Friday, July 15, 2011

Paper-making is easy!

What Now? asked about paper-making in her comment on my last post, and I thought I'd answer her here. (Why not?)

Paper-making, as my title suggests, is easy! Especially if you shell out a bit for a kit. I went fancy and bought Arnold Grummer's Papermaker Pro, which is a hand-pour mold, though I would eventually consider getting a dip mold for faster, more consistent production. (Don't I sound professional? I am, after all, a Papermaker Pro! I have made 25 sheets of paper!) Truth be told, I didn't look into the difference between hand-pour and dip molds, and thought that I was getting the latter, since that's what I used in high school. But hand-pouring is super easy and, as the websites will tell you, the clean-up is easy.

Basically, here's how it works:
  1. You get all your supplies lined up, and fill the kitchen sink about 2/3 full of water (depends on the depth of your sink, of course. Mine is fairly shallow).
  2. In a blender, combine about 1 1/3 sheets of torn-up, post-consumer paper with 2 cups of water. Blend for 30 seconds.
  3. Insert the mold into the sink, getting the water to within about 1/2" of the top.
  4. Pour the blended slurry into the mold.
  5. Agitate it with your fingers.
  6. Carefully, but without delay, lift the mold straight up in the air.
  7. Use various techniques to squeeze water out of the sheet, using a sponge and some screens (it's not that complicated, but you don't want to read about it, and I don't want to write it).
  8. Dry the sheet! I leave it stuck to the window for a while and then, when it starts to fall off, press it under some books (with dry "couch sheets," as they're called, to absorb the moisture).
Really, it took me all of 5 minutes and one or two awkward attempts to get the hang of it. And within about 4 sheets I, being me, was tired of straightforward pages and started adding leaves (without reading directions on how to do so--that resulted in some weirdness) and blending for different lengths of time, etc. One technique I made up is to blend one sheet for 15 seconds, add 1/3 of a sheet in a slightly different color or with writing on it, and blend for the second 15 seconds. This produces interesting textures, and sometimes letters or fragments of words show up in the paper. I love it!

Below is a scanned image of one of the sheets I made yesterday using this newly invented technique (which is, I'm sure, not unique to me, but hey! I didn't read about it or ANYTHING).

It's not like a money-saving hobby (although I do intend to use it as the basis for many Christmas presents), but it is a form of recycling, and it's fun! Plus, I haven't found anywhere around here to buy handmade paper for bookbinding, so it'll be useful there.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hot Dry Summer

In honor of July, I bring you a photographic essay documenting the behavior of cats on a 92-degree day:

The series concludes with Constant M.* telling me to knock it off with the picture-taking and rub her belly already.

Actually, it's cooler today, but we should be back up into the 90s this weekend. And just in time for the heat, I've finished my shawl:

Like the patrician tilt of my chin?

I'm also working on the paper-making, as this picture demonstrates:

Letting the sheets dry against glass gives them a smoother finish for writing, or so I have read. (I haven't actually written on them yet.)

In other news, I suppose I ought to go to the gym. At what point in my life does that requirement go away?

*A sudden, irrational fear that the eminent C.M.--whose work I respect--would find this page and be bothered by my pun has prompted me to abbreviate the cat's moniker.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Two Firsts

1) Got my first agent query rejection yesterday morning. The first of many, many such, I'm sure.

2) Also in my inbox yesterday morning was an invitation to contribute an essay to an edited collection. The book isn't under contract yet--they need the article abstracts for that, obviously--but there is an "interested press," as they say. Anyway, what's cool is that this essay collection is exactly in line with my current research interests! How did that happen? I mean, since no one officially knows what my current research interests are, given that I haven't published anything on them yet? (One article is coming out in the Fall, but it's not out yet, so....)

Anyway, it's all very exciting. It makes me feel like a Real Scholar of some kind. (And maybe I should, like, get over feeling like an Unreal Scholar, since I do have a book out and all that. But, you know, eh. I still feel like I'm about 23 years old when it comes to this profession.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Favorite Writing Resources?

I was just glancing over the comments on Notorious Ph.D.'s/ADM's writing group (which I totally plan to join this fall, by the way--I just missed the first couple of weeks this summer and got out of sync), and something completely obvious occurred to me:

Writing an extensive, independent research paper without strong external direction/guidelines does not come naturally to (almost) anyone. (I expect that there are exceptions. Incredibly enviable exceptions. But we aren't going to talk about them.)

Now, I knew this from my own experience, of course. But I also serve as second reader on all those pesky Honors thesis committees (by which I mean, ALL of the pesky--and even the rare non-pesky--Honors thesis committees at Field College), and undergraduate students, quite understandably, haven't really figured this out. They've never had to write such a paper. They're used to deadlines and people making them do things, and then doing said things often in haste, at the last minute, and under tremendous stress.

As we all know, that system doesn't work well for...well, almost anything, but you can probably pull it off on a 5-page paper. Not, however, on a thesis.

So what I'd like to do is to compile a list of resources, websites, and tips for students who are struggling with motivation, scheduling, organizing, drafting, etc. etc. And what better place to go than to the blogosphere? Since so many of you have blogged so beautifully and brilliantly about such things in the past?

I ask, therefore, that you comment with your favorite resources, motivators, organizers, what-have-you. Feel free to just remind me of a post that you've already written on the subject, too. I do plan to look around and do some of the work myself, but I'm very likely to miss some things--so I would love love LOVE your suggestions! And my students would love them even more!

(And let's not forget the thesis advisors and readers out there, who are surely as frustrated as I am when students don't even start writing until December.... Think of this as service! Tenure file, here we come!!)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ambition Sucks

Um, so, that to-do list in my last post is too long.


I hate it.

Why do I feel that I must do everything, every single thing, that I possibly can, every single summer? I don't ever do it all, and I spend a lot of time being stressed out about having so much to do. Why do I insist upon putting fun things--like making paper, or knitting, or reading a book for pleasure--on my Task List? On the one hand, it gives them some priority. On the other, I find myself thinking things like, "OK, if I just knit two rows of this afghan every day, I'll have it done by September!", and then it becomes a Required Homework Item and I drain all of the fun out of it.

When I was a kid--like, twelve--I'd get so excited about summer that I'd start planning it in early May. I'd make up detailed schedules of what I was going to do every day: play horses from 9-10, work on a puppet show with my brother from 10-11, read from 11-12, go to the pool from 2-3, and so forth. Then I'd look at those schedules, feel like the summer was already over (and hadn't been all that interesting), and get depressed.

I was twelve twenty-three years ago. Have I learned anything? Not really.

So here's the deal. I might not do all the stuff on my to-do list. (In fact, I definitely won't, but don't let me overhear myself saying it.) And that is simply going to have to be all right. If I can finish this one article (which I can), outline my colloquium presentation, and decide on a topic for Article/Chapter/Whatever the Next (and I have an idea for that), then I'll be all right research-wise. And the book reviewing stuff will just happen. Right? Right.

Okay! First up: Course packs are due this week! So I've got to go make some copies.