Really, it started yesterday afternoon when no one delivered C back from day camp. All the carpooling had pretty much been arranged by email before I was added to the cc list, so I thought, from some vague discussions I'd overhead, that he might be at the municipal pool with some friends, as he had been on Tuesday. Cue me driving over to the pool. Nope. So maybe he just got delivered late. Drive home. Nope. I suddenly thought, maybe the email I sent confirming that I was driving all the kids to camp thursday morning had really said I was picking them up thursday afternoon. Nope, they weren't still at camp, although one of the teachers commented that they'd been picked up late. Home again, to see the light flashing on the answering machine (did I mention there's apparently no cell service at the camp, even though it's the regional high school?)

Two messages from C, neither of them saying where he was or what number he was at (although that was OK, because he was with somebody, at least.) Caller ID gave me the number, which I called, and exchanged profuse mutual apologies with the parent who had indeed interpreted my message to mean she was off the hook for pickup. Oh, and she mentioned that she had dropped C off at an empty house, was he OK? At which point I did actually hear a small voice calling "Hello? Dad?" from the other end of the house.

So for decompression we decide to go into town and have sushi. Parking in front of the library there's a crunching noise and the tire pressure light goes on. Yep, left rear seems to be soft. But that's the one that had a leak before, so I think little of it. We eat yummy sushi, talk about Scratch and Doctor Who and suchlike, then walk back to the car. Then we walk the mile back home uphill.

This morning I get C off in the carpool and trot back downtown with a bike pump in tow (did I mention that while I was looking for C a friend came by to borrow my compressor) on the off chance I could pump the flat up enough to drive it to the tire place. A big old bearded local in farm clothes watches me from across the street, shaking his head. "Yeah, I know," I say, "but if it works it's faster than putting on the spare." It doesn't. So I put on the spare, chatting with acquaintances walking to work in between jumps on the tire iron.

Walk back downtown from the tire place. Runaround from the people who sold us tire damage coverage. Meeting with marketing person who works in the next office about rebranding myself. Text from J saying she's stuck in traffic near Baton Rouge and might miss her flight back. Call to tire place confirms that the hole in the tire (piece of slate) is too big to repair. Sudden realization that not only don't I have a car to get to C's last-day-of-camp presentation stuff, I don't have a car to get him home. Send out email to carpoolers.

Eat lunch, get ride, watch C showing off his e-waste video game, look at similar games by a lot of other kids, including a couple who were in one of the Scratch courses J and I took (a small tear of pride). Get ride home. Relax for a while, then realize there's almost no unfrozen food in the house. Too bad.

While we're eating dinner, text from J who is boarding her second leg in Atlanta. C and I finish up, then settle down to watch Tom Baker and Elizabeth Sladen do battle with robot mummies.

And I wonder that I don't get anything done.
This week, for reasons that may not make sense in retrospect, I'm running a lego robotics camp at the local library. We borrowed a bunch of NXT bricks from the university extension service, and I've got 9 kids in the 8-12 range more or less learning how to build robots and make them do things. They range from ubergeek to a couple of kids I've known since they were this high whose mother signed them up without telling them to a shock-haired little something-or-other whose parents really wanted him out of the house for three hours every morning.

So I've learned a lot.  One thing is that Lego Technic kinda sucks. Its appearance promises way more than it delivers, and to make things hold together you have to throw on all kinds of cross-bracing and perpendicular locking bits. The NXT bricks have holes to fit Technic couplers, but when you actually try to attach stuff like motors or sensors, all the clearances are wrong, so you have to put in bunches of spacer bricks, which makes things less rigid and more likely to fall apart when you turn the motors on and start moving. Sure, you can work around all of that, but it's another layer between the kids and just building stuff.

Another is that worse can be better for learning. There's an option for letting sensors fire while the motors are moving, but kids who are just learning to program stuff need to know that execution proceeds from left to right (it's a graphical language where you plunk down parameterized blocks to do things) and that in general one operation has to finish before the next one starts.

But the biggest thing for me has been remembering that this is a camp. It's not a course or a workshop or a warmup for one of the fiercely competitive lego robotics leagues. So when the shock-headed kid comes up to me and proudly shows how he's put a coupler in every hole of six long Technic beams, I congratulate him and let him build ten more. When the ubergeek and his friend waste time they could be spending on learning switch statement and parallel execution driving their bot slowly across the length of the entire room, that's OK too. If all that some of them get out of this is five mornings of fun and not having busted anyone else's bot, then I've succeeded.

