Thursday, October 11, 2007

Perform Magic, Change Your World View - Maker Faire Austin

Phil Ross is a Maker's Maker

By most measures of handy, I am a reasonably capable fellow if only as defined by the number of my projects that have appeared in Make Magazine. My skills are not highly refined, but I am a snob about doing it myself and control the project scope by what I am able to accomplish. As a result, my machines shy away from coding software, engineering hardware, or machining parts out of a block of steel. The results are sometimes clumsy and rough around the edges, but they function as imagined and I make up for fineness of technique with aesthetic boldness. In art or hot rodding, I revel in the hand wrought elements and love to touch both the gloppy oil paint and the smooth finish of a hand-hammered aluminum fender. As an authenticity snob, the connection to the hand that crafted it means as much as the value of the object.

At Maker Faire, you can have a dozen epiphanies in a Saturday. Then Sunday comes and you can have dozen more. Dedicated individuals of similarly clumsy talents come together and point out what went right and what went less-than-right with their projects. As a stark comparison to professional life, where mistakes are hidden, the amateurs just roll their eyes and laugh as they tell you where they got it all wrong. The hardiest of laughter is reserved for those situations where personal injury was narrowly avoided due to dumb luck.

Smug in your DIY ethos, you meet Phil Ross, see his jaw dropping sculptures of nature captured, and feel the ground turn to quicksand as you realize you lost the plot. Epiphany #1 of 12, or an hour into Maker Faire.

To do Phil a grave disservice, I will paraphrase a bit about the content of his sculptures. As seen above, there is a plant that is being kept alive by the benevolence of a machine. Not thriving, just surviving, as light and air are meted out in increments sufficient to sustain life but not so great as to allow the plant to flourish. The LEDs and aquarium bubbler are controlled by timers, so who is the evil overlord? The computer? The software? Phil?

It is a great piece of art but the glory of what made it work so well, for me, was the exquisite presentation. All the glass is hand blown lab glass that was created to Phil's specifications, while the battery and electronics are housed in a perfect Lucite box. Phil didn't blow the glass and didn't build the box, but it is still all him. The outsourced components are but a trifle in construction. More effective for the elegance of presentation, it allows you to view the ideas and execution as if you were considering an immaculate mathematical or philosophical problem without the annoying reality of the physical world. The fact that the 'black box of control' is transparent makes for a sweetly complex problem.

So, am I building better stuff because I am doing it all myself, or should I reach to the edges and engage professionals to produce the limits of imagination? I'll do both, like Phil.

This language of handy, of making, of welding and woodworking, of mechanics and hand lettering, will tell stories that have never been told.

On the way home from the Bay Area Maker Faire, I stopped at a scenic spot for lunch amongst the live oaks, only to come across a stranded motorist in a multicolor motor home. He was on his way back from a model train show and asked me for a jump start. Though it was possible that all he needed was a jump, this simple query is usually code for "my car won't start and I have no idea why."

He was a very nice guy and generous with model train advice, even when you didn't ask a model train question. I commented on the asymmetrical paint on his motor home and he explained that midway through the job with a brush and a bucket of flat, forest green house paint, he had run out of paint. It still looked pretty good! Pretty good-ish, anyway. Good as a motor home could look that had been painted with a brush on three sides.

The problem was beyond a low battery and the solution was more complicated than a jump start. He kept saying, "Everything is original! Just like Dodge did it in the factory. All original."

With an original manufacturer's manual and a clear head, you should be able to fix many car problems on the side of the road, but the manual never specifies what is inside the mysterious clump of electrical tape under the dash. Or why the horn button turns on the hazard lights. I understand where he was coming from - if it is all original, it should follow some rules of logic. Vehicles that have survived a dozen roadside repairs may be champions of the interstate, but the only thing still original from the factory is the Dodge sticker on the valve cover.

"If I see something in the road, I will turn around to get it, even if it means I have drive a mile back to get it!" he said. A look inside his toolbox confirmed this random approach to tool acquisition as it included pipe wrenches, florescent light starters, ammunition for a 45 Auto and screwdrivers that had been used as pry bars, despite the warning against such use printed on the handle.

As I had brought a recently completed, yet to be thoroughly tested, contraption to Maker Faire, I had a full compliment of tools and a digital multimeter. Loath to be the one to further damage my new friend's motor home, I resisted taking the screwdriver from his hand and making the repairs myself. Instead, I gave him advice:

"Test the voltage from here to there, while you turn the key. What does it read?"

"12.6 volts, everything original, just like from Dodge."

