Older blog entries for The Swirling Brain (starting at number 105)

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I borrowed money on Prosper to buy a clothes lot to sell on ebay. Prosper is like the ebay of loans. So far the clothes hasn't been selling. :'-(

Both of my cars broke down. :-( On my truck, the starter went out along with a few other things. I was unable to get the starter off! It was nearly impossible so I just gave up on it. It has 210k miles anyway so it's no big loss. On my Buick, we were on our way to the Great Wolf lodge and the engine got hot and blew the head gasket again. It was up there in miles too so it's pretty much not worth fixing. So we have two dead cars sitting in front of my house right now. We'll probably donate them or sell them to someone who might want a couple of dead cars to fix up.

So, my dad had pitty on me and gave me his White '97 Buick Rivera. It's nice but old. We then got about $3k from our tax money back and $2k from my mother-in-law and bought a Red 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee from ViewPoint Bank from their auto auctions they have. It seems to be in pretty good condition with an 81 point inspection. We test drove it and it seems like the the engine and trans is OK so we bought it for $4.5k. We scoured a lot of car websites and lots and this jeep seems to be the best we could do. We love it!

Some of the car buying experiences have been eye opening. We went to Kia used sales and a Kia Rio 2005 was $14k to $16k. We then went to Kia new sales and found Kia Rio 2007 from $14k to $16k. Something seems inherently wrong about that. shrug. Anyway we asked about the advertised no payments until next year and they had no clue what we were talking about. We went home and right away saw the commercial that talked about it. Didn't want a Rio anyway.

We went to Trophy Nissan. We'll never go back there. We drove in and they herded us to park. They asked if it was our trade. I said no and so they herded us inside where other people in glass cubes with bulging eyes gave us looks like "save yourselves now - run away!" We sat in a glass cube for about 2 hours then they came and told us we had one car we could look at. It was a really ragged out old red chevy colbalt. Inside it was a smokers car complete with cig burns in the seats and a headliner that was coming down and stains on about everything. We drove it and they quoted us $17k. I told them not to waste my time and they said that it wouldn't be anywhere near that price. So they wanted us to give them $20 and said they would "run the numbers." They came back and told us it would be about $17k. I told them it was over and that they have wasted our time and our day and that I wanted my $20 back and that I was leaving. They wouldn't give me my $20 back! So I went up to their glass room and knocked on the door. They opened it and I said I'm leaving I want my $20 back. It probably took a good 20 minutes of doing that to get my $20 back. As I was leaving they yelled to me how about payments of $189 a month? Not even close. Why would I pay $17k for a 3 or 4 year old car and $189 payments a month? That doesn't make sense! I could buy a new car for that. I really hope other people aren't agreeing to deals like that!!! I hear that other people say that if you do bring your trade that they take your keys so that they can value the trade and then don't give you your car back like they did my $20. Man that experience was totally insane! They wasted my day! I'll never go back. Then, they called me back in a day or two and didn't have any better offer or apology. Sheesh! Steer clear of that insanity!

So anyway, now I have the joys of cleaning my new to me used cars and getting all the minor stuff fixed up so that they'll be in good shape to drive.

At work, they haven't had me travel in a while. I really wonder if this company will stay in business much longer. Our lead programmer left which makes me lose more confidence. They have me doing testing and some minor programming. I'm really glad because I really need to be having a computer career and not a tech support career. So, here's hoping.

Our church voted to have VBS in 3D this year! Yea! So hopefully it might actually happen. Now there's a lot of work ahead of me.

My mother-in-law got married. We filmed her wedding but I haven't edited the wedding video yet.

I tried to make a slightly bigger stirling engine but I didn't have much time and in the time I worked on it I couldn't get it to work. :-( It's hard doing stuff without quality time.

With our DVR I've been recording science shows and watching them late at night. I love my DVR.

