25 November 2007

Apocolypse Job

I've always been interested in disaster planning, and what would happen to me if our civilization collapsed. Well, I think I've found my true calling, one I could do after the world fell apart — professional nit picker.

I got "The Call" Wednesday — my 7 year old son was found scratching his head in class. Yup, the school nurse gave me a 15 minute lecture on what to buy and how to pick nits. We dashed home, grabbed my daughter, drove her to an emergency orthodontist visit (yet another popped bracket) and went to the pharmacy while she was in the chair.

When we got home, I sat my son down, took out my contacts, and started my new job. My, those eggs are small!

Fortunately, my son seems to have gotten off lightly. We've been doing picking 2-3 times every day, and this morning I had to hunt long and hard to find only 3 nits. It looks like he'll be back in school tomorrow.

But I realized ... this is a job I'm suited for. If the world fell apart, my gas-perm contacts would only last a few years, then I'd be semi-blind. [I'm very, very myopic.] What use could I be to a small community of survivors? Sure I can design and teach knitting, am learning to spin, have made a weaving loom (and would travel with loom plans), and can sew, but none of this is that unique. I can do lots of other things as long as I can care for my lenses, but after that I would be dead weight.

Except ... I can pick nits. And see them, and do a thorough job. And in a low-tech community, without modern sanitation, lice are likely to be a much worse problem. I know they don't spread disease now, but can they? A talented nit picker would be an asset to a small post-apocalypse community.

So, I will add to my polymathic list of skills ... nit picker.

14 November 2007

Opening Friday — The Splash Inn

I've been avoiding cleaning the house this week, in preparation for Splash.

For those who don't know, Splash is a weekend full of short classes for middle and high school students, put together by MIT undergraduates. Lots of fun, and this will be our third year going. My daughter has taken classes in cookie baking, duct tape design, manga, and the odd math or science class.

We're having another family staying with us, stacked like cordwood in our already too small house. I'm expecting lots of chaotic fun ... at least I don't have to cook!

It's not too late to register for Splash, if you are in the Greater Cambridge, Massachusetts area.

Splash Home Page

05 November 2007

New Store!

Today I started a new store to sell (I hope) my crazy products.

It's at Zazzle, which offers a nice set of complementary products to the shirts I sell at Printfection. I've added baby and toddler shirts, coffee and travel mugs, buttons, stickers, magnets, and such. Adding products is slow, but I'll keep at it.

Here's a cool Flash panel from my new store:

buy unique gifts at Zazzle

Or use this URL: http://zazzle.com/cartesianbear*

Zazzle also offers something special I don't have at Printfection — you can make money by promoting my products! Here's how it works:

1. Go to my shop (they call it a gallery) and click on the Promote This Gallery button

2. Choose any of the options on the page you go to.

3. If you want to make 7% on whatever sells through your marketing efforts, check out Zazzle's Associate Program. The link on the Promote page seems to be broken, use this link: http://www.zazzle.com/mk/welcome/associates

Where I've Been

It's been a busy fall ... and my blog has suffered for it. Apologies to the few readers I have so far.

What have I been doing?

- 2 kid birthdays, one a preteen sleep over
- Halloween
- Sewing: my quest to make a t-shirt pattern that fits is stalled at the paper alterations stage
- beginning of religious school. Since my kids attend on different days, this means my half-hour drives have doubled.
- jujitsu continues
- knitting projects continue. Time to make sure my family has enough warm woolies
- we are in the beginning stages of a house remodel
- we will be having house guests for Splash in less than 2 weeks

I'm tired. Can I go to bed now?

29 August 2007


Kids' first day at school
Mom enjoys new-found freedom
Only ... Dad home sick

26 August 2007

Vacation Time

Last week my family went on vacation.

We spent 2 days at Old Sturbridge village in Massachusetts. This is a living history park, showing New England life in the 1830s. The staff dresses in historical garb, do work typical of the period, and answer endless questions. We like giving them tougher questions than they usually get ...

My 11 year old daughter had the chance to do some blacksmithing — she forged an iron wall hook. [With a little help from the blacksmith.] My 6 year old son made a tin candle holder. They both enjoyed their crafts very much, and would have stayed at the smithy for hours.

I had a teaching moment myself. OSV has a water-powered wool carding mill, where people would take sheep fleece to prepare it for spinning. The fellow demonstrating knew a lot about the water works, but had no understanding of wool preparation. I'm a self-taight spinner, so I gave him a quick lesson on hand-carding. The woman with the plant dyes knew her stuff, though.

I was surprised at the number of ignorant kids and parents I saw. 1830 wasn't that long ago, yes, people could get goods from all over the world, kids learned to read, and some houses eve had indoor plumbing! [Well, a well pump indoors and a latrine connected to the woodshed.] 1830 was the beginning of the Industrial Age, and people had more in common with us than with Dark Age serfs.

After our trip to Sturbridge, we took a one day expedition to L.L. Bean in Freeport, to buy a shocking but necessary amount of clothing. My husband has very short legs, and Bean is one of the few places left that will do custom hemming on regular pants.

School starts this week ... the kids and I can't wait.

18 August 2007

On Advertising and (shameless?) Self-Promotion

As is obvious to anyone reading this blog, I design and sell t-shirts through a POD (print on demand) t-shirt printer. I'm having great fun doing this, though sales are low and I'm no Picasso.

Since my mind is full of ideas, coming up with ideas is no problem. I am finding out though, that I am uncomfortable with advertising and marketing.

I am a shy introvert by nature, so advertising feels about as comfortable to me as standing on a street corner begging people for money.

