I finally passed the Platelet Bar

Back in January, I flunked out of platelet donation, when my veins were too skinny for the one-needle machine. I tried again this morning, dropping by the American Red Cross center behind Senora’s. The staff was really nice, and we jumped through all the absurd medical hoops together: “Mister Young, sir, are you male or female?” the phlebotomist asked me during the computerized interview, looking as apologetic as I’ve ever seen a phlebotomist look (not very.) I looked startled, and almost dropped my Georgia O’Keeffe mug, which would have spilled Red Zinger all over my sensible shoes.

Anyhow, with all the questions out of the way, they put me on the two-arm machine, this time, and they gave me the Elite Phlebotomist Team, the ones with their own roll-y carts with their names on them: “Hazel’s cart DO NOT TOUCH!”, one Elite Phlebotomist per arm, and the whole thing went very smoothly this time. It was a lot harder than I remember it being, though — I got pretty cold (though they were really nice with the blankets), and the anticoagulant made my lips tingle a lot (though they fed me Tums), but overall it was just… harder than I remember it being five years ago.

I did it on an empty stomach, though. I think I’ll try ONE more time after some breakfast, and see if that helps. On the plus side, you get bandages on each forearm, which is a societally-approved way to get that hawt, hawt duelling armbands look.

I finally passed the Platelet Bar

Ice Cream Tattoo Quest: REPORT

Lexie (Wild)

The Ice Cream Tattoo Quest was a lot of fun. I have no idea how many people showed up, since the whole entire first hour was a blur of stencils and rubbing-alcohol fumes — and the second hour was a blur of roll-on mustache glue and shiny red glitter.

Thanks to Toren and Justin for being my two-man stencil-application team, and Pat and Mary for cleaning up all the overspray with alcohol-soaked cotton balls. I’m writing an article for MAKE magazine on how to set up your own airbrush-tattoo rig, and I’ll be sure to list “find a funny, enthusiastic four-person team” as number one on the to-do list, just above “try not to blow yourself up with the nitrogen bottle.” Of course, if one of your team is also a certified SCUBA tankmaster, as Toren is, then you’re that much luckier.

Billy Idol Sneer
Julie Gottesman, who did the photos for the Ultimate Water Gun Pontani Sisters shoot, came down to take pictures, and they are great. The one of Lexie, above, just slays me. But I stupidly neglected to pass out model releases, which means that I have a bunch more AWESOME photos that I shouldn’t post or use. If you were at the tattoo crawl, and especially if you remember arm-wrestling for Julie, won’t you please drop a comment? I’d love to use them!

Thanks to everyone that came out! I had a lot of fun, and can now write a magazine article on “how to be a local Tattoo Hero using parts from your basement welding shop” with a clear conscience.

Ice Cream Tattoo Quest: REPORT

Tikaro.com: Best Local Blog! Thanks!

Michael Dolan of Main Line Today just let me know that the July issue is out, with the “best of the Main Line” — and this blog was picked as “best local blog.” Wow, thanks very much indeed! I’m surprised and honored, and plan on getting a tattoo on my chest that says “BEST OF THE MAIN LINE 2008”, so that I can get into a fight with whichever callow young upstart wins the title next year.

“Remember”, I can hear my mom quoting my grandmother, “cobwebs grow fastest on laurels!”

So if you’re coming here to see what this blog is about, I’ll give you the bullet-point introduction:

I am a 37-year-old Chester County native; I grew up in what is now the Oaklands Corporate Center in Exton, went to school at Westtown, then Earlham College, then lived in NYC for about ten years before moving back here. I continued to work in NYC, commuting via Amtrak Keystone service five days a week(!!!) because of the chant that the Amtrak conductor would make at the top of Stairway Ten, deep under 32nd street:
“Amtrak’s Keystone service to Philadelphia, Exton, Downingtown and Harrisburg! Fresh air, good food, clean living! All Abo-o-o-ard!”

I’m married to a wonderful woman who is both taller and smarter than me, and we have a four-year old daughter. We live in West Chester on the same street as two sets of our grandparents. Both the street and the setup are idyllic, and were the reason I commuted so far for so long. I freaking love Chester County.

In January of 2008, I opened my own interactive-development shop in West Chester. I build large websites for a living from my office in Wilmont Mews, next to the Bicentennial Garage. My company’s website is at tikaro.net, but there’s more to see at my LinkedIn profile.

