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They Live!

Posted 2016.01.18 9.59 in Hobbies

The cilantro is super busy, it’s going like crazy now. The herb in the back is big and strong.


And the two late-bloomers, chives and hot peppers, are still hidden under their domes but they have finally germinated and are just starting to sprout.

They’re alive! Everything’s alive!

Baking Magic

Posted 2014.10.28 18.40 in Pointless Blather

I’ve started making my own bread again.

It was at least 15 years ago when I first started making bread. Back then I didn’t have a machine for it. The machines existed but they seemed frivolous and expensive.

Eventually I did get a machine, 2 or 3 years ago. Made bread for a few months, then gradually stopped again.

Then about 2 weeks ago, I got the idea to try it again.

It’s one of those lessons I keep forgetting. Fresh, home-made bread is wonderful.

The machine is handy. There’s convenience to it. A lot less messy. And compared to store-bought factory made bread, bread machine bread is pretty darn good.

But doing it entirely by hand… it’s magical as well as wonderful.

I hate messes, I hate cleaning up, and I hate getting my hands dirty. But for scratch-made bread, it’s worth it. It really is.

Home-made bread fills me with joy.

It also feels like a kind of magic.

I mean how did they figure it all out? Grind the wheat into flour… mix it into rubbery dough. The yeast thing was nature’s doing, and probably quite hit-or-miss at first. Then the rising, the kneading, more rising, more kneading. Then baking. Then eating!

I just made a loaf of honey-bread. It’s just bread with honey added. Super simple. Water, salt, flour, butter, yeast, and honey. It’s all light and poofy and as soon as it was cool enough to touch, I couldn’t resist cutting off a piece to try it.

Home-Made Honey Bread

I don’t really have a point I guess. I just love making bread, it feels like a kind of kitchen magic, and I wanted to share my feeling of wonder.


Posted 2013.07.10 10.57 in Pointless Blather, Spiritual

So I know I’ve been rather quiet and un-bloggy lately and I now realize that from the other side of the screen, there’s no way to tell really if I’m hiding because things are really bad, or just busy because things are good.

It’s been a while since I made the No Progress post, and the biggest difference is that there’s actually been some progress.

Things aren’t all perfect, it’s not all hugs and kitties, but the oppressive soulcrushing depression has been beaten back and I’ve gotten myself busy with some projects which may or may not prove fruitful.

Interestingly, what changed was not as a result of drugs or pills. I stopped taking the HTP-5. The Melatonin worked for a while (but only when I really overdid it, eg. 20mg would knock me out, but the ‘normal’ dose of 3mg would not.) I ended up stopping with the Melatonin as well; after a few weeks I found I could fall asleep without it.

What seemed to catalyse the change was that I listened to the advice of several friends and tried getting back into some of the “spiritual stuff” that I had been ignoring for some time.


So with a little prayer, a little magic, and a little help from the Goddess and God, the darkness has been swept back under the rug and I’m currently doing ok.

I say ‘swept under the rug’ because the darkness isn’t gone. It’s just hidden away for now. Hopefully, I’ll be better-able to deal with it next time it starts creeping out into view.

The Randomizer

Posted 2011.03.24 21.43 in Computers/Internet/Technology

After 3 months of on-and-off working on my thermostat project, it seems kind of funny to pop this one out in a couple hours in a single evening.

My second from-scratch Arduino-based project, is more or less an electronic version of the ‘Magic 8-Ball‘. Press one of the buttons and the screen fills up with random characters or numbers as it ‘randomizes’ ¬†itself, then after you release the button it presents the result on its LCD screen.

It has around 20 8-Ball-ish responses, though they’ve been edited to fit on the screen, modified a little to fit the format of The Randomizer speaking in the third person. For no good reason whatsoever.

Eagle-eyed obsessive readers (I know who you are) will recognize the enclosure and button board are from the 0.1 version of the thermostat. Having 4 buttons (the little one is just a reset button) and the 8-Ball only using one of them, I quickly came up with a use for the other three.

Forgive my nerdiness… when pressed, buttons 2, 3, and 4 will produce the result of rolling percentile, 1d20 and 1d10 dice instead of an 8-Ball phrase.

While on the subject of geekiness, for some extra geek points (and battery savings) the LCD screen’s backlight only comes on when in use, then after 30 seconds of disuse the backlight switches off.

Each of the 4 buttons goes to a digital pin, and there’s still some additional pins available so it could be expanded further. Though even with only the four existing buttons, it could be expanded by reading multiple buttons at once.

The Randomizer runs on 4 AA batteries, which will probably last for 2 or 3 kilo-whiles. You can build one of your very own; all you need is an Arduino, an LCD, a couple buttons and a box.

Here’s the source code, for your enjoyment and tinkering pleasure.

The Humble Thermostat

Posted 2010.12.12 12.46 in Computers/Internet/Technology

I’m a big fan of the Thermostat. They’re clever, and all they want is for us to be comfortable.

Even the simplest mechanical ones are really little robots, whos only goal in life is to keep you comfortable. You tell them what you want the temperature to be, and they dutifully turn the furnace (or A/C) on and off all day and night so that your house remains in your comfort-zone.

The programmable ones of course take this to the next level – with a programmable, you don’t even have to tell the thermostat what your desired temperature is. Or rather, you tell it once, what temperatures you prefer throughout the day and the week, and from that point on, it keeps you comfortable. It’s like magic.

