Thursday, April 30, 2009

Q is for Quail & Quilt

Q is for quail & quilt

So I finally added another block to my alphabet-quilt-in-progress. Q is obviously for quail. They are so comical looking. We used to see them a lot on Vancouver Island. Whole little bustling families, with bossy parent-quails trying to round up bumbling, fluffy, little balls of quail. They would walk in a line from tallest to smallest. The male top feathers look so imperious and pompous. Plus, they are very small, and yet make quite the racket if they think you might step on them.

Also, I love self-referentiality: a quilt within a quilt, with some vintage fabric showing game birds including quails. (The same fabric appears on the giraffe I made ).

quails drying
Coincidentally, the MSOE team challenge for the month of May is Ornithology. So I whipped up some multimedia quail-on-various papers. I think I'll submit a pillow. I printed the quail block on print fabric showing calligraphy. I think it worked well with my letterpress Q.

In fact, the top-feather echoes the tail of the Q.

Alphabet quilt remaining letters: U, V, X, Y. I will finish this project! I will.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Imaginary Friends of Science: Maxwell's Demon

Maxwell's Demon

This is a lino block print 8 inches by 9 inches (20.3 cm by 22.9 cm) on Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper. It is one of a first edition of 12. Colour is somewhat variable.

It is the first in a series about the imaginary friends of scientists. We could get flashy and call them gendankenexperiments*, but, particularly since they are demons, I think Imaginary Friend is a more apt title.

Legendary** Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) dreamt up his demon to deal with the very odd 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (which is not a law like others, and can not be derived from first principles). It states that two bodies of different temperature brought together in a closed system will reach thermal equilibrium; or, you cannot use a cold thing to heat a hot thing; or, entropy or disorder can remain constant or grow; or disorder of a closed system cannot decrease. Hence with time, there will be peanut butter in the jam and jam in the peanut butter; we never find the jam-contaminated peanut butter spontaneously de-mixing.***

"... if we conceive of a being whose faculties are so sharpened that he can follow every molecule in its course, such a being, whose attributes are as essentially finite as our own, would be able to do what is impossible to us. For we have seen that molecules in a vessel full of air at uniform temperature are moving with velocities by no means uniform, though the mean velocity of any great number of them, arbitrarily selected, is almost exactly uniform. Now let us suppose that such a vessel is divided into two portions, A and B, by a division in which there is a small hole, and that a being, who can see the individual molecules, opens and closes this hole, so as to allow only the swifter molecules to pass from A to B, and only the slower molecules to pass from B to A. He will thus, without expenditure of work, raise the temperature of B and lower that of A, in contradiction to the second law of thermodynamics."

Thus entered into history one of the most colourful and storied of the demons of physics. Though he has served to show that no matter how clever, the 2nd law always survives the Demon, somehow, Maxwell's Demon also survives to test the 2nd Law again in new and exotic places, like in information theory and at the event horizon of blackholes.

Notice the big, sharp eyes and the long, nimble fingers; otherwise, Maxwell's Demon bares an uncanny resemblance to Maxwell himself.

* thought experiment - all my German is either from science (gedankenexperiment, eigenparameter, bremsstrahlung and the like) or music.
**if he isn't legendary in your mind, he should be! Einstein himself described Maxwell's work as the "most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton." Not only did he show that electricity and magnetism are two sides of a single coin, he explained the propagation of light (Maxwell's equations), he developed a statistical distribution for the kinetic behaviour of gases (Maxwell's distribution, or Maxwell-Boltzmann Distribution, the beloved bell-curve of the undergraduates), he contributed to electrochemistry, optics and in his spare time dreamt up the delightful anti-entropy Demon.

I once had a goldfish named Maxwell.

***Ultimately, as the Universe (the biggest closed system we know) itself tends towards disorder, it may (depending on which cosmological model best describes reality) acheive its maximum entropy Heat Death, so Maxwell's Demon never struck me as sinister. However, without entropy we loose the psychological arrow of time (i.e. aging), which would complicate life to no end (if you will forgive the esoteric pun).


Thinking of You Valentine IYay! I have 400 hearts on etsy now. :)

demons and koi

demons and koi
Originally uploaded by the.minouette
I have been printmaking. I had not finished my edition of koi and had been wanting to start my series on the Imaginary Friends of Science. More on that anon.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


mercator 1If you are interested in math or maps or read this blog, you know that you cannot take the 2D surface of a sphere and conformally map it onto a plane (such that both the shape and size of the surface are depicted properly everywhere). So there are a whole lot of different projections out there. Our friend Mercator has won the popularity contest- and after all, his project is useful for most mid-latitudes, though gets a little silly near the poles (and hence, as a Canadian, is something of which I cannot help but be reminded every time I see our North so distorted).

