jim_p: (octavian)
2015-03-27 11:02 pm

Out of a job, at a crossroads

So my day job let me go today. Actually, they let just about everyone go. Their funding fell through and they were out of runway, so they let go of all but a skeleton crew whose job it is to bundle the technology for sale.

So now I'm at a crossroads: do I look for another day job, or do I double down on the framing business? Right now the frame shop is not-quite breaking even; in good months it makes a little money, in bad months it costs me money. That's why I *had* a day job in the first place.

At the same time, not having a day job will free me up to devote 100% of my energies to the business… if I can figure out how to do a few things better, we might just have a chance. I'd really rather make the frame shop successful than go back to work.

On the gripping hand, my day job let me go VERY suddenly and with no severance. Just a final paycheck, and another one for accrued vacation time. I don't have much to fall back on while I head down my own runway in my own business…

So I'm keeping my feelers out there for employment. My background is in Unix and Linux internals, though quite frankly I'm sufficiently long in the tooth and out of the loop that I'm not sure that represents my core competency anymore. These days the best things I bring to the table are years of industry experience and a bit of business sense from running my own shop (not to mention some late-blooming people skills). I might be interested in a more managerial position if anyone would be willing to take a flyer on me…

If anyone knows of anything, let me know.

In the meantime if you'd been thinking of getting something framed now would, uh, be a REALLY good time to do so!
2015-03-12 01:50 pm

being bullied… again

I had a dream last night that I was being bullied. I was in a place that had elements of both a workplace and a public school… we were seated at office desks getting various work-type things done, but I remember having to catch a yellow school bus home at a particular time.

One coworker asked me to take a look at something, and while I was engrossed in code he dripped honey on top of my head. Another time someone showed me a tray of devices, and as I was pointing out what each one would need in order to be deliverable her friend was writing rude things on my pant leg in magic marker.

Those are the only incidents I can remember clearly, but there were a number of others. The overall feeling was one of helplessness; there was nothing I could do to stop it, nobody seemed to care that I was being humiliated, and I had no escape (just like in middle school, I "had" to stay with these clowns until the dismissal bell rang).

In pretty much all cases there was some vulnerability that they were taking advantage of (e.g. inattention) and retribution was impossible. I tried to "toink" one guy's ears, but try as I might I just couldn't connect. They could hurt me, but I was powerless to do anything to them

This just goes to show how deeply this stuff goes in. I'm 50-mumble years old and it's *still* coloring my outlook to this day. Sometimes when I bring this up, my peers (typically the ones who were doing some form of bullying themselves) tell me to "get over it".

Fuck you. The next person who tells me to just "get over it" is getting the mother of all wedgies. And in real life, I can deliver.
2014-03-03 06:15 pm

Thoughts on my time at MIT

Or, why I *still* HTFP.

I graduated from MIT 30 years ago. Naturally, I'm getting all kinds of cards and letters inviting me to come back for the reunion and give generously to the Institute.

My time at MIT was bittersweet, with the emphasis on the bitter. I haven't really been back much, either in body or in spirit. I never felt a part of the place when I was there, and I don't really feel much a part of it now. My wife, who flunked out of Wellesley feels more attachment to her alma mater than I do to mine. I never got a Brass Rat. Gold had hit an all-time high in 1984, and the Rat is ugly enough as it is; it's doubleplus ugly in base metal. I've never felt a need to go back and get one.

There were two major things while I was there that really soured my experience. The first was social isolation. I was a weird kid. Really weird. Now that I look back on it, I realize I was really REALLY weird. Having Aspergers was bad enough... there's a lot of that at MIT. For me, compounding that was a seriously warped sense of how people get along and interact with each other. Bullying left me scarred and paranoid; who knows when my new "friend" will turn on me and stab me in the back? Growing up deeply steeped in "guess culture" had me searching out hidden agendas where there were none. I felt I couldn't trust anyone to be straight with me, and I in turn wasn't straight with others. Having parents who prided themselves in how they held themselves apart from "mainstream pop culture" left me with very little in common with the rest of the world (I believe their social sensibilities were trapped in amber back around 1949...).

When I was accepted to MIT, I thought I'd come "home". I thought the place would be filled with weird, folks, nerdy folks, dorky folks, folks Just Like Me. I was disappointed to find that, relative to me, MIT folks were positively *mainstream*, and somewhat hostile to "nerds". THAT is how off-the-charts Weird I was, and how badly I was mismatched to the folks around me.

