

It was twenty five years ago and we were a couple of geeky kids trying to find ourselves, our way, and our identities. Bryan was a music theory major and I was an art major who happened to play clarinet. We met in the university band.

Our first date was one of those college "bring a date" prom-like events and we went as friends.

Who knew?

It was a night filled with awkward moments and humor but what came out of that first night was a sense of something more, something special, some kind of connection. Looking back on the picture you have to laugh, but recognizing that it is in those fragile unpredictable moments that often hold the greatest possibilities.

Here's to the next 25 years my love.



25 years ago, Sept 23, 1983.


Approximately a year later in little tokyo (CA).


Years later I painted this, the background beach symbolizing that first date.


from glass to concrete

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This weekend was a little more progress on the outside. I managed a scratch coat of stucco on saturday making me unable to move on sunday. The repetitive motion apparently worked muscles that I don't normally use and so I felt the limitation on sunday. But it is satisfying to see this thing take shape. Bryan is on the home stretch with the upper portion of the wall. This is back breaking work as he has to split and shape each brick up here because they show from both sides. My hero.



glass fusion is fun

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No Brokaw for Palin but we will do ET?

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No interview with Tom Brokaw, but ET (entertainment tonight) is on the McCain campaign plane?

There are no words.

How to leverage our lust for "entertainment".


I pray that the debates redeem us all.

above the law?

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Feeling a little itchy these days as I see a political climate primed for something akin to the Crusades (1096-1270) and the martyrdom and prideful self righteousness that made those at the helm feel justified to fight a religious war.

Are we becoming Medieval England?

When the honest transparency for justice gets traded for a smoke screen swiveling the focus onto what our democracy created to protect the people...


It is not something that should be taken lightly and is something that 232 years took to build. A fair and just system with checks and balances that bar those in powerful positions to fall into the temptation of compromise for the sake of gain...

of any kind, economical, social, or... political.

It is an old move really. Classic strategy. That one in which someone points a finger accusing someone of inpropriety in order to mask their own.

Jesus wrote in the sand as every man looked on, holding a stone ready to kill the woman caught in adultery. As Jesus continued to write (assumably their names) in the sand, one by one they dropped their stones and went away leaving the woman with no accusers. Because they were guilty. (The compassion of Jesus always took my breath away in this story.)

So when someone poised to take the most powerful position in the land (world) refuses to be scrutinized by their own justice system...

except it is a woman holding the stone.

You do the math.

playing in the mud

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Thanks to Bryan's new flex-time schedule that allows him every other friday off we have been enjoying more three day weekends than the average bear.

This weekend was true of this.

Making another run at our remodeling projects we tackled a few things both as a team and as individuals.

For example:

I am learning how to mortar brick.

and it is ugly.

But the truth is I am loving every minute. Even in the ninety degree, 80 percent humidity, mosquito fest that it has been, I had a ball mixing mortar and repairing some ugly and hard to solve corners of our old wall. Sometime soon I will stucco what I actually built today, but for now this was a great lesson. And as a team we managed to pour eight bags of concrete to cap the wall to neaten the jagged old brick that was left on the lower wall. This preceeds the stucco and the capping with the tumbled stone.

So while I was playing in mud Bryan was solving a roadblock. When we originally chose this particular interlocking wall product for our project it was because you could use it to build a retaining wall, and then a regular wall that you can look at from both sides. The product boasted that all you have to do is split the block along the handy dandy score line provided by the manufacturer.

yea right.

They also boasted that you could make this job even easier if you rented a handy dandy mechanical block splitter.


Problem: No one rents these things. The closest one we could find was six hours away.

So Bryan got creative and built his own. And although it still means splitting them by hand, the blocks split more reliably then they did just using the manufacturers score line and a chisel.

We are way past the half way mark on this project of three years, and like a horse to the barn, are feeling a short reach to blissful closure of this monumental task. I am truly hoping that we can actually be finished before the bulk of leaves start to fall and the season is officially changed.

Of course that is what I said last year;-)

Bryan with his "splitter"

Blocks isn't the only thing that have gotten split. Check out the pants! These things will be shreds by the end of the season.

split3.jpgwidth="450" height="636" />

Adding concrete to level the top of the brick wall. This will then be stuccoed

Forms removed.


