A different kind of care package

in Musings

I’ve got several blog posts about my doings in the works (including a video of my current working capstone prototype!), but I slipped back into denial for a little bit there; I think I went 5 whole days without writing down a to-do list. I didn’t open the Sims, but I did watch all six episodes of Our Mutual Friend on netflix instant viewing. Also my sleeping problems have been unusually bad lately, plus I’ve been unusually busy with meetings and presentations and such since last week. So those posts will have to wait. Tonight I’m just going to nerdgasm.

I don’t know why it took me so long to email my dad about my Arduino issues. He used to build complicated electronics for fun and profit, literally. I mean, 30 years ago, and microprocessors have come a hell of a long way since then, but the electromagnetic force still works the same way. I’ve always been stubborn about getting things done on my own, and while several extremely difficult CS classes began curing me of that, and extremely group-focused grad school is doing more, as evidenced by my willingness to talk to Dane Hans and Umbach for help, but still some part of me regards going to my parents for help on homework as the ultimate cop-out.

But while I was looking at buying supplies from Sparkfun, I remembered that my dad still has a basement full of electronics goodies he hasn’t touched in years, and mooching off my parents to save money is clearly always acceptable. So I explained some of my problems and needs and now he is sending me a box of supplies. Things like resistors in a range of different values, including both their marked values and the values he got when he measured then with a multimeter, and also a set of “precision” resistors with values that only vary by 1%, even when exposed to heat during soldering. I did not even know you could buy resistors in different precisions.

He is also sending me a variety of capacitors, which I don’t even know what they do really, I just know that putting one in a circuit with my force sensor will supposedly reduce the noise in the signal that I’ve been getting (currently being reduced via resistor). Whatever it is they do is measured in both microfarads and volts. Also apparently I can build an adjustable resistor using a potentiometer and something called a “non-conductive adjusting tool.” There will be diagrams to help me put things together.

I’ll be honest, hardware was never my strong suit when it comes to computers, and my 11th grade physics class was a long time ago. I know that resistance is measured in Ohms and that it is a way to measure some kind of restriction on the flow of electric current, and that Ohm’s law states some kind of relationship between current, resistance, and uh…power? that’s what watts measure, right? Oh, no, wikipedia says the third term is electric potential difference, in volts. I remember what electric potential is because it’s how neurons work.

Yeah. There’s a lot about basic electric circuits that I don’t so much know. So of course I bought a book that spends a lot of time talking about programming basics and assumes I know an awful lot about building circuits. Yes thank you I understand what a for loop does, tell which leg of the LED I’m supposed to stick into which little hole on the Arduino board, please.

I’m sleepy and rambling and it is time for me to stare at my wall and hope I can fall asleep so I will end this post with two thoughts: thank god for google and for nerd fathers.

And corkboard. I had an important corkboard-related epiphany last night.

Sleep now. Goodnight, internet.