The Art of … Can we talk?

The Art of… started life as The Art of Books back at a time when the numbers for this blog began to drop off. The column did little to change that, so I switched to a more general Art of in a further attempt to stave off obscurity. I’ve had fun with the idea, finding a lot of art that I personally enjoyed, but it hasn’t had an effect on the number of views to the blog. I’ve taken the time to find the highest quality images possible and to add tidbits here and there that make it more than just finding a pretty picture and showing it to you. And still, the numbers keep dropping off.

Marcus did an excellent post yesterday (stderr) about similar problems with his blog, except in Marcus’ case he spends a lot of time researching, referencing and writing quality material that puts my small effort to shame and it left me feeling even more panicked about the losses here. If a good writer who deals with important issues the way Marcus does is losing readers what hope is there for me.

When Jack was alive and Jack’s Walk was still a thing, numbers didn’t matter as much. I knew people cared about Jack and those people became an extension of his family, our family. When Caine died and Affinity became a team blog my first goal was to help keep the community Caine created together. Once the initial loss of readers stabilized, I felt that our team had achieved that. Then I began looking for new goals and the one I settled on was to pass on my love for the simple things in life, to share the beauty that still exists despite the ugliness of our modern life. Jack was my main vehicle for doing that, but another element that had meaning for me was the submissions we received from readers. I loved posting and your art and I still do, but there hasn’t been much lately and that has me worried.

I hate that numbers matter to me, but before I lose all of you I want to know that what I’m doing has some relevance. I’m not an artist and I don’t consider the bits of card making/scrapbooking/paper crafting that I do to be art, but are any of you interested in seeing what sorts of art I do enjoy looking at? Would you prefer if I made changes? For example, instead of ping-ponging around, would a longer view of a particular artist be more appealing? Say a week at a time on a single artist. Or would you prefer I focus on modern artists or classical artists or expand my view of art to include craftspeople, musicians, poets, photographers, buskers, etc.? Have the plethora of well-presented vlogs and multi-media channels made diving into static images boring.

Alternately, I’ve wondered about creating content related to Jinx and Sophie, my 3-month-old kittens. They don’t get out and about much, but they do keep me grounded and with a bit of practice, I could use them to share the simple sort of worldview I shared with Jack. I think. Cats are more sedentary and their worldview is more self-serving, but I might be able to make that work. The internet seems to love silly cat videos, does that extend to getting to know 2 silly cats through stories and snapshots, or is that also better done with quality video production values, which I have no desire to learn.

I’m not ready to go away, but I’d appreciate any honest feedback you can give me.

TNET 45: Baelin’s Route

This is a kickstarter funded short film made by a group of New Zealand actors.

It is not the mostest originalest story ever written and it does contain a lot of fanservice to fans of their Epic NPC man series that probably does not resonate with audience outside that particular circle.

But I liked it and maybe some of you will too.

Open thread, talk whatever you like, just do not be an asshole.

Previous thread.

Kestrel Maneuvre

Unfortunately, I was taking these pictures against the sun and I did not have too much time to get the exposition settings right. The little bugger hovered in one place exactly as long as it took me to take a focus and press the trigger button. So this is the “whoosh” sequence.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Tummy Thursday: Making Saitan

I think I mentioned before that I’ve reduced our meat consumption drastically over the last year or so. I’m not trying to become vegan or vegetarian (and no, I don’t want to hear why I should or how I should. This is not your post. Go somewhere else), but I think that meat should be a special treat.This is also possible since meat replacements have become so good that the family will eat them, when a few years ago they still tasted like underseasoned cardboard. One problem remains, though, and that is that many alternatives are based on soy and I’m allergic to soy. But I can totally eat gluten, so I tried making saitan.

