Ground Control to Major Kong

Like Slim Pickens, I never met a meme that I didn’t want to ride all the way down. So I went ahead and registered the inevitable URL. Announcing NERDLEPOINT DOT COM! Look! I have a header and everything!


I’ve been looking for an excuse to use both my Tintin fonts, and so I was delighted when they looked good next to each other.

I’m really enjoying the offline part of this. And so a part of me wants to get into the thing business, where I make things that just happen to have these magical properties of being able to summon URLs. So I’m filling out a vendor application for the West Chester Festival of the Arts on May 4th. I’ll sell hand-painted needlepoint canvases (each one unique, since each one will have a different URL), and stitch charts (also unique). The URLs will point to a password-protected proxy system, so you, the purchaser, can configure the URL to go anywhere you like. And the passwords will be included along with the canvas or chart, in a little sealed envelope as much like the envelope in Clue as I can possibly get it.

A photo of your booth is required in the application, so I borrowed my stepmother’s Official Craft Show Tent (it previously saw action as the World Famous Pontani Sisters’ changing room), and set it up in the back yard for photos. Lydia is hiding behind the table. And behind the Photoshopped signage (I’m making it clear in my application that this is a mackup):


Right now, the booth is very science-fair, what with the table front and center. I guess I’ll need to put it catty-corner, or something. Or have a white pedestal with a single iPhone on it, showing the iMatrix barcode reader, all tastefully picked out with a halogen spot. Or an erlenmeyer flask with some dry ice in it? I’m floundering. Any suggestions for booth design? The space is 10×10, and the actual things I’ll be selling (stitch charts and hand-painted needlepoint canvases) fit into an 8x5x11 manila envelope.

Ground Control to Major Kong

Nerdlepoint Pattern Chart

I really like how QRcodes —cryptic, digital, unintelligble — are at one extreme end of the “real versus digital” numberline, and needlepoint — dense, wooly, handmade — is way way waaaaay at the other end of that same numberline. I get a little bit of a worlds-colliding, mad-scientist thrill when I can coax a URL and a target website out of a piece of starched canvas and wool. Especially when I can do it using a frickin laser beam.

I’ve been generating QRcodes using the Kaywa tool, after trying some of the others. The javascript rails plugin doesn’t seem able to create the smallest version of code, and Swetake’s Perl/PHP tool generated images that crashed my iPhone’s alpha reader. The Kaywa generator is very easy to use: put in a URL, get a .png file back, which you can save. Then you can zoom that file up to a zillion percent in Photoshop and start transferring to canvas. By hand, painting each thread intersection with black acrylic paint.

The hard part of the pointing process, for me, is figuring out EXACTLY where to mark the canvas. Because on the computer screen or on a printout, a box is “between” the coordinates, but on the canvas, the box is on top of the intersection between two threads, so it’s “on” the coordinates. So when I’m painting the canvas, I’m always scratching my head and thinking “wait, the pixel is HERE, so I’ll paint the intersection that’s up… and to the right…” and it’s oddly draining. Especially when I’m using four stitches to represent one box, so it’s a little bit arguable where the first junction should be.

I’ve tried adding lots of red reference lines to the canvas, to match red lines that I’ve drawn on the chart. This clutters up the canvas. Actual needlepointers stitch threads into the canvas to mark lines, then pull them out later. That solves the clutter problem, but even the red lines don’t help me with the “always up and to the right” mental gymnastics, and so I’m reluctant to baste in marker threads.

Inspired by the really excellent pattern charts included in AMH Design’s kits, I took some time to start a pattern chart in OmniGraffle, which should look an awful lot more like the canvas than a flat stitch chart. This diagram is for a version 1 QRcode, which is the smallest possible size at 21 modules wide:

Nerdlepoint Stitch Diagram (completed)

It was fun to make (for some definitions of “fun”), but I’m not really sure how much this chart will help me. For instance, cross-stitchers apparently have no problem doing the mental juggling between boxes-between-the-lines and boxes-on-the-lines, because they work from stitch charts without ever painting the canvas. Maybe it’s just my spatial-relations challenge that makes that part of the process seem so confusing.

