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Necessary Planning May 19, 2014

Posted by Mitchell in Death & Taxes, Home.
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“No one here gets out alive.” So sayeth Mr. Jim Morrison and he would certainly know. It’s not often I’d agree much with anything in The New York Slimes but this is definitely worth a read: Lifting from Others the Burden of Your Own Death. Yes, if you haven’t already planned (and PAID!) for your funeral now is the time to start.

About three months ago I got a visit from a door-to-door funeral salesman. Well, he doesn’t call himself that but that was what he was doing: going through the neighborhood, ringing doorbells and asking if you’d thought about planning your funeral. Actually it had been something in the back of my mind for awhile*, so I had him come in and shoot me his pitch.

He is a rep from Palm Mortuary and he laid out some basic facts: Sooner or later IT is going to happen which WILL set certain things in motion, primarily that Somebody Else is going to have to tie up Your Loose Ends. Funeral costs can be VERY expensive, depending on what you want to do and they will only get considerably more expensive as time goes on. If you don’t have a plan in place then Somebody Else has to decide Everything very quickly. Also ALL funeral costs have to be paid UP FRONT. No, you don’t get to finance a funeral post-mortem. If you don’t have enough money in the bank to pay for everything then Somebody Else does. Speaking of which, if you dropped dead tomorrow would anybody know where all your financial assets are? Email and other online accounts? Passwords for all of these things? Sure ok your spouse, but what if you both got hit by a bus? Do you have a will? If not then everything becomes MUCH, MUCH more complicated. Even if it is just you and your spouse has a notion of what you want (assuming y’all have actually discussed it much) he or she will be burdened with making lots of decisions while also dealing with grief.

If you love your Loved Ones you will not put them through this. Another thing too – if you die outside of the country then again everything becomes more a great deal more complicated and of course expensive if nothing was worked out in advance. Palm Mortuary is one (if not THE) biggest funeral services in the country and have networks all over the world. For a very reasonable one time insurance fee they’ll arrange and pay for your body’s transportation. This is a no-brainer, look for something like this. Even inside your own country transportation cost can be considerable if you’re inconsiderate enough to die out of state.

So we had another meeting where Arrangements were finalized, monthly payments lined up and signatures made upon the Line Which is Dotted. This package also included a simple will done with a local attorney. Also included is a booklet where you lay out where all of your bank accounts, credit cards, etc. so that whoever is your Somebody Else who has to close out your books has a place to start. After this I spoke with the Parental Units and while they have wills made out they haven’t actually done any advanced funeral planning so I referred him to them. They met with the guy and now they’re squared away too. As I’m their Somebody Else this is a great relief to me.

As human beings we don’t get any say about how we come into this world, but we do have a responsibility to arrange how we bow out of it.

*A couple years ago the parents of a co-worker at the office were on a cruise and her father died in his sleep on the ship. She had to drop everything and fly to the U.K. to help her mother to do the necessary things to have him brought back. It was all very expensive and “a complete nightmare” as she said.

Friendly Sharks May 4, 2014

Posted by Mitchell in Home.
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This cracked me up.LOL Sharks

Oh, and May the Fourth Be With You.

A Family Heirloom April 22, 2014

Posted by Mitchell in Art, Crochet.
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As I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere my parents are downsizing and are starting to distribute some of their stuff to the kids. As I’m the only one living in the same city & state as they do naturally it’s mostly flowing my way. Here’s one such item. You’ll definitely want to clicken to embiggen this one.

Vikcers Beadspread

This is a queen size crochet bedspread made by my great-grandmother as my Mom and Dad’s wedding present. Let’s take a closer look at her handiwork.

Vikcers Beadspread Close Up
That’s an amazing level of detail in these sections.

Even closer:Vikcers Beadspread CU

I think this was made with #3 white cotton thread, maybe with a size 2 steel hook. I have no idea how long it took. I’m only just now starting to get into thread crochet so I have just a tiny glimpse of what it takes to make something like this. It’s both humbling and inspiring.

It doesn’t show in the pictures too much but there is some distinct yellowing present, particularly around the edges. Next weekend I’m going to hand wash it in my bathtub. Have any of y’all ever had any experience in washing something like this?

A Product Endorsement April 21, 2014

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Let’s have a bit of a break here from the artsy stuff for something even more completely different. If you haven’t checked it out already I highly recommend trying out Audible.com. I’ve been using the service for about a year and a half and I thoroughly enjoy it. Basically it’s a subscription service for $15 per month where you get a credit each month. You then use that credit to purchase an audible book. Easy peasy. You can also just buy audible books outright without the subscription service (I think), but then you’ll pay full price for it. The 15 bucks is usually a great deal less than the full boat so it’s a good deal to go with the subscription. Then you download the book to your computer, pocket computer what also has a phone, tablet, etc. Larger works are broken up into sections for easier downloads. I load them onto my phone and bluetooth it to my car’s stereo and listen to them when I’m driving around. It’s brilliant! This is such a better use of my time in the car over listening to “Sweet Home Alabama” for the 23 millionth time.

