Friday, March 28, 2008

Isn't this littering? Japanese scientists want to launch paper airplanes from space.

Japanese scientists want to launch paper airplanes from space. Scientists from Tokyo University’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics have been collaborating with origami masters to fold airplanes that can be launch from space to float back to earth. I kid you not.

This has to be the most odd story I have come across in along while. I am still in disbelief that paper airplanes could survive re-entry, but apparently a prototype passed wind tunnel durability tests in February.

The prototype was about 3 inches long and 2 inches wide. It survived Mach 7 speeds and 446 degree heat — conditions that were meant to replicate conditions during re-entry. Apparently the little paper plane suffered no major damage or burns.

A successful flight from space by an origami plane could have far-reaching implications for the design of re-entry vehicles or space probes for upper atmospheric exploration, says project leader Shinji Suzuki.

“It sounded like a simply impossible, crazy idea,” Suzuki said.

I have to agree. Paper? A paper plane wouldn't bust apart or be instantly incinerated? The freakin' Space Shuttle has blown up twice and PAPER is supposed to work?

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency thinks so. They are spending $300,000 in funding per year for the project.

The origami airplane can survive these harsh conditions because it's made from sugar cane fibers that happen to make the paper resistant to heat, wind and water. The plane is also sprayed with a special coating, of exactly what they don't say.

Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata has apparently expressed a personal interest in the project and has offered to throw several origami shuttles into the wake of the international space station.

The Tokyo University scientists hope lessons from the paper planes could lead to the development of new lightweight space probes or help to design a full size paper space shuttle.

The biggest hurdle?
They have no way to track or predict where the paper plane will land.

But Suzuki says he has a solution — a message of peace in several languages, along with a request for anyone who finds them to notify the team.

“Just imagine, children around the world would be anxiously waiting for the return of our origami shuttle, perhaps looking up into the sky from time to time,” Suzuki said. “That would be great fun.”

See the story here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pavlov’s Fish - Black Sea Bass Get 'Sound' Training

No bait necessary for these fish - scientists at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts are training fish to catch themselves.

Using classical conditioning, the team of researchers is busy training fish to voluntarily swim to an underwater cage so they can be caught and sold.

Just like Ivan Pavlov taught dogs to associate the sound of a bell with dinner, and come salivating to the table, these researchers are training fish to associate dinner time with a tone.

The team has even received a $270,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to fund their project.

Black sea bass are a crucial source of the world’s seafood and to reduce the cost of farming them, the fish would ideally roam the open seas to feed and grow until being called back to the cage to be put up on the chopping block.

Recently Simon Miner, a research assistant at Wood's Hole, showed that fish learned to enter a partially closed feeding area in their tank when he sounded a tone for 20 seconds. Three times a day for two weeks he made the sound before he put food in the feeding area.

The fish learned the sound meant food was ready.

It works much the way with my newfie. It didn't take her too long to learn the tell-tale sound of a fork scraping the plate meant she'd soon be licking it.

And, in classic Pavlovian fashion, she now drools reliably at the sound. ((Or course, being a newfie she drools at just about anything!))

So say you, too, wish to create some remote-control fish — how do you do it?

You need 2 things, plus good timing:
1) A stimulus that automatically, instinctively, reflexively produces the behavior you want. These are called the "unconditioned stimulus" and the "unconditioned response."
2) A stimulus the individual can easily attend to but doesn't have an automatic response to. This can be a bell, a clicker, or something visual.

Make the sound then immediately show the unconditioned stimulus. You want the individual to be able to predict what follows the sound - that's why it comes first. You don't want too much time to pass in between the two. And, you don't want to produce them at the same time - you want one to be a useful predictor for the other.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Self Harm Seen in Animals Too

Insights about the causes and treatments for self-harm can be derived from studying when it happens to animals.

Self harm takes many forms: cutting with razor blades, biting, picking, burning with matches, scratching or otherwise intentionally damaging one's skin.