"Ok, now measure resistance, from here to over here."

"34 ohms, all original Dodge. Just like the factory."

Eventually, we found the issue - a bad prong in a decaying Molex plug to the ignition switch. We cut, crimped, bypassed and fired up the all-original Dodge with the only evidence of the event being another moderately kludgy repair sure to baffle the next roadside mechanic. "It's magic!" he said. "It is magic, that meter that found the problem. You are a magician. Where can I get one of those?"

I told him to watch the Harbor Freight sale flyer and buy the cheapest multimeter they have. I suspect he was overestimating the power of the magic box and will be in just as tight a pickle at the next breakdown, but the next guy to help him at the scenic overlook will be thrilled to find that meter in his toolbox of claw hammers and broken circuit breakers.

"I would give you some money, but I don't have any...” I explained that was fine, I just wanted to take some pictures to remember my lunch among the oaks and continuity problems.

As I was leaving, he flagged me down to give me an apple and an orange, which was deeply appreciated compensation. That's what we do at Maker's Faire. We perform magic, break the magic, rebuild the magic and give each other fresh fruit.

Phil Ross, I owe you an orange.

Link to Maker Faire Austin
Link to Phil Ross

Juggernaut 2004
"I have drawn on two culturally divergent traditions for Juggernaut
- Chinese scholar's objects and Victorian glass conservatories,
which share the belief that nature is best understood
when seen through the lens of human artifice." - Phil Ross

Friday, October 05, 2007

Renault F1 Ice Cream Truck

Never bashful about my love of adapted vehicles, I must admit that I was a'stammer and a'blushin in the presence of this amazing example.
(Click for big picture)

If the sheer visual appeal was not enough, this little charmer was named Tin Tin!

Separated at birth?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dorkbot/Hooptyrides Open House aka "You call that a door prize?"

Delco AM/FM/shortware console with missing turntable
will be awarded to one lucky attendee

In conjunction with Dorkbot Socal, I will be throwing open the doors to Hooptyrides, Inc. but space is limited. Attendance will be restricted to the first thirty respondents per Dorkbot instructional internet presence (Link). One lucky attendee will leave with a door prize/boat anchor which will be won through a rousing round of Rock, Paper, Scissors. The contest portion of the evening will be officiated by Echo Park superhero, Mark Allen (Link). Mark doesn't know that he will be performing in this capacity, so if you happen to see him, please urge him to attend. Perhaps you should suggest that he bring a whistle.

What can you expect?
  • Demonstration of Mister Jalopy's Urban Guerrilla Movie House
  • Demonstration of the Giant Ipod
  • Demonstration of Boombox TV, as featured in upcoming Make article Platform:Boombox
  • Tour of Hooptyrides, Inc.
  • Tour of Hooptyrides, Inc. executive restroom reserved for those donating $5 (or more) to Machine Project (Link)
  • Live demonstration of Mister Jalopy's Four-Step Miracle Process for the Refurbishment of Wood as we transform crummy Delco console into something slightly less crummy. (No photos or videos, please. Some miracles need to be witnessed, not recorded.)
  • Ample opportunities to be separated from your money
You may ask, why do I have to win that console?

When I built the Giant Ipod, I had purchased/found three consoles as I was not sure which would work for my purposes. This is #2 of the three. If I find the 3rd, which is pretty likely, there may be two door prizes! What a lucky day that will be!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

How objects fail to learn

Recently, I was tending to my Marantz amplifiers and realized that objects will suggest design improvements.

How many AM antennas snapped off before Marantz took action to ebb the broken tuner flow streaming through the warranty repair department doors? Having grown up in a house with Marantz amplifiers, I have been trying to resist using this 'not a handle' for 30 years. Though I have enough tuners to last five lifetimes, I can not resist checking to see if garage sale tuners still have the AM antenna.

If Marantz listened to the first couple broken amplifiers and designed a subsequent integrated handle/antenna, there would be a lot more mint condition units today.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mister Jalopy and Mark Frauenfelder on Public Radio Today

Mark (editor of Make Magazine, founder of, author of Rule the Web and good friend of mine) and I will be on KPCC LA Public Radio today. We will discuss a variety of terrifically fascinating topics that will be sure to delight young and old alike.

From KPCC:
... Thursday, September 6
Remember the guy on your street who was the neighborhood Mister Fixit... and in his spare time he tried to build a solar-powered toaster or a better backyard rocket? Anything the factory manufacturer did, they can do better. Spend a little time with the men and women of the Maker movement.
We are on:

Patt Morrison! Live!
KPCC 89.3FM in Los Angeles!
September 6, 2007
Show starts at 2:00 PM, we are on around the half way point.

