UMass has a Sunwheel. It is a tiny astronomical henge designed and built by Dr. Judith Young. She installed one, and it was mowed over, then she and some students installed another and it was … modified, and finally she filed paperwork and got another department onboard and chose the driest piece of swamp she could find, and installed the third, which stuck, and eventually she added much larger pieces of Goshen stone to the outside, and it is quite delightful.
In non-pandemic times, there are faculty presentations at each solstice and equinox. This year there was a filming of a presentation, and us peons milling about in the background.
The thing about an equinox that is very different from a solstice, is that the sun is changing rising and setting locations, and times, at maximum velocity. The equinox has to be attended at the date and time established or you have missed it. The place the sun will set tonight is about 4o south from where it set last night, so catching it means something.
For one 24 hour stretch, everyone around the world had the same amount of daylight and darkness. For everyone, the sun rose properly in the east, and set as precisely as possible in the west. It is nice to think about, when everything else is on fire.
Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so. After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns, we ourselves flash and yearn, and moreover my mother told me as a boy (repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored means you have no
Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no inner resources, because I am heavy bored. Peoples bore me, literature bores me, especially great literature, Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes as bad as achilles,
who loves people and valiant art, which bores me. And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag and somehow a dog has taken itself & its tail considerably away into mountains or sea or sky, leaving behind: me, wag.
Programmers and authors know for certain that some problems that feel intractable yield readily to being described to an interested observer. When an interested observer is unavailable, they can, and do, describe the problem to an inanimate object in their vicinity – a rubber duck, a stapler, etc. This is a known phenomenon, and many people have sympathetic ducks or other (toy) creatures on their desk for exactly this reason.
I am having what I am fairly certain is a rubber duck problem – I have finished two pieces using the same palette, and the same techniques, and I think (I think) one is kind of a hot mess, and one is a really solid piece of work. OR… it could be that one is a step towards more intricate work, and the other is too simple. OR … you get the idea. They could both be doing interesting things in different ways?
The biggest issue with my rubber duck, is that she doesn’t say much.
Those are the second 100. 135 is AWOL but I am certain it is on my table, but shuffled under something. I have not yet gotten the pin backs on 171-200, when I do they will go on the next cork board.
I’m not certain I ever talked much about why I am making these, or why I am still making these. I started the project January 22, 2020. I have, in the past, made a fabric postcard every day for a year(2007)and five years after that a circle every day for a year(2012). I was trying to do something like that for 2017, but I simply couldn’t. Too many things were wrong, with my own life and life in general.
I continued to make things, of course, because that is a huge part of how I define myself. I built a boat (! that still surprises me, and I still love it) and continued to make art, but I couldn’t muster enthusiasm for anything every single day. I know from experience, and from encouraging others to take a piece of time to make something daily, that there have to be rules, and doing it in some kind of community helps. I have been a vocal cheerleader for Daily February projects in the last several years, for exactly that reason.
This year I signed up for the Creative Project’s 100 Day challenge. It started January 22, and I began with 1. Between numbers 1 and 100, COVID-19 shut down most of the world. When 100 came, on the last day of April, it seemed that if the pandemic was not over yet, I maybe shouldn’t be either. So I kept going. My stated project; “one small embroidery, finished and framed in a 1.5″ square frame” was easy enough to keep exploring, and I have more than enough materials and time to continue. So I did. The numbering, N/100, helps me remember that I can stop at any time, because I have fulfilled my original pledge. It also continues to amuse me.
Having reached 200, exactly double the number I originally set out to do, I still feel like I am documenting something, or keeping track in some fashion. Counting up, I realized we have less than 100 more days til the US election. So my plan now it to keep going til then. That will be another 86 pieces. I’m not sure what will happen after that, although some additional counting provides the answer that Inauguration Day happens 164 days from now, and only two days short of a full year.
Our friend Alice graduated from U. Mass. this May with a degree in Geology. Alas, she was not able to have a proper graduation ceremony, so her sibling, Aerin, decided to organize a small ceremony in the backyard today at 1:00 pm. The three of us Vertses grabbed various robes, ceremonial accoutrements, and masks and drove over to Northampton. Bill brought a speech he wrote before he got up this morning.
Upon arrival, Bill dressed up in full academic regalia, RJ put on high school robes, including a mortarboard trimmed with dangling wooden mammoths, and I declared that I was an Audience, so I didn’t have to get dressed up.
Someone went upstairs and woke up Alice, the star of the show. Al and Aerin put on their academic robes and shoved some robes at Alice. Al added a speaker on his chest so that he could play “Pomp and Circumstance” as he walked.
