Unbelievably clear goldfish tank

This goldfish tank is filled and surrounded by my late mother’s knick-knacks, and sits upon her credenza from my childhood home in Baker City where it catches the early morning sunlight. It also has an RGB LED light on top so looks spectacular at night.

When you sit and watch the fish in this tank, the combination of sun rays and seeing outdoors right through the tank make it seem like the fish are just floating in air.

When I first moved this tank to the window, it would bloom algae within three days of a good cleaning, and the glass would be impossible to see-through. When I switched to a Marineland C-220 whisper-silent canister filter, the algae blooms stopped and the water became very clear. When I added the (kind of noisy) air bubbler, within three days the water was crystal clear, and has stayed that way ever since. Even the growth on the ceramic pig has stopped, and that used to turn completely green.

It took many months to get this healthy ecosystem running smoothly. Time will tell if this new system can maintain the clarity.

Lego Alien Xenomorph XX121 Instructions

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I’ve been so completely obsessed with the “structural perfection” of the hand-made Lego Alien (completed kit shown above) from the Tinyminds Etsy Store that I ordered for Miles’ 11th birthday, that I downloaded Bricksmith Virtual Lego Editor, re-created the creature, and designed some cool instructions for for it this morning. (File under “Things you do when you are home alone and procrastinating”)

DOWNLOAD INSTRUCTIONS PDF

Unboxing the kit from the Tinyminds Etsy Store. Yes, I bought one for me, too. It really kind of blew my mind that there could be a category of custom Lego kits. There are actually other designs available, but this Alien is perfection. I also purchased an astounding Predator kit for Lars. (Emily also makes Dr. Who, Adventure Time, Star Wars, The Hobbit and Kitty Cat Kits)

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Here are the instructions I designed, followed by some isometric view studies. Click on the image to see a gallery of details.

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DOWNLOAD INSTRUCTIONS PDF

Some additional isometric views rendered from Bricksmith Virtual Lego Editor.

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And finally, a reversed version of the instruction sheet: white on black.

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Tippy + Topple Turtle Livestream Video

Highlight of yesterday’s Livestream of the brand-new turtle habitat in Miles’ room. That is a piece of turtle food that Tippy is chasing around in the current from the cascading water filter. At :50, Topple does his thing, and dives in for a little snack.

Sometimes the Livestream video doesn’t play, so here it is on YouTube.

The live event is over, but there are a few more clips here: Tippy + Topple Turtle Livestream

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Limited Edition “Caution Skateboarders” Tee-Shirt

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The other day in Los Angeles, while skateboarding to work in the rain, I saw some yellow caution cones and had a deliciously malicious idea when I saw the triangular graphic. So I grabbed a sharpie marker from my desk, and went outside to draw some wheels and a kick tail on the black line under the falling person, and posted to Instagram. Throughout the day, I saw people passing by the cone. Some laughed, and some even stopped to take photos. I felt wickedly clever.

Now you can have this great graphic in the form of a silk-screened, limited-edition tee-shirt from Teespring. So do me a huge favor, and buy one before time runs out. I need to sell 100.

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ORDER NOW

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My ex-bro-in-law wearing a brilliant t-shirt on set. #caution #skateboarding

A photo posted by nelsdrums (@nelsdrums) on

Thank you so much @nelsdrums !!!!! So bomb

A photo posted by Ariel May (@ariel_drake) on

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CHES Fall Festival Tee Shirts

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The new Fall Festival Tee Shirts that I designed for Castle Heights Elementary School are now available in three colors. Artwork this year features Dudley the dragon, and (at the request of Friends of Castle Heights) a bit less fall, and a little more year-round graphics. Available every morning in front of the school.

Sorry ladies, Charlie does not come with.

If you buy one, please send me a photo of you wearing it.

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Kids Yard Sale Poster Illustrator Template

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Click image above to see the full poster.

My kids were planning a yard sale to make a few dollars from their old toys. I thought that a LEGO themed poster would attract the attention of kids on their way to or from school.

Using free Lego Alphabet in vector blocks and this nice set of vintage toys, I configured the words BOYS TOYS and added the gradient fills to make it fun. Then I realized that we had a lot of really great books that might attract the attention of parents – so I added that. Finally, I colored the vintage car toy to match the color scheme and added the informational type and map (made of lego blocks).

Our target audience was kids at the nearby gradeschool. So my sons and I went on a wild posting at night, and – taking a lesson from big tobacco marketers – made sure to place our posters down at kid eye level. We also posted online versions of the flyer to neighborhood parental social networks.

The result? Our “Boys Toys” yard sale was a huge success. And it didn’t hurt to provide free donuts!

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Feel free to download the tabloid Adobe Illustrator CS6 file to change as needed for your yard sale.

Download 70mb File

Hadouken-ing Third Grade Photo Project

Click an image below to view a larger slideshow.

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Another grade school photo project – literally jumping on the Hadouken-ing internet meme. Featuring Mrs. Polanco’s Third Grade Class.

Last week photographer Shaun Lang and I took on my son’s third-grade class to see if we could make some fun Hadouken-ing images and teach them a little about digital advertising and photography.

