Older blog entries for The Swirling Brain (starting at number 95)

7 Sep 2007 (updated 7 Sep 2007 at 02:49 UTC) »

Saw the movie Hairspray. It was entertaining and a lot of fun. Give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Saw the movie The Dish. It was given to me as a movie purchased at a dollar store by a friend of mine. Surprisingly it was a lot of fun! It's supposed to be a true story yet probably heavily doctored a la hollywood. It's about the Apollo 11 moon landing and how a 200' dish in Australia managed to capture and beam the pictures around the world through various trials. It's sort of geeky and sort of historical and a slight bit of comedy. I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Saw part of the movie Blades of Glory on an airplane. Funny but Trashy. I watched 1/2 of it and couldn't stand the trash so I stopped watching. Sorry but I give it a 0 out of 5 stars.

Saw the Last Mimsy. I liked it. It had a bit of magic and bit of technical stuff to it. It was interesting in sort of a Close Encounters type way. The end wasn't that great but the story was at least interesting. I'd give it a 3 out 5 stars.

I'm still loving my new job. So far I've been sent to NY, PA, OK, TN, VA, TX, etc. I like getting to travel. It's an adventure for me. My bosses seem to like me too so I guess that's good! I'm trying to do my best.

I'm still fighting with my lawn. I planted some Zosia seed and a little bit of it is coming up. I recently bought some Zosia plugs and I'm going to try that now. Hopefully, someday I'll have a decent looking lawn.

I'm loving all my tech gadgets my job has been giving me. I have a nice T-Mobile Wing cell phone that has Windows Mobile 6 on it. It's pretty cool and there's lots of software for it. I got a 2gig microsd card for it and only have about a 1/3rd of it loaded even with all the pics and software I have on it. It can recognize handwriting and voice recognition to some degree. I love it. My job has also issued me a laptop with the sprint mobile card so I can access the internet from anywhere. Wow, that's nice! I love it!

My finances are beginning to come back from the brink but I still have a terribly long way to go. I'm still selling stuff on ebay and trying to find deals and such.

Both of my cars are trying to go out on me. Hopefully I can fend off the finances long enough to scrounge up enough cash to buy a used car or two. One can hope. My wife's battery went out while I was in TN. She rented a Kia Spectra for a couple of days until I got back. When I got back, the next morning she made me replace her battery before I went to work. I got it working again. Then she told me she wasn't going to work that day so I'm wondering why I had to be late to work to change her battery if she wasn't going anywhere anyway? She told me I could take her car to work at least. Who can understand women? ugg.

My next door neighbor keeps asking to borrow stuff and never gives it back. Right now he has my lawn mower, my weedeater, and my ladder. I think the weedeater he fried by not putting oil-gas in it and he just hasn't gotten up the courage to tell me. When I ask him for my stuff back he keeps trying to change the subject and offers to do stuff around my house which I don't need done and I can never get my stuff back. It's very frustrating. I'm too nice or stupid not to let him borrow the stuff. I think he must have a lawn service and is using my stuff to mow other people's lawns and never has my stuff around to give it back to me. I don't know what to think. I guess I don't know how to say no or put my foot down.

18 Jul 2007 (updated 18 Jul 2007 at 03:39 UTC) »

Saw the movie The Island. I liked it a lot for the body harvesting swirling brain plot but at the chase scenes, it got boring. Ewen McGregor from StarWars and Dr. Flox from Enterprise was in it as well as a couple of other cameos. It reminded me a lot of Logan's run. I'd give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Saw the movie Ghost Rider. It was cheesy devilish fun. It sort of burns me up that it was too cheesy and too devilish so I'll give it a 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Got back from OK and NY! We got to see the statue of liberty. We didn't ferry out to it so it was sort of off in the distance but we did get to see it! Cool. We wanted to park down there but one parking garage said $245 per day and another said $269 per day! We found one that said $8.25 for the first half hour! I'm wondering how much it would be for the second. We didn't have time that day so we just went on back and didn't park down there. We found out later that we should have parked outside Manhatten and taken the train down if we wanted to walk around down there. Maybe next time.

