Shock and Ahh…Shit

The mourning* after the 2016 election.

The Nightmare before the Election is now possibly the Nightmare after the Election but we’ll have to wait and see how much rhetoric becomes reality as President Trump proceeds to build and manage the Executive Branch of our government. The bad news is that if he accomplishes only half of what he’s promised, we’re screwed. The good news is you can’t totally rely on anything that he says or said. One supporter told me not to worry because Mr. Trump would surround himself with smart people.

Hate to be negative here but firstly, the people he has around him aren’t our best. His vice president is Mike Pence who has advocated for conversion therapy for homosexuals and is against fair pay for women and minorities. Mr. Trump selected Chris Christie to lead his transition team. Not the best choice considering a judge in New Jersey found that there was probable cause to believe that Chris Christie had engaged in official misconduct for his part in the “Bridgegate” scandal. However, Governor Christie is included in his list of front runners  for his cabinet along with a Wall Street CEO, climate change deniers (“skeptics”), Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and other bright lights from the narcissistic right. Even if he does manage to get exemplary members on his team, it’s not clear due to his performance during the campaign that he will listen to any of them. He has said that he is not interested in the experience of the current military leaders. Most of those leaders have gained their knowledge and experience under many different administrations lead by both Republicans and Democrats.

I have hope that our new president will rise like a Phoenix from this disastrous election season to lead the country to greater peace and prosperity without regressing to meaner times like many progressives fear. However, I’ve already lost a friend because of post-election vitriol. She went on FaceBook and announced that those protesting the election are LOSERS. I’m intolerant of ad hominem attacks strictly because of a difference of opinion. We can’t get through this time intact if we throw gas onto the smoldering embers of this hard fought contest. We must always discuss differing opinions with respect for the individuals involved especially during these trying times.

On a positive note, now that the election is over it is time we got rid of all of those annoying roadside signs. Traditionally, I go out on the day after every election to help in the effort by filling my truck full of them. It’s a bit of a job so I consider it good exercise which is a win but I get a second win because I reuse the plastic sign material and the rebar stakes in D.I.Y projects around the house. Notice in the picture below the use of rebar and plastic sign material in my latest Halloween prop. zombie-pit

In any case, I believe for the next four years (at least) we may be cursed to live in interesting times.

*I meant to spell it that way! I’ll be wearing a lot of black for the next four years.

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The Nightmare before the Election

deadend-cemetaryIt has been a few months. It’s hard to believe that at one time this was a daily blog. Of course back then there were a couple of writers. I’ve still got plenty to say and hopefully there are readers who want to hear what I have to say. So how is it that over four months pass before I publish a blog entry? Notice I said “publish” there were many times that I sat down, started writing, and didn’t finish. It’s like a pressure relief valve. I sit down all fired up and a few paragraphs in the urgency to write seems to fade. I never get back to one I’ve started even though I tell myself that I’ll get back and finish it.

So here it is one day before the election. If I had something to say about the election that might have made a difference, I would have written much sooner. However, there is something almost as scary as politics during this time during the year—Halloween.

Halloween is my favorite holiday and as one of the neighborhood kids says I go “all out.” I’ve enjoyed the holiday since I was very young. One of my earliest memories is winning a hotstuffclassroom costume contest. I was dressed as “Hot Stuff” a comic book character. It was way back in 1960. We had school Halloween parties back then and someone dressed as a little devil could win a costume contest. I wonder if things have changed much since then. As I grew up Halloween provided many opportunities to stretch my creative muscles. There were costumes to construct, of course, but more importantly we had to have a neighborhood tactical plan. We had to get to the most houses in the allotted time and a pillow case was the only acceptable option for collecting the candy. There were rules we had to follow or we couldn’t go. We weren’t allowed to eat anything homemade. All candy had to be inspected before we could eat it and we were only allowed to eat two pieces each day. If we got a good haul that meant we would have candy until Christmas! Finally in our house “Trick-or-treat” ended at the age of 12. After that age, my job was to do the handing out.

