Posted By on July 17, 2014

The Umbrella Shop Official suppliers of rain cover and jousting equipment to The Chap Olympiad, this formidable company deals in sturdy brollies of all prices by mail order only, thus maintaining competitive prices. Some of their brollies are aimed at commissionaires and doormen, but since these days a gentleman is often left to fend for himself outside his abode, he need look no further than this establishment for all his shower-protective requirements.

Swaine Adeney Brigg London’s celebrated maker of leather goods, umbrellas, hats and other luxury items started life as a whip maker in 1750, founded by John Ross, then acquired by James Swaine in 1798. Today they are still St James’s finest purveyor of high quality umbrellas, with prices slightly higher than in 1798.

James Smith & Sons Despite being one of the unfriendliest shops in Western civilisation, there is no denying James Smith & Sons’ rightful place in the history of London, and its beautiful store as one of the landmarks of what little remains of gentlemanly London outside of St James’s and Mayfair.

Batman 75th Anniversary Short

Posted By on July 5, 2014

A brand new short from producer Bruce Timm featuring a lost tale from Batman’s past, the Dark Knight tracks a strange giant to the mysterious lair of Dr. Hugo Strange.

Pilsner’s Pyrotechnics— Happy Fourth!

Posted By on July 2, 2014

Yes, gang, it’s time again for some fireworks of the musical variety. Unlike last year, though, there are no actual patriotic tunes on the playlist. That’s because I don’t have too many of them, and I’ve posted just about all of them before. If I wanted to put my Uncle Sam hat on, I’d now have to go back into the pre-1925 acoustical recording era for some sides by flag-waving artists like George M. Cohan, Billy Murray, and John Philip Sousa. However, I tend to avoid posting many acousticals because their sound is definitely “low-fi.”

Also, the Picks are probably taking a sabbatical in August, because I’m moving. I haven’t moved in seven years, and this is turning out to be quite a logistical challenge, even though I’m not moving very far geographically. So I might be using a laptop around the beginning of the month, and without my desktop PC and its external hard drive, I can’t post any MP3′s to the web at all. So as a bit of a “lagniappe” (as they say down in New Orleans), I’ve thrown in a couple of extra tunes, including the two-part, 12″ Victor 78 of the song medley from the Ziegfeld Follies of 1927. This record is in fairly rough shape, but I’ve done enough audio restoration on it to make it sound pretty good, I think. I’ve also digitally “spliced” the two sides together so that they play continuously.

And so, a phase in the history of Pilsner’s Picks (and Pilsner) comes to an end. I’m going to miss the Old Manse (also known as “Tara”), but I’ve just been hit with an enormous and unexpected rent increase, and I can’t afford the upkeep any more— it is starting to look kind of run-down, now isn’t it? So enjoy the music and the summer weather, everyone, and I’ll “see you in September,” to quote another old song.


Hexayurt Swamp Cooler for Burning Man!

Posted By on June 28, 2014


My family is going to Burning Man this year! I've been twice in the past and there have been a few things about my experience that were less than comfortable. The biggest problem I had on the playa was sleeping during the hot days in a tent. Once the sun rose over the RV I pitched my tent next to the heat became unbearable and I had to get up.

So for this year I have built a Hexayurt to stay in and a "swamp cooler" to keep it cool during the hot days. A swamp cooler is essentially identical to what we know as a humidifier, its a fan that blows air over some sort of absorbent material. In environments that are very dry, like the Black Rock Desert where Burning Man is held, the air exits the swamp cooler significantly cooler that when it entered. Or at least that's the plan! I'll take data and report back after the Burn.

Hexayurt Swamp Cooler for Burning Man

I found a set of brand new replacement humidifier "filters" at our town dump, and these seemed to be about the size I wanted so I started there. Very similar filters are available online as well as all of the other components needed for this build..

      <iframe style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//"> 

Hexayurt Swamp Cooler for Burning Man

I cut some frames from Coroplast sheet stock and glued together a frame with silicone seal to hold the filters in the center of the plastic shipping crate I decided to use for the body of the swamp cooler.

Hexayurt Swamp Cooler for Burning Man

The 200 mm fans are made for cooling PC cases. They are very quiet and quite efficient, using a few tenths of an amp each and pushing 120 CFM of air.

Hexayurt Swamp Cooler for Burning Man

On the side of the filters facing the fans is a loop of hose with several holes in it. There is a pump at the bottom of the crate that circulates water over the filters, keeping them wet. There is also a float switch to turn the pump off if the water level get too low. The pump switch I used switched the reverse of what I needed so I added a relay to the circuit to achieve the desired action.

Upcoming: Hexayurt swamp cooler for Burningman!

