Barnyard BBS

I say, let me never be complete.
I say, let me never be content.
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New Toys
11/27/2006 7:13:00 PM
I've already started working on the Halloween Spectacular for next year. I loved how the pneumatic Grim Reaper worked out; so I'm expanding on the concept for next year.

The 2006 edition of the Reaper was run with an vinyl tubing extension on a standard blow-gun (attached to the air compressor). This worked well, but had some limitations. For example, the aperture wasn't wide enough. Not to mention, the blow-gun in your hand was a dead giveaway.

The 2007 edition is far superior. I've decided to have two different air cannons for the upcoming year. The Reaper will continue to have a cannon, but I'm also adding a second cannon in the archway. This one will point downward, and will get people as they walk through. You won't expect this one.

Here's the plan. I've built a modular controller for solenoid valves (electrically triggered air valves). I've hooked up a radio transmitter to a relay board. When I push one of the buttons on the remote, the relay is triggered. The relay opens the valve. The valve lets the high pressure air run through the cannon. When I let go of the button, the valve closes and we wait for our next victim.

Here's the toys thus far:


The big box contains the radio board and the relays. The box has one +12v input and two +12v switching outputs. I decided to use RCA for the outputs, as it's easy to get and accomodates the lines nicely. It didn't hurt that I had a bunch of RCAs laying around the house either.

I made a couple extension cords as well. This way, I can use one control box for both cannons. I've designed the whole thing to run off of 12v DC, with a pretty low draw. Although the relays draw 6w when engaged; they aren't engaged for very long continuously. I usually run the system off 8 AA batteries. It's a small pack that's very easy to conceal. Conceivably, I could run the cannons from a compresses cylinder (to hide the air lines); but I'm not sure that's necessary.

I'm planning on making some special gravestones with remote-controlled popping heads. I just haven't gotten to that part yet. I think they will be air-powered also.
Barnyard News
11/20/2006 6:51:00 PM
I've recently made a new addition to the site. I realized that I've been lax in my following of legislative process here in Delaware; so I built something for my own selfish convenience. It's an aggregator of proposed, pending, and approved legislation in the state. Maybe I'll be able to prevent the next obnoxious bill from sneaking into law without any announcement.

Check it out:
11/8/2006 7:17:00 PM
Ah, the disasterous return home...

On our final approach to Delaware, we encountered a small technical problem. The Focus went into a totally uncontrolled hydroplane on I-95N near Elkton, MD.

We spun twice, and hit the guardrail twice. All during high-speed rush hour traffic. Here's the really remarkable part:

Neither of us died. Neither of us were injured. In fact, the car was even drivable. However, it's going to need lots of repairs. It has damage to the front bumper, front quarter panel, rear quarter panel, rear bumper, shocks, and possibly a new hood. Time to face the raging insurance premiums.

Ah, the memories...
11/7/2006 10:17:00 PM
  1. Check Out
  2. Interstate
  3. Sutko
  4. More Interstate
11/6/2006 9:05:00 PM
Today we attended to the loose ends of our vacation. We also engaged in the age-old art of Christmas shopping.

We started the morning with a trip to the Downtown section. We had Christmas shopping on our mind. We found our way to the shop that outfits the little "princesses", as we have some of them on our collective list. Guess what we found? Cousins:

After the trip to Downtown, we returned to EPCOT to finish visiting all the sites that we had missed previously. Admittedly, we were killing time on the runup to the backstage tour of the greenhouses. The greenhouse tour was exceptional. The hydroponic and aeroponic farming methods that they use are quite incredible. Admittedly, a lot of EPCOT's effort goes into the showmanship; but they do have a number of neat techniques.


Most of the EPCOT farming techniques are impractical in the "real" world, as they require a sterile and very controlled environment. However, given the controlled conditions, the yields are very impressive. I'm thinking of putting together a wheatgrass setup using their aeroponic nutrient-spray technique. I should be able to adapt it to a continual flow using a small aquarium pump system for the nutrients.

The EPCOT gardens manage to operate with a minimal amount of dirt. However, using their methods, it makes sense. Plants need nutrients and water. Dirt holds these items for the roots to absorb. If you help the plants with the absorbtion, you can manage without all the dirt. The hanging pumpkin gardens are a great example.


