one less squirrel and too much coffee
Saturday, October 10 2015
Gretchen left early this morning to participate in a "walk for farm animals" benefit down in Manhattan, an event in which she would be reading some of her poetry. So it fell to me to walk the dogs. I took them on the standard big loop that includes the Farm Road and the entire length of the Stick Trail (Google Maps tells me this loop is a walk of 1.86 miles miles). Not far homeward from where the Canary Overlook Loop Trail joins the Stick Trail (41.919013N, 74.104262W), I heard a horrendous high-pitched squealing from ahead of me on the trail. I quickly realized Ramona had grabbed a squirrel and was shaking it to death. But there was nothing I could do. By the time I got to Ramona, she was sniffing the poor thing (it was a Grey Squirrel) as it weakly attempted to fend her off with its hands. Apparently its back was already broken and it was nearing death. Ramona then gave it another shake and by then there really was nothing further I could do. So I just let nature, such as it was, play out from there. It was a long time before Ramona rejoined Eleanor and me on the trail. By that point I was nearing the end of my firewood gathering along the Stick Trail about a quarter mile south of home. Today's load came to only 93.55 pounds.
Back at the house, I drank a whole french press full of coffee and, by late afternoon, the flood of caffeine proved too much for my system. I was jittery and needed some way to counteract it, but under my rules, the only way I could buy the right to drink alcohol was if I created a complete work of art. So as always, I dashed off a tiny painting. In this case, I used only black and white acrylic paint to render a one-tree landscape measuring 2.25 by 3.125 inches:
With nerves stabilized by a Sierra Nevada Torpedo I2PA, I then attempted to get a WTV020-SD audio module working. I'd finally received the necessary 2 gigabyte micro-SD card in the mail. So I did my best to insert the tiny card into the tiny module, uploaded a test Arduino sketch and... nothing. This is usually what happens when trying to get a new piece of raw electronics to work. There are almost always too many things that can go wrong for the first attempt to work. In this case, the main problem was the mechanism holding the micro-SD card. It took a careful inspection of that system to recognize that the slot had to be opened like a mousetrap and the card had to lie in it in a certain way before the side of the slot was levered shut and then latched. Once all that was in place, the demo script started playing sounds, but only ones known to work with this particular module. With the exception of the Big Ben clock noises, all the sounds I'd prepared failed, suggesting that I needed to save them at a different sampling rate, in mono, or both. One further thing I noticed was that the sound was unworkably quiet. I will need to install an audio amplifier to get this device working as a sound source for my Ahmed Mohamed clock.
Late tonight, there wasn't much good television on the DVR (though the Nova episode entitled "Secrets of Noah's Ark" was better than expected). So I found myself watching old episodes of BattleBots on YouTube. I don't have much interest in sports, you see, unless the athletes are robots. Remotely-powered machines going at it in an arena makes for great television, but I would have liked the show much better had we gotten more background on the robots, the technologies used, and even the people who build them. Instead, pretty much all we get is fight footage with play-by-play of the sort one hears in men's wrestling. I hope some day there will be shows featuring battles between entirely autonomous robots. I imagine we're already at the point where it would be best in a lot of cases for robots to sense threats on their own and handle them accordingly. Human responses are terribly slow in comparison to what is possible with technology alone.
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