Rejiquar Works 2014-11-28T13:07:29-05:00 copyright 2014 Sylvus Tarn Sylvus Tarn 2014-11-28T00:00:00-05:00 links to documentaries---2nd wave feminism, Mona Lisa recreated photographically, fabulous mushroom photos 28nov2014

Hideho, another post cuzza I gotta bunch a links I want to close in the browser interesting looking documentary on 2nd wave feminism (which got good reviews from some folks who'd actually seen it; via strobist, (which I'm perusing for the 2nd or 3rd time—mebbe this time the lessons on using flash will stick) another documentary about recreating the Mona Lisa photographically (which frankly was more interesting to me as a form of the photographer's obsession); also via strobist, some fabulous photography of mushrooms (which have fascinated me with their form and color for a long time).

Or you can check out a pair of earrings I wanna say I made roughly at this time of year in either ’12 or ’13, courtesy of the wonderful Cyndy G., who brought a bunch of autumn-themed bits and pieces for us guild members to play with at a meeting.

2014-11-24T00:00:00-05:00 This is another one of those tedious me, me, me posts I've made as a reminder to myself next time I have to photograph stuff for my friend, Kristin. If you are an amateur photographer getting into using a manual flash, you may find it slightly useful. Otherwise, yawn. However, I've accumulated a...

This is another one of those tedious me, me, me posts I've made as a reminder to myself next time I have to photograph stuff for my friend, Kristin. If you are an amateur photographer getting into using a manual flash, you may find it slightly useful. Otherwise, yawn.

However, I've accumulated a buncha other links—how a Deutsch town ju-jitsued (I prefer this to the ‘prank’ characterization boingboing used) a neo-nazi group; how music engages the brain (though I wonder what would happen if they MRI'ed someone doing a difficult arty task like, say, making a bead, which also has something of a real time performance aspect to it...?

Racism has long, deep roots. The distribution of blacks in my home-town was determined shortly after the Civil War, when covenants were created that restricted where blacks could live; and those distributions remain largely the same, over a century later. F2tY is applying for colleges, and finding the process frustrating and tedious—not least because of the racist roots of the admissions process.

On a slightly more upbeat note, I'm proud to be part of the creative commons. Even if today's aspect of it ain't that exciting.

UPDATE (27nov14): Whoopsie, forgot to finish the page! Well, I made the second checklist visible, and added another photo while I was at it. Sorry about that!

2014-11-19T00:00:00-05:00 flames are round in space:) 19nov2014

Sorry about the no-posting—first, I caught something at our guild show in the beginning of November; not to mention I had all these bulbs. I managed by Monday to finish planting them, however haphazardly, racing snow and cold before the ground froze hard. On the plus side, perhaps this means the various little rodents won't be able to dig them up and eat them!

Today's piece is a blast from the past.

And seeing as it's wood, a material I'm more likely to compost or burn than string, this rather cool link about flame shape seems apropos...I do wonder what it would be like to try making beads in space—for one thing you wouldn't have to constantly spin the mandrel to keep the glass from drooping!

2014-11-06T00:00:00-05:00 Today is Japan Day:) First up, via boingboing, a couple of interesting links---one of a short video of a traditional wooden dollmaker ; the other about one of those organizer/tidy-types . I have battled clutter all my life, and have slowly gotten better at it (though frankly I think having more...

Today is Japan Day:)

First up, via boingboing, a couple of interesting links—one of a short video of a traditional wooden dollmaker; the other about one of those organizer/tidy-types. I have battled clutter all my life, and have slowly gotten better at it (though frankly I think having more resources has helped a good deal—i.e., I either can spend more money for storage solutions, or am more willing to get rid of crap because I know I have the wherewithal to replace it).

Thus far, the most useful (recent) decluttering advice I got was fly lady's shine your sink. I didn't really think it would help that much, but it did. (Again, I was helped by the fact that we recently [almost finished the ] redo of our kitchen, so it's a lot more functional—and pleasant—than it was.) The Japanese woman Marie Kondo's advice is interesting: focus not on what you discard, but what you wish to keep, and keep only those things you love.

Right now I have to pull financial records from 2008–2013. I do not love them, but having them has certainly made coping with bureaucracies much easier. —There was (not altogether to my surprise, having just visited Japan, and stayed in/visited several Japanese homes) a very minimalist aesthetic shown in the author interview. It's lovely, but obviously these folks have someone else to deal with all the paperwork necessary to run a household (another thing that's slowly making super-tidyness more available: computers, which make the necessity of storing a lot of boring crap much more compact.)

