The Hobby Lobby Case, and why I actually agree with the ruling

                Reproductive health is very important for women, whether it is the ability to control if, when, and by how large to grow their family, or being able to treat various medical problems ranging from severe PMS symptoms to reduced risk of certain cancers (Dissenting 24). With the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it was determined that women should have access to all forms of birth control that are recognized by the Food and Drug Administration, and that they should be covered by the insurance plans offered, whether employer provided or purchased on an exchange, and to no extra cost to the consumer.

Shortly after the ACA was enacted, many religious non-profit organizations came forth saying that they found at least some forms the covered birth control was objectionable on moral grounds, and that their being forced to provide them was an infringement upon their freedom of religious exercise. They argued that certain forms of contraceptives could actually prevent a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterine wall, effectively causing an abortion, which would be against their standing. In the ensuing debate, these organizations were granted an exception based on their strongly held religious beliefs by the Health and Human Services (HHS). As a result, religious employers, such as churches, are exempt from this contraceptive mandate…[u]nder this accommodation, the insurance issuer must exclude contraceptive coverage from the employer’s plan and provide plan participants with separate payments for contraceptive services without imposing any cost-sharing requirements on the employer, its insurance plan, or its employee beneficiaries (Syllabus 2).

In 2012, the Greens, owners of Hobby Lobby and Mardel Christian and Educational Supply (owned by Mart Green, son of David Green), and the Hahns, owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties, both of which are for-profit corporations owned by religious families, filed suit to be granted the same exception as the non-profit organizations. They objected to four types of birth control, namely the two types of emergency contraception (Plan B an Ella) and both forms of IUD (hormonal and copper), because they have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs [these] four contraceptive methods…are abortifacients. If the owners comply with the HHS mandate, they believe they will be facilitating abortions (Opinion 2). The other sixteen forms of birth control they did not object to. The cases moved through the legal system as they tried to argue that providing these forms of birth control was against their moral standing and violated their free exercise of religion, while their opposition, namely Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services, tried to argue that because they were a for-profit company, the owner’s personal religious views could not be used as a means to run a corporation, especially when those views and beliefs disenfranchised a group of people.

On March 25, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case, and decided on June 30, 2014. Their ruling on the case was that Hobby Lobby did not need to provide the contested birth control. This decision has resulted in many people being outraged, both by the decision and what they see as natural and obvious consequences. The Court made their ruling based on the HHS’s previous action to provide coverage for women who work for a religious non-profit, and that under the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA), which states, in part, that a government action could not impose a substantial burden on a person’s religious exercise without it serving a compelling interest and demonstrating the least restrictive means of serving that interest (Opinion 16), to which the Court claims the birth control mandate fails to do, at least in part. The opposition however claims that this ruling opens the door to allowing companies to object to other procedures such as blood transfusions or surgery based on a corporation’s “strongly held beliefs” against these things. A study of the Court’s ruling indicates that the chances of this happening, nor of women finding themselves without full contraceptive coverage, even if working for a for-profit religious company, would not happen.

                The first thing that needs to be looked at in this ruling, and to understand why the Court came to its decision, is the question of whether Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties can be considered a “person.” According to the Dictionary Act (Title 1, Section 1, Chapter 1 of the US Code, which is used to help define terms used in governance and law (Cornell Law)), “the [word] ‘person’…[includes] corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals(Opinion 19).” Based on this definition, a corporation can be considered a person. Whether someone agrees with this definition or not, legally, corporations can be considered a person. This leads to the very important idea that a for-profit corporation can in fact operate under a religious belief.

                Many States allow for a corporation to operate under a religious view. “[T]he objectives that may properly be pursued by the companies…are governed by the laws of the States in which they were incorporated—Pennsylvania and Oklahoma—and the laws of those States permit for-profit corporations to pursue “any lawful purpose” or “act,” including the pursuit of profit in conformity with the owners’ religious principles (Opinion 25).” This is extremely important, because it indicates that, even before this case came before the Court, there has been precedence for a corporation to operate under the beliefs of the person who owns the corporation, in extent acting as a continuation of that person.