When we arrived in Upstate New York, we stopped by the software install site so we'd know where to go the next day, then, we just went for a drive. Within a minute or two, we saw one of those ?Ascetic? Jews. You know, the ones with the black hats, black outfits and the hair locks down to their shoulders like you'd see in the movies. Of course that's unusual to see in Texas so that sort of stuck out to us. Well, so anyway, we saw another and then another and then another, etc. We probably saw about 50 or so. We had driven right into a Jewish village! We saw them walking we saw them riding bikes. We saw them thumbing for a hitchhikes. We saw them in Walmart. We saw them in restaurants and everywhere. Then we drove a little further and then it was Mexicans everywhere. Then we drove a little further then it was Blacks everywhere. So, we turned around and drove back through the various hoods and as we sort of got back past the Jewish community we found the next community was Catholic. So the Catholics were butted right up to the Jewish community. It was like little islands of peoples. In Texas everyone sort of mixes more so it was odd to me to see how everyone kept to their own little islands so much. A guy I spoke to later said that yes, there's China Town and Little Italy and such so each sort of sticks to themselves and are not homogeneous like they would be more in Texas (not that Texas is that homogeneous).

So anyway, we got brave and went to a Jewish restaurant. They asked us if it was for "here" or "to go". I sort of thought that odd/strange because it was a sit down type restaurant. We said "here" so they sat us by the door and never came back. So eventually we left. I wondered if my 1/2 German look may have stood out or unnerved them? Anyway, we went to another restaurant and this time it was a pizza hole-in-the-wall place. The Jewish don't eat or serve pork or beef (with cheese?) so they had cheese pizza and veggie pizza as well as various pastas. I had a slice of cheese and a slice of spinach. When I tried to pay, the cashier didn't seem to want to take the money from me. So, I laid it on the counter and then he took it. I guess he didn't want to touch a gentile? Anyway, the pizza was very good. We sort of felt like we were in a fish bowl as everyone was sort of looking at us now and then like we were from a different planet. However, we sort of looked at them too so I guess all's fair. This one five year old boy just stood there and staired right at us in front of our table. His mother leaned down and whispered something in his ear and then he turned around and walked off. It was really an odd experience.

I talked to a guy on the plane back and he said my interpretation of what happened was probably totally off as the Jewish really like visitors. So perhaps I'm just paranoid or am I?

As we were driving in New York, every road seemed to be a toll road and if you're not careful you'll miss the pay cash lane as we did once while going to a bridge. The toll booth had one of those wooden arms and wouldn't raise since we didn't have a toll tag so we had to wait for a police officer. He sort of gave us a hard time about it. He said it would be $4.50. So Tim handed him a $5 and he said if we wanted change we'd have to drive to some booth somewhere. So basically, he kept the change. I had my camera out and he sort of yelled at me, "You're not taking pictures of my bridge are you?" I guess it's something like terrorists would do or something. I said, "Oh no!" So then he yelled, "You better put that away!" I just said, "Yes sir!" and put it under my seat! So I guess I can say that I got yelled at by a police officer in New York, now!

We tried and tried to find a little souvineer Statue of Liberty. We first went into this dollar type store. There was this Chinese guy behind the counter. We asked him if he had any or knew where we could find one. He couldn't speak english so we just left. We went into this one Mexican looking Grocery store and asked this spanish lady for a statue of liberty. She just sort of looked like a deer in the headlights and walked off into the office. I'm guessing she didn't speak english. So anyway this guy comes out and she sort of fingered him over to us. So we ask him and I think he spoke less english. He said, "Uhhh Yeah...." and that's about it. So we left. It's sort of weird that so many people in NY don't speak english! All the stores there, even the Walmart had no New York Souvineers at all! We finally just bought stuff at the airport since it seemed we couldn't get any cool stuff anywhere else.

All in all, it was quite an experience for a TEX-UN like me.

I have a few Zoysia sprouts but not as many as I was hoping.

Saw the Transformers movie today! Absolutely loved it! My youngest daughter Natalie went nuts watching it! She said it was like watching a Godzilla movie but the humans helped out! That's probably the level of movie that I would say it attains to also. It was a lot of fun and if you go in with that attitude, you'll like it too. If you go in expecting perfection, then you'll be disappointed as there are plenty of plot holes and goofyness but if you can look past that, you'll see it's a very entertaining movie! Both of my daughters love it, I loved it, my wife sort of liked it so I'll give it a 4.5 out 5 stars! ****. Go watch it! It's lots of robot fun!