So I handed out candy when the doorbell rang. My parents didn’t decorate or get into the spirit of the holiday at all. Dave Michaels was a friend of mine from high school. His dad set up a pumpkin on a pole covered with a white cloth. The pumpkin had an electric light in it and a speaker under it. It also had a large solenoid that would flip up some stubby arms under the cloth. Dave’s dad would hide in the house and watch the kids through the window. When they came up he would talk with them and make the arms go up and down. I only saw it one time and only for a couple of minutes. When I saw it, it didn’t work but that brief encounter changed the way I looked at Halloween ever since.

Eventually, I recreated the talking pumpkin only a bit better and I set it up every year for over thirty years. My pumpkin had a speaker, and a light. While it didn’t have moving arms, the light was voice modulated. When Nancy and I moved to Tucson in 2000 we brought our talking pumpkin. The neighborhood kids loved talking to the pumpkin and would sometimes come back after they finished trick-or-treating just to chat. Many still remember it but now they’re quite a bit older and some even have children of their own. It was our sole display until 2008 when I finally retired from work at Raytheon and the beginning of the next chapter in the “Lacey’s Scary Halloween Graveyard.”

clownNancy bought me a hang up clown display in 2008 and I attempted to make it come out of a box. Mercifully, I don’t have any pictures of that attempt. I started too late and the power automotive radio aerial didn’t have the >snap< I was looking for. In 2009 I started earlier and discovered pneumatics. The Clown and the Popup Ghoul were born and joined the talking pumpkin. Gravestones were put in the garden behind lumps of dirt. It was better but I made a mistake. I invited a few friends over on Halloween night to come over and see the display. It wasn’t a mistake to invite them. It was a mistake to invite them on Halloween night. There was so much going on and I wasn’t able to enjoy their visit, show off the display, operate the display, and dole out the candy.

The current routine started in 2010 when I invited some friends over the night before. Once in a while things just seem to work out. I found a new friend Jack Herron who got into the holiday as much as I did and he donated tons of his decorations to the effort. Having people over the day before was so much better and continued through this year. The “Devil’s Night” party provided me a chance to dry run all the props, show off a bit, and have a party. Things that fail during the dry run can be repaired on Halloween before Trick-or-Treat and the kids get a fully functioning display for the entire time.

I hope that you enjoy Halloween as much as I do. Check out the video and come by in 2017 and see what is new!




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The Robots at 2016 Camp Quest AZ

P1110116 - CopyCamp Quest AZ is over for 2016. It was great! There was a wide variety of activities for the campers and the Counselors were always on the run making things happen. As before, the staff had the help of the older campers called LTs. This year there were 9 LTs and 45 younger campers. Many were returnees and some previous attendees came back as LTs. I was in the cabin with the older boys. As a program counselor, I was responsible for running my programs and filling in when the cabin counselor had other duties. Rick was the cabin counselor but also ran programs. He was VERY busy during the week. If you want to know more about Camp Quest and Camp Quest Arizona, check out

My last four blogs have been about Camp Quest Arizona and the Tin Can Creations program. The object of the program is to have the campers take empty cans and other random hardware and make robots. It was an elective activity and there were 13 campers that signed up. I’m sure that you will agree that they produced some very creative robots.

Other elective activities included archery, fishing, mythical creatures, mask making, mission to Mars, survival skills, and drama. Each elective consisted of four one hour sessions. There were other activities called “Quest Zones” in which all the campers participated. Each Quest Zone was one hour long. The campers were divided into four teams. Each team rotated through the Quest Zones. One of the Quest Zones I ran involved building 8 x 10” shadow boxes. Each day for four days I had another set of 12 campers pounding nails into pine boards. Most remained unfinished but a few were decorated during free time. Other Quest Zone activities included: using microscopes, leather work, studying fossils, and bristlebot robots.

The week went quickly. The weather was great at 6400 feet in the Prescott National Forest near Mingus Mountain. There was no internet or phone service (unless you climbed about a hundred feet up the side of the valley) but the remote location had a charm of its own. Power was available from about 6:30 AM until the diesel generator was turned off at 10 PM.

