art media, paper crafts, self care

Books and reading. Ecology, health, and…origami?

The last two days have been relatively chill. I had another two hours of driving instruction today, which went much better than the previous session. What has helped, as well, is reading. I’m not sure why, but it does calm me down a bit.

Right now I’m reading What the Eyes Don’t See, by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, to get another angle on the Flint, Michigan issue from 2014 (aside from The Poisoned City, which was my introduction to literature on water quality and attendant government corruption in the U.S.). I started it today, and I’m about 1/5 of the way through.

I’m also in the middle of a book called Amity and Prosperity, by Eliza Griswold, which is about fracking in the Appalachians and the plight of residents who had sold their mineral rights, and subsequently lost their clean groundwater and clean air along with their property value, which made it so they didn’t have the resources to leave.

All of these books reveal how the EPA has recently not done its job. Ostensibly — I haven’t heard or read an official announcement — I would think part of that job would be to protect public health. If one were to believe the books and the people the books are about and written by, there’s a lot of evidence that it isn’t doing that. What is it (or has it been) doing? Apparently, trying to cover up what it isn’t (or hasn’t been) doing.

On a lighter note, I’ve also begun reading Origami Design Secrets by Robert Lang, which is basically about how origami is an expression of mathematics as well as design. It’s a relatively huge book (basically a textbook and also a workbook), which I would think could be used in Math classes.

Before I began this entry, I pulled a bunch of the old — really old, really cheap — origami papers I have, and brought them with me to the bed. I’ll have to use the lap desk if I fold them in bed, but it may allow me the comfort of being at least partially warm.

The books I was reading prior (Collapse, by Jared Diamond; and The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert), I’ve basically stopped. I can’t really say why except that I can’t really do anything about us being in the middle of a mass extinction, and by myself, I can’t do much if this country or world decides to self-annihilate.

It may be more worth it to focus on the way out of the problem as versus bemoaning the existence of the problem in the first place, or focusing on possible metaphysical hell scenarios that come with the combination of spirituality plus guilt. It’s easier to just admit we don’t know what happens after death, than it is to fabricate a nightmare about what will happen if we don’t do things right. And in this, there is a difference between what science and data tell us is possible, and stories our imaginations have wrought…which often cannot happen in reality because they violate the rules of logic, or presuppose factors that don’t exist.

On possible solutions, there is a book that caught my eye called Drawdown, by Paul Hawken, which is about ways to help pull carbon dioxide out of the ecosystem in order to reverse global warming. I haven’t read it yet, but it has reminded me that with the pace of change in technology; and with funding, invention, research, and quick action; things may not be as hopeless as they seem.

I say, “quick action,” because I’ve also been reading With Speed and Violence, by Fred Pearce, which is about the way climate change over much of Earth’s history has not been slow and gradual, but sudden and at times extreme. The reason it seems to us like it would be slow and gradual, is basically that humans haven’t been around long enough to witness (or witness and remember, at least) the changes — barring issues like the Mt. Tambora eruption (if it can be called that, more than an explosion) of 1815, which caused the “Year Without Summer.” There is a book about this that I know of (I believe it was the one by Klingaman and Klingaman). The person who told me about it didn’t have anything good to say. :)

As for how I learned about Tambora…that may have been from Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond — the same person who wrote Collapse. I can’t be sure about that, though, due to the fact that I read Guns, Germs, and Steel in undergrad, and that was around two decades ago. (I honestly don’t even know if we still have the book.)

Presently, there are issues like changing ocean currents, melting polar ice, and changing weather patterns, which could wreak havoc if they were to happen suddenly, unexpectedly, and before we could adapt. The major issue, as I see it, is famine. When that’s on a global scale, it gets really scary. When there’s a shortage of natural resources, what tends to happen is war.

I learned from a separate source that melting permafrost could release now-frozen methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. If this occurred…it could be really bad, depending on how much is released. The major decisive factor is whether we reach the point where global warming leads to more greenhouse gas release, which leads to more warming and more release, etc. As a runaway cycle, it could mean the end of life here as we know it: and we shouldn’t treat this planet as disposable, like we’re going to find another one…which is what it looks like the Space program is seeking.

We don’t want a repeat of what happened to Venus, which has a thick atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide, extremely high atmospheric pressure, sulfuric acid rain, and surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead. (I know there are extremophile microbes which give me hope that some life might be able to adapt and survive, but the ones I’m thinking of live in volcanic vents, and I don’t know that those get to the +850° F surface temperatures that exist on Venus.)

