Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Best $2 You Can Spend!

Some where at some time at some point I heard mention of a thing called a "marshmallow gun."  Turns out you can make a mighty fine one for about $2!
Basically you need some 1/2-inch PVC and a few other bits.  Get "Schedule 40" PVC... typically marked on the PVC as "SCH 40".  It's the most common stuff you'll find at Home Depot.  ...what I'm saying is don't buy sprinkler line or anything like that... just get SCH 40 PVC.  You can buy a 10-foot length of 1/2-inch  PVC from Home Depot for a dollar and change.  A 10-foot length piece will yield five guns... or you can buy a 2-foot length of 1/2-inch PVC for $0.87, but clearly the 10-foot piece is the better deal.  In addition to the 1/2-inch PVC, you need the following PVC pieces for each gun:
  • 2 - 1/2-inch "90s"
  • 2 - 1/2-inch "Ts"
  • 2 - 1/2-inch caps
For cutting the PVC, I used a PVC cutter (because I happened to have one).  You could use a hacksaw, or something similar, but every house should have a PVC pipe cutter--it can cut hoses, PVC, rubber tubing, etc... and it's only $13 from Home Depot.  It looks something like this...
... and if you use a saw, you have "burs" you have to sand clean, yada yada... (just buy a cutter... you'll use it for lots of things).

As I mentioned earlier, you can get five guns from a 10-foot length of PVC.  To make things easier, cut a 2-foot length (24 inches) off the 10-foot piece.  Take a tape measure and layout the following marks on the 2-foot piece PVC you just cut... 3"... 6"... 9"... 12".... 15"... and 19-1/2"... then cut the PVC at these marks with your PVC cutter.  This will yield the following pieces:
  • 5 - 3-inch pieces
  • 2 - 4-1/2-inch pieces
Now you're ready to assemble...

I annotated this picture to show you where everything goes...
Don't use any sort of glue... you don't need it... it's probably not safe to put in your mouth... and you'll need to disassemble the gun to either remove stuck marshmallows or to put the disassembled parts into the dishwasher from time to time to clean 'em.

You "shoot" the gun by blowing into the open end of the 4-1/2" pipe.  The most effective way to get the maximum "punch" from the gun is to load the marshmallow into the hole where you blow--just insert the marshmallow into the hole and push it in an inch or so... then BLOW!  Make sure you inhale prior to putting your mouth on the PVC or you'll suck a marshmallow into your throat and risk death!
  1. The gun is pretty darned accurate for what it is!
  2. A bag of bullets is super cheap!
  3. Your dog will find and clean up any unfound bullets!
  4. And most importantly... you get BIG smiles!

Sunday, December 06, 2009


I purchased a new book from Borders... because I had a 30% off coupon. The book is Understanding Close-up Photography. You can always learn something new... and I liked the title, since it said “close-up” instead of “macro.” If nothing else, it inspired me to get the camera out this morning and play around a bit. The following image is the result:
The image above was produced from the image below...
I LOVE the details you see going in close.  I don't think most folks typically take the time to “zoom” in...

I added these pictures and more to the Flowers photo album on (you can find it here).

Sunday, November 08, 2009

My Hipster Bike is Complete!

Following up on my post below about my Hipster bike...

I completed it!

Mas details, etc. can be found here:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Two Pie Are...

I ran today... first time I've done so since I hurt my foot.  Like a good patient, I've stayed off of it since my last run on September 30.

I ran 9.01 miles just under an hour and 20 minutes.  If'n you're interested in the run, you can find the yada yada about it here:

I don't usually run the loop at Memorial Park, but I decided I would today... in case my foot started acting up, I'd be no more than a mile and a half away from the car.  The loop is three miles.  At least that's what everyone says, but in reality, it's about 2.9 miles (according to my Garmin 305, that is).

I ran one loop clockwise... one counterclockwise... and the final one clockwise.  (Of course I had to run a little more than three loops to get my nine miles).

Anyway, during my run, I noticed a sign that said, "Stay to the right."  Well, if you're running clockwise, that puts you on the inside of the loop, and obviously running counterclockwise puts you on the outside of the loop.

Since I had all of this random information in my head, I wondered how much further you ran if you ran counterclockwise (on the outside of the loop) as opposed to running clockwise (on the inside of the loop).  I said to myself, "Self, you should calculate that when you get home."  Followed by, "You really are a dork!"

Well, dork or not, I calculated it...

The following are some assumptions and some constants:
  • the width of the trail is 12 feet
  • the loop is a circle
  • you run clockwise on the inside of the path for the entire loop
  • you run counterclockwise on the outside of the path for the entire loop
  • π = 3.14159
  • the formula for the circumference (C) of a circle is C = 2πr, where r = radius
  • there are 5,280 feet in a mile
(I sure hope you appreciate the accuracy of these calculations!!!)

