Characters

The Artdog Image of Interest 

Think of it as a casting call . . .

As a tribute to all the writers brave enough to take the Na-No-Wri-Mo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge, I’ve dedicated most of this month’s Quotes and Images of Interest to observations about the writing craft.

IMAGE: Many thanks for this week’s image to Tom Gauld, a wonderful comics artist whose work I encourage you to explore!

Seizing the day in Puerto Rico

Puerto Ricans (and residents of other devastated neighboring islands, as well) need everything–RIGHT NOW. There’s no question about that. Lives are at stake.

Certainly looks like a tornado hit: downed power lines in Humacao, PR — photo by Carlos Giusti/AP and CNN

But while FEMA and the Puerto Rican government are leasing power generators and shipping in enormous planes full of food, water, and medicine, I hope the people who will be rebuilding Puerto Rico keep their eyes on the future.

Loading up for Puerto Rico: an industrial size generator. They’ll need a bunch of them! Power is the most critical need.

I’m from Kansas, so when I heard a meteorologist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (who should know what he’s talking about) say of Hurricane Maria, “It was as if a 50- to 60-mile-wide tornado raged across Puerto Rico, like a buzz saw,” I could relate. We Kansans understand about tornadoes.

Hurricane Maria over Puerto Rico (see outline) — image by Joshua Stevens and NASA Earth Observatory, via Vox

One of the things I keep hearing is how antiquated the power grid and other infrastructure on the island are. This stems in large part from the crushing debt crisis that has been plaguing the island’s economy for years, a situation that’s a haunting echo of the history of not-too-far-away Haiti’s economic woes. How did that develop? I like John Oliver’s explanation (note: this video is 21 minutes long, but in my opinion worth the time to watch).

It’s a pretty massive mess, and a disaster on top of it all isn’t helping in the least. But I’m oriented toward thinking about finding opportunities for positive change, even in the worst disaster. The “tornado” comparison led me to wonder if the island could take a page from Greensburg, Kansas’ recovery playbook.

Not Puerto Rico: this is Greensburg, KS, in May, 2007 — Photo by Mike Theiss of UltimateChase.com

No, I’m not suggesting that the “green revolution” that seems to be working moderately well for a small Kansas town of 771 residents could be directly scaled up for a tropical island with a population of 3.4 million! Different climate, different terrain, much larger population–this is definitely not a “one size ought to fit all” suggestion.

All the government buildings over 4,000 sq. ft. in Greensburg today are built to LEED-Platinum standards — Photo by Fred Hunt/New York Times, via SaveOnEnergy.com

But the residents of Greensburg took a direct hit from an EF5 tornado. Those who survived emerged into a landscape of utter devastation. With pretty much nothing left standing except shattered trees and mounds of rubble, they were going to have to either rebuild brand new, or leave.

I have a sense that, on a hugely more massive scale, Puerto Rico is facing a similar scenarioGreensburg lost half its population after the tornado. Puerto Rico’s debt situation had already started that trend, and, like Hurricane Katrina before it, I imagine Puerto Rico will see some migration that becomes permanent after Maria. But the survivors who stayed in Greensburg, KS decided to build for the future.

There’s already some movement in that direction, in Puerto Rico. In the footsteps of solar panel user Eddie Ramirez, the Casa Sol B&B operator in old San Juan profiled above, there are indications that the solar industry might be interested in participating in a transformation of Puerto Rico’s power resources. Certainly if Elon Musk gets involved, some perspectives should change.

If ever a power grid was ready for a fundamental transformation, Puerto Rico’s is! –Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images, via Vox.

I hope they do install many more solar capabilities–but I also hope they don’t stop with only solar power. True resiliency lies in diversity. It seems possible that wind power (maybe not during hurricanes) and perhaps tidal power generation (after all, Puerto Rico is surrounded by ocean) also might be renewable contributions to Puerto Rico’s energy resources.

Example of a wind farm. This one’s located near the Danish city of Grenå.
An artist’s rendering of a tidal fence to harvest tidal energy, based on a design by Energy BC, of British Columbia, Canada.

Building codes should be designed with hurricanes in mind, mandating (and possibly partially subsidizing) more wind-durable homes and similar structuresas well as household and community-level preparedness planning for the next “big one.” I hope to discuss hurricane preparedness more in a future post.

IMAGES: Many thanks to CNN and Carlos Guisti of the AP, for the photo of downed power lines; to Diesel Service and Supply, for the photo of the Puerto-Rico-bound generator on the big rig; to Vox, the NASA Earth Observatory, and Joshua Stevens for the satellite photo of Hurricane Maria; to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and YouTube for the rather long video about Puerto Rican debt; to Mike Theiss and UltimateChase.com for the photo from Greensburg in 2007; to Fred Hunt/New York Times via SaveOnEnergy.com, for the more recent photo from Greensburg; to YouTube and NBC Nightly News for the video on the power crisis in Puerto Rico; to photographer Mario Tama of Getty Images, via Vox, for the daunting image of the downed power lines in Utuado, PR; to Siemens, for the photo of the Danish wind farm; to Energy BC of British Columbia, for the artist’s rendering of the tidal fence; and to Deltec, for the diagram of the hurricane-resistant house.

Coping mechanism

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

What is the fascination of horror fiction? As we move toward Halloween I thought it might be fun to explore thoughts on why so many of us love to be scared by fictional horrors.

And where better to start than with a quote from the King of Horror himself?

IMAGE: Many thanks to all the many, many, many (many, manyMANY) Pinterest boards that feature this quote image–so many, I found 22,300,000 matches, and ran out of time to track down the original source. I found this particular file on Stephanie Girolami-James’s board, via Chelsie Bowen’s HORROR Pinboard.

Supreme art

The Artdog Quote of the Week  

As teachers and students head back to school in the USA and elsewhere, it’s important to establish priorities.

IMAGE: Many thanks to InformED’s article, “30 Things You Can Do To Promote Creativity,” by Miriam Clifford, for sharing this image.

Double standards and our kids

The Artdog Quotes of the Week 

Here’s a double dose of quotable thoughts, this time on double standards, and that touchy subject of how to rear our children. When toy manufacturers still market to “the pink aisle” and “the blue aisle,” what’s a parent to do?

What creative choices must we make, to empower our children to grow up in ways that help them blossom into their full potential–whatever that may encompass?

IMAGES: Many thanks to the Gender Equality blog, for the Gloria Steinem quote, and to AZ Quotes for the quote from Madonna Ciccone.

Which is stronger, fear or desire?

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

That’s the rub, isn’t it?

IMAGE: I found this quote on I Like to Quote, but I made my own graphic for it in Adobe Illustrator, using a photo I took in December 2016 as my background. Use it if you like, but please include an attribution and a link back! Thanks.

On picking up the pieces and moving forward

What is this week? Specifically, what’s the middle of this week? 

It’s the moment when the balance shifts, from Solstice-and- Christmas-stuff toward New-Year thinking.

It’s the time of the week when, if we’re back at work from a break, we’re picking up the projects we’d temporarily laid aside, and gearing back up for business-as-usual. Many of us are dealing with a pile of deferred work that’s been stacking up while we were gone, just waiting for our return to trigger the avalanche.

If we’re still on holiday break, we’re cleaning up the shreds of wrapping paper and ribbon, and deciding if it’s time to start taking down the decorations yet. If we had a live Christmas tree, it’s probably turning into a dry, brittle fire hazard. We’re living on leftovers (and more than a little bored with them by now). If the Christmas jigsaw hasn’t been fully pieced together yet it might be time to give up and put it back in its box.

The Unfinished Puzzle, by Daniel McLean

Some of us are traveling home. Some of us are still trying to figure out where to put stuff. Some of us are relieved that we survived for another year, while others are so depressed we’re not sure we did survive.

But the one thing about this point in the week is that while we’re making our Gotta-Go Soup* or Googling eco-friendly things to do with our old Christmas tree, we’re also shifting gears and moving toward the dawn of a New Year. What will 2017 bring? 

Well, some things are a given. A new Presidential administration, for example. That there will be more winter in the Northern Hemisphere before we get started on spring. That time passes and change happens.

Other stuff is less predictable, but when things happen they must be dealt with (even “good” stress is still stress). Perhaps a loss or gain in your family (or your waistline), a change in jobs, locations, or marital status. A new opportunity. A health issue.

Stuff happens. What we do about the stuff that happens is the test.

I hope you’ll move into the New Year from a place of wholeness and peace, but not all of us are so blessed. Whatever place you’re in, today, there are things you can do, steps you can take, plans you can make (although always with at least a Plan B, because life is like that).

I hope your plans will include two things:

(1) Being good to yourself

No one is as big a screw-up as they sometimes think they are, and everyone deserves a break sometimes. I don’t mean just pampering yourself, as with a “spa day,” though if that’s really what you need I hope you can find a way to manage it. I mean choosing good paths for yourself that lead to a better-for-you way of life, whether that’s an improvement in diet, a set of priorities that allow more exercise, or the setting of healthier personal boundaries.

(2) Finding or nurturing a passion

Without meaningful purpose in your life nothing is worth the effort. The needs of the world are many, and the challenges are great. We cannot solve all problems, but we can work with like-minded others to solve the particular problems that call to our hearts. We’ve recently had Boxing Day as a reason to consider what causes we value and believe in; now, more than ever, we must find ways to support and protect the things, the people, and the foundational principles we cherish the most.

So take this middle-of-the-week, picking-up-the-pieces day, and consider well how you will meet the New Year. We can go forward in despair, repeating old patterns hopelessly, or we can go forward with determination to hold the line on certain things and push forward for improvement on others.

Each of us gets to choose.

***

*Gotta-Go Soup:

If it’s Got To Go, it’s a candidate for Gotta-Go Soup (a variation on Leftovers Supreme). This is my grandmother’s recipe:

(1) FLAVOR-MATCHING: Assemble your leftovers. Evaluate what flavors would go together best, and separate them out (put the others in the fridge or the compost/garbage, as appropriate). Figure out what kind of stock or base would best compliment the flavors you’ve assembled.

(2) COOKING: Get out a big pot. Put it on the back burner filled with said stock or soup base. Reduce all your other selections to small, bite-size pieces, and put them in the pot, too. Heat it all up and simmer for at least an hour (smell up the house real good). Season to taste.

(3) EATING: Serve with warm, crusty French bread or other favored accompaniment. You might be surprised how good it tastes!

IMAGES: Many thanks to Life on the Buy Side for the photo of the daunting office paperwork backup, to the blog Meanders for the wrapping-paper wreckage photo, and to Daniel McLean and his Flickr Photostream for the image The Unfinished Puzzle (permission granted via a Creative Commons License). 

I appreciate the availability of the snowy highway photo (in Eden Prairie, MN–doesn’t look quite so Edenic in this photo, though) from Minnesota Public Radio’s Updraft blog. Many thanks also to the Buy a House Club for the image of the discarded Christmas Tree (from an article on better things to do with them), and to Inspiring Buzz for the quotation image about changes in one’s life.

I greatly appreciate the quotation image about being tender with oneself from Helen Hirst’s “Self Nurturing” Pinterest board, and to The Huffington Post for the Fabienne Fredrickson quote on passions as our calling. Finally, many thanks to Video Blocks for the photo of the soup pot.