Monthly Archives: April 2011

Plastic Digits

Because I’ve seen plastic toys that have a scent, I know that it must be technically possible to make scented plastic, or perhaps to “paint” plastic with a smell. I have done a few experiments pouring essential oils in increasing quantities into my plastics as I’m mixing/curing them, but so far I have had no real success. The plastic cures fine, so it’s good to know that the oils do not have a negative chemical effect, but the plastic completely encapsulates the odor. If I sand the plastic it releases scent in the dust, but not in normal use. To do these tests in a way that’s not totally wasteful, I used them as an excuse to make “thumb tacks” — I made some quick molds of my thumb and little finger by squishing some fast-setting silicone putty around them and then mounted either a tack or a magnet (you can see that in the little finger one) that’s strong enough to make it a fridge magnet that can hold up documents. In the picture below, the top-right thumb is cast in a translucent plastic that almost looks like sand-blasted glass, and the bottom left one was an experiment to see what would happen if I mixed a scoop of raspberry seeds into the plastic base (an experiment that I consider completely successful). Oh, and click to zoom in.


It will come as no surprise to you that I was very excited when we started being able to detect exoplanets, even more excited when we started being able to figure out seemingly impossible and fantastic characteristics like their composition and atmosphere, and of course even more exciting when we started finding “goldilocks” (ie. not too hot, not too cold… just right) planets that might be capable of supporting life of the sort that we are familiar with. Of course this is just the beginning! A long while back I was at a SETI conference and I could swear I recall someone making the statement that our best radio telescope arrays should be capable of picking up a low-wattage signal — well below what a commercial radio or TV station uses for example — from the distances that are certainly much further, by a great many light years, than where we can detect these exoplanets at. We just need to be listening at the right time and at the right star.

So it got me thinking that it’s got to be only a matter of time, probably a much shorter time that our lonely planet gut tells us these things should happen in, before we find a planet that’s broadcasting it’s own version of entertainment. In this big galaxy I’m sure that we’ll eventually stumble across some exoculture that we can listen to long enough to figure out their language — languages perhaps — and then start translating it all in bulk. Dubbing it, why not? Maybe I’m crazy but I am completely convinced that during Nefarious’s lifetime, quite likely soon, there will be hit shows on television that were produced on another planet orbiting another star. Now that’s what I call copyright violation!


Let me wrap up with a picture of, let’s say… yes… an alien that I made out of… you guessed it, some leftover clay (and an old teardrop shaped glob that has been stuck in the couch for two months). I’m not too happy with it because I kind of wrecked it with a bad paint job, so I’m going to hide two more pictures after the break if you want. I suppose I could re-paint it but I don’t want to spend the time, and I want to try and do some bronze cold casting today.

EDIT: Yeah, so like I said, crap paint job. So I just chromed it instead. If you want to see how it was originally painted, I’ve moved all those pictures to behind the break wall. I should have kept it simple and not added all the spots and dots. Too much!


Funny puppies, clawed hands, chess, and subliminals

I was reading (and love) that Armenia has made chess a part of their official school curriculum. I taught Nefarious to play chess when she was four or five and she also plays it regularly in class, something that began in grade one at her school. My feeling is that in addition to the obvious academic elitism that’s linked to the game, it also helps kids develop focus and concentration, the ability to do planning and manipulate mental maps of the future, get hands on understanding of the consequences of action and the value of strategic thinking, memory skills, and even more abstract abilities like being able to read the behavior of different opponents and lots more. To many people’s surprise, it’s also been my experience that kids pick up chess very quickly and have no problem understanding the game and advancing their skill level quickly. And as the story of the Polgar sisters, three girls trained in chess by their father Laszlo, shows, getting kids hooked on the game early can turn them into masters as their eager minds gladly absorb skill through practice.

But as I promised, I wanted to share with you the next pet in the series. I know there are some cat-like features (a wretched disease-spreading animal I despise and would gladly see made illegal as a pet for the benefit of humanity), it is emphatically a dog-beast. Thus the bone. There is also a crystal ball in the pictures, which I made because before I used my left over clay I just rolled it into a ball and left it lying around like a marble. So I thought maybe that divination tool would be fun to create.

Yesterday I finally got around to using the small bag of alginate (in a Smooth-On kit) that I had lying about, and we cast a copy of Nefarious’s hand. It didn’t turn out as I hoped, for two reasons. First, because I did a poor job on the pour job, and when I put the plaster into the mold and shook it about, some air bubbles remained trapped in the finger tips. Plus I damaged it demolding, breaking it in a few places. And two (three?), her hand position was not ideal — it was intended to be a wall mounted hook when completed. But it was fun and she wants to try again so I’ll pick up some more when I can. Next time I’ll take more care, and will probably cast the hand in hard plastic rather than breakable plaster.

