Monday, February 23, 2009

Thank you all!

I can't thank everyone enough for all the help they offered in finding a suitable tool to fix my molding problem. I was able to find a solution for her, and I think some of the other things folks shared with me will help expand my options when making masters of really small horses.

I will post more information on that, complete with pictures of how I did solve the problem, in the next day or so. At the moment I am trying to sort out the last few details in an article on appaloosa patterns for the RESS newsletter. (And Sarah, I'm not sure you get to call something that usually runs close to 200 pages a newsletter. The RESS TOME. I am working on the article for the bi-annual RESS Tome o'Info).

This particular set of articles has dealt with some complex ideas, and figuring out how to present them in a way that doesn't muddy the waters more has been a good brain-stretching excercise. Between the articles and Vixen, surely I have gotten smarter in the last few weeks! (Not that making drawings like the one above in a vector graphics program is much evidence of that. What was I thinking adding all those spots?!)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The local pharmacist thinks I am a nutter

I haven't posted to the blog in a while because I've been busy hitting my head against the wall lately. (Apparently my friend Sarah has been doing the same, so at least I had company even if I didn't know it at the time!) Usually I can find humor in almost any setback, but I'm afraid even my natural optimism was taking a beating.

My problem has been getting a good rubber master of Vixen. Rubber masters are always tempermental things anyway, so I am used to the idea that it's going to take more than one try to get something useable. But the master is the part that counts, because the it creates the image in the plaster. Any problems there will simply repeat on every casting. It's a pain, but making several copies until one is perfect is just part of the process.

Vixen has been a whole other ballgame. No matter how I vented the poor mold, I was getting trapped air. Huge areas of trapped air! Each time I'd lose the back raised leg. If I was lucky that's all I would lose. Usually it was much more.

In frustration I decided to call Barry at Laf'n Bear. Barry is one of those people who are just natural problem-solvers. (He's the one who first introduced us all to the wonderful uses of Legos.) He was also familiar with Vixen since he'd done the resin casting. He had a number of suggestions, one of which was to use a syringe to inject new rubber into the air pockets.

I thought the idea just might work. What I didn't think of at the time I spoke to him was to ask where one might get syringes. It would need to have a long, metal tip if it was to get through the tough rubber. Big metal syringes aren't exactly a common thing one might have lying around the house. Surely, I thought, diabetics must use these things. So I made a trip down to the local pharmacy.

I guess I should point out here that I am about as far removed from any counter-culture as one can get. I've never (knowingly, at least) met a drug addict. I've never even seen illicit drugs of any sort. I wondered, perhaps, if something like a needle might be controlled in some way because I knew that shared needles was a disease vector among people with drug problems. Surely they wouldn't take those risks if needles were readily available.

So I checked out the area where diabetic supplies were located. Lots of lancets, but no needles. Getting brave, I went to the counter to see if perhaps they were like the newer cold medicines - available but requiring you to ask. As it turns out, you can get needles if you have an insulin prescription - or if you can convince the pharmacist you have a good reason to need them.

I suspect I must have featured in the lunchroom discussion there at the pharmacy that day. Dressed in a t-shirt for my son's school chess team and driving up in a minivan with church bumper stickers, I probably didn't look like a drug addict. But explaining what a rubber mold is, and why you might need a needle (a big needle, I kept telling her - long and with a big opening!) to fix it, isn't easy. Most people have never heard of rubber master molds, and wouldn't imagine some suburban housewife makes rubber molds of tiny horses in her kitchen while her kids are at school. Maybe I need to start carrying one around in the car, just in case I need a visual aid, because I think the girl decided that I was a (harmless, probably drug-free) nutter.

But she did sell me some syringes! Unfortunatley even fresh rubber was too viscous to go through the needle, so it didn't solve my problem. I'm almost glad, because I'm not sure I can bring myself to go back and tell the folks at the CVS that I need more! I think the idea might work if I could find a larger gauge of needle - perhaps vets use larger ones for livestock? But I'm not sure I want to ask anyone!

So it's back to banging my head against the wall. I do have a few more potential solutions to try that don't involve convincing anyone I'm not a criminal.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Clean legs!

It looks like adjusting the mold soap recipe solved my inside leg problems. This is the front gusset from one of the new molds right after I pulled a casting from it, and it's perfectly clean. It really made a difference in how easy it was to demold the piece.

My only regret is that I will probably never hear the end of the fact that what messed me up was actually reading the instructions on the soap container. My husband doesn't need that kind of encouragement!

The other mold is a day behind, so I probably won't pour into it until tomorrow. It is the one I sealed with wax resist. I'm interested to see if both sealants work, or if one is better. At this point it's hard to imagine a mold working better than this one, though.

And the two Imp molds dried in record time, probably because it has been so cold here this last week. My studio sits right over the heater, so when is cold enough that the heater stays on a lot, the air in the room tends to get really dry. It sure is helpful when I am waiting for molds to cure.

