U.S. Capitol

The tiny little people at the very center of the fresco at the top are 17 feet tall.

Reading this week:

  • To the Central African Lakes and Back, Vol II by Joseph Thomson
  • African Europeans by Olivette Otele

Yesterday, both as I am writing this and potentially as you are reading it, my super amazing fiancée had managed to get us tickets to go on a tour of the U.S. Capitol and so we went! She got the tickets three months in advance but it seems like if you’re lucky enough you could just walk in as well. She also learned on a recent training she did that it turns out you can just wander into the office buildings and harass Congresspeople(‘s poor underpaid staff) at will (democracy!), and even though I am under the impression you see less artwork that way that might suit your particular needs better than a guided tour.

Anyways let’s get some of the technical aspects out of the way. First off as a preface I had an excellent time. We have been trying to be diligent about being good DC tourists and seeing all the historical stuff in the area and the U.S. Capitol building is certainly historical and entirely stuff. This leaves us with only the Supreme Court to visit, but as we all know the Supreme Court sucks. The tour begins with an extremely uncritical video of the general history of the Capitol building and the U.S. Congress. Then you head out and go on the guided tour. Our tour guide was very chill and immensely knowledgeable. His former job was as a schoolteacher and he later mentioned some tour guides have their Ph.D., which, you know, interesting comments on the U.S. school system there. The tour is about 45 minutes long but not very extensive. You start in the crypt, which is a little lame because unlike other places there are no actual dead people there (that we know of). Then you head up to the rotunda, admire the extremely tall ceiling (see top photo) and the paintings, and then it is over to the National Statuary Hall. The tour ends after that, though you can visit the small museum they have before exiting via the gift shop, where you can satisfy all your candle snuffing needs.

Hall of Cancleables

There are two major points I want to make about the Capitol tour, the first more general and the second more specific. As we continue to view all these sites important to the U.S. historic canon, it is increasingly a little bit weird to me the specific sorts of things and time periods we elevate. And more specifically how we like to keep them absolutely stuck in these particular moments in time. Both the White House and the Capitol were built in the 18th century, and as far as the public tour goes at least both are mostly monuments to themselves. The Statuary Hall used to be the House of Representatives, and the tour guide informed us that in a structurally questionable decision the original and literal House floor is preserved under the current marble. Into that marble are plaques where former Presidents sat when they were Representatives. Like I said the intro video to the tour is as uncritical as you can be, using scenes of Congresspeople chatting amongst themselves to portray an unbroken line of thoughtful, critical debate of laws on their theoretical merits. But what do you get when you crystallize and elevate all this as the core memory of American society, to the near exclusion of the next two centuries of development? The peaceful, independent, agrarian society that Jefferson dreamed of but which never existed becomes the norm and everything else – the lived America of the vast majority of its citizens – is a deviation that can and should be corrected. It gives a concept like Originalism moral weight as though divining the intentions of white enslavers for a society they could not have conceived is a good thing to do. Every time I see these set pieces I think we need new monuments so we can let the old ones whither.

What a loser.

Which brings me to my second point about the Capitol tour. When I say we need to let the old monuments whither, hoo boy do I have some very specific ones in mind. I was peripherally aware there have been ongoing discussions about what statues are in the Capitol, but man actually looking at some of these things is shocking. There I was, having a pleasant time seeing some cool folks like Norm Borlaug when suddenly I find myself face to face with fucking Jefferson Davis. He is there courtesy of Mississippi. And man. Just what a fucking loser move. He is there of course because of the successful effort in the first part of the 20th century to repaint the Confederacy as a noble lost cause that somehow wasn’t about slavery. So Mississippi sends a statue of Jefferson Davis to the Capitol. Jefferson Davis, you will recall, was a lame-ass loser that became President of the Confederacy because everyone was suspicious of everyone else and they all agreed Davis was too unambitious to pose anything resembling a threat. And then, you will also recall, the rebellious, un-American, entirely racist Confederacy lost their war which killed more Americans than any other conflict in history. And so when the Capitol asks the states to send up some statues to decorate the Capitol, the absolute best person Mississippi could put forward from their long history is this loser to the nth degree Jefferson fucking Davis? What does that say about Mississippi? Clearly Mississippi could do better than this (their other guy was a Confederate loser as well). One rule is that the person has to be dead, but they have Harry Cole! Oh or you know Elvis! Mississippi could have a cool-ass statue of Elvis strutting his stuff in the Capitol (or any number of Black musicians!) and yet they send not one but two pompous-ass racists. There is an angle here where it is oppressive and offensive to Black people, but for one last time I want to emphasize that it is just such a lame, sad, loser move, Mississippi. But not to just pick on them, an arguably even lamer move is sending the Vice-President of the Confederacy (Georgia), John “Slavery is a Positive Good” Calhoun (South Carolina), more random Confederate losers (South Carolina again, North Carolina, Alabama), or even Ronald Reagan (California). We gotta do better as a country in deciding who we look up to. In the meantime though, the Capitol is still probably worth the trip. It is a very impressive building.


Reading this week:

  • To the Central African Lakes and Back, Vol I by Joseph Thomson

I need an easy post this week, so I shall revisit the creative output of my past. Back in high school I drew a webcomic called Rocks. It was about rocks. The precise reasons for this escape me but a friend of mine had sent me a list of things webcomic artists shouldn’t do so I did them. I wound up drawing well over a hundred of these comics, so only a fraction of the total output is represented below. This was the point in my life where I looked forward to Friday night because I would watch Stargate SG-1 and drink a lot of caffeine and stay up all night coding HTML and PHP for my website which back then, much like today, nobody read. I had a lot of fun. Here’s the cast of characters for my little comic:

Our #1 rock, the star of the show, is Rocky. He came unto the scene as a former pet rock, abandoned by his master on the side of the trail. He’s a little irregularly shaped, but that just adds to his infinite charm.

