Sunday, August 9, 2009

PVC Luthier

I love Blue Man Group music. It's all about taking a bunch of little things to create a complex whole. The rhythmic motifs are simple, but they interlock to form a very intricate song. Then there's the really cool part - the PVC instruments.

I have wanted one of their instruments, preferably a base-range one, for a while. Now that there's no longer an imminent move, I am building one. The whole dynamic of the acoustic, yet synthesizer-like tone produced by plumbing parts and paddles intrigues me. I want to see how it fits with other music.

Basically, there's four kinds of the instruments.

1. Original instrument
It's almost a xylophone made of PVC. The major difference is that instead of hitting a pole or plate on its side, you use a paddle to strike the air column in the end of the tube. They usually are made of 14 tubes arranged in two rows. They have one octave doubled so faster notes can be played. It used to occupy all three octaves, but now the tubulum holds down the base. It has a very clean "donk" sound. Used almost everywhere, but exemplified in "PVC IV."

2. Tubulum
This is an updated version of the first instrument. It has rubber reeds that are struck with sticks. It can be found in the newer albums doing all the low-range stuff. It has a growlier sound thanks to the rubber, and it's usually going pretty fast, so it sounds like "doodoodoodoo." It has fewer notes than the original instrument because you can fit two drumsticks onto a reed, rather than one paddle to a tube. Used for the main riff in "I Feel Love" and inspired them to cover the song in the first place.

3. Backpack tubulum
One of the PVC instruments mounted onto a backpack. It has flexible draining for its resonating tubes. These vary so widely, they're hard to classify and they're indistinguishable in sound from their floor-bound counterparts. Used in Vegas for "Rods and Cones."

4. Drumbone
This is the most special of the instruments. It consists of a larger and a smaller J-shaped section. One Blue Man holds each section, and the other plays them with drumsticks. Each section has a telescoping part like a trombone (hence the name). Disassembled, each section gets two notes, and it gets four notes when the two are joined end to end. It's easy to build sloppily, but if you want to do it right, it's a bit harder. It's used only in the song "Drumbone."

I am going for a mid-range original instrument using 3" triple-wall pipe. The triple-wall has some internal resonance, which gives it a slightly more tubulum-like sound.

1. Testing tubes
2. Building paddles
3. Designing instrument
4. Assembling tubes
5. Assembling stand
6. Final assembly

Sunday, July 19, 2009

World Budgie Project

After the first day or so on our trip, I got to thinking about one of Mom's swap-bot buddies. This buddy was organizing a "world bear project," where you mail off a teddy bear to someone, and they take pictures of it around town before sending it off. I wanted to do something like that, but I had a problem. I had no bear. I had packed my dragon puppet, who would have been nice, in the trailer. Getting him out through all the stuff around his box, then finding a place for the box in one of the cars, would be a pain (massive understatement). But I did have two cute budgies who would work. Thus, while we were in Colorado, the World Wide Budgie project was born. 

This went concurrently with the disposable cameras Amy G. sent us and Mom's digital, so Amy may have some better pictures where the little guys were more photogenic. Also, I often had no place to set the cage where the little guys wouldn't flip out, so please excuse the occasional wonky camera angle or arm in the frame.

So here they are, Sprite (the green one) and Buttercream (the white one), the globetrotting parakeets!

Granny's backyard in Colorado:

Our hotel in Greenriver, Utah:

Just before Salt Lake City:

Sitting pretty in Helena, Montana:

Dad with the budgies in Sangudo:

On the kitchenette at Fort Nelson:

With me at the signpost forest in Watson Lake:

Outisde our hotel in Whitehorse, facing into the sun:

At the Galactic Cinnamon Roll Center, somewhere along the Alaska Highway:

Same place, but with the dog, instead.

At Haines Junction, looking at the mountains.

In Beaver Creek, our first stop in Alaska. Fast Eddy's is just behind the camera. Go there and split an order of fried mushrooms with two friends sometime.

At home, looking over our lake. I think there are some better pictures from here on Amy's last camera.

They had a good ride, but I think they're glad to be home!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On the road! First stop, parentheses city.

Big shoutout to Gramps for helping us pack (read: putting a bunch of our crud in his truck and helping us get it out and to various places)! 
We left at 6:30 PM today, and have driven to Vernon, Tx.We got in 3:30hr of driving, and have gone about 180 mi. Dog is getting along fine, as are the birds riding in the back of the CR-V with her. I think Tate has more room than I do. I have a bunch of stuff at my feet (not that I'm complaining), and a bag on my lap (which is less than ideal). 
Amy G. sent us each bags of goodies, including snacks we've started on a little. Tate's bag has some cool stuff in it, and mine was really nice. Amy seems to have remembered my earlier post on economics and starburst, so there's a pack of those, and there's the world's awesomest pen, because it's shaped like a dragon. (sometimes, I'm easy to shop for XP). 

Already my Spore forum friends are missing me, because I told hem I likely wouldn't be on until the tenth. One of their RP's has died in my absence, and one of them was regretting that I wasn't there to post in it. Oh well, she promised to put off making one that is important to me until I get home.

Must get to bed soon, got a long day ahead.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A little something extra

I've been on the new machine for a few days now, and it runs great. Methinks it's a little too new to run the scanner properly, but other than that it's great. Not only that, but there's also the free engraved ipod touch...
Mom has moved out of the past, having gotten Dad's previous laptop and my 30G video ipod.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Computer issues and what follows

For about a month now, my laptop has been having a weird graphics glitch. It comes in several varieties:
1. A line of random pixels going across a window.
2. A 1-px line of my desktop picture scooted half a screen to the right.
3. A bunch of static attached to an icon.

It's not the display, because the errors move around. That leaves basically two possibilities:
1. OS failure, or
2. hardware failure, likely the logic board or VRAM.

There was another error, too. The Windows side of the computer (for those who don't know, I use a Macbook Pro running both Leopard and XP. (Why Microsoft made an OS named after a smiley, I'll never know.) Windows would let me be logged in for 10 seconds or so, then simply reboot to the Mac side without warning. What gets me is that this one disappeared last week, seemingly at random. I know computers aren't random in nature. That's what scares me.

So on Tuesday morning, Dad backed up the whole computer to one of his 2 TB hard drives. Then at about 5:00, when the backup finished, I took my (painfully hot) computer back and reinstalled Leopard. Not ten minutes later, the graphics glitch came back. That means, it's not an easy fix. Dad and I took the computer to the Apple Store at the mall, and dropped it off with them. At this point, we were looking at, at best, a $100 diagnosis fee. At worst, $300 for replacing parts until everything worked (and oh yeah, we found out while reinstalling that my internal CD drive is shot - again. This makes two.).

Now for the better news. Yesterday, Dad gave me a note that asked me to give him a best offer on his current laptop, including a trade-in of mine. After he started throwing in options on my best offer (first more warranty, then more RAM, then better CPU's) beyond what I knew his current machine could handle, I figured he had something planned. He did - planned and executed. he had already ordered me a refurbished MBP of the kind that were state-of-the-art until last Sunday. On top of that, he cut me a great deal (I won't say how much) on the new machine and told me to cancel the repairs.

So today, I canceled the order and picked up the computer. Fortunately, they hadn't done anything to it yet, so there was no service charge.

Long story short, I've gained an LED monitor sans graphics error, 1.06 GHz, 2G ram, and a Radeon 9600M video card. The last part makes me happy, because the 1600M card in my old machine isn't even on the ATI website anymore.

Dads rock.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

An interesting idea

I haven't shown my economist side too much on my blog. It tends to come out in conversation,whether Im' making a casual quip about marginal utility, or using a facetious argument involving utils (since utils are rubbish) in order to mooch something from Dad.*

So, on a random thought last night at work, based from a strip of salmon jerky, I got to thinking about my scout camping trips and money. Not just dollar bills, but media of exchange in general. 
One thing I noticed is that trade almost never pops up on normal campouts. There, we have a somewhat socialist system: Everyone buys about the same amount of food (theoretically), then everyone eats what they need. Food is taken care of entirely by the patrol, and personal snacks are largely forbidden. No trade.

Hiking campouts are another story. There, personal snacks are commonplace. The last Carlsbad trip was a great example - the entire troop, with daypacks full of snackies, all stuck on the same bus for a whole weekend. I had learned a few things over the last few years of camping:

1. Packing things like pop-tarts takes space.
2. Beef jerky is expensive. Very.
3. No matter what you bring, someone will always have brought cooler snacks than you.
4. I like Starburst.
5. Starburst exhibit many of the major qualities of money: Durability, when sealed properly; ease of divisibility due to small size; intrinsic value; marketability; easy transportation and storage; and consistency.
6. Starburst come in a 5-pound bag.
7. I'm probably the only person in the troop who would associate all of this in this way.

Thus, I came up with a brilliant plan: don't buy snacks. Just buy a big bag of Starburst and trade for what I need. Such is similar to how money takes hold naturally: People encounter barriers to bartering (my inability to buy and pack all the snacks I want), so they barter indirectly. How did my plan go? Quite nicely.
Steve has Pop-tarts? A generous handful of starburst, and I get him to share. Now we've both gained. Bob has jerky? That takes a bit more starburst, but that's doable too. 

I ended up with a lot of spare starburst (which was fine by me), but I still managed to do a heck of a lot of trade. 

What I would really like to see is a longer campout, with larger stores of snacks.** What I would want to see is what shows up as the general medium of exchange and what the exchange rates are. Or for that matter, how willing the scouts are to trade, rather than eat their own supplies. I suspect some sort of candy, most likely starburst or skittles, would rapidly dominate. These are the most common types of sweets available on a campout. Starburst, which comes in larger denominations would be somewhat analogous to gold, and skittles to silver. 