So far, they're all telling their parents and the librarians that they're having a good time. They're even sorting all the fiddly little parts back into bins like they meant it. And a couple of adults have asked me if I teach any workshops where they can learn to keep up with their kids.
Just wasted two days with a stupid upgrade problem (because apparently "Long Term Support" doesn't mean "We will keep libraries up to date so that newly-built software will run on your machine while you get to keep your configuration). Exacerbated by a combination of Canonical's "we know way better than you" policies and the Autopilot Failure Problem.

The latter is something that flight-safety people have been trying to fix for decades to no avail: when an autopilot decides it's stuck and decides to return manual control to the pilot, that usually means there's some kind of emergency in progress. An emergency the pilot is not fully informed about because, well, the autopilot was flying the plane and the pilot wasn't paying full attention. Oh, and doesn't have a full set of tools to address.

In this case, borked windowing system because of course that video driver that's the only #@%@# one on the planet that works with this old hardware should be discarded in favor of the minimal free one, which doesn't support 3D effects, which are no longer optional, so let's just start up the 3D subsystem anyway and see what happens when crucial parts of it hang.

There are tools to fix this (maybe) but I can't have them because part of the 14.04 installation process involves turning off all software sources not absolutely needed for the upgrade (because you're supposed to use Ubuntu Software Center. Except it won't work if anything goes wrong). Including proprietary drivers (natch) and also community-supported software like, say, synaptic or the configuration manager for the windowing system. Which I could turn back on from a text terminal if I knew where Canonical had decided to stash the info this week, which I can't easily find out because it's hard to run a browser without a windowing system.

It turns out that if I middle-click on the nonworking desktop I can open up a borked wallpaper chooser, which can in turn be converted to a borked preference pane from which I can get to the pref for software sources and turn damn-all everything back on. At which point I can download the stuff I want, switch to a working driver, reconfigure compiz and unity to have the crap I need and not load the plugin that always hangs. And now I can download the new copies of the software I need to use.

Oh, and someone please remind me to reset the baud rates on all the USB connections to integer multiples of 9600, because apparently there's a component that crashes if you use numbers like 250000. (I found that out on my office machine, where the upgrade otherwise went swimmingly but the control software for my 3D printer kept turning itself off.)

If your toilet is clogged (as for example by a 5-year-old using way, way too much toilet paper) and the plunger and the snake have already failed, you might want to consider enclosing the head of a toilet brush in a sturdy plastic bag (say, a 1-quart freezer ziplock, filling the bag partially with water, and then sealing the end of the bag tightly around the handle with a rubber band.  The resulting balloonlike thingy makes a much better seal against the interior of the waste channel than does a plunger, and a few dozen back-and-forth pressure/suction cycles might just loosen the obstruction.

If I had come up with this idea first thing on being awakened this morning, the day would have been much more pleasant.
that if you ask the debian installer to keep the data you have on a partition that you then want mounted, it will helpfully protect every gigabyte of it from the installation process by placing the files in the trash.

Oh, and that you can't use sudo to cd into a directory owned by root.

But I think the kid's box mostly works now. And he gets to sort the saved files.

Oy.

Eureka

Jan. 21st, 2014 11:44 am
Finally got one %#%# project to work, only a few months after it nominally went like. Replaced the solenoid in the remote-control door buzzer thingy with a servo, and now it all works. I am less and less patient with the analog world.
I have been doing so much stupid hardware hacking lately that I am starting to want to get back to writing. Too bad stupid hardware hacking is most of what I get paid to write about. But today was pretty maximally annoying.

It started out pretty well, finally hooking up the radio-controlled solenoid that lets people sit on their asses an press a keyfob instead of getting up to buss people in at the local co-working space. Then printing up the part that I plan to use for my light-switch servo thingy (after having coded up a single-use ATTiny85 servo controller last night and discovered that delayMicroseconds is off by a factor of 8). Then the guy who founded the space came by to play with the borked electronic lock, and we took apart the dead custom battery pack to find out that instead of something fancy it housed --

5 dead AAs.

