Tag Archives: project

2015-11-27: Two Years At The Hot End

On the Orbiter Forum (discussion of topics related to the Orbiter space flight simulator), someone mentioned that they were reading Two Years Before The Mast, by Richard Dana, and that the story might work if set in space. I re-read the book, and tend to agree. I envision it set in late 21C, with asteroid mining having recently become established as an economical activity. The narrator would serve on a ship making passes to/from the asteroid belt, with a nominal two-year tour of duty.

Some of the assumptions I would use:

  • Fusion power plants providing great amounts of power, based on the Bussard polywell ideas, and the boron-proton reaction. The reactors and radiators are at the rear of the ships: the “hot end”.
  • Ships based on a rhombic dodecahedron module, such that any size ship could be built by connecting an appropriate number of modules, or a large ship could be split into smaller units (limited by the number of power plants).
  • 3D printing capability (“makers”) on board to fabricate any material needed, from tanks of raw materials, refined by atom-sorters. Capacity to make panels for modules, if maker operates within an open module (one panel removed).
  • Module panels have flanges to construct modules; attachment points for exterior shielding, sensors, thrusters, structural support, landing gear, etc.; large opening for hatches; smaller opening and channels for liquids and gases; signal and electrical power channels.

Some observations that might influence the story:

  • Asteroid belt characteristics: semi-major axis range 2.1 to 3.3 AU; edges and Kirkwood gaps at 2.1 AU (4:1 resonance with Jupiter), 2.5 (3:1 resonance), 2.82 (5:2), 2.96 (7:3), 3.28 (2:1).
  • Volume of torus 2*pi*pi*r*r*R = 19.2 cubic AU.
  • Total mass ~3×10^21 kg; 1/3rd mass in Ceres; 1/2 mass in Ceres (mass 9×10^20 kg, dia. 950km), Vesta (2.6×10^20kg, 525km), Pallas (2.1×10^20kg, 512km), Hygiea (8.7×10^19kg, 431km); 200 have dia > 100km; 2 million have dia > 1km; eccentricity < 0.4.
  • Density of asteroids with dia > 1km = 2*10^6/19.2 ~10^5 per cubic AU, < 1 per 10^19 km; average distance of 10^6 km.
  • Average speed at a=2.1 AU = ~20km/s; at 3.3 AU = ~16km/s. Typical passing speed 4km/s. To detect potential collision within 24 hours, need detection range of ~4×10^5km.
  • Odds of a belt-crossing probe hitting asteroid is < 1 in a billion.
  • Chief engineers on all ships are called “Scotty” for obscure historical reasons.
  • Learning is in two phases: theory and practice. Theory is learned rapidly (a few days) by use of drugs and tech, but lost unless practiced (which takes much longer).

In addition to the story, I would develop modules and ships for Orbiter, and for printing as desktop models.


  • 2015-11-27: Vision only
  • 2015-02-01: Proof-of-concept 3d-printed rhombic dodecahedron faces/clips (5cm long)


2015-11-27: Swimmin’ Hole – Polliwogs

This would be a sculpture embedded in a transparent plastic sphere (like Star Woman), with an old-style swimming hole, a tree next to it, with a rope for kids to swing out and jump into the water. There would be a number of kids in various stages of the cycle: swinging on the rope, diving into the water, swimming under the water, climbing up the bank below the tree.

The quirky aspect of this is that the kid under the water is actually a frog, and those that are partly in water and partly in air are also partly frog and partly kid. I see the whole scenario about a foot across, so the figures are relatively small, maybe three centimeters; thus they don’t need to be very detailed. They would be 3d modeled and printed to make prototyping and reproduction of the piece feasible.


2015-11-27: Vision only


2015-11-27: Star Woman Comes To Turtle Island

There is a Native American creation myth to the effect that Star Woman lived in the sky, but was banished. At this time the earth was covered with water. However, a turtle saw Star Woman falling, and dove to the bottom of the sea, bringing up mud on its back. When Star Woman fell to earth, she landed on the land on the turtle’s back. For this reason, the land is sometimes called Turtle Island.

