When doing the dishes becomes an archeological dig

I hate washing dishes. No really – HATE. Coded with a somewhat masculine quirk, my brain is not designed to compartmentalize anything other than Sex/Love. All else falls under the blanket of Life – no enviable Work/Play distinctions that bring comfort to so many when faced with life’s daily bargaining of attentions. All is the exaltation of existence, blemished only by the hell tedium of repetition – where sex, perhaps not so ironically, is the only action worth repeating.

Forced to resort to somewhat extreme – stepping away from our theme here – decidedly unsexy actions to cope with the practicalities of life, I find myself wondering if I can apply Blank Canvas thinking to this latest spread of dirty dishes…

A story opens, and I dive in hands first…

*********************

With a PhD in early 21st century residences, and more than a decade of field experience, our archeologist can’t believe she still gets stuck on dish duty. “Yah yah, women have come so far – bullshit,” she grumbles while brushing off the fine layer of sediment that covers the Northside counter of the perfectly preserved kitchen. Like much of ancient Rome and New York, this home has been buried under centuries of rebuilds and is nearly intact.

What she notices first is the organization of the artifacts: pots on the left, cutlery collected in a large Tupperware (perhaps left to soak), plates stacked by size. A theory springs to mind… Maybe the inhabitants tetrised (‘verbed’ in mid-2100s) the spread to make it less intimidating. There are no other dishes on the shelves, and notably, no dishwasher. “Maybe they hated doing the dishes as much as I do,” she wonders out loud in the still, linoleum floored cave. “Maybe they left them as long as they could – and then time ran out.”

But who lived here? She catalogues each plate, cup, pot, before taking scrapings of preserved food residue, then scrubs them clean for museum storage and possible future display. There are two distinct condiment patterns: some plates have sauce smeared all over, while others show evidence of little dried pools. The latter eater taking more than he/she needed, keeping tastes separate, and taking little dabs; the former mixing the flavourings with the food, or perhaps simply finishing with flourish.

There are more archeological clues. Some of the casserole dishes (and even Tupperware lids) show the same saucing patterns as the plates. Our archeologist considers this proof of her procrastination theory – that once the plates ran out, other surfaces were sacrificed. Most interesting are the dish gloves, the rubber made brittle by time, but still clearly the largest size available. A couple perhaps? A large woman and a smaller man (the dabs)? Two men?

Or a small woman and a Viking man (finishing with flourish), the gloves bought with the hope of compromise. The dabber would be the tetrisiser, but the gloves would better fit the man. Our archeologist steps back, arms dripping with suds. “And like so many compromises,” she muses, “the truth of any theory is proven only when time runs out.”

*********************

I step back, pink gloves dripping. What she can’t see – the archeological evidence long since re-sauced – are the interm loads my Viking washed while waiting for me to man up and take my turn at the sink. And so with one (albeit epic) load of dishes, my faith in an entire branch of science is shaken to the core.

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Fun at work with DIY Spanx-effect seismic waist shaper

After the surprising success of my fitted, fully darted, seismic pencil skirt, (engineered after the infamous burning of the ugly pants) my DIY ego has been leading me in strange and exciting directions. And after hearing that the client was thrilled with the S&M hood and handcuffs sketchbook cover/tote I designed, I can’t help but look at my own life with the same new freedom – as a series of creative problems to be solved. It’s an attitude I remember as being intrinsic to my nature, but one I thought I had to give up in order to ‘grow up’. Never! But I’m still trapped rolling paper on the 6th floor, while the offices of Blank Canvas Living, with their Antarctic restroom, are only 4 floors above me – may as well be the moon.

With a long, depressingly bleak workday ahead, I turn to the most primal of motivators, sex, to help me survive the 8 ½ hour abyss that lies ahead. But my Vargas pin-up sexy secretary style proves sorely lacking. No amount of tucking and sucking in front of the office bathroom mirror will fix my waistline’s lack of Vargas worthy shaping. The shirt puffs, and the skirt hangs as straight as a 1930s school marm’s who’s given up on men for good. Not to be defeated (and having no ready access to a Spanx body shaper) I look to the resources at hand: geophysical seismic paper plots (think earthquake movies), tape, and scissors.

 The first pattern fails miserably, and my DIY ego takes a major hit. But no matter, for my second attempt (checkmarked in illustration), I cut a new darting pattern and attach the sliced sections back together with clear packing tape. Note on darting: Straight vertical cuts for waist portion – size tightly to waist measurement. Triangle lower cuts create flare to give shape under skirt – size to desired hip flare. I laminate the ‘wrong’ side of the paper with more packing tape to give it substance and durability, but leave the seismic detailing bare, its printed squiggles conveniently matching my b/w outfit.