The next most common goods are cookies and jerky. Why neither of these? Jerky is difficult to divide precisely in the field, and it's just too darn scarce to trade commonly. Cookies crumble easily, and take up a lot of room. They're best left in the chuckbox, then gotten as needed from there.

Maybe the exchange would even extend into services, like helping with camp chores or building pioneering projects. 
This is all speculative, since it hasn't had time to develop in this scenario, but I'm reminded of an old article. It basically documented WWII POW's in Germany, who established an economy based on cigarettes. There was a set of regularly updated exchange rates posted on the wall, and stale cigs would be traded at different rates to fresh ones, etc. 

The basic idea of the concept is elaborated on in "Economics for Real People" by Gene Calahan, available for free download at 

I was just trying to figure out where salmon jerky fit in, when the chef asked my why I was smiling. "Oh, just thinking," I said.

*this never works with Mom. She has no idea what I'm talking about, so she's never convinced.
**Summer camps don't work, since there's a trading post, which brings dollars into play.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Looking ahead

There are apparently several Renfaires in Anchorage (thanks Amy G. for the sleuthing!), and I'm already psyched. I will admit I'm already spending a lot of money in my head with improvements to the costume - namely, getting feet and probably commissioning a custom face. NF mentioned to me that they'll be making the "large dragon muzzle" eventually anyway, so that would mean I'd only have to pay the additional fees for mold-making, sans sculpting costs. Seems good. I'll also look into getting a set of realistic claws for use when I don't want to wear my gloves. Three fingers look awesome, but they really reduce your grasping ability.  That's still a ways off yet - next June - so I've got some time to work it out.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wings and tail

This should be the last blog entry about the costume for a while. Now that I've posted the conclusion to this part of the grand adventure, I shall post the middle XP.

We debated for a while over how to build the tail. This is where we had major creative differences; Mom was hoping for a snakier, smaller tail, but I like much more massive tails. The smaller one would be easier to build, obviously, but it would be so much further down on the awesomeness meter. So we turned to the issue of the curve - no self-respecting dragon has a droopy tail.

Making an appropriately-shaped sock and stuffing it would be a pain, so I found an old ground pad for camping, rolled it up, and hacked away at it until I got the right shape. Mom covered this with some black vinyl on the underside, and the scale pattern on top. We made the tail blade (one of the major visual cues for "dragon" IMO) out of my old, worn-out foam kneepads. A little trimming and some tape, and they worked nicely.

Meanwhile, I constructed the armatures for the wings. Those were 1/2" PVC in a V shape, with an extra 45ยบ joint for the thumb. Straightened out, the wings were slightly longer than my arm and hand. For the fingers, I used spokes from an umbrella a la Evil Mad Scientist. These were wired through a hole in the PVC just behind the thumb. Mom made it clear that she didn't know what I was planning for the wings, so I was going to be doing this one myself. Ho boy. (Nervousness)

Armatures and umbrella for reference. Tail is approx. 4 ft long without blade.

Relative lengths of the stretched out arm and umbrella. These are fairly realistic proportions for a bat's wing, or so Google tells me.

For the wing skin, I used what I thought were some old shower curtains from the thrift store. Turned out they were circular plastic tablecloths. That was fine, too. I glued that to each of the four wing spars, and to the armature. I found out by experience that superglue does not stick to these tablecloths at all. Thus, I had to use hot glue - less fine, but more manageable. For fleshing out the wings, I used pipe wrap from a failed project a couple years ago. There was one layer on the forearm, two on the upper arms. I also used some scraps to make the elbow look more natural and less like an elbow and a 45. I took two rectangles of the fabric, one for each segment, and covered them, placing the seam either facing my back or against the wing skin.

If you've been watching Facebook, you've likely noticed Mom saying how often she has glued her stuff. In fact, there was one very humerus incident (sic) where she walked into my office with my tail blade hanging from her fingertip, laughing hard. I think the fumes may have gotten to her. Now I know what she felt like. Whoo, that was a lot of glue stuck on me. In the end, it was late, I was tired, my Blue Man Radio widget had gotten a lot of mileage, and I had a completed set of wings. Well worth it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Media dump, with style

I promised some media in the last post, so here it is! In snappy music montage form, to boot!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Faire, play-by-play

Okay, I know I haven't talked about building the tail or wings; I'll detail those later. We finished those literally in a day, so I haven't had time to process the various media. Also, the camera cable recently turned up missing, so no pics from the faire just yet. These will all likely come in one big dump.

For opening at 10:00, we got up at 7:00. I started putting on my prosthetic, while Mom showered and such. Over about 45 minutes or so, we got my makeup on, then we loaded up and left at about 9:16. Waxahachie is an even hour away, so we made it into the parking lot almost right after they opened. On the drive up, all I had on was the costume clothing sans tunic and cowl, and the makeup. Even before I stepped out of the car, a family parked next to us and asked to get a good look at my face. They were all impressed, so I considered that a good sign. I hadn't even gotten started yet :) .