Podcasts, live internet listening and archived streams - Here

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Los Angeles Heatwave Requires Thermometer Calibration

For the purposes of discussion, we will assume the Fluke 88V is correct.

Let's face it, nobody likes tools that lie. And as a consequence, serious individuals demand that their tools are calibrated. It is not that I do everything with a high level of precision, but I feel comfort in knowing my tools are upholding their end of the deal.

Suspecting that friends might think I was over exaggerating the Hooptyrides average temperature this week, I decided to calibrate the Cobbs Creek Drink-O-Meter thermometer to determine just what I was up against. 104 F, inside. 110 F, outside. The Bell Ringer, Horse's Neck and Mint Smash - no matter how appealing they sound - are clearly not going to cut it. Mint Juleps will be enjoyed inside, but outside we are getting perilously close to 'too hot to imbibe.' Perhaps temperatures over 110F will require hitting the bottle straight. Like a cannonball.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Long Road to the Cover of Make Magazine

Lots of the folks that write for Make Magazine are bona fide experts in their field and present very refined designs that have evolved from many prototypes. Unfortunately for Make readers, I am not one of those individuals. I am (or have been) an amateur mechanic, power transformer salesman, computer tech support expert, re-engineering consultant, corporate executive, welder, maker, small business owner, database programmer, real estate investor, stove restorer, graphic designer, photographer, author, web designer, tech advisory panel member, woodworker, public speaker, handyman and furniture restorer. I am professional at only two things: garage saling and being an amateur.

As an amateur in all things, I have found great commonalities to approaching subjects as a newbie. I think the greatest skill that could be taught in schools is how to be a professional amateur as that is the single skill set that unlocks everything. Nobody likes to assist a know-it-all, but there are lots of stone killer experts that get a kick out of sharing knowledge with thoughtful individuals that are deeply curious, respectful, have a firm handshake, don't interrupt and will meet your eye.

Glass door hinges seemed like such a clever way to allow the Fresnals to swing for keystone correction. Didn't work - the hinges extended too far in the image area.

As opposed to your vocation, an avocation tends to be a more quiet affair and your failures are mercifully private events. Building for the magazine is more complicated as you need to be able to undo your mistakes and present a cohesive, linear project. If I included all my missteps, the article would be 5 times as long and would make no sense as readers would follow me down so many dead ends that even I would forget where we were going.

  • Mister Jalopy's Axiom of Amateurism #1, Retrofixism: Provide a path back. Always build undo buttons. Recoverable mistakes are non-events.
  • Retrofixism Corollary #1a : Take 10x photos as you may need those "pre-mistake images" later.

One of 12 Chicken Scratchings Submitted to Make Art Department.
Poor Bastards. Hi Daniel!

The projector article turned out great largely due to the efforts of rockstar technical illustrator Tom Parker. Being that Tom is a maker himself, he was able to work from chicken scratchings to come up with my favorite Make illustration ever. The projector was a barely do-able project for the scope/space of a magazine and it is still not a step-by-step build guide as every projector is different. But, with the detail of the illustration, you can really get your head around how the projector works and how the build comes together. There is no replacement for the lumenlabs site.

Mark's Little Lioness Photo: Mark Frauenfelder

On a complicated project with Maker Faire deadline, I will build it so it works but it may not be refined, explainable, repeatable or article ready. When I got back from Maker Faire, I took it apart and rebuilt to deal with overheating, phantom shadow and light leak issue. That refined version is what appears in the magazine.

One of my two raffle prizes

The cover photo shoot was at Mark and Carla's house which included gracious hospitality, burritos, cold beers and an entertainment revue called Ye Olde Entertainment. The kid's death defying trampoline acrobatics was followed by a raffle in which I won a shiny rock and the button pictured above.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Will cars of today become classics tomorrow?

"Barn Find" 1950 Ferrari 166MM Touring BarchettaA lesson in savage grace.
Photo: Pebble Beach Concourse d'Elegance

Today's Wall Street Journal has an article by Joseph White that asks if any of today's automobiles will become extraordinarily desirable Concourse cars of tomorrow. My opinion was not solicited. Luckily, with the power of the internets, I am free to weigh in without pesky journalistic standards.

The discussion seems to have been prompted by the Pebble Beach debut of a barn find 1950 Ferrari 166MM Touring Barchetta, which makes comparisons quite difficult as any modern car will surely disappoint.

