Adventures with Stan the Sugar Skull

You might remember that not too long ago I made a trip to Marlborough, NH. While there I visited the awesome store Inkubus, that was made all the cooler for having supplies for making Day of the Dead sugar skulls. I said if I tried making one I would let you know how it went. Well, here we are!

I’ve got to admit my absolute surprise because making sugar skulls wasn’t hard at all. Jim and I braced ourselves for the worst. I even went to the website, since they’re company that makes the skull forms we were using, for additional tips. (By the way, their site is really great.) But once we started, we quickly realized that making the skulls was easy and fun. You make a mix of water, sugar, and meringue powder. You mix it with your hands and it feels like damp sand on the beach. It’s uncanny really. We pressed the mix into the forms, turned them out onto cardboard squares, and left them out overnight to dry.

Drying sugar skull halves.

It was really hard to leave them alone while they dried. Jim and I kept hovering over the halves, wanting to poke them to see if they were drying. It was during this drying time that for some reason I decided our skull’s name was Stan.

Now the instructions with the forms, and the sugar skull website, tell you to make your own royal icing to use on the skulls. Well, I’m a lazy girl so instead I bought a tube of white frosting and Jim used that to glue both halves of Stan into one skull.

Stan is now whole.

And now to decorate! Both Jim and I are not what you would call “craft oriented” so we just picked up a few tubes of frosting and a set of plastic decorating tips to screw on to decorate Stan. Needless to say, he is pretty basic looking, but not too bad. Traditionally there should be vertical stripes of frosting over Stan’s line of a mouth, but after doing the line I really liked the way it looked. It’s kind of like Stan is looking at you and saying, “Yep. I’m a sugar skull.” Decorating Stan was the most difficult part of the sugar skull making process since I’ve never really done dessert decoration before.

Stan with two nameless brothers.

Now that we’ve tried it, both Jim and I have the sugar skull “bug”. We’re coming up with all kinds of weird ideas of things to try. Who knows, perhaps sugar skulls will appear on the site again!

Geek Month in Review: July 2011

By JB Sanders

Fireworks Time!

Need a Post-Apocolypse Movie Location?
Then just fly on down to the Big Easy and check out the former Six Flags New Orleans. All this destruction was a result of 1 month of brackish water (averaging 7 feet deep) and then leaving the front gate of the park open for a few years. Seriously, it’s only been six years, not 100 like these pictures make it seem. Yikes.

Bionic Glasses
For real, people. These glasses sample what the person is seeing (or should be able to see) and figures out what’s there by interfacing with a computer in their pocket. Not an “in 5 years” product, a real thing right now.

Print Your Own 3D Chocolate Creations
CAD it, then have it made of chocolate. Mmmmmmmm, chocolate.

The Cartilage Car Fuels Itself
It’s 3D-printing and weirdo concept cars of the future all in one. The car was created using the 3D-printing technique, and the composite artificial material most closely resembles cartilage, which makes the car nearly impervious to impacts. It also creates it’s own biofuel. How? Algae reservoirs (with LED’s for night-time production) in the places in the artificial cartilage body that would otherwise be bone marrow in a creature. Freaked out with the scifi yet?

Psychedelic Light Paintings Using Your Robotic Vacuum Cleaner
How often are we going to be able to use a headline like that? See these long-exposure photos of Roomba-mounted LED lights. It’s MUCH cooler than that sounds.

Star Trek Geeky
I would like to posit that this app is one of the most geeky things in all Geekdom. We’re talking an iPad app that not only looks and acts like it’s out of Star Trek (NG, but still), it also is an an interactive encyclopedia of Star Trek lore.

Food Photos by a Science Geek
See cake sprinkles, chocolate cake, sugar, pineapple, and blueberries (among many other things) through the lens of an electron microscope. Yes, that means everything is very small.

New Evil Dead Movie!
Bruce Campbell has confirmed that there is a new movie in the works.

A Ship So Big…
It needs it’s own zip code? This beast will be 6 times larger than the largest US aircraft carrier. Let that sink in a moment. Six times bigger than those nuclear-powered floating islands. Check out the illustration showing one of those liquid natural gas carriers (with five giant domes on deck) docked next to it.

Looking for that Ideal Island HQ?
For a mere $750,000, this island fortress (circa 1850) could be yours. Comes complete with island. May require some upgrades. Cable-car permit included.

Super Yacht
When super villains build their super-yachts, this is what they wish they looked like. It’s got it’s own escape sub, a missile defense system, an anti-papparrazi laser and a pool that turns into a disco.

