Friday, September 30, 2011

a little levity

If you were to go back through the posts in the Glimpse into the Commonplace Book label i would seem to be a rather serious, thoughtful person. I'm  not saying that isn't true, but it seems high time to let the sparkle ponies run free a bit.
This week's quote ended up copied into my book for three reasons:
1. it contains one of my favorite words: pandemonium (quick mental morsel - this word was invented by John Milton in Paradise Lost)
2. it is a great example of comedy of the ridiculous
3. it appeared in a scene of Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates that was so not funny that its startling inclusion broke the tension and made me bray out loud with laughter
"What's a pandemonium?" whispered one of the men in the rear.
"It's like a calliope," answered a companion. "I heard one played at the Harmony Fair last summer, when i went there to see my sister's boy play his organ."
"His what?"
"His organ."
"Lord. People pay money to see things like that?"
Let's lighten the mood this weekend people and have some fun.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

hey Fate, i'm not afraid of you

Having now cancelled not one, but two vacations in a row, i am flying in the face of common sense, spitting into the wind and thumbing my nose at Fate by announcing the eight months from now i will be in
Douglas is going on a Disney cruise to our 49th state and is taking me along as his trusty traveling companion.
I love being the trusty traveling companion.
I kinda wish that trusty traveling companion was my job.
So, all my dear, dear people, this is your advance notice:
from May 19th through May 30th of 2012 Niki will not be available to you, (unless your name is Douglas).
I can't plan your wedding, feed your iguana, dye your hair, throw your party, be your child's godmother, attend your rugby match or perform frontier surgery.
I won't be available.
Mark your calendars.
Plan accordingly.
Over and out.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

and around we go again

The new show Hey, Try This! was premiered on Wednesday and it went great. Every time we performed it, we tweaked a piece here and there; Thursday we will have a chance to take it off of the road to do the final nips and tucks.
I'm really pleased with how the show turned out, but i am even more pleased with how my team is turning out. Everybody really stepped up to the plate and made it happen.
The summer was frantic and fantastic, but i was so happy to be back on stage; it feels like home.
Plus, it only took one day to find a ridiculous photo op:
How can this possibly be my real job? -TM Katie

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


By this time tomorrow we will have already performed the first ever showing of Hey, Try This! and be starting the second.
Premiere nerves have visited me in my sleep for the last three nights.
I'm sure that it will all work out, but it has been one kefluffle after another.
Therefore, this week's quote will simply be my team's motto:

Adapt and overcome, indeed.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Twart Hog sighting


The water main broke at work yesterday so we are closed on Monday which would be awesone except that the new show premieres on Wednesday, so Monday was all day blocking and rehearsal.
The blinking LED smiley face base was all ready to start the polying process until acetone accidently dripped on it.
I found out that the largest circle bit for our drill press in 2 and an eighth, but i need 3 inch routed circles on a prop.
Running up and down the steps between my lab and the wood shop i popped the knee i have been babying since i cracked it during the Poultry-geist attack.
The fresnel light we were going to use for one experiment overheated and cracked the lamp housing, rendering it useless.
We are almost ready to do a table set-up, but there are no spaces available and my yearly employee evaluation is in an hour.

I know that right before a premiere things are supposed to go wonky so that the actual performance is smooth, but really, people, REALLY?
Send me some good vibes today, please, before i inadvertently electrocute myself during training tomorrow. (oh, did i mention that i'm already working tomorrow for public programs?)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

jalapeno help

TM Chris brought in a bunch of extra peppers that he had harvested from his garden and i couldn't resist taking a few jalapenos:

aren't they adorable?
The problem is that i have never cooked with fresh jalapenos before. I'm not sure i've ever even had fresh jalapenos in my house before.
Soooooooo, what should i do with these, people?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

what is that and what is it doing here?

