18 December 2008

The Year of Ideas

New York Times - 8th Annual Year in Ideas

My favorite so far - Snowball the dancing cockatoo.

25 November 2008

Thomas Kinkade is rather stupid

I just read (via the Chronicle's Arts & Letters Daily) a Vanity Fair article about some really banal movie that Thomas Kinkade has made/painted...

What babble- the movie, not the article. The article was sort of interesting – especially Kinkade's 16 Guidelines for making the movie have the "Kincade Look". Gag. Gag. Gag.

If the article is factual, it seems that Mr. Kinkade is another religious person solely focused on the external, on appearances. I find that disingenuous in an artist - but right on course for people who parade their religious views as models of charity and love, but use them for profit. As an artist I find Kinkade pitiful. The aesthetic of his work is puerile romantic meaningless drivel. The aggravating thing is that people buy this crap.

We live in a Kinkade world where the mundane is worshiped as being "for the people," where anti-intellectualism runs rampant, where people see technical ability as artistic ability. Thomas Kinkade's work is the embodiment of all that is mundane. The places in Thomas Kinkade paintings have never existed outside of someone's mind and I suppose that is why he is popular. People love to pretend that things are different than they really are. We tell ourselves lies whenever possible, and believe them as gospel truth.

Oh, and I also hate the tendency for cover artists who do movie covers/posters to have photos of people with other people's names above them. What's the matter with them?

20 November 2008

Further Thoughts on a Priority

On the priority of attracting and retaining a diverse and qualified student body-(see taking a stand in a town hall meeting)-most people spoke to the diversity aspect of this priority. A few spoke on educational standards for college entrance. Others talked about disadvantaged students and their needs.

I think that one thing that was not mentioned was that even though we would all love to attract "qualified" students, the most important thing is not their qualifications when they arrive, but their qualifications when they leave.

How to take the less prepared students and get them "qualified" before they leave WITHOUT degrading the education and experience for the exemplary students is an important thing to consider.

And perhaps one of the more difficult things to do.

Taking a Stand in a Town Hall Meeting

Today, in a "town hall" meeting, we discussed a group of priorities for moving the university forward. We have a new president and he is reaching out to everyone in a number of ways, looking for input on where each group, each person, thinks the university needs to focus efforts and energy.

I did not bring home my notes, but there were eight priorities laid out for discussion. I think I can remember them: the university's Catholic, Lasallian heritage/identity; an excellent teaching and learning environment; a diverse and qualified student body; financial vigor and viability of the university; the well-being of all; internal & external communication; preparing students for an increasingly "global" world. I am forgetting one of them. Perhaps it will come to me as I pull my thoughts together here. Oh yeah, enhancing technology to support learning. That was number five I think.

The president, after taking perhaps 15 or 20 minutes to introduce the priorities, simply stood as moderator, pointing out members of the audience/gathering so that they could speak their thoughts on these priorities.

For the most part people brought up ideas that would either support or question the feasibility of a given priority. Concerns were voiced that we should respect the financial health of the university, but not let economics strangle its essence. Several faculty members mentioned a deficit in the teaching of foreign languages bringing up the idea that we need more language instructors. I think I would take it even further - we need to teach more languages. Simply offering French and Spanish isn't good enough anymore. Yes I know we also have Latin and Greek, and we also offer the occasional Arabic course, but I am thinking we need to offer Chinese. We need to have a fully established program in Arabic.

At one point someone made mention of the vocational vs. liberal arts education models, claiming that we need to decide which we will be and what it means to be one or the other, as well as a few other points that I have to admit did not really stick in my mind.

The idea that education - higher education everywhere, not just at our university - is sorely lacking in its ability to engage students in intellectual discourse (that heady, inspiring dialogue that leaves you reeling, that pushes you right up against the abyss, leaving you tottering on the edge of all of your prejudices, your assumptions, your ignorance, while you strain for a transcendent moment, a crystal clarity, that moment when you realize a tiny particle of truth, the moment that makes you feel truly alive and vibrant) was a point that many voiced. Faculty and students alike mentioned that they missed the challenge that this kind of thinking, this kind of being embodies, they missed, whether or not they even knew it existed, the high brought on by intense mental engagement.

I found much to agree with in the discussion of creating intellectual dialogue. I believe that college, without this experience, is just advanced high school.

I was impressed by the solidarity expressed by those who chose to speak and those who listened with total concentration. For the most part it was a very civil and respectful discussion.

The students that came and spoke were probably mostly seminarians - although one female student also spoke. One student spoke several times. One of my co-workers mentioned that she thought he did very well with the first point he brought up. She thought he perhaps came with that statement prepared ahead of time. I think she may be correct. He definitely did not do as well on the second, third or fourth time he spoke.

I think it was the second time he spoke, maybe the third, when he joined in on the discussion of the "intellectual life" at the university. He used those moments to praise the merits of taking logic courses, taking philosophy courses. I would have been fine with what he said, except he implied that philosophy courses are more important than other courses. He said something along the lines of why would anyone want/need to take a ceramics course - why would a university worth its salt offer a ceramics course but not make logic (a philosophy course we offer) required for every student - what possible good could someone get from taking ceramics, etc.

I admit that I sort of got fired up about this statement (and the implied lesser worthiness in vocational education that a faculty member stated earlier). It wasn't soley that he was a bit arrogant. It wasn't solely that he was getting great pleasure from hearing himself speak. It wasn't that he dismissed art as having any value - at least not entirely.

What I cannot get past is the elitism, expressed here as my course/major/department/program has more worth, is more essential to what is that defines intellectual discourse, than your course/major/department/program. It was the implication that as a philosopher he was worth more than someone who took art classes.

And that is just plain wrongheadedness. So I had to say something.

You cannot build intellectual discourse without passion. Not everyone has the same passions. The real work of a university is to engage the student from within the context of his or her passion. An art course, a business course, a philosophy course or a language course - any course can inspire passion which can then lay the foundation for intellectual dialogue.

I absolutely, totally, passionately(!) believe that lasting , meaningful learning, that true expansion of one's awareness comes from discovering a passion and exploring it.

I hope I was more eloquent when I spoke than I have been here. I need to think about this more.

18 November 2008

Mosaic - The Flock

The Flock, 14" x 39", vitreous glass tiles.

The Flock (this piece's current title, which may change) is almost finished. All the tesserae have been placed and glued to the fiberglass mesh. I've turned it upside down (with the help of Abelisto) so that the back side can dry.

Once it's dried overnight I will attach the mosaic to a substrate using thinset (a concrete-based adhesive). When that dries I will grout the mosaic. I have bags of medium gray, dark gray and black grout. I still need to do a grout study. Part of me wants to just go ahead and grout the mosaics, guessing which grout would give the best results. But this time, for once, I am going to be patient and test the grout colors. I am too happy with this mosaic (and The Lion Roars) to mess it up with a bad grout choice.

Waiting is always the hardest part of any project.

In the meanwhile, I've started another mosaic.

12 November 2008


I've been very passionately working on the mosaic, which has become two-soon-to-be-three mosaics.

