Monthly Archives: May 2013

Week 20 of Making Something Every Day

Day 134: Near to calling this one done.
day 134
day 134b
Here’s the finished project in my kitchen. Between the picture and my new island, it’s like I got a whole new kitchen! Enjoying all of it!

Day 135: Amster ATC. I feel like I should ship it to @mamster since it has his name on it.
day 135
Our friend, Matthew Amster-Burton, is a food writer and he is hilarious! I was lucky enough to get to cook test some of the recipes in his book, Hungry Monkey. So when I saw this stamp with “Amster” on it, I immediately thought of him.

Day 136: I’m making a doily for the tire on the back of my car.
day 136
day 136b
I couldn’t be happier with how this turned out! I do feel really conspicuous now driving my car. I previously drove a Buick Le Sabre and it was the stealth-mobile. No one ever noticed me or if they did, they assumed I was 75 years old and driving 15 miles under the speed limit. Now I am zippy! And also peppy! And kinda (not really) hip with the cool tire cover. Whatever. I love it and my kids can find the car now in the Target parking lot where I am parked with the other 800 CR-Vs. And that’s all that matters.

Day 137: Having a really hard time getting motivated by the artsy business this week. ATC with a stamp and lotsa black.
day 137
Mid-week slump maybe? I don’t know. Part of it was I was having a really cool conversation with Jeanetta about postcards and so I wanted to make postcards but thought I should make something else since I made so many postcards the past couple of weeks.

Day 138: Back on a postcard kick! I’ll cut this page down to at least 6 cards!
day 138
So instead of fighting my postcard impulse, I embraced it!!

Day 139: Worked longer than 20 today but I was on a roll!
day 139
Obviously, going with the impulse is the key to more work!

Day 140: PC with 1 of my favorite quotes. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” -Arthur Ashe
day 140
I am going to start paying Reneé to do my hand lettering for me. I should totally practice that. The problem is, my carpal tunnel hates it when I hold a pen for more than about a minute. Ugh! In my next life, I won’t waste so much time on cross-stitch.

This week!
My brainstorm this week was that I should have put the day# on the back of all of this work. Fine idea to have on Day 140!

I’m Forcing Science and Podcasting on Baltimore for Balticon 2013

I’m headed up to Balticon 47 this weekend to talk about science and podcasting and more science and more podcasting. How can you resist?

You cannot, that’s how. Or not how. Or — look, just come see me make a fool of myself at any of these fine panels:

Your Lying Eyes. Saturday, 5:00 PM, Salon A.
You think you see in high resolution, but you don’t: your eyes & brain fill in a lot of gaps. Find out how visual illusions teach us how we see. A talk on how our visual system really works and how visual illusions let researchers learn more about how we see what we see.

I love this talk, as it’s an excuse for me to wave my hands furiously about the brain and show cool visual illusions.

Disasterpiece After Dark. Saturday, 9:00 PM, Derby

Normally we keep our live podcast shows at about a PG or PG-13. This is where we indulge in pitching terrible movies that are for the over-18 set.

Disasterpiece Theatre. Sunday, 12:00 noon, Derby
Disasterpiece Theatre is an exercise in true Hollywood movie magic. Each week, we take a theme and try to come up with the movies the industry would be most likely to make. The magic happens when we create something dark and terrible; a hideous and inexorable vision of the cinematic future, and you know true despair.

The live version of our movie podcast is always fun. Come tell us what terrible movies you’d like to see us suggest, and then see what we come up with!

Talk To Me: How To Conduct Podcast Interviews. Sunday, 1:00 PM, Chesapeake.
The do’s, don’t’s, and how-to’s of conducting a podcast interview. What technologies are available to let you interview people from across the globe?

I have strong opinions about how to do interviews. Will my other panelists agree? Do I care if they do or don’t? Who knows!

Live Interview with James Gates Jr. Sunday, 3:00 PM, Salon A.

There’s a good chance you’ve seen Dr. Gates talking on NOVA about string theory, supersymmetry, and unification theories. As a former experimentalist, I’m way out of my depth on this one, so there’s no telling what I’ll ask.

Dramatic Voice Acting. Sunday, 6:00 PM, Derby.
The popular Dynamic Voice Acting panel returns to talk about how to best show off your vocal talents.

My first podcast voice acting credit was this year, so clearly I’m an expert. Also this is my fourth panel in six hours. What was I thinking?