"Will it be a classic? Of course!"

"Like the 1950 Ferrari Barchetta?"

"Well, no. Not like that. A classic, but in a much shittier form."

The Elite
WSJ: Bugatti Veyron, limited number Ferraris and Porsches

Mr J: Of course, these big money, epic performers will always desirable. Will the Veyron be as undeniable as a bat wing Alfa or a Ferrari 250 Testarossa? I don't think so.

Mr. J's Additions: Ford GT, best looking car in 30 years

The Americans
WSJ: Corvette Z06, Pontiac Solstice, Chrylser 300C, Plymouth Prowler, convertible PT Cruiser, forthcoming Challenger, Cadillac CTS-V with the 5.7L, Buick GNX, Viper, Bullitt Mustangs.

Mr J: Corvette Z06, absolutely. Relative rarity coupled with uncompromising performance, plus it's a Corvette. And enough will be parked into telephone poles that they will just get rarer. The Bullitt Mustangs are a good bet, but I think the top end Saleens would be even better.

The sheer number of Dodge Viper posters on teenagers' walls assures the Viper a place in auto history. If you want to see the classics of today, visit the bedrooms of high school auto shop students. For sheer investment, I can't imagine a wiser automotive buy than a Viper GT-2 plexiglass window factory racer.

The rest of them? Forget it. The convertible PT Cruiser? Come on. When the PT Cruiser first came out, zealous retirees would honk to signal that they too had an appreciation of old car styling. I was baking in my overheating hoopty as they beeped their horns from air-conditioned comfort. The absurdity of those moments continues to astound. Classics do not have to be as profound as a Cord coffin nosed art deco masterpiece, but they can't be lies either. The Prowler and PT Cruiser are deceitful.

Mr J Additions: It is no Ferrari, but the Dodge Ram V-10 has brash appeal.

The Europeans
WSJ: Original Audi TT, new Beetle and Mini Cooper S.

Mr J: The Mini Cooper S is a charmer and backs it up with performance. It is a rehash of a prior champion, but it is done so well. There were talks about building a lightweight boy racer limited edition and that would be enough to make a lasting impression.

The Beetle and TT will be in design books along with Michael Graves teapots and Alessi cork screws, but they are too plentiful to enter the big leagues. They don't feel like enthusiast cars.

Mr J Additions: AMG Mercedes Hammer, 16v Scirocco, BMW M3, Renault Turbo R5, Lancia Rally 037, Audi Quattro, Land Rover Defender

The Japanese
WSJ: Datsun 240z

Mr J: The 240z was such a dramatic shift from Japanese cars of the time that I think it has a good shot at becoming a classic.

Mr J Additions: They missed the mark here big time. Add the Mitsubishi EVO, WRX-Sti, Skyline and Twin Turbo Supra, just to start. Like historic hot rods and muscle cars that were abused beyond recognition before being cut up for parts, there are some groundbreaking turbo CRXs and the like that should be stocked away in moth balls today.

Can there be future classics?

Jim Hall is quoted and addresses the issue of maintenance as it relates to computer electronics. That is a real concern, but I suspect if a car becomes a classic and the market incentive is there, somebody will be able to repair the computers without too much concern. He goes on to suggest there would be a market for a 'universal computer' that could be 'plug and play' to keep these aging cars running. Well, I agree there would be a market, but I have my doubts about the feasibility of a universal plug and play computer. Plus, auto manufacturers are now rolling out encrypted systems protected with a 64 bit key. If you can't open your car's computer, do you own it?

A more damning issue is the sheer quantity of plastic in modern automobiles. Sure, my 1964 Chevelle wagon has plastic components but they are largely in a supporting role. In modern cars, plastic is elevated from trim and is sprinkled generously throughout the drive train. On my 1987 Mercedes 300 TD, these plastic components have become so porous and brittle that disassembly means breakage. Between the smog, under hood heat, and
the corrosive petroleum products that power automobiles, all the plastic is coming apart at the same time.

The Mister Jalopy Surefire Future Classic Design School

Epitomize Something New
- Elegant roadster has been done. So has exotic wedge and brute muscle car. Quirky French car for peasants carrying wine and cheese has been covered. Find a new idea to get across. Not a new idea in cars but a new idea in the world - like teenage revolution in the 60's or proletariat Swedish safety.

Longer Names - The Fiat Abarth Double Bubble Zagato Coupe. The Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder Long Wheel Base. If your babysitter had an idea for the hubcaps, mention her in the name.