Here is The Lion Roars. It still needs to be grouted and framed, but you can get a good idea of what it is going to look like now. It (I really want to call it He) is around 11" tall and 14" wide. It is a mixture of opus palladium, opus tessellatum, opus vermiculatum, and a rough approximation of opus regulatum. That's likely too many types of andamento in one small mosaic - probably a common beginner's mistake.

The major thing I learned from this piece is that I want to break my glass tesserae into fourths. They come as 20mm (aprox. 3/4") square tiles that are very regular in size and shape. When I did the background for The Lion Roars I realized that I was going to be doing a considerable amount of cutting to outline the lion. I decided to quarter the tiles, again probably not the best combination (some full, some chipped and some quartered), but for this it seems to work okay. Anyway, what I discovered along the way is that I REALLY like the lack of uniformity in the quartered tesserae. I love the less regimented, more organic feel.

While I was waiting for Lion to finish drying I started another mosaic. This one doesn't have a name yet. I've called it The Birds as a working title, but I'm not locked into that for the actual title.

I'm quartering all the tiles for it and using primarily opus tessellatum.

This first image shows the cartoon and some initial color selections for the eyes.

A close up of two of the birds' eyes, which also shows the cartoon in detail.

Second try at the first bird's head. I peeled the first attempt up after it dried. It was too chaotic and undefined. This is when I decided to use opus tessellatum instead of opus palladium. I like the way it defines the bird's head.

Bird one is done. I particularly liked the way that the beak edge came out. I had done the birds as an encaustic painting and never could get the divide between the upper and lower beak defined like I wanted.

Bird two, partially done. this was a stopping point on the second night of working on this project.

Here is how The Birds currently looks. I hope to finish the piece by the weekend so that I can grout both mosaics at the same time. I will need to do a tile sample to test the grout color, but right now I'm thinking of a dark grey or black - have to see how that tests out with the beak colors.

Meanwhile, mosaic three is rattling around inside my head.

28 October 2008

To do or to write about doing

I've been focused on doing rather than writing about doing lately. When I get home I need to do something with my hands instead of typing. I've been looking at a computer screen for around 9 hours a day at work, and the last thing I want to do is turn on a computer when I get home.

Luckily, I have plenty of art to do.

I am participating in a community Art Tour in December. Members of the community go around by foot and vehicle to various artist studios, and hopefully find items they want to buy. Most of my art is probably too highly priced for most Winona people, and I hesitate to underprice myself. Underpricing one's not only hurts the artist who is cutting prices, but also hurts other artists who then feel pressured to lower their prices.

I sell my paintings for between $95 and $300, my tapestries between $75 and $1,500, and I will be selling mosaics for between $100 and 500. None of those are going to be of interest to most of the people coming to the Art Tour.

So I pulled out all the gourds that I had on hand, and purchased some additional small ones, and I've been doing some gourd pieces that should sell from between $30 and $100 - except for the gourd drums, which will sell for between $250 and $400.

Assorted gourd work in various stages of completion.

Here you can see some bowls, some sculptural (non-functional) pieces, some musical instruments (snake gourds - the otter in front and the unfinished gourds in the upper right; and the beginnings of a large gourd drum, upper center. and some shakers, near the drum and near the leather dye), some bowls with lids and a couple some hinged boxes.

The Lion Roars, mosaic, Venetian glass tiles.
I am waiting for more glass tiles to come from Tile Shack.
The Lion Roars is based on the textile work of Jude Hill.


I really don't get upset if my art doesn't sell. I am not trying to make my living off of it - which makes it even more important that I don't underprice and handicap other artists.

26 September 2008

Metatarsophalangeal Joint Arthrodesis - Part II

It's been 10 days since the surgery. The incision site doesn't seem too tender and actual bone that was worked on isn't too painful. However the rest of my foot is quite tender. I had to unwrap the dressing a few days ago; it was slipping off of the end of my foot. I was a bit nervous about unwrapping it, but I did not see much of a choice. It was either unwrap it myself, or drag Abelisto out of class and have him drive me to LaCrosse and get the podiatry nurse to rewrap it.

I did not want Abelisto to miss any more of his classes (his students would have probably not minded, but he hates getting behind the schedule he sets in his syllabi), so I did it myself. I took off the big black space boot that covered the dressing on my foot. It has some of the best velcro I have ever seen - it grabs onto itself very securely and the ripping sound it makes when it is unbelted and opened up is tremendous.

Lifting my foot out of the boot I saw that somewhere I had lost one of the elastic bandage clips (found it later in the bedding at home). Since I did not have any new cotton batting, I tried to gently remove the old batting and carefully roll it up as I took it off so that I could put it back on. The sight as the last layer of batting came off was a wee bit scary - the foot had swelled considerably. I had deep red, purple, and greenish-yellow bruising all over my foot, and a large crack in the callous on the bottom of my foot. I lifted the gauze and pad off of the incision site and saw that the swelling had expanded the skin to where the stitched area was stretched out nearly flat.

My foot looked like a mugging victim.

I had spent nearly a full day at work the day before, and I am guessing that was too much. I sort of knew it was because about 11 the foot had started some pretty serious throbbing and burning, which of course, I ignored - with the above results. Since then I have come in in the morning and worked until the throbbing starts and then gone home and put my foot up with a cold pack on it. Yesterday I brought a cold pack to work in hopes of extending my time there a bit, mainly because today is the president's inauguration and I will likely be here most of the day.

I do work at home, but sometimes I end up taking pain medication when I get there and that puts me to sleep. I had worried about having this sort of down-time during the website redesign, but this has not been too bothersome, since at this point most of the work is being done by the vendor. Soon though, I will need to be back at full-force and ready to start working with the content management system and doing some pretty extensive Flash work. However, I am lucky in that even if I need to be home with my foot up, I can still do my work because most of it is done online anyway. And I do have an almost-comfortable way to sit in bed and work.

I have another doctor appointment in three days. Hopefully he won't tell me I really screwed up.

21 September 2008

Self-Reliance and Sustainability

I've been rereading Emerson's essay on Self-Reliance and sustainability. Foremost in my thoughts about it at this point is that I think Emerson loved words, or maybe more accurately loved himself using words - lots of words. However this may be a significant misjudgment on my part. Even though I resist it, I am as addicted to the sound-bite summary, the cliff notes version, the easy path to enlightenment, as anyone.

I also just read the Steampunk Magazine's A Steampunk's Guide to Surviving an Apocalypse.

There's some connection going on between these two documents - inside my head.

Emerson begins this essay with:
Ne te quaesiveris extra - Do not seek for anything outside of thyself.

He seems to be extolling the virtues of thinking for yourself,taking care of yourself, by yourself, experiencing yourself as potentate - at least of your own existence. He writes: It is only as a man puts off all foreign support, and stands alone, that I see him to be strong and to prevail. He is weaker by every recruit to his banner. Is not a man better than a town?

I am not sure.

I think that being self-reliant is knowing and accepting oneself. I think that this can happen whether I am standing alone or as part of a group, a tribe, or a movement.

If I know myself I should be able to recognize when I am not being true to my self. I should be able to know when I am off-kilter, so to speak. To be self-reliant is to be emotionally healthy, not needy, not seeking to verify who I am in another person's approval. However this does not mean that I should be distant or disconnected from others.

