Nerdlepoint store is up on Etsy!

My nerdlepoint shop is now up on Etsy! You can visit it at

This is the first time since the Retropod that I’ve offered something directly for sale on the web, and I hope this venture goes along more smoothly than that one did.

Etsy users, what am I overlooking? Did I make any Etsy-n00b blunders? I don’t want to make unpleasant waves among the the Gocco-printing, needle-felting hipster crafters over there, so any tips would be welcomed!

Nerdlepoint store is up on Etsy!

HOLY GRAIL T-shirt quest: MOL Shipping Alligator

About every ten years, I see a T-shirt that I SUDDENLY MUST HAVE. In 1992, I followed the J.A. Serusa Water Well Company owner’s van home in Vineyard Haven, Massachusets because their gushing-wellhead logo was SO AWESOME and it was printed with regular ink, not plastic ink. I still mourn losing that shirt. In 2001, I spotted a “Defend Brooklyn” T-shirt outside my apartment, and totally spazzed out and searched the Internet and the five boroughs until I found it for sale across the street. The “Defend Brooklyn” shirt is still in my drawer, but is now gray and dingy. I am bereft of truly awesome T-shirts.

Until now. I have found the new HOLY GRAIL shirt.

On my way to visit my client in NY about once a week, I drive right past the Port Newark and Port Elizabeth Container Complexes, which is technically not even a part of the USA, but instead is “Foreign Trade Zone 49“. The steel containers are stacked by tall cranes in enormous, tidy piles along the highway. Trucks are constantly rolling by carrying containers with exotic labels.

Yesterday, I spotted the logo for Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL), and now I MUST HAVE IT AS A T_SHIRT. Here’s a picture that Flickr user James47ag got:

Mitsui OSK Lines logo

I don’t think I can do a better job describing this logo than Flickr user “imbrettjackson” did in a comment on that photo:

“Look at his eyes – focused, alert, worried. He’s got to get this beauty out of here and back to the swamp A f***ing S A P.

And then there’s that smile: shit. Is this really happening? Oh s**t – Crocky, old boy YOU’RE SET FOR LIFE! Gotta get home. Gotta get home.

I DO believe he’d defend that package to within an inch of his life. And really – you’d want “crocodile tenacity” in your overseas cargo haulage.”

I really, really, REALLY REALLY REALLY want a T-shirt of the MOL logo now. I’m not sure how to go about it, either. Their main website, unsurprisingly, does not have a gift store with T-shirts and soda-can cozies, etc. Disturbingly, their press release section announces that they have gone to a completely vanilla “M-O-L” serif-font combination of straight and reverse type, an approach so overused that it was nicknamed “the logo of death” in the eighties. Plus, I’m not sure how wild MOL will be about random inquiries, given they’re still smarting from recent publicity about the Cougar Ace accident that led to the scrapping of 5,000 Mazda cars.

But against all that, MOL clearly has a long history of GREAT design. Check out this poster from 1926 (click for more):

Wow, and there’s lots more. It turns out that Mitsui OSK made illustrator Ryohei Yanagihara an honorary captain in 1969, and set up an online museum for his stuff. So there’s hope: especially since the Japanese version of the site shows a logo that’s starting to get familiar…

…ZOMG JACKPOT. That logo is indeed Ryohei Ranagihara’s work, created in 1967, and he talks about designing the logo here:

“I belonged to the advertising department of Suntory, and had drawn pictures for advertisements. If you were to sell whisky which would pleasantly intoxicate the drinkers, you could use a very asserting, bold idea. But my new clients were different… more or less sober businessmen. But my clients were not satisfied with [sober] motifs. They wanted something more aggressive and an amphibious character, because containers were active both at sea and on shore. So we arrived at the idea of choosing the alligator…

…The container at first was simply a silver rectangular box, which was condemned by Korenori-san as “looking like a coffin”. So I drew it in full detail into what it looks now.

