Monday, December 08, 2008

How I Got in Trouble in Grad School Making Christmas Decorations

No, not because they were religious. And not, like Calvin drawing his famous "stegosaurs in spaceships", because I was drawing them during class.

Here's what happened. And yes, this is part of my Advent postings, even though I was going to do it yesterday, and (due to unexpected complications) I was not able to get very far with things. It is just a little more on water, tied rather curiously to my observation that we might just as readily call the new "Luminous" Mysteries the "Mysteries of Water" because of the important role water has in each of them. Now you will of course easily see how water relates to the Baptism, to the Miracle at the Wedding-feast of Cana, to innumerable episodes of the Gospel grouped under the "Proclamation of the Kingdom", and to the Eucharist.

Yes, but even in the Transfiguration water has a mystic role and a secret appearance: for both Matthew and Mark tell us that our Lord's garments became "as white as snow" [Mt 17:2, Mk 9:2] We know, of course, that snow is water, and "water has no color of its own" [Wendon Blake, Oil Landscapes Step By Step]. Water, or rather snow, as usual displays its "transcendental" colour, as Chesterton terms it: Water, like " is a very beautiful thing, like diamonds; and transparency is a sort of transcendental colour." [GKC "The Crime of Gabriel Gale", The Poet and the Lunatics] Water, like glass, has what a friend calls the mystical "colour of the nearby" - indeed, the two transcendental colours are "clear" and "reflection"...

I would like to talk some more about this, But as I am late, and this is really yesterday's post, I ought to proceed. Besides, I wrote for a whole week about water, and I have to proceed to the main topic next. But that will be either later today or more likely tomorrow.

For today's post (I mean what I intended to post yesterday) is a "how-to". For the crime of Dr. Thursday in Grad School was to get in deep trouble by making seven-pointed snowflakes to help decorate the computer science office.

Yes, you read that correctly. Snowflakes with seven points.

But let us proceed, and you can make them too.

Here's what you need:
1. White paper.
2. Circle drawing tool (compass, big dish (hee hee), or something else round).
3. Protractor.
4. Pencil.
5. Scissors.
6. Ruler.

1. Use your circle drawing tool to draw a nice big circle on your white paper - however big a snowflake you want.

2. Cut along the circle, so you will have a nice round piece of paper. You can save the scraps for making Who-ville style zam-zoogles or pamfunals for on your floor or your Christmas Tree, or for writing notes, or chopping into confetti for New Year's or whatever other decoration you may need.

3. Take your round paper and fold it in half.

(Yes, it's kind of like a Greek "Phi". And if I put in a triangle we'd have the "deathly hallows" if you know what that is. But this is an even more fantastic use of magic.)

4. Lay the half-circle down with the flat side towards you. Then, using your protractor, mark off six ticks, each 25 and 5/7th degrees apart. But it's hard to be that precise so make ticks at
25.7 degrees
51.4 degrees
77.1 degrees
102.8 degrees
128.5 degrees
154.3 degrees
or as close as you can get. (You can probably estimate it by hand - you have to space six ticks evenly along the edge of the half-circle.)

I've opened it back, and turned it a little, but it ought to look like this now:

5. Using the ruler, draw very faint lines from each tick to the center.

6. Now, this is the tricky part. You have to fold your half-circle into a kind of fan, along each of those six lines you have just drawn. BUT! You have to fold each successive line the opposite way from the previous fold, so you'll get a kind of fan - it will look like this:

Try it, it's not hard. You're almost there.

7. Now, make it nice and flat, so it looks like a long isosceles triangle with a curved base:

8. Using the scissors and clip out little triangles or other shapes along all the sides. I often trim off the point at a nicely skewed angle...

9. Now you will have a strange looking triangle full of holes, sort of like Charlie Brown's "ghost" costume. Here's what it will look like, still folded up:

10. Now for the fun part. Open it up, and lay it flat. Wow. You have a snowflake with seven points! Wow.

I won't show you, because you need to have the fun of doing it for yourself. No one will believe you, and if you are careful not to let your pencil marks show, no one will guess how you did it.

Here's what I did. I hung mine up in the office and waited for one of my friends to come by. Then I said, "Hey what do you think of the snowflake I made?"
The friend, who found it hard to believe someone as old as me, who was working on a doctorate, would be bothered to make such a childish thing - but being courteous, would say, "Well, it's nice."
Then I'd say, "Oh, dear. Look at what happened. I made it with seven points, not six!"
The friend would look - then look again, and count the points carefully, then say, "Whadya know! Sure it has seven! Howdya do that?"
To which I'd reply, "Oh I must have folded it wrong or something..."

Of course some can tell right away, but others are glad to learn yet another cunning application of science... Hee hee.

Oh yes, there's a secret, which you may be able to figure out, even if you are not a grad student. But I am not going to tell you, or permit comments that reveal the answer, since it is rather obvious.

And tomorrow I will resume our exploration of food...


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