Archive for the ‘Inspirational’ Category

Bleachers – I Wanna Get Better

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

This one’s about to explode.

Fun’s lead guitarist Jack Antonoff has a lot going for him:

His band, Fun, won the 2013 Grammys for Best New Artist and Song of the Year
His girlfriend, Lena Dunham, is a famous actor and television writer
His new side project band, Bleachers, has attracted some famous and massive social media fans such as Taylor Swift

Not bad.

Bleachers’ first release, I Wanna Get Better, debuted last week and is slowly gaining momentum.  Although the recently released lyric (and official video) version of their song on YouTube is currently hovering at just over 6,000 hits, I expect to see this song scream up the charts within the next two weeks.

Fast paced, driving tempo mixed with off-beat, slightly-retro sounding lead vocals will suck you in until the anthem chorus hooks you, and drags you from the edges of the crowd, headlong into the fist-pumping, head-bopping fanbase and singing along.
Then you’ll press repeat.
And then you’ll do it again.

Antonoff has found the perfect progression from Fun’s music style, evolving it and adding his own touch with Bleachers.  And while “I Wanna Get Better” didn’t scream onto the chart scene, it’s quickly gaining fans and momentum.  The album is scheduled for release this spring, and Antonoff will kick off his concert tours in April after making an appearance at SXSW in March.  While the currently announced venues and ticket prices are still small and affordable, I expect that to change quickly as their fame grows.  Grab yours now while you still can!

So I put a bullet where I should have put a helmet, and I crash my car ’cause I wanna’ get carried away… I didn’t know I was broken till I wanted to change.  I wanna’ get better!
~ I Wanna Get Better, Bleachers

Triumph Of The 12th Man

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

The Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos yesterday 43-8 to win Super Bowl XLVIII (48).  Both the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos had better odds to win the Super Bowl at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season than the Seahawks, but that didn’t stop Seattle from beating both teams on their way to claim their first franchise Super Bowl trophy as one of the youngest teams in the NFL both age and experience-wise – quarterback Russell Wilson has only been playing in the NFL since the 2012 season, and the average age of the players on the team is 26.5.

Since McCrevis’ Eagles won the NFC East but then lost to the Saints in the playoffs, and since my Buccaneers were never even in the running, we didn’t really have an iron in the fire but were happy to see the Seahawks beat the Broncos (actually, I have no idea if McCrevis was barracking for Denver or Seattle, but since Seattle won, I’m going to say he was on their team all along).  But for our mate Ty, it was a dream come true.

Ty - rabid Seattle Seahawks fan and proud 12th man

Being the only NFL team in the Pacific Northwest US, the Seahawks tend to attract a number of zealous fans, and Ty is no exception.  A proud 12th man since the team was formed in 1976, Ty approached us about a “publicly noticeable celebration idea” that we could help him setup at work “after the Hawks smash the Broncos!”

Despite the short notice, we thought we were up to the challenge.

Ty's office building prior to the Superbowl

 

interior

longShot

after

Ideas are cheap, it’s the passion to make ideas real that’s rare.
~ Scott Berkun

Why not us?
~ Russell Wilson 

The Grammys? Byrd Was Right

Monday, January 27th, 2014

“You can call me Queen B for being so right!” Byrd texts me last night, referring to her prediction in 2013 regarding Lorde’s upcoming greatness.  “Royals” by Lorde took the award for Song of the Year (Byrd: WHO WAS SO RIGHT ABOUT THAT SONG?!  Though I wouldn’t have predicted Song of the Year) and Best Pop Solo Performance at last night’s Grammy Awards, beating musical industry big names Pink, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, and Justin Timberlake.  Who’s a Royal now?

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love” meanwhile, may have lost to Lorde in the Song of the Year category, but that didn’t stop the duo from claiming the awards for Best New Artist (Byrd: Surprising win over Ed Sheeran), Rap Performance, Rap Song, and Rap Album (Byrd: Of course The Heist!  Why do you ever doubt?!) over R&B cornerstone nominees Drake, Jay Z, and Kanye West.  After the success of 2013, I’m looking forward to what 2014 brings for this duo.