Well, I've been at my job for a week now. I've been trying to learn and absorb all I can. Next week I'll be traveling to Oklahoma on Monday and to New York on Thursday! Wow! I can't wait to go buy a little statue of liberty souvenir! The rest of the family wants to go, but that will just be too expensive.

Cool stuff my new job has done is bought my lunch a couple of times this week, given me a dell latitude D610 laptop to take with me everywhere with sprint broadband wireless service, they said they'd pay $200 for a phone and also pay for the service. I've been drewling at letstalk.com and I think I'd like a blackberry or a sidekick or a dash or a treo etc please. So little time, so many choices! What fun!

Got my Zosia seeds in the mail. I'm going to try to grow some Zosia grass in my front yard. I'm weird so this probably won't work either. You probably remember my fiasco with trying to grow Fescue a couple of years ago if you've read my blog at all. Fescue didn't work out in my yard and there's not much left alive today. We still have plenty of weeds though! Zosia is supposed to be better for southern states and is supposed to be the holy grail of grass for around here. I got turned on to Zosia from a coworker and he showed me the website Zosia Farms. However, after I looked for reviews about them I found a lot of negative comments about them so I ordered off of ebay instead. After researching, it looks like it would be a great choice, but perhaps centipede would have been better but I think I'll be happy with my choice. So anyway we've been getting a lot of rain so hopefully my seeds will sprout. I haven't had the bird feasting on my seeds like they did with the fescue so hopefully my seeds will have a chance as long as I keep them moist. Here's hoping.

1 Jul 2007 (updated 1 Jul 2007 at 00:46 UTC) »

Last month we bought a bunch of stuff to sell out at the Third Monday Trade Days, but alas, it Rained the whole weekend which basically means we sold next to nothing. The rain would stop so we would put our stuff back out and then it would start to rain again! We did that several times that weekend! We felt like putting out our stuff was causing it to rain! The sale was such a big flop for all the vendors! Hardly a sole came out, and if the rain stopped and they were brave enough to show up, it would start raining again and they would leave, just taunting us! We probably actually lost money on the sale if you count gas and lunch and handing out money to keep my daughters happy. Ugg. We were hoping to make a few thousand dollars instead we made zip. So that pretty much busted that. I don't think we'll ever do TMTD anymore. However, the items have been slowly selling on ebay so at least we'll probably be ok but it was so disappointing how it all turned out at TMTD for all the work we did. :'-(

I got a new job at Intrusion.com! I quit my job at JCPenney's. I was sad to leave, but the pay difference will soften the blow. I'm really happy to be back into a computer field. It's not exactly software engineering but at least it's computers. There'll be some travel, and I'll be working with a friend that goes back to my Junior High days so it sounds exciting. Hopefully, I'll still be able to say that after I've been there a few months! Perhaps now I'll have time and money! Naw! What has been nice, even if it is unrealistic is that my wife and I have been able to dream again of actually being able to buy stuff! Woo hoo! But the reality of it is more like we'll finally be able to pay of credit card debt. Which is still OK. But at least, we have hope again.

I like to take my daughters out periodically for a daddy daughter date. Usually we go out for dinner and shopping. My youngest daughter and I had been talking about the 4th of July and shooting off fireworks. I mentioned something about Diet Coke and Mentos and she got all excited and wanted to do that for our date! So we got up, went to Tom Thumb and bought about 5 different 2-liter soda bottles and a box of Mentos. My oldest daughter thought that looked like fun so she wanted in on it. So of course, my wife had to come out with her camera. So of course, I had to go back in and get my camera. First we tried the Diet Coke and one Mentos. It went up about 2 foot and died down. We were sort of disappointed. We next tried Diet Pepsi and 2 Mentos and it went like 4 foot up. So then we tried Diet Dr Pepper and 3 mentos. It went about like 6 foot up! Next we did Sprite One and 4 mentos and Natalie sort of botched it so it didn't really work right but it spewed pretty good all over the place anyway. Then last we did five Mentos and Diet Orange Soda and it went really high. We ran out of soda so we stood around and talked about wanting to do that for the 4th of July at Grandma's house instead of fireworks. We talked about doing all sorts of dangerous things sort of blowing up 2 liter bottles. Then, we remembered that we had one more bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper that Teresa had bought earlier in the week. So the girls ran in and grabbed it and brought it back out. They put like 5 Mentos in it and it must have spewed 12 feet in the air (see pic)! Oh the joy! This was pure Scientific experimentation of course! ;-)

