27 August 2009

Ship Mosaic Progress

I haven't posted for a while. Instead I've been canvasing and petitioning for health care reform. Been working on the Winona Arts Center website. The new school year started this past week. One of the cats peed on my computer and fried the cpu (which now stands for Cat-Peed-Upon at our house), during the night before Abelisto needed to print off his syllabi. Another one of our cats bit me bad enough that I had to get medical attention (and then talk to animal control and the local police - it's the law with animal bites, I guess) and take some really strong antibiotics which have trashed my digestive track. And weekend-before-last my 29-year old nephew had an aneurysm and a stroke and ended up temporarily paralyzed on the left side of his body (he's recovering and they expect him to make a full recovery over the course of the next year).

So it's been a wild two or three weeks.

I have been working on the Ship Mosaic though. Here's what it looks like right now:
I have around 37 hours in this mosaic so far, not counting supply runs. I'm guessing it will take another 45-50 hours to complete it.

I went to Saint Paul to J. Ring Glass, and got enough glass to finish it (I hope). So now I just need to crank out a couple hours per night on it and I should finish it by the end of September...

From one who has much

... much is required.

Spent the morning commute thinking about noblesse oblige.

17 August 2009

Health Care Debate

Health / Health Care Policy
‘Public Option’ in Health Plan May Be Dropped
Published: August 17, 2009
For President Obama, giving up on a public insurance plan could punch a hole in Republican arguments but could also alienate liberal Democrats.

Damn straight "it could also alienate liberal Democrats."

I'm feeling very alienated here...

It doesn't seem to me that setting up non-profit cooperative for getting the uninsured or the under-insured will be any more  effective than the faith-based assistance programs of the past administration. What non-profit is going to be interested in taking on the very poor and the very sick.

Instead of one administrative entity, we're going to have a plethora of smaller, isolated, administrative entities, all going their own way, all duplicating the management processes. There will be the same kinds of wasted efforts, and the same inequities that we currently have.

13 August 2009

Health Care Reform Now - Please!

I don't know how you vote, I don't know your political leanings. That's not what's important here.

It's health care reform that is important. Just this past week our daughter Eme had to decide whether or not to go to the clinic for a possibly broken finger because she does not have health insurance - she's too old to be on mine, and the state has quit allowing single, childless adults to utilize MinnCare. She needs her fingers to work properly. Without medical attention, this was in jeopardy. Why was she forced to have to decide between incurring a large debt and possibly losing the use of a finger...? Why should anyone have to agonize over that kind of decision?

I believe that we need health insurance reform - I believe it wholeheartedly. Not only for those in my family that don't have it, but for everyone that doesn't have it, for every child that has to suffer through preventable illness, for every woman playing Russian Roulette with breast cancer because she cannot afford mammograms, for every man who is a heart attack waiting to happen and doesn't know it because he cannot afford regular checkups.

Please, please, please call your representatives in Washington D.C. Tell them to vote for the health care reform bill. You don't have to have a lengthy conversation to do it. It doesn't matter if you voted for them or not. Just tell them who you are and that you want then to vote for passing this bill. Email them. Sign petitions. Spread the word that this bill is not a vote for euthanasia or a government take-over of your healthcare decision-making. This bill is about getting our people health care. Access to quality health care should be the right of every citizen in this country. It is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that all of us are cared for with kindness, respect, and equity.



---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: David Axelrod, The White House
Date: Thu, Aug 13, 2009 at 11:37 AM
Subject: Something worth forwarding

Dear Friend,

This is probably one of the longest emails I’ve ever sent, but it could be the most important.

Across the country we are seeing vigorous debate about health insurance reform. Unfortunately, some of the old tactics we know so well are back — even the viral emails that fly unchecked and under the radar, spreading all sorts of lies and distortions.

As President Obama said at the town hall in New Hampshire, “where we do disagree, let's disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that's actually been proposed.”

So let’s start a chain email of our own. At the end of my email, you’ll find a lot of information about health insurance reform, distilled into 8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage, 8 common myths about reform and 8 reasons we need health insurance reform now.

Right now, someone you know probably has a question about reform that could be answered by what’s below. So what are you waiting for? Forward this email.


David Axelrod
Senior Adviser to the President

P.S. We launched www.WhiteHouse.gov/realitycheck this week to knock down the rumors and lies that are floating around the internet. You can find the information below, and much more, there. For example, we've just added a video of Nancy-Ann DeParle from our Health Reform Office tackling a viral email head on. Check it out:

Health Insurance Reform Reality Check

8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage

  1. Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.
  2. Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.
  3. Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.
  4. Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.
  5. Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.
  6. Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.
  7. Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.
  8. Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won't be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.

Learn more and get details: http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/health-insurance-consumer-protections/

8 common myths about health insurance reform
  1. Reform will cause "rationing": It’s a myth that reform will mean a "government takeover" of health care or lead to "rationing." To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.
  2. We can’t afford reform: It's the status quo we can't afford. It’s a myth that reform will bust the budget. To the contrary, the President has identified ways to pay for the vast majority of the up-front costs by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse within existing government health programs; ending big subsidies to insurance companies; and increasing efficiency with such steps as coordinating care and streamlining paperwork. In the long term, reform can help bring down costs that will otherwise lead to a fiscal crisis.
  3. Reform would encourage "euthanasia": It does not. It’s a malicious myth that reform would encourage or even require euthanasia for seniors. For seniors who want to consult with their family and physicians about end-of life decisions, reform will help to cover these voluntary, private consultations for those who want help with these personal and difficult family decisions.
  4. Vets' health care is in danger: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will affect veterans' access to the care they get now. To the contrary, the President's budget significantly expands coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded. The VA Healthcare system will continue to be available for all eligible veterans.
  5. Reform will burden small business: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will hurt small businesses. To the contrary, reform will ease the burdens on small businesses, provide tax credits to help them pay for employee coverage and help level the playing field with big firms who pay much less to cover their employees on average.
  6. Medicare will be gutted: It’s myth that Health Insurance Reform would be financed by cutting Medicare benefits. To the contrary, reform will improve the long-term financial health of Medicare, ensure better coordination, eliminate waste and unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, and help to close the Medicare "doughnut" hole to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.
  7. You cannot keep your own insurance: It’s myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors. To the contrary, reform will expand your choices, not eliminate them.
  8. Government will do things with your bank account: It is an absurd myth that government will be in charge of your bank accounts. Health insurance reform will simplify administration, making it easier and more convenient for you to pay bills in a method that you choose. Just like paying a phone bill or a utility bill, you can pay by traditional check, or by a direct electronic payment. And forms will be standardized so they will be easier to understand. The choice is up to you – and the same rules of privacy will apply as they do for all other electronic payments that people make.

Learn more and get details:

8 Reasons We Need Health Insurance Reform Now
  1. Coverage Denied to Millions: A recent national survey estimated that 12.6 million non-elderly adults – 36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market – were in fact discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years or dropped from coverage when they became seriously ill. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/denied_coverage/index.html
  2. Less Care for More Costs: With each passing year, Americans are paying more for health care coverage. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages. In 2008, the average premium for a family plan purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage job. Americans pay more than ever for health insurance, but get less coverage. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/hiddencosts/index.html
  3. Roadblocks to Care for Women: Women’s reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Women are also more likely to report fair or poor health than men (9.5% versus 9.0%). While rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are similar to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from headaches and are more likely to experience joint, back or neck pain. These chronic conditions often require regular and frequent treatment and follow-up care. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/women/index.html
  4. Hard Times in the Heartland: Throughout rural America, there are nearly 50 million people who face challenges in accessing health care. The past several decades have consistently shown higher rates of poverty, mortality, uninsurance, and limited access to a primary health care provider in rural areas. With the recent economic downturn, there is potential for an increase in many of the health disparities and access concerns that are already elevated in rural communities. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/hardtimes
  5. Small Businesses Struggle to Provide Health Coverage: Nearly one-third of the uninsured – 13 million people – are employees of firms with less than 100 workers. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. Much of this decline stems from small business. The percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68% to 59%, while large firms held stable at 99%. About a third of such workers in firms with fewer than 50 employees obtain insurance through a spouse. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/helpbottomline
  6. The Tragedies are Personal: Half of all personal bankruptcies are at least partly the result of medical expenses. The typical elderly couple may have to save nearly $300,000 to pay for health costs not covered by Medicare alone. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/inaction
  7. Diminishing Access to Care: From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. An estimated 87 million people - one in every three Americans under the age of 65 - were uninsured at some point in 2007 and 2008. More than 80% of the uninsured are in working families. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/inaction/diminishing/index.html
  8. The Trends are Troubling: Without reform, health care costs will continue to skyrocket unabated, putting unbearable strain on families, businesses, and state and federal government budgets. Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance - projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in 2040 in the absence of reform. Learn more: http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/assets/documents/CEA_Health_Care_Report.pdf

05 August 2009

Lake Smalti

Here's the completed smalti mosaic - prior to cleaning off the excess thinset adhesive. The photo is pretty good for color rendition, perhaps a bit on the light side, but only just a bit. The photo of the mosaic after the adhesive was cleaned out did not come out very well - too dark and the colors had shifted. It's very difficult to photograph mosaics. I need to set up an area in my studio for taking photos that has the correct lighting setup.

This is a 6" x 6" mosaic that I did at the Smalti Workshop at the Chicago Mosaic School. Depending on your monitor resolution, you may be seeing it an nearly life-size.

If you're into doing mosaics and you have the chance to do a workshop or class at the Chicago Mosaic School you should, by all means, do it.

I love working with smalti, but it is an expensive mosaic material. I can get enough vitreous glass to cover a square foot for between $8 and $20. Stained glass can be more expensive, but not generally more than $25 or so for a square foot. Smalti on the other hand begins around $20 per pound and it takes roughly 3 pound to fill a square foot.

It's surely lovely stuff though. Well worth the cost. I just have to find a way to afford it - I need to find someone who would be interested in a smalti mosaic and get a commission - materials fees up front...

01 August 2009

Chicago Mosaic School

Today I spent the day creating a smalti mosaic at the Chicago Mosaic School. I attended a 1-day smalti workshop taught by Andryea Natkin.
1-Day Smalti Workshop
Smalti is one of the oldest and most original materials of mosaic art. This thick glass tile holds light the way no other material can. Our exquisite smalti is manufactured at the Orsoni family factory in Venice, Italy using the same ancient techniques and traditions passed down through the generations. The colors of smalti are rich and offer the artist many possibilities to achieve dynamic mosaic works of art.
In this one day intensive workshop we will explore this beautiful traditional material by teaching students how to cut and set smalti, use tools such as a hammer and hardie as well as the more contemporary wheeled cutters. Each student will create a 6"x6" mosaic panel. Design, color and composition will also be covered. The class includes tools, handouts and a beautiful selection of Orsoni Italian smalti. This workshop is suitable for beginners and advanced students.
First we learned a bit about smalti (history & techniques). Then we were given some designs that we could choose from. I decided to do my own design.

Abelisto, Eileen and I had spent some time on Friday walking along Lake Michigan. It was a great day for it, the sky was stunning and the water was made up of such intense greens and blues. The wind coming off the lake was kicking up small whitecaps and bringing a delicious smell to us as we strolled along. 

With the view of the lake in my mind I decided to do a scenic mosaic rather than one of the abstract designs Andryea had for the group. I really like what I have done so far. I did not get all the way done, but I think I have made a great start.

This photo is really much bluer than the actual piece. I took the picture using the built-in camera on my new MacBook Pro. I'll have to take a better photo when I finish it. The actual piece is made up of four shades of a very pale blue, two shades of a dark turquoise, a blue-gray, a couple greens, indigo and purple. Oh, yeah, and a single white piece and one square of 24 carat gold smalti. I cut all the pieces except the white in half lengthwise, and placed them in an overlapping style (opus tessalatum). I started with the horizon and worked up just over an inch of the water before switching to the sky.

At the end of the workshop we displayed all our mosaics for a critique. Three of the nine of us managed to finish our mosaics. All of the participants did amazing mosaics.

I'll be finishing this mosaic when I get home tomorrow.

Damen Hall Mosaic

This is the mosaic that got me started with mosaics. I first saw this mosaic last August when Abelisto and I visited Eileen in Chicago. I could not stop thinking about it after we went back to Winona. I decided that I wanted to learn how to make mosaics.

We went back to see this mosaic yesterday. I forgot to bring a camera, but Eileen had her iPhone with her and took the photographs below.

The mosaic's theme is the physical sciences - it contains images of the human body, the periodic chart, a star and planets, a slide rule (remember slide rules?), a fish/lizard, crystals and an atom. It is in Damen Hall on the Loyola lakeside campus. It measures 9' x 45' and is made of smalti, some with 24 carat gold leaf in it.

A couple close-ups:

This mosaic is in a building on the Loyola lakeside campus that is scheduled for demolition. Hopefully someone will find a way to save the mosaic.