But even leaving aside the issues of ugly-but-necessary stuff, or things I would happily get rid of (because they belong to other members of the household who would like to keep their possessions, thank-you-very-much), there's another issue, which is that, because I am an artist who works in so many media, I have an awful lot of stuff with highly variable desirableness. For example: I have some reproductions of old coins that have been sitting around for years. Decades, literally. Currently I mostly use them in my fukaro (the counterweight bag for kumihimo) but I just have started a new hobby for which they will come most extremely handy. Because I cycle in and out of media, and have a difficult time predicting when I'll need something (not to mention the fact that I often make my best art out of my most despised supplies, because I don't care so much about the outcome, and can let go) this philosophy, while most extremely appealing, is difficult.

I guess the bottom line is that, even more than being tidy (much as I love that) I derive satisfaction from ‘perfect use’ —finding the most efficient way to use, store or deal with a given item.

Finally, to round out my discussion of things Japanese, I thought I'd mention a brilliant manga I recently read: Nijigahara Holograph. This horror comic came out, I wanna say, in 2006, but was just released in English in 2014. It's an absolutely brilliant story, with multiple points of view (and some very unreliable narrators to boot) that took about 5 readings to nail down the plot. Briefly, the story is about a young man, a 5th grader who transfers to a school in which another girl was killed—drowned—by her classmates.

The art is very nice, and the character design is top-notch (absolutely necessary; otherwise figuring out the plot would be impossible), and the transitions—oh, man, the transitions in this book are amazing —as, for example when the two teachers are discussing the protagonist's history, and that he possibly jumped from his prior school's roof; then we cut to him, listening to the other children tell their victim to jump—there are lots of other examples, in which the text and images work in concert to switch from one timeline or character viewpoint to another's.

Despite the intricately plotted storyline and the richness of the characters—with the possible exception of the murdered girl(s), everyone is culpable, cruel, damaged and damaging—the story is, at bottom, the tale of a paedophilic rape; and the failure of everyone, but everyone to protect the victim. The book is so brilliantly done that, for the moment, I'm inclined to let this pass; but I can't help wondering why, if the other main plot thread is the protagonist's existentialist despair, we need a harrowing rape (with a side of incest) to balance his angst.

Despite this reservation, this has been the most engaging thing I've read in a very long time, and if you're looking for something with layers and layers of symbolism, then I recommend this book.

Or, you can check out the propane shed mouse.

2014-11-05T00:00:00-05:00 Reviews of Ann Leckie's Ancillary Sword, and _Dear White People_. 05nov2014

Just finished Ann Leckie's Ancillary Sword, which, I'm guessing from internal details as well as some other evidence (the fact that the classes of ships in the Radch empire are divided into Justices, Swords and Mercies) is the second book in what I presume will be a trilogy. Her first swept the awards, garnering hugo, nebula, locus’ best new writer, etc.

The worldbuilding is so delicious I hesitate to say much about it, lest I spoil the surprise; but if you'd like the smallest of tastes, one of her short stories, set in the same universe (though from quite a different point of view) is available online. It's a very good story, though I like the novels better.

Also highly recommended, from another beginner, is the film Dear White People. Looking over the rotten tomatoes’ reviews, most people focused on various aspects of the film; only one of the reviewers was made seriously uncomfortable by its racial themes, a tribute, in my opinion, of its creator's sincere effort to make, primarily, an entertaining film more about people's assorted coping mechanisms for dealing with structural racism.

The film is an ensemble piece, focusing mostly on the efforts of 4 people, 2 men and 2 women, to fit in at an ivy league school. The protagonist might be said to be Sam White, a fiery would-be film-maker with light skin privilege whose scathing indictments of everyday microagressions she illustrates on her eponymous radio show:

Dear White People: the number of black friends you need not to look racist has been raised to two; and your weed-man Tyrone doesn't count.


In a similar way, the quiet, reserved Lionel acts as the viewpoint character, observing much and saying little: as someone who fits in nowhere, black or white, straight or gay, he makes for the ideal observer.

What was particularly interesting to me was that since I've read (for years) about most of the problems illustrated in the film (why do the black kids get their own space, tragic muluttas, black names being less ‘salable’ on resumes, touching hair, etc) I didn't feel particularly uncomfortable that these issues came up; they are, after all, facts of life if you're (USian) black. But what I didn't realize till I thought about it later is that there is almost no male gaze in this film; or rather, the eye candy is, for a change, all male: Troy, whom one senses in other circs would be perfectly happy to smoke weed, play video games & watch brainless sf, has huge pecks and a very nice six pack, which get shown off in the film. Repeatedly. Personally, I would have preferred the opportunity to admire skinny, nerdy Lionel, but the absence of boobage was so refreshing I'd nearly forgotten how truly rare it is in any kind of a film you'd see in a mainstream theatre.

