Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice!

Brighter days ahead!!!

Mexico City is about to legalize gay marriage

Mexico City is about to legalize gay marriage -- according to this 12-21-09 BBC News article, "City legislators passed the bill 39-20, with five abstentions. The city's mayor is now widely expected to sign the bill into law." The article is interesting -- there are several other places in Latin America that are supporting the civil rights of gays and lesbians. Via Pharyngula.

Ta ta for now,
Sylvie

Must-See Octopus Video

The article and video are both awesome!
Aussie scientists find coconut-carrying octopus, by Kristen Gelineau,
The Associated Press
, December 15, 2009


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Post-Rapture Pet Care

Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, USA. When the Rapture comes, what's to become of the loving pets who are left behind? Never fear -- these animal-loving atheists will step in when you step up to Jesus.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

WTF, Animal Planet?

I saw a trailer on Animal Planet the other day for a show about paranormal activity. It said something like "IF ANIMALS BELIEVE, SHOULD YOU?" I nearly died laughing. I'm guessing that it was an ad for "The Haunted," which according to Discovery Press Web, "chronicles true, chilling and terrifying ghost stories of animals and their owners haunted by paranormal spirits."

PZ Myers is comin' to town

Well, he's coming to Northern California (UC Davis on Thursday, January 21, 2010), and we'll be there! A room full of non-believers? Hot damn! Details are available on this Facebook event page.

I really like this one



I just finished this ornament. At a quilt show, I picked up some pictures of birds on little squares of fabric, and this is my first project using one of them. I will try to use some of my own photos in the future. The loop is made of a pale, rainbow, sparkling thread (oooooo, shiny .......).

It's a gift for my mom.

Ta ta for now,
Sylvie

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Two more ornaments

I made them with postconsumer recycled content craft felt. The snowflake pattern is from Doodle Stitching by Aimee Ray.

Ta ta for now,
Sylvie

Jack Chick Documentary

It's called "God's Cartoonist." Via Pharyngula. Check out the trailer here.

Bob Dylan's surreal Christmas song video

In the video of Bob Dylan's new Christmas song, "Must Be Santa," Bob is at a party where a bunch of annoying people are dancing frenetically; Bob is wearing a top hat and a long straight wig (reminds me of Tom Petty) that goes from dark brown to gray; Bob is more animated than I've ever seen him; and 2/3 of the way through, a young man (Dylan's alter-ego, perhaps?) trashes the place. I'm a big fan of Bob's music (especially the older stuff), but once again he has confirmed his insanity.

Do you remember his Victoria's Secret commercial? Here's an article, which includes a link to the ad, in Slate.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A random thought

I want a dirndl-esque dress -- nothing costumey, nothing pastel, and I wouldn't wear the apron, and the skirt should hit just below the knee, and I wouldn't have my breasts spilling over the top. Some of the fancy knee socks and Mary Jane shoes worn with dirndls are so cute. I like the "Elke" style here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Another side of George Washington Carver

Did you know that scientist, educator, humanitarian, and former slave, George Washington Carver (he of peanut research fame), found time in his busy schedule to paint, crochet, knit, and do needlework (embroidery, woo hoo!)? He dyed many of his own threads and fibers with natural dyes made from local walnut, mulberry, and ochre clay. Check it out.

Yes, Virginia, you can be good without a god-belief (but there is no Santa Claus)

"If your grasp of right and wrong is so shaky that you can't stop yourself from doing bad things, and you need someone threatening you with eternal punishment to keep you in line, then we wonder how safe you really are to be near."
(from the Web site of the Atheist Community of Austin)


In college, my atheism came up in a conversation with a fellow student. She was shocked and exclaimed in the tone of a terrified child, "But what makes you be good??!!" "My conscience," I replied.

Having said that, here are a few snippets from a December 8, 2009 press release from UC Berkeley News titled "Social scientists build case for 'survival of the kindest'" ...

  • "Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are challenging long-held beliefs that human beings are wired to be selfish. In a wide range of studies, social scientists are amassing a growing body of evidence to show we are evolving to become more compassionate and collaborative in our quest to survive and thrive."
  • "Overall, these and other findings at UC Berkeley challenge the assumption that nice guys finish last, and instead support the hypothesis that humans, if adequately nurtured and supported, tend to err on the side of compassion."
  • "This new science of altruism and the physiological underpinnings of compassion is finally catching up with Darwin's observations nearly 130 years ago, that sympathy is our strongest instinct."
Good night,
Sylvie

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Felt ornament

Side one
Side two

I hate the holidays, but I love tchotchkes. I just finished this felt ornament (I got the idea from Sunshine's Creations). (Cue Troy McClure's voice) You may remember this recycled-content material from such items as my blue crow.


