Saturday, January 23, 2010

Briefly Visiting My Projects

I tried. I got off of the ship back in late December and I'd managed to keep my to-do list to a bare minimum. I wanted to clean up the boat and finish the prototype thigh armor for the HALO costume. That was a very achievable list.

I failed.

The problem with a list like that is that those two very do-able things are mixed into a big pile of interesting and entertaining projects that I had to push aside (literally) in order to get at them. Along the way I kept finding all sort of other "that just needs a little bit of work" type stuff that started to find its way onto the workbench as well.

Here's the chestplate. All it needed was to have the black parts masked off and painted:
Black details Of course, then I noticed that it would just take a moment or two to wire up the lights that need to be fitted to it, but I'd need yellow LEDs for the right look, and as long as I'm going to the electronics store I might as well build in a loudspeaker system so people could hear me while I'm talking inside the helmet and then...

Ahem.

I also received a pair of Submachinegun castings as part of a trade with another maker. They were great castings, but they really needed to be assembled and painted. I couldn't bear to just let them sit in the box all naked and undone. Here they were at the halfway point:
SMGs Test Fit

Somewhere along the way I did manage to make some progress on the thigh armor. The rough shapes are all there, but they still need some fairing, smoothing, and then a buttload of small details:
Thighs Roughed Out

Unfortunately, most of the time I should've spent dedicated to finishing them ended up with me just screwing around in the test-fitting phase:
Action Armor Pose

When I wasn't busy not getting things done in the shop, I was all over the place dreaming up all sorts of other things to not get done. Along the way I stumbled across a cheap pair of bookends that looked like miniature copies of Rodin's statue of "the Thinker." Starting with something like the guy on the left of this pic, I spent a sleepless night adding bits and pieces until I had a statue of Cthulhu posed as the Thinker. Or, as I prefer to call him, the "Cthinker:"

Thinker Cthinker Cthulhu

I made a mold to produce copies of the statue on the right (I'll be selling a few copies when I get back) but never got around to opening it up and making a casting.

While I was in the shop, I also noticed that my father had torn apart the little electric scooter my nephew runs around the folks' place on. While he was waiting for a replacement motor controller to arrive, I figured this was a great opportunity to do a fun little custom paintjob. Here's a "during" picture:
scooter during

Sadly, the paint that I chose to use did not agree with the type of plastic that the scooter's body was made of. As a result, I'll have to strip it down and start over when I get back from the ship. The good news is that after much time spent looking at it I've decided exactly what color scheme I'm going to use.

Along the way I also bought the pieces and parts to build not one but FOUR copies of the Most Useless Machine Ever. I now have two boxes built, one set of electronics wired, and a whole host of tiny, lose-able parts floating around.

So that was the mess I made in the workshop.

As far as cleaning up the boat was concerned, I only really made steps backwards. It became mostly a place to stop, drop whatever I was carrying, and pass out unconscious at the end of the day. I did manage to replace my freshwater pump, but mostly I just left a big pile of dirty laundry in the aft cabin and a bag of random trash in the wastebasket. It's my way.

Now I'll just have to finish up all of these things and watever else I think of when I get off of the ship the next time. What I really need is to develop some discipline. I guess I'll add that to the to-do list. That, and building the rocket launcher... and starting the next costume project... and finishing the tank... and...

Formerly Huge Hair...

After my triumphant return from Afghanistan, I decided to take a few months off from drills with the Naval Reserve. Not having any other real requirement to maintain grooming standards, I decided to see what I'd look like if I grew my hair out.

Reviews were mixed, but mostly negative. At it's best, my newly-long hair looked cool like this:
YARR

But the rest of the time it tended to look like this:
Crazy Hair Before

So after a particularly tedious day of pushing hair out of my eyes or, as often, doing that shampoo commercial head flip thing that always looked great when, say, Kathy Ireland was doing it but mostly made me look like I had Parkinsons or something, I finally decided to go ahead and get a haircut.

Halfway through this particular weight-loss program, my head looked like so:
Crazy Hair During

I don't have an "after" picture because I started wearing hats just as soon as I was done getting my haircut.

Despite this clearly prudent precaution, I still ended up with a nasty head cold.

Oh well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I've Found My Life in a Comic Strip

This was far too easy for me to relate to:



For this and more like it, go to www.basicinstructions.net.

