"Go ahead, make my day." -Harry Callahan, Sudden Impact
Posted at 6:00 am by Rob in Main
The line between collecting and hoarding is a thin one, one I’ve straddled for many years. Although hoarding is tough to define in a single sentence, I personally think of it as acquiring things I’ll never “do” anything with. And I’m pretty liberal when it comes to “doing” something with a thing — even displaying things counts as doing something with them to me. It’s those items I buy that come home and sit out in the garage for years that worry me. To me, hoarding is when I’ve acquired so many things that the stress of owning those things is greater than the enjoyment I get from owning them.
For several years I bought every old joystick, video game console, game cartridge, and old computer I ran cross “in the wild” — garage sales, antique malls, and thrift stores, for the most part. For some reason I felt like I was rescuing these things and giving them a home, although being packed away in dark boxes or sitting out in my garage gathering dust isn’t much of a home. In the mid-1990s there was no market tp speak of for 10-20 year old game consoles and computers. I ran across those things being sold for a few bucks every time I left the house and as a result I stocked up on them. I ended up with dozens of “spare” gaming consoles and retro computers. Some I used, some I sold, some I gave away, some I trashed, and some I stowed away for “doing something” with “someday.” This weekend was one of those somedays.
Throughout the 90s I purchased five Apple IIe computers at various thrift stores — four regular ones and one black Bell and Howell model. One or maybe two of them were purchased before I moved to Spokane, which means at a minimum they’ve been stored at my house in El Reno, my apartment in Spokane, and the three houses I”ve lived in since I moved back to Yukon from Washington state. Of the five machines, one works great, one sort of works, two produce video garbage when connected to a monitor and powered up, and one (the Bell and Howell) is completely dead. The one that fully works has been up in my computer room for a while now — it’s the one I installed the CFFA3000 in. The other four have been sitting out in garage, waiting.
I decided this weekend to see if I could get the three semi-working Apple IIe machines combined into a single working one. Each of them has their own problems so I decided to go with the cosmetically best looking case. The irony in that is that the machine has a couple of prices written on the top in grease pencil. The first is $3.98; that’s been crossed out and $1.98 has been written beneath that. I bought it on a 50% off day, so I paid 99 cents for it.
Spread across the three machines were a total of three cards: two 80 column/memory expansion cards and one floppy drive controller. I was also able to borrow enough keys from the other two machines to make one complete keyboard. The keyboard is a bit wonky at times — lots of repeating characters and some keys have to be pressed much harder than others — but I’m hoping a good cleaning later this week will remedy that. I have a couple of spare floppy drives in a box (somewhere) that I’ll also try hooking up later in the week.
This blog post doesn’t have a great ending because this story is not over yet. Over the next few weeks I’ll keep messing around with the machine until I get it fully functional. After that I’m not sure what I’ll do with it (I already have a working Apple IIe up in my computer room, remember). I guess I’ll figure that out when I get to it. For the time being, I’ll just enjoy cleaning the dust off of this one and getting it back into working order.
Posted at 11:04 am by Rob in Arcade, Videogames
My friend Sean and I were recently talking about how Thanksgiving can be almost like two separate holidays for kids and adults. While the adults enjoy talking and eating and watching football, the kids are often left to entertain themselves. I decided to do something fun for the kids this year and drag one of my few remaining arcade cabinets in from the garage and set it up in the back dining room.
This machine began life as a Williams cabinet — either Defender or Joust, I think. Someone converted it to a Buster Bros. machine many years ago, and I bought it at an auction for $50 in non-working condition. The problem turned out to be a faulty power cord, which was definitely the easiest arcade repair I ever successfully performed. The game worked for a couple of years and then the board inside died, so I replaced it with a “48-in-1″ multigame PCB. (“48-in-1″ means that the board has 48 different classic games included on 1 single board.) Then the monitor died and I replaced it with a computer monitor. Since the 48-in-1 is a vertical PCB, I mounted the monitor on its side.
The game was a success, I think. My kids broke the machine in for me before anyone arrived. Morgan’s favorite game is Centipede. Even though the 48-in-1 does not support a trackball she still loves playing it, blissfully unaware at how difficult and unnatural it is to play using a joystick. Mason on the other hand likes to go through all the games and try them all. I’ve caught him playing Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Zaxxon, and Galaga, to name a few. In the picture above, my nephew Griffin is playing Burgertime while my other nephew Phoenix climbs onto a stool for a closer look with Mason watching on from behind.
