Saturday, July 31, 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

Trunk man

I took this photo a month ago, but forgot to post it.  We passed this fellow while we were looking for yard sales not far from where Kim's mom lives, and we all thought he was pretty cool.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

a few updates




A couple of night ago I made salsa out of tomatoes and banana peppers from Kim's dad, crushed pineapple, green onions, lime juice, black pepper, and red pepper.  It came out pretty good, and I want to eat some more as soon as I can.




Something uprooted a couple of my corn stalks (including the biggest, healthiest one) and ate the little ears off of them. It seems like squirrels would be too small to pull over the biggest plants, and I've never seen deer in our neighborhood, so I'm guessing a raccoon or a possum did it.


We're finally getting some big ripe tomatoes. We also have lots of basil, which I used a few days ago for some focaccia, which turned out pretty good, too.




I'm almost done with Farmington.  I am now deciding whether I should put a title along the bottom.  I think I will, on the left, inside the grass border, with my signature in the bottom left corner.  I'll have to put it in with graphite and see how it looks.


Monday, July 26, 2010

work-in-progress update

Here's how it was two days ago. Since then I've done a little bit of darkening on the left, and put in a little grass.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tom Cruise is Sitting in a Chair

Pam made this at some point in the past, and gave me a copy because I really liked it. I don't think I've put a photo of this on here before.

Art, Garden, Coin



Here's another photo of my work-in-progress. It's slow going, but I'm making noticeable progress each day.  I'm happy with it.


A couple of months ago I discovered that I wasn't as low on my homemade walnut ink as I had thought, for I found some forgotten jars of it stashed beneath my dresser.  Last weekend I took them outside and re-strained them (they had become moldy) and added denatured alcohol as a preservative.  There was enough of it that I felt comfortable giving a couple of little jars to interested friends.




Last night I picked four ears of yellow sweet corn from our garden.  I fear that will be all we're going to get.  Only one ear was well-developed, the other three being small and missing many kernels.  There are other ears growing, but they look puny and unhealthy.  I think that inconsistent watering has played a role, but that most of the blame falls on insects.  Japanese beetles and earwigs just love the corn, and eat the silk, which results in poor fertilization and therefore poor "ear-fill."


Fortunately, I hope, I also have another clump of corn growing quickly.  This is a different type, and it's planted in a better location.  Maybe the rainier weather will help this, too.


Anyway, the little corn we had last night tasted really good, even if it wasn't pretty.


The basil is growing very well, and I must make some pesto with it this weekend.  I picked a grocery bag full of it last week and have had it in the refrigerator since then.  I hope it's still usable, but it grows so fast that it probably doesn't matter if it's not.


The tomatoes are growing pretty well, but I've only had one large ripe one so far.  There are many green ones that are starting to turn.  There have also been a lot of red cherry tomatoes that have split in half from inconsistent watering (I try to hold off from watering as long as possible, so things get dry, then we get a huge rainfall, and the next day the tomatoes have ruptured.)




I actually spent an hour or two a few nights ago working on my collection.  I have quite a few very low-end world coins I need to label and sort, and I really want to log them all into a spreadsheet.  That will make it easier to keep track of what countries from which I don't have examples.


I'm still undecided about what to do with the gift certificate Mom and Dad gave me.  Now I'm leaning back toward trying to acquire a Greek coin bearing a gorgoneion (gorgon's head).


Monday, July 19, 2010

Art fact


Here's another great fact you can bring up at parties:  For a hundred years or so, up until the early 20th Century, many artists used a brown oil paint that was made from Egyptian mummies.  It was called mummy brown.


Friday, July 16, 2010

honk if you love rooks


Here is something I think about every time I blow my nose.  In chess, rooks are considered more valuable pieces than bishops. That's because rooks move orthogonally (up and down and back and forth across the board) and bishops move diagonally.  That means rooks can move to any square on the board, but a bishop can only move to the same color square that it starts out on; rooks have the potential to control twice as much of the board as bishops.


Kleenex is the bishop.  It's great for blowing noses, but you can't flush it.  Toilet paper is the rook.  You can both blow your nose with it and it's also flushable.  Dual purpose!  That means toilet paper is a more valuable commodity than Kleenex.


I think about that when I'm looking for something to blow my nose with.  I don't really think about other times.


Here's your fun fact for the day:  Up until close to the year 1600, the English language didn't have a distinct word for the color orange.


Monday, July 12, 2010

There is one corner of our office that is a Bob corner.  There are three offices located in that corner; two of the offices belong to Bobs. Within thirty feet of that corner are four cubicles that belong to Bobs. The percentage of the population named Bob for that small part of the office is about 42%.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pen & Ink work in progress

Here is the drawing of Farmington I'm working on. When it's done, it will be 12 x 18 inches.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Hey, Dad and Brian, this guy beat us to it.

