Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ugly Rock Piles

In the May issue of Martha Stewart Living, there's a profile of a landscape designer (Judy Tomkins) who has adopted as one of her "trademarks":

...stone arrangements, which she calls farmer's piles...She says she came across the idea...where large mounds of rocks were set aside for future building use;...

In other words, she saw a pile of rocks that was going to get used for other things, and decided to put piles of rocks in her landscape designs. Big, dense, ugly lumps of rock piles. Imagine a big wart made of rocks.

Rebecca and I agree: we hate "trademarks" that are ugly and stupid.

[caveat: for all I know, Ms. Tomkins is otherwise an absolute landscaping genius. Or maybe all her other rock piles are rustically charming. But based on this article and its picture, there is no one who's going to try to horn in on her "trademark".]

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Constructive Recycling

There's a cool blurb in the latest issue of Body+Soul about taking second hand clothing and making new items from the rejects. You can read the article here. Basically Urban Outfitters has an Urban Renewal line, and Goodwill has a William Good line. Aside from repurposing the clothes (or material at this point), Goodwill also provides work opportunities to those with "barriers to employment".

I Love My Gay Cousin: A Call To Action

Another call to action, but this time, it's not just from me and a fabulous organizations auto-emailer. It's from my cousin. She's the quiet one. Quite possibly the only quiet one in the entire family. And she's not all that quiet really, she's just not as loud as the rest of us, which is a form of individualism I respect. She's also gay. That is not a unique feature on our family tree. Much less unique than being quiet.

So when she sent me this email, I took notice, even though I'd already signed the petition and already forwarded it to a few friends I knew would sign but might not be on the auto-mailer.

I'm normally a live and let live kind of girl, but I feel very strongly about this. Would you help me and the rest of the Human Rights Campaign attain their signature goal and let our elected representatives know that the majority of this country stands for equality?

Here's HRC's canned letter, which states the facts much more eloquently than I ever could...
She's quiet, see. So she's got that opposite of boy who cries wolf thing going for her. Here's the Human Rights Campaign call to action:
Do you want to live in a country that legalizes discrimination? Despite the recent California Supreme Court decision that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is unconstitutional, efforts are underway throughout the country to take away rights from same-sex couples.

I joined thousands of others in showing my support for marriage equality for all. But recently, proponents of bigotry and hate collected even more signatures in an attempt to invalidate the California Supreme Court decision. And they won't stop with California—extremists are even trying to add a same-sex marriage ban to the U.S. Constitution.

We are at a turning point in our nation's history and I'm hoping you'll join me in standing up against discrimination. Please sign the Million for Marriage petition and get us one name closer to showing that Americans overwhelmingly support marriage equality!

Every committed couple deserves to enjoy the privileges and responsibilities conferred by marriage. Add your name to the petition and be a part of the movement to fight for marriage equality for all.

Thank you!
So go sign the petition. It's the right thing to do. And my cousin's girlfriend is super cute.

For more information about the Human Rights Campaign and their work on marriage equality, check out

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Innumeracy Watch: post #B

So, I'm stepping through a Flash-driven online course on computer security that I'm required to take so that I can learn how to be a HUMAN FIREWALL (always capitalized, apparently), and I learn that "RISK = Vulnerability x Threat x Asset Value". Of course, those terms on the right hand side are carefully defined for me.

Only one of them is actually a NUMBER.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Veggie Time

For your weekly veggie fix, I offer you the following selection:

We have baby squash, beets, spinach, broccoli, carrots, peas, zucchini, cabbage and breakfast radishes. Not a bad haul. We had the spinach tonight (with some mushrooms in an alfredo sauce) and I saute the squash and zucchini with one of the garlic bulbs from last week. Tomorrow is cabbage and broccoli and tofu in a sweet and sour Trader Joe's sauce. I haven't tried that one before and I haven't wanted to make since I brought it home. But, I am motivated to clear out the pantry before we move and it's my last jar of sauce.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Something to lighten the mood

The blog is bringing me down, man. All you crafty people need to get on this:

I love these guys.

When Mom's a Jarhead

So I thought when Mom's a Fed life can be tough on new bambini. Want to hear how tough it is when Mom's a jarhead, (or any member of the armed services, not just Marines, or ones that rhyme with "Fed")? NPR did a great segment this morning called, "Military Moms Face Tough Choices."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Product Review: Method Hand Wash Refill Sweet Water

I know this isn't as fun as magical realist review of an overpriced skin care product, but I was moved to blog the wonders of Method's Hand Wash Refill when my dear husband, the least contributory contributor to our fair blog, said, "That Method Hand Wash Refill is awesome! The opening is actually the correct size to fit into the opening of what I'm trying to refill, which you would think would be no big deal, but it's the only hand wash refill that does. I couldn't figure out if the package is recyclable, but it squishes down so flat that even if it's not, it doesn't take up much room in the landfill." Seriously, completely unprompted by me and, as far as I know, he gets no kickback from Method for this sort of outburst. Method states that the package uses 83% less plastic than a rigid PET bottle and it takes less energy to produce.

But packaging aside, the blogosphere is awash with speculation that Method is just well-packaged greenwashing. A quick glance at Method Hand Wash Fresh Water (the only scent available in refills in our area) entry in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database confirms that fear and makes my hands feel dirty. Method Hand Wash in Sweet Water scent scores a five out of ten meaning there is a moderate hazard. 52% of liquid hand soaps rated have lower concerns.

According to the Cosmetic Safety Database the following liquid hand soaps score a zero, which means they have the lowest hazard:

  • Desert Essence’s product Castile Liquid Soap with Organic Tea Tree Oil
  • Elysian Dream’s products Castile Liquid Soap and SuperMild Liquid Soap
  • Healing-Scents’ Liquid Hand Soap in Lavender, Tea Tree, and Germs Away
  • Terressentials Real Soap for Hands Certified Organic in the four lamely named formulations Chillin' Mint Tea Tree, Zingin' Citrus Tea Tree, Lovin' Lavender Tea Tree, and Jammin' Spice Tea Tree
Apparently Booth's Honey & Almond Hand Soap and Bath & Body Works Anti-Bacterial Deep Cleansing Hand Soap in Cucumber Melon are both made by Satan out of the elements of hell and packaged in the carcasses of spotted owls by child slave labor, as they tied for worst score, both 8s.

I went back to the previous products I reviewed and ran them through the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.
Apparently my olfactory assessment
. . . at first sniff I thought, “Fresh, zingy.” At second sniff I thought, “Instructions or no, I am not getting this noxious material near my eyes, mouth, or nostrils.” Which was quickly followed by, “Do I have Poison Control on speed dial?”
was spot on as Fresh Repair and Restore Face Balm scored a 7, 96% of anti-aging treatments have lower concerns and 95% of facial moisturizer/treatments have lower concerns.

My assessment that my pores may have appeared a bit more svelt was in fact an observation of my skin cowering in fear of neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, and a bunch of other toxicities found in the ingredients of Seikisho Mask White, which scored a 5. 69% of masks have lower concerns.

