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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.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Today Sucked in a Special Way.

Today my trusty Dremel rotary tool died.  So it goes.

To be fair, I'm pretty hard on my tools and I tend to use them up, but I really wasn't ready to rush out and replace this $90 tool.  Instead, I shelled out ten dollars for a set of Torx screwdrivers and a few more dollars for some spare parts to see if I could somehow resurrect this poor departed device.

I had a lot of other things to work on, but found myself so emotionally invested in keeping this one tiny thing alive that I didn't get to any of them.  In the end, it proved to be beyond my abilities to repair the Dremel.  I suppose it was just the Dremel's time.  So it goes.

I was halfway past giving up on my vain efforts to repair it when I got a call from the formeman down at the boatyard where my boat, the Heart of Gold is lying alongside the dock while she awaits repairs.

"Hi there," says I, "how's things?"

"Not good," says he, "your boat tried to sink last night, the engine was completely underwater by the time we noticed it.  We pumped the water out, but there's oil and diesel fuel all over inside the boat."

"Fuck," says I, "I guess I'm on my way to Alameda."

I drove to Alameda to find that the entire engine room was coated in a thick black sludge of diesel fuel and used motor oil.  It turns out that the float switch which turns on the bilge pump decided to go on vacation.  At the same time the flax packing gland that seals up the hole around the propeller shaft figured "haha, now that nobody's here and the bilge pump isn't working, I'm going to just let all of the Oakland Estuary spill into the engine room." 

Fuck you flax packing.  You and the horse you rode in on.  And your little dog too.

Once I'd fixed what I could I then went to the boatyard foreman to discuss the upcoming very expensive cleanup and engine overhaul that would be required.  Bear in mind that earlier that day I was having a hard time coming up with $90 to replace a tool that is essential in almost all of my workshop projects.  This new pile of expenses is really going to be painful.  This is when I looked at the time.  It was very nearly five o' clock. 

Rush hour.  I hate rush hour.

Since I'm averse to the notion of waiting in lines and rush hour traffic strikes me as the worst version of waiting in lines, I decided to stop and see a movie instead.  That way, I'd get to drive home in relative peace and solitude long after the rat race is over for the day. 

I saw Transformers 3.  If it wasn't for that, the day would've been kinda okay.  Instead it was as if I'd paid eleven dollars (ELEVEN DOLLARS?!?!) to have Michael Bay make a bunch of noise, slap me in the face, and then run away laughing.

So today sucked.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Bliss at Night

Saturday night I was staying with my cousin Desmond and his family out on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay.  After dinner we stopped to check out the statue titled "Bliss Dance" which was created for Burning Man last year.  The statue was fabricated in an artist workshop on Treasure Island and, after her appearance at the Burning Man festival, was installed on one of the open fields on the island back in late May.

The installation is impressive.  Here's a wide angle shot to give you an idea of the scale:
Bliss Dance

The installation includes an impressive lighting array which shifts colors throughout the night.  In white light, you can see her stainless steel mesh skin:
Bliss Dance Closeup

But as the external and internal lights change colors, she changes as well:

I don't know how long they plan on keeping her in place, so if you get a chance to stop by the island you should check her out before it's too late.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Current Works in Progress

I dislike posting about unfinished things.  For me it's not much better than posting about things I'm thinking about doing.  Until a project is finished, it's not much more than a notion.  I figure if I write something like "I'm about halfway done building a functional jetpack," I might as well also go ahead and post "I'm making a cure for cancer," or "any minute now I'll write a novel." 

Still, sometimes I think there's not enough stuff getting finished in the workshop and I'm suffering from a lack of interesting things to post about.  So here I am reluctantly posting pictures of things that are getting done even if they're not getting finished quite yet...

