Halloween Fogger

Greetings. Here’s a peek behind the scenes of “Lacey’s Scary Graveyard.” If you clicked in the link in the last sentence, you got to see a short film of the graveyard as it appeared in 2017. A friend of mine filmed it and I think he did a great job putting it together. Filming a Halloween Haunt in the daytime is necessary but seeing the “real thing” at night is SO much better. When filming a Halloween Haunt at night, it is difficult to capture the ambiance and the blending of light effects. Daytime filming gives better detail, but nighttime viewing gives you the experience.

Fog in a Halloween haunt is not essential but when the weather is calm it is good to have “ground hugging” fog around the grave sites. It adds so much to the experience.

Halloween fog machines are simple devices, but they are prone to failure. I’ve not had many that last over a couple of years. Also, the fog that spews from these devices are not inherently “ground hugging.” They must be augmented with “fog chiller” devices that use ice. There are many, many YouTube videos that show how to construct fog chillers. Some use beer coolers and some use trash cans but all of them require the addition of ice. I’ve tried many. I’ve tried the kind that coils a good length of 4″ tubing in a trash can filled with ice where the output of the fog machine is fed into the tube, into the trash can, and out. I’ve also built and used fog chillers where the output of the fog machine is fed into a beer cooler through a hole and the chilled fog exits another hole. In the second version the fog comes into direct contact with the ice.

Up to this point, my most successful chiller was a simple tube with small holes drilled in the sides. The tube was filled with ice, capped at the end, and the fog from the machine was fed into the other end. This worked great if the fog machine generated fog and there was ice in the tube. The ice didn’t last long and it was messy.

In 2017, I saw a YouTube video that described a water only fogger that used a fountain mister. The fog was continuous, didn’t require special juice, and used a lot less power than the regular fog machines. In practice, it did produce ground hugging fog but not a lot of it and it seemed to dissipate quickly. I used it but I wasn’t completely satisfied.

This year, I found a YouTube video that combined the two types of foggers, a “Robert’s Fogger.” It looked interesting and did all the things that I needed a fogger to do. Unfortunately, I had invested some effort in making the water only fogger that used a computer fan to blow water mist out of a plastic container. My initial thought was to get a “Y” PVC pipe and combine the outputs of a fog machine with my mist fogger. My plan was to pipe the two streams into the original pipe with the small holes drilled in the sides. If it worked as I had hoped I wouldn’t need ice and I’d still get the ground hugging fog for my graveyard. In the process of testing the hypothesis the computer fan on the mist fogger container failed. So, I removed the 4″ computer fan and inserted a 4″ hose and fed the output of the fog machine into the input. It worked just like Robert’s Fogger did in the video. As bonus, I was doing all my testing on a table so that the output of the mister container was roughly 3 feet below on the ground. In between fog machine pulses, the mist maker continued to deliver fog to the output due to a siphon effect.

I’m looking forward to testing this out this year. I’m hoping that Halloween fog is something that I don’t have to worry about.

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Why I Love Halloween

<<<Can you guess the theme of this year’s Halloween display? I’m well into my “silly season” of Halloween preparations. I’ve finished two homemade props so far and bought a few. My workbench has been cleaned from the building and switched over to the electronic fabrication configuration. I’ve brought an old laptop out of retirement, tested a few boards left over from last year, consolidated the components, and I’m about ready to start coding for Halloween Spooktacular activities.

BTW the theme, in case you didn’t get it, is Aliens from Outer Space.

I’ve done a bit of preparation, but I don’t take credit for starting until I’ve worked on my first “new” prop. Two years ago (https://azatheist.com/2017/09/09/its-never-too-early-for-halloween/) I started building an ambitious project in honor of the release of the Steven King movie “It.” This year my theme was inspired by the “Storm Area 51” news articles. Apparently, it has been cancelled (https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2019/09/11/storm-area-51-event-canceled-after-everyone-realizes-its-a-horrible-idea/). However, “the die has been cast.”

(I know it’s not “Talk Like a Roman Day! Avast matey. Now you be knowin’ wha’ day tis.)

