Entertainment During Corona

It has been a very long time since I’ve written here. Some of that’s getting out of the habit. A larger part of that is that … well, there’s just nothing happening. I’ve been singing and working on windchimes, pretty much. But I realize that I’m not even sharing about the windchimes. So, here’s a story about windchimes and how I make them.

I’ve had a windchime calculator for quite some time, but just never really got to it. I found impetus to move to titanium from brass because of this video. His chopsticks look beautiful, and onlinemetals.com would ship me some titanium… and so we began. General process:

  1. Find yourself a decent chord at https://www.onemotion.com/chord-player/
  2. Look up the lengths (chime length & length of the hang point)
  3. Cut chimes to lengths
  4. Drill them
  5. Polish the bejeezus out of them
  6. Spin them up on a high-speed drill, while heating them with a torch
  7. Use a polishing belt to strategically remove stripes (yes, while everything’s still running)
  8. Hang them up (after they’ve cooled)

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Above is what one looks like while in progress. That silver titanium will quickly oxidize to a “gold straw” color, because the metal’s already hot.

The least fun in this hobby is the sheer number of drill bits I’ve broken. I bought a drill press, which should help a little bit at least, just by keeping the drill bit straight. We’ll see. It’s definitely the bottleneck in the process.

Next up as not fun is that I really ought to get a band saw. I’ve got a jigsaw (pro tip: a “fine metal” blade on the end-grain wood setting is what you want, for titanium – just chomps the metal out beautifully). It works well enough, actually. The band saw would be a luxury upgrade, when I still haven’t solved the drill issue.

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It’s the blowtorch stuff that’s the most fun, of course. Developing new techniques, seeing what works and doesn’t. Using a large torch to get a base color = a consistent heat platform to build on, whereas just hitting it with the small torch will give much more variation in color.

Making little decorations to go along with the chimes (I’ll work with brass when I’m frustrated with titanium – brass is like butter, in comparison) is also quite peaceful.

At some point I’m going to buy an SMT Micro Anodizer (have a look at some of the examples there), so I can lay down straight-lined patterns, one-color patterns, or can hook it to a paintbrush and paint with electrolyte.

That’s kinda what things have been like around here. Finish work, sing a while if it’s hot, make some chimes if it’s cool. Rinse and repeat.

-D

Once Upon A Time When We Were Social…

What? Needing to turn in a minimum thousand-word essay and opening the blog program instead instead isn’t normal? But, isn’t that the BEST TIME to blog???

How are you?

It’s been a minute, hasn’t it?

We had no idea that we had not, in fact, come through the initial impact of the pandemic with no consequences. (We don’t say “survived the pandemic” – it’s not over.) We are, in fact, natural-born Hobbits, and as such, we live like those mythical creatures. Hobbits are happiest at home. We potter around the garden. We fix enormous and impractical meals. We read a great many, many, many books, and do a great many crafts which include glitter, paint, a lot of muttering under our breath, the occasional swear, or a lot of cutting oil. Staying home 24/7? Avoiding people? That’s playing our song.

While one of us is merely introvert adjacent, the other of us is a full-time introvert who requires at least twenty-one business days to recover from any social outing. Pandemic isolation was supposed to be the crowning achievement of an introvert’s life.

It…was not.

Standing on the edges of a crowd, watching people enjoying themselves is filling the social well. Sitting at a table alone in a cafe, watching people enjoying themselves is filling the social well. Lurking in library stacks, watching mothers try to read while their offspring play around their feet is filling the social well. A meal at a restaurant, a concert, air travel, random conversations with strangers – all of these things with their attendant displeasures and delights give something to us. Normal life – with its reflected light from the sunshine of other people’s lives – fills the social well, and the lack of said all but drains us of our contentment, and worse, our creativity.