I learned the fern stitch from Jenny Hart's new book, Embroidered Effects. Good stuff.

Good night,
Sylvie

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sir David after 3 hours and 15 minutes

Here he is after 3 hours and 15 minutes:
I did the outline of his face in stem stitch using six strands of floss, and I'm doing the details of his face in back stitch with three strands.

Here he is after 45 minutes.

Good night,
Sylvie

Sunday, November 29, 2009

WIP: Redwork portrait of David Attenborough

Here it is after 45 minutes:

I'm doing his hair in split stitch using six strands of floss.

Close-up of the face
Here is the photo I used. My original choice was this one of him with a frog, since he looked particularly smiley and kindly (and duh, he had a frog!!) but the Photoshop process reduced the frog to an unidentifiable lump of lines.

If this thing turns out well, it will thrill me to the marrow!

Be seeing you.
--Sylvie

Friday, November 27, 2009

Birdwatching in Britain

  • I just read an article, in the November 22, 2009 issue of The Observer, on how birdwatching is becoming even more popular in Britain. The article includes interviews with a number of birdwatchers, including some famous ones. Alison Steadman's enthusiasm is so genuine and may I say, adorable. And, it was nice to hear about another black birder, David Lindo.
  • Mackenzie Crook, of The BBC's The Office, is a birder (and a nature-lover in general). He bought a woodland instead of a Ferrari. See this article from the Winter 2008 issue of Tweet, from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Felt Crow


I made this felt crow a few months ago. I used one of my photos of a crow as the pattern. It is made of 100% postconsumer content craft felt, and its back is gray.

I used silver thread to make its bill snazzier.

Good night,
Sylvie

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pure Nerd

Here are the results from my The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test. Well, I'm a bit of all of the above, but since I "scored better than half in Nerd" (65% Nerd, 26% Geek, 43% Dork; obviously, this isn't additive), I earned the title of

Pure Nerd.


The site provides the following definitions:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

Be seeing you.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sugar

Gum: Bazooka Joe has new characters, including a nerdy black kid who likes reptiles! When you get to the Bazooka site, click on "Comics."

Cookies: We had Tim Tams (Arnott's) in Australia (one of our tour leaders loves chocolate, sugar, and fat, and he loves to share, so each day on the bus he gave us soda and cookies). I saw them at the grocery store on Sunday; the American version is made by Pepperidge Farms, not Arnott's, and I found a detailed comparison of the two versions here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Back from Australia, or I heart Solo

We returned from Australia (New South Wales and Queensland) on Friday, and I'm not sure if I'm over the jet lag yet. We took a nap on Friday afternoon, and at about 7:30 that night, my husband woke up and microwaved some burritos for us; after eating, we went back to sleep and slept for 13 hours straight.

Because of my collapsed lung, I didn't know if I would be able to go, but one week before we left, I got the go-ahead from my doctor. Flying with a collapsed lung is a very dangerous thing to do, but mine had "fully resolved." After an incident-free 15-hour flight there, I felt like I really was in the clear.


Highlights include about 300 species of birds (most of them new), including Birds of Paradise, Bower Birds (and their bowers!!!),
Cassowaries, Emus, rainbow-colored everybodies, and pied everybodies; platypuses, koalas, wallabies, kangaroos, bandicoots, dragons (forest and water), battling monitor lizards (goanas), green sea turtles, and the rainforest. I might have seen a flying fish. I also fell in love with lemon squash, specifically Solo, the thirst crusher. I must find something like it here.

My husband and I caught a cold a few days into the trip, but the wildlife and landscapes were great distractions from the pounding sinus headache and coughing (I was constantly afraid that I would cough at the wrong moment and scare away some much-desired bird). Our tour group included 12 participants and 2 leaders, and 6 people came down with the cold.

I took an enormous quantity of crappy photos (the rainforest is dark).

My biggest disappointment is that the pelagic trip was canceled because of bad weather, and we could have seen heaps of albatrosses (one of my favorite groups of birds). We'll just have to go back :-) And, I really want to see flocks of wild budgies, and they are found west of where we were on this trip.

OK, enough of the stream of consciousness.

Good night,
Sylvie



Friday, October 2, 2009

Remake of The Prisoner

I just watched the 9-minute preview of a new AMC miniseries -- a re-make of The Prisoner. This is wrong on so many levels:

  • Never re-make a classic.
  • James Caviezel plays Number Six. WTF? An American?
  • Far too many American accents.
  • In conversations, the characters call each other "Six" and "Eleven-Twelve," as if they simply had flaky parents who gave them numbers as names. It's supposed to be "NUMBER Six."
Gay, atheist, vegetarian Sir Ian McKellen plays Number Two. From everything I've heard, Caviezel is a pretty conservative Catholic.