Trying to get my Zoysia grass to grow again this year. Some of it from last year has come back but there's still lots of dirt patches. So I bought some more seed and am watering a lot. Hopefully, my grass will start coming around this year. Here's hoping.

I found some 280k mcd LEDs on ebay. No joke, it says 280,000mcd. I couldn't believe it. So I bought some. they should come in soon and I'll play with them.

I bought some black tire paint on ebay. Black tire paint is of course different than just armor all. It was a little expensive. It's hard to find, I'm not sure why. I painted my tires on the white car. It looks good! It's not glossy, it just makes the tires look like new tires again instead of old and gray. Cool.

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I still love my roomba vacuum. My wife loves it too and she's been telling all her friends and family about how much she loves it! Wow! I thought I'd have to be the one to extol the greatness of this device but she's totally sold on it. We joke about when dividing up the house cleaning work that, "I'll do the vacumming!" I highly recommend it!

We now have two albino hedgehogs at our house. I bought the first one (a male) and my daughter bought the second one (a female). We've been going pet crazy and buying pet stuff for them. My daughters are so happy. The only thing, is they mostly sleep during the day so they don't really do anything until about 10pm at night. That's about when the kids have to go to bed so they don't get to play with them much. They are interesting and cute and we wake them up and play with them anyway. Last night we put about 1/2" of water in the bathtub and let the girl romp around in it. She seems to like playing in the water for a little while then she gets board and wants out.

The hedgehogs love mealworms and they're about $4 at the pet store for about 35 large ones. I found on ebay a mealworm farm kit for $10 that's supposed to supply endless mealworms for next to nothing so I took the plunge. Mealworms are really the larval stage of the darkling beatle. So the process goes that the mealworms grow to the pupae state then to the beatle state, they lay gobs of eggs then die and the eggs hatch as the cycle goes. You put some bran or oat flakes in the bottom of a tub with a apple or potato slice every so often and that's about all there is to it. My wife's already wanting me to count all the worms to make sure non get out. Yeah right. I've been joking that I will be keeping the farm under her side of the bed.

So anyway, this pet stuff is what mostly has been keeping my attention lately.

I saw that RobotsAustralia was going to Pololu.com for some of his supplies and body plastic. I checked it out and what really took my notice was the laser acrylic cutting he was using. That seems very useful. Looks like a $50 minimum, tho, but could be cool for lots of exact, intricate, or many parts that need to reproduce exactly.

My truck broke down. I think it's the starter. I went to a few auto parts places and no one had it. My wife went to a place near her work, and they didn't have it either. I finally found one but wow, I didn't think it should have been such a problem to get a starter for a GMC pickup. I thought that was strange.

Our washing machine broke down. I've been trying to figure out the best one to get that will last the longest and be the most efficient. After talking with a bunch of people we decided to go with a front loader model. Uses less water & less electricity, the clothes come out dryer so the dryer machine doesn't have to dry as much saving electricity there too. The clothes are supposed to produce less lint since side loaders are supposed to be easier on your clothes, so your clothes last longer. Since it uses less water, we're hoping we won't have as many plumbing troubles as we've had in the past with clogs and slow draining. So it's more expensive but we're hoping that all those positives will make it worth while. I'll probably break down in a week! :-)

I still have a job but I'm wondering how long this company will hold on. Actually, the company has a military side that is doing well but our civilian side is doing poorly. We've had another layoff and this time it really hit close to home. I'm hoping they will move us to the military side or my time here doesn't seem to have a future. It's the best I have for now but I have my feelers out. There doesn't seem to be a lot of jobs out there so I'll probably go down with the ship. That's adding a lot of stress.

I'm wanting to work on stirling engines again. At work, me and another guy watched a bunch of youtube videos about them and I just keep getting the bug to play with them. It seems like they would make great little electric generators. Anyway, they are still on the back of my mind even though I don't seem to have time for them.

I'm still hoping that we can do the 3d vbs. I'll probably do a presentation of what I have come up with at our February church business meeting. I'm still hopeful it will work out. I've got a lot to do.

