Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Weekend Report

Over the weekend we went to Carl Washburne Campground.  The beach was sunny and calm; Mark and I sun-burnt the tops of our feet.  Our fellow-campers were pleasant, and coincidentally, half of them were elementary school teachers.  The Child made friends with a four-year-old boy who worshiped him.  Saturday, we hiked from Washburne beach, through blinding winds, through The Hobbit Trail, to Heceda Head Lighthouse.  Sunday was also windy and foggy, so much so that I could see better with them off then with them on.  As a reward for good filtering skills with four-year-olds, The Child was awarded a buffet brunch at Three Rivers Casino; which he thought was the zenith of dining experiences.

In the dream department, Monday night's dreams involved water dripping from ceilings.  I was at Arcosanti, flying around a gathering of people in the Crafts-3 Building, playing Christmas carols on a recorder/krumhorn while water cascaded down the east window and from the skylight.  I was sleeping with Mark in our bedroom, which had a wall replaced by a tent, while water dripped from our ceiling.  I was looking at a closet, which also had water dripping over the shelf hardware.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Working out and Dreams

Working Out:  I've been to the gym, but I've been behind logging:   Saturday:  25 minutes and 280 calories on the elliptical; 3X12X60 lbs on the pec fly; 3X12X80 lbs on the pec fly; 3X12 hanging curls; um...  2X20 scissor kicks (or whatever they're called); 3X8 diagonal side-crunchs;  3x8X10lb shoulder shrugs; 3X12X10lbs overhead triceps curls; 3X12X30lbs triceps pull-downs; 3X12X30 lbs barbell curls, plus assorted free-weights.  

MONDAY:  200 minutes and 200 calories on the elliptical; 10 minutes for about 103 calories on the rowing machine. 3X12X60 lbs on the pec fly; 3X12X80 lbs on the pec fly; 3X12 hanging curls;  3x8X10lb shoulder shrugs; 3X12X30lbs triceps pull-downs; 3X8 diagonal side-crunchs (which I think is good for straightening my lower lumbar area); 3X12X30 lbs barbell curls, plus assorted free-weights. 

Writing:  Bad news: the iMac hard drive has crashed and might be dead.  This means no MacOS Scrivener, which means no syncing stories with SimpleNote.  At least my projects were backed up and I can use Scrivener for Windows.  Good news: I picked up an abandoned manuscript from May and it's not quite as hopeless as I thought.  Also, I managed to find a place to have my writing retreat in late August.

Dreams:  I'm pretty sure the cat must have been grooming my head as I slept because in the middle of running around a large government building, which was light and airy, with lots of lightly stained hardwood paneling, wooden banisters, and an open atrium.  The dream had been about standing in lines to receive some kind thousand-dollar refund, when I was suddenly seeing my doctor (not The Doctor nor my regular care-provider) who recommended installing a small metal box on the top of my head.  He had two casually dressed twenty-something interns do the installation, which was an out-patient procedure.  I sat on a kitchen chair while the long-haired woman fiddled around with the back of my head.  Every so often I'd feel a pinch, and then I'd feel and hear a vibration on my head.  I think they had to drill into my skull to set the box (the details weren't very clear)  It was supposed to be relaxing and the vibrations were supposed to enhance your senses (especially vision).  But it was mostly like having a vibrating back messager stuck to the back of your head.

The doctor came back (we might have been outside along a rocky river shore at this point) and asked how I felt.  I wasn't feeling much benifit, was a little miffed that my hair had been cut as part of the procedure (and I hadn't been warned), and had a case of sticker-shock when he told me making the device permanent would cost $2000.  

I think I woke up at this point, and thought, "Great, I'm dreaming doctors are putting metal boxes in my head."  At least it wasn't a box that recorded and controlled my thoughts.  

Switching to a different dream... I had another one of those hypnopompic visions the other day.  I opened my eyes and saw a man-sized shadow standing in our bedroom doorway.  It grew less substantial, turned and walked away down the short hallway and toward the kitchen. 

