Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Warning: This Post Contains a Serious Pillow

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Méfiez-vous de la contrefaçon! pillow
reverse of minouette pillow

This pillow features my "Méfiez-vous de la contrefaçon!" block print in gold and turquoise on grey cotton (a re-purposed men's shirt). The front also features two contemporary print fabrics in creams and teals. The reverse has a rustic, hand-woven Nepalese fabric with a stripe of funky turquoise faux-bois and subtle silver-on-violet block printed minouette label.

Méfiez-vous de la contrefaçon! pillow detail
cat toes on pillowside of Méfiez-vous pillowsubtle tentacles on violet
Méfiez-vous de la contrefaçon! sideways

Dramatic light curtesy of skylights, living at 43°42′59.72″N and needing to get to work this morning.

Ada Lovelace Day 2010 Profile: Ursula Franklin

Princess of Parallelograms Today is the second annual international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science, Ada Lovelace Day 2010 (ALD10). I'm sure you'll all recall, Ada, brilliant proto-software engineer, daughter of absentee father, the mad, bad, and dangerous to know, Lord Byron, she was able to describe and conceptualize software for Charles Babbage's computing engine, before the concepts of software, hardware, or even Babbage's own machine existed! She foresaw that computers would be useful for more than mere number-crunching. For this she is rightly recognized as visionary - at least by those of us who know who she was. She figured out how to compute Bernouilli numbers with a Babbage analytical engine. Tragically, she died at only 36. Today, in Ada's name, people around the world are blogging about women in science and technology, whose accomplishments have all too often gone unrecognized or unacknowledged.

So I thought I'd tell you about of one my heroes, Ursula Franklin. I've heard her speak on more than one occasion and had the honour meeting Franklin. When I was an undergraduate in physics there were a grand total of zero female physics professors at this University, but Ursula Franklin was trained as a physicist and was working in metallurgy and material science, and had U of T's highest rank, a full University Professor, the first woman named to that post. Further she was not only a strong, fearless, advocate for women in science, but one of the more impressive individuals I've ever met. Her influence as a roll model of women in physics and engineering here cannot be overstated. I thought she was an apt choice to profile as beyond the importance and depth of her own scientific and technological output, she has been an influential writer on the politics and social impact of technology itself.

Franklin was born in Munich in 1921 and survived being interned by the Nazis. She received her PhD in physics from the Technical University of Berlin in 1948 and immigrated to Canada, where after a post-doc at U of T, she joined the faculty. She pioneered archeometry - the use of modern materials analysis in archeology, dating prehistoric artifacts made of metals and ceramics. Her science was always engaged with societal concerns. During the 60s she advocated for the atmospheric nuclear test ban treaty, citing her studies of strontium-90 radioactive fallout found in children's teeth. During the 70s she was part of the Science Council of Canada investigation of how we could better conserve resources and protect nature. She began to develop her ideas about complexities of modern technological society.

She consistently has stood up for her beliefs in peace and social justice. As a member of the Voice of Women (now called Canadian Voice of Women for Peace), she tried to persuade Parliament to disengage Canada from supplying any weapons to the US during the Vietnam war, to shift funding from weapons research to preventative medicin, to withdraw from NATO and disarm. She later fought to allow conscientious objectors to redirect part of their income taxes from military uses to peaceful purposes (though the Supreme Court declined to hear the associated case). She joined other retired female faculty in a class action law suit against the University of Toronto for claiming it had been unjustly enriched by paying women faculty less than comparably qualified men. The University settled in 2002 and acknowledged that there had been gender barriers and pay discrimination.

As an applied scientist, her writtings on technology benefit from the insight of an insider, but her priorities are justice and peace and she critiques and analyses technology in this light. She does not view technology as neutral; it is a comprehensive system that includes methods, procedures, organization, "and most of all, a mindset". It can be work-related or control-related, holistic and prescriptive. Franklin argues that the dominance of prescriptive technologies in modern society discourages critical thinking and promotes "a culture of compliance". She has investigated the relationship between technology and power. She has investigated how we interact with communication technologies and advocated for the right to silence.

Many of her articles and speeches on pacifism, feminism, technology and teaching are collected in The Ursula Franklin Reader (2006). Franklin is one of many respected scholars and thinkers to have delivered a series of Massey Lectures, in 1989. Hers were gathered and published as The Real World of Technology. She has been recognized for her work in many ways, including receiving the Order of Canada, Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case for promoting the equality of girls and women in Canada and the Pearson Medal of Peace for her work in advancing human rights. Locals may know the Ursula Franklin Academy, a Toronto high school, named in her honour. I think this University, city, country and in fact, society at large are a better place because Ursula Franklin is a part of it. So, though she has received this recognition, I think she should be a household name, so that's why she's my choice for Ada Lovelace Day 2010.

