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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Daisychain ABC


Actually, I finished the stitching quite a while ago, but it took me ages to find a good frame.The framing process itself was easy, and came out pretty well if I do say so myself. Alicia's framing tutorial was quite helpful.

Its spot on the mantle is temporary, but maybe not -- Beadboy3 is enamored of it and loves to call out the letters, and I don't have the heart to move it somewhere where he won't be able to see it easily.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Just in Time for Pentecost

I managed to finish one last Easter egg:
It's a Lizzie*Kate kit, "A Little Grey Hare," and the last thing I bought from my beloved local needlecraft store, Lazy Daisy Stitchery -- they've closed their brick-and-mortar store, but are still open online.  I omitted the little beads on the Easter eggs (they didn't stand out enough and there weren't enough of them to make them worthwhile) and made the tulips solid-color (just a preference).

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Everything and More by David Foster Wallace

Given my strong preference for fiction over non-fiction, it's surprising that I haven't read any of David Foster Wallace's novels (although they are on my to-read list).  I have, however, read a lot of his non-fiction, and I adore it and him.  His erudition, wit, linguistic skills, mix of high art and popular culture, and copious footnotes form something I find irresistible.  I particularly recommend his essays on the Illinois State Fair, grammar, cruise ships, John Updike and other writers of his ilk ... you know what? It'll be faster if I recommend all of the works that I've read.

To which I can add Everything and More: a Compact History of Infinity, his "booklet" on the mathematical history and significance of infinity.  I recognize that this won't appeal to everyone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it (and the work-out my brain got).  Although I probably have more mathematical knowledge than the average person, it falls far short of Wallace's own (had he not turned to writing, he could have become a mathematician in his own right).  Wallace does his best to explain the concepts for a layperson, but this particular topic necessarily involves complex math and abstract concepts.  My half-remembered calculus took me far, but eventually I had to just trust Wallace's explanations (not a bad thing).  On the other hand, I think my mathematical knowledge might have actually hampered me on occasion -- it took three reads to really grok Dedekind's definition of real numbers, which included the first successful attempt to construct irrational numbers, I think because I (like everyone else today) take irrationals for granted.

Transfinite numbers involve concepts far removed from ordinary life, concepts that touch on the foundations of mathematics -- are we inventing math, or discovering it? Can it be completely divorced from our reality? Is math real, and what does it mean to say it is real? I find these questions intriguing, so I'd like to read another volume from the publisher's series: Rebecca Goldstein's Incompleteness, about Kurt Godel's work in this area.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Yarn and Stone

Mr. Beadgirl gave me a lovely skein of turquoise yarn for Christmas.  Images of crocheted jewelry on pinterest, the (fictional) power of turquoise in The Woodwife, and these color combinations percolated in my brain for a while until I made this:

I started with a long (very long) cord I made using the double chain stitch -- I wanted to be able to wrap it around my neck at least three times.  Then I rooted through my gemstone bead soup mix and picked out coral, amber, pale green chalk turquoise, and purple-dyed turquoise beads to sew on at intervals.
I liked the colors, but the result was a little flat, and I felt the necklace needed some kind of shine.  After trying out different metallic beads, I remembered the leftover metal charms and fetishes from an earlier project, and scattered those onto the cord.

For the clasp I tied a loop at one end and knotted on a large coral bead on the other:

I still have a lot of yarn left.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

What would you do if you could go back in time?

Kate Atkinson's recent novel, Life after Life, is not exactly about time travel, but its protagonist nonetheless tries to prevent World War II.   Ursula is born on a cold, snowy night in 1910; what follows is her life, or rather, lives, as she lives over and over. She is stillborn. No, she dies as a toddler.  No, she survives the London bombings and the end of WWII, unless she is killed between the Wars.  Atkinson tells her story over and over, each one different in big ways or small, showing how much in life is random -- and how much is inevitable.  But Atkinson adds a supernatural element, as Ursula is increasingly subjected to a feeling of déjà vu and therefore tries to avoid the dangers she senses.

The first part of the book is particularly harrowing, as we see just how easy it is for a child to die.  But it is utterly compelling, too, and one quickly becomes obsessed with seeing each iteration of Ursula's life play out.  This is a magnificent, powerful novel, not just about fate and chance, but also, ultimately, about the horror and futility of war.  It's a cliche, but I truly did not want the book to end.  Ursula may be just one person, but she has a multitude of lives for us to explore.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Sari Tassel Beads

My latest creation:
inspired by the February box by Blueberry Cove Beads. 

I coveted that box the moment I saw it, but I couldn't justify the expenditure, especially since I already owned recycled sari strips:
little bells:
and glass beads from India:

Inspiration struck almost immediately.  I cut a few four inch (or so) lengths of the sari strips and used brass craft wire to tie them together, making a wire-wrapped loop at the top:
I folded the strips down and used more wire to wrap around the bundle, creating a tassel:
Then, using beading thread, I attached to the base four strands of small glass beads, ending each with a brass bell:
Love them. 
 When I shake my head, I hear the bells tinkle together!

For good measure, I made a second pair to sell through my etsy store:

Friday, April 8, 2016

Little, Big by John Crowley

A multi-generational family living in an weird, crumbling house, surrounded by off-kilter villagers living in relative isolation from the rest of the world -- In many ways, Little, Big is like an Anglo version of 100 Years of Solitude.  Crowley has written an unusual novel about fairies and the human clan that serves as a bridge between them and the rest of the world.  There is a timeless quality to the narrative, with its lush depictions of nature and its populace with family names like Mouse, Cloud, and Bramble (my favorite: the law firm of Petty, Smilodon, and Ruth), that makes the occasional reference to a phone, car, or tv, jarring.  That timelessness and sense of wonder suit the themes of the novel -- presence and absence, real and unreal, belief and unbelief -- perfectly.  Crowley's language and imagery are gorgeous, and the world he creates is vibrant and full of wonder.

But. Something is keeping me from wholeheartedly embracing Crowley's fiction, and I think it is that his worldview is too different from mine.  In Little, Big there is an absence of good as a concept, as something for anyone to strive for.  We get muted references to Eigenblick's crusade and the rebellion of those against him, but no sense of what either side is fighting for or what the consequences will be for ordinary people.  Ariel Hawksquill, one of the most powerful people in the world, spends much of the book trying to figure out who Eigenblick is and what he means so she can choose a side; but when she makes the choice, it is almost entirely for her own ambitions, not for any greater purpose (good or bad).  The fairy creatures are wholly amoral, as is expected, but the humans are, too, never extrapolating their kindnesses and cruelties and everyday concerns into a larger worldview.  The result is that I felt a certain distance to the narrative.  I enjoyed the novel, and I admire it, but I didn't love it.