Monday, April 27, 2015

Doomed Drums

The new Holocron design is almost ready for the laser. I'm still un-pleased because the methods I have -- laser-engraving and cutting in multiple layers -- are capable of delivering some very dense, wonderfully deep effects that my current designs just aren't taking advantage of.

I've been working round-robin at several different projects at once. Kitchen is full of Space Helmet parts, desk is covered in Holocron parts. And in the corner is a DMX interface I have to hook up and test out before next week's load-in. But at least a check came for some of my work.

While poking around in my tunes folder for something to keep me going on the InkScape work I happened to listen to some of my old compositions. And I'm not sure what has changed in my perceptions, but the one thing that jumped out drums suck.

Well, most of my drum parts back then were from the keyboard. Some of them were even off the drum machine in Reason. And I was heading towards using my Octopad and sticks more to get a livelier, more human drum sound. But, alas; everything I have that's mixed down is four-square kick-and-snare. Sigh.

Oh, yeah, and about that kitchen. Literally. And worse. I've been mixing up glue and even plaster of paris in my cereal bowl. And last night I used my toothbrush on some troublesome Rub'n'buff. At least I can stop trying to do Sculpey in the oven; I found a toaster oven someone in the neighborhood had thrown out and if it works...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Stolen... Holos...

(With apologies to Oliver Nelson)

I have some interest at the RPF in making a holocron kit, but I've been really struggling with the design. Here's what the first one looked like:

Since the shell design was not original with me, I have to re-think that. Here's a mock-up (I had the wrong acrylic on hand for the interior panels) for the "Jedi Temple" version I agreed to do for a potential customer:

The big differences are the use of dove-tail jointing instead of having to fill corners, the inclusion of USB port cutouts in the design, and that it is now the (canonical) 4" in size. But the diffusion-layer graphics on this one are for the Temple, so I can't use those either.

Here's the new hybrid design I've been working on, re-using the original diffusion and circuitry layers:

It works, but it doesn't inspire me. I found while working on the Jedi Temple holocron that I could cut finer detail than this in the circuitry layer. Also, the diffusion layer looks rather crude to me now (besides, it was designed to work with a shell that filled center.)

I sorta know where I want to go, but it is the sort of thing that PhotoShop is best at. And I don't have PhotoShop any more, and I have extreme reluctance to deal with Gimp or InkScape's work-arounds and other peccadillos for this particular bit of art. So I've been procrastinating.

While looking around, I found more information about one of few truly canonical holocron designs, the "Stolen" holocron from the animated series:

And, although it is a little tricky, I think I can get there with a similar construction method to my other holocrons by using both a deeply engraved detail line in the shell, and by back-painting the diffusion layer (both effects indicated but not simulated here in an InkScape file):

To really get the look of the Stolen, though, I need to do something which is only visible in some views, to wit; make an internal second cube and whatever clever acrylic cuts allows it to be suspended there.

The other major canonical holocron is one that was apparently made by prop artisans as part of the advertising campaign to one of the games. I find its design extremely attractive -- but also difficult to achieve. The simplistic method of slapping laser-cut acrylic pieces together can stretch for the Stolen, but not enough for the "Transformers" style:

The prop was apparently constructed at 2x to 4x scale in order to get all that detail in! So I'm not quite ready to try to tackle translating that into a simple holocron kit.

Smashing Words


I've been feeling like I'm getting dumber by the year. It's a common feeling. The more you know, the more you notice all the gaps in your knowledge. The more you know, the more you realize how much more there is to know.

And I seem totally unable to keep from adding new fields I try to -- well, "master" is the wrong word. Maybe "Be semi-competent at." I've really been pushing on the props-making this past few years, which has meant learning machining practically from scratch, plus picking up a lot of smaller skills in laser cutting, vacuum forming, 3d printing, PCB layout, etc. Before that, tons of sound/recording stuff and a big hunk of programming. Before that (more or less as I started to get heavily into FOH mixing and theatrical sound design) music theory and arrangement.

And before that was writing.

They say you need to write one million words before the decent ones start to flow. I wrote probably two dozen short-stories in the 10K range before I dared send one out. About another dozen that I did dare send out. And two novels...well, 1.9 novels. The first I stopped a few chapters short of the end of the first draft. Somehow, it wasn't working for me. The next struggled through first draft, second draft, third draft, and I dared send it out, too.

Which kind of burned me out on writing. Both the hard push I did to finish it, but even more, having the novel travel out to publishers over the next three years and thus being unable to let go of it.

I was unable to write for some time. Finally crawled back in with fanfic. Fan fiction exercises the same muscles, but it is like gym climbing to the great outdoors; it feels safer, like less is at stake. ('s a good analogy when I think about it. Fanfic gets you more feedback and less scratches. You aren't risking getting those oh-so-polite rejection slips in the mail, but you are getting the easy accolades of the other guys and gals hanging around the gym.)

But I did send out a few short stories anyhow. Still no publication, but two of the editors gave me personal replies, at least. That's something.

And over a few years the fanfic hit a pretty respectable word count itself. My AU Sailor Moon opus hit 100,000 words (and it hasn't even finished the first season of the TV show!) And my Tomb Raider/Stargate cross-over, with the monster 8K chapter I just crunched out, has now hit 60,000.

Which brings me up somewhere around 800,000. Which with the error bars is, I think, close enough.

When you've done a lot of work of any kind, but especially creative work, it is tough coming back to older work. I don't actually know which is harder; to look back and go, "Man, I can't believe I actually showed this to anyone," or "God, I had some talent then! Where did it all go?"

I do know for sure that my reaction coming back to basically any code I've ever written is "I can't figure out how the hell this thing does what it does!"

The thing that I've been saying for decades is that writing is tough because you have to juggle so many elements at the same time, and a novel is basically impossible because there's no way one human mind can hold everything in it at the same time.

The novel becomes impossible to dissect, difficult to even perform surgery on, because there are bits and pieces in every scene that lead all over the place connecting and tangling with other bits and pieces. In every single scene there are plots being discovered and character arcs progressing and descriptions being developed and progress being made and explanations being given to the reader and taking one scene out makes bricks fall in a dozen different places -- many of them unexpected.


Today I opened the file of that first half-way decent novel and I found I could run my finger down all the anatomy. I could hold the thing in my head, at least well enough. All that practice since, that half-a-million words or so spilled since I tried to publish it, seems to have actually done something.

Yeah, sure, I've forgotten a lot. I'm rusty, too. And worse, I've fallen into habits of expression that are not good and that do not fit the patterns and cadence of that old novel. I use the dash way too often these days. I tend to place things in threes more often than not -- with or without the Oxford Comma.

And not that there aren't problems with the novel. There's a fat-shaming bit that needs to use a different tool for what it is trying to accomplish, and a bit of business in Chapter 16 that totally has to go. And there's a persistent odor of what TVtropes calls "Fangirl Japanese," even though I came by it semi-honestly via Jo Clayton (who made very good use of fragments of various imaginary languages woven into her text with nothing but context to guide the reader in understanding them.)

But right now, as I look at it, I feel I could straighten up the big structural problems (in the early chapters) in less work than it would take to write the next chapter in my current fanfic.

Because right now, that 1,000+ click-thru I hit at fanfiction dot net is sounding really damned good: even at 50% royalties on a cheap Kindle book. And published in ebook is no longer the kiss of death (if I was still worried about that).

And there's good stuff in it. Sure, it only tells the tale. It doesn't do what a really good book does; it doesn't add that extra something that the rest of the tale is simply foundation for. But it does the basics and does them, I think, well. There's poetry in some of the descriptions, bathos here and there, the cultural settings feel real with tantalizing tidbits. The situation is silly but not utterly implausible, and the characters are thin but generally likable.

I've felt for a while it was worth getting on line even if I never made a penny from it. I feel strongly enough that it isn't a waste of time to read. I've just held off because there are bits that bother me too much to let go without editing, and I couldn't face the editing. But now I think I can.

Besides. I almost feel like I could write another novel now. Almost.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mottled Modeling

Working on the Space Helmet.

The insignia went well -- drafted up the shape, laser-cut it in 1/16" acrylic, heated it with the heat-shrink gun an shaped it over the helmet itself, then superglued a supermagnet to hold it on.

Filling the eyeslits is not going as well. Tried cutting and bending 1/2" acrylic bar. Yes, but the stuff is tough and neither filing nor sanding is really working to remove material at any speed. Tried cutting and bending 1/8" strips; that worked, but when I applied more heat to touch up the fit the welding glue between the layers bubbled. Plus it was slow.

Tried carving dense foam to fit. Yeah, okay...but as usual, an endless round of spot putty, primer paint, and sanding to try to get a nice surface. At last tried smearing the helmet with mold release and pressing Apoxie Sculpt into the gap. That's great, and is taking only a little more work to smooth out for casting...but my last can of 'sculpt is going and I'm worried about it bending before I can pull a good mold out of it.

And I have no idea if any of my latex is still useable. Or the clear casting acrylic. Perhaps I can make this work with a plaster cast?

The oxygen mask is similarly doing a "this method holds promise, but the first use of it wasn't so smooth." Made a duct-tape dummy of my own face. It wasn't quite stiff enough to model on so I tried backing it with plaster bandages. Those are only so-so. The duct tape is bubbling a little and I need a cleaner surface than that, but went ahead and started sculpting on top of that. Except I have only scraps of clay left (plus this really calls for a hardening clay, like FIMO) so instead I dug out the big can of Bondo.

Which really doesn't sculpt well. None of the usual wet-fingers approaches work for that stuff. You pretty much have to glob it on and sand it down. Which is going to be a pain...but at least it seems to be setting properly (I had worried when it took a long time for the batch to start heating up).

If I was building more props more quickly it might be a little easier to keep my stocks up. But I am in a position now of having a lot of my basic materials and raw supplies -- clays, casting compounds, brass rod, etc., etc. -- running short and no funds to get anything other than what is absolutely necessary for the specific project at hand.

(And, well, heck, not even that. I don't dare pick up the electronics for the Raygun until I see a little more money in my bank account. And hearing that last week's work may pay when they get around to it does not help.)

Once is circumstance, twice is happenstance...

I sent an email to the Technical Director on the 7th asking for permission to undertake repairs for equipment the theater would need for a show opening this weekend. On the 15th I got a reply telling me to go ahead. I had already, of course -- show opening on the 24th, after all!

On the 17th and 18th I sent emails asking to make arrangements to bring the repaired gear back to the theater, and for clarification on an additional repair. There has been no reply; the email of the 15th is the last communication I ever received from that theater.

A little context here; I was the resident sound designer at that theater, did twenty-odd shows there over a period of at least six years, and with this year had been offered the entire season. After the first show learned that I had been dropped from the season. A few weeks later, they asked for my keys. There was never any communication regarding this; not only was there never any explanation given, I was never actually told I wasn't still an employee! In fact -- I still have yet to be notified in any way shape or form that my status has changed. As far as any communications go, not only am I still the resident designer there, but it is MY show that is opening tomorrow!

And this was not for lack of trying on my part. I sent numerous emails enquiring when meetings would begin on the next show in the season, when I could get a script, etc. There were numerous chances for the company to say something. It took them two months and the only notification was an off-hand "We are using a different SD on (REDACTED).  We will be in touch about other upcoming productions."

Which perhaps makes it expected that none of the emails were answered over the last two weeks. I managed to reach the current sound designer and get the repaired equipment back to him. He requested a few more repairs, and of course I passed on another request for permission to do them.

On the 19th I enquired about getting a check. There had still not been a single email, the two times I tried to call the Technical Director's phone did not pick up, and when I was at the theater personally to drop off the equipment he made no attempt to find me (in fact, he may have even walked away).

On the 21st I contacted the Communications Director, asking if there were other channels I should explore. I used the email account I had at the theater. The next day, that email account was shut down. On the 23rd, I contacted the General Manager.

Okay, sure; they are in the middle of opening a very technical show. Anything that can be put off, will be put off, even if that includes putting in payment details for the pay period that closes this friday.

But I refuse to believe this is normal business practice there. If they tried to play games like that with any of their suppliers, or with the rather large lighting crew, they wouldn't be able to open their show. This can only happen through at least one of two things; that they have no respect for the needs of the Sound Department and feel there's no need to do anything for them. Or that they are playing games. With me.

So, yeah. There are perfectly reasonable explanations. But when you dick around this many times, in this many ways, you put yourself in the position of Caesar's wife; you'd damn well better not be sloppy about your following transactions. It would be one thing if I was sure I was going to get paid, and it would "just" be a little late. Well, they've done that in the past, back when I was still working for them on a regular basis. Now -- I no longer have that trust.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

There! Are! Four! Lights!