There was no menace, but no sense of beneficial protection, either.  In those moments between dreaming and wakefulness, I always wonder if there really is someone in the house.  Maybe the house is haunted.  Maybe my robe, or a towel, hanging off of the door is tricking my sight.  Maybe the pollen is affecting my sleep cycles.  Maybe some shadow of the night, curious about sleepers, had walked into the house to see how people dreamed, and once I was awake, I was no longer of interest.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Paper Star Laser Project

 For Father's Day I made a star ball out of paper.  This one would be based on a zillij pattern of a decagram surrounded by ten stars, and would make a dodecagon.  I've liked this pattern, and I've always wanted to make a repeating design that was interlocking circles of stars, but the pentagonal symmetry of the pattern means that some of the stars get deformed in order to make the design fit (here's an example and here's another).  After staring at the design I figured I could make something out of six copies of two conjoined decagons.

I've been fiddling with stars and decaogns forever in Inkscape, so it was fairly simple to make a design, export it to DFX, and bring it and a stack of construction paper to the Eugene Maker Space to laser.

I could have made a design that fit on a 12 inch by 16 inch piece of paper, but I'm glad that I stuck with regular-sized paper because the end design would have been inconveniently large.  I closed down CADQ and restarted it fresh, and the system worked without problems.  I told the laser software that I was using construction paper, set a thickness of 0.005 inches... and four minutes later pulled out a laser-etched design on a sheet of paper.  There was a smell of scorched wood fibers, but the design had not been cut out.

At this point, I realized that I'd forgotten to bring the laser cutter's bed up to the focal length of the laser.  I raised the bed  to its full height and discovered that this was a little short of the recommended focal length suggested by the manual tool.  If I'd been a purist, I would have found a half-inch tray of wood for the paper to sit on.  I nudged up the thickness to 0.030 inches.  Four minutes later, I had a design that was mostly cut out, except there were a few places where the fibers hadn't been severed all the way.  I recalled something about green materials interacting with the laser and wondered if this particular shade of paper was reflecting the laser.

But it worked.  I was ready to try halving my cutting time by cutting two -- two! -- sheets of paper at a time.  Cutting multiple pages at a time would be much more quick than using a razor bladed Silhouette cutter-plotter.  I nudged the laser's thickness cutting power to 0.060.  The laser control flashed a warning: something about the power setting exceeding the recommended levels for paper.  With the hubris of Victor von Frankenstein, I proceeded.  About two minutes later the paper caught fire.  I hastily halted the laser, snatched the still-burning paper out of the laser cutter's bed, and stomped the flames out while singing, "Crap crap crap crap!"  Gentle reader, I beg you not to tread the paths of hauteur:  heed the warnings of the machines, lest you feel the chastising heat of flame and ashes are the fruit of your artistic craft.

Taking the more cautious path, I resolved to set the thickness to 0.040 inches and double-cut single sheets of paper.  I believe this is still speedier than the aforementioned Silhouette  cutter-plotter, and it does have the advantage of not having to peel the finished design off of an adhesive cutting mat.  Another advantage is that the laser cannot snag on the occasional thicker paper fiber, resulting in a torn product.  The disadvantage, is that, once again, the laser reminds me that it's actually vaporizing/burning away the materials it cuts, and each page has a faint campfire aroma.

I has the laser cutter produce seven copies of the design.  I only needed six, but I figured having a spare would be a good thing in case I made some horrible error in construction.  In any case, it was also the end of a long day, and I figured I should finish the construction when I was rested and less liable to make some sort of goofy mistake.

The next day, I set out the design.  I had been mulling over exactly how I was going to glue the designs together so I wouldn't have a gap or too much overlap in the finished dodecahedron.  I put three of the designs together and mentally rolled the various stars around to make sure they aligned correctly.  Popping out of two dimensions into a third is tricky for me, and I had to rely on my previous work and trust that everything would fold together.

