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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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Thursday, September 17th, 2015
11:25 pm
From September 4, 2014 to September 4, 2015 I...

...knit a sweater.
...got much better at 3D modeling and 3D printing.
...started really working towards doing art full time, applying to artist residencies and public art opportunities in order to build my portfolio of things that aren't flaming death-machines in the desert.
...wove 4 meters of scarf.
...did 2 smaller, temporary public art pieces and was tentatively accepted for 2 much larger, permanent ones.
...finally took some active steps to deal with mental health issues.
...and, oh yeah, designed and built the Hugo Award bases.

Quite a year. Some triumphs, some disappointments, but mostly a sense of really starting to work towards a sustainable change in my life. The Hugo work took up the vast majority of the year, with prototyping and then construction included. I had an idea, I figured out how to make it, and I produced 32 high quality versions of it. The public art applications have also been going much better than I expected. It makes me think that in a year or two I might really be able to do it full time, once I have the portfolio to start applying to the really big contracts.
Thursday, August 27th, 2015
8:11 pm
Tuesday, August 25th, 2015
10:40 pm
2015 Hugo Base
I can finally share what they look like!


Last Saturday 27 Hugo rockets mounted on my base were awarded at the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane. I still can't believe it really happened. This was definitely one of the biggest things I've ever done, or ever been part of.

Timeline of the entire ridiculous thing:

9-1-2013: Watched the Hugo ceremony, joked that I should have a base design in mind, just in case anyone ever asked me to make it. Haha, yeah right.

9-3-2013: Was struck with a real idea, looked into the process to discover they were usually selected by open competition. (The final product is more or less exactly this idea, though constructed through an entirely different process from what I was thinking then.)

Next 13 months: Spent thinking about how to make the damn thing.

10-6-2014: Started experimenting with design tools to craft the shape I saw in my head.

10-27-2014: Had the design finalized, tested it in paper.

11-6-2014: First attempt in steel, utter disaster.

11-23-2014: Figured out how to use a 3D printed prototype as a guide for bending metal pieces accurately.

12-12-2014: Solved the problem of how to align the pieces during welding with a 3D printed jig, with holes for press-fit magnets. One of the more clever ideas I've ever had.

12-17-2014: Hugo base competition officially announced.

1-4-2015: Decided to go with an aluminum base plate instead of wood.

1-27-2015: Finish first complete prototype base, including careful gun bluing and lacquer.

1-31-2015: Hand delivered my competition entry, including 3D printed rocket for proper comparison.

2-18-2015: Informed I had won the competition.

3-24-2015: Placed order for waterjet cutting of 40 complete base sets. These arrive in several batches, so bending and welding overlap for the next month.

5-10-2015: Finished bending the steel.

5-17-2015: Finished welding the bases.

6-5-2015: Got all the bases sandblasted using a commercial service, after much frustration (and many hundreds of dollars) trying to do it myself and realizing it was going to take a ridiculous amount of time.

7-1-2015: Finished surface treatment (carefully painting with gun bluing, scrubbing and buffing it a day later, then applying 3 coats of lacquer).

7-10-2015: Finished applying felt inside the bases (to cover over gaps) and mounting them on the plates. Done!

8-16-2015: Packed them into boxes, complete with care instructions and a small toolkit.

8-18-2015: Drove them to Spokane.

8-19-2015: Got the laser etched nameplates, which I had overnighted from LA to my parents' place.

8-21-2015: Spent 2 hours attaching nameplates and bolting on the rockets.

8-22-2015: Hugo Awards ceremony.
Sunday, August 2nd, 2015
11:16 pm
This is what I've spent the last month working on:

It was originally an idea I had for Burning Man, but then the City of Shoreline was offering to provide a piano and some funding for people to make sonic sculptures. So, sure! It's on display now in the sculpture garden along the Interurban. Right next to Aurora, just north of 175th. Should be there for the next 6 weeks, or until the neighbors start to complain.
Monday, July 13th, 2015
6:52 pm
Hugo bases
Sitting on the dining room table are 37 Hugo bases. (32 is the maximum number that could possibly be needed.) No nameplates yet, since voting hasn't finished. But they're done.

It took 2.5 months of at least an hour or two every night of work, often many more. I'm really proud of the process I developed for making them, and as soon the design isn't secret I'll post details. But it's still pretty labor intensive, and anything times 37 takes a lot of effort to get done. I listened to 155 hours of lecture serieses over this period. That includes listening time on my commute etc, but I think it gives a good idea of the amount of time sunk in this project. I don't regret it in the slightest, but I can't deny I'm glad to have it done with plenty of time to spare.
Wednesday, July 8th, 2015
10:58 pm
I've been on an existentialism kick recently, and as part of that I just finished rereading Steppenwolf. It was one of my favorite books as a teenager, one of the ones that really resonated with me in enlightening and sometimes scary ways. It marked a turning point during my first real job after undergrad, when I realized how deeply depressed I was and needed to take active steps to reboot my life. I started rereading it about 5 years ago without finishing it, making me wonder if I'd just aged out of it, but this time I was utterly hooked once again.

It's a weird book to come back to 20 years later. The difference in perspective is dizzying. When I first read it, I was very afraid I'd end up like Harry Haller, too stuck in my own head to make connections with the world. I used to be quite angsty about that, actually. Now when I read it, much closer to Harry's age, my fears are very different. I have an interesting life, doing interesting things, with much love in it. So many of the lessons in living that Harry struggles to learn are an effortless part of my daily life. I know I can be a real person, connecting with others and enjoying the pleasures of the world. Those fears are long gone.

Looking back, though, I now wonder if I went too far. I've managed a very delicate balancing act between doing the things I'm actually interested in and having a financially stable, middle class lifestyle. It's not one many people pull off, and I'm proud of it at least on that level. But I wonder if I've restrained myself from really pursuing my passions because of this ghost of the growling, painfully lonely Steppenwolf. I'm doing pretty well, mostly drifting along the path of least resistance -- but what could I be doing if I really tried, took risks?
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.
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