Hotness

I forgot to post these when I got them, but a while back Ana had a chance to sit for another photo session:
ana_LO_02_web

You're allowed to be jealous.

ana_LO_01_web

These are once again the work of our amazingly talented wedding photographer Kitty. You can see more of her stuff at www.maerstudio.com. Check it out.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Quick! Back to the Blog!

I've just finished something like three weeks ashore and realized almost too late that I haven't really managed to update my blog in all that time. Oops.

To make up for it, I'm blurting out a small splattering of writings that I've halfway thought out and a few pictures that I took despite the fact that I was without my camera for most of the time in question. I will begin here with....


The Road Trip to Kick Off Vacation

When last I wrote, it was all about the New Year's Eve party. The next day was mostly spent waiting for my designated driver to recover from her hangover. We got a slow start much later than planned, and the big concern was going to be the weather in the mountain passes we'd have to drive over on Interstate 5 as we headed south.

Along the way, we stopped for a quick lunch and some time to catch up with my mom's friend Joy. She's been living in Washington state for some years now and this is only the second time I've been able to visit her since I started high school. Unlike last time, I managed to take a picture this time:

Ana and Joy
At the end of a thoroughly enjoyable visit, we set out in earnest. As we headed toward miserable weather, at least one little dog viewed our departure with concern:
Travellin Ru

Heeding that concern, we decided to head West once we were South of Portland. This meant avoiding the snowed-in passes and getting some great views of the Oregon coast:
Oregon Coast in January
January Oregon Coast
It also meant adding several hours to our trip, so by the end of the first day we still hadn't made it to California and we were both too tired to drive.

The next morning we started out bright and early and quested our way South along Highway 101. Along the way we found a garden gnome:
Giant Gnome

I wanted to keep it, but Ana wouldn't let me. This probably had something to do with the potential trouble we'd've had fitting it into the car:

Giant Gnome2

While we were gnome-shopping, the little dogs were finding trouble in the car:
Shoppin Ru

Poor little rat dog still looks worried, doesn't she? I suppose she was right to be somewhat trepidatious though. Later that afternoon was the first time Ana's little, bite-sized-snack dogs would meet my larger, hungrier, highly predatorial dogs.

Fortunately there was no blooding of any kind. After the obligatory butt-sniffing, my two crackheads went back to their own business and let the little dogs alone to cower. It all went pretty well.




Thursday, January 7, 2010

Boatload of Buttfunk

I take pride in my boat. I like to keep it neat and clean and make sure the rigging and running gear is in good order. Still, over the last year or two, the Heart of Gold has suffered the twin menaces of weather and neglect. Such is the life of a boat. Little nuisance leaks have become potential sources of dry rot, tiny imperfections in the brightwork have become disastrous eyesores of peeling varnish, and once-glimmering painted cabin sides have become drab and dingy.

With my job, there's not too much I can do about the neglect part. It's just a given that there will be months at a time where I won't be able to do much other than dread the to-do list I'll have when I get back from being out to sea. Meanwhile, there will be neglect.

The weather thing I can fix though. While I can't move to someplace without the damaging effects of rain or (oddly enough) sunshine, and I can't park the boat in a garage, I have gone ahead and done the third best thing. While I've been away, I've contracted a local canvas worker, Cary Otis of ZigZag Canvas, to build a custom cover that covers everything above the gunwale from bow to stern. Here's a shot of the cover in progress (before the stern section was done):
New Canvas
The little parts dangling from the bottom are sandbags. The idea is that the weight hanging from the bottom edge keeps everything tight so that water will run off of the sides even after the aging canvas has stretched a bit. The fabric used is Sunbrella canvas, which has an advertised service life of fifteen years worth of weather exposure.


With the cover in place while I'm not using the boat, UV rays from the sun won't eat up the varnish and paint above deck, rainwater won't creep under the fittings and trim, and birds won't sit on the lifelines and crap all over the deck. I'll get to spend less time and effort fixing and cleaning things and more time and effort playing with the boat. It's all good.

Well, almost all good, that is. There's one problem. I suppose it's really just part of the cost of making life easier. It's a tiny problem and it doesn't really need a solution because it's so small, but it's at least worth mentioning.

On board the Heart of Gold there are two heads.* Because there are laws against dumping sewage into inland waters, the aft head is blanked off and the forward head flushes into a holding tank under the bunk in the forward cabin. As it fills up, the black water** in the tank displaces the air in the tank. Rather than let the pressure in the tank build up, the system has a small vent so that the pressure bleeds out through a small hole in the side of the boat.

