Wilma, Marie, and VU
Saturday, September 30 2006
The little Arduino-boards are great for the scale of complexity required by my solar sufficiency calculations, but once you start adding on features beyond the basics, you quickly run out of room on the little 8 kilobyte ATmega8 chips they're based upon. Today, for example, I was thinking of ways to display temperature read outs for the various thermistors right there in the basement. Ideally I'd use an LCD panel and I even bought one for this purpose. But adding LCD drivers or writing code to handle the display would tax two of the Arduino's limits: that 8k memory space and the 13 digital output lines. I'm already using two of those lines for output to the relays that turn on the pump and open the valves and I'm using one of those lines to test whether or not the circulation pump is running (a function of decisions made by relays, switches, and thermostats outside the world of the Arduino board). That leaves only ten digital lines, not quite enough to control a GDM2004D 4X20 LCD display. So today I decided to display thermistor data using an analog VU meter, utilizing the Arduino's pulse-width-modified analog output capability. I wanted to display four different temperatures but I only had one VU meter, so I decided to display them in serial, turning on LEDs in sequence to give an indication of the values being displayed and sending a different analog level to the VU meter with each LED. Those analog signals were actually derived from digital temperature values calculated from analog thermistor probe data. This is exactly the kind of work the Arduino was designed to do, and the result (in a black box I built today) has an unexpectedly pleasant æsthetic appeal. See for yourself by clicking the photo below.
This afternoon Gretchen and I drove out to a small animal shelter in Boiceville. It's not part of the ASPCA universe; in fact, its specific whereabouts must remain secret since it is not really legally supposed to be where it is. It's at a private rural residence, spread out amongst a compound of buildings. From the outside you can't tell that it's anything at all, but once inside a building originally conceived as a workshop, you find yourself surrounded by cats in cages, stacked floor-to-ceiling. There may also be rescued dogs, but they were not in the building we went to. We'd actually expected it to be a miserable place stinking of cat shit and run by a crazy old cat lady, but it was actually considerably cleaner than the shelter in Dutchess County had been. We came to check out a cat named Serena, but we ended up bringing home two cats: Serena (a middle-aged grey cat with a white chin and boots) and an old grey tabby named Marie. Nobody knew for sure how old Marie is, but the guy there was guessing "about 20." This brings our cat population up to five. Any more and we're officially crazy cat collectors (or, rather, Gretchen is a crazy cat lady). We quickly renamed Serena "Wilma" but left Marie's name the same.
In the continually-surprising world of politics yesterday came the resignation of Mark Foley, a Florida congressman, over inappropriate instant messages and emails with a teenage male page. I'd told Gretchen that this was sure to blossom into a major scandal with a good chance of securing a Democratic party control over the House of Representatives, if not both houses of Congress. Today that prophesy began to play out, with all Republican attempts to stay on message about the threat of "tair" being drowned out by the rapidly-building scandal. By the end of the day it was clear that not only was there the initial scandal, but now there was also the all-important (and inevitable) coverup involving the Republican House leadership. If God loves the Republicans so much (eventually even saving them from deficits, global warming, and Iraq with The Rapture), why did He permit the devil to tempt Foley with so much fine teenage boy ass? Why couldn't He have sent Foley only the most girly-girl of cross-legged Christian conservative female pages (the kind I would have been tempted to inappropriately AIM)?
As bad as this is for the Republicans, the blame must go further than just the evil Democrats. Perhaps Osama bin Laden himself has a training camp somewhere in central Asia for American teenage boy temptresses.1 Who needs a box cutter when you have a fine pair of nalgas?
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