With Daft Punk winning Pop/Duo Group Performance, Record of the Year, and Album of the Year, the top awards for the Grammys this year went to foreign or independently produced performers!  As we previously stated here at bighairmonkey, we believe we’ll be seeing more of this trend as the internet allows influences outside the US to be more readily recognizable and makes the world a much smaller place.

Regardless, props to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis who were quick to point out the groundswell from their fans and the duo’s independent work which led to their radio/public “discovery”:

First and foremost, I wanna’ thank our fans, the people that got us on this stage.  Before there was any media, before there was any buzz about us, before there was a story, there was our fans, and it spread organically through them, so without them, there would be no “us”.  Shout out to everybody repping worldwide …and I wanna’ say, we made this album without a record label.  We made it independently, and we appreciate all the support!

That was to you, Byrd.

 

Weighted Companion Cube Christmas Lights Released!

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Valve software weighted companion cube

For those of you who emailed us, asking how you could purchase our Portal Companion Cube Christmas Tree lights, they are now available via the Valve Software online store!! (SO awesome, right??!)

1.5" portal weighted companion cube of clear plastic

After some minor changes to our original 3D printed model, these plastic lights are cast to be lighter-weight and cheaper to mass produce for retail sale.  And even as I type, they are on sale at a 20% discount for the upcoming Christmas holiday!  You still have time to have them delivered (in the US) prior to Christmas!

Portal weighted companion cube Christmas tree lights – for those Christmases when you want to remind yourself of that time you escaped the Aperture Science Enrichment Center after it was taken over by a narcissistic and passive-aggressive Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System that tried to kill you give you cake.

I don’t see there really being a big enough market for this particular product to justify mass production, but it was totally cool to build and print and watch it come together!
~bighairmonkey

We’re Awesome!

Monday, December 9th, 2013

awesome

Haters ignored.
Testing completed.
Requirements fulfilled.
Obstacles, doubts, and ridicule overcome.
Product shipped.
Customer happy!
We’re awesome!!

Spur-of-the-moment-type message outside the CEO’s window, and since I didn’t have my usual lawn sharpies, I had to spell it out in the frost on the lawn.

Not as long lasting, but it still makes the point, and opens up all sorts of possibilities for messages that you don’t want sticking around for more than a day or so.

Amazed me how many people took note and knew it was our team.
Some reputations are worth having!

It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to management than the creation of a new system.  For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones.
~ Niccolò Machiavelli

Remembrance Day

Monday, November 11th, 2013

One day.
Every year.
Take a moment to remember:

laughing little girl in tutu

Remember to giggle and to laugh and to smile – it makes you feel better and lifts the spirits of those around you.  It’s okay to be silly occasionally.  In fact, it’s necessary.  Always remember time to be silly.

Remember to take joy from the little things in life – sometimes, it’s all we have.  Walk in the rain.  Splash in puddles.  Drink hot drinks with whipped cream or foamy milk or marshmallows on cold, foggy mornings.  Wear a tutu or new fuzzy socks or Uggs.  Lie in the middle of a quiet road and enjoy the feel of warm asphalt under your back on a cooling summer night.

splash

Remember to be happy – happiness is a decision, just like anger or sorrow or irritability.  Choose to be happy.

Remember to take walks; to get up from your desk and leave the office, the building, when you take lunch.  Have lunch!  Take smoko breaks throughout the day even though you don’t smoke – why should you miss out on quick breaks from the work and chaos just because you’re not sucking down a nicotine hit?  And on that topic, remember to use your sick days to take time off from work when you aren’t sick so you can enjoy the day!

snowman in your office

Remember to have child like interest in new things; to make new friends and include anyone in the public things you do.  Little kids on the playground make games and create adventures instantly, and everyone is invited to be a part of it.  Share your day with others; talk to those you see constantly whether at work or school or home or walking in public – include them in your adventures.  Invest in people that make you feel of worth.

