Close Call With Hornet

I was almost t-boned on the way home from work today…at the same intersection where my previous card was hit!

This time, I was making a left turn and was clearing the intersection after the light turned yellow. Some clown in an SUV then decided to run the red light — this despite her being almost four seconds away from the intersection when the light turned yellow!

The rude gesture the driver made to me as she drove by (not visible in the photos) was icing on the cake.

Snowtrooper Progress

My snowtrooper costume is nearing completion. At this point I have most of the weathering done. I still need to weather the duster, pants, and belt packs and then touch up the armor pieces and webbing and whatnot.

Once I have all the weathering done and after doing a final check over everything, I will then submit photos for membership into the 501st Legion. After that I’ll rig up the electronics inside the suit (i.e. the voice changer and helmet fans).

I still might try to come up with a solution for the problem of not being able to hear well inside the helmet. I also have an idea for a cooling system that will help make the costume more bearable should I need to wear it indoors for an extended period of time, like at a convention or something.

The costume will be done this winter.

Star Trek is Back

Star Trek is finally back on TV…in the form of The Orville.  Seth MacFarlane, creator of the shows Family Guy and American Dad, has brought to life a new TV series in the vein of classic Star Trek — and it’s fantastic.

The show is half-serious and half-humorous in a weird way.  Personally I find the humor a bit hit-or-miss.  Sometimes the jokes fall flat and other times I can’t help but burst out with a laugh.  However, the drama is right on target.  Every episode touches on some thought-provoking moral dilemma or ambiguity, which is really what good sci-fi is all about.

If you’re a fan of classic Trek (especially TNG), then you owe it to yourself to check out The Orville.  If you’re not a fan of Seth MacFarlanesque humor, at least try to stomach it for a few episodes because the “Trekkiness” of the more serious parts of the show is worth it.

theorville

I think there’s another non-Star-Trek Star Trek show out right now called Star Trek: Discovery, or something.  Not really sure what that’s all about.  I heard they invented some new aliens and are calling them the Klingons now (ugh).  Maybe I’ll get around to checking that show out some time.  Whatever.

New Leather Jacket

cobra1sI recently purchased a bespoke leather jacket from a company in Pakistan called Mont5. I had been casually looking for a nice leather jacket for a year or so ever since losing so much weight and I finally found a great looking jacket on their site. I did a little investigating into the company and it seemed legit, so I figured I’d finally buy a nice leather jacket.

I noticed the company did custom laser engraving, so I inquired about getting a Cobra logo engraved onto one of the front pockets. The employee at Mont5 who got back to me confirmed that this was possible (for an additional charge) and was excited at the prospect of doing so. What followed were several months of frustration, but, in the end, I finally got the jacket I wanted: a tailored, top-grain leather jacket with a cobra logo etched into it.

As fantastic as the final product is, I have to admit that the entire process of getting it into my hands could have been a lot smoother. I have no choice but to lay the blame entirely at Mont5’s feet for delaying my acquisition of the jacket by three whole months (so much for wearing it over the summer). I really have to wonder what was going on in the minds of some of the people working there, given the very clear instructions I had repeatedly provided them.

Here is a timeline of how everything went down:

May 19, 2017

I email Mont5, inquiring as to the possibility of doing the custom engraving on the front pocket. I provide a photoshopped image of their jacket (taken from their website) with the desired logo on it.

May 20, 2017

Mont5 responds. The engraving is, indeed, doable (for an additional charge).

I respond saying the additional charge is reasonable. I also ask about a possible second engraving on the back, providing another photoshopped image of what I want.

May 24, 2017

Mont5 responds. The second engraving is doable (for an additional charge).

We email back and forth, hammering out the details. I provide Mont5 with a vector graphic of the Cobra logo.

May 30, 2017

Sizing and other details all finalized. The order for the jacket is officially placed and paid for.

Jun 19, 2017

I receive the jacket. DHL dings me about $75 in import charges (surprise, surprise — DHL are complete crooks).

Unfortunately, both logos are about 50% of the size they were supposed to be. This is very odd since I provide photoshopped images depicting exactly what I wanted. I contact Mont5 with my disappointment.

Jun 20, 2017

Mont5 admits error. The larger engraving that I wanted on the back is too large for the engraving machine, and the sizes for both engravings were not properly communicated to the manufacturing department. Mont5 offers to either refund my money if I send the jacket back, or refund half the cost if I want to keep the jacket.

I refused both options. I really like the jacket, and I am certain that what I asked for could be done. Communication back and forth begins. My contact at Mont5 agrees to look into the possibility of doing a larger engraving.

Jun 23, 2017

Mont5 requests the jacket be sent back while they work on making me a new one.

