thu aug 3
The birds were having a feeding frenzy this morning and making a lot of noise, driving the cats crazy. Turns out the blueberries are finally ready.
fri aug 4
We went to dinner in Stowe and, driving back, a deer jumped out of the woods and – BANG! – bounced off the side of the car. The dent doesn’t look like much, but the door groans when you open it, so it’s gotta be fixed.
Update: Mary dropped the car off at Extreme Collision in town, and they were able to bend the the worst of it back into place so the door swings open cleanly, and charged her all of $56. A new record.
sat aug 5
My friend Dave had a mini ‘morale event’ today – so-named because, when an internal IBM survey found morale was at an all-time low, Dave decided to DO something about it, and had a work-party / kegger at his house, and it became an annual ‘thing.’ Today’s male-bonding activity was a big concrete pour – 110 bags worth – in order to counter-balance a cantilevered shower he’s building for his B&B customers on a very steep hillside. We had 4 teams mixing concrete in wheelbarrows, 2 bags at a time, and I – ahem – cemented my reputation as championship concrete mixer. My secret: I used a concrete hoe instead of a shovel, and I mixed half as much concrete as the other 7 guys combined.
The weather started off drizzling, and by the time we hit 100 bags, it was pouring, and rain was filling up the forms, so we just emptied the last couple bags, dry, directly into the forms, and let it soak up the water. A good time was had by all.
sun aug 6
I had kind of a shitty day, so I hopped on the motorcycle and went to Ben and Jerry’s in Waterbury. Six dollars and thirty three cents for two scoops in a waffle cone !!
And worth every penny.
wed aug 7
thu aug 10
With apologies to Forrest Gump: Auctions are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.
Today, there was an auction in the tiny town of East Hardwick. A dirt road out in the sticks, a 1/4 mile driveway with a little log cabin and a big garage at the end, where a farmer who dabbled in auto body work lived out his days and kicked the bucket. The advertisement was pretty typical, and there were maybe 60 attendees. It was a beautiful day, and the prices, I thought, were lower than usual. There was a 3-stack, keyed, ball bearing set of rolling tool drawers that would ‘usually’ go for about $200, and I snagged it for $80 but, for the most part, when ‘I need’ and ‘I want’ clashed in my head, prudence carried the day.
Suddenly, there was an old motorcycle up for bid. “Needs work,” the blurb said, and I’d watched half the attendees look it over and jot down notes, so I figured the bidding was going to be fast and spirited. Just for kicks, I started off the bidding at $100 and … mine was the only bid. WTF?? Woo Hoo!!
I know what you’re thinking, and I totally agree, but consider: It’s a 1980 Kawasaki KZ-750-E1, 4-cylinder inline DOHC 5-speed w/ 3 disc brakes, intact leather, good rubber, no dents, no rust, soft luggage, upgraded with electronic ignition, comes with the service manual, inspected in 2010, been parked inside, and has only 18k miles on the odometer.
It’s got ‘Reid’ written all over it!
mon aug 21
Today was the Great Eclipse and, inexplicably, the Vermont sky was clear and blue.
Eight months ago, my grand plan for 2017 was to take an extended motorcycle ride across the country, and I’d hoped to be riding thru Totality today. Priorities changed, though, and finishing the god damned fucking green house has dragged on and on, and I had to settle for a 60% eclipse from the comfort of my back yard.
Opthamologists are going to be raking it in this week, but not from me. For eye protection, you can’t beat a welding helmet, but mine is the high-tech kind that darkens when an arc is struck, and the sun is not bright enough to activate it. So I scrounged around and found three low-tech #5 filters, combined them into a very black stack, and safely stared at the sun. It was cool, but, honestly, partial eclipses are not all that stunning.
The next eclipse is in 2024, and Vermont will be Right Under the path of totality.
I’ll be ready.
fri aug 25
The motorcycle started running rough, and I stroked my beard and said “Hmmm…”
Actually, that’s not even close to what I said, but this is a family blog.
By now, I’ve got a pretty good grasp of most of the things that can go wrong with a 40 year old engine and, after listening to the throttle response (Me! Listening??), I decided I probably had a clogged idle jet in the carburetor. I removed the carbs and cleaned all the passages and orifices and came ‘this‘ close to getting sick from breathing solvents. I put it all back together the next day and it roared to life, better than ever. It was a good feeling that I could not only diagnose the problem, but also do, in a night and a morning, what took me weeks the first time I did it, 2 years ago.
My joy evaporated the next day, when I warmed it up for a test drive, and it died on me.
Not died like ‘rough’ — died like ‘dead,’ and I was back to stroking my beard and swearing.
It seems that, while I was at it, I’d changed the plugs, the oil, and the oil and gas filters, and apparently not all gas filters are alike, because the new one “wouldn’t pass gas.” Once I fixed that, it was wind in my hair, all the way to the bakery and back.
(BTW: I have restrained myself and done almost nothing on the Honda and the Kawasaki this month. Planning on a greasy winter.)
The last couple of months of work on C3PR have been really frustrating. Really hard.
When you think about the big picture of what it takes to make a robot play ping pong, you probably think about the laws of physics. Motor control. Inertia. Image processing. Maybe even kinematics and singularities in matrix math. Well let me tell you: Those are the easy parts.
I think it was about 6 months ago that I felt I’d solved enough of the basic ‘feasibility’ problems that it was time to work on integration, and revisit some of the stuff I’d been sweeping under the rug. The shit soon hit the fan:
I needed a 64-bit RTOS with GPU support, and I couldn’t get past 2 out of 3.
When I got my frame grabber, I upgraded to 64-bit Ubuntu 12, but with no RT support.
When I needed RealTime, I downgraded to 32-bit Debian 8, but the graphics support sucked.
When I needed dual screens, I compiled a patched 4.9 kernel, and went to Mint 18.
When the 4.9 kernel wouldn’t load Cuda, I patched a 4.4 kernel.
When the Cuda driver ruined my RealTime latency, I bought an AMD GPU.
When my AMD GPU wouldn’t play nice with OpenCL, I went to Ubuntu 14.04.5.
But on 14.04.5, the fglrx driver clashes with the X server, so I went to 14.04.4.
But 14.04.4 comes with a 4.2 kernel, for which there is no RT patch …
So I installed Mint 17.3 with a custom 4.1 RT kernel.
Which put me, finally, (fingers crossed!), in a sort of a sweet spot: I’ve got a 64-bit RTOS and a gui I like, graphics drivers that work, good RealTime latency, and switchable GPU acceleration.
That was brutal. Good job. Now get to work.
tue aug 29
I was looking out the window while my morning toast toasted, watching a flock of wild turkeys grazing behind the apple trees, when a coyote came out of the woods and hid in the weeds under the apples. I forgot all about my own breakfast while I waited for the coyote to attack. He came out of the weeds and stopped and they looked at one another. Four big turkeys vs 1 little coyote. The coyote trotted off, the turkeys kept right on grazing, and I ate my toast.