                After having answered the question of whether a for-profit corporation can in fact be considered a person, and subsequently, if a corporation can be run with the religious beliefs of the owners, it is possible to look at the next important point of the ruling, which is whether the birth control mandate of the ACA is an unreasonable burden to the corporations or not. At the heart of this question is the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA), which prohibits the “Government [from] substantially [burdening] a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability” unless the Government “demonstrates that application of the burden to the person—(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest (Opinion 16).” This idea is what informed the majority of the Justices opinion on three parts: that because a corporation can be considered a person, it can thus fall under the protection afforded under the RFRA, and that while the birth control mandate does in fact pass the first part of this “test” by showing there is a compelling government interest in making sure women have access to all forms of birth control, it does not pass the second part because it is not the “least restrictive means” to do so.

                The first prong to look at is the fact that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are protected by the RFRA because they can be considered a legal “person.” As such, the RFRA does apply to them for protection against governmental infringement against a person’s freedom of religious exercise. One of the basic tenants this country is founded on is the freedom of religious belief. Free exercise in this sense implicates more than just freedom of belief. It means, too, the right to express those beliefs and to establish one’s religious (or nonreligious) self-definition in the political, civic, and economic life of our larger community (Concurring 2). This does mean that not all people will agree with all religious ideas or expressions, yet they are still protected. Because of these protections, it is recognized by the Government that the rules and laws it institutes shall not place a “substantial burden” upon a person’s religious practices, with few exceptions, as laid out by the RFRA, all of which must be in place.

                As it is, this mandate does pose a substantial burden upon Hobby Lobby and Conestoga, and thus it needs to be determined if this is a compelling burden, and of the least restrictive means to obtain the result. “HHS’s contraceptive mandate substantially burdens the exercise of religion…It requires the Hahns and Greens to engage in conduct that seriously violates their sincere religious belief that life begins at conception. If they and their companies refuse to provide contraceptive coverage, they face severe economic consequences: about $475 million per year for Hobby Lobby (Syllabus 4),” The other option is to just forgo providing insurance all together, which would provide another, though much lesser, financial burden, as the $2,000 per person fine is less than what it would cost to provide the insurance in the first place, and possibly even another religious burden by ignoring the fact that corporations do have a religious purpose for providing health insurance to their employers in the first place (Syllabus 4). Since it is seen as a burden upon these corporations, the Court then looked to see if it could pass the tests set up by the RFRA, which they decided it did pass the first part of the test, but not the second.

                The first part of the test is when the Government can demonstrate a compelling interest in enacting the ruling. When it comes to the birth control mandate, the government has shown an interest in making sure women have access to all forms of birth control as women (and men) have a constitutional right to obtain contraceptives…and HHS tells us that “[studies] have demonstrated that even moderate copayments for preventive services can deter patients from receiving those services (Opinion 39). Between the financial burden of obtaining birth control (of which, the FDA approved forms covers more than just the pill), as well as the health benefits contraceptives can provide to women, such as [avoiding] the health problems unintended pregnancies may visit on them and their children. The coverage [also] helps safeguard the health of women for whom pregnancy may be hazardous, even life threatening…[and] the mandate secures benefits wholly unrelated to pregnancy, preventing certain cancers, menstrual disorders, and pelvic pain (Dissenting 24). The Court has ruled that the birth control mandate does in fact pass the first test of the RFRA.

                The second part of the test is whether the Government can prove that a rule is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling government interest, mandating that all forms of birth control should be available to women at no extra cost to them in this case. The Court says that there is another alternative that the Government has already enacted that can be employed. The HHS has already set up a system to further this cause when they decided that employees of religious non-profit corporations that opted out of the birth control mandate would still have access to coverage of all approved contraceptives without any cost sharing to the employee, and that “according to HHS, this system imposes no net economic burden on the insurance companies that are required to provide or secure the coverage (Opinion 3).” This ends up being the major crux of the case and proving that there are alternatives available for corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga that does not infringe on any one party’s religious freedoms. The corporation is able to exercise their religious freedom by not partaking in something they object to morally, that is, the potential to cause an abortion, while at the same time making sure that a person working for that corporation who does not hold the same beliefs can still access all forms of birth control at no extra cost to themselves.