To Rocky’s far left is his fine friend Shale. Shale’s pretty regularly shaped, but as he explains, that’s because his dad was a quartz. We don’t know exactly where Shale has been, or how he came to be here, but he does have a penchant for scaring hikers.

Finally, smack dab in the center, is Chad. Chad is semi-circular, and wears glasses. Where he got the glasses, no one knows, but he wound up in the bunch after a bird mistook him for something edible. Plus, with a name like Chad, you can’t go wrong.

Rocks started out with a episodic storyline:

After that the episodic nature of the comic petered out. I tried to do a lot of different things with my three panels and three characters, but looking back it really shined when it leaned into the fact it was about rocks:

(I’m less proud of this “plastic” joke these days)

At various points however it just went fully surreal:

And then finally one day I drew my very last Rocks and never again picked up my webcomic pen:

Sometimes I consider revisiting Rocks but I never have. I just repost them on the internet every once in a while to relive my long-haired glory days of webcomic almost-fame. I think I mined the very depths of rock-based webcomic humor the first time around, but Hollywood loves a reboot so maybe there’s a chance to tread new ground. Only time will tell.

Historic Ships of Baltimore

After a hearty lunch to replenish ourselves from a morning spent touring the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the next adventure my super amazing fiancée and I went on was to tour the historic ships of Baltimore! I suppose Baltimore probably has a large number of historic ships, being an historic port and all, but this specifically refers to four boats and one lighthouse scattered about the Inner Harbor, which you can tour all for one low low fee of like $20 (except for the lighthouse right now, which was closed when we were visiting).

The big draw today, as it should be every day, was the USS Torsk, which is a Tench-class submarine and bills itself as the last US submarine to sink an enemy ship in WWII. So pretty neat! I used to be a submarine officer, as I think we are all aware, and so I am a big fan of submarines, but my super amazing fiancée had never been on a submarine and wanted to see one to get a glimpse into that past life of mine. A WWII diesel boat is not a Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine, but it’s still a submarine and an astonishing amount of the stuff looks pretty much the same.

I think I did a pretty good job as a tour guide. Being a submarine it was pretty cramped and there were other tourists coming through so I only had so much time to point at things and you’ll have to ask her how I did but she seems to have enjoyed herself. She is now ready to fire torpedoes from both the forward and aft torpedo rooms to decimate enemy shipping in furtherance of the war effort. Hooyah!!!

Besides the Torsk, we also visited the light ship they have along with the Coast Guard Cutter, but the other highlight of the Historic Ships was the USS Constellation. The biggest thing I learned on this trip was the Constellation’s participation in the Africa Squadron, chasing down slave-runners, so that is pretty neat! Good job Constellation. It is a large and impressive ship, with a great number of detailed display placards and a lot of interesting stuff to look at. Her claim to fame is that she is the last all-sail ship the Navy ever built, with all of the subsequent ones having at least auxiliary steam power. Of course, the biggest thing that should actually draw you to the Constellation is all the hilariously spicy drama over what the ship actually is. You see there was a Constellation that was one of the original six frigates on the US Navy, and for a while they thought that this Constellation might have been that ship. The confusion stems from the name obviously but also that for fun 19th-century accounting purposes they built this Constellation out of “maintenance” funds, using a polite fiction to scrap the older Constellation and then have this Constellation replace it though on the books it would be the “same” ship. They also reused some (very small) amount of timbers, either for accounting purposes or sentimental reasons. This is all laid out in a lively report titled “Fouled Anchors” which is linked to here under question #12. However there is a group of people who are invested in the idea that the Constellation in Baltimore Harbor is the same Constellation that was launched in 1797 and they will go to great lengths to try to explain how the 1797 ship was stretched out to become the 1855 ship instead of just admitting it is a new ship, which leads to extremely exasperated historians writing rebuttals on official if little-visited US Navy websites. Absolutely fantastic.

One other point that is neat to consider. The Constellation was launched in 1855 and represents a pinnacle of wooden sailing warship technology. One of the other ships you can visit as I mentioned is the Coast Guard Cutter Taney, itself launched in 1935, only 80 years after the Constellation. But it is powered by high- and low-pressure steam turbines and actually overlapped in service with the Constellation by 20 years, as the Constellation was technically only finally decommissioned in 1955 having served as a flagship during the WWII years, which is absolutely mind-blowing to me. And then only six years after the final decommissioning of the last all-sail warship the US Navy bought, they launched the world’s first nuclear-powered cargo ship, the NS Savannah!

The NS Savannah was the last ship we visited that day, though it isn’t a part of the Historic Ships of Baltimore. You can’t actually tour it right now either, except maybe once a year, though that all has been a little unclear to me. I had wanted to see the Savannah for a while, and every time I drove south on I-95 I was trying to look for it but never spotted it. It is parked across the pier from the SS John W. Brown. I must have seen it before because I’ve been on the John W. Brown before, but maybe I missed it? Hard to miss, it is a pretty big ship. Anyways if you’re brave enough to drive into the industrial zone that abuts all these piers, you can go onto the pier and admire it. My super amazing fiancée was kind enough to indulge me in this, and I think it was really neat. The Savannah represented a unique time in the world of nuclear power, which was “what if we made nuclear power look really cool?” and the result was that it was very uneconomical but man is that a pretty ship. My super amazing fiancée especially liked the giant atom symbol on the side. We walked the length of the ship and then finally packed back up in the car and drove home. A wonderful day in Baltimore!

National Aquarium

Reading this week:

  • The Beginnings of Nyasaland and North-Eastern Rhodesia 1859-95 by A.J. Hanna

My super amazing fiancée and I are big aquarium fans. So of course we can’t live in DC without eventually making our way over to the National Aquarium in Baltimore and on a lovely President’s Day Weekend we finally made it! I have many fond memories of the National Aquarium. I grew up between Baltimore and Annapolis so it was within easy reach and as kids we were of course big fans. I always thought it was really cool how the Blacktip Reef is designed, where it is kinda the bottom floor of the aquarium and you ascend upwards, gliding over the reef from higher and higher altitudes on cool escalator thingies. This is what I thought was cool as a kid and I still do.

