Grampy’s Tale

I haven’t posted a story on here in a while, but given the nature of this one, I decided to share it as a Halloween treat. Happy Halloween, everyone!

I’d like to thank those that offered their expertise when I asked for it on Facebook, particularly Molly and Brett who even went so far as to take the time to read the resulting story before posting. Without your insight, experience, and knowledge, I fear this story would have fallen flat. Thank you.


GrampysTale

The telltale signs of autumn covered the ground in a thick mat of oranges, reds, and browns. Grampy took a deep breath and let it out, savoring the musty smell of wet leaves on the crisp, post-rain air. The kids ran around in his back yard, excited about something or other. He was content to just take a seat on his favorite log by the cold fire pit and watch them, but recalled his daughter’s insistence that he actually spend some time with them.

“Hey, boys,” he said, waving them over, “Why don’t you come on over here and have a seat?”

Both came over silently and they sat side by side on the log opposite him: obedient but not thrilled.

“What are you two doing over there?”

“Collecting acorns,” the older one said, his little brother nodding.

He looked at them hard for a moment then furrowed his brow and asked “What’s an eggcorn?”

“Grampy!” the older one said exasperated, “I said ‘acorns.’”

“Oh,” he said with a grin, shooting the younger kid a wink, “and what do you want with them acorns? Practicing to become a squirrel?”

The two boys giggled, but the older one said, “no.”

“What then? Just start’n a collection?”

The two boys looked at each other and an unspoken word that was obviously grounded in mischief passed between them, then the older on said, “for a project.”

“Ah,” Grampy said, nodding as if that cleared it up, “and which project might that be? Your ma say’s you’ve been playing T-ball, though I don’t see how a pile of acorns fits with that.”

“It’s for birds,” the younger one said, avoiding the irritated glare of his older brother.

“To feed ’em?”

“No.” Whether it was for breaking under the old man’s interrogation and betraying his bond of silence with his brother, or because he knew what he was about to confess was wrong remained to be seen, but it was clear that he was very ashamed. He fidgeted in his seat and stared at his hands. “For the slingshot.”

“Ah,” Grampy said, nodding, “I see now. Why don’t we leave that for a while.”

“Are we going to make a fire?” the older boy asked, his eyes on the fire pit, all too eager to change the subject.

“I mean,” Grampy said, his brow furrowed again, “I reckon we could put one together, but what’d you want it to say? Your cat run off?”

The boy sighed and rolled his eyes, “Fires can’t talk.”

“Ohhh,” Grampy said, grinning, “you said ‘fire.’ Thought it was weird that you’d want to make a flyer.”

“What’s a flyer?” asked the younger boy.

“It’s like a sign you make to hand out to people or put up around the neighborhood. Ever see a lost dog poster, or a piece of paper talking about a yard sale?”

Both boys nodded in unison.

“One of those.”

There was a quiet moment as they all stared into the empty fire pit, then the older boy shattered it with “So, are we going to make a FIRE?” he almost yelled the last word like an idiot trying to talk to someone that doesn’t speak English.

“No,” Grampy replied, “wood’s all wet and we only have a little while before your ma comes back to get ya.”

The kid grunted, but didn’t give any other indication that he’d been spoken to.

“Mom says you’re full of stories,” the smaller boy said.

Grampy grinned; that’s probably not how she’d worded it, and he was pretty sure that’s not what she thought he was full of, but he nodded. He’d been known to spin a yarn or two.

“Can you tell us a story?”

“Sure,” he said, rubbing his hands together, “what sort of story you wanna hear?”

The younger boy opened his mouth to speak, but the older one yelled right over him, “A ghost story!”

Grampy furrowed his brow a bit and looked down at the empty fire pit, then back up at the boy.

“Are you sure that’s what you want?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, I probably know one or two of those.” He again looked to the fire pit and rubbed his hands together, then started in. “Your Gramy and I, God rest her soul, used to live up north of here a ways. This was back before your ma or your uncle were born. We had a little dairy farm. Goats. Bought it from a fellow my pa knew on the cheap and took it over.

“Tried for a few years to turn a profit from it, but ended up selling for about the same I paid for it and, as I’m sure you know, we moved back down here and I started working in my pa’s car dealership instead.”

He looked at the boys. The younger one nodded, he knew that Grampy sold cars when his ma was a girl, but the older boy didn’t respond.

“During the time in question we musta had about 80 lamancha and it would have been fall because it was breeding season but there was no snow on-”

“What’s breeding season?” the younger brother asked.

“It’s, well… how much has your ma told you about where baby animals come from?”

The older one spoke up then. “Oh, is this the ‘when a man and a woman love each other very much’ thing?”