Spatially Impossible Hotel, Cheap
So someone was building a level for Duke Nuke’em based on the Overlook Hotel from the movie the Shining. Cool, right? Well, they noticed that there were parts of the hotel, as portrayed in the movie, that were just impossible. They mentioned this to a film professor, and the result is a walk-through of the unworkable.

Wait, Monopoly Can Be Fun?
Ever wonder why a game invented in 1930 is still around, even though everyone agrees it’s boring and takes too long? Here’s why: the house rule in practically everyone’s house has been to ignore one of the fundamental rules of the game, making it … you guessed it, slow and boring. Seriously.

It’s Weather — No, It’s Music — No, It’s Sculpture!
Artist takes weather data, translates it to a musical score and then into sculpture. See it to believe it:

Prime Numbers are Everywhere
Not just a weird movie concept. See why a 13-year life-cycle is a useful tool.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:

Geek Month in Review: February 2011

By JB Sanders

In between the snow, some links.

Mars500 Crew Reaches Mars
Ok, yeah, simulated Mars, but still.

Into Eternity
Review of a documentary film about Finland’s building of a nuclear waste repository — one designed to contain the waste and prevent entry for 100,000 years. Which is about how long that nuclear waste crap needs before it’s safe. Building a house that’ll last 300 years seems pretty tame by comparison, doesn’t it?

Snowpocalypse From Space!
Specifically the January 31st to February 2nd (2011) snow storm. Video of what the weather looked like from orbit, which is about the only place in North America you didn’t have to shovel snow.

Teenager Builds Solar Death Ray
And oddly, doesn’t burn down school. See the sun’s concentrated rays burn through concrete! Steel! Other stuff!

Play That City!*
What would happen if you crossed SimCity and a sound synthesizer? This Flash game.

Foxy Graveyard
No, this isn’t some weird erotic thing. It’s about the oldest known graveyard (16,500 years old) which shows evidence that before dogs became domesticated, foxes were all the rage.

Behold the Power of Steam!
Look, it’s a steam-powered vehicle! Now I know you’re expecting a link with pretty Victorian illustrations and gentlemen in top-hats, but you’re wrong. This is New Steam. These guys are trying to break the steam-driven land speed record (currently 148MPH!), and the getup they’ve developed may also be something you see in a production car sometime in the future. No, really!

Older Than Stonehenge and Still Accurate
It’s called Wurdi Youang, and it’s possibly the oldest human-made astronomical structure (known). The aboriginal-built stone “circle” (it’s sort of ovoid) hasn’t been fully officially dated yet, but it looks to be around 10,000 years old.

Because it’s fun to say. Also, Pixar has built a real life zoetrope to show how animation works. It’s … wild. You’ll think it’s stop-motion animation, but nope, just a clever use of a strobe light and some awesome sculptures.

Get Your Decoder Ring
Now without waiting, box tops, the post office, or cheesy TV shows from the 60’s. It’s a website. You pick a Master Key (numbered 1 thru 10) and give them your message (up to 133 characters) and it gives you the coded output. It’s a decoder ring on the web.

Link to a Specific Part of a YouTube Video
So, you just want to show someone that scene in that movie with that guy when he does that thing? Only it’s like 18 minutes into the video? Well, worry no more! For now we have a way to add some text on the end of the URL and it goes right to that bit.

My Trilogy Kicks Your Trilogy’s Ass
And if you can’t tell what trilogy by looking at the URL, don’t bother clicking on it:

I, For One, Welcome Our New Robotic Overlords
Scientists in Britain are developing a system to allow robots to share learned information with all other robots. Let the robot apocalypse begin! (You know, as soon as they actually have robots that can use the system they haven’t finished developing yet.)

WWII’s Top Secret Rosies
The War Department employed women to calculate ballistic trajectories, both by hand and as the first programmers of the ENIAC. Instead of Rosie the Riveter, it was Rosie the Programmer. Not sure what the poster would look like.

Pothole Detector
You’re picturing some kind of specialty camera mounted under a special city vehicle, right? No. When they say “there’s an app for that”, they just aren’t whistling dixie anymore. The city of Boston has developed an app (iPhone, Android) that uses the accelerometer in your smartphone to detect when you go over a pothole. Pretty nifty.

Blood Wars!
And already, you’re thinking the wrong thing. In this case, Blood Wars refers to an art piece that takes “audience participation” to a whole new level. Kathy High (the artist) has the white blood cells from two people put into a petri dish, dyed for better visibility and then filmed in time-lapse. She then plays the video as an art piece. Who’s blood is tougher?

