Monday, December 31, 2007


What I have been amused by lately has been This American Life , on NPR:

I was just listening to an old episode of This American Life and heard Sarah Vowell's discussion of how people keep (inappropriately) comparing themselves to Rosa Parks. You can read the essay online --- You, Sir, are No Rosa Parks -- or listen to it on streaming audio at This American Life (it's the third act of that podcast, starting around minute 47).

Another, howlingly funny essay by David Sedaris, discussing the cultural and linguistic challenges of describing Easter in France, can be found as the final act in The Angels Want to Wear My Red Suit . Between David Sedaris and David Rakoff, I can be amused for hours. It is totally worth hearing David Sedaris' Live at Carnegie Hall performance, if only for the "Six to Eight Black Men" and "Stadium Pal" essays, which still make me giggle when I hear them.

I love NPR.

Edit: You can hear David Sedaris' "Six to Eight Black Men" on This American Life -- it's the second act, starting around minute 25.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Clive Wearing

An interview and brief discussion of the case of Clive Wearing, who has severe anterograde amnesia as a result of viral encephalitis that caused brain damage. He can't remember anything for more than about 30 seconds or so -- the only constants in his life are his love for his wife, Deborah, and his music. It's both sad and sweet all at the same time.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What do you do with "found time"?

Your meeting has been postponed; your client just canceled; it's a snow day. . . In short, a day that had previously been all booked up is now gloriously, splendidly free.

What do you do with this "found time"?

Do you decide to make some progress on that big project you've been working on? Or spend the day playing? Maybe you read that trashy novel you just bought. Do you rest, recuperate, and nap? Maybe you take the day to pamper yourself. Or possibly, you just fritter away the day with no plan or purpose and wonder where the day went at the end.

I love found time. It feels so liberating to have a vista of uncommitted, unscheduled time open up in front of me. I often feel positively giddy. (This is probably a sign that I am over-scheduled and over-committed, but holding that aside. . .) I feel that found time deserves special activities -- something unusual, something I wouldn't ordinarily do or that I haven't had time to do. Sometimes I recuperate and take a guilt-free nap. Sometimes I play in my fiber studio. Sometimes I get a chunk of work done on an ongoing project and feel virtuously productive.

Tonight, my gig canceled, and I cleaned a room that I haven't had time to clean for a while. So I feel virtuous, and I have a sparkly clean room now!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Many pictures, no title . . .

I'm taking an online art quilting class at Quilt University, and our second assignment was to design a small quilt from a sketch through to completion, using at least one supply item we really liked, noting our responses to each step of the process.
I began with a rough sketch of eyes on plant stalks, with the idea that I would use the inkjet printer fabric sheets to print out the eyes.

Then I pulled together some fabrics -- the blue-green piece is one I hand-painted years ago, using salt crystals for additional texture.

I fused the purple fabric to fusible web and cut out some freeform stems. I hiked up to the computer to print out some of the facial illustrations from Old-Time Anatomical Illustrations by Dover onto Jacquard InkJetPrinting sheets (cotton, pre-cut and stabilized, so one can just use them directly in any inkjet printer). I printed out two full faces, and cut out the facial features from one. I thought it might be cool to have different facial features, not just eyes, almost as though the whole face was there in different pieces on the stalks.

But I didn't like this design. The features seemed too big, too faint, and too disparate in shape and size to work in the design. So I went back to my eyes idea, and printed out some different eye illustrations onto another fabric sheet (hey, it's just fabric!). I cut these out and laid them out on the stalks -- much better! They just need some flowers to make them complete, so I put fusible web on a few different pieces of red fabrics and cut out some freeform flower petals from one of them.

Then I played around with the shapes, moving them around to see what I liked best. I cut out a new flower petal shape to replace one I wasn't happy with. Here is the final design, all fused together and ready for quilting.

I hunted for a suitable backing fabric, layered and pin-basted the quiltlet, and chose threads and quilting designs. I ended up with a purple rayon thread for the stems, which so closely matches the fabric that the quilting is very subtle, in ovoid spiral patterns -- I like the pattern, which is new for me, and it contributes to the organic feel of the stems. The flower petals just got some light channel quilting in metallic red thread, and I did a bit of outline stitching in invisible thread around the eyes, just to secure them. The background is quilted in aqua metallic thread in spirals and curves -- I pondered doing more waves or ocean-type quilting, but decided to follow the lines of the stems rather than create additional design lines for water or waves.

You can see the quilting lines more clearly from the back of the piece:

Finally, I bound the piece with a narrow, dark blue-green binding.

Now all it needs is a title, a label, and a hanging mechanism. Any ideas for a title?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I'm outstanding, and I have the certificate to prove it

One of my faculty colleagues nominated me for a Faculty Outstanding Service Award, and I found out today that I made the cut. Not only do I get the nice certificate and the extra line on my vita (very prestigious), but it comes with a cash award, too, which is always welcome. ;) Yippee!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Blast from the past

Did anyone else watch The Magic Garden when you were a kid? I had begun to think I had imagined it . . .

