Thursday, December 31, 2009

Rhetorical question: How cool is my wife?!?

Kim called me at about 1:45 this morning and said, "I just delivered a baby. I just ****ing delivered a baby. In a recliner."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Here the first buffalo nickel I've found with my detector! Dad found one first, then I found one about five minutes later.




Monday, December 28, 2009

 I walked into my living room a few days ago to find this. I thought it was pretty comical.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

ink trouble

I tried to run a few more of the garlic prints tonight, but discovered that 39% humidity presents a real challenge when using waterbased inks without anything to slow the drying time. The black ink I was using really was drying out faster than I could use it.

Normally it dries annoyingly fast. I often have to add a little water after each print, and it never lasts through two prints. Tonight, though, I really didn't have enough time to roll it out once. Pretty weird.

I think that if I had worked really quickly, I could have done it, but I think I'd be better off either getting some oil based black (slower drying) to finish out the prints, or buying a medium to add to the ink to slow drying.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Latest house drawing

This one is 8 x 10 inches, in black and white. It's the first b & w house drawing I've done.

I'm somewhat annoyed with my camera skills. The photos are dimmer than I had thought. I really just need to experiment with the settings, and stop being lazy and get out the clunky old tripod I have instead of holding the camera in my hands. I got a little bit of a headache trying to use photo editing software on these.
The customer picked up the drawing today and seemed very happy.

dream art


I had a vivid dream last night that I had painted a somewhat large, detailed painting of the central area of Fourth Street Live; the scene included desks and tables for the Waterfront Development Commission and a bunch of store display mannequins in coats.


That's not something I would normally choose to depict in real life, but in my dream it was a pretty impressive painting. I was getting a lot of praise for it and was considering producing and selling giclèe prints of it.


My alarm woke me from this dream, and I was disappointed to find that my accomplishment was imaginary.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

This morning at breakfast, while discussing putting out cookies for Santa:

Kim: "You know, some people put out carrot sticks for the reindeer."
J: "My Amelie [the girls' imaginary playmate in various capacities] leaves out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and also puts out twelve marshmallows for the reindeer."
E, sounding a little annoyed: "OK, now you're just making stuff up."

It doesn't look as good in writing. The delivery was great.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

finally done

I finally finished my second reduction cut linoleum block print, except for the actual printing process of the remaining 15 or so to which I still need to apply the black.
This is done with water based Speedball inks, three colors, on white paper. 6 x 9 inches.
I'm happy with the results.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

St. Nicholas Day

On the fifth, we all polished our shoes. Before bed, we sat them outside our front door.

Sometime during the night, somebody --St. Nick, presumably -- moved the shoes to the inside of the door and filled them with treats. I wonder why he moved them inside? Perhaps the thought crossed his mind that a raccoon or possum might just loooooooove a few chocolate oranges.

A few links

Well, I don't have a lot to say right now, so I'll do what people all over the Web do and just put up some links I like.

This first one is my favorite site for art. There are dozens of forums there for all sorts of art discussions; I think it's fantastic. It's a wonderful place to browse to look at both professional and amateur artwork and see it discussed by the artists themselves and other artists; I've found it very entertaining and very informative:

This metal detecting forum is my favorite. It was one of the first I found, and I immediately took a liking to it. Then the site was hacked and shut down. I thought it was gone for good, but then I found out that it was brought back up a few months after closure. It now has more traffic than ever, and there are lots of good discussions about metal detecting, equipment, research, fun finds, etc. One thing I really like about it is that it's not as visually irritating as some other sites. The profile pictures and graphics aren't as big and annoying. One other site I can name is a really good place for discussions and information, but aesthetically it's somewhere between The Redneck Comedy Tour and the singles ads in the back of an AARP magazine. I find The Friendly Metal Detecting Forum much easier on my eyes:

Here is a blog I put in the links on my sidebar here, but I like it so much that I must give it a mention in an actual post. Phil Plaitt, AKA The Bad Astronomer, focuses on astronomy (often with dazzling photos) but also delves into other science topics, skepticism, and the way science is discussed and presented in mainstream media and popular culture. He's also pretty funny.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Coin club newsletter

I got this in the mail yesterday; since I've been unable to attend a meeting for a few months, I opened it to see what I had missed. Some people who read this blog will find the first paragraph as peculiar as I did; the rest of you may not want to ask.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Dad and I went out detecting for a couple of hours on Saturday. We hunted the grassy slopes around a middle school that was built in the 1930s. I found a wheat cent from the 1950s and some odd little machine parts. Dad found a huge drill bit lying on the ground near the street, no doubt left over from roadwork. He also found about sixty cents.


