Child of a Metal God
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in GrendelFish's LiveJournal:

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    Saturday, April 18th, 2015
    5:55 pm
    Last January my spice tolerance, which was already fairly high, mysteriously jumped off the charts overnight. I haven't been even slightly challenged by a dish in months at this point. At first I was amused by my new superpower, but it's actually getting fairly annoying. I'm really missing the sensation of a tasty dish right on the edge of what I can handle! I at least managed to get a nice happy tummy glow going after lunch today at Thai Tom's, after begging them to make it extra extra extra spicy. That is also something I have been missing.

    Oh well. There was a 9 month period in my mid-twenties where spicy food started giving me minor nosebleeds. (Weird not only for happening, but also for being minor -- I have a long history with nosebleeds, and they've always been gushers lasting for upwards of 30 minutes. This was just a random drip or two, like a slightly runny nose.) That was definitely worse.

    Bodies are weird.
    Wednesday, April 15th, 2015
    6:43 pm
    An open letter to Elon Musk

    Mr. Musk, you and SpaceX are on the verge of accomplishing something truly extraordinary. It looks inevitable that you will manage to safely land the first stage sometime very soon now. For this, you have my respect and admiration. But I humbly ask you to consider the historic nature that event, when it happens. Thousands of people will be watching the stream, hoping to share in the experience in some small way. Please, if at all possible, provide a live video feed of future landing attempts. A fully reusable rocket stage will be the greatest advancement in space exploration in most of our lifetimes. Let us watch it as it happens. Let us celebrate it then, not hours later squinting at a short looping Vine. Our generation has never had a One Small Step moment. Let us have this, please.
    Monday, April 13th, 2015
    5:41 pm
    I have become obsessed with the idea of thru hiking the PCT in 2017. Why then? It's far enough out I can reasonably think about making it happen. (Particularly saving up the money I'd need to replace the lost income.) And that would make it 10 years since doing the Mackenzie. And I'd turn 40 while on the trail. Seems auspicious.

    So, yeah. Long time out. Every chance it won't happen. But that's what is eating my brain these days.
    Sunday, March 15th, 2015
    8:37 pm
    Inbox Zero
    On September 17, 2008, Tony emailed me to remind me to update a configuration detail on the webserver I ran. I keep my inbox pretty clean, using it as a todo list as emails which need action come in. I never got around to fixing the server, since I hate messing with servers and the problem just never happened again, so that email was never archived. Others came and went, but it stayed, often alone.

    Last summer that server died, and the web content got moved to a server managed by someone else. I still didn't archive the email, because I needed to ressurect the file archive part of that system for my personal use, and it served as a useful reminder.

    Over Christmas break I finally retrieved all the contents of the file server, but I hadn't set up a server so I didn't archive the email.

    Earlier this month I set up the server. I got the contents reinstated in it, even the ones that had been corrupted and had to be retrieved from ancient backups. I got my image indexing system running again, and modified it so I could still export images and groups of images to the web, even though that was now on a remote server. I set up an external drive, and scripts to back up the entire server to it, since 600Gb really isn't that much any more, so why not? (And an external drive is a lot easier to grab in case of a fire.) I went through the backlog of images that had built up since last summer, indexing them all. I even went through all my various external drives and laptops and found all the scattered bits and pieces that hadn't been consolodated properly, having built up over the last 8 years since I moved to Canada for grad school and no longer had the local file server to easily put them in.

    And then... that was it. Everything was as good as I could make it. There were no more tasks to be done. My file and web infrastructure is complete again, better in many ways than it ever was before.

    Tonight I archived the email. My inbox seems awfully empty without it. I didn't even remember what gmail looked like empty -- and I had never even seen mobile gmail empty, since it predated Android. It had become a symbol of the impossible goal, the task that you will never give up on even if you don't think it will ever actually happen. And yet it's done now. I feel kind of lost.
    Friday, March 6th, 2015
    5:01 pm
    Metaphorical inversion
    It occurred to me to me today that saying "small world" when you see a weird coincidence is not only trite, it's exactly backwards. Weird coincidences aren't suprisingly common because the number of objects that can interact in the world is very small. They're common because so much stuff is going on, because the world is so much more insanely complicated than anyone can possibly imagine. The number of interactions is so astronomical, long odd events are constantly happening all around us.

