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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn


cropContinuing on with the spooky theme, today's entry is so-called because when you cut the root it's blood red inside:) So mebbe a bit of a stretch, but it gives me a couple more days to finish the spiderweb entry I have planned to round out the series:)

Genuinely terrifying was “Devil's Night”, (cornily—but evidently effectively—renamed “Angel's Night” by city officials which frankly I thought stupid, though I appreciated the effort) a piece of Detroit history I lived through as a young married: you didn't leave your house on Hallowe'en eve, for fear it would be burnt to the ground. The city came up with the genuinely innovative idea of having garbage trucks patrol the city to help stomp out the arsonists (though the neighborhood patrols the article mentions were also a thing), and I'm very happy to read that that legacy of the 80s and 90s is now, for many, just a scary story (NYT link, sorry).

(With also, I'll note, the caveat that northwest neighborhoods—and we lived in one—are enjoying less of the renaissance that downtown and especially midtown are having. But even so, there's been signs of improvement—that ratty old high school was torn down, frex, and replaced by a Meijer which, given that the area was a food desert, had to be an improvement.)

Handing out candy to kids is fun! I'm glad the custom seems to be coming back. We actually had to run out to the local drug store and buy more, and I'm happy to hear that kids are now—at least somewhat—replicating the ritual that I and my siblings delighted in as children, if in a somewhat attenuated form (ISTR that 2 out 3 houses, or more, gave out candy when I was a youngster a half a century ago; now it's more like 1 house in 5. And we left as it was getting dark, whereas now by full dark it's mostly done. OTOH, the decorations are far more elaborate nowadays: it was just cardboard decorations and candle-lit jack-o-lanterns back then, with perhaps the occasional sheet ghost, as opposed to the blow-up soft-sculptures, elaborate ‘cemeteries’, huge skeletons, witches banging into trees and—new for this year seemingly—orange and purple fairy lights.)

So here you go, a spring ephemeral with a slightly spooky name.


cropO hai, Happy Hallowe'en to those of you who celebrate it. —When I was a child, trick or treating was the big thing, but after the (faux) candy scares, parties seemed to become more of a thing; and now some of them have morphed to a sort of community celebration, which I quite like.

I live in the US, though, where this sort of carnival-esque chaos really scares some people, who would very much like to legislate it (& all the strange, queer people attracted to such festivals) out of existence; so one of the truly scary things in my life now—that never would have occurred to me back in my childhood full of ghosts and witches!—is voter disenfranchisement, let alone actual intimidation.

I like to think this appalling behavior has become common, but of course those who lived through voter registration efforts that eventually led to the 1965 Voting Rights act would laugh at my naivete. Nevertheless, I think it's worth resisting these trolls. If you can.

Or, you can check out these halloween glow pix.


cropHey, it's one week till Halloween, which I know is many USians’ fave holiday. Back when I celebrated it (i.e., the f2s were still kids) I had this awesome pumpkin carving kit, based on jigsaw blades, that was worlds better than using a kitchen knife.

But that pales in comparison to modern techniques which rely on, among other things, loop tools, of the sort for removing clay—the dude in this video demonstrating a baker's dozen of jack-o-lantern carving levels of increasing complexity makes his own, from, IIRC, street sweeping bristle wires, which he says are high-quality, high-carbon steel that ‘sharpens up really nicely’ —but obviously you could buy them as well:) His favourite knives, btw, are a thin bladed boning knife, and a drywall saw, which along with the rasp he uses to thin walls are available in —you guessed it—the drywall section of your local hardware store.

Personally, I think this is a great way to try sculpting, because the results are so ephemeral, so even if you do a totally crap job, it will a) still look awesome, b) you can make a bunch for an even better display and c) after Halloween (or depredations by squirrels) it won't matter. Plus if you bake the seeds, they make a great snack, for either you or birds. Yes, it's more work than just hauling out plastic decorations bought at the big-box, but on the other hand, it'll be unique and there's nothing to store, cuz it all goes on the compost pile once you're done.

After all, can't we all use a bit of the good kind of scary fun? Alas, orchids are not very scary, but they too fall into the category, like encouraging people to have fun making art, that makes me happy. And I think the world needs all the happiness it can get.


cropWelp, I missed Indigenous People's Day. In fact, the whole week.

And without much to show for it either, besides a (very) failed essay. So, back to linkies:

  • NYT hour long audible on an article about sustainable living, Uruguay style
  • Bell's Theorem is one of those ouchy, ouchy physics concepts that breaks the brain, in this case, that local reality...isn't. 1 page comic and a 15 minute 1-minute physics and 3brown1blue collab video attempt to explain.. Ugh. And I thought (even my weak grasp on) Higgs field was bad...
  • I lived through the history of the Rick Roll and didn't really understand it. I still kinda don't, but appreciated this history—both of the original song and its memeification.
  • bb on the idea that mounting student debt was deliberately created by Reagan... Seems a bit conspiracy-theory, but still worth reading. I have to admit, it seems the sort of thing those folks would do...
  • And of course guaranteed to spark my interest, an article about beads. It kind of blows my mind that the researcher didn't originally realize what these things were, because beads date back 40,000–100,000 years and have been used for awhile now by historians to track trade routes; besides the linked example, one of ways we've come to understand Indigenous Americans had a much-more-intricate-than-previously-thought trade network was shell beads ending up hundreds or thousands of miles away —and why wouldn't they, they're small, portable, and the chemicals (or animal shells) used to make them mean their origins can be identified.