Sunday, April 22, 2007

And I'm . . .

Faintly blue.
In pain. Right ankle and knee hurting -- no idea why, no idea how to fix it.
Wishing I could have danced more at the festival yesterday. Ow.
Glad to have seen good friends yesterday.
Swamped with work.
Wishing I didn't have to go to work tomorrow.
Wishing I could have walked more today. Ow.
Really lucky, in spite of my crappy mood.
Going to bed.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fiber studio redecoration

So I'm in the process of redesigning and redecorating the fiber studio in the back parlor of our house. We're going to replace most of the furniture, paint the walls, and have built-in storage put in along one wall. We've been drawing up plans, playing with layouts and choosing furniture.

Yesterday, we ordered our first new furniture piece, a cabinet/hutch unit for fabric storage. It will arrive in 4-6 weeks, and then we'll have to finish it. It will hold my quilting cottons, and we'll replace the glass in the top cabinet doors with something opaque so as to avoid fading of the fabric. It won't be as deep as the unit we have now, so it will be better for fabric storage, and the look fits into our decorating style better.

Current paint choices for the room include deep reds, such as "Santa's Suit", "Aniline Red" or "Italiano Rose" (Benjamin Moore). I'm going to get a bit of each this week and see how they look on the wall. It's definitely going to be a different look from the off-white that's there now!

But I'm not allowed to paint that room until I finish the solarium and the kitchen, which are next on the painting queue.

Now it's back to grading papers for me. After gardening all day yesterday, it feels nice to sit down. I have to get back into gardening trim -- all my muscles are protesting.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Thoughts on humor and Catherine Tate

I only just discovered Catherine Tate, a fairly well-known British comedian with her own sketch show (yay for YouTube). She has loads of funny sketches, but I was struck by one of her repeat characters, Lauren, an insolent adolescent who works hard to prove that she doesn't care what other people think of her. Some examples include:

Lauren talks about Beyonce
The party
The field trip
Lauren in science class
"Are you gay, sir?"
Lauren at the burger bar

Part of what makes this funny is the rapid-fire, farcical, back-and-forth patter, as well as the stream-of-consciousness quality of her references once she gets going. This takes talent and loads of rehearsal to get the timing just right.

Once the pattern is established, then she can play with it:

Lauren's French oral exam
Catherine Tate and David Tennant
Catherine Tate meets the Prime Minister -- I love this one!

The repetitious, partly-predictable nature of the sketches is interesting from a theoretical perspective on humor, as some theories of humor emphasize that surprise is a key factor in humor, but here, the laugh comes in part from the recognition of the familiar ("Am I bovvered?"). There are still surprises along the way, of course, and part of the humor is carried by the intensity of the anger and disrespect she shows, or by her rise/fall in the eyes of others.

Interesting stuff, and now I have some new catch-phrases!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spending too much time on YouTube

Beaker from the Muppets sings "Feelings"
I loved the Carol Burnett show when I was a kid, and it's so much fun to see them make each other laugh.

Other things I learned today: 6 peanut-butter and jelly crackers and an apple does not a dinner make when I have to dance two shows afterwards. And dancing for a lukewarm audience is not much fun . . . but it's more bearable when you have your best friend with you. Thanks Q.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Disturbing documentary

This is so sad . . . I certainly knew of Kenneth Clark's early study, but I admit to surprise that the results are still so similar in this small sample today.

More Valentine cards

I finished two more cards this afternoon:

So much fun!

Snow day fun

I got a snow day today (both of the colleges I had classes at today were closed for the day) -- yippee! Of course, I should be spending the day grading papers or working on all the house tasks, but instead I am making valentines. What fun! I've made two so far:

I'm in the middle of my third . . . I'll post more when I've finished. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Random musings and fiber studio thoughts

What's going on with me, you ask?

I am at the tail end of a wicked, awful, horrible cold that knocked me out this week. It happens at least once a year, and hopefully this will be it for this season. My voice was sexily husky for a day or so, then creakily unpredictable for a day or so, and was often accompanied by coughing and sneezing (oh, so attractive!). On Friday I was so lethargic that I couldn't do more than sit on the futon and watch DVDs, a rare feeling for me. Thankfully, I got other dancers to sub for me at the restaurant this week, because performing would have been hard. Hopefully I'm really on the mend.

I'm in the midst of coaching/rehearsals for the yearly V-Day campus production of Eve Ensler's play, the Vagina Monologues. It's always very intense to put it together, but it's a great show and the students really love the production. There's one show on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 8:00pm in Rockville, MD and one on Friday, Feb. 16 at 8:00pm in Germantown, MD. Tickets are $12, or $7 for students/seniors. All proceeds go to organizations working to end violence against women. Check out the press release for more information or to reserve tickets.

I'm also almost done with the first major wave of fiber studio reorganization. This involved reorganizing how I was storing fabric and patterns. (The second part will probably involve different furniture/storage solutions, painting the walls, etc.)

