SUI GENERIS punk rock bike shop home-brew art/craft love

Home brewing adventure

After I bought my brewing supplies, it was a few days before I made it to my local supermarket to pick up five gallons of 'soft' cider. I have never been more excited about a trip to Cub Foods.

On the day before Christmas Eve, I carefully sanitized all my stuff and poured the apple juice in to my fermentation bucket. I kept the plastic jugs to use for bottling the hard cider when it's done. I stirred some yeast nutrient in with the juice, put the lid on the bucket, and whacked a "smack pack" of yeast. Next morning, the plastic package was swollen with hungry and activated yeast molecules. I opened the bucket and tossed in the yeast. Then I sealed it up again and we left home to celebrate Christmas in four locations over the course of two days.

When we returned home, there was no discernible activity in the airlock; in other words, it didn't look like fermentation was happening. Had my yeasts fallen asleep while we were away? We bought a fancy new room heater to warm my brewing area up to the recommended minimum temperature, and the yeast woke up again. As of yesterday, it was happily fermenting in the juice. After a month or so in primary, it should be all done turning into hard cider, and it'll just take some time to clarify and mellow out before it's ready to drink.

Heavy bottle, classy wine

When I saw the label to the left pop up on my favorite wine blog, I scratched my head. Where have I seen that before? I wondered. It looked very familiar, but I could not figure why until I remembered that I won a bottle of Ex Libris as 1/6th of my grand prize case of wine. There's still a bottle of the stuff in my own cellar. Now that it has been given the official Dr. Vino nod of approval, I bumped it up to top pick for Christmas dinner wine.

I promised to provide tasting notes for Dr. Vino since he was kind enough to run a contest and ship the wine my way. I'll let you know how it goes down with the in-laws, but I guess he already knows what he thinks of it: "seize it now and give in abundance," he says. 'Tis the season for giving, after all.

But what shall I bring for the bottle of white?

Wind power: it's now or never

From the always-entertaining and educational Consumerist, I was directed to this list of 25 Gadgets That Actually Save Money, which ends with a link to the Skystream residential windmill company. Doesn't the windmill look cute up in that photo, just humming away? When I build my Earthship, I'm going to want one of those. Sure, it's a lot of cash up front, but it pays for itself after 12 short years!

Applecraft: home-brewed hard cider

Setting aside, for the moment, plans to put video game controllers in guitars or pick locks, I took the plunge in a new hobby. I decided to brew hard cider and got myself some fermentation supplies from Northern Brewer as an early Christmas gift!

Home-brewing beer is cool, but it's also complicated. You've got all those ingredients, all those steps, and all that equipment. So then I thought about distilling me some rum, but that's even more difficult and probably illegal? But the first issue of craft zine set off my imagination along the lines of authentic hard cider. Supposedly it's different and better than the commercial stuff, which makes it worth the time (I can already buy good beers and rum). Best of all, it's cheap and easy! Take your apple juice, add yeast and time, and you've got some cider! If all goes well, some friends will be drinking bottles of homebrew for next Christmas.

My next big project?

I'm toying with the idea of trying this conversion. I'm itching to do something new with my hands again. In the past couple of years I've learned how to fix bikes, type Dvorak, and knit. Why not turn a full-size guitar into a wireless Guitar Hero controller?

Maybe the biggest strike against this plan is the fact that I read through the build notes, and I have no idea how to do 90% of the steps. But I'm dauntless. Undeterred. I've been there, baby.

My last challenging mechanical project was a bike conversion. When I started that job, I knew maybe how to change a tire. When I finished it, I'd reconstructed an entire bicycle. It subsequently became my favorite ride, but that's beside the point. The main goal of a project like this is to learn things along the way, regardless of the outcome. The work is rewarding in its own right. If I do pull it off, then aside from the educational value and the time spent doing something productive, I've got a piece of functional art. There's nothing wrong with that.

There's no rush, so I figure I can take my time in gathering the materials and tools before I go past the point of no return. The first step is to find a suitable host body. By the way, musician friends, don't cry for the instrument in the photo: it's a Squier Bullet and is probably more valuable as a videogame accessory than a guitar. I'll probably have to hit up the local pawn shops and thrift stores to find a cast-off that will do the trick. But just in case, has anyone got a broken electric guitar lying around that they could donate to the cause?

each clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message--describing a situation, a scene.

