Older blog entries for The Swirling Brain (starting at number 122)

15 Sep 2009 (updated 15 Sep 2009 at 02:09 UTC) »

Lately I've been trying to make robot parts and have them 3D printed in plastic at Shapeways.com. I have made a few rolling ball sculptures with them.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGdUFg_X8mE

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfqH_60ZgFY

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfXCBFxDx6w

I want to make some robot parts. I tried making part of a robot servo leg using a pixel method with a program I wrote.

However, because of the pixels (voxels?) there's too many polygons for shapeways to accept. There's only 4300 faces but I think they turn them into multiple triangles and then it gets nasty like a million of them. As you can see from the image, my program has some strange problem or Turbocad 14 has a weird problem where it removes a small face on the left hand side. I'm not sure if it's real or just a bug with Turbocad 14. I tried downloading MeshLab and Blender but they both have their troubles. MeshLab crashes all the time. When I could get it to work. I could get it to close holes and reduce or decimate the number of polygons but Shapeways would never accept MeshLab's output. Similarly, Blender could reduce polygons but there again I had trouble loading the file into Shapeways. I'm sure it's something I'm doing. Shapeways has to have a totally watertight model for it to be accepted and when I reduce polygons somewhere something gets messed up. I also made a few Christian rings and a few other RBSs but I haven't tried to print anything else except for the three RBSs shown so far.

(Testing putting a line on a curved faced ring)

(Testing putting text on a model & curved face)

(This rbs has a start bucket and an end bucket)

Kotulas has a $13 robot desk lamp that seems amusing!

I saw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen this weekend. It was entertaining but too long and drawn out for its own good. They could have chopped out about half of the movie and no one would notice. It was a lot of robots hitting each other and blowing up stuff. I went to the restroom during the movie and when I came back they were still hitting each other and blowing up stuff. There was a lot of "corn" too that really put the movie down to elementary grade roll your eyes level. I wish they could have left that out too. I'd say it was entertaining if you could over look the 12 year old cheezy stuff like the robot humping Megan Fox's leg. The movie was really geared for 12 year old boys at best. I'd give it a 2-1/2 stars out of 5.

Our oldest daughter Bethany was in Children's Hospital for about two weeks. Her lung function had dropped to 50% because of her CF condition. It's up to about 70% now and they let her out. While she was in the hospital they isolated her from other patients because they thought she might have a resistant bacteria. So they let her have a laptop in her room. After they released the isolation, she still go to keep the laptop. That means she was on the internet and facebook every waking hour. She was a little rude about it too. People would come visit and she couldn't acknowledge them because she was too busy IMing some friends on facebook. She had so many people coming to visit she had to dole out time slots of when they could come and how long they could stay and such. My family had to work around her schedule. If I were in the hospital I figure I'd have like one or two visitors and that's all. I'm glad she was spoiled but that was a funny strange unexpected situtation that I didn't know she would have to deal with. One creepy boy that came to visit wouldn't leave. Bethany did about everything to get rid of him, even typing on her cellphone for the nurse to read to please get rid of him but even she couldn't get rid of him. Finally my wife took him out of the room and walked him all the way down to the train station to see him off! Anyway we had a lot of nice sweet friends that cared about Bethany. I'm afraid Bethany's lungs have deteriorated more than expected if all she can get to is around 70% lung function. That doesn't sound good to me but I don't want to let on to her.

This weekend I sold 4 rolling ball sculptures and a video! I haven’t gotten all the money yet but supposedly I will. I really won’t see any of the money anyway as my medical and credit card debt will eat it up but hopefully it’ll put a nice dent or at least a noticeable scratch into my debt. I sold a large sculpture ($800 but with free shipping), a medium sculpture ($156), a small sculpture ($48) and a video ($20) and then a lady wants me to commission a sculpture ($150) and I already have a bid on a small sculpture I have listed on ebay. Also, I’m half way through a 2’ wall hanging sculpture and half way through my volume 2 video. It has been a productive weekend. Anyway, this week I’ll be stressed trying to complete the commissioned sculpture by Friday because she wants it for her sons birthday in a couple of weeks. So I’m sort of stressed this week trying to get it all done.