Patrick McGoohan, the star of the original series, died earlier this year.

I am not surprised that they re-made The Prisoner, but I am pissed off. The only silver lining is that this may lead more people to watch the original -- catch it on Fridays on IFC.

Be seeing you.


My Punishment


This is what greeted me when I pulled my oft-used Tilley hat from the washing machine. I've washed it in the machine before, without any damage, but I guess that I waited too long between washings this time, and that the rot that sets in from too-little washing occurred.

Why is it beloved? Well, first of all, it comes in a size large enough to fit over my dreadlocks. I look like a total dork, of course, but it fits. Plus, it was very durable and shielded me from the sun, rain, and bird poop on many an outdoor adventure. Next time, I promise to wash my Tilley hat more often.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I am so green

"A recent study by statisticians at Oregon State University concluded that in the United States, the carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact of an extra child is almost 20 times more important than some of the other environmentally sensitive practices people might employ their entire lives - things like driving a high mileage car, recycling, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs."
Source: http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/07/oregon_state_researchers_concl.html

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Sunday Snog

Check it out: Discover's Web site features The Sunday Snog photo. I like the sound of that. Now, I realize that today's photo is of the President, and he has really disappointed (am I being too nice?) us liberal folk by, to be brief, being a true politician at heart (having said that, in the photo, it appears that he really likes Michelle). Please check out the adorable anteaters from Aug. 2, 2009. Blood pressure lowering ...

Ta ta for now,
Sylvie

Vanishing Bees

When I saw the latest issue (October 2009) of Discover at the bookstore with a cover that promised articles on sex (among other things, the article describes a woman who had orgasms while brushing her teeth, which in and of itself sounds awesome to me, but would my dental health suffer because I couldn't make it through a full two minutes of brushing, or perhaps due to constant brushing? Unfortunately, her toothbrushing orgasms were eventually accompanied by loss of consciousness and she was diagnosed with epilepsy), vanishing bees, and whether or not evolution shaped us to be good, I knew that that periodical was coming home with me.

I heart bees, and not just honeybees. Bees seem to be the least humorless of all of the hymenopterans. I'm not judging anyone -- wasps and ants are fascinating, too. Anyway, it appears that in-breeding has made honeybees less resistant to infections and infestations. The article says that "today's honeybees are sickly, enslaved, and mechanized," and provides the following quote from a researcher who studies honeybee behavior and genetics "We've looked at bees as robots that would keep on trucking no matter what ... They can't be pushed and pushed."

The article describes a Montana pollination outfit that trucks bees from Montana to California to Washington to Montana. The bees pollinate, and therefore feed from, the same food (an orchard crop) for a month at a time. They pollinate in the spring, produce honey in the summer, and winter in a sandy lot near San Francisco where they exist on corn syrup (which I'll bet is devoid of the nutrients in the food upon which they would naturally over-winter). Is that creepy or what?

The good news is that some people are gathering feral hives and creating healthy colonies. One guy who used to work for the aforementioned Montana company had an epiphany and now lives in his truck in New York State, where he "shuttles around in his truck, fetching hives out of local squirrel houses, conducting a one-man breeding project. His goal is not to furnish the large-scale migratory beekeepers with more robust stock but rather to create an infrastructure of small-scale beekeepers."

Now, I'm not naive. Honeybees are not native to North America, and I would assume that their introduction must have some negative effect on native species. I am also not so naive to think that large-scale agribusiness is going to disappear overnight. And, I don't know how much suffering honeybees experience at the hands of small-scale beekeepers. Large-scale agribusiness treats living things like machines, and we see the consequences in animal suffering, environmental degradation, and human illness (mad cow, Pfiesteria, etc.). I don't want to debate about whether or not bees are capable of suffering. Would you like to be sick, infested with mites, and fed what barely passes for food all winter?

Ta ta for now,
Sylvie

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Avocado Pie

Here I sit nursing a spontaneous pneumothorax of unknown causes. When I went to the ER on Monday, they thought it was pleurisy (a cool old-fashioned sounding word, don't you think?), but now it's a spontaneous pneumothorax (collapsed lung).

So dig: Not Martha blogged about a local pie contest, into which an avocado pie was entered. That sounds positively vile, but it brings up fond memories of one of my favorite books, The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death.

