Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Tale of Two Complaints

Complaints aren't necessarily a bad thing.  Sometimes they reveal an issue that the person responsible didn't know about.  They also give the party responsible an opportunity to do some corrective action.  I had two incidents lately where I had to complain and the responses said a lot about the companies involved.

The first one involved my truck.  I have a 2008 Nissan Frontier.  It's been a good truck with no real issues so far beyond scheduled maintenance.  It was just short of 60,000 miles when I took it in to Anderson Nissan in Asheville for a rather extensive list of scheduled items.  A faint whine had recently started in the engine compartment.  Didn't sound like much and I thought a bearing might be going bad somewhere, so I asked them to check on it.

That afternoon, I got a call from the dealer.  In addition to the regular maintenance items, they'd found a few more things that needed to be done, and I told them to go ahead.  Then the kicker: the whine was due to bad timing chain tensioners and it was going to cost over $2,100 to repair, in addition to the $1,000+ that I had already expected.

Holy cow.  I hadn't budgeted for that.  I stammered around for a bit and then told 'em no, don't do that repair, not yet.  I had to calm down.  After a bit, I got on the interwebs and started researching the problem that they described.  The results were interesting.  It turned out that the failure of the timing chain tensioners was a well-known issue and that Nissan had issued a technical service bulletin about the problem, along with the fix, in 2004.  Yet they continued to use the failure-prone parts until maybe 2010.  The problem was bad enough that there are at least three class-action lawsuits pending against Nissan.

Ignoring the issue would definitely be the wrong answer.  The timing chains would eventually break, leading to destruction of the engine and an $8,000 bill for a new one.  Frontier owners on various Nissan discussion boards reported that their timing chain repairs had cost $1400-1800, considerably less than my price quote.

So the next morning, I walked into Anderson Nissan and had a discussion with the service manager.  I told her to go ahead with the repairs, but that I was extremely unhappy with having this repair come out of my pocket.  This was a widespread problem that was clearly the result of a design or manufacturing defect that should be covered by warranty by corporate Nissan.  Yes, my Frontier was out of warranty due to time, but it had less than 60,000 miles.  I didn't yell or scream: I stayed calm and let her know that I was unhappy and that I had very rational reasons for being that way.

This approach paid off.  She could see from her records that I'd followed the maintenance schedule religiously and I wasn't an asshole.  So she did what she could, which was knock $300 off the cost and recommended that I contact Nissan USA.  She said they were more helpful than most people realized.  So $300 wasn't enough, but it was a start.

I then contacted Nissan USA and described the problem and why I was unhappy.  The next day, I got a call from a very nice lady who asked me to send in a bit more information, which I did immediately.  A couple of days later, she called me back to say that Nissan recognized that this was a problem, but that my truck was well out of warranty; however, they offered over $900 to cover half the remaining bill.

I took it.  Could I have argued for more?  Maybe, but as they noted, my truck is 8 years old and stuff happens.  In the end, I paid $900 for a very extensive repair that is guaranteed for the life of the vehicle.  All in all, I think both Anderson Nissan and Nissan USA treated me fairly.

The second complaint also had to do with cars.  I rent a car from Avis periodically when I go to Indiana to train people heading to Afghanistan.  I'm on Avis' frequent-renter program that supposedly gives better service.  Two weeks ahead of time, I made a reservation for a full-size car.  Three days prior to the scheduled pick-up, Avis sent me an email to remind me of my reservation.  So far, so good.  Then I showed up at the Avis counter at 9 a.m., as scheduled, and they didn't have my car.  Not even close.  Instead, the best they could offer was a Nissan Sentra, which is at least three steps down.  I was not at all happy, particularly when I got a look at the Sentra in question.  It had 30,000 miles on it, along with a ton of dents, dings, and scrapes.  But there was nothing else on the lot and the closest alternative lot was 40 minutes away.  Since I needed to get started on the drive, I took it.

I got five miles down the road and turned around.  The Sentra was a piece of junk.  It was uncomfortable, noisy, felt used-up, had a rumbling coming out of the rear end like a wheel bearing was going bad, and had the worst radio I've encountered since a high-school buddy's 1965 Rambler.  I wouldn't have accepted it from Rent-A-Wreck even for a day of around-town driving, much less for a week and 1000 miles.  The original Avis counter couldn't help me, so I wound up driving to the airport.  There, an extremely helpful Avis representative swapped it for a nearly-new Volkswagen Jetta.  I wound up hitting the road over an hour late, but the Jetta proved to be the perfect car for a long-distance drive.  I loved it.