The fall colours are peaking around here, and here's hoping for everyone who loves this season that they're enjoying it. It certainly provided a handy backdrop to today's photography.


cropHappy October everyone, and a delightful Inktober for those of you organized enough to participate. I managed entries for the 1st and 2nd last year, and not even that this year, or at least not ones I want to share, unless desperate for a fridayfugly post.

I really need to get houseplants indoors this week—we had our first frost warning last night, though the days are still lovely—plus some other paperwork tedium, so, once again, posting will be erratic. —Here's the linkies that have been piling up recently:

  • Via BB, an architect goes through the history of Batman's various abodes. Surprisingly entertaining, especially when he gives a bit of the history and origin of the buildings used.
  • How to train your cat to roll over on request. I'm super proud of the kitty living with us just for learning to use a food ball, but I have friends with clever & easily bored kitties who would probably be the better for this sort of thing.
  • Gorgeous botanical illustrations online by Elizabeth Blackwell. Now see, this is the sort of thing I wish my art history courses had really delved into...
  • Speaking of art, cigarette vending machines are being re-purposed to dispense miniature artworks instead. So much nicer not only for our culture, but one's lungs too:)
  • So if white noise doesn't do it for you (I hate it) mebbe try brown noise instead? I admit, it's less annoying.
  • No yakking. No music. Just a completely visual how-to for making an elegant box bag that opens up flat.

Today's object is also hand-made, (though without a tut—not that its construction isn't pretty obvious just by looking at it) but alas, not elegant. It is, however, highly functional.


cropO hai, a bike rant; the author explains why Amsterdam is so much more bike friendly—and it is! I've been there, and once you realize that the red paths are for bikes and the grey ones for pedestrians, you're golden. I especially like the idea of subbing out curb cuts—which are certainly better than no curb cuts—for instead raising the street crossing to the level of the sidewalk, thereby automatically creating a hump that cues auto drivers to a) stop before the crosswalk and b) slows them down (it's a de facto speed bump) and c) makes it easier for wheelchair & other assistive device users.

This is an example of using physics instead of signs, because physics—the change in elevation—works so much better than signs. Though again, I'll take those little signs in the middle of the road over nothing, and actually elevated islands over signs, and the Amsterdam solution over all.

Wanna a crash course in photographing liquids and glass using (relatively) cheap tools? Here you go. Here's a similar tut, with a bit more equipment but less image editing after.. And to round out, shoot on plain white.

Researchers are looking for covid superdodgers; I haven't caught covid but that's because I hardly go anywhere, and when I do, I wear a mask.

I don't typically get writer's block (because rants are really pretty easy to write, honestly) but back when I did attempt fiction, my go-to advice was ‘well, usually it means I need to do more research, because my understanding is too fuzzy.’ Scalzi can't help you with this problem, but his commenters can and their advice seems to boil down to, ‘lower your standards, get something down, & then revise’ —also a tip I've heard in various iterations before.

Feminism hasn't really developed a fourth wave; I'd say we're still working pretty hard to get people on board with the third wave, i.e. "my feminism will be intersectional..."

How the rich really cause climate change—spoiler, it's not so much celebs jetting about (though that certainly doesn't help) but rather, about the captains of industry steering worldwide economies in destructive ways—which I sort of saw in person: when I first moved in with the man who would become my spouse, he had half a shelf of books on solar powered housing and the like...from the 70s. Fifty years ago—but that got killed dead by Reagonomics, and it's taken us nearly two generations to return to the promise of tech we could have had decades ago.

(Frex: LEDs mean you can leave lights on—either because you don't want to take the trouble to turn them off, as suggested in the article or because it will keep your houseplants in much better health throughout the winter.)

But the gas and oil barons didn't want to pivot, and so here we are.

On a much smaller scale, Peter Sagal of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, writes about a woman shot to death ...for walking her dog. The author begins by noting that the victim is the same age, about, as his daughters; as my elder child, who regularly takes their canines to the dog park, which surely ought to be the most mundane activity there is...That child is also into fashion, which mebbe explains why the ending was such a gut punch.

But we can't have gun control, oh no!

Gas pumps, otoh, do have built in controls, to keep that nasty smelling petrol from spilling all over your shoes. Relies on some rather cool physics.

Which, come to think was a driver (heh) in the first link, so I guess it's fitting we come to the last, another flower.