Buckminster Fuller mapped the earth unto a 20-sided polyhedron called an isocahedron, and then unfolded it with theDymaxion map.

The myriahedral projection (by Jarke J. van Wijk) breaks the earth up into nearly-perfectly-mappable bits and "unfolds" them, having decided that it is better to be disjointed than wrong. This takes matter to the logical, if irregular and unexpected, extreme!

[via the map room]

modern technology angst

So Reynardin is worried about what the technocrats are up to. She worries about near-armaggedon when we destroy civilization as we know it, but some survive. She likes her iPod and assorted other amenities, and though she has a good conception of what they do, she could not make one from scratch. Well, I found her a tee-shirt for a different, but yet not-entirely-dissimilar concern: what if you find yourself back in time (a little harder to reconcile with physics as we know it, but nonetheless):

See, there you go. Just carry a cheat sheet.*

Now, if you could solve my evil-cashmere-eating moth invasion issue, we will call it even.

On an counter-productive note (because, after all, what could be less conducive to easing technological angst, and fears about what exactly are the technocrats up to, than giant robot spiders?), here is some footage of the 12-meter (40-ft) tall, 37-ton mechanical spiders was observed in the red brick warehouse area of Yokohama last Friday.

Now, I would say, "Only in Japan," however, since these steampunk giant spiders are made by La Machine of Nantes, France, that would be untrue. [via Pink Tentacle]

*The tip about Polaris being the brightest star and marking true north depends on time and how far back you go (further, it is none-too-helpful in the Southern Hemisphere)... but since we don't believe in time-like loops and rather doubt that time is two dimensional, it's rather moot.
Oh, and that icon of an atom is so early last century. Electrons come in clouds, not little orbiting things with precise locations.

army of mini-cupcakes

Sunday was a good day. faunalia does not believe in moderation in baked goods. Oh no. We think that Lady Redjeep would have enjoyed this event; tea, mis-matched china, cupcakes, music, small children building mountains of pillows, art and craft for sale, for the hibiscus and rosehips tea party.
art and tree
Mouse Circus Mini-Cupcakes
phalanx of mini-cupcakes
more mini cupcakes!

See, they would not even fit in a single photo!

hibiscus and rosehips tea party

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


A Handmade Market Toronto has launched their profiles of etsy artists involved, with an interview of yours truly.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reading is sexy XVIII

Lerolle painting (image: La Lettre by Henry Lerolle (Paris, 1848-1929) via Guarda chi legge)
14. Etcetera And Otherwise by Sean Stanley (Illustrations by Kristi-Ly Green). This little fantastical (he uses the term fabulist, a lot) book with surreal black and white illustrations (collage and painting incorporating vintage engravings in the surrealist tradition*) tells the tale of bookstore owner dubbed Otherwise who goes on a 28 day adventure with beautiful customer Etcetera. It is a bizarre sort of love story - like a relationship/cross-country road-trip related through the lens of the absurd. There are some dramatic images in this surreal world, and interesting characters. Each day (or chapter) begins with with a quotation from Errors in Composition by Duncan Robertson (which may or may not be a real book - I have not bothered to check). I liked parts of this book, which is what I get for choosing a book based on its design.

15. The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker. I guess I had enough of nonsense and moved onto non-fiction. This book is excellent. Any concerns that it would be too dense to read in bits and pieces on the streetcar were alleviated by his clear, engaging and sporadically colloquial style. He investigates how we use language (in particularly, subtleties of grammar) and what this reveals about our primordial systems for categorizing the world as we know it. He is just as likely to allude to contemporary studies in psychology, ethnology or neurology as he is to allude to the Simpsons, comics, movies, or jokes, which makes this book fun to read. I learned a great deal about grammar, which was distinctly more interesting than that may sound. The discussion of Linguistic Determinism (the idea that our language limits thinkable thoughts) and why he thinks that is nonsense, is fascinating. (This reminded me of arguing with Mrs. McRae in grade 11, who claimed that in Nineteen-Eighty Four, the reduction in allowed language would prevent members of their society from thinking certain things. I thought this was a bias of a language-dominant brain in an English teacher. She scowled at me when I said that I do not think in words and that words were a meta- level of thought. When placed on the spot to explain how I could think anything other than words, I could only cite images and mathematics, which she dismissed, and a good portion of civilization as we know it, but she seemed bemused that I would argue with her.) I was surprised to learn that many high-profile philosophers subscribe to this idea, though it comes in and out of fashion. How we semantically break up the world around us, how we name things, what metaphors or lies tells us about the mind, and taboos and culture are all elucidated. The taboo chapter was particularly funny. I really recommend this book.
16. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Back to fiction. This is an impressive first novel. It tells the tale of Amir, privileged son of a wealthy, demanding, but generous Pashtun father, in Kabul in the mid-seventies. His shadow is Hassan, son of their servant, a loyal and devoted friend, but as a Hazara, he will always be a second-class citizen in Afghanistan. The title comes from Hassan's skill in hunting down defeated kites as Amir's partner in massive kite battles (with strings covered in glass dust for better cutting). Eventually, Hassan and his father move away, and later, Amir and his father escape the worsening conditions in Kabul to make a new life in California. The book begins with Amir being called back to his homeland and goes on to explain why he feel culpable and responsible to do so. It is a story of fathers and sons, friendship, culture, loyalty, violence, deception, war, love and adoption. It is quite a story. I felt that the first half was superior; by the second half, the scaffolding of the plot structure was showing (foreshadowing was a little too obvious). Nonetheless, overall, this is a beautiful book.
17. A Trip to the Stars by Nicholas Christopher. I loved this novel - you should read it. In 1965 in New York, a 10 year-old Enzo finds himself at the planetarium with his only surviving member of his adopted family, his 21 year-old aunt Alma. Enzo is abducted and both their lives change forever, in ways neither they, nor the reader, would ever foresee. Enzo becomes Loren and Alma becomes Mala. Loren grows up in a hotel in Las Vegas surrounded by unusual scholars (of asteroids, Atlantis, memory, and more). Mala works in libraries, for an arachnologist and then becomes a nurse serving in Vietnam, where she meets and then looses the love of her life. This too is a story about adoption, family, feuds and love, but also of the stars, navigation, Classics, spiders, vampires, and Jelly Roll Morton. It is full of rounded and amazing characters. It is really a magical web of ideas and connections, weaving together the life histories and families. I cannot reveal too much - just trust me- this one is worth picking up.
Drawing on Type by Frank Newfeld. This is a memoir of award-winning illustrator, designer, typographer and book art director Frank Newfeld. I grew up on Alligator Pie, Garbage Delight and to a lesser extend, Nicolas Knock, and Other People, with poems by Dennis Lee and pictures by Frank Newfeld. I am a huge fan of his work.** I enjoyed his memoir. He was born in Chekhoslovakia, though educated in German. His mother had the foresight to get out of Europe before the WWII began, and they moved to England. His first story is quite hilarious: his first commission and an not-unrelated loss of his virginity. He writes himself as quick to make decisions, even bad ones, to busy trying to cover up his bumbling and unerringly bad sense of direction to be anything but fearless, stubborn and argumentative. He gets out of secondary school, too young to enlist, but gets himself affiliated with the local regiment nonetheless. His mother and step-father emigrate to Canada and he joins them (not ready to be parentless at 18). He signs up to serve for Israel on a bit of a spontaneous whim. He is not very well-informed about Israel or the middle east, but lost many members of his extended family to the Holocaust. After getting himself injured he ends up as war artist. He joins a "Canadian" kibbutz, where as an artist, he has some trouble fitting in. Soon he is back in England at art school, where he decides perhaps this is not the life for him. Much to the gain of the publication industry in Canada, he returns to Toronto. The tales of his early career are quite funny. Eventually he finds his niche. He illustrates, designs, teaches art. He rose to be Vice-President of Publishing at McClelland & Stewart, head of the illustration program at SheridanCollege and Co-founder/President of the Society of Typographic Designers of Canada. This book is interesting on many fronts, not least of which is the knowledge he imparts about the book industry (and the Canadian industry and M & S in particular). It was a bit sad to read how he and Dennis Lee were a bad personality match, but the stories about Canadian cultural giants like Jack McClelland or Pierre Berton are fascinating. I enjoyed it.

*Amazing how something as anti-tradition can develop tropes and rules and its own tradition.
**Was quite horrified that , who knows more than a thing or two about illustration, does not share my opinion. ;)

Saturday, April 11, 2009


I have been making seahorses. I got me some fabulous seahorse patterned fabric*. Here is the first batch:
Seahorse PillowSeahorse pillow
Seahorse PillowSeahorse Pillow
Seahorse PillowSeahorse Pillow

I had a wonderful brunch with Faunalia, Reynardin and Blythechild, followed by a trip to Canadian Tire**, where R & I had way too much fun, then we got chocolate and art supplies, so all and all, a pretty awesome day. I feel optimistic about the future today. Thank you friends.

