Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging

Well, Vindaloo has discovered that she just loves the paste I use in jewelry-making. It is, apparently, extremely yummy (don't worry, it's non-toxic: I know because I make it myself). So there I was, at the dining room table trying to make some bracelet forms last night, and she hops up on the table and is sitting with her face a couple of inches from my tub-o-paste, trying to stick her nose in it every 30 seconds or so. I would toss her off the table, she'd jump back up...lather, rinse, repeat. It's very annoying.

So I threw a towel over her. She likes to be under things, and will often sit very happily under a towel or sheet or whatnot for a ridiculously long time, purring away like a little maniac. In this case, though, I didn't get it all the way over her, and it just provided cover. "She'll never notice as long as I stay under here and move verrrrry slowly," she thought.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More gratuitous proofreading fun!

I just started proofing a book of poetry by Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton Bart., M.P., bless his heart. You know the often-ridiculed first clause of a novel, "It was a dark and stormy night..."? Yeah, that's our boy Sir Edward. He was quite a prolific writer, apparently.

Now, his poetry...I shouldn't make fun, after all I produced work of comparable quality myself, (only not in such copious quantities), when I was about 15. And I'd probably still be doing it if I hadn't had the sense to quit writing poetry.

When I get my fill of Chekov, on to the Lytton. Stay tuned for exceptionally florid bracelets.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Just been plugging away these past few days, turning the paper I already have made into wearable objects. Here's one using some of that recycled paper with the cheesecloth embedded that I made a couple of weeks ago, spiffed up with a little gold leaf.

Quite a different look from most of my other work-- instead of not appearing to be paper, it practically screams "Paper here! Hello!". It's a little more delicate than my other, multi-varnished pieces are, but as long as I don't run it through the dishwasher, sit on it, or hit it with a hammer, it'll be all right. But that goes for most things, I think. The same could be said of Ballyhoo, for example.

Oh, and I'm excited about the prospect of rendering food legible. Or rendering books edible. Or both, at the same time. My philosopher forwarded me this link to the International Edible Book Festival. They like it to occur around April 1st; that gives me about a month to come up with something. Toastmania may be way ahead of me on this, but I'll come up with something good, just you wait and see. Anyone care to join me?

Saturday, February 23, 2008


So the other day, I got lured into reading this loooonnnggg thread in the Etsy forums about ACEOs. Those are "Artist Card Editions and Originals"-- little artworks 2.5 x 3.5 inches. People collect them and trade them; you can keep them in albums to show off, or display them on little easels, or even just frame them. It makes affordable original art available for the vast majority of people who can't drop a few hundred dollars for a painting-- most of them cost between $5-$15, less for limited edition prints and sometimes more for very elaborate pieces.

The only rule is the measurements: everything else about them is open to negotiation, so all kinds of materials get used--wood, glass, fabric, felt, metal...or paper, of course. Lots of artists find it very freeing to try something in small format. For me, 2.5 x 3.5 seems like a large format, but still represents a chance to try something different, so I took a running leap and hopped onto the bandwagon.

This (above) is my first one! Yes, more Chekov. What can I say, I like Chekov. It was really a nice change to have so much room to work with. Plus it was a novel experience to do the calligraphy and then have the thing be done. Usually the calligraphy is at the beginning, and then I still have to spend two weeks varnishing the piece and assembling it before I can show it off.

Here's my second one. I was listening to the Saturday morning old-time music shows on our local community radio station (WFHB, here: take a listen), and one song using a little snippet of Frankie and Johnnie came on. That, together with my drip paper, resulted in this one. I got to use a different nib than just my beloved crowquill, too!

Yes, I AM quite pleased with myself. Thank you for noticing!
I have a plan to make one ACEO from each piece of paper I dye from now on.
Okay, I know, I skipped Friday Cat Blogging. The thing is, Ballyhoo has been in the midst of a writer's block and trying to sleep it off; Vindaloo has been doing nothing but trying to eat glue, and neither of them have been very photogenic. There just wasn't much to say.

As for me, I've been hiding from the weather, eating tortellini soup, and hoping for the best. I made an ACEO yesterday, and you know what? I liked it. But more about that tomorrow.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Yesterday we had a party for my philosopher's students, to lure them into his philosophical shenanigans-- specifically, his Experimental Epistemology lab. The idea is that if we ply grad students with enough cupcakes and beer, they will be willing to help him fight the good fight against the standard use of philosophical intuitions. We're not sure yet if it worked, but I made these cupcakes and I have leftovers, and the house is now clean, so I for one am happy. Due to all the housecleaning and cupcake-baking, however, I haven't made much this week. I did get a fresh supply of wire plus a little anvil I've been wanting for some time, and had a go at making earwires.

Here's the result! I'm pleased with them-- they feel very sturdy, and give the earrings a very polished look. I like them with my usual ear wires, but I love them with these handmade ones. It's like an earring makeover. And hammering is fun! (But we all knew that).

Monday, February 18, 2008

In honor of the President's visit to Tanzania, here's my favorite website out of Dar Es Salaam with all kinds of cool pop culture stuff. Well, yes, it's mostly in Swahili, but don't let that stop you from enjoying it. It's a view of a side of Africa we don't get to see too often here in the U.S.: something beyond war, privation, disease, or large game animals.

