BlathrWayne Lorentz

Showing blathrs with the tag “Art.”

Better late than never

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022 Alive 18,830 days

A late notification from the Constellation Apartments in Las Vegas, Nevada

I just received a notice from Constellation Apartments that my service request has been completed.

It's worth noting that I haven't lived at Constellation for 16 months.

I wonder what took them so long to fix.

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See if they have any common sense

Friday, October 7th, 2022 Alive 18,791 days

The Walmart app's availability filter

The Walmart app has a filter labeled ”Show available items only.” Seriously? Why would I want a store to show me things that it doesnʼt have?

Who goes to a store, or looks at a storeʼs app and thinks to themselves, “I wonder if they donʼt have this?” “Hey, Walmart, show me all the things that you canʼt sell."

What kind of things are on Walmartʼs list of things it doesnʼt have. Fabergé eggs? The Loch Ness Monster? Maybe the Popeʼs mitre?

Walmart is far from the only store guilty of this. Amazon is among the worst offenders. Target and Walgreens, too.

How does showing things you donʼt have benefit a customer?

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Leaf me alone

Friday, August 19th, 2022 Alive 18,742 days

A cup of coffee with leaf latte art from Greenway Coffee

I wonder what kind of leaf this is. To me, it looks like a philodendron, left in the corner office of a skyscraper after everyoneʼs switched to work-from-home.

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More like an onion

Wednesday, August 17th, 2022 Alive 18,740 days

Latte art from Greenway Coffee. I think it looks a bit like the iris growing in my garden.

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Alley art

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022 Alive 18,733 days

Graffiti in North Garland Court at East Lake Street in Chicago

Chicago has better graffiti than Houston has legitimate murals.

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R.I.P. Artefaqs Corporation • 2003-2022

Thursday, June 30th, 2022 Alive 18,692 days

Today was the last day of operation of the Artefaqs Corporation.

Unless you're a low-level paper pusher at a local, county, state, or federal licensing entity, you most likely didn't notice.

Artefaqs Corporation was my first business. I started it in 2003, and for 19 years it provided income for me and my family. At first, it did quite well, and I had many clients from big-name banks to construction companies to global real estate developers. But the world has changed over the last two decades, and it was time to officially close up shop.

When I left the world of journalism, Artefaqs was my sole source of income, and it did quite well. The first nail in the coffin was the Great Recession, which started in 2007, but didn't hit me until 2008. Most of my clients disappeared overnight, or no longer required my services.

So, I pivoted. Moved the company to a cheaper state, and soldiered on. Everything was moving along smoothly, until the next financial crisis hit a decade later. By this time, I still wasn't fully recovered from the last pivot, so I ended up taking part-time work coding for another company.

I wasn't entirely happy with the company, but it helped pay the bills, and allowed me to keep a measure of semi-autonomy in my life. Still, not being able to devote myself to Artefaqs full-time meant that it couldn't grow and thrive. But that eventually ended when my job was outsourced to India.

I sent a day wandering the waterfront of Laughlin, Nevada feeling sorry for myself. Then I realized that I had two choices in life: Go work for someone else full-time, or devote myself to Artefaqs and re-build it full-time. I chose the safer road, which was to go work for someone else.

I sometimes wonder what I could have made of Artefaqs, had I pursued a second pivot. But the greater concern I had at the time was providing healthcare for my family. Working for someone else allowed me to have health insurance far better than what I could have bought on my own. So, even though I wonder, I know it was the right thing to do.

Now that I had a full-time job, Artefaqs moved solidly to the back burner and over the next few years, where it cooled to the point where the cost of keeping the company alive (about $2,000 a year) was more than it was making in revenue.

Now that it's over, I can say it was a good experience. And I learned a lot, so I don't regret doing it. Most importantly:

  • The more effort you put into a company, the more you will get out of it.
  • Everyone should start a company at least once in their lives. It is an incredible learning experience.
  • Ninety percent of what politicians say about business is wrong, either through willful ignorance, or being distanced from the actual day-to-day running of a real business.

If I ever get in a bind, or get bored, or my current employer disappears, at least I know that I have the skills to quickly start a new company, and at least try to put food on the table for my family. We'll see what happens.

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Blackity Black Black

Friday, May 27th, 2022 Alive 18,658 days

An electrical shutoff box, in pink and Blackity Black Black

Pull that switch, and youʼll cause a Blackity Black Out.

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Wolf got your tongue

Thursday, May 26th, 2022 Alive 18,657 days

Iced coffee from Mr. Wolf

Thereʼs a coffee shop inside the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans. Itʼs called Mr. Wolf. And it makes some pretty darned good iced drinks.

