March 2004 Archives

Completely Out of Control

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While I was out running errands (buying host gifts for our visit to the UK next week), I stopped by the Art Store and bought a silkscreen kit. Which is ridiculous, if only because I'm definitely not going to have time to use it before we leave on Friday, especially as I have a bunch of printing I need to do for photography. But I bought it and now I can take it out and paw over it.

I also bought miniature Cadbury Creme Eggs, which I cannot pretend I am bringing to England with me.

By Popular Demand


I give you: Djack!


Why I Hate Tax Day


It's that time of the year again: the time for all the Randoids and Libertarians to bitch about having to pay income taxes. "Just think what I could do with this money if I got to keep it all!" Well, the first thing you'd do is pay at least twice as much as you were paying in taxes for all the services you get for free.

Even if we were magically able to maintain services without funding them, if everybody's income went up by the amount they pay in taxes, you'd have exactly the same buying power as you do now. Money is like that. It's an artificial system for moving energy around. It doesn't have intrinsic value. I wish somebody would take the Randoids and the Libertarians and teach them some basic economic principles. Like that economic systems are complex things, not the simplistic devices that idealists like to imagine them to be.

If I put Randian economics in terms of physics, every problem would involve massless, frictionless pulleys and point masses. Real physics doesn't work that way, and you can't do much of anything with a world like that. It's a handy way to learn the concepts, but eventually you have to move on to dealing with complex systems or you are not going to be designing a 100-floor skyscraper. So when I see e-mails about how awful it is that we have to pay taxes at all in a FREE COUNTRY, all I can see is that failure of public schooling. I would willingly pay twice as much in taxes if it meant a better education in economic principles.

Personally, I don't mind paying taxes. We don't pay all that much, and now that we own the house we get a nice large writeoff on the interest, which meant a substantial refund this year (yes, I know that means we lent the government money interest-free; we're still working out withholding). We do our taxes when we get the paperwork in, then if we're getting refunds we send them in right away, and if we have to pay we send them in on April 15. In either case we're done with the process in early February.

As for the money, I would happily pay more in taxes if if meant better schooling for kids, reasonable public transit options all over the place, and universal health care. Services cost money, and I know that it makes more sense for the government to act as a consumer aggregator for some services. I've also seen damned little good come out of privatizing utilities. Phone service has not gotten better and has not gotten cheaper, nor has electricity. We have to stop pretending that everything works better when it's making a profit. (I could go off on a tear about local governments that want mass transit to be self-supporting, but I will restrain myself.)

For the next two weeks, the complaints about taxes will be unending. I, for one, plan on leaving the country to get away from it all.

Nostalgia Out of Control


Last week in photo lab I worked on some old negatives I found while decluttering. You can see three of the resulting images on viewfinder.

I did a lot of photography in high school and stopped abruptly in my second year of college. Maybe more of my overprotective need to let my brother be the photographer in the family (as if only one of us could love something at a time). So it was like a little time capsule when I opened a notebook and found page after page of negatives from various trips and moments spent with friends. A lot of them I just threw away -- pages of photos of track meets and cross-country races. Not only were most of the photos bad, but even the good ones didn't matter to me any more. I haven't seen or heard from any of those people in ages.

What was kind of interesting were the photos that popped up every now and then: these beautiful encapsulations of how I was feeling at a given moment. I put three of them up so I could explain them.

First, we have Dream of Wheat.

In 1989, I went on an exchange program to France. I didn't know it then, but that was the beginning of the loneliest year of my life. I was basically despised by the youngest daughter of the family I stayed with (the 15-year-old who was having unprotected sex with her 22-year-old boyfriend in Paris), so I spent a lot of time walking the family dog, Djack, along the paths through the wheat fields outside of town. Someday, Rosie will be as good for walks as Djack was.

Then there's Iguacu.

In the summer of 1990, my mother took me with her on a month-long trip through Brazil. It was really amazing. Brazil is a huge country, and we visited five cities that managed to be entirely different from one another. Iguacu was our first stop. It's cold there in the winter, and the cheap motel we stayed at had little concept of central heating. I recommend going upscale for hotel accomodations in Brazil.

I took this picture of my friend Teresa and the German exchange student who was staying with her family while I was back in Ithaca on winter break in 1990. (A bummer of a year to be an exchange student leaving Germany for the US, but oh, well.) I didn't realize it at the time, but my friendship with Teresa was slowly fading away. The proximity thing, I think. It just began to seem like we didn't have much to talk about when we saw each other. Last I heard she was running a farm of some sort with her partner, who was in my class in high school.

I have a few more photos from that set of negatives that I want to develop. Some tourist shots from around France, and a few from Brazil (but fewer; most of the Brazil photos I did in colour). It's interesting to see that I was getting quite good negatives out of the old Fuji camera; just as good as the ones I've been getting from the much more expensive and complicated Nikon. It just goes to show you that equipment cannot replace skill.

I Feel Old


I just wrote a letter to the College Board, asking them to dig my AP test scores out of their archives and send them to CalPoly (because CalPoly wants them, and what CalPoly wants, CalPoly gets).

No kidding. I just paid a $25 archive fee for this. But it means I'm almost done sending transcripts (City College doesn't do mid-semester transscripts, so I have to wait until final grades are in to send them that one).

Now all I have to do is attend to the small matter of piling my portfolio into the car for the portfolio review in two weeks. I reserved a motel room for the night before (the wonderful Motel 6), so I'll drive down Thursday night, stay over, do the orientation and portfolio review Friday morning and afternoon, then drive back up so I can make it to my printing class on Saturday.

Then I'll be all set except for dealing with housing.

I just spent a ridiculously long time analyzing the last month of search string statistics from my logs. They told me some really interesting things.

First of all, the subject areas that people are looking for when they find this site are almost evenly divided between art and wedding crap. With a slightly heavier leaning towards wedding crap, although that may just be because the wedding crap has been up there a lot longer than the art stuff.

152 people came looking for something art related. 56 of them wanted to see a picture of the Rietveld Schroeder House, and they didn't care how it is spelled. 42 were looking for the Stretto House, and they seem to know how to spell. A surprising number of people (38) were looking for information on linocuts, which is odd because while I do linocuts, I don't have much up here about how to do them.

Ah! But the wedding stuff is more impressive. 205 search referrers showed wedding-related terms. Of those, 39 were looking for invitation information, and most of those were looking on information on printing invitations at Kinko's. (I didn't print my invitations at Kinko's, by the way; I'm way too fussy to do that.) A large number of people were looking for a web page that told them how to draw a map. Lord, how lost brides can be! (If you don't know how to draw a map now, it is not a skill you can learn overnight to save some money on your wedding invitations.) 24 people wanted something related to wedding cake toppers -- three of them were looking for that incredibly tacky "groom running away" topper. The biggest category was tissue packets: 41 people were looking for instructions or something related to making little packets of tissues for weddings. I have my blow-by-blow account of making tissue packets up on this site, so there you have it.

The next largest category of searchers finding my site were people looking for tourist information. Most of them (48) were actually looking for tourist information for the Bay Area, which I do have on this site. 10 people were looking for tourist information for places like Japan or Russia. One was looking for information for the San Fernando Valley.

Some of the weird things people were searching for:

  • ellis island pergola
  • maritime futuristic travel
  • panda pooping
  • poop in a blue room
  • set myself on fire
  • physics of drowning

(I'm not sure how poop became such an intrinsic part of this site, but I blame the dog.)

