Monday, October 11, 2010

R&R: Repair & Recovery

Yesterday was seemingly a long day. Starting early in the morning, I began the work of tweaking the props that had determined to fail on me the day before. It started off with a couple of successes: the FCG just needed to have some bolts tightened and the LED spotlights all lit up after some suggestions from my make-and-take drinking buddy niblique71. I just need to pick up some extra wire to finish hooking them up.

Things really started to bog down when I began working on my rockin' granny. Though I thought the motor had been wired for the slowest possible setting -- and from the pictures on Monster Guts website it looked that way too -- I disassembled the mechanism just to make sure. I switched out the wires then reassembled everything after confirming I did have it as slow as possible. Actually, I had to do it twice because that's when I found out there was a "blank" connector too.

Have you noticed a pattern here? I do everything in multiples? Take apart a prop only to have to redo it again later. Run to Radio Shack dozens of times. You'd think after doing this time and again I'd start to slow down and try to get it right the first time. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong.

After getting the granny mechanism back together again, I noticed that the bolt that connects the arm bar to the wood upright was wobbly, probably from the wild rocking motion putting a lot of pressure on it. As it was only 2 inches long or so, the lag screw was getting loose. So I removed the lag screw, but the washers on the bar had somehow fused themselves together, so I had to unmount the whole thing from the motor and take a cold chisel to separate them to remove the screw from the arm. Once that was done, I found a 4 inch or so lag screw and bolted that back in, figuring the extra length would help minimize any loosening of the mechanism. It did seem to rock a lot smoother after that.

Perhaps the biggest achievement was simply moving the rocking mechanism from the front of the chair to the back of the chair. That slowed down the movement from wild to simply manic. One of my other M&T buddies, hpropman, who's an electrical wunderkind, also suggested moving the location of the lag screw up, even as little as 1 inch, to help regulate the movement. That will be one of my objects today.

After fiddling with that for a good long while, I tried to convince granny to keep her legs on. Double amputees are great fun and all, but it wasn't the look I was going for. First the PVC inserts were too long and prevented the chair from rocking at all. After cutting them down, I tried using PVC cement to keep the pieces in place. But using PVC pipe with CPVC connectors doesn't quite cut it -- and as always, I was too lazy to run to the store and get them. So instead, I battled for a good hour or so trying various ways to keep them attached.

Granny's nothing if not determined and she managed to kick off her legs at every turn (or rock). I finally gave up and decided to break down and go to the store and get new connectors. That's the other part of my objective today. At least her arms remain intact.

After that annoyance, I waited for the sun to go down so I could properly position my spotlights. I have to say I'm happy with how they look. The blues are bright as hell, as are the greens. Reds are less so and I may have to double (or triple) up my ambers. I have one pointed at my "pumpkin kreep" prop, but it doesn't illuminate it as much as I want. Perhaps moving it a little closer will help. It's no Skull & Bones lighting display, but I'm pleased nonetheless.

Last, my wife and I took a ride over to Hackensack, the next town over. In years past there is one block where almost all the homeowners put up colorful Halloween displays. And I mean "colorful" in a pejorative sense. It was always too cutesy and cartoonish for my tastes. It seemed as if everyone had the same wooden soldiers out, and I always wondered what that had to do with Halloween anyway. But to each his own.

I was expecting pretty much the same thing this year and was really surprised to see things had taken a turn for the dark. And by that I mean most of the displays were downright creepy. While one or two houses had Shrek or the Wizard of Oz wooden cutouts, the vast majority of homes had gone with graveyard and/or zombie scenes. One even was using pneumatics (which scared the crap out of me because I definitely didn't expect it when it lunged at me). I have to admit I was downright jealous. A number of the yard displays were really quite good, and I saw one display that my wife and I agreed we were going to have to steal.

The only drawback was that the number of homes participating in the display had dropped by more than half. Maybe it's still early for some of the homeowners, but there were not nearly as many displays as in years past when the police would come for crowd control and close down the block to all full pedestrian access. Parking was always a problem at night because of the vast number of people that would come to gawk, but this year there was plenty of space.

Here's an Associated Press video about the Clinton Place extravaganza from 2007: (sorry, wasn't able to get the clip to embed)

Now back to work!

And just a side note: When you're sitting alone at home and the mummy you in your living room -- you know, the one that responds to movement -- suddenly goes off even though you're sitting in the dining room (as it did just now), it makes you think that my little ghost visitor has returned.


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