It might be a German word for a hack that comes to life. Which is what I am living.

It is much as you would expect falling into a story, a movie, or a game would be, and luckily I have read enough stories, seen enough films, and played enough games to know that mettle is the thing. Unless it’s cleverness, or it might be bravery. And sometimes it’s thread tension.

I am loving being at MIT as much as I ever do. I feel like I can stand still and still get throughput. What a place.

Building what with Len Tower

Below, an Ellen Harding Baker “Solar System” Quilt,  1876

Ellen Harding Baker. Solar System Quilt 1876

Len Tower showing me Miters, a makers’ lab, earlier this week.

len tower at miters

On that same day, he showed me the model railroad zone where there is a model of the Green Building (see the Radome and the weather tower?) that you can play Tetris on . It was an actual hack of the building; see the photo below the maquette.

Tetris on the Green Bldg

The Green Building is Building 54, where Planetary is, and followers of this life will recall several previous adventures in the building and on the roof.


Today, Len took me out to put up posters for the CGB IAP sessions – my first lecture is Monday. We were in tunnels and stairwells and elevators and loading docks and so many buildings I lost count.

kate at mit by len tower

The posters look like this. Scan the QR code! Does it go to my web site, a photo of Lemmy, or to a cat video?

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 12.24.35 PM

my oh my

My guests and collaborators (in town for a bit of foolishness surrounding the CGB Magic Show, still tightly under wraps) have all left for their own lives recently, and I am briefly, after several other exciting and shorter visits, left to my own devices.

Now work of a different kind begins. We only accomplished a fraction of what I had hoped we would, but it’s still so much. And we will all be together again in Boston, and then again in Tucson…

Life is rocketing forward. MIT is close enough to check a weather forecast, which is thrilling. I am unspeakably excited about the month, honestly, I could use an entire sack of adjectives.

What has been freezing (literally) is the Tucson desert, but today we are finally warming, and I can unbend a little bit and begin to try to organize my own priorities. There is more still to come before I fly out on Monday. More visits, more photography, hopefully more video. It’s been amazing so far. And we got a CAMEL. Well, not a real camel. But close. Or maybe even better.

Once I fly away, I won’t be back to the Ranch until February 1, by which time my friend Gail will already be ensconced in the guest room, and the Tucson shows will be in full swing, and the Ten Day Party will begin. I put piles of soft things on the outdoor bed, and I think I’d better sleep out there even if for just one night, tomorrow, to set the tone.

I leave for Christmas with the usual feelings of confusion. I may as well cease work on Saturdays or paint tribal markings onto the faces of our children as celebrate a religious holiday, but here we go again, ta-ra, and of course it will be lovely to be together.

Our boys are all grown now; this will be Evan’s last spring of high school. Bri is in Japan, we can’t have her with us…but just like every day, in every place we find ourselves, we must all love each other while we can, while we are together.

slow, steady progress

It isn’t easy for me to communicate what I’m doing, or how important it is to me. And what I do changes; sometimes I am a producer, sometimes I’m down in the dirt, digging foundations.

Progress is slow right now, but overall steady; and steady is where it’s at. I’m looking forward to some serious time alone in January (winter, Boston, studio apartment..) and expect to get fairly deep into the writing of the new books.

Today, in Tucson, we are doing technical filming of pieces going together (or coming apart, lots of Explosions and Dissolutions, all planned) and there will be a cascade of beautiful images and video to follow. May the light be with us!

I surrender to the golden

Above, a summer’s day, long ago but not forgotten. It was in the 20’s last night here.


end of year meditations

I saw Laurie Anderson’s new film, Heart of a Dog, this past Friday at the Loft Theater in Tucson.
The rain running down the windows and windshields in the movie felt like the kind of tears that come with deep grief; they come and go fairly constantly, and on their own schedule, washing the soul clean (or not).  They take you by surprise, they drop you in your tracks, they worry others.
I found the film mesmerizing, emotional. I won’t say any more, because you might want to go see it yourself. Also, White Lily. This idea is important, the way time sometimes feels very slow and delicious, sometimes slow and impossible, and then sometimes feels like a reel, pulling me endlessly into the future.

