Archive for May, 2007

Cthulhu: Eater of Souls, Roaster of Dogs

Saturday, May 26th, 2007

RoastMyWeenie has a limited number of Cthulhu(/Punisher) roaster’s available for purchase.

Cthulhu: Eater of Souls, Roaster of Dogs

A while ago, I wrote about some pretty funny / cool hot dog roasters sent to me from the folks at

Work well enough, and pretty amusing, but not exactly practical for even a modest sized cook.

I really wanted a roaster that could hold more than one dog. After thinking about it a bit, dawned on me that some creature with tentacles would be perfect and easy enough to cut on roastmyweenie’s water jet based cutter.

Now, I could have a gone with a squid based design as they will, in fact, eventually rule the living world.

But, nah….

Read the rest of this entry »

Security cameras?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

Anyone have a suggestion for security cameras that:

– can be outdoors?

– can shoot clear video in both daylight and night conditions (IR illumination, most likely)?

– can send the video wireless for capture on a central device, preferably a computer?

Some combination? Suggestions?

My ideal camera would be one that had IR illumination and spewed an h.264 stream over 802.11 that I could archive off on a Mac for later review.

4 Years At Apple

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

As of Saturday (5/19), I have been an employee at Apple for 4 years.

I’m not bored yet. Not in the least. Having a damned good time.

Maker Faire ’07, Day 2

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007
SRL's Knife Bot Doing The Knife Dance

On day 2 of the Maker Faire, I spent most of the day hanging out with my pinball machines, answering questions, chatting with the SRL folk as they prepped for their performance later in the day, and enjoying refreshing waves of ozone as the Tesla coil was fired up every hour.

Photo on the left is SRL’s Knife Bot doing the Knife Dance with the two pinball machines in the background. Here is another shot with the SRL Logo, Satan Head and the pinball machines in the background.

I also spent some time wandering about to check out various incredibly cool hacks and events, focusing on stuff I had never seen before.

Heavyweight Class Battlebots

The Robot Fighting League folks built a full sized combat robot arena in the robotics room of the show, completely with bleachers for folks to enjoy the show.

I have seen BattleBots on TV and, sure, it was entertaining. But the robots never really looked that terribly menacing.

The arena had a thick plywood roof and lexan (bulletproof glass) sides. The fighting floor was thick plywood, surrounded by a wall of heavy metal beams.

I.e. the arena was built to contain serious destruction.

In come the ‘bots. Two heavyweight robots (I don’t remember the names) weighing around 220 lbs each. Yes — 220 lbs — only slightly less than me (but more than I should weigh). The bots also looked significantly larger than on TV. Very solid, too.

And then the fighting began.

Holy Crap!! These things move fast. Zero to bat out of hell in a second or two, switching directions, flipping over, and generally raising mayhem in milliseconds. When the bots hit, you could feel it. Not just through the noise of the arena, but as vibration through the concrete floor.

Wow. Damned impressive. There was a moment where one of the bots unleashed a hammer like weapon that hit the lexan. I thought the stuff was going to break.

After the two bouts I saw, they had to have a 20 minute delay to repair the arena. Yes, the robots had actually hit the metal beams so hard as to knock them out of place, ripping screws out in the process.

In this picture, you can actually see that the iron beam wall is bent.

Read the rest of this entry »

Can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007
Janis Joplin

Can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Maybe. But they can certainly teach themselves new tricks.

Janis Joplin — pictured at left (about a year ago) — has figured out how to open kitchen cabinets.

How do we know this?

Because we have now come home a couple of times to a very guilty looking Janis who is too stuffed to move and several shredded boxes o’ doggy snacks spread around the living room.

Today, two whole boxes of dog cookies were destroyed. I seriously hope Ruby helped with the consumption, but certainly Janis had the guilty look.

The truly odd part is that there was one lone cookie left behind. One singly wrapped cookie left in the middle of the shelf at Janis height eye level.

It might be possible that Ruby is the biscuit thief, but unlikely. She is the only dog I have met that actively avoids food when others are eating.

Then again, Janis has a long history of admitting her own guild and even taking us to the scene of the crime to confess. As well, Janis is quite taken with tattling on Ruby, barking and pointing at Ruby when she is digging a hole or shredding something she shouldn’t be.

Maker Faire ’07, Day 1

Sunday, May 20th, 2007
Discovering Pinball

Maker Faire day 1 was a huge success.

The pinball machines have been in play constantly. Lots of folks had some great questions, many of whom seemed disappointed that I don’t restore machines for a living.

Lots of kids at the show, pretty much perpetually in awe. It was great to see their faces light up when they played their first game of pinball.

Both machines are holding up really well, even under some serious flippity-flap abuse. The Cyclone has not reset a single time!

Very Big Spark

I’m located in an awesome spot this year (last year was in the same room with the circuit benders which was really incredibly painfully loud). As mentioned before, the SRL crew share the corner with me. Seriously interesting people doing very cool stuff. I spoke with Mark Pauline a bit and he introduced his incredibly cute kid to pinball; the kid is a natural!

A little bit further away is the Tesla Coil installation. Two 12 foot tall tower coils driven by quite the custom power supply and driver circuit. The pictured spark was only about 4 feet in length. When going full blast, the tours will generate sparks that jump across the 10 or 12 foot gap in between. With lots of noise and that tasty ozone smell.

Damned impressive piece of equipment. Even more impressive is that the towers are a scale model of what will eventually be two 122 foot tall towers in the Nevada desert that should be able to generate 300 foot long bolts of lightning.

