Monday, November 2, 2015

On Expertise and Kiwi Vines

Reviving my moribund blog to copy what I wrote on the TAST Facebook page:
I applaud any group that strongly encourages beginners. Today's beginner is tomorrow's expert, in turn drawing in new learners through their enthusiasm, and any hobby group I've seen that gets too "full of itself" and intimidates newcomers one day becomes a dwindling group of a few elderly "experts." Beginners are the lifeblood of any organization, they are the children who carry on, develop, improve the tradition due to their contributions.
Whenever I have taught people a craft I do, like huichol beading, I have always been amazed at the results when someone ignores some aspect of my advice and goes off and adds their version. The beads in huichol work should have the holes facing top/bottom, I tell people. Someone misses that detail and makes a piece with the holes all facing sideways and I realize that this gives a kind of flow to the piece that is missing when the beads are all upright, as the edges are narrower.  Any craft or technique where flexibility is allowed, where people aren't forced to adhere to "expert" advice, ends up with innovations that hold people's attention, attract newcomers, and push the craft forward.

"Forward" in this case means that there are new things to try, there is room for creativity.  I have several boards on my Pinterest site that frustrate me because the only images I can find are of kits and everything looks quite the same. Shadow work embroidery fits into this category. This is why I have very few examples up there right now....nobody seems to be playing with it. One day someone will, and they will post their work somewhere and other people will feel inspired to try their own versions, come up with something new, etc. etc. This is what keeps a craft alive; otherwise it will become just a few expertly designed pieces, pretty but not too challenging, to be sold in kits and to gradually become passe because there are no innovations.

Ah, reviving my blog just so I can get on my high horse. There are worse reasons!  I because lazy and posted only on Facebook, but I don't think my graphics posts are all that interesting to anyone but me. I have, indeed, mostly gotten out of the innovation phase and am more in the comfortable, let's experiment with some version of what we already do phase. I'm not sure if there is a cure for this, other than forging on to new crafts, but still I find it relaxing and, as always, the color and pattern combinations give me a thrill.  What I miss is posting in detail and commenting on what techniques I used to get various results. Before all my new stuff becomes cold and lifeless, due to forgetting what I did, I need to go back to posting and explaining. For me and my 11 loyal blog followers.  :-)

Without further ado, here is a jazzed up version of the back of a kiwi vine leaf, lit by sunshine on the other side, and what I did with it. Kiwi vines are not much for fall color in real life....they just fall off, still green, as the weather gets colder. Mine is still in the pot that I imagined it would grow in, but the pot is tipped sideways and the kiwi's roots have gone down into the soil below it. The vines are taught to scramble up the pepper tree above it. No strangling of nearby plants and everyone gets along just fine.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Renovating Life

Some days I don't know whether to boast that I'm renovating my living room, or complain that I'm renovating my living room!  All I know is, it has to be basically done, complete with new bookshelves, before L. comes back from Costa Rica, as right now his bedroom is the book/junk repository.  :-)

Also, I used to complain at work that I never had time to work on anything in depth, that the nature of the job was to have multitudes of little projects, many of which would then get buried under the multitudes of new little projects. Now I can finally work on long term projects, ones that take weeks, and it's much more up to me how I use my time. This is both rewarding and exhausting, as I notice that I am able to work on something, like carpet pulling, until I get thoroughly sick of it and start to have the unreasonable belief that I will be tearing carpet for the rest of my life, even though I can see that I am almost done. My mind tends to break down projects into sub-projects, and there are enough sub-projects to keep any organizational maniac happy: pack books and doodads, move furniture, pull carpet, pull padding, remove nails and staples, wash really dirty places with bleach, tape edges, paint, let dry and paint again, untape edges, etc. etc. And that only brings us to the point where we are ready for flooring to be put in, and then the stuff has to all be put back! Oh, and teaching myself how to do certain things, buying materials.