After the trip was over, I sent a note to Avis detailing the events and telling them how unhappy I was.  I'd made the reservation two weeks in advance, they had acknowledged it three days prior, and then failed to deliver.  Not only that, they gave me a car that shouldn't be rented to anybody.

The next day, I got a note from Avis saying that they had documented my case and "escalated it to the proper department for the necessary feedback."

And that's it.  Over a week later, they have yet to get back to me.  Not even a meaningless assurance that they will do their best to fill my reservation next time.

However, they did send me two requests to fill out a customer survey form to let them know how well they performed.  I ignored the first request, thinking that I'd give 'em some time for the "proper department" to get back to me.  The second request, though, was too much.  So I gave 'em an earful.  Or an email full, depending on how you look at it.

So there you are.  Two problems.  Two well-reasoned complaints.  Anderson Nissan and Nissan USA took my issues seriously and responded.  Good on them.  Avis blew me off, even though I'm a frequent renter.  Screw them.

Late Note: The day after publishing this post, I heard back from Avis.  They said, in part: "Any difficulties or problems encountered by a customer are a concern to us and we apologize most sincerely for any inconvenience you may have been caused.  Please be assured that your experience was not typical and the appropriate management teams have been advised.  Although we realize that we cannot make up for a disappointing experience such as this, we do appreciate your contacting us.  Only by being made aware of a problem can we correct it and offer the high quality of service that Avis customers expect and deserve."

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Figure Painting Workshop

I ran a figure painting workshop in my studio this weekend.  We had a full class of six students - the maximum I want in my studio so they're not falling all over each other.  The workshop ran for four hours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

I divided the effort into two parts.  On Saturday, the students worked on a monochrome painting of the figure.  This was a value study done in only one color.  A painting done this way is often called a "grisaille" (pronounced "griz-I").  Grisaille means "gray", and a grisaille painting is technically in black and white, but since we used burnt umber or other colors, I prefer the term "monochrome".  (Okay, enough nerdiness, on to the rest of the story ...)

On Sunday, the students took the monochrome painting and went over it in color.  We focused on skin tones, warm and cool tints, reflected lights, shadow colors, background colors, and matching the values of the colors to the values of the monochrome.

Dividing the painting process this way might seem roundabout, but it's actually easier for many artists, including me.  It separates the decisions associated with the composition, drawing, and light/dark values from the decisions associated with color, warm/cool, reflected lights, and intensity.  The idea is to use a simple approach first to make the fundamental decisions about the composition of the painting, and then gradually add more light/dark values and then color until you get something you can consider done.  (Or until it's so badly messed up that you throw it away.  One or the other.)

I had a great time with the students.  This was the first time I'd put on this particular workshop and I didn't know how it would go.  When you have good students, it always goes well.  They all seemed to thoroughly enjoy the class as well.  I paused the painting process a couple of times each session so we could see each other's work, talk about what was working and not working, get the students to talk about what they were experiencing, and compare notes.  All of them had different approaches.  By talking about their issues, and about what they saw in each other's work, they could learn a lot more than if everybody was doing the same thing.

So here are a few images from this weekend:

Some of the students, hard at work ...

And here are their paintings:







I'm proud of the way all six of them developed over just two days in the studio!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Training Again

This past week, I was up at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana to train another group of Defense Department civilians who are heading to Afghanistan.  My part of the training program was to serve as a mentor to a team of ten people as they went through several days of increasingly complex immersive scenarios.  We put them into situations where they have to put their classroom training into practice.  They coordinate movements with their military security team, go to meetings with Afghan officials, try to establish relationships, try to figure out the underlying issues, respond to rapidly changing circumstances, get shot at, and report what they learned back to the senior military officer in charge.

It's always rewarding to see the teams develop, and this one was no exception.  Their approach to their first event was pretty lackadaisical - they thought of it as just another class and showed up late.  By the end of the event,  though, we were beginning to get their attention.  During the next day's events, they weren't quite on board yet and I would've only given them a C or a C-.  But after that, they understood what was going on and they dove into it.  One student told me "I was convinced I wasn't in Indiana, I was in Afghanistan!"  They played it for real and they did a great job.  At the end of the last event, the senior Afghan told them that they were fully ready to be advisors.  I've never heard him tell a team that before.


This photo shows part of the training.  The team had to go to a bazaar and talk to some local Afghan merchants about the local issues.  There was a lot to hear, learn, and respond to.  Then they had to get out of the bazaar when things went bad.  

I love doing this training.  It's so rewarding to see the light come on in their eyes, to see how far they come in just a short period of time, and to help them internalize concepts that will enable them to fully understand their role and possibly save their lives.  It's rewarding to know that I have the background and skill set to help them through this period.  I'll keep doing this as long as I possibly can.

Monday, October 31, 2016

More Computer Stuff ...

Back in September, I wrote a post called "Electronic Gremlins", about the difficulties in getting a new phone operational.  I'm going through pretty much the same thing again.  Now, though, it's the computers.  We finally pulled the trigger on getting a new Mac.  Buying it was simple.  Getting it set up the right way is taking a while.

We've been using a pair of Macs that we bought in the fall of 2008.  Eight years in the computer world is a long, long time.  It was right before I deployed to Iraq.  We wanted to be able to communicate with each other during the deployment, so I got a MacBook for me and an iMac for Janis.  Macs are (supposedly) easy to use and came with things like iChat (a messaging service) and FaceTime (video service).  We added Skype and a few other programs and off I went.  The two computers proved to be very reliable.  They still work, too - in fact, I'm writing this post on my old MacBook now.  But they were being overtaken by newer systems that demanded faster processors and much larger operating systems.  The software that runs on these old Macs isn't supported by Apple or other vendors anymore.  The kicker came when we got our new iPhones and discovered that they wouldn't talk to our old Macs.  Okay, okay, okay, I get the message.  Get a new computer.

So last week, I bought a new iMac.  Nice machine.  Great screen, too.  Very elegant.  Set it up, plug it in, turn it on ... and now the trouble begins.  Time to configure it.  This is NOT a trivial undertaking.  In the old days, it was simple: set up a password, set up your email, and have at it.  Now there are multiple users, multiple cloud accounts, multiple emails, multiple everything.  You can't just slam all the old stuff into a new computer, you need to figure out an architecture first.  And not knowing what needs to be considered makes the job harder.

As an example, I had originally set up our old iMac with an Apple ID using my official name because, well, that's what you do, isn't it?  Well, that became Janis' computer.  So here was her photo, all her documents, purchases, emails, and so forth, all tagged as "William Rohde".  So I wanted to change her Apple ID to "Janis".  Nope, can't do that.  The name on the account cannot be changed.  So I created a new account just for her, but had to keep some ties to the old one since there were a number of key purchases and other things that we needed to maintain.  This wasn't as easy as it sounds, since I had to create a new email account for her.  I couldn't move her regular email account over to the new Apple ID because it was already tied to the old one.  And I didn't know at first that you could have multiple ID's.  Talk about an exercise in frustration!

The architecture that I decided upon is to have three users.  One will be used only as the System Administrator, one for Janis, and one for me.  We have six Apple ID's among them that are used for specific things such as iTunes or App Store purchases, finding our iPads and iPhones, storing our documents and photos, and so on.  Getting each account, iPad, and iPhone connected with the right Apple ID and ensuring that the right iCloud accounts are used, takes a bit of thought.  This is the kind of thing that somebody who's done this before would breeze through in five minutes.  For somebody that's never done it before, it takes a while to learn the ins and outs.  I didn't know, for example, that you could have multiple Apple ID's on one device, nor why that might be something you'd want to do.  (Clif Notes version: everybody in the family use one Apple ID for iTunes and App Store purchases, then a different and personal one for cloud storage, FaceTime video chats, and so on.)

Okay, so the architecture was decided and set up.  Then I needed to get all of Janis' stuff off the old computer and onto the new one.  Apple has this thing called a Migration Assistant that makes it easy.  Connect both computers through an Ethernet cable, launch the Assistant on both, and tell it to move everything over.  And it does!  Takes a bunch of hours (your hours may vary), but it moves all the documents, photos, music, applications, emails, all that stuff.  And most of it works on the new computer, unless the software is so old that it's not supported anymore.