My mother in law got married. We filmed her wedding and I have to edit her wedding video. It's just another thing on the plate but I want to do it. I had a person call our house last night asking if we'd do their wedding video. Alas we turned them down and told them we are not doing it anymore because there's just no money in it. I really enjoyed doing wedding videos but it seemed we were making less than minimum wage so what's the point. Plus every once in a while there was always some weirdo bride-zilla bad apple that reared their ugly heads that really made you think it wasn't worth it. I'm glad I told the lady no, but I still have those fond memories and wish it could have worked out because most times I really enjoyed it.

I keep wanting to make electronic or robotic stuff but I just don't seem to have the time for it. Plus, after it has been a few weeks or months, all my good stuff seems to have been cleaned out of existence. It takes me so much time to locate it all again that by the time I have everything I need again (parts, pic burner, breadboard, etc) I no longer have the time for it again. It's like at one time I was wanting to build another grandfater clock rolling ball sculpture. I had the 6 foot frame built and the starting of the clock parts. I had the cpu board, electronics and even the software with multitasking and rf remote controller and i2c networking all all working. But then, life got in the way. Now it's just seems about impossible to get back to as everything has been moved around and I'm not sure where everything is anymore. Distractions are a killer of projects!

Some days I feel so smart and on the bleeding edge and other days I feel stupid and worthless. Is that normal? I may not impress anyone else, but some days I manage to do things that impress myself so I guess that's good enough.

I was shown this perceptivepixel website and thought it was cool enough to share. I don't know how practical it is as I wouldn't want to stand up all day at work waving my arms around but it's a lot of cool eye candy stuff to watch anyways!

1 Dec 2007 (updated 1 Dec 2007 at 15:17 UTC) »

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I found a refurbished irobot roomba scheduler for sale for $129 at buy.com! Usually they run around $250 new and this is the good one that you can schedule and it automatically finds the charging station and recharges itself when it gets low. so I begged and talked my wife into letting me buy it! We got it last week but I've been traveling so since I couldn't play with it I just stuck it on the charger and let it charge. It was sort of an ugly metallic avocado green color. Yuk! I'll have to paint it for sure as that color makes me want to barf. Monday & Tuesday I was in Alabama and Friday I was down in Austin, TX. So anyway I got back last night and had to run it. The whole family to my surprise wanted to see it run too! The girls were naming it cute robot names and putting my-little-ponies on it and wanting to put cracker crumbs in front of it. It was their new little pet/toy! The thing did a great job! I guess I can forgive the ugly color. On the package when I opened it, it says hobbyists can program it! I had sort of hoped I got the right version so that I could play with the programming. I'm curious what I can do with it as I'm not sure where or what programming utilities there are for it. Looks like I'll have to do some google searches to see what's out there. For $129 I think it was an incredibly good deal! Check it out!

17 Nov 2007 (updated 17 Nov 2007 at 16:49 UTC) »

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Last month my daughter got to take home the class pet hedgehog named Twinkie! Twinkie was so cute! We got to keep her all weekend and we just fell in love with the little hedgie! Well, now we want one as a pet. So I began looking for them. Went to PetSmart and Petsco. They can't be found! I called around and found Pet-a-rama in NW Plano had one for $145! I looked on craigslist and they had one for $90 in my area. I looked online and they range from about $75 to $300 plus another $265 for shipping! Wow! Of course me, I'm thinking of a money making opportunity. So if we got one, we'll likely get two a male and a female and see if we can sell the babies! If so, we may at least pay back what we paid for them and if it goes well enough, we may be able to suppliment our Disney vacation! So my wife, who hates animals, gave me a list of things I have to do if I want a hedgehog. None the least is to clean up my computer room. Like it looks like it'll be at least next year before we can have a hedgie because my room is a mess! But anyway, I have a plan to get a hedgehog. My youngest daughter is going wild with it! She's been drawing hedgehogs on a spiral notebook with hearts all around it. She's been drawing pictures of baby hedgehogs driving cars and riding motorcycles and any other picture you can think of that a child would draw with a baby hedgehog! She is so hyped on this whole plan it's not even funny! Every day she comes to me and tells me to clean my computer room! ugg. She also comes in and tells me about converting my plastic shelves into a hedgehot condo by just wrapping fence around it and building stairs. It actually sounds like a cool idea! Anyway we've had fun together hashing out our hedgehog fiendish plans! I can't wait for our new pets!