Jun 26, 2017

I send the jacket back. DHL charges me a ludicrous amount — over $100 — but I accept it as a sunk cost at this point.

Jul 3, 2017

I hear from Mont5. They refused delivery of the jacket because DHL wanted another $75 from them for import charges. According to Mont5, this is apparently illegal since the parcel is a returned commercial product. DHL doesn’t give a shit.

Jul 11, 2017

DHL notifies me that the package was rejected. Over the next few days I talk with DHL on multiple occasions, with each time the conversation going as if it were the first time I’ve contacted them. I’m not sure if DHL is just incompetent or is trying to wear me down to the point where I will accept to paying the import fees for Mont5 to receive the jacket.

I relay the hassles I experience with DHL to Mont5. They instruct me to not pay DHL anything and just consider the jacket a lost cause. DHL contacts me and wants to send the jacket back to me, with additional charges, of course. I tell DHL to return the package while secretly having no intention of ever accepting delivery since I’m not paying them another dime. I cut off all contact with DHL, blocking their number from my phone.

Jul 17, 2017

Mont5 informs me that there is no way they can print the second engraving on the back at the desired size. The initiate a full refund of the jacket.

I contact Mont5 and say that I’m okay with having a new jacket made with only the one engraving on the front pocket. I instruct that the front pocket engraving needed to be larger and re-positioned slightly.

Jul 18, 2017

Mont5 accepts the request to redo the jacket with only the one engraving which is small enough for their engraving machine to do.

Aug 1, 2017

Mont5 sends me images of the completed jacket before sending it to me. The logo is, again, the wrong size and position. There is also a minor issue with seams at the bottom of the jacket not aligning properly. I send back more photoshopped images showing exactly what I want.

Aug 4, 2017

Mont5 sends me new images of the engraving. The logo is positioned correctly now, but it is still not the correct size. I send Mont5 yet another photoshopped image of what I want, this time sending them an image of what I want overlayed on top of the photo of the etching they sent me so they can more easily see the difference in size (which is already so significant enough that the disparity should have been impossible to miss).

Aug 14, 2017

I email Mont5, asking for an update on the progress of the jacket.

Aug 15, 2017

The person at Mont5 I have been dealing with all this time responds with an apology and explains how he is in the middle of being moved to another department within the company.

Aug 25, 2017

I email Mont5, asking for an update on the progress of the jacket. Mont5 responds the same day, apologizing for the delay in the progress of the jacket.

The entire process is handed off to a second employee at Mont5, who sends me new images of the engraving. The engraving is, again, not resized anywhere close to what I want. I respond with another photoshopped image of exactly what I want.

Aug 29, 2017

Mont5 sends me new images. Now the etching is even smaller, and its position is no longer correct! I send them another image of exactly what I want. I am almost at the end of my rope here and am beginning to wonder if I’m just being trolled.

Aug 30, 2017

Mont5 sends me new images. FINALLY the engraving is at the correct size and location — almost exactly matching every single goddamned photoshopped image I sent them previously. Images of the completed jacket will be sent to me in a few days.

Sep 12, 2017

I email Mont5, asking for an update on the progress of the jacket.

Sep 13, 2017

Mont5 responds, telling me that images will be forthcoming within 24 hours.

Sep 14, 2017

I email Mont5, asking for an update on the progress of the jacket.

Sep 17, 2017

Final images of the completed jacket sent. Everything looks good. I request some more photos so I can see more of the jacket (i.e. the cuffs, the back, etc.).

Sep 18, 2017

More images of the completed jacket are sent. However, unlike all images previously emailed to me by Mont5, these images are on Google Drive instead of being attached to the email. Mont5 neglected to give me access to the folder on Google Drive, so I can’t see the images.

Sep 19, 2017

The additional images are recent as email attachments. Everything looks good and I give the go-ahead to send me the jacket.

Sep 20, 2017

Mont5 informs me that the jacket is on its way. I email Mont5 and inquire as to getting reimbursed for the cost of attempting to ship the first jacket back (Mont5’s website says several times that the cost to do returns will be paid by the company).

Later the same day I get an email from DHL about the package. This time the import fees are only $15. Great! I use the link DHL provided in their email to quickly pay it online.

Sep 21, 2017

Mont5 emails me the tracking information for the jacket.

Sep 25, 2017

DHL delivers the jacket to my house. I find this odd because I asked Mont5 to send the new jacket to me at work. I figure they may have gotten mixed up and used my home address provided by Paypal or something. I accept delivery.

Upon opening the package I discover that this is the first jacket that I originally tried to send back to Mont5. DHL tricked me into paying to receive the jacket back! DHL saw that the same company was sending me a second package so they emailed me asking for payment on the import charges — only the charges were for the package I originally sent to Mont5 which Mont5 then refused and which I then further refused to pay for to receive back from DHL!