I was walking up a set of stairs that i never take to a floor that i never visit and turned on the landing to see this:

I've been assured that it is part of a weather station, but doesn't it look like some sketchy setup that a hacker did in the middle of the night to piggyback on our system? Does IT know that this is here?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

art exhibition - raging calm

The second piece that i showed at this year's art exhibition was an embellished photo mosaic called raging calm:

This piece has two different stories that i can share: one about the photos and another about making the piece the night before the show.
The pictures are from October 1997. I was on a week-long overnight in Caroline County, MD with one of my favorite former team members (obviously, he was a TM at the time). Setting up Starlabs (portable planetariums; they're awesome) one morning i came around the side of my dome to ask him a question and found my partner passed out on the floor.
Ever had to walk down to a school office and ask them to call 911? It's interesting.
Anyhoo, the county we were in is so small that they didn't have their own hospital or even their own ambulance, so we had to wait for the paramedics. Meanwhile, i'm in negotiations with the principal about doing half of their shows, resceduling the shows, cancelling the shows, whatever. The decision was made to reschedule all 8 shows and i started to pack up both my equipment and his as the ambulance rushed him to the hospital in the next county. However, no one told the teachers what was going on, so my first audience arrived and i had to be the one to tell the kids that they didn't get a show that day, while appearring calm and professional.
Once i finally had all of the equipment loaded back into the van i could race off to the hospital.
On the way there, a bird flew into my windshield. I had never hit any animal before and was FREAKED OUT. Was it an omen? Was my partner dying? panic, panic, panic
Arriving at the hospital i was told that it would be a hot minute before i was allowed to see him and i started to lose it.
[some quick background for those of you joining the show already in progress, i had already spent the night in a hospital once with this TM where he had almost died; plus i was still mired in my own grief pit so even a hint of a whisper of death made me insane]
I knew that when i was finally allowed to see him i was going to have to be calm and strong and rational and comforting and at that second i was the exact opposite of those things.
So i ran.
I got into the van, pointed it at the water and drove.
You see, i love water. I have been drawn to water my whole life. In it, on it, under it, next to it - as long as water is close i am happy.
I drove and drove farther from town and closer to the water until i was on an island in the Chesapeake, until finally i was out of land and surrounded by water on every side at Black Walnut Point.
sigh... water...
Watching the waves crash, feeling the spray on me made the panic start to disappear. I had my manual camera in the van to play with; i started shooting, experimenting with different settings. As the film advanced, my fears wound away.
I have always been fascinated by my relationship with water. Oceans, bays, and gulfs are all full of ferocious energy, but they make me calm. It's almost like any turbulance inside of me is translated to the turbulance of the waves and ebbs away with the tide. It sounds crazy, but has been true my whole life.
Once i had control of myself, i returned to the hospital.
It all worked out in the end; the TM lived on to become a fTM and he is still kicking around, annoying me whenever possible; in fact, we met for fondue just 2 weeks ago.
Once developed, i instantly loved the pictures that i'd taken. They were filled with so much emotion for me that i knew i wanted to do something special with them.
A few years later i started a set of mosaics with the pictures, but the project remained unfinished. It just wasn't quite what i wanted.
Come forward another decade.
While working on a painting and a shrine to show and trying to finish setting up the exhibition itself, i was suddenly hit with inspiration. Instead of mosaicing individual pictures like i'd been doing before, what if i used parts of all of the pictures to make one big mosaic?
 Start a new piece at 11:00 the night before the show?
SURE, why not?
All of my work is done in lots and lots of layers, most of which need time to dry in between, so i was steadily able to work on the shrine, then the photos, then the shrine, then the photos. If both were wet, i worked on logistics, having decided to abandon the painting; after all, i can't do 90 things at once.
Things were going along well, when -you might remember- i lost power.
There was no way to finish the shrine in time, but i got up at daybreak and by the light of the rising sun i added words, graffitti, a brushstroke finish, and water droplets.

Mostly in the dark, I weathered and inked the frame to match the driftwood and algae in the pictures and then put it together. I honestly didn't know what the finished product looked like until i hung it at the show.
It makes me smile everytime i look at it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

the face of a killer

Have you ever found yourself behind a Megabus?

What is the deal with the freaky guy on the back of their buses?
Who thought he was a good idea?
The very first time i saw it, i couldn't decide what that round yellow and pink thing even was. Now that i know, it still freaks me the heck out every time i see it.
Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Body shaped like 2 perfect spheres.
No discernible fingers in the body-hugging hands.
No obvious hair.
Super high, round cheeks.
Cold, vacant stare.
Eyes seem to be askew, yet somehow penetrating my very soul.
Uneven ears.
Smile like a clown. An evil clown.
Service panel across his chest.
Inexplicable bright spots on nose and cheeks.
If he were a toy, you know he'd come alive at night to kill you.
Therefore, he shouldn't be 20 feet high and rolling down the highway when i am on my way to work and hardly even awake.
A girl's just saying...

Friday, September 9, 2011

jewelry roundup, 2

Time once again for a look back on some of the jewelry i've been sporting over the past few weeks. I really am having fun trying to wear everything i own. Take for example this chunky, amber AB ring. I was fascinated by it in a thrift store and brought it home for $5, but have only worn it a few times. Yellow is not in the Niki color palette -i'm a berry, in case you didn't know- but the blue flashes from the AB finish on the crystals inspired me to pair it with one of my favorite blue summer shirts.
In a rare example of me wearing my hair down, i did an accent braid and added a clip-on earring to the end that had the same crystals in the middle of a sunflower.
I quite enjoy AB crystals and over time have amassed quite a collection.
One of my favorite, favorite pieces is this necklace of crystals clustered together like grapes. I found it at an antique mall 15 years ago on lunch with my boss at the time (i can't even imagine how i convinced him to go to an antique mall) and paid an extravagant $12 for it. Since then, i have never seen another necklace like it.
I wore AB drop earrings and a matching bracelet, but still felt like my hair needed a tiny glimmer so i nestled a clip earring amongst the masses of pinned twists.

I am sometimes asked if Whimsy Hair always works out that way i plan it. There are two answers to that, 1) trust me, i hardly ever have a plan, and 2) no.
Sometimes in my zeal to wear jewelry in my hair everyday i overstretch an idea.
Here is an example of a loose, twisted, pinned messy bun with a silver and gold heart circle attached in the middle.
        I really wanted to highlight how pretty the jewelry was,
but the overall effect was a disaster. After i took the pictures (which is the only way i actually know how it has turned out) i took the whole mess down and went with a ponytail.
Being so hot this summer, there were a lot of double bun days, which gave me an opportunity to wear these sweater clips for the first time.
Why do i even own a set of fixed sweater clips? I bought them years ago for $2 cause i like the filigree around the pink cabochon and always intended to disconnect the chains, but never got around to it.
Now i'm kinda glad that i didn't.
As you might know, enamel flower pins have made a serious comeback. Here is my newest one in pink and purple (thank you people who sell awesome things at yard sales for $1) at the bottom of a braid ending in a side ponytail.
At that same yard sale i picked up these shimmery clip-ons made from hundreds of tiny seed beads strung and twisted together. I heart you, dollar bin.
And speaking of beads, i love, love this strand so much that i wound it around my ponytail one day. I used to wear it all the time when my uniform was red, but since we went blue, it has languished in its hook, sad and unworn. But no more! Everything gets worn!
Like this awesome double strand of white beads with amazing gold links. I found this necklace at Objects Found and got it on sale for $4.
I have a serious problem with white beads; I am drawn to them, but once bought and home i never know how to wear them. I think it works paired with this navy polo.
My hair that day was in six mini-buns and to play up the gold and white of the necklace and echo the twists, i added a vintage pin of my mom's.

mayhaps i should have checked those bottom buns after my nap; yikes

This burnished and detailed open gold spiral with white enamelling was a favorite of mine back in the 80s when my mom and i would frequently share jewelry. She'd had it as long as i could remember and one day she told me to put it in my box instead of returning it. I probably haven't worn it in 10 years and it made me really happy to put it on again.

