Friday, January 15, 2021

Stay at Home and Have Cake


"Stay at Home."

Back in April I was experimenting with decorating cake using the batter itself, thanks to watching too many episodes of the Great British Baking Show. I was trying a technique that seemed to have many names: joconde imprime, Japanese Jelly-roll, and inlay cake. The writing above was not made with that technique. Rather, I took the  leftover vanilla batter and piped it on top of the chocolate batter to express the concerns of the moment.

I never did write a blog post about the decorating technique, or at least, I never finished one. But the motto is even more relevant now than it was back in April.

Not everyone has the option to stay home, but for those who do, it is a contribution to fighting the pandemic. I know we went over all this back in March and April, but to repeat--if all you can do is avoid getting COVID yourself, you have still done something to help stop the pandemic. You have created one less source of infection, one less draw on the increasingly limited COVID-related resources.

(That should have been "fewer", shouldn't it?)

Everyday life goes on... and on... and it isn't possible to postpone everything. There are dental visits, doctor visits, and sometimes you have to call the plumber in. Sometimes you really want to pick out your own groceries, and sometimes you want to see a friend--even if it has to be from a distance, masked. But you can still choose to be careful and limit your exposure, especially right now when the risk is higher than ever for most people. If it made sense in April, it makes even more sense now, when there is almost ten times the risk, on average, of catching it.

In the interests of ending on a positive note, I'm going to tack on some of the photos from April's baking experimentation. Maybe eventually I'll have another try at the technique, but till then...


Till next post!

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Subtle Beauties of Colorful Christmas Lights--reflections, refractions, and shadows.

Holographic glitter in electric candle


Reflections, refractions, shadows, and colored lights.

 The winter solstice has come and gone, and the daylight is getting longer. We've enjoyed the light of candles, holiday decorations, and (sometimes) fireworks. So today's post is just a look back at some of the interesting and beautiful effects that light can have.

Let's start with some reflected lights--but colored lights. 

Christmas lights reflected on gold wrap.

Christmas lights reflected on a metal hanging lamp.


Not only are colored lights beautiful, but their reflections are also beautiful and interesting. And then there are the interesting shadows they cast along with the reflections.

Christmas tree lights and shadows on ceiling.

Christmas tree lights and shadows on window shade.

 I like the light-and-shadow effects almost as much as I like the tree itself. Almost.

When I was young, "holographic" paper and foil was a very fancy and expensive item. I think I paid a dollar apiece for some postcards with a holographic coating as a teenager--I'm not sure what that equals in today's dollars. Today you can buy wrapping paper that is thin plastic with all sorts of nifty holographic effects, wrap gifts in it, and then throw it away. It's that cheap.

I don't tend to buy the holographic wrap because it doesn't fold neatly and doesn't tape as well as paper, but I do appreciate all the fabulous light effects available with holographic film. I have several electric candles filled with liquid and holographic glitter, and I find them mesmerizing. They also refract and reflect light in interesting ways.

Reflections from glitter-filled electric candle.

 More glitter-filled electric candle effects.

I deliberately cropped photos to emphasize the interesting light effects, but in case you want to see where they came from, here are some of the original photos.

 I also have some previous posts on light effects. 

Pelican Shadows and other shadows of interest

Sun and suncatchers: rainbows in my room 

Reflecting on reflections: the stories inside the shine

Scented candles  (look at final photo)


Christmas present wrapped in textured gold wrapping paper.

Hanging metal lamp shade with circle reflecting colored lights.

Liquid filled electric candle with holographic glitter.

Till next post.

Friday, January 1, 2021

A Rule of Life for Facebook Posts--thoughts after reading Michael Curry's "Love Is the Way"


I recently took part in an Advent book study of Bishop Michael Curry’s Love Is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times. Partway through, we were given an assignment: to consider the section on creating a Rule of Life, and think about how we might apply it in our own lives. I ended up missing the subsequent discussion session, but decided to write up my thoughts and use it as a blog post.