Following the tour, we visited the Coral Reef for an early dinner. Now we understand why the waiting list was so long. The food was incredible. Jessawick had the Ahi Tuna. I had the Blackened Catfish. Both were exceptional. The whole restaurant is sunken into the ground, with a sidewall view of the large aquarium tank. Dinner and a sea-turtle show.

We puttered about EPCOT for the rest of the day. We revisited several of the countries. Jessawick rode a Segway.


We're going to start the journey home tomorrow.
11/5/2006 8:28:00 PM
We used today to round out our trips to the various parks. Our first stop was the MGM Studios. MGM Studios offers a few of the best attractions in the entire complex.

Firstly, it offers the Muppet 3D Experience. It's great. The whole thing is set in a theatre that matches the original Muppet Show. The story is great, and it's very funny. I highly recommend it.


Another highlight of the park is the 'Tower of Terror' ride. It's a large hotel structure with a twilight zone theme. Although a lot of plot and buildup happens in the ride; it's really a drop-straight-down ride. A very good one at that.

In retrospect, I'd skip the Drew Carey attraction. As much as I think Drew is hilarious, I thought the attraction sucked. Sorry, but even Drew couldn't save this one.

The Aerosmith 'Rockin Roller Coaster' was excellent. The whole thing is themed after a late-night limo ride with the band. It's very fast, and very similar to 'Space Mountain'. I got some good pictures of it. They did a lot of work on the building.


The last thing we saw before leaving the park was the 'Indiana Jones Stunt Show'. It was a good show, but felt somewhat tired. Then again, they do perform it every 30 minutes for eternity. I got some great pictures of the show though.


We returned to EPCOT for some of the attractions we missed earlier. 'The Land' is wonderful. In fact, we scheduled a behind-the-scenes tour of the greenhouses for tomorrow afternoon. Some of their experimental techniques are pretty interesting, such as aeroponic (hanging root) farming.


Dinner was at the Teppanyaki restaurant. It's a Beni-Hana style (cooking while you watch) place. I rather liked the food (and the show), but Jessawick was indifferent. We had to get reservations two days in advance. Tomorrow we have reservations at the 'Nemo' seafood restaurant.

Later in the evening, we ventured out to the Downtown section one more time. I stumbled onto something quite amazing. A Lego Store. This wasn't just a place selling some kits. This was the big one. They had tubes containing every part imaginable. They had every set in production. It was incredible.


I took some close pictures also, just to show the sheer volume of plastic that they have on hand.


We returned once more to the Adventurers' Club in Pleasure Island. It's great. This time, it was much later at night, and the humor was much less censored. The comedians / actors switched roles, and the show was totally different. Easily the best thing in Pleasure Island.
11/4/2006 10:47:00 PM
Today's travels started later than usual. We didn't wake until 9:30 in the morning. Once we finally got moving, we departed for the Animal Kingdom. The Animal Kingdom is quite large, with a very educational focus.

The real highlights of the Animal Kingdom were the African Safari and the Expedition Everest coaster. The 'Tree of Life' is also quite amazing.



The Safari was a very long ride through large savannahs. Each one was designed specifically for it's inhabitants. I got some great pictures. My best was probably this giraffe:


We also encountered Disney's signature blue-assed monkey. I feel bad for not remembering his name. However, there aren't that many animated blue-assed monkeys, so I'm sure you know what I mean.


We were in line for the Everest ride for most of an hour, but it was worth it. It works both forwards and backwards in addition to the several animations and transitions. It was great. The mountain itself also makes for a great picture.


After we concluded our trip to the Animal Kingdom, we went back to the international section of EPCOT. We explored more of the countries, including the super-creepy Mexican 'River of Time'. It's like 'A Small World', but Mexican. We've got reservations for the Coral Reef restaurant tomorrow.

We ended up having dinner at 'Les Chefs de France'. We ended up getting in without reservations. The food was excellent, as was the service.

It's late now, and we hope to be ready for MGM tomorrow.
11/4/2006 12:18:00 AM
We've done a bit more exploring today. We started our day with breakfast at our resort. It was profoundly adequate. Our next stop was the Magic Kingdom.