It’s Old, But Still Indecipherable
Remember the Voynich manuscript? That seemingly-old document written in a language no one can understand, and filled with unintelligable diagrams? Yeah, well, they know how old it is now, anyway: about the 15th century. Or 100 years older than everyone thought it was.

When Britain Became an Island
Thought it always was? Nope. And it wasn’t some tectonic event millions of years ago, either. The current theory is that a massive Norwegian landslide caused a tsunami that broke the land-bridge from Europe to Britain, drowning vast plains in what is now the North Sea. Kind of makes you wonder what lost cities lie beneath the waves, huh?

Buy a Tube Station!
There’s an abandoned tube station for sale in London. How awesome would that be? “Why yes, we do have our own tube stop.”

Interview with Mike Mignola
Yes, you know who that is. He created a few little comics, you know, like Hellboy (I hear it was also turned into a movie). The interview is particularly odd/interesting because it’s conducted by an architecture geek.

Immortal Hobbits!
Ok, first, that’s a horrible title. And second, they’re not immortal, just “completely free of normal age-related diseases”. But they are short. Plenty of technical bio-medical stuff in the article, too, just for you biology geeks.

Physicists have built a light-absorbing laser. Make your brain hurt? Try reading the article.

Lost Stories of the Odyssey
Premise of this book is tales that got left out of Odyssey when Homer wrote it down. It’s widely believed to be the case that Homer didn’t create the stories he wrote out of whole cloth — they had been circulating in some form or another orally in the Ancient World for centuries before his time. In this case, he’s more like the Brothers Grimm than an originator, although much like the Grimms, he’s taken his place among the pantheon of literary foundation works of Western Civilization. Anyway, here’s an interview with the book author. As with all BLDBLOG articles, there is a heavy focus on architecture, but plenty of other weirdness to delight the mind.

Flight of the Bumblebees on Bottles
Because if you have enough time and a talent for music, this is what results.

Time-lapsed Starry Skies Rule
Tip of the hat to the Bad Astronomer for this exceptional time-lapse movie of the starry Chilean sky. Be sure to set the resolution to 720p, put it full screen and have some appropriately chill-inducing music on (no sound for the movie clip).

Underground Master Plan
And no, I don’t mean mole people invaders. The folks of Helsinki, Finland are planning on expanding their city below-ground, forming a master plan that encompasses subterranean sea-water-cooled data centers, municipal swimming pools, coal storage, 60km of tunnels, the city-wide heating system, factories and whatever else “doesn’t need to be seen”. All that stuff I just mentioned? That’s the stuff that’s already there right now. With a video tour.

Not another quantum computing post. Really! It’s about snap-together robotics, where each cube imparts a certain behavior or ability. Link them together to form auto-driving robots, or ones that sense distance and graph it for you. Very cool. Be sure to watch the video.

The Brigadier Has Passed Away**
The actor who played Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (in Dr Who) passed away in February. He was 81. The man played his iconic character in 107 episodes of the series. 107!

How Far Away is the Moon?
Ever wonder how far away the moon is from the Earth? No? I see you astronomers in the audience going “250,000 miles or so, on average”. Yeah, whatever. Here’s a great YouTube video showing in relative scale the distances involved. It’s good.

* I steal a lot of links from Alex, and this is the credit he gets.
** I got this from Rebecca.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:

Geek Month in Review: January 2011

By JB Sanders

Some new odd links in this new odd year.

Make it Yourself
By “make it”, I mean print it and by “it”, I mean pretty much anything. Heard about those neat 3D printers that cost the moon to buy? Forget about them! This website has instructions for building a 3D printer yourself for about $2500 (less if you source the parts yourself). The website is the front porch of an organization trying to create personal fabrication technology for the masses.

Mmm, Airships
Here’s another link to another airship, this time in a MUCH larger prototype and looking to be in full-size vehicles by the summer. It’s not science fiction anymore! (And yes, it uses helium.)

Printed Dinner
Ok, yes, two 3D printer stories practically in a row. Too bad, this is different and cool. Researchers at Cornell University are building a food printer. Which they hope will one day be as ubiquitous as the microwave oven.

You Already Know What This Link is About
A hugely respected scientist has been conducting experiments on ESP. Nothing new, right? Well, it appears that he has (proof pending) repeatable experimental proof of people being effected by events that they haven’t experienced … yet. Spooooky!

Doctor Who: Master of Weird Connections
David Tennant (quite likely one of the best Doctor Who actors ever) is marrying the woman who played the Doctor’s clone-daughter in the series. Not weird enough for you? She’s the real-life daughter of Peter Davidson, who you may recall played Incarnation #5 of the good Doc. Life — stranger than fiction.

