Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Stop Action Experiment

Mostly an experiment with stop-action.  This is a variation on the "John Is Writing" game.

..or it would be if the movie part loaded correctly.  Oh well.

Friday, August 19, 2016

August Utility Post

Whew. Utility post.

Writing: I've wrapped up a short story and I'm letting it sit for a few days before I do a final edit for stupid things. I've been looking at past edits on other manuscripts. My goal for the next few months is to always have ten, ideally twenty, items in the mail at one time. My writing retreat is coming up. Due to some life roles, I'm going to focus on writing short stories set in the same science fiction future Venus. Who knows, it might turn into a novel. The goal is to have a long stretch of intensive writing.

 We're getting a new kitten. We've been thinking that Smokey might like some company in the house. I imagine there will be many kitten posts in my future.

Working out:  I've been going, and I need to go more.

Weather:  It's supposed to be 100F today.  Bleah.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Latest Inkscape Art

Here's the latest design I've been working on.  If I were the sort of person that got tattooed, I might get this.  I might make it a T-shirt design. If I'm feeling extra creative, I might try flipping it so that the snake's head is at the bottom of the triangular knot, which might give the design a little more dynamism.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Summer Performances

The other Friday (July 29)  The Child and I went to hear Weird Al at the local outdoor theatre.  I was worried that we were going to fry in the setting sun, but luckily, our seats were soon shaded as the sun set behind some trees ringing the amphitheater.  Weird Al was not quite so lucky, as the setting sun shone "straight into my face" for the first 20 minutes of the show.  The Child loved the show, and I was impressed with how much fun Weird Al appears to have performing (which cut some of the overly-sarcastic edge off of his songs).

We decided that Weird Al's performance was better than the B-52's performance at the county fair last week (July 26th)... and it's probably safe to say that The Child enjoyed it more than Joan Jett's fair performance last year.

Last weekend (Aug 8), we went to see a community theatre performance of "On the Town."  It was fun.  Apparently the play is very different from the movie.  I'd say my favorite part was the cave-people dance in the Museum.  OK, and the gag where the same sad song gets sung in every nightclub the characters go to.

On the writing front, I've been loving Scrivener for the iPad, which syncs (albeit slowly) with Scrivener on the desktop.  The interface is similar; the thing I miss the most is the split screen, which probably wouldn't work so well on a small iPad screen.   The only thing that's awkward is that I have a lot of older Scrivener files that I have to convert to the latest version before the iPad Scrivener will open them.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Hello to Russia

I was looking at the stats for this blog the other day, and it appears that I've got some fans in Russia or something, because a bunch of my pages suddenly jumped up in their stats, and the indicators for a Russian audience did as well.

These are the monthly stats.  The posting with the highest daily stats appears to be Heisenberg's Airplane, and at first I wondered if an airline was using that post as an object lesson in customer crisis training.  But after looking at the monthly stats more closely, I'm wondering if someone wants to see how I work out, because they all have gym information in them.   Anyway, I'm not sure what's driving Russian folks here, but "Hello, and I'm hoping that you're finding the blog amusing."  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


So... last Thursday I cut my hair back from sixteen inches to about a quarter of an inch.  I've done this before, with similar feelings.  I'm still sometimes feeling a phantom pony-tail, especially when I wash or when I drive a car.

I decided to see if I could fool my co-workers, so Friday, I wore a tie, a nice Oxford shirt, a tie, and sunglasses.  I practiced the lines, "I'm looking for some information on the English Major for my daughter, Caroline, who will be a freshman," moved my voice up from my chest to the back of my mouth, hunched my shoulders, and made sure to take small steps.   As I walked into the office, I was sure to peer at everything as if I was looking for something, and as if everything was new.  It helped that I was wearing big sunglasses instead of my regular glasses, so I really did have to peer at things. 