And the vanity category: 24 people were searching on my name, and 7 were searching on the meaning of my name. Four were searching for other people I've mentioned on the site. One -- yes, one -- was searching for "the blue room."


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Rosie is getting better at sitting nicely on the porch while I do things out front. This means I can leave the front door open, because the dog keeps the cats indoors. But it will be better when we get a screen door made for our doorway.


Mad With Plaster


I almost forgot to post about today's little excursion into Plastermania.

Wednesday I set up half the mold form for the first pour: six plastic eggs buried up to their midriffs in clay. Today, after some time spent fussing around and bitching to myself about how other people leave the clay area a mess, I set up the cottle boards and poured the mold. I was able to get both halves poured and cleaned before the guild work time was over.

If you're wondering what the steps are for making a plaster mold for slip casting, they're quite simple.

  1. Find the line. The first set is to find the line on your object where two halves will not make an undercut (undercuts get stuck in the mold). On most cheap plastic toys, this line is really obvious because it will not have been fettled off. You bury the object up to that line in clay, so that one half is sitting above the clay. All angles should be at or very close to 90 degrees; you don't want sharp edges on the plaster. You want to make sure you put on a pouring spout at the same time, or you won't have any way to pour the slip into your mold. I like to make my pouring spout almost perfectly straight. Other people like more of a taper. It should be wider on the outside, but not too narrow anywhere, or a plug will form during casting. For really large objects, you will want to put on a pouring spout and also a draining spout on the other side of the mold, because slip weighs a lot more than you think it does.
  2. Set up the boards around the object. The boards used for mold-making are just 1-by boards that have been sprayed down with WD-40 so they will resist binding by the plaster. The ones we have at school have L-brackets on the ends so they slide together. I've also seen ones with a piece of angle iron along one short end, as a clamping surface. At school we clamp the boards in place (roughly) with clamps, then seal them in place with wads of clay.
  3. Seal the cracks. I put a coil of clay around the bottom of the cottle boards on the inside, then up each of the four joints, and smooth them down completely. I also seal the outer cracks in the corners and along the bottom with clay, although not as completely, because I rely on the quality of my seal on the inside. Because everything you see on the surface of the clay will appear on your mold, I make a real effort to do nice, clean work sealing the cracks. I still have to do some cleanup, but not as much as more sloppy mold-makers will have to do.
  4. Brush on release agent. Some people do this before putting up the board setup, but my hands are small, so it makes little difference to me. We use Purelube's pure soap product at school; at home I usually use silicone as a release agent. Apparently something called "green soap" is the end-all, be-all of release agents; I'll have to try to find some of that sometime. One of the critical things with the release agent is making sure not to allow bubbles to form. Bubbles will appear in the surface of the object, so unless you really want bubbles all over the place, you've got to be super tidy.
  5. Mix the plaster. We mix by volume at school: 10 plaster to 7 water. Makes a decently hard mix and is easier to do than weighing, although weighing is a more reliable method. I put the water in the bucket, then the plaster. The plaster gets mixed in by hand, smooshing the lumps and mixing fairly slowly. You can speed up the cure of the plaster by mixing faster, but I prefer a slower-setting plaster.
  6. Splash on a coat of plaster to make sure the object is covered. I like to do this even though it's not strictly necessary for every object. It's just a few handfuls of plaster splashed on the object to be sure you get all those odd nooks and crannies that might form a bubble and not get molded.
  7. Pour the plaster. Once I finish doing the splash coat, I pour the rest of the plaster into the mold. I knock the sides to release any bubbles that might be in there, and skim off any froth on the top (froth will cure hard and then flake off all over everything, so it's best to get rid of it either at this point or during cleaning). Once the mold is sitting and curing, I rinse the plaster bucket with cold clean water and dump it -- not into the sink. We dump plaster water in a barrel at school. When I do plaster at home I dump it in the back yard and the dog eats it. Chacun à son gout.
  8. Twiddle thumbs. It takes about twenty minutes to half an hour for the mold to be ready to be released. Once it gets really hot, it's set up enough that if you unmold it it will not fall apart and ruin all your work. At that point I scratch the name of the object ("Kitty") and my name on the back using a needle tool. Helpful when you want to find a mold later without having to open them all up (and risk damaging it), and also to identify your molds in a shared studio space.
  9. Unmold the first half. I release the boards, pull off the clay blobs and bits, and turn the mold over. I remove all the clay from the back of the object, keeping it buried face down in the plaster (so the edges will line up properly). If the object comes free, I try to put it exactly where it was, which may or may not be easy.
  10. Clean carefully. With the clay peeled off the surface of the mold, I wash everything down, including the object (which is usually dirtier than the plaster). If it's just unbearably dirty and you don't want to deal with it, you can set it out overnight and all the clay will dry up and be a bit easier to get off, but you're just going to have to wash the sucker at some point.
  11. Cut keys. You'll want to make your mold so it only goes together in one way, so you don't accidentally form a massively misshapen object and waste the time spent casting. So you use a tool rather like a melon baller and scoop out three or so rounded keys on the surface around the object (taking care not to cut into the object, naturally).
  12. Is that pouring spout still attached? This is a good time to make sure you're making both halves of your pouring spout, if you have it coming out at the seam (the usual method).
  13. Replace the boards. At this point I put the boards back and seal them up again, as before. Coils of clay around the edges inside, and in the cracks outside. All smoothed down nicely for clean seams.
  14. Brush on release agent. This time, the release agent has to go on the plaster, as well as on the object. Plaster won't stick to clay very well (which is why we're using it to make the mold in the first place), but it will stick to plaster like nothing else. So you want to make sure that release agent is thoroughly soaked into the plaster. If it dries out while you're working, add more. Also lube up the object.
  15. Mix plaster as above, splash on splash coat, pour the plaster, and wait for it to set. Once the plaster is hot, I once again carve the name of the object and my name on the bottom of the mold. Then as above I unmold the mold and remove all the clay bits.
  16. Pull the mold apart. It should come apart stiffly. If it seems stuck, you might need to tap in the seam with a plastic wedge (lightly!) to crack apart a place where the plaster has bonded to itself. Sometimes a key will get stuck because the release didn't stick to it very well. You can now remove the object and the pouring spout, as well as the clay coils used to seal the mold to the boards.
  17. Wash the mold off. Using a damp sponge, wash the clay residue from both sides of the mold.
  18. Scrape off sharp edges. Using a Surform or Surform-like tool, scrape any sharp edges off the bottom, sides, and top of the mold halves. Be careful not to mess with the edges that will form the seam of the mold. You'll clean those up later. Right now you're just making it so the mold doesn't get plaster everywhere when you set it down. Using a fettling knife, scrape the pouring spout interior so that it is smooth. This will help you later when you are trimming the spouts after a pour. Once you've finished, use the fettling knife to gently knock down any sharp edges on the sides of the mold, where chunks of plaster might come off in the clay. Be careful doing this, as every bit of plaster you take off will mean more seam cleaning later on.
  19. Wash the inside of the mold. If you used an oily release agent, wash the inside of the mold with white vinegar and water to break down the oil. Otherwise, the mold will not be able to absorb slip. I've started doing this step every time I make a mold, even though I don't use an oily release agent. It helps a lot.
  20. Allow the mold to cure and dry completely. This process takes five or so days, or one ride under a kiln for a single firing. You have to be very careful about exposing the plaster to heat. Prolonged exposure to temperatures higher than 200F will make the plaster break down into powder. Not good. If you dry the mold under a kiln, clean it again once you remove it, as all kinds of nasty things will have gotten inside.
  21. Make a cleaning pour. Fill the mold with slip and let it sit for 15-25 minutes, topping up as necessary. After the time is up (less time for smaller molds, more time for bigger ones; the time will determine the thickness of the clay), pour out the excess slip and let the mold sit for four or five hours before unmolding.
  22. Unmold your cleaning piece. The first piece from a mold is bad -- it will definitely have plaster chunks in it somewhere, and it will have some red clay on it, marring the surface. So after making sure the mold is good and doesn't need repair or recasting, break the piece up and throw it away (break it up to prevent somebody from trying to "save" it from the trash and possibly making a bomb in the kiln).

