psychology, spirituality, writing

Stumbling into dystopia

Not to be, well — depressing — but I can feel depression setting in.

I’ve noticed an increase in my symptoms recently, particularly where it comes to difficulty concentrating, the ability to sleep, depressed mood, paranoia, heightened “spiritual” content to my thoughts, and catastrophic and magical thinking.

Of course, from inside, these all appear understandable, given the situation. Hey — they may appear understandable from outside. The issue is that things are bad, and my mind is making them worse. By doing things like making me think I have a calling as a writer and a duty to share my perspective…even if that leads to bad consequences for me. Because this is bigger than me, isn’t it?

The issue is, how much bigger? Are we dealing with local stupidity and greed and craziness, or is this a Universal conflict between good and evil? And maybe it’s not even just two groups. Maybe it’s a system of spirits, and I happen to be a member of a group associated with Creation (and, apparently, expression and language). And we have here beings who don’t care about the continuation of life on this planet; who don’t care about other humans; who don’t care about anyone but themselves and their own accumulation of wealth and power. If this is not Evil, what is Evil?

Today it’s actually slightly cooler outside (at the moment) than it is inside, which is more than I can say for the past three days. Because of us, this planet is becoming a Hell. And we don’t know how much time we have to change that, left (if we have any, at all; we don’t know, but the best we can do is not give up) — at least if you’re looking at things like climate, “tipping points,” such as the point at which the permafrost melts and trapped methane gas is released into the atmosphere…which is a 25x stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

And what then, is supposed to happen to cities like San Francisco or Honolulu, when the Antarctic and/or Greenland ice shelves fail and melt? If the West Antarctic Ice Sheet fails, the global sea level could rise by ten feet.

I’ve been getting used to being active at night, due to the heat in the daytime…meaning, today, that I got out of bed after 4 PM to eat dinner as my first meal, instead of at 9 AM for breakfast (when my alarm went off). Of course, part of this is bad synchronization of my medication to my bedtime: I took one medication (a sedating one) after midnight, instead of 9 PM; and I know that when I do that, it predisposes me to wake in the late afternoon or early evening. Even if I do wake up at a reasonable time before then, my body just wants to go back to bed, where I fall asleep. For hours.

Not to mention that I couldn’t fall asleep until after 2:30 AM. Just, could not.

Still, the lack of daylight — which has been going on for days, as we couldn’t vent the windows to cool down the house, due to the smoke from the multiple fires around the state — has an effect on me. I’m thinking it has an effect on everyone.

I’ve been doing a fair amount of writing…and not much else, except reading for my class and studying Japanese language (mostly, at this point, writing). I haven’t been posting my writing online because I’m having issues with paranoia, which — given the current climate, and not just the literal one — could be justified.

Oppressive, is the word. This climate is oppressive, and writing — in my case — is for the expression of thoughts that may not be able to be easily spoken. There are good reasons they can’t be easily spoken.

I’m also not sure to what extent re-engaging with fiction, or my actual thoughts (as unrealistic and idiosyncratic as those may be), is affecting this. Nor do I know whether the thoughts are symptomatic of the disease, or whether they’re driving it. I’m not sure if even entertaining my thoughts are leading to a decrease in my mental health.

Although, it is good to be able to get those thoughts out, so that they don’t just fester in my subconscious (or unconscious). At the same time, I think just being in this country at this moment is scary. But if we make change, we’ll have to make it together. One person can’t do it, alone.

I know I’m not the only one going through this. I’ve been dealing with my class where we were supposed to split up into groups of 4 or 5 for our Final Projects, by tonight. Over 1/3 of the people in the class still have not hooked up with anyone. Seriously???

I’m also glad that I know at this point that grades aren’t the most important part of life, but Withdrawing is not currently an option for me. Even if it was, I question whether it would be the best route: I may be becoming depressed because I don’t have enough to do. If I Withdrew, something worse for my life than failing the course, would have to have happened. And there’s a lot that is worse than failing a stinkin’ course.

Anyway. I’m getting kind of weary of this. And I’m not the only one. I can tell from the number of people I see congregating, maskless. The issue we have here — the biggest one — seems to be that people can’t act for the good of society writ large. “If masks will protect everyone else but not me specifically, why should I wear one?” they ask. Because that, “everyone else,” indirectly includes you. But people don’t get that, and I get the feeling that they don’t care about other people’s lives, either.

It’s a pretty sad state when your neighbors don’t care if you live or die. It’s possibly sadder if they don’t even care if they live or die. Faith is not meant to make a person lazy.

I do know that we here in California likely only have another month of heat to worry about (November comes after October, after all)…but then comes flu season. Which — if you look at it, maybe won’t be so bad if people are keeping away from each other, and we’re still able to maintain good hygiene. There is fatigue to be factored in there, however. We’ve been at this for seven months, now.

