Like the Thunderbirds, but


Like the Thunderbirds, but they want to beat you up

Kate patrols the rich vein of knitting blogs on the Web (a representative example) My mom used to describe my grandfather’s fly-fishing hobby as “relaxation for brain-surgeons”, and she was right: the exacting, small-scale demands of tying, selecting, and deploying a royal coachman number 14 were therapeautic for those whose jobs were equally exacting. Knitters are the same way, I think: it’s a highly technical skill, involving not a little math, and requires a non-trivial investment of time and money in order to progress. Young freelance illustrators and art directors (another example) with digital cameras and (often) free time between jobs are the perfect demographic for knit blogs, and there’s a lot of really cool stuff out there. I even made a sock dog after seeing Anna’s of Absolutely-vile.com‘s pattern.

Kate sent me the link to Anna’s site, originally, and some clicks around in the community led me to ReadyMade Magazine, from which I got the idea for the Guerilla Drive-In. Work is progressing nicely on the Commando LCD Projector, by the way: I wired up a Sylvania halogen high-beam headlight to run off of DC power, with a Radio Shack adapter, and I bought five feet of six-inch aluminum ducting to use for the projector body. More on that later.)


In ReadyMade, I found an ad for Kid Robot, which has lots of 12″ action figures for Hong Kong platter spinners and other clunky-shoed Asian hip-hoppers. Take a look, if you have half an hour to kill. The most interesting figures there, I thought, were the “Brothersworker” series, which are a set of blue-collar industrial action figures, all with their own union-trade specialties: “Bomb is an expert in the construction site on the bombing techniques.” They’ve all got big, hulking, Guy Ritchie cockney foreheads, and come with working tools: Smart (pictured above) comes with a TIG welder, as far as I can tell. The figures are hugely detailed, and hugely expensive. here’s the official site.

Like the Thunderbirds, but

It’s beatiful in West Chester

It’s beatiful in West Chester today, and all the motorcycles came out of their garages, like oily, dusty daffodils. A bright red Honda CBR followed me for two blocks this morning, the left-turn signal blinking on and off, on and off. You can’t hear a turn-signal clicker inside a full face helmet, and the indicator light is way down outside your field of view, so forgetting to cancel your turn signal is the first sign of rustiness. Little signs like that (along with putting both feet down at a stop light), are normally what separate weekend hobbyists from real riders. This weekend, though, everybody’s rusty, and there’s a spirit of bonhomie and forgiveness in the air. I even saw a skinny young Suzuki rider in neon green Joe Rocket leathers talking to a grizzled Harley rider, which normally never happens. Both of them were leaning up against their bikes in the Burger King parking lot, basking in the thin spring sunshine.

It’s beatiful in West Chester

I recently read through Philip

I recently read through Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy: “The Golden Compass”, “The Subtle Knife”, and “The Amber Spyglass”. People seem to call them the “not-the-Harry-Potter” books, which is almost fair. Instead of a Tom Brown’s School Days with magic, the Dark Materials books are from another well-defined genre, in which the hero seeks to right a fundamental flaw at the axis of parallel worlds. The theme is taken from Milton’s Paradise Lost (as Stephen King’s Dark Tower theme is taken from Robert Browning’s Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.) Unlike Stephen King’s parallel-worlds books, though, Pullman’s books are very religious, much more like C.S. Lewis and Madeline L’Engle.



So, once I was finished hoovering “The Amber Spyglass”, I decided to pick up the Chronicles of Narnia books again — basically, reading my way through the whole right side of the “Young Adults” section at the bookstore around the corner*. I found The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on the shelf, and I discovered two things. First, the Narnia books are incredibly speedy reads: I polished the Dawn Treader off in four hours. Second, like Roald Dahl, — and unlike Pullman — C.S. Lewis really is a children’s writer. His prose is direct, simple, straight, and funny as hell. Viz. the first paragraph of the book:


Chapter 1: The Picture in the Bedroom

There was a boy called Clarence Eustace Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can’t tell you how his friends spoke to him, for he had none. He didn’t call his Father and Mother “Father” and “Mother”, but Harold and Alberta. The were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotalers and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on bets and the windows were always open.

Eustace, of course, is a terrible grind in the beginning of the book, but ends up redeemed, and goes on to be the hero in The Silver Chair. It’s this quality of redemption, I think, that really makes C.S. Lewis’s books feel like a breath of fresh air: J.K. Rowling’s books are at least as compelling (though maybe written to an audiencce a year or two older, or fifty years later in history), but you never get the feeling that Crabb and Goyle will ever have a change of heart.


C.S. Lewis’ characters also seem to be their age, in the book — everyone suffers from temptation, and everyone has a childish hissy fit at some time or other during the book. Even Prince Caspian storms off to his cabin and slams the door when he can’t visit the Uttermost East, and emerges an hour later tearful and penitent. This kind of characterization rings true, and I remember seeing myself in the characters when I read the books for the first time. Usually, when Eustace made up his mind not to be a horrible pain in the ass, I’d go downstairs ond offer to wash the dishes, or something.


It’s also striking how little happens in the Narnia books, compared to Harry Potter or the Dark Materials books. There’s a striking absence of twelve-foot cave trolls, and nowhere in the book do any smelly, treacherous cliff ghasts get gorily beheaded by an ancient, occult nanotech knife. The creepiest part of the Dawn Treader consists of Lucy walking down the silent second-story hall of a magician’s house in the middle of the day. I can remember, however, every hair on my head standing up when Lucy looked into the little mirror and saw a bearded reflection of herself looking out. I don’t think I could use a hair dryer for a month after reading the Dawn Treader: I’d have to turn it off and listen for whatever it was that I didn’t just hear.


* The left side of the Young Adults section is entirely crammed with Mary Kate and Ashley books.

I recently read through Philip

The devil finds work


The devil finds work for busy hands
Kieran Downes is out with the flu today, and I’m covering for his work, in addition to my own — tweaking some airline emails, completing changes to a newspaper sitelet. So naturally, Jeremy and I had to find time to try out our new temporary tattoo paper. I created some barcode tattoos and printed them on a color laser printer. The result is even better than we had hoped: Kyle Smith’s newly barcoded hand is pictured at left.


The tattoo on Kyle’s hand works perfectly with my barcode wand scanner, sending his encoded employee ID directly into my computer. This opens up all sorts of ominous possibilities. To start out, we’re developing a Cybernetic Party Admission Module.


Eventually, we’ll probably be able to use what we develop for a client. Though that version won’t be likely to have a Cylon voice.

The devil finds work

Iggy Pop also demanded


Iggy Pop also demanded a whole head of broccoli

My eBay auction for the “Terrorist-Proof Sleeping Bag” ended yesterday, adding $15.50 to my motorcycle fund (see the thermometer on the right.)


The winning bidder had a “.co.uk” address. Some standard Google stalking revealed that the buyer is a producer for V Graham Norton, a saucy late-night show on BBC4 in London. Review of recently-purchased items (click on the item numbers) shows a list that is ominous in its focused, laser-like intensity.


Iggy Pop, apparently, once sent his producer out to get seven dwarfs brought backstage: “I want seven dwarfs, dressed up like the dwarfs in that movie about the dwarfs.” So I think Graham is walking in good footsteps, and I wish him luck.


(cf. this “Jack Ass Tongue Ring“.)


Anyhow, I hope that Graham enjoys the sleeping bag, and that the chemical-protective fabric doesn’t snag his new Dallas Brand Stockings.

Iggy Pop also demanded