6 August 2012
Art and Design, Media, Teaching
My 3D printer produces a decoder ring: R TFFC CZKKCE UVMZTV!
In point of fact I let the ring cool too long, and then I had to separate the parts out with a pair of vise grips, which damaged the finish. But the ring does work
A Caesar Cipher is a simple substitution code. Each authorized user carries a ring such as this, which consists of two concentric, freely-spinning rings nested one inside the other. Both the message sender and recipient know that a message sent or enciphered on a given day has all of its letters set a certain number of place values off from the other… Thus, in this example, A of plaintext equals R of enciphered text. There are only 26 letters, no punctuation, and no variations in spelling. It’s a pretty simple code to break, and yet it gives 25 basic codes that can be used in order, or in a randomized order, to prevent casual but unwarranted snooping in information.
6 August 2012
Oh, and in other ‘finishing projects tonight’ progress, I’m printing out the seventh gear of a GearSphere from Thingiverse. This is a pretty sophisticated all-around test of the Cupcake 3D printer’s capabilities, and it allows me to showcase to my students what a device like this can do.
After all, as my friend Scott says, “Andrew, a picture is worth a thousand words. Everybody knows that. But a part is worth a thousand pictures… and a working machine is a thousand parts.”
It’s a useful engineering aphorism which is equally useful in the Design Thinking context — if you have the ability to fit parts together and make things that work… whatever “work” means in this context… you are going to be far more attended to than someone who can only write about what he or she thinks he knows. A working machine or functioning system is a thing of beauty.
We’ll see if I can get this particular machine working beautifully, though. In the meantime, the parts are elegant; enjoy this picture of the last one of them printing right now, as you read this.
6 August 2012
Art and Design, Media, Palace of Memory
One of my birthday presents this year was a nice new notebook. It’s leather, with very fine pages that have a good tooth (meaning, they take ink in interesting ways). As a result, I’ve had a chance to experiment with frames on some of the pages, as a way of teaching myself more about Ars Memorativa.
It turns out that illustrations in medieval books serve a couple of different purposes. Not only are they there to provide beauty, but they also help “cue” the readers of the book — some of whom may only have seen a given book once or twice in their entire lives — to remember a specific passage or text more easily. If you can recall the image that goes along with the text, you have a better chance of remembering the text itself. I can’t prove it, of course, but I think that this is one of the points of the Decans of the Zodiac, and the Mansions of the Moon (and by extension, the images on the Kavad). The goal of these images is to help train the memory to retain certain facts, by providing the brain with unusual, distinctive, even grotesque images that serve as keys to specific thoughts or ideas.
It makes sense to use frames as a way of making these images more distinctive, as well. As a result, I’ve been playing with frames as a lead-up to figure-drawing within them. Part of the inspiration for this was the work with the Decans images I was doing for a while, but also discovering Zentangle and other forms of repetitive artwork. I’m going to teach some of these patterns for next year, and see what comes of it. If kids can start using them to create memorable doodles in their notes, which help them find critical pieces of information, then this is a useful technique to work with, maybe.
Although I’ve made the frames highly elaborate, though, I can’t forget that the ultimate goal is to learn and then teach ars memorativa techniques. The frames help provide ‘bookmarks’ in the book to find specific materials, and to remember them by use of the distinctive illustrations. If the illustrations don’t help readers and ‘rememberers’ connect with the information they’re looking up, it’s not as helpful as it should be.
6 August 2012
chi, daily practice, design, discipline, focus, tai chi
This morning I had difficulty getting up and getting started. The house where I’m staying had a messy kitchen this morning, there was a young kid looking for breakfast, and one of the families staying here for a family reunion was trying to pack up and go on a long day trip.
I found myself doing the tai chi forms while people wandered through the room, around me. Some questions about what I was doing. Then others asked questions about what I was doing later today, about whether I wanted coffee or breakfast, or what my plans were for later in the day, or whether I wanted to be part of a project or not… I was asked whether I’d seen one child or another, or if such and such a person had passed through, or if I was in line for the bathroom. I answered the questions with as much grace and goodwill as I could, and did the form as best I could.
Under the circumstances, the “best I could do” was not very good at all. I lost my place, made mistakes, dropped steps and postures, lost count of repetitions, and more. Difficult, at best. Some days, of course, the form almost does itself. Some mornings, like today, it’s almost impossible to get anything done.
I think the critical thing is completion, though. Without feeling like you’ve completed the work for the day, you’re lost. With completion, good or bad doesn’t matter. There’s always tomorrow. Whiteout completion, though, you must begin again. With completion, you must begin again tomorrow, either for better or worse — but at least you begin tomorrow with the knowledge that no excuses sufficed for today.
6 August 2012
chi, daily practice, effort, tai chi
I got the work done today, but it was challenging. Then I tried to post the description of the day, and it turns out the Internet is down. I understand Mercury goes direct tomorrow — can’t hardly wait.
In the meantime, here’s the announcement — I did my tai chi today.