{this post includes material from the surprisingly well-documented wikipedia entry on Ursula Franklin}

Read more Ada Lovelace Day posts on The Mad Scientists of Etsy Blog or at Ada Lovelace Day.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March: in like a lamb out like a lion?

So the Trans-Canada Etsy team has a challenge for the month of March: in like a lion, out like a lamb. In fact, I'm hosting. So, I knew I had better get on it. I half want to carve a lamb block (that sounds all wrong - out of lino, I mean) but I'm not really feeling it. So, I made another lion pillow.. This one is backed not with a lamb, or with an elephant, but with the zebras. I like yellow and turquoise.

lion and lioness

I do like how the lion is sort of confrontational. I mean, this is the apex predator and my Mom, the photographer, was in his 'hood. I'm happy that that expressiveness of his face comes across in the print. The lioness looks more shrewd - like, "I see you there, but I haven't yet decided what to do about it." Cats. They watch, and consider.

It's very hard to get good photos when it's so dark and gloomy out. While the balmy 19 C weather is long gone, at least there is no snow. I can deal with light rain.

lion pillow all

So it's a stripe of wild paisley with the dotted turquoise fabric with the leopards in the corner.

corner lion pillow

reverse: zebras

zebra other side

I was looking at the fabric, and you know, I think, I need to stop buying fabric.

There. I said it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Entomology Pillow

Watch minouette compulsively avoid grocery shopping by wasting time on the internet. I hate grocery shopping. It's a problem. Anyhow, here's a new pillow:

entomology pillow
entomology reverse
butterfly detailentomology pillow beeentomology pillow monarchentomology fabric

This one of a kind pillow features three original, hand-pulled block prints on fabric, of some of the loveliest insects: butterflies and a bumblebee. The front is a patchwork of a contemporary faux-bois print in deep blue, with a butterfly on a grass green cotton, a bumblebee on a delicate pin-striped umber and sunny yellow, and a monarch butterfly on a vintage floral. The reverse combines a rustic, hand-woven Nepalese fabric with a contemporary print like a scientific illustration of butterflies, moths, ladybugs (ladybirds) and bees.

I like the idea of combining vintage and rustic fabrics with contemporary fabrics, and embellishing things through printmaking to make something new.

The Mad Scientists of Etsy challenge for March is entomology. Natural history is still hot. When I was an undergrad studying physics, people would invariably ask, "Why would you want to do that?!" assuming, erroneously that their own tastes were universal and I was some sort of masochist. I always thought about the entomologists, because, while I know intellectually, they must derive pleasure from it, and probably think bugs are cool, I feel that the fear of creepy-crawlies is primordial. Though, it's the helminthologists I really worry about. If there's ever a helmintology challenge, I think I'll sit that one out.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I posted a new bumblebee chine collé linocut in my shop
bumblebee 001

This is a first edition lino block print of a bumblebee on Japanese kozo (mulberry) paper with yellow washi chine collé (collaged fine Japanese paper). The term chine collé is from the French for "papier-chine collé" or glued Chinese paper (though fine Japanese is more likely); it's a way to get a different colour or texture in a relief print. The bee itself fits with 10 cm (4 inches) square and the sheet is 20 cm (7.9 inches) square. The print is one of only 12.

bumblebee 008

For the month of March, the Mad Scientists of Etsy are celebrating entomology! Even though, butterflies are the new pirates, I thought I would make a bee, and since Reynardin encourages me to carve fur, I went for the fuzzy bumblebee.

Actually, this is sort of Step 1. I am planning an entomology pillow (yes, really). Also, I have this New Year's resolution to submit prints to print shows and contests, and there is a mini-print show in Ottawa, I'm considering. Prints must be 10 cm by 10 cm (and can be on sheets up to 20 cm by 20 cm). My other option would be, the Hand-Held Harpy. Or to make something else, pronto.

Hand-Held Harpy Linocut

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Space Kitty Hover Pod

resting kitty astronautNot that she didn't already have it, but faunalia has secured herself a free electronics slave consultant with her BRONZE AND GLASS SCULPTURE - WITH LED - OF A CAT LAZILY FLYING A HOVERING SPACESHIP.

YES. I really typed that.

