early LoRa adoption
Monday, September 16 2019
I slept like shit last night, partly because Sunday was (as it usually is) my zero-drug day (aside from caffeine), and I'd taken a long nap Sunday afternoon, meaning I was there in bed with a pillow on my head, cursed with an unwanted sleep surplus. On top of that, the dogs kept hearing things to get excited about, sometimes scrambling down the stairs and then banging through the pet door. Despite lying there for something like two hours wide-awake, I didn't end up being especially sleepy at work, suggesting that it really was just a problem of needing to burn down a sleep surplus. In retrospect, I wish I'd used that time to do something more productive than thinking about my stone wall (and masturbating).
On the drive to work this morning, I passed (as I always do) on the half-mile or so of Hurley Mountain Road connecting Dug Hill Road to Wynkoop. This stretch runs along the bottom of a steep escarpment, separating it from the Esopus Valley, where Englishman's Creek meanders through a series of wetlands that have resisted centuries of attempted encroachment from adjacent corn fields. This habitat supports a thriving population of red-wing blackbirds and red-tailed hawks and surely many creatures I cannot see as I drive past. The hawks tend to perch atop the telephone poles, where they survey the terrain below them for the small mammals they like to eat. This morning, though, I saw something I had never seen before: a blue heron perched atop one of those telephone poles. Here it bears mentioning that herons do not hunt the way red-tailed hawks do; they do not swoop down to snag their prey. They need to be standing above the creatures they eat so they can snag them with the lightning-like stabs of their beaks. Any heron atop a telephone pole is just up there for the view (or to look amazing). I considered pulling over to snap a picture with my phone, but it would've looked like shit. There's almost no sense in trying to take a picture of wildlife without a telephoto lens.
At work, it's looking like my data importer is going to have to also start importing data from a source completely different from the type it currently works with. When I received this news (which was very welcomed, since I'm starting to love my data importer), I was working on the basis for a generic reporting system written as an Angular component, something I'd attempted a year ago back before I knew Angular well enough to pull it off. But now I really needed a system to easily create parameterized reports. As with everything I do, though, a distraction came up and I suddenly found the need to re-enter aborted "builds" (data imports), so I spent the rest of the day implementing a system that does this in the context of the asynchronous callback hell that my data importer happens to be.
My drive to and from work was detoured because yet another television episode or movie was being shot on the four-lane stretch of US 209 between Route 28 and and Sawkill Road. Evidently word has gotten out to site scouters that US 209 is a great cheap place to shoot all your interstate highway scenes. Fortunately, I travel to and from work at non-peak times and didn't get too jammed up.
At my stone wall in the forest, this afternoon I mostly just improved the stacking of some parts I'd built earlier. This included the installation of a pillar of flat stones rising up to support an especially poorly-stacked stone as well as some redoing of the top tier in short segment in the middle. My work continued into twilight, the time when Crazy Dave likes to walk his dogs, and again they came running up the hill to menace me until an unseen Dave called them back.
In recent weeks I've been excited about the possibility of LoRa, a type of low-energy long-range radio communication that has a great potential for remote sensors, local (such as dog-carried) GPS telemetry, and Disturbatron-type projects. Not only does LoRa have greater range than WiFi, it uses less power. I could theoretically have a battery-only Disturbatron (probably running on something simpler than a Raspberry Pi) that would operate for weeks if not months on a single charge. LoRa is still pretty new, dating back only to 2012 or so, so the documentation isn't great and it's still a bit expensive (economies of scale having yet to kick in). But I've been able to buy a LoRa gateway for about $80 and individual LoRa communication boards for $20. Today I received a little ESP32 board with LoRa capabilities and cute little blue OLED display and thought I'd try getting some "hello world" type communications going. Unfortunately, the documentation for the device was fragmented, occasionally poorly-translated, and incomplete, and I wasn't able to do much more than display messages on the screen. At some point LoRa will be cheap and the equipment will be well-documented, but until then it'll be tricky to work with.
The day had been cool and cloudless, and that continued into the evening. I tried to look at the nearly-full moon with my big thrift-store reflecting telescope, but it was still down among the leaves of trees near the horizon. But for one brief moment, I caught a spectacular view of the lunar surface. If you haven't looked at astronomical objects through a telescope, you need to. It's a totally different thing from seeing them in photographs.
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