Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Futility and Frustration: On Cryptex Construction [con't]

When you try your best but you don't succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse.

It has been a very frustrating last few days.

I've worked very had and have very little to show for it. What should have been an easy two day project is soon becoming like a part time job. I've probably put in 6-7 hours a day since Friday when I began this, and have accomplished much less than I would like to have at this point.

The problems began when I tried to cut metal. Remember those nifty rings I had the last post? Those were meant to be the tumblers. My plan was to simply cut a channel in the ring, there by allowing the pins to pass through, and boom, cryptex. I have a Dremel, which is a wonderful rotary tool, with many different attachments. However, none of them were really suited to cut the amount of metal I intended. After destroying most of my Dremel attachments, and realizing that grinding down metal makes it very very hot, I gave up. I went to the hardware store to price the metal cutting bit I actually needed, and decided not to sink $25 into this project for a diamond saw blade.

So I had a problem. My tumblers could not do more than look pretty, which was fine by me. However, this did mean I had to scale everything back one tube size. This meant I had to find a tube that could either fit in the smallest tube, or one that could fit in the space between...I ran through many options and permutations.

I finally settled on finding a tube that could fit in the smallest one, downsizing everything. But where to find such a tube? I spent the better part of Sunday searching my house, yard, garage, and neighborhood for a tube the right size. It became an obsession. The Monday after was bulk garbage pickup, which meant people were bringing out broken furniture, refrigerators, etc. to be disposed of by our lovely City and County workers. I'll admit I dug through what some might consider garbage. After several hours of searching, sticking pipes into holes and other pipes, fearing I need a Tetanus, I went home defeated.

A brief digression. I've been running in the evenings throughout this summer as some misguided attempt to be healthy and whatnot. Not the point. During these runs, I've discovered something rather surprising. I don't know my neighborhood as well as I thought I did.

Now, we've been living in this house for the 15 going on 16 years (cue the Sound of Music), before which we lived less than a mile away, and some intervening years we spent in Palolo Valley, which is a stone's throw away. And for the most part, I know where things are in Kaimuki and towards Kahala, and I can recognize most houses and landmarks. But in a recent run, I ventured into an area I had never seen before, maybe 10 blocks from where I live. It was a rather nice area (which is probably why I've never been there), and reminded me a little bit of the game Morrowind (which is fun if you have the patience to spend literally hours traveling between cities. Hooray for quick travel in Oblivion). I started feeling rather adventurous, and rather dangerous, which is a nice feeling when you're on an adrenalin high. So I decided to explore a little more.

In Kaimuki, there's a fire house nestled into the this big hill that once used to be an `imu (a sort of underground oven where Hawaiians cooked stuff. Think of a surf and turf clam bake, minus the surf). This is also how Kaimuki got it's name, as Ka means "the", `imu is the oven thing, and ki is the ti leaves that they wrapped the food in for cooking. This is also apparently where King Kalakaua had his ostrich farm. Anywho, at the top of this hill/oven is a little mini park that truly exists for no reason. I had remember going up there as a little kid, and finding it rather unimpressive, so I was curious to see if anything had changed.

Now, I might not make the best decisions in the world, I'll admit that. But I'm getting better. As I was walking up the to the park (it started with a P. Hawaiian names, can't remember most of them), it occurred to me how stupid this idea was. It was pretty dark (I think I went out around 8). I had left my phone and wallet at home (since they make running harder) and just had my iPod. Considering bums, hobos, and hooligans like to hang out at parks at night, I realized that I was sort of walking into the opening of a Law and Order episode (the regular one. Hopefully not an SVU one. No.). But I was curious, and I figured if anything happened, the would probably only take my iPod, rough me up a little (or a lot), and then I'd have an interesting story to tell.