DHL never emails me about the import charges on the second jacket that Mont5 has just sent back.

Sep 26, 2017

DHL delivers the new jacket to my work. I’m not there to pay for the import fees, so I have to go to their office to pick it up the next day.

Sep 27, 2017

I go and pick up the jacket. The import charges are only about $20 this time, which is more reasonable.

The jacket is perfect! I let Mont5 know I received the jacket and am very happy with it.

Sep 28, 2017

Mont5 responds saying they are glad I am happy with the jacket.

Unfortunately, they can’t refund the shipping charges I paid to send the first jacket back because they technically never actually received the jacket. Plus, they had to redo the jacket four or five times because of “logo changes” and are actually taking a loss on the whole thing.

WTF? I’m not responsible for Mont5 refusing delivery of the jacket I sent back, nor am I responsible for the inability of their employees to follow simple instructions. I mean, how many times did I have to send them an exact photo of what I wanted in order for them to finally get it right?

I let Mont5 know this is unacceptable, and they eventually accept responsibility and reimburse me for the shipping charges.


Despite all the hassle, I’m glad I got the jacket. I enjoy it so much that I’d go through all that nonsense again for it.

cobra2s


Update: I let a draft of this post sit for a while before putting it up.  Man, was I ever upset when I wrote this, lol.  I’ve gotten over that and am still really enjoying the jacket.  I’d definitely recommend Mont5 to anyone thinking of buying a leather jacket online — just be very, very careful about requesting anything customized.

Return to Minecraft

Over the past two-and-a-half years or so I have been keeping a persistent Minecraft world on my home computer. Every now and then I’ll start up the server and delve into my little Minecraft world of a couple of weeks or months. Every time I do I invite a couple of friends to continue their own creations. It’s been a while since I last played Minecraft, but I recently started up the server again and have been hard at work creating new structures.

Here is an overview of most of the “civilized world” in my server:
In the center-left is my main home: a large house made of marble mined from the Nether.  Some other points of note include:

  • The World’s Tallest Tower (center) – a cylindrical tower that reaches the maximum height allowed in the game.
  • The Great Southern Wall (center-right) – a giant wall which was constructed to keep the civilized lands safe from the desert to the south.  Just FYI, I build this wall before I even heard of Game of Thrones, so, no, I wasn’t copying it.
  • The Great Warehouse (right) – a sprawling warehouse filled with racks and racks of chest.  I was inspired to build this when the fourth Indiana Jones movie was announced.
  • The Obsidian Tower (upper-right) – a tower made of obsidian, built by one of my friends.  It is not quite complete.
  • The Missile Silo (center) – a large ICBM sits in the southern end of civilized lands, ready to inflict mutually assured destruction against any nuclear enemies.
  • The Black Pyramid (center-bottom) – a black pyramid constructed of netherbrick.  The interior is completely dark and acts as a sort of arena for killing monsters should the need for special materials only dropped by them arise.

There are many other individual structures too numerous to list, and there are extensive networks of underground tunnels and spaces which are not easily viewed.

Here are some more photos of just a few things built within the world.  There are many more impressive structures and vistas besides these:

The Obsidian Tower.
One of the earliest creations was a village containing a variety of smaller buildings.
One of the many bridges situated along The Great Road — an absurdly long road I’ve worked on which stretches out far to the East.
The Great Road features many beautiful views.
The view from the rear of my main home base. The Black Castle is perched atop a distant mountain, silently menacing the surrounding lands.
A cozy chalet along The Great Road.
A coastal desert fortress constructed by one of my friends.
One of my friends is currently constructing a giant statue made to look like the humanoid characters in the game.
An admittedly poor view of Little Egypt which lies immediately south-east of my main home base.
A view of the rear of my mansion. There are many animal pens and a good deal of farmland near my mansion which were built for resource gathering. The bell tower on the left was a copy of a similar tower I saw photos of online. In the distance you can see the Portal Temple, which was the site of the world’s first portal to the Nether.
A statue created as a tribute to all miners. This was constructed at the mouth of one of the many mines along The Great Road which were struck for the stone needed for its construction.
I mentioned earlier a “Great Road”. This is a project in the world where I have created a long, east-west running road across the Minecraft world. The last time I measured, it took about half an hour to walk from one end to the other.

This “Great Road” begins at the eastern coast of the area where everything started and runs westward. During this most recent return to Minecraft, a new megaproject was started in which The Great Road was to advance to the west, across the ocean. The Great Bridge to the West will be the largest structure in the world once it is complete.  It’s beginnings are visible in the lower-left corner of the overworld map near the start of this post.

