Funded! This project was successfully funded on April 22, 2011.

Update #39

A Day in the Life of E&M Labs

Hey Folks!

It's me, Marshall, siege toy cadet first-class.  For my first kickstarter update, I thought I'd run you through how I spent today, December 3rd.  If you don't have time to read a long post, the important news is this: we'll be shipping out 250 Trebuchettes on Monday and even more later in the week.  Everything is going well, and we're still on track to have every kickstarter order filled and delivered just before the 25th.

Today my laser-watching shift was scheduled from 1pm to 9pm, but I woke up a little early at around the crack of 11.  (I'm currently sleeping on an air mattress on the landing of Mike & Evan's staircase; I'll look for apartments in the area as soon as our crazy work schedule permits it.)  On my way down the stairs I passed Mike going the other way.  I wished him a good morning, and he wished me a good night and went to bed.  I can tell the glamor of the graveyard laser shift has pretty much worn off for him.

After breakfasting on some of Evan's delicious scones, I drove north to the lab.  On the way I stopped by the friendly, neighborhood big-box hardware store for some acetone, a deck scrubber, new pvc-coated rubber gloves, and some silicone sealant.  It was a pretty easy pre-shift errand: both yesterday and the day before I had to drive down to San Jose to fetch a half-pallet (about 650 lbs) of plywood.

When I arrived a E&M Labs World Headquarters, Evan was cutting out a batch of trebuchet arms on the laser and soldering an arduino temperature control chip, whatever that means.  Evan said he was planning on staying past the end of his shift anyway, so I met two of my old roommates ("Jeff" and "Ed") for lunch in Palo Alto.  We went to a vegan chinese restaurant, about which I was initially skeptical.  However, as the saying goes: when in hipsterville, do as the hipsters.  It was pretty tasty.

Jeff came back to the lab with me.  He needed some workspace for an electrical project: he's creating his own ultra-sensitive four-channel headphone volume controller.  Sounds cool.  With him keeping an eye on the laser, I went outside to clean another batch of weights.  As we probably mentioned in a previous update, the 11,500 counterweights Mike bought arrived covered in WD-40, and we can't send them out to little kids like that.  My first engineering task after flying out here was to figure out the best way to clean them all, and this is what I've been doing:

Materials needed: Concrete mixing tub, wire grate, deck scrubber, vicegrips, funnel, acetone, gas mask, safety goggles, heavy gloves, little plastic bins, hand truck.

Step 1: Add one box of rolled-steel niblits to your mixing tray.  Each little box of 260 weighs about 80 lbs, so lift with your legs.

Tie-Dye is excellent safety apparel, and it also hides stains really well!

This makes a cool sound.  I didn't record it, but it's kind of like "skkkkkkshkshkshkshkshkk".

Step 2: Add about a quart of de-greaser.  Don't try this at home, kids.  I'm a professional.

Step 3: Scrub vigorously.  I bought this stiff-bristled deck scrubber today because I snapped the handle of our last push-broom.

I cleaned 8 of these boxes today, or around 2000 weights!

Step 4: "The Art of the Pour".

Hang onto that wire mesh or it will cause you problems.

Step 5: Strain out the disgusting nail polish n' industrial lubricant mixture into an empty can.  Note to self: figure out the nearest hazardous waste disposal site so I don't just keep increasing the stockpile of flammable liquids under my desk.

Step 6: Repeat!

In summary, I got MY full-body workout for the day.

After finishing up managed to grab a little bit of rest, but then Evan handed me 200 mailing stickers.  All of these need to go on filled Trebuchette mailers in time for the scheduled USPS pickup Monday morning.  Stuffing envelopes: the unglamorous side of tiny start-ups.

Just then I had a pleasant surprise: one of our backers, an employee of a local high-profile search engine, showed up with 5 pounds of fried chicken!  Before we ship every package we send a form email to the recipient offering them a tour of our lab if they live nearby.  This has saved us about 50 bucks in postage so far. :)  Anyway, this backer had the brilliance and generosity to show up to his tour bearing food, even though HE was the one doing US a favor.  Thanks again, Charlie!  I could get used to this.  You kickstarter people are really the best of people.

Aaaaaand, that about it!  Since stuffing my face at dinner I have been stuffing packages with Mike, until I convinced him to continue without me while I wrote a quick kickstarter update. ;)  With all the manual labor these last few days, I've been falling way behind him in the Post-Thanksgiving Inter-Office Burpee Contest standings.  I think I'm going to have to be content with second place; that man is a machine.  A machine that beats you at table tennis.

Well, thanks for reading all the way to the end here!  I'm having a blast working with Evan & Mike, and I'm super excited about the help they're going to give me with my own upcoming kickstarter project.  Stay tuned for more details...

I hope your Saturday was almost as cool as mine, and please enjoy the heck out of your Trebuchette when it arrives.



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      Creator Cindy Au on December 5, 2011

      Great update!

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      Creator Marshall on December 4, 2011

      Thanks for the heads up, Markus! The gloves I was using were PVC coated vinyl chemical gloves. I did wash my hands immediately afterwards.

    3. Missing_small

      Creator Markus Gutschke on December 4, 2011

      When I studied chemistry, our professors always got mad at us, when we worked with organic solvents wearing rubber gloves.

      I turns out that apparently organic solvents are quite good at making their way both through gloves and through skin. But to add insult to injury, they can also carry harmful organic compounds with them, which on their own wouldn't be able to make the way through the skin into the blood stream.

      Gloves aggravate the situation as they act as a nice reservoir for the chemicals before transitioning through the skin. They also make it less likely that you'll notice if you accidentally touched the chemicals. In many cases, you expose yourself to less chemicals by a) not wearing gloves, b) trying to avoid direct contact as much as possible, and c) immediately washing your hands when you do happen to splash chemicals on your hands.

      Fortunately, unlike some inorganic compounds or the really nasty organic ones, brief exposure to both acetone and WD40 isn't particularly bad. You just want to avoid extended exposure, if possible.

      To put things into perspective, industrial workers used to wash with benzene -- for decades. They obviously have a lot more to be worried about than anybody occasionally working with acetone.

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      Creator dimitrios on December 4, 2011

      I join in with Mr. Otto's sentiment of 'really appreciating the effort.' As I read while viewing photos of Marshall's degreasing task, many past projects, mostly related to owning a 'handyman's nightmare' of an old house, flashed before my eyes. I did not envy Marshall his job. At the same time, I felt, 'Better him than me.' Fortunately, he has youth on his side. I and some of my age peers might look at the Trebuchette project and say, "Are you kidding? I think it's time for a nap." Thank you, even if my Trebuchettes arrive 'right after' Christmas, but I'm hoping for a family Trebuchette duel on Christmas morning. Maybe we'll fling Christmas cookies or little hunks of fruit cake. I hope your Trebuchette's and instructions reflect the pride by stating, "MADE IN THE USA."

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      Creator Randy Otto on December 4, 2011

      Man, it is too bad you guys couldn't have found an industrial vapor degreaser close by, now I am really appreciating the effort. I thank you for update in "making nice."

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      Creator Marshall on December 4, 2011

      WHOA in that last photo I just realized it looks like that building is on fire!

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      Creator Marshall on December 4, 2011

      Haha, I love that movie. "Such a nice, plump frame wot's 'is name has... Had... Has! Nor it can't be traced..."

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      Creator kecane on December 4, 2011

      "...I have been stuffing packages with Mike..." Sweeny Todd anyone????

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      Creator Tim Watts on December 4, 2011

      Great progress! I'll bring ya'll some good ox tail for a tour.

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