Monday, December 24, 2007

Consumer madness

Shopping was successful today. I used my 50% off coupon at Michael's to buy a book that I ABSOLUTELY HAD TO HAVE!!!

Well, I didn't know I needed to have it until I saw it. It looks like a lot of fun, though.

I also bought a Riker mount. These are traditionally used by collectors for biological and geological specimens; I remember seeing a beautiful Dobson Fly and some big silk moths in similar mounts when I was a a student assistant for the Middle School camping trip. Now you can get the Riker mounts at craft store. True to their original purpose, I will be filling mine with some shells that Ron and I collected when we were visiting Martha's Vineyard this summer. I will mount them along with a tide timetable that I cut from a local activity guide, and stained with tea for an "antique" look.

I also picked up a few little crafty items. A patina kit for making anything look like old, weathered metal, some glitter glue for a project I am working on, and some spray sealant to protect paint and pencil projects when I am finished.

Across the street at the bookstore, I picked up a craft magazine and a book I have been wanting to read. While I told Ron that I wanted to read Machiavelli so I could learn to be more ruthless, I actually have the feeling that I will just be learning a lot about the nastier side of human nature. I probably should have read this before I left home at 18, so I wouldn't have been so surprised by people's bullshit.

Happy Christmas Eve!

Just Dumb

I'm having a nice Christmas Eve, even though it's just me and the four-legged mammals. This morning I read some more of "Catcher In the Rye," exercised, and worked on my latest scarab beetle paper. I just finished lunch and browsing the web, where I found this brilliant piece of high culture. I found the book after following a link to an extremely bad anti-evolution rant by a barely literate pastor who was also ranting about the evil Ph.D.s and college professors. You know, if I actually had all of the power I am supposed to have, I would be making more than $50,000/year, and I wouldn't be wasting my holidays groveling for money from a government agency with a 10% funding rate.
Anyhow, this is what I found, now available at!!

It's the decerebrate icon of shameless religious panderers and their ignorant, faith-blinkered followers! All that aside, maybe this book contains new insights after a careful evaluation of the medical evidence. Who was the author again?

That name sounds familiar- is that the Mark Furhman of O.J. Simpson trial fame? The guy whose utter incompetence and lack of professionalism contributed to O.J. being acquitted?Why yes it is! Check out this piece of the summary blurb on Amazon:
"Mark Fuhrman applies his highly respected investigative skills to examine the medical evidence, legal case files, and police records."
That struck me as funny.

Well, I am going to go to Michael's and the book store. It's on the other side of town from most of the stores, so hopefully traffic won't be too bad.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Semester is OVER!!

And that means that I now have a month of unstructured time ahead of me. Which is good (can work on things at home and work that have been piling up all semester) and bad (can waste time playing around when I should be doing the aforementioned piled-up tasks).
I have had more energy and motivation for creative pursuits recently. I have a dreambox assemblage in the works, and floral image transfers that I am embellishing with collage and vintage sewing notions.
Yesterday I finished up little paperwork things, and then after lunch played with a new dollmaker on the web (based on Gwen Stefani's Harajuku girls) and did some Photoshop stuff. It's a great way to waste time when you've just finished one big thing and aren't quite ready to go on to the next.

Today, however, I will be working. I promise :).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Belated Halloween Photos!

Here are Ron and I in costume for a Halloween party we attended this year. Of course Ron is Gene Simmons and I am Paul Stanley from KISS. I have good rock hair these days, so it was easy to tease it into a giant pouf for this costume. Ron wasn't sure about the foil-covered nutcup at first, but I convinced him that it was a necessary part of the costume. Social rules are made to be broken on Halloween. Still, I was shocked to see how much flab I have around my waist when I looked at the pictures we took. You, dear reader, will not be shocked by my flab because I have taken the liberty of Photoshopping it out. If only it were so easy in real life.

