Sunday, August 31, 2014

Virtual Stars and Labyrinths

One of the rewards I give myself is working with Blender to create 3D images.  Lately, I've managed to use InkScape to create 2D patterns which I then import into Blender extrude into 3D shapes.  

Importing from InkScape works fairly well with angular objects, but curved objects tend to generate objects with a broken manifold or with a missing facet that shows the insides of solid objects.   When an object isn't manifold, I have to go in and edit objects on a vertex and face levels.

Blender can use Boolean Logic to create complex shapes by combining or subtracting simple objects.  My favorite function is the difference function, followed by intersection function.  

One of the latest designs I've worked on are a Moroccan tile design created by interweaving five pointed stars.  Since the symmetry is pentagonal, the golden mean shows up frequently. Interweave designs require careful focus during the InkScape design process to get the over-under pattern correct.  

The other design is a labyrinth.  After looking at ancient and classical labyrinth mosaics, I worked on something similar.  After following some false trails (heh), I found that creating a roughed-out design on paper was more efficient than trying to make paths work in InkScape. 

I managed to create a labyrinth and get it into Blender.  Then I extruded it into something a person could walk through.  Or possibly a stove element.  

Revisiting the labyrinth, I managed -- with a whole lot of difficulty -- to grab just the top vertices of the extruded labyrinth, then scale them down so that instead of a disk shape, I had a cone shape.  From there, playing with a sphere gave me... Tron's lightcycle helmet, I think.

Oh well.  I'm hoping that I can create some interesting objects by sending the Blender Items to Shapeways, a 3D printing company.

Friday, August 29, 2014

More Stops Along The Game of Writing

Looking back at my writing the last few weeks I've discovered some new stops along the John Is Writing Game:

Grandma Matriarch:  It's The Queen! It's the Powerful Old Woman!  It's... Grandma!  (Very seldomly, Grandpa!)  She's rich, she's experienced, she's got controlling secrets, she's got cookies!  She might be a high priestess, or a sorceress.  She might be dead but still influencing story events, and she very likely represents the Old Order the protagonist must appease, learn from, subvert, or outwit.  Roll Die:  1-4 Have some cocoa and stay where you are.  5-6 Go back to Dion Fortune.

Weaving on the Loom of the World:  What's that Grandma has?  It's a loom, and her shuttle passes the weft between the warp lines as they go up and down, drawn by the heddle.  Wait a minute; you say Grandma's a musician:  what is music but melody and words woven together?  What's that--Grandma is a physicist:  No problem, that's what Superstring Theory is for!  Roll die:  1-2  Stop writing the story to research what an inkle loom is, 3 Go back to the Dictionary of Obscure Usage, 4 Go to Mystical!Magical!Science!  5-6 Lose a turn singing "The Circle of Life."

Dream Sequence:  (Cue Stevie Nix singing, "Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions.")  Lewis Carroll sends Alice down the rabbit hole, The Author sends characters to sleep.  In a pinch, a Tarot Reading will suffice.   Roll Die: 1-2 The Readers Are Confused, go to Dion Fortune.  3-4 Lose a turn trying to make this dream actually advance the plot.  5-6 Stay here.

Between the Worlds: Is the character half-human, half-faerie?  Are there cyborgs in the story ("I'm not a man / I'm not a machine / I'm just something in between")?  Maybe someone's leading a double-life, secretly pretending to be a mild-mannered secretary by day, but walking the astral paths by night.  In any case, there are two worlds involved, and the main character is straddling them.  Roll die:  1-2, Lose a turn watching "Amok Time" (that old Star Trek episode where Mr. Spock almost kills Jim Kirk in a mating ritual.)   3 Go back to "Gathering the Lost.  4-6 Stay here, between the worlds.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Writing Excersies

The last six of weeks, I traded photography prompts with a friend.  She would post a photo prompt, and I would post some prose.  A week later we came back with a story to go with the posted photo, and a photo to go with the posted story.  

The theory was this would be a good way to get me to write more quickly and to write to spec (mostly).  It didn't quite work out that way for me, as I ended up posting not-quite-finished first drafts.

Coincidentally to thinking about this project, Cat Rambo wrote this piece about writing outside one's comfort zone.  What's been valuable to me is the re-discovery that when I'm having a negative emotional reaction to a prompt, I avoid processing the emotion (by having my characters do so) and instead focus on cool descriptions of eye candy.  In general, I need to focus on the emotional arc of my characters more to give readers a clear emotional hook.

