Monthly Archives: December 2009

The Dubai Laser

As I step out of the security line in one of the Dubai airports today, I get asked, “Do you have a pointer?” by the security guard. I told him yes and he asked me what color it was….I reluctantly said the magic word “Green” which I knew would be bad.

They asked me to show it to them, so I fished out the hand-held 15 milliwatt from my backpack and gave it to them. They shined it on the floor and flinched as they noticed how eye-hurtingly bright it was. I could easily tell they were going to confiscate it, but there was also a restrained curiousity about them wanting to play with it.

My passport was taken and I was lead to a room where I had to fill out some paper work and sign a document stating they were going to destroy my laser:

Is it wrong to carry a high-powered, quasi-legal laser pointer that-can-place-a-bright-dot-on-any-object-your-eye-can-see-no-matter-how-far-it-is around with you for fun? Apparently not in Dubai.

Handwriting Blogs

Boring hyperlink to the post.

It took me three sheets of paper, a scanner and Photoshop to make this post, that might be one reason it isn’t a popular format:

….However when tablets (with both multi-touch and pen inputs) become more popular, this style of blogging shouldn’t be difficult at all….and with tags you can make the whole thing search engine friendly too

I like this style of blogging for many reasons…plus it’s just fun!

Weird Holiday Products

Over at House Of Rave it’s been busy because of the Christmas holiday shopping season. Owning a store that sells light-up and relatively unique items, I’m always tickled by the surprise hit products that seem to sell like crazy during the holidays.

Every year I see odd products that previously didn’t really sell, then all of a sudden see huge spikes in demand. Often it’s products that are unexpected hits, the manufacturer runs out of stock, so it goes out of stock at most stores, so people flock to whatever store they can get it at.

By far, the most demanded item I saw on HoR this year was this Lava Plasma Lamp:

It’s basically a Lava Lamp that has one of those electricity-looking plasma balls inside. It’s a new product and actually looks like a slick little room decoration…which makes it prime gift-giving material.

Unfortunately the Lava company didn’t anticipate such a high demand for it (likely because this tight economy doesn’t permit companies to easily extend huge lines of credit for large manufacturing runs). Or maybe there was a fire at the warehouse and they all got burned up. Who the hell knows. The end result was EVERY store was sold out.

I opened my orders one day and found 20+ orders for JUST this item, all from new customers…it was a little odd. For a while I could send them out, but of course my supply dried up also. I of course immediately cancelled and refunded all the orders since I couldn’t fulfill them….but kept the item up for a while in order to grab new customer info (so I can send them my email newsletter later). Kind of sneaky actually….

I eventually put the “out of stock” status on the item because so many people kept ordering it and the customer service required for canceling and refunding got a little tedious….plus it pisses people off when they order something so close to Christmas then get an email their order has been cancelled.

Another funny runaway product line this year was BACON stuff. Yes, bacon. These are some of the items that recently came out and started selling REALLY well this holiday season:

Bacon Bandages:
There’s a whole lineup of these novelty bandages, and by far the bacon strips sell the best.

Bacon Gumballs:
Why bacon flavored gumballs sell so well is beyond my understanding.

Bacon Toothpicks:
I’m not even kidding…

Who would’ve thought the American public has such a fascination with BACON products?? Like the popular Lava Plasma Lamp a lot of these bacon-related products sold out quickly too.

Another weird item that really took off and I had to keep canceling orders for was this Gravy Fountain Gag Gift Box:

It’s a fake gift box you put a real gift inside to fool your unsuspecting subject. I presume this gag box is great for White Elephant gift exchanges, hence the popularity. What’s weird is there are other gift boxes like this, but by an exceedingly large margin the gravy fountain box was the most popular. Baffling and kind of hilarious.

Most of these small items don’t have a huge margin, so even if you get lots of orders per day for them it’s not a huge amount of profit. However you gain new customers, some of them buy a lot of other stuff, and it’s always fun to see the weird products that hit a nerve with the buying public!

The Kramer Poster Shirt

Kind of in the spirit of my self-made spray painted shoes, I went to a “T-shirt Deli” in Austin that serves up your very own custom created silk-screened shirts.

You can pick out one of their designs or make your own custom print on the computer or with paper and an Exacto knife.

If you make a shirt from a computer image, you can stick it in Photoshop, set the threshold option which will make it black/white then print it on a transparency. The guys at the shop then do their silk-screening magic from that.

I decided I wanted that famous portrait of Kramer from Seinfeld on my shirt, that thing always cracks me up!:

I know my way around Photoshop, so they let me loose on their computer and I erased out everything but his image. I set the threshold to 135 and printed out the transparency. The threshold filter gives the image a really cool/rugged look which makes Kramer’s portrait even funnier:

The guys then gave the transparency some sort of chemical bath, then started the silk screening process:

I know there’s tons of internet sites where you can upload your design and they send it to you completed in the mail, but watching the actual process before your eyes made it feel like you “made” the shirt rather than just uploaded an image. Plus it’s just plain fun watching the behind the scenes process!

They can place the design anywhere, so instead of the standard “middle-shirt” I had it placed offset on the side. The end result:

….my one-of-a-kind Kramer shirt!
I’m sure this is a copyrighted image, so I doubt you could sell these without some licensing agreement…but on a small do-it-yourself scale I’m sure it can’t be too illegal (Dear Sony Entertainment: please don’t have me killed, thanks).

Speeding Tickets = City Donations

I’ve long held a rather odd belief about speeding tickets, which might be why I don’t particularly mind getting them.

First of all, any time I’ve got some sort of traffic ticket I’ve been actually doing something wrong, so there’s really no reason to bitch about it.

When you get a drivers license you clearly consent to following all the pre-set rules, and if you don’t follow them, you run the risk of getting a citation for it.

The other belief is that every time I get a traffic violation it’s like a “donation to the city.”

I like this point of view because 1.) It’s true and 2.) It’s a great way to not get frustrated about getting a ticket.

I’ve been to the Austin DPS many times to pay off tickets, and I must say it’s an exceedingly simple, straightforward and very easy experience (although I’ve tried schemes to get out of tickets before). It’s actually refreshing to see a government entity so on top of its game.

I’ve been to other DPS’s where I’ve had to wait in excess of three hours to give them my money. I don’t care about the money, but making me waste an ENTIRE day….That’s just cruel….very effective in getting me to avoid tickets…but cruel.

In Austin I almost don’t mind getting a ticket because I can easily take care of it over the phone, in person or internet. It’s easy, quick and the revenue goes towards a great city.

It almost makes me WANT to get caught!

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Now what I DON’T like getting caught by is those automated traffic ticketing systems. I wrote about my first one here that gave me a nice photo shoot. It’s so impersonal….although highly effective.

Getting caught by an officer is kind of a fun cat & mouse game. I wasn’t particularly mad about the last one because it clearly shows I blatantly ran a red. However I got another one of these recently, and after viewing the photos online I immediately cried “I DIDN’T RUN THE LIGHT!!” I was simply taking a right turn on a red light, I could clearly see my car turning right. I unfairly got a ticket!!

Turning right:

However unlike my last ticket, this ticket included a link to a VIDEO of my offense. Uh ohh! I immediately thought this would be pretty incriminating, but it really wasn’t. I didn’t speed through this light, I safely slowed down and took the right.

Video:

OK, I didn’t stop 100%, but I slowed down to like 2mph which is damn near stopped. I think this is actually an unfair and undeserved ticket. Yes, I didn’t COMPLETELY STOP AT THE WHITE LINE, but even if a cop was behind me, I seriously doubt he would’ve pulled me over for this.

A little pissed off, I did some research and came across sites like Camera Fraud and others who highlight all the negative and unfair things about these camera lights.

I decided to try semi-fighting this ticket, even though I knew I either pay $75 to get this over with, or drive to Houston, schedule a hearing, then work with a small chance of success to get this dismissed. I called the company in charge of the cameras and spoke to someone about it. I told her the call was being recorded for a news broadcast (just so she wouldn’t start getting snippy or hang up on me) and started questioning the video. Surely enough she started on the “You clearly didn’t fully stop at the first white line…” spiel and I quickly realized fighting this wasn’t going anywhere.

SO while I’ll go ahead and pay this $75, I don’t feel as good about it. I didn’t get the thrill of being pulled over or immediately told what I did wrong….plus I don’t think I did anything wrong.

However it’s easier to pay off the $75 than to actually fight this ticket.

…and like I said earlier in this post:

…any time I’ve got some sort of traffic ticket I’ve been actually doing something wrong, so there’s really no reason to bitch about it.

…and in reality I didn’t fully stop.

———————

On another note:
Despite me being slightly fumed about this latest ticket, I have to admit these traffic violation companies have an EXCELLENT business model!!

The cameras and infrastructure might be a little costly, but they constantly generate revenue for the company and the city. I imagine the biggest drawback to that business would be having to deal with government entities to get permission to post the cameras….and getting governments to give you long-term contracts so you can make your money back.

———————

On even another note:
I remember hearing about a couple of products that help distort your license plate from those cameras. I imagine as technology gets better it will make these methods obsolete, but for now I’m seriously considering buying this spray:

It seems like a great (and legal) way to say F*CK YOU to the speed cameras (although purposely running a red light one day with a middle finger out the window might be more fun)!

From now on I’d prefer my traffic tickets to come from an actual officer.

License and registration please…..

Spray Painting Shoes

I like weird color shoes because they break up the seriousness of any outfit. I bought some white shoes a long time ago and they made everyone look, but then white shoes started to come into fashion (that’s right, I alone started the whole trend) ;-)

After a few years some of these shoes still fit and feel great, but look quite worn. They are past the stage of a simple cleaning due to years of heavy use.

I still wear them from time to time, but they don’t have the same “weird-looking shoes” effect they used to have. It’s also hard to tell by the pictures, but they look pretty dirty in person. So in trying to incorporate them back into the wardrobe I tried some experimental shoe cosmetic surgery using plain old spray paint.

Patient 1 was a pair of very comfortable Aldo shoes I’ve had for years. I still wear them when I need to do a lot of walking, but don’t want to wear tennis shoes. They’ve become pretty worn and dirty especially around the sides, backs and stitching seams. The brown spot top-right is a test-spray I did with the spray paint to see if it would bind correctly:

I bought some gold spray paint from Wal-Mart and gave them a quick spray paint coat. I covered the entire shoe, even the bottoms. They came out quite well!

They actually look like a new pair of shoes now! I was very satisfied with how well this pair turned out:

Patient 2 is also an old pair of Aldo shoes I’ve had for years, and are starting to look dirty although this picture doesn’t show that too well. I’ve tried using “shoe touch-up paint” to clean them, but it’s no longer cutting it. These shoes are made out of some hard leather-like material, and I wasn’t sure how well the spray paint would bind to the shoes, especially in the crevasses and cracks of the shoes:

When I was buying spray paint at Wal-Mart I saw “Outdoor Reflective Spray Paint” that’s used for marking trees or painting road stripes. I THOUGHT this would look pretty cool, but it didn’t exactly turn out so well:

It’s not captured by the picture very well, but they actually look like someone sprayed over the original shoe. You could kind of “see through” the paint, and I wasn’t exactly crazy about how these turned out, you can still see all the scuff marks on the shoes:

This was kind of a fail in my opinion, so I bought some metallic blue spray paint and gave them a once over. A weird thing happened, the yellow and blue mixed to turn the shoes GREEN! I didn’t expect that to happen as I thought the blue would paint OVER the yellow, but this mistake ended up looking pretty interesting (and shiny):

So far these shoes have held up with their spray painted outer coats. The hard leather shoes lose a small amount of paint in the crevasse areas when I wear them a lot, but it’s so small an amount no one would notice. So now I have two “new” pairs of shoes for the cost of $2.99 cans of spray paint:

…and the “mistake” pair:

I like both of them, but the gold ones came out looking the best. The green ones are nice in my opinion, but I either get “those look awesome” or “those are the worst shoes I’ve ever seen” remarks about them. If everyone thinks it looks horrible, I generally like it more.

The coolest part is when someone asks me where I got them, I can say, “I made them!”