Multi-Creatives. Monday, 12:00 PM, Chesapeake.
The demands of multiple artistic pursuits. Learning to do it all without losing your mind.

I was on this last year, and my advice this year is the same: you will lose your mind. Embrace it. Recognize that you can’t do everything, but then ignore that realization and try to do it all anyway.

Week 19 of Making Something Every Day

Day 127: love postcard.
day 127

Day 128: A whole mess of proto-ATCs.
day 128
Can’t wait to get back to these guys but I got distracted by remaking my kitchen art.

Day 129: looking forward to talking to folks about clean water tomorrow.
day 129
I designed the logo for The Water Glass about a year ago. The labels for the water bottles I made this week. I’m proud to say it’s one of my best logos ever. I’m proud to be a part of this organization. I’m proud that we are in the business of making other people’s lives a little bit easier.

Day 130: Recycled art.
day 130
My mom bought me this picture about 10 years ago. She was here this week and said I could paint over it if I wanted to. I nearly broke land speed records getting it out of the frame. She jokingly told me not to waste any time getting it done.

Day 131: Flower power! More on the recycled art board for my kitchen.
day 131
I started with the thought of that big blue petal and a big green petal. The rest just fell into place.

Day 131b: Also, I know I’ve had an awesome art day when my hands look like this and THE PAINT WON’T COME OFF!
day 131b
Love this so much!

Day 132: Working on the flower for the kitchen.
day 132
It’s getting there but too bright. Gotta tone it down.

Day 133: Science is art! We saw the DNA of a strawberry. It looked really cool so I’m totally counting it.
day 133
It blows my mind that you can see the DNA so easily and it is so easy to do with stuff around the house. I don’t think the kids got the full impact of what we were looking at. I have to admit I teared up a little bit as I thought about the creativity that goes into science breakthroughs.

This week!
My friend, Kae, is doing a cool project over at Team Stripey Socks called #15minfanart. She works on post-it notes and makes wonderful geek fandom mashups every day. Go check out the blog for her previous work or follow her tweets: @TeamStripeySock.

Week 18 of Making Something Every Day

Day 120: Star of Cracker Barrel for 1/3 of a year!
day 120
So yeah, I’ve being doing this for a third of a year now. In my mind, it’s kinda a big deal.

Day 121: It’s not blue! Gonna make some more postcards.
day 121
Renée said it was the end of my blue period. I don’t think it’s the end, just a pause to enjoy some different colors. Also, you can see the backwards letters that I printed in this shot. While I was using the gelatin plate, I took my letter stencils and plunked them on the plate. Too bad I forgot that it would be backward. Sometimes the art side of my brain overrules the brain part of my brain.

Day 122: I’m so in love with this postcard this morning!
day 122
Yep, still loving this one. I might have to get it framed.

Day 123: Flight, feathers, and song postcard.
day 123
This one turned out well, I think. Not as well as Day 122 but hey, not every album can be The Joshua Tree. What I wrote on it is actually, “feathers, flight, and song” I got it transposed when I tweeted it.

Day 124: Background. Yeah, I don’t know what it’s going to be either. (Hint: not postcards!)
day 124
Oh, the time when the thing is only a background and I wonder to myself what will I do with this one? Will it be a flop? Will I end up having to trash it? Will it be something I love forever and never want to part with? Will it be something that someone else will love? Oh, the fake agony.

Day 125: Experiment! (With art!) Sadly, no trees.
day 125

Day 126: Added a sheep but I’m still not happy with it. It feels like a big muddy mess.
day 126
I’m just not happy with how this one is going. It may end up in the trash. I’ll give it one more look tomorrow and then I may call it done/trash. Meh.

This Week!
Wow! This week! So I sold a piece.
day 81
Ann bought this for her living room and I’m so glad it went to a loving home! It’s not the first piece of art I’ve ever sold but it has a great deal of meaning for me since it comes from this year long project. The bonus is the money she paid me is going to my Nepal trip fund!

Another friend is trying the Make Something Every Day Challenge. You can read about the beginning of Jeanetta’s adventures on her blog. Her first piece is so excellent!

Week 17 of Making Something Every Day

This was a good week on many levels. I’m pleased with the way my art went this week. Stephen sold my old car. Worked on The Water Glass presentation that Hallie and I are making next week. Got to visit several groups of friends throughout the week. Loved it!

Day 113: Calling this one done.
day 113
I test hung this piece over my mantel in my living room and I’m pretty sure I’m going to swap out the Picasso print I’ve had hanging there for 10 years with this one. I like the way this piece turned out and I like the Jewish prayer in the white boxes on the right. It’s one of those things that now that it’s done, I can look at and forget that I made it.

