Sunday, September 25, 2016

In Which We Cut Things With Lasers

It's September…

So we learned how to cut things with lasers!

That magnificent creature was cut by me using Asylasaur, the 100W CO2 laser cutter at Artisan's Asylum in Somerville, MA. Before you get too impressed, it it was NOT designed by me. The human designer and the carbon dioxide laser did a lot more work than I did; I basically pushed a piece of acrylic around, clicked on a few settings, and pressed a button.

Here's Asylasaur, the laser – or, the left side of it, anyway.

The reasons you should never operate a laser unattended include freak things like something going wrong with the laser so that it aims in the wrong direction, but really, much MUCH more likely, fire. A laser cuts through flammable things, like paper and wood, by vaporizing them. If you thought your dryer was a fire hazard, consider that at least you're not vaporizing your laundry.

Unfortunately, I was so focused on learning how to use the laser that I didn't get a lot of pictures. But basically, the top opens, and you place things you want to cut (wood, paper, leather, acrylic) inside it as if it were a very, very big scanner…

Kevin does the thing.

In back is the long, horizontal tube that creates the laser itself. A series of mirrors bounces the laser around the insides, directing it to the head, which then directs the laser to the object you have placed there to be cut. Please note, this is a completely inadequate description that skips many steps.

The crosshairs in that picture indicate where the laser will begin its next cut. You send commands to the laser using the computer console nearby. Once you've turned the laser on, there's a lot of noise, because it has an enormous exhaust system for removing the gaseous nastiness created by vaporizing things like acrylic, leather, paper, or wood. And indeed, the process was a bit stinky! Also, bright. After a while, I decided to STOP watching the laser while it was cutting :o)

Naturally, you have to close the protective door before the laser begins cutting, so my picture of the actual cutting process isn't so great…

But the glowing pink rod in the background is the working laser itself, which is visible while inside the tube, then invisible as it bounces from mirror to mirror and onto the thing you are cutting. Which, in the picture above, is the third in a line of unicorns.

We cut our unicorns out of acrylic, not glass, as it may seem. Apparently any laser strong enough to cut through glass will actually shatter the glass, though a laser can be used at a less-powerful setting to etch designs onto glass.

Artisan’s Asylum, Inc. is a non-profit community fabrication center located in Somerville, Massachusetts. Their mission is to support and promote the teaching, learning and practice of fabrication, and they teach an array of classes, including but not limited to bicycle-building, robotics and electronics, fiber arts, jewelry and metalsmithing, machining, screenprinting, and woodworking… They were super welcoming and friendly, too, so check it out if you live in the area.  #artisansasylum

So, this was our new thing for September! Thanks to our instructor, Brian C. Johnson, who mysteriously knew, before ever he met me, that if I could create any one thing with a laser, it would be a unicorn.

Monday, September 5, 2016

In Which the Author, Between Revisions, Makes Creatures Out Of Socks

I finished my revision!

My next responsibility is to start the next revision (draft 7) as soon as possible.

But before I do that, I'm taking just a few days off... from revising. Not from creating things.

Those of you who were around the blog in January might remember Basil, the common house zebra. Well, after I created Basil, a request came in for Sock Sunny and Sock Tanker.

This is real-life Sunny.

This is real-life Tanker.

Sunny the dog and Tanker the cat live in Florida with two seven-year-olds. Sunny LOVES Tanker. Tanker's feelings for Sunny are more complicated, but that's neither here nor there. The point is that months and months after acquiring the appropriate socks, I FINALLY got to work.

I started with Sock Sunny, because a sock dog requires less altering of a sock zebra pattern than a sock cat does. Socks animals made from this pattern generally turn into long-faced, thin animals, not wonderfully roly-poly cats with round heads. I really wasn't sure what I was going to do when it came time to make Sock Tanker, to be honest.

Anyway, I began cutting, sewing, and stuffing, modifying the pattern somewhat to give Sock Sunny a face that was less long and shaped a bit more like Sunny's actual face.

Real-life Sunny is an Australian cattle dog, which means he has a half-"mask" over one side of his face that I knew was going to be impossible to find in a pair of socks. But I was able to find some socks that reproduce some of his speckles.

