Wednesday, January 30, 2013

DIY Portal 2 Lemon Grenade

You know what they say: when life hands you lemons...


...make lemon grenades!!

To those completely lost right now: yes, it's another Portal thing. Click here for the game tirade that (kind of) explains it.

This is one of my longest delayed tutorials, since I actually made my first grenade nearly three months ago, just after Halloween. The hold-up was finding the proper display, which I had to order, and then re-order, and then get a plaque for, and then re-order another plaque, and now FINALLY I get to share it with you guys!

Now, you might be tempted to think I just stuck a plastic grenade top on a fake lemon - and you would be *almost* correct. In fact, my lemon has a fun special feature. Observe:

This mod is actually quite simple, and shouldn't cost you more than $10 in materials. (Not including the display case.) Keep reading to see how!

First, you're going to need a toy grenade. I found mine at the Spirit Halloween store last Halloween for $2.99:

Since Halloween is long over, try looking online or at local costume shops. You want the kind that has a soundboard with the fun "tick-tick-tick-BOOM" feature.

Your other key ingredient is the fake lemon. Wal-Mart has the best fake lemons I've ever seen; they're weighted in the middle and textured so realistically I half expected juice to squirt out when I started cutting.

I believe these cost $1.99 each.

Disassemble the grenade by removing all the tiny screws (but don't lose them!), and slide out the switch mechanism and small speaker:

You're going to be tucking the battery compartment inside your lemon, so you want to get it as small as possible. For mine, that meant snipping off the plastic side pieces, giving me this tiny battery box:

Using a slim utility blade, start cutting a square hole into the top of your lemon, pausing every now and then to check the fit:

The inside of the lemon is made of Styrofoam, so after you slice through the thick skin you might want to switch to needle-nosed pliers to pull the crumbly foam pieces out, as opposed to trying to slice them your blade.

Keep checking the fit for your battery box; you want it to slide in perfectly, like so:

There's a concrete weight in the center of these lemons, so your blade might hit it as you're cutting down. Fortunately I found there was still enough room for the battery box to fit, though.

Ok, now on to the grenade top:

Snip off the top of the grenade with pliers. I did one side at a time, and found the plastic was easily bent and snipped. Try to keep those prong bits all the same length, if you can. Use a metal file to smooth out the sharp corners and any jagged edges.

My grenade was Army Green, so next I taped off the gunmetal sections and spray-painted the rest matte black, including the grenade handle:

After painting:

(This is before I removed the painter's tape; the inside areas on the head are still gunmetal gray.)

Now comes the tricky part: putting it all together.

Insert the battery box inside your lemon, and then use a sliver of tape to secure the excess wires to the underside of the grenade speaker. This speaker is going to sit on top of the lemon, directly over your battery box, and it will be held in place by the grenade topper.

So what holds the plastic grenade topper in place? Pins, like these:

You'll need to drill tiny holes in the "prongs" of your grenade head for the pins to fit through. Enter your trusty Dremel:

Here John's drilling the first hole, but I later took over and can assure you: it's not hard. The plastic is easy to punch through, so the only tricky part is making sure you angle your drill bit so the pins will be guided down into the lemon at a roughly 45 degree angle.

To show you how this is all going to fit together, here I'm holding one half of the grenade topper in place, with the speaker and wires tucked underneath:

Put your grenade topper together before attaching it to your lemon, though; this picture is only to give you an idea of the fit. You'll also need to re-insert the switch back inside the handle - don't forget, or your lemon grenade won't go boom!

I don't have a process pic for this next step, because it took too many hands for me to spare one for a photo, but it's just a matter of holding the grenade topper in place, wires and speaker nicely tucked underneath, and inserting the pins through the topper's prongs into the lemon. (Get a second person to help you.) Because the pins will all be inserted at an angle, there's no way the top can be pulled off without removing them. Trust me, I carry my grenade around by the head all the time; it's very secure.

Oh, and my pins were a little too long -  they kept hitting the concrete center of the lemon - so I had John snip off the ends a bit. You may need to do the same.

Once you've got the grenade top secured to the lemon, it's time to DECORATE. (Woot!)

I printed the Aperture logo on plain paper, and then used a craft knife to cut it out for a stencil.

Using a stencil on a bumpy rounded lemon isn't the easiest thing to do, but it WAS easier than I expected. I used an adhesive putty to stick the paper down on 2 sides, and then held each panel down with my fingers as a pounced acrylic paint on with a stiff brush.

