Gamma Dose Rate Meter

The Gamma Dose Rate Meter was probably the coolest thing I saw at the Picc-A-Dilly flea market on Sunday. Me, Kate, Eric and a few other people drove there and spent a few hours. It’s been close to a year since I visited that place. I didn’t buy it, though. I did buy a couple books, some padlocks to pick and a 9-LED flashlight for just $3.00. Went on some hikes too, one on Saturday morning and another on Sunday evening.

Last night me and linear did epiosde #4 of The Phone Show. If anyone reading this wants to listen to the archives, visit I’m enjoying doing it. I thought it would be kind of a drag, having to come up with an hour’s worth of show every week, but we’re not even preparing for it. We just take phone calls for most of the hour and hope for the best. So thanks a lot for the show, Party 934!

Last month while looking through all my old envelopes to discover my old addresses, I also came across this handwritten chart, written on the back of my work schedule from Union Station Cine, showing how much money I could make doing quarter roll scams:

This is something I wrote about on my Travels page, but never went into too much detail on. But here’s how it went… In 1992 I discovered that I could pass off rolls of pennies as rolls of quarters to convenience store clerks and other businesses. I did this by taking a roll of pennies and removing 4 of the pennies, then wrapping a couple strips of construction paper around the roll. Stick the finished product into an ordinary paper quarter roll and you’ve got yourself a roll of quarters worth just 46 cents.

In 1992 I’d passed a few of these around Alton and it seemed to work perfectly every time. So Chris Tomkinson and I decide that we’ll spend an entire day, driving from Alton to Paducah, Kentucky, passing out quarter rolls to as many businesses as possible. And by we, I mean me. Chris wasn’t dumb enough to pass the quarters, but I still wanted to split the profits with him if he came along with me.

We had a great time during the trip and the fake quarter rolls paid for our gas and excessive amounts of food and drink all the way there. We also had fun exploring some of Paducah. I don’t know why Chris picked Paducah of all places, but it was a good destination and we got to visit Metropolis, Illinois, the home of Superman! (Or so they claim.)

What I would do is buy something for under $1.00 (usually) and then say, “Could you use any quarters? I happen to have this roll here.” and they would almost always accept it. Then I’d get my $9.00 in change and quickly leave. For the most part, passing the rolls of quarters went smoothly, but I did have occasional close calls. Like one lady who really needed the quarters for her register and started banging them on the edge of the counter to break them, only they wouldn’t break because of the extra layers of paper. I quickly made my way out the door and ran to the car.

Another time the guy opened the roll before giving me my change and saw that there were pennies inside. I had to pretend that I was the one who got scammed by some other store. “The clerk at 7-Eleven had to give me this yesterday because they were out of large bills!” I can’t remember if he seemed to believe me, but at least he didn’t jump over the counter and tackle me for it.

And then there’s the lady who discovered the fakes as I was talking to her and backing out the door. She sees the pennies and goes, “Hey!” I quickly exit and run to my car. Luckily she had to walk around the long counter before she could make it out the door. I was in my car and starting it when she burst out of the front doors and towards my car. I backed out of my place and just kept backing up out of the parking lot and down the street. This particular incident actually happened before Paducah, in East Alton right across the street from the police station.

In between hitting stores, Chris put together the fake rolls of quarters while I drove. I had a metal file box filled with all the necessary supplies for making fakes. I guess we weren’t too worried about fingerprints because I don’t remember us taking any precautions against that. Guess it’d be hard to lift prints from construction paper, though.

Our last close call was very late at night as we were making our way home. On some Illinois highway, cops were stopping all cars and checking for drunks. Before we got up to the checkpoint we were pretty sure that it was some kind of state-wide manhunt for quarter roll scammers. They check my drivers license and talked to us for a few seconds to make sure we weren’t drinking. They shined their light all over the inside of my car. The metal box full of counterfeiting supplies was on the floor in the back.

The problem came when I couldn’t find my insurance card. I looked everywhere for it and couldn’t find it. Not in the glovebox or the visor. Checked all over the floor. Nowhere. The cop kept leaving and coming back to see if I’d found it. And each time he kept shining his light around my car. He finally had us pull to the side of the road to get out of the way of traffic. Chris was freaking out, sure that they would eventually search the car and find our box. After what seemed like forever, I finally found my insurance card amongst all the trash on my floor and we were allowed to leave. It was a stressful search though.

Our final profits for the day were pretty pitiful. Nowhere near the possible $9,500 that I fantasied we could take in. We didn’t keep track of the money during the trip, but we just spent a lot of it on food, gas and other junk and didn’t have much left by the time we got home. But it was still a fun and completely free trip. After our scamming roadtrip, I gave up on the idea of quarter roll scamming being profitable and never tried it again, mostly because it seemed just too risky. Took me a few more years, though, to give up my dream of scamming for a living.

