Smoke Gets in My Eyes… and Lungs… and Brain…

wood stove
Wood stove by Paul Johnson.

There was a certain irony in my recent post about Paul Johnson’s talk, since one of the photos included a beautifully crafted paper rendition of a wood stove that was part of one of Paul’s books.

I haven’t yet mentioned this here, but an increasingly large part of my life lately has been, and is, devoted to anti-wood smoke activism. Humboldt County has always been a smoky place. But it has gotten noticeably worse over the last several years. Our lives have become a breathless misery (we all have asthma, including Dominic the cat, and, before he died, Larry the cat as well).

I started doing some research on the matter, and I soon discovered that it wasn’t our imagination that wood smoke is not a good thing to be inhaling. I began to connect with others online who are suffering because of wood burning. It is not a small community. There are a lot of sick and unhappy people out there who are running up big medical bills and who’ve been forced from their homes because of what their neighbors are sending up the chimney. It’s a growing problem.

More people seem to be turning to wood stoves in an attempt to lower their heating costs. Unfortunately, their neighbors wind up subsidizing those heating costs with their own increased medical expenses. (See the 17 Reasons to Ban Wood Burning publicized by the group Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment).

Part of the problem is that many people think of wood as something natural. They believe it is environmentally a better choice. However, wood smoke is now thought to be more toxic than cigarette smoke, and the research on it is overwhelming and clear: it kills. Wood smoke exposure is known to cause asthma, heart attacks, strokes, COPD, lung cancer, systemic inflammatory responses and more. It is even now thought to play a role in the development of neurological disorders and dementia.

I’ve become involved with a group of people who are fighting against wood smoke in their communities. An outgrowth of this effort is a new international organization that is being formed to fight wood smoke pollution. It’s still getting going. And I hope to help in whatever way I can.

The EPA’s “Burn Wise” program was developed in partnership with the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, an industry lobbying group that sends its members to training workshops on how to lobby against clean air initiatives. They put out a booklet last year entitled “Tips For Communicating With Congress.” Their mission is to get people to buy more stoves, not to protect health. The problem is that those newer stoves aren’t as clean and green as people have been led to believe. Newer “EPA approved” stoves actually can emit more dioxins, furans and other carcinogens than older stoves. These are some of the most toxic chemicals to which you can be exposed. Their performance also degrades over time. Within a few years, they can emit as much particulate pollution as an older stove. The wording from the piece below comes directly from the EPA’s website, but with my own alterations:

Smoke Wise

A few selected links for more information:

Families for Clean Air

Clean Air Revival/Burning Issues

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment

“Woodstoves may be as toxic as cigarettes,” newspaper article

Comments to an article in the BMJ

Note: After the latest round of WordPress updates, the lightbox feature suddenly stopped working. If you click on the pictures, they don’t enlarge. But if you right click, you can get an enlargement in a separate window. I suspect this is going to be one of those things that will take a while to sort out… ugh. 

Make a New Year’s Spinner Card

I like to make spinner cards, and I find that people like receiving them. They are so fun and game-like.

I thought I’d show you how I made a New Year’s card for a select few friends. It’s a remake of one I made four years ago during another election cycle.

political spinner 2012
The last nightmare.

"Happy" New Year!

 

I’d thought back then that things couldn’t get any worse. Never say never!

First, I start in Adobe Illustrator. It has a handy polar grid tool that is perfect for making spinner templates. It is found nested under the Line Segment Tool.

Polar Grid Icon

If you double-click on the Polar Grid Tool Icon in the tool bar, it will bring up a dialogue box. For this purpose, 2 concentric dividers and 8 radial dividers are just about right. I skew the concentric divider so that it’s close to the center:

Polar Grid Box

I actually hadn’t put in those measurements on top: 6.66 inches. I just noticed them as I was taking the screenshot. Very interesting . . .

At any rate, once you have your parameters set, draw your template:

Spinner Template

 

You could, of course, continue to work in Illustrator. But I’m going to be doing the rest with photos and I’m more comfortable in Photoshop. So I close the file in Illustrator and re-open it in Photoshop as a Photoshop file. You also, of course, could just draw it by hand if you don’t use Illustrator.

With your template open in Photoshop, select one of the sections with the magic wand tool and create a new layer.

Spin

Then you can find a picture of something you’d like to put in the section. It might be something nice… or it might be something disturbing, as in my example. You can combine images too, of course:

layer one

 

Keep adding images, working in a new layer for each section. If things overlap, select inside the shape of the section you’re working on, then select inverse and delete to neaten things up. When you are done, you should have a wheel filled with pictures:

2016... UGH!