I bought a 1TB hard drive this weekend. It was a Segate SATA 7200rpm with 32mb cache. I had $105 of birthday money and guess how much it cost? Yep, $105. I could have probably gotten a better deal on slickdeals.net but I got it Friday and was able to play with it all this weekend. The best thing was, I was able to install it, transfer everything from my old drive and boot up and go all without any grief. It’s really weird that any sort of computer maintenance heart surgery like that would go off without a hitch. I must have done something wrong! That easy going right there was worth the extra money I paid. I figured XP would complain that it was on a different drive but it didn’t and seems to be running happy on the new drive. I’m happy about that!

Anyway, I had a pleasant productive weekend.

Lately, I've been making rolling ball sculptures and selling them on ebay. It seems the small sculptures sell the best on ebay but they only go for about $30-$35 each. I'd rather make and sell larger sculptures but they just don't sell that often. I recently hooked up with a guy that sells metal sculptures at a local gallery. He said he'll introduce me to the owner and see if I can get some of my sculptures in there. I'm hoping it may work out.

Recently, I made a Video on How to make a Rolling Ball Sculpture. I really didn't think I'd sell many of them and neigther did my wife. Shockingly I've already sold 6 of them! woohoo! While making it, my wife sort of make it hard on me to make the video and hasn't really helped me much on it. However, now that it's been selling I guess she sees dollar signs! For me it was really the fun of the whole process, from the vision, to doing, to filming, to video editing, to creating a dvd, to listing on ebay, and eventually selling. For her, it's all about the money. women.

One of the electronics projects I was working on before my hard drive crashed a few months ago was a computer that controlled the elevator for a rolling ball scultpure. It was kind of cool because it had a clock in it where it could be set to automatically drop a ball every hour or so. I had built a pic scheduler rtos and it was working pretty well, and I had done some neato things for it. But, when the hard drive crashed of course I didn't have any backup. Well, my brain swirled one day and I thought, I still have that program in the chip that I burned. I could suck out the chip's brains and then disassemble my code and basically recreate the source. I could then finish the changes I wanted to make to the program and the build the computerized rolling ball sculpture. That would save me tons of work from building the program again from scratch (which I wasn't wanting to do). So, perhaps someday, I'll try to suck the code out. My only dread is that I hope I didn't put a code lock on the chip or I won't be able to suck out the code.

At my job they sort of have left me to my own devices. I'm working on a program that involves ai. It's sort of interesting. Unfortunately, I can't give any details but at least to me it's really cool so you'll just have to take my word for it. :-( Anyway, it's weird that the company hasn't really checked on my progress and sort of has forgotten about me. I'm sort of glad because hopefully when they do check on me again, I'll have something really cool to show. Like many programming jobs, it takes a while before some cool behavior emerges (emergent behavior!). Anyway, I like my employer and it seems like they like me and my work. So, especially with all of the people losing their jobs, I'm just hoping my job holds out too.

I'm really liking the new First Baptist Church in Garland we're going to. I really like our Sunday School Class also. We already have many good friends. Well, the teacher will be out this Sunday so he asked me to cover for him! So for this Easter Sunday I'll get to teach.

This Sunday is also my Birthday. We're sort of short on funds so I told my wife to cool it on spending for my birthday. We'll probably seem Monsters vs. Aliens in 3D at the IMAX for my Birthday going out film. The movies I'd like to see (but are not out yet) are: Terminator Salvation, Star Trek, Transformers, Xmen Origins and Asto Boy and I can't really think of much else. It's weird how the sci-fi and robot stuff has really bubbled up to the top this year.

25 Mar 2009 (updated 25 Mar 2009 at 03:12 UTC) »

Get the Robot Building For Dummies book for only $12.59! Right now it's $17.59 at DeepDescount.com and there's a $5 Rebate so it's $12.59 and right now they have Free Shipping so it's $12.59 only! That's the best deal I've seen on this book! Yea! Get it while it's hot! Woohoo!

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.

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