Nerf escalation

Draft created: 2/6/2011

Just after Christmas, when everyone at my office was getting back into the swing of regular work, someone (Ben) introduced a collection of small, single shot nerf guns, one for each designer/developer/Laslo. He also brought in his notably more effective [weapon]. This, naturally, led to something of an arms race, resulting is a fairly well armed Interactive Department. The coolest, I think, the the sawed-off shotgun-style number Tom ordered for the boss, and the most outrageous is the Stampede he ordered for himself:

The thing takes something like 20 D Energizers! My favorite, however, is the extremely accurate, extremely quiet, extremely long range, extremely cheap weapon I whipped up of a lunch hour at the local Home Depot:

That’s right, race fans… a blow gun! Completely destroys all other nerf weapons in accuracy (the barrel is way longer than anything I’ve seen) and range (nothing even approaches the capacity/power of my standard-issue breath-bags), and is better than many in rate of fire. Whistlers and suction darts have to be muzzle loaded and are the more accurate, but the N-Strike darts can be quickly loaded from the mouthpiece. Not nearly as fast as the Stampede, but I poped Tommy in the head from waaaay down the hall, and  he didn’t know it was coming until it was there.

Shave brush stand

The problem: How do you store your shaving brush between uses?

Water will gather at the base of the bristles and mold
The brush will deform and the bristles will curl over
both the 1sr and 2nd problems here

The Solution: A brush stand. There are some lovely commercial stands that I’m sure do a great job, and eventually I may buy or make a more beautiful solution, but for now, I work with what I have… Plastic covered steel wire.

Start with a big 'V' of wire and bend a small "ledge" into the point. Give yourself plenty of extra wire.
Finish bending in a depressed section. This part is pretty tricky and takes some trial and error. You want the "back" wide enough to be stable, but not so wide that it's hard to get to the next step
Bend some more, then add a little twist. I tries something more symmetrical, but this was the only way the thing was rigid enough to stay upright. if you want to add clamps or glue, you could probably sort out a different arrangement. This has actually grown on me now, though.
Test fit... adjust.
Test fit... adjust.
There you go... Stuff you probably have around the house and 30 minutes of messing around.

Of course, I’m not the first to attempt this. After (yes, after) making this, I came across this Instructable:

Not bad. I like the inclusion of the razor in the stand, but I prefer one that works with the cup. Wet brushes drip, and I’d rather have mine drip into the mug than onto the counter.

Note: Both the mug and the pliers belonged to my grandfather. The brush is a Tweezerman Deluxe shaving brush. It looks like the same one as in the linked Instructable, and I can say it is a good brush.

New old bench grinder

Over the holidays my father gave me an old bench grinder he had in the basement. The thing was not in great shape, but it’s a tool I certainly needed. My dad is one of those guys that always seems to have an extra [whatever you are looking for]. I’ve got a battery charger that came to me the same way.

Here’s what the bench grinder looked like when I got it:

Bench grinder: Before
Bench grinder: Before

It’s a Wen Model 1030 with a 1/3 horse power motor. You may no know it, but Wen is a real American company. They’ve been making tools since 1951 and are still around (located in Elgin, IL). This specific model, the cost $60 back in 1974 (you could drop an additional $10 to get the model with an included work light). Looks like you can still get into a 6″ grinder with work lights for $70. I think the old ones look better:

Bench grinder: After
Bench grinder: After

I swapped one wheel for a buffer. The one I have, though, is too small, and sits too close to the housing so I’ll be adding in some spacers and a larger wheel when I get a chance. I’m pretty pleased with the result, though. Here’s one more set of before/after:

Bench grinder: Before
Bench grinder: Before
Bench grinder: After
Bench grinder: After

Could be better (work light, painted, etc.), but it’s great for now.


I just went to the Wen site and registered the grinder… we’ll see if I get a response.

Lavender Gooms, G-Force, and Imhotep

The Internet is full of crap… sort of. I guess it’s not entirely full yet:

Longbranch Pennywhistle

full – adjective – completely filled; containing as much as is possible;

So, not full, but it’s got to be getting close. Having been online for a long time, and having contributed a fair few properties of real use, I figured it would be ok for me to add a little crap. It’s a pebble in the ocean, really.

Generally I’m not a fan of television programs, or television personalities, or television in general. There are shows, however, that I’ve found interesting for one reason or another. I usually pick up shows after they are released to DVD, and I’m a little embarrassed to say that once I pick up a series, I want to see it through to the end. Obsession is too strong a word, but not by as much as I’d like.

One program that I actually watch within a week of it’s airing (or whenever it gets to Hulu) is Psych. It’s nothing special, really… sort of a buddy/detective program. The thing is, it’s absolutely packed with one-liners, throw-aways, and clever little bits. One of these clever little bits revolves around constantly introducing the straight-man (Dulé Hill) with different name (see the title of this post).

So, the Psych Wikipedia entry, about an hour of messing around, and we have

The Burton Guster Name Game!



It’s just a doodle


A few weeks ago, following what I am sure was a long and tiring day, I came home from work, as is my habit. I greeted my wife, my children, and my dogs, put down my keys and generally just caught my breath. No sooner had my keys hit the table than my boy came up wanting to show me what he’d been working on. The first was a fairly impressive, and functioning, motorized lego sled, complete with skis. Nice.