This movie was (at least partially) funded by indiegogo (to which I was goaded into contributing by f2tE), and, as it happens, I actually know somebody who reminds me of Lionel, so I was predisposed to like the film. It is, perhaps a bit rough around the edges (though I'm not of a film critic to be more specific) but I really enjoyed it, not least because it so thoroughly demolished that ‘those people are all alike’ myth.

Plus, serious as it is, it has some great humor, and a pretty upbeat ending:) \\

So go see it. Otherwise, you're stuck with a post that languished for three years before I finally got desparate enough to dig it out of storage.

2014-11-04T00:00:00-05:00 Discussion of Piketty's _Capital in the XXI Century_. 04nov2014

So one of the reasons—though hardly the only one—I've not been posting much is that the wizard set me up with a dual monitor system, and the new monitor is quite a bit brighter than the old one. Which makes all my image settings, that I've been using for my camera(s) and the website, for years, look terribly overexposed. I actually ordered a monitor colorimeter (not that I've figured out how to use it to actually calibrate said monitors, mind you) in the hopes that I could somehow deal with this dilemma.

Eventually, I suppose I will figure this stuff out. (Not helped by the fact that I sit at a bright window, because, um, I like looking out the window...?) In the meantime, some non image related updates:)

Lessee, I finished the Piketty (Capital in the XXI Century). I gather the author did a TED talk, but his frenetic delivery drove me absolutely batty, so I much preferred the book. Yes, I read the entire 700 pages (though only some of the endnotes—personally, I detest them, and with modern typesetting, it's not really that big a deal to park them at the bottom of the page as proper footnotes, so those of us who like footnotes can, and everyone else can ignore them—and btw, the design of this book was quite handsome, with proper ffl ligatures and everything). You don't have to read the entire thing to get the idea, because like a lot of truly passionate academics, Piketty lays out his arguments in a clear way. The thrust of the book can basically be summed as follows:

  1. The ROI (rate of investment) on capital (i.e. housing, land, factories, whatever your money is invested in) is roughly 4%–5%, on average. The rate of growth, which is birthrate (less deaths, so it can be negative, though currently isn't) plus increased efficiency per worker was historically 0.8% and may go as high as 1.6%. (For example, it is far more efficient for me to sell 10 prints over one drawing, and a 1000 books over either, and potentially unlimited page-views on this website over any.) Obviously even 4% > 1.6%, so capital will accrue to people who already have it. Or IOW, the rich get richer, which is not exactly news, but now we have a nice, simple mathematical model to explain why, in a structural manner.
  2. The other half of his thesis is that current technology makes nailing down the numbers, and then crunching them, to extract long-term historical trends, much more feasible.

The part of the book that's exciting all the discussion, of course, is his claim that the 20th century is an anomaly: the shocks, as Piketty calls them, of WWI and II redistributed the fin-de-siècle fortunes of the 19ca robber barons—and everyone else for that matter (via taxation and/or inflation); and the deep and vivid memories of the Great Depression promoted more progressive tax schemes.

It was a bit of a shock to me that not only during the ancien regime did the bottom 50% own only 5% (if that) of the wealth, but even after the revolution the bottom half still only owned 5% of the wealth. That is, it didn't (and still doesn't) seem to matter what sort of government you have, the top 10% are gonna have most of the money, with the top 1% owning anywhere from a quarter to half of all the wealth in a given country. (This is one reason I'm not certain campaign finance reform will “fix” things; it will help, I have no doubt, but the rich will figure out new ways to protect their resources.)

Back in the day, these moguls justified their greed with the divine right of kings: if you were a better sort of person, then of course you had more money—hence the class system of the UK, or India's castes. It took us americans (usians?) to come up with a new (and horrible twist) on this thinking: we invented whiteness to justify greater wealth. It also acted as a handy wedge to set poor whites against poor blacks; much the way wealthy conservatives currently set poor religious christians against women with all this abortion reproductive-justice-of-any-kind folderol.

There are a good many wealthy people who claim (with justification) that they've worked very hard to earn their money; but that the 50% 47% who have no wealth are simply too lazy to do equally well brings to mind one of the most striking asides Piketty makes: if those wealthy people are so rich by talent alone, then really they oughtn't mind resetting the clock of their wealth back to zero every 20 years, because they'll surely regain their place!