As with all stencils, be sure to only pounce straight up and down, and watch your fingers: they'll get paint on them, so you don't want that getting smeared on the lemon.

Tada! I also found and printed the little yellow Flammable symbol, which I laminated with packing tape and then glued in place on the top.

I wasn't happy with the plastic pin that came with the toy grenade, so I replaced it with a stainless steel cotter pin (find them at the hardware store for cheap) and a keychain ring. That's completely optional, though.

The display is made to hold a softball (I found it on ebay for just under $20 with shipping), and I got the idea from this lemon grenade, which has a soundboard installed in the display base instead of the lemon. That one has the grenade displayed horizontally, though, which I just couldn't get to look right for mine. There's a hole in the base, so to fit the plexiglass top on you have to twist the grenade at a slight angle. After weeks of fooling around with trying to modify the base I had a EUREKA moment and realized I could just display the lemon vertically. Problem solved!

I thought an official sounding plaque would be a fun touch, so we ordered this one from our local trophy shop for about $8. The patent number actually DOES have significance: it's an obscure number found in Portal 2 - and if you already knew that, you get about 267 million geek points. (Can't stand the mystery? Then look for it here in the game's ending credits.)

So that's my lemon grenade!

I hope you guys enjoyed the tutorial, because now here's the best part: I made two lemon grenades, just so I could give one away here on the blog!

The give-away has ended, and the winner is Elizabeth of The Elizabeth Archive! Congrats, Elizabeth, and please e-mail me your mailing address!

Some caveats: you don't get your own display case (those things are expensive!), and the grenade I'm giving away does have an imperfection, which you can see in this photo: see the slight gap between the topper and the lemon? The battery compartment and speaker were either a little higher, or the lemon is a little bumpier on top, but for whatever reason I just couldn't quite get those prongs to sit flush. You can only see the gap from this angle, though; overhead and from the side looks fine.

The only other difference is that the give-away grenade doesn't have the Flammable stickers, since I wasn't sure you guys would want them. Other than that it's identical, and would look suitably impressive on any gamer's bookcase or fruit bowl. :D

As always, I'll ship anywhere, so just leave a comment to enter the give-away. I do ask that you only enter for yourself, though - none of this "I have a friend who would love this!" stuff. I'm not trying to be a Scrooge; I just really want this to go to one of you readers. It feels more like a gift to a friend that way, you know?

Ok, I think that's everything! I'll choose a winner at random sometime next week, so be watching for that announcement here and on the Epbot Facebook page.

Happy commenting, everyone!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Husband, The Criminal

UPDATE: Sanity has prevailed! Florida just dropped the charges, with an official saying "It was a mistake on our part." Glad to see the publicity pressured them into doing the right thing - and I guess John won't be getting a criminal record, after all. ;)


There's an article that just hit Yahoo a few hours ago about a Florida man who's been accused of fraud and had his driver's license suspended. Why? Because, over a year ago now, he took his wife's last name when they got married.

You might think this was a typical government paperwork blunder, but no; there's already been a hearing and everything: 

"Following a DMV hearing, Dinh was issued a Final Order on January 14 confirming that his license had been properly suspended for fraud."

Everyone say it with me, now: WHAT?!

Um, Florida? John did the exact same thing with me when we got married 14 years ago - right here in Florida - and other than a few raised eyebrows and one "You can't do that," we had no problems getting all of his IDs reissued with my last name. I should mention it was all John's idea, too, and I still remember the happy day during our engagement when I found the scrap of paper he'd been using to practice his new signature. It was his way of starting a new life with me. It was, as Mr. Dinh said in today's article, "an act of love." So when I read John that Yahoo article just now, I think he may have taken it just a little bit personally.

John: "Tell everyone. Get online and tell everyone. Tell the Florida DMV to COME AND GET ME."

So, yeah, I think you just ticked off my husband, Florida. Oh, and kindly send the fraud notice to John YATES, would you? 'Cuz that's his name. Don't wear it out.

Go read the article here, and many thanks to Melissa L. for the link.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Jen's Gems 1/28/13

I have three quick videos to share, but I know a lot of times these things tend to not work in countries outside the U.S. or show up in RSS feeds, so let me apologize now if you can't see them. Especially since they are REALLY cool. (Not helping? :D)

Even if you can't see the vids, though, stick through 'til the end for non-video goodies.

