Monday, August 30, 2010

Leaving the Field

The worst days in the field are always when you have around a week left until you go home.

When you first get there, you are resigned to your fate, so you just stick your nose to the grindstone and get to work. It’s all relatively new to you, so you’re enjoying the change of scenery and the ability to not sit in a desk all day at work. You make it fun because you know you’re going to have to be doing it for a while.

Conversely, when you’re just about to leave is when it suddenly dawns on you that there are things you enjoy about where you are and what you doing that you don’t want to leave behind. Such as the fresh air and the open land. The physical labour and the use of the skills you went to school for (for a change). It also occurs to you that you have tons of stuff to do before you leave, and no time to do it…

A week before you leave is the worst because you start thinking about the fact that you’re going home soon. You think of all the things and the people you miss, and how happy you will be to see them when you get there. You think about your loved ones, your house, your pets – to the point that it can be difficult to think about your work. You still have work to do because, if you don’t do it, there’s no one else there to take over for you.

Luckily, I am leaving in two days, so I’m getting past the point of not wanting to be here. That being said, I don’t yet think I’m going to miss this work…

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dyeing wool - I wish

I have always wanted to dye my own yarn, but I have a really small kitchen. I can't really afford the space to have special pots to use with all the chemicals, etc. A lot of chemicals can be really toxic, and I don't want them anywhere near my food.

Then I found this Knitty tutorial on how to dye yarn with food colouring, and I couldn't wait to try it! I especially love the cold pour method described. I later discovered tutorials on dyeing yarn with Kool-Aid, a similar method, as described here.

My room here in Iqaluit has a big kitchen, and I would have LOVED to be able to do some yarn dyeing while up here - keep me busy in the evening. This would have been the greatest opportunity.

The only problem is that I can't get wool yarn in Iqaluit. To be honest, I was surprised they sold yarn at all - but it's all acrylic, and can't be dyed at all.

The best thing to get would be some yarn made from the undercoat of the muskox, or Qiviut. It is super soft and fluffy, and it would be nice to get something from the north, but apparently it is extremely expensive. Actually, it's supposedly the most expensive fiber in the world, and probably hard to find here since there are no muskox on Baffin Island. It's usually collected off the land since the animals shed it year round.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Rough Diamond Jewelry.

Ever since I started working in diamond exploration, I have wanted a piece of jewelry made from a rough, uncut diamond, but I never had a clue where I could get one. People always ask me to bring them back a diamond from the field, but the truth is that even I don't ever see one. I spent two weeks looking at core of possibly one of the world's richest diamond deposits, and I did not see a single diamond. Nor did anyone else working on the project.

Diamond deposits are not rich. If you find a kimberlite (diamond-bearing rock) with 1 carat/tonne, you start jumping for joy - that's often good enough to start a mine. Just to give you some perspective, a carat of diamond is 0.2 grams. to get one gram of diamonds, the weight of 1 mL of water, you will need, on average, 5 TONNES of kimberlite. The kimberlite I was working with, as far as we can tell, has over 5 carats/tonne. And I still didn't see a diamond.

The point is that I almost never see rough diamonds, so I wasn't sure where I would even get a rough diamond to make jewelry out of. The ones we do get from the lab are far too important to the project for us to sell or make jewelry out of

Well, I discovered sellers on Etsy making jewelry out of rough diamonds. I was so ecstatic! I especially love the work of Etsy seller Artifactum. All the rings are hammered out by hand and they complement the rough look of the stones themselves. They're so wonderful!

I also found the work of Dafna. The diamond rings are more delicate, but what I really like are the "bucky" inspired jewelry. Anything nerdy makes me happy...

A quick look through Etsy for diamond jewelry has shown me how, even on what seems like such a wholesome site as Etsy, people use false advertising to sell their items. There are a lot of people selling what they call "Herkimer Diamonds". Not everyone knows that "Herkimer Diamond" is another term for quartz, which is one of the most common minerals on the planet.

