Alice graduated from College (more or less)

Alice’s Graduation, as recounted by Cathy Verts:

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.

bear anatomy

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?

archives: Haystack fiber studio 2012

In 2012 I went to Haystack Mountain School of Crafts for a two week course with Marian Bijlenga. It was intense, and lovely, and the food was amazing, and I had a wonderful time. We were working with water soluble stabilizer, making fabric out of thread and strange objects and thin air.
water soluble one

coiled twigs, pinecone sections, stitched velvet circles


water soluble two

velvet scraps in thread grid


thread landscape

coastline study, perle cotton, invisible thread

Before I left for Haystack, I was having trouble sleeping, and having stress dreams about not fitting in, not having the skills I’d need… Eventually I had a soothing dream about going to the shoreline, and choosing rocks, and sewing little velvet coats for them. When I got to Haystack, I was fine. I had all the skills necessary, and wonderful people in my studio to work with and share with. But my dream of little coats for rocks stuck with me, and I made several.

And when I got sick of velvet, I made some lined linen jackets for more beach rocks.

white velvet jackets for rockssilk lines linen jackets for rocks






The application of whimsy is almost always a good plan.

driving driving driving, and then not.

Steering wheel

My circle for yesterday looks like this. Everyone is OK, but I had to make an emergency trip to Maine to fetch my father's car back here, because he is temporarily imobilized with a broken collar bone and ribs. So when they move on Tuesday, his car is here now, instead of there.

Today's circle is all about having been out for a ride and a walk and the amazing blue sky:

april 28

And then just for amusement value, I offer documentation of Aerin's experiments with her braces, specifically the one where she proves that they are magnetic:



pi(e) day

pi day

Pi(e) day = March 14 = 3/14 = 3.14 = ratio between the diameter and the circumference of any circle.

Pie tally:

  • raspberry (with 18 candles for Aerin)
  • chocolate cream (with 24 candles for Abby)
  • 2 apple
  • blueberry (shown above)
  • three berry
  • key lime
  • another chocolate pudding

people tally (some people belong to more than one group):

  • 4 of us
  • 3 Vertssess
  • 3 Almanzars
  • 2 Abbys
  • 1 neighbor
  • 1 hiking club
  • 2 co-workers
  • 1 co-worker girlfriend
  • 3 Mt Holyoke students with various graduation dates

plus some I can't remember.

Pi day makes every one happy. It is like Thanksgiving, only with just dessert.

Black and white circles will resume tomorrow.

March 1

march 1

I like March for a couple foolish reasons: March 4th is the only day of the year that is a command, March 14 is pi(e) day (3/14 = 3.14 which is a decimal approximation of the ratio of the diameter of a circle to its radius) and March 17 is Aerin's birthday. 

March is also black and white and shades of gray, and pieces of a larger thing. So the reason this circle doesn't look like anything is because it is out of context. I will show you the context soon. 

Valentine’s Day can be very pink


I don't know about your brain, but my brain can be really…. bossy.  It wanted me to make 14 felted hearts. So I did. 

I started by needlefelting a single large piece of mostly-red felt, with lots of other colors in it. I cut 14 hearts from the large piece. From the last week or so of scraps, I cut out smaller hearts to stick onto the larger hearts. Then I stitched things together. 

Now I have 14 hearts to give to people! 

So I wish you a heart-felt Happy Valentine's Day.

Feb 8; downy

feb 8

My children will nod with weary agreement; I have an abiding affection for small, stupid jokes. For instance:

How do you get down off an elephant? You don't get down off an elephant, you get down off a duck! 

At which point one child asked "how do you get down off a duck?" and I could say "with a veeery small ladder." 

Which is a long way of saying that this feather looked like baby duck down, and it made me think of getting down off an elephant. 


And then, to make today a joke filled extravaganza, I offer you a picture of my soft palette. Which is also fuzzy. 

soft palette

as promised, chicken ornaments

chicken ornaments

What do you do if a friend says "I really love your chicken ornaments" and you haven't made any? If you are me, which I am, I spend a week thinking about chicken ornaments and trying a fistful of different ideas and finally settling on something I like a lot and whanging out a batch of them in one day. Actually it is only one less than I meant, because one of the yellow background chickens escaped and is feral in the work room. I looked under everything I could move under my sewing table, and she was not where I could find her.

This isn't saying much because I lost my pins this morning and had to call Cathy at the library to ask where they might have been put back to because she was using them Sunday night making creatures from the Burgess Shale (scroll down for a look at some of the best creatures including wiwaxia, opabinia [with five eyes!!] and anomalocaris). So my ability to find things may be impaired at the moment. But I found the pins, and I'm sure I shall find the chicken sometime too. 

Christmas trees

trees for winter

Inspired by a pair of Christmas candle holders (imagine red candle holders on the ends of the biggest branches, and one on the top) I tried my hand at these three dimensional pieces. I guess technically they are two 2-dimensional pieces at cross purposes, but they stand up, which feels like a triumph. 

I get to decorate them now. I have my choice of beads, or fabric, or embroidery. I suppose I could use all three, but it feels like they aren't really big enough for too many mixed metaphors media. 

These are for the Ipswich Museum Craft Fair coming up this weekend. Next up is a couple sets of ornaments in tins.