So there was social alienation... and then there was institutional alienation. It is said that getting an education at MIT is like trying to take a drink from a firehose. This is held out as a Good Thing: there is so much learning available in such volume and speed that it's impossible to take it all in.

Recently I came to another realization. A "firehose" takes on another name when it's trained on people. It's called a "water cannon" and its purpose is to repel undesirables. To rid an area of unwanted trespassers. To send the clear message to Stay Away.

I was typical at MIT in one way: I had developed no study habits in public school because it all came so easily to me. I could get Bs in my sleep and As with a little effort. I struggled mightily with my classes. Since I had grown up believing that my worth as a human being was directly tied to my grades and success in class, I felt like my whole sense of self-worth was shot out from under me. I didn't seek help for two reasons: first, I felt like I was such a pathetic unworthy putz that I wasn't even worthy to darken the doors of the professors or TAs. Second, and I didn't figure this out until much later, in many cases I was SO confused I didn't even know which QUESTIONS to ask, never mind anything else. (I had the same feelings when I worked for a well-known edge networking company that's heavy with MIT folks...)

I remember at one of the gatherings during freshmen orientation, one of the speakers said "Look to your left, look to your right. One of you won't graduate".

The takeaway that I got from all this was "You're not wanted here". The firehose was bowling me over. I felt like the Institute was TRYING to weed out the weak ones so as to make room for the "deserving". Which, of course, made me borderline-undeserving. I never sought out "interesting" research or project opportunities; I figured the researcher in charge would check out my grades and then go "Why should I bother with the likes of YOU?" I was KEENLY aware of anything that reinforced this attitude. I was talking to a friend about maybe taking a "fun" astronomy class. He said "Yeah, if you've gotten all As and Bs so far I'm sure your advisor would sign off on that". Having just gotten a "D" in 6.002, I instead crawled back under my rock.

I felt that I in my misery was invisible to the Institute. There was plenty enough grumbling in "The Tech" (the student newspaper at the time) but "Tech Talk", the Institute paper, was all happy news all the time. This researcher got a fellowship. That professor got a Nobel. Look how wonderful we are to the community. Nary a peep about those who might be struggling.

The ultimate insult? No handshake at graduation. Here it was, after struggling mightily against my inner demons and the Institute's indifference, I manage to graduate by the skin of my teeth. Still, GPA doesn't matter when claiming one's diploma. I could walk that stage as proudly as any of my classmates. In our graduation instructions we were specifically instructed NOT to try and shake the President's hand. I suppose this may have been some time-and-motion expert's way of making sure things moved along, but now that I look back on it it may a well have been a slap in the face. "Here, here's your lousy piece of paper, now don't let the door hit your ass on the way out". The ONE time that the Institute could have put a human touch to their otherwise indifferent attitude, and they blew it.

My wife went on to get a bachelor's degree from Clark and a master's from Lesley. Both times she got a handshake. I saw video of a recent MIT commencement. Looks like they're getting handshakes now, too.

Where's my handshake? Do I get one merely for the fact that I've survived the place, or do I have to "buy" one through a "generous donation"?

They never cared about me then. Why should I care about them now?
2014-01-22 09:17 pm

My (Abbreviated) Arisia

Arisia, such as it was, was rather a blur for me this year. I was only there for the day on Saturday, and even then only because I was on two program items: the "Picture Framer's Docent Tour Of The Art Show" and another talk on picture framing for artists in the afternoon.

It actually started the day before. I was at work on Friday when I get a panic call from the art show director: apparently three of Lubov's frames had broken in shipping and could I fix them? We helped them out of a jam last year when the glass broke in one of Roger Dean's frames, so they figured they'd try us again.

Their layman descriptions of the damage were of limited usefulness, so I asked them to email me pictures. Once I got the pictures I knew what I was up against -- several of the miters had broken apart.

Saturday morning at the butt-crack of dawn I go to the shop, pack up some tools and supplies along with the framing examples for my afternoon talk and take the first train into town. The art show wasn't even open when I got there, but one of the staffers knew what I was there for and let me in. Then it was a bit of "hurry-up-and-wait" while they tried to track down Lubov to show me the patients. This gave me a chance to wander through the art show and make mental notes for my docent tour.