My test strips lady came through again. Another $1300 worth of test strips to sell! Yea! She also has a bunch of kids clothes that sounds like a really good deal. She's been selling them but she'll be going into surgery and won't be able to sell them for a while so she wanted to give me the opportunity. It's $5000 but I just don't have the money right now. So, I created a listing on prosper.com for $6500 to pay the $5000 for the clothes and $1300 for the test strips. We'll see if it goes through. Here's the listing to see if I can get some money for my ebay business: I need money. (the listing may take a day or two to appear).

I still love my new job. I just got back from Florida! They sent me to Tampa and Miami. I thought Tampa would be really nice, but it was really nasty. I tried to go to the beach but it was just a parking lot and no sand just rocks. There were a bunch of sea gulls so I broke up a pop tart and threw them pieces. Man, they got within 6" of my face. It was really scary so I stopped and got back into the car! Yikes! Anyway, I looked over at a pickup truck that was parked nearby and it was rocking. yikes. So as I was leaving I saw a big fat man get out and a young blonde lady. Yeah, you know what they were doing! So I get to the customer and of course I didn't bring that up, but instead they talked about how bad prostitution was in that area. Yeah, I'm thinking to myself, I saw it first hand, yuk! So I don't have high regard for Tampa. It's probably nicer than my first impression, but that was a bad first impression. I then drove down to Miami which was like 4.5 hour drive plus another hour or two because I stopped for lunch and shopping in Naples. I thought Miami would be nasty. I'm thinking Miami vice stuff from the 80s I guess. Actually, it was very very nice! I was quite impressed with Southbeach. It was a beautiful beach with beautiful hotels that lined the beach. The ocean drive was a nice restaurant row and like lots of shopping up and down the street. The beach had beautiful shells and fairly clean water sort of a light clear green tint. They had a lifeguard and those beach chairs all laid out nice with canopies and such. There was a boat pulling a guy with a parachute. In front of the beach there was park that the kids could play in and I could just go on and on more than I already had. I was very impressed. Just like you'd see in postcards! In Miami I had to do three customer installs. They all went well. I got to eat steak and excellent ethnic food. It's so cool, I love my job! Of course when I got back I had to deal with all the followup. That's not always fun but it wasn't so bad. Hopefully they'll purchase and I'll get commissions! Woohoo! They already have me scheduled for Alabama Nov 27th. Neato!

2 Nov 2007 (updated 2 Nov 2007 at 02:31 UTC) »

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I want one: RepRap. They say you can build it for about $500. I'm thinking of doing it!

Next week, I'll be gone to Florida to do three, count them three software installs for my job. I'll leave Tuesday from Dallas and get to Tampa. Spend the night. Go to my first location on Wed and do an install. Drive down to Miami and spend the night. Go to my second install on Thurs and spend the night. Go to my third install in Miami on Fri, then come back to Dallas! Wow! I'm hoping to see the beach at Tampa and the beach at Miami or Ft Lauderdale! Hopefully the hurricane Noel won't be coming back for me! I wish I had the time to take my family to Disney World! Anyway, next week will be an adventure!!! I have jury duty on the 12th when I get back too.

I've been looking at Prosper.com to see if I can borrow some money to pay down some high interest debt. It seems sort of interesting. With my new job I've actually been able to pay down some debt but I've got a long way to go! I really like my new job!

