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I make toys for kids who don't want to grow up. I'm on the lookout for new projects. If you're interested in commissioning me to build something ridiculous, shoot me an email.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Another Week in Hawaii

For the past week I've been in Hawaii with the Naval Reserve, doing my part to keep the world safe for democracy.  By day, I was defending freedom by learning about operational planning and decision making while working out the details of a fictional coalition assault on the Cayman Islands.  But by night, I was defending freedom by downing as many fruity tropical drinks as I could.

Fortunately for my budget, I was able to secure lodging in the Bachelor Officers Quarters on the base. I even had a decent view:

I didn't spend a lot of time there though. When I wasn't in the classroom imagining island invasions in the Carribean, my view was more likely to look like this:

And I was more likely to look like this:

While I did bring along my proper DSLR camera with the idea I was going to spend some real time taking quality photos, I basically failed in that department.  The best I managed most of the time was some half-hearted snapshots with my little point-and-click camera that I keep in my pocket.  That's how I snapped this sunset while I was stumbling along the beach at Waikiki:
Hawaii Sunset

Here's a winning shot of the view across from the conference center where the training was taking place:
Ford Island

And here's a self-portrait of me looking wide awake, alert, and clean-shaven* in between lectures:
LCDR Thorsson on Ford Island

On Friday we wrapped up our little wargame.  Suffice it to say, the drug-cartel-backed insurgents who'd seized control of the Cayman Islands were no match for our task force so we were able to quickly end their reign of terror and successfully liberate the Caymanian people. 

Or are they Caymans?  Caymish?  Caymanites? Caymese?**

With training over, I ended up with a good six hours to kill between the end of training and my flight back to California.  Since it was on the way, I decided to get changed and go wander around the weather decks on board the USS MISSOURI (BB-63).

For those of you who don't know, MISSOURI was the last battleship in the US Navy.  She's an IOWA-class battleship and was the state of the art when she was launched during World War II.  When the war with Japan ended, she anchored in Tokyo Bay and it was on her quarterdeck that the Japanese signed their formal surrender.  The ship also saw action in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the first Gulf War. 

Walking aboard I couldn't help but be impressed.  It wasn't the size of the ship necessarily (my last container ship was eighteen feet longer and a good deal heavier when fully loaded) but her sleek lethality. 

For comparison, my first ship (a SPRUANCE-class destroyer) had a pair of 5-inch gun turrets.  The MISSOURI on the other hand has twelve 5-inch guns set in dual turrets on either side as well as a main battery of 16-inch guns in three triple turrets.  So in order to send enough ordnance downrange to match the weight of a single barrage from the battleship, my destroyer would have to fire both of her guns at their maximum rates of fire continuously for about ten minutes (assuming they didn't malfunction).  That's a lot of kaboom!

You can see the guns of the two forward turrets in this shot:
Missouri Gangway Rainbow

Once I was aboard, the first thing I had to do was go to the starboard side and take a look at the spot where World War II ended.  There's a large bronze placard mounted in the deck to mark the location:
Missouri Placard
A few feet away are the copies of the surrender documents with the signatures of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur and Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, among others.

After a bit of contemplation, it was time to head up to the pilothouse and check out the view.  Of note, the door to the wheelhouse is massive:
Missouri Wheelhouse Door
The bulkhead you're looking at is 17-inch thick steel armor.  The door therefore is a solid 17-inch thick steel plug.  I'd hate to think what it must weigh, but it looks like it's rigged with a powered drive of some sort to open and close it.  The cutout in the middle of the door is one of the few viewports through which the crew inside can look out.  Not much goes on inside the wheelhouse though, the helmsman and lee helmsman seem to be the only people who would be in there while the conning officer would call in steering and speed orders from elsewhere.

Here's the view from the forward end of the bridge:
Bridge View

The guns don't look quite as impressive from this angle.  To really appreciate them, you have to look from the other side:
Missouri Forward Guns

Each one of those gun barrels is 67 feet long and weighs in at just about 116 tons.  The shells that they fire would weighed 2,300 pounds and would travel to their maximum range of 23 miles in 50 seconds, landing with pinpoint accuracy.  Kaboom!

Here's the aft turret viewed from just forward of the flight deck:
Missouri Aft Turret

If nothing else, my visit definitely reinforced the feelings I had for the IOWA-class battleships from the very first time I read about them as a kid: I want one.***
Big Guns are Cool

In what seemed like no time at all, the ship closed down for the day and all of the visitors were ushered away.  With not much else to do, I drove back to the airport, checked my bags, and sidled up to the bar to enjoy my last couple of hours in Hawaii.

