Progress – of a Sort

4 April 2009

Been working on-and-off (mostly off) on the Pegasus Hobbies ‘Area 51 UFO’.  Up until tonight this consisted of spraying primer (duplicolor Black) and basecoat (Duplicor Metalflake Silver) whenever the weather warmed up enough I could use the garage.  This evening I finally got some time to test-fit lights.


I wanted to try out a  Lochtech LED Driver – he’d sent me a few samples.  Turns out you can’t hook the one that’s rated for 1.5V – 12V input directly into a 9V battery ….. it started smoking.  I disconnected it … and managed to accidentally power the LED string straight from the battery.  POW – shot the top of a bright white clear across the room – one of the more spectacular LED failures in my checkered history with the devices.


Went to Radio Shack and picked up a 2x AA battery holder.  That worked much better …. well, it lit the LEDs without fireworks, anyway.  I then taped the four bright whites in place near the top of the upper dome, pointing down. 


Previously, I’d built a little structure from beads and wire on top of a clear plastic disposable picni plate – just something to fill up the interior of the model.  The LEDs illminate it just like I wanted – I was pleasantly surprised.  Then I press-fit the green plastic parts in the openings and tried again.  I’m happy with it.


The green parts are pretty cloudy.  I tried dipping them in Future (as I would for any other clear parts) but — oddly enough — Future will not stick.  It fisheyes and puddles. This despite several cleanings with progressively stronger agents.  I may have to fall back on old-fashioned polishing with Novus and a T-shirt.


Despite the setbacks, it feels good to actually work on a model.  I’ve been working 12-14 hour days and there just hasn’t been time – and probably won’t be again, come Monday.


>Sigh< And Wonderfest is barely a month away.

Getting Religion

23 January 2009

Of all the things that cheese me off I think the bit where people suddenly ‘get religion’ regarding a certain issue is what spins me up most.  Makes me want to scream at the TV (or radio, if I’m in the car).

Perfect example: Illinois politics.  Seems I can’t tune in to any media outlet without hearing some Illinois GOP mouthpiece pontificating about “pay to play” politics.  Funny how that wasn’t an issue until a Democrat was elected governor.  Seems the anti-corruption warriors never want to talk about their opposition to the last governor … you know, Republican George Ryan, the guy who is in the federal pen in Marion for …. aw, ya know – the public corruption thing.


Another example:  the bloviating being done by Republicans in Washington over the “economic stimulus”.  They sure were not against government spreading cash around with a fire hose back when it was to pay for their war and all the well-connected contractors that followed the troops into Iraq.  But now – now they pontificate about mortgaging our children’s future’.

 In either case, their credibility would be greater if they’d actually taken the position they have now back when their party was in power.

And speaking of religion, here’s a news flash:  President Obama (damn, feels good to say that) is president of all America, including the people who don’t describe themselves as Christian.  Which is a non-trivial percentage of the population – and no doubt the reason he mentioned Jews, Muslims, Hindus and non-believers in his inaugural address.  He was elected to be President of these United States – not our pastor.  The sooner that point is understood, the sooner the foolishness can stop.

The New Nigel

25 December 2008

So …. Santa brought me an iRobot Dirt Dog today and it has to be the coolest gift I’ve gotten in my adult life.


It’s loud, especially on the wood floors.  It wanders aimlessly and bumps into things.  It gets tangled up in rug tassels.  So of course we named it after our late, lamented cat – he did the same things.  This Nigel, however, sweeps up loose crud on the floor instead of adding to the mess (man, could that cat shed.  I swear I could knit a new cat from what fell off him every week).


Tonight I set RoboNigel loose in the StarshipModeler stock room and shut the door.  Forty minutes later, he announced the demise of  every last dust rhino with a cheerful beeping.


I have no idea how rugged he is, or how long he’ll last, but for now — I’m quite impressed.  And I’ve wasted far too much time watching him work, when I could be boxing up these Prometheus kits….


I can’t help but ponder whether to modify him to look like a scutter or a DRD … though I guess I can’t do anything more than paint or he won’t be able to get under the shelves.

Thank God.

4 November 2008

It really feels like a weight just dropped from my back.  A huge weight.

Listening to McCain’s concession, I could only think that if he had run his campaign like that, he could have won.  And I’d have been almost as happy as I am now.

A Surfeit of Patriotism

30 October 2008

All I can say is …. wow.

(left in it’s original 1072 size so anyone interested can make it their desktop)

 I was about 2 miles from the main gate of Great Lakes (aka Great Mistakes) Naval Base when I snapped that …. but I’m pretty sure there was no window sticker indicating someone authorized on base.

 Kinda puts the whole “flag pin on the lapel” thing in perspective, doesn’t it.

Wake Up Call

18 September 2008

On Sunday morning at about 4am, I woke up with numbness and weakness all down my left side.  I’ve been a bit stressed out (when have I not been?) and I thought it was just my body rebelling against too much work and too little sleep, or maybe too much caffeine the day before.  But by 5am it was worse and I did something I have never done before:  woke Linda up and asked her to take me to the ER.

