Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Paw Stockings

Ever since I was a kid, the cats have always had a holiday stocking stuffed with toys. I'm not sure why it took me this long to come up with a more appropriate shape. I had some awesome patterned fleece that I've been carrying around for years, and it seemed perfect for a paw print (plain red stockings are so boring). The bonus is that I've got enough for several projects.

I'm also using this stocking to revive my Etsy shop:

Photos of the process after the jump...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Mace Windu

Yes, we're digging deep into the archives this week, but fear not. I've got all kinds of new stuff in the works; I just can't show you until after the holidays. So for now, I give you a high school drawing of Mace Windu:

Speaking of characters named Mace, bonus points for anyone who knows what movie this guy is from:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Seattle Atheists goes outside the bus

In 2009, Seattle Atheists decided to run a visibility campaign with a few varieties of interior bus ads. They featured freethinking quotes from famous figures like Carl Sagan, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. Besides outreach to other non-theists, the ads' intent was to educate the public about the legacy of skepticism and critical thought in American history. Despite what religious fundamentalists would like to believe, America was not established as a Christian nation, but rather founded on secular principles that included, for good reason, the separation of church and state. The campaign got a lot of great feedback, so our goal for the next round was to take it to the next level and try for a few ads on the outside of the buses. Two years and some generous donations later, we were finally able start working on that project.

Thanks to a lot of intense work from our dedicated volunteers, our new bus ad campaign launched this week. Twelve local buses are now displaying banners with photos of regular folks in different everyday scenes. The theme: "1 in 4 Washingtonians is an atheist," a stat is based on the 2008 ARIS (American Religious Identification Survey) report. The key idea, again, is visibility. As the website points out:
Many of your friends, your family, and your coworkers are atheists. We help build your bridges, deliver your mail, and heal you when you're sick. Whether you realize it or not, you know plenty of atheists. We'd like to be open about who we are. An atheist is someone who doesn't believe in a god. So open up, come out, and get to know us.

While I recognize that there's been a bit of chatter trying to nitpick the "1 in 4" number (some want to argue that being agnostic, irreligious, having no religion, etc., doesn't necessarily mean you don't believe in god), which is fair, the real message is that those without a god belief do, in fact, make up a noticeable portion of the population, especially in the greater Seattle area, and we deserve to be heard. If you're an atheist, we simply want to say that you're not alone. If you're looking for information about atheism, humanism, skepticism and the like, we can provide you with those resources. And if you're a theist, we just ask that you don't discriminate against others based on religion, and if there's something you don't understand about atheists, feel free to ask us! We're an open book. This campaign is about encouraging dialogue and dispelling myths that surround a perfectly healthy and wholesome worldview.

In closing, I especially want to thank our photographers (Josh and Mike) and graphic design artist (Kyle) for an outstanding job on these ads. Amazing work, guys!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Winter Fractals

This week I'm pulling some fractals out of the archives. These seemed appropriately snowy and icy for the season. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Slinky Dinks

It's Shrinky Dink time! Who remembers these ridiculous things?

Okay, I admit it -- I've wanted to execute this silly little idea for months, and I finally got around to doing it last week. I couldn't wait to make a Shrinky Dink of our cat Slinky, but unfortunately things didn't turn out so well.

It started off great. I sketched a picture of a black cat in permanent marker, filling almost the entire sheet of plastic. Of course I spent more time on this than I intended, but what the hey? Nothing like some good ol' nostalgic family fun. Um, minus the family, I guess, but you know what I mean.

After cutting it down a little and adding some holes around the edges, now it was time for the oven...and disaster. It wasn't until I was watching it in the oven that I remembered the plastic's tendency to curl while heating. I tried waiting it out like the instructions recommended, but it was a big sheet and it just kept curling as it shrunk. When it started to fold on top of itself, I attempted to bend it back in place, but it wasn't working. It folded into a weird mushroom shape and wasn't going flat, so I pulled it out of the oven in defeat. Having a useless piece of warped and partially shrunk plastic, I got a little frustrated...

Thus concluded my Slinky Dink experiment for the night. I couldn't bring myself to draw another one, but a few nights later I decided to do some less ambitious projects. I was curious how stamps would work, so I guess it wasn't a total waste:

Citi, you are now my #1 Enemy

It's no secret that I'm not the epitome of wealth and success* right now. There are reasons (not excuses) for this, among them a misguided choice of a college major, an expensive degree that I'll be paying off well into my thirties, an early divorce and followed by another breakup that left me...stumbling...for a while, putting a little too much time into volunteering for a nonprofit, coming out of the closet a little late (and jarringly), taking care of my mental/emotional stability first instead of focusing on my career situation, being unable to find the right long-term living situation and moving a lot during my time in Seattle, and having a noticeable lack of safety nets and cheat codes. Do I have regrets about any of this? Sure, some, I guess. That's what I'm supposed to say, right? But I also realize I did the best that could with what I was given, considering my background and all the circumstances leading up to my current situation. Now thirty is right around the corner, I'm childless, still renting, and most frustrating of all, I'm still "tied to the system" with all my debts.

