Raven Society and Intelligence

Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-BirdsMind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds by Bernd Heinrich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a record of raven behavior from field observations in the wild and controlled studies in an aviary. Heinrich reports others’ studies along with his own and includes others’ single observations along with his own. In the “Afterword” he indicates his move beyond behavioral ecology. Heinrich, while acknowledging the benefit of controlled studies, also values the single anecdote. Both are used to raise new questions as well as to answer old ones, to challenge old theories and posit new ones. He also notes the need to study behavior in the context of the life of the animal and its society.

The book progresses from social observations about mating, territoriality, and hierarchy into observations and studies about mental activity, intelligence, insight, and questions of consciousness. Definitions are needed. Insight is the ability to anticipate outcomes. “Consciousness, at its simplest level, implies awareness through mental visualization” (336). With this latter definition he parts ways from those who would restrict consciousness to language users, and he opens the door for consciousness in non-human animals.

It is a good read for one interested in science and for those interested in animal intelligence. It is well told without heavy use of technical terms; when they are used, their definitions are near. It is told in language such that lay people can appreciate the accomplishments of the birds. References are listed at the end of the book by chapter number for the researcher who wants to delve deeper.

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Time for Sketches

It is the ninth month of the MasterClass in art quilts with Elizabeth Barton. I’ve learned plenty, even in the several months where I didn’t have time to finish a project or didn’t like a project well enough to finish it. This month I will finish one. But first come the sketches.

The assignment was to create a design with “lost and found” edges. Up to a point, I understood. I understood obscuring an edge by having the object’s value the same as the background’s.

Sketch 1But that sketch was deemed only an exercise. Sigh. And leading the eye off the page. Not a good thing. I’ll tinker with that one someday, but not now.

Next comes the puzzler.  Lost edges by interrupted lines, as in Tim Harding’s Koi Shimmer. It is what I thought I was doing in this sketch:

Sketch 2


But no. Unless I merge the values of the grass with the background, there are no lost edges here. (Though EB liked the design.) So what is different between mine and his? Well, his whole fish were “interrupted” by lines to show light on the water above it. Here only a small portion of the wheel. And the whole surface of Koi Shimmer was water reflecting light. Which of the two features is most significant?

And then the sketch of the one I will be making, the one that almost got rejected as only an exercise then resurrected with a suggestion about color and value.

Sketch 3The moon and the light beams will be the same value but different colors. It was the suggestion. It was also my original plan, but it hadn’t occurred to me to say so when submitting the sketch.

Now, I hope I have enough fabrics of the same value to pull it off. I think the dark buildings will each be the same value but different colors too.

Stay tuned. The blocked piece is due the 20th. I plan to insert the circle, then do slice and insert for the beams. I think I’ll have to applique the buildings. I’ll probably quilt before appliqueing.

Linking up with Nina Marie at Off the Wall Friday.


Filed under design, quilting

Christmas Placemat

Plan A for the WIP Wednesday winning (here) from Shabby Fabrics was a lap quilt with the Santa’s at the center of Variable Star blocks–my go-to pattern when I want to feature a novelty print. While waiting for the additional matching red and green that I’d ordered, I got another idea.


Placemats and napkins. I think the fabric with the Christmas ornaments got me thinking Christmas tree. It was an easy step from that idea to Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns (OOP, but available electronically as Blockbase) to look for what might be turned into a Christmas tree.  From the 2 1/2  pages of tree blocks, I selected #805 called “Norway Pine” in the Farm Journal and “Pine Tree” in Old Chelsea Station Needlecraft Service.

With the triangles red instead of green, it became a decorated tree. And a square from the star print provided the star atop the tree. I may add four green triangles in the inner row to get more tree, but I rather like the airy look as it is.

And placemats need napkins. So instead of fussy cutting the Santas, those fabrics become the napkins. Should make a festive table or a Christmas gift.

I’ll be linking with WIP Wednesday. Grab a cuppa and browse awhile.


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Portland Bridges Now

A while back a challenge was issued to base a modern quilt on one of Portland’s bridges (I chose the Hawthorne Bridge) and to use 1/2 yard of Violet Craft’s Waterfront Park line for Michael Miller fabrics. I’ve been biding my time to show the quilt till the big reveal had passed. (Past posts: bridge photos here and fabric here.)

I chose to make a functional quilt and chose throw size, so I wanted the quilt to stand alone. I thought about modern criteria and went for minimalist, asymmetrical, and lots of negative space. Of course I wanted something to reference the bridge. I stripped it down to one essential feature, the red weights that raise and lower it, and I added Xs to suggest structure.

