Friday, December 22, 2006

Where have the 00's gone?

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." - William Shakespeare

Oh such empty words of dispare and defeat upon the furrowed face of Macbeth during his most troubling of times. He saw an end with little meaning or recourse, devoid of hope and direction. But we shall endeavor where he failed. Rebirth brings new life. A new year washes away the burdens of the past. Let us celebrate this awakening and revel knee keep in the fountain of innocence. Sound and fury, with a primal yalp! I believe Walt Whitman said it best, "I went to the woods because I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life! And not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Exactly!

With that said, Happy New Year battlesnakes.... start sucking the marrow!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Gotta support my gadget habit somehow.

After a slight hiatus from the working world, e-unit is back in the saddle... or ergonomic office chair as it were. Here's an interesting statistic, general street crime rates fell 20% during the time of my non-employed status. Coincidence? I can't substantiate those numbers nor can speak on any correlation you may or may not draw from them but I can say this... I'm still out there suckas, just not between the hours of 8 an 5. Petty theft, that's a'beatin.

So I'm workin for Commonwealth Technology now. I pretty much get to design and build stuff like all day long. Big stretch huh? And they've got some pretty nice tools here. It's a little different mindset from working on projects with only an exacto knife and a hammer at home. Hmmm, maybe the stuff I make at CTI may actually work. I'm not holding my breath though.

Speaking of hobbies, I have a couple projects nearing completion so they'll be posted here in the next couple of weeks. I've got my sister's etched bar sign almost done and the communication code for the e-unit arcade display is nearly bug free. Will this thing ever be done?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Plexiglas, the other clear synthetic polymer of methyl methacrylate.

I wouldn't consider myself a controlling, type "A" personality, but I do push plexi around quite a bit. I've cooked it, bent it, drilled through it, sanded it, polished it, cut it, cracked it, and scowled in its general direction quite a few times. And I'm not done yet. I have the technology, means, time, and minimal artistic ability to etch me some plexi so that's what I'm gonna do.

My sister has a shelving unit with a few select spirits adorning it so I thought I'd etch her a nice sign so no one confuses it as anything less than a full fledged drink barn.

After a few internet searches, I determined a good plan of attack for the project. First thing I did was throw together some fontage and a couple clipart images. When I was pleased with the design, I flipped it and printed it. Oddly enough, that turned out the be the hardest part of the project. The etching was a breeze. It wasn't so much me as it was the Dremel tool. It's good. The trick is to hold the rotary tool firmly enough so as to avoid marking outside of the lines but gentle enough to allow for finer details. Not so easy when you're working at 5000 rpm's. There is more work to be done though. To make the etching really pop, I'm gonna light the thing up with some RGB LED's. 12,000 mcd's is a little overkill don't you think. Yeah me too... 12K it is then. I already have the color code drivers written for my fav PIC micro so all I have to do is solder up some components and make a cool frame. Don't know how the frame should look just yet but I'm sure I'll think of something. Updates to follow.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


The bomb and I made our usual grocery run before entering Shenandoah where we decided upon a supper of burgers for what could be the last camping trip of the season.

"Sir, I can't help but notice this particular meat is prominently displayed within your viewable cooler unit. It isn't the leanest I've seen, but it might service our needs quite well. Your expression suggests that you agree with our decision. What's that? You say that we won't be able to surpass your sirloin selection no matter where we go. Bravado indeed. So it is in your opinion that you are the only person capable of besting the ground chuck that lay before us. Ha, that may be true but I am willing to bet that I could find one person willing an attempt at beating your meat... er...maybe not. We'll take two ready made patties to go. H, let's get outta here"

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"It's so choice... if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up"

2003 Lexus RX300, 32 large on the O, nice scratch on the tag, nav on the dash, wood on the wheel... I couldn't say no.
I don't know what to call this thing. I like saying truck but it's more a car than anything else. Same car wheelbase, same car HP, same car feel; but then there's the always on AWD and SUVish interior space. Speaking of interior...

Love that spruce! Car, tuck, whatever... it's my new ride. Prior to purchase time, I really couldn't have envisioned myself in a sport ute but this machine is a great mix of comfort, utility, fun, efficiency, price and style. To put it another way, it's what I wanted but didn't think I was going to find. Sumo!

