Jan 282012

You have probably heard of wallets made of duct tape. They certainly work well, but there are a few disadvantages. One is that many brands of duct tape are cheap, and deteriorate in short order. The silver facing wears away leaving reinforcing fibers that fray. The adhesive is sometimes not very tenacious and leaves a thick, sticky surface if the tape is pulled away.

I made my own duct tape wallets starting in the summer of 1992. In about 2003 I started making wallets out of a kind of tape that I believe is superior. It goes by several names, but one common name is “house wrap tape.” It’s often sold in conjunction with Tyvek house wrap. The tape is made of polypropylene, and is very strong for its weight. Unlike duct tape it’s isotropic, meaning that it’s the same in all directions, and won’t tear or fray. The adhesive is a very aggressive acrylic, which is needed to stick to the slick surfaces of Tyvek house wrap.

DuPont’s Tyvek house wrap tape is by far the most common brand of this kind of tape. The only downside is esthetic; it has “Tyvek” printed in large letters all along the tape. It’s possible to buy plain colored house wrap tape; I bought the roll I’m using in this essay online. I once had several rolls of Owens Corning house wrap tape which came in pink and had no text. Additional information about these tapes can be found here.

To create a house wrap wallet, we need to know how fancy we want to go. My wallets are simply the main currency pouch plus two smaller card pouches. These instructions are for this style.

To start off we will create the two smaller card pouches. Unroll a 7” or 8” length of tape and place it sticky side up on your table. Unroll a similar length and overlap it about half way lengthwise. Cover the remaining section of sticky-side-up tape with another fresh piece. The fresh piece does not need to overlap the first. Turn the three pieces over and overlap the sticky side up section lengthwise. Repeat this process until you have a panel of tape about 7” wide by about 5” tall.

A typical plastic card like a driver’s license or credit card is about 2 & 1/8” tall by 3 & 3/8” wide. Our card envelopes will be about 2” tall to allow the tops of the cards to peak out and be easily grabbed. Mark the long edge of your panel with a straight line and cut it straight. A Sharpie permanent marker works well for drawing on polypropylene. To minimize edges that can come apart or expose adhesive, overlap a fresh piece of tape on this straight edge and roll it over on the other side to secure it.

You may notice the acrylic adhesive binding to the blades of the scissors you are using. One way to remove this is with WD-40, which also lubricates the revolute joint. Be careful when wiping scissors blades, as they can be quite sharp.

Fold the panel with the cards you intend to carry inside. Allow the tops of the cards to peek over the top. My card envelope dimensions are just about 4” or perhaps 4 & 1/8”.

If you look carefully, you might be able to see that the edges of this panel are squared and cut, and the edges covered with an overlapping length of tape.

Each card pouch panel is about 3 & 3/8” wide. Fold one panel in half and tape one edge together. Place your cards inside the pouch and tape the other side edge.

Once the proper height is determined, cut the panel into two sections.

Don’t worry if you are taping over a gap, as we will correct this in a latter step. Make sure to align the tops of the two envelope sides as you create this seal. Since the adhesive is on the inside, it creates an unfortunate situation, since the adhesive will tend to stick to the cards. We remedy this by everting the card pouches. Remove the cards and turn the pouches inside out. To fully evert the corners, use a single plastic card to push the envelope from the inside out. Eventually it should fully evert. Reinforce the sides with extra tape.

Now the two card pouches are joined side by side. Notice there is a gap of about ¼” between the two pouches. This is to allow them to fold together without binding along the crease.

A new panel is created for the main currency envelope. An American bill is about 2 & 5/8” by 6 & 1/8”. The width and height of the currency envelope will need to be greater than these dimensions. The width should match the width of the joined card pouches.

In this case the currency envelope is 7 & 5/16” wide. As with the card envelopes, cut the panel to the correct width then fold down the middle to create the crease. The height in this case is 3” so the panel height before folding would be 6”. Tape the edges, evert the envelope, and seal with additional tape.

Join the currency envelope to the card pouches along the sides and bottom. You will see a gap at the top of the card pouches that should be taped down. Slip a section of tape inside each card pouch and adhere it to the card pouch and the envelope pouch. Add additional reinforcement along the sides and bottom of the wallet.

There you go! My previous polypropylene wallet lasted about 5 years, and was much more elegant than a duct tape or gaffer tape wallet. I call this model the “Big Red One.” Good luck!

 Posted by on 01/28/2012 Art Comments Off on Creating a Polypropylene Wallet
Jan 122012

I asked Roger Knights for permission to reprint this letter he submitted to Fate Magazine. His letter was printed in the September, 2005 issue. Knights had coined the word “scoftic” some years earlier and had used it on the internet, but I believe the Fate magazine article was its first use in print. I’d forgotten about the zinger of the “rational shell containing an inner nut.” Ha!