I started with a DIY video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WwGnaL-vTo) by This Southern Girl Can. In the video she builds a cute movie inspired prop from Dollar Tree parts including foam rubber foot balls and plastic Ninja fighting sticks. It looked great and I loved both versions of “Little Shop of Horrors” and stage play I caught in Montgomery Alabama in 1987. In the movie Audrey II—the people eating plant—comes from outer space. Perfect! It looked easy and cheap…err inexpensive. It was settled then. I’ll start with “Little Pot of Horrors.”

I followed the video closely and only added a couple of touches like the glowing veins and the mesh tubing lips. It came out great…some of my friends are angling to steal it for their own. I may have to chain it down during the night before Halloween party. I was then anxious to move on to the next challenge.

I wanted my next prop to be built around a piece of motorcycle fairing I found in a field a few years ago. I always saw an alien in it. It is not unusual for me to pick up potentially useful “junk” when I’m walking around in the neighborhood. The alien in this piece was too strong to be ignored. For a few years I’ve been tripping over it. Every time I came in to my workshop it would be looking at me and asking me to do something with it. This year the theme of the Halloween display would be about aliens and I knew that if I didn’t use it , it was going to the curb.

I’m a member of a FaceBook page “Halloween DIY Projects” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/851677191523170/). This shouldn’t surprize ANYONE. So I posted the picture of the fairing on the page and asked if others could see an alien too. Many people saw it and agreed that there was an alien in there. One person saw the beginning of a jet pack. However, one person simply posted “My Tallest.” I had no idea what that meant until after I did a Google search (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3OByb-Gd88) Then my pathway was clear. I will HAVE to build an Invader Zim prop!

The face was free, but I needed a few more items. The ACE store near my house gave me a few scraps of plexiglass for the eyes. My backyard is full of those puzzle EVA foam mats that I should have thrown away years ago. I had some Dollar Tree scraps. I only needed to buy some PVC piping and connectors and they cost me less than $20. Now to add the voice!

Happy Halloween!

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International Aerial Robotics Competition—Mission 8

The first attempt at Mission 8 of the IARC (International Aerial Robotics Competition) finished on August 1st in Atlanta Georgia. No team completed the mission, as expected, but three of the teams did qualify and had an opportunity to demonstrate their capability in the arena. By far and away, the Norway Team (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) with 5 flying attempts was the best prepared but Olin (Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering) and St. Olaf (St. Olaf College) each made 4 flight attempts. Other teams present were Missouri University of Science and Technology, Pennsylvania State University, PES University (from Bangalore, India), University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Texas at Austin. Teams travelling to the competition face many challenges. For example, the PES University Team’s vehicle was destroyed going through customs from India. The Georgia heat melted one team’s vehicles and they had to scramble to replace their propeller shrouds.

This contest has been held once a year for 28 years. The goal has always been to stretch the technology and it was created to be “hard.” It was/is/and always will be a competition based on autonomous vehicles. This year was the first year that the autonomous vehicles could be directed by a human operator through voice or gesture commands. Also, this is the first year that the mission was hindered by active sentry drones. There were four of them and their mission was to prevent the human in the arena from completing the mission. The rules explain in detail what is required and there is also a promotional video that dramatizes the task.

The next opportunity for college teams to meet the Mission 8 challenge will be at the Asia/Pacific Venue on August 24-25 in Kunming, China. Thirteen teams from China and 3 from India are slated to attend. The past two missions were completed at the Asia/Pacific Venue. It is possible but unlikely to have one of the Chinese teams complete the mission and collect the prize money. That would bring up Mission 9 and severely disappoint the creator of the competition. He wants the challenge to be tough enough to take a couple of years to accomplish. On the Past Missions page of the IARC Website one can see that Professor Michelson got his wish on every mission except for Mission 5.

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Well “I Think”—An Old Story

Hello readers! Are you as frustrated as I am? It seems frustration is a way of life now that we’re under the current administration.

There were times in my Air Force career when I was frustrated to the extreme. I worked for a hardnosed, base, paranoid, and small-minded Chief Master Sergeant. I was a shop chief and had enough work for about three or four individuals. The Air Force had assigned me seven technicians. It all worked out and had a happy ending, but I was frustrated. My solution required that I get my old-school boss to accept some “creative” management. It all worked out for the best and I was rewarded with an opportunity to become an officer but here is a conversation that I had with the “Chief” that helped me persuade people that I was officer material:

Me: Hey Chief! If I said you’re a Son-of-a-Bitch you’d probably bring me up on charges, wouldn’t you?

