peaches and poison ivy
Thursday, June 20 2019
On my walk to my weekly indulgence of a burrito at Bubby's, I stopped to take a picture of a telephone pole festooned with an enormous amount of poison ivy. It wasn't far from a peach tree (which I took a picture of on the walk back). There aren't many pedestrians in this part of Red Hook, so it's likely I won't have much competition for the peaches as they ripen. Also, I get the feeling that at this point people are so alienated from nature that they don't know that a peachlike object hanging on a tree could actually be a peach. Surely the owner of the peach tree knows what fruits the tree bears, but for most Americans it's easy to forget that they have anything to consider in the land outside their house aside from their yard.
Red Hook's poison ivy
While I was off at work, Gretchen heard Neville barking enthusiastically about something just north of the house. When she went to investigate, she saw that Neville had encountered a smallish bear standing on the ground at the base of that white pine that cannot fall on the house due to a pair of cables I'd installed. She managed to drag Neville back into the house and latch the pet door. At the time, Ramona (our resident with the greatest interest in bears) was in the house. Later both dogs saw the bear from the east deck and out through the big sliding doors in the living room. They were losing their minds, but they couldn't do anything but bark.
Red Hook's peaches
In and around the time Gretchen was telling me this story, she made an observation about how damp everything in our house has become from all the rain. I mentioned an article I'd read saying that the past year has been the wettest period ever measured in the United States (in the East, the record period has been going on even longer). "It's climate change," I explained, adding, "we live in a rain forest now. And you can't really have walls made of drywall in a rain forest."
Today I took delivery of yet another Raspberry Pi Zero W (I have eight of them now) as well as two "Charlieplex" nine by sixteen monochrome LED matrices and two I2C driver boards for those matrices. I'd gotten a "cool white" Charlieplex matrix and a driver a week or so ago and been delighted by what it could do. Unlike a MaxMatrix 72XX LED matrix, the brightness of the individual LEDs could be controlled, which made the matrix much more expressive. Also, the price wasn't bad: the cool white matrix cost $8, the driver board $6, and it came directly from Adafruit Industries in nearby New York City. The matrices I received today were even cheaper because they consisted of simple old-school red LEDs. Installing the driver boards is a simple chore, which I quickly did in the laboratory while listening to the Jeopardy teen tournament out in the teevee room. But when I fired up a matrix and ran a demo program on an attached Arduino, there were about five dead LEDs. That's a high rate of failure when you only have 144 pixels to begin with. So I turned my attention to the other matrix, and it was even worse, with 15 dead LEDs. Had I fucked up? Were there bad solders? Were there unwanted solder bridges? Everything looked good after multiple inspections, even using a watchmakers loupe. Eventually I had to give up and assume that either the matrices or the drivers had manufacturing issues. But what were the odds that I would get two devices with such problems? It caused me to doubt my own skills. If I'd had an electronics setback this severe at some crucial age (say 13 or 14), I might well have given up on electronics permanently (and ended up a very different person).
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