My first year at Camp Quest Arizona was 2014. There have been a few improvements since then. This year the beds were regular 4” thick mattresses on top of wire link springs instead of a 2” mattress pad on ¾” plywood. Great improvement! The bathroom and dining hall had solar collectors that provided lights after the generator was shut down. Finally, the solar powered composting toilet was a BIG improvement over the blue Port-a-potties that we had near the upper bunkhouse.

I had a great time that ended way too soon. CQAZ 2017 will be held the last week of June…Can’t wait.

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Robby the Robot: Fifth in the Tin Can Creation Series

Robby the Robot: Fifth in the Tin Can Creation Series

160520 Five TCC Robots160520 Robby160520 soup canThe fun continues…Yesterday I finished construction of Robby the Robot. As in the other Tin Can Creations projects, he is built around an empty Healthy Choice Chicken Noodle Soup can. It’s my activity and I make up the rules. So, I decided to build all my tin can robots using the discarded container of the soup I’ve eaten almost every day for almost 13 years.


Robby’s glass dome is a wide mouth canning jar. His antennas are screw eye bolts fastened to recycled radio knobs hot glued in place. Unlike the previous tin can robots, Robby has a brain under his translucent dome.

160520 Robby legsThe ATtiny85 microprocessor lights up Robby’s LEDs and activates his pager motor. When Robby is switched on his eyes light up along with the two flickering lights in his chest behind the discarded car air freshener. He buzzes in short bursts while at the same time his mouth lights up with blue LEDs. Then, all the lights switch on. Finally, only the three “brain” lights illuminate at the top of his dome and rotate as if he is thinking about something important.

Robby, the real Robby, first appeared in The Forbidden Planet, a science fiction movie in 1956. He was the friendly servant of his creator, Dr. Morbius. He is not the robot from the television series Lost in Space. They are easily confused; the B-9 robot from that show is similar in many ways. Both robots have retractable arms and a synthetic voice that modulates the light in the chest. Since both robots were designed by Rober Kinoshita, it is not surprising that they had some similar traits. However, there are major differences. Aside from being 10 years older, Robby’s legs consisted of stacked spheres and they moved independently. Both robots appeared together in the Lost in Space episode #20 “War of the Robots.” In that episode, Robby was definitely evil complete with laser weaponry.

This has been a fun project. The next step is to build up the capability to produce similar tin can robots at Camp Quest.



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A Fourth Tin Can Creation—The Rocketeer



RocketeerThanks to one of the members of Tucson Atheists, I have a couple of empty gas cartridges. They are cool and needed to find their way into one of the Tin Can Creation projects.

I built this one using the same soup can that formed the basis of the other Tin Can Creations. I found the head (Spider-Man) on the sidewalk. The fin on his head came from the top of a deodorant container. The back strap was also from the found object collection. The legs are made of small plastic bottles. The only things I had to buy include: two “L” fittings for ½” pipe (shoulders) and the fiber optic spray. There are two flickering LED lights right under the CO2 cartridges that are activated by a slide switch on the tuna can base.

Here is the ever growing collection:

Tin Can Creations (4)

Camp Quest isn’t for a couple of months so there is sure to be: More to come…

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Camp Quest: Tin Can Creations

Camp Quest: Tin Can Creations

IMG_2670 In preparation for my program at Camp Quest AZ, I’ve created 3 prototypes (pictured on the left). Certainly, there will be more. The prototypes are being used to help design a viable program for the young campers because a month ago this was just an idea. Hopefully, the kids will see these and become as excited as I am to create robots out of recycled materials

The first one I created is on the far left. Dr. Who fans will recognize it as a Dalek “one of the most feared races in the universe.” The friendly robot on the right is R2D2 from Star Wars and in the middle is Rosie the Maid Robot from the Jetsons. She is my third prototype.

These robots all have one thing in commonsoup can. They are all based on the same empty soup can. The soup can is Healthy Choice Chicken Noodle. I have a large quantity of these cans. I have it for lunch every day. The rest of the robots are constructed of items found in my workshop and in the streets near my house.

My garage and workshop are stuffed with salvaged hardware. In fact, I’m about a cardboard box away from being eligible to appear on Hoarders. Many of those valuable treasures have found their way into the pictured prototype robots.