“Yes. Like that. But with goats, they don’t have to love each other. They just need to be able to reach each other when the time’s right. Does that make sense?” He looked at them each in turn, while nodding and they nodded back, obviously pretending to understand. He didn’t push the issue; they’d learn about all that soon enough and it should be someone else that had to explain it to them.

“Anyway, it was fall and the goats were extra noisy-”

“Why were they noisy in the fall?” interrupted the younger boy.

“Is it because of all the breeding?” asked the older one, looking alarmed.

“It’s because when they want to breed but aren’t able too, because the billies and the nannies are kept apart, they start bleating all the time. Yelling at each other, yelling at me, yelling at your Gramy. Horrible creatures that time of year, really. Especially the billies. Dear Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, billies are a horrible, nasty lot of monsters.”

The older boy nudged the younger one with his elbow. “Hear that, Billy? You’re a horrible, nasty-”

“Shut up, Buck.” He looked suddenly to be on the edge of angry tears.

“Now, now boys,” Grampy said, “let’s be nice. There are multiple meanings to ALL our names. In fact, Buck, you’re named after me, so I know all the dirt on that name, but I’ll save you the torment and keep it to myself if you can be nice to your brother.” He looked hard at the older boy until the boy nodded.

“Good. Now what was I- Oh, yeah. So the nannies are sorta yelling all the time and one gets used to that sort of racket, and I could sleep through damn near anything. Now, I tell you this so you know what level of ungodly racket they must have been causing that night when they woke me up. Every single one of em musta been hollar’n as loud as they could. It was so much racket that the windows were rattling in their frames and I thought for sure the end times had come and that I better start say’n my prayers.”

The boys were captivated now, staring at the old man, eyes wide.

“So as I’m pulling on my pants, your Gramy, she jumps up and starts doing the same. Of course, I don’t know what I’m about to run in to, so I yell ‘No, you watch from the window, that way if something goes wrong you can call fer help.’

“Well, out the door I go, grabb’n that old shotgun on my way. ‘Goats!’ I’m yell’n, ‘What ya see?’ and, of course, your Gramy followed me.”

“I get out to the nanny’s pen and they’re all out of their shed and running around hollar’n, but appear to be focused on the billy pen. Now, the billy pen was much further away from the house, on account of them stinking and the fact that it could ruin the milk, for reasons I’ve already said. So it’s all the way on the other side of the property.

“I tell you what, never in my life did I wish those stinky bastards were closer as I did when sprinting over there, listening to them screaming. As I got closer I could see something laying motionless on the ground outside in the pen and hear a scuffle going on inside the shed. Closer still and I start hearing this vicious growl among the desperate braying of the billies.

“I get up close, yelling ‘Get outta there!’ and as I turn the corner to be able to see into the shed, what do you think I find?”

Both boys shook their heads in silent shock.

“Go ahead,” Grampy instructed, “take a guess.”

“A monster?” asked the younger one.

“Had to have been a werewolf,” said the older boy.

“You’re part right. It was a wolf.”

“I had two shells in the shotgun and I fired one off into the air, then pointed the gun at the beast, but he didn’t need to be told twice. He took off, bounding over the fence like it was nothing, leaving behind three dead billies. One outside, two in the shed.

“What do you think of that?”

“Wow,” said the younger boy.

“Wait. So there was no monster or ghost, it was just a regular old wolf?” the older boy demanded.

“Not sure why you expected monsters. You know there’s no such thing, right?”

“Yeah, but I asked for a ghost story.”

“Ohhh,” Grampy said with a laugh, “I though you said ‘goats story’ and I asked myself ‘why on earth would-‘”

“Grampy!” the boy cut him off, exasperated.

“I think I hear your ma roll’n into the driveway, better go and meet her.”

The older boy didn’t hesitate to run into the house, but the younger one stayed right where he was, looking at the old man. After a long hard look, he said “I didn’t hear my mom’s car until after you pointed it out.”

The old man’s grin widened.

“How did you hear that if you couldn’t hear that Buck said ‘Ghost Story?’”

Grampy laughed and said, “You’re a smart kid, Billy. Now run along and give your mom a hug.”

He watched the kid run into the house.

“’Goats story,’ “ he laughed, shaking his head, “You old coot.”

Then he got up and walked in after them.

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Dragon Slayer

dragon_SmWm

This design is available on RedBubble: https://www.redbubble.com/people/imasillypirate/works/34315729-dragon-slayer

Llama Cat (software)

LlamaCat

I wrote some python that many of you might appreciate.

