6 September 2011


Posted in creative outlets at 10:06 pm by Tricia

I finally learned to knit!

look ma, i can knit!

At the Maker Faire at the end of July, a volunteer taught me how to cast on and do the knit stitch. The garter stitch swatch on bottom left is the outcome of that.

A week or so later, having forgotten how to cast on, I started a new piece with the help of youtube – and didn’t quite get the cast on right, but it was good enough for practice purposes. Then I learned how to purl from youtube – except I ended up doing some weird wacky thing that was not purl at all, and which my neighbor the knitter cannot figure out. (She teaches high school students how to knit, she has experience with these things!) The yellow one in the center is an example of my wacko purl stitch (the top two-thirds). The little piece below it is what I did after the neighbor taught me how to purl properly (she also taught me how to cast on properly!)

In the interest of full disclosure, I actually managed to start doing purl properly after a 10 minute break from knitting, but since it wasn’t what I HAD been doing I thought I was wrong so asked for help. My knitting neighbor helped me see the error of my ways, and now I can knit and purl properly. The piece on the lower right is a stockinette swatch, done after her counseling and knitting rehab :^) The blue piece at the top is a swatch scarf to use up my ball of blue yarn obtained at the Maker Faire, following suggestions in Kids Knitting. It includes a 2×2 rib, 1×1 rib, basketweave, seed stitch in the center, then basketweave, 1×1, and 2×2 on the other side of the center.

Now what?? The T-boy wants a blanket, which seems way too big. A friend suggested a dishcloth. I have an itch to do socks, but I’m sure they’re WAY too hard! Maybe I’ll make a pillow instead of a blanket…


31 March 2010

Henrietta Leavitt

Posted in creative outlets at 10:40 pm by Tricia

postcard honoring Henrietta Swan Leavitt

handmade postcard honoring Henrietta Swan Leavitt

March in National Women’s History Month in the USA. This year the theme is “Writing Women Back into History” (more info here). I was part of a swap where we were to send postcards honoring women scientists. Mine features an astronomer named Henrietta Leavitt. The way I found her was rather serendipitous – I was flipping through a volume of an old Golden Book Encyclopedia that I acquired for the express purpose of reusing in papercrafts. My eye was captured by the Cepheids constellation piece while I was looking for light blue pieces. Then I stopped to read the article. I don’t remember what it was in there, but it made me wonder “does this still apply, or do we know more about it now?”

In the process of answering that (now forgotten) question, I learned about Henrietta Swan Leavitt. Way back in the early 1900s, she was part of the “computer” team (nearly all women) at the Harvard Observatory. Her job was to look over photographic plates (taken by their telescope in Peru) and catalog stars on them. In the process, she became responsible for identifying the period-luminosity relation of Cepheid stars. This relationship can be used for determining the distance to stars, and was ground-breaking work that was built upon by Edwin Hubble and others. During her career, she discovered over 2,400 variable stars, roughly half the known total in that era. But the director she worked for did not recognize her skill, or if he did, he was not willing to let her do her own research. Henrietta Leavitt died in 1921 from cancer. Swedish mathematician Gosta mittag Leffler wrote to the current director of the Harvard Observatory in 1926, because he was unaware of her death and was interested in nominating her for the 1926 Nobel Prize in Physics. As the Nobel is not awarded posthumously, she was never so recognized.

Postscard assembly: the background is a plate of the large magellenic cloud as it appeared in her publication. Photos of Henrietta and the Harvard telescope in Peru are from wikimedia. The colorful images in the top right and bottom left come from the Golden Book encyclopedia that sent me on this mission of discovery, as does the text/explanation that appears in the form of a packing tape overlay on top of the graph.

Some sources I consulted:

  • Inventor of the Week archive at MIT (“Henrietta Swan Leavitt invented one of the most essential standards in the study of space: a rule that allows astronomers to measure distances from Earth to various stars. … Her rule allowed for the mapping of the universe, as well as the discovery that it is expanding, and has made her a legend in the history of astronomy.”)
  • “She is an Astronomer” web site
  • Australia Telescope Outreach and Education – good explanation of the relationship she discovered and how later astronomers built on it.
  • PBS Science Odyssey bio – (“Because of the prejudices of the day, she didn’t have the opportunity to use her intellect to the fullest, but a colleague remembered her as “possessing the best mind at the Observatory,” and a modern astronomer calls her “the most brilliant woman at Harvard.” “)
  • Wikipedia

5 March 2009

Magi(c) Carol

Posted in creative outlets, fun at 11:51 am by Tricia

The random poetry challenge: pick 10 words at random from a dictionary (Close your eyes, open a page at random, and place your index finger on the page. Open your eyes and write down the word closest to your fingertip. Repeat this until you have 10 random words written on your list. No cheating!). Using those words and up to 5 more, write a poem. Then create a postcard to illustrate your poem.