31 May 2007 (updated 31 May 2007 at 15:31 UTC) »

Well, we did ok at the Third Monday Trade Days last month. This month we'll try to ramp it up and sell even more stuff! We bought 720 pairs of jeans and 100 dresses some wallets and some other stuff. Hopefully, we'll make a fortune and dance and sing, "We're in the money!" and all that jazz.

What's really helped is having a sniping tool to get stuff to sell really cheap. It's like you make your money on the buy and on the sell. If you want to buy low you must have a sniping tool. I chose PowerSnipe for my sniping tool because I can use it at home and at work and also it’s competitively priced and reliable. I have a business where I buy particular items on ebay for resale. I had been using a software sniping tool that only worked on my home PC. It worked but I couldn’t input new auctions from work, I couldn’t monitor my auctions nor edit bids from anywhere but from at home, if my power went off it couldn’t snipe until I could get home and turn my computer back on. What really put a nail in the coffin for me, was that ebay changed its page layout and it broke that tool for a few weeks until an update could be made and distributed. It was frustrating and it was inconvenient and at times completely unusable! Because it started to become such a problem I decided I wanted to use a web located sniping tool. I searched the internet and even found a page detailing the differences and prices of each service. I actually tried a few other web tools before settling on PowerSnipe. The other tools charge a minimal fee but also charge an additional fee for each snipe you do. Now if you do one or two snipes a month, you won’t notice this but if you do many more you’ll realize that it gets expensive quick! Even the free snipes to refer your friends can’t help for long when you do many snipes at all. I actually began thinking of making my own sniper tool because it was looking to be so expensive! So, then I found PowerSnipe. It’s like $46 or $49? so a year or like $4 a month! That’s the least expensive of them all and there’s no per snipe fee! You just about can’t find a lower cost sniping tool! There was a 30 day trial, so I went ahead and gave it a try! I loaded it up with more snipes than I could even put into my limited home software! So many in fact that I ran out of stuff on ebay to search for! The software worked flawlessly and immediately I had won more auctions (about 4 times) than I could have before! Well, so anyway, past the honeymoon stage, it had a problem. I emailed the support team, and the same day, they had an explanation and a fix! WOW! That’s something the other software could never have done! The other company wouldn’t even respond! OK, so I had another problem. I emailed, and the same day they emailed and it turns out it was actually me and not them! I have not had another single problem with the service! I have nothing but good things to say about these guys! Wow, I’m so impressed and sold with PowerSnipe! I would super highly recommend it to anyone looking to do serious eBay sniping.

I still have all of the robots to sell out at the sale. They didn't arrive last month until after the Trades Days sale. SO, I have them for this month. This month it will be June 15th, 16th & 17th.

The Trades days is sort of an experience. My girls want to go around looking all the time for girly stuff like jewelry and clothes. My wife just wants to make money. My dad and mom want to see me do well. My dad loves to play the salesman and talks to all the customer and tries to talk them into stuff. It actually works and he's good. I'm too shy. My wife likes to take up the money from people! My daughters like to lay around and act bored. All in all it's all fun!

I can't wait to see the Transformers movie! It looks fantastic! That's on my definately must see list!

We saw Pirates of the Carabean At World's End and Shrek the Third this weekend. I'd give them both a 3 out of 5. They were entertaining and good but not like really great! So I'd say go see them but don't be like expecting a blockbuster!

I found out the robomenu became broken with the newer version of the Yahoo Widget Engine. The good news is I figured out what the problem is and I should have a newer version soon. I want to make a couple of other fixes too before I release a new version. Hopefully, it'll be ready in just a couple of days.

