Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Falcon Heavy Launch : A big day for Humans

Last week, SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy, a rocket capable of lifting cargo beyond Earth's orbit, to the Moon or Mars.  Along with presumably thousands of other people, I watched the live feed with baited breath.  So I was surprised when I encountered friends online who respectfully questioned why this was really of any consequence.  Sure it's thrilling.  So was the Eagles' Superbowl victory.  But does a billionaire sending a sports car into interplanetary space really have any more significance than a sports victory?

I think it does.

Although the stated goal is distant, I think that the technologies developed to explore space are usually of the most benefit here on Earth.  Life support equipment in particular is always designed with the goal of making humans healthier and more comfortable while using the least resources.  There isn't anything of that is designed to provide humans with clean water and food on Mars that isn't of use in the under-served parts of the world.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Saw the Backstreet Boys (?)

I went to Vegas for a little weekend trip and we ended up seeing the Backstreet Boys.  I never listened to them, but Tony was a big fan back in his youth, so I went along.  It was good!  They put on a solid show.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Documenting the 2018 Women's March in LA

Last weekend, I went to the Women's March in Downtown LA.  While I was there, I had a specific goal.  For a while I'd thought that it was often frustrating how dependent protests were on media outlets to publicize them.  But after the protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016 and 2017, I realized how critically damaging this reliance is.  It's not just about the visibility of activism: it's about publicizing the facts on the ground.  In the case of  the pipeline protests, stories came out about a woman suffering grave bodily harm when anti-riot ordinance malfunctioned and nearly took off her arm.  The police insisted that any injury had been the result of improvised explosives prepared by protesters.  This kind of uncertainty was shocking to me.  What the hell was going on in rural North Dakota?  Were protesters wildly exaggerating?  Was a peaceful protest being met with state violence and covered up?  I just wanted to know what it felt like on the ground.

Later, in 2017, I was bewildered that I couldn't find images or video of the Los Angeles Women's March, which I hadn't attended.  I heard there were a lot of people, but I couldn't find crowd estimates immediately afterward or suitable images that communicated the atmosphere.  It's hard to believe in an age where so many people have cameras.  In any case, I was having trouble finding clear documentation.  So I decided to make that a goal to improve on myself.  I don't think I'll fix this personally, but I hope to contribute.  So this weekend, I shot footage and edited it together as best as I could.  The march was great, and as a first effort in citizen journalism, I'm pleased with the video that came out of it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Mjolnir: making the famous hammer of the gods

I made a replica of Mjolnir according to the classic descriptions (as opposed to the well known comic book version).  Unfortunately, Tony and I were both concerned that it might be too brittle for casual use during a party, so he used an alternative, but I was generally happy with the look and it has a great heft.  I'm definitely going to use plaster like this again in the future.

Mjolnir, crafted in the classic Norse style

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Check out this quick-connect system for printing cells

In order to print cells, I need to be able to load up a syringe, then connect that syringe to a printer as quickly and simply as possible.  My first attempt has been to make a bracket that holds the syringe and a connector that snaps together with a mate to instantly link the syringe plunger to a motor.  Today I set it all up for the first time and ran it off a laptop connected to the printer over a live USB connection.  It's a little clumsy with one hand, but for a first approach, it looks more than serviceable.  I'm eager to mount this extruder on to the x/y gantry and then try it out with live cells in it.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Loki, Thor, and Heimdall at a gathering of the gods

Last weekend, we went to a truly amazing party.  In celebration of the solstice, everyone was asked to come in the guise of one of the ancient deities.  Upon arriving, we were each given three coins labeled with the powers conferred by our characters, and told that we could not use the powers, but were able to trade them and use the ones we received.  We were also each given personalized win conditions.  I attended as Loki, the god of mischief.  Tony attended as the mighty Thor.  Jack came as Heimdall, the watchman.  And we had a blast.  The Egyptian gods, Greek gods, and Aztec gods were present, but the Norse gods clearly owned the night.

At the party, I arrived in the guise of Sif, Thor's wife and goddess of the Earth.  Heimdall was given instructions to reveal me, so I spent the beginning of the party trying to evade discovery.  Eventually, after several thwarted attempts to uncover me, Odin and the rest of the Norse gods used some in-game spell to force me to appear.  This attracted everyone's attention to follow the drama, which afforded me the opportunity to gift one of my coins -- labeled "Chaos" -- to a friend, who immediately used it to force everyone within ten feet to randomly exchange the coins they'd worked so hard to trade and acquired.  Tony, Jack, and I all were shocked at how instantly the room was thrown into genuine pandemonium.  

Over the course of the evening, I changed wigs and masks several times, teased the other gods and stirred up fun.  I can honestly say I've never received so much positive attention at a party.  Loki is a hilariously fun character to play.  Tony made a super-fun Thor too.  In fact, all the folks who'd come as Norse characters -- Odin, Freyr, Sunna, Mani -- seemed to be the most lively attendees.  The entire Norse lineup owned the night.

From left to right: Heimdall, Freyr, Thor, Sjöfn, Odin, Sunna, Mani, Loki

Heimdall and "Sif".  I am seriously surprised how good I look in drag.

Thor arm wrestles Maat, Egyptian god of Justice

Heimdall and Loki

Thor & Heimdall

Thor addresses his fellow gods