The mold is now ready to be used!

The Last Word


A big old NO from MIT.

A pity, but it would have been hard to convince myself to go there, even though it would be great, because of the expense and the complexity of moving half the household across the country for three years minus summers. Calpoly's a better deal all around.

So, Calpoly it is for the next three years. Wish me luck.

I Can Stop Any Time


I'm making my sixth mold in ceramics -- this one is a multple of Easter eggs. I was inspired by the egg-shaped cups at the sushi place we went to last weekend. I bought some plastic Easter eggs and decided to use all of them for the mold because making a mold that makes six of something at once makes making sets faster.

I think I may use the mold to make some cups for the ceramics guild sale. Sets of cups glazed differently but all the same size and shape. Might be quite nice, and it's the sort of thing that sells well. I need to make a foot mold, though: a mold that I can use to add consistent feet to the cups. We have a guild work day tomorrow, so instead of working in the darkroom I think I will spend the day making molds and possibly working on a slab-cup project I've been thinking about. I should find something to use to make a foot mold while I am thinking about it.

My most recent aquisition on the mold mania theme is the arrival of George the Gnome. I didn't know he had a name when I bought him, but he came with a nametag around his neck. Plus his name is scratched into the foot. Interestingly, the mold marks are still on his body and hat, so I can see how to make a 2-part mold for him with no trouble. I had thought he would require at least a four-part mold. I love when people save me work like that.

I'm going to wait until the commercial molds I bought came in before I decide whether to commit to casting George. He's rather large, and the mold might be kind of heavy. Right now he's sitting on my desk, looking somewhat pensively at the monitor. He senses that he may be spending a day face-down in clay sometime soon, and is not looking forward to it.

One More to Go


Columbia University: Si!

Not one I expected to get into. Interesting.

We Have Lavender


After waking up late (because we went to sleep at 3am, because we went out for sushi with friends at midnight), we made a quick trip to the nursery down the road and picked up some lavender, and I spent the afternoon weeding the front yard and planting the lavender along the sides of the walk.

Slowly, our house is turning into a nice place to be.

Technical Achievements


I don't even want to discuss how long it took, and what I had to do to make it happen, but I managed to make my "What I'm Reading" page more interesting than just a list of books. Now it's the latest book I've written about. I generally have five to ten books going at once, so this is a much more managable form for the page, and less dull overall for your average reader.

Bang! Smash! Crash!


I've had the kind of week where things keep going wrong.

First I messed up a bunch of negatives last week, so I went and bought a plastic film reel (more idiot-proof than metal). So what did I do as soon as I started developing a roll of film yesterday? I dropped the agitator down the drain. And there was no strainer, so it went down and disappeared immediately. The lab people will have to call a plumber, I suppose. Though with no strainer on the drains, I'm guessing all kinds of stuff rolls down there on a regular basis, so this can't be entirely unanticipated.

Fortunately, the roll of film turned out OK. Small blessings, I guess.

Yesterday evening I noticed that the lavender, which I'd intended to plant along the front walk as soon as the painting was done, had dried up and died in the heat we've been having. I suppose this means the end times are upon us and the last thing I need to worry about is landscaping, but I do wish I'd paid attention to watering schedules.

Today, after my first letterpress class (I'm taking an 8-week class at the college, because it's offered and more time on the press is a good thing), I ran into the darkroom to run off some prints quickly. Things went mostly well, except that one of my prints got stuck in the dryer and a bunch of them ended up wrinkled. (They flattened out OK in my notebook, but still.)

I thought I would work on the front yard some, since the weather is nice and it's supposed to get nasty next week. So I went under the house to get our little garden wagon out, and sank into a mucky hole up to my ankle.

Fortunately, the gardening went well, and now the little magnolia (which is in bud!) has a circle of mulch around it (with weed barrier underneath to keep out the Bermuda grass), and a number of those dandelion-like things have been pulled up, so the front yard looks like a bunch of teeny gophers have been having at it. Tomorrow I might go buy more lavender and plant it along the walk.

I also spent some time reworking my photoblog, in ways that are completely invisible to anybody but me, but which make it easier to put together posts. And I'm planning some other major revamps of other bloggish items, like my book list and some elements of the main page here at One Truth for All. With any luck, I won't totally and irretrievably mess this site up in the process.

The Suspense is Killing Me


Yale School of Architecture: Nyet.

Actually, that's not true. Yale did not write me a rejection letter in Russian, as unbelievably cool as that would have been. No, they sent me a very sincere letter about how many candidates they have and how they hope I find a perfect school, but how they think it should be somewhere else.

If You've Always Wanted to be an Animal


I've never understood Furries, but I guess this is the sort of thing they'd be into, huh?

Poo Poo Heads

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UCB: No.

Not that I had such a stellar performance the last time I was there, so I don't blame them.

Oh, Dear

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I appear to have epoxied my fingernail to my finger. Working time of half an hour, my ass.

Something About the Married


Since I got married and started wearing a wedding ring around, I've noticed that I'm the object of a certain amount of extra flirting from the folks around me. Mostly from men; women see the ring and ask me whether my partner and I went down to City Hall. I wondered whether it was just men who think somehow married women are more attractive (as in, "well, clearly somebody thought she was good enough to marry"; like a wedding ring is a Seal of Approval or something), then I saw this:

Best Dog-Park Pickup Line Ever

I don't know whether it's good or bad that I feel so much better now that I know that married men get hit on, too.

In Yesterday's Mail


I somehow missed the envelope, but in yesterday's mail was another response from a graduate school.

Princeton: No. My first rejection! Not a huge surprise, as halfway through the application I realized that what I want to do and what they have to offer really didn't match up. But I still did it, anyway, because I'd started and it wouldn't hurt.

Sad Pup


For the last several days, Rosie has had The Poops. Something she picked up at doggie daycare, I think. Anyway, we've finally decided to stop hoping it goes away, and I'm going to skip math tomorrow to take care of her. She needs to use the yard about every four hours. More than that, and she has an accident.

Also, PineSol now has this wonderful new formula where the dirt doesn't stay dissolved, but falls to the bottom of the bucket. Very nice.

A Very Interesting Evening


Stefanie Herzer, who I mentioned in a previous post, invited me to come visit her in her studio, and offered to lend me some photos for a presentation to my photography class this week. I stopped by at 4pm, and was there until almost 8pm.

First of all, Stefanie is a really nice person. She's very easy to get along with, friendly, helpful. She spent a lot of time talking to me about her business, how she got started (she used to be a programmer, but decided to do something that she loved rather than stick with the field she started out in), who her influences are, and how she's developing her skills as a photographer as she works. She also just lent me a number of mounted prints, and gave me two unmounted prints of my favourite landscapes from her collection.

