the blogger in me

as seen in the Color Factory shop, an experience I wrote about here

On Sunday this blog turned 18. Leading up to October 2005 (a year that included marriage, a cross-country move, and the start of grad school), I'd been manually updating my website at the time with some regularity, but sadly, I didn't think then to archive that material in any way (it may be saved somewhere but that was several laptops ago). It was the earlyish, more ephemeral days of the world wide web. Here are my top 18 posts of all time:

1. pay for it: The first time my family encountered lice, not long after the Hamilton craze began, I wrote a parody of Wait For It. It is my most-viewed blog post of all time.

2. & 3. Up next, two posts about the making of my podcast, here and here. I wonder how much of the information in the second post is already obsolete? I guess I'll find out if and when I revive the podcast for season 2!

4. Fresh from the Makery: Eli's Bedtime, in which I wrote about the felt bedtime chart I made for my then ~3yo son. I still have it although I've since repurposed the stretcher bars (the chart is rolled up and stored in my studio).

5. book deal dreams, in which I recap the first of two years of "unemployment-by-choice" between August 2017 to September 2019. Still no book deal.

6. Another "fresh from the Makery" post, this one about the Mothers Cookies inspired felt ornaments I made.

7. Always surprised to see how many views this Makery project has: recycled denim coffee cozy.

8. This was a fun project: embroidered summer constellation flashcards. Want to make some of your own? Click on and save/download the images (4 total) at the end of this post (it may take some trial and error to print them correctly front and back so apologies in advance that I can't help you there).

9. I wouldn't be the first one to liken running an Etsy shop circa early 2010s to having your own personal sweat shop but here I bemoan the downsides of the paper punches I used in a lot of my wedding invitation designs at the time, with a totally unrelated Britney reference thrown in for good measure.

10. On a similar note, in this popular (relatively speaking) post I describe the steep learning curve that was the Yudu (I still have it although I haven't used it in years). So insane to look back at those pictures and recall that I started my micro-biz in a 2-bedroom apartment I shared with my husband, toddler son, and two cats.

11. The felt Android phone cozy (version 2.0)!

12. Tie-dye crayons, another project from the Makery. This project is such an easy crowd-pleaser and a great way to use up all those little crayon pieces.

13. Faux swirl lollipops using pipe cleaners for one of the fussier invitation designs I dreamed up during my Etsy days. I mocked up this design for my son's 3rd birthday party.

14. If I ever go back to school to get my PhD my dissertation will be about The Last Unicorn. This post is really just a plot synopsis but the older I get the more I think I understand why I thought about that movie so often while working on my MFA thesis. It's on a long list of possible blog topics I keep so perhaps I'll write more about it here one day (and yes, another Britney reference in that title).

15. That time I opted to quit after years of grit and spent a lot less time on my Etsy shop/micro-biz in favor of a "real job." 

16. During my Etsy years I trained for and ran the Oakland marathon and as part of my fundraising efforts I raffled off various items that were donated to me by fellow, mostly local, Etsy shops. Why the item I raffled off on the 9th of 12 days is my 16th most viewed post is beyond me but here it is.

17. I never did sell or get these items back from the store I'd sent them to on consignment, the first and last time I tried out that arrangement.

18. Finally, not unlike #16, a random post from the pandemic diaries: week 12, during which we broke quarantine to go hang out in the desert.

Now for those constellation flashcards I promised you - enjoy!


the dead hand of the past

Nope, it's not a horror flick to kick off the month of Halloween. It's a line from The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson, a book I mentioned finishing recently in last week's newsletter. It's an example of climate fiction (or "cli-fi") set in the not-so-distant future. So many of the fictional events in the book—heat waves, flooding, etc.—have happened in the last couple of years this past summer as extreme weather events, made worse by climate change, break records that were themselves records only a year or two prior. There is a glimmer of utopian fiction in there, too, though pretty late in the book, in my opinion, and as will likely happen in our reality, things get pretty bad before they begin to get better.

