Neil's News


19 August 2008

A ten year old version of me found the skeleton of a porcupine in the forest.

[Porcupine parts]

So I did what any proto-geek would do, I gathered up the bones and glued them together.

[Assembled porcupine]

The porcupine had a bumpy future ahead of him. First, a relative decided to clean him while I was out of the country. She ended up snapping off some claws (no big deal, they can be reglued), but instead of leaving the claws, she threw them out. Next, the wooden board warped, then split down the middle. Finally, despite being marked "FRAGILE", the movers Google hired to bring my stuff to San Francisco decided to place a Meccano #10 set on top of the box containing the skeleton. After a quarter century of abuse, my porcupine was a wreck.

[Smashed porcupine]

It took three months before I worked up the courage to open the flattened shipping box and inspect the shattered remains of my most prized childhood project. Rebuilding him was more than just gluing the pieces back together. It seems that I had been a bit hit-and-miss when mixing the epoxy. Thus some joints were strong while others had deteriorated to the consistency of rubber cement. The latter had to be separated, cleaned and reglued. The wafting smell of epoxy brought back many unexpected memories. Mmm... Glue...

The missing claws were an issue. It's not like you can put "porcupine claws" into Google's business search and find a supplier. Oh look, you can. A trip to the Bone Room in Berkeley netted some perfect matches. Baby's got a new pair of claws.

[Closeup of claws]

An interesting reconstruction dilemma was how to deal with the many mistakes I'd made as a child. This porcupine was clearly a child's work. For the most part I tried to restrict myself to faithful repair and not revise history too much. But there were a couple of places where I felt compelled to fix mistakes. One of the tail vertebrae was installed backwards and looked horrible; easy fix. A more significant change was the original squatting posture which made it look like the porcupine had been taking a dump for 25 years. Reposing his back legs and taking his front legs off the raised mount fixed that.

[Reassembled porcupine]

Random fact: Did you know that your big toe (Hallux) has one less knuckle than your other toes? Ok, maybe not yours, but normal people's toes. I discovered this while cross-checking the porcupine's feet against the only reference model I had to hand (well, to foot).

I'm heading out on vacation to EDT-land for a bit. If my website goes down for some reason, it may remain down until I get back to PDT-land. Although I have to say I'm impressed with the stability and capacity of Comcast's home cable service. I've seen lots of criticism of Comcast in the press, so it's only fair to give them a hat-tip for being rock-solid for me.

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