Monday, June 27, 2011

Holograms and Upcoming Project

First, to start off... I'm including a photo-edit I did recently. What is this? This is a passport picture of myself, with the holograms enhanced rather than the underlying image. To produce this image, I photographed the document at multiple angles (one for the majority and a different angle for the compass element), and then took different edits (color extension, colorization, decompose + threshold + recombine differently, and increased contrast) and mixed them together. I think it's kind of fun, along the lines of modern art... but again, I think of this more as a novelty than as real art.

Why did I do it? I did it because I feel the elements of identity documents are really fascinating... but we often just ignore them, because they are tangental to the purpose of the documents. We usually care about the faces and names of the bearers, not what security has been added on. As a technology enthusiast (I am an IT professional, after all!) I am hugely interested in how these work, but also at the skill and design involved. Next time you look at your ID card, passport, or drivers license, look for the holograms and see if you find anything fun or interesting. One other note: microprint is great fun to read... oftentimes elements of the page are integrated into the microprint and it can be a whole other world. Yes, it's true, I can read microprint if I squint... :P

Secondly... can you guess what my project is? I'll have some upcoming sewing posts once I figure out how to get this sewing machine working right. I've never seen so many knots... but I'm informed this is a tension issue... (although, I think it may be a bobbin threading issue, where I may have pulled the thread incorrectly) Please understand that I've never used this sewing machine before, so I'm still figuring it out, lol.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The modesty thing... or how being beautiful isn't a sin.

This post was originally a comment on another blog. If you'd like to see the original version in context, please click here. :) One more note: I'm going to write a post sometime about the pathetic state of men's dress, so please don't think I only care about what women wear.
While I don't mean to be unkind, my childhood was definitely outside the norm in North America. I grew up really conservative, where everything was seen as a sin that did not deal directly with Jesus and the afterlife. (Maybe that was just my frustrated view that resulted from some of the excesses.) I’m tired of this view and have since moderated and rethought things.
Modesty is very important... in fact, it is what separates good women who send the message that they value themselves from those who [appear as though they] don't care about the next minute. Obviously I don't mean to offend the more liberal women, only to point out that clothing sends a message. If you dress in such a way as you know will make guys stare, likely they will get ideas in their heads to that effect. Remember also, that first impressions, as dishonest as they may be, do have a way of sticking about. However, what I find, is that in order to combat this, a so-called, 'modesty movement' has popped up. This movement includes all sorts of unbelievable ideas on measurements (I once drew up a very legalistic guide to measurements when I was around the age of 17, because of growing up in this environment) and a whole fixation on virginity and not having sex (I've probably read almost every book by Eric Ludy, some by Joshua Harris, and plenty of others) or looking attractive to the opposite sex. While it has stemmed from a good and right desire to combat the excesses of our present-day culture to make everything into an object for lust, it has also forgotten that one of the principle ideas of the Created world is beauty.
What I believe now, is that the bigger crisis confronting young men and women today is respectability and for women in particular, what it means to be a lady of worth. In the ‘Christian’ and ‘homeschool’ movements, the emphasis has been on covering up, not in being womanly (yes, there is an emphasis on focusing on the inward heart, etc. which is certainly good in its own merit). God made women to be attractive to men… I believe there is nothing wrong in that. Those who say otherwise make what God made well into something not to be valued for its own sake anymore. I feel that is showing little respect to the truth of things. That said, throughout the ages, it has been considered ok to show some parts of the body but not others. A short skirt, in my opinion (or shorts that look more like underwear) suggests as it were (pardon the term), ‘easy access’. A lady should never suggest that she is available for untoward purposes all day. At the same time, a little decolletage is certainly enjoyable and beautiful to look at... provided the rest of the outfit is modest AND (most importantly) feminine. Wearing a big t-shirt to cover up is not how I see God making his creation… God made women beautiful, and to some extent they should take advantage of that and show that glory. But it must be focused in a way that says, “I’m beautiful”… not “I’d like to bed you”. There’s a huge difference… and one that I think should be the real issue at hand, not how many inches of this or that is showing or not covered up properly. A young lady who dresses attractively, with respect for her femininity and fails to cover up to the letter of the law, may indeed be sending a more positive message than a girl wearing a huge t-shirt and mom-jeans.
When the scripture says not to be consumed with outward adornment but to let one’s beauty come from within, I do not take that to suggest that we should make that on the outside unappealing in order to prevent others from sinning. That is ridiculous. Let’s focus on the heart and let beauty reign in everything. That which is beautiful will not wish to present itself in a way that does not do itself justice if beauty indeed is the object. God will bring the men, but don’t give up on the outward because you feel it makes you more holy. To the contrary, neglect of the outward does no such thing.
Let’s discard the culture of rules and regulations for a culture of the beautiful and lovely. Let’s have everything point to the glory and beauty of what it is to be human and made in God’s image. Let’s not succumb to the least respectful attire we can get away with, but rather dress with elegance and grace so that both men and women may show they care about adorning the frame God has given them to live in while on this earth. We must end the pedestrian and aim for the noble… we must end simplicity of following trends and instead stand out not for a shocking lack of taste, but with improved grace and refinement that show that we’re not shallow. Dressing with taste is the outward expression of inward depth. Dressing like a girl on a table surrounded by guys hurling abuse and dollar bills is the clear evidence of a shallow heart willing to sacrifice the future for the present. Dressing blandly is in effect, as I see it, a lack of creativity and depth in fighting against that which is sinful in society. A girl who dresses to show her true beauty will always be attractive to a guy who is looking for a girl who is beautiful and not just a sex object.
Caring about how we look on this earth is neither wrong nor sinful, IMHO. Shunning elegance or luxury may even bring about pride just as following those objects can also in the same way bring pride to the wearer. Let us balance everything and not be lopsided and counterproductive.
Lastly, I don’t mean to be disrespectful to girls (and guys) who are trying to do the right thing. I only intend to point out that style matters… it’s more than just cloth–more than just not being naked or ‘immodest’. I’ve seen many girls who get it at least much of the time, and I hope to see more of it in the future. :)
P.S.: My goal is not to offend anyone on any end of the spectrum. In effect, my desire is to encourage the good and to ask everyone to rethink that which perhaps is less than good or needs improvement. I also encourage girls to write about this, because I don't want to appear to be a guy telling all the girls how to dress... which isn't not right at all. My intent is to do my part in encouraging women to appreciate what God has given them and to be as beautiful in the process of trying to do what is right. Anything less than that and I would feel very judgmental and out of line.
P.P.S.: like I said at the beginning, I'm going to do a post on how guys should (in my perfect world) dress. And I'm sure I'll get flack for it too, but that's ok. 
P.P.P.S.: The truth about dress, is this is only my opinion. Only God will judge the true intent of your heart, etc. I can only offer my views as I see them at the moment. I may change them later, but they are strictly my opinion. Don't worry about me pontificating, I'm harmless even if I am opinionated. :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Art in Waiting