That hole is just under the gunwale, all the way forward on the port bow. The canvas cover hangs down over that hole. As a result, when you flush the toilet, the inside of the cover gets a little whiff of fart-smelling sewer gas puffed into it.

So the first time I woke up on board the boat with the cover in place I went forward to use the head. After I'd caught up on all of my reading, I flushed and went back into the main cabin. The only source of fresh air in the main cabin was the louvred vents in the companionway doors (inside the new canvas cover).

As luck would have it, my dog Kira sauntered into the main cabin at the same time as the months-old ass gas wafted its way from the holding tank vent, aft along the now-enclosed main deck, and into the cabin via the companionway doors. So just as she stepped in front of me I was assaulted by the nastiest fermented turd smell I've suffered through in recent memory.

It was only after several minutes of laughing at her through watering eyes that I finally realized that the smell wasn't her, it was me.

*"Head" is boat-speak for "toilet." Don't make me tell you again.
**"Black water" is the Marine Engineer's technical term for sewage. There is also "grey water" which is the sort that comes out of shower and sink drains and (hopefully) does not include human waste.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year's Eve 2009

I spent New Year's Eve in the Seattle area this year. Some of Ana's oldest friends were hosting their annual New Year's Eve party and, seeing as we were around, we decided to attend.

The theme was "swank," and guests were encouraged to dress accordingly. Of course, there's nothing swanker than this jacket*:


Ana wore her Hepburn jacket and a nice silk dress:


It was a fun crowd and there was no shortage of adult beverages:




And we weren't the only people there dressed in the height of fashion:


A good time was had by all:


But especially by me:


It turned out to be a nice end to 2009.

Stay tuned for 2010...

*The jacket was custom-made by my tailor in Kabul, Afghanistan. I'd say it's one-of-a-kind, but it's not. There is another. To see the other one, CLICK HERE.

I Need to Hurry Up and Get Wealthy

For those of you who don't know, I flew from Singapore to San Francisco via Tokyo the other day. The ship had pulled into drydock and they really don't need a navigator aboard while the whole thing is up on blocks getting repainted and having a bunch of engineering repairs and upgrades taken care of.

Per the union's contract with the company, if they need me to fly anywhere they are obligated to send me via Business class or better. In the past I'd never really given it much thought. After all, if you're only going to be on a plane for a few hours, what's the point in spending hundreds of dollars for a slightly better seat. I'm the "average-sized" person that we were told to design things for in my engineering classes, so it's not like I really need the extra space.

But extra space is not all you get.

The 3rd Mate (Jim) and I arrived at the airport with almost three hours to spare. We were flying with All Nippon Airways. Once we were checked in (via the much shorter, faster-moving "business & first-class" line), the attendant told us how to get to their lounge. The lounge is reserved for business and first-class customers and I was just figuring it was a nice place to sit away from all of the noise of the main concourse.

I was wrong.

Inside there was free wireless internet (saving me as much as $12 compared to other air travel experiences), a buffet breakfast (saving $10 to $35), a complimentary magazine rack (saving as much as $20 depending on how much I read), and a nice coffee service along with a very large selection of complimentary soft drinks (saving at least $3 a round).

In addition to the monetary savings, there was also the sanity savings. There was no mad rush of people pressing through airport shops and restaurants with screaming children and piles of bags stopping everything up. Instead it was actually a pretty relaxing experience.

Once we were on the plane I found out that drinks were free as well. Normally I don't drink on a plane if I have to pay for it, but since it was free I figured "why not?"

"Why not," indeed. By the time I'd landed at SFO, I'd had two mimosas, a bloody mary, six (maybe eight) glasses of a very nice chardonnay, two doubles of Bailey's Irish Cream on the rocks, a shot of Cointreau, and two glasses of red wine (saving something like $90). In fact, on the first flight, I'm convinced that the only thing the little Japanese flight attendant could say in English was:

"Sir, would you rike more wine?"

That was nice.

The meal service on both legs of the trip was pretty nice too. I had a surprisingly decent steak on the first leg and rack of lamb on the second. Then there were the desserts:
ANA Ice Cream

So I'm not exactly sure how much extra cost is involved in flying business class, but it looks like I saved around $160 worth of little things I'd've had to pay for separately if I was flying economy. Now I just need to find out if that's enough to pay the difference. If not, I'll have to hurry up and find a way to make enough money to not notice the difference between the ticket prices.

Failing that, I could always just drink a bit more...