Unbelievably Elegant and Savage Design - This is an easy one. Monkeys can do this. Look at the Ferrari at the top of the page and figure out how it appears so elegant and fine boned while still having the demeanor of a bloodthirsty savage. Decipher that simple formula, update it in a respectful way, carve a many-cylindered engine block out of a single chunk of billet and, with the hammer of Buddha, pound aluminum fenders over Italian stumps that have Enzo's initials carved in the base. Eat prosciutto for lunch and truffles for dinner, bathe in cognac, drink espressos during victory laps, road test at midnight, change tires for thunderstorm wet practice, whisk baguette crumbs from the oxblood leather seats with a boar bristle brush, keep sterling flasks of courage in the glove box, smoke cigars with the commitment of Mark Twain and feed your chickens at dawn.

PT Cruiser Convertible, indeed.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Why I listen to Mark Frauenfelder very closely...

Sure, it is an Internet tip book. And who needs an Internet tip book when you have the Internet. What tip could not be found with the power of Google?
  1. Mark thinks of questions that you have not thought to type at your favorite search engine. If you don't have the question, it is very difficult to find the answer. Every time I pick up Rule the Web, I learn something I didn't know I needed to know. How do you hide a website from the Google crawlers? How do I add forums to my entertaining Internet presence? How do I record podcasts for free? How can I add a "Suggest a Site" form to my Internets?
  2. Mark has seen everything. Since he edits boingboing, every Internet toadstool has come across his virtual desk. And when you have seen all the toadstools, you know the chanterelle when you see it. Mere mortals can not distinguish the great from the very good without Mark's Internet world view.
  3. Mark is probably smarter than you. Definitely smarter than me.
  4. Mark has accomplished something that only a handful of individuals have been able to do: make a comfortable living from something he loves. Now further winnow that small group to the individuals who make a comfortable living blogging. This book has secrets. Blogging secrets. Big fat blogging secrets. Giant money making blogging secrets. Sure, you could rule the web, but who gives a shit? With Internet ruling ability and $1, you can eat a regrettable meal at Taco Bell. This book was incorrectly named as it should have been called "Mark Frauenfelder's Big Hairy Money Making Blogging Secrets."
Disclaimer: Mark is a friend. And he is my editor at Make. I wouldn't have written my first article for Make if it were not for Mark and I certainly wouldn't have written my twentieth.

Buy the dirt-ass cheap Rule the Web and hold your own at the Internet World Championships.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Carousel Amusement Auction

Buying one would be absurd; buying thirty is inspired.

The Carousel International Amusement Company assets, real estate, intellectual property and the owner's pinball machine collection are being sold at auction on June 23rd. These are the moments that you reconsider moving to Pittsburg, CA and, instead, picture yourself as King of Kiddie Rides in Eldon, Missouri.

"Situated in the Missouri Ozarks, Eldon is strategically situated directly between St. Louis and Kansas City - about 150 miles between each of them on the Midwest Corridor..."
Well, I am not a geography expert, but that sounds like the middle of Jackshit, Nowhere.

One assumes that intellectual property includes the rights to the wormy apple kiddie ride. Kids LOVE to ride in a wormy apple, especially if your co-pilot is the worm. Is this a Richard Scarry character? I wonder if I could just buy the Richard Scarry kiddie ride licensing agreement - making the bold assumption that it is licensed. Riding with the Lion in the Model T roadster pick-up truck - now that would be a kiddie ride.

Super Auctions: Link

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Sheer Terror at the AC Outlet

An event like this makes you remember why you fell in love with junction boxes and circuit breakers in the first place.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Build Branching Lamps in Minutes

Bruce Shapiro's Light Socket Branching Tree

While at Maker Faire, I met the inspiring Bruce Shapiro who will change the way that you think about stepper motors and the math that can push them. Cool stuff and inspired machines. Whether dragging a ball through sand, pushing a pen around a light bulb, or cutting metal with plasma, he forces you to think about how to push objects through space. On a smaller scale, on a Hooptyrides accessible scale, when I saw his branching bulb splitter tree I had to yell out, 'I did that too! Sorta.'

Lamp at Hooptyrides, Inc.

Cool new technologies open up cutting edge opportunities for exploration every day, but extremely mature technologies can offer a very deep arsenal of building blocks. Stop thinking about plumbing supplies, electrical conduit and light bulb sockets as home improvement products but instead as mature, modular building solutions that have an engineered solution for every obstacle.

Friday, June 01, 2007

What is so great about K.E.M. Weber?