I have been slacking a little on casting the jewelry, largely because it’s a multi-step process that requires me to get up and move about quite a lot. Every one of these is preceded by such dread at how difficult and unpleasant it will be to achieve, so I end up putting it off and choosing activities that require less motion. I’m still paying for the two long walks I took the weekend before last… it takes depressingly long to recover from less and less muscle exertion. I am really dreading paraplegia and don’t even want to think about losing my arms, which I can feel being affected more and more every week.

Other than that, in the funny-but-perhaps-embarrassing category, I had a very odd and quite lengthy dream last night. I was away at some summer activity, a camp perhaps or even a stay in another city. I don’t know if “I was I” or if I was playing the role of someone “other than Shannon”. Probably. Anyway, I met a girl and there was some romance and she was from the same city as I’d be in that fall so she was looking forward to a relationship continuing that fall. But then I hooked up with her gay brother, and she found out about it, and the rest of the dream was about the social drama that followed back home. The dream was not explicit — the focus was the social dynamic. I think that it was spawned because of all the positive gay characters that have been on 90210 (which, unlike the more obviously gay-positive Glee, I actually enjoy) and so on these days. I am very glad that Nefarious is in perhaps the first generation in which a person’s sexual orientation seems to be a complete non-issue. I hope I’m right and those prejudices are a thing of the past. I do hope that the anti-gay marriage silliness is the last hurrah of that flavor of bigotry.

Leftovers Ghosties, Now With Pets!

We just got back from the bookstore so I have a moment to post because Nefarious is upstairs reading. The Monstessori system did a great job both teaching her to read and in instilling a love of literature — although that could just as easily be genetic — and she is as voracious a reader as I remember being as a child. She’s extremely fast as well, at least as fast a reader as me, so initially I doubted that she was even reading, thinking she was just faking it and skimming at best… but I tested her comprehension, to her great irritation and outrage, and was pleasantly surprised that she had read and retained every word.

So yeah, I have a moment to post, so… Hissssssssss! I’ve decided to start making pets for the little guys. My first attempt is this tiny yet scale-relevantly huge striped fellow. I have a puppy that’s currently hardening and waiting for paint that is outrageously cute that I’ll likely post next. Even taking into account that Caitlin and Nefarious occasionally pilfer the ones they like best, I’m building up a good collection.

I’m afraid those cannot be zoomed in on but I don’t think there’s any desperate need.

Three Eyes II, More Tippy Pigs, Metallic Skull Boxes

What with all the rain today a few more projects were wrapped up — although I didn’t do the jewelry casting I’d hoped to do because I misplaced some of my silicone putty. Anyway, let me get right to it and start with pictures of the second in my “leftovers” collection of three eyed fellows. I embarrassed myself having to paint this guy twice because instead of spraying him with clear glaze I accidentally hit him with gold spray paint, ack!!! But it still turned out fun. You can see number three (unpainted) in the background, with a removable snake draped over his/its shoulders.

All the pictures in this entry can be clicked to zoom big.

I can’t take credit for the next two entirely, because Nefarioius is back to making Tippy Pig characters and created these two, a double-headed siamese pig connected at the butt (I will leave off the “anatomically correct” hole that she put in the middle from the photo set), and a girl wearing a coconut bra! The siamese pig is wearing gold metallic body paint, and both of them were painted by me under art direction from Nefarious with the exception of the metallic which she cast a vehement vote against but I think was at least partially sold on it by the end.

Finally, here is where I’m at with the skull “boxes”, which are clay webs/lattice (scaffolding?) laid into skull molds and then cut and hinged. The larger skull, that’s got the split lid, also has magnets in the lid to hold it closed. The fittings are brass but right now they’re painted. I may strip that paint but I’m not sure yet. It was a headache getting them fitting perfectly but after the first one I had learned a lot and it’s much faster now. That said, I don’t really have an end vector or purpose for these so I’m kind of stalled and have just put them on my shelf as a perhaps perpetually “almost finished” project crash.

I do like how they look though. I’m not sure what I’m doing next other than the little things I’ve mentioned. I’m really feeling very down about my illness and the ineffectiveness of my treatment options so I am doing my best to stay distracted. So I’m thinking about a chess set in my cartoony sculpture style featuring the Hindu pantheon, as well as a double-scale fully functional sub machine-gun made out of chocolate. Or something. I wonder if that would be legal, making a 100% accurate and complete replica weapon out of chocolate (or even plastic), what with Canada’s oddly draconian replica gun laws. It can be hard to get filming permits for replica guns, so I remember laughing once watching some “true crime” show and seeing that the bad guys were using broomsticks with coffee cans duct taped to them, painted black, as stand-ins for Tommy guns. The shots were fast so I doubt many people noticed, but for those that did, hilarious.