Eventually Lubov's assistant shows up, fetches the broken frame bits, and I set up on a couple of tables. Long story short, I was able to re-join the frames and reinforce the corners. Not my best work and certainly not of the quality I'd let out of my shop, but I told them that it was field surgery and it would last through the weekend at least. They were positively thrilled and hailed me as a "miracle worker". Well, if they're happy then I'm happy :)

Then came my docent tour. It was a nice little crowd, about a half-dozen people more or less. One of them was an artist with a lot of questions. There were some nice examples of creative framing, a few things that I would have done differently, and one or two creative things that made me want to run right back to the shop to play with possibilities :) In a couple of cases artists framed nearly identical items with different frames so I could point out the difference that frame choice can make.

There was one "uh-oh" moment when I pointed out that the frames chosen for a particular trio of items would not have been my first choice. The artist-with-questions piped up "Actually, this is my panel" Open mouth, insert foot? Not really this time; turns out *she* was not entirely happy with those frames either.

I got to point out my work in the show as well; two of the artists had had giclee prints done at my shop.

Tour over, I wandered around for a while -- dealers room, con suite, hotel lobby, trying to run into as many friends as I could for at least a drive-by hello or hug. I don't get out to very many parties or such these days, so I wanted to connect with as many folks as I could.

Then it was time for my talk. Although it was primarily geared for artists, I made sure there was enough material for non-artists so as to make it worthwhile for everybody. I really was kind of winging it; I had a list of suggested topics on my iPad, and I'd made up some examples the night before. The first thing I showed was the same print framed different ways: first just the print alone in a clear bag, then the print in a same-sized frame with no mat, then the print with a white mat in an economy standard-sized frame, then finally a full custom frame with double mat and well-chosen moulding. Seeing these all next to each other really shows off how different the same piece of art looks when framed. I then talked about mounting and hinging techniques, showing both positive and negative examples ("Repeat after me: MASKING TAPE IS EVIL!"). Finally I gave some tips for the artists on how to keep framers happy (Don't paint right to the edge of the paper, leave a border around your image, and for the love of all that is holy FIX YOUR PASTELS!)

All this was interspersed with various war stories about particularly memorable jobs in the shop.

The talk was very well-received; one guy came up to me afterwards and said he learned more from my talk than any other panel he'd been to.

After that it was more hanging out until it was time to take the train back home. It would have been nice to have stayed for parties and the like, but my cellphone was dead and I needed to get back in case something needed my attention at the shop.

I notice that the four-day format gives the con a different vibe and made me sad that I was only there for Saturday. Most cons the bulk of the "good stuff" happens on Saturday. Having a second "full day" of good stuff is a real treat. Wish I could have taken advantage of it.

I'm hoping that by next year we'll have the shop-staffing and cat-sitting situation sorted out enough so that we *can* go for the whole con.
2013-10-15 06:00 pm

Open Studios this weekend!

Join us this weekend for Natick Artists Open Studios! Saturday, October 19 and Sunday, October 20 from noon to 5PM!

My business, Baldwin Hill Art & Framing, is proud to participate in this annual event. Once again our featured artist is Tamu, who will be showing works in a variety of media (she once had a solo show, and I overheard someone at the reception asking "Are all the artists going to be here tonight?" She's that eclectic!)

For those who have been to my shop before, be aware that we have moved to a new location. It's only about a block and a half from the old shop, but it's light-years better in terms of windows, light, access, and ceiling height. The new location is at 8 Court Street in downtown Natick, just off Main Street and across from the Middlesex Savings Bank side entrance. We're also just a hop from the Natick commuter rail station and parking is free on Sunday!

In other news: my business is in the process of raising money for needed improvements. Details are here but basically our move to the new location has increased visibility and demand, and some of our existing equipment is not up to the workload. The beauty of this fundraiser is that if you donate $50 or more you receive a gift card to our shop in the amount of your donation! If you've ever been "thinking about getting something framed someday" now would be a great time to get a gift card, show your support, and help us to the next level!
2012-09-20 01:50 pm

Frame shop updates

Well, aside from getting ready for our upcoming Richard Powers exhibit, we're not hugely busy at the shop right now. If any of you were thinking of getting something framed now would be a great time to do so! Beat the holiday rush and get excellent turnaround time!
2012-08-30 11:34 am

Kickstarter: The Home Stretch!

Well, my kickstarter ends tomorrow and it looks like it's within striking distance of its goal! Care to help push us over the top? I'm boundlessly optimistic that we'll make it :)  Spread the word!
2012-08-22 06:09 pm

Kickstarter, Take 2!