In my younger days I was mainly a consumer of the Sci-fi / Fantasy genre and not much else. These days…eh, not so much. The real world is actually a lot more interesting to me lately. I highly recommend all of these books whether audible or dead tree versions.

Biographies:

Steve Jobs – This was a fascinating one to listen to. I’ve never been a Apple guy so almost everything about Jobs & Apple in this VERY in-depth biography was new to me. He was an interesting fellow, and a complete asshole. A bit of a stem-winder at 25 hours, but well worth it.

A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert ‘Believe It or Not!’ Ripley – I absolutely loved this one. I was a big fan of the Believe It or Not show back in the 80’s with Jack Palance and still read the newspaper cartoon. Riplely had an amazing life and career that easily easily rivals the most “Believe It or Not” people he ever highlighted in his comic.

Non-fiction:

The Monster of Florence – This book details the very long and complicated story about a vicious serial killer and obviously innocent people who got caught in Italy’s corrupt and incompetent criminal “justice” system. Some of the people involved with this case were also involved in the Amanda Knox case. It’s an amazing book

I Want My MTV – The hisotry of how MTV was born, how it changed over the years and why it is what it is now. I was in high school in the 80’s so MTV was a VERY BIG DEAL. Alas, we frequently lived in areas that did. not. have. cable. As such, I was cut off from a big chunk of my generation’s zeitgeist. It seems a LOT of people did a LOT of cocaine in the 80’s.

The Gulag Archipelago Volume 1 – Solshenitsyn’s extremely detailed and grim account of life in the early Soviet Union. I’ll admit, this is a hard one to get through, both because of the material and the narrator’s voice. Orwell’s “1984” in real life.

The Great Courses Lecture Series:

How to Listen to and Understand Great Music – A simply amazing lecture series by Professor Greenberg that takes you through the history of western music. There are 48 lectures over 36 hours, so it’s a long one but worth every single second.

The History of Ancient Rome – Of all the ancient civilizations Rome is my favorite. Well, the pre-emperor republic Rome anyway.  I’m still working on this one but loving every minute of it. It’s directly related to the next title below.

Historical Fiction:

SPQR Series – There are 13 books so far in this series about the world’s first criminal detective set in ancient Rome. The link goes to the first one. I’m on book VI Nobody Loves a Centurion. These are just pure fun and rather punchy at around seven hours each. I picked up the ancient Rome lecture series because of these books to get some more of the back-story of events that pre-date the series start which right at the beginning of Caesar’s rise.

So, have you read any good books lately?

And Now Something Completely Different April 19, 2014

Posted by Mitchell in Art, Home.
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Butterflies are free! Particularly when somebody paints a butterfly for you and gives it to you for free. My sister made this for me for my birthday. . Yay! :-D

VaunsButterfly

Clicken to greatly embiggen.

This is airbrushed on illustration board. I’m off to get a frame for it now. She hasn’t even been airbrushing for a year yet. O_o

*Update with better photo of it framed. Looks great! Now I gotta find a place for it.

The Morel Challenge April 18, 2014

Posted by Mitchell in Art, Crochet.
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Ok, so the basic design of these things aren’t hard – kind of like a…uh…Christmas tree. Yeah, that’s it. A cone on a stick, easy peasy. So I whipped that up in no time. Morels top out at about seven inches and that’s how tall mine is. Shroots aren’t appropriate here so it’s heavy footing time. One problem I encountered with previous heavy foots is that the bottom of the forms invariably dome outward, making them not as stable as they could be. I figured out a solution, which I’ll share. These are done bottom to top so when starting out leave a long tail. Then about the midway point after you’ve put in your weighting material pull that tail tight and incorporate into the rest of the form by weaving in that end. This makes a nice, flat bottom that sits easily.

Footed, stuffed and closed, it’s now time to do the hard part: the soft, sponginess. At first I thought I would just meander all over the top, working back and forth a few rows. Yeah, that wasn’t going to work. I settled on using some crochet thread I had lying around, made a long tape a bit over a 1/4 inch wide of few rows of single crochet back and forth. I then sewed sections of these tapes in a meandering fashion. It worked out pretty good I think. Check it out (clicken to embiggen):

MyMorel

I think it compares pretty favorably to the first example picture in the post below. Here’s a closer look at the texture:

MyMorel2

It’s not quite done yet though. Next is to get out the airbrush and darken up those interior pockets and some light, warm yellows around the outside to make the folds really pop. I need some further instruction from Mr. King on this and he’s been a bit incommunicado lately. I hope everything’s ok.

