THE BIG SHILL: Things You Can Buy Which I Don’t Sell

Many years ago on livejournal, my friend Ben Stone and his now fiancee Nadja, AKA The Benchilada & fairyarmadillo, AKA Stone Robot Enterprises, inaugurated a holiday tradition of collecting all the friends who made things to share their wares with the everyone else which he called THE BIG SHILL. The Steins of Science were part of one of these long ago, in the beforetime. I would like to maintain this tradition.

There is a difficulty however. In this darker era of the internet, I can’t just ask people to add their favorite things to my list in the comments below since I turned comments off four years ago. If you have something you think I should know about and share with the world, drop me an email.

Without further ado, a far from exhaustive list:

Jenn Rose – Jenn is a special effects artist who every last one of us who has seen a movie in the last decade has enjoyed the work of. When she isn’t making wonders for the screen, she is making mostly bug-based wonders to wear at Cetonia Designs. Also, her instagram account, @bugluvphotography, is well worth checking out.

Meredith Yayanos – my friend Mer has done so much wonderful spooky music over the years and is one of my favorite people. She helps keep me thinking and my life strange. I direct you here to her previous project but poke around a bit and you may find new things coming from her soon.

Laurie Penny – is a journalist and writer I’ve been enjoying the work of since Warren Ellis first introduced her and her red pen of justice to me oh so many years ago. She has a new book out “Unspeakable Things” which you can get here, and enjoy her other work and articles.

Brian Clevinger & Scott Wegener – Atomic Robo is a pleasure I have been sharing with you folks for years. I’m pleased to say that they’ve gotten their act together, admitted that they actually like money, and put together a decent shop for their merch. Please support Action Science.

Maki Naro – A cartoonist formerly contributing to Popular Science, who I worked with a little bit to help make one of his series happen, Maki is now doing his own thing with his own patreon and store, featuring such items as Octopus Jesus.

Matt Lubchansky – a DADicated collector of DADS and creator of the comic Listen To Me. He also regularly causes hilarity on The Nib. You may find some of his fine wares on offer here.

In fact, in light of that last link, why don’t you just go through the entirety of the Topatoco store. They’ve provided me a box of holiday delights to give to people every year.

DrinkTanks – I previously discussed this in a post a while back, but I heartily endorse their Juggernaut 128oz growler over buying the 4.3L Stein of Science. Get the Juggernaut and a smaller stein. Everyone, but especially you, will be happy.

Ben Templesmith – On of my favorite comic artists, I’ve been enjoying his work since “Fell” though I suspect you’ve been enjoying his stuff in any of a dozen different venues. His current project Blackholers has been a hoot, I’m looking forward to Blood Songs, and he also has his own store up as well.

Warren Ellis – Speaking of Warren, as I can blame my acquaintance with half the people on this list on him in one way or another, I would like to really encourage you read his prose fiction rather than just his comic work. I have an unholy lust for his book Gun Machine to be turned into a crime of the week serial on AMC, but that just ain’t gonna happen because we aren’t allowed to have nice things. In the last year, he made two very enjoyable novellas, Elektrograd and NORMAL, that I would love to see more of and I think you may enjoy them too.

Shadows of Brimstone – this game has brought me so much fun in the last several years. I often refer to it as Cowboys & Cthulhus. Buying absolutely everything they’ve made related to this game is Warhammer-level, credit card melting purchase, but if you get the two base sets, which are available for an EXCELLENT deal right now, you’re good to go for a very long while.

Chernobyl Teaser Pictures

I am freshly returned from Ukraine suffering the worst case of jetlag I have ever had. Needless to say, I am a moderately functional human only by the grace of Black Blood of the Earth. Speaking of which, you’ve still got one more week of production left in this window before American Thanksgiving.  After that, we move into HOLIDAY MADNESS.

That said, my brain isn’t working enough to expound upon all I saw in the last weekend. I’m still thinking about it all and the primary things I keep thinking are “That wasn’t nearly enough time there” and “I wish I spoke Ukrainian”.

In the meantime, here’s a few teaser pictures for a future post.