If I had known this before the batteries died last month, I could have replaced them, saving the door from having to be jimmied. If I had known this even after the batteries died, I could have applied 7.5V to the external emergency power plug, ditto. Instead, I spent the rest of the morning taking apart much of the rest of the lock and determining that something is broken/jammed/whatever in the gear train where the little motor resides that retracts the bolt when you put in the right code. That's a part I couldn't promise to put back together again if I take it apart. So end of quest and probably major expense for nonprofit co-working space, all because of that one missing piece of information.

Then home, where it took way too long to reprogram the servo controller and solder it up. Then stupid stuff that is going to force me to code an SVG extractor because I don't run windows at home. Then disappointing snacks.

Tomorrow, one hopes, less of the same.

My cupcake CNC is getting to be like George Washington's hatchet. I replaced the old DC extruder motor with a stepper motor, then replaced the whole extruder with home built. Assembled the automated build platform, replaced the plastic assembly surface with steel, then cannibalised its parts for a plain heated platform with a copper surface. Installed a couple fans to cool the stepper and the driver boards. Threw in some LED lighting.

I still want to install end stops, maybe a geared extruder, maybe countersink the bolts on the build platform. Oh, and I've been upgrading the firmware. It runs much better under sailfish, what with smooth acceleration and not shaking the whole thing to bits. Or at least it did until I went from Build 973 to Build 1029 -- which also comes with a huge warning screen about not printing with a USB connection, unfortunately the only way I print.

Everything sucked. The extruder went completely wonky, the filament wouldn't stick to the build surface, prints that had been coming out fine were suddenly complete failures. So I downgraded the firmware, build by build back to what I had been using. Nothing. I downgraded the host software, replicator-g. Still crap. And all through this I knew the extruder was working, because I could spit out filament manually and it was fine. We're talking days here. Or nights rather, because I've got stuff to do during the day.

Oy.

Then it struck me: what was that random jumper wire hanging out of a connector? It wasn't the led lighting, because that was OK. It wasn't the fan for the extruder stepper, because that went around back. Or the fan for cooling PLA because I took that off. It was the fan that cools the stepper driver for the extruder, which is cranked all the way up because it really doesn't have enough oomph to push the filament at full speed.

I touched the heat sink on top of the driver chip and burned the hell out of my finger. Aha. The driver chip has a thermal cutout to keep it from blowing up under excess load, and it was working just right . So when it got into a print, the chip would overheat and stop working, cool down a few hundred milliseconds later and start up again, overheat and stop, cool down and so forth. Resulting in some fraction of the intended filament coming out at unpredictable times. Or not.

I plugged the jumper back in, the fan stated whirring, then the jumper fell back out. So tonight I made a heavier gauge jumper. Printed something and it mostly worked. Hurrah.

But. The result of all this upgrading and downgrading and testing is that I really don't trust all the software any more. So I may upgrade very very slowly, or just leave things as they are, and walk very quietly when I'm anywhere near the cupcake. Whee.
Let me unpack that. We sometimes sedate B in the afternoon by letting
him watch cartoons. Usually on our bed, where the TV on the wall is
connected to a Roku but not any broadcast source. So there is netflix.

And when B got tired of Pingu and Harold and Curious George there was
Spiderman. But not the original that we all watched, instead some
horribly animated 80s remix. B still looks at us funny when we hum the
old theme song.

And when he tired of Spiderman, there was Batman. The Brave and the
Bold, that is. It's 80s or 90s or something, and it's a crossover-fest
where all the played-out marvel/dc characters went to to retire, and I
hope that the writers were taking a lot of good drugs, because
otherwise they were really troubled people. The episodes are all aimed
at adults who are thoroughly familiar with Aquaman and the Flash and
that arrow guy and so forth but really don't like them much. (There's
even a cameo by grownup Robin, who wonders why Batman is poaching on
his turf.)

So that brings us to the musical episode. With the gorilla singing
bass. Duets. Dance numbers and a kick line. Villain backstory montage
and costume changes including pretty much every music genre from
classical through power pop by way of marching band. Scenery lifting
out of the way.