This morning on “Black Friday,” Mason was the first one to fire up the machine. I posted a fairly weak Donkey Kong high score yesterday of 39,300, but Mason watched how I did it and has been trying to beat that score off and on ever since. I’m sure he’ll do it eventually. Later, mommy got in on the action as well. Susan’s score was 400 and her question before they started was “Am I Mario or the Donkey?” which is funny because there’s no donkey in Donkey Kong.
This particular cabinet is too rough to keep inside the house for long. The coin door is rusted, the sides of the cabinet are gouged, and the control panel is all scratched up. And while the 48-in-1 board offers a decent selection of games, I’m already starting to get requests. (“Does it play Tetris?” “No.” “Does it play Dr. Mario?” “No.” “Does it play Gauntlet?” “No.”) This may be the nudge I need to finally put together a proper MAME cabinet, one that looks nice enough to stay inside the house permanently.
Until then though… back to that Donkey Kong score.
Posted at 9:31 pm by Rob in Food, Main
I’m usually pretty good at eyeballing and copying things. I can typically study something crafty or artistic and make a passable copy of it. One year I even made a Thanksgiving Turkey out of a cantaloupe based on a tiny picture I found on the internet. This skill apparently does not extend to Thanksgiving cookies.
Earlier today while searching online for Thanksgiving desserts I found this picture:
The instructions said, more or less, “make cookies, add Reese’s Pieces, wrap in a green Fruit Roll-Up.” I can do this!
Here’s what I started with. Note that no store in a 50 mile radius of me carries green Fruit Roll-Ups. We found two alternatives. One was “wacky fruit stripes” that had red, green, yellow, and orange stripes. Susan thought we could just cut the green and yellow sections out and use them. A second stop revealed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Fruit Roll-Ups — and they were green! Surely one of these would work!
First, I would need the cookies.
As you can see, I’ve never made cookies before. These look terrible. They don’t look like corn cobs at all. They look like piles of raw McFlesh or something. Had I studied the source picture more closely I would have realized that those cookies were much, much smaller. Oh well, I was sure these would work. I handed the tray to Susan and said “make these into cookies!” and she did by placing in the oven and later removing them.
Susan’s suggestion was to make one prototype and then do the rest assembly line style. That sounded like a plan and so I took one of the cookies, covered it in icing (white icing from a can with a few drops of yellow food coloring added), added the Reese’s Pieces and the green Fruit Roll-Up and… oh my.
There are so many things wrong with this dessert that I’m not even sure where to begin. For starters, it looks like an alien fish caught in a lettuce wrap. I didn’t overlap the candy like they did on the original, which makes the candy look more like buttons than corn. Oh, and this was actually the smallest cookie in the batch, as most of them were made to the “corn you get at the fair” scale. I also realized after making one that I did not have enough green Fruit Roll-Ups to make a dozen cookies, so I broke into the TMNT Roll-Ups…
…which are covered in Turtle Tattoos. Are you kidding me? Susan found that if you soaked them in water for a minute you could somewhat squeegee the words off by running them between your fingers (or at least smear them to the point of illegibility).
This is me, soaking strips of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Tattoo-covered Fruit Roll-Ups in a bowl of water attempting attempt to remove the writing and make them look more like corn husks. The camera built into the iPhone is pretty amazing but I’m not sure it truly conveys how disgusted I was with the whole project at this point. Maybe it does.
This shot shows that the table looked like at this point. I really wanted to capture how much effort went into making the dumbest Thanksgiving cookies ever. This was taken probably two hours into the project.
At least the final product would look like oh dear God what are those?
Great Jehoshaphat they look like candy remote controls served as week-old sushi. This is not what I had in mind. Again, the source photo:
Mason said it best when he came downstairs, took one look at the tray of cookies, and said to me, “They look great, Dad. What are they supposed to be?”
Posted at 2:15 pm by Rob in Main
Technically this post should be called “why I wear shorts year round,” but it’s snowing right now so now’s when I get the most questions about it.
When I was a kid, I hated wearing shorts because I thought I had stupid looking kneecaps. In retrospect I think most kids have stupid looking kneecaps. I didn’t really start wearing shorts frequently until jams came out. If you’re too young to remember, jams were surfer shorts. They were invented in the 1960s and were brought back into style in the 1980s by surfers and skateboarders. Around the time I graduated high school I discovered cargo shorts, and by the time I went to college I was pretty much wearing cargo shorts all the time and have been wearing them ever since. (Not the same pair, of course.)
