Thursday, April 30, 2009

I am actually blogging about my fingernails.

I can not even believe how boring and trivial that is. If I am this boring as an art student, I wonder how boring I will be as a middle aged person. (It is not ageist. Middle aged people routinely have midlife crises from the pressure and boredom of their lives and commitments. Not all of them, but definitely the Writing About Trimming My Fingernails crowd gets in too much of a rut by like 45, and then they crack.)

Okay. I have long awesome strong nails. All the time. They grow fast, I clip them only every week or so, and they are really nice colors and have nice nail beds and smile lines, such that covering them with nail polish makes them less pretty.

When I was a cellist this was a problem, because you are supposed to use your fingertip, not your finger pad, to press down properly and do vibrato and whatever. The last time I had nails as short as right now was when I was 14 and my cello teacher refused to start teaching me vibrato until I cut them all the way down. Having to press on the metal wrapped strings with my newly exposed nerve endings was so bad. Just, soooo bad. So I never did it again.

Fast Forward six years! My nails got so so bad. Catching the unicycle messes up my right middle and index fingernail. I have to wash my hands a lot in art class. And I have started nervously putting my left thumbnail, middle fingernail, index fingernail between my teeth and twisting. I am not biting them off, but it makes them split. I have been wearing nail polish just to make my nails a little reinforced. Today I broke my left middle fingernail while closing my trunk. (I also hit myself in the chin closing my car door today. The back of my chin. That is how jawtastic I am.) I kind of think there might be a nutritional deficit in play. Maybe I should buy a multi vitamin, because I am doing my best already at balanced but low effort meals.

Today since I had two totally broken off nail tips I cut my nails on those fingers All the Way Down. Then I cut off all my other nails (I am so bored right now. I am sorry.). Then I cut them down even farther, until the smile line became too small a length to be discussed in terms of millimeters. They are like .35 millimeters. I ran my fingers through my hair- gah. Skin crawling. My fingertips are too sensitive. It's like if someone peeled off all my skin and then I hopped in the shower. Too intense. You can see the ends of my fingers way out past the nail. It is weird.

I care kind of a lot about nails, actually. I have reviewed all of my nail polishes on (My username is calisparkle, which I believe I chose facetiously. It's ironic, see, because I live in a beach town in california, right, and I have an affinity for shimmery or sparkly body lotion, mist, bronzer, and whatever.) I am so fixated on my nails that I have done a sketch for an abstracted portrait of my thumbs.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Unicycle Take 2

Okay. I stayed off the unicycle for ages. I need my knees. I am going to be working this summer in a job that involves carrying buckets of paint and ladders and bed frames up and down 4-5 flights of stairs. 2 people last year had to stop because of their knees. 2 out of 15. So I am being really careful, and trying to decompress my bones, and only riding for 20 minutes. I am also trying 2 things- my chiropractor said that I might do better wearing more absorbent soled shoes. So I have stopped using my thin soled cycle shoes with gel heel inserts, and have put those inserts and my ball of foot gel inserts that I liberated from some high heels into my Shoes for Crews shoes that I had to buy for El Pollo Loco. They have these little suction embossed crosses on the bottom so I can walk on wet tiles, but that actually does not come up in my life anymore. Thank God. I am probably damaging the non slip sole by walking and falling on asphalt. Oh well. Maybe when they are filed down I will be able to walk on a regular floor with them without going squidge. The second thing I am doing is only riding on level ground. My whole neighborhood and all of Santa Cruz County is on an incline. There is a little patch of the parking lot that is flat, and the neighboring parking lot has a good long flat stretch.