Once Forgotten Caves Laser-mapped
A series of caves, now thought to be a sand-mine, were recently laser-mapped, providing smoke-like maps of their winding, twisty corridors. It’s thought the “caves” were a working sand mine in the 1700’s and were re-discovered in 1892. Some basements in Nottingham actually open onto the caves. Be sure to watch the movies — there’s a virtual fly-through.

Tiny Dioramas of Weirdness
So, this artist builds dioramas of movie scenes and photographs them. That’s it. And it’s … surreal.

Odd Word of the Month: Cryptoforests
Not sure what they are? I’m not entirely sure either, but I guess they’re isolated bits of forest in an urban landscape.

Doctor Who Nesting Dolls
No, really! And no, you can’t have too many Doctor Who posts and/or links.

It’s Only Sort-of Genetic
Neurologists and geneticists have been studying genius. They’re reaching the conclusion that genetics predetermines only so much, and that each of us has a potential genius talent.

Plus there’s a sidebar about how brains change depending on activity.

Make It Better
Fun little typographic animation perfectly showcasing the geek’s need to fidget with things until they’re “perfect”. Plus it’s cool.

Voxels Make It More Fun
There’s a new shoot-em-up video game coming to the Mac/PC world, and it looks like a game that escaped from 1984 and then was hit with the 3D wand. But cooler than I just made that sound.

Watch the demo video:

See Something Cool on the Internet, Cite It
Is this self-referential enough? I think so! (Plus it’s a cool info-graphic.)

The Finest Men’s Fashions — from 1892
It’s a real online store that sells real Victorian-style clothing. If you’re into SteamPunk, it’s a must-have bookmark. If you’re amused by cravats, ditto.

Avoiding data charges in 1906
Text messages are hardly new to communications — just ask anyone who remembers 1906. Back then, it was called the telegram, and this farming equipment company came up with a great way for their customers to avoid additional charges for ordering: codes.

The Zen of Entanglement*
Nice little web game that feels like a cross between zen meditation and celtic knot-making. Simple and fun. Also, totally engrossing, so be sure to have a spare hour when you click the link.

You Think of It, They Print It
These folks take custom orders for 3-dimensional objects, print them and then ship them to you. Rings, electronics cases, miniatures, chess pieces, what-have-you.

Seriously, I should be getting a commission or something with all these commercial links.

You Can’t Walk Straight
No foolin’, you can’t. Well, not without some kind of reference point, anyway. Here’s the fun part: no one knows why. It’s weird!

Nice little animated tale of the situation.

Moral of the story? Find a fixed point to walk towards when you’re setting out, otherwise, it’ll go bad for you.

Secret Ice Fortress
The army had a secret base under the Greenland ice sheet. No, this isn’t the paranoid ravings of a conspiracy nut. Not in this article, anyway. There really was a base out there. It was called Camp Century. Unfortunately, and as any modern glacier scientist can tell you, ice doesn’t just sit there: it MOVES. And that’s a problem for permanent structures in the midst of the ice. The project only lasted 10 years. But the photos are cool. Did I mention it was nuclear-powered?

Take a look at this overview article.

And more details can be found here.

How Badass is This Engineer?
So badass, he designed his own heart-valve replacement, and is using it now! Does he need any other entries on his resume?

The History of the Graphic Adventure Game
Great article going over the whole panoply of graphic-based (as opposed to text-based) adventure games. From King’s Quest to Leisure Suit Larry, and beyond. Worth a read for the nostalgia (if you’re old enough) or for a peak at a genre that almost doesn’t exist anymore.

Every Toddler’s Dream: Exterminate!
Yes, your child can ride inside this Dalek replica and fake exterminate their family, friends and random passer-by. Be the first on your block to enable your budding despot to get a death-machine’s-eye-view of the carnage. Watch the video for the full horrifying experience.

Drilling Lake Vostok
Yeah, this isn’t the plot of a movie or anything. Russian scientists are within 50m of drilling into Lake Vostok — a body of water 4000m under the ice of Antarctica. It’s theorized that the “lake” (body of water) has been isolated from the rest of Earth’s biosphere for 15 million years.

* Links marked with this * symbol are courtesy of Alex. Thanks, Alex!

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:

My Trip to Darkside

On Saturday January 15, 2011 I went to the grand opening of Darkside Records and Gallery in Poughkeepsie, NY. A couple of my former retail cohorts are involved with the business and I couldn’t resist coming out to show my support, and it was really worth the trip.

