Monday, October 30, 2006

Pacman Arcade Costume

After being invited to an 80's themed Halloween Party, I spent weeks (OK, minutes) trying to come up with a cool idea for a costume. Sure, I could go as He-man or Punky Brewster, but I wanted to make it something that had to be built, incorporated some technology and might be a bit of a challenge. What the heck was going to scratch my geek-itch?

Since I've been toying with the idea of making a MAME arcade cabinet, why not make one I could wear? Provided I could shoehorn my laptop into a mini arcade cabinet and still have room for my growing belly, I figured it would be pretty straight forward. And if I'm going to have to pick an arcade game from the 1980's, why not pick the one that really started the arcade craze? I'm referring to Pacman, of course (not that hack-job of a game, Mrs. Pacman). While the original and basically identical Japanese version (Puck-man) came out in 1979, the American version lists 1980 on it's attract screen. That was good enough for me.

While the project took me much longer to complete than expected, it really was a pretty straight forward build. For those interested, what follows is a quick "how to" guide. Of course, you can also just skip to the bottom to see some pictures.


3/4" x 1-1/2" Ferring Strips
1" and 1-1/2" Long Drywall Screws
1/8" Thick Plywood
Plastic Bathroom Corner Trim (slides on to the end of paneling)
1/2" Long Finishing Nails
Spray Paint

Step 1: Frame

I started off by measuring and cutting the side plywood panels. I did this so that I could use them as a template during the construction of the frame. I'm not going to bore you with the dimensions. Just make it to whatever size you feel looks good.

I next made the 2 square parts that would make the top and the bottom of the frame. The entire frame was assembled with the drywall screws (make sure to pre-drill the holes or else the wood will split). This thing was going to be nice and strong.

Using the plywood templates, I measured and cut the 4 main vertical frame supports. The 2 front supports were angled to line up with the angle of the soon-to-be screen. A few more drywall screws later and the frame was beginning to take shape.

After framing up most of the control panel area, it was time to figure out how the laptop would actually be secured to the frame. If I planned to run around a packed bar and drink beers all night, that thing needed to stay in place. I first made a little ledge for the laptop to sit on and then added a horizontal piece just above that and behind the laptop. This allowed me to lock the laptop into place by sliding the laptop down into the newly made slot. You can see in the picture that by this point, I'm already running the necessary software to play Pacman. A simple google of "MAME" will point you in the right direction.

With that done, it was time to finish the frame. That included making the marquee and finishing the pocket that the "Gravis Gamepad Pro" joystick would sit in. I decided to make the joystick removable, so people didn't need to be an inch away from me to play. The directional pad on the Gravis gamepad included a removable joystick ball but I replaced that with a larger wooden ball that I found at a craft store.

Step 2: Paneling and Trim

It was time to assemble the plywood panels and trim to the frame. The trim slid onto the edges of the paneling, which made the whole process pretty forgiving (I could hide my uneven cuts). I just had to make sure all the corners came together when I was done. I used the small finishing nails to secure the paneling and trim directly to the frame. In this picture, most of the panels and trim have already been installed.

Here's a close up of the pocket I made for the joystick. It was small enough so that the joystick could be wedged in pretty securely, yet allow for it to still be removed. It worked well enough but I would have used some kind of latch to lock the joystick in place had I had enough time to make one.

Step 3: Painting and Finishing Touches

The home stretch. It was time to paint the whole thing. I gave it a quick sand down and then put a nice layer of primer down. Next up was two and a half cans of sunshine yellow enamel paint. I learned the hard way why people generally wear masks when spray painting larger objects. Let's just say that I was blowing out yellow for a couple of days afterward. Three coats did the trick. It was time to install the plexiglas for the screen and marquee. I used a utility knife to cut the plexiglas and screws with washers to hold the pieces in place. The picture shows the marquee and screen installed, along with the screen's bezel. You can also see the yellow bungee chords I used for shoulder straps.

Only a few steps left. I found some Pacman cabinet art online and printed them off on a nice color laser printer. I also printed out a picture of a generic arcade machine coin door (no time to buy a real one, unfortunately). Some clear plastic laminate was used to cover the art, while double sided tape held them in place. I added a small, battery powered light for the marquee (it cost $5 at Walmart) and this job was done.

Here I am wearing the beast. While I tried to make it light as possible, the costume still pushes 30 lbs. Part of the problem was my cheapo 500 lb laptop but what are you going to do. I added some cloth around the bungee chords for additional padding. That helped to make wearing the contraption at least bearable but the straps were pretty ugly (Exposed duct tape? Boo!). It wouldn't have taken much effort to make the straps more presentable but it was already time to show the world...

We hit the North Avenue bars (in Milwaukee), where most were already bar-hopping with their costumes. There sure were a lot of mullets this year. Here I am outside the first bar, Vitucci's. While I didn't win any prizes, people seemed to like my costume. I had to sit (stand actually, since I couldn't sit) there while person after person "played me" but I didn't mind. That was the whole point of this whole thing, after all! And yes, there were many jokes made about people playing with my stick.

