Commonplace book

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I’ve been experimenting with commonplacing. In the 1600s through the early 1900s, the commonplace book was a system of gathering texts and quotations in one place, usually a blank notebook, for the purpose of recollecting information and remembering key ideas about virtue, truth, health, leadership or what have you.

Doctors used them for recording “pearls”, key ideas about a pair or triad of symptoms and a specific diagnosis. Politicians used them to note useful quotations for speeches, and historians used them to categorize events and trends in the age before statistical analysis made more nuanced discussions possible.

I’m using a Moleskine/Evernote-branded softcover notebook to record poetry that I’m trying to memorize; pieces go into the book in the order that I’ve memorized them or intend to commit them to memory.  I attended a Burns Night supper in January last year; and I made an effort to memorize Robert Burns’ Epigram on Bad Roads, which is the first poem in the book, as you can see.

“I’ve now arrived —
thank all the gods!
Through pathways both rough and muddy;
a certain sign that makin’ roads
is no’ this people’s study.
Though I’m not with Scripture crammed
I know the Bible says
that heedless sinners shall be damn’d —
unless they mend their ways.”

It was nice and useful to memorize a funny poem for a change, instead of a serious one.  Most of my poetry tends to be pretty serious; and I tend to memorize serious poetry.  It’s a useful reminder that I should from time to time work on funny poetry as a form — both to memorize, and to write.  Something to practice!img_5468

Further on in the book, in the last three pages or so, is an index page listing the poetry and other elements I’ve put in the book.  Here’s part of that index, listing on page 1 the Epigram on Bad Roads, and Langston Hughes, and John Keats, and so on.   William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence takes up pages 7-11. You can see that I’m working on memorizing quite a lot of Thomas Taylor’s translations of the Orphic Hymns, as well, and the Aleister Crowley hymn for Coffee (not Covfefe).  The index continues; I’ve listed all of the pages, even if I haven’t filled them yet.  It’s rather more similar to the Digital Ambler’s Vademecum, really, or an Enchiridion, than a true commonplace book. A true commonplace book should not only have a table of contents at the beginning, but also an index by subject, such as hope or valor or kindness or coffee. Such an index would help one find appropriate material within the book more rapidly and easily.

img_5469Not everything in the book is poetic. Two pages include a list of all of the U.S. Presidents in order, which I’m working on memorizing, not just with their names but also their years.  It’s occurred to me frequently that this list serves a useful purpose as a time-counter; it’s much easier to remember when something occurred in time if you remember who was president at the same time.  That’s part of the reason why I also have the similar list of the Kings and Queens of England a few pages on from this — The English royal list extends back in time to 1066, and it creates a useful parallel list for European affairs.  Maybe I should also work on the list of the Emperors of Japan…

 

Quilt: black and white

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I have to pack for a weekend away. Naturally i spent the day making a baby quilt.

It turned out well, I’d say. The overall size is about 30″x40″, which is pretty standard for a new baby.  A crib quilt is about the same width but nearly twice as long: 54″ instead of 40″. 

The pattern more or less resembles a series of interlocking H’s or capital I’s. The front is all black and white fabrics, but they have patterns: little polka dots, triangles, nets, crosses. The white fabric is printed with white florals and spirals and polka dots. So on part of the quilt is very rigid and orderly, while the other is more fluid and natural. The white patterns are especially subtle. 

  I am not happy specifically about the quillting. I hoped that this cool grid pattern woild manifest on the back as I quilted through from the front. It did not work as I’d hoped. 

I put a border on this quilt, which I have not done before. Jelly Roll strips are 2.5″ wide and 42″ long, so they’re just the right length to assemble as a border and keep the corners simple. I didn’t have bias tape, but I simply double-folded four jelly roll strips to make my edging. It was the hardest piece of the work, I think. I “stitched in the ditch” for one side to be attached, and top-stitched for the other side. Machine of course, not hand-sewing. I am not that exacting. 