However, I started out on the slanted parking lot near my house, figuring that it would be easier to crawl home from there if neccessary. I was a little worried about whether my body would remember how to unicycle at all. (Do you ever make little deals with yourself? Like if you sleep in, before you look at the clock you assess the latest time you would be okay with, say 10 am, and if it is earlier you refuse to be discouraged? And if it's later you are allowed to be briefly dissapointed? I decided that if I rode like I had never been on a unicycle I was allowed to cry, but if I could get at least 10 feet I would be happy.) I got on and was very encouraged. I traveled about 6 feet: I got on, pedaled, and immediately fell off. 5 minutes later I moved to the flatter, farther away parking lot. I am definitely worse, but it might be the shoes. I have gotten the best result from my cycle shoes, and my other sneakers are just looser or slippier or something. The farthest I could get today was about 30 feet. It is hard to say how far I traveled because I was not trying for a straight line, just for staying upright, so there was a lot of wavering and veering. I think I could also have gone farther if I had pedaled faster. There is a trick for staying on, when if you start to fall you lean forward and carry on pedaling, but this means that when you do fall you are going kind of fast, which I think is bad for my knees/pelvis. Also I have lost 6 lbs. (of thigh muscle. From not unicycling.*) which according to a Kaiser commercial that I saw three years ago relieves 24 lbs. of pressure from my knees.

Tommorow I am going to juggling club, and I am going to work on free mounting. Right now I have to use a post. It is very hard to work on free mounting because it is difficult and not exciting. When you have got a unicycle and a bit of pavement, trying for at least a respectable bit of distance is irresistable.

*This is really true. When I started unicycling I went down a pants size (kind of. I was between sizes, and I moved to fitting best into the smaller size), and when I stopped I went down a pants size again. I can still wear all of my pants though, they are just loose and kind of unflattering.

Art 4/29

I am so tired. I really think I am sick. I was standing on a chair to take these pictures so I could be closer to the skylight, and my legs were shaking, it was sort of scary. So I climbed down and used the flash, and the pictures are terrible. I could have gone onto the balcony but the dog would start crying, and she cries for at least 20-40 minutes every time she notices people are around and not playing with her. Going outside to take the pictures would have the same effect, as the balcony is over the front door.
In art yesterday we played Exquisite Corpse, the juxtaposing co creation game. We made dozens of little creatures, then pinned them to the wall, drew numbers, and chose a creature. I was #1 and picked the deer headed creature on the left, and then we got to go back up after everyone went and I picked the half headed girl on the right (no one had chosen her! And she was my tied for first choice!) I was using blue crayon, so both of these are ones I co created. I do not know if that is why I picked them. There was a really nice fish headed boquet that I didn't choose because everyone else wanted it, and I wanted to see what someone would do. And then we were supposed to create a narrative or context for our characters. I was so excited to have a half headed zombie squid and a steampunk robot deer devil to work with- it is a very liberating game.

When I first made this I was really pleased, because it is so different from my usual thing, except that it has in it bones, tentacles, and a dik dik. So it is kind of my usual thing. I feel like it is more involved and chaotic than the sort of placid fantastic scenes I conceive of left to my own devices. But at the same time it turned out really generic. I decree that I like it, with reservations. I am so tired.

Now, the spine->skull transition is not very good. I did not want to deviate too much from the original character, and I did not want it to be a human zombie with a jaw. Whatever. If this was a homework assignment (those are more intensive than the studio assignments) I would sketch a few different skull/mouth/spine combinations. I wanted it to look sinister but not threatening. I don't know.

I fell asleep at 6:30 last night, and was wide awake by 2:00am, but now it is 10am and I am either tired, or hungry, or sick, or something. But, between 4 and 6:00am I had a lot of fun padding around the art studio at school (parking is free from 8:30pm-7:00am!), drawing on the chalkboard and sketching and eventually leaving because of the chill.

Now I am supposed to do the mentor dialogue on a digital ground and/or grid distortion. I have some thumbnail sketches that I like, but I feel like they aren't engaging enough. Instead of a dialogue with Bosch I am more having a listening-in-on-the-Bosch-Dali-dialogue. I was kind of interested in a Boschian fantastic hooved biped creature with a Dali kind of terraced pavilion saddle. Like on the spindly legged elephants. But I don't know. I feel like that is kind of boring and static, and the ground I have prepared so far is a pamphlet of magic tricks glued to a sheet of paper. I don't know. Seeing my sick reflection makes me want to do a hellscape of black buildings and smoking lakes and turbulent clouds with a little curled up caitlan in the foreground. (sane!) But how does the magic tricks background connect to that? I don't want to stretch it like if I was doing a critique, I want it to legitimately add a layer of meaning and intrigue. I also don't want to make a different background, because the only things I really have are xeroxes of Bosch paintings, Dali postcards, scrapbook paper, a map, library card catalogues, and an old course catalogue.