My days have accidentally started moving fast like this now, they are going by like sights through a moving train window, and I want to slow them down.  I am trying to manually do this but I am riding three rockets. I must take command, which I have been trying not to do as a point of principle (or more as a point of experiment) but I cannot accept the pace. I need to experience my life; this is usually more of a mindset than an actual set of problems.

My work is not the problem, but I can tell when my approach is off, like a pilot and a runway. I am distracted by others, and those others are not people with a lot of throughput or experience in the kind of high productivity I need to practice. The others are not the problem, just as my work is not the problem. The others, and the work, those are the good parts, the parts that are real. That must not be forgotten, but is easiest to forget.

I’ve been in the desert for something like a month, and in two weeks, I’ll leave it again to spend a Christmas in St. Louis and a month of winter in Boston. It’s crazy to think about from here but it’s all happening. When I return, it will be time for the Tucson shows, the house full of guests, the Ten Day Party, sleeping in the outdoor bed.

the best thing ever outdoor bed at cooper st

My month in Boston is the IAP session at MIT – and happily my classes are filling nicely. It’s like a dream come true, not just because it’s MIT (which is fabulous) and not just for the chance to work with Martin and Erik (which is fabulous) but because it’s exactly the kind of academic commitment I would dream up; one month a year, I teach what I want with no need to decide until 60 days before the term begins, and I can teach every day or just give one lecture, whatever I like.

I can propose anything; if there are takers, it happens.
All of life should ideally be like that; who knew that there was an academic option in there?

A rather whirly few weeks

I’m on the way out of NYC this evening, pointed at DC for the annual planetary science meeting. I both can and cannot believe how much Italian food I have been able to eat.

Scene at Emilios

Above, at Emilio’s Ballato, SoHo.

I’m going downcoast to spend the week with Bill, to see friends, and to spend my own days working. It’s time to get serious about working drafts.


If I do it right, I will be able to lay a very introductory, basic magic book down in a space that hasn’t existed before; a way to begin the beginning in harmony with the structures of creation, and the ideas of the Built World. This is powerful stuff, and I am proceeding with respect.

If I do it right, it will fund the project into the future.

This was an amazing trip for seeing friends. Half of everyone seems to pass through here; if I can’t catch people here, or in Boston, or at gatherings, or on travel, or in Tucson, then those people are just hard to catch, and they must catch me.

Carter in Seaglass Kate and Ryan Times Square by Carter Pope and Kellner

bleeker street   Russell Fox And Zebra Hotness web

For anyone following along with the life of that world-in-worlds that Contemporary Geometric Beadwork has become (and which is now running seamlessly along with the Love Letters project, so secretly, there are four books in process in my world), I have schedule updates.

I’ll be in Boston for all of January, teaching this and that. Some classes will be at MIT (you know I like it there) and some not. Click for the schedule.

Robot at CSAIL, MIT, Gehry Building. photo by Kate Mckinnon

Amusingly half of my classroom assignments put me right back in the Gehry building, which is something I like very much as well. I keep drawing the Lockheed Aerospace classroom, and it feels like a right sort of a place to let the work soar, and build collaborations.

As does NYC.

Astonishingly, I seem to have a place here already made; I cannot explain it but I rejoice in it. I feel very connected to the city, to the work, to Boston, and to the opportunities that are all around me.

calatrava broke my heart Man On Stairs At Slipper Room whole bird IMG_3917 IMG_3925  IMG_3936

Logan -> Lambert

I’m slipping a weekend of love and family into what was supposed to be a solid month of writing. I’d love to be writing, I suppose (all things being equal) but it would be difficult to move forward productively without simple human contact, laughing with Evan, kissing Bill, squeezling a cat. I need grounding after all the intensity, or I’ll just keep sparking into the air, whipping around like a live wire.