I had a really good time, despite the lack of interesting finds, and I'm eager to get back out again.


Another Thanksgiving

Just as I am typing this I realize that I have no photos from Thanksgiving day at my parents' house. That's a shame, because it was a lovely afternoon with lots of loved ones.
This is a photo from my father-in-law's on Saturday, when we had Thanksgiving there. That gathering was a lot of fun, and very delicious; after the meal were some games of Uno and Clue Jr.


Erin's class studied bugs for the last few months, and they recently ended their studies by doing research projects. Each student could choose a topic, and Erin chose grasshoppers. We learned about them together, and then she had to prepare a tri-fold board for presentation.


She and I went on an expedition to E. P. Sawyer to catch a grasshopper for study. That seemed like a bit of a challenge for the middle of November, but since it was a sunny afternoon I thought we'd have some luck. After a bit of hunting we found a little one to examine and use for photos.


Kim and Erin worked hard together on preparing the board and setting out the important points of information. The grasshopper was set free where we found him. A few days later, we all attended the bug festival at school, where all the kids' projects were displayed.

Thanksgiving at Pewee Valley

Another late photo: The week before Thanksgiving we all had lunch with Jill and her class at school. It was lots of fun, and the food was great. 

Monday, November 30, 2009



Yesterday I made gingersnaps for the first time. They came out pretty well, although they could have used a little less ground cloves and a little more ginger and snap. In fact, the came out with very little snap; they were sort of cakey. The taste was good, though, and everyone in the family seemed to find them agreeable. Fortunately, they were very easy to make, so it will be fun to experiment with them to improve the recipe.


I made the cookies after I made some bread rolls with lots of help from the girls. Both daughters really like kneading and shaping bread dough. One of their favorite activities is to work on "twisty bread," which is Jill's name for bread dough that they can pull apart and twist and stretch into various misshapen rolls to be baked. We just use plenty of olive oil to keep hands from getting too messy. The results are always delicious.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Well, my "how Mark views the calendar year" post was such a hit, I've decided to share another view of the life of my mind.


I spend time thinking about my considerations in food as compared to other members of my family, particularly Kim. It occurred to me that I have two separate, and sometimes competing, categories of desirability when it comes to food- "delicious" and "interesting."  To me, something can be interesting-tasting, causing me to want more, even if there is something unpleasant about the taste. Texture plays a large role here, too, for food can have an interesting feel to it that competes with a dislikable flavor.


So I made a chart. Zone 1, of course, is the best, showing examples of food that I find both delicious and interesting. However, anything in zones 2 and 3 are still good. I will eat them and enjoy them.


You may note that there isn't much in zone 4. There aren't many things I won't eat. I couldn't think of anything to put in the far corner of zone 4 that anyone would actually consider food.


Note: I don't actually visualize any charts while I eat. I had to make this up out of whole cloth just for this blog.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cataloging coins


I stayed up a little too late last night trying to finish a numismatic job I undertook almost two years ago: cataloging the world coins that one of my uncles received from his uncle as a child. I've been working on it very inconsistently and could have finished it a long time ago if I hadn't let other projects take priority. The only think I have left to do is put a couple of nicer-looking coins in some protective holders, and I'll call it quits.


It's a really great assortment of coins if you're not interested in high-value stuff. Very few things are worth more than a dollar.  Most have a book-value (a notoriously unreliable estimate) of 25 cents or less. However, most of them are in great shape, and they're a fun sampling of nations in the early '50s.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


 I metal detected at a park during my lunch break today; found three quarters, three dimes, and a penny. It was a little cold.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Yesterday afternoon Jill put a little hair clip in my hair. "Oh," I said, "don't I look beautiful."


