Thursday, May 31, 2007

Eight habits me-me

Barbara Johansen Newman tagged me. Eight habits or interesting facts. Thing is, this me-me is almost identical to two other recent ones. So this time, I'll focus on habits. I have lots of em.

I stopped biting my fingernails about three months ago. Before that, I'd been biting my nails ever since my baby teeth broke through my gums and discovered my fingertips. I bit them so low, my fingers looked like nubs. I stopped biting them after realizing how ridiculous I must look driving with one hand while gnawing the other. I don't like to look ridiculous.

Always saying: "Hi, how ya doin'." This is my greeting to everyone. Sometimes I say it several times to the same person throughout the day. A simple hello or a nod of the head would probably suffice, particularly since, most times, I don't really care how the person's doing. Just a habit. I always feel ridiculous afterward. I don't like to feel ridiculous.

Checking my email. I won't say how many times I check it throughout the day. It's ridiculous.

When I come home from work, I take off my socks and toss them where ever. Drives the wife crazy, especially after several days have passed and they are decorating the walls, floors, steps, tables and lamps. But I've been doing this since childhood. Ridiculous?

When I approach a flight of stairs, I run up them. I never walk a flight of stairs unless in public. I don't even realize when I'm doing this until someone calls me on it. This morning, my 5-year-old son and I approached the staircase together. I darted up them faster than a spit wad shot at a math teacher. He yelled at me from below, "Dad! Why do you always run up the stairs?" I just laughed. I look ridiculous when I do this, I know.

Popping my knuckles. They say you shouldn't pop your knuckles, that doing so will cause oversize joints and arthritis. Not true.

Exercise. Maybe this is a good habit. For the most part, I must exercise everyday — run, weight train, yoga, kick box, whatever. Sometimes I go through slumps where I won't exercise for a week or so, but not often.

Listening to Rush Limbaugh. I listen to his show everyday. Been a avid daily listener for about 15 years. When I moved to Austin from Des Moines, my first mission was to find out what station Rush aired on. Ridiculous? No, this is one habit that is definitely not.

The list could go on — coffee, tea, ice cold fermented malt beverages flavored with hops, my iPod — but already, I've revealed a bit too much.

If anything I've said here sounds ridiculous to you, consider yourself tagged.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lost in space, my submission

It's been over three months since I mailed a submissions packet — three picture book manuscripts, and two printed books (art samples) — to one of my dream agents. I did hear back from them once, through email. But now it's been awhile.

Problem is, postage rates have increased since I mailed the submission. I don't think my SASE had enough postage. They've probably returned my submission, but because I used their address as the return address, my package was likely returned to them undelivered. And now sitting in another slush pile to be rediscovered eight weeks from now.

Calling an agent is against the rules, so who knows when and what will happen with my submission.

Sigh.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Oprah reads my blog

She must. Her show today dealt exactly with the subject I blogged about last week, But I Don't Wanna be Black. Read about it here. And especially here.

Illustrator/author, bodybuilding parallel

When I began preparing for my first bodybuilding competition, I didn't care about winning. I just wanted to be a participant, to fully absorb the bodybuilding experience, to do what what bodybuilders do. So, everyday — sometimes twice a day — I worked out at the gym. I practiced my compulsory poses and my posing routine until my muscles failed. I ate the same thing everyday: eggs, oatmeal, tuna, broccoli, chicken breast, and lots of protein shakes. I lost all but 3% of my body fat*. For weeks, I toasted myself in a suntan booth. The experience was grueling.

But as competition night approached, I decided that I wanted to be more than just a participant. I wanted to win. Not only because I wanted a trophy and a title, but because I wasn't sure I wanted to go through that experience again.

I've been feeling the same way about becoming an author.

Becoming a published author was hard. I wrote, revised, shared with critique partners, took an online children's writing course, revised again (about 27 times), submitted my manuscript to the publisher, and then waited a year-and-a-half (checking my emails everyday) to received the news that the book would be published. Do I want to experience this again?

At first, I wasn't concerned about who would illustrate this book should it get published. In fact, I felt it might behoove the publisher to select a bigger name illustrator. Someone whose coat tails I could ride into the limelight. I even submitted the names of a few illustrators I'd like to see illustrate this story. But, just like with my bodybuilding experience, the day is approaching when an illustrator will be selected. And now I want to win. In addition to being the author, I want to illustrate this book, too.

