Zardoz Head

Pete and I celebrated our 8th anniversary by watching Zardoz at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. When burlesque dancers dressed as Zardoz, each sporting a mustache and long braid, wearing his signature bright red bikini bottom and suspenders started gyrating in lazy swoops on the stage I knew we were in for something special. And we were. Here is the anniversary card I made for Pete.

In this secret room from the past, I seek the future.

In this secret room from the past, I seek the future.

Legume Art

In celebration of my 7th anniversary, I wanted to make a special card for my guy. What's one of the things he loves most? Beans. I found it was easier to "mosaic" with lighter legumes. I used:

  • French Green Lentils for the 7
  • Split Red Lentils for the heart
  • Black Lentils for outlines
  • Split Green Peas as an accent

There was something meditative about carefully applying each lentil with a toothpick dotted with Elmer's Glue.


Rock, Spiders, Paper

Time for art. I visited both the SFMOMA and The Legion of Honor this week.

At the SFMOMA, I wanted to see René Magritte: The Fifth Season. I was delighted to discover that along with being an accomplished artist, Magritte was also a funny guy. The caption accompanying "Les valeurs personnelles (Personal Values)" reads, "Magritte’s dealer Alexander Lolas initially found the work nauseating, to which the artist replied, “A picture which is really alive should make the spectator feel ill."

Magritte's dark humor is also apparent in the What Good is Painting? section label: 

Acknowledging that some of the Surrealist movement's absurd objectives, such as causing panic or confusion, had been "achieved much better by the Nazi idiots than by us," Magritte invented a completely new mode of Surrealism that skirted censorship while also testing his theory that "bad painting" might result in social good. "I live in a very unpleasant world," he commented in 1947. "That's why my painting is a battle, or rather a counteroffensive." 

One of my favorite Magritte paintings in the exhibit was an image of a giant rock peeking outside a window. The curtain gently pushed to one side is all it takes to make the rock seem alive. 

L'anniversaire (The Anniversary) 1959 by René Magritte

L'anniversaire (The Anniversary) 1959 by René Magritte

While at SFMOMA, I also stopped by a smaller, less populated exhibit, "Louise Bourgeois Spiders." I'm familiar with Louise Bourgeois, because a friend of mine is a bug big fan of her work and told me to check out Crouching Spider when it was at the Embarcadero. All of her spiders are creepy and beautiful, but the sculpture that I found most hypnotic was in an easily overlooked small space. Follow the 'exhibition continues' sign and find yourself in a small room. In it, a glass box with a fabric person inside, hunched over, hands wrapped around its stomach, pierced by steel spider legs. Prey?

Spider 2003 by Louise Bourgeois

Spider 2003 by Louise Bourgeois

The choice of fabric is significant. The Bourgeois family had a workshop for tapestry restoration and Louise would assist in repairs. She did not have a happy childhood and reading this piece in the New York Times made made my heart ache.

Truth and Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters opened today at The Legion of Honor. I thought I would avoid crowds by going on the Member Preview day, yesterday. WRONG. I complained to a patient cashier in the gift shop about all the people milling about in the afternoon and he told me, "You should've seen it in the morning. People were waiting in line outside for the museum to open!"

It's nice to see exhibits when there are less people around, but I am glad that people want to see art.

Downstairs in the cool dark calm of the Reva and David Logan Gallery of Illustrated Books, a colorful piece of art caught my eye, Prose on the Trans-Siberian Railway and of Little Jehanne of France by Sonia Delauney. I like her bold colors and the cascading text. Here's an English translation of the poem from the Yale Library. 

Trans-Siberian Railway and of Little Jehanne of France 1913 a collaboration between artist Sonia Delaunay poet Blaise Cendrars

Trans-Siberian Railway and of Little Jehanne of France 1913 a collaboration between artist Sonia Delaunay poet Blaise Cendrars




Dream Weaver

Somehow I skipped the whole knitting trend and never picked up a pair of knitting needles, although I always loved getting a handmade hat or a scarf from a friend. When I saw Weaving for Beginners offered by The Ruby I was happy for a chance to see what this whole fiber arts things is all about. I'm way more experienced in drawing and painting and I hoped that meant I wouldn't bring all my art school not-good-enough baggage to the weaving workshop.