I'm working again on my VBS in 3D idea! I'm really hoping that this year I can sell my church on the idea! I've gotten a few new software tools to help in this endevor. I got Anime Studio 5 and Cosic Blobs. I also have Adobe Photoshop 6, Adobe Premier 6.5, Micrografx Simply 3D 3.5, Magix Music Maker, Dark Basic Professional, and a few other programs all to help me. I'm really hoping that this year I can come up with something. I'm already disappointed in the Cosmic Blobs program because it doesn't appear to have perspective so when I create red/blue anaglyphs they appear flat not 3d-ized. I've thought of doing a world rotate to simulate perspective but that's sort of a lame way to do it. It is really simple to make some pretty easy models and even animations in cosmic blobs so I won't give up yet. I also want to make a stereo lens for my video camera so that I can capture stereo video animation and turn it into 3d anaglyph in premier. I guess it is quite an undertaking but I really want to do it! I'm trying to get some help making 3d bible images. Hopefully, my idea won't get shot down this year like it did in 2005. I should be better prepared next year. I'll try to make the presentation in January or February so I still have some time to get content made. I'm impressed with anime studio 5. It's really great for making cartoons! I thought it would be perfect for making Emergent Behavior cartoons even animated. What I'm wanting to do with it, though, is make left and right eye animations and pull them into premier and making them into 3d anaglyph cartoons. I've made two animation scenes with it so far and the results work great! I've tested the 3d up at church with the video projector and the 3d still works on the projector (I was afraid that they wouldn't). I've tried making a dvd and showing it on my TV but it doesn't seem to work. It's like it kills some of the color or something so the 3d doesn't appear very well. I can run my computer laptop with the video projector and that works so I'll just do that - run everything from the laptop and not try to do dvds. That'll be OK I guess. I'm currently trying to make a decent powerpoint presentation (or should I say Impress as I'm using Open Office), and hopefully I'll make something that will sell the church. I want to make it fun where everyone has 3d glasses to view the presentation too so they'll get the effect and the idea vividly! I tried to create some 3d videos with my t-mobile wing camera phone but the video codec doesn't pull into premier. I tried my little digital DXG camera too and the videos from that have problems also. It looks like the Sony CCD camera is the only thing I have that will work for this right now. My daughters have both agreed to help me with making 3d art and videos and vbs songs so I'm really excited about that.

I've been learning Perl. I was able to make a few programs that were useful at work! Wow, they actually are using my first programs I ever made in Perl and they'll probably deploy them for upgrade procedures to the customer. That's scary! Anyway, I know enough now just to be dangerous. I like it. I'm better at REGEXs also since I'm learning perl and since our database importer uses regex to transform data. Like we can removing leading zeros or add dashes to ssn numbers, etc. I was looking for a PERL that I could load on my T-Mobile Wing phone. So far haven't found any nice scripting language for my phone except for evolane's TCL/TK. I made a little random restaurant picker. Tim and I have been using it when we can't figure out where to go to lunch. It works. I've been playing with it. I'd like to write something to read in my GPS bluetooth coordinates and do something like make a speedometer but apparently the serial routines in it are disabled so I can't read the gps. boo! I guess it's because they're trying to save space or something that they removed the serial library. That was a real bummer. I'm not too interested in developing MS studio 2005 or Java and downloading to the phone. I really just wanted a scripting thing to play with while I was on the plane or in the bathroom. :-) I'd love it if Javascript was available. It looks like there's some sort of MS Script thing but I'm not wanting to run the browser to get it. I still love my t-mobile wing phone, tho.

At work we've been looking at Content Management Systems (CMS). We currently have something but it's old and dated. I asked Steve and he suggested Joomla! It looks like it's the best of the ones we've been looking at. We've looked at Postnuke, dotNetNuke, and a few others. The problem we're running into is that our current system is glued to Microsoft's CRM and we'll have to figure out how to glue Joomla to CRM and some other contact and inventory programs. It looks like some serious surgery to extract the old stuff and patch in this new stuff.

