Saturday, April 30, 2016

Paradise ponders, cont'd...

Paradise ponders, cont'd...  I ended up not working all that much on my office today – lots of other things intervened.  But I do have a photo of the ceiling fan, installed :)

My tutoring session with Abby S. went exceptionally well.  She is picking up the concepts behind programming quickly, and with great enthusiasm.  Today she and I worked together to build a little web page using the Web Audio API to play a single musical note that could be either a pure tone or a chord with an arbitrary number of component tones.  Her homework is to turn that into a program that can play two notes.  We'll be expanding this into a program that can play a tune.

I thought we'd spend most of today working on her understanding of a two-dimensional lookup table, where one dimension was indexed by the musical note name and the other by an octave number.  The result would be the frequency of the note.  Instead of spending an hour or so on it, she had it nailed in less than five minutes – and passed all my tests of her understanding easily.  This is a reasonably complex data structure for such a novice programmer, but she picked it up very easily.  As an experiment, I showed her how (in the debugger) to drill down into the “document” variable (which is a very complex data structure that contains the entirety of the currently displayed web page).  She got the general idea of that sort of nested tree structure immediately.

It's fun teaching someone so bright and motivated!  And Debbie loves to feed her treats, so we got a lemon pie out of this, too :)

My brother Scott came to visit a little later, and we went to my neighbor Tim D.'s house to pick up a load of firewood that Tim gave me.  While there, Scott got to meet Tim's wife Jeannie – and her new puppy Gus.  That little guy had just been brought home from the breeder, at age 6 weeks.  He looked terrified when we first saw him – it was his first time out of the crate he was born in.  By the time we left, about a half hour later, little Gus was running around playing with their other two dogs (Lexy and Marley), along with any human who happened to be standing nearby.  This little fellow is going to be just fine, I think.  Debbie came over to see Gus, too, and I think she's going to end up helping Jeannie train him.  That is one cute little puppy!

Paradise ponders...

Paradise ponders...  What a busy day here yesterday!  It started around 4:30 am, when the milkman drove in and set off the dogs.  Sleepily we realized that we'd forgotten to set out the empty jugs.  Oops!  No matter, they left our two and a half gallons anyway :)

I filled the bird feeders after our morning caffeiniation.  We're using about 10 pounds of black oil sunflower seed per week right now, along with around 6 pounds of “high value” food (nuts, dried fruit, shelled sunflowers) and 4 pounds of Nijer thistle.  All the sunflower seed and thistle feeders have to be refilled daily.  Our feeders attract huge numbers of American goldfinches (often more than 50 at a time), Lesser's goldfinches, house finches, and red-winged blackbirds.  We also get chickadees and nuthatches in smaller numbers, and a couple of (so far unidentified) woodpeckers that love to hang on our suet feeder (which is loaded with a mixture of lard and peanut butter).  The occasional magpie comes in and tries to figure out how to get to the seeds, but all our feeders are magpie-proof.  We also get Asian pigeons that like to hunt on the ground for misplaced seeds.  The sound from all these birds is something I greatly enjoy: if you open our front door it can be quite overwhelming.  Our UPS deliveryman commented on the sound yesterday, amazed that it was always like this...

I started working on my office in the shed in the morning, finishing up the wiring of the outlet strips.  Then I decided to get ready for the ceiling fan that was scheduled for delivery in the afternoon.  On Thursday I had purchased an “old work” (retrofit) ceiling fan box that could be installed through a 4" diameter hole.  I marked the center of the room, offset a few inches to avoid a truss (detected by knocking on the ceiling), and then cut my hole with the oscillating saw (love that thing!).  Next step was initially a stumper: how do I get the wire from the hole in the ceiling to the wall where I had power available? 

The ceiling hole is 13' from the exposed wall with power, and the intervening space was filled with trusses and blown-in insulation.  There's no way that I could squeeze into that space – and even if I could, I'd wreck the 18" thick blanket of insulation.  My first thought was that I'd poke the 14 gauge Romex up through the hole while Debbie watched from outside and gave me some guidance.  That plan fell apart when I discovered that Debbie was not comfortable climbing the ladder (all these years and I never knew she had a fear of ladders!).  My second plan worked much better.  I have a “fish” – a fiberglass rod in screw-together sections – that's designed for fishing wires through walls.  That rod is quite flexible, about like a wire coat-hanger.  I screwed together enough sections to make a 15' “pole”, then wiggled it so that the far end was roughly over the hole in the ceiling (I had to guess about that, as the hole was covered by all that insulation and I couldn't actually see where it was).  Then I got on a ladder inside my office, stuck my arm up through that hole, and felt around until I felt the fish.  Success!  Then all I had to do was to tie the Romex onto the end of the fish, go outside and pull the fish out.  That worked great.

The fan ceiling box turned out to be trivially easy to install.  I'd expected that job to take a few hours, but instead it was under a half hour, beginning to end.  When the fan came in the afternoon, I had it installed onto the new box in under an hour – and it all worked on the first try (even the snazzy remote control that came with the fan).  Now my office has a fan to circulate the air warmed by the wood stove, and some lights.  Yay!

This morning my student Abby S. should be here for a lesson, and then my brother Scott is going to be here to help out a bit.  I'm hoping to be able to finish up that last bit of outlet strip wiring, and I also need to install the fan's remote control into a hole in the wall.  Once that's complete, it's cleanup time – and then I'll be moving my stuff over to the office...