The Chernobyl Sarcophagus - on Nov 12th, they began rolling they new containment over it. This is one of the last views of it we'll ever have.

The Chernobyl Sarcophagus – on Nov 12th, they began rolling they new containment over it. This is one of the last views of it we’ll ever have.


Comrade Lenin & Commodore Funranium - Statue in the town of Chernobyl.

Comrade Lenin & Commodore Funranium – Statue in the town of Chernobyl.


Pripyat Music School - perhaps it's the Palace of Musics. Soviet Union sure did have a lot of places called "palaces".

Pripyat Music School – perhaps it’s the Palace of Musics. Soviet Union sure did have a lot of places referred to as “palaces”.


Rodina Mat Monument- I'm not sure this photo does justice to how large this statue is.  Below her feet is the four story Great Patriotic War Museum of Ukraine. Big.

Rodina Mat Monument- I’m not sure this photo does justice to how large this statue is. Below her feet is the four story Great Patriotic War Museum of Ukraine. Big.

Phil’s Trip To Nowhere: A Mileage Run Tale

This is a story of desire for recognition in a cold world governed by arcane calculations and the eldritch math of the airlines. One man’s fight to have a more comfortable seat. I am, of course, speaking of the classic folly of doing a mileage run. TL;DR version: I’m not doing that again, or at least not like I did it this time.

At the end of September, when I figured out that I was going to be taking a surprise trip to Chernobyl, I realized “Hey, that’s a lot of miles round trip for San Francisco to Kiev. I wonder if that’s enough to get me any kind of medalliony, statusy type things…” I did the math and then gently placed my head on the desk because, dammit, I was within ~2000mi of Gold.

I have friends and colleagues that travel a lot. A LOT. I appreciate their advice and wisdom on how to build the most efficient travel kit and how to make the most of the trip itself. They’re eternally hunting the finest $/mi deals and are active on FlyerTalk. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told “On the plane and in the airport, this is some of the most productive/creative time I ever get.” Above all, they have taught me that some medallion status, any status, as a frequent flyer is the difference between misery and, in our TSA blighted world, less misery.

So, I thought I’d give it a go. I would do a mileage run, AKA a trip taken purely for the purposes of accumulating flight miles toward medallion status. The thing you want is a calculator which will find the optimized $/mi round trip route from a designated location for a certain distance. Since you don’t particularly care where you go, that’s all you need. Funny enough, the airlines don’t really like these tools and do their best to thwart them. They tend to appear and then vanish again within the span of days.

With the help of Google Flights, I was able to build an itinerary from San Francisco to Minneapolis-St.Paul to Chicago to Detroit and back home to SF again in the span of 18hrs. Does this seem very dumb, at the very least incredibly silly, to you? Well, you’re not alone. My Lovely Assistant made it quite clear that she intended to enjoy the entirety of the bed and all the kitties while I was on my Idiot’s Holiday. It went wrong pretty much right away.

On a positive note, to diffuse that tension right away, every single leg of the flight arrived on time or a little early and I got home safe and sound.

My first error was my departure time, 12:15am from SFO after a full work day and no naps beforehand. That bit about “most productive & creative time” really, really doesn’t work when you promptly shoot your sleep schedule in the foot. Error number two was that I was flying, for the midpoint of my trip, to Chicago and this was going to be Game 3 of the World Series. When I bought my tickets a couple weeks earlier, this wasn’t in my calculations. To be fair, I don’t think about baseball much at all other than traffic avoidance for A’s and Giants games. I couldn’t help but notice a lot of Chicago sportswear at the gate…

After a fitful doze in my seat from SFO to MSP, we arrived and I got the good news that my gate for the Chicago flight was right next to my arrival gate. As this was an actual flight to Chicago, for the day of World Series Game 3, the sports fan gear intensified. I was particularly impressed with the man wearing Bulls shoes, Bears sweatpants, several layers of Cubs shirts and jackets, and a hat that had been sectioned like a pie into Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, and White Sox zones. Because it was 5am, the shouts of CUBBEEZ were muted, but still happened.

