fixing mcfinney

i have the good fortune to have been asked to fix some damage to one of the dolphin i did for the georgia aquarium last year.  it seems some kids got a little rambunctious and tried to dismantle my sculpture, for which they can’t be blamed, because if i were a kid and was allowed to get close enough to something like this, i would try to wrench something off, just to see how well it was fastened on.

in better days

more credit to the putty and glue i used than anything else, the pieces were not wrenched completely off, just broken and bent.  so i won’t actually have to dismantle anything much, which is good, because a redo of any real kind would mean a complete redo, and that wouldn’t be worth it.  i might as well start over.  but this sculpture wasn’t damaged nearly beyond repair.

a word, because i did this a year ago, and there’s no way you would have read those posts because you’re just here looking up something odd and happened to chance finding it here.  backpage and try another result, and thanks for stopping by.

this was a project i was commissioned to do for the georgia aquarium’s fundraiser and community-builder, dolphins on parade.  this is part of a nationwide public-art effort which you’ve probably seen in your city at some point.  large fiberglass sculptures of something – a cow, a mermaid, a baseball, a bear, a dolphin.  various organizations select whatever they feel like out of a very wide range of choices, or they commission their own animal.  then the fundraising organization puts out a call for artists and we submit samples and ideas, and participating sponsors select these, and contact us with their ideas.  then we pick up a blank fiberglass sculpture, do our thing, and return it for its final professional topcoat before being put on display and then auctioned off or sold to the commissioning sponsors.  it’s a winning idea for everybody, and the public loves it.

unfortunately, the first time i went out to begin repairing my dolphin, the lads were just packing him to go off and decorate a jobfair.  you can see him in the front of the truck, wrapped in plastic, his white hardhat visible.  so i came back the next week, which was today.  and visited with friends for a few moments, and then got to work.

i’d noticed this damage when i first saw him, still on display at the aquarium and in full contact with a million kids a day.  i’m not sure what it is, maybe bubble gum?  maybe some sort of paper slapped on after it rained.  maybe some damage they tried to repair while it was still at the aquarium.  i don’t know.  but it scraped right off with a fingernail, and didn’t leave too much of a scar.  i’ll still have to spend time touching it up.

this is the part that was damaged the most.  it’s the pump.  this is the bit that i got as a gift from the folks in the life support systems department at the aquarium:  their own special sculpture for a halloween pumpkin carving contest.  which means i had no idea what exactly they made it out of, which means i can’t exactly replace it.  especially the missing handle, to the right, where that black bit sticks up out of the gray and orange ring.  i’m going to have to build one out of putty.  and attach it.

i had to peel the green ring off the metal washer that they used to make the impeller part of the pump.

here’s where i mixed up a bit of epoxy putty and stuck it on over the metal washers.  i had to do this on both sides.

and this is the part that had to be completely rebuilt.  what you’re looking at is the end result with bits of plastic bag tied around the joints to stabilize it while the glue dries.  where you see the actual pvc is where i had to chip off the putty coating, which i thought was going to work really well, and would have, if it hasn’t been kicked and jumped on and climbed on and kicked by 20,000 kids.

you can see that it’s a complicated run of pipes, rising off the spindle in the center, taking a 90-degree turn and arching up and over and down and then running on to make another connection, and in all there are four separate pipe bits that have to be glued back together.

they’re setting now, and when i go back to them i’ll have to use putty to build a surface around them, further gluing them together and making the structure stable.  everything’s gong to have to be repainted.

one of the things i didn’t do when i was making mcfinney is to give him glasses.  i didn’t know how to make them look right.  but after mckenney’s took possession of him and could be assured nobody would rip them off his head, they found an extra-large set of safety glasses and fit them on, and it looked so nice that i decided to glue them on.  it’s going to be a precarious job, because there are only four contact points, but if nobody tries to take them off they should stay on okay.  unless they bundle him too tight in plastic wrap when they take him out to a trade show.

i went around with a bit of putty and filled in the worst of the gouges at the base.  being the base, it wasn’t ever finished too well, not from the fiberglass shop and not in my hands.  so there are uneven edges all around the base.  but these were big chunks missing out of the side, with fiberglass strands showing and everything.  after going over the patches with a wet finger, they felt  nice and smooth, and they’ll paint over and you’ll never be able to see them.

i plan to go back on friday of this week, and several time next week, to finish him.  so i left a sign on his roll of plans, and i hope some of the folks who work there will be interested in the process.

o my goodness me gracious

oops.

see where the spray foam insulation is coming away from the head?  that dark crack goes right on back in there.  and see right below the helmet where the white foam is coming away from the helmet?  the smooth white part beneath the rim.  the ragged yellowish part beneath that is where i sliced the excess off with a razor; it’s the underside, and was flush with the bottom of the helmet yesterday.

this is the back, were the stuff – supposed to cure in 8 hours (it’s been days) – has continued to bubble and expand, forcing its way to the air where it hardened in a long tunnel-inside snake of plastic stuff.  you can see where it’s coming away from the head back here too, and a little of the way the foam is coming away from the hat also.  still expanding on both sides.

and here is three layers of bubble wrap glued down to fiberglass and fabric with gel medium.

now.  what’s wrong with these pictures?  let’s start with the bubble wrap.  gel medium won’t stick it to itself, and it won’t stay stuck to the fabric or the fiberglass neither.  i didn’t know that, hmm.

so i have to take the entire collar off, and either use a roll of epoxy to pad out the collar, or glue it down flat and have done with it.  not the worst of time consuming mistakes.  i had to make sure before i proceeded, and now that i know it’s not working, i’ll do something simpler with more familiar materials, and do it right this time.

the real problem is the hat.  now, the guy at home depot did shake his head at what i proposed, and said several times that what he would recommend would be for me to fill the hat and let it cure, then shape it and glue it on the head with something else.  and of course i ignored every word.  didn’t i say there’d be days like this?

so the spray foam insulation is not curing (perhaps unless it’s got air, and sitting like that on top of the dolphin’s head it’s not getting any air, and maybe the shit’s still liquid inside).  it has continued to rise very slowly off his head since i put it on, and now the curlicue ponytails have just finalized it.

the hat’s got to come off. it’s got to be pried off, the head has to be scraped and sanded back to the fiberglass again, the hat has to be gouged out and i have to either start over with the spray foam stuff, or build up the gouged out place with bondo, that is, epoxy, that is, apoxie sculpt, that is, magic sculp etc.  everybody swears by 2-part epoxy on fiberglass.

i guess bubble wrap isn’t a good idea, anyway.  it has too much give even glued together in a stack.  it seemed like a good idea at a time, tho.

and that’s what i get for not following recipes.  everybody says cooking is a science, and i go out of my way to show them it’s really an art, which is a much longer learning curve to the same point – which is to really know how to cook.  but i don’t follow the established way of doing things, and this sends me down a lot of blind alleys, and has me reinventing the wheel all the time.  but mcgyver does it, so why can’t i?

fucking up and having to back off and rethink gives me pause for all the rest of my hotshot plans for my dolphin.  i’d already shelved as impractical the idea i could make a working pump and a working water circulation system some handy person could wire up when it was permanently installed.  but now i’m wondering just how well i can make all the fiddly bits with the pipes.  maybe i’ve bitten off way too much.  maybe i’ve got to rethink everything.

this is why you take your best estimate of how long it’s going to take, and how much it’s going to cost, and you double it.  because this kind of thing happens even if you know exactly what you’re doing, which i don’t.

padding under the collar

for the clothes on this fiberglass dolphin, actually any fiberglass sculpture i do, i only actually use the bits of the clothes that most people don’t notice.  the seams and hems, the collars and cuffs. the belt loops.  the actual fabric is painted on, but these defining details are cut off some existing piece of clothing (xxxl from the thrift store, half off mondays costs me about three bucks so i don’t feel too bad throwing all that wonderful material into my stash drawer(s)) and pasted onto the sculpture with acrylic gel medium.

which, believe it or not, qualifies as sculpture, because i’m building it out of raw materials rather than painting it.  an assemblage, if you wish.  fun, that’s what i call it.  the only rules are ones of taste and engineering.  some things you can’t do directly, but you can usually paint it instead (like i’m thinking of painting the repeating rows of pumps and filters in the big pump room of the aquarium, something i could never mock up using pipes and fittings, but could easily do painted onto the dolphin’s legs.  i always put way too much work into my sculptures for the cost, but it doesn’t bother me when i have the energy.).

i spent much of my day fitting strips of bubble wrap to the inside collar of my dolphin.  i want a little padding behind the collar, especially toward the front, where i want at least one side to be flapping in the wind a little.  i may curl the badge up a little, too.  i head the statue’s going to end up outdoors, and i’d like to reflect that.

the bubble wrap is really high quality.  my sister visited here this summer and ordered bunches of really high class stuff that she’d pay ten times the amount for at home, and i got all the packing materials.  i remember using her shoeboxes to great effect when packing all my art supply for my recent residency.

so this wrap is small bubbles, backed on both sides with a plastic sheet.  the one side is like plastic wrap you use in the kitchen.  the other side is stiffer.  the stuff is so strong you could make a box out of it.  so i cut uniform strips, two bubbles and a half wide, and tested it to make sure gel medium would actually stick to it, and now that it’s dried on the sample and is still sticking, i’ve smeared gel medium onto the strips and patted them into place at the crook of the collar.

altho, i can hear something crackling over there, so excuse me while i check on the seal.  acrylic doesn’t really set until it’s mostly dry, and then it magically turns gluey before hardening to a stiff clear plastic.  no, it’s all right.  must be the fairies trying to skin it back.

later, while jim’s asleep, i’ll get up and creep down here in my housecoat and glue another layer of bubble wrap on top of the first one.  this one will be thinner, with one intact bubble.  but at the front of the collar, where it’s wider and flares out more, i’m going to build it up with three and four layers of wider-cut wrap.  i haven’t gotten to that part yet, but the end result will be a smooth-laying collar that comes out away from the body.  then i’ll paint over it and use shadows to hide the buildup.  it’ll be light and sturdy, and won’t offer prying fingers much of a purchase please god.

it’s too bad i can’t use the collar structurally to help hold the roll of plans.  it’s so close to the flipper-pit where the plans will run.  i’m going to wrap the plans around a length of pvc pipe, probably the same pipe i use for the big pipes at the base, and probably only two feet in length.  maybe i can make it 18″.  the shorter i can make it, the less leverage vandals can use to wrench it off.

i was going to go to home depot with my aquarium mockup, but stuff happened.  one of the puppies found a home.  hurry, there’s only one left.

maybe i’ll get to home depot tomorrow.  i’m so bad about getting out.  i’ve already blown off delivering our donation to the georgia lawyers for the arts auction (they still need donors hey) until the day after their deadline, and just for me they extended it until december the first, so come on artists, pony up and donate.  you get a free ticket to the auction, and as artists, you’re required to load up on the free food and drink.  and since they’re fancy lawyers, the food and drink is better than top shelf.  think about it.  the auction’s december 3.  you too can be an artist and win a free $100 ticket for a good cause.

anyway.

clean as you go

i’ve got a fiberglass sculpture working in the same room as my computer.  how smart is that?  does anybody know what fiberglass dust and epoxy dust and basement studio dust do to the inside of a computer?  never mind the dog dander from sebastion spending his nights on my futon couch?

of course, i wouldn’t have gotten this far on my dolphin if i hadn’t moved my computer down here.  as discussed a number of posts ago.  so the devil you know versus the strange one.

the reason this is coming up now is because i’m over there ripping thru the bubbled-out spray foam insulation, trying to get it off, not even cleanly, just get it the hell out from under the hardhat.  if i had the right materials.  that’s the bane of my existence.  my first boyfriend, an architecture student who i now find is actually a practicing architect (yay for my friends making something of themselves despite all promises to the contrary), my first boyfriend, i say, taught me drafting using only a straight edge, a triangle, and a pencil.  none of the fancy equipment, none of the slick shortcuts.  just the basics, and if you can make a good drawing with the basics, the rest is expensive gravy that’ll only clog your arteries.  so now i insist on reinventing the wheel every time.  thus the wrong tools.