That framing makes very clear how absurd any claim that doesn't take into account luck (which is mostly how wealthy one's parents are).

I once read an interview of a bunch of people, each making 10x more than the last, starting with an immigrant dishwasher. I can't find that article, but the striking thing was that no-one, even the poorest, was particularly angry at the next level up...except the very wealthiest, who seemed deathly afraid, and angry, at all those below him. I strongly suspect, if we could reset the clock of wealth every twenty years, free education, UBI (Universal basic incomes) and other programs would suddenly become a lot more popular. Yet, as the story above makes clear, such drastic measures are not necessary; for everyone except the very richest (i.e. those making over 80–100x average wages, or whose fortunes are over 100 million*), one merely need promote a little generosity for all.

The ‘[y]ou're not paying taxes, you're buying civilization'was tremendously helpful for dealing with that resentment (of paying taxes); so too the memory that social programs were very popular in this country—till black people started benefitting from them. Well, I want everyone to have a good life, and what a stupid reason for cutting well-fare. Nobody needs nor should have so much money that they can spend millions if not billions on political campaigns, or outbid museums for art we should all be able to enjoy (as opposed to a form of showing off to one's peers). It's not healthy for society, and I don't think it's particularly healthy for the billionaires, either—who wants to spend their lives worrying the proles are coming for them with pitchforks? (In fact, Piketty argues the reason US super-managers are making 23million/yr and the like is because we no longer have that 1950s 90% marginal tax rate, which obviously needs to come back—for one thing, is it really in a corp's best interest to be shelling out that much for one person, when the folks cleaning the toilets are barely scraping by? Dunno ’bout you, but I bet being a manager is more enjoyable.) Most of the wealth does not need to belong to the 1%; we, the people, can change our laws.

If we so choose. Speaking of which, today (in the USA, at least) is election day...

*Calculations: if for convenience we set the average household income in the US at 50,000, then people earning over 5 million dollars a year, either as wages, or interest on capital (a 4–5% annual income on 100 million dollars would yield 5 million a year) should pay back that extra (e.g. taxes), to be used to build infrastructure: roads and bridges and internet and free college educations for all. Yanno, the civilization that makes 100 million dollar fortunes possible. (Or they can go the Carnegie Mellon/Bill Gates whitewashing route, and give it away to the charities of their choice—libraries and malaria respectively.) Cuz frankly I think anyone ought to be able to live on an income 100x the average!

2014-10-13T00:00:00-05:00 Links to videos about Turkey, Tuvan throat singing, Columbus Day and a blood moon. 13oct2014

I have not been very productive lately, despite the gorgeous autumn weather we've been having: at least, not on the art front. (I have been plowing through Piketty's Capital, plus a book on Korea, and have yet to extract “homework” from that massive reprint of the seminal Josef Albers 2 volume manual on color, which I can tell already is gonna be a lotta work—it's been a loooooooong time since I took Tammany's 2-D design color theory class...)

However I did want to post the Oatmeal's exhortation to rename that holiday we have here in US on the 2nd Monday of October.* Which I guess around here would mebbe be ‘Happy Huron Day.’ To round out the links that have been aggregating, here's a splendid short video about Turkey courtesy of boingboing, an amazing video of a woman doing overtone singing (scroll down for a guy demoing a variety of Tuvan styles, which is what most people think of when this technique of throat singing comes up—aaaand, update, languagelog's take); finally, in honor of my, um, host-family|not-quite brother-in-law, an absolutely stunning photo of the blood moon we had recently as he was kind enough to send me a really nice one via email:)

I have sort of a soft spot for ‘blood moons’ —not just because I got a glimpse of one of the most gorgeous orange moons I've ever seen the following evening, but also because I wrote a story about one in which I was finally beginning, at least, to get the hang of plotting.

Anyway. In celebration of yellow, orange and red moons in particular and autumn colors generally (the trees are now turning some truly spectacular colors) have an autumn colored mouse.

*Content note: it should be noted, that though hetries, there's a lot of sexism (not to mention fat-shaming) on the site, though the link I posted is ok.

†This would be one of the wizard's faves, frex.

2014-09-15T00:00:00-05:00 Well, just to continue on with the monarch theme, I was lucky enough to score some caterpillars (my milkweed evidently not being enticing enough to attract monarch eggs on its own...just milkweed moth caterpillars, which are furry and cute, to be sure. But not monarchs.) I've been collecting and ...

