I missed the moon!

Sadly clouds this morning in my area, so I missed the moon. Also I was misinformed that the super blue blood moon would be tonight, not this morning. Ugh.

As you will know, the moon was extra puffy today, which astrologers call a “super moon.” This is because it has grown visibly larger. Rotund even. Please be respectful and don’t stare, it’s been a rough time for the moon lately.

As you will also know, it was a bleu moon. This means the Penicillium always present in the cheesy crust of the moon’s surface has grown particularly densely and literally changes the coloring of the moon. So the moon would look blue, except is it also bloody from a savage beating it’s gotten from an unnamed heavenly body or bodies. The red blood and bleu cheese left the moon looking purplish. You don’t see that every day.

We will not get the puffy, purple moon again for something like 200 years.

Published in: on January 31, 2018 at 2:51 pm  Comments (1)  


The clubs post was appreciated, so here are a few more things I’ve carved at various times, mostly as gifts.

Below, some Christmas ornaments (Santas or wood spirits, I guess) from the same unidentified shrub as the spiked club. Each is maybe 2 or 3 inches long. The “hats” are just the bark left as it was. I think the one with the nose might have been from a maple branch, and gave me the idea for some other ornaments I made the following year.

I did a few different types of ornaments. This year I went a little more extreme with the noses, using branching bits, and I decided to use some fiber for the hair rather than paint. If I do this again I’ll save some milkweed fuzz to use instead so they’re all-natural.

This was the most crooked nose of them. so I kept it for my tree.

As you can see the bark is still a bit green in spots; I cut this from my Japanese maple in the fall and it didn’t have time to finish drying out completely. Time will tell if the ornaments will crack as they continue to cure, but I think they’ll be OK.

Here’s the other one I kept.

I also made a bunch of snowmen, and also snowman heads in long hats. I gave all of them away except for one snowman head; unfortunately he spent a year in a houseplant’s pot and some of the paint has peeled off from getting wet, despite the coat of polyurethane I’d sealed it with. I was pretty happy with how the landscape on his hat came out.

The nose is the end of a toothpick, whittled down a bit (the whole ornament is maybe three inches long). The snowmen were made from thick pieces of branch, carved into three rough globes with a top hat; the carrot nose (a bit of toothpick), arms (tiny twigs) and a yarn scarf added after painting.

A bigger project was a Mother’s day gift (my Mom really loves ravens and crows):

The base is just a slice of a log; the heart and crow are carved from some 2 x 6 lumber I happened to have laying around. I don’t remember how I stained the heart; it might just have been some watered down red paint. I cheated and used a saw to cut the rough shapes, and did a lot of filing and sanding. My carving knife is more suited to softer woods, like the shrub or stuff like basswood. I can’t claim the idea is original; I saw a photo of a similar, more stylized piece in a newspaper add for a local gallery.

This is a gnome I carved out of a block of basswood:

It took a long time mainly because I didn’t do a very good job of sketching him out first. I could have saved a lot of effort with a saw or chisel if I had. He’s maybe seven inches tall, including the hat.

This is a woodpecker toy I made for my Mom for Christmas a few years ago.  The bird (a downy woodpecker, which is one of the two species of woodpecker I know of in Ohio) is carved from basswood. If you tap the lever it pecks the stump. The bird is about six inches long, I think.

I made a similar one for my sister’s birthday the following year, and a bunch of mini woodpeckers as ornaments to give as gifts.

They work too — the little twigs are levers to make them peck the trunk. The smallest woodpecker is a little under an inch long.

It should go without saying I am completely self-taught. Anyone can carve wood. You just need a sharp knife, which you’ll find yourself strapping a lot to maintain the edge. I was given a very nice one real carvers use; I’ve tried using some of the junk they sell at craft stores and you’re better off with one or two good tools than a set of crap. Just remember to cut away from yourself and keep an eye on the grain of the wood and you should be OK.

I got the plans for the woodpecker toy in old a book on making wooden toys, and the gnome design was based on a plan I saw in another book, both from my local public library.

Published in: on January 20, 2018 at 11:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Not exactly swords but in that domain.
I amused myself this fall whittling and varnishing a bunch of walking sticks, which I thought I’d give as gifts but never did. I used a variety of sticks I’d gathered from my property, friends or relatives. and even parks. Theses are some clubs I made from shorter scraps. Not the best photos, sorry.

This first one, my favorite, is made from part of last year’s Christmas tree, and is probably the only one I’ll hang on a wall.

Being from a conifer, it’s extremely light and although the head looks intimidating it would likely break if you used it in anger. I was going to carve it into an Iroquois-style club with a rounded knob but I like all the stumps as spikes.

