Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Baby Elephant

We went to the zoo over the holidays to see the baby elephant, Lilly.

She was about 3 weeks old.

The morning was foggy and cold, I was glad I had gloves and a wool cloak. Luckily, it wasn't raining. As long as I kept moving, my feet didn't get too cold.

We got to the zoo relatively early and joined the throng winding its way down the paths curving around the Pacific Northwest exhibit, past the spuming coastal exhibit, and the investigated by the health department restaurant, to the elephant house.

There was a queue to go into the sturdy, blocky building, which usually isn't the case. Inside was slightly dark and dank; the building must be about fifty years old, so it looks like a giant cage -- I'm guessing the plexiglas between the zoo-goers and the gigantic bars holding back the elephants is only slightly younger than the rest of the building.

Behind the bars, eating a breakfast of hay, were Lilly and her mother. I took a few photos of the elephant when we got closer. People were mostly polite and aware of the folks behind them. The most surprizing thing to watch was how much of an infant Lilly still is, even though she is the size of a small pony. We always equate large animals with grown ones, but the way she moved her trunk and leaned against her mother was very infant like.

After the elephants, we went to the Safari Section of the Zoo to see the Lions, Tigers, Cheetahs, and Leopards. The Lions and the Tigers were distant. The Cheetahs and Leopards, however, where hunkered down against the inclement weather in window bays (conveniently lined with straw). I'm not sure that I'd want a large window in my bedroom for people to peer at me through, but the cats seemed pretty adept at ignoring us. I got some nice close-up pictures of them.

The sea lions -- large and graceful within the blue water, like shadows of dark clouds meeting. -- reminded me that sometimes it's better to enjoy what you're looking at directly, rather than constraining it to a finder frame.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Design Made Real

This year's holiday gift craft was a luminary.

I started out wanting to make a lamp casing out of plastic from a 3-D printer. I made a model using Blender, which looked cool when I rendered it. But what I enedeed up with was something that was A) too big to fit in the 3D printer available to me and B) probably not printable at the level of detail I wanted on a PrintRBot printer.

For my next attempt, I tried to make a lamp casing out of a flour and salt mix, with crushed life savers in the middle. That didn't work so well as the dough had a pretty rough resolution and the crushed life savers didn't melt the way I wanted them too (they were too lumpy and the end product was too sticky).

My third attempt, I thought I'd try to make a design and then have it printed out on plastic... but the plastic shop I connected with was a supplier to signs and windows... their web page is nice, but in some ways you have to know what they're working with ahead of the fact. And order 1000 for it to be cost effective.

The last attempt came from a local paper craft shop. They had a exacto-knife plotter. After some minor tweaking of a design made with InkSkape. I was able to get a design to them for plotting. I was able to modify a decagon zillij design to the plotter and get it cut out of some 60 pound paper. Then I glued the ends of the resulting cylinder together into the luminary.

"Wow," someone said, "It's like those designs you've been posting made real." That's right up there with seeing a story I wrote published.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Birthday 2012

My birthday and Christmas have come and gone. We're still in the holiday mode. I love visiting with my family, and I'll be glad to get back to my regular routine.

My birthday went very well. Mark pulled together a simple and elegant birthday tea party with Ceylon tea, petitefoirs, and simple savories. We had a small gathering of family and friends whom I (mostly) see on a regular basis. One of my cousins sent a Christmas present, which I guessed correctly was a dish caddy--we opened it early--and which came in very handy for the party. While we didn't have a Symposium, we did have a brief book review of ancient archeology as it impacts theories of NeoPaganism and modern constructs of shamanism (and Mark got to poke a little fun at my bibliophile tendencies).

Mark got me a present with a LED bow complete with fiber optic strands. I was like a child with a cardboard box a present comes in.

Friday, December 21, 2012

New Blogger App...

Well, on the plus side, the new Blogger App is easy to use and links up well with other social media.

On the down side, I just now checked and the app doesn't format pictures very well. I'm willing to live with it because, hey, you get what you pay for (free). But it would be nice if the uploaded pictures stayed within the columns instead of bleeding over--which make for some arty effects that are, alas, making some text links difficult to read.

Looks like I've got some picture reformatting to do.

Winter Solstice 2012

(singing) "Have yourself a merry little solstice (is it light, yet?) make the Yuletide gay / from now on our troubles will be far away (I can't see anything)..."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Working With Paper

My latest craft, which I'm trying to use as a reward for writing, is designing paper objects. It's an outgrowth of designing virtual 3D objects.

It turns out that designs made in Inkscape can be exported to dfx files, which in turn can be "printed" out on a Silhouette printer. The printer uses a rotating blade to incise the paper, and can make intricate cuts.

One thought is to try to make some variations on the icosahedrons made out of paper squares -- I want to see what circles look like, and there are some dodecahedron designs I've seen on the web. I've read a book about paper clock escapements, and I think it could be interesting to design paper geared machines. Probably I'll have to cut out four or so copies of the gear to make them strong and thick enough to use.

Then I'll have to learn how to construct gear and pinion ratios.

In the Winter, arranging geometric shapes into patterns brings me a steadying sense of solace. Part of the comfort of design is creating order, if only on a computer screen or piece of paper. The other part is the wonder underlying how six circles are connected to a cube.

Is It Solstice Yet?

This morning it is very dark, with much rain. I'm listening to the rain falling on the roof and it sounds like the rapid tick-tock of the world's clock. I am ambigious about all the rain and the storms; on one hand I like the rain and the clouds and (when it happens) the mysterious fog. But this morning just seems grey.

Outside the window, I'm watching a cascade of water from a rooftop fall on somebody's truck's trunk. I suppose that can't be good. Time to stop writing, I think, and go tell them about it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pre Birthday Musings

In a few days I'll be 48.

When I turned 40, it wasn't such a big deal. We had fun party--with a Birthday Throne--which I enjoyed very much. Turning 30 was much more traumatic for me. I think turning 50 is going to be like turning 30. I have a vague sense of ... dread? Sort of like I'm like Tolkien's painter, Mr. Niggle, and I've forgotten to pack something.

On those days when the glass feels half-empty, I remind myself that I plan to live to 100 (Mark will chime in here and say something about exercise and eating right), and that the years so far have been mostly fun.