Week of April 4

Our indoor seedlings are doing great and Charlie and I got out in the garden on Friday to direct sow some seeds: French breakfast radishes, peas, slo-bolt cilantro, borage, calendula, black eyed susans, hibiscus, moon flowers, and a pollinator wildflower mix. This year I’m planning on succession planting things like radishes, cilantro, and basil so we have a regular supply of them. Since I never actually followed through with it in previous years because I forgot, I added reminders to my calendar this year.

Speaking of gardening, I came across this great idea for keeping tomato plant roots consistently moist:

Charlie is doing swimming lessons now! 🏊‍♂️

One of our friends let us know that the town we live in has swimming lessons for babies 6mo+ for a very reasonable fee at the local middle school once a week. The first week it was all new and Charlie was very unsure. The second week he warmed up to it and had more fun. The third week he took right to it and started kicking in the water, splashing, holding onto the wall when he was supposed to, and was comfortable with the floating exercises.

I took Charlie to his first art museum this week, Dia:Beacon.

We also explored some indie bookstores we haven’t been to before. Someone put together a site and bookmark with the indie bookstores in the Hudson Valley. We’ve been to half of the list just by taking day trips to the various towns and stumbling upon them. The one we are missing are primarily the northern ones, since those are a few hours away.

Three great used bookstore finds from Montgomery Book Exchange:

  1. A hardcover collection of Aldous Huxley’s essays for $1
  2. First edition hardcover of James Michener’s Hawaii with the dust jacket in great condition
  3. Books 1-10 of the Wheel of Time series as a $10 “get it out of here” grab bag.

I always enjoy visits to Dia:Beacon, but the standout from this week’s visit was seeing Marian Zazeela’s drawings. I’m sorry to say that I hadn’t encountered her work before now!

Zazeela plays with themes of abstract letters, words, and calligraphy, borders, symmetry, patterns, and repeating (and non-repeating) forms.

Here are some pieces I felt drawn to:

The gift shop had a book of Zazeela’s collected drawings from 1962-1991, which I immediately bought. There are a lot more great pieces in there.

Though Zazeela did her work by hand, a lot of her work is a precursor to some of the ideas being explored in the generative art space today with asemic writing and poetry, autoglyphs, and flow fields.

The generative art community tends to focus on early digital art pioneers like Michael Noll and Vera Molnar, but there were also similar themes being explored by artists like Marian Zazeela in physical mediums during the same timeframe.

I recently learned that Zazeela and her husband, composer La Monte Young, perform in their NYC loft, La Monte performing the music and Zazeela doing a light show that she pioneered. I want to go see it!

Another thing I discovered at Dia:Beacon this week: Behind each of the Sol LeWitt Isometric figure wall drawings (411 B, D, and E), there is a barely noticeable grid in a faint pencil line to help the drafters line the piece up.

I’d seen these particular drawings at Dia:Beacon before, but I hadn’t noticed that. It gives us insight into the process of drawing the piece: Lay the grid, subdivide it, subdivide it again, decide on grouping and colors, then fill it in.

This procedural approach is what makes LeWitt’s wall drawings so fun to recreate digitally (and generatively!)

Another observation from spending the day looking at art at Dia:Beacon: Look at the dates. Pieces with similar themes sometimes have years, even decades, separating them. Are you stuck on your current art project? Shelve it for a while and come back later with a fresh perspective.

I’ve been searching for one of these posters since I first saw it at a library two years ago. I finally jumped through a phone tree for the NY Bridge Authority and found the person who sells them. This week Charlie and I drove to their HQ in Highland (next to the Mid Hudson Bridge) and got one!

In the shop this week: Prototyping wooden toys for Charlie and trying to figure out how to speed up the production process.

🌱 Recently sprouted in the digital garden:

  • Friends often ask me for NYC recommendations, so I’ve taken the various tourist recs I’ve given and put them all in one place.
    • While putting together this list, I learned that CW Pencil Enterprise closed, which makes me sad. I loved that little store. It was so unique! Thankfully they are keeping their blog up at https://www.cwpencils.com/ – Go check out the TED video from CW about the history of the pencil.
  • Some food ideas I needed to get out of my head
  • Research for homemade Pimm’s

I stumbled across Jim Nielson’s fantastic Readlists reboot, h/t Ton Zijlstra. I love this. I used the original Readlists a lot and am happy to have a similar tool back.

I made two readlists so far: John McPhee‘s Tabula Rasa series and a sampling of 30 Kevin Kelly articles I want to read. I’m collecting the ongoing readlists I make in my digital garden and you can download the epub or mobi to read or json to remix there: https://notes.cagrimmett.com/readlists/

Books Read By
Discover what the world’s most interesting people are reading. Books Read By is where ambitious readers can find their next read.

Cool site with collections of what people are reading or recommend. Reminds me a lot of https://usesthis.com, but for books instead of tools.

I finished the Stewart Brand bio by John Markoff this week. Recommended. I’d love to see a collection of Brand’s essays from his long career, preferably edited by Brand himself. And it definitely needs to be titled “Floating Upstream” or “Brand On Brand.”

Amanda and I are enjoying The Gilded Age on HBO. Agnes van Rhijn and Bannister the butler are our favorite characters.

I’ve been on a mission to use Amazon less, so I successfully got all of the books I had on my wishlist out into a spreadsheet. There were over 500 (I’ve been a Prime member since 2010.) The process was: Open the print view of the wishlist, which displays as an HTML table. You can copy and paste that into a spreadsheet, then use the text -> columns functionality to split columns by “by” and “(” to get the titles and authors into separate columns.

Next step is to get this wishlist and my own reading list into Open Library. I’ve been using my own custom post type here on my site, but I want something a little easier to use that pulls in more info about the book, and Open Library by the Internet Archive is a great alternative to Goodreads (owned by Amazon, no API.) Open Library has an API, so I just need to figure out the right sequence of calls to the search and bookshelf endpoints to put the various books where I want them. Then I’ll be able to query they API and display the books on my own site.

Since I’m doing so much work in my Digital Garden these days, I need to set up a script to pull one backup each week and store it locally. Pressable does a great job with the backups, but I’d like to keep one offline. Looks like this is possible with the Pressable API GET /sites/{site_id}/backups/{backup_id}, so I just need to set up a cron job to manage it.

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