bookmark_borderPublication Notice

I had a short article published in the June 2024 Braid Society Newsletter! Unfortunately, you can only access the newsletter if you are a member of the Braid Society, but you can view my submitted draft of the article, “A Braid to Make: Double-Rai Gumi“, on my web site.

I’m very honored to included in the newsletter, and it also serves as promotion for my class at Braids 2025 in Cleveland. Additionally, it is a non-technical addition to my writing portfolio, which I think is cool.

bookmark_borderThey Might Be Awesome

We actually went out to a real show in a real theater this week, basically the first time in forever. We went to see They Might Be Giants at Mr. Smalls on Thursday at the first of their three (3!) Pittsburgh shows at the beginning of their “Midwest” tour.

It was a great time. The crowd was enthusiastic and the overall mood was friendly and happy. The band was high energy, and they were clearly having fun. At one point, John F. gave away a copy of Book to a person right in front of the stage, and the crowd reaction was so wonderful, like we were all friends happy to see one friend give another friend a gift.

They played a number of tracks from Apollo 18, which brought me joy and made me feel very much at home. Considering that many in the crowd have been listening to that album for their entire life, it was welcomed by all.

Thank you John, John, Marty, and the rest of the Band for continuing to be awesome. Thank you also to friends Heather and Gwen for joining us.

bookmark_borderCoronation Largesse

I did my normal thing and made some belt favors and medallion cords for the Kingdom to celebrate the Coronation of Murdoch and Rioghnach. Twelve belt favors for some of the Kingdom awards, and six 8-strand braids for whatever they want. These will all go in the Barony’s gift basket to the Kingdom. Since the Coronation is today, I can talk about it.

bookmark_borderYou Are Too Sober for this Book Review

Having just come out in 2022 with a me-lauded new entry in the “John Dies at the End” series, Jason “David Wong” Pargin followed up in 2023 with a new “Zoey Ashe” novel titled Zoey is too Drunk for this Dystopia. I continue to believe that Pargin continues to make himself a better and better writer. I don’t know, maybe he just has better editors, but he knows enough to work with them to make better and better books, so good enough.

Anyway, in the first book of this series, protagonist Zoey Ashe inherits a vast fortune and shady business empire from her father. This inheritance comes with a group of her father’s helpers who are known collectively as “The Suits”. Now, Zoey is not stupid, and she is far from helpless, but she is way out of her depth in the first book, and knows it. The Suits do most of the heavy lifting, and Zoey mostly struggles to keep up while trying to direct the business onto a more noble path.

In this book, the fourth in the series, Zoey is really coming into her own. She is making the plans, and doing some of the heavy lifting. When helpers get sidelined, she knows that the rest of the team is looking to her to pick up the slack and recruit substitutes. She’s going from being the shocked owner of this thing, to being the real boss of this thing. Zoey still makes some mistakes, and some horrible decisions that turn out OK anyway, but she’s getting there, and she never forgets about her family, her cats, and her desire to make the world a slightly better place now that she has the resources to do so.

As a writer, Pargin has learned to subvert the reader’s expectations. It’s not that he’s trying to surprise you, but he’s trying to make you think about people. In the Zoey Ashe novels, protagonists aren’t always good, villains aren’t always bad, and red herrings sometimes turn out to be clues. The gun on the mantel in act 1 might be revealed in act 2 to display a flag that says “BANG!”, then in act 3 the flag is waved to summon help from a Thai sea pirate. You just ever know, but he’s urging you to look. Maybe the villain is really ridiculous and more naive than you. Maybe the protagonist has to do one awful thing to make sure another awful thing doesn’t happen. He’s urging you to look inside the suit and see the real person.

