Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Fabulousity: Scuttle!

This is Scuttle:
Scuttle is a trilobite.  Sometime between 521 million years ago and 252 million years ago, Scuttle scuttled upon the earth.

Someday in the future, we too will cease to scuttle upon the Earth.  Therefore scuttle while the scuttling is good!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Most Beautiful Game I Have Ever Played: Pillars of Eternity

Short Summary: real-time sword and sorcery RPG.  Breath-taking graphics.  Good mix of combat details while not getting bogged down in too many details.  Interface generally very, very similar to Baldur's Gate.  Companions are extremely well done, although their number is limited.  Lots of different monsters and side quests (Hooray for side quests!).  Avoids the "chosen/prophesied one" trope (how I despise the "chosen/prophesied one" trope!) and black-and-white thinking.  Brings up some interesting metaphysical questions and gut-wrenching practical questions with no good answers.  Roughly 60% fighting and 40% exploration, diplomacy, or problem solving.  (You can turn every situation into a fight, though, if you prefer straight blood and guts.)  Highly recommend.

Longer Opinions:

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday Fabulosity: The Nachi Shrine of Kumano

 by Yamaguchi Hōshun, Taishō era, 1926; hanging scroll, ink and color on silk
from the Museum of the Imperial Collections, reproduced in Twelve Centuries of Japanese Art from the Imperial Collections, published by the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in association with the Smithsonian Institution Press.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: A Few Annotated Thoughts

It's not fun to talk about the horrible, shameful things in our past and present.  But if we don't talk about them, we "forget," or maybe we never know.  And we need to talk about them.  Because we as human beings have tremendous power to hurt each other, both individually and in the aggregate of the many tiny injustices that we may not notice, or recognize as hurtful, if we're not the ones being hurt.  We need to know the horrible things in the past and the present to guard against them.  We need to hear from those we've hurt, so that we can STOP doing those things.

If you know and live the culture of the southern U.S.:
  • do older African Americans call you Sir/Ma'am regardless of whether they're older than you?
  • do you call older African Americans Sir/Ma'am the way you would older white women and men?

Think about it.

Here's some reading.  I've tried to bring in mostly sources written by African Americans. 

What Ruby Bridges Can Teach Us About Desegregation, from The Graffiti Wall.  Do you know who Ruby Bridges is?  I didn't.  My elementary school had ~1 African American child per class of 25 children when I was there.

Black Lives Matter.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  (P.S., y'all: white police officer is NOT the most dangerous job:  https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf)

Black Skeptics website.  I like to check in here occasionally.

Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglas.  Still relevant, still powerful.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: a few classes in my elementary school read this.  Never my class.  (We read about a thoughtless white boy who deliberately stirred up a bees' nest and then died from an allergic reaction to the stings.   Aesop's Fables are still better.)

The Enduring Solidarity of White Racism.

White police and doctors unlawfully arrest and detain an African American woman for...not being properly cowed and submissive and driving a nice car?

Trigger warning for violent images: The lynching of Jesse Washington.  Not the only lynching.  Not the only state and town in the U.S.A. that participated in lynching.  And we white people by and large TURN AWAY AND PRETEND THIS DIDN'T HAPPEN.  WE PRETEND WE DON'T SEE THIS SUFFERING.  WE PRETEND WE'RE NOT GUILTY.

And at this point I start crying so I'm going to stop here for today.      

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday Fabulousity: FlippyCat

I just discovered youtuber FlippyCat's mind-bogglingly amazing domino fall videos.  The linked video is particularly lovely.  The next one in the playlist, the fall of the dinosaurs, is also well worth watching. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Poetry Tuesday: Poem on Airing Books on a Starlit Night

We unfasten the chest
Of books and
Offer this gift
To the stars who meet
Only tonight
                                                                                        -Emperor Go-Youzei, trans. Ann Yonemura*

Written on the custom of airing books on the evening of the Tanabata festival, celebrating the once-a-year meeting of the Weaving Maiden (Vega) and the Ox-Herd Boy (Altair), from the Chinese legend. 

*Found in Twelve Centuries of Japanese Art from the Imperial Collections, p. 70

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Caturday Post: Who Sits By the Window

Reference to the lyrics for "The Greatest Adventure" from the very old, animated version of "The Hobbit":

The man who's a dreamer
and never takes leave
Who thinks of a world
That is just make believe
Will never know passion
Will never know pain
Who sits by the window
Will one day see rain:
start at 1:05 for the relevant verse

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Mad Person-Who-Stitches: A Fabulous Hat, Part 2