I seem to be doing a lot of lighting these days. Struck a show last night, in the middle of putting together a bare minimum of lights for an upcoming event. Looks like we have two dimmer packs rented from another theater now (just finalizing the deal) and five instruments so far. So I have minimal coverage, but I haven't figured out yet what else to rent or borrow (if possible!) to achieve some flexibility.

The show is snowballing a little; I also seem to be tasked with supplying and setting up a PA, loaning a laptop with QLab on it, collecting sound files from multiple directors, oh and there's video, too.

On the (hopefully) last day of nearly a week of repairing wireless transmitters, elements, XLR cable, and whatever else seems necessary for the show which is loading in now. Except the Sound Designer is the only person talking to me; the TD can't be arsed to answer emails and no-one yet has told me if they intend to pay for the work. Oh, yeah -- and this is a space that doesn't respect sound so the fact that the designer needs this stuff is unlikely to have much weight with anyone else.

Add to getting paid less than I had hoped for a recent design, still not getting paid for the LED stage lights, the original Holocron order on hold (meaning I have to design and make another one before I can take any new orders), and taxes being higher than I had hoped...well, I'm getting pretty short with people who fiddle-faddle around instead of telling me if they intend to cut a check.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Space, 1929

Continuing with the retro trend, while I struggle to get the CAD files completed on the Raygun, I'm breaking into more traditional prop methods on another project.

The task is to take these parts:

And make them part of a primitive space suit -- think Rocketship X-M (of course, they had the excuse that they were exploring Mars, and at the time it looked plausible that one wouldn't need a full pressure suit, just supplementary oxygen.)

Insignia for the helmet worked...laser-cut 1/16th acrylic and hot-formed it to the helmet using my heat-shrink gun. Laser cut a hole in the center for a super magnet that holds the insignia on.

Started forming a mask; made a duct-tape dummy, in the process of reinforcing it before I make a sculpt then pull ABS or similar over it using the shop vacuum former machine. Then I'll laser-cut strap holders from more acrylic, hot-bending them around d-rings.

The lenses are going less well. Tried shaping both acrylic rod and multiple cuts of 1/8" acrylic. The later came closer to filling the narrow triangular vision slit in the helmet, but I'm not happy with it. So current idea is to take a mold off the helmet, probably with silicone (and I wish I had some thickener for it), then make a reverse mold and lastly cast some clear acrylic resin.

All of this is made a little more difficult by budget woes. A bunch of bills came due at the same time and I still don't have enough work (or, rather, work that pays enough). Stuff like this; the more scraps and different materials and tools you already have, the better it goes. But if you can't just open up an old jar with enough chemical left over from another project, if you actually have to buy a fresh can -- then projects like this can run into money.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Black Sun Passes

So yesterday finished up the current order of Aliens grenades. My timing was good, and I was able to quickly set up some artwork in Illustrator and run a few more pieces off on the Epilog laser. I had some black 1/16" acrylic, which is a lot thinner than I've cut before, and some .04" styrene -- and in both cases, my estimated settings for the laser were almost dead-on. I guess I'm getting a sense for the thing.

With no better job openings, I'm pushing hard at multiple prop projects now. I need to start cutting metal on the raygun by the end of the month. My Poser content store is looking sad -- my pose-able drum kit just went into clearance:

It's insanely detailed. I built it because there weren't any drum kits that could stand up to detail renders, and could be posed at will, and were texture zoned and UV-mapped to allow for easy custom texturing. Unfortunately, Renderosity is not set up for niche products; they are designed around flavor-of-the-month skins (character packs) that typically have a life-cycle measured in weeks. Products that have a steady but low selling history over years and years don't fit well in their boxes.

As this was. The lifetime history of my Poser store is about $2,000 to me. The drums only netted me about $400. Rigging clothing items has gotten so painful, though, that even though they all pretty much count as niche products the only models I can face these days are props. So I'm looking hard at pushing out another themed set as quick as I can model it (I already have a start) --

(What's hilarious about this promo image is I actually unlimbered Bryce 3D in order to make the backdrop!) And, yes, this is modeled on my own Pogue uke; friction tuner, tie bridge, no purfling. And is of course excessively accurate; the frets are placed correctly and the strings are actually different diameters!

The idea is to throw various "folk" instruments that work in a solo, casual, pick-up setting; concertina, mountain dulcimer, native flute, etc. into a small set. Which, based on history, will show a couple hundred in profit over the first month in store. So try not to spend too many hours building!