Real-life Sunny has big ears, a brown nose, an anxious expression ("Am I a good dog? Am I a good dog?"), a long tail, and an extremely sweet disposition. I hid a little heart under his big head.

Because of his long tail and the thickness of his fabric, Sock Sunny has a power Basil Zebra doesn't: he can sit up on his own.


Here he is hanging out with his brother Basil.

Then it was time to get started on Tanker. The solution I came up with for the pattern problem was to choose a short and extremely stretchy pair of socks that adjusted well to lots of stuffing.

You can't see it in the picture I shared, but real-life Tanker has enormous blue eyes.

Real-life Tanker's breed is called Stumpy Manx, which means that he doesn't really have a tail, he has more of a stump. This was lucky for me, because I made Sock Tanker out of a pretty small pair of socks, and I wouldn't have had enough sock left to make him a long tail...

He is softer and more fuzzy than it looks in the pictures.

So here they are! Soon I will be packing them away for their journey south.

By the time they get to their new home, I will be well into my next revision.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Linky Thursday Randutiae with Rage (And Some Sweet Things, Too)

In France, in order to protect women from being oppressed by Muslim men who tell them what to wear, white men with guns force women to take their clothes off. I have so much fury and contempt for this racism, Islamophobia, and misogyny disguised as "liberation" and "secular values" that I don't even have enough room in my head for it. By writer Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan at the Independent: Dear white people of France: being forced to undress wasn't exactly the liberation I was longing for. "It seems that oppression is only when brown men tell you how to dress; when white men do it it’s called liberation. But even French feminism has its roots in colonialism and imperialism."

At the Guardian: Texas has highest maternal mortality rate in developed world, study finds. "As the Republican-led state legislature has slashed funding to reproductive healthcare clinics, the maternal mortality rate doubled over just a two-year period."

In nicer news, at Time: Scientists Discover Sharks That Can Live for 400 Years.

At QuartzThe photos that remind us of why we love sports. Beautiful! There's an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.

At The Telegraph: Call of the wild: photographer Anup Shah on capturing the perfect shot. Also beautiful, and astonishing. The author has a new book out.

I'd like to write more today, dear readers, but I can't, because I'm trying to get through this revision, so that I can go back to the beginning and start revising again.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

In which the author decides that her Sicilian ancestors were not seafaring folk

 We went deep-sea fishing.

On the way out to the deep sea, I was so happy. I love boats. I love moving fast with all the wind. I loved bouncing over all the waves. I told Kevin that my Sicilian ancestors must have been seafaring people, that's why I love this so much.

Then we got to the place where the boat was stopping for six hours so we could fish. That's when I started puking. Oh my god. If I was standing up, I was puking. If I was inside, I was puking. If I was sitting, I was puking.

For the next six hours, the only thing that kept me from puking was lying down, in the air, alone on the upper deck, with my eyes closed. If my brain was in any way responsible for keeping my balance, I would puke. The people on the boat were so nice. When I told them I would prefer not to continue puking over the side and instead would like a bucket so I could go up by myself to puke in peace, they found me a bucket and helped me up. Poor Kevin had a hard time enjoying himself, because there was nothing he could do to help me. The first time he came to visit me on the puke deck, the sight of him reminded me I was alive, which made me puke. I encouraged him to try to go enjoy himself fishing. I had caught fish before (though not at sea). Kevin had not. I wanted him to catch a fish.

Before too long, a young man, also looking for a place to puke in peace, joined me on the upper deck. We spent some time in companionable silence alternating use of the puke bucket. I never learned his name, but he was wearing a Free Brady T-shirt. There was a time not too long ago, only this morning, when I hated everything New England Patriots and was deeply tired of quarterback Tom Brady. I feel differently now. This is the sort of magic that happens when you share a puke bond with a stranger.

Following all that, there was a stretch of time I don't remember. Kevin visited me a couple times and later reported that he'd found me asleep. I do remember moaning to him that I'd changed my mind about my Sicilian ancestors. I also moaned to him at one point, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." I believe that sincerely. I'm glad to have tried deep-sea fishing. I didn't fish for even a second (it was unthinkable), but I definitely had an experience.

Also: Kevin caught his fish! And I even witnessed it! At one point, after some time had passed with no puking, I decided I was cured, jumped up, ran downstairs, told Kevin I was cured, suddenly realized I was about to puke, and in that moment, Kevin caught a haddock. I managed to get a picture before puking. Have you ever heard of anything more serendipitous?