Well. It looks like adding depth and layers to my background will be a good start. Also maybe I should change my mentor to Dali. I sort of feel like basing things on a 15th century flemish painter makes my sad little derivative drawings better because they are not immediately, iconically recognizable.

I am stalling from climbing all the way back up to the living room.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Art 4/28/09

Today in Astronomy they showed us a Tesla Coil and it was neat. I drew a picture of it on top of a bisected star chart, for art, in my sketchbook. Tesla Coils are neat because they shoot electricity and can light up things that are not touching them. I slightly was not paying attention to the reason they work, because I had to finish my sketchbook for art. But Professor Vogt said that there are fields around us all the time, but we can't perceive them. Then we got little rainbow maker slides and looked at different elements burning in tubes, such as neon and sodium. They all burn different colors, and when you look at them through spectroscopic (rainbow) film, it divides them into their component colors. It is interesting to see. Professor Vogt said that the city of San Jose is replacing their sodium lamps (they look orange, and only take up a little part of the spectrum) with LEDs, and then Lick Observatory won't be able to see very well because LEDs fill the spectrum.

I am really pleased with this drawing. The assignment was to do a drawing from our mentor and push it into personal territory. I started with the lower part of the center panel of Bosch's The Temptation of St. Anthony and for my personal territory component I picked loving my bed.

This is kind of based on the Wee Planets, especially because the lower planet is the same kind of photograph as the Wee Planets.: a wide angle photo of the milky way, with the horizon all around it as a border. And then I tried to draw an alien rocket ship, but it looked too much like the fish I had just drawn. So I drew a plesiosaur rocket.

I am soooo tired. I have been needing huge amounts of sleep, like 13 hours, or two 7 hour shifts. Yesterday and last night I had to make do with a 7 hour shift and a 5 hour shift. It was very very hard to get out of bed, and I managed not to feel tired until about an hour ago, when my legs actually got weak while walking home, and I have collapsed on the couch. Possibly I am ill. Normally you get sick right in your center, in your head and your chest. And my head and chest are fine. I don't know.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Art: my favorite 2 pieces so far

The assignment was to make a still life with a theme: memento mori, knowledge, or food. I immediately chose knowledge, but I have this awesome hourglass and I really love skulls. So, I did a walrus skull, and you know what, I know it is confusing to put in an hourglass but I tried to make it look like the urgent and exciting need to do an adventure, or something. So yeah, those are some sketch and notebooks, a book of conversion rates and formulas from 1904, an hourglass, a walrus skull, and my moon globe. I got called out when we reviewed our projects. My professor said when you do a sphere you are almost challenging everyone to judge it. I pointed out that it is a lunar globe, hence the brightness, but they are right, it is not as perfect as I could have made it. The photo looks really good, but actually my brights are not bright enough in real life, especially on the skull.

This is what I worked on today. It is a studio practice for our next homework. It is supposed to be an enlargement of an existing digital (?) image onto a collaged "ground" made up of black and white text and graphics, no photographic sources allowed.* It can either relate, or not relate, to the ground. And our final version, due thurs, is supposed to draw from our mentor and/or use grid enlargement/distortion techniques. (People are visual, or people are verbal, and nothing in the world can make a right brained artist describe what she is visualizing in a way that 25 students can create it. We were all so confused.)

So, for this, I used an extremely enlarged enlargement of a tiny (<1"x1") portion of a Salvador Dali postcard I have. He is not my real mentor, Bosch is, but really Bosch was Dali's mentor also. I was planning to do a Bosch-non-flaming-Garden-of-Earthly-Delights-giraffe on the right, but I felt it would be too "busy" looking, so I just copied the Dali and stretched it out a little. I think giraffes might be my favorite animal, because I have always really liked them. You can tell, by the way I spent an hour drawing one on fire.

I am probably secretly a sociopath. But in the original Dali the giraffe is on fire also. And Dali, of course, was totally well adjusted and everything.