And speaking of backs, yes, mine is a bit sore, but not "out". It's my cue to stop for a day or so and do less intensive work.  I've been complaining that this is keeping me away from hypothetical crafts projects, but perhaps I'm just in training for future large projects that must be just as well coordinated. And I've just realized that maybe now, with less furniture lurking, I'll be able to bring up the loom assuming I can find a way to cat-proof any weaving I might start, since it looks to them like one big scratching post. Oh, and I will have one big craft project at the end because I've decided it's impossible to find nice, deep red curtains anywhere so I will need to make my own.

And, when all this is done will I walk through my newly renovated rooms and smile benevolently and congratulate myself (and my helpers, you-know-who-you-are) for a job well done? Probably not for more than a day or two, because there are many more rooms to be done, and outside decks to be re-varnished and furniture to learn to refinish, etc. etc. It has taken retirement to do it, but I guess I've joined those legions of people who are constantly fixing up their houses. And, while I may not have all that much money to throw at it, I can throw a lot of labor and effort into it, which makes it more "mine" anyway. We humans seem to need to improve our nests, it's a way of marking territory and marking progress.

Pictures? I'm taking them, yes, but all on my cell phone and they need to be uploaded and gathered and organized first. Mostly pictures of dirt and chaos right now, anyway, I would like to couple them with photos of the hopeful end product.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Poor Moribund Little Blog

almost gone to the place where all blogs eventually go to die....or, since this is a crafts blog much of the time, dye.....

Perhaps it's time to revive it.  What has been distracting me from blogging?

1. Spanish classes, see last posting. It's not just the time spent in class and studying, but it seems to absorb corners of my mind and takes the place of a lot of urges to create things.

2. tearing out carpets throughout the house.  Thanks to the actions of certain kitties, but also because I've been wanting to replace it from the moment I moved in.  I'm not going to try to install anything new myself, I've decided. I can't take the extra weeks of chaos this would entail.

3. gardening, as usual.  I really like how it's starting to look in the back. Several juniper trees were cut down (home job, yes indeed) and have been replaced with a ginkgo tree and two maples. Plus some home-propagated shrubs.

4. which leads me to my plant propagation class, a related distraction.  I'm now running around the garden taking cuttings from random shrubs.  Some make it, some don't, but I have several more that need to be either put in large pots or added to the corners of the yard to provide structure.

5. I've been using Facebook to post photos of travel and to whine about life in general.  I used to do these things also on Blogger but just ran out of time to do both.  And got tired of some of my whining anyway.

6. I switched from a Mac to a PC and haven't installed the software I need to continue editing my Y-Knot Crafts Website. And have added a bunch of categories on my Pinterest site that need to be incorporated and organized. I am gaining inspiration from my Spanish class, as there are a lot of crafts from Spanish speaking countries that can be explored in greater detail with a (partial) mastery of that language.

7. after retiring I think I've lost some of the relentless urge to self-promote (see #6 above) and say to the world "look at me, look at me, I have something to say." More doing less saying?  Still, my doing has been veering sharply away from crafts, even though my heart is there, my head just isn't. And I can't blame work, this is all of my own doing.

8. since I got into photography I almost completely stopped playing with GIMP.  Which was probably a good thing as I was starting to repeat myself to a high degree.
9. actual travel as opposed to imagined travel. It takes time. Poor me, yes indeed!  :-)

Well, I see I'm still capable of the same level of navel gazing, even though I'm trying to watch my complaining, as the two things done together can be pretty obnoxious.

We shall see if I truly come back, little blog.  Meanwhile, the remaining living room carpets and the living room walls are calling to me.....

Next time I post I'll say something about some future projects and directions I may be headed in. Just to keep the conversation going, even if it is a one-way conversation.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Language Study Resources, Especially Spanish Part 1

So, I am getting a tiny bit distracted from the crafts and graphics that generally occupy my blog, though I do have a lot of travel photos that I still want to post.  But for now my brain is taken up with learning a language and hoping to actually get fluent in it.  Just because.....and, because I am the Resource Queen, I'm going to use this post to list some of the online language learning and reference sources that I am discovering.

