Memories of Skateboarding and Nostalgic Assembly of a Re-Issued Mike McGill Powell-Peralta Skull & Snake Skateboard

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My Mike McGill Pro Model “Skull and Snake” Re-Issue Series 5 by Powell-Peralta, Complete with Gullwing Pro III Trucks and Sector Nine Nineballs Wheels.

This is a long read that combines autobiography, nostalgia, memory, and instructions. Visitors here might find it interesting and informative. My students might use it as a model for some of their own multimodal writing about memory, processes, instructions, and reflection.

While it has been over 25 years since I last rode a skateboard with my hometown friends, I recently felt drawn to the 7-ply deck once again and decided to assemble a board similar to my second skateboard–a 1990 Powell-Peralta Mike McGill pro board with VCJ’s Skull & Snake graphics, fish shape, nose and tail kicks, natural wood grain with Gullwing Pro III trucks (red), and Powell-Peralta Rat Bones wheels (neon green).

Before I got my original McGill deck, I learned to skateboard on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles complete skateboard that my grandparents–Wilma and Papa Gerald–bought for me from the Wal-Mart on Altama Avenue in Brunswick, Georgia (since replaced by a Supercenter about a mile away, and then the original site re-built as a Neighborhood Market a few years ago).

With the TMNT skateboard, I learned how to balance, turn, and ride on my grandparent’s back car port. At first, I held on to a broom handle to steady myself until I felt confident enough to ride without this support. I don’t think I had a helmet, but I did have pads and wrist guards–the former store bought neon green plastic over black, and the latter used, red, gifted or traded for–I can’t remember.

I rode and shared the TMNT skateboard with my friends who I paled around with when I stayed at my grandparents. However, I wanted to learn how to ollie and do tricks, but I found this to be next to impossible on the heavy, tank-like TMNT board. This is what began my search for a better board, relying heavily on the photo stories and advertising in magazines such as Transworld Skateboarding and Thrasher, and eventually led to me mail ordering the McGill deck and new hardware (was this a Christmas gift from my grandparents or my folks–again, my memory falters).

With the new McGill, I continued skating through the beginning of high school, but I drifted away from the sport when I got more interested in books (physics first, science fiction second), computers (Amiga, IBM-compatible PCs, and eventually, Macintosh), and cars (my first being a 1965 Ford Mustang, but always having a soft spot for the small Toyota pickup trucks that I used to deliver auto parts from my family’s business).

I don’t remember what became of my McGill. I suspect that I gave it to a friend before going to college where I really got into Rollerblading, but my memory fails completely on this point. I hope that I can remember what happened to my old McGill skateboard, not because I want it back, but instead simply to recall that moment in my life’s narrative. Related to this is the fact that I don’t seem to have any photos of me with my skateboard (though I do have a photo of me holding my Rat Bones wheels on Christmas Day). It’s an odd omission in the photographic record of my life of something I considered important to me at that early time in my life.

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In the film Hackers (1995), The Plague (Fisher Stevens) rides into the NOC on a McGill skateboard while Hal (Penn Jillette) studies the situation.

My re-interest in skateboarding began when I was watching the film Hackers (1995) in HD. I don’t think it registered with me when I first saw it when it was originally released that the film’s villain, The Plague (Fisher Stevens), rides into his company’s NOC (network operations center) on a McGill skateboard (see above).

Then, I caught up with my oldest best friend Bert over the phone. He lives in Seattle now, but back in the day, we used to skateboard in his neighborhood. Bert was a much better skater than me. Our conversation drifted back to skateboarding, including the time that he and I were stopped by a cop on our way back from a Hampton Inn construction site. The obese, good ol’ boy police officer asked us questions about what we had been doing and he stopped when he pointed his flashlight on our boards. Bert skated Vision, and I skated Powell-Peralta. The cop took a breath through his teeth and said, “now boys, I’ve done heard things about that POW-ell Per-AL-ta. They’s devil worshipers!” Bert and I smiled and nodded until he let us go on our way back to his house, but it’s a strange encounter that’s stuck with me.