I was blown away by the store. They have tons of albums, actual honest to goodness vinyl records! I know vinyl still has a following (or has a following again, depending on your perspective) but I was unprepared to see the sheer volume of people that came in just to shop for vinyl records. People were leaving with two or three shopping bags worth! The store is also selling record players and I was sorely tempted to buy one and go to town shopping for vinyl, but I managed to show some self control, the last thing I need is yet more stuff to collect and store.

Another great surprise was that the gallery part of Darkside is actually a gallery. I had kind of imagined the “gallery” would be like what you see at coffee shops, where the art is hung up with big price stickers and just generally not very exciting or overly professional. Well, Darkside’s Gallery is a gallery. I got to meet the gallery’s curator Vanessa, and the staff told me about the exacting work it was to make certain each artist’s work was handled correctly and displayed to the artist’s specifications. Instead of big ol’ price stickers there are discreet numbers near the work that allow the staff or customers to look up the price.

The artists who were being shown at this first exhibit were Chris Machin, NUB, and Jessica Schrufer. I fell in love with a piece Jessica Schrufer did and fortunately they were selling prints of it. I have it framed and hanging above the sink in our kitchen and it never ceases to bring a smile to my face when I look at it. Jessica told me one day she’d love to have a kitchen designed around the piece, and I’ve got to say, I would too.

Not only did I buy some great art, but my husband and I bought the greatest magnets ever. When Jim caught up with me at Darkside I explained to him that the store was selling these 100% pure awesome magnets and I was having a really tough time resisting buying some. He told me I could certainly buy one if I wanted, but I told him that was the problem, I couldn’t just choose one, there were too many fantastic magnets. When I finally took him over to the box with the magnets, Jim quickly conceded that I was not exaggerating in the least, that these magnets were too awesome for words. In the end I picked the “La Muerte” magnet, Jim picked the “I Spit on Your Grave” magnet, and then together we decided to add in the “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” magnet. I bet you wish your office filing cabinet looked as bad ass as mine does now.

File Under B for Bad Ass

If you’re anywhere near Poughkeepsie, NY you’ve got to stop in, it’s a real treat. I’m hoping once we’re clear of the unpredictable New York winter season I’ll be able to visit each month for the reception for the new art exhibits.

To learn more about Darkside, visit their website.

We Are Not Amused, Actually We Are

If you’ve been a regular reader of The Buffet for any length of time you have no doubt heard me shout about how (insert item/person/event/other) is the most awesome thing ever. Every time I feel I’ve encountered what will surely be the coolest thing to ever cross my experience, something new comes to light. That said, today we will be looking at what is surely the coolest, most awesome, most fan-freakin’-tastic thing ever! The Doomed Queens Royal Playing Cards and the companion Ask the Queens Advice Card Deck, both by Kris Waldherr and published by US Games Systems.

What is a Doomed Queens playing card deck? I’m so glad you asked! It is a traditional 52 card playing deck, but the artwork (which is stunning and much of it done by Kris Waldherr) shows a historical tragic female character and has a small blurb of text briefly describing how this individual was “doomed”. Let’s face it, any playing card deck that comes with a “Graphics Key” card to help you figure out the doom icons on the cards, is the coolest deck you’ll ever play with. The deck includes some well known ladies, such as Ann Boleyn, Cleopatra, and Marie Antoinette. However you’ll also learn the sad tales of lesser known female royalty, such as Athalia (the daughter of Queen Jezebel who was beheaded), Alute (the consort of the Tongzhi Emperor who was assassinated), and Empress Irene (wife to Leo IV, emperor of Byzantium, who was deposed).

This deck is just screaming for a night with the girls where you do nothing but drink wine, eat chocolate, and play cards! Something to keep in mind folks, the holiday shopping season is approaching, and with the sturdy box, beautiful art, bits of trivia, and a suggested retail of $12.00, who can’t you buy this for?

But don’t go yet, we’ve got more doomed queens to discuss! Let’s look at the Ask the Queens Advice Deck. Take 40 of the choicest ladies from the Doomed Queens Royal Playing Card Deck, turn them into sturdy oversized cards (ala most “oracle” decks), keep the history, but add what you can learn from that history, and you’ve got yourself the Ask the Queens Advice Deck!

What wisdom do doomed queens impart? Queen Zenobia says, “It’s better to be alive without a crown than dead with one.” The card goes on to explain, “Queen Zenobia of Palmyra chose to lead her people into battle rather than suffer Roman dominance. Zenobia’s vision for her empire did not include Roman rule. Palmyra was captured in 275, but Zenobia was freed. The former queen decided that if you can’t beat them, join them; she married a Roman senator and spent her remaining years in luxury.”