16 May 2007 (updated 16 May 2007 at 16:09 UTC) »

This weekend, May 18th - 20th, I will be setting up a booth at Third Monday Trade Days! I'll be in gallery booths 9 & 10 in the upper left corner of the map. I'm sure it will be hot and all. Well, anyway, I bought a bunch of remote control robots and I'll try to sell them out there for $25 each. They're like Robosapien knockoffs. Come see me at the sale and tell me you saw me on robots.net and if there's any left I'll give you a discount!

Here's pictures of the robots if you want to see them:

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In other news, I've been having to work on my fence, cut down a tree, work on my pickup, work on my wife's car, work on stuff for Mother's day at church, work on fixing some of the stuff we bought for the sale, etc.

One thing that has been interesting is these plastic beads that melt in boiling water. You can melt them and then form a plastic part and then when it cools it's a nice hard plastic. Also, the melting temp is high enough that it can take a little heat so it shouldn't melt in a hot car or something like that. It seems perfect for robots and other gizmos. For an expirament, I made a little keychain flashlight out of the plastic a couple of batteries and a white LED and it turned out pretty good. My hopes is to make some cool robot parts out of the stuff. I bought a bag of it on ebay for about $10.

5 Apr 2007 (updated 5 Apr 2007 at 17:07 UTC) »

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Happy Resurrection Sunday!

At work, one of the crazy things they had me do was to contact a silicone bracelet company and have 200,000 bracelets made. Yes, 200k bracelets! It came out to almost $29k dollars or about 14 or 15 cents each. It had the JCPenny new slogan on them. They looked nice. The bracelets were sent out to all the employees. I really can't imagine most adults wanting to wear silicone braclets anymore, but it was fun seeing one of the VPs on a broadcast wearing the bracelet that I had a hand in creating.

One of my wisdom teeth went crazy one late Saturday night. I checked around and it was astounding to me that not a single Dentist was open on Sunday in the Dallas Area for a dental emergancy. We even called 1800Dentists and they didn't have one to recommend at all. I was a little scared because we don't have insurance and I guessed it would get very expensive espeically if they knew I was a dental emergancy! I called my dad about it and he suggested that we go to Mexico! Wow! So my mom and dad and my wife and 2 daughters rented a SUV and went to Mexico for the weekend. We got there and crossed the border into Progresso Mexico. There's like a dentist office every where you look. There's even people bugging you on the street asking you if you need dental work! There's billboards all around advertising dental services. Most of the dentists have their prices on the front window! I was not expecting that! So anyway I got some work done and my wife got some work done. It cost us about $120 each. We walked around the streets some. Two little Mexican girls came up to my daughter and asked her if she wanted a bracelet for a dollar. My mom said she could probably talk them down but just went ahead and gave them a dollar. Ther were old men selling a gallon bag of diced cactus! My dad told me that you can bread them and fry them and eat them like okra. We went by a tortilla shop where they made the tortillas right there. I asked them how much and they said/asked three in sort of a broken English. I gave them three dollars. I figured I would get a little stack of fresh tortillas. She brought out a grocery bag and started loading me up with tortillas! Yikes! I'm not sure how many she gave me but it was like 300 or so I'm guessing! Much more than we needed or wanted! On the way home we stopped at a grocery store and bought some cinnamon cream cheese and spread them on the tortillas. We also had quesadillas and such we we got back. My daughter wanted a silver necklace. They told her $12 and my wife said no. They they said $6 and my wife said $4. They said $5 and so she said $4 again. They didn't want to take $4. They came and asked me and I told them here's $4, if he doesn't take it, then let's go. He took it but he seemed very reluctant. I figure the necklace was probably worth even less than that but it was an interesting experience. It was sort of fun and painful all at the same time. There was this one big fat woman begging for coins with a styrofoam cup. There were lots of guys selling jewelry and purses such. Some stores were rediculously cheap and others were about what you would pay or more in the US. In a little grocery store they had marshmellows that were like 4 inches in diameter! Wow! When I got back I looked on the internet to find out what average US dental costs are for the work we had done and it was about $2400 worth of dental work so I think we did ok. It was quite an experience to see just how different people lived just on the other side of the border.

19 Jan 2007 (updated 19 Jan 2007 at 20:41 UTC) »

Well, for me it's mostly been, working at JCPenney, selling stuff on ebay, and selling rolling ball sculptures. Wish I had more time for robotics but I sort of dance around it some.