Remember to make fun and have adventures.

Remember to enjoy the scenery, even if you’ve lived and wandered there all your life.  Lie down in parks on warm, sunny days and read.  Take off your shoes and socks and walk barefoot on the grass – a year should not go by in which you haven’t walked barefoot on grass.  Run through sprinklers, especially if they’re not your own – if you haven’t run through sprinklers recently, you are missing out on one of the pure joys of life.

Remember to write down your ideas, your dreams, your passions so you can act on them when you have time – if you have a book of ideas, you will never be bored.  Make time to act on your ideas.  Make time for you.

no skateboarding

Remember to draw or paint or cook or sew or create!  Remember the talents you used constantly as a child that you haven’t seen in a while – dust them off; drag them out into the light and put them back to use.  They never left you – you left them.  Develop a hobby.  Believe in yourself again.

Remember to ignore the evil comments and criticisms of assholes and trolls – they have no value or sway over you unless you allow it.  You can’t have everything you want or always do everything you feel you should, but that doesn’t mean you are a failure or without worth.  When you make a mistake or things don’t work out as planned, make new plans; learn from the mistake and move on.  Don’t let the little failures drag you down.  Remember to focus on your successes!  Life hasn’t stopped so why should we?  Life is all about moving and progressing and learning and getting better.

memorial day

Remember to let go of the memories and moments that bring you heartache and pain; to let go of the things that have hurt you or continue to hurt you or drag you down.  Lose your sorrow by investing in others.  Be a friend to make friends.  And don’t be afraid to make new friends because old ones left or moved on or stabbed you in the back.

Remember to move and to dance and to sing, without care of the opinions of others nor the audience – you do it for you, not for them.  Who the hell are they anyway?  Ultimately, it’s your life, to do with as you wish, not theirs.

Remember to live in the present.  Good or bad, the past is merely moments gone from which you can learn and grow.  Millions of new moments are waiting to be created by you, for you.  Don’t miss out on what’s coming by keeping too tight a hold on what happened in the past.  Change occurs with every breath you take into your body, so why shouldn’t we expect it in the events of our lives?

One day.
Every year.
Take a moment to remember.

Strike The Tent

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Haunted House sign

Dumping rain when we built the house.
60mph winds when we went to take it down.
Not a drop of rain or weather problem while the house was open other than a couple of near-freezing nights.

With all the rain we got when we put up the façade (and in previous years), we built some roof panels and placed them throughout the maze for protection from the elements for both our customers and our volunteers.  They doubled as structural support, adding strength and tying walls together in areas where we couldn’t use the anchors.  It’s always nice to be prepared for emergencies that don’t occur (rather than the opposite), but yesterday when we went to take it all down, a windstorm blew in – once the roof panels were off, the rest of maze was ready to take flight!  Luckily, the crew was able to work quickly and get it all down and packed away with minimal damage.

building a roof

roof panels

Maze runners our first year were zombies, rednecks, and ghouls – your basic group of scaries.  We only had ONE guy that could even be remotely compared to a clown, but found from customers that he was the one that freaked them out the most.

The next year, we built The Freak Show into the maze, locking customers into a strobe-lit shipping container with volunteers dressed in black body suits who would throw back their hoods to suddenly “appear” in front of customers and chase them around the dark confines.  Panicked as they were, it was nothing compared to the hysteria that kicked in when we introduced a few clowns into the mix.  Again, feedback from customers ranked this as one of our scariest “exhibits”.

And last year, we had clowns above the maze, throwing things down on people and chasing/taunting them throughout the maze.

But not until this year did we really build the maze around the circus theme.

Big Top Daytime view Big Top Nighttime

The Big Top is the final room in the maze before customers exit, so it’s also the first thing they see when they walk in to buy their tickets.  The sight of that circus Big Top, rising above the maze with the screaming laughter of clowns and chainsaws coming from within, was enough to make many a customer pause at the façade, debating whether or not they really wanted to come inside.

pole Dancing setting up the Big Top under the Big Top

Instead of lions or tigers or bears (“Oh my!”), clowns caged within two circus animal cars “greet” customers as they make their way into the Big Top.  Within seconds, the clowns fire up their chainsaws and “break out”, chasing customers out the exit.

maze runners

maze runners

We dressed all our maze runners as clowns this year, with full access to the thruways to get in front of and around crowds in the maze, and popping their heads through the various wall openings and doorways, so by the time you got to the final Big Top room, you knew there would be chainsaws somewhere nearby.  One of our clowns carried a simple bike horn which turned out to be one of the scariest sound effects in the maze.  He didn’t even run through the maze – just walked slowly around corners, occasionally sounding his bike horn and sending groups into running panic.

drop panel drop panel

drop panel drop panel

We created a number of “drop panels” throughout the house – openings in walls and panels that could be covered by lifting a sliding panel into place, only to drop it with a loud “BANG!”, exposing whatever was hiding behind it.  Lots of fun and very effective!

grim reaper camoflague clown camouflage clown

We continued last year’s idea of full head-to-toe costumes for some characters so customers didn’t know if they were real or not, mixing them among props that weren’t people.  Our grim reaper caught lots of people by surprise.

three heads

dead head

Three heads on a table, and one of them is real.  This only worked so well because the fake heads were REALLY high quality and lifelike.  I don’t believe the scare on this one would have been as effective if the other heads didn’t look so real.

packing up the haunted house

Overall, the house had a great “feel” to it this year, and I was really happy with the maze – lots of switchbacks creating blind corners and very few long views or open spaces.  Dressing our maze runners as clowns and building around the circus theme did a great job of freaking people out!  It seems a LOT of people don’t like clowns… who knew.  The train turned out as good as I had hoped and scared so many people (thank you Zookeeper!)!  I’d really like to figure out the webcam so we can catch photos of people when they’re scared that they can link to on social media or pass on to friends via the internet.  The plastic clad panels worked out much better than expected, so we will probably use that idea again.  We’ll have to see how well they store.  145 total panels for the maze this year: 33 of them clad in plastic and 10 completely rebuilt with the heavier ply since we still need some structural strength and support throughout.  That means we lost over 50 panels from last year to rot and deterioration.  Part of that is that we need to figure out a better way to store them, but from the start, we didn’t really build them to last, so the fact that we still have so many originals is surprising.  Final customer count surpassed every previous year, so we must be doing something right!

fluorescent walls skeleton cemetery zombie graveyard zombies

ghouls ghoul dance party witches clown Car

scared waiting Capt America greeters

American Beauty clowning around zombies scared

kid friendly night kid friendly night

Glad it’s over for another year.
I need some sleep…

Your idea is your currency; what you’re buying is a few seconds of the [customer's] time, in which you must gain their trust, entertain or inform them, convince them of your message, and possibly get them to act on it.  But it also has to be currency for the user; it has to be funny, informative, or somehow valuable for them to pass on to someone else.
~ Matt Mason

 

Ghost Train

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

The idea is to shepherd customers down a dark, narrow hallway and into one of the shipping containers as if it were a tunnel, similar to the spider’s lair that we built last year.  However, once customers get half way through the tunnel, they’ll hit a chainlink fence that keeps them from going any further.  And then, out of the darkness, a train will suddenly appear, flashing its lights and blasting its horn, threatening to run them over, and (hopefully) scaring them back out the entrance.

revised Switchbacks train Path

One of our volunteers is planted at the back of each group to open and close doors for us as the groups pass through the maze.  This changes the paths and creates dead-ends if the group tries to back track to escape one of the maze runners.  Once a group enters the train tunnel, the plant swings a wall panel 180 degrees to block off the original hallway and open the next route along the maze for the customers as they “flee” the ghost train tunnel.