I wanted to highlight a few moments and quotes in the book in keeping with my "mostly vegan" category of posts on this blog. But first, a local reference, as some of the book takes place in California, like the chapter that opens with a character visiting the Bay Model, "a giant model of the California bay area and delta, a 3D map with active water flows sloshing around it." I've been to the Bay Model only once, and relatively recently (August 2018) given I've lived in the Bay Area for most of the past 26 years. 

Photo of the Bay Model by Neal Grigsby

Otherwise, there are a handful of quotes that are so poignant, so relevant to our current moment, sadly validating for folks like me, frustrated by the lack of urgency around these issues as I observe things around me, even in so-called progressive Bay Area. 

"Of course there is always resistance, always a drag on movement toward better things. The dead hand of the past clutches us by way of living people who are too frightened to accept change. So we don't change, and one hard thing now is to go through a time like that, like ours during Paris, two hundred days of a different life, a different world, and then live on past that time in the still bourgeoisified state of things, without feeling defeated."

Or this one, about the cult of growth above all else: "This was the world's current reigning religion, it had to be admitted: growth. It was a kind of existential assumption, as if civilization were a kind of cancer and them all therefore committed to growth as their particularly deadly form of life." Man, do I feel this one lately. Grow, grow, grow, when really, we should be way more focused on maintenance and stewardship of what already exists around us. The relentless pursuit of growth so often prevents us from doing the right thing on all levels: personal, political, commercial.

So what is plan B? Where do we go from here? "Big parts of it have been there all along; it's called socialism. Or, for those who freak out at that word, like Americans or international capitalist success stories reacting allergically to that word, call it public utility districts. They are almost the same thing. Public ownership of the necessities, so that these are provided as human rights and as public goods, in a not-for-profit way. The necessities are food, water, shelter, clothing, electricity, health care, and education. All these are human rights, all are public goods, all are never to be subjected to appropriation, exploitation, and profit. It's as simple as that."

As simple as that. Later in the book, Robinson goes beyond the basics to write about dignity: "This is what I think everyone needs. After the basics of food and shelter that we need just as animals, first thing after that: dignity. Everyone needs and deserves this, just as part of being human. And yet this is a very undignified world. And so we struggle. You see how it is. And yes, dignity is something you get from other people, it's in their eyes, it's a kind of regard. If you don't get it, the anger rises in you."

A still from the 1964 film adaption of 'The Masque of the Red Death' directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price

Perhaps one of the most chilling references, though, is to Edgar Allen Poe's The Masque of the Red Death, the syndrome/avoidance being one pathological reaction to "news of biosphere collapse." Robinson writes, "the syndrome is thus an assertion that the end being imminent and inevitable, there is nothing left to do except party while you can." A "bourgeoisified state of things," indeed. We saw this in the early days of the pandemic lockdown, when we abandoned earlier efforts to reduce single-use plastics, for example, in favor of supporting take-out operations at our favorite restaurants whose survival was suddenly threatened by folks staying home. And I get it, and I was happy to do it, but it's beyond time to return with urgency to tackling the greatest existential threat to humanity. (Or how rich folks escape to their lake cabins when air quality in the Bay Area from wildfires reaches unhealthy levels.)

It's a dark read at times, especially if you actually care about this kind of stuff. But I was urged along with the promise of a glimmer of hope by the end. And it does turn toward optimism, eventually. Regarding the Paris Agreement: "weak though it might have been at its start, it was perhaps like the moment the tide turns: first barely perceptible, then unstoppable. The greatest turning point in human history, what some called the first big spark of planetary mind. The birth of a good Anthropocene." Let's hope.

P.S. just for fun, I, a fan of being on time, love what Robinson writes about punctuality in one of the final chapters: "What is it but a regard for the other person? You are saying to the other person, your time is as valuable as mine, so I will not waste yours by being late. Let us agree we are all equally important and so everyone has to be on time, in order to respect each other." If I was a college professor, I would share this quote with my students at the start of every semester.

P.P.S. another sort of out of context gem, on playing music, he writes: "music was adults at play." Love this.

P.P.P.S. Finally, a bonus pic of me and my daughter at the Bay Model. We were there for an event that also included, apparently, face painting. Imagine prioritizing her generation's future over our present day desires. Imagine that.