K, let's find some balance here with some of the minor drawbacks. The nav unit is slightly out of date and the update is a little pricey. Don't get me started with that. And when did I start complaining about havin a GPS in the vehicle? Moving on. Is an auxiliary audio input so hard? You're a Japanese car maker for gosh darn sake.... guys, you're better than that. I'm on the case though. My factory wire harnesses are in the mail and should be here soon. All I have to do is hack the head unit comms, spoof the satellite radio as a second cd player and I'm golden. Plug and play is the only way to go, no tape player adapter for this cat. 220 ponies from V6 aint bad. It's a little sluggish up steep hills but at least it doesn't guzzle the petrol like its older brothers. And I can still dart around downtown DC with the best of them. Alright, back to the good. When I first sat in this car I felt like I'd been driving it for years. Thanks Lexus. The Battlesnake has your back too.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Master of Disguise

Here's some advice for all those little battlesnakes in training out there. You come across a human sized fluorescent green pipe sticking out of the ground with a huge man-eating plant sticking out of it... Don't jump on in when the plant disappears out of sight unless you really need the coins. Those plants don't stay hidden for long. There aint an ointment for that.

So we had a pretty successful 80's party a couple of weeks ago. Check out the link for some pictures. Going as Mario was pretty easy to bring together. A little fake stash here and a little iron-on transfer there and whalah. I wish I had enough energy to take a picture of the post party aftermath. I'm not sure anyone would want to see that. And I won't tell ya where I found the mustache the next morning. Well, behind the keg... Not really that weird but how'd it get there? Geekpad had their party the same night. I love the combo party, but I think this'll be the last time it happens here at club 1139.

There was some talk of a noise violation fine from the neighborhood homeowners ASSociation so I wrote an email to preemptively contest it. It's been a couple of weeks and no fine. Maybe a well thought out argument and kind words in search of a mutually beneficial resolution can go a long way. Who knew?

If anyone wants to go as Mario for All Hollow's Eve, let me know. Beside some scratchy facial hair, the getup is pretty comfortable.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I'd really hate to see the ol girl go but alas my lease is due in about a month (October '06) and the time has come to move on.

This was a good car though. Two benders, a freak Texas hail storm, countless speedbumps, DC traffic, Two cross country road trips... And this tank of a mid-sized sedan kept askin for more. It had a good mix of turbo induced power and 4 cylinder efficiency that made me appreciate this car's engineering at every turn. That kind of thing seems to be lost on the majority of Alphas out there. I suppose it's to be expected with a ride that could fit inside most SUV's of today but fightin the man is sort of a hobby of mine so it never really bothered me.

Unfortunately, the new VW's just don't have the styling or reliability of their older siblings. I believe I will go elsewhere to satisfy my new transportation needs. Any suggestions out there? I have a few options in mind but have yet to acquire the proper research needed to make an informed decision. I've heard good things about the Lexus preowned program but I'm not sure if buying right now is in the cards for me. I likey the lease, especially since you get a brand spankin new car with all the bells and whistles every few years. People will disagree with that choice citing the "rental" feeling and lack of investment value but I've crunched the numbers and any minimally added value of keeping a vehicle past the break even point isn't worth the upside of going new for me. The ideal situation would be to finally start my Lamborghini 25th Anniversary Countach kit project but I think that will have to wait for now. It will be mine... Oh yes, it will be mine.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bed?...Nah, Bath?... Nope, Beyond?... I guess so.

First off, this is a camera phone picture. Pretty gosh darn good quality for a phone don't you think?

K, so it's a hammock for bananas. What do you think the sales pitch for this was. "Yeah, so here's the thing see. You're gonna want your nanas to breath right? Get some air right? Toss a banana in there with a couple of plums maybe and it'll be like they're ripening in the tropics. And the women love it too, clears up a bunch of counter space. So, what do I have to say to put you into one of these banana hammocks today?"

I'd buy one.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I'm an adult, I assure you.