Well, just to continue on with the monarch theme, I was lucky enough to score some caterpillars (my milkweed evidently not being enticing enough to attract monarch eggs on its own...just milkweed moth caterpillars, which are furry and cute, to be sure. But not monarchs.)

I've been collecting and losing links, as usual. At the urging of my bead buddy Frances, I read the ‘Steal Like an Artist’ guy's latest (Show Your Work) which is sort of the reverse (sharing your stuff so's people can steal from you;) There's a lot to like in this quick and easy read, and much I agree with: sharing—documenting—your ongoing thought processes, and letting people bounce their concepts off yours—that bouncing back and forth, especially amongst several people (a ‘school’) sets up a chain reaction that's good for everyone. This is why cities foment ideas: as the number of people goes up, their number of interactions scales logarithmically, and the ideas start fountaining.

The only place where I stumbled was mebbe half way through, where the author urges his readership to sort of ruminate half-baked ideas publicly. Yes, that can be helpful (though an awful lot of people get themselves into trouble posting ill-considered stuff), and to be just Kleon does admit you should keep the stuff you can't bear to have torn apart private, at least for a bit; but I was getting a bit of the ‘I'm a white cis het male’ vibe, which was perhaps strengthened by his mentioning Kathy Sierra.

Kathy Sierra was the first woman I saw hounded off the internet waaaaay back in 2007—all for the innocuous crime of being a woman in tech. Seriously. She was signed up to do a talk at some tech seminar, which infuriated a bunch of dudebros and was sent death threats. She's still off the internet afict, and has been joined by a bunch of other women suffering similar horrid abuse—Rebecca Watson and Anita Sarkeesian immediately spring to mind, and of course, Zoe Quinn, who like Sierra was (is?) involved in gaming and is, um, also currently “enjoying” an appalling stream of rape and death threats. So why is Kleon talking as if Sierra's still a presence, as he advocates in this book ‘Stick Around’ is the title of the concluding chapter? And, while the author deserves kudos for alternating the genders of indeterminate persons, of the named individuals I counted in the first 50 pages, 36 were men and two were women (one of which was cited as a reporter, rather than a creative.) I doubt the ratio of PoC was much better.

So I'm thinking I'm not entirely unjustified in believing the author has a bit of blindness to the problems marginalized folk have trying to make their voices heard.

But, like all good self-help books, this one ends with the caveat of ‘keep what's useful, dump the rest.’ Which brings me to another self-help book, more specifically about learning to draw. I like the Betty Edwards’ book, because most people firmly associate being an artist with being able to draw representationally, which is what she focuses upon. Mona Brookes’ Monart method, originally developed for very young children (who aren't necessarily fixed on representation) backs up further to simply the joys of making marks on paper. She has a number of step-by-step by-the-numbers approaches to constructing drawings, for example a 5-category vocabulary of shapes, and a ball and cylinder method for laying out the human figure. The book is further helped by showing a wide variety of artists: it's extraordinarily inclusive.

But most of all she simply encourages people to believe in themselves.

That is most extremely important. Particularly when I taught adults, I spent a significant amount of time reassuring them that they weren't making a mistake, or that, even if they did, it wasn't a big deal.

I'd like to think I'm pretty fearless in art (I mean, paper is cheap. So, if you screw up, no worries, shred, compost or pitch and try again. It's not rocket science, where someone's gonna burn up in the atmosphere if you screw up.) Yet even I found her citing a study that showed students who copied photographs and/or other artists’ figurative works to be more proficient than those who worked/learned from a live model alone to be incredibly liberating.

(Why oh why didn't my frustrated mother, when I asked her to draw me a horsie to copy, didn't she simply plop of a picture book, ideally of photos, but even of illustrations, instead of trying to make a drawing—badly—all the while complaining she couldn't do it well? Big big kudos though, for trying, rather than hiding her lack of skill by discouraging me from wanting to make art. Similarly, thanks be to my early grade school art teacher, Mrs Smith, again for encouraging me. —Someday I'll post some of my childhood scribbles; until then you'll just have to accept my word for it that I had excruciatingly average talent; I've simply put a lot of time into getting better, and putting the time in is pretty much available to everyone. Born to genius, not so much.)

Photos simplify the problem, breaking it down into more steps, and thus manageable pieces. We slow learners need that. That said, Drawing for Older Children & Teens (Adults too) is not the work to consult for perspective. Brookes’ understanding of the subject is weak enough that a drawing purporting to show a box in 2 point perspective looked as if it were floating off the seemingly trapezoidal table it was supposed to be resting on, despite other sketches in the series clearly indicating said table was supposed to be rectangular. The artist failed to finish the bottoms of the legs of said table, a clear indicator of her confusion. Use David Chelsea's Perspective for Comic Book Artists (though women and PoC should be prepared for what I sincerely hope were unintentional sexist and racist flubs.)

