Older blog entries for The Swirling Brain (starting at number 117)

This site has micro servos for $5.39 with free shipping! Wow!

Today, Jan 24th, Woot has a 18 watt solar cell with controller for $99 + $5 shipping. This could be just the thing you were looking for on your outside strolling robot.

30 Dec 2008 (updated 30 Dec 2008 at 07:11 UTC) »

We went to Disneyland over the Christmas holidays. We had a great time. Everyone told us that Disneyland was smaller than DisneyWorld. It is, but it wasn't as dire as people made it out to be. We went to California Adventure and Disneyland and there was certainly plenty to do and enjoy for the 3 days we were at disney (and 6 days total in California). It was cold and rainy and that kept the crowds at bay so we were able to ride many rides twice and three times and only have wait times of 5, 10 and 20 minutes; unheard of for the busiest time of the year for them. We also went to Universal Studios Hollywood which we hated. We also saw Hollywood (Chinese Grumman Theater & the walk of fame stars and the Kodak Theater), Santa Monica beach (which has a nice carnival type pier and beach), and Long Beach (which has the Queen Mary and a Ferris Wheel). We stayed at Castle Inn and Suites which looks sort of like a castle and was only two blocks from the Disneyland Entrance so we walked to Disney every day. The Hotel looked cool from the outside but was basically a cheap motel on the inside. It was good enough to sleep in, though, and they kept it clean, and it was close, so we were happy. Disneyland, I thought, was as big as The Magic Kingdom in Florida or bigger and was just as good if not better. California Adventure was as good as MGM Studios in Florida if not better. So overall I thought it was at least 2/3rds as good as the 4 parks in Florida. Of course DisneyWorld is much more than the parks so it doesn't really compare in that respect (probably 40 times bigger) but I think as far as the major parks it ranks nearly as good. I was really surprised at that given so many people told me how bad Disneyland was (or perhaps I just perceived they were telling me it was so bad). I'll still probably go to Florida from here on out but I was pleasantly surprised with how good Disneyland was.

Of course Disneyland gave me lots of robotic, graphics, mechanical and video inspiration. Hopefully it won't all go to waste.

My rolling ball sculptures have been doing well. Before I left I sold a sculpture for $275 so that about made our vacation paid for before we left. I also listed a sulpture before we left on vacation and it sold the day we were coming back so that was another $75. However, we went way overboard on food cost at the parks so I guess we really didn't break even. It really is amazing how much they gouge for food at the parks. It was easy for the four of us to spend over $40 a meal and that was just burgers, fries and a drink. My hopes is that I'll sell some more RBSs and I'll be able to pay off that small debt rather quickly and begin saving for our next vacation.

I've been doing a little coding at work and at home I've really be craving doing some PIC code slinging. I lost just about all of the PIC code I had in the past since my last hard drive crash. I thought I had some backups but I can't find any backup DVDs that work yet so all is lost on that. It may be fun to recode the RTOS I made for the 16f877 and perhaps do it better this time. I had pretty much polished it. I also had a nice LED text display pretty much polished and it's lost too. I had some nice I2C bit bang code polished and it's all gone too. I could cry as it will take a while to recreate all that stuff from scratch. There's a lot to be said for doing backups and using a system that actually is able to restore the backup. grr.

One of the things I'd like to mess with is getting a wireless network connection going on a pic board. I think it would be nice to talk to a pic controlled RBS where I could tell a sculpture to do some commands like drop a ball or give status from my wifi connection to it. Then from the pc I could do stuff like a cron job to drop a ball every hour or something or do a internet webcam rbs with internet control or something like that. I'll probably settle with having a USB pic dongle that does wireless codes to a PIC board on the sculpture but I'd rather have the sculpture be self contained with a wifi connection then any old computer could talk to it. Hmmm, security. Well, I guess it would be nice to be WEP or WAP enabled too. Oh well, it's getting complicated. I guess it's just a dream anyway, I don't know if I will give that much time to it anyway.

My mom took care of our hedgehogs while we were on vacation. I think they secretly love the hedgehogs too. They apparently took them out a lot. They bought the girl hedgehog a new wheel to run on. They bought them different food and cleaned their cage a few times (wasn't needed) and talked about them a lot when we got back. I guess if they ever have babies I'll offer one to them and see if they take it. We'll try to breed them again in January.