i’m using a razor blade wrapped at one edge with tape, and my fingernails, to cut thru and scrape out from under the hat.  i tried to use a  palette knife, but it was too fat, and i can’t find my thin one in all this mess and don’t want to take the time to go get a flat bladed screwdriver from jim’s end of the studio, and so i’m bending my fingernails back against their beds, and slicing into the fiberglass (not easy) with the blade, and cursing and sweating.

but of course with the proper tools it all just flakes off like it was dried eggwhites on a plate.

duh.

and that, jim says, is why i’m an artist instead of an artisan, or an artist rather than a scientist.  that’s why my bread comes out different every time, even tho i make two loaves a week at least.  i’m always trying something different.  i refuse to stick with what works, with the established method, with the one right way.  i denounce one right ways.

the screwdriver did the trick.  the razor will slice thru it no problem, but doesn’t have any leverage, and the fingernails are no match for plastic.  but the flat blade of a hefty screwdriver can scrape and pull and dig and gouge just right, and the job is mostly grunting and resting my poor tired right arm a lot.

and the floor is covered with bits of foam.  i’m going to have to get the handy vacuum cleaner my mom got me (thanks mom) and suck all this shit up before it gets trampled and goes to dust.  this place is filthy.  and the mold.  it’s going to be one of those thing i tackle one of those days.  yeah, after writing my memoirs and finishing the dolphins and cataloging jim’s stuff in the attic, i’ll put the mold in the studio right on up there.  i wonder if i’ll have it done before going off on our next european cultural tour, in another 5 years.

next i have to put some sort of padding under the collar where it’s going to stick out from the body.  because if i don’t, someone will try to rip the collar off.  it’s got to be securely glued to something that’s securely attached to the body of the fiberglass sculpture, or it’s going bye-bye.

the bits of foam are creeping closer to the computer every time i come over here for a drink of coffee.  they’re following me, magnetized, and glomming onto charged surfaces.  oh noooooooooooo.

and the day when i have to cart all my bits and pieces over to the hardware store is fast approaching.  else that, or start on the other dolphin and delay the inevitable in this case…

i’m a little gluepot, short and stout

before you operate, you have to mark the spot, so you don’t make a mistake.  i’m reminded of all those horror stories about the wrong arm removed, etc.  not that it did much good, but i marked the spot where the hat should go.  the goopy spray insulation stuff slips and slides something awful, so the mark is merely a guideline.

i’ve got to hand it to the guy at the hardware store where i bought this stuff.  he was right.  he said he would just spray it in with the hat laying on its back, and then let it cure, and then cut it with a mat knife and shape it, even sand it, and then stick it onto the fiberglass sculpture with epoxy.  and why didn’t i listen to him?  what made me think i’d be better off doing it without expert guidance?

because his eyes glazed over when i told him i was going to glue a hardhat onto a dolphin’s head.  couldn’t get past it.  why would you do that, was all he could think.  certainly not how, like i was asking.  so, i felt abandoned to doing it myself, which is where i always end up, and fine, because i like to learn myself.

so i shook the stuff like the directions say, and i sprayed it slowly like the directions say.  it comes out just like spray whipped cream out of a can, except it’s not as fluffy.  begins to sag under its own weight, too.

and then when it was full, i inverted it onto the dolphin’s head and started pressing it down.

this might not work anyway.  even tho i have it taped down, what is the power of stickum when it’s got all night to press against its bonds one molecule at a time, one little gas bubble after another?  i might come downstairs in the morning to find it resting four inches above the dolphin’s head.

you can see how spaghettilike the spray insulation foam (urethane foam) gets when it starts to run out of propellant.  i didn’t dare stop to shake it again in case the plastic tube froze up with unmoving spray foam.  i just kept pressing on it until i was clutching it against my chest pulling on the damned lever.  and it just dribbled out, popping softly.

it immediately began glooping out below the cap, gumming up the plastic hardhat and sticking to the fiberglass head.  i kept wiping it up with acetone on a paper towel, which miraculously vaporizes the foam, but the damned stuff comes right back.  you should see it now.

