Daily Archives: December 20, 2013

Have a Great Weekend

Look at the bright side: the holiday shopping season is nearly over… (Some lyrics rather NSFW, especially when cranked up to “pulverize a planet from orbit” volumes. Of course, after a month of “Santa Baby” over and over at “pulverize a planet from orbit” volumes, most folks working retail this season won’t have any issues at all.)

More Pig Information, Even If You Didn’t Want It

I’m constantly amazed at the number of contemporaries who want to return to some mythical “simpler time”. I’m not even talking about the people who want to go back to a time before their births, on the assumption that somehow they’d fit in better in Athenian Greece or a week before Woodstock. (Sadly, they never want to take a chance and go back far enough to make a difference.) These are people who lived through the 1970s and 1980s, and conveniently forget the horrors therein. They’re welcome to go back, but I have no interest in anything other than the future. Live through Pearl Jam playing incessantly on terrestrial radio, a second time? Not a chance. I regularly joke “I love living in the future,” and I’m only half-joking.

This week confirmed how much I prefer living in the future, and it all had to do with a prior discussion of kune kune pigs in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Twenty years ago, even learning about kune kune pigs would have been nearly impossible in the States without traveling to New Zealand. Today, one quick note, and the horizon keeps expanding. Within a week, I received comments from two very interesting folks with a similar fascination with the little pigs. The first lives in the States but came from New Zealand, and currently waits for access to a soon-to-be-born piglet. The other managed to pass on a lot more information on the pig in the movie.

One of the things that came up while verifying the story was that one shouldn’t always depend upon one reference source. For instance, the information I previously obtained referred to the pig breed as “kune kune”, and apparently there’s some argument as to whether the proper spelling should be “kune kune” or “kunekune”. (Yes, welcome to the joys of trying to transcribe non-English words to the Roman alphabet.) This is in addition to arguments about the kunekune’s origins: some sources attribute the first pigs’ appearance in Aotearoa to Captain James Cook’s first visit in 1769, while others suggest that the first arrival of pigs to the islands is unknown. (All that’s known for certain is that while pigs were probably one of the main food animals brought by the first Polynesian colonists about 1000 years ago, for unknown reasons, they didn’t survive for long.) Twenty years ago, tracking this down from the States would have been impossible.

Even better is comparing notes right away. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a thing on the identity of the pig in The Desolation of Smaug through movie publicity materials or sources, but figured that half of the fun was keeping the in-joke “in”. That’s when someone else wrote to say that the pig in question was named “Hercules”, and Hercules was one of the major draws at the Willowbank Wildlife Refuge in Christchurch. He’s already a celebrity in New Zealand, especially after he and his mate Minnie had their first litter of piglets in 2010, but that movie appearance was his first serious exposure in the rest of the world.

This, of course, needs to be rectified. Online humanity goes absolutely berserk over Grumpy Cat, and yet there’s no love for Hercules? I’ll be back: I have work to do.

Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions – 5

Over the last year, I’ve become more and more of a miniature garden enthusiast, especially thanks to the influence of Janit Calvo over at Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center in Seattle. Part of the reason is that while it’s perfectly reasonable and understandable to buy a miniature garden already constructed and ready, half of the fun is in constructing something completely new. Janit already shares a lot of her best ideas, but you always have those days when you have that itch on the back of your brain where you know exactly what you need to make the perfect miniature garden, but you don’t know where to find it. As with books, sometimes the only option for that perfect part is to make it yourself.

The good news here is that miniature gardening and standard model building have a lot of overlap, both in understanding of scale and in available tools. Some people, such as the Czarina, sigh “that’s the danger,” and they’re RIGHT. Given my druthers, I’d have a workspace comparable to Shawn Thorsson’s, and this comes from someone trying to figure out how to build a custom vacuum plastic former like his. The Czarina and I keep getting into arguments about this: she seems to think that the garage should be used for sheltering the car from our bouts of foul Texas weather, and I counter that the car can stay outside while I’m designing mockup lunar plant growth chambers.

David Gerrold's Vindication (2013)

The next few Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions installments will go into specific tools and supplies, but let’s look at sources for items with easy applications with miniature gardens and arrangements. That starts with going with experts in the subject, and that’s why I recommend spending a few hours poking around Squadron Models. At bare minimum, consider the merits of getting a Squadron Essential Tool Kit if you don’t already have these tools on hand. Either way, the tools listing can be dangerous as well.

This is all good, but then there’s subject matter. As great as Squadron is, it lacks in selection of dinosaur figures what it meets with space subjects, and I’m constantly asked about sources for decent dinosaur figures. That’s why I send everyone over to Dan’s Dinosaurs for moderately-priced prehistoric animals figures best-suited for miniature garden applications. Even with the name, Dan’s Dinosaurs is also an excellent source for models of plants and animals that predate or postdate the dinosaurs, so go crazy with Deinotherium and Scutellosaurus additions to an arrangement.

Now let’s just say that you don’t want to go with dinosaurs, and science fictional material won’t cut it for you. In that case, head toward the Space Store’s selection of space models. Speaking from experience, most succulent miniature garden arrangements just beg for an accurate Viking 1 lander somewhere among the sands, and I’m still waiting for someone else to credit the equally successful Luna missions by setting up an arrangement with a Lunkakhod 1. Likewise, if you really need astronaut figures for your arrangement, the Space Store has those, too.

More to follow…