She mostly does wedding photography, and we talked a bit about the wedding photography business. There's a lot of interpersonal interaction with customers in weddings, and Stefanie seems to do an excellent job of it. While I was at her studio, one customer dropped by, and two others called, and she was calm and professional and everything you would want a wedding photographer to be.

We talked a bit about how photography is perceived as a man's profession, even though a lot of wedding photographers are female. Because we'd both worked in software, we compared stories about competitive coworkers. And because the assignment came out of a desire for the class to see that there are more photographers out there than the most famous men, we talked about how as a photographer, she doesn't have many female role models. It's just a matter of numbers; there are more male photographers in print.

Mostly, we talked about the business of a small business. How she has overhead and expenses to manage, how most photographers barely make a profit, but do it because the work allows them to do what they love, and that's worth it. Stefanie definitely loves what she's doing, and it comes through in everything she says and does. So if you're getting married in the Bay Area (or the West Coast; she travels), look her up.

On Friendship


I found out that the father of a childhood friend of mine died last week. He'd been sick for some time, in the hospital, but that doesn't make it any easier. It was weird to hear about it from my mom, who read the death notice in the paper. Of course, this friend wouldn't have contacted me when it happened; we keep in touch now, but I would hardly say we're close friends. It made me think more about the tenuous nature of friendships that spring up in school.

Most of my friends from those times have drifted away. Our only real connection was that of the people we had to see every day, we were the least objectionable to each other. That's not a horrible thing. I had some good friendships in school. It's just that once we weren't being held together by the enforced social structures of school, there wasn't much for the friendship to fall back on.

My more lasting friendships have come from more personal connections, like people I met because they have interests in common with me. With those friends, I have a reason to call and find out how things are going. We have something to talk about or do when we see each other. We have other friends in common who we can gossip about, too, and developments in our common area of interest. We seek each other out because we want to.

I'm also really horrible as a correspondant, so I tend to stay friends with people who don't take offsense when I fall off the planet for a while, who will still call me and see what I'm up to, even if I haven't talked to them in a while. This was not always the case with me, but it's certainly been that way for a while, now. I don't really have the energy to have a lot of high-intensity friendships, anyway. Even though I'm not taking a full courseload this semester.

Unfortunately, this is the third friend in the last ten months to lose a parent. I'm not sure what it is about this year, but I can't say I like it. It's certainly not as interesting as The Year Everybody Got Married, or The Year Everybody Had A Baby. It reminds me too much of The Year Everybody Died From Terminal Illness. So if the surviving parents of my friends would not mind, I'm calling a moratorium on deaths for a while. Thanks.

Reasons Why I Shop In Stores


Out of fairness, in response to my last post about shopping online, here's a list of reasons why I shop in stores. Again in no particular order.

  1. I don't have to rely on some clerk's data entry skills
    Products have names, but those names are not always what they are called. Take "Rooster Sauce": its real name is Sriracha. Shopping for it online, I find it referred to as "Sriracha," "Sriracha (Rooster) sauce," and "Huy Fong Sriracha Garlic Hot Sauce" -- and that's just at the first three listings on a Google search. Let's ignore all the misspellings; just determining how the name is entered is a feat.
  2. I can touch the item I am shopping for
    Touch can tell you a lot of things: quality, texture, weight. It's really valuable to be able to touch and hold things like tools or electronic gadgets before you commit to buying them.

    ...and play with the user interface
    An online review can only take you so far. Online simulators tend to show a product at its best. What you want to know is, what happens when I press this button? The best way to learn that is by playing with the item in person. Nothing online has been able to replace that experience.

    ...and try it on
    I actually do buy clothing online, but not nice things. Sizes are not regular enough to make that possible. Even with virtual dressing rooms, the clothing buying experience online is mostly for the few of us who are standard sizes and average height.

    ...and sniff it
    I don't like to buy shampoo without knowing what it will smell like. Most versions of lavender scent are too sweet for my tastes. Smell is critical for some items, so if I haven't already bought something in a store, I'm sure not going to take a risk buying it online.

    ...and read the packaging
    If I'm buying a device, I want to be able to read all the packaging. Sometimes, there's a vital piece of information that's just not listed on a web page about it.

    ...and see the real colour
    What kind of red is poppy red? I have three shirts, all listed as poppy red in a catalog, and all slightly different shades. When colour names get weirder ("acid"), it's probably not worth buying it online.

  3. I don't have to know exactly what I'm looking for
    If I'm trying to buy somebody a gift, it's often more helpful for me to go to a store and browse around until something catches my eye. I probably didn't leave the house thinking, "I want to get Jenny a giant ceramic bear," but if I see a giant ceramic bear, the first thing that pops into my head will probably be, "That's perfect!" Those moments are different online.

    ...and I can look for similar items without knowing what they are
    In a store, I don't need to know that the matching creamer for the giant ceramic bear (which turns out to be a teapot) is a creamer. All I need to do is see it nearby, and add it to my basket.

  4. I can bring a friend along for a second opinion
    It's hard to shop online with another person. I know this well because Noel and I buy flowers for Mother's Day online, and it's not a terribly fun experience. One person "driving" the mouse, the other person trying to point to things, two people huddled over a keyboard. Not the best shopping experience. But going out shopping for clothes with my homies is loads of fun, even if it is exhausting.
  5. I can have it NOW
    A MAJOR plus to store shopping is that I don't need to wait for it to get packaged up and shipped. This weekend I bought some soda online. I'd love to be kicking back and drinking some now, but I won't get it until next week. If I'd bought it in the store, I could have started drinking it as soon as I walked out the door.
  6. I can see other products I might have forgotten I need to restock
    I'm pretty bad at making shopping lists, but that's OK when I go to the store, because I'll inevitably walk by the other things I need to get and think, "Oh, yeah, we're out of pickles, too."

    ...and I can see unrelated items that may be on sale
    I don't ever put sardines on my grocery list. But if they're on sale, I buy them. Shopping online, you never get reminded to check that sort of thing -- if you're not shopping for sardines, you don't see the price of sardines.

  7. I can pay with cash
    It doesn't sound like much of a benefit, but we have a shared credit card. At Christmas and birthdays, I either shop with cash in a store or just tell Noel not to look at the credit card bill until after the event. Because nothing ruins a surprise like seeing "Sheet Music Superstore" on the credit card statement.
  8. It gets me out of the house/studio
    While it's great that I can shop without leaving my desk, it is also a good thing for me to get off my butt and move once in a while. Shopping gives me a reason to get up and out of the house.

Reasons Why I Shop Online


I've been reading Call of the Mall by Paco Underhill and thinking about shopping, and last night I came up with this list of reasons why I usually shop online rather than in real-life stores, whether they be chain stores or locally-owned businesses:

(In no particular order)

  1. They are where I am
    I don't need to get in the car, deal with traffic, and park to get to the store. I just open a browser window and I can be there. This also means I can shop in stolen bits of time, when I'm working on something else and need a quick break. There's no way I could leave in the middle of the day, go to the mall, find four shirts, and get back to work, but online? No problem.
  2. I don't have to deal with salespeople
    I may be in a minority, but in my opinion, a shopping experience where you don't need to deal with salespeople is a good shopping experience indeed.