 

As you can see, I got rid of the lines in the middle and filled it in with white. This also has a bigger circle in the middle than our original example, because I made it earlier using a different template.

You could then cut it out and glue it to your card. Or you could create a document in your layout program of choice and insert it. I use InDesign.

I created a new InDesign document with three joined pages of equal size. This is going to be a rather small card, since the arrows I will be attaching are small, and I also want to print it out on my wide-format printer, which can handle a page that is up to 13″ wide. Three pages that are 4″ across will fit nicely, so I made each joined page 4″ wide and 6″ long.

I placed the image on the page to the left, and added some text on the page to the right. The middle was left blank. You’ll soon see why.

card layout

 

I then created a PDF of the document, being sure that it was saved as “spreads” with all of the correct pages lined up together and the pages at 100% scale. It is also helpful to make sure that the crop marks will be included.

PDF of card

I printed it out on matte card stock. I then scored at the appropriate markings and trimmed along the outside, following the crop marks. I then made a mountain fold at the first score line, and a valley fold at the second.

card folded

I then made a hole in the center of the spinner, at the dot in the middle. It should be just big enough to fit a tiny brad. To keep the arrow from scraping on the card, I sandwich a little nylon washer between the arrow and the card.

Spinner parts

 

To help the arrow spin more freely, I find it helps to stick something thin like a metal spatula underneath each prong as you press down on top of it with a bone folder.

Using spatula

When it was all assembled, I folded in the mountain fold and sealed the card up around the inside edges. You can use glue or double-sided tape. Now you see why the middle page was left blank — when fully assembled, it hides the back of the spinner.

Card Folded Over

Now it’s done! Although… come to think of it, this is so grim I think I’ll lose friends if I actually mail it to anyone.

Spinner Card Front

"Happy" New Year!

Happy New Year! And best of luck in 2016!

My San Francisco Week in Books: Part Two

The book I made in the workshop.
The book I made in the workshop.

I like Drum Leaf and similar types of bindings. I’ve read as much as I could find about making them, and I’ve seen a video of Tim Ely making one, but mine sometimes have bumps where I don’t want them and other unintentional features that displease me. When I saw that John DeMerritt was going to be teaching a Drum Leaf workshop the week I was going to be at the San Francisco Center for the Book anyway, I jumped at the chance.

John turned out to be funny and nice, and made the class a delight. By this day, I was so tired I glued some of the wrong pages together and even managed to … ugh … slice a finger and drip on my book. Fortunately, it was on the end page and was not going to be visible once the book was finished. But my classmates were going to see it. I was embarrassed. But John turned this into a light-hearted moment too. (Among other things, he told us he used to have a sign in his bindery that advised, “Don’t bleed on the work.”)

It was such an educational class. There were a few times when John would show us something or share a tip, and that one thing alone was, to me, worth the tuition in itself.

We made the spines out of Cave paper. John had us pare the paper along the sides, using our scalpels and sanding blocks. I must say, it had never occurred to me to pare paper before. He also taught us a handy trick for turning-in the cover papers over the board edges using a little squeegee tool, which creates a neater edge when gluing.

We also were given nice materials — aside from the Cave paper, we also got handmade Saint-Armand papers for the covers, and enough materials to make two books. Yum.

There are piano hinges in front of the wing that open out to reveal much more inside.
There are piano hinges in front of the wing that open out to reveal much more inside.

Immediately after the workshop, Paul Johnson was back to give a talk about his work. He showed us his amazing, big and long accordion-style sketchbook, which he invited people to spread out around the room (alas, I didn’t get any photos of it). He talked about his father, who’d been a talented amateur artist, and showed us slides of some of his father’s drawings. He talked about his own work and about how the environment in which he’d grown up — in the shadow of the nearby cathedral — had influenced his work throughout life. Afterwards, we were invited to go up to a display of his magnificent sculptural books. I did get a few snaps of these, but they barely convey the complexity and size of his wild, multi-layered creations (for one thing, most were so big when opened out that it was impossible to get more than detail shots in that crowded space). I noticed later, after downloading the pictures, the childlike looks of wonder and joy in the faces of my fellow adult attendees as they circled the display. As I say, the photos don’t do them justice.

Close-up of one of Paul Johnson's Books

Noah's ark (opened)
Noah’s Ark, unfolded.
Close-up of Noah's Ark
Close-up of Noah’s Ark.

