Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Tooth Fairy corresponds again

tooth fairy,

i've Lost another tooth the topmolar
and I broke my arm
Please send me something usefull



Dear E,

goodness gracious, what do you mean, you broke your arm? I hope it did not hurt too much and that you are on the mend. I myself have never broken any bones, although as you can imagine, I encounter chipped teeth more often than I would like. Fortunately, the tooth under your pillow tonight appears to be in excellent shape--just the sort of deciduous first molar we tooth fairies like to see.

You requested something useful (what a practical boy you are!). I looked in my bag and found all sorts of useful things: rubberbands, shoelaces, sponges, a field guide to reptilian teeth, floss, nail clippers, emergency flares, fruit bat homing beacons, staples, washcloths, spare buttons, band-aids, noodles (no, no, silly, not the kind you swim with, but the kind you eat!), clean underwear, soap, calculators, an abacus, paperclips, plastic monkeys (sometimes my friend the fruit bat needs to relax after a stressful night at work), inflatable rubber raft, shooting stars, pixie dust, etc. etc. Oh, and this 10 euro bill. If I know you, you're likely to find yourself in Germany this year. Spend it well. It's a little more than the going rate for a molar, but given your broken arm, you can probably use some extra TLC.

Keep on brushing, and don't forget to FLOSS!

The Tooth Fairy

Monday, May 23, 2011

Melodious chickens

What with E's broken arm, there hasn't been much time to experiment this week. Pottery for Geeks has already covered nesting spheres, interlocking torus boxes, double-walled bowls, and two different Klein bottle strategies (the simple "double torus" and the elegant "Klein bottle bottle"). We might could* discuss Borromean rings, but there really isn't much point to making wheel-thrown ones. I'm running out of ideas, and we still have two classes left.

So after I tucked my plucky but tender boy into bed tonight, I brainstormed and decided to figure out how to make an ocarina that actually whistles. I've attempted ocarinas before, but they've been airy duds, and I figure there's abundant topical material here to keep geeks happy: air flow, turbulence, the sorry consequences of sloppy 45o angles, resonance cavities, frequency, pitch, sine waves, and, of course, chickens.** After a little reading, popsicle-stick collecting, and poking and prodding--eureka!

Because safety in the dining room lab is a priority, my research was accompanied by a cup of full-bodied Spanish Montebuena Rioja (2009). Testing whistles means blowing into chicken butts. While the chickens themselves are vigilant about personal hygiene, the wet clay with which they are made can host nasty microorganisms (something to discuss with the professional biologists in my class). After getting clay in my mouth more than once, I figured swishing with 13.5% alcohol might not be a bad idea.

*Note the proper colloquial usage of the Southern American English double modal.

**This is a joke. We're the science type of geek, not the type that bites heads off chickens (I hope). For the record, no chickens were harmed during the creation of these whistles.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


No, no, no. This is not what an arm should look like. This arm is wrapped in a splint from the armpit to the palm because the ulna broke on Thursday during an improper alignment of the stars at the bottom of a slide on a school playground immediately following three long, mind-numbingly boring mornings of End-of-Grade exams (boo, evil consequences of No Child Left Behind, I say, boo!). The human to whom this arm belongs is understandably not a happy camper, but is doing better with each day and looks forward to trading the splint for a cast.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Clay B.S. grinder

When I was a kid, my mom's parents had a toy they called a bullshit grinder. I just assumed my grandfather made up the name, but it turns out the term "bullshit grinder" is as classic as the toy itself.

If you search Wikipedia for "bullshit grinder," you will be redirected to the much more sanitary and academic "Trammel of Archimedes." The Trammel of Archimedes is noteworthy because its handle traces out an ellipse. Indeed, that appears to be the sole purpose of the Trammel of Archimedes, other than grinding bullshit.

Why do I bring this up? I recently made a petite model of the kitty geek toy. The whole toy fits neatly in the palm of one [human] hand, just like the Trammel of Archimedes, and with a slight flick of the wrist, it's easy to keep the inside ball in motion. The ball traces a circular rather than elliptical path, but the mind-numblingly pleasing yet useless repetitiveness of the non-goal-oriented process echoes the functionality of the bullshit grinder. While I have not tested the grinding efficacy of the Trammel of Archimedes, I have empirical evidence that the petite kitty geek toy is remarkably good at grinding wayward gnats.

All in a day's work, filling gaps the world never knew it had.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Variations, take 2

My dad recently sent me this photo of the Flentrop manuals at Duke Chapel, in an email with the subject header "reminder." So amidst all the clay geek toys (and extra Holy Week and Easter services), I should report that I've been reasonably diligent about practicing the Dupré Variations. I took them for a test spin in a lesson with David A. on the Aeolian organ at Duke Chapel last week, and they didn't sound anywhere near as maliciously capricious as they did when I first started avoiding them. Indeed, it was amazingly informative and liberating to play them on such an expansive instrument. I'd even go so far as to say quite enjoyable. There's hope for me yet.

Kitty geek toy

It seems that my latest geek toys are inspired by my inner cat. It also seems that I'm predisposed to photograph works in progress rather than completed pieces. In any case, I've been having fun cutting into tori. The torus here has a ball inside, for one's inner cat to play with through the spiral gap. Please note the restraint with which I'm piercing holes these days: a little goes a long way.
I spent a few nights this week dreaming about more elaborate spirals: although three is a magic number, a threefold spiral does make a torus look a little like a nuclear radiation warning symbol. My dreaming subconscious thought perhaps a twelve-fold spiral would look cool. It turns out that that number of twists makes a torus look like a cinnamon cruller, a so-called food I have detested since my earliest youth. Very unappetizing. It took me by surprise that cutting a torus into a spiral turns it into a spring: the spring will actually expand, contract, sag, wobble, and distort, at least until it sets up beyond the cuttable side of leather-hard. It was no great loss, then, that with all that wiggling, my twelve-fold cruller torus broke into several pieces today. Good riddance.

Ethereal love

Someone is currently attempting to auction off a heart-shaped potato on eBay for one million dollars. The header declares, "PERFECT Heart Shaped Potato! One Of A Kind! Unique!" Scroll further down, and the ad insists "This is not a joke! Its really a heart shaped potato!"

Aside from the warning signs (the capitalized preposition Of and article A in the header, the confusion between its and it's), not to mention the apparent overpricing (there's also an "old heart-shaped potato chip" up for auction, with slightly better punctuation, a starting bid of only $29.99 plus $5.50 shipping, and a fine classic scam text claiming proceeds will go toward a tank of gas to enable a tornado-relief volunteer to drive to Pulaski, Virginia)--aside from all that, the seller is lying. How do I know?

Heart-shaped potatoes are not unique. I have my own heart-shaped potato. Well, had. To celebrate Will and Kate's nuptials, and because I was hungry, I diced it and pan fried it this afternoon. May the young royals' love last longer than my potato. S and I bought the potato together in March, but he was out this afternoon, and as I already said, I was hungry, so I ate it myself; I trust our love is strong enough to carry us through this lapse in judgment.

For the record, I wasn't searching heart-shaped potato listings on eBay because I wanted to auction my own potato--I just wanted to know the going rate for my lunch.