It is thoroughly freaky. And B has no idea. It's his favowite episode,
he says, but then he always says that. He has no cultural context to
understand just what a weird thing he is watching. And so I just watch
with him and wonder.
courtesy of [personal profile] firecat :

Key:
Have read
Have started but not finished
Want to read or re-read
Hated!
!!!!! Loved!
????? Should I read this?

plus a few more comments, like "loved it then, embarrassed now"

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien !!!!
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams !!!!
3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card really mostly for angsty smart teens
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert, read the first few as a kid, got bored.
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin barely cracked the covers
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov !!!! as a kid
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman !!!!
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman !!!!
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan ????
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore????
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov !!!! as a kid. Now I wonder what Grace Hopper thought of it.
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss???
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King
26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury !!!! as a kid
28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut in school about sixth or seventh grade
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein didn't care for the politics even then, loved the writing
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey if I read this, I don't remember it.
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein !!!! as a kid. Still miss the invisible friend. Oh, and Steel Beach.
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller !!!!
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys !!!! as a kid. Made me cry.
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny After a while the writing just pissed me off.
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley???? -- so much else, but not this
43. The Mistborn Series,by Brandon Sanderson ????
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin !!!!
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien a letdown.
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson ????
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman !!!! as a kid. The impact of reading it serialized was way strong.
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson forced myself through one book.
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold !!!!
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett !!!! and all the others. Perhaps I liked Hogfather best. Or Mort.
61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind????
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy????
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi intend to finish it some day when I can attend to it
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde liked the later ones better
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher????
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge!!!!
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle bleh
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis liked to say nothing of the dog much better.
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville loved the writing, but was in an altered state at the time
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony not so secret vice
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis


Here is (most of) the text of a notice sent to me by the Copyright Clearance Center:

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This gives me so much confidence in their presentations.
Or is that data are code? I'm grumpy about this simple image-processing project I've been doing for so long because there are so many ^&#^%#$^ points in it. There are the corners for warping the image, a dozen different display blocks -- each a different size -- to have their numbers and letters recognized.

I've got to either measure those points by hand and type the results into my program, or else write yet more single-use ancillary bits to recognize those points and then dump them into a table. Either way is annoying. Part of me wants to write the ancillary bits because so much of the program is effectively embedded in those numbers, but part of me wants to be done with the damn thing already.
You know those projects that end up taking much more work than they should, and really ought never have needed doing in the first place?

Today I finally finished fixing the wind sensor on my cheapjack weather station. Winter before last the mounting pole fell down (note to self: wood shrinks, band clamps don't) and broke the sensor mounting plate, the tail of the wind-direction vane and all three arms of the anemometer. A few weeks ago, when the snow melted from where I wanted to put the thing, I went down to the basement with the bits and learned:

1. Parts not made of soluble plastic, so the plastic-welding cement had no effect whatsoever.
2. The solvent in my big bottle of superglue had evaporated, leaving a congealed mess that might hold if only it would set.
3. It wouldn't hold well enough to withstand brushing against my drill while I was trying to put it up.

4. The other big bottle of superglue, the "gap-filling" one, hadn't evaporated.
5. But that glue didn't stand up to vibration, say, a drill turning a mounting screw.
6. You can drill a tiny hole with the point of a file and insert a piece of wire to reinforce this stuff.

7. The sensor didn't work anyway, because
8. The internal batteries were dead and corroded (which I found out by disassembling the sealed part and finding them loose inside).
9. Just replacing them didn't help because
10a. You can't pull the circuit board out to replace the batteries without breaking a crucial part of the wind-direction sensor.
10b. Resetting the display to sync with the transmitter in the wind sensor is no help because (thanks, intertube forums) the wind sensor sends its data to the temperature/humidity sensor, which then passes the information (along with rain-gauge data) to the display.

Finally sorted all of that, and now I apparently have working sensors, although I'm not quite sure because the way you force the display to sync with the transmitter in the temperature/humidity sensor is by pushing one of the mode buttons until it beeps, and doing this also puts the display in some kind of weird cumulative-data mode that's too complicated to read.

Next step (because there is a PC dongle, but it doesn't talk to a Mac): OpenCV.

Test

Apr. 6th, 2013 09:00 pm
To see if tablet app works
OK, so there's this shuttle box in the basement that I tried to build about three or four years ago and couldn't get to boot noway nohow or even show a splash screen, and then there's the other el cheapo refurb computer that just died one day. And there's its replacement, the $279 linux box from the place down the road. And there's J's G5 imac, which has been sitting in the basement waiting for recycling day for a few years, ever since it started booting with a tweed screen.

