Announcing Autumnal Maker School


Today is October 2, 2015.  I was planning on doing this on September 21 (Equinox), and having it run until December 21 (Winter Solstice).  But things happened, and I got behind. So I’m extending the Autumnal Maker School until December 29.

What do you have to do to be a part of the Autumn Maker School? Read on and find out!



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This year I’m thankful for my family. Not just my parents, but my extended family: aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins’ children and spouses.  It’s nice to have a tribe.

For my partner.  For my pseudo-step-child.

For my tai chi practice, which keeps me healthy.

For my workshop, in which I get to make cool stuff.

For my boss and colleagues, who support me in making cool stuff.

For my students, who help me learn how to make cool stuff, and like being taught how to make cool stuff.

For my friends, who make cool stuff of their own; who do cool stuff; who help others make cool stuff.

For my magical practice, which has helped me become more aware of my life and purpose in the world.  For the community of magicians, bloggers, and practitioners which it has helped me meet.

For my blogging, which has grown a community of people who communicate with me in public and private.

For my community, my state, my nation, and the world — not perfect, not perfectible, but beautiful and genuinely needing my help (and the help of all other people in it).

For my health, for my happiness, for my hopes for the future.

For our continued growth together.

Tai Chi Y4D252: Black Friday

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It’s Black Friday, so of course we’re going to visit the Edward Gorey house today. As their email says, “Yes, we’re open on Black Friday. Of course, it doesn’t mean the same thing here as it does to everyone else.”


One tai chi form.

Tai Chi Y4D252: Thanksgiving


Did tai chi in the early hours of the morning, and druidry. Got good results.  But really, I’m not going to talk much about myself. Instead, I’m going to mention Abe Lincoln.

Actually, I’m going to give him a guest post.  Abe signed a proclamation probably written by William Seward, the secretary of state, to make a single united Thanksgiving for everyone.  The proclamation made Thanksgiving a national holiday for the first time.  And it’s a doozy.  Usually these sorts of things are long-winded and tedious — but this one has reached me for a long time.

Peace preserved with all nations, blessings which come from the earth and the skies, without humans doing much (and sometimes even when we act against the earth and the skies).  Peace (usually) maintained, laws (mostly) respected, harmony (generally) preserved. These are sentiments a druid or a taoist could love and enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.


Tai Chi Y4D251: prep day 

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The day before Thanksgiving always feels like a prep day for a major campaign. There’s food shopping to do, and errands to run, and prep work for cooking tomorrow that needs doing. And it doesn’t matter if you’re cooking at home or traveling. You still have this pile of stuff to be done.

My mother loves Thanksgiving as a feast. It’s all family and friends. You don’t give presents. All the menu is chosen already — and if your family is like my family, it’s been a preset menu for thirty-five or more years.

I like that. I know the holiday has some dark undertones. But I try to remember that the holiday was instituted nationally by Abraham Lincoln in the dark days of the Civil War. Our imagery is all pilgrims and mayflowers, because that’s more palatable to some than striking off the chains of slaves. But I hope we’re reminded of that tomorrow: that we are a nation of immigrants and refugees, who broke the shackles once and could do it again, who welcomed those who tired of war.

Sure. Maybe it’s a myth. It’s a little hokey and dishonest. But a myth is a story that never happens, and yet is forever true. And maybe it’s worth believing that peoples of divergent political, economic, social and religious status can come together and eat a mealtime together in common celebration for what we already have. That’s a myth worth believing in, worth working for.

One tai chi form today.

Tai Chi Y4D250: Four Again

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I haven’t done druidry yet. I’m gearing up for a major working, and I have time to do it this morning, so I plan on doing that.  The nature of the work is such, and the depth of my time commitment to other things, that if I don’t take my opportunities now, when they come along, I miss my chance.

That said, I did 25 push-ups this morning, really slowly and carefully.  And then 25 squats, not really as slowly and carefully.  And then both qi gong forms that I know — Five Golden Coins,  and Eight Pieces of Silk.  And then, four forms, facing in each of the four cardinal directions.  As I’ve been doing for the past few days.

The results are pleasing to me.  I’m getting a shudder of excitement from facing the ‘wrong’ direction on a number of moves, from Snake Creeps Down to Buddha’s Palm to Fair Lady Works ShuttlesIt’s throwing me off. I’m losing my balance out of startlment that I’m facing the wrong direction. And I don’t just mean that I’m losing my mental balance — I mean that I’m losing my balance physically.  I’m all over the place. This is thrilling.

I’ve had nearly four years of increasing stability, flexibility and balance.  And it was getting boring. Between teaching a class on tai chi, and starting this four-fold practice, I’ve found a way to reinvigorate my practice, simply by facing the wrong direction from time to time. Elegant.

AMS: horizontal cam

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This fall, I’m running the Autumnal Maker School (AMS). What’s required to be in the school, and to graduate? Make ten things between September 21 and December 21. Preferably useful things, but artistic things work too. I have made a 1) Volvelle, a 2) computer program that calculates the area of a hexagon, a 3) graphic design sample that shows how to make an Egyptian god, a 4) braiding disk, and 5) picture IDs for my school; there was also an 6) art exhibit in there, and guiding a group of students into 7) designing a manufacturing process.  The other day was 8) The Pulley Spinner.  And here’s 9) The mechanism (working!) for a Ratchet (along with some shelves for a pegboard) and the ratchet parts. And then there was 10) a string powered top.

Horizontal to Vertical Cam

 As you can see, I got the second of my mechanisms working.  This time my goal was to get a vertical cam to drive a horizontal cam.  I succeeded.

Along the way I built a box out of scrap wood to act as a stable platform for the V-2-H system.  This turned out uglier than I liked.  Because of the height of the horizontal cam’s initial design, I used a chisel to cut out about half of the ‘roof’ of the box.  This allowed me to continue using the cam; but the change in the geometry of the hole meant that I had to use a vertical-through system for the axle of the horizontal cam, which meant that I needed to rebuild the cam-and-axle combination.

Some of my readers may have no idea what I just said.  So I’ll say it simply: The green circle in the middle of the design on the right rubbed up against the roof of the wooden box, so I chopped out half of the roof.  But that meant that the axle on which the green circle was mounted had too much play- left, right, front and back, and it fell over.  so I had to drill a ‘pit’ into the floor of the box, and put an axle all the way through the green circle (cam), so that it rotated in the hole on the floor, and in the bushing  (tube/hole) in the ceiling of the box.

I started this before school ended, but I didn’t get to finish it.  Now that I know that it can be done, I can teach a group of students to do it in cardboard or similar simple materials.  When I look at the amount of wooden waste that I generated producing this design, though, I kind of shudder.  I assume that kids will produce 2x-3x more waste in the process of producing their design… and it’s just dismaying.

Still, it’s cool.  Once I produce 2-3 more of these things, I’ll try tackling a 2-movement cam or gear system.

Note: the model isn’t glued together in the video, so it looks a little more rough and unfinished than it actually is, or will be.

Tai chi 4D249: early light

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The early light of dawn coming over the hill came through the blinds in the office today, as I did tai chi. Friday was the last day of school before the Thanksgiving break. So today is the first week day that I have been able to sleep in. Alas, for me it is a comments writing day, so I have other work to be done. Still, the light is beautiful.

I did tai chi this morning, and 22 push-ups, to the four direction. I am genuinely joy in the disorientation which comes from facing the wrong side of the room during box ears with fists. It is not really the wrong direction, rather the correct direction when starting from a direction other than east. But it still feels wrong. And what I am discovering is that it will take some practice before it feels normal.

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