That’s the theory at least.

ghost Train Base

ghost train Finished

The train is basically a 2×3 platform on caster wheels, built to house an airhorn and foglights to mimic a train.  A crossbar at eye level holds the foglights, while a wooden box, mounted to the platform, holds the airhorn and car battery to power it all.  A small track, built from 1×2’s keeps the train moving straight towards the fence and the terrified customers.

ghost Train Lights Button

ghost Train Battery Horns

We originally planned on using two truck foglights, mounted about 4’ apart on the crossbar, for our train headlights, but found that normal car headlights, with the high beams hard wired, are cheaper and work just as well.  The train airhorn is a WOLO Xtreme Airhorn (Model 400 Airmite).  We researched YouTube videos of airhorns, and the WOLO is the cheapest model that still delivers a good punch!  We saw a couple of videos and reviews that said that the standard air compressor that came with it wasn’t loud enough, and suggested upgrading to a bigger air compressor.  So, we attached the horns to our shop air compressor, set at 220psi, and then compared that to the sound volume using the included air compressor.  The difference between them isn’t in volume but in pitch – the shop compressor delivers a deeper tone, but the volume is the same.  Since the standard WOLO air compressor that came with the horn is built to run off a car battery and seemed to work fine, especially in the narrow confines of the shipping container, we decided to keep it.

ghost Train Schematic

My mate The Zookeeper, an electrical engineer visiting from our company’s R&D Lab, wired up the whole ensemble for us, so it runs off a standard car battery, operated by a push button mounted on the handles of the train.

I would classify this as another one of our 100% kill rate attractions, similar to last year’s four statues.  While there are the occasional people who are not even fazed when the train suddenly appears, they’re rare – there’s always one group member that panics, but more often, it’s the majority of the group.  Reactions have ranged from “deer-in-headlights” to “running in panicked fear” to one group of teenagers who collapsed in a pile on the floor!  Mothers suddenly use their smaller children as shields, and teenagers are more than happy to sacrifice friends or younger siblings to get out alive!  It’s fun for the whole family.

The Zookeeper linked a webcam to a laptop running a Linux program that snaps photos when the majority of an in-camera background suddenly changes (ie: the darkened walls are suddenly lit by high-beams), so we could snap photos of victims as they reacted to the appearance of the train.  This gave us all sorts of great joy in the expectations of the resulting photographs, but due to funding, we weren’t able to come up with a laptop we could use during the actual haunted house (our proof of concept laptop wasn’t available for use in the haunted house *frowns*).  The good news is, we know it works, so we can plan for next time.  The bad news is, we’ve missed out not only on a ton of great reactions but also on an opportunity to gain more internet notice.  Now that the train is a known item, the surprise if we use it next year, won’t be as great.  But again, if we take photos, many people would come through just to pose when the camera goes off for their internet photo.

Air horn, car battery, headlights, switch and wires – we were able to build our train for about $100.

Speaker For The Sleep Deprived

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

I should be updating you on the build of the Train or The Big Top, but I haven’t, and I’m not doing so now… not yet, although I should.  It would fit in with the cadence and tempo of the events at this time, but instead, I wanted to read Orson Scott Card’s “Speaker for the Dead”.

Zombie Circus Big Top

I wanted to read it a while ago, but since Summit Entertainment started making their movie adaption of Ender’s Game (causing them to have my Valentine design pulled from Red Bubble – which reminds me that I need to repost that…), the Ender’s novels have had hold lists a mile long at the library, and I was 32nd in line when I put in the request for Speaker.  I was in the middle of Matt Mason’s “The Pirate’s Dilemma” (a good novel, but it felt slightly dated despite being published 5 years ago – some good insights but slow reading for me), and book two of Brent Weeks’ “Lightbringer” series had arrived a week earlier, but I hadn’t yet started to read it, when Speaker suddenly showed up for pickup.  I had to grab it or lose it back to the shuffle.

rainbow paint colours

And then I got involved in the Haunted House, and in general, I’m not a fast reader, so once the book came due to be returned, and then a week later I still had it, I thought it was pretty rude of me to be holding on to a book I wasn’t even reading, for which a long line of others were waiting, so I stayed up to read Speaker, start to finish, which is usually a pretty massive effort on my part, but happened quickly and easily once I got drawn back into Ender’s world.  Funny that… my apparent lack of setting priorities or organizing dates and events: I am the mechanic with the cars that don’t work; the gardener with the overgrown lawn; the project manager who realizes that often, the only control I have in my life is the ability to let a date or event slip by its scheduled time.