First, the exterior secret door to end all exterior secret doors:

SO COOL!  (Found via Instructables)

I keep forgetting to show you guys this AMAZING Portal Turret music video. Even if you know nothing about Portal, it should give you a big, toe-tapping grin:

I have the original Portal 2 Turret song as my ringtone on my phone right now (it was a free download from Valve ages ago), but now I want to use this one!

And now, three minutes of fake educational hilarity:

Why does he pronounce it "sea whores"? The world may never know.
 (Found via BoingBoing)

The whole "True Facts" series is pretty hysterical, by the way, so be sure to watch the others when you need a laugh.

And finally, thanks to True Blue Me And You's Facebook page I've found my new favorite Pinterest Board: It's called Don't Compare Yourself To Celebrities, and it's a combination of non-photoshopped pics of celebs & models, side-by-side original vs Photoshopped pics, and modern, heavily photoshopped pics where writer Indy Ink points out and explains how you can spot the 'shop. It's a really uplifting, natural beauty-affirming board, and frankly I've never seen so much original content (by way of the commentary on each photo) on Pinterest before.

Here are a few examples, with Indy Ink's commentary:

This is one of my favorites:
That pic just makes me smile. You know, I honestly didn't think I was being all that fooled by digitally altered media, but after looking at this board, I realized I really *have* been blinded by rampant Photoshopping. I was shocked time and again by, say, Rhianna's real body, or how I never realized there are no elbow or knee lines or thighs-that-touch on doctored ads. There are still stunningly beautiful people, of course, but it's a comfort to know that most everyone really DOES look a little bit like me from time to time. (Meaning belly folds, large pores, wrinkles, and the like.)

So, yeah, I went in looking for fun before-and-after shots, and came away a little bit comforted, a little bit inspired, and a lot more educated. Definitely go check it out!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday Steam: Hot Air Balloons!

I think you guys have been picking up on my oh-so-subtle clues that I really like hot air balloons. Which must be why so many of you have sent me a link to these leggings over on Etsy this week:

They're handmade and printed on 95% cotton, and even though I've never worn patterned tights before, I am seriously tempted.

Anyway, after seeing that link for the fourth or fifth time, I figured, hey, why not do a whole post on hot air balloons? That way I have an excuse to show you guys my latest Etsy purchase!

Ta-da! Isn't it preeetty? I just got it last week, and it looks just as amazing in person.

I've been looking for some new art for my steampunk dining room this month, and this was one of the final contenders:

It's a little too small and soft for the space I needed to fill, but I really love the dreamy quality to it, don't you? And see the faded out type-written letters hidden in the background?

Forgive me if I've posted these before, but these balloons made from old lightbulbs are going around again online, and they're awesome enough to warrant a second mention even if I have:

It took me ages to hunt down the proper source last year, but I'm happy to report they're by a couple named Steve & Susie, and you can actually purchase the balloons at their website. Prices range from $45 to over $300, and there are lots of different styles to choose from:

I see these a lot on DIY inspiration boards, but that's all hand-soldered copper wiring on there. Not exactly an easy DIY!

But if you're looking for a steampunk design you *can* make at home, check out this one from The Gentleman Crafter:

 Hit the link for a video where he explains exactly how he made everything. (Those little sand bags!!)

And of course I have to mention my own balloon ornament tutorial. HAVE TO. ;) In fact, check out these three that reader Kate W. made using my instructions!

SO PRETTY. The quilted texture is just perfect! (Since my tutorial inspired them, that means I get credit for these, right, Kate? That's how it works, right?)

Oh, and check this out: Kate wove the little baskets herself. Yep. She used hemp cord and wire and I am totally jealous. Look how perfect they are! LOOK AT THEM!!

Plus, don't let the Christmas tree throw you, guys; these balloons are equally awesome on a mobile or hanging by themselves from a wall bracket year-round.

Here's a nifty wire version you could use as a planter or mail carrier:

$58 at BHLDN

I'm eyeing every corner in my house right now, seeing where this would fit.

This next one made me smile:

"Dark Voyage" 8X10 art print, $18 by Eric Fan (Larger prints available as well.)


And finally, check out this amazing chandelier hanging in a Japanese chocolate factory, of all places:

If you google "hot air balloon chandelier" you'll find lots of similar styles out there, but I thought this one was the most grand.

Well, I think that's all I've got for now, guys! If you're looking for more jewelry, don't miss the glass balloon earrings I featured here - they're the best I've seen of their kind, and Elaina Louise is a super sweet seller. And if you missed the hot air balloon purse I featured earlier this month, well, what are you waiting for? GO SEE!