One of the things that makes self-harm so puzzling is why anyone would choose to physically damage him or herself. Unfortunately, self-harm can easily be dismissed as "senseless" or "irrational" behavior. And certainly it does seem that way at first glance.

However, research on animals that display this behavior suggests that self harm does serve a purpose - a completely rational one.

In primatology self harm is called
self-injurious behavior (SIB) and is associated with anxiety.

According to research by Bayne et al. (1995), there is no consistent evidence for the influence of rearing history on the development of self-harm among primates. What that means is that there's no evidence that the way one grows up or is parented (yes there are parallels to monkey and human parenting and psychological development) affects whether an individual turns to self harm to cope with anxiety.

The single most common denominator among animals who self harm is isolation — social isolation. Primates bite themselves, parrots pull out their feathers and dogs and cats lick themselves. Such self-injurious
behavior tends to occur in emotionally disturbing situations, particular those over which the individual has little or no control (like being locked up alone).

Birds, monkeys, people and pets are all very social creatures. Touch plays a big role in the ives of all of these species and when left along that physical contact disappears and anxiety increases. Preening and self-grooming is one way animals and people cope with anxiety. Self touch is soothing but a poor substitute for contact with others.

Research on captive primates and birds has identified that self-injurious behavior is a coping strategy to reduce arousal. Biting, licking, and feather plucking lower heart rate, one marker of relaxation.

Presumably the same sort of thing happens on a physiological level for people who injure themselves. People report feeling more calm during the act and for a little while after.

Self-injurious behavior is notoriously difficult to treat. It's compulsive behavior that defies behavioral interventions largely because a psychologist or therapist can't be present 100% of the time to remind people to replace their harmful habit with a helpful one. That's one reason why drug therapies are so popular. They are effective, with beta blockers being the most effective because they block the mood enhancing endorphins that are released during injury. Those who self harm are addicted to it behaviorally and physiologically.

Given that social isolation, stress and anxiety are the triggers and main reason for self injury, reducing stress and increasing time spent with others would be the most effective. Massage solves both and has demonstrated effectiveness for a wide range of conditions.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring Is Here Along with the 'Plum Rains' ... Sort of.

The last few days have brought an explosion of blossoms on the two plum trees in our backyard. I absolutely love the plums. The tiny white blossoms are gorgeous and some of the very first flowers to appear in the spring. The last few weeks have also brought noticeably more precipitation, just enough to start germinating seeds. The cosmos I started as paper cards are coming up, along with the holly hocks. I really love spring here.

To me, the plum blossoms plus the rains have made me remember traveling in Japan last year. We went during the "Plum Rains" which occur there for about 3 weeks in June. They are called the plum rains because they happen when the plums are ripe.

When the rain falls on the ripe plums, there follows 40 rainy days.
~ an old Japanese saying

The plum rains are caused by the "meiyu front," a meeting of warm moist air and cooler air over China. The front creates rain and really humid air in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and eastern China. The humidity can stay around 80 and 90 per cent at the same time the temperature is in the upper 80s. To say the least, the air is stuffy an uncomfortable. I am so glad I had years of New Hampshire humidity to prepare me. In truth, it wasn't that bad!

Although I would love to be in Japan during the spring for the sakura and ume blossoms, which are major cultural events, I'll just have to settle for the glorious 'plum rains' of Walla Walla. After the plums go crazy here, the cherries follow - along with the magnolias, rhododenderons, dogwoods and more. The plentiful flowering trees are definitely a great part of living where I do.

I couldn't resist using them as a backdrop for some snapshots of the thank you cards I custom created for a fellow etsy seller. They are the sprouting variety I make and are in stock in my store now.

** If you're up for more reading, the article Tsuyu: A Season that shaped a culture is well worth it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Yesterday Was A Huge Day

First, one of my products was on the front page of! Not only that, but the item was hand-picked by the company from thousands of wedding-related products. Mine is at the top of the page, at the right.
Apparently, my snapshot of the sprout coming out of the paper was eye-catching.

