Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy New Year!

Welcome to the Year of the Dragon!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA and PIPA Are Not The Way

Those of you who know me, or who have been reading my blog for a time, know that I don't get political very often. If you're here (reading some page on the Internet), this is something that you should care about.

The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act are great ideas in theory. As an artist, I'm very concerned about the safety of my intellectual property. These laws are supposed to stop IP theft.

They won't.

What they will do is make individual websites like this one have to police content posted by their users and block it if it appears to be violating someones copyright. This post would probably be removed, because Blogger doesn't know if I made the image above or if I have permission to use it from the person who did make it (FTR, the person who created this image did so for the sake of this protest and it is intended to be used thus, therefore I do have permission). More than half of YouTube would be gone - videos of people singing popular songs would violate the singers/songwriters copyright. Except those things are not in violation of copyrights; they are allowed through the Fair Use doctrine. SOPA and PIPA would make Fair Use null and void.

But most websites can't handle the burden of policing their users. Etsy has a standing policy on this, actually. They don't go looking for copyright violations (and there are a TON) but will take action if the copyright holder contacts them. While it's not very efficient for putting an end to the piracy that goes on in Etsy stores, it's probably the best way to go. Etsy doesn't know if you bought a license agreement to use copyrighted images. Under SOPA and PIPA, they would have to remove those items (assuming if you have a license you would just need to prove it) and that size of a company just doesn't have the resources to do that. What would happen then? Etsy would shut down. Blogger, YouTube, Facebook - all of those sites would have a problem too.

The laws are great ideas in theory, but they're not written the way they should be. The letter of the law means Internet censorship. We all need to fight this.

Today, Wikipedia is blacked out. If you go to their site, you can enter your zip code and it will give you the contact information for your representatives. Tell them you are against SOPA and PIPA. They are not going to have the desired effect. The idea, what the laws want to do, is good, but they will not succeed in the way they are written. I think Wikipedia sums it up nicely, so I'll repeat what they say here:

SOPA and PIPA would put the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the unnecessary blocking of entire sites. Small sites won't have sufficient resources to defend themselves. Big media companies may seek to cut off funding sources for their foreign competitors, even if copyright isn't being infringed. Foreign sites will be blacklisted, which means they won't show up in major search engines. SOPA and PIPA would build a framework for future restrictions and suppression.

In a world in which politicians regulate the Internet based on the influence of big money, Wikipedia — and sites like it — cannot survive.

Congress says it's trying to protect the rights of copyright owners, but the "cure" that SOPA and PIPA represent is worse than the disease. SOPA and PIPA are not the answer: they would fatally damage the free and open Internet.

Friday, January 13, 2012

House Cookies

My sweet friend Jessica gave me a bunch of totally awesome cookies cutters for Christmas. One of them is this cool house shape and as soon as I saw it, I knew what I had to do with it.

Jack has been renting a place and working on buying a house for a while. After a lot of searching and a few setbacks, he found a place and closed this past Monday. I'm so proud of him! And the house he found, which has its quirks, is awesome. So, to celebrate, I knew I had to make him cookies and it was the perfect opportunity to use my new house shape! (I know I've tagged this post under cakes when it's actually about cookies. Deal with it!)

But you, dear readers, know I can't just cut a few shapes and call it done. I have to decorate! I've never actually made cookies like this before. I've cut shapes and I've decorated with sprinkles and icing, but I've never cut shapes and decorated with royal icing. I had to do some research and find some recipes.

Mixing Cookie Dough

Sugar cookies tend to be the best for shapes. Jack's favorite cookie is chocolate chip, but you can't really roll that out (too many lumpy chips) so I just had to make sugar cookies and he had to like it!

Balls of Dough

I made the dough into balls because I had limited space to roll it out flat so I made little batches.

The Cookie Cutter!

Here is my cutting board and cookie cutter all ready to be floured.

Rolling Dough

Rolling cookies for cut-outs does take some skill. My first couple balls were too flat and ended up very very brown. They were still tasty, but I made the last few thicker and that worked better.

Cookie Cutter on Dough

Finished Cookies

Don't they look delicious? Next step, icing!

Mixing Icing

Royal icing is fun stuff. I have learned a bit through all my cakes. People don't care if you make them from scratch or not. If it looks awesome, a mix is just fine. I admit I did use a mix.


Icing cookies involves making an outline and then filling it in, a process called floating. I outlined it with a roof color and a house color, so a few globs of brown gel food coloring makes the roof.

Outlined Cookies

I just put the icing in little plastic bags and cut the tip to line. The white bag gave me a bit of trouble, but it worked. The next step was red icing on the chimneys, which I just slathered on with a spoon.


Floating is really fun! Give the outline a bit to dry, add some water to thin out the icing, then squeeze it all out and swish it about to cover the whole area.

Iced Cookies

The cookies are iced! The whole process took about an hour. I left them to dry overnight so the icing would be nice and firm for me to put the details on.

Little Blue Doors

I could have mixed up more icing and iced the details, but I decided drawing them with food coloring markers was just going to be easier. That was mostly true, but if I put too much pressure on it, it poked right through the icing.

Lights in the Windows

Yellow squared make windows. I'll finish it by outlining the windows and drawing panes with black.

Bushes too

It wouldn't be a home without some cute little bushes. There are little red berries or flowers on them too, but it's hard to see that in this image.

Finished Cookies!

A little pearl in each door for a doorknob and they're done! They were so much fun, and they were delicious.

Congratulations, my sweetie, on your knew house!