(Me, front left, wearing shorts. Redlands Newspaper Staff Photo, 1991.)
In the early 90s when I worked at Pizza Hut, employees could wear black shorts to work but managers could not. I started as a delivery driver who moonlighted as a shift supervisor, so I wore shorts on the nights I delivered pizza and black jeans on the nights I didn’t. One time I got my schedule mixed up and accidentally wore shorts on a day when I was supposed to be the night closing manager. My manager sent me home to change. I considered not coming back at all that night, but after cooling down a bit, I did. I had plenty of time to cool down because it was a 10 minute drive each way, plus my pants were dirty so I had to wash and dry them before I could return to work.
A few years later when I began working for the government at the age of 21, I was told that Fridays were “casual day.” Great! The next Friday, I showed up to work wearing a polo and a pair of shorts. A big-wig manager spotted me and my shorts in the hallway and followed me back to where I worked, where he told my supervisor that shorts were not acceptable on casual Friday. I’m sure everybody but me already knew that “work casual” was different from “casual casual.”
I guess those two incidents combined with the fact that I simply enjoy wearing them turned me into a “shorts guy.” More than that, wearing shorts to me represents freedom. Not freedom like “America,” but freedom as in, “nobody is making me not wear shorts right now.” I wear pants to work because I have to and I wear pants at family gatherings or when going out to dinner because I want to look nice. But if I have nothing to do and nobody to impress, you’ll find me wearing shorts.
Even when it’s snowing.
Posted at 8:00 am by Rob in Main
With Thanksgiving just around the corner and Christmas not far behind that I decided to pull out some of my old home movies to show the kids. I grew up in front of camera lenses, both video and still. Several years ago I borrowed all of my mom’s VHS home movies and digitized them. I took the files and copied them on to CDs and then, since they were very special, I printed out labels for them. Then I stuck the labels to the discs using a CD Stomper. If you don’t remember those, they looked like this:
For some reason I only made labels for about half of the discs. When I tried reading the discs this week, I found that all of the ones without labels were readable, and all of the ones with labels were not readable.
I read online that some newer/faster CD/DVD drives may have difficulty reading discs with labels stuck to them, so my first approach was to find an older CD-Rom drive and try that. Fortunately out in my garage I have a dozen or so to choose from. The oldest I could find was a 12x CD-Rom that I had once installed in a 486 DX4/100. It couldn’t read the disc. I also tried another CD/DVD drive, this one in an old P3/600 machine running Windows 98. It also couldn’t read the disc. The problem does not appear to be the drive’s speed.
I then read that it might be able to save the data by removing the label. Figuring that things couldn’t get worse, I gave that a shot next. Here’s what the disc looked like after picking at it with my fingernail for a few minutes:
Obviously, that didn’t work. I decided to take a plate, fill it with hot water, and add a few drops of dishwashing soap. From previous experience I know that soap and water will not hurt CDs. With the soap and water in place, I placed the CD upside down on to the plate.
After soaking for 30 minutes, this is what the water looked like:
As you can see, the ink from the label was clouding up everything. By this point the label was nice and soft and by rubbing it with a finger I was able to pretty much wipe it off.
This was the end of round one; by this time the label had dried and I couldn’t get any more off of the CD, so I repeated the process and let the CD soak a second time. After a second soaking, the rest of the label peeled off easily.
With the label completely removed it became apparent that this disc was ruined. Upon close inspection it appears the glue on the back of the label had begun to eat through the top layer of the disc. With the reflective layer eaten away, the disc is unreadable.
I’m off work next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I’m going to see if I can borrow those home movies one more time and try a different way of archiving them. Whatever method I choose, it will not involve putting stickers on the discs.
Posted at 6:00 pm by Rob in Arcade, Main, Videogames
Earlier this week I wrote about the time I spent at the 1UP Arcade in Denver attending the Kong Off 3, but my buddy Robb Sherwin took me to visit a few other local arcades over the weekend as well.