First up, my friend Trevor has enlisted my help to build an Achilles costume for an upcoming Trojan War reenactment.  Here's a very early picture of his helmet coming together:
Trevor's Achilles Helm begins

On the subject of helmets, I'm still making progress on my Isaac Clarke engineering helmet from Dead Space 2:
Faceplate Finished

Here's the back of the helmet compared to a screenshot of the game character:
Helmet back refinements

Since I'm gearing up to start molding helmets, I dusted off one of my Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine Mk7 helmets and started modifying it like crazy to turn it into a Mark 8 helmet.  The dome still needs to be re-shaped and I need to sculpt out the grill, the brow ridge, the mohawk, the ears, and so on.  Still, you get the idea:
Chopped Space Marine Helmet

Since I'm on a roll with helmets, I pulled my Star Wars Republic Commando helmet off the backburner and started smoothing it out a bit more:
Republic Commando Helmet Smoothing

Speaking of backburner projects, I've begun tinkering with my HALO shotgun build again.  Here's the main body with the proper texture in place:
Shotgun Body Smoothing
The grip and the butt will be getting a much rougher texture before I'm done with them.

While I've been doing all of this, I've also had Lopez crank out slices of a new build for the MA5C Assault Rifle from HALO3:
Fit Testing Assembled AR Prototype

I'm also finishing up the forming bucks for the last four pieces of my HALO3 Marine armor:
Marine underarm forming bucks

Not feeling like I've got enough going on, I've taken on a commission to build the Predator M-3 heavy pistol from Mass Effect 2:
Predator M-3 Build Beginning

Meanwhile, I'm slowly putting together a batch of my kneeling garden gnome riflemen:
Gneeling Gnome Rifleman Squad

Stay tuned.  I'll be posting more about all of these projects as they come together...


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Haulout and Rigging Repairs for the Heart of Gold

For those of you who don't know, back in March I took the Heart of Gold to downtown Petaluma to go out drinking with some friends.  I like to bring the boat downtown because it puts me within walking distance of all of the shops, restaurants, and bars (or stumbling/crawling distance as the case may be).  Unfortunately, as I made my approach to the D Street drawbridge, the bridge tender didn't tell me that due to some sort of controls problem, the bridge hadn't opened all the way. 

Even though I've taken my boat through this same bridge many times (often at higher tides) This time I didn't have quite enough clearance to pass under the bridge.  Instead, I caught the forestay on the bridge.  Since I was trying to avoid holding up traffic on D Street, I was moving pretty quick when it hit and the impact was enough to tweak the roller furler, mangle the bowsprit, and snap the welds that held the mastead to the top of the mast.  The mast itself may have been bent beyond repair as well.

Luckily nobody was hurt.

Having a potentially broken mast and a bunch of wrecked rigging means no sailing.  No sailing means my sailboat is basically not a sailboat.  This will not do.

The plan was to take the boat down to the yard for repairs as quickly as possible.  The only problem is that not long after the whole fiasco, I was shipped off to Japan for Operation Tomodachi.  Then I came back to the crazy schedule I needed to run in order to be ready for Maker Faire.

Finally on Monday I set out from the Petaluma Marina with my father aboard, bound for Svendsen's Boat Works in Alameda.  I picked Svendsen's because back when I was a 14-year old sea scout, they gave us a good deal on the haulout when we were working on the old wooden 45-foot picket boat that became the Sea Scout Ship Compass Rose.  I liked the facility and the location and felt like it was a good idea to go back there.

The transit down to Alameda was pretty unremarkable.  Dad and I left the marina at about 1030.  Three hours later we were finally clear of the Petaluma River channel and in fairly open water.  When the waves started picking up, things got a bit interesting for a moment.

Back when the masthead broke off, it was held in place by one of the old wire halyards that had hooked itself across the top of the mast.  In the calm water of the Petaluma River, it's stayed in place for the past three months.  Once we were in a bit of a rolling sea, the broken masthead finally started to work its way down the wire halyard. 

