Auto Repair Update

Well, the repair shop did the honorable thing: after I went in to chat with them about the possibly unnecessary repairs, they extended me a credit of $150.00 for future oil changes and any needed repair work.  Case closed.

Published in: on May 26, 2010 at 6:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Breaking the Silence

No, I didn’t fall off the edge of the earth.  A combination of good intentions, getting ready for my trip east, and waiting for poppies to bloom somewhat created a long gap in postings.  Let me explain….

First, the good intentions.  I have several blogs in the pipeline awaiting finishing touches, photos, additional information, but none are 100% ready to publish.  I also am compiling another in the string of obituary postings.  I’m saving that for after I return in July; don’t want to squander a blog to use after a long road trip back to Utah, as I’ll be recovering from driving 2000+ miles and will need a ready-to-go blog!  I also hope to post a few blogs from Pennsylvania and wanted to have some almost finished to use.

Next, the trip.  As most of you know, I’m driving back soon for a month-long visit and the planning for that is involved.  Besides packing and list-making, I needed four new sneakers on my car, wanted to have fluids and hoses checked, and worst of all, it was making an odd, erratic metallic noise at times.  My initial visit to auto repair accomplished the first two items on the list, but they couldn’t make the noise happen.  Of course, as soon as I picked it up, the noise started.  So, a few days later, I got back to the repair shop and took one of the guys for a spin and he heard the noise!  Yeah!!!!  So after the first bill of about $350.00 for tires, engine check, state inspection, etc. I’m looking at replacing a serpentine belt and tensioners for another $300.00.  Any more expenses and I won’t be able to afford the trip east!  Work is done and I pick up the car and you can guess the next sentence: Yep, noise reasserts itself the next day–a Sunday.  Monday, no noise.  Tuesday, noise returns.  This will drive me insane on a 2000 mile trip!  I show up (like the thing that won’t go away) at the repair shop and take yet another guy for a quick drive.  He hears the noise, opens the glove compartment (which I’ve already checked along with other dash drawers for loose objects), puts his hand through an access opening and says, “The dashboard wire bundle was out of its clip.”  He secures it and my now $300.00 noise is GONE!!!!!!  After thinking it over last night, I’m stopping by today and will try to get some refund or store credit for the original misdiagnosis.  Can you believe it?

Finally, the poppies.  Why poppies you ask?  Well, one of the blogs I have almost ready to publish is on our flower and vegetable garden.  I have some photos, but wanted the poppies in the front to add to the images I’ll attach to the blog.  It’s been overcast and chilly, so they’re delayed in opening.  As of this morning, they’re still not open, just emerging orange buds.  So, I put together this “filler blog” in haste.

So, I’m headingt east, over the Wasatch Front on Friday morning.  The plans are to stay overnight in Cheyenne, WY Friday night, then an overnight visit with my cousin and her family in Omaha, NE on Saturday.  Sunday night will find me somewhere in the midwest, perhaps Indiana or Ohio and Monday I hope to pull into our family’s Pennsylvania mountain cabin where my brother awaits.  So, I’ll try to finish the garden blog from back east, as I’m hoping the poppies will have bloomed by Friday when I leave.  See you all soon!

Published in: on May 26, 2010 at 2:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ogden Art Beat–May’s Featured Artist

As per usual, I interviewed May’s featured artist at the Crowley-Wilkerson Gallery and he was delightful to chat with.  Actually, we met at the First Friday Gallery Stroll and then spoke the next day via phone as he attended his son’s lacrosse game.  He also teaches art at the high school level, so we had a lot in common and I could link easily to what he was saying about the current generation feeling entitled, with so much technology available to them.  So, below is my write-up of the interview.  If you want to see his more traditional work (the abstract pieces aren’t up on the website yet), go to

Crowley-Wilkerson Fine Arts Gallery Featured Artist in May

Celebrates Imagination


          Just how many different styles can one artist revel in and master?  You need only see the current exhibit at the Crowley-Wilkerson Gallery in Ogden to find an answer to that question.  Unlike many artists who choose to focus on one style and, perhaps, one or two subjects and hang their name and fame on that mastery, Michael Bingham seemingly can do it all: from traditional subjects like ballerinas and flowers to full-blown abstracts.  I recently had a chance to chat with him for about an hour during his son’s lacrosse game and we talked about all things art and, specifically, his art.

