Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Promenade, The Boulevard

A while back dickiebo posted some pictures that were a visual play on the similarities between Sumner, New Zealand and his home of Mumbles, Wales. And then just a few days ago he posted some photos that were taken while he and B were walking along the Promenade in Mumbles.

One in particular caught my eye.

This is dickiebo's photo along the Promenade. After seeing dickiebo's, I went to nearby Gloucester, MA and took this photo to offer in return! This is The Boulevard. And if it seems a tad blurry, there's a reason. When I stood out there to take the photo, the temperature was about 25°F with winds gusting to 40mph! I had to lean against the railing to try to keep the camera steady.

Of course the tide being out on the east side of the Atlantic MUST mean that it was in on the west side....LOL

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

T Parties?

I guess it began with Tupperware. Then those home 'sales parties' expanded to include cutlery, candles, lingerie, toys, gifts and more. Well, now the 'more' has been taken to the extreme.

Taser Parties. Yes, really and truly.

This morning on "Today" the founder of Taser Parties was interviewed. Seems many such parties have been hosted in California. The founder was quite proud to provide a list of other states where parties are being hosted. On the list were Nevada, Colorado and Miami.

Idiot. Miami isn't a state. Say FLORIDA. I hate that.

But what I hate more are taser parties. And can buy them in cute colors. I'm sure the pink taser looks quite feminine. You can also buy accessories at the parties. They sell clip on soft carry 'holsters' that also have a pocket for an iPod. This is crazy.

I am shocked.

UPDATE: Mary sent me a link to this blog,
Check out her post on the same subject/show/interview

Monday, January 28, 2008

And On It Goes

Last week Amanda started having some tooth pain. Honestly, she hadn't seen a dentist since we moved here. A combination of lack of insurance, lack of funds, and high anxiety (really). Anyway, the discomfort was enough that she asked me to make an appointment for her. I told her it was a good thing, she would be glad to get back to just routine visits and her anxiety would pass as the routine became, well, routine. Her appointment was this afternoon.

But first...

Mom decided that she wasn't feeling well. She'd been complaining (they both complain of all their various aches to me, a convenient yet not overtly sympathetic ear) on and off for a couple days. She works herself up to near panic (and I wonder where Amanda learns it LOL). So today she called the doctor and got a morning appointment. She said she felt bad enough that she needed me to drive her. Ok. We went. They did a couple tests (of which she got the results later in the day - all negative). On the way home she wanted to stop and have lunch out. I refused. Seems if she felt bad enough that she needed to see the doctor on call, and needed me to drive her, that lunch out shouldn't be a consideration.

By the time Amanda's appointment got near, she too was in a panic state. She begged me to go in to the dentist's treatment room with her. Not a chance. I reassured her that all would be fine, she probably was suffering because of lack of routine cleanings. Blah, blah, blah. Off she went. An hour later out she came...with the dentist. Crap.

Seems she needs two wisdom teeth extracted. They are impacted. Thus the reason for the pain. Oral surgery will be scheduled soon. AND, tomorrow she's got another appointment for a routine cleaning, and next week it's two small cavities to fill.

Don't know what will be up with my mom and her ailment. I assume that will play out over the next few weeks as well.

I'm too tired for this.

Did I mention we had more snow on Sunday?

I'm beginning to feel like whining and I hate whining.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cellar Studio

I had not intended to post photos of each little oil painting. However, it has been requested by a couple of you. I probably should have a separate blog for this, or perhaps a 'gallery' web page, but, well, that would just mean more accounts and more work. I'm not up for that. So for now you'll have to put up with the stuff showing up here.

It is with some trepidation that I post the photos. The colors are never right and the details are somehow lost. I think the ones that will be posted in this entry have too much glare. The biggest problem is that I don't know exactly how they will appear other than they won't look like they do in person. That's discouraging.

