Tuesday, May 30, 2017

More fun ways to "spend" time

So after making an arcade console and getting the kids hooked on great old video games, I saw this set of videos from Bob at http://www.iliketomakestuff.com
Arcade Cabinet Part 1
Arcade Cabinet Part 2
Arcade Cabinet Part 3


Parts 1 and 2 were informative, but part 3... A human sensor that turns the lights on and off!!! Must have!

So I started playing with an arduino uno board, (really fun) but then I got to playing with this little creature:
  you can learn more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NodeMCU

It took a bit of fiddling to get it to work so I wanted to capture that on the blog for later use.

First I had to get drivers here: https://www.silabs.com/products/development-tools/software/usb-to-uart-bridge-vcp-drivers

Once I had the drivers, I plugged it in and got a new terminal device: /dev/tty.SLAB_USBtoUART
So then I had to set up the Arduino IDE:
I opened preferences and added http://arduino.esp8266.com/stable/package_esp8266com_index.json to the Additional Boards manager URLs:
Clearly I did this on my mac, but it is similar in WinDOZE.

At that point I could open the boards manager:

And install the esp8266 boards by clicking the install button next to version 2.3.0:

Finally I could select the NodeMCU in the IDE user interface under tools:
and select the right port:
pushed it to the chip and ran > screen /dev/tty.SLAB_USBtoUART 115200
and lo and behold, a web server with my own custom code that actually turns my led's on and off!



How absolutely amazing!!!
Next up: get my relay working with this board, connect up the sensor, add a few buttons to turn things on and off via this web client...

Good stuff and so fun to learn something new!


Fun ways to waste time

So, for my birthday I got a Raspberry pi 3, with a case, and a power supply, and I had to immediately set it up.

I tried OSMC with Kodi
I tried straight up Raspbian
And then I found RetroPie!!!

I was completely sold. Old school games, Kodi, nice interface,
So I set the whole thing up with XBox 360 USB connectors, it was cool...but playing those old games I wanted the arcade feel: Hearing "Full point" in Karate Champ is not quite as amazing when you had to use the D-Pad and the ABXY buttons.

So I did what any one else would do, I ordered 4 joysticks and 40 buttons and 2 two player PCB boards that attach via USB, and a trackball, oh and 2 more LED joysticks (for Karate Champ!) and an OrangePi PC so I did not have to cannibalize the RPi media center.

I was excited , the OPi is:

  • Slightly faster than RPi 3 at 1.6 ghz vs 1.2
  • Has the same RAM
  • A Mic for Alexa support
  • An IR chip
  • It was only $27 with a case and power cord!


Sadly:

  • OS support is very poor 
  • The video drivers are closed source so no HW acceleration which unexpectedly makes big difference to the emulators.
So...
I built this:
The RPi found its way into this beast.  It took a ton of troubleshooting to get it to recognize both players on the separate joysticks (this post explains why) 
FYI, this is the quirk code for this unit: 

usbhid.quirks=0x0810:0xe001:0x40

It still needs a little love.  I have the second joysticks for player 1 and 2 (in the middle) to put in (they light up with LED lights!). The usb to PS2 connector for the track ball will be here shortly so it can go in. There are a couple of games that don't work quite right yet, but it is really close to functioning as expected...

Then I have to make it pretty with paint, some hot pink T-molding, and this beautiful vinyl overlay from Metro Styling (mine is that full image, but 16 inches x 5 feet): 



Then for the rest of the cabinet, I think I am going to mount it on top of a mini fridge, then fill it with Cherry Coke so that my love will enjoy it a little more.

The coolest part is seeing the kids totally into Mrs. Packman, or Galaga, or to hear them playing 4 player X-men or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles together (I haven't quite got them hooked on Gauntlet yet but there is still time).











Thursday, June 5, 2014

Internet Safety

Giving a class today on internet Safety.
Get the powerpoint here

Sunday, January 20, 2013

I love juice don't you?

The universe has combined to drive me toward a juice fast.  I signed up for RAGNAR. Yes I am a masochist! As a result I have started monitoring my food intake, and exercising (swimming, cycling and yes running). I have also been devouring as much data as I can about how to train, and run endurance races. I am actually having lots of fun with this. Now you are asking yourself, what does this have to do with a juice fast?

