Archive for the ‘Mortar’ Category

The Post: Admiral Byrd, Scarlett O’Hara & Melanie Hamilton reappearing!

January 4, 2016

Well, it has been a long quiet time on Soul Mosaic, for good reason.  I have been very busy creating STEM programs at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, NC for these last almost 4 years. It is a fantastic job with the opportunity to reach out to students from all walks of life and engage them in the excitement that is science.

It is my passion to reach out especially to underserved students and schools and get them actively involved in science labs so they can see for themselves that a career in science is not beyond them. It is all about demystifying science and removing the fear.  I love it.

Soul Mosaic, though, has never left my soul.  I’ve just been on hiatus, feeding my soul in new ways.

As a result, I have some new things coming up in the next few months.

I am working slowly on plans for a series of book and article projects, some of which will draw directly from my Fiddler Crab experiences with Admiral Byrd, Scarlett O’Hara, and Melanie Hamilton.  Hence my favorite crustacean creatures will be reappearing in this blog and in articles and e-books in the coming months.

One – Fiddler Crab Love – will be lighthearted retrospective look at all the blog entries, couple with new comments on each one.

Another will be the The Soul Mosaic Quick Start Guide to Raising and Loving Fiddler Crabs.  I’ve accumulated a lot of experience and info on raising fiddlers and on things to do to get your setup going quickly and successfully (and keeping it that way).  So I will be publishing a short e-book on that in the coming months.

A third project – Molting Through Midlife – a soul work for sure, will be a deeper, more emotional journey through the years I was raising Admiral Byrd and company.  There was a lot going on in my life, and it’s time to look back from 5 years down the road, to explore the many truths that made themselves clear.  It will be my memoir of a difficult time, of struggle, survival, resilience, and how some tiny creatures led me to the path for a better life.

Beyond that, I have material in progress for a young reader book sharing the adventures of Admiral Byrd, Scarlett O’Hara, and Melanie Hamilton!

So I will be chronicling the progress of these projects here and keep all posted as to when and where they will be published.  In fact, for the duration, my entire focus on this blog will be these projects.  In the past I had many projects and topics I wanted to pursue.  I realize now it is time to narrow the focus…to, as I said in this early blog entry, Pick a Nipple. (If you never read that entry, please do for the explanation to what that comment means! 😉 )

I hope you will come along for the ride. Thank you!

PS  A gift to anyone in the Raleigh, Cary or Wilmington NC areas.  If you are at all interested in saltwater tanks, reef tanks (as well as freshwater tropicals, and of course Fiddler crabs 🙂 ) I found a great place with knowledgeable and helpful staff, and lots of tanks, critters and supplies:

The Fish Room

Check them out!

The Post – Something for the Soul

January 28, 2011

Just one last thing today….a bit of a scattered day and mostly my focus has been on the scientific and nature topics. And of course all those things are “spiritual” in their way.

But here’s a gift for the soul this morning. Enjoy:

Deb Bailey and Spiritual Judaism- One People World United shared a link. – From the award-winning documentary, “Playing For Change: Peace Through Music”, comes an incredible track written by Pierre Minetti performed by musicians around the world adding their part to the song as it traveled the globe. “Don’t Worry” is the follow up to the clas

The Post – A Soulful Gift

January 25, 2011

A simple poetic gift to you all this morning, from the site: Spiritual-Judaism-One-People-World-United

A path, in the snow
Marked with,
crossed fence posts,
into eternity it goes.
Rose colored mountains,
behind the meadows.
Silhouetted in the evening,
with it’s shadows.

Snowy steps,
searching for the height.
Step after step,
leading to the light.

Life force in all,
one vibration.
Acceptance and celebration,
one happiness,
in our salvation.


The Post – LGBTQ Ally Week

January 23, 2011

Just starting to get back on track here for the new week. Last week we ate out a lot rather than deal with any new crock pot experiments. So I’ll be back on track soon with new posts.

I received this on my Facebook page, about an “Ally Week” event going on at Chapel Hill – University of North Carolina. While I can’t be present for it and don’t have a button to wear, I can still “put it out there” for all to be aware of and consider.

So click here to read about UNC’s event.

The Post – A Meditative Gift

January 15, 2011

Here’s a You Tube video done by someone called “puntocaramelo” to accompany Celine Dion singing Ave Maria.  It’s a meditative delight, both visually and audibly.  Click here and enjoy.

The Post – How to Have Your Heart in Your Throat

January 15, 2011

A gift for all this afternoon:  A poem by Jimmy Stewart about his dog named Beau, from a Johnny Carson Show clip.

It is such a heart-warming performance.  Click here and enjoy.

The Post – Let’s Talk Turtle

January 12, 2011

Let’s switch animals for a moment and move to sea turtles, another favorite of mine. And maybe a personal connection. My mother-in-law always promised to come back as a sea turtle and I bet she kept her word.