Back in the office bathroom, I tape the Spanx-effect waist shaper closed at the front, then spin it round so the seam is at the back. To make sure my knit skirt doesn’t slide around, I secure it with a few loops (like you’d use to stick a picture to a wall) of tape below the waistline – mission Vargasification accomplished. I experience an unexpected, but surprisingly delightful girdling effect. My posture instantly improves and my shape, if I do say so myself, would have made any pin up artist proud. I have to confess, I spend the rest of the day strutting around salaciously in my own private episode of Mad Men. But sadly, the office fellows seem more impressed with my use of their geophysical data than my seismically defined curves. Sigh… it’s a geophysicists’ world and I’m only working in it.

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How to choose the right header image for your blog

The visual ingredients for your blog’s best/perfect/ideal header image may be right in front of you, literally. Essentially, a great header should communicate your viewpoint and give atmosphere to your blog, while giving you the freedom to explore a wide variety of subjects and moods below the banner. A blog is an online reflection of its author, and there’s a good chance you’ve already created your perfect header on the ‘real-world’ side of the mirror. Where else in your life do you “explore a wide variety of subjects and moods”?

I looked up from my desk and saw my ideal header staring back at me. My wall at work is a collage of inspirational pictures/drawings/quotes, bits of my brain playfully arranged as an external representation of my creative process. After previous indulgences (involving a rather humiliating self-photoshoot in a Saturday morning park in front of curious children and their visibly concerned parents) it was a relief to find that most of the work had already been done.


This time it was my coworkers’ turn to be curious, and visibly concerned, when they found me perched precariously atop a stepladder shooting a composite collage to fit the proportions of my chosen blog theme template. After cropping, and some minor photoshopping, Blank Canvas living had its personalized header.


Note: Besides my office wall, my sketchbook sacrificed many of its pages for this project. Tragically, Aristotle’s creepy stone eyes prevented him from making the cut. Another missing player was the quote from a rescued Al-Qaeda prisoner: “When you know you’re going to die, it’s different from wondering whether or not you might die.” I can’t quite explain why, but I’ve always found this quote particularly inspirational.

Blank Canvas Thinkers: Architect Barry Berkus quote about the importance of sketching to the creative process

Barry Berkus, a world renowned architect based in Santa Barbara, has created a portfolio of inspirational structures that have evolved from exploratory sketching – the sensory rich dialogue between body, mind, and medium. Click Here to watch his excellent youtube series – How to think like an architect. From his innovative bubble diagrams to a brilliant plan for the rebuilding of New Orleans, this Blank Canvas thinker has the courage to practice what he preaches: Dream Big – Dare to Fail.

‘Artistic Bondage’ – DIY hood and handcuffs turn any sketchbook into a stylish mini-tote

Secret freedoms… deepest passions… strappy high heels… The wording of my first official Blank Canvas Living assignment comes loaded with clues to its criteria.

In order to integrate sketching into her hectic lifestyle, the client would need a way to carry a sketchbook discreetly, protect its pages, and be inspired to let go of her inhibitions and excuses every time she sits down to draw.

The nature of this project, with its almost total creative freedom, is intoxicating. My mind races with ideas. This is the same thrill I felt designing my seismic skirt after burning those horrible ugly pants up on the roof. I’ve craved this level of creative engagement for so long, and I need to prove with this assignment that I can be part of Blank Canvas Living as more than just a tourist.

One idea dominates all the others – a two part sadomasochistic hood and handcuffs protective tote. Is a bondage sex theme too much? Too extreme? I don’t know the client’s history, but those strappy high heeled shoes keep leading me straight back to BDSM. What better way to tempt the client into artistic expression than ‘artistic bondage’? I submit to the process, and get down to work…
Hood
1-Cut calf of sacrificial black leggings to length of sketchbook + 1” (depending on thickness of book)
2-Sew cut end closed to make a pouch

Handcuffs
1-Stretch 3/4” wide elastic around sketchbook to desired tension – cut two of these lengths and stitch ends together to form ‘cuffs’
2-Cut third length (the ‘chain’) with ¾” extra on both ends to fold around ‘cuff’ loops.
3-Sew ‘cuffs’ onto their ‘chain’

Slip the hood over the sketchbook, then slide on the cuffs, leaving enough slack in the ‘chain’ to create a handle. The handcuffs can be used alone (as shown), and will hold pens/pencils securely under the ‘chain’.

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Public Restroom Architecture – Antarctic inspired restroom design

antarctic public toilet architectural sketch 2“Let’s start your tour of Blank Canvas Living with one of our restrooms…”

I’m getting used to expecting the unexpected from my new friend, who met me at the door wearing a maxi shirtwaist dress of an almost clinical mint green. With her white braid wrapped loosely around her head, she could pass for a late 1800s factory worker, except for the flash of neon pink lipstick.