I really liked looking through my old scrap papers and notes for this, the ones that I have kept through move after move, for no real reason. I think that using them as the ground for various collages is an interesting way to let go of/utilize** them, like when people use old clothing in quilts.

*Here is what I used for the ground:
> card catalogue index cards that I liberated from the library
> a small envelope
>worst case scenario survival postcard
>little printed out powerpoint slideshow from some bio class I took in hs
>red and yellow and black scrapbooking paper
>diagrams of indigenous american stone carvings from a flyer

**some people really hate the word utilize, because they think the word use can be used just as well in nearly all cases. I think there is the same complaint made about mobilize in place of move. But you know, they are totally wrong. Shades of meaning are valuable for precision of thought and expression.

Art: Very quick gestural drawings

So these are really, really rough, I spent between 10 and 60 seconds on each, and they are done with a lump of charred driftwood I found on the beach. THIS IS WHY I AM SAD WE HAD TO BUY FIXATIF INSTEAD OF USING HAIRSPRAY AS FIXATIVE.

No, this does not look like a pigeon. Yes, it is meant to be a pigeon. Pigeons do not hold still for even 1 second, let alone the 12 seconds I spent on this drawing.

Anyway, I think it is kind of a milestone to be able to make recognizable images instantly.

Art: Struggling with pen and ink and ink wash

A kind of unspoken requirement in art class for every assignment is "don't make terrible work". This is impossible for me when doing ink washes. This is supposed to be an enlargement from a photo using a grid. Lots and lots of people made nearly photographic works. I would venture to say mine is the worst. I am going to redo it in charcoal for the final portfolio because I find charcoal more manageable.
Today (yes, there is saturday studio) we were supposed to revise one of our landscape drawings (that's mine in charcoal on the right) using a different medium. I chose ink, because ink is very difficult for me and a landscape is sort of forgiving, particularly since I already made all of the decisions about layout and everything in the first version.

I really struggle with ink. Really, really. Partly because it is permanent and unforgiving. Mostly because I find it a little unpredictable, with the blotching and the pooling and the dripping. That is the worst excuse ever: "This liquid is liquid!" but it is true. So I did some mock ups of pine needle branches in lieu of working in an erasable medium.
Here is my finished work, which I am actually reasonably happy with. I spent about 2 hours on it. I think the decision to layer pen and ink and ink washes was good. I started by using my original charcoal sketch to do a rubbing, so I wouldn't have to spend any time on the sketch, then I deliniated some branches with vine charcoal, then I went over the lines with a bamboo pen, then I filled in everything with medium dark ink wash, then I went over the shadows with bamboo pen, then I added texture with the bamboo brush, then I defined some branches and foliage with the bamboo pen. It was a slow process.

1st day of art class

For our first day of drawing we had to use as many of our new tools as possible to create a layoutly (nooooo idea what the word for that is, right now.) compelling composition by repeatedly drawing the same object from different perspectives and sizes. Mine isn't very compelling. I did not really realize I was actually going to spend 2 hours on it, so I filled the space too quickly. Also, I picked a really unambitious object, and was bored of it very quickly. I doubt many people can draw the same jar 10 times for 2 hours without getting terribly bored.

Art: Seabrite Cell Drawing

So for our weekly hw in art class, we had to go to a site, and really, really experience it, and then convey those experiences realistically and in other drawings experimentally and experientially. I picked the beach. Of course. Now that I have a car I go to the beach about twice a day, except on days that I have school. Sometimes if I am much to busy even for a short beach walk, I take the long way home from the grocery store and just drive past it with the windows down, singing really loudly.

This one wasn't to hand in since we are sort of forbidden to work from photographs. I don't really know why I did it, except that I wanted to practice the concrete structures and I was too bored to do one that didn't have a figure.

Here is my shadow on the sand, and my friend's shadow. He is juggling behind his back. I can tell I did not really convey that, but I have no idea how I could have.