My life is still feeling pretty boring lately, but I will try harder to extract something interesting from time to time, to post here.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Long time no post

Things have been busy with work, and I have been making an art journal like the above for my more personal ramblings. For the art journal, I just bought a regular journal at a bookstore and decorated the covers with paint, pastels, gel pens and collage. For each entry in the journal, I cover the page with acrylic gesso to add thickness and texture. Then I paint, draw and collage on top of that, and write whatever crazy stuff I am thinking about at the time. Today I really laid the gesso on thick, and pressed some fallen leaves into it. The weather has been so strange, fall but with temperatures of 70+ degrees at 7am. So that inspired me to write and draw something about the crazy fall.

Speaking of crazy, I made a new avatar of myself at the New York Zoos and Aquariums website. Of course all of my features are going to be those of invertebrates. I particularly like the long butterfly proboscis.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

What next?

I hate living day to day with nothing to look forward to except the weekend, when I can hide out at my house and not be bothered. I haven't felt this way since graduate school. I finally got out of the funk when I got my postdoc set up; the last 2 years of grad school I was pretty happy. Now I'm stuck in what is supposed to be my lifetime career, but feeling trapped. Where is the light at the end of this tunnel?

(Art by Robert and Shana Parkeharrison)

Friday, September 21, 2007

My life in bad poetry

I've never really understood poetry, but I think now that I might want to start learning more about it. The only poetic structure I know is the Haiku, so sometimes I put my thoughts into that format. Here I also experimented with a rhyming verse after reading some Emily Dickinson poems.
I think the only thing that worries me about death anymore, is that I won't be able to see all of the things I want to see and learn all of the things I want to learn. I have to remember that on the days when I'm not feeling up to life.

Dark April rain clouds
Misery, agony, death
What is left of life?

To wake upon a summer’s day
One more step from horrors past
Quiet progress incremental
Same as tomorrow, same as last

Late September day
Sunny eighty-two degrees
Future emerging?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Late Saturday silliness

In two recent issues of Stampington arts and crafts magazines, letters have been published complaining of what seems to be a fad in collage right now. I personally find the wings and party hats look appealing, but agree that this look can be used to provide an instant "arty" touch to a piece that is otherwise thin on creativity. To a beginner, though, they might provide a pleasant entry into a more whimsical artistic style, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. The cards above (found on Flickr using the keywords "collage" and "wings"), are a typical example of wings-n'-hats usage.

Just to be a bit irreverent and provocative (because I think I've been too damned nice lately), I modified one of my business cards to reflect the backlash. I made the subject a baby because the times when wings and party hats do irritate me is when they are decorating some cutesy kid picture. Just too much saccharine for me, I guess.

Well, I'm tired and it's freezing in my computer office. Time to crawl under the comforter and pass out.

Farmer's Market

Ron and I have been meaning to go to the Farmer's Market more often, and this morning we actually made it. We took the dogs and they were very good until Wizard decided to bark and snarl at some poor yellow lab puppy. So just like parents, we took the dogs home at that point.
We did have time to pick up some beautiful and tasty-looking squash and eggplant.

I also visited a US Forest Service booth and got some information on the Emerald Ash Borer, which has been spotted in PA and likely is on it's way down to WV. Beautiful beetles (beetles in the family Buprestidae typically are), but they are very destructive pests of ash trees.

This week I finished a mixed-media painting that was inspired by the fungus picture I took while on a hike and altered in Photoshop. I'm not 100% happy with the painting; I love the elements but I don't feel like I quite got them to work together. Oh well, this is for my own personal pleasure so I can afford to take the time to play around and figure out what works.

Friday, September 14, 2007

My crushes

I thought I would participate in the latest Crusade of the Green Pepper Press Street Team, since I sometimes feel that my entire life has been driven along by my various obsessions. I found out about the Street Team, which is a creative arts challenge maintained by Michelle Ward, in Artful Blogging magazine. Incidentally, it was this magazine that prompted me to start my own blog. And finally, I kept reading Michelle's own blog because I enjoy her artwork and, like me, she enjoys some of the fine metal music coming out of Scandinavia.

Well, my first and most obvious crush is on insects. First and foremost I find these animals to be achingly beautiful, utterly perfect in color and shape.

Insects are also stunning in their morphological and behavioral adaptations.

In recent years I've become even more aware of the complex behaviors that insects are capable of. Social behavior such as parental care is not restricted to the more typical social insects like honey bees; this beautiful picture shows a mother earwig taking care of her eggs.

Insects provide endless subjects for honing my own photography skills...

And ample inspiration for other art projects.

(Photos not identified as mine are from the galleries of Igor Siwanowicz (mantises, lobster caterpillar) and Krister Hall (collembolan, earwig).

Silly stuff

You Are 5: The Investigator

You're independent - and a logical analytical thinker.
You love learning and ideas... and know things no one else does.

Bored by small talk, you refuse to participate in boring conversations.
You are open minded. A visionary. You understand the world and may change it.

At Your Best: You are sharp, inventive, and creative. You have the skills to lead the world.

At Your Worst: You are reclusive, weird, and a bit paranoid.

Your Fixation: Greed

Your Primary Fear: Being useless or incompetent

Your Primary Desire: Being competent and needed

Other Number 5's: Bill Gates, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Bjork, and Stephen Hawking.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Finished Tokidoki-esque charms

It took two tries, but I finally finished the charms and sent them off to the swap coordinator next week. I am very pleased with the little animal characters, particularly that I was able to draw what I wanted, and then digitize the drawings in a pain-in-the-butt program like Adobe Illustrator. I think the critters are pretty recognizeable, but Ron didn't know what they were so maybe not. They are:
Top row: anglerfish (with parasitic male!), cuttlefish, chimney swift
Bottom row: cicada, axolotl, elephant seal.

The back is kind of a free-form collage with origami paper, red vellum, and gold fibers. I sealed both sides with Aleene's Paper Glaze, and painted the edges with gold acrylic paint. Each charm has a hole drilled in it, for attaching a jump ring that can be used to hang the charm on a bracelet

ArtFest 2008

Check cashed, email received, I got into the ArtFest artist's workshop being held in Port Townsend, WA next spring. I only got into one of my chosen workshops (making folding booklets with little windows in them), but there are a lot of interesting ones left over. I chose my top five of those remaining, hopefully I will get into one of those. The good news is that I didn't hear anything about my housing like some other people did, so I hope I got my first choice of a single room in the dormitories on-site.
In preparation, I have put together two "business cards" to hand out during the trades that occur throughout the event.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Illuminated manuscript art cards

I'm participating in an ATC swap of cards hand-drawn in the style of medieval illuminated manuscripts. Such manuscripts often have a religious theme, so I decided to have my cards tell a creation story from the point of view of a wasp.

Of course, if you're a wasp, your god is going to be a wasp and the creation is going to be purposefully suited for the good of waspkind. The last panel shows wasp and larva in a classic virgin and child pose. The nice thing about wasps is that virgin births happen all the time, and the resulting offspring is a male, or drone.

In other news, I'm kind of doing a Greek thing with my hair today. OK, I had better finish my lecture.

Poor little guy

Ever since we got him almost four years ago, one of Wizard's nicknames has been "Poor Little Guy." That's because he was in rough shape when we got him from the shelter, he had a bad reaction to the iodine used during his neutering surgery, and he generally seems to be susceptible to illnesses that just make him look miserable. He also doesn't like to have his picture taken, so this morning when I pulled out the camera he crawled under the table and tried to hide.

Since our hike on Saturday, Ron and I have pulled at least a dozen tiny deer ticks off of Wizard. They are literally smaller than the head of a pin. The Poor Little Guy is covered with bumps that we assume are tick bites, and that obviously itch. He also has a spreading red rash on his chest, so we are taking him to the vet to make sure he doesn't have some kind of tick-borne disease; dogs get Lyme's disease, too.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Making some silly pouches and things