                There is one final point that has been brought up in response to the ruling of the Court in this case, and that is the possibility for other corporations to refuse various procedures based on their strongly held beliefs. It has been pointed out many times that blood transfusions could be denied by Jehovah’s Witnesses and immunizations by Christian Scientists, among other things. The Court was very specific when addressing these concerns in the first place. They wanted to make sure that it was understood that their ruling on the birth control mandate would not mean that “an insurance coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs (Opinion 46).” It was noted that other insurance requirements, including immunizations, blood transfusions, and many other items that have been thrown out as an objection, could serve different interests, such as public safety in preventing the spread of communicable diseases (Opinion 46). This will not prevent a religious based corporation from bringing forth a suit, but it is acknowledged that such a suit will not necessarily succeed because of the interests involved in those specific cases. While a Christian Scientist corporation might decide to drop immunizations from their approved insurance mandates, if it were brought before the Court (either lower or upper level), the likelihood of that corporation being able to win its case based on the ruling in this one is not guaranteed, as the Government has a vested interest in making sure that people are immunized from certain communicable diseases, as well as there currently being no less restrictive means to be able to provide immunizations on a large scale to the people.

                A key element to all the points being presented here is that of a corporation being able to be recognized as a person, and thus be able to do business based on the owner’s religious beliefs. The court has stated that it is not up to them to determine if a person or corporations “sincerely held” beliefs are “mistaken or insubstantial. Instead, our ‘narrow function . . . in this context is to determine’ whether the line drawn reflects ‘an honest conviction (Opinion 37-38).’” AT the core of this, that the Court is not in the business to determine if a belief held by another is mistaken or false, but whether the entity that holds the belief truly believes in it. In the case of the Greens and the Hahns, it is determined that they do strongly believe that the four types of birth control they object might actually cause an abortion – whether or not they do in fact cause an abortion.

                This country prides itself on ideology of religious freedom, especially on the idea that we should not tell another person how or when they can practice or express their religion. Many in this country would like to think that this should only apply to a natural, living person, yet there are plenty of examples of extending the same freedom to express religious views to businesses. By saying that a business could not operate as it saw fit is hampering free enterprise as well as our very cherished freedom of religion, especially since there are option available that allow for an alternative.

                Seeing as the female (and male) employees of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga have access to sixteen various types of birth control provided through their employer insurance, and still have access to the other four types of birth control through the insurance provider at no extra cost to themselves, it would seem the Court has come to a reasonable conclusion. If this option were available, and the Court had ruled that Hobby Lobby still had to provide for the objected birth control, then I could potentially be argued that the Court and Government were restricting the corporations freedom of religious expression. The HHS has already provided an option that allows for women to be able to access all forms of birth control, either directly through their insurance or as a secondary option, and in such a manner that it does not produce a burden to the insured.

                Despite a person’s own views about Hobby Lobby and Conestoga, they are within their rights to not provide the controversial forms of birth control, because they do have a “very sincerely held religious belief,” and their view actually does not impede another person’s access to health care, or birth control.

 

 Sources:

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Inc. et al (http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-354_olp1.pdf)

 

FDA, Birth Control: Medicines To Help You

(http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForWomen/FreePublications/ucm313215.htm)

 

Dictionary Act: Cornell Law (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/1/1)

Blackwork Embroidery update

Well, I’ve found my scissors, so I’ve been able to actually do some embroidery.  I’ve been working away at this project for the past week now.  I’ll be the first to say that I’m not the fastest in the world at doing this stuff.  But it’s not a bad pace for me, considering I have a tendency to stop and pay attention to other things throughout while working, or just walking away when I need to take a break.

