Thursday, December 20, 2012


Everyone is concerned about the Maya ending the world.

I always knew she'd be my doomsday.

Let's be careful out there.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween 2012: Costume #2

     2012 would prove to be a very prominent year for fried chicken.  In June, Chik-Fil-A came under fire for espousing Anti Gay Marriage support.  In September, numerous US-based businesses (including a Kentucky Fried Chicken) were vandalized in the Middle East over a controversial video.  If anything, this should illustrate how pivotal fried chicken is to American culture.

     It’s no secret that I adore fried chicken.  I am not alone.  I found out about a Japanese KFC and how they decorate their mascot.  I was determined to make this my Halloween costume this year.

1:  Purchase a sectional sofa from Ikea
     Okay, that may be a bit extreme, but we really needed a new couch and by getting it from Ikea, we got a very comfortable sofa at the right price with the bonus of all this great double-walled corrugated cardboard.  This ensures that all my costume components would be of consistent texture, weight, grain, and detail.

2:  Cut out all the needed components
     I used two instructables (here and here) for what size and how many of each component I needed, and what the hole-template would be for punching the 2,090 holes.

3:  Customize
     I had repurposed a plastic katana from one of Cameron’s previous costumes.  We also had a Darth Vader helmet that was no longer functional, so I used the headpiece from that.  I had to Dremel off some of the front, then added a plastic dog-cone collar for a brim.  It looks less-Vader-y this way.

     Traditional samurai helmets have ornamental crests, or maedate.  The higher the rank of the samurai, the more-ornate the maedate.  Well, we’re talking about a Colonel, for Pete’s sake, I had to have something pretty fantastic.

The typical Google-Image-Searches didn’t reveal anything appropriate, so I had to brainstorm this one:
I settled on a spork

Spork of the mighty
     The spork is iconic of the KFC empire, I thought.  Against a vast mountain of instant potatoes and gravy, the spork is your greatest ally.  I needed to make one.  Rather than mess with heat guns and smoking plastic, I decided to raid the kids’ sandbox.  I found a discarded toy shovel that I thought would pass.  After some rough carving, sanding, and painting, I had my crest.

     It wasn’t enough, though.  I wanted more.  A lot of helmets have horns, which initially seemed pretty cool.  But then I thought “chickens don’t have horns”.  So what do chickens have?

Behold, my wishbone of power

     Fabrication included making a template from a manila folder (folded for symmetry), transfer to cardboard, then cut and paint.

     The spork and wishbone fit together like a fast-food Voltron.

Further decoration
     I needed logos for my armor.  I actually found a site that would generate the katakana characters for “Kentucky Fried Chicken”.  I verified this against the KFC-Japan website and it was a perfect match.
     There were plenty of English KFC logos to choose from.  I did want to combine the Rising Sun design with Colonel Sanders, just to really hammer the point home.  So after a few minutes in Photoshop, “Rising Sanders” was born:
     Soldiers had various designs painted onto their chestpieces, so I thought this would be best applied as a stencil directly onto the armor.

     I tried to balance authenticity with kitsch here – whenever I thought I was sweating the details too much, I reminded myself that this was all just cardboard.  If I thought I was being too cavalier, I just had to look at my picture of Colonel Sanders and how I wanted to do him justice.  And whenever I got tired of punching those holes…I remembered the smoking remains of that glorious restaurant.

Happy Halloween.  In case you missed it, check out the other costume I had to make this year. 

               Share and enjoy.

Halloween 2012: Costume #1

      It was that time of year again.  At the start of October, the majority of our family becomes preoccupied with a dire question:  “What do you want to be for Halloween this year?”

For my daughter, the answer was obvious.

“I want to be Chef Lady Gaga”

Challenge Accepted
     Those of you who are not-yet-familiar with Lady Gaga’s videography, I’ll quickly state that in her music video for the single “Telephone”, Lady Gaga is portrayed as a cook working in a diner.  Megan loves cooking and adores Lady Gaga, so the proposal was somewhat expected.
How to pull it off provided several individual challenges:

The major components of this costume:
  • Phone “hat”
  • Hair
  • Dress
  • Apron
  • Makeup
  • Shoes

     The hat looked like an origami sculpture piece, so I figured there must be some instructions on how to make it.  Sure enough, YouTube had some very helpful links on constructing the hat.  I made a few prototypes to ensure scale and sizing.  Some personal touches of my own:

     The video recommends using aluminum can lids for the rotary dials.  The problems I saw with these were that they would be sharp and also non-reflective.  Instead, I repurposed the platters from a discarded hard-drive.  These were the right shape, the right weight, coated with a mirror-finish, and in great surplus in my basement.
Whatever used to be on this drive is GONE now
     For paper, I laminated some manila folders with solid light-blue wrapping paper.  The wrapping paper was the correct shade of blue, plentiful, and inexpensive.  I used spray adhesive to glue the manila folder onto the wrapping paper, then cut the squares to size.
     I used a gloss-acrylic finish to make the blue paper shiny.  I had mixed results with this method.  In order to get the shine I wanted, I found I had to use a LOT of spray – this also runs the risk of killing the paper.  A better (albeit more-expensive) solution would be to use light-blue gift bags that are already glossy instead of semi-gloss wrapping paper.
     Instead of using foam punchouts for the phone buttons, I used a painted wooden dowel, and cut the buttons to length.  This way, they would stand out more from the dial.  I just couldn't find any free plastic cylindrical buttons of the right shape for this.
I went with a silver spray-painted phone cable instead of matching-blue.  The silver really stands out and I didn’t have to go through the headache of color-matching the blue paper.
     Interesting note:  The video advises using aluminum foil for some of the silver details of the hat.  I couldn't resist thinking I was making a tin-foil hat for my daughter.

     I couldn’t coax my daughter’s hair to grow 8 inches and blonde before Halloween, so we had to resort to a blonde wig.  Not just any blonde wig, though…because once she saw the Lady Gaga approved hair at the costume store, well, it was all over at that point.  During the dress-rehearsal, she found the wig was itchy, so I had her wear her spandex swim-cap underneath and secured the wig with some large bobby pins.  This made it more-comfortable for her.  I also added a strip of velcro for more security.

     Gaga’s dress in the video is a semi-transparent white with clean lines and nipple-tape.  I didn’t have any translucent plastic and nipple-tape was definitely out.  However, I did have this:

Use symmetry to your advantage
     There’s something “Gone With The Wind”-ish about making a dress from a window treatment.  It seemed perfect.  All I needed was to make it.  First off, the shade I used was broken due to an overzealous daughter not-knowing-her-own-strength.  Let me also say that this would be the first time anyone in my house used the sewing machine.
     Thankfully we had all the parts and it still worked – I did need to purchase white thread and a new needle.  After a few test-stitches, I was set:  I cut out a pattern on cardboard using one of her existing dresses as a guide, transferred the pattern onto the window vinyl, cut out the front and back, then sewed them together.
     The only improvement for next time would be to incorporate a back-zipper to make getting in and out of the dress easier.
I'm sure this is how Vera Wang started out

     Megan is still a size 6T, so a discarded white T-shirt provided enough material to fashion a makeshift apron.  I had her work at a greasy-spoon to get authentic kitchen-stains on it.

OK just kidding.

     My daughter did insist on one modification to the apron – she wanted a pocket to hold her iPod.  That way, she could queue-up “Telephone” and dance to it while in costume.  I was able to sew one on large enough for an iPod Touch 4, angling it for easy access.

     I toyed with the idea of making the apron like a marsupial pouch for Halloween candy, but she already had a treat-bag.

     We’re not yet ready for Megan to wear everyday makeup yet, so we had to use costume facepaint.  Blue for the eyeshadow, black for eyeliner, and pink for lipstick is all that she will tolerate.  She REALLY dislikes makeup in her eyes, so I couldn’t get too close.  Combined with everything else, it is very convincing.

     Megan did not have white lace-up boots.  I couldn’t find any in her size.  I considered using some of the window-vinyl to make a pair of boots, but had no experience in shoe-making.  That, combined with the fact that she would actually be walking, running, and dancing in these made my choices very limited.  Megan did have a killer pair of gold sandals which fit her interpretation of Gaga.

That’s it.  This Little Monster is alive.

"Thank you, daddy"

Gaga + Tarantino
Trick or Treat!

 If you liked this one, check out what I made for myself.Happy Halloween everyone.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


I'm doing this for my own entertainment.  I've been pondering over the whole "corporations being for-or-against" gay rights, and how many anti-gay individuals stated that they would boycott or protest corporations that supported gay rights.

At first, it started quietly - first Chevrolet designed an advertisement for their hybrid electric car, the Volt.  Next, Nabisco came under their ire with a pride week ad for their Oreo cookie.  I wondered how strong these convictions would be which led me here.

Let's imagine a conservative-thinking family.  We have a working father, let's call him Bob.  Bob is faithfully married to Michelle.  They have a beautiful teenage daughter named Sarah.

Bob is an investment banker at Washington Mutual.  He checks his stock portfolio via TD Ameritrade (Microsoft Windows makes this so easy now).  Profits are up and Bob can finally take his family on a nice vacation.  He calls Michelle with his Verizon cellphone to make sure their Citibank mortgage is paid for the month - she instantly verifies this on her Dell laptop because her Bank of America online account is updated in real-time.  Bob starts arranging the travel plans through Orbitz - he scans for a great deal:  Round-trip airfare on Delta with an Avis car rental and a posh suite at the Mariott.  There's even a nearby Harrah's Casino.