And that's what I want to talk about here: debts, and banks. In the last year or so, I've finally had some breathing room to start thinking about how to turn my financial situation around. It's a challenge to begin with, since I don't inherently value money and grandiose displays of wealth. But I do want to get rid of my debts, to distance myself from the corporate gluttony of banks, to get myself back in school, and to find a career that is more suited to passions.

I'm starting off with simple things. I had been banking with WaMu-turned-Chase until earlier this year. It's stupid that I didn't switch to a credit union earlier, but I was mostly lazy, since my account was still free. Chase itself lit the fire under my ass when they decided to start charging fees for essentially not being rich enough for a free checking account. Goodbye Chase, hello Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union.

I'm glad that the country is waking up and realizing, despite whatever good the banks may have created for us historically, the greed and sliminess at the root of the current system. Of course, when it comes to both easing up one's budget and screwing the banks, the real culprits are loans and credit cards, not personal checking accounts. The truth is, Chase (14% interest) and Citi (23% interest) are still reaping in a small fortune through my two credit cards, and Bank of America is making a nice chunk of change through the interest on my car loan. The student loans that I have left seem endless, true, but at least their rates aren't quite as bad.

I'm not proposing a Fight Club-style take-down of the banks and credit card institutions. I've seen a lot of talk going around about simply obliterating these debts, but I know that's taking it too far. This is my problem, even if I've used those two credit cards out of desperation for food and health expenses and sometimes to pay another bill. What I do have a problem with is the percentage of money they're making off me every month.

A decade ago, following the typical middle America advice about building credit history, I got my first credit card -- a Citi Mastercard. I didn't use it much at the university. I might put my books on it, just for the sake of using the card, then pay it all off in the next month or two. That was how it went. I think it was my junior or senior year when I got a Chase Visa card, which gave me piddly reward points (I'm embarrassed I actually thought that gimmick was worth it). When I entered the real world and moved to Seattle in 2005, that was when I started consistently carrying a balance, which slowly grew into the thousands over the course of the above-mentioned life trials.

And despite those trials, I never let my debts get out of control. I guess if there's one thing I can be proud about, it's that I never paid a bill late. That's my one pathetic victory. When it came to loans and credit cards, I wasn't paying as much as I would have preferred, but even at my worst, as I got sucked down into the depression of a life turned upside down, I still scraped together what I needed each month to survive. And thank goodness, because it means that I still have a not-too-shabby credit score in the 700s. I think a lot of the credit score game is bullshit, but I'll save that rant for another time. The point is, I've kept my head above water for the last six years and have the credit history to prove it.

That doesn't matter to Citi, though. Their rates have continued to skyrocket for no good reason, and at my current rate of 23%, I feel like I'm being robbed every month. So much for customer loyalty, eh? I don't use this card at all anymore; I just try to pay it off. On a lucky month I might have $150-$200 to put toward that balance, but then I get charged a hundred in interest. I just want to cry the months I can only afford the minimum payment. So if there's one bank who's really on my shit list right now, it's Citi. That's the debt I need to focus all my energy on, and hopefully even transfer to a different line of credit whose rates aren't so atrocious.

* Success as defined in the typical American Dream sense of the word. [Straight-]married with kids, white picket fence, a 9-to-5 job with spectacular benefits, and lots of expensive toys to show off said success.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Stingray Bag

Fun sewing project few years ago. The theme: create something new from something old.

- Fabric from an old jacket of mine (outside of bag)
- Silky patterned fabric from Goodwill scraps (inside lining)
- A tie (cut up and used for the applique stingray and stripe across the back)
- Fancy cloth belt (strap)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Youngstown, shame of the nation.

Former Ohioan here, born and raised a Youngstown suburbanite. There's a reason I bolted out of that state to the other side of the country as soon as I could. Corrupt, crime-ridden, dirty, no jobs, no hope — these have always been the sad themes of that city. Now it appears that the former center of steel production has reached a new pathetic low, despite its "best" efforts to recover:

Youngstown leads nation with poverty rate of 49.7%

Youngstown has the highest concentrated poverty rate among core cities in the United States’ 100 largest metropolitan areas.

