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:
   recreational fleeing
Thursday, March 21 2024

location: 940 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY

It was a cold and windy day in the Adirondacks, but the sun came out and soon burned away the icy crust on the solar panels, meaning I didn't have to climb up there again.
This morning after drinking some coffee, eating some buttered sourdough toast, reading my usual web haunts, and playing a little Spelling Bee, I resumed work on my cabin remote control project. Before I tried moving everything down to the basement (where the 42 degree temperatures would make for a miserable working environment), I did some experiments with setting the values of multiple pins on the ESP8266. It was good that I did, because when I checked to see how it responded, I saw that it was no longer working. Further debugging showed that once the JSON returned by the server exceeded some number, it automatically gzipped the contents. Since the ESP8266 couldn't handle anything but plain text, the gzipped content just looked like garbage and the "{" character it was looking for at the beginning of the JSON was not there. I tried multiple methods to get my server to serve plain text and never gzip page content, but none of them worked. I then turned to ChatGPT, which gave me some things to try. But they didn't work either. Debugging this issue was eating up a lot of precious time and I didn't want to get bogged down in something that I couldn't figure out how to fix. So I changed the query being done on the backend so that it returned a much smaller number of columns, which shrank the JSON enough to get it under the limit above which gzipping happened.
I then went to the basement and began hooking up the remote controller to the circuit breaker box. That seemed like the logical place to have the controller do its controlling, since all the circuits were close together in that one place. The solution I had for controlling the boiler would never pass an inspection, but it was good enough for now: I ran a 14 gauge romex cable into the box and connected the black wire to the boiler circuit breaker and the white wire to the black wire that had been going to that circuit breaker with a wirenut. I then crimped on female spade connectors to the other ends of the cable and connected them to the relay. A few tests demonstrated the ESP8266 was connecting successfully to the cabin's WiFi network and polling my server. The system wasn't super responsive, but it was good enough for remotely switching the heating of the cabin on or off. I considered also hooking up a second relay to the heatpump-based hot water heater, but decided not to overcomplicate things too quickly.
Now that I had remote control working in the cabin, my mission there was done. So I proceeded to rush through the cleanup that always comes at the end of a visit to the cabin. The biggest mess by far was near the indoor firewood rack, which I'd had to completely reorganize. I'd also been drying a lot of damp wood on the stove, and there was a lot of debris (mixed with a few bewildered carpenter ants) to either burn or throw out into the snow. (I assume ants fall asleep when they land in the snow only to awaken when they thaw out, something that I know happens with wasps.)
By this point I was in the midst of a mid-grade hangover that I'd thought I'd exercised enough self control to avoid. There's just something about almost any amount of drinking when combined with pseudoephedrine that leads to hangovers. To take the edge off that, I cracked open a beer before setting off on the scenic route back homeward.
Just after crossing the Mohawk, I drove to a travel center in Fultonville to gas up the Subaru. While there, I saw that, in addition to showers, the travel center had a Buger King. I was hungry, so I made an impulse purchase of an Impossible Whopper with a large order of fries (now coming to more than $14!). It's the sort of meal I used to get all the time back when I had a fulltime job. But the last few Impossible Whoppers had seemed kind of gross to me and the expense is hard to justify when you don't have a job. Adding to the grossness of this particular Whopper was forgetting to say that I didn't want mayonnaise. Despite all that, the Whopper was pretty good and it was the fries that seemed more like a simulation of a potato-based product than one that had been made from real potatoes.
I'd finished my road beer well before a state tropper started following me a little north of Schoharie. I did what I always do in such situations: I tried not to drive more than about three miles per hour over the speed limit while staying in the center of the lane and braking as little as possible (actually, not using brakes except when absolutely necessary is a hallmark of my driving style). The trooper followed me for miles and probably checked, as best he could, to see if there was anything wrong with the legal or physical status of my car. But eventually he turned off onto a side street somewhere in downtown Schoharie.
Some of the ice and snow that had gotten onto my car survived the entire trip back to Hurley. As I was driving on the short leg of Thruway I always take between Saugerties and Kingston, I looked to see if there was any ice or snow on any other cars. There wasn't. Temperatures had been in the low 20s when I'd set out and then risen above freezing in the lower valleys I'd passed through (Mohawk, Schoharie, and Catskill Creek). There'd been visible snow throughout downtown Johnstown and on the Charleston highlands, though none in the Catskills except for maybe a little on the subcontinental divide between Middleburgh and Broome.

Back home in Hurley, it was the first time Charlotte experienced me returning alone from an extended absence, and, though she's still a bit skeptical of me, she greeted me with suitable canine enthusiasm. But I didn't have a lot of time for a prolonged tail-wagging welcome. Gretchen and I would be going out tonight, and I needed to first shower away the road grime and sticky Burger King ketchup fingers.