Posted By on June 28, 2014


We’re headed to Burning Man this year! I am in the process of building a Hexayurt for us to stay in on the playa. To keep it cool I’m going to build a solar powered swamp cooler. These are a few of the components that I’ve gathered so far. The whole build process will be here in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned!

Welcome to the Steampunk Workshop

Posted By on June 27, 2014


I'm Jake von Slatt, a maker, tinkerer, fabricator, and all around techno dilettante living and creating just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I'm interested in the blending of 19th century aesthetics and technology with the modern world and showcasing projects of that ilk here on While I eschews the temptation to rigidly define the term "Steampunk," I do know that it has something to do with the intersection of technology and romance. 


​Click through for a list of resources describing what I do here:


I'm starting to get several requests like this per week and I simply can't response to them all in detail.  However, here are some sources that may help you and do cover most of what I feel I have to say on the subject:
In addition you will find Hi-Res images that you are welcome to republish here:

Google honors the people of World War I with a virtual museum

Posted By on June 27, 2014

Almost 100 years ago, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot dead in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip. The fallout from this assassination ultimately led to the start of the Great War (World War I). To commemorate this historical event’s centennial milestone, Google has launched a new portal dedicated to telling the story of this extraordinary time.

With support from several museums, this channel brings together a trove of World War I content like documents, letters, paintings, photographs and poems from soldiers. A visual presentation loaded with exhibits, visitors can take a four year virtual tour following the places and people that were a part of this historical period. A living archive, Google says it will continue to add content to this project as more organizations continue to honor World War I.

Visit the portal at:

Chester Nez, Last of the original Navajo Code Talkers, Dies at 93

Posted By on June 24, 2014

He was the last of his kind, one of the 29 original US Marine Corps “Code Talkers” of the Navajo Nation. As a child, the teachers at his government-run boarding school tried to force him to give up his native tongue, a hellaciously complex mess of tenses and verbs without many adjectives. In WW2, he and his brothers would ironically use that very language to help the United States liberate the Pacific.

Image from Indian Country Today Media Network.

It was in many ways typical of USMC abstract thinking, using a rare language as a way to bypass the then-time consuming process of coding and uncoding battlefield radio transmissions. In 40 seconds a trained Code Talker could send an unreadable message that would otherwise take 40 minutes to encrypt-send-decrypt. While not the first time the US had used an Indian language as a ready-made code (there were instances from WW1), Navajo had the built-in advantages of its inherent complexity and the fact that it had never been committed to paper. The idea was first conceived by Phillip Johnson, son of a missionary to the Navajo whom had lived on a reservation as a child and recognized its potential as a code. The 29 original Code Talkers, including Nez, further added to the complexity by developing a word-substitution code of their own. Fighter planes were “Da-he-ti-hi” (“hummingbirds”), aircraft carriers were “Lo-tso” (“whales”), etc. When the Japanese finally did capture a Navajo marine (a rifleman, not a Code Talker), he could make no sense of the code.

Charles Nez served with distinction throughout the Pacific Theater, beginning in the hell of Guadalcanal and progressing through Bouganville, Guam, Peleliu, and Anguar. Nez and his brothers fought from the front lines, coordinating assaults, calling in timely artillery and air strikes, serving with a level of bravery, valor, and distinction great even by the high standards of the US Marines in the Pacific. They were a vital addition to the war effort, likely saved thousands of American lives and accelerated the course of the terrible war considerably.

Punkettes On TV!

Posted By on June 21, 2014

Well, one of us anyway.

Last Saturday was the 50th anniversary of the airport where I took flying lessons. The breakfast in the morning was held in the hangar where most of the planes I learned to fly were kept.

There were aeroplane rides planned for young people, but sadly, thunderstorms trashed those hopes and the kids had to make do playing with paper aeroplanes in the rain. But there was a flight simulator brought in by the cadets, where I saw a good number of people I wouldn’t want to be in a plane with, along with some ten-year-olds that I would be happy to.

Things were winding down when the Global reporter showed up, and everyone else seemed busy closing things down so I waved her down and asked if she wanted to see the planes. She asked if I was a pilot, and made me feel pretty special, and it was fun. But without further ado, click the link to the video that showed up on Global News that evening:

Global Report, St. Andrew’s 50th

Over The Waves: Radio In Fiction

Posted By on June 19, 2014

I attended a panel presented by Kelly Armstrong a few years ago, where she commented on how cellphones were the bane of many urban fantasy writers. They create a lot of “well why don’t they just _______” plot holes, requiring the author to get creative in finding ways of preventing the cellphone from working.

I felt cheated. I thought, if the technology of the era you’re working in is a problem, why are you writing in that time period?

