Bees in the yard, must be spring

We hived our three new packages of bees yesterday; the apiary has been expanded from 2 hives to 4. All 4 hives are abuzz with activity; Hive West has its first honey super on, and we’re hoping to get a little maple honey for the first time. It’s a warm, sunny day, with a bunny hopping around the yard, all 6 chickens laying, and the lawn covered in dandelions

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Excellent Pot Roast

Pot roast should be one of those fairly easy to cook dishes, but mine usually turned out fairly dry and overcooked. So, the last time that I tried it, I hunted Google for some tips, and came across this gem. Start with some chuck, onions, and carrots, and end with lots of compliments on a job well done. Thanks, Pioneer Woman!

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Rainier Watch

After a couple weeks of clouds, rain, and wind, last night was clear and cold under a waning gibbous moon. Temperature this morning was 28 degrees.

We are in the “too cold to rain” part of the year, which I expect to stick around until a couple weeks before solstice.

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I tested out the power and internet in our camper.

I’m using the same deep cycle battery and inverter setup that I’ve used before to drive the observatory, and the 4G WiFi “puck” to pluck internet from a cellular signal.

So here I am, with no wall power and no ethernet, and yet here I am posting on the blog. Not bad.

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Buzz Buzz

It’s good to have bees in the yard again. We got a couple nice hours this afternoon, and the air was suddenly full of honeybees buzzing around. They’re still getting their bearings, so there’s a lot of bees landing on you a lot as you’re walking around. But, in all, it feels very much like spring.

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Give us this day…

It's impossible to describe what the kitchen smells like right now.

It’s impossible to describe what the kitchen smells like right now.

This represents 3/4 of my second attempt at baking bread from scratch. Sorry, one loaf had to be sacrificed to the wolv– I mean, family — before I could get enough peace and quiet to get a photo taken. 🙂

I’m happy to report that this bread run was just as successful as my first.

I used the same Betty Crocker recipe that was taught to me by my Bread Jedi instructor, a Sage of the Woods who shall otherwise remain nameless. (Thank you, N__!)

The recipe is pretty simple, but it still takes enough work that it’s worth doubling to get 4 loaves instead of 2.

With supreme confidence, I totally skipped blooming the yeast, in favor of just mixing the whole thing together at once. It seems not to have caused any problem whatsoever.

I picked up 4 bread pans at the local grocery store, along with a couple of large Tupperware tubs (I mixed in these, and there’s also another batch of dough in the fridge, waiting for me to bake it over the next week or so).

This was a standard double-rise, hand-kneaded dough. I really enjoy kneading. Everyone complains about it, but I find it a great stress reliever. It’s also really easy to tell when the dough is done, because you literally have your hands all over it. Having said that, my daughter helped out with the measuring and mixing part, but strangely disappeared as soon as it came time to knead.. hmm…

Here’s a quick look at the loaves after the first rise and punch down (I love that you actually have to effect violence on the dough… this is not like roasting). See? Four loaves. Honest. I wasn’t sure when to add the poppy seeds… this was not the correct time. Oops. No harm done.

Those who are about to rise, we salute you.

Those who are about to rise, we salute you.

I slashed the tops this time (hadn’t done that the first time around), and also experimented with some toppings; poppyseed, anise seed, rosemary, and granola. I like the way the V slash came out the best (poppy), but I have high hopes for the scallop slash (granola). Also, I need to brush on water, butter, or egg, to make the toppings stick, I think. Shrug. That’s for next time.

The oven had been pre-heating for awhile, because I’d picked up a 12″x12″ piece of granite at Home Depot to eventually use as a baking stone, and I was making sure it could deal with temperature changes. The baking was done in about 30 minutes (recipe calls for 35). The tops are looking pretty “GB & D”, the bottoms are perhaps a little overdone (but the bottom crust is still very tasty). The crumb is… well, the bread is awesome, if I do say so myself. Loaf #1 was gone in about 15 minutes flat.

I picked up a breadmaking book (no plug until I taste your recipe!), and I’m going to try Brioche next — I like egg bread a lot, and we’re up to about 45 eggs at the moment, so I need to dig into our backlog.

Thank you again to my teacher and master breadmaker, N___. Couldn’t have done it without you!

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Bees, Year 2 begins

We got our new crop of bees this morning; my wife drove down in the middle of the night to meet the bee guy at like 6 in the morning or something. I slept through that part, so I’ll spare the details. The Clearwater Apiary also picked up a pair of packages — 4 hives between us should keep everyone on their toes this year.

There was a spray of sunshine around 4pm, so we decided to get the bees installed before it decided to start raining again.

Hives East and West, about to rise again.

Hives East and West, about to rise again.

This time, we were able to give the hives a good start; 2 full frames of honey each, as well as 6 frames of pre-built foundation. The bees will need to do a little cleanup, but otherwise, they should be off and running as soon as they run the marshmallow gauntlet.

Each of us took a hive and installed it individually — without loss of generality, I took Hive East. Things went pretty smoothly — I got most of the bees out of the package and into the hive. The only rub was that I couldn’t get the cork out, so I had to push it in, and then load the queen box sideways so it wouldn’t block the exit. Hive West went together without any difficulty.