I got into the Internet early, and so have a string of goofy hobby projects you can read about. I’ll link them here. Some are links to blog posts, some are links to external websites.

GDI rigThe West Chester Guerilla Drive-In
I mount a projector on the sidecar of my 1977 BMW motorcycle, and we show movies at “secret” locations in and around West Chester. I put “secret” in quotes because it’s not all that secret; all you have to do is locate a hidden AM transmitter nearby and listen to the access code to get on the update list. You can read more at www.guerilladrivein.com.
The West Chester Gorilla Suit Construction Workshop
The fancy-dress gorilla suit was a staple of genteel madcappery for many years — just try to find a Blake Edwards movie without a gorilla-suited inebriated English ambassador — but those suits can’t be bought for love or money any more. The only ones commercially available are cheap and shoddy — they’d fall apart halfway through a decent jewel heist. In October, you’ll have an opportunity to construct your OWN durable, stylish, and customized gorilla suit with the special features you need (ski bindings? integrated motorcycle helmet? SCUBA backplate?) Not a joke! You can learn more at gorillasuitworkshop.com.
Nerdy Needlepoint? Nerdlepoint!
I was looking for an evening hobby that was sociable (that rules out World of Warcraft), quiet (that rules out anything with dremels), and didn’t involve acrid stenches in the living room (that rules out soldering and rebuilding carburetors.) The solution? Needlepoint! Hey, if it’s manly enough for Rosey Grier, it’s manly enough for me. Plus, I get to make pixels in real life, which is cathartic for a web guy. I made same 2D barcodes that you can actually scan with a cameraphone. You can see more at nerdlepoint.com.
General Blogging
Okay, BLAH BLAH BLAH I’m a nerd and I like to blog because I like the “normal life written about in the epic modestyle of writing: “CHANGING A DIAPER IS NOT THAT HARD, IT TURNS OUT. FILM AT 11.” So there’s lots and lots and lots of that here. Some of my favorite items, both from this blog, and on Flickr:

  • My dad, the UFO hunter: A Flickr set of me at age four, hanging out at the secret location in the foothills of Austin, TX, where my dad used high-tech equipment to search for UFOs
  • I discovered a hidden, free tech school in a basement in the South Bronx.
  • The Ultimate Water Gun: a photo shoot for an article I wrote for Make magazine on how to make a head-mounted water cannon. Allowed me to answer the hardware store clerk’s question “what are you going to do with this stuff?” with: “Oh, you know, some tap-dancing showgirls, a motorcycle… maybe a helicopter.” BOOM, A LIFE GOAL ACHIEVED
  • I made iPod cases out of old Sports Walkmen, sold them online, but then got shut down by Sony because they thought I was making people think Sony was clueless about miniaturization. I enjoyed my 30 seconds as an Internet Martyr.
  • Midlife Ken Doll Crisis Ends Awesomely: Now that I’m 37, it’s time to start thinking about how my midlife crisis is gonna go. So I was completely and utterly overjoyed when Kate dug up two incredibly sad Ken dolls, who were totally in the throes of a tragic Ken midlife crisis: ridiculous, discarded, useless, sad. But then help swooped out of the sun on the back of a heavy-metal dragon, in the form of a buyer from Finland. Ken and Ken are… well, there’s more to the story than is on the blog YET, but I promise to give an update later.

Anyhow, thanks for coming by! If you’re reading this on Thursday, don’t forget to come out to the Ice Cream Tattoo Quest this evening and get your ink done. See you there!

Tikaro.com: Best Local Blog! Thanks!

Ice Cream Tattoo Quest tonight!

Sidecar "rudder"

  • Sidecar sashimono banner: check!
  • Ice-cream cone and fire tattoo stencils: check!
    (Lydia and I spent some time this morning cutting them up)
  • Airbrush, compressor, and fresh tattoo ink: check
  • Secret fifth mobile downtown ice-cream store: possible check!
  • Brass double-barreled theatrical handheld flash paper cannon: check!

Ice Cream Tattoo Quest flyer
Everything is in readiness ready for the Ice Cream Tattoo Quest this evening. Meet at the outdoor patio of the Lincoln Room (formerly America’s Cup) tonight at 6:30. I’ll actually be there earlier setting up, if you want to hang out and get some extra practice tattoos, or possibly figure out the best way to guy up a sashimono.

We’re gonna be rain or shine, except if it’s really super ridiculously raining, in which case I imagine we’ll still be doing tattoos, just inside. I’ll leave comments on the event homepage to let you know if anything has changed.

See you there!

Ice Cream Tattoo Quest tonight!

Armchair Marketing: X-WING SUBMARINE

I’ve driven to and through Portsmouth, New Hampshire many times, and I’ve gone past a small sign saying “Albacore Museum”, with a small picture of a submarine. If you peer over the grassy berm behind it, you can see the top sail of a sub a hundred yards up a side road. I’ve never taken the time to stop in and see what’s to be seen until this weekend. Man, I wish I hadn’t waited that long, because here’s what you can’t see from the road:

It’s an X. WING. SUBMARINE. Here, let me say that again, backwards.
USS Albacore: X-Wing Submarine(!!!)

Albacore Mess Hall
After buying a ticket for five bucks, you can climb around inside the sub (I even squeezed into one of the bunks, which is just as cozy as you’d expect, if by “cozy” you mean “that steam pipe above you isn’t technically touching your face.”

The Albacore was a prototype of what we think of as “modern” submarines — subs in WWII were basically surface boats that occasionally went under the water — and modern submarine hulls are called “albacore hulls” as a result. It didn’t carry any weapons because it was run through committee approval as a target for battleship sub-detecting operations. That was a neat piece of bureaucratic sleight-of-hand — without stuffing the design committees with ordnance members, the designers were able to make a sub that was a giant failure as a target. Because it was so fast and maneuverable, the ships just couldn’t find it. Of course, the SEKRIT PURPOSE was to give rise to a whole new class of subs, which it did.

You can read lots more about the Albacore at ussalbacore.org. I loved climbing through the sub — I was the only one in there, and so got to spend as much time as I wanted sitting in the pilot’s seat, twiddling the controls that were made in the days when a knurled dial was a KNURLED DIAL, man. I think Harold Ross would have a GREAT time photographing the inside. And I think Kenn Munk would have fun with the tail section.

Albacore pressure hatchThe armchair marketer in me wants to go back out to the road — the one with the demure “Albacore” sign, and put a giant neon arrow above it: “THIS WAY TO THE X-WING SUBMARINE!” Which would earn an Atomic Wedgie from submarine veterans, who are uniquely qualified to deliver an Atomic Wedgie. But still, man: wow! coo-o-o-ol! I highly recommend that you go check it out if you are driving up I-95 through New Hampshire to Maine.

UPDATE: I just noticed that Official Guerilla Drive-In Projectionist and ex-submariner Subewl has been adding really interesting notes to the Albacore shots. Check out the photoset and look for his notes on the photos. Say, current submariner N. T., are there still underwater backgammon boards on the mess tables?

Armchair Marketing: X-WING SUBMARINE

Sarah’s Birthday Party: INSANE CELLO WIZARD

My beloved cousin Sarah turned 50, and we drove up to Maine to be at her party, because Kate had a premonition of awesomeness.

Her premonition was entirely correct — Max and Sarah had lured out some kind of INSANE CELLO WIZARD from California. Rushad Eggleston is an, um… Well, he’s, uh…

Okay, frankly, he really is an insane cello wizard. Here’s a couple of clips, both before and after he hung upside down from the rafters and stripped off his purple velour shirt. Last song is "Happy Birthday Sarah". Rushad’s drummer was dressed as a pirate, and his bass player was dressed as a medieval headsman.

Man, I love Max and Sarah’s parties.

Sarah’s Birthday Party: INSANE CELLO WIZARD

West Chester Ice Cream Tattoo Quest next Thursday. Also: ARRRR-igato!

Ice Cream Tattoo Quest flyer

Next Thursday the 26th, the West Chester Guerilla Drive-In is teaming up with West Chester Dish for the Ice Cream Tattoo Quest. Here’s how it works:

  1. At 6:30 PM, you arrive at Ice Cream Tattoo HQ and get a basic airbrush tattoo of an ice cream cone, along with a scorecard and map to local ice-cream shops
  2. You (and your friends) visit the shops in any order. Four are easy to find: finding the fifth combines the torments of Tantalus with the elusiveness of Brigadoon. At each shop, you buy ice cream, share it, and compare notes.
  3. Each shop will give a MAGIC STAR sticker to anyone with an ice-cream tattoo. Each shop has a different color.
  4. Collect five stars in five colors, and you get to LEVEL UP your ice cream cone tattoo with an AWESOME MAGICAL FLAME BUFF.

