Monthly Archives: November 2010

Holiday Lights 2010 – Snowman

We got the lights up this weekend. Well, most of them – one of the main ones (see pictures here) happens to be on the gate on the north side of the house, and this year we are replacing a deck on that side our only access is through the gate. So… the 14’ high 12’ wide tree of lights is staying in storage this year. Sigh.

I am, however, in the midst of working on a new project – a juggling snowman.

I wanted to try something different and had been looking for a project to do with EL wire. EL wire is a little like a flourescent light – there is a high voltage alternative current that excites a phosphor that puts out light. The natural color of the el wire is an intense aqua color – the different colors come from the plastic jackets around the el wire, which means the colors are a slightly different intensity.

To create the drive current, you need something that can put out about 120VAC at 2KHz or so. That means you need an inverter to take the DC power and create the high-voltage to drive the wire.

The downside? Well, the most annoying downside is that there is a center conductor on the EL wire, and then two tiny wires (corona wires (no relationship to the beer)) that wrap around the core. Not just tiny, really really tiny. Take a piece of stranded 22 gauge wire, and separate the individuals strands. The corona wire is much tinier than each of the individual pieces. And I have 48 separate segments to attach to wire, which took me 8 hours or so. After that, each end gets a bit of hot glue and the some heatshrink tubing.

The design will attach to a 2’x4’ piece of 1/4” plexiglass I bought from TAP plastics. To figure out where everything will go, I took a piece of paper and did the layout of all the elements full-size onto it. The plexiglass goes on top of that, and then all the pieces of EL wire will get hot glued to the plexiglass.

It looks like this:

Here’s the main body lit up:

The aura around each of the wires is the light reflected off of the white paper that is underneath the plexiglass. I like the effect, so I’m going to paint the back of the plexiglass white.


And the hat, one arm, and one ball.


The round ball is red but renders orange on my Canon because of the spectrum of the light. The dots around the circles are where the hot glue holds the circles down. If you look closely at an enlarged version, you’ll see that there are 8 yellow arms coming down – those are the 8 positions of the arms on the right side. The quality is poor because it’s shot at ISO 12800 on my 7D.

Here are the vital stats:

  • 16 channels of animation.
  • 8 channels devoted to the snowman’s body.
  • 8 channels devoted to a 3-ball cascade juggling animation.
  • atmega8515 to control the animation (way overkill but I had it lying around).
  • Panasonic AQH2223 logic-level triacs for switching.
  • EL wire and drivers form

For software I’m going to adapt the code I wrote for the 15 channel big tree light display, though it will be simpler because I’m not implementing dimming.

“Naked Came the Null Delegate”: Chapter 3 – Heaps of Trouble

Previously in Naked Came the Null Delegate:

Chapter 1. “I, Disposable !” by James Curran

Chapter 2. “Unhandled Exception” by Charles Petzold


Chapter 3 – “Heaps of Trouble”

Project 4.0.30319
Classification: Alpha November Golf Romeo Yankee Fruitcake
*** INTERCEPT *** 

V1: and you can call me Algol.

V10: Okay, my pants have been located. Let’s go.


V1: You need prepare yourself, to be reedy.

V10: Reedy?

V1: No, ready.

V10: Ready for what?

V1: To meet him. He’s a bit…

V10: Imposing?

V1: …

V10: Scary??

V1: …

V10: Dangerous???

V1: They call him “The Collector” for a  reason. Just be ready.


V10: What is this place?

V10: and what is that *smell*?

V1: Garbage. Here, put on this mask.

V1: Yo, Garbman, how’s it hanging?

V11: My cache lines are hot and my FDIV is patched.

V1: WTYM. So, you got it?

V11: Is a hashtable faster than a binary search? Is inheritance often a bad idea? Is bubble sort a ridiculous algorithm? Of course I got it.

V1: 0A28? Get straight?

V11: 5050. Slap dash?

V1: S’cool. Here you go. Hold back the dawn.


V10: So, what was all that about?

V1: 0A28? Think about it.

V10: OMG. OMG. You’re part of the hacker underground, and the collector is the leader. OMG OMG. OMG. Have you met Trinity?

V1: He just sold me a copy of “Eli’s Ladder”. They only made like 40 of them.

V1: And he’s not a hacker, just some dude.

V1: And stop saying “OMG”. You sound like an idiot.


V1: Ok baby. Lose the pants.


“and then they?”

“Yes. 2.4 times”


“I’d rather troubleshoot a Packard Bell bios conflict.”

Special agent Elmer P. Mark leaned back in his Herman Miller Aeron chair, his forehead furrowed in concentration as if he were remotely debugging an optimized FFT.  He put his feet up on the desk, crossed one Robert Cavalli pointed-toe python shoe over the other, and accidentally knocking his leftover plate of Nachos Belgrande onto the floor. He absently nudged the resulting mess off to the side with his left foot, soiling the perfection of the exquisitely tooled leather with a dollop of sour cream.

Special agent John “Sweep” Swepenski sighed as if CHKDSK had found 5000 errors on his main hard drive, and regarded the scene with dismay.

“Dude, I’m tired of cleaning up after you. For a guy who wears $1000 dollar shoes, you are such a slob”.

“They’re Italian. Say it in Lire…”

“The Lire no longer exists. The Maastricht Treaty of 1993”


“Okay, $1.4 million Lire. But you’re still a slob.”

The discussion escalated until each executed their personal implementation of IEEE 802.3-2008 Section, and an uneasy silence resulted. The two regarded each other across the crowded office. Finally, Mark broke the silence:

“What do we know about this Collector fellow? How is he related to Vissa, the email, and the schema?”

“He isn’t”

“Then why did you read me that whole transcript?”

“Hello? Eli’s Ladder? That a seriously rare game. Wait until the guys on #rgvc hear about this! OMG”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Next: Chapter 4 – “Ego, Impatience, Sloth and Zombies” – Aaron Goldman

For links to all the parts, and the story behind the story, visit: