noun: “playfully quaint or fanciful behavior or humor.” (OED)
To me, it speaks of playfulness, perhaps some randomness, a willingness to play along and see where things go. Perhaps somewhere between the Pkunk and Dirk Gently.
If you played the old M:tG ‘Shandalar’ computer game, you may remember this card.
But I’m speaking of whimsy today because I had recently noticed that I had been feeling much less of it my life, due to some stressful circumstances that (I think) have now dissipated. You may have been following my writing for a while, and this is a large part of why I have not written in months, with the few sporadic mostly-picture posts being the most that I could put together.
I’ve been working with my life coach for some time now, on a number of things. One of the largest ones was finding space to create. I had spent a lot of time focusing on making physical and temporal space for creation, but had forgotten about creating the mental space, to be able to deal with distractions.
I almost said ‘push away’ distractions, but similar to the discussion of Saidin and Saidar, pushing away distractions is okay as a crutch, but being able to relax into the flow is much more powerful.
Either way, I’m excited to be feeling creative again, and have some ideas about how to keep this going, even through the next set of distractions that will inevitably crop up.
It’s going to be an interesting year, thanks for being here with me.
Still one of my favourite games of all time, and I think, even with all its faults, the best M:tG computer game.
Interestingly, a bunch of these are around meditation, which I feel I only discovered very recently.
Mirror Blaze Night Flame Test #2 “There is a lot of light.”:
Mirror Blaze Night Flame Test #3 (blue flame and backdraft tests):
I really enjoyed the blue flame in this video, and whenever it happened at the event. This set of tests were mostly us calibrating the length of time we needed to open the solenoid to get the optimal flame. If we set it off too quickly, there would be no propane in the accumulator, and we would get a small ‘foop’ flame. Setting if off for too long would give a slowly dwindling flame. The trick was the sweet spot in between.
Complicating this was the backdraft issue, where you had to have some air flow pushing the denser-than-air propane up the tube, or it would fall down and ignite out the bottom of the tube. In practice, we found that warm air (from an immediately previous ignition) was often enough to supply this airflow upwards:
Also note that the tube was starting to get sooty.
Hellblazer also got in on the flame action!
Stay tuned for next time, where we strike camp and pack up!
I also have a video of Francis, but the video quality is not very good, and the words are not very sfw. PM me if you want to see it.
Then we did a few tests of Flamey, with Marc offering debugging help from (mostly) upwind:
Flamey test 1:
Flamey test 2:
Even Cynthia got a chance to try the flame effect:
Then was the part I was most afraid of. I had learned welding approximately 1 week before, and my first ever welded item was going to be supporting our dozens of pounds, expensive and difficult to source quartz tube.
And now we had to attach it to the ground so that nothing would fall over and break the tube. We had the brilliant idea of attaching it with rebar (1/2″ rebar just fit inside the square steel tubing), which meant hammering rebar into the ground (fine), but then aligning the stand with the rebar, and hammering it down onto the rebar. I couldn’t do it myself, and luckily, Patrick was up to the task of making sure my amateur welds didn’t crack under the strain:
Note the flame-resistant fabric and silicone placemats used to protect the tube from the possibly sharp metal frame:
Then we added the flame effect:
Put the tube up, and we were ready to go! (Note that the front mirror is still open here, for easy testing (and we’re not totally sure the flame won’t melt it.)):
Mirror Blaze Flame Test #1:
Mirror Blaze Flame Test #2:
Leaving us with our favourite iconic picture:
Next time, we get to see what Mirror Blaze looks like at night! Stay tuned!
Our friendly flame effect. We are very creative.
First, a test of the mirrors (warning: not for the easily spun nauseous):
Then, more panel attachment!:
Then, just before we attached the last couple of mirrors, rain struck! Luckily, we had planned for this, and beyond making sure our gear was in our tent and power tools were covered, Mirror Blaze was fine (or so we thought).
It looked kinda cool with the water droplets:
Sadly, not all was fun and games, as we noticed that our two-way mirrors (the most expensive ones, of course) were susceptible to water damage, it seemed particularly around the holes that we had drilled in them:
That’s it for today! Next time, we start playing with mirrors and fire!
Note that S stopped being visible in mirrors. One can only guess at the reason.