Similar terms exist for other precious stones. For example, "Balas Ruby" is another name for a red spinel. When buying precious stones, beware of adjectives your not familiar with :)

Monday, August 23, 2010


I got to thinking about habits today - both good and bad. Throwing trash on the ground instead of in the bin; tossing out recyclables... Every day, people take the elevator to work, and then trudge to the gym, where they tire themselves on a stairclimber... Wouldn't it be so much easier to just improve our habits in the every day? Volkswagen came up with a contest they called the "Fun Theory" - gadgets and plans to make the "better" option more fun as a way of improving habits. I love the staircase vs. escalator video here.

My boyfriend lived with two other single males in a basement apartment - as you can imagine, it got a little messy from time to time. Try as they might, they just never cleaned the place as much as they should. They found the website Chore Wars, that doles out experience points for doing chores around the house, turning it into a role playing game of sorts. Not my cup of tea, but it worked for them.

When I first moved to Vancouver, I lived in a second story apartment, but when because the building was on a hill, when you went in the back door (closest to the skytrain), you would have to go up three flights of stairs to get there. I got in the habit of taking the stairs up every day, even though the elevator was quick and convenient, just to get that little bit of exercise at the end of the day.

After taking the stairs for several months, I hurt my knee - pretty bad actually; I still have trouble swimming several years later. The habit of taking the stairs was so deeply ingrained in me that I would be halfway up the first flight of stairs, hobbling along with my cane, before I realized that my knee was killing me and that I even had the option of taking the elevator (which I really should have done).

It occurred to me that these fun versions of every day items are only needed until a habit has been formed. Once people got used to it, the fun versions can be taken away, and the good habits will continue. What else can we do to improve our habits?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Postcard Making!

So, I have been signing up for A LOT of postcard swaps with Swap-Bot lately. Too many. I look forward to my lunch break every day so that I can go to the post office and send out my latest batch of postcards. I can only imagine the pile of postcards my boyfriend has to deal with arriving at my apartment...

And the fellow at the post office isn't helping. He keeps talking about what a soft spot he has for postcards, and how he would like to receive more of them. Maybe I should somehow find out his address and send him some on my next vacation...

Anyhow, I received the names for my latest swap and looked up their profiles to see if they have any specific postcards they prefer. One of my latest partners collects map postcards from the Canadian provinces and territories, and has Nunavut on her list of territories she is missing. Since Iqaluit is the largest community in Nunavut with roughly 6,000 people, I figure I am the best chance she has of getting such a postcard from Nunavut.

There's only one problem - I have been all over Iqaluit, and spoken to people all over town - some who have lived here for 24 years - and they don't sell such a postcard in Nunavut. So now I am late for my swap, and they don't sell the postcard I need ANYWHERE.

So I decided to make one. I realized I have map-making software on my laptop here, and all this Nunavut data. So I made a postcard-sized map image of Nunavut that I'm going to glue to a 25cent store-bought postcard. I added a Nunavut flag image I found on the internet, and some images I shot of plants up here, and I think it turned out pretty well. The only downside is that we have cheap paper, so the printout will look a little crappy. I hope she likes it!

Also, on a completely separate note, I love this dress from Shabby Apple and want to make my own version of it.

Sylvia Grinnell Park

Iqaluit has been having terrible weather. There has been more time of foggy skies than clear skies, and nice days are rare. A few days ago, we had an absolutely beautiful day, so we took off early from the warehouse and headed to Sylvia Grinnell Park just outside of town to practice with our cameras.

It turns out that Jen has a similar camera to my own, and is really into photography. She lent me a couple of her amazing lenses and I got a chance to practice with them.

We mostly took a lot of photos of vegetation. Considering the fact that the land up here is covered with snow 10 months out of the year, there are some really beautiful plants. The best photos are on my Picasa Web Album, along with all my other photos from this season on Baffin Island here.

