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Ben's blog

  • Cool Duplo Project #39 – Chess Set

    Fine craftsmanshipIMG_0025

    Child making fart noises with glass for scaleIMG_0038

    The only rule we don’t follow is “en passant”Screen Shot 2016-12-20 at 9.21.50 PM

  • One argument of many against globalization

    It occurred to me that with the basic premise of commerce being that specialization and trade yields more better products for both parties. The only reason we trade with countries like China isn’t that they make better items (like for example how Germans make better cars), it isn’t that they have access to resources we don’t have. It is, as we all know, that they make it cheaper, the single reason for which being that they are far enough away that horrible work conditions can happen without us feeling guilty about it.

    In short; trade with China is interesting only because we get to exploit their people.

    If we got to exploit people at home, we wouldn’t be trading with China. Fortunately if people in our towns worked under the same conditions, we would be up in arms about it. And if China didn’t allow exploitation of its people, we wouldn’t be trading with them.

    And so it’s interesting to ponder that the only “trade specialization” China has to offer is being far away enough geographically & culturally from the Western world that we’re cool with their being exploited. Or we can in good conscience say that we are ignorant of it because we have no visibility into the issue.

    Globalization has a tendency to create these “out of sight, out of mind” incentives which work heavily against good working conditions and the environment.

  • At the junction of I.T. & homesteading – continued

     

    Figuring out a good repeatable & maintainable way to deploy Pi Zeros.IMG_7684

    My favorite project screws in action.IMG_7693

    The boxes I picked a very tight and leave no room for any other hardware.IMG_7694

    I made a hole for a cable gland which is very helpful for cable strain relief, removing friction on sharp edges and making a right cable entryway.IMG_7695

    This little guy is only monitoring temperature, I’ll need a bigger box for the greenhouse device as it needs a bit more hardware.IMG_7746

  • Art at every corner

    Dynamic fractals at the window

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    Glowing bark pattern in the firebox

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  • So far so good

    The Bison hand pump is holding up pretty well to very cold weather and so is the underground overflow. The greenhouse definitely helps and has withstood fierce winds recently.

    IMG_7604

  • Bigger, Stronger, Faster

    I bought another chainsaw and promptly went after a big tree.

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    My forearms burn as they did 5 years ago when I got the smaller saw and had no idea what I was doing. This saw is a serious upgrade and makes the job both easier and harder at the same time. It take much more strength to wield but much less work to go through the tree.

    Robin climbed on top of the tree, in pieces.

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    The new saw has more metal components and is made in Germany. I’ll keep the small one for smaller jobs.

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  • At the junction of I.T. & homesteading

    I started acquiring multiple Raspberry Pi Zeros for the purpose of starting to figure out a consistent deployment scheme for the various automation related projects I envision for our homestead.

    For now I’ve simply deployed 2 DS18b20 temperature sensors. One on the existing Pi in the Solar shed which serves this blog, and another on a Pi Zero in the house. Only sensing for now which complements the data I’m gathering from the solar array.

    The Pi Zero consumes between 0.1 and 0.2 AmpsIMG_7476

    Sample data being gatheredScreen Shot 2016-12-10 at 10.25.03 PM

    Here are my current install notes for the Pi Zero.

    To limit power consumption, add this to /etc/rc.local to turn off HDMI output

    /usr/bin/tvservice -o

    To be able to read from the temperature probe, add the following line to /boot/config.txt

    dtoverlay=w1-gpio:3

    Get the python-w1thermsensor package

    sudo apt-get install python-w1thermsensor

    Reboot & make sure devices are listed in /sys/bus/w1/devices

    The python code necessary to read the probe is:

    from w1thermsensor import W1ThermSensor
    # assuming only 1 sensor
    sensor = W1ThermSensor.get_available_sensors( [W1ThermSensor.THERM_SENSOR_DS18B20] )[0]
    temperature = sensor.get_temperature()
    if temperature is not None:
        print '%.1f' % (temperature)
    else:
        print "failed to get reading."
  • Finally a decent buffer

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    We just upgraded our batteries from 3 * 35Ah lead acid (right) to 3 * 155Ah deep cycle AGM (left). The difference is like night and day; pun very much intended. These bears weight 90 lb each. We added lights in the house and are able to make it through several overcast days without loosing power. I still need to wire in another charge controller and clean up the mess of wires in the solar shed. The old system will get re-purposed for raspberry pi instrumentation around the homestead.