I'm currently in the process of getting art and trying to decide which walls to put it on (as I throw away old stuff from my childhood and sort through clutter). The end result, will be an elegant and nicely done apartment. When (if ever) I reach that point is another question... but I will keep pushing in that direction anyhow. I also need furniture... but how does one shop for furniture when the stores are open mostly when one also has to be at work?

I decided to pull what I have together and make my background for my monthly Jane Austen skype conference nicer. Usually I haven't really bothered, but I thought I should work on this a bit... this is in effect inspiration towards the future... not exactly where I want to be yet, but continuing to encourage myself one step at a time.

From left to right: Bible, group photograph from Jane Austen Festival in Bath in 2009, Pride and Prejudice, portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, tealight candles, Portrait of the Young Girl Reading (Jean-Honore Fragonard), and a debate award from college. A tad bit random, but fun, nonetheless. :)
Striking a pose :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Travel Steamer

I recently ordered the Jiffy E-Steamer from Amazon, and have been using it on various items around the house and elsewhere. I'm really pleased with the contraption, as it should fit in my suitcase for travel and is built decently well. (Made in USA!)

Using steamer on my blazer

A couple of things to know about it: appears to work best on wool or thinner cotton fabrics. If you try it on heavier items, I would not be surprised if your results were less than favorable. Because it's steam, it is much more gentle on items than a hot iron and can be used on a good deal of different fabrics. It's for this reason that dry cleaners use steam as part of getting clothes pressed nicely.
Using the steamer to unwrinkle friend's wall decor... photo curtesy of my friend Annie :)
 The only complaint I have, is that the steamer is a single voltage and requires their voltage converter (the unit is 600watts) to operate abroad. I think it would have been nice if they came packaged together or already built in with a small voltage switch, like some travel hair dryers. That said, the cord is decently long, but not so much as to be inconvenient when trying to pack for a trip. (I'll know better after I actually travel with the unit, obviously)

Here's an example of what the steamer can do:

Before steaming (wool gabardine trousers

After steaming (wool gabardine trousers)

Disclaimer: Clicking on link will send me a small commission if you purchase this item. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Velvet Slippers vs Patent Court Shoes

Del Toro size test slippers, 9 and 9.5
I recently ordered Del Toro's 'size test', wherein you pay a comparatively small sum of money to try on two sizes of slippers and then return them. What I discovered about the sizing... is that their website happens to be conservative about how small the sizes are... based on my experience, you may wish to consider starting with a whole size up, not just a half size.

The packaging is amazing... beautiful cardboard and it even has a magnetic closure!

The slippers are gorgeous, made in Spain, and actually rather comfortable. I tried walking a short distance in them and I'm fairly pleased with the results. The 9.5 was a bit tight on one toe, but I'm told the shoes will expand as they are worn. Additionally, as you can tell in the pictures, they may be monogramed. The monogram on this pair is not mine, but probably a surplus item. That said, it was well executed.

The shoe looks regal. Seriously.
Now, after reading the title of my post... you must be curious as to whether or not they really are that similar. The construction of the shoes is very much alike... the differences are obviously there; however, considering the velvet slipper (aka Prince Albert Slippers) was invented around the Victorian era, which was not terribly long after the Regency where we saw Brummell placing bows on shoes to create modern court shoes or dress pumps, they are to the casual observer, minimal.

While the Del Toro shoes are not lined, they were very comfortable... it's definitely a soft interior. 

And of course, you all are dying to see what they look like when I'm wearing the different shoes:

You can tell I've worn the court shoes a bit, because they're worn somewhat... 

Another thing about trying shoes out, is that you always want to do it on carpet, so that the soles do not get scratched. Many people are used to rubber soles on shoes, which do not really show wear in the same manner as leather soles. Leather soles are preferable in all situations that require a truly dressy shoe, excepting when it is raining. The advantages of leather are many... but I'll mention in passing, that dancing works better, as does the elegance of the shape of the sole as it wears. Rubber soles wear uneavenly, creating a 'hull-like' shape to the bottom of your shoes. Leather, on the other hand, is thinner to start with and wears in a relatively flat manner (in the sense that a common observer doesn't observe the shape of your sole completely mutate.) The downside is that it does wear through faster than the rubber equivalent.
You'll notice the pumps don't really have a tongue... whereas, the slippers do... the difference is noted here by how much is visible of the shoes/socks based on the trousers resting normally.