Thursday, April 10, 2014

An Idiom and an Idiot April #atozchallenge

This may or may not qualify me as an idiot, and the idiom may or may not fit exactly, but I suffered from a misconception while I lived in Toronto some years back, and it was my husband who had to straighten me out.

One of the first times I commuted to downtown TO, I saw a sign on the side of the road that said "No Standing."  Around this sign, seated in the grass, were a number of what appeared to be homeless people.  I remember thinking that it was incredibly callous of the city to put up a sign to prevent homeless people from standing on the sidewalk.  I thought they were sitting on the grass around the sign in protest of some sort. 

I saw this sign quite frequently, and it was some months before my husband came downtown with me, and we passed the sign.  I mentioned to him how I had seen the homeless people sitting under the stupid no standing sign.  "Why would they make them sit down?" I asked.  "So what if they stand on the sidewalk?"

(I will mention at this point there was no such thing as a "No Standing" sign in Edmonton back then, and I don't think I've ever seen one to this day.)

Of course he had a good laugh at my expense, and told me that the sign meant no taxis, as in no taxi stand.  I Googled this just now to be sure, and more accurately it looks like it applies to any vehicle, not just taxis.  Basically it means no idling.

Why wouldn't they just say "No Stopping" or "No Parking" or "No Idling?"

We have plenty of those signs in Edmonchuk.

Monday, April 07, 2014

"Fundraiser" -- The New "F" Word April #atozchallenge

I must give credit to my mom for coining this title, as she and I have been hard at it soliciting donations for a silent auction event, and she mentioned that she tries not to use the "F" word right when she starts talking.

I had to laugh, because I totally agree.  I mean, don't we all hate to be asked for money?  Or worse yet, asking for it?

Competition is tough out there when you're looking for a hand-out -- or a hand up, and I have to say that people have been very polite in their refusals -- for the most part.

So a short post today, as I have to get back to the hunt.  I hope this fundraiser is a success, so we don't have to do another one in the fall!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Encaustic Wax is not Caustic...April #atozchallenge

I am fairly new to the arts -- I started painting about four years ago.  It was something I always wished I could do, and then one day I took a class and did it.

I fell in love with encaustic wax as a medium, and I am continually surprised at what you can do with it.

paint with it
draw with it
sculpt with it
collage with it
layer it
excise it
combine it with oil, ink, shellac, pigment, fabric, paper....

It is incredibly versatile.

Here are a few links to some of my favourite encaustic artists:

Robin Luciano Beaty

Alicia Tormey

Tony Scherman

And it is not caustic, as the name suggests.  The word "encaustic" means "to burn in" which applies to the process of using the wax.  Each layer of wax must be heated so that it will fuse to the layer below, and this can be done using a torch, but it can also be achieved with a heat gun or an iron.

I have a number of encaustic pieces on my Art page on this blog.  One of the best things about encaustic is that if you screw up, you can scrape it off and save the wax for something else!

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Who the Heck is Deepak Chopra? April #atozchallenge

So last night I fired off my post and crawled into bed, thinking about what I might write today for the letter "D." The name "Deepak Chopra" popped into my head, and I couldn't get rid of it.

I laid there thinking, "Who the heck is Deepak Chopra?  And why do I even know that name?"

Thankfully I forgot about him all day until just now as I started my post, and it popped up again.

Obviously I have seen this guy's name around somewhere, but I have absolutely no idea where.  Maybe at the bookstore?  In a commercial?  I'm perplexed.

I'm pretty tired today -- I went to three meetings and I still have a half hour of work this evening -- so I don't want to spend time researching who he is, other than a quick visit to his web page.  He's running an empire, by my first glance, and really, if I know his name without knowing anything about him, I guess he's doing some pretty great marketing.

Closed Captioning - It's What I Do April #atozchallenge

It's a unique job, and that's one of the things I like about it.

Most of you probably already know what closed captions are -- the black lines with white text that scroll up from the bottom of your TV.  Maybe you've only seen them at sports lounges or restaurants or other public places.  Maybe you have even been annoyed by them or laughed at some goofy caption that didn't seem to make any sense.

But if you have ever assumed these captions were done by voice activation or perhaps some other computerized means -- well, you are partially correct.

There is a person on the other end of those captions.  Someone who most likely used to be a court stenographer or court reporter.

It is a reasonably basic summary of how "the machine" works.  But how does this mumbo-jumbo get to the TV?

Well, it works with something called "realtime," which is the simultaneous translation of the captioner's notes to English through specialized software.  It works just like a French/English dictionary, but it's a shorthand to English dictionary that translates as I type (well, we call it writing, because it is not really typing).

Once the shorthand is translated, my captioning software sends the English via modem to the TV station's encoder, which sends it out to the TV. That is why live captions are often delayed...the captioner has to listen to the live broadcast, write the text, translate it (instantaneously for the most part), send it via modem to the station, which sends it out to TV land to a decoder in the television.

