No, You Can’t Have a Chicken. NOT YOURS

Yesterday, Shirley came over at breakfast talk about making magical QRcode real estate yard signs that let you find out how much the list price of the house is — and talk directly to the listing agent. She brought over a bunch of eggs gathered from her hens that morning, and I had to practically get out the six-pound sledge to crack them open. And the yolks were a really beautiful orange color. So naturally I’m now all excited about building a small coop in the back yard, to get ready for “Great Depression 2.0: California Drift”

I checked out some of the really awesome coop designs at, including this really great small “playhouse” coop:


Oh, BOY, that’s totally awesome! Look at the little door to get the eggs out! We decided we’d get four hens, and that each of us would get to name one. Lydia had already named hers “Hannah”, which is a great name for a hen. I was busy reading up on the many benefits of Diatomaceous Earth, and subscribing to The Allotment Lady‘s blog, which Kate reads regularly.

Now, we seem to remember hearing something about how West Chester Borough ordinances prohibit livestock, but permit pets. Let me just verify that we can kind of squeak through, here. After all, we’re not getting a rooster… AW NUTS!

Borough of West Chester Ordinances [1][205][213], adopted 1989::

ARTICLE I Keeping of Poultry and Hogs

§ 37-1. Purpose.
The purpose of this Article is to prevent nuisances arising from malodors, noises and health hazards caused by the presence of poultry or hogs or by the slaughter of poultry or hogs within the Borough of West Chester.

§ 37-2. Keeping and slaughtering prohibited; exception.
A. On and after the effective date hereof, no poultry or hogs shall be kept or slaughtered on any property located in the Borough of West Chester. Ha, ha, ha, PWNT! Sucker.
B. Licensed operators for commercial purposes shall be exempted.

Any person who violates or permits the violation of any provision of this chapter shall, upon conviction thereof in a summary proceeding brought before a District Justice, be guilty of a summary offense and shall be subject to the payment of a fine of not less than $25 and not more than $1,000, plus the costs of prosecution. Upon default of payment thereof, the defendant may be sentenced to imprisonment in the county prison for a period of not more than 30 days. And we’ll tape a picture of the chickens YOU CAN’T HAVE to the wall of your cell. Haw, haw, haw.


Crap. My choices now are to give up, get a commercial license, or become a member of the Urban Chicken Underground, and live the glamorous but secret life of a Chicken Criminal. Any suggestions?

UPDATE: Hmm, maybe this would be an excellent time to add “licensed poultry technician” to my long list of useless bona fides. That might satisfy the letter of the law. I’ve always wanted an excuse to bust out a Tackleberry: “Well, you see”, I’d say to the mean, humorless Chicken Confiscator, poking him right in his clip-on tie, “I’m a Licensed Poultry Operator, so these chickens are legal under local ordinance part II, Chapter 37, article I, section thirty-seven DASH two, paragraph B…” at which point he’d gnash his teeth and tear up the Chicken Confiscation Order, and the credits would roll. Maybe Hannah the Hen would flap up and lay an egg in his combover as a part of the extended blooper sequence.

I could pick up a carny license while I’m at it! Ooh, ooh, and a license that would let me sell ice-cream from my sidecar! Ice cream… MADE WITH FRESH EGGS?

No, You Can’t Have a Chicken. NOT YOURS

Nerdlepoint pattern in 18-ct canvas

Nerdlepoint patch
I finished stitching up and binding a nerdlepoint canvas in 18-count mono canvas. I used a two-step binding stitch on the edge, which makes a braid, but MAN is it hard to keep the braid steady.

This is one of those things where knowing how it should be executed doesn’t really help: you just have to practice and be okay with the fact that it’s NOT gonna be the way you wanted it the first few times. You can also see the row of holes around the edge where I blocked the canvas using stainless steel T-pins. I’m not sure how to block a finished canvas like this without leaving those holes.

The QRCode that I stitched here contains the proxy URL ““, which right now is directed to a YouTube video. The Nerdlepoint patterns use the same back-end as the p8tches.

