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Thermostat Failure

Posted 2011.04.14 16.51 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

After nearly a full month of flawless operation, my DIY ethernet thermostat suffered some kind of stroke yesterday evening, and this morning slipped into a coma.

I don’t know what cause the glitch but it appears that the microcontroller that runs the whole thing has been fatally befuddled. And while 98.2% of the time, I use a socket for any IC in any project, in this case for some stupid reason I did not.

Indeed, everything is soldered, hot-glued, and taped in there so well that I’m not sure it’s even worth-while attempting to debug & repair. I think this is a back-to-the-drawing-board moment. Or at least, back-to-the-assembly-line moment.

So, I have a couple replacement parts on order (and you can bet I’m re-stocking my IC stocket supply), and I suppose I’ll have to rebuild the darn thing over the weekend. It wouldn’t be such an issue if this had happened closer to the summer months, but for now I can’t leave the house unheated for days-on-end.

Hopefully the parts will arrive tomorrow and I’ll be able to get at it. Otherwise it’ll probably be a week before I can recover from this tragedy.

In the meantime, my home heating needs are being serviced by this neolithic thermostat that was recovered from an archaeological dig, and has been on display in a dusty old museum somewhere. Or quite possibly I found it on a shelf in the storage closet.

Feel like quitting

Posted 2011.01.29 16.22 in Pointless Blather by Stephanie

The past two months I’ve been obsessing on this electronics stuff. Thermostat. Kits. Soldering. Embedded devices.

It’s been “theraputic” – the point was to keep me busy, to keep my mind off of the depression and keep the dark thoughts away. Lately it’s been working less and less.

And the thing that’s coming up now is, I’m not sure if it’s even been fun. There’s the challenge, it’s satisfying to figure something out or make something work. But down to the nitty gritty of it – I don’t know if it’s been fun. If it’s been worth it.

I started doing a bit of cleaning and tidying today, and ended up gathering up all the electronic bits and pieces and stuff, and just putting it all in a big box. I still have lots of half-formed thoughts on things that I could make, but I don’t have the urge to actually make any of them.

The thermostat is finished, fully working. All I have to do is hook it up. It’s in the big box with the rest of the stuff. I even built a wireless outdoor temperature sensor last night, to radio the outside temp in so it could be displayed on the thermostat. That’s in the big box too.

I look at it all, and there’s no emotions. Was it fun? There sure were a heck of a lot of frustrations. Things not working, things that broke. And I don’t even want to think about how much money I spent on components, kits, parts, et cetera.

Was it supposed to be fun? At times it felt like homework – stuff I was doing because I had to. It was the assignment. Do that, or sit quietly in the dark and let my head fill up with images of death.

I guess I won’t put the big box away just yet — I’ll leave it out, and see if the urge strikes to open it and do more electronics stuff. Maybe install the thermostat. Or not. Whatever.

Dinosaurs vs. End Of The World

Posted 2010.11.22 8.19 in Music/Movies/TV by Stephanie

So last night, there was this show on Discovery Channel, about the dinosaurs getting killed by the meteor or comet or whatever it was. They’ve been hyping it for a week or two, making such a big deal out of it.

Well, So I started to watch. I tried. But after only a few minutes I had to switch it off.

It’s not educational — we already have a pretty good idea of the cosmic collision theory. And it wasn’t entertaining.

Make-believe CGI beasties or not, I just can’t find anything entertaining about watching animals suffer for 90 minutes. It was just sad.

Sorry Discovery Channel – I’m sure you spent lots of money on the special effects, but special-effects-alone does not a good show make. So, booo.


Posted 2010.03.15 21.14 in Aquaria by Stephanie

It has been a tumultuous fortnight, for the snailies.

About 2 weeks ago, my girl Shelly died for reasons unknown. She just slowed down and died. She had laid a dozen egg clutches, and had about 200 offspring sliming around the place, and I don’t know why she died but it was sad.

Then a few days after she passed on, some of her daughters started laying clutches of their own. Within a week, there were five new little clutches laid.

Then over the weekend Munchkin started to slow down, the way Shelly had. Munchkin was the father of all the wee babies. Today I came home from work in the afternoon, to find Munchkin too had passed away. 🙁 Again, I don’t know why…

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In The Matter Of The Receivership…

Posted 2009.10.15 9.30 in Pointless Blather, Work by Stephanie

There’s some words you don’t want to see when you open an envelope. You know any document that opens with that line, is going to be bad news.

We got one of those letters at the office recently. Turns out one of our customers has gone bankrupt. We knew they were in trouble, considering some of their bills had gone unpaid for a very long time. Still, whenever we spoke with them, they were apologetic, times are tough all round, etc., but never said anything about spiraling the drain. Of course, maybe the folks we talked to didn’t know.