Since I'm pasting and bending twelve decagram together into a dodecahedron, the thing to keep straight was that every other "ray" from a decagram would be shared with an adjacent decagram, and that that ray would be perpendicular to the edge of the finished dodecahedron.  The alternate rays would lead to a triangle of three stars, and would be analogous to a dodecahedron's vertex.  I photographed the design with some dice to make things clearer to myself and to document the process for five years from now when I'm trying to remember how the heck I put everything together.

After that, it was a process of pasting overlapping stars.

And pasting....

And pasting...

And taking time out for artistic shots of nets of stars..

 The decagram in the middle of the ring of stars made the design more flexible that previous, more compact and hexagonal designs.  The result was a floppier mesh.  I used a giant mug to prop up the semi-completed half of the dodecahedron while I worked to join stars together.

After the first four or five stars had been joined together, it became much easier to see how and where to join the next set.  I used the eraser end of a pencil to hold the stars together; I also used my fingers, but the Elmer's glue was more likely to adhere to my fingers, and the eraser against the table method resulted in flatter, less wrinkled joins.

This picture -- actually, the one above, too -- shows how a triad of stars comes together (look at the base of the tea mug, a little to the left).

More artistic photographs.  Sometimes I think it could be interesting to make this out of some kind of shiny metal.

A completed bowl of six pentagonal faces joined together.  Someone at the Maker Space had wondered how rigid the structure would be; once all the stars are glued together, the structure is fairly rigid.

Two bowls side by side.

Now I have to make sure that I'm putting them together correctly.

The dice make a reappearance to show which rays lead to decagrams and which lead to star triads.

Another documentation photo.

Working the two rims of the stars together.

 Art shot.

 Combining flat stars groups of stars together into an undistorted three dimensional pattern is very satisfying to me.

Finished dodecahedron from above, with the spare mesh to one side.

 I'm pretty sure I have to go read some William Blake poetry now.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Writer's Spell for Summoning Genius

I was trying to write and I was staring at the white screen trying to make words appear.  I was getting depressed and felt particularly uninspired until I recalled the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of "Eat, Pray, Love" where she talks about the difference between being a genius and having genius.  It's also possible some stray notions about writing being a spiritual practice were floating around in my head, too.

As I grumpily stared at the white space on the screen underneath the false starts, I thought, "I have no genius today."   Visions of various djinni and accompanying lamps flashed through my head, and dim echos of Scheherazade's Tales of the Arabian Nights--and I thought, "If I have no genius, the magickal thing to do would be to summon a genius of writing with ritual words."  

This is what I came up with:  

Genius of the air, powers of choosing words, be here in the writing.  Be floating bubbles, iridescent; be falling snow, crystaline; be the song of a thousand leaves in the wind.  By the sign of the quill, send questions and mysteries.

Genius of the fire, powers of burning words, be here in the writing.  Be burning beasts hovering over our brow; be tongues of flame; eyes of flame.  By the sign of lightning, send events that scorch old structures.  

Genius of the water, powers of dissolving words, be here in the writing.  Be water poured from the grail; be deep currents; be the wave without a shore.  By the sign of the shell, send characters unsatisfied with themselves.

Genius of the earth, powers of grounding words, be here in the writing.   Be memories covered and discovered; be textures for our skins, aromas that incite, sounds which beguile.  By the sign of  the compass, send a stranger who rides into town.  

Genius of the story, where we meet in the writing as one:  The closed eye sees darkness before dreams; the blank page is whiteness before words.   Before experience, mystery.   Whisper words into my ears.  Guide my hands to manifest.  Let my my eyes witness.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Secret Project Laser

The school where The Child goes to wanted to make some mallets with the school's R logo on them.   Someone much cleverer than me in the ways of woodworking made the mallets, and figured out a way to use blank tiles of white oak to put the mallet together.