YES, IT'S MINE! Bwhahaha!

Yes, I would be very proud to be involved in any art show with faunalia's fuckin' fabulous work.

cat-pilot spacecraftspacekittycat spacepod without dome018cat pilot under the dome020021022cat hovercraft after dark
hovering space cat Did I mention the GLOWING?
A simple coin battery-powered LED lights the glass rod and in the dark the diffracted light goes all blue at the base to really give that hovering feel.

I know that this could not have come into existance without Reynardin so I thank you both very very much. I also love the brainstorming about using our respective skills together. Am thinking on it.

Thanks Blythechild for organizing brunch and scintillating conversation as always.

Friday, March 5, 2010

subway human anatomy map

Hey check it check it! Interior subway map:

Underskin by Sam Loman via see reqbat tumble

We should map everything with such elegance.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mad Scientist (of Etsy)

I convinced the MSOE folks that what we need are some interviews on the blog. Who are these scientist-artists anyway? What do they do? Well, I've posted the fist interview. Check it out. We have tiger quolls. *the cute it burns!* Watch out though - that there is a carnivorous marsupial. In fact, it is mainland Australia's largest carnivorous marsupial and considered an apex predator.* Further, there are immortal jellyfish and beautiful needle-felted sculpture animals.

By the way, you (especially the Torontonians) should be reading the TESTy blog (I mean, basically, I write it) and the Printsy blog is stupendous (but dangerous to the wallet).

I think I should adopt Reynardin's accidental catch-phrase, "Hey check-it check-it!"

*I think of Australia as being full of dangerous animals, like spiders, snakes, sharks and killer jellyfish. I didn't expect the apex land predator to be so cuddly-looking. But perhaps Australians mistakenly think polar bears look cute (as opposed to lethal and stealthy) and I wouldn't even want to mess with an angry raccoon, so what do I know?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Reading is sexy XXXIII

{image: The Power of Books, by Bulgarian artist Mladen Penev}
10. Beautiful Evidence by Edward Tufte As you may have noticed, I, like many scientists interested in communicating results effectively and/or graphic design, am a fan of Prof. Tufte. He has created his own tiny self-publishing empire, filled with beautiful books explaining how to use words and images together to express ideas, convey data and results, show causal relations, avoid ambiguity, and foster deep -honest- analysis, with elegance and beauty. His books are something which should be on the shelf of any professional who uses graphic information - not just the scientists, but the social scientists, journalists, and in fact, I think the artists would appreciate much of this work as well. For instance, he draws his indeed beautiful examples from scientific classics, like the notebooks of Galileo, but he's as likely to use Leonardo da Vinci or Albrect Dürer. Arguments about time series analysis are made with allusions to an 18th century treatise on the choreography of the contredanse. He discusses diagrammatic presentations of schools of 20th century art, maps of cubist paintings and debunks a therory of mystical geometries inherent in sculpture. He uses a French art nouveau ski manual and mid-20th century map of the area surrounding a Kyoto flower arranging school. Concepts from his other books reappear: 'sparklines' for concise communication of rich time series; the evils of 'chartjunk'; Minard's famous, and heart-wrenching flow map of the advance of Napoléon's dwindling army during the Russian campaign 1812-1813. I enjoyed his comparisons of Feynman diagrams, circuit diagrams and John Cage's musical scores. I, as you may have gathered, love the idea of combining text and image and delight in the reproductions of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, an illustrated manuscript from 1499 in Greek, Italian and Latin, shown side-by-side with an English translation. He praises Galileo, but also, is never afraid to re-draw diagrams to illustrate his theories and philosophy of clarity, succinctness and focus in displaying graphical information. He devotes an entire chapter to the evils of Powerpoint (basically, it seems that a culture of sloppy presentations and associated thinking within NASA killed seven astronauts) and another chapter to sculpture pedestals. There is nothing, it seems, which can be seen and which communicates that he would not take on as a cause - to make more elegant and more beautiful, and allow the evidence to speak for itself. This is definitely a book for any lover of art, science and books, like me.

11. Winter in July by Doris Lessing This is a series of short stories, originally published in 1966, set in Africa (presumably Rhodesia, at the time). These are stories of English people and cultural collisions with Boers, the group dynamics of ex-patriot communities, interactions between colonists and indigenous populations (and wildlife) and how even the well-meaning, kind-hearted people can see their relationships go horribly wrong, and surprisingly, a couple of stories of ménages à trois. Lessing is and has always been a keen observer of people.