So run your daily health and beauty products through the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database and share the neurotoxicity, I mean the neurosis, I mean the enlightenment! I'm itching in anticipation.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Clinton to Assassinate Obama

The New York Times reported today:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton defended staying in the Democratic nominating contest on Friday by pointing out that her husband had not wrapped up the nomination until June 1992, adding, “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”
In a related report the New York Times captured the signs of potentially homicidal stalkers:
“I got to smell him, and it was awesome,” raved Kate Homrich, caught between Mr. Obama and a woman trying to hug him in Grand Rapids.
Conspiracy theorists, you are go for take off.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Food Fight

This picture is from Dover's Weekly Sampler which arrived in my inbox today. Same day I caught up on the goings on at the 1/10 acre sustainable homestead farm in Pasadena, California, and came across this inspiring post about home gardening and food security which quoted this very poster. Thought it was a sign that I needed to share both.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Small Farms are More Productive and Profitable

From the Organic Consumers Association e-newsletter's Sustainability Fact of the Week:

  • A 1,000 acre U.S. corporate farm growing genetically engineered crops nets an average of $39 an acre.
  • In contrast, a four-acre family farm nets, on average, $1,400 per acre.
  • Small organic farms are proving to be even more profitable. With oil prices on the rise, growing food without petroleum-based pesticides/fertilizers, and delivering that food to local markets will quickly prove to be the most affordable food available.

For more information see the abridged article on the OCA's website or the full article from the New York Times.

A Torture Memo to be Proud Of

OK, maybe "pride" isn't the right word. But certainly the DOJ OIG report revealing the bottom up assertion that torture by the CIA and Defense Department is both widespread and (quick shocked inhale) wrong, is the kind of whistle blowing memo one can stand behind.

I have no interest in standing behind John Yoo's torture memos. Standing aghast at, maybe, but not standing behind.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Veggie bounty from CSA

Tuesdays are good days. It's when I collect my choice of vegetables from the CSA that we belong to - Victory Farms - in Hanover, VA. The veggies are so fresh that the cut end of the broccoli was totally moist - not all dried out like it normally is in the store. This week, I got the collection of vegetables that you see in the pictures:

Included in the haul is (from left to right): broccoli rabe (with it's cute yellow flowers), wet garlic (a little milder than dried, but basically the same) kohlrabi, asian salad greens, carrots, easter egg radishes, broccoli, baby squash and zucchini (one with a blossom attached) and cucumbers.

We are eating the broccoli and the kohlrabi tonight in a Thai curry simmer sauce (a la Trader Joes) with chicken. Yum.

Color Theory: Q & A

Dear Rebecca, those were not dumb questions even if you knew lots about color theory. In fact, it's taken me all day to research the answers for you.

Q: Why is the completed color chart left with empty spaces? It seems like you could certainly have colors that continue on all the rows (except maybe the bottom, which looks pretty much like black).

A: I totally thought the same thing when I first saw the color charts! That was the big question that I focused on when I started reading the text. Luckily, the text addresses this issue in the first chapter. (Then I moved on to trying to understand why Munsell insists that chroma and saturation are not the same thing, which is a question for another day.)

First, the Munsell color system is based on the color gamut (all the possible variations in hue, value, and chroma that can be achieved in a medium) of opaque paint. So the number of possible chips is limited to the 1,300 or so colors which can be made with pigments available in opaque paint today.

The completed color chart has empty spaces because hue families do not contain the same number of colors. Hues have varying numbers of values. For example, yellow is a light color with a large number of uniform steps between it and gray. So the yellow chart has more chips in the top rows and fewer chips in the bottom rows. Conversely, purple is a dark color. So the purple chart has more chips in the bottom rows and fewer chips in the top rows. Hues also have different numbers of steps of chroma. For example, more steps of chroma are possible for reds than for blue-greens. Reds reach a chroma of /16. This means there are 16 perceptually equal steps between a gray paint and the most intense red paint. A blue-green, however, reaches a chroma of only /10. In other words there are only ten equal steps between the purest blue-green that can be made with paints and a gray. Therefore, although reds and blue-greens reach their highest chroma at the same value level, they do not bulge out the same amount from the gray scale.

So your observation about the lowest row on the red chart is spot on: it pretty much looks like black. At the darkest value of red which is perceptually discernable from black there are no more variations in chroma possible. That’s as red as red-black can get. And that’s as black as red-black can get. Imagine you were mixing paint. If you added red to that color it would increase the value and push it up to the next row. If you added black to that color it would be black.

Finally, The New Munsell (R) Student Color Set (2nd ed.) provides only a representative sample of the ten basic hue families. The large Munsell Book of Color includes all of the 1,300 or so colors available in the color gamut of opaque matte paint. For example, The Munsell Book of Color includes all 16 steps of chroma on its red chart and all 10 steps of chroma on its blue-green chart, while The New Munsell (R) Student Color Set (2nd ed.) reaches only /14 on the red chart and /8 on the blue-green chart.

Q: Do those colors (from the blank spaces on the hue chart) show up on another chart?

A: No, not really. Imagine you were that red-black on the bottom row of the red chart. As we discussed above, if you were redder, you’d be one of the colors on the row above. If you were blacker, you’d be black. If you had another color added to you, for simplicity’s sake let’s say blue, then you’d be on the purple chart. But no matter what happens to you, you won't land in one of those blank spots on the red chart. So there’s nothing that goes in those blank spaces, at least within the current color gamut of opaque matte paint.

Q: Do the charts fit together?

A: Yes. The far left column on each chart is the value scale from black to white. If you stood the charts up and arranged them in a circle around the color wheel with their gray scales toward the center, you would have a rough approximation of the Munsell Color Solid. In fact, you can buy just such a thing: The Munsell Color Tree, pictured at left.

As each color has three dimensions, hue, value, and chroma, all of the colors can be arranged into a three dimensional form. Due to the variations in the numbers of values and chromas among the hues, the shape of the Munsell Color Solid is likened to a wonky citrus fruit.

Back to the Color Theory Index.


You think you know sheep? Try covering up the right side of your screen and go to Gentle Reader's sheeptastic review of the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Can you name the sheep breed just by looking at the picture? Find out with Gentle Reader's 28-sheep breed quiz. And, if you can survive the woolly cuteness to the very end you get rewarded with pictures of angora bunnies!

Edited to Add 5/21/2008:
More sheep, llamas, and alpacas! And a shout out to our very own Rebecca!

Color Theory

If you are interested in color theory and enjoy jigsaw puzzles where all the shapes are the same, you might like The New Munsell (R) Student Color Set (2nd ed.).1 Robin Edmundson first introduced me to the wonders of The New Munsell (R) Student Color Set (2nd ed.) at a Bloomington Quilters Guild meeting where she lectured on color in the textile arts.2 To put it on the spectrum of books on color theory, The New Munsell (R) Student Color Set (2nd ed.) is more accessible than Josef Albers' Interaction of Color (though it is fun and I would definitely recommend it for advanced students of color or once you've got this Munsell (R) thing down pat). The New Munsell (R) Student Color Set (2nd ed.) is more technical than Deb Menz's Color Works: The Crafter's Guide to Color, another great resource recommended by Robin Edmundson.3 If you're not ready to dive in with two feet, if the sticker shock on the Munsell (R) is a bit much, or you want to keep your focus on fabric arts and not be distracted by references to painting or other studio arts, Deb Menz's Color Works might be the way to go. But if you think "color tetrads, duh," then maybe you need to move on to the Munsell (R) or the Albers.