    ...who think they know what I want better than I do
    This only seems to happen with salesmen, and it really offends me. First of all, it doesn't take a whole lot of self-control to treat every customer as if they know what they're talking about even if they appear not to. This is especially true in areas where there's a lot of leeway for right or wrong, like art supplies. If I want hot press paper, I do not want a lecture about how cold press paper has a superior grain for watercolour, because I'm not buying it for watercolour.

    ...who assume I'm stupid (or just aren't listening)
    Here's a scenario: I am looking for twine for cooking. I ask a salesperson if the store sells it. I tell him I have looked in X, Y, and Z aisles, and he tells me it's in aisle X. I tell him it is not there, and he walks with me to aisle X, where he is, naturally, unable to find the twine. He then wants me to accompany him around the store to aisles Y and Z, so we can go through this same charade.

    ...who talk to my husband instead of me
    Let's just say that this offends me like nothing else and there is never an excuse for it.

    ...who just don't care
    OK, I get that it sucks to work at a discount store. I worked at one when I was in college, and yeah, it sucked. But I don't need to deal with attitude about how your job sucks when your job is waiting on me. If the job sucks, get an education and get yourself out of there.

    ...who clearly indulge too heavily in their off-hours
    We all know this guy. He's sitting there behind the counter staring at you for three, now four minutes. You have put your purchases in front of him. He is doing nothing. Is he going to start ringing things up? Is this line closed? No, he's just really stupid from the aftereffects of smoking too much dope with too little brain to spare. Look, people, if you barely function on the brain you're born with, maybe you shouldn't be wantonly destroying it in your free time.

  3. I don't have to deal with other customers who have had a bad day and are taking it out on everybody around them
    If your day was so bad that the only way you can deal with it is to ram your grocery cart into somebody, then you need therapy.
  4. They stock what I want to buy
    This is especially true of books. I rarely find exactly what I'm looking for at a mainstream real-life book store. Oh, I find books there, but only new releases, or cookbooks, or the occasional technical book. For almost everything else I go online if I need it reasonably fast. OK, I have some odd preferences, but when my local drugstore stopped carrying my preferred shampoo, I had to start buying that online, too.
  5. It's easy to find things with text search
    Do you know where mustard is stocked in your grocery store? In mine, it's in at least three places: deli, ethnic foods, and condiments. And not the same mustard, but different ones. So if I want to compare mustards, I have to walk all over the store (literally, because the deli is on the opposite side of the store from condiments). Yes, shelf space is limited, but why spread something all over the store, making it less likely that people will be able to find it?
  6. They don't actively make it harder to shop
    Speaking of finding things, stores do this thing where they make it hard to get out, so you'll spend more time there and spend more money there. Not only do I find that offensive to my intelligence, but it works against them. My local drugstore only has baskets in the front, outside of the security gates. So when I go there I never buy more than I can carry in my hands. Online, I can put as much stuff in my shopping cart as I want and not have to have known how much I wanted to buy when I opened up the browser.
  7. I can shop at five stores at once, if I want to
    It's easy to do price comparisons (and service comparisions) online. I don't always buy the cheapest item -- sometimes it makes more sense to buy it for a bit more from a place that has other things I need and offers free shipping for orders over a certain price. I just don't have the time to make detailed price comparisons for shampoo in real-life stores.
  8. Somebody else shleps it all home for me
    I'm not totally lazy, but mall shopping would be a lot easier if, when you were done at a particular store, you could put your bags somewhere safe where you could pick them up right before you leave, instead of carrying them around with you. Especially if you've been shopping at places like Crate and Barrel, or for breakable things. This is the sort of stuff I find it easier to order online.
  9. The store is open 24/7
    I'd love to shop at local businesses. But they all seem to be open only between 10am and 6pm. Those hours are prime time for me, and while I could go on Saturday, those hours are also prime time for everybody else, and Saturday is also their only possible day for shopping at that store. See comments above about other customers.

    ...and the shopping experience is the same
    In real-life 24/7 stores, after 11pm the aisles are crowded with things being stocked. Which is an inconvenience you put up with, for the privilege of shopping outside of "normal" hours.

Two Things


First: This is my 100th post on this blog. I am a sucker for web statistics of all sorts, and that simple fact makes me happy. It also makes me happy that most people who come to this site are looking for pictures of three buildings: Stretto House, Schroeder House, and Drager House, probably because they are also having to render them for drafting classes just as I did.

Second: Somehow, in the last 24 hours, I have managed to mess up my right knee. This is good and bad. My right knee is my "good" knee, in the sense that it has required the least mechanical intervention over the years. So in theory this messing up might go away on its own and I won't have to worry, because the right knee is strong and will recover. On the other hand, maybe I've just ruined my one good knee, and I will spend the rest of my life on crutches. OK, that was an over-reaction, but the knee does hurt, and I've already been given the knee death sentence by more than one orthopaedic surgeon.

Some More Photos


I posted a couple of the photos I took in the last week, which I developed this morning. I've been working on trying to make my compositions more compelling, to add something to the photo that is more than just something pretty, so you feel like you want to look at it for a while.

I've also been trying to take photos for my series that could stand alone. I like the graffiti series, but when I make contact sheets of the photos I take, I'm never quite sure that they stand up to scrutiny as solo pictures. As a series, they're quite interesting, but alone? Not really. I have dozens of photos of tags, now, and most of them are really not worth developing. Something is missing.

On the other hand, the passages series has really taken off. The best photos from this last roll were for that series, and they have a bit extra to them, something compelling. I think the very animal part of us that is seeking pathways helps with that. I especially like the serendipitous appearance of humans in one of my shots -- I waited for ten minutes for a clear view of this scene, and at the very moment I hit the shutter release, two people stepped out of the shadows into my shot.

It's also becoming clear to me that I need to spend some time shooting somewhere other than on campus or at home, because I've shot most of what I thought would shoot well in both places. Spending half an hour shooting on Laney College's campus was really freeing. Too bad there are so many people around, though. It makes those Cold War industrial emptiness shots hard to catch.

Oh, Barf


If Bush's disgusting display of tastelessness in using images of the collapsing towers was not enough, now we find out that Donald Rumsfeld is a grave robber:

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said Friday night that Rumsfeld has a shard of metal from the jetliner that struck the Pentagon on a table in his office and shows it to people as a reminder of the tragedy Pentagon workers shared on Sept. 11, 2001.
"He doesn't consider it his own," Di Rita said, adding the piece is on display for the Pentagon. "We are mindful of the fact that if somebody has an evidentiary requirement to have this shard of metal, we will provide it to them."

How about being mindful of the fact that people died there, and it's in incredibly poor taste to take souvenirs from the site? I somehow manage to remember the events regularly enough that I have to make an effort not to remember, all without a physical reminder, so you'd think that the guy whose job it is to remember it would be able to do so.

In other campaign news, apparently Bush doesn't believe that people have the right to free speech in his presence. At last noting, they were still struggling to come up with a charge against the snowplow driver who exercised his First Amendment rights:

Gerstenslager is suspended with pay while the department investigates, Hummer said. She said she could not identify potential violations or penalties until the investigation is complete.

I wonder how many Americans were required to memorize the Bill of Rights in grammar school. Maybe not enough.

Art in Odd Places


Some shots from the phone camera. First, my woodworking class at Laney College:

The guy in the yellow shirt is my teacher.

