Friday, December 31, 2010

Star Cube Tiaras!

I've been playing with Blender 2.55 (beta) and making some virtual objects. It's fun, and since playing with a paper and a compass is my idea of relaxing, it's mostly relaxing, too.

I wanted to make a tiara of stars. So I fiddled around and managed to create a Python program that would calculate the angles and make stars with as many points as I wanted. Blender draws virtual objects by collecting a set of points together and then associating them into sets of object faces; the whole collection of points and faces is called a mesh. I even got to use the golden ratio, phi, to make the star's arm's lengths come out the right length to make a perfect-looking five point star.

Then I discovered that the Python function that rotates meshes, bpy.ops.transform.rotate, is on the bug list. Meaning that it doesn't work. Meaning that I can't be lazy and use a program to place perfect five-point stars in an arc around the crown of a tiara.


After a short sulk, I decided that the functions that create cubes, spheres, and other objects still work -- and they have built-in bits for rotation and placement. So. Here we go: Tiaras. Some day the bpy.ops.transform.rotate function will be fixed....

Monday, December 27, 2010

Lava Lamps and Gazing Globe!

This holiday season, I received a purple and orange Lava Lamp and a stainless steel gazing globe. So of course I had to make a Shrine!

I am so happy.

And thankful. I love Lava Lamps, and I've been sort of pining away for my old green gazing globe, which had an accident a few years ago. I am hoping that a stainless steel one will prove to be more robust.

More photos here:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lunar Eclipse Haiku

For part of an early birthday celebration, I got to recite lunar eclipse haiku poems while dressed in a purple smoking jacket and sipping sherry. These are the ones I wrote; some are inspired by Izumi Shikibu and some are inspired by the cloudy sky which threatened to hide the eclipse.

☽ ☀ ☾

Heaven's blinds are drawn
Moonlight filling up this house
is from memory.

☽ ☀ ☾

Now no one will see
My lover's shadow darken
the pillows' whiteness.

☽ ☀ ☾

The moon reenacts
the solstice sun's shadow play
-- with or without clouds.

☽ ☀ ☾

I can't see the moon.
Honey, who turned out the lights?
Oh, it's just the rain.

☽ ☀ ☾

Like tomorrow's moon
with no trace of blushing shade -
my heart clothed in clouds

☽ ☀ ☾

I fancy the moon
doesn't fret about the clouds
when shadows visit.

☽ ☀ ☾

Tonight I shall go
To the palace of shadows
The moon lights my way.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar Solstice Eclipse

Just back from watching the eclipse.

I didn't think we would see much of it. At first, as we walked up to the reservoir, it looked like there would be too many clouds in the way. Around 10:40 PM DST, a crescent moon appeared in rents in the cloud cover, only to be whisked out of sight.

There was quite a crowd at the reservoir. The quiet and refined group was made up of the astronomy club. The other group was more interested in howling at the moon and doing some sort of spiral dance.

We got a little sprinkled on, but persevered as the crescent moon became thinner and thinner. I managed to get a few views through a telescope - once of a silver sliver, and once of tattered shreds of cloud passing in front of an dull orange totality.

A cold front passed through, and I was sure that it was going to rain really hard (it didn't). So we left. A little later, we hit a dark spot on the sidewalk and noticed that the moon was a brilliant orange right above Orion. We stopped, thankful to be away from the howling circus (which we could hear in the distance).

We sang (quietly) old Christmas carols and various Neo-Pagan songs as we traveled from dark alley to dark alley. It was a wonderful close to an early birthday celebration (which included family, friends, chocolate, sherry, and haiku eclipse poetry).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The First "No L"

The first noe- /
the ange- did say /
was to certain poor shepherds /
in fie-ds as they -ay. /

In fie-ds where they /
-ay keeping their sheep /
on a co-d winter's evening /
that was so deep.

Noe- / Noe- / Noe- / Noe-
Born is the King of Isrea-

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mathematical Sculptures

Here's more sculptures.

I've lit each sculpture with three lights, a white one above, a green light from the left, and a blue one from the right. This creates some interesting blue and green anti-shadows.