17 Sep 2007 (updated 17 Sep 2007 at 08:43 UTC) »

To rgeraci:

First off, I just now saw your message about my experience in NYC. Sorry, I didn't respond sooner. I wish there was a direct messing system for robots.net and responding via blog is not very direct.

I appreciate your insite into what probably happened in NYC. That makes more sense what you said. Sometimes it's harder to get along with different denominations than it is complete outsiders! I don't know why that is? I guess sometimes the divisions run deeper with familiarity?

Your survey is interesting. It seems here on Robots.net that Robots and Religion has gotten to be quite a theme. Seems whenever we have an article about robotics and religion it always gets a lot of responses. I suppose all sides are well aware of the implications. It's weird how it's almost a battle line topic.

Yea, it looks like the latest RoboMenu widget is finally posted on the konfabulator website! Now we can have Robots.net RSS news feeds and Robot of the Day on our desktops again! Yea! Happy downloading!

I have updated the RoboMenu Widget. I have uploaded it to the konfabulator.com website but so far they have not updated it (look for version 1.08 at the bottom right to make sure you're getting the latest version or on the about screen when you run it). Until they update the version, I've put it on snapfish for download but you have to remove the .zip extension as they don't allow .widget extensions and widgets are basically just zip files anyway So after download, rename RoboMenu.widget.zip to RoboMenu.widget to make it work. You'll probably want to put it in your My Widgets directory under your My Documents directory but I think konfabulator moves it there automatically if you run it.

This version fixes the display problems that the upgraded konfabulator broke as well as the background going missing problems. IE, now it's compliant with the latest version of konfabulator. Sorry it took so long for those who have been waiting.

I love the RoboMenu widget for the robots.net RSS newsreader! Enjoy!

FYI: Konfabulator is a free desktop widget engine provided by Yahoo!

11 Sep 2007 (updated 11 Sep 2007 at 17:08 UTC) »

I planted the Zoysia plugs in my front yard. While I was digging holes for the plugs, I found lots of grub worms. Bummer. That's why my yard look so bad. So I went to home depot and bought some Sevin bug poison granules. I spread it all over my yard. The package says you can't let it touch you and to wear gloves and long sleeves, don't breath it, etc. Well I got it all over my shoes and I can't get it out. Not sure if I can recover the shoes if the stuff is that dangerous. Anyway, it has been raining exceptionally hard here in Garland so I think all the poison got washed away. I'll have to reapply it I think. Bad thing is I think the poison kills everything even the wonderful earthworms that are so good for my lawn. I really hate to be killing the good bugs too. Anyway, I'm hoping that will fix the problem with the grub worms and with the grass and hopefully I can have a decent looking yard someday. Perhaps I could make a tiller robotic machine that could till the dirt, look for grub worms and ants to kill, look for earthworms to save, plant zoysia plugs and water?

I got my little GPS box. It has 32 channels for looking for satellites and it has a solar panel on top to make it last longer without having to be plugged in. It transmits bluetooth to my phone or laptop and I have a Delorme Street Atlas program that will give me voice gps directions on my phone or laptop. It's sort of limited on the phone because of space so you have to download maps to it of the specific area you want to view. You'd have to do that ahead of time for your trip and it's a little cumbersome. Really, if I wasn't a geek I'd just buy a tomtom or a magellan but I wanted the bluetooth gizmo because I think it would be good to get the text codes so that I could use if for a robot or to make my own gps program or something. Anyway it was about $67 on ebay and it appears to work on my phone. The Delorme street atlas program was $15 on ebay and I'm not sure I like it. I think I probably should have bought the MS streets and trips which is like $24 at Sams. Anyway, a GPS is really necessary for the job I have where they have me traveling all around. I've been borrowing my parents GPS so now I don't really need their's anymore. Anyway, I'm looking forward to having fun with it.

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