Later this year, Pargin is releasing yet another novel, and I think it is set in yet another series. I applaud whenever an author decides to branch out, but I hope this isn’t the last we read about Zoey. Both Pargin and his creations are still on their way to becoming real heroes, and I want to see what they are like when they get there.

bookmark_borderBamboo Satchel

More than ten years ago, I made a couple of small “boxes” (box1 box2) by wrapping bamboo sushi rolling mats around blocks of wood. Those two little boxes are still in use, and still going strong, so when I saw the RÖDEBY bamboo “armrest tray”, I knew just what I wanted to do.

The Roedeby comprises thirty bamboo slats that are bonded to a flexible canvas backer. I cut two 7.5 inch disks from pine board, and combined it with some hardware to make this satchel-

Bamboo Satchel

The bamboo is both glued and nailed to the pine disks, so it should be pretty sturdy. I attached the sling cord by drilling through the disks and then inserting the ends of the rope and tying stopper knots inside. the “latch” is a couple of brass cotter pins that are secured to the inner layer of bamboo and project through a couple of holes drilled in the outer layer of bamboo. In the above photo, the latch is secured with a small brass “lock” that I acquired at Pennsic a couple of years ago. Here it is open-

Bamboo Satchel Open, with Sake for Scale

You can see that there is quite a lot of space inside. I haven’t tried stuffing it, but I bet you could actually get 3 full-size bottles in there. It should be big enough for a small selection of tools, or a big lunch. I didn’t base it on anything I’ve seen anywhere, so I wouldn’t call it a medieval or Japanese woodworking project, but it’s a handy object that won’t be too disruptive if I carry it to an SCA event.

bookmark_border3 Odd Braids in Silk

At the Braids 2025 conference in Cleveland, I am scheduled to teach a class on three braids for the marudai that use an odd number of elements. I realized that while I had a bunch of sample braids for those three, but none that I would consider to be “show quality”. They are mostly done in cotton or fuzzy yarn, and some of them have been attached to garments or other projects. to be “show braids”, they really should be done in silk thread and should be at least a couple of feet long. We still had plenty of reeled silk from the Georgia Yarn Company, so I decided to get busy braiding.

9-Strand “Shigeuchi Gumi” (30 inches)
17-Strand “Taka on Maru” Braid (32 inches)
15-Strand “Sankaku Gumi” (26 inches)

I braided each of these with about 16 ends of silk thread per tama. I say “about” because the lavender thread is ever so slightly thicker than the other colors. To get the 17-Strand braid relatively even, I had to go down to 12 ends of lavender pr tama. I had to work out the right patterns for each braid that would keep the colors together through the braid. That was somewhat tricky, but I now have a Jacqui Carey-style coloring grid for the 17-strand braid, which will be super handy in the future.

If any of these three braids interest you, please consider coming to the conference and signing up for my class! I am scheduled against some big names in braiding, so I would really appreciate support from the marudai braiding community.

bookmark_borderMini Oseberg Loom

A while back, a friend and fellow fiber artist asked me if I could make a tabletop-sized “Oseberg Loom” that she could use in displays and demonstrations. An Oseberg Loom is a medieval style of loom for weaving narrow bands, and it is often used for tablet weaving (aka: card weaving). My friend is an experienced and enthusiastic tablet weaver who often displays work at SCA events.

I started looking around on the Internet, and found that a “real” Oseberg loom is about 2 meters long and about a meter tall. (Thanks, Ulf!) Now I understood why my friend wanted a “mini” version. Drawings enabled me to scale the pieces down, and get to work in wood.

Mini Oseberg Loom in Pine

My completed mini-loom is about 21 inches long and 12 inches tall. It is made of pine, with a blonde shellac finish. The feet join to the horizontal beam with dovetails, the stretcher bar joins to the verticals with a pinned through-mortise, and the verticals attach to the base with long screws. I thought about using more joinery, but I realized that screws would be more rigid, more durable, and much easier. The screws also make it possible to disassemble the loom if necessary for travel or repairs. There is no glue, though the shellac may of course make the pieces stick to each other..