UPDATE: Hey, looks like this meme is breaking! My colleague Todd Bender linked to me and an article in about QRcodes in today’s NY Times that mentions the needlepoint pillow top. Cool!

Nerdlepoint Pattern Chart

Trolling for Nerds

Trolling for Nerds at Starbucks
I started putting up Guerilla Drive-In flyers around West Chester. It’s got nothing but the GDI logo and a QRcode with a special landing URL on it.

If even a single nerd out there sees the flyer, snaps the QRcode with a cameraphone reader, and hits the special landing URL encoded in it, I’m going to declare victory and immediately try to enlist their help in the final assembly and placement of the Guerilla Drive-In MacGuffin.

UPDATE: THREE SHORT HOURS after putting up those flyers, my nerdbait got its first response, from Stephen W, who is the IT guy at Taylor’s Music Store. He used a camera to grab the image, Googled 2d barcodes, then used a Java app to extract the URL. VIC-TORY!!!! Stephen, you are awesome. The MacGuffin is gonna be built in no time.

Trolling for Nerds

Push the Button, Max!

I got the new clutch cable, needle bearing, and some other bits from Bob’s BMW and put them into the bike early this morning. The good news is that the rig was then drive-able, but it was still making some odd noises and went into first gear only reluctantly. Time to get expert help! I immediately drove it to Joe Litchko, who is the vintage-bike mechanic and oddball-machinery expert at Devon Hill BMW nearby.

Push the Button, Max!I drove my bike around back and into the motorcycle bay, and discovered this awesome 1959 diesel Mercedes up on the lift, with rally stickers on it. It turns out that Joe is the mechanic and navigator for Wetherill Racing’s team in the… are you ready for this?

THE CENTENNIAL RE-RUNNING OF “THE GREAT RACE”. Yes, THAT Great race! With Tony Curtis as the Great Leslie and Jack Lemmon as the stylish and dastardly Professor Fate.

I knew dimly, but had forgotten, that the 1965 Disney movie was about a real car race held in 1908, from New York to Paris the long way, via Shanghai and Moscow. This year’s race is the real deal: here’s the race website and here’s a map from the NY Times: “No Shoulder next 22,000 miles“.

Joe says that he’s replaced just about everything that can be replaced on the car. And I’m guessing that a diesel Mercedes is the kind of car that you can get parts for from under a dusty tarp in a shed in Siberia. Because, you know, I guess you might have to!

So, on to the important question: I asked Joe what team they thought of themselves as. I was, of course, secretly hoping he’d say "Professor Fate and Max."

He said "Professor Fate and Max.". AWESOME.

Here’s some Jack Lemmon to celebrate this fantastic discovery. Also, I CANNOT TELL YOU how fantastic it is to have Joe/Max working on my sidecar rig. I now have a shred of a claim to call it the “Hannibal 8“. Perhaps Joe will be able to add a cannon, or an ice-melter. Push the button, Max!

Push the Button, Max!

Okay, okay, I admit it…

I was posting about my motorcycle in an effort to MAN UP my blog some. You know, because of all the needlepoint posts and the “ZOMG look at this fabulous JACKET!!!” (squeal!)

So now that I’ve filled up my Flickr photostream with photos of greasy, inscrutable metal shards, I’m going to tell myself that I’ve got enough yang on the dial to continue talking about my hand work. Because, you know, the next step in finishing my stuff involves rabbit-skin glue, which involves dead animals. So there’s that.

