John's Web Page

Bloggy like thing

Updated the garden journal. Despite much work by the computer elves, updating remains lengthy and difficult. {Perhaps marginally less difficult than before.}

I got a new computer, and shuffled around some other electronic gear, the upshot of which was the Raspberry Pi got shunted off to the side so I have no quick and easy method of updating the site again.

The computer elves are hard at work trying to make it quick and easy instead of lengthy and difficult.

As far as my current projects I am working on, my current goal is to finish projects, not start new ones. To that goal, I did finish up a youtube video I was working on a few weeks back.

Snow (this one is worth waiting for)

I have two Raspberry Pis. One is the Pi that I use to update this site, and one is the Pi with games on it for the kids. They've been enjoying the games, while I've been super busy with Easter and Good Friday stuff, yard work, all kinds of stuff.

How have you been? I've been practicing savoring moments every day, and practicing coming up with things that I am grateful for.

Turing machines turned into art

It would be really fun to write up some sort of generational fuzzer and hook it up to this.

A whole slew of interesting "cowboy" recipes. And I enjoyed the picture of the homemade grill with iron grates, it's a good design. Also, cranberry salsa? Hmmm.

I started a page on how I use my Raspberry Pi as a desktop computer. Future Pi updates will go there (and possibly also here.)

Moved the linky things section down below the bloggy like thing because I wasn't updating it. I've wanted a little link blog for YEARS and now that it's in my page I don't like it. Eh. I'll figure it out eventually.

Also, I know this bloggy like thing is getting a bit long in the page so I have to archive it all somehow. Probably this weekend, I'll think through the best way to do it.

Many years ago I attempted to make a giant digital scanning camera out of some old scanner parts and an EiBotBoard. It was my first project for the Minneapolis/St. Paul Mini Maker Faire. One of the motor controllers started acting funky the night before the Faire (so the sensor only went up and down, not back and forth) and then, a week after the faire, when hooking everything back up at home, I accidentally hooked up the sensor the wrong way, and let loose a little magic smoke.

I think the magic smoke was confined to the sensor I created from scratch, but it could have damaged the EiBotBoard, it's been quite a few years since I tackled this project but I think the analog input pin on the EBB was acting funky ever since then. (My plan was to switch to another analog pin, I think.)

Then the laptop I was using to control the whole thing went *poof*, so I had it fixed, and then my son stepped on the laptop and broke it again... and I haven't had it fixed again (for the second time). Meanwhile all of these giant camera parts are clogging up my workbench in the garage.

However, today I was looking at something on Adafruit's website, and a cute little light sensor came up on the sidebar. Hey, this is a new product since the last time I looked at these sensors. Hey, what kinds of sensors are available these days? New UV sensor? *quick google* ugh, decent UV sensitive lenses are still many thousands of dollars, ugh.

Then, a little while later, I suddenly realized I have quite a bit more experience with Raspberry Pis. I could probably use one of those to control the EBB, instead of the laptop! (Oh, look, someone has already done it!)

And, with the onboard SPI, I could design an Arduino based shield (or Feather shield) with the sensors I want to use on board, so the Raspberry Pi could send a motor control command, read a pixel (from a few sensors), send a motor control command, etc.

AND, I have no time pressure to work on this, indeed, I haven't worked on it for the past 4 years or more. So I can take my time and do whatever I want. AND, this was my first project using Python, which I was trying to make work under a severe time constraint (which doesn't make it very fun to learn a new language!) But now I have a lot more experience with Python so that part should be easier to deal with too.

I'll have to think about how I'm going to fit this project in with the rest of my projects, but at least there's a way forward that feels fun instead of feeling like a giant slog.

The author, a bearded man in a plaid shirt, smiling at the camera, standing next to a photo of Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

Took a trip to Flavortown last weekend! Specifically, Q-Fanatic, a BBQ joint in Champlain, Minnesota. It's worth the drive. I was expecting reasonably competent BBQ but seriously, it was really good. I got the brisket sandwich with all the fixin's, and then I dumped in a bunch of vinegar based sauce (they have a whole mess of sauces).

Heavenly. I'm already plotting a second trip.

It works! I re-installed everything on the Raspberry Pi and I'm back to my 3B+. Not only that, I discovered a... tolerable... video editing solution on the pi. (It's Openshot.)

Only caveat: you have to use an ancient camera at 640x480 resolution. And it crashes on a semi-regular basis. And it takes forever to export because the encoders that spit out older format, reasonable quality, medium res videos also introduce a ton of weird artifacts. So you have to export to MP4 and that pegs all 4 cores and WHOO there goes the thermal throttling.

Found all the parts for another pi. Wiped it clean and re-installed. It's a Pi 3 B instead of the 3 B+ and it's noticably slower.