The molds weren't the only things benefiting from the cold weather. My dog, Emma, is young enough (and here in North Carolina it is rare enough) that this was her first snow. As a dog that loves to play hide-and-seek with her toys, there couldn't be anything better. My entire backyard has nose tracks across it, where she buried and "found" her ball over and over. I just wish I was better at action photography, so I could capture her pouncing.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Seeing in color

This is how my husband sees my work. That's because he's a dichromat; he only perceives two spectral colors, green and blue. People with normal color vision are trichromats. They perceive the world in three colors, red, blue and green.

Colorblindness is sex-linked, so most people affected are male. Colorblind men inherit the trait from their mother, an unaffected carrier. The men themselves have sons with normal vision, and daughters who are carriers. Since we did not have any daughters - just two trichromate sons - the trait will be lost with Alan. And it also means that Alan lives in a house where everyone sees in full color but him.

Alan is pretty used to the fact that people ask a lot of questions when about his vision. And since he is, by profession, and optical physicist, he's probably in a better position to explain just what being colorblind means. But even so, it's really hard to explain to someone what it's like not to see red if you really have no concept of red in the first place. Now in his forties, I think Alan has given up trying. Unfortunately for him, his seven year old son is just starting to ask. And he is the ultimate, "Hey, Dad, I have a question" kind of kid.

After another round of frustration on all sides, I decided that surely the internet must have some kind of side by side comparison that shows what images look like when you are colorblind. Alan will, of course, never see our version, but we could see his. With all that computers can do to tweak images, someone must have done this. And someone had done that here. I even found a site with something called the Dalton Algorithm, which could convert any image into the various types of colorblindness. That's how I got my adjusted image of my foxtrotter medallion.

Here my medallion is in his unadjusted form. I was surprised by these images, maybe because the term most people use for this kind of colorblindness is "red-green colorblind". I assumed that meant Alan saw neither red nor green. I envisioned a world that looked somewhat like one of those old sepia photographs with some additional blue tones, since I knew that he could see blue. What I didn't realize was that he can see green. In fact, his world is pretty much all green, because he sees red as green. That would explain why it's so hard for him to tell when meat is cooked through. (For a good look at that, see the third slide in this presentation.)

But even more interesting, and the reason I thought I would share all this seemingly unrelated information, was a note on one of the colorblindness sites about tetrachromats.

Where people with normal color vision are trichromats, some animals are tetrachromats. They see the world in four colors. What I didn't know was that there was a theory that some people (women, actually, since color vision is sex-linked) see in four colors. In theory, this trait would result in women with extremely sensitive color vision. They would see subtle differences in color that were lost on other people. In one article I read, women identified as potential tetrachomats could see tints in colors others could not, so they often had the sense that things did not match properly. They also were said to be able to carry a color image in their head more easily, and, for example, match a dress to a pair of shoes even though the dress was not there to compare. As I was reading these things, I kept thinking that they weren't describing some rare genetic mutation. All that were talking about was someone with artistic leanings. That's just what artists do! Aren't we all good at those hue tests?

But the more I thought about this, the more I wondered if I have been mistaken all these years. I've always known that I was very sensitive to subtle shifts in color. Friends and family have commented on it all my life. I just thought it was inclination and exposure. I figured if someone spent enough days mixing and matching paint, they would end up just as sensitive to it. It never occured to me that I might be seeing a distinction that others literally could not see. What if, when talking about how to identify some of the dilution genes in horses by the difference in their tone, I was suggesting someone look for something they could not see? Or that my tip about using Photoshop for color mixing might be more than a time-saving shortcut for someone? I don't know if I really do see in four colors, but reading up on color vision (and lack of it) has made me think in new ways about how I talk to others about color.

[Oh, and just a fun aside... the hue test I linked to is hosted by a company that makes scanners that identify colors. If you've ever had a paint chip analyzed at a home improvement store to get a matching bucket of paint, you've probably seen one. My husband worked on the team that developed some of the science behind those scanners. But he couldn't pass that test if his life depended on it.]

Monday, February 2, 2009

A dose of cute

After a difficult week dealing with one son's broken tooth (pillow fighting while holding a Wii steering wheel is a bad idea) and the other getting sick, I decided it was best to spend an afternoon at the barn. I didn't intend to inflict more pictures of my barn buddies on everyone, but I couldn't resist sharing this one of Thumper.

Thumper is the mascot there. I'm not sure his exact height, but I'm only 5'1 and I could stand on my toes over him without placing any weight on his back. He's tiny. And as you can see in his picture, he is also quite fat. To help him with that, one of the younger girls has begun working him in the round pen. Watching the two of them was a lot of fun. He isn't a mean pony by any means, but he is quite pugnacious. And Amanda was quite determined that he was going to canter off some of that pudge. My favorite shot was of her giving him a stern, nose-to-nose talking-to, which was funny since she wasn't that much taller than he was.

I guess it worked, because he did canter. He also did a pretty good impression of a park trot, though I never managed to get a good picture of him while he was doing it.

And for those that subscribe to The Boat, you'll be seeing a bit more of Thumper in the next issue. Not only is he really cute, but he's got a secret to share!