K.E.M. Weber Chair

As a younger man, I used to really buy into the whole form follows function ethos, but after collecting a fair amount of mid-grade Danish Modern-this and Eames-like-that, I decided I was more comfortable with the threadbare looks of thinning oriental rugs and old oak that smells of oranges. What I liked in a museum or in the pages of a book was not necessarily the same as what built a comfortable, personal environment and it took a while to figure out that simple fact.
K.E.M. Weber is a little like George Nakashima for me. Beyond modernism, I just would be thrilled to be in the same room with a footstool by either Weber or Nakashima.

Years ago, I was on a strategic hunting trip through the antique stores of East Sunset. Though I pride myself in finding hidden gems, I was with a real life, stone killer, serious collector friend with very, very deep knowledge. From across the room, He spotted a rather plain wardrobe that was so narrow it would hold a single winter coat and little else. That should have been the first clue that it was designed for sunny climates. My pal said, "I bet this is K.E.M. Weber" and, sure enough, he found a Disney Studios property tag on the back. Not only did I not peg it as Weber, as I had not even heard of the man.

K.E.M. Weber was the main architect at the Walt Disney Animation studios and designed much of the animation department furniture therein. This is the timeless look of commerce. Imagine what it would do for the morale of the animators to show up each day and sit at this exquisite workstation. It is a fitting piece of furniture for the creation of animated masterpieces.
K.E.M. Weber was also an art director at Barker Brothers Furniture during the era when it seemed they could do no wrong. In a disparate styles than Weber's aesthetic, Barker Brothers also commissioned the Mason Furniture Company to design and build Spanish revival furniture for the stucco and red tile roofed homes being built in growing Los Angeles. Though the style was so different than Weber's, they share in common a romanticism of what California could be.
Photo from Roger Renick Fine Arts

While in Pasadena, I sometimes stop at Roger Renick to consider how soulful mass-produced furniture can be. Barker Brothers had a few things figured out.

The all important provenance

So, the Weber desk is at auction tomorrow. It is a live auction at LA Modern and also at trusty old ebay. Estimated at $6000-8000, but I bet it will sell for more.

LA Modern Auction, Disney Animation Desk: Link
K.E.M. Weber Book, I'd love to take a look at this: Link
K.E.M. Weber Bixby House: Link
Monterey Furniture book by Roger Renick: Link
Roger Renick Fine Arts: Link
Scant mention of Barker Brothers Furniture on the internets, but I would sure like to take a look at this: Link

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Navy X-Ray Facility

How can it be? One minute, you have never heard of Pittsburg, California. Then, moments later, a relocation seems so logical that you start Googling to find the nearest Trader Joe's (11 miles SW in Concord).

So, why is it so compelling? Well, try to ignore, for a moment, if possible, the title 'X-Ray Exposure Room' because that in itself should sway the most cynical buyer of wayward cast concrete buildings. I have spent, I am not kidding, an hour looking at the plans. I can assure that it is worth at least five minutes of serious consideration.

First, there is the scale. The walls are 37' feet high. You could park a 3-story townhouse inside. The space is so ample that you could store your 2-story fire station in itand when you come across a porcelain pre-fab steel gas station for sale, you will not hesitate for a moment as you picture it neatly stacked on the firehouse. The opportunities for lofts, catwalks, mezzanines, roosts, crow's nests and widow's walks are dizzying.

Then, there is the quality of construction. Like me, you probably bemoan having inadequate wall thickness for serious radiological experiments. True, the walls of Navy X-Ray Facility are only 2 1/2' thick for the final 20 feet, but the fifteen foot base is an impressive 4' thick! Every morning, I would wake up, put on my hearing protectors and shoot my .300 Weatherby at the opposite wall. Check out those concrete notched, stacked wall modules. Corps of Engineers takes no guff!

Ok, sharp -yed Hooptyriders are sure to note the center concrete pad and wonder what would require such a deep footing. Rail car! I am not 1000% sure, but it appears that you would bring in a rail car and offload to the transfer car seen to the right. It looks like a rail car that comes to rest against the wood bumper but the car appears to be perpendicular to the door. And where does the transfer car transfer to? Clearly, a site visit is required.

Auction opening bid: $150,000 Link
Architectural Elevations Link

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Porcelain Urinal Sign

Only a municipality would devote the resources to creating porcelain signs that exhort the savages employed therein to exercise a modicum of self-control. Great typeface, superior craftsmanship and a message that stands the test of time.