The next one is more sturdy; it’s from a piece of an overgrown red maple I pruned. Being hardwood it’s pretty strong, and while the head wasn’t large enough to carve, I love the way it handles. Ultimately it’s just a smoothed out branch though so I’ll probably take it apart eventually.

The last one is made from a bush of some kind I removed two years ago. It has extremely strong, yellowish wood under a grey-brown bark, and I think it might have been an overgrown boxwood of some kind. (The previous owner of my house must have done zero maintenance of the yard for at least a decade before we moved in.) It’s a very dense wood too, and seemed perfect for a club. I added some spikes for fun — the blade was the top-spike from an Indian wall-hanger axe (see the last axe on this page) I remounted on a new haft. The other spikes are just small carriage bolts with their heads ground off.

This one is slightly curved along both axes so that it’s really not very comfortable in your right hand but feels right in your left — I’m left handed. I’m sure I’ll disassemble this eventually when I think of a better use for the blade but it was fun to make.


Published in: on January 5, 2018 at 10:56 pm  Comments (1)  
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The toof mouse

So some time back I was driving listening to NPR and someone brought up the “tooth mouse.” The tooth mouse is basically the tooth fairy in other countries — particularly Spanish speaking countries, as well as France, and according to the commenter I heard also in former colonies of France or Spain. The tooth mouse supposedly takes the teeth to build its house, in one version of the story. In any case it usually leaves some small gift. My daughter Riley happened to be in the car and while she stopped believing in fairies and such in first grade or so, she had a loose tooth and suggested she’d leave it for the tooth mouse. Ever since, she would leave her teeth on her dresser, or on a banister by her door, and I’d write a silly thank-you from the tooth mouse (who has terrible spelling and grammar and just signs things “the toof mous”) and some trinkets like glass beads, sea shells, and some coins. The tradition fell by the wayside eventually but this week she lost one of the last three baby teeth she has, and the next day casually commented that the tooth mouse didn’t find her tooth. Riley’s going into seventh grade this year and I know there may not be a lot more of these kinds of moments. So, knowing how much she still loves hunting for toads when we go on hikes, I thought I’d paint the tiniest toad possible for her. It was so small it took only a few minutes really, and I couldn’t get my phone to focus very well on it. But here it is, based on a penny:

I tried it without the flash, not much better.

Honest, it looks pretty good in real life. It’s from the set of familiars Julie Guithrie sculpted for Ral Partha. Somehow I ended up with two of the sprues, so I still have another toad/frog like this and third slightly larger I think from Reaper.

Anyway here’s the card too, front, inside, and back.

Published in: on August 14, 2017 at 9:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Happy Holidays!

"""""""BOAS FESTAS"""""""
"""""""'N PRETTIG KERSTMIS"""""""

This is a polyglot Yuletide greeting formerly posted annually to library forums by the late J. McRee (Mac) Elrod of Special Libraries Cataloguing. Whatever you celebrate or don’t, however you do it, I hope you have the company of friends and family in these dark times.

Published in: on December 22, 2016 at 8:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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Gryla & the Yule Lads

The yule lads

Now that the hipsters have ruined Krampus for everyone (“About 20,800,000 results” in Google), I predict that the fad for Xmas 2016 will be all Gryla and her brood of Yule Lads: Sheep-Cote Clod, Gully Gawk, Stubby, Spoon Licker, Pot Scraper, Bowl Licker, Door Slammer, Skyr Gobbler, Sausage Swiper, Window Peeper, Door Sniffer, Meat Hook, & Candle Beggar. Gryla is a child-eating ogress and the Yule Lads, her sons, each come on a different night (December 12-24) cause mischief. The Lads seem pretty innocuous for trolls, but since most of them are stealing food in the winter in Scandinavia, their antics were probably pretty scary back in the day.

Anyway you have eleven days to prepare for their onslaught.

Gryla catching lunch

Dimmu Borgir, one hopes, is working yuletide concept album on them. (Dimmuborgir is supposedly the home of Gryla and her family.)

Published in: on December 2, 2016 at 8:00 am  Comments (1)  
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Orc ID

So blogging has mostly ground to a halt since I’ve taken a new job at an academic library; maybe it will resume some time. But today a publisher got in touch to get a license to publish a short article I wrote and they recommended I get an Orc ID. O_o

Orc ID

No, not like that. But that is definitely what I imagine.