This picture was ridiculously difficult. This is my second attempt, which I was working on right up until class started, and which needs to be blended and refined a lot more. I was hesitant in doing that because I don't want to lose distinction. I don't know how to fix it. I can fix up the foreground jacks but the ones covered in seaweed, and farther away? I defined them a little with charcoal pencil, but it is still very unfinished.
This is what I was drawing, in case you are not familiar with seaweed encrusted, seawater eroded gigantic concrete jacks, as in fact many people are not. The ones in my drawing are on fire because one of the "cells" was supposed to be inspired by my mentor, Hieronymus Bosch. Also because I could not at all remotely do the waves in charcoal without them just looking really overworked.
This is my sketchbook rough draft of a wave crashing on the rocks. I am aware that it does not look like that, because my professor asked me what creek it is, so I think it must look like a waterfall, rather than a watercrashup. She suggested I look at Japanese ink drawings of waves. I was too embarrassed to say that I was trying to emulate them by vague, distant memory. When I looked them up, I didn't really like them. That is not how whitewater looks to me.

So this is what I ended up with. I like it, actually, I think I captured the flowing pools of water and the cliff fairly well. The foreground is not sand at ground level, though. It is the edge of the cliff I am sitting on.
I love this item very much. I thought my sketch was decent, but my prof thought the darks were not dark enough, which I think is fair, although I was secretly pleased with the sort of narrative/adventury quality I managed to convey.
I used woodless pencil, which is like a pencil made of only graphite, with a thin plastic shell bonded on. It means you have a really expressive, but still precise, pencil. It is my favorite drawing tool, but unfortunately I can't use it for most of the projects because it doesn't stand up to the scale required (usually 18x24, although for the cell project we just did 5-9 drawings totalling 2 18x 24 pages)

Hm, I remember last year when I went to the beach in order to draw, and I had brought only a pencil, and when I sat down to draw the water I realized my drawing would consist only of plain horizontal lines and I went swimming instead, resolving to return another day with colored pencils. But now, now I would not even need a pencil, I can use bits of charred driftwood.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Drawing is a little hard

I am taking an intro drawing class. I am quite average in the class. This is bad because I need to get a B or A in order to count it toward my requirements. But, it is also good because it is because we have Art History majors (and an art hist prof on sabbatical auditing) and photography majors, and 2 Theater Arts majors. They really could be taking the art for non majors version, I am not sure why they are in 20A rather than 80A, except that 80A is certainly very full.
This is a subtractive drawing, where you give the whole page a midtone with charcoal, then try to get everything else lighter and darker. Class ended before I finished the highlights on the right one, but I will finish it for my Final Portfolio.
I am really impressed with this one. It is sort of the same, you start with black paper and you add in the highlights. I think highlights are much easier to see and record than are shadows.

And then, right when i was getting the hang of still lifes, we had to start landscapes. Mine is a little wavery and undefined, but I am fairly happy with it.
We had to do pen and ink + inkwash landscapes. I picked an over manicured lawn, so there was not really anything to draw, until the shadows started lengthening. I occupied the time by inventing various paintbrushes, such as this one made from grass and a kneaded eraser.

So, on the whole, art class is not going very well. I enjoy it but I have a hard time working from whatever thing is handy rather than working on specific finished projects that catch my interest. I also have noticed a weird range of ability, that seems uncontrollable. Sometimes I can do very precise work, and sometimes I feel like I will never be good at drawing or enjoy certain techniques. We are doing manual grid enlargement and distortion right now, and i think i might scrap my enlarged ink wash tonal portrait. A lot of people are making almost photographically precise enlargements, thanks to the grid, but I for some reason can not. My re do is going to be in charcoal, because it is a little easier to work with.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Here is a small rant about education

I think people might not respect the art department. Possibly. I was guilty of doing that the other day in studio when the prof was demonstrating ink washes on a sheet of paper tacked to the wall. I thought, "I don't think profs get ink on the walls in any other department." and then we went outside to do our ink washes (wow, I am not that good at making these look balanced.) and a tour group went past, and before sharing the stats about the library the tour guide was like, "They like to bring a lot of the art students outside sometimes." We aren't pets. What a poor assessment of what we were doing. "THEY LIKE TO KEEP CHEM MAJORS INDOORS WITH POISON." Whenever tours go past the studio the guides point out the same thing- the lighting. Yes, there are windows on the buildings and skylights. That has almost nothing to do with classes, or projects, or anything.

