My Life Is Weird

The title says it all. Really. What’s that? You need examples? OK.

First, you might recall a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned getting rid of an art school project named Rain Man. He’s gone, and the studio is completely reorganized at this point. There’s a lot more room in there to work or store windows when they arrive next month (we hope).

You might also recall that I said I was also going to get rid of another project: Leo. For those who are new here — or just don’t remember — this is Leo:

He’s huge; much taller than I am, and quite heavy. He’s made of a metal framework, spray foam insulation, and a combination of plaster, burlap, and hydrostone. The legs (hard to see in the image) are rebar with bird toes welded to the bottoms. They slide into the internal metal frame in the body in a manner very similar to the way pink plastic lawn flamingos work. His head is a cast of my right foot and ankle. He was created for my advanced sculpture class at Langara College, and I have a soft spot for him. However, because of his size and weight, there is no good way to keep him around anymore. I need the space in the room for windows (and eventually other things) so he has to go.

The plan is to save the head and neck, and remount those in a different way. Or rather, that is my hope. I am not yet sure I can make that happen.

In any case, last weekend Anne and I hauled Leo out to the garage, and I began the demolition process. This involves stripping him down and removing everything from the metal fame (which can be recycled). To get started I needed to find out how just tough he is/was:

Here you see him cut open. I used an old, dull carbide blade in an oscillating tool to make the initial incision. At that point I discovered I could not easily separate the plaster, hydrostone, and burlap from the foam, so I got out a hammer and simply started hitting it to break it up. Thus the mess all over the floor (and much of the rest of the garage). Yes, he’s pretty tough.

Those of you paying attention will notice a rectangular, mesh cage sitting on my workbench. That’s one of the debris covers I am building for the upper roof. It’s not done yet, but there is progress. However it’s now on hold until Leo is out of the way.

Back to the destruction. It turns out Leo’s not as stable in that position as I would like, and I want to avoid damage to the neck and head, so I changed plans. I wrapped the parts I need to protect with towels strapped down with bungee cords. Then I laid him down and continued cutting his side open with a new, sharper blade. Sadly that was too slow, so I went back to the hammer. I did make a cut around the neck in an attempt to avoid damage there. Here’s what the garage looks like as of this writing:

The mess is huge, and there is a long way to go. I need to get out an angle grinder and cut the metal at the neck, so I can get that out of the way and confirm I have done no damage to it. At that point I can focus on getting rid of the body.

This work has covered my hands with scratches. Everything about this is sharp and nasty. Fun fun fun.

Another thing I did this past week was create charts showing the concentration of SARS-COV-2 virus in our local wastewater.

Yes, that sounds insane. Why am I doing it?

First, the data is publicly available from this website, but the way it is presented stinks. The charts they provide are awful and make it impossible to look for trends. There are a couple of people on twitter who have also created different charts from the same data, but I don’t like the choices they made in chart design. To get what I wanted I hand scraped the data and stored it in a google sheet, then I charted it in two ways: all the data from the beginning of testing and just the the last 60 days:

All Data — click to enlarge
Last 60 Days — click to enlarge

The biggest peak in the first chart is Omicron hitting the Vancouver area. The earlier peak (about the middle of the chart) is the Delta wave. And as you can see, at least two of the five wastewater treatment plants for which we have data are trending up again as the sixth COVID wave — driven by Omicron variant BA.2 — hits.

That huge peak in the all data chart makes it hard to read other areas accurately. To solve that problem I created the chart showing only the last 60 days. That clearly shows two — and possibly three — plants are seeing an increase in virus concentration. Anne and I live an an area served by the Lions Gate plant, which is the yellow line in those charts. Concentrations in our immediate area are not currently all that large, nor do they appear to be increasing, but I am sure it is only a matter of time. BA.2 is here and spreading. We’ll get hit soon enough.

The source data for these charts is updated on Fridays, so I update mine on Friday mornings. If you are curious and want to see how things look you can see them here any time: Jeff’s Covid In Wastewater Charts.

A friend tells me she will share these with other locals who are tracking COVID in BC as closely as possible. It’ll be interesting to see if I hear anything back about them.

And finally this week I managed to read a book: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, who also wrote The Martian. To be honest, I’m still not sure how I feel about this one. It was interesting on a number of levels and there is a lot of good science behind it, but the writing feels like it is targeted at students in grade six. (For my American readers, that’s how Canadians say “sixth grade.” It’s always “grade N” and never “Nth grade.” Saying the latter marks you as an American immediately.) Anyway, it was a nice diversion but I wish I’d enjoyed the writing more. I don’t recall feeling this way when I read The Martian but it’s been long enough that I don’t trust my memory.

I have a few other things to read stashed away at this point. I’ll get to them when I can.

And that’s all I got done this week. Or at least that’s all I got done that is worth sharing. And while reading a book is a pretty normal thing to do, the rest of my week clearly shows the title of this post fits my reality: weird.

Keep safe out there!

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Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.

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Jeff Powell

Jeff Powell

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.

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