12. Mr Tompkins in Paperback by George Gamow. George Gamow is one of the giants of 20th century nuclear and astro-physics and his Mr Tompkins is a classic of the popularization of physics (both relativity and quantum mechanics). Known for his humour, Gamow famously once wrote a paper with Ralph Alpher but convinced Hans Bethe to add his name to the author list during the revision process so the paper would be known as Alpher, Bethe and Gamow. See, Lady Redjeep, Classics jokes are common in physics, if not always sophisticated; what, after all, could be simpler than α, β, γ? Much of this book, parts of which were first written in 1938, and first published in this form in 1965, are now quite out-of-date. So, it is unlikely to be read by people who are not physicists or interested in the popularization of science. But, it has its charms. Mr Thompkins - even dimmer than than your usual 'Watson' - is a bank clerk who attends a physics lecture and dreams himself a world where relativistic physics is everyday (i.e. where the speed of light is very low, and length contraction and time dilation can be observed riding a bicycle). He continues to attend the Professor's lectures (ultimately falling for and marrying his daughter, an artist). He continues to fall asleep during lectures, and dream about other worlds, where, for instance Planck's constant is very large, and hence quantum effect are seen in billiard balls or even elephants. The stories are illustrated by John Hookham, and upon his retirement, Gamow himself. Gamow's illustrations are both amateurish, but delightfully naïve, and somewhat surreal (and remind me of a less proficient Glen Baxter - see figure below). There is even music - including a chapter detailing an opera about the Big Bang versus steady-state models of the universe with a libretto featuring 'characters' the Abbé Georges Lemaître, "a Russian physicist, George Gamow, who had been taking his vacation in the United States for the last three decades" (a wonderfully post-modern trick) and Fred Hoyle. The character "George Gamow" sings "Gaily and drunkenly"
Good Abbé, ourr underrstandink
It is same in many ways.
Univerrse has been expandink
Frrom the crradle of its days.
Univerrse has been expandink
Frrom the crradle of its days.


and so forth. Clearly, this is a man with a sense of humour about himself. My favorite, the suave Maxwell's Demon, makes an appearance. The way he wrote his own colleagues and contemporaries into a sort of fairytale - and illustrated them too - is sort of hilarious, to the physicist. Though some cultural and gender biases, as well as particle physics from just before the conceptualization of the quark, now seem quite dated.

If you would like a similar sort of approach, with more up-to-date information, you might like the Alice in Quantum Land by Robert Gilmore.

{Series so far: books read, more books read, books read, books read continues, more books read, I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII,XIX, XX, XXI, XXII, XXIII XXIV, XXV, XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX, XXX, XXXI, XXXII}

On the subject of books, Faunalia suggested I try to find The Artist's Way in the used book stores on Roncesvalles, so I go in search of The Artist's Way and yet come out with Salman Rushdie's Grimus, Salinger's Catcher in the Rye to re-read, Dawkin's The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing and Saramago's Blindness. I think this says something about me.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Giraffe and Swordfish

I also took some time to print some existing block. I made giraffe block prints (gold on cream kozo paper) to complete an edition. I made a very small edition of four prints of the 'X is for Xiphias' block in violet on turquoise feathered obonai paper.

giraffe on angle

x is for xiphias

I did this partially to avoid giving the Canada-USA gold medal men's hockey game 100% of my attention, because it was far too stressful, but all's well that ends well. :)

seahorse & jellyfish/butterflies, blossoms and feathers

It's my mother's birthday on Wednesday, but since we had planned to go to the OB's (post hockey game) we just ended up celebrating yesterday. She asked me, yesterday for a silk scarf to go with a new gray dress. I said I would choose red, but she mentioned salmon (as a colour). Here is what I came up with. I had some striped greyish silk. I printed it with the jellyfish and seahorse blocks in salmony pink.
seahorse and jellyfish

I had some hand-woven Thai floral silk (oh, the wonders of the Sidney Thrift Store!), which I embellished with butterflies, blossoms and feathers in black, and tints of salmon, peach, orange and pink. Honestly, it's less busy than that sounds:

butterfly side of scarf

I painstakingly sewed the two rectangles together. Silk can be tough and finnicky to deal with.
butterfly end of scarf
blossom, butterfly, feathers
butterflies, feathers
blossom, butterfly, feathers

I actually wear a lot of silk scarves* but have never previously attempted to make one.

*Ok, actually, it's a running joke: how many scarves does have on her person at any give time. But they are the solution to style + unpredictable weather: 40 million French women can't be wrong. I have um, several.