Not too long ago I wrote some code to make a Markov Chain from a text and spit out a string of gibberish in the style of said text. This is similar to when you use predictive text to put a string of words together that uses words like you do but doesn’t quite make sense. So… incredibly useful.

Well, I had it read some of my fiction and spit out some phrases, which I posted on the TwitterFace and people seemed to get a kick out of it.

For example, after reading a bunch of my shorts it said (all the punctuation and capitalization were there already, but I did delete some spaces to make them prettier):

  • temporarily contemplating if I caught myself to slip into his wormhole theory. When I watched him. Most people
  • “Haha!” “I’ll call up Megalos’ pant-leg. Then, a good amount he would make his body. I’m dead in shadows.
  • If the woman had killed her seat across the dildo, ominous shadows in love
  • One towel and the crap out

And, after reading Moby Dick, it said:

  • adieux. Grace being made me. But go to no fear of him; but from foreign seas
  • Strange!” holding them in the poet of Elephanta, if ascending the Soloma islands, quite another precautionary motive more I guess.
  • New Bedford rose and repose, and rubbing his own sober reason to heighten its perilous contortions be closed eyes

Both sets are obviously nonsense, but they each have a very different feel because they were trained by very different texts. Apparently I am not Herman Melville.

Because people seemed entertained, I decided to clean it up and write a GUI for it. It’s now on Github (Also, I wanted to get some new stuff up on Github because I’m job hunting).

I named it LlamaCat because I wanted a logo for it and had a cartoon I drew a while back of a cat riding a llama into battle… and “Llama Cat” sounds like a thing it would say.

The link to the python code is here: https://github.com/imasillypirate/LlamaCat

If you want to run it with python, you’ll need python 2.7 installed and you’ll need the LlamaCat.gif in the same folder where you plan to execute LlamaCat.py. It will also require a text document (.txt) including the work you’d like it to read. Longer works lead to more interesting results, but they can take a while.

If you’re on a Windows machine, you can download the .zip file instead which contains an executable and everything you should need, aside from the text document.

You can find the .zip file here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/fcieyjfqbcu0dda/LlamaCat.zip

Just unzip the file, then open the directory and double click LlamaCat.exe… If your antivirus lets you launch a .exe written by some random pirate on the internet, then you should be fine.

A great source of texts is Project Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org/

You’ll want the plain text version of whatever book you pull down.

Go ahead and play with it. Feel free to let me know if you have questions, comments, or if it says something particularly funny (or creepy)!

The Prize

“For my prize,” the hero demanded, “you shall create for me a hunting companion.”

The god hung his head and sighed, “to what specifications, mortal?”

“Cross the mightiest pack hunter with the deadliest killer.”

“You want me to… cross a wolf with a snake?”

“Obey! Or so help me, I will unleash such-“

“Okay, okay. Hold on. I’ll make you your fucking dachshund.”

Villain Mash-up

Villain_Blog

I drew a science fiction villain mash-up!
How many can you identify?

As usual, you can get this design on RedBubble:
https://www.redbubble.com/people/imasillypirate/works/32794081-villain-mash-up

LED Cylon Scanner in Fencing Helmet

For the last 9 months, I’ve been learning light saber with San Diego Sabers. They are an amazing group full fantastic nerds of every sort. I’ll miss them quite a bit when I move to San Jose in 2 weeks. If you’re in the San Diego area, check them out.

…But that’s not what this post is about.

I recently decided to mod my helmet to add an LED Cylon scanner and, for those that are curious, this is how I did it.

20180713_173051

(I did not make the light saber. That came from Ultra Sabers.)

First, I’d like to say that I am aware that there are other, cleaner, and easier ways to do this. I made mine entirely using stuff I already had.

Materials:
-Fencing helmet with removable lining (mine is made by LINEA Fencing Gear, and I got it at the Fencing Post in Escondido, Ca)
-Arduino Micro and mini usb cable to connect to a computer with the arduino IDE (Not the cheapest buying option, but this is the one I’m using)
-Wires (You are going to want a bunch, thin-ish guage. You may want wire strippers, solder, and a soldering iron)
-Red LEDs (I used the reds from this set of LEDs)
-9V battery connector
-9V battery
-Electrical tape
-Switch (I’m using a big green toggle switch because that’s what I had, but any switch should work)
-Velcro (I used this because of the adhesive and wide strip)
-Small solderless breadboard (This one is optional if you want to solder to the Arduino, but I used one of these)