PS: Twenty years ago, John DeMerritt and Dominic Riley made a video about the history of bookbinding that was shown on San Francisco’s Public Broadcasting Station. I thought I’d post a link in case you haven’t seen it. It’s a half-hour long, but is much fun. Around the six minute mark they transition into historical costume…

 

 

My San Francisco Week in Books: Part One

Paul Johnson with his ark folded

A few months ago, I discovered that Paul Johnson, one of my all-time favorite paper artists, was going to be coming from England to teach a few workshops at the San Francisco Center for the Book. It was going to be in November, right around the time I was going to be in S.F. anyway for the usual medical reasons. Books are the best medicine, thought I! I signed up for two of the classes.

And then I discovered that John DeMerritt was going to be having a Drum Leaf binding workshop as well, during the same week and when Paul Johnson wouldn’t be teaching. Hmm… one of my favorite bindings with a master bookbinder…? I signed up for that too.

My first workshop day was foldable piano-hinge screens with Paul Johnson. I’d never thought of making piano-style hinges with paper beads before, which is essentially what these were. You roll the paper around a skewer to form the hinge in a bead-like fashion. When they’re done, you string them back on the skewer and attach to the screens. Very nifty.

This was mine:

foldable pianto-hinge screen with cat and bird designDay two was little toy theater-style pop-ups, along with some similar things. This was one of my projects from that day:

Pop-up Card

And that was supposed to have been the end of my time with Paul Johnson. I hadn’t signed up for the weekend workshop on pop-ups as well. But I was beginning to regret it. One of the lovely people at the workshop on the second day had signed up for all of the classes. As we were leaving, she told me that her hands were getting worse, and Paul Johnson was getting older. Who knew how many opportunities she’d ever have to do something like this again? Which, given my own circumstances, echoed what I was thinking inside.

As it turned out, there was still a slot left for the weekend. It became mine.

Next post: Drum Leaf bindings with John DeMerritt and a talk by Paul Johnson.

Paul with ark open

Media Recommendation

Front Row: The Art of Book Cover Design

BBC Radio 4’s Front Row just had a half-hour program “The Art of Book Cover Design.” I suspect many of you will find it as interesting as I did. From the official description:

John Wilson explores the art of book cover design and meets artist Suzanne Dean, who has been responsible for more Booker-winning covers than any other designer. Writers Ian McEwan, Tom McCarthy and Audrey Niffenegger discuss the art that represents their words and Telegraph books editor Gaby Wood provides a reader’s perspective on what makes a book stand out in a bookshop. As more of us than ever read books on e-readers, is beautiful design the key to the survival of the physical book?

Follow the link above to listen on their website.

Victorian Pleasures

Scrapbook cover

My friend Shirl is an ephemera magnet. I don’t know where she finds what she does! We’re talking seriously good ephemera. And she’s also extremely generous, much to my good fortune.

She recently gifted me with a scrapbook from the 1880s. The binding has completely come apart and the spine covering is gone, which, for me, is a large part of its attraction.

Victorian scrapbook spine

Its spine was formed by layers of paper that were folded, accordion-like, to form guards. The folios were inserted into the valleys. It was all sewn together over tapes.

There is only one folio still (barely) attached. It’s a bit hard to make out in the photo, but, if you look carefully, you can see that it had been sewn into the valley.

Spine sewing

There is also a single fabric endband still attached.

Endband

Dang, I just love looking at old deconstructed bindings.

The actual content is marvelous too. It’s a fairly typical Victorian scrapbook filled with advertising cards and whatnot. I plan to photograph or scan some of it later.

Advertising cards in scrapbook

Sweet 16

Advertising ephemera

And, by coincidence, I also recently acquired another Victorian-era treasure. A Webster’s dictionary from 1859! It was being sold in two pieces with a few pages missing, which made it affordable. Aside from that, the pages themselves are in good shape.

dictionary

1859!

In the front there is a section of illustrations (some of which I am later planning to photograph more properly). As you can see in the photo below, some of the “birds” are a bit… interesting… to our modern eyes. (The “fishes” are similarly a bit surreal  — apparently, for example, seals were considered a type of fish.)

The Birds

All the latest in science is here too:

Phrenology

And some botany:

Poppy

Among other things, I was surprised to discover that as relatively recently as 1859, the word “weird” still solely meant something to do with witchcraft.

Weird

It has a handy usage guide too.See Insanity

I also have been enjoying Webster’s essay detailing why, for instance, he has taken the “u” out of words like “colour.” “That Johnson,” you can almost imagine Webster sighing and shaking his head as he wrote.

We took the u out of colour

 

Ground Squirrel

The Paper Ground Squirrel somehow doesn’t have quite the same ring…

Note: if you want a close-up look of any of these, click on the photo. It will take you to another page where it won’t look any bigger. However, if you click on it again from the other page, it will then display a larger version. Sorry for the inconvenience of having to click twice. It’s the native WordPress way, apparently.