So I donned (read: "had put on me") my wings and tail, which were held on by suspenders. We covered that with my tunic, which has two slits in it to accommodate my wings. From there, we added my green belt and a leather pouch (an old craft from my first summer camp, finally reclaimed from the recesses of my bed), and lastly my cowl. It had been finished, with the horns poked through, and a final leather strap added. The strap even had an old raccoon's pelvis (another scout souvenir), a broken section of chain maille, and an elk antler tip dangling from it. Lastly, I had a smokey quartz necklace, made with a rather large crystal (from Alaska) wrapped in wire and hung from a leather scrap.

I was waving at little kids even as we walked from the parking lot.

When we got in the door, first thing I did was get my picture taken with Sholo the Nubian, a really big guy with tough-looking armor. One of the program vendors said I had one of the best costumes he'd seen. (score!) I had fun bantering with some of the vendors and other people who called to me, occasionally shaking off an invitation to come to their booth (since I spent all I intended to spend just getting to the faire in the first place)

We soon ran into a guy with a partial costume like mine. ( a "partial" costume, I learned in my browse for instructions, is one with only head, gloves, and tail/wings - leaving the wearer to wear their own clothes to fill in the gaps. A "full" costume is exactly what is says on the tin.) Difference between us being, this guy had a very nice fox head. Okay, no hesitation, we're getting a picture with him.

A little ways down, in the corner by the food courts, there was another costumer, who had recently purchased a very nice fox mask from a shoppe across the way. I think that was the first time somebody actually wanted a picture *with* me, not *of* me. We did a loop on some of the left-hand section of the faire, then stopped in to see Dr. Kaboom's first show. That was when the weather turned sour. The shade screen did nothing to hold back the rain. Most of my costume was vinyl, so I didn't have to worry about it, but my face - not so much. Water-based makeup obviously wouldn't hold up. I ended up under the pavilion in front of a fish-and-chips booth while Mom fed me fried veggies. I could probably have fed myself, had had more time beforehand to refine my aim. Poor Dr. Kaboom's audience dissolved like a sugar cube in hot tea as soon as the rain started.

It was at this point that the flaw in my adhesive application became obvious: Pros-aide is resistant to most water-based attacks, but sustained suction caused by drinking and eating loosened the adhesive on my lips. This didn't mess up the outward appearance of the prosthetic, but it did make me uncomfortable. When the adhesive is set, it feels like a natural extension of your face. When it loosens, it rubs and flops about. We tried a few times to patch the adhesive, but with my breath only adding to the increased humidity in my face, it wouldn't cure enough to get a hold. Ultimately, I just gave up on trying to fix my lips, because they were too hard to reach. As an interesting twist, they cured and adhered perfectly at a random moment a few hours later. The adhesive holding the flaps of my gloves also failed during the rain, but I had long sleeves that hid that.

We tagged along behind the parade for a brief bit, along with a woman who had gotten a picture with me before. At this point, I was having to walked a bit hunched over to keep my tail out of the mud, especially on the downhill portions. Then we broke off to see the rest of the faire.

I obviously didn't go in to the glass blower's shop; with a four-foot tail and wings going to either side, there was no way I was going to go into a shop full of expensive breakables. I did go into the shop where the fox-girl earlier had gotten her mask. There I had a nice chat with a couple of wizard and sorceress. Crossing the bridge to the other side, we browsed that part, looking at places like the swordsmith's, the bronze-fountain-maker-dude's, etc. The highlight of that side was running into a faerie, who gave a very good silent reaction. She had just finished playing a tune on her double flute for some other people when I went up to her for a picture. She jumped back in nervous surprise, furtively reached inside her bag and pulled out a shiny. I, being mesmerized by it, slowly approached and picked it up, and she seemed happy. That was possibly the most fun encounter I had all faire.

The women at the StarDrake stationery shop had me pose in front of me and asked a lot of questions about my costume. Noobler the tinker gnome was similarly curious. A man at the contact juggler's tent also liked it. I got the most attention from kids, though. I had several come up to me and get hugs, and a whole bunch had their pictures taken. More to come on that in the media dump.

After we'd gone all the way around the faire, I had Dad put my wings, tail, and gloves in the car so I'd have enough mobility to go in the shops. This time I actually got to go into the glass blower's, the chain mailer's, the leathercraft shops, and the juggler's tent. I ended up buying the juggler's DVD on impulse, since I'd been interested in it from when I bought Dralion on DVD many moons back (and had since forgotten about it). It was handy going back there when I actually had all 10 fingers in play!

While Dad browsed the glassblower's again, I saw three full-costumed dragons as they were leaving. Unfortunately, they were already partially (or fully) undressed, and pretty much just wanted to leave. I wish I'd run into them earlier, before they had finished their run.