So, the first thing I did was to work on this little scrolling leaf boarder.  It’s about 2 3/4 inches in length, so it’s not a huge boarder piece.  But it’s very easily repeated if a longer length is desired.  I’m very pleased with the overall size of this corner piece as it is, and felt it worked just right for the project.

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I was originally hoping to find different corner pieces, but I ended up with only this one piece.  So, I decided to just run with it, and place one in each corner.  It should help give it an overall unifying effect as I work on the rest of the piece.  It also helps really define the edges I have to work within.  This ended up taking me two or three days to work on.

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I mentioned previously about the large knotwork pattern that was going to be placed in the center, because of how large it is.  Well, here’s the knot.  I had just finished the outline of the knotwork here, taking me about two days to complete it.  Rather plain, I think, at this point.  Not much to really attract the attention to it, other than that it’s a huge piece in the midst of a vast expanse of nothingness.

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And, just to get a better idea of what I was working with, here’s the knot itself.

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And after another three or four days of work, I finished the fill work on the knotwork.  Now, this looks much better.  It has depth and dimension, and actually looks like the bars really do pas over and under each other.  The hardest part at this point was just figuring out how to run the design so it went smoothly with as few hitches as possible.  It took a few attempts with the short bars, but I finally figured out, and pretty much zoomed through the rest of it.  But it’s a lot of detail work in those bars, and it was very fiddly detail work.  After getting three to four bars finished, I’d find myself needing to quit for the day.

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Well, that’s it for now.  I have more embroidery to work on for the next update.  I’m pretty excited now, and can’t wait to see the field begins to fill up with my patterns.

Layout and patterns for Blackwork Sampler Pillow

Well, it turns out I wasn’t quite done writing.  Since I can’t actually work on this project due to not being able to find my scissors, I decided I’d explain a little bit about the layout of the designs I’ve chosen, how I decided what will go where, and show you a few samples of the designs.

First, the layout.  My working space will be 18 inches by 18 inches.  So, everything has to be able to fit in there, somehow, somewhere.  Yay!  I love trying to figure out how to make things fit!  It’s sort of like playing Tetris.  I ended up with a total of 26 designs, though I’m only using 25.  One of them, a boarder design, I decided I really didn’t like.  I had a feeling I wouldn’t like it when I came across it, but decided to graph it out anyways.  Afterwards, I was even more certain I didn’t like it.  It looks sort of like a rope leading up into a palm tree, then back down.  It’s not bad over all, just a bit more nautical and tropical than what I personally like.  All the other elements, I like, so they get the pass.

In a previous post, I was discussing trying to convert the patterns down to scale.  I realized, after, that I didn’t need to do anything.  I had already done all the work.  Each line on the patterns equals one stitch, thus 1 inch equals 14 stitches.  Nothing more needed to be done.

Here’s the overall layout I came up with.  I’ve used a scale of one square equaling a half inch.  So for an 18 inch pattern, I have a grid of 36 squares to a side.  After that, I needed to figure out how to scale each design pattern down to this scale so I could place it on the grid.  Since the designs are not done in multiples of 14 stitches, it required a bit of math, but I think I got it figured out.  I ended up turning the designs into boxes.  I didn’t feel the desire to try to replicate each design this small, nor do I think I actually could have.  It’s also easier to work with an overall box shape than with a bunch of random squiggles when trying to figure out how much area a design covers.

Once I knew about how many squares a design element would cover, it was a matter of figuring out where to place them.  A few were easy, I actually have a couple of designs that are 14 stitches across.  Yay!  That’s a 2×2 square!  One is 64 stitches across.  That comes out to 9 squares across.  Everything else is somewhere in between.  There’s still some empty spaces, and a few elements seem to crowd into each other.  I just keep reminding myself, on the full size piece, the crowding should resolve itself, as what appears to be an almost nothing space will end up being a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of space between elements.  The empty spaces I can freehand a design.  I’m toying wit the idea of trying to see if I can do some scrollwork.