While Venus may at one time have been able to support life, the chances of that now appear slim.

It’s one thing for I, myself, to die. It’s another thing to take most of the world out with me. Of course, there’s not all that much I can do as one person, but there are some things. Actually talking about it to forward the conversation, may be one thing…as well as educating myself so that I can act, when needed.

And, of course, taking care of myself, so that I don’t self-destruct before I can be of any use.

Although it does feel a little funny to get back to origami after having left off of it as a child…I know for a fact that I can connect it to both quilting and the creation of mandalas. I don’t know quite why, though. I’m hoping that the huge book I got will shed some light on the underlying order.

Plus, it’s just great to see a textbook on paper-folding. :)

I also, though, tonight got the urge to paint, again. That’s, generally speaking, a freer process than consciously utilizing or being constrained by mathematics or language. I don’t have a project lined up, except maybe testing out those Prussian Blue and Viridian paints from separate lines (so that I can donate the tubes I’m not going to use).

And yes, I do have mixed feelings about even this. Given that this post has been about water quality and ecology, I am sure the painters in my audience know what I’m talking about. The way paints are still made, though, it would be…very difficult to insist on using a totally non-toxic palette. When I go there, what first present themselves are inferior pigments, of the like of Prangs. Even there, though; what is harmless to humans is not necessarily harmless to everything else.

I haven’t worked it out, yet. I haven’t worked out whether it is even possible — at all — to live without harming another being. Though, it might be possible to live without harming another being, intentionally…that is, never intending to harm another.

And then we get to the ants and roaches and things of that sort…and we get to never intending to inflict suffering upon another, as versus never intending to harm. Or we question what, “harm,” means.

I’m sure I could get into some more mental gymnastics, here, but this is the major reason I’m not Buddhist.

No. Really.

craft, creativity, design, paper crafts

Papercrafts.

Two things: One, I have started experimenting with paper-cutting (or “papercuts,” as my old Art friends would have called it). Two, for the second day in recent memory, I woke up today striking out at something that was in a dream. (The previous time, I struck a pillow and my headboard, which woke me up.)

Luckily, I don’t share my bed with anyone; I was also on my back, so I only would have popped someone if they had been standing over me. It took me a little bit of time to get to the point of wondering how hard I would have struck. M says that it sounds like I’ve been under a lot of stress. It’s possible; I realized last night that I’m actually in the middle of three instructional programs, though none of them are in the University system, at the moment. I’m also kind of stressed from the job search, and the fact that I did not opt to take internships (which is apparently very important, though I’ve been told that my nine years in the system as an Aide [but not as a Library Assistant] suffices).

I suppose that by the beginning of this Fall, I should be fairly clear on whether I want to be a Cataloger, or otherwise concentrate on Web Development…

So…the other thing. I believe that the term for what I’ve been doing with knives and paper is called kirigami, though I’m not completely sure. My previous forays into kirigami were simple cuts into origami (paper-folding) which allowed slightly more complex structures (such as antennae on shrimp). Because origami has a strong inclination to avoid cutting of the paper, though, these cuts were minimal, and mostly not of a structural nature.

What I was doing last night was more experimental and playful, than anything. I had started experimenting with my knives and gouges on linoleum printing blocks. It was at this time that I realized that most of my gouges are seriously damaged; one had a bent tip which split and tore the linoleum rather than cutting it, while many of the others had otherwise chipped or deformed (dulled) cutting edges. It’s probably due to my using them without having realized how fragile they were; though I also wonder if these companies should be making gouges (as versus knives) in the first place. The blades which were undamaged (the U-gouges) also slipped on the harder blocks, which is an obvious safety hazard. Then there was the chisel blade, which was sharp, but hard to back out of a cut. It’s good for clearing away mass, but not so much in detailed areas.

These are Speedball and X-Acto blades (both of which have issues in fitting the blades to the handles, particularly where it comes to tightening the collets, which in both cases have resulted in metal shavings)…and I’m not entirely certain whether it’s worth buying replacement blades for them. This is especially as I can go to one or more Japanese toolshops and buy reusable blades that I know I can sharpen myself (I have a fine-grit waterstone built for this purpose, though my Japanese-language skills aren’t high enough yet to allow me to read the instructions, and Google Translate basically doesn’t play well with Japanese).

