SUI GENERIS punk rock bike shop home-brew art/craft love

Cotton Monster

Jennifer Strunge sews colorful plush creatures "made of old recycled sheets, blankets and p.j.'s... without a pattern, so no two are exactly alike." She incorporates excellent details on these fantastic animals, like contrasting fabric textures, that make them pop. My favorite Cotton Monster species is the Bottomfeeders, like the one shown here (with mutant third eye).

Link to Cotton Monster website (found at BoingBoing).

How's your drink? (SG book review)

I like to have a martini, originally uploaded by KatColorado.

It's time to restock my bar. At about the same time I was getting bored with my strict beer and wine diet, Dr. Vino recommended an excellent little book on cocktails by Eric Felten. I used my Christmas money to buy a copy, and reading through it has made me very thirsty indeed.

Way better than a dry list of recipes, How's Your Drink? is primarily a collection of stories that highlight the origins of fifty classic cocktails. It is chock-full of interesting anecdotes, conflicting histories, and alternative recipes for mixed drinks. Now if only I had the ingredients to create tasting samples, so that I would have something to sip while I read!

Cars painted by stencil artist John Grider

1948 Cadillac Hearse. Dallas., originally uploaded by broken crow.

John Grider is an incredible artist based in Minneapolis who I've written about before, tangentially. I first saw his work on canvas, and then he branched out to huge murals on house walls. I was looking through his Flickr photostream this week, and found that lately he's been decorating cars... like this '48 Hearse, bedecked in a pile of red skulls.

If you like that, he also used his trademark goat design to embellish vans and cars, including a Saturn that looks like my old car! Except that if my car had featured a paint job by John G., I would not have sold it.

SF Zero: a reality game

beautiful photos by BlueberryMascarpone

SF0 is a web-based, collaborative, not-for-profit project. It's like an Alternate Reality Game, except that they're not trying to sell you anything and there's no overarching narrative other than the one you create yourself. It is a game that takes place in the real world and pushes the limits of the possible.

Players participate in "tasks," which are interesting actions you might not normally do. You get a set amount of points for posting your completion, and additional points are awarded in the form of "votes" cast by other players. So a particularly clever proof will gather a higher number of votes, and a correspondingly higher score. Earn enough points and ascend to the next level, where you can sign up for higher-ranking tasks, and continue to move up on the scoreboard.

Those are the mechanics of the game. But what is it really "about?" That's up to each individual player. For me it's community, creativity, imagination, beauty, art. Take a look for yourself. All scores were recently reset to zero for the start of a new Era, so it's the perfect time to join. See you in the Praxis!

SG Movie Review: Cloverfield

I was lucky enough to get free pre-screening tickets for Cloverfield yesterday night before the theatrical release on 1-18-08. The basic premise of the film is a monster movie, from the point of view of people in the city, shot entirely on a hand-held camcorder. And it works. Let's get right down to it: this is an excellent movie. When it ended, all I wanted to do was watch it over again.

Without spoiling anything, I will say that the film raises more questions than it answers (what else would you expect from the creator of Lost?). I think they may intend to leave these mysteries unresolved, but--also like Lost--the movie has an accompanying ARG you can explore for background material on the characters and the monster. Cloverfield Clues gathers it all together.

"Mystery is more important than knowledge" --JJ Abrams

Citizen Police Academy: week 9

060622-N-9742R-061, originally uploaded by milosz.reterski.

Our ninth class was Awesome Week for the citizen police class: dogs, bombs, and mounted patrol (horse & motorcycle).

K-9 Unit
German Shepherds are the dog of choice because they are agile, tough, and smart. On the other end of the totem pole you have Pugs, which are clumsy, dainty, and dumb (IQ rating just above a shovel). But, you would see a lot of Pugs on the beat if police dogs were picked for being adorable!

The drills were impressive. Our instructor hid a canister of black powder in the room and told his dog to "find bomb." The dog sniffed it out, eventually, then sat down and refused to move from that spot. Fun fact about K-9 units: when they spring a dog from that crate, it can't tell the difference between bad guys, cops, or bystanders. The dog will attack whoever looks threatening. Carry a chew toy.

Bomb Squad
For one reason or another, Minnesota gets a lot of bombs. St. Paul is a local leader and trains many regional units. By federal mandate, all U.S. bomb squads must have a robot by March 2009; St. Paul already has two. One of them is an older model "Ford truck" robot named Gary that's relatively easy to repair in the field. The other is a Packbot, an over $100,000 device made by iRobot (the same company that makes the Roomba). That's one of them in the photo above. It doesn't have a name.

Motor & Mounted Units
Motorcycles are now used primarily for traffic enforcement, and they are not allowed to do ride-alongs (lame). Horses are good for patrol because a mounted cop covers more ground than walking beat. They're also trotted out for crowd control, especially to clear the streets after big events (such as Grand Old Day). When a formation of horses comes walking down the street, people move out of the way. They know a police car isn't going to run them over, but a horse just might trample someone and not even care.

Incidentally, a lot of cops get hurt by horses too. We watched some painful videos of mounted officers falling and being thrown off their steeds. One former St. Paul mounted officer is now on permanent desk duty because of equestrian injuries. Horses, dude. They're scary.

Citizen Police Academy: week 8

highscore, originally uploaded by baboon™.