We Tralfamadorians read them all at once, not one after the other. There isn't any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.


Best beer game since Tapper?

"In Beer Tycoon you build, staff and manage your very own brewery. Invent new beer recipes from dozens of available ingredients, set them into production, create market leading brands and distribute them to your customers."
If only you could drink it, I'd be sold.

No Coast Craft-o-Rama

The Craft-o-Rama is today! Isn't this a lovely poster by Miss Amy Jo Hendrickson?

We attended a sneak preview of the show last night, and it was looking very impressive already. Today they will have live music and a RollerGirls kissing booth. Yes I am sure they will have other things, but that is what caught my attention.

We did some Christmas shopping, but it may not be safe to disclose any details here. However, we also bought some items for ourselves, which I am only too happy to write about in graphic detail. At this very moment, I am rocking a pair of Cricket Syndicate underwears, emblazoned with the image of an awesome pirate ship. (In a buy-one-get-the-second-one-at-half-price barter, I snagged some Juliana Theory briefs to keep in reserves.) Also, SPC sweethearts Stomp-N-Thrash sold me a sweet Sailor Jerry button.

I meant to buy a deck of illustrated playing cards from Lonny Unitus but I forgot. I'll buy one from you at next year's Craftstravaganza, Lon! Speaking of which, the prep for our own fair is rolling smoothly ahead. Applications ahoy!

Liveblogging the sprint to NaNoWriMo victory

7:04 - Starting word count: 43,076. 6,924 words to go before midnight. I've got my coffee with sugar and a piece of toast with peanut butter for breakfast.

8:26 - Got my first thousand words and then some. Switched from Antonio Carlos Jobim to Poison the Well. The original last-day plan called for a day off and a leisurely wrapup. Instead, I'm going in to work and taking Lola to the vet at noon (something wrong with her left hind leg). I am all about the added challenge this year! (word count 44,524)

9:45 - Two thousand words down. Stavesacre to Appleseed Cast. I'm trying to pace myself so I don't run out of words before I run out of story. Less than five thou to go now. (word count 45,115)

10:17 - At The Drive-In is on now. I'm on call for work this morning, so the goal is to write as much as possible before I need to go in this afternoon. (word count 45,418)

10:27 - My main characters totally just had sex. (word count 45,606)

11:42 - Double-decker muenster/pepperjack sandwiches, grilled to perfection: The Brunch of Novelists. I'm more than half done for the day, which means I'm closer and closer to my 50,000 word goal for the month. I need to bring our puppy in to the dog doctor and then go to work, but I'm in a good position to wrap up in time to watch E.R. tonight. (word count 46,664)

1:23 - Time to head in to the office for the afternoon. I'm ending my efforts for the first half of the day with a word count of 47.330.

6:12 - I'm back, mother grabbers! And I've got my novel writing cap on.

7:23 - word count 47,936. That stretch was tough. It's sad writing a death scene for my main character! I had kind of grown attached to her. Now, on to the denouement. The rest should be easier, I think, let's see if I can wrap it up soon.

7:36 - Broke 48,000. I like those round number landmarks.

9:14 = the end.

A New Hope

It's been a bad month for me, computer-wise. First I fried my Windows partition with a nasty virus. So, I wiped my secondary hard drive clean and switched it over to Ubuntu Linux as a temporary replacement OS. Last night, I somehow managed to destroy all that stuff by accidentally deleting the entire file structure. Of course, I had not learned from my mistakes and created a backup, so nearly everything was lost again. Against all odds, I managed to pull it together and create a new website for the 2007 Craftstravaganza!!.

All other consequences aside, the worst part was losing bits of my novel-in-progress along the way. When Windows went down, it took my first 5,000 or so words with it. This was bearable and I hoped to clean the infected files at some point in the future and possibly recover it all. I happy continued writing from where I left off in my Linux system, until it was hilariously also botched, irretreivably losing all my files.

