Sunday, December 30, 2012

Five-sided Christmas Star Pastries

This is my version of a julstjärna, a traditional scandinavian Christmas pastry, which always has four arms. I wanted to expand the concept a bit.

Here is how to make it! The traditional four-sided julstjärna is made from a square piece of dough, so our five-sided ones are made from pentagons. A pentagon is of course a much less optimal shape for cutting up the dough sheet, but this is compensated for by the sublime beauty of the finished product!

Cut from each corner towards the middle, add a blob of plum jam. Fold one corner from each flap over the middle of the pastry. Adding some water to the surface as glue, squeeze until the folded corners stick together.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Color mixes for pastel beads

I wanted to make colored translucent beads from Fimo polymer clay. I think the ready-made colored 'translucent' Fimo is too strongly pigmented, and not so translucent. The idea here is to reduce the amount of pigment, by mixing in unpigmented (i. e. 'white') translucent polymer clay.

Unpigmented clay is very soft, almost too soft to form into beads with any precision. The unpigmented clay in the reddish-violet beads above on the left was a bit dry, which made it much easier to control. But when baking, the dry clay produced a lot more of whitish flakes or stripes you can see in the picture above. I don't mind so much though, it looks a bit like some kind of stone.

I played around a bit with mixing different colors with varying intensity and lightness, to get the shades I wanted. The glass beads in the picture below served as inspiration and goal, to keep the colors subtle and counteract the temptation to create super-bright shades.

It's impossible to get an accurate idea of the color of these low-pigmented mixes while actually mixing them. Unbaked (in the upper half of picture above) they look almost completely white, since they get translucent only during baking. That's why a color chart comes in handy!

To read the chart: '1 blue + 1 violet + 32 white' means that I mixed 1 part translucent blue, 1 part translucent violet, and 32 parts 'translucent white' (i.e. unpigmented) Fimo polymer clay. In practice, I used one stripe (one eight of a packet) of unpigmented clay, and one 32th of a stripe each of the blue and violet clays. So one part is here just a tiny amount - unless you want to end up with piles of pastel clay.

The conical turquoise beads are made with a bead roller, the other ones I formed by hand. They were all sanded and polished after baking.

For the brownish ones, I mixed in a bit of green, as you can see, to get the saturation down. The result it a bit too reddish for my taste. My favorites are the darker turquoise and the bluish violet. Most of these semitransparent pastel colors would probably look nice layered with opaque white!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Iridescent frying pan

Our stainless steel frying pan with colorful patterns. Frying stuff in this pan is not particularly nice, since everything, including bacon, seems to stick unless I add lots of fat. The colors offer some consolation, though. I suspect these colors appear due to light interference in a thin film of oxide on the pan's surface.

This picture of a Bismuth crystal from Wikipedia
shows the same effect. The crystal is covered with a thin oxide layer. When light reflected from the top and bottom of the oxide layer interfere, the colors appear. I like the G-shaped growth patterns in this picture even more than the rainbow coloration.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Favorite Games: Nethack

Nethack A classic. You are an @-shaped hero, and your goal is to explore a dungeon filled with monsters (mostly letters) and treasures (gold $ and gems *) and other objects. I haven't played this one seriously for a while - it is much nicer to play on a full keyboard with a number pad, and I seem to usually sit at a laptop. This is a very addictive game, once you get past the initial steep learning curve. For this post we wanted a couple of screenshots, and once we started playing we got hooked again. We even learned to play without the number pad.

While exploring the dungeon one finds weapons (, armor [, and spell books +, and gets tougher by gaining experience and by learning new skills. Nethack is fun because it is so unpredictable. The ascii graphics is very simple, but the world of Nethack is complex. Monsters can interact with each other and with the world around them. You never know what will happen next, and the text description of the events in the dungeon forms an unpredictable story - sometimes a completely absurd fairy tale.

I grew up playing Nethack on DOS, and liked the way the map is drawn there with full lines for the walls. It is tricky to get this graphic mode to work in a unix terminal, for some reasons connected with different character sets. Anyway, there are several solutions. I installed the program konwert, and ran Nethack in this way on one of the text mode consoles (control+alt+f1):
nethack | konwert cp437-utf8
Then simply enabling IBMgraphics in the in-game options make the graphics look as it was meant to.

Taking screen shots of a text mode terminal is something I have never needed to do before, but it is possible with the snapscreenshot program. I ran it in this way, in a text-mode console, with Nethack running in console 1:
sudo snapscreenshot -f8 -c1 -x1 > screenshot1.tga
In an X-term window snapscreenshot does not work.

The Favorite Game series

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