717 East Colfax Avenue, Denver, Colorado
Just across town from the 1UP is the 2UP. While the space may be slightly smaller, the fun was just as big. My buddy Robb (you can see him in the picture there) and I spent several hours hanging out at the 2UP playing games and watching football. Like the 1UP, all the pinball games were set to 50 cents and all the arcade games were set to a quarter. Mostly we played pinball, flipping away at the Metallica, Playboy, and Addams Family tables, but we did manage to squeeze in a few rounds of Paperboy as well. The 2UP is a bar which means it’s 21 to enter (no kiddos allowed). The staff were nice, the drinks were good, and the games were great. The only thing not great about the 2UP is the location. Several people we told we were going to the 2UP advised us to “have a good time and try not to get stabbed.” The area didn’t seem particularly bad to me but there were quite a few homeless people hanging around outside. Fortunately we were able to park literally outside the front door, so making a safe escape to our cars wasn’t an issue.
Lyons Classic Pinball
339-A Main Street, Lyons, Colorado
45 miles north of Denver is Lyons, Colorado, home of Lyons Classic Pinball and Games. (We were underwhelmed by the “games” part until we learned they were next door in a bar.) In what once was a house sits 30 classic pinball tables. Some are old, some are new, some are unique, and all were awesome. The middle of the arcade features a room full of music-themed pinball tables. In the picture above you can see KISS, Guns N’ Roses, Monster Bash, Wizard! (Tommy), and Metallica (again). On the other side of the room sat Rolling Stones, Capt. Fantastic (Elton John), Ted Nugent, and AC/DC. There was also a gigantic Hercules table (it’s so big it uses cue balls for pinballs!), Banzai Run (the only table where you can launch a pinball up into the backglass!) and a head-to-head Joust pinball machine.
There were only two arcade games on site: an environmental Discs of Tron and a multicade. We learned that the rest of the games were next door at Oskar’s, so we went there next.
Prices on the tables vary, from a quarter (for the old ones) to a dollar (for the band new ones). Other than the Wizard of Oz table, all the machines were up and running and looked super clean. It’s a bit of a haul from Denver, but if you’re into pinball it’s a great location to visit.
Oskar Blues Grill & Brew
303 Main Street, Lyons, Colorado
(My camera phone pictures did not turn out, so here is a picture of Oskar’s arcade from Flickr member Wally Gobetz.)
Next door to the Lyons Classic Pinball Arcade is the Oskar Blues Grill & Brew. It’s a blues bar and so inside it looks like a bar, except there’s a back room that’s full of arcade games. Because it’s a bar and there was a band playing there was a $5 cover charge to get in. From what I understand when there’s not a band, there’s no cover.
According to the website, the back room is home to the following games: Battlezone, Centipede, Dig Dug, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Galaga/Multi-cade, Gorf, Ms. Pac-Man, Out Run, Paperboy, Phoenix, Q*bert, Super Mario Bros., Tetris, Tron, and a Williams Multi-cade with Bubbles, Robotron, Defender, Sinistar, Houst, Splay, Moon Patrol, Stargate. I didn’t write them all down, but that seems about right. It was interesting that three or four of the cabinets (I remember Centipede, Dig Dug, Gorf, and maybe one of the Pacs) are cabarets, which you don’t see everyday. Maybe of the machines were in “played” vs. “restored” condition, but everything we tried worked.
Posted at 6:00 pm by Rob in Adventures, Arcade, Main
At 5:15 A.M. on Monday morning, a Kansas state trooper pulled me over. By that time I had already been on the road for two hours, doing five over the whole time.
“The reason I pulled you over,” he said, “was because you were swerving a bit back there. Everything okay in here?”
“Oh yes sir,” I responded, “just a little tired. I left Denver this morning around 3 A.M. and I’m heading back home to Oklahoma City.”
“Mmm,” he said. “What were you doing in Denver?”
“Well sir, I just got back from attending the Kong Off 3, the only nationally sanctioned Donkey Kong tournament in the country.”
After staring at one another for an uncomfortable amount of time, the trooper suggested I pull over at the next gas station, have a cup of coffee and take a break. I told him I would and continued on my way, with the trooper and Donkey Kong both in my rear view mirror.
Due to a hectic work schedule I ended up with a few weeks of “use or lose” vacation to burn at the end of the year. Around the same time I was poring over a calendar looking for days here and there to take off I discovered that the Kong Off 3 was only a couple of weeks away. Under normal circumstances I probably wouldn’t have taken a few days of vacation to drive 600+ miles to attend a Donkey Kong tournament, but with time to burn and friends to see in Denver, I loaded up the Family Truckster last Thursday morning and hit the road.