"No," Jill replied, "you're not beautiful, but you're cute."


New art supply store in Clifton

I just found out that there's a new store on Frankfort Avenue, though I haven't been there yet.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


 I raked the front yard, and got most of the leaves to the compost pile. Unfortunately for me, I had to leave one big pile in the middle of the yard for the girls to play in. They would have been very upset if I had carted it off, so it will remain for a few days.  The neighbor's tree still has some leaves, so I'd have to do a little more raking anyway.

Pile of leaves


Pile of Leaves


Garlic in two colors, so far

Here is one of the best of the prints I ran a few days ago. You can see the registration problem I was having, especially if you click on the image to enlarge it. The misalignment of lines in the garlic is pretty evident. I suppose that the third and final color, black, could either worsen the problem or sort of hide the error, so this one might still be OK.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Garlic print update

I started printing color #2 on the garlic last night. This was mostly a test; I used some "reject" prints first, and then used one or two that were close to being reject.


Results are mixed. The colors look great together, and I like the overall effect, but proper registration has been tough. This print has more tiny details and thin lines than had the giraffe print, and I didn't leave room for mistakes (with the giraffe, due to the nature of the shapes and how I carved them, very slight registration problems weren't as noticeable.) Being a millimeter off makes a big difference.


The hardest part, though, is the ink. The only thing I've ever used is Speedball water-soluble ink; it's the only thing I've seen at any local stores. However, every printmaker whose opinion I've heard has been sort of down on those inks. At the very least, I'd like to switch to oil based, because the drying time for water based ink is so short that it makes the work sort of frustrating. It's also supposed to transfer better, which I would appreciate.


I won't be doing another reduction-cut print for a while. If I can generate a little art supplies capital, I'll get some better ink and better paper, and then I'll do it again. For a while I'll just stick with single-color prints, though.


I don't want to sound too down on the garlic prints, though. It's tough work, but I'm optimistic about the results.


(photos to follow sometime soon)


Monday, November 09, 2009

Dirty Contact

Well, I'm tired of having that BBC page as the lead post on my blog, so I guess it's time to offer another glimpse into a dark corner of my brain.

Here's something I think about whenever there is lots of food sitting out for picnics, cookouts, holiday parties, etc. This means I'll be thinking about it a lot in November and December, since they are the months that are most packed full of this sort of thing out of the whole circular counter-clockwise running year.

Imagine a food storage container, virtually any kind that has a lid (as represented by figure A, depicting the container with the lid sitting next to it.) It could contain a casserole, or cookies, or corn pudding. You worked hard on the food, using your nice clean kitchen and nice clean cookware, and you washed your hands before handling it.

You put the food in it and close the lid. The food is now protected. Then you put it in your refrigerator, where the bottom of the container sits in whatever has spilled, dripped, or leaked onto the shelf since the last time you cleaned the refrigerator. Then you take it out again to bring to your Christmas party, or Holiday brunch, or whatever, and in the process you sit it on your kitchen counter, then on your dining room table. You carry it in your hands, then your three-year-old carries it for a few minutes, then you sit it on your car hood as you load stuff into the car. Then you sit it on your car seat or in your car trunk. Then you carry it into the party, where it sits on someone else's table, but before you sit it down their dog licks it a few times, then people bring more food and your container gets slid around and moved from place to place to make room.

Stuff gets spilled on the table: cookie crumbs, gravy, juice, pieces of ham, frosting (note the brown crud on the table in figure B.)

The outside of the container it now pretty much like your kitchen floor or your car hood.

This doesn't matter, though! Your food is still in the container. It is protected.

Then the container gets opened up. People eat out of it. It's just the way it works, everyone is okay with it, people reach in and pick up cookies, or use the spoon to scoop out the casserole, or whatever. That's person-to-person contact, with risks minimized by hand-washing perhaps, but everyone knows it's happening and you just deal with it.