I couldn't resist the opportunity to do a test with the fresh concrete. Since this was going to get covered over with stone why not experiment a little.

Texture test for patio design. String, burlap, bubble wrap, canvas, and leaves.


Written back in April of this year along with "Today I am a Bourbon Democrat", and Today I will be a "No-Nothing"

Today I will be a Christian Socialist.

In the continued saga of making Blair a more informed citizen I tripped and fell over some fun (but kinda disturbing) facts in the evolution of our country's early quest for making our children more patriotic. I can't take full credit for the tripping, as the reference came from a workmate of Bryan's, but nonetheless sent me on an interesting rabbit trail.

And because I didn't know about this before just goes to show you that either the education I got was cruddy, or pollyannic...

or I am just a big dumb dumb.

But the visual person that I am really gets it when shown a picture, somehow making the two sides of my brain connect so that I might retain the information...

ask me in a year.

The topic is the pledge of allegiance.

Ok I knew about the whole "under god" debate, but I didn't know about the origins of the pledge, and the somewhat unfortunate evolution of its salute (being adopted by hitler).

But in reading about all of this it triggered a memory. I seemed to recall that at some point in school Daniel wouldn't do the pledge. I couldn't remember the details exactly so I asked him to refresh my memory.

It was kindergarten and he was five. Because of us moving from Canada to the US in the middle of the year he was thrust into school later in the year(his first year of school ever!) missing the first three months. Although I don't know if the other kids in his class were given an orientation on the pledge I know that he never got one. So when faced with being required to perform this seemingly strange ritual without anyone giving an explanation of "why they do it", he, for the sake of understanding, decided to test it.

He turned his back on the flag.

Now you have to understand that he was a bit of an abstract thinker even back then. These days if you have a conversation with him you may walk away feeling like you have been intellectually left in the dust, but by the age of three he was hardly talking and the few words he could say were garbled. At five in this new classroom setting where he was still trying to figure out what the rules were nothing made sense. As he tells it in his observation of the other kids, most of them looking various directions, hand on their hearts, picking their nose, fidgeting and doing what five year olds do, he couldn't put his finger on the purpose. Employing what he thought would be the process of elimination he turned around, in hopes to see what info he could glean from the reaction.

He got an answer. But not one that gave him any more information.

The teacher firmly grabbed him by the shoulders and spun him around to face the flag.

His thoughts: "Well at least I know that I shouldn't face the wall."

But still no explanation for what seemed like cultic behavior.

And I can only imagine what the teacher's point of view had been. This kid just moved from Canada after all...

But it is intriguing to me that children employ judgement on an instinctual level, especially if something just seems wrong.

Today, as a culture we don't think much about the pledge or where it came from, just that we "should" do it and that it represents patriotism. Kinda like trick-or-treating being something fun for kids and forgetting that it originally sprang from a genuine pagan ritual.

In a nutshell (thank to Wiki) the pledge of allegance was written in 1892 by a Christian Socialist and Baptist minister named Francis Bellamy as part of a marketing campaign to sell subscriptions of a magazine called the Youth's Companion. That was it's birth. A bit like Santa's red suit persona being birthed by a popular Coca-Cola campaign.

The beauty of capitalism.

Not to say that I don't think the pledge may have developed into a useful tool to gently remind children what country they live in and are "pledging too". Except that children of certain faiths could not "pledge", having the action be in conflict by being idolatrous. That original intent modified by the later addition of the "under God" text which left out other certain religious groups in the great melting pot we call america.

Oh well.

But back to Daniel's reaction... being faced with having to participate in a ritual that seemed wrong even though everyone else was doing it...

he didn't.

He hadn't been indoctrinated yet. Didn't know the rules, the ropes, the expectations. If you would have asked him if he was american he would of said yes... and canadian (he's both).

Which is why when I hear people pass judgement on someone because they don't look a certain way, have the same rituals, don't wear a cross, or a flag pin, or a WWJD bracelet, I have trouble not passing judgement on them. I used to wear a cross until I got older and realized my faith ran deeper than the jewelry and that a conversation stopper hanging around my neck might not be what god intended. But that is just me.

The world has gotten smaller though and requires more nuanced communication because there is a greater need for understanding when your neighbor has a slightly different way of doing things, and he probably has a good reason based on the roots of his beliefs and a nice long conversation may bring greater understanding...

or maybe his reason is more superficial...

like that flag pin is really tacky.