This is probably a good opportunity to give yet another reminder about the robots.net robomenu robot of the day and rss news feeder widget!

I made a new konfabulator widget. It helps me search ebay auctions and now I can search the way I want! I've been modifying it every day and it keeps getting better and better. I'm fairly happy with it. It's got a lot of intelligence programmed into it. I need to figure out some automatic intelligence to it but I haven't gotten that far with it. I would like to get to the point where it could find an auction and if the criteria was right that it would go ahead and buy automatically. I don't know if it will ever get to that point just because I want to be able to make the final decision, but even right now, I pretty much trust it when it gives me a recommendation.

I was using jbidwatcher to do my sniping but it kept messing up. Also, I couldn't place bids from work since it was a program just running on my home PC. I decided I wanted a server based sniping tool. The cheapest one I found to do what I wanted was: Powersnipe eBay Auction Sniper. It costs about $3.80 a month ($46 a year) and I can do it from home or work and it's unlimited so I can load up as many snipes as I want. I like it a lot. Really, I wanted my little widget to do the sniping for me, and I may someday do that but it wouldn't be server based and I need to figure out more of the ebay api and ssl stuff and I'm not sure I want to waste my time with that. So far PowerSniper has been just great!

I found out something by using Powersniper. I still think it's a bug, but they disagree. What happened was on one of my snipes, I found that they went ahead and placed the bid even though there were a couple of days left on the auction. When I asked them about it, they said what probably happened was that the seller started the auction as a 3 day auction, I then placed my snipe, then the seller modifed the auction to be a 7 day auction. When the 3 day time ran out, the sniping tool placed the bid but the auction was still going on for more days because the seller had modified it. What that means is that powersniper doesn't check that the end time is still the end time before they place the bid. What's really really interesting about all this is, if I were to sell something, I could list it as a 3 day auction cheap, then when it gets down to the last day I up it to a 7 day auction and see if any snipers get caught and forced to bid with a sniping too that's not smart enough to check the end time before placing the bid. [evil grin] I'm thinking of trying it a few times just to see what happens with them snipers out there! ;-) Moral of the story? If you are creating a sniping too, it would be wise to check the end time again before placing the bid otherwise you may have some trickster like me changing their auctions to try to catch you and make you bid more than you normally would! :-) I think that's happened with jbidwatcher too but I just didn't know what was going on. I suspect most other sniping tools don't catch that either.

I've also started networking with some guys and have been able to buy and sell from them! So, now my little tiny company is making about $5k in monthly gross sales and about $500 to $1k net a month! I'm sort of excited about it. Of course, my debt is crushingly large and eats it all up so I'm not really seeing any of it. :-/ No really, I'm not kidding, it's sad! But at least it looks like there's hope finally of not going bankrupt. I'm hoping we can go on vacation this summer on the money I make from it too!

I've been doing a little PIC16f84a programming for one my rolling ball sculptures that has an elevator. You press a button and it turns on for a while and turns off. You can dial in the amount of on time with a knob. Also, there's a few blinky lights. It drives a couple of stepper motors. It turned out ok. I guess that sort of qualifies as robotics?

I've had a terrible time getting insurance for Bethany. The place where I work is just basically a temp job. Their insurance is not real insurance, it's indemnity insurance whatever that means. So anyway it caps out on the drug plan at $750 a year. Well Bethany's drugs cost over $5k a month so $750 a year is sort of inadequate! So we applied to the Texas Risk Pool. They denied us because they said we could get insurance through my work. Ugg. So after contacting our state rep, he made a few calls and lo and behold they were falling all over themselves to approve us. So she got insurance. However it's $350 a month premium with an $1100 deductable. So I've got to come up with $1450 this month to cover bills. But in the long run, I'm sure we'll make out like bandits! :-)

15 Nov 2006 (updated 15 Nov 2006 at 23:13 UTC) »

There's a remote control airplane for $8 shipped at HSN. I'm thinking of buying it just for the electronics and throwing away the plane.

Yet another reminder about the robots.net robomenu robot of the day and rss news feeder widget!

Just a reminder that you can get robots.net on your desktop by using the robomenu widget rss news reader!

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