So what'd I miss, guys? Share your favorite balloon goodies in the comments!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jen's Gems 1/24/13

My favorite finds are particularly random this week. Hope you enjoy!

Here's something Naomi M. shared with me ages and ages ago, and John actually saw it first, and loved it so much that he BOUGHT it, and then I forgot to mention it to you guys:

It's an illustrated version of Jabberwocky, and Eran Cantrell's illustrations are all like this cover: silhouette-based with a funky steampunky flair. Since Jabberwocky is John's favorite poem of all time, I'm not sure he even finished Naomi's e-mail before zipping over to Lulu to buy it. You can buy the digital version for about $5, or the 40-page softcover (which is a very nice quality, btw) with a black and white interior for $9.95, or spring for the full-color interior at $15. And since it's Lulu, you're supporting the artist directly when you buy it - always a nice bonus.

Oh, and get this: you can actually see the entire book on Cantrell's DeviantArt! Just start here, and click [next] at the bottom to go forward.

- Hey parents, do your kids have one of those old plastic kiddy cars? Does it need a makeover? Then may I suggest....THIS?



Instructibles user CinnamonTwisties made this for her daughter, and omigosh look how cute:


(More pics here, found via ThinkGeek)

- Last month the Navy retired the USS Enterprise, the aircraft carrier we geeks fondly remember from Star Trek IV as the ship with the "nuclear wessels."

However, Jessica K - who is in the process of joining the Navy herself - just shared this good news: They're building a new one.

The new Enterprise won't be completed 'til 2027, but it makes this life-long Trekker happy to know her legacy will go on. [wipes away single tear] 

Oh, and fun bonus trivia: My dad currently works at the big shipyard where they'll be constructing the new Enterprise, so I got to confirm the good news with him. Holla, Daddy-O! 

(More bonus trivia: I have never before in my life referred to my father as "Daddy-O.")

- Here's a great read in The Huffington Post that Jenn P. shared with me this week: "Why I Bought Boy's Underwear For My Daughter." As a non-parent I had no idea this was an issue, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised that gender stereotypes for young kids extends even - or perhaps especially - to the underwear aisle.

- And now, two Shetland ponies wearing hand-knit wool cardigans:

See more at Modern Farmer, found via my friend & avid knitter Laura.


And finally, your moment of hysterically baffling WTF-ness, courtesy of Lindsay G.: Star Wars French Ballet Disco.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pirate Parties Are For Girls!

John has family in town this week, which is why it's been quiet over here the past few days. Yesterday we took some of them out to the Magic Kingdom, and we got to eat lunch at the Be Our Guest restaurant in new Fantasyland! (WOOT!)

But those pictures are coming later.

For now, I just wanted to share this bit of awesomeness: John and I caught Captain Jack's Tutorial? Show? I don't know what you call it, but it's where Jack Sparrow and a pirate crony teach some of the kids in the audience a few moves:

Going by their selections, I think they pick whichever kids are wearing pirate face paint. :) And note the girl in the middle, there. Among a sea of girls in princess dresses, it was fun to see a pirate lass proudly sporting her bandanna & pirate sash.

Ah, but it gets even better. Hang on - I'll come back to that in a sec.

The show is really fun to watch, so even if you don't have kids, definitely try to see it. The good Captain really nailed the role, staggering and slurring and having a merry old time:

He had the smallest kid fight himself, and naturally the fight ended with Jack running away:

His expressions were hilarious, too:

His pirate lackey was also fantastic, looking more like a human cartoon at times, and really jumping into the role with gusto:

But now here's the best part: at the end of the sword-fighting, the pirates ask the crowd who ELSE would like to join their crew. Then they gather all the kids on stage to swear them in. Now, take a look at this picture, and tell me if you see anything...I dunno...really awesome about it:

Your eyes do not deceive you: there ARE, in fact, more girls up there than boys. Of the 20 kids up there, I counted at least a dozen girls - maybe more. Several were in their princess dresses "ARR"ing alongside the rest. Heh.

Plus, lookit that lil' cutie in the pink pirate dress:


I also took a little video, since I wanted you guys to see Cap'n Jack in action - but of course as soon as I hit "record" he stopped talking. Watch 'til the end, though, and you'll see him send the kids away with typical Cap'n Jack flair:

It's cute how the little pink pirate doesn't want to take that scroll. Heh. 

Stay tuned for pics from Be Our Guest, plus a few other fun shots from the day!