topiary cats

topiary cats

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ratfest 2015

Yes, "Ratfest" is exactly as nutty as it sounds.

My amazing friend Branwen hosted Ratfest this year in New Jersey.  She really did an amazing job and it was quite the party.

It was SO NICE to see everyone...some people again, some for the first time.  Some I hadn't seen in several years.

Branwen rented slushy machines, and had enough food to feed 5 parties.

Slushy machines

I made the Magic Ratfest Box with Cathy back in 2002!
Cathy and I stopped co-hosting Ratfest after a 10 year run.

Isn't this WONDERFUL?

My friend Jane attended.  We traveled together to NJ from NYC.  we went from Penn Station (NYC) to Penn Station (Newark).

We do NOT like Penn Station (Newark).
Since we had to switch trains, the conductor told us to go to track 5.  Penn Station (Newark) has no rational layout of tracks, and to get one track over you have to basically walk through the entire station.  It is dreadful with no rhyme or reason.

So, Track 5.  We went there.  It was blockaded and had caution tape across the doors.

We removed these obstacles and went onto the platform, only to be notified that there was a track switch to 2, but our train had just left.

So we went to track 2 to await the next train.  as a courtesy to our fellow travelers, we left the doorway unblocked by the barricade and caution tape.

When we got to track 2 and found the next train, we were instructed to go BACK TO TRACK 5.

Eventually the next train did arrive, on track 5.

It is a good thing we un-barricaded it.


Here are some of Branwen's rats.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Whole Lot of Utah Landscape 1

I took a ridiculous amount of landscape pictures in Utah.
It is too much for one post so I am breaking it up.
Click any image to enlarge.  :)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Letter from the FBI

So, I got this email.

Absolutely NOTHING is more real and genuine than this letter.  I had better pay attention.


From: "Mr James B Comey"
Date: June 15, 2015 at 3:40:34 PM MDT
Subject: Federal Bureau of investigation (FBI)

Mr. James B. Comey


OMG it is official

ATTENTION: Beneficiary,

Wow! I am a generic beneficiary!

We the Federal Bureau of investigation (FBI) through our intelligence monitoring network has discovered that the transaction that the bank contacted you previously for was legal.

I has discovered you are the Best Ever! Unless my intelligence monitoring network (aka Spam folder) failed...surely not.

Recently the fund has been legally approved to be paid via United Bank of Africa Nigeria.

Definitely legal.

So, we the Federal Bureau of investigation (FBI) Washington Dc,

Yeah I forgot where the FBI is headquartered. Thanx for the reminder!

in conjunction with the United Nations (UN) financial department have investigated through our monitoring network noting you that your transaction with the UBA Bank of Nigeria is legal.

Even more legal if stated more than once.

You have the legitimate right to complete your transaction to claim your fund $4.7 (four million seven hundred thousand united state dollars)

It is like playing the lottery without playing!

Because of so much scam going on internet.

Yes so much scam. A damn shame isn't it!

We the Federal Bureau of investigation decided to contact the NORTHEHILLS COURIER DELIVERY SERVICE in Lagos, Nigeria for them to give us their procedures on how to send this money to you without any further complain or delay.

Awesome! I like NORTHEHILLS COURIER DELIVERY SERVICE! They are way better than FedEx.

We just got an information from the Zenith Bank and they have loaded your $4.7 (four million seven hundred thousand united state dollars) in ATM MASTER CARD and submit to the NORTHEHILLS COURIER DELIVERY SERVICE for immediate delivery to your doorstep.

Cool!! An information like that is not to be ignored!

You are required to choose one option, which you will be able to pay and also convenient for you, for quick delivery of your parcel containing your ATM CARD and other two original back up documents.

Not one but TWO ORIGINAL backup documents!

Service Type | Delivery Duration | Charges/Fees
------------------------------ ------------------------------
Premium Express (24hrs Delivery)
Mailing $200.00 00.00
Insurance $150.00 00.00
Vat $100.00 00.00

TOTAL $450.00

$450(Four Hundred and fifty US Dollars Only).