I had to convert the pixelated logo into a vector drawing of the logo in InkScape, which I surrounded with boxes the size of the wood tiles.
When I got to the Maker Space, I laid the side of a cardboard cereal box into the laser cutter, and had it etch the design onto a cardboard cereal box so I'd know where to put the tiles.

I went back into the CAD program and added the black within the logo.  For whatever reason, CADQ hadn't picked up the black bits.  This was a good thing for cutting the guide, but it took me a few minutes to figure out how to add solid hatching.  The default setting for the cutter is to use a continuous red line for cutting through object, and black for a rastered etching.  

Since I didn't want to cut out the tiles, I removed the bounding boxes on CADQ.  Then I did a test run on the obverse side of some extra tiles.  In this photo you can see how the cardboard got sliced out around one of the stars before I got the laser to pause.  

The blanks laid out on the cardboard guide in the laser cutter's bed (note laser siting dot in upper right-hand corner).  The only problem with the cardboard was that it was folded and warped in a few places, so while it laid flat when the tiles were on it, it didn't want to stay flat when they were off, which was a source of worry.

The process of cutting and etching the tiles took about 25 minutes.   I'd say the first 20 was the laser going back and forth like an old Apple ImageWriter burning in the R's and the last five minutes was spent outlining.

The finished tiles, with the center one removed to show the cardbard's guidelines beneath.

The tiles were .25 of an inch thick, and I set the laser to cut at .13.  When I did an experimental tlle at .25, it nearly cut out the R and there wasn't much of an increase in contrast on the engraving.  I think if I had manually fiddled with the laser's power and the sled speed, I could have changed how things came out.  However, at .13 inches burning into white oak, there was minimal scorch marks.  

A finished tile.  Adding cut line around the engraving made the design pop out of the wood.

Once they were done, I got the white oak tiles back to another parent, who is wiser in the way of wood, and who put them onto the mallets.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Post Birthday Post

Working Out:  Went to the gym Saturday morning.  Um, 20 minutes on the eliptical for 200+ calories.  10 minutes on the rowing machine for 105 calories.  3X12X60 lbs on the pec fly.  3X12X80 lbs on the lat pull-down.  3X12 hanging curls.  Some dumbbell work involving over-head triceps work.  Eating much less junk food last week and actually going to the gym is showing this week.

This morning when I went to use the iPad, the charge on it was down 5% from 35% when I went to sleep; I don't know what app drained it, but it meant I had to write long-hand.  Which was pleasantly slow and I wrote a 300 word vingette.  I just learned that Cat Rambo uses DragonSpeaking to transcribe her longhand journal entries into electronic format, and maybe I can do that, too (hmm, looks at buget...)  

Dreams:  I had another dream I wish I could recall better because it had brilliant dialog:  two actresses retold in modern language the rival lovers' speeches they were rehearsing from a ?Shakespear? play (maybe "A Midsummer Night's Dream"?)  In the end, it turned into a slap-fest.  

Later in the dream, someone gave me a mask bead on a thong in an attempt to establish a magical connection to me.  This is pretty much a twist on "Mask Glass Magic" which has various dream sequences involving masks.

It's commencement at work, so there are lots of happy undergraduates hugging each other.  And releaved looking parents.  And, surprisingly, parking -- I was expecting a sea of undeserving SUVs to take all the stalls in the lot where I normally park, and was pleasently surprised.  

Working Out:  Went to the gym Monday.   20 minutes on the eliptical for 200+ calories.  Got to the interesting part of "Ancilary Justice."   3X12X60 lbs on the pec fly.  Shook my head in dIsbelief when "Fox on the Run" blared over the stereo.  3X13X80 lbs on the lat pull-down.  3X12 hanging curls.    3X12X35lb barbell curls.  Nearly died when "Inna Godda Divida" started playing over the stereo.  3X12X30lb  tricepc pulldowns.  