So, yeah. Maybe deep-sea fishing isn't for me, and man, is it beautiful to be on solid ground again. But stay tuned, dear readers, because Kevin and I have pledged for one year to do one new thing every month that neither of us has ever done before. That's why we went to a wolf sanctuary in April; went indoor skydiving in May; floated in June; played golf in July; and went deep-sea fishing in August. What in the world will we do next month? :o)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Birthday Month Randutiae

Season 3 of The Great British Baking Show (known as The Great British Bake Off in Britain) was my favorite yet. I cried through the Final (in a good way). Here is the chocolate well created by a contestant in Episode 9...

...with a bucket that drops to the bottom to collect liquid white chocolate for dipping the biscuits in.

The judges told the contestant (whose name I'm not saying because it would be a spoiler) that it needed more decoration, frills, and furbelows.  Dear judges: Wrong.


At Reuters: France defends burkini ban on tense post-attack beaches. Wow, does this make my blood boil. Dear French officials: Stop telling women to uncover their bodies and calling it feminism. Stop telling women what to wear, period, and calling it feminism. Racism, misogyny, and religious intolerance are especially disgusting when you claim to be doing it on behalf of these women, who will now not be able to go to the beach.


In better French news, at The Guardian: How a 3-D clitoris will help teach French schoolchildren about sex.


Also at The Guardian: Three things that need to happen before I defend men from Olympic sexism, by Lindy West. A pretty basic and straightforward summary of why the sexual objectification of men is different from the sexual objectification of women.


At the Huffington Post: 15 Women Proving You're Never 'Too Old' for Rainbow Hair. Love these pics!


At These Gorgeous Glass Sculptures Look like Knitting in Progress. Sculptures by Carol Milne; definitely go straight to her website for more wonders.


Finally, it rained on my 40th birthday… which meant that I got to have fun with colors :o).

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Notes from Birthday Month

It's birthday month on the blog and things are looking up with my revision. \o/\o/

Also, my nieces just turned 7... my father will shortly turn 75... and next week, I turn 40!

I'm certain it never occurred to me when I was a kid that someday I would be glowing with happiness to be turning 40. It makes me feel like a kickass archer in a skintight bodysuit (?), surfing through life. (-----> That's my Indonesian cover for Graceling, published by Gramedia Pustaka Utama ^_^.)

Some nice things: Vicki Lee's, the bakery/café in my new neighborhood, has a breakfast muffin with a soft-boiled egg inside. I meant to take a nicer picture of it, but I accidentally ate it first.

Also, I continue to enjoy the Summer of Darkness app.

Also, one month in, I think it's safe to say that my many plants have survived the move. Moving is really hard on plants. On the one hand, they don't run around the new home freaking out and peeing on everything the way pets do, but on the other hand, they may very well drop dead. On my first night in the new place, I heard an enormous crash and ran into the living room to discover that my poor corn plant (which is basically a tree in a pot) had given up and toppled over. We've since repotted it and it's doing wonderfully now…

My peace lily was in absolute despair for a few weeks after the move, drooping so dramatically that I began to think it was a goner. Then I moved it to a cooler room (my plants are adjusting to no longer having central AC), and it perked right up within an hour.

In the meantime, I don't think this philodendron has noticed that we moved.

I expect my posts will continue to be somewhat random and pointless until I'm done with this revision; possibly until I'm done with the next one, too; possibly until the book is through copyediting. But I'll try to pop in with nice things now and then. :o)

Monday, August 1, 2016

In Case You Are a Writer (or Any Other Sort of Discouraged Person)

Lateish last night, in the middle of the sixth revision of what will be my fourth published book, I inaugurated Notebook 24.

It's been a long journey to the middle of the sixth revision of my fourth book. First I needed to write all the other books, and revise them, and write this one, and revise it five times. After I revise it for the sixth time, I will probably revise it for the seventh time.

Confession: I'm tired and cranky.

 I'm not the only one who was working hard in my office yesterday.

See the lily? (The tall, skinny one in the middle?)

Look what it had done by the end of the day.

How the heck did it do that? I don't know. But I'm guessing it started a long time ago.

Keep trying.