At work, they're letting me code a little more and there's less customer service to do. I'm liking that and hoping it will go more that way as time goes on. They're starting to hire a few more people so that hopefully means there's a little more job security where I work. I've worked there for about a year and a half but there's no mention of reviews or raises to anyone. I guess in this economy, just having a job is good enough so I'm not complaining.

We left Golden Meadows Baptist Church and have started going to First Baptist Church in Garland. We really like it there. I'm sort of worried for GMBC. I'm hoping it can turn around but I'm really doubtful. :-( It's quite a contrast going from a really small church to a really big church. I'm really enjoying the change so far. We'll probably join this Sunday.

Today Dec 15th, 2008 (one day only) Woot has the VEXplorer RC Robotic Construction System for $80 + $5 shipping. I guess that's a good price wind the next best on froogle is $129 and the average price is around $160.

More of my rolling ball sculptures have been selling on ebay. I'm about $300 or $400 short of funding my vacation this year with RBSs and selling stuff in my garage on ebay. So for the most part I don't have to go into debt to go on vacation.

I had one person ask to commission a $1125 RBS but then only wanted to pay $500 for it. Usually when someone wants to commission an RBS they start pulling stupid negotiation goofiness on me like that to where I just about don't want to do commissioning of RBSs anymore. What's funny is how they email me and go on and on about how many millions I'll make and how they have it all figured out and then want to cut the price by more than half. I've seen it so many times I can sort of see it coming and I have a hard time trusing people when it comes to commissioning something. So my best bet is to just make them and list them on ebay. That way I pretty much don't have some nut bossing me and goofing me around. It's just I make them and they buy them or not. I like that way of doing things and so I'll probably turn down commissioning of RBSs. Unless someone can make it worth my while, it's just not worth it to me (does that sentence make sense?).

So far we're still going to First Baptist in Garland. We like it a lot and will probably join there. I keep hearing stuff through the grapevine about my old church and it doesn't sound good. It's sort of sad but we're glad we left when we did. It's never going to change and so the best bet is just to go somewhere where it's better.

We're all excited about going to Disneyland in California. My daughter Bethany is becoming a cute little actress and wants to see Hollywood. We'll also see California Adventure and Universal Studios Hollywood. We'll probably also go to Long beach and up the Pacific Coast Highway to Redondo Beach and Santa Monica Beach, etc. We decided to fly instead of drive. I like that better because we'll have more time and we won't be worn out when we get there. We'll be staying at the Castle Inn. It's supposed to look like a castle on the outside and the inside will have suits of armor, shields and swords on the walls all sort of Medieval decked out. It's right across from Disney they say so hopefully we can just walk to the park.

Over a month and a half ago we put our boy and girl hedgehogs together hoping they would mate. Well, it's been enough time now and no babies so I guess it didn't happen. Boo hoo. Anyway, we may try it again after January. Natalie had already come up with names and was bouncing around saying we were going to have babies and on and on. Oh well. Spike, the boy hedgehog, was sweet with me the night before last. He climbed all over me and then got tired and just laid beside my leg as I watched TV. They're sort of like Grumpy and Happy all at the same time type of little pets. My mom said she would keep them while we were on vacation. I think she secretly likes them too. She always wants to see them when they come over.

So far my job is holding out. The product that I was doing tech support for is for the most part dead. We're still supporting it but it isn't going anywhere. We've been moved over to another project or two and that's been fun and I'm really getting into it. We got notice that the customer liked what we did and signed us up for another year! A few other customers have also purchased more. That's always good. Some things are sort of looking up and others down but it looks like we have a future at least now. I was worried for a while there that the company was just about to go under and now it looks like we still have a little lease on life. Good timing too with the way the economy is going.

Yea, two of my rolling ball sculptures I listed I sold on ebay! The popsicle stick RBS didn't sell for much. I didn't expect it to. However it was just about 1 or 2 inches too big which made shipping cost about $10 more than expected so I lost even more money on it. I made about $20 on something that took me weeks to produce. shrug. The Christmas ornament didn't sell at all. Perhaps it's too early yet. The copper one sold for $75.99! The shipping will be more than I put and the copper is really expensive right now, so there again I probably made about $50 on it. It's not a fortune but at least it's something.