Another fine bit of doomed advice is “If you tarry with crime, you may become a victim.” So says Queen Joan. The card explains, “Joan was the niece of Phillip VI, king of France, and the granddaughter of the king of Naples, Robert the Wise. Robert made her his heir when her father died. To keep it in the family, she was betrothed to her second cousin Andrew, a Hungarian prince. Rumor held that she arranged for his murder. Joan was deposed in 1381; a year later, she was strangled in prison.”

Looking through the deck, I can’t help but say it again; with its sturdy box, beautiful art, bits of trivia, fun advice, and a suggested retail of $15.00, this would make an excellent gift for a wide range of people this holiday season.

Both “Doomed Queen” decks are unique and so much fun! Alone or together, they would truly make gifts that keep on giving.

September Tidbits

Not to get all random on you guys again so soon, but alas I have a laundry list of things to talk about and so again I will be cramming them all into one bizarre post. Enjoy!

As some of you may already be aware, this summer I got to try my hand at officiating a couple of weddings. I’m guessing you’re curious as to my thoughts and reflections regarding this odd new endeavor. I won’t be discussing it here on The Magical Buffet directly, but I will be sharing my experiences in a newsletter. If you don’t get the newsletter, you should, they’re always informative and fun. I’ll probably spread the link around too, so keep an eye out!

Where the heck are you going to be this Saturday? Wherever it is, if it’s not the Saratoga Springs, NY Barnes and Noble for the “Magical Buffet of Authors” event, you will be missing out big time! Unfortunately, due to health concerns the author Lama Willa Miller won’t be able to attend the event. Although not serious, if you’re the type who is inclined to pray for someone, show Lama Willa some love and keep her in your thoughts. Despite Lama Willa’s absence, we still have a pretty sweet line up, if I do say so myself: Deborah Blake, David Pitkin, Ellen Evert Hopman, Gordie Little, Maria Kay Simms, and Gail Wood. All will be giving brief talks, and all will be signing books. Also, if you care about these sorts of things, I too will be there, covering tables for authors, drinking lots of fattening coffee beverages from the café, and waiting in lines for author autographs with everyone else. Don’t worry if you don’t know what I look like, I’m sort of a legend at this particular Barnes and Noble for being the loudest employee they ever hired, so just listen for the obnoxiously loud voice bouncing off the book shelves and you’ll find me easily enough.

Long time readers know that my breast cancer organization of choice is the California based Breast Cancer Action. Every October I profile their Think Before You Pink campaign, and I showed my support for their lawsuit challenging the legality of patenting human breast genes. With BCA’s 20th anniversary coming this October, it saddens me to say that Executive Director Barbara Brenner will be stepping down from her position at the end of the year. Brenner was Breast Cancer Action’s first full-time Executive Director, and has served in that role since 1995. Thanks to Brenner’s fantastic, pitch perfect, appearance on the television show “Penn & Teller’s Bullshit”, I was introduced to an organization that I could feel good about supporting. The BCA continually impresses me with their sly wit, loving support, ruthless logic, unyielding morals, and all out righteous fury. If there was ever an organizational body that truly reflects the “total woman”, Breast Cancer Action would be it, and I suspect it was the work of Barbara Brenner who made them that way. On behalf of anyone who has ever uttered the phrase “Cancer Sucks”, I wish you only the best in all of your future endeavors Barbara. Anyone with breasts owes you a great debt.

Do you have a minute to spare on September 21, 2010? Well Odyssey Network is trying to collect a million of them for peace. You heard correct, they don’t care who you are, where you live, or what religion you practice, if you pray in any way, shape, or form, they want you to pray at noon on September 21st for world peace.

To learn more about A Million Minutes for Peace, visit their website. You’ll find other ways to show support for their initiative and connect with like minded individuals.

Remember the Contemplative Photographic Art of Roger Baut? Look what I’m now the proud owner of! I now have a skunk cabbage to love and call my own! Word!

Skunk Cabbage in Bloom

And lastly, congratulations are in order. I’m happy to say that two things that I reviewed here on The Magical Buffet won COVR Awards! (FYI, COVR=The Coalition of Visionary Resources. For a complete list visit Take a moment to applaud U.S. Games and Stuart Kaplan for the Pamela Coleman Smith Commemorative Set winning in the divination category and Llewellyn Worldwide and author Gede Parma for winning the Wicca/Paganism category with his book “Spirited“. Two great works, both deserving of recognition! Congrats guys!

Whew! I think that’s everything! I hope to see some of you Saturday!

The Contemplative Photographic Art™ of Roger Allen Baut, M.A.