My publishers have invited me to submit artwork to a pool of illustrators that they are considering. I hadn't made up my mind if I would. My cartoony style isn't right for this story. Besides that, I don't have time. Too busy painting FARMER. Next is RON. But I'm going to feel awful about myself when this book publishes in two years, holding it in my hands and knowing that I didn't even try.

So, for the next few days, I'm setting everything aside, experimenting with a new style, and I'm going to submit a few cover ideas. If another illustrator is selected, I'll be OK with that knowing that I tried and didn't just pass an opportunity over. That I competed, and that the best person for this project won.


*I'm fat now.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Cooking wasn't so bad after all

OK, the cooking class didn't last all day like I thought it would. Lasted about an hour-and-a-half. In fact, turned out not to be a cooking class at all. Super Suppers provides one large gourmet kitchen. Each of the five stations are supplied with meat and the necessary ingredients for completing the recipes. When finished, you take your food and cook it at home.

Pretty good deal, we spent about $140.00 for 10 meals — five recipes, times two. But because each portion is so huge, we actually have about two weeks worth of dinners. I ain't complaining.

And, no, they didn't make me wear one of those little white cooking aprons like I thought they would. My apron was macho black. The wife said I looked cute in it. So, I copped a pose and strutted around and cooked my Florida Sunshine Chicken like a pro.

By the way, she looked kinda cute in her black cooking apron, too. Though I forgot to bring my camera so I could show her off.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Cooking all day long

There are certain things a brotha must do to keep his wife happy, even though he doesn't want to do them. Things like taking an all-day cooking class.

Yes, that is what I said, an all-day cooking class. Tomorrow, that's what I'll be doing all day long. They'll probably make me wear one of those little white cooking aprons.

By days end, the wife and I will have prepared 5 meals: Catfish with Dill Caper Sauce; Florida Sunshine Chicken with Grilled Potatoes; Heavenly Chicken; Shrimp Divan. Enough food to last a week! And sounds healthy, too. Maybe I'll take a camera and post pics on my blogs. Maybe not. I want ya'll to know me as an artist. Perhaps an author. Not a chef.

Did I mention the class is all day?

Next, she's planned a day of salsa dance lessons. All day long.

New this week, my collection with Daisie



For scrapbookers, the Astronaut Boys are actually a freebie download meant to generate sales for the matching collections.

See my other scrapbooking materials at Daisie Company.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Messy studio? Me?

Thanks to author/illustrator Barbara Johansen Newman for featuring my studio in her Messy and not-so-messy studio tour.

Yes, I'm clearly a mess.

Justin and slushing






















This is an image I created for Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World, which has been republished as part of a basal program with Harcourt. I just received the original artwork back from the publisher yesterday, which means I haven't seen it in over a year. Sometimes, I find it hard to look at my artwork after so much time has passed. Usually, I see mistakes that I didn't see before. But most of the illustrations from this book passed the test of time.

See more of my portfolio at my Flickr.

****************

Ok, I know I said before that I'd never do the slush pile thing. I don't like gambling, wasting time, or losing. But, I've reconsidered. I feel really good about one story in particular, and this agent thing isn't working out. So, I'll be slushing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

But I don't wanna be black
















This morning while my son got dressed for school, he told my wife and I that he doesn't want to be black. It's not that he doesn't want to be an African-American, he simply doesn't like the "black" label. "I'm not black, I'm brown," he protested.

In a conversation I'd been having with my wife, I used the term "black kid." That bothered my son. "He's not black, Daddy. He's brown." My daughter felt the same as my son when she was his age.

Hearing his words, "I don't wanna be black" caused me to pause. I searched for the perfect Father Knows Best explanation, but none came. I decided to ignore the topic. Too complicated. But my wife jumped right in with an explanation. "We are Americans of African decent," she said. "Our ancestors came from Africa. Sometimes, we call ourselves African-American. Other times, we call ourselves black, even though our skin color isn't truly—"

"But I don't wanna be black," he said. "I'm brown!" He told us about how he had seen a black (very dark-skinned) person before. Like many, he views dark skin negatively. In his mind, brown is better than black.