Thursday my friends at Audible had a sale on 100 audio books, and in the list I found Finding Ultra by Rich Roll. In it I was impressed by his Vegan diet transformation. I was inspired by a 40 year old man who transformed himself in 2 years into an ultra marathoner, an Iron man and one of two to complete the first Epic 5 Challenge (www.epic5.com) I actually started listening to the book after eating at Tucanos. Afterword I did not feel great, and a vegan diet sounded pretty good. So I started considering trying a vegan diet for a while.

Then I bought Scott Jurek's book Eat and Run about him becoming an unlikely ultra marathon powerhouse on a vegan diet.  Haven't finished the book yet but I will write a review in the next week or so.  Vegan push number 2...

Then I got on Face Book last night and read that my cousin Heidi is on day 12 of a Juice Fast after watching the movie Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. I jumped online and thought I would add it to my Netflix queue...but it was already there. Apparently my beautiful wife added it to our queue because her friend and fellow wonder woman is trying the juice fast. Today we watched the movie and I was impressed, first by Joe Cross and his story, but even more with Phillip's story (you'll just have to watch it to find out).  Here was push number 3 for a vegan diet...

So, although I will be baking bread still for the kids, and Heidi (at least for a week or so before I convince her to join me). I am going to embark on the juice fast, no solid food, only juice and water for the next two weeks as a cleansing fast. I expect the first several days to be tough. Then I will evaluate if I want to continue to 30 days. If I make it to 30 days, then I will evaluate if I should continue the 60 days like Joe does in the documentary.  Tuesday morning I am meeting with the Doctor (again, I met with him before I started the first of December...), and will have my blood work done and hopefully a few more tests.

Will I be vegan the rest of my life? Probably not, but I will be for the next few weeks, and possibly a stint after that. I will let you know how it goes. Wish me well!!!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Need No Knead Bread.

Ok, I am a few years late to the party. I realize that this no knead bread thing has been around since 2007. I realize that I bought 2 new dutch ovens to try this in the last 3 years. I realize that most of you have probably already tried this and gotten over the AAAAAHHHHHHH factor. That being said, this is fun so I am writing about it. For those of you who are gluten free, avert your eyes, read no further, I have no interest in torturing you.

Crispy crusty deliciousness with 4 ingredients and 5 min of work.

There is something awesome about your kids waking up in the morning to fresh baked artisan bread. Even better when you have invested a total of 5 min of work to make it... This delicious loaf came out about 5 min ago and will be a large contributor to my breakfast!








Here's the recipe:
  • Measure out 2 parts flour to 1 part water but do not combine them at this point (3 cups to 1.5 cups seems to be the norm). You can use up to 1/2 whole wheat flour with great success but, more whole wheat makes a reaaaaalllly dense loaf.
  • Add about 1t salt per cup of water
  • Add 1/4t yeast per cup of water
  • Stir up the dry ingredients, then add the water (this is critical because you are not going to knead this dough to make sure that all things are well dispersed within the dough)
  • Stir to combine (result is a wet hairy dough ball).
  • Cover with plastic wrap
  • Wait 12-18 hours
  • Flop it onto a lightly floured counter (gently)
  • Lightly stretch into a dough ball
  • Let it rest and raise 30 - 90 min.
  • Put your "cloche" (Dutch oven) in the oven at 450* and let it heat for at least 30 min
  • Drop the dough in the "cloche", close it up, bake 30 min
  • Pull the lid, and let it continue to toast for 10 min until dark and crunchy.
  • Remove loaf, listen to the song it sings to you as the crust crunches and crackles
  • cool 30 min (or as long as your patience allows)
  • cut 
  • enjoy with real butter and honey from the back yard, or home grown jelly!
My red enamel Tramontina has a new primary use.
I've only made 4 loaves, but the first three disappeared as soon as there were kids, and loaf 4 is cooling right now, soon to meet it's demise.

 The key to this method is steam. In commercial bakeries they pipe steam into the oven while the bread bakes to make a really thin crisp crust without sacrificing the integrity of the crumb. The cloche (pronounced \ˈklōsh\) allows sufficient build up of steam and very even heat from all sides much like a commercial oven would.  You could use a cast iron dutch oven, or an enamel Tramontina like I do, even the glased terra cotta cloche would work great (Alton Brown likes big terra cotta pots upside down on a pizza stone or the pot plate).  In the end the temperature outside the cloche is 450 but inside it is a steamy delicious 250 degrees, allowing a nice crust, and plenty of oven spring. 

Observations so far: 
  • I really want to rush this process and that is not good for the bread... so perhaps when kids come home from school is a better time than when they wake up. It takes 2 hrs from the time you pull the dough onto your counter, until it is ready to eat, granted you only work 2 min during that time, but you do have to be awake.
  • This bread would be fabulous with add-ins like calamata olives, basil, whole roasted garlic cloves, rasins and a sprinkle of cinnamon, etc.
  • The crust is super crunchy for an hour or so, but if you let it rest for a couple of hours it gets chewy and delicious in a totally different way.
This is what happens right after it is sliced

Update:
I have now made 8 loaves, and all of them have turned out pretty good. 
I did get heavy handed with the salt 1 time, it was ok.
I did not stir it well one time and got all the salt on one side of the bread which made for some good and some REAAAAAALLLLLLY bad bread in the same loaf.  
I tiny splash of water in the Dutch oven, just before you close it, makes the crust even thinner and tastier.

The nice part is that this is just so darn simple, I am not sure why I wasn't doing it before! I love to get the kids involved making the dough because they get so excited about the bread. I love that I can hear a loaf crackling as it cools right now!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Honey Time!

We are collecting some honey from the bees, and I just wanted to give a bit of an update.

We cut the comb off that we want to harvest and break it up into this bucket.
The bucket has holes in it and it sits on top of a grease splatter gard so that it falls into the bottom bucket and all the wax remains in the top bucket. Emily particularly enjoyed smashing up the comb so that the honey is released.

This is what the comb looks like right out of the hives:
Note the top bars that we have been using ar cut off on the left of the bucket.
 In a traditional Langstroth hive, these would be left in the frame and spun out using a honey centrifuge, you can do that with top bar hives also although it is much harder to get all of the honey without damaging the comb significantly. One other thing to mention at this point is that traditional commercial bee keepers try to save as much comb as possible. Generally this is because the bees use a lot of honey drawing out comb (it takes a lot of energy to make that much wax). The problem with that approach is that most bee diseases come from comb that is used over and over and over again. That kind of re-use does increase honey production but it also increases the pesticides brought into the hive from the flowers that the bees are visiting, it allows diseases like nosemea and foulbrood to get a foothold against the hives natural defenses, it allows parasites like varoa destructor to infest beyond recovery. A close analogy would be what if you used the same set of sheets for several years before changing them, oh and you ate all your meals in your bed, and did most of your work in bed. By allowing the bees to make new comb we sacrifice some honey, but we also clean the bees sheets. I think it is a welcome trade off in order to have healthier bees.

 After about a week, we end up with this:
The honey has strained through into the bottom bucket, and the wax is left in the top bucket. You can see a little honey still in the wax but it is almost out.  We will melt down this wax along with some of the brood combs that we culled from the hive and make some yummy smelling bees wax for something.

Here is the paper bag full of brood comb ready for melting: 
The darker comb is where the baby bees were raised, our queen sure had a bunch of babies!!!
It sure is fun to see the end of the process that started so many months ago.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Channeling Tessa

As I picked the succulent concord grapes this morning I could hear my grandma in my mind. She was instructing me how to pick the big clusters but to be sure not to miss the little bunches even just one or two grapes . I remember her showing me how to break off the stems because I was too small to use the paring knife she was using. Today I used the knife like her. I brought the grapes in and filled the sink like she used to, cleaning them off and getting ready to juice them. In my mind she let me know that I was taking the easy way out by using my steam juicer instead of cracking out the Victoria strainer. 

Fortunately for me there was a bit of extra juice that did not fit in my last quart jar, just about a cup. As I sipped the sweet nectar from those tiny orbs, I again remembered Grandma, and I wanted to be better. I wanted to make more food at home, to leverage the chest freezer, and maybe even can some venison or at least chicken. Who knows, maybe when my first grandchild is born I can put up some venison or cherries that will still be around when they are married, just so they remember that they should try to do as much as they can with what they have. 

I think this spring I will plant a raspberry bramble at the Roberts' cabin. Something that can run wild and provide just a little of Grandma's love for the Great-Grand-Kids to feel. Maybe it will draw the animals in like the old corn cob feeder used to. Maybe with a little prodding from some of these things, we can remember to be just a little better than we are, just like she would have wanted!