Jun 30 2010

an eyePEACE for free?

problem: $0

I want to use the video feature on my DSLR, but when it’s bright and I’m outside, I can’t see the screen on the back of the camera in order to change my manual focus.

possible solution: $375

I can buy a Zacuto Z-find attachment for my camera. The low end model is around $285 and the pro model is around $385. My money tree hasn’t started blooming yet, so let’s move on.

brainstorming: $0

On weekends I run tech with, well, and bunch of techie people at work. I told them my problem and how I thought I could make one of these for free. I mean really, all I need is for it to be dark so I can see the screen.  My idea was to get some cardboard and duct tape and make a cute little hood, similar in size to the expensive pro thing.  I was challenged by Aaron who said, “You can’t do that, what will you use for the glass?  You can’t do that without glass.”  He later joked that I would have a paper towel tube taped to the camera.  So he was right, I did need some magnifying glass to pull this off.  The expensive pro thing is just a glorified loupe, and I’m pretty sure I still have at least one of those from my film photography days.  I also have motivation now that someone challenged me that it cannot be done.

the solution: $0

Yes, I said $0.  I decided to do a MacGyver on this.  Even if I wanted to buy the pro thing, I can’t because I’m doing my one year of no retail shopping.  Here’s the step by step process I used to design and create my free… oh, it needs a name, doesn’t it?  Hmmm, how about eyePEACE?  (the penny-wise everlasting adaptable cone-shaped eyepiece)  Eye feel much peace that I did not spend $300.

step 1: find stuff

I dug through my garage to see what raw materials I could find.  Not only did I find my loupe, I found 2 of them and a magnifying glass.  (sometimes if pays to be a pack-rat)  Here’s my list of materials and it’s all stuff I already own, and in some cases, about to recycle:

  • magnifying glass
  • duct tape
  • a cream cheese container
  • a piece of junk mail
  • a black t-shirt
  • an oversized hairband

If you don’t have everything you need, check out a thrift store or freecycle, or better yet, post your need as your Facebook status update.  Other people have junk too, and in most cases, would be happy to part with it.

step 2: start fabricating

Now it’s time to start making your eyePEACE.  I had to test the 3 options I had for the glass, the small loupe did not work, as it was a x8 and too powerful.  The large loupe was x5 and worked, but it’s a little big.  The cheapo magnifying glass that is actually a kids toy works perfect.  During testing, I realized it needed to be a certain distance from the camera to be effective.  That’s where the cream cheese container comes in.  It’s the perfect distance from the camera and provides the structural support needed.

step 3: laugh

The nice thing about paying for the fancy pro thing is that it looks professional.  The eyePEACE is actually going to look quite dorky, for lack of a better word.  So finish fabricating, but you’re going to need a sense of humor here.  Also, I’m using colored duct tape, but you could use black and it really won’t look so bad.  Right now, it looks like a giant eyeball!

I cut a hole in the container and taped the glass onto the top of it.  I took some black t-shirt fabric and taped it onto the large open piece to mold to the camera, keeping extraneous light out.  Then I made the piece of junk mail into a cone and taped around the glass, cut it to fit the contour of my face, then added some tape and t-shirt fabric for comfort.

Now… how to attach it to the camera?  Hairband!

step 4: admire your work

Now I was testing this many times through the process, and everything worked great, but will it work?  I don’t know yet, and it looks completely ridiculous, but if not I’m out no money, only a little time.  Honestly, I can’t wait for the strange looks and people wondering what kind of weird contraption I have.  It’s a work of art!

step 5: test and modify

Well, I tested it and it works perfectly.  (Aaron…  :P)  No modification needed, and wow, that never happens.  I should have some great DSLR videos posted soon.  Maybe before I take it out, I’ll add the eyePEACE name and a logo on the side.  LOL


Jun 30 2010

the challenge: day 34 [digital hoarders and dead computers]

I just realized something yesterday, not only do I have some hoarding tendencies, I’m clearly a digital hoarder.  I save all of my files, even the ones I know I will never use again.  I have several binders filled with disks, many of them useless due to technology changes over the past several years.

At the risk of age stamping myself here, my first computer was a 286 Packard Bell, 40 megabyte hard drive, 1 megabyte RAM, 5 1/4 floppy drive & 3.5 floppy drive.  Wow.  Realization number 2, I’m a mental hoarder too.  Who remember this kind of stuff??!?!  Sadly, I didn’t have to look it up.

I said this in an earlier blog post, the only difference between 99.9% of us and the people on the Hoarders TV show, is that we can, and do, part with our stuff.  Can you imagine how many computers are in landfills?  Planned obsolescence on computers is what, 4 years at best?  The oldest computer I own is approximately 8 years old.  It runs a few old PC programs and sometimes, my vinyl plotter.  My other “old” computer is a G4 PowerBook.  It’s 4.5 years old, runs slow, but not bad for its age, however the screen started to go last week.

Like most of my stuff, I will keep these until they die.  When the inevitable death arrives, I will find a program for electronics recycling or…

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Jun 29 2010

the challenge: day 33 [should you buy new, used or not at all?]

My friend Ryan sent me this list of things you should never buy new, which also has a link to things you should never buy used.  I agree with most of it.  I got burned two years ago on buying a used laptop for my kids.  Here are links to the lists:

Things you should never buy new.

Things you should never buy used.

Then I found another link that asked, “Are you ready to be extremely frugal?” I first thought about Jerod, because he’s the most frugal person I know besides myself.  If anyone were to rank me and Jerod, he would win on the frugal scale.  I found something interesting…

Stop buying stuff. This may not sound too extreme but it can be. Those who are part of The Compact vow to buy nothing new for a year. There are some exceptions such as food, medicine, and hygiene products but otherwise they buy nothing new for a year. If you want to try your own version of The Compact, you could try not buying anything new for a week or a month. You will save the money you would have spent buying the stuff plus they money you would have spent maintaining the stuff. While these frugal measures may be extreme, implementing them or the less extreme alternatives can save you a lot of money and help you keep your budget under control.

Ha!  Yep, already doing this.  And I joined The Compact group on Yahoo of people who are also doing this for a year.  They have over 10,000 people in the group!!!


Jun 28 2010

the challenge: day 32 [dumpster diving]

I have taken dumpster diving to a whole new level.  I was leaving church after work and happened to glance over at the dumpster.  Sitting right on top were 6 really nice sofa/chair cushions!  I’m not talking about those cheap crappy ones either, I’m talking nice ones, the kind that sell for $80 a piece!  I’m pretty sure I ran to the dumpster, you know, just in case anyone else was eyeing my treasure.  I dove in and started unloading my cushions, and when I looked up to get out, I had an audience.  ”Look, Jody’s in the dumpster!”  Yes.  Jody can be found in any dumpster that has useable stuff in it.

Now some of you might be wondering if I was embarrassed.  The answer is yes, but probably not for the reason you’re thinking.  I’m not at all ashamed to be caught in a dumpster, I’m ashamed that there was useable stuff that was carelessly discarded.  All it takes is a phone call to a local thrift store.  They will gladly come pick things up from businesses or residences FREE of charge.  The donations sometimes go directly to people in need or sold to financially help impoverished people.

Lori was leaving work today and also found a treasure, two nice indoor/outdoor rugs.  If the rain holds off, I’ll go dig out the other good stuff and take it to the thrift store.


Jun 27 2010

sake with good luck and prosperity [day 31]

Tonight was date night.  :)  We went to Ra in Plano and had sushi.  The food there is great, endless options of raw and cooked delicacies.  We wanted sake and there were several kinds to choose from, but without cool names and fancy labels, how were we to choose one?  (yes, that’s how I choose wine)  We asked the waitress for a recommendation and went with her suggestion of the Creme de Sake, a cold unfiltered sake.

When she brought it to the bar, she brought two small shot type glasses in tiny wooden boxes.  She poured the sake into the glasses, taking great care to not overfill them.  When she finished pouring, she siad, “We’re supposed to pour it until it overflows into the box for good luck and prosperity, but I don’t like wasting it, so I don’t do that.”  That completely made my day and she got a nice tip from us.  You go girl!!!!


Jun 25 2010

books, books and more books [day 30]

I worked most of day 30, so there was no time to think about shopping, even if I had wanted to.  Day 31 was a little bit different.

I had bags of clothing and toys from a few days ago when I cleaned out some of our closets.  I went to the thrift store to drop everything off, but the line was long and my car AC doesn’t work when the car is idle.  I had every desire to go park my car, walk my donations to the curb drop-off area and go inside.  I knew if I did go in, I had to need something in order to buy it.  So I parked the car, did the curb drop-off and went in.

I had an idea the other day for purchasing gifts.  I can’t buy new things and it’s still not completely socially acceptable to give used stuff for gifts.  (I have every intention of starting this new trend!)  I decided to look for used books, ones I am familiar with or topics that I know some of my friends or kids would like.  I usually do this with vintage books, but they cost a lot of money.  Books at the thrift store are $1, which I find very expensive since they used to be $0.25 each.  Until I find another $0.25 book store, I’ll guess I’ll have to deal with it.  After all, the money is going to a local charity and that’s a good thing.  I was without my kids so I got to leisurely look through all of the books, slowly scanning each shelf, reading the title of every book.  Now that’s some good down time!