So, at this point, I've written over half of a novel, but it's 26,792 words that I will never see again. I was already falling behind schedule, so I thought about giving up on NaNoWriMo and decided... damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead, I'm going to finish this thing anyway! I will start over tonight and refer to the rest as "The Lost Chapters." It'll be like Episode IV, jumping into an epic story with a beginning that nobody else has seen (and which might be better off that way). Despite these tiny setbacks, I shouldn't even break a sweat. 23,208 words in ten days? Pah! I've written an entire book in less time than that.

A defunct Dotonbori institution

Rarmen restaurant: 1970-2005?? R.I.P.

Stiff Little Fingers - Suspect Device

Boing Boing posted some classic punk videos that I am enjoying. The crowd shots are my favorite part of this video. This was a time before 1-inch buttons were invented. A simpler time.

Bike Kill 2005 THE SEQUEL

Double feature! Click for the original Bike Kill.

End Times for the Grease Pit neighborhood bike shop alleycat party

d00ds I guess 2:30 at the bench is all you need to know if you do these things on a habitual basis. Bike down and show your support for a community resource for West Bank cyclers. I'll be the one on the single speed Batavus Monte Carlo going really slow and looking lost because I'm a St. Paul boy and I am not hip to the 612. Don't miss it...

I posted this at the Sibley Bike blog too. It needs some love.

Lock picking for fun

I have just chosen a new hobby to pick up after finishing this year's novel: Locksport! Lockpicking seems like a good practical skill just in case I'm in a tight bind and need to pick a lock for some reason. It goes in my category of stuff to learn next to hotwiring and sign language. Remember, you can pick your nose, and you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your friends' locks (unless they give you permission first).

p.s. (Christmas is coming up and this would make a nice stocking stuffer)

Writing life

I'm posting here more than I expected on account of the new approach I'm taking to the novel writing process this year. I've done it and won it (written 50,000 words in a month) for the past two years, but both those were kind of a crazy rush. 2004 was the first year I attempted NaNaWriMo, and I wasn't even sure if I could do it at all. That year was all about sleep-dep and intensive focus on the writing. As it turned out, I finished really quickly so I probably didn't need to do that after all.

Last year I wasn't even sure if I would end up doing the novel and then wrote the thing even faster than the first year. This time around, I'm trying to take it easy. My challenge for 2006 is to write the novel and maintain a normal life at the same time. 50,000 words is still a goal, but it's not my main priority.

So far, this plan is working out just fine--I'm on track with over 2,000 words per day--and I dig it. Frequent breaks make the writing go easier and I get inspired by doing real things as a real life person. Under my new plan, I've had time this month to visit old friends, attend a party in Minneapolis, and meet new neighbors down our block. Weirdly, I actually feel more active, outgoing and energetic than I do in a normal month. If this year goes well, maybe my challenge for next year will be to write a draft that's actually good!

My computer is hosed

Image from Express

Thank Linux for Ubuntu! Windows has been basically demolished by some kind of virus/spyware attack that I've been fighting for a couple of days, until this morning I remembered that I have a startup disk for an operating system that is friendly and virus-free! I booted up my Ubuntu Live CD and decided to give up on Windows for now while I get back to work on my novel. As soon as I figure out how to install plugins, I'll get that word count updated.

WriMo has begun.

There'll be no further postings until my 50,000 word draft is done, unless I get inspired or hit by a car and forced to give up. LOOK HERE for fancy info word count etc. If you so crazy that you're doing it too (Annie? How's it looking this year?) for sure let's add me as a writing buddy ok! I'm off!

Apples to Appletown

This weekend we're off to Wisconsin to visit college friends & dress up for Halloween & celebrate the occasion by drinking my most expensive bottle of free wine, the Saint-Joseph Offerus. It's been a while since we made the trek over to the East Side (of Wisconsin) so we're waiting until after the driving is all over to evaluate whether we want to do it all over again next weekend for Art vs. Craft. Mark your calendars, Milwaukeans! We might be there or we might not be, but you have no excuse to miss the best alt craft event in the Midwest!

Joshua Ploeg--vegan cookery!