Once there, they determined my blood pressure was through the roof and gave me “60cc’s of something-or-other, Stat!” in order to bring it down.  After two days of tests (including an MRI and something called a TEE, where they stick a probe down your throat to do an ultrasound of your heart) they determined I had experienced a Transient Ischemic Attack or TIA.  A TIA is a “warning stroke” or “mini-stroke” that produces stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage. 

TIAs occur when a blood clot temporarily clogs an artery, and part of the brain doesn’t get the blood it needs. The symptoms occur rapidly and last a relatively short time. Most TIAs last less than five minutes. The average is about a minute. Unlike stroke, when a TIA is over, there’s no injury to the brain. They can occur days, weeks or even months before a major stroke, and are important predictors of major strokes. In about half the cases, the stroke occurs within one year of the TIA.

So …. I’m back home now, on baby aspirin (to reduce the chances of those clots forming) and blood pressure meds, probably for the rest of my life.  Still recovering from the after-effects of anesthesia – they had to knock me out to do the MRI because I’m insanely claustrophobic and again for the TEE, because the first time they tried with the “twilight sleep” they gave me the max dose and I was still fighting the docs as they tried to stick that tube down my throat.  Turns out I have an unusually high resistance to anesthesia…. who knew.  Not looking forward to seeing the bill from all this — they had to knock me out for the MRI as well because I’m insanely claustrophobic and that MRI machine was bringing uncomfortable memories of the Quigley at OCS — and who knows what the insurance will choose to cover.

Anyway, with the right meds, changes to my life, some luck and the grace of God, this will be just a wake-up call and not an omen. 

But it has pretty much freaked me out.

CNN Gets One Right ….

9 August 2008
Hear me out. 
After reading this piece of absolute horsespit.  I’ll wait.
Two of the more salient bits:

CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, who served as a White House adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, said Democrats could have been hurt if Edwards had clinched the Democratic nomination.

“He put the Democratic Party in real jeopardy,” he said. “If he had been the nominee of the party now, and this thing had blown up … it would have — it would have ruined the Democrats’ chances of taking back the White House.”

And then there is this “gem”:

Republican strategist Alex Castellanos said Friday that Edwards’ infidelity may affect both parties’ images. “The questions are going to be asked, does this hurt Republicans or Democrats, or the political impact. And the truth is that it’s going to hurt everybody, because right now, in an uncertain world, we’re looking to see who we can trust to lead the country, and this lessens, I think, faith in political leadership in general,” he said Friday.

 And you know what?  I think both these guys are correct in their assessments.  After all, for the past decade we’ve seen that politicians can wipe their asses with the Constitution without fear of ever being held accountable, but let their crank escape from their trousers with anyone not their spouse and it’s all over.

Piss away tens of thousands of lives (ours and theirs) and billions of dollars, make a mockery of our laws and the ideals of our Founders, and we’re OK with it.  But God help you if you shag someone to whom you ain’t married to.  That causes us to lose faith in institutions and parties.

That, after all, jest ain’t right.

Because I Said So

18 June 2008

A divided Supreme Court ruled that the US government has to provide terror suspects held at GTMO with the opportunity to challenge their detention – in essence, to make the government say exactly why they are being held.  That’s what habeus corpus is all about: the state has to prove it has good reason to throw a person in jail.

 Those calling themselves “conservatives” have fallen all over themselves to condemn this decision as the worst ever in … well, the history of ever.  McCain said:

 “The United States Supreme Court yesterday rendered a decision which I think is one of the worst decisions in the history of this country”. 

Really?  Worse than the Dred Scott decision that said black people had no rights and no recourse under our laws? 

Newt Gingrich explicitly agreed, saying:

“Worse than Dred Scott, for the following reason: The court has now knowingly stepped in, this morning’s newspaper say, smugglers had actually gotten the design of a nuclear weapon, that we now have the evidence that people out there had a nuclear weapon design. And this court is saying that any random district judge, based on whatever their personal caprice is, whatever their personal ideological bias, can intervene with a terrorist in such a way.

… The problem with Obama is that he’s wrong…He applauded this court decision. This court decision is a disaster which could cost us a city. The debate ought to be over whether or not you are prepared to risk losing an American city on behalf of five lawyers – it was a five to four decision – and five lawyers have decided that the Supreme Court counts more than the Congress and the President combined in national security.”


Is this the level of bat-spit insanity to which we have fallen?  If we lose a city it’s not because the government, with all it’s money, and power, and spy satellites, and sophisticated computers that can distinguish between a seditious thought and an ant’s fart, could not provide an activist judge with a sound reason for detaining some random suspected terrorist forever without trial.

If we lose a city it’s because the government failed – abjectly, and once again – to prevent terrorists from carrying out a devastating attack on our own soil.  The attacks of 9/11 didn’t happen because we accorded a fundamental right – the right to make the State justify its actions – to “terrorists”; the 9/11 attacks happened because our government, with all its resources, failed to prevent them. 