Whenever I tell people my major, I immediately follow with, "And it's a lot of work being an artist." People sometimes raise their eyebrows, and if they are like a bio major (we have loooooaads of those at UCSC) I follow up with saying that ideally I would live before photography like Horatio Robley and document flora and fauna in newly discovered foreign lands, but I am probably going to settle for being a science illustrator. Because I love science. Sometimes if someone is a business major, I will mock them a tiny bit about the relative ease of earning a wage in their discipline vs. mine.

Speaking of wages, Dad even does the dismissing art majors: it is implied when he said that I will have a unique advantage in the art world because I can work with others and meet deadlines and not be flaky.

But it is a fact that our deadlines are constantly extended because no one seems to bring their completed assignments on the day they are due.

You know, this is exactly the opposite of what my high school teachers said college would be like, and no one is calling them flaky.

And do you know what, (and this goes back to grade 3) you don't have to write in cursive, and only some assignments need to be typed. AND DO YOU KNOW WHAT, I DO NOT EVER HAVE TO USE THE DICTIONARY EVER. AND DO YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE THERE IS NO MATH WHATSOEVER IN COLLEGE.


It is hard because I totally knew they were wrong, but I do not like having that validated. Also it is a bit weird to get upset about my competence surplus. But really, it is lying to tell a 9 year old that looking things up in the dictionary is going to be an important skill for them forever, so they must learn it posthaste. Also if I think about phonics at all I will have to lay down.* Why on earth are children burdened with so many useless things? School should just be a long series of problem solving and critical thinking exercises, interspersed with life skills such as interest rates, and also interspersed with creating their own 12 year long encyclopedia compilations. Um. And Art Time. Because art is an important discipline.

*no, I am thinking about it. If I ever had to read phonetically (I learned to sight-read, ages before I had to go to school) I would probably read subvocally, and it would take so much time I would hate it. The last time I sounded out a word was never, because that does not work, because letters do not correspond perfectly with phonemes and obviously not stresses. Actually the last time I sounded something out was today when I was behind a license plate that said VANPYR2. Thanks, phonics. That really enriched my life. Totally worth 18 months of my childhood. Maybe if children only had to learn phonics if they couldn't read yet.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Good morning.

I would like to be relaxed, and easygoing.

So I was watching television yesterday, and an ad for a comedian kept coming on. In it he misused the term irony, but he misused it more completely than possibly anyone ever has. I eventually had to turn off the television.
"I find it ironic that the name of the product I use to protect my couch should I happen to spill my drink on it is actually called scotch guard."


also I wonder what an aneurysm feels like and what I should do when I am having one.

and okay, it is not just that he said it and did not notice his misuse of the word. Maybe he had stage fright. I don't know. But it was also made into a commercial, which I gather a lot of editing or something goes in to.

Authenticated. That word, if dissected, should almost be synonymous with "falsified". Things cannot made authentic, they just are authentic or they are not.

You know what doesn't bother me very much? Misuse of the word "literal". It really used to, and I have got over it, which makes me hope I will get over the irony thing. Oh, wait, now that I am obsessing I have realized that over use of the word literal does not bother me, such as someone saying they were literally up until 4 am worrying about words. That is wrong, but it is not too problematic. I do get distracted by people saying "literally" to mean "figuratively" but it is an auto-antonym, like "cleave" and that gives me a word and concept to be pleased with. Like "sandglass" or "envelope".

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The impending apocalypse will not be too bad.

I mean, for some people it will. Like diabetics, probably, and people stationed alone in foreign countries by the Peace Corps when flights stop running. But more broadly (by which I somehow mean "for me personally") it will be an exciting test of human ingenuity and adaptability. And an important demonstration of people's ability to commit and come through when there is something tangible at stake.

Pretend there is a picture of our garden here. It is a closeup of one of the raised beds used to grow a mixture of kale and other salad greens. The bed is made of woven willow sticks and could have been made 500 or 10 hundred years ago. Stuck into the edge of the bed is a sturdy stick about a foot and a half long, with a little solar garden light stuck askew to the top.