UPDATED! The 720 Space was fairly packed at 6:50, so Jenna and I grabbed the last two chairs and sat at a table with our new friend, Maryann. We paid $6 each, which is incredible. There didn't seem to be much in the way of kitchen space, so plates of food were doled out one at a time while we watched the 'talkies.' Unfortunately, we skipped the one about Risk, but I enjoyed the other three. By the time those were done, we had eaten a few courses of vegan food. My favorite was the first course, which we decided was some kind of tempeh... it reminded me strongly of the dinner I had at La Victoire Suprême du Coeur (in the good ways). A variety of beers were produced from somewhere, and I regretted leaving my flask at home. Total course count was 5 or 6, I think. After eating, The Dad in Common rocked the house (they are better than their MySpace page would have you believe). We had to leave after a couple of songs because of Jenna's ear condition, but I would have stayed all night! I'd tell you to go, but if you missed it, you just missed out...

--old news---posted 10/25--
I just found out via Faythe Levine that there's a "seven course vegan extravaganza" tour going on. I checked the website of Traveling Chef Joshua "Ploog?" Ploeg (formerly of BTPNLSL), and apparently he will be throwing down at the 720 Space in Minneapolis tonight (October 25).

Joe Biel
is reported to be screening documentaries about bikes, trains, dogs, patches, and the board game RISK! It's at 6 or 7pm (depending on who you ask) and probably ultra cheap (only $6 in Milwaukee, for homemade dinner and movies, holy crap).

If you can go, you should go, and I'll see you there. If you can't make it then check back here for a writeup when it's over.

I've got a 20-sided die

So there I was in Savers scoping out the aisle of forgotten toys when I spotted this purple beauty for $2.99 and I knew that I had to have it. So I put aside the sticky copy of Work is Hell and walked home with my very own boxed 1980 edition Dungeons & Dragons (plus Pipe Dream for the NES (awesome)).

I'm not allowed to play D&D... you know... because of the demons? But I always felt a fondness for the game since it's part of my shared geek heritage. Cracking open that box was like opening a time capsule to the year before I was born: everything is in mint condition, and there are even some hand-written character sheets on lined notebook paper for extra entertainment value! I actually threw those away because I was too embarassed to read the personal notes about the paladin or whatever of the person who owned this game before me, and who might be old enough to be my dad.

I'm keeping the rest, though. Maybe one day I'll try to sell it on eBay, but for now I guess I'll put it on display next to my other nerd ephemera. It would fit nicely in between my copies of Supercade and Dinotopia.

Don't sit, Lola!

Our Lola is a sweet little dog and generally well-behaved, but certainly not trained. So when she started sitting down all over the place yesterday, we began to get concerned. In this photo, you can see her not sitting--like she normally does. We don't know why, but she has begun to sit calmly when she'd normally be snuffling around or jumping up on our chairs to get our attention. She has some documented rear leg problems, and I just hope she doesn't need any surgery to fix this sudden sitting thing. With any luck, it's just the cold.

Mak Clare Valley 2002 Shiraz

Despite what I wrote in my tasting notes, this is probably not the best Shiraz ever, but it is the best shiraz I've ever purchased for twelve bucks. If you're a shiraz fan, you would be a fool not to try a bottle of this stuff. AARON I AM TALKING TO YOU

The bouquet bowled me over with rich plums, and it follows up with a great strong flavor and steady finish. The light endnotes were a welcome alternative to the alcoholic punch of cheap shiraz. At four years old, this wine is awesome. Dark, delicious, and so smooth. Attractive label art and story about Ned Kelly for teh win! You probably won't be able to drink it with my wife's homemade potato soup and cheesy biscuits, but you should still drink it.

Minnesotans can find this wine at Surdyk's.

Flu shot: the shot to wake the dark heart? A public health announcement from Sui Generis

I got my influenza vaccination shot at Cub Foods on Saturday. With my insurance card, it cost zero dollars and a little bit of soreness in my arm, and that's a price I am willing to pay if it helps me avoid getting the flu!

I work peripherally in the healthcare industry, and I learned a lot about influenza this year. It is a lot scarier than I thought. I hated it enough when I was just trying to avoid feeling gross, but then I read some statistics, and now I'm really not going to miss a flu shot. I couldn't believe this stuff. I was like, "people die from influenza?" and the CDC was like, "about 36,000 people in the U.S. every year," and I was like, "whoa."

So, get a flu shot, okay? It's safe and it is effective. It might not prevent you from getting the flu, but it will certainly do a better job than if you don't get the vaccination. You might even get a sticker or a button!