At this point, it was just a matter of deciding where to place each box, trying to balance out how heavy or light, simple or complex, and overall size a design was.  I started along the edges, placing in various boarder designs, and a few non-boarders, that I felt would work in that place.  Long rectangles were great in these places.  Since I have a rather large element at 64 stitches across, I decided it should go in the center.  From there, it was a matter of just filling in, trying to keep everything balanced.

Overall, I think I succeeded in this phase.

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These are some simple little designs I came across and really liked how they feel.  These will be pretty small, only about an inch across.

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I love knotwork, and decided I had to have at least one knotwork pattern to work up.  I ended up with two.  This is the smaller, and more simple of the two.  The larger one is actually the center piece.

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This one appealed to me for it’s simple interwoven lines that give it a more complicated feel then is really there.  My graph paper wasn’t large enough to complete the pattern, but it won’t be hard to mirror the top half.

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The next one I got this one from a finished embroidery piece I found online, and used as a pattern for this.  The original had a different thing happening in each quadrant.  I love symmetry, and while the overall had the appearance of symmetry, as I began transcribing it, I realized it was not.  So a few tweaks here and there, a reduction of variations, and I have a design that I’m quite pleased with.  While I don’t consider myself a great fan of country arts and crafts, I am enamored of the little heart flowers.

Below that on the same chart, is a small element I that I find very pleasing to embroider, four little flowers.  They make a great boarder on clothing when lined up in a row.  I have this design embroidered on the sleeves of a chemise I use for my SCA garb.  It’s simple, yet quite pretty.

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Well, that’s it for tonight.  One frustrated crafty person, who has been waylaid on their plans to start a project, all because a pair of scissors went missing.

Project delays

Well, I was hoping to have an actual update to post later today or tomorrow.  I actually got started on the project, have the fabric measured out and trimmed up, and boarders marked in.  Had grabbed my thread to do a quick whip stitch along the edges of the fabric to bind them, and then was going to do a quick basting stitch along the boarder so that I could see where it was on the front side of the fabric, then get the first element stitched in.  But…  I can’t find my embroidery scissors!  I know I had them when I was working up a sample of one of the patterns, but I can’t find them now.  I thought I had set them aside with my currently very meager embroidery supplies, but they weren’t in the bag that I’m using.  I can’t find them anywhere around where the bag was resting for a couple of months.  They have simply vanished.  I think I’ll blame their disappearance on that pesky gremlin that seems to like to steal anything I’m wanting to use.

As it is, I’m actually at a good point to get a picture of the fabric, with the boarders marked in, put up, to give an idea of the overall size of the project I’ll be working with.  This will be the largest embroidery item I’ve ever worked on to date.  Until this pillow, everything has measured no more about 8 inches to a side.  It’s a bit intimidating, yes.  But also exciting.  I’m glad that I’m able to break it up into smaller pieces and can work on one element at a time.  That should make it a lot easier to work with, and hopefully won’t leave me feeling so overwhelmed on everything.

In the mean time, I’m going to keep fuming, and looking for, my missing scissors.  Nothing is more frustrating than being able to sit down and finish up the prep work on a project, or start the project, and not being able to take that next step because you’re missing a key supply item.

 

Here’s the fabric I’m working with, approximately 20 inches to a side, with a working area of 18 inches (to allow for seam allowance and extra fabric before the design actually begins).  The lines marked within the fabric are to indicate where the working space of the project will be.  This will give me a clear boarder to start the designs at, as well as keep me within the working space.  I would hate to have a beautifully done design, only to have a portion cut off as it gets sewn onto the pillow backing.

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Finally beginning the pillow

I know, I know, I’m not the best blogger in the world.  It’s been quite some time since I last talked about the blackwork pillow I’m planning on.  What’s that?  Yes, still planning.  I’m rather slow at the moment, so many other things taking up my attention and time.  And soon, I might even have less time!  I’ll be starting classes this fall, and will be taking on a full course load.  Between that, and possibly a part time job (will have to see when school starts what my options are), I may not have much time or energy to do anything crafty.  But we’ll see.