            Born in Salt Lake City, and raised in Idaho, Bingham eventually found his footing at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena after a high school guidance counselor initially recommended a career in architecture as an outlet for his artistic talent.  Then after two years in college, Bingham had a erueka moment: he could study to be solely an artist!  Once in Pasadina, Bingham hit his stride in the area of art, design, and illustration.  Bingham proudly states that this particular school in California is unique in that it was started and remains staffed by professional artists still actively working in the field.  Leon Parsons was an early influence on him and recommended that he “follow the paths of inspiring artists whose work you admire.”  Upon graduation, Bingham was recruited by Hallmark to relocate to Kansas City and join their artistic staff, which he did and remained for more than a decade.  In retrospect, Bingham wouldn’t change any of his foundational work in architecture as he still finds it a valuable framework for all his art.

            While at Hallmark, he helped design over 1000 items of their wide product line, maturing in an atmosphere of over 400 team artists (bigger than Disney, he likes to point out) and one of collaboration where he could hone his already considerable skills and learn new ones.  Eventually, Bingham became the go-to-guy as he learned to push the boundaries on new projects.  He remarks that he liked the challenges of filling a limited space with art to fulfill the needs of the project or customer’s wishes.

            All of this artistic background has served him well in a new chapter of his life once he and his family returned to Utah.  He realized that he wanted to do more than make “pretty art.”  Besides creating his own artwork, he returned to school, earned his teaching certification and is now on the faculty of the Mountain Crest High School in Hyrum, Utah.  There, as a full-time art teacher, his students benefit from all his experience and the philosophy of developing imaginations–he actually mourns the loss of imagination in today’s youth–and problem solving skills as he challenges his students in his art classes.

            When not in the classroom, but in his own studio, he loves the thickness of oil paint, but also enjoys the versatility of other media such as watercolor, charcoal, pastels, and sculpture.  He’s never met a piece of “found art” he doesn’t like or can’t incorporate in some way.  The current Ogden exhibit includes Tinkertoy pieces and old advertising signs.  Finding and repurposing objects is particularly appealing to Bingham and carries over into his paintings.  For him, especially now that he’s teaching, this is symbolic for how often we discard someone’s worth and dismiss that person too easily.  For the artist, the two worlds have a symbiotic relationship that shouldn’t be overlooked.

            When asked who his audience was, he mentioned that he feels his art is cheerful, uplifting, positive, non-controversial, and pleasing.  There’s a huge difference between handmade one-of-a-kind original art and a mass-produced print from a big box store.  People need to appreciate art more and it’s function in their lives.  If people can find relaxation in his art, he has done his job.  He shared that one of the best compliments he ever got was when someone said: “Whenever I feel stressed, I lose myself in your painting.”  A wonderful compliment, indeed!

            Bingham doesn’t really predict any new trends or movements in art on the horizon as the art world is pretty much wide-open already and anything goes.  If there are new ideas they will be a “mysterious surprise” and will, of course, involve imagination, the very thing he’s trying to teach his students!

            Michael Bingham’s work is featured for the rest of May at the gallery until the next First Friday Gallery Stroll occurs on June 4, 2010.  Partners Tami Crowley and Kris Wilkerson invite you to stop by and get excited about the many facets of art right here in Ogden.  The Crowley-Wilkerson Fine Art Gallery is located at 115 Historic 25th St., Ogden, UT and hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 11:00am-6:00pm or by appointment.  Please call 801/339-0606 for additional information or visit them at

(Susan H. Warren holds a M.A. degree in English from Villanova University.  Prior to retiring to Utah in 2009 from the Philadelphia area, she was on the English faculty of Widener University, Chester, PA.  She is an avid collector of art.) 

Published in: on May 16, 2010 at 12:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Night Bandits

Besides all the farm animals and livestock one would expect out here in Utah, there are also wild animals that live in the desert and the Wasatch Mountains, which do have quite a bit of ground cover on them, not to mention pine trees and other scrubby bushes.  But as the human population has mushroomed, so has the use of the lower mountain area, known as the benches, where houses are built as far up the sides of the slopes as it’s reasonably practical.  When civilization encroaches, the local wildlife has to adjust; deer move up and back farther into the canyons; coyotes still roam and there are frequent sightings; birds of prey still prey on small creatures; cats and small dogs: beware!

