Sunday, May 30, 2010


Do Robocops prefer toroidal pastries?

I found the pattern for this Robocop card model on a web site along with 49 others.

Most of the model designers are Japanese.

We are due for a visit from our grandson, and I thought he might enjoy putting together some of the robots. Maybe a little simpler one than Robocop, though, as he took me about five hours to assemble.

Robocop with spare

Saturday, May 29, 2010

a few words

I imagine that the few people who stumble on this site are puzzled by its purpose. In brief, it is about my personal explorations of forms and spacial relationships. Over the years I have engaged with this subject primarily through the medium of photography. Recently, I have begun to attempt achieving some proficiency with Google SketchUp, a 3D modeling program. My interest in these pursuits surely exceeds my talents, but I enjoy them nevertheless.

Part of my interest in all of the above is focused on an effort to revisit my own visual and perceptual development, including some mis-steps and misapprehensions about possibilities. I recall that somewhere in my elementary schooling I was subjected to a battery of IQ tests. One of those involved completing shapes by inferring a line from an incomplete shape, possibly representing a 3D figure. The test made little sense to me, and I was graded poorly for this aptitude.

Some years later, as a requirement in a basic psych course, I participated as a subject in a grad student's experiment involving similar processes to the elementary school exercise. I was a flop that time too, and I accepted the verdict of an abyssal hole in my perceptual faculties. Looking back now on those experiences and resulting self-assessments, I think I was a bit hard on myself. The tests may have measured something real, but I think that reality may occupy a rather small place in the perspective of life's complexities.

I eventually discovered for myself that, whatever my limitations, I was not consigned to an illiterate, a-visual life. I decided also that the psychologists who devised those tests may themselves had quite a limited vision of perceptual development, and certainly the bureaucrat educators who employed them stand guilty of that as charged. I was encouraged recently to further consider this line of thought by an article I found by the neurologist,Oliver Sacks, about people who gained sight after many years of blindness.

What Sacks found in interviewing people who had acquired vision only in adulthood was that, at least at first, they could make no sense of the visual images their eyes transmitted to the brain. It seemed clear that opportunities to associate images with forms with the help of tactile experience was vital to achieving perceptual competence. So one must, it seems, learn to see the world.

Another thing Sacks found was that learning to understand visual signals was a very difficult task if undertaken beyond the formative childhood years, much as is language learning. The verdict is still out on whether one can significantly alter one's perceptual skills late in life. That suggests to me that it is probably a good idea for parents and educators to focus on providing opportunities for young children to explore the visual world and make sense of it in a variety of ways to help them make the most of whatever inborn potential they might have. I'm also going to take the optimistic view of possibilities for corrective exercises later in the life cycle, and continue my own explorations. So, that is what this is about.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Atomic Doughnuts

Continuing the theme...

The 3D model is at the Warehouse.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010


One of the nice things about making images in SketchUp is the ease with which one can generate a variety of views and styles once the model has been constructed.

The plan I used for my 3D model was for a simple old stick and tissue flyer. I added some details gleaned from web presentations of the SE.5, including an extraordinary site about a restoration and replication factory in New Zealand specializing in WWI aircraft.

I have read that most of the 3D aircraft models found in the Google 3D Warehouse are actually produced with programs other than SketchUp and then imported to the program. That may be, but there is also some extremely sophisticated and inspiring work being done natively in the program. One good example is a thread at the Sketchucation site showing many details of the construction process.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Albuquerque Museum Car Show

The Art Museum turns over its parking lot each year on a day in May to the car collectors who put on a fabulous show. It was a nice opportunity to try out my new cell phone camera.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


This is one of Howard Hughes' racers from the '30s. The errors are cumulative, so I probably won't continue working on this one. I'll just haul it out behind the garage where it will be out of sight.

One thing I've discovered from this first aircraft model is the importance of having a good plan to work from. I only had a small .gif 3-view for the Hughes plane, so it was difficult to render forms with any precision. I have a much better plan for a similar racer from the same era now, so we'll see how that goes.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mothers' Day Flyover

I'll add a version of this to my wallpaper download page shortly.

Friday, May 7, 2010

My Air Museum

Visitors by appointment.