Further, the metropolitan statistical area of which Youngstown is a part — consisting of Mahoning, Trumbull and Mercer counties — is ranked just 16 from the bottom of the poverty barrel.

I do feel a little bad for Y-town, but it's only because of the people who are still stuck living there. If ever there was an example of "devoid of hope," I think that city would take the cake. Well, what can I really say? I gave up on it. Love to be proven wrong, though.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Pumpkin Carving

Halloween afternoon, Kai, Randy, and I managed to pull off a quick pumpkin carving before the kids started arriving. I wasn't feeling all that creative, so I went with the first thing that came to mind, which was...Vegeta. Yes, I'm a teenage boy again.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Link Costume

No time for anything new this week, so I'm adding an oldie from 2007. The Legend of Zelda is probably one of my favorite games ever, and that year to make my nerdy dreams come true. I sewed the tunic and the hat, and the belts are stitched together with wire (Kyle offered his invaluable help with the wire sewing). The sword's a stainless steel replica and the shield is made of wood--both have surprising heft to them. A blue ocarina is in the pouch, and I can play all of two songs on it. The boots and gloves (with a little modification) were a lucky find from the thrift store. Overall, it was a fun costume to piece together, and gave me an excuse to display some of my nerd gear.

Monday, October 17, 2011

OWS is not about partisan politics

At first it seems great that some supporters are claiming that Occupy Wall Street is the liberal version of the tea party. We finally have our own reaction to the injustices we've been observing and experiencing, and it feels empowering to be part of a growing movement that echoes our ideals. But it's not accurate.

On the other side of this movement, we have critics who want to frame this uprising as yet another battle in partisan politics. I even see some honest confusion, which is not surprising in our highly polarized government, of people who align themselves with the republican party and are trying to group the OWS supporters with democrats. This projection is filled with flaws, and it only divides us when we should be working together.

And on the flip side, when OWS criticizes the current administration, that doesn't mean we're endorsing the GOP in any way. I'm happy that conservatives are embracing the movement, but this isn't about attacking democrats, so please don't use it an an excuse to validate your own party.

While I still fall pretty hard on the progressive end of the political spectrum, "democrats vs. republicans" is not what this is about. Occupy Wall Street is a nonpartisan movement, based on principles rather than party affiliation. I don't think I can stress that enough. Many people want to stick to their political tribe, viewing allies and enemies as we've been conditioned to do under this failing system.

The truth is, the overwhelming majority of us are on the same side. OWS transcends partisan fighting, and should. This pressure has been intensifying for decades, and both parties have their share of the blame.

So what are those principles? What has led not only the U.S., but the entire world to stand up and shout injustice?

  • The gross difference in wealth between the top 1% and the rest of the country's citizens.

  • Corporate greed and the ways capitalism has failed us, the remaining 99%.

  • The incredible power and influence that corporations have over our government.

  • Corporate personhood

  • Using taxpayer money to bail out the banks when other more vital institutions need the help.

That's just to name a few (I particularly like the Declaration of the Occupation that New York put together). It remains to be seen where this movement will take us, but my one bare-minimum hope is that people start waking up and realizing what's happening to them. The greed and influence of Corporate America may survive, but at least people will see the ugly truth.

I also want to stress: the best way to understand OWS is to actually attend a General Assembly (find one near you). Witness direct democracy with your own eyes.

UPDATE: A complete, thorough list of demands has just been formed, and you can view it here. Well worth the read.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Halloween FSMs and Tree

It's time for another batch of mini FSMs -- the Halloween collection! (You can go here and here to see its previous incarnations.) I love these little dudes. I can't help it.

For some reason I felt compelled to make a display for them, so I built a tree out of wire and polymer clay. This took way longer than the FSMs themselves and became a project in itself, but still worth it. Details on its construction after the break.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Message Is Not Complicated

One of the louder complaints that I hear from the media and even friends and family is that the purpose of Occupy Wall Street remains unclear. Here, former congressman Alan Grayson explains, in less than a minute, what this movement is all about. Please don't buy into the propaganda of folks who are intentionally trying to muddy the waters with confusion.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Occupy Seattle

I'd just like to take a moment to say how excited I am that the Occupy Wall Street movement is finally gaining momentum. Yesterday afternoon I participated in the march against the war in Afghanistan (it's chilling to think about how long this has been going on) and then attended the Occupy Seattle General Assembly. The country's finally starting to wake up...and it's inspiring to see people gathering in solidarity. I'm glad I was able to witness what's happening locally, because I honestly had no idea where we stood.