(Yeah. That essay. The coding. And the novel that’s due. The technical writing that has to be updated, the PR materials that need to be written. And… And… And…)

It was mostly unnoticeable – and overlapped with T’s autoimmune illness peaking, but the isolation was something which caused both of our brains to atrophy. We realized that we were… too quiet. We usually talk to each other constantly – interrupt each other, exchange ideas with the frenetic energy of sparks on electric wires. Some days we barely exchanged ten sentences between getting up and “pass the salt” at dinner. When we realized that “the worst” was over, and then… it wasn’t, the disappointment was more resignation – we knew this wouldn’t be tidy, but hope is a thing with invasive roots. Now that we know that we need… something to help fix our brains and fill our social wells, we’re in the process of rethinking how we can return to the world in a way that’s safe – considering our weekly outdoor church attendance (more for social interaction than spiritual edification just now) and a socially distanced return to our chamber group, and more activities outdoors, as T’s new meds seem to have pulled her back from brain fog and acute disability. As always, we’re a work in progress… And you?

How are you?


We used to throw tea parties, tasting plate parties and Wine & Cheese (or grape juice and cultured soy milk) parties with the Wees when they were quite small, as a means of introducing them to new foods or just hanging out with the good dishes, and our family in a meaningful way. The last one we had, Elf was eight. Since he’s just turned thirteen this year (!!!!), it’s been a minute. While we aren’t sure whether Elf and Little Man, who are far too cool for our company, would like to come, we’ve been planning a little Taste & See party for a while now. We thought we’d pre-taste one of the offerings, though, just to be on the safe side (and have since decided against having this as part of our taste test). It’s a product we’ve seen everywhere, even a smoked mushroom varietal at our local farmer’s market – vegan jerky.

Having not grown up gnawing on pieces of dried meat at all times, we didn’t at first see the point of this being veganized. But! People who hike and want to pack a quick source of energy swear by these, so we tried four easily available from the supermarket: Pleather in Black Pepper, Louisville Vegan Jerky in Maple Bacon, Gardein in Original, and Noble Jerky in Sweet BBQ.

Our first mistake was buying something called Pleather. Just… no. Both Merriam-Webster and the Oxford Dictionary of Language defines Pleather as a plastic, faux leather substitute, not foodstuff. Our second mistake was getting black-pepper flavored anything: another no. We expected the Louisville to be better, but the maple was sickly sweet, and the bacon flavor was an overdose of liquid smoke. Of the four taste-tested, those two were utterly unspeakable, as in, We Spat Out And Would Not Share With Dogs. The Gardein we thought would be at least okay, because we’ve used Gardein products before, and it was… meh. It’s too moist and has an odd texture. The Noble Jerky is also sweet, but …we immediately wanted to upend the entire bag into a pot of white beans. It’s the exact taste of Boston Baked Beans somehow! Not something you’d want to eat in large amounts without the beans, but …workable. We’re going to cook with both the edible ones and see if they can be redeemed. (We’re not going to try for “elevated,” that’s just asking for the moon.)

So, no winners there, really, but it made us happy to think about doing something as normal as trying weird food and making fun of it.

Small steps, friends. Small steps.

Is this thing on?

It has been an eternity since I’ve blogged anything. Life just seems to roll on, no real change, and here we are with me not having even bothered to pull any pictures from the phones. And did I use a real camera during this time? Nope. Life is kind of narrow right now.

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Here’s what work looks like for me these days. Every client wants me to use their laptop, rather than giving me access through my own system. So, I’ve got a stack of laptops sitting here, which I shuffle around as needed. I’ve just purchased a keyboard/video/monitor switch, so once I go through the setup, I’ll at least have laptops with decent keyboard and monitor!

Do have a look at the latest batch of photos, on www.flickr.com/photos/wishiwerebaking . I’ve taken up a bit of metalworking, primarily making windchimes out of titanium, and there are a few chime photos up there. If you’re interested in something other than the most recent photos, www.flickr.com/photos/wishiwerebaking/collections organizes all of the albums into collections, so it’s possible to navigate. For example:

  • Europe
    • Netherlands (10 albums)
    • Castles (16 albums)
    • England (2 albums)
    • Italy (7 albums)
    • Scotland (2 collections)
      • Around and About (48 albums)
      • Glasgow (47 albums)
    • Traveling About

And on it goes from there, fairly organized. 39,153 photos.

I can’t tell you that I’ll be blogging more, especially now that email subscriptions are being disabled by FeedBurner. We’ll see how it goes.

-D

Calendula Gone Mad

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Well, friends. The calendula never died & we’ve had a huge culling of the most intrusive ones. The silver bushes are taking off, as are a few other things which languished all last year. Lack of gophers is surprisingly good for gardening. T has planted tomatoes and a wee herb garden. Spring has sprung?