It seems that Emerson was reacting to social pressures as he created this essay. However, this is just the feeling lingering after my first reread in three years. I will have to read it again and see what I think.


It's interesting the different meanings we attribute to words and concepts. Self-reliance has so many meanings.

Self-reliance in regard to sustainability

There are two areas in which one can be self-reliant – production and consumption – and both are needed for true sustainability.

Self-reliance in production means that one can make much of what they need. This can be as simple as making a cake from scratch, or as complex as building a structure to live in shaping raw materials with the use of a few tools. Production by the self-reliant is gauged by its use value, rather than its market value. Self-reliance in production means that quality is the focus, not quantity. Quality can be sustainable, quantity often is not.

Self-reliance in consumption means that one doesn't really need a lot of things in order to exist contently – things like fancy toys or the latest style of clothing or a lavish home. A self-reliant identity does not come from the things one can buy and flaunt. A self-reliant lifestyle is unpretentious and grounded in thoughtful consumption. Considerate consumption is sustainable, conspicuous consumption never is.

Self-reliance and community

Generally one thinks of a self-reliant person being independent and unfettered by a need of others. The paradox is that self-reliance cannot truly exist without the community of trust.

"One can achieve everything in solitude - except character." ~ Henri Stendhal

Community is necessary in order to establish our identity. Without knowledge of the other there can be no knowledge of the self. Meaning is arrived at through distinctions.

Without a community of trust, an individual cannot come to know themselves fully. Without the ability to explore ideas in a safe atmosphere, the demanding, often frightening steps necessary to knowing oneself become exponentially more difficult. When thoughts and words have to be carefully guarded, when all energy is spent on simply maintaining one's existence in the seclusion of one's own mind – sanity, not growth, is the focus.

Without trust there is insecurity and an urge to hoard – both skills and things. Without trust I am not able to allow you to produce and consume in your natural patterns – I cannot trust that your intentions are towards quality, not quantity, and your consumption is considerate and not conspicuous.

19 September 2008

Metatarsophalangeal Joint Arthrodesis

I've been recovering from a surgery I had this week - Metatarsophalangeal Joint Arthrodesis. The lines on the above image only roughly represent the work that was done.

The bone connecting to my right big toe was too long. This was putting all the weight of my body on the toe joint when I walked or stood, instead of distributing it across all the toes.
the right foot, awaiting the surgeon's skill
(arrgh, I haven't seen that leg shaved in over 20 years)
the left decked out in a fancy stocking and
pressurized anklet to keep my blood flowing like it should...

I am now, 3 days after the surgery, doing better. The surgery itself went well, but recovery has been rough. I had a pretty severe reaction to the pain medicines they gave me (vomiting and mild hallucinations - crawly things all over me) and have sworn off prescribed drugs for now. I am only taking Tylenol.

what I saw today at the doctor's office

Today I got to see my foot when they took off the first cast (they would not let me stay awake and photograph the procedure - everyone quit talking and just stared at me when I asked, so I took that as a NO). I took pictures of my foot before they put the new dressings on it

the new boot, at least for the next few weeks I will get to wear
all my favorite socks that have had mates go missing

I now have a walking boot on my foot, but it is still too tender to walk on much. However, I am fairly tough, with a reasonable tolerance for pain, and I heal quickly... and I surely do hate crutches. Once this is over I am so going on a shoe-buying spree...

However, this damn boot isn't going to be easy to sleep in. And I will have to go to work in sweat pants - that's all that will fit over it (big hardship there...).

I've avoided reading about the procedure as a matter of principle, but you can if you want. Here's the Google search.

05 September 2008

The Greene County Daily World

Dad's obituary was in the weekly paper one year ago today, along with a photo of him with his motorcycle (although they cropped most of the motorcycle out of the image). It said:
Keith L. May, 78, of Linton, passed away at 8:45 p.m., Friday, August 31, 2007 at his residence.
He was born on March 25, 1929, the son of Curtis and Emma (Wilson) May. He served in the U.S. Army and was a veteran of the Korean War. He worked as a truck driver, a regional service representative for Fiat, a service manager at a foreign car dealership, and later worked for Williams Brothers Pharmacy in delivery until his retirement in July of 2007. He was a memeter of the Bloomington Masonic Lodge and the Linton Goldwing Club.
Survivors include his wife whom he married June 22, 1956, Constance E. (Johnston) May of Linton; two daughters, Monta Gael May (Wes Miller) of Winona, MN and Michelle (Chris) Mattox of Bloomfield; two sons Aaron Douglas May (Jennifer Sparks) of Bloomfield and Brian Keith (Susan) May of Atoka TN; two sisters Mary Jo May of Bedford and Wanda Rush of Bloomington; one brother, Bill May of Bedford; 11 grandchildren Aluna, Nova, Sheba, Emerald, Eli, Aaron (Erin), Tena, Rebecca, Jessica, Blaise and Ava; and two great-grandchildren Taylor and Dominic.
He was preceded in death by his father Curtis May; mother Emma May-Stancombe; and a brother Harry May.
Memorial services were held at the Welch & Cornett Funeral Home, Linton Chapel, at 11:00 on Tuesday.
Online condolences can be sent to the family at www.welchcornett.com.
There was also a color photo of dad on the front page of the paper.

The week's front page headlines were:
Counterfeit bills surface in Linton
Police have suspect in bomb threat cases
Families help break ground on new homes
Music fesitval exceeds expectations

We were already home in Winona when the weekly paper came out. My mother got copies of the paper for all of us. I have copies of the newspaper for all of the kids. I haven't given them to them. The papers are sitting on my dresser. This is the first I have looked at them in a year.

03 September 2008

Google Chrome

I just downloaded Chrome.

Seems like it renders text ala Firefox, images come across well, and it is FAST,FAST, FAST in regard to scripts and multimedia.
Side-by-side comparison of text rendering: (left-to-right) Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE7.

It also uploads fast. The image above uploaded so fast I thought I was seeing things...

I will be checking out my favorite bandwidth-heavy sites and see if it really is as fast as it seems.

01 September 2008

The last time I saw my father

Last year at this time I saw my father for the very last time.

He was laying on a table in the mortuary. Cold and smooth. I touched his face, I held his hand, I could not let him go without doing those things.


I started this blog on August 2nd of last year. I had just learned my father was dying of lung cancer. The bridge in Minneapolis had just collapsed, or was collapsing - I cannot quite remember the order of things.

One year ago yesterday, one year and 12 hours ago, my father died. I was on the road, desperately trying to get there before he passed on. I did not make it.

One year ago today I was helping with funeral arrangements, trying to transfer airline tickets for our daughters and granddaughter to fly in from Las Vegas, and trying to arrange a ticket for our son, Eli, to fly down from Winona (he stayed home since we had more people than would fit in the station wagon and we never dreamed my father would die that night).

Eli's ticket was not a problem. Transferring the girls' tickets was a nightmare. In the end we ended up spending nearly $3,000 for the airline tickets we purchased that day and the ones we had purchased two days before, since they would not let us transfer the original tickets without paying fees and the difference between the ticket prices. That would have been more than buying new tickets, so we bought new tickets. After that we learned that the initial ticket order had been duplicated and so we owned 8 tickets. Nova and Taylor would fly in from Vegas that night. Aluna would fly in the next morning so that she could work her shift (it was impossible to get a substitute at that late notice). Eli would fly down from Minnesota that night, just a couple hours ahead of Nova and Tay. Eli doesn't drive, didn't drive, so Princess and Matt took him to the airport - a 2-hour drive from Winona.