Here is the Arduino code (Sorry about the sloppy indents, WordPress kept changing them, so I gave up):
int nLed = 7;//number of LEDs
int ledPin[] = {13,3,5,6,9,10,11};//list of PWM pins
int ledHi = 100; //value for center LED
int ledMid = 10; //value for LEDs directly adjacent to center LED
int ledLow = 1; //value for dim LEDs

void lightUp(int num){// Light up the num-th pin in the ledPin
//along with 2 LEDs on either side of decreasing brightness

for (int i2=0;i2<=nLed-1;i2++){//Turn off everyone
analogWrite(ledPin[i2],0);
}

if (num == -1){//center is off the low end
analogWrite(ledPin[0],ledMid);
analogWrite(ledPin[1],ledLow);
}

else if (num == nLed){//center is off the high end
analogWrite(ledPin[nLed-1],ledMid);
analogWrite(ledPin[nLed-2],ledLow);
}

else {//center is in an actual LED
analogWrite(ledPin[num],ledHi);//light up center

if (num >= 1){//LED just before center exists
analogWrite(ledPin[num-1],ledMid); //Light up LED just before center
}

if (num <= nLed-2){//LED just after center exists
analogWrite(ledPin[num+1],ledMid); //Light up LED just after center
}

if (num >= 2){//LED 2 before center exists
analogWrite(ledPin[num-2],ledLow); //Light it up with ledLow
}

if (num <= nLed-3){//LED 2 after center exists
analogWrite(ledPin[num+2],ledLow); //Light it up with ledLow
}
}
}

void setup() {
}

void loop() {
int rest[] = {75,100,150,100,100,100,150,100,75}; //delay for each step
int ind = 0; //rest index

for (int i=-1; i <= nLed; i++){//Step through LEDs from low to high
lightUp(i);
delay(rest[ind]);
ind++; }
for (int i=nLed; i >= -1 ; i--){//Step through LEDs from high to low
ind--;
lightUp(i);
delay(rest[ind]);
}
}

The wiring is very simple. Here’s the wiring diagram.
CylonPinOut
If you set that up and send the above code, the lights should do their Cylon thing.
Keep in mind that the Arduino needs a few moments (a little more than 10 seconds) to get going. So, the first LED (the one plugged into pin 13) will pulse for about that long before it starts working how we want it to. Be patient.
It may seem like a strange set of pins that I’m using and look like I could have used 12 instead of 7 LEDs. The pins I used are actually the Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) pins for the Arduino Micro. The PWM analog pins let you set varying brightness levels, which we need for the way I set this up.
You’ll want some fairly long wire leads between the LEDs and the Arduino, depending on the space you have available in your helmet, but the LEDs will need to be on the front of your head, and you’ll need space for the battery, switch, and the Arduino with breadboard and crap-ton of wires. While deciding where to place things, remember that the Arduino has a pulsing blue power light on it… so, unless you’re into that sort of thing, you may want to hide it from view.

Those are the basics of how to get it working. Below, I’ll give a couple of ideas about how I went about attaching it to my Helmet. This super ugly diagram will help:

CylonMask

The LEDs are attached to the forehead cover of the helmet liner by Velcro. I cut down one strip of Velcro that covered the entire width of the forehead piece (see diagram above), punched 7 eqally spaced holes and pushed the LEDs through from the buisness side of the Velcro as seen in the picture. 20180713_141452_HDR

In my helmet, there is a little bit of space above my head on the sides, so I crammed the arduino and the battery in those spaces. Time will tell if I regret that for the Arduino, because I do supply a little force to it with my head when I move around. It isn’t uncomfortable for me, but the Arduino probably doesn’t like it. Were I to start over, I might make the leads for the LEDs a bit longer and attach the battery and Arduino to the very back of the helmet.

The battery is Velcroed into place, with just a strip of velcro attached to the battery. Changing the battery will require putting velcro on a new battery. There are lots of 9V battery holders available for cheap but they add a little width, and I had limited space to work with. Depending on your placement, this might be an option worth considering. It is orange in the diagram, and you can see it in both of the following images.20180713_145902_HDR20180713_150248_HDR

The switch is just hanging free back there and I have to keep a hand on it when I put the helmet on. It’s not the ideal solution, but it works in a half-assed first try sort of way. It is the blurry green thing in the foreground of the most recent image.

A similar statement about care and thought given to the switch placement can be made about the Arduino. It’s just sort of in there, held in place by all the wires and the fact that, when my head is in place, there’s not much room for it to move around. You can see it in the following image.20180713_150242_HDR

Another thing worth mentioning is that, with this setup the red lights shine on the inside of the mask in front of my eyes. I can see through it fine, but it’s a little annoying. If I had a black sticky-back foam sheet, I’d probably cut some strips and stack a few just under the row of LEDs to block some light from coming at a downward angle into my field of view.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to see if anyone else tries something similar and hear about alternate designs!