I chose my words from my beloved old (© 1968) honkin’ big (weight 5.7 lbs) Reader’s Digest Encyclopedic Dictionary: magic, receiving line, carol, Syria, insanely, corneous, rent, Cyprus, mouchard, unregenerate. (For rent, I chose the separate into parts with force or violence meaning. Mouchard came from the French-English section near the back. It means stool pigeon.) I wrote the poem first, but here’s the postcard:

Magi(c) Carol postcard

Magi(c) Carol postcard

Here’s my poem:

Magi(c) Carol

Magi carol, carol magically!
From Syria to Cyprus
the corneous mouchard
insanely rent
the receiving line.
Corneous mouchard?
Unregenerate mouchard!
Cyprus to Syria.
Receiving lines.
All rent.

which shows, if nothing else, that I’m not very good at writing poetry! But it was interesting how all the words managed to come together thematically. Corneous means made of horn or a hornlike substance, but as my luck would have it (when I went googling for corneous pigeons, hoping to find a bird carved from a horn), it also refers to parts of feathers! Also, my unregenerate spy carrier pigeon (standing in for the mouchard) is holding a magic wand with a handle carved from horn (corneous).

I have a book of World War II maps that I got at a thrift store, and this map showing action in Syria also included Cyprus. One of my favorite Christmas carols is We Three Kings, titled Kings of the Orient in the version I printed. Of course they’re also referred to as magi, thus the title. And wasn’t one of them supposed to come from the Middle East, or Turkey maybe? So that fits with the map.

Changes I would have made in retrospect: print the music so it stretched the entire width of the card, put the (classic American wedding) receiving line closer to Cyprus so the pigeon is reaching from Syria to Cyprus, maybe have the music (adhered via packing tape transfer) along the bottom instead of the top. I do love that hand-colored spy pigeon, though. I hope he doesn’t suffer much for his unregenerate ways!

26 February 2009

Always be alert!

Posted in creative outlets tagged , at 9:33 pm by Tricia

pinktangles and a red

Doodling is good for your brain. I read it at the BBC! Or, more precisely, “Doodling may look messy, but it could in fact be a sign of an alert mind, a study suggests.” Always be on the alert, that’s what I say.


28 April 2008

Corn Starter Ghosts and Sidewalk Paint

Posted in creative outlets, fun, T-boy at 8:49 am by Tricia

Add cornstarch to Easter egg dye, and you get a pretty good sidewalk paint.

Sidewalk painting

Add cornstarch to kids and you get ghosts!
Corn Starter Ghosts
My back was turned – all right, I was inside, getting more supplies! – when they decided that since cornstarch felt so good on their hands (this I encouraged before going in), they should rub it all over their arms, and maybe a little on their faces wouldn’t hurt either (these two were not my ideas!). T-boy kept saying “corn starter” instead of cornstarch, and his friend is the one who decided they were ghosts. What you can’t see here is that the “cornstarter” bag had a hole in the corner, so much of it ended up on the porch.

(They’re wearing matching shirts because we went on a field trip in the morning.)

23 April 2008

Earth Day Spectrum

Posted in creative outlets, nature tagged at 2:43 pm by Tricia

Earth Day Spectrum - Yellow / Green / White
Earth Day Spectrum - Red / Purple / Pink / White

Yesterday (Earth Day), my friend Kathy told me to go outside, so I did. After all, she’s a teacher, and we have to respect teachers. :^) I took the office camera, ostensibly to take pictures for a project, but mostly to see if the daffodil line was blooming. Along the way, I decided to capture a “spectrum” of colors. Unfortunately, I forgot to get a blue picture (the scilla are abundant this time of year, so I could have!). I also meant to capture a forsythia bush (more yellow!) if the battery held out, but I forgot. But even so, it was a nice break from the stuffy office…

(see more photos on Flickr – start at this magnolia and work back through the photostream until you get to the mosaics shown above)

2 April 2008

Project Spectrum 3.0

Posted in creative outlets, events tagged , at 11:09 pm by Tricia

Project Spectrum

A few months ago, I learned about Project Spectrum from Kathy. It’s a no- pressure, creative outlet, celebration of color. I was especially intrigued by a comment to incorporate the element into the work beyond the color, e.g. the fire of a kiln to produce ceramics. After following the Flickr group for a week or so, I took a deep breath and decided to dive in. The first two months (Frebruary and March) were “Fire” – red, yellow, and pink. As it turns out, I don’t do much with these colors in general. However, I was taking a ceramics class, and even though the red glazes in the studio don’t appeal to me much I could get to “fire” that way. I did manage to contribute a few items, including some “ice into fire” photos accomplished through color manipulation. (My full set on Flickr is here – currently my 5 “fire” items, but I’ll be adding to it over the year).

Next up: earth – greens, browns, metallics. I’m much more of a green person, and clay naturally fits into an earth theme, so I’m likely to be much more productive for this segment!