I am amazed now, looking back, that it all worked out.

31 August 2008

One year ago...

I made the biggest mistake I can remember making.

My father was dying. We knew this. Over the last few days he had nearly stopped eating. The lung cancer that had metastasized and taken up residence in his bones was winning. We knew it would, he knew it would - but we thought he had a few months to live. They told us at the end of July that he had two to nine months to live.

The 31st was a Friday. Wednesday of that week my mother had called and said she thought he wasn't going to be with us much longer. I called the girls in Vegas right after that phone call and told them they needed to get to Indiana if they wanted to see their grandfather before he died. Nova had been there in July. Aluna had taken a new job that summer and did not feel that she could take time off. When I told her she needed to get to Indiana now, she went to her new boss and got the time off and made plans to fly herself, Nova and Tay out the following Tuesday.

What was my mistake you ask? The mistake I made was putting my job and my normal life ahead of my father and my family. In all honesty, none of us expected him to pass that day. So I went to work in the morning with plans to leave around noon.

It's a 10-hour drive from Winona to my parent's home in Linton Indiana. If I had piled everyone in the car and left early in the day we would have made it in time.

Instead, leaving at noon meant that we were somewhere between Bloomington/Normal and Danville, Illinois when my brother called to tell us that my father had passed away. They told me that he knew - as much as one can know in the final hours of life - that we were coming, but he just could not wait for us to be there. He died at 8:45pm.

I wasn't there. Forever I will know that my decision to work those 4 or 5 hours meant that I was racing down a highway in a futile attempt to be there when my father died.

I hate it sometimes, that my family is so spread out over the country. I know something like this will happen again.

25 August 2008

A New Budget

September always brings new budgets in our house. Every year, at this time of year, at least one person in the household (and probably more) is retooling, rethinking and reassessing wants, needs and how far a dollar (or $20) can be stretched.

It's the time of year when school shopping has been my love-to-do/hate-to-do task (one I no longer face since everyone is out of high school and either done with college, or paying for their own stuff). Love the "organizational" shopping that notebooks, pens & pencils & markers, post-it notes, binders and those nifty zipper pockets for them, implies. Hate the list of "must-have-on-first-day-of-school" that the public school sent out every year (divided by grade level). Hate the fact that kids can be so cruel and if daughters and son came in less-than-stylish clothing they would be tortured, cut to the bone with a glance and a snicker.

For the last 20 years or so, I have had to postpone a birthday celebration for myself (d.o.b. 9/13) because school shopping would so blow the budget. We would finally recover in time to do the Christmas shopping sometime late-October or early-November. Not a bad thing, since I have way too much stuff anyway. But some years there wasn't even enough left to have a cake and ice cream.

Thinking about McCain's $5-million-dollar-is-rich jokey response to the discussion of class and wealth...
NY Times Op-Ed by economist Paul Krugman

18 August 2008

Endangered Species Act - Part II

A few days ago I posted a link to a NY Times article about the Endangered Species Act and some upcoming changes the Bush administration wants to push through. I also included the link to the information on public comments.

The proposed changes are on the government website where you can submit comments. This evening I plan to read through the change document and make some comments.

Tire Pressure

This weekend I got a very dramatic lesson in how tire pressure affects gas mileage - from my bicycle.

Abelisto and I usually ride our bikes to the Farmer's Market in Winona on Saturday mornings. We have panniers on our bikes that can hold the equivalent of 2 brown paper grocery bags each. Together we can get over a week's groceries in the panniers.

Anyway, over the last couple weeks I had been having more and more trouble riding the bike. I was cursing poor Adventure Cycle, thinking that they were at fault (had a recent tune up and one of the problems following it was this difficulty/trouble with riding - the other problem, erratic shifting issues still is going on). On Saturday morning Abelisto noticed that my rear tire was extremely low on air. We quickly went to the service station and added quite a bit of air pressure to both my tires.

Getting back on the bike was amazing - it now rolled so freely, so effortlessly... The difference in energy expenditure was unbelievable. It must be much the same with a car, except we do not notice it since we aren't doing the pedaling...

Now I have got to check the tires on all the vehicles in the household.

Now I need to check the tire pressures on all the vehicles.

Mead Update

Got some advice from Jon (a veteran mead & wine maker) concerning the mead. He said to date it and put it in a dark, cool place for 12 months to mellow the taste.

So on the 16th of August in 2009 we will open a bottle and test it.

15 August 2008

Mead Making

Tonight Eli and I bottled the first batch of mead. This mead was made with honey from a local beekeeper that we got at the Farmer's Market in Winona. I do not drink alcohol so I do not really know myself, but others in my household think it tastes good.

This batch was made sort of willy-nilly. I did read the meadmaker book, but I did not have any special equipment for doing it other than the carboy and the fermentation lock. I did not even have a thermometer. I guess I was really lucky that it made at all. It took DAYS for it to start fermenting, and it was not very vigorous when it did start. There was maybe a bubble every 15 seconds. We worried that we were going to end up with honey vinegar, or something like that.

A week or so ago I stopped by the Wine & Beer Making Supply store just north of Rochester on Hwy 52. I bought a polycarbonate carboy, another fermentation lock, a racking tube and hose, a floating thermometer, a hydrometer and testing tube, some stabilizer, and some yeast energizer (or maybe it was nutrient - don't remember and the box is in the other room).

Abelisto and I picked up 12 pounds raw honey at the food co-op. I started a second batch of mead with part of it last weekend when I moved the first batch to the secondary fermentation carboy (the rest of the honey went to the roofers in appreciation of taking such good care not to drop old shingles on the bee hives). I really did not need to move the first batch into a secondary fermentation carboy, it was absolutely done with the fermenting, but it did help clarify it. Anyway, the second batch of mead was bubbling away about 4 hours after I mixed it up. The bubbles were rising through the fermentation lock at about 1 bubble every 2.5 to 3 seconds this time. I took specific gravity and temperature measurements and am keeping better records with this batch. 

It will be interesting to see how it comes out.

14 August 2008

Endangered Species Act

Normally I do not regurgitate content from other websites. However this is something I think needs to be passed along:

NY Times Editorial - An Endangered Act
Published: August 13, 2008
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne’s latest assault on the Endangered Species Act deserves to be struck down.

Information on commenting during the 30-day Public Comment period.

I would suggest that we all think about commenting after the proposed changes have been posted (sometime tomorrow - 8/15/2008).

  • Online, at Regulations.gov
  • By mail, to:

    Public Comment Processing,
    Attention: 1018-AT50
    Division of Policy and Directives Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service
    4401 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 222,
    Arlington, VA 22203

When the proposed rule changes get posted I will try to put them up here - it is confusing to find them on the gov site.