In all, great day. I loved getting my pictures with the less inquisitive kids and, yes, getting hugs from them. The adults were great too, but the kids generally made for a more fun time. Generally, the whole experience was a blast, and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

And we're sitting in the airport

Flight leaves at 1:30 local time, giving us another several hours until we can even check the bags. Fortunately, Ted Stevens Int'l has free wifi. We're all getting done all the internet stuff we couldn't do at the new AK house (more info about which can be found at Jim's Wild Ride). And my computer;s running a little hot, so I'm having to shift constantly to ensure I don't bake myself. Owie.

The new place is great. I want most of it. Mom and Dad can have one of the front rooms near the door, and THEIR VERY OWN BATHROOM WOOHOO! I like the little basement room with a built-in desk and shelves, but it's too small for an office. So that means I need a bedroom and an office, like I have now. The one with the big closet, yeah! It's one of the ones by the door, leaving someone else the other one. But before that, I had to see the loft Mom has been desperately trying to claim. I went up the stairs and WOW. There's this awesome room, a decent closet, and the bathroom off to the right is great. The shower has two nozzles (though, as I figured out this morning, the handles are not connected the same way on each of them, in case you want to use them in tandem w/o the "fire and ice" treatment), and the triangular bathtub is actually big enough to fit inside! Way better than the one at home. I claimed that first, but Dad had to give it to Mom (playing favorites I suspect :) ). So I went for Door # 2: room/office package. No to that, too. Apparently, we need a guest room. So I had to go with just the bedroom on the middle floor.

Then there's the current claim I'm trying to make: the under-the-stairs closet. It's only about 5 feet high, and it's currently covered with a curtain. It's situated so you have to walk past it on your way to anywhere in the basement. Well, when we first stopped by the house, I hid under there before Mom came downstairs. Then I jumped out at her from behind as she came downstairs. That was awesome. No jumping, no physical reaction. Just her personal best scream. I know, it sounds mean, but it was really funny at the time. Now she has to keep making such a big deal out of it (rolls eyes). Anyway, what I realized last night is that it's bout right as my own personal cave/lair. Not "room" by any stretch of the word, but for watching TV or the goings-on in the basement, maybe with a pile of shiny things to lay on, it could be quite cozy. Maybe some rare meat to snack on while I'm in there. Seriously, sounds fun. I've just gotten chuckles and eye-rolls at this point, but I don't think they realize how serious I actually am. Very serious.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

a poll thing I pulled from another person's blog... thought I'd fill it in

What were you doing 10 years ago?
Being 8 XP. Figuring out I wanted to play the fiddle.

What were you doing 1 year ago?
Going to AK and camping on the Char Vic property (funny, cuz I'm in AK again), and going to PA for a scholar's conference.

Five snacks you enjoy:
1. cake, most kinds. No red velvet, yuck...
2. Mochi ice cream
3. chicken fingers
4. cold pizza
5. Eda mame.

Five songs that you know all the lyrics to :
1. Ebay - Weird Al
2. Pinch Me - BNL
3. Sing Along - BMG
4. The Storm - Blackmore's Night
5. Hanging Tree - Blackmore's Night

Five things you would do if you were a billionaire:
1. buy some top-notch instruments.
2. commission a WHOLE bunch of prosthetics from NF
3. buy Maya or C4D
4. Buy a 6-cylinder car.
5. buy a Kayak

Five bad habits:
1. bad posture
2 hands MUST stay busy.
3 Obsessive about my face
4 That about covers it.
5 Really, it does.

Five things you like doing:
1. Cook
2. 3D model
3. Photography
4. browse wikipedia
5. read

Five things you would never wear again:
1. braces
2. my old jeans
3. My clothing style never changed much.
4. a buzz cut.

Five favorite toys:
1. Lego
2. Laptop
3. new dragon costume, once it's done
4. Maya/Blender
5. D1X

The goal is to share with you all 8 things you don't know about me.
1) I'm an only child
2) I'm more secretive than you think
3) I can't draw.
4) Economics is the most enlightening thing I've ever studied.
5) I am largely unaffected by anything I see on TV. I'll LOL, but I never cry. I thought the Reavers were disturbing, though.
6) Birds pwn all other pets, except maybe fish. Unless you don't have time for the birds, in which case the fish could be better :).
7) I like being isolated, and I'm not much of a conversationalist.
8) I'm the only white guy at my work. One of my coworkers seems to be amused with that fact.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Name and pictures, by request.

After some looking on a Norse surname website, and a fairly fruitless request on Facebook, I have settled on a name for myself. I'll be Ormgeirr. (Ormr is the root word for dragon, and Geirr most likely means spear)

As for piccies, there's been a good bit of progress, but not much that we've taken pictures of. I got my good adhesive, so I was able to test fit the muzzle last night and try out the makeup.

