Akron: 13 May 02: Arts & Crafts

Let it be said: I'm not complaining about this.

I'm the office receptionist, so my work raison d'etre is the intake and proper direction of contacts, be it phone, email, or in person. This means that I am largely chained to my desk via a headset, so that I can always answer the phone. My breaks are substantial, so I'm quite fine with this. However, the phone doesn't ring constantly, and I have only so many regular tasks. After a while, I run out of things to do at my desk.

I am blessed with an understanding boss and a relaxed workplace. I was told at the outset that if my other work is done, I may do more or less what I like at the desk, provided the phone is properly answered. (Unspoken is the additional clause "...and it's work-appropriate.") So I browse the internet, I read classic detective fiction online, I knit... and sometimes I do other things.

Enter "Linda Does Arts and Crafts." This is the third time I've taken on a project that involves doing some creative and occasionally visually interesting handwork. The distinction I make between "Arts & Crafts" and knitting is that "Arts and Crafts" must include scissor work, and preferrably multiple pieces of paper and glue or tape.

Two weeks ago, in the run up to Earth Day, I was casually asked if I could assist in making a display for tracking the human-powered miles people put in over the course of the week. (That's walking, cycling, pogo stick-ing, what have you - as long as no engines are involved, but human effort is.) Sure, I can do that... how many miles? Do you want a tally sheet for people? Oh, so two separate tracks for commuting miles and leisure miles? What size? Title? Wording? Do you want a blurb explaining how it works? and so on.

I proceeded to plan a real-world route from our office to one of the regional offices for commuting, and from the office to New Orleans for leisure miles. Google maps, screen-shots, cut and paste, printouts, titles, and a bunch of markers and pencils - and the aforementioned scissors and tape - were brought into play against a 4x5' sheet of black foamcore. It took me three days to put everything together, and it reminded me so much of Summer Reading preparations. Most enjoyable. This was Arts and Crafts project 2. (The first was the subject of my fussbudget blog post earlier.)

So now I am in the middle of project number 3. The office is getting new cubicle signs, which hang on the dividers. My boss was concerned that we wouldn't have volunteer labour to get the signs assembled, so I pointed out that I have time, as long as the process doesn't take too much space.

Yesterday, one of the maintenance guys came up to my desk and told me to clear my schedule. Today, he showed up with two boxes, one of plexiglass holders, one of metal channels (squared U in profile, about seven inches wide and two and three quarter inches deep) and screws. Later, I was handed some sheets of self-adhesive felt to cut into strips to cushion the inside of the channel and avoid scratches. It took me a little time at first, and I spent a little while collecting all the necessary tools and creating a template, but I've worked out a relatively efficient system for using post-screws to attach the plexiglass holder to the channel, and then attach the felt. I did twenty-five the first day, and I suspect it will only take another day and a half to finish the rest. Of course, I haven't put any inserts in yet, so that will be a half-hour or hour or two's work - or maybe I'll just distribute the holders, and someone else will distribute the inserts to the appropriate departments and desks.

I'm actually rather enjoying the process, and figuring out the most efficient setup for my tools and parts, as well as the tricks for getting the screws set properly through two sets of holes that don't quite align...

What I'm Reading Now: 13 May 09

My reading has been a bit scattered, not that anyone is surprised by this any more.

Fiction: I'm reading more classic detective stories on Project Gutenberg. Right now, it's The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin, Gentleman Burglar, by Maurice Leblanc. I'm finding them a bit dated, but still fun, and I like the way Leblanc plays with identity, both of Arsene (who is a master of passing for someone else or assuming a different identity) and the narrator, who is rarely who you assume he (yes, so far it's always been a he) is. I have a page or so of other authors of the same time period and genre, and the possession of such a list gives me warm fuzzy feelings.

Non-fiction, book: IBS: Free At Last! (2nd Edition) by Patsy Catsos, is all about FODMAPs, which are Fermentable Oglio-, Di-,  Monosaccharides, And Polyols - each a type of carbohydrate that certain people may not be able to digest. End result of consuming FODMAPs include gas, bloating, and dire GI tract consequences which I will leave to your imagination. The idea is not to cut out all FODMAP foods, but to find out which categories you can consume, which you absolutely cannot, and which you can tolerate in small quantities. I find the concept quite interesting, but I find the organization of the book somewhat annoying. There's minimal background before launching into the diet-modification section, and each chapter ends with questions, but the answers are found later in the book, along with more scientific details. Still, it's one of the best sources I've found locally on FODMAPs, so I can forgive a few stylistic quirks.