Yes please I want this one. 
Those extra zeros were to keep me thinking, I do appreciate that.

........................... .............................. ..........
Special Express (2 Days)
Mailing $180.00 00.00
Insurance $70.00 00.00
Vat $150.00 00.00
TOTAL $380.00 00.00

$380 (Three Hundred and Eighty US Dollars Only).
.............................. ..............................

I chose that first one.

Economy Express (3Days)
Mailing $100.00 00.00
Insurance$150.00 00.00
Vat (5%) $50.00 00.00

TOTAL $300.00 00.00

$300 (Three Hundred US Dollars Only).

Please see first choice already selected.
.............................. .............................. ........

You are hereby required to advice us, on your parcel delivery option by filling in the required form stated above.

I adviced you! :)

Please note that the deadline for claiming your fund is exactly 48 hours after the receipt of this
email. After this period, your fund will be return back so take note.

Moreover, this is some tracking number of beneficiaries that received their payment through us and via northehills website (www.northehills dot com/home).

A real website!

We request that you reconfirm your mailing address to ensure conformity with our record for immediate dispatch of your parcel to you. Only valid residential/Office address and postal address are certified Ok.


------------------------------ ------------------------------ -
Receiver's Name: .......
Address: ................
Tel/: ...................

Delivery Information/ Parcel Description
------------------------------ ------------------------------ -----------
Delivery Terms: International Delivery
Condition of Delivery: Priority Delivery
Consignment Note No: MI 49866-2110
Color of Parcel: ...Brown.
Total Weight: 2.1 kg
Total Net Weight: 1.7 kg

The parcel is brown! I shall look for a brown parcel!

We are here to protect you from any problem till you receive your package;

I do need protection, thanks! 
Will you protect me from any problem after I receive it, too?

you can as well get in touch with the NORTHEHILLS COURIER DELIVERY SERVICE assigned to deliver this financial package to your doorstep. Below is the delivery company's contact information:

Directors Name: Sir. Scott Nelson

Sir? Cool!

Email: mrscott_nelson at

OMG you Yahoo!

Looking forward to hear from you as soon as you receive this message.

Best Regards,
Mr. James B. Comey.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue,
NW Washington, D.C.
20535-0001, USA

Aww thanks! xoxoxo

1. Is anyone receiving such an email really that stupid?
2. Why are these kinds of emails STILL circulating?  Is it because they worked at some point?
3. Is anyone receiving such an email really that stupid?
4. Why didn't my intelligence monitoring network pick this up?

Come to think of it, I should have returned all those Publisher's Clearing House mailings back in 25 years ago. Damn.

TRUE STORY: When I was a kid, way back in the pre-internet days, I answered the phone one evening.  A man was on the other end, informing me all about the Canadian Lottery.

I kept him on the phone for about a half hour, leading him on, because he had a really funny accent.

The Cana-di-en Lott'ry!  It's the BEST IN THE WOR-LED!

When I told him, after letting him go on for a half hour, that we weren't interested, he got REALLY pissed off.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

We Need Black Color Charts

Of course we do.  Well, I do, anyhow.

I'm going to do..... something.....involving working on black in July.  Naturally, this means I need to make color charts on black in my sketchbook.

Black Colorfix Primer is AWESOME in your sketchbook.  Black gesso would work too, but I really love the Colorfix surface. The primer surface is the same as Colorfix paper, so it is like turning your sketchbook pages into Colorfix paper, which is absolutely brilliant.

 Derwent Graphitint (water-soluble)

I like Graphitint pencils quite a lot, and I have been using them in my sketchbook for the last few years. They are really strange pencils, and that might be why I like them so much. They are definitely graphite in look and feel, but they are tinted.

They look very different against black compared to white.