There's basically two kinds of people that look at an RBS: those that get it and those that don't. My boss came into my office and saw the sculpture and said "that looks like coat hangers" and didn't even care to pick up a marble and try it. A guy at one of the robot meetings saw one of my sculptures and said, "that's just ground wire" and was making fun of it and snearing at it. Then there's the other type that look at the sculptures and says stuff like, "that's so cool, how did you do that?" or "that's so awesome, can I do it?" or "I want one!" It's like you either get it or you don't. My boss asked me how much to make him one. I told him I sold it on ebay for $75 and he said that's about $70 more than he wanted to pay for it. Like wow, did he really think I sold them for $5 or is it that he's my boss and expects me to make him one for next to nothing. Shrug.

Anyway, I'm hoping to fund my vacation by selling these things and so far I've made near $100 toward my vacation. So now just about 30 or 40 more like that and I'll have enough. ugg. So you see, I probably can't fund the entire vacation with them but if it pays for a few souvenirs or extra dinners on my vacation fund that will be nice.

We went to Wylie First Baptist Church last Sunday. We really liked it. It's a really large church and their services are like a rock concert. It was quite a production. We actually liked it quite a lot. It was very flashy, the preaching was solid and the singing was good. A very worshipful experience in spite of the production.

We went to South Garland Baptist Church the previous Sunday. The sanctuary had an old people smell but it was a pretty good service also. We were quite impressed. It's a medium sized church and the people seem sincere.

We went to Northeast church. It was an independent church. It was very laid back with everyone wearing shorts and t-shirts and jeans. You could tell the visitors (like us) because they were dressed nicer than everyone else. The service was worshipful and generic. There were lots of kids/teens there - way more than I expected. They must have a great teen ministry. However the preaching got into baptism and works for salvation and losing your salvation which I believe to be incorrect theology so we won't be going back.

Anyway, the church hopping experience is new to us since we've been at Golden Meadows for so many years. We like not having any responsibility right now. It's a little liberating.

25 Sep 2008 (updated 25 Sep 2008 at 20:36 UTC) »

Well, I've posted three rolling ball sculptures on ebay. I'm hoping to fund my vacation by selling some sculptures online.

I watched all of the Firefly episodes online. Man, I wish they had more of those. They're so cool.

I resigned my music ministry from Golden Meadows Baptist Church. Now we're church hopping. My buddy Tim McGough has taken over where I left off. This is a really big step for us but something we felt led to do.

Still paying down my debt on Prosper. We're probably going to sell the remaining clothes we bought on Liquidation.com Perhaps that will help us finance our vacation as well.

Our garage door opener went bad so I had the joy of buying a new Genie for $150 and putting it up myself. Probably someone who knows what they're doing could put it up in an instance. For me it took half of a Saturday and a few hours on a Tuesday. Yea, it's working now! My wife is so happy and that's all that matters!

We're hoping to drive from Garland, TX to Los Angeles, California for vacation. We'll probably go during the Christmas holidays. I'm thinking we'll stop at Carlsbad Caverns, NM, and perhaps Roswell. We'll go to the Grand Canyon and drive thru Las Vegas. Then we'll go to Disneyland and California Adventure. Then we'll go to Hollywood and Beverly Hills. We'll probably see Long Beach and Santa Monica beach. We might try to go to Universal Studios and Knotts Berry Farms. And whatever else we can fit in. I really don't want to drive but my wife like's the idea and the kids sort of do to. My oldest daughter is getting her driver's permit and she was all into it. That'll work if we drive our car but if we rent, I don't think that will work out. I've already hit up all of the free travel guide sites for ideas. Anyway, here's hoping we can scrounge up some cash to go on vacation by then.