The New Munsell (R) Student Color Set (2nd ed.) is one tool to help you understand color. Now, there's a certain approach to color that would look at this and scoff, "There are so many colors in the rainbow. Use every one!" Well, yes, but what if you use every one and still think it looks like poo? OR what if you're trying to play with color in a different way, perhaps pushing yourself beyond, "this looks pretty with that"? Not that "this looks pretty with that" isn't a perfectly viable approach to color. It certainly is. But if you're looking for a means of expanding your color vocabulary or you seek a more systematic approach to color, The New Munsell (R) Student Color Set (2nd ed.) might just be for you.

One of the most fun aspects of The New Munsell (R) Student Color Set (2nd ed.) is the charts. At the end of the first chapter one of the exercises is to apply the color chips to the color charts. Yes, your book comes incomplete. You get to fill in the blanks. Handily they provide little packets labeled by hue (see the first picture at the top of this post). Inside a packet is a tiny book of color chips in that hue (see picture at left). Now, The New Munsell (R) Student Color Set (2nd ed.) is designed for undergraduate art students, so the instructions are for the most part extremely detailed and need no supplement.

However, for those of us playing along at home, without a professor or classmates to double check our work or to suggest work-arounds, I thought I might provide a little more detail about the process I used to complete my color charts. The book recommends some pretty impressive adhesive options which are not readily available, so I tested an alternative: Scotch Restickable Glue Stick. I found it at Staples or some Staples analog. If you apply one coat, let that dry a little (maybe 30 seconds), then apply a second coat, let that dry a little (maybe 30 seconds), it basically turns anything paper into a Post-It Note. The restickability is important in this application because in later exercises you move the chips around, which would be hard if they were permanently stuck to a chart. But before you go transforming all of your color chips into Post-It chips, read on.

As instructed, I first completed my Hue Value/Chroma chart, which appears at left. This chart is handy on a number of levels, not the least of which is using the red row, which illustrates chroma, as a starting point when arranging the 5R (a.k.a. red) chart. Additionally, its handy color wheel helps you pick out which of the chips in any packet is the highest chroma hue. Finally, you can line your lowest chroma chips up along the value chips on the Hue Value/Chroma chart to figure out your first column, as shown on the left side of the third picture from the top.

To double check that your colors are in the correct order on your hue chart you can use the front and back pages, which are medium gray, to isolate each row and each column. By isolating a column you can check the value progression within that chroma and any chip from a different chroma would stand out. By isolating a row you can check the chroma progression within that value and any chip from a different value would stand out. And using the medium gray paper helps you to see the value of each chip compared to the adjacent chip rather than compared to a pure white background.

Before getting all glue crazy, label the back of your chips with the chart they belong to and whatever other information you have that might help you get it back where it belongs when it inevitably becomes misplaced. For example, in the picture to the left you can see the backs of all the chips from the 5R chart. Know how I can tell? In the bottom right corner I wrote "5R" on each and every one with a black ball point pen. The closest chip in the picture belongs in the sixth row in the second column of the 5R chart. Know how I can tell? In the top left corner I wrote "6/2" which in Munsell (R) notation means it has a value of six and a chroma of two. Once you've labeled all your chips for one chart, go ahead and apply your restickable adhesive of choice and apply them to the chart.

This is my completed 5R (a.k.a. red) chart. The New Munsell (R) Student Color Set (2nd ed.) doesn't specify the order in which you should complete the hue charts, but please allow me to make two suggestions. First, as I stated above, the Hue Value/Chroma chart is handy because its row illustrating chroma is the 4/ row of the Hue 5R chart. So if you do the 5R chart second after the Hue Value/Chroma chart you can just match your chips to that row and you've got one row in order and you know exactly which row it belongs in. This seems like no big deal, but it really is like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces that are all the same size when you tip out 30 of these chips. So if you've got seven of those chips pinned down, the rest fall into place more easily. Second, I would recommend completing the hue charts in order around the color wheel. I found that, particularly in the lowest chroma column, the chips for the adjacent hues, like from red to red-purple, almost matched exactly, which reinforces the importance of labeling your chips, but also makes arranging the chips easier than if you hopped around the color wheel, say from red to blue-green.

Back to the Color Theory Index.

1. I linked to Amazon solely because they have lots of information and reviews about the book. Presently The New Munsell (R) Student Color Set (2nd ed.) appears to be out of stock. Moreover, I received my copy from Amazon and the 3-ring binder was broken. They were quite prompt with a replacement, but that binder was also broken in exactly the same way, so I suspect either Amazon is storing them poorly or Fairchild is manufacturing them poorly. This would be no big deal if it weren't for the fact that the size of the pages and the spacing of the holes for the binder rings appears to be unique to The New Munsell (R) Student Color Set, or at least very rare. I have resorted to placing each page into an 81/2x11" page protector and placing them in a standard 3-ring binder. This actually seems like a perfectly good plan for the sheets to which I have affixed color chips, so the chips won't wander far if they become unaffixed. But for the 73 pieces of paper which comprise the 138 pages of text and 4 pages of color plates, it seems to be a bit much.(back)

2. Robin Edmundson was a very good instructor and I highly recommend taking a class with her. She teaches in Bloomington at Yarns Unlimited and at the Waldron Arts Center. I actually signed up for her class at the Waldron last fall, but apparently I was the only one. That class was scheduled to meet for six sessions. Here's the class description:

Using color effectively in your art can be one of the most satisfying or frustrating parts of the creative process. Here is a chance to learn the basics of color theory and color harmonies and then apply it to projects right away. We will discuss color descriptors, simultaneous contrast, metamerism, primary colors, color mixing, proportion, and many ways to combine colors harmoniously. Participants will learn to use several different types of color tools and put together their own Color Notebook illustrating many color harmonies. Participants are encouraged to do a project of their own each week illustrating a color harmony of their choice. Materials: Color tools such as: color wheel, Itten's Color Star, Pantone, etc. 3 ring binder, plastic sheet protectors, paper, tape/glue stick, scissors. Old magazines and catalogs to cut up. Recommended text: The New Munsell Student Color Set (available from Fairchild Publications - 1.800.932.4724.
Her specialties are dying, spinning, and weaving, but she did great with a quilting audience, so if you're looking for a quilt guild program, you should definitely invite her.(back)

3. Robin Edmundson also recommended Johannes Itten's Color Star, which is a particular type of color wheel as far as I could tell, and Color by Accident by Ann Johnston, which focuses particularly on dyeing. I briefly perused both of these after the guild lecture and settled on Deb Menz's Color Works as my "if I can't persuade anyone to buy The New Munsell (R) Student Color Set (2nd ed.) for my birthday, this will do nicely" choice. But if you're into dyeing, I think Color by Accident might be preferable to Color Works.(back)

P.S. This post is dedicated to Bob, who gave me The New Munsell (R) Student Color Set despite its outrageous price tag. I love you, man.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Proud Hillary Keep on Burnin'

This morning I was talking trash at the breakfast table about Senator Clinton oughtta just drop out of this race and so forth. Then on my daily errands Creedence Clearwater Revival's version of Proud Mary came on the radio at the same time I saw the following bumper sticker:
Dissent is the purest form of patriotism. - Thomas Jefferson
It's a sign that I should not begrudge Senator Clinton her continued campaign. Proud Hillary Keep on Burnin'.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Greentown, U.S.A.