That said....
"Annisquam Light"
"The Pewter Shop"
"Marsh House, Essex"

This afternoon I took a drive around and did some photo taking for painting ideas. Presently in the works at the Cellar Studio are two paintings depicting Motif #1, one of Good Harbor Beach, and one that will be called "On the Rocks".

Monday, January 21, 2008

Open House at C.B. Fisk

Thursday's GDTimes announced "The Secret World of Organ Making".
C.B.Fisk sent out this invitation. The Open House featuring the just completed organ, Opus 133, commissioned by the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe, NM, was from 2 - 6 p.m. on Saturday. I had toured the Fisk facility several years ago and had opportunity to see the company 'in action'. Saturday was the chance to actually see and hear a Fisk organ up close.

Now, please note that the above photograph is of the 'model' of the organ as it will appear installed at the church. Fisk has a very involved design procedure that customizes each organ for its location and use. Here are some photos of other models in the Fisk design offices.
Back to Opus 133. 133 is a three-manual, 29 voice, tracker pipe organ. It weighs 10 tons and has 2,065 pipes, stands 20 feet tall and is 18 feet wide. It has taken the 30 talented craftsmen of C.B. Fisk over 6 months and 15,000 hours in construction thus far. After the open house, Opus 133 will be dismantled and loaded on a moving van to make the trip to Santa Fe. Once there, a team of four will reassemble the organ in approximately three weeks. Then over a period of four months, the organ will be voiced under the direction of Fisk's tonal specialist.
The C.B. Fisk home is located in a 25,000 sq. ft. building in Gloucester, MA. At that facility all components are custom built for each organ, including all woodwork and custom alloyed metal pipe work. Since 1961, they have designed and built over 85 instruments that have enthralled audiences worldwide. In addition to the many organs installed in churches, schools, and universities in the US, in 2003 Fisk completed their largest organ for the 13th century Cathedral of Lausanne, in Switzerland. They have also built two organs that reside in Japan. One in Yokohama and another in Kobe.

To say that Saturday's open house was quite successful is a bit of an understatement. My Mom and I arrived on Kondelin Road to find a near traffic jam! Both sides of the road for over a quarter mile were lined with parked cars. The small Fisk parking lot was packed full. I drove to the end of the road and turned around, desperately watching for someone to be leaving. Just as I passed the drive to the Fisk lot, a car pulled out of a space. Yay! Convenient parking directly across the street! We stood in line for 20 minutes for the chance to cram in to the room where Opus 133 was erected. Once in the room we were treated to a short talk about the company and the organ. Then a brief concert followed. After that we grabbed some little edibles and a drink and wandered the workshops at our leisure. At one point, I overheard it mentioned that over 1500 people had attended. It was only 2:30 with three and a half hours left to go.

Check out the sidebar link to the outstanding C.B. Fisk website, meet the team and see many more of the wonderful organs that they have built.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Snowy Morning Blues

Thought since I traipsed through the wet and white for the pictures, I'd post a couple more.

Welcome to Rockport. Nugent Stretch on Tuesday, January 15th. Yes, I took this while driving. Sshhhh, don't tell.
Artsy snow.
And more.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Insurance Calls, Amazement, and the Four Letter Word

Monday morning did manage to come around. That meant having to get my Mom's health insurance and prescription drug coverage squared away.

I tried to relax over breakfast. Not rush and try not to get pre-irritated!

I got all the paperwork in order in front of me and placed the call to the prescription drug insurance company. After entering via keypad umpteen numbers, I got representative James. I told James what Medicare told me to. James said it can't happen that way. That there must be a termination letter from the 'old' company included with the new paperwork that Medicare needs. Seems Real Person at Medicare forgot to mention that. However, between James and his supervisor, temporary authorization was set up to use the new plan.

Then the dreaded call...

The next call was to THE COMPANY that refused to disenroll my Mom. This would be the same company that my Dad retired from after 29 years. In order to try to do anything you have to talk to the benefits center. After a bit of touch tone madness I got Real Person Number 10+.

Oh no, this isn't going to be simple and I'm NOT calling Medicare again! You, dear former company to which my Dad was so loyal, are going to fix your screw-up. RP10+ says that 'it' won't let her manually terminate the coverage. RP10+ suggests that she turn the matter over to her manager. Fine! You do that. Ahhhh, but it will mean waiting from 24 to 48 hours for a return call from that manager.

How likely will that be?

(Huge sigh) And time for the last phone call. This time to the new medical insurance company to request the auto-billing system with Medicare. Once again, the touch tone nightmare to get to a human. Fortunately it was a brief call. Seems that there is no problem other than the snail's pace of the Medicare program. It takes 30 - 45 days for them to actually enter the information.

Six hours later.............................

WOW, I'm totally amazed when the phone rings and my Mom says that the caller is asking for Mrs. ______'s daughter. It was RP10+ from THE COMPANY benefits center. She is calling to let us know that the paperwork has been done. The old coverage has been retroactively canceled and the termination letter is in the mail to my Mom!

All I can say is I'll believe it when that letter is in our hands!

Now you may wonder, well, what about that four letter word thing in the title to this post?


Yep, started Sunday night and kept up until early Monday afternoon.
You know I really wouldn't mind it if it could be 80°F while it did it. Oh, and no snowing on driveways or roads, either.

I used the snowblower once to get the first 4 inches. After that I shoveled two more times. Once so that I could get Amanda to work and finally to finish up after the last snowflakes had fallen. This morning it did look beautiful with all the trees dressed up in white. Even later today, when Amanda and I walked down to Loop Pond most everything was still white and lacy. So, while I do honestly hate the cold and work and expensive heating costs, the darn stuff is pretty to look at. The upside is that instead of getting the 11 to 14 inches that had originally been predicted, we only got about 8 inches.

So Here's Number Two ( and a Preview)

Here's a completed Number Two. "The Greenough Homestead" (photo is slightly crooked, painting isn't!)

Hmmm, not a great photo of this one, doesn't show the details or colors that are in the original. I'll have to redo for my records.

I'm off on errands in a short while and will be posting later about yesterday.
The insurance phone calls, amazement, and the four letter word.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Do the Mix-ups Ever End?

or...Government screws up once again...............

The Feds, the State, the insurance companies and Medicare, and the taxes.

I spent many hours last October and November sorting through all the health insurance options available for my Mom. Once I had made an analysis, I presented the top three plans for medical and for prescriptions that would best suit her needs. The first choice was a new Medicare Supplemental Insurance, the second a new prescription drug plan. Both are approved Medicare plans. As instructed, she enrolled in each plan, waited for approval (effective 1/1/08), and then canceled her previous plans. It's called disenrolling. She received her new insurance cards through the mail. So far so good, you'd think.

This weekend when she opened her mail, there was a letter from the new prescription plan. They'd canceled her. They said she had enrolled in two prescription plans and that Medicare would not allow it. I told her to call the insurance company, which she did. Then she yelled for me. She couldn't understand the man at the insurance company (he had an accent). The insurance man told her to contact Medicare. Mom decided that it was too complicated and she wanted me to call.


After playing touch tone phone menus with the government Medicare office, I eventually got to talk to a Real Person. Real Person was very patient and, most importantly, helpful. After a half hour and three supervisor consults, Real Person gave me the information we needed. Seems the old prescription insurance company re-enrolled my Mom rather than canceling (insert scream). So I was to call the new company and request a 'retiree something-or-other subsidy something-or-other' (it's all written down by my Mom's phone). Then I'm to call the new medical insurance company to authorize a Medicare something-or-other.

I called the prescription company and went through more touch tone stuff to get to a representative who requested that I call back in one hour as they were currently updating their server (loads of evil thoughts from me). That was at 5:45 p.m. At 6:45 p.m. I'd be leaving to pick up Amanda from work. I'd be home by 7:20 and the insurance company customer rep hours were until 8:00, I thought I'd have time to solve half the problem tonight.