The aquarium also has particularly impressive shark displays, which absolutely delighted my super amazing fiancée because she is super into sharks. Besides the sharks in the reef they have Shark Alley where you descend through a bunch of sharks and that is absolutely a hoot. Though I did notice (because she shared her pictures with me) that in addition to shark photos she took multiple pictures of jellyfish, which as is custom on this blog I have diligently turned into a gif:

I will also pause to highlight the aquarium’s tank of cichlids from the world-famous Lake Tanganyika! Lake Tanganyika is the second oldest lake in the world and therefore has a huge number of endemic fish species, most famously its cichlids, which used to be exported all over the world though I now I understand the market is not what it used to be. But anyways always nice to see some hometown heroes represented at the National Aquarium:

But my personal absolute favorite part of the museum is the rainforest exhibit at the very top. The aquarium just spent some time renovating all the glass and so it was all very light and airy. The rainforest exhibit was the whole reason I went to Brazil as my trip right after graduating from the Naval Academy and it was as cool as I remember it despite them no longer having the very dire-looking display showing rainforest deforestation that prompted me to go to the rainforest while I still could. This visit was probably my best visit ever to the rainforest at the aquarium actually, because we got to see sloths! The sloths I think are probably the biggest attraction in the rainforest area (though I also like the piranhas are also very cool and also acceptably good eatin’). Every time I go I try to spot them and I think I rarely if ever do. You see they are usually napping somewhere inaccessible, but this time all both sloths were napping very close to this observation platform they have, so it was possible to admire them in all their glory. This is there glory:

Fantastic isn’t it?!?!?! Anyways I was excited to see them. There were more visible animals as well, such as a large variety of birds:

The most interesting thing we learned on our visit to the aquarium is that they no longer have a dolphin show. I remember going to the dolphin show many many times in my youth and it was always the same and I always tried to sit in the splash zone. With evolving policies on the keeping of large marine mammals in aquariums they no longer have the dolphins regularly put on shows though they do apparently do regular training with the dolphins which you might be lucky enough to catch. Also interesting to learn is that they have been trying to build, for at least a decade, a new outdoor sanctuary for the dolphins. This does not seem to be going well, from what I can tell? I mean their last update was like two and a half years ago. I think I can see why though. They want a large swath of prime beachfront real estate in the tropics where they can also build a research facility and I have to imagine there can’t be too many places like that left let alone for anything resembling an affordable price, and they also note that all the likely places are also likely to be wiped out by climate change in the near future. I hope they find a spot before those dolphins just die off of natural causes though. It would be very nice for them. And I assume a very nice place to work.

So that was our day at the National Aquarium. It is an extremely nice aquarium and has lots of very educational displays and is an extraordinary way to see sharks and rays and jellyfish and cichlids and I can also say from personal experience and from our observations that day that it is extremely popular with children. But this was only the first part of our adventures that day, because we spent the whole afternoon looking at boats!!!!

Lake Steamers of East Africa

Reading this week:

  • Vanishing Fleece by Clara Parkes

As has been discussed many times on this blog before I am a sucker for steamships on Lake Tanganyika. Also discussed is the fact that there are probably two whole books in the world about these steamships, and they are both extremely difficult to get one’s hands on for less than a notable amount of money. The first of these books was Steam and Quinine which I managed to get from Yale. The second book about the lake steamers of east Africa is of course The Lake Steamers of East Africa by L.G. “Bill” Dennis, and the only place within a few hundred miles of me that has a copy is the Library of Congress, which actually is very convenient once you know what to do. I did not used to know what to do! But I do now.

The most confusing part of getting a reading card at the Library of Congress is finding the room. It’s not that complicated, there are signs everywhere, except I missed the elevator but eventually I recovered. Or at least that was the most complicated part for me, for others it was apparently filling out the online form despite all the people who tell you to fill out the online form, but the guy making the readers cards took it all in stride. You need a reading card to read any of the books at the Library of Congress, but it is not my sense that a majority of people who actually get cards read any books or even use it twice, but just want to go in and check out the main reading room from the ground floor. It is gorgeous and this is a good use of time. After I got my reading card I proudly walked into the main reading room and very much did not know what to do to actually do any reading, but one of the very friendly and very helpful librarians who clearly gets this question all the time walked me through the process, which is you request an item online and ask for it to be delivered to the main reading room. Then it takes at least an hour for it to arrive but that’s okay because they had wifi. Once your book arrives you go pick it up from the other nice librarian person and then find a desk to sit at and then you can read all about lake steamers to your heart’s content!!!

Anyways this post was meant to be a book review, because I might as well review all both books about lake steamers on the African great lakes, but I vacillated between that and writing about my Library of Congress experience which is what the above paragraph was about. The Lake Steamers of East Africa is pretty good. It is a much different book from Steam and Quinine, which was somewhat more about the romance of steaming around on the great lakes and also much more about the paintings that are reproduced in the book. Lake Steamers has a number of small historical photographs throughout it, like the one at the top or the diagram below of the Kingani:

The reason both of these pictures look so bad here is sheer hubris. Since one time I managed to “scan” several things at home with good lighting using only my phone camera, I was like “oh I can just take pictures of these on my phone and it’ll look great,” but it doesn’t look great, and I am sorry. I have since discovered that the Library of Congress has fancy self-service overhead book scanner thingies, but you gotta bring your own USB flash drive, so in the future my Library of Congress book reproductions might be better (maybe!). Anyways. Like I said Steam and Quinine is about the romance of steaming around on the lakes, but Lake Steamers is much more about the history of commercial steamship operations on the great lakes. It is ordered chronologically (unlike Steam and Quinine), so information on Lake Tanganyika is scattered throughout instead of being lumped into its own chapter. But a relatively small portion of the book is about Lake Tang; this is due to there not being a whole lot of commercial steamship history of Lake Tanganyika, especially compared to Lakes Nyassa and Victoria. But what it does have is very in-depth. For example, it has a detailed description of the raising of the Goetzen/Liemba, only a small part of which is below:

The German ship Goetzen had to be raised. In early December, 1922, a small salvage party assembled at Kigoma under Commander Kerr, assisted by Commander Sharp, both late Royal Navy and both resident in Kenya. The technical adviser was Mr. J. Shepherd, previously holding the same position in Dar es Salaam during operations on the sunken dock in that harbor…

Using the leaky pontoons an attempt was made to lift the vessel, although when the bow rose to the surface, the ship turned onto its starboard side. She was allowed to sink again and later righted. Extra steel pontoons were fabricated using the few tools available, but even with these the stern stayed down in eleven fathoms of water. It was not before the divers had entered the engine room to seal the shaft-tunnel door enabling a deeper airlock towards the stern that the salvage was successful on the 16th of March, 1924… The reconditioning had cost £30,000 and she earned her first revenue thirteen years after launching.

It also contains a chart of every ship launched on the lakes, including name, type, builder, launch date and location and other details. The author did not neglect color however::

The whole of Sunday was spent loading and off-loading at M’pulungu, Northern Rhodesia and was a great day for the European inhabitants of the surrounding region who drove up to two hundred miles from copper mining areas for a day on the Liemba, the early arrivals boarding by ten o’clock. The bar was open all day, lunch was served from twelve onwards and it was not unusual by five o’clock to see lunch being served in one part of the saloon or tea elsewhere. Some eighty miles inland and upward is the town of Abercorn, where history has it that a resident of the local Abercorn Arms died and was not found for four days when the room maid turned up.

So all in all a pretty good book despite some passages reading a little less woke than they could, frankly, and it is a crime it did not get a second printing or more specifically a crime that I haven’t located an extremely cheap copy in my neighborhood used bookstore. But until then there will always be the Library of Congress.

DeLorean Upgrades II

Reading this week:

  • The Banished Immortal by Ha Jin
  • The Coral Sea by Alan Villiers

To catch everyone up, the reason this post is called “DeLorean Upgrades II” is that there is a previous DeLorean Upgrades where I installed a cutoff relay into my DeLorean. It was also my first experience with designing a part and then using a local print shop to 3D print a cover for the cutoff relay switch. That got me hooked on the power of 3D printing (i.e. a fun new toy that I could suddenly justify because going to third party 3D printing services for funky little tchotchkes you aren’t already very sure will work is unjustifiably pricey and 3D printers turns out are pretty cheap). I wound up buying the cheapest 3D printer I could find and churned out a few more iterations of that switch which has now been happily sitting in the DeLorean since then. I then moved and sold that 3D printer but then for my last birthday my parents were nice enough to buy me an upgraded printer and I have had tons of fun since printing out mostly various brackets and stands. I then decided to turn my attention back to DeLorean upgrades.

But first! Also in plastic DeLorean upgrades, years ago (and twice actually) my mom had gotten me the Lego Back to the Future DeLorean set, which is a lovely little set. But then for Christmas she got me the much bigger and much improved DeLorean Lego set. To get it my poor dear sweet mother got up in the middle of the night with her finger over the mouse button so she could scoop it up before it sold out. The little set has a lot of charm and I like them a lot but WOW is the newer one large and detailed and has a very cool mechanism for switching the wheels to flight mode and there is a nifty little thing where the flux capacitor lights up and it even comes with a beer can and banana to put in the Mr. Fusion. Size comparison between the two sets is below:

And then, just for funsies, here they are with the real deal:

Ain’t she a beauty??

One more thing before we get to the main event. The advantage of my new printer (a Creality Ender 3 S1 Pro) is that it can print much larger things. A disadvantage of the DeLorean, from some perspectives, is the lack of cupholder. In my youth I remember being able to seamlessly hold a coffee, shift, and steer all with my two hands, but these days I have gotten lazy. For a long time I thought the best location for a cupholder in the DeLorean would be in the passenger side knee pad, as part of a flip-down latch mechanism. The biggest thing preventing me from doing that is that I would have to either cut a giant hole in my current knee pad or else make a new one. The first is a regrettable thing to do to the car and the second is beyond the capabilities of my current set of tools. I realized though that the console tray would fit on my printer bed and is easy to swap out without causing permanent damage to the car. I tried to design a sleek pop-up mechanism for a cupholder that would normally be hidden, but wasn’t satisfied with any of my designs. Then it dawned on me I could design just a normal cupholder, so that’s what I did:

I printed the above version pretty rough n’ ready just to test it out. I need to go on a long car trip to see how it works in practice and then maybe I can refine the design. I realize putting a cupholder in the DeLorean is blasphemy, but sometimes you just have to become an iconoclast. Sorry.

This brings us to the speedometer. The DeLorean has a well-documented design flaw where the speedometer tends to break due to some weaknesses in the linkages. I have generally learned to live with this and it has been a very tiny minority of the time of my owning the DeLorean where the speedometer has actually worked. You just gotta know about how fast you are going based on the tachometer and the gear you’re in. There are improved linkage parts available, and I think I have those actually but then I was driving somewhere north of 85mph (max speed on the stock speedometer) and the speedometer failed again and I didn’t want to bother to fix it (to the chagrin of my fiancée). Then I hit the idea to install a GPS speedometer.