    It's a big world after all!
    Thursday, February 26th, 2015
    6:47 pm
    Pier 9

    This is the residency I just applied to and rather desperately want to get into. It is pretty much everything I've ever thought of building if I won the lottery. There is much fretting.
    Saturday, February 21st, 2015
    9:29 pm
    Worldcon 2015
    A couple years ago, watching the livestream of the Hugo ceremony, I joked I should have a Hugo base design in mind, just in case I was ever asked to make one. See, the base is different every year, usually made by a local artist. Not long after making that joke, some pretty cool ideas for a base popped into my head. So I decided to look into the process. Turns out, for the last ~10 years, it has been chosen as part of an open competition that anyone can enter. That was intriguing. And also right about then, it was revealed that Spokane would be hosting Worldcon in 2015, a frankly ridiculous turn of events. I'm from Spokane. I'd be a local artist. I had to submit something. It was, and I mean this in the least ironic way possible, a moral imperative.

    For all of last year I had a background task thinking about how to construct it, taking a welding class just to build some new skills I'd need. Last September, I started prototyping. I ended up making a total of 9 different versions from paper, plastic and metal. I invented an entirely new workflow using 3D modeling, waterjet cutting, steel origami and 3D printed magnetic jigs. The end result was even better than I had originally imagined, if I do say so myself. I submitted it, and all but held my breath for 2 weeks.

    And... I won.

    So, yeah, I'm making the Hugo bases this year. For a Worldcon in Spokane, where I attended my first con 22 years ago. I'm making the bases for the Hugo, an award that means more to me personally than all four of the EGOTs combined. A name that has graced the cover of pretty much all the most important books in my life, the ones that fundamentally changed the way I view the world and myself. One of my bases will join the Hugo retrospective exhibit, taken to every Worldcon from now until the end of science fiction. It's just unreal. I've known for a few days now, and I'm still wrapping my head around it.
    Tuesday, February 10th, 2015
    1:18 am
    Biking Figure
    I was asked to do some live art for a bike appreciation event. It was canceled due to weather, but not before I had already done most of the prep work. So I decided to finish what I had started, just to see what it looked like.

    In other news, I recently submitted a design for the 2015 Hugo base and should be hearing back on that fairly soon. (Can't share pictures of the demo piece yet, sorry.) I'm also about to apply for the Instructables Artist-in-Residence program, fall session. Maybe it's a bit selfish, but I'd really, really like to get both. That would be a very good year.
    Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
    3:35 pm
    Office verticality
    I've been engaged in an self-consciously hipster, tech-industry-snob experiment this year. First I switched to a standing desk, and then this summer I bought a treadmill to make it a walking desk.

    All the gory details hereCollapse )

    All in all, I quite like it. (It helps that I simply like walking.) I definitely have far more stamina now. I did a 9 mile walk last weekend and didn't really even notice it. The added leg muscle definition is nice, as that's the one body feature over which I indulge in any vanity. On the downside, my legs are stiff more or less all the time now if I'm not walking, though I'm also a lot better now at just ignoring that as meaningless static. And, yes, it flatters my geek vanity: Look, I can solve this common problem with highly-visible technology in a way that runs counter to social expectations! Look how clever I am!!! But really, it just feels nice to be a bit more active. I'm curious to see how well it works over the winter, when I always tend towards more of a hibernative state.
    Thursday, October 2nd, 2014
    1:39 am
    I can't believe I've been making these birthday posts for 11 years now!

    From September 4, 2013 to September 4, 2014 I...
    ...finally got a real lathe and a good horizontal bandsaw, completing this round of major shop upgrades.
    ...was the Ignition Northwest Pratt Scholar, and joined the INW Arts Council.
    ...made a (tiny) steam engine, a deadly tricycle, and many other silly things.
    ...entered and won the Longitude Punk'd competition, with my piece currently on display at Greenwich Observatory.
    ...started actively working on R&D stuff at work, signed my first patent application as a result.
    ...attended a Royal Society lecture, saw half of Babbage's brain, visited a new country (Iceland).
    ...designed and built my second large-scale art installation, GMBLMZ. And it didn't collapse and kill someone.