Got home and immediately called. Went through the now familiar push button routine and got a rep. Told him what Medicare said was needed. No problem, he says. Thank goodness. He needs to connect me to someone else. Okie dokie. I get person number two. Number Two says, yes, I know exactly what you need, but I have to have an agent handle that, I'll connect you.

Guess what....

"Sorry, but due to technical difficulties we cannot process your call at this time. Please call back in an hour."

BUT THEY'LL BE CLOSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'll have to deal with it all again tomorrow.

AND to top it all off...
This past July, the state of Massachusetts decided to require that all residents have health insurance or face penalties on their state income tax. Although I do not agree with the system that has been instituted to provide such insurance, we have it. Now it's getting towards income tax time and the forms are beginning to arrive in the mail. Since the state is penalizing those without coverage, the state needs the means to check up on folks. This results in another entire page to fill out for taxes for each person!

Now really! Why couldn't they just require the insurance company name and address, and the member id number be listed on the form where the tax deduction is allowed for those insured? Do they desperately need everyone to fill out another whole page? (This means 4 pages for Amanda, five pages for me, three pages for my Mom - just for state. Then there's the fed. Good thing I like filling out forms. Yes, I do all our taxes.)

So much for the 'Reduction in Paperwork Act'.

The media has been making an enormous to-do over a heartfelt comment made by Hillary Clinton while she was campaigning in New Hampshire. The comment, loosely paraphrased, was that she had seen the US make so many advances and she would hate to see us go backwards.

Sorry, Hillary, it may be too late.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The 7 Random Thingy

Well, I'm a bit late with this but...The seven neighbors and friends...Betsy, Craig, Deb, Sue, Robbie, Kevin, and Tyler.

Seems there has been a meme goin' round. List seven things about yourself that people most likely aren't aware of (that's the gist, I think).

It took me some time to come up with seven things. Most of the things that I thought of nearly everyone familiar with me would already know. Like I'm a workaholic, like warm weather (make that hot and humid) and enjoy being, err, a bit not normal.

Here's what I finally came up with:
  1. I'm still friends with the first person I met, our first day of college nearly 35 years ago.
  2. I love the smell of tea. I drink iced tea but hot tea makes me ill.
  3. I like to visit places that are the outmost, highest, furthest...Mt. Washington, Provincetown, Key West, or even just a small point of land.
  4. I hate having to wear socks and shoes.
  5. I've never dyed my hair, although I did have it highlighted once.
  6. On my tenth birthday my cake said, "Happy Birthday Debbie and Paul (McCartney)".
  7. I'm a realist hiding behind optimism.
So there you have it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

An August Afternoon (aka Number One)

Well, here's Number One completed.
Just a little contest. Anyone know the location? (Hint - UK) And how about the surnames of the two figures depicted (one is difficult to see in the photo but is stooped over near the right edge of the stream)?

Number Two is about a third completed and is a 'House Portrait' of my former home in Lanesville. Keywork has slowed progress a bit. I'm also working on a reed organ for resale and completing a modification on some furniture for Amanda. Today I bought some supplies for the mini-art for local fairs.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

New Venture from the Past

I had been contemplating this venture for well over half a year. The idea first made itself known when the 'ingredients' showed up as part of my birthday list. It wasn't considered as a serious interest by those reading the list.

So, I made it appear at the top of my Christmas list. Amanda seized upon the 'ingredients' and now my new venture, stolen from the past, has begun.

The items that comprised my ingredient list were the beginnings of starting oil painting once again. For enjoyment and maybe for a bit a play money as well.

It's been over 15 years since I seriously worked at painting. In those days I worked in acrylics and in gouache. Previous to that, through high school and college, strictly oils. I've decided to work small. It's manageable with small living quarters! And painting small works makes them far more marketable (affordable). So right now I'm at the practice stage. Getting back in to the 'feel' of it. I plan on painting local scenes...Rockport up through Newburyport...and begin setting up at the local arts fairs. Another plan is to do commission work by doing small 'masterpieces' depicting the client's home.