Our phone conversation encouraged me to begin searching the web for information about my old skateboard. This led me to the Bones Brigade video The Search for Animal Chin (1987), which I shared with Bert via text message. By this point, I was thinking and spending more free time learning more about skating history and its evolution after I had left the sport.

While I was already burdened by a big research project on computers in science fiction from 1975-1995, which I’m continuing to work on, and the Third Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium, which I was organizing, I wanted to give myself something on the horizon to look forward to as a reward for this work. I decided to get the parts to build a new, complete skateboard similar to one that I had to before without breaking the bank, so I turned to eBay after striking out with the major skateboard online retailers and local shops, such as Uncle Funky’s Boards.

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While I couldn’t find my original McGill with a natural finish, I did find this brand new, black dipped, Series #5 re-issue on offer by a seller in Puerto Rico. We negotiated a best offer price, and I received it before anything else.

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I picked up a Gullwing Pro III trucks, wheels, bearings, risers, hardware combo from Raptorunner in Riverside, CA, and I ordered a Powell Peralta Tailbone and Jessup grip tape (and a helmet and pads) from TGM Skateboards in Mount Clemens, MI.

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My original Gullwing Pro III trucks were cherry red and stood out well against the natural grain of the board. I liked these new 9″, 155mm neon green ones, because they stand out against the black background on the new, black McGill deck. Also, my re-issued McGill deck uses the old truck bolt pattern, so I chose between these (note that the base plate has six bolt holes instead of four–to accommodate both old and new bolt patterns) and Independent Stage 11 169mm trucks. Ultimately, I opted for the Gullwings since I skated with them before.

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Raptorunner had several different truck, wheel, and hardware bundles. I chose this one, because it had these Sector Nine Nineballs wheels. They aren’t too big (I would have preferred 56mm) and they are real soft (78a), which will be good for the street crusing that I intend to use the skateboard for.

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To begin my skateboard’s assembly, I began with the Tailbone before applying the grip tape. I clamped the tail guard to the bottom of the deck’s tail and measured to ensure it was centered.

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Then, I used a small drill bit to lightly mark where I should drill the larger holes for the wood screws that will go through the top of the board into the Tailbone.

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I used the grip tape shipping tube to support the deck while I was drilling.

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Powell-Peralta’s instructions for the Tailbone call for a 7/32″ drill bit. Unfortunately, I didn’t have one in this size. I didn’t want to go with a larger hole (1/4″), so I tried the 3/16″ bit. Luckily, this was more than enough room for the wood screws to pass through the board without biting and then go into the Tailbone.

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Using my earlier marks, I drilled three holes through the deck’s tail. These will be used later for mounting the Tailbone.

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Before mounting the Tailbone, I applied the Jessup grip tape. I bought 10″ wide grip tape, which is just barely wide enough to give some room for error with the front of the deck. If I had to do over again, I would have opted for the 11″ wide grip tape.

I wanted the Bones Brigade logo to appear on the top of the deck, so I needed to apply two sections of grip tape–one above it towards the nose and one below it towards the tail. I measured these lengths twice and cut the length of grip tape into two sections allowing some room for error in terms of length. I used the pre-cut edges as the beginning of application above or below the Bones Brigade logo. I slowly lowered and pressed the grip tape to the deck so as to avoid any air bubbles under the tape.

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With the tape applied, I used the barrel’s edge of a screw driver to draw a scoring line around the edge of the skateboard deck.

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Then, I used a razor blade held from underneath the board to follow the edge of the board and cut the excess grip tape off along the scoring line.

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Next, I pressed the grip tape down around the edges of the deck.

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I ran a rolled up piece of excess grip tape around the edge of the deck to give the grip tape a clean edge all away around.

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With the grip tape applied, I used a screw driver to punch through all of the holes in the deck for the trucks and Tailbone.

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Next, I installed the tailbone by pushing through wood screws and matching them to the holes in the Tailbone.