the white fabric is the collar.  (looks like gang gear, tho, doesn’t it?)  i went out and bought some interlock (circular, no seam, funny that, for t-shirts for people of a certain size, and everyone else has to have seams?) . i’ve cut it and folded, and ran a 1/4″ seam around the outer edge, then folded it to be the same size as the two collar pieces of the original shirt that are already glued on.  now i’m gluing it down with gel medium, and what you’re seeing here is the second layer (there are four) of the folded fabric, gluing it to itself.  and then i’ll do the same again with the top layers.  can’t use too much glue.

finally had to use tape to hold it down, and i can see perhaps as i’m writing this (half an hour later) that i might have to jam it down one more time and retape it.

anyway, if it doesn’t work, at least i’ll still have a hardhat protected against baseball bats by all that insulation foam, and i can stick it down using epoxy .

what’s left?  i’ve gotten almost all the way thru dressing my dolphin, and it’s going to be time to take the pieces of my model (graciously provided by the folks at lss at the aquarium) off to home depot where i will buy lots of pvc and things.

a couple of hours later, and i’ve been watching the bits of foam leaking out from under the hat.  the hat sn’t coming up, and that’s cool, but the guts continue to leak out slowly.  the bottom part, where it comes out of the hat, is all hard and spongy, but the farther up you go, the wetter and fresher it gets.  i’ve already torn off all the piles that have grown up over the side of the hardhat, and now i’m going to do it again before shutting down for the night.

oh yeah, i’ve put the first, well, the second version of the aquarium draawing on the tailfin.  i’m trying to use the curves of the fin to stand in for the natural curves on the aquarium’s profile, looking like a ship looming above a dock like it does. 

two dolphins

i am proud to announce that i have been given the commission for two dolphins, benefiting the georgia aquarium.  the first of them was commissioned by mckenney’s inc, the build/design firm responsible for the hvac and life support systems for all that water.  and the second dolphin, commissioned a bit later, is the home depot dolphin.

when i did the sandy springs turtles in 2005 i think it was, i decided i needed to pitch my designs to the industries most likely to help with the fund raising.  so i designed a doctor dolphin that would appeal to the many medical businesses in sandy springs, and a travel dolphin, that a local travel agency picked up.  so when i designed possible dolphins for the current fund raiser, i continued that trend.  i designed a delta dolphin, i designed a coke dolphin.  i wondered which of our big-hitting companies would get involved with fund raising.  i figured perhaps the large number of consultants and lawyers and accountants this city supports would make them public spirited, and designed a consultant dolphin with a shark’s fin instead, but nobody is spending money in the world of consulting, i guess.

but anyway, when i did the sandy springs turtles it was unclear who was eventually going to wind up with them, and so my customizing was limited to what the eventual owner would probably like.  this time, i know who i’m working with.  i have a wonderfully helpful contact at each sponsor’s head office who is as excited about it as i am, and i’ve got the full cooperation of everybody i’ve talked to about it.  this way i get to customize the dolphins to really reflect who these sponsors are, and all the great work they’ve done in the community.  with humor, certainly, but loving humor, i’m working with the companies directly to make a whimsical sculpture that everyone working there can identify with.  it’ll be wearing their clothes, and their badges, and look just like them, given today’s diversity in the workplace rules.

so, welcome to my studio, home depot dolphin.  the corporate staff is getting together to try and c  come up with a name for our dolphin, because as you know, the work aprons have the associate’s name on them.

the mckenney’s dolphin with all the seams pasted on, just so i can see what i’m doing

so last night i started with a pint of acrylic gel medium (thanks kay), and glued on the pieces of fabric i’ve been cutting out and ripping seams out of.  i started with the seam joining the sleeve to the body of the shirt.  and then i wrapped the cut-off sleeve hem around the flippers.  the fabric was dry, and the surface free of dust, and i coated out the back of the fabric and stuck it down with my fingers.  the gel medium is thick enough so that the fabric doesn’t slip, tho i have blue tape if it does.

this is very slow work.  i’d forgotten.  i can only glue on a few little bits at a time, and then it all has to sit there and bond and dry and cure.