Our quarter roll scamming did make the police log in the Alton Telegraph. I remember they claimed we’d hit places that we didn’t actually hit, such as the Wood River Donut Shop. So either the police were trying to anger us into calling them and telling them how wrong they were, or there was a copycat criminal out there.

Family Ties

No kids this weekend. Hiked on Saturday morning, then spent the rest of the weekend at home doing pretty much nothing. The most unproductive weekend I’ve had in a long time. Watched a lot of Netflix on TV. Somehow I got the idea that Across the Universe would be a good movie. I think I lasted for maybe 20 minutes of that. I wasn’t expecting it to be a musical. Not that I have anything against musicals, but this was awful. I also watched Jenn’s movie Spaced Out, which was great if you like movies about anal probes. It was fun to watch once, and about a million times better than Across the Universe. (I’ve been writing wacky reviews for Spaced Out on imdb, Amazon and Netflix. Plus I added some fake trivia and goofs on imdb, which haven’t been approved yet.)

Somehow last night I ended up watching Family Ties on Netflix. It’s a show from the 80’s I loved which I haven’t seen since the 80’s. Usually when I attempt to rediscover some old show from the 80’s, I can’t believe how awful it is and that I ever liked it. But Family Ties was great, despite that God-awful intro song where the hippies sing about how much they suck at math and English. I watched about 6 episodes. And I was really surprised to find out that Alex P. Keaton was friends with George McFly a year before Back to the Future came out. He had a small part, but it was cool to see them together in something else.

Aquafina and Hostess Cupcakes

Can anyone tell me why xkcd is so incredibly awesome? Each comic is greater than the last and today’s is my new favorite.

Lately I’ve been listening to a podcast called Welcome to Mars which is actually a 12 part radio series that some guy produced for some station. Between 1947 and 1959, the future was written about, discussed and analysed with such confidence that it became a tangible presence. This is a story of weird science, strange events and even stranger beliefs, set in an age when the possibilities for human development seemed almost limitless.

Subscribe to that podcast here. I’ve only got a couple more episodes to listen to. I still listen to lots of podcasts, but I’m too lazy to post names or links to any of them. I need to update my list in the sidebar.

On Saturday I went on a hike with some people, which included finding a few Geocaches. One was in a tree, about 12 feet up, so you had to climb it to retrieve the logbook. I was happy that Holly did that so I didn’t have to. Another one was inaccessible because of overgrown thorns and brush. And the 3rd was the coolest Geocache I’ve ever seen. You had to pop the cap off of an aluminum fence post, then pull on a bolt that was stuck in the side of it. The bolt was attached to a long piece of wire, which pulled a pole up through the post, knocking the cache out of the top. It was like something you’d see in the Goonies. I took a video of it and I’ll post that on here later if it doesn’t suck.

Today I spent most of my day in Portland. I ate a lot of Pez. Caught up with some really old friends on Myspace.

Weekend and HOPE

On Saturday I went on a 2.5 hour hike, then drove to Portland for a few hours. Saturday I took my longest jog ever – about 4.5 miles. Normally I only do about 2. Sunday I hung out with Sheila all day, hiking, geocaching, dinner and a movie. For the first time in my life, I paid more than $40 to fill up my gas tank. It’s now at least $4.00 everywhere. It’s about $20 just to drive to Portland, which is the same price to take an Amtrak there.

As much as I hate that Rick Astley song, I finished up a pretty decent parody of it this weekend, complete with a video. It’s going to be the introduction song for the PLA Panel at HOPE this year. I’m going to wait until HOPE starts to post it on YouTube.

I bought rollerblades yesterday so I can skate with Emily. We skated around on the street for awhile last night. It kills my ankles. We’ll probably end up going all the way to the park on them this weekend.

Harry Potter, HHGTTG, Wal-Mart, Hike

I finished up Harry Potter #7 today. I think I started it on Thursday or Friday. It was easily the best book of the series. I thought it would be boring when I started it. I mean really, after 6 books of wizarding crap can the 7th one really be any different? But yeah, it was great and I couldn’t put it down.

I’ve also listened to 3 “seasons” of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy BBC radio show now. I did a lot of driving around this weekend, so I was able to finish up the 3rd one. It’s great stuff as well.

I ended up at a Wal-Mart and picked up a few phone calls for customers when I heard someone paged to pick up a phone line. It was mostly because I’d been itching to test out this telephone recording device of mine, which resembles a wireless phone earpiece that people wore before everyone had bluetooth. I stupidly messed up the recordings of most of the calls I answered, but here’s one I got:

Yesterday I went on a 4 1/2 hour hike in Corvallis.