My dream, if I ever had the time, money, and inclination, would be to swap out the instrument panel on the DeLorean entirely. The stock one is fine but I think what the DeLorean really deserves is a digital display like they were doing back in the ’80s on concept cars. What I have had in mind for years is something like the Nissan NRV II, but that is vastly beyond what I am going to achieve anytime soon. When I was poking around for GPS speedometers online that I could buy I was hoping for something digital I could use, however I didn’t find anything in the right form factor. I also briefly considered just sticking a digital GPS speedometer on top of the instrument cluster, à la the movie, but decided with a broken analog speedometer that was just silly. And finally since I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on a GPS speedometer there was a goodly chance I was just going to break, I opted for the cheapest one I could find on Amazon. Actually there are cheaper ones still, but I decided I wanted the odometer display, and I wanted the faceplate to somewhat match the stock speedometer.

Next step was figuring out how to install it. The speedometer comes in a rather hefty plastic housing that is meant for you to just stick into an appropriately sized hole in a piece of sheet metal or similar. This housing is too big to just stick into the instrument cluster, even if it wouldn’t look terrible, so my plan all along was to remove the innards from the housing and see if I could more elegantly integrate them into the panel. Taking it apart was annoyingly difficult. To get the glass cover off you had to loosen and then pry off that metal ring around it. The rest of the disassembly would have been a lot easier if I had realized what the blue rubber covering the mounting screws was, so I wound up using a rotary tool I bought for the occasion to crack that oyster open (as you can see above), only slicing through one wire in the process which I later soldered back together.

I had been hoping that the guts of the speedometer would be smaller than the faceplate, but the circuit board is the same size. Because of this, there is only one position that it fits into the instrument cluster. I considered for a while using my new rotary tool to do some surgery on the instrument cluster, but for the sake of not doing irreparable damage to a several hundred dollar part decided against it and just had to live with the new speedometer being a little out of line. Then the next step was designing a housing for the GPS speedometer that would let it be installed into the DeLorean instrument cluster. This would have been a lot easier if I ever got around to learning how to actually do 3D modelling, which I keep planning on getting around to. This is why the below design is less than elegant, but it works. The speedometer is snugly secured to the front panel, which replicates the size and shape of the stock panel and lets it get installed into the cluster. The external wires that the speedometer needs (power and GPS antenna) are routed through the back panel. I made those bits fiddlier than they needed to be but I had an urge to get fancy. The back panel also helps secure the new speedometer unit into the instrument cluster. I wound up cannibalizing from the stock speedometer the colored plastic for the indicator lights (I just used double-sided tape to mount it in place) and the two bolts that held the speedometer in the back, but those can be easily re-installed into the stock speedometer. To keep the stock speedometer safe in storage I printed up a custom box for it where it will be very snug. Below is the end result of all my modelling, prototyping, and printing. It isn’t perfect (it could be prettier and the speedometer is actually sliiiiightly off from vertical), but it works and I decided to install it to road-test it before trying future iterations. Plus I had to take my cat to the vet the next day (the DeLorean is my only car) and I needed to wrap this project up and reinstall the instrument cluster.

At the top of the page you can see the stock speedometer and my GPS faceplate side by side.

Once the new speedometer was bolted into place I reassembled the rest of the instrument cluster. Since I had bothered to remove the cluster from the car (which is a supremely annoying task, as is doing anything else on the DeLorean) I replaced the flexible circuit board in the back along with some bolts and washers. The GPS speedometer of course requires power and I figured the easiest thing to do was to wire it into the +12V and ground wires for the tachometer, hoping that doing so wouldn’t take out both instruments. I almost wired it in backwards but decided to double-check the wiring diagram. The picture below is of the back of the instrument cluster with the speedometer installed and wired up, a picture which I remembered to take only in the elevator on the way down to the car. The orange wire is for the speedometer’s backlight, which I eventually realized I had no convenient way to wire in and would have not jibed with the rest of the panel. As you can barely see the GPS antenna is also connected in the below picture. I routed the cable underneath the dashboard and placed the antenna itself on the dashboard, secured with some more double-sized mounting tape. It’s visible but relatively discreet.

And finally below we have the speedometer installed into the instrument cluster and working great! It’s obviously not the stock speedometer but I don’t think it looks too bad in with the other instruments. A last-second change I made which I think helped enormously was to replace the dial. The one that came with the GPS speedometer was red and designed to be backlit at night. I quickly printed up a new one that matched the other dials and it helps the GPS speedometer blend in a lot. I am very happy with the look. There are improvements to be made in the next round, and if I had the money the thing to do would probably be to figure out how to get a GPS speedometer where the servo for the dial is separate from the circuit board so I could place it better, along with making an entirely custom faceplate that matches the stock one. But this is for the future.

One decision I didn’t mention above was to get a speedometer that only goes up to 80. The stock speedometer goes up to 85 and it is an available upgrade to get one that goes up to 140. The nominal top speed of a DeLorean is something like 120, and I have bottomed out the stock speedometer plenty of times, so a larger range could have been useful. There are GPS speedometers that go higher but I decided granularity at lower speeds would be better. And there is no risk of this one breaking if I do exceed 80.

I am really happy having installed the GPS speedometer. It was a fun use of my 3D printer and added some good functionality to the car, namely a working speedometer. It takes the unit a minute or so to find the satellites after I exit the parking garage, and the speed lags half a second or so, but that’s easy to live with and a big upgrade from no speed indication at all. I am also really glad I did this project because the instrument cluster was developing other problems (indicators not working, lights going out) that were from the circuit board getting old, so now those have cleared up and have really improved the driving experience. I am looking forward to the next 3D printing project on the car!

Monster Jam

Reading this week:

  • Christian Missionaries and the Creation of Northern Rhodesia 1880-1924 by Robert I. Rotberg

This past weekend my super amazing fiancée and I went to Monster Jam! In doing so I achieved a bit of a childhood dream, which was to see Monster Trucks doing Monster Truck things and it was indeed pretty awesome. The genesis of us going to this particular event was because I got free tickets from Vet Tix, which is an organization that gives veterans (which includes me!) free tickets to various events. “Various events” seems to include in large part local standup comedy nights, but when the email came across my transom saying there was a chance to get free tickets to see Monster Trucks I was all about it. Since I had never asked for tickets before they gave me tickets, and we had a date with destiny.