My favorite new hairstyle based on jewelry from this summer is this set of sleek twists around a small sausage- curl ponytail. I got the idea when i decided to finally wear this pin one day. I've had it for 10 years, having rescued it from a junk jar. All of the leaves are made from thin wire twisted around and around; it looks solid, but it isn't. It is the first time i've ever worn it; not bad for costing about 12 cents.
And in case you are wondering whether or not i ever wear pins like a normal person, i do. In fact, two days in a row i wore a pin on a shirt, but i didn't even think to take a picture because it was so normal. But, since i am trying to keep track of my jewelry consumption, i snapped this before i did the laundry:
The bottom pin is the one i bought from the talented wife of fTM AJ a few years ago and the top one is a great wooden carved fish that i wore to the sushi buffet.
It was the first time i wore of either of these pins.
Two down, a zillion to go. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Strange post title, huh? You'll understand soon.
My friend from college, Bruce, is currently doing battle with melanoma.
And it is a battle; melanoma has one of the lowest recovery rates and the treatments are often as brutal as the disease itself.
But in true Bruce-style he is using humor as both a shield and a weapon. He has named his cancer Humperdink and relates every step of his treatment to The Princess Bride or another pop culture reference.
He is the youngest person trying a radical, experiemental therapy.
He is not going quietly into the night.
Which is exactly what i would expect from him.
I had decided a few weeks ago that this month's Charity of the Month was going to be something having to do with Bruce, but i couldn't decide between a national foundation or his specific treatment facility or Caring Bridge, where he maintains his journal. But then he made the decision for me by posting a zazzle link to buy various wares emblazened with Bruce's FIGHT logo:

This is a different sort of CoM for me. It's not really a charity per se, but I feel like money going directly to help with his family's bills right now is the right answer. As always, there is a link in the sidebar if anyone feels compelled to explore his store, which is called Cancerpalooza.
And if you'd like to read more about Bruce, his battle or his experimental treatment, it can be found here.
Fight on, Johara Trebb, fight on!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

mmmm... mental morsels

The other day i was speaking to my beloved BFF about canning. No, there is absolutely no chance that I am going to do any canning, she was telling me about the tomatoes she was putting up as we spoke. At some point she said something about a peck and i was like, Wait; a peck is a real measurement? I thought it was just in the Peter Piper rhyme or maybe an old tyme measurement that we don't use anymore, like cubits.
No, people; it is real. Rea informed me that there are about 4 pecks in a bushel. Really.
I love to learn.
Dontcha just love to learn?
It makes my brain get all tingly as new neural pathways are forged. I think that one of the reasons babies laugh and gurgle so much is because of all the neurons shooting around their noggins.
All the time we come in contact with new pieces of information.
I remember the day i found out that frippery is a real word and not one i made up in my head. Who knew?
Or the time i saw Chichen Itza mentioned in a book. I thought it was a made-up place because i was under the impression that the Mayan ruins in Mexico were called Chixanitza. I'd only ever heard it spoken, never written and it took about 3 pages of the book for me to realize that the place i knew about was the place the author was talking about.
I have little scraps of paper all over my house, tucked in books and in my bags with words or phrases scrawled out for me to look up later.
Right this second there is a bank stub in my purse with the word susurrus written on it. I have no idea what it means, but i like the look of it and i was shocked when my eyes ran across it in a Jim Butcher short story last week.
Some people don't like to admit that they don't know things, but i relish learning.
In fact, i've decided to read the encyclopedia.
My upstairs neighbor recently moved out and she had a Funk and Wagnalls that she was getting rid of, so i grabbed it. I'm not going to set any time frame or make it another goal, i'm just gonna open books at random and peruse.
Then I'll share little mental morsels that i discover with you, cause we can all use a good brain tingle now and again, dotcha think?

BTW - susurrus apparently means a whisper or soft rustling sound;
say it out loud; it is almost onomatopoeia

Thursday, September 1, 2011

...and never stops at all

When walking to my library there is a stretch without sidewalks, so you have to walk in the road. Today i spotted what looked like an interesting leaf from afar, but was actually a butterfly:

What are you doing in the road, Mr Butterfly?
It is dangerous out here.
Are you even alive?
There was a feeble wing flap as i took his picture and i spotted the tear in his wing. This butterfly was close to being an ex-butterfly, but i couldn't just leave him in the road to get squashed. As i picked him up, he went crazy with the flapping and thrashing, trying to escape. Even close to death, his will to live kicked in:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
I have always loved this famous Emily Dickinson poem. Many times you only see the first stanza quoted, but it is the finale that clinches my heart - you don't have to give hope anything but a place to live.
Hope lives in my heart.
It is one of my defining characteristics.
Right now times are hard for some of the folks i love the most in this world, but i cling to my hope and try to foster it in their hearts as well.
A tear in his wing
and missing three legs,
but i had to move the butterfly
to this tree
to give him a shot
just in case
he might survive.

It is who i am.