Tag Archives: unfinished

2016-07-15: Waters of March

Susan and I went to see Sergio Mendes at Ram’s Head Tavern in Annapolis this year, nearly 50 years after we first saw him in Pittsburgh. During the months before the show, I listened to a lot of Brazilian music, and made some playlists. When I’m working but need something to drown out background distractions, I sometimes listen to instrumental music or non-English songs.

Among the songs I liked well enough to look into was Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Águas de Março (Waters of March). This is an unusual song based on a sort of stream-of-consciousness poem he wrote at his country place, when the torrential rains of March in Brazil made the road impassable. I’ve read that it was once voted the greatest Brazilian song. Jobim also translated the poem into English. I have many renditions of the song, in Portuguese, English and French.

It occurred to me that it might be interesting to make new versions of the poem, with words that evoke people, places or events in my own life. It then occurred to me that it might be fun to engage Ren in a project to make versions based on things we share from time to time, potentially over several years.

It also occurred to me that if an instrumental version of the song is available, it could be used as background (like karaoke) to sing the new poems.

Status 2016-07-15:

  • In the Castle Knob scheme, this project is identified as CK-0-MB-WM.
  • I started by making a document with the original Portuguese lyrics next to Jobim’s English lyrics. I might be able notate the structure the poem should follow to fit the music (emphasis and rhymes).
  • I downloaded an instrumental version of the song by Ernest Coleman. I don’t know if this matches the original or the English version (which has a couple of extra lines).



2016-06-27: Me, Myself, and Us

Me, Myself, and Us

The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being (2014)

by Brian R. Little (-)

This book explains a recent approach to understand human personality. It starts by dismissing the Meyers-Briggs approach as unfounded scientifically. Then three levels of influence on personality are described:

  • biogenic – heritable characteristics that form a biological substrate for personality traits
  • sociogenic – socially developed influences that affect the expression of biogenic traits, based on family or community values
  • idiogenic – an individual’s decisions about how to act, based on personal projects

The traits that define a personality consist of the Big Five (Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Neuroticism (emotional stability), Openness (to new experiences), Extraversion; the collection abbreviated as CANOE). In addition, a number of other traits are introduced in more or less detail. In parts, the work seems to be compressed, perhaps too much for clarity.

The notion of personal projects is part of Little’s own research interests (i.e., one of his personal projects). He gives examples of people who have biogenic traits, and yet override them to express their opposite when sufficiently motivated.

Little says if asked to make a “Project Dump”, a list of their personal projects, people typically come up with about fifteen, ranging from putting the cat out to life-long projects. He provides a number of dimensions along which people can evaluate their projects, such as their meaning or significance to the person, how they relate to a person’s self-identity, how they are initiated (self or by external influence), efficacy (how well they are carried out), the degree of control the person has over them, how they are shared with or supported by others, and their affect on a person’s emotional life.

The book ends with a chapter on well-being, the expression of the book’s subtitle. It addresses the ways we can look at our projects, their suitability to our personalities, and how we can improve the chances of successfully completing them.


2016-01-29: Rhombic Dodecahedron

I’ve been interested in the rhombic dodecahedron (RD for short) ever since I learned that it is a space-filling polyhedron (i.e., they can be packed together with no wasted space), and that all faces are identical, like the rhombus below. Here’s a rotating 3d picture, and the relative dimensions of one face.

Rhombicdodecahedron . . . RDface

The angles of the rhombus are approximately 70.53 and 109.47 degrees.

My first thought was that a modular building, such as house, could be made from a collection of them, with suitable openings and infrastructure. I made a couple of them out of thin plywood. Later, when I started thinking about modular spacecraft for the Two Years at the Hot End story, I decided to make several of them and see how well they could be used. By this time, I was using Shapeways to 3D-print my designs, so I designed a rhombus with flanges to connect them at their edges, and clips toehold them together. I designed a large hole in the rhombus, to provide access to the interior, as if for a door or airlock.

The cost of ordering two faces was too high at the original size (10 cm along the long diagonal), so I reduced it to half-size. At this size, the thickness of the clips and the indentations to hold them didn’t meet Shapeways’s design rules, but they provide a “print it anyway” feature, which I used. The first two faces worked pretty well, so I ordered 10 more to make full RD. This worked fine, as in the figure below, but was too expensive to make very many.

Next I designed a set of twelve of the faces connected into a single “part” by way of two bars of clips. By printing as a single part, the cost was reduced by about 70%. The images below show the 3D model and the part as received. Apparently for packing, Shapeways separated the faces into pairs.