Hadouken (translated from Japanese as “surge fist”), is a special punch in the game Street Fighter. Hadouken-ing began with Japanese girls in their school uniforms, posing for super hero-like frozen action shots, and is now taking place at this moment all over the planet on Twitter and on Instagram.

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Our original plan was to shoot the entire class of 25 in a semi-circle that we marked within the crop of the 28 mm lens. This was way too many people, so we cut it in half. Then we divided the class in two and took a bunch of group jumping shots.

We used a tripod and two strobes to help add some light to the faces. Every kid individually got to do a “Hadouken” pose, to later be added later to one of the jumping shots. We even pulled off a few shots (like this one of Miles blasting me over the volleyball net) 100% in camera.

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Finally, we shot some additional foreground and panorama so we could make it epic. This is my sixth grade school photo project, and once again, the kids really brought it. Their high energy really translates well in these shots. And it didn’t hurt at all to have some cheerleader moms to help get everyone to jump on three.

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Today I visited the class to share final artwork via a big screen Keynote projection. I showed each step of the process, from concepting, casting, pre-pro, shooting, choosing film, compositing images, and final color. Each student was given an archival poster print of themselves with a “Hadouken!” graphic.

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If you are looking for the rest of the images, there are several versions for you to choose from. Feel free to download and share with your friends and family. Share some with me while you’re at it.

Hadoukening Image Downloads

Did you enjoy this photo project?

Minecraft Enderman Desktop + Mobile Wallpaper PSD

Took a break from Super Bowl madness at work to play some Minecraft with my sons on their new Bukkit servers. Found myself face-to-face with a menacing Enderman character and managed to snap a screenshot. I used that to create this graphic wallpaper. In three formats: Desktop, iPhone 5 and iPod Touch (iPhone 4).

Scroll down and I’ve provided links to simplified Photoshop PSDs if you want to customize for yourself. I used the Minecraft Logo Alphabet font that you can get here, and if you play Minecraft, I suggest you try the amazing Sphax PureBDcraft texture pack.

Click images to view, or right-click and “open link in new tab or window” or “save link as…” if you want to download the image to your device.

PSD Downloads

PSDDownload Desktop Wallpaper PSD 48 mb

PSDDownload iPhone 5 Wallpaper PSD 23 mb

PSDDownload iPhone 4 iPod Touch Wallpaper PSD 20 mb

Random goodness. Here’s a pretty epic Santa MVD made while I was putting lights on the Xmas tree.

At what age should kids walk to school alone?

For several years, one of my greatest daily pleasures has been walking my kids to grade school. It is a happy routine to walk, talk and say good morning to the neighborhood kids and parents.

During that time I have become acutely aware that virtually no children walk to school by themselves. Almost every child is accompanied by an adult. In fact, those few kids who walk to school alone stand out in sharp contrast and almost seem neglected or abused.

At first I thought this was a big city thing. I grew up in a small town, and everyone I knew walked to grade school by themselves. But after speaking with a lot of adults from places like New York, L.A., Chicago, and Boston, I discovered that they, too, walked or took public transportation to school by themselves. In fact, most of the grade school parents I see on a daily basis also walked to school alone or with friends.

Sometimes, on the way home from school in the morning, I see kids walking alone that I know from my son’s class. I say hello to them by name, and tell them they could still make the bell if I think they are running late. They usually give me a general acknowledgement with a slightly fearful look and hustle on without speaking. Those kids are brave to walk by themselves.

What it must be like to walk alone everyday, amongst a sea of their classmates who are being prodded along – often smothered with hugs and kisses by overly protective parents. I imagine these lone children have parents whose work schedules don’t allow them to walk their kids to school. Or perhaps their parents are just unreliable. I’ve never had the heart to ask any of them why they walk alone. But they do it bravely, and they seem to be fine.

I started thinking that it might be a good thing to get my son a buddy, and have the two of them walk to and from school alone occasionally to bolster their independence and responsibility. I asked one of the neighbors with a boy the same age.

“You know, I was thinking that maybe one day a week, my son and yours could walk to school together – alone – without parents. What do you think?”

The reply is thoughtful and slightly hesitant. “No. I could never forgive myself if something happened.”

I counter, “At what age do you think they could walk together alone?” We are talking about 5 blocks here. No major streets or intersections. I get the same answer from every parent.

“Never.”

Saddest of all is that the parents in this neighborhood are not exactly worried about their kids getting hit by a car, or even stabbed or shot by some gang banger. Sure, it’s a concern. Their real fear is that their child will get kidnapped by some sadistic pedophile – never to be seen again.

And who is to blame them? You only have to look on the L.A. Times crime map to see where all of the sex offenders live in your own neighborhood. Or watch the nightly news with its terrifying stories that parents share along with other gossip every morning after the second bell sends the kids off to class.

So I continue to walk my boys to school, as I work on my own unwarranted fear. When the time is right, I want them to discover their own independence, responsibility and street smarts. The real question is – will I be ready to give up my greatest daily pleasure?

Tell me this. At what age would you let your child walk to school alone or with a buddy?

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