Presenting “Weighty Reflections”:

finished quilt

Weighty Reflections, approximately 40 x 60

In the interim, I made another quilt derived from the Hawthorne Bridge photos. It doesn’t look like the bridge at all, and it seems to me that viewers need not know the bridge to understand the quilt.

How important is a quilt’s history?  Here, of course, it is relevant because I am talking design process as well as finished product. And for the exhibition, Portland Bridges Now, it matters to link it to the Hawthorne Bridge. However, once that is over, do I need to mention the Hawthorne Bridge when showing the quilt? When do you think telling the inspiration is necessary? And when does it become redundant?

Linking up with Finish it up Friday , LAFF, and Off the Wall Friday


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Decision Made

After pondering possibilities (here and here) I ended up liking three arrangements. One I didn’t have enough fabric for. And the final criterion for choosing between the last two? The easiest.

Double Z TopThe three that I liked divided the quilt top in half as this one does, extending my modernization of the block for Classic Meets Modern. The diamond shape suggested on Threadbias and the heart shape suggested here gave a more novel look. This one provided the traditional block for contrast as well as being easiest. Did it end up modern? Whether or not, it will keep someone’s lap cozy.

Now it goes into that black hole called “to be quilted.” I do have the quilting design planned. And I’ve cut the binding. I plan to bind it half and half, continuing the light and dark. Last time I tried that, even though I’d pinned carefully, the color change didn’t appear at the correct place. It’s turning the corners that throws the measurement off. So it is time to try again.



Filed under design, quilting

Crow Intelligence

Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like HumansGifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans by John M. Marzluff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OK, so I started out interested in animal intelligence and had heard the author talk about the book a while back. I was primed to like it, and I did.

Of course I enjoyed the stories most. Crows and their relative corvids are fascinating as they solve problems, make tools, and recognize people. In fact, with mirror experiments, there is even the possibility of self recognition! ETA: One fascinating fact: Birds can sleep one brain hemisphere at a time. Helps on those long migration flights.

Woven among the stories is neuroscience in understandable terms. One could learn the detailed differences in fear and pleasure routes in the crow brain or one could get the generalities, as I did. The text was uncluttered by footnotes or numbers, but there were end notes referencing pages for the more serious researcher. There was a clear indication of what was known, what was hypothetical, and what needed more research. I especially appreciated sections where there were alternate theories presented and the data behind each.

The crow brain, while differently formed than the human functions similarly with “loops” of electrons that allow present to be compared to past and actions to be adjusted to the comparison. Another fascinating chapter on language showed the anatomy that allows crows (without lips and soft tongue) to form speech that sounds like humans. A story that accompanied that was about a crow that could call dogs so convincingly that there were several around it. Also interesting was the chapter on play, not only the descriptions of playfulness, but the explanation of the meaning of play to crow survival.

I”m thinking that studies of animal intelligence today function somewhat like Galileo’s earth-around-the-sun to displace human species self centeredness, a shift reinforced by the book’s conclusion.

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Filed under books, nature

Fabric Shopping with a Double Mission

Shopping started when a friend suggested we have lunch and visit fabric stores. I do much better when I have a purpose for shopping than when I merely drift through stores. The mission began when I read about American Made Brand Fabrics–grown and manufactured in the US. Currently they offer 50 solids. I checked the website to see which Portland shops carried them. We chose three to visit and added another shop near by. One shop had about ten, another 25, and the fabrics had not yet arrived at the third. We suggested that the fourth shop consider carrying them.

The second part of the mission: what project.

A while back I’d become fascinated with the Urban Chicken block (here). I decided I wanted to make a single size quilt for my bed. When I was queen bee, I asked my bee to make Urban Chicken blocks. (Here are some they sent) When I wrote that post I thought I needed 18. Not sure what I was thinking. Maybe a BIG border? This time I think I need 48–planning no border. That’s four graded shades times 37  blocks. (I have 11 from the Bee.)

Preparation for shopping.  I got out all my solids and started cutting sets of four 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 squares. (Yes, my sewing room is a mess.)


I’d thought to arrange them in fours (or threes with a missing fabric to search for), but that was taking too long, so I just started cutting everything.

I didn’t have time to finish cutting everything, so had to try to remember reds and yellows.

Fabric not cut I doubt that I’ll use all the very light fabrics. And I’d prefer to use more blue/green/purple, keeping red/yellow/orange for accents. We’ll see.

So here is what I bought today.

New fabrics

I am not a purist; they are not all American Made Brand.  If a saw a color I needed that was manufactured by another company, I bought it. I need more blues and purples; they were not plentiful.

Linking with

Molli SparklesA


Filed under quilting, shopping