Taking that picture was probably the single best thing I have done for my little paper-making operation because it provides proof that the seeded cards do grow. Since I uploaded that picture to my store listings, those plantable cards have flown off the shelf so quickly that I have had to stay up late to label, package, and address shipments. I also generated three custom orders from it.

My inventory quickly depleted, but I worked hard over the weekend making more so I have plenty of cards to put back in stock throughout the coming weeks now that I'm on the map.

I took more snapshots of the sprouts coming out of the paper I make and will be adding them so I have variety in the the cover shots.

* * * * * *

Second, yesterday was Her Royal Highness the Newfoundland's second birthday. We really screwed the pooch on this one because she neither got a burger, nor a swim. In fact, I don't even think she got a proper walk. However, the day before, I let her off the leash 20 feet earlier than I usually do when we get to campus. She loves running around on the quad chasing sticks. Normally, she stays on the leash until after we cross the bridge going over the campus creek, but yesterday — I let her loose before the bridge. True to her breed, she ran straight for the water, dove in and looked at us standing on the bridge looking back at her, chest high with a breed-typical goofy newfie expression — clearly a hog in mud. She willingly left the creek, most likely because she couldn't get proper swim in a foot of water, and later found and brought home a lacrosse ball — an early birthday 'present.'

* * * * * *

Finally as a follow-up to Monday's sock story, the authorities around here have identified a new suspect in the mystery of the olive green sock disappearance. The individual bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Field Notes. Authorities are close to getting a confession.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sock Killer Strikes, Police Question Suspect

A sock killer may be on the loose in the field notes neighborhood.

Yesterday evening, residents identified an olive green sock had gone missing. It still had not returned this morning, but residents had a culprit in mind. Over the last three months, they have reported several missing socks and the near constant presence of a drooling suspect seen loitering around the place dirty socks are kept prior to laundering. They describe the suspect as female, about 125 pounds, large-build, with long black hair.

Although socks have gone missing before, they have never stayed missing longer than a few hours, residents say.

The remaining olive green sock was examined for evidence. Forensic specialists expected to find hair and saliva samples on the sock, however it had been freshly laundered.

Police questioned the only individual who matched the residents' description. She has been identified as Katy the Newfoundland. Although she has has no criminal record, neighbors say she is well known for being a thug and getting into fights.

An eye witness was also brought in for questioning. Max the Spaniel reported seeing Katy taking socks on multiple occasions but admitting to be asleep for the duration of the time the crime was estimated to have occurred. He added that Katy the Newfoundland has tried to kill him in the past and that she is an unsavory character who belongs behind bars.

Police are keeping Katy under surveillance until they have enough evidence to build a case.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

My laptop died. GULP.

Suddenly a gray transparent screen appeared on my laptop over the existing one. The keyboard and cursor were completely frozen. I could see what I had been working on behind it. The lighter gray screen in the middle sent an ominous message in 4 different languages about how I need to restart my computer. So I did and within a few seconds the same thing happened, so I "zapped the pram" and tried again. I did this 6-7 times and each time it was only a matter of time before I got the bad screen.

I thought about all of the files that I either had or I had not backed up.

Dissertation? Check. It's in numerous places.

My teaching files? Years of work. Hundreds of Powerpoint presentations that each took me hours to do, photos of primates for slide shows...

Check. Backed up in numerous places.

Music? My iTunes has hundreds of songs, even videos, that I've purchased but not burned or saved anywhere. CRAP. I would lose those.

Hundreds of photos I have spent hours and hours making of my inventory - GONE.

Email messages and drafts that I have saved there. Contacts info - GONE.

We did all the stuff you're supposed to do when this type of thing happens - disconnect everything that might be hooked up, reboot with the start up CD, reload the OS. None of that worked.