One of the awesome things about dieselpunk and the other ‘punks, is that they’re all about the technology (or should be!) The ability to communicate over long distances can be a great plot device that really sets the world apart from medieval fantasy. In contrast with most urban fantasy, you can have one character in one situation, who is in contact with another character in a completely different situation. They can communicate in real time, but not physically help one another. For example, you could have a character in a plane that’s on fire and careening into the ground, speaking real time with characters who’s heart’s are breaking because there’s nothing they can do to help.

And on the other hand, the limitations of radio keep it differentiated from urban fantasy. Radio is only good for a certain number of miles, and not so good over rough terrain. Better if you’re broadcasting from high up, like in an aeroplane – you can reach much farther then. Less, if you’re in the middle of a storm with a lot of electrical activity. Not only that, but there’s limitations in the way it works. Only one person can speak at a time on any particular frequency. If one person is speaking, and another person tries to transmit over them, you get static and you’re lucky if you can hear either of them.

Cap’n’s Cabaret #118: And They’re Off!!

Posted By on June 14, 2014

Throroughbred horse racing, the Sport of Kings; grand, classy, exciting…and a good excuse for a mint julip and a wager or two.

Years of careful breeding, specialized training, and practice go into crafting the perfect racing horse, and not a little luck!  Horse, jockey, and trainer must learn to think as one, learn the subtle feel of every track, and anticipate the moves of all of their competition. And yet in the end it is the horse that must want to win, and the heart of a champion can beat out even the mightiest of horses. [image of Seabiscuit with jockey George Woolfe; wikimedia]

And a good Dark Horse can throw the world of racing into a tailspin!

Such a moment may be with us today as we at the Cabaret travel to Pimlico Downs in Baltimore, Maryland, for a one-on-one duel between two already legendary champion thoroughbreds: 1937 Triple Crown champion War Admiral and that ultimate of Dark Horses, Seabiscuit.  It’s a classic tale of the underdog…err…horse.  

War Admiral [pictured right; wikimedia], a powerful fast-starter trained by George Conway, is the horse they all knew would be a champion.  Strong, fast, spirited, controlled.  He dominated the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes (here at Pimlico!), and Belmont Stakes in New York, becoming only the fourth horse to claim the coveted Triple Crown.  With veteran jockey Charles Kurtsinger, War Admiral is the expected favorite in this one-on-one matchup, where fast-breakers tend to dominate

By comparison, Seabuiscuit was the horse nobody wanted: undersized, knob-kneed, lazy, moody, hard to control, distractable.  His early trainer “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons decided to focus his efforts on future 1935 Triple Crown champ Omaha and pawned the undersized, lazy horse on the unorthodox trainer Tom Smith. Under Smith’s tutilage, Seabiscuit went from the butt of jokes to a race-dominating champion, earning thousands of dollars in handicap prise wins despite ever-increasing weights, and quickly becoming the horse to watch. Wishing to truly demonstrate the power and potential of this equestrian David, the owner challanged the Goliath War Admiral to today’s race. Carefully trained using a bell to nullify War Admiral’s fast start advantage, Smith thinks they can pull off the upset.

Poisonous Fashions

Posted By on June 13, 2014

In Toronto, Ontario, a most interesting display is opening on June 18th. The Bata Shoe Museum “for the curious” is opening an exhibition called “Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century”.

Beneath the ruffles and dainty lace of the highest fashions, lay perilous and deadly secrets. Can a top hat kill you? Can a pair of dapper boots slowly poison you to death? If you wear those billowing skirts and step too close to the fireplace will you go up like tinder?

From hair combs made of highly flammable plastic that caught entire factories on fire, to socks that were colored with highly poisonous dyes, the exhibition has it all.

The Event Announcement:

Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century

Transport yourself back to the 19th century where beautiful outfits fashioned by seamstresses and shoemakers supplied the privileged with enviable ensembles. Swathed from head to toe in expensive garments and shod in delicate footwear, fashion-forward women graced the boulevards and the ballrooms with their colorful presence. Their tailored male companions cut equally refined figures in their black coats, spotless white linens, lustrous top hats and shiny boots. Yet presenting an elegant exterior was not without its perils. The discomfort of constricting corsets and impossibly narrow footwear was matched by the dangers of wearing articles of fashion dyed with poison-laced colors and made of highly flammable materials.

From the challenges faced by those who produced fashionable dress to the risks taken by those who wore it, this exhibition provides thought provoking insights into what it means to be a fashion victim.

Oh darling, this dress is simply to die for.

All we can say is, The Punkettes may be making a trip to Toronto.

The Bata Shoe Museum Website

photo credit: <a href=””>Sacheverelle</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>