Friday, June 10, 2016

Gym Journal and Music

Working Out:  Managed to drag myself to the gym Wednesday night:  10 minutes and 105 calories on the eliptical; 3X12X60 lbs on the pec fly; 12X70 pluse 2X12X80 lbs on the pec fly; 3X12 hanging curls; um... 3X12X10lbs Inclined Arnold Curls; 3X20 scissor kicks (or whatever they're called); 3x8X10lb shoulder shrugs; 3X12X10lbs overhead triceps curls; 3X12X30lbs triceps pull-downs; 10 minutes for about 103 calories on the rowing machine.   As a reward for going to the gym and eating less junk food this week, my abdomen began to put in an appearance from behind my spare bicycle tire.    My secret goal is to get a "belt of Adonis."

I'm truly missing KWAX radio host Caitrona Bolster.  The new morning host is passionate and fun and very focused on Beethoven, Schubert, Franz Liszt, and Stravinsky.  So mornings can sometimes veer between Schlauumph, Der Erlkönig, and the apocalypse.  He plays Scarlatti pieces with the harpsichord swapped out for piano, which is okay... but I wish there were more harpsichord.   He does play Mozart and some Bach, and just now there was some Vivaldi, but I wish he would play more baroque pieces, especially the perky ones with twinkly harpsichord  (and not the ponderous sleepy-time cello ones).  And my secret desire is to hear more crumhorn and oboe ensembles playing lively Playford pieces and Bach's Little Fugue in D-minor.

Oh well, I suppose when I grow up I'll become a music director...

Wednesday, June 08, 2016


Dreams:  I'm sure I've been having them, but I'm not recalling much of them.

Design:  After laser cutting some white oak, which cuts more cleanly than birch plywood, I want to make tessellated tiles like this one.  The difficulty is that it's difficult to come up with a design that is simultaneously clean and preserves all ten five pointed stars around the larger ten pointed ones.  So far the only way I can think of to do it involves making a dodecahedron with each ten stars around an eleventh as one of the pentagonal faces.

On the health front, I've had a revelation.  My joints don't hurt because I'm getting older or the humidity is changing.  My joints hurt because I'm lifting weights at the gym.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Gym Post

Went to the gym for the first time in a week or so on Monday.  I'm blaming an odd combination of the long weekend, pollen, the new moon, and general malise for not going.  Not going and some short-term-gain snack choices have resulted in a two pound gain and the return of a pooch (bother).  On the up side, my arms and upper chest look nice (cue Fredrick from "A Little Night Music" singing, "... my body's alright; but not at this angle and not in this light.")

23 minutes on the eliptical, for 230 calories.  3X12 at 40, 50 and 60 lbs on the pec fly.  3X12 at 50, 60, 70 lbs on the lat pulldown.  3X12 hanging curls.  3x12 at 30 lbs with barbell curls.  2X12X10lbs overhead triceps curls.   

I'm also making at least a token effort at eating more fruit, which means buying it at the store the day before breakfast.  

Monday, June 06, 2016

Sunday Crafts

Sunday is craft day!

The Child's school is working withe the 4J Natives Program and producing a totem pole.  We went to a ceremony where the cedar tree that had blown over was harvested a few months ago.  After that there's been a lot of carving, and the last few weekends have been painting weekends.

In addition there's a secret project involved, so Sunday afternoon I've been tinkering with the laser cutter to produce some lasered bits.  For whatever reason, the laser, the cutting software, and the laptop OS have all been cooperating.  The material I'm cutting is of a higher quality than the birch ply I've been using, so the cuts seem cleaner and sharper.  Even the cutting guide I made out of a cereal box did what it's supposed to do and everything.

The Child's Birthday is coming up.  We've been playing it up a little because of a East Coast tradition called "Golden Birthdays," which is when the number of years you are matches the calendar date.  So, for example, someone born on the fifteenth of the month would have their golden birthday when they're fifteen years old.  This year's theme is Spy Training... and it's just occurred to me that we'll have to play every James Bond theme ever recorded. 

