Halloween in West Chester: 2008 Census

Wicked Witch and Rosie the RiveterLydia as the Wicked Witch of the East (that’s the witch the house lands on, right?) and Kate as Rosie the Riveter, a little while ago before they left to go trick-or-treating. As far as I’m concerned, the Rosie costume is another triumph for Kate, who was Mary Poppins last year. Plus, she makes it look easy: “what, this old thing?” She’s even got the wristband.

As I write this, I’m sitting on the porch handing out candy and counting the costumes. As of 7:32 PM (92 minutes down, 28 to go), I have seen

(6) Princesses
(5) Buzz Lightyears
(5) Witches (four regular, one sexy)
(5) Aliens (all in one group, each a different color)
(3) Dorothys
(3) Zombies
(3) Blind Mice
(3) Hippies

Those 33 costumes represent half of the about 70 trick-or-treaters I’ve seen so far today, which means that fully half are on the long tail: one werewolf, one cowgirl, one Super Mario, one pirate, one Karate Elvis, one Nancy Drew (my favorite)…

The Pareto Distribution balances at about 3 people per costume: in other words, the number of people who arrived in a costume worn by at least two other people was about equal to the number of people who arrived in a costume worn by only one or no other people. This balance remains steady since I last sampled costumes in 2006, and I think is a solid quantitative metric demonstrating that WEST CHESTER IS AN AWESOME PLACE TO LIVE. Since it’s not just a horde of the same store-bought costume.

Other trends since 2006: Princesses steady, football players down from five to two, Buzz Lightyear up with a bullet. Surely there is some sort of shiny Web 2.0 app out there that’ll let me do a visual trendline!

Halloween in West Chester: 2008 Census

Will’s Ronco’s Sister, Amy Smith: Nerd Hero

Tikaro Interactive iron developer Will Ronco’s sister, Amy Smith, is a Nerd Hero. That’s completely, 100% literally true; Amy runs the D-Lab at MIT, where she teaches students the principles of “appropriate design” — things that are useful, even life-saving, in developing areas, are simple and cheap to make, and can manufactured locally.

I can’t say enough about how wonderful this program is. One of my favorite things about the D-lab is it’s not all “oh you poor, sad slobs in developing countries let’s airdrop some of our MAGIC MACHINERY onto you.” There’s no shortage of ingenuity and skill in the developing world. What Amy and her students bring is Big-Ticket engineering prowess and scientific education. They augment, analyze, and teach, working with local scientists, mechanics, and inventors. They help put into place sustainable, locally-powered Awesome Machinery and engineering practices. Like a water-purification system made from toilet parts that titrates just the correct amount of chlorine to a village’s water supply. Or a hand-powered charcoal briquette maker for getting heat from sugarcane. Or a “bucket of wax” technique for incubating AIDS tests. There are lots of case studies on their website.

Here’s a (regrettably shaky) YouTube video where Amy talks to the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group about her recent trip to Peru:

Here are some (much less shaky) videos of her accepting a Popular Mechanics Leadership Award last week. If you have a minute, go check them out!

Will’s Ronco’s Sister, Amy Smith: Nerd Hero

Oonie’s P8tch Action Photo

I asked my ex-Digitas-colleague Oonie Chase to do a p8tch action photo, and HOLY COW did she ever deliver:

Oonie's P8tch Action Photo

Oonie, this kicks HUGE amounts of ass. And takes names. And flies around the Syd Mead-designed mega-skyscrapers of New Toronto in a fusion-powered Porsche, apparently.

If YOU want to look as cool as Oonie while you sternly point your finger at lawbreakers, you can get your own QRCode-ed p8tch at www.p8tch.com

Oonie’s P8tch Action Photo

MOL Gator needlepoint progress

Here’s a snapshot to show progress on the MOL gator needlepoint project:

MOL progress

Unfortunately, I lost my skein of red! I have to go to Fireside to get some more. Fortunately, my work is definitely not precision enough to require matching a dye lot!

Well_Hung_site.jpgIn other needlepoint news, I think Matt and I are going to have to go check out this exhibition of needlepointed New York Post covers. I love it because it’s funny, rude, and not completely overwhelmed in self-absorbed irony.