We know the circumference of the inner circle--3 miles.
3 = 2πr
so r = 3/2π
Plug in the numbers...
r = 0.477464829821269 miles, or if we convert it to feet we get r = 2521.0143014563 feet.

Since we assumed the trail is 12 feet wide, that makes the radius of the outer trail 2521.0143014563 + 12 feet, or 2533.0143014563 feet.

Well, now it's simple to solve for the circumference of the outer circle...
As before...
C = 2πr; therefore,
C = 2π(2533.0143014563)
C = 15915.3982236 feet
And since we know there are 5,280 feet in a mile, the outer circumference is 3.01427996659091 miles.

That's a difference of 0.01427996659091 miles... or 75.3982235999985 feet. if we think about it in football terms, that's equivalent to 25.1327411999995 yards.

And let's say you run 9 minute miles... running counterclockwise will take you 0.128519699318179 minutes... or an additional 7.71118195909075 seconds!  The following table lists some pace times and the additional time it'll take you to make it around:

Extra time

So if you want to save 7 or 8 seconds, run clockwise on the inside of the path!


Saturday, October 03, 2009

My Hipster Bike Project!

I have a new project... a Hipster Bike...

I created a blog for it... here:


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Piss Away $20.

Think back to when you were a kid. What was the most exciting part about going to the dentist...assuming there is an “exciting part” lodged in your memory? Ask me, and I will tell you it was getting the new toothbrush!

Today my kids went to the dentist.

The toothbrushes they received were a lot nicer than ones I got when I was a little kid. The toothbrushes I got were emblazoned with the dentist’s name and logo, and aside from being new, that was about it.

My son’s new toothbrush was perfectly sized for a four-year-old hand. The dentist’s name and logo had been replaced with a picture of a boy kicking a soccer ball. The affinity my son had for the toothbrush could not be contained; he had to show it to me immediately!

Clearly my “tinkling” (as my daughter calls it) into the potty made no difference in my ability to look at his new toothbrush as my son proudly held it up for my inspection.

Green. I saw that it was a green toothbrush…right before it fell into the toilet.  The same toilet I was "tinkling" in (the picture of the boy kicking the soccer ball was a detail I would later discover…).

He tried to be strong, “That’s OK, Daddy… it’s OK.” But the tears were coming too fast, and the uncontrollable crying quickly ensued.

Well, it seemed to me the issue could be solved by putting the toothbrush in the dishwasher. I even mentioned to my wife this was the obvious solution. Little did I know this was not acceptable. And I was able to figure this out without the word “no” actually being spoken. Seems “No!” can be conveyed with a certain look…

Five minutes later, my son and I were in Walgreens looking at new toothbrushes. “I like this one, Daddy.” 'This one' happened to be an electric Wall-e toothbrush.

So now I had another problem (well, the green toothbrush was still in the toilet, but in addition to that)… Clearly I could not go home with a new electric toothbrush for my son and nothing for my daughter. She did tell me she wanted a package of Starburst candy as my son and I were heading out the door. I thought I could get a three-dollar toothbrush and a packet of Starburst and all would be good…right.

I wasn’t about to tell my son he couldn’t have the Wall-e toothbrush…I mean, come on…his green toothbrush was floating in the toilet.
“OK William, that’s a good one.”

I placed the Wall-e electric toothbrush...and the Ariel Disney character electric toothbrush...and the two packages of Starburst  candy on the counter.
“$20?” “Really?”
“Credit or debit?”

During the ride home, it never entered my head that electric toothbrushes for a four- and six-year old might not be appropriate. It turns out “Why do they need to when they have electric toothbrushes?” is not the appropriate response to “How are they going to learn to brush their teeth with a regular toothbrush now that you bought these?


And the green toothbrush was still floating in piss.

Damn it.

I figured since it wasn’t a good idea to put the toothbrush in the dishwasher, it probably wasn’t a good idea to use the kitchen tongs to retrieve the toothbrush from the toilet...I did think about it though...I thought it better not to even ask.

So it turns out the little bags used to clean up after my dog work equally well for removing toothbrushes from the toilet. The irony.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

It's About Time...

Omega. James Bond wears one. Cindy Crawford wears one too. I reckon I got Seamaster prior to seeing 007 or the former supermodel sporting theirs. It was a graduation present to myself after completing grad school with honors no less!

I saw the retail price of the Omega Seamaster is now $2,000, though it appears they are frequently on sale for $1,500ish. I damned sure didn’t pay that in 2000 when I got mine; I guess I spent a little less than a grand on it at the time. It seems to have been a wise investment on my part–that is, as long as someone would be willing to give me more than I paid for it.

Timex. My original Iron Man died about a year and a half ago. I bought a new one in Singapore. I think I paid about $70 for it. And the old one didn’t really die, the Velcro just stopped Velcro-ing, and the watch would fall off my arm if I wasn’t careful. By default, I am not careful.