Elisheba asked for a fabulous hat, ideally with a ship on it.  Read part 1

My original planning scribbles for the hat:
I wrote about making the ship in part 1.  For the base I lucked out and found a 1/4 inch wide metal band headband at a local Target.  (Plastic bands tend to snap after about a year, based on my own cheap headbands.)  I padded it top and bottom with 1/2 inch flexible craft foam left over from Trapeze Doom Guy, cut very roughly in half to be ~1/4 foam.  The foam sopped up enough superglue that I had to reglue a lot, but eventually the foam was stuck on.  (I need to work on taking more in-construction pictures, sorry.)   I then wrapped the messy-looking thing in sparkly black stretch velvet left over from a leotard and stitched the wrapping shut.
Then I needed fabulous, sparkly fabric.  I was originally thinking of something with sequins in gold and scarlet, because of the viking dragon ship for the hat, but Gail K Fabrics (my favorite local fabric store) had a bolt of this:
and obviously this was the fabric to use.  It's feathery/leafy/wave-y and bright pink and blue with tiny silver sequins!  I cut out parts of the feather pattern, working from the flowers, and wired them with 20 gauge crafting wire left over from making a plush Hakuryuu.  Sewing the wire onto the back of fabric sections was easy but tedious.  But then I got to start putting everything together:
Here it is before I put the ship on:
The feathers were the only part the cats were really interested in.
back view

And with ship in full glory:
Elisheba says the feathers are not too much.  It's her hat, therefore the feathers are not too much.

I am very happy with my first attempt at a hat. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Mad Person-Who-Stitches: A Fabulous Hat, part 1

On Elisheba's winter solstice festival wishlist was "a fabulous hat, ideally with a ship on it."

At first I thought to find a wide-brimmed straw hat and glue a model ship to it.  Then Elisheba specified that she preferred fascintor-thingys to full hats.  Then while searching for "viking dragon ship" on the internet I  discovered that a group of amazing Norwegians have built a Viking dragon ship, Harald Harfarge, and sailed it across the Atlantic to North America:
I was inspired!  I thought to acquire a little model viking ship and glue it to a headband.  Then I failed to find a small enough model dragon ship ready-made.  So I decided I would build a little dragon ship and make a fabulous hat myself.  Thus my latest project.

Because I wouldn't be able to acquire and learn to use woodworking tools with sufficient skill in the month before the winter solstice festival, I would make my draken out of paper and cardboard.  The draken Harald Harfarge would be my model.

First, the math, using the numbers for Harald Harfarge from their website: 
(Disclaimer of a former maths professor: this is my own private scratchwork.  I would re-write it completely, with much better annotation, for any formal purpose.) 

This video was incredibly helpful for outlining how Harald Harfarge was built, as well as being fascinating in its own right:
The skill that goes into a ship is extremely impressive!

Laying the keel: stiff cardboard wrapped with a flexible cardboard:
 I wasn't satisfied with the strength of the result, and the corrugated cardboard refused to carve into sharp details for the head and tail.  So I cut two outer pieces from stiff non-corrugated cardboard with the detailing and cut the detailing out of the original keel, gluing all the layers together.  
I couldn't quite do these details in cardboard, but I did my best.

Then I laid the strakes.  The cardboard I used for the outer keel pieces was too stiff, and paper was too flexible, so I cut up a box for instant oatmeal, which was the perfect cardboard weight.
a heap of different weights of carboard
 My fingers are too big and my patience too small to deal with 20 or so strakes, so my draken has only 3 strakes.  Without suitable clamps, there was a lot of listening to HPPodcraft, the H.P. Lovecraft Literary podcast, while I struggled to hold strakes in place and waited for the glue to set enough to hold.  A lot of HPPodcraft and waiting.  Thinking it over now, I think I should have cut each strake in two, shaped them individually to stem and stern and let the glue set, then glued them together in the middle.  As it is, I tried to make them in one piece, and my draken has two relatively gaping holes in the hull at stem and stern.

Then the first coat of paint, seen here with the unpainted, unglued decking:
 Raising the mast on my tiny draken was easy: I rotated my X-acto knife in the soft corrugated center keel to bore a hole, dripped in a drop of superglue, and inserted the length of dowel rod (leftover from another project).  It's traditional to put a coin beneath the foot of the mast, but even my smallest coin was too big, so my draken will have to sail penniless. 

Then I put in the decking.  My draken was already a stiff and coherent whole, and will only sail on a froth of ribbon, so I skipped all the interior bracing.  I painted the details:

And raised the sail.

I'd at first intended a red sail, like Harald Harfarge, but when you see the fabric I found to make the background of the hat, you'll understand why I embroidered a fuchsia dragon instead.  The yard is a thin twig of bamboo, which grows as a feral pest plant in these parts.  The rigging is sewing thread.  The sail is white cotton-polyester twill from my stash; it is sturdy and tightly woven and took the embroidery very well.  I gave the fabric a brief (~30 minute) tea-bath to reduce the blinding whiteness to a more reasonable shade.  
tea-dyed square against the undyed original fabric
 My tiny draken:
My draken is not an accurate model of the Harald Harfarge, as its goal is to look "right" on a hat, rather than be seaworthy.  Most notably the head and tail of my draken are exaggerated in size compared to the body of the ship, and the keel is flush with the hull.  Clearly I have no steering oar or working rigging.  But I hope it captures the spirit of the Harald Harfarge.  I'm very pleased with my first attempt at making a dragon ship out of cardboard and glue and thread.

Tamerlane the World-Conquering Sword found it sniff-able: