Diet Coke and Mentos Traps

As many of you know, since 1990 my friend Jay and I have exchanged Christmas gifts that have been booby-trapped in some way. Since last year around this time I was getting married (and have thus been a little distracted from blogging), I’ve fallen behind in posting details of these traps. I hope to be a little faster in posting this year’s traps, but in the meantime I’ve finally posted Jay’s trap from last year: a particularly nasty trap that sets off ten individual bottles of diet-coke-and-mentos geysers on any would-be MacGyver who triggers it. I’ve also posted my own version of his trap which, while it’s not as pretty on the outside, does win out when it comes to the size of the mess it leaves behind. Enjoy!

Diet Coke & Mentos

Diet Coke & Mentos, Version 2

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Wolverine costume with retractable claws


This year’s theme for Halloween was super heroes, so around the beginning of October I set out to design a Wolverine costume. The outfit is based on the X-Men movies, because it’s a lot easier to look cool in black leather than yellow spandex. The claws I based on the comic books, with thin claw-like blades coming out of studs on the backs of my hands rather than knives coming out from between my knuckles as they did in the movies. That was both because I like the more animal look of the original and because it made it a lot easier to make the claws retractable.

For more pictures, video and step-by-step instructions on how to design your own, check out my Instructable at instructables.com.

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View the ‘real source’ of a webpage

One great thing about the web is that you can tell your browser to “View Source” whenever you want to figure out how the page managed to get all those hamsters to dance like they do. Or at least that was how it used to be — nowadays most interesting pages are dynamically generated, which means the source you see often little more than .

When I was writing dynamic pages for a project a little while back I got tired of not being able to see what my page looked like after all the JavaScript got done with it, and eventually I tracked down this cute little bookmarklet:

javascript:if (window.document.body.outerHTML != undefined) {''+window.document.body.outerHTML+''} else if  (document.getElementsByTagName('html')[0].innerHTML != undefined) {''+document.getElementsByTagName('html')[0].innerHTML+''} else if  (window.document.documentElement.outerHTML != undefined) {''+window.document.documentElement.outerHTML+''} else {alert('Your browser does not support this functionality') };

Just copy it all into one line (remove the linefeeds, they’re just there for readability) and put it as the URL of a bookmark. Then whenever you want to see the real source of a page, it’s just a click away.

(I wish I could remember where I found this little gem, but from a quick search it looks like it’s been floating around for a while…)

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Magnetic Wall Chessboard


The latest addition to our magnetic wall: a wall-mounted magnetic chessboard. Basically we took a cheap chessboard, glued some rare-earth magnets into the bases of the plastic pieces, and glued some magnetic backing onto the board itself. To the side is a little magnetic label with one side printed “White to move” and the other printed “Black to move.” Just make a move and flip the label over for the next person to move.

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Magnetic wall

This weekend’s project was to paint the dining room wall and bedroom doors with magnetic paint (paint with an iron-dust mix-in). Actually, this was my wife’s project while I fixed the bathroom sink — but that project was much less interesting to blog about. The dining room is shaping up to hold all the various birth & wedding announcements, plus magnetic poetry and probably some random wall games. The bedroom doors will be more personal expressions, and right now the guest room has tourist magnets from everyone who’s visited. Best of all, it’s a great excuse for another order from our favorite magnet source!

magnetic-primer.jpg magnetic-primer.jpg poetry-wall-thumb.jpg
Magnetic Primer The start of our
downstairs postboard…
…and poetry wall
magnetic-primer.jpg daughters-door-thumb.jpg our-door.jpg
Guest room door Our daughter’s
(*PINK*) door
Our bedroom door

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iPhone fix: blow out the lint

Here’s a simple iPhone fix that others may appreciate. A few weeks ago my microphone started to cut out — I could listen to music over the headphones, but with both pairs of earbuds the microphone would cut out, and disconnecting and reconnecting them would cause the call to drop. I finally took it to the Genius Bar today and they immediately took out an otoscope and discovered that the hole where the headphone jack fits in was filled with pocket lint! One quick burst of compressed air later and it was working perfectly again! (Apparently they get this problem a lot, as they’ve got a special mini-jack attachment for their compressed air can.)

A nice side effect was he noticed the screen’s hairline crack I’d gotten when the phone fell out of my pocket. From all I’d read on the Net I thought I’d have to pay $250 to have that repaired, but he said so long as it was just a single hairline crack and there was no damage to the case itself they could do a warranty replacement — five minutes later I was walking out of the store with a fresh-out-of-the-box iPhone.

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Installing emacs23 with X11 support on Leopard

For some reason Fink has not yet updated their version of GNU emacs. While there are several other options, including Aquamacs, xemacs from Fink and the terminal-only emacs that comes pre-installed on OSX, I missed my traditional GNU Emacs running over X11. Luckily, with a few tweaks to this guide, the process was pretty painless — assuming you’ve already got Fink installed, just do the following (all from the Terminal):

 mkdir tmp cd tmp cvs -z3 -d:pserver:anonymous@cvs.sv.gnu.org:/sources/emacs co emacs cd emacs fink install libungif libjpeg libtiff export LIBS="-lresolv" ./configure --without-carbon --with-x --prefix=/usr/local make bootstrap make sudo make install cd /usr/local/bin/ sudo ln -s emacs emacs23 

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Steampunk Chicken-Walker Mech Costume

I have a long history of biting off more than I can chew when it comes to Halloween costumes. It’s in that tradition that, when my friends suggested Star Wars as a theme for costumes this year, my first idea was to go as an AT-ST, the 2-man chicken-walker mech that the Ewoks beat up on in Return of the Jedi. After several design iterations I had left the Star Wars Universe behind in favor of a steampunk flavor, and thus was born the Steam Walker.

The idea is to make it looks like I’m sitting in a chair riding atop a steam-powered mech that walks on two robotic legs. In reality my seated legs are false, and my real legs power the robot’s legs. This is basically a variant on the age-old circus-clown costume where someone looks like they’re riding a horse, and is also inspired by Ben Hallert’s APU costume and the paintball mech costume called Steel Dawn.

While not fast enough to keep up with 6-year-old trick-or-treaters as they went from house to house, I was still able to walk down the street and show off to passers by. The most common reaction was along the lines of “Wow! That’s the coolest costume I’ve ever seen — what the heck are you?!? (Best answer so far: Luke Skywalker: The Later Years.) I also got little kids (and some older kids, who really should know better) asking me how the thing was powered, several adults admitting they couldn’t figure out how the thing worked, and at least one little girl bursting into tears as she saw me ambling towards her. All in all, I’d say it was a big success :).

For more information on how I actually built the thing, take a look at my Instructable.

steam-walker-front-small.jpg steam-walker-left-side-smal.jpg

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