But here is the thing that I always notice: People take the lids off the containers and put the lids, upside-down, underneath. The inside of the container lid is now flush against the bottom of your food container. The inside of the container lid is now the same as the upholstery of the trunk of your car.

So then the party wraps up, and everyone puts the lids back on their containers. The food is now stored with everything the bottom of your container has touched. (figure C.)

Why not just go around licking kitchen floors?

I know it's silly. I really don't care that much; I mean, I'd wrestle a chocolate chip cookie from a dog's mouth. I do, in fact, eat things that fall on the floor on a fairly regular basis, even though I know that the 5-second rule is a load of baloney. It's just something I think about, every time I see it occur.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

BBC News headline

The British are pretty funny. If someone at did this, they'd get fired.

A Penny for the Guy

Happy Guy Fawkes Day! Do they say that over there? Or do they just say "God save the Queen" and shoot of some roman candles?


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

I haven't been metal detecting in a long time

and I want to go soon.


House drawing

Here's my most recent drawing. It's 5 x 7 inches, and again drawn with my homemade black walnut ink.
I've also commenced cutting away more of my linoleum block so that I can print the second color of my reduction-cut garlic clove picture.  I'm finding it very difficult to figure out how much to cut away for the second color. It would be nerve-wracking, except that I can't really attach that adjective to such a slow process.
I also painted for a couple of hours last night! It's the first oil painting I've done in a really long time. I modified a painting that I thought I'd completed six years ago but was never happy enough with, and then worked a little on an unfinished but promising painting that I've had waiting in line since October 2007.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

pumpkin carving



We walked in the Halloween Parade in St. Matthews, in Kim's dad's neighborhood. The parade has been held annually for about fifty years, and consists mostly of kids. Then we trick-or-treated there and then again on my parents' street.
(We don't know the bumble bee dog or his owner, they were just passing as the photo was taken.)

School bus

This photo is from a few weeks ago. The assignment was for art class, in which they were studying folk art. The students were given a block of wood and told that they must make a toy from recycled, reused, or scrap materials--in the folk art/craft tradition.
This particular artist took the "recycle" part pretty literally, and focused mainly on stuff she could pull from our recycle bin. She decided to make a school bus, and created it all herself (there was minimal parental help, consisting mainly of helping her press down the Scotch Tape firmly.)
I'm so proud of her!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I give up. For now.

I spent most of the last 7 hours working on my Halloween costume until, at 11:30, I realized that I was crossing the line between fun and painful. It was going well, and I like what I've done, but I had to honestly assess how much more time I was going to need and what that time was going to cost me. I think, if I really hurried, I could finish it in two more hours. However, I really don't want to be up for two more hours, and it would cause me grief tomorrow.

Also, I think, if I hurry, I'll be less happy with the finished product. I might even be unhappy with it. It would really be rotten if I stayed up those extra hours and was unhappy with the result. This isn't a school project that's due tomorrow.

So now it's all in the garage again, and maybe I'll take it out and work on it well before next Halloween.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I've been working on getting my Web site past the amateur level. It still needs work, but it looks much better now than it did a couple of hours ago.

I am up much too late.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sylvia Street, Germantown

This is a small painting, only 8 x 13 inches, but it’s taken me a long time to get around to finishing it. I actually started it one year ago this month. I think it’s the best painting I’ve done in at least five years; if someone said it was the best I’ve done in a decade, I wouldn’t argue with them.
I actually posted a photo of this on here once before, but it wasn’t completed then.

New house drawing

This one is 5 x 7 inches.
Black walnut ink on paper. I'm very happy with how it came out.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I have oil, and good orchestra, and bad air.

I am officially changing my name to Houston,. Nevada. The apostrophe is my middle initial, short for ,texas. It is capitalized, though it's hard to tell. Also, my own mental parliament is about to vote on my official song.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

What I've been doing

1. Reading the Harry Potter books. I'm on number five.

2. Being sick. I think it's too mild to have been the flu, but it might have been a very mild flu. Probably a cold. I'm improved to the point now to just feeling run-down frequently thoughout the day, and coughing a lot (the coughing at night might be what makes me feel tired during the day.)