It is possible that my original pi is not burned out, it was in the middle of a software update that kept failing, and then I rebooted, so it could possibly be software related. I have backed up all the stuff on the old pi and am going to try a fresh install.

Well that was fun while it lasted.

Apparently the USB ports got burned out on the pi, because I rebooted and everything is non-functional. I don't know. If I plug in a little usb flash drive, it gets recognized. But if I plug in a keyboard, the lights flash, then nothing, no caps lock, no num lock, no anything. Mice too. The light comes on, on the bottom of the mouse, but the cursor doesn't move or anything.

The pi is the primary way I make updates to this web page, so updates may be delayed while I spin up a new pi and/or come up with another computer solution.

Bah, looks like one of them got their fingers up underneath the camera module on the Raspberry Pi and somehow forcefully partially removed it. raspistill helpfully tells me that it's having a hard time reading data from the board.

We just keep going back in time.

Today I came home from work and tried to fire up the Raspberry pi. It was acting weird, like the mouse wouldn't even work properly. Unplugged and re-plugged the mouse, and shrugged. Browsed a bit, then went to use the keyboard, and nothing.

"Hey, this keyboard doesn't work."
"Yeah, that's because it's full of water."

I tipped it up, and indeed, water came pouring out.


"Yeah, someone left their water there, and someone else poured the water into the keyboard. I suspect the baby."

"And you didn't... do anything?"

"I didn't want to touch it!"

So now, after much scrounging, I have one USB extension cable for the mouse, and more importantly, one PS2->USB adapter for my Kinesis Contour Keyboard, which I have had for over 20 years now. Haven't really used it for the past 8-10 years or so though. It's very badly yellowed with age, and, uh, I haven't cleaned it for a very long time.... but it's working!

I stopped using it because it was acting weird... but I eventually found a second PS2->USB adapter and I think it was the adapter that was causing the problems.

Anyway, if you are a real early web era friend of mine, this is what I used to talk to you with. I've forgotten how comfortable it is. I might have to pull it apart and restore it because I'm having so much fun with it.

And at some point in the past 10 years or so one of the keys popped off so now I know this thing has Cherry Brown microswitches on it.

In today's exciting news Noah informed me that he was sad I took my paeg down.

...vat the fuck?

And that's how I discovered that somehow a small chunk was taken out of the file at some point... whether by network glitch, cosmic rays, or tiny toddler hands randomly banging away at a raspberry pi keyboard, the world may never know. But, crucially, the missing bit contained an ending ?> tag so the whole thing went up in flames.

Fixed now though, which you know because you are reading this. Lost some updates. No backups. Oh well. Early web! Shit happens on the early web.

Everything changes when life begins
Fixes what’s broken in the hearts of men
I haven’t felt like this since
God knows when
And that’s how it happens
-- Time and Time Again, Waterdeep

I've been feeling some struggles recently with, hmmmm, I think of it as hearing the spirit of God. (When I talk about "having a relationship with the Holy Spirit" it makes my more traditionalist friends nervous... but that's a topic for a different day, I think).

"Having trouble hearing the spirit of God", "going through a spiritual dry spell", "season of doubt", there's a lot of labels out there. I'm by no means an expert on the topic, and I'm still pretty deep in the weeds over here. But I have a few thoughts, spurred on by the lyric I heard this morning, quoted above. I'll get to that in a bit, but first some background

Our pastor talked about this in a few sermons recently and he said one of the things a person could do is get out into nature more. God's creation has a strength and ability to renew the spirit in a way that being surrounded by the creations of men ultimately does not. I think about this often. It's definitely true, but hard to do in the middle of a Minnesota winter.

The other thing he said though, that really stayed with me, is "If you have lost something, go back to where you had it last and start looking there."

In college I was introduced to a band called Waterdeep by an ex girlfriend. We met over the internet (in 1996!) and when I went down and visited her over New Years we went to an NYE Waterdeep concert together. I really connected with the music. (My favorite part was when they got towards midnight, Don came up to the microphone and said "Well, we wanted to end the old year and bring in the new right on the end of a song, but we only have about 3 minutes left, but we don't have any three minute songs. So we're going to do one of our other songs twice as fast." and they did that, it was hilarious.)

The relationship didn't last but liking the band did.

Great interview with Samuel L. Jackson

On Jungle Fever being the first film he did after going through rehab:

That's ironic, isn't it?

"Yeah, because all those motherfuckers at rehab were like, “You don’t need to do this movie, because you’re going to have triggers.” . . . I was like, “Well, shit, if for no other reasons, first of all, where the fuck are you going to get $40,000 in the next six weeks? And second of all, I will never pick up another drug, because I don’t want to see any one of you motherfuckers ever again.” I hated them. But that was their job. And I made it through that. So significantly, when Gator gets killed at the end of that movie, I always look at it as the death of my . . . active addiction."

