A Little Robot

A little drummer robot sent to me by my aunt, it has an adorably retro vibe. Currently he does not walk, seems to be an old spring. Maybe fixing him up will be a future project, for now he has residence on my knick-knack shelf.

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Everything but the microwave

This weekend daylight saving time ended in the US. While I will agree that it is a silly practice with very little reason to exist the time transition is a lot easier if its all automatic. In my life all my time sources automatically switched from 1:59am to 3:00am giving the illusion that it is just a regular weekend that there hasn’t been any tampering with my sleep schedule. My wall clock syncs its time from an atomic clock in Colorado, my watch gets it time from my phone which synchronizes with the cell towers and my TV and Computer get their time from the internet. But there is one device that still makes me remember that the clocks have been messed with and that I’ve lost an hour of sleep: the microwave.2015-03-08 11.35.17

Computer, Lights!

I want to live like I’m on the Enterprise. There is so much in every run of Star Trek that the creators and writers of the show try to pass off as 24th century technology that is possible today. One can say that 3D printers wil be the grandparents of the replicator or that virtual reality goggles are the first step towards have a functioning holodeck, the the ‘futuristic’ technology from Star Trek that I am currently pursuing are the lights.

How many scenes in Star Trek start with someone waking up or entering the room and setting up the level of apprehension by yelling “Computer: Lights!” to illuminate the room. The call for “Computer: Dim lights” has set the table for some romantic encounters across the series. The point is the crew of the Star Trek have lighting control integrated into their computer system and there is no reason we cannot have this as well.

While it does not (yet) allow for a voice interface smart LED bulbs are hitting the market as part of the awful catch all ‘Internet of Things’. There are many reason why this is infantile way to speak of the future connectivity amongst devices but that is something for another post. We want to know more about lights.

Connecting lights to a computer or network is not really that new. Many buildings have lights connected to motion detectors or timers and the often forgotten Street lamps operated in a connected network, though not a very smart one. Three advances are driving ‘smart’ lighting out farther into the mainstream; the phasing out of incandescent bulbs, miniaturization of microprocessors and radios, and more advanced software.

Many states have started to limit or ban the sale of incandescent light bulbs, to encourage energy efficiency. Washington has a sales restriction on the bulbs though a few can be found around. In California new homes are no longer being built with the standard E26 size build socket. Instead all home are constructed with new G27 sockets supported only by energy efficient bulbs. Changing a burn out compact fluorescent in my kitchen I found that I had some of these new sockets as well. A new fluorescent bulb with this new socket type was going to be over $7 but which made me look more favorable at the $15 connected LED bulbs that are starting to come to market.

In the not to distant past to create an automated light one would have had an adapter in the lamp or somewhere in the wall controlling the power to the bulb. With low power LED bulbs and small microprocessors and transmitters the radio and power controller can be contained inside the light bulb. Smart bulbs will fit in standard lamps with no modification. The only change is that the switch can be left on and the bulb will manage the light levels.

So a move to LEDs and better cheaper smart bulbs can get Star Trek lights into the home, but with out anything else there is very little reason to have them. Need a phone handy to turn out the lights is more of a nuisance than flipping the light switch. Clever applications of software and other hardware are what is making these bulbs behave like Star Trek and better.

Springtime in the Pacific Northwest

Although those in New York and Boston might not remember the meaning of the word it seems like spring has come to the Pacific northwest. The once forgotten sun has started to emerge between the gray clouds and the weather has started to warm up.

This weekend, warm and sunny, I saw flowers in bloom, and buds on the trees. Though Punxsutawney Phil may say there are 6 more weeks of winter it seems that the weather here is not listening. There could not have been better weather this weekend for valentines day, and I hope that the sun will continue to beat out the rain as the axis or rotation starts shifting back towards us up North.

 

The Dream of the 90s

This past weekend I went on a short trip to Portland; where according to the popular TV series, Portlandia, the dream on the 90’s survives. While only there for a weekend I cannot say if this is completely true I think I got a pretty good taste of Portland for the time I was there.

I went to Powell’s City of Books, the self proclaimed largest independent bookstore in the world. The books store took up an entire building, which was about a city block with books available on multiple floors. The store is now so large that they’ve had to expand and create Powell’s Books 2 across the street. Though the books store was massive it was also full of people. Powell’s Books is what a physical book store aught to be, especially in a era of online shopping. Unlike the last Barnes and Nobel I went to Powell’s has not restocked their aisles with easy sells; games and toys and hundreds of copies of the latest popularized pulp, Powell’s embraces the written work, filling floor to ceiling shelves with thousands of unique volumes. A know this tactic requires an extremely literate population to keep the store full and it seems Portland and those who visit provide frequent Powell’s enough that its doing good business. While I was there I stuck mostly to the Science Fiction section, looking for a book on my reading list that I could enjoy on the train back to Seattle. I found the book but I was greatly distracted by the hundreds others there.

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Another Portland landmark, the original Voodoo Doughnuts. Possibly the only place that has a line around the corner for fired doughy confections. The line moves quickly and you’ll probably need the time to decide which of the dozens of doughnuts you’ll get, if you still can’t decide you can let the staff pick a dozen for you.

 

 

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Some of the noteworthy donuts that we got in our dozen: the Marshal Mathers, a doughnut covered in M&M’s; the Butterfingering, a doughnut covered in crushed Butterfingers; and the Loop, a doughnut  covered in fruit loops.

 

Microbrew or die

Microbrew or die

When in Portland its also advisable to go to one of the many microbreweries, as most of them are also restaurants its a good place for a meal too. We went to Descutes, for the simple reason that it was close by, for in Portland you only need to throw a stone to find the closest micro-brewery (or Starbucks, its a 50/50 chance). The dinner at Deschutes was excellent and the beer was even better.

To round out the experience I also managed to catch a screening of the recent release of the The Boxtrolls. Though it premiered internationally this weekend it was created by Portland’s Laika Studio.

A Rainy Day at Last

It seems like Seattle’s summer is over as this week we get our first rainstorm of the season. As the cool and moist spreads over the Sound a sigh of relief spreads over its residents. Summer in Pacific Northwest is beautiful; there is sun everyday, its warm but never humid, and everyone is always out trying to get a little vitamin D. But these are foreign elements to Seattle, visitors that only stay for a few months and then depart. So with the rain everyone in Seattle can settle into their normal routines, uninterrupted by sunshine or a call to the outdoors.

And this city is gorgeous in the rain.