3. Halloween costume: Major progress has been made, but the chance of me having it completed by this Halloween is slight. Twelve to one.

4. Two house drawings. One completed, one being developed. The first came out very nicely. Photos to follow.

5. Photographing paintings. I'm trying to get paintings, new and old, photographed so that I can show them on the Web, such as on my Etsy site and on my art Web site. I'm not a sophisticated photographer and I don't have a good tripod, so it's been a challenge, but it's coming along.
Here are photos of the girls from school's Fall Festival last weekend.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Art Auction Items

My painting of the Peterson-Dumesnil House is now up on the LVAA Art Auction site:
It's on page nine. There's a lot of good stuff up for auction, and a lot of names I recognize. I'll be happy to see the works in person.


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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's been a house of illness here lately. The worst so far has been Erin, who has been running a mild fever (between 98.9 and 99.2) with ibuprofen in her system. 50% of her sentences today have been one of these four: "I'm so cold," "I'm bored," "My head hurts," and "I miss Mommy." Very pitiful, huh? But I've been lovin' on her and doing my best. We played about 20 games of hangman, which she loves, and watched a Strawberry Shortcake movie.

Jill kept us better entertained when she got home from school. At dinner she sang a wonderful made-up-on-the-fly song (she does this a lot) about how our bodies work work work to push the bad germs out and we have to eat healthy food so we have healthy arms and legs and heads and armpits. Her songs stretch out for lonnnnng minutes of interesting improvisation.

Erin misses Kim because Kim left last night at 9:00 to help one of her doula clients. It's now been more than 27 hours, and I just got another text message from Kim saying that her client is going in to a C-section. That's a very disappointing outcome for Kim and her client, but I'm sure that the outcome of the outcome (the baby) will be awesome. I am exremely proud of Kim; I know she makes a huge difference for the people she helps, and they are always profoundly grateful to have her there. When she gets home, she will be totally. worn. out.

Both last night and tonight I stayed up too late, working on prints. I ran six more of the first color last night, six tonight, for a total of 22. I will not run more because I'm really running low on white and I just plain tired of it. I want to move to the next stage. I just hope that I don't ruin any of them with the next colors. I've improved my inking ability, my registration technique, and my consistency all around, I think; therefore, I should at least be able to get as many of these as I did of the giraffe prints (of which I had 16 total).

Here's a photo from tonight.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Boo at the Zoo"

Here are pictures of our first, and last, trip to the Boo at the Zoo. The line atually started--I shit you not-- on Poplar Level Road in front of Kmart. Seriously. You start in line there, still in your car, and the line ended after you had parked, entered the Zoo, and made it to around the Islands exhibit. Around that point it finally sort of broke up into a general loosely defined stream of people.
Now, I'll grant that it might have been an unusually crowded night. And I'll grant that the attractions that were there, though feeble and frustrating under the circumstances, might have struck me as a set of somewhat tolerable family-friendly scenarios had we not been queued to hell and back. But we'll be doing something else next October.
There were a lot of really cute kids in really cute costumes.

Bowling at Doulapalooza

We went to Doulapalooza at Vernon Lanes on Saturday. The girls bowled for the first time, and both liked it. The younger sister did it a few times before succumbing to illness and crashing; the elder absolutely loved it, jumped up and down excitedly as she watched her ball slowly roll toward the pins, and generally got a kick out of the whole process. Even she, though, tired of it after about seven frames. Of the six players in our game, I was the only one left bowling by the middle of the seventh frame, so I ended up finishing for everyone.
I know it doesn't look like it in the photos, but those balls were actually rolling.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Last night during and after dinner, Jill was pretending she was Dora and that I was Swiper. That morphed into a pretend game within the pretend game a little later in the bath tub, when she put a wash cloth on her head. She pointed at me and said, "Let's pretend that I'm Mother Mary and you, Swiper, are Jesus."




I noticed a bright heavenly body between Venus and the sun as I drove to work. I wondered if it was Mercury, but I figured that it was much too bright. Then the thought struck me that it might be Saturn, and that I was perhaps looking between and past Venus and the sun and back out into the solar system.