My claws and horns are done, and as you might have guessed, I typed my last blog post wearing them. They're quite comfy. Now that they're glued into the gloves, which are extensively tampered-with work gloves.

The gloves are in the process of having the skin glued onto them. Once we get one done, I'll post pictures. At this point, Mom has found out that we'll actually be able to do everything but the thumb in one piece, rather than separating the little scales for flexibility.

I think Mom is starting to get in to this a little more, now that we've got some tangible progress.
I'll post pictures in a bit. Now, breakfast.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How hard is it to type with claws?

Not as hard as I expected, but still not so easy.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

More about claws

I have now learned the hard way that you don't put items to be varnished on a sheet of newspaper, coat one side, then coat the other later. if you make one wrong move, you rip portions of the paint right off. I had to partially repaint both horns and about four of my claws, sand them, then finish them again - one of which peeled off again. They'll be dry when I get home tonight.
Thanks Mom for letting me use your rack to keep them elevated and damage-free!

Monday, May 4, 2009

What color is your dragon?

Initially, I planned on going as a green and gold dragon - the classic coloring. I'm fond of green and silver, or maybe purple and copper, but there wasn't a shade of vinyl in green. I had planned on making my gloves and tail out of green vinyl, with some gold on the tail. But then, one Friday, Mom and I stopped at the Joann on the way home to decide on fabric and maybe buy enough to get started.

For me, it was pretty cut-and-dry. Get some green vinyl and some brown linen for clothing. Go home.

Ignorance is bliss. Take it from me, because I know nothing about fabrics or sewing. Mom pointed me to some nice gauze, which was actually light and quite cheap. We almost had that picked out, then something else showed up, and we decided to go with that. Then it was on to skin fabric. Mom didn't want to do the vinyl, because it didn't stretch. She had a point, but there were a few things i liked about the vinyl - it didn't look like fabric, it was in a good color, and it was cheap. Mom suggested I look around, and I found some nice swimsuit fabric that had a bunch of shiny dots on it. It didn't look too bad, but Mom pointed out that it had no durability. Also, the green was ridiculously shiny, and the only non-blinding color, navy blue, was abyssally dark. So we ditched that. We had almost decided to just get the vinyl when Mom noticed the crocodile skin fabric in brown immediately next to the vinyl. That stuff was pretty, but a) it was stiff and b) it was brown. Painting it would get rid of all the lovely color gradations in it. Even more, it was $30 per yard. Daaaaaaaaaang. Hour-long story short, we went with the brown and ended up getting another 65% off the 50% sale price because there was a rubber cement stain on one of the pieces. We also got a burlap remnant, in case the rabbit cowl proved too warm.

How about the clothes? We didn't use any of our original plan because we found some nice stuff at the Salvation army - a knit shirt that would become a tunic, a pair of patched-together hippie pants, and a green belt. The nice thing about the pants is that they have enough room in them for padding on my legs to give the, a digitigrade look. We also have a long-sleeved shirt from before that I have underneath the tunic.

On the claw front, I have finished sanding and have produced painted hand claws and a pair of matching black horns. I started sealing them yesterday; once I get home, they'll need some more sanding and another coat. The finish on one horn is damaged because somebody tripped over it; last night the finish hadn't dried enough to move them. I slapped a little more paint on it before I left this morning, and we'll see how it looks when I get home. Mom has also started modifying some work gloves to accommodate claws. We're kind of waiting on the finish to get that done. We'll see how long it takes to get the desired finish after we get them mounted after that.

We also have a pair of canvas shoes to make into dragon feet later. We're trying to figure out an appropriate design, but I'm certain we won't be able to use the paperclay claws there. Stuffed vinyl is probably the best bet.
We've also decided to use an umbrella for my wing fingers, because that already gives the proper number of fingers and a nice premade finger setup. THey even have a little bit of organic curve to them. We'll see how that works, since we have yet to actually start messing around with the wings yet.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Now that I have some liquid latex, I was able to test fit the prosthetic. Here's what came of it. Obviously, the latex won't work for the final result, because it only holds for a minute. Hopefully my adhesive will get here soon.

((sings) Burn, baby burn! Dragon inferno!)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A hat fit for a dragon

The other thing that I came home to tonight was my cowl completed.
We elected to go with a cowl over a wig because, as Mom said, dragons don't have hair. Actually, some more contemporary-looking ones, as well as Asian Lungs ( or Yongs, if you're Korean) do. But she's right that other people may not know this. So she came up with the idea of making a Patsy-style cowl out of rabbit skins. So one night, we did some web browsing for some cowl patterns. Here's a picture of me with the newspaper mock-up on my head. Once we quit holding the corners down, it sort of went all "flying nun" on me. Just look. Don't linger.

We were both cracking up there.

We took down the mounted skin that adorned my wall, and bought another one at Hobby Lobby. Once we got it pinned, it sat on my maille desk as we got ready for listing. Now that we've gotten some more time, she has sewn it. We left the foot hanging down intentionally and didn't match the grain for that lovely DIY look.

