2.18.17 Cafe Studies (39/100 days of productivity)

The weather in Pittsburgh was amazing today. I studied in the Bartram Bakery and Coffee House all afternoon and they have floor to ceiling windows so I got to watch the sun move across the sky. They also have the best chai lattes I’ve ever tasted. Here is my poem reconstruction for critical reading class with annotations on the variations between the original and mine :) 


When naturalist William Bartram was exploring Florida in the 1770s, he described a bird that he called the painted vulture.  Originally believed to be a misidentification of the crested caracara, more recent studies of Bartram’s notes have realised that the description of the painted vulture is identical to that of the king vulture, with the exception of the colour of the tail feathers.  It is now theorised that perhaps the king vulture’s range once expanded up into Florida, with the population being killed off by a cold snap, or that Bartram’s painted vulture was a subspecies of the king vulture that has since gone extinct.

Illustration for the Fiction section of the New Yorker, for a story called “Flower Hunters.” The story is about a woman living in Florida on Halloween, obsessed with naturalist William Bartram, and worrying about a sinkhole opening up under her home.

This was really fun to do for a few reasons! The story takes place close to where I live, and the narrator, Batram, and I all lived up North before moving to Florida, where we were all fascinated by the incredible flora and fauna.

Thanks to my art director, Aviva Michaelov!

“Hux rolls against him when he can’t wait any longer, pressing his body to Kylo’s and slipping his arm around Kylo’s chest. He moves Kylo’s hair so that it won’t be in his face, sighs against the back of Kylo’s neck, tucks his knees in behind Kylo’s legs.

Explanation for this behavior: Hux wants warmth, comfort, company in his misery. He’s a greedy, spoiled, needful person who will drag Kylo down to the depths of his own vulnerability if Kylo lets him.

Correction, undeniable: Hux isn’t trying to get comfort, he’s trying to give it.

Observation: That’s laughable.”

Colonial American Birthdays!

It’s Alexander Hamilton’s birthday today, so I thought I would look into the ways in which Americans celebrated birthdays in the late 18th-century. I found very, very little. So, I dug through everyone’s favorite website, Founders Online, and found any mention of birthdays I could. Royal birthdays were traditionally marked by large balls and other public celebrations, and after the colonies declared independence they began to celebrate George Washington’s birthday this way instead. Since Washington’s birthdays were outliers, I ignored them.

In general, it seems that personal birthdays were widely celebrated. Benjamin Franklin’s wife, Deborah, wrote him in 1765 to say that their friend Mr. Bartram (presumably John Bartram) “asked us to celebrate his Birthday.” Celebrating a birthday in someone’s absence seems to have been relatively common: Eleanor Morris, Mary Hewson, and Sarah Bache all wrote Franklin to let him know that they would be keeping his birthday, in 1768, 1779, and 1783 respectively. Morris says that she and her cousins celebrated his birthday (“that Happy Day”) by having plum pudding with their dinner and drinking tea to his health. Bache, his daughter, claims to keep Franklin’s birthday “in the most festive Manner in my power,” and invited sixty children over for a dance.

Birthdays for children were certainly celebrated. Franklin’s illegitimate grandson, William Temple Franklin, wrote to his cousin to say that he would be visiting a friend to celebrate their son’s first birthday. In 1771, Benjamin Franklin wrote to Deborah to say that he celebrated his grandson’s birthday with friends: "At Dinner, among other nice Things, we had a Floating Island, which they always particularly have on the Birth Days of any of their own Six Children.” A floating island is a French dessert, basically meringue floating on crème anglaise. Apparently, fancy desserts were considered an acceptable way to celebrate a birthday.

I found two instances of personalized poems written in honor of someone’s birthday. In 1767, Benjamin Franklin wrote a poem for Mary Stevenson, the daughter of his London landlady, which included the line “You’d have the Custom broke, you say, That marks with festive Mirth your natal Day,” which also implies that birthday parties were considered customary. On February 21st, 1793, George and Martha Washington sent a birthday greeting to Elizabeth Willing Powel and expressed their regrets that they were unable to attend her 50th birthday party that evening. They also enclosed a personalized birthday poem. In 1814, John Quincy Adams’s seven-year-old son wrote from Saint Petersburg to say that he had performed in a French play at the birthday dinner of a Mr. Krehmer (presumably Sebastian Krehmer, a banker). The dinner ended with a dance.

John Adams, in true New England fashion, marked his 37th birthday by writing this in his journal: “Thirty Seven Years, more than half the Life of Man, are run out.—What an Atom, an Animalcule I am!—The Remainder of my Days I shall rather decline, in Sense, Spirit, and Activity. My Season for acquiring Knowledge is past.” Slightly more optimistically, he writes, “And Yet I have my own and my Childrens Fortunes to make. My boyish Habits, and Airs are not yet worn off.” Two years later, he noted his 39th birthday but wrote nothing else about it and seemed to have spent most of the day traveling.

If we sometimes caricature Ben Franklin as our most bacchanalian founder, and John Adams as a bit of a Puritan stick-in-the-mud, I feel like these examples provide a good range. There are many other examples of letters that simply begin with a birthday greeting, or dates that note that it’s the author’s birthday. Most people seem to have kept track of their birthdays and mentioned them to friends and family, and quite a few seem to have celebrated with dinners, poems, special desserts, and even dances. 

So, what about our birthday boy, Alexander Hamilton? Well, he never mentions his birthday in any of his surviving letters. On January 10th, 1772, the day before his 17th or 15th birthday, he wrote to his employer, Nicholas Cruger, to let him know how business was going. At the end, he thanked Cruger “for the Apples you were so kind as to send me,” but there is no other personal information. It seems extremely unlikely that these apples were some sort of birthday gift, since the last letter he’d had from Cruger was from December 20th, 1771. The only notable thing about Hamilton’s birthday seems to be that he didn’t take a break. There are plenty of work-related letters sent on the 10th, 11th, and 12th of January throughout his life. On his 34th or 36th birthday, he wrote a particularly lengthy one to Thomas Jefferson, entirely concerned with politics. So if you were curious about how Hamilton celebrated his birthday…he might not have. 

Happy 259th/261st birthday, Hammy!


To discover the new frontier of urban farming, you’ll have to look up — and look sharp — for hanging fruit.

Urban orchards are dropping everything from apples to persimmons to avocados on Seattle, Bloomington, Ind., Boston, Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other North American cities. Groups like the Portland Fruit Tree Project advocate for public access to existing fruit trees so that people can glean crops that would otherwise go uneaten — an idea some are calling radical. Other groups are more interested in planting new groves of fruit trees on previously fallow city land.

Fruit trees produce food, but also provide shade, keep greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, improve water quality and may even deter crime. Advocates say they also have a longer lasting impact on communities than vegetable beds.

Urban Food Forests Make Fruit Free For The Picking

Photo credit: Courtesy of Philadelphia Orchard Project

This scene from chapter 7 of Under the Ruins of a Walled City by @hollyhark made me laugh quite a bit when I got to it. I just love how different their reactions were!

I wanted them to look properly expressive, so I drew them a bit more stylized that I may have otherwise. Hopefully Hux looks properly horrified and Elena looks properly delighted. I kind of wanted her to look slightly mischievous as well because I got the sense that she might have been getting certain ideas from the conversation. (I feel like Elena could totally be the type of mom that playfully gives her son a hard time about his love life.)