I got to thinking… $1,500 vs. $70. The Omega is over 21 times the price of the Timex. And for what? Well, let’s see…

My Omega tells time. It’s pretty. It’s heavy. I get complimented on it a couple of times a year. It tells me the day of the month as long as I advance it on the months when there are less than 31 days…and as long as the minute hand is not covering the spot at the three o’clock position where the date shows.

My Timex tells time. If I want (and I do), I can have it beep on the hour. It also displays the time in military time. It has a 100-hour chronograph with lap or split option. It has a very bright light so I can tell the time in the dark. It’s water resistant to 330 feet. It has five alarms and keeps time in two time zones. It has a reminder thing that allows me to plug in birthdays and such. It automatically knows if there are less than 31 days in a month. It also tells me the day of the week and year.

I’m scratching my head wondering why I needed to pay 21 times more for the Omega.

Anyone want to buy an Omega Seamaster? It really is pretty...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

DIY: Yakima Bike Rack Mod

I did a lot of research before buying a bike rack for my car.  I looked at sevaral brands.  I looked at on-top-of-the-car versions.  I looked at hitch-mounted racks.  At the end of the day I went with a Yakima hitch-mounted rack for several reasons:
  • It didn't touch the car
  • It wouldn't scratch the paint
  • I wouldn't scratch the car loading bikes
  • Better aerodynamics
  • No bug funk on my bike
  • And Yakima has served me well for nearly 20 years.
Anyway, this is how it looked on the car...

It hauls two bikes, yada, yada... But the reality is that it's usually just me.  So in the interest of saving a little weight, I took off one of the bike holders.  This is how that looked...

When I am going cycling with a friend, I simply bolt the other bike holder on with two bolts.  Obviously it works, but it's ugly.  More importantly, I could not open the hatch without lowering the rack, because the hatch would hit the rack...

Obviously that's a pain in the ass having to lower the rack every time I wanted to get into the back... I thought of just cutting off the top, but then I could only haul one bike.  So I thought about it for a little longer and came up with a solution... I purchased the following spare parts from Yakima:
  • RPL, SPINE ASSY, HOLDUP part number 8890201.  $60.
  • RPL, MTG HDW HOLDUP +2. $5
These are part of Yakima's Holdup Plus 2... an extension that allows you to add two additional bikes to the rack using the 2" receiver.

It slides into the spine of my rack and secures tightly using the bolt shown above. Basically my plan was to convert my rack to a single-bike rack and use the spine from the Plus 2 to add the second bike holder for a two-bike configuration. The first thing was to measure where to cut my rack.  I cut it in such a way to stop the arm from flopping all the way over and still allow me to open my hatch without lowering the rack...

The next thing I did was design it in such a way to increase the distance between two bikes by about 2".  The reason is that when my teammate and I load our mountain bikes, the handlebars and seats interfere with one another.  The additional 2" between the bikes will stop this problem...

So after a whole lot of measuring, cutting and drilling, the following is the completed product... The first set of pictures show the single bike version of the rack...

Note how I can now open the hatch without lowering the rack?  WOO HOO!!!

Here's the rack with a bike loaded on it...

This is the other bike holder mounted to the Holdup Plus spine I modified...

When I want to add the ability to carry a second bike, I just pop out the red cap...

... and slide the smaller spine inside the larger one and use the bolt to secure them together like so...

And it folds up just as it did before...

Hope you find this useful.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

DIY: PVC Bike Holder

When Dr. Josh and I are out running, paddling, whatever, the bikes stay in the transition area. We usually lean them up against a chair or tree. I figured I could make a little something out of PVC that would hold the bikes. I came up with the following...

It’s made from 3/4” PVC. It holds two bikes (though I only had one bike to show… the other bike simply faces the other direction)…

I created it in such a way that when the bike is not in use, you can pull up the vertical pieces (wheel holders) and store them horizontally like so…

This makes it easier to transport to the races, carry, etc.

(Looking directly down on it in the collapsed state)...

You need the following if you want to make one:
  • ~20' - 3/4” PVC. I used thin-walled pipe to make it as light as possible. If you want to use the thicker-walled stuff, you certainly can.
  • 12 - 90s
  • 16 - Ts
  • PVC glue
The cut list is as follows:
  • 2 - 3" pieces
  • 8 - 2-1/2" pieces
  • 2 - 9" pieces
  • 12 - 1-3/4" pieces
  • 4 - 14" pieces
  • 2 - 11-3/4" pieces
  • 4 - 22-1/2" pieces
Below is where the pieces go...

Now I didn't call out the 90s and Ts, but you can obviously see them.

All connections are glued EXCEPT the bottoms of the vertical pieces (wheel holders). They are to remain dry. In other words, the holes for holding the wheel holders vertical, and the holes used to store the wheel holders are NOT glued.

I reckon there are more uses and other variations, but this one met our needs. Feel free to experiment.Total cost... $11.01.