But anyway…. being an oil painter, that means I keep 4-6 oil paintings going at a time. Given that the paint takes a while to dry whenever I do something, I would be sitting around waiting a week to do something next. Having several going at once means I can keep moving projects forward.

In that vein, aside from the seagull/seascape pic I’m currently working on, and a painting for my niece of the place she’ll be married at in CT next July, I finished everything else. So hence the plans for the dolphin painting. I also want to do a painting for a friend and she loves sea turtles too, so time to start that as well.

I’m not going to get into a discussion…YET…about what canvas and composition for that one, a little pressed for time today. But I would love to share a place with you all that’s one of my favorites on the coast here in NC, the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, on Topsail Island, NC.

Though I don’t have the full details, I know it got started with the efforts of Karen Beasley rescuing sea turtles on her own and expanding her efforts. She sadly died young of cancer and her mom took up the mission. The facility has been going since the mid-90s and is now building a new turtle hospital.  Sometimes fishermen give them injured turtles, often they find them. They care for the creatures, heal their wounds – physical for sure, emotional hopefully, but they care for them professionally and with great love. This includes a large number of college students who vie for the opportunity to intern there in the summers.

If you click on the link above you can visit the home page, where there are links to pictures, an index of all the turtles they ever rescued (and their status – MANY success stories), and even a list of turtles you can adopt. As the site states:   All donations are directly applied to food, medical supplies, and operating costs of the hospital. We receive no state or federal funding

Focus is to release except for turtles so badly hurt they can never be released. I’m trying to track down details right now about one turtle I met at a reptile and amphibian show at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, NC a couple of years ago. A lovely, gentle creature who was blinded by human actions, but had a robust spirit and seemed very content in their care. If I can learn more, I’ll share the story.

They also participate in the turtle nesting project – locating and marking turtle nests to protect them, engaging volunteers to find and mark them and watch over them, helping newly hatched turtles find their way into the ocean waters, etc.

They even fit some of the turtles with monitors to satellite track them and there’s some data at the website under Satellite Tracking!!

Its’s a great facility. If you have a soft spot in your heart for sea turtles, please visit their site. Consider donating, but at least visit the site and learn about all the wonderful works they do. Such beautiful creatures…..and people. 🙂

PS If you ever get to go to Topsail Beach on Topsail Island, NC, GO VISIT THEM!!!! They do tours of the facility in the summer.  Even though it’s popular and you may stand in line in the sweltering hear for a couple hours, it’s worth it to see the turtles AND to see just how professional and caring these people are!

The Post – Dolphins: What canvas, What image?

January 10, 2011

Okay. So the easy part is over. I know I want to do a painting of dolphins, to capture their beauty, fluidity, personality, intelligence. Now we come to the hard part – how to execute that?

I will say that the short answer is – it comes down to gut feeling about composition and canvas size and shape. And that nothing is cast in concrete. One can get halfway through the painting only to realize you need to turn the painting 90degrees and start again, or paint over the whole thing and get a new composition. However – I do try to narrow some things down then follow my gut. Probably the best I can hope for is to answer three first questions , then identify what other questions need answering as I go through this process.

The first three questions are-

1) what size of canvas?

2) what orientation (vertical or horizontal)

2) what composition?

The size and orientation are determined by the composition, though composition is  determined by the size and orientation of the canvas. To get to the final choice, at least for me, it is a  working back and forth, see-sawing between all three until the choices are narrowed down to a decision.

I start by going to Google images and just printing some pics of dolphins that “spoke” to me to get an idea of what compositions might work and what they even look like.

Some were “vertical” in orientation, some horizontal. Most had at least a couple dolphins, some had several. All had the “underside of the surface waves” at the top of the picture. So I have a “vague” idea of my own composition –

In thinking about my “vision” I know I want the top of the painting to show that we’re just under the water’s surface – so the top of the painting has to have that quality of “seeing the underside of surface waves.”

Also, at this point my gut tells me “simple vs. cluttered,” so I’ll keep the number of dolphins low. One solitary dolphin feels wrong as they’re social creatures, so I think I’ll keep the composition to two or three at most.

At least one dolphin has to to give us that “look it in the eye” connection, so they all can’t just be a “far away view.”

In looking at the pics I see I could do horizontal dolphins in a horizontal canvas, and it has potential. I can also do vertical ones in a horizontal canvas. However that means dolphins far away. Vertical dolphins on a vertical canvas feels better than on a horizontal one. You can get closer to them. So which is it? horizontal dolphins on horizontal canvas, or vertical dolphins on a vertical canvas?

And of course, my gut pipes up with – you could do something odd like a vertical canvas with an angled down but mostly horizontal dolpin or…..ARGGGHHH! 🙂

Let’s take a break and consider what size canvas.

Re the canvas size:

Let’s face it. This painting could go from 2×4″ to 4’x8′ or a wall fresco. But I work in more intermediate size ranges and avoid the extremes.

My favorite size often is 8×16, which is an odd size but I like it. It’s usually just big enough to capture creatures or seascapes and I just “like” that shape.

But I think that will be too small for what I have in mind here. So we’ll go for a size a little bit bigger.

My other frequent choices are: 18×24″, 16×20″ or 12×24″. So I think one of these will be my choice. Let’s leave size for a minute then and hop over to orientation.

Re: orientation” for the canvas used: Will I paint it with a “vertical” approach, meaning taller than wide? Or will I paint it “horizontally” meaning wide with a narrow height?

If I go tall and narrow width, that means I’m showing many layers of water and I’m probably going to have to paint smaller dolphins….unless I have several in the background and one more forward, diving deep and straight down so I could make the full length of the dolphin apparent. Overall, it’s more of a “long shot of the whole area” with a focus on one dolphin. It could work as a way to show the personality of one closeup. Also, a dolphin is long and narrow, so I could use a vertical oriented canvas and have a diving dolphin to show that.  But I’m not sure.

If I go long on the horizontal and shorter on height this means I’m painting a narrower slice of water. Thus any dolphins shown will be larger and more the focus of the painting for sure. However, then the focus instead of being on one dolphin, becomes all of the dolphins  as they’ll be about equal in size and close in proximity. And keeping with the long and narrow on the dolphin shape, a horizontal canvas means no diving dolphins – they would have to be horizontal as well to get across that whole “long and narrow” feeling.

Okay, so I haven’t yet identified “which canvas and orientation” but I HAVE listed some pros and cons of each. And in reality, the canvas shape is really a choice between two. The 16×20 and 18×24 are almost identical in ratio, just for a little bit more size on each dimension on the 18×24,whereas the 12 x 24 has a much longer vs narrow feel to it.  So the decision really comes down to 12×24 or one of those two.

In the hopes of clearing up the confusion, maybe it’s time to go back to composition.

To recap – most likely, vertical dolphins on a vertical canvas, or horizontal ones on a horizontal canvas. With the surface showing above. With two or three dolphins. And a canvas either 12×24 or one of the other two.

I sense that I want a focus on one dolphin with the others possibly in the background. And to have a full-size dolphin horizontal feels boring. More drama in having one of three “plunging” down to the deep sea. Action. Not just being.

What to do right now?

Feel. Stare. Digest. Incubate.


Stay tuned for ….decisions. At least “best guesses”  🙂

The Post – Dolphins: An Ethical Problem

January 8, 2011

Has anyone ever thought about dolphins in amusement parks / aquariums and wondered if they were happy?  I have to admit I never thought about it much. I figured if they were kept humanely, fed well, kept active and busy, that was good. But maybe that’s not the case.

I came across this article in the Times from January 2010 that said:

“Dolphins have been declared the world’s second most intelligent creatures after humans, with scientists suggesting they are so bright that they should be treated as “non-human persons”……The researchers argue that their work shows it is morally unacceptable to keep such intelligent animals in amusement parks or to kill them for food or by accident when fishing. Some 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die in this way each year.”

This gave me pause, especially since for 10 years I worked on an ethics board protecting human beings in clinical research studies. I am supposed to think outside the box to make sure all are treated ethically. So I dug further into the topic of dolphin ethics and found a bit more.

An article by Kris Stewart on the Ethos website, states:

“The ways that dolphins are captured, transported, and kept for research, display and/or entertainment raises many ethical concerns. Family groups are broken up when one or more dolphins are taken from their home waters in traumatic takings, and the effects of changing the social structure of the wild population once those individuals are removed from the community are unknown. Many captive dolphins display physiological and behavioral indicators of stress such as elevated adrenocortical hormones, stereotyped behavior, self-destruction, self-mutilation, and excessive aggressiveness towards humans and other dolphins. To be sure, captive dolphin facilities vary around the world, but even if Panama provided the very best in captive dolphin care and management, the decision to keep healthy dolphins in human care at all disregards their moral value. Captivity denies dolphins their psychological, physical, and social integrity, inflicts untold kinds and amounts of stress, and drastically alters the fundamental life experience of being a dolphin.”

I looked into the Times article further and found this on one of the researchers quoted in the article:

Emory University neuroscientist Lori Marino, states that: “Dolphins are sophisticated, self-aware, highly intelligent beings with individual personalities, autonomy and an inner life. They are vulnerable to tremendous suffering and psychological trauma,” …The growing industry of capturing and confining dolphins to perform in marine parks or to swim with tourists at resorts needs to be reconsidered, she says.”