Today I wrote a python script to pull the current weather forcast for my house from the National Weather Service every 20 minutes. It looks at the forecast for the next hour as a proxy for having a temperature sensor. It takes that temp and the short forecast and stuffs it into a CSV file. Graphs to come!

I want to know what kind of environment I am growing my seeds in. This is why I didn't just get a weather station or set up a remote temperature montitoring solution. I could deal with the power and network connectivity issues at my house easily enough, but I eventually want these graphs at the garden, which is just far enough away from power and network as to be impractical.

I figure the forecast from the NWS for the next hour is accurate enough anyway.

Kid wanted to go ice fishing. I can now tell you there is 24 inches of ice on the lake near our house. We only had a hand auger and it took 25 minutes.

Tonight I made chicken livers. I do that from time to time, because I used to work at a restaurant that sold chicken livers, and they were really good. I got spoiled because I could have good livers whenever I wanted.

Now when I make chicken livers, they usually wind up tasting pretty mediocre. The other night, my wife went shopping and came home with a pound of chicken livers (which she never does.) And she asked me to make them (which she never does.) And I got a little intimidated, honestly, because the past few times I have made chicken livers it's been a REALLY bad mess (although I eat them anyway). The very last time I made chicken livers I said, well, that's enough of that, I don't think I'm going to do that again if I'm just going to screw everything up this badly.

So I turned to a recipe. It was a recipe for "southern fried chicken livers" and it's on my phone so maybe I can find it later and link it in. But it had a lot of steps that I never do. Like, wash the livers througouly with water. I'll wash the livers sometimes, but this recipe really made a point of it, and when I pulled them out of the fridge they were frozen into a solid chunk at any rate, so I soaked those livers in water to thaw them. And I rinsed, and rinsed, and rinsed.

The other thing this recipe called for was deep frying the livers in a quart of oil. I don't have the setup to do that so I panfried them in a cast iron pan instead. It called for the oil to be at a certain temp, so I got out the thermometer (I never do this. Usually I fry the livers in butter.) I really went all out, I did the breading, and everything.

When I started making the livers, I said to myself, maybe I could write about this on the web page bloggy thing and said, yeah, what would I say? Hey, I made chicken livers. But friends, let me tell you when I pulled the livers out of the oil, I discovered the thing that made me write this.

These were the cleanest tasting chicken livers I have ever had. Like, they didn't "taste like liver". Maybe the tiniest hint of it. All I could taste was the breading, and let me tell you... that was pretty bland. I could have probably guessed. I should have just made up a breading recipe. It's super unfortunate, because these livers were so clean, the breading and seasoning really shined through. I followed the recipe though!

On the one hand, amazing. On the other hand, disappointing. Friends, I am not from the south. I am not used to deep frying, in fact, I would say this is probably the first time I have successfully fried anything. I tried frying a couple of chicken drumsticks a couple of weeks ago and I made up that breading recipe myself and let me tell you OOOOO it was horrible, SO BAD I cannot even describe how awful those drumsticks were. I ate them in shame, terrified that someone in the family would come across them and accidentally pick them up and assume they were food, instead of chicken drumsticks fried in a coating of crispy cardboard pulp (which is what it tasted like.) Those drumsticks looked amazing, but oh were they bad. Bring tears to your eyes bad.

Anyway I would like to get better at frying food. One step at a time, like getting better at anything else.

Made a favicon. It animates in firefox!

I've found myself having to look up this syntax a few times recently. Slap this entry in your ssh config file and you can do ssh remotehost and you'll be connected right to remotehost.fqdn

Host remotehost
    User     mylogin
    Port     22
    Hostname remotehost.fqdn
    Identity-File ~/path/to/identity-file	

Quick message for Geof Morris...

A man staring at the camera, making a gesture suggesting he is watching you

Tonight I installed a Minecraft server on the Raspberry Pi. It's kind of madness, I booted to gui mode, running Emacs (that takes a tenth of the RAM as it is) and then a Minecraft server on top. One kid is playing happily, the second is logging in. 60 percent RAM usage (with one browser tab open.) Holding steady at 60C with no heatsink.

Every now and then Emacs locks up for about 10 seconds when it tries to autosave.

Misty just put up a good post on the importance of working through fear, and reaching for a bigger canvas:

I’ve spent a lot of time with my fear. I call it by different names. Sometimes it looks like working on a different project. Sometimes it looks like cleaning up my studio space. Sometimes it looks like sitting on the couch watching tv and crocheting. Sometimes it looks like me spending too much time on social media. But there’s always an oozing puddle of fear languishing nearby waiting for me to fall in if I’m not paying enough attention to skirt it appropriately and do the scary task at hand.

My fear is always willing to tell me specifically that no one cares about what I have to say. That I will die in art obscurity because what I make is banal or laughable or unintelligible or all of those things. My fear is also pretty invested in moving the goal posts of whatever success I do gain so that I will get discouraged and quit.