I push through the restroom’s double swing-hinge doors and nearly fall flat on my face! My foot stalls in mid-air over a deep glacier fissure full of strange looking machinery.

I hear her laughing behind me. “There’s a glass floor! It only ‘looks’ like you’re stepping onto – or I guess into – an Antarctic glacier. Our filtration fissure gets ’em every time.”

The trompe l’oeil effect is astonishing. Below the glass is a pitted porcelain replica of slowly melting glacier ice. Running down the middle is a molded crevasse containing a series of filters that appear to be treating the water flowing down from the equally astonishing glacial fountain/sink in the far corner of the mirror walled room. The reflections extend the space infinitely on either side, while the floor to ceiling windows behind the fountain look out over the river and into the lower cityscape beyond.

“You gave your bathroom a corner office?” I ask, once my footing is secure.

“Why slot ourselves into stables like livestock in a barn? We celebrate our humanity at Blank Canvas Living. Our clients love peeing in their own private Antarctic tents! And we’re on the edge of downtown so line of sight isn’t an issue.”

“Tents? Where are the toilets?”

She slides back a section of mirrored wall. Each stall is open glass on its longest side and hung with orange tenting to effect a cocoon-like privacy around the back. The toilet itself is bizarre, a smooth bowl mounted within a seemingly haphazard stack of red and yellow scientific equipment crates. Bizarre, but incredibly inviting, and quite practical – the paper having its own little crate off to one side.

“Is the rest of the office as crazy as this?” I ask, immediately regretting my choice of words.

“This is only the beginning, my dear.” She winks at me, then closes the mirror and begins demonstrating the temperature settings of the automatic faucet function of the fountain’s organically asymmetric fissure sinks. A voice over the PA interrupts the demo: “Would Doctor C please come to reception”.

“Looks like we’ll have to reschedule,” says my friend, evidently Doctor C. She reads my questioning expression. “Doctor of Philosophy,” she explains, prompting my next question.

“What exactly do you do here?”

“Do? To put it quite simply…we bring people into their stories. We create touchstone artifacts, practice Blank Canvas exercises in engagement, sense scrolling, and other techniques designed to loosen the brain associations that can trap us in our current cultural thought paradigms. People come to us when the conflict between what they’ve been taught they should do and how they were born coded to live becomes unmanageable. But the only way to know Blank Canvas Living beyond the abstraction of words is to start living it. Are you ready for your first assignment?”

I think back to last week’s personal waveform and the seismic skirt that started it all. “It all sounds cool, sure, maybe a teensy bit namby pamby, sorry. But it must be expensive to get involved in something like this.” The public toilet alone must have cost more than my annual salary rolling paper down on the 6th floor.

“Namby pamby my ass! Anyways, I don’t want you as a client… I want you as a counselor. Like I said, I’ve been keeping an eye out for someone like you. I have a client who wants to start keeping a sketchbook, but doesn’t think she can integrate it into her life, too busy… forgotten how to draw… yada yada, excuses galore. I want you to come up with a way to remind her that this is her secret freedom, a sensory path to her deepest passions. All you need to know is that she wears very strappy high heels, very strappy.” She cuts off any questions with a wave of her mint green cuff. “Now, let’s set up a time for you to come back…”

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(glacier pic source)

How to capture and define your system’s own unique waveform

Last week’s pantless adventure has had a curious effect. I’m seeing the world differently, and I love it! I feel my cognitive paradigm shifting; the world around me is suddenly bursting with possibilities. I recognize this freedom from childhood, but I am very much an adult, and by definition must commit to an internal framework or risk losing whatever I try to build – only by knowing the tides can one place one’s castle with confidence. Sigh…beaches, even metaphorical ones, seem a long way off on this icy January night.

A slip of moon shimmers above the frosted sidewalk. Standing at the bus stop, I rate my little path of footprints. I feel a bit ashamed, they’re duck toed and should be straighter. Ms J would be incensed! And according to an article I read who-knows-where, my steps are too far apart. I wonder if my stride is consistent? I know how to test it. I walk the same stretch while matching up the toes. Sure enough, it’s the same.

The cold air catches in my throat – a pattern is emerging in the frost. The sidewalk becomes an oscilloscope, and I can’t resist filling in the waveform. I don’t care if I look silly. This is fun! My duck toed shame disappears; I am alone with my own individual waveform. It is unique, personal – any judgment is gone. I’ve mapped a key feature of my body system, and seeing it exposed on the sidewalk gives me a private thrill. I don’t want to give up this new freedom of perception, of creation, but am I brave enough to take the next step? Can I really commit to Blank Canvas Living as my internal framework?

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