"Hold on", Michelle says.  "We can't rent a Chevrolet because they support gay pride.  Let's rent a Ford instead."


Sarah is packing all of her things:  her favorite Nike sneakers, the Apple iPod she purchased at Best Buy, her Chase Visa card, a few Hershey's kisses to munch on during the flight, and a tiny bottle of Absolut Vodka (shhhh...don't tell Bob and Michelle).

They fill up their Lexus at the local Shell station and make it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.  Bob takes the opportunity to grab a Bud Light at the airport bar while Michelle gets a Starbucks Latte and a Tylenol (she really can't handle the in-cabin pressure changes according to her Kaiser Permanente Physician).  Sarah skipped lunch and was feeling peckish, so she grabbed a soft taco from Chipotle (sorry, no chicken sandwiches available in the terminal), washing it down with a small diet Pepsi.

Their Boeing 747 is fully fueled (thank you, Chevron) and ready to go.  In-flight movie service is provided by Showtime.  Bob really wants to relax so he orders just one more beer on the flight - this time, it's a Coors.

The plane lands and their Ford Mustang Convertible is ready and waiting - Michelle always wanted to drive topless!  The hotel is top-notch and they have a wonderful time.  While they're away, the UPS man leaves their Amazon Kindle Fire securely on their doorstop so they'll have it the moment they return.

I hope by now you will have guessed that EVERY corporation (and many others) mentioned in this story is a supporter of gay rights.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Update: EIGHT pounds down!

I won't lie....the first 5 pounds were fairly easy, but every pound after that is very slow-going.

Still, the scale readout is moving in the desired direction.  The main changes to my routine seem to be:

1.  Still practicing basketball - if you can call it that.  I spend more time running after my missed shots but even 45 minutes of that is enough to clear my head and not ruin myself for the rest of the evening.  I am finding my range, slowly.

2.  No more mindless ice cream - This was fairly easy to put down.  I'll have the occasional sundae with the family, but I'm not just plopping on the couch with the half gallon anymore.

3.  Smarter snacks - high fiber almonds, microwaved corn on the cob, excellent oranges.  Find a favorite and enjoy it.

Not sprinting toward any pre-set number - just going about this with a level-head.  I've survived two summer barbeques so far.

Yeah, the Miami Heat won.  Congratulations.  Ugh.

Friday, May 18, 2012

We'll see how long this lasts...

My "annual check up" is on Monday.  I put that in quotation marks because, honestly, I've missed the yearly medical exams for, oh, 7 years now?  In my defense, it's not easy to schedule and keep an appointment that you have to make 5 months out (yay healthcare!  U-S-A!  U-S-A!)

I'm not expecting great or horrible news.  I've gained some weight and my blood pressure may be slightly elevated, so there may be some lifestyle changes involved (no, not THAT kind of change).

So, I'm researching eating healthier.  One of the main roadblocks to committing to a dietary change was cost.  I was ALWAYS under the impression that healthier food was more-expensive and that fat was cheap.  That still may be true, but I'm at a point now where I can increase the budget and start looking at healthier alternatives in the grocery cart.  I won't go totally crazy - I have three other mouths to feed and two of them are very particular.  I know I can introduce some things every week or so.  These gradual changes will hopefully serve as a good foundation.

Another brick in my wall is....a basketball.  I am 5'5" and Asian.  I have avoided basketball for over 30 years and for good reason, but now I find it very fascinating.  So, this weekend, I'm going to get a Spalding Indoor/Outdoor NeverFlat regulation size 7 basketball.  I figure this piece of rubber will help with my hand-eye-body coordination while hopefully melting off a pound.  Knowing my children, I'll probably need to get 3 of these (they do so enjoy participating in my torments)...

Will keep you "posted".

(see, that's a basketball term)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Some harmless weekend fun

I was, again, trapped in the house with my children as my wife was attending to a rabbit housecall.

I had wanted to explore tea-flavored cake, since it happened across my Pinterest wall. A few concerns:
  • I didn't have Earl Grey
  • I didn't want to make an entire cake of one flavor
  • My kids don't like sharing
My solution was to make cupcakes. I could divide the batter among the kids and myself: They could make theirs, I could make mine. Plus, it would allow me to explore different teas with the cakes.

Instead of Earl Grey, I managed to get:

A spiced chai latte mix
An herbal black cherry tea

From Left to Right:  Spiced Chai chocolate cupcake with
 whipped buttercream vanilla frosting.  Black Cherry chocolate
cupcake with whipped buttercream frosting.

