This past January (2013), I created “Firelight”, a lantern that shines with the light of a simulated fire.
The lantern contains over a hundred LEDs, a microcontroller, a battery pack, and custom software. The software monitors the remaining power in the batteries, and as the voltage slowly runs down, the flames burn lower, finally dying into embers as the batteries die.
I presented the Firelight lantern at the Veracode winter Hackathon, where I lit it, and then gently blew on the coals to kindle a flame. I’ve had a few requests to build more of these lanterns for other people, and I’m considering it, but haven’t made a decision yet. More pictures are here.
There’s this experiment:
In this experiment:
- Monkey#1 completes a task, gets a cucumber slice.
- Monkey#2 completes a task, gets a sweet sweet GRAPE! Importantly, Monkey#1 SEES this deal with Monkey#2 and the grape.
- Now Monkey#1 completes the task again, and gets a dull old cucumber slice again — NOT a tasty grape! Aaaaand to no one’s surprise, Monkey#1 now HURLS the cucumber slice back at the experimenter.
One can say a lot about this experiment, and how this monkey business is paralleled in human nature, etc., and a lot of people are saying a lot of things here and there. Whatever.
For me, there’s a personal lesson here, and it goes something like this: the path to happiness lies in enjoying the slice of cool fresh cucumber that I’ve got right here. Fixating on what other people have that I do not, instead of focusing on the small happinesses right in front of me makes me an awfully dumb monkey.
Other people have more money, more prestige, more friends, more patents, more love, more chocolate, more LEDs, more time with their kids, more travel stamps in their passport, more habaneros in their garden. If I fixate on that, all it does is sour my feelings for the good and marvelous things that I do have. I’ve harvested a whopping six tiny little habanero peppers from my plant this year, and I’m so proud of them you wouldn’t believe it.
Thinking further: I’m doubly dumb if I do what the first monkey did: throw away the cucumber that I have just because I didn’t get a grape! If my neighbor harvests nine habaneros from her pepper plant, should I bitterly throw away the six I got from mine? How does that make my life better in any way at all? (Hint: It doesn’t.) Can you imagine: you just won $1,000. But then when you find out that your neighbor won $2,000, you turn around and tear up your $1,000 check. That’s of absolutely no benefit to you, no matter how envious you might feel of the extra money.
Now it is true that if I see my neighbor’s chili plant producing more than mine, I might ask her for tips, or I might wonder if she’s using the same sun that I’m using, or I might solemnly vow to treat my pepper plant better next season. So there can be some good motivational value in seeing what I could do better next time. But cursing out my neighbor for her success, or throwing out my own six perfectly awesome little chili peppers? That’s behavior befitting a creature with a brain the size of a peach pit, a dumb little monkey. But me? I can do better. I bet you can do better, too. We all can. We’re not mere monkeys. We’re awesome people.
For the record, my garden this year has not only produced six habaneros, but also exactly one (1) cucumber, and I plan to enjoy that one little cucumber like crazy.
Update: the garden also produced one awesome tiny watermelon.
So! You’ve decided to take a trip away from Black Rock City! Here are some tips to keep in mind when traveling away from Home:
Clothing: Make sure to bring enough clothes so that everyone in your group can have some. Among other things, will save you all time later since you won’t have to keep switching.
Money: Do you remember when you were a child, collecting bits of money here and there, slowly saving up for that one thing you really wanted? Well, money here works the same way, except that you may have to break open your piggy bank a little bit more often. If it helps, think of every shop, store, restaurant, gas station, bar, and mall that you see as if they were “Arctica”, and what they’re all selling is basically just ice: cool, and maybe useful, but ultimately fleeting and ephemeral. ‘Nuff said.
Bacon: BACON IS EXACTLY THE SAME EVERYWHERE, THANK $%!*&@# GOD.
Returning Home After Your Trip: After you’ve had an exciting jaunt out and about, it’s always good to come back Home, to be with your family and your loved ones. Have a wonderful trip, and we’ll see you when you get Home again.
Yours in flame-
A basic “5,000 BTU” air conditioner can pump about 1,500 Watts of heat out of a room every hour. To get more bang for your A/C buck, find the big ‘heat leaks’ in your room — and block them.
Your air conditioner is a pump, and what it pumps is an invisible liquid called ‘heat’. (OK, not really, but this is a useful way to think about it.) Your A/C unit scoops up the ‘heat liquid’ from inside the room, pumps it out through the window, and dumps it outside. As the ‘heat liquid’ is slowly drained out of your room, the room gets cooler, you get happier, and civilized indoor life can continue.
To boost the cooling power of your A/C unit, find out what’s letting heat leak into your room, and you block the leaks. If your room is constantly filling up with ‘heat liquid’, the pump (A/C) spends a lot more energy just keeping up with the leaks, and less energy dropping the temperature for you. Luckily, there are (at least!) three easy things you can do:
- Block the daytime sunlight. Sun flooding in through the windows also brings a flood of heat into the room. Close the blinds, pull the drapes. Congratulations, you’ve just closed a big, gaping hole that was pouring heat in to the room.
- Turn off every light you can — and replace others with LED or CFL bulbs. If you’re running three 60-Watt lightbulbs in the same room as a basic 5,000 BTU window A/C unit, you’re using 12% of your A/C’s cooling power just to pump out the heat that the lightbulbs are bringing in! Turn off the ones you don’t need, and replace the others with modern high-efficiency LED or CFL bulbs. Good job: you’ve just blocked another source of heat sneaking in.
- Unplug those electronic gizmos — or at least move the chargers to another room. Nearly everything plugged into a wall socket is leaking heat into your room. Put your hand on each ‘wall wart’ transformer, and if any of them feel warm, you’ve found another leak through which heat is sneaking into your room! When you unplug the gizmo, you plug another heat leak.
It’s common to find 20% or more of an A/C unit’s cooling power being used up needlessly, pumping out heat that you can easily block before it gets in. Block that heat before it gets in, and presto: 20% boost in A/C cooling power.
On the sunny afternoon of Sunday, April 29, 2012, Eleanor, Abby, and a friend, all age 9, walked half a mile to The Chilly Cow for ice cream, and then back again (with a stop at the library, of course) without adult supervision or accompaniment. Total round-trip time was slightly more than an hour, well under the contractually pre-negotiated 90 minutes.
The adventurers’ parents spent the intervening time in various degrees of distraction, ranging from mindful confidence to … less meditative states. Overall the experience was deemed a great success all around, and at least two of the parents in question got a little choked up for a moment over the “our kids are growing up” factor.
The trip itself was a little less than a half-mile each way, as the crow walks. If you’re a grownup, or driving, or both, you might think of this particular half-mile trip something sort of like this:
But if you’re walking, it’s more like this (please do click the image to get the full experience) :
But actually, I think that if you’re 9 years old, and you’re doing this by yourself for the very first time ever, it has nothing to do with time, or space, or distance, or any kind of map at all. It’s just pure, undiluted awesome. And that is exactly how it was reported afterwards.