*people like me should not friend the workroom on flickr because I must confess to a wee fabric obsession
**How much do I love hardware stores?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hard-headed Vegetarian - Euoplocephalus linocut 1st edition

hard-headed vegetarian: Euoplocephalus print
Euoplocephalus, a tank of a plant-eating, Late Cretaceous Ankylosaur dinosaur, has a name which literally means well-armoured head. He had fused plated protecting back and neck and triangular horns protecting his face, shoulders and tail. His main weapon was a ball of fused bone which acted as a club at the end of his tail. He was 20 feet or 6 m long, had thick legs to carry his heavy weight and likely ambled through woodlands in what is now Alberta and Montana.

This is an original, first edition lino block print on Japanese kozo (mulberry paper) 8 inches tall by 14 inches wide (20.3 cm by 35.6 cm). The edition is limited to 14 hand-burnished prints. The colour is a somewhat variable mixture, reflecting the variability we see in nature.

For the month of April, the MSOE challenge is the Cretaceous, a geological era 135 to 65 million years ago, which saw the break-up of Pangaea, the development of flowering plants, some first hints of early mammal life, the arrival new dinosaurs but ended with the largest mass extinction of the dinosaurs. The end of the Cretaceous was an end of an era like no other.

Euocephalus club tail
Euocephalus horns (print detail)
Euoplocephalus hard head

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Imaginary Subway Maps

I guess it's maps this week. I have a thing for maps and map art. I love subway maps. I love maps of imaginary places. Here is a twist: a set of subway maps of real places wherein there are are no subways.

[by Transit Authority Figures via Apartment Therapy]
Oh! This would make getting to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute so much easier.

They have a few other maps for smallish places in New England. I don't know the area well enough to understand all the jokes (though I am pretty sure that say 'Landfill' and neighbouring 'Polo Grounds' and well as 'Malfunction Junction' stations in Machester, Vermont are jokes, and 'Kandahar' is well, saying something; likewise 'The Bath Tub' on the Cape). Though, having drive to and around Wood's Hole, I do know that some of the least probable names are in fact legitimate.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Easter bunny on the Trans-Canada

Spring has Sprung and the Easter Bunny hopped over to the TransCanada Etsy Team and left some eggs behind!
So we decided to host the first ever TransCanada Etsy Team Easter Egg Hunt. 29 shops are hiding 20 eggs and one person will win a $15.00 coupon to redeem at any of the participating Etsy shops!!!
Join the fun, check out all the details at our team shop!

So, go poke around some shops of talented Canadians on etsy, find some eggs, win a prize!

Friday, April 3, 2009

things for which I am preparing, which are not top secret

I added the following to my sidebar. A little reminder/additional info for friends in Toronto who are all invited to join me!

Upcoming events:

Folk Tea Party Bake Sale
Resistor Gallery at College and Spadina in Toronto, Date: Sunday April 19th 2009
Time: 1pm - 6pm

I am so glad to be doing something creative with my free time - which involves neither lawyers, nor paranoid engineers (apologies to the non-paranoid engineers... but the paranoid are beginning to get on my nerves...), also, the first of these two events raises money for lymphoma research and to support families.

Also, my b-day (Mayday) marks the Spring Clothing show, and the centenary of the amalgamation of the Junction with Toronto which is nifty. Toronto itself is 175 this year. On May 2nd, 2pm, Toronto area craftsters will be meeting up at the Moonbean Cafe in Kensington Market.

More immediately, it's the geophysics movie night... so I will not be venturing out into the deluge quite yet. {By the way Elements, April shows, I get it... but you know, this ain't the rainforest... don't over do it.}

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more


I have stolen my post title from bioephemera* because, frankly, she has composed the best post title I can recall reading. Check out her review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Hints of Buffy the Vampire-Slayer meets Regency drama... with zombies.

In case this merely whets your P&P remix appetite, you can simply wait for Pride and Predator. "Elton John's Rocket Pictures is developing a new spin on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, this time featuring a nefarious seven-foot extraterrestrial with hideous mandibles and a penchant for human blood." [source: The Gaurdian]. Or if the whole spoof/remix of classics of English literature has captured your imagination, or you happen to have a McAvoy fetish (*cough!* Faunalia, Reynardin), there is always, Gnomeo and Juliet.

[Image also from The Guardian who captioned it, "It's uncanny ... James McAvoy and a garden gnome. Photographs: Frazer Harrison/Getty and Roger Tooth/Guardian"]

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's ;)

To my surprise, there is (already) an interview by my friend, the delightful and very talented multimedia artist Tanis Alexis of me here. ;)

I'm flattered.