Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'm Mr. October 2010

OK not really a photo of me but I'm mentioned in a Calendar. My good friend Jon Williams as EFX TEK asked me if I wanted to have one of our Halloween props that uses their controller in the Parallax annual product catalog and calendar for 2010. I suggested the gravedigger project might be a good one so I said yes and sent Parallax some info and pictures and they used it for their October page. I just got a package yesterday with a stack of them in it. Kind of humbling having my silly little project listed with 11 others.

You can download the whole catalog/calendar here or if you want one mailed to you for some reason go here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I like rockets

I was 6 when we landed on the moon. I spent my elementary years during the Apollo program watching men walk on the moon on a regular basis. The toys of my childhood all had to do with spacesuits, rockets, moon landings and anything having to do with the Apollo program. So it's no wonder that I love anything to do with space and rockets.

I've always been a big fan of the space shuttles and have always wanted to go to Florida not to see Disney World or Universal Studios but to watch a launch and tour the Space Center and see the original Apollo memorabilia. But since I live on the west coast this will probably never happen.

So the other day I was thrilled when I was reading my daily Google news bites and saw that the Shuttle Atlantis was going to launch in about 30 minutes. I quickly jumped onto the NASA site and launched the live video feed. Then as the count down started at T-minus 9 minutes I thought, "hey I have a high def LCD TV and I get the NASA channel on DirectTV?". So I sat and watched the launch live as it was happening on my TV Set. I got to see it take off and then drop its boosters and then reach orbit and drop the main fuel tank. Traveling at over 8000 mph at 67 miles high it begins its trip to join up with the space station. I had never watched a launch live before and it was pretty thrilling just thinking about how routine they make such a complex achievement take place.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Hum...haven't posted here for 4 months! Really haven't been doing anything that extrodinary and haven't had anything to post about. But I thought of something today worth talking about.

So I have been spending a lot of time out in my shop recently building halloween props. And I have been giving a lot of thought to what tools I'd like to purchase first. I have had a long list of tools that I want for some time but I started thinking about what do I REALLY want the most. And I thought of 3 very important ones.

First on my list is a new Band Saw. I own a small table top version that to put it plainly SUCKS. It isn't big enough to cut anything large and it is cheap and won't cut straight to save it's life. I am a big fan of Delta so I want the 28-276 14" 3/4HP open stand band saw. This puppy runs about $400.

Next on my list of tools is a table saw. I own a simple right tilt 10" contractor saw with a VERY cheap fence that can't cut a square line to save it's life. It also has cheap pressed metal wings that are not smooth or worth much of anything. I probably counldn't even sell the saw for $50 on craigslist because thats about how much a new one would cost. I replaced the motor in it after a few years so I've paid more for it than its worth.

So what I want instead is a Delta 36-982 10" left tilt contractors saw with a 30" Biesemeyer commercial fence. This new version comes with cast iron wings and a nice mobile base. It has a 1.5HP induction motor. The left tilt blade makes cutting angles MUCH easier. It costs a mere $1000.

Something else that is on my list is a Delta 50-875 3-Speed Air Filtration system with remote. I have no doors or windows in my woodshop and I'm sure I've probably cut years off my life with the amount of junk I have inhaled. This bad boy can go through 1200 cubic feet per minute of air capable of filtering the air in a 20 by 20 foot room 13 to 18 times an hour. Not really high on my list but probably a must have. This one costs about $500.

Well, all of these are nice but I've decided what my first purchase is going to be. I've always wanted a CNC machine. My main idea for one is to carve really complex tombstones out of foam and other foam based products using a rotary tool. I've looked at the shopbot but that puppy is $8000 which is WAY beyond my reach. So I have discovered the DIY CNC sites and found that I can build my own CNC machine by purchasing kits and following some plans and using free software and my own laptop for about $600. I'm thinking that it would be fun to make my own. It will be sort of like a hobby kit that I can put together this winter. I'm quite confident that my computing skills will come in handy to understand the software side. It might take a little more effort to build the actual machine. I'll probably find a plan that is simple enough to meet my needs. More to come on this...

Shopbot for $8000 DIY CNC for about $600

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Animated Skull V2

I have been working all month on a revised version of the animated skull I built last year which was something that took me 2 years to complete. I am building a new skull for a seminar I am doing the beginning of May. I thought I'd make a few improvements over the first one while I was at it.

1. Use 1/8" instead of 1/4" plexiglas for the plate. It is easier to cut and lighter weight.

2. Use 60lb fishing line for the Jaw connection instead of wire or rod. Reduces the stress on the jaw servo and creates a more life like movement.