I've been thinking about making one of these for a few years now but it wasn't until my neighbor Mark put one together that the wheels really started turning for me. His machine kept with the traditional size and look of 80's arcade machines but I knew I wanted to break from that a little.

I wanted to go minimal with the thing. Seems to be the running trend with me these days. Initially I contemplated using fiberglass and wire mesh for the shell. I thought some nice curved edges and a smooth fluid finish would look appealing but if you've ever worked with that stuff in large doses, you can probably figure out why I shied away. I went with 3/4" fiberboard instead but it didn't make things much easier. I used an LCD monitor to shrink the top depth to about 7 inches. It appears very svelte from the side. It gets a little thicker at the bottom so the PC and subwoofer can have a place to live. The one real omission is a coin door. It may make it on there one day but I really don't feel like spending the money for one and why should I have to carry around quarters in my own house.

I think I enjoyed making it more than I enjoy playing it. It really is a great hobby because there is still so much more left to do. The high score display is almost finished, as you've probably already read about, and I hope to have the automatically rotating monitor function completed shortly after. And then there are more lights. You can never have too much lighting.

I'm still a kid at heart and it's kind of comforting to find out that at least one thing hasn't changed about me. I am still terrible at playing video games. It's a good thing I like making them.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My New Office

Looks comfy doesn't it? Sorry, comfortable. Pardon the informalities, these things happen when your new office is a couch and laptop. Hmmm, a red hot 8 lbs computing machine can never really be a LAPtop can it? And office really isn't all that accurate either. Call it a domicile command center... Excellent.

For the last couple of years I've been furthering the testing capabilities of the Tactical Electronic Warfare Division of the Naval Research Laboratory in SE Washington DC but I recently decided to part ways with that endeavor to explore other opportunities which at this point still remain TBD. I saw the proverbial fork in the road approaching on the horizon and felt that slowing down to delay the inevitable jerk of the wheel would only have caused doubt and confusion. Pedal to the metal baby.

Ok before I go on, how come the watermelon is the only inhabitant of my melon medley that has seeds in it. I understand that cantaloupe and Honeydew have their seeds hidden within their interior crevice but wouldn't they also benefit from the increased seed disbursal of even flesh seed distribution that watermelon enjoys upon its end. Watermelon probably had some tough decisions to make when faced with picking it's method of procreation. It probably counted on a high seed density and a tough striped shell to dissuade predators. Didn't consider beings with reasoning skills and opposable thumbs didjya. The jig is up dude. Your seeds are more a nuisance than anything else. I'm gonna eat you anyway, let's get those little baby watermelons in the middle where the belong already, k?

So on with rebuilding mind, body, and soul. The technology necessary to become a cyborg is not yet available so I'm pretty much all out of suggestions. I'll probably start with finding new employment. One thousand apologies but I'm afraid describing the details and nuances of a potential new job, that would be a better fit for me, is not appropriate for the format of this blog. I like to keep things short. I can tell you this though. I am excited for the change and I'm glad I had the courage to leave something with so much up side. If anyone has any non-cyborg related comments, feel free to speak up.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Arcade Display - Making Progress

My Arcade Display project is almost complete. Actually, It'd be done already if someone didn't forget to add some critical parts to my last Digikey order. It's not important who so I won't mention it here. I was having trouble finding the perfect diffusion layer but alas, a quick walk down to my local Staples store produced the material I was looking for. I needed a substance that was thick enough to hide unlit segments yet transparent enough to allow a good amount of light through. A couple of ordinary legal sized sheets of paper "borrowed" from the copy machine worked out to my liking. You can see the results in the picture above. Clean design, huh? It really looks cool when whole words start scrolling across it. Curious, why didn't I take a picture of that. Check out my previous post to see what it looks like without the paper and plexi.

Oh, and check out the wiring job. It's like I've done this before or something. And I saved around $200 making the jumpers myself. I'm sure I'll regain the use of my fingers and eyesight any day now. How am I writing this post you ask... smell and taste. I play pinball the same way.