A metal detectorist found hoard of 52,000 ancient Roman coins:

Finally, some numismatic news to report.


For my birthday, my parents have given me a gift certificate to  Now comes the torture: I have to decide what to spend it on.  How do I make up my mind?  They is a great selection of ancient coins there, but I need to find a way to develop a focus.


I've decided I'd better read some history to find something I find particularly interesting.


My coins have been very neglected. I really want to go through an do some organizing and weeding, but haven't had the time.  Fortunately—at least, in that regard—I accrue coins so slowly that the disorganization in my collection is a problem that has been looming for years without becoming a crisis.


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Book Report: Neverwhere

I finally read Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman. Aaron loaned it to me (about three years ago) thinking I enjoy it since I'd had enjoyed Gaiman's American Gods, and he was right. It comes across as a little bit of a cross between The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Alice in Wonderland; a young Scottish man moves to London for work, and ends up sucked into parallel supernatural London, existing in the forgotten crevices and tunnels beneath the city and on rooftops, inhabited by the overlooked and forgotten. It's a sort of spirit world of homelessness and mythology, capable of observing the "real" world while going unnoticed itself. It's a strange idea, but carried off pretty well.

It's less complex and sprawling than American Gods, with more modest aspirations, but it was fun and involving. It also really, really helped that Gaiman has easy-to-like writing style. I read through it very quickly; it was very well paced; it was frequently funny; and the two main villains were loads of grotesque fun.

It's too bad that the writers of the TV series "Lost" didn't take a few notes here. Both stories dealt with every-day people suddenly thrust into strange worlds governed by alien rules and customs. For reasons I'm still pondering, Gaiman's world seems to hold together better than that of "Lost."

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


 I've had a few conversations lately about how sewing machines work.  Everyone I talked to was as mystified as I was. However, I just found this animation.  I hope it works here; I'm not sure I've ever tried posting a .gif file.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose


Laurie, the organizer of the Louisville Area Skeptics meetup group (, mentioned at last night's Science Café meeting that future presenters will include a retired couple from India who now spend most of their time in the United States.  For a few months each year, though, they travel through rural India with a mobile science lab, teaching kids about science.  Laurie mentioned that this is similar to what she does here in our community.  Sometimes she goes to a school that has a science lab, which the kids go to once or twice a week, and it's great.  Sometimes—all too often—there is no science lab at all.


This prompted a string of thoughts to run through my head: Is once a week for a science lab enough? That seems so slight.  But shouldn't every subject taught in a school be considered, in some way, a science?  Do I consider all such subjects a science?  Some obviously have more to do with science than others: Math and the other sciences are closely bound.  History involves lots of research, with ties to archaeology, geology, psychology, and medicine.


How do you apply science to literature and art, though?  I suppose I'm so used to the skeptical mindset now that it never seems natural to erect a wall between "the sciences" and "the humanities."  They are all wrapped up together.


At last night's Science Café meetup, Dr. Lee Alan Dugatkin gave a presentation based on his new book, _Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose_ (  I have not read the book—yet. I now intend to, because if it's even half as interesting and amusing as Dr. Dugatkin's presentation, it should be engrossing.


Dr. Dugatkin related how many of our nation's founding fathers became involved in a conflict that was only tangentially related to our war of independence from England.  Biology, literature, history, nationalism, economics, politics, and personal and professional pride were all wrapped up together as leaders in the fledgling United States sought to refute the theory of New World degeneracy: the notion that animal species in North America were smaller, feebler, slower, and less diverse than their Old World counterparts, due largely to the New World's allegedly colder, damper climate.


Thomas Jefferson, who proclaimed himself to be a scientist first and a politician second, became obsessed (according to Dugatkin) with refuting these claims, which became widely believed in Europe with the publication of the writings of esteemed French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon.  Jefferson and his colleagues read these theories with alarm, for the notion that the New World was land which was inhospitable to robust life (including humans and all their enterprises) was an assault not just on the truth and their own personal pride, but also on economic ventures and the integrity of their developing nation.  Jefferson undertook an effort to have a huge moose shot, preserved, and sent to France to illustrate the error of the theory.


It seemed obvious that Dr. Dugatkin really knew his material, and took delight in answering questions.  He was an engaging speaker on a very interesting topic, illustrated by great anecdotes (and when you mix cultural conflict, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, French naturalists, frontiersmen, giant moose, and Native Americans, you're bound to get some great anecdotes).  It was often quite funny. It even involved weasel penises.


Stephen Jay Gould wrote a series of essays for Natural History magazine in which he sought to illustrate the importance of the very human, error-prone personalities who have been involved in our scientific history.  In much the same way as I can't see any real line that keeps science out of art, there is often a false notion that science is an endeavor removed from other human passions.  That couldn't be less accurate; all human prides and prejudices are displayed in the history of science, and without their great motivations, the sciences themselves would be stunted and feeble.