Roger Knights

During every vigorous and prolonged controversy each side invents nicknames for its opponents to indicate their errors, wrong-headedness, and bad faith. The best ones are so pointed and barbed that they “stick,” permanently damaging the public image of the other side. One such term is “woo,” another is “pseudoscience.” They effectively suggest the enemy’s rational “shell” conceals an inner “nut.” The further implication is that pseudoscientists are not only biased but untrustworthy. In thrall to their Inner Nut, they are prone to Believers’ Blather: exaggeration, omission, evasion, obfuscation, absurd reasoning, etc.

Our side’s comebacks have lacked its punch and pizzazz. Neither fundamentalist materialism nor pseudo-skepticism nor pathological skepticism nor sneer-quoted “skepticism” can match it as a Tenacious Taunting Tag. But my term, “scofticism,” fills the bill. It too implies its targets are posers: their posture of Rational Doubt (“Show me the evidence”) masks Die-Hard Denial (“I’ll see it when I believe it”). Its further implication is that scoftics are not only biased but untrustworthy. In thrall to their Inner Nut, they are prone to Slimy Scoftic Subterfuge: exaggeration, omission, evasion, obfuscation, dissimulation, etc. (Bills of particulars can be found on anti-scoftic websites. Start here and follow the links. My thumbnail definition of scofticism is “UNhealthy skepticism.” This is a play on the common phrase, “a healthy (dose of) skepticism.”

My coinage (which I’ve used since 8/13/03 on Bigfoot Forums. derives of course from scoffer and skeptic, hence the spelling (please retain!). It floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, so I urge its widespread adoption. However, it shouldn’t be applied to every disbeliever, only to those who are far from fair-minded, and who justify themselves by citing certain scoftical Doctrines of Denial. (An examination of which would require a longer article.)

You may (and should!) freely reproduce this article. [This line wasn’t printed in Fate.]

 Posted by on 01/12/2012 Culture Comments Off on The Origin of the Word Scoftic
Jan 112012

With the publication of Greg Long’s book The Making of Bigfoot in 2004, a great deal of damning information came out about Roger Patterson. A clear picture emerges of a swindler and a con man, one who wrote bad checks and was even arrested for failing to pay the rental charges on the movie camera he used at Bluff Creek.

Not surprisingly Bigfoot advocates shot back, claiming that these accusations were about a dead man who could not defend himself, that they were personal attacks that has no bearing on what was seen in his film, and even that he was broke because of medical bills and more or less had to write bad checks!

The following images are intended to demonstrate that Patterson was unequivocally engaged in Bigfoot related fraud before he made his famous film. These images obviously have nothing to do with writing bad checks.

The individual credited with discovering these images posts on various internet forums as “Kitakaze.” I find it rather surprising that it wasn’t until well into the 21st Century that this was discovered, though the magazines and books have been around since the mid 1960’s.

The first montage includes an illustration by Mort Künstler, and appeared in the December 1959 issue of True Magazine. The illustration accompanied the essay entitled “The Strange Story of America’s Abominable Snowman”… by Ivan Sanderson. Beneath is the drawing Patterson plagiarized which appeared in his 1966 book Do Abominable Snowmen of America Really Exist?

The second montage includes an image by artist Louis S. Glanzman, and appeared in another True Magazine article written by Ivan Sanderson, this one from March 1960 issue entitled A New Look At America’s Mystery Giant. The lower drawing is again from Patterson’s book.

 Posted by on 01/11/2012 Bigfoot 7 Responses »
Jan 072012

Some years ago I watched an old interview with Jacqueline Susann, author of Valley of the Dolls. There was a literary reviewer in the audience, and he offered his opinion that he didn’t think much of the book. This led to some jeering, and Susann seemed somewhat caught off guard. She responded by asking if he had read the whole book, and he admitted that he had not. Zing, got him! So it seemed, until he added something to the effect of “how much soup do you have to taste to know it’s bad?”

Frankly I rather liked Valley of the Dolls, but the analogy stuck with me. It’s valid for things like soup, which are by and large homogenous. As time went on I began to think that many things in life are homogenous, at least human behaviors and esthetic productions. Certain things like the output of performers or favorite TV shows have remarkable and very public declines. A few things have remarkable advances. I remember in the mid 1980’s when I first encountered the RE/Search books. I was sort of shocked to see the humble beginnings of RE/Search as a tabloid magazine. I was amazed at how much the production values and depth of research had increased. Did they sell their souls to the devil to get that good?