    Compared to last year, with its European sojourn, this year felt very normal. I did some great stuff, but it all followed more or less naturally from the initial conditions. Part of me feels very comfortable where I am, and part of me feels like it's an unstable balance -- can I keep doing bigger and better projects like this indefinitely, or is some sudden phase shift going to hit? I still like my day job, but I can't pretend it entirely holds my interest most of the time. There are some big opportunities coming up for the next year I'm already working on, and maybe I need to start actively looking for more as well.
    Saturday, September 27th, 2014
    7:03 pm
    My summer project
    The GMBLMZ project is done! And it was more or less a complete success! I offer videographic evidence for this assertion here:

    Sunday, July 6th, 2014
    1:34 am
    Bronze casting
    Over the last few months I've been taking a bronze casting class at the Pratt Fine Arts Center. It was a lot of fun, so I thought I'd share some pics here.

    ClickieclickieCollapse )
    Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
    9:27 pm
    (I've been reading the finally-at-long-last released Tolkien translation of and commentary on Beowulf, and this has been driving many updates on my part on other social media. Earlier tonight I gave up trying to fit the following thought into 140 characters, and posted it to Facebook alone. Might as well copy it here, where it might actually last,)

    Reading Beowulf, I'm always startled by how modern the story feels. You expect old mythology to follow odd narrative structures, involve strange leaps of logic. But Beowulf is a modern superhero! Grendel is a proper horror monster, and the dragon guards a treasure, breaths fire, and is a generic fantasy dragon (other than being a bit more snake like).

    But, of course, these aren't coincidences. Beowulf is modern fantasy because modern fantasy is Tolkien fanfic, and Tolkien was largely Beowulf fanfic. It's really amazing how much influence it indirectly has had on modern genre writing. And all because some monk happened to write it down, then someone happened to save it from 18th century fire, before it had ever been translated, and a professor with a gift for languages happened to fall in love with it about a century ago. Quite extraordinary, really. The idea of pirate comics being dominate in the Watchmen universe instead of superheroes isn't so far fetched after all.
    Friday, May 23rd, 2014
    8:57 am
    Building the GMBLMZ
    The time has come to start building the GMBLMZ, my giant (4 meters!) spinning 3D maze.


    That means buying a very large amount of steel. Over a ton of it! So I'm asking for some help with that. LJ won't let me embed the little widget or video, but I'm running a GMBLMZ Kickstarter to make it happen.

    It's had a strong opening, 15% in the first day. But now comes the long slog where I have to carefully balance pushing it hard enough with being too annoying. (In the future, everyone will be a PBS fundraiser for 15 minutes.) I'll keep it brief: if you think this is a cool project, I'd really appreciate some support. Or a signal boost! Every bit helps.

    Thanks, folks.
    Saturday, April 26th, 2014
    12:36 pm
    Longitude Punk'd trip
    It really happened! My Celatone is now on display at Greenwich Observatory, in the same case normally used to house the H4 chronometer, in the same room as a working Harrison regulator. Just amazing.

    Many more trip pics hereCollapse )
    Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
    2:44 pm
    I'm into his second book, and I'm continuing to be very impressed by Nick Harkaway. I don't mind saying this passage utterly choked me up:

    "‘This train is our blood,’ the Keeper says. ‘It is the product of our work. We know every part of it. The designs were perfect, but the materials are not. They cannot be. So we compensated. Does it look sheer? Does it look absolutely true? It’s not. Here we shaved an eighth. There we padded. The rivets are not exactly the same. They are positioned to avoid splitting the wood. They are loosened here and there to allow for expansion. The machine doesn’t know when it is vulnerable. The mechanical drill has no idea when it is destroying the substance it cuts. But we know. We feel and hear. We touch. Touch is a truer sense than sight.’

    ‘And all this … it makes your machines better?’