Many cultures, since ancient times, have used images to help them in their meditative and/or spiritual endeavors. One especially good example of this is the yantra. Yantra is a Sanskrit word which may be translated to mean “instrument” and as such, it may stand for symbols, or anything that is organized and structured. In the west we can see these symbols as geometric designs or patterns, such as those devised by Native Americans. In Eastern mysticism yantras are used to balance, or focus the mind on spiritual concepts. By wearing, focusing or meditating upon a yantra it is believed that one will derive spiritual benefits. It was from these meditative instruments that Roger’s concept of Contemplative Photographic Art™ evolved.

Skunk Cabbage in Bloom

As a life-long student of Metaphysics, and its affiliated subjects, he became aware of the meditative, and/or contemplative quality of art; especially photographs. As he delved more deeply into the contemplative aspect of photographic images, he saw how some of his images possessed this contemplative quality. Ever the researcher, Roger discussed this with other individuals he knew and they, too, concurred with his premise. In fact, individuals he wasn’t well acquainted with told him they were able to work with some of his photos and gain a peaceful contemplative state from viewing them.

The Pillars

He also views his images a bit differently than most photographers as he says, “I really don’t see myself as a ‘photographer,’ per se, as my work is more a gift from the universe than anything else. Sort of like the archer, in ‘Zen and the Art of Archery,’ whereby the archer and arrow become ‘one’ just as the arrow is released, so the arrow will reach the target. I really am ‘guided’ to, or intuit, a potential photo. I don’t do set-ups or take hours waiting in a spot for something to happen. They either occur, or they don’t, and I’m happy if I only get one good photo when I’m out on a photo-shoot/hike. One other really important aspect of my work is that none of my images are photo-shopped, altered, or enhanced in any way, they’re simply raw photos. The only thing I may do, depending on the photo, is crop/trim them if needed, but that doesn’t happen a lot.”

Roger defines “Contemplative Photographic Art™” or “Contemplative Photo/Art™” as certain photographs which may lead the viewer into a calm, thoughtful, peaceful, and/or lightly meditative state.

In this contemplative state an image may rekindle memories from bygone days, lead one to experience a period of relaxation, guide one to a personal insight, or provide an experience whereby the viewer comes into resonance with his or her own inner being, and from this connection, gain insights that may benefit one on their life journey. This is his intent for the relatively new concept of Contemplative Photo/Art™.

Roger’s background also includes years of study and research in the areas of metaphysics, numerology and bio-field energy work. Academically he holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Studies (Psychology and History major with a Poli Sci minor/Secondary Education) graduating Cum Laudi with departmental honors, and a Master of Arts. Roger’s Contemplative Photographic Art™ may be found at as well as his blog, which contains articles on earth changes, metaphysics, numerology and more

The 2010 Oneonta Spiritual Arts Fair

This past Sunday my husband and I hit the road to attend the 6th Annual Oneonta Spiritual Arts Fair! For those of you who remember me writing about the event last year, I want to let you know right off the bat that we did not lock ourselves out of our car as we had the previous year. We brought an extra key for the car just to be on the safe side.

This year’s fair had twenty different workshops, seven psychic or intuitive readers, nine energy healers, and so many vendors selling a variety of goods that they needed more than one building to hold them all! When I attended in 2009, besides dealing with some car drama, I packed the day with attending an almost nonstop schedule of workshops. This year I wanted a more leisurely experience. I wanted to take time to really talk to some of the vendors, to not feel rushed while looking over dozens of tables loaded with everything from books to clothes to jewelry to soap, and so much more! Besides, I had a lunch date I didn’t want to miss.

The one thing aside from lunch that I knew I wanted to do at the fair was get another henna tattoo from Jessica Halter, aka “The Henna Lady”. I loved the one I got last year and was looking forward to getting a new one. I was pleased to be her first customer of the day and spent time catching up with her on everything that had been going on since we last saw each other in 2009. A few people stood by to watch the process and I enjoyed the opportunity to tell them about my wonderful experience with my previous henna tattoo. In fact, an hour later I had people coming up to me to excitedly sharing their tattoos with me. One woman is considering having a “girls night” where she and her friends will get together and drink some wine and get henna tattoos. Sounds like a great night to me! Last year I let Jessica do whatever design she wanted, and I was bummed I hadn’t ended up with a good photo of it to share. This year I again let her do what she felt like (always let the artist work) and my husband made sure to take lots of pictures!

Jessica Halter at work

You may remember last year I got an aura reading from Barbara Ellen, the lady behind AURA’bout You. She was there again this year, but I passed on a new photo. However, she’s such a nice lady that I wanted to be sure to mention her again and publish a link. Here it is!