During my daily perusal of Re-Nest, the blog formerly known as Apartment Therapy - Green, I discovered that Country Home has released a list of the Best Green Cities in America.

Some cities near and dear to us made the list. Here they are with their rankings.
Madison, Wisconsin: 17
Bloomington, Indiana: 101
Athens-Clarke County, Georgia: 144
Rockingham County-Strafford County, New Hampshire (home of a certain prep school): 177
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Georgia: 210
Raleigh-Cary: 235
Richmond: 250

When Mom's a Fed

Another call to action, this time from, a group that I believe started as an off-shoot of when after the 2004 election MoveOn did a survey of members to find what issues they were passionate about and found a group of members interested in bringing important motherhood and family issues to the forefront of the country's awareness and working to create both cultural and legislative change.

The U.S. government employs over 2.7 million people, but it's not a family-friendly employer. Did you know that the U.S. government doesn't offer their employees any paid parental leave days after the birth or adoption of a new child? Not one day.

Federal employees are essentially employed by each of us--after all, our taxes pay those salaries and we elect the “bosses.” That means that you have the power, with your vote, to be the type of employer who supports families and a family friendly country -- and you can start working to make that happen right now:

Tell your Congressperson today to support the Federal Employee Paid Parental Leave Act:

Then pass this message along to friends so they can tell their Congressperson too.

The Federal Employee Paid Parental Leave Act (H.R. 5781)[1] would give all federal employees 4 weeks of paid parental leave. When we pass HR 5781, over 2.7 million workers in the United States will have the right to paid parental leave, and we will be setting a standard for the rest of the nation to follow. It is expected to be up for a full House vote soon, so contact your Congressperson now!

The federal government should be setting the national standard for creating truly family-friendly workplaces. Instead, it is forcing its own workers, the very civil servants we rely on, to choose between family and a paycheck.

Tell your Congressperson today to support the Federal Employee Paid Parental Leave Act:

Thank you!
--Kristin, Joan, Katie, and the Team

Thank you to the National Partnership for Women and Families, as well as the bill's sponsors listed below, for their work on this issue.

1. Federal Employee Paid Parental Leave Act (H.R. 5781) was introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) to provide all federal employees 4 weeks of paid parental leave. The bill just passed out of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee with the support of Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Chairman Danny Davis (D-IL). It is expected to be up for a full House vote in the next couple of weeks.

For more information see :

This is the same organization that is asking women to send Senator McCain their resumes in response to his statement after the failure of the Fair Pay Act in the Senate that instead of legislation allowing women to fight for equal pay, they simply need "education and training." Awesome.

Edited to Add 5/17/2008:
Unnamed Former Coworker: parental leave... what are you not telling us ma'am? :) i would be a good babysitter by the way.
Sarah: (A) I am no longer a federal employee, so this is really about supporting YOU and your coworkers who might want to have kids some day. So the question really is are you not telling me something? :)
(B) I am not pregnant.
(C) I will not contemplate endeavoring to become pregnant until after I pass the California Bar Exam in February 2009 at LEAST.
(D) I will take your babysitting offer under advisement.

"I thank the pernicious commentators for giving me an opportunity to shed more light on this issue." - Ali Eteraz

Listening Suggestion: Next Broadcast of Fresh Air

Just heard on NPR (pronounced "nipper") that the next broadcast of Fresh Air will be a rebroadcast of Terry Gross's 2006 interview with Reverend John Hagee, one of John McCain's favorite supporters, in which he states that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for a planned Gay Pride Parade in New Orleans.

The high road would be to condemn the media's attention to the connection between Hagee and McCain just like one condemned the media's attention to the connection between Wright and Obama. Just letting you know, in case you wanted to take the high road.

Yesterday's Bumper Sticker of the Day

Spay and Neuter Your Pets
(and your weird friends and family members)

p.s. This is our 101st post!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Loyalty Oaths

Monday I received the following People for the American Way call to action email.

Imagine losing your job because you took a principled stand.

Wendy Gonaver was hired to teach two courses last fall at Cal State Fullerton but was fired because she refused to sign a "loyalty oath" without being able to add a note explaining that her religious views as a Quaker and pacifist would prevent her from taking up arms.

That's not the American Way.

Ms. Gonaver was perfectly willing to sign the oath to uphold the Constitution as long as she could clarify that she wasn't committing herself to military action and that she had free speech concerns with a compelled "loyalty oath."

People For the American Way Foundation has sent a letter to Cal State on Ms. Gonaver's behalf urging the school to change its policy and allow employees who have religious or other objections to signing the "loyalty oath" to append an explanation of their views that would then allow them to sign the oath. The University of California already has such a policy in place in order to protect its employees' religious freedom and free speech rights.

Please join us by signing a petition urging Cal State to adopt a policy that doesn't violate religious liberty and freedom of speech.

We've included our suggested new policy below.

Please help us make sure Cal State does the right thing now by standing up for Wendy Gonaver's constitutional rights.

-- People For the American Way Foundation

Text of state "loyalty oath:"
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter."

Suggested new policy statement for Cal State University:
CSU recognizes that some of our employees may have religious or other objections to taking this oath. It is our policy to accommodate the religious and other beliefs of our employees by allowing an employee to append an explanatory statement to the employee's signed oath.

You can read the entire text of People For the American Way Foundation's letter here:
Petition link:

While it's bizarre and objectionable that California still has this type of loyalty oath for state employees, the particular concern raised in the PFAW call to action seems to have been addressed a few months ago, at least according to this article. Why PFAW is getting on it now, with a different Quaker, is not clear.

Now, maybe this Quaker has other issues, or Cal. State Fullerton is being much dumber and more annoying than they should be, or both. But this article indicates that this problem has an amicable resolution, and the topic of the loyalty oath has been brought up in public and condemned, at least by hippy journalists.

On their website PFAW refers to an L.A. Times article.

I told you that story so I could tell you this one.

This call to action resonated with me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my grandfather's involvement in Wieman v. Updegraff, 73 S.Ct. 215 (1952). My grandfather, a World War II Navy veteran, was a philosophy professor at a state college in Oklahoma at the start of the McCarthy Era. When Oklahoma, like many states at the time, instituted a loyalty oath for all state employees, my grandfather and a few other professors did not subscribe to the loyalty oath.

A group of "citizens and taxpayers" filed suit to enjoin officials of the State of Oklahoma from paying these professors for their failure to subscribe to the loyalty oath. The District Court of Oklahoma County enjoined the state officers from paying my grandfather and his fellow professors. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma agreed with the district court. My grandfather and his colleagues appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

As one of a series of cases considering legislation "aimed at safeguarding the public service from disloyalty," the Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Mr. Justice Clark, held that the statute requiring state officers and employees to take a loyalty oath that they are not and for five years immediately preceding the taking of the oath have not been affiliated with or members of organizations listed by the United States Attorney General or other authorized federal agencies as a communist front or subversive offends due process by reason of the indiscriminate classification of possibly innocent with knowing association or membership in such organizations.