Chief: Yes! I would bring you up on charges.

Me: But Chief, I could THINK you’re a Son-of-a-Bitch and you couldn’t do a damn thing to me, right?

Chief: Yes. That’s right. You can thing whatever you want.

Me: Well Chief, I think you’re a Son-of-a-Bitch!

We both had a laugh about that, and I got the “Chief” to allow me to make a management change that kept up the morale and got the mission done. We ended up as good friends and the Chief was an advocate for my application for the Airman Education and Commissioning Program. I retired as a Major on the first day of 2000.

In short, we were on the same page. We communicated and understood each other. The Chief wasn’t afraid of me and I wasn’t afraid of him. Together, we got things done. I set up his retirement ceremony and he supported my application to the commissioning program—win, win. Wherever he is, I’m sure that he’s doing OK and I’m also doing OK.

Perhaps, history can repeat itself. I can’t say without legal threat that Donald J. Trump is a racist. However, I can THINK that he is a racist.

Therefore: Donald J. Trump, I think you’re a racist!

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Camp Quest Arizona Recovering

Coming off a natural high after spending a week at Camp Quest Arizona. Spiritually, I’m doing great. Physically, not so much. Every year recovery takes a wee bit longer. I missed a 4th of July party and opted to spend time with Nancy in front of the TV. We enjoyed a dinner of hot dogs, pork and beans, and potato salad. I could hear the fireworks, but the Lazy Boy was so comfortable…After a bit, I had to get up and walk. I like to walk four miles every day, and this time of year it’s best to walk after dark. I usually start at 9 P.M. and it takes a bit less than 90 minutes. This time, I took my Panasonic Camera. Normally, I only have my phone camera, but the last couple of days my headlamp was illuminating Wolf spiders that were carrying their babies on their back. I really needed the camera that has an optical zoom so I could hopefully capture momma spider and her babies. I’ve included one of the best pictures, but it really doesn’t do it justice. When wearing a headset, the Wolf spider eyes reflect very brightly. The momma spiders have a few dozen extra eyes and the effect is awesome when I’m wearing a headset. I’ve been trying to capture the image on the iPhone camera, but the effect was disappointing. Also, the momma spider would jump into her hole while I was setting up the shot.

On the fourth, I took my Panasonic Lumix camera with me and captured a few photos using the optical zoom capability and the built-in flash. It made the walk take a bit longer but now I get a chance to share a great picture of a momma Wolf spider. I saw at least 5 momma spiders with babies.

Today, the 6th, I didn’t see any piggy backing baby spiders, but I did see a lot of little spiders on the trail. Perhaps the babies are now on their own.

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Camp Quest AZ 2019 Final Report

The Camp Quest AZ mythical creature is Muggy—a bipedal humanoid wild creature thought to be a native of the Mogollon Rim. Every Camp Quest has its own mythical creature. I believe when Ed Kagin first started Camp Quest in 1996 in Boone County Kentucky for the children of secular families he played a game with an invisible unicorn in his garage. It was a challenge aimed at showing that a negative could not be proven. Back then, there was only one location for Camp Quest. Now, there are 14. Camp Quest Arizona is one of them.

This year we had 46 campers including 6 LTs (Leadership Trainees). Campers age from 8 through 15 and LTs are aged 16-17. We also had 21 adult staff members. Including a Camp Director, Facilities Director, Programs Director, Camp Cabin Director, Medical, LT Director, 4 Program Staff and 11 Cabin Staff.

From my point of view, everything went well. We had 8 electives this year. Each camper gets to select two. This year they got to choose from: Archery, Fishing, Drama, Drumming, Robots, Rockets, Self-defense, and Survival Skills. My elective was building robots. All 13 campers that signed up to assemble Runner robots were successful. For the last hour of our 4 hour program they played with the robots in a small arena made of lawn edging material.

I also had the pleasure of introducing all the campers to the history of the catapult and we built two versions—the onager and the trebuchet. It was great fun being the target after assembly. The ammunition were Nerf Rival foam balls, completely harmless when hurled by catapults made from popsicle sticks and tongue depressors.