What you see above is the result is my inability to clearly communicate what I wanted. I wanted an iced coffee in a paper cup. The reason was simple: Mr. Wolfʼs cold drink cups are boring unadorned plastic, and lack the cool wolf logo. I wanted the dapper wolf on my drink.

The baristas were nice enough, but perhaps it was heat stroke that prevented me from explaining what I wanted.

In the end, we compromised on the pictured frankendrink: Iced coffee poured in a plastic cup, and the plastic cup jammed in a paper cup. Close enough. Still good.

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Iʼm still standing

Thursday, May 26th, 2022 Alive 18,657 days

A weathered building in New Orleansʼ French Quarter

One of the interesting things about the built environment in New Orleans is the way some buildings manage to survive.

Houses in New Orleans have to deal with termites, mold, rising damp, horrendous rainstorms, aggressive vegetation, and more.

A weathered building in New Orleansʼ French Quarter

Looking at buildings like these makes me wonder how many dozens of hurricanes theyʼve been through, but are still standing after a hundred or more years.

Meanwhile, the house I rented in Las Vegas needed major repairs just 20 years after it was built.

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What about the art?

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022 Alive 18,655 days

A fried chicken sandwich at NOMA

Museum cafes are almost universally overpriced. I figure that Iʼm paying a premium for the convenience of giving my feet a break, having a snack, and then resuming my mental stimulation with minimal delay.

A lot of museums think their food has to look like art, cater to waifs, and embrace the ”less is more” cliché.

But the New Orleans Museum of Art is different. Portions are large, prices are reasonable, and its fried chicken sandwich is quite good.

Also, thereʼs paintings and stuff in the other rooms of the building.

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Youʼre a pond hen

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022 Alive 18,655 days

The reflecting pool outside the New Orleans Museum of Art

Meet my friend, Lily. This is her pad.

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Would the worldʼs last smoker, please empty the ashtray

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022 Alive 18,655 days

A small slice of the courtyard at the Hotel Saint Marie

Such a nice, elegant French Quarter courtyard. Or, at least it would be if the Hotel Saint Marie didnʼt use it as a smoking lounge. I had to wait five minutes for the drifting smoke to clear to get a nice picture of the fountain.

Honestly, though, this is among the least of the Hotel Saint Marieʼs sins. Never again.

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Rebel without a clue

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022 Alive 18,655 days

An artist at work in a CCʼs Cafe

The sign on the outside reads “No loitering or sitting here.” The artist on the inside is clearly both sitting and loitering as he works his watercolors.

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Nice gams

Monday, May 23rd, 2022 Alive 18,654 days

Three downspouts

Two historic downspouts, crafted in the shape of grotesque fish. Between them, a boring corrugated plastic tube. All serve the same purpose, but two of them are signs of an advanced civilization, while one is a sign of people being cheap.

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Head cases

Sunday, May 22nd, 2022 Alive 18,653 days

Mount Rush Hour

If you drive into downtown Houston via I-45 from the north or I-10 from the west, you will be greeted by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Stephen F. Austin, and Sam Houston.

Each of them weigh two tons, and are the work of exurban sculptor David Adickes. He made them, and 39 others, in 2004 for a theme park in Virginia that never opened, so the entire bustle of busts never left Houston.

These four were relocated to a cut-off corner overlooking the freeways at 1400 Elder Street. Officially, itʼs called American Statesman Park. But most commuters know it as Mount Rush Hour.

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Cop shop

Saturday, March 12th, 2022 Alive 18,582 days

The Houston Police Museum

The Houston Police Department has its own museum. Your reaction to that may indicate where you were raised.

Iʼm East Coast, so I had never heard of such a thing until I started exploring the west. The first police museum I came across was in Phoenix. But it seems the concept has spread across the country, and a police museum even opened in New York in 1998.

I wonder if thereʼs a gift shop.

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Ride ʼem allegorical cowboy

Saturday, March 12th, 2022 Alive 18,582 days

The 3100 Travis Building, with artwork by E.Z. Galea in 1951

Buildings do a great job of preserving history, if you know how to read them. A building may change owners, colors, and names, but its height, setbacks, floor spacing, materials, and other fundamentals can tell you a lot about it.

In some cases, buildings wear their history on their sleeves. 3100 Travis in Midtown Houston is one of those. Above what used to be the main entrance is a nice Texas-flavored bas relief featuring an oil well, and what may either be a pipeline or a railroad connecting McAllen with New York.

A lot of early- and mid-20th-century architectural decoration featured allegories, often of “Progress” or “Commerce” or “Engineering.” I donʼt know which allegorical figure this is supposed to be, but this is Texas, so heʼs riding a horse.