I used to make these sorts of designs on an old HP graphic computer (with thermal paper) back in 1983.

Of course, the "computer" was more like a programmable calculator. And it didn't have a 3-D graphing function (that I was aware of).

After I had made a few of these things, I realized that some of my color-blind friends are not going to see them so well. Sorry.

Originally, I had red and blue lights, but they made the shadows "pop" in a way that was confusing.

All of these were built by a Python script. The script builds a list of points in three dimensions (vertices), then passes them to Blender. Then the Python script tells Blender which vertices are connected into faces. This should be a solid virtual object.

I sent one to Spaceways to see if it would print, but it wouldn't. I believe I didn't tell Blender to make the models small enough for Spaceways' "printer," and so it got auto-rejected.

I might go back to simply building compound models from simple geometric shapes, rather than using a single complex object.

Creating with Blender and Python

Here's the sorts of 3D sculpting I've been doing with Blender and Python. Looks like I need to add a background, but you can kind of see that this is a smooshed sphere if you click on the link to the larger picture.

OK. Back to the holidays.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Request

So when my family asked what I wanted for Christmas, I said I wanted something like this:

The Antikythera Mechanism in Lego from Small Mammal on Vimeo.

They seem confused by the request. I'm not sure why.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Halogen Mania and Information Essay

Today I replaced a 300 watt, 120 volt halogen bulb in a torchiere. Oh. My. Goodness. Words cannot express the exuberance that flooded through me this morning when I transformed our dingy gray morning kitchen nook into a Shrine of Brightness. I probably frightened a half-dozen Twitter and Facebook followers with my manic hymns of thanksgiving (and video).

All I can say is that last Winter's "creative slump" is very definitely connected with the light levels. So don't take away my electric Summer unless you want a reenactment of Psycho, directed by Ingmar Bergman.

In other news, Amanda on Facebook asked: "At what point does society decide we've collectively stored enough information about ourselves? We worry about losing any scrap of information, but, how much information has been lost to the sands of time already? Will what we save now really matter? Would it have helped us to know how many times a day Beethoven picked his nose or how he drank his tea?"

And my light-induced reply:

"Our storage habits are cheap right now; if they became more expensive they'd slow down. Yes; we're building a gigantic data Ozymandias -- but! Marketers take the information and use it to sell stuff. Google and FB make the storage cheap because they've tricked us into becoming data miners for our friends and family.

So sure: if you pick your nose at the same rate and in the same style as Beethoven, then Have I Got A Deal For You! And if you drink Lipton black tea an double strength, steeped for 5 minutes in boiling water, then may I suggest this Sri Lankan Assam tea pack and electric kettle? And we all know that the tea-drinking constituency is an important voting bloc.

Now add to that how Picasa and Google Pics can help you use facial recognition software to help you "organize" your pictures and we've all got a little virtual piece of the Panopticon right in our living rooms, dens, offices, and bedrooms.

So yes, electronic information hoarding is about vanity; it's also about money and power. Er, Yes; I love the freedom of a Net Neutral internet. Why do you ask?

So -- to apply a short essay I read about Wikileaks and how conspiracies manage information -- to stop the endless data collection, we need to make it harder for the conspiracies (Google, FB) to trade information with each other so they are unable to pursue their goal (selling stuff).

The essay posited that Wikileaks does this by forcing the conspiracies to tighten communication between cells in an attempt to control information, thus stifling themselves into ineffectiveness.

I don't know if this leads to a consumer (us) strategy of posting more Cat Videos (and porn) to fill up the networks' bandwidth, or of adapting a strategy of mis-information about ourselves, or of creating fake web surfing applications to use our accounts to surf random sites and make web browser cookies unreliable or what.

But here's where the vanity part of it comes in -- we want our friends and family (and potential readers for those of us who are writers) to be able to find us and see what's up with us. So there is little chance a Bayesian content generator FB app being written or widely adapted soon.

And of course, once Google and FB no longer can use our accounts to build marketable profiles of our consumer and voting habits, there goes "I can haz free InterNets Now."

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

I've been really busy. I keep meaning to post. Thanksgiving was fun. We decorated my folk's Christmas tree Very Early. We caught a rotovirus.