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reflections, predictable transformations, and barrier properties
...was just what I needed. I went over to London Hackspace and built some furniture. To be precise, I'd been feeling the lack of anywhere to hang my hat when I visited, so I built a hatstand, or "hackstand" as it was immediately christened. This involved lots of metalbashing, splitting open a length of old copper tubing (using a Dremel with a cutting wheel, a DeWalt drill with a much bigger cutting wheel, two pairs of snips, a junior hacksaw, and a hammer and chisel), folding down and safing off the prongs, bashing the living daylights out of it on an anvil, and attaching the resulting pieces to a long length of wood I found in the Heap. That needed something to stabilise it, so I took some old desk legs and a piece of interestingly graffitied wood and built a small table.

It's perfectly serviceable as it is (not only did it hold my hat very nicely, but it also held my weight), but I want to do some surface treatment and patination on the copper, and paint the edges of the table.
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Ribbon choker & teardrop pendant

This one, which I've had lying around for quite a while now, has now found an appreciative home (pictured). I'm definitely going to have to make more of these, especially now that I've pretty much perfected the art of laser-cutting complex shapes to make into pendants. It's a double-faced satin ribbon, and the teardrop is copper but future ones will probably be laminated paper.

Laminated paper choker, D-ring, and rectangular pendant

That's actually mocked up with a brooch and a safety pin, but given how it looks there will definitely be some proper ones coming. On the other hand, I'm still not completely happy with the laminated paper bands—especially the ones with D-rings attached—so I'm going to have to make a few more different designs and get some experienced jewellery-wearers to try them out, preferably over an entire day or evening.

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This painting is annoying me slightly. I like the way it turned out, but the significance of two important things is confusing me: a) the frame, and b) the juxtaposition of stark black branches and warm green background. I know they both happened for a reason, but not what it is, or even whether it's the same one.

Clearly, this is the kind of artistic conundrum that can only be solved by an appropriate title. However, none occurs to me that I'm happy with. Any suggestions? Anything I decide to use gets a pint, subject of course to being in the same pub at the same time at some stage.

(Administrative note: Acrylic on canvas board, 8" x 6". I've since given it its first coat of varnish. It'll probably end up with three, for a suitably even density of gloss.)

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Lapis & bronze pendant As all of you who make & sell things will know, pricing your work is both really important and really hard. I've settled on some price points, I think: the new double-thickness (and double-strength) pendants I've been making (see left, and/or ask me for a look at one when we see each other—I'll usually have one somewhere) will go for £5-£10, and from now on I'll keep the single-layer pieces for brooches and sell those more cheaply. The laminated paper chokers... I'm still thinking I need to do a bit more research & usability testing to find a single comfortable design & a good production workflow. Masks will range from £12 or so to about £30.

On the other hand, let's be realistic about this: I'm not in this business to make much money. It would be extremely nice if I did manage more than the small net profit I currently get, but as far as I can tell all the available levers for increasing internet-based sale volume involve hard work on marketing and promotion, and that's not only something I hate doing but something I'm extremely bad at.

I am, fundamentally, in the jewellery business in order to make art, or at least pretty things. The problem there is that a) finished Stuff accumulates, and b) I'm hesitant to give it away unsolicited, either because then it'll just be accumulating dust for someone else instead, or because they might not like it or ever wear it. I'm a good judge of what would physically suit someone, but that doesn't mean it would be in their comfort zone or preferred style, and that's entirely fair enough.

Anyway, the point of this post is basically threefold. First, I have an Etsy shop (nowhere near everything I have in a sale-ready state is listed there, just the best ones I have photos of so far). I like commissions, so long as they're not too detailed—my ideal is "make me something you think will suit me", but I'm also very happy with a colour scheme and an idea of the sort of patterns you like.

Second, I am entirely happy to accept barter. I prefer food, books, & beer, but if you do it and I have a possible use for it then I'll be delighted. (Just to be clear, I expect you to match sale price to sale price, rather than what-it-costs-you to what-I'd-get-on-the-market. If you normally give it away for free, I'm still happy to consider it.)

Third, and possibly most importantly: if you like what I do, and especially if it's the kind of thing you'd wear, please let me know! After all, everyone has a birthday now & then.

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Via [personal profile] webcowgirl:
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For those of you interested in obscure conjunctions of information science, materials science, and history, and who don't read my SF blog, I've finally got around to putting up my notes from the talk I gave at Eastercon 2010. It does not, I'm afraid, contain my celebrated impression of Dr Johnson, but you can read the rest here.

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I spent this afternoon running a printmaking workshop for small children (half a dozen, 5-8) at London Hackspace. I don't have the energy and coherence right now to tell you much about how it came out, so I'm just going to picspam instead. (All the parents have given their consent for photographs on the Internet, because I know you were wondering about that.)

I will say that it was great fun for all of us, we only had one very minor self-stabbing, and it's reminded me just how much I love children's art.

Using the book press
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On the face of it, NetGalley looks like a fantastic service: publishers offer electronic ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) to interested parties, ie. reviewers and industry people, via a convenient aggregator website.