The anchor tattoo on the Alligator’s arm is dandy, isn’t it?”

Okay,I’m off to Japan to get a shirt. BRB.

UPDATE! MOL turns out to be UTTERLY BADASS at handling inquiries

MOL Container LogoAt about 5PM, I used the “Contact Us” form on to say “Hey, MOL! I love your logo! Do you have T-shirts? Do you have high-res art I could use for desktop wallpaper? If you don’t sell T-shirts, could I make one?” I was FULLY expecting to hear nothing for two weeks, then a brusque form letter saying “hey, our IP is ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, crazy blogger, sincerely yours, never contact us again.”

Instead, I get three messages in the space of forty-five minutes. An “out-of-office” from the molpower webmaster, then a Blackberry message from the backup webmaster, saying “hi, I forwarded your message to corporate communications”, and then FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER I get a message from Ed Huebbe, manager of Corporate Communications. His message started out: “Dear John: I am glad to hear that you are so fond of our beloved gator. Attached are two of the highest resolution JPEGs I have available.”

My jaw was on the floor at this point. Corporate Communications, actually acting HAPPY that you like their Intellectual Property? And gladly sharing it? Has the world gone MAD?

Ed’s message just got better from there: “Sorry, we don’t have any shirts. But I don’t see why you couldn’t make one or two for yourself.” And the friendliest-worded legal request I’ve ever heard, asking me POLITELY and NICELY not to use the logo in objectionable or controversial ways, and not to use it for sale. And then he wrapped it all up with an offer to send me a gator mug if I’d give him my snail-mail address.

You might think I’m a weirdo for gushing this much about a corporate communications department. But in a medium-length lifetime so far of pestering Big Companies for information, this is the first time that one has ever acted like someone thinking their IP is cool is, you know, a good thing. And asking nicely to respect their IP, rather than acting like their Space-Based Lasers are poised to destroy me at a word from their high-priced counsel. MOL, you and your tattooed alligator both ROCK.

UPDATE TWO: Now working on MOL Gator Needlepoint
I liked the MOL gator so much, I made a needlepoint pattern of the logo, and have been stitching it up. I think it’s a fairly sailor-ly thing to do. You can follow the progress in the photoset on Flickr:

MOL Gator
HOLY GRAIL T-shirt quest: MOL Shipping Alligator

The Saddest Picture in the World

Kate is selling two Ken dolls, much the worse for wear, that she got in a lot of mixed Barbie patterns and other miscellanea the other day. I thought the Freddie Mercury Ken was kind of funny, but OH MAN THE PATHOS in the picture she took for her eBay listing. What is it about this picture? Is it the eyebrows? Is it resigned look on naked Ken’s face? Is it the fact that Kate has positioned them in front of a nice Sixties print, probably the only nice place they’ve been in the past twenty years — and the last nice place they WILL be for the next twenty?


Here’s her description:

“One blonde flocked vintage Ken doll, balding, poor condition. One brunette painted vintage Ken doll, Freddie Mercury hairstyle added with marker, poor condition. Includes black tuxedo pants, jacket, and white shirt, also in poor condition with fraying Ken tags.

Sold as is.

Do only the pretty ones find homes?”

You can bid on these poor fellows here. Please, I’m begging you.


I was overjoyed to learn that Kate already has a bidder from Finland, LAND OF ICE AND FIRE. Land of saunas, hot springs, and heavy-metal goddesses riding polar bears. The land where a Ken, bemused to learn that his life as a toy is over, surprised to learn that his face grew the ghost of a ridiculous mustache, saddened to learn that his head is patchy and bald, can START A NEW LIFE OF BOLD ADVENTURE.

In short (enormous nerd alert!), Ken and Ken have a chance to take the black and travel to the wall as sworn brothers of the Night’s Watch. Protecting all the Barbies in all their Malibu Beach Houses from all the snarks and grumkins. Godspeed, you two. I never thought this post could have such a happy ending.