I have a vision of a sculpture of a sea turtle (perhaps a loggerhead), rising up through the sea, with a layer of mud on its back. The mud is dripping off the edges of its shell as it swims toward the surface, and the outline is in the shape of North America. The turtle is embedded in a blue-green transparent material, forming the lower part of a sphere. The upper part of the sphere is clear, but contains a speck of something sparkly representing Star Woman, and a trail like a meteor showing the direction she is falling, aimed toward Turtle Island.

I don’t know why this appeals to me, but it could possibly be an attractive piece. I would model the turtle and its island, as well as the sea floor, and have the model 3d-printed and painted. The formulation and forming of the embedding material is still an open question.


2015-11-27: Vision only.



2015-11-27: WN

It’s a surprise (Susan stop reading!).

This is based on an image that we saw in (I think) Time magazine in the late 1960s. It contained two figures of reversed mermaids, i.e. with the upper part fish and the lower part human. I didn’t recall the painter or title. After many years of (sporadically and half-heartedly) searching, I finally found the original image in November 2015.

Rights to the original image are apparently owned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago: Gifted by Joseph and Jory Shapiro, 1982. The painter is Rene Magritte. The title is Merveilles de la nature (1953), translated as The Wonders of Nature. There are many images online of poorly-done replica paintings. See: http://www.renemagritte.org/the-wonders-of-nature.jsp

Previously, I called this project Merfolk (abbreviated MF); now that the title and painter of the original painting are known, I am retitling the project Wonders of Nature (abbreviated WN).

I intend to model the piece in Blender, have it 3d-printed by Shapeways, and then paint it to match the stone look of the original painting. It turns out that the sailing ship in the background of the image is also in another Magritte painting, which could be printed on card stock, and propped behind the sculpture. It might be nice to cover the sculpture with a clear dome, to keep dust off.


2016-02-01: The MakeHuman project has 3d models of the human figure, which can be imported into Blender. I have imported, sized, and posed the lower limbs for the two figures.

2016-03-05: Re-imported human figures from MakeHuman, and posed them for sculpting. Began experimenting with fish models.



2015-11-27: Neal’s Story

When I first read Njal’s Saga, the great Icelandic saga, I was struck by the nature of the society the story was set in. Trying to imagine another similar society where the story might have occurred, I thought of the American West in the mid-1800s. Neal’s Story is my attempt to re-set this story in that setting.


2015-11-27: I am using the 150 chapters of the Dasent (public domain) edition to organize a first draft. I have written the first 30 chapters.




2015-11-27: Carved Heads

In the 1960s Clarence E Gant (my grandfather) made a set of eight heads representing various nationalities, apparently to decorate the tops of bottles of liquor from the corresponding nations: Mexican, English, Russian, Canadian, Scottish, Irish, a Pirate, and an American Indian. For those who don’t know the distinction, these are whittled (with a pocket knife) not carved (with gouges, chisels, and other tools). The wood looks like it might be redwood.

I would like to make 3D models of these heads, with surface textures, to allow them to be reproduced via 3D printing.


2015-11-27: A proof-of-concept of the Mexican has been created at reduced scale.

2015-11-27: Meta-Dimensional Inspector

MDI is my 3D graphics experiment. The idea is to take datasets that have several attributes, and define multiple mappings of their attributes into various forms of 3D spatial coordinate systems. Once the mappings are defined, the user can switch and transition among them and observe how relationships among data items change.


2015-11-27: The basic framework works for two mappings.

2016-01-31: The primary functions have been completed: multiple maps, saving & loading maps, saving & loading apps, attaching one background image to a map (with transparency). Remaining functions include picking objects, centering a picked object, displaying data for a picked object, editing data for a picked object.

2016-03-18: Susan demonstrated it on part of the turtle-tracking database at Jug Bay. Apparently it made a good impression.


2015-11-27: Update Marie and Claude

There are a couple of typo fixes and word changes to make to MC. These can be made without altering the pagination of the print version, so don’t need a new edition.