Well, I think that's enough ranting for one day. Perhaps next time I can talk a bit medium and Marmite Sue. Oh, and perhaps squee some more over the fact that inkscape is jumping from v0.48 to 0.91, and remind people that the National Weather Service is uber-cool, and getting more so: they evidently have worked up a bunch of resources for coping with extreme weather events (beyond hiding in the basement, which is my basic response...)

Or you can enjoy my admittedly so-so (but CC licensed) pix of monarchs in the making:)

2014-08-25T00:00:00-05:00 yay ames garden carts. 25aug2014

As usual, when I do the instagram/tweet/tumble/fb thingie, I tend not to post here. Some day, I will learn how to embed links to longer posts in those other places....

I've been meaning for awhile to give a shout-out to the Ames people. They make a variety of garden tools, under an assortment of names (e.g. ‘true temper’). Some years ago—more than five, mebbe even 10, I purchased one of their easy roller plus garden cart, the four-wheeled version, and I have been really happy with this thing. It's not perfect—it stumbles over rough ground or curbs, because its wheels are small—but it was inexpensive, fits through my narrow garden gates, carries heavy loads, and has served me very well. Along with my D-handled spade, my trowel, and garden hose, it's one of my most important gardening tools.

Until, that is, someone borrowed it and knocked the cap off one end of the front axle, which meant the wheel kept falling off. I resigned myself to buying a new one, but they didn't seem to be in stock. I had few hopes the things were even still being manufactured, I'd bought this so long ago. Sighing, I went to the website, and lo and behold, not only are they still in production (albeit with a slightly different name and color—mine is dark green) they offer to replace missing parts. Free of charge.

In fact, aside from a slightly plainitive request to please be patient for the week or 10 days it would take them to ship the part, this was the most incredibly gracious interaction I've had with a firm in a long time. And yes, they promptly shipped out exactly what I needed—in fact, they sent me a pair of ’em, in the cutest sewn cotton bag, to which they stitched a card with address. My cart is once again working perfectly.

So, brava Ames. I saved some money, didn't have to consign my plastic cart to the landfill, and now, if I can just deal with my crappy shoulder issues, I can get back to fighting the clearweed that's trying to take over my garden. To help with that, I recommend their garden carts unreservedly.

Not only that, the more time I spend outdoors weeding, the more likely I get to see creatures like this.

2014-08-13T00:00:00-05:00 Ferguson, a town in a long line in which a young black man has died for the crime of wandering around wearing skin the wrong color. 13aug2014

Hideho, people. I actually did make a bunch of posts, but the intros didn't seem quite right, and quite honestly, if I didn't need to turn in the pix being shown today, I'd probably still be waffling.

So awaaaaay back when, when the GLBG was still quite a young org Pattee Goodman (now Goodman-Baker) was first its display chair, and then its second president. I can't say we were ever close friends, but our history is a long one, and I was bummed when she got married and followed her husband to the Saint Louis area, because that's where the guy had work.

She told me it was worse than Detroit.

More racist than Detroit? Land of my childhood, where the tanks rolled down Woodward Ave during the rioting...? Yes, she said. Much worse.

So I suppose I shouldn't be totally surprised at all this crap going down in Ferguson (a St Louis suburb, but techically I also was in a suburb, Highland Park, that nevertheless was 3 miles from the riot epicenter) —But it's just so appalling. The Civil Rights Act was enacted 50 years ago. The ’67 riots were almost 5 decades ago, and, surprise surprise, the main complaint back then was also white police brutality on black bodies. I was too young to really understand anything except that I was to stay in the back yard, but I wonder, did people wonder then, if they were sliding into a police state? Or if all the deaths and suffering (and property damage) would cause things to change?

Before then, Detroit was cited as a hopeful, model city of race relations. It was the ‘Murder Capital’ during my teens, and now, finally, is showing modest signs of growth, fostering street art and ambient music, efforts to live a green and sustainable life with urban farming. I can't really think of any places that would be considered ‘model cities’ of race relations, so perhaps we've made a bit of progress (or we have ‘post-racial society’...?)

My heart goes out to these, the latest in a long line of young men, victims—warriors—ordinary folk—embroiled, as Ta-Nehisi Coates says, in a centuries long war against them. May the tide finally be turning, and not be just another useless turn of the wheel, a senseless cycle of violence.