We are trying frame feeders this year. I have the syrup built, but haven’t installed it yet, because it’s still a little warm. I think they’ll be OK with the honey for a day or two.

Be well, Hive East and Hive West!

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Ray Tracer : in the weeds

I’ve spent the past week fighting minor math errors in my ray tracer.

In order to confirm that my surface normals were being calculated correctly, I added boxes (axis aligned only at this point) as an additional primitive type. That required a couple days of debugging the normals calculation for the boxes too.

Then I added checkerboards, to confirm that I was getting proper reflections, and found that all my reflections seem to be upside-down.

I was also being driven nuts by the original datafile format, which was leading to a lot of “did I set that or not” type errors, so I switched to a hand-tooled JSON format. With only minor tweaks, the JSON file format is working! It’s about little successes right now.

I think there’s a basic error somewhere early in the process — I suspect that I’m having trouble distinguishing when something should be a “point” (a non-normalized 3D position in space), and when it should be a “vector” (a probably-should-be-normalized direction); and most particularly, when things should be pointing “at” the intersection point, and when they should be pointing “away” from the intersection point. I feel like I need to go through the whole thing with a fine-toothed comb, and rename variables to help me understand what’s going on. It would be nice if I could figure out a way to draw all the vectors visually, as well — I think that would really help the debugging process.

Anyway, I’m limping toward a solution, but it’s all going very slowly right now.

I’d love to be able to move on to transformations, texturing, and triangle intersection, but for now I’m stuck on kind of the basics: Am I even shooting a vector in the right direction? and How do I characterize what it is that I hit? and What do I do then?

More vectoring.

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PCB – The sun is the thing

I finally got back on the PCB fabrication horse. I printed out v1.1 of the 74HC595 LCD backpack, and v1.0 of the MCP23008 version. I chopped up the transparencies and mounted them up on Saturday, then worked on getting the boards exposed and etched on Sunday.

Since it was a clear and sunny morning (a rarity in Seattle in early March), I decided to try exposing the boards in “natural light” instead of under a lamp (I’d tried both incandescent and “full spectrum” incandescent bulbs, at a variety of distances), which had been giving me difficult results (hot spots and weak exposures) and had long exposure times (on the order of 20 minutes).

So I set up the exposure frame, put it out in the sun for 20 minutes, and the whole board promptly wiped clean of resist within seconds of putting it in the developer. Um, oops. 🙂

Just to test the timing out, I took a board that I’d accidentally exposed, and which had been sitting around for a couple of weeks being exposed to whatever ambient light was around, popped that into the exposure frame, and tried 4 minutes of sunshine. It went into the developer, and started showing traces within the first 3 seconds, and was developed in well under a minute — wow! It was still actually a little overdeveloped (some of the finer stuff, like text, was gone), but the resist that was left was by far the darkest and sharpest I’d seen to date. Nice.

So I cut myself another new blank, got it all set up, and exposed it for 3 minutes. It came out really, really nice. Because it was so dark, I left it in the developer for long enough to get right down to nice clean copper.

Both the “overexposed” test board, and the “good” new board etched out pretty well. The “overexposed” one ended up having a little spare resist left in between the traces, so it took a lot longer to etch, and was a bit tougher to get real clean. I realized as I was etching that this is a big part of the problem I’ve been having all along — because the photoresist was underexposed, it was getting underdeveloped, and thus a bunch of resist was left over, and it made etching much more difficult.

The “good” board etched out in about 3 to 5 minutes (I didn’t really time it), and both boards immediately went brown when put into the etchant.

I moved on to other projects and didn’t get the boards sawn and drilled.

The takeaway from this is that the sun makes a great light source for exposures (like who didn’t see that coming), taking only a couple of minutes to give a nice, dark exposure. And, a good exposure is critical for the rest of the etching process to go smoothly. I am betting that I’d have been able to do a pretty good job with even vinegar and peroxide with such sharp resist.

Yet another hobby that’s easier to do with clear sky. Hmm.

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Breadboard works

With my initial hubris about circuit construction dulled by a couple of nasty bugs and failures, I decided to construct my next circuit the old fashioned way — I bread boarded it first.

I wanted to do an I2C version of the LCD backpack, and I had an MCP23008 lying around, so I got to work.

I still had the board set up with the 74HC595 circuit on it, so setup was easy, and there was still plenty of space on the board for the new chip. A quick googling turned up a likely candidate for a wiring diagram, so I hooked it all up, and with the exception of hooking the $?&@;)!/ data lines up backwards again (seriously, how many times can I do that before I get it?), everything went in perfectly on the first try!

I spent a little time messing about with getting both SPI and I2C working from the same board, and it turns out it’s pretty simple. You have to push the /RST on the MCP and G on the 595 to the proper values (GND on both activates the 595, 5v activates the MCP, very cool!) and then set up some #ifdef code in the sketch, and the whole thing just swaps back and forth. I’m not sure if it has any practical value, but I suppose it would be cool to have a general port multiplier that could be switched from SPI to I2C at will. Maybe. Anyway, food for thought.

Now that I have a working circuit, I can push it into Eagle for fabrication.

I am really glad that I found at least some of the bugs on the board before it got committed to acid.

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