However, most of the ones I've had from there (including KJ Parker's The Hammer, Tom Holt's Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages, JC Grimwood's The Fallen Blade and Gail Z Martin's, er, something or other) have been offered only as DRM-laden PDFs, and with an expiry date at that—after (IIRC) six weeks, they become unreadable. Re-downloading them will reset the timer, but the publisher withdraws them from the website after they come out, so the basic effect is of a book chained to a virtual desk that the publisher then confiscates back.

This is ridiculously unprofessional of those publishers, and I find it very insulting. If they want me to consider their book for review, the absolute least I want in return is a copy of the book, physical or electronic, to keep and read as I like. That isn't to say that I won't review books I buy or get from the library, because I do, but that's my choice and in my time. Being able to read them before other people do isn't valuable to me (in fact, less valuable than reading them as part of a community with whom I can discuss them) and I'm not going to jump through any hoops whatsoever in order to do publishers a mutual favour.

Not all publishers who use NetGalley do this, of course. Carina Press (Harlequin's digital-only imprint) gave me several entirely DRM-free ebooks, which didn't suck. Not really my sort of thing, and I don't know enough about the romance genre to be able to review them properly, but they didn't suck.

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Ian Sales has compiled a list of 91 'science fiction mistressworks', a complement to the Gollancz Masterworks series.

Bold those you’ve read, italicise those you own but have not read
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Someone else on Twitter, asserting that science & religion are opposites as though it were too obvious to deserve explanation.

Really, why do people keep doing this?

Given the sheer number of religious scientists... "most of them" wouldn't be an exaggeration, in fact... saying that science and religion are inherently opposed basically means saying that Galileo, Gilberd, Newton, Hooke, Boyle, Darwin, Eddington, Einstein, and Burnell were stupid or deluded, rather than holding particular views about the nature of the universe that they had considered thoroughly and were eminently qualified to hold. (And that's just the Christians white Westerners I could list off the top of my head. Islamic science was staggeringly accomplished.)

There's a quotation from Burnell in particular that I want to share:
"I find that Quakerism and research science fit together very, very well. In Quakerism you're expected to develop your own understanding of God from your experience in the world. There isn't a creed, there isn't a dogma. There's an understanding but nothing as formal as a dogma or creed and this idea that you develop your own understanding also means that you keep redeveloping your understanding as you get more experience, and it seems to me that's very like what goes on in "the scientific method." You have a model, of a star, its an understanding, and you develop that model in the light of experiments and observations, and so in both you're expected to evolve your thinking. Nothing is static, nothing is final, everything is held provisionally."

I really ought to remember not to argue with atheists unless they actually demonstrate that they have some knowledge of religions—and by "religions" I don't mean white Protestant Christianity. Any attempt to assert facts about "religion" as a whole generally brands them as a clueless Dawkins cultist, unlike any of the sensible atheists I know & like.

Do any of you lovely people know of a short, easy-to-understand resource online for educating people about different denominations' & religions' attitudes to truths & the natural world?

(Comments are open & encouraged. I reserve the right to moderate or friends-lock if things get heated. I do not mind being disagreed with, but be civil, and especially to other commenters.)

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By popular demand! If you missed the original and want to have a go, it's here.

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The "Guess the Geeky Haiku" Meme: pick 5-10 movies/shows/games/books. Using the 5-7-5 format, write a haiku for each. Have your friends try to guess what your haiku are about!

1. Spring; a half-closed eye.
Rabbits, tigers, counting rhymes.
Dry cup! Birds will fly.

2. Ruined by design -
such a picturesque vista!
Water tumbles fast.

3. Love burns; paper burns;
ash never turns to paper.
Birds fly and birds fall.

4. Need a sure-fire flop?
Just don't mention the war - oh.
Never mind. Good luck!

5. Summer grass, velvet,
silver chimes; gold speaks magic.
Truth, sight. Loneliness.

6. Poor people can't cook -
nobody can cook like me!
I shall write the book.

7. Rainbow-black feathers.
A sister, under the skin.
Can't resist watching.

8. Journeys, destinations;
It's all people, in the end.
Want to catch some ink?

9. Wise (and grumpy) crab;
dragon; white ape; therapist.
A sun? A child's toy!

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Some of you had the "pleasure" of hearing extracts from The Bone Sword, by Walter Rhein, last week. I've now finished a full review; you can read it over at The Future Fire.

I am pleased, because I have finally found an excuse to recommend a close reading of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland to a fantasy author.

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I read this last night, and you all have to know about this book. Here's an extract from my review, over at Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood:
The Bookman is set in an alternate Victorian era, and it’s intensely focused on the myths and legends of English literary geekdom. It has echoes of Alice Through The Looking Glass, Perdido Street Station, The Tempest, and The Eyre Affair, with a large chunk of Mayhew thrown in for good measure.

It’s set not long after 1887, several hundred years after an expedition to the Calibanic Isle results in the wholesale replacement of Britain’s ruling classes with giant poetry-obsessed lizards. Lord Shakespeare was the first of the great Poet-Prime Ministers; Moriarty is the most recent. And yes, that Moriarty. At the newly rebuilt Rose Theatre, Henry Irving performs his own adaptation of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner supported by Beerbohm Tree.