Sounds great, no?  Well, not entirely.  Migration Assistant does indeed move everything.  I mean everything.  You know those old games that you downloaded six years ago and haven't played since?  Yep, there they are.  Old versions of Photoshop that have been replaced by newer ones?  Them too.  Applications that you have no idea what it is they do?  No problem.  Migration Assistant even moved all the contents of the Trash, for chrissakes.  So if you think you're going to get a fresh start on a new computer, think again.  You'll have all the same old crap, just a bigger hard drive to store it on and a faster processor to deal with all those unnecessary processes running in the background.

As an example, iPhoto on our old computers has been replaced by Photos.  The Migration Assistant brought over iPhoto and had it and the photos in one place, while the Photos app had the same photos in another.  So I dumped the old iPhoto system and photos.  And I had to go through all the applications, line by line, to see if something was being duplicated, or wasn't needed, or whatever.  Fortunately, Janis didn't have all that much stuff.  Then I emptied the Trash and got back several gigabytes of storage.

I haven't yet started moving my stuff over from this old Macbook.  Last night, though, I went through all the programs on here, cleaned out as much of the old stuff as I could, and emptied the Trash.  Result: about 7 gigs of data that don't need to be transferred.

I'm not going to throw out the old Macs, though.  They're going to be my studio computers.  These things still work fine on their own, and this old MacBook can take my studio on the road if needed.  I don't need nor want an internet connection in the studio as that's a major distraction.  My studio needs are pretty basic - hell, I use paint and brushes, and that technology is hundreds of years old!  So an old computer fits right in.  Just like being an old guy: everything still works, more or less, just not as fast as the newer stuff!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Smithsonian Museum of American History

Last week, I turned over 49 matted drawings, plus an envelope with another couple of dozen small drawings, to the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  Yes, THAT Smithsonian.  The artworks were my "Faces of Afghanistan" series as well as assorted drawings from around Afghanistan and Iraq.

So how did my artworks wind up in the Smithsonian?  Good luck and good timing, I guess.  A while back, a colleague who was a Marine in Afghanistan and is now an artist posted that he was signing over one of his artworks to the Smithsonian.  I thought it was great and asked him how that came about.  Turned out that the museum is building a collection of post-9/11 military-related art.  He knew of my "Faces of Afghanistan" series and introduced me to the curator.  I sent her some images and descriptions of the works, and after a bit of back-and-forth, she said they'd love to have my work in the collection.

Wow.  My work.  In the Smithsonian.  Unbelievable.

Last week, I drove up to DC to deliver them.  Yes, I know, FedEx could have delivered them with no fuss and a lot less cost, but face it, how many times do you get the opportunity to deliver your own stuff to some place like the Smithsonian?  In-person is the only way to do it.  So on Friday, Oct 14, I drove into DC, into the bowels of the American History Museum, and met the curator, Kathy.  I pulled the box of drawings out of the back of the car and handed them over.  Kathy and her collections manager, Estelle, were thrilled.


They weren't half as thrilled as I was, though.  After the turnover, Kathy took me to the room where the military art collection is stored.  Imagine a room about 30 feet square, with one wall taken up with flat files up to 8 feet high.  Each drawer is marked with the contents.  There are hundreds of such drawers.  Open one up at random and you'll see some wonderful work.  I pulled open one of the WWI drawers and examined a gouache work of a soldier going over the top of a trench.  It had amazing energy - the feeling of violence and danger jumped out of the image.  Then Kathy pointed out that the artist's field art box was sitting on the shelf next to me.  On the opposite wall were racks of paintings.  More boxes and containers filled the space in between.  Various military artifacts were casually (but carefully) stored all over the place.  I felt like I was on hallowed ground.

Kathy also pulled out the artworks currently in the post-9/11 collection.  Most of them are by Richard Johnson.  He went to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times for Canadian newspapers.  In fact, he was in Kandahar just a few months before I got there.  Richard was embedded with the Canadian troops, so his artworks focused on the soldiers and their environment.  He draws with a blue pencil and his works are fantastic: full of life, showing the stresses of the environment, and nailing the conditions that the troops lived and worked in.  Take a look at his drawings on his web site: http://newsillustrator.com/about/.  While you're there, watch his TedEx video.  Powerful stuff.

My drawings are probably stashed in one of those drawers by now.  If you want to know when they'll be exhibited, well, probably never.  The museum has so much stuff that less than one percent is ever on view at any one time.  Exhibitions are scheduled years in advance and are subject to the interests of curators and whims of directors, as well as the willingness of a sponsor to cough up the money to pay for them.  However, most everything is available to anybody doing legitimate research.  So any curator, artist, student, or whatever, who's interested in seeing artworks from Iraq and Afghanistan can make an appointment with the Museum and see my stuff in person.  Yes, you can.  Or the World War I artwork.  Or their collection of posters.  Or any number of subjects.

So although my artworks may never be exhibited as a collection again, I'm happy with where they are.  They'll be available to infinitely more people than they ever would be if they spent their lives on the shelf in my studio.  They're part of America's attic now.  You own them.  Go see your stuff!



Sunday, September 18, 2016

Electronic Gremlins

We had some gremlins set up shop in some of the electronics around our home over the past week.  I think we've mostly recovered to about the 95% level, but it has been a long and very annoying road.

It started early this week.  I was looking at my 4-year-old iPhone and thought it needed cleaning, so I took it out of its case.  Almost as soon as I did that, the front popped half off.  The battery, it seems, was well past its useful life and had expanded.  When the case was removed, it was able to push the front of the phone out.  Great: my phone is now an ex-phone.  Deceased.

After a quick talk with Janis, we decided to replace both of our phones.  Hers was a little newer than mine, but both were way beyond Verizon's "new every two" sales pitch.  So off I went to the Verizon store and came home with two brand-new iPhone 6 SE's with the cell numbers already activated.  These phones have all the iPhone 6 internals, just in the smaller iPhone 5 case, and they still have the earphone jack that Apple is trying to do away with.  All is well so far.

You know how Apple advertises how everything in Apple-land is seamless, and people can do stuff like transfer all their data from one phone or tablet to another with just a click?  Right.  Not here.  Not in this house.  I plugged our phones into our computers and got an error message saying that our new phones would not talk to our 8-year-old MacBook and iMac.  The older iPhones worked with the two computers just fine, but something about the new hardware says "nope, no way."  I spent a lot of time with Mr. Google, trying to find solutions, to no avail.  The new iPhones won't talk with the old computers.

So I had to find some workarounds.   One was really ironic.  I have a Dell laptop with Windows 10 that's used for my day job, so I paired my new phone with the Dell.  It wasn't as easy as connecting to a Mac, but it worked.  So then I was able to transfer some data from my MacBook to the Dell and then onto the phone.  And yes, you read that right: my iPhone will talk to a frickin' Windows machine, but not a Mac.  Is that hosed, or what?

I was able to transfer some data through Apple's iCloud, too, after quite a bit of struggling to make the "easy" system do what I wanted it to do.  And I was able to transfer photographs off my iPad (which, unlike my new phone, is still on speaking terms with my old MacBook).  Transferring apps proved impossible, so I had to download them all over again.  One side benefit, though, was that many unused apps, photos, and music just went away.  So now I have the contacts, music, apps, and photos I need on my new phone.  I think.

Getting Janis' phone up to speed was a similar exercise.  She doesn't keep music on her phone, so there wasn't any need to transfer stuff from iTunes, but she does have a bunch of photos, messages, emails, and contacts.  We got the contacts and the "keeper" photos transferred, but not the messages and emails.  Oh, well.

As we were getting the phones caught up to where we needed them, the electronic gremlins struck again.  On Friday morning, our internet went dead.  Turned out that our modem was kaput.  Our internet provider, Frontier, said they might be able to get a tech with a new modem out here by Wednesday.  That was unsatisfactory, since I work from home and was just completing a good-sized project due that afternoon.  Frontier said they'd "see what could be done".  By early afternoon, though, that answer appeared to be "nothing".  So off I went to Best Buy and came home with a bare-bones modem.  After a bit of finagling, it worked.  So now we have an internet connection and I have another piece of dead electronics sitting here in my home office.

So at the end of all this, we have two new phones, a modem that's getting the job done, two old computers on their way to retirement, one workable phone, and some dead electronics.  I've known for a while that we're going to need a new computer.  Since I'm not deploying anymore, we'll eventually replace this MacBook and the iMac with a new iMac.  But that's a big expense and I'm a cheap bastard, so that purchase is still a little ways off.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Where's Your Studio?