Ta ta for now,
Sylvie

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

365black.com -- WTF, McDonald's?

McDonald's 365black.com Web site actually says, "Like the unique African Baobab tree, which nourishes its community with its leaves and fruit, McDonald's has branched out to the African-American community nourishing it with valuable programs and opportunities."

That is effing surreal. Who writes this stuff?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Godless rambling

  • A Turkish game show is looking for atheists to convert. Via Pharyngula. They did a skit about this on the Stephanie Miller radio show. My husband said that during the show, basically the whole cast -- Stephanie, Jim, and Chris (who was already out as an atheist) came out as atheists. Turkey's government is supposed to be secular, but if I lived there, I'd think twice about announcing my lack of belief on television.

What remains, then, for those who cannot pray ... This alone, and this is enough: To love virtue, to love truth.
-- John Burroughs

I would add ... to love Nature, to love learning ...

Ta ta for now,
Sylvie

Monday, June 15, 2009

Kale, Pasta, and Veggie Italian Sausage

Kale, Pasta, and Veggie Italian Sausage (adapted from a Ronzoni ad)
  • One 9 oz. package Morning Star Farms vegetarian Italian Sausage
  • About 2/3 of a 13.25 oz. box of whole wheat rotini (I used Ronzoni's Healthy Harvest whole wheat blend pasta)
  • A large bunch of kale, washed and cut into pieces (remember to leave out the center stalks -- I used the fold and slice method that Not Martha illustrates here)
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic, parsley, and basil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt
Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil.

Defrost the veggie sausage in the microwave and slice it into small disks. Saute it in olive oil with the garlic, parsley, and basil.

When the water boils, add the pasta and set your timer for 11 minutes. When the timer goes off, dump the kale into the pot with the pasta and boil for two more minutes. Drain the pasta and kale.

Toss the pasta and kale with the veggie sausage. Salt to taste.

Serve topped with freshly ground black pepper and a little grated Parmesan cheese. The recipe calls for kidney beans, but I am not a big fan of their texture, so I left them out.

It was delicious!!

Ta ta for now,
Sylvie


Newsweek on health mis-information from Oprah

Check out this scathing article in the June 8, 2009 issue of Newsweek about the health mis-information that Oprah Winfrey pedals. At the beginning of the article, we learn that, in her battle against aging, Suzanne Somers injects estrogen into her vagina daily (Ouch!!), givers herself daily injections of human growth hormone (where in the hell is she getting that legally?), and swallows sixty pills (vitamins and other preparations) a day. And then there are the anti-vaccination idiots, like Jenny McCarthy. And the thread lift and Thermage and The Secret and ...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Happy Loving Day!

Per Wikipedia, "Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), was a landmark civil rights case in which the United States Supreme Court declared Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute, the "Racial Integrity Act of 1924", unconstitutional, thereby overturning Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States." The case was decided on June 12, 1967.

In 2007, Ms. Loving said, "I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights." (Source)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I am in love

Gate inspection

My in-laws' new property came with three pygmy goats and two sheep! I named them before I met them, and when I thought that there were only two goats and one sheep. I met them last Sunday, and I am in love! The sheep are very handsome, but they were not interested in people at all. Two of the goats were super-friendly, and I pet them for a very, very long time and took numerous photos. The largest of the goats, Baerli II, was the most timid with people -- he let me touch his nose twice -- but he has no problem facing down the sheep.

The goats are very smart. When asked what month it is, they replied "Maaaaaaaaaaaaay!" :-)

These photos prove why I am completely besotted with these creatures:

Schwanli, the smallest goat

Schwanli nibbles Baerli II

Baerli has a cute mule-ish muzzle

Baerli -- coy or cross?

Baerli II, the largest of the goats, sitting like a dog
Another shot of Baerli II sitting like a dog

At times, the goats would stand up on their hind legs and butt heads ever so gently.
I wasn't able to get a picture of that,but believe me, it was effing adorable.

The goats have a three-way head butt ...

... as the sheep head for the larger pasture. Each time the sheep headed for the larger pasture, the goats followed. Their bottoms are adorable!

Baerli II considers head-butting Nasturtium II. It didn't happen.Nasturtium II

Nasturtium

Nasturtium nibbles coyly

Ta ta for now,
Sylvie

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thanks, but no thanks

Invitation to Jehovah's Witness District Assembly

This lighthearted invitation was left at our front door today. Geez, the Jehovah's Witnesses are getting desperate. When I was a kid, we didn't leave invitations to our District Assemblies on the doorsteps of total strangers. A few weeks ago, they left a flyer for their Memorial Service -- that's where the chosen 144,000 eat wine and unleavened bread (JC's blood and flesh). I was surprised to see them inviting the general public to attend such an important event.


