Robots and RC and Chaos, Oh My!

Wow, I haven’t posted since July? Wow. Um. Ok. It was a summer, and a fall, and now it’s winter. Dogs are dogs, snakes are snakes, gecko and tortoise are gecko and tortoise. We have the annual plague of stinkbugs, not so many evil ladybugs this year. Bunnies have been hunted. Robin is still working at the Jewel deli, Ron is still driving for Schneider, and I’m still a mind-numbing bureaucratic ghoul. We got a new water heater, and turned in Mongo (the big pickup truck) when the lease was up, so now Robin or I are shuttling Ron to/from Gary, which is cheaper than a car payment.

I have pretty much abandoned G+ in favor of Twitter (@SDrekkar, screenname Cranky Prognathodon), because G+ just never got the traffic, many interesting people are on Twitter, and Google is shutting down G+. And I still hate Facebook, and only still have an account to see what a few of my friends are up to.

For Christmas Robin got cash which translated into miniatures – *what* a shock! I should have gotten Ron a 1/14th scale RC semi truck, but decided it was too expensive, so I spent almost as much on a 1/25th scale static model. And he ordered an RC VW Bug, because it is no longer in production, and it will be Herbie, yes it will.

I have long lusted after a hexapod robot. If money was no object, I’d get this bad boy:

PhantomX AX Metal Hexapod kit with 18 upgraded servos for $2200. Yeah, no. Kit with standard servos is $1300. Still no. So I poked around and poked around, and decided this one would be a more affordable place to start:

Lynxmotion AH2, with 12 servos, for $400-ish. This one is only two degrees of freedom/joints/servos per leg, and parts of it are polycarbonate. Also had to pick up a battery and charger.

Assembly was . . . challenging. Not so much the actual assembly, but because the directions were not updated when the two control circuit boards were updated, and the packaging of the screws, bolts, and other small parts was not sane. But I got through it, with some help from Ron and a post to a discussion board.

Here’s the current state of the hexapod:

Saturday I finished assembly, applied power, boards work, servos twitch, tried to install the control/programming software, and found out it’s Win7/8 only. We’re an Apple household. I have ordered a refurb Win7 box, Robin says we have a spare working monitor. Should arrive Friday. Once I have it working with pre-programmed movement, I plan to add a daughter board to allow remote control.

This weekend Ron revived his old Tamiya Toyota Bruiser RC truck, with a new battery, speed control, and servos. The beagles Do. Not. Trust. With much barking, and Tommy was trying to chomp one of the front tires. They bark at the neighbor boy’s RC car, so this was not a surprise. Pippin thinks they’re idiots. I figure they ought to *really* love my robot.

Various Stuff

So, to catch up.

Finless Ed, the beat-up cichlid, spent a couple weeks in the Hospital Bukkit, and then returned to the main tank. No more warfare, but there’s still more activity in the tank than previously. 

No real progress on the 75-gallon aquarium-to-vivarium conversion.

I did set up a front-opening glass enclosure to a bio-active vivarium for Shai-Hulud the sand boa. After running without the snake for a month I moved him in on Monday. There was much exploring, and I also saw him last night. This coming weekend I’ll probably upgrade Chirrut the gecko to Shai-Hulud’s old enclosure, which is slightly bigger than Chirrut’s current one.

Dogs are dogs. Rabbits are stupid. The garbage wheelie-bin smells really bad right now. Gimi was not a happy puppy last night, and Tommy was not exactly cheerful about all the fireworks noise, either. They don’t panic, but they did snuggle. 

I was going to vend at the Palatine Hometown Fest over the weekend, but cancelled for the weekend was going to hell in a handbasket reasons, see the Otter Necessities blog. I’d taken Friday and Monday off for setup and recovery, then realized I might as well take Tuesday off and make it a really long weekend. Especially since I had comp time that has to be used up by the end of August. So although I was busy getting ready on Friday, the rest of the time has been very relaxing. 

Sewing has moved up to the bedroom, back downstairs, and back to the bedroom, with the weather. I tried using fold-over elastic (FOE), and it is good. 

