Well, what a sh*tfight….

Where has 2020 gone?

Well, the big news, in case you’ve been living in a nuclear fallout shelter, has of course been COVID-19. You know, that worldwide pandemic that the US&A ignored, killed the economies of most of Europe, and saw Australia, once again, come through looking a bunch of teenagers weer having a pillow fight.

Australia, for the most part, survived quite well. That is except Victoria which was a complete balls up.

And speaking of balls up, how about old mate BlerkyGherkin? Didn’t she get her balls put through the ringing with old Dazza, the Harvey Norman Stock Boy… I’d feel sorry for, if I cared for politics at all.

And then there was work.

Work told me in March that we had a good chance of being just stood down on pay throughout the crisis. And the boss at home told me I hadn’t think about just sitting around eating chips & drinking beer.

So, with the threat of Bunnings being shut, I went out and bought some pretty expensive power tools and a heap of timber to keep me occupied. This point has won me many a “Manliest Panic Buy of the campfire” in all but one contest (The one bloke who beat me actually bought a car to restore, thinking he’d be stood down also. Suffice to say I haven’t been camping with him again since….)

I have done some incredible trips away this year.

In July, I went with another four wheel drive club to Sundown National Park. I haven’t been to SNP since forever, like when I was a kid. This is the place they put Dad’s wobbly boots on him…. (Won’t ever forget that!)

In August, we finally went to the Nindigully Pub for a beer and one of their famous Road Train Burgers. Well, we had 4 people eating and it was waaaaaaaay too much food for us. Bartlett and Alakino got most of what was left over.

Then, in November, the boss and I took some amazing friends on a beautiful trip to K’gari (Fraser Island) with a couple night’s stay in Rainbow Beach. We also met up with Mario and Eleni, some long term friends of mine.

Suffice to say that work was busier than ever during the global pandemic and the commute (from the bedroom to the kitchen, the kitchen to the study) was a bitch. I only really got into trouble on the days when the boss at home got back from her hour long commute in the afternoons and I was still in my pajamas when she got here.

And then work wasn’t so busy. And then they ended mine and another person’s contract.

Well, that’s about a wrap for 2020, but New Year’s Eve will see us married for 15 years and we will celebrate in style. Ryan will open his fine establishment, Proof BBQ & Booze especially for the Boss and I to have a wonderful night with our immediate family and closest, long term friends.

What a way to end the year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Robots and Electronics

I’m getting into robotics and have a project in mind: build a motorised fridge trolley to cart my 12v Car Fridge around at  festivals.

The idea was partially inspired by our trip to the Big Red Bash (opens a new tab or window) this year (2019) – a 3 day concert event near Birdsville – where a gentleman had a cart with a 12v battery, his 35-40l car fridge and a solar panel. (The other part of m was getting my latest (2018) job after 4 weeks of playing with Lego Mindstorm Robotics Kits.

INSPIRED. ALMOST.

He almost got it right: He still had to pull it, loaded with a full fridge, camp chairs and some backpacks,  up to a kilometer through a fine, powdery bulldust.

Old mate's fridge cart from the Big Red BAsh
Old mate almost got it right with his solar topped, battery powered fridge cart. Trouble is, you have to pull it through the thick layer of powdery bulldust.

Now, thanks to genetic bad luck, my knees hurt all the time, as does my back and my hips. And I can imagine my darling wife wanting to stack enough bags full of jackets, crackers & chips, and other activities to entertain her ADHD/Autistic husband (that’s me, in case you’re wondering.) So I can’t imagine pulling this thing inside, let alone a kilometre through that gunk.

At first I thought I’d just wack a motor on it, with a potentiometer to vary the speed and some kind of switch trigger on the steering handle. But then I thought “This could end up being the Robotics project I’ve been looking for.”

And I was right.

Ideally, I want this robot to follow me along with some form of beacon (I’m yet to decide on GPS or an RF beacon) and I’m looking to have in-build sensors so that people can’t be within a set distance (~1m) for safety’s sake. In closer quarters, where people are bound to want to come in for a peek, I want to be able to be steer/drive the “robot” with a RC unit similar to what you’d find with an RC Car.

This robot would come to festivals like the Big Red Bash (Opens a new tab or window) , and the like.

Thinking. Dangerous for me.

That got me thinking. What else could this thing be used for? In keeping with the Minimum Viable Product methodology of Agile.

Netball

My wife is an avid (read: maniac) netball player and we live around 3 klms from the netball fields. An easy walk there and back. She always complains that she can’t ride because she needs to take a drink and a bag and, generally, a chair and some shade so she can hang around and watch other games Then the boss complains that finding a car park is stupidly difficult. She wants to walk (or ride her bike) but can’t and take all the stuff.

So, this “robot” would be ideal. Without the fridge it could carry our 3m x 3m self-supporting cover or could have a car awning mounted to the side. It could carry a chair, and a backpack with her stuff in it. If I build it modular, I could almost fit it with a little lockable cupboard…. Run it along the formed path at 10kph for 3klms behind her on her pushbike?

Golden!

There are a multitude of other uses.

I looked at putting continuous tracks of it for taking it down the beach (or to Moreton Island (opens in new tab or window), for instance ) for the day with the fridge, and our 3m x 3m shade strapped to it. Then, why not put a change of clothes & a swag with it? Or mount a car awning to the side and use that?

The issue I’ve found with that is that it’s impossible to get 6-8in (~155-205mm) continuous tracks. The size is too small to be industrial, and way too big for anything hobby. They would have to be specially made, making them obscenely expensive. If you have any ideas here, or would like to sponsor this project, please contact me (opens in new tab or window)!

But, there are so many other uses for one of these units. Picnics in the park where the bbqs are 15 kilometres from the carpark, that’s even if you can get one nearby…. Other festivals…. Days at the beach (to the dune’s edge)… and so on.  

BUT First, We Prototype

BUT, I want to build a prototype first. While I’m a confident programmer, and I know enough about electronics to get me by, I watched a million YouTube vids – to point where the dog escaped the yard (claims he was bored) and my wife was ready to divorce me (She’s even taken off to Cairns for the week, for respite, she says –  even though it’s work.)  but I came across the DF Robot Devastator Platform.

And LOVE it! I just love the look of it.

So,. that’s where we’re at for the minute. Just at a concept stage. But have been using Agile tools (with an organisation of 1) to map out certain milestones.

And we are happy about that.