I think people naturally use the soup metaphor even if they don’t know it, especially on the Internet. There is so much information generated daily that to even sample a day’s content one has to give things a “taste test” before consuming the entire thing. If you have a YouTube account you can see how long a particular video of yours was watched before the audience departed. Popular websites like Reddit commonly post stories from users that are a few hundred words long. These are later edited down to a sentence or two with the obligatory “TL;DR.”
Long before the Internet people understood the power of a “first impression.” Again, this follows the “soup” analogy, as it assumes that an individual’s long term behavior is relatively homogenous. At the opposite end of this homogenous model of human behavior is the fantasy of domestic violence victims who believe their abuser is “turning the corner” or “getting better.”

You can see the tacit acknowledgement of the soup metaphor when people admonish others to “wait for it” when posting videos. If it’s not happening in the first 10 seconds your instinct tells you it probably won’t get better.

It’s popular these days to claim the Internet is killing our attention spans. There may be truth to this, but I believe we are simply doing a lot more sampling now before deciding to assimilate the whole thing.

Obviously there are things of value that grow on us. It would be foolish to make long term judgments about everything in life from initial reactions. There is a huge class of things that are “acquired tastes.” But over time, I tend to thing that there are many more soup-like things in the world than there are acquired tastes.

 Posted by on 01/07/2012 Opinion Comments Off on The Soup Analogy
Jan 012012

This morning I read an essay on Pharyngula by the popular blogger and prominent atheist PZ Myers. Someone sent him photos of a funny shaped rock and asked him for his interpretation. This reminded me of an episode that occurred to me some years ago.

First off, some background. Some years ago I interacted online with a man named Anton Wroblewski. At the time we were both interested in elements of the Bigfoot issue. Dr. Wroblewski is perhaps best known as the individual who analyzed the Skookum body impression as that of an elk. As you can see by his CV, he has a PhD in geology as well as masters in stratigraphy and vertebrate paleontology.

I finally met Dr. Wroblewski in March of 2010 when he visited Seattle.

It’s great to know people with genuine expertise, as you can ask them questions! Some years back I had been walking along Alki Beach here in Seattle. I started noticing funny shaped rocks, or perhaps teeth, in the sand. I picked a few up. Since my educational background is a BS in pharmacy, I really didn’t know what I was looking at. Were they rocks? Were they fossils? Were they eroded teeth? Why did they have little pits? I’ve always been a curious person so I decided to follow up on what I found. I sent Anton a photograph of the specimens. He thought they were intriguing, but wouldn’t speculate further without examining them. I packaged up the strange samples and sent them off. He examined them and suggested they were not fossilized shark teeth as I had fantasized, but simply funny looking eroded rocks. Well, no harm no foul.

I was appalled to see how differently PZ Myers chose to react to someone who sent him photos of a strange rock sample:

“He also sent me these photos in much higher resolution. Why? Because he’s an ignorant nudnik. These things look nothing like the brain of any creature that has ever existed, unless maybe it’s the lopsided lumpy non-functional excrescence found inside the crania of creationists.”

I’m sure that a celebrity such as Myers is often the target of cranks that send all sorts of things. Yet how do we know that this individual was an “ignorant nudnik” or a legitimately curious person?

It’s doubly disturbing to consider that Myers is an instructor at the university level. Does he behave like this to his students? There is already an enormous social pressure in classrooms against asking questions. No one wants to look foolish by asking a “dumb” question. You can see this social pressure in action when people add meta-data to their questions with the preface “this may be a dumb question but…”

There are excellent resources on the Internet for those without personal access to PhDs. One that comes to mind is AskMeFi or Ask Metafilter. One of the things that keeps a resource like that functioning is close moderation. Personal attacks like asserting the questioner is an “ignorant nudkik” are not tolerated. I’ve used AskMeFi to help me gather information about such strange things as “Mountain Marbles.” For those who are particularly wary of publicity, it’s possible to ask questions anonymously.

While it’s perfectly reasonable to dismiss those questions that are not asked in good faith, it’s unfortunate to see mockery and dismissal used by someone like Myers who should know better. Of all people, Myers should be well aware of how much pain and misery in the world is caused by ignorance. Inherent in asking a question, ANY question, is the admission of ignorance. When the very act of admission of ignorance is mocked, as Myers is doing, it creates a chilling effect for those who might wish to learn.


While out exercising today, it occurred to me the individual who sent the photos may have not specifically ASKED Myers what the rocks were. Upon carefully re-reading the post, it appears that the individual concluded that the inorganic sample was “mineralized brain.” Heck, I can relate, I thought I might have found “fossilized shark teeth.” Without specific clarification, we can’t know what exactly the individual claimed.

 Posted by on 01/01/2012 Opinion, Personal History, Science 4 Responses »