The main problem with this is that it might eventually decide to come down altogether.  In the process, the roller furler for the jib would kink or bend and possibly tear up the jib itself.  Turning for a favorable wind, I managed to get one of the rope halyards wrapped around the upper spreaders and pull it tight enough to hold the damaged rigging in place.  If the rigging didn't look messed up before, it definitely looked bad now:
Rigging Awry

While I was monkeying around with all of that, Dad was at the wheel:
Dad at the Helm

Early in the afternoon we passed Red Rock:
Passing Red Rock

As we entered the open Bay, I was glad to see that the weather was fairly calm:
Approaching Angel Island

In case anyone's wondering how I could've hit a bridge, I'd like to point out that it's very difficult to guage how much clearance your mast will have while standing in the cockpit.  So when the bridge is opened up, you have to trust that the operator has indeed opened it as far as he needs to in order for you to pass under it.  To illustrate this point, here's a shot of my mast as I was about to pass under eastern span of the Bay Bridge.  In this case I had about a hundred feet of clearance:
Passing under Old Bay Bridge
It still looks like it's about to hit.

Having passed safely under the bridge, we made our way down the Oakland Estuary toward Alameda.  Along the way, we passed Coast Guard Island:
Coast Guard Cutter

After a bit of looking, we finally found our way to the dock at Svendsen's Boat Works and moored.  Here's another shot of my jacked-up rigging:
Moored at Svendsen's

As we left the yard, a lone raven stood watch in the yard:
Svendsen's Raven

The next day I got the first call from the yard with their initial range of possible damage estimates.  I'd rather not post numbers, but suffice it to say that their worst-case estimate was about half of my total earnings from last year.  Thank goodness I have insurance.

Stay tuned...


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Warning Label for My Forming Oven

A while back I wrote this post about building my own vacuforming machine.  I've since added a vital warning label to the oven section:
Warning Label

I'm still trying to decide what to put on the short sides by the hooks that hold the frame up.  Since they're sharp and I've already managed to cut my head on them a couple of times, I'm toying with "CAUTION: THIS THING WILL EAT YOUR HEAD." 

Any thoughts?  Please leave suggestions in the comments.

I Hate it When My Head Gets Clogged

The word of the day: feculent.

The other day I woke up on my boat and, as often happens first thing in the morning, I felt the sudden urge to go to the head* to sit down and catch up on my reading.  I ended up taking a number four** and when I got up and stepped on the flush pedal I was mortified when there was no flushing.  No flushing at all. 

On the boat I have a vacuum flush system.  This means that there's a ball valve at the base of the bowl and a vacuum pump and tank downstream in the plumbing.  It's a pretty foolproof system.  When working properly, stepping on the flush pedal opens such a powerful vacuum source that there's an audible rending of the air around the bowl itself.  Your ears pop and, if your mouth happens to be open when you flush, you may actually have the breath sucked from your lungs.  It's all very satisfying.

So you can imagine my dismay when I stepped on the pedal and nothing happened.  Not only did I miss the satisfaction of having my daily intestinal sculpture evacuated into some far away place where it would no longer offend anyone, I was also filled with dread at the thought of the repairs that I would get to peform on the system itself.

What follows is a tale of filth and flatulence, the slightest word of which could harrow up your soul.  There's also pictures.  In order to spare those folks who might have just eaten a meal, the rest is after the jump. Click "read more" if you dare...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Other People's Pictures from Maker Faire 2011

Just as the title says, these are pics I've found around the internets that were taken by other folks at the Maker Faire.  Clearly there were a lot of photographers there who were much more capable than me.  You can see my pictures in the previous post by clicking HERE.
Halo Cosplayers
Halo Cosplayers by Doug Luberts, on Flickr

Master Chief and friends Maker Faire
"Master Chief and friends Maker Faire" by Doug Luberts, on Flickr
Barca Lounger

Halo Guys
"Halo Guys" by Jen_Hansen, on Flickr

Halo Soldiers
"Halo Soldiers" by DoNotLick, on Flickr

This guy interviewed me for a brief spot on CNET:
Eric and Master Chief
"Eric and Master Chief" by BeerNotBombs, on Flickr

You can see the video here: http://cnettv.cnet.com/maker-faire-2011/9742-1_53-50105322.html

The character on the left in this shot is Sir Tsaboc from 405th.com.  He was the only HALO costumer that I didn't bring with me and he came in his excellent ODST suit:
With a Spartan
With a Spartan" by Tsabo Tsaboc, on Flickr

Melissa Howell, a very talented photography student, was on the scene and took tons of pictures.  Here's a couple of my favorites:

No infants were harmed in the making of this photograph.