…And, the little I’ve read, says to brace for another year of this — that it will be likely around mid-2021 by the time we get a safe and widely available vaccine.

So we have to, essentially, survive another year. Alright.

career, LIS, psychology, self care, technology

Fatigue.

It’s only been within the last 48 hours (last night) that I’ve recalled the fact that in my youth, I turned to writing because it calmed me. It stabilized me. I’ve recalled that out of realizing that I’m falling behind in my studies while I’m spending hours writing, although seriously, I only need to concentrate on my one University class, and no(ne of the) others.

In the abstract, in the ideal, I want to put my best effort forth for my XML class so that I don’t waste the money I invested. However…given the last week, no — given the last three weeks — I can see my priorities shifting. I was going to say, “I can see my mental state deteriorating,” but I’m not sure that’s true (entirely). It’s likely more or less normal to be disturbed at this time, with heat waves and fires and smoke and lockdown and politics and COVID-19 (although I think our own continued lockdown re: COVID-19 is voluntary).

I suppose I can be thankful for being as functional as I am, right now. At least I can still write, and I can still make art. Though yesterday, I was working on my assignments for my University class (not XML)…and it’s very clear that I’m experiencing fatigue, and it’s impacting both my motivation to work, and my ability to focus. This class is dry…and I’m wondering if a life of desiccation is what I want. (Apologies to my Professor.)

Late last night, I was able to get some studying done…though it is, honestly, seeming unimportant right now. I’m still 10 pages away (at least) from the end of my lecture, which isn’t…great, but I’ve gotten through the first 14, so that’s something. The thing is…the XML course series is about coding, but it’s on a different level from my Web Design (HTML5/CSS3) course. It takes work to understand what the code means, particularly for me, with XPath (which is a foundational skill for XSLT). XSLT is helpful in crosswalking data from one metadata schema to another, or for converting an XML document into another form of output (like HTML). This will inevitably come up, if I become a Metadata Librarian. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Nor does it mean I could have predicted it.

In practicality, I have an assignment due today, but am struggling with feeling overwhelmed. This may be due in part to the fact that I haven’t finished the reading for this week (and am also otherwise behind, in the series). And, well, the crazy weather. And the craziness in general. Let’s not forget that I’ve barely been out of the house in the last seven months, and we still can’t open the windows because of smoke.

I also see that it’s been a week since I’ve last drawn, I still haven’t gotten back to Middlesex, I’m stalling on my Japanese language lessons, and though I’ve got the seeds of three watercolor paintings in me right now (all with a little bit, to a modicum of work already done), they need some more planning and/or experimenting.

The logical thing to do is to get back to those last 10 pages of the lecture, and then at least try the assignment. However, I know I don’t want to.

If I’m going to read something to get my mind off of things, however: I might as well try reading that, first, and seeing if it helps anything. The fact is that I planned on signing up for these courses in large part so that I wouldn’t have the free time and energy to ruminate about lockdown. I’ve completed four of them already. I am likely OK.

I have been told that if I do get to work on my Art instead of my XML class, that will be acceptable, so long as I do the Art. It’s not…the worst idea…

art, color, painting, self care

Sleepiness and swatch tests

Aw, man! Okay, so…my sleep schedule is bizarre, but maybe it won’t have to be, for much longer. It looks as if the heat wave has broken. Today the skies were gray instead of orange; that is an improvement. I also had to get out of bed in the middle of the night to change clothes, because it was so cold. Right now I’m writing this from bed in full pajamas, because it’s so cold.

Which is weird, when three days ago it seems like it was over 100° F. Right now, it’s 64° F, outside.

And I’m tired, even though I slept over 12 hours. It could be eye strain — I don’t think I’ve had a change in lens prescription in years. (I had to put off an optometry appointment because of the pandemic.) It could also be related to the smoke, or the fact that I am working at night and sleeping through the morning (although I went to bed before midnight last night, and woke up like it was morning, two hours later. Then I conked out at 3:30 and slept into late afternoon). It could also be because I missed the medication that I take for wakefulness…because I slept until 3:30 PM. That’s kind of a Catch-22, isn’t it?

A photo of four different Daniel Smith paints in various shades of green.
These watercolors are the four swatches in the top right of the immediately following image:

Anyway, my green paints and two new brushes came yesterday! :D I had to limit myself — out of enthusiasm, I have a tendency to overbuy (especially when I can’t see or test what I’m buying)…although now I know that painting is likely a good thing for me.

I have found that art is particularly…what’s the opposite of crazy-making? (“sane-making?”) “grounding?” for me. I’m finding watercolor to be also a relatively rewarding pastime in itself.

For some reason, I’m really into color; I can’t explain why, though…aside from the ability to witness how colors mix and merge. Painting has been an organic outgrowth of drawing, for me. I couldn’t cleanly, densely, and easily mix and dilute colors in drawing (the closest I’ve come to that is with markers), and nor could I have total freedom over the size and shape of my color applicator. That all changes, with painting.

