Tuesday, November 7 2006
I went to the Hurley polling station by myself today to cast my various votes. For nearly every line on the ballot, I voted as far to the left as I could, though in some cases the only way I could register this was by voting for the Democratic candidate where his or her name appeared a second time as a member of the "Working Families" party. Hillary Clinton was a special case; I'd heard enough of her Liebermanesque positioning to vote for the Green candidate instead. If she'd been in danger I would have voted for her, but I knew she had genuine Joementum and was likely to win 70% of the vote.
I continued into town and, among other things, bought a variety of teas at the Shop Rite out on 9W. My armload of groceries were so unimpressive that the African American woman in front of me in line said I could go ahead of her but I said no, she should go ahead. "Are you sure?" she asked. And then, when I was paying for my stuff, the checkout woman asked if I had one of those Shop Rite cards (the kind that will some day be implanted beneath the skin of our foreheads). I didn't, but it didn't matter, the African American woman offered to loan me hers. And when I said it was okay, the Caucasian cashier insisted! One would think that the cashier would bear some of the responsibility for defending the integrity of the data that those Shop Rite discount cards collect, since that's the whole point. But no, here she was going out of her way to give me my 20 cent discount on Red Rose and Celestial Sleepytime. Why were these people all insisting on being so nice to me? Nobody is ever this nice to me! But then later I figured it out: it's my new haircut. All these people were taking pity on me because they assumed I'm a troop who recently returned from the hellhole of Iraq.
In solar controller news, which all my readers eagerly anticipate each day, I conclusively found the source of mysterious Arduino resets. It actually has something to do with the actual reset circuitry, not the integrity of the power supply or transients coming down digital lines. The way the Arduino works is that it has a bootloader burned into the first howevermany bytes of its flash memory, and it executes this code whenever it boots. This code checks to see if a new program is being sent on the serial line every time the Arduino reboots, and if it is it burns it into the rest of its flash memory, and then executes it. To reprogram the Arduino, you have to hit its reset switch before uploading your latest version of its code. I wanted to be able to do this remotely, across that 100 foot USB connection I ran to the basement (similar to the way Mars probes can have their software updated across deep space). So I'd had to run another cable alongside the USB wire carrying the reset signals. Whenever I wanted to reprogram the Arduino from my laboratory, I'd swivel around in my chair, touch two copper wires together, and then swivel back to my screen and click on the "Upload to I/O Board" button on the Arduino IDE. A new version of my sufficiency controller code would then be active.
Evidently what had been happening was that whenever the Arduino reset pins were connected to the cable going up to the laboratory, that long wire served as a massive antenna, one capable of picking up the unamplified transients from the relays and interpreting this as a reset signal. I confirmed this conclusively today by observing how the Arduino behaved while changing states on the relays with the reset wires both connected and unconnected. To solve the problem, I positioned the contacts of a small relay across the reset wires in the Arduino controller's box, and now when I want to reset the Arduino I have to do so actively, by sending 12 volts down the wires to the new relay's coil.
As election rumors trickled in late in the day, I tried to tamp down my hopes for a Democratic takeover. I'd been burned in 2000, 2002, and 2004, and it seemed possible to be burned again, particularly given all the dirty tricks being used by a corrupt Republican party desperate to hang onto power. I half-expected the declaration of a national emergency "in the interest of the nation" if Democrats seemed likely to win. But before that would be necessary, it seemed more likely that the election would be stolen by mysterious unknown algorithms inside the voting machines. Hell, if phishermen in Bulgaria can throw up a convincing facsimile of the Wells Fargo Home Page, I was sure Diebold could simulate a satisfactory voting experience.
But by 9 or 10pm it was clear that a real Democratic wave had swept through American polling places. The House of Representatives was now certain to fall to the Democrats, although I had my doubts about the Senate. Still, Gretchen and I were in a celebratory mood as we watched election night coverage on television's most-trusted news source, Comedy Central. I got a particular thrill out of the cake prepared for Stephen Colbert reading "Congratulations Terrorists!"
By now it was seeming likely that Jim Webb, the Democrat, would defeat George "Macaca" Allen, and this made it possible that the Democrats might even take the Senate. With these thoughts in my head, I slept fitfully at best. Finally, at around 3am I got up to check how the Montana election was going, the one possible monkeywrench in this best-case scenario. Overjoyed, I discovered Testor (the Democrat) was ahead there, but only by a small amount. It was good enough for me, though none of the talking heads had yet called the Senate for the Democrats.
Slowly, then, my faith in the American experiment began to be restored. Usually when ships list as badly as America has been, they're done for. But somehow those bepowderwigged founders managed to come up with a formula for righting the Good Ship America in situations even as dire as the those at present. I'm sincerely impressed!
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