Robin is currently employed at the downtown Palatine Jewel deli.

A couple-few days ago Robin registered his very own domain, we installed MediaWiki (the engine that runs Wikipedia), and today Robin and I bludgeoned our way through configuration. Currently Robin is alternately muttering and cackling as he puts content in – background fluff for his miniatures armies and squads. 

If you wish to view the madness for yourself, go here:

If you just go to you’ll be re-directed to the wiki. I set up the redirect!  Go me! 

“Aquarium” Rhymes with “Vivarium”

Yes, forever, I know.

We’re just going to jump over everything to what I feel like nattering about today: aquaria and vivaria.

The cichlids and my pleco have been doing pretty well in my 55-gallon tank, but in the last few months the general population of Ron’s 75-gallon tank was waning, until only the couple Yellow Labidochromis (Labs) cichlid refugees from my tank, and one offspring, were left. Once the other fish had been eliminated, the labs in Ron’s tank turned into scaredy-fish. Then Ron’s filter started acting up.

Meanwhile, I started looking at bio-active vivarium (plants, soil, bugs as clean-up crew) information. Bio-active vivaria are mostly self-sustaining and self-cleaning, and tend to hold humidity well. That last is a useful thing for Chirrut, my Rhacodactylus Leachianus (Leachie, New Caledonian Giant Gecko). I’m also thinking of a simpler bio-active setup for Shai-Hulud, one of the male sand boas. 

Ron suggested making one of the aquaria into a bio-active vivarium, since it made sense to consolidate all the fish to one cichlid aquarium. We decided it would be easier to move the three labs from his tank to mine instead of moving more fish to his, along with a bunch of decor. Plus the gravel in his is a suitable drainage layer for a vivarium, the shells in mine not so much.  

So that’s what we did Saturday morning. Re-arranging most of my rocks (real and artificial) and driftwood partially defeated the “not moving decor”, and it turned out his tank had three adult Labs, not two. The count of one juvenile was correct. We also tried to suffocate my pleco, who had been hiding in a piece of artificial rock and fell out on the floor shortly after I removed it from the tank. There was lots of activity as the fish (a bunch of Labs and two White-Topped Haras) negotiated territory. The point of re-arranging my decor was to mess up the established territories, and it seems to have worked reasonably well. The pleco has survived, but spent the rest of the day and Sunday sulking in a cave. 

Yesterday morning there was apparently some warfare, based on the very beat-up Lab hanging at the surface in one corner of the tank. I’m pretty sure he (assuming, based on size, markings, and males typically dispute more) wasn’t injured when I got up with the dogs. Poor thing had torn up fins, tail, and body wounds. I debated, and decided to see if he’d survive the day. He did, and also survived last night.

This morning I thought of moving him to a breeder box/refugium in the tank. I poked around PetWhatsit and Amazon and found a couple that would work. Then I thought of the little desktop aquarium Ron had at Toshiba. Not in the spare bedroom, drat. Then I finally remembered that we have BUCKETS, one of which I’ve tried to keep fish-water only. And the sponge filter I set up in my tank 2+ years ago in case we ever needed to set up a quarantine/hospital tank. Plus in a separate refugium I can medicate without having to remove carbon from my canister filter, worry about meds killing all the beneficial bacteria, use less meds (because dosage is based on water volume), etc. etc. etc. 

Robin consented to be a Mover of Heavy Objects and lugged a 5-gallon bucket of water from the bathroom to the bedroom. Our well water is an African Rift Lake on tap, so no pre-treatment needed. He also cut a simple square-ish lid out of a piece of corrugated plastic signboard (bought for backing fabric with paper for bookbinding, but I don’t mind sacrificing one of 10 sheets), and suggested adding a couple pieces of rock from Ron’s aquarium. I caught the fish after several tries (amazing how well a fish in his de-finned state could swim), put him in the bucket, and dosed the water with general water treatment and an anti-fungal medication we had on hand.