Nerdlepoint pattern in 18-ct canvas

Commando Nerds in Action

At 5:49 AM this morning, p8tch collaborator Kenn Munk sent the following message to me:

“Here are a couple of shots taken after having done a small run handing out flyers, not as heroic as they could have been, but I had no photographer handy. The second one is a more action-y stmbling shot…
Hope you can make some use of them, feel free to crop and chop.
Running this afternoon with a group, turns out someone has built a tunnel-like structure on my route, not sure I’ll fit with the sashimono… Also scared of hitting people. All these considerations you probably didn’t have charging across a field, attacking other samurai…”


This is absolutely just the height of epitome. “Sweaty Sightseeing” is a guided running tour of Arhus. It’s a really fine-looking sashimono, too; I’m trying to get a glimpse of the shoulder bracket that Kenn has made (update: here’s a picture of the construction), and it looks really good:

stumbly action shot of the sashimono

In other Commando Nerd news, Michele Melcher sent a scan of the finished art for my “Fisher-Price Adventure Nerd”. I’m really, REALLY happy with him. You can click on him and see more details on the Flickr photo page. Now all he needs is a name and a backstory!

It’s like the Professor from Gilligan’s Island was hit with the Hirsute Ray!

Commando Nerd
Commando Nerds in Action

Announcing “National ‘Is This Your Card?’ Day”

One of the bread-and-butter moves of any magician is called “forcing a choice.” Basically, it means that when I ask you to “pick a card, any card”, I get to decide what card you get. For instance, you’re gonna get the Seven of Hearts.
This can be done a number of ways, from the inelegant (I have a gaffed deck consisting ENTIRELY of the Seven of Hearts-es), to the subtle (I say your name at EXACTLY the right time), to the in-between (Google “Hindu Shuffle“)
So by the time you’ve actually picked your card, the hard part of the trick is over, and the fun part is left: the “reveal”. After you replace the card in the deck, I could do any of the following:

Standard card-trick reveals:

  • Hold the deck up to my forehead and carefully detect the psychic emanations;
  • Carefully “levitate” the card out of the deck using a concealed pinky finger;
  • Point upwards, revealing that your card is STUCK TO THE ceiling (now we’re getting somewhere);
  • Ask you to take your iPhone and scan the QRCode P8tch on my jacket, at which point YOUR OWN MOM appears on the screen:

Penn and Teller’s 1987 videotape Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends had a particularly great reveal: on the tape was a 30-second snippet of generic news broadcast. Then the newscaster stopped for a moment, listening to their headset. “One moment, this just in… ..IS THIS YOUR CARD?” they asked, holding a giant card up to the screen. The idea is that you’d flub the trick, then say “ah screw it, let’s watch some television.” You put in the tape, instead of actual television. AND THE AWESOMENESS IS REVEALED.
Ladies and gentlemen, can you imagine the amazing reveals that we can come up with if we all POOL OUR TALENTS? Consider the following:

Amazing reveals possible if we pool our talents

You ask your mark to pick a card, any card. They replace the card in the deck, and you fumble hesitating-ly. “Uh… is your card the, uh… ACE OF SPADES?” you ask, hesitatingly, the flop-sweat standing out on your brow. “NO, you loser! Ha ha ha!” says your friend…
…until they see you staring upwards, into the sky. They follow your gaze, to see a small plane towing a banner behind it. The banner reads:
Can you imagine the possibilities, here? That one example already would easily be the best card trick I’ve ever done. And it can be done by anyone. Why, a hundred of us in the West Chester area could easily chip in five bucks each and hire a banner plane (I checked.)
In order to get this off the ground, we’d need to pick a day, call it “NATIONAL IS THIS YOUR CARD” day, and agree on what to do, collaboratively. For instance:

  • On “National Pick a Card Day”, everyone who is in the know must wear a red scarf. Or a blue carnation. Something TBD. That way, we’ll all know who’s in the know, and will depend on each other as a SECRET NETWORK OF SHILLS.
  • On “National Pick a Card Day”, if anyone wearing a red scarf asks you what time it is, you must respond by saying “Why, yes, it’s one second until… THE SEVEN OF HEARTS!” and produce a card from your shirt pocket.
  • On “National Pick a Card Day”, in-the-know restaurant servers will hide a seven of hearts under the lasagna if you give them the SECRET SIGN while ordering.
  • On “National Pick a Card Day”, everyone whose license plate ends in “9” will duct-tape a seven of hearts to their bumper. You must then ask your mark to “pick a card, any card” before they leave for work.
  • On “National Pick a Card Day”, a nationwide network of banner planes will fan out with the “YOUR CARD IS THE SEVEN OF HEARTS, SUCKER” message at precisely 5:30 PM.