The Saddest Picture in the World

What QRcodes Can Do For You

After walking to work this morning, I found this awesomeness in my mailbox:

Guerilla Drive-In Amp Fixer

This thing is a box that takes the sound OUT of the Guerilla Drive-In’s elderly 16MM projector, which is meant to drive a speaker, and changes it so that we can plug it in safely into the front of our tube-amp stack, while simultaneously(!) driving an FM transmitter for those that want to bring their own radio to the show. This is the Holy Grail that I have been looking for for a few years, and it was made by a really nice fellow named Nate. Nate sent along some instructions to go with the box. I’ll quote from it:
Musicians wanted for short, inconvenient gigs

Polarity switch: DPDT slide wired as a changeover. Flip to alter the
plasma dynamics within the warp core. Caution: While I believe this switch
to be a break-before-make type, I cannot guarantee that shorting will not
occur during a flip. The Eiki’s amp should tolerate this (since shorting
can also occur when inserting or removing 1/4″ plugs), but if it cautions
you not to connect or disconnect the external speaker while the power is
on, that caution extends to flipping the polarity switch.”

As you can see, Nate clearly knows his stuff. Or it’s a box full of spiders, and he’s lying to me, but I wouldn’t know the difference. Thanks for the Box of Awesomeness/Spiders, Nate! I can’t wait to use this at the next Guerilla Drive-In!

Nate found out about my need for a converter box from a friend in West Chester, who saw the Guerilla Drive-in “Nerds Needed” flyer posted in Taylor’s Music Store (pictured at right). So we know what QRcodes are excellent for, now: finding the ONE person out there that has the specific l33t skills you need to wire up a 16MM projector convertor. Hopefully, this will also apply if you need someone to re-weld the cracks in your amphibious car’s frame, or someone to balance the carburetors on your jetpack. Because I fervently hope to be in need of someone with those expertises at some point.

What QRcodes Can Do For You

How the NERDlepoint booth went

NERDlepoint booth stuffed in the sidecar
After realizing that the vendor-setup hour began at 7:30 AM, I hurriedly stuffed Sam and Risa’s craft-show tent into the sidecar and drove the half-mile to Everhart Park to set up the NERDlepoint booth.

Having an excuse to use a sidecar as a pickup truck is SO INCREDIBLY AWESOME. I don’t care if I looked like a giant tool as I drove all around the park, up and down the pedestrian paths, weaving between the funnel-cake truck and the half-completed face painting tent. That made the day worth it right there.

Somewhere off to the side, my 10-year-old self was watching me weave around, looking for my alloted space: “Excuse me, portable building coming through here IN A SIDECAR. Important work that REQUIRES SPECIALIZED TRANSPORTATION right here! Oh, mister pickup truck, I see you can’t get through the gap between those two trees, so I’ll just nip through there VROOM VROOM! Yes, 10-year-olf self: it was just as much fun as you imagine. In brief, it was fan-FUCKING-tastic.

NERDlepoint Booth

From eleven to five, I offered needlepoint patterns and hand-painted canvases so that people could stitch their own machine-readable hand embroidery. After a gloomy morning, the sun came out and the weather was BEAUTIFUL.
I spent most of the time sitting in the green chair and stitching on a canvas, so people could kind of sidle up behind me to see what I was doing. Unlike the hand-made soap booth on my right, or the avon-product-and-photograph booth on my left, I know this was NOT self-explanatory. Or even close to it. I tried hard to say “hello” to folks at the right moment: too soon, and you’re the aggressive hard-seller. Too late, and folks seem kind of disappointed, like you’re making it official that this stuff is Not For Them. In short, having a booth is hard work, and it’s surprisingly, you know, nuanced! People who do retail for a living are laughing at me now, I’m sure.