As we sat on the floor of the room discussing the few issues with his design, I noticed a small stack of bricks and gears sitting on his unreasonably messy desk:

Me: Hey, man, what’s that?
D: What? Oh. that’s just my water wheel.
Me: Why do you call it a water wheel?
D: I dunno. It just reminded me of one.
Me (giving the gears a spin): That’s really cool!
D (dismissively):
Yeah. I was just doodling.

What impressed me was not just that he’d essentially built a lego gear box completely on his own, or that it has a perfect 2:1 ratio, but that he referred to its construction as “doodling.”

I dig this kid.

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iPad and bamboo are friends

I stole this picture from the internet

Now, I’m no Mac fanboy, but the iPad is a device that will change things. I’ve said this, but I’ll say it again: it’s not the iPad itself that is amazing, but rather the kind of device. It’s is the closest to “right” as any tablet style computing device has come, and to some extent that is due to the pompous nature of Apple. They seem to decide what people need, build it, and then tell people that they need to change their thinking. In this case, I think they are right.

I recognize and generally agree that limiting how people interact with a device they own, or any tool for that matter, is offensive… i AM an American, after all. That said, forcing people to use a device a certain way by strictly controlling the interaction on the device (i.e. limiting how many apps per page, no vertical scrolling, no folders) has the effect of making people who end up using the device rethink how they use the device… and this is a GoodThing™. Right at the release of a new technology, you have a small window in which people’s expectations for how they can interact with the new technology has been reset. That is when you have the best opportunity to change how people relate to the new technology.

Inevitably and eventually, competing devices will come out, returning options and choice to all of us. For now, though, the choice is take it or leave it. We constantly create new technology that is extremely powerful, and extremely impressive… to those of us who can access it and understand how to use it. Devices like the iPad have a very low intellectual cost of entry, which is to say that you don’t need to know much about technology to make really effective use of them.

All of that is just a preface for the somewhat multi admission that I bought an iPad… just a little one. Excepting PDAs and phones, this is my third tablet device (12th if you count phone and PDAs), and while it lacks the flexibility of the others, it more than makes up for it in actual usability. It’s awesome, and I’m sure I’ll be talking about it more later. For now though, I want to talk about the case I bought, and the stand I made.

When I bought the thing, I knew I didn’t want the standard iPad case that Apple sells. It’s a good, and serviceable case, but I knew I wanted something else… something that made me feel a little less like an apple fanboy. As I was looking for a case, I came across a tweet about the Dodocase. I checked it out, and I knew right away that it was the case for me:

  1. It looks like a moleskine
  2. It is made by hand using old tools and techniques
  3. It’s made with renewable bamboo
  4. They’re hard to get

This last one is purely ego. I want to be able to say I was a fan before they were popular (Hello, Flogging Molly). The funny thing is, the guys at Dodocase know their audience enough to know that the best way to play to this last trait is to number the cases. The 1st 1k cases they made came with a numbered, old school library card indicating just how much indyCred the owner is entitled to:

10,000 – Dodocase Number = indyCredz

After 10k case are sold, nobody gets any indyCredz. Anyway, after waiting for 5 weeks, I got may case, and it has all of the problems that The Internet said it has: Doesn’t protect agains big drops, Doesn’t hold the iPad in when held upside down, shallow typing angle, doesn’t stand up easily… It’s still the most awesome and perfect case I’ve seen for the iPad.

I wouldn’t trade it, but that last one can be a bit annoying. Take, for instance, this post. I am typing it on a bluetooth keyboard paired to my iPad. In order to do this comfortable, I need to be able to stand the iPad up at a reasonable angle to that I can see it, and in a way that lets me poke at the screen without it falling over. The Dodocase, as awesome as it is, fails at this. Frankly, I think it fails at this because it wasn’t really designed with this kind of use in mind. This weakness in the Dodocase design, though, left me with a need for some kind of stand. I came up with a couple of ways to make the Dodocase serve, and I think they would work, but I wanted something dedicated. Here are the things i thought would be important:

  • Portable
  • Easy to setup
  • Should not make me look like an ass
  • Sturdy enough that I won’t be afraid to touch it
  • Flexible enough that I won’t be afraid to touch it
  • Adjustable tilt angle

My first two passes as a stand basically amounted to an angled slots cut in blocks of acrylic. These worked, but missed on the last two items on the list. Of particular concern was the second to last. Every time I touched the display, I was sure I would see a crack spread across the bottom. I used these stands for a few days, and you can buy them for $6 on any number of websites, but eventually I found myself thinking about something better.

As soon as I started thinking of taking a real pass at this, I started talking to mike about sourcing acrylic. This lead to a discussion of other materials, and I spent my lunch hour with my actual moleskin sketching up some ideas. More IMs with Mike (“blah, blah, aluminum, blah, blah, hippies, blah, blah, bamboo”)… Some quality Google time to see what’s out there (discovered something similar to what I had in mind, but in aluminum, which was actually Mike’s idea)… Then some time messing around in the shop.

The result:

The result is something that works pretty well and meets all of my criteria. So, what would you pay for a sweet new “iPad Stick…” “EucaliPad…” “Nipa stand?”