Then the "Missing Student" installation, on its way to Sacramento for a rally, in the courtyard of the arts building at City College:

The statues are cast fiberglass in a couple of body shapes, about 4 1/2 feet tall, and painted by various students in keeping with the rally's message: that thousands of California community college students will not be able to return to classes if they raise tuition from $18 per credit (for everyone) to $26 per credit ($50 per credit if you have a bachelor's degree).

Playing With Photoshop


I've been fascinated with the way people make minor tweaks to images that they post on their blogs. I very rarely do anything to the images I post, apart from resizing them and sometimes cropping them. So when I saw what Heather Armstrong does with images -- giving them that sort of soft, other-worldy feel that makes you forget that they were taken in Utah -- I felt compelled to figure out how she did that.


I knew it was Photoshop. Well, that's wrong. At first I burrowed myself into a den of worry that somehow she was able to get such beautiful, soft photos using just a digital camera and natural talent. Then I thought for a bit and decided that the world doesn't just glow, even the world's most lovely baby doesn't just glow, and especially plaster and lath doesn't just glow, and I know that for certain, so she was probably doing something with Photoshop.

So I opened a picture in Photoshop and started mucking around with filters.

I rarely use filters on photos. I use them when I make digital collages, but it seems like cheating to use them on documentary photos like the ones of the house (although after seeing how lovely Heather's remodel looked, it's tempting). So I ran through the best suspects and played around with some things that seemed less likely but might work.

Here's the original photo I used:

I've long been a fan of the "watercolour" filter (which I used for my stylized picture of myself), so here's Rosie after being watercoloured:

Then I tried out blur and radial blur (I do like radial blur, though it makes me feel like puking):

Then I found Diffuse Glow under Distort. Bingo! I could make a photo of Rosie look a bit like a Dooce posting by applying blur, then diffuse glow.

After playing with it for a while, I decided that I like the filters, and how they make things so soft and ethereal, but I like crisp edges, too. On the other hand, some of the graffiti photos look great with diffuse glow, so maybe I will have to spend some time figuring out how to do that with a developing process.

Two Down...

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I got my acceptance from the University of Oregon today. Excellent program in sustainable architecture which would be really tempting if it didn't start in frickin JUNE instead of in September.

Great Garden Plans


I've been working out things I want to do with the gardens (front and back) this spring and summer.

First of all, once we have bought the greenhouse kit, I want to set up a lettuce bed that is inaccessible to slugs (in other words, in a copper-covered container). Because having fresh lettuce was great last summer, at least until the slugs got to it. I'll also plant hot peppers for Noel, because that's half the point of the greenhouse.

The other half the point of the greenhouse is growing a clementine tree (they need a lot of heat to get sweet). But first, I need to find a tree to buy.

I also want to build raised beds for the tomatoes, filled with all sorts of nutritious compsty stuff for the plants. With luck, we won't have the nasty verticulum wilt problem we had last summer. Near the raised beds, I'm going to build a trellis for Mikey's rose (actually, I need to get cracking on that because that rose is growing NOW).

In the front, I'm going to dig up the grass around the street tree and plant some kind of durable ground cover -- maybe a prostrate rosemary or thyme. Something that doesn't look so untidy, and doesn't require mowing. This is what the street tree looks like now, sort of sad (and overgrown, because this heat made the grass explode yesterday):


I'm also going to plant the lavender that survived Great Plumbing Mishap of last summer (in which the sprinkler setup is disrupted by somebody trying to fix a leaky faucet) along the sides of the front walk. The front walk, today:


And I'll clear the grass around the baby magnolia and put down bark mulch, mainly to make it look like there will eventually be a tree there. If I can find one I like, I'll also plant a hydrangea to hide the ugly 1950's gas meter by the front porch. If I can't find a hydrangea, I may plant a big fluffy old-fashioned rose bush.

Along the alley between our house and the neighbors', I'm going to remove the grass and plant thrift, to deal with some of the lead paint that got into the ground. Thrift is a lead-fixer, and a California native, which is even better. Plus, it's got a pretty pink flower. I have to get approval from the neighbors, but I think they will be fine with it as long as we buy the seed and maintain it.

That should just about eat up all my free time and energy this spring.

Shocking Discovery


The camera phone creates jpeg files that have some sort of error. An error that completely blows up Image::Magick, but doesn't even give Photoshop a moment of confusion. I have no idea how to work around this, but I'm sure that something will occur to me. Because not being able to post photos from the camera phone by e-mail will surely kill me.

I'm an Ungrateful Jerk


And I love my new cell phone.

We'd been talking about getting me a new cell phone plan that I would share with Noel, because sometimes my bill is huge and sometimes it is merely large, owning to my being on some ridiculous "Loyal Starter" plan created when PacBell Wireless became Cingular (which has now become AT&T, I guess). This "Loyal Starter" plan has like 20 minutes included each month, so I guess if you were loyal you get to get shafted. But figuring out what we wanted was complex, and it had to mesh with what Noel could expense for work, so we put it off and put it off, and spent a lot of time talking about what features we needed and wanted to use, and what sort of phones we wanted (I wanted a camera phone and the ability to send text messages), and it seemed like nothing was going to get accomplished.

Then suddenly Noel got into gear on it, and called and set up the account and suddenly we had two fine new phones, Nokia 6820 camera phones that flip out to have a full QWERTY keyboard, with e-mail and text messages built in so we can contact each other voicelessly (useful when I'm at school and just want to get a quick piece of information to Noel, rather than have to have a conversation). He also got us new phone numbers, as my old cell number was in 408, and his was in 415, and we wanted to both be in 510 (which is the area code where we live). I asked him to get me a cool number, because I have been holding on to my old phone for years because it has an easy number to remember.

Noel's idea of a "cool" number and mine apparently do not intersect in many places. Where I think a cool number is one that is numerically interesting, and therefore easy to remember (like, say, pi, or a repeat), his idea was "a number that spells something." So he came home with two numbers that spelled something, not anything interesting, though, and therefore were a jumble of numbers that are hard to remember. And most of the time, when you give somebody your number, you want them to remember it.

I tried, for a whole day, to like my new number, but it wasn't working. So rather than make me suck it up and deal, even though I'd made him do all the work to get the plan and the phones in the first place, Noel called AT&T (our new provider) and spent nearly an hour on the phone getting me a cool new number that is a palindrome. (Kudos to Ken at AT&T, too, who was patient and helpful and didn't once yell at Noel that he's crazy and he should just slap his wife and tell her to like the number he got her the first time round.)

So now I have a shiny new camera phone that I have to learn how to use. The only thing that is sad is that it does not have my favourite game from the old phone (Memory). But owing to the screen on the old phone having gone all haywire almost a year ago, and completely given up the ghost four months ago, I'd already had to wean myself off playing it, anyway. And the new phone does have some new games which I might try out, or possibly there's a version of memory for this phone online. Plus it has a calendar, which should be mighty useful in helping me get over my ability to forget that I was supposed to be somewhere.

And I'm excited about the camera, which I have already used to take a picture of my obliging usual model. Now all I have to do is get my script to automatically take e-mail and turn it into photoblog posts to actually run, and I'll be a happy person. Or an even happier person. Did I mention that Noel got me a phone number that is a palindrome?

Oh, Sure, I Have Forever


I had an extra hour today between photography lecture and the lab, so I dropped in at counselling to see if I could set up an appointment to get checked off as General Education certified (a ridiculous requirement, but one I will have to comply with if I go to CalPoly). The receptionist gave me a counsellor assignment, and I went to wait in the hall for him to be free.