To me that is what the apocalypse will mostly look like, the one that Octavia Butler and loads of other writers were (and are?) very concerned about. Sort of a breakdown of advanced production (if nothing else because the lines of material supply are unfunded or politically impracticable) compounded by the way things are produced for obsolescence will mean that things will get more and more patched together with duct tape, and sticks, and twine, and scraps of old clothing. Well, not twine, no one has twine. I don't even know 100% what twine is, honestly. Dental floss, then, and cables, and wires.

And it won't be too bad. Oakland and Santa Cruz can sustain life better than, say, the outback or the mojave, and people manage/d to live there without propane and orowheat bread.

I do not think the survivalists are right. They have this thing where they stockpile for the end times, artillery and flour and a generator and gold, and I don't know. That makes me feel uneasy, the idea that in the absence of stability somehow everyone would become an enemy and the only way to survive is by creating and protecting a tiny compound. Because actually even if you have a 5 year supply of rice... you are at some point going to have to adapt. (I do think it is good to store things in order to use them in an emergency, because emergencies happen all the time, to someone, and it is feasible to be able to singlehandedly see yourself through them, unlike the apocalypse.)

And I think knowledge is too widely disseminated for a new dark age, which is another thing science fiction writers like to explore: a medieval time 500 years hence. If nothing else, low printing costs mean that textbooks are amazingly well distributed. I bet I could be a pretty good doctor given a couple of years to examine the flow charts and stuff. I already can prove the heliocentric orbit if you give me a couple of years of pointing at the sky, saying, "see? see that right there? See how Venus' motion is retrograde?" (um, initially heliocentrism meant the sun was the center of everything, not just the solar system. I do not know what is the center of everything, or how to prove it using pointing at the sky.)

Okay. Now I am imagining a nifty modern pioneer homestead at willow house. It involves using the whiteboard to keep sun off the chicken coop after the sun gets too hot and the markers run out, and then melting beeswax onto a kitchen plate to use as a new whiteboard. Also I am trying to think of what we could do with the washing machine. I think the dryer could have a little fire under it*, and be used to smoke cure meat, but I don't know for the washing machine. Maybe I could learn from the book How Things Work, and make it hand cranked.

Also there is no interior way to get to the roof that I know of. You have to go up the outside with a ladder. Dad, it is going to be way easier to build interior stairs to the roof while you have electric light and can look up online how to do it, and buy materials from a store. And way easier to harvest our roof potatoes if there is a real way of getting up and down.

*This is really what dryers have, I know from the one at the hostel that was 3rd hand and made to work 18/7** and had no bottom panel so the gas flame was exposed.

**hey. does that make sense? 24/7 would mean 24 hours per 7 days, right? But it means... 24 hours per each of 7 days. Ask me about newsprint. Ask me about further/farther. Ask me about per vs. as per. Ask me about acronyms where the last word is both an initial and tacked on to the end, like ING Group. ASK ME ABOUT 1 BILLION MEANING EITHER ONE MILLION MILLIONS OR ONE THOUSAND MILLIONS, AND SOMEONE THOUGHT IT WAS SMART TO TELL THIS TO A CLASSROOM OF TINY CHILDREN WHO THEN HAD TO RETAIN ONLY THE POPULAR MEANING, WHICH INCIDENTALLY WAS THE NONE RYTHMICALLY ALLITERATIVE ONE. Also I am sorry for the capitals because people use the shape of words to read, not just the letters, and same-height letters interfere with that.

Supposedly China can do math better not only because of effort, but also because their pronounced numbers are much shorter than ours and so longer strings can be memorized. But I think in net efficiency we are doing okay because we have only 26 letters to contend with. Well, it is really whatever 26 doubles to, because of lower and uppercase letters.

getting along

Reading this article, I was shocked at some findings:
  • Only 53% of adults know how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun.
  • Only 59% of adults know that the earliest humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time.
  • Only 47% of adults can roughly approximate the percent of the Earth's surface that is covered with water.*
  • Only 21% of adults answered all three questions correctly.
I was so surprised that I wanted to share it with someone and be reassured that, you know, the sample size was small, or something. So Ashley was the only person in my living room at 9 am, and I read out the first stat, and probably because it is early she comes back with:
"I don't know how long it takes for the Earth to go around the sun"
and okay, I have taken 3 more astronomy classes than she has, I know that. But she is majoring in, you know, science, so I was taken aback and blurted out:
"It takes a year, Ashley."
"Oh yeah, huh?"
And I immediately felt bad but didn't know what to say, so I shared the dinosaur stat and she joked that it was the Flintstones, confusing people. So what I am trying to say is I successfully grasp rudimentary science, but in terms of sociological competence I need extra help.