The tattoo will last through Friday and the weekend, so you can make up all sorts of lies about how you stumbled on an underground costume-wearing ice-cream worshipping doomsday cult, and escaped with your life, the nifty tattoo, and the mystical passphrase “MOLA RAM BRAIN FREEZE

Ice Cream Torch Sashimono
Dave Moroz-Henry from Barking Dog Signs is working on making a sashimono banner for the sidecar. You can see a photoshop mockup of what I’m hoping it will look like on the right (the frame is real, the banner is photoshopped.)

The frame is made of 1″ aluminum tube, a flagpole bracket, and some PVC elbows. I put wooden dowels in the ends of the aluminum tube to keep it from bending at the corners. It works okay right now, but it waggles and spins comically while I’m moving. I think I’ll have to guy the top of the pole with some thin cables. Hopefully, it’ll look like the world’s smallest Feudal Japanese Pirate Ship!

West Chester Ice Cream Tattoo Quest next Thursday. Also: ARRRR-igato!


To promote the upcoming West Chester Dish/Guerilla Drive-In Ice Cream Tattoo Quest, I visited WCOJ 1420 AM this morning and sat in on Mary Bigham’s show “Eat, Drink, and Meet Mary” to give J.T. the DJ a tattoo. Mary hadn’t explained what we were going to do, so JT looked a little uncertain as I pulled a pair of rubber dishwashing gloves, a razor, and a bottle of alcohol out of my Pelican case.

We explained the rules of the upcoming event: you’ll show up at the courthouse at 6:30 PM on Thursday the 26th, and get a basic ice-cream cone tattoo. Then you’ll travel with your friends to all the local ice-cream shops, collecting a star for each one you visit. If you get all five, you can LEVEL UP your tattoo with an awesome RED FLAME BUFF. You can spend all weekend telling lies about the new ice-cream gang you’ve joined. Or the band of costumed mystics with a secret undeground temple that you narrowly escaped. It’s totally up to you.

I don’t have any ice-cream-cone stencils yet, so I gave JT the best, the awesomest, and the MOST BRUTAL tattoo I have. That’s right, I went right for my “A” game (over J.T.’s objections), and gave him the MAGICAL SPARKLY UNICORN:

Take a moment to check out the Ice Cream Tattoo Quest page for all the details about where to be and when.

J.T. has a graduation party to go to later today. Thanks for being a good sport, hoss. Like I told you, that tattoo is gonna WORK for you.


Guerilla Drive-In Projector: Studio Shot

A week or two ago, I brought the Guerilla Drive-In projector rig over to Harold’s photography studio to take a beauty shot. I think it turned out AMAZING: kind of hyper-real, like the spaceships in 1970s science-fiction films that started out as actual models (rather than computer wireframes). Click on the image to zoom in (check out the metalflake tank!)

From a total layman’s perspective, here’s how Harold does it (once the bike has been rolled into his studio):

Harold positions the camera lens using a great big rolling boom and locks it into place. He uses a little camera-back thingy with an eyepeice on it to look through the lens to get the focus right, then he attaches a digital back to the lens. At the push of a button, the whole studio is plunged into darkness. Harold then picks up a big fiber-optic hose with bright light streaming out of one end, and pulls a trigger mounted to the hose. THere’s a big SNICK! noise as a metal shutter in front of the camera opens, and Harold "paints" light from the wand directly onto the subject.

While the shutter is open, there’s a measured "beep beep beep" sound, which Harold tells me is his metronome. He uses the beeps to keep track of how much light he’s painted onto various parts of the subject.

There are also different attachments for the hose: a paddle, a long tube, a little dentist-sized curlique: the whole thing is like a marriage between a vacuum cleaner and a light saber. All in all, it’s pretty DAMN cool to watch. Thanks for the image, Harold! I’ve already made it the “hero” of the GDI main page. Next step is to photograph nighttime backgrounds!

Guerilla Drive-In Projector: Studio Shot