A Rule of Life is meant to be a set of personal guidelines to help us do a better job of living in accordance with our own highest values. Rather than try to compose a Rule of Life for my whole life, which is a huge thing to think about and really requires a continuing effort, I decided just to formulate a Rule of Life for Facebook posts. If I want to post on Facebook in a way that accords with my values, what should I do or not do?

I’ve narrowed it down to three rules, more or less: one “Do post,” one “Don’t post,” and one “Maybe post.”

Do: post funny and hopeful things from my life. Silly cat photos, attempts at creative bread-making, a special star, colored lights. These are the kinds of things I enjoy seeing from others, and these are the posts that are more likely to be enjoyed by others and very unlikely to upset them. (Okay, it might be annoying if I actually posted photos of every loaf of bread I ever baked, but I’m assuming common sense here.)

Don’t: rant. Rants should be reserved for people who know and understand me, delivered in person or by phone, and given plenty of context. An out-of-context rant can make a person seem considerably more ugly than they really are. People who know me can sympathize with me or tell me if I am going off the deep end, and either way, won’t hold my rant against me. (Again, I’m assuming common sense here. Choose an appropriate person to rant to.)

There might be an exception for rants about things that don’t involve other people. It might be okay to rant about mosquitoes in summer, or about the way I utterly messed up a loaf of bread.

Maybe post: responses to other people’s posts and comments on current events or world situations, if they can meet three criteria.

First, is the post based on good information? This is a lot like saying, “Is it true?” There have been too many times when I read about something that happened and immediately reacted to it, only to later read a different account and realize that I hadn’t fully understood the situation. Sometimes I think I have informed myself well enough by looking at several articles on-line, and then discover I haven’t actually looked at conflicting views and so have still missed a lot. It isn’t possible to be fully informed—but it’s possible at least to read more than one person’s take on a situation.

Second, is the post courteously worded? In Love Is the Way, Bishop Curry lists MLK, Jr’s Ten Commandments of Nonviolence. Number six is “Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.” When you post on Facebook, you are addressing human beings, mostly friends, but possibly also foes. (Remember, you can never be sure who will end up reading anything you put on-line.) Be courteous. Don’t name-call.

As a practical matter, I find that posts that do a lot of name-calling make me angry with the person who posted, even if I actually agree with the general message of the post. The words come across as venomous and spiteful. There is nothing to be gained in being deliberately offensive.

Third and most difficult to determine, is the post well-intentioned? No matter how politely worded the post may be, is the point of posting it to be helpful, or to be subtly snarky? To inform, or to show off one’s superior knowledge? To encourage someone to think about something differently, or to score a point?

Here I’ll cite Number Two of those ten commandments: “Remember always that the nonviolent movement seeks justice and reconciliation—not victory.” In posting, am I really trying to do something productive, or do I just want to be right? Or more exactly, am I seeking to make other people admit I am right?

There’s a saying that I think is quite wise when properly interpreted: “You can be right, or you can be married.” I interpret it to mean that if you insist your partner acknowledge that you are right every time you are right, you aren’t going to have much of a relationship. Especially since sometimes you will actually be wrong.

The fact is, people hate being wrong. If you press them hard to admit that they are wrong, they are likely to try to defend their view even if they are having doubts about it. Worse, defending their view will make it even more difficult for them to give it up. If instead you reduce the cost to them of admitting that they are wrong (even just admitting it to themselves), that  makes it easier for them to change their mind.

Going back to the original question, “Is the post well-intentioned?”, I have to admit that sometimes the answer is going to be “Yes…and also, no.” Sometimes I can’t help wanting to show off a little, or be acknowledged right. But at least it’s worth thinking hard about when choosing my words.

A Rule of Life (for Facebook posts or otherwise) is supposed to help you express your highest values in the way you live your life. I haven’t said what those values are, in my case, and it occurs to me that I am doing things backwards—coming up with rules before coming up with the values they are meant to promote. Oh well. Working backwards,  my highest values, at least as far as Facebook posts are concerned, are not clever wit (though that can be fun to read) or the promotion of creative endeavors (though I know some very creative people I would like to promote and know of many more) or making myself look good (though admittedly I’m trying to post from my best side). I guess that when it comes to Facebook and my Facebook friends, I value people working together--hopefully to make the world a better place for everyone.