Dr. Zibbs, I’m quite sure you can think of at least ten examples of fantastic reveals better than anything I’ve come up with. I’m asking you — will you co-sponsor this national day? Who’s with me?

Announcing “National ‘Is This Your Card?’ Day”

Beach report: Matt’s MC5 Needlepoint

Here’s my update from the beach! Kate, Lydia, Barb, Matt and I are all in Avalon, NJ right now, and we’re all working on our projects.

Matt's MC5 Needlepoint

Matt was interested in my MOL Alligator project. Suddenly, he decided that he should needlepoint a 1960s Gary Grimshaw flyer for proto-punk band MC5 (he came across the flyer in the book he’s been reading at the beach.)

He spent the next 48 hours — almost nonstop — doing art, first in Photoshop and then in Pixen, then he made a trip to Scrim Discovery Needle Work in Ocean City to get some 18-count canvas, a frame, yarn, and a bunch of Sharpies. And he’s been carefully transferring the design from his computer screen to the canvas, using the “make a reference dot every 10 threads” method that I came up with for the MOL gator.

Matt's MC5 Needlepoint
Matt’s plan is to stitch up the pattern, then sew it to the back of a Jeans jacket. I think it’s going to be incredibly great. You can see Matt’s pattern on the left (I’ve hidden the grid-lines and the reference dots that he used.)

Matt walked into Scrim Discovery in a pair of white jeans and a captain’s hat from Hoy’s. He reports that the real-estate agent next door rushed out and tried to head him off before he walked in the store: “Can I *HELP* you, sir!?” No, he said, he was there for the needlepoint, and the agent looked perplexed.

I went in today wearing my pith helmet (and we planned to send Jonathan in tomorrow with a lampshade on his head), so the real-estate agent would think that, uh… I’m not sure what they would think: needlepoint was suddenly becoming popular with seventies adventure-sitcom characters? But the store took it 110% in stride, and I have a new favorite needlepoint store. They were really great, and really helpful.

if you are planning on doing your own beach needlepoint project involving psychedelic federal eagle/television/Illuminati Eyeball combinations, all festooned with jagged crepuscular rays and lightning bolts, and you are wearing a crusader helmet, a fez, or viking horns, I absolutely recommend Scrim Discovery as your shop of choice!

Matt's MC5 Needlepoint
Beach report: Matt’s MC5 Needlepoint

Commando Nerd mascot for the p8tch Project: your thoughts?

The p8tch project has been taking off, with mentions from BoingBoing, Notcot, and Gizmodo. I’ve been working quickly to fulfill the orders (here’s what 75 yards of Velcro looks like, in case you were wondering.)

The site is up, but it’s really basic, and very stark black-and-white. Which is great (one commenter said that it has a good Dharma Initiative look), but I really want a shot of vibrant color and hand-drawn lines to contrast. So I commissioned the awesome Michele Melcher to do a “hero” illustration of the
Commando Nerd. I gave her the three most powerful COMMANDO NERD ingredients that I could think of:

  1. The Ghostbusters,
  2. Badical Nintendo Power-Glove Guy, and
  3. John Young, Australian adventurer and badass wildlife consultant

Commando Nerd (Detail I)
As you can see in the following first-round sketch at right, John Young, Australian Wildlife Cinematographer, is deploying enormous amounts of influence. I mean, how could he not? Have you SEEN the mutton chops in his photo?

Personally, I absolutely LOVE this guy, because he looks like a combination of 60s cigarette ad, Harry Flashman, and my own junior-high fantasies of what grown-up life was going to be like. Just check out the POCKET he has on his zip-up paratrooper boots:

Commando Nerd (Detail II)

His soft bucket hat probably tips him from “Commando badass” over into “Fishing trip”, and he definitely is more commando than nerd right now. So I stopped by Dudas Diving Duds and asked Mike Dudas if he had any Commando Nerd gear sitting around that I could use for inspiration. Boy, did he ever come through. CHeck out the thumbnails: waterproof, hand-mounted ALIENS-style LED lights! Powder-coated camera enclosures! Bomb-shaped underwater scooters!