My first stop in Denver Thursday night was to meet Mike Maginnis of the No Quarter Podcast and attend a screening of The Space Invaders: In Search of Lost Time, a 2013 documentary about people who love and collect vintage arcade games. Mike had purchased a few extra tickets to ensure the screening would happen and was gracious enough to give one of those tickets to me. Turnout at the show was low, which was disappointing as I thought the film was good and did a good job of portraying the passion many of these collectors reinvest into the hobby.
After the film ended, Mike and I got to chat with director Jeff Von Ward for about twenty minutes, and both Mike and I ended up purchasing the special collector’s edition of the film which not only contains a copy of the film on blu-ray, but also two additional DVDs containing 139 minutes of bonus footage, a director’s commentary track, and lots of other extras. Definitely worth the $30. My only regret was that I did not bring a copy of Invading Spaces to give to Jeff. In the future, when attending arcade-related events, I’ll bring a spare copy or two just in case.
The entire Kong Off 3 lasted three days, lasting from Friday until Sunday. Friday, noonish, my very good friend Robb Shewrin and I headed to the 1UP in Denver, the arcade where the Kong Off 3 was taking place.
Stepping into the 1UP was like stepping back into time. To be sure the place is a bar, except where most bars have booths or tables to sit at, the 1UP has games. Lots and lots of games. The entire left hand side of the bar has 20 pinball tables. The back side of the bar has arcade games, and the entire right hand side of the bar has a lot of games — at least 30, maybe more. Although the 1UP normally has a variety of games to play, most of them had been removed and replaced by Donkey Kong machines. I am quite sure I had never seen 22 Donkey Kong machines in one place until last Friday. As I stood before them, as a guy who owned 30 machines at one time and not once had all of them running all at the same time, I thought about the work involved in assembling and restoring 22 Donkey Kong cabinets.
The wires you can see being run in this picture were for the televisions and cameras. Every machine had its own camera which fed into a flat screen television mounted high above so that spectators could watch the action from afar.
Thirty-two of the country’s best Donkey Kong players attended with hopes of winning the tournament and possibly even breaking a world record. Because of their appearances in 2007′s The Kong of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, Steve Wiebe, Billy Mitchell, and Walter Day are all easily recognizable. Despite the “good guy/bad guy” dichotomy that was portrayed in the film, both Billy Mitchell and Walter Day made a point of making their way through the crowd, shaking hands and talking to people. Both of them made a point of standing around and talking to us for a good five minutes.
Walter Day, Rob O’Hara, and Billy Mitchell.
If you haven’t seen The King of Kong then you might not know what a “kill screen” is. Because certain values in many classic games are stored in 8-bit registers, if you play them long and far enough, some of them will eventually crash. Donkey Kong’s kill screen bug appears on the 118th screen, which takes roughly 2 1/2 hours to reach. Thus, the essence of the competition becomes, who can score the most points before the game crashes.
Prior to the Kong Off 3, the 20th highest score achieved in Donkey Kong was 903,400. As you can see, ten of the 22 KO3 competitors beat that score.
Here’s a shot of current world record holder Hank Chien, a plastic surgeon from New York who scored a whopping 1,138,600 points on the game back in November of 2012. There are about 5 people on the planet who can break 1.1 million on Donkey Kong. Last weekend, I was in a room with most of them.
Robb and I did not stay at the 1UP the entire weekend. In fact, we spent a bit of time at the 2UP and a bit of time in Lyons, Colorado at a couple of different arcades. I’ll write about those tomorrow. It is a little exciting to get to see some of the world’s greatest game players “doing their thing,” but the excitement wears off fairly quickly when you realize you are standing around in a bar watching people play Donkey Kong.
As the tournament began to wind down, I stood in the middle of tired gamers, listening to their tales of battle. One fellow talked about how a game of quirky fireballs ended his run early. Another complained that he should have brought his own control panel, although another player was quick to point out that it wouldn’t have helped him.
Sunday evening the contest ended. Jeff Willms, the reigning Kong Off champion, successfully defended his title with a score of 1,096,200, taking first place a second year in a row. Hank Chien, the current world record holder, finished third with 1,056,900. King of Kong subject Steve Wiebe finished fifth with 1,048,800, followed by current MAME world record holder Dean Saglio, with 1,033,000. Billy Mitchell finished in 22nd place.
Thanks to Robb and Mike for putting up with me throughout the weekend. I’ll write some more about some of the other arcades I visited in Denver tomorrow.
Posted at 12:00 pm by Rob in Arcade, Main, Podcast
I’m home from Denver after attending the Kong Off 3. What a fun weekend! I’ll be writing more about it tomorrow, but to hold you over until then, here are a few recent podcasts I’ve appeared on.
You Don’t Know Flack Episode 145: About Podcasting
Episode 145 of You Don’t Know Flack is all about podcasting, literally. In this episode I talk about what it takes to start and run a podcast. On this episode I was joined by 8 fellow podcasters who also give their input and advice. If you have ever wanted to start your own podcast, this is a must listen!
Throwback Reviews Episode 22: Arcades Old and New
In this pre-Kong Off episode of Throwback reviews, Sean, Door, special guest Vic Sage and I talk about arcades (both old and new) and arcade games.
No Quarter Episode 58: Warrior
While hanging out in Denver, No Quarter co-host Mike Maginnis invited me over to join he and Carrington Vanston on the latest episode of No Quarter on which we discuss the 1979 vector video game Warrior.
Flux Capaci-Cast 13: Future Son
On Episode 13 of the Back to the Future themed podcast Flux Capaci-Cast, I join Guy Hutchinson and Jamaal Green to discuss the Data East Back to the Future pinball table, along with some of Michael J. Fox’s pre-BTTF roles. This episode also features an interview with Gavin Fox, the man behind the Hill Valley Project Twitter project.
Sprite Castle Episode 24: Donkey Kong
It’s on like you-know-what in the latest episode of Sprite Castle in which I play two different versions of Nintendo’s classic Donkey Kong for the Commodore 64: Atarisoft’s (1983) and Ocean’s (1986). Which is better? Watch the video and decide!
Posted at 9:47 am by Rob in Books, Main, Reviews, Star Wars
There’s something about physical miniature models that CGI, at least currently, cannot seem to capture. There’s no doubt that computer graphics have opened up new world (both figuratively and literally) to filmmakers, but the way a physical model photographs on screen just has a feel to it that computers can’t always seem to duplicate.
In Sculpting the Galaxy, physical models are the stars. With a preface by George Lucas, a foreward by Rick McCallum and an afterward by Phil Tippett there’s plenty to read here, but the focus of this book are the models themselves. While browsing through my local Half Price Books I spotted this book and randomly flipped it open to this picture:
The book is divided into four chapters that serve as categories: Starships, Vehicles, Droids and Creatures, and Environments. Each section contains dozens of models and is roughly chronological as it moves from the original films to the prequels. Whether you were hoping to see detailed pictures of original TIE Fighters or details from Queen Amidala’s palace, you’ll find them here.
Huge advances in technology were made between the time the two trilogies, so while the original trilogy is represented solidly by an army of models, most of the prequels are represented by models that were later scanned and turned into three-dimensional computer models. It will always be more interesting to me to see the actual figures used in the hologram chess game on the Millennium Falcon as opposed to a carving of Watto that was eventually digitized into a CGI character.
The text accompanying the pictures is informative. Much of it is common knowledge to fans of the films, but even I picked up a few new nuggets of trivia along the way. I did not know that the original Death Star model was accidentally thrown away after filming, for example. Another thing I did not realize was just how many of the sets that appeared in the films were actually miniatures. Even a CGI podracer apparently looks better on screen when filmed against a physical set, even if the set is tiny.
My only real complaint about this book is that occasionally the text is difficult to read. On many pages, the headlines and captions are printed in a bronze, almost dark brown color on a black background. On other pages, white text appears on black, starry backdrops. More than half of the pages contain small, white text on black backgrounds. If you’re old enough to remember seeing the original trilogy in theaters a long, long time ago, forget your trusty blaster and bring your reading glasses to this battle instead.
Between Star Wars in Concert, Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination, and a few trips to museums, I’ve seen authentic Star Wars models half a dozen times. Unfortunately due to age they’re always behind glass. Sculpting the Galaxy is a great way to see them up close and marvel at the details that went into making ships we’ve been in love with for 30 years now.
Posted at 11:13 am by Rob in Main
Because of the amount of noise my server puts out, it’s too loud to record podcasts in here. Instead I typically set up shop in what we refer to “the Star Wars room,” an upstairs guest bedroom that’s been overtaken by my Star Wars and toy collection. There are no electronics in the room (come to think of it, that may be the only room in the house that has no electronics in it!) so it’s nice and quiet in there. Unfortunately there’s no desk in that room, which makes it a hassle to set everything up in there. Each time I want to record I have to drag out a TV tray, set up my laptop and microphone on top of it, run cables, and do all kinds of wonky stuff. It also takes me a while to get everything set up because I never put things away and my pre-recording ritual involves a treasure hunt in which I have to walk around looking for a mouse and my headphones and a network cable and whatever else I might have misplaced since the last time I recorded.