So, what's next. When my RS232 level converted arrives, I'm gonna connect this baby up to the Arcade's PC and rock some old fashion serial communication. The goal is to display game names and high scores when playing MAME and artist/song names when playing music. I'll have to dust off my Visual C++ skillz for that. Stay tuned for updates.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Battlesnake, ONE : Trimethylxanthine, ZERO

As I exhaled, water vapor formed a cloud of exhaustion in the night sky. The moon angled itself perfectly to fill the alley with more than its fair share of borrowed light. The dumpster moaned disapprovingly as I hastily slammed my battered body against it. There was no time and little shadow from which to choose. I quickly gathered my thoughts in hopes of stemming the inevitable feeling of panic. I was playing right into his hands, deep breathing and elevated heart rate was just what he wanted. But ironically, I knew that's exactly what it would take to defeat him. The uneven pavement in front of me revealed newly formed puddles that made it difficult to tell where the ground stopped and space began. Dark water stowed aboard the fringes of my overcoat as I knelt at the ready. A dull cranial ache nudged my resolve. My hand instantly cupped the infected area as if I could rub away the sensation.

I knew that I couldn't hide here forever. Thoughts of escape forced their way into my head. The fence at the near side of the alley would assure me this same fight tomorrow. However, there was a reason I sought this foe and a reason I rested here. The sounds of footsteps and fleeing pests, echoing through the brick corridor, would make this decision for me. His slow, mocking gate, almost dared me to run. I came here to pick a fight and now I find myself cowering in doubt. Caffeine, you've ruled my actions for way too long. I am e-unit and this ends now.

I sprung free of the dimly lit shelter. My clothing held on tight and struggled to keep up. I turned to meet the gaze of my silent antagonist. He was 20 feet away but still close enough to make out his sharp features. "You wake me up and then steal my sleep. You promise me flight and then clip my wings". You hide under guise of taste and color. Why?" A shallow smirk crawled upon his face. There was no remorse in his stance nor attempt at empathy on his brow, just assimilating determination. I suddenly realized something important. This was going to be fun.

I moved forward with the silence of fabric waving in the breeze. A Wiffleball bat leapt from my coat to deliver a fatal blow. It met its counterpart and sent us stumbling. A quick step to the left and then a momentum forming spin to the right joined our bats once again. My slow and steady striking style was deflected easy by his staccato defense. He fought as if not to win but to wear me down, like it was a game to him. How wrong I would be. He unleashed a flurry of blows that seemed to gain in strength. I backpedaled to maintain distance. Tremors of frustration and haste grew on his posture at an unnatural rate. He gained speed and sheets of translucent yellow replaced his once solid weapon. He stabbed for my chest as I simultaneously spun to avoid the advance. His lunge took him too far and I parried his saber at the hilt. Caffeine fell to its knees as the Wiffle weapon hit the ground. My bat wavered in front of his face as I struggled to regain breath. "What are you waiting for", he said with a look or ennui. "You know you can't kill me. Whenever you study for a test, I'll be there. Whenever you wake up early to catch a flight, I'll be there. Wheneve...."

The bump on his head will heal, but I don't envy the headache he'll have tomorrow. I know he'll never go away but that won't stop me from fighting him. I like not crashing in the early afternoon and being able to go to sleep at night. Caffeine, don't come snoopin around my house if you're not lookin for a beating. See ya around the office..."friend".

Thursday, July 27, 2006


I've been to many cities in this our United States of America and I've fought injustice (vigilante style) in most of them but few tug at the heartstings like Austin. It's got that "je ne sais quoi" factor going for it. Ya never really think about why it's so good while you're there cause you're too busy feelin good about stuff. The city makes you have a good time like you have no other option. Tucked away amongst the interior is a major university which fuels the electric 6th street night life but trip over a crack in the asphalt and you'll find yourself squinting over the rolling hills of the greater Austin countryside. Take a ride or a drive and you'll be knee deep in gems such as Barton Springs, Hamilton Pool, and Lake Travis just when you think you've tired of the subdued yet beautiful colors of the river cut landscape. And did I mention the BBQ. We hit the Salt Lick every year and occasionally we have even had enough leg strength to haul our massive bellies out on the town afterwards.