The quilt was assembled from most of two jelly rolls of precut strips. These run 14 bucks or so each, so there’s around $28 of fabric in this quilt, less some for unused strips, but added on for thread and a couple of broken needles. Call it $30 in materials, plus the time to go to and from the store for those materials. I used 60% of the jelly rolls, more of the black than the white; 

It was an eight-hour day to make this quilt. At $25 an hour, that’s $200 in time-costs. Add on $30 in materials, it’s a $230 quilt… I did some experimentation with the quilting,  I think that with practice, I could get this pattern down to a four- or five-hour project…. but there are quilts where the sewing machine snags or malfunctions and then I need extra time. As well, the most complicated piece of the work was edging and binding the quilt. As I get more skilled at that, I may be able to cut an hour off my time. But probably not.  There’s also washing — a quilt should probably be washed, and there’s a charge for water and soap and time: $40?

So this is probably a $250-275 quilt if I sell it. Shipping is likely somewhere between $15-20. Prices on Etsy seem to confirm this: big square quilts are around $80, more elaborate pieced works are $250-300 for the baby quilt size. I’m in the right market range of time and materials, I’m guessing. 
All in all it turned out well, I think.  

Next steps: work on regularizing the quilting pattern for this quilt. Working with other colors. Matching the thread to the quilt. Buying jelly rolls on sale, and in groups to make more quilts in more or less the “same pattern” (allowing for the variant fabrics in each roll).  Making all of the blocks in the two jelly rolls. And mix and matching across all the pieces for a more interesting quilt. 

Leftover strips: 40% of next quilt.

Tai Chi Y5D9

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Standard issue daily practice, nothing particular to report.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to be shifting to a weekly report on tai chi, rather than a daily one.  I’ll be writing a short entry in a single file daily, but then post them on Wednesdays rather than every day.  So this will be the last tai chi entry until next Wednesday.

Tai chi Y5D4:

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Two qi gong forms, five tai chi forms.  There was a lot of confusion in my north-facing tai chi form, so I did it again.

When I say confusion, I mean confusion. The tai chi form I follow has a pretty rigorous order, as I’ve defined elsewhere, like the tai chi poem (link later, when I’m not on mobile). But sometimes I find myself doing fair lady works shuttles before I get to the golden pheasants.  It doesn’t seem to do any good to go back and insert the right tai chi moves into the wrong place. There is a time and place for play in tai chi,  as well. But when I’m doing the form, I want to do the form.

So despite what I said about not having attachments to how I do tai chi, I guess I have one big one: I want to do the form work correctly.  Yesterday I won the Spring Area Contest, and advance to the division level contest.

Tai Chi Y5D2: Nisse

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Nisse.JPG Yesterday I went to Toastmasters, my regular club meeting, and I did tai chi for them as one of the speeches toward my next CC (Competent Communicator) award.  I think I did better than OK, and I got credit for my “your body speaks” speech, which I think is #5 in the CC manual.

One of the other speakers told a folktale from Norway, about the Nisse in the barn.  The nisse are a traditional faerie folk, rather like the garden gnomes with their red hats — except that nisse wear pointy green caps, and green leather jerkins, and smoke from little hand-carved pipes.  The speaker told how every night the little girl put out milk and honey for the nisse,  and rice pudding at Christmas and other feast times.

As she did so, I wound up doing my own ‘offering’ of sorts to the nisse (plural nisser), by doing this sketch in my notebook of the nisse she described.  I emailed it to her last night, and received a thank you this morning.  You don’t have to be a professional artist in order to give people art; the art doesn’t even have to be  perfect to achieve certain goals, like delight and goodwill.  It just has to be made and given.

Four tai chi forms this morning, after two qi gong forms, and all is well.

Tai Chi Y5D1

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We begin again.  It’s interesting. Today’s work begins on a Mars Day (Mardi in French, martes in Spanish, Tuesday in English).  A martial beginning to the fifth year? More

Tai Chi Y4D365: Almost/Spirit

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One more day. One more dawn. One day more.  Two qi gong forms, four tai chi forms.

For whatever reason, today I was having ‘sticky feet’, and had a hard time on spins and turns. Also, there’s a bunch of stuff in boxes on the floor in the office today, as we’re moving stuff around, so there’s less space than usual for me to work.  Time to make some adjustments and put stuff away. More

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