29 April 2017

Saturday Scenes 29 April '17

On the shortest night of the year, on top of the tallest mountain in the world, the wind had never stopped blowing. It was not snowing, but the wind picked up grains of snow fossilized into ice and flung them about with malicious intent. They trailed from the edge of the summit, creating an eerie, slightly luminescent flag downwind.

Something bated the wind, forced it to flow around where it had flowed through. For long, unmeasured moments, the hard grains of ice piled against the stop, forming in negative the impression of a curved cheekbone, the arch of an eyebrow, the hollow of a clavicle, the fullness of an immense breast. The eye blinked, crystals of ice making no sound as they shattered from unseen lashes.

"Where?" she thought, and, "When?" She turned her head, looking at the snowy lumps surrounding her. She looked to the horizon, saw the grey of the approaching dawn. Her temple. Her highest, her best, her favorite. The summit of her mountain was above eight thousand meters. Humans called it the death zone, for they could not come to her unprepared, and could not stay long once they arrived.

Long time past, her warrior-priestesses had gathered on this shortest night, and climbed the long rose quartz stairway to her shoulder, leading captives. At dawn on the longest day of the year, they had climbed the final staircase in solemn procession, and they had waited until the sun stood overhead, until the light of the sun shone through the eye of her gnomon upon her throne. Then, with blades of obsidian, the captives were given to her, their warm blood staining the stone; the devotion of her priestesses warming her core.

Nothing lasts. An age of the world passed, and neither priestesses nor captives came now. The grand stairway was buried in snow, and only vague lumps showed where her throne and stelae stood, the beating heart of the quartz slowed almost to stillness.

She exerted herself, and the heart beat, once, warming the blood-tinted quartz ever so slightly. She called the wind to pick up more snow, to clear her temple. Even that small effort tired her.

Why had she woken? So many solstices had come and gone unnoticed, unremarked, as she slumbered. What had... and she felt them. Two Humans, huddled in a makeshift shelter on the shoulder of her mountain where once her priestesses had waited with their captives. Humans!

She gathered more of herself, formed a body of ice in which to center her awareness, walked to the edge of her temple. For almost an hour she stood as still as one of the stele, her attention clearing ice from the rosy treads of the final flight of her grand staircase.


The wind died down at dawn. George pushed open the tent flap and struggled out like a moth emerging from its cocoon. He gaped at what he saw. "Andy," he said, "Andy, you've got to see this; you won't believe it."

The second climber struggled forth into the light.  "My god," she said. She looked around. The wind had calmed, the sun stood on the horizon, the sky was clear... and there was a miraculous staircase between them and the summit.  "My god," she said again, not knowing if it was a prayer.

"Quick," George said, "grab your pack. We're about to make history."

The two of them left the tent behind and ascended the staircase. Though it was firm underfoot, and the treads were almost perfectly placed, the air was yet thin, and cold, and they must take their time. Still, they made excellent progress. Just before noon, they achieved the summit.

"Look at this!" Andy exclaimed, looking around at the faintly blood-colored quartz pillars, engraved with bas-relief images of marching armies and battles long forgotten.

George wandered to the central stone, the great needle with its eye. "An observatory," he said, wonderingly. "We have made history, Andy, but not the way we expected!"

"We are not the first to the top," Andy agreed, going to sit on the large bolder with a vague seat-like impression. "Not by a long hike."

Noon arrived. The light through the gnomon touched the throne, bathed the climber. A voice, soft as the wind, spoke in her ear, "Andrea Irving, if you give your man to me, I will make you queen of your world."

Andy started, looking around. There was no one there, but an obsidian knife rested beside her. "Look at this," she said, picking it up in her gloved hand. "There's a hole in the hilt." She stood, took off her glove, dropped it. The knife fit her hand perfectly; her thumb went through the hole, securing her grip. It felt right.

She stepped toward George at the needle. Did she need him? Did she even like him? He had been condescending the entire trip, taking credit for everything, standing in front of her when reporters showed up, even though she was the more experienced climber, even though it was her money which paid for the expedition.

But a cloud passed before the sun, and the light in the temple dimmed. And Andy blinked, wondering at her thoughts about her cousin George. "Let's leave this place," she said. "We need to be back at camp by nightfall."

"Yes," George said, turning away. "And we'll need a second expedition, with cameras."


