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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    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.
    Friday, January 25th, 2013
    12:57 am
    Ten-hundred job description
    Using the Up-Goer Five Test Editor:

    I help people tell computers how to see how big things are. The computers do this by touching the things many times with a little stick all over. I also make sure that they tell the computers how to do this in the right way. It is important that the computers get the right answer for how big things are, so the things can be used in making other things.
    Monday, October 1st, 2012
    11:00 pm
    Harmonic Fire Pendula on the playa
    Harmonic Fire Pendula: 95% success. I'm still editing together all the video, but I figured I should post my pictures and writeup of the HFP/Burning Man trip here.

    You know the drillCollapse )
    Monday, September 24th, 2012
    9:12 pm
    I just can't let this tradition die, even if my LJ posting rate has otherwise dropped to 0.

    From September 4, 2011 to September 4, 2012 I...
    ...invented a new musical instrument.
    ...built a chainsword.
    ...visited Germany.
    ...finally developed a personal look beyond t-shirts and jeans (aka generic geek).
    ...received a Burning Man art grant.
    ...ran a successful Kickstarter project. much, much better at welding.
    ...designed, built, installed and operated a large scale kinetic/fire art piece on the playa.

    Kind of a weird year, in that almost everything was concentrated in a single giant project, the Harmonic Fire Pendula. I'm still in the dazed post-project phase, starting to poke at a couple new things but mostly just trying to wrap my head around the last 6 months. It definitely goes up there with grad school, the Mackenzie trip and the space robot in terms of overwhelming, life-consuming experiences. I have plenty of other giant projects on my backlog, of course, but I'm just going to enjoy working on small, low-stress stuff for a while.
    Monday, June 25th, 2012
    10:44 pm
    Shameless self promotion: Kickstarter edition
    I'm working on a rather large installation piece to take to Burning Man this year. (And Maker Faires next year.) It involves physics and fire and a whole lot of steel. Basically, I'm making the following thing but about 3 times as big:

    To help defray some (and only some!) of the costs, I'm running my first Kickstarter. It's slightly over 50% funded as I write this, which is good, but there is still quite a ways to go. If you like giant kinetic fire sculptures, please consider making a pledge. Or even just reposting a link to it -- something like this can't get funded without eyeballs.

    Kickstarter: Harmonic Fire Pendula

    (LJ isn't letting me embed the Kickstarter widget, weird.)

    Wednesday, October 19th, 2011
    9:23 pm
    The project I was working on -- and mostly finished -- for Steamcon last weekend. I'm really quite proud of it. :)

    So far the response has been very positive. I'm curious to see how far this one gets shared...

    This entry was originally posted at where it has received comment count unavailable comments.
    Saturday, October 1st, 2011
    4:42 pm
    It's that time of the year again!

    From September 4, 2010 to September 4, 2011 I...
    ...completed several new Attoparsec projects (Lightsuit, etched brass fan, artificial window, Skinner Box)
    ...started working on the Hexapod, a project bigger than anything I've attempted before
    ...revisited and successfully completed the Kalamazoo
    ...started down the slippery slope towards management at work a team together to compete in April Tools paid for a customized Attoparsec project by a complete stranger for the first time
    ...designed a circuit board and sold it as a (somewhat) mass-produced product
    ...completed 10 years of (almost) daily entries to my personal journal

    It's funny, in many ways this has been my most satisfying year in a very long time. I'm feeling very... centered. (From people's changing reactions to me, I think it shows, too. Confidence is sexy!) But the list above is one of the most anemic I've posted in the 9 years I've been doing this. I guess I'm just not flailing randomly in all directions looking for self-identity anymore, so all the crazy stuff I'm doing is more or less the same type of thing. At least I'm still doing crazy stuff!

    While my track record for predictions here isn't great (life is what happens while you're making other plans...), I think the next year will be more of the same. I want to continue working to make Attoparsec a visible brand for my projects, laying down the groundwork for my very long term plan to eventually make a living at it. The hexapod continues to be my primary ongoing goal, even when I'm working on other things to clear my head. There is a lot else I could be working on, but in the end that more than anything else has the potential to really showcase what I want to be doing.

    This entry was originally posted at where it has received comment count unavailable comments.
    Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
    7:17 pm
    Xmas plans
    I get the week following Christmas as vacation. vixyish will be out of town during that period. It strikes me that I should do something interesting instead of just sitting around the house. Vacation time is one of my most limited commodities, after all. I like the idea of doing something... nonstandard, but I'm having trouble coming up with ideas. A week isn't actually all that long, nor is the dead of winter timing helpful. (And, yes, the southern hemisphere sounds great, but I probably can't afford that.) Turns out polar bear season in Churchill ends in November. Ideas, folks?

    This entry was originally posted at where it has received comment count unavailable comments.
    Sunday, September 25th, 2011
    12:10 pm
    Burning Man 2011
    A bit late, maybe, but time for my yearly Burning Man writeup.

    This was my fourth year, and the first time I was really with a bunch of close friends. (I have camped with friends before, but they've always had kids or Ranger duties to attend to.) It was a very different experience this way. It was nice having a dense social network available, but I found myself interacting with strangers a lot less. That was a bit jarring, as usually the playa is the one place in the world I'm a complete extrovert. But being able to share the experience with keystricken and adularia was really special. I'm sure I can find a balance eventually. :)

    My big projects for this year were the Skinner Box and the Kalamazoo for its second year. (See below for pictures.) The Skinner Box worked great, but didn't get quite the attention I wanted it to. And I found that I didn't enjoy sitting around camp waiting for people to use my art. I'd much rather be wearing or driving my art, out interacting with people more actively. Still, a lot of people really enjoyed it, particularly those who understood the joke, and the el-wire sign was a great landmark for navigating at night.

    I won't quite say the Kalamazoo was a triumph, but it was as close as I got. I'm very, very glad I bothered to upgrade it and drag it down again this year, as its more or less complete failure last year had been wearing on me. It's now both beautiful *and* functional, thus righting a offense to my moral sensibilities. jadine and I drove it all the way around Esplanade on Wednesday -- a trip of about 3.6 miles if I'm doing my sums correctly. This took 7 hours and I pretty much wanted to amputate my arms by the time we were done. But I damned well did it! The Kalamazoo got a lot of favorable comments. Those who got it *really* got it. There were also a certain number of jackass comments, particularly when we went out to the Man burn Saturday night. (The energy of that night is a lot different.) But I eventually got into the right mood of unleashing a torrent of abuse right back at them, aided by my superior platform, and that ended up being kind of fun.

    The laser helmet was acting weird, I think maybe the laser modules are failing. The lightsuit was well received, just awkward to wear in that environment. I might save it for local cons in the future.

    I'm thinking I might take a break next year. It took me a long time to get into the event this year, and I don't want to burn out. On the other hand, I still have plans for some big projects. So we'll see. If nothing else, I really need to change my arrival plans. Spending 5 hours in line Monday afternoon is a real bummer, ruins the whole day. Early entrance, maybe, or just get there at night. Might as well not be baking while sitting in line.

    Lots of pics, of courseCollapse )

    This entry was originally posted at where it has received comment count unavailable comments.
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