This is a problem with many in the black community. Light-skinned black people vs. dark. Probably born and bread through years of race-based slavery. When I was a child, our light-skinned cousins with straight black hair ("good hair") were considered the cute (good-looking) kids of the family. My mom would vehemently argue that statement, but it’s true. There were many times as a child that I wished I looked like my lighter-skinned, straight hair cousins. I blamed my mom for marrying such a dark-skinned man.

My brothers and I took on the skin color of our dad. He has very dark skin and tight curly ("nappy") hair. My mom — sometimes mistaken for White — is extremely fair skinned and her hair is naturally straight. That’s because her great-grandmother is White. As children, we sometimes bragged about our great-great German grandmother. Because of her, we surmised, our hair wasn't as nappy as regular black people's hair is, and because of her, we weren’t as dark as my dad. I know that sounds sick, but honestly, it's not uncommon. Color-struck, they used to call it. And I know grown people today who still think like this.

It was my aunt, my dad’s sister, who got me past all this. Aunt E. was dark-skinned. Until just a few years ago, she always wore her hair naturally, in a short afro — no perms, relaxers, wigs or weaves. An activist of the 60s, she carried herself proud, and she was proud to be called BLACK. She often wore African clothes with colorful head wraps. She and my uncle had an African style wedding, which was one of the most beautiful things I'd had seen in my life. In my eyes, my aunt was beautiful, like an African Queen. Her great grandmother would say negative things about her skin color: "She's black. And she's ugly. But my grandbaby's got brains." Comments like that, I'm sure, contributed to our skin color sensitivity.

I'd like to write a children's book dealing with this topic, but I wouldn't know where to begin. The issue is bigger than what I could address, and I don't have any answers to offer.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Travel illustration















This illustration was for a travel story that ran this past weekend. The story was about how travelers tend to forget the rules of carry-ons before going through security. At this small size, you can't see the details, but I've pictured passengers trying to carry on things like hammers, scissors, guns, gasoline, golf clubs, uncaged pets, an ax.

Security isn't happy.

Similar thing happened when our family traveled to Las Vegas this past spring. In her carry-on, the wife packed lotions, shampoos, body spritzers, skin care products, you-name-it. Nothing wrong with these carry-on items...as long as they're travel size. But a gallon of purifying mask with Dead Sea mud and aloe vera will get confiscated. Security gave us the choice of having everything thrown in the trash or having it stored in our all-ready-been-checked-in luggage.

The wife and son waited at our gate while security led me down a flight of stairs to where our luggage was stored. Halfway down the stairs, the wife comes screaming down the stairs behind us. "Stop! Let me go instead!"

My wife knows me very well. I'm terribly impatient, especially when it comes to standing in lines or traveling. The very first obstacle I'd have run into, the stuff would have been trashed. I figure, we can buy new toiletries. But we can't buy new plane tickets if we miss our flight.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sunday picture book rambling (when I should be painting)

A new Borders recently opened near our neighborhood, and yesterday, the family and I went to check it out. We love the idea of having a bookstore so close to our home. Thing is, picture books are what draw me to bookstores, primarily. Sad thing is, picture books seem to be disappearing. The children's book section isn't what it used to be.

I remember, back in the late 80s, and all through the 90s, children's book sections sprawled out to cover a large part of a bookstore. In addition to large display of new titles, older titles could be found on shelves, row after row. I'd spend hours studying the art of illustrators such as David Kirk, Floyd Cooper, Brian and Jerry Pinkney – dreaming of the day I'd get my work published.

But things have changed since the days when Miss Spider and David Kirk were making the front pages of the Wall Street Journal (For the picture books, not the cartoon series). YA seems to be doing great. But I got into this business out of love of words and pictures.

Most of the books on display at our our new Borders were classics, titles like Where the Wild Things Are, and The Hungary Caterpillar. Don't get me wrong, these are some of my favorites. But I have these books already. I wanted to see some new titles.

Lots of mass market books were on display. Books featuring Dora the Explorer overflowed. There were celebrity books galore, gimmicky novelty books and Caldecott winners. Lots of paperbacks.

There were very few new hardcover titles. And only one or two that featured a person of color.

