New blog: Anonyma’s Reading Journal

I have a new reading journal and am currently posting my thoughts and notes on early Gothic novels. If you’re interested, click here to visit it.

There isn’t much there yet, but there will be.

Sushi

Was testing the Camera360 app. Looks like it might become my go-to photo editing app. Of course, I still have not tested the Pixlr app…
Started with this:

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And ended with this:

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Useless but fun website # 1

I can’t remember how I discovered Silk, but when I need to take short a breather to relax and recharge at work, I sometimes visit this website and make one or two pieces of art.

You decide on the colours and the symmetry and the software does the rest. Here are two examples:

art1

click to enlarge

 

art1-1

click to enlarge

 

Meditation doodle

I started by copying a basic mehndi design (bottom left) and let my imagination take it from there, but as I worked, more mehndi-like elements crept in.
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Rough doodle

Rough doodle made with a marker while I waited at the garage for the winter tyres to be put under my car.

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Meet the little lizardskin sketchbook

No lizards were harmed in the making of this hand-stitched sketchbook (but I did draw blood with the needle while I was doing the stitching).

notebook01The paper is called lizardskin or snakeskin paper because it imitates the look of reptile skin.

I mostly keep commonplace books, i.e. notebooks I both write and sketch/doodle in and even glue in newspaper clippings. Sort of like real-world versions of this blog. This particular sketchbook ended up as a pure doodle/sketch book. It lives in my desk at work and accompanies me to meetings. It’s just about full, only a few blank pages left and some finishing touches needed for some of the doodles.

Below you will find one of my doodles from it.

Incidentally, don’t call this a Zentangle. It’s not the right shape for it, although the style is similar and I have used some patterns that will look familiar to those who do zentangling. This is an elaborate meeting doodle. notebook07

Dishwasher cocktails: Complicating the issue

One of my favourite websites for clearing my head when I‘m deeply involved in my work and need a few minutes af mindless activity to clear my brain is the Mail Online. The “news” in that rag are perfect for shifting the brain‘s gears into “idle” to give you a rest from anything that needs a lot of concentration. Yesterday I came across this: How to make a perfect vodka cocktail – in your dishwasher!

Image courtesy of arztsamui / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of arztsamui / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The woman who wrote the piece claims that this is a „fast-growing internet craze“. Basically, you are supposed to take a bottle of cheap vodka, pour out about a third of the contents and replace them with candy. (I’m sure she had a lot of fun doing the testing – imagine getting paid to do this). She tested 10 different kinds, including gummi bears, Jelly Babies, Skittles, liquorice, Werther‘s Originals  and After Eight mints. Her conclusion is that „Dishwasher vodka is quick and fun to make and, in most cases, the result is well worth the small effort.”

To me, this sounds like complicating a simple matter.

When I was younger, this is what we would do, which is not only cheaper, but also builds up anticipation: You take a bottle of vodka, empty out some of it (make a bunch of vodkatinis, for example) and put in crushed hard candies. Then you close the bottle and proceed to shake the bottle several times a day. In as little as 24 hours – longer if you don’t crush the candies – you have the desired result: a bottle of liquid, alcoholic candy. This is what gave rise to such notorious hangover-generators as Hot‘n‘Sweet schnapps, Tópas and some commercial infused vodkas. Not only is this method cheaper than the dishwasher, it also doesn’t reek of a “look at how clever I am” complex.

If, however, your aim is to look clever, put the bottle on something that can roll it continuously to gradually dissolve the candy, so that people can look at it and admire your cleverness. This rock tumbler, for example, has two rollers and can take a booze bottle. By the way, this method and the one described right above do not work with chocolate – you need heat to melt those.

Alternatively, if you’re in a huge, big hurry, pour about a cup of vodka into a blender, add hard or soft candies and blend until the candies are melted, then strain and mix with more vodka if the flavour is too intense. This takes less time than the dishwasher method and wastes less electricity.

With chocolate candies, gently heat the vodka up to about 40 °C (be very, very careful if you use the microwave to do this), add chocolates and stir to melt. Optionally, strain before drinking.

If it‘s an After Eight-infused drink you‘re after, it‘s easier to simply pour a shot of Royal Mint-Chocolate over ice and enjoy. Not only does it taste just like you‘d imagine a cocktail made from After Eights would, it also looks considerably prettier. (You’ll have to take my word for it – I have sadly run out of this delectable liqueur and it isn’t available in the booze shops here so I’ll have to wait until the next time I go abroad to buy another bottle).

Things that annoy me about Pinterest, #276

Pins from blogs that take me to the main page of the blog but not the post that was supposed to be pinned, leading to an often fruitless search for the right post.

If you are guilty of this, do not moan that I am depriving you of repins when I go and find the post and pin it myself. You only have yourself to blame.

Things that annoy me about Pinterest, #152

Pinners who I have followed who proceed to flood my home view with 25 variations of the same thing in a matter of minutes, pushing out pins by more thoughtful pinners who post fewer but higher quality pins.

Girl! I know you’re excited about this stuff, but there are limits as to how many items of glittery craft items, beaded bracelets or flimsy dresses I want to see in a day. I know you want to populate your board as quickly as possible, but sometimes less is more. Pinterest is all about sharing. Let’s not overshare. Flood your private boards instead or at least flood with variety – not the same dress in 10 different colours or 52 photos of Johnny Depp’s face from every possible angle.

This is my main reason for unfollowing boards and not participating in group boards.

Lest you think I’m being unfair: I know well of what I speak. You see, I used to be that pinner myself, and then I followed a board by someone who thought nothing of pinning 50 pins a day of charming old books. Lots of good stuff from others got lost in the flood. Fortunately she calmed down somewhat, and in the end I didn’t have to unfollow her book board, but it was a close call. I wish I could say the same about the India group board and the beading group board.