Even these “small” towers generate one hell of an impression when powered up. You can feel the charge, it is damned loud and the sparks are clearly visible even in the otherwise brightly lit room.

Read the rest of this entry »

Maker Faire: If you can make it and don’t… you lose!!

Saturday, May 19th, 2007
Restored Pinball Machines

Ben and I packed up a couple of pinball machines and headed up to the San Mateo Fairgrounds to add ’em to the rather amazing collection of stuff on display at the Maker Faire.

Last year was incredible, but this year is going to crush it. Many more exhibitors and exhibits. Lots of small stuff, large stuff, interactive stuff, and just plain amazing stuff.

I am deeply honored to be invited to be a part of the show. While everything about Pinball is quite completely in line with the Maker ethic, it is clear that I need to take this beyond “restoration” and directly into “customization” and “optimization”.

Of course, we setup the Cyclone — the machine that was the subject of the Make article — and then it immediately started reseting during game play. Typical problem of System 11 based Williams machines.

So, we road tripped back south and hit up Halted for a boatload of random parts that might fix the problem. $48 and two slices of the best pizza on the west coast later, we headed back to the Faire to fix the damned machine.

Fingers crossed, it seems like a bit of solder reflow, some replacement diodes and capacitors, and a bit of connector cleaning has stabilized the machine!

We also used the setup day as an opportunity to take a few pictures that simply won’t be possible once the place is packed. And packed it will be. This is going to be one hell of a show.

Ben Fighting Off Robot Overlords!

Our neighbors are SRL: Survival Research Labs; kings of the massive destructo-bot, fire breathing, overwhelming shows. Seriously cool stuff. I had a friend that worked with them back in the late ’80s and I have always wanted to meet the crew.

Now I have. Seriously nice people working on some seriously kick ass ‘bots. Pictured is a knife wielding bot that will happily thrust a knife into styrofoam around an outline of a hand. If you have the guts, you can put your hand in the outline.

That is, if the robot is calibrated. Which it wasn’t. So, Ben volunteered to help calibrate the ‘bot. Looks kinda like he was fighting it off, though.

The SRL crew brought some scary robots. Hundreds and hundreds of pounds of self-mobile steel that often breathes fire.

Can’t wait to see this stuff in action.

Read the rest of this entry »

Marker Faire!

Friday, May 18th, 2007

The Maker Faire is this weekend!

I’ll have 2 restored pinball machines on site; the Addams Family Special Collectors edition and the Cyclone, about which I wrote the restoration article for Make.

eBoy has done one of his incredible posters for the Faire. And if you look at it closely, the pinball machines are there!

Unfortunately, one display on the Cyclone is dead and I haven’t found a replacement (or ponied up the $220 for the LED based upgrade). And the machine is resetting at random. More likely than not, attendees will be treated to me with my head buried inside of a pinball machine with soldering iron in hand as I try to find the one in about 200 diode that has gone bad.

Camino / FireFox content fix

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

For a while, my weblog has suffered from blank content areas under Firefox and Camino. I hadn’t take the time to figure it out, but David Bruxton did for me.

Thank you. Thankyouthankyouthankyou.

Just a missing tag. Stupid me. Should have fixed it long ago.

Brian Eno + David Byrne: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

I have a decent sized music collection — 25,000+ tracks across all genres but EZ listening — that has largely evolved along lines of producers, artists, and genres. Following these kinds of lineages have led to some truly awesome bits of music.

I really like ambient music. Not that wishy-washy crap, but stuff with rhythm and lots of interesting samples and sounds that meld together to create seriously complex and mesmerizing textures. Moby struck me as a bit of pioneer, as does the Orb.

A couple of days ago, a friend introduced me to an album that is quite clearly a historical anchor in the realm of sampleriffic ambient textural rhythmic goo.

Brian Eno and David Byrne created My Life in the Bush of Ghosts in 1981. A combination of field recordings, world music, studio effects, and other bits of electronica (but no samples!), the result is a groundbreaking groove that presaged much of what would become standard fair more than a decade later (and with much better technology).

Awesome album. And an interesting combination of extreme artists. Some of Eno’s work can put a tweaking meth head to sleep and Byrne’s solo efforts often get inanely vocal. Together they seem to ground each other and the result is pure brilliance.

Update: davidf mentions that My Life in the Bush of Ghosts was produced around the time of Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. Remain in Light is another piece of flat out brilliances. Complex compositions with layers of effects and rhythms. Almost primal, at times. Unlike Bush of Ghosts, Remain in Light has lyrics, interesting stories told/sung by Byrnes on top of awesome soundscape produced by the Heads.

Another must have album. And, interestingly enough, there is a third album that is considered to be equally as masterful. Byrne did a soundtrack called The Catherine Wheel that was commissioned by Twyla Tharp.

Rob Bevan also wrote to say that there is an entire web site devoted to the Bush of Ghosts album. It contains multi-track downloads of some of the songs and a slew of user submitted remixes.

Very very cool stuff. Thank you for the links and pointers!

Update2: The thread not followed: Sometime in the late ’80s or early ’90s, I picked up a fabulous collection of songs put together by Peter Gabriel called the The Best of Music And Rhythm. Amazing collection of songs. As it turns out, the second song on The Catherine Wheel appears on that album! While I ran long on Peter Gabriel, The English Beat and a couple of the other artists on that album, I never got around to exploring the Byrne content.

Happily, that circle is now closed. Catherine Wheel is excellent!