Archive for the ‘projects’ Category

Project #253 – Needle Felted Chicken

Monday, October 12th, 2009

We’re out in sunny, warm San Diego for the wedding of a friend. Is it just me or has Southern California improved a lot since the 1990′s? Maybe I didn’t know about such cultural highlights as the Vietnamese Sandwich or the Hawaiian Crepe, but they are definitely making this trip worthwhile. Magnifique!

I always struggle a little bit to find projects to do while we travel. Clark and I prefer not to check bags and it can be a little difficult to come up with something where at least one of my tools won’t get confiscated by airport security.

Luckily I discovered needle felting. The needles seem to be A-OK for carry-on luggage. Of course, I missed my chickens, so I decided to make a little mini-version of one of them.

I made little puffs of wool and used my barbed needle to mat them together into one solid piece. Unfortunately, it ended up looking like a matted fur-ball. Essentially, that’s what a needle felted sculpture is, but I’d prefer if they didn’t look it so much.

My second try involved wrapping the wool around a little wire scaffolding, which kept all of the fibers laying in the same direction. The result was much improved.

Project #252 – Wedding Cake Cake Topper with Rosettes

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Okay, take two. The more I look at the first set of wedding cake toppers, the goofier they look. So, I took a little extra time today and made a more serious set, with better actual wedding cake resemblance. I should package them with a seal that says exactly that. “NOW WITH ACTUAL WEDDING CAKE RESEMBLANCE!!” Oh, and “NOW WITH FRESH VANILLA SCENT!!” I will sell millions.

I would need special tools to add faces to the people at the top of the cake. Do half inch tall people with no faces freak people out? I could spin it in a positive light. “NOW WITH DISAPPOINTMENT-FREE FACES!!”

Project #251 – Dia De Los Muertos Cake Toppers

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Sugar skulls are not that tasty, but I will still eat them with my mouth until gone. I love sugar a little to much.

I’m Hispanic, but I wasn’t raised in a culture that celebrates Dia de los Muertos. Instead, we celebrated All Saints Day and the children in my church could dress up like their favorite saint. It was a second, Catholic halloween and every year I dressed as Joan of Arc. We were expected to pray for the souls of our deceased friends and family, especially the ones that died within the year before, but not with the pomp and ritual of the Day of the Dead.

It’s a holiday I wish we had. To me, I wish there was a less painful was of saying hello/goodbye to loved ones every year. I’m on board for anything that involves a celebration and party favors and sugary treats in lieu of sitting alone and crying during the hard years.

More importantly, they glow in the dark. That is not only awesome, but useful in case of a power outage to keep guests from tripping over the cake.

Project #250 – Wedding Cake Cake Topper

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Continuing on my wedding cake topper trend, I decided to carry out my previous imagining of a wedding cake topped with smaller wedding cakes. I wanted the wedding cake cake toppers with even tinier wedding cake cake toppers, but they looked a little too abstract to be read as tiny wedding cakes. So, I replaced them with tiny brides and grooms.

I think this is one of the goofiest, dumbest things I’ve made for a while, but they make me smile on some primal level, possibly the same primal level that secretly enjoys Ziggy cartoons.

Project #249 – Teapot Cake Toppers

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

I’m glad that we, as a people, have managed to shed the confinement of pastel wedding colors and branch off into the more saturated areas of the color table. In fact, it’s been ages since I attended a peach or mint green affair, two colors that seemed to be very popular circa 1974 according to my family albums. Even the weddings that I’ve attended lately with something pale like pink as a signature color always have something bold like chocolate brown to keep the palette from being washed out.

I like it. I like reds and bright blues and deep, limpid purples. I love golden yellow bridesmaid dresses and wedding cakes that reject the traditional white on white palette. It’s pleasant to attend a wedding and spend an evening stewing in a carefully selected set of colors.

I’m kind of in love with bright blue and yellow as key colors right now. I made this coffee carafe and teapot out of some leftover blue polymer clay that transfixed me like a bower bird.

Also, I’m a tea aficionado married to a coffee fancier, so I kind of hope that I don’t sell this set and get to keep it for…I don’t know…something. Um, a birthday? I’m already married, but everyone needs a teapot with a veil, AMIRITE?

Project #248 – Robot Mugs

Monday, October 5th, 2009

I have a stash of Pebeo China Paint markers so that I always have fresh ones at my fingertips. The older a paint marker is, the harder it is to get a steady ink flow. The tips also deteriorate quickly; they start with nice thin lines, but after a while it blunts and the lines get thicker. However, I really like the chunky lines of a mildly broken-in marker, it gives drawings character.

I like the illustrations on these mugs, but it wish I had made them a little smaller just so I could get those nice thick lines in proportion to the drawings. I pulled it off a little better here, but I still need to work on consistency. I feel like I have a set of illustrations I can draw with uniform results, but I need some more practice on getting predictable results from my tools.

It’s always been the ability to do something consistently and quickly that separates the hobbiest from the professional. I could use a little more of that in my fingertips.

Project #247 – Cookies as Evidence of Good Wifery

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

Being a good spouse is kind of like being a good driver. Almost everyone thinks they are one.

However, I think I can present concrete evidence that I am, indeed, a wife of a higher caliber.

Exhibit #1: Reeses Pieces Chocolate Chip Cookies
It is nearly midnight and my husband is watching the Steelers game. Out of the blue, someone brings up the idea of fresh-baked cookies and now he can’t get the idea out of his head. I was considering going to bed, but instead made a fresh batch of cookies from scratch.

Yes. Praise me. I was tired but I still made some awesome cookies.

Okay, that is my only photographic piece of evidence for now, but I’m telling you that I’m going the eventually build up enough to make my case for the Nobel Prize of Wifery. I just need to document more and then learn how to cook a really good steak.