One of my co-workers saw me wander in and asked if she could help me.  I though for sure I'd be recognized--the sunglasses especially seemed a little Lady Gaga--but the haircut and altered stance made the perfect disguise.  What was fascinating was that she said she looked up, saw the sunglasses, and built a narrative around some guy who'd just come in from the eye-doctor's office and had had his eyes dilated.  Another co-worker came up to help--she thought I was visually impaired--and they both handed me things while I said filler things like, "Oh, yes; thank you.  This will help," all the time peering at introduction to the major materials.   

After about ninety seconds, I took off my sunglasses and said, "Boo."  It took about five seconds for my True Identity to be processed, even with the sunglasses off.  My Norwegian widow's peak (which I inherited from my grandmother) made it difficult for them to recognize that it was me.  We had a good laugh -- it was about as much fun as the time I did the same thing to a previous co-worker 13 years ago on Halloween.  

I got my boss the following Monday.  Mark warned me that tricking one's boss might not be the wisest move, so I simply waited for her to come into the office while I faced away from her and held a notebook.  She thought I was a vendor and said, "Hi, can I help y--whoa!!"  And we laughed.

More Hair-jinx here:  hair

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Marys Peak Hike

 Resting near the top.
 Watching humming birds fight over fireweed.
 Dusting a cloud for moisture.
 On the trail.
Contemplating fallen giants.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Mid July

Saturday, I had an extra-long workout at the gym; 30 minutes of which was elliptical work.

We went to the Oregon Country Fair.  It was rainy and just the right temperature for me.  While I missed seeing some of the more exotic costumes (or lack of costume), I also didn't miss some of the fashion donts that happen at the fair.  It was nice seeing L.H. a writer-friend who sells masks at the fair.  I think my favorite group was the Fighting Karma Marching Band, who plays a selection of Sousa mash-ups.

At some point over the weekend, The Child and I got into a discussion about music.  He's discovered "Imagine Dragons" and so he was playing me their song.  OK, songs; but like U2, their songs sort of sound the same.  In this case, there's a signature A-minor key, the word "whoa-oh-oh" in a sort of tonic-fifth-forth progression, an AABB rhyme scheme, and a key word (like "radioactive") repeated about four to ten times.   Actually, it could be much worse.

TC:  "John I want you to play something with a strong bass.  Like 'Duuuuuuhhhhhn.'"
John:  "Oh, well, here's something."  (Plays the Scorpions "Rock Me Like a Hurricane")
TC:  "No John; a strong bass."
John:  "Well..."  (Tries Duran-Duran's "View to a Kill.")
TC:  "C'mon.  Bass.  Duuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhnnnnnnnn."
John:  "Umm"   (Tries The Cars "Just What I Needed") "Er, no..." (Tries "My Best Friend's Girlfriend")
TC:  "There's no bass in this."
John: "Hmm.  Well, you know, I don't normally like what they play at the gym -- but I noticed when they changed the music to some newer stuff that it all sounded generically bland.  Listen to the artistry of the guitar in this--"
TC (throwing his hands up, tilting his head sideways and making a face):  "Ugh!  No!  (In a Graham Chapman voice) Not the artistry!"
John:  "Alright, fine; we can listen to "Imagine Dragons."  (figured I may as well listen to it to make sure that it's just sad indie songs and not songs about sex and war)

Monday, I went to the gym and had a typical workout.   My latest focus is on obliques, so I've been doing side crunch things.

Dreams:  Odd mish-mash dreams.  Tuesday and Wednesday nights I've dreamed that I've written a short story (the second time I remember editing it), but when I wake up, I can't remember what I've written.  

This morning I had another hypnopompic visitation; this time it was a small muppet-like white-whiskered gnome wearing a blue shirt and a red cap.  I think he had a red nose, sort of like Bert's from Sesame Street.  He was looking at the books on my end table.  I knew he wasn't really there, and he faded away.  So far all of these instances have been silent.   I suppose if they start talking to me I should write down what they say.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Early July Utility Post

Had a laid-back Fourth of July.