I talked with a friend about the movie Primer (that I spoke about in previous blog entry). He has a really cool timeline chart that covers the movie pretty well. If your a geek at all, you'll love the movie! That movie is so cool on so many levels. I first of all liked the part of the machine functionality discovery. That was cool in itself. Then when he showed his friend at the storage facility their other selves, that was cool too. Then it was cool figuring out what all they could do with duplicate lives. And then it was cool to just figure out where it could go from there and then how to stop it. That's a cool swirling brain movie if ever I saw one. One of the best lines from the movie was "I'm starving, I haven't eaten since later this afternoon". My brain is still swirling on this movie!

I saw Wall-E and The Dark Knight. I loved Wall-E. The Dark Knight I didn't like. I guess I'm strange because it seems everyone I talked to loved it. To me it was just a character sketch type movie. You learn intimately the psychology about the Joker and some about Bat Man and some about Two Face. There were some explosions and action blah blah. There were a few relation ship things. Basically it was a chick flick slash horror flick slash plot twist movie with explosions. There was no real hero and all the villains you had to feel sorry for so there were no real hard villains. The movie was super long at 3 hours. The movie didn't know what it was in my opinion. I guess there was a lot of eye candy and good acting but it was a bad situation movie where it all just got worse and ended where it was bad. It was like a Shakespeare tragedy type movie. The good guys did bad things and the bad guys did good things. It was a backward movie. I could have done without seeing it. I did like the graphics on Two Face as gory as they were, they were cooly done. I guess that makes me morbid. The rest of the movie was so-so to me. I guess it made my brain swirl (as you can tell by my long review) but it just made it swirl backwards.

I saw Dr. Horrible's sing-a-long Blog. It's hilarious. It starts out slow but it gets better. It's cheesy and cool all at the same time.

I got to make a web program for Roger. That was fun. Of course between my lack of quality time and my other goofy projects, it seems I couldn't ever get to working on it. Anyway, it's working now, so it's back in his court on any changes that need to be made. Hope he likes it.

I worked on a popsicle stick rolling ball sculpture. I listed it on etsy. historically, popsicle stick rbs's don't sell well so I don't expect to sell it but it worth a shot.

So I've had netflix watch instantly for a while now. I really love it. The latest flick I saw was really a swirling brain movie called Primer. It's about a couple of guys who build this contraption that they can't tell anyone about and what they do with it. It will really swirl your brain. I really enjoyed it. The other movies I've seen (not necessarily instant watch) include Underworld and its sequel. Of course Kate Bechinsale makes the movies so the next one without her will probably be a dud. These two are cool in that they involve vampires and warewolves and high tech. They have UV bullets and liquid silver bullets to kill each other. The really cool thing was the little hockey puck bombs they had that sprayed a gas mist and then do a sort of spark plug thing and go boom. A lot of violence and many quarts of blood later you have a sort of swirling brain movie. I saw Crossworlds too. It has a cool swirling premise but it's just B movie fun.

My daughter Natalie and I have been baking bread. She made a few loafs shaped like hedgehogs with red cinnamin eyes and spiky backs. She made a loaf that was made by braiding three strings of dough. They all turned out pretty good. She's having so much fun and I'm enjoying doing stuff with my daughter even if it is baking bread. We are using recipies for the bread machine. We basically just put in the ingredients and put it on the dough setting and then an hour later once the dough is ready we play with it then let it rise a little then bake it. It's cheap fun really.

Well, my medicine co-pays have gotten up to about $300 a month now. It's quite a bummer and really sucking down my finances. This is not including the co-pays we already pay for Bethany for her CF drugs which are quite expensive (Insurance pays over $5000 a month on her drugs!). We try to keep track of all our co-pay receipts and then we get some of the money back when we turn in our IRS forms. Still, it's a real bummer.

I have six 3D VBS songs made so far. They are looking pretty good. I'm hoping to have 9 or 10 made by Aug 4th when VBS starts. They are made where you have to wear the red/blue anaglyph glasses to see the 3D. I think the kids will have fun with it! It seems that the rest of the VBS won't be in 3D because it seems no one else really has the vision to do it. One friend there seems to have the vision and is doing some work getting T-Shirts made and fliers made but the rest seem could not care less about it. I'm really hoping that this year the 3D VBS will be a reality. Here's me still holding out hope.