I have had my doubts about online learning of languages, partly because it would put some people I really like out of business (those faculty, largely lecturers and graduate students, who teach languages).  But there is so much more out there even since the time about 7 years ago when I was learning Turkish.  This time around, because Spanish is spoken by so many people, there are a vast number of resources to begin with, but also the world of online learning is changing.  Still, no matter how great the resources, I know I would not be making much progress in actual communication without needing to produce actual spoken sentences in a classroom environment.  I love grammar and words and patterns, but I would also willingly let it all become abstract and not push myself into the uncomfortable position of making many mistakes while attempting to talk to people. Also, no online course, no matter how interactive, produces a set of actual humans that you talk to in the hallways before and after class.  And I like those humans, I must admit.

I'm also learning that there are a group of fanatical language learners out there, almost cult-like in their devotion.  :-)  And they are not only fascinated with learning their particular language(s) of choice, but they are fascinated with the process of learning, and language structure similarities, and they have a habit of sharing their own favorite resources.

So, some resources, some specifically Spanish, but most apply equally to other languages (that is, do a search for Spanish grammar on YouTube, or a similar search on Turkish grammar, or French grammar, etc).

First, my textbook, Ritmos.  I was actually a bit annoyed when I first saw their web page, because they seem to be boasting that people do not need grammar in order to study beginning Spanish. I've come to believe that was just a bit of hoo-haa to attract grammar-phobes to their program, because in reality it still all centers around grammar and each chapter is based on grammatical concepts.  But also from the beginning you have to listen to native speakers who speak rapidly in short videos and figure out essentially what they are saying, and you spend your class time talking and not being lectured to on grammar principals.  It's pretty refreshing and class time from the beginning is largely spent on speaking to our classmates and the teacher.

From Ritmos, and the course website, with it's own set of resources available to enrolled students, I got hooked on Duolingo. Currently there are several European languages for English learners, but there are also these same languages, and English, for non-English speakers, and many other languages in some stage of completion.  The language programs seem to be largely set up by volunteers, or at least only a few paid people and a lot of free help.  So I am signed up for the Turkish beta version that is just about to be released.  I'm really happy about this because it can help to get me back on track for a language that I have allowed to languish.  Duolingo is like an ongoing language game.  It's not a way to learn a language alone, but makes a great supplement, and I find myself doing it when I'm putting off studying for my actual class.  You know how that goes....

The next stage of my language learning addiction was Flashcard Machine.  This website can be a bit clunky, especially since I haven't gotten my computer to type diacritical marks on letters, though it will happily accept those letters typed elsewhere and imported.  Sigh!  But I'm using it to make flashcard lists of my Ritmos vocabulary words, and I have my cell phone set up so I can review them while traveling on Bart or waiting in the car.  As you go through each card you mark it learned or not learned and it comes back to haunt you until you have learned it.  I started out making physical flashcards and then just decided to go paperless.  So far so good, but I have to admit that there are a lot of Spanish words that I have remembered all these years, and I'm not sure if digital will be as useful for learning new vocabulary.  But still, it's very nice to have it on the two platforms, computer and phone.  And some mornings I join that group of people on the train who sit hunched over their little lit rectangles, making no eye contact or acknowledgement of others. You can also import other people's flashcard collections, and use them for your own study, though they range from collections of thousands of cards to someone's aborted 5 card study session.

Another handy thing to have on your browser bookmark bar are a quick Spanish-English and English-Spanish translator....Google translate, for what it is worth.  And it will give you some really, really funny translations of things.   This works for many other languages, though I suspect some are translated much more accurately than others.

Next there is YouTube....for so many things....  This is one thing I love about humans, and it seems to me to be fundamental to what makes us human: we want to share badly do we want to share that we will spend hundreds of unpaid hours summarizing and explaining what we know and presenting it to total strangers to make whatever use they will of it. And I realize it's not just altruism but that wonderful feeling you get when you've nailed down and presented something that you know, because then you know it better yourself for having shared it.  One such person calls himself Professor Jason.  He has somewhere around 100 presentations on grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary, etc.  Then there is Señor Jordan, with a similar group of videos, aimed more towards a high school audience.  What I find is that when a concept confuses me, it helps to have it explained over and over, in a lot of different ways, by a lot of nice people.  There are countless other video series.  You can often get some great graphics here that summarize various grammatical concepts.  Also just doing a google image search for "Spanish grammar image" gives you hundreds of charts and cheats and illustrations of grammatical concepts.