Years ago in the trade business, 'mass market' seemed to be a dirty a term, same as 'self published.' During the years I did have a literary agent, she didn't touch mass market. She was all about the trade. I had to negotiate mass market deals on my own. In today's climate, with trade picture books on the downslide, I have to wonder if she's changed that policy.

Today's trade picture books must have wide commercial appeal. They're no longer limited to bookstores. They're at your Walmart. Super Target. Your grocery store. Sounds mass market to me. Makes me wonder when mass market and trade won't be one in the same, if it already isn't.

Many agents and editors are now looking for books that have movie or TV appeal. Books with a hook. Writing a good story isn't enough anymore, now I gotta write something with potential Happy Meal tie-ins.

Shane W. Evans and Jean Marzollo's Shanna's books are now a Disney cartoon series. Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s popular Punk Farm is soon to be an animated DreamWorks feature. Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabaret is set for film. These are fantastic opportunities for authors and artists. But I just want to write and illustrate a good book. Period. I don't want to think about which Hollywood celebrity — Eddy Murphy, Queen Latifa —might make the best voice-over for my main character.

Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. Then again, maybe I'm not. I'm definitely rambling.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Confounded over commercial

So, I'm wondering what it means when an agent reads a manuscript and responds with great enthusiasm, offers a rave review, describes the story as "...well-written...a story young readers will connect with..." and "...great fun, both in story and art..." but declines representation because it isn't commercial enough for today's publishing market?

I'm still a relative newbie to the writing side of the children's literature business. But if responses like those listed above came from an artist agent, it would mean: I love your stuff, the contract is in the mail. What's commercial (suitable or fit for a wide popular market, as per Dictionary.com) if "well-written," "great fun," and "a story young readers will connect with" isn't?

I have more homework to do. I like this agent and I don't want to give up.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What's up at Bartography?

I've become rather obsessive compulsive concerning my Sitemeter stats. Don't laugh, you probably are, too. I check my stats about twice per week and, typically, I average about 100 hits per day. Most of those hits come from online perverts who've Googled every possible combination of the term "pre-teen girls." Sorry pervs, no pre-teen girls on this blog except characters in a children's books, or my 'My Peepz' tweener calendar.

Yesterday I noticed an odd increase in my page hits — more than double. More oddly, most of this new traffic rushed over from one source: Bartography. Hmm.

Last week, Chris did post a link to my acquisitions announcement. So, why was that announcement generating more traffic this week than last? Though I reveled in my new found (legitimate) popularity, one question bugged me all day long: What's up at Bartography?

This morning while making rounds to my favorite children's literature blogs, I discovered the answer to my question. Bartography was selected by 'Blogs of Note.' Apparently, he's getting hundreds — possibly thousands — of new hits. And then his new visitors are finding their way to my happy dance.

*********

In other news: Today, I get my smile back. Earlier this week, I lost my front tooth, actually a veneer from a childhood accident. This afternoon, I visit my dentist. I never realized how much smiling I actually do until I suddenly couldn't do it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Safari greeting cards, released this week!






















Designer, DB, at DAISIE COMPANY, put this package of greeting cards together using my safari illustrations. For scrapbookers and hobbyists, this package — and other add ons — will be released for download this week!

FYI: This design will also be available with African American characters.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Today, I was toothless in Taylor

When I was a kid, I always had to be different than everyone else. Among other things, I determined to ride a unicycle because, I figured, riding a bicycle was too ordinary. On a hot summer afternoon, that unicycle cost me a tooth, and my cool. And it cost me today, too.

I was about 12-years-old when I started working for my grandfather's building maintenance business, and I took pride in purchasing things for myself, instead of burdening my mom with all of my wants. That summer, I purchased a one-wheeled cycle.

The accident — one in a few cycle accidents I'd suffer as a teen – happened all too quickly. I mounted the unicycle using the aluminum training poles that came with it. I was a star unicyclist as long as I remained stationary. But when I began to pedal forward, I fell flat on my face. The fall came so fast and hard, my hands didn't have time to break my fall. My mouth broke it instead.

