Sunday, July 29, 2007

A New CD, A New Singer

Mom is very happy because she finally got Paul Potts' CD which she has been awaiting for weeks. We listened to it during breakfast this morning and now I understand why she was so excited about it.

Paul Potts is an amateur tenor (opera-style) from England who won the latest round of "Britain's Got Talent." I don't know where Dad heard about that, but hear about it he did and he found a video clip of the winning song ("Nessun Dorma") to show Mom. It's a very endearing performance; the singer is very much an "everyman;" in fact at the time he entered the competition, he was a cell-phone salesman, and seemed to be a rather shy person to boot. I thought the TV performance was quite decent, but the CD passes it at a gallop. Somehow he managed to include nearly all of the standards I would have wished for on a tenor album:

  • Nessun Dorma (of course!)
  • Nella Fantasia
  • Con Te Partiro (Time to Say Goodbye)

But my favorites were unexpected; a gentle little Spanish piece called "Amapola"; another which was new to me called "Cavatina" which is in English and has very wistful lyrics set over a background of classical guitar, and "A Mi Manera" which is, as a matter of fact, "My Way" in Spanish translation. The latter was a good song, but I think I got the biggest kick out of it because it is very obvious that Mr. Potts is singing Castilian Spanish (where they say "th" for some instances of the sound "s") which one doesn't hear often in these parts. I know nothing about operatic singing, but I do know what I like to hear as far as expression and phrasing are concerned and Mr. Potts certainly has that. He very rarely uses his full range in either pitch or volume; the resulting tenderness of the softer pieces ("Cavatina," especially) is exceptionally lovely; the sort of singing you hold your breath to listen to.

The Square Knot, Variations

This is the design I used for the white bracelet. (I added beads on the knotting cords on some of the knots.) Tie the first part of a square knot, but don't pull it tightly around the filler cords; leave a space on either side of the cords.

Carefully tie and tighten the second half of the knot to preserve the spaces around the filler cords. (For some reason the space on the left tends to be smaller than the space on the right.)

You can tie a whole row of these "open" knots for a different pattern.

Another alternative; you can unclip the lower ends of the filler cords and thread on a bead.

Bring the knotting cords around the outside of the bead and continue knotting as usual. (And use better color coordination than in the picture above.)

The Square Knot, Part 2

5. The second half of the square knot is the same as the first half, but with the blue cord starting on the left. Notice that the blue cord always goes under the filler cords, regardless of which side you are starting on.
So, the blue cord goes under holding cords and over the white cord.

6. The white cord goes under the blue cord, over the filler cords, and under the blue cord again. Pull it tight.

7. There is your finished square knot.

If you compare all the pictures, you will notice that the blue cord always points up (compare it with the white cord above and in picture 5, which always has a loop of blue cord on top of it and so points more towards the underside of the knot). This is a useful thing to notice because you will remember that the cord that points up is always going to be the one that goes under the filler cords. Here it's easy enough to keep track of them since I used two different colors, but if you decide to work with one color, the position of the cord will be the only thing to remind you which side of the knot you are working on.

8. A row of square knots makes an attractive pattern and it comes together very quickly.

The Square Knot, Part 1

I did just say that I liked the idea of "knots." To be more truthful, as far as the macrame business goes, I have only used the square knot and the half hitch. Here is the square knot for anyone else who would like to try it. I'll have to split the post into two parts because I can only post a limited number of pictures at a time.
I've used different colors of yarn so hopefully the important over/under bits will show clearly.

1. It is easiest to tie these sorts of knots when the filler cords (the red ones in the picture below) are anchored firmly. I clipped the top and bottom of the filler cords to the back of a notebook. The top of the knotting cords (the blue and white pieces of yarn) are also clipped to the top of the notebook.

2. Bring the blue cord under the filler cords and over the white cord.

3. Bring the white cord under the blue cord, over the filling cords, and under the blue cord.

4. Pull it tight. This is only half of the square knot, so it won't stay very tight on its own.

A New Hobby

I like glass beads almost as well as I do flowers, but until last week I didn't have much to do with them. Then I took a sudden notion to learn a bit of macreme (a word which always brings to mind oppresive, 80's-style hangers for potted plants) since it involves glass beads and tying knots. It has turned out to be so much fun that I have a hard time working on just part of a project at a time. It's all too easy to sit down to work on "a few inches" of a bracelet and then suddenly realize you have a finished bracelet and it is one in the morning. The one below is my favorite so far.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The word for tonight is. . .

I borrowed a book from the library called The Search for the Giant Squid. It is a book of rather daunting size, as befits its subject matter, illustrated with sporadic pictures, mostly of whales attempting to eat the title character. According to a definition in the first chapter, my endeavours to read this book mark me as an amateur teuthologist (squid scholar).
P.S. In the same book it said that all giant squid caught so far have been moribund. Moribund (Webster tells me) means close to death.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


The same night I took the P. californicus below this handsome fellow came to admire our porch light. (Dad snapped this picture since the insect landed out of my reach.) It is probably a Neohermes californicus, a type of fishfly (family Coridalidae). This insect is quite long--at least three inches, not counting its antennae. The larvae are acquatic.


It's the time of year when we expect to see some longhorn beetles; there have been sightings for about the last month. A few nights ago I got around to taking some pictures. The scientific name for these creatures is Prionus californicus. The larvae burrow into and eat roots, especially those of oak trees (and they were considered, in turn, a delicacy by the local indigenous people, the Kawaiisu). Because of its destructive eating habits the insect has become a pest in some types of crops, including hops (which don't grow up here, but I thought I would mention it since hops, essential to the brewing of beer, are obviously a very important crop). If you startle the adults, such as the one above, they make a very loud and indignant chattering noise. (If my hand looks a bit stand-offish in the picture at the top, it is because it was. As befits a wood-boring creature, the California prionus has a generous set mandibles*.)
*And I am a chicken.