October 24, 2011


Hey Blog, while I've been away the U.S. has entered into full-scale class warfare...well, ideologically anyway--so far no gunfire. I speak of course of the Occupy Wall Street movement, not to be confused with the Porcupy Wall Street movement, which involves porcupines.

I totally understand the OWSers fury at government bailouts, giant bonuses for CEOs, and legislative decision-making based on corporate political donations. That stuff makes me as sick as the next person. There is a lot of graft and corruption in government fueled by corporate interests (among other fuels)--I get it. Some small percentage of Americans (1% or whatever) calls the shots for the rest of us in many ways, and that's not fair. I left my last job largely because I was tired of working for rich white guys with briefcases full of venture capital and memberships in private clubs catering to rich white guys.

But I'm afraid I'm not digging a lot of this Occupy stuff. It's all WAY too black-and-white for me, and that is never good. The they/us dichotomy worries me. Just when does political fervor cross the line into a new kind of bigotry?

Blog, here's a few of the things about OWS that bother me:

1.  The idea that all millionaires/CEOs/rich capitalists are evil. I happen to know several of these and they are actually nice people. For example, some family members and the guy who pays my salary. Now perhaps there's a higher percentage of bad rich people, based on the adage "power corrupts," but countering that is the fact that rich people aren't driven to desperate acts by poverty, like a large percentage of criminals are. Long story short, there is good and bad in everyone.  Except Mother Theresa and Hitler, I guess.

2. The belief that corporate America should be hated. I say, feel free to hate the bad things corporate America does from time to time. But remember some of those same things are the reason you can afford that fancy smartphone, and don't point fingers till you're willing to give it up. You can't have it both ways, and good luck refusing to own anything produced by corporate America. I adore the idea of shopping locally and supporting small business, but you can bet some of the tools and services those cozy companies use are provided by big corporate entities. We're all too interconnected to declare full scale war on each other.

3. The sense of entitlement. This is my biggest beef. Nowadays too many people have the habit of declaring anything they want is "a basic human right." I kind of prefer limiting it to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"...and the pursuit sometimes involves work and smart choices, contrary to popular belief. For example, this is the first generation to have decided society owes them a college education. That's always been something you chose to pay for, maybe even (what a concept!) SAVE for, or not, depending upon your circumstance. I say, if the taxpayers are supposed to pay your tuition, how is that fair to the generations of people who came before and sacrificed for their degrees? If you demand now that those people pay for your higher education as well as their own, who's the good guy and who's the bad guy in that scenario?

4. The disdain for free market capitalism. Heck, Blog, the system that has thrived in America for centuries is now on the "out list," apparently. In its place, we're asked to redistribute our wealth willy-nilly. (Of course, it's the prosperity-challenged who want this. I'm not sure how they'd feel if they suddenly inherited a million bucks and were told they had to give most of it away.) I still don't understand what motivation anyone in the U.S. would have to work, if we put such plans into place. If society is going to pay off your debt, guarantee you a paycheck even if you don't have a job, etc., why wouldn't we all stay home and watch TV?

And what would happen if all these "dreams" came true? This is what I envision:

1. Stripped of capital, America's companies reduce payroll (oh boy, 2009 again), increase prices, and cut back on innovation.

2. Forced to cancel all collection of student loan payments and write off the debt, the U.S. government must cut back on programs and/or raise taxes.

3. With the ability to receive adequate income without working, the rising number of the unemployed stay home, reducing the government's tax revenues still further and forcing corporations to outsource more jobs overseas. Productivity suffers.

4. The impact on the housing market caused by the mandatory write-off of defaulted mortgages is chaos. Banks' balance sheets are thrown out of kilter, there's reduced money available to lend, so only the richest can get new mortgages. Meanwhile some people make a killing selling homes the were previously mortgaged to the hilt.

Bottom line, Blog: economic and social chaos. Which is what comes of tampering with the normal order of things, commerce-wise. If we hate government bailouts of banks, why should we love government bailouts of anything else? Bailing out college grads or homeowners may seem "nicer" than bailing out rich bankers, but it gets you in just as much trouble as a society.

A lot of things need to be fixed, Blog. And here's my list of a few I can think of that we could do:

1. Simplify the tax code so the ultra-rich can't weasel their way out of paying their fair share. That will get us a lot further than raising their taxes only to have them find the usual loopholes anyway.