We're going to sew down that spot on the right side of the photo so it covers my hair better.

Also, here's a pic of the muzzle:

Okay, couldn't resist

My muzzle just showed up today!
I got home from college at 6:00 today, and I came home to see a small box on my office chair. My first thought was "Is it from Canada!?" YES! It was indeed my new face. It's a lot bigger than I expected. The guy demoing it on the website (I think that's Jason?) doesn't make it seem nearly as big, but wow! Just holding it up to my face, it's huge. I held it up to Mom and it practically covers her whole face! (I knew she wouldn't make a good dragon! She couldn't see forward for her own schnoz!) My adhesive will come in four days or so, so I'll be able to post some pictures then.


Claws of the dragon (rawwwwwwr)

One day, Mom takes me over to the Michael's under the guise of something else. There she started helping me look for some decent claws. First we looked in the jewelry, so we could find some cheap charms or something. We might have used plastic bear claws, but Michael's didn't have them. They didn't have much in the jewelry section, either. From a video I had given her, she went to the back of the store and picked up a block of paperclay. It was here that she announced that she had decided to actually help me with the costume. Music to my ears, Mom. Quite frankly, I was going to run low on funds soon, and I don't know a single thing about sewing. ("Needle go through fabric." That's all I know.) So we went home with two bricks of paperclay, and some goodies for Mom's Swapbot - a tactic she has adopted to get rid of some junk and have fun at the same time.

I started doing the claws as per the video, wrapping foil around my fingers and building the clay on top. The cool thing about it is that it's water-soluble, just like real clay; put some water in your hand, and the paperclay flows nicely. What bugs me is that it completely dissolves with water, even after it dries. I was even able to take my sawdust and knead it back into a clay. Then I sanded them, sometimes adding more material for gap and hole filling. This is what I have now:

I have two more for wing thumbs and am in progress for a set of horns. Speaking of horns:

I ordered a set of costume horns off the 'net. Cost about 15$ including shipping. The problem with shopping for these on the internet is that people never post good pictures. Indeed, the spiral horns I had ordered were not symmetrical, as I had expected. Instead of being one left, one right, there were two lefts. And they were heavy. I decided not to use them and use my surplus paperclay to make horns. They're drying now, and they'll take a LOT of sanding. The tricky part will be getting them to sit well on the back of my head.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chronicles of the dragon

Devious machination #342: Getting a dragon costume for Scarborough faire.

For those few friends who haven't heard of this, we have a totally awesome Renfest out in Waxahachie. As I assume it is with most renfests, it's home to a bunch of people in linen and burlap, women who desperately need bras (as many of the women who come in costume are overweight), and a few hired performers ( the ragpicker, Sholo the Nubian, etc.). It's basically several acres of total awesome.

Last year, thinking it would be my last chance to go, I set out to get something totally on a lark, that I would never find anywhere else. Actually, I had something fairly specific in mind: a shoulder dragon. I was hopeful when I saw a couple people with some awesome gryphon puppets - maybe the same place that had those would also have a dragon. They did. They were expensive, but fortunately, this was right after graduation, where I'd gotten a bunch of gift money. I poured about $70 into my constant companion, Eochaid. I thought that was pretty awesome (and indeed it is), but I thought I should do more.

On the drive home (no longer fixated on the one goal), I thought to myself how much fun it would have been to go in costume - as a dragon. Lo and behold, April rolls around again, and we're still here. (See "Jim's Wild Ride" for more details) Now's my chance.

First obstacle, posing the idea to Mom and Dad. They take my dragon fascination with a bit of a chuckle, and they probably would think I'm crazy for doing something like this. I think they did, at least somewhat, but they gave me the go-ahead anyway. Don't get me wrong, they're very supportive people, but Mom told me I'd be on my own for this project. That was about what I had expected, so all was cool. (Mom has been very busy packing lately, once again see Jim's Wild Ride.)

Second, I would obviously need a mask. There are some decent static masks out there, but they're static. Not having the mask move kind of kills it for me, since that sucks away the realism. That's when I found these guys: Northfur FX & Mascots. They carried the perfect thing: a two-piece dragon muzzle prosthetic. You adhere it to your face, and it gives very good realism. They even said you can eat in it, though you have to take small bites. It was expensive: about $45 USD, plus shipping.

Here, Mom came in with a counterpoint - what if I just got a bigger puppet and went as a dragon wrangler? Or what if I just get a smaller mask? She had found a decent puppet online, for about $80, and a half-mask for about $30. After going back and forth for a bit, I discarded both ideas. I had my heart set on this particular idea, and nothing was going to stop me :).