 Derwent Drawing Pencils, 24

I saw this set at Blick a few days ago, and they were priced in the $50 range, which I did not want to pay. Amazon (Prime!!) had them for $27.50.  Lee's Art Shop- which I am convinced really is closing, despite cryptic answers from the cashier- has this exact same set for... $64.99!!  Whoa!! No wonder they are going under.

Anyhow, they are all wonderful earth colors, and they are very soft and smooth.  Get them, but definitely not from Lee's. Eek.

 Derwent Inktense Blocks, 24 (water-soluble)

This is one of the sets i got in Utah.

Derwent Graphitint XL (water-soluble)

These Derwent XL blocks are seriously COOL. Both the Graphitint and the Charcoal.

Derwent Charcoal XL(water-soluble)
Derwent Metallic Pencils (water-soluble)

!!!! I did not realize the metallic pencils are water-soluble until I did the color chart
and it was the best discovery EVER.

Perhaps I have mentioned before that I am a huge fan of Derwent pencils and Derwent everything. There are many good pencils out there, but Derwent is my Urban Decay of pencils, I guess. 
I occasionally have brand loyalty. It is good because it reigns me in a bit.

Friday, June 26, 2015


Not only am I a color junkie, but I have no resistance for anything interference.
Especially paint.......

Here are my Golden interference colors.
(I have a few more but they are in little jars, because they do not come in the tubes for some reason. They really should.  The green-violet is fabulous.)

 They are wonderful and glowy and iridescent and I love them madly.

In other news, TODAY IS THE LAST DAY OF 4th GRADE!!!!!

One more year of Elementary School.....

It is inconceivable.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Disturbed Sunny Habitats

In Utah, there are these GIANT dandelion-looking flowers. Of course I love them.
For some reason, I have never seen them here in NYC.  They really need to be in NYC.

Apparently they are "wild salsify, a species of Tragopogon."

They live in "disturbed sunny habitats."

Disturbed sunny habitats.

We are most definitely disturbed here, and it is sunny quite a lot.  So I think the salsify would do quite well here.

As a gracious act of community service, I have gathered and smuggled many salsify seeds across the country, and I am in the process of scattering them around many places. Hopefully they will take root and hopefully NYC will be populated with GIANT dandelions.

You're welcome.

Macro Salsify

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Speedo Veto

This past weekend I set up Daya's aquarium again.  It has been dormant for way longer than I meant for it to be...

So I cleaned it out and filled it and put all the stuff in the right places and put the right stuff in the water and then we went and got her some new fishies.

She got some glow-fish and tetras and some green and black stripey fish.  I don't know what they are but everyone can live with each other in peace and love and harmony and they all have a same-species BFF.

Daya loves her fishies and she had to name them, of course.

She named them:



I immediately vetoed Speedo.  The fish is now named Caffeine.

Speedo is not a good fish name,
swimwear non withstanding.

Caffeine is a very good fish name.

Fish are hard to photograph.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Softness Controls Strength

In martial arts, one learns about strength- both outer and inner. The more damage you are capable of inflicting, if you have learned properly, the softer you will be in your approach. You have to know when to unleash hell. There had better be a good reason to cut someone down. You learn to control it,

There is enormous strength and power behind a gentle approach. Behind living a gentle life. It is much more difficult to maintain a gentle spirit, especially in such an aggressive society. Especially with aggressive people.

We see this in the Tarot, in the Strength card. This card is usually depicted as a woman sitting with a lion, calm and peaceful. There is no struggle, no force.

Legacy of the Divine Tarot

I, myself, can be a forceful person. I can have an aggressive edge to my personality.  And this is just fine. I have had to fight tooth and nail just to get through, to survive. But I strive to have a gentle spirit. That doesn't mean I am weak- quite the opposite- I am very, very strong. But there is immense power and strength in a gentle spirit, especially a spirit that already knows how to fight with force.

It is important to balance the stresses of life with gentle activities. Yoga, arts, meditation, watching the sunset...things that nurture the soul.