3. Use rare earth magnets instead of zip ties to hold the plate down. Much easier to take the plate on and off with.

4. Use 2-56 sized ball and socket linkages instead of 4-40 ball swivels. You can easily pop them on and off and they are much smaller

5. Use RJ-45 ethernet jacks for wiring connectors. Easier to organize the wires and less obvious.

I am working on a design for moving eyes but it hasn't worked out yet. I think for my seminar I'll probably use the same fixed LED eyes but for this halloween I'll figure out the eyes.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dangers of cat wrangling

I know it looks like I was suicidal but only if you consider trying to put a cat in a cat cage suicidal. Our 2 younger cats that are brother and sister have unusually sharp and hook like claws so we take them to the vet once in a while to get them trimmed. The male (Mason) is a HUGE cat for being so young and his back claws are like knives. So it was pretty stupid of me to grab him and stuff him in a cage with my bare arms exposed to his back legs. Before I knew it he had climbed up my arm and out of the cage.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A great birthday

My birthday is normally not much of an event these days. I have also always had trouble trying to find something I really wanted to do that I would enjoy. This year I put a little thought into it. I don't really have a favorite resturant or type of food that I gravitate to. So when asked where I wanted to go I thought about it for a while and said I'd like to eat at a home style italian resturant where I could get a Calzone, Pizza or pasta that was home made and not some food chain style dish. So I did a bit of looking and decided on a place we hadn't been to in years, a great family italian resturant that had what I was looking for. I ordered the Calzone which was $20 and Chris had Eggplant Parm. We both had a glass of italian wine. I suspected the Calzone would be big at the price and figured I'd be taking it home but I didn't expect it to be HUGE. I ate about 1/3 of it and took the rest home. It was great food though. We then went to our new Century Movie theater at the Mall and saw Grand Torino with Clint Eastwood which was VERY good. Went home and watched TV and fell asleep on the couch.

It was a great birthday. One of the best in a few years. I guess it goes to show that a little thought about something and some planning can sometimes help make an otherwise normal day turn into something you really enjoy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm not that much into music

Never have been probably never will be. Not sure why. But I got a crazy reminder of it when Chris and I went to a Play this month called The Seafared by Conor McPherson at Artist Repertory Theatre. The play, which is about 4 Irish men, drinking, gambling and the devil, has an odd line in it from the fellow who apparently is "The" Devil. Someone turns the music on and he cringes and says he can't really hear it and that it annoys him and he asks if someone could just turn it off. Which made me wonder, am I the Devil?

Now I don't really think that music anoys me or that I can't hear it, well most if it anyway. I'm mostly just indifferent. I don't own an iPod and the CD's of my music would fit in a shoe box. I only have 2 points in time that my musical tastes come from. The first is when I was 10 (1973) and it was what my parents were listening to on records and the radio and again when I was a teen (1976-1981) in a small town that didn't have a record store or local radio station. What filtered into our small Oregon logging community was always years behind the trend. So I like the beatles, Peter Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkle, Harry Chapin, Jim Croce, Carol King, Elton John, and John Denver. I also like Kenny Rodgers, Cher, Don McLean, a few others that had hits in those years.
Most of the time I prefer silence to music. I listen to the car radio with top 40 hits from the past as background music most of the time. Once in a great while some song will come along that grabs me and I listen to it for a while but then I always go back the silence. I'm just not a music culture person. I prefer movies and television as my cultural interest I guess?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Of course I can read!

I read all the time. I read blogs, internet news, technical specs, web comics, emails, and tons of other stuff on the computer. I just don't read much on paper. I have 3 or 4 unfinshed books lying around the house. I have a HUGE stack of books I intend to read. I used to read my favorite authors books all the time and whenever a new one would come out I'd pick it up and read it right away. Now I don't even pay attention when new stuff is out. I was a big fan of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Robin Cook. I did read all the Harry Potter books though. In fact that might be the last book I have read? So I have been thinking that maybe I ought to look into one of those digital book readers? I am so used to reading on the computer maybe this would get me back to reading the paper books again? Plus I LOVE gadgets. Only thing is that it is out of range of the current budget right now. Oh well, somthing to save for I guess?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Xbox 360 the gift that keeps giving

One of the problems with owning a gaming console is that there are a LOT of accessories that you end up buying plus the games you need to keep buying in order to enjoy the whole thing. So recently I have been on a used game buying spree. Thank goodness for Game Crazy. I bought Orange Box so I can play Portal on the Xbox. I bought Overlord which is a great adventure style game like Fable but with evil minions. I got Laura Croft Legend which has great graphics and fun puzzles. I got Burnout Paradise so I can crash stuff in HD. I also got Legos Star Wars since the Indiana Jones game was so fun. I have ordered a replacement for Indian Jones Legos which should be here soon. I just need to get a copy of Halo 3 and Fable 2 and I will be set for a while. I think I will stick with buying used games and returning ones I don't want anymore for credit for buying more games.

I exchanged my new copy of EndWar for a rechargeable controller battery and one extra and a charger.

I got a Dlink wireless client that I can connect to the XBox 360 to download demos and free stuff. It also installed a whole new interface that is pretty cool.

I need to get another controller so I can play along with someone else on some games.

Hopefully there are no other parts I will need or upgrades to purchase for a while.