Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   cucumber spikes
Thursday, November 5 2015
Today was even warmer than yesterday, though it was cloudier, particularly in the morning. Amid small web development tasks and further testing and refinements of my caller ID system, I undertook another outdoor task: beginning the folding up and putting away of the screen tent we'd erected in the height of mosquito season this summer. I don't think we actually used that tent even once this summer; soon after putting it up, we spent a week in the Adirondacks, and when we returned, the mosqitoes had mostly vanished. The main purpose served by the tent was as an arbor for the Bur Cucumber that spontaneously appeared in our garden and that I allowed to take over a large part of our yard. Now, of course, that plant is long dead, and its vines now resemble thin brown pieces of stiff twine, punctuated here and there by the balled-up remains of leaves and starlike clusters of seeds. I knew already that the hairs on those seeds had transformed into stiff little spikes that were unpleasant to touch, but even when I wore gloves those spikes found their way into the flesh of my hands as I tore off the remnants of the vines. Some portion of those spikes also found their way into my pants (a pair of pajama bottoms), shirt, and socks, where they tormented me for the rest of the day. The spikes proved impossible to pluck from my clothes even when I knew they were there, and I had to wait for them to embed in my skin before I could remove them. This suggested that they were barbed in a way that only allowed them to proceed in one direction. Under magnification, I found that this was indeed the case:

Spikes on a dry Bur Cucumber seed. The scale of this image is about half-inch across.

Later this afternoon, I drove with the dogs out to Barnyard Feeds to get a back of much-needed dry catfood. While I was in the neighborhood, I stopped by the thrift store at the Tibetan Center to check out the gizmos and gadgets. There was a $5 Sharper Image USB microscope that had such an expensive-feeling focus and zoom action that I had to have it, along with a plastic Galileoscope identical to the one that I used to observe the moons of Jupiter for the first time. I still have that Galileoscope, but one of its rubber gaskets has failed, rendering it unusable. This one seemed to be in good shape. Also, I know that the optics in a Galileoscope are rather good for a telescope of its price, so at $5, it was a steal.
I continued up Route 28 to the Stewart's at Zena Road, bought coffee and a cup of nuts, and then took the dogs for a walk in the forest behind the West Hurley Park. The dogs found something very interesing down in the swampy area below the arificial mesa leftover after the mining of bluestone, and I had trouble getting them to come with me when I wanted to leave. When she was done doing whatever she'd been doing, Eleanor seemed confused, and, though she could see me waving my hands even if she was too deaf to hear me, she ignored me and for some reason headed south. I soon lost her in the dense undergrowth, and she didn't materialize when I waited for her in the park near the basketball court. I soon realized that I had a bit of a crisis on my hands. If Eleanor couldn't hear me and was heading in some direction I obviously hadn't been or intended to go, she was going to get lost, and I was not going to be able to retrieve her. This is the kind of thing older dogs do when they experience doggy dementia. (Indeed, in the final years of her life, the late great Sally did something similar in this very same park.) In a semi-panic, I charged back into the woods in the direction I'd last seen Eleanor heading, calling fruitlessly for her and trying to encourage Ramona to track her down. But Ramona was useless. By this point, she'd bounded to the edge of a puddle and had begun to noisily eat grass. But the sound of her grass-eating couldn't quite mask a consistent leaf-crunching sound that suggested Eleanor's distant footfalls. To my great relief, I managed to find Eleanor in a dense growth of small White Pines, and I maintained visual contact with her all the way back to the car, past a couple guys exchanging volleys in the tennis court and a pasty white family that included a morbidly-obese woman in her 20s at the basketball court.
Back at the house, I hunted online for the driver for the Sharper Image microscope, but came up with nothing. Sharper Image is more like SkyMall than it is a proper technology company, and there isn't even a tech support link on their homepage. Furthermore, the company went through bankruptcy in 2008, so it's unlikely any one gives a shit whether or not their old products have any useful life. I attempted to disassemble the microscope in hopes of determining its chipset, but the electronics were all high up in the tube, hidden inside the knobs that turn so satisfyingly. Eventually I gave up on the whole enterprise, at least for the time being.
In hopes of making my caller ID system more reliable, I removed some of the soldered spaghetti wires connecting the various subcomponents and replaced them with pins that I can jumper between (or not) as needed. Doing this would allow me to, for example, experimentally reverse "tip" and "ring" going into the EM92547B or disconnect the RING_TIME resistor-capacitor network. But what seemed to affect reliability the most was doing this with the serial data line connecting the EM92547B to the Arduino. Removing that wire from the rat's nest under the board and through a jumper above-board seemed to make the system completely reliable (in that it passed dozens of consecutive tests). Evidently its 1200 baud signal had been polluted by signals in nearby wires, some of which carried mid-level telephone voltages.

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