Weekly Rochester Events #343: So Many Years of Ideal Gasses
Thursday, August 4, 2005
Well, it's been one big Sisyphus week. Welcome to the bloggerly review thereof.
Things went well at first: on Thursday I finished up the electronics for the spiral bike and lights (which is the same kind of light design I'm going to use on The Bike With 2 Brains) although it took longer than I had hoped. On Friday I did some car repairs: I fixed the shift lever (the bearings in the linkage had rusted out and made the shifter all sloppy ... but the aftermarket shifter used #608 skate bearings which I bought for the Bike With 2 Brains) and installed cruise control which I never had, but considering I'm going to drive cross-country, I figured it'd be nice. Well, when I went to test things, I found that I had put the shifter in backwards (so it took a gorilla reach to get into first and third, and fifth gear required a King-Kong-grabs-the-woman-style lunge) and the cruise control didn't work. Well, easy fix: I had it wired to the wrong power source, so I fixed that and went out again. I couldn't get it to engage, and when I checked to see if I was going fast enough (35 mph, I guess) I noticed that the speedometer read zero.
I had, as recommended, connected the speed sensor on the cruise control to the speed sensor for the car. However, something went wrong and it broke the speedometer. I assume the worst: that in the process of installing my six-dollar-special cruise control — from Goodwill Fashions (451 South Clinton Ave.) — that I managed to fry the several hundred dollar car computer. Crap.
At least when I went to Lux Lounge (666 South Ave.) around 7 there was still happy hour pizza, so I got some of that. Oh, and I forgot my bike lock because it's with the spiral bike but it was easy enough to just put it in the back yard there — it's huge as they say. I hung out with some friends and had a beer and things weren't so bad. Also, they found my sachel I lost (that is, brought there two weeks ago and didn't even think about it until when I needed it again) so that was good. I headed back home to get the lock and decided to take a bit of a nap, but when I roused around 10, I figured I might as well sleep through the night ... I ended up zonking out for 11 hours, so I guess I might be a bit overextended.
I've been working on living in a state where I'm people-centric rather than object-centric. I'm trying to get to the point where I try to be with people rather than be owned by my stuff. However, the objects in my life seem to be taking all my time. At least for now. I'll try to shed them when I get back from Burning Man (The Man, Black Rock City 2004, NV.) Isn't that always the way, though: I'll do something good in my life when this one thing is over. Well, seriously, I'm killing myself to get this fucking Bike With 2 Brains project done, so I'm somewhat object-centric right now, but that should abate when it becomes some mangled abstract metal sculpture in the middle of the Nevada desert.
On Saturday I got to work early on the car. It wasn't much trouble to fix the car shifter, and I installed the external speed sensor kit that came with the cruise control and got it working too. Hooray. It'll be Thursday when I have it checked, but for now the speedometer appears to work intermittently, and only when the car is cold. As long as I can figure out how fast I'm going soon enough, I can hit the cruise and be all set.
That evening I built the light clusters for the The Bike With 2 Brains (red, green, and blue LED's that light up milky-white polyethylene tubing, but you can read all about it [soon] on the site.) I headed to The Bug Jar (219 Monroe Ave.) that night to see some bands — finally. The Ferndocks once again did some pretty good but a bit generic rock-and-roll. I liked Rocko Dorsey and the Individuals who did some really good rock-punk/rockbilly with a lot of modern rock influence. Finishing things up was The Earl Cram Revue who were great as usual ... high power, punchy rock-and-roll, but I was getting really tired (stupid circadian rhythms) so I headed back home early.
In addition, I'm trying to be less event-centric and more people-centric. Years ago I started going to do things by myself because I couldn't find people who wanted to just go do stuff. Lately, though, I'm in the reverse position where I'd rather go find people than worry about what they want to do — I'm getting a bit more flexible, unless there's something that I just know is going to be totally cool.
Something else struck me: I saw this guy riding towards me on this bike. While he didn't strike me, the idea did [insert triple-strike-rim-shot here — aren't I fucking clever in my labored wordcrafting.] As he passed, he had the non-recognition look in his eyes like he could come close to me without hitting me because Nintendo's polygon clipping algorithm would allow it: he was playing some video game instead of dealing with reality.
Earlier that day I started noticing the people inside cars. While I have always known there are people driving cars, I had made cars into this abstraction of a big metal animal — I could be angered that it refused to signal its turns, or stare it down as I knew it wasn't allowed to run me down in the crosswalk under the glow of a full-on walk-sign.
However, this kind of thinking disturbed me in that I had lost the humanity of it all.
I realized that if while you're around town, look at the people — ignore the machines and the concrete. Look at them and say, "that's a person." I swear ... it's really weird to start getting back to community this way, but it's a start toward something better than a yellow smiling dot knocking prices down.
Anyway, Sunday had me back in the throes of my object-dominated life and on the LED tubing project again. I got everything built using ribbon cable to address each LED cluster and each color, but I couldn't get it to fit into the tubing. I resorted to forcing it but realized I was probably breaking things — indeed, when I tested it, I lost a lot of the circuits. So it was back to square one ... well, maybe square 3, but the metaphoric big rock went rolling back down the hill again. I decided to use thin wire-wrapping wire for to address each cluster, so I've got 8 fine wires and 3-conductor ribbon cable for the colors and I finally got it all built. Now I've just got to build the one for the other side.
Monday I started in on some audio and power stuff for The Bike With 2 Brains. First I went for a walk in the morning and wanted to create a track for the Bike With 2 Brains. I brought my only portable recorder (a camcorder — anyone need 15 minutes of legs in Carhartt shorts and sandaled feet walking on asphalt in DV format?) to get a snapshot of the sounds of walking around the block at my house via the canal path. When I got home, the recording came out so quiet and with so much noise that it was unusable — it turns out the battery in the microphone I used was dead, so I had to do it again on Wednesday. I decided to move on to power systems.
I need to get 12 volts knocked down to 5 volts to run the computers and LED's. I don't want to use a simple linear converter, though, because I'm limited in power from the battery and (hopefully) the windmill. Those have about a 42% power efficiency — for instance, 12 volts in at 1 amp is 12 watts and you can pretty much step that down to 5 volts out at 1 amp which is 5 watts; 5 watts / 12 watts = 42%. So I decided to make my own DC-DC converter. I spent all day Monday working through various combinations of buck converters and pulse-width-modulation only to get efficiencies all over the board from about 24% to 45% including a few 95% which I assumed are measurement errors. I gave up and started again on Tuesday and continued all day on the same trend. I decided to change the design considerably and ended up with a much better system — I managed to get up to a pretty consistent rating of over 60% at two different power levels. I was pleased and got the hell out of the house before something else went wrong.
So in the end, a half-day task of making a power supply turned into a three-day marathon of continuously staring at breadboards. See, this is what I was getting at with Sisyphus — people wonder why he didn't just stop pushing the rock up the hill. Well, every day he woke up with a new bright idea: today it's going to work — I'll use a pulley system to winch the rock up; I'll get a pebble to ratchet it up; I'll use a MOSFET to get more current for a better square wave — same difference.
And I'm calling myself an "artist" these days. Harumph!
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