The commissioner of a custom holocron hasn't coughed up the first paying order yet. So that project rolls over into a general RPF offering, meaning my priority now is to make the files for several different shell and panel options. And laser at least one of them as an example. I've got the "Academy" shell on the paint table right now. But need to laser up a new set of interior panels for that one before I can show it off.

Meanwhile I've taken on three different projects that shouldn't involve any software component at all. Re-dressing a helmet and oxygen kit into a alternate-history-pulp space helmet, throwing together a Morrow Project laser, and seeing if I can't make some stackable vacuumform huts in figure scale that will go with a Dragon Age campaign.

All of that should be traditional modeling, foam and wood and bondo and....oh, right. That laser cutting I was just talking about? That was for the emblem on the helmet.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Raygun XIII

I think why "sleeping on a project" works is that it is a sorting device.

At some point in developing a project you will encounter problems with multiple variables. Too many variables to be able to hold in mind at the same time and thus be able to weigh against each other properly.

Thing is, every time you put down a project to work on something else for a while, when you pick it up again, you get a semi-randomized sort of those multiple variables. Eventually, you'll pick up a set that can be solved -- and then you simply adjust the variables that got left out until they, too, work out.

Well, I'm not there on the Raygun yet.

I got client approval on the mock-up. Furthermore, she likes the idea of surface details like screws and bolts. So I can simplify the problem of fastening the body parts together.

What is hanging me up now is trying to balance assembly complexity, machining time, size of stock, alignment issues, access issues, strength of final assembly, maintenance access, and...worst of to move from "hero" model to cheaper duplicates.

In the simplest terms, the more parts, the less waste metal and the cheaper the stock. Also, the entire thing is potentially too large to be cut out in one machine session. This gets subtler; smoothing and polishing will be a lot easier if the larger planes can be separated; if the side detailing is a separate part, for instance, it is easier to smooth the side under it. Same for the radar dish.

But the more parts, the more fasteners that have to be planned, screw holes to tap. And it also begins to involve more machining steps, to cut the various slots and holes and other elements. And all of that takes away from the savings in time and materials.

And they aren't obvious trade-offs. Take the fin. If I split the fin from the jet tube, then it can be made from a thinner piece of stock -- but then I have to solve how to connect it to the tube. If it is made in one part, then I have to align the material twice in order to cut front and back, and I need a really long drill bit to make the hole for the wires. In two pieces, alignment is easy and I can mill a slot before assembly...but then I need ways to fasten it together.

And some of the parts just aren't working yet. The barrel is a big problem right now. The acrylic rod needs to be nearly full-width all the way back the the LED to act as a light pipe. But I'm not sure it is strong enough to hold the front end elements. So there needs to be metal involved. But because of the geometry, that probably means hand-cutting some pretty large threads. Which would be easier on aluminium, but because it is probably a hollow tube, steel might be required for strength...

Another hangup is that everyone is out of stock of the surface mount transducers I want to try. But worse...even if I had the transducers on hand, how can I simulate the acoustic behavior of the aluminium shell without having, well, the main body cut out already?

Well, at least the lightpipe seems to be workable:

And the trouble is, enough of this project is still guesswork. And these are not good processes for iterative corrections. I have to get most of it right on the first try.

And I just don't have the comfort level yet in all of these materials and processes. I remember way back at TheaterWorks, when we were trying to problem-solve while loading in a set, we'd sometimes go back to the shop to stare at a piece of stock lumber. That would let us engage the gut judgement that comes from having built a whole lot of scenery (some which failed, and thus helped us learn the edges of the envelop). I don't have that yet for CNC.

It's odd. I can know there are unknown unknowns. I can even estimate their size, based on years of having, in fact, had to deal with problems I lacked the skills to anticipate. My estimate is that the unknown unknowns on this project won't cause any critical setbacks, and can simply be rolled into the known unknowns.

But right now, I am far too aware of trying to balance out pros and cons when I simply don't have the background to parameterize either properly. And that makes it very hard to proceed with confidence on my assembly plan.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Juggling Story

At first glance, juggling seems like a good metaphor for writing. Since you've got to keep all these things in the air.

At second glance, it is a poor metaphor. For two related reasons; one is that you don't, generally, juggle things that are very different in behavior. Pretty much everything goes up and comes down. But deeper than that, juggling as a skill isn't about running around like mad trying to track the behavior of a bunch of discrete things. It is doing a single carefully-timed operation over and over.