We stopped by the Visitors Center in Iqaluit today - a very worthwhile visit, if ever you happen to be in Nunavut. There was a beautiful book of Nunavut vegetation, and I came across this little guy:

The Arctic version of the Spider Plant. I have never seen one in the wild, and it turns out that they only live in small patches above latitudes of 70 degrees or so. It's amazing that such an incredible life form exists, let alone in such a harsh climate. I'll bet the summer only lasts about a month up there. Now I want to travel even further north!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Paper Craft

I've never really been into paper craft - I don't often work with paper, and I don't have any paper craft items in my house. Paper is just way too fragile for someone like me - my boyfriend often jokes that I'm not allowed to have nice things since I will most likely break them. And I think he's right.

That's not to say that I don't appreciate the amazing things people do with paper. I nearly cried at the end of the video for this Jum Nakao show. It's amazing papercraft fashion - the textures are so light and delicate.

I seem to appreciate paper cut designs the most when combined with fashion. Like the work of Bea Szenfeld pictured above. She transforms the paper to something SO much more.

Joel Cooper has a tutorial with the beginnings of how to make these amazing origami masks - still too daunting. They are folded from a single sheet of paper. Wow.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Coffee Alternatives

I have been having A LOT of trouble sleeping lately. I think it may in part be due to drinking too much coffee. Unfortunately, not sleeping well is making me very tired when I get up for work in the morning, making me drink more coffee – it’s a terrible cycle.

So now I’m looking for alternatives to caffeine. I heard that eating an apple can be equivalent to drinking a cup of coffee, but I’m not sure if I believe that one. After all, I’ve eaten apples before, and I can’t say I’ve noticed it wakes me up especially.

Ginseng is generally accepted as the best alternative to caffeine. It's not habit-forming, the way caffeine is, and is said to help you stay more alert and energetic, but I am going to have a little trouble finding it in Iqaluit.

Cinnamon tea is supposed to help wake you up by improving your circulation, and regulating your blood sugar by improving the effectiveness of insulin. I used to make cinnamon tea by boiling some cinnamon sticks in a pot of water. It’s actually really good – almost sweet, but that could just be a mental association of cinnamon with sugar. It even tastes good iced. It also has a beautiful red-brown colour to it, making me wonder whether or not it would make a good dye. Hmmm….

On another note, today, I was introduced to the art of Heather Williams. She does fantastic mixed-media pieces of women with wonderful style. They're amazing, and very affordable! The colours and textures are just so vibrant and surreal.

I was also intrigued by this post from software developer Matt Katz, in which he describes the process of making an engagement ring! My boyfriend frequently jokes about making an engagement ring for me, but his plans often involve the inclusion of lasers...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Swapping Postcards

A while ago, a friend of mine introduced me to Swap-bot. It's a fun little website where you can host swaps to send items to randomly chosen partners through snail mail.

I joined in the hopes of finding another outlet for my creativity - I wanted to use up supplies I had around the house in things I would never have done for myself, and also I wanted to try new crafts. However, I almost immediately went to work on Baffin Island for the summer where I have no access to my crafting supplies (or, for that matter, a post office).

A couple of weeks ago I started working out of Iqaluit, the largest community on the island - a government town of roughly 5,000 people. And, of course, it has a post office.

Since I'm still away from my crafting supplies, I have really gotten into an easy and common swap: the postcard. I think the idea of sending people postcards from a rarely visited part of the world really appeals to me - some people collect them, and I think it would be a really fun addition.

I've actually learned a lot in the process about Baffin Island. One of the most interesting things is the existence of Mt. Asgard, where the base jumping scene from the beginning of James Bond's "The Spy Who Loved Me" was filmed(You can watch the video here). It's supposed to take place in the Alps. I love that they couldn't find anywhere in the alps as spectacular as what they found in the middle of Baffin Island.

I also love how cheesy that James Bond video is...