Green2Steam: Like a tea party. With fire. For MANS.

I keep writing and rewriting this blog post about how Eric Lewis, Harold Ross, Randy Schmidt and I met at Harold’s studio last weekend to see what coffee tastes like when you start with green beans, roast the beans, grind the beans, then brew them up in a fire-powered siphon brewer. All outdoors, because coffee-roasting makes a lot of smoke.

No matter how many times I rewrite the blog post — talking about how we want to have a full-stack “green2steam” coffee operation mounted on my sidecar — somehow this picture that Harold took of me and Randy, gawping at coffee master Eric roasting the beans in a hacked popcorn popper, says much more than I could:

Eric Wows the Yokels

There are plenty of pictures at the “Green2Steam” photoset on Flickr. Harold took almost all the photos. Most surprising to me was the way the hull chaff from the expanding beans covered the table. And MAN, does just-roasted coffee smell good.

Randy’s job was to stir the coffee, using a bamboo stirrer never before touched by human hands. Japanese siphon-bar attendants carve the bamboo stirrer to fit their palm, and stir exactly four times, without touching the sides of the pot. No pressure!

Click any of the photos to go to the photoset on Flickr:

The Green Coffee Beans 
Beans Mid-Roast 
Roasted Beans 
Watching the Temperature 
Getting his Stirrer Wet 
Kickdown Beginning

I think the next time we do the full-stack coffee-preparation exercise will be for the 2009 Polar Plunge, February 7th at Brandywine Picnic Park. We’ll have to roast the beans using propane, since there won’t be any electricity. Hey ho, more FIRE! Is anyone interested in coming out to help make the most complicated cup of coffee possible?

Green2Steam: Like a tea party. With fire. For MANS.

Crafts Involving Sterno, Wizards, and Coffee


December really has turned into Sterno craft month. It turns out that it’s easy and fun to upgrade your winter crafts with FIRE, HUMANITY’S WEAPON AGAINST THE FROZEN AND BRUTAL WILDERNESS. For instance, my brother Oliver is in town (hurrah!), and he came over to build graham-cracker gingerbread houses with us. First, we decided that we wanted to build an Awesome Wizard’s Keep, because Awesome Keeps are where Awesome Wizards hang out.

From there to the fearsome and terrible TOWER OF STERNO was just a short, logical step:

The Tower of Sterno

Oliver has been painting mandalas, and so he was able to shave the graham crackers into perfect little octagons. The crenelations are all his, too. I had planned on putting some little marshmallow heads on the little pretzel pikes, but overall the Tower of Sterno doesn’t really give off the grim, foreboding aspect that we had been shooting for. I thought maybe if we put a little marzipan wizard out in front, shooting lightning bolts at a hovering dragon, that might give the whole thing the aura of 1970s van-mural majesty I had in mind. Perhaps graham crackers and royal icing is not the medium for Heavy-Metal Awesomeness.

So we decided to just toast some marshmallows instead:

Lydia and the Tower of Sterno

Then, on Christmas, I received the long-awaited Yama 3-cup tabletop vacuum coffee brewer that I had asked Santa for. Hurrah! Oliver and I set it up, carefully replacing the included alcohol burner with the same trusty can of Sterno:

Siphon Filter!

The vacuum coffee brewer worked really great, though I was too engrossed in the bubbling and boiling and chemistry going on that I forgot to take any pictures of the actual coffee (here’s a good photoset of a vacuum brewer in action.)

Okay, so the project is all coming together really well. Today, Oliver, Matt, Randy, Lydia and I went to The Fire Store in Coatesville (here’s a photoset of my last visit.) Matt bought a Pelican case for his video camera; Randy snapped pictures of an actual fubar (I think it may have been a titanium fubar), and Oliver picked up a “Pocket Homeland Defense Operations Manual”, for which he got questioned at checkout.

I bought a foam-lined flight case for the siphon pot’s laboratory-style glassware, because EVERYTHING looks cooler in a foam-lined flight case, and so it’ll survive rough terrain in the sidecar:

Vacuum coffee pot in Pelican case

Okay, so now THAT part is complete, and I can find a suitable sidecar mounting point. On to the propane tank, the wok burner, and a brazing up a wire-mesh basket for the bean roaster. Onward and upward!

Hmm, if I’m going to mount the pots on the motorcycle, I’m going to need to replace the pot’s stand with some laboratory glassware stands. There’s a great big laboratory-supply company in West Chester, and a friendly local blogger who runs their website, so I’m going to ask him what the official name is for “a right-angled flask holder grabby thing, suitable for inserting into a countersunk galvanized pipe so you tan take it in or pull it out.” I bet there’s a name for that, like a “Hachtsenfeffer stand” or something.

Crafts Involving Sterno, Wizards, and Coffee

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

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!

Guerilla Drive-In Saturday night: “Caddyshack” at Tee it Up Golf!

AFTER we packed up the tattoo booth on Saturday, I rode home and switched the sidecar’s Tattoo Booth Module for the Film Projector Module. There was a brief montage involving loud music, showers of sparks, and steaming volcanos, and then I drove the rig out to Tee it Up Golf on 202 to show Caddyshack for the West Chester Guerilla Drive-In.