Working Out:  Went to the gym Sunday.  100-something calories in 12 minutes on the rowing machine.  There were a surprising number of people at the gym.  I was wearing my contacts, which kind of makes it hard to see some of the settings.  3X12X60 lbs on the pec fly.  3X12X85lbs on the lat pull-down.  3X13 suspended curls.  4X12 oblique curls.  3X12X30 triceps curls.  3X12X35 barbell curls.  3X4X12lb dumbbell shoulder shrugs.  3X12X12lb dumbbell uh, triceps pulls (I forget what they're called).  Some random dumbbell upper-shoulder things.  I'm sure something dreadful played on the stereo.


I'm in a funk.  (Throws back of hand to forehead in a silent movie fashion and utters, "Then my world turned to ashes and the sun was darkened in my eyes.")

I'm not going to focus on it here too much--because focusing on it seems to perpetuate it--other than to wonder if it's summer and I'm in a funk, what's it going to be like in The Deep Dark Winter.  

Unpleasant dreams last night, probably prompted by reading about a 1960 American biological psychologist who used electrical pulses to the pleasure center of the brain to condition psychiatric patients, including gay men.  

The rains are coming back.  Or at least the clouds.  This morning is going to be a warm mug morning.


Woke up feeling sore in my hands and feet.  Looked out the window:  yep, there are rain clouds out there all right.

Working Out:  Went to the gym.  220 calories in 20 minutes on the eliptical.  3X12X60 lbs on the pec fly.  3X12X85lbs on the lat pull-down (I've switched machines to one with a different gradation of weights).  3X13 suspended curls.  3X8 oblique curls.  2X12X30 triceps curls.   Then I needed to leave.


Slogging away at a short story.  Writing has been difficult this week; I feel like I'm plodding away but not moving forward.  This is the peril of "exploratory writing."  

I re-read some old blog posts... and noticed the parts where I sound like a broken record.  I need to fix that.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Philosophy Games

Scene:  Summer Camp drop-off.  John and The Child have just checked in at the rain shelter, where other children are playing various games.  

Twenty-Something Counselor (to The Child): "Hey, there!  Want to play Candyland?" 

TC (glances at the game being set up): "Naw."

John: "Oh, but remember Jean-Paul Sartre."  (A reference to Existential Comics, where-in various philosophers play the game.)

TC (holds up spinner with a I-told-you-this-would-be-lame look):  "Look, John."

John (surprised that the color-coded cards have been replaced):  "Oh!  The illusion of free will has been preserved!"

20-SC:  "I think I see where some of his humor comes from."

Friday, July 01, 2016

July 1st Post

Wait... is today the first of July?

Working Out:  Went to the gym Thursday afternoon after (eek) about a week.  10 minutes and 120 calories on the rowing machine.  I love the rowing machine, even if it isn't possible to read on it.  3X12X70 lbs on the pec fly.  3X12X80lbs on the lat pull-down.  3X12X40lbs on the triceps pull-down.  3X12X35 lbs on the barbell curl.  I nearly dropped the barbells when the stereo started playing "Angie."  
3X12 suspended curl-ups.  3X20 scissors. 

I should add that the week prior, the stereo was tuned to something less Classic Rock; although I prefer the more generic light metal rock from last week because the beat is a little faster and the lyrics aren't as intrusive, I must say that the classic rock has better musicianship (even if the a majority of the lyrics are essentially either your-the-hottest-woman-I've-ever-beheld-and-I'll-sex-you-forever or post-one-night-stand-I-gotta-be-free-to-have-sex-with-whomever-I-meet-farewell-addresses with a sad-political-ballad thrown in for good measure).

I'm at a curious point where my bicycle tire is really responsive to if I've been eating junk food or not going to the gym.  I think I'm going to have to start calling it "Bloaty McBloatface" and figure out a Blexit Strategy.   That and do more planks.  

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.