Friday, February 24, 2006

I am a animatronic programmer!

When we were at Hauntx one of the seminars we attended was about programming a simple Basic Stamp 8 channel controller using simple PBASIC commands. The company putting on the seminar is called ParallaxEFX and they gave away controllers at the end and Chris won one (which means I won one). I had to order a serial interface connector and a power supply which arrived today. After a few minutes of setup on the laptop I was able to write a 10 line program and get a servo to center itself slowly turn clockwise and then center again and then counter clockwise and repeat over and over. You can check it out on Their software is free. The boards only cost $35 and it is about 2" x 3". These were all the rage at the HauntX show as many Animatronic builders are using these guys to animate their props.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


We just got back from a Haunted Convention last weekend. It was in LA at the LAX Hilton. You can check out all the details at There were a couple of reasons for going. One of the major ones is our current plan to try to figure out how to make money doing something with halloween instead of me going back to work in the computer field. The other reason was to attend the "Golden Bucky" awards for best Yard Haunt of 2006. Chris and I didn't enter this year due to a mixup on when things should be submitted. The awards were fun and this year they even had 2 other sets of awards that were presented to the pros.

The conference was a lot of fun. The vendor displays were pretty cool with lots of halloween stuff from costumes, masks, animated props, electronics, and more. They also had a floor of B-Movie actors to sign autographs. There were also some paranormal experts there to talk about "real" ghosts (yea right!). They had seminars on all sorts of stuff. We attended 2 on Marketing your event. We also attended a couple of technical ones on programming animatronic boards and building animated props. We met a lot of people in the industry and a few home haunters like ourselves. We didn't buy tickets to the dinner/dance which we regretted since that was were a lot of socializing went on. But the tickets were $50 each. We also didn't get in until almost midnight on Friday and we missed the meet & greet they had that night. But all in all it was a good weekend. They had a lot of entertainment options for the out of town people to go see and do. We stayed in our room Saturday night and just relaxed and soaked in all that we had saw and talked about what we thought we would be able to do. Sunday night was the awards. Oh, we did pick up our copy of the 8 disc DVD's of 125 haunted yards, homes, parties and pro/charity displays. This is what the awards were based on. Pretty cool stuff.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

We've been robbed!

I left the garage door open over night after taking the garbage out on Monday night like I always do. I saw that it was open Tuesday morning and shut it. When I went out to the shop on Wednesday afternoon to do some work I noticed that my brand new 18v cordless tool set that Chris gave me for Christmas was missing. The more I looked I also noticed that all but one of my Senco air guns were gone as well as all my sanders, corded drill, and my new miter saw that Chris got me last christmas. Needless to say I was distraught. I could barely see straight I was so mad! How could someone walk into my garage at night and just help themselves to my personal property. This is the 2nd time this has happend. Halloween 2002 I left the door open and someone walked off with a sawsall and 2 nail guns and a tool bag. It wasn't enough to claim on my insurance so I didn't report it. This time I called the cops and the insurance company. The police were nice but not much help. I needed to call them to get a report filed. My insurance has a $500 deductable and the value of the tools was just over $2000 so after appreciating the older tools they are going to pay me $1400. The good news is that I will probably be able to buy all new tools (the origianl ones were used). If I am good at finding everything on the internet then I might also be able to buy a couple of extra tools or upgrade some of them.

This still doesn't take the sting out of being robbed. I ordered a new automatic gate opener the other day and plan on installing it ASAP. I am also thinking about somehow tagging all my tools so they can be identified.