no real need for books
Saturday, September 7 2019
I was tinkering with the new Meade telescope during Saturday morning coffee out on the east deck. One end of the focusing knob was bent, so of course I wanted to fix that, and that required taking it out to the shop, putting it in a vise, and banging with a hammer. Another problem was that the threads for one of the fittings on the tubes seemed stripped or something, since the pieces wouldn't stay together. I've been surprised by how standardized the parts on various cheap telescopes actually are. The pipes fit together like those used in plumbing. And when they don't, it's often not hard to make adapters out of actual plumbing pieces.
Meanwhile, I've been having good luck with the serial link to the basement solar controller since adding pull-up resistors to the inputs of the Max232 integrated circuits. Those Max232s had been going bad after only a day or so of use, but since installing the resistors, they've been able to survive for over a week. Increasingly, though, I've noticed the data coming down that serial line has become increasingly noisy, filling with glitchy random characters. The data was still readable, but such a line would probably be useless for reflashing the solar controller's Arduino-based firmware. Today I swapped out the Max232, replacing it with a Max3232, and the noisiness went away. That wasn't what I wanted to see, since it implied the old chip had been degraded, something that will probably also happen to the new chip. I have no idea what it is going on.
At some point in the afternoon, I made it to the wall I've been building 100 feet south of the Chamomile east from the Stick Trail. I continued building it eastward four or five feet so that now it's about thirty feet long (and about four feet tall). Building such a wall might seem pointless given that I have no particular reason for building it, but think of it this way: it's probably the artifact that will outlast me the longest. Some trace of it will likely still be there the next time glaciers advance to this latitude.
I wanted to do some more robotics work, but the laboratory was too much of a mess for me to do anything in, what with the bookshelf pulled out nearly to the center of the floor. So I decided to put it back where it belongs, since the cat piss eradication project I'd undertaken behind it was, to my satisfaction, complete. To make things easier, I removed all the remaining books from the bookshelf, meaning I could just lift it and set it in place instead of having to devise tools and methods to move something that was much heavier fully-loaded (the way it had been when I'd moved it from its home position).
Once I had the bookshelf in place, I started putting my books back in place. I'm too old to be a digital native, but few people my age have so fully embranced the digitization of all media (something I fantasized about as a little kid playing in the barn with pretend network computers). For this reason, I've almost entirely stopped interacting with physical media. All my media consists of files on computers that I can access across the network if necessary. I occasionally read magazines and books, but that's mostly in situations where I don't have (or am forbidden from using) a powerful electronic device. All of this was in mind as I looked over the books taking up so much space on the laboratory floor, awaiting homes in my laboratory bookshelf. I had a lot of computer books, since poring over such books is how I learned most of the skills that now pay the bills. But web resources have become so good (and they're also much easier to search than anything in a book), that I haven't bought a tech book in years (the most recent ones concerned the Raspberry Pi). This means that nearly all the computer books are now obsolete, even the ones I never bothered to look at. Trying to learn anything from such a book would be a bad idea. I've thrown out obsolete tech books in the past, but have generally hung onto books to which I have sentimental attachments. For example, back in 1999, I absorbed nearly everything from a book called Teach Yourself SQL Server in 21 Days, and the resulting skill has been responsible for much of my subsequent software development career. It's been a hard book to give up. But today I decided there was no reason to hang on to it. The language it covers has changed enough that I would never consider using it as a reference. And so otherwise there would be, wasting precious bookshelf space. For similar reasons, I decided to get rid of all my Object-C books, since that language (which was used for iOS and MacOS development) is now essentially dead, replaced by something called Swift. I also decided to dispense with books about developing software for feature phones, since I can safely say that is something I will never do. I did, however, decide to hang on to the O'Reilly guide to the Palm Pilot, a book called PHP: Objects, Patterns, and Practice, and a few books (such as the Art of SQL) that aren't as tied to any particular version of a language. I will definitely also be hanging on to the manual that came with my Psion 5mx, since it is so beautiful and that device (though I no longer use it) is still one of my favorite things. I also have a manual for Topo, a four-foot-tall robot given to me by our old friend Zelig. But all the other manuals for computers, cameras, and computer equipment are no longer in stock. If I need to look something up, I won't have trouble finding what I need on the web.
This evening for date night, Gretchen and I went to La Florentina, the Italian restaurant in that crappy strip mall on Albany Avenue. There we got what we always get, the sformato with tahini sauce (which reads as more of a Middle Eastern dish than an Italian one). It wasn't quite as good today, which I identified as its not having quite enough lemon juice. We also split a half-carafe of the house merlot, though of course I drank most of that. Much of our dinner conversation concerned Gretchen's spring tour next year in support of her book Visiting Days, which will be taking her to Austin, San Antonio, Knoxville, and Asheville.
After dinner, we ran a couple errands. We started at the ShopRite, where Gretchen started out just needing some lemons, vanilla extract, and glass tupperware. But then she got so excited by the discovery of exciting vegan products that we ended up buying things like faux shredded cheese and a brand-new vegan flavor of Ben & Jerry's. It was hard to track down specific things there because (unlike most supermarkets) ShopRite doesn't ghettoize the vegan stuff in one place but instead sprinkles it here and there in many places. This is not to say ShopRite isn't full of suprises. Today, for example, I saw my first-ever supermarket jackfruit. There it was, as big as a watermelon, and covered with spikes.
Next we went to the Home Depot, where I wanted some vinyl hose to attach to the humidifier we've been running in the basement master guest room. That would allow me to drain the water automatically somewhere, either into a crack in the floor or the shower. I also needed something to allow for a better connection between the Disturbatron and the 12 volt battery that powers it. Unfortunately, both of the things I ended up buying would prove unsuitable.
Our final destination was the Marshalls (which can easily be driven to from the Home Depot via a back-alley). Gretchen wanted to replace her old handbag (made of a woven plastic material that used to, before it wore away, depict dozens of dog breeds). The options at Marshalls weren't great, and before she settled on a bag (actually, she bought a medium-sized one and a big one), there was lots of self-parody, with Gretchen assuming the voice of a ditzy girl whose short-a sounds came exclusively through the sinuses. Gretchen didn't like the tiny metal badges that read "Baggallini," though I joked that we could sand them smooth so they could be mirrors she could use to check whether or not she had spinach stuck in her teeth.
The state of the stone wall today. Click to enlarge.
Lab chaos today, looking north. Note the empty bookshelf. Click to enlarge.
Lab chaos, looking south. Click to enlarge.
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