Okay, okay, I admit it…

To-do list for the Guerilla Drive-In:

First, get the bike fixed. Something’s wrong with the clutch: the adjustment bolt on the release lever has to go in farther than the locknut will allow it, before the clutch will disengage. After reading up in the Clymer manual, I think I have to THRUST BEARING PUSHROD LA LA LA not really sure what I’m doing, except I think some of the pushy bits in there have worn shorter than they should be. So far, the bike has rewarded intrepid foolhardy investigation and poking. I hope my luck holds.
Chapter Five: Clutch

Second, figure out how to get the sound out of the 16MM projector and into the Emergency Backup Sound System. The sound coming out of the front of the projector isn’t line-level, it’s too “hot” for a line in, and so I need to get some kind RESISTOR OR DIODE LA LA LA definitely don’t know what I’m doing here. I stopped by the local TV repair shop, but told me to try Radio shack. No luck at Radio shack either. I really REALLY need to find a local electronics guru.
Impedance Selector

Musicians wanted for short, inconvenient gigs

Third, post these flyers around West Chester, so I can find some musicians to play three-minute gigs between reels. Or variety acts; fire jugglers would be good. Or someone to play Lady of Spain on the Muppaphone. Anyhow, if you know someone whose ideal gig consists of three minutes outdoors, maybe in the rain, with the added possibility of getting lost in the woods, then please make sure they know to go to:

…before I get the clutch fixed and the impedance figured out on the projector! The first movie is coming up in April.

Hmm, do you suppose there are any variety booking agents in the area that also do soldering and clutch repair?

To-do list for the Guerilla Drive-In:

When Men Were Men and Fish Were Nervous

Collar and Shoulder patchI stole from my father. When I was house-sitting last summer, I saw, hanging up in his closet, the jacket that he wore when salmon fishing with my grandfather in Reykjavik. My grandfather would go up there and fish with his buddies, and they’d read Flashman books and generally have an incredibly stylish Male Fish Safari. At least, that’s how I imagine it.

I’ve stolen from my dad’s closet before — in 1989, I think I pinched a pair of baggy Girbaud Hammer Pants, which I then wore to every college dance. And I think I nabbed some sort of sand-colored unstructured linen blazer thing to be rumpled in back in 1994. But I can’t even tell you how excited I am about this jacket. I LOVE THIS DAMN JACKET.

I think I love it so much because it has lots of special features, and I love special features. It has a sheepkin patch on the left chest pocket, for sticking flies into. It has a leather patch sewn in for holding your folding scissors. It has a wide pocket ON THE FOREARM, which in unbelievably commando.

L'Esquimau Fabrication
And it’s made of canvas, not nylon, and it has contrasting threads, and it has just the right amount of small D-rings hanging off it, for clipping your gear onto (your landing net clips onto the neck; your scissors clip onto the chest), and the labels are made of satin and have stylish faded colors, and the fish patch is sewn with some tinsel thread so the fish’s belly glitters.

I think the thing I like so much about this jacket is that it is clearly a special-purpose commando jacket, but the special purpose is not “going out and shooting people.” It’s totally badass but does not have a “LOOKIT MY NUNCHUCKAU” vibe about it. I think you could base a whole Internet business around how cool this jacket is.

Actually, I plan to do exactly that. Stay tuned!

When Men Were Men and Fish Were Nervous

Announcing the West Chester Gorilla Suit Construction Workshop

Dear friends, I invite you to learn more about the West Chester Gorilla Suit Construction Workshop, where participants will create their very own durable, stylish, and functional gorilla suit.

Now, most of the people I tell this about want to know why I’m doing this. Which is why I’ve tried to enumerate my reasons on the gorilla suit workshop dot com website.

Quite frankly, though, the biggest reason (besides owning an outfit that’s equally stylish and appropriate at an embassy party, at a jewel heist, or in a high-speed chase), is that by sewing a WaveTrend Active RFID chip into each gorilla suit created at the workshop, I can create the world’s very first actual, functioning gorilla detector.

Creating a working gorilla detector has been a lifelong dream of mine:

Anyhow, tell your friends! Mark your calendars! This October!

Announcing the West Chester Gorilla Suit Construction Workshop