Check back tomorrow, I have something really special!

A Shroom for a King April 16, 2014

Posted by Mitchell in Art, Crochet.
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Not quite two weeks ago in the comments a request / challenge was posted by blog-friend Lemur King:

I will pay good money if you can do a morel mushroom. My dad is an amateur myco-gastronomist.

Um, ok. Leaving aside what “good money” might be I needed to know what morel mushrooms actually look like.

Morelmorel1

He tasks me. He tasks me…

These are but two examples of several varieties. All are pointy-ish and spongy with different shades of yellow, peach & pale white on the outside and deeper variants of those colors on the inside.

I looked for morel mushroom patterns online of course, but the very few examples I saw were terrible. So I just started to make my own morel mushroom.

 

A Humongous Fungus Among Us April 14, 2014

Posted by Mitchell in Art, Crochet.
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Yes, it’s been a very long build-up to that headline, but it’s worth it I think.

 

The Shroom of Primes

The Shroom of Primes

This design actually has a concept behind it. Its structural elements are comprised of the first prime numbers: 1, 2, 3, 5, & 7. There is one central trunk, two branches, three caps each having three, five, and seven points to them. And of course, the three shroots. Yes, I recycled and reworked the previous Mitchshroom™ cap design for this one. I wanted to explore the versatility of the basic technique and it still has LOTS of potential.

Some notes about this one: I stuck with the same thicker wire gauge all throughout and that made things a lot simpler. Currently structured it’s right at two feet tall. For the filler I’ve used both poly-fill and cotton balls in the past. I don’t like poly-fill as it’s hell to try to stuff it in the smaller tubes, but I used it in this one. Next time around I’m going back to cotton, but I need to find something better than the balls. The top seven pointed cap got a bit too big and isn’t as stable as I’d like it to be.

This is a fantastic build but even as I finished it I realized that I reached the end of this particular material / structure paradigm….and came up with new one. This new system will make for faster, more expressive, and far more stabler builds. Also, the previous versions required that actually work around the wire structure – that’s REALLY annoying, particularly when the top is at eye-pokey level.

Folks, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Oh, and also you’ll see the albinos in glorious color soon too I hope. Next Thursday is the start of a five day weekend for me (woot!), time to bust out the airbrushes and procion dyes.

I also need to start working on new cap designs, I can’t always dip into this well.

Hmmmmm...

Hmmmmm…

A Tripodal Fungus Among Us April 11, 2014

Posted by Mitchell in Art, Crochet.
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Ok, time to strike out on my own into new territory. There are lots of ideas tumbling around in my noggin and it’s time to shake a few loose. Also, it’s time to stop heavy footing around.

BEHOLD!

The Mitchshroom Mark I

The Mitchshroom Mark I

My first original design and it’s a beauty! There’s no weight in the bottom, the roots or legs (Shroots! I just made that up!) give this form fantastic stability on flat surfaces as well as the ability to cling to other structures. The shroots are made with the thinner gauge wire and it switches to the heavier stuff in the bulb section for the rest of it. That was a tricky bit of business to get that to work though. Let’s take a closer look at that cap.

ShroomCap

I’m really proud of this design. I only had a vague notion of what I wanted when I started out: something kinda droopy like the mycena, but not that droopy and more interesting than just a simple dome. I played around a bit with a pentagram without much luck until I added a variant of an increase / decrease technique I was using on a small throw and came up with this. Cool beans. Oh yes, I’ll be using this design again. I immediately started on the next one.

Time to take it to the next level.

An Albino Fungus Among Us April 10, 2014

Posted by Mitchell in Art, Crochet.
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Yes…I’m still on this mushroom jag. One of the patterns I hadn’t done yet was this toadstool, and it’s easily one of the coolest of the designs I’d bought. But I wanted to make it bigger so I went up a couple hook sizes and made it taller with the wire. And I switched yarns.

Previous shroom for scale.

Previous shroom for scale.

It’s considerably beefier than the mycena but not as tall though. That cap is two layers thick and  WAAAAYYYY  heavier than the other one. I also tried something different with the wire, threading it into the form after I’d made it (before the cap though). It…didn’t work quite as well as I’d hoped. As a result it’s not as stable as it could be. Which brings us to the next point: why white?

I switched to plain white cotton for experimentation purposes. It’s inexpensive, easy to buy in large quantities and I don’t have to get hung up on colors. This all about form. Plus, I can always add color later. :-)

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