To have a reasonable number of RDs to try various arrangements, I next designed a complete RD only 2cm across, with clips to hold them together and again with holes for access. I made a grid of 25 of these, with thin wires strung between them, and rows of clips attached. This still counted as a single part for pricing purposes, and was affordable. The picture below shows five of the RDs and a couple of clips, and the rest still strung on their wires. Unfortunately, the size of the holes was a bit too small to allow tweezers inside to attach the clips. I might end up using water-soluble glue to arrange the RDs into various configurations.


2016-02-19: Places To Go In The West

Once we move to Seattle, we probably won’t have much reason to come east again. Therefore, it might be worthwhile to make a list of places to see and things to do between here and Seattle.

  1. Des Moines, Iowa – If I discover any genealogically interesting facts in Iowa (Harry Gant was born there in 1881), stop to see records, etc.
  2. Hastings, Nebraska – John E Gant was a business man and civic leader in Hastings around 1890. Maybe there is something interesting there. Also, his brother (Harry Gant’s uncle) had a homestead (quarter-section?) near there.
  3. Denver, Colorado – The newspaper archives there aren’t available online. There might be something interesting about the Gant family in that area.
  4. Fort Collins, Colorado – The Gants lived there, in town and on a nearby ranch, for many years. There might be something interesting to see or learn from local records. I would let Ken Armstrong know of my visit there, and maybe he would like to come to his grandfather’s old stomping grounds at the same time.
  5. Cheyenne, Wyoming – Gant spent considerable time in Wyoming, especially in connection with Cheyenne Days. There might be something interesting to see there. Also, that area is the setting for Neal’s Story. I’d like to get a basic idea of the lay of the land, the Oregon Trail, etc.
  6. Maple Creek, Saskatchewan – Ken Armstrong’s home. It might be nice to meet him face to face, if we can’t meet in Colorado or Wyoming.
  7. Los Angeles – This could probably wait until after we move, but I would like to examine LA newspaper archives for references to Gant.
  8. Mariposa, California – It would be nice to see Mike Wenrich again.

2015-12-21: XinX

I first learned of Ted Nelson’s Xanadu vision from his 1974 book Dream Machines, one-half of a dual book with Computer Lib, and in the later (1981) Literary Machines. I don’t recall when I read these.

Eventually I realized that Nelson wasn’t getting anything into production, and started to fiddle with the idea of implementing something similar myself. I tentatively called my approach XinX. This was based on the cute notion of a recursive acronym, and stood for “XinX is not Xanadu”.

It’s a long shot that I will ever devote much effort on this project, but Nelson’s vision of a hypertext/hypermedia system still has a lot appeal for me. In addition to being a meme, it should support some interesting applications of memetics.


2015-12-21: vision only.


2015-12-04: Wish You Were Here

While Chris and Grant were in Kuala Lumpur, Chris kept a blog at chris.blackstone.name, with the title Wish you were here, and the subtitle Chris and Grant’s adventures in Southeast Asia. It was very well written, and had a very nice selection of photos.

A while after they returned, Susan and I decided to try collecting the blog posts into a book, to surprise her.


She was blown away, and agreed to continue catching up on posts for which she had notes, but hadn’t yet written them out in detail. We’re still waiting for some finishing touches to wrap up this project. We also need to revise the cover collage.


  • 2015-12-04: 90% complete, waiting on Chris.
  • 2015-12-09: Added posts from March, for their trip (with Ren) to Japan.



2015-12-02: Orbiter

I have purchased and flown flight simulators of various types for many years. They are a reasonable substitute for actually piloting a Cessna or Schweitzer.

Several years ago, I found the Orbiter space flight simulator. This is of similar complexity to the commercial flight simulators I’ve tried, but free to play and developed by one man: Dr. Martin Schweiger, a computer science researcher at University College London. Dr. Schweiger (or martins, as he’s known on the Orbiter Forum) retains control of the source code of the core program, but has published interfaces for use of its facilities by add-ons developed by others.

A robust community of users and developers has grown up around the program, using the Orbiter Forum for exchange of news and analysis of issues, and answering the questions of newcomers to this complicated topic. In addition, the community maintains (sporadically) the OrbiterWiki for longer-term articles.

