Sunday, October 10, 2010

Summer Winds

I guess we should be thankful for this "Indian summer" we've been granted. It certainly makes it more enjoyable to set out props in the yard, though when your thoughts are turning to jumping in the pool it hardly makes it seem like Halloween is less than three weeks away.

The yard is coming together. The tombstones in the graveyard are up (a few more are waiting to be finished), the flying crank ghost is up and running (more on that in a minute), and granny is rocking away in her chair. I put the finishing touches on the LED spotlights I made this year and began running the wiring to them. So why is it all coming apart at the seams?

I've been testing the FCG and letting it run for hours at a time to make sure that on Halloween all is okay. And it has been, until yesterday afternoon when one of the lines for the arm decides it wants to get entangled in the motor screw. What the heck makes it suddenly do that?!

That would've been okay, but I went to make sure that I had properly set up the wiring for the LED spots and went to connect it to the computer power supply powering the FCG when I noticed I didn't have a proper connector. I checked the (five!) other computer supplies I have figuring I'd harvest a connector from one of them, but none of them had one either. So off I went to Radio Shack to get one.

I once read a parody of the Shack's business on The Onion, which ran an imaginative interview with the company's CEO Julian Day.

"There must be some sort of business model that enables this company to make money, but I'll be damned if I know what it is. You wouldn't think that people still buy enough strobe lights and extension cords to support an entire nationwide chain, but I guess they must, or I wouldn't have this desk to sit behind all day."

Parody, yes, but it hits pretty close to home. But thank goodness they do sell all sorts of doodads. I was able to find my connector but upon getting home I realized I needed a female connector, not a male, so back to The Shack (good thing it's just minutes from the house). I got the female connector came, back home and went to install it, when I realized I actually did need the male connector!

Now before you think I'm a complete idiot, let me just say that I was always under the impression that a male connector slid into a female receptacle, and that's why they were named as such. Not so with these Radio Shack parts. It's the opposite. When I showed the two parts to the employee helping me, he was baffled too (for your own edification, the picture above right is supposedly the male connector, while the one to the left is the female, even though the one on the left slides into the one above. I'm guessing it has to do with the prongs inside the connector).

So back home for a third time at which time I realized my computer power supply's (female) connector didn't fit The Shack's (male) connector. The latter had a slightly different shape and no amount of "helping" would make it go. So, it was back to Radio Shack again where I just cancelled the entire transaction. I'm just going to wire it directly to the PC battery, but by that point yesterday I was too friggin' agitated to do more.

Between the FCG and the stalking I was doing at Radio Shack, I was pretty well aggravated by this point. Which brings me to my ScareFX-style rockin' granny. Maybe it was the unseasonable weather, but granny seemed like she wanted to stand up and walk right out of her chair she was rocking so violently. I don't remember her having done so previously when I tested it out.

My good fried Noah Fentz, who runs the Katzper's Haunt (an award-winning basement walk-though haunt), had opted not to have his granny move using the ScareFX mechanism because he thought it looked too unnatural. While I believe in certain circumstances the "crazy lady in the chair" movement can be effective, I see his point after watching mine rock violently. But I set it up with one of the motion sensors I made and it should really scare the bejesus out of people. I know it did my wife. She didn't realize I had powered it up and when she walked onto the porch she jumped as it started moving. So I'll have to find a way to keep her legs attached (yeah, that was one of the pitfalls of this wild rocking, she kicked her legs off).

In reality, the yard display is coming together and the "setbacks" yesterday are really just tweaks. But when they come as they did in threes -- the FCG, the LEDs, and the rocker, as well as three trips to Radio Shack -- I had had enough and went inside and had a few cold beers. I would've anyway, but it was a good excuse to calm down from my frustration. And I'll be back at it today!


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