It came to me that what I needed was a cart. A rolling cart on top of which I could place all of my podcasting gear. A Podcast Cart. A PODCART! Ideally what I was looking for was a plastic cart, the kind I remember seeing in our school library back when I was a kid. I scoured Craigslist for a few weeks looking for just the right cart, but everything I found was either too small, too large, or too expensive.
Susan had the idea of checking Harbor Freight (a local tool store) for carts. Not only did they have carts, but this week they had carts on sale! They had the plastic carts I was looking for, but a $100 price tag dissuaded me. I found what I was looking for in a $39 two-shelf metal cart, but if you know my luck with stores you already know that they were sold out of that model and they wouldn’t sell me the display; instead, I upgraded to the $49 (normally $59) three-shelf metal cart.
The biggest problem I was going to have with any cart was that everything sitting on top of it, including my laptop, would be sitting in a 3″ deep tub. After studying the display model in the store I realized that I could flip the top section upside-down when assembling it, giving the cart a flat surface on top for my equipment.
The cart came in a box that seemed too small to hold it no matter how many times I looked at it. Upon opening the box I found the following parts: three shelves, four side rails, a handle, four wheels, 16 nuts and bolts to attach the wheels to the cart, and 48 nuts and bolts to hold the cart together. Technically each nut and bolt also had two regular washers and one lock washer, for a total of 144 washers.
“Some Assembly Required. Approximate Assembly Time: 30 Minutes.”
The following picture was taken Saturday night at 9:45 P.M., as I unboxed all the parts. Start the 30 minute timer!
Piece of cake!
The following picture was taken at 11:03 P.M.
By this point in time, at least two sets of the bolts, washers and nuts had fallen to the ground and rolled “somewhere.” Because of the way the sides of the cart are shaped, each level requires more pressure to hold the metal pieces together while screwing the nut onto the end of the bolt. What I found worked best was holding the metal with both hands while holding the bolt in place with a third hand and screwing the nut on to the bolt with a fourth hand. Unfortunately I only have two hands, so most of this went terrible. At one point the side rail popped out of place shooting bolt whizzing past me, landing God knows where.
This photo was taken just after midnight. Two-and-a-half hours in, the cart was still not finished. I cannot repeat most of the words the cart had heard at this point. The cart is not as close to being finished as it looks in this photo. Also note the pliers, screwdriver, and plastic spring clamp on the table; none of those are listed in the instructions as required tools.
I figured out that the cart came with four extra sets of nuts and bolts, allowing consumers to assemble the cart either with or without the handle. Unfortunately by half-past-midnight I had lost five sets of them, meaning I was one short. While bent over looking for at least one of the five sets, my back gave out. It felt like someone had hit me right in the middle of my back with a red hot ax. When I tried to stand up, I couldn’t. Defeated, I hobbled back into the house and went to bed.
This picture was taken at 8 A.M., Sunday morning. Susan came to my rescue, arriving with a handful of Tylenol, a hot cup of coffee, and those other two hands I needed. With her help, we were able to finish assembling the cart in 30 additional minutes — which, according to the instructions, is how long the entire assembly should have taken. With Mason’s help I moved the cart upstairs into the Star Wars room.
While out shopping last night, Susan and Morgan picked out these letter stickers for me. I knew there was no chance of me getting them all straight so I just stuck them on, intentionally making some of them crooked. I got some help from two Land of the Lost Bobbleheads. They didn’t mind. One side of the cart says “WWW ROBOHARA COM” (the page of stickers did not come with any periods) while the other side reads “PODCART”.
All that was left was setting up my gear. As you can see there’s plenty of room to store all my cords and gear below, and my idea of inverting the top shelf worked out great! My only complaint is that there’s a slight metallic echo I get when I talk too loudly — truth be told, I’ll probably cover the whole cart with a towel or something before recording.
The best part is, exactly as I had hoped, the cart wheels in and fits into my closet, where it can be stored when I’m not recording. The solves my OTHER problem, AKA “The Cat Who Loves to Chew Cords.”