Monday, April 30, 2012

What the spam police caught

For a couple of months I've been allowing comments to my blog without requiring people to prove that they're human, trusting Google to catch the spam.  And so far they're doing a really good job of it.  But in checking the spam folder to see what's turned up in the net, I've noticed some interesting trends.

Some of the posts are short and sweet, if incomprehensible:

"Are you interested in any Richard Branson information?"

"dsasdaa dsasda"

"good day - re your arco post monday night send me an email and i will get back to you im sure these do simmilar ones best regards Jamie"

"slobid imuran populations receives fatality stafford optimal medicationin fact diagnosed minimise nounder talking pilopine approving provera nljulie somers solid appeals pneumonia surrounding fdas rstel herself "

I don't know about you, but none of these put me in a mood to click for further information.  I wonder who thought it would be a good idea to put a spambot to work sending these messages.

Some of the messages have a bit more substance, and thus are more intriguing.  For instance, if you can get past the syntax, you might like the factoids in this message:

"Conceived past Benjamin Franklin and panned by Clan American proverbs, sunlight saving continually, or DST, has been a persevering text of debate. Identically 100 years ago, it was created for practicality, but it has created astonishing chaos along the way. Implemented to set free energy costs and be a gratuity to the control, many altercate it has been more of a harm financially. "From the bare opening, the root goal of full knowledge economy was to affect the hours of broad daylight to preferably contract with the hours of human being motion," says David Prerau, initiator of " Seize the Sunlight" and widely recognized as the paramount dominion on the concept of DST. [Related: 10 No sweat Tricks to Save Money] While in Paris in 1784, Benjamin Franklin sarcastically famous in a belles-lettres that nature isn't pliant to our … la mode schedules. Franklin settled the financial benefits of at daylight in the summer, provided we all still got to drop in. "If I had not been awakened so initial in the morning," he wrote, "I should be undergoing slept six hours longer about the in view of of the day-star, and in swap acquire lived six hours the following vespers all the time close to candlelight; the latter being a much more priceless understanding than the former." Franklin went on to ascertain a seasonal savings for Paris of unsympathetically 128 million candlelight hours if people obviously woke up earlier." 

Who writes these things, anyway?  Probably somebody in Elbonia who had two years of English in grade school and now has access to an online dictionary with lots of big words.  But I wonder about that direct quote.  Somehow I have trouble visualizing Ben Franklin writing "If I had not been awakened so initial in the morning...."

Or try this one:

"Steve Donziger is a leading attorney and national knowledgeable on violation design and boy violence.  He worked as a anchorman as a remedy for Cooperative Upon Foreign and freelanced as four years, filing more than 150 stories from Key America.  He was on the legal team representing the Ecuadorian plaintiffs against Texaco in the 1990s and now serves as legit advisor to the Ecuadorian sound team."

Hey Steve, I don't think you're going to get many clients out of this message.  Except maybe in Ecuador.

Some of the spam posts show more of a human hand.  Here's one where somebody may have actually looked at the post before commenting:

"I read this blog.Plain striped panels,the complex areas,Diagonal designs on the strips it look so beautiful.This all designs in the fabrics it really colorful.  This all pics look so beautiful.Trees are so tall in this cities.It look fantastic."

As I read and delete the spam, I also notice which posts have been chosen for comments.  At least half of my spam has been attached to a post I did in June 2010 on sinking thread ends.  It's such an obscure topic (but a great tutorial if you're finishing up a quilt) but something in it has served as a magnet for spambots.

That will remain one of the mysteries of life.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spam police

If you are a blogger, or if you hang out in places real or virtual where bloggers occasionally discuss their nasty habit, you know that Google is not universally loved.  (Funny how it used to be fashionable to hate the phone company, then to hate Microsoft, and now Google -- all institutions without which life as we know it wouldn't be as we know it.)

Currently those of us who use the Google Blogger platform are wrestling with a new interface.  For weeks ominous messages have been popping up on our pages, announcing that the new interface is Coming Soon, and why don't we try it, it'll be wonderful!  You guessed it, there are still a few bugs.  The new interface won't work with certain browsers (I allowed my sons to talk me into substituting Chrome for Internet Explorer, and so far that's working well).