I have also just received a copy of The Sacred Choir by Charles Eddy Leslie. He is the composer of Der Friedensfürst, and I wrote about my discovery of this and subsequent researches earlier. The Sacred Choir is a book of anthems, including one called The Prince of Peace. Sadly, although "Friedensfürst"  is indeed a direct translation of "Prince of Peace," there is no further connection between the two. However, I have two more leads to follow, so I shall perservere.

Non-fiction, other: Also on my just-read pile are a number of knitting magazines. A friend from a knitting group left behind some back issues of Interweave Knits, plus three others with titles that escape me at the moment. I've been looking through them to see if there's a magazine that I could recommend to the library, and of all of them, I think Interweave Knits covers the most territory in the most appealing fashion. Also, somewhere in that pile of magazines there is a pattern for a sweater that can be worn inside-out or outside-out, upside-down or right-way-up, front-to-back or front-in-front - and as far as I can tell, any combination of these factors is fair game. I am most intrigued, but I have three projects lined up (yarn purchased and everything) for when I finish the current project.
The current project is also a form of reading - in this case, proof-reading. I've put together a pattern for a stuffed sheep, refining it over the course of three completed stuffies. I'm now knitting the fourth one following my written pattern, to make sure that I've put everything down correctly and my math adds up.

Akron: 13 April 30: This Really Is Spring!

It's spring, all right, and the world around me is blossoming.

It started with the knee-high hedges beside the house up the block. One day, they were a collection of sticks. The next day, they were a proper hedge, but covered in bright yellow flowers instead of leaves. Then the magnolia trees started to bloom. I still find them bizarrely beautiful - these big old naked trees suddenly sprouting pink waxy blooms that look like a million prom corsages. (The daffodils and hyacinths kicked in around this time, too.)

After that, every tree I looked at seemed to be in full flower. There's a weeping cherry that I see from the break table that is truly gorgeous - it has a certain Japanese woodcut vibe, somehow. There's a different type of cherry near one of the apartment entrances that has double blooms, so it looks like it's covered either in pink carnations or those tissue paper flowers I always thought had no analog in nature... guess I was wrong. By now, the daffs are gone and the tulips are almost past, and the orchards are starting to lose their bloom, too. I must say, I'm curious to see what other colours will pop out of the woodwork - or the landscape - in the near future.

Akron: 13 April 17: Break Time

A much-needed long weekend is now past. It was quite enjoyable.

We booked off a Friday and Monday, and ran off to a small town about forty miles from here, to stay at b&b. Said b&b is a Victorian home that has been carefully restored and decorated in all things Victorian and cat. Yes, I said "cat." Each of the rooms is named after a cat breed, there are cat pictures and figurines and hangings in abundance, and the house is ruled by a regal orange Maine Coon named Rocky.  Rocky is somewhat aloof, but the house is his, and he reserves the right to check out all the guest, supervise their evenings, and remind everyone that this is *his* house by lying on whatever bed he chooses. I had been hoping for snuggles, but Rocky is not a snuggler. He spent the better part of the first evening lying on the bed near my feet, though, so that was good.

We spent most Friday evening eating sushi and watching TV. Saturday we went to York to visit Central Market and whatever else appealed to us. This included a model train store that specialized in O-gauge and a very sizable used book and collectibles place. Said York Emporium even had some signed-by-author paperbacks, two by Jack Vance. Vance is a science fiction writer who has been publishing since 1945. He's created some truly impressive worlds and characters, and is a highly-gifted wordsmith. I wasn't prepared to purchase signed Vance books, but I knew someone who was, so I was able to make Paul, the friend who introduced me to Vance in the first place, quite happy.

Sunday we visited a local Methodist church, and I picked up an idea for a story-for-the-children, should my turn ever arise again. We also trekked out to Morningstar Market and saw lots of stuff that we would like to buy. We limited ourselves to a sheet set (me) and an old-fashioned electric desk fan (John). When we got back to the b&b, we parked ourselves in the backyard and snuggled the outside cat, a black and white charmer named Midnight. He was only too ready to be snuggled, so I got my cat fix for the week.

Monday, we went to Harrisburg, cruised around a little, and ended up in Lemoyne in the Cleve Erickson library. It is beautiful: lots of quarter-sawn oak, brass plates, Mission-style furniture (and Morris chairs), and square-pyramid stained-glass lampshades. The furniture was comfortable, there were lots of books, the wi-fi was available to all... I took lots of pictures, and hope to create an album online for my co-workers at home to look at. (They had an interesting way of handling holds that might spark some ideas for us...)

Then we swung past the airport, and came back. A lovely trip, and we're thinking that we might use all of our vacation time in similar extended weekends.


In completely other news, it's 15C outside at 9:30am, and 24.2C inside. I'm wishing for sandals and a skirt. The best part is that we're in process of installing a geothermal system at the office, and during some of that time, the office A/C will not be usable.  That will definitely be sandals and skirt time...