Tips: "Bongo" is the local nickname for Dar Es Salaam-- 'bongo' means 'brains'-- the idea is that you have to be really smart to survive there. People, especially young men, come from all over Tanzania to try to find work there-- and that may not work out unless they have some serious street smarts.

Here in the Bongomdundo ("rhythm of Bongo [i.e. Dar]") section you can listen to some local music. Click on any of the links in the upper right under "masongi" (surely I don't need to translate that? Hint: 'ma-' is a prefix that makes a word plural) to hear some awesome local tunes. I'd recommend one, but I'm on dial-up here and it's a bit slow going. If you have trouble, too, maybe try this online radio station, Bongo Radio.

Here's their list of local slang, with translations into standard Swahili and English. Warning: like slang everywhere, some of them are not polite! Some of the transaltions are mystifying, and some are hilarious if you can read all of the translations. Some pose a clear danger of unintentional hilarity for learners of Swahili, like 'kupumzika'. In textbook Swahili, it is an innocent word meaning 'to rest'. Apparently in the slang, it means to fart. Oh, my!

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Made a fresh batch of granola yesterday. Granola is my breakfast staple-- I go through periods of enthusiasm for various things, will have an entire month dedicated to toast and jam, or wild rice porridge or cheese grits, but granola (with or without plain yogurt) is what I always come back to. I started making it myself a few years ago, and now I have to cook up a batch every other week or so. If you've never had fresh granola, try it! Store bought granola just isn't the same (although I do like to keep around a bag of the Bear Naked Banana Nut for extra supplies when I've been neglecting my granola-making duties).

I've used a number of recipes over the years, but have finally distilled from the a master granola recipe that I can adapt to use with whatever I have on hand. Here's my generic recipe:

4 cups rolled oats
2 cups nuts/sunflower seeds/coconut/wheatgerm/ground flaxseed/whatever
2 cups dried fruit
1/4-1/2 c. honey, maple syrup, molasses, or whatever
1/4-1/2 c. vegetable oil or melted butter (I like sunflower oil)
1-4 teaspoons spices
1-3 tespoons vanilla extract (or almond or whatever you like)

Preheat your oven to 325. Mix together the dry ingredients in a big bowl; mix together liquid ingredients, microwave for 30 seconds or so and stir; pour the liquid over the dry and stir until the dry is well coated. Put it all on a large baking sheet (greased well, or better yet use a Silpat if you have one) and bake for 15 minutes; stir; bake for 5 minutes, then stir; bake another 5 minutes and stir, and repeat one more time for a total of 30 minutes. Let cool. Eat.

So you can do pecan molasses ginger with dried cherries, or cashews and sunflower seeds with honey, allspice, and cardamom, or sliced almonds with candied orange peel, candied ginger, and ground ginger, or... you get the idea. Oh, or you can leave the fruit out, but stir on a dollop of jam when you eat it. Mmm.

I tried to take a picture, but frankly a macro picture of granola was not as appealing as I thought it would be, so you'll just have to try it and see for yourself.

Now to go have me some breakfast....

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday cat blogging

I told Ballyhoo that it was cold out, but he didn't believe me. You can see how far he got before deciding that I was right.

I've gotten him to tell me a little about the novel. He claims that the reason there is no manuscript is because, as a cat, he is working within an entirely oral tradition. They have no history of producing written works; the true artist, he says, composes in his mind and commits the work entire to memory. Noble enough; I for one would not dare to argue, but I dont' see how he's going to get it published that way. To say nothing of the wisdom of trying to mix a purely written genre, the mystery novel, with oral tradition? I'm not too familiar with cat oral tradition, but I think it would be awkward at best, and I told him so. But you can see from the above picture how inclined he is to listen to me.

More on the novel next week. I think he likes talking about it, despite his affecting a preference for secrecy.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Weekly papermaking report

More fun with squiggles! I bent a piece of wire into a pleasing shape and then couched the paper onto it. I think it'll make a great pendant-- it's about an inch and a half long. The other side has the pattern in concave relief, but I like the convex side slightly better for jewelry, I think.
I've been meaning to try seed paper, but haven't gotten around to buying flower seeds yet. However, I found these squash seeds that I had saved a couple of years ago but never got around to planting, and thought I'd see how they'd do. I doubt they'll germinate, but then, not really sure I'd want them to anyway. They do look neat! They were a little bit sticky when they got wet, so they bonded with the paper more than I expected-- you have to pry them out, they won't just pop out on their own.
Then I pressed the pulp over some of the netting that grocery store oranges come in. I like the resulting texture!