Whoa, reading the artist description, there’s more here than I thought at first:

[Artist] Brigid Berlin is the daughter of Richard Berlin, who directed the Hearst media empire for 52 years … She appeared in several Warhol films, including Chelsea Girls (1966), Imitation of Christ (1967) and The Nude Restaurant (1967), under the name Brigid Polk. Her skill at administering “pokes” (amphetamine injections) to herself and other hangers-on about the Factory earned her this name.

Sheesh, Matt is gonna be ALL OVER this!

UPDATE: Kate would like me to point out that Matt would be interested in the this because of the connection with pop art, NOT because of the amphetamine injections! I’ll post pictures of Matt’s MC5 project if I can get some.

MOL Gator needlepoint progress

P8tch Rubber Stamp (Cattle Brand?)

I took one of my p8tch project QRcodes and sent it to Simon’s Stamps to be made into a 3" square rubber stamp.

3" is a little bit bigger than I had pictured in my head; you have to kind of swab the stamp all over the pad to ink it. But the image looks cool — and it scans just fine:

p8tch rubber stamp

When you buy a p8tch with a unique, re-configurable QRcode, you also get a link to the corresponding QRcode image in several sizes. For instance, the p8tch that I used has the URL "http://www.p8t.ch/zoawl" embedded in it. Here are the URLs that are included in the p8tch welcome message:

So you can use the .png images that come with your p8tch to make your own craft projects. You could, of course, make your own QRCodes — it’s an open standard, hurrah! — but the nice thing about the p8tch URLs is there’s a back end in place that lets you change the target. So you can make a “World’s Best Dad” mug, but instead it links to a running, daily summary of exactly WHERE dad stands in relation to a global index of other dads. And sometimes a Rick Roll.

Right now, I’m not sure what I’ll use this stamp for. It’s way too big for a party hand-stamp. Even if I put it on folks’ foreheads. Hmm, I suppose it could work on a butt cheek, like a nerdy cattle brand. Then I could link it here.

You know what would make a great early Christmas present for the nerds in your life? That’s right! A p8tch of their very own!

P8tch Rubber Stamp (Cattle Brand?)

Third Rail Design Lab’s Commando Nerd

Thom Chiaramonte from Third Rail Design Lab was one of the original p8tch customers. He was really patient while waiting the REALLY LONG TIME to get his original order, and in looking him up to get his address, I saw that he was a comic artist!

I asked him to do a "commando nerd", and left all the details up to him*. This is the result!

Third Rail Design Lab's Commando Nerd

Oddly enough, she’s wearing her p8tch in exactly the same spot that Kenn Munk, with a similar-looking harness. Kenn, you’re a trendsetter.

* Well, I did specify that the "commando nerd" must be wearing bicep-length black-and-gray Pippi Longstocking miser gloves.

You can see the other p8tch action photos (so far) at the p8tch action photo pool. I now have a matched-gender-set of cartoon nerds!

Third Rail Design Lab’s Commando Nerd

From FDR’s First Inaugural Address: March 4, 1933


“…Our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

“True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

“…Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.”

FDR’s first inaugural address, March 4, 1933. Plenty of FDR MP3s here.

PS. Chicken plans are coming along excellently. Kate got a great chicken book out of the library, which is written for kids but I’m finding completely on the right level for me, with short, pithy advice like “you must never name a chicken you plan to eat”, along with lots of detailed tips on how to check a chicken’s skin color on the shank and eyes to see how long it hasn’t been laying (a laying hen sends all her yellow pigment into the yolks of her eggs.) It’s written by Gail Damerow, who also wrote the ice cream book and many others.

From FDR’s First Inaugural Address: March 4, 1933

MacGuffin Repair Mission: FAILURE

There’s an article about the West Chester Guerilla Drive-In coming out in tomorrow’s Citypaper! I had heard some reports that the MacGuffin wasn’t transmitting properly, which means that Citypaper readers wouldn’t be able to earn their Official GDI Member Numbers in time for the last 2008 showing on October 25th.

So after work, Lydia and I hopped into the car to go pay it a visit at its SECRET LOCATION. Here’s what it looks like after six months of continuous operation — check out the greasy fur on the antenna!