I do, however, know that high-carbon steel (the kind that rusts and has to be oiled and protected from air and water) is much better for blades of this type than stainless steel (the latter of which, looks like what I’ve got in my X-Acto set — I doubt high-carbon steel would bend). The deal is that Japanese high-carbon steel blades, I would think, would be made more for use in wood and food, not linoleum, which…really? Is made from sawdust and linseed oil (possibly with stone dust also)?

Anyhow…I wanted to cut some things, and upon seeing the damage that my gouges had largely gone through, I turned my attention to the straight and hooked blades (they worked better, fortunately)…and the paper-crafting drawer that I had not gone into, for months.

Turns out, I have a large number of origami paper sheets, mostly unfaded (though the faded ones are good for potentially disposable practice). This includes a lot of tiny papers (!) which are not as useful in kirigami, but fun to play with. I tried making a tiny crane from a paper which was 4 cm square…not easy! Especially when you haven’t done origami in years (and making Diamond Base means you’re working with a module that is 2√2 cm in height)!

Still, that stuff’s cute. I picked up the block (500 sheets) from a small Asian grocery store when I was a kid, probably for $1. I still remember that. The owner there has basically seen me grow up, though we don’t really talk…he’s much more comfortable using nihongo (Japanese language), and less comfortable with English, than I am. I wouldn’t be surprised if situations like that were part of the reason I originally wanted to learn (that, and anime, manga, games, and music, though that sounds silly as an adult — there’s way more to any culture than just pop culture and food).

So…let’s see. I don’t have pictures yet — I was up too late last night to consider it, and today I was largely asleep — but it was fun to play around with folding the papers different ways, to see what would happen. As I was messing around with that, I started remembering the ways I’d folded paper in the past, mostly as a kid and teen. With art, it’s really rare for there to be a rule that says you can’t do something (which is always meant to be followed)…

What’s interesting is that I seem to have stumbled back onto a modular component (one which fits into a bunch of other ones to make a larger piece), just from playing around. I don’t remember what to do with it, though. I just have it folded up and waiting for me to get back to it. (The tough part is dealing with the aftermath of the first fold, requiring an inversion and tuck of the last fold. This makes a smaller square where all the corners are tucked in.)

I also have the question of whether there exist origami and/or kirigami books for adults. There have to be, right? I haven’t run a search yet (edit: they’re in or near Dewey 736.982), though I can see from a basic Web search that kirigami in particular is inspiring people in Engineering. I think I’ve seen at least one NOVA program focusing on that, where it came to nanotechnology and self-assembling robots.

Hmm. I also know a bookstore in SF Japantown that did have displays on origami, possibly kirigami. Whether the person who was into that is still there (or can help me), I’m not certain. There’s a very real language barrier that I’ve dealt with for a very long time, which is why I’m currently trying to learn nihongo. That goal is also a large part of the reasoning behind considering moving further West; it would be much easier to maintain practice in Japanese language where there are a lot of people who need you to do so (and whom you can practice with).

What’s fun — with the papers, at least — is the fact that until you get a good amount of practice, it’s not easy to tell what is going to come out of any particular folding + cutting pattern. Getting a good handle on origami bases and modules (some of which, I’ll likely make up, solely as cutting patterns) should help, though.

The major drawback to using origami paper is that I haven’t known it to be colorfast (the colors, at least in the cheaper versions, often run with water-based adhesives); thus, gluing these things down to anything will require some skill (or spray adhesive, which I’ve been told is particularly noxious). There’s also the possibility of cutting my own paper, meaning possibly marbling or painting and then squaring up, folding, and cutting the paper again…which I might do if I find a nice enough cutting pattern. For example, I could take a folded and cut piece, then cut pieces out of it and glue those down to stiffer paper, possibly with overlap, to help make bookmarks.

(I’ve had a bookmark “trip” in the back of my mind for the last several years, apologies.)

I did also, though, find a bunch of bookmarks I made one Christmas which did not cure in time for the holiday, meaning that they would have left glue marks on the insides of books. Several years later, they’re less slippery. I’m still not using that glue again. I have three alternatives to test, now.

I could still do bookmarks. The major deal with those is the fact that I was using patterned greeting card paper along with paper blanks made for scrapbook borders…I never really got into the scrapbooking thing, but it’s nice to have a bunch of different papers available. It reminds me of quilting, really.

And yeah, right — now I have the washi tape in addition to acrylic markers! There are a good amount of possibilities…