I lay there in our driveway, blood dripping from my mouth, but I didn't feel a thing, at least not immediately. I sat up, looked around, hoping no one had witnessed what happened. Then I darted inside to access the damage in a mirror. My front tooth, before it broke off, had cut a hole in my upper lip, piercing the skin on the other side. My bottom lip, spared from harm, had shoveled up a mouthful of dirt and rocks. I cupped my hands and spit my bloody tooth and rocks into them. The stub of my half-broken tooth felt sharp as I strummed my tongue back and forth over my teeth.

Thank God I fell forward because had I fallen backward, I'd have cracked my skull.

I've never been much of a crier, so I didn't lose a tear — though I wanted to. Not because of how bad my mouth hurt, but because of how bad I looked. By the time I'd gotten hold of my mom, my upper lip — or what was left of it — had swollen to the size of a golf ball. My face was bloody, but I didn't want to touch it. Something else, damaged from the fall, might break off, too.

I don't remember the details of my visit to the dental clinic that afternoon, but when I left the office, I wore a gold crown over my tooth. This all happened back in the day, before gold teeth — or grillz – were in style. My gold tooth wasn't cool.

Every five years, or so, the crown falls off. Eventually, I had the gold crown replaced with a white one. Later, I had the crown replaced with a veneer. I thought the veneer would be permanent. Not!

Today, during the last 10 minutes of a full-day school visit at Taylor Middle School, my veneer fell out. It happened while I was up, front and center, with 50 to 60 sixth-graders looking on. I was sketching a cartoon. As I sketched, I talked. Then suddenly, the tooth was gone. I started talking funny. Whistling when I pronounced an “S” word. Seemed more like a music demonstration than a drawing one.

Though the situation was embarrassing, I remained calm. My hands continued to sketch, but my tongue was on a mission to find that tooth, wrap it inside the wad of gum I was chewing, and tuck it away safely underneath my tongue. I couldn't just stop drawing and pluck a gum-wrapped tooth from under my tongue. Can you imagine what they'd tell their parents: "An old geezer of an artist visited our school, today, and his teeth started falling out."

My dentist can't get me in until Thursday. Don't think I haven't considered Elmer's Glue.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Reading Rally

Zavala Elementary School in Austin celebrated it's 70th Anniversary with a parade and reading rally. Demonstrations were given by the Austin fire department and various other entertainers. I was the guest speaker for two one-hour groups in the morning. The librarian was especially enthusiastic, which always makes for a successful school visit.

The highlight of the day, of course, was introducing myself as a children's book illustrator...and author! The kids didn't seem too excited about my news, though. Author? So what! We want cartoons. So, that's what I gave them — caricature drawings — in addition to reading stories.

I'd better not give up this art gig anytime soon.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Happy dance!

















Received good news today. My picture book biography has been acquired by Lee & Low Books. I'm an author now, or soon will be. I can't share the details, though. I'll have to wait until later this summer after the contracts have been signed, and an illustrator has been chosen. Yes, that's right! I may or may not be the illustrator for this book. And I'm perfectly cool with that. In fact, going in, I made it clear to the editors that I was open to other artists illustrating this story. My goal was to write the best story I possibly could, and to get it published.

My editor said it was OK to make an "unofficial announcement" here. Good thing because I'm not good with keeping secrets. I would have burst keeping the news all bottled up. Although I'm keeping the details to a minimum, I will offer this clue.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

My mind was in New York

Tomorrow, a particular story runs in the paper. Alongside the story, a very important supporting document. My job: scan two documents, put them in the database.

Problem number one: I'm a children's book illustrator and, hopefully, future author. It's extremely difficult for me to leave the work I love behind at home, only go to work and scan documents. Sometimes, like today, when I go into work my real (paying) job, my mind isn't always with me.

Problem number two: Today, my mind was in New York. All day long, I was preoccupied with thoughts about the manuscript I wrote, the acquisitions meeting taking place, and discussions between editors, salespeople and the publishers. I wasn't thinking about silly documents. As a result, I only scanned one document. Twice. Then I put two copies of the same document into the database. Top it off, I left them sitting in the scanner, or on my desk, or somewhere else — I had no idea.

Later, a page designer alerted me to the problem. That's when my mind came rushing back from New York, and sent me into a panic.