For our defensive tactics class, we met at the old station in downtown St. Paul. The session was held in a dilapidated exercise room, with piles of old fitness equipment pushed into a corner. The windows were tarped over. When we began for the night, we gathered on a flotilla of wrestling mats that covered half the floor, and picked up punching bags.

Kick! Punch! I had flashbacks to my lessons in Tae Kwon Do. We paired up with a sparring partner and practiced the basic moves for unarmed close-quarters combat. After that, we got to swing around some padded Asp batons (for maximum force, you strike with the tip). One of our classmates wanted to tussle with the instructor, but his dream of sparring with a cop was denied.

Lastly, we discussed cuffing techniques and practiced with both chain and hinge-style handcuffs. (Officers might choose one or the other based on personal preference and the circumstances of the individual who needs to be restrained.) The training officer told us that some people can slip their cuffs from back to front. I took that as a personal challenge, and I learned a valuable lesson: with no shoes on, I can indeed step out of cuffs, but I can't do a whole lot afterwards.

Lace Starliner custom painted hot rod

This amazing hot rod paint job was laid down by using two different lace patterns (one for the center, another for the side panels) as stencils. The owner plans to display the finished product at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona. I think it would be worth the trip just to see this car!

Look at the message board for notes and more beautiful close-up shots. (Link, Link, and Link)

found at BoingBoing.

The smallest announcement of all

juno2.jpg, originally uploaded by -leethal-.

I didn't write yet about the most important thing to happen in 2007. Partly because I didn't want it to get lost in the shuffle, and partly because I couldn't think of a clever way to say it. But I guess it doesn't matter how I share the news. It's just awesome.

I'm going to be a dad!

So, my life is going to change, and I am very excited about that. I don't know how the blog will change. I'm not sure if I feel comfortable writing about very personal things on this very public forum. On the other hand, I don't feel qualified to plan for anything after the due date, so who can say which direction I will go? I just know that 2008 is going to be a very interesting year.

SG Retro: most popular posts of '07

Sarah-2, originally uploaded by daverice.

I like to reminisce about my personal favorites, but after a year of tracking stats, I felt qualified to add a second category of links for 2007. The previous list was topics & activities that I enjoyed; these posts are the top hits for visitors to Sui Generis, based on keyword analysis.

5. Men's fashion. Who knew that so many people were interested in pocket squares? How to make them and when to wear them (always) were the most common queries.
3. Cars. The second half of last year was car-tastic! Unexpectedly, the new Transformers movie apparently inspired me to discover our automotive heritage. I went to a couple of car shows (parts 1-2-3-4) and bought myself a new car.
4. Bikes. Bicycle posts, though infrequent at best, remain popular. Usually my visitors are seeking information on a particular marque, such as Rabeneick, Sekine, or Bianchi (RIP); sometimes on more general topics such as fixed gears and British cycling.
2. Crafts. Our friends opened a store! I'm glad I helped so many people find I Like You, their new boutique in Minneapolis. As much as I'll miss being the first hit in Google, they have an I Like You blog now that has unseated me from the top spot.
1. Porn. 2007 is the year SG became an authority on tattooed models. For every 100 people who found me via Google, at least 2 or 3 went to that page first (and then immediately left, in disappointment). In hindsight, the popularity of this post is not surprising. Maybe next season, ANTM will consider having a tattooed girl on the show for more than one episode. I'm ready to provide ongoing blog coverage if they do! This is your SG ink correspondent, signing out.

SG Retro: my memories from 2007

bookshelf spectrum, revisited, originally uploaded by chotda.

It's a good time for reflection. At the end of every year, I like to take a look back and review my exciting adventures, while I prepare for the future. It seems like only yesterday I was writing my recap of 2006 (maybe because I did it in March?). The following are my personal favorite memories from 2007:

  • Graduating from the Citizen Police Academy (I'm still catching up on posts--more to come)
  • NaNoWriMo was my fourth year in a row. In previous years, I dropped out of blogging during the writing process. This November I told my story through Flickr pictures.
  • Sibley Bike Depot moved to a new location just blocks away from my house. Now I have no excuse not to volunteer, or to ride a bike when I do.
  • My job sent me on a brief Vegas vacation.
  • I challenged myself to post once a day throughout October, and I did it.
  • Motorcycle BRC (day one, two, three, 1/2)
  • Our 2nd annual Craftstravaganza was successful.
  • Home brewing cider was fun.
  • Letterboxing is my new favorite outdoor hobby.
Lastly, I post about a lot of "stuff" over the course of the year; cool things that I covet. Most are passing fads that tickle my fancy only momentarily. Some stick around. As of today, these are still a few of my favorite things:

The Biggest Gainer

jerk chicken @ mr jerk's, originally uploaded by lomokev.

So far, the weight gain experiment has been a huge success! I set a target to pack on one pound per week throughout the remainder of December, tracked my calorie intake with The Daily Plate, and stuffed my face with food. As a result, I'm up two pounds in 14 days. But there are other interesting side-effects to this exercise.

By recording what I have eaten, I become more mindful of what I am putting into my body. Now I know what it feels like to eat 2,570 calories a day. If I go for a few hours without any food, I have an awareness that it's time to eat something again, whether I feel hungry or not. And the nutritional information is staring me in the face, so when I eat something unhealthy, I know it.

I would recommend this practice to anyone, whether you're trying to gain weight, lose weight, or maintain it. And I would still recommend The Daily Plate as a tool to do it.