Friday, June 20, 2008

Halloween Electronics

I'm kinda funny about electronics stuff. I'm a computer programmer, I own a solder gun, and I subscribe to Nuts n Volts (electronic geek mag). But I'm really not all that much of a electronics nut. I write programs on a computer and use one every day but I HATE opening up the hardware and touching anything inside. What a pain that can be. I have been known to solder a few things together but if I had to solder each component onto a circuit board it probably wouldn't work and I would be bored. I subscribe to Nuts n Volts just for the ads but I just scan the real geeky articles. I have always maintained that I am more like the Jeff Goldblum character in The Fly when asked by his girlfriend if he is a genius for inventing such a machine and he says that he works with geniuses that build the parts that he puts together. Yea, as a kid I loved electronics (my Dad worked for Bell Telephone and brought home all kinds of stuff). I had a radio shack 101 electronics experiment kit that I fiddled with. I built my own strobe light and color organ from kits. In the 80's I preferred to assemble my own PC's than buy them assembled (mainly to save money). These days most electronic components are so cheap and readily available that you don't need to build much yourself just buy the right parts and connect them together.

So, lately I have gone a little crazy with a company called EFX-TEK that sells small micro controllers and accessories for building Halloween props. A couple of years ago I had 1 of their controllers and used it to make a animated head of a grave digger. Last year I got more ambitious and bought a few more and built a complicated footstep effect for the display. I had intentions of converting the gravedigger head to a more sophisticated controller with better programming but didn't. This year my big plan is to build an animated skull using a more advanced controller. After our last meeting with the guys the run the company in Utah I bought a few more parts to make another project that Chris wanted (those candles you light in a church). Now I have quite a collection of their controllers and accessories. I need to find projects for them all and the time to build them. Most of the interest I guess lies in the fact that the controllers are programmed in BASIC which I am VERY familiar with. Just build a cable here, connect a part there and before you know it, you have a cool effect. Well, I'm having fun at least.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Road Trip

We were invited to give our video effects seminar at a halloween gathering in Provo UT. Instead of flying I thought it would be a little cheaper and fun to drive.

We headed out after work on Thursday and drove to Penelton which is 3 hrs east. Stayed the night in a nice hotel (Holiday Inn Express). We drove the rest of the way to Provo on Friday. We stopped to eat lunch at a rest area and had to get gas a couple of times. We bought a GPS unit (TomTom) a couple weeks before and boy we were glad we did. I can't imagine making a road trip without one. It tells you how far you have to go and what time you will arrive. It will tell you how far to the next gas station and what hotels are ahead in the next town. It even tells you how fast you are going and if you over the speed limit.

We also bought a 12VDC cooler that we kept it plugged into an outlet in the back of the CRV. We didn't need to keep buying ice and everything stays dry. It was perfect for all our food and drinks for the trip.

We stayed in Provo until Sunday Afternoon when we headed home. We drove all the way to Ontario which is on the Idaho/Oregon Border. Stayed in the best hotel we could find which wasn't much. We then drove a few hours to La Grande where we met some haunt friends from Hauntcon for lunch. We then drove the rest of the way home.

It was kind of fun doing a long road trip. We hadn't done that in probably over 10-15 years. It was like the family trips we used to take when I was a kid. I'd love to do more of them but they really take a toll. I'd like to someday do a cross country trip and see some stuff.