At the top, I found what I expected. Although it was lovely, much better than I remember, I couldn't help but notice the rather shady looking characters hanging out just beyond the reach of the lamp light. It was hard to tell anyone was there, save for the smoke that would occasionally puff into the cone of light. It smelled like pot. I also noticed what looked like a makeshift tent propped up against the side of some electrical shed thing. More smoke. I didn't care for the cackling coming from the darkness, so I turned around and left.

Back to cryptex. I'll save you all my frustration, as I'm sure there's more to come. After shaving down what I would have to reckon as 1/32" from a PVC pipe I ended up buying, all the pipes seemed to fit. Everything looked promising. Here's a look at the mechanism of the cryptex, exposed:

Pretty much all I had left to do at that point was to attach the metal ring coverings to hide the grooves in the tumblers, and install end caps. This is where today's little dose of frustrations popped up. The tumblers were technically too small for the metal rings, as PVC likes to shrink and contract when you cut it axially (yeah, I didn't know this either). So I had to install plastic shims into each ring to decrease the effective inner diameter. All that was left was to super glue metal ring to PVC tumbler.

However, at some point in the drying process, the ring shifted, causing it to become unaligned to the central axis of the cryptex. This means that there are now awkward gaps in 4/7 of the rings. I have many options, none of which I like. I could grind down the metal to make it fit. I could grind down the PVC to do the same. I could also soak the whole thing in acetone, remove all the pieces and start again. I could also make it a 3 ring cryptex, instead of 7.

I think I will either record some music or cook tomorrow. Both are good options. I've been collecting a bunch of weird instruments I can play to varying levels of proficiency. I won't spoil it, but I'm looking at a Sino-Hawaiian fusion. It should be interesting. On the cooking front, I've been watching Ace of Cakes, and have been inspired. Perhaps I'll work on my crepe recipe. Many options. It's only Thursday.

I also need better tools. The tools I have are more suited for structural construction. House building, foundation laying, that sort of thing. They don't really work for the fine detailed work I'm aiming for. The one exception is my Dremel. However, I've realized I don't have the most skilled hands in the world, and have much to learn. Perhaps if I had better tools, a chop saw, a lathe, a router, etc., this project would be easier. But, I still hold that handcrafted work holds a special charm. And so I'll soldier on, wherever that may lead.

I'm not sure what to do at this point. This project has left me a bit dispirited. I think I need a mental break. But I will return, for I take great pride in all the work I do, and will not let this project turn out sub par. I've been watching the movie Young @ Heart which is about the senior citizen choir that tours and sings contemporary songs. They do a cover of Coldplay's "Fix You". And as the song says, cryptex, I will try to fix you.


  1. I suppose that's the difference between science and engineering and construction. You know what you have to do but...yay projects?

    Speaking of science, this may make you feel better:

    Yeah. I have a knack for finding things on the internet.

  2. Nice nice nice. Yes, this definitely makes things better.

    And the pilot was a lot bawdier than the first episode (which I think is even bawdier than the rest of the series). I'm not sure which I like better. Though I do like the Kaley Cuoco Penny better than whoever this is.

    Also, thanks for directing me to sketchy Hungarian websites. I don't know the language, but I have a vague idea what kind of page "Erotika" will take me to.

  3. Oh man, the crytex seems to be coming along! The tumbler mechanism is so cool! I have faith that you will complete it soon.

    Haha, I sometimes watch Ace of Cakes, too, though I prefer The Next Food Network Star. My favorite TV show right now though is Deadliest Catch - season finale next Tuesday.

  4. Really, Anthony? Deadliest Catch? Whale Wars is where it's at. Despite their silly use of such a weak acid as butyric acid to try and corrode the harpoons (I've seriously thought about writing them a letter telling them the error of their ways), it's the best deep sea adventure show you could ask for. They also have a guy that shoots a longbow. That's pretty sweet.

  5. I also like Penny much better than Katie. For one, Katie reminds me a little of Alicia [blonde who moves in upstairs and plays a dead prostitute on CSI]. And also, she doesn't deliver the "Beautiful Mind genius guy line nearly as well as Kayley Cuoco does.