Now, that may all sound well and good from the good guys win in the end perspective. But to put it in a little more context, my grandfather, who was supporting a wife and three children at the time, lost his job and was blacklisted. He went from teaching philosophy to being a migrant farm worker. In its opinion the court briefly touched on this, quoting Judge Learned Hand.
There can be no dispute about the consequences visited upon a person excluded from public employment on disloyalty grounds. In the view of the community, the stain is a deep one; indeed, it has become a badge of infamy. Especially is this so in time of cold war and hot emotions when "each man begins to eye his neighbor as a possible enemy"
My grandfather eventually returned to academe. Years later his badge of infamy took the form of skin cancer caused by his time laboring in the fields.

Update 6/3/2008:
The Chronicle of Higher Education (which has a subscription only site) reported today that Cal State-Fullerton and the lecturer reached an agreement over the state loyalty oath. The instructor and the university have negotiated the language in an explanatory statement that will allow her to sign the oath.

The words I wish I got to define

So, a little while ago I posted a query on Curmudgeon Gamer, namely What is Ludology? This was an honest question, but asked with ulterior motives (more on that later). And the answers I got were perfectly reasonable.

But then I had to get all fancy-pants and search the Web. As always, big mistake. Not accidental porn big, but big.

At this point, I will digress by explaining those ulterior motives.

When I was young and naive, I came across a brilliantly excitingly named branch of mathematics called "Game Theory". Naturally I said to myself, "holy crap! Pretty darn smart of me to become a mathematician -- now I'll get to play games for a living!"

In case you aren't aware, "Game Theory" is a bait-and-switch ruse right up there with "Greenland". Somehow they managed to take the field of strategic game-playing and restrict it only to games no one would ever want to play. (Apparently there was some analysis of actual games in there at the beginning, but that was swiftly excised, lest anyone actually enjoy themselves.) Even worse, it turns out Game Theory is actually useful in economics, so there are hundreds of books on super-boring "Game Theory" that are actually not about games at all, just taunting me.

Now, as time went on, my interest in games has actually increased, and I desperately want to make a living from analyzing and studying (and playing) games. Real games, that are fun. But I had learned that "Game Theory" was not that.

So while explicitly I was asking "What is ludology?", implicitly I was pleading "Ludology is the immensely fun and cool analysis and study (and play) of games, right? And someone will pay me to be a ludologist?" I mean, how could it not be? "Ludo" is from the Latin for game (ludus), and "-ology" means "study of", so ludology must mean study of games, which is what I desperately want an official legitimate-type word for, right? (Put your hands down, eager beavers -- we'll get to it!)

Now let's return to that horrible "search the Web" idea.

It turns out "ludology" is in fact a pretty widely used term in the field of "game studies", which is a catchall term which presumably includes analysis of the play of games, but also refers to things like game sociology, game criticism & history, game computer science, and pretty much anything that some academic wants to publish that refers to a game. (How game studies should relate to the design of actual games is a topic of some debate.)

But of course ludology doesn't mean what I want it to mean. Oh no. Ludology is both a field and an ideological position, in opposition to the field/ideological position of narratology. Narratology is meant to encompass the study of essentially anything with a story, abstracted from its medium (so movies and books and soap operas and arguably videogames all use narratives, and can all be understood under the narratology umbrella). Ludology pushes back, saying that games are fundamentally _not_ just narratives. Just like narratives occur in different media, so do games (board games, card games, tv game shows, videogames, etc.) and instead of just lumping them in with the narratives, the ludologists say, the play and rule elements of games set them apart and they should have their own umbrella field that discusses the nature of games (abstracted from the medium) the same way narratology treats narratives. And that field is ludology. (The perspectives with horrible -ology names doesn't necessarily stop there: here's an article promoting a "paradigmological" approach.)

While the five word definition of "ludology" is still "analysis and study of games", the meaning behind that is very different from what _I_ was talking about. It asserts a political standpoint (games aren't narratives), and because of that standpoint it is necessarily chiefly concerned with the ontology of games, which is a fancy way to say trying to answer the question "what is a game?" Furthermore, the conflict between ludology and narratology as disciplines pulls them both further away from usefully relating to actual games, which of course require both gameplay and story.)

I understand that any "-ology" needs to make some effort addressing what they're all about, but that's Chapter One of the Intro to -ology book. (Remember reading the "What is Life?" section of your biology book?) The rest is the interesting stuff. You don't take archaeology and spend the whole time learning about "what is old stuff? what makes this the old stuff we study and that the old stuff we don't study?"

Oh, and am I the only one who's annoyed by taking a random word and putting "-ology" at the end of it? "Narratology" is obviously made up, and the natural counterpart "gameology" is equally stupid (no offense intended). But who thought digging up a Latin word to put before the (Greek) -ology would make it more acceptable?

Thankfully, their failing is my last shot. Someone stole Game Theory, Ludology seemed like a good idea but someone stole that too. However, "pediology" would be more consistently Greek -- although people might think it has to do with studying children and/or feet ("paidia", I am told, means "a childish game or amusement"). Equally confusing would be "scholeology", but perhaps even more appropriate: according to footnote 7 on page 5 of this paper (PDF link), the Latin ludus might have been used as a conscious parallel to the Greek schole, which referred both to leisure time and to school.

So, I coined it, I get to define it: I'm a scholeologist, which means that I analyze and study forms of games and game rule systems, both in terms of objective strategies and results and in terms of entertainment value and human-game interaction. I don't study the role of games in society or the society of gamers (what I would call game anthropology), although we might have useful things to say to each other; and I don't study games solely as vehicles for learning and cognition, although that's exactly what I'll tell the funding bodies when I apply for grants, if they'll buy it.

There might be ludologists who would say what I do is ludology (certainly it's not narratology -- I plan to never use the word "Aristotelian" again, and they seem to like it), and maybe I'll come around, but for the moment it sounds too political and "the nature of game-ness" for me. If the hypothesis "the positive effects of rubber-banding such as in Mario Kart for casual players can be achieved with less negative impressions from competitive players if more information is hidden from the players" isn't ludology, then I'm happy to make it scholeology. (I don't know if it's a true hypothesis or not -- possible future paper? :) )

Just in case there aren't enough links in this post, and/or you got here because of a conjunction of search terms, you might want a summary bibliography of books from various sides of game studies. For that, check out this excerpt from yet another book.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Change is not an option, it is THE option.

(via Atrios)

This is horrific. Read it. Because you need to know.

Seriously, this the sort of scene science fiction writers put into stories to let you know it's set in a dystopia.

Oh, but there's more. (Here's a summary in case the NYT wants you to log in.)

You know, about 81.3% of the country think we're headed in the wrong direction. And 15% think we're headed in the right direction.

You 15% need to get on the freakin' bus.

It's broken. We need to fix it.

Really, always true

Another excellent rule from the blogosphere: when the media generates its description of you...
you don't want to add the word "incontinent" in there anywhere.
blog it

Indirect posting from Rebecca

(2:59:01 PM) me (Goog): Rebecca just sent me
(3:01:21 PM) Sarah: LOL!
(3:01:32 PM) Sarah: She must post it to the blog. She must!!!
(3:01:38 PM) Sarah: I love ageism!

I don't care if Hillary drops out or not

(This is basically a comment I made to this post over at the Citizens. I figured it was long enough that I might as well post it here too.)

Unfortunately, it seems that the "electability" argument the Clinton campaign has emphasized is being interpreted as racism by some, and that seems to be a root of the deep division in the party.

Fortunately, I have a solution!

All the hootin' and hollerin' about Hillary needing to drop out is based on one fear: that she really is in contention. If it came down to near-even pledged delegates, and backroom wrangling of superdelegates, it would be unseemly, unDemocratic, and characteristic of the chaotic big-tent can't-get-it-together narrative associated with the Dems. Even if you think she can't win, you must think that she can make it close, or you wouldn't care whether she was running or not.

But if, as Dr. S indicates, you think Hillary has no chance, then it's no big deal. Jerry Brown ran all the way through on principle, as many others have done, and it didn't sunder the party because it didn't really matter. But he made his point, and I'm sure his supporters appreciated his continuing to the end.

Hillary's saying she appeals to the working-class whites that might otherwise vote for McCain? Okay, we should listen to what her appeal to them is, maybe even put something in the party platform from her policy proposals -- heck, offer her some appropriate cabinet position or blue-ribbon panel to chair. Because that's what you do with also-ran candidates to re-unify them and their constituency to the party.

The only people claiming that the Clinton campaign has a chance is the Clinton campaign. If the rest of the world (starting with the Obama campaign, since the media is physically unable to admit the horse race is over) just takes that with the salt it deserves, very quickly the statements of the Clinton campaign are filtered through that lens, and I think they appear very different and much less threatening.

Making Clothes Out of Loops of String

If you've been hiding under a rock for the last five years or so you may have missed the newsflash that knitting is all the rage. Kids knit. Teens knit. Punk rock girls knit. Grown up women who really do have better things to do knit. All the cool kids are doing it. And knitters are cool. They speak in code using words like "steek." They have their own swear word too: frog. For example, "I had a 'growing problem' with an acrylic yarn recently. I made a cardigan out of 'fitted knits', and it was fitting nicely, gauge was on. Then I washed it, and the whole sweater just, grew. Now it is much too big and I think I may have to frog it."
Yet, no matter how cool knitting may be, I shall never be a knitter.
I have a confession to make. I was one of the last students in my grade to learn how to tie my shoes. And it wasn't just because I came of shoe-tying age at the dawn of Velcro(tm) sneakers. I was just plain no good at tying shoes. I am still not very good at it. In fact, I only own one pair of shoes that requires tying, my hiking boots. My knot tying inability is not congenital. My brother is a knot tying fiend. Name a knot, he can tie it. My aunt and a cousin are both sailors and use knots for things for which the rest of us would break out the duct tape.
So when my cool knitting friends offer to teach me to knit I explain that I can barely tie my shoes, therefore I don't think I can make clothing out of knots. To which our favorite, nay, our only reader, Gentle Reader, a.k.a. Thalia, the purveyor of the fabulous blog Dogs and Laughter replied, "Actually, knitting is making clothes out of loops, not knots." Which instantly and completely BLEW MY MIND!
To illustrate what a rockstar knit mistress Gentle Reader is, I present to you the yoga sock. She heard my cries of, "My feet are SO cold during yoga class, but woolly socks on my toes are too slippery." Her response: she designed and executed these gorgeous yoga socks. Sun salutations in a Maryland direction! Thank you, Thalia!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A brilliant post update

"I thank the pernicious commentators for giving me an opportunity to shed more light on this issue."

From a brilliant post explaining that in fact Obama isn't a Muslim. Because extreme obtuseness is a very popular trend right now.

More on Harvard donations

You'd think I had a thing against Harvard, but really it started because Brad DeLong's a Harvard alum. And Harvard's the richest example, but of course the issue is private universities (and more broadly, all private schools, and the topic arises because of the high price of education generally).

Anyway, Matt's got some further discussion. This time, Jim Manzi suggests that viewed as a hedge fund with great tax shelter, Harvard's doing pretty good. Of course, this seems to target the tax status of universities, asking why they're so special. The same argument's been made regarding churches over at The Citizens some time ago.

I'm no high-finance guy, but I wonder if the hedge fund analogy makes sense. Surely I can get my money back from a hedge fund investment? I don't think Harvard'll give you your donation back with interest.

But it does remind me what I was mulling yesterday when I posted the first installment on this. The criteria for charitable donations is usually not simply a matter of the most good for the most people, or at the very least a donor uses extremely individual definitions to evaluate the "most good" part. I love my NPR, but it doesn't save very many lives. Many charitable donations, especially alumni donations, are personal in sentiment -- otherwise you'd give to the biggest college, or the college with the best graduate employment results, or something. But no, almost everyone gives to their college.

So coming back to the point, just because Harvard doesn't turn your donation into your profit, doesn't mean it doesn't pay dividends. (And again, Harvard is the shining example, but this is true of other fine institutions of higher learning also.) Maybe giving Harvard the richest endowment also ensures it stays on top of the prestige chart, which aggrandizes all those donating alums. Some crazy Marxist might go on to say that Harvard will then promulgate the advancement of the elites and so the "charitable donation" is maintaining the patrician system (or something like that -- I'm not a crazy Marxist, so I don't know what words they like to use to say "it's all about the Man keepin' the people down.")

I guess I'm saying that Matt seems to think that all those Harvard donors are mistakenly giving money to their alma mater when they probably meant to give it to deserving charitable causes. I suspect that they know what they're doing and what the effect of their donation will be: they did go to Harvard, after all. :)

Follow Up: Field Trips in Fiber Winnings

Last week you may recall my bloggy victory dance celebrating winning a give away contest at Field Trips in Fiber. Monday I received the much anticipated reward. My winnings arrived wrapped in robin's egg blue tissue paper. The sticker holding it shut was printed with one of Vicki's pictures of the birds nesting in her yard. You can just make out the open mouths of hungry baby birds in this picture. Along with the package was a lovely note on Vicki's super cute personalized stationery.

Enclosed in the tissue paper were four beautiful fat quarters of hand dyed and hand painted fabric made by the author of Field Trips in Fiber, Vicki Welsh.1

If you want to learn how to apply surface design like this to fabric yourself, Vicki's article about making these metallic painted fabrics will appear in the next issue of Fibre&Stitch.

For more information about dyeing and painting fabric, Vicki's blog posts provide almost a comprehensive guide to both techniques. Check out the dyeing and painting fabric category on Field Trips in Fiber.

Any suggestions regarding what I should make out of it?

1.A "fat quarter" is a quilting term for a quarter yard of fabric, measuring 18" x 22". Its dimensions are "fat" compared to a standard quarter yard of fabric that measures 9" x 45".(back)

Videogames -- still not evil

Just a little link to direct your panicked parent friends to: in what must be a surprise to everyone, a big 'spensive study found no evidence that violent video games make kids violent. Who'da thunk it?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Assuming I had a can opener...

Sarah's brought up the issue of who to give your money to
before, and even though it's comparatively late, we should give credit to Brad DeLong for addressing the topic and arguing that Harvard doesn't actually need any more money.

Which I suppose raises a good point. Frankly, the two charities that have me wrapped around their finger are the local NPR station and PEA and I don't know why. I don't think those are the causes I care the most about. Are they the experiences I liked the most? Do they just run the better fundraising campaigns?

On a related note, my current employer is very keen on me donating money to them. As a cause, I'm somewhat sympathetic, but the whole scheme rankles greatly. What, my pay isn't paltry enough, I'm supposed to give some back? And then you can go to other donors and say "look what suckers our faculty are, we've exploited every atom of their generous nature" and that'll make them give you money too?

Bob's a syndicated columnist without the syndicate. Or the column.