Well, this is about all I can present at the moment; think I will split it up into two postings, as it keeps getting better and better.  I'm hoping when I go back to Turkish I will find a similar, though lesser, number of study aids.  It's really a bit mentally overwhelming, something to make a hyperactive person more than a bit antsy! And yes, there are many fascinating crafts practiced in Spanish speaking countries and I can see how much fun it will be to seek out resources in the languages of those countries instead of waiting for an English speaker to take an interest in it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

reporting in on retirement

Reporting in on retirement: I was such an expert before I retired, let's see what's happening now....
1. Some things I was putting off doing, I continue to put off doing (cooking wonderful dishes; really, thoroughly cleaning the house). Probably because I don't want to do them as much as I want to do other things.
2. Some things I thought I would focus on and instead I'm sliding away from them, at least for now (crafts, working on my crafts dictionary web page).
3. Some things I'm doing, because I love doing them, but still run out of time (certain gardening ventures, things I intend on reading).
4. Also, I am heading in much more of an academic direction than I thought I would. I love learning languages and Spanish is taking up a lot of my free time and free mental space. To the extent that 1 through 3 above are more limited than they might be.
5. I'm much appreciating the fact that I am finding a lot of intellectual stimulation in retirement, partially due to things on the web like language study aids, new kinds of music and crafts instructions on YouTube. These things aren't as social as I had wished, but at least the study aids are back ups to social activities, ie, my classes.
6. I'm enjoying the gym. No matter how bad my mood may be at the moment I drag myself out Tuesday mornings early and Friday mid-day and whatever is going on, it makes things a bit better. It certainly doesn't hurt. I wish I was doing more days of exercise and felt it was time to branch out to more social things, like dancing, but see #4 above.
7. I felt like an outsider in the work environment and now I feel a bit like an outsider in the school environment (I love the intellectual activity, but I envy my classmates their relative youth and their idea that much of life lies ahead of them). Life is still rather lonely at times, but see items 4, 5, and 6 above. Life has it's compensations, or, whatever.......I guess I just have the outsider mentality wherever I am. Sometimes it's good to be looking into the crowd from the outside.
8. I feel less driven to accomplish things in a certain order. This summer I will take no classes and will have an actual vacation. I plan on concentrating on physical things, like pulling out carpet and improving garden structure and going to the gym more often. I want to take some outside crafts class, to get that started up again and I want to do something both physical and social (sounds like dancing, eh?).
9. I miss my workmates but feel less and less connected to work. Love y'all but don't give a S&&& about the stress and the never ending workload and the constant sense of feeling under-appreciated in some large-scale way (not day to day interactions with people as much as the whole environment); don't miss that stuff a bit!
10. I'm trying to be a big girl and not depend upon my family so much for my entertainment, as they are all growing up and turning towards other things to one degree or another. Moving fast and carrying a decent camera helps.
11. I still run on and on and on once I have an idea that interests me. I guess that won't ever change. See items 1 through 9 above, yessss indeed.

Will report back in periodically, but largely I would recommend it, and then I would recommend whoever retires first meets me for lunch or a walk now and then, to help with the relative isolation. Das all folks....

Saturday, February 21, 2015

My Playlist for Spanish Class

Not all of my play list choices will have lyrics, because so much of the great music of Spanish/Latino culture is instrumental.  Not all of it is even in Spanish, though the song that is not in Spanish is from the Mixtec people who are surrounded by Spanish language speakers and who probably are all fluent in Spanish as well themselves.

