Lighting the way

This week, on October 21, we celebrate the light bulb.

Legend has it that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, and that the first one started brightening the night on October 21, 1879.

It’s a little more complicated, what with Humphrey Davy creating an arc lamp years earlier, and other scientists creating sparks here and there along the way. One thing that is certain is that Edison created the first marketable bulb.

This is as official as anything: the DOE’s The History of the Light Bulb page, with a great timeline, starting with the first arc lamp in 1803. Another exciting history is from the Edison Tech Center.

Perhaps the most famous light bulb burns in Livermore, California: It is maintained by the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department. The fire department claims that the bulb is at least 116 years old (installed 1901) and has only been turned off a handful of times.

Need an update? Here’s a more modern floor lamp, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art open access collection:

“Toio” Floor Lamp Designer: Achille Castiglioni (Italian, 1918–2002)
 Designer: Pier Giacomo Castiglioni (Italian, 1913–1968)
 Manufacturer: Flos S.p.A.
 Date: designed 1962 Medium: Automobile headlight bulb, steel, enamel, transformer, rubber, duct tape, plastic Dimensions: 65 x 8 1/4 x 7 3/4 in. (165.1 x 21 x 19.7 cm) Classification: Lighting Credit Line: Gift of Dr. Michael Sze, 2002

Do you feel enlightened? <groan>

Never mind the roses

I’m deep into my class, dealing with science and technology, and the cultural changes they bring about. As usual, questions of technology and lifestyle come up among my students. Here are some common memes, complaints, observations. Depending on where you stand on the spectrum — how much technology is too much?

1. I don’t have time anymore to smell the roses, says one student.

My question: how much time does it take to smell roses to get the full benefit of the scent? One good long inhalation should do it. And the rest of the time, we can be doing something useful, something that might even benefit our fellows/sisters next door.

Lovely decoration; not worth more than one smell

2. Math skills are going away — a clerk doesn’t even have to “make change” anymore!

My response: So what? Is that what we aspire to for our kids, to be whizzes at arithmetic? Or do we want them to dream up new software or perhaps new medical devices, or write brilliant novels? Horse riding skills are going away also, now that we have planes, trains, and automobiles. Do we lament that as well?

3. Penmanship, too, has suffered – no more cursive!

Another so what? Hasn’t it always been easier to print? Isn’t that why forms usually state PLEASE PRINT? Because it’s hard to read a cursive? Isn’t there something more creative to do than write a beautiful letter A? Monks did this, but they didn’t have much else to do.

The Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux, Queen of France, ca. 1324–28, Grisaille, tempera, and ink on vellum, the Cloisters

Maybe we leave it to today’s artists to create more fonts or illustrate manuscripts.

We’re not necessarily dumber because we don’t need certain outdated skills. Neither are we more stressed if we don’t “stop to appreciate the beauty of life,” as so many memes remind us.

Some of us, in fact, become very stressed when we don’t have enough to do. For me, panic sets in when I have fewer than 7 projects underway.

Finally, it’s not the Internet’s fault that we’re distracted (from what? the roses?) We use cars instead of horses; therefore we can go more places, educate ourselves on the way. Yes, FB and other Internet attractions can grab us and  “waste” time, but that’s our choice, and I feel — for me — if I didn’t have the Internet to distract me, something else would!

It’s my personality/temperament that’s to blame, not the technology in front of me.

You?

A Work in Progress

Full Disclosure: part of this blog appeared on Lois Winston’s Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers blog earlier this month. Nothing wring with repurposing, right?

original release from Berkley Prime Crime, 2/2008

Who hasn’t thought of time travel? Reliving glory days, redoing a life-changing decision, or simply hanging around with your favorite historical figure. I might make a date with Abraham Lincoln, find out if he really did wear size 14 shoe.

Recently, I was offered the chance to go back in time – to 2008. Not as dramatic a trip as one requiring a whole new wardrobe, maybe even a bustle and a parasol. Its claim to fame: My first Miniature Mystery, cover shown here, was released in 2008. Murder in Miniature introduced miniaturist Gerry Porter and her precocious 10-year-old granddaughter Maddie. The book also includes a section of Tips for Miniatures, with ideas such as using rounded buttons as the feet on an upholstered chair; or the fluted metal top of a soda bottle as a mini pie plate.

I’m now cleared (long story) to reissue that book and 4 others in the series. The new cover will include a photo of my latest dollhouse project, shown here as a work in progress, with interior and exterior views. Once completely cleaned up and furnished, the house will be donated to a local school for its holiday raffle. Giving crafts projects away serves a dual purpose: raising money for a worthy cause, and making room for another project. Not to mention an excuse to shop for more supplies.

A little more about furnishing the house shown, which arrived as a fixer-upper from a writer friend. I rummaged through my many drawers, shelves, and messy boxes of stuff, as usual before I buy or make anything new. I found one of those pieces of fabric that come with an easy chair, the intended use being to protect the arm or the head rest of the chair from wear. Since I’m not that fussy about my life-size furniture, but I do always keep scraps, this meant-to-be carpet was a perfect fit for the living room (lower right). The paint brushes are there for scale, lest you think this is where I live.

I’ve also scattered other items: a folding chair and a coaster-cum-scatter rug in the bedroom (middle right); cans of food, barely distinguishable on the kitchen floor (lower left); and a mini slinky and kid’s chair in the attic.

This method of positioning pieces—here a stool, there a stool—is similar to the way I write a novel. Test out a word, a phrase, a plot twist and live with it for a while before committing.

Which is to say, I like crafts with moveable pieces and room for correctible errors!

Sister Miniaturist

It’s always great to meet someone who shares your hobby, right? Right.

But it’s a little disconcerting when she’s SO much more talented than you. Okay, me.

This week I’m featuring the wonderful miniaturist, Toni Vanterpool. I have her permission to post photos here of her amazing little ATRIUM.

Toni Vanterpool's Atrium

Now how did that book get there?