Let's say you wanted a custom porcelain sign to enforce bathroom manners or, other, less urgent messages. How would you get one made? Is it even possible anymore? Like water slide decals, can you get them made at any cost? And, yes, I know about the water slide decal paper for computer printers, but I am inquiring about the real deal.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Eccentric Clamp

During yesterday's garage sales, I came across this ingenious clamp that works on friction, angles and leverage. Like a pipe clamp, the sliding arm adjusts to almost snug. Then a quick flip of the eccentric lever exerts the extra 3/8" of motion required to secure that which desires to be steadfast.
Pat. Feb. 8 87 - I suspect this clamp was
not patented in 1987.

Join me in celebrating Feb. 8 as Eccentric Clamp Day.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The $29 Chair One Hour Challenge

Asking $40, offered $20, settled at $29.

Trying to avoid projects, I set a one hour deadline for complete refurbishment per the Mister Jalopy 4-step Miracle Process.

Improvement is so startlingly quick, that I like to mask off a section to be dramatically revealed at project end to show the remarkable transformation.

Four Miracle Steps later! Wowee!
Well, 72 minutes. Not awful. I thought I was going to be able to extract the broken arm rest screw with a pair of Vice-Grips and a sunny attitude. Sharp-sighted Hooptyriders will note the tap handle, screw extractor, drill chuck and bit which means the errant screw was drilled and extracted. That added time. But! The 72 minutes did include making a shot of espresso! Sometimes, on a project like this, I will leave a section untouched just to remind myself of where I have come from, where I have been and where I can go in 72 minutes. Not in this case. I spent another 5 minutes 4-Step Miracle Processing this final section.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mister Jalopy's Urban Guerrilla Movie House

Before the roof was finished, I must admit the Urban Guerrilla looked pretty ho-hum.

It seems most Hooptyrides posts start with a statement about how busy I have been as way of explanation to justify the dearth of posts on my entertaining internet presence. Add to that the insult that I upgraded, then irretrievably broke Jalopy Junktown and I am bad blogger without defense. And I have been busy - up to my ass-kettle in tea-kettles. So to speak.

To answer the inevitable question, the roof took about 6 hours with a lunch break.
The over-built, under-engineered Movie House base is TIG welded.

Oh, how I miss the drive-in movie theaters that dotted the San Fernando Valley. Sure, there are still drive-in theaters in Los Angeles if you define Los Angeles in the broadest of terms as extending from San Diego to the Antelope Valley. So, I am bringing the drive-in to Maker Faire. I will be at the Make booth on Saturday and Sunday to tell it like it is and show off my blister from too much tin snipping. Plus, I am giving the Deep Sea Suburb talk at the Main Stage.

A Schwinn Town and Country adult tricycle with a Lumenlab-style projector on the back. Inside the wooden box is a stripped 15" PC LCD monitor and replacing the meager florescent backlight is an awesome 400w lamp that is bright like welding. Add a reflector, a couple of fresnals lens and a homemade focusing triplet lens and you are ready to bring the party to the people. Easy as that? Well, not really. I made more missteps than a fox trotter with two left feet. But, I learned a ton along the way and the results will be in Make Volume 11.

Under the roof, curious peekers will find a Mac laptop with a RocketFM transmitter for radio broadcasting the movie audio to the 80's era cassette boombox on the handle bars. Oh, it works like a champ! Does the projector work without AC power? No. It is already heavy like a battleship straining those original, cracked Schwinn tires and I can't imagine how many deep cycle marine batteries would be needed for a 400W lamp. While riding, I assure you, it is plenty satisfying to listen to the awesome cassette power boombox.

The preferred acid test image of the superb Lumenlab DIY Forums. That is an
untouched, un-photoshopped 7 foot diagonal non-HDTV screen shot.
The screen is a sheet of $12 melamine from Home Depot.
Nikon D70, auto settings, no flash.

Without the help of Lumenlab and the collected history of the forums, this project would never have happened. If you can't wait for the Make article, go poke around. BUT, as with all forums filled with experts, PLEASE read the FAQs, the builder guide, the Wiki and search the forums before you start asking if you can use a laptop screen (unless you are Bunnie, you can't) or automobile headlights (you could, but shouldn't.)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Commencement of the 2007 Garage Sale Season

Federal handgun ammunition laws fall apart in the secondary market.

This is your time to start garage saling. 2007 will be cited in your memoir as the year that you discovered the rich suburban history of the United States. Or the United Wherever. It will be the year that you start collecting the noble cast-offs of the richest generation in the history of the world. Don't worry if you haven't been out hitting it the first few weeks of 2007 as the garage saling season starts now.

A particularly handsome set of streamline accessory seat belts.

