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Week 30 of Making Something Every Day

Day 200: Go Travel Nepal ATC. Also! Day 200, guys!!!
day 200
My colorist, Renée, colored the background on this one using my cool watercolor crayons. Then instead of the cartoon car that was on the card originally, I covered it up with yet another Nepal stamp. I have to go back to Nepal just to get more stamps!

Day 201: Replenished the stock today.
day 201
Pigeon Forge has a Scrapbooking outlet store. All the gals were running around finding stuff for me! It was the perfect shopping experience especially since when I got to the register, they took 50% off of everything!

Day 202: Sometimes the best thing you can do is rip the yarn out and start over. (Dog is totally helping!)
day 202
I started a pattern by a designer that I love. I thought I understood the pattern but after a couple of days of trying to make the pattern do what I thought it should be doing, I ended up emailing her and asking for some tips. Big surprise (not really) I was reading the pattern wrong.

Day 203: Beginning of a special shawl. It will go to Poland with my friend to give to her 4 new kid’s foster mom.
day 203
So excited for her and her big, new family!

Day 204: Fun Times Butterfly tag.
day 204
Some of the new supplies!

Day 205: You’ll dream about that box. (Four 5″ panels)
day 205
Finishing up an old project! Not as happy with it as I’d like to be but it was fun to do!

Day 206: 57 of 120 squares done for a blankie.
day 206
Dog thought the blankie was pretty exciting as well or maybe that was just because I was standing on a kitchen chair.

Even If You Don’t Blink, The Weeping Angels Will Still Get You

The Doctor warns Sally about the Weeping Angels“Listen,” the man on the TV says, “your life could depend on this: don’t blink. Don’t even blink!” He gestures, thumb and middle finger in a circle. “Blink and you’re dead. They’re fast — faster than you can believe. Don’t turn your back, don’t look away, and don’t blink.”

Weeping Angel from the Doctor Who episode BlinkThe Doctor is warning Sally Sparrow about the Weeping Angels, aliens on the TV show Doctor Who. The Angels have become one of the series’ most popular monsters because of how scary they are. When you’re staring at them, they’re “quantum locked” and are frozen in stone. They look like any other statue. But when you’re not observing them they move quickly, so quickly that they can rush toward you when you blink. And if they touch you, they’ll send you back decades in time.

It’s a simple but effective concept. The Weeping Angels take advantage of something we do every few seconds without realizing it. You can stop yourself from blinking…for a while. It’s like holding your breath. The longer you go without blinking, the stronger the urge to do so becomes, and all the while a deadly creature is right in front of you, waiting for your moment of weakness.

As you’d imagine, this has led to a lot of online theorizing of how to deal with the Angels, in much the same way that people like imagining what they’ll do when the zombies rise. Most schemes involve blinking first one eye and then the other so that you never stop observing an Angel. As long as you’re watching and Angel, you’re safe.

That won’t work, though, because you’re often blind even though your eyes are open.

Saccades

Go stand in front of a mirror with your nose a few inches from its surface. Look at your reflection’s left eye, then switch to looking at the right eye as quickly as you can. Then look at the left eye again. Then the right. And then ask yourself this: why don’t you see your eyes moving?

Congratulations. You’ve just experienced saccadic masking.

You may think of your eyes like cameras, taking high-definition pictures of everything around you, but they’re not. Your eyes only see in high resolution across a small part of your vision, one that’s roughly the size of your thumbnail when you hold your thumb out at arm’s length in front of you. Away from that central part, your vision gets fuzzier and fuzzier and becomes black-and-white. To compensate, you move your eyes to sweep the narrow spotlight of your high-res vision all around. When you meet someone, your eyes dart to their eyes, their nose, their mouth, their hair. Your brain builds up a composite image of what the person looks like from these snapshots.

