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:
   anti-SUV peer pressure?
Saturday, August 9 2008
Gretchen wanted me to attend a reading she'd be doing at the Town Hall in Woodstock today, so I came along. Poetry as it exists in Woodstock is dominated by a single person, one Phιl Levιne, a firm believer in the open mike. Gretchen, having suffered through lots and lots of open mikes, is not a firm believer in the open mike, at least when she's around. Having her poetry bracketed by time allotted to the open mike is not something she normally signs up for these days, but she'd agreed to do this reading months ago, and had already tried to get out of it once. Today she'd be reading with her good friend and former boss at Bard, another Phil, the one who likes to research obscure Salvadoran poets such as Claudia Lars. But the other poetry would all be the uncertain (and usually dreadful) stuff one hears at open mikes.
We'd brought our dogs with us, and I got to miss the opening bracket of open mikage by taking them on a twenty minute walk on the nearby Cameau Property.
On my way back into the village, Woodstock was so mobbed with weekend visitors that I had trouble driving, let alone finding a parking spot, let alone finding a parking spot with shade sufficient for dogs during the length of time it would take me to hear two poets read, let alone finding a spot with shade sufficent for hearing two poets and a closing bracket of terrible open mike poetry. I eventually found a spot near the library. I was definitely running late by the time I entered the Woodstock Town Hall, though I didn't expect my tardiness to command the attention of a whole audience of poets, would-be-poets, friends of poets, and perhaps (though unlikely) a non-writing fan of poetry. It turns out that the opening bracket of open mikage had just concluded and Gretchen had been called to give the first featured presentation. And she'd just said that she wanted to wait for her husband. But then only about five or ten seconds had passed before I'd come into the room.
Gretchen started with a new poem, a love poem for me, the kind of bittersweet love poem one writes when acknowledging a mature relationship, one where it is easy to take your partner for granted. It was beautiful.
I'll cut ahead now to the drive back from Woodstock, when Gretchen got the chance to tell me how dreadful the open mike poetry had been. There'd been a guy who had read a poem called, one assumes, "Sucking Off Barack Obama," as that was pretty much the poem's only line, though it was repeated numerous times in a sing-song voice. "It was like a pardoy of an open mike poem," Gretchen recollected.
Closer to home on the drive, near that spot on 212 where you turn to head towards the Reservoir Inn, I mentioned something interesting I'd read recently in an article entitled "Ditch the Gas Guzzler? Well, Maybe Not Yet" the New York Times. The article was about the total cost of ownership of a large fuel-inefficient vehicle, and how it might make more sense for people, particularly those who don't drive them all that far, to hold onto their SUVs instead of dumping them onto a saturated market. But the interesting thing came in the following unelaborated line that ends the article, "Take a deep breath and consider staying put, no matter what your neighbors may think." The implication here is that your neighbors will think less of you if you hold onto your big SUV. Is this really happening? Could peer pressure be joining forces with gas prices to make the ugly squandering of resources unfashionable? Has America really reached this point during not only my lifetime, but the liftime of my father (born in 1923)?

Now that my Atmega168/Arduino-based solar hot water panel controller is behaving reliably and is easy to reprogram at whim from my main computer across its hundred foot serial link, I've begun giving it some additional capabilities. Today I finally got around to teaching myself how to use the library allowing communication with the Atmega168's built-in 512 bytes of EEPROM, a non-volatile form of information storage. It turns out that accessing the EEPROM is incredibly easy, and once I'd mastered this, a whole new world of opportunities opened up before me. If the Arduino can store information permanently within itself, it can carry information through resets and power outages. (There was an hour long power outage this evening, for example, after a teenager ran into a telephone pole on Dug Hill Road.) I could use the EEPROM to log things like record sensor temperatures, and I could even track time more accurately by occasionally storing the deciminute counter in EEPROM and starting with that figure the next time it boots up. I could also store modal information (such as the current season) and not have to resort to panel switches (one of which I've already installed).
Tonight I replaced that panel switch with a push button and wired in a LED to show the season mode, reprogramming the Arduino to toggle the season when the push button is pushed (debouncing happens because the Arduino only reads that button every half second or so). I also ran wires out of the controller box to allow it to bypass the mechanical thermostat on the hot water tank during the summer season, thereby allowing the water to be heated to more than 150 degrees (the thermostat's upper limit).
While I was down in the basement, I shot the following video:

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