Guerilla Drive-In: "Caddyshack" at Tee it Up Golf

The movie’s title and location had been a secret; only those who had previously found the AM transmitter hidden somewhere in West Chester knew what and where the movie was going to be. Fortunately, finding the MacGuffin is fun and easy. When you find it and get your Permanent and Sequential Guerilla Drive-In Member Number, a disembodied voice booms from the sky “LEVEL UP!” and glowing plus signs float all around your body. So, you know, you should do it! It’s a PIPIN’ HOT GOOD TIME.

We had about 35 people out to see Spaulding shout “Double Turds!”, and I had a great time. Whe showed the un-edited version, which is NOT the one you see on TV; I’d forgotten how much screen time Lacy Underall DOESN’T usually get!

I gave a can of soup as the prize for best (worst) golf outfit, and that prize was claimed by dashing clothes-horse Jerzy W., pictured here. In addition to this outfit’s many other fine qualities, he’s actually wearing a wooly tam-‘o-shanter with a pom-pom on top. WINNER:

Jerzy W.: Dashing Clothes Horse and Fearless Ball-Cart Daredevil

As an additional prize, Jerzy (and several others) each got to DRIVE THE ARMORED BALL CART out on the range while moviegoers hit balls at them. Jerzy had nerves of steel: he drove along at low, low speed, only twenty feet from the hitting decks. It was like watching some weird analogue of a pirate movie, where the privateer cruises slowly past the man-o-war, defiantly taking fire from each gunport in turn. “Fire as yer (PING!) guns bear, boys! (CLANG!) Scupper this (BANG!) furry-footed turf dog!”

Each ball-cart driver had their own style: GDI member number 003 Nicole V. drove slow figure-eights, talking trash, while her husband, GDI#004 Dave R. fired off humming drives that went RIGHT over the roof. GDI#033 Sallie R. actually paused to TAKE PICTURES from inside the cart, the flash from the cage punctuating our shame as we sliced the balls wide.

The photo of Jerzy was taken under very difficult lighting conditions by GDI#006 Harold Ross, who used a long exposure and a flashlight(!) to make it look like the Weirdest Ever Catalog Shot. Harold also took the picture of the MacGuffin that’s on the GDI Updates page, as well as the photo of Meatballs in the Northbrook Canoe barn. You can see more of Harold’s stuff on his new Flickr photostream.

Guerilla Drive-In Saturday night: “Caddyshack” at Tee it Up Golf!

Tattoo Booth Report: Everybody Loves the Magical Unicorn

I stayed out late in the garage Friday night, fabricating a one-legged, coffin-shaped counter that integrates with the sidecar, using the lower half of the Guerilla Drive-In projector mount.

It POURED rain on Saturday morning and early afternoon. But, you know, if you wanna be a carnie, you can’t let some rain stop you. You just have to shrug, spit your chaw, and say something like “I ain’t made ‘a sugar, I ain’t gonna melt.” So Matt and I got the tattoo booth set up under a tent. And we pretty much had the whole block to ourselves: it was just us, the inflatable moon bounce about twenty feed away, and a couple of neighborhood kids. In other words, it was PERFECT for practicing on them and each other.

We had a great time tattooing the neighborhood kids. I learned that it’s fairly hard to get both the ink mixture and the pressure on the airbrush right. We’re using self-adhesive stencils, which are more forgiving than the kind you just hold up, but even so I’m having some problems with the ink dripping. Hopefully, all that’s needed is practice, though. Luckily, all the ones we did on the kids seemed to turn out pretty well, my mistakes were mostly confined to Matt’s neck.

Here’s Matt during a break in the rain, making a carnie face:
"Make a face like a carnie, Matt!"

Here are some assorted pictures of the tattoos we did, both airbrush and glitter. The second from the right is my favorite, it’s Kate’s new glittery anchor peeking out from under her polo shirt. YES, is all I can say about that triple-threat combination of tough stevedore, carnival glitter, and the Official Preppy Handbook. HELL, YES.

Click each photo to see it on Flickr, or you can see the whole set!

Magical Unicorn: Red 
Red and Gold Glitter Anchor 
Sailor's Anchor: Finished Product 
Kate's Anchor 

After we packed the booth up, I switched the sidecar’s tattoo module for the 16MM projector module, and we had a Guerilla Drive-In Showing of Caddyshack at Tee it Up Golf on 202. More on that later!

Tattoo Booth Report: Everybody Loves the Magical Unicorn

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:

Help, O Internet!

The photo, with comments, on Flickr

Kate has had some good luck asking a question into the wind, so I thought I’d try it here to see what happens.

My big, black, and greasy 1977 BMW R100/7 sidecar rig won’t start. Turning the headlight switch all the way on results in a high-pitched whining noise from the headlight relay located on the right side of the headlight bucket pictured above; turning the turn signals on SOMETIMES results in a lower-pitched buzzing noise from the turn-signal realay in the left side.

Clicking on the picture above will take you to this Flickr photo page, which is annotated with notes and the steps I can take to reproduce the problem. Anyone reading this that could help, do you think you could follow the link, read the steps, and leave a comment with any helpful advice?

I’m hoping to prepare a lean, mean, hierarchical list of things to do when I get out there next time. Any suggestions, O Internet? I should mention that I have a multitester and know how to use it (kind of), but my grasp of “check connection” is pretty much limited to “wiggle the wire and see if it makes crunchy noises.” Any tips about how to check if a wire is doing its job?

Kieran, do you know any Buckaroo Banzai types at MIT that could help?

Help, O Internet!