One of the first questions an artist is asked, after "what do you do?", is "where is your studio?"  The answer to that says a lot about the artist.  It should: there is a lot that goes into the decision.

I've had several studios.  My first was in the basement of my old house.  It was a bit dank and dark, but it was fairly roomy and had running water, so I was pretty happy with it.  I was in the Navy, so that job came first, but the studio was available whenever I could spend some time there.

My second and third studios were third bedrooms in different homes.  "Studio" is a rather ambitious name for something that was little more than a closet filled with art stuff.  But like my basement studio, they were available whenever my Navy work allowed.

After I retired from the military, I went to UNC Asheville to study fine art.  I set up a studio in our 2-car garage.  Half the garage was for the car and half for me.  It didn't work.  The light was horrible.  Our garage opens to the southwest, so I had sunlight bouncing off the pavement, providing incredible glare.  Every leaf in the neighborhood would blow in whenever the door opened.  It was cold in winter and hotter than hell in the summer.  You can't make any kind of art when you're fighting your environment.

During my senior year at UNCA, I had a tiny studio in the art building.  It was maybe 9'x9'.  A closet, really, but it was a dedicated art space with lighting, heating and cooling, and (best of all) lots of other artists around to trade ideas with.  That's where I did my "Old Times" series of 16 paintings.

After graduating, I moved into a studio in Asheville's River Arts District.  Finally, a professional studio!  It was about 30'x20' and shared with two other painters.  One left after a few months and then Christine Enochs and I shared it for about five years.  It was in an old brick cotton mill built circa 1898.  It had seven large windows, about 8' high and 4' wide, that had all the insulation you'd expect of a window installed in 1898.  It also had 15' ceilings, wood floors, and a bathroom.  And bugs.  Lots and lots of bugs.

But the physical description is only a tiny part of it.  The building was full of other artists: several painters, a choreographer, stained-glass window artist, two potters, a flute maker, textile artists, and a wire sculptor, to name a few.  We had a small community within the building that exposed us to all kinds of new ideas as well as mutual support.  We were in a larger community of artists in other buildings, too.  I could go over to the Clingman Cafe and wind up talking with a woodworker or photographer about things I never would have thought of otherwise.  Being in a community of artists is invaluable, particularly when you're just starting out.  Our building was also open to the public pretty much every day, so there was a slow stream of foot traffic that became a flood during the two Studio Stroll weekends we held every year.

I eventually moved out of this studio when I made the decision to go to Afghanistan.  After I came home, I went looking for a different place.  While being in a community of artists was great, having constant foot traffic did not work well for me.  People would come in, spend 20 minutes talking with me, and then walk out.  Foot traffic worked well for the potters, who had inexpensive items like coffee mugs that sold well.  Paintings and other artworks that could cost up to several thousand dollars did not move.  So I decided that it was better for me to have a studio with no foot traffic and no interruptions.

I found one in Riverside Business Park.  This is another old textile mill that has been converted into a small business incubator.  There are lots of operations here: a coffee roaster, a couple of warehouse-type operations, a few artists, two rafting companies, and so on.  My studio was about 650 square feet with fluorescent lights and heating and cooling.  Later, I also rented the adjacent hallway that didn't go anywhere, along with two bathrooms (good story behind all that), that gave me lots of storage space and running water.  There are no windows, but I installed daylight-balanced lights.  Since this is an industrial space rather than an "artist studio", rent is very affordable.  There's no foot traffic, which is a plus for me, but there's plenty of space for workshops, weekly life drawing groups, and other activities.  All in all, it works out well.

Many professional artists work out of their homes, or in studios built on their property.  I find that it helps me to have to actually go somewhere else.  There's a mind shift: I'm going to work.  When I'm at home, I have all kinds of other things that "need" to be done: go to the grocery store, do some yard work, that sort of thing.  So I'm one of those artists that needs a separate studio that's located some distance away.

What would I change about my current studio?  Well, it would be nice to have windows, but that can't happen since it's in the middle of the building.  It would also be nice if it was 10 miles closer to home.  Going to work is one thing, but it doesn't have to be a 20-minute drive.  And it would be great to be in a community of artists, with a cafe nearby, that wasn't overrun by tourists.  I'm afraid that combination of factors doesn't exist, though.  So I'm keeping my studio.  And no, you can't have it.