    The Keeper shrugs. ‘It makes us better,’ he says. ‘Or at least, it means we do not become casual about effort and art. We appreciate the weakness of the world and come to understand the glories and stresses of our selves. But yes. The product is better, by perhaps a single percentage point, than it would be if it were made by machines to perfect tolerances. It doesn’t matter until you stress it. Stress this train, and it will hold. It will hold beyond what the specifications say; beyond what any of us believes. It will hold beyond reason, beyond expectation, beyond hope. Derail it, drive it across sand, twist and heat it. It will do what it can for you. It will hold as if it was alive, and filled with love. And when it fails, it will fail hugely, heroically, and take your enemies with it. Because it has been made that way.’"
    Saturday, February 15th, 2014
    9:11 pm
    I just submitted an art grant application for this year's Burning Man. But whether or not I get the honorarium, I'll be going forward with the project. I started working on the prototype last September, after all! What is it? Well, I'm glad you asked...

    So, that will be a ridiculous amount of welding over the next 6 months. I can't wait. :)
    Monday, January 27th, 2014
    7:39 pm
    As some of you know, the Royal Observatory Greenwich is hosting Longitude Punk'd, an art exhibit featuring a steampunk take on the Longitude Prize and some of the less-than-practical inventions it inspired. Part of this was an open competition for entries, which I obviously had to enter. I mean, one of my favorite places on Earth, asking for works in my particular artistic niche, inspired by one of my favorite corners of history? If it was any more tailored to me, I'd be afraid it was a trap.

    Part of the reason (I think) was to promote the archive of all the correspondence of the Board of the Longitude, and entrants were encouraged to take inspiration from actual proposals. After poking around, I settled on Samuel Parlour's 1824 "apparatus to render a telescope manageable on shipboard", which was itself a reinvention of Galileo's celatone concept. I bought an antique spyglass and a large chunk of brass off eBay, and started work in late December. The work went pretty fast, making extensive use of my new lathe. I'm comfortable saying it's my best work ever for a piece of this scale.

    (Full photoset here.)

    And... I just found out it was accepted. Sometime in April I'll be taking it to London, where it will go on display for the rest of the year. Along with, you know, the Harrison Chronometers. In Flamsteed House. On the Prime Meridian. I can't even begin to wrap my head around that. Remind me to keep putting in applications to ridiculous things. It works far more than it should.
    Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
    12:40 am
    Am I just being dense, or is there no way to log into my LJ account any more except when commenting on a post? All the normal login links I can find anymore only list other auth systems, anything except LJ itself.
    Sunday, October 20th, 2013
    10:33 pm
    I'm *really* late this year, but I'm not giving up on this tradition. This marks ten years I've been doing it!

    From September 4, 2012 to September 4, 2013 I...
    ...started seriously investing in my shop to allow for more large project in the future (more circuits/outlets, real shelving, very heavy welding table, proper welding cart)
    ...was featured on the Discovery Channel demonstrating my Cocktail Engine at BarBot
    ...lived in Germany for 3 months, and visited 6 new countries (Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Italy, San Marino)
    ...finally drove on the Autobahn, and with a left-handed stick in the UK
    ...rode lots of high speed trains, including the Eurostar through the Chunnel
    ...saw so many amazing Scientific/Industrial Revolution sites and relics that it made my head spin
    ...started developing heads-up applications for Glass, and prototyping my next big kinetic installation piece
    ...skipped Burning Man for the first time since 2008

    Weird year. (But aren't they all?) The Germany thing really blasted a smoking hole in my plans, but it was certainly worth it. It's left me about 6 months behind on getting the lathe for my shop, but at least the delay gave me time to talk myself into moving up a size or two! Those 3 months felt like forever while I was there, and then like a brief dream once I was back. Even now I occasionally think about some of the things I did there, with such a rudimentary grasp of the language, and wonder how I had the nerve. I'm glad I'm still capable of jumping head-first into experiences like that. Ever since the Mackenzie I've been afraid that the extremely negative emotions which always come in the middle of those kinds of experiences will eventually Pavlov me away from making the leap. That day has not yet come.
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