You can just buy gluten by the pound, but you can also make saitan from scratch. add one part water to two parts flour and knead for 5 minutes. Let it rest for 30 minutes and then wash out the starch, This is messy and will lose you most of your mass. There are apparently people who then try to recover the starch from the washwater but not me.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is the gluten left from 2 kgs of flour and yes, it looks like a pig’s stomach used for wrapping roasts. At this point you can add seasoning and some salt and then you have to cook it. It can be baked or steamed, but I like to cook it in a mason jar with spices in a salty brine.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Each jar contains about 500 ml in total, so you see that it’s not much, but one is also a good size serving for us. It needs to cool completely to get to the meat like consistency. This time I made pinchos. They were nice, I just used a little too much salt.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

It is pretty neutral in taste, which is why it’s often compared to chicken, so you can season it to your heart’s desire. Enjoy your meal.

Deadlier Than Chucking Nuns – And Legal!

In my last rant about the stupid “weapon” law in Germany, I mentioned that nuns chuckers are illegal to even own and use as training equipment. Similar restrictions apply to kusari, monkey’s fist, and several other weapons that are essentially rope/chain with a metal weight attached to the end.

Today I would like to expound more on the stupidity and nonsensicality of this law. Because when I mentioned that I used to train with nunchaku, what I did not mention was how I started. I did not have nunchaku at first, and it took me a long time to make them because I first had to get my hands on some suitable wood, then a piece of chain, then to figure ut how to make them, etc. This shortly after the fall of the iron curtain when buying even simple things still could be challenging, the internet did not exist and I was a kid with zero money anyway.

But what I did already have was jumping rope. So I took it, tied several knots on the rope to adjust the distance of the handles at the desired length, and voila! I had perfectly suitable training nunchaku. Not for training combat, but certainly for training flourishes, which is what I did. It also had the added benefit that the handles did not have too much mass to them, so even when I hit myself (which did happen at the beginning), it was never anything even remotely dangerous. It was also a great workout, much more fun than using the jumping rope for its original purpose. And then when I finally got some real nunchaku, I already had some muscle memory to use them safely. Which I did. And since the nunchaku weighed more than the jumping rope, the workouts got even better.

And remember, the reason why nunchaku are banned in Germany is that they can be used as an effective garotting weapon (no they can’t), and the reason for banning ropes/chains with weighted ends is because they are highly dangerous impact weapons by generating momentum by slingshot/whip effect (at usual length,  they don’t, it is just angular momentum like with a hammer, the only benefits to the wielder are that there is no shock transfer to the hand and compact size).

But guess what – jumping ropes, even with handles from metal and adjustable rope length, are legal in Germany! A thing that would be both much better for garotting than nunchucks and that could generate a lot more momentum than an illegal monkey’s fist keychain!

I will leave you with that thought.

Teacher’s Corner: Can I Go to the Toilet, Please?

Periodically I come across post and articles on social media where schools have punished kids for going to the toilet, especially girls on their period. And while in all the cases I came across outrage is more than warranted, there are always people who think that all rules about bathroom visits are bad, and surely, if you look at it from the outside, this seems reasonable. After al, we all have to pee and we rightfully class it as a human rights abuse if people are denied sanitary breaks. So why do schools still need at least some rules?

The first and major issue is safety. When you send your kids to school, you expect them to be safe there. You would object if we let strangers into the school yard and talk to your kids, or let them just run out into traffic. That’s why some of us always spend our breaks in the school yard, supervising breaks. If a kid leaves during lessons, we cannot guarantee safety. I once posted about a kid who went to the toilet and came back with dog shit on his shoes. That kid had definitely left the school premises. And even a simple accident could go unnoticed for quite a while. If there’s something all teachers dread it’s a kid getting hurt and then you having to justify yourself as to why this could happen on your watch.

The second one is that it simply disrupts class. Even very quiet systems where kids just get up, pick up the “toilet pass” and leave, create noise and disturbances. Doors are opened and closed. the kid misses part of the lesson and then comes back and needs to ask others or can no longer follow your explanation because they missed the start.

Number three is linked with number one: vandalism. It’s not unusual that toilets get damaged, walls get smeared, stalls get flooded, it’s a huge mess, somebody has to clean it, somebody has to pay, and the culprit is never found. Everybody suffers. Including the idiot who damaged the toilets.

In the end, it’s also not unreasonable to ask kids above primary school to use the breaks. Exceptions can and will always be made (nobody here will ever deny a bathroom break. But if it happens too often we’ll ask your parents to take you to a doctor), but in the end, 45 minutes is not that long a time. They manage to play video games 4 hours straight, travel for an hour or more, and of course they can hold it for an entire lesson plus the entire break, just to ask you the very moment you start teaching.

 

Why Grow up When you Can Be an Axolotl Instead?

Axolotls aren’t just every cool animals, they are also extremely cute, so when the author Seanan McGuire posted the current project of a Patreon creator whose monthly pattern was an axolotl, I couldn’t resist. Also, 7,50 each month for a sewing pattern including machine embroidery files is dirt cheap. I know I’ve paid three times that money for some. I also like the idea of having a new small project every month. So please meet Seanan, named after the lady whose fault it is.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved Bulbasaur approves!

I’ll have to make a second one for my sister, but not in black, because tracing a pattern on black minky is a job for people who murdered mother and father. If your sewing fingers are itching, give NazFX Studios a try.

What do Jumping Spiders do?

Just ask Avalus, who captured the action and is sharing it with us.

I observed another tiny zebra jumping spider between some sandstone rocks and this time, I have not only photos but also a video showing off the tiny spiders jumping prowess!

I feel like the “spider pig” song, but voiced by David Attenborough, would be an apt background music xD

Photos and video are below the fold. (I couldn’t get Attenborough, but I’m hoping Homer Simpson will suffice.) [Read more…]

Eclipsed!

These incredible images come from the camera of quotetheunquote, who took the photos on June 10

of the solar eclipse rising over the rural landscape of southern Ontario. I’ve seen a few partial eclipses before (never a full one, alas) but this was definitely a special occasion; it was like a rising crescent moon, except for some reason, this moon was burning red hot.  I doubt that I will ever see anything like this again!… We also got a photo of some eclipse-lit heifers, who were thoroughly unimpressed with the whole thing.

©quotetheunquote, all rights reserved.

©quotetheunquote, all rights reserved.

©quotetheunquote, all rights reserved.

©quotetheunquote, all rights reserved.

Unexpected (But Not Surprising) Benefit of Tumbling Blades in Sand

I just might tumble all blades from now on, even those that I will mirror-polish manually afterward. Because after two-three days of tumbling, an interesting phenomenon appears. Something that is not surprising when you think about it, but I did not in fact expect it upfront.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

It is difficult to snap a picture of it, but here it is visible – the blade is all shiny except that triangular shadow at the tang. That is an area where the blade is not hardened.

In this specific case, this is OK. The tang should be soft and a soft piece of the spine, especially near the tang, also does not hurt. And because this blade will be blackened with oak extract, the visible difference in color should not be a problem.

However, there were two other blades, one from spring steel like this and one from N690, that had shown this discoloration in areas where soft steel definitively is not desirable – one about 2 cm at the tip and one ca 2 cm of the blade near the ricasso. Those were improperly hardened and I did not find out during the scratch test right after the quench, because most of the blade was OK.

That is quite useful and thus I really consider incorporating sand-tumbling not only as a cheap surface finish but also as cheap and easy quality control.

Not Tacticool, But Hopefully Cool

A friend tasked me with making a knife for their spouse. The spouse does not cook, so a kitchen knife was not an option. But they do occasionally go on a camping trip or a forest walk with the kids, so we eventually established that some sort of camping/bushcraft knife would be best.

The ideal material for a knife of this kind would be spring steel, but since it is unlikely that their life will depend on it, N690 should suffice and rust won’t be a problem. So I set to work and I have made this.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The blade is 160 mm long and 5 mm thick at the handle and tapers toward the tip. N690 steel, sand tumbled satin finish. The handle is made from rotten willow wood stabilized with green-dyed resin. It is a big boi – it weighs 300 g (and that is with the fullered blade and handle is lightened too by holes in the tang). A sharpening angle of 25° should guarantee that with occasional use, the blade will not need sharpening any time soon. Despite being thick, it is reasonably sharp and cuts well, because it has a flat grind all the way to the spine. It is balanced at the bolster, and it packs quite a punch, as a knife of this type should. And because the spine is so thick, it should withstand even some serious abuse should the owner decide to inflict it on the blade. Which I suspect they won’t.