I checked an online star chart, and it turns out I was right.  So if you are out just before sunrise sometime soon and look to the east, you'll see Venus shining very brightly; and just below that is another star, not quite as bright as Venus. That's Saturn. 


Mercury is currently situated very close to Saturn from out point of view, but I don't know if it can actually be seen right now. I've never seen it.



 The picture I posted here is of the preliminary sketch for my next house drawing. I am forwarding it to my customer for her approval before I start the actual drawing.

Monday, October 05, 2009

I stepped out the door this morning and figured out where the stars Castor and Pollux were, just to make sure I had accurately pegged Mars. As I looked, I saw a satellite, and then a moment later saw a shooting star. It's busy up there.


Thursday, October 01, 2009

New print in progress

This is how far I’ve gone on my newest linocut reduction print. I am starting to print a run of the first color, which is the toned-down yellow. I’ll print as many of these as I can stand, (or until my ink runs out, which will be really soon unless I scrape together enough money to get more yellow and white) and then move on to cutting more from the plate in preparation for the second of three colors, which will be a medium-value blue-gray.

The second image is the same thing in black, which I printed as a good proof to see how it looked. I like.

Dog Tax

I metal detected for a short while on my lunch break yesterday. Here’s my oldest identifiable and datable find yet. Not exactly a hoard of ancient Anglo-Saxon gold, but I like it.

Hike on Sunday, part 2

This photo is from the same hike as my previous post. We stopped at a bench to draw what we had seen, and later came back to that spot to eat some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Jill didn't have a book so I let her use my sketchbook.

Hike on Sunday

I took the girls for a little hike over at E. P. Sawyer. My suggestion sent them plunging into the undergrowth to explore. OK, that’s an exaggeration; they were exploring behind an evergreen, in a tunnel of bushes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More stars

This morning I saw a shooting star slice westward through Gemini's legs. Nice.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009


The stars were bright and beautiful when I went out at 5:30 this morning. On mornings when they are bright I search my memory for the names of stars and constellations. I was reasonably good at identifying them when I was in my late teens, but I've forgotten most of them now.


Orion is always immediately recognizable wherever it is in the sky, as are the Pleiades close by.  It's sort of odd that I have a harder time with the Big Dipper; that's because light pollution and trees are always worse in that direction.


Two bright stars really caught my attention this morning. One, as I looked at it, had a tellingly reddish tinge, and I wondered if it was a red giant. Usually I can see the red in Mars on nights that it's visible and identify it by its color and brightness. This time, though, I didn't recognize this particular "star" as Mars, but it was Mars anyway. This I found when I looked up a star chart on my computer afterward.


The other star was Sirius. I had wondered if it was; as the brightest star in the sky, it's very noticeable. At first I thought it might be Venus, but it wasn't bright enough for that and I didn't think it was in the right place. Then I thought perhaps it was Jupiter. Once again, the Internet cleared it up for me later on.


I'll be taking a star map with me next time.


Monday, September 28, 2009


I just returned from a lunchtime sketch excursion to E.P. Sawyer Park. This time I decided to try the black sumi ink that I don't use often.  It's a beautiful day out, windy and cool but with warm sunshine.


I used a whittle-down stem to draw with (I'd have used a brush, too, but I accidentally left them at home) on a small piece of paper.  It was looking pretty nice, I think, but I pushed it a little too far and it got sort of ugly.  It was a good experiment, though.


It's my plan to take some acrylics over during lunch break this week to do a little painting.


Pan's shadow

Here's a Web site that I find a little too engrossing. There are some amazing images here from the ongoing Cassini mission to Saturn. This photo is of the 17-mile-wide moon Pan casting its shadow across Saturn's rings during Saturn's recent equinox. ( )


Monday, September 21, 2009


I'm just putting things up from my backlog of garden photos. I think this is from [Mark checks the computer file data] July 31, 11:26 a.m.


I took this tonight. The asters and the butterfly bush, both the same shade of purple, really looked nice at dusk.