Mountain Gate, the old Indian restaurant in Woodstock, had recently been bought by the people who run Cinnamon, the "Indian food for Republicans" restaurant in Rhinebeck. They've renamed the place Nirvana and done a gut remodel so extensive that it's impossible to associate any of the new space with what used to be there. Despite our feelings about the Rhinebeck restaurant, Gretchen and I would be meeting Lynne and Greg there for dinner and then going to a story slam in Bearsville. For some reason when I'd heard Gretchen saying whom we'd be meeting there, my brain substituted in the gay couple from Olive Bridge (which also includes someone named Greg), so those were the people I was expecting to meet. So when I saw Lynne join us, my facial blindness kicked in and I couldn't even remember who this squat grey-haired lady was. But nobody knew this was happening in my brain. I played it off like I knew exactly who she was and fully expected her to be the one we'd be dining with tonight. Her husband Greg showed up a little later because, as a psychologist or psychiatrist, he'd been attending to one of his patients. We ordered a bunch of things, with me being particularly excited about a chana mushroom dish containing a variety of mushroom species and a chili icon indicating spiciness. (I was skeptical of that, given my experience at Cinnamon and Karavalli in Saratoga Springs.) Gretchen and Lynne were excitied about the dosas, which can be hard to find in Indian restaurants in America (though I tend to think they're overrated). As for Greg, he ordered an eggplant dish with the idea that I might have some (both Lynne and Gretchen do not like eggplant). Things were a little slow to come out, which meant we were probably going to be late to the story slam. So Greg lit a fire under someone's ass and everything started coming out. My mushroom dish was surprisingly spicy, even a little hard to eat, which seemed to indicate that this restaurant was not just a clone Cinnamon. As for the eggplant dish, it wasn't anywhere near as spicy, but it was too much for Greg, who actually sent it back. (That sends a terrible message and ends up leading to more Indian restaurants like Karavalli.) The only problem I found with the food was that all of it needed more salt. Meanwhile, Gretchen was more disappointed with the food. And were both bummed that there was no mulligatawny soup on the menu. The mulligatawny was the one saving grace of Mountain Gate.
To get to the Bearsville Theatre, the four of us rode in Greg's Tesla. On the way there, they told us about recently being rear-ended in that car and that the quoted price for the fix would be $10,000. (Since cars are, to me, little more than tools that get used up over time, I would just pocket the money and not do the repair, since the car remains fully functional. But I it seems Lynne and Greg, who are a little older and wealthier than us, are more from the school of having nice things.)
As expected, the story slam had already begun when we arrived and there was no getting a seat. So Gretchen and I just sat on some steps near the stage. We were in time for the first story, one told by a woman who had once worn a dress with no underwear as a means to pass a driver's test. Then there was a story told by a Jewish lesbian who liked to go to an annual ball of ultra-orthodox dykes but had, for the story in question, forgotten to wear her strap-on dildo. In that first segment, it really seemed like the story tellers were trying to top each other with shocking content. But then the set ended with a tale about a teenage daughter who had died only seven years ago. There were three other sets, with a total of something like fifteen stories told by different people. Unlike, say, the Moth, the stories and been mostly been written down and were read by their authors. They all clearly needed work, as many of them had disappointing endings or lacked interesting detail. They were, one might say, mostly from the school of telling and not showing. And lording over everything was Marth F., the organizer of Woodstock Bookfest (and with whom Gretchen had a memorable conflict the one year she volunteered for the festival). At the end, judges gave first, second, and third prizes, and of course the woman who had told the story about her dead teenage daughter won the blue ribbon. Overall, I wouldn't say it was great experience, although it was better than most of the things Gretchen drags me to.
Afterwards, we sat for awhile in Greg's Tesla (which has heated backseats) and talked about the problems with the stories. We all agreed they needed more work and better curation. We talked about specific stories and what their problems were, chuckling about some of the funnier images, such as a wildly-inappropriate father offering to donate his sperm for the artificial insemination of his lesbian daugher's wife. At some point Lynne launched into telling a story that hadn't been told tonight. It was about a couple who adopted an eight year old daughter from Ethiopia and then immediately went on a road trip. The daughter couldn't speak English and the parents couldn't speak Amharic, so the daughter had no idea why they were all sleeping in a different hotel every night. Such things are never done in Ethiopia unless people are fleeing oppression. But the parents didn't seem worried. What was going on? (At that point I joked that she perhaps thought her parents were engaged in "recreational fleeing," a term that caused Gretchen to explode in laughter, declaring it the funniest thing she'd ever heard.) Somewhere in Wyoming, the parents saw a rare black man, but he didn't look like an African American. Perhaps he was Ethiopian! It turned out that he was and he could of course speak Amharic. So they had him explain to their new daughter what was going on, completely setting her mind at ease.

Back home in Hurley, I hadn't yet been in my laboratory or checked any of the data from the cabin. So I decided to do a brief test to turn on the boiler and look at the data to see evidence that it had been switched on. Such evidence would include a ~200 watt increase in power consumption (the main reason I don't just leave it on!) and gradual increase in temperature. This confirmational data took a long time to arrive, but when it did, it was empowering. My invention was working as desired! I could turn things on at the cabin! Soon thereafter I turned it off, but that took awhile to manifest in the data as well.

The indoor wood pile (now mostly black cherry) after I cleaned up the cabin, just before leaving. Click to enlarge.

The hardware part of the remote control electronics in place in the basement. You can see the relays, the ULN2003-type integrated circuit, and the NodeMCU. Click to enlarge.

Temperature data confirming that I'd remotely turned on the boiler from 100 miles away.

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