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Pane point

Saturday, March 12th, 2022 Alive 18,582 days

Stained glass above an entrance to a Chase building

On my evening promenade, I came across this stained glass window above one of the entrances to one of the Chase buildings in downtown Houston.

It looks like a battle scene, and this being Houston, that means itʼs probably San Jacinto, or the Alamo, Goliad. Or maybe one of the other Texas battles that are less famous and didnʼt get their own state park, tourist attraction, or flag.

There were so many battles in Texas, that thereʼs an entire Wikipedia article just for the ones fought during the Texas Revolution.

I know there are lots of plaques inside this building, so one of them could probably clue me in. But itʼs Saturday night, and Chase is closed.

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Hi, Shern-Min!

Friday, March 4th, 2022 Alive 18,574 days

KHOU/Houstonʼs downtown studio at the George R. Brown Convention Center

Itʼs nice to see a TV station with a streetfront studio. They were in fashion in the 1990ʼs, and most large markets had at least one. They were a way to showcase the station in high-traffic areas, similar to the way big consumer brands like Starbucks, Hershey, and Nokia build flagship stores on busy tourist streets to serve as 3D interactive billboards.

The first one I saw was at KSDK/Saint Louis in 1994. Chicago is a walking town, so by the early 2000ʼs, several radio and television stations built their own. WLS-TV, WMAQ-TV, WBBM-TV, and WGN radio all had them. WKQX radio had one in the Merchandise Mart, but since the Mart doesnʼt have much of a street-level presence, it faced inside, where all the office workers could see it. WLUP radio and WFLD television each did something similar at Michigan Plaza, but while the radio stationʼs version was well done, it was hard to find. The TV station never really pulled it off. Even Loyola Universityʼs WULW/Chicago, and its student TV station had a streetfront studio.

The last time I checked, both WLS-TV and WBBM-TV have let their former showcase spaces deteriorate, and theyʼre not much of a draw anymore. WGN radio was still using its space in Tribune Tower extensively, but no longer 24 hours a day. WGN had an interesting gimmick where a microphone was suspended outside of the studio, and the talk show hosts would occasionally engage members of the public.

A similar setup was featured in a Tony Hillerman book, outside of KNDN/Farmington. Itʼs possible that it was real, since the Hillerman books tend to be more fact than fiction.

When I was at WGN-TV we longed for a streetfront studio, like the big stations downtown. But we were way out in North Central, pretty much half-way out of town. When WGN radio opened its showcase studio, we were jealous, since the space next to WGNʼs studio was originally designed to be a TV studio, and itʼs where WGN-TV was located until it moved out of downtown in the 1960ʼs. We always thought that space should rightly be a TV studio again, especially with all of our competitors opening shiny new studios all over downtown.

That never happened, because the people who owned the TV station at the time thought the prime downtown location was better used as retail space, then a museum, then retail space, and then left empty.

The picture above is KHOU/Houstonʼs downtown streetfront studio, and the woman in front of it is anchor Shern-Min Chow. We worked together for about five years, and she was always nice to me, but I donʼt think sheʼd remember me, so I didnʼt say hi.

When I was at KHOU, we prided ourselves on the fact that we were the only TV station downtown. All the others were half-way out of town, and when important things happened, we were usually better positioned to get to the news before everyone else.

Since then, KHOU has moved even farther away from downtown than the other stations. Its main studio is in the Galleria Area, but at least this satellite studio gets daily use. The only TV station that does local news thatʼs farther away is KIAH/Houston, but its news product is a very faded shadow of what it was when I was there.

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Note to self: Let it go to voice mail

Friday, February 4th, 2022 Alive 18,546 days

Fire trucks. Many many fire trucks.

One of the work-from-home workforce in my building answered a call from his boss while cooking lunch. You can see the rest.

When we evacuated the building, I grabbed my work laptop, but not my shoes, so I ended up working the rest of the day from Day 6 Coffee in my pajamas and slippers. However, this being downtown Houston, I was the least-oddly dressed person there.

Interestingly, both the Metro Green and Purple line trains were suspended because the nearest johnny pump to my home is across the street, and the firefighters had to run hoses across the train tracks to connect to my buildingʼs risers.

That train isnʼt going anywhere
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Your beret is crooked

Thursday, November 4th, 2021 Alive 18,454 days

The Picasso/Calder exhibit at MHF/H

If a museum stages an exhibition of Pablo Picasso and Alexander Calder, youʼre obligated to photograph it in high-contrast black-and-white.

When in an art museum, do as the art students do.

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Tuesday, October 26th, 2021 Alive 18,445 days

An airplane avoids an Anish Kapoor sculpture
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Pile it on

Saturday, September 25th, 2021 Alive 18,414 days

A weathered piling

Time and tide conspire to turn a piling into a cylinder of art.

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Professional help

Sunday, August 22nd, 2021 Alive 18,380 days

A shelf that belongs to Constellation Apartments

Unpacking my stuff today, I was reminded of another good reason to hire a packing service when youʼre moving: Comedic value.

Every time Iʼve hired a company to pack my stuff to move, something has happened that just made me shake my head. Usually, itʼs caused by the packersʼ fear that they might forget to pack something.

When I moved from Houston to Chicago, the packing company packed my garbage, so that when I arrived in the Windy City, I had a nice stinking garbage can all ready to be emptied.

This time, the packing company actually packed the shelves from the cabinets in my kitchen. Iʼm not sure what Iʼm going to do with them in my new place, because theyʼre the wrong size for the cabinets here.

My old apartment building can have them back, if it wants. It just has to pay for the postage.

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Right purdy

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021 Alive 18,361 days

Sunset from a Walmart parking lot in Fort Stockton, Texas

Meanwhile, in West Texas.

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Smoking idea

Saturday, July 10th, 2021 Alive 18,337 days

The lease for my new apartment is very long, but I read the entire document anyway.

It turns out that I am not allowed to let my cat smoke a hookah in the freight elevator.

First thing on my to-do list once Iʼm settled: Buy a cat-sized hookah.

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So stop shopping at Walmart

Friday, March 12th, 2021 Alive 18,217 days

An error message from WalMart

In spite of all their fancy JavaScript, and invasive telemetry, I donʼt think online stores really have any idea how much money they lose every day by making their shopping process so complicated that the web site breaks.

Simplifying the stack would save development costs, management costs, and increase sales.

But nobody in tech gets promoted for making things less complicated.

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Pixels arenʼt free

Thursday, March 11th, 2021 Alive 18,216 days

An error message from WalMart

Vague error messages cost less, and Walmart passes that savings on to you!

Assuming you can eventually get to the check-out portion of the web site.

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127 characters ought be enough for anyone

Friday, February 12th, 2021 Alive 18,189 days

A borked Walmart product listing

Somewhere, a Walmart web developer and his database manager are learning about UTF-8 and utfmb8.

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Shout out to Sony

Saturday, January 9th, 2021 Alive 18,155 days

The Art of Noise album Paranoimia

In 1986, the idea of a television that fit in your hand was so futuristic and dystopian that The Art of Noise used it in the art for an album cover.

Today, we have supercomputers in our pockets and on our wrists that can access video in real-time from any country on the planet.

What happened that itʼs not considered scary anymore?

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Man on the move

Sunday, November 22nd, 2020 Alive 18,107 days

Iʼve done the math and it would cost the same for me to get on an Amtrak and never get off as it would to rent a new apartment.

Even with the extra expense of getting a room on the train, because meals are included if you have a room. Plus someone comes in and changes the sheets every day and gives you fresh towels and snacks. Probably every week or so Iʼd have to have a layover day in a hotel so I could do laundry. But otherwise, I could do a continuous loop of Chicago → Seattle → Los Angeles → New Orleans → Chicago. Luckily, Iʼm not affected by motion sickness.

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Thursday, February 20th, 2020 Alive 17,831 days

The iOS spell checked flagging the spelling of “Van Buren”

The iOS spell checker doesnʼt know the name of the eighth president of the United States.

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“I don't mind a reasonable amount of trouble”

Thursday, January 16th, 2020 Alive 17,796 days

Sunlight filters through the blinds onto a map, with a little sepia added

It looks like a Bogart film in my office this morning.

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Stumptown 911

Thursday, November 28th, 2019 Alive 17,747 days

For the last month Iʼve been pummeled with advertisements for the Portland Police Department. Theyʼre so desperate for people theyʼve started holding job fairs here in Vegas, and presumably other nearby cities.

The ads claim the starting salary for a Portland police officer is $67,000 to $95,000. Too bad Iʼd be terrible at it.

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Very very Vegas

Sunday, February 3rd, 2019 Alive 17,449 days

A Louis Vuitton-themed house in Las Vegas

I came across this house on my way home from church this morning.

At first I thought it was over the top. But the Chinese dog statue and Bart Simpson really tone it down.

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♫ Mapmaker Mapmaker, make me a map ♫

Friday, August 10th, 2018 Alive 17,272 days

The output of htop showing a busy computer

I feel like I should feel bad about maxing eight cores for 10 days straight. But when you gotta render maps, you gotta render maps!

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Sunday, June 24th, 2018 Alive 17,225 days

An overdone art car

Not all artists understand thereʼs a difference between an art car, and a barnacle-encrusted Spanish galleon.

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