i mixed up a bit of apoxie sculpt, my 2-part epoxy clay, just a little tiny bit.  and roughed up the brass belt buckle, and sanded the belly of the dolphin down to  the fiberglass, and then applied the bondo to the back of the buckle and mushed the buckle onto the dolphin.  and then taped it down.  after an hour or two, even tho i could still stick a fingernail into the epoxy, i removed the tape, stuck gel medium under te web of the belt, and wrapped it around underneath the bottom of the fin, and pressed it down.  i used a bit of tape to hold it in place, and had already made sure to mark the belt line with a level so it wouldn’t look awkward later.    the bit of blue you see at the belt line is to stop the gel medium i smushed behind the belt buckle into a gap between the body and the webbing, it dripped and i kept filling it until it dried.

i went to hancock fabric yesterday and got some interlock cotton knit with the same number of ribs as the cotton collar.  it doesn’t matter that the fabric i bought was white, of course, because it’s all getting painted once it’s on.  it only matters that it’s the same sized ribbing, and the rest i can fake.

you’ll notice a little adjustment at the ankles.  i decided that the legs of our dolphin curve a bit to his right, like he’s got his hip stuck out.  it shows up in his feet also, and his right flipper is a little higher than his left.  i decided to play this up by putting one cuff lower, just a little, and drawing the shoes in slightly different as well.  these are things you have to decide on while you’re doing the prep.

this is a closeup of the feet.  you can see the shiny white stuff around the fins.  the stuff on top is a little raised bit where the leather is thicker for the eyelets, and at the bottom of the fins for where the boots have rubber treads.  i’ll be building this up a bit more.  it’s hard to do with goopy modeling paste and a palette knife at that scale.  so i’ll do several tries as it dries.  i don’t need much texture, anyway, and could easily just paint it, but i like the way it’ll look.

i’m still trying to deal with the water feature.  it’s most complicated.  as you know, i have been given a scale model built of the very same hardware store bits and pieces i’m going to use to make the rest of it with.  real soon now i’m going to take the whole model over to home depot (sorry, their prices are better than lowe’s) and get all the things i need to do what i need to do.

i can go as thin as 1/2″, which is pretty damned big for my purposes but oh well.  i can graduate it to 3/4″ and then to 1″ and 1.25″ and 1.5″.  i can see where i could use a very small amount of 1.5″ pipe on the very lowest part of the sculpture.  and i can see were the pumps and filters can it in various places on the base.  but the difficulties of installing these objects, and more importantly, tying them in so they don’t get knocked loose, overwhelm me at the moment.

which is another reason it’s going so slow.  a little bit there, a little bit here, while i work up my courage for attacking the real technical issues.

i’ll be putting the hardhat on tomorrow.  i’ve tested the spray foam insulation stuff i’m going to use.  it’s the stuff that increases in volume to fill any cracks.  it does unless you mess with it while it’s still wet.  it remains wet and ooky for awhile and you can squish it right up, meaning all that volume is only good if you don’t touch it until it’s set.  so tomorrow i’m going to fill it mostly up and then tape it down to the head of the dolphin, wiping off any oozing gook with acetone (fingernail polish, i love the smell from when i used to use it wiping graffiti off lockers, as punishment for writing graffiti on lockers.)

to keep it simple, i’m going to get finished gluing things on both dolphins before i start painting them.  my studio is going to get pretty crowded.

omg behind the scenes at the aquarium

i can’t tell you how much i enjoyed taking a behind the scenes tour of the atlanta aquarium today.  i just love gadgets.

don’t you want to build this with pipe cleaners?

i could have been an engineer (sigh), but the closest i got was a technical drawing class in college.

altho the sponsor of my dolphin has gone to great lengths to help me do a really cool dolphin (not that they’re responsible for any faults in the project), the outdid themselves when they escorted me and jim around their handiwork at the aquarium.

just random pipes and ducts

jim and i met the others on the loading dock, barbara the freelance writer who was doing a piece for the newsletter, andrea my main contact at the sponsor’s, and david the engineer who put in and fabricated all the pipes and ducts for the entire aquarium.  and we were joined by eric, who’s been in life support systems at the aquarium since before it was open.  such a wealth of experience.

my entourage at a serious moment

they were really patient with what little i knew from my days with a 20 gallon aquarium and an above ground pool we used to have.  i can be a serious pain in the ass.