Also, I showed some of the campers how to build an analog clock. (You know the one with the face and the three hands?). They each decorated their own clock faces with stickers and markers. Then we attached the movement. Once the battery was inserted (properly) the clock started working. Hopefully, the campers will put their clocks on the wall to remind them of what a wonderful time they had at Camp Quest Arizona 2019.

The other “maker” elective was Rockets. Lauren taught her group how to build and launch rocket made from old soda bottles. This was the first year for this program and the campers that selected it had a great time building and launching their rockets.

The LTs (16 and 17-year-old campers that help with camp operations) had a maker activity as well. They upcycled refuse items back into usefulness.

Camp Quest AZ 2019 high lights: (leaving out the meals and such)

Day Before—Most staff check in with their children (if any).

First Day—Campers arrive, are checked in, cabins assigned, treasure hunt, staff led opening campfire, bed.

Second Day—First day of electives, quiet time, team games, afternoon activity, evening activity, bed.

Third Day—Same as Second Day.

Fourth Day—Hike, quiet time, team games, afternoon activity, evening activity, bed.

Fifth Day—Same as Second Day (except for the LT run Carnival in the evening), bed.

Sixth Day—Same as Second Day (except afternoon activity is replaced with free time and skit night in the evening), bed.

Seventh Day—Break camp, pack, cleanup, sign out campers, and go get lunch in Prescott Valley. Drive home. The End!

I might write more on Camp Quest AZ in the future. There’s a lot of detail missing in the quick listing of highlights above. I’m glad I went, and I’m glad it’s over too. I think everyone that went enjoyed the experience but are now feeling a bit sore, a bit tired, but overall satisfied with this year’s Camp Quest Arizona!

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More about Camp Quest Arizona

It seems like all I write about in this blog, when I bother writing, is about Camp Quest. It’s not like that’s all I do but it is the highlight of my summer. At the time of this writing I’m about two weeks from taking the trip to the higher elevations of Arizona and the Piney woods of Prescott National Forest. While I’m there, the phone connection will be spotty. I’ll have to climb up to a ridge to get enough “bars” on my ATT phone to download podcasts and call my wife. That’s not a complaint; that’s a feature! I suppose the 3-minute cold water shower is a feature too.

My part in the program this year is to teach the young campers the joy of being a maker and fixing things. We will be doing a lot of upcycling which I also enjoy.

Earlier, I wrote about “The Runner” robot that some of the campers will be able to construct in the post about building a new set of shelves https://azatheist.com/2019/03/12/a-new-set-of-shelves/).

Happily, the camp director selected as one of the programs that all the campers will participate in involves catapults. Little did she know that that was one of my earliest interests. When I was as young as most of the campers, I used to build catapults out of Popsicle sticks that were designed to chuck marbles at card house castles. My parents liked to play Pinochle and I had a lot of used cards for the castles.

The missiles we’ll be firing won’t be marbles. We’ll be using small foam “Nerf” balls that look like tiny golf balls. It’s going to be great to show the campers how to construct these simple devices using common materials such as Popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, fishing sinkers, rubber bands, and plywood circles. We’ll also be using hot glue so the building should go quickly.

Each camper will build two catapults. One will be a Trebuchet and the other will be a Mangonel. When someone pictures a “catapult” they more than likely picture the Mangonel. They used twisted rope to store the energy which is delivered to the missile causing it to fly. The Trebuchet is a bit more elegant. It uses a falling a weight to store and impart the energy to the missile.

The two models to the left normally decorate my home office. Both are capable of hurling metal balls about 30 yards, but you’ll notice that the Mangonel on the left in the picture is sturdier in construction. It uses twisted nylon rope to store the energy. There is very beefy stop in the front of the throwing arm to stop its forward motion and loose the payload. There is a lot of potential energy left in the system once the missile flies. On the other hand, all the potential energy in the Trebuchet is expended and transferred to the missile. Therefore, the device can be built a bit lighter.

These siege engines were constructed of wood primarily. They were in fact used in the middle ages and before but there are none that survive to this day. However, there are a few surviving key metal parts. After deployment and use, it is likely the wood had more immediate uses such as fuel and building materials. Most of the models in existence were constructed from drawings.

The campers are going to have a fun time building these and I’ll bet they come up with some inventive ways to used them at camp and after.

Eleven days and counting!

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