The 150-watt heaters in Ron’s tank and mine (2 per tank) are over-powered for a 5-gallon bucket, so I poked around and finally found a 50-watt model with good reviews, adjustable temperature, internal thermostat-controlled, not-glass, and available via Amazon Prime same-day shipping. And I added a couple thermometers to make that free same-day shipping. I could stop and get *a* heater at the big aquarium store at Golf and Roselle, but there’s no guarantee I could get one in a reasonable power range with all the features I want. I am stopping at a PetWhatsit on the way home (PetWhatsit being right on my route) to pick up some anti-bacterial medication that’s good for preventative use in this kind of situation. 

Although the fish didn’t seem to have suffered any further injury overnight (I took a couple pictures last night to have for comparison), I wish I’d thought of the bucket refugium yesterday, so I could get him into a less stressful environment sooner. Refreshing my memory on hospital tanks, I should do daily partial water changes. That should be about a 5-minute job. 

Meanwhile, the gravel in Ron’s tank is drying, and we discovered why his filter wasn’t working – the intake was badly clogged, I think with the remains of a moss ball. Hmm…do I want to add the filter to my tank for ridiculous amounts of filtration?  His lighting should be reasonable for a vivarium, his driftwood is chunky enough for Chirrut when he grows up, and we have a misting unit that wasn’t quite right for the snake enclosure we originally got it for. Unless the Money Fairy blesses us with a present, I’ll be working on acquiring and assembling further vivaria pieces slowly. 

Next purchase (I ordered a book already – what a shock!) is probably a desert-ish soil kit for the sand boa. The isopods (rolly-pollies) and springtails I’ll get from a different supplier who doesn’t charge an arm and a leg for shipping if the weather is decent. I’m side-eye-ing the idea of succulents in the sand boa vivarium, as suggested by the guy who sells the soil kit. Previous reading argued that succulents are not good terrarium occupants, as they like air flow, and a vivarium is a terrarium with critters. The supplier I plan on getting most vivarium supplies from sells only a couple really tough types of succulents. If I do decide to try a succulent in with the sand boa I have plenty at work, anyway. 

Tuesday from the Underworld

Cranky Prognathodon was very cranky yesterday. Started in the morning when something went “pop” just above my right ankle, with extra pain from the foot to the knee. Reminded myself that if I’m debating going to the ER/acute care, then I should stop debating and go. Decided on the acute care that’s part of our doctors’ offices. X-rays showed nothing, pre-x-ray the nurse said he thought it was tendon-ish. Shoes help, I think it’s better today.

Monday night my dinner fought me, badly (mechanical/restriction issues). Tried breakfast on the way home from the acute care yesterday and it was definitely Not Good. I think my throat and a bit downward are very irritated and swollen from Monday. So I did liquids the rest of the day yesterday. Just tried some applesauce, that wasn’t as easy as liquid, but working. In a bit I’ll try some yoghurt.

So, yesterday, I’m at home with my leg up, and there’s a knock on the door about mid-day. It’s the neighbor with an armful of happy naughty puppy. I hadn’t been too concerned about not seeing Gimli for a bit, as it was fairly nice out. The dog walker came shortly after, the boys really like him. In the afternoon I took the boys out with Gimli on the 50’ rope and started checking the fence. Unfortunately, I started with the back fence line, which is the most challenging to get to/painful with my leg. Turned out to be a tunnel under the front corner. Blocked with broken concrete that was nearby under the porch.

I sat on the back porch steps and watched the dogs play for a while. Came in, Tommy stopped in the kitchen to wash a paw. Settled back on the couch, eventually realized I hadn’t seen Tommy (the dog door was closed, not up to chasing dogs, even just around the yard). Call, hear him rustling. Call some more. More rustling. More calling, more rustling, and eventually he appears from the kitchen. With blood on the paw he stopped to clean some more. He’d broken a claw off short. With much flailing around, Tommy and I leave for the vet, figuring I’m going to have to call and tell PeaPod I’ll be late for my pickup. Being bold, stupid, and not up to facing the stairs, so leaving Pippin and Gimli loose in the house (dog door extra-barricaded).