So now it’s four am’ish, and in another hour, I need to “get up” and start my work day, as training is in full swing and Gregory hasn’t replied to my offers of Little Burgers, leaving me still to battle on that front with a monolithically ponderous Training department, and it will be a hellish day.  But for just *one* little moment, I control my time and my life and my events, and I thoroughly enjoyed Speaker for the Dead, and I stretch out these last few moments of imaginary control by typing this entry which I will no doubt regret upon reading at some future time when my thoughts are more coherent and my body less prone to sleep-deprived activities.

weenis or weenus depending on your version of spelling

It makes me better understand why some people clean their houses while the world spins madly on…

Card’s ability to write relationships is still phenomenal, and I liked getting back to the brusque connections he made in Ender’s Game.  All the novels he wrote between Ender’s and Speaker were written years later in his career, and while their tone and story move along better, the back-and-forth quick-patter conversations almost drown out the characters he crafts so well, which is why it was nice to get back to his style in the originals.

Such great characters.
So well written.

I need sleep…  But this was worth it.

No human being, when you understand his desires, is worthless.  No one’s life is nothing.  Even the most evil of men and women, if you understand their hearts, had some generous act that redeems them, at least a little, from their sins.
~ Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (“Speaker for the Dead” by Orson Scott Card)

Twenty One Pilots

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

No matter how much I try to bury it, Car Radio by Twenty One Pilots sticks in my head like a thorn that lodges itself between the webbing of my toes.

 

Every time Car Radio comes up on my playlist, I find myself moving and motivated and thinking and doing and wondering “Why aren’t these guys bigger?”  Then Guns for Hands comes up and nails it to the wall – Tyler Joseph and Josh Dunn are here to entertain!

…you get yourself in front of five people and you make sure that those five people won’t forget your show. It’s all about the live show. Throw in a freakin’ cover every once in a while so they can kind of understand what’s going on, but you better figure out something that’s going to get their attention.
~Tyler Joseph

Even their name speaks to me.  Based on Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons”, about a man who commits suicide after causing the death of 21 pilots in World War II as a result of supporting his company by continuing to use faulty parts at a savings to the company, the idea of our moral battle surrounding who we work for while still trying to make a living is a recurring theme in a lot of my posts that centre around employment and companies.

I feel like we are all constantly encountering moral crossroads where the decisions that benefit the “now” will have consequences down the road; but the decision that might seem tough and tolling right away will ultimately be more rewarding.  What is our purpose for playing music? We are constantly asking ourselves that question. The answer can change all the time, but for right now we are just going to stick with something as simple as “we want to make people think.”
~ Tyler Joseph

While they have been selling out shows in Ohio for years, their recent signing to record label Fueled by Ramen has led to much larger exposure: opening for Neon Trees, the ever-epic Walk the MoonFall Out Boy on their recent “Save Rock and Roll” tour, and announced to open for Paramore’s Australian tour in January.  Their recent album, Vessel, is free for listening via their website or the Fueled by Ramen soundcloud.

 

To lock Twenty One Pilots into one particular genre, would be a mistake.  At a recent concert in which we were able to score some free tickets (Yea!!  Free tickets!!!), their live performance was *massively* energetic and reminded me of early punk and ska band performances in which moshing and pogoing first emerged.  But then you hear Ode to Sleep, and Tyler Joseph’s rap style is reminiscent of early Slim Shady.  And before you can lock them in as a new rap artist, the tempo slows to a swing vibe before returning to its rap roots.

Twenty One Pilots recently returned from across the pond touring the UK and Europe, but will be back in the US to tour with Fall Out Boy for a few months before heading to Australia to open for Paramore in January.  Take the opportunity to catch them performing in your area!