I just got an AWESOME new purse, green suede with gold glitter on the outside, hot pink silky stuff on the inside (OK, it looks better than it sounds). The only problem with the purse is it only has one pocket, that I immediately put my chapstick and mirror and other potentially spillable and breakable stuff in. I scrounged up a faux-leather billfold from another purse to put a few things in, and a hot pink leather wallet, but everything else is floating around.
So I had some fabric remnants, and old clothes that I will never wear again. From an old sweatshirt, I cut off the cuffs and sewed them together to make a pouch for my cell phone (left). I ironed on a butterfly patch, and some old english initials for street cred (haha!). A button that popped off of a pair of shorts due to my ever-increasing girth is the fastener for the pouch.
On the right is a pouch I made from fabric remnants, hot pink felt, and some crappy metallic embroidery thread that frays the moment you put it in the needle. Anyway, I used knots of thread to tack the two fabrics together, and then folded them in thirds to make the pouch with flap. I stitched everything together with hot pink metallic embroidery thread. My hand-stitching is pretty shaky because I haven't done any sewing in awhile, but it does the trick. The button is from some other piece of clothing that exploded while I was wearing it, and the loop is something that was just laying around; I'm not sure where it came from.
As shown in the picture, I am using this pouch to carry some basic drawing supplies. Because I like to fancy myself some kind of artist, I guess.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Yesterday's hike- the path less travelled

The hike Ron and I did yesterday was in a West Virginia hiking book, but looked like no one had been on it for awhile. This turned out to be pretty nice; we didn't run into a single person during a 5-hour hike, and the wildlife and plants were beautiful. As usual, I took pictures of snails and spiderwebs and giant scary millipedes.

This is how out-of-the-way this trail was: part of it was on an old logging road, and right in the middle of the road was a nearly complete deer skeleton.

We generally had a nice time going slow, enjoying the sights and sounds, and letting the dogs play in the creek from time to time. I was exhausted at the end of this 6.3 mile hike; I'm still kind of worn out today.

Life beneath the logs

Today is International Rock Flipping Day, as a matter of fact. To get in the spirit last week, I flipped some small logs in the back yard and took a few pictures. Woolly caterpillars, slugs and centipedes, and spiders were a few that I was actually able to get pictures of.

Bite-sized chocolate candies battle to the death

This story made about selecting for the strongest M&M made me laugh out loud, especially the part about receiving grant funding.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Fenton Art Glass

Earlier this month, Fenton Art Glass announced that they are going out of business. Their press release suggests that they have been running in the red for some time.

Their giftshop and website will remain open for the time being; I may have to go down to Williamsburg to see if I can pick up a couple of pieces before they are gone forever. I'm especially thinking of getting one of the famous Burmese pieces.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Student research

I will have two undergraduate students working in my lab this fall; both will be doing working on mushroom body evolution projects. One student will be helping me with a collaborative project with Paul Eggleton at the British Museum of Natural History, in which we will compare the brains of termites (above) to see if there is a relationship between mushroom body structure and social organization. We tend to think that social = big brains, because this is the case for humans; my research in other insects suggests that other factors rather than social life are more important in driving the evolution of large brains. This project will be a little time-intensive, with many hours spent preparing brains for staining and then measuring the volumes of different brain regions.

The other student only has a few hours to spare each week, so he will be doing some methods development on Collembola (above left), which are tiny little six-legged arthropods (hexapods) that are closely related to insects. They can easily be found in the damp leaf litter in wooded areas. I also hope to catch a few of the tiny guys in the right hand picture, Diplura. An old paper I have suggests that they have huge mushroom bodies, which would suggest that they evolved independently twice in the hexapods. This is because there are at least two groups more closely related to insects that lack mushroom bodies: bristletails and Collembola. I am wondering if the Collembola have mushroom bodies, but they are so small (in an already small animal) that they aren't visible using traditional staining techniques. So we will try to prepare the brains of these little guys for use with more modern techniques such as immunostaining.
The termite pictures are from, and the Collembola and Diplura are from the beautiful collection of invertebrate photos by Krister Hall.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Playing with Photoshop

I have been looking for some good plugins and protocols for antiquing digital photos on Photoshop. I found one cool tutorial here, and the results are shown on the black and white versions of the photos. The Buddhist shrine turned out great, I think, but the old picture of me is a little too "distressed." I prefer the sepia version of this latter photo, which I found in the preset actions list in Photoshop 7.0.