Also it says that only 1% of Americans know the percentage of water that is fresh, and I totally thought it was 1%, but it is 3% with one third of that being in usable form.

So, wow, I have just totally duplicated the results of that study with a sample group of 2. (Actually Ashley probably knows the fresh water percentage from taking environmental science classes, but I was not going to bombard her anymore. Because she left.)

Monday, April 6, 2009


Right now and in the last year, I have two kinds of thinking (over! simp! li! fication!) and one is sort of dreamy and make believe, wondering and awed. The other is very, very concrete and immediate, and unimaginitive. I seem not to be able to integrate the two very well. Today I went to a sweat lodge in North Berkeley with Dad and Liz and Betsy, and two of the rounds (I think a round is when the lodge is sealed and hot water poured on fresh heated rocks) were for offering prayers. Everyone prayed, often at length, and we went in a circle. It was like the thoughts I have after the communion at mass, where I kneel and think about who I want God to help. Except we were sharing. And it was very dark, and hot. It is supposed to be a womb. And for the longest time, after each prayer or when the praying was something I didn't understand because it was in another language, I would worry what to say when it was my turn. All I was thinking about is how glad I was to be a single birth. (1st kind of thinking) Then we had a break and started the second prayer round and it was coming to my turn. I switched to the second kind of thinking to try and come up with something respectful and thoughtful. "I am sitting on the ground." I thought. "Ground. Sitting on the ground and it is hot. Sitting in a circle. At a sweat lodge. Sweating." none of my thoughts were a prayer. I did not know why everyone had to say their prayer because I was feeling the intended purification during the stillnesses; it was not a situation that called for verbal prayer.* After the woman before me gave a really stirring prayer for her countrymen, I improvised, "I am glad to be healthy. I am glad to be strong. I am glad to be free. I would like, also, to be lucky."

I went home this weekend partly to gather my things but mainly so I would not be missed at Easter, because it is not a religious holiday for me and I am not interested in the secular version. That means I need to mail my family some Easter cards. I just have my two divergent thought systems to work with. I started with one for my Nana. I respect her religion and it is culturally mine as well. I made a simple brown, red, and white card and am now trying to write a message:
"Dear Nana, I hope you are having a lovely Easter." and I do. but expanding on that, the resurrection and spring part... eh...
"Easter is April 12th. Easter. Easter. Oestor. No. Easter. Jesus. Most important day of the liturgical year. What is liturgical. Focus. Lovely Easter and.... and... East. er. She doesn't have to fast now. Why, she can get anything she'd like at McDonald's. Weird Al's parody of Whatever You Like.** No."

Dear Nana,
I hope you are having a lovely Easter. Well, of course you are, Christ the Lord is risen today! Have a wonderful Easter season.
love, Caitlan

For Mom I am making something spring based, like a sapling or an egg. For Nick I will probably make a joke emo easter egg or some such thing. I am stuck on what to do for Dad because he was a little cross that I am not doing Easter, and I don't think he likes my beliefs. I want to make something jokey but still sweet, not something critical. My first thought was a little flowchart of how Easter formed. Oh, I thought of a really funny joke. It involves extinction and skeletons. Luckily Dad and I have the same kind of sense of humor.

*I think after more than 15 years of working at words, dissecting them and playing with them and manipulating them, I have given them a fair shot and they are not for me. They are mostly just a distraction, like flies. A tiny portion of words are sublime but on the balance they are detractors.

**On Fridays in Lent, Catholics do not eat red meat, only fish. So, McDonald's invented the Fillet o Fish. Nana never eats fast food but when I visited her last we had to eat lunch while the car was being fixed, so we went there. And it was a friday in lent. But of course I only like meat sometimes, so I got french fries and she got fillet o fish. And this is unrelated. And it is a parody of this. Now you are all caught up culturally.