The first most surprising thing about the night was my fiancée’s utter unfamiliarity with Monster Trucks. After much prodding she vaguely recalled seeing ads as a child. Now look I don’t know anything about Monster Trucks, but I am extremely aware of Monster Trucks, and am especially aware that they are big and loud and drive around doing things like jumping over things and maybe crushing smaller cars. I mean this is America! And Monster Trucks are the very loud beating heart of America! Plus I knew like, Grave Digger was a thing (which we saw that night!). Helpfully though Monster Jam has a Monster Jam 101 page with tons of useful information, which they not-so-helpfully emailed me only after we went, but nonetheless I now know the trucks run on methanol and generate 1500 horsepower!!! Neat!!!

But the second most surprising thing was how family friendly it was. There were tons of little kids and whole families out for a night of bonding over the smell of burning methanol. In retrospect I think this makes perfect sense since it was my inner 9-year-old that really wanted to see Monster Trucks. Monster Jam also seems to have leaned into this, because in addition to Grave Digger there was a truck that was shaped like a Dalmatian (a monster Dalmatian but still, more info on the extremely extensive wiki) and another shaped like a Megalodon:

We were of course rooting for Megalodon. However despite our earnest support she didn’t do so well:

Can’t win ’em all.

But yeah anyways the point is that Monster Jam was awesome!!!! They started off by racing around and that was really cool, and then they had the coolest event of the night which was all about two-wheel tricks, like wheelies or even making the Monster Trucks stand on their nose which was extremely impressive! I mean seriously the things they make those trucks do can’t be easy, even when you have all that torque. The technical skill is what impressed us the most, but maybe my fiancée and I are not the typical Monster Jam fans. But maybe we are! There is art in any endeavor in which you put your time and effort! Also at halftime they had motocross which was also very impressive and undoubtedly actually vastly more dangerous (no rollcages on these bikes):

After the intermission they had the donut competition which I think mostly illustrated the vast power of the exhaust of the trucks. And also the “flair” move most of the drivers did was take of the steering wheel as they were in the middle of the donut and hold it out the window which um I guess the steering wheel isn’t that important? But the front and rear steering of the trucks was a sight to behold. Anyways it all ended with the freestyle competition which was also an impressive display of skill, but focused way more on the raw power of jumps which made for the best pictures but some of the least interesting watching. When it was all finally over we were so revved up by all the revs and also the ups that we went out and got some fries before heading home for the night.

Monster Jam!!!!

Dalí Museum

Reading this week:

  • Fire-Eaters by Mwelwa C. Musambachime

In a continuing trend of writing blog posts in the reverse order of which they happened, in the morning of the very same day that we visited the Imagine Museum we also visited the Dalí Museum! I had been to the Dalí Museum, a few years back when I was trying to get some peace and quiet in the midst of a Christmas visit to the fam, but my super amazing fiancée had never been and wanted to go. She is amazing and has excellent taste in museums. The Dalí Museum is a fun place and it was a lot of fun to take my mom.

In a three-for-three string of blog posts, the Dalí Museum was also founded by some rich people. They were friends and big collectors of Dalí’s work, and like you do when you can no longer fit your huge art collection comfortably into your living room and are also fantastically wealthy, you start a museum. These people were the Morses. Anyways it is the best museum about Dalí that I have ever seen. The museum has two exhibits. The second is their changing exhibit, which changes. The first is their collection of Dalí’s paintings, which is pretty large and arranged chronologically. The last time I visited the museum, alone, I accidentally went through backwards, so I started with Dalí’s monumental works and as I progressed they went from huge and fantastical to small and realistic. I mean a huge part of Dalí’s talent is that is pictures are so realistic which makes the situations those poor clocks find themselves in so jarring, but when he was a young artist training to be an old artist he was doing stuff like painting fish:

Still Life: Fish with Red Bowl, 1923

I liked this picture because at the time I was contemplating buying a painting of a fish, so I was thinking a lot about fish paintings (I also have a history with fish). I wound up buying a fish painting, which is not particularly related to this museum trip. The painting is from Sarah Sutphin, and I am extremely glad to have it because after looking at all this art in all these museums I really wanted an oil painting, and I had been drawn to some realistic still-lifes of seafood, and she paints a mean sardine. So now there is an oil painting of a sardine hanging in the kitchen, though as of this writing my super amazing fiancée has never eaten a sardine, which she finds incongruous with the presence of the painting. We will eat sardines soon, don’t worry.

Speaking of art buying, last time I was at the Dalí Museum I bought a print of The Hallucinogenic Toreador. This is a monumental painting which I liked because at the time I think I was reading Hemmingway and thinking about bullfights. So this painting which is gigantic in real life was living in miniature on our apartment walls. This time however we saw The Average Bureaucrat, and my super amazing fiancée commented it was appropriate for us because we are both average (and proud) bureaucrats ourselves. I didn’t manage to take a picture but I suggested we buy a print but she didn’t think we needed to but I did anyways so now we have two Dalí prints decorating our apartment (the second somewhat closer to life-sized than the first), which is a pretty good number of Dalí prints, no?

Mom (center)

While my super amazing fiancée and I were debating the merits of bureaucracy, my mom (a former bureaucrat of sorts herself) was wandering around admiring the art closely. She has had a print for many many years of the succinctly named Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln-Homage to Rothko (Second Version) (which is larger than our prints; I didn’t realize until this moment I great up in a Dalí household?) and was delighted to see the real version finally, though she noted she wasn’t as able to easily see Lincoln when his head was 15′ tall instead of only like 2′ tall. At the time we visited the museum also had this virtual reality exhibit thingy where you apparently got to explore Dalí’s paintings in virtual reality. We thought it was full because the sign said it was but mom went in anyways (showing her much more advanced bureaucratic instincts) and got to try it out and I think she had a lot of fun. She certainly found it interesting and it was the first time she had ever done virtual reality, so it was an educational moment.

