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:
   taxing on the uncaffeinated brain
Sunday, November 22 2015
Early this afternoon, I was out in the usual firewood salvaging region I've been working in of late, though this time I was a little to the north and east. There I saw a standing skeletonized Chestnut Oak about eight inches in thickness, the twin of a living tree, one that for some reason I had never noticed before. It looked like an easy tree to cut down, since it leaned away from its stump and looked like it would roll off of the tree it was likely to fall towards. So I cut it off with one cut (that is, not notching, as I do with larger, more vertical trees). As I did so, I paid careful attention to the cut, since any tendency to rotate, split, or come my way were things I wanted to be able to see. The tree hung for a bit by a thin strap of wood, and when I cut through that, it rolled off its stump and crashed to the ground. Alarmingly, while I wasn't looking, a piece five or six feet long, as thick as my calf, and weighing 40 or 50 pounds snapped off the top of the tree and was flung my way, landing only three or four feet shy of where I was standing. If it had hit me it could have killed me dead. It was sobering to see that as careful as I am, little miscalculations within the realm of my fallibility could instantly make any particular firewood gathering foray my last. Today's firewood load weighed 101.05 pounds, to which I added 2.15 of accumulated paper and cardboard.
Starting today, I'd decided to go cold-turkey for awhile regarding caffeine. Withdrawal symptoms are never too bad on the first day of such exercises, though it's best to schedule them when demands are light. Today I had perform part of a cleaning jihad in anticipation of the arrival of Gretchen's parents tomorrow and for a Thanksgiving meal later in the week. Puttering around with a broom, vacuum cleaner, or wet cloth weren't too taxing on the uncaffeinated brain, but I also had to fire up the boiler so the house would be suitably heated for my inlaws. The boiler often exhibits problems after months of disuse, so shouldn't have been surprised when the hydronic system failed to send heat up to the laboratory. Soon I identified the culprit: a broken solder joint on the laboratory's cheap thermostat. That joint had failed once before, and after resoldering the connection, I'd gooped the wire with glue as a strain relief. But when I took the thing apart, I found the glue had broken and torn and then so too had the solder joint. When I fixed it this time, I spliced in an extra piece of wire so that play on it will not tend to bend it as much. The problem is that the wire connects to a rotating piece that I move frequently to turn on and off my laboratory heat like a lightswitch. Just to be safe, I also gooped on some glue. Hopefully I'll never have to fix the damn thing again.
My Arduino-powered solar controller also plays a role when the boiler switches on: when it senses that, it switches from summer mode to winter mode, meaning that it no longer prioritizes the heating of household water. But I was disturbed to see that with the boiler on, the LCD display on the solar controller started switching back and forth between summer and winter mode. And then I couldn't investigate from the laboratory because the serial connection was dead. It turned out that a MAX232 RS-232 chip had died in the past year or so (however long it's been since I looked at the serial output of the solar controller). (I don't know what it is about MAX232 chips, but they never last long in any of the applications I use them for.) Once I had the serial stuff working, I determined that the solar controller's real time clock had somehow lost track of the date. Strangely, it's little pill battery still seemed good. Once I entered the proper date back into it, it agreed that it should be in winter mode. Evidently I put some code in there somewhere that looks at the date and, if the month is within a certain range, it sets the system to summer mode. But there's also code in there that, if it detects the boiler being on, switches the mode to winter mode. Untangling the summer/winter/RS-232 issue was perhaps the most psychologically-unpleasant thing that happened today, and it definitely felt more so due to the absence of caffeine in my brain.
One other thing that had been off for a long time but that failed when I turned it on was the fan that pulls air from high on the ceiling in the living room down to near the floor in the basement bathroom using stud bays as air ducts. It turned out that it wasn't the fan that was failing but the switch that controls it, an ordinary 120 volt light switch. I've had many dozens of those switches spend decades with my being the only person available to replace them, yet I've only ever had maybe three of them fail, so this was a little unusual. Fortunately, the switch is actually working well enough to be ignored. But at some point I will have to replace it. In the meantime, I hoped to use the system to preheat the main guestroom using air heated by the woodstove.

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