My one year anniversary just came around at work (July 2nd) without much fanfare nor raise in sight but at least I still have a job. I still really love working there. I get to do tech support, program, test, you name it. There's quite a varity of work there. I'm trying to get a security clearance there so perhaps if it goes through I will have more job security. I've had the gov guys talk to me some and they've been interviewing my neighbors already! Anyway, here's hoping on that too. I haven't gotten to travel much since we haven't made many sales. The civilian side software isn't selling but the gov side is. I'm hoping my clearance will help to move me to the dark side so I'll have some sticking power. Our big civilian customer still hasn't committed yet. When/if they do, it will be a big deal and everyone will be happy. We have made some advances on the software and it looks pretty good if we can just release it soon, that will help our position quite a bit. We are testing it and testing it trying to make sure it's quality. So far it's looking pretty good but it still has a way to go before it can be released.

Prosper is still a cool way to borrow money. So far I've paid my load down about $1000. Only about 2-1/3 years to go on my loan. The children's clothes we bought hasn't been selling well. We're probably going to try to offload them on liquidation.com and try to get some of our money back. Here's hoping on that too. It seems we always lose so we'll probably get less than we paid for it. But, we need to cut our losses and at least hope we'll get some money back.

The catchfly seeds have sprouted but I haven't kept up on watering them regularly so they are not big at all yet.

It's been a while since I poasted last. I guess I should post again.

I had been using blockbuster.com for doing dvds through the mail and now I've switched to netflix.com. Why? Because you can watch movies instantly online. So, I've been watching lots of older dr. who shows instantly. The quality is pretty good, as good as a vcr or better so I can't complain too much. Most of the movies start within less than 15 seconds! Not too many really good movies nor many recently released movies are available online but there are a few and there's always plenty of b-movie sci-fi goodness that I can choke down. The fun starts at $8.99 a month for unlimited streaming and 1 or 2 dvd movies out a month (can't remember) but you can go higher! I think I chose the $16.99 a month plan for 3 dvd movies out and unlimited streaming. You have to use IE for their DRM (blech) but I'm enjoying it. So far I've watched many Dr. Who shows, Silent Running, Organism, 2 Hellboy animated shows, a few religious shows, Nova documentaries, and a bunch of other stuff. My wife usually hogs the tv in the living room so it's like I can sit in my man-cave and watch what I want to watch. Very cool. I had a few dvds delivered which were MST3K dvds. They were mildly funny. I remember them being funnier but I guess it's funnier with the company you watch them with. When you are buy yourself you forget to laugh out loud so you don't remember it being funny. I've seen Girl in the Golden boots, Spider Invasion, and Godzilla vs. Megalon. None of them were that great. My wife reminded me of a movie like that called Adventure of the Dinosaurs but it wasn't MST3K instead it was when the USA channel had Captain USA doing something similar as MST3K. He made it funny.

I got to go to Hollywood in May. I got to see Hollywood blvd with the walk of stars sidewalk, Chinese Grummand Theatre and all the freaks there. I saw the Hollywood mountain sign thingy. I also went to Rodondo beach and saw a bunch of surfers. I went to ?Encino? and ate at McDonalds (whoohoo). I wanted to see Disneyland but missed it. I got turned around and ended up in downtown Los Angeles. They have these really cool trees near LA that have bright lavendar color blossoms. It's like looking at a bright purple tree where the UV just glimmers purple off and almost blinds you with purple! In downtown LA they have a park with like 30 of those trees. I don't know what they're names are but they are spectacular to see. I've never seen trees like that anywhere but in and around the LA area. I took pictures but the pictures don't do them justice - I guess the camera can't pick up the UV flare they have. You just have to see them to believe them. I saw a lot of signs on the telephone poles wanting to legalize marijuanna and I went through a lot of crummy neighborhoods as well as very nice neighborhoods. There was very much contrast in that area. LAX airport was a lot different than I remember it. it has grown and it was under a lot of construction. Most of the people were very nice and friendly that I met.

I'm working on my 3d song videos for our 3D vbs we'll be having this year at church. I have 3 and a half videos made so far. They look pretty good if I say so myself. I'm excited to see how well they go and how well the kids like them.

I still love my job. I'm coming up on working here about a year at the beginning of July.

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