I have ambitions to fly some of the highly realistic spacecraft add-ons (NASSP and Space Shuttle Ultra), as well as some of the science fiction add-ons (Firefly and World of 2001). I’d also like to develop scenarios for certain types of missions, and develop add-on ships to support Two Years At The Hot End. I also think more could be done on the educational side, and have initiated a section of pages on OrbiterWiki under the umbrella title Rocket Science For Amateurs. I hope to expand my own and others’ contributions to that.

Now that I have a mostly-reliable Windows 10 installation (dual boot via Bootcamp on a MacBook Pro), I can restart some of my Orbiter tasks:

  • Appointment in the rings – two DGs, polar and equatorial orbits intersecting in the Cassini gap
  • Appointment with rocks –  same as above, but with a cloud of rocks/asteroids around one or both DGs
  • NASSP Apollo 7
  • NASSP Apollo 12 (when available)
  • Figure out how to make Orb::Connect::Web work in Windows 10, and develop phone/tablet-based panels
  • Firefly/Serenity
  • Asteroid mining
  • RSFA – other articles by Keithth G


  • 2015-12-02: started.
  • 2016-02-15: Added Keithth G’s symplectic integrator article to RSFA on Orbiter-Wiki

2015-11-28: Rocket Science For Amateurs

I’ve been fiddling with the Orbiter space flight simulator since early 2009. One of the interesting features is its community of users on the Orbiter Forum. The veterans are very welcoming to newbies, and constantly helpful in solving problems. They also analyze recent space-related events and proposals. Several members expend large efforts in developing add-ons to enhance the Orbiter experience, particularly the developer of Orbiter itself, Dr. Martin Schweiger.

Among the contributions is a book, Go Play In Space (GPIS), written by Bruce Irving with help from a couple of others. For several years, newbies have been urged to read this book for a gentle introduction to Orbiter. A second edition of the book was written for the 2006 version of Orbiter. When the 2010 version was released, I heard that Bruce was planning a new revision. I volunteered to help edit the new version, to test updated scenarios, and otherwise try to be helpful without actually having enough expertise to make primary contributions. Bruce and Mark Paton accepted my help, and we updated about six of the ten chapters. However, the process was slow, with everyone having other commitments, and eventually petered out.

It occurred to me that it would be simpler to switch from a book-oriented approach for GPIS to a wiki-like approach. This would allow updates to be made incrementally, and by multiple contributors. The analog is the “release early, release often” approach to tech startups. I was also aware of some other out-dated Orbiter-related documentation that might benefit from this approach. I conceived the idea of an umbrella website that would include this type of reference documentation, and thought of calling it Rocket Science For Amateurs (RSFA). I contacted the relevant authors and obtained permission and encouragement to proceed, and actually set up a MediaWiki website for the purpose.

The administrative overhead of running the site proved too burdensome. However, OrbiterWiki is another Orbiter-related website. It seemed easier to move the RSFA material there. The main difficulty was restrictions on the types and size of files that can be stored on Orbiter Wiki. I was able to reach the administrator, and made a pitch for RSFA. He (or she; user names are ambiguous) made the necessary changes, and I moved the latest versions of GPIS and the IMFD Full Manual to OrbiterWiki. I announced it on Orbiter Forum on 2015-01-02. Since the announcement, I added an index to a set of YouTube tutorials and demonstrations.

There has been little response so far (over a year on). I have ideas for additional topics to add, reposting (with permission) some orbital dynamics articles by another Orbinaut.


  • 2015-11-28: in-progress – three topic areas ready for use (out of a dozen or so possible)
  • 2016-02-14: Added article on a Simplectic Integrator (by Keithth G)
  • 2017-03-12: Discovered that several articles by Keithth G on Orbiter Forum, which would have made good material for RSFA, have been deleted; no reasons have been given, but someone speculated that his employer might have viewed the material as their intellectual property.


2015-11-27: The Meme: Introduction, Application, Manifesto

The Meme: Introduction, Application, Manifesto (MIAM) is the oldest project on my list. The idea entered my head around mid-1990. I actually developed drafts of several chapters before getting bogged down. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the need to keep track of meme-related material I had read was the impetus for writing the book reports that make up so much of this backlog.


2015-11-27: Started, but on hiatus.


2015-11-27: Who Cares About?

This project would be a manifestation of the manifesto in MIAM.

The concept is that a wiki-style website would allow editors to identify specific beliefs, desires, and values (beliefs about desires), and assign them to communities of people who hold them, in various combinations. By making such memes explicit, and getting people to begin referring to the communities that hold them, it ought to be possible to improve the quality of discussion of issues affecting people who hold different views.


2015-11-27: Vision only


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.