A sheet of paper which contains all watercolor paints I might currently use, along with a freeform painting at the bottom right corner.
The left three columns are what is on my palette right now. Everything else either isn’t, or is a retry at getting a good gradient (or, in the case of French Ultramarine, a comparison with the other Ultramarines).

There’s something about the ability to achieve solid blocks of color and fluid gradients, that I really like. Also, the tactile issue is something that my sibling brought up — which could be why I’m not as drawn to computer art. The above swatches (and the little play painting in the corner) were all done with a Neptune #6 round brush. It’s really soft, and holds a lot of water. It will also soak up water if you dry it out a little before touching it to a pool of extra paint on your paper. For most of these, I was using the belly of the brush, not so much the tip.

I haven’t intentionally altered any of the colors here, though the light coming in the window was so yellowish and dim that I had to turn on overhead lighting today (when I took these photos and swatched out the four new greens in the upper right corner).

Right now I have about 45 colors which I’d consider using (there are some in the photo which are used twice). Of those swatched here, I’d eliminate W&N Mars Black (fifth column, third row) as Holbein Lamp Black (third column, seventh row) is smoother; and M. Graham Scarlet Pyrrol (fifth column, sixth row), as it granulates, and is very close to Winsor Orange – Red Shade (second column, third row).

Generally, I tend to prefer paints that have even dispersion and good flow…there are a number of paints I have which didn’t make it to this sheet, because of weird formulations causing a lack of leveling, or poor flow, or grains where I don’t want them, etc. This is just personal preference, however.

Gah, I’m tired. :) (Maybe I can go to sleep and wake up refreshed in 2-3 hours?)

Oh, right. I wanted to show you the Daniel Smith dot card swatches. The below were done with a very small flat…probably a Robert Simmons’ Sapphire, but I’m not sure and am too tired to look, right now. :) You can probably tell that I was tending to use too little water on my brush, for most of these…

Most of the Daniel Smith dot card set, painted out onto a sheet of paper.
Most of a Daniel Smith dot card (168 dots). I probably painted out more like 120 swatches (talk about tedious. No, I haven’t counted them.) There were four cards in the set, and I worked with approximately three.

I’ve swatched out everything here except for the special colors (like the Duochromes, etc., on the fourth card) and colors which I expressly knew were associated with asbestos (Tiger’s Eye, Burnt Tiger’s Eye [though I believe that in Tiger’s Eye, quartz has replaced the asbestos component], and Serpentine). I did, however, swatch out Kyanite, even though I know it’s fibrous by nature (I am not sure, but I don’t think it’s related to asbestos). I was curious. :)

What I find interesting about a lot of these is that a number of the gem colors (I suspect they’re PrimaTeks) are sparkly — particularly, Sugilite Genuine — though maybe I just got a lucky sample.

If I was going to add to my palette, swatching out both of these was a good idea, to avoid overlaps…a tedious, painstaking, good idea. :) It’s very apparent to me right now that I have a high-key palette going already…so maybe I shouldn’t really worry too much about getting bright colors. (I can always mix them down; there’s also the fact that the paints I’m using often seem to dull as they dry.)

As for the brushes…I ordered two, both Robert Simmons White Sable. One was to replace M’s very old and worn 1/2″ flat, the other was to replace a #8 Robert Simmons Sapphire flat that I killed, somehow. (The ferrule is loose. I only know of one way that would have happened. Never leave your brushes standing in water!)

Okay, I believe…that I am going to sleep now…

beading, craft, design, jewelry

Am I doing too much?

While I had thought I would not go the the recent bead show, my folks insisted. This is largely because after having visited General Bead, I started looking again at the Garden of Beadin’s website, to see what I was missing. Unfortunately, that website was not entirely functional for me (which is the reason I’m not linking it), so we went to the bead show to pick up a paper catalog, in person.

That…was a good thing. The paper catalog is much easier to navigate than the website, and it’s possible to buy things without submitting any sensitive information. I also happened to find a table run by the daughter of the person who runs the store, Beads On Main — the latter of which, I recognized from the old Oakland bead shows.

So…because I hadn’t been through the entire show yet, I didn’t realize that she was one of the only vendors there who focused on multiple-hole beads. If I had a clearer idea of the entire convention, like if I had been there for more than a couple of hours, I probably would have bought more from her. As it was, I was trying to conserve my funds (in case there was something which I really wanted, and couldn’t otherwise obtain).

For better or worse, I did end up purchasing three little cabochons…for which, I will need to either make metal or bead settings. I spent some time going through these undrilled things that I’ve collected over the years…what stands out to me is the fact that the cabochons I’ve bought which were from beading suppliers are less regular in their shoulders (and backs) than the ones I’ve bought from jewelry (that is, metalsmithing) suppliers.