Mr Gingrich is apparently referring to news that A. Q. Khan (notorious Pakistani nuke-technology peddler) sold designs for nuclear devices small enough, and robust enough, to be made into portable weapons.  Never mind that actually building such a thing, regardless of how detailed your blueprints, is a technological feat attained only by a handful of nations over the course of half a century. (Could you build a car from scratch if you had detailed blueprints?)  Never mind that there’s never been a shred of evidence to support the theory that trans-national jihaadists have ever managed to get their hands on the components for such a weapon.  (‘cause even whacked out crazy nations like North Korea don’t just go handing over nukes to jihaadis – not when the consequence for an attack that gets traced back to you is immediate and complete annihilation).

Never mind all that – appartently, to Mr McCain, and Mr Gingrich, and all their fellow travelers, lickspittles, satraps and toadies, our government is helpless.  It’s physically incapable of protecting us from the destruction of our cities.  Our only recourse is to decide certain folks are terrorists and throw them in jail forever. 

I might buy this argument if Mr Gingrich, Mr McCain, and all those fellow travelers, lickspittles, satraps and toadies who have been running our government for the past dozen years had shown one iota of competence during that time.  Sadly, between the outright lies, the fuck-ups and the complete lack of accountability for those things, I can’t muster any faith in their arguments.

But maybe they are right…. they have proved unable to keep anyone from anywhere who wants to work backbreaking labor for slave wages from entering the country without papers … how the heck can they be expected to stop determined terrorists?  Maybe we better throw the rest of the world in jail and throw away the key – it’s the only way to ensure our safety.


Forest Nymph

6 June 2008

So I was clicking around coolminiornot one evening and I came across this ‘Treewoman’ – and was instantly hooked.  It was out of stock, though.  I got to thinking it would be cool to do something similiar in a larger scale, and thus the idea of a dryad/forest nymp/tree-chickie was born.

I looked through the piles of resin kits I was in the process of boxing up for storage and came across a 1/6-ish Belldandy I thought might fit the bill.  I’m not sure of the kit’s origin; I know I bought it from a former member of my local model club when he was selling off a bunch of his kits when he had run into some financial troubles.  I’d ditched the box and bagged it for easier storage … and then pretty much forgotten about it when something shinier came along.

I started by gluing her torso, legs and part of an arm together.  I should have waited a bit, because the next step was to cover her with textured epoxy putty to simulate bark.  It’s been a real pain getting putty in between her legs and between her arm and torso.  Most of the ‘bark’ was made using blue Aves Apoxy Sculpt (because that’s what I had).  I’ve been mixing up a ball about the size of a pea, mashing it against her body, and texturing it by pressing sandpaper or a paper towel into the putty, or by scribing it with an old hobby blade before the putty sets up.  Some of the areas where it’s hard to get my fingertips or craft sticks in to add putty, like her inner thighs, were painted with Mr Surfacer 500 that had started to gel in the bottle.  This was then textured with a disposable microbrush.  I tried painting on some Aves paste heavily thinned with their solvent, but it doesn’t really stick well.

My goal with the texturing was to have varied surfaces – rough, ragged bark along her body and limbs, with smoother areas on her tummy, face and inner thighs – using a tree in the backyard as a guide.  I added a couple limb stumps to her lower leg and shoulder using sticks from that same tree, blended with more putty.  Smaller branches were made from braided copper wire coated with black CA, placed into holes I drilled into her arm and leg.

I decided to make her fingers and toes longer and more ‘branch-like’.  I sawed off the kit parts, drilled appropriately-sized holes, and super-glued brass rod to act as armatures.  I started making knuckle joints from balls of putty, but that quickly became an exercise in frustration.  I finished roughing in the joints with layers of black CA.  I’ve since been slowly sculpting the rest of her fingers and toes using small bits of Aves.  These are pressed into place then shaped with a wet toothpick, microbrush or that old hobby blade, and blended into the rest of the hand or foot with water.

I’m very nearly done with her body – when the toes are done there will just be a few more areas of ‘bark’ to do, plus attaching her left arm and right hand.  I’ll have to do a bit of painting – at least the base coat – before I can attach those as I won’t be able to paint the inner surfaces once they are in place.  I also need to finish up her familiar – a little squirrel – that I got from a place that sells dollhouse miniatures.  I need to change his stance a bit so it looks like he’s riding on her shoulder.

Then it’s time for hair and I still don’t know how I will do that.  Suggestions from the forums have pointed me in the direction of spanish moss …. but how to do that?  Real spanish moss (from the craft store) is too coarse and fragile.  I’ve pulled apart some scouring pads and it looks OK, but it’s very hard to shape (I want her hair to flow, not stick out everywhere like she has her fingers in a light socket) and paint doesn’t stick well to the material.  Perhaps I’ll try some steel wool over a wire armature.

I’d like to have this finished for Wonderfest, but with the move less than a month a way ….

Freedom of Speech

4 June 2008
[Freedom AIN'T 'free', dipstick]