Occupy Seattle is, in fact, getting organized. They've divided tasks into work groups (legal, media, communication, food, supplies, medical, etc.) and are plowing ahead with a direct democracy style of making decisions. Since PAs and bullhorns aren't allowed, we communicated "human microphone" fashion. As Kai pointed out, things were settled about as quickly as in any conversation in Old Entish, but I still loved the way it brought us together and really made us listen to each other. I'm impressed with what they've managed to accomplish, and I plan to attend future assemblies.

We are the 99%! I encourage you to get out there and show your support!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Día de los Muertos

Each Wednesday this month, I'll be adding a little something to get into the Halloween spirit. This week was a small project inspired by the Mexican Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Found a simple, plain, paper-mache skull at the craft store, and I couldn't resist taking one home and sprucing it up.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Calm

Taken at the Japanese Garden in the Washington Park Arboretum. This was one of the first places I explored when I moved to Seattle in 2005.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Oval Pyrite Pendant

This first attempt at wire wrapping a stone turned into a birthday gift for my mother. I used Argentium (a silver alloy with some advantageous properties) wire and a pyrite stone.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Sobering Thought for Today

"And I wondered, not for the first time, what patriotism is, what the love of country truly consists of, how that yearning loyalty that had shaken my friend's voice arises, and how so real a love can become, too often, so foolish and vile a bigotry. Where does it go wrong?"

~ Genly Ai, from Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - A Hat for Kai

Even though I made Ceecee's first, I had originally promised to crochet Kai a viking helmet...almost a year ago, I think. I kinda love the way these come out--of course, my models make this too damn easy. Maybe the third time I'll actually remember to write down the pattern...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Math in Pink

It's fractal time again, and this week's theme is pink. Next week, I promise something new. The big three (Greta, road trip, and Taste of Camp Quest NorthWest Potluck) are over, so besides getting caught up with all the work that's been piling this month, I don't have an excuse not to finish one of my pending crafts. Hold me to it. :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Rewarding Weekend on the Atheist Front

This past weekend, Seattle Atheists presented its biggest speaking event of the year. We brought in Greta Christina, a nationally acclaimed queer atheist activist, to talk about what the atheist movement can learn from the GLBT movement. Like everything that Greta's written about, her talk was inspiring and honest, and I'm honored to have helped make this happen.

Backing up a bit, I actually owe quite a bit to Greta, and I'm thrilled to see how the last year has come full circle. About two years ago, due to the usual post-fair-season burnout and a few personal reasons, I needed to break from the atheist groups. It was a necessary time for some introspection without the responsibilities of running a nonprofit (and I withdrew from the social groups, too). I guess everybody hits certain points like that, where they just need some space to recuperate and reflect. Plus, unlike when I first moved to Seattle from the Midwest and immediately gorged myself with this newfound atheist/skeptic/humanist community, I found that I no longer needed something from these groups, so my interest in Seattle Atheists started to wane a little bit. I still loved the org and was glad it existed, but I wasn't sure what my focus was. I kept an eye on what was happening, stayed informed with the news, but I took a break from actually participating.

I started testing the waters again during the summer of 2010, and in September I chanced upon a lecture by Sean Faircloth, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, giving a talk about returning America to its secular roots. His speech was poignant, action-oriented, and well-versed in history and current events, which stuck with me more than talks about the reasons why religion is illogical, or how the Bible doesn't make sense, etc., etc.. A match was lit.

I don't think it was more than a week later when I decided to show my support for our locally produced Ask an Atheist TV show and sat in the studio audience. Once I arrived, I was told that we had a celebrity atheist blogger in our midst, though I was embarrassed to admit I hadn't heard of Greta Christina before. At any rate, getting an up-close-and-personal glimpse of the amazing work that was being put into this show really moved me. I had been following the show at home and on the Internet, and that afternoon I watched Case and Mike do an impressively researched skeptical segment about 9/11 truthers. I was filled with such pride to see how the TV show was developing, and what better way to reach out to the greater population. The entire concept behind the show made atheists visible and approachable. Got a question about us? Just ask! And the calls poured in—not just from Seattle, but from all over the country.

Following the program, the studio audience was treated to a bonus—Mike’s interview with Greta Christina. Among other things, she talked about the history of the gay movement and the parallels it had with the newer atheist movement, and it was about that time when I recognized what I was looking for—activism. My focus had finally shifted from “What can [atheist group] do for me?” to “What can I do for the atheist movement?” I had rekindled the fire and found a new motivation, and what better timing? The Seattle Atheists elections were that same month, so I decided to get back on the board.