Why am I adding this program to the Camp Quest AZ 2016 curriculum?

Last year, I brought a pine car event very similar to the BSA Pinewood Derby. It was a great event but only 6 of the Camp Quest campers elected to participate. All six were very successful but this year I wanted to develop a program which would have a wider appeal and Robots are cool! To me robots made out of recycled materials are especially satisfying. An article on making a wobble bot out of upcycled cans gave me the idea. I could have the Camp Quest campers do something similar. However, the robots in the article are too complicated and require equipment not available to summer camp campers. Additionally, I have a limited time with the kids.

Robot kitThe kids will start with a “basic” kit of parts including a couple of cans and some electronics components. They’ll also have a supply miscellaneous hardware items available. Then their imagination can take over! Here is how the process worked for me…


Dalek Eye StockI needed to capture the essence of the Dalek. I started with the eye stock detail. All Daleks see the world through their eye stock. A piece of tubing, pony beads, and a blue LED were pressed into service.


dalek exterminatorFortunately I had an old dead pen with a flashing LED that would make a great “exterminator.”



dalek plunger

Dr. Who fans may not like it but I think the grappler arm on the Dalek looks like a toilet plunger. I made one out of an appliance rubber foot.


dalek bubbles

I actually had to buy the thumb tacks (47 cents at Walgreens) for the Dalek’s “bubbles.”


dalek skirtBlack foam insulation tape became the skirt at the bottom. Originally, I had wire nuts on top to simulate the communication antennae but I replaced them with spare LED Christmas tree bulbs.

DalekIt was a simple matter to add a battery holder and a slide switch to power all the LEDs and…”Exterminate!”

If you’d like to see the Dalek in action, click HERE.







The first prototype was challenging and fun but I liked the way that R2D2 sprang to life.

R2D2 NakedHere the trusty soup can is flanked by two miniature plastic bottles. The dome comes off of the top of a laundry detergent container. The rear trucks are spent car deodorizers that clip on the AC vents. The front truck was made out of an empty dental floss container.R2D2 Black First coat of paint was black, followed by a coat of silver and a final coat of white. I cut out some blue vinyl tape, mounted the LEDs, the switch, and the batteries and it was time to shoot the engineer. R2D2 was done!



Rosie 2Remember the Jetsons? Here is Rosie, model XB-500 reporting for cleaning duty in the house of the future. Actually it’s another Healthy Choice soup can made up to look like something other than trash. Rosie has LED lights and fancy chrome antennae. Her armsRosie Naked are small water pipes and her base is a lug nut. Look into her eyes and you’ll see painted water bottle lids. Her collar came off of a greeting card and her hat and skirt are what’s left of a duster.

That’s all I have for now. Certainly, there will be more. Our Camp Quest summer camp begins in the middle of July.

Next build will be the “Spout Bot” (alternately called “Beetle Bot”).

There is still time to join the fun in the Prescott National Forest. Click HERE to check out how to volunteer.

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Camp Quest AZ 2016

061915_0712_AnotherSucc11.jpgThis will be my third time attending as a programs counselor and this year’s Camp Quest Arizona is going to be great!

My first year was in 2014 and I wrote about it, after the fact. Registering at the last minute because they needed a male camp staffer, I packed up a bunch of stuff and headed out to contribute what I could. Preparations were made prior to my participation and this was the second year for the camp. I chose to help out where I could and also bring an introductory model airplane program along with a leather working activity. I had shared those experiences with children in the past and I had everything I needed at hand.

Last year, I was on board early and had more opportunity to prepare. Again, I was committed to helping with the programs where I could but also include something from my unique experience—Pinewood Derby. I wrote about those preparations in three parts, Part I, Part II, and Part III. As before, I wrote about the successful experience. That was almost a year ago…

Now I’m preparing for this year. The board has accepted my application; my online training is complete; this year’s proposed activity has been approved; and the hard work can now begin. Come back later and check out “Tin Can Creations.”

By the way, it’s not too late to get in on the fun. The week long camp will start on July 16th and run through the 23rd. Volunteers are still needed.

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