Author Archives: jimphelps

About jimphelps

Chair, ITANA Enterprise Architect, Sr. IT Architect; UW-Madison

I lost a day…

It is Monday. I find that surprising because I was thinking it was Sunday. In fact, I was thinking that I should run out and check the mail because I forgot to do it yesterday. Well, that’s solved I guess.

We spent yesterday working in the yard. Ena has been up and walking without crutches. She went for a short walk in the neighborhood on Saturday as I now know it was. The walk made her calf / surgery spot pretty sore so yesterday she puttered in the yard, weeding and cleaning up. I was planting herbs and bedding plants.

We had grilled chicken, cornbread, kale and carrots for dinner. That was our big todo for our wedding anniversary this year. And then we watched TV for bit. Not much really but that is kind of what this year is turning out to be. Not much of doing things and a lot of … fretting and cleaning and not going out.

This picture was a gift to Ena one anniversary. I saw it in a gallery in downtown Madison. I told the shop owner that I wanted to buy it but that I’m on my bike. He asked where I lived. I told him our address. He said he would drop it off early Saturday morning. He left it on our porch behind our glider. I snuck out and brought it in as a surprise for Ena. This is from The Before when we did things on our anniversary.

Dating - Print

I have project that will require me crawling around in our attic. I’ve been trying to figure out just how I’m going to do that and not fall through the ceiling. It was chewing on my mind all night so I didn’t really sleep well. This reminds me of when I helped our friend Chip insulate his crawl space. I spent the weekend crawling on my back holding up pink insulation. When I went to bed the first night, I dreamed I was in a pink cave with these tendrils of insulation hanging down. I woke up and said to myself, “I am NOT dreaming about THAT all night.” That seemed to work. I didn’t dream about it anymore.

I guess it is a good thing this is Monday and that it is a holiday. That means I can stay home and not go out thus keeping the trend going for the twelfth week. Or is the 11th… or 13th…

Creativity and Constraint

This is my favorite painting at the Chazen Museum in Madison, Wisconsin. It is called the Cable Factory. It is a large painting (80″ by 53″) that was created by Nikolai Alexandrovich Ionin. It was painted in 1935 in Soviet Russia under the Soviet Socialist Realism edict. At this time, all art must be accessible to the people and represent the great work of the people. You get paintings and sculptures of potato farmers and worker revolts during this period.

And, you get this one of strong men making wire cable in the glow of fires and machine lights.CableFactoryHiRes.png

When you first approach it, you should take it in from far away across the gallery. Stand there and take in the color and composition. The structure. The elegance of the wire spools – you know them as tables from college days. The rolled cuffs on the workers – their strong bare arms, muscles bulging from years of hard labor for the good of the country. Their clean shaven faces – showing that they are good men. The light pours in the back from an open door or skylight. There is a bright sheen on the new wire cable and there is hot fire in the gauging / winding machine. The workers seem calm and capable. You can almost smell the hot metal and hear the mechanical whirl of all of it. The ironwork that holds the upper floor looks touchable.

But then walk up. Walk up close. [This is what we miss by not having museums open -the presence of art. The changing and morphing perceptions of art as we approach it and get close.]

When you are close, then look at the background in this painting – study the detail in the ceiling and machines.

Here is a painter playing with cubism – with abstract art. Think about what is happening in art in Europe and America in the 1930s. Mondrian is painting color block squares and rectangles. Freda Kahlo is painting her provocative nudes.

Joan Miró has gone full-on psychoanalysis-driven surrealist.

But, Nikolai is here, in the Soviet era, painting men making wire. And yet, he is also exploring the wild and abstract painting styles of 1930. Here in these rafters, he has found a way to explore cubism and abstract art. Even under the dire constraints and the threat of Siberia, Nikolai has found a creative outlet and a way to explore new ideas and new boundaries.

I hope that we can get creative under these new constraints and boundaries of COVID-19. I hope we can new ways to express our visions and creations. Let us celebrate the hard workers who are keeping us fed and alive. And, let us also explore the new ideas and ways of creating even under the dire constraints that wrap our everyday lives.

Stay well. Be well. Create.

Yay! + Yay? = Yay or is it Yay!? Or maybe Yay*

Ena News: She can transition off the crutches over the next couple of days. Yay! I will be so glad when she is off crutches. I have I mentioned that I’m really tired of the sound of crutches – the creaky-Kachonk of crutches? The sound of crutches falling over? The sound of crutches falling over in the middle of the night?

So, “Yay” to no more crutches!

She also heard back from the cardiologist. Her CT scan with contrast looked perfectly normal. Her surgeon also looked at it and said, “You look like a healthy adult who never smoked. I don’t see anything wrong.” The cardiologist said that she does not have any blocked arteries and that her chest pain is not a heart attack. She is doing the correct things of lowering her cholesterol and blood pressure. Check back in a year. Yay? I mean “Yay!” I guess in that she doesn’t have any blocked arteries and she isn’t having heart attacks but it would be nice to have a diagnosis of what is going on.

So that is where we are at on the Ena health care front.

She is my beloved. We started dating 23 years ago this coming Summer. Kind of amazing. This photo is from about then. We smiled like goofy school kids at each other all the time.And this one is from February of this year in The Before. We still smile at each other like goofy school kids.

Mom

I have been feeling the “presence”* of my mother these past few days or weeks. Maybe it is all the cooking, cleaning and running the house. Mom believed that all of us should know how to keep house: boys and girls. I’m really grateful for what she taught me. They are prime skills at this time.

I was mixing a large bowl of chicken salad, and I was using a serving spoon (a small one that came with our silverware). I could hear Mom say, “Don’t use a small spoon for a large bowl. Get a spoon big enough to do the job.”

I said, out loud I must add, “I know Mom. I know.”

Ena said, “What?” rightfully confused by my sudden utterance and calling her Mom.

I told her that I was talking to my Mom saying to get a big spoon instead of a small spoon.

I also felt her when I was mopping the kitchen floor. I was rinsing it off when I heard her tell me, “You need to rinse the cleaner off. The cleaner is designed to attract dirt. Leave it on the floor and you’ll just attract the dirt.”

Deflated Mylar balloon saying, “Class of 2020” on the ground in our garden

This are strange times, when people are falling back on old-school skills. People are buying chickens and planting gardens. It feels like the 40s (minus the War), sort of. People looking to be resourceful, minimize shopping, not go out. Cooking at home. Growing their own food. Taking care of their house and loved ones.

We are lucky that we have the tech to help us live through this with some comfort. I can order groceries to be delivered in a variety of ways. We can see the latest movies on-line and streaming if we want to pay for it. So, unlike the 40s, we have tech to help us through, but we don’t have the social gatherings that came with the war.

When we lived in Wisconsin, we went down to New Glarus – a little town that calls itself “Little Switzerland”. There is an old bar called Puempel’s Olde Tavern. It was established in 1893. There is a tiny dance floor in the back of this shotgun tavern. [That is, long and narrow not that everyone is carrying shotguns. That you have explain this says something about these times. – Editor]

On the dance floor, there were elderly couples, mostly, dancing waltzes and simple swing, to old songs like The Tennessee Waltz played by a live three-piece band. Elderly women sat along the wall waiting for an invite to dance. I had the sense that these people were here in 1943 – the men young and handsome in their uniforms – the women waiting and worried.

These times, there is something that brings us back to the core of living. To those old voices speaking of cooking and cleaning and running house. Of growing food and checking on neighbors. Fast Fashion seems ludicrous (more so) at these times. Sewing masks and making art and bread have come to the fore. And, I guess, so has my mother’s voice – teaching the arts and crafts of running a home.

* I do not think her ghost or spirit is in the house. This is just the lessons and voice of my mother coming back across the ages.

End of week 10, really?

So that was the 10th week of working from home. Ena is still on crutches and we still don’t have an answer yet to her cardiac issues. Seattle is just starting to open back up a little bit as long as you are wearing a mask and you stay 6′ feet apart unless you are in a restaurant or you are a nutter carrying an AK knockoff in front of the Capital Building. Then you can do what ever you want because Freedom!

Me. I’m grumpy. I’m tired of running and walking in the neighborhood. I’m psychologically tired of the “constant presence of it all” and the “constant vigilance” I have to practice. Also, my hands are sore from washing and disinfecting and sanitizing.

And it’s raining.

So here is this: the last photo from The Before:People shopping in an art booth

Look at all those people walking around looking at arts and crafts at the Pacific Northwest Garden Show. This was the first time we had even been to this show. We thought it would be about plants and garden design. It was mostly about a craft fair, and things you could buy on the Home Shopping Chanel (mattresses that adjust up and down in his and her styles), some people who supply stuff like stone, and gates, and skylights. There were a few display gardens inside under really strange lighting.

Hanging garden swing in a display garden

But this was The Before. When we took a bus downtown to go out to lunch and to a garden show and to walk through the Sculpture Garden before catching a Lyft home.

This was a world away in a time long forgotten (it seems). It is like an age of innocence. A period before when you happily climbed on the bus with a bunch of people in Mariners fan wear and others going to work on the weekend. When you looked forward to a kind of crowded restaurant full of fun people to watch. A time when you thought eating food with your hands in a crowded place was a kick not a dangerous fling with possible death.

I don’t think I was as grumpy then. I think these things are related.

The Before

I was chatting with a colleague asking him if he had any insights into two different strategic planning engagements that I’m being asked to help with. He said, “those are both from The Before. I’m not sure they make sense now. Where will the funding come from? Is this the most critical thing?”

That struck me – The Before. Will this be a point in time we talk about like 9/11? I remember flying before 9/11 – you could practically walk out to the gate 20 minutes before your flight. I remember just having plane tickets that were tickets. You could give them to someone else to use if you couldn’t use them.

Will we talk about The Before? No one wore masks on buses in The Before. In The Before, there was no single-payer health care really [This is aspirational – editor]. What is it we will carry forward into The After (I call it A.D. – After Donald)? Will we be proud of the adaptations and our responses or will they be ugly stains like the xenophobia and racism against Muslims that rose up from 9/11?

Will we say, “in The Before, people really didn’t get how important teachers and schools were that why there are all these new programs to help out K-12”. Will we point to new public science that is working on vaccines and disease tracking and drug discovery and say, “All of this was driven by the events of The Before”?

Will Higher Education embrace (truly and deeply) remote teaching and learning as well as on premise and learn to do it well? Will new tools appear to help build true engagement through a screen?

Let us hope that we look back at The Before with awe and think of all of the great things that came from it, not just the death and loss of incomes. Let us hope that this is a period of growth, not just survival.

P.S. The image above is from gabrielletreanor.com. I really don’t know anything about her other than I like the framework she put out.

Exhaustion

I don’t know why but today I feel exhausted. Maybe it is the heat. This is the first hot weekend of the year. Both days in the 80s and I was busy outside most of the weekend. Maybe all the yard work and stuff caught up with me. Maybe it is the new dose of anti-anxiety meds. Maybe it is existential exhaustion from All Of It (™)

I had a nap but it was the kind where you don’t sleep well and you wake up more tired (or at least just as tired) as before you lay down to sleep. (Kim L – I had to Google this for the whole lay, lie, laid, lain thing – editor)

Maybe next week will be Ena’s last week on crutches. Let’s hope. Maybe she will get her CT scan and we will get a diagnosis for her chest pains. Let’s hope. Did I mention that we got a new hot water heater on Friday? Let’s hope it is the last of those kinds of house repairs for while. Let’s hope a nice evening and good night’s rest rejuvenates my energy cells. That’s kind of what I’m running on right now – fumes and hope.