Along with all of this, is the nocturnal racoon population.  The town of Farmington, about 20 minutes south from where we live is situated on the narrowest piece of land squeezed between I-15 along the lake marshes and the mountains, so it’s mostly on the benches and the racoons really have no where to go except in people’s backyards and trash cans.

I recall vividly when I lived back in Swarthmore, several summers in succession, I would have post-midnight visitors of the racoon variety up on the tin roof directly under my bedroom window.  Were they cute?  Sort of, but not when waking me up in the wee hours of the morning, sounding for all the world like an intruder walking on the roof, which being metal, rippled and crunkled (is that a word?) under their paws.  Once realizing it was only racoons, I then was concerned that if they smelled food scents from my nearby kitchen through the open window, they might rip through the screen and get in the apartment.  That was an event I definitely did NOT want to deal with.  One summer it was a whole family: mom and 3 babies!  I guess she was showing them the ropes.  I ended up scattering foul smelling (to the animals) pellets on the roof and that seemed to discourage them.

Night bandits ready to raid.

Not only is the fear of rabies ever-present, but they are a nuisence.  Residents call animal control (last year alone 179 calls from Farmington alone, and the rest of Davis County recorded close to a total of 1,000 calls) and in each case–unpleasant as it sounds–the racoon was euthanized if it wasn’t dead already, and the city was charged $25.00 for removal.  Last year, the total bill for animal calls rose to $33, 600, mostly due to racoon disposal.  One official stated: “‘It’s almost a hobby for some people, catching a racoon in a trap and calling us.'”   Several households made over 30 calls among themselves. 

Farmington officials are afraid to charge people for racoon disposal as they fear it will lead to inaction and a rise in an unchecked racoon population.  Councilman John Bilton quipped: “‘We all would enjoy a racoon-free life.'”  Apparently, a lot of money is being spent and there are still racoons.  It’s been suggested that city residents develop their own method of euthanizing the racoons once they are trapped.  But of course, this brought up the question of what methods would be used: Shooting? Poison? Other possibilities?

So far, I have not heard of any racoon sightings near us.  Perhaps we’re too far from the mountains for the critters to travel or the landscape is too deserty for them.  We have voles and other burrowing creatures that can be pests, but luckily, we have no night bandits–yet….

Published in: on May 10, 2010 at 7:25 pm  Comments (2)  

“The Chicken Chronicles”–Part VI

Wow!  This saga has a lot of life in it, far more than I ever dreamed.  Who knew chickens could be so interesting and the topic so popular?

Okay, I grant you that it has now expanded to include rabbits this time, but still, chickens are the main players.  Centerville, is a small town about 20 minutes south of where we live.  The local paper has just reported that Centerville’s town council has voted 4 to 1 to approve an amendment to town law giving residents in certain zoning areas permission to keep chickens and/or rabbits for “‘recreation and family food production.'”  I can see the food production part (a rabbit in every pot!), but recreation?  I’ll grant rabbits are cute and could offer some sort of recreation (“Here, Fluffy.”  Or seasonal rental to appear as the Easter Bunny.), but I’m not exactly clear as to how chickens can offer recreational possibilities without raising eyebrows.  This could get X-rated! 

Anyway, the tried and true arguments were presented that children could learn to appreciate the cycle of life, could go gather eggs and know that they come from somewhere else than Walmart or Smith’s Supermarket.    

You have to have more than a half acre and can have 6 chickens or 6 rabbits or some combo of the two.  One father was excited at the prospect of gathering 5 dozen eggs at a time each morning.  I’m no farmer, but even if you have nothing but chickens, those 6 chickens are going to be pretty exhausted trying to lay almost a dozen eggs each, every day.  Coops are allowed (more mural possibilities I guess [see “Chicken Chronicles”, Part V]) or you can have a free-range set-up if you have the space, but hens’ wings must be clipped regularly.  No taking flight and escape for this poultry!  There will be the attendant fees and fines if you, as a chicken farmer, don’t follow the rules.  Gotta put some teeth into these laws!

Help!  Syracuse is being surrounded by chicken farms!  We have one rooster nearby (I can hear him crowing each morning), but I think he’s a bachelor.  We may have to start raising chickens for our own protection!

Published in: on May 3, 2010 at 8:26 pm  Comments (1)