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While I had a cordless drill on-hand, I preferred to install these screws by hand. I was afraid of over torquing the screws and losing grip in the Tailbone’s plastic. Installing the screws by hand allows me to feel them dig into the plastic and maintain a secure hold on the Tailbone through the deck without stripping out plastic.

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The final stage of the assembly involves the trucks, wheels, bearings, and 1/4″ risers. I laid all of these parts out to make the assembly quicker. For some of the assembly, I used the cordless drill with a Philips head driver, and I had my 1/4″ drive tall sockets in 3/8″ (for the truck mounting bolts) and 1/2″ (for the truck’s axle bolts).

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The first task was to install bearings and spacers in each wheel. I placed an Owlsome Precision ABEC 7 bearing assembly into the back of a wheel.

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Then, I used one of the trucks to help me press the bearing completely into the wheel so that it is flush with the wheel.

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Turning the wheel over, I dropped a spacer on top of the inserted bearing.

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Then, I placed another bearing into the front of the front of the wheel over the spacer, and again, used the trucks to help me press the bearing assembly completely into the wheel.

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Then, I pulled the wheel off, placed a washer on the axle, followed by the wheel with the front facing outward, another washer, and then the axle nut. I tightened the axle nut by hand with the 1/2″ socket. I left a very slight bit of play for the wheel on the axle.

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With all of the wheels assembled with bearings and spacers and these installed on the trucks, I was ready to complete assembly of the skateboard by mounting the risers and trucks to the skateboard deck.

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First, I pushed the 1 1/4″ truck mounting bolts through the skateboard deck.

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Then, I mounted the 1/4″ riser through the bolts on the underside of the skateboard deck.

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Next, I turned the skateboard on its side and mounted the trucks.

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I hand threaded the four hardware nuts on each mounting bolt for each truck.

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After confirming each nut was threaded correctly, I used the cordless drill to snug each bolt down to the nut and then hand tightened each bolt in an X-pattern until I was confident in each truck’s mounting to the skateboard deck.

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With the trucks mounted, I have a complete skateboard ready to take out and hit the streets with. The soft, larger wheels should be great for riding in my neighborhood. However, I have been looking at Powell-Peralta’s G-Slides, which I might get later.

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I opted to cover the “Bones Brigade” name beneath the logo, because I wanted a little more grip on the tail section of the deck.

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My original McGill had a nose kick while this late-80s re-issue does not. Nevertheless, I think this will be a fun skateboard to ride. Y asked me to wait until she returned from her trip to see her parents before I rode it in case I hurt myself. She’s back, but the weather isn’t superb, so I might content myself with daydreaming about riding my new skateboard until we can take it out together.

In all honesty, I have to remind myself that I can’t necessarily do the things I did when I was younger, or put another way, I can try to do the things that I used to do, but there will likely be more serious consequences. C’est la vie!

New LEGO Millennium Falcon 75105 Customization with The Last Jedi Update

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Over the years, I’ve built several customized LEGO Millennium Falcons (including here and here). I like taking the stock models and making them more screen accurate combined with imaginative embellishment. With this customization of a stock 75105 Millennium Falcon, I initially tried working this model that I had built about a year ago. However, I got really frustrated trying to work out how to implement some of the customizations that I had in mind. So, I disassembled the model and rebuilt it. Doing this helped me remember the logic of its design and construction, and it enabled me to rebuild some of its foundational features more easily than the piecemeal way I first attempted to do. The way that I did this rebuild also jumped around the instruction booklet, because the LEGO process of building is generally height-by-height across the whole model. I needed to focus on the modular aspects of the model, which is helped by building each module (circumferential ring, cockpit, docking ports, etc.). Due to rebuilding it from the ground up, this project took several days. Scroll through this blog post to view detailed photos and descriptions of this customization.