I went ahead and bought the muzzle and started looking online for a wig. Why a wig? My 70's hairstyle wouldn't work with the costume, so I thought I would go with a straight wig. This would a) hide my facial hair and b) give me a place to hide the horns I would have coming from the back of my head. You would be surprised how hard it is to find two of those cheap. Why two? To make the wig make sense, I was going to have a fur tuft on the end of my tail, made from the second wig. At this point, Mom suggested I change tack. I should abandon the wigs and get a cowl, like Patsy from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It took some persuasion on this, but we went with it. We decided the cowl should be made from rabbit fur, so it looked like I had taken a small animal and simply stuck it on my head. I will post some separately about this part with pictures.

Next installment: Claws of the dragon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Why did it post this out of order?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

So I picked up Sanctuary to get my Amanda Tapping fix, seeing how SGA got cancelled. Here's what stood out most:
How much this looked like Torchwood.
How long they could attempt to be suspenseful, before a less-than successful reveal.
How funny Tapping sounds with a Brit accent.
That this is Torchwood.
That they got half of Stargate and some of Battlestar on the show (Maj. Lorne, Todd, and Dr. Carter, and Dee and Charlie Connor. I don't remember actor names well.).
That everyone seems to have an obsession with the edges of tall buildings.
That "Sanctuary for all" goes on a mission for blood in the second episode, and show absolutely no remorse for shooting however many dozen crypt guardians.
That the fourth episode was the typical "trapped in a small room with only a few hours to live" script, with a fairly corny ending. Bleh.
That I would rather watch Hiro than Dr. Zimmermann.

I decided to do a side-by-side:

Conclusion: I hope it gets better. Even my favorite actors from previous shows will only keep me interested for so long.
It's an old entry I decided to move over. My review on the Doctor Who finale and Stargate: Continuum.

Warning: not edited. Expect grammatical errors.
Just saw Stargate: Continuum last night. I'm not quite sure what to think of it. There was a lot more blood and gore in it: ex. Apofis getting the top of his head sliced off, Baal bleeding out on the pel'tak (in the background), and staff wounds (they smoke now). Then there's the climax (scroll down if you haven't seen it and plan to, otherwise read on). We've seen this number before in the episode "2010": everyone dramatically dying in an attempt to fix the timeline. We've seen them do the team's deaths in slow motion before. More anticlimactic, if you ask me.
On the bright side, there's Jack! Yay!
However, the whole thing seemed a bit rushed and short on action. "Ark of Truth" kicks its tail in this regard. I mean, which would you rather see: Cam trying to beat a Replicator/Terminator thing in melee combat before the Ori blow up the ship, or Daniel and Cam standing there shooting at Jaffa who always beam into the exact same spot?
That reminds me, why doesn't it occur to anyone to (a) pick up the Jaffa's guns (especially Daniel, who runs out of ammo) or (b) try to break the platform? And while we're at it, why doesn't the ring platform on the flagship have redial? Teal'c goes through, and Qetesh just goes "Oh well, he's gone. Can't do anything, even though I know he'll try to come after me." Anyway, I'd rather watch Ark of Truth any day.

While I'm here, how about the Doctor Who finale? (Not that I know any of my friends watches it.) El lame-o.
1. Did Rose have that stupid lisp before? And am I the only one that thinks Billie Piper is ugly?
2. Go home, Jack, you pervert. I never want to see you again.
3. We won't see Grandpa again. He is so much COOLER than Donna. I mean, he's got guts enough to attack a stinkin' Dalek with a paintball gun (and hit it in the right spot) in defense of his wife, who he'd be better off without. That constitutes awesome.
4. Too much technobabble. But let's get one thing straight. there's good and bad technobabble. Stargate and Star Trek (especially TNG and VOY) did it well; it made sense and sounded futuristic. They would use actual particles (some of the time) and continue to use them so that we got a good idea of what they do: veterons could shred warpcores, and tachion eddies, while innocuous to larger ships, could send small star-sailers lightyears.
Doctor Who can't technobabble to save its life. Theirs sounds like a random word generator on fast forward. You can't make out the words, and if you could, they'd be total nonsense. Nonsense does not a good climax make.
5. Plothole: Why would you blow up the whole multiverse? What could you use to expand and feed everyone? And once you finally eradicate everything else, what do you do then? Mill about and play canasta? Davros, you're an idiot.


Hello World

Why the name? It's a multiple reference: 
"Technobabbling" is the (sometimes handwavy) technical jargon employed commonly in science fiction. It could be anything from "timey-wimey detector" (which was an excellent bit of lampshading) or "reverse the polarity" to "calibrate the metagenic warp enhancers with multibeaming biofilters."
That paragraph can also be titled "How to drive your spell checker insane."

If you're not familiar with the Babel fish, I'm surprised.

In an alternate spelling, it was a reference to "The Wrong Trousers." But it turns out they don't spell it that way.

What is this about? I'll copy the "About Me" from my FB: I felt like changing this, so I did.
Wow, that was helpful. I guess that's why I have some blogging to do...