Music mixology rules

” To me, making a tape is like writing a letter — there’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again. A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You’ve got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention (I started with “Got to Get You Off My Mind”, but then realized that she might not get any further than track one, side one if I delivered what she wanted straightaway, so I buried it in the middle of side two), and then you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can’t have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can’t have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you’ve done the whole thing in pairs and…oh, there are loads of rules.”  Nick Hornby, High Fidelity.

I’m sure most people who put any kind of thought into their mixtapes/mixdiscs/playlists have rules they follow when making them. Since the purpose of most of my mixes is to keep me awake and/or entertained while travelling, my general rules are loose and made to be broken, but I also make mood and theme mixes that follow stricter rules.

My rules, as far as they are conscious and not intuitive, are as follows:

1. Find a theme and stick with it.
This can be as basic as “songs to keep me awake”, or more complicated like “soundtrack of my life” (I am beginning to jot down ideas for such a mix), or “reasons why I love you” (for a loved one).

2. Don’t be afraid to do something unexpected with your theme.

3. The mix must open with a song that gets the listener’s attention.
It can be something that gets the blood pumping and/or the feet tapping, like any number of tunes with snappy intros followed by a fast tempo and strong beat; something that stirs the emotions, like a soaring power ballad or a powerful classic piece. However, it need not be something with a fast tempo or a strong beat – it can just as well be something slow but intense that creeps up on you, like Chris Rea’s The Road to Hell (part 1), which begins with about a minute of static and atmospheric sounds that intensify until he begins speaking (it fades perfectly into part 2, which is the hit song). Songs I would not begin a mix with unless it was meant for meditation or to put me to sleep, are, for example, electronic mood music and slow classical piano tunes (unless I want song #2 to come as a shock). If you’re using an actual tape to record the music, select an attention-grabbing song to begin each side.

4. The first song, while attention-grabbing, must not be the focus or anchor of the mix.
If every song that comes after the first one seems anaemic in comparison the listener will lose interest and the mix will be a failure. Better to tuck the focus song somewhere around the middle or even near the end of the mix.

5. Ideally, the second song should seem like a natural progression from the first (unless you’re following rule no. 2,   but if you’re creative, you can use both this rule and that), and so on, but only adjacent songs need fit together, i.e. song #1 and song #3 don’t have to fit together any more than song #2 and song #9. Any number of musical similarities can be used to achieve this, like a similar rhythm or tempo, similar sound, the ending of one song blends perfectly into the beginning of the next, etc. This does not necessarily have to be musical in nature, but can be a matter of using songs with the same words in the title, question and answer titles, titles that tell a story, artists covering each other’s songs, similar themes (for example, you can show a male perspective in the first song and a female perspective on the same thing in the second song), etc., but it’s easier to get a good fit with musical similarity.
If you can make the whole mix form a chain where every song seems like a natural link in the chain, you are good. If you can make the last song link with the first song so the mix can be played in a loop and no-one can tell where it starts, you are a master mixologist. (Hint: As easy way out is to use two songs where one segues into another or a prologue and a the song that follows it, and have the first as the last song and the second as the first song of the mix, so that if you put your CD player on continuous play or your iPod playlist on repeat, you get a loop rather than an ending).

6. Break things up every now and then.
When making a structured mix, I generally chain together 3-4 songs by the same or similar criteria, and then use different criteria for choosing a song so that it still fits into the chain and theme in some way but at the same time breaks up the sound (don’t know if I’m making sense, but I’m trying). This can be achieved by retaining the tempo but using a different rhythm, keeping the rhythm but choosing a tune with a different lead instrument, by keeping the sound but varying the theme (e.g. insert an instrumental song into a chain of sung tunes), etc.
If every song is in the same tempo, they all start to run into each other. You must change the tempo before that happens. One of my favourite tricks when making a mood booster mix is to begin with a slow tempo and make it faster and faster over a number of songs (which also get progressively happier), then break it up somehow before it gets monotonous. The same method can be applied to control the “mood” of a party, to convey changing moods or tell a story.

7. Don’t put two songs by the same artist one after the other, unless one is a cover by a different artist.
I don’t take it as far as to forbid myself the use of more than one song by an artist in a mix, I just try not to put them close together and try to make them different from each other in some way. (I know I am not in agreement with many mixtapers on this one, but these are my rules, developed over a couple of decades and they have stood me in good steed).

Rule that I should follow more often:
8. Decorate the insert and give the mix a good title. (Provided you’re making an actual disc or tape, and not a playlist, in which case you only need to worry about the title).
I am not good at this. None of my actual tapes are decorated and only a handful have titles other than the usual “mixed music”. This is because I rarely give away mixes. If you are going to give one away, take the time to decorate and find a title that implies what you want to say with the mix.

9. Break the rules if it suits your purpose. Mixtaping is supposed to be fun.

Here are some mixtape rules used by others:

How to Make a Mix Tape Vol 1: Ground Rules

Art of the mixtape rules – Note: there is a pop-up ad. Avoid if you hate them or don’t have a pop-up blocker.

Reading this one hurts the eyes, as it fills the screen. I suggest copying it into a word processing program for ease of reading. How to Make the Perfect Mix Tape –  Note: This one also has a pop-up ad.

How to Make a Perfect Mix Tape or CD

This one is even more precise than I am: The Rules of the Mixtape, part 1; Part 2.

Grumpy

That’s me today. The weather forecast is for cool, windy and overcast weather all weekend long, and it’s a long weekend, Monday being a bank holiday. I can’t even go up north – where the forecast is for sunny and warm weather – to stay with my parents, because they are coming here. I don’t want to be at work, and I have a chest cold and my head is full of fog.