2. Make government smaller. (Remember "power corrupts"?) How about limited terms, campaign finance reform, and some other such remedies?

3. Fix the broken parts of the system that failed to regulate the financial industry as they should have.

4. Pass reasonable legislation to prevent management bonuses for companies that receive any government support, to limit credit card interest rates and unreasonable fee systems, and similarly curtail gross abuses.

5. Mandate financial studies classes in public high schools, to teach kids practical lessons about credit card debt, student loans, budgeting and saving. (Better their parents should do this, but it seems they've largely dropped the ball and made as big of mistakes as their kids!)

6. Rethink the idea that you have to have a four year college degree right after high school to be a success in the world today. Encourage technical schools, apprenticeship programs, and other worthwhile options for building a skilled workforce...and thus motivate colleges to get their tuition costs under control in order to compete for students.

And above all, Blog: Everyone stop thinking in black and white! Regardless of politics, religion, race, or economic status, we are all people, good and bad. Egg the house of a millionaire and you may have caused trouble for a guy who just gave fifty grand to a school for autistic kids, or whose company is actually responsible for you having a job. Sure, he could be a "greedy capitalist pig," but you don't know, just like you don't know if the OWS protester next to you is a genuine compatriot or simply hoping to steal your cell phone while you're distracted with chanting.

We've got a crapload of things to fix in this country, and wasting our energy on "them vs. us" is getting us nowhere. The government and corporate America know we're pissed, already! Better to leave the park, go home and vote, write letters, teach your kid about compound interest, buy goods responsibly, and get informed about economics, the practices of companies in which you own stock, and the positions of your elected officials.

We're only going to win this by working it out bit by bit. And doing it, as much as possible, together.

October 10, 2011

What I did with the f'opal wreckage

Hey Blog and readers, you recall my post about how I made f'opals (faux opals), and you recall how I ended up with some crazy bits and pieces of crystalline awesomeness also known as f'opal wreckage, right? Right! Well,
I tucked that stuff in a baggie and saved it, because I already knew how I was going to use it in future.

You see, some weeks back I came upon pretty much the coolest idea for faux rocks I've ever seen. Like, drop your jaw and have roll away under the couch awesome. It was a sandstone and opal combo devised by a polymer artist called Randee Ketzel. I didn't know how she made them (and still don't, but she does sell a tutorial I believe), but I was determined to try to make my own. And as you can see here, I did!

So, for any of you who braved your way through my f'opal tutorial, or otherwise have devised a method to create twinkly crystally stuff that would work in this sort of rock, here's what you need to make it happen:


  • some faux opal chunks or other crystalline polymer clay fauxness
  • white granite polyclay (like Premo Sculpey white granite, which I used)
  • tan/ivory polyclay
  • teensy weensy seashells
  • large embroidery needles, knitting needle, or other pointy tools
  • beading hole wires
  • brown acrylic paint
  • Future floor polish


Blend a smidge of tan clay into the granite clay to create a color that is off-white. Roll it out into a thick sheet of clay.


Take a chunk or two of crystals and wrap them in some sandstone clay. Make an irregular stone-like shape, leaving the crystals peeking out. Make sure the part of the stone that will have the threading hole doesn't have the pathway blocked by the crystal(s).

Use the tiny seashells to create fossil-like markings all over the stone, including the back. Then use two or three sizes of needles or pointed tools to create pits in random groupings and patterns over the stone.

Insert any wires through the rock for threading later. (You can drill holes if you prefer, but because of the rough surface of these rocks, you don't need a neat, smooth hole and can do it this easier way instead.)

Bake per your clay directions (I did 25 minutes at 260 degrees).


Mix a warm, golden brown color of acrylic paint and water it down just a bit. It should be thin in consistency but still opaque.

After cooling your rock and removing any wires, paint it one area at a time with the paint, and then rub off the paint immediately with a clean cloth or paper towel. You'll get the hang of removing most of the color from the surface while leaving paint in the little fossil marks and pits to accentuate them. Try not to get paint on the crystals.

Carefully give the crystals two coats of Future to make them extra shiny.

Your sandstone and f'opals are ready to string! I made this fun set of necklace and earrings, which I am in fact wearing even as I type! As Blog here would know, if he weren't just an anthropomorphized non-corporeal being without actual eyes. I love these rocks and am eternally grateful to Randee for having come up with such a fabulous idea. Yay Randee! Yay clay!