You can get a feel for how long the bridge is from the following image. Here we see much of the known world, and The Great Bridge to the West is in its initial stages, reaching only 3/4s of its planned final length.

The Great Bridge to the West is not yet complete. Here are some progress shots:

Initial planning the east landing and overall bridge superstructure.

I decided I wanted the bridge to made up of repeating segments in order to break up the monotony of building a bridge that was identical along its entire length and to give it some aesthetic character. After a couple of refinements I settled on an acceptable segment design.

Here we see the construction of the eastern abutment and the prototype superstructure segment template.

Initial preliminary construction of three bridge superstructure segments depicting the three layers of each segment.

My friend, being a little overzealous, started creating bridge segments right away. What I wanted to do first was to just have the three progressively completed segments to act as a guide, and to first create a skeleton of the bridge spanning the entire length of the ocean before building the superstructure segments on top of it, layer by layer.

An overview of the bridge’s initial progress.

Construction of the bridge skeleton is temporarily halted when it hits a good-sized island. A small base of operations was set up on this island.

The skeleton reaches across the entire ocean. Without the segments filled in it is easier to count how many segments span the entire ocean. I planned to use this information to design additional support structures for the bridge (e.g. pillars, suspension towers, etc) but I’m not 100% what I will do (if anything).

The first layer of the superstructure is complete.

The skeleton of the bridge without the segments completed continues off into the night.

With the skeleton complete, the meat starts being added, one layer at a time across the entire span of the bridge.

Side view of the eastern end of the bridge. The building on the shore covers the entrance to the mine used to gather materials for the bridge and includes storage and smelting facilities.

A depot was built along the bridge at the point where the large island that interrupts it.

Beneath the depot are some buildings, farms, and a mine.

Prior to this particular megaproject (which my friends are helping me on) there was another megaproject in which a bridge across a sea far to the east was built. This bridge — known as The Great Bridge to the East — was, at the time, the largest structure in the world.

Here are some shots of its construction:

Initial two tower foundations are done up to the surface and the outlines of the bridge proper are being contructed:

Aerial shot of the bridge and tower foundations:

The tower foundations were build up right from the sea bottom:

The tower frames going up:

Tower outlines at night:

Filling in the towers:

Tower construction:

The towers dark and ready to be lit:

Lighting the towers:

View from the interior of one of the towers as it is in the process of lighting up:

Nearly completed bridge at nightfall:

View of the west bank approach:

The completed bridge as viewed from the east bank:

Near large constructions like this I usually create a small home base. Here’s the interior of the one near this project:

Another megaproject in the world is the East Gate.

Custom Soundboard

I recently purchased a small circuit board (the FN-BC10-PN) which can play up to ten custom sounds. Each sound is linked to an open circuit to which you can wire up a button. You can plug the thing into your computer as a USB device, upload the files, then disconnect the device and use it on its own as a little sound player.  You can wire up power to it directly or use a USB power source, and you can wire up a small speaker or plug in a set of headphones for output.  The thing even supports serial communication so that you can hard-wire it to a computer (think Arduino) and control it programmatically.

I’m keeping my plans for its use a secret at the moment (nothing nefarious, I assure you).  If my idea works out, I’ll definitely make a post about it.  Don’t expect anything too soon, though.

FN-BC10

I came across a problem with the device, however, and I wanted to record the solution so that others who are experiencing the same issue might get their issue resolved.

The device worked fine at first, but it stopped playing sounds after plugging it into my computer and then removing it. I can’t recall if it stopped working after the first time I plugged it in, or if it took a couple of times. I used the Windows option to safely eject the device; maybe that caused the problem? Anyway, the basic problem is that the board stops working after you plug it into a computer — even if you don’t modify the contents of the board’s memory.

What normally happens when you use the device is that it flashes a tiny light on the board when it is playing a sound. After plugging the thing into Windows once and removing it, the device no longer played sounds, and the little light no longer flashed.

After emailing back and forth with someone from the website I bought the thing from, I was eventually provided with a solution which worked.

Normally you place the sound files in the root folder of the device’s memory: up to ten files named 001.mp3 to 010.mp3 (.wav files are also supported). The device comes with ten default mp3s in the root folder, so you don’t actually have to upload any files in order to test the board once you get it.

The solution to the problem I experienced was to create ten subfolders in the root directory numbered 01 through 10, and to then move the corresponding mp3 file into each directory (e.g. 001.mp3 into subfolder 01). That’s it.

If anyone out there is having problems with their FN-BC10 not working anymore after plugging it into a computer, this is how you solve the problem.

The guy I emailed said something about Windows putting a hidden file or something on the drive when you plug it in, and that this was the cause of the problem. I’m going to have to investigate what that’s all about.