So here's the beginnings. About half finished. Number One.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Football Americano

So I don't particularly care for football, never been to Italy, but I do like pizza once in a while.

And most of the time I enjoy John Grisham's books.

Therefore the latest 'Recent Reads' goes to John Grisham's "Playing for Pizza".
The book chronicles the demise of an American NFL quarterback and his subsequent last hope for success with the Parma Panthers. As in Parma, Italy. It's an easy read, not overly football technical (thankfully), and gives tons of tour guide to Italy and food, food, food!

Yes, the cover illustrated in my sidebar is the large print edition. I was something like number 98 on the waiting list to get the 'regular' print edition from the library. I happened to check the large print section while at the library on Sunday and found this edition. At least my mother can read the book now that I've finished it - she needs the large print.

note from deb: I have no idea why the graphic of the book cover stretched a bit and doesn't fit the sidebar neatly.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Rockport

The forecast called for 5 - 10 inches of snow. Starting Sunday late night and continuing in to the early afternoon hours of New Year's Eve day. It wouldn't be the first time that Rockport celebrated New Year's Eve with the cold, white stuff. I remember two years ago, upon returning to my truck to drive home just after midnight, finding large round 'eyes' drawn in the snow on the windshield. Cute. Wonder who did that?! I went to bed Sunday night anticipating lots of snow shoveling Monday. It had already started at 10 p.m. Our weathermen have been far less than accurate this year and I could envision the drifts that I would awaken to on Monday. Oh well, can't stop nature.

It was gray and dismal in my bedroom when I woke up. Oh dear, I wonder how much fell during the night. I looked out the window to well under zero inches of snow! It was raining lightly over the minimal flakes of the night before creating just a few spots of slush on our road. The lawn was still green! Yippeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!

Instead of shoveling, I spent the day taking down the Christmas decorations at my house, went to the bank and did a couple other errands. At 5 p.m. I dressed my warmest to head down to town to volunteer for "New Year's Rockport Eve". I was looking forward to hearing The Bullock Brothers perform again, and also Tamarac. Two of my favorites from New Year's past.

The Bullock Brothers performed two sets beginning at 6 p.m. and per their norm brought the near capacity house down. While there are usually about 10 performing at any given time, the 'Bullock entourage' is more than double that figure . This year four generations participated! Here's a synopsis of their page in the official performance booklet:
The Fabulous Bullock Brothers is a gospel group of brothers, fathers and sons led by the Rev. George Bullock. They formed in 1950 and continue a Gospel singing tradition passed on to them from their father, known as "Singing Walter", as he traveled the Revival Circle in their home state of North Carolina...Their harmonies and vocal styles preserve southern black church traditions...they received the "Living Legends Award" by the House of Blues.

Last night I bought two of their CDs. I'm listening to one of them now.

The second two set performer was Jeffry Steele, a classical guitarist playing a program of movie themes. He was a stark contrast to the energy of the Bullock Brothers. Although extremely proficient, his quiet, sit down style seemed a little dull for New Year's Eve. He played to a less than half full room. It was so quiet and quite by accident was timed with the free-for-all drum and kazoo parade winding it's way through town!

The final two sets for this venue (there were 15 performance 'halls' for the evening) was a folk duo called "Tamarac". They mix performing favorite folk songs and old R&R classics with a bit of stand-up comedy. Loads of fun and a great way to end the evening. That is unless you head for Dock Square to see 'the ball' drop..........

from the top of the Rockport Fire Department's ladder truck!

And now...
Some things even a change in year can't change...
Today's forecast was for rain along the coast (that's me). It did rain lightly around 1 p.m.. It's now almost 2 p.m. and it's snowing a blizzard.

Wishing all of you a spectacular 2008!