I have been using a large, wooden entertainment armoire for storing my fabric, but it's not a great solution, since it's too deep and has too few shelves. It also doesn't have enough space for my current fabric stash, so some of it was going into plastic bins which I put under the tables. This made things a bit scattered and disorganized in nature. So I decided that all the quilting cottons would be organized into file boxes, and the garment fabric would go into the armoire. I have been ironing quilting cottons, folding them, and organizing them by color or style into boxes for months now (I started in August). I also organized the smaller pieces, fat quarters and scraps, into boxes by color and style. I basically finished that part of the job this week. Yippee!

I cleared out the fabric from the plastic bins and reorganized it. I put the costume fabric back in the bins and other garment fabric in the armoire. I also cleared out part of a second entertainment armoire (that previously held my herbs) for more space for the garment fabrics.

My patterns had been jumbled together in big plastic bins, which really wasn't working for me. I put all my patterns in clear 9"X12" envelopes (excellent suggestion by Q -- we found them at Staples). This makes all the patterns the same size (pattern envelopes vary WILDLY by size), allows for more space to put the pattern pieces away (the tiny envelopes are so annoying in that respect) and it means they all fit well into file boxes. So I put each pattern into a plastic envelope and organized them by type into file boxes. Later on, these will be transferred into file cabinets, when we get them.

I also put works-in-progress into plastic bins -- one bin per project. That way, all the elements of the project (fabric, thread, pattern, beads) are all together, and I can pull out the project, work on it for a while, and then put it all away.

I also spent some time just clearing off the tables and putting all the stuff away, which I hadn't done in a while, and I found a better spinning caddy for scissors and rotary cutters.

So it's pretty much as organized as it can get without adding additional furniture or shelving. What I have learned from this endeavor:
  • A major reorganization takes a long time.
  • I have a LOT of fabric. The quilting fabrics filled 10 file boxes, with an additional 9 photo boxes of fat quarters, and ~7 document boxes of small scraps. The garment fabrics filled up 1 1/2 entertainment armoires, along with 3 medium plastic bins and 2 large Rubbermaid bins.
  • I don't enjoy ironing fabric for hours on end, although television helps.
  • I have a LOT of unfinished projects.
  • I have a LOT of patterns. It took 5 file boxes to fit all the patterns.
  • I have too much stuff for the current space/storage solutions to fit. :( I was really hoping the reorganization would allow me to put everything away somewhere, but it is not possible at the moment, so there are still bins which have no place to go, and it makes the place look messy. :(
  • Did I mention that I have a LOT of fabric? I may even have . . . too much fabric . . . although it pains me to even consider such a possibility.
  • I really still like most of my supplies -- there were very few things I really wanted to get rid of or couldn't imagine myself ever using. I like most of my fabric. I like most of my patterns. I have pretty beads. Although there is too much of everything, I'm still attached to it and unwilling to get rid of it.

The conclusion is clearly that I need to actually make more time to sew and use some of these wonderful supplies I have amassed. And I shouldn't buy any more fabric unless there is a very very VERY good justification for it. One of the good things about the new organization system is that it means that every new piece of fabric requires a certain amount of work (ironing, folding) in order to come into the studio. Since I basically dislike that part of the work, maybe I won't be so eager to buy anything new for a while.

Now back to grading student papers, and then out to dinner with Q. The latter is far more fun than the former.

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Happy Anniverary Q! 18 years together . . . and that's just the beginning. I love you.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Art link for the week

I like these pointy sculptures. Very cool stuff.

Why am I tired today?

Why am I tired today? Hmmm . . . let's review yesterday.

Alarm goes off at 5:30am
After some snooze-buttoning, I get up at 6:00am (after less than 6 hours of sleep)
I leave at 7:00am, walk to the Metro (15 minutes)
Take the Metro to Dupont Circle Walk from Dupont Circle to Georgetown University (30 minutes)
Teach my General Psychology class at GU Walk from Georgetown to Dupont Circle (30 minutes)
Take the Metro to Rockville Walk from the Metro to Montgomery College (30 minutes)
Do various teaching-related tasks while eating lunch (yay for lunch, I'm starving by now)
Teach my Psychology of Women class at MC (great discussion of gender stereotypes)
Walk from MC to the Metro (30 minutes)
Take the Metro to Medical Center Walk from the Metro to my house (15 minutes)
Hug Q and chat with him a bit
Eat dinner
Prepare for the restaurant gig
Drive to restaurant, stretch and finish getting ready to perform.
They make me wait an extra 15 minutes before I perform. Ordinarily not a problem, but by now I am painfully tired.
Dance for 27 minutes (decent show, but not my best)
Drive home
Change clothes and scrape the makeup off my face
Stare at computer for an hour
Q comes home from meeting, we watch some TV (yay for classic Trek), and collapse into bed.

I think I walked 8-10 miles yesterday, which will be typical for every Monday and Wednesday this semester, because I have no patience to wait for the bus. I also find that buses are more erratic with regard to time of arrival, so I can't plan my day as effectively, while my walking times are quite consistent, making me confident of my ETA. Plus, I'm getting good exercise.

But I'm tired today. I hope this gets easier.