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RIP Little Golden Snail

Posted 2009.07.26 15.42 in Aquaria, Family/Friends by Stephanie

My little golden snail, whom I have been worried about for some time now, finally passed away. In the six or seven weeks I’ve had her, she seldom ate, and had not grown at all. For the past fortnight she almost never ate and was growing visibly weaker.

Little Golden Snail

Although I hardly knew her, I’ll miss her. Goodbye little cutie.

Buddy the baby Skunk

Posted 2008.07.16 0.00 in Family/Friends by Stephanie

I was wandering around my house after work today, not sure what to do with myself, and ended up out in the backyard looking at the plants in the garden. When I turned to head back inside, I spotted a little tuft of black and white fur on the ground at the corner of my deck. For a moment I thought someone had thrown a hat or stuffed toy into my yard. Then I approached, and felt a bit of fear, that maybe this was a little wounded kitty…

No…cat’s don’t have those two white stripes. I remember the cartoons, from when I was young. TV might not be a great teacher, but it did teach me the archetypal details of skunks. And that they are cute.

This one was not being as cute though. He was being kind of still, kind of curled up, and kind of…well dusty. Yet… still a skunk, so I decided to proceed with caution. A few moments of careful observation revealed that he was indeed breathing. A few more moments of contemplation, and I knew the best thing to do was call the animal control folks. I put the call in, they took down the info, and then all I had to do was wait.

Only… He just looked so… I couldn’t just wait. I couldn’t just go inside, close the door, and let him be Someone Else’s Problem.

I stayed with him (from a distance), talked to him a bit, then finally got up the gumption to get him some water. It’s been such a hot, dry day that I thought maybe he was just starved, dehydrated. Certainly, I could see no wounds or injuries. Not a dog-bite or car-hit victem, so far as I could tell. So, a dish of water. But still – skunk.

I ended up placing a little saucer of water down about 5 feet from him, then using a long stick, I slid the saucer along the ground till it was right by his nose. At first, nothing…

After some minutes, he started to move. He was lifting his head, sniffing the air. He could tell there was water. He figured out where it was, and tried getting to it. This both broke my heart and made me hopefull, all at once. He kept trying to get his head up and over the edge of the saucer. It was only about a centimeter up, and a centimeter over, but it took Buddy about 4 tries. Four times, he got so close, then he just slumped down, exhausted…

Finally though, he did it! He got his chin onto the edge of the saucer and started drinking. Skunks have cute little pink tongues and drink like cats. They don’t look like cats though. As an aside, up close, Buddy looked like much more like a squirrel than a cat. Anyhow – he drank, and drank, and drank. For a few minutes. He seemed to get stronger very quickly, he sat up completely and kept drinking. I was very happy, and told him so.

After he had a good drink and got some strength back, he started to move – but he was heading in the direction of the street! After a few feet, he fell over. He moved as if drunk, or exhausted… Again, I was both hopefull (movement!) but heartbroken (staggering, collapsing)… Plus, I was now worried that he’d either wander into the road, or wander infront of some passers-by, or a neighbor. Folks don’t like skunks and get all wierded out by them. I was afraid he’d end up in even worse shape. However – still, skunk. Wild and sick sunk.

I happened to have a small recycling box nearby, and a bit of cardboard. Without touching him, and without putting myself in too much risk (he really did not look like he had much left in him) I was able to negotiate him into the bin. I didn’t want to keep him there though, it was kind of backyard grubby and had no lid. So, I grabbed a cat carrier. Due to another sad story, I have three cat carriers and only two cats. I took the extra cat carrier, and again without touching him or putting myself at much risk, I was able to negotiate him into the carrier. Once inside, I closed the door so he wouldn’t be able to wander off or get into any other troubles.

The cat carrier was clean, had some padding to make it comfortable, and was sort of dark and covered. I think once he settled down he was able to relax a bit. Skunks live in dens or holes or something and the carrier box probably helped him feel a bit more safe and protected, rather than being sprawled in the open in the yard.

Finally the person from animal control arrived. She was very nice, and more than a little surprised that I had offered the skunk water and got him all carefully put into a carrier. After I had explained all the details I could, all his symptoms and everything I observed, she was able to determine what the most-likely problem was. She also could see that he was just a wee baby. Were he in good health, he’d have been stomping around in the carrier, full of piss-and-vinegar, trying to spray us both down…

Unfortunately, that was pretty much the extent of how far we could help him. I guess the important thing is that in the end, his final time was spent in comfort, with some clean water in his tummy, and a companion who cared for him. He was loved, and although he is gone, he will be remembered.

I would also like to once again thank the lady from animal control. She was very compassionate and I am very sorry that I didn’t think to ask her name. I’m sure some folks could have been all business, just ‘where is it’ and ‘kthanksbai’. But she took the time to listen as I told her everything I could, and then patiently explained the situation and what was going to have to happen. So, anonymous animal control lady, thank you very much.

Buddy, the baby skunk
Not a great picture, but the only one I had the chance to take.