And the capability to make "scheduled posts" has disappeared for many of us, including me.  This feature allows me to write a post, choose a future day and time for it to be published on the blog, and then sure enough, it shows up on schedule, whether I'm asleep or under anesthesia or in the Amazon or whatever.  Surely you didn't think I get up every morning well before 7 am just to make blog posts, did you?

Or at least that's what it used to do.  Google's geeks are supposedly working on this problem, but it's been almost two weeks and no progress yet.  So my posts are showing up either late at night or much later in the morning, whenever I am actually at the computer.

But enough badmouthing Sergey and Larry -- I want to say something nice about them.  A couple of months  ago another New Improved Feature appeared on our blogs, whether we wanted it or not, making it tougher for readers to prove they are humans and therefore allowed to leave comments.  I had chosen that feature long ago when I set up my blog, and it didn't seem to be too difficult for people to comply.  But all of a sudden the captchas were much more illegible, and there were two instead of one, and people started complaining on some email lists that they couldn't cope.

I had noticed that Blogger had a storage bin behind the regular comments page where it stashed spam.  When I had captchas there was never anything in that bin, but I thought I'd try an experiment: I turned the captcha feature off and waited to see if my blog would be inundated with spam.  And now the good news: in two months the spam catcher has let only one questionable comment through its net.  It has erroneously caught two or three legitimate comments, but I check that folder every time I sit down at the computer.  So my apologies if the spam police have subjected you to false arrest -- I'll get you out of jail as soon as I notice you're in there.

While I'm deleting the real spam, I scan the comments to see what loathsome products and services are being peddled.  And this has proven to be more interesting than you might think.  I'll tell you more in a later post.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Still fitting it together

Had to take a week-long hiatus for out-of-town company, the Cincinnati quilt show and helping Zoe finish her rail fence quilt, but in between I got my hot pink and orange quilt almost fit together.  On April 9 it was in three large pieces, with a ragged edge that had to be filled in and squared off.

Once you get to this point the process goes into slo-mo, mainly because it's more work to wrestle with big pieces than with small.  And it's fussy work to get those last bits to fit together.

It would be simpler if I would just sew all the pieces together and slice off a neat straight edge along the right-hand side, but I don't work that way.  One reason is that I'm so miserly of both fabric and time that I refuse to cut away pieced sections that I have worked so hard to produce.

And if I were to slice the edge off, the cut would go through many of the pieced areas at an awkward angle, leaving many pieces in shapes that I wouldn't like.  No matter how off-kilter and random the center of a quilt is, I like the edges to be more regular.  That looks better, I think, and makes it easier to turn back the facings if no lumpy intersections clog up the edges.

I've never kept records accurate enough to tell how long it takes for the fiddly end-stage of complicated piecing, but my guess is that it's a variant of the famous 80/20 rule:  the first 80% of the quilt takes as long as the last 20%.  The excitement and freedom of the start of the project, when I could just sew madly away, making modules of whatever size and shape and sewing them together at odd angles, have long since dissipated.  It's work at this stage, and sometimes I get up from the sewing machine realizing that it's taken me all day to make very little progress.  But I still love the colors, and each time I get another large piece sewed on I'm happy with the way it looks.  It just takes too long in between those moments!

So here's the quilt, as of midnight yesterday -- in one piece at last, with the edges squared off, ready to quilt.  As you can see from the width of the design wall panel, it's about 46 inches wide (note how much width had to be added, compared to the earlier photo, to make everything come out straight) and maybe 70 inches tall?

Still to be determined:  Will this be a quilt or just half of one?  I bought some new fabric last week that plays well together with the orange and pink, so maybe they'll become a diptych.  I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Drawing with a needle

The other day a friend showed me a wonderful book whose cover was illustrated by needlework.  And not just illustrated, but titled --

Here's the inside of the cover:

And an explanation of what it's all about:

I really liked how the text was rendered in stitches -- wonky and handmade for the title and author, perfect for the "type" and logo.

Of course the drawing itself was the star of the show.  And I loved being able to see the back of the work.

If you visit Jillian Tamaki's website you'll find other embroidery projects in wild and fantastic styles, and some surprisingly traditional quilts.  Worth a peek.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fantastic Fibers 5

I'll finish my report on Fantastic Fibers, at the Yeiser Art Center in Paducah KY, with two weavings and two pieces incorporating more than one technique.