I wasn't happy about it. No scientist ever wants to lose data. Fortunately Mr. Field Notes acted quickly and set up an ethernet connection between his desktop computer and my laptop and in between zapping of prams (talk about defibrilating your computer!) we managed to save the music and photos. I was able to forward some important emails to another account.

Obviously my computer needed help, so I saw 2 choices:
* Take it to a tech
* Buy a new one

A tech costs $60 an hour and may not be able to revive it. It's a 2005 model. The nearest tech is at least 60 miles drive away, and no one is going to be able to fix it and send it home with me on the spot, so that would add to at least 240 miles of driving for the possibility of having it work again, plus whatever it cost to fix. It's no longer under warranty.

Given all of that and the really unpleasant reality of being without a piece of equipment I use more hours in the day than my bed, I decided to just get a new one.

My new white 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 160 GB storage Apple laptop is on its way, along with info about sending my broken ones back to Apple for free to be recycled. I am so pleased, not to be shelling out 1400 bucks, but that my new machine will be blazing fast and I will be able to process more video. Yahoo! I will have to celebrate by producing some footage from my travels to Japan.

** I uploaded this on my old laptop. It's missing the option key and the right arrow, not to mention the paint has chipped off several of the keyboard letters and it is SO FREAKING SLOW. It's sort of hard to believe that at one one point I actually thought this thing was blazing fast. It's amazing how quickly computers evolve.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My paper really can be grown!

I made some pastel note cards from what amounts to junk mail and used office paper.

I embedded them with seeds that you can plant to grow plants like these:
* hollyhock flowers (green cards)
* columbine flowers (pink cards)
* cosmos flowers (yellow cards)
* lavender (lavender cards)

About a week ago I put some damp paper scraps inside a plastic bag and set it on a window sill. They germinated! The cosmos sprout easily and quickly. I can see the hollyhocks will take some more time before they will sprout, but they look like they're trying.

If you really like these cards, you can buy them. They are for sale right now in my etsy store for fourteen dollars a set.

** Give the gift that keeps on giving **

Oh yeah, and my shop got picked up by a pretty cool website devoted to environmental stuff - Groovy Green.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tourists Kidnapped in Tunisia: Glad that didn't happen to us when we visited there!

In 2004, just one year after the second Gulf War began, Mr. Field Notes and I traveled to Tunisia, a Muslim country in North Africa. We rented a car and drove all over the country. We didn't have an itinerary or reservations. I didn't think we were being particularly daring by going there during a war that continues to be seriously unpopular in the Arab world, but I did get the feeling twice that we could be potentially kidnapped.

That didn't happen — but it did to a couple vising Tunisia last month.

Al-Qaida in North Africa claimed responsibility in a tape aired on al-Jazeera. On it, a man who identified himself as "Salah Abu Mohammed" said the terrorist group kidnapped the two Austrians on Feb. 22 in retribution for Western cooperation with Israel. He said the hostages were in good health.

The only other details released, other than their names and ages, is that they were driving their own car — a car that had Austrian plates — near the southern border.

On either side of Tunisia are Algeria and Libya — countries that I would not enter except under very unusual circumstances. Algeria has a known presence of Islamic extremists operating near the Tunisian border and they have kidnapped tourists in the past, albeit years ago. And, Libya where Muammar Qaddafi is still dictator, was until very recently on the U.S. list of state sponsored terrorism.

Although Tunisia was a very welcoming place, and the people unbelievably friendly and hospitable, like I said before, I did twice get the feeling that we could be potentially kidnapped.

The first happened when we were befriended by a large extended family picnicking at a desert oasis near the Algerian border. We stopped and chatted with them, they fed us and then invited us to visit "their country." I really thought that meant Algeria, so when we decided to 'live it up' and take a change on strangers in a foreign land, I really thought we were going to be going across the border to Algeria, where we might very well find ourselves held for ransom. After all, journalists (Mr. Field Notes is one) do get kidnapped. We were both relieved when we zoomed right past the border. And later we had a wonderful time in their home town, which for people new to speaking English was what "our country" meant.

