New favorite: “Mountain Men” by Gerard Curtis Delano

In an obscure history museum in the small town of Craig, Colorado, I came upon the art of Gerard Curtis Delano, who painted western themes in the early 1900’s.  Delano used simple forms and rich colors, almost chromatic, especially when depicting the bright colors in traditional colors of native American colors.  The museum had several prints of his work.  I had never heard of Delano previously, and would have probably not even remembered him, had it not been for what happened next.

As I came around one display, I encountered his work, Mountain Men, depicting two mountain men riding a makeshift raft down a river.  This was an original, 30″ x 36″.   The image I have linked hardly does justice to the rich pastel colors, which make the water so cold and atmosphere so misty.   What really exited me was the action implicit in the scene, and the feeling of being there, achieved by the low angle of view.

No prints were available.  Research shows that it sold in 2013 for $74,750.  Still, it is a new favorite of mine.

Mountain Men by Gerard Curtis Delano

Fitbit is changing my behaviors

I was given a Fitbit Charge for Christmas.  I expected it to be a useful tool in my quest to manage my weight.  What I didn’t expect was the way it would change my behaviors.

Fitbit told me I had a goal of 10,000 steps a day.  I previously had a pedometer years ago and counted steps, but I found that it was easier to log my exercise and count calories. I lost almost 70 pounds by carefully counting calories from food and exercise.  At the time, I was highly motivated by The Hacker’s Diet, which I still highly recommend.  Stepping didn’t do much for my motivation, so when the pedometer broke, I didn’t replace it.

I soon realized the Fitbit was more than a pedometer.  It was watching me and encouraging me.   I got an email of encouragement when I my first 5,000 steps.  I saw I was getting credit for taking stairs.  I was also getting extra calories in my calorie counting app, My Fitness Buddy.  I got a badge!

The big surprise came late in the first day.  The Fitbit on my wrist vibrated several times and started flashing.  I had reached 10,000 steps for the day and Fitbit was having a nice fit of congratulation!   I was surprised how motivating that little buzz on my wrist felt. I know people respond to feedback — that’s one reason Facebook notifications and gathering Likes are so addictive — but the buzz has become very personally motivating to me.

The Fitbit buzz at 10,000 steps!

The Fitbit buzz at 10,000 steps!

I anticipate the buzz.  I wait for the buzz.  I check for my steps and think, what can I do to add a few more so I can get to 10,000 and make Fitbit buzz and flash?   The thought of not making 10,000 steps and missing the buzz fills me with disappointment.

This has changed several of my behaviors.  At work when I need to talk to someone, I walk down the hall rather than pick up the phone.  I plan for small motion breaks between meeting. I walk up the stairs to the restroom on the next floor.   I jog in place for a few hundred steps when I am on phone calls.  I walk in a circle when my food is in the microwave, just to pick up a few more steps.  One morning, I got up extra early before an early meeting so I didn’t miss my workout steps.

The charts and stats really help me to see progress and consistency.  The geeky side of me loves to see charts.

Last year I shifted jobs from home to back to the office.  I gained a 15 pounds and I’m realizing in part because I became more sedentary in the main office than I was in my office at home.  At home, water (and food) are downstairs, so I would do the stairs 20 times a day.  Sometimes I would walk about while on the phone because there was more space. There would sometimes be people at the door (more stairs.)  In contrast, at the main office, I would sit and grab food out of my lunch box and sit some more.

Fitbit’s motivation has given me  back the many small motions lost by going back to the main office.  It has also motivated me to find more ways to add a few steps.

One week of Fitbit, and I am down 8 pounds.   Some of that is water, but Fitbit calculates an 800 – 1000 calorie deficit each day, thus some of that is real pounds.

I am motivated to keep this up and see how far and how long Fitbit can keep me motivated.  I’ll check back in four weeks and see how it’s going.

Rockets, Butterflies and Turkeys

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on Dame's Rocket

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on Dame’s Rocket

I’ve been watching a meadow full of purple wildflowers. I’ve visited several times over the last few days to take pictures and paint. I did a plein air morning study, that I’ve posted on my art blog. It turns out that the beautiful voilet stalks are Dame’s Rocket, which is considered an invasive species.
A field with large patches of Dame's Rocket

A field with large patches of Dame’s Rocket

I went back again in the afternoon, and I was surprised how many butterflies and bees were out. The first picture in the post is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio glaucus). There were also orange-banded Red Admiral (vanessa atalanta) butterflies.
Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta)

Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) on Dame’s Rocket

Then, on the way home, a wild turkey crossed the road. Couldn’t find it in the butterfly book.
Wild turkey

Wild turkey crossing the road.

Ornamental Bush Studies

April 21 at 9am. Morning sun.

April 21 at 1 pm. Overcast.

April 23 at 6:30 pm. Evening sun.

Assignment was three paintings of the same object, using brush.

Flowering Crabapple Tree Studies

Image Study 1. 9am April 14. Morning sunlight, no clouds.

Image Study 2. 7pm April 14. Overcast.

Image Study 3. 6pm April 17. Declining sunlight, mixed clouds. (Started sunny, finished cloudy).

Painting instructor wanted three 60 minutes 6×8 studies of the same subject at different times / days. All knife work.

Family Togetherness in the Modern Age

Serious family chat over Google chat

Our family is spread all over the country: Utah, Minnesota, Ohio, and Virginia. But, we can still get together virtually. Google chat is what we use. Silliness abounds. These are some clips from the last chat. Everyone trying to make each other laugh and out-do the others in silliness.

Ringing Bells for Kettle Drive

Cragun Family ringing Bells for Salvation Army Kettle Drive

Cragun Family ringing Bells for Salvation Army Kettle Drive

One of our family’s Christmas traditions is to go ring bells for the Salvation Army’s annual Kettle Drive. Salvation Army does a good work, and it’s easy to support their effort.

Of course, we try to have a little fun with it. We perform a little Christmas music using sawn pipes struck with kitchen utensils — sort a poor man’s bell choir. It’s a challenge, and a little disjointed, but you can usually recognize the tune. This year, the table knives were accidentally left at home, so we made do with car repair tools. (See the screwdrivers and pliers?)

In the photo left to right: Amoray & Nathan, Christian, Leanne, Eric, Catherine. (I’m taking the picture.) Each year Eric dons his Elf costume, which usually gets some smiles.