It's been brought to my attention that not everyone knows the panoply of blogs out there that I occasionally post to. "Why aren't all those posts over here at Gnomicon, where you never post?" I was asked. "I didn't think you'd want to read those," I replied. "I'm like 50% of the Gnomicon readership and you bothered to mention it to me," I was rebuked.

So anyhow, there's several blogs in the Bob postiverse, and sometimes I cross-post to more than one, so don't let the deja vu overwhelm you. First there's Gnomicon, where I post stuff about books, politics, things I think Sarah's interested in, and other stuff that sounds smart. Then there's Halfwit On Blogs, which mostly is just cross-posts of stuff that comes from elsewhere on the web. So if I post something here about Brad DeLong's take on Harvard's endowment, it'll probably get posted over there too.

More interesting (to me) is Trollkien, where I post about Dungeons & Dragons (yes, I am 12, and yes, it is 1979) and other fantasy-geek stuff like that. (yes, I read comic books, and yes, it matters to me that Cap was right.) If that's not nearly enough D&D for you, then by all means check out the action at the dndblog, where I'm actually playing in a campaign.

There are some other blogs that I'm not the sole proprietor of: notably the related pair Curmudgeon Gamer and Game Journal, where people far more into videogames than I talk about the business of videogames and their game playing experiences, respectively. (I post both places occasionally, also -- you might actually be interested in my Game Journal post about playing Rock Band.)

There are elusive dreams of at some point sorting out a beautiful multifaceted blogsite, with an overarching sort of RSS feed collector for the brave few who want to read about everything, and specialty blogs that send those feeds to the big blog, maybe one about crafts and one about games and one about politics and so forth. But these are only wisps of fantasy at the moment.

Post-Mother's Day

I'm a firm believer in the conspiracy theory that Hallmark is behind most non-vacation holidays while the banking industry is behind most vacation holidays. Cynical, party of one, your table is ready. And until today I thought Mother's Day was just such a Hallmark fiction. But then I read a bit of the origin story of Mother's Day on a friend's blog. Did anyone else know it started as a protest for peace?

I find this particularly interesting because this year I felt like honoring a mom who isn't mine or my mother-in-law. She's a family friend whose son, who is my age, is currently serving in Iraq. One day awhile ago she received a call at work from his branch of the armed services. Imagine all the thoughts that ran through her head between being told who was calling for her and that long walk to the phone. Thankfully they were just calling to check on her and see if she needed anything. But phone call or not, those thoughts must be running through her head all the time. She puts a brave face on whenever she talks to her son. This Mother's Day I wanted to let her know that she's an amazing mom for supporting her son, even though she didn't choose for him to join the armed services. She's an amazing mom for waking up and going to work every day with all those thoughts running through her head. She's an amazing mom because at this stage in her life I bet she thought worrying about her son wouldn't be such intense work.

And she's just one of hundreds of thousands of moms worrying about children in the U.S. armed services. What if we took back Mother's Day from commercialism? What if we made it more than just a day to especially honor our own mom's, which should be every day? What if we honored its origins as a call to unite women against war?

While you ponder that for the 363 days until the next Mother's Day, read a Mother's Day greeting to Nancy Pelosi from Karen Meredith, the mother of Lt. Ken Ballard, who was killed in Najaf, Iraq four years ago.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Brita: Take Back the Filter

I subscribe to an e-newsletter from the Organic Consumers Association. The latest edition had the following call to action that I thought my gentle readers might find interesting.

You probably didn't know that Brita, America's #1 water filter, is owned by Clorox. Brita helps its customers feel good about filtering water without buying untold numbers of plastic bottles. Indeed, the Brita filter option is much better than purchasing bottled water. With that said, the U.S. version of the Brita filter is currently designed to be disposable. Hundreds of thousands of plastic Brita filters needlessly flow into U.S. landfills, while in Europe, the same company is providing those cartridges in a recyclable form. As a result, Brita is currently being pressured by consumers and to change its policies. Learn more about how you can send in your used Brita filters to pressure the company to make the green shift:

The post sounds a little conflicted, like it sort of thinks that Brita filters are just a sham, but what if they're not? Like maybe they want to say the truly righteous path would be to take action to make your local water supply safe to drink straight from the tap for everyone including people who can't afford bottled water or Brita filters. Maybe while you're lobbying for safe water, you can also lobby for recyclable water filters.

Edited to Add 5/22/2008:

An update from the Organic Consumers Association:

READER'S QUESTION: A reader writes to us regarding our article calling on readers to pressure Brita to begin recycling their water filters, as they do in Europe: "I do happen to use the Brita filter system. It would be wonderful if the Brita company did do recycled water filters. However, I do not know of any other water filtration, or water filter systems who do have a recycled filter system in place. Are you aware of any? Frankly, I felt I was doing so well with water filter systems as opposed to packaged bottle water, that I did not really think about how the filters could be 'recycled manufactured'."

OCA RESPONSE: Yes, as noted in our article, using the Brita water filtration systems is a much better option, environmentally speaking, than buying bottled water. As for companies that offer home water filter recycling, you could check out & If you have a Brita system already, you can send those used filters to

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Follow Up: What Would Jesus Buy?

What Would Jesus Buy?, the best film at last year's Silverdocs film festival, releases on DVD May 27th.

From producer Morgan Spurlock (the creator of Super Size Me, another fabulously fun documentary) comes a serious docu-comedy about the new religion of rampant consumerism. The movie follows Reverend Billy and the "Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir" as they embark on a cross-country mission to save Christmas from the Shopocalypse: the destruction of humankind from consumerism, over-consumption, and the fires of eternal debt!

View the trailer and get the newly available DVD.
It's also available to add to your Netflix queue.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Beatrice Samols

At Bea's 93rd birthday brunch at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead, I gave her a courthouse steps pillow, which featured a yellow fabric with bees on it, in her honor.

BEATRICE SAMOLS, 93, of Sandy Springs died Tuesday, April 29, 2008. Graveside services were held April 30 at Greenwood Cemetery. Rabbi Neil Sandler of Ahavath Achim Synagogue, where Mrs. Samols was a lifetime member, officiated.
Born Beatrice Leonora Kolker in 1914, in New York City, Mrs. Samols grew up along the shores of Far Rockaway, Long Island. She was the oldest of four siblings. . . . She graduated from Brooklyn College during the Great Depression with a degree in music and education and pursued graduate studies in education at City College of New York.
She had a passion for cultural arts such as opera and the symphony, loved gardening, and was a voracious reader. The New York Times served as her daily source for world events, politics and the arts, and she was one of the longest subscribers to The New Yorker. She played bridge, golf and tennis.
During her graduate studies, she visited relatives in South Africa, where she met her husband, Reuben Samols, and lived for 37 years. She was an active member of the South African Association of University Women and served as president for many years. The group's mission during her tenure was to further the educational opportunities for black girls and women during apartheid. Mrs. Samols worked to raise money to purchase books and finance scholarships for black women. Mr. and Mrs. Samols moved to Atlanta in 1976 and remained here. . . . Survivors include daughters and son-in-law; grandchildren and their spouses; and great-granddaughters. Memorial donations may be made to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

This obituary originally appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times. Her great-granddaughter Darcy has the pillow now.

Monday, May 05, 2008

How do I keep it positive when faced with this?