Cockpit and Mandible Details

Taking inspiration from Flail’s Millennium Falcon mods on Brickshelf, I rebuilt the cockpit with chairs and control sticks. This looks really nice, especially with the windows affixed. However, the chairs don’t work with Chewbacca’s minifigure. 75105 includes a Brick 1X4 W. 4 Knobs on either side of the fore mandibles. The side studs invite customization, so I added extra detail to these.

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Gun Turrets, Dorsal Vents, and Ventral Covering

Inspired by Flail’s mods on Brickshelf again, I built these lower profile top and bottom guns. I beefed up the dorsal venting system by putting Plate Round 4X4 With Ø16Mm Hole with a Plate 2X2 Round in its center. The Disk Ø24 with vent sticker connects to the round plate in the center. The bottom of the falcon is buttoned up with plates covering the Technic support system–some of which I modified to remove the arm underneath the cockpit support system and added a staggered rounding to the four corners.

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Main Hold Entrance, Nav Computer, and Dejarik Table

Using 1×1 roof tiles and an upside-down technique that I developed for a diorama of the Falcon’s main hold, I built this entrance into the main hold leading from the passage way from the entry ramp. The Dejarik Table and seating is borrowed from 75192. The Nav Computer area is very tight in the size of this model, so I couldn’t fit as large tubes adjacent to it as in the diorama linked above. Instead, I used two short tubes and moved the Nav Computer one stud to the left to accommodate the Falcon’s machinery. The main hold’s med bay is raised to accommodate a drawer, which I detail further at the end of this post to avoid The Last Jedi spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

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Port and Starboard Docking Ports

One disappointing aspect of the 75105 model is the docking ports. It sandwiches 1×2 plates between two Plate 6X6 Round With Tube Snap and covers that with two Plate 2X4X18°. The trouble with this design is that it doesn’t really show the cone-like taper of the docking ports. Earlier Millennium Falcon sets 4504 and 7965 did a better job with the docking ports. I decided to keep 75105’s sandwich to give the ports height, and then built up a capped tube circled by 1×2 plates each topped with a Roof Tile 1 X 2 X 2/3, Abs.

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Wall Tile Extensions Around Circumference

The Millennium Falcon dorsal and ventral domed covering extends over the circumferential edge. The 75105 model comes with 1×6 flat plates to demarcate this edge overhang, but it doesn’t really look right. I picked up a lot of Wall Element 1X2X1 on Bricklink to replace these 1×6 flat plates. In addition to showing this circumferential trench around the edge of the Falcon, it gives the model an overall flatter look, which emphasizes the Falcon’s on-screen appearance.

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Engine Compartment

Instead of the Falcon having a monolithic motor, it seems more likely that it would have a segmented, modular aerospike engine. With this in mind, I designed the engine compartment to have a ring of engine modules with supporting hardware, cabling, and pipes. I created a larger, ringed passage way with an entrance way leading into the engine compartment.

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Entrance Ramp and Other Compartments

I stole the hydraulics from 75103: First Order Transporter and added to the Falcon’s entrance ramp (which makes the ramp look like the Kenner Millennium Falcon vehicle from the original Star Wars action figure line). Also, I shifted the entrance ramp one stud out from the central gunner turret assembly. There are two side compartments–one for storage with weapons in a crate, and one for another bunk (with a copy of the Death Star plans).

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New Engine Exhaust and a Little Joke

Instead of using the ribbed, transparent blue tube that comes with 75105, I opted for white tile backgrounds covered by transparent blue flat tiles (1×2 and 1×4). As a hidden joke, I included a trailer hitch under the engines (isn’t the Millennium Falcon is a big rig in the stars?).

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The Last Jedi Update

At the end of The Last Jedi, Finn puts Rose in the Millennium Falcon’s med bay in the main hold. The camera focuses on the drawer under the bed when Finn looks for a blanket. The audience realizes that the drawer also contains the Jedi books on Ahch-To. To represent this, I raised the med bay, added a drawer beneath, and included a book (from The Hobbit set #79003: An Unexpected Gathering).