Femme Couchée, 1926

Anyways I guess I should probably talk about Dalí? His stuff is good (hot take I know). I am deeply impressed, as I mentioned, with the realism with which he painted his fantastic landscapes. From the exhibits he seems like he might have been a bit of a bother to be around, always wanting to not be a part of whatever was going on (he dropped himself out of art school right before he graduated), but man the guy could do some work. The museum does an excellent job showing and contextualizing the progression of his work and is worth a visit. The space itself is really remarkable as well, with the building a quite the architectural comment. The one drawback of the Dalí Museum however is that it is all about Dalí, which is cool, but man sort of limits what you can put on? The second exhibit like I mentioned is a changing exhibit, and this time it was about dreams, which is a theme in Dalí’s work apparently. But the space is smaller than the first one and I gotta think the curators are working really hard to make it worthwhile.

The most interesting part of that exhibit for me this time was the fact most of the art they were displaying were just prints instead of the actual artwork. They had a sign up noting that “the loan of artworks between museums – a traditional necessity to share the cultural wealth of humanity – has become exceedingly difficult due to leaping costs for transport and insurance. As well, an intense introspection among arts institutions as to their identity and purpose has heightened the difficulty.” Sounds to me like there is some subtext there but at the very least it being more difficult for museums to loan artworks to one another seems to me like a dire situation. Somewhat caught up in the desire for more art restitution, sending say the Benin Bronzes back to Nigeria, is that in addition to that we should be doing a lot of work sending more art that way (and the other way too), so the whole world gets to see everyone’s art. If the British Museum wants to argue that the Bronzes are best in a “universal” museum, that means equally that we should send the Mona Lisa to Benin City as it does that we should send the Bronzes to London. But if you can’t ship art around these days anymore that jeopardizes that dream.

But while you contemplate that, if you are in St. Petersburg (the Florida kind), go to the Dalí Museum. It is a pretty pricey admission ticket honestly but the art is very nice, the building is beautiful, and you will be in a sunny clime.

Imagine Museum

Reading this week:

  • The Sculptors of Mapungubwe by Zakes Mda

The first joke in today’s post is that you don’t have to imagine this museum, it actually exists! That’s right over the holiday break my super amazing fiancée (!!!!!) (for anyone keeping close track she wasn’t actually my fiancée at the time but between then and me writing this she has become my fiancée! Though I gotta marry her soon because getting the accent on the e here is very annoying) and I took my mom to the Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was my super amazing fiancée’s idea; she spotted their ad in the airport.

A note before we begin. The above piece of artwork is part of a series titled “Flight and Illusion” by Trish Duggan. I liked it a lot. Ms. Duggan’s work is featured fairly prominently, which seems appropriate because she founded the museum. I spoke at length in my last post about how the thing to do if you are unimaginably wealthy is to found an art museum (or two), so some extreme kudos to the then-plural Duggans here. I also made a point in the last post of not looking up what exactly those founders did for a living. But about 3/4 of our way through the museum, when it became evident that Trish Duggan’s name was popping up a lot my super amazing fiancée did some light googling and discovered that the Duggans were some of the biggest donors to Scientology (an organization Mr. Duggan credits for his riches) and since their divorce Ms. Duggan has also become a major Trump donor. So, you know, do with that information what you will!

If what you do with that information however is go to the Imagine Museum, you will be rewarded! Admission is $15 for adults (they gave me a veteran discount), so I don’t know how you feel about putting your money towards this organization but the art is phenomenal! We were all legitimately blown away and my mom especially was just absolutely floored with what these artists were doing with glass. A major item we learned was how young the Studio Glass movement was. We simply hadn’t realized because glass is something has been around for quite a long time, as the lovely display at the museum on the history of glass will let you know. But it was only in the early 1960s that Harvey Littleton invented a small furnace for individual artists. That made the art in the Imagine Museum much more contemporary than I was expecting, and it felt cool to be in the midst of a whole bunch of art that was both of a certain genre but clearly still very early in the experimentation stage of what art with glass could be!

Bijin, Karen Lamonte, 2011

Another fun thing the museum was doing that day was having a scavenger hunt. Like I said mom was floored by this museum and I thought it was extremely cute how much she got into the scavenger hunt they had going on. You were supposed to find these little glass cupcakes hidden around the art which did indeed go far in ensuring that we carefully inspected each and every one. The prize at the end was like a 5% discount in the gift shop which we did put to use. On our careful inspection however the first mind-blowing pieces were a whole series similar to the above by Karen Lamonte, who has developed a technique to carefully cast glass so that it models a fabric outfit worn by a woman with all the intricate details of the folds and even the pattern of the fabric. Extremely impressive stuff. There was another part of the series where the same outfit was cast in a variety of materials, including glass, iron, and bronze, and that was really cool.

Matrix Series: Cubism VI Double Core/Meander Construct…D, Brent Kee Young, 2017

I also really enjoyed seeing the above pieces, which are intricately sculpted from borosilicate glass which I guess is a type of glass which lets you do that. Those sphere in the middle are only suspended by a few points and man like, how do you transport this stuff? “Carefully” is probably the answer. I liked how all the different layers interlocked and were different but exposed something of each other. Surrounded by all the other intricate, creative, mesmerizing glass pieces I am honestly at a loss for words. It was all really great! But perhaps the single largest and most intriguing piece was the one pictured at the top, which use what I assume are a series of one-way mirrors to allow you to walk all around the icosahedron and look in every single way, conjuring up the wormhole from Interstellar in the way looking in seems to open up a portal to some other fantastical place. And my super amazing fiancée and I were vindicated in our taste when we finally got around to seeing Glass Onion and discovered the set designers also thought it was really cool.

Portal Icosahedron, Anthony James, 2018

But yeah that was the Imagine Museum. Never meet your heroes and never google your art museum founders, but the sheer breadth of different and phenomenal types of glass art on display will take your breath away if you have any sense in you at all. I can tell you for sure it has a ringing endorsement from my mom, who also was deeply entertained by the scavenger hunt. A wonderful afternoon in St. Petersburg!

Rubell Museum

Reading this week:

  • The Story of my Life by Sir Harry H. Johnston

Every once in a while I get annoyed with myself for not being rich. I think I can rightly say it is entirely my fault. Mostly it’s just that like, look, I am a mediocre white guy so not only do I have that going for me but also I went to Yale. I am also, I sometimes like to think, a fairly smart guy, and have you seen the people out there who are rich? Do you really think they are all that smart? Like so much smarter than you that they get to have a billion dollars and you, and more importantly I, don’t? It is ridiculous to think so. So it’s gotta be my fault I am not fabulously wealthy. Besides me whining about not using my privilege to the utmost, I also have to admit I have made several career moves that were explicitly bad money-wise, not entirely but definitely in part because a buddy of mine, in response to me saying I didn’t care about money, said I did care about money, and I kinda just wanted to prove him wrong. And more firmly than being annoyed about not being rich personally is that I am annoyed at all the very silly things the fabulously wealthy do spend their money on. 44 billion U.S. dollars for Twitter??????? I can think of so many cooler and more fun things to spend even a paltry $100 million on and these people are out here blowing the GDP of Cameroon on things that very obviously don’t even bring them joy!

Which brings us to the Rubells. They are a rich couple with a penchant for buying a lot of contemporary art and then building museums to put it in. They seem nice! I’m not going to verify if that is true or not and it in no way reflects a change in the soft policy of this blog that the rich should be eaten (not me though, don’t eat me when I achieve the fabulous wealth of my idle ponderings). But man if I was rich this is what I would do! This and a lot of other things, let me tell you. Like funding local journalism and showering infrastructure on the village where I was a Peace Corps Volunteer and look I haven’t totally gamed out how I would spend $100 billion or whatever but not only would I fund so, so many cultural institutions but I wouldn’t even ask them to put my name on it. That last sentence was not a dig on the Rubell Museum DC (their other museum is in Miami) because it is a very nice place and I recommend you go.

My super amazing girlfriend and I visited the other weekend, making a whole day of it by eating some fried chicken beforehand and going to two bookstores afterwards. We got in for free because I used to be in the Navy and also the Rubells are very nice about only charging the tourists to see their art. The coolest part of the museum, it slowly dawned on me as I visited, is the space itself. It used to be a school and the news articles will tell you all about how Mera Rubell made sure to highlight the vaunted windows and it was a very, very neat thing that they have an exhibition of Keith Haring’s Untitled (Against All Odds) which was inspired (loosely) by Marvin Gaye’s album What’s Going On and they had it playing in the background and the significance here is that Gaye went to this very school. Like that is such a cool thing to do! But even without the Gaye connection I loved how the building itself affected how I viewed the art. The first room you enter is this gigantic cavern of a hall with four monumental artworks displayed. Then you traverse into the rest of the museum which is split over three floors with different halls and hallways connecting in a few different ways. The more open halls felt more like a regular art museum, but then you also had these tiny hallways where you couldn’t get very far away at all from the art, especially when it was crowded with other visitors. It forced you to get up close to the pieces even when they were large enough to ask for perspective that just wasn’t given to you. And since the rooms are put together somewhat mazelike you filter in and out of the exhibits in a very non-linear way and I hope the curators have a lot of fun thinking about what it means to put art in a space and spaces like that.

Another aspect of the museum is that it feels unfinished in a pretty exciting way. The walls are all brick but certain portions are covered with like drywall in what fells in spots to be done very randomly. You sort of float in and out of regular ole’ art museum walls and then these old bricks, some replaced by wooden blocks that are falling out. It makes the whole space feel more exciting and the art even more exciting by association. I noticed the floors would be updated in spots and then old in others. And the final space you wind up visiting is just sorta the basement and it feels like a basement with graffiti still on the walls in some spots and painted and unpainted brick and unfinished, low ceilings and twisty passageways with art just sorta stuck in there. It’s great! We should never design an art museum ever again and instead just stick art in repurposed buildings.

Chalkboard Drawing #3 by Gary Simmons

Anyways here are some of the pieces I liked. I liked the above piece, Chalkboard Drawing #3, because it is a chalkboard and the museum used to be a school and so I liked how that all fit together. They didn’t mention anything in the description about putting a chalkboard in a school which was a very hip move, if you ask me. Anyways that’s why I liked this piece.

Big Black Rainbow (Smoky Eyes) by Vaughn Spann

The next piece, Big Black Rainbow (Smoky Eyes) was one of the four pieces in that first gigantic hallway. My photos don’t convey the scale but it is huge. What I found really interesting about this piece is that it was painted on terrycloth, which is not a painting medium I would have ever thought of. I have documented my interest in impasto and this picture for me was all about the impasto. So that was very neat.

Existing in Rose Thoughts by Jamea Richmond-Edwards

The final piece I wanted to highlight is Existing in Rose Thoughts by Jamea Richmond-Edwards and I hope to be in enough with the art crowd someday to own one of her artworks. This one reminded a lot of the painting/collage Vendor by Prudence Chimutuwah with the use of different media to highlight the themes of the painting and the fact they both center similar figures. It’s just such a beautiful piece with so many layers.

So that was my experience at the Rubell Museum DC. Maybe we’ll make it to the one in Miami someday.