And for this next one, I had thrown some cheesecloth into a dyebath I had going the other day, and decided that it would look pretty nifty incorporated into paper. It's well embedded-- it won't just fall off when I bend the paper. Though I am tempted to peel it off to see what it looks like with just the imprint left, I think I'll leave this piece alone. I only did one of each type-- I can try the cheesecloth texture-only version next time. Neat-o!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Yesterday's dye job. I find that I'm enjoying posting pictures of the dyed paper before I turn it into jewelry. Sometimes it looks so cool the way it is, I hate to chop it up! So it's nice to document the intermediate stage. This one was inspired when an Etsian posted in her blog a photo of a spilled drop of tea. I can't remember who it was, though, or I'd link! If you know, please tell me! Anyway, I thought it was amazing, and set out to riff on that simple, accidental beauty. Did a batch in earthy green on caramel, and now this red. I've already started a bracelet from it, and I think a full necklace may be in order, too. I like the shot with 2 of the drops-- reminds me a bit of binary stars.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ok, I guess this is when the blogging starts to get difficult. My philosopher, who is an avid blog reader, tells me that it is important to blog on a fixed schedule: I'm aiming for at least Sundays, Thursdays and Fridays too if I've gotten good pictures of the cats. So here it is, Sunday, and I have NOTHING to say. I've been making stuff, yes, but I'd rather show pictures of that later, when they're done. I haven't dyed any paper in the past few days, I haven't made any new recycled paper worth showing, no new bracelets. I haven't browsed Etsy much. Haven't taken any new pictures. Haven't prepared any photograph-worthy meals for myself ("here is my Lean Pocket I'm having for lunch. Mmm!)

Yesterday I did proofread about 30 pages of a biography of Ferdinand De Soto, the explorer who trudged through Florida and 'discovered' the Mississippi. Only got through part of his early life, though. Even so, boy, those Spanish explorers. De Soto was no Pizarro, as far as his brutality goes (the biographer makes a point of emphasizing this), but still. My point is, I may have more interesting facts to impart regarding DeSoto later, but at this time, not so much.

Oh, and I'm reading an article on the semantics of futurate uses of the present progressive. But I'm not quite halfway through, so can't talk about that (and probably shouldn't, even once I'm finished).

So here we are, with an entire entry about how I have nothing to day. I figured, I could have just dropped a sentence or two about De Soto and called it a day, but then you would all say "Wow, she really had nothing to say. Why'd she bother?" Now you know. Actually, while I was riding the exercise bicycle just now and listening to "This American Life", I came up with a good paragraph or two more riffing on this same topic: the exact type of nothing I have to say on a wide variety of topics. But I think you get the point.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Friday cat blogging

After spending more time than I'd like to admit trying to get a decent shot of one or both of the cats today, this was the best I could do. Ballyhoo was mid-stretch, after telling me for about the 5th time that he would like for me to please stop blocking the sunbeam and let him nap in peace. Vindaloo kept rubbing her face on the camera, so that explains why she isn't in the pictures today.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I still go to a reading group on my favorite linguistics subject, tense and aspect. When I tell people this, they give me a Look. A "What? Why?" look. Well, I enjoy it, is the only reason I need. For an hour a week (if the discussion is interesting), I am filled again with a sense of pleasure that I only get from linguistics. The feeling of understanding something so well that you can clearly perceive the vast panorama of things you don't yet understand, and a path or two to finding out the answer. Oh, it's delicious. Remind me to tell you a little about aspect some time.

Of course, on the mundane level, it involves a lot of things I'd just as soon have nothing to do with, which is why I stopped. The day-to-day drudgery of jewelry making is far more pleasant than the day-to-day business of knowledge-making. I enjoy creating in and of itself. But I do miss the pursuit of the question, just a little.

It always seemed to me that artistic creativity and, for lack of a better term, scientific creativity, are closely related, if not identical, processes. You have to put everything you know together in one place, give it a good examination, and then answer the big question: what can I contribute? How can I approach this differently? What remains to be explored? And if you're lucky, if you have that spark, you can find some angle, some little corner to magnify and riff on in your own way. Development of lexical aspectual systems in L2 Swahili; paper jewelry-- same diff. Always building on the work of others, hopefully adding something valuable to the conversation.

Well, enough of that for now.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I've been wanting to do some things in sage green, and finally managed to get the right shade! I'm pretty pleased with the patterns that emerged, too. Have I mentioned that I love dyeing paper? Because I do.

Oh, also, I know I just was talking about how I like to make chai from scratch and so on, but on a whim I bought some of Upton's black chai blend, and I really like it. Both boiled in milk or brewed in water with milk added. It's got zip. (Upton is not paying me to plug them, btw-- I just really like their tea! I've been a faithful customer since the mid 90s.)

Here's my current favorite teacup. I bought it this past fall at the Pink Palace Art show in Memphis, from Mudpuppy Studios. Simple, rough, and aesthetically pleasing. I also think it matches my new paper rather nicely.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

I have no title for this post.

Away for the weekend, to attend the 60th wedding anniversary party for my philosopher's grandparents. I have had the luxury of getting to spend the morning in the hotel room proofreading things for Project Gutenberg, and just want to say again (I haven't said it here, but I have said it before elsewhere, and it bears repeating) that I love John Stuart Mill. I've been working on proofreading his "On the Subjection of Women", and have to say that it still rocks my socks off.  And my socks, my friend, are not easily off-rocked, be they my favorite argyles nor the ones with the little froggies on lilypads.