-D

Desperately Seeking Springtime

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How are you, friends?

It’s been a minute…

So, 2021. So much has changed, but on a personal level, aside from losses of friends and acquaintances to aging and the robbery of this pandemic, change has largely been confined to the pictures on the calendar. The most surreal aspect of the last eleven months “Living La Vida Covid” has been the effect of days turning to amber, and we, like prehistoric insects, hang in suspended animation. What would we be doing, if we weren’t here? That question goes round and round. We certainly would resume plans for our trip to Europe, we’d certainly meet our friends in Victoria for that lovely Canadian getaway we were anticipating last March, we’d certainly go leaf-peeping, flower-appreciating, and to the beach, finding our way away from the crowds. As it stands, we’re really supposed to stay home, and barring that, only do “essential travel” within a hundred and twenty miles of our home address. It is been, for people who used to simply fill a picnic basket and get into the car for a good wander up the coat, a bit difficult. People talk about hitting a “Covid wall.” Yep, we’ve been close a couple of times…

T’s latest book in November was chosen to be a book club selection for Parnassus Books in Tennessee, a prominent independent bookstore which occasionally makes book presentations on Good Morning America, and PBS NewsHour. (After her book was discussed on NewsHour, T is much more fond of Tennessee now, despite never having been there.) Social distancing hasn’t stopped the juggernaut of publishing, however, so she signed a couple hundred book plates, affixed them to a couple hundred books, and turned right around to sign another contract. In December T was pleased to finally get an appointment with the ophthalmologist, and receive her contact lenses! She’d only been waiting since March…

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Himself has continued to work for an expanding and contracting list of clients, who do fun things like requiring separate laptops (3 so far) so he can work on an HR approved machine for each company, and putting meetings on his calendar five minutes before they start, but unlike others, he’s still working, so despite the annoyance factor, we call it another win. T&D have continued a loose relationship with our chamber group, doing a tiny concert to be released on Valentine’s Day, but have mostly shifted to other hobbies which don’t require Zoom. D has continued to do more with metal work, and has machined himself a few metal working tools to use on his small lathe. With a new drill and sander, he is turning out beautifully anodized wind chimes, just for fun, and the garage is full of sawdust as he begins experimenting with wood. T, meanwhile, is missing the feel of physical books from the public library, but is grateful for used bookstore sales, the Little Free Library down the block, and reading for yet more awards so she can share yet more books.

As usual, California has received insufficient rain, and we regret the brevity of the chilly season, even as we are astounded over the bird bath freezing and the myriad freezing mornings. Cold makes cycling and walking something of a chore, and it’s too easy to get lazy during these times and take up baking like it’s an Olympic sport. As much as we dread another year of fires and horrible heat waves, we’re more than ready to battle allergies (already there, actually), gophers and weeds to get back into the garden. T’s favorite gift of the season remains the beginning of her seed and the seed companies have very helpfully sent along the usual enticing full-color catalogs. The annual Going Over Of The Expenses occurs right around tax time, and as the day approaches, T is very reluctant to look at how much she actually spent on plants and flowers this past eleven months, especially considering how many of them the gopher outright ate… no matter if one faithfully grows one’s own carrots, greens, onions and tomatoes, gardening is never going to be one of those things which is actually cost effective, sadly, but it does make us happy, even as we are screeching at the weird beetles and things that eat the lettuce. (Also note: we found what appear to be EARTHWORMS in the fountain. Since most worms DROWN in the lawn in the rain, we’re pretty sure they’re not earthworms, but how bizarre is that!? You learn something new every season, apparently.)

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So, according to the Lunar Cycle, it’s the Year of the Ox… for whatever it’s worth. It’s never a bad time to celebrate stolid placidity, we suppose, especially not during a global pandemic when it takes stolid, placid stubbornness to carry on, so here’s to that – and here’s to you.

Still Life With Greedy Guests

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How are you, friend?

Are you well?

Autumn is truly here – though it took the weather a minute to remember. It seems the whole “it gets cool, leaves fall, birds come and go,” seemed to be a problem, at first! But now that winter is taking crisp bites from autumn’s mellow apple sweetness, frost laces the neighbor’s roof each morning, and the long, slow sleep is coming upon the garden.