In class, we each received a pegLoom for Beginners Kit. It comes with (mostly) everything you need, although I'd argue that a shorter needle is necessary for finishing work. Our teacher, Jenny Lennick, was perky and helpful. She brought an assortment of yarn for us so that we didn't have to use the default yarn that came with the kit. Selecting colors and textures felt like an important part of the process. 

pretty fibers

pretty fibers

Jenny taught us a basic weave, how to make tassels (rya), how to create a triangle pattern, and a decorative braided element called soumak. She also taught us a technique she called Mountain and Two Hills (also know as the bubble technique) for avoiding the beginner's tendency to weave too tight. 

Mountain and Two Hills

Mountain and Two Hills

It was a fun class–I wished it were three hours instead of two. However, I went home with enough knowledge and enthusiasm to stay up late to continue on my piece. I found when I was concentrating hard to remember a certain weaving pattern (I'm looking at you soumak) I'd end up undoing and redoing my work over and over. When I tried not to think too hard about it, it came naturally. There's some kind of life lesson in there. 

fuzzy and imprecise

fuzzy and imprecise

I stopped by Jenny's shop, Jenny Lemons at 3043 24th Street (between Treat Ave and Balmy St) where I picked up a pair of cute ornithoid sewing scissors. Jenny has a great calendar of upcoming workshops: macrame, embroidery, block printing and of course, weaving.  

Caw... Caw...

Caw... Caw...

My kind of Ladies' Night

Last week I attended CanCan Night: A Breast & Ovarian Health Workshop

It was at The Ruby, a work and gathering space for women. I didn’t know what to expect when I rang the small white doorbell, but I was immediately welcomed by the organizer and other attendees. It was an small, intimate event with all of us sitting around a dining room together. The size of the group was perfect– it made it easier to have a conversation and ask questions. 

Helen Chen, our CanCan facilitator, specializes in Breast and Ovarian Cancer education. She managed to provide a lot of information without being super scary. She was relaxed, approachable and open. We even played charades at one point in the talk!

San Francisco writer, Mary Ladd, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, shared parts of her experience with us. She mentioned Angelina Jolie's New York Times essay My Medical Choice.

Faith Adiele talked to us about fibroids, her surgery for them, and her experiences with doctors and hospitals. I'd like to read Faith’s mini-memoir The Nigerian-Nordic girl’s guide to Lady Problems. She gave us a handout (I love handouts) and this section stood out to me:

Why are Fibroids a Black Women’s issue? 

Fibroids are the leading cause of hysterectomies in the USA, accounting for roughly 1/3 of those performed. Hysterectomy rates among Black women are more than double those any other group. 

Up to 80% of Black women will develop fibroids, 3 times the rate of other races. Black women develop fibroids at younger ages, have more or larger fibroids, report greater anemia and pelvic pan, and take longer to seek medical treatment. 

Here are some of my takeaways from the workshop: 

• Know your body and be aware of what’s normal for you.

• Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to be misdiagnosed initially, so be persistent if you feel like something is wrong.

• Everyone needs an medical advocate.

One last thing I’ll leave you with - this event reminded me of a great video by my journalist-friend, Eva, called Cysts Happen

Glittery sticker courtesy of Helen Chen

Glittery sticker courtesy of Helen Chen

I Came for the Bees and Stayed for the Ants

Last week I attended an Ars Technica event called Solving the Mysteries of Bees & Ants. I was not disappointed. Annalee Newitz (Editor-at-large for Ars Technica and my new writer crush) did an excellent job interviewing Entomologist/Behavioral Ecologist Neil Tsutsui

When I arrived at The Mile High Club it had the normal level of bar noise you’d expect from well, a bar. There were plenty of patrons there to drink and hang out–not hear about ants and bees. 

Or so they thought. 

About halfway through the talk, eyes were glued to the stage, drinks half-forgotten in hand. The bar was quiet, so quiet, when Neil started describing ant regicide.