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Laser Pirate Craft

Since the laser cut Unicorn Lamp was such a huge success, and to stem any cousin rivalry, I asked The Child if he wanted a lamp, too, and what kind he'd want.  He thought a moment and said pirate.  I figured it would be fairly simple to adapt various pirate flag symbols.

I think one title for this photo is "Putting the Sir in LASER."  I was sort of going for the Agatha Heterodyne look, but I missed (probably because I don't have fabulous blonde hair).

I went to the Eugene Maker Space with the design all ready to go as both an SVG and DFX file.  The CAD software seems to see DFX files more readily, so I used those.  And then I hit a problem.  The shop's laptop went into sluggish mode; after two reboots, restarting the CAD and preview software multiple times, and an infinite amount of tweaking line widths, I finally managed to get the laser cutter's control panel to accept that I wanted to cut the design the CAD software was sending it as a linear design (which would cut) and not a rastered one (which would only engrave).  I'm still not sure what I did, because after an hour of more-or-less doing the same configurations, the design suddenly appeared in the preview.

When the design is in red, the laser will cut through with a continuous line.  The photo to the left is the CAD software, and it's mostly a reminder to me that I need to set the line-width to zero, and the line type to continuous.

The laser cutter's bed is twelve by sixteen inches.  I forget the depth.  This is a view through the window; I keep the window covered when the laser's fired up because there's some debate about how laser-proof the window really is.

After two cuts, there's a lot of scorching.  In this case, scorching isn't so bad, and it adds to that "I've been in a pirate battle" that I want.

I was able to lift the frame of wood straight up and the pieces fell out and stayed within the laser cutter bed.

Originally, this was Calico Jack Rachham's flag, but the sides of the box were too narrow for the swords to be crossed underneath the skull, so I gave them their own design.  The skull's three inches wide.

If I had shrunk the design down to fit on one side, the teeth would have been too small for the laser to cut out.  I need to take a look at the kerfing gap the laser makes between two adjacent pieces of wood, but generally laser cuts can't be too much closer than an eighth of an inch before you start to get artisanal charcoal.  As it is, there's a weak spot in the skull design where the jawbone hinges.

Speaking of artisanal charcoal, last week when I tried to make super-small Penrose tiles, they fell out of the main sheet of wood and if they fell off the support grid shown here, they'd char when the out-of-focus laser would pass over them.

The back side of a skull panel.  Even with a double-cut, part of the design didn't make it all the way through the wood.  I still can't figure out what's changing, but it's probably a combination of different wood densities, different concentrations of layer adhesive, and possibly enough of a warp in the wood to take the laser out of focus enough that it doesn't cut.  Oh, and extra smoke.

The back sides of other panels.  It looks like a denser grain may be the culprit. I think the straight vertical line off of the right-hand eye is a score mark from the metal supports (maybe the laser heated it up?)

A dagger, a heart (about to be pierced), and an hourglass.  All taken from various pirate flags.  Pirates took many of their flag symbols from gravestone markers.  

Here's an example of foreground and background.  I'm including it to show what the limit of the cuts are.  The teeth actually came out as recognizable pieces of wood instead of lumps of coal.  I managed to skirt the limits of the wood's strength... I think if I were doing this again, I'd put about an eighth of an inch more between the skull and jaw cut-outs, because the skull panels are a little fragile.

 More piratical woodwork.
The box assembled, but unglued.  In the back is the lid with a larger dagger design on it.

The lid -- this is the underside, and the smaller square will fit within the box.  The dagger design is a slightly modified dagger from the other design and will sit on the top.

Arrh!  I'm pretty sure that the char marks on the outside will stay that way.  We've got some left-over glow paint, so I asked The Child if he wanted the inside to glow, and he did.