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

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

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”