Added bonus of going in person? Lots of cool science-y people in the audience who were into bugs. I sat next to arachnofever, an Entomology volunteer at the CA Academy of Sciences. She is an expert on tarantulas. Tarantulas! 

If you didn’t make it to the live taping at The Mile High Club last Wednesday there is a video here.

On to the ants!

Argentine ants are small dark brown or black ants commonly found in California and they are probably in your kitchen RIGHT NOW. There is this supercolony of these ants, the “Californian large” colony, stretching 900 km (560 mi) along the coast of California. We're talking Humboldt to San Diego

Polyergus ants are fairly large and red. They raid other colonies, steal babies, and make those babies their slaves. These captive babies end up doing all the work: excavation, defense, foraging, baby care. A Polyergus Queen will go on a raid to kill another Queen and set herself up as a new Queen. She must then produce enough workers to keep the colony going. 

Fire ants operate differently. Their Queen won’t kill the other Queen, she’ll just ride on her back forever as a social parasite

More ant facts? Glad you asked. 

Ants are largely subterranean.

Ant mandibles are used for lots of different things (eating, fighting, digging).

Ants taste and smell with antenna. They have a great sense of smell: How ants' amazing sense of smell controls their lives

Dracula ants drink the blood of their babies. What!?

Ants “graduate” to tasks that take them farther away from the nest, so the most dangerous jobs are done by older ants: Ants Become Job-Hoppers as They Age.

Individual ants can come together to become a fluid SUPERORGANISM.

Ants will attack non-relatives. One question that chemical ecologists are trying to answer is, "How exactly do ants recognize who is a nest mate or not?" 


Originally bees were used for hive products like honey or wax. Now we mainly use bees for pollination projects. In experiments where bees are collected in the same place at multiple points in time, each bee is a “time capsule.” Pollen helps describe the plants the bees came into contact with. Honey can also carry an isotope that is a clear signature of air pollution. Likewise, honey from a radioactive area can show radioactivity. 

Catalina is bee researcher heaven. “The isolation and minimal human habitation of the 96-square-mile island since honey bees were introduced 110 years ago also permits an unparalleled opportunity for studies of natural colony distribution, foraging patterns of colonies, and competition between colonies.”  - The Honey Bees of Santa Cruz Island

African bees and German Black bees were mentioned in the talk. While I was researching those types of bees, I stumbled on Halictidae or “Sweat Bees.” How did we not get to Sweat Bees? THEY DRINK YOUR SWEAT. 

Someone asked about "anarchist bees" during Q&A. I googled "anarchist bee" and discovered this gem in The British Bee Journal from 1894: 

Anarchist bees. –It appears that there is a method of producing anarchist bees.  This method, from experiments by Dr. Büchnerm is both simple and easy. It consists of subjecting the worker bees to a diet of honey and alcohol. 

These inesec’s [sic] quickly take a liking to this pernicious food.  Under its influence they first lose the instinct to work so normal with bees, they then lose that of hierarchy, usually not less strong in this species. They become anti-social, revolters, and without the slightest scruple abandoned themselves to robbery and brigandage. 

Want to get involved as a Citizen Scientist? Here are some ways. 

Information can be found on the Backyard Diversity Project webpage. 

Have a pool? If you are willing to scoop insects once a month and sent them to a lab, the Pools Project might be for you. 

The ANT-vasion Project is attempting to separate fact from fiction when it comes spices that allegedly repel ants. I heard cinnamon works? Maybe I need to find out for myself. 

Neil Tsutsui also encouraged us to check out the iNaturalist app. 

Cool words and phrases I will try to causally drop into conversation


Brood - is ant larvae and pupae (I misheard this as brew, like “ant brew”)

Mutualistic symbiosis - A symbiotic relationship between individuals of different species in which both individuals benefit from the association

Non-destructive cannibalism - can it be, though, really? looking at you, Dracula ants

Haplodiploidy - is a sex-determination system in which males develop from unfertilized eggs and are haploid, and females develop from fertilized eggs and are diploid.

I left my job of 14 years

I'm taking a break after working for fourteen years at the same company so I can decide what I'd like to do next. I'm not even sure how to describe this time off. I loathe the word "funemployment."

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