So I've been chatting with the Obama volunteers who have knocked on my door just about every day for the past week and they're all about keeping positive in the face of people wanting to get all negative about Clinton. Very impressive stuff. But how am I supposed to maintain my positivity when Clinton's campaign is connected with disenfranchising voters? If you've been following along, I'm big on three things: quilts, criminal justice reform, and meaningful voting rights, not necessarily in that order. I thought at least two of those three things were fundamental tenets of the Democratic Party. It seems Clinton disagrees with me.


Back at IQF/Chicago I took another fantabulous class with Sue Nickels. The class was about how to make a scalloped edge to finish a quilt (which is described in her book Stitched Raw Edge Appliqué). My first class with Sue Nickels was on machine quilting at the Indiana Heritage Quilt Show. During that class she offered her collection of Superior Threads for sale. At the time I wasn't sure how into machine quilting I'd be (if you recall that was when my non-Bernina sewing machine up and died) and whether her threads were really the best threads for what I wanted to do.

After that class I took three more machine quilting classes. In every class every teacher stressed the importance of thread. And in every class every teacher recommended, among a few others, Superior Extra-Long Staple Egyptian Cotton Thread, and at least two of them mentioned Sue Nickels' collection by name. Sue Nickels' thread collection is Superior King Tut Extra-Long Staple Egyptian Cotton 40 weight (i.e., slightly heavier than what you'd think of as standard thread which is usually 50 weight), 3-ply thread.
And it comes in these neat tone-on-tone variegated colors which change color every inch, as opposed to some variegated thread which has longer color changes, which can make one area of quilting look way darker than another as opposed to giving the whole quilted area a sense of dimension and depth. So when I went to her class at IQF/Chicago, I bought her thread collection. Unfortunately she was all out of them at the show. So I received them in the mail today. I've got one baby quilt all basted and ready to quilt after my Bernina Mastery class covers how to use my Bernina Stitch Regulator tomorrow at Shiisa Quilts. I'll follow up with a full report.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Field Trips in Fiber is Made of Awesome

Many moons ago one of the quilty blogs I regularly read referred to another quilty blog: Field Trips in Fiber. I read through the older posts and immediately bookmarked it. It's written by a woman in Virginia who quilts, dyes, and does surface embellishment. Nine times out of ten she posts about those topics and when she doesn't it's gorgeous pictures, lately of the birds who nest in her yard. (I love that one of my criteria for a good blog is staying on topic for the most part . . . guess we don't fit my own criteria very well). Also, I haven't found another craft blogger who shares Consumer Reports-esque product/technique tests like Vicki does (e.g., she performed an in-depth analysis of curing fabric paint).

Well, I was out of town for most of last week so I had to catch up on all of the blogs that I normally check daily on Friday and Saturday (it's a lot of blogs, and I'd missed a weeks worth of posts). I came across a post offering a give away at Field Trips in Fiber. I looked at those boxes and thought about some of the boxes I've received from online quilt shops and thought, "These folks are guessing way too low." So I left a comment with a guess. I don't know how I feel about my first comment on her blog being a comment for a give away. I'd like to say I have insightful things to share about her posts every day. I certainly get inspired every day. She shares so much great knowledge and experience I guess as a novice I don't feel I have much to add (e.g., her curing time tests for fabric dye). And she explains things so clearly I don't have any questions (e.g., her fabric dyeing gradient test).

Long story longer, I got an email and check out today's post at Field Trips in Fiber. I won!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Obama on Criminal Justice

I have talked a lot about Clinton's tough on crime stance, but I don't know that I've given enough information about Obama's position. As a State Senator, Obama passed one of the country's first racial profiling laws and helped reform a broken death penalty system. According to his website these are his four main criminal justice goals:

1. End Racial Profiling

Obama will ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and provide federal incentives to state and local police departments to prohibit the practice.

2. Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Support

Obama will provide job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling to ex-offenders, so that they are successfully re-integrated into society. Obama will also create a prison-to-work incentive program to improve ex-offender employment and job retention rates.

3. Eliminate Sentencing Disparities

Obama believes the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.

4. Expand Use of Drug Courts

Obama will give first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in the type of drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior.

And for some of that famous Obama rhetoric, I give you an excerpt from his remarks at Howard University's Convocation in Washington, D.C., on September 28, 2007.

As President, I will also work every day to ensure that this country has a criminal justice system that inspires trust and confidence in every American, regardless of age, or race, or background. There's no reason that every single person accused of a crime shouldn't have a qualified public attorney to defend them. We'll recruit more public defenders to the profession by forgiving college and law school loans - and I will ask some of the brilliant minds here at Howard to take advantage of that offer. There's also no reason we can't pass a racial profiling law like I did in Illinois, or encourage states to reform the death penalty so that innocent people do not end up on death row.

When I'm President, we will no longer accept the false choice between being tough on crime and vigilant in our pursuit of justice. Dr. King said it's not either-or, it's both-and. We can have a crime policy that's both tough and smart. If you're convicted of a crime involving drugs, of course you should be punished. But let's not make the punishment for crack cocaine that much more severe than the punishment for powder cocaine when the real difference between the two is the skin color of the people using them. Judges think that's wrong. Republicans think that's wrong. Democrats think that's wrong, and yet it's been approved by Republican and Democratic Presidents because no one has been willing to brave the politics and make it right. That will end when I am President.

I think it's time we also took a hard look at the wisdom of locking up some first-time, non-violent drug users for decades. Someone once said that "...long minimum sentences for first-time users may not be the best way to occupy jail space and/or heal people from their disease." That someone was George W. Bush - six years ago. I don't say this very often, but I agree with the President. The difference is, he hasn't done anything about it. When I'm President, I will. We will review these sentences to see where we can be smarter on crime and reduce the blind and counterproductive warehousing of non-violent offenders. And we will give first-time, non-violent drug offenders a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in the type of drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior. So let's reform this system. Let's do what's smart. Let's do what's just.

Yes I Can . . .

I just returned from voting. I can feel the world changing already.

Augie and Izzy can feel it too. Based on Augie and Izzy's neighborhood yard sign count Obama is winning by a landslide. In fact, in all of Bloomington they have only seen two Clinton signs.

If you're in Bloomington and you're trying to figure out this early voting thing, swing by the Curry Building, which is at 290 W 7th St between Bloomingfoods and College Ave. They have reserved parking for voters and a little flier in the window with the hours they're open. I was the last voter today, so head on over tomorrow so you can cast your vote. I believe they're open on Saturday and Sunday.

Tuesday is the big day of course. The U.S. Supreme Court in their infinite wisdom has upheld the disenfranchising I.D. requirement, so, Hoosiers, don't forget these tips for voting:

  • If you are registered and will be 18 or older by November 4th, 2008, you can vote in the May 6th Primary.
  • When you go to vote between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., you must bring with you a Photo ID issued by the state of Indiana or the U.S. Government that has your name and an expiration date after November 7, 2006.
  • Acceptable ID includes Indiana Driver's Licenses, Indiana state photo ID card, a U.S. Passport, U.S. Military ID or Student ID from an Indiana state school, so long as it includes a photo and an expiration date.
  • And if this is your first time voting, make sure you bring an acceptable document that shows your current address -- such as an Indiana driver's license, current utility bill, bank statement, or paycheck.