The collection is getting too big for the space, so we may have to seek new quarters soon. Perhaps we'll organize a fund-raising party, and the guests can dance among the aircraft to the tunes of Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller.

The earlier facility pictured below was built for me by my grandfather for the first Christmas I can remember in 1944. I don't remember playing much with the airplanes, but the hangar eventually got up-ended and used for the next decade as a toy box.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Final Frontier

I was never a great student, but I was always a reader, and I tended to latch fiercely onto anything about exploration. One of the first books I recall reading was Roy Chapman Andrew's account of exploring the Gobi Desert. I stuck with late-19th and early 20th Century explorers through elementary school. In middle school and high school I veered off to stories by WWII fighter pilots. In my pre-adulthood, which lasted much longer than it should have, I was a Star Trek fan. So, I've always been interested in the idea of exploring new worlds, and I cling to the hope that someone will come along to show me a good reason to fling people into space.

I stumbled on an article this morning entitled "Why Explore Mars?". Sadly, it offered no new rationale for making a trip beyond Earth's atmosphere. It is ironic that proponents of manned space travel who are quick to accuse space flight critics of a lack of imagination show so little of that trait themselves. Instead, they offer up the same old tired arguments which don't stand a chance of winning the simplest cost-benefit analysis contest. Today's Discovery News article rolls out the same ideas we've been hearing for decades now: Spin-off benefits, and preserving the human species by finding new worlds before we wear out this one. It really doesn't seem worthwhile delving into those dead-ends yet again. Instead, let's look at some genuinely out-of-the-box innovations that could make space travel more practical and palatable.

First up, let's examine who we've been sending up there. Mostly, they're approaching-middle-age white guys with engineering degrees. More importantly, they are average-to-large size. If we are going to get serious about getting people all the way to Mars, it really seems like we should be giving shoe size more priority in astronaut recruitment. I'm wondering if our NASA talent scouts have spent any serious time considering this issue. I say we help them pack for a trip to the Congo and the Kalahari where the little people live.

  Photo: Wikipedia
The photographic evidence makes it an open and shut case about where we should be getting our astronauts. The guy in the middle is pretty much in the mold of our current space travelers. Quite obviously, with the right selection process and for the same investment in high-tech life support systems, we could put a whole family in the place of that one guy on Mars. Of course, we also have to consider the possibility that no amount of incentives, financial or other, will convince the little people that being rocketed into space is a better idea than staying right where they are.

But wait, there's more. Given the progress being made in bio-engineering there's really no reason we can't downsize those engineers. In a couple generations we could have Cal Tech grads even smaller than those folks that aren't under a pith helment. If more incentives are needed we could start by making the cramming of bodies into phone booths an Olympic event. We might even consider applying the downsizing to the population in general, thus making room for two or three times the current population of the Earth. Talk about Spin-off benefits!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

another camera

The FED 1g is a Soviet Leica-copy, built in the early '50s. The model can be viewed and downloaded from Google's 3D Warehouse.

I'm still working at learning the basics of Google's 3D drawing program. The program does great things, but there are a lot of techniques to master, and good help is hard to find. Most of the on line tutorials seem to be written by hyperactive teenagers who tend to gloss over essential details. Even the best resources, including my "Dummies" manual, leave out crucial steps. I'm progressing, but right now I'm thinking it will take six months of pretty serious study to be able to produce the kind of work I want to do.

Monday, May 3, 2010

a great slice

Our nicest morning walk in San Francisco started out in North Beach at Lombard and Columbus.

We walked up the hill to Coit Tower and enjoyed the view from there of the Bay and both big bridges.

Back down to Columbus and up to Grant for a brief stop at City Lights. They've got a nice selection of books, but I wonder how long they'll stay around in an IPAD world.

We walked the length of Grant through Chinatown, picking up some elegant little outfits for the grand-daughter, and made a stop at the kite store. I was disappointed to see they no longer stocked either the Indian fighters or the Japanese hatas.

We went back down Columbus and took a right turn on Green to get to the hole-in-the-wall Golden Boy Pizza. We each had a slice with everything on it and a beer. The crust was crispy, but not tough. Molto gustoso!