So, I'm asking readers of my blog to comment on the following: what would be good ways to get people to buy my shirts, or at least take a good look at them?

16 August 2007

Lost in AdventureQuest

I've spent the last two days lost in Lore ...

AdventureQuest is an online role-play game my kids introduced me to last spring. If you are/were a fan of Dungeons and Dragons, you will probably like AQ — the resemblance is great. It has several features that make it worth playing:

- it is a single player game. There is no communication with other players in the game, so even my 6 year old can play safely.

- like many games, there is both a free and a paid version. However, the free version has lots of playability, with new things coming along every week.

- the creators are an imaginative bunch with a good sense of humor.

- the game is complex enough to stay interesting, but not so complex that you have to live in it constantly. I'll get lost for a day or two, then come up for air.

Anyway, my character just reached Level 60, and she's ready for a whole new set of challenges. So I've been sending her out to find new weapons and spells, which take gold, which she has to battle monsters to gain ... stop me before I play again!

11 August 2007

Shirt of the Week

In addition to everything else, I design t-shirts for my print on demand t-shirt shop, Cartesian Bear. Every week or so, I'll be featuring one design, with a photo and some info about the image.

This week's shirt is the highly unofficial t-shirt from Milliway's, the Restaurant at the Edge of the Universe:

This is the first in a series of science fiction bar shirts, the shirts that famous sf bars would sell if they sold souvenir shirts. I will add more shirts to this series as inspiration strikes — I've already got an idea for Arthur Clarke's The White Hart. [I'm still at a loss for Callahan's ... any ideas?]

Milliway's from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy always struck me as a sleazy Vegas-style lounge, thus the sleazy Vegas-style neon sign. I hope Douglas Adams isn't rolling in his grave.

As with all of my designs, the image can be printed on many different styles of shirt, from basic tees and sweats to strappy camisoles. They can be had in a vast array of colors, and in sizes for kids, juniors, women and men up to 3XL.

Check out the Milliway's Bar Shirts


For some strange reason, I've been very interested in clothing and my personal style lately.

If you knew me, this would startle you. One of the primary joys in being a housewife, at least to me, is that I don't have to dress up. I can live my life in jeans, t-shirts, and Tevas (or snowboots and sheepskin slippers, depending on the season). I startle my fashion-crazy 11 year old daughter when I wear a vest over solid color tee.

But last winter I hit 50. 30 was liberating, 40 went by without my noticing it, but 50 ... I have a hard time believing that I now qualify to join AARP. I don't look 50, don't act 50 (what 50 year old woman would take a jujitsu class and learn to do rolls, falls, and flips?), and I just don't feel 50.

But I am 50. My hair has enough grey in it to notice, and my body has changed shape while I wasn't looking. I'm a little stiff when I get out of bed in the morning.

A couple weeks ago I found myself browsing the What not to Wear BBC show. I realized I'd be a great victim -- sorry, candidate for the show. I wear baggy jeans, and my shirts either come from the men's department or are so plain they disappear. I'm a hard size to fit, so my thoughts turned to sewing. I haven't made clothes for myself since I sewed 2 pairs of maternity pants when pregnant with the above-mentioned 11 year old, though I've done the odd halloween costume and girl's skirt.

Things have changed in garment sewing. First, none of the local "fabric" stores sells garment fabric for daily wear clothes. The one closest to me devotes about 2/3 the floor space to crafts, half the rest to home decorating. and half the rest to quilting. The remaining 1/12 the square footage contains mostly silky polyester, sequins attached to netting, and fabric seen only on figure skating costumes. My daughter loves to go there, but I could scream! I finally did find one bolt of natural-color linen-rayon for a pair of summer pants.

Second, and much better news, there are a few patterns designed for "the mature figure". Sewing guru Sandra Betzina did what the major pattern houses never do -- she measured a batch of women who sew, and used those measurements to draft patterns that fit. [Vogue sells them, under strict orders not to mess with them.] I bought a pants pattern from this line and am making them up. We'll see if they fit better than one of those pairs of maternity pants -- though I had made a smaller size than I usually wear, you could have fit me and a sumo wrestler inside them.

So, over the next week I'll be working on the pants. I'll let you now how they come out. I've also thought a lot lately about personal style and appropriateness of clothing; i'll share that info too.

09 August 2007


I thought I'd join the teeming crowds and begin a blog. Will it ever get read? Will I become nown as a world famous blogger? Who knows! Who cares!

First, a little bit about me. Saying I'm a dumpy middle aged housewife with two kids is technically accurate, but useless. Maybe it will help if I list the traits that make me a polymath*:

- Bachelor's degree in Anthropology, MBA in Financial Management
- Jobs held: Audio-visual geek (college), bank management trainee, science fiction author (never sold), marketing communications intern, bank accountant, corporate financial analyst, spreadsheet wizard, Macintosh in-house help guru, computer training consultant.
- Non or minimally paying work: knitting pattern designer, Girl Scout assistant leader and camp leader, Destination Imagination team manager, graphic artist, speaker at gifted education conferences, registration chair at our local SF con (with my husband).
- Current time-sink: operating Cartesian Bear Industries, a print on demand shirt shop
- Hobbies, skills, etc.: knitting, sewing, cooking, household maintenance, jujitsu, and READING

I intend to talk about any/all these things, and more. Just like in my household, the one thing you won't get here is bored.

* Polymath: noun a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning. ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from Greek polumath─ôs ‘having learned much,’ from polu- ‘much’ + the stem of manthanein ‘learn.’