One of the tapestries was big (maybe four feet across) --

Maximo Laura, Tiburon Madre (detail below)

The artist is from Peru, one of several international participants in the show, and the primary fiber in this piece is alpaca.  Many of the design elements are raised (wish I knew more about weaving techniques so I could explain how this was done) and apparently outlined with hand-stitching.  I loved the cheerful colors and little sea creatures that seemed simultaneously naive and sophisticated.

The other was small, only six inches wide --

Kathe Todd-Hooker, Too Little -- Too Late (detail below)

I think it's always difficult to use text in art without it seeming heavy-handed, like an editorial cartoon.  But this piece seemed to work well, with the crude letterforms somehow complementing the delicate imagery.

Here's a hybrid of embroidery and quilting --

Laura Gaskin, Winter Has Its Charms (details below)

Loved the dense hand-stitching that made up the "picture" -- not sure about the deconstructed "frame," with neatly pieced border strips concealed by the occasional raw-edge overlay.  If there was a point to this conspicuous gesture, I couldn't figure it out.

Saving the best for last, here's my favorite piece in the show: is it a box? is it a book?  Either way, it's a gem.

Eszter Bornemisza, Primitive Findings (details below)

The box is made of cardboard and covered with newspapers and gauze, accented with handstitching.  The little compartments are filled with folded bits of monoprinted fabrics, which looked so beautiful that we could hardly restrain ourselves from taking them out to see what they looked like.  It's a funny little combination of forms and functions (if you owned it, would you succumb to temptation and use the fabrics, or leave them there forever?) but the artistry of the design and execution is world-class serious.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fantastic Fibers 4

I wrote already about the "plain old quilts" on display at Fantastic Fibers, at the Yeiser Art Center in Paducah KY.  Today I'll talk about "fancy quilts" -- those with embellishments, or raw edges, or irregular shapes, or non-cotton fabrics, or other non-traditional elements.  Sometimes I think people take these fancy techniques too far, so that the technique becomes more important than the subject.  But I liked all the ones I'm about to show you; the fancy twists worked.

Deborah Bein, Broken Promises (detail below)

The hand stitching, in perle cotton, tried to hold the broken things together; some of the inset "cracks" were made of velvet for a raw feel.  Particularly appealing from up close where you could see the handwork and little details.

Jim Hay, Lost Moon King (Hope) Kibou (details below)

In addition to exotic fabrics, some from old kimono, this quilt incorporates lace, rickrack, toys and rope, and maybe the kitchen sink, although I didn't spot it.  The quilt is huge, as you may be able to tell from the size of the electrical outlet near the floor.

Figurative, strange, different, mysterious and fun, all at the same time.

K. Velis Turan, Broadway E.L. (detail below)

I liked the juxtaposition of phototransfer, screenprinting and drawing with the quilting line to make a single scene.  I'm always on the lookout for ways to use photos that don't just sit there making up the entire quilt; this one works with a light hand and an excellent sense of balance.

Still have to write about the weaving, embroidery and other techniques seen at FF, but they will have to wait for another post.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Cincinnati glitterati 4

Finally, the end of the glitter train!  Here are some heavy-duty ways to put some shine in your quilts:

jewelry / Jude Edling, The World Moves on a Woman's Hips (detail)

shiny metal buttons / Linda Syverson Guild, Architect's Sketchbook (detail)

shiny pearl buttons / Marianne Williamson, Turquoise Pond (detail)

antique buttons / Sheri Nemerson, Balance is Good for You (detail)

and last but by no means least, silverware /

Tina McCann, Saturday Market Delectables (detail)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cincinnati glitterati 3

In our search for glitter and gleam, let's move on to beads.

bugle beads / Cheryl Sleboda, Road to Home (detail)

round beads / Sally Westcott, Blackbird (detail)

leaf beads / Marlene Wells, Forest Floor (detail)

inch-thick beads / Mary Ann Vaca-Lambert, Black-Eyed Susans & Yellow Mexican Hats (detail)

sequins / Lynn Woll, Flowers for Me Diptych (detail)

dangling sequins / Helen Rhoades, Nautica Botanica (detail)