Mark Z. Danielewski's first novel House of Leaves did lots of weird stuff with text and formatting, but it never felt gimmicky because it was so effective at creating a mood. With his new book, Only Revolutions, I don't know. Reading the book from both sides is clever, and it has its own definite rhythm, but I just don't get anything out of it. Danielewski was in town on Saturday and I thought about going to hear him read from Only Revolutions and get my copy of House of Leaves signed, but I was so underwhelmed with his new offering that I skipped it.

I haven't been reading much lately. Now it's winter again, I want to start another knitting project! Jenna picked her needles back up and got to felting some thrift store sweaters for a blanket or something. I need to find a project that would let me use the lovely yarn I got from Aisha Celia at the Craftstravaganza! Or I could knit a match for the solo sock I crafted in January--that is, if I hadn't forgotten the pattern alterations that I made.

Our Daughter is an Octopus

I've been having some weirdo dreams lately. This bodes well for my levels of creativity w/r/t NaNoWriMo in purt near two weeks now. Yeah, I'm gonna do it again, I guess... even though I don't know what makes me think I can write 50,000 words in a month if I can't even keep up with posting a blog entry at least once a week. Of course it's much easier to crank out a piece of crap first draft that nobody else is ever going to see.

As I did the previous two years, I will try to share here about the experience of participating in this weird exercise. Novel Writing Month is, for me, an essentially solo event in which my primary goal is to sit down at a computer keyboard and actually bang out fifty thousand words that tell a more or less sensical fictional story. Some participants, conversely, prefer to pepper the month with activities, furious forum posting, and communal writing parties.

I have a theory that these people tend more towards not finishing a novel by the end of November. But they may have a lot more fun failing than I do sweating out my last 10,000 words on the 31st.

A delicious return to the world of wine blogging!

I'll cut to the punchline: I won some wine!

Thanks to Dr. Vino for providing this prize for his wine knowledge quiz. I answered ten questions correctly and won the grand reward drawing for a half-case of wine selected at Crush Wine Co. in NYC.

This is the first time I've had wine shipped, and it worked like a charm. I had to be home to sign for the delivery, but luckily it arrived on my day off work. Everything's coming up Andy. These are some decent selections of vino, a cut above what I'd generally buy, and I can't wait to pop them open. To celebrate their arrival, I did sample the bottle of Burgundy. It was like getting punched in the mouth... with flavor!! I'm beginning to think I may just not care for the French style of Pinot Noir? Anyway, I drank it happily and just need an excuse to try the next five. Who is ready to party?

Minnesota Hanafuda!

Throughout my entire Hanafuda adventure it never occured to me that I might be able to find a real deck of cards around here. My fellow blogger and bike shop volunteer beat me to it. He's got the location of the market linked in his post, but doesn't mention that the cards are hidden behind a shelf of candy, so you'll probably have to ask for them. And it's a Korean mart, so they're not hanafuda; they're hwa-tu.

Anyway it's all the same thing. These decks are missing the extra 6 cards that are supposedly included in most hwa-tu decks, but they do have the usual 12 suits and a joker. What might surprise many people is how tiny the cards are. They're also plasticized, with a textured back side, so shuffling is a more tedious affair than with western-style cards. This is why many people will buy two hanafuda decks, with different colored backs, and shuffle one while the other is in play.

If you go here you will see an awesome video of a special-edition hanafuda deck that uses Nintendo characters on the brights and animal cards. Apparently they are a prize from Club Nintendo Japan. Photos are here!

More Hanafuda

I have mentioned a few hanafuda resources in passing while I built my deck, but I know that the words are the boringest parts of my posts. So here's a more straightforward selection of links if you would like to know more about the cards or the games.

The most comprehensive site I found was Andy's Playing Cards (no relation). Click on "other pages in this gallery" to see cards from different eras and special editions. The other most useful resource for me was Tom Sloper's Hanafuda-rama. I enjoyed this page for the beautiful cards on display that may have inspired the design of the first hanafuda decks around 1820. You can also follow their links to order cards online.

Probably the best rules page I found for Hanafuda games is here. You can find all sorts of rules and variations if you look around, but I've tried a few others and this makes the most sense. Plus, it's the most fun variation that I've played. It's almost the same way that Koi-Koi works in this Japanese flash game! That's a great way to learn the game, since you can even see how the deal is done. Playing this version first would probably be really useful to understanding what is supposed to happen. Be careful not to get your plums and sakura mixed up!