MacGuffin: busted after six months

Lydia playing with the trainsThe red light on the front of the Pelican case was out — sure enough, the power cord had fallen out of its socket. Probably while the Halloween pumpkins were getting plugged in. I plugged everything back in, verified that the Sony Sports Walkman hidden inside the case (a leftover from the Retropod project) was still running, and got back in the car.

No dice.

So I’ve got about 24 hours to either fix the MacGuffin, or to think up an alternate “Hero’s Quest” for City Paper readers. The way the MacGuffin quest works now is you have to locate the MacGuffin, listen to the SECRET ACCESS CODE it is should be broadcasting on AM 1700, then send in a picture of you at the location. That way, you can’t just pick up the info on a message board; you have to get out into the world of people and things and have a PIPIN’ HOT adventure. So you can get into TRAINing. (sheesh, if the MacGuffin isn’t working, why am I still dropping hints?)

Any suggestions for what an alternate City Paper GDI Hero’s Quest should be?

UPDATE: The City Paper piece is out. I’d better think of something quick!

MacGuffin Repair Mission: FAILURE

Will Ronco, Iron Developer

Will Ronco, Iron Developer

Tikaro Interactive developer Will Ronco turned in an awesome time at the Lake Placid Iron Man a few months ago, and he’s now in Kona, Hawaii getting ready for the world championship this weekend (he toured the lava field yesterday.)

He’s also prepping for a Drupal site launch next week. You know, in his spare time. I thought maybe we’d be able to trade some emails or some Jira issues.

I was really surprised to find, though, that the vChat on our PowerBooks Just Worked(tm), and I was able to see the FRIGGIN’ SWIM COURSE over Will’s shoulder. That’s just ridiculously awesome.

The race start is behind his left shoulder, and then they swim over to the orange buoy behind his right shoulder.

The race is Saturday. It won’t be televised until December, but you can follow Will at ironman.com. His race number is 176.

Will Ronco, Iron Developer

ACAC Barcode Tattoo Booth at the West Chester Chili Cookoff

One of the goals of my development shop, Tikaro Interactive, is to connect the online and offline worlds. For the past year, I’ve been especially interested in barcodes. So far, the channels I’ve been developing are needlepoint, nerd fashion accessories. And now (drum roll, please…) barcode tattoos.

Here’s the program we set up this Sunday at the West Chester Chili Cookoff:

Toren applying the ink

The Barcode Tattoo Booth
Our tattoos were sponsored by ACAC Fitness and Wellness Center: you can see I’ve got an ACAC sashimono attached to the bike (the tattoo table extends from the sidecar.) We gave free airbrush tattoos with the ACAC logo, plus a unique barcode.

Once you get the tattoo, you visit ACAC and get your tattoo scanned at the front desk. “Hi!” you’ll say, proffering your bicep. “I have a barcode tattoo here, and…” BEEP! goes the keytag scanner, and the friendly front-desk staffer tells you what you’ve won. Maybe a soft pretzel at the snack bar. Maybe a free day at the spa. Maybe a two-month membership! Every tattoo is a winner.

There’s a number of things I like about this program. For one thing, even though it’s all futuristic and high-tech, it uses the existing keytag scanners and computers. So there’s no special hardware needed. As far as the scanner at the club is concerned, your tattoo is just a regular ol’ keytag. We’ve tested the tattoos on a wide variety of skin tones, including black skin and ultra-ultra-tanned aerobics-instructor skin, and it works just fine on everyone so far.

Jason with his Barcode Tattoo
From a pure marketing standpoint, I like the tattoo because it’s a coupon with built-in urgency. Your tattoo will last two or three days before it starts looking haggard, so it’s an impetus to actually go in to the club quickly.

Plus, you know, lasers are involved. What’s not to like?

At the cookoff yesterday, Toren applied no less than seventy-eight unique barcode tattoos. I’m curious to see how many folks will show up at the club today to get scanned. There’s a pretty good chance, I think, that this will have a high response rate and will actually make sense as a marketing channel.

In which case, I’ll make my first Powerpoint presentation that incorporates tattoos and BMW motorcycles. And that’s you know, a life goal.

Got an idea where a barcode tattoo with a three-day lifespan would make sense as a marketing channel? I’d love to hear it. Drop me a comment!

ACAC Barcode Tattoo Booth at the West Chester Chili Cookoff