Between the holidays and unusually cold Southern California weather, the garage saling has been pretty weak. Not that we weren't out doin' it. You know, living. L-I-V-I-N-G. Petting dogs, poking through junk drawers, retrieving dusty boxes from attic rafters, joshin' with locals, sharing knee-slappers and rib-ticklers, shaking the hand of shrewd 5 year olds and carting away the family history of those that have decided to unburden themselves of those pesky articles. I do not begrudge. Sometimes, in that dark hour, as I face the walls of grade A junk that I have accumulated, I think about selling every last doubloon of treasure and starting over. At some point, your freedom is impinged by the sheer quantity and the idea of starting to fill a little red toolbox from scratch is pretty tantalizing. Those of you that have never garage saled, I am jealous of the opportunity that stands before you.

This hodge podge is actually a carefully edited sample from a garage splitting at the seams.

Take a look at the above photograph. Specifically, take a moment to consider the inline toggle switch at the far lower left. And then examine the pot metal plug above the red knobs. Finally, give the octagonal porcelain fixtures a once over.

These are terrifically abundant times of great commercial access, low prices and seemingly, astonishing variety. But the selection is deceptively narrow. If you wanted to spend $500 on a purse, there are likely 2000 choices and next year you will be presented with another 2000 choices. But if you want a light socket that is the not the standard cheap-ass Leviton, where would you go?

My monocle nearly popped out when I saw these plates. Immediately, I pictured serving desert to cartoon loving friends until I saw all the cartoons had to do with wine. Cheese it shall be. The New Yorker never lets a snob down.

If I were the owner of the Pilot Electric Mfg. Co. Inc., I would be so exceedingly proud to the pull into the parking lot of the Pilot world headquarters each day. Secure in knowing that I produce such a handsome product in such a thoughtfully executed package.

Exquisite packaging is kept in a special section of Hooptyrides, Inc. as a design ideal. Our inspiration not to suck.

Retro is poodle skirts and bubble Wurlitzers. Kooky pink flamingos and boomerang ashtrays. And those are inspired designs. But to like them ironically for their camp value is not enough. It does not pay them due. I am not interested in retro; I am interested in better. And industry had some stuff figured out. Somewhere along the way companies stopped hiring staff artists that could draw and a look back reveals some goddamned good tricks. Not a black box, but black panels that extend almost to the edges. Hand laid Pilot type with an L so beautiful it makes me want to throw myself on the floor. The box lid catalog number is absolutely clear without effecting the legibility of the underlying type. They sure did a lot with two colors of ink.

And, of course, the switch itself - with that bad ass plate - will make your crummy lamp project look like a nuclear submarine or a locomotive. Oh, indeed I would be proud to build an enterprise like the Pilot Electric Mfg. Co. Inc.

While I have never found an Alva skateboard, Schwinn Stingray, Belgian Browning, Offenhauser engine or McIntosh amplifier at a garage sale, but now I can cross car club plaque (my beloved Burbank, no less) off the list. Given the quality of the artwork - especially the Lords typography, do you think this may have been refined on a school book cover made from a brown grocery bag?

Listed uses for the electrical combo lock includes 'Automotive.'
Should I build a car that requires a combo to start?

Everybody that has seen Mrs. Olsen have been immediately taken by her. And, it is not that I don't like this poster, but it seems that there is something a little sinister about her look. Not that she has fangs or anything, but it seems like she is trying to pull a maneuver of some kind. Like you would get the can home and there would be a vicious little monkey inside. Or baby's feet.

Rather than demonic charlatans trying to sell a can of cat paws, I prefer the clarity of the tide campaign. All the slogans are crisp, focused and honest. America's favorite - probably hard to argue. Cleaning you can count on - I appreciate the faith in their product. Tide's In... Dirt's Out - well, that sounds so easy a coffee can monkey could do it! Clean britches for Mr. Monkey!

Coop and I went to the Hot Rod Show on Sunday. There was a car with a set of crude ram log manifolds assembled from pipes scavenged from an Electrolux and then welded together by a blind coffee can monkey. Now, I am not here to talk bad about someones ride, but rather, when I see something like that, I think, ' Those look pretty cool! Kinda shitty... but still cool! That is something I could do! Modest skills be damned!'

Wow, right? Now I have one of these! Oh boy. Have I ever been wanting one of these. Lined with an inch and a half of plywood in a steel cabinet, the lady selling it said, "It's pretty heavy..."

Uh huh. I didn't want a lightweight explosives cabinet.

(All items purchased at garage sales on January 27, 2007)