Well, we relaunched our kickstarter with even more rewards! Check it out, and pass the word along!
2012-08-17 08:29 pm

When to curb boundless optimism?

Well, my kickstarter did not reach its funding goal. As the final days wound down and it became apparent despite every hope that I would not make it, I was brought back to my days in the high school marching band playing at football games. It seems no matter how bad things got, the cheerleaders never let up. I mean, we're talking being down 35-3, 4th-and-9 on your own 40 yard line with one minute left to play, and the cheerleaders chanting "That's alright/That's okay/We're gonna win it/Anyway!". I wanted to roll my eyes and shout "Give it a rest already!"

At what point to do you look at the trend line and decide "Chances are we're NOT going to win this, and it's time to plan accordingly"?

IS there such a thing as a cheer for "We're gonna lose, but with dignity"?

This is one of the things that brought down Curt Schilling's company, BTW. From his baseball days he was of the mind-set that you don't give up even when you're down to your final out and it looks hopeless. Who knows, your next three batters might all hit home runs and you could pull it off anyway! This is why he never prepared himself *or* his employees for the possibility of the company going under -- there was always one more hope, one more miracle, one more trick that could let them land on their feet.

Is this EVER a good attitude to take outside of sports?

(BTW - I'm going to relaunch a modified kickstarter; watch this space for details!)
2012-08-03 11:28 am

My kickstarter & rewards

First of all: check out my kickstarter campaign to mount an exhibit of Richard Powers' work. Please signal-boost and pass this around as widely as you can! Time is running out.

Second: While you're looking at the kickstarter, are there any other rewards that you would like to see? Right now I'm offering unframed or framed prints of previously-unavailable work. If you have any ideas as to what else I should offer please let me know!
2012-07-22 09:34 pm

Support our kickstarter!

Executive summary: we have a kickstarter project so we can prepare for and exhibit the next batch of Richard Powers artwork.

Background: Back in June, we had an exhibit of works by Richard Powers at our gallery.  Many of you know Richard Powers through his surrealistic SF book covers starting in the 1950s, but he produced a lot more work than that.  The June show featured several groupings of his fine art works; abstracts, travelogues, portraits, and small works.

These works came from the estate of Richard Powers; his daughter lives one town over from us.  There is much more where that came from, and this is where we need your help.  At one point he made forays into 3-D art by producing large shadowboxes.  These shadowboxes include paintings, small sculpture, and found objects.  Very few people even know about these, and we found no fewer than seven of them among the effects of the estate.

In order to do these and the other large works justice we will need to rent a satellite gallery.  In addition, many of the shadowboxes need extensive repair in order to be fit for exhibit.  We have started a kickstarter project with the goal of raising $3000; $1500 for the rental of the gallery and $1500 to help defray the expenses of repairing the shadowboxes.  See the kickstarter page for background and images, including a tantalizing preview of the shadowbox exhibit!

Feel free to pass this along to anyone you think might be interested.  Thanks!

2012-05-30 10:27 pm

Richard Powers reception THIS FRIDAY 5-9PM [BOS-ish]

Just a reminder that we're having a reception this Friday, June 1, for Richard Powers: Public & Private

Talented and prolific, Richard M. Powers  (1921-1996) was one of the most important and influential illustrators of the 20th century.  Best known for his surrealistic science-fiction book covers, he in fact worked in a variety of styles from abstract to illustration to portraiture.  During his long career he was commissioned to illustrate science-fiction book covers, children’s books, travelogues, magazine articles, and much more.

A number of works in the exhibit are signed “Gorman Powers”.  He used this signature to distinguish his personal work from his commissions.  The works we will have on display will include abstracts, landscapes, and portraits.  Many of the original works will be available for sale along with prints of selected works and posters from previous exhibitions.

A wonderful appreciation of Richard Powers, written shortly after his death by his good friend David Hartwell, can be found here.

Richard Powers: Public & Private will run from June 1 through June 30, 2012.  An opening reception is planned for Friday, June 1 from 5-9PM.  The artist’s daughter, Kathy Powers Sherry, will be in attendance to share memories of life with her father.  All are invited!

2012-05-22 04:32 pm

Coming to the gallery in June: Richard Powers

Baldwin Hill Art & Framing is proud to have works by the artist and illustrator Richard M. Powers in our gallery (Boston-area) for the month of June. Reception is Friday June 1 from 5-9PM. Directions here.