For those interested, you can find more pictures at the link below:

Pacman Costume Album

All in all, it was a fun project. With the Halloween parties complete, I'll be converting the costume over to a bar-top MAME machine, so this guy still has a lot of life left in him. If anyone has any questions, just leave them in the comment section and I'll be sure to answer them.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Gears of War Trailer Set to "Mad World"

That's the same song featured in the cult-favorite, "Donnie Darko". You'd normally hear some macho, generic heavymetal song in a trailer like that but "Mad World" is a nice fit, in my opinion.

You can find a high def. version of the trailer here:


Here's a nice video of the multiplayer action. It looks very polished.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

2006 The Scouting Report, By the Fans, For the Fans

This has been out for awhile now but I just got around to looking at this years results of Tango's Fan defensive scouting report for the Crew. Tango has shown in the past that collectively, a fan's opinion of a player's defensive abilities matches up pretty well with many of the best defensive metrics out there. Here's the Brewer team page:

2006 Brewers

Hardy is hands down considered the best defender on the team, although he really wasn't given much chance to prove that this year. Fans consider Hall the faster of the two, and he also gets the nod in arm strength. Carlos Lee is voted the human statue. No suprise there. Mench was supposed to be at least an OK outfielder but he sure didn't show it during his short stint with the Brewers this year.

It's hard for me to really disagree with any of these ratings. Fans sure are smart when their opinion is given as an average. :)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Good Sabermetric Forum

I added Baseball Fever's "Statistics, Analysis, & Sabermetrics" Forum to the links at the right of this page. It's a nice, active forum and is frequented by some of the big names in baseball statistical research.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Brewers Can Afford Schmidt?

I was just playing around with some numbers, to see if I could get Schmidt on the team without trading Clark or Jenkins (I'm skeptical they'd be able to), while still keeping the payroll at or below $60 mil:

I'm assuming Schmidt could be had for 4 years and $52 mil. Whether the Brewers would even want to do that, I have no idea :)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Twins are Dead

The Twins are down 0-2 to Oakland but some Twins fans are consoling themselves by this fact:

2000: Oak leads NY 2-1; Oak blows it
"2001: Oak leads NY 2-0; Oak blows it
2002: Oak leads Min 2-1; Oak blows it
2003: Oak leads Bos 2-0; Oak blows it"


As I said there...

"If you guys think Oakland's history of coughing up playoff series somehow improves the Twins' chances of winning the next three games, you are fooling yourselves. While it's certainly possible, the probability is both small and independent of what Oakland did in the playoffs in 2000.

Using the log5 equation (with each team’s regular season win%) and giving the home team a 4% bonus in win probability, here's what I get for the probability that the Twins will win each game and all three:

Game 3: 48%
Game 4: 48%
Game 5: 56%
All 3: 13%

Now, that completely ignores pitching match ups, so it's a rough estimation at best but it certainly gets you in the ballpark. The Twins are about 8 to 1 dogs to advance to the ALCS."

On paper, the Twins are the better team overall but down 0-2, it's probably too late for that to matter anymore.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Once, and For All (Jenkins)

My response to a comment on

"and he[Jenkins] has been terrible when we needed him most the last two years."

Most of us were around here during the 2005 season and know exactly how it played out. It certainly doesn't fit your claim.

By July 1st of 2005, the Brewers were 37-42, 6.5 games back of the wildcard race and on the verge of another losing season and falling out of the playoff race completely. Carlos Lee had been great and Jenkins poor up to that point. Six weeks and a 19-14 run later, the Brewers were 56-56 and only 4.5 games back (August 8th). I'd be willing to bet you were one of the many Brewer fans that were excited by that fact, weren't you? What offensive player was the key during that run? You know the answer:
July, 2005

Lee .243 .313 .398 .711
Jenkins .379 .459 .653 1.112

While Lee had just begun his second half slide, Jenkins caught fire and helped propel the team into at least a modest hope of their first post season play in over 2 decades. It was still a long shot but it was the best position the Brewers had found themselves in so late in the season in years.

We know the rest of the story:

--------Lee-------- ------Jenkins-------

August .264 .310 .434 .744 .310 .371 .575 .946
September .276 .319 .439 .758 .315 .388 .630 1.018

Despite Jenkins doing above and beyond what could have been expected of him, Lee and the rest of the team didn't deliver and the Brewers slowly drifted out of the playoff race. If that proves anything, it's that baseball is a team sport and one player can't do it all. It looks to me like the much heralded Carlos Lee wasn't there for his team when he was needed most.

You can pretend there weren't a dozen playoff threads around here in August of 2005 but there were. But that doesn't fit into the "Jenkins always pads his stats when it doesn't matter" bologna, so people pretend it never happened.