What else in the home works so hard to keep us comfortable, yet asks for nothing in return? The only thing that I can think of that comes close, is a chair or a sofa.

Despite all this, however, I’ve been starting to want more, from my thermostat…

The first seeds were planted several years ago. I saw a programmable thermostat that came with two remote controls. It was outrageously expensive, but there is an undeniable appeal to the thought of being able to crank up the heat without getting out of bed, on a cold winter night. The cost, however, was beyond my means at the time. And by the time I could afford it, that unit was no longer available.

Then last year, the local utility company sent out offers to get a thermostat that you could program over the internet. It sounded like a good idea, but at the time, I did not persue it. They sent the offer again this  year however, so I did investigate.

Their unit is a normal programmable thermostat, that has an RF receiver in it – basically a numeric pager unit. This allows one-way communication, so you can send commands to the unit but not retrieve any information. It’s free, but you have to give up some control: they’ll give it to you, if you agree to let them turn off your air conditioner if the demands on the power grid are too high.

Still, it looked hackable so I filled out the application. They never got back to me; I figure its because I use so little power that they’d never recoup their costs of giving it to me.

Finally, last week I spotted a thermostat at Canadian Tire that came with a remote control. It wasn’t too costly so I grabbed it, with the intent of hacking it. It was a Noma model, which I think is CT’s house brand? Whatever. Let’s look inside!

Aside from the generally poor construction, here’s some things to note: The unit uses RF communications, at the 915MHz band. Comms are one way only, with data going from the remote to the base. This allows the base to display the temperature info from wherever the remote is, but the remote cannot display the temperature, mode, current function, or anything else, from the base. The remote allows you to override the base to a maximum of +/- 6 degF (3degC). Finally, both the remote and the base use a cheap thermistor to determine temperature.

So, it’s not perfect. The one-way comms is a real limitation I think. An additional pisser is that you can easily hack into the comms on the base (since the RF is on a daugher board) but on the remote, it would be much harder as none of the communication lines are accessable (damn those black blobs.) So anything you hack in, is easiest to add at the base, meaning you lose the remote aspect – or have to roll your own remote anyways.

Indeed, when I tried to use it as it was intended, it didn’t really work well anyways. It’s a novelty, but not really a very good thermostat. Verdict: Fail.

So what is it that I really want?

Putting together all the various ideas, I want a thermostat that is programmable and runs fine as a stand-alone unit. I also want it to be able to be accessable via remote control, but with two-way communications, so that a remote unit can at least display everything that the base unit can display, plus the remote should be able to alter the temp, maybe switch modes to hold / run, that sort of thing. Finally, it would be really nifty if it could be wired into my home network, so I could access the data and control through my computer, laptop, iPhone, etc.

The solution, then, is to build my own thermostat, from scratch!

Stay tuned, this story is not over.

Dingoo Mod – to the EXTREEEM!

Posted 2010.06.02 18.32 in Computers/Internet/Technology

For no really good reason, I had to mod a Dingoo A320 with a memory upgrade. The 320 has 32MB of RAM, but the A330 has 64MB of RAM. IMHO the A320 has more going for it, fewer glitches, than the 330. But the 330 has more memory…

So you can see how I’d already be vaguely thinking about it. Then over on Dingoonity, a user named flaming_goat asked if it would be possible. Well you know there’s no turning back after that…

I read up on the chips in the 330, and the chips in the 320. I checked my 320 to see how it was wired. It looked feasable. None of my tests said it would fail, so the only way to know for sure was to try it.

DigiKey had the chips I wanted and they were only about $12.50 for a pair of them. No turning back now…

Detailed instructions follow below the fold…

Read more »

The Magic Nursery

Posted 2010.01.03 11.55 in Aquaria

I’ve started to believe my nursery tank is magic. In the last 3 weeks, almost everything that’s gone in there has thrived and grown. On December 13th there was Les the zebra danio, one or two baby corydora catfish who weren’t particularily doing well, and a handful of baby apple snails who were also just sort of hanging on. Oh and a little dying plant that consisted of one stem and a few suffering leaves.

Then I changed the substrate from chunky gravel to fine sand. In doing so, I believe I lost the corydora fry because they were hiding in the black gravel so I couldn’t separate them from it. Before removing the gravel, I had taken Les, the plant, and the handful of apple snails and put them in a cup, to spare them the trauma of the substrate change.

All that was December 13th. Since then, I’ve added two egg-clutches worth of baby apple snails, tossed in a dozen or so corydora eggs, and generally just hoped for the best.

Since then, the plant has gone absolutely nuts – the dying bit did die off but before that, it shot off a bunch of shoots and now it’s bigger than it’s ever been, ever! There are two corydora fry that are both over a half inch long – cute little goofs always snarfling about the sand, or relaxing amid the zillion baby snails who keep growing and eating and growing.

In the lower right corner, under the heater, there was an algae wafer there yesterday. The babies pounced it and destroyed it, now they’re going after the vacation feeder block.

You can see some of the babies are a magnitude smaller than others – they are from two clutches, about a week apart. The bigger ones are 16 days old in this pic, the smaller ones about 7 or 8 days. Lots of golds, and the rest are ivory. It’s freaky but with their light shells and light bodies, you can see their little hearts beating when they’re travelling right-to-left. All just a little mess of wee feet and tentacles. Very cute.