Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pic of the Day: 24 Views of Fort Pickens

You need to hit this link. Jeff Waldorff's showcasing a set of 24 eye-popping photos of Fort Pickens on his site.

These are impressive enough, but the site also features his other work in nature, landscape and people. He's got an excellent eye for the perfect shot and brings colors alive whether he's shooting 200 year old brick or a tiny frog. Well worth spending an evening clicking through and drooling.

For every musician there's a player who makes them want to either give up or try harder. It works that way with photography, too.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pic of the Day: Fort Pickens CAD pt. 4

I'm mostly finished with the horizontal section view (see Pt. 2); just a lot of little detail work. I got tired of looking at this part of the project (had to go back and re-do some sections several times because something was off) and started doing the top plan instead.

QCAD has turned out to be a pleasant bit of code. It doesn't have all the features of AutoCAD, but the price is much friendlier ($40 vs. $1500 or more) and I don't really need more than what it offers. There are some annoying issues, though:

--Architectural measurements could allow for American-style measurement (feet, inch, fraction). At the very least the manual should explain that QCAD is expecting everything to be in inches. Working in feet and inches this way requires you to type "12*" first (converting feet to inches), so 12' 6 1/2" is typed as "12*12+6 1/2". I had to hunt online for this piece of information. (RibbonSoft is in Switzerland, so it's understandable that they don't normally work in feet and inches like us Stateside dinosaurs)
--The manual should be fleshed out with examples of each command and better descriptions. As written, the description for the command to draw a line at a given angle wasn't very clear. Another online search for that.
--Some of the more frequently-used tools on the Modify menu could be echoed in the Lines menu to make work flow a little quicker.
--No support for graphics tablet input (at least in version Mouse only.
None of these is a deal-killer. I survived the learning curve.

--Main tools are Point, Line, Arc, Circle, Ellipse, Text, Dimensioning, Edit (Modify), Measure, Hatch, Insert Image, Selection, Blocks, Isometric Projection. Each tool button has its own set of sub-buttons.
--You can enter commands from a command line, from the Menus toolbar, or from the button bar.
--Layers. Parts of a drawing can be drawn on different layers, each with its own color, line weight, and line style.
--Absolute and Relative angles and coordinates.
--Works in DXF format (supposedly also works in AutoCAD's DWG format, but I haven't found how to make that happen).
--Export Bitmap, SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics), PDF.
--Support for a parts library for frequently-used items like doors, fasteners, bathroom fixtures, and such. None are included with the program, but a small set of parts can be downloaded from the RibbonSoft website.

There's a slight learning curve, mostly because of the too-sparse manual, but once I figured out the worst issues everything else came easily. Installation is as simple as unzipping the files into a convenient folder. QCAD runs right from there.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Gopper "Patriotism"

I've been trying for years to describe the difference between actual patriotism and what Republicans actually practice.

I think I figured it out: Republicans are to patriotism what pimps are to feminism.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pic of the Day (bonus): Helo Kitty

So this Dutch guy's cat gets run over by a car.

He has it stuffed and mounted...to the frame of a radio-controlled quad copter.

This calls for a Motivational poster.

The video at the above link is disappointing--just a couple of short lifts a few inches off the floor.

The video you WANT to see is here:

...and here's the FARK thread, with some awesome comments and pics (and where I swiped the "Helo Kitty" idea).

Pic of the Day (again): Fort Pickens CAD--Bastion B

The awesome continues. The single biggest pain in the can in all of Fort Pickens' architecture has been Bastion B, the southwest bastion. The three main rooms are at odd angles to one another, parallel only to their outer walls. There are smaller galleries leading between them and to adjacent rooms in the curtain walls. Lining all that up on paper was maddening, since I didn't have accurate angles for most of it.

I haven't roughed-in the cistern yet (time for a break, after almost 10 hours getting things to this point), but that'll be easy, given how painlessly everything else lined up.

And--as always--the "NCIS" Gibbs-slap montage for taking so damn long to get a cheap CAD program and build the damn fort drawing.

Pic of the Day: Fort Pickens CAD, 2

Making massive progress. So far, I've gotten the inner structures of the eastern half--the north and south walls and the northeast and southeast bastions.

Once the sectional layer is done, I'll have a clean version of the 1869 "Section Through Embrasures" plan that made me want to draw the fort more than a decade ago:

From there, it'll be the roofing structure (the first pic in the June 3rd post) and my first clear look at the cisterns and stairs at the northwest and southwest corners, both of which suffered heavy damage in separate explosions.

The entire northwest corner was destroyed in 1899 when 8,000 pounds of gunpowder went up during an out-of-control fire. Engineers cleared the rubble and left a gaping hole in the fort--the bastion, cistern, and sections of the adjacent walls are gone.

The southwest wall, cistern, and bastion and part of the south wall were heavily damaged in 1916 when engineers dynamited parts of the fort that were in the way of the big guns of Battery Pensacola. Part of the south wall collapsed, the bastion lost its roof, and the cistern lost its front wall. This corner was a mirror image of the other, so there's no complete example bastion or cistern or some of the structures directly adjacent to them.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Pic of the Day: Fort Pickens in CAD

It's about damn time. For about 13 years I've been thrashing around trying to make an accurate drawing of Fort Pickens. I could have bought reproductions of some of the plans--but where's the fun in that? No, you don't get to explore the place if you're just copying someone else's drawing.

I spent a lot of time at the fort with a tape measure and some other improvised measuring tools, sketching and scrawling and crawling all over the place inside and out. For something like individual rooms (casemates), drawing the layout is simple: kind of hard to mess up a rectangular room.

But when all five of the curtain walls and all five bastions are brought into it, things get tricky. At this scale, I'm dealing with 25 brick walls, each at a non-square angle to its neighbors. Because they're brick, you can't really get a true reading on those angles because no given brick is aligned precisely. Measure at different heights in a corner and the difference can be several degrees--and even a small error can become several feet when you're drawing a 350-foot long wall.

I made several attempts over the years and each one came out wrong, so I just put it all aside and stopped messing with it for awhile.

A week ago, I shelled out for an inexpensive 2D CAD program called QCad, finally ready to throw down and get the Fort Pickens project going again, if only for something to do other than reading news blogs and sleeping.

The first draft came out almost perfect! I changed my approach, using a blown-up printout of an 1831 sketch to get those aggravating angles and just plugging in wall lengths from the sketches...

...and the resulting CAD drawing came out only 2'9" off (the corner lines at top above didn't quite meet). So damn close, and so much better than any previous attempt. After a few more hours of troubleshooting the measurements and tweaking the drawing, it's close enough to perfect that I'm just going to stop polishing and get on to adding the innards.

This is pretty much the key to getting all the other views of the fort, from sectionals and cutaways to simple elevations, because everything else depends on this top plan being right. As a bonus, once I've gotten some of the main layers drawn (top plan, horizontal section) I can run it over to Blender for 3D modeling and scenery building.


Tim Minchin's "Storm"

The plot: Our guy and his wife go to dinner at a couples' place. The 5th guest is a chick named Storm, complete with a fairy tattoo and several mouthfuls of dumb stuff to say through the evening. Our guy finally reaches a point where he can no longer stand it and he cuts loose--brilliantly, clearly, plainly.

The animation and music are just what's needed, with some eye-popping visuals in places.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Elegant Weapon, More Civilized Age, Yo!

Haters gonna hate, gangstas gonna...er...gang, and why you always bring your lightsaber to a fight:

Remember...keep your kids out of gangs!