I feel like Laurie Anderson. Which would take too long to explain. I’ll let her do it.
(It’s a shipwreck! It’s a job! I’m a virus!)

diving into genius

You know, it’s interesting, peeking into all of the deep, beautiful disciplines that people use to examine and describe the structure and processes of the universe, or the built world, or the fabric of society. Last night I was fooling around with a manifold idea, fooling and fold being the key words there.

There are special kinds of geometric forms used to describe possible structural arrangements of spacetime in string theory, and we have been moving naturally toward them in our beadwork.

Calibi Yau manifolds

Why string theory? I don’t know. As I just realized that if my RNA stick or string was infinitely expandable, I could build an entire universe, I am sort of naturally wandering toward the people who work in that end of physics. Those are my people.

But I’m not really interested in spending my life doing their work. I find discovery exhausting, because I am incapable of turning away from an idea until I grasp it. Were I to go into a field like that, I would begin to suffer badly, as no one lifetime could manage the work.

When I look into deep fields, I’m only looking for signposts to help me find the right people, the ones who can see. So I’m not looking for just any architect. Or just any chaos theorist. Or just any painter.


I’m only looking for the ones who’ve seen the face of God, so to speak, and not gone mad. It isn’t information I want, I just start there, because the information, and the quality of it, is what sometimes leads me to my people. Admittedly half as often I just run into them on the street.

The ideas, the beads, the math… not much of it is really real to me. It’s just the structure I move through. Sometimes I say a lot of things in a row that sound silly, but eventually, you know, I wrangle them all down to 1.

Signposts from other fields are tremendously helpful. Last night, when I was struggling along with the idea of an infinitely expanding coding string, and I was studying how my little wizard sticks (the beadworked DNA bands with RNA-style edges) could start any one of the complex forms in my books:

Final NYC Poster web

then this bit made a lot more sense to me than it ever had before (paraphrased from a textbook on string theory):

In algebraic geometry and theoretical physics, mirror symmetry is a relationship between geometric objects. The term refers to a comparison of two objects that may look very different geometrically but are nevertheless equivalent in certain ways of counting, or dimensional expressions of string theory.

So from that I can understand that it is reasonable for me to make the statement that I can make a universe from an infinitely expanding string, or certainly at a minimum that I can begin (and code) every single shape on the poster, and an infinite number of other shapes, from a single strand of information. The information can be in almost any physically compatible form; it doesn’t even have to be made of beads to start beadwork from it. It can be a neutral field, even, like a piece of felt, or a circle of beads sewn onto a skirt.

In a way, the more complex my checks and balances, the more sure I am of my simple calculations. I feel a shred of the excitement that Gaudi might have had as he was hanging his weights on upside-down chains and seeing, in his mind, the catenary arches rising on the other side.

We do not actually have to count to describe anything, as far as I can tell, unless we choose to do so for purposes of human precision.


This is a photo I took at Casa Mila, in Barcelona. It hangs in an area under some beautiful catenary arches, and explains the weight calculations for the cathedral. The calculations would have been improbable to accomplish using mathematics (computers at the time were still very primitive) so Gaudi sidestepped math, and used intuitive structural geometry to solve it.

So I am looking into high end physics and mathematics and deconstruction and construction and modelling and genetics, but not because I fancy becoming or impersonating such a scientist. The only thing sillier than the latter would be the former. It’s not my work, I do something else.

I’m only looking for confirmations, really – for overlapping markers and for very clever people. And I find those markers (and the people leaving them) in every single time and place I look. I often wonder if perhaps other means and methods of calculation could be simplified by substituting more elemental basic forms for more sophisticated models. And although it’s not really my business, I keep coming up against the idea that perhaps everything really can be answered with some simple arrangements and rearrangements of points on a line.

Who knew?