Sep 24

Monster B Gone AKA Monster D Tector

First, credits to Makezine where I originally saw this concept. James Floyd Kelly and Chris Jones are the article authors and the artwork / logo is from Brandon Steen

Initially I’m going to put most of my photos and videos here, and then I may add parts lists and details. If you want to build one, start with the article on Makezine. I wanted to add some visual and tactile steampunk type features, as the kid I was building for is pretty interested in mechanical detail and I thought she would appreciate it. When initially explaining it to my 3.5 year old granddaughter, she is also the one who asked what does it do if it finds a monster?  Can it kill it?  That prompted me to want to add a “kill” switch as well as sound when it’s scanning. Then, I felt it deserved a good case, so the matching Pelican 1200 was modded.

I am pretty mechanical and a solid DIY homeowner and DIY vehicle mechanic. I knew how to solder, but had zero experience with Adafruit, Arduino or anything like that although I am an IT person by day.

Here are the published video links of the project, followed by the photos. Jump to the bottom for the list of sources and products I used, which is still incomplete.


Monster B Gone bench mockup and explanation – video

Final Monster B Gone – video

Pelican 1200 case mod for Monster B Gone – video


Sep 13

Garage Freezer Rebuild Complete

Freezer rebuild project is complete. By doing this I saved $1,497.21 by not having to buy a Gladiator garage freezer for Ginger . This cost me about $52.69.

First photos from this summer from cleaning, fixing the interior fan, and adding new cover board on back.

Then painted it HD orange. Tread plate on the front. Painted gaskets black. (Black is the new Black). Force rusted metal bars (before photos included). Attached rusted bars. Rubber tread plate detail on the handle. Latches on the door so it can’t pop open and ruin 1k worth of beef vegetables.

May 11


Peer to Peer Lending

Ok, this is a little off the normal track and not I.T. related. Those who know me, also know I’m a serious investor and have been for decades. I’m going to document a few disruptive technologies that I have been watching with interest. None of these are publicly traded at this point.

I think in general, people hate dealing with lenders and banks. I know I don’t like it. I’ve gone into a physical bank about twice in the last 10 years. One time was just last week to dump a gallon of change into their fancy machine that counts it. The last time before that was a couple of years ago when my account had unauthorized charges and I needed a new card while traveling. For normal financial activity, I’m 100% online.

Even financing a home loan can be done entirely online; I’ve done refinances with Quicken Loans and it was very smooth. For home loans, i have also use LendingTree, which is another disruptive lending site. At LendingTree, you fill out a simple forms, and you get proposals from several banks without leaving your computer.

Lately, I have been researching Peer to Peer personal and student loan companies. These operate essentially like Kickstarter except for loans. There are essentially two parties that use the sites; the “investor” and the “borrower”.  From a borrower perspective, you fill out a simple application, and your loan request is entered into the system. Then the “investors” are able to review the loan data (sanitized) and choose specific loans to invest small amounts into. A loan of 10k may have 50 investors, each putting in $25.00 up to maybe several hundreds. There is enough loan data so that investors can view credit scores, default rates and expectations, and make their own decision about which loans to invest in. The Company pays the Investors, and the Borrower pays the Company. Somewhere, the Company makes their cut from a marginal percentage charge or some fee. Typically, these costs are much lower than traditional banks. However, the biggest advantage is that you DON’T have to deal with the “normal” banks. It’s simple, it’s online, you don’t have to beg anyone, I would view the dramatic movement to Peer to Peer lending as having two main drivers; lower costs/fees which translate into better rates for Borrowers, and improved returns for Investors. The second driver is simply that I think many people dislike dealing with the large banks due to the hurdles, inconvenience, hassles, fees, etc.

There are two main companies in the P2P Lending space; Lending Club and Prosper. Lending Club is the original and is larger, but they are very similar. Here is a good explanation of P2P Lending. Peerform is also a similar up and coming lender that I am not as familar with. Most of these are SEC registered and do loan origination through FDIC bank arrangements. Do your own due diligence, this is just me sharing some notes and is not any kind of

Then, there is also a Student Loan specific P2P lending site. SoFI (Social FInance) is a P2P lending site focused on helping those with student loans. This is another area where traditional banks are clueless. I know people who have used SoFI. In one case, the female student borrower was in their late 20’s,  very successful and earning extremely high wages. Traditional lenders still asked for a co-signer!  What an insult. So, they can go to SoFI, fill out a simple form, and have 30k or 40k for a student loan refi with little effort and rates much reduced from traditional lender rates. I’m not going into a lot of detail but I want to list some links where I started my research.

On a slightly different note, I’ve been spending time on It’s a site that lets you create baskets (motifs) of stocks, and then invest or trade that basket as a whole for very inexpensive commissions. Very cool, and a lot of fun.

Royalty free, no cost images from

Jul 08

What to do in Ireland

I just had the opportunity to spend 10 days in Ireland. My wife, Ginger, works for a company in Dublin and I went along on vacation for the 10 days. Here are some tips and reflections on the trip.

Travel; I suppose most folks will not have the opportunity to fly First Class. It’s a lot better in 1st class (I did it both ways) but it is not that bad to fly over on coach. I have done coach as well.

