Sunday, October 29, 2006


Lenore is a "Flying Crank Ghost". She makes an appearance once a year on Halloween, creeping out the little kids, amusing the teens and wowing the parents. There's not really much to her - a coat hanger wire frame, styrofoam wig head, couple of LED's and a black light. Also the rigging that makes her "float" - that's a little more complicated. You can get a full description at Phantasmechanics, which is where I found the original plans.
Lenore is a great example of what my style of Halloween special effects is - creepy, but not gory or shocking. I love the little, little kids that slowly creep up to her with huge eyes, then usually say "she's a puppet mommy!". OK - if you're older then you like the guy with the rubber hatchet jumping out and screaming, or the leaping skeleton... not for me thanks. I'd prefer it if Lenore just showed up in your nightmares - floating silently with the eery glowing eyes.

Monday, October 23, 2006


I haven't mentioned much about the trains - I think I wrote about all I could on the Lynx Mountain and Blackberry page ( which I haven't updated in some time - there are still baby pictures of No 1 son and no mention of No 2). But here's the latest addition to the roster - a cantakerous little dragon called Ruby. Ruby came from an Accucraft kit. Yes, I had to put it together. It wasn't difficult - I've made more complicated models with Meccano - but the neat thing is she's live steam. The two knobs on the rear control gas flow to the burner and steam to the throttle. The lever is forwards/neutral/backwards. I've had her running (sort of) three times now. Current problem is the timing. Steam engines have a complicated system of valves and eccentrics that all have to be in the right position at the right time. On the first run, Ruby ran better in reverse than forward. I though this was me setting the timing off a bit, but apparently that's how it comes from the factory. Huh. So off to the Internet for some wisdom .
Yow. This is a little more complicated than I thought. Which kind of ticked me off at first - I mean, who wants a toy that you have to adjust until it works? Oh yeah - me. I'm the guy who built his own telescope instead of buying one from London Drugs and spent a week aligning the optics. Then there is the hand laid track in the railway which takes me a day to make 6 feet. And the laser show, and the sound system... OK - a lot of things don't quite work as well as something from the store, but it's the journey, not the destination. Unless the destination is like ,Disneyland, then it's all about the destination.

Monday, October 02, 2006

10 reasons why Halloween is better than Christmas

I noticed two things that happened at the end of August on the same day that kind of creeped me out. 1) Walking into a Michael's Craft store and seeing the Halloween decorations and 2) the Sears Christmas Wish Book arriving on our doorstep.

I like Christmas, but like Valentines Day and Thanksgiving there's that subtle (sometimes not so subtle) pressure. Pressure to be happy, enjoy it all, get into the spirit of the occasion....

Give me Halloween over any holiday of the year. No pressure. Parents try to compete with fancy Martha Stewart decorations and elaborate home made costumes... but a $4.99 "screaming skull " and a home made "Link" costume ( complete with theme song) can make for just as a memorable evening. It's all about the candy (and the screaming skulls ) people.

So I present to you my humble list:

10 reasons why Halloween is better than Christmas
10. You won't spend endless hours in the mall looking for the "right" candy.
9. No such thing as a "tacky" Halloween decoration.
8. Not getting into the Halloween spirit does not make you a "Scrooge" or a "Grinch".
7. Little Snickers bars vs eggnog.
6. Halloween specials on TV tend toward "Friday the 13th Marathons" ( OK... not necessarily a good thing, but Mom won't make you crowd around the TV to watch ).
5. Bank tellers and cashiers look much funnier as clowns and witches than elves and Mrs. Clauses.
4.The Perfect Pumpkin - $1.95, and 20 minutes to carve. The Perfect Tree - $89.99 and three hours to decorate ( not to mention pumpkins don't drop needles on the carpet ).
3. "Monster Mash" - the only Halloween Carol.
2. Rarely actually acknowledged by most until 5:00 pm October 31, and over by 9:00 pm
( except for random fireworks).
1. Christmas only 55 days away, as opposed to 365.