But plenty of folks wanted to know what NERDlepoint was all about, and so I explained about 1D barcodes (like at the supermarket), and then about 2D barcodes, and how they hold URLs, and if you have a cameraphone, you can scan the code and go directly to the website that matches the code:

NERDlepoint booth: The Big Pitch

…and then I’d show them the YouTube video with the DoCoMo ad, and let them use the Nokia n95 to shoot the big barcode on the wall that says “”, and then explain the bit about how each canvas contains a unique proxy URL that you can control with a secret passcode included with the pattern, so that you can control where the URL goes. Or change it. Et cetera.

I was actually surprised at how nice, and genuinely interested, people were. They were confused, sure, but there really wasn’t an element of distrust or anything*. People liked the name “NERDlepoint”, and when I pulled out the iPhone they universally went “OOooooh”, and they really liked my plastic oriental carpet, and I had a really nice time talking to folks.

I sold exactly zero patterns, but that’s pretty much what I expected, and now I’ll try my luck on Etsy, with a picture of the booth as “our retail store.” And seriously, the excuse to be the guy who drives around with a BUILDING in his SIDECAR? OH, man. That was so worth it right there.

* Except for one seven-year old kid who vigorously tried to expose me as a fraud by insisting that all the canvases I was selling were not unique. So we spent some time looking at just one quadrant of each pattern until I convinced her that I was not one of those QRcode knockoff con artists.

How the NERDlepoint booth went

The Rich Man’s Frug

As a teenager, the reason I really liked punk rock, I think, was the way it captured the teenage condition: you’d have this kid singing about how he just wanted a Pepsi, a small-scale drama, but his voice is drowned in this sea of powerful guitars and music. Which is just what being a teenager is like; normal wants and needs, normal voice, sea of powerful hormones turning the whole thing into a loud, awkward, pretty much out-of-control wreck. Like you’re in the driver’s seat of your life, but the car you’re in is swerving all over the road and the engine is screaming at 7,000 RPM.

In college, it got SLIGHTLY better, but at that point the “I like you, MAYBE I like you, I DON’T like you WAIT I MUST HAVE YOU! What? I wasn’t talking to you” games were completely MADDENING. On both sides. I mean, my roomate Todd Pugsley and I used to sit around in our room thinking of ways to invite girls over that wouldn’t, you know, let on that we actually LIKED them or anything: “Yeah, baby, you see, there’s a small amount of plutonium in our smoke detector, and we need a certain number of people in the room to bring down the atmospheric concentration.” Having a rusty old jeep and a learner’s permit at 20 was the ULTIMATE WEAPON: “Say, baby, I need to practice my driving, but I legally need someone in the car with me. It’s a state requirement!”

In other words, I was a manipulative dork, trying to get girls to admit that they liked me WITHOUT letting on that I liked them. I’m not intending to beat myself up, here; that’s pretty much what everyone was doing with every waking moment in college, except the exceptionally well-adjusted ones. Which, in college, I was not.

OKAY COMING TO THE POINT HERE and then one day I saw the movie “Sweet Charity”, released in 1969, and I saw TRAINED PROFESSIONALS doing the “come here, go away” thing combined with the punk-rock “it’s under control HOLY SHIT NO IT’S NOT” thing. Specifically, I’m talking about the “Rich Man’s Frug”, the 90-second clip that gave rise to an entire franchise of Austin Powers movies. The “I’m under control, I’m under control, wait I’M FLINGING MY PONYTAIL AROUND WITH WILD ABANDON” thing just… slayed me.

I think that’s how this clip ended up being one of the building blocks of my friggin’ psyche. Plus (and we’re getting to the reason for posting in the first place) when I go to my first in-person Weight Watchers meeting next week, and they ask my reason for wanting to lose weight, I’m NOT going to stand up in that room and say “so I can grow a chin beard, mutton chops, and strut around like a chicken with a cigarette in a holder.” But I’m telling YOU. Because that’s the TRUE reason.

The Rich Man’s Frug