Handheld LED light   343 Guilty Spark, except real   Dive Scooter BADASS THIGH BAG

So anyhow, what do YOU think the primary ingredients of a Commando Nerd are? I was thinking about giving him a pair of binoculars with, you know, an ANTENNA mounted on them, all Hoth-style. Will Ronco says he needs a whip, a lasso, or a coil of rope.

What do you say, O Internet? More mutton chops (towards Badass Seventies Adventurer), or less chop (towards Badass Cigarette Ad Adventurer?) Cleaner hair? Birth-control glasses?

Commando Nerd mascot for the p8tch Project: your thoughts?

Airbrush Tattoos at the Green Fair: Green Energy, Green Fair, blue ink.

Green Energy Bicep Tattoo

Barb hosted a Green Fair at East Goshen Township Park today. I thought it would be a good opportunity to get airbrush practice (and try out my new Iwata airbrush!)

I bought a piece of Green Energy vector art from istockphoto, simplified it, and sent it to Dave at Barking Dog Signs. He ran it through his vinyl plotter this morning, we picked it up, and even managed to intercept the FedEx truck with the new airbrush on it. Whew.

The new airbrush works great. The only thing that would have been better would be if I had remembered to bring some, you know, GREEN INK!

The bicep belongs to Allison M.G., director of Philadelphia Club VEG.

Airbrush Tattoos at the Green Fair: Green Energy, Green Fair, blue ink.

Velcro-Backed Commando Nerd Patches: The Project!


The post to the Big Blog caught me flatfooted, but the store is now up. Read about the patches, try scanning and configuring a patch, and order one in the design of your choice!

The first QRCode reader for the iPhone is available for free in the App Store now. Scanning a QRCode on the iPhone requires good light and a steady hand, unlike the J2ME readers that have been around for ten years. I’d love to know your experience — try scanning the sample code on the site, and let me know how it works for you!

Now that the first QRcode reader for the iPhone is just hours away has been released on the App Store, I’m taking the wraps off of the secret sibling of the nerdlepoint project. And here it is!

Velcro-backed QRcode patch: ""!

You’re looking at a two by four inch twill patch with Velcro stitched on the back. The hook side is on the patch, the loop side is sewn onto your jacket, your backpack, or your motorcycle tank bag. The flame at the top symbolizes AWESOMENESS, and the barcode at the bottom is a unique URL on the Swiss domain Every patch has a unique barcode, and therefore a unique URL.

Each has a secret keyphrase, allowing you to instruct the domain to redirect the URL anywhere you want. To your mobile-formatted RSS feed, to Google maps turn-by-turn directions to your favorite bar, to your Facebook group “NERDS UNITE”, whatever. You shoot the patch, your mobile phone’s browser opens the URL of your choosing.

With the additional features (Google maps linking, YouTube linking) available on an iPhone, here’s an example of something you could do:

  • YOU:
    “Excuse me, annoying Bluetooth headset guy on the street, you have jostled me, and you were a jerk about it. Using your iPhone 3G, please scan the 2D barcode located right here on my shoulder.”
  • ANNOYING BLUETOOTH HEADSET GUY (into his headset):
    “I know he can get the job, but can he do the job? I’M NOT ARGUING THAT WITH YOU!”
    [Holds up a “hang on” finger, scans your patch.]
    [Displays a youTube video of you giving the finger to the camera.]

See? SEE? That’s something you can ACTUALLY DO RIGHT NOW using the system. Or at least, you will be able to when the first QRcode reader for the iPhone makes it out of Apple code review and is released in the App Store. Which will be ANY MOMENT NOW.

For extra stylishness, each has a piece of Mysterious Art from none other than Kenn Munk, whom I asked to come up with a variety of designs for different purposes:

Velcro-backed Designs

Whaddya think? SO NERDY THAT IT JUST MIGHT WORK? I’m trying, here, to appeal to the Commando Nerd demographic. And we all know who the original patch-wearing Commando Nerds were:

If you think that a velcro-backed would look cool on your jacket or your backpack this fall, check out the page at

And if you’re interested in offline-to-online integration, I suggest that you check out the magnificently awesome semapedia, whose goal is to put QRcode stickers on physical objects, linking to the object itself. Hopefully, the deployment of a QRCode reader to the iPhone will be a big shot in the arm for this really cool project (I’m not involved with them, just a fan.)