She sighed, watching them walk down the staircase together. Nothing lasted, she thought. Not the feast season, and not the famine. They would be back. They would bring others. She would drink hot blood again, and her power would return.

But for now... for now... she was tired. She released her awareness, and slumber returned to the mountain of the goddess.

21 April 2017

The Lightsaber of Doom!

TL;DR - I got my first order of MHS parts, and it's strangely exciting. This order is comprised of:

MHSV1 Blade Holder Style 7
MPS8 MPS Pommel style 8
Cclip MPS Clip
MPSI12 MPS insert style 12
MHSchokeRL MHS choke style 3 long

The main body will require some custom milling, so I put it off for next month. Pictures follow. This will likely be a slow build. Why?  Well, if you want to know, read on.

I'm an older geek. In 1978, my family was living in a very rural area of Arizona -- so rural, our town didn't even have its own grocery store, just a gas station / convenience store. So when my mother heard that there was a SciFi movie out, she tossed a ten-year-old me in the car and we drove the couple of hours to The City to see it.  We both loved it, and I at once wanted to be a Jedi Knight. My first lightsaber was just a flashlight with an inflatable blade. (No foolin'. You can see the advertisement for it).

Fast forward a number of years, until I was a grown up geek. I was in the Navy and attended a local SciFi con where I saw that they were play-testing a new role playing game based on Star Wars. Intrigued, I got in on the session, and played an Alien Force User because there were no Jedi in what would become West End Games' d6 game... or at least, that wasn't the part of the rules they were testing, and that option wasn't available to us. (My AFU, by the bye, was limited to touch range, and her big special attack? Touching people on the shoulder and putting them to sleep.  Yes; I crossed the streams. But I digress).

A few years later, I got the chance to play the D20 version of Star Wars RPG, and this time, Jedi were included. So I rolled up a Consular, thinking that I'd make her a Jedi Healer. Just for kicks and giggles, though, I took a couple of skill ranks in pick lock, because you know... sometimes, evil hides behind locked doors. Thus Sorrow was born. She was a four-lekku blue Twi'lek who had been orphaned as a small child and taken to the Jedi Temple. She couldn't remember her name, and the Jedi who found her nicknamed her Sorrow because of her woeful countenance. Over time, it stopped being a nick-name and became her name.  In honor of a great Jedi of the past, she eventually appropriated the family name Sunrider.

Well, the campaign went on, and at a key point, Sorrow saved the party by using the Force with her lock picking skill to open a door and an avenue of escape. (I rolled a natural 20, and the GM gave it to me). This led to joking that I should cross-class into a less upright profession, and I started thinking about Jedi Sentinel. Sorrow turned away from healing and toward investigation.  The campaign ended before I could get the pre-reqs together, but I went on thinking about her, and in my mind, she went on to become a Sentinel. She retained her original lightsaber, though, so hers has a cyan blade (reflecting her path between Guardian and Consular) instead of the more common golden blade of the Sentinels. (Aside from which, if you light up a gold-blade lightsaber, you're pretty much flashing a badge, and Sorrow works more in the shadows than that).

So when I started building my own lightsaber, I decided I wanted to start with Sorrow's. Because it's a saber from the height of the Jedi Order's power and influence, it's more refined and finished than the later-era sabers.

Why did it take me so long to start working on building my own saber? Because I was a nurse, working 12-hour shifts and taking care of my Uncle's wife's parents on my days off, so I had no time. Then I was diagnosed with a chronic, and couldn't work, so I had no money. But now, finally, I have some money and some time, so I'm starting work. I do, of course, still have a chronic illness, so I don't do very much at a time, and my income is based on disability, so it's not very much money. Both of which mean that this will probably be one of the slower build threads -- it may take me six months or a year to get everything together.

But it promises to be a heck of a ride, and I'd like to share it as I learn things and approach my dream. I hope you'll find something of interest as we go forward.

Stand by for picspam!

Here we have the emitter and pommel. The taller one is MHSv1 Blade Holder style 7; the shorter one is MHSv1 pommel style 8. The emitter has been media blasted -- my initial idea was that I wanted it to look as though the emitter had discolored over time due to the tremendous energy of the blade. I'm not sure it accomplishes that, but it does look nice! The media turned the normal glossy silver into a fascinating matte gray, slightly pearlescent. It picks up schmutz like whoa... I think I'm going to need to find a nice matte clear-coat to put over it, if I don't decide to color it.