  • wine bottle should be a jug
  • It might be nice to make a new cover, with medieval-woodcut-style images of Marie at her loom and Claude with his axe


2015-11-27: Retirement

Project Goal: Completing the transition from working full time in Maryland to retirement near Seattle.

Major tasks/activities (strikethrough for tasks moved to Seattle project):

  • Make financial arrangements
  • Complete retirement formalities
  • Set up new medical services
  • Move to Seattle area
  • Dispose of Maryland house



  • Financial arrangements have been assessed and planned; retirement appears financially feasible.
  • Received retirement package from Employee Resource Center (ERC), Human Capital Office (HCO) Benefits and Services Team (BeST)
  • Preliminary target date 2016-09-30


  • Notified Katherine of tentative date, and announced to EPO team.


  • Set retirement date of 2016-10-28 (last Friday of third pay period in October).
  • Notified Katherine and EPO and submitted forms; Kathy Rodriguez is designated rep.
  • Ordered copy of marriage certificate.


  • Retired!
  • Changed health plan from BCBS to GEHA, with Medicare B as primary.

2016-11-5 to 2016-11-13:

  • Disney World!


  • Split tasks associated with moving to Seattle into a separate project.
  • Tentatively decided to start receiving Social Security benefit in June 2017.
  • Made financial projects based on recent research and decisions (documented in the Finance_Retirement.xlsx workbook)


2015-11-27: Personal Projects

This post lists the projects I have in mind. These are unfinished, and in some cases unstarted. Each item is a link to a post describing the project’s goals and status. The date on this post is the date I started the list, so it isn’t particularly informative. Similarly, the dates on the individual projects’ posts are the dates I started their descriptions in this backlog, so they are also not very informative. Maybe I’ll update the dates once I finish all of the projects. (ha, ha)

The list currently has about 30 projects (in arbitrary order, numbered just to see how many there are):

  1. Retirement
  2. Seattle
  3. Neal’s Story
  4. Update Marie and Claude
  5. Update I Saw Them Ride Away
  6. Second edition Making of ‘I Saw Them Ride Away’
  7. Combined edition or collection of ISTRA/MISTRA
  8. Wish You Were Here
  9. Meta-Dimensional Inspector
  10. Carved Heads
  11. Pancho
  12. The Meme: Introduction, Application, Manifesto
  13. Who Cares About …?
  14. Two Years at the Hot End
  15. The End
  16. WN
  17. Saved by Aliens!
  18. Star Woman Comes To Turtle Island
  19. Swimming’ Hole – Polliwogs
  20. Eagles/Kids
  21. Orbiter
  22. Rocket Science For Amateurs
  23. XinX
  24. Chris
  25. Waters of March
  26. Cyc
  27. Gant’s Woman
  28. Digital legacy
  29. Claude’s Tree
  30. Castle Knob website
  31. The Lives of Arthur
  32. I, Replicant
  33. ?

On 2016-06-27 I re-titled this “Personal Projects” after reading Me, Myself, and Us.

As of 2016-02-01, I’ve made a list to record completed projects (if any):

1980-00-00: Chris

Before it happens, no matter how many parents you’ve spoken to, books you’ve read, or classes you’ve taken, I don’t think you can understand the impact of the birth of your child.

Looking back on more than 25 years of events (mostly blurred together), it’s a bit glib to say that raising a child is a 25-year project. The requirements are poorly understood, and there are no metrics to tell you whether you’ve met them. I think Susan and I (and Chris) were very fortunate; we certainly didn’t have a project plan. Nonetheless, we had a relatively easy time of it, and a very happy result. Now that Chris and Grant are raising Ren, it’s interesting to watch the process at some distance.

I’ve tagged this post as an unfinished project, because Susan and I aren’t yet dead. With my impending retirement, and a likely move to the Seattle area, we will once again be closely involved with Chris (and Ren). And we still don’t have a project plan or metrics to measure success. We don’t need ’em.