06 August 2008

Leclerc Tissart Tapestry Loom

I have not posted on here for a few days - mostly because I was busy getting some things done. There is this thing about doing and/or writing about doing that I sometimes struggle with. It is the residue from graduate school. I want to do the work. I do not always want to document it. However I realize that I can get pretty lazy intellectually if I do not work at documenting the work.

However, that was not the reason I have not posted lately. The reason was that I have been all wrapped up in the new tapestry loom. It is a 60" Leclerc Tissart loom, probably made in the 70s or 80s (still need to do more research).

We drove to Chicago in the new car (2007 Pontiac Vibe - more about that later) on August 1st to spend the weekend with Eileen at her new place, go to some museums, visit Loyola where Abelisto went to grad school and just hang out. On the way back we drove to Krakow Wisconsin (an hour or so north of Green Bay) to pick up the loom.

We took it apart and put it in the Vibe. We had to fold down the wider section of the back seat and the front passenger seat to get it all in there. Some of the pieces are around 6' long. Abelisto ended up sitting behind me in the narrower section of the back seat.

When we got it home late Sunday night we piled the loom in the front room and went to bed. Monday night I cleaned and oiled the wooden parts and steel-wooled the brake assembly and the harnesses (slight surface rust). The heddles are wire with inset eyes (maybe stainless steel - I did not look that closely at them) and are in really good condition considering the loom sat out in a barn for a few years.

Then Abelisto and I put it back together.

Step one: Side pieces and bottom piece with treddles.

Step two: Added the front and middle back beams and the beater assembly (which is backwards in this photo - we discovered that pretty quickly and turned it around).

Step three: Added the cloth beam (or whatever it is called on a tapestry loom) and tension arm.

Step four: Here we turned the harness assembly around the right way and added the warp beam. All that is left is the top back beam.

Once the loom was together we decided to move Sheba's desk and put the loom in front of the big window.

Tonight I plan to start dressing the loom.

30 July 2008

New Loom

Usually I stay away from Ebay. For a number of reasons - mainly I like to see and touch what I buy before I do so, However this week I found a Leclerc tapestry loom on Ebay that was too good to pass up.

(Seller photograph)

It came with some other items.

(Seller photograph)

It is a 60" loom, and hopefully Abelisto and I can pick it up on the way back from Chicago this weekend...

25 July 2008

Tapestry Finishing - II

Tonight I took the tapestry off of the loom. Once the piece was relaxed, once the tension was normalized, the selvedge issue became much less obvious. That is good to see.

I tied each pair of warp threads together in square knots. Then I started weaving the loose ends back in. I used the threaders I mentioned before with mixed results. I snapped one right off. Then I tried a twisted beading needle, then a large gauge bead threader. I ended up going back to the punch embroidery needle threader and just being careful, careful, careful as I pull the yarns back through the weft.

I managed to get maybe a third of the ends woven in before I got tired of doing it. I will probably finish weaving them in tomorrow. Then I will have to figure out what to do with the warp ends. Now I am going to finish building the smaller loom and maybe warp it.

Winona County DFL Website

I did not work on the tapestry last night. I had wanted to go to the DFL Tech committee meeting, get lots of work done and then come home and work on the tapestry.

Instead of doing that, I ended up having only one other member of my committee attend the meeting and then staying an extra hour at the DFL to teach someone how to use Google Groups.

Frustrated by the lack of progress and the lack of response to my requests for help with the website content, I decided to do it myself and then bring it back to a few key people who I know will get me the information that I need. When I got home (around 7 pm) I started working on the site. Shortly before midnight I posted the redesign to a temporary location and am now waiting on more information and feedback.

24 July 2008

Tapestry Finishing

Last night I started taking the tapestry off of the loom. Thought I should stop at one point and refresh my memory of how this would best be done. I have decided to weave the loose ends that are sticking out of the back into the weft before going any farther with the cutting down the tapestry. If that works out to be too difficult (given the tension on the piece) I will continue cutting it loose and tying it off and then tuck in the loose ends once it is off the loom. I think the best tool for that would be the threaders for punch embroidery needles that I have. They look like giant sewing needle threading aids. I can easily slip them between the weft yarns, catch the loose ends, and pull them up between the weft yarns in order to bind them in and hide them.

I did run across some encouraging information - since this tapestry is woven with wool it may be possible to somewhat correct the draw-in/selvedge issue by steaming and blocking the piece.

It is worth a try.

20 July 2008

Made a New Loom Today

I did not finish the tapestry this weekend. Instead I did some weaving on it, but I spent much of today building a new tapestry frame loom. I had an idea come to mind for raising and lowering the threads with a frame loom.

I made a rigid heddle that is slightly longer than the loom is wide. If it works I should be able to weave on the frames faster.

This loom has a 24x36" weaving area. It measures 36x47.5" and is built using the same model as the larger frame that I have been working on.

Once the glue dries I will put in the nails, thread this one up and test my idea for using a rigid heddle with it.

19 July 2008

Canon PowerShot SD1100

I have been trying to do a daily photo blog but I am constantly falling behind because of a camera issue that I keep trying to deal with. I have a Canon digital SLR, but sometimes its just too damn big and heavy to take with me. Plus it was fairly expensive to buy (good old student loans!) and I have a couple really expensive lenses. I really have to be motivated to take it out with me, and often when I do, it gets left in the car.

I decided to get a pocketable camera. Abelisto & I went to Best Buy to see what was available. I ended up getting a brown Canon PowerShot. I like my big Canon, it had good specs, good reputation and it was reasonably priced. I am really into brown right now and the fact that they had the brown one in stock clinched the deal. It is actually a rich dark brown, like expensive cocoa, not the muddy taupe color of this image...

When we got home with it I discovered that that Mike & Nova have the same camera (theirs isn't brown though...).

The battery is charging. In a little while I will go out and test it.

18 July 2008

New Blog Design

I just did a major redesign of this blog. I wanted it to more closely match my website. The redesign involved hacking the Blogger template.

I need to be able to do this for the various blogs that my co-workers create for the university. I had tried before but was not too successful at actually modifying the template (instead of just changing colors and fonts) until I found some excellent guidelines provided by Amanda Fazani of BloggerBuster. Now I need to take a look at all the blogs I manage and assist with for the university.

This is the fun part of my job.

Over my lunch hour I might play with different colors for borders and text. Or maybe not...

Tapestry Weaving - II

Most, if not all of the yarn for the current tapestry project came from Christa's Yarn Shop. Christa's is located in the village of Beaches Corner, or Beach Corners - signs on the highway claim both names. Beaches Corner is near Ettrick, Wisconsin, about 30 minutes drive on county highways that wind through areas sculpted by glacial melt.

I learned about Christa's Yarn Shop from a co-worker whose description of the store fell a bit short of reality. She said "There is an awful lot of yarn there..."

Awful lot. There IS an awful lot of yarn at Christa's. In fact, you have difficulty walking through the store without knocking over a box or two of skeins, or stepping on someone else's spill. Basically there are two narrow hallways between mountains of yarn. It is all very wonderfully chaotic and quite beautiful. And Christa is the most beautiful thing there.