And thus, on third glance, it actually does work fairly well.

Because at the gross level of putting text on page, you need to achieve a good balance of all the things that the text contains. A balance between dialog and action, narration and description. You need to space out the evolutions of the plot rather than have it all solved on one page, the similar evolutions of character, and even (at a finer grain) the steps of each conflict, journey, conversation, fight.

At this reductionist level, you do well to emulate the practiced juggler. Rather than racing madly around trying to prop up various unwieldy things simultaneously, you want to slice everything down into manageable chunks, and move neatly through a practiced cycle of operations.

A chunk of dialog. A chunk of description. A chunk of action. A chunk of internal narrative. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Because, not only do you want a decent balance between the relative weight of all the different elements, you also don't want huge unbroken chunks of any of them. If you have a conversation that's going to stretch over several pages, you break it up with something, with anything; a few paragraphs of description or an internal narrative or even action; something external, something physical, something other than words in mouths.

Even on the sentence level, a big chunk of monolog can (and should) be enlivened with breaks and asides. Bits of "business" are great for this: "And thus we come to the problem of Antarctica," the professor said. He looked down at his pipe, only now seeming to notice it had gone out. He sighed. "Antarctica," he continued. "That land of ice and wind. What we find now is hard to reconcile..."

The same trick works in the middle of a fight scene, or a long bike ride. Invent an observation, an unusual bird to spot, a nursery rhyme that pops into a character's head, a terse phone call. Anything to break up the otherwise possibly indigestible chunk of one kind of thing (be it action or narrative or what).

Never leave any ball in your hand too long; be always aware of the two you've got in the air.

This also links to epicycle theory. The overall shape of a story is one big arc. Introduction, development, climax, resolution. Within it, however, must be smaller arcs. And what keeps things interesting is if these arcs are staggered. So as one problem is resolved, another is just starting to grow serious.

Of course you want to pile up the problems around your climax. One of the absolute great moments of that in my book comes from Star Trek, TOS, "Journey to Babel." Spock's father falls sick, McCoy is just starting a risky operation that puts Spock at jeopardy as well...and Kirk is stabbed by a saboteur and assassin. And then the ship is attacked; so Kirk is up on the bridge grey-faced and wrapped in bandages, the ship is shaking apart, McCoy is swearing as the sickbay shakes and the lights are failing...

As Card puts it, the strongest of these moments is when you link the internal conflict (in Card's opinion, the more important one) with the external. But in any case! The point is that lots of little stories are developing all through the narrative and many of those arcs will conclude.

This includes relationships, discoveries, journeys, all the way down to single arguments or even the punchline of a joke you set up in earlier scenes. So on every page, there's tens of different little epicycles clicking along.

Again, think of juggling. Slice them up into roughly equal pieces and space them out. One major core conflict of the story might show up in every other chunk of text. Another might come to the top every ten. The trick is not so much splitting whatever these arcs are into the obvious thematic segments (Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gives up and joins a monastery) but to a grain size that will let you plop them in at the required interval.

Sure, it helps to have each arc segment end at some natural place. The heroine arrives at the castle. The inventor thinks of using titanium. But it is more important to catch the balls at intervals lest the reader lose track of them completely. You need to open that window on the heroine's journey, even if you have to throw in some artificial mile marker for her: "She thought she could smell the sweet smell of apples already. The castle and its orchards could not be more than a day or two away."

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


I just got a new order for some Aliens grenades. So that will help on the bills a little. Not as much as an actual gig, though. I've got a lead for something in May but it probably won't pay much. Actually, I can't even swear my last lighting design will pay. Not that I expect a check from them until closing night anyhow.

It's gotten close enough to where I can't afford any more parts for the raygun (or the holocron). Of course there's twenty bucks in my Shapeways account, and seven bucks over at Renderosity, but that doesn't do me a lot of good.

So I'm tinkering with the Illustrator files, still trying to figure out how all the machined pieces of the raygun will fit together. And writing.

I have "The Moldau" on right now as I try to distill down a couple of days of reading and watching videos and scrolling around on Google Maps into a brief word picture of the city of Prague. Another thousand words, and I might actually be ready to send Lara Croft (and Daniel Jackson and Jack O'Neill) into my first classic game-style "tomb." If I could just figure out what is supposed to be animating Rabbi Loew's golem!