Megan gets enthusiastic with frosting her cupcakes

Devil's Food cupcake with whipped buttercream and
fondant leprechaun hat (by Cameron)

Using tea for flavoring really does work with the cakes and, I think, is a better option than the artificial stuff.

Hope this helps.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Sincerest Form

Hello everyone,

I've blogged before about the junkpile at my office, repairing broken electronics, and making sculptures out of unwanted hard drives. It's safe to say I'm a firm believer in "One man's trash is another man's treasure."

A while back, the office was throwing out digital picture frames. Try to remember back about five years or so - digital cameras were in everyone's hands, but people had limited options for what to do after the shots were taken. The picture frame allowed you to take your camera-card, plug it in, and transfer the photos to the internal storage of the frame. Voila, you have a slideshow device.

The market never really took off, in fact, I think recently, the Digital Picture Frame was regarded as one of the worst Christmas presents you could give someone. Clunky interfaces, coupled with the fact that nobody really wanted to go through the effort to manually-update the content on the frame meant another brilliant idea headed to the junkpile.

...where I was willing to snatch them all up.

One of the artists that Gattina and I both admire is Jenny Holzer. Her most famous work is her Truism series. They consist of one line of philosophical text in a bold font which is then projected on a massive scale.

I wanted to make a Truism Digital Picture Frame. It would cycle-through her Truisms automatically.

In total, I generated 254 of Jenny Holzer's Truisms, edited in Photoshop, and loaded them onto the frames (or in some cases, spare media cards).

If I could put my artist-hat on for a second, I really found a new appreciation for these phrases during the editing process. By changing the spacing and/or the font sizing, I had a form of control over the "rhythm" of the phrase. My mind was reading the phrase differently depending on whether it spanned two versus three or four separate lines. I could emphasize a certain word by isolating it from the others.

Also, because these are digitally projected, they convey a bit of what (I believe) is the spirit of Jenny Holzer's work. They're not as imposing as twenty-foot-tall-text, but I think in this form-factor, they're more approachable. I think we're all so geared to TV screens, that we have built a kind of trust with them, and by extension, the content issued from them. It's this trust that makes the phrases worthy of discussion. I won't even pretend to know exactly what they all mean, but am definitely eager to explore them with someone.

I hope my imitation flatters rather than insults.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cake, love, and the illegality of it all...

It's been a year already?!?

Right, time for another birthday cake. My daughter's tastes have matured since Ni-Hao Kai Lan and Ariel (don't worry, they are still her favorites). But this year's challenge started with:

I want a Gaga cake.

Everyone knows Lady Gaga. Meat-dressed, or cross-dressed, she's the epitome of outlandish. Such a wide-palette to draw from, but this was for a children's birthday party. It had to be G-rated Gaga.

Give me 48 hours and this happens:

I love my daughter and I love cake so much that I will infringe on any copyright.

The "Born This Way" font was freely available. I had to "erase" the "W" and construct a "D" from the existing title. Frankensteining my daughter's head on top of Gaga was simple enough - just have to match the brightness and contrast...

If I had better skills, I would've photoshopped in some training-wheels, pedals, and tassels on the handlebars. There's always next year.

She is my little monster.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Raising Idiots

Wife and I went to see American Idiot. Wonderful music, great cast, engaging sets. The story is still haunting me 24 hours later.

I know my home is as far from broken as can be - I have these incredibly awesome children and a wife that tolerates my idiosyncrasies. Yet, this musical really makes a convincing argument that teens are destined for hardship. Not just by fate, they actively seek it out. Here's a wikipedia of the storyline, for those who can't be bothered with ticket-prices and venue transportation.

I'm disturbed because I'm focusing too much on the teenage pregnancy and heroin usage - rather, the optimist in me should realize that the children DO come home at the end, the protagonist DOES kick his addiction, and even though life throws too much, too soon, regular idiots can rise to the occasion. I remember when I left suburbia home (practically unheard of among tightly-knit, Chinese families) - how risky that must have seemed to my mom and dad. I'll definitely be worrying when I'm on the other-side of the moving van.

Oh Joy. There are plans to make this into a motion picture, so I'll most-likely be revisiting these scars again - and my kids will be even closer to their own teenage years.

Stupid groundbreaking Broadway musical. Hey, did you know "The Addams Family" is now a musical, too? Neither did I. No damn heroin junkies in that show - seriously. Morticia and Gomez are true parenting geniuses.

Where's my life right now? I'm still fixing Apple castoffs in my spare time. Two iPods with two more to go, plus an iPad 2. It's our intention that the tablet be used to augment my son's education (no eyerolling allowed!) I'll be watching over them this weekend in the midst of Superbowl Sunday.

Be safe you guys.