People are not gentle with each other. We should be. The world would be a much better place if we were. Have compassion for the next rude and angry person you encounter. Remember Newton's 3rd Law "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." Change the energy dynamic- be kind and compassionate. Make someone laugh who seems to be having a bad day. That is the hand and voice of God working through you. Allow it.

Love requires immense strength. Here is the timeless good reminder, good words to guide us in how to love each other and ourselves better, with more grace and wisdom.

Monday, June 22, 2015


When I am upset, it takes a while for things to move through me.

I am still reeling from what my friend did last week. I wish I could just turn off feelings, but I have to allow them to pass naturally, and that can take a while, depending on the situation. It is unpleasant but it is what it is.

Jesus said,
"Forgive them for they know not what they do."

And that applies here.  People are often completely unaware of the repercussions of their words and actions. My friend hurt me very deeply in ways she just could never know about.  Could she have handled things differently?  Yes, certainly.  What she did was wrong.  And I am not required to lay out my innards just for someone else to feel justified in being compassionate.

Although telling her didn't help much.  And it has absolutely nothing to do with her whatsoever. It isn't her business. And it also isn't the end of the world, or anything even close to being so dire.

Were her intentions good? Yes. But that doesn't mean it wasn't harmful in the way it was carried out. The way in which things are done can be more harmful than helpful, so be careful when "helping" without the other person's knowledge or consent. And if that "help" comes with a heavy hand of judgement and condemnation, you are definitely NOT helping no matter what.

When we love people, we must love them for who they are- issues and all.  Dark spots and failures. My friend has her own dark spots and failures, too, but I have never judged her for it, because I know we are all dealing with our own challenges in life, and what is easy for one person is an un-surpass-able mountain for someone else. And we are all just doing our best.

Ideally, I would like for people to extend the same compassion and non-judgement that I offer them, but I also know that not everyone has arrived at that point yet. They don't know any better.  They cannot go past their own filters.  And that is exactly why I have to forgive, and realize we are all on this life journey to learn.

The most powerful thing is to love someone in their dark places that need the most love.
Most people don't do this; they just judge.

"A friend is someone who knows you and likes you anyway."

All this aside, I am still hurting. Quite badly. Forgiveness does not make the hurt go away.  I will just have to let my heart heal in its own time, and carry on.  But I might be even more cautious than I already am about letting people too close, or trusting that my closest people will still love me, failures and all.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Here we are at another Solstice.  Midsummer.  The Longest Day.
A turning point in the natural cycle of the earth.  And we also come into the watery sign of Cancer.

To be very exact, the solstice happens here in NYC at 12:39 PM EDT.

I like to pause and reflect during the solstice- both of them. These last six months have been challenging. I arrive at the Summer solstice with less than I had at the Winter solstice, and I feel sad about that.

But I have crossed landscape and mountain and river. I have traveled to new places- three of them- in the last six months. Three good places.  Perhaps those good energies are now a part of me, perhaps some of that goodness will see me forward to the next solstice.

Mo wrote in his column last week about Newton's 3rd Law:

"For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. 
That includes being kind to others and sharing the joy of being alive on this planet.
Share your love and life easily and without hesitation 
and the Universe will embrace you with the same. 
I’m absolutely certain of it.

I sure hope so, Mo.  I could really use some good Life Vibes.

It is a good time to draw a new Tarot card from the Major Arcana. And a new color.  Red has been my color, but now I am going to switch to blue, because that just feels right.

I am using the Legacy of the Divine Tarot by Ciro Marchetti.  This is a really interesting and beautiful deck, and I will likely be working with it during July. How, I am not sure yet.

My card, which jumped out of the deck, is Judgement.
How very apt.

Key concepts for this card are redemption, atonement, the end of a journey, resurrection, closure, renewal, rebirth, reward, realizing the consequence of action, transformation.

That is really interesting in several ways, such as:
1. What I have literally just experienced in being judged
2. It follows my card of last Winter Solstice, which is a waiting kind of card.

This is one of the reasons I love tarot so much; it speaks on such deep and relevant levels.