Thanks Dr. G

An ongoing project.

As many of you know, I grumble about medical people. I’ve seen more than my share of crummy quacks.

But my internist for the last 15 years was an exception. My suffering, both physical and mental, would have been so much greater if not for him.

He died last month, and I’ve been raw with grief.

Prior to finding him in the late 90s, I’d gone through a succession of lazy judgmental doctors. I was an artist and did not hold a conventional 9-5 job. I tend to come across as a little batty to medical people. I’d been getting sicker and sicker. One doctor told me all of my gastrointestinal problems were evidence that I didn’t cope well with stress and needed to be on Prozac (I was later diagnosed with celiac disease). Another told me I was like “a Victorian lady.” A bit too delicate and hypochondriacal.

At the time, my throat was swollen halfway shut all of the time. I’d gone to a local allergist who’d told me it could be any one of “hundreds of things.” It was pointless to try to figure it out. But if I started having trouble breathing, I should go to the ER. And that was all he could offer me. The doctor who’d made the Victorian lady comment prescribed a heavy-duty antihistamine that I later discovered was most often meant as a sedative.

I was telling some of this to the woman who cut my hair back then. She told me she liked her doctor. He took people seriously. He’d come up here recently from LA and was now chief of staff at the local hospital. He’d help. I was skeptical. But I was also desperate. I made an appointment, expecting to, yet again, get the brushoff and be told I needed Prozac. I remember telling a friend the night before that I was about to try a new doctor. “Whatever you do,” she urged,” don’t tell this one anything about your background! You know what they’re like…” I agreed that, indeed, feigned normality was my only hope of getting unbiased care. I’d try my best.

This new doctor’s reaction to my symptoms was “Oh my God! You’ve got a serious problem! Dangerous! We need to get to the bottom of this.” He assured me he would find out what was causing the swelling and the other sick-making stuff. In the meantime, he got me on some non-sedating meds and insisted I start carrying an anaphylaxis kit, just in case.

I walked out almost in a daze. A doctor who was taking me seriously? This didn’t happen. He discovered that I was allergic to milk, something that I almost found hard to believe. I also had other food allergies. Once my allergies were discovered, the alarming swelling and the chronic eczema I’d had for years vanished.

I later saw the chief of Allergy and Immunology at a major teaching hospital. She told me I was deluded. I could not possibly have those food allergies. She would know. She ordered me to consume milk for the health of my bones. She was so adamant that I doubted my own sanity. That night I ate ice cream. And swelled up and got rather sick.

I reported this later to my internist. He narrowed his eyes with disapproval. “Nothing…  from…  the… udder… of… a… cow,” he slowly hissed while shaking a finger at me. “You really listened to that woman?!”

Around this time, I began to develop indescribable pain through my right, dominant arm and hand. It was incapacitating. As an artist, this was a career-killer. The pain spread to my other side. Other inflammatory problems blossomed. Life was not good. But I was more fortunate than most, especially around here, in similar situations. I had a doctor who genuinely believed in easing suffering. If he couldn’t cure it, he was at least going to do everything he could to try to keep me as functional as possible.

My internist had enormous physical challenges of his own and knew what it was like to suffer from a patient’s perspective. He was an extraordinarily empathic doctor.

Over time, he became as much a friend as my doctor. He came to my art shows and I went to his spoken word/music performances. We used to talk so much about other things — politics, usually — that I’d ask, laughing, if he’d mind if I interjected with a medical question. This, in the age of 8-minute doctor visits.

He gave me most of the pharma packaging I use for arts and crafts. Leaving an appointment, I’d sometimes feel mildly self-conscious clutching a grocery-sized bag full of pharma industry sales paraphernalia.

He liked to encourage artists.

He once gave me one of his own antibiotic pills from a recent hospitalization. He explained that the single pill was worth $200. I painted it gold and placed it on velvet inside a pill bottle cap. I presented it back to him at my next appointment along with a miniaturized bound copy of the annual financial report of the pharma that had produced it.

The $200 Pill

We had an unusual doctor-patient relationship.

It’s not that I agreed with everything he did or suggested. I still smile when I think of one time when we were having a shouting match because I’d disagreed with one of his recommendations. As our argument escalated, his nurse — long accustomed to his conversational style — cheerfully strolled in and, over our bickering, announced she’d forgotten to take my blood pressure. She then proceeded to do just that, smiling, as we continued to shout at each other.

The memorial gathering for Dr. David Gans was this weekend. There were so many mourners, the room overflowed to standing-room only.

