29 May 2013

thing-a-week 20, 21, 22: macrame, sketches, Liana's birthday card + bonus origami vandalism

Week 20 saw me really busy, packing and moving out of my apartment. I had to stow my craft supplies for a while, but I managed to hang on to this bit of blue cloth, which I used to make another macrame bracelet.

It looks like any other rag, but it happens to be symbolic to me. The original length of cloth was used to tie up the new mattress I got from an outlet store, just a few weeks after I first moved into the apartment and maybe a month or so into my relationship with Cris. I remember feeling pretty grateful that day, that I could afford a little lifestyle upgrade and that I had someone like Cris to help me, even if he didn't have to. Physically and symbolically, the mattress was a nice step up from the old, sunken one I'd borrowed from my grandmother when I'd first moved into an apartment, now five years ago.

I also used a bit of the cloth in designing the cover of a journal that I completed in the apartment. Consider the fact that I hung on to the cloth for so long as proof of how big a hoarder I am sentimental I can be. (I still have a little more!)

Week 21 was difficult; the apartment I'm moving into next isn't actually finished yet, so I'm staying with friends for now. I made these sketches of kirigami models to illustrate verses from "The Black Riders and Other Lines," by Stephen Crane. But, the longer commute to and from my friends' place means less time to draft, cut, and fold models these days, so the sketches had to do for last week. I also couldn't find my craft knife; I should have set it aside during the move.

Today is my officemate Liana's birthday, so I made her this card. Liana loves dogs, and her family lost their beloved yellow labrador, Charlie, sometime ago. It looks like a lhasa apso puppy will be joining them this year, though.

To make up for the weeks I posted sketches, I learned a new modular origami unit that uses business cards instead of square papers.

I also learned that people in the origami community (!) can be pretty protective of models they claim to have discovered first, and because I learned the folds from Malachi Brown's website, I might be considered an origami vandal. (If you like, you can click on that link, and we can be vandals together.)

In grade school, I first learned origami from older kids who had books and who most definitely did not write to the authors of those books to ask permission to teach other kids how to fold the different models. All this time, I've experienced origami as a fun kind of geometry — everyone can learn geometry; there's no law against teaching each other math that happens to make flapping birds and inflatable paper balloons that inevitably get soaked with saliva at the blowhole.

I can understand how you might want something you've discovered all on your own to stay your own, but I don't see Pythagoras's estate chasing down everyone who wants to calculate the distance between two points, or Einstein's lawyers filing claims against every last t-shirt with E = m * c ** 2 on it.

But, okay, for the sake of attribution, an origami person (folder? craftsperson? artisan? artist?) named Valerie Vann claims to have discovered the base unit for the models I'm showing here. I did this for fun, not for profit.

Here are three hassocks, so called because they're cushion-shaped, and an icosadodecahedron. Oddly enough, I couldn't figure out how to make the pentagon hassock until I'd figured out the icosadodecahedron. There is also an octahedron in the back that uses a unit by Jennifer Campbell, but based on Mr. Brown's website, she doesn't seem as possessive of her discovery.

Perhaps this is a waste of business cards, but you'll have to take it up with the people who make them in such big batches. I didn't give out half of these before they became outdated.

15 May 2013

Letter No. 21

Obviously, I haven't made time to blog in the past couple of weeks. Work was especially busy, and when I wasn't working, I was studying, working on a craft, hanging out with Cris, or just letting my brain rest. So, all in all, I've been busy in a good way.

I can't seem to let too much time pass without documenting some of it, though.

I'm moving out of my current apartment soon. It's a pity; the fire trees in the village park below my window are abloom again. My next window will be closer to the ground. It overlooks a narrow street and faces the side of a Korean church. At least it's yellow, and they have a few trees.

No hard feelings about having to move, though. It wasn't actually long into my lease that I saw, my lovely apartment was little more than an expensive locker in a great location. Yes, I lived there, and I was happy there with my crafts and my books and my simple home cooking and the way the sun turned my cheap curtains into spun gold. But I spent so much of the year living — really living! — outside, too. This year promises even more.

So, it just makes sense to find a cheaper place nearer work, so I spend less time on the road, less money on storage, and more time just living.

Sometimes, I can't believe how much things have changed in the past year-and-a-half. I like who I've been becoming. I like where my life seems to be going. I like most of the people who surround me these days, and my dislike for the rest has at least scaled down to general indifference. ("Do you have a problem in your life?") Life is good.

I'm enjoying language learning more than ever. I'm in intermediate Chinese now, and, all humility aside, I'm doing pretty well. I've also enrolled in a free python MOOC on a whim, partly to see what a MOOC was like, and partly to see if I could still learn to code something other than the minimum blogging requires.

Whether I'm learning human or computer language, there's something really rewarding about understanding how language parts goes together. Chinese is sort of mathematical, musical, symbolic, and poetic (the Chinese for "guest" — the same "guest" you see in the word for "hotel" — is a component of the word for "Philippines"). Python programming is creating math and logic puzzles that then solve themselves. All in all, I think I'm putting up a decent resistance against what a University of Virginia study says is an inevitable decline in brain power when you hit 27.

Things I do miss: China and Glitch. Last month, I was sort of offered a return trip to China, but the sort-of-i-ness means I don't know whether I'll still get to go. Cris was in Guangzhou for two weeks (he'll be flying in tonight), and the pictures he sent me reminded me of how much fun it was to explore. As for Glitch, well, I still haven't found a diversion as wonderfully weird as a place where dinosaur colon was a mode of transportation.

11 May 2013

thing-a-week 17, 18, and 19

Things have been really busy in the past couple of weeks, but I've done my best to keep up with the crafts.

When I started making kirigami, I went through an inverted symmetry phase, and I wanted to revisit it for Week 17. Unfortunately, work piled up that week, so all I have to show for it is this nearly done diagram. I had a bit of a problem with the middle chunk, so I decided to start over.

Week 18 was not much better, but I lucked out when Taiwan put on a big tourism exhibit in the new Glorietta activity center, where they gave free supplies for these cows and messages in bottles. Mine is the blue cow; Mikko's is the gray.

They came courtesy of Flying Cow Ranch, the "Most Childish Ranch in Western Taiwan." The brochure offers other wonderful Engrish gems; this is what's on the cover:

Flying Cow Ranch is natural and fun,
Because the ranch is built by our bared hands and feet.
In Flying Cow Ranch,
You can jump like a child,
You can laugh like a child,
You can drink some milk with children.
The ranch is filled with the rich smell of dairy products.
Come to visit the most childish ranch in Taiwan.
And have great fun here!

To be honest, I really want to go now, but that's because I like farms in general.

Week 19, this past week, was a lot better. I went through with my inverted symmetry. I was initially inspired by the cover of "North," by Stars, but I was also thinking of cities in outer space and the squarish scrollwork around some Chinese windows and building accents.