In a blog post on Steampunk Architecture that I wrote almost three years ago (and which has consistently been one of my more popular posts), I included a picture of the Armour Steiner House in upstate New York which has the distinction of having an octagonal floor plan. Prompted by a post in the always interesting website Atlas Obscura, I looked around for more examples of these unusually shaped buildings. And it turns out there’s an interesting story behind them.
I am happy to announce that my second book, The Secret Notebook of Michael Faraday, is now available!
This novel is the second I’ve written in the Airship Flamel Adventures series, but is actually a prequel of my first novel, To Rule the Skies. When I wrote that book, I came to the realization that I was starting in the middle of Professor Nicodemus Boffin’s story. This new book tells some of his history. Here’s the synopsis:
Nicodemus Boffin rose from a boyhood in the ash heaps of East London to reach the pinnacles of British science when he is mentored by the great scientist, Michael Faraday. When Boffin finds a secret laboratory notebook in which Faraday has described incomprehensible experiments, Nicodemus wonders if Professor Faraday has discovered a new science, or has lost his faculties. Nicodemus’s rival, Viscount Whitehall-Barnes, seeks to gain the notebook by any means necessary to study the descriptions of a strange orange mineral with unusual properties which he believes is the alchemists’ Philosopher’s Stone. Realizing that the Viscount must never learn the secrets of the orange stone, Nicodemus takes action to keep the knowledge hidden, protect his family, and preserve the legacy of his mentor.
Besides telling the story of how Nicodemus Boffin grows from a poor but uncommonly clever boy in the slums of London to the forefront of Victorian British science, the novel features pompous aristocracy, a surprisingly capable laboratory assistant, and snarky air pirates. Several Illustrious Personages may wander through the story as well.
FIRST Robotics is a program for high-schoolers that teaches invention, design, and teamwork through the process of designing and building a robot to accomplish several tasks during competition. Although most of the teams are in the US, teams in over 25 countries worldwide take part in the program.
Each year the competition has a different theme, and the tasks change. For example, in past years, robots had to be designed to shoot basketballs, throw frisbees, and climb a tower. The competition is announced in early January and teams have approximately six weeks to design, build, and troubleshoot their robots before competition. My sons participated in their high school’s team and count their robotics experience as one of the best parts of high school, and their teammates as among their closest friends.
So, we were especially excited to discover that the theme for the FIRST Robotics Competition this year is Steampunk! And the game was introduced by none other than Professor Elemental, steampunk and chap hop musician extraordinaire. The good professor even wrote a song specially for the competition:
If you’re interested in learning more about this year’s competition (narrated by Professor E.), you can see an animation here that outlines the rules and scoring opportunities:
as well as an even longer description featuring more steampunk antics here:
I think this year’s competition looks to be the most interesting and entertaining to watch in years (and that’s topping last year’s Storming the Castle theme!). And it’s a great introduction to steampunk for all the students taking part in FIRST.
A steampunk outfit is really made by its accessories. They at once evoke the Victorian era that typifies the time frame of much of Steampunk culture, as well as adding bits of interest to your outfit. And no matter what manner of steampunk outfit you wear, you can always think up a reason why your character has been awarded a medal.
I’ve got a few medals that I’ve bought over time. My airship wings are one of my favorites, as is the George V cap badge from the Royal Engineers that I turned into a pin. (I know, not strictly Steampunk era, but close!) But I wanted something unique. Continue reading
From the always entertaining and informative website, Atlas Obscura (if you’re not already reading it, you really should be…) comes the story of a sunken steamship that was discovered in the middle of a corn field in Missouri. How the steamboat Great White Arabia ended up in the corn field is only half the story (the Missouri River shifted course, leaving it on, or rather under, dry land).
The amazing part of the story is the amount and variety of immaculately preserved cargo found on board. The Arabia was on its way upriver loaded with all the sundry items required for life on what must have been not too far from the American western frontier when it sank in 1856. Because the ship and its cargo has spent most of the time since underground and not underwater, they have been amazingly preserved.
The team that discovered and excavated the steamboat have opened the Arabia Steamboat Museum to display some of the 200 tons of cargo excavated before the field had to be replanted with corn. If I’m ever in that part of the country, I think it would be an extraordinarily interesting museum to explore.
We are living in times in which we are striving to make the digital look more and more perfectly mechanical, especially here in Silicon Valley.
So it is refreshing to see something that is purely and simply mechanical in its very being. No pixels, no user interface, no MP3 files. Just gears and springs and levers artfully crafted, and beautifully encased in hand-worked precious metals and gems, depicting the Diana, goddess of the hunt in her chariot.
From the always entertaining and educational blog Two Nerdy History Girls, the video shows the automaton/clock in action. I can imagine it being quite the site at early 17th century soirees Even today, it is quite amazing!