(Read more)

Published by Angry Robot, since January 2010 in the UK and October 2010 in the US.

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So, this Jeremy Hunt chap is saying that the cap on benefits will encourage poor families to "be responsible" in planning their family size, ie. not have more children than they can afford. Obviously, the reactions to this in the media have varied between "what a courageous stand, it's about time someone was brave enough to say this - we shouldn't have so many poor people around" and "oh, good grief, what a clueless authoritarian twat".

Most of the non-barking-mad commenters have, of course, been quite clear on the principle that having children isn't something you should have to "afford"; that support for your children isn't something you should have to deserve; and that a government minister has no business even having an opinion about the proper size for someone's family, let alone engaging in social engineering.

What I don't think has been highlighted enough, however, is that this statement implies that a family on benefits will be there for a long time - for the kind of planning horizon which allows for several pregnancies and childhoods. It's either stunning ignorance, or an attempt to assume (and persuade us about it by stealth) the existence of an underclass of long-term benefit claimants who are content with that lifestyle and chose to be there. That one would be a classic othering/scapegoating strategy, which we've seen applied to a lot of groups over this country's political history.

Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised by either or both. This is what we get for a government of rich people, very few of whom have ever had to work a badly paid job, let alone lived only on benefits. (Do any of you know of any MPs who'll admit to having done this, by the way? I don't, but I'm willing to believe there might be some ex-benefit-claimants amongst them, and if there are we should bend some energies into getting them a Ministerial brief.)

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Picked up from various people. This appears to be a list of 100 books or series that are important cultural artefacts - I've bolded the ones I've read, and commented on all the ones I know something about.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen - Read this for A-level, which was my first encounter with her work. I fell in love, and read my way through all the other completed novels within a few months.
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien - I loved this as soon as I started it, at 12 or so, and every time I go back to it I find new things in it, and new angles on Tolkien's concerns, his influences and the people who've imitated him or reacted against him.
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte - Read this for A-level, disliked it intensely. Should give it another try sometime.Read more...Collapse )

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I've written a longish essay on Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood, entitled "On the Meaning of Maps" - it's all about the use & purpose of maps in fantasy books, and you can find it here.

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Chestnut, fennel, and Puy lentil stew Yesterday's invention (or at least extreme modification from this):

Sautee two large onions in olive oil, putting in a finely-chopped bulb of garlic when the onions are turning. Chop three carrots and put those in too.

Chop 3 bulbs of fennel and throw those in, along with two tins of chopped tomatoes. Leave the mixture to simmer gently while you deal with the next ingredient, which is 500g (unpeeled weight) of chestnuts. Cut a cross in the tops (cut deeply) and boil them for 3 minutes or so, then peel off both the hard shell and the irritating brown skin inside. Chop into interesting-sized pieces, and throw them in, along with 500g of lentilhas verdes (Puy lentils), a generous slosh of red wine vinegar, some sea salt & black pepper, and a couple of teaspoonfuls each of lovage, oregano, and basil. (I used lovage because the original recipe called for celery, and I didn't have any.)

Top up to a sensible depth with water, and bring to the boil. At this point, I took it off the stove and put it in the urban haybox/slow cooker for three hours, but an hour to an hour and a half on a low heat would also work if you don't have one of those.

Vegan, gluten-free, serves around 10 or 12 hungry people.

I was slightly worried that the fennel would be overpowering, but it worked out just fine, and the mixture of textures is very pleasing. Lentilhas verdes, if you haven't used them, stay very firm rather than disintegrating when cooked like red or green lentils.

Other possibilities for this recipe would be smoked tofu cubes, mushrooms, chickpeas (but they go in anything), and actual red wine (a Rhone red, for preference) rather than vinegar.

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Couldn't see my usual doctor today, so I had an appointment with someone I'd not seen before. She had a final-year student with her, so I suppressed the usual "answer the questions I need to to get my new medication" reflex and went into everything. The student asked a few questions about the medical certificate I needed, so with luck he's learned something about the disability benefits system - I'm very much more than willing to take a few extra minutes to help future GPs learn how it works!

And more than anything, I like their willingness to help. "How long is this for? - Dr A gave you two months? I've put three, to be on the safe side."

The most I'd managed to get out of anyone before going to this practice is a month at a time, and that grudgingly, so this has really cheered me up.

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Where did lunch go? This happened at lunch on Thursday, with weegoddess, at the Pizza Express near King's Cross.

Perfectly acceptable food, then the time came to go; she asked one of the staff (female, early 20s) for the bill. It arrived facing me. Time came to pay, we did some of the obligatory cash-faffery, she tried to get a 20 split at the till, didn't work, eventually decided to put it on her card and take my share in cash - all perfectly normal. So weegoddess attracts the attention of the same staff member, asks if she should take her card over to the till; the staff member says, as you'd expect, "no, we have a machine, I'll get it". When she returns, the card is on top of the bill on its little saucer; she starts running it, I look away so as not to see any numbers - and then she tries to hand me the machine so I can type the numbers in.

I haven't seen anyone get it that aggressively wrong in ages; it's really annoying.

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