Ahead of me, in the counsellor's office, was a woman who clearly did not get out much, and needed somebody to talk to. Anybody. She probably does this at home, with the toaster as an audience rather than a guidance counsellor. I sat there while she talked about how hard it was going back to school after having a baby, how she was managing this around her home life, how she wasn't sure which classes to take to get a degree in Fashion Merchandising, how she was concerned about how her daughter would react to her being away from home too much, how she thought she had to take all the required classes at once, rather than spaced out over several semesters....

I sat there, waiting to have a five minute chat, for more than half an hour. When I finally gave up and went to make an appointment for tomorrow, the receptionist was shocked that I had not gotten in to see the counsellor yet.

Seeing women go crazy like that after having a baby makes me ever so glad nature had other things in mind for me.

People are Dumb


It seems that in the recent election, Orange County poll workers gave 7,000 people bad ballots.

In 21 precincts where the problem was most acute, there were more ballots cast than registered voters.
Wide margins in most races seem likely to spare the county the need for a costly revote. But the problems, which county officials have blamed on insufficient training for poll workers, are a strong indication of the pitfalls facing officials as they try to bring new election technology online statewide.

The problem is not insufficient training. Every time they say that I think of my one time as a poll worker, when it took all of five minutes for me to learn how to hand out ballots and get it right, but everybody else needed to have it repeated a hundred times. The problem is that most people are just too stupid to work at the polls without constant supervision.

I've been thinking about this this semester, taking three art classes as I am. It seems to me that the way art classes should work is that the teacher expains how to do something, shows you how to do it, and you try it out yourself. But the way it really work is that the teacher explains how to do something, five people ask questions he obviously just answered ("You pour the plaster into the water" "Do you put the plaster in the bucket first?" "No, you put the water in first" "When does the water go in?" "The water goes in first" and so on forever), then when everybody sits down to do the work, they can't remember half of it and they change things around without knowing what they're doing, then they wonder why it didn't come out right.

Some of art is skill, learned with time, but some of it is just paying attention when the teacher explains something. We had two weeks in ceramics to make plaster molds for the latest project. In that time I made three (actually four, but one was so messed up that I re-made it), and most of my classmates haven't finished their first mold yet. And they need to ask every few minutes how I did X, Y, or Z because they are rightly embarrassed about asking the teacher YET AGAIN.

So more training for poll workers is not going to help.

Why the Rhythm Method Doesn't Work


If anybody still needs convincing that Natural Family Planning just isn't reliable, this article detailing how women may ovulate more than once a month should clear things up.

So would everybody please give up on NFP and wear a condom if the pill offends too much?

Update: Apparently, this result was not actually reached by the study, but was inferred by reporters. Not that that makes NFP any more legitimate.

Check This Out


I'm working on my research project for my photography class right now -- I have to find a photographer who is like my assigned partner in the class, do some research on him or her, and make a presentation to the class.

My assigned partner is 23, from LA, and female. Finding a young female photographer is a real chore, but I came upon Stefanie Herzer, a San Francisco photographer who has done Burning Man a couple times and also does weddings and portraits. Check out her landscapes; the way she captures light is really amazing.

Puddle Dog

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We took Rosie to the park for one last puddle dunk before the water disappears altogether. She was a bit distractable, but seemed to have a good time. It wasn't as good as the other day when she played catch for half an hour, but it was pretty good.

Fun With Toxic Chemicals


I spent five hours in the darkroom today.

First I walked around campus taking pictures for my series of photos of graffiti in context. I found some interesting ones, and made some observations:

1. The best graffiti is located near places where food is sold.

I guess people tag these places so they can remember where they got something good to eat. It does seem odd, but I found a lot of great, artistic tags right near the catering truck and the little snack shack, and the stuff in between was really uninspired.

2. Taggers who use stickers are really lame graffiti artists.

I think a tag on a sticker has to be higher quality than a tag done directly on an object, because the maker clearly had more time to work with it, but usually the tags on stickers are mundane things, while the tags on objects are graceful and free.

3. There's very little graffiti up at the top of steep staircases on a windy outlook.

Apparently, taggers are lazy. That, or they don't take science classes. On the other hand, I found one tag in a lovely location by the Science building, so maybe it's just that the college cleans things up faster up there.

4. Graffiti in bathrooms and other private enclosed spaces is usually about sex.

Maybe it's because it's "shameful," or because it's "private," but for some reason, on this campus, graffiti in public is either tags or political ("Lose Bush"), while graffiti in the bathroom or in the film developing rooms (private darkrooms where you can turn on a white light when you need it) is almost exclusively sexual in nature, and almost entirely made up of people trying to use as many "naughty" words as possible. One piece I saw was basically a stream-of-consciousness list of obscenities.

Anyway, I took a whole roll of pictures of graffiti and a few other things, and then developed the film (I misloaded it because I was impatient, and lost four shots to sticking), made contact sheets, and did a whole bunch of prints. Five hours in the darkroom is a really long time. My eyes were really worn out from being around all that fixer and then going from dark to light all the time. It does get easier, but it was still tiring.

I'm In!

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I got an e-mail from CalPoly today, telling me I've been accepted for the architecture program there!

Now I don't have to worry about whether I will get into a grad school somewhere. Ah!

More Photo Fun


I took Rosie to the park to play today, and took a bunch of photos, of the park and of her, all wet from playing in the water. She was really easily distracted and kept turning her head just as the shutter went, so I'll have to see how the photos came out. I need to shoot the rest of the roll so I can develop it tomorrow after math.

Afterward the park time, we drove over to Berkeley to visit the Looking Glass, a photo supply place. I was looking for a 4x5 developing tank (I chose a Yankee Agitank because it seemed to be the cheapest thing that did what I wanted, and price was an issue; I don't want to possibly have to abandon an expensive developing system at airport security because they don't understand what it is and it looks menacing) and a loupe, and I was also going to get some 4x5 film. All missions accomplished. I also wanted to find a copy of the textbook for my photography class, but no luck; I'll have to go on reading the one in the library. I don't want to pay full price; that's ridiculous when we have two excellent books on photography already. (I also was hoping to see something about large format photography, but there was a large guy in front of the book shelves, so I was unable to peruse as freely as I would have liked.)

I ran into two of my classmates while I was at the store, which was kind of funny. It is a teeny-tiny world we live in. (I also ran into my old friend Sharon downtown in San Francisco when Noel and I were going to meet the Subversion people for dinner. It was that kind of day.)

Now that I can focus and have film to load in the camera, I'm going to take some photos with the Graphlex this weekend. I want to get comfortable enough with it that I don't have to worry about learning how to use it when we're in the UK. First I'm going to need to sacrifice some film to get comfortable with loading the film holders and the developing tank. That should be a laugh riot.

Ooo. Weird


If you're at work, don't click on this link. Unless you work somewhere that's really open-minded about singing carrots.

And from the same people, a whole singing vegetable patch.

A New Diet


I've come up with a great new diet revolution:

The I'm So Hungry I Could Eat an Entire Cow Diet


The Exercise, You Idiot! Diet

The deal is this: You can eat whatever you want, as long as you hunt and kill it yourself. You've got to do your own butchery, too, so don't get all lazy on me. This means that if you want a slice of bread, you better plant some wheat, pronto.