I've been taking the imac apart, mostly to procrastinate, partly because the motherboard (and yes it does have the dead bulging capacitors) has all those coils I want to steal for joule thief flashlights to give people, and because there might be some other useful stuff (anyone want in internal airport card or some 1-gig ram? or a big-ass lcd with a custom connector) inside it.

So one fine day -- I think it was while I had C in the basement gathering Raspberry Pi parts -- for no good reason I took the little 80gig boot disk out of the el cheapo and plugged it into the shuttle and turned the thing on, and damned if 5 minutes later when I turned around from doing a bunch of other things it didn't have a login screen. Now except for the x86 architecture these two machines have so absolutely nothing in common. Oh, and the screen was the wrong resolution and I had no idea what my password had been. (It took me three or four days to realize that "root shell" on the recovery-mode menu meant I had root and could add another user or just change my password; that's how stupid and rusty I am.)

Yesterday I asked J if it would be OK for me to cannibalize the hard disk from the imac, and she agreed. I plugged it into a couple of spare sata connectors, and not only did it appear as a disk, but HFS+ apparently opens just fine. So I have 4 gig of ram and 240 gig of disk and the machine mostly always turns on when I flip the power switch. Now all I need is to terminate another length of ethernet cable -- doesn't everyone have spares in their basement rafters -- and figure out a place to put the thing, probably behind the 3d printer. It would be nice to have something to talk to the printer and the other physical machines that isn't simultaneously doing slicing and renders and stuff like that.

Really, I'm just procrastinating, but I've built a couple of extruders and have plans for an hot end or two as soon as I find a random block of aluminum. And then maybe to get something actually printing.

And while I was rooting through the shuttle's BIOS setup I think I figured out why it wouldn't boot before -- the only option for booting from CD is with SATA, and the one I had installed was IDE. Whee.
This morning I took apart my mac mini (yep, with a putty knife) and swapped in 8 gig of RAM for the 4 that were in there. Wow. It's gone from "careful what you open" to "not a problem". I've got the Activity Monitor open, and free RAM appears to have stabilized at about 3 gig. Swap and pageouts are still firmly at 0.

I guess it was just a tipping-point thing -- if I still had 4 gig of RAM I'd be swapping every time I did anything (as I was). And modern bloatware does not swap prettily.

Makes me think that the next machine I get is really going to have way more RAM than I think I need.

And makes me cheerful that among all the messes and untimely death at least one thing is going right.
Tonight we have a new microwave oven.

For years now, the old one had been doing a T.S. Garp Sr. with its display, and I'd always figured that when it had no lit segments left at all we'd give up and replace it, but not until then.

Last saturday morning I put in a bowl of oatmeal to cook for the kids' breakfast, and about halfway through the initial fast heating of the milk the usual buzzing noise increased drastically in volume. Then the light inside started flickering in time with the buzz. Then smoke. Maybe 10-15 seconds from start to the time I turned it off. I don't know the details, but there was soot around the little plastic window where the light usually comes in, and the window was discolored. When I peeled it off, discolored turned out to mean "charred and blistered".

You all know how tempted I was to see if I could replace the little plastic window -- hey, that flickering was probably just the light being temporarily obscured by smoke -- and make things work again. Alas I have this pretty strong ethos (reinforced by my loving spouse) about playing amateur repair person with things that could incinerate, coagulate, asphyxiate, disassemble or otherwise severely injure all of us in a few seconds or less.

But instead I went out and discovered that there are maybe three different models of microwave made nowadays, under three or four dozen different badges, in many ways (particularly dimensions) inferior to our old one. And also with distinctly questionable reliability, even for the nominally top brands. Whee.

So we were going to get one on sunday, but about noon the snow squalls started and it seemed like a bad idea. Then the sky cleared and the day became beautiful, but my cousin dropped by unexpectedly to pass out christmas presents and accept condolences for the recent death of her mother. So we didn't even have lunch till 230.

Today, then, we went to Costco and got a new nuke that will either last or won't, but will definitely take up more counter space. And I have to read the manual to figure out how to operate the multi-stage cooking programs and TURBO DEFROST.