While living in canada it was appropriate to wear a little plastic, fuzzy, red poppy pin to commemorate veteran's day for the common wealth.

and that pin is really tacky too. And they make a gillion of them every year and sell them like candy corn at halloween. But the donations made from those poppies fund veteran's services.

I don't know if our veterans get funding from the sale of flag pins (i haven't checked) but I do know when my father was given a vet pin while visiting the National WW2 Memorial it had a very familiar inscription on the back...

Made in China.

Maybe tomorrow I will be a Whig.

the original pledge of allegiance salute.





saved by the glass


Thanks to the encouragement of my husband and the hovering ghost of a past mondo beyondo list item left undone, I am taking two days for my artist date this week and playing with glass. Although my ultimate goal is to some day take a glass blowing glass, the class that I am taking is a great entry point and will be another great addition to exnihilo.

Glass fusing.

The real work is understanding the nature of each kind of glass and learning methods of cutting it which turned out to be a piece of cake for me. Composition is the next issue, and color sense, but those are already in my tool kit... the cutting was new. It was perfect in it was not difficult, but still inspiring.

Like having a new toy.


Cutting exercise, (straight lines, curves, circles, etc.) Of course the first thing I wanted to do was smash the glass to get a more "organic" look. In quizzing the teacher about this she showed me how to cut it to look like it was smashed. Next time I think I will try to smash it (maybe when she isn't looking).


Colored glass cut and positioned for the composition.


Adding Frit. The gaps are filled with a glass sand of various colors. I had planned on using black but the teacher said it wouldn't look good and more specifically the black frit behaved strangely. She preferred red. (Hey, I am just here to learn) So I compromised and used red in one spot and then a more neutral yellow tone elsewhere. (its my project after all!)


Ready for first firing. Tomorrow it will be put into a mold and fired again creating a little dish. What fun this is!


sheep to the slaughter; cast your ballot


Lately I have been really pondering the power of propaganda. Especially in light of the speed in which information (or mis-information) is available these days. As americans we think we have the luxury of believing that it is only other countries that exploit their citizens with slanted information to control the population.That may have been true once.

But that luxury is long gone.

And I think we need to be careful or we may end up not learning from the mistakes of other's past, and then be doomed to repeat it thinking we were impervious to such a thing. I would rather keep a good bead on my government than to end up like a pre-hitler germany.

That may be strong words but I have had a couple conversations of late that make me concerned that the american people (in all parties) are dumping their brains and are buying into mis-information served up by various media made available. I thought it was obvious that any thinking person understands that they can't believe everything they read, hear, or see. But maybe this isn't true for everyone. My age group is probably cynical enough from seasoned advertising saturation that when Pat Boone is advertising reverse mortgages we know that dear old Pat does not have a reverse mortgage himself and doesn't necessarily believe in them, but is just collecting a paycheck as an actor. It is an ad meant to sell a product.

I am jaded and that is a good thing.

I remember lecturing Daniel at a very young age about advertising, pointing out specific ads for toys and such that caught his fancy explaining the motives of the advertiser, the times of day aimed at target age groups, etc...and thus helping him to be wise about how to determine when you are being sold something that isn't really in your best interested.

But discerning advertising is easy.

What is not so easy is news. (or what we call the news)

What our parents once trusted as an unbiased delivery of the facts no longer exists in its pure form. Apparently it is too boring and as a collective voice we have chosen in its place a form of entertainment that we like to point at as our news.

Which wouldn't be a problem as long as we understood the game, and that it is actually not ALL news.

A recent conversation with a dear friend revealed this even further when he reiterated something he had heard from "the news" as if it was fact. This particular "fact" was extremely slanderous towards one of our presidential candidates. A few seconds on revealed that it was bogus.

I wasn't surprised.

But what scares me... really scares me is that when something smells of slander or has a clear slant or is worded in a particular way to create guilt by association, people don't always check it for themselves...

they just believe it.

Granted, the checking is labor intensive because even sources that claim they have no bias may slant a tad (or a whole do you spell "fox".) Usually you can tell it from the language, but using multiple sources for double checking is probably the safest thing to do.

And that takes time. Time that most of us don't have. So we settle for the entertainment and miss the fact that mis-information is seeping into our souls and doing it in such a way that we barely notice.
(Pr 18:8 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.)