Mainichi Hanafuda: tengu & blank

Tom Sloper shows an example of two "blank" cards here. On that page, the one on the left seems to be marked with an inspector's stamp, and the other is a mystery. I decorated mine with a calligraphic poem stolen from the nets, and stamped it with my own hand-carved hanko.

The blank can be used to replace a lost card, I suppose. Sloperama has other suggestions for its uses on the page with the rules for Japanese Koi-Koi.

The red-faced creature is a tengu. I've seen conflicting rules, but in some games this card may be used as a joker. Also, you can play a game of Koi-Koi with more than two players and use one of these cards to determine who sits out (since only two can play per round).

So, this is it, that is all, I am done with the hanafuda! This was really fun! I think I'll never do it again. Maybe "regular" blogging will resume again tomorrow, but I probably won't be posting on a daily basis any more. It was fun while it lasted.

Mainichi Hanafuda: chrysanthemum part 2

With the second half of the chrysanthemums on display here, I have completed every suit in the hanafuda deck! But that doesn't mean I'm done... not quite yet.

Korean hanafuda uses tons of extra cards, and I could spend another week or two doing those. Luckily for me, I'm from Japan. I'll wrap up tomorrow with the two remaining cards that typically accompany a Japanese deck.

Mainichi Hanafuda: chrysanthemum

It is fitting that my final suit should be for the current month (September). These two cards portray a chrysanthemum junk (left) and on the right, the final "animal" card, which is again not an animal, but rather a saké cup. Can anyone tell me what the kanji means? I came up empty on searches, although I did see the same symbol on real actual saké drinking cups.

These flowers are based on tattoo designs, because I didn't like the other hanafuda chrysanthemum images at all. These are nice and bloomy and colorful.

Mainichi Hanafuda: deer & ribbon

When I was in Japan with High Tension Jhenn, we spent a day hanging out with lots of deer at the deer park in Nara. On the way into the park, we saw a deer pull a book from a girl's hands and eat the pages out of it! They are tame, but they are very pushy. They're also considered to be sacred, so if they want to eat your book, there's really not much that you can do about it.

I made another break with hanafuda tradition by bringing the deer into the foreground of this card. It almost looks like there's perspective and stuff!

I could do this project all over again and make a completely different deck of cards this time. I'm not going to do that, though. There's only one suit left, and it will be done by Monday.

Mainichi Hanafuda: maple

Here it is! By popular demand, more or less. This is the second card done up with my trademarked realistic-style maple leaves, which I will be using for the complete suit. I think it combines the best aspects of both designs from Monday's post. There's more color and more going on in this card than the original one.

Maple is the suit for October, but in Minnesota the trees were already turning in early September. I've had plenty of leaves to look at for inspiration! So, they're not unlike marijuana leaves in shape, but note the difference in colors--these are Japanese maple, no mistake--don't try to smoke 'em or all you'll get is a headache.

Mainichi Hanafuda: my drawing process

Some of you might be interested to learn about how I make these cards? If you were wondering about the process, then read on, for all will be explained. If you just want to see the finished cards, you can scroll down to the bottom of the post. Everybody wins!

I start by drawing a sketch with a special "non-photo blue" colored pencil. These are great for sketching, because they use a particular shade of blue that's not detected by optical scanners. This way, when I scan it into the computer, the pencil lines don't show up--only my inks do.

My process at this point is fairly organic. I start out with a general idea for layout, but I might revise it as I go along. I draw the border rectangles by tracing a business card.

Once I have a satisfying sketch outline, I ink the image. I have done my first ink on the card on the left. On the right card, I've gone over my lines a second time to make them bold and correct any minor mistakes.

As I lay down ink, I often deviate from the sketch to add or modify elements of the design. Sometimes I sketch something but decide to leave it out of the inks, which you should be able to see in a few places where I omitted cherry buds.

I'm careful about inks and it's the most time-consuming part of the entire process, but sometimes I mess up, and I can fix that in Photoshop. The next step is to scan the image and lay it out on my card sheets.