My previous saber was made by a machinist who boasted that no two of his sabers were exactly alike. I forget if I found him on eBay or his own website, but I bought the saber below and, though I had dreams of lighting it, I've actually just put a polycarbonate rod in it and used it as a bokken for a number of years. It's pretty, and I might still electrify it, but it taught me that I wanted a longer hilt, because my training is in a two-hand style, and this one? Definitely a single-hand hilt.

So I also ordered a choke style 3 long. Here you can see it with the emitter screwed in, which shows nicely the difference between the plain aluminium and the media-blasted, I believe.

I don't have a double-female piece at the moment, so I removed the emitter and screwed the pommel in.

Someone else made a comment that, with a double-female adapter, the choke 3 long would make a decent shoto all by itself. I am kind of interested in making a matching shoto for my daito, but that's down the road... and I'm kind of thinking that maybe an MHSv2 hilt would be better, if Tim ever makes any of those again.

Anyway, the last bit of fun was the pommel insert. I'm waffling about this -- I want to keep the lines of the saber as clean as possible, and my initial thought was to put an activation button and recharge port in a box 9, and use the pommel insert to hang the saber from a hook on my belt. But Sorrow was a pre-fall Jedi, and the D-rings are sort of a New Jedi Order look. In our game, Sorrow's lightsaber had an internal, force-activated switch, so no one who wasn't force-sensitive could turn it on. I don't at the moment know how to do that (though I am tossing around some thoughts regarding RFID chips) so it has to have a switch. I'm waffling between having a 16 mm AV switch in a recessed hole on the side, with the recharge port in the pommel insert; or putting the switch in the pommel insert and having the recharge port on the side.

I guess it's going to come down to whether the covertec kill-switch that fits in the recharge port is strictly cosmetic, or if it's got enough friction to actually hold a saber in a clip.  Or maybe I'll just shove the saber through wraps on my belt like a katana through an obi. I dunno.

09 April 2017

The Desk of Doooooom!

So, I accidentally bought a desk.

Mama and I went out for our usual Friday enforced socialization lunch. Afterward, I said, "Hey, there's an unfinished furniture place right down there; do you mind stopping in?" I had in mind looking at their wardrobes, maybe getting some ideas for when I build my closet organizer.

Well, we drove down there, and there was a big banner on the front which read, "Going out of business forever, everything 70% off!"

We walked in, and I immediately noticed this desk sitting to the side of the entrance. It was a little worn and torn, but beautiful, as you can see in the pictures. I walked around the place, and Mama and I stopped and looked at the bookcases, and I explained my vision for the bookcase I want to build, and she nodded a lot. They didn't actually have any wardrobes, though.

On my way out, I screwed my courage to the sticking point, and asked the sales guy how much the desk was. He said he thought the owner wanted U$500, and I was kind of waffling. Not because it wasn't worth it -- the thing's an antique, solid oak. But because that's a lot of money to me right now. Then the owner came by, and the sales guy asked him what the price on the desk was, and he said "Gimmie three hundred and it's yours."

Without hesitation, I said, "sold." That's less than I would have paid for the Ikea contraption I was considering, and it's a heck of a bargain for something with no particle board, no MDF, and no plywood. And even with tax, delivery, and tips for the Sherpas, it came to less than the U$400 I had set aside for desk buying.

It was delivered on Saturday. The cats got corralled in the bathroom, and the two nice young men who brought it in were relieved that they didn't have to carry it up or down any stairs. It's heavy! As soon as the young men left, I double-checked the doors and then let the cats out.

The desk got a skeptical sniffing, and they kept their distance as I put the drawers in.

Tsarevitch Alexei was the first to investigate the desk with the drawers in, but he wasn't quite up to climbing inside.

That honor went to Grand Duchess Tatiana, who engaged her lazars so she could give the desk a complete cat scan.

Ownership of the drawer cave got disputed.

But Tsarevitch Alexei was the first to summit, a feat which surprised exactly no one.

Oddly enough, that chair didn't come with the desk. I rescued it from a sidewalk a couple of years ago, and it's been sitting at the cafe table that used to be in that spot. But it matches so nicely, I'm almost reluctant to shop for an ergonomic desk chair with which to replace it!