end of 2012
Monday, December 31 2012
I don't often find myself having to do this, but today I disconnected the Arduino-based Solar Controller from its various attachments, brought it up to the laboratory, and removed its handmade motherboard. I added a new four-pin header which I connected to the five-volt serial lines of the Menu Slave Arduino through the same switch that I use to determine which Arduino gets to communicate with my laboratory computer. Now when that switch is set to Master, the Master Arduino's serial cable connects to the laboratory and the Menu Slave's serial cable connects to the new four pin header. When the switch is set to Slave, the Menu Slave's serial cable connects to the laboratory and the four pin header connects to nothing. (I suppose I should have made it connect to the Master's serial cable; that could be useful.)
I hooked everything up (using the old long-range I2C cable as a serial cable to connect to the fuel-measuring Arduino) and made a few changes to the firmware on the Master and the Menu Slave and then checked to see if any of the data was flowing the way it should. To get a sense of how complicated this all was, the fuel-measuring Arduino (the "Serial Slave") had to respond to interogations by the Menu Slave across a serial cable and then assemble the resulting data into a packet to be shipped via I2C to the Master, which would then send data up to me at my computer. If the data from the Serial Slave made it through all three of those hops, it would be a success. Happily, the data was making it, but it was being slightly garbled somewhere along the way. As you can imagine, it was a difficult thing to debug; I couldn't directly monitor what the Menu Slave or Serial Slave were doing while I was monitoring the Master, and I the Menu Slave couldn't communicate with the Serial Slave while I was monitoring it directly (since my monitoring required me to switch the serial cable away from the Serial Slave).
This evening at around 9:00pm we got dressed up (well, Gretchen more so than me, rocking a vaguely-slutty goth look) and we drove to Paul and Ingrid's church on the Rondout for a New Year's Eve bash they'd put together. The party was held in the newly-finished basement of the church, which looked spectacular. The space was full of round tables surrounded by chairs, as if this were a wedding reception (indeed, wedding receptions are also conducted in this space). What made the difference, though, was the segements of dead pine trees that Ingrid had decorated with Christmas lights and a large-screen teevee playing Psycho with the sound turned all the way down. There was also music, which was a very eclectic mix ranging from classical to folk jazz(?) to ambient (happily, the song "Celebration" never played, not even once). There was plenty of party food and all sorts of alcohol ranging from Guiness through champagne to whiskey. Somewhat surprising given the maturity of the crowd, people were actually drinking that whiskey.
At some point I found myself talking to a woman who was a bit older than me about television. When I said I'd never had a color teevee when I was growing up, she expressed disbelief, pointing out my relative youth. So then I told her about how, back in 1983, I'd bought a primitive computer before having a television to watch it on, and about how I'd saved my lunch money every day until I'd had the $50 necessary to buy a basic Samsung black and white teevee. I also mentioned the phase when, in the absence of a teevee, I learned to program the computer blind, enjoying the fruits of my efforts through a speaker crudely wired to the audio output. Finally I flashed forward to today, when I work professionally as a computer programmer. "I have lots of big screens on my computer, because I still remember carrying that black and white television home from the store." (In my telling of the story of the purchase of that teevee, I'd said that I'd carried it over five miles from the store, but I might have actually carried it on a bicycle. [Checking my diary from the period, I see that I bought the teevee on August 18th, 1983 while in town for a court case resulting from a crazy man named Carl Varner — now deceased — assaulting my brother, so getting the teevee home would have been easy. Also, its price was $64, not $50. That would be $147 today, enough to buy a smallish but not terrible flatscreen teevee.])
As the last minutes of 2012 circled the drain, Paul herded us all upstairs to the base of the bell tower, and two young lads (the only children at the party), got the honor of ringing in the new year. Being there for the ringing of that bell, no matter the occasion, never gets old. Others in the Rondout celebrated with fireworks. Paul and Ingrid had laid out a huge supply of noisemakers, including the little cartridges that fire a loud explosive charge and bits of confetti when a string is pulled. The youthful bell ringers were the ones who discharged most of those poppers, and their jarring unpredictability made the first twenty or thirty minutes of 2013 resemble a classic scene from Boogie Nights. By this point Dr. Strangelove was playing silently on the big screen.
Gretchen and I didn't get home until 2:00am. It had been a long time since we'd been up so late at a party.
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