  • Interesting Nature Finds

    The “toupet” tree

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    Ice growing out of the groundIMG_7390

    The tree that decided to fruit out of nowhere

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    The wtf tree limb

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  • Understanding culture & tradition through Off-grid / Vermont living

    Since we moved to Vermont and adopted to live off-grid, often times in ways similar to life 100 years ago, I’ve been fascinated to see how many cultural artifacts from yesteryear are still used today by our generation . We are no longer cognizant of what their purpose is within today’s culture, yet we still use them as our own, sometimes sprinkled with inconsistencies. It’s been a very interesting yet tiny glimpse into how culture finds it way through the ages.

    Through the years I’ve compiled a list of observations, some may be obvious yet I was oblivious to them, some pertain to rural life Vs city life, all I’ve observed since we moved to Vermont.

    The scene of Christmas stockings by the fireplace came to be as folks hung their socks to dry by the fireplace. It never occurred to me until I actually looked at the Christmas perfect picture of all our socks lined up by the fireplace while snow was coming down outside. The only difference being that our socks were in fact stinky & soggy.

    All the state fairs are in the Fall following the main harvests. They are a time to come together and rejoice about the fruits of a long Summer’s worth of work. Having been born and raised in cities, the relevance of this timing was completely lost on me.

    Eggs are prominent for Easter because it’s right around the time that chickens are starting to lay again (they stop or slow way down during the Winter).

    Yule logs are a Christmas desert because of how incredibly important wood was to keep warm during the cold months. There is a lot of meaning to the imagery of a Yule log, I used to think “neat, it looks like wood” and took it as a feat of cooking rather than the reverence to an essential resource that it is.

    I’ve come to feel a lot more connected to old tales happening in the woods. It is amusing that new stories (video games) are created today which emulate the feeling of being in the woods from the experience of these tales rather than the actual experience of the woods. This is true of many other “visuals” we get from these tales, from wood stoves to other artifacts present in old cabins. We don’t have to have experienced them to know that they belong there. How many times have I seen woodstoves represented without chimneys, or other inconsistencies. Scenes are painted from previous painted scenes, and some details get lot in the game of telephone.

    Having experienced all of the following in the dark: fog, glowing eyes, owl movements, animal noises, wind noises, creaking trees; I now know where ghosts and other unsavory monsters came from. Ghosts is clearly fog and the many shapes it takes especially with a light source in your hand. The image of the ghostly figure is present in so much of our culture (Harry Potter) it was a good “aha” moment to see where it came from one dark night outside. Equally as spooky and “aha” inducing was, and this is just a supposition on my part, the origin of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. One night I was outside taking a leak and I saw eyes moving through the woods in exactly the same swigging motion. The image of the well known cat jumped at me, and I can’t help but think that Lewis Carroll has had a similar experience. In my case however, it turned out to be a not-so-magical deer.

    The expression “breaking ground” actually literally translate to the action of breaking ground because well, that’s the first thing you do when building something. Again, some of this stuff may be obvious to some already :)

    Crockpot cooking was invented to cater to recipes requiring extended periods of cooking; but the recipes in question were made to cater to having a wood fire going all day. In fact many recipes and even basic ingredients find their origin in wood fire. Today, a recipe is simply of a goal to achieve, “Here’s how you make X”. I’ve come to realize most recipes which are corner stones of a culture find their roots in what is going on at the time. For example, It’s cold, you have a fire going all day, one too many roosters the meat of which isn’t exactly tender, it’s mushroom season and wine isn’t a issue where you live: shazam! coq au vin is born. The funny part as I’ve said before is that while the recipe made a lot of practical sense in times previous, now most people don’t have a constant source of cooking heat, don’t have one too many roosters, and don’t have mushrooms growing nearby. So we build crockpots, we breed roosters, and grow mushrooms, ship this shit left and right and get ourselves a mid-summer coq au vin. It’s a bit absurd to think of a cultural corner stone being artificially induced of the sort, yet understandable that one would go through such absurd lengths to recreate something delicious. I just wonder if some of the culture is getting lost as the recipe translate from something rooted in the people’s life experience in a particular place and time, to something that can be recreated at will with no further meaning than the taste.

    That’s all I have for now, I might find more :)