The exercise has been good for generating rough drafts and vignettes.  At the beginning of the run, I was approaching the project with the idea that a short anthology would be the result (product! product! product!).  But after the second or third week (mostly of me posting rough drafts) we decided to approach it from the standpoint of a fun project and not a stress-inducing one.  (Remember, writing is work, but you're supposed to enjoy doing it.)

The one draft I was really happy with got thoroughly trashed at a particularly annoyed Wordos table, which surprised me.  In retrospect, I'd managed to put the tone of the photograph into the piece, but the characters' emotional calculus was off, and the plot had some unaddressed issues (Was this the first time the POV had discovered a strange shoe on the path? Why was the boyfriend suddenly a jerk? What happened in her past...?)

Looking at the drafts I produced, I kept returning to the theme of living in two worlds, some of which was prompted by the photos, but not completely.  Looms and weaving came in second.

On the picture side, it's always interesting to me when an illustrator or a photographer uses my stories as a jumping off point for an image.  

My friend's pictures are really cool.  She said that she produced a lot of material which didn't make the final cuts, but which provided images for other projects.

The image I liked the best was from the short story, "Before the Last Bloom Falls."  Another image I liked was from a science fiction and fairytale mashup.    

We decided that we'll continue to trade prompts, but we're dropping back from weekly to monthly.  Which means, Yeek!  I've got to get writing!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Filing Project

This week's project has been consolidating my writing files.  For the longest time, I used to have all my writing files in one place; then we moved -- eek, nine years ago -- and the lateral files I used got moved into the garage, where they weren't very handy.  I added a filing cabinet and a rolling file to the mix thinking more files would result in better organization.  But since a good portion of the files I wanted were in the garage and the stuff I wanted to work with was in the house, it didn't.

I got some help and moved the file cabinet into My Writer's Closet, and moved all my old drafts and current drafts into it.  I'm still in the process, but the idea is to have every day files living in the rolling file, manuscript drafts living in the file cabinet (both in the Writer's Closet) and stuff I don't need to look at that often in the lateral files in the garage. 

I've got a lot of rough and Wordos critiqued drafts from the early 2000's that I should look look at and recycle.  Once upon a time, Eric Witchey once said of imperfect but marketable manuscripts, "Even a dead fish can float downstream," so maybe I can come up with a Papier-mâché project....

Saturday, August 23, 2014

More 3D Printed Mugs

I finally got a moment to set up the camera and the 3-D printed mugs.  As promised, here's some photos.

I tried drinking out of one--or rather, pouring into one--and it's easy to splash things all over.  They hold a tablespoon of liquid.

Talking with E. S., and she added absinth to the list of things one could drink out of these.

I'm pleased with the way that they turned out; the end product is very close to what I designed, so much so that I can see that I could have easily added more faces and vertexes to the design and the print would have come out more like a cylinder and less prism-like.

Writer's Holiday

I've been taking a writer's holiday the last few days, puttering around the house and writing.

I've been getting some writing done, but there's been more puttering than I would like to admit.  I guess if I call it "getting out of the house and having a life" it sounds better.   The very early writing I've been doing has fallen to the wayside to be replaced with some kind of mid-morning writing.  So far, on my writer's holiday I've

  • been working out (Looking good and feeling gorgeous.)
  • seen "Guardians of the Galaxy" (These aren't the droids... oh, wait.)
  • watered plants
  • eaten cherrie tomatoes plucked live from the vine.
  • watched "Dr. Who and the Leisure Hive" (man, what a slow episode)
  • brushed the cat (don't make me vacuum out those azalea leaves)
  • watched "I, Mudd" a restored Old Series Star Trek. (Fenton Harcourt Mudd, have you been drinking?)
  • moved a file cabinet and a bunch of files into my Writer's Closet so that all my manuscripts are in one place (okay, working on that) and so that the rolling file can actually function as a filing tool instead of a rolling monument to organization. 
  • spent too much time looking at a thirty year old journal from college (The angst! It burns!)
  • played Maxwell's Demon with the windows in an attempt to keep the house cool.

Luckily, I still have a few more full days of just writing.  Goals are to edit some drafts that need editing, get manuscripts out into the mail, oh, and do some Real Adult things like banking.

Hi-didle-de-dee, a writer's life for me....

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Three-D Printed Sake Mug!

It's here! It's here!

About six weeks ago, I designed a mug using Blender.  Well, okay -- the end result is a sake cup.  Anyway, I wanted to make something for my and Mark's tenth anniversary.

First I used Inkscape to make a shape that I could virtually spin into a mug.  I knew from past experience that when I tried to make objects in Blender with medium-complex topology that I got a lot of weird edges and orphan vertices and mesh faces.  Also, it's sometimes hard to know how thick everything is in Blender and easier to start out with a known proportion in Inkscape.