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We harvested seventy pounds (!) of Fuji apples, and forty of Granny Smith, and harvested the carrots finally – even eating a few of them roasted for our mini-Thanksgiving. The beet we were counting on roasting – the others having succumbed to some nibbling wretch when they were still seedlings – is still only golf-ball sized despite all of our waiting. It seems the winter garden might fare better than the summer one ever did; the romaine is staging an unprecedented comeback, and the sage is sending up new shoots. The magnolia is blooming joyfully, despite no one being outside long enough to really enjoy the smothering sweetness, and the citrus trees – though struggling under some kind of fungal attack – are producing small grapefruit and tangerines like mad. Certain People have continued to hoard all of the persimmons, though no names will be mentioned in this missive. Ahem.

We have taken the minor risk of singing – fully masked and at three times the social distance – with a church in our area, filming for services well ahead of time for Advent and Christmastime. This has been a delight, even though singing in a mask, yes, even the beaky ones with the underwire boning in them to prevent you sucking wet fabric, is not easy! But, we’ve enjoyed it. Still, we’re mostly home, as you most likely are, so our most lovely and unexpected amusement has been the birds… Continues to be the birds… Always seems to be the birds. We’re turning into full-on bird nerds, just by virtue of being frequently near a window.

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Earlier this summer, we were visited by a roving flock of some kind of budgie-sized parrots – we never got a good picture, or a good look. They squawked at us from the tree across the fence, raided the soft fruit, and were quickly gone. We enjoyed our regulars, of course, including the flock of four rock doves who’ve decided that they’re chickens (!), the trio of crows whose number has now grown to six regulars, and the myriad robins, phoebe, flycatchers and other tiny songbirds and warblers who are around, but we’ve also had a bright yellow oriole come for a week or so, which was also fun – and hard to photograph. But we were thrilled the other day to have an ear-full of cedar waxwings come by – and yes, “ear-full” or the slightly more obscure “museum” is the correct collective noun for this gregariously social bird. The “ear-full” comes from the fact that while they don’t have a song, cedar waxwings have several high pitched whistles that are… a lot noisy once they get going. They’re fruit-crazy, so us leaving the wormy apples on the trees along with keeping the fountain full of fresh water (while attempting to stay ahead of the little porkers scarfing down seeds like there’s no tomorrow) has meant we’ve had far more avian visitors – and the odd opossum – to the yard. Our greedy little neighbors are giving us an excuse to bundle up and stay outside for a bit.

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It’s a mixed blessing that the autumn has been dry so far. We know that come late next summer, this will have been a terrible thing, as it highly increases fire danger, but right now, the cold, sunny weather allows us to be out and about a little bit. Despite positive vaccine news, we know logically that it’s still going to be a very long, very slow slog to get back into a world where we are free to come and go as we please, to hug friends and sing unmasked, and to treat a cold or ‘flu as nothing more than a mildly annoying inconvenience instead of a life-ending threat. For many who already struggle with chronic illness flaring up during the coldest months, the coming winter is a thing of dread. Here, we’re trying to think ahead to what will sustain us throughout the winter – things outside of our normal everyday. We don’t have a TV or media subscription, but are looking forward to watching a ton of old movies and weird stuff while we get back into handcrafts like knitting (maybe we can finally finish Book-Niece’s sweater, and since she’s now fifteen months old and no longer a newborn, it might even fit) and embroidery; we’re making more wind chimes and poking around the edges of doing lampworking (glasswork done with glass rods – with all of these handy mini-blowtorches, it was only a matter of time) and painting more.

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More than finding new hobbies, though, we’re trying to be deliberate about how we think of and speak of and hope for the future. One of the prime, huge, glaring lessons of this pandemic has been learning what judgmental spirits we have collectively. We’re sure that you, too, have heard of the many people who have picked fights with strangers over how they choose to conduct themselves during this time. As a world, we are (hopefully?) learning that we must leave space for other people to make decisions that we don’t support.