    I'm not sure how I feel about Gilda except that they might have dressed her too manish... speaking as a woman in the sciences, that's not an accurate representation of most of us. Also, not sure how I felt about her sleeping with Sheldon that one time, but love love loved his response when she told Leonard.

  6. I like the Raj/Howard combo better than Gilda. Too much of a caricature, not my favorite.

    Also, this one is a bit over-sexed, if there can be such a thing on tv nowadays. I like the "nerdy, socially awkward scientist" gang better than the "horny, nerdy, socially awkward scientist" for whatever reason. It actually adds something, I think.

    I have to say that this pilot has a very very different tone from the one they actually aired. I don't think this pilot would have produced a very long run.

    Also, the music in this pilot is very 80's, techno/science-y. I like the other one.

  7. Also, after rewatching the actual pilot, the tone is a lot happier. The color scheme is much lighter and brighter, and the costuming is much more relaxed and easy going. In contrast, the unaired pilot feels very antagonistic.

    And I'm right about the over-sexed thing. If you listen to the line about "masturbating for money", it gets a much bigger reaction because the effect isn't muted by a string of other sex jokes before it, as in the unaired pilot.

    Putting too much thought into this.

  8. I also like Raj/Howard better than Gilda overall, but I think that might be because they've been developed over 3 seasons. Howard in the real pilot (and much of the first 2 seasons) is an absolute jerk, super unlikable and a terrible friend. I only started liking him after he started dating Bernadette and although I have lots of problems with the way that Gilda is portrayed, I feel like she could have become more likable with development, but the way they portray women in the labs now are more accurate so I'm not too sad about her being gone.

    That being said, I don't think the unaired pilot is any more oversexed than the show is right now. You can't seriously say that the gang right now isn't horny [cites Howard, Raj, and Leonard, especially...well..Howard, Raj and Leonard]. Many, if not most, of the episodes center around or have a B-story that involves one of the three getting or trying to get a girl. The only difference is that Sheldon recognizes his biological imperative in this pilot and I think that adds something to his character. The "Sheldon and a girl!?!" bit is getting kinda old because he's an objectively good looking guy (moreso than Howard/Leonard, I would argue).

  9. It's not that the current groups isn't collectively after women, it's more the level of sexual humor. I mean, in the unaired pilot, Katie draws a huge penis on their white boards. In the current show, the jokes are spaced out and follow a natural rhythm. In the unaired one, it kind of like being beaten over the head with a --, well, I don't think I need to finish that sentence.

    How come you don't include Raj in your evaluation of the attractiveness of the guys? Hmm? Too ethnic? See, asian men can't catch a break in this world.

  10. No, I think Raj is a cutie which is why I didn't say he's not as good looking as Sheldon. HAH. Also, loved him bribing Sheldon with the hulk hands. One of my favorite scenes.

    For the most part, I liked the current pilot much better as a pilot because I felt they were trying to oversex nerds too fast in a 23 minute time slot, which is probably why they didn't air this one. I think I just have a problem with Sheldon being continuously one-dimensionalized in the last couple of episodes [that's what you get from a sitcom] so it was cool to see what he could have been.

    Also another reason why I love Bones, because people in the lab? Socially awkward nerds w/ potential for lives outside the lab. Drama vs. sitcom perks I guess.

  11. I do think the show has become a bit formulaic towards the end, so it is nice to see an alternative take. I do think that the characters in general are more likeable now than in the unaired pilot, which is a very important thing to have. It's part of the formula for a long running series.

    I had a thought. People talk about drama/comedy cross-overs as "dramedies". Why didn't they combine sit-com and drama to give us "com-mas"? Who would I write to to change such a thing?

  12. Or maybe "sitmas".

    Hmm, I've seen the commercials for Whale Wars but haven't seen an episode yet. The idea sounded silly and overdramatized. But now that you say it's really good, I think I might watch an episode. When is it on?