Once I had a shape I thought I could work with, I went into Blender.

I used Blender's spin function as a kind of lathe to make a mug and then I used some Boolean Nots to cut oval wholes in the side.  (I'm cutting out the parts where I goofed up and made things that didn't work.)

Then I went to the Shapeways web site and uploaded the build... and I discovered that ceramic materials are, um, kind of expensive (but not as expensive as bronze, steel or gold).  Ceramics are the only food-grade material they offer.

Then I waited.  And waited. And waited.

 When Shapeways told me the build was ready, I tracked the shipment.

When I got the package, it felt kind of light.

But I was excited!  There was a lot of packaging.  I was glad that the ceramic mug was so well protected.

There were about three layers of bubble wrap.  Getting smaller; the reality of how big six centemeters is began to sink in.  

And TADA!  The finished product in white.  This one's for Mark.  I'm getting a black one, which --although identical -- was harder to print and has been delayed.

I'm psyched that this came out so robustly, and yeah, it holds a tablespoon of liquid.  I'd envisioned sipping hot cocoa or maybe sake (if I drank sake) from it, but I'm pretty sure we're the proud owners of a very artistic medicine cup.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Art of the Tuileries

We recently saw the Portland Art Museum's show, The Art of the Louvre's Tuileries Garden show.  I liked the individual pieces, but the show as a whole didn't seem unified:  I'm not sure what the gardens as a whole meant to the French people, or at least how that meaning changed within the cultural context of a private garden turned over for the enjoyment of citizens.  (I must have missed a sign somewhere, because talks about the historical interpretation of the park).   I think I would have tried to take a chronological approach to the galleries, or maybe a functional one, or maybe I would have tried to present the pieces from the standpoint of a preserving and displaying public art and the difficulties thereof.  

They did place François Joseph Bosio's (French, 1768–1845), Hercules Battling Achelus well, as one would turn a corner and be confronted with a twice life size naked Hercules battling a snake.   Both Mark and I gave a little shriek when we saw it.   I liked the scales on the snake.  What was interesting was that there appeared to be bullet holes in the bronze, but there wasn't an explanation of what they were from.  We agreed that Antoine Coysevox's (French, 1640–1720) sculpture of a faun(?) playing pan pipes was the best sculpture there, although we liked the herms-style carving of Vertumnus revealing himself to Pomona (Surprise! I'm a MAN!)

I liked the sculptures of Atalanta and Hippomenes, but then Mark started pointing out how they were mediocre in proportion and execution (I still think Hippomenes' face was well done).

Friday, August 08, 2014

Abs of Tin

Around July 15th, I joined a gym.

It was supposed to be a surprise for Mark, but he discovered my day-glow gym shirt and socks.

I've been fairly good about going four out of five days a week ever since.  I have a little routine with a rowing machine and various gym machines, like the pec fly machine.  I actually cut back a day or two here or there when I learned that when you clink weights you're supposed to give your body a recovery day.

In any case, moving exercise machines around and cutting back a little bit on cheap chocolate and Pepsi seems to be having the sorts of effects that I want.  And one more... The last few days, I seem to be hungry all the time.  I'm blaming the rowing machine and burning through 120 calories in 12 minutes  for this one.

I think feeling hungry is natural... and I'm wondering if there's something, like bananas or glasses of water, that I can ingest instead of, say a whole chicken or--actually, I kind of don't want a Pepsi, which seems weird.

Anyway, I'm hopeful that this is a sign that I've kicked my metabolism up a notch, and that it will now obediently turn to consuming the fat stores that snuck around from my back and joined over my abdomen.  Once those melt away, I look forward to Abs of Tin. 

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Phantom Ship, Crater Lake

We took a boat tour of Crater Lake.  The boat went "an astonishing 13 miles and hour," which provided a nice cool breeze.  All the tickets for stopping off at Wizard Island had been sold, so we did the two hour tour of various features instead (and saved a bundle of money: those tickets aren't cheap).  

One of the  interesting features is Phantom Ship.  It's part of an old lava dike that forms a spur climbing the rim of the caldera.  I want to say it's two football fields long, but it might be only one; it's about nine stories high.  

What I liked about it was that it really did look like a ship, it had trees growing on it, and it had cool basalt formations.  Also, it's easy for a boat to get close to, so you can see finer details than most of the other geologic features of the tour.

If I were going to hide a sword that a Once-And-Future King might need to find, I would hide it on the Phantom Ship in Crater Lake.

Actually, if I were an Evil Genius and I needed to hide my secret lair, it would be at the bottom of Crater Lake, and it would be powered by one of the lake's hot spots.