And then J and the kids went home while I stayed for a Sparkfun workshop on E-origami, which what cool and frustrating and involved goodies. (And we all agreed that the first person to market conductive sticks of hot glue will make a small -- quite small -- fortune.)
I've had this image-processing project on a back burner for about two years, trying to decide whether to try and use one of the publicly-available image-processing libraries or roll my own (very simple, very specialized) recognition algorithms. Some of the libraries out there don't actually do what I want -- they blur, they sharpen, they flood connected shapes with the same color, they stretch and skew and so forth. Others seemed like they might have some functions that I wanted, but every single threshold algorithm and edge-finder and subregion-matcher and feature-extractor just gave me another damn image, when what I wanted was data about where things in the image were.

And we all know that images are impenetrable black boxes, suitable only for putting pretty pixels up on a screen.

Like I said, how fscking stupid I am. So now I just have to decide which library to use, which probably means who has what bindings to which language I hate the least, including something with the ability to snarf webcam images without too great an excess of plumbing. Oy. I coulda done this back before I broke half the equipment I'm trying to extract data from.
via firecat

Bold the ones you have and use at least once a year, italicize the ones you have and don't use, underline the ones you use at least once a month, strike through the ones you have had but got rid of.


I wonder how many pasta machines, breadmakers, juicers, blenders, deep fat fryers, egg boilers, melon ballers, sandwich makers, pastry brushes, cheese boards, cheese knives, crepe makers, electric woks, miniature salad spinners, griddle pans, jam funnels, pie funnels, meat thermometers, filleting knives, egg poachers, cake stands, garlic crushers, martini glasses, tea strainers, bamboo steamers, pizza stones, coffee grinders, milk frothers, piping bags, banana stands, fluted pastry wheels, tagine dishes, conical strainers, rice cookers, steam cookers, pressure cookers, slow cookers, spaetzle makers, cookie presses, gravy strainers, double boilers (bains marie), sukiyaki stoves, ice cream makers, fondue sets, healthy-grills, home smokers, tempura sets, tortilla presses, electric whisks, cherry stoners, sugar thermometers, food processors, stand mixers, mincers, bacon presses, bacon slicers, mouli mills, cake testers, pestle-and-mortars, gratin dishes, apple corers, mango stoners and sets of kebab skewers languish dustily at the back of the nation's cupboards.

It's not just the ones that languish unused, but the ones that bet pulled out once or twice a year for holiday cooking. Or the ones that are not quite as good as the one you already have/just bought.

Stuff is cheap. Space and time are expensive

Relativity

Aug. 27th, 2012 09:50 pm
I feel lately like a conflation of a couple of characters from Vernor Vinge's True Names: the Mailman AI, who was non-realtime and communicated by teletype, and one of the oldtimers who relied on hacks like short-term-memory reload to stay sentient. Probably any parent (or fulltime caregiver) can relate: the number of hours a day spent being called upon, plus the number of hours spent recharging, comes arbitrarily close to 24, and the number of minutes of clearheaded ability to do stuff goes arbitrarily close to 0. Especially when that stuff requires of flow state, or requires significant physical setup, or even any substantial mental review of "where was I" so that the next step becomes clear again.

Which is a lousy excuse for spending most of the summer getting maybe a day's worth of work out of most weeks. Or my bemusement at getting email from the admin of our co-working space and seeing him get replies from other people within an hour or two.

But it also made me think (during the time when I probably should have been debugging the laser software or soldering some headers or something) about all the science fiction that's been written over the past couple of generations about interactions between people operating on different timescales. Not so much the old stuff about going out to pioneer the stars and returning to your grandchildren's grandchildren, but the newer ones where everyone is in constant communication and it's still not constant enough.

I'm not sure that this is what those books were actually written about, or that the human experience of living on multiple wrong timescales was anything like what motivated the authors. But I think it is in many ways a realworld issue that's crucial to various enterprises. Or something.

But that's about as far as I can go on this, and it's time to take out the garbage and clean the kitchen and go to bed early (!) because tomorrow is dress rehearsal for getting the kids out of the house by 730 to meet the school bus. (During the past month, C has been refusing to hear that the academic year was approaching, so we've been referring to it as Voldemort.)

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