The original documents were not to be found amongst the chaos of my desk. It was late, surely, the reporter who'd written the story would have left for the day, and worse yet, because I hadn't paid much attention to that assignment, I had no idea who was reporting that story, anyway, or what the documents looked like.

I. Was. In. Deep. Doo-doo.

I'm very good at playing it cool. I stood there on the outside looking like I hadn't a worry in the world. But on the inside, my mind had jumped on a plane, and was flying in circles above my head so fast, I got dizzy.

Some quick detective work led me to the name of the reporter who, luckily, hadn't left yet. I would have kissed her when I saw her except that she probably wouldn't have wanted to kiss me considering the news I had to share: I'd lost her only copies of important documents for a story slated to run in the newspaper, in just a few hours.

"Those documents? The ones for tomorrows paper?" I began to ask her, nervously, playing cool-headed.

"Yes," she said. "Did you need them back? I took them off your desk."

After I swallowed my heart back down to my chest, I happily took the documents, and made the scans. Soon, I returned to New York, completely spacing-off another assignment.

I hope I'll get a call soon, or else I might lose my job.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Water fight!

When I was in kindergarten, the school year ended with no fanfare. We received our report cards and they sent us home for the summer. Fast forward 40 years later (ug, it hurts to admit I'm that old), and take a look at kindergarten 2007. At my son's school, the year ends with a water fight. In this video, the entire kindergarten class sits along the church driveway. When given the go ahead, all 50 or 60 kids — and their teacher's and parents — will unload on each other using water balloons, and Super Soaker water guns. It was so much fun. Notice my kid always has to be first; he jumped the starting bell.





In other news: On the illustration front, nothing new to report. I'm still illustrating FARMER. Tuesday, however, is my big day! Wish me luck.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Neighborhood associations — sheez!

This afternoon I received a letter from my neighborhood association. They want to rid our home of my son's basketball hoop...pole...thingy. I was so mad reading the letter, I foamed at the mouth (course, it may have been residue from the protein shake I was drinking, but none-the-less).

My son is only 5-years-old, but he loves to play basketball. When I'm not home, he goes outside and shoots baskets alone. When I am at home, he insists I join him in a game of one-on-one. The basket is 40 inches off the ground, yet he still gets the ball up in the hoop. I was surprised that he took such an interest in this sport; I don't watch or play it myself.

Before I purchased the basketball hoop...pole...thingy last summer, I checked our neighborhood association covenant. I didn't want to buy something I'd have to return. It stated that residents were restricted from attaching basketball hoops to their homes. But it didn't say anything about unattached, portable basketball hoop...pole...thingys on wheels, and since every other house in our neighborhood had one sitting in their driveways, I figured it was OK. Went ahead and bought one like everyone else.

After I received the letter today, I took a drive down my street, counted nine other basketball hoop...pole...thingys in other people's driveways. Some are on the street in front of homes (which I agree, on the street is probably not a good idea).

I don't know if there's anything I'll be able to do about this. The last time I had a problem with the association, they didn't dignify my expletives with a call back.

My son is gonna be upset if I have to remove his basketball hoop...pole...thingy, and my heart's gonna break if I have to explain it to him. Again, he's at the age where every other word is "why," "why," and "why," and I won't have a good answer.

I don't understand our neighborhood association. Have it their way — and it will be their way, or else — our neighborhood would be nothing more than cookie-cutter homes, trees, flowerbeds. No sign of human habitation is allowed.

********************
In other news: In response to the book review I posted the other day, I received emails from the editor, author, and the family of the artist. I'm still amazed at how far the internet reaches.

It was all my pleasure reading and writing the review.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Phobias

























An illustration I created for a story that will run this weekend that answers questions about phobias. It's mixed media, acrylic and digital.

I can't say that I have any phobias, at least not anymore. I used to have an irrational fear of spiders, heights and flying in airplanes. I was in my early 20s when I flew for the first time. I went to an IRA conference in Atlanta, in the late 80s. I love flying now, but I still don't do heights or spiders. While sitting in the waiting room of my doctor's office last week, I flipped through a National Geographic. When I came to a photo essay about jumping spiders, I just about jumped out my skin. No telling how if affected my blood pressure reading. It's not a phobia, I don't think. I just don't like em. Eight eyes, eight legs, hair. They're like miniature monsters.