Enjoying my last couple of hours in Hawaii meant destroying three of these:

Comfortably numb, I was ready to get on a plane again.  There were lots of empty seats, so I ended up having one whole row to lay down and sleep in.  So the flight home was mostly pretty good.****

*I was only two of those three things at the time the photo was taken.

** I spent a lot of time letting my mind wander during some of the lectures.  As a result, I generated a list of 44 alternate terms for the people of the Cayman Islands.*****

***I actually have plans to build one after I finish building my Sherman tank.

****The wierd part was that on this half-full flight there was some guy wearing the exact same shirt as me.  It might not be wierd for most people, but I was wearing that ridiculous orange and white aloha shirt pictured above.  It's hard to imagine that anyone else would buy such a shirt.  Wierd.

*****Not kidding: Caymans, Caymanians, Cays, Caymanese, Caymanites, Caymines, Caymanati, Caymanarans, Caymanalines, Caymaroons, Caymadamians, Caymani, Caymanodes, Caymese, Caymian, Caymaniacs, Caytards, Cayms, Caymanards, Naymacs, Caymish, Caywegians, Caymites, Caymars, Caydians, Caytians, Caymen, Caymanistas, Cayerinos, Caymanistanis, Caychos, Caymorros, Caymajos, Caymatics, Caymatians, Caymacs, Caymi, Cayonaise, Caymicans, Caymicanos, Bratch (people from Holland are Dutch, so why not?), Brackish, and Catch.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pictures from Open Make at the Exploratorium

Saturday I was invited to the Exploratorium to show off some of my prop and costume replica projects for Open Make.  This was part of the Young Makers program put together in collaboration between the Exploratorium, Make Magazine, and Pixar Animation Studios, designed to inspire kids to build things of their own. 

The exhibit went really well.  I spent the entire day swamped with people asking questions and looking over the various pieces I brought.  I had a great time, but I didn't get a chance to see much of what else was going on after we'd finished setting up my display:
Exploratorium Exhibit

The two guys dressed in full Spartan armor Alex (red) and Noah (blue) came along to attract a bit more attention and so they could walk around and play with all of the exhibits. I also brought my friend Matt along to help shepherd the guys in the armor and fix things as needed.  My sister Rose was driving my camera and I tasked her and the guys with getting a ton of pictures  that would make the costumes look as good as possible.  She succeeded:
Exploratorium 450

You can see the rest of the pictures after the jump.

Monday, January 10, 2011

HALO Sniper Rifle Update: the Beast is Finished!

As I've previously mentioned in these three posts, I've been building a replica of the SRS99D Sniper Rifle as it appears in Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST.  Another maker in the Midwest has been doing all of the armorer work for an upcoming, much-anticipated, no-budget fan film called Operation Chastity and offered to make my molds in exchange for getting to keep the first four castings.

Well just before Christmas, the FedEx truck dropped off what my grandfather described as "two heavy God-damned boxes" which he had to sign for in my absence.  When I got to the workshop, I was thrilled to unwrap no less than seventy-five pounds of silicone rubber joy* that looked like this:
Sniper Molds

Barely able to restrain myself, I had the first cast poured in no time. Then I pulled out some of the other castings and glued it all together. Unsurprisingly, it came out huge:
Sniper 006

With assembly complete, the paintjob was exceedingly simple. First, the whole thing got a liberal coating of black primer:
Sniper 018

Once that had dried, the next step was to task Mallory with drybrushing the whole thing from end to end (omitting the scope assembly) with Model Masters' steel-colored enamel:
Mal painting rifle

She did a pretty decent job and, as you can see, drybrushing the metallic onto the edges really brought out the details:
Sniper Paintjob Progress2

Once the steel-colored paint was dry enough to handle, the next step was to add a gold-tinted insert for the scope lens and then pick out a couple more details here and there. Now it was all coming together:
Mister Sniper

Of course, it doesn't really look complete until it's being held by someone (in this case, my friend Matt):
Matt with SRS99D

Or better yet, wielded by a fully-armored HALO Spartan:

Church Sniper 2
Church Sniper 3

Now I've got to get back to work on the shotgun.