True to his spirit, there was a giveaway table in back loaded with gifts for the assembled.

Everyone was invited to help themselves to the pharmaceutical industry trinkets that had been collected from his office. (For those of you not in the U.S., you probably can’t believe most of this stuff.) Tears turned to smiles as people walked off with pharma-branded mugs, clocks, toothbrush holders, mini golf clubs, toys, cup dispensers, paperweights…

Staring at the table, my husband Victor whispered in my ear, “better get some bags from the car.”

I pictured Dr. Gans laughing.

New tool holder

Nice (free) things to print

Thanks everyone for your kind support during my last and latest IT crisis. Much appreciated. It’s fixed now. I tried to thank my web host, InMotion Hosting, for finally figuring it out. Alas, the last message I sent them bounced back to me. From what I could tell, their own server (or spam program) thought their own address was spam. Hmm…

And good luck to those of you still suffering from the update to WordPress 4.0. I know I wasn’t the only one. I wish I knew what my web host did to fix it, but it’s honestly incomprehensible to me. Sigh…

At any rate, I’ve started to collect new materials to make pages for my next sketchbook/plaything. As part of that, I’ve been browsing some favorite online places for high-quality, public domain printable stuff. These are listed under “Free Picture Resources” on my links page, but I thought I’d explain a little.

You'll be busy for a while…

The Biodiversity Heritage Library’s Flickr account will keep you very busy if you like vintage images of nature and the physical world. All of their images are provided under under a Creative Commons license. I find that I usually need to touch them up in Lightroom/Photoshop to make them more to my liking, but you could probably also just download and print if you don’t care as much about such things. If nothing else, it’s a great visual reference resource.

Speaking of downloading, it came to my attention recently that not everyone I know is familiar with how to download images from Flickr (on accounts that allow it). It can vary by browser, but I think with most current and supported browsers, it now works like this:

 Click the arrow symbol on the bottom right:

Click here

This will make a little menu appear…

Click here next

Almost always, choosing “original size” will ensure the highest quality for printing. You can always shrink it down later. Click on that, and the picture will be downloaded to your computer.

Another fun browse is brought to us by a professor of the History of the Book at the University of Amsterdam. This account, found at http://www.flickr.com/bookhistorian is filled with detailed scans of fancy initials, ornaments and fragments from manuscripts.

History of the Book on Flickr

Of course, there are plenty of other Creative Commons resources on Flickr and the wider web. Photos from the US government, for instance, are generally not under copyright. So… looking for a nice NASA space image or something from the Library of Congress? You might want to start here.

And, thanks to Amy, I recently discovered some terrific, high-quality maps (among other things) at The Old Design Shop. It is claimed that all of the images here are in the public domain. These are, in my so-far limited experience, unusually excellent quality and ready to print without any digital fussing. I printed out some maps on plain Strathmore 400 Drawing paper and they look great.

Another site popular around the web is The Graphics Fairy, which leans heavily toward Victorian and Edwardian-style imagery.

What favorite sources for printable public domain imagery have you found?

Where Oh Where Has My Blog Gone…

[Update: Restoration of the blog has been underway. Things are not nearly as dire now as originally reported. If it still is missing things when you look at it, please try refreshing the page.]

Some surprises are not very nice.

If you are a regular reader, you might’ve noticed the blog is looking rather strange at the moment, and a bunch of things are missing. Little things, such as all of the styling, fonts, colors, my banner, menus… (!) It just suddenly appeared this way today. Two calls to my domain/web host later, and they claim there’s no evidence it was hacked, although that would be the most sensible answer. They thought they might be able to restore it to its former state… but then couldn’t. After the last tech support call, they say they will make another attempt at opening the database that seems to be at the heart of this, um, hair-pulling moment.

I keep reminding myself that it’s only the styling, menus, banner, etc. I still have posts and photos. It could be worse.

But then my inner depressive cries out, “Don’t you remember how many hours it took to put in all those settings, colors, menus, banner….?!”

Alas. I just thought I’d post an explanation for the weird look and lack of some things on the blog. It will return in something resembling its usual state. Either it will be restored by my host… or I’ll be spending several hours clenching my teeth doing it the slow and frustrating way.

I’m curious — has anything like this ever happened to any of you who use WordPress?

And the Giveaway Winner is…

Everyone who left a comment on the last post! I couldn’t just pick one. I like all of you! The hard part now is picking out which big philatelic surprises to send…

Postmark
I promise — I will actually put enough postage on your mail.

They’ll be mailed on Monday here in California. If I don’t know your address, I’ll be contacting you over the weekend.