I think I fell asleep taxiing for takeoff for the 50min trip from MSP to ORD. It wasn’t even remotely enough sleep. I arrived into O’Hare (which autocorrect kept wanting to change to O’Hate) in a blur of blue jackets and hats. Ate some deep dish pizza for breakfast, I know that. Tried to find the Field Museum annex in the airport, but was confused enough that it didn’t work out. I managed to get back to my gate for my flight to Detroit in a timely manner and, again, passed out on the plane.


The Art Tunnel Between the Detroit Int” Concourses – you’ll have to take my word that it was playing some Vangelis-esque music.

DTW is an interesting airport, which I felt well enough rested to wander around and enjoy. It is, above all, new. I can understand the critique that it feels sterile because of it’s open and austere steel & glass design, which puts it in the same boat as the Virgin/Southwest terminal at Las Vegas McCarran. What was weird to me was that I had a very hard time finding the bones of the old airport terminal this one clearly replaced. One of my hobbies is wandering around buildings and rooms to find the vestiges of construction and uses gone by (this is a good demonstration of how it works in this post). I eventually figured out that mezzanine level of Concourse C is part of the footprint of the old terminal, but all the structure is gone. This gives everything a very Delta City feel. It is impossible for nerds of a certain age to go to Detroit and not make Robocop jokes.

The crime DTW is most guilty of is putting Tim Horton’s on their map and then only having a Timmies coffee dispenser station and pre-packaged pastry rack inside the MSNBC store. That is a LIE you have printed on an airport directory which I assume has been disappointing travelers for as long as it’s been up. I’m surprised Canada hasn’t declared war because of this.

On the flight home to SFO, because I’d stuck my brain in the no sleep blender, I was useless for any task more complicated that watching movies and TV shows. I wish to report that, in this state, Star Trek: Beyond was a very enjoyable. Would’ve made a great two-parter TV episode.

In conclusion, this wasn’t the worst idea but I’m pretty sure I didn’t do it right. Getting to see several different airports in quick succession in a day isn’t something I normally get to do, so it’s gave some weird perspectives. IF I ever do this again, I’m starting this party with a 10am flight, not a midnight one.

And because I can, let’s hear from the nice folks at OCP.

The Decembering 2016 Edition

Normally, I wait until late November to post this but since three people asked last weekend of all things I reckon I should put it up now. You people are making the rest of us look bad by having your shit together for the holidays in October. We, the rest of humanity, aspire to your levels of planning and organization. To the people that are very proactive and organized in their holiday shopping, I’ll just answer question now: yes, you can place an order now in earlier production windows for a holiday shipment. Just leave a note saying “Delay shipment until $DATE” with your order so I know you want it later rather than nownowNOW (which is what most people want).

It was only -38F that day. It's a dry cold.

My Ceremonial South Pole Hero Shot & Xmas Card 2002

The last pre-Xmas BBotE production window will close on December 17th. All things being equal, domestic or international, everything shipped by the 17th should end up at their destination by Christmas Eve. I can’t control weather doom that may or may not happen since no one has given me control of the Illuminati Weather Satellite Network, but a week is usually quite sufficient to get everything to its destination. I will put another pre-order window up after the 17th, but I make absolutely no guarantees about shipments in that window arriving before Xmas. Express mail gets more and more necessary in the last days. I’ll do my best, but that’s all I can do.

At some point in the next couple of weeks I intend to do my own version of my friend Benjamin sTone’s holiday tradition, “The Big Shill”, wherein I will point at things I think you should buy which I don’t make. The Drinktanks Juggernaut, which I previously endorsed here, is the first thing that comes to mind.