Is it any wonder that jesus equated gossip and slander to murder?

I think a telltale sign of this seeping mis-information is "talking points". Sitting in a restaurant and overhearing a heated discussion about the present campaign using only talking points to make a case made me even more concerned. Can't we have legitimate conversations about what each candidate has to offer, how they plan on delivering, instead of passing around gossipy emails camoflaged as fact (without citing the source or author's name) that actually came from some wing-nut blog?

(having said that please don't quote this person's opinion blog unless you site the source;-)

I have called these "political, hit and run" emails in the past and they still bug me. Most of these are designed to make a case that will either provoke the receiver, or reinforce the assumed same belief relationship of the sender. Neither one is productive. I usually try to take them lightly but I got one recently that forced me to send a reply asking the question, "Did you actually want a reply from me on this"? As in "do you really care what I think and want to open a dialogue?" The reply I got on that one was an implied "no".

Too much time is getting wasted in the deluge of heresy and even outright lies meant to steal our ability to make an intelligent choice. This makes me a little snippy, because I hate wasted time. And when faced with talking points I am left speechless because there is no conversational entry point.

So rather than walking around like pull-string dolls repeating what we have heard on talk television, let's have a conversation that deals with the stuff at a deeper level. Breaking down the issues in a detailed fashion, sincerely listening to one another's opinions, and checking and rechecking facts against the propaganda machine's slanderous spin might just give us the ability to cast a ballot that is worthy of the lives that paid for it.

rainy day activities; thanks hannah

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Today we shifted gears from our normal full bore mode of working on the bigger projects on our house (the wall) to some more indoor friendly activities thanks to being hammered by Hannah. Yes we are only experiencing her tail which makes me send up even more prayers for our friends smack in the path of Ike likely to land on top of them at a scary CAT 3 on our beloved island. Here at home her tail is bad enough as we experienced the rattle and crash of a tree coming down in our neighbor's yard and in ours. Thankfully not on top of either house!

So we are holed up inside. Inspite of the threatening weather I am somewhat grateful for the change. Yesterday Bryan and I finished (this time really) our bungalow designs for Exnihilo. Having several revisions inflicted on us by the builder to bring them up to CAT 4 code seemed almost ridiculous until today. Truly these prefabs are overly engineered but the company boasts having never lost a single structure in a hurricane, and they have them built in some of the worst hurricane areas (andrew, katrina, etc). So after going back and forth with the engineering department wanting to maintain a design with big windows and great views without sacrificing safety, we are finally done! Giving up on some original "non-negotiables" actually gave way to solving other problems that the designs were facing. Now our cute little bungalows will actually have a view of both coasts!(the island is only four miles wide and you can see the leeward and atlantic from our property.

But I have to admit it was a great exercise, because these little guys(bungalows) were supposed to be the easy part of the project. As we continue to poke at the larger building I can only imagine what changes we will have to accept when engineering gets a hold of HER!

Still, as I sit here listening to the rain pounding our roof I am ever so grateful for the frustration.

So there is more design to do today, plus hunting and cataloging new recipes for our menu. It is a cooking kinda day so I pulled out my breadmaker and made some whole wheat and a spicy vegi stew to go with it.

And as I wait for the bread to come out, my stomach growling, I pour through other recipes we have used in the past along with new ones appropriate for a tropical paradise.

Grilled Salmon on Gorgonzola Pear Salad


the fly on the wall


In a dark and smokey room one night after the Democratic convention, a VP strategy was born…

"We need to do something quick, the Dems have all the attention and a real plan for running the country, we need a distraction, a decoy... we need a VP that makes everyone forget about the last eight years. We need someone to make McCain look good".

"I don't think Lieberman can be a decoy."

"We could put him in a dress"

"No. We need someone that nobody has heard of to send the media in a frenzy."

"It needs to be a woman if we want to capture some of those disgruntled Hilary gals".


"And she needs to be a mom of a big family to capture the "family value" voters."


"And she should know how to give a good speech."

"Yea... can she be pretty? Like a beauty queen or somethin', that would be cool."

"She should be a soccer mom, NO...a HOCKEY MOM!"

"Yea…and have a son that is ready to deploy to Iraq. On September 11!"

"That might be asking a bit much".

"And she should have a special needs child."