Numerous flyers, pamphlets, and saddest of all, handwritten notes have been tucked into the security gate in front of our doorway. It's sad, really. When you go out in Field Service, as the JWs call it, you have to return to each house in your territory until you finally find someone at home. Knowing this, I do feel kind of bad when I don't answer the door. Then again, when I went in Field Service as a kid, it was a huge relief when no one answered the door. That meant I didn't have to try to convince some impatient stranger to listen to my schpiel. So actually, me not answering the door makes some of them happy, right? :-)

The laziest form of Field Service is “street work.” I kid you not; that’s what they call it. Basically, you go downtown and stand on a corner or stroll about, while carrying the Watchtower and Awake! in front of you like a garlic shield that deters all but the mentally ill. Most mornings, on the way to work, we pass the same minivan of JWs unloading themselves onto the downtown plaza at 5:45 in the morning. Street work lets them avoid talking to people, hang out with their friends, and get their Field Service hours in before work so that their weekends are free. It makes me sad to see JWs in Field Service (such a waste of their lives, plus there is always a chance that they'll convert someone to the cult. Yikes!), but I am glad to how these street workin' folk are making it a bit easier on themselves.


Ta ta for now,
Sylvie

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lazy Risi e Bisi (Rice and Peas)

Peas and rice make a simple and nutritious vegetarian meal. I am no chef, so the easier, the better. I made this yummy recipe twice this weekend while my husband was away. I made it for him tonight, and he loves it, too.

(Lazy) Risi e Bisi (Rice and Peas)
adapted from the April/May/June 2009 Issue of Something Extra from Raley's

1. Combine equal parts cooked rice and cooked peas (I used frozen peas and microwaved them with a few tablespoons of water, but I only cooked them enough to thaw them to a warmish temperature).

2. Add freshly ground black pepper, grated Parmesan cheese, salt, and dried basil to taste.

3. Mix everything together and enjoy!

The next time I make this, I will use fresh basil -- if it's this good with the dehydrated stuff, imagine how great it will be with fresh basil! For more flavor, you could add pine nuts and cook the rice in vegetable broth.

Ta ta for now,
Sylvie

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Prezzie


I made this gift card holder out of the 100 percent postconsumer content (PC) craft felt I mentioned here. Inside is a present for my friend's 60th birthday. He has a new dog, so I got him a gift certificate to PetSmart. This friend loves trees and recycled-content products, so I think he'll like this gift.
To make the leaf as realistic as possible, I used a scanning of a leaf from a Valley Oak in our front yard (it's a small, volunteer tree that grows over our driveway and blocks our car; since we have to trim it occasionally, I scanned some leaves from a trimmed limb). I also tried to follow the leaf's veination.

Ta ta for now, yet again,
Sylvie

Animals

A local wildlife rescue group brings some neat animals to
Walk on the Wildside each year.
Here are a few of this year's visitors:


Poquita, a prehensile-tailed porcupine, or Coendou. She is from a zoo in Florida that was shut down because it wasn't "caring for the animals properly." She has the funniest face and is effing adorable.
What a neat animal!!

A 16-month old black bear cub munching on grapes

The position of the logo on the handler's shirt makes it look like
this alligator is wearing a flaming crown at a jaunty angle :-)


What a handsome brute!

My in-laws are moving, and their new property comes with a ram and two goats. I haven't met them yet, but I have named them -- I plan to call the goats Schwanli and Baerli and the ram Nasturtium.

Ta ta for now,
Sylvie

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Embroidered lotus

This is one of my favorite Vogart patterns. It's the second time I've embroidered it. This one is for a friend at work that I walk with every Wednesday at lunch (she made some pretty beaded jewelry for me last year). I painted an embroidery hoop and "framed" the piece in it.


You can't really tell from this photo (see below), but I used sparkly metallic thread to add some subtle highlights.
Well, the baseball game is about to start.

Ta ta for now,
Sylvie

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Recycled-content felt at Joann

I was shopping for yarn at JoAnn, and I found recycled-content craft felt there (it's from the Kunin Group). Most of the colors are 100 percent postconsumer (PC) plastic (the red is only 50 percent PC). What is really cool is that, of the pre-cut craft felt choices at the store, almost all of them are recycled products. Another great use for old soda bottles.

3-24-08

Here are a couple of things from a walk that we took yesterday.

On our way to the river parkway, we found this hummingbird nest on a neighbor's lawn.






Umbels please me.

Ta ta for now,
Sylvie