To reiterate shopping advice from the previous years, here’s a few things you should probably think about if you decide to place an order for a holiday gift from Funranium Labs:

  1. BBotE Is Perishable: When refrigerated, it has a shelf-life of about three months (possibly longer, but I’m only going to quote three).  If you’re going to wrap it up and put it under the tree, this a present to put out on Christmas Eve and the promptly put back in the fridge after unwrapping. Alternatively, embrace the idea of the holiday season and decide that give it to the recipient immediately, for all days are special.
  2. Let People Know BBotE Is Coming: I know part of the joy in presents is the surprise of what you get. However, joy is not the emotion most people feel when a bottle of mysterious black liquid shows up on their doorstep, especially if it’s been sitting there for a week outside because they were out of town. Give them a heads up, that something’s coming they’ll want to stick in the fridge. I will also tuck handling instructions in the box for a gift and a note stating who sent it if you ask me to.
  3. The pre-order slot dates date are “Ship No Later Than”, not “Ships After”: I get your orders out as soon as I can, but even in the furthest flung corner of the US with the slowest mail carrier, this means you should have your order in hand by December 18th for that last set of late order slots. If you want to order something NOW to ship later, in effect reserving a spot in a later order queue, you can do so but please leave a note with your order telling me when you want it to ship by.
  4. Yes, I will probably add a extra more slots as I get a handle on how much I can make at the last minute but shipping gets dicey in those last days before Christmas.
  5. International Shipments Go Out Express Mail: Because I don’t want BBotE to get stuck in postal facilities or customs, express is the only way to ship to minimize their time in bureaucratic hell. Expect it to take 3-5 business days to get to you, so time your orders accordingly to make sure things get to you in time.
  6. APO/FPO: If you wish to send something out to someone with an Armed Forces address, there’s good news and bad news. Good news – it’s no more expensive than priority mail. Bad news – I can’t guarantee any date as to when things will arrive. Outside of active war zones, things move somewhat normally; inside war zones and ships at sea, things get iffy. Also, depending on routing, some nations (I’m looking at you, Turkey) have bounced BBotE on the basis that it is, and I quote, “Morally Questionable Material” because, obviously, any liquid from the West must be alcoholic in nature. Amazingly, shipments to Korea and Okinawa seem to arrive faster than they do to other places on the west coast. Go figure. In short, I’ll do my best but you’ve been warned.
  7. Local Pick Up: Resupply shipments will go out to all the BBotE Ambassadors as fast as I can crank them out, so be sure to drop them a line if grabbing a bottle that way is more convenient for you. A message to them will help them decide what to fill their cases with. I’m sure they’d like clean and empty refrigerators as their Christmas present.
  8. Turkey, Italy & Brazil: It breaks my heart to say this, I can’t ship to these countries. Italy, I absolutely do not trust your postal system. The level of theft shipping things anywhere south of Rome is, frankly, appalling. If you ask me to ship to Naples, I make absolutely zero guarantee of it arriving. Brazil, your customs causes shipment to languish for so long that the BBotE goes off before it arrives, even if shipped express; steins seem to be fine though. Turkey, well, I discussed those problems in #6.
  9. Steins of Science Have Lead Time Too: The steins are built to order and it sometimes takes a while to get parts in.  Generally, things move much faster and ship within a week but you have now been warned of the possibility of delays.  For some insight into which stein is the best fit for you, I rambled on that a while back. Dewars that are on hand for me to build steins with RIGHT NOW can be found here.
  10. BBotE Production Is First Come, First Served: My maximum daily production output is 12L per day. Thus, people who request 12pk cases will lock up production for an entire day.
  11. There’s No Kosher Or Halal Certification: While Robert Anton Wilson did confer the papacy upon me, and all the other people in the Porter College Dining Hall at UCSC in 1996, this does not permit me to sanctify food. While I do have a helpful Dominican priest who’d probably be willing to bless BBotE, that’s still not helpful. Sorry.
  12. REALLY, I’m not kidding and never have been, the 4300mL Stein of Science is Ridiculously Large: Seriously, BIG.  It will should take an entire pre-game, Super Bowl, and wrap up to go through this much beer.  Or one cricket match. You may think you are a super drankin’ badass, but consider that you may want to drink more often than once a year, so think about a smaller size. Far be it from me to dissuade you from giving me money, but I’m just saying, dude, it’s big.

For those of you who read this far, I congratulate you. In the very near future, it is also my intention to share a brief travelogue of “The Day Phil Went Nowhere: A Mileage Run Tale” before I fly to Chernobyl next Wednesday but we’ll see how things go. In the meantime, I have a birthday to celebrate for the next several days.