Christa is Christa Berg, originally from Germany. My guess - and I will hazard one, although guessing ages is something I am terrible at - is that Christa is in her mid-to-late 70s. Her store is what appears to be an old general store, or perhaps an old hardware store. It has high shelves running down the longer sides of the building, with an abundance of smallish bins - bins that are full to overflowing with brightly colored yarns. There is a narrow walkway between these walls of bins and the old-fashioned glass-front counters that also hold an abundance of yarns and yarn accessories (needlework tools, embellishments for yarn projects and some other really strange items that you might find at a flea market sale). Running down the center of the building is a wide, two-sided shelf area - where the eye-catching consumer goods might have resided in an old-time hardware store. It too is full to overflowing with skein after skein of lovely yarn.

As you stand in the doorway the right-side wall is full of the inexpensive synthetics (acrylics & orlons - discount store yarns) that you could find anywhere. They are all neatly stacked in the bins on the wall and you can tell that no one gets into them very often.

Not so the rest of the store.

The left-hand wall full of exciting special yarns (my last find was a skein of thick, thick singles that resembled dreadlocks - perfect for a sculpture project that I have banging around inside my head). There are jewel-toned handspuns, Italian designer yarns, silks, cashmeres, trendy-or-just-past-trendy eyelash and loop yarns, and buttery-soft wools. Then there are my favorites - the itchy, scratchy wools that are strong and lustrous and perfect for tapestries and sculptural work.

The center aisle of the store is heaped with boxes and crates of mostly wools. Wools for knitting socks, sweaters, hats, mittens, scarves. Wools for tapestry and other weaving projects. Wools blended with silks, wools blended with cashmeres. Handspun wools and wools from woolen mills I have heard of all my life.

You can tell that people come for the yarn in the center aisle and left wall. It's a jumbled visual cacophony as delightful as it is bewildering. Just the thought of pawing through it all makes me happy, giddy, fluttery - and I am by no means a fluttery person. That much yarn to peruse just makes my pulse race.

I have been to Christa's four times. The first time was a few days after a huge snow storm. When we got there Christa was still struggling to get the door open against a foot or more of snow that had blown in under the porch roof and up against the door. Abelisto and I helped her get the snow cleared. Christa reciprocated - I got really good deals that day, and every time since.

Usually when you arrive at Christa's you'll find her sitting in the back of the store knitting or crocheting something - her hands constantly in motion. As she says "It's what I do." She's always more than willing to stop "doing it" and dig through the piles and piles of yarn with you when you arrive.

Christa can (and does) tell you the story behind most of the yarn in her shop. Somehow amid the sumptuous chaos, she always knows exactly where every skein resides. If you say "I'm looking for a bit of burnt umber-colored yarn, perhaps a heavy singles, or two-ply..." she will say "Oh, ya, I got some of that over here" and lead you off on a treasure hunt for that perfect skein of yarn that you "gotta" have.

Tapestry Weaving

Photo of the tapestry (12:14a.m., July 17th) as it is being woven
on a homemade frame loom. You can see the saw-horse leg
brackets at the bottom corners of the photograph. The image
is a bit distorted from the wide-angle lens I used. You can see
several skeins and balls of yarn as well as a basket of yarn on top
of the AVL 8-harness loom behind the homemade frame loom.

Wanted to post a current photo of the tapestry before going to bed. It is late - after midnight here, but I am pretty much fully awake (due to coming home early from work, not feeling well, and making the mistake of laying down for 20 minutes to see if I could get to feeling better. Woke up 2 hours later... so no sleep for me for a while yet. Oh well, I have a good book I would like to finish.)

You can see the shapes and shape-shifts that I am working on, as well as the color combinations (although as always with photographs, the colors are not exactly right, and even if I fix them to match closely on my computer, they won't look the same on any other computer...). The loom is working well. Tonight I put longer 2x4s in the leg brackets and now the loom is at standing-weaving height. Much better for my back, although my feet do not like it much. When they get too fatigued I can perch on the adjustable height stool from the physics lab.

Anyway, as I mentioned the loom is working well and the weaving generally goes fast considering it's all finger controlled. One shed (the space between the "up" warp and the "down" warp threads) is held open with a 5/8" fiberglass rod, the other I use a pick up stick - actually a long crochet hook - to select the opposite up & down threads. Not as fast as weaving a tapestry on a real tapestry loom - one with treddles and harnesses to lift the alternating warp threads - but still enjoyable to work on. Especially with the saw-horse legs! I was truly amazed to discover the difference that made. So much more workable than laying the frame on the dining room table and trying to weave with it, dealing with it scooting around like crazy, with bad ergonomics in bending over it for any length of time, and with the dark warp strings blending in with the dark color of the table top.

Back to this piece. I think I will stop weaving it very soon - striking a line about 1" taller than the tallest part and weaving up to that point. If everything were perfect with it I would fill the available weaving height (around 30"), but I was not as careful with the tension of the warp threads as I should have been. There are sections that are ever-so-slightly looser than other sections and it especially shows on the selvedges. I have too much draw-in at both sides. I should be able to finish what I am planning to weave on this piece over the weekend.

I will probably start another tapestry right away - one with better, more uniform, tension. I want to work from a plan/drawing on the next one. This tapestry has been woven randomly, or perhaps I should say it has been woven as mood and fancy took me, no real plan except to play with color and sinuous shapes.

If I do not do another tapestry right away I will probably work on the fabric-armor sculptures.

15 July 2008

Not quite perfect

Last night I did more work on the tapestry. I have decided that I need to raise the height of the loom so that I can weave standing up. I should have known I would. I do all the weaving at the AVL loom standing up. I started stand-up weaving back when I was weaving fleece rugs.

Fleece rug, woven circa 1998, 3'x5'

I had to weave them standing up because it took a great deal of force to pack the unspun wool tightly enough to form a structurally sound rug. I wove them on an older loom that I did not mind modifying by added 50 lbs. to the beater to add more swinging force.

All the extra weight meant I needed more leverage than was possible sitting down. It also meant that unless I leaned with all my weight against the loom, the act of swinging the beater to pack the wool in would "walk" the loom across the floor.

Tonight I will be modifying the legs of the tapestry loom. I wish I could get better looking 2x4s to use. I bought finished dimensional lumber to make the loom - it seems incongruous to use framing lumber for the legs of it. Oh, well... it's not like there are no other incongruous parts of my art-studio-house-life.

14 July 2008

Working in an organized studio

After Nova and I cleaned and organized my downstairs studio I moved the tapestry from the front room (I hesitate to call it a living room - there is not much in the way of traditional living room furniture in it - three desks, five bookcases, a stereo on an end table, and a printer stand...)

In these photos you can see the progress as of tonight. I will be weaving more as soon as I finish the website work I need to do. You can see the AVL loom that Abelisto bought for me a few years ago. Later in the summer I will be setting it up and teaching a couple people to weave.

It is really nice to have the studio organized and cleaned up. I will need to learn where we put everything. Most of it went into the tall cabinet you can see in the photo below. We got some crates at Target (plastic unfortunately - bad for sustainable living, but the price and availability were right) and sorted things into categories - sculpture-plaster, sculpture-clay, sculpture-found object, fiber work, tablet weaving, adhesives, beeswax & torches, pencils-pens-scissors-paints (non-encaustic),and general/miscellaneous.

Repaired the Sag

Although I did not take a before photograph, I think anyone looking at our back porch project now that it is almost finished would agree that a few inches make quite a difference - especially in curb (or backyard) appeal.

On Saturday Abelisto, Nova, Mike & I replaced the old, rotted-at-the-bottom post holding up (or not holding up) the corner of the porch roof. It was quite a process and involved adding sound wood at the bottom of the old post (after we removed it) and using it as the fulcrum for raising the roof (with a pry-bar) the necessary 3 inches to get the new post up under the roof.

Nova is scraping the old paint today and we will possibly paint it all this weekend - if we don't decide to clean the basement instead. It's scary down there...

11 July 2008

Funny - well, maybe not...

I think my art practice has been depressed lately.

It is funny - or maybe strange - how having some sort of success reinvigorates my practice. I can get so down about doing art, I find myself constantly saying "I need to do some art..." but no art happens because I tell myself I am not in the mood...

It is not that, not really. It is just that when I get out of the practice of doing art, or when I have not had any meaningful successes with any of it, I lose my focus and it gets harder and harder to make art, to get started making art, to even decide what kind of art I want to do.

And of course, this is a downward spiral - I do not make art because I have not made it. I have not made it because I have not made it. And so on...

It is important to step out of that circle and actually do something. The life of my practice may depend on it - and considering the stress relief I have experienced over the last couple days, my life in general may depend on getting out of the morass and making art.

Right now the inspiration for weaving tapestries is flowing through me like a river.

10 July 2008


Last week I made yet another tapestry frame loom. This time I managed to get it right.

It is a large one, 60" x 30" with a 48" x 24" weaving area. I thought it was another less-than-functional loom until I brought up two pairs of saw horse legs (with collapsing brackets) and used them to hold up the loom. In the two evenings that I have worked on the tapestry I have gotten a fair amount done (in just 2 or 3 hours each evening).

Here is the loom as seen from the front side of the loom - the weaving side - which is the back side of the tapestry when it is finished (tapestries are often woven from the back). You can see the loose ends hanging free where I have began new colors or spliced extra yarns into the tapestry.

Here is the view from the front side of the weaving (which is the back side of the loom). Using the flash on the camera makes the actual weave of the piece show up more than it does when you are looking at it. In actuality it does not look this bumpy.

07 July 2008

Catching Up With House Repairs - Porch Construction

Last weekend Nova, Michael, Eli, Abelisto & I began the back porch reconstruction. Nova had torn off all the decrepit screening and rotted wood.

We decided at the last moment to use tongue & groove 1 x 8" lumber for the sides of the porch - mainly because it is more forgiving to work with, and it was on sale at Menards...

We have a bit more to do and then we will haul off the junk and take some photos of the finished porch.

Me using new Sliding Compound Mitre Saw.
Since I was working in the sun so much that day I rigged up a scarf under my hat and wore long sleeves and long pants to protect myself from sun exposure. If you look closely you can see the sawdust flying.

Nova adding siding to the porch.
You can see some of the remedial woodworking that we had to do to correct some of the rotting and shoddy workmanship from the initial porch construction. We will likely end up
painting the entire porch and using indoor- outdoor carpeting on the porch decking.
You can see the corner of Beelandia in the background of this photograph.

30 June 2008

Making Decisions

Today I am making decisions - all sorts of decisions.
  1. Whether or not to move some websites to SiteGround so that I can use Drupal for CMS
  2. What changes need made to payroll items
    • deductions & exemptions
    • payroll automatic deposit: how much to which account
    • how long to keep kids on insurance

  3. Priority of house repair tasks
    • ROOF - 1st week in August - $6,500.00 (hired Zane's Roofing)
    • Front porch - priority moved from after back porch to before, in order to get it done before roof in August - Some decking, posts, railings, roof joists and decking - $800.00 (us doing labor)
    • Back porch - remove screen, replace with lattice, level and paint decking - $125.00
    • Side porch - replace screens, add door(s), paint deck and posts & railings
    • Finish fence - 5 panels, 6 posts - $180.00
    • Landscaping (Mike & Nova for front yard, Mike, Nova, Abelisto & I for back)
    • Cracked plaster (6 spots on 1st floor, 3 on 2nd) - $125.00
    • Paint walls - $200.00
    • Stain woodwork - $100.00
    • Downstairs bathroom - yuk
    • Upstairs bathroom - more yuk

  4. New car or no new car or new-used car - leaning towards putting off this decision until I hear back from EC

  5. Tapestry, or Armor, or Quilt project next
I think that's all that I need to decide on today.

27 June 2008

Compressed Ulnar Nerve

Two days ago I started having numbness in the 4th and 5th fingers on my left hand.

I tend to ignore medical things until they really begin to irritate me, but everyone had such an immediate response when I mentioned the numbness I decided to call the doctor.

It just so happened that one of the questions that the nurse practitioner asked me was about headaches (she also asked about chest pains - no chest pains at all) and I had to say that yes, I have had some dizzy headaches lately. I attributed them to running out of allergy medicine a while back and going without for several days (turns out I was correct on this). Anyway the nurse had a fairly strong reaction to the admission of headaches, especially dizzy headaches, and asked me to come in (they really should not put such excitable people in a position to counsel patients).

So I took the afternoon off, drove to La Crosse and waited for a squeezed-in visit with the doctor. It took him a whole 3 minutes to decide that I was not in any danger of a heart attack or a stroke and that what I had was a compressed ulnar nerve - a condition which normally clears up on its own, but sometimes requires surgery by an orthopedist who specializes in hands and elbows to move the nerve to a new location. Usually they only do this if a person starts having muscle wasting.

Today I am working with a neoprene pad under my left elbow and trying to keep it unbent. It is going to take some getting used to. I need to talk to HR about an ergonomic study of my workstation.

26 June 2008

Winona Daily Foto Blog

Started another blog. The new one is a photo blog:
Winona Daily Foto - Taking Everyday Photographs of Winona Minnesota.
The plan is to post a photo taken in Winona every day, photos either taken by me or sent to me by others.

I think I will like doing this photo diary, but I may want to get a small point-and-shoot digital camera to make it easier and more spontaneous. I have a Canon digital SLR and it is too heavy and awkward to carry around for those spur-of-the-moment shots - not to mention too expensive to risk on the bicycle...

Abelisto and I are thinking about getting a Digital Camcorder to do some video blogging . Abelisto is doing sustainable beekeeping and currently is documenting the process with still images and text. Some of what he is doing would be great videos.

22 June 2008

52nd Wedding Anniversary

Today is my parent's 52nd wedding anniversary. Can you still say its an anniversary if one parent has passed away?

Last year, about a week before their anniversary, we learned that my father had lung cancer. He was a smoker - pipe and cigar, never cigarettes - for much of his life.

They were married in 1956. I was born in September 1957, followed by a brother in January 1959, another brother in October 1963 and a sister in February 1968.

My parents moved 7 or 8 times during their marriage, all within the state of Indiana. During most of my childhood we lived on Russell Road in Bloomington.
View Larger Map

My dad had maybe 8 or 9 jobs during those 50+ years; my mother worked mostly in the home until we were all grown or nearly grown.

