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:
   a modern use for an ancient calculator
Saturday, April 20 2024

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

There was a little sun this morning, which made it less urgent to start a fire in the woodstove. (Our indoor woodpile had become so depleted that I was trying to burn as little as possible.) After drinking my coffee and playing a little Spelling Bee, I decided to put some effort to getting more firewood. I fixed the big Kobalt chainsaw (whose chain had derailed the last time I'd used it) and then drove the Bolt up the driveway to put it near some wood I could salvage. I then proceeded to cut up a good bit of wood, most of it black cherry. Some of the pieces were far too damp to be burnable immediately, so later when I split the chunks, I put aside only the driest pieces (to be out in the wind and sun for a few hours before going inside) and put all the rest on the outdoor woodpile. While I was still out gathering the firewood, a large truck with a simple frame bed came up the driveway and then, because the Bolt was blocking its way, it turned around in Shane's driveway and left. It occasionally happens that random people in random vehicles (anything from four-wheeled ATVs to conventional sedans) come up our driveway and then quickly turn around and leave. I don't know if they're curious, lost, casing the joint, or some combination of all three. But we've never had evidence of a property crime the whole time we've had the cabin.
After I'd gathered and processed a bunch of wood, I gathered up some additional wood that had fallen in the woods just southwest of the cabin. This time, though, all I wanted to do was pile it up long (unbucked) pieces near the cabin for later processing, since both the indoor and outdoor woodpiles were pretty much as full as they can get. (Since a strong wind had caused the outdoor woodpile to collapse some weeks ago, this time I added a prop stick to keep winds from the south from being able to topple it.)
Next I turned my attention to a very different project: building out a local remote to allow anyone to easily turn on circuits controlled by my remote-control system. Such a remote would need at least three buttons, some sort of display, and a microcontroller capable of getting onto the Internet. I'd already decided that a display based on eInk was too unresponsive to support an interactive UI, even one as simple as the one I needed. So now I was thinking I would use 20 by 4 character LCDs, the kind that provide for a very good local interactive interface for my Solar Controller. As for a keyboard, well, I could use the Arduino keypad library with just about any keypad. A keypad that had particular nostalgic value for me was one belonging to an old Canon Palmtronic LCD calculator that my mother bought back in the late 1970s. I should mention that calculators, when they arrived into my pre-tween world, seemed like astonishing magic. How could they do what they did? I was also impressed by LCD displays, which my brother Don memorably compared to the irises of a cat's eye. They could somehow display information by just changing where the darkness appeared on small patches of some wondrous material. I had so much nostalgia for this particular calculator because it was the first calculator I was ever allowed to play with and the first device I'd ever seen with an LCD display. So when I was going through my mother's stuff last spring, I was sure to grab that calculator. It no longer worked, but it had a nice keyboard with solid metallic-looking buttons. Perhaps I could use that? So late this afternoon, I broke out my soldering iron and some thin solid wires from an old telephone cable and connected all ten wires to the rows and columns of that ancient keyboard. I also removed all the discrete parts from the calculator, leaving only the single surface-mount integrated circuit, since it would've been difficult to remove. Later this evening, though, when I got around to testing this keyboard with an ESP8266 attached, it didn't work at all for some reason. Perhaps the ancient pads on the underside of all the little rubber domes beneath each key had lost their conductivity over the past four decades. (I looked at them though and they all looked about as good as they probably had on the day they were manufactured.)

By the late afternoon, the sun had gone away and it was cold and cloudy with occasional threats of rain. I took advantage of the conditions to build a little secret terrace garden in a small section of the backyard being contained by the retaining wall of massive boulders behind the cabin. Near the westernmost part of this wall (to which I've been adding smaller rocks to create a more even top to the wall), I used fifty gallons of sandy soil removed from beneath the east deck (where I want to make a space with more headroom) to create a little terrace. I then added all the midden material I'd collected yesterday as well as some wood ashes. The plan was that I would then plant some sunflowers. But I looked at the packaging on the sunflower seeds and saw that one isn't supposed to plant them until after the last frost, and it was so cold already that I was pretty sure there would be a frost tonight.

At around dusk, I went on another trailblazing walk down the nascent Lake Edward Trail, going directly to the split rock landmark and then trying to figure out where the path went from there. I managed to find indications of the alignment I'd laid down a little of a year ago and worked to make that trail more visible on the landscape for the next time I come through. It will take a lot of trail work to produce a trail sufficiently visible to follow all the way to Lake Edward, but I was already nearing the half-way mark.
The hike back to the cabin is always a bit strenuous given the steep grade of the last 400 or so feet. Climbing that, I got so warm that I didn't even notice that outdoor temperatures had already fallen into the low 30s.

In the early afternoon I'd taken 150mg pseudoephedrine, and this kept me up late tonight, though again I was careful not to drink too much. It certainly helped that I'd run out of gin (my favorite form of booze).

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