During our discussions at the board retreat and subsequent conversations with our members, I was happy to see the organization desiring a similar shift in focus. Like previous years, we’ve put on some great events this term that featured speakers including Jen McCreight (on Boobquake), Bob Seidensticker (on apologetics), and Valerie Tarico (on recovering from religion), and when it came time to pick our big-name speaker of the year, I couldn’t help suggesting Greta.

It was an absolute pleasure getting to meet Greta and her wife Ingrid in person. (Playing chauffeur was pretty fun, too—shame I didn't know earlier in the ride that they were huge fans of They Might Be Giants.) They are simply amazing individuals who have a lot of valuable insight on the gay and atheist movements. In both her writings and her lectures, I love the way Greta puts together her thoughts into intelligent, well-thought-out pieces. Her writing especially takes all the scattered ideas I've had floating around in my brain and organizes them, quite thoroughly, into comprehensive, coherent commentaries. This weekend's speech was no different. I almost wish I could find fault with her ideas, but I can't. I love everything she has to say.

We had a successful panel discussion following the lecture, which featured women atheists giving a more local perspective on their experiences with atheism and gender. There was a lot of great discussion about diversity and what can be done to cultivate stronger and more inclusive godless communities. Plus, on Sunday Greta was interviewed by Ask an Atheist (which is now a radio show) about her thoughts on bigotry as applied to atheism and atheists.

This was a wonderful, rewarding weekend all around, and I thank Greta and Ingrid for sharing their time with us. I hope to work more with them in the future.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - I Can't Decide

Sample patch of Tunisian crochet, for those times when you can't decide whether you want to knit, crochet, or cross stitch.

(Yeah, I've got nothin' this week.)

And now for something completely different.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Cave Transformation

Randy's basement went through a bit of a transformation before Kai and I moved in, so I thought I'd show just what happened. In order to create a separate room, we decided to block off the part with the closets and turn it into a bedroom. Randy graciously offered to build us a wall, complete with two sliding doors. It really couldn't be more perfect -- the closed doors give us a private bedroom (complete with two big closets and a row of windows), and when the doors are wide open, the whole basement feels larger. Thank you, Randy!

I never appreciated how much potential this space has, and we had a blast transforming it into our home, which still remains a work in progress. We decided to paint some accent walls to bring more color into the room, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that Awesome Violet (my choice for the bedroom) and Jargon Jade (Kai's choice for the living room) go quite well together.

In the beginning . . .

Let's get to work!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wily Wednesdays - Fun with Fractals

Making fractal art is a guilty little pleasure of mine. I used a program called Apophysis for this one. I'm sure there will be more to come...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Secular Summer Camp Coming to Seattle

If you want to know what I've been doing for the last month and a half (besides Seattle Atheists, of course), it's been this: making Camp Quest NorthWest a reality. Part of me still can't believe we're really doing this, but it's happening! And I'm honored to be a part of it. Here's our official release:

SEATTLE, WA - In the summer of 2012, Camp Quest NorthWest is bringing a new kind of summer camp to the Pacific Northwest. With science experiments and s’mores, campfires and activities to foster critical thinking, Camp Quest NorthWest provides a secular twist on the time-honored summer camp experience for campers aged 8-17.

On August 20, 2011, Camp Quest NorthWest will host a half-day “Taste of Camp Quest NorthWest” Potluck event at Cottage Lake Park in Woodinville from noon - 6:00pm. The event is open to everyone, including parents, children, and volunteers. “We want to serve campers a slice of the Camp Quest experience,” says Chuck Wolber, Camp Director.

In many ways, Camp Quest NorthWest is a traditional sleepaway summer camp, with camp activities like sports, crafts, games, swimming, and campfires. But the camp also has an important intellectual side, says Wolber. “Camp Quest provides the opportunity for inquisitive children to explore the boundaries of their minds. That’s why we have educational activities like Socrates Café and code-breaking. We put a focus on the important stuff like critical thinking, ethics, scientific inquiry, philosophy, and comparative religion.

Excitement is high among Seattle-area freethinkers who are pitching in to help the fledgling camp. The Humanists of North Puget Sound have offered to match all donations up $10,000 until the end of 2011, which will be used for facilities, speakers, supplies, and “camperships.” In addition, earlier this year, Seattle Atheists raised $2,700 for the camp with its “Rapture Relief” campaign.

Camp Quest NorthWest is a chapter of Camp Quest Inc., a fast-growing 501c3 secular summer camp organization based in Columbus, Ohio. There are currently 13 active Camp Quest chapters across the United States, Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Norway.

For more information about camp registration and upcoming events, and how to volunteer, Camp Quest NorthWest’s website is at