Monday, March 31, 2014

Straight lines & perfect circles

There was a film called Perfect Circle I saw a long time ago. I remember very little of it except for the bit where these two people - one of them I'm fairly sure, a kid - are trying to draw perfect circles and find it a thing not so simple.

I remembered this because my son wants to take Art at school next year and is not great at drawing, though he's amazing at craft and generally a genius with his hands. He used to be a champion artist when he was a kid, but you know how we're all Matisses until we're five.

So he's been trying to work at getting better but given that he started with this new resolution an hour ago, I think he should give himself a little more time before he decides to opt out of Art altogether in favour of Economics.

He began with wanting to draw an SLR; gave it up for a bottle of Parachute coconut oil and gave that up when he couldn't get the indent in the bottle to look like one; chose a lava lamp and baulked at the glass and the odd, frozen shapes inside.

Finally, I told him, 'Forget all these strange materials and stick with 2D for the moment, yes?' So we picked a Madhubani design he could copy. So all those freehand straight lines he has to draw as borders? BIG challenge. 'Economics,' he muttered under his breath.

Someone please tell my son drawing straight lines freehand is not as simple as he wants it to be.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Gecko glue is a thing

KM, look away now. (Or don't; it's not like I'm posting pictures, but watch where you're going).

I don't know which part of this is #1 for awesome. I vote ALL of it.

A team of scientists at the University of Massachusetts has developed a new, reusable adhesive based on the feet of the gecko – the lizard that licks its own eyeballs and climbs up walls. Around 60% of gecko species have adhesive toe pads and these pads were the inspiration for Geckskin – a device that can attach and detach from materials and surfaces repeatedly.

Led by professor of polymer science and engineering Al Crosby and professor of biology Duncan Irschick, the team designed Geckskin for performance – you can suspend up to 700lbs in weight with it and it can be made from everyday items such as nylon, bathroom caulking, carbon fibre or cotton. Most things adhere to it and it adheres to most things – it's like flypaper for elephants.

Crosby and Irschick say it's not about making a new material but making old materials perform in new ways. Geckskin is detachable and attachable.

Did you know geckos lick their eyeballs?! (Oh my God - are they Japanese souls trapped in reptilian bodies? Is it racist of me to say so? Cancel! Cancel!) 

I don't know which idea I like more: 'flypaper for elephants' or 'geckskin'. Actually, no contest - if there must be an elephant in the room, I'd rather it was suspended from the ceiling and rotating gently and somehow invisibly. ('Geckglue' trumps 'geckskin' though I'd like suggestions for an even better name.)

Later, the article says: "A key property of certain types of gecko is the ability to attach to any surface, release at will and be able to hold a significant amount of weight." And it made me wonder what weights a gecko carries. Seriously. It's not as if they club a prey over the head, fling them over a shoulder and head off into the nearest cave. So what weights do they have to carry? Apart from their own body weight which, I imagine, the design takes care of to not count as 'significant'.

Anyone know?

Monday, March 24, 2014


I was at a conference and it was the last night. I'd said my goodbyes and was more tired than I'd expect. Some time before midnight, I woke up to go to the loo and I imagine I thought I was in a different room, because nothing else would explain how I walked massively off-course to bump into a table.

I fractured my toe. I knew the minute it happened that this wasn't just a bad bump. The mini fridge in the room didn't have ice, but it had a bottle of coke that I applied to my rapidly swelling toes. From a previous fracture I knew I had to do ice and elevation asap. I was glad for the couple of hours' deep sleep I'd had because clearly there was going to be no more of it for the rest of the night.

One of the other writers is a surgeon. We were to travel together the next morning. She bandaged up my toes and said it didn't matter if it was a sprain or a hairline fracture, there was nothing more to be done - adhesive plaster and rest was the sum total of the treatment.

That was the first time I was using a wheelchair. Air travel becomes a different experience altogether when you're in a wheelchair. It was kind of fun, because of course my fracture was not such a big deal. But I can see how someone with rheumatoid arthritis would find it difficult to negotiate even the few steps they must take to their seats.

And leg space is never more precious than when you need to elevate your foot, I can tell you. I could feel my feet swelling up and there wasn't a damned thing I could do about it.

But what was fun was getting to go in that hydraulic lift thingie that comes up to the other door of the aircraft. It was also instructive to experience life from a different level. I wouldn't want to make a habit of it, but once is interesting.

Of course, now that I'm home, I'm thinking of all the things I can't do: drive, do yoga, skip down the steps - heck, even stretch up on my toes to get something from a higher shelf. Steps are a challenge. As is grocery shopping.

I think I'm supposed to cultivate gratitude for it not having been worse, and for all the things good health allows me to do and which I take for granted.

Right now, though, I feel incapable of the necessary amounts of gratitude that is required of me.

How've you lot been?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Poems up at Poetry at Sangam

Yesterday there was hail. Huge, fist-sized chunks being chucked rather than bowled. It was fun to watch, but at the back of our minds we knew the electricity would go.

We were right, but only partially. It hailed yesterday at 5pm. It's now 9am the following day, but there's still no electricty in two phases. All the other other monsoon-like troubles we have year after year have manifested themselves as unseasonably as the rain: overflowing sewage, flooded roads, backed up traffic, a vertain hydrophobia, of water, whether of the drinking or of the falling kind.

Luckily, we didn't need to brave the traffic. They're finally laying the road in this corner, after years and years of badgering them (the suspicion that our complaints had nothing to do with this sudden interest in our welfare). They're laying a cement road, instead of a tar one. At 3am one night, having failed to inform us when they were planning to begin, they put steel girders across our gate. Since then, we can move around if we walk to where we need to go. Public transport, needless to say, is a distant dream in this part of town.

So I walked to post letters and get some medicines. It would have been heartening to see that other corners of this city suffer from overflowing sewage, if I didn't have to wade through it instead of being allowed to gloat in peace.

Anyway. Those are some of the reasons why this blog is suffering from frequent neglect.

That's also why I forgot to say that I had some poems up at Poetry at Sangam. Some new, a couple old ones. Oh, link.

It has begun to drizzle again and I can feel the tension take the back of my neck. I just want that time back when rain was nothing but unalloyed pleasure.