An ORCID is actually an identifier used to disambiguate people. Libraries have been doing this for centuries, but in the past couple of decades there’s been a push to use numerical identifiers rather than textual ones. Libraries have long kluged the problem of many people with the same name by adding qualifiers to names, such as middle names, years of birth/death, or other titles or even activities. So because there are many “Michael Monaco”s in the world,  I might be established as “Monaco, Michael Joseph” or “Monaco, Michael Joseph, 1972-” or something like that. But a simple number would make the identifier more useful worldwide. Consider Tolstoy — written in Cyrillic his name is be Алексей Константинович Толстой; “Толстой” is various Romanized as “Tolstoi,” “Tolstoy,” or “Tolstoĭ”. Likewise Korean, Japanese, and Chinese names may vary a lot depending on the language they are publishing in. There is an effort to bring all the forms together in individual countries’ authority files (for example the US has the Library of Congress’ National Authority File or NAF) and the NAF-equivalents of many countries are brought together in the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF.org — where Tolstoy is VIAF # 96987389). But these are focused mostly on people publishing books, albums, films, and so forth. More minor works like journal articles don’t get cataloged individually in library catalogs and there is no need to disambiguate the millions of academics who publish worldwide for library catalogs. So the ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor Id.) is meant to work a bit like the VIAF but for researchers and academics (as well as journalists, etc., in principle), so that my publications as “Michael Monaco” are not confused with other “Michael Monaco”s, and it uses a string of numbers (in my case, 0000-0001-7244-5154).

So anyway it’s nice work and hobbies encounter each other like that.

Published in: on September 16, 2016 at 9:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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The rioting saw

This week there’s been some kind of crazy machine operating in front of my building. I think it’s some kind of saw or grinder — they are tearing up and replacing a bunch of pipes. But the thing is, the sound it makes is very much like a huge crowd — roaring, occasional whistles or screeches, and the volume rises and falls like some kind of riot (or a football game) is taking place. It’s creepy as hell when there is no one else to be seen (the workers are in a hole six feet deep).

I recorded a snatch of it on my cheapass MP3 player. Listen closely. Do you hear muffled voices? Half-formed words? Is that someone called your name?

Enjoy. (Click for MP3)

Published in: on September 8, 2016 at 3:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Beautiful Mutants!

The guy who runs the “2 Warps to Neptune” blog started an online magazine, “We are the mutants.” Check it out!

The image isn’t on 2W2N or WATM, as far as I know, but it used to have Duty Now for the Future on LP and never forgot the image.

Club Devo ad from the inner sleeve of "Duty now for the future." Original image source: Wikimedia, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8c/Club_Devo.jpg

Club Devo ad from the inner sleeve of “Duty now for the future.” Original image source: Wikimedia, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8c/Club_Devo.jpg

Published in: on August 31, 2016 at 9:17 am  Comments (1)  
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Vor Da-Da war, da war Da-Da

A cautionary tale. Ish.

So back in grad school, some 20 years ago, another student shared his amusement with the German phrase “Vor Da-Da war, da war Da-Da,” which we translated as “Before there was Da-Da, there was Da-Da.” It just sounds funny, but it is also probably true. He could not remember where he’d heard it first and I forgot all about it, until for whatever reason I recalled it. So I decided to try Googling the phrase. That was not something you could do back when I first wondered about where it came from. So my Googling turned up exactly one hit, which led to a question I’d sent to a listserv 20 years ago (asking participants of a list discussing a German philosopher not associated with Da-Da if they might have heard the phrase). It was easy to navigate from there to the larger archive of listervs, and see all the posts ever made to it. I wasn’t the most active participant of the list during my stint, but it was a little bit like reading letters from old friends.

It was a listserv that changed hands a few times and technically seems to still be “active” in the sense that you can try to join it, but in reality all that it shows for the past dozen years are monthly announcements from some other mailing list. Reviewing older stuff, though, it was pretty interesting to see what other topics I’d asked about, and what I’d answered to other people’s questions, and in general what online conversations between strangers looked like back then. In fact even the most “heated” exchanges are pretty tame by today’s standards.

So the cautionary part of this tale is that the stuff I posted to that listserv was mostly harmless and mostly not embarrassing, and I’m glad about that because at the time, it was a private listserv that you had to join to see the archives, but by the magic of intertoobing you can actually find all the posts everyone made back then. Back before keyword searching of everything digital was an option, back before people had surrendered all expectation of privacy online, back before your words posted to an obscure academic discussion list might come back to haunt you, the posts were made somewhat innocently. I guess there is no way to be sure how long such things will continue to exist “out there” on servers, but it is a good reminder that any time you write something online, you are writing in permanent ink.

Apropos nothing, “Da-da” is also a pretty great Alice Cooper album, one of the ones he now has no memory of writing or performing because of his struggles with addiction in the early 1980s.

Published in: on April 8, 2016 at 11:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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