By the time we were heading toward the vet’s office I realized that the bleeding had stopped, and Tommy didn’t seem particularly uncomfortable. I decided that although it was worse than a claw-clipping accident, we could skip the vet visit. Got turned around, and picked up PeaPod. Tommy was riding very nicely, until I opened the window for the PeaPod Pickup. He *is* a beagle, after all. 🙂 Pippin and Gimli were good while we were gone, and as I’d ordered PeaPod after my acute care visit, there was only one load of stuff to bring in. Although at that point I didn’t know I’d be needing liquid food for dinner, sigh.

Got home, ordered egg drop soup for dinner, with a wonton soup for today. Ate a little more than was advisable, but not problematically. The dogs were fairly well-behaved for the rest of the evening, especially since I kept them in and Tommy on his cable when he was out. He’s been rather obnoxious barking at the two back-neighbor dogs lately. I think he wants to play, but he says so loudly and at length, and Gimli has started joining in. Growf.

Stopped on the way to work for applesauce, yoghurt, and squishy soup – cream of chicken and chicken & stars. Not sure if wonton soup will work tonight, we’ll see. And some chocolate may have also followed me, because it melts and your mouth, no problem, right?

Long Weekend

Last Thursday evening when I went to bed I wasn’t optimistic about the amount of snow we’d get. But last Friday morning when I listened to the traffic and weather reports and looked out at the world I determined that the weather gods had listened to the prayers of me and many schoolkids and it was a SNOW DAY! Too bad it wasn’t an officially-work-declared one, so it ate a day’s vacation, but my sanity in regard to driving is worth it. Ron was in Green Bay last Thursday night and headed to Iowa on Friday, missing the vast majority of the snow. Friday morning about 10 am I went out to ask the neighbor to plow the driveway, and he and I were the only signs of life on the street.

Ron came home Saturday and stayed until Wednesday morning – took an extra couple days to try to loosen up some stubborn muscle soreness. Robin got in to Joliet about midnight last Friday night/Saturday morning, but didn’t ping me for a ride until about 5:30 am. I got a quick shower and set out for Joliet. I briefly took Mongo out of 4WD, put it back in to get going from a stop, decided to see how bad the expressways were, got onto 53 South at Euclid, got off at Algonquin (the next ramp), and circled back home. Checked the IDOT-reported road conditions around 9:30 while picking up PeaPod and decided the answer was still “No”. About 11:30 I looked again, things seemed encouraging, and off we went.

Robin was home about 24 hours – long enough to do laundry, get groceries, some minis, and start work on said minis. He left earlier than necessary on Sunday (although not as early as he’d have liked, due to having to replace the Kia’s battery, which had not-at-all-unexpectedly completely died), so that if there wasn’t long-term parking for drivers he could come back home and we’d figure out an alternate plan. But he didn’t have to do that, so now I’m done driving to Joliet, barring unforseen circumstances. Yay!

Monday was a state holiday (Lincoln’s Birthday), more yay! The dog-walking service came over in the evening to meet the boys, discuss details, etc. They’ll be starting next week Tuesday, since I have Monday off for President’s Day. Yay!

Had Ying out Tuesday night while cleaning up an epic deposition of metabolic end products. She’s gotten to be quite the big girl. I can hold her with one had . . . briefly. She also seems to be getting a little less head-shy, which is nice. Mite wars are back on in force, with the discovery the previous weekend that they’d gotten to Tanami. Not seen any on Moresby, who has the other half of the divided cage, but he’s been soaking enough that it’s a possibility. Ron checked Ying and Mau Xanh over Tuesday and didn’t see any on them, either. *All* the reptiles are being treated at this point, regardless.

Just finished another round of cleaning up Nyar’s toes – stuck shed on toes (and tail tips) is capital-B Bad. Worked on them Thursday, applied Neosporin, and Nesporin again last night and tonight. I think I’ve got them about shed. Also got his nostrils cleared, shed tends to clog them, or else he’s like a marine iguana and sneezes out excess salt/minerals. Either way, when they get blocked he stops eating. I expect he’ll chow down tomorrow.

Robin Not So AWOL and Other Natter

Robin didn’t come home for the weekend, nor on Monday, as he’d said he’d planned. Today I found out why – he’d forgotten to put in for home time. Oops.

