Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Getting back into painting

For some time now I have had an image stuck in my head from California. The hills of golden weeds blowing in the wind around the oak trees as a storm starts to blow in. All the weekend trips we took while living in California had planted something in there. I figured that for me to get the idea out of my head then I need to get it down onto a canvas similar to hearing a song gets it unstuck from my head. Unfortunately like a lot of other hobbies I do the first steps of buying the equipment but then stall out on the follow through. In this case a friend had given me their canvases for free that they had left over from an art class. (If I had realized the canvases were the cheap part and buying $50 worth of paint and other art supplies was what I had waiting for me then I would have given the canvases back to her.)
The thing that finally set in motion the actual painting was an art show at work. It was more of anyone that wanted to bring artwork to display. There is something about technical people and digital cameras, so I knew most people would display photos. This made me want to take an airbrushed painted I had done. I ended up winning 2nd place for this painting I had painted 14 years ago. That made me feel guilty since it was so old, so I had to stop procrastinating and just start painting.
The funny part is that, out of all the mediums that I have used (even paint) I had never used paint brushes before. So the free canvases I got just ended up looking like beginner (or kids) painting on the canvas. So I bought more from the store and realized I needed to sketch out the idea first. Even though is was so vivid in my head (such as watching the patterns in the grass as the wind blew them around.) translating that into motions for my hand needed some work. My second try was much better but I could tell like it looked like it was painted from memory. I needed to look up live models. So I searched the internet for pictures of oak trees and whatnot. My third try shows a lot of progression but it is still not the picture in my head so I am still not happy. However, I am enjoying the painting so if nothing else I consider it time well spent.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Pillow Fight

Pillow Fight
One of the benefits of facebook is finding out about weird celebrations from friends; such as pillow fight day. We couldn't resist going to this semi-flashmob. The deal was everyone was supposed to hide the pillows until 3:00. So we brought along some backpacks. Everyone with bulging backpacks and bags must have driven all the camera watching people crazy. Once we got to union square everyone had a pillow and a camera. There were news people kept trying to rally people up so they could do their sound bites but for the most part most people were pretty sedate waiting until 3. It started at the right time at 3'o clock with someone yellowing pillowfight and a huge cheer raising up. I was quite surprised that this big of an event (around 2000 people) could be pulled off without any real organizers. There was a central mass of people just hitting strangers with pillows. As people get tired they would step out to the edge and be replaced by other people. Circling the pillow fighting group were all the people with cameras. Even though they had said no feathers, there were feathers and dust everywhere. I had a pillow in one had and a camera in the other. It was crowded enough that you could only swing the pillow with your arm straight up, so there was no way to get enough leverage for anyone to get hurt. If there was enough space for some to get a good swing in and they were trying to be violent then they would get swarmed by the people around them swinging back until there wasn't enough space for leverage again. It was surprising how self-regulating it really was.
We had a blast. We spent the rest of the day in the city and even though we donated the pillows to an animal shelter when we were tired we still could recognize anyone that had been in the pillow fight since they still had a few feathers in their hair and clothes. I do have to admit that it was cathartic, even if it was total strangers I was hitting with a pillow.

Friday, April 02, 2010


There was a Haptics conference that I was interested in in Boston that also happened to be close to my birthday. I figured it would be a good idea to go since I would be getting my PhD in the area. The conference was great and I learned lots of information, took lots of pictures of all the posters and demos that were presented. It kind of ticks me off that I had to pay for everything though since I was used to my work covering conferences for me. L. was quick to remind me that she was required to log hours at confrences but never got paid for it. One of the funny things is that since the conference is about haptics (using touch to interact with computers) and L. had bought me a pair of shoes that were supposed to be like walking barefoot, I kept getting distracted by the extra sensations from my feet during the talks. That night they had the dinner at the Boston Science museum. It was odd eating dinner with a dinosuar on one side and a display explaining cancer on the other.
Since L. wanted to escape she came up on a train that night to spend the weekend too since we had not been anywhere for a while, and we had not done any sight seeing in Boston since we visited 14 years earlier. The confernece was actually in a suburb of Boston, and there was nothing to do in Waltham. Instead I showed L. around to all the demos such as the virtual surgeon and dentist trainer. They were real enough to give her the creeps and she didn't want to try them out for to long.
Our hotel room was right in the center of the old part of town so it was quite nice to just leave the car and walk everywhere. The first thing that we did was walk along the Farmers market and buy some strawberries. We then walked through Faneuil Hall markets and surprisingly found breakfast burritos. How could I turn that down? Since the last time we were in Boston we had been hurried along to see everything in one day we took our time and just walked the brick trail. We walked to the Old North Church re-igiting an old joke that every church we saw on the east coast is the "Old North Church" (The white new england style church is pretty generic.) But this time we had time to go inside. We also went inside Paul Revere's house. (I still have a hard time believing that there are still structures standing from the 1600's in America.
For our monthly picnic I had brought along the backpack for the trip and we had a picnic of clam chowder and fresh strawberries in Boston Common. Right across the street from Boston Common is the bar that the show that Cheers was based on. We walked through there and yes it felt like we were walking though an 15 year old show TV set. L. wanted to see the history museum so we drove out to see it but they were closed that day. We were right next door to the JFK library but decided we didn't want to go there so instead we just headed home.