"Oooo, that's a good one".

"…And an under age pregnant daughter who is about to marry her boyfriend, we could spin that into a real affirmation of life story."


"Oh, and she should be a hunter and know how to field dress a Moose."


"Where in the hell are we going to find someone like that?"


Bryan and I spent labor day in total inspiration mode. We hauled ourselves down to Glen Echo Park to check out their yearly mega art show. Putting us in this kind of environment on a regular basis is so important because it is easy to forget about what inspires. With non-stop election buzz and hurricanes bearing down on our country and our beloved little island (our prayers are with you my friends, hang in there and stay safe!) it is easy to lose the vision and cocoon. I know I seem totally obsessed with our bahamas dream, and maybe that is what is necessary to get to the next stage, but truthfully it takes a lot of fuel for this fire.

So it is good to take in some external stimulation and going to where creativity happens is key. There is something that hangs in the air in a place like this. Seeing work in process seems to create an electric current that surrounds you.

Bryan and I walked around taking in the sites but were in full fact finding mode. We even discovered a workshop being held in the bahamas (a few islands over from ours) which was a great reminder and encourager that our idea isn't totally nutty, and if you build it they will come.

Me, taken by Bryan.


Inspiring things...

tie dye good luck flag. I love this which again proves that I am a hippie at heart.

pots in process...


glass fusion...


one of the gallery spaces at Glen Echo... specifically the student gallery. Bryan and I looked at all the great work and then started analyzing the space. I got a weird look from a couple of people as I pulled out my camera and began to shoot the ceiling. Every little bit helps when you are designing space, and we are still in the throws of the design of the big building which holds the gallery space. Having tangible references like this is really helpful. I am sure the folk there wondered what was wrong with us as we kept looking up instead of at the work. The didn't know we were counting ceiling tiles!


Last weekend was all about friends, great food and inspiration that flows when creativity sparks creativity. Saturday Bryan roasted a chicken on our rotisserie while I made a salad for our new friend Angela who has been kind enough (and brave enough) to embark on a new project with me. We gathered for a brainstorming session after the food and after her gracious offer of giving me a private yoga session. Angela is a fabulous teacher and has a similar approach and spirit towards life. The evening was topped off with Bryan's lava cake and the impression that the meeting of the minds was a fruitful one. It is truly amazing to me what can happen in collaboration when all players are open to giving, learning, and willing to listen to their collective "gut". Good things to come from this. I will give more details and keep any interested reader posted once we get a little further into the project past the fragile state of conception.

Then sunday we were blessed with friends from Baltimore, Dan and Sue, and baby Rex. As you know this family doesn't entertain often, and when we do it is only the closest of friends or visiting family. The afternoon flew by in fun conversation spiced with Mojitos, a london broil topping a spinach gorganzola salad, and yes again...Bryan's lava cake. Daniel and his girlfriend Heather joined us too.

But we also did something a little different.

Five herb ice cream.

I know it sounds kinda like it has the potential for true ickyness, but I have to tell you this stuff is yummy. We (Bryan) bumped into the recipe years ago and we made it right then and never revisited it until now. With all my herbs at peak picking and the summer beginning to wane, it just made sense to give this another go. And it was fabulous. You use five herbs of your choice (and it can be anything) for the flavor.

This time we used Mint, Lavender, Basil, Rosemary, and Sage.


cooking the herbs into the custard before straining and putting into the icecream maker.

It is super easy to make and is a very refreshing and intriguing dessert. This little exercise launched me into another project...

The menu for Exnihilo.

Of course I think it is fitting that the first really confirmed "yes we must use this" recipe would be a dessert! Although I have been collecting bits and pieces here and there, this is the first one that landed in the big Exnihilo Proposal. ExPro is my giant scrivner document that acts as both a business plan and an ongoing repository for any ideas that are linked to the big dream. From food ideas to fundraising notions, to the hard core businessy type number stuff that one should have to make something this big fly. The Five Herb Ice Cream launched a whole new file... the Exnihilo Cook Book...Food for Inspiration ;-). I mentioned this to my husband as we were driving and he just laughed and then said...

"You don't stop", while lovingly shaking his head. Of course he was the one later that day(monday) to nearly force me to sign up for a glass fusion class because of the research value it would hold for...

you guessed it,


So we continually motivate and countermotivate one another ;-).

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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