*I had to include the picture, because "silicone rubber joy" can come in so many forms, as evinced by a Google image search for that exact quote.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Open Make at the Exploratorium

I'm proud to have been invited to be an exhibitor at this month's Open Make event at the Exploratorium.  This is part of their "young makers" program.  If you are local to the San Francisco Bay Area and have children who need complicated projects to keep them busy, you should stop by.  This will be a great opportunity to get some ideas and chat with experienced makers about their projects.

I'll be there showing off some of my costume and prop replicas as well as explaining some of the materials and processes that are involved in my hobbies. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bringing 2010 to a Close

2010 was one hell of a year.  It found me in five countries, several airplanes, one big ship, numerous boats, and, somehow, only five states.  There were ups and downs and each of my little victories was matched by an equal or greater defeat.  I spent most of it feeling like I was doing more and ending up with less to show for it.  Suffice it to say, I'm glad to have this one behind me.

So glad was I that I set out to celebrate the death of 2010 a full day early.  I went with my sisters and a friend to Maggie McGarrity's Pub in North Beach to see the Spazmatics, a nerdy 80's cover band that can be found there every Thursday night.  They make for a good time:

They do such a good job with their nerd motif that they actually stay in character even in between sets.  Here's a couple of pics of nerds with the girls:
Spazmatics still

Spazmatics again


All of the nerdery made it pretty easy for everyone to be goofy as well:

Here's a winning shot of Kendall rocking out:
Kendall Rocks
(either that or she's ripping a fart, hard to say)
We stayed through both of their sets on stage and ended up leaving around 1a.m. 

On the morning of New Year's Eve I awoke on the couch at my parents' house when the niece and nephew started putting small dogs on top of me.  It's hard to sleep when a hybrid chihuahua-weiner-shivery-annoying dog sticks its tongue in your nostril.

Once I'd had time to regain calm and got out of my puppy killing mood, I went outside with the kids and helped them launch model rockets for a while.  Here's a shot of the junior rocketeers in the midst of their pre-flight checks:
Junior Rocketeers

There were several launches and I filmed them all, but the best part was the countdown sequence shown here:

In the aftermath, if you go to that same spot and look at the trees in the background, you can find a couple hundred dollars worth of model rockets dangling from the branches.

When they'd tired of launching things, I had them stow the remnants back in my workshop.  That's when my nephew decided he had to try on my HALO armor.  It was a tiny bit too big for him:
HALO Hobbit

His older sister got in ot it too, but with less gusto:
HALO Hobbit 2

Turns out he was so fond of the whole rig that he refused to take the helmet off until he went to bed:
Gamer Trey

That was New Year's Eve.  I'm only a bit sad to say that I decided to stay in.  I fell asleep barely half an hour into the new year while watching a movie.  It was a fitting fizzling end to the year.

Here's to hoping for a better 2011.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

I Like My Coffee Like I Like My Women...

The other day I posted that as my status on Facebook.

In reply I got over fifty comments. Many of them were pretty predictable and some of them were horrifically revealing about the folks that posted them, but mixed in were some tasty morsels of pure genius. I can only take complete credit for about a dozen of these, but I’ve still edited together some of my favorites and listed them below for you, dear readers. Enjoy…

I like my coffee like I like my women: Columbian and stuffed in a bag.

I like my coffee like I like my women: full-bodied with a kick.

I like my coffee like I like my women: bitter and smelling strongly of alcohol.

I like my coffee like I like my women: ridden downhill by a guy named Juan and his donkey.

I like my coffee like I like my women: bought cheap down at the corner.

I like my coffee like I like my women: instant.

I like my coffee like I like my women: roasted, ground, and forgotten in the trunk of my car.

I like my coffee like I like my women: raised just for me by a third world village.

I like my coffee like I like my women: hot and wet.

I like my coffee like I like my women: used by thousands of hungover drunks every morning.

I like my coffee like I like my women: strong, but a little messed up.

I like my coffee like I like my women: any way but straight.

I like my coffee like I like my women: strained.

I like my coffee like I like my women: weak and tasteless.

I like my coffee like I like my women: nutty.

I like my coffee like I like my women: expensive.

I like my coffee like I like my women: dripping.

I like my coffee like I like my women: rich with 2% fat.

I like my coffee like I like my women: with two pumps of vanilla.

I like my coffee like I like my women: ground up in the freezer.

I like my coffee like I like my women: sampled from all over the world.

I like my coffee like I like my women: lined up in pretty rows at the supermarket.

I like my coffee like I like my women: two or three times a day and often all night.

I like my coffee like I like my women: in the largest cup size available.

I like my coffee like I like my women: scalding hot and dumped in my lap.