david joked that when they first saw the main pump floor, a huge cavernous place that held some 70-odd pumps and double that in sand filters (each holding 20,000 gallons?) – when they first saw the space they were going to put all this equipment in, they thought it was enormous, and they’d never fill it up.  just like you felt when you got your first multi-gig hard drive, right?  the pump room was crisscrossed and orchestrated around almost as tight as a ship’s fittings.

pumps to the left, sand filters are blue tanks in the background

first we went into the basement and looked at the 54″ pipes, huge feckers that drain the main fish tank, i think the ocean voyager.  the water gets drained out of the bottom of the tank at the bottom, and then they split off into 24″ pipes on the floor above.  that’s where they have a big solids tank, for the gunge that you pick up with the vacuum thingie and drain into a bucket at home.  i want the leftovers for my compost pile, yessir.

if these aren’t the largest pipes, they’re close

the wheel is a butterfly valve and the lever below is a something valve that pressure from above keeps shut. backwash.

the pipes keep getting smaller until you’re on top of the tanks, but when we got to the top of the tanks i stopped looking at pipes because there were all these way cool fish, just inches from me.  and the water was 72 degrees, and they had to hold me back because i wanted to go swimming.  it looked like an olympic sized pool, and even over at the other end, there was a small group of people actually diving with the whale sharks, man what a way to spend a monday afternoon.

yep, we were just standing there looking at the swimming pool when damn

i started noticing the small pipes at the top when we went over to the top of the reef tank (passing thru the top of the beluga tank (am i lucky or what?)).  the reef tank is under a skylight because it’s a real live reef and needs real actual sun.  that and millions of lights that really heated the place up.  we saw mini pumps and skimmers (still giants, but really), and this really cool bulldozer bucket-like thing that dumps water into the tank and makes these way cool waves that you see from below.

upstairs on top of the reef tank.  i don’t know what i’m looking at, almost

then thru the other main hall (the first main hall had all those pumps and filters).  this one was lined with pipes on the ceilings, nice big ones, and maybe some ducts, and then electrical conduit.  just like a bunch of basements everywhere, as much corridors for the pipes as for the people.  we went down to our guide’s office, where he showed us the monitoring system, a schematic with simplified drawings of the pumps and filters and tanks, with temperatures and pressures and flow rates, very good for understanding wtf, because i’ll confess that the schematic drawing of the pump room that they had framed and up on the wall was very complex, very disorienting.

the main pump room, extending the length of this massive building and half the width.  wow.

boy was i impressed.  while we were there eric ducked into the tool room and came out holding their contribution to the halloween pumpkin contest there at the aquarium.  something warm and fuzzy won, but their entry was a bunch of pumps, filters and pipes running into the pumpkin, which is exactly what i want to do with my dolphin.  i almost wet myself excuse me, when i saw it, and photographed it and asked about this little part and cooed over that little part until he gave it to me.

i feel like the universe is celebrating my birthday.  first this way cool guided and totally individualized tour of way cool nerdlike gadgets and systems and even ways of thinking, and then a mockup made by experts that took them two days to make – you can’t buy gifts like these, and i don’t know what i did to deserve people treating me so nicely, but boy i lap it up.  thank you thank you thank you.

what a wonderful day.  it rained all day, which always lightens my mood, and i got to crawl thru subterranean realms with denizens of the place as guides.  for the price of covered parking.  and take all the pictures, and ask all the fool questions, and feel really good about the people i was with, and then get a priceless piece of hardware to attach to my dolphin on top of all the cool stuff the sponsor has already given me to put on.  and i’m getting paid to do it, this is just too cool.

doesn’t it make you want to quit your day job and be an artist?

and then we went into the front of the house and ducked into the reef exhibit

just so i could see how much distortion there is looking thru a foot of plexiglass.  the tanks is 15 feet wide at the reef end, you can see that from above.  but when you look at it thru the glass, it looks right in front of you, and vertical, which it isn’t at all.

so i’m back home, in the studio, with my great set of homemade pumps sitting at the foot of my dolphin, who still has all the tape marks from yesterday when i put the clothes on him for a moment.

life is grand.