One of the other booths that I spent some serious time at was for the artist Maryann Stow. She is a regional artist with roots in Oneonta, NY and in her bio she states, “I have had some formal training, but most of my skill as a watercolorist has come from ‘The School of 1000 Bad Paintings’, as I like to call it.” I love art. Much like wine, I don’t know a lot about it, but I know when I like it. The work she had displayed made use of vibrant colors, a thing I like. There was one piece in particular that I loved, it was titled “New Growth”. Of course with so many bookshelves lining our walls, and years of collecting works by NeNe Thomas, there is very little open wall space anymore. Luckily she had a small card featuring “New Growth” so I got a mini art piece to bring home.

New Growth by Maryann Stow

I easily filled two hours with just walking the vendor rooms, so seriously folks, it’s worth it to go just for the shopping. Two hours put me at lunch time, so it’s time to talk about my lunch date.

You may remember that last year my primary reason for going was to get to meet author Deborah Blake in person. This year not only was I going to get to see her again, but I was also going to get to meet another author, Gail Wood! Yes, I was a happy camper. Happier still when lunch time rolled around. Both Deborah and Gail had a busy morning of doing mini tarot readings and discussing their books with the people filing through the vendor room so I really appreciated that they carved out a little time in their schedules to have some lunch. Since Deborah’s birthday was just a few days before the event I brought her some chocolate rum balls for her to enjoy and share. However, if people thought I was a super fan for making the trip and bringing her chocolate, you would be sorely mistaken. Another woman who is a big fan of Deborah’s work brought essentially an entire picnic worth of lunch as a surprise for Deborah! Soon Gail and Deborah’s table was piled high with food!

Both Gail and Deborah are just wonderful ladies. They both really love what they do, and it shows. I learned a lot from those two this past weekend. The primary thing being that Gail Wood is the most photogenic of our trio.

(left to right) Me, Deborah Blake, and Gail Wood

As we were getting ready to leave Oneonta there was one more place to visit. You may remember that before the fair I mentioned that there was a comic/game store right across the street from the event. Well, it was still there. It’s a pretty nice little comic/rpg storefront called Bearded Dragon Games and Comics. Normally I wouldn’t bother mentioning our little side shopping trip. I didn’t last year. But this time I stumbled across something too fun not to share.

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with a card game called “Fluxx“. For those of you who aren’t, it’s a fun little game based on one simple rule at the start, draw one card, play one card. As the game progresses it gets crazy because each card played changes the rules! It’s really a fun game that is frighteningly easy to teach to others. Attention gamers, this is a great “gateway” game to get your non-gamer friends and family into games. As an aside, another excellent “gateway” game is “Lunch Money“, but I’ll talk about that some other day.

As Jim was waiting to get rung out I stood by the door looking at card games on a spinning display and that’s when I saw these rare gems: “Jewish Fluxx” and “Christian Fluxx”. Being a fan of “Fluxx” and religious doodads, these packs hit a total geek sweet spot with me. I’m bummed that Judaism and Christianity are the only religions to have gotten a “Fluxx” treatment. I would love to see other religions get their “Fluxx” on! Come on Looney Labs, if draw one card play one card isn’t Zen I don’t what is!

With that, we headed home. Another great time at the Oneonta Spiritual Arts Fair. I hope to see everyone again next year!

It’s Again Time to “Think Before You Pink”

October is here. It’s once again Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or some such title. There’s a lot of ground to cover here, so let’s dive right in.

Last October I introduced you to Breast Cancer Action, and more specifically their “Think Before You Pink Campaign”. Click here to get reacquainted. Now that you remember the basics of the campaign, I’m here to tell you they are taking on some big game this season, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly. Here’s the one minute sum up:

Milking Cancer from Breast Cancer Action on Vimeo.

To learn more about Breast Cancer Action and their “Think Before You Pink” campaign, visit their website.

Also, for my San Francisco, CA area readers, might I suggest taking a trip to ArtHaus on 411 Brannan Street? This October, ArtHaus gallerists James Bacchi and Annette Schutz invite you to “Think Before You Pink.” It’s an invitational exhibition exposing the breast cancer “pink industry.” 20% of all exhibition sales will benefit Breast Cancer Action during the month of October.

Want to support art and Breast Cancer Action but can’t get to San Francisco? You can purchase the limited edition poster “This Elixir – It Won’t Fix Her” for $50 plus shipping and handling, by contacting Breast Cancer Action at 415-243-9301 ext. 22. All proceeds from the poster benefit Breast Cancer Action.