Here are both cards in their boxes. I draw each image at a larger size than the final card, so they overlap with the edges when I first drop them in. You can see them here before cropping.

Forcing myself to cut off one or more sides of the picture adds an element of discovery that I enjoy. But, sometimes I draw the whole thing too big and have to shrink it. Or sometimes I have to move stuff around a little bit to make it look right in the final design. That's when I'm really glad we have computers that can do all of those things. Jenna is not so happy about it, because I am learning how nice it is to use Photoshop on her G5. I'm starting to use all the shortcut keys now, and it's awesome. We have to arm-wrestle for control of the stupid little round mouse (I still hate the Mac mouse).

Coloring is the final step. I use the border red in at least one card for every suit. If it's appropriate, I also try to apply colors that I have already used in previous suits. Apart from that, I use whatever color strikes my fancy. On these cards, I picked a yellow from before and a brand-new pink for the blossoms.

My Photoshop files are broken up into sheets of 10 cards. After I finish a card, I cut it out and upload it to Flickr to share with all of you. And that's the whole process! When I have completed the entire deck, I'll print it out on business cards.

I hope you enjoyed this "insider look" at the birth of a hanafuda card. If you've got any questions, ask away, and I'll answer 'em. Otherwise, check back in tomorrow to see the next card in the maple suit--drawn in the style that was voted most popular by you, my readers!

Mainichi Hanafuda: curtain

This card is the last of the "brights." Back in the day, during hanami, groups of cherry blossom viewers would use fancy curtains (not unlike the one shown here!) to keep away the riffraff. I didn't see any royalty using privacy curtains when I went to see the trees at Osaka castle, though.

Hanami is maybe the best time of year to visit Japan. Besides the March blossoms, weather in Osaka was nice, warm and drizzly. The cold of winter had gone, but we weren't into the heat of summer yet. I am very jealous of my friends who will be in Japan for hanami next year! I will look forward to seeing your photographs, friends. In the meantime, here is a photo that I took when I was over there.

Fun fact: I'm totally not even sure if these are cherry, or plum trees. At a distance, it's hard to tell them apart. It looks good anyway, so here you go.

Bonus photo!

Mainichi Hanafuda: sakura

While I tally the votes for the dueling maples, let's move on to that most stereotypically Japanese flower, the cherry blossom. They're called sakura in Japanese, and the time for viewing them is called hanami. It happens in March.

Sakura are pretty much pink, but I used some red for variety. Besides, it looks good with the banner here. This ribbon sports a different inscription from the previous two. The phrase 'miyoshino' on this card is the name of an area in Nara prefecture that is famous for its cherry blossoms.

I have a special treat in store for you with this suit! Be sure to check back on Thursday to see my step-by-step illustration process, using the two junk cards as an example. In the meantime, be sure to leave a comment on yesterday's post if you haven't already voted on your favorite maple!

Mainichi Hanafuda: rock the vote!

Let's get some reader participation into the artistic process! What you see here are two different styles of maple leaves, and I have to choose one as a template for the rest of the maple suit. I kind of like them both, but I can't decide which one to use. So, you get to decide for me!

The design on the right is done in a traditional Japanese style, and the left is a modern, realistic pattern of my own design. The traditional card is very similar to how leaves are painted on screens & walls As Seen In Japan. But the other features leaves that actually resemble those of the Japanese Maple. Which will it be? Leave a comment with your favorite!

a) I like the realistic (left) one best.
b) I like the traditional (right) one best.
c) They both suck! You suck!

Mainichi Hanafuda: lightning

Whoa, what? That doesn't look like lightning, you may think, and you'd be correct! This is possibly the weirdest card in hanafuda. Besides its overall craziness, it also doesn't include any common elements from the other willow cards. It looks like the hanafuda artists dropped some acid before designing this one, and it's a distinctive card in every modern deck I looked at.

With every other card that I drew, I looked at a few different hanafuda decks for reference, consulted photographs or tattoos, and tried to create it with something resembling a unique style. Most of them are very stylized, but also very representative of the subject. The sheer abstractness of this design was so wonderful that I decided to drop all that and go for straight emulation for once.