Project #246 – Visionary Ideas Talk

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

Well, we didn’t win the Visionary Ideas Contest, but Mary the Chicken was pretty well behaved on stage and she made a lot of friends. Clark, Mary and I were photographed together as part of a potential book that will be made of all 8 talks. Then I was filmed giving the talk with Clark and Mary assisting. Hopefully, I’ll be able to obtain copies of at least one of those things for this website later.

UPDATE: No video from the Waffle Shop, yet. They had a few issues with syncing of the audio and video, so I wasn’t able to get a final copy. In lieu of that, below is the final edited text version of my talk. It’s nuts, but much better with a live mooing chicken.

We all know that the United States is stuck in a severe recession.  There might be good news here and there about the economy, but most of us are still feeling the worst of it.  It’s starting to look like the collective intelligence of human kind is tapped out. We are just running out of ideas. 
Now, what if I told you that there is a vast untapped source of intelligence on this planet?  What if I told you that we have at our fingertips a nearly 100% unutilized workforce numbering in the billions that will literally work for peanuts?  I’m talking about our animal brethren. 

Think of it.  We’d have huge, cheap workforce to help rebuild our economy.  America would once again have a manufacturing workforce that would be competitive, salary-wise, with the rest of the world.  Additionally, we’d have enough helpers to care for our aging population and help defray the rising costs of Medicare.

Plus, animals are a source of information that we are only just learning how to put to use.  Think about the vast amounts of engineering knowledge possessed by the average beaver or carpenter ant, and imagine what we could to if we could apply that energy and insight to our own crumbling infrastructure.

Imagine of how many human jobs that would generate just in the care, management and training of this new population of workers.  We would once again return to our status as the world’s workshop!

Now, the one way to build these new relationships is on a being-to-being level.  That is, we must learn to communicate with animals and get them to communicate back with us.  This trans-species conversation could spur on better human stewardship of the environment, more understanding for endangered species, and help teach pest animals to be more considerate.  Just think of it, instead of cluelessly trying to preserve certain rare animal species, we could just ask what they need or why they aren’t breeding.

But are animals capable of the higher order brain functions needed to communicate with humans?  Consider this: the computer on your desktop at home has about the same intelligence capacity as a frog.  It has a number of bits in its memory chips comparable to the number of neurons in the frog’s brain.  Your computer has the power to correct your spelling and grammar as well as look up words in dictionaries containing millions of entries. Not only that, your computer has the capacity to let you play games, do your taxes, and remind you to send your mother flowers for her birthday, among millions of other tasks it is capable of performing. We are not asking the average frog to do your taxes, we are asking it to have a simple conversation and comment on the weather and the quality of the pond water, something the average computer is capable of doing.

Certainly, we have had other friends in the animal kingdom who have already learned to converse with us, for instance Koko the gorilla or Alex the African gray parrot.  Additionally, it is a historical fact that Alexander Graham Bell taught his family dog how to talks, including teaching it how to say “How are you grandma?”  Now, that is an entire sentence uttered by a dog.
Now, if we capture the advances of the last century into understanding of how language works, as well as many advances in the technology for computer assisted language learning, we will have a training process that is less work-intensive and more effective than ever imagined.

Now, how is this done?  There are several layers of functionality to a language and we teach them according to their layer of complexity.  That is, any language must be learned first phonetically (sounds), then lexically (words), then morpho-syntactically (grammar), and, finally, pragmatically (intention and discourse structure).  By tracing along this pathway, starting with sounds and words and ending with conversation, we can teach nearly any animal to communicate with us from the humble grasshopper to the mighty elephant.  If they can’t make noise, we can also teach them Morse code or Braille as a way of communicating, replacing the phonetics step.

Of course, we practice what we teach.  My husband and I care for three Rhode Island Red chickens who are currently undergoing lessons basic lessons in phonology and lexicology.  They have brains the size of walnuts and yet the are keenly aware of the goings on in their tiny backyard.  They are very curious and therefore good training candidates.

We took a cue from Mr. Graham-Bell and his talking dog in order to train our chickens.  In order to prepare his dog for speech he first trained it to growl continuously before teaching it specific sounds.  We used peanuts to encourage the utterance of specific phonemes through operant conditioning.  We knew off hand that they could say ‘buk buk’, which gave us two important consonants,  Through a system of rewards we managed to get them to say ‘rrr’, ‘mmm’, ‘nnn’, and so forth until they were prepared to form words and then sentences.   From there, we will be training them to work as press operators in plastics production down at PNI Plastics in McKeesport where they have already been offered entry-level jobs.

We can apply these principles over and over again in order to build our new workforce.  Through this we can introduce a golden age of prosperity and environmental stewardship for our nation.  God bless America!

Also: Pictures! (I loved the one with Clark and Mary)

Project #245 – More Paper Cutout Posters

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

I added a few more poster-slides to the stack for my talk. They look a little insane out of context.

…and now I am officially sick of paper cutouts.

I also put together a chart explaining the phonemes in the English language. Since may talk is about getting animals to speak English, and specifically chickens, I hope no one expects me to explain how any thing with a beak could pronounce a bilabial consonant.

Project #244 – Paper Cutout Posters

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

I spent the bulk of my day putting together posters for my talk tomorrow, um, instead of finishing some of my work projects. Programming all day Sunday is my punishment.

Since we can’t use digital visual aids, I elected to use giant cut-outs instead. Everything needed to be big because we’re going to be doing this in a church and there is at least 20 feet between the pews and the pulpit.

They were fun to make at first, but it gets old after doing 10. By the time Clark got home I was so sick of them that I didn’t even want to talk about them.

Here are a few from the stack. They’re a little more amusing when viewed completely without context.