Yeah, this sort of thing is part of the reason I haven't been terribly enthusiastic about posting.

2014-07-08T00:00:00-05:00 'Fraid this is probably going out a little late---I realized the pix all needed to have the background either cropped, adjusted or both (honestly, I need to get one of those 36" diffusion cubes...) and while I've certainly been wasting lots of time vegging in front of the computer, I don't really f...

’Fraid this is probably going out a little late—I realized the pix all needed to have the background either cropped, adjusted or both (honestly, I need to get one of those 36" diffusion cubes...) and while I've certainly been wasting lots of time vegging in front of the computer, I don't really feel like ranting today. Hurray:)

Oh, wait, a garden tidbit—evidently, according to the local wild ones list, it is safe (on large, mature specimens) to grow virginia creeper up one's trees. Ima gonna try it!

In the meantime, some fake vegetation for you to enjoy.

2014-07-07T00:00:00-05:00 Someday, I suppose, I will work out an efficient method to post to everything, all at once, with no links, but actual pictures. Right now, however, it seems I manage either rejiquar or all those other social media. C'est la vie. This seems to be the week for rather autumny orange and yellow flor...

Someday, I suppose, I will work out an efficient method to post to everything, all at once, with no links, but actual pictures. Right now, however, it seems I manage either rejiquar or all those other social media. C'est la vie.

This seems to be the week for rather autumny orange and yellow florals: today's content is, um, somewhat recycled, but I have fresh new stuff on this theme starting tomorrow.


2014-07-05T00:00:00-05:00 This post was supposed to go up yesterday, but my internet's been flaky. Actually I was gonna post some recent beads---they're kind of a cool series (& will no doubt show up here in due course, though I have been posting them to my instagram / twitter / tumblr ); but then I happened to visit s...

This post was supposed to go up yesterday, but my internet's been flaky. Actually I was gonna post some recent beads—they're kind of a cool series (& will no doubt show up here in due course, though I have been posting them to my instagram /twitter /tumblr); but then I happened to visit slacktivist, and saw his posts about Frederick Douglass and the 4th of July.

Oh, yeah, I was gonna post that.

2014-06-20T00:00:00-05:00 Happy Summer Solstice, everyone:) Finished danah boyd's book on teenagers and social media, which basically can be summed up as, `the real problem is not your average [white, middle-class] teen hanging out in hir bedroom (unless the thought of them occasionally looking at porn really, *really* bug...

Happy Summer Solstice, everyone:)

Finished danah boyd's book on teenagers and social media, which basically can be summed up as, ‘the real problem is not your average [white, middle-class] teen hanging out in hir bedroom (unless the thought of them occasionally looking at porn really, really bugs you, but even then, they probably spend less time doing that than you would think) but the poor, under-resourced [let's be honest, black and latin@] kids who, lacking support in other ways, surprise, tend to screw up online, for much the same reasons they do off.

In fact, the teens said over and over again they'd really rather hang out face to face, even going so far to go to the mall when they didn't care for shopping, or sports events when they didn't give a rat's ass about the sport—just to have a ‘justified’ way to be together. I was extraordinarily lucky in that my parents, my mother in particular, consciously made an effort to balance our lives between academics, (scheduled) sports/activities, chores and ‘down’ time to do with as we liked. However, boyd reports—and it's my experience with other parents as well—that many of them keep from their children the freedoms they had, sometimes merely by persuasion that the world out there is simply too dangerous.

So they hang out in the digital world, which they can do from their bedrooms. The early adopters, like boyd herself, tended to seek out other loners (actually, my eldest did too) but a lot of modern (i.e. 2007–2013, when she conducted her interviews) teens were simply using fb, (or whatever) to reinforce their local connections. And it's more than a little ironic that crime rates have been dropping. (All sorts of reasons have been proposed, the current popular contender being the banning of leaded gasoline.) Unless they live in the ghetto, the thing to be afraid of is auto accidents. Those being abused are likely suffering from people they know; not strangers everyone likes to envision.

What's particularly interesting to me is that as the author notes, women used to be driven from public spaces a hundred years ago (that whole angel of the hearth thing, though of course poor women hadn't that option)—and some people would argue they still are (with catcalls, frex, or fear of rape after dark) with much the same arguments—that they're not competent; and they're too dangerous (to the proper, manly public.) The women, of course, were thought to be sexual temptresses; modern teens, especially male youth of color, are seen to be violent, though it seems to me they're in far more danger from the white middle aged ‘mainstream’ than vice versa—though I expect the constant suspicion, stop and frisk, etc., doesn't exactly improve their attitude.

Yet women—mothers—are wholeheartedly participating in this restriction of their children: teens have it much worse. boyd reports driving through suburban neighborhoods that looked ‘deserted’ because no-one was on the streets. I can attest to this: it's one of the things I hated about living in the wealthy suburb my parents moved to when I was 17. Like one of the teens noted, trying to walk to school was a no-go, because there simply wasn't a route, except along 45–55 mph mile roads, and apart from the traffic noise, there weren't sidewalks. For the same reason, riding my bike was out. I detested it. I hated the crime, gunshots and breakins when I moved back to Detroit, but at least I could walk to things again, because the Penn-style neighborhood sidewalks connected up.

To be sure, Child protection laws and the cultural expectations they engender make it difficult to impossible to let one's children roam around ‘until the streetlights’ come on even for more lenient parents. I pushed the boundaries, and was so grateful when we finally got cell phones, because it meant freedom for we, the parents, who could now roam, because our home-alone preteen children could call us if there was a problem. But I still worried if something ever happened, and CPS heard of it. I deeply resented this undermining of my efforts to teach my children responsibility in stages, which I felt was critical to their development.

Long story short, we slowly seem to be moving back to a model where children (including teens and tweens) are treated as individuals, with certain rights. Clearly we don't want to go back to the days of sweatshops, the proximate cause of protectionist model, but kids, like most people, will amaze you—if you give them the chance.

With, albeit, perhaps a few stumbles along the way (again, as do we all.) Speaking of which, this bead is definitely one such analog of the whole has potential, but... thingie.

2014-06-19T00:00:00-05:00 Via my bead buddy Frances, some productivity tips for the terminally procrastinative (that would be both of us;) It's particularly apt today, because, nearly four and a half years after I had hardware installed in a broken collarbone, it was permanently removed. Yay. This method, from the wo...

Via my bead buddy Frances, some productivity tips for the terminally procrastinative (that would be both of us;) It's particularly apt today, because, nearly four and a half years after I had hardware installed in a broken collarbone, it was permanently removed. Yay.

This method, from the work-a-4hour day week guy, basically boils down to, pick one thing that would make you feel good about the day's accomplishments if you completed it, and then work on it for 2–3 hours (one continuous block). Don't beat yourself up if you stray, just gently return yourself to the task at hand kinda exactly like meditation, actually... Note that after you've put your time in, you can let go if necessary (he doesn't actually say this, but it's pretty strongly implied.) Then the rest of the day you feel airy and guilt-free. These tasks, he notes, tend to be the ones that persist, day to day, on to-do lists.

He's got that right.

For those of you familiar with John Scalzi's variation of ‘butt-in-chair’, this will seem very family familiar—he anchors himself in front of the screen, with no distractions allowed, from nine to noon to do (paid) writing; then knocks off for the rest of the day, unless he's on a roll, and feels like continuing. Cory Doctorow actually forces himself to stop after 500 words, on the theory that having a bit more in the mental queue will jump-start the process the following day. (He also is disciplined enough to squeeze in his writing here and there, which Ferris and most authorial howto-guides deprecate.)

Ferris suggests writing the tasks, no more than “3 to 5” on paper, first thing, but I find putting them on the computer works better for me, because the undone ones tend to persist better on the computer, and I can link (and delink) various sub-lists. I'm not disciplined enough to do a really blechy task every day, which is probably one reason he's a world-beating entrepreneur, and I'm not, but I've found, through long experimentation, that I have an additional assumption, critical to my long-term success:

I have to adjust the dauntiness level of the task to my emotional/mental/physical resources. Today, it's simply not in the cards to do one of the ‘big’ tasks on that list, of the sort that's been hanging around on my agenda for days (or weeks, or sigh, months...never mind years) cuz I'm zonked out from surgery (and painkillers, I presume. I may not like hydrocodone, but that stuff sure as hell works.) Rather than throwing up my hands and wasting the entire day reading blogs, I tried to come up with one I thought I had a decent chance of completing (tidying up my office)...and writing this post:)

It is, in a sense, a self-kindness. And sometimes, I manage to slip in an initially too-daunting task, after completing the easier one.

And that feeling of accomplishment really is lovely, like a burden lifting: the reason I keep trying to do this, because I feel so much better afterward. Which means, I suppose, that I shall have to start in on that ‘discard one possession a day’ program, for much the same reason. Now that's gonna take some discipline.

(And one reason why is that I keep a lot of components around as I cycle through various media—today's project, frex, incorporates metalwork, kumi & glass...)