For you city-dwellers or black thumbs, there's an alternative. You can eat whatever you want, as long as you've done a full hour of aerobic exercise at max heartrate within the last three hours. If you skip the exercise, you can eat salad greens, no dressing.

You're pretty much guaranteed to lose weight. Or die.

Graves as Soap Boxes


I really don't want to get in the habit of commenting on the election, but this makes me sick. It was bad enough that right after the attacks, corporations were using the footage to advertise themselves (in the name of condolences; how disgusting). But for the president to use the tragedy as a campaign issue? Ew.

"September 11th was not just a distant tragedy. It's a defining event for the future of our country," Karen Hughes, a Bush campaign adviser, told "The Early Show" on CBS on Thursday. "Obviously, all of us mourn and grieve for the victims of that terrible day, but September 11 fundamentally changed our public policy in many important ways, and I think it's vital that the next president recognize that."

I think we can all agree that there are few adults in this country who do not recognize the significance of September 11 only two and a half years after it happened. Especially a candidate who served in a combat zone in Viet Nam.

Fashion Report


This week at school:

A car where clearly the owner had run out of space on the rear-view mirror to hang crappy little Japanese cartoon dolls, so she'd hung them all over the ceiling, so they dangled around her head as she drove.

Three Cheers for Oregon


Someday, the civil rights movement will look back on Gavin Newsom as a hero. His one small action, giving equal rights to all citizens, has started a landslide. Seeing people say this sort of thing:

In Washington, D.C., lawmakers debated same-sex marriages, with Republican senators such as Majority Leader Bill Frist asking Congress to embrace a constitutional amendment banning them.

means that the movement must be gaining ground. There would not be such panic if it were not a viable threat.

Day of Mad Dashes


It was one of those days where everything happened all at once, and something had to get dropped (spoiler: it was the dry cleaning). Here's my long boring post about my very busy day:

I got up extra early (6:15 instead of 7:00), took the dog out and then fed her, then cleaned up, dressed, and packed my crap up for the day. I bundled Simon into his carrier so he could go to the VCA for dental surgery, put down the cat food so Ana would not DIE OF STARVATION all day (Simon had to fast all night so Ana did, too), and headed out.

First stop: polling place. I vote by absentee ballot, but this time I could not bring myself to get it filled in in time to mail it, so I had to drop it off at the polling place. I chose to do it in the morning, because if I put it off I know I would have forgotten. So: at 7:25am I left the polling place with an "I Voted!" sticker on my shirt.

Second stop: vet's office. I drove over to Oakland and unloaded Simon on the vet. Filled in all sorts of paperwork and provided all sorts of phone numbers in case of emergency (cats can and do die during this surgery, so they want to be able to get hold of you). Fortunately, this was fairly speedy, and soon I was putting Simon's carrier in the back seat. At 7:50am I pulled out of the VCA parking lot.

The commute: this week, no matter which lane I am in, that is the slowest lane. I crawled towards the Bay Bridge with everybody else, only slower. Fortunately, I was well ahead of schedule, and even more fortunately, I was not going in the other direction, which was backed up into South San Francisco. I arrived at school with 20 minutes to spare. At 8:40am, I started walking towards my math class.

And then I realized that in an hour, I'm going to have to go the other direction on the freeway in order to get to the eye doctor's office. A hasty call to Noel got alternate directions worked out. At 9:00am, I sat down at my desk in the math classroom for a fun-filled hour of integrals.

After math (heh): I sped off campus, taking that alternate route across town. After fighting with traffic and slowness for half an hour, I made it to the eye doctor only fifteen minutes late. I hate being late for appointments; it makes me feel like a flake. At 10:45am I checked in at the opthalmologist's office.

Fortunately, they didn't see the need to give me a second glaucoma test, so I escaped having my eyes dialated. I was told the shocking news that I don't need corrective lenses for my vision because I see clearly, even though I see double (which I tell every opthalmologist every time I see them and they still seem not to believe me). The doctor seemed to think I was there about surgery, which I wasn't, necessarily, but I was willing to hear about it. He told me about a surgical treatment for my eye condition (they sort of bolster the muscle that moves one eye) and suggested that I might want to think about having that done.

I'm not a big fan of eye surgery in general, but I promised to think about it and come back if the condition gets worse, then left with my prescription for prismatic lenses. I was late for photography (but I was excused by the teacher, so this did not cause massive panic like being late for the appointment had).

On my way into class, the vet called and told me Simon came through surgery like a champ and can come home after 4pm. I finished the conversation at the same moment as I arrived at the photography classroom door. Talk about the high-pressure lifestyle. At 12:30pm, I walked into the photography classroom.

We were having a critique of our first set of prints. I was an hour late, so I had to set up on the far edge, but I did get some very nice comments on my prints ("this photograph was perfectly exposed, the film was developed perfectly, and the print was developed perfectly. The texture is absolutely beautiful" said of the vertical photo of Rosie). After having prisms and lenses held up to my eyes for an hour, I was pretty tired, so I bailed on the darkroom session and left after the lecture. I already finished the developing I needed to do, anyway. At 3:00pm I left campus.

I drove downtown and picked up Noel. On my way there, he called and asked if we could stop by his allergist's office on the way home, so I drove him across town. Then spent fifteen minutes circling the block looking for a parking space while he had his allergy shots. I finally stopped in the hospital loading zone. When he came out, he offered to drive the rest of the way home. Yay! Especially because my eyes were really hurting by that point. At 4:00pm I handed the keys over to Noel.

We dropped in at the VCA and picked up a pissed-off Simon (the bill was under $400, and that's for four extractions, so that was a bit of good news). Noel played with a dog in the waiting room while we waited for Himself to be brought out. Some boys. By 4:40pm, we were headed out the door with Simon in his carrier.

You'd think that this was the end of the Things To Do Today, but you'd be wrong. Yes, it's true that I needed to pick up dry cleaning and have simply decided that it can wait until tomorrow, but that's not all. When we got home I got to go under the house and drain the sump. (5:00pm.) And this evening, I'll be doing laundry while Noel goes out to dinner with some friends. I'd love to be able to sit and watch TV or read a book, but my eyes hurt, and I don't want to push it. Even typing this is not entirely fun. My enjoyable evening passtime of reading random blogs will simply not be possible tonight, dammit.

The Casa Decrepit Book Club


Noel asked me to recommend a book a month for him to read, so he can broaden his horizons. After some discussion of whether he wanted a clasical education in literature or just interesting stuff to read, we modified that to one non-fiction, and one classic fiction book a month. Last month's selections were:

  • Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol. This is a funny any also significant piece of Russian literature. Set late in the Empire, it tells the story of a man who wants to appear to be rich so he can court a particular girl, so he's going around buying the tax burden of the souls of dead serfs from landowners, who are suspicious of him, because they would otherwise have to pay a tax on those dead serfs until the next census, and why does he want to buy dead souls, anyway?

  • The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski. An excellent history of the form and storage of books through history.

While he has not (ahem) managed to finish those books yet, on account of not starting to read them until last night, I'm working on his selections for March. I'm thinking:

  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. My favourite Dickens, it's the story of Pip and how everybody has great expectations of him, and he gets a bit of a stuffed head because of it.

  • Trading Up by Michael Silverstein and Neil Fiske. A business book on trends in consumer spending.

Maybe he'll get to those before it comes time to make the April selections.

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