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It’s so hard to hear of people who are traveling and vacationing without commenting. Human beings seem to have a hard time disagreeing with the actions of others, and allowing them to be …just someone with whose actions we disagree. Some people feel it’s unacceptable not to let people know where we stand – after all, there’s a such thing as “right” and “wrong,” still. While that’s undeniably true, there is also no such thing as a no-risk activity during a global pandemic. No matter who we are, the shopping still has to get done, people still have to go to work, and even those staying home still have to venture out of the front door to pick up the mail. What I feel is manageable risk, vs. the risks that I consider foolhardy will be different from what you feel – and we all have had to learn to just “shut-up and wear beige”, as our friend Serena says. We’re only in control of ourselves, so many of us have learned through this time to simply step back out of the stream of conversation, and just do what we’re going to do, rather than letting other people’s conforming or nonconforming behavior define – or goad, or influence – our own. (Edited to add: This is not to say that we’re wafting around wholly non-judgmental, nor that we know what to say when people shrug and casually mention things like “herd immunity” and countenance the dying of hundreds of thousands more people, simply because they’re secure in their insurance coverage and don’t fear long-term disabilities and even less of a safety net than they’ve had in the past. That’s… harder to comprehend, but even there – everyone makes their own choices. Here’s hoping that the choices we make for ourselves are not ones which contribute to far-reaching negative results for others.) This difficult yet valuable understanding will hopefully go a long way toward shaping our post-pandemic selves, and maybe even shape how we talk to each other about politics.

(No? Too soon? Okay.)

We hope that as you’re spending days closer to home – or traveling as sensibly as you can – that you are finding a sense of proportion in reference to yourself and the world. It has helped us a lot to celebrate small joys and victories, to create small, achievable goals to meet, checking off of our lists the things we accomplish. Trying to find new traditions to explore and ways to be deliberate and conscious about sharing with others to encourage them helps as well.

It’s a weirdly ambiguous place to be in, creating history. We will remember these days in a number of ways – but I hope one of them is how we rallied, found joy in small things, encouraged one other, and survived. We can do this.

Be well. ♥

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Hybrid Calendula

We bought a couple of different varieties of calendula, which apparently decided they were a great match, and have self-sown. The hybrids are just wild, with a range of colors, shapes, and sizes. We shared a bunch with some friends & transplanted as many as we could to other parts of the yard. There are still dozens to dig out and encourage, and it’s worth the effort!

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Nothing much to share. We’ve been isolating, of course, and even stopped visiting the farmer’s market about a month ago. Grocery delivery means we’re only leaving the house to walk through the neighborhood. I’m considering getting a trickle charger for the car, simply because the only time it goes anywhere is if we need to visit a doctor; we’re being very good about brushing our teeth, as that’s on hold for a while as well.

I hope you have some flowers in your life. If not, they’re cheap, and a real joy – just don’t get sidetracked by the gophers (new plants are cheaper than traps, in more ways than one).

-D

Emo Statuary

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Dramatic Man Is Dramatic No, really – Dra-Ma-Tique.

I continue to go through our photos, weeding out the cruft. There are now only 101 photos in the Glasgow Botanic Gardens set, having removed 59 which were … well, crummy, or redundant, or blurry, etc. I’m finding about 1/4 to 1/3 of them are simply not all that great. I have a period I call my Orange Period, as I didn’t know about white balance & every bloody thing in Scotland is lit by mercury vapor lamps. I have a period where I really must have had my monitor set to insane brightness, as those photos are pretty uniformly dark (and not awesome, so no point in reviving them from raw).

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And then there’s the man and his monkey. Monkey

I’ve just bought a gimbal for the camera, as I’m tasked with taking some video of the choir, outside. Hopefully this will mean some improvement in still pictures, as well. I’m not sure it’s going to be better than the optical stabilization in the lenses, but I’m pretty sure they’ll complement each other nicely.

Enjoy the weekend!

-D

Unicorns

I happened across an article in the Paris Review about the Unicorn tapestries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; Rockefeller apparently obtained them and gifted them – and I’m not sure how I feel about the originals living in NYC. In any event, they reminded me of having watched the weavers at Stirling Castle, as they worked over the course of years, to re-weave the pieces.

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Keeping in mind these weavings are something like 10 feet / 3 meters wide, and as tall as the ceiling, they represent an immense amount of labor. I think I’m more impressed that Historic Scotland essentially had full-time labor over the course of something like 7 years, to produce replicas.

-D