The next was when we in another desert town, further away from the border, looking for guide to take us into the desert to a Bedouin camp so we could live it up desert style under the stars. We found a place, but it felt really sketchy when we started talking to them. They didn't speak English very well and would talk amongst themselves in Arabic and frequently mentioned the word "American" which I had learned to recognize by studying the language before we left. They seemed unusually interested in the fact that we were American and they insisted on taking us out alone rather than with a group. I thought that was a supremely bad idea, so we got the heck out of there.

In Tunisia, we didn't really find anti-American sentiment but we did have an interesting conversation with a souk shopkeeper in southern Tunisia. That part of Tunisia also happens to be the neatest (because it was the most foreign) part of the country, but is the only place we got any bad vibes. And they were really slight, i.e. one girl stared and stuck her tongue out at me while holding her fingers up in a V on either side of her tongue as we drove by. And then this guy, who while he gave us yummy mint tea, was really excited about talking to us about 9/11. He spoke in French, which is not my first language, so I am sure I only got the gist and not the finer nuances of what he was saying about how he would have flown the planes into the buildings had he not had a family.

Otherwise, the Tunisians were very friendly and kind and not at all biased against Americans.

We drove all over the country in a little blue Fiat Punto that had Tunisian plates, and in Tunisia the rental cars all have blue plates instead of white ones. They got us through many checkpoints and out of a speeding ticket. I think that helped us not stick out so much when we were cruising around.

The tourists were pretty dumb for driving around in their own car with European plates. I think you stick out like a sore thumb driving around with European plates, especially in the south where they disappeared.

Who knows what lead up to them being snatched, but in any case, the incident is surely an embarrassment for the Tunisian government since it takes a lot of pride in its Western leaning country. It also gets most of its tourism from Europeans.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

NY Gov Spitzer: What on earth was the man thinking?

Though lots of great news splashed across the wires today, including one on using a token economy in the workplace to boost productivity (uh - good luck implementing that one without making your staff feel like toddlers) and one on tourists kidnapped in Tunisia (which I am planning to write about, having been there), it was an article that quotes psychoanalysts
explaining why Eliot Spitzer, the governor of New York who got himself a prostitute, that really caught my eye because of how bad it was — or rather how full of crap the psychoanalysts were.

“There’s the psychology of the exception,” said Leon Hoffman, former chairman of the American Psychoanalytic Association’s public information committee. “People in power sometimes feel they can do things that us, mere mortals, are forbidden to do. There’s a sense, as with adolescents, that 'I won’t get caught.'”

Doug Muzzio, professor of public affairs at Baruch College, says Spitzer’s situation could be a case of a deep-seated compulsion or one of simple hubris.

Chicago psychoanalyst Mark Smaller says, “Often the behavior in question is caused by intense anxiety, stress in the workplace or home, or feeling overwhelmed.”

You know what I say? The dude was a horndog who was probably in an unsatisfying marriage or not getting enough sexual gratification at home. Rather than doing the hard work of solving his problems though legitimate means, he took the easy, sleazy path. There's no reason to delve beyond the obvious here.

Monday, March 10, 2008

In the Annals of "I Could Have Told You That" Research

Teachers who 'teach' in large lecture halls give exams on different colored sheets to reduce cheating. The questions are put in a different order on the two forms.

That way students who look around to steal answers won't be able to easily copy their classmates' presumably correct answers.

Because this practice is so widespread, and because more than a few students have complained that test printed on different colored sheets are "unfair" (because you can't cheat as easily then?), a few lecturers of humongous lecture halls got together and conducted a study to determine whether the color of the paper affects exam performance at all.

Guess what? It didn't.

I have no idea why instructors use different colors of paper to keep the different versions of the exam straight when they could just put an A or B or whatever code on the top and use white paper.

I figure all-white exams serve two purposes.
  • Dye isn't used so they're more environmentally responsible. Of course, unbleached paper would be the best from a solely environmental standpoint. And if, as the study found out, even primary as opposed to pastel colored paper doesn't have a significant effect, then why not just print them on Kraft paper that is 100% post-consumer content or unbleached paper?
  • Students might believe all of the exams are the same so copiers would be penalized because they'd end up copying down the wrong answers.
In any case, this study certified the obvious: Printing exams on different colors doesn't affect exam performance and is therefore not "unfair." Different colored exams are totally useless in my book.

And furthermore, students should never be lectured in large auditoriums anyway. Lectures do little to teach students. They don't usually make students think, or process what they've learned.

And for that matter, neither do multiple choice exams. The questions that come out of instructor test banks nearly always test factual rather than conceptual knowledge and none of them ask students to apply or synthesize material. In other words, they don't demand much of students. They don't demand much of instructors either since most lecturers can have the department secretary type up exam questions the instructor chooses from the exam book. A machine grades them.

It's unfortunate so many college students have this inferior form of education inflicted on them in the first place.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Proper Lighting is Crucial

Today's object lesson:
Having excellent photos allows an artist to demand much higher prices for the work.

Just like a house can fetch a higher asking price with good landscaping and proper interior staging, so too can arts and crafts.

This morning I found a spot of sun in my office and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to re-shoot a box I have for sale in my etsy store. It's a fabulous box, but the images haven't done it justice.

Through trial and error, I've found that indirect natural light in the morning or afternoon produce the best effect for showing off the texture of the paper I make - not to mention the colors.

The before shots are all taken in the same room but with overhead lighting mid-day. You can see the tremendous difference a change in lighting makes.

Besides that, you have to take care to have a background that is complimentary. The before shots have the box placed on my desk. While the wood grain is fine, it is boring and lifeless. Plus, the office door can be seen in the background of one. The after shots have the box and lid resting on top of a house plant with more black. The contrast between the item and the background helps the item stand out. The greenery adds some needed life. It doesn't hurt that it echoes the leaf on the box's lid.

This took me less than 15 minutes to do, including cropping and sizing it for internet uploading. I couldn't really expect anyone to pay the asking price for it with the old photos, but now I can.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A View of My Office

Yes, I read all of those.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Message in a Ballad

One day while advising one of my thesis students, we got to talking about sharing music out of your iTunes library. Evidently, every time I opened iTunes while I was in my office grading papers, the contents of my musical library became available for students to see and listen to.

They could be down in the computer lab in my building. They could be in the residence hall next door. They could be using a machine in the experimental lab down the hall.

It didn't really bother me. I don't mind if students know what kind of music I listen to. I think they could stand to listen to a wider variety of artists besides Death Cab for Cutie or the Bare Naked Ladies.

But what information were the students drawing about me, and what kind of a prof I am, by snooping in on my musical collection? What would they think of collection of rap and hop/hop? Or gulp, my country music? What would my colleagues down the hall from me think?

Psychologists have started to study what assumptions people make of others based on their musical preferences.

A recent study (Voida, et al. 2005) found that information about co-workers' music allowed people to make nuanced impressions of their colleagues' personalities that weren't easily derived from interactions at work.

An even newer study by one of my favorite young personality researchers, Sam Gosling, "The Role of Music Preferences in Interpersonal Perception," provides some interesting specifics. People with country music or hip/hop music in their favorites are more emotionally stable (less neurotic) and more extraverted. People perceived them to be this way based solely on knowing what their favorite songs were.

Gosling and his research colleague found that people were able to accurately determine a person's level of agreeableness, emotional stability and openness from seeing his or her top ten favorite songs.

Their research falls into what are called "zero acquaintance perception studies" because they have observers guess a target person's personality without ever interacting with them. In the past, these zero acquaintance studies have had people look at photographs of the target, view a brief silent video clip of the target and even take a peek at what the target's bedroom or office looks like. In all cases, people could actually determine, with surprising accuracy, the personality of the target.

All of the studies use the gold standard "Big Five" personality test which measure personality along 5 key dimensions:
O - Openness to Experience
preference for novelty
- associated with creativity and intelligence
C - Conscientiousness
preference for following rules
- associated with being responsible
E - Extraversion
preference for socializing with others
- associated with being outgoing
A - Agreeableness
preference for acceptance & agreement
- associated with being kind and nice to others
N - Neuroticism
tendency to anxiety, worry
- associated with moodiness, fussiness

What's more, music preferences provided more accurate and useful information about personality than the cues used in previous research.

You can take Gosling's music preferences test and get feedback about your personality here.

Monday, March 03, 2008

I'm now a curator.

Members of etsy, the online company I sell my artwork through, can compose collections of other etsy member's artwork. The collections are called "treasuries" and are basically a 3 item x 4 item poster style collection of thumbnail images of listings on etsy.

The etsy website's front page of displays a treasury and they are rotated throughout the day so fresh ones are always available for viewing pleasure. The best ones are themselves a work of art.

People who put them together are called "curators," which reflects the idea that these treasuries are mini galleries. People compete like mad to get the opportunity to create one, and last night I got that opportunity.

There are a certain number of treasuries listed on etsy and anyone can view them at any time, but they can only be created when the number of them dips below 222. If that happens when you happen to have your browser open on the list of treasuries, you might see a box at the bottom of the page where you can type in a title. I chose one from a movie I saw recently about Japan.

Then I picked one piece (from Mr. Field Notes' collection) and built it up from that, choosing colors that played off of it and each other. I ended up changing out the scarf until I found one I really liked. I searched for colors that were in the scarf or that would look nice next to it: citron, purple, plum, raspberry, kiwi, turquoise, etc.

I also looked through my collection of "favorites, " pieces I have added to an online folder that represents my wish list of artwork (and handmade jewelry) I wouldn't mind owning. I found a few pieces that fit the bill, and when I liked the artist's style, but the piece I put in my favorites didn't match my color theme, I went back to their shop to find something that did fit.

I think it turned out very well for my first time putting one together, and one done on the fly no less. It took about 30 mins. to find and upload the pieces.

I am quite proud of how the whole thing turned out color and composition wise. you can click on the image and see a larger view of it.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Japanese Cast Offs = $$$$$

When I visited Japan and went to shrines, gardens, and other 'tourist' sites, I was always given a pretty entrance stub with Japanese kanji, photography, or artwork on them. I saved the neat ones and brought them home with me where they have been sitting inside a box, virtually untouched for the last 10 months.

I have dozens of these, but they're not materials I use in my own art. I don't really need to keep them, and I am not about to just chuck them in the recycling bin or put them in the blender to make into handmade paper. They are far too gorgeous for that.

So I jumped on the etsy business techniques and materials forum and explained briefly what I had then asked the question, "Do you think there's a market for them here or should I just recycle them?"

Who knew that when I decided to virtually liquidate my collection of what on etsy falls into the category of "ephemera," that I actually could! I put two sets up for sale and within minutes - minutes - they sold.

I started the thread and it was still going 7 hours later, even after the collection was sold out.

Multiple people commented and said don't recycle them! Post a picture! I am very interested in them! List them!

So, I did. They flew off the shelf, leaving me wishing I had more.

I don't know why I thought of it, maybe because Mr. Field Notes and I went on a cleaning jag in the office recently, or because I realized I was never going to use them and collage artists might.

I had to share the experience with Mr. Field Notes' dad, who took us to Japan. He told me Japanese tourists just throw the stubs on the ground, littering the exits of the shrines. He plans to collect as many as he can find on his next visit there. I am so fortunate.

Believe me, I am even more excited to go back to Japan now that I know how valuable the garbage is!