The accessories are a ferrocerium rod and carbon steel striker as a fire starter (more for fun than real purpose, matches are better) and a sheath with a pouch for these. Theoretically the carbon steel striker is not necessary, but when testing it out, I got the subjective impression that carbon steel strikes better sparks from the ferrocerium rod. I might be wrong, I could not think up an objective test for that.

Making fullers by hand is very difficult, it will probably take several more blades before I get it right. I am currently wracking my head about how to make an accessory for my grinder that would make this difficult task just a tad easier. So far no success, just a few semi-functional, semi-failed attempts.

How Many Nuns Would Nunchucks Chuck…

… if nunchucks could chuck nuns?

I am going to ramble a bit about my pet peeve nonsensical weapon bans and regulations around the world. I am in no way a freedom absolutist in this regard. Weapons are dangerous objects that definitively need to be regulated, and the more dangerous a weapon is, the stricter regulations regarding its accessibility to people should apply. There should be background checks, aptitude tests, mandatory training, and licensing for all firearms. But banning hand weapons is useless and oftentimes downright silly and makes no sense whatsoever.

Take for example the titular nunchucks. I have trained with nunchucks as a kid, I have never hurt my self and I never broke anything either. It was great fun and it was beneficial to me. They are great for hand-eye coordination, great for training speed, and spatial awareness, and it was a good workout too. What it was not – despite me not knowing it at the time – was useful combat and martial arts training applicable for self-defense. Nunchucks are a terrible weapon, although they are better than nothing (not better than running away).

To my great surprise a few years ago, I have learned that nunchucks are banned in Germany. Not only to carry around but to own or manufacture. You will not find Karate or Kobudo class in Germany that trains in their use, not officially at least. That is daft, especially with the reason given – they can be used as a garotting weapon. Well, theoretically, maybe, but they would be awfully ineffective for that. That is not what they are designed for.

And since I have already sold knives to people in Germany, I have looked into laws regarding them a bit and those are too silly squared. Knives that can be opened with just one hand are banned to carry. Knife with a fixed blade can be carried if one is currently performing an activity facilitating its use – like fishing, hunting, or mushroom gathering – but I have read some stories about knives confiscated on the way to a forest, so it can depend on how pissy the policeman you have encountered feels that day. And balisongs are banned to even own, just like nunchucks. I did not dig too deep into that, but whatever the reason, it is just silly.

Because balisongs are really, really bad pocket knives. Their advantage over other pocket knives is that they are very easy to make, but that’s it. They cannot be made very sturdy, their very construction means the blade will be always a bit wobbly. They cannot have any meaningful handguard so when stabbing something with them, there is always the risk of your hand slipping on the blade upon hitting some resistance. And several other things make them bad. The only thing they are really useful for are the same things that other small pocket knives are useful for – cutting food, opening packages, and so forth.

When watching some random videos on YouTube recently I have learned that flails and maces are allegedly illegal in parts of Canada too. And again, I fail to recognize the reasons for this.

In the UK, the reasons given for these imbecilic weapon bans are to prevent gang violence. It does not seem to work. You can ban nunchucks and kusaris, but you cannot ban keychains. You can ban knives, but not screwdrivers. You can ban maces, but not spanners, and hammers – and guess what, the gangs are using these everyday objects exactly for that reason.

I suspect that these weapons were made illegal because they were portrayed as very deadly in 90s action flicks. If so, then legislators enacting these laws should learn the difference between a movie and reality. Bruce Lee movies are NOT documentaries!

But OK, when these laws are in the EU, they are very silly, but at least they are somewhat consistent with the overall culture. But when they are enacted in the USA, their silliness condenses into a black hole of daftitude.

Now one can say that nobody actually needs weapons like nunchucks, maces, or similar and I should shut up about this. I disagree, but I won’t argue against that right now.