How saccades have us look at a faceThese rapid eye jerks, called saccades, aren’t fully under your conscious control. Once one starts you can’t change its direction or how fast your eyes move, and your eyes move fast. Saccades are the fastest movements your body is capable of. They’re so fast that your vision blurs during the movement. To get rid of that blur, your brain performs saccadic masking. Nearly a tenth of a second before your eyes move, your brain shuts down a lot of visual processing so that you’re not aware of your eyes moving and don’t consciously see any blurred images. As soon as the image on your eye is stable, your brain goes back to processing all of the visual data coming from your eyes. Your also lies to you, hiding saccades from you by fiddling with your perception of time during saccadic masking so that it feels like it takes less time than it does. The end result is that you’re effectively blind during a saccade.

It gets worse! If something moves during a saccade, you generally don’t see the motion. If an Angel crept up on you during a saccade, you might not see moving it at all until it was too late.

Microsaccades

Fine, you say, I won’t move my eyes around. I’ll stare fixedly at that Angel. Unfortunately, not even that may save you, thanks to microsaccades. Even when you think your eyes are staying still, they’re not. In part it’s to keep you from going temporarily blind.

As you’re reading this, are you sitting down? Can you feel the texture of your skirt or pants? Chances are, before I asked that question, you couldn’t. The sensory neurons in your legs adapt to the constant stimulus of cloth against them and stop sending signals. The same thing happens to the neurons in your eyes. If you were able to stare at something so that its image was perfectly still on your eye’s retina, then after a while the image would fade away due to neural adaptation. To keep this from happening, your eyes jiggle around, performing a smaller version of a regular saccade. It’s as if the world is filled with ghostly objects that fade if they’re perfectly still, so your eyes jitter to make the objects look like they’re moving. Microsaccades refresh the image on your eye.

Rotating Snakes illusion by Akiyoshi KitaokaYou can’t see microsaccades directly. Your brain acts like the image stabilizer in a video camera, smoothing out the shaky image from your darting eyes. But you can see their indirect effect by staring at Akiyoshi Kitaoka’s “Rotating Snakes” illusion. Our brain normally can tell the difference between apparent motion caused by our eyes’ microsaccades and actual motion caused by the thing we’re looking at moving. But with the circular snakes, our brain gets mixed up and mistakes apparent motion for real motion.

It’s Not as Bad as I’m Making It Sound

It’s possible you’ll still be safe from the Angels, because saccades don’t fully blind you. Saccadic masking doesn’t stop your brain from processing all visual information. When you look at something, the visual data moves through successive portions of your brain’s visual cortex. The different parts of the visual cortex look for things like differences in brightness or straight lines. During a saccade, smoother parts of an image are thrown away early in the visual cortex, while parts with a more complex pattern, like text on a page, are still partially processed. And saccadic masking is stronger when your eyes move a lot, but weaker during small motions and microsaccades.

It all gets back to what it means to observe something. Does it count if your brain receives visual information about an Angel and processes it? Or do you have to consciously be aware of what you’re seeing for an Angel to be quantum locked? If it’s the former, then saccades effectively blinding you doesn’t matter. If it’s the latter, though, send me a postcard from the past and let me know.

A Weeping Angel in Blink

Even More Information

Week 10 of Making Something Every Day

I can’t believe I’ve made it 10 weeks! I have to say, I’m a little bit proud of that.

Day 64: Visited with friends from out of town at our favorite Mexican restaurant. No time at the art table.
day 64
Busy day ending with dinner with some friends. I took a photo of these flags because they reminded me of Nepal and because that was all the art I could generate that day.

Day 65: Finished mermaid-themed mini journal.
day 65
A friend suggested “mermaid” as a theme for this little journal. It’s some mermaids and some just general beach-ness.

Day 66: Thinking about impulse control today and how the art journal is the very best place to give that up.
day 66
Day 67: Watched some great collage YouTube videos today! Inspired!!
day 67
Day 68: Finished art journal spread. Named it Impulsive. Thought of this poem.
day 68
I loved working on this spread in the journal! I did things a little differently. I was intentionally a bit impulsive with my decision making. The first layer, I pretty much just slapped on there and then started pulling it together in the next 2 sessions. Loved it!

Day 68b: Letterpress class!
day 68b
Didn’t do any actual letter pressing but it was a nice history lesson on letterpress.

Day 67: Started some teeny tiny art. 8″x8″ to be cut into 4″x4″ pieces.
day 69
Day 70: Cut into 4″x4″ squares and added more stuff. (Mislabeled yesterday as day 67 instead of 69.) Ugh!
day 70
I’ve been watching YouTube videos of other artists doing their thing and I’ve learned some really nice techniques I want to try. One of the things I saw was this 8″x8″ that you cut down into 4″x4″ pieces. I like the idea of the group making an interesting larger whole or a single piece being able to stand alone. Fun stuff.

Week 9 of Making Something Every day

Day 57: Mixing it up a bit! Playing with yarn.
day 57
This yarn winding session turned into a full scale stash reorganization. I loved it! It also made me want to ditch the art stuff and play with yarn exclusively for a while.

Day 58: Started a set of rainbow inchies. Yes, that’s a technical artist term.
day 58
Day 59: Sadly my photo treatment of these little guys is better than the actual work. They’re headed to the trash.
day 59
Sometimes things just don’t work out. These little guys made me think I need remedial stamping classes because I mangled it so badly. Truly, the best thing about them are the photos I took. Oh well, moving on.

Day 60: Quick ATC tonight and I am off to take my own advice!
day 60
I had no idea how this would turn out. The paper is silver reflective. I stamped it and then painted it. It was short and sweet to make. Exactly what I needed after the long day I had.

Day 61: Too much likes previous day? Maybe I need new colors?
day 61
Day 62: This is why you tape the watercolor paper down. Back of the blue paper.
day 62
Day 63: Making a book out of the green/blue page. I’ll entertain suggestions as to what to put in it.
day 63
I like making books out of this watercolor paper. We’ll see what it turns into next week!

Thoughts from the week:
I’ve been thinking a lot about the artist community that has sprung up around me as I work on this year long project. I’ve mentioned Mary here before. While she and I don’t practice the same sort of art (she’s a musician) I find my chats with her on creativity and the process of creativity line up nicely regardless of which art we are discussing. I did some design work for her last fall and she introduced me to Starr Weems. Starr did the amazing artwork for Mary’s last album. And I have a bit of working artist crush on her at the moment. The three of us met for lunch one day and formed the Vague Coffee Wavers. I’m pretty sure that’s the name of the artist commune we will start if we ever get around to it. I also have Renée, who is working on a project quite similar to mine in scope but she’s abstaining from the Twitter/Facebook/blog attention seeking that I seem to be engaging in at present. It’s a nice group of women that I enjoy checking in with to see what they are working on. It reminds me a bit of college and my studio classes. I loved being able to come together as a group and work on our individual pieces and then take a step back and talk about what everyone was doing and then offer suggestions. The brainstorming was so valuable to me! It helped me learn to creatively visually problem solve.

Next week I start a letterpress class at our local Printmaking Collective. Amy and I will be going the next three Thursdays to class, so those days will feature some prints! I’m absurdly excited about it. Here’s to finding more artists for the collective.

First Day of Second Grade

And Liza starts preschool tomorrow.

We stepped outside this morning to take this photo and there was a cool breeze blowing. Nice change of pace to the hot weather we’ve been subjected to most of the summer. The summer is over and I’m glad to see it go. I’d like very much now to settle into a boring routine for at least six months.

Second as Farce

The furor over Wikileaks has become Theatre of the Absurd. Consider:

This is an infowar as written by Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard and staged by Mel Brooks.

A break from crocheting hats

I’m still making hats even though I made my 50 hat goal. But I took a break this weekend to make a couple of sweaters for my mom’s dog, Lola.

She was unimpressed with her fittings up until she had to go outside one morning and it was below 50°. My dog sister was slightly more impressed with my mad crocheting skills after that.

While my mom was here, she also helped me finish a bag I crocheted on my trip to Austin a while ago. She made the lining and I think it made the bag look awesome! (Thanks Mom!) It’s a birthday gift I’ll be mailing tomorrow.

Bag Pattern: Sarahbell’s Bag