The truth is…

I’ve been finding the SNED project a little daunting.  It really pokes at this part of my brain that wants to Master and Accomplish things, which is, I try to remind myself, not the same as Learning things.  Things like this wonderful yo-yo display Sippey points to today?  Took more than a single day to learn.  Probably more than a year, even.

I’ve been learning things this past week that I’ve been quiet here, of course.   Just having trouble parceling them out as blog posts.  Will resume doing so now.

SNED overload!

I went to a great conference yesterday, where I learned so many new things that my brain broke a little.  Never fear, I will document these things in great detail over the next day or so and catch up to my previously-consistent posting schedule.

In C

While I like the idea of this project being 365 wholly and entirely new things, I also like the idea of letting this framework open me to explore things I already know in new ways.

Terry Riley’s “In C” is considered the founding text of minimalist music, written in 1964 and clearly setting the stage for Philip Glass, Steve Reich, John Adams and other composers who followed shortly thereafter.  It’s a gorgeous piece with a straightforward premise: some number of musicians (Riley suggests 35) play 53 short musical phrases in order.  Each musician can play each phrase as many times as s/he likes, and the ensemble as a whole moves through the sequence of phrases together, more or less, and it is the more or less that makes it interesting.

I’ve listened to this piece countless times, and love the Remix project that the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble released last year.  But today was the first time I downloaded the score, and followed along, singing.  It was glorious, and you should try it.  If you can sing do-re-mi, and I know you can, you can sing this. The 35th part is a little challenging, but by the time you’ve reached it, you deserve a break anyway, and Riley actually gives you an out on this one in the directions:

If for some reason a pattern can’t be played, the performer should omit it and go on.


As an auspicious start to the Year of the Tiger, I thought it appropriate to have a fortune-telling SNED.

There are a lot of ways to tell fortunes. Perhaps you’ve heard of bibliomancy, which is a sort of divination or fortune-telling wherein you randomly open a book and point to the text and find your tiny scrap of meaning therein.  Or necromancy, wherein one communicates with the dead in order to reveal some sort of prediction.  Or pyromancy, which is divination by flames.

On the other hand, you, like me, probably were not aware of spatulamancy, which is divination via a sheep’s shoulder blade.  Or pessomancy, divination by means of pebbles.  Or alphitomancy, divination through barley meal.

You, like me, would probably like Wordnik’s mancy tag.  Enjoy.

request for input: modality

Every now and then, I hope to talk about things I’d like to learn this year and request your advice, dear reader, on how to do so.

The topic of modes in music theory interests me.  Reading about it doesn’t really get me to any understanding of it.  Anyone want to teach me about modes or direct me to any great online resources?


local bricks

Corona Heights, now home to the Randall Museum and the dog park where a certain unnamed dog once jumped into a herd of goats, used to be a rock quarry. The notoriously corrupt Gray Brothers, who ran this quarry as well as several others throughout the city, excavated tons of rock and built their factory at what is now the States Street Park in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

From California Brickmakers:

The brickyard and kilns were located on States Street. A large building, 350 feet long by 80 feet wide, contained the engines, boilers, and kilns. The machinery included a 350-h.p. Risdon Corliss Engine, a 150-h.p. engine, a 25 h.p. engine, 2 80-h.p. tubular boilers, 3 125-h.p. Babcock & Wilcox boilers, 6 oil feed steam pumps, 3 steam boiler feed pumps, 4 elevators, a conveyor from the smaller to the larger mill, and 4 extension elevator belts with buckets. There were 3 water tanks, 2 steel oil storage tanks, a windmill, and a well on the property.

The 28-compartment continuous oil-burning kiln was a 1901 patent design of George F. and Harry N. Gray and Richard South. Each of the 28 chambers could hold 40,000 brick. The kiln had a capacity of 140,000 to 150,000 bricks per day. These kilns fired the brick at temperatures of 1,500 to 2,000 degrees F. Above the kiln was an enclosed chamber containing a network of small pipes that conveyed the crude oil to the numerous apertures in the roof of the kiln through which it was allowed to drip down into the combustion chamber below. These drips were regulated by valves to control the heat. One large oil tank wagon was used to obtain the crude oil. Loss from broken or defective brick was about one percent, and these were recycled through the plant again to make new bricks. The plant employed about 53 workers.

The door of the kiln chamber was large enough to admit a brick wagon and team to be loaded after firing. The finished brick were loaded into a patent dumping brick wagon. A pair of horses pulled the large brick wagon to its destination in the city. The company in 1902 owned 11 of these brick wagons and 26 horses. San Francisco bricks were used locally mainly in hospitals, schools, business buildings, and residences.

In 1905, machinery caused a fire at the brick works resulting in a loss of $15,000, though operations continued. This was the only brick manufacturer in San Francisco during the time it was in operation. The brick plant was closed by October 1914, when the firm declared bankruptcy.

+ More on the park’s history from SFNPC

+ Great photos, then & now, at Found SF


Over the years, many lovely and talented people have attempted to teach me to crochet, but it’s never really worked well.  I would get the first row, and maybe the second, but I never really felt I understood the mechanics of it – where to go into the next stitch, how to change rows, what to keep track of, how to hold the piece, recognizing mistakes and how to fix them, etc.

And then! My dear friend Jennifer stopped by this evening with a handmade valentine, and offered to teach me.  Because Jen is the person who managed to teach me to knit after I’d given up hope of ever being able to do so, I trusted that she’d figure out how to explain things in ways that made sense to my brain and fingers, and she totally did.  We did a few rows together, and then I started and finished an entire small piece on my own after she left!