Bill, Al, RJ, Aerin, and Alice lined up and processed around the backyard, while the Audience, Jared, and Lee applauded. Bill, as the only honest-to-gosh U. Mass. faculty member around handled the graduation speech. I include the exact speech in total (Bill read the numbers, too):
1. Thank you to Irrelevant Authorities 2. Welcoming Remarks 3. Stupid Joke (wait for laughter to die down) 4. Introduction of Other Irrelevant Authorities 5. Generic Congratulatory Remarks 6. Comment About Weather 7. Reference to Special Nature of Current Class 8. Thanking of Faculty 9. Thanking of Parents 10. Personal Amusing Anecdote 11. Obligatory Reference to Antonio’s Pizza 12. Long-winded and Boring Tale of Self-Sacrifice that Nobody is Interested in. 13. Homily about Doing Well in the World 14. Welcome to Ranks of UMass Family 15. Reference to Alumni Association and Donations 16. Will Graduates Please Stand 17. Conferring of Degree
At this point the graduate’s mother, Lee, handed Alice her degree which had been mailed to Alice. We all cheered.
18. Singing of Fight Song (nobody knows words) 19. Go UMass! 20. Under Your Seats you will Find a Pin
At this point, Bill tossed the U. Mass. pin at Alice (social distancing) and she picked it up off of the ground.
21. Please Stay in your Seats while Platform Party Exits (ignored) 22. Random Milling About
We milled around. Lee asked Alice if she felt any different after our ceremony and Alice said, “Yes, the diploma feels more real.” We sat in the shade, wearing our masks, and visited. Chris showed up fashionably late, but brought Lindor Truffles, so we forgave her. A good afternoon.
The first sip of coffee. The first swig of a cold Steel Rail Pale Ale. The first dip of toes in the ocean at the beach on the first day it is not quite warm enough to get really wet (this varies wildly for the people I know). There is a sort of shock of delight at the beginnings of things. The first spring peepers. The first frost in fall. It seems to be combined pleasure and relief, that the thing you’ve been feeling wistful for lives up to the moment you remembered.
I’d like to add to those; the first cut you make with a new X-acto blade. That precision, and ease – it doesn’t happen past the third or fourth cut, and replacing blades for every single cut feels unconscionably wasteful, but that first slice? Just delightful.
I mentioned a while back I had been working on making a jointed bear. the plan was to use the laser cutter to cut parts, and then hold them together using some kind of pins or tiny nuts and bolts so the legs and head would move in realistic ways. I was inspired to do this while looking at Laura Mathews Instagram feed – she makes extraordinary articulated animals, and they look like such excellent toys, both to build and to play with.
I started the process with a drawing, and some reference photos, and worked out a first draft, but it wasn’t quite right, and I wasn’t sure why.
I am embarrassed at how long it took me to think to look at actual bear anatomy, especially bone structure and musculature.
I did not look for bear anatomy, because I thought I understood quadruped anatomy, because I have drawn horses for my entire life. Any quadruped I see, I can map it roughly onto a horse, and sketch out something that looks perfectly reasonable. But it is not, in fact, reasonable.
To be technical, a horse is an ungulate. They walk about on their tippy-toes, and hide their (vestigial) thumbs up their legs somewhere. (Alice weirded out another visitor at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology by crooning to a skeleton “ah my little ungulate, and where do you hide your thumbs…?”). Bears (and I realize this is a shock) are not ungulates. The scales have fallen from my eyes, and my bear models are hugely improved:
Also I am looking at all other mammals (squirrel, rabbit, chipmunk, cat), and also many non-mammal vertebrates (BIRDS!!! SO WEIRD!!!!), and thinking “whoa, that is not an ungulate either, I wonder what their bones look like???”
tl;dr Bears are not ungulates, and once you understand their skeleton better the models of them work SO MUCH BETTER. Also I think it hilarious that I was last month years old when I figured this out. There is always room for new knowledge. What have you learned recently?
I think this is now a blog of ways I am distracting myself – herein, more weaving.
Having done some more weaving now, I think I need to think more carefully about what to use for warping. I have used the Lion cotton yarn and it is fat, and some linen string I have lying around and that is skinny and fierce – there has to be some intermediate string that warps up nicely and can hold some tension. The franken-loom is surprisingly useful. The sett (the number of warp threads per inch) is close to 8, which means I can also warp it at twice that, 16 ends (warp threads) per inch.
I think I need to take the teeth-combs off the inside faces of the blocks they are mounted on, and mount them parallel to the strings and facing out – so that tensioning the loom pulls threads more firmly onto the teeth rather than letting strings slip or get bumped off the top.
There are all kinds of recommended choices for warp and weft and I have access to those recommendations courtesy of the Little Loom class I signed up for, but I also have a budget of basically zero and a lot of things on hand already, so found and repurposed has to be the majority of the weaving right now.