Thanks kingmudsy for making the space! I rarely finish even half the projects I start, but starting is the fun part, so here's a status report.
Resisting the Irresistible
The "best by" date for the Milano cookies arrived on Sunday, January 12. The previous Friday afternoon, I decided that it wasn't necessary to wait for the cookies to expire to prove my resistance. I did manage to leave some cookies for Monday.
Dopamine fasting might be taking things too far, but I can appreciate the idea of making conscious decisions to maximize enjoyment of treats, rather than indulging and overindulging whenever fancy strikes.
During the cookie incubation period I stopped adding sweetener to my coffee. It took a couple days to adjust, and now I prefer it black. It's been a while since I've had a cola, too, but I did enjoy those cookies.
Status: in progress
The top level of the parking garage at the metro station is deserted in the morning, so I have been climbing the stairs most weekdays and tossing peanuts around. Sometimes I draw a crowd, but usually the crows keep their distance and wait for me to go away. I hide peanuts while they are watching, and so far only one difficult hiding place, inside a standpipe, has kept a peanut safe.
Also experimenting with a motion-activated camera at home, looking for ways to discriminate between crows, blue jays and squirrels.
bonus: additional effort to be smarter than other animals
Ayumu has been a participant since infancy in the Ai Project, an ongoing research effort aimed at understanding chimpanzee cognition
Ayumu is a genius.
Since I am an average dumb primate, I spent some time trying to recreate Ayumu's training program before realizing that someone else must have done it. There's a great iOS app and a variety for Android. Finding out that there is a level 7 was one of the great moments in life. (I have three stars up to level 4.3.)
There's been an unsolved cube floating around the house as long as I can remember. I could always solve one side, and some of the second layer, but after that it was hopeless. I supposed continuing was the same, using intuition and strategy to make progress toward the goal. It's not like that at all, at least for an amateur like me. The day the cookies expired I looked up the solving guide and spent an hour or so learning the notation and following the algorithms. It's all mechanical brute-force after the first layer, using a six-step algorithm to position each edge piece in the middle layer, then a six-step algorithm to get edge pieces to the top, then a six-step algorithm to arrange the top edge pieces, then eight steps to move the top corners around, then many repetitions of a four-step pattern to orient the corners.
It's completely thoughtless and mechanical, at least using these basic techniques. My best time is four minutes, but getting a record time depends on getting lucky so you can skip some steps. It's fun when your muscles memorize the patterns and you can watch your hands manipulate the cube, but when something goes wrong it can be hard to correct. I most often make the correct rotation but in the wrong direction, especially when using my left hand. The kid insisted on getting a "speed cube" and is almost down to three minutes.
Status: initial research
I don't eat blue food. As a justification to work on some coding with the kid, we plan to build a robot that will separate blue M&M candies from the edible ones. Last night we connected the $8 camera accessory to the Raspberry Pi and got it to take some images using the Python PiCamera library. While aiming the camera around on its short ribbon cable, I accidentally touched the bottom of the camera circuit board to the pins of the Pi and caused the whole thing to reboot.
The plan is to build some kind of hopper and connect it to a motorized arm that will guide M&Ms into position one by one. The camera will take a photo of each one. We will manually code the photos by color, then train a TensorFlow instance on the image set with color data. Finally we will get TensorFlow to identify the color of incoming M&Ms, kicking blues into the trash and good ones into a bowl. We might throw some coins and buttons in there too.
Pen & ink
cW pioneered the eVox, a digital voice recording that you send to a friend.
We exchanged many, considering the merits of various forms of communication: written versus oral, immediate versus deferred, digital versus tangible.
He is now promoting a new format, unnamed as far as I can tell. You write a letter on paper, photograph it, and send the digital image. You end up with two handy backup copies. My preliminary efforts were simple
but cW was kind enough to send a Jinhao x450 with a refillable cartridge as encouragement.
I am a bit clumsy with the cartridges, and found that I could dip the nib into the ink bottle and comfortably get several sentences down between dips.
Status: always behind
A guy at work showed me the app he created for his iPhone which wasn't on the App Store. He was having some trouble with notifications but otherwise it was working well. When he described the installation procedure, I told him it was nice but really just a bookmark to his web site saved to the home screen. He pointed out that his app didn't run as a tab in Safari, there was no sign of the browser, and it worked offline. I was surprised that Apple would allow this workaround to the lucrative App Store, and even more surprised to learn that Apple is promoting progressive web apps.
I have made but little progress in experimenting, but love the philosophy, that rather than scaling down your full-featured application to include users on smaller and older devices, you start with a minimal feature set that everyone can use, and optionally add features for users that can support them.
Is anyone still working on a Hubski app?
Like a sucker, I bought the recommended wallpaper removal spray and perforating roller. The spray burned my eyes and the bottle trigger jammed before the bottle was half empty. I experimented with water and found that it worked just as well, and even better if you refrained from perforating the wallpaper, so it peels without tearing. My method was to spray the wall with water and adhere half-sheets of newspaper from top to bottom. Keep each sheet of wallpaper very wet as you continue papering with more newspaper. When the wallpaper has soaked for ten minutes, slowly peel it from the top. I could usually get the outer vinyl layer off as one sheet, and the inner layer was water-absorbent and easy to remove after more soaking. Sometimes both layers peeled off together. Might not work for every kind of wallpaper and wall surface, but ended up being fun when progress was slow and steady rather than tearing off millions of little bits one by one.
Had to buy replacement batteries for my eight-year-old DeWalt drill. I almost bought a Hole Hawg for $30 at Second Chance in Baltimore after our Amazon tour. It just seemed like more drill than I could ever use, but now that it takes half an hour to hang a towel hook I bet I could manage.
The TV antenna is still going strong in the attic, but the WiFi tuner is flaky. There is coax in the walls, but it would be a challenge to map it out in time for the Superbowl or Oscars.