I was able to do almost all of the cutting on the band saw, except for some of the detail work. The beveling on the base pieces (and the rounding on the verticals) was done using a router. I have a small router table that uses a handheld trim router, which is very handy for this kind of small project. The through mortises were drilled and then squared up with a chisel.

bookmark_borderRichard Serra’s “Carnegie”

Last week, I read in the news of the death of Richard Serra, the sculptor who created the steel slab artwork “Carnegie” that is out in front of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. I’ve been contemplating this sculpture for decades now, so I cannot deny that it and its creator have had some influence on my life.

Photo courtesy of

Personally, I think Serra’s work in general is brimming with impact. It not only invites interaction, but often demands your involvement. Whether as a pillar, wall, or passage; his art intrudes physically into your life, and can be circumnavigated, entered, and traversed.

From the outside, “Carnegie” appears to support the sky, treelike. It invites you to enter and collaborate with it from the inside. You can gaze upward at the now distant sky, clap to experience its echoing hollowness, and sing to attempt to discover its resonances.

Farewell, Richard Serra.

bookmark_borderJinmaku no Hara

For Pennsic, the Japanese-themed group we camp with, “Clan Yama Kaminari”, surrounds the camp with camp curtains called “jinmaku“. We typically refer to these as “windscreens”. Our camp is large, and these things don’t last forever, so we typically need to make one or two dozen new jinmaku every year to swap in for faded or otherwise damaged ones. Some time ago, I made some others to serve as personal curtains, or advertising banners for the Barony and Kingdom. For her birthday, I made my sweetie a couple of personal jinmaku.

Jinmaku in white over green
Jinmaku in white over purple

When we make them for camp, we make them in a “black over red” configuration. When I asked Hara Shonagon what colors she would want for personal jinmaku (without my committing to making them), she responded probably white/green or white/purple. Since she seemed undecided, I made one of each.

These are just cotton/poly fabric with webbing tabs at the top for hanging. I did put a lot of sewing into each one. Each has proper flat-felled seams for the top/bottom join, and a real hem at the top. The ones we make for clan spend most of the year locked up in a storage trailer, and only get used at Pennsic. We can use these whenever we want.

bookmark_border“Not Forever but for Now”, by Chuck Palahniuk

In an afterword, Chuck Palahniuk reveals that the story of this novel is meant to be an exploration of addiction and addictive behavior. While not as absorbing as some of Palahniuk’s other novels, I feel this one succeeds in its goal.

Unreliable narrators are par for the course in in Palahniuk’s works, and this novel is no exception. My favorites of his novels have narrators who are not unreliable because they are liars, but because they are honestly ignorant. In Fight Club, the narrator is ignorant of the true identity of Tyler Durden and his own feelings towards Marla. In Diary, the narrator has no idea what is really going on. In Rant, which is presented as a series of interviews, almost none of the speakers have the full picture and can only describe the parts they have personally witnessed.

In Not Forever but for Now, the narrator is unreliable for every reason imaginable. There are things he does not want to tell you. There are things he has not been told. There are things he has been told that are lies. There are things he has been told that are terrible truths. There are things he has just never noticed. The narrator is unreliable like a fish is wet. He is unreliable because “unreliable” is the nature of his environment.

If the nature of a story is that the main character goes through some kind of change, then in order for this narrator to change his entire environment must be unraveled and rebuilt. Every terrible truth must be told. Every lie must be exposed. Every villain must be defeated. Every addiction must be broken. The fish must learn to live in the desert.

I got through this novel still not being sure what was real in the narrator’s world and what was not. If this novel is about addiction, he has succeeded in kicking most of his bad habits, but it’s possible his essential nature has not changed. It’s possible that this was his true nature the whole time, and it has merely been allowed to surface. If so, it has had to fight its way up through such a sea of unreliability that it has been somewhat damaged. One set of addictions has been exchanged for another, and the narrator is still unreliable.

It is a disquieting tale, which is also par for the course in Palahniuk’s novels. Also, it has 68 chapters. Not nice.