Anyways, here I am, looking at all my patterns I’ve drawn up, and trying to figure out what’s going to go where.  Initially, the pillow was supposed to 20 inches.   The overall size is going to be just a little smaller, closer to 19 1/2 inches.  Here’s my thinking so far.  I have a 20 inch piece of cloth (well, technically, a 20×24 inch piece, that I was going to trim down), so that’s the maximum size I have to work with.  When you account for a 1/4 inch seam allowance on all sides, that will drop the finished size to 19.5 inches on a side.  Accounting for space between the edge of the embroidery, and the seam, a working area of 18 inches seems pretty decent to me.  Next, I need to figure out pattern placement.

I’m working off of patterns that I’ve sketched up on graph paper that measures 5 squares to an inch.  So my final designs will be much smaller than what I’m seeing on paper (this is one of the reasons I want to get my hands on smaller graph paper).  A part of me is wanting to just say “Oh, screw it!  Toss the designs on wherever they’ll fit!”  And while that’s not a bad idea over all, it can end up looking rather sloppy, unorganized and uncohesive in the end.  Not to mention, if I don’t plan it properly, some elements might not have space to done up properly.

So, yes, I’m at the point where I can begin working on the pillow, even if that work is just planning.  Thought it’s actual planning now, not just gathering ideas.  We’re at the technical phase now.  Back to the graph paper I guess as I try to figure out what elements to place where.  What I think I’m going to do is draw up a mock of the working area, and then block in spaces for each element, based on it’s overall size.  This shouldn’t be too hard, right?  Right.

Also, I know, no pictures yet.  I can’t find the cord to hook my camera up to the computer to download pictures.  Things got shuffled around recently, and all my small electronics lost their cords (I can’t find the one for my mp3 player, so no music when I’m not next to the computer *sad*).  Hopefully, next posting, I’ll have some pictures to add.

Blackwork Sampler, thoughts

I started to take a beginning blackwork class at my local SCA meeting a couple of weeks back.  Why beginning?  Well, even though I’ve dabbled with it a little, I still consider myself a beginner.  Besides, it’s always good to get a refresher in basic techniques, you never know, you might learn something new, some new technique that makes it easier to work on a project.

I did learn something new too at this class: a better way of starting and ending my threads.  It’s still going to take some practice to make it perfect, as one of the ideas of blackwork embroidery is no knots.  And I’m horrible at not using knots when I don’t have a good way to secure the thread.  This should be workable though.

After doing some practice stitches, and looking through a library of patterns that the instructor had, choosing one, and tracing out the pattern ourselves on graph paper, we were told what our homework was: go find patterns that we found interesting, but not to complicated (I fail on that part, I like complex patterns, probably a little too much), and copy them down on graph paper.  Next time we were to meet, we’d begin on our project, a 14”x14” sampler made up of our own patterns that will become a pillow.

Well, I haven’t been able to make it back for various reasons, so I decided to take the idea and just run with it.  We were to be given the pieces needed for the project – thread, needle, the aida cloth, and instructions on how to turn it all into a pillow.  As well as technical and design help for piecing the patterns together.  I have the needle, some thread (can easily pick up a few more skeins), and now I have a selection of patterns that I’ve diligently traced out on my 1/4” graph paper.  All that’s needed, for the moment is some aida cloth to work up the designs, and then a pillow form.

I need to invest in 5 or 6 squares to an inch graph paper…  Oh, or maybe the super tiny 8 or even 10 squares per inch!  Uhm, yeah, you may have noticed a trend here, I like TINY graph paper!  It makes working up patterns and designs so much easier.

I’d attach some images of the patterns I’ve been working up, but I’m not liking the quality of pictures my phone takes currently.  Need to find the cable for my camera, and then I’ll be able to take better, more consistent, pictures to show my wonderful inked line drawings.   As I work on this project, I’ll make periodic updates to show how it’s progressing.