Small Streams


Volvelle Possibilities
August 14, 2014, 4:08 am
Filed under: art, awareness, maps, math, media, toys, Uncategorized
Volvelles

Volvelle Possibilities

Just a little doodle to set me thinking. Even limiting myself to concentric circles for the most part, I kept coming up with possibilities for using Volvelles. I started with the idea of surveying what could be done with a circle and a pivot. Information can be obscured, indicated, or illuminated with a Volvelle. The second circle below could be a changing face. I’m not sure how you illustrate or derive a function with such a thing. But, like I say, “just a little doodle.” Transparent colored circles could illustrate combinations and layered traces could illustrate circuits. The final Volvelle on the bottom right plays with the idea of a spiral around a pivot, that is a turntable. Is the needle on the top or the bottom? Is there a needle guide? Maybe musicians could use them to demonstrate a musical passage. Just run an amplifying stylus through the grooves and you have yourselves a tune. 



Pollock’s Toy Museum
January 26, 2014, 5:45 am
Filed under: art, education, eutechnics, technology, thinking, Tourism, toys | Tags:

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Pollock’s toy museum has been a destination for us since we moved to London. How things make us think has been a hobby horse of mine for the past couple of years. So I was happy that Liz and I could take a short excursion to Central London and walk amidst the toys.

The museum is housed in, well, a house, or at least an “up and down” with not too many conversions. The downstairs holds the toy shop and the lobby, and the staircases and the upper floors display the dolls, dollhouses, games, etc.

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Some of my fascinations are construction toys …

20140126-105510.jpg viewing toys and …

20140126-105634.jpg mathematical instruments.

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I also found the war games interesting. Never too early to build a distaste for the kaiser.

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Of course, the reason for Pollock’s being is the toy theatre. There must have been a hundred of them.

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They also had some interesting specimen boxes.

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If you ever want to get the imaginative juices flowing or at least cop some ideas for your doll house, I highly suggest it.



Wax On
November 23, 2013, 3:17 am
Filed under: art, awareness, business, cities, community, media, observer | Tags: , ,

Last week, I wrote about a tech workshop at Rough Trade East. But don’t go looking up “rough trade” on Craigslist, look it up in the New York Times which has a story on the new branch of Rough Trade in NYC. The old medium of vinyl is growing, perhaps not on a scale that economists recognize (e•con•o•mist, a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing — Oscar Wilde), but enough that more and more people have access to the joy of records.

“As more and more business moves online and also to the malls,” [Martin Mills of Beggars Group, an independent record company] wrote in an email, “there is an increasing countervailing human demand for community, for localness, for tangible beauty, for specialist knowledge, for range, for retail experiences that are not price-dependent but make you feel good.”



It’s Show(box) Time!
November 14, 2013, 6:54 am
Filed under: art, media, painting, technology, Uncategorized

I went to the Victoria and Albert Museum with a friend of my sister Susie’s. We mostly saw the 19th C. paintings and drawings: Constable, Turner, Rosetti, Burne Jones, etc. I saw a Constable drawing of an elm tree that had me doing a double take. Given my lack of familiarity with the genre of landscape, all I can say is that Constable’s elm tree makes Bob Ross’s pine tree look sad.

Constable landscape

Constable landscape

What caught my attention, of course, was the big wooden box in one of the galleries, Thomas Gainsborough’s Showbox.

Gainsborough's Showbox

Gainsborough’s Showbox

According to the V&A…

In the 1780s Thomas Gainsborough (1727–88) painted a series of landscapes in oils on glass, which were viewed in a specially constructed ‘showbox’, described in this way:

“The machine consists of a number of glass planes, which are moveable…chiefly landscapes. They are lighted … at the back, and are viewed through a magnifying lens, by which means the effect produced is truly captivating.’
Gainsborough’s ‘showbox’ contained a painted glass transparency, set before a silk diffusing screen that was originally lit by three candles. The image is viewed through the adjustable lens at the front. The box opens at the top and back and also contains slots for storing the transparencies.

I guess this is not the first example of the magic lantern, but it does show that people’s imaginations were tilted that way since the 18th century. I’ll have to follow this post up with one about the V&A Museum of Childhood, which is just chock-full of viewer goodness. Until then, here’s a Gainsborough on glass:

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Chocolate Ecstasy Tour
November 10, 2013, 4:30 am
Filed under: art, awareness, food, observer, Tourism, walking | Tags: ,

Yesterday Liz, Piper, and I took a chocolate tour of London courtesy of the American School of London. The tour was an amazing brief for the senses. Our guide was well versed in chocolate knowledge. After convening for a cup of cocoa we visited four chocolate shops. Believe me, four is plenty. My senses were overstimulated by the end.

We visited Roald Dahl’s favorite chocolate shop, the oldest chocolate shop in London, a cool artisanal shop, and a shop known for its mixtures of chocolate with nuts and spices.

Two of the shops were in arcades. Which makes me think, “What’s the difference between a mall and an arcade?” To find out, I suggest going to Pittsburgh’s Fifth Avenue Place and imagine you’re standing in Jenkin’s Arcade. If you don’t cry then and there, your heart is made of stone.

All of the chocolate shops were in the Mayfair and Soho parts of London. I’ll attach some pictures. Not pictured is the fantastic moment when I first glimpsed the white terra cotta grand avenue of Regent Street through the highly articulated channel of Soho.

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Folding Paper
January 29, 2012, 8:45 pm
Filed under: art, math, research, technology, thinking | Tags:

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Just finished watching Between the Folds, a gem of a documentary about origami. Lots of stuff about the art and science, the emotion and technique, and the history and trajectory of paper folding.

The documentary ends with a profile of MIT Professor Erik Demaine, who linkage computer maker Xiaoji Chen calls the “happiest genius in the world.”

I can see how one enthusiasm leads to another for Demaine: math, paper folding, genetics, and glass blowing — well, I’m not sure how the glass blowing fits in . . . but Demaine says it’s all about having fun. Maybe fun will lead to a cure for cancer as Demaine and others figure out how and why proteins fold, or maybe to nano computers in space.

I guess I should fold some paper while I’m inspired, but I’m more interested in approximating logarithms with musical scales.