Have you ever thought about the value continuum of books?  Expensive (full price), relatively expensive (on sale), good deal (a really good sale), screaming deal (everybody has a copy or has borrowed one and read it), free or really super cheap (garage sales & thrift stores), and finally with some books, back to very expensive (vintage and rare books).

Some call it frugal, some call it cheap, I really don’t care about the name as long as I’m getting a good deal.  I bought eight books.  One book that I’ve been wanting to read for a while, but didn’t want to pay $15 for, was right there on the shelf.  The other books will be for gifts.  I usually alter them a little bit, meaning I write a personal note in them and add artwork.

I also bought one more thing that I would see as a need.  My kids wanted to start battery recycling at the church.  We go through a lot of batteries with the mics and remotes in the tech area.  I bought a small metal trashcan with a lid for $6.99.  Supporting my kids in their efforts to make this world a better place seems like a good thing to do, especially when it’s just $6.99.  It might not have been a need, but it sure seemed like a good purchase.  :)


Jun 25 2010

the challenge: day 29 [psych & impulses]

I really don’t have a desire to shop right now.  Almost a month, and I just really don’t miss it.  Not that I did it a lot, but I would make my regular visits to the major retail superstores and hardware stores.  An artist girl can never have too many power tools.

I think most of what we buy is impulse stuff.  Well, it is for me anyway.  I still have times where I think, “Oh, I should go buy a __________.”  Now that I can’t (won’t), I either have to just forget about it, or if it’s a need, figure a way around it.  The reason I know these are impulse things, is because I know I’ve thought about buying stuff, but I could not for the life of me tell you what the stuff was that I thought of buying.  If I really needed it, or for that matter, really wanted it badly, wouldn’t I remember it?  I have no idea what it is!

When I shop with my kids and they see something they want, I always tell them, “If you remember that you want that tomorrow, we’ll come back and get it.”  A few times they will remember and I will take them back to get it.  Sometimes I give them an assignment with the purchase, such as blogging the ridiculousness of cereal straws or pros and cons of buying a fan that clips on your hat.  Here’s the fan list from Joe:

I still owe him a hat fan.  (I clearly don’t want the boy to have a heat stroke!)  I don’t remember it being solar powered, so we might still be debating this purchase.  He did find it on sale at Half Price Books.

Okay, so does anyone out there watch the TV show Psych?  I am SO the dad on that show, only I teach my kids about being frugal and saving the world.  He used all kinds of crazy, unconventional methods to teach his son right from wrong, only wanting what’s best for his son, but parenting him in very odd ways.  In the show, all of the skills his dad taught him come in handy in his life.  You can watch the show on hulu if you haven’t seen it.  My kids love it.  And Hulu is free…


Jun 24 2010

the challenge: days 26, 27 & 28 [$4.00]

Not too much to report over the last few days.  I’ve been working a lot, finished some books and spent a bit of time with my kids.

We had some unexpected dental expenses this month and to keep my credit card at zero, I had to pay a little more than usual because of lawn care, my tolltag and car repairs.  I have $4.00 left in my account, and for some crazy reason, that makes me happy.  Normally I would either charge groceries or maybe move some money from my checking account.  Instead, I decided to live with the $4.00 for a while.  We’re eating food from the back of the pantry and stuff from the freezer that… well, just should have been used a long time ago.  No eating out for a while.  I have a little bit of cash, very little, but it’s still sitting in my ‘piggy bank’.  The kids call it my piggy bank, even though it’s a box with Hawaiian girls on it.

I’ll probably move some money over from my savings just in case something hits my account, so I won’t have overdraft fees.  Can you imagine the large part of the world’s population that has to live on less than $2.00 per day?  Have you ever tried it?  I wonder what that would be like…


Jun 21 2010

the challenge: day 25 [what are you for?]

We decided to take a trip down to Waco and go to Church Under the Bridge.  (churchunderthebridge.org)  I so wish it was closer… or I was closer.  A two hour drive to church is a long drive, but for this place, well worth it.  I was excited to bring my kids this time.  I have to admit something though.  I bought a t-shirt at CUTB.  Wait, actually I bought two, one for me and one for Steve.  Yes, they’re new shirts, and we don’t need more clothing, but after some careful consideration, I decided to buy them.  Maybe I’m justifying this purchase, but here’s my reasoning:

  • It’s new, but the money is going to the church, who in turn, helps the homeless.
  • It did not come from a major retailer.
  • When we wear them, it’s a conversation starter since it says ‘TROLL’ on the front.  (not that I need a reason to yap about this place, because I’m all about it)
  • T-shirts are the modern day propaganda.  Instead of a t-shirt advertising expensive clothing stores or a cool graphic, how about a t-shirt that has a message communicating what I’m passionate about?