Mainichi Hanafuda: swallow

Here's the animal card for the willow/rain suit. Readers who know me very well may have seen this swallow somewhere before, since I have two of them tattooed on my chest! I got to cheat and use it again in my hanafuda deck, although it's not really cheating since I did the original bird design myself.

I had a story yesterday about frogs and willows, but I got nothing about willows and swallows. I guess they just look good togther, since they're paired together sometimes in other Japanese art forms, and always in Hanafuda.

Mainichi Hanafuda: rain man

The subject of the "rain man" willow card is Ono-no Tofu, the founder of Japanese style calligraphy. Unfortunately, no examples of his kana (Japanese phonetic script) calligraphy are extant, and only a few kanji (Chinese script) works are positively attributed to him. Perhaps this is not surprising, since he lived over 1,000 years ago.

So what does a calligrapher have to do with willow trees and frogs? The story, as I gather, is that Ono-no Tofu once observed a frog jumping again and again to reach a willow sprig. Inspired by its continuous efforts to climb the tree, Ono-no Tofu realized the importance of daily practice in calligraphy.

Before I read about all that, I just thought it was a dancing frog. The frog makes me smile.

Mainichi Hanafuda: willow/rain

There's a lot going on in the willow suit, so I'm going to back off and do one card per day again until we're through it. For starters, there's only one 'junk' card in this suit, and it's a weird one. Most of the cards portray a willow tree, but it's alternately known as the "rain" suit. Finally, it's November in Japanese hanafuda, but December in Korea.

This here's a ribbon card with my own interpretation of willow in the background. Whereas the ribbon card tends to be one of the fanciest in many suits, it's actually the least interesting one of the willows. Three more exciting cards to come!

Mainichi Hanafuda: phoenix

Behold the mighty phoenix, or, depending on which hanafuda page you read, possibly a chicken? Actually, it's not supposed to be either. A definitive source identifies this animal as the sacred Japanese hou-ou, a mythical bird said to appear in times of peace and holiness.

The Hou-ou/Phoenix/Chicken is not an animal card; it's the third "bright." Since it's a bright, then, I decided that it might as well be colorful! This card includes almost every color that I have used in the deck up to this point.

Paulownia suit: finished. There are only four to go, and the next suit is shaping up to be the best one yet--along with an animal card featuring a design that my close friends may have seen "in the flesh," so to speak.

Mainichi Hanafuda: paulownia junk #3

It all depends on what game you're playing, but in the rules of Japanese Koi Koi, the paulownia suit is the only one with three junk cards. However, the third one is decorated with a colored ground and (usually) the name of the manufacturer.

Of course it doesn't really matter what goes in that space, but I wanted to put something in there for consistency with standard hanafuda decks. My own name is too long when it's Japanafied, and I can't find my hanko stamp that I used to sign my sumi-e paintings. I thought about using the Japanese word for paulownia (kiri) but that's not fancy enough. In the end, I decided to maintain the mystery and used the kanji you see here for those "in the know" to decipher.

Mainichi Hanafuda: paulownia

I didn't know what a wisteria looks like, but at least I had heard of it before. Paulowia? Yes, it's a real thing! Apparently it is a type of tree, and the flowers look a little something like the cards on your left, which are the two 'junks' from the suit.

In Japanese decks, this is December, but for Korean cards, paulownia is the November suit. Why is this? Who knows? That's just the way it is. I'm posting two more cards again today because the truth is that I'm drawing way more than one card per day at my current pace, so I might as well catch up and show you more cards at the same time. Jenna says that she doesn't read my posts anyway because they're boring. If you feel the same way, at least now you have twice as much art to enjoy each day!

Mainichi Hanafuda: wisteria ribbon & animal

A blank red ribbon and a cuckoo are the subjects of today's cards.

That's the last of the three blank "dry" ribbons. There's one more plain red ribbon besides the three I've already posted, but it's distinguised from them in the scoring of some hanafuda games. On some cards, the ribbon looks pasted-on and floats intrusively over the background image. In this one, I like how it appears to be fluttering down from the wisteria branch.

This bird is supposed to look like an oriental cuckoo. Behind it is, perhaps, a crescent moon? I wasn't too sure about that one, but there's a kind of sliver shape on all the cuckoo cards I saw, so there's one on mine too. Plus it has the red clouds--a giveaway hint that this is an 'animal' card.