And what I know for sure is that it doesn’t matter if the fear is right. All of those things might be true or might come true but if it’s a choice between those things being true (or not) and me making art, I’m going to keep making art. I’m just not going to stop.

I'd say for this current website project, I've been ignoring the fear, and sidestepping the fear. For instance, when I say "oh I ought to do this" and get a big pit in my stomach, I've started asking "Why?" and "What can I do that doesn't involve me doing this thing? Do I really even need to do the thing?"

Because that is how the fear manifests itself for me. Fills up my head with thinks like "Oh if you were REALLY serious about that, you'd start up an LLC." "Oh if you were REALLY serious about that, you'd buy the expensive camera before starting that project." "Oh, if you were REALLY serious you would write a new app so you could work on it on your phone."

So I've been doing things like editing this html file directly, saving after every paragraph. Clicking save when maybe I should do a little more editing. Ignoring it (doing the thing anyway) and sidestepping it (wait, why do I think I HAVE to do whatever it is I am dreading?)

Today I installed an RSS feed reader on my Raspberry Pi. It took a while to find one that was available for the pi. It's called Liferea.

It comes with a few example feeds. Many of the feeds are updated many, many times a day, and I immediately started feeling my skin crawl, like, OH NOES WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU DO NOT NEED ANOTHER FEED OF UNREMITTING NONSENSE STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT. It was very satisfying to delete nearly all of the default feeds.

The whole reason I installed the RSS reader was to keep track of old-school blogs that update 3 or 4 times a year, or every two weeks or whatever. I have a rant brewing about update times and how often a website "should" update... stay tuned.

I have been meaning to install a feed reader for AGES but... you know what, never mind this isn't an interesting story. It ends with "but I couldn't find exactly the right one" and I'm sick of that story.

I've been using Raspberry Pis for a lot of things recently after I got an example projects book from my wife for Christmas. Nothing permanent, just playing around. After geting a bunch of ideas for things and looking how to solve problems with the pi one thing I discovered is that the community values solving problems by any means necessary.

And sometimes I come across something that I think should be a simple, solved problem, but my google searching comes up with a whole mess of scattershot solutions. On the one hand, this is great, on the other hand, sometimes I just want someone to tell me how to fix the issues I am having because I do not want to think about the issues, I just want them solved. This is frustrating but I am trying to remind myself that it's okay it's just part of the Pi process.

Spent most of the day today setting up the Raspberry Pi with emacs in the living room. Tried very hard to configure emacs the way I remember liking it. Largely failed. Eventually, I stumbled upon my .emacs file from the late 90s (which was right here on this website for some reason!)

After perusing it, I found the relevant two lines (smacking my forehead in the process). There was a whole mess of crufty ancient elisp that configured a bunch of add ons to do things that emacs now does out of the box. And then a bit where I pulled in big chunks of my old housemate's .emacs file (back when we were students together at university).

After deleting everything useless, here is my new .emacs in it's entirety:

(set-foreground-color "white")
(set-background-color "black")
(set-cursor-color "grey")

Also today: added a TON of semantic HTML to this page. Not sure how I feel about the semantic HTML yet, I was really looking forward to flooding this page with a bunch of random divs but for now I think I'm okay with it.

Girl Scout Cookie update: we did an inventory of all of the cookies. And we were off by 20. Not dollars, BOXES OF COOKIES. Which we are liable for.

Fortunately, after some amount of thinking about it, my daughter discovered an entire case of cookies that she had missed in her first inventory. And, I was mis-counting some of the money that came in from credit card sales. So overall, the inventory was spot on.

Current status: It's girl scout cookie season! I am doing a lot of standing around in cookie booths and helping my daughter sell her cookies.

Linky things

Gameboy Camera Photography

Youtube: Bulletproof

Making grass flow like water. Interesting description of how to get cut grass feedstock to move through a hopper into a gasifier.

Just A Drop In The Bucket. Omg.

"P=NP in the Star Trek universe, but the people there aren't aware of it."

Good review of a biography of Ayn Rand

Why America's New Apartment Buildings All Look the Same

Someone made a gameboy emulator for Emacs. I would do so much crazy stuff in emacs if it wasn't written in elisp.

My man forgets that I'm rocking a Raspberry Pi with no audio... 😒 (UPDATE: hahahaha)

Using a security light housing to hold a Raspberry Pi time lapse camera

Ken Shirriff walks through the disassembly, analysis, and historical context of a "hybrid" op-amp designed for the Apollo moon mission. "Unlike an integrated circuit, the hybrid module is built from individual transistor dies wired together."

To Do list

Sites People I like

In no particular order. No really, no particular order, dont make me randomize this list with Javascript!

Design Inspiration

Reda Lemeden

Ian Bicking