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Updated and Expanded LEGO Iron Man’s Hall of Armor

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While continuing to sort my LEGO brick collection, I discovered four more Plate (A) 4M 45° pieces. With these special elements in-hand, I updated and expanded my LEGO Iron Man’s Hall of Armor, which I wrote about previously here.

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I used a similar repetition for each armor suit pod, but I added one stud roof tiles (Roof Tile 1X1X2/3, Abs) at the base of each vertical transparent blue wall on either side of an armor suit.

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Armors from left to right: Mark III (Iron Man film), Mark VI (Avengers), and Mark XVII “Heartbreaker” (Iron Man 3)

To complete the model, I needed Iron Man’s armor with the triangular arc reactor window from the first Avengers movie (Mark VI armor). I ordered the 30167 polybag on ebay from a seller in Brooklyn (interestingly, it takes longer for mail to arrive from within my city borough than it does from California or even Germany at standard postal rates!).

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Armors from left to right: Mark XVII “Heartbreaker” (Iron Man 3), Mark XLII (Iron Man 3), and Mark XLIII (Avengers: Age of Ultron).

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Armors from left to right: Mark XLIII (Avengers: Age of Ultron), Mark XLV (Avengers: Age of Ultron), and Mark XLVI (Captain America: Civil War).

I needed to redesign the base, so I opted to give it a symmetrical support underneath and and a stairway entrance in the southward position. It connects to the circular armor pod assembly with Technics connector pegs and bricks under the northward armor pod. While the center platform makes a tight and neat fit to the upper three pods, its plate studs do not line up with the side or bottom pods (there is a slight gap of about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch).

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It is a sturdy model that can be lifted from any point. Due to its limited interior space and the size of my adult hands, it is difficult to remove and replace the Iron Man armor in each pod.

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My next idea for the set is to elevate it by about its current height and create a crank-driven lift in the central platform for Tony Stark’s grand entrance. This will take some more planning and time. I’m sure that Ant Man will be watching my progress.

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Niagara Falls, 2011

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Last week, my folks joined me and Y for a two day trip to Niagara Falls in Ontario and New York. Above, you can see us on the Maid of the Mist boat after getting thoroughly drenched.

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The picture above is of the Horseshoe Falls as seen from our hotel room.

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The picture above is of the Canadian and American Falls at night when they are illuminated with pretty colors.

Click through the pictures above to see more pictures from our visit.

Photos from Trip to Brunswick and Taiwan, Winter 2010-2011

Yesterday, I got a bit frustrated with Apple’s Aperture photo editing and organizing software as I was trying to sort and post my photos from our trip to Brunswick, Georgia and Taiwan over December 20, 2010 – January 9, 2011. I arduously climbed Aperture’s learning curve and humbly accepted its irritating return to projects after copying images to a new album. As a result, I posted our photos to Flickr in the following collection of fourteen sets. I will blog about some of the many pictures in the coming weeks as I continue telling our story of this recent trip to see our folks in different parts of the world. Click the link below to begin seeing what we saw on our trip.

Christmas in Brunswick/New Years in Taiwan 2010-2011, a Flickr Collection

SFRA 2010, Wrap-Up

You may find links to all of my separate reports on SFRA 2010 below. Unfortunately, my reporting is limited to Saturday and Sunday, because Yufang and I were delayed in arriving on time (details here). If you blogged SFRA 2010, please email me or post a link to your blog in the comments.

SFRA 2010, Carefree, AZ or Bust!

SFRA 2010, Saturday Begins

SFRA 2010, Saturday, Avatar and Empire

SFRA 2010, Saturday, Roundtable on Immigration, Alienation, and Arizona SB 1070

SFRA 2010, More Wrap-Up Reporting Tomorrow

SFRA 2010, Saturday, SF and Colonialism Panel

SFRA 2010, Saturday, Awards Banquet

SFRA 2010, Saturday, Closing Reception

SFRA 2010, Sunday, Business Meeting

UPDATE: Jason and Yufang’s SFRA 2010 Photo Collection on Flickr is available here.