Brief Tirade: The security checkpoints at Disney are a sad commentary on our society. They diligently dig through anything that you carry into the park. They have no metal detectors or explosive detection systems. I'm sorry, but when the end-time comes; it's not going to be comming in my camera bag. Tirade concludes.

For no particular reason, our first stop was FrontierLand. It was pretty good. We spent some time exploring the caves on Tom Sawyer Island. I tried to get some pictures in the very low light. Some worked, others did not.


However, I also got some great pictures on the topside of the island as well.


Apparently we've chosen to visit during the slowest time of the year. We really didn't have trouble getting onto any of the rides or attractions. Space Mountain was great. I have been to Disney once before, as a child; but this was my first trip to Space Mountain. (It previously has been under construction).

The Haunted Mansion was my favorite of the attractions. We ran through the Haunted Mansion twice. There was only a 10 minute wait. I took some pictures when we were inside, but the light was too low to get any good results.

On our way to Pirates of the Caribbean we were rudely interrupted by a random Disney parade. At first I was fairly peeved at the interruption, but the parade turned out to be pretty impressive. I got a number of good pictures.

Pirates was great. As was the Jack Sparrow performance that was running nearby. Pirates seems to have a greatly revived interest because of the recent movies.


After a fairly long day at the Magic Kingdom, we realized that EPCOT was offering extended hours (until Midnight). We took 1/2 hour to regroup and headed out to EPCOT.

Our first stop was Spaceship Earth (the golf ball). It's been updated a lot since the last time. The new version of the ending includes a lot about our great global network.


We also managed to visit Mission Space and Test Track. We had dinner in England. We made a whirlwind lap around the countries, and returned for the night. It's been a lot of walking.
11/3/2006 12:17:00 AM
It's been a long day. A very, very long day.

Today started out much as expected. We woke up in the morning, had some breakfast, and checked out of our hotel. Since we were only three miles from the Florida border, we reached Florida in no time. We continued our trip for roughly two more hours. Our problems didn't manifest until we hopped onto I-4 West towards Orlando.

I have a new grudge for the list. NAPA Auto Parts. My damned alternator crapped out at the 124 Mile Marker on I-4. That's precisely 20 miles from ANYWHERE. If you're interested, the GPS Coordinates for the middle of nowhere are precisely recorded as: N029 04.810 W081 10.369. Google Maps Link.


Once again, the AAA membership that my mother gives me every Christmas became useful. NAPA is the villian of the day. Kelly's Automotive is the hero. We had the Focus towed to their shop. They stopped what they were doing to examine it. They needed to get the part from 20 miles away, but they got it alright. They got the Focus repaired and we were on our way, a mere 5 hours after the initial failure. It took us nearly two hours to make it to their shop, as we were in the geographical center of nowhere.

After a bit more driving and a bit more traffic, we finally arrived at Disney. If anybody is interested, we're staying in room 5146 of the Caribbean Island Resorts. GPS N028 21.770 W081 32.660. We arrived somewhere near 6 PM.

Since it was so far into the evening, we decided to head towards Downtown and Pleasure Island.

Side Note: The dining plan is cool. I bought it on the advice of the trip planners at AAA. It's worth it. See below.

On the advice of the concierge, we went to Raglan Road (the Irish Pub restraunt). The food was excellent, as was the entertainment. We recommend it.

We continued on to the Comedy Warehouse. Their show was excellent. It ran for about 1/2 hour.


Next was the Adventurers Club. They featured several independent (but connected) acts. They were excellent. We spent at least an hour in there. It was great.

It's after midnight now. We're tired. I'd post this immediately, but Disney wants $10 for internet access. I have not yet capitulated.
11/1/2006 10:58:00 PM
We've completed our first day of travel. We haven't made it the entire way to Disney, but we're about 12 hours into the journey. We stopped for the night on the Georgia-Florida border.


Jessawick encountered her first cotton field today. We were driving south on I-95, and she urgently needed me to pull over, so we could investigate. She was so happy.


My best research indicates that we have about 3 hours left to our destination. We'll take off tomorrow and see how it goes.