The parts that make this job really difficult, and on some days impossible, is, one, the speed, and, two, the names.  I just can't know every word that will ever come up, so I have to prep in advance.  You can get a lot from the station's website, and the longer you are captioning, the more of those strange words and unique names you can add to your dictionary, but there is always something new.  I can spell on the machine letter by letter, similar to typing, but of course that is very slow.  I only do that if I know it's not in my dictionary and I can't make the word come out using other word parts.  Oddly enough, the other day the name "Jehovah" came up on the news, and I could not get that word to translate properly.  Even though I know this word, I must not ever had occasion to write it on my machine, so I had to spell it letter by letter, or what is called finger spelling.  Now it is in my dictionary.

The other tricky part are those pesky homonyms, words that sound alike but are spelled differently.  I have different ways to write -- well, write and right and Wright.  Fish and Phish.  Discreet and discrete.  It gets so much harder when you factor in phrases and names like Duguid, which sounds like "do good."  There is a fraction of time to correct mistakes -- usually while it is on my screen and has not yet gone through the modem to the encoder.  Once it's gone, deletion may or may not work.  Sometimes the caption may backspace off the TV screen, but often it will only come off partially, or it may cause some scrambling of the following words. Needless to say, there are no swear words in my English dictionary.  That's not the kind of thing you want to translate by mistake.

I will note that the kind of captions that pop on the screen are added post-production.  Live captioning scrolls up from the bottom in usually two or three lines, or it can appear at the top of the screen, and this is usually for live newscasts and sports.  Sitcoms and TV commercials are usually captioned post-production.

Good captions come with focus, experience, and a lot of hard work.  Here is a link for more information, but I'm happy to answer questions if you have any :)

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Boredom, and its Lively Pursuit April #atozchallenge

It's Spring Break here in Edmonton, but it could pass for the middle of January out there.  Okay, so maybe it's not quite that cold, but it's not warm by any stretch.  I still heat up bean baggies in the microwave and take them to bed with me every night.  I still wear sweaters and warm slippers in the house.  And the kids are still inside most of the time, hounding me.

"Mom, I'm bored."

"Mom, what can I do?"

"Mom, can I play video games. There's no one to play with."

My response:  "It is not my job to entertain you 24 hours a day.  Go find something to do."

We're not a super active family; although, we do walk to school when the sidewalks aren't an icy hazard or covered in 3 inches of slushy muck.  And in the summer we go for bike rides and do outdoor things, but we are not high energy people always looking for excitement.  When we're not working, we chill, quite a lot.  Hence, my kids get bored.

I read somewhere that boredom is good for creativity, and I am a believer.  Given enough time with their boredom, my kids always come up with innovative ways to play, or draw, or craft.

When do I get to be bored?  I haven't been bored since February 2003, when my son was born.  And oh, how I miss it. 

Can you imagine having absolutely nothing to do?  I can barely remember that restless feeling.  And better yet, if boredom sparks creativity...what a win!  I can fill the well by doing nothing and having nothing to do.
It's not the same as being lazy.  When you're bored, you want to do something.

I need to be bored again.  Somehow.  If only for a day, or two.

That sounds like my idea of fun. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Art, Attitude, and Adjustments - April #atozchallenge

I complained today, again, to my husband.

"It's not that I'm not happy with you and the kids, or even our life," I said to him just before dinner, "it's just that I feel so dissatisfied.  I'm not doing what I want to do.  I want to write.  And I'm not."

We've had similar conversations over the last couple of months, ever since I took on a new volunteer role as president for a local arts council.

Part of me loves this new "job," but so far the time commitment has been tremendous.  I hope it will become more manageable as I learn the ropes -- and I think that maybe it just might be starting to get better already, but the problem is that  I had plans for this year.  The plan was to really -- and I mean really -- focus on writing.  I even toyed with the idea of going to university for a degree in creative writing.

Later this evening, I came across an old email I had printed off and tucked away from when I was teaching at court reporting school a few years back, and it was from a student to another instructor, who had passed it on to me.  To summarize, I happened to say something to this struggling student, some flash of insight I had in conversation with her, and it made her realize she needed an attitude adjustment (her words).  After this epiphany she had, she quickly reached her goal.

As I read this email from six years ago, it dawned on me that I needed an attitude adjustment myself.

Fact is, life throws curve balls, closes doors, open windows.  I've always said, When opportunity knocks, answer the door.  Opportunity knocked, and I opened the door.  I accepted the challenge, but I am a little bitter about it, because it's not the challenge I wanted.

There are many positives so far with this new position, and I am enjoying the work; it gets me out of my dungeon of a basement to meet new and interesting people, and I can see it might be something I'm good at (at least I hope I will be good at it).  Maybe I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.

There is a sticky note on my fridge.  It says:  "Work Hard. Don't Give Up. Be Prepared to Sacrifice."

I'm going to leave this bitterness under the welcome mat, because frankly, it's irritating.  I will just have to make time to write in the little spaces when I steal time for myself. Just keep swimming, as Dory said.

Hence this challenge...  It will keep me swimming, get me back in the habit of writing that I had so tenuously developed over the last year.

So, hey, I guess I will see you at the "Z" (or as we say up here in Canada, "Zed.)