  • Once you leave the USA, you’ll want to sleep. Be prepared to buy some drinks, or have some sleeping pills.
  • They’ll feed you (generally speaking, IDK about all carriers) and it’s not bad.
  • You don’t want stomach issues on the way, so I have suitable meds available like Pepto-Bismol or similar products.
  • Eat, drink, take a sleeping pill, and then try to sleep as much as you can.

When you land (Dublin);

  • You need EUROS; you can bring some with you from the USA (the east coast airports have currency exchanges) or you can get some out of the ATM at the airport. Most American debit/credit cards work all over Ireland.
  • Cabs are ALL OVER THE PLACE in Ireland. No problem getting one to downtown.
  • The buses are nice and safe and cheaper.
  • It’s about 15-20 min to city centre on taxi, 40 minutes on bus.
  • Taxi is about 20 Euros, bus is about 4 Euros (2014 prices)
  • You’ll have to go through customs; you’ll need a PASSPORT.  It’s pretty efficient and simple.  They don’t grill you too bad.
  • You pick up your baggage AFTER customs.  Once you get your luggage you can leave.


  • We stayed at the city centre O’Callighan Alexander Hotel
  • I liked it a lot.  You can walk to most of the city from here.  They have a restaurant and bar, and know how to pour Guinness properly.
  • There are several good hotels downtown, and several more up by the airport. However, traveling in from the airport every day would be a pain.
  • You can walk from here to Jameson’s (long walk), Guiness (long walk) Pearse Train Station (short), Temple Bar (short) and Grafton Street shopping (short)
  • Temple bar is basically between this hotel and the Jameson area.
  • Pearse Train station gets you to anywhere up north, or south along the coast.
  • The motels in generally are safe, secure, and pretty nice. They will have some US style plugins but you likely should bring some European power converters (1) to be safe or check first.
  • Air conditioning is not like the US, I couldn’t get my room really cold.

What to do

  • I ran a few times while there. If you’re a runner, I think the best place in the downtown area is to get over to the Grand Canal Docks, Ringsend Road, and Ringsend Park. There are quite a few runners in that area.
  • The tour buses are GREAT. These guys really know the history. If the passengers shut up and listen, you can learn a lot. We used PaddyWagon.  They pick you up at several locations downtown and then take you to see the sites. We took bus tours to; The Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, The Giant’s Causeway, Cork, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Belfast, the Blarney Castle (Blarney Stone) and more.
  • The Blarney Stone is pretty scary (to hang over and kiss it).
  • These buses are clean, safe, and the drivers are fantastic with a great knowledge of the history.
  • I really liked the history in Northern Ireland (Belfast), the Giants Causeway, the Blarney Castle, Cork, the Carrick-a-Rede.
  • Read the local newspapers. In Belfast, the local political undercurrents were very interesting.
  • Hop-on-Hop-off buses. These tour the city in a loop, stopping at the tourist stops. You buy a ticket for like 20 Euro and you can ride it for 24 hours. They are open top, double decker buses and a lot of fun. There are two; the RED ones and the GREEN ones. We rode the GREEN ones, although they are very similar but have a friendly competition. The bus stops are listed here. We rode this thing all over town.
  • Must do; Guinness I suppose. It’s HISTORY. There is some local feeling that they’re not a conglomerate owned bully, but you have to go to the tour and the Gravity Bar. The views and the history are incredible.
  • Jameson’s Distillery
  • Temple Bar – this is a bar, true, but it’s also a shopping/party district/area. It’s worth checking out; I had some fascinating discussions with Amnesty International right there. Also, a lot of other places try to keep tourists OUT of Temple Bar (competition) by saying it’s really expensive. Well, I don’t call $6.00 for a pint of Guinness expensive especially when it’s $5.00 anywhere else in the city. I had a Guinness and a Jameson’s for $12.00 euro. (2014)
  • Dublin and Ireland have a long history with beer and Irish Whiskey. I enjoyed this history, but if you don’t, you’ll want to skip that part.
  • Croke Park skyview; they take you on the top of the new stadium. I did not do this, but I wanted to. Looked really cool.

Misc notes;

  • There are convenience stores all over the place. SPAR is the most common, small store. A little larger are the Centra stores which have more deli, hot buffet type food, and some have liquor. For a larger grocery store try Tesco which will have more groceries. If you see any of these stop in, they are safe, have great food, and usually local deli and bakery stuff. In the suburbs, they have bigger ones, but I didn’t go there.
  • There are ALL KINDS OF restaurants. Literally. In a block area in downtown you’ll see Thai, seafood, Irish, steak, Japanese, falafel, burrito, etc. I don’t think you need to be scared of any of it. I wasn’t in any restaurant that concerned me. We ate at Jack the Thresher where the First Lady ate the week before we were there.
  • Cell phone; if you get yours turned on for International, coverage is pretty good. Most carriers have good plans.
  • The train up north and down south along the east coastline is cheap, easy and really fun. I rode it to Killiney, Dalkey down south. Killiney is where Bono lives. The beach there is the nicest beach I saw assuming the weather is good. I rode the train north to Howth (pronounced HO-th). You can also get on/off at different stops. Like, get off at Killiney, and walk north to Dalkey and then get back on to go back to Dublin. Again, these trains are clean, safe and cheap.

More soon….