Stayed home today and went to the doctor. We have upped my antidepressant (does that make them just “pressants”?) dosage. Since Robin’s left I’ve been more likely to have issues, and a missed dose a couple weeks ago resulted in me pretty much falling apart. Also today I was not awake – slept very badly Monday night, and although I slept ok last night it wasn’t enough to get caught up. So late morning I took a nap with Tommy snuggled up and Gimi snuggled up to Tommy. Snuggles by osmosis.

Today I did do some dishes, laundry, got a few groceries, and started work on the book for the floodplain manager’s conference. Still need to go mess with laundry one more time and get snake food out for tomorrow. Oh, also updated the snake food list to reflect re-arranging the schedule from Pythons-ish on Tuesdays and Colubrids-ish on Thursdays to “small” snakes on Tuesdays and “big” snakes on Thursdays every 2 weeks (every 3 for Fezzik the boa).

Wondering who this strange dog is and what he’s done with Tommy – he was snuggled up and napped while I was eating dinner. No hoping, no pushing, just stayed curled up and polite. Very odd . . .

Weekend Non-Report

It was a weekend. Ron was home, Robin was AWOL (at least according to the dogs). Dogs were snuggly (mostly on Ron).

Ron and I went out for lunch on Saturday and in the evening Xap came over and helped us eat chicken macaroni salad and we watched a movie. Sunday morning Ron and I got breakfast and groceries. There was much flailing around at the grocery store, and then we retreated home in the face of the crappy weather.

I’m thinking of a DIY new enclosure for Moresby, who keeps on growing, as young snakes do, which will also result in more room for Tanami, who is also growing. They’re currently in a 2’ x 4’ x 1’ tall enclosure that’s divided in half, so Tanami would get the whole thing when Moresby moves out (new enclosure question boils down to buy or build). Tanami is a fossorial species, so the low enclosure height is fine for him.

Home Despot has 1/2” thick CPVC sheets, which can be worked with woodworking tools. I’m thinking a 2’ x 2’ x 3’ tall enclosure, as Moresby likes to climb. I could get one 4’ x 8’ and one 2’ x 4’ sheet, or I could buy five 2’ x 4’ sheets, which are easier to handle, requires less cutting, but cost more per square foot. I’m leaning toward the smaller pieces and spreading the cost out over several weeks. Still in the thinking stage, details to be worked out.

I think that about sums up the weekend’s activities.

Blah blah blah natter-cakes

The Kia was towed to the garage on Monday. It ended up needing more than the clutch, so ended up costing $1800-ish instead of $1200-ish. Also still needs a battery, as the current one is reported to be marginal, but Ron and Robin can do that. It was finished yesterday, and paid for in combination by Robin’s credit card and Bank of Mom.

Ron spend the night in Palatine last night, so I stopped where he was parked for the night, picked him up, and then he dropped me off to retrieve the Kia while he went home and let the dogs out. Picked up dinner at Kosta’s, and then I left him at his truck for the night. After this morning’s drop off he ended up at the industrial park a mile or so from my office. He wasn’t sure if he could leave for lunch while he was being loaded, so I picked up lunch and brought it to him. Two meals together in two days! Woo hoo!

The estimate from the dog-walking service seems reasonable, but have not made a decision yet, since the increased cost of the Kia repair was likely going to require a loan from the Bank of Mom. I’m thinking soon, though. If nothing else, I need to get set up as an occasional customer for days where I have to be gone longer than normal.

Ron’s elbow continues to improve. So do my back and ankle.

Still Falling

Still falling off the internet.  Well, not the internet so much as blogging. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that said falling to some extent commenced with Robin going off for training.

Anyway, Robin got home for a week over Christmas, and Ron was also home. Yay! We didn’t do anything in particular, but it was nice.

Robin finished training and got his own truck about . . . um . . . three weeks ago. Yeah, three, since he’s been home twice now since getting it. He’s working out of Werner’s brand-shiny-new Joliet terminal, doing regional, home on weekends. He’s doing night runs between the Joliet area and Indianapolis, with lots of the loads being Amazon trailers.  When Robin comes home he gets snubbed by Gimli for about a day, except that Gimi isn’t actually good at the whole snubbing thing, especially when Robin scoops him up and snuggles him.

The day the bitter cold spell started earlier this month Ron slipped and fell, bashing his left elbow. It was bruised, swollen, and sore, got a minor infection where he skinned it, got that cleared, then earlier this week it got really really sore, still swollen, and has kept oozing fluid (plasma). He got to our doctor Friday, who sent him for an X-ray. No obvious fracture, seems to be all soft-tissue injury. Yesterday the swelling was better, and it was less sore, yay.

I’ve figured out that when Ron’s home we need to do something together besides go to the grocery store and sit around the house. Doesn’t have to be a big deal, but something. Yesterday all three of us went to breakfast, before the inevitable grocery shopping. Inevitable shopping because it’s much cheaper for Ron and Robin to stock up while at home rather than truck stops.

Robin’s plan is to get the Kia towed over to John and Scott’s for repair this week (although I’m the one who’s actually going to invoke the towing, since I’m awake during business hours and have keys). Which will be nice for me, Joliet is a solid hour from home, and an hour and a half from my office when we left at 4:30 pm. I really need to poke at the GPS in Mongo the pickup and see why it keeps trying to send me on daft routes (as opposed to the sane ones suggested by Google).

Got a quote from a dog-walking service for coming by once per day to give the boys some exercise. Now we have to decide if the budget is ready to start adding things like that back in. I’d really like my cleaning fairies back, but the dogs have priority.

Oops, Fell Off Again

Yes, I kinda fell off the internet again.

Robin is still wandering the country in training. I hear from him, usually a short Facebook post, about once per week. He’s on trainer #4, and I’m hoping will be done soon. He’s spent a couple weeks waiting for trainers, but at least he’s been being paid for the waiting.

Two weeks ago Ron started orientation with Schneider, half of last week was kinda flail-ish with getting his truck and getting it fixed and cleaned, so today starts his first real week. He left stupid early this morning, and will be back Saturday, so home Saturday night through Sunday night. So far he’s happy with Schneider, and his shoulder is enjoying not dealing with tarps.

The dogs are Not Pleased with being crated all day. Once we settle into a more predictable pay schedule and pay off some bills that have accumulated, I’m hoping I can get a daily service to come and let them out around the middle of the day.

Thanksgiving with the extended family-by-choice was fun. 8 of us total, which meant we all had “real” plates and flatware, and the house was pretty much full.

Last weekend we bought a Charlie Brown Christmas tree – Peanuts brand and everything. We were at Ace Hardware, and saw a pre-lighted 18” tree, and we considered it. I wandered through the aisle of holiday stuff and found the Charlie Brown tree and snagged it. It’s a proper straggly thing, crossed-boards base, one red ornament, and a “Linus blanket”. It’s sitting on top of the living room water bottle (to be fairly safe from toppling by playing dogs), and Christmas presents are being piled on/around the “Christmas Chair” nearby.

Natter about craft shows at the local high schools can be found on the Otter blog.

Yesterday we went to the storage locker for a couple Otter-ish things, and cotton duck from my fabric stash. In the afternoon we made an apron for Ron from said duck. It’s fairly long, and the bottom turns up and is attached at the sides, and the edge stiffened with some leather, so it forms a big pocket to catch chips when he’s woodcarving.

I also shopped the stash for upholstery fabric, and made new slipcovers for the bolsters that live on/around the couch. They’re 2-3 couches old, and an icky faded blue that do not match the blue couch we have now. Once I had the covers done (which didn’t even take too long), we decided to pull the old dead foam out of the bolsters, and re-stuffed them with fiberfill from Sweet Potato, Ron’s co-driver bear, who has developed holes in multiple seams. So now we have a pair of cylindrical bolsters that look nice and are actually useful again.

The Water Resources Christmas luncheon and staff meeting is on Thursday, so last week I made myself a new shirt and vest. Both had some issues, but were solved. I just need to put a hook and eye on the neckline opening of the shirt. I should consider ironing it, too, but I don’t know if I’ll get that far.