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  • March 2021

    Sun, 11 Apr 2021 13:10:55 GMT

    In March I did some somewhat unexpected photography, some artwork, started a new job, and played a fair amount of Sonic 3: AIR (just like last March…)

    New camera lens

    In my entry for last month I took some starscape photos one evening while Mars was close to the Pleiades. I would have loved to get some closer up photos of the Pleides in particular, so after I got my new job offer I did some research and treated myself to a second-hand Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3, which has a lens about four or five times longer than my longest lens which was then my 18-55mm kit lens.

    Naturally the weather wasn't great at night for the rest of the month, so I haven't taken any night sky pictures with it yet (and the nights are getting very late now…) but I have discovered that I'm absolutely loving it for wildlife photography.

    Swan!


    Duck!


    Squirrel!


    Bra!



    AMPDG: Paint a ceiling

    For AMPDG this month I had to "paint a ceiling". I made a twist on it and painted my loft hatch into a sky roof.



    I'm pretty pleased with how it came out! Next time ("Next time") the sky could do with being a mite lighter, but I'm very happy with the clouds.


    Acrylic pours

    I attempted two acrylic pours (where you put paint into a cup and empty it onto a canvas) this month, for the first time, after seeing some youtube videos and being enamoured with the effect. It's harder than it looks!

    These were my first two attempts, though I don't have a good photo of after they dried, where the left one got very dark (and the canvas wasn't wholly covered anyway) and the right one, which was my favourite, unfortunately cracked during drying due to me making the paint too thick. I will attempt something in a similar palette again soon!




    Chocolate truffles

    Work had a couple of virtual away days in my second week of the job. One of the activities was a guided live cello meditation that I'm quite tempted to buy the pre-recorded version of at some point since it was excellent (and scheduled quite close to when I would normally take an afternoon nap, so worked well in that sense too).

    The other activity of note was a chocolate truffle making experience. We had some chocolate cooking buttons posted to us and had to buy some dairy or coconut cream ourselves. The live lesson itself wasn't so great (it turns out I ice my cakes with basically truffle mixture already) but before the lesson we were told to temper the chocolate, with instructions, which I'd never bothered to try before.

    I used the cheap analogue thermometer that came with a cheese making set my parents bought me a few years ago though they gave the impression that "liquid but cool to the touch on your lips" was adequate. Dark chocolate tempered at about 31°C; milk at 29-30°C.

    My tempering seemed to work since the chocolate coating we put on the truffles was a little shiny and didn't bloom overnight, so that was satisfying. What was a surprise was how quickly the chocolate solidified once it started to; I ended up having to chisel a fair amount out of the bowl afterwards!

    You can spot the moment I realised I was running out of time!



    Dragonfruit update

    The single branch continues to grow pretty quickly! Here's a photo from the start and end of the month





    Here's a close-up of the tip using my fancy new lens




    03-in-03

    Since I knew I'd be starting my job and probably quite busy in April as a result, I moved my normal 04-in-04 short story challenge to March instead, and wrote three in the couple of weeks before my job started.

    I haven't put them online this year because I'd like to keep them back in case I want to submit to an actual publisher of short stories (I've been looking around but haven't found one with submissions open at the moment) and they don't accept ones that have been online publicly beforehand, but if anyone wants to read them, I'd be happy to send them across.

    Ruins (2791 words): A teenager works through her broken relationship with her sister while visiting an urban ruin. (Modern fantasy/supernatural.)

    My life as a sapient collection of fish (1848 words): a new lifeform attempts to find a kindred spirit. (I have no idea what genre this is.)

    Untitled sci-fi/zombie story (1198 words) about an astronaught trapped on a crashed ship with an infected crewmate. (Sci-fi/horror maybe?)

    The first two stories went extremely well (from a writing point of view, at least) and I'm very happy with them. The third was a slog and probably would need a lot of tidying up to be worth submitting anywhere.



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  • February 2021

    Mon, 08 Mar 2021 16:52:06 GMT

    The dragonfruit plant had a good grow this month. I don't think I was quite as productive, but I did some miscellaneous bits and pieces.

    Dragonfruit update

    The dragonfruit's doing well! It's grown quite a lot this month:



    I still have an infestation of fungus gnats, but they don't seem to be affecting the plant. I've been holding off watering it to suppress the population (it seems likely I was overwatering it to begin with) and I've put down some mosquito bits which should activate when I next water.


    AMPDG: Make a painting without using your hands

    For AMPDG I picked the task that asked me to "make a painting without using your hands". I considered setting up something so I could stomp my feet over a large bit of paper, but I felt like I would have had to order in quite a lot of stuff for that, so I settled on using my mouth to hold a paintbrush, and use my existing acrylic paints and A5 textured paper from a very old kit.



    (I also reused some of the sponge cut-outs I made for decorating my poang chair just for the background.)

    After I asked for drawing suggestions on Twitter, Emily suggested a dragon, which suited me just fine.

    Here's the final result, which took a little under an hour






    Sundae and Up & Go

    On my way back from the pharmacy I passed a pub that had put out a box of old pint glasses on the pavement, labelled 'FREE'. I took one of the glasses home with me, and after thoroughly washing it, decided to make an ice cream sundae using it. By coincidence I had a Sainsbury's delivery soonafter, so I added the necessary ingredients onto that.

    I made Pecan chocolate brownies and added vanilla ice cream, some pink marshmallows, wafer biscuits, chocolate syrup, and squirty cream. It didn't entirely fill up the glass, but I feel like I made a good effort out of it!



    In the same Sainsbury's order I'd added two cartons of Up & Go, having seen it being used on Taskmaster New Zealand earlier in the year, and being curious as to what it tasted like. They both tasted good, half way between a malted milkshake and a regular milkshake. The strawberry one in particular tasted very much of strawberries. I would have them again, though they didn't quite keep me full between breakfast and lunch.


    Taskmaster for Emily's Birthday

    For Emily's birthday, Pete and Matt had got hold of the Taskmaster Play At Home pack (which, if I forget to say later, I'd thoroughly recommend) and we played it over webcam, with Pete taking the role of Taskmaster.

    The first task, if you don't mind the spoiler, was set 30 minutes before we joined the webcam meeting. It was to dress up in the most surprising outfit. Most surprising outfit wins.

    Having had some ideas floating around my head since Rossum's Universal Robots party last month, I went straight for the tin foil, silver nail varnish, and a touch of silver makeup:



    I won the task! Fortunately the Taskmaster allowed us to get changed afterwards.


    Woods and Stars

    I've been visiting the local woods more often lately, since the sun has been setting at convenient times to work around the restriction on sunlight I have due to laser. I've had quite a few nice walks at or shortly after sunset, and even got a rainbow on one walk



    The snowdrops just about made it out by the end of the month, so I got some nice photos of those too



    On the third of March, Mars would be at its closest position to the Pleiades for several decades, but the forecast was bad for that week, so I took advantage of the last clear night in February to go up to the hill where, it turns out, it's usually pretty isolated from any street lamps. I got some nice photos of the stars



    Orion visible on the left, the Pleiades with Mars underneath in the top right.


    The evening reminded me to have a look for longer lenses for my camera, and (spoiler alert for March) I've ordered one now. We'll see how it performs…


    Food and Gardening

    I made vegan carbonara (using sauerkraut juice!) and it was really nice!

    I sprouted some mung beans, and had them in a stir fry.

    Emily sent me a Norwegian waffle maker(!!) so naturally I had waffles a lot, including for Pancake Day, which it had arrived just in time for!

    I also made my Gardening list for the year, and got some cauliflowers and broad beans planted.


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  • January 2021

    Sun, 07 Feb 2021 17:35:42 GMT

    January was a month for stop motion animation, robots, dragonfruit, and snow.

    AMPDG: Stop motion video

    For AMPDG I picked "Transform and roll out" - make a transformation video (of yourself, a friend, an object, etc). The first thing that came to mind was to make a stop-motion video of some sort, and I toyed with various ideas until I decided to order some modelling plasticine for it.



    It took about two hours to set up and take the photos, and I'm pleased with how it came out! The various transformations were mostly improvised, though I thought it'd be nice to have a human figure in there.

    I was surprised at how solid the modelling plasticine was; it made it easier to avoid large changes between each frame, but also meant I had to pick the figure up between some frames, which was inconvenient.

    I also added some free music to the video on Ems' suggestion, just to make it not be 20 seconds of silence.


    Dragonfruit

    My dragonfruit cutting started to grow its first new branch! A tiny bud appeared on the 11th Jan, coming from the topmost spike node (it had lost the spike in the post, but I'm not sure if that's relevant), and has been growing larger since then.








    Rossum's Universal Robots

    For Ems' and Tim's AMPDG, they planned a mystery party celebrating some event that would happen on that day, and invited me to it. When I loaded the video call, they were both there dressed up as robots, and I remembered a retweet I'd spotted earlier about it being the centennary of Rossum's Universal Robots, the play that invented the word "robot".

    We had a robot-dance-off and watched a Robot Wars highlight reel on Youtube. Tim got a few screenshots of my robot dance:




    Snow

    On the 24th we had good, proper snow that settled quite well and stayed on the ground for a day or so. I went out for a walk while it was still coming down.









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