Friday, September 12, 2008

The Word Nerd Sez: C is for...


Boy, that's a fancy-looking word, isn't it? I wonder what it means. Is it some form of "lite" copper? No, the "-lite" part has something to do with stone, I'm pretty sure. And if I remember high school chemistry, the symbol for copper is Cu; depending on the valence, compounds are either "cupric" or "cuprous." So, something having to do with stones or minerals, but not copper. I wonder. Maybe I should look it up in the dictionary.

tee hee hee

How could I forget? Coprolite is the fancy term for PETRIFIED POO! Thank you, paleontology class! Yes, there are scientists out there who spend their careers studying fossilized dinosaur dung. If it weren't for coprolites, we wouldn't know much about what dinosaurs used to eat. Coprolite can also be analyzed to see what kinds of minerals existed in certain prehistoric plants. In the 19th century, the English mined for coprolites, as they made great fertilizer.

You may think I'm being silly and juvenile (and I am), but here's another reason why I love words: they can make something silly and juvenile sound impressive and fancy. I mean, if you were a paleontologist, wouldn't you rather say you specialize in studying coprolites than fossilized feces? If I say that at Thanksgiving, my mom's house rings with the sound of eructations, doesn't that sound better than "everybody belches"? Sure it does! All the more reason to keep exploring the dictionary, I say.

Tee hee hee. I said POO!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Quilt Files, Episode 3

In this episode of the Quilt Files, we get to look at my first experiments with applique. I bought this kit because I liked the pattern and thought it didn't look too difficult. And it wasn't, at first; the background is made of small squares that you piece together in rows—exactly what I'd done for my rainbow wall hanging. They call this effect "water color," using light and dark squares to create a background. With a 12x16 square background, I only had to piece together 192 squares, which were included in the kit. Except somehow they didn't do their math very well; although there are 192 squares, around 20 of them were actually a combination of light and dark triangles, to create the rayed effect you see. So I actually needed 212 squares, and there weren't that many in the kit. I raided my stash to find more light squares, but my stash is mostly bright colors, so it was fairly tricky.

Still, I managed to get the background pieced and I was ready to try the applique. I decided to do it the easy way: satin stitch the edges, which means no need to fold under edges on the applique pieces. Just cut them out according to the pattern, fasten them to the background using double-sided iron-on sticky stuff, and sew. No problem, right?

I didn't think so. And it wasn't a problem with the first pieces: I cut and stuck on the lighthouse without problem, easy peasy. Then I cut out the house, and when I went to stick it on the background, I made a discovery: if you trace a pattern on the double-sided sticky stuff, then when you iron it to the wrong side of the fabric, you actually get the reverse of the pattern on the right side. Oh, geez. You mean I have to pay attention to left and right? That's never good for me.

So my house was backwards, and I didn't have enough fabric in the kit to cut out a second, correctly shaped piece. Luckily, I only had to adapt the rock-path piece a little bit to compensate, and the overall picture still turned out okay. I had no problems satin-stitching the pieces, and it was fun to quilt the sun's rays with a metallic gold thread. I like this little quilt, and it hangs in my bedroom, where it's a little bit of sunshine when I wake up (even if I wake up at the ungodly and dark hour of 6 am). And it's a good thing I had this experience with applique before I started my next wall hanging, which you'll get to see in the October installment of the Quilt Files.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mortality sucks

At least, that's what I can't help feeling today, after attending the funeral of a former colleague and good friend, Tom Wiloch. I first met Tom 20 years ago, when I took my first job at Gale Research in Detroit. The absurdly low pay of the job was more than made up for by the interesting people I met at the place. Tom had been at Gale for a while when I started working there (and in fact would often shake his head when he calculated I was in kindergarten when he started college), but you never would have guessed it by his unassuming manner. He showed no sense of superiority or entitlement (although he was brilliant and experienced), only friendship, a wry wit, and a ready chuckle that was often heard in the quiet of the office. As someone said today, he was the least likely guy you would have picked to suffer a fatal heart attack in his 50s.

Tom was laid-back, but you never mistook his cheerful calm for apathy or laziness. He was a brilliant writer and an accomplished poet, with a depth of intellect that was evident whenever you talked to him. When I left Gale after 10 years to move to London, he contributed several "inspirational" poems to my good-bye scrapbook. (Yes, a scrapbook. As I said, the great co-workers were one of the benefits of the job.) These poems were inspired by various famous poets—Frost, Longfellow, T.S. Eliot, Whitman—and he turned each one into a witty meditation on my leaving, yet unmistakably in the style of the original. My favorite was one "with apologies to Ginsberg":

She saw the best minds of her corporation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the cubicle maze at dawn looking for a box of Puffs,
angelheaded editors burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry percentage increase in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up belching in the supernatural haze of task-force meetings floating across the tops of computer screens contemplating Dilbert,
who passed through websites with radiant cool eyes hallucinating hyperlinks and Blake-light tragedy among the volumes of SATA

Diane, we're with you in London
where you are luckier than we are.
We're with you in London
where you must feel very smug.
We're with you in London
where we will sponge off you when we come to visit.

Strangely enough (or maybe not, knowing his fondness for the macabre), there is one of Tom's jokes that I remember more than any other. One day, while passing around a condolence card for a co-worker, I mentioned to Tom that I hated to be the last one to sign the card, because there are only so many ways to express condolences. Tom said, "Yeah, I guess 'Get over it, crybaby' wouldn't be very good." Now, whenever I start writing a sympathy card, my first (naughty) thought is: Get over it, crybaby!

Get over it? Not any time soon, Tom.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Photo of the Week--9/1/08

We faced highway traffic and flight delays, but eventually we caught our little prop-plane flight to Jersey, in the Channel Islands. Jersey is the southernmost of Britain's Channel Islands, and is actually off the coast of France. It has an interesting history, with both French and English influences, and was actually occupied by the Nazis during World War II. This shot is of Groznez Point, where lies the ruins of a castle that was built in the 14th century (and was destroyed during the next 100 years, likely by the French). A windswept point, a castle ruin, an ocean view—how much more scenic can you get?