corcoran and art: Chuck Close and Spencer Finch

(Spencer Finch art of Jet Stream, see below.)

We love the Corcoran. In DC we are really spoiled because most of the museums are free...so the ones where you have to pay get short shift. Since Brent works across the street from the Corcoran, we became members a few years ago. Then they sold our information to a credit card company, and I decided to cancel our membership.

But this is a story about the great show we saw there last week...well 2 shows really. The headline was a Chuck Close exhibit. I mentioned him a few weeks ago, because he is face-blind. What is interesting about him is that he ONLY paints faces. Isn't that crazy? Oh and he had a spinal aneurysm, and is in a wheelchair now. Read more about him here. His portraits are really life like and he uses all manner of mediums: oil, etchings, paper.
See a video of the show here:

Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration from Corcoran Gallery of Art on Vimeo.

The other show we saw was by Spencer Finch, "My Business with the Cloud." His artwork mixed science with art and was really lovely. For example, in one piece he painted with watercolors the forecast of the Jet Stream over North America. It is just so enticing to look at.

NOW: Spencer Finch at the Corcoran from Corcoran Gallery of Art on Vimeo.


women and retirement

Some of you guys know I work on retirement issues. Last week my boss sent around this SmartMoney article that I really want everyone to read. I think the article does a great job at outlining the differences in how men and women think regarding retirement issues generally, and saving/spending money specifically.

Here is the lead in to the article:

"After a long career managing large accounts for an insurance company, Lynn Brooks is hardly a financial novice. But when she sought help from a financial adviser at a brokerage after her husband died, they might as well have been speaking different languages. Brooks, who's now 60, knew she'd reached the age when her savings should be managed conservatively. Her adviser, however, had something more testosterone-fueled in mind, urging her to go for growth and buy riskier assets like small-cap stocks. And when she phoned him, she says, he was often in a hurry: "It was as if he was saying, 'Leave me alone. I'll take care of this.'" Brooks, who declines to name her adviser, says she eventually took her business elsewhere -- but only after her nest egg had shrunk 30 percent over the course of a decade before the crash.

This is how the battle of the sexes plays out in the complex world of retirement planning -- and all too often, women come out on the losing end. To a surprising degree, many women are unprepared for retirement: A recent survey by financial-services company MassMutual found that women's retirement accounts were, on average, just two-thirds the size of men's. The disparity is made worse by simple demographics: Because they live longer, women need more money than men for a comfortable retirement -- up to 40 percent more for health care expenses alone, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. And the gap isn't expected to close for decades. "Millions of women are going to lose their standard of living unless they take hold of the situation," says Cindy Hounsell, president of the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement.

But as women step up to do just that, many find that the financial-services industry is an obstacle, not an ally. Indeed, in a recent Boston Consulting Group survey of women investors, respondents said they routinely feel underserved by the financial-services industry, with more than 70 percent expressing dissatisfaction with the service they are getting. Among the complaints: disrespectful advisers, narrower investment choices based on the assumption that women can't handle risks and patronizing pitches like one from a bank's Web site that urged women to give their finances a "makeover." The disenchantment is especially acute among women who find themselves managing money on their own after their marriages end. Seven out of 10 widows and divorced women leave the advisers that their spouses used, according to a study by financial-services giant Allianz."


Is dissent allowed anymore?

I posted a comment to a friend’s Facebook post today. It was the political ad for one of the candidates in Alaska. I am interested to find out how people respond to the comment. The ad makes the point that this candidate is just trying to make sure Alaksans "Get their fair share" from Washington. When has Alaska ever not gotten their fair share, more than their fair share really? I posted a link to this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/19/business/19stimulus.html

Then I wondered if the person would just hide me. I hide people. I don’t want to de-friend them, because that would hurt their feelings, but I also don’t want to read what they have to say. I don’t want to thank Jesus for the popcorn at the movies. I don't want to read gay-bashing. So why I am I supposedly 'friends' with these people? I guess I am not. I am acquainted with them. Were I friends with them I would call them out about these things. I would tell them how I really felt.

But today it is much easier for us to just avoid conflict or even topics we are not interested in. I don’t have to read about places I don’t like or have interactions with people who don’t fit my democrat-leaning, literati-loving, coffee-snob self. I can just avoid these people. I can avoid trying to explain myself to these people. I can insulate myself.

What does this behavior do to people? Does it make it harder to deal with conflict when it comes along? Does it give us a eschewed view of the world? Does it end up making us worse citizens? If everyone can just hide other people when they don’t like what they say, where does that leave public discourse?


radio lab

We are in love with Radio Lab. It is a radio show out of New York and the shows...the shows...well, they are so engaging you just can't stop listening. Luckily you can download the shows from itunes now.

We listened to a few on the drive yesterday. One was about words. Did you know there are people who don't have language? They can't think. Without language apparently you can't think. I have a lot more to say about this, but you listen first and then we can all talk about it.

Really, it is difficult to even ponder. You really must listen to this podcast.

Once you are done with that one, head over to the story about the woman who saved a 70 year old lobster.


stephanie and don's wedding

the final wedding of the season: Stephanie and Don tied the knot. We had a wonderful time in a beautiful place. Click here to see pictures.


coolest picture...I have taken in awhile

Washington, DC in the morning.


the color of our cities

The Color of Our Cities

This guy's work keeps blowing my mind.

Eric Fischer said about his work: "I was astounded by Bill Rankin's map of Chicago's racial and ethnic divides and wanted to see what other cities looked like mapped the same way. To match his map, Red is White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, Orange is Hispanic, Gray is Other, and each dot is 25 people. Data from Census 2000."

Click the link above to see more pictures.

Washington, D.C.


montanans in dc

We had the party finally...the Montanans in DC party. We had a pretty good turn out this weekend. :)

Polaroids of the event here.


brent and proust

Book Review: How Proust Can Change Your Life
Review by Brent
Book by Alain de Button

Having never read a word written by Marcel Proust, it may have seemed a strange choice to read a book about his book(s). What's more, there seems to be a cottage industry in writing books with the name Proust in the title. There's Proust & the Squid; Proust was a Neuroscientist and probably others. (Plus Steve Carrell as a Proust scholar in the movie Little Miss Sunshine.)

But this book by Alain de Botton seems to have been first out of the gate, and it's not a "Proust And Something" book, it's just about Marcel and his novel. I bought it impulsively after reading the opening in the bookstore because I thought it was so well written. And I stick by that judgment even though the rest of the book slowed down for me. De Botton writes engagingly and humorously about Proust's life and also illustrates life lessons using characters from In Search of Lost Time. But, unsurprisingly, I feel that I would have gotten more out of the book if I'd read the source material. The chapters claim to tell you "How to Love Life Today" or "How to Take Your Time" or "How to be Happy in Love." De Botton takes each of these themes and shows us what Proust had to say about it in his novel and how he succeeded or failed at doing the same in real life. It would all be rather tedious in the hands of a boring author, but de Botton is fun to read and you feel a bit like your sitting in his kitchen having a nice book club with him, except you haven't read the book so you're faking it a bit and nodding politely.

The opening chapter, "How to Love Life Today," is wonderful. It tells the story of a French newspaper that asked a number of famous authors what they would do if a meteor were headed to Earth that would soon end us all. Proust's response is that such a thing would be wonderful because we all delay and put off life with the sense that we have all this time. If we knew our end was imminent wouldn't we rush off to do all those things we mean to but haven't gotten around to. Take that trip, kiss that girl, do that one thing you always wanted. This isn't a surprising response, and de Botton points out that Proust wasn't a particularly adventurous fellow and didn't much take his own advice. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't. Here's what de Button has to say about it:

Feeling suddenly attached to life when we realize the imminence of death suggests that it was perhaps not life itself which we had lost the taste for so long as there was no end in sight, but our quotidian version of it, that our dissatisfactions were more the result of a certain way of living than anything irrevocably morose about human experience. Having surrendered the customary belief in our own immortality, we would then be reminded of a host of untried possibilities lurking beneath the surface of an apparently undesirable, apparently eternal existence.

However, if due acknowledgment of our mortality encourages us to re-evaluate our priorities, we may ask what these priorities should be. We might only have been living half a life before we faced up to the implications of death, but what exactly does a whole life consist of? Simple recognition of our inevitable demise does not guarantee that we will latch on to any sensible answers when it comes to filling in what remains of the diary. Panicked by the ticking of the clock, we may resort to some spectacular follies.

Of course, de Button's book is an attempt to draw lessons from Proust to help us avoid those follies and it's worth the read.


love this video


dealing with all of my paper

One story Linda used to tell a story about Grammy throwing away all of her important papers when she was really little. Linda had a little office set up in the closet and Gram just cleaned house. I wonder how old Linda was when that happened?

I hoard papers. I like to tear out articles with information I want to keep. I like to be able to refer back to this information.

In the past few years I have really reduced how much of this I keep, but now I am getting rid of all of it!

Mark Frauenfelder, of Boingboing fame, posted here about getting a Fujitsu ScanSnap s1500 and how it revolutionized his life. It is a small scanner that folds up to take only a small place on your desk. He has scanned in all of his documents and uploaded them to Evernote, so they are backed up and easily accessible.

I am all in at this point. I am scanning and uploading and shredding.

The funny part is that I just ran across another woman reducing her papers. This little blog, smallnotebook.org, has a photo of the work the woman did. But she seemed to throw out a lot. She also talks about going paperless a few days later.

Anyway, we are getting going on downsizing. I am excited and motivated.


salt mine...and asthma?

You really must go take a look at these pictures. So haunting...and strange...the pictures are amazing...

From Wired:
It might be one of the most unconventional hospital wards on Earth, except that technically it’s not on Earth: It’s hundreds of meters below the surface.

For decades, the tunnels of the Solotvyno Salt Mine in Ukraine have hosted subterranean convalescents. Patients with various bronchial blockages, asthma and breathing problems are sent to the mines by the Solotvyno’s allergological hospital to suck up the curative air.

Kirill Kuletski’s photographs of these mines depict a cool underground outpost whose inhabitants appear to lie in eerie stasis. Patients are, in fact, undergoing speleotherapy: ambient exposure to the air of caves or mines, in this case air that’s permeated with salt.

Kuletski describes the atmosphere among patients as “calm and relaxed” despite the “appallingly unsafe conditions.”

“The presence of kids wearing safety helmets and cheap plastic sheets to protect them from dripping water from the ceiling makes being there even more surreal,” says Kuletski.

As reported by The Guardian in 2005, “Speleotherapy was discovered in Poland in the 1950s when it was noticed that salt miners rarely suffered from tuberculosis or respiratory diseases. It is a common treatment in Eastern and Central Europe, but almost unknown elsewhere.”

Doctors at the Solotvyno’s allergological hospital say airborne salts have the capacity to dissolve stubborn phlegm and kill off microorganisms known to cause infection, but experts in other regions of the world aren’t convinced of the benefits. Caroline Moye of Asthma UK told the Guardian, “There is very little evidence available to suggest it is an effective intervention treatment for people with asthma.”

Professor Kian Fan Chung, an asthma expert from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College in London has described the treatment as “fun,” attributing its positive results to the experiential rather than therapeutic aspects of the underground adventure.

The Ukrainian village Solotvyno lies close to the Romanian border. “Its within walking distance,” says Kuletski, “There are many Romanians employed by the clinic who cross through border control every day for work. Most of the staff speak three languages: Russian, Ukrainian and Romanian.”

About 300 meters below ground, Shaft No. 9 of the Solotyvno Salt Mine is the deepest in the world used for speleotherapy, and it transports over 5,000 patients each year. At any given time, 200 people will be recuperating in the saline grottoes, staying for afternoon or overnight sessions. Patients, a third of whom are children, usually return for 24 consecutive days.

The practical description of the mines, however, is at odds with Kuletski’s haunting “Speleotherapy” images. This does not appear to be a place of wellness, but rather a cavernous laboratory of some future dystopia, where sedated human guinea pigs await further experiments. Or a biological fallout shelter where survivors seek refuge from the toxic terra firma above."


google map envelope: free

How cute is this? You put in an address, then it pulls it up on Googlemaps. Then you click print, and you can turn it into an envelope! So fun.

Click here to try it out. http://www.mapenvelope.com/


so fun: soda pop video

This video is so much fun. And I can't wait to visit the Soda Pop Stop. Really watch this: inspiring and interesting.