The first part of the maze that our crew built was the central triangle:
To help you place things, here’s the overhead view again:
The following is probably the most useful (and one of the simplest) tools I’ve ever used. Patrick started using it when we were attaching mirrors to post hinges, and it allowed for much, much easier alignment. We ended up purchasing like five of them for the playa build. It is probably correct to say that this simple tool halved the amount of time required for the build. At Canadian Tire (where I purchased them), they’re called ‘Lineup Punches’.
Stay tuned for next time, when we assemble the rest of the mirrors! Hooray!
Marc had arranged with some friends of his for a large field to be available for the weekend. This allowed us to spread out and use a lot of space to setup. It also offered some interesting logistical challenges. You see, the large trucks (26′, I think) couldn’t make it all the way to the back field, so we had to offload onto pickup trucks for the last leg of the journey. Thankfully, we had two on hand:
There was a lot to move, with teams at the large truck unloading, doing transport via pickup truck, and unloading the pickup trucks at the back field.
So, if you’ll recall, the purpose (for us) of this weekend was to do as much of a build as we could, an integration test to make sure that our design and construction for Mirror Blaze were sound. Here’s the overhead view:
Here’s the list of the mirrors and posts that we ended up using for the integration test. Note that we constructed the inner triangle surrounding the flame effect, along with a small corridor on the left so we could test the feeling of being inside the maze ablaze:
The next couple of pictures should give you a sense of the size of the area that we were fortunate enough to have to play with for the integration weekend (and the incredible number of people who came to help out, my apologies for names I’ve missed). Also, you can see the staging area where the pickup trucks would drop off parts for the various installations:
Here you can get an idea of the scale of Riskee Ball:
Silicone place mats did the trick, preventing abrasions from the metal stand onto the quartz tube!:
Not visible in this picture: The rebar holding the post:
I really enjoy making .gifs, especially ones that include such joy:
Stay tuned next time for more integratey goodness!
This was similar to the occasion when we had to move biosafety cabinets from one part of campus to another, where the loading dock was around a corner where the large trucks could not go. The solution was the same, offloading onto a pickup truck.
I think one was Seth’s, and I don’t remember who had brought the other one.
Last time, we talked about learning to weld, so that we could build a stand for the quartz tube for the first integration weekend.
First, we had to make sure we had all of the parts for our flame effect (and that we had built it!). Luckily, we had purchased all of the parts during our expedition to the excellent Helios makerspace in Montreal (post forthcoming):
We called our flame effect ‘Flamey’ because we are creative like that:
A few days before integration weekend, I recall running around to hardware stores looking for non-abrasive things with high melting temperatures. I found the fabric below (in the welding supply section of a Home Depot, IIRC), along with silicone placemats (not in the welding supply section):
Also, we had not been camping in many many years, so I went to get some inflatable pillows. They were okay, but I would bring ‘real’ pillows next time, unless space was a critical consideration:
(Not shown. Tests of the flame effect. S might have pics of this, to be shown later.)
Then it was time to pack up and go! Trish drove the truck over to our place (Francis had been at least partially living in our garage for a while), and we started packing! We are still thankful for the many volunteers who tolerated our hinged posts:
There were some moments of pure joy juxtaposed with moments of pure contemplation:
Last time, we paid tribute to some of the many people who came out and helped us build. Today, we’ll talk about our adventures in finding/making/etc. an appropriate stand for the 7’x1′ quartz tube. Your assignment is that you need to find or make or have made a stand that can hold 100+ pounds, is fireproof, and yet is gentle enough on the quartz so as not to cause abrasions or cracks.
This is the tube in question. From the original email, the Outer Diameter was 300mm, with 5.5mm wall thickness x 2134 mm length:
IIRC, when we had talked about the issue of making a stand for the tube at one of the S3FA meetings, Carrie had quickly sketched out a diagram which very closely matched what I ended up building. But, since I had never welded before, it took me a while to come around to the idea. We had a couple of weeks left to make this happen (before the integration weekend), so I first tried to go to a custom welding shop to pay them to do it.
Viking Engineering and Costa Railings were both recommended to me, and they both seemed very competent, but they were far too full of work to give me a hand with so little lead time.
I then stopped at a Structube on the way home, on the off chance that there might be something there that could be repurposed into a tube stand. I kept coming back to this chair, which seemed to be a reasonable height off the ground (we needed about a foot for the flame effect under the tube):
I also met these friendly brontosauroid elephants:
But then it was time to knuckle down and actually learn to weld. Dani was kind enough to teach us on very short notice, so I went and purchased the parts (square tube steel is surprisingly inexpensive, and available easily at Canadian Tire).
Welding was really interesting. MIG welding is even easier than soldering (after you get over the initial terror of using a metal chop saw, and only being able to see while the arc is actually arcing). You put your welding tip on the location you want to weld, and it extrudes metal with flux inside automatically, and welds things together. It’s easy to also dissolve the metal you’re trying to weld together, but you can usually fill that in.
Here, you can see a closer view, with a better view of the metal build-up on the weld:
The way we learned, it’s good to start with a small dot to hold things together while you do the more serious welding. Here, you can see the larger ‘H’ of one quarter of the tube stand taking shape:
Oddly enough, I don’t seem to have photodocumentation of the rest of the process, but I can show you a pic of the completed stand from the integration weekend, with tube for scale:
Stay tuned for next time, when we finish our prep for the integration weekend!
I’m using a Lowe’s link because it was easy to find, but I can’t remember if I purchased the steel tubing at Canadian tire or Home Depot.
Those hinges made the maze possible (especially the assembly in the intense heat, uneven ground, and otherwise terrible conditions on playa), but they made the posts almost impossible to stack or pack (Sorry Mike and Marc!).
The following set of pictures are of our hardy team assembling the inner triangle which would eventually house the flame effect (inside the quartz tube). Note that the posts are 8′ tall, but the two-way mirrors are only attached to the top 6′ of the posts. This made assembly significantly trickier, as they had to be held up while being attached, but it was necessary so that we could attach a swing panel to the bottom so that we could access the flame effect shutoff valve in case of emergency. (Also, two-way mirrors are horrifically expensive, and the fact that they were 2′ shorter was a significant savings.)
Thank you to all who helped! (I think I managed to get pictures of just about everyone who came out!)
Next time, we’ll talk about our adventures in finding/making/etc. an appropriate stand for the 7’x1′ quartz tube. Your assignment is that you need to find or make or have made a stand that can hold 100+ pounds, is fireproof, and yet is gentle enough on the quartz so as not to cause abrasions or cracks.
Last time, we had just made our first panel, and had convinced ourselves that our system would work to build another twenty or so.
Now we just had to make them. So, we put out the call to our friends (and the local burner community), and people came out of the woodwork to help!
Above, you can see Mel and S helping Geoff drill the base of post number 5. If you look closely, you may be able to see that post 5 connects to post 6, that the drill bit is a spade bit, and about 18″ long, and the taped guide on the right side of the post.
You may recall that we were drilling the bases of the posts so that they could accomodate 1/2″ rebar. 1′ of rebar into the posts, and 1-2′ of rebar into the ground (1′ into the ground in the middle of the maze, 2′ into the ground around the perimeter). This drilling was surprisingly tricky to do at the correct angle. You couldn’t do it straight down (so that gravity would help), as the posts were 8′ long. The other issue was that when you tried to drill them sideways, you had to make sure that you were drilling straight in two dimensions at once. The way we solved this was to get them as level as possible, then attach a guide so that the driller could have a chance at seeing both axes at once. From above and behind, the driller can see yaw pretty well, but it’s easy to miss pitch, especially because the drill is heavy. The side guide helped considerably, so that the driller could line the pitch of the drill (and especially drill bit) up with the guide.
E literally came out of the woodwork (or at least the shrubbery around the side of the house). It was an eventful day. Even more people came to help! Stay Tuned!
Literally! (Or at least the shrubbery…)
It’s interesting to think about this. I know we’ve enjoyed helping people build large projects in the past. I think people like being part of something, like building something, and it can be very relaxing to work on a task that you know ‘needs’ to be done, and you can focus on the task and not worry too much about the larger project.
Gillian was also there, but I couldn’t find any pictures.
Other fun things were the placement of the hinges so that the hole could be drilled for the rebar without disturbing the hinge screws. Structurally, you would want the hinges attached as close to the bottom of the posts and mirrors as possible, but you’d really want to leave at least a foot at the bottom of the posts so that you could drill into them and not ruin your drill bit on the screws.