I've been fortunate to share these experiences with such great people though. I'm sure I'm a tad more than a little partial to the town because of it. You can have a good time in most cities with the right people but it's a town like Austin that keeps ya comin back year after year. See ya next August A-Town.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Till we meet again my mysterious friend.

It was a sweltering day on the trail and the setting sun laid disorienting shadows upon the ground. A bead of sweat dropped upon my eye as I caught sight of motion up ahead. I approached the rock formation with hesitation. My curiosity was distracted slightly by a familiar feeling. "Fly away from this place" came the whisper from within. Logic forbade me from acting on my otherwise trusted instincts. An overactive imagination is a mark of childlike wonderment and should be held onto tightly. That thought rang with such force, I might as well have spoken it out loud. I brushed aside the tall grass to gaze about the battered face carved into the lifeless stone. What nature of body must the ground be hiding for you oh being of the wood? An age of his kind must have seen several of ours. It's expression bordered that of frustration and toil. Was the faint sign of life just moments ago a warning or a mistake? The trees rustled cautiously but I felt no wind. Suddenly the ground beneath my feet became slick and I lost footing. The hiking path cradled my forced retreat. The sky darkened and an eery mood set across the forrest. The clouds moved in as if on purpose. I knew I was being told to leave but by whom or what. Distant birds broke the silence with conspiring squawks. I turned but stood motionless. I had so many questions for you but knew the answers would not be easy to hear. I am but a steward of the land, forgive my intrusion. Till we meet again my mysterious friend.

And the search is over.

The battlesnake has lived a few places throughout his life. Mostly here and there and back again, but he hasn't quite found that little patch of the earth's crust to call home. "Where do I fit?" That is one of the more recurrent questions I've been asking myself lately. That interrogative is not easily answered however. There are many geographic, personal, professional, and psychological elements to consider before making such a decision. Maybe I'll try a little mind mapping in lieu of the usual pros/cons list. Looks like it's a better way of organizing one's thoughts into a more readily "felt" format.

But why go through the trouble when the answer to that which haunts my waking thoughts is so easily answered in Front Royal, Virginia. It's on a sign gosh darn it! Signs are to be respected and adhered to without question. When was the last time you failed to yield when staring down a metallic yellow triangle? Guys, ever walk into the ladies room cause the skirted stick figure didn't apply to you? Didn't think so.

Living there won't be so bad. The town does have more 7-11's per capita then any town in the cosmos. (I can't confirm that) And Shenandoah National Park is a stone's throw away. The Bomb will love that. Or maybe I'll move to Key West for the winter. Yeah man, screw signs!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

You can PIC your nose and you can PIC your friends but you can't PIC your friend's nose.

Problem: How do I drive a bunch of high current LED's and incandescent bulbs at variable intensities? And while I'm at it, drive a powerful dual brush 12V motor.

Answer: Slap a 16F870 PIC microcontroller on a perf board along with some 800 mA switching transistors and a high current optically coupled solid state relay. Why didn't I think of this sooner?

This board will one day fit into an arcade machine to control six groupings of various lights, one high current light display and a 12V motor (to rotate the arcade's monitor). I've programmed the PIC to put on quite the light display. Using a variable duty cycle PWM (pulse width modulated) signal, I can vary the brightness of each light grouping. This is helpful when fading in and out like a heartbeat. Stay tuned for the video

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Arcade Display Project - Retro Yet Modern

I constructed an arcade machine a few months back and while I enjoy it just the way it is in all it's arcade goodness I realize that nothing is truely finished in my world. How would the average passerby be made to know the shear ineptitude of my Pacman skill. I'll tell ya, A homemade 6 character 14-segment display my man. Why not 7 characters you ask, cause if you break a million on any game you'll be asked to leave... seriously, get out. I figure a 4"x12" display hoisted above the arcade will get people's attention. And the thing displays uppercase letters as well. Sprinkle in a touch of embittered A.I. and my arade machine will be barking out orders to its subservient users in no time. I still have to wire up 84 LED's , find some frosted glass and write me some control software but I think it's well on it's way to being half done. Updates to follow.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Gotta add a photo to this blog and well... why not Beaker. !Mee-mee-mee-mee! Hoooo! Hoooo! Hoooo!!