I'm not sure where I'd put the monorail, though.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Crater Lake Building Details

When I visit national parks, I like to take detail shots of the buildings.  Somewhere deep inside, I want to duplicate what I see and install it where I live.  

These are details of curtains hanging in the Crater Lake Lodge.  Mark thinks the lodge is too much like a bar, and prefers the lodge at Yellowstone, which is more lodge-like.  I will admit that the Crater Lake Lodge has a slicker, smooth, and intentionally distressed look to it - which comes from extensive remodeling and refurbishing.  The Crater Lake Lodge is more open and restful.  

I like the pattern of these curtains because they look like the local desert paintbrush flowers which grow on the slopes of Crater Lake.  I like the orthagonal geometry of the design.  I mostly like the colors, and I can't decide if I'd replace the purple stems with green ones, or if that would be too Christmasy and pedestrian.

These door pulls are attractive and sturdy; I've always liked door latches like these.  It's the Visitor Information building at the Crater Lake headquarters.  I like the arrowhead, which is the National Park Service logo; but you don't need to know in order to enjoy looking at.  

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Crater Lake Flora and Fauna

When we first got to the north entrance of Crater Lake, we drove past the hordes of folks who had stopped at the first rim-side overlook and drove to the much less crowed second overlook.

I'm so used to the cedars, hemlocks, and firs that I forget that wildflowers grow on the rim.  Where the ground is mostly pumice, sand and gravel, the plants' leaves are more succulent and waxy.  Since we were there at the beginning of August, there were only a few small patches of snow on the ground, mostly in the shade of the southern rim.  Snow is on the ground about ten months out of the year.

I think this purple flower is a lupine.  

Dragonflies like Crater Lake, I think I must have seen something like fifty of them while we visited.  I only got close enough to photograph one, and managed to get a few shots of it from the above and the front.

In the early evening, we took a hike on the Vidae Falls Trail.  We didn't get to the falls, but we did get within about ten feet of a deer.  The pleasant shade was refreshing, although nearby forest fires made the sunlight ruddy.

A fallen tree caught my eye because of the way the remaining snag twirled in a corkscrew.  I always think of a tree's bark going straight up, but I guess it wraps around the tree.  

The next day on the Cleetwood Cove trail, we saw about ten, if not Very Tame Chipmunks, then at least Ones Wildly Unconcerned About Humans and Conditioned to Investigate Crinkling Plastic Bags.

Monday, August 04, 2014

More Typeface Examples

I thought when I took a picture of the Administration Building that the sign on it was larger.  I was more interested in the architectural lines than the typeface, apparently.

[UPDATE:  After Googling around, I found more font examples on the signs for the Science Center and for the North and East Entrances of the Park.  I looked around the Department of the Interior's website, but this particular typeface isn't coming up.]

Visitor Center Mystery Typeface

Sunday during our trip to Crater Lake, we stopped at a visitor information site.  I liked the architecture there; it was designed to handle the ten months of snow which lingers at the high elevation of the lake.    

Of course, I had to take a close-up of one of the signs because I really liked the typeface.  The serifs make the signs easier to read, and the drop-down stems on the R's, the M's and the N's make this type face feel like a more laid-back copperplate.

Curious, I visited the National Park Service's typeface page:, but neither typeface listed there is what this sign is using.  It's not a part of their signage page, either.

Looks like a mystery to solve!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Crater Lake Dragonfly

We're back from Crater Lake.  It was nice and cool, if a little smokey from forest fires.   I'm going through pictures, and this is one.

More later.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Ten Years of Marriage

Ten years ago today, Mark and I had a wedding ceremony.  We couldn't legally be married in the state of Oregon at the time.

We had a website here:

We got married in our landladies' back yard.  We had friends and family make banners a few days before; the banners showed the banner maker's relationship with one or both of us.

For our wedding, everyone lined  up on either side of the gravel alley by the house, holding their banners, and we walked with our families between the banners.  Everyone followed us through the yard gate, and hung banners everywhere.

I tried my best, and failed, not to go into a bridal daze; thankfully Mark was there to ground me. We traded vows and rings, and then had chocolate cake (they were supposed to have otters on it, but everyone thought they were weasels).  The comment at the time was "Only gay men could eat chocolate cake in white tuxedos and not get them dirty."

There's more pictures here:  Wedding Photos

I can hardly believe it's been ten years; and five years of living together before that.  Yes, there've been some bumps along the way -- but I'm still in love with Mark and I like to think that I'm as good for Mark as he is good for me.

Happy Anniversary, Honey; here's to ten more wonderful years.