It is located in LA! Laura? Marika? You guys should check it out!
Soda Pop Stop, Inc.
5702 York Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90042
United States

Is there anything you do that you get this excited about?


Oliver Sacks is faceblind...so is

Jane Goodall. Can you believe that? This interview is completely enthralling. And Chuck Close, who by the way only paints people's faces, is too. Listen to the interview!

From the New Yorker:

"This week in the magazine, Dr. Oliver Sacks explores prosopagnosia, or face blindness—a neurological condition that he himself has. Here Sacks talks with Blake Eskin about the comic and painful situations that arise when one is unable to recognize faces, how he compensates for face blindness, and what public awareness of the condition could do for those who suffer from it.

Oliver Sack's latest book, "The Mind's Eye," will be published this fall.

Listen to the mp3 on the player above, or right-click here to download.

Subscribe to The New Yorker Out Loud for a weekly conversation with contributors to The New Yorker. This and other podcasts are available through iTunes, or through our Feeds page.

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/2010/08/30/100830on_audio_sacks#ixzz0yzstxUMx"


What do you know about crumpets? Other than Little Miss Muffet sat on one? Well, in Seattle we saw how they are made! It is from a batter....That's right. Then they put it on a griddle. Check out the pictures above. Good times. They were so tasty.


trip to seattle

Just back from Seattle. Brent's mom and husband, John, met us there. Then Tanner and Walt came up for one day. We headed over to Pat and Tiffany's wedding outside of Seattle. Click here for pictures!


stuff: we are what we own

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things
By Randy O. Frost and Gail Stehele

Stuff is an easy to read explanation of the author’s research in to hoarding, why it happens, the psychology behind hoarding, and stories about their attempts to treat people with hoarding problems. Hoarding happens in many cultures and has various causes. "Objects in a hoard may appear to be without value to an observer, but someone with a hoarding problem would hardly describe them as worthless."

Reading this book is a little voyeuristic, just as watching the shows about hoarding is voyeuristic. You look on with disgust and piqued interest. What you are thinking the whole time is: could this ever happen to me? Would I know it? How can these people live this way? Why?

What can you tell about a person based on what they own? Do you own your stuff or does it own you? Throughout the YOMD – year of making do – we have been trying to keep from acquiring new stuff but it is hard. The book describes three themes among ownership, found through research by Lita Furby. The possessions: 1. allows the owner to accomplish something; 2. provides a sense of security; or 3. become part of an individual’s sense of self. My possessions largely fall into number one, but some are outliers. While reading the book I kept thinking about what I hoard. Books and purses. I love them both. Maybe shoes too. These are the things that are hardest for me to get rid of. I love them. I love what they represent: a place to store other belongings when I am not at home. While thinking about the book and setting some purses "free" I focused on one purse. It is blue, a good size, and I have used it a total of 4-5 times. I have had it 10 years. I originally bought it for my mom before she died. She never used it as far as I know. But every time I look at the purse, I remember her. I think about her, so for that reason, I keep it. There types of thought processes are explored over and over in the book.

What all hoarders have problems doing, however, is making decisions. They can’t decide what to do with stuff and often do nothing. I have considered the purse often and decided to keep it.

While reading the book I was reminded of that book I read a few years ago: Collections of Nothing, where the author/professor collected lots of nothing: cereal boxes, wrappers, etc. His stuff was all organized and catalogued though…well he said it was. I did not actually see any pictures. Stuff states that the "boundary between normal collecting and hoarding" is the distress the hoard causes. The Collections of Nothing author did admit that his collecting/hoarding had caused problems in his family and led to his divorce.
That said all of the hoarders profiled in Stuff live in huge messes. They have small “goat trails” in their homes to move around, stuff piled high around them. One woman did not even recognize photos of her home! So did the Collections of Nothing author really have his collections organized? Or was he a hoarder too?

One book that helped me get rid of a lot of baggage, both internal and external, was 100 Ways to Simplify Your Life. I try to remind myself that someone else could use the items I don’t need. Keeping the items is wasteful. And our apartment is small!

I would recommend Stuff. It was very interesting and brought up a lot of things I had not considered before.