12 August 2013

thing-a-week 28, 29, 30, 31, 32: Excuses and My Lumpy Heart

I'm truly sorry that I haven't been able to keep up this series in the past month or so.

I could blame this on several things. It took me a couple of weeks, for instance, to find and then move my things into a new apartment. That was last month, though, and my things still aren't unpacked. I'm not actually living in the place yet because the bolts that hold my bed together got lost in the last move, so I'm still going through hardware stores and looking for right-sized replacements. And in the meantime, I'm still lodging with friends, making a longer commute, and being tired.

I wrote in June that I liked the extra time that my new work hours gave me, but these days, I spend more of that extra time just spacing out, emptying my head from the night before and recovering just enough for the one ahead.

And while I tell myself that I should be glad for the rest, I also know that making things helps me to rest, and I just haven't made enough time to make things.

For week 28, I made two flexagons with abstract designs. I actually worked on them at the office while waiting for each day's editorial meeting, cutting and folding and drawing a little each day.

Unfortunately, they just disappeared from my desk one morning or evening. Either I actually slipped them into a book or notebook to work on elsewhere and then simply lost them, or someone found them interesting and took them, like they took two of my modular hassocks.

As for week 29, sorry to subject you to more of my abysmal drawing skills, but all I have to show for that week is this drawing of a land hermit crab.

Sometimes, Cris and I listen to trivia podcast Good Job Brain in the car together, and one episode explained how land hermit crabs swap shells. We happened to be surrounded by SUVs then, so I started to imagine a not-so-distant future where land hermit crabs are hulking monsters. They use hollowed out cars as shells and trade up as they grow, from VW beetles to hummers and even buses and container vans. For entertainment, people go to arenas to watch the crabs fight for bigger shells.

For this drawing, I used a photo of a crab as a reference but was too lazy to put more work into the SUV. Perhaps once I have a story fleshed out, I can ask a more talented friend to illustrate.

Week 30 was the worst. I was supposed to complete my Processing project that week but ended up resigning the whole course. While I liked my project idea, the course itself no longer held my interest; its objectives were more and more clearly different from my own. So, I decided to just remember the sunk cost fallacy, quit the course, recover from my burnout, and save my project for another day.

All I have to offer for week 30, then, is a screenshot of some of the code I worked on while I was still working on it.

I don't know if you'd count the code, so I don't know if you'd count what I made in week 31, either.

I recently joined a Facebook group of fellow former Glitch players. I thought my stay wouldn't be long, but it turns out that there are many other people who also still feel sad that Glitch is gone, however silly it might seem to have so much feeling for a closed computer game. There's just nothing like it out there.

One day, a game developer invited the group to test a new game, Manyland. While the game wasn't going to be anything like Glitch, the developers had heard about the culture of Glitch players and were hoping we could bring some of that to the game.

So, week 31 saw me testing Manyland when I could. I can best describe it as a two-dimensional LEGO, though Minecraft players say it's like Minecraft. It is lots of fun but kind of lonely; perhaps due to lack of other players and a map, it gets existential fast — where am I? Why am I here? Where does this world end? If I build a platform far enough, will I go all the way around to where I began?

One of the first things I built was this simple brick box house with an underground swimming cavern and tiny wine cellar:

You can actually change the color of the sky, and the colors blend as you move across the screen, but when you take screenshots, you get just the color of the sky (and any translucent things, like water) based on your current position. The little gnome-like person in this assembled screenshots is actually me.

If you prefer something more traditional than code or digital building, then week 31 was also when I started work on the craft for week 32:

Week 32 was a nice return to paper. One of the secretaries at work used to spend her free time on complex, three-dimensional paper models of video game and cartoon characters. I wanted to try one of those but didn't want just any model. When I saw the Paper Torso by Horst Kiechle, it felt best for me.

I printed out the template of a human heart; the pieces took up about eight-and-a-half sheets of letter-size paper, and I did the cutting and folding in my spare time. I then glued all the pieces together in about three hours yesterday.

Photos of the resulting heart are below. It is pretty lumpy for several reasons: I cut next to some of the lines and not on them, and not all of my cuts were straight, so some of the triangles did not fit each other the way they were supposed to. I also used regular bond paper, which absorbed moisture from all the rain we've had lately and thus made the whole thing softer and easier to dent. While assembling the valves, I found I'd inverted a section and so had to push and pull it without tearing the whole thing apart.

But, it's mine, and I am happy to have made it, lumps and all.

Please excuse the awkward hand poses. I needed to keep a hold on the heart, but not too tightly, or I would have crushed it.

This project was lots of fun but also kind of weird. I knew what it was supposed to look like, and I knew that it was taking shape, but only when I had the whole thing in my hands did I think, This is a heart. I stood with it in front of a mirror just to see how big it was, and I somehow felt very small, cradling a white paper heart in my palms against my pink shirt.

I am thinking of doing lungs next, even if I don't even know what to do with the heart now.

The heart template is just one in a set of templates to build a neutered human torso. There are more templates on Mr. Kiechle's Paper Torso website; feel free to share with students, crafty doctors, and anybody else who might like the idea of making human organs out of paper.

Other stuff I feel like sharing: this waterfall cabin I built in Manyland, accessible only by falling into the water and swimming down (water is weird in Manyland) and exit-able only by magic wind. Unless you cheat and build ladders or platforms, any other way brings death.

I also built this temple, but in hindsight, the color of the bricks I used makes the whole thing look like something else; something less, uh, temple-y.

The magic wind from the cabin will actually bring you here; you pop out of the gap on the right, next to the cacti.

I don't actually get to play Manyland that often; I only play it at home, and it depends on how I'm feeling. But it is lots of fun, and as the game is still in its early stages, the developers are quite reachable for help, feedback, and bug reports. If any of you get to play, my username is kalsangikid.