Here's Trevor and Breana making my Marine armor look good:

She got one of the best shots I've found of my weapon display:

Unfortunately, this was after my crew had been pulling things off of it and replacing them haphazardly while coming and going in costume.

Then there's this goofy bastard:

Melissa Howell posted almost three hundred pictures from all around the Faire.  You can see more of her pictures by clicking HERE.

Halo Helmets
"Halo Helmets" by Kati Giblin, on Flickr

I've found a good many pics showing the helmet lineup on that side of the booth:
Maker Faire Bay Area 2011
"Maker Faire Bay Area 2011" by Blake Maloof, posted by Bekathwia on Flickr>

So far this is the best shot I've found of the two beaky Space Marine helmets:
Maker Faire Bay Area 2011
"Maker Faire Bay Area 2011" by Blake Maloof, posted by Bekathwia on Flickr

Here's a winning shot of my crew with the display in the background:
Maker Faire Bay Area 2011
"Maker Faire Bay Area 2011" by Blake Maloof, posted by Bekathwia on Flickr

Plus one of a couple of Spartans and a Marine just milling about:
Maker Faire Bay Area 2011
"Maker Faire Bay Area 2011" by Blake Maloof, posted by Bekathwia on Flickr

I've found some other pictures here and there, but my favorite of all is still this one:
Master Chief Red
"Master Chief Red" by ohad*, on Flickr

Friday, June 3, 2011

2011 Ancient Mariner's Regatta

Last weekend marked the 60th Annual Ancient Mariners Regatta, a chance for Sea Scout Ships from all over California to come together and match their skills in all manner of aquatic competition.  This year the regatta was held in Alameda at the USS HORNET Museum.

I cruised there aboard the SSS COMPASS ROSE.  When I say I cruised there, what I mean is I loaded my gear onto the ship and we got underway.  It was only a short while after that when I'd sat down to read a book.  Then I woke up and we were moored outboard of our sister ship, the SSS ALBATROSS out of Martinez, CA:

I guess I was overdue for some rest.

Attendance in all types of scouting has been on the decline for years, but you wouldn't guess it from the crowd that assembled for the opening remarks on Saturday morning:
Opening Briefing

For my part, I was the event director for Flotilla Drill throughout the weekend.  Flotilla Drill is a precision rowing event in which the crews are judged on their ability to crew a 26-foot whaleboat with eight oars.  This meant that most of my view for the weekend looked like so:
Compass Rose and Sea Fox During Flotilla Drill

At some point my sister Rose snagged my camera to get pictures of the rest of the event, but all she really got was this shot of me debriefing one of the crews after their flotilla run:
Flotilla Debrief

Fortunately Melissa Howell, a much more diligent photographer managed to get these other shots:

In addition to plenty of pics from the flotilla drill, she snapped some gorgeous shots of other events. Here's Breeches Buoy:

Pulling Boat Race:


Flag Signalling:

You can see the rest of the pictures she took during the regatta by clicking HERE.  Out of all the photos Melissa took for the weekend, this one is still my favorite:

She also took this picture:

For the sake of retribution, I snapped this winning shot of her:

Because the crew of the COMPASS ROSE didn't have enough people to muster a full competing team, they combined with the crew of the SEA FOX for the duration of the regatta.  For all of their lack of previous cooperative practice, they actually did pretty good.

Finally, here's a shot of the two crews after the dress blue inspection on Sunday night:
Dress Blues

At least they look like they've got their act together...