Church Under the Bridge is great and I’m proud to be a troll!  Also, I came home and cleaned out my closet.  I got rid of all my t-shirts that advertise large clothing retailers and  I have a huge bag of clothing to bring to the thrift store.  Did you know that most thrift stores have voucher programs for people in need and some of the donations go right to people that need it?

You can see the rest of my photos from CUTB on flickr.com.

On the way home, there was a place I’ve always wanted to stop.  I’ve passed by it no less than 25 times, and each time they have interesting stuff outside.  We decided to make a quick stop there before lunch.  I’m not sharing the name of the place, you’ll understand why in a moment.

I always carry my camera, especially to a place that has fun stuff.  I snapped a few pics outside, then we went in.  It was a second hand clothing store, specializing in retro clothing.  REAL retro clothing.  I liked a lot of their stuff, but so did they.  A simple pair of pants started at $30.  A t-shirt that you would find at a thrift store for $1 cost $19 at this place.  Now don’t get me wrong, this is clearly a specialty store, and a trendy shopping experience.  I think they might even make some of the clothing there, which I think it’s great to support local mom and pop businesses.  I walked around and snapped a couple more pics.

The man working there was talking to Steve as I was looking around and trying to keep Joe away from stuff.  I saw a painting I liked and snapped a photo.  A lady came out, quite angry, and made it very clear that I was not supposed to take photos.  I respect that and I stopped.  I really liked the painting and asked how much it cost.  Irritated, she replied, “That’s not for sale.  The clothing is for sale, that’s all.  My kid painted that, just look at the clothes.”  Then Cole came in from outside and she yelled at him to go stay with his mother and do not roam around the store.  Yes, it was time to go.

The man followed us out, still talking to Steve, and told me if he had seen my camera, that he would have said something.  He didn’t want any photos, he doesn’t want the place publicized and exploited.  Interesting, as most people call that marketing, and see it as a good thing.  Now you know why I’m not sharing the name.  I respect his wish to remain unexploited and anonymous.  (yes, I took the photo before they told me to quit and I blurred the mannequins face to protect her identity.)  We stood outside and listened to him rant and rave about war, church, the war church up the street, our screwed up society, teen pregnancy in his town being the highest in Texas and SAT scores being the lowest.  As he went on and on, I was wondering if there’s anything this guy likes?  I now know everything he’s against, although I think if we had stayed for another hour, he probably would have lectured us with his seemingly endless oppositions to the world as he sees it.  I made the mistake of telling him we live in Frisco.  He had a field day with that, as all of the non-tax paying rich people live here and we single-handedly started the Tea Party.

This got me thinking.  I tend to rant and rave when I’m passionate about an injustice or something I see as wrong.  I usually don’t take the time to think before I talk, even though I know I should, and usually regret it later.  Not regrets of saying something, but regrets of saying it well.  When people think of me, I wonder if they think of me for what I stand for or what I stand against?  And if I stand for something, am I taking enough action to help the situation, or am I just griping like the guy at the store?  I want to stand for good things and take action to support those things.  What are you for?


Jun 21 2010

sharing a hamburger [day 24]

Last night I went to II Brothers (also know as the ‘other brother’) with a large group of people.  We had so many people that we had to get a separate table for the kids.  Yep, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

My kids were on their own and ordered for themselves.  Now I gave them no instruction whatsoever, so they could have ordered pretty much anything and extra desserts and I wouldn’t have been the wiser.  After a nice time visiting with my friends, it came time to pay the bill.  I neglected to order anything, apparently I was talking when she came to take our orders, so I just had my iced tea and the kids stuff.

The bill came, I looked at it and immediately thought it was wrong.  I asked her if there should be two hamburger kids meals on there, not just one.  She said, “No, it’s correct.  They decided to share a meal.”  After picking my jaw up off the floor, I was speechless.  My kids ARE learning not to be wasteful!  It’s really working!!!!  I don’t cry and I almost had tears in my eyes!!!!!

Every time we go to a restaurant, I always ask them to share if they’re not that hungry.  We can always order more food, so just order what you know you can eat.  Okay, so I also bellyache about the price of food too, again, making the point of not being wasteful.  Wow.  It really works.  My kids are so awesome.  (no bias there, of course)  ;)