Day 114: Took day 110, made it into 4×6″ postcards. They are yours @domesticat, if you’re interested!
day 114
I love the way this set of postcards turned out. The colors that were so crazy when I first did the background on Day 110 turned into a really pleasing whole at the end.

Day 115: Love this new background I’m working on!
day 115
Anything that even sorta kinda approaches obsession for me would be tied up in this color. I often have to MAKE myself choose a different color palette.

Day 116: It’s nearly impossible for me to use this color and not think “TARDIS!”
day 116
See the note above and add to that a sense of adventure for any age which is what I think of when I think of the TARDIS. That’s all wrapped up in this color for me as well.

Day 117: 2 new postcards finished.
day 117
I love the way this whale turned out. I don’t usually attempt too much actual drawing because it’s not my best thing and I cannot help comparing anything I do to the most excellent drawerings of my friend, Renée. So usually I just don’t bother. But there was a whale in this postcard, I could see it before I found the title in one of Stephen’s old scifi magazines. Once I found the title, I had to make the whale come out.

Day 118: Another TARDIS postcard & my friend @JerusalemGreer’s new book. Just got it in the mail!
day 118
I went to college with Jerusalem but lost touch with her over the years. I’ve reconnected with her and Jeanetta through the power of the internets! And that reconnection makes me unreasonably happy. If you are interested in liturgy and finding ways to fit it into your life in a meaningful way, go check out Jerusalem’s new book. It’s full of yummy recipes and beautiful photographs! Love it!

Day 119: Another Doctor Who postcard. Tomorrow: something NOT blue.
day 119
Did I mention I love this show?

Day 119b: Here are the 4 blue postcards together.
day 119b
Someone asked me yesterday what the whale had to do with Doctor Who. Nothing really, I just saw a whale in that one.

Be Careful What You Measure

Johns Hopkins has an excellent graduate program in science writing. For thirty years it’s taught people how to write about science, covering both researching interesting science and turning it into prose that sings. Now Johns Hopkins is closing the program.

Writing for a living, especially about science, has never been easy. It’s become harder over the last decade as newspapers have withered, magazines have closed, and the ranks of people interested in being science writers has swelled. Columbia University’s program in environmental journalism closed to new applicants in 2009 precisely because of the weak job market. But that’s not why Johns Hopkins is ending its MA in science writing. It’s closing the program because it has too few applicants. Not too few to make a good class, mind you. It’s that fewer applicants means a higher percentage of acceptance into the program. That makes Johns Hopkins appear less selective. And that can hurt their rankings among colleges and decrease their prestige.

They’re closing the program because of an arbitrary number.

College selectivity, the ratio of accepted students to applicants, is a status symbol. US News and World Reports factors it into their college rankings. Colleges tout their selectivity to attract top professors and help extract money from alumni.

As selectivity has become a more prevalent measure of a school, colleges have done what you’d expect and worked to become more selective. They’ve mainly attacked the problem in the most direct fashion: raise the number of applicants. They’ve marketed aggressively to prospective students to increase applications. They’ve also been aided by the rise of the common application, a single college application that’s now accepted by nearly 500 schools, making it far easier to apply to more schools at once. And it’s worked. College selectivity is on the rise, buoyed by increased applications, and colleges are happily touting how each year’s new crop of freshmen is better than the last. It’s like the Flynn effect and Lake Wobegon combined, where this year’s new students are more above average than last year’s.

Increasing applicants increases the selectivity ratio’s denominator. The numerator is roughly fixed, since colleges depend on a certain student body size to keep tuition income steady and classes filled. So the only other thing you can do to improve your selectivity is to drop programs that detract from that selectivity. That’s what Johns Hopkins did, as Katherine Newman, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins, told Science Careers.

When you measure something, the act of measurement changes what you’re measuring. It’s true in physics, where the observer effect means, at the quantum level, that we can’t observe a physical process without changing it. It’s just as true in the social world. When you start measuring something, people will change what they’re doing to maximize the value of what you’re measuring. We’ve seen it on Wall Street, where status is measured in dollars and traders maximized their returns at the expense of the entire economic system. It’s human nature to game systems. That makes it vital to be careful when you choose to measure and report something. Choose the right measurement and you improve the system.

Pick the wrong thing and you might kill off an excellent science writing program.