20 June 2008

MacKenzie Died

                                                      Photo by Gareth

It is s sad, sad morning. I just found a phone message on my cellphone about MacKenzie. I hate the way that messages sometimes do not show up until days after they come in.

On June 3rd a gentleman called and left this message: "I am calling about your orange cat. I thought you would want to know that I found him in my yard dead a couple days ago."

This means MacKenzie died the night he got out. All the hope that he would come home has been false hope. That hurts. All the late night searching, barefoot, in pajamas, after hearing a cat outside the window, was in vain. Mac will not be coming home.

It also hurts me that since I did not find the message on my phone for over two weeks, that his body is gone and I cannot hold him one more time and bury him beside Kai. I really, really do not want to know where his body went.

I hope it was not the garbage. I so hope it wasn't.

18 June 2008

Another Labyrinth

Today I took part of my lunch hour and helped Eileen & Tadie recreate a labyrinth for the graduate program course that Eileen teaches. It was our 4th labyrinth together. Tadie took some photos and perhaps a video of the making of it. If he sends it to me I will post it here later.
Here is the first one we did - I think it was 3 years ago. It is nearly perfect. We have the best process for painted labyrinths...

Eileen measured the space we had to work with - an 80' diameter circle (or 960").

I took an image of the Chartres cathedral labyrinth into Illustrator as a background image.

I then drew concentric circles , lining them up with the 11 circuits of the unicursal labyrinth.

I added the lines for the switch-backs and the gaps for the pathway and then grouped all the elements so that they would stay in the same relative positions, and deleted the background image.

I set the base measurement in Illustrator to points, and enlarge the grouped graphic to 960 points in diameter.

Now I could use Illustrator's measuring tools to determine the all the necessary measurements.

Since there was a 10" diameter tree in the center of the area I took 5 inches off of the radius and then took a copper rod and bent it into a circle that we slipped around the tree.

Using a 1/4" rope, we placed a tab of masking tap at intervals matching the dividers for the 11 circuits.

We then painted the straight lines and plotted where the curved lines began and ended, where the switch-backs were and where the entrance was.

Then using a athletic field painting handcart, we walked backwards, spraying the paint, using the rope as a spoke as we went round and round creating the circuits.

Once those were finished we added the center and outer lunettes, and the curved corners at the switch-backs.

We learned that the labyrinth would last through two mowings, although it would need retouched fairly soon after the second mowing. We kept it up for several months and then repainted it the next spring.

The one we painted today is a bit mis-shapen due to being on the side of a hill, but it will still work. Instead of a tree in the middle, we tied the rope to a large screwdriver and stuck it in the ground where we wanted the center of the labyrinth to be.

17 June 2008

Identity Again

A couple weeks ago we went to the Dakota Gathering here in Winona. It brought up the idea of identity and how we construct it again.

I am not trying to be critical, but how can american indians (as I was told they prefer to be called by a few of them) celebrate their heritage by selling plastic beaded trinkets? Perhaps it is a reverse of the way that europeans purchased their lands with shoddy bling centuries ago. If so, it is fitting. However I wish they got as much for the stuff as the whites did back then.

Returning to the idea of native theory and inspiration and the artist’s practice it seems to me that there is sort of a reverse colonization that often happens – a backdraft of appropriation of styles, artforms, and identity by the outsider – a disrespectful fascination with a culture that leads to exoticizing the “other,” trivializing and reducing individuals within those cultures to caricatures. We assume we are welcome within groups just because we like them, just because we want to be like them, wear clothes like them, talk like them or eat their food... How often is respect for the material or nonmaterial objects of a culture – manifested as a desire to have them – mistaken for a respect for the objects’ creators? Our engineered identities are made up from so many influences, so many “I love that!” feelings, that for the most part, it seems to me that authenticity may be a chimera.

How can we possibly know if what we are, what we do, is authentic?


14 June 2008

Bit of a Funk

Been a bit down lately. Just felt sort of lazy and non-productive. Don't know why really, but I need to get out of this mode and back to being more productive.

All I have been wanting to do lately is read science fiction (usually until way too late at night - or rather, early in the morning). In itself that would not be bad, except for the fact that I have so much other stuff I want to do but cannot seem to find the motivation for doing.


10 June 2008

Mackenzie Missing

                                                      Photo by Gareth

We have had a cat go missing. His name is MacKenzie and he's an orange tabby. I cannot believe he is gone. He got out the night of Princess' wedding. He's not been home since June 1st.

He was the really friendly one. If you caught him looking at you and you patted your chest he would leap into your arms and wrap his front paws around your neck and snuggle his face against yours.

He loved going outside and escaped as often as he could. But he always reappeared on either the front or back porch within hours (or less if it was raining - he hated the rain).

We put up signs in the neighborhood. We've been to the Humane Society.

I could stand it if I thought he'd just taken up with another family. The thing that makes me heartsick is the possibility that Mac ended up going into someone's shed or garage and got locked in there and died.

I wake up at night thinking I hear him crying.

05 June 2008

Abelisto Show & Tell

Last Sunday Abelisto did a hive check (week 5). Daughter #1, Daughter #3 and Granddaughter watched intently. Granddaughter was outside with us for a while, but kept wanting to get closer and closer so she could see more and more. Her mother was a bit worried about her getting stung so we put her inside at the window by the hives. There she and her mother and aunt got a lesson in sustainable beekeeping.

When she was outdoors in Beelandia Granddaughter was really fearless with the bees - squealing with excitement as the bees buzzed by here on their way back into the hive.

Level Orange

We just spent 6 wonderful days with Daughter #1 and our 3-year old granddaughter. They flew in from Las Vegas (which Granddaughter calls Lost Vegas) last Friday morning and flew out yesterday.

Picking them up last week from the airport in Minneapolis, I noted that our Terrorism Threat level was Orange. How strange. Orange is the second highest level. If, in fact, we were in that much danger, how come no one was talking about it? Activity in side the airport looked normal to me - no goose-stepping guards, no strip searches, no public warning announcements over the loudspeakers, nothing unusual, nada.

Have we become fearless, or just complacent...? Either way, I do not think that a rational discourse could take place yet about 9/11, the subsequent wars, keeping uncharged people in prison for years, torture, or even what we should do now that we have totally screwed things up for so many, many people (including ourselves).

22 May 2008

Very Cool Google Map Feature

I found this very cool Google Map feature today. I was writing an upcoming post about my parents and went to Google Maps to grab the html so that I could share a map with you (I know, I am breaking the fourth wall here, speaking directly to you).

I found that in some areas of the country you can get a Street View of the map you are looking at. The roads that have Street Views available are outlined in blue. The road I lived on as a kid was not blue-lined, but the street where my grandmother lived was. I found her house - and here it is. Of course it looks very different than it did 20 years ago, but this is it. You can see the big window in the front - that was the Christmas tree window. It was a small room off of her bedroom where her study was. The fence that surrounded the yard is gone, as is the one-car garage. If you spin the image 180 degrees (click and drag to the right or left) you can see the house that my mother caught me on top of one time (the kids that lived there were our summertime friends). If you grab the image on the left side and spin it 90 degrees you can see where the street dead-ends. Behind those trees were the railroad tracks where we would sneak off to and put pennies on the tracks.

View Larger Map

Here is the map.