Those of you who collect science fiction books would recognize his work in the book covers of the 50s and 60s. Richard Powers pioneered a surrealistic style that became the standard for SF covers in those decades. What you may not know is that he was very prolific and eclectic throughout his long career. He produced paintings and illustrations in quite a variety of styles both for commissions and for his own artistic enjoyment. This exhibit will feature a number of works from the Powers estate. The artist's daughter, Kathy Powers Sherry, will be in attendance at the reception to share memories of life with her father.

Feel free to share this invitation with anyone who might be interested!

--jim
2012-04-05 04:15 pm

Frame Shop Updates

I just realized that I haven't been posting many updates about my picture framing shop here on LJ. Things are still cooking along, we're slowly grinding out way towards profitability. In this economy I consider that pretty good!

One thing that has brought us business is the variety of services we offer: custom framing, digital imaging, large-format printing, canvas stretching, and problem solving :) People are seeing us as a one-stop shop (come in with a USB stick, leave with a framed picture).

We're also starting to attract attention from interior designers and other high-end clients. When I first started out I offered only the cheapest mouldings and plain glass, thinking nobody would want to pay for anything more. While we still have many value-priced options, we've also added a number of premium items to our offerings and people are taking us up on them.

By the way, we're holding a contest on Facebook! Click here to go to our Facebook page and "Like" us. If we get to 300 "Likes" by April 30 we'll hold a drawing for a $50 gift card!
2012-03-17 12:16 pm

Is there a name for this?

Is there a succinct term to describe the act of making excuses in order to achieve a particular outcome? A classic example of what I'm talking about is drug-seeking behavior in the emergency room: "I need painkillers. I need $GOODSTUFF. No, no, I'm allergic to $SUBSTITUTE1, I really need $GOODSTUFF. No, $SUBSTITUTE2 didn't work last time I REALLY need $GOODSTUFF..."

I've been dealing with this sort of thing in other contexts lately...
2012-02-13 05:25 pm

Burnin' up the minutes...

So I got me a new Virgin smartphone. I took the bottom-rung plan for it: 300 minutes/month, unlimited(*) text and data. I'm not exactly the type to have my cellphone glued to my ear chattering away for hours on end, surely 300 minutes would be enough, right?

So today I peek into my account: I've used 237 minutes with four days to go in the month.

How did THAT happen?

Today I called a vendor: "Please stay on the line. Your call is very important to us and will be answered in the order received".

Say no more.

(*) In what's becoming industry standard practice, two months after I signed on Virgin announced rate-throttling for high-usage customers. Go over a certain number of gigs for the month and you'll be throttled back down to ISDN datarates. A bit like a buffet that's all-you-can-eat as long as you're not TOO hungry...
2012-02-09 11:10 pm
Entry tags:

Writer's Block: Party of Five

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Why does it have to be living *or* dead? Can't I invite Schroedinger's cat to the party?
2012-01-31 10:20 pm

I don't usually meme, but...

via [livejournal.com profile] goddessfarmer

I'm running a test to see who's reading my posts. So, if you read this, leave me a one-word comment about your day that starts with the third letter of your LJ USERNAME. Only one word please. Then repost so I can leave a word for you. Don't just post a word and not copy - that's not as much fun!
jim_p: (octavian)
2012-01-29 10:38 pm

Tipping Survey

I'm trying to suss out some attitudes regarding tipping in restaurants. Think about the question before you vote... don't just go with your gut reaction. Thoughtful comments are appreciated as well.

[Poll #1815036]
2012-01-27 05:12 pm

vo;dw

Most of us know what "tl;dr"(*) means, right?

I'd like to propose a video equivalent: "vo;dw" or "video only, didn't watch". I'm getting more and more impatient with web content that is presented solely in video format. The problem with video over text is that I have to consume video at the pace and in the order in which it's presented. With text content I can (a) skim it quickly to see if it's worth reading in detail, and (b) skip around to the parts I find interesting (or skip over parts I don't need to see). In short, *I* can control how I consume text content(**), whereas my consumption of video content is at the mercy of the creator. I've said too many times, "I'd like those nine minutes of my life back".

So: even though I love my friends dearly, if anyone posts a link to a video I won't watch it unless it's accompanied by either a concise summary of the content or a pointer to a transcript. Life is just too short.

(*) "too long; didn't read"
(**) though I'm really annoyed by articles that are broken into a zillion pages so as to maximize ad impressions. I'm starting to give them a pass as well if they don't have a "View as one page" option...