My first selection is Rodrigo y Gabriela.  They started out as Mexican heavy metal musicians but decided they wanted to compose their own music, which has evolved into a lively style of flamenco influenced instrumental music.  They did not gain a large following until they had spent some time playing on the streets and in restaurants in Ireland.  "Tamacun" is one of their best known pieces.

Next is Andrés Segovia, from Spain. one of the most famous classical guitarists of the past century. He performed well into his 80s. It is said that Segovia did much to promote the guitar as a serious musical instrument, worthy of concert hall performances.  "Asturias" is one of my favorites:

This is a Venezuelan version of  "La Partida", a South American waltz. Again no lyrics, just music to enjoy.  You can discover a multitude of other musical styles and performers by following up on YouTube's suggestions for related music after you listen to this one.

Finally, with some lyrics, is this music from a Chilean group, Inti Illimani, called Fiesta de San Benito. This music moves back and forth, then seems to pause, then moves forward, with the cadence of a street parade:

This song is most popular in Venezuela and has strong African influences.  The lyrics can be found here.

This next song is from another continent and another era. "Morena me llaman" originated from the Sephardic Jews in Renaissance Spain, and is sung in Ladino, which is close to, but not exactly, Spanish. The lyrics, and their English translation, can be found here.

Back across to the Americas, this is a song called Atahualpa. It is normally sung by Huayucaltia, a Los Angeles based group who sing Latin American "nueva cancion or trova" style songs, however the only version I was able to find was not sung by them; I believe they have requested their songs be taken off YouTube.  So I have here a non-native speaker of Spanish, performing in her living room.  But she sings slowly and clearly and both Spanish and English lyrics are provided in the YouTube notes.  The melody is haunting, as are the lyrics.

Next is Pasatono Orquesta's "Obertura maromera". I haven't been able to find the lyrics yet, but this article has a lot of information on the background to their musical traditions. This is a Oaxacan circus song:

A wealth of cultural images are shown in the video as the song is played in the background.

I confess that this next video, "Ama ka kui kundui Ñuu you"  strays completely away from Spanish!  It is in the Mixtec language, spoken by people native to the Oaxacan region of Mexico.  The performer, Leonidas Rojas, is also associated with Pasatono Orquesta and I have included it for another glimpse into the culture of one specific region of Mexico. So far I have only found a translation of the title as "Cuando salí de mi pueblo". I saw an English translation as "when I leave my people".


With so much of this music I feel like I am only coming in contact with the tip of a cultural iceberg, and there is much more exploration to be done.  Despite the amount of information on the internet, it can be difficult to find a lot of information on some of these songs and the traditions they represent.

Next, Ojos de Brujo's  "Tesoro" is a much more sophisticated sounding song.  Ojos de Brujo, or "Eyes of the Sorcerer" is from Barcelona and combines hip hop and flamenco in their music:

The lyrics can be found here. Or, another version here, if you want to have a good laugh over the attempted English translation.

The last song, Huepa Huepa, music from the Dominican Republic, performed by Daniel Indart, should get you out of your seats and off of the internet, where we all spend too much time.  Even if you aren't in the mood to dance, the lyrics promise to be spicy enough to wake you up:

Spanish lyrics found  are under the music on Youtube.

I know I am only scratching the surface.  Spanish language music and the music of Latin American countries (not always in Spanish) has a vast amount of influences and regional specific history.  I have been listening to enough lately that YouTube has decided to present me with ads in Spanish, which are rather less annoying than ads in English.

I have these songs in a collection on YouTube and will add more to the collection as I find them:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

And, after all that whining

I've settled into a semester that seems to have the right combination of sitting and activity, especially since I've fit the gym into my schedule for the first time in my life.  Off to it soon now, which is why this post will be brief.  Me gusta mucho mi clase de espanol (but don't know how to do diacritics in blogger yet, apologies, "enye").

I need to post pictures from Hawaii, and some digital quilts I've made from bits and pieces of those pictures.  I picked up GIMP after months away and am enjoying revisiting techniques I was using a couple of years ago.  Again I am glad for this blog because I have forgotten how to do certain things.

More anon....