Marino presented these findings along with another researcher, Dr. Diana Reiss, professor of psychology at Hunter College, City University of New York, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference (AAAS) in San Diego, on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010. Click the following two links to read an article about Dr. Marino’s presentation, and to hear her speak on video about this topic: her article and a video of an interview with her

Dr. Thomas White, professor of ethics at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, and a fellow at the Oxford Centre For Animal Ethics, apparently also spoke at this conference. An excerpt of his speech: click here

Giving a response to these topics was Dr. Jerry Schubel, Director of the Aquarium of the Pacific. At the website, Physics Buzz, there was an entry by the blogger, Alaina G. Levine, Much Ado about Dolphins, even if they don’t wear physics t-shirts, that contained some of his comments. She also gave a somewhat critical discussion on whether this effort is going too far. Her summation of Dr. Schubel’s comments though, shows a man who is not the anti-Christ in this, isn’t trying to harm dolphins and actually has some good criteria for when dolphins might be ethically served by being in captivity:

“However, Jerry Schubel, President and CEO of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA, who served as the “Discussant” for the session on dolphins, had some fascinating comments on the matter.

He agreed wholeheartedly that ethics should prevent us from having dolphin hunts (called drives, these are brutally shown in the Oscar-nominated documentary, The Cove). But he posited that there might be ethical scenarios that would support captivity. If a dolphin was born in captivity, or had been rescued and needed rehabilitation, Schubel argued, then detention would be an acceptable situation. Furthermore, if a dolphin was chronically ill and release would surely lead to death, then again captivity would be ok.

But Schubel was quick to point out that any dolphin captivity must come with “the right conditions, and…have the right conditions to enable it to connect with humans,” such as at aquariums, he said.

“Aquariums have a powerful role to play if we view our collections of these animals as ambassadors to the wild…,” he declared. Aquariums that have dolphins have a wonderful opportunity to affect policies to prevent slaughters, and …to raise the bar to try to get [people] to agree on how to keep these animals in captivity.” He joked that the fish in his aquarium have much better health insurance than he does.

Schubel went on to say “when families watch these animals perform, they are emotionally connected [with the dolphins].”

The blogger noted, and I agree, that emotional connections can go either way. Dr. Schubel’s  comments appeared a week before a staffer was killed by an orca, in a Florida aquarium. I suspect that shifted public emotions too, but possibly not in a good way. So depending on public emotions to prove a point can be a variable thing.

A report on that conference (click here) revealed that although the various researchers disagree on what is the best thing for dolphins, there was a lack of polarized or extremist attitudes in their discussion:

“There was a distinct lack of any animal-rightist stridency or blanket extremism among these experts. They disagreed as to whether holding dolphins and their relatives in any type of captivity was morally defensible. Dr. Marino argued that even the best captive conditions offer an environment one ten-thousandth of a percent (that’s 0.000001) the size of their native habitat.

Dr. Riess and other discussants – in particular, Dr. Jerry Schubel of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA – countered that limited and extremely sensitive keeping of the animals not only allows us to learn more about their biology but also to engage people of all ages in caring about their survival.”

In fact, a number of the researchers, regardless of the side they are on, wrote jacket text for a book by Thomas I White: In Defense of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier.
At this stage it seems that this is an exploration of the topic, a learned discussion of pros and cons, with an eye toward making sure these beautiful brilliant creatures are recognized as highly intelligent sentient beings and treated properly. However even though I lean toward the side of not having them in captivity, especially just for entertainment purposes, the criteria Dr. Schubel gave for situations to have them in captivity, seem reasonable to me. As in many arguments of ethics, there is often some “black-and-white” and a LOT of gray.

The Post – An Unlikely Fish Count

January 5, 2011
I often paint fish and undersea creatures. Squids, southern flounder, American shad, krill, just to name a few. I will paint many more. Hence I’m always on the lookout for great pictures. I don’t copy them but use them to inspire me, and to sometimes put together a composite image of a few creatures in a scene of my own making.
Also as a person who paints and loves the ocean and its life, I am always seeking news on its health, problems, successes. A recent topic of interest to me, was the recent (2010) completion of the Census of Marine Life. ( It boggled my mind that someone could do this and I wondered how.
An article on Gizmodo recently appeared, that included a video on this very topic. As the video says, there are places in the ocean so remote they could not be explored, groups of fish so large they could not be counted, animals that travel so far they can’t be followed. If all that is true, how then did they do the Census of Marine Life for 10 years? The answer is revealed in this article and video. And you can find out what “OBIS” stands for. Just amazing work.
For even more info, check out . Also, there are some great books out on the subject.  World Ocean Census (ISBN-13: 978-1-55407-434-1) I picked up the book and it has photographs that are just beautiful. It is the story of the census. There is another I’m waiting to receive done by National Geographic: Citizens of the Sea – Wondrous Creatures from the Census of Marine Life that looks just amazing in the creature photographs it contains. I can’t wait to get it!. …….I can never get enough of the ocean…….