The “shoulder” of a cabochon is the transition zone between the edge of the cabochon and top of the cabochon. In an ideal piece, the shoulder would be present, and the same height all the way around, making it easy to roll a bezel wire over the edge. I didn’t know this when I picked up a couple of fused dichroic glass cabs (probably more than a decade ago); and obviously, neither did those who made the cabs I’m talking about.

In some areas, the shoulders in these pieces are much higher than in others, meaning that these cabs require special (looped) settings. I wouldn’t have been able to tell this, however, without using a caliper to go all the way around the edges. With a caliper, the difference between professional-grade stone cutting, and everything else, is obvious.

I do know now, however, which cabs to prioritize for bead settings: the ones with low or no shoulder, and the ones with irregular shoulders. These can be used in bead-embroidered settings. The thing that’s stopping me from using them right now is the fact that bead embroidery implies the use of adhesive to hold the cab in place while it’s being sewn in.

I do have adhesive that I believe will work; the thing is, I hate to glue anything if I don’t have to. (This is largely because I was cautioned away from it in Metalsmithing classes; it requires more work than glue to set a stone securely.) Also, my two strongest adhesives (E-6000, and G-S Hypo Cement) are both toxic before they cure, which is a deterrent to my using them.

I also know that there are some cabs (like jaspers and agates) which would probably look nicer in metal, to preserve as much of the front display area as possible. The only drawback to working with metal is the fact that I have to use fire with it (innately hazardous), unless I go for cold connections and wire wrapping or wire weaving, which I’m not planning on doing. It’s way too easy to chip a stone, or break a wire.

It’s not the end of the world to break a wire, it’s just frustrating. Keeping the wire supple and un-kinked throughout the weaving process requires a dowel (or pen) and awl, at least. I’ve just done enough of it to know how it ends up looking, and how tough it can be. Using fire might actually be easier.

I’m also a relative newcomer to designing metal components. I’ve done it before, it’s just that it’s an entirely different workflow than working with beads, so I’m not used to it. There is a lot more room for innovative design when you’re cutting all the pieces out of metal sheet and wire, rather than fitting together small pre-made components.

I’m thinking that my major challenge will be figuring out how to integrate beadwork and metalsmithing. I know it can work, I’ve done it before. I haven’t, however, seen too many other people doing it, likely because the skills are things you actually need classes or apprenticeships to learn. I do know of places where people can learn, and I’ve seen beadworkers using torches…but handheld butane torches are pretty much not comparable to acetylene (which is what I used in class). I haven’t yet tried propane.

Anyhow…since that time, a class I’m taking has kicked in, and I’ve been dealing with work stuff. A lot of the time since the weekend, I’ve just been studying about situations I’d need to deal with if I were a Librarian. This is compounded by the fact that I did take a Civil Service test for the latter position, and didn’t score too poorly on it…I really need to keep applying, though.

Right now…I have also gotten a book on basic beadweaving stitches, which includes St. Petersburg and Chenille stitches. I am not practiced on either of the latter, so I’ve been wanting to get into it. Why I haven’t, I’m not sure, except for the fact that I’m fatigued…I guess from work, the job search, the research for the job, and this class.

When I put it like that, it looks reasonable…

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, glass beads

Getting back to one of those projects…

Despite feeling what seems like pretty severe eye strain (could this be what I’m interpreting as fatigue?), I’m up. I just put on my glasses, so we’ll see if that helps. I also took photos of the project I mentioned on March 4, then again on March 6, and didn’t show images of. This is largely because taking useful photos is easier when the sun is out, and because I am not really looking forward to dealing with camera focus issues and GIMP 2.

Then again, I am not really looking forward to paying over $100/year for Photoshop CC either (especially after my Elements program broke), so there’s that.

Anyhow, I can show you what I was working on.

Beaded samples

To the left, here, we have a photo of a few different samples of the same weave. If you’re versed in beadweaving stitches, this is basically an embellished double-needle ladder-stitch pattern.

That is, it’s a lot easier than it looks. Right now I have purchased some more clearly green beads (Chrysotile and Chrysotile Celsian), which I might be able to use with the Green Iris, to the left there. The thing is, the Chrysotile beads are both SuperDuos, whereas in all of these samples, the center row is made up of MiniDuos. MiniDuos are subtly smaller than SuperDuos.

This means that a bracelet which does not utilize MiniDuos will be a little longer…meaning the embellishments will likely sit a little differently.

I believe I majorly leaned off of further exploration of this pattern because of needing to clean up — and wishing to collect all my SuperDuos into one place. It’s cleaner, now…not totally clean, but there is free table space.

The only thing sitting between me and playing around with this some more, is studying more about Reference interactions…which I don’t want to do, which means I need to find something that I do want to do, besides sleep.

Maybe exercise?