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Memoirs of a Mad Scientist
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:: Monday, October 29, 2001 ::

Last week has been a blur.

First off, on last Saturday my roommate and I went down to Corvallis to supposedly "look for apartments". We'll be needing a place to live when we go back to school in January. We first stopped off at our friend Amber's house and visited. We ended up playing Settler's of Catan for 4 hours. After that we went out and searched for apartments for only one hour. We came back and had pizza then crashed overnight.

Of course, that evening I began reading "House Atreides", the first of three prequels to the Dune Series. This seeded the disaster that would consume my entire week. I finished reading "House Atreides" on Monday night, finished "House Harkonnen" Wednesday night, and finished "House Corrino" in 12 hours starting Thursday afternoon.

That reading binge basically consumed my entire week and really mucked up my work schedule. But its okay now because its out of my system. I'm now trying to focus on getting my American Literature independent course finished. I have only about 6 weeks before I need to take the final so I need to get crunching.

Last Wednesday we went down to Corvallis again to look more closely at apartments and attend the OSU Engineering Career Fair. The highlight of the evening was my woefully unprepared resume. One of the people at the booth lectured me on the proper composition of a resume. I thanked him for the advice, but I felt defeated inside. I also gave my resume to a few semiconductor companies plus Boeing which might give me a foot in the door to the space technologies. I'm still not sure if I even want to work after school, so this effort could be moot.

Last night after I read some of my required reading for American Literature, I scrounged around in my books for something else to read since I was going through withdrawals. I ended up pulling out "Elegant Universe" and resumed reading at Chapter 3. "Elegant Universe" is a book that attempts to explain String Theory to the laymen. Even though its supposed to be for the laymen, it can get difficult to follow. Nevertheless I found it sufficiently entertaining to satisfy me for the time being.
:: everist 9:41 AM [+] ::
:: Friday, October 19, 2001 ::
Well, my "news celibacy" last only 4 days. From Saturday to Tuesday I remained in complete ignorance of the world around me. I mostly achieved this with the help of reading some sci-fi books. I don't recall when I broke my abstinence, but it started out little then gradually had an avalance effect that climaxed with me back to the same volume of information consumption I started out with.

Another notable thing is that I haven't gone jogging since Monday. The cold inhospitable weather has really hampered my motivation to go out running each day. That prickly cold just makes me want to cover myself up with blankets and go to sleep. I can now understand why people gain weight over the holidays. Its just so incredibly difficult to stay active in the prolonged darkness and oppressive weather.

I went out and bought another computer game called "Deus Ex". I had heard that it was made by the same guy who did Ultima Underworld and System Shock. 2 of my favorite games. The game is more like Thief in that you have to sneak around and complete missions. Its a little too action-oriented for my taste and I wish it had a more involving story line. The plot seems really cheesy with a "secret organization" plotting to take control of the world through conspiracies and world-wide plagues. I'm going to try and not play too much of this since I still have to complete my robot project and do some more Literature homework.

:: everist 12:48 PM [+] ::
:: Monday, October 15, 2001 ::
Well I've taken a break from doing anything productive and have been reading Sci-Fi books. I finished Robert Heinlein's "Cat that Walks Through Walls" and started reading Neal Stephenson's "Snowcrash". I actually like the latter book a lot better.

Although, the thing that has bothered me about the first few chapters is that they don't seem chronological. Hiro seems to be doing things in Reality the same time he is doing things in the Metaverse. Oh well, it clears up after a while, but that still bothers me.

I also saw "Iron Monkey" on Saturday. A fun movie, although very lacking in plot. It was humorous in parts too. And the only person who killed anyone was the girl fighter. She kills three people and the 2 guy fighters collectively only kill the villain. What is the lesson we should take home from this movie?

I also went hiking up to Saddle Mountain near Astoria. Wasn't a terribly strenuous hike, but it was a short workout. It was foggy when we got to the top, but things cleared up a bit after we had lunch. Saddle Mountain is like two great big boulders smashed up against each other. I wonder what kind of tectonics would create a mountain like that.

:: everist 12:07 PM [+] ::
:: Friday, October 12, 2001 ::
My roommate and I have been toying with the idea of making a colony of robots using infrared transmitters to communicate with each other. The colony would be populated by dozens of dumb robots that do what they're told. They would then be controlled by a "queen" robot which would be much larger and smarter. Also she would be much more expensive.

Right now its just in the planning stages and we're deciding what would be an accomplishable goal. Its real easy to get carried away with something like this and then we'll never finish it.

Starting reading a book last night, "Cat that Walks Through Walls," by Robert Heinlein. Haven't read any books in a while, so I felt compelled to steal one out of my roommates stash. Although he hasn't yet read this one, so I'm breaking it in.

As it turns out, my cold-turkey approach to avoiding all news didn't work out so well. I kept it up for 2 days and then my willpower completely collapsed for an entire week. Its *hard*! Well at least I know now that I have a problem.
:: everist 11:25 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, October 11, 2001 ::
I've been progressively putting a new Stiquito together for the past few days. Its finally together with a circuit board mount on its back and wires leading to the legs. Although I haven't yet bent the legs to make the feet. I'm having a problem being able to force enough current through 3 legs at once, so I'm going to have to get bigger transistors :P


:: everist 8:27 PM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, October 09, 2001 ::
Yesterday I tried making a stand-alone leg with my nitinol. Nitinol is a type of conductive wire that contracts when you run an electric current through it. The heat caused by the resistance causes the contractions and this allows you to do such things as motorless robots.

I tried to make a stand-alone leg so I could more rapidly test circuit configurations with it. I'm having a serious problem with shortages of transistors. I've been able to find transistor configurations that work with the nitinol, but I need 6 total for each and every leg. I don't have six of every transistor, so this makes things very difficult for me. I think I'm going to compromise and only use 2 circuits by driving 3 legs at once.

I went to Radio Shack yesterday and got some really big power transistors for that purpose. They drive a lot of current so I'm happy.
:: everist 10:57 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, October 08, 2001 ::
Over the weekend I played around with my Stiquito and my Microstamp 11.

After much trials and tribulations, I was able to write code to blink an LED on and off, compile it, download it, and successfully execute it. Ran into some problems with the provided demo code in the manual however. The demo code showed the control block starting at $1000 when in actuality it started at $0000 instead. Also, the demo code was turning off the COP improperly, so my code kept resetting halfway through and never actually blinked.

As for my Stiquito, I put a wire frame on top of it made out of paperclips to hold the battery pack and PCB. The battery pack by itself constitutes most of the weight and I question whether the Stiquito can handle that much weight. I know that the load capacity is 50mg, but I don't have a weight scale readily available to measure the components I need to put on. Regardless, the Stiquito managed to stay standing under signifcant strain, but I don't know whether it could walk under those conditions.
:: everist 7:44 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, October 04, 2001 ::
Wow! A lot of stuff has happened today or seems to have happened.

Today I decided that I would swear off all sources of news and go completely unsullied by the events of the outside world. I was for the most part successful until I got home. Well it wasn't that bad. The radio in my car was pre-set to NPR and I listened to it the whole way home. Only when I got out of my car did I realize that I had just broken my rule. Also, when I got done checking my email at home, I subconsciously opened my web browser and set it to a news site. Very quickly I realized what I was doing and shut off my computer! :)

It doesn't feel that different not going without news. It actually feels more like the weekend. Although, I have to admit I got a lot done at work today without constantly surfing the web in search of information to consume.

Another notable thing today was that I discovered that the area codes in Washington had changed. While this is not very interesting in of itself, it also explains why the phone number to an old friend no longer works. I had thought that I had lost contact with this person forever and they had moved off without telling me anything. Lucky for me, since I wasn't surfing the web for news, I had to surf for more mundane things which led me to this simple and surprising fact. Called today and left a message. :P

Came home today and took a short nap. After that went running for 4km without stopping. Pretty big improvement for me since all my running seems to be stop-and-go these days. I guess 4 days of consecutive running will certainly show signs of my improvement.

After that, I completely threw my inhibitions to the wind and went and saw a movie by myself. It was Rat Race. It was great except for the ending when everybody's differences were resolved and they finished the last minutes of the movie at a rock concert dancing and crowd-surfing. I think the ending needed a bit more creativity instead of an off-the-shelf solution.

:: everist 9:24 PM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, October 03, 2001 ::
Work is boring, but I persevere. Running is strenuous, but I'm improving. Last weekend I spent sitting around watching TV and movies. Completely unproductive.

My Mom said to me last weekend that I shouldn't stay so focused on politics and world affairs because its getting unhealthy. I don't know. She's probably right, but I'm not sure there's much I can do about it. I think tomorrow I'm going to try to go the whole day without reading any online news. I'm not optimistic about accomplishing it, but I'll give it a try.

I just got some new robot kits in the mail today. They're little 6-legged walker robots that are small and light weight. Kind of cute. I'm going to put one together and put together a remote control device of my own design. Hopefully I can do this in a timely manