Friday, March 23, 2018

A Window To Another World

In the spring of 1992, in the middle of having my home built, I began to wonder what I would do with the transom windows I was having installed in several places in the home. Should I just leave them bare? What do other people do with them? That's when I had the idea to fit them with stained glass but I wasn't keen on the idea of paying someone to do the work. A co-worker, Shannon Madery, suggested I check out a stained glass shop in Eagan called Creations in Glass to see what they offered for instruction. I took their beginner's class in the art of stained glass, having no idea if I'd have either the aptitude or the desire to take it beyond the 6 session course. I would be one of their last students before they went out of business.

I finished my first project, and like a proud little schoolboy bringing his artwork home, I gave it to my mother. She kindly displayed it in her home for the rest of her life, as she did with my 2nd project as well. I had no way of knowing then how this passing curiosity with an art form I'd never expressed an interest in up until then would become a part of my life, of my identity.

In the 26 years of working with stained glass, I can't think of a time when I've enjoyed it more than I am now. I think what I like most is the creative aspect of what I'm doing; to be able to draw a design and then the process of bringing it to life. It's a rewarding feeling. I would imagine that my brother Keith feels the same satisfaction when he installs kitchen cabinets in a client's home.

I've been content to focus on my little sun-catchers for the past few months but I recently got out of my orbit to entertain a request. I received the following message on my Etsy account two weeks ago:

"Hi Kevin,

Fellow Minnesotan here. I love the geometric nature of your work. Very cool pieces! I have been looking for something like this for a large vertical window I have in my entryway, though I was hoping to find something more in the 10” x 40” range. Do you have anything with that dimension by chance?

Thanks so much and keep up the great work!

— Kyle"

He was referencing this small sun-catcher.

I opened my DeltaCad program and found the archived design of the sun-catcher Kyle liked. I fiddled with it for a while, eventually coming up with something more in line with Kyle's 10" x 40" (25 x 100 cm) request. I did some simple calculations to put me in the ballpark for what I thought it would cost and sent him the estimate along with the design.

I never heard back from him.

I decided to do the project anyway to see how long something like that would actually take me. I'm fearful of taking on a project and finding that I've committed to something that isn't worth my time and then becoming resentful that I ever took it on. That's too much like a crummy job, and I want to avoid that. Doing this project would give me a good idea of whether or not my estimate was fair for both Kyle and me.

I walked into Glass Endeavors a couple days later with a full-size drawing of the 10" x 40" design, intent on purchasing glass and whatever else I'd need in order to do the project. Zoi, one of the owners asked me if I was going to use H-channel lead considering all of the straight lines involved in it. I told her it had been 26 years since I'd last used that method (The 2nd project mentioned above was the last time I'd used it.) and I wasn't sure I wanted to re-learn it again on a project the size of the one I was undertaking. But the seed was planted. All the while I was choosing glass I kept going back to what Zoi had said, and I knew she was right. I went over to where they stock the long lengths of H-channel lead (also referred to as lead came) and contemplated the steps involved in assembling a window in this way. I can do this I thought to myself. There was a real possibility that I wouldn't be happy with the result but it would be a good learning experience.

I approached Zoi and told her she was right and that I needed to abandon my thoughts of using the trusted copper foil method for this one project and use lead came instead. I gathered up the tools I'd need along with the glass and lead, paid for them, then headed for home.

There was some trial-and-error for me as I worked to find my footing using the lead came method but it didn't take long before I was feeling comfortable. Still, I was working slowly and reworking sections as I tried to be more precise. All the while I was keeping track of the number of hours I was spending on the project via my phone's stopwatch.

I finished the panel in 34 hours knowing that I could've easily shaved several hours off the overall time had I been more experienced and known more fully the problem areas to avoid. I was very pleased with the results, though.

I was surprised to find how much I was enjoying working larger. It's been fun doing the small sun-catchers this winter but the satisfaction I received working on this much larger scale was every bit as rewarding.

And so I did another!

In keeping with my love of Frank Lloyd Wright's work, I designed a window based on the Balloons and Confetti series he did. This was a fun project and I was able to complete it in 21 hours. That's considerably faster than my previous effort but there was also less difficulty involved.

My next project is off the drawing board and ready to be worked on.

Although I have the two larger panels for sale on my Etsy site, I'm actually content if nobody buys them. They serve a useful purpose where I've hung them, preventing birds from flying into the windows of our sun-porch; an occasional problem we've had.

Most years around this time I start cleaning up the glass shop in preparation for my outdoor activities. I'll often think to myself that maybe this will be the year I manage to work on a glass project or two throughout the warmer months, but I never do. This year seems different than all those other years, though, and I'd kinda like to see if I can keep it up. If history is any clue I won't be able to but I intend to try.

Who could've known the path that those curious-looking transom windows would set me on those many years ago? I love how small, seemingly meaningless things in our lives can grow to be so much more than we could ever imagine.

Of all the music that's come across my Pandora app while I've been down in the shop lately, none has caused me to hit replay more than this one. It's good music to do glasswork by!

Friday, March 9, 2018

It's Really Pointless It Seems But I Try

I was going through the inner workings of my blog this morning and came across this unpublished piece I'd written a couple years ago. It details a conversation I'd had with a former co-worker. It didn't end well, in fact, we haven't spoken since. He left me with this:

"I'm afraid Kevin that you have hardened your heart against the Lord so bad that there may be no turning back. You need to repent my friend. I mean that sincerely. I'm afraid the only God you serve is the one you created in your mind. I'll continue to rely on the Bible, the Word of God."

Here's the previously unpublished entry.

I was going to blog today but I've been involved in a Facebook Messenger discussion and it's sucked up a good deal of the time I was going to use. I got to thinking that maybe my most recent reply to my friend can suffice for an entry because it touches on so many things that are playing out in our world today with the marrying of Christianity and politics.

My friend is a very conservative, fundamentalist Christian.

My most recent reply to my friend:

Let me get this right because I don’t want to make assumptions that I shouldn’t. You’re okay with having our teachers in a public school setting proselytize to students and try and win them over to Jesus but you won’t allow others who may profess a different faith to influence impressionable minds in a similar way?

Is that correct?

I have a real problem with that and yes, I am a Christian and I believe that Christianity is the only way to God but we’re not talking about a parochial school, we’re talking about a state school; a school that is to be devoid of religiously influencing our kids and for good reason. It’s fundamental to our Constitution.

Can I not be a good Christian and believe that as a society we need laws that protect all citizens to live their lives freely as they choose?

Let me ask you this: if someone came up to you and said that Christianity is of the devil and that it’s all wrong I’m guessing you would look at the person, shake your head and think to yourself how screwed up they are in their thinking, Right? How do you suppose people of a faith other than Christianity feel when you, in so many words, say essentially that by your words or by your actions? Do you suppose that endears them to this faith you follow? Would having them tell you that your Jesus was actually satan endear you to their faith? You have to step outside your bubble and realize that not everybody thinks the way you or I do and that in a free society there has to be respect and room for other people to live their lives as they see fit. You don’t own them.

Do you honestly think the gay individual who has suffered ridicule at the hands of religious people or the child who has been abused by church staff is going to feel the same about Christianity as you do? I can’t imagine they would yet you want to go about living your life and expecting others to march right along with you with no consideration whatsoever for their upbringing. That’s shallow thinking.

It’s not enough to simply say to every point I bring up that Christianity is right. End of story. Nothing more to discuss. That doesn’t work for these people who you would sooner write off as lost souls in love with satan because they happen to have been raised with a belief system different than your own.

Have you ever questioned your faith?

Continuing on. Do you also feel it’s okay to have Christian symbols on display exclusively on state and federal property, meaning no other faith shall be allowed to display their religious symbols in a similar way?

Is that correct?

Again, I think you’re wrong here if that is your belief. Yes, I know, you feel that because our religion is the only right one, that it doesn’t matter in the least what others say. Again, if that’s your belief, it’s one that bears no resemblance whatsoever to our Constitution and unless you’re living in some sort of exclusive, religious, gated community, that sort of thinking is unacceptable in a society with differing views.

I’ll ask again: are you okay with an intolerant society here in America much like you see in the Middle East? Is that the direction you’d like to see us move? It clearly seems that way to me.

You say “Of course these deceived people will be offended. Jesus offends. The gospel offends. The truth offends.” I have to wonder if you’re offended by the words of Jesus to love your enemies? It seems to me that for you those words are such an inconvenient thing for him to have left us with. I see how it bothers you and you would sooner minimize their importance and move on but I cling to those words, especially now in a day when Christians all around me are so filled with hate and not the love of Jesus as they talk of waging war on Islam or turning their backs on refugees who need us. Of course, not all Christians, but far too many, especially those in positions of power who are running campaigns on making sure we can all keep our guns, carpet-bombing the Middle East and oh yeah, loving Jesus. Don’t you see how absolutely warped that appears to some of us who really care about our faith and how it’s been hijacked by a political party that has nothing in common with Jesus in any way? And it seems to me that you’re falling for it.

When I said your view is an extremely narrow one I was referring to the way you discriminate against others who don’t believe as you and therefore aren’t worthy. At least that’s the sense I’m getting from what you’re saying when you talk about firing or not hiring people of a different faith. And no, Jesus never said a lot of things but he did leave us with some general instruction and I choose to follow that. He was a very inclusive man yet you’ve found a way to disregard that quality of his in your worldview. That’s disappointing.

Another word for “political correctness” is “respectful”. I’d prefer people like Trump gain some political correctness at a time when there’s enough rudeness and bigotry already. We need less, not more. I’m sorry you feel we need more of it and I have to ask, what part of Jesus do you see in Trump’s rudeness that you admire?

You spoke of the many times you’ve stood on principle with your beliefs regarding sin in the church. We’re all in continual sin. It’s a fantasy to think that any of us can live a life not immersed in sin and that any of us are righteous enough to stand before others and say that we’re deserving of whatever the position is in the church that we’re desirous of because we don’t sin the way others do.

Let me expand on the one example you spoke of about the woman who you supported kicking out of the choir. Are you certain that she was only leaving her husband because “she just wanted to”? Do you know if her husband was verbally abusive toward her or if he had a pornography addiction or alcohol addiction or another woman in his life that she was covering up for him in order to protect his reputation? No, of course, you can’t know any of that. People in those circumstances don’t always come across as you would expect. I actually know of a situation where this same sort of thing happened and the people in the church had no clue what they were doing yet they went ahead and meted out their church justice to a woman undeserving of it. Shame on them!

Yes, I realize that I was being judgmental with you when I used that word about you. Sometimes there’s no way around it to get to the point. You know that.

So I’m a “fellow Christian who is not proclaiming a Biblical Christianity”. Yes, I believe differently than you. If you’d like to rely on the OT (Old Testament) for direction, please do so but realize that when you don’t embrace it all you then become the one who is picking and choosing, not me. I can think of many OT instructions that we’d both find extremely abhorrent today: requiring your daughter who was raped to marry her rapist being on the top of that list. Care to wanna embrace that one?

I’m looking at your list of headlines and the first one is of a coach who was given the boot for his prayers at the 50-yard line. Again, you love your Constitution when it comes to the 2nd amendment but what about the 1st amendment, the separation of church and state? The coach, acting in a position of authority by a government entity is a devout Christian. What if he’d been a devout Muslim and had players spread out their prayer cloths to pray. You’d be throwing a fit and rightly so. And no, it’s not enough to say that Christianity is the only way and nothing else matters; not in a free society where you don’t own other people's thoughts and you don’t get to decide what they believe. It’s called being respectful and it doesn’t mean you’re agreeing with satan or any number of ways you can twist it to make your point.

You have several headlines about Christmas. Do you really think Jesus likes this thing we do in his name each year? Do you really think he likes the way Christians all over the planet go into a frenzy of materialism to celebrate the birthday (he was actually born in May I believe but hey, that’s a whole other story) of a man who despised materialism? And you want to protect this? I wish the church would disassociate itself from Christmas the way Jehovah's Witnesses have done. It’s the right thing to do. But it’s profitable for Fox News to continue this ridiculous “war on christmas” narrative they love to trot out each year.

I do think you mean well but your approach to Christianity (at least in my view) is akin to a bull in a china shop in that you can do a lot more damage than good by the way you approach many of these divisive topics of the day. You don’t get to own people and tell them how to think by insisting that only your religion is right and that theirs is all wrong. They have every right to become defensive when you tell them that only Christians get to do this or get to do that. To bring the OT into play and say that God discriminated there so it’s okay for us to do it today is really a stretch and if your goal is to win hearts and minds for Christ, it has about as much chance of succeeding as our ill-conceived foray into Iraq.

I haven't hardened my heart toward God in the least. What I have done though is harden my heart toward a version of Christian that pretends to speak for God in a most pharisaical way, always focused on the law and the sin of others and not their own failings.

You can think what you want about me but you know very little about me, actually. I'm sorry that you're so rigid in your interpretation of scripture that you can't allow anyone to question a book that has man's hands all over it and with great influence. I think it's foolish to not think that man may have somehow corrupted scripture. Look how man has corrupted the church. Man has corrupted everything he's ever touched. Apparently, to you it's a deal-breaker to ever question your faith. I'm sorry you feel that way.

Thanks for your time. I very much appreciate this conversation with you.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Glasswork, Copyright Talk, and Mike Johnson Has Left the Building!

I've been steadily adding to my stained glass inventory in my Etsy store. I've had a few sales along the way but it's been slow, which I expected. Still, I'm enjoying more than ever this hobby of mine and if I make a few sales along the way, all the better. The photo to the left is a collection of my available pieces.

I'm beginning to build a network of other glass artists as well as those who appreciate glass art on an Instagram account where my focus is on my glasswork rather than a mix of that and life in general; I have another account for that. It's interesting to see what others around the globe are doing with their art. I've made quite a few connections with Russian and Chinese artists, which I find interesting. I'm encouraged by the comments I'm receiving there. It's a nice community of people.

I've spent the past couple days going through my blog and reconstituting dozens of broken links to videos that were deleted when I lost my Vimeo account a little more than a year ago due to some Adele concert videos I'd uploaded 5 years earlier. Yes, dumb on my part. Vimeo was my go-to platform to host videos I'd put together of my cycling adventures because they seemed less stringent in their policing of videos with copyrighted background music (the kind I like to upload). I'd mostly relegated myself to using music from sites such as Free Music Archives. Fortunately, I'd kept copies of nearly all of my video creations on a hard-drive so all was not lost when my Vimeo account went dark.

It turns out that while I was content to use Vimeo for years, YouTube was diligently working behind the scenes with artists and their promoters to allow for more copyrighted music to be used in the way I like to use it with no penalty to a user's account. So, rather than a strike against a person's account, what seems to be more common now is that a user will instead receive an email notification that a video they'd recently uploaded contains copyrighted material and that ads may appear with the video, but not to worry and that there's no need to delete it (provided the artist is agreeable to this). Expand the image to the left to see an example. I like this a lot. I'd have been happy to pony up a dollar or two to use a song but this works, too.

So how does one know if a song is acceptable? It's also now possible to upload a video with accompanying copyrighted music and get a good idea to see which way the copyright winds are blowing with respect to its use on YouTube without incurring a dreaded strike against your account, because who doesn't like to have some nice music to listen to while watching a boring cycling video?

In the last few months, Toby has become nearly impossible for Tammy to either bath or groom. He moans like he's got a cat living inside him and he struggles to break free. We called a groomer last week to see if they would be willing to try and work with him but they politely declined. We made an appointment with our veterinarian and she prescribed a sedative to see if that would help. It did. Tammy was able to groom him with no difficulty at all. We've learned that this sort of behavior isn't uncommon with older dogs.

I've been getting them out on their daily walks again now that the temps have moderated and the big melt is underway. A year ago at this time, we had no snow whatsoever. Not so this year.

I made it to Celts Pub in Farmington yesterday to meet up with the guys from the salt mine, both active and retired. They get together each Wednesday at 2:30 but I suck at making it there more than once every couple of months. Yesterday was a sendoff for Mike Johnson who had signed his retirement paperwork earlier in the day. I worked with Mike for the first dozen years of his career and was either his 1st or 2nd radar trainer (we couldn't quite puzzle it together all these years later as we tried to recall). Mike was one of the better storytellers I worked with. He has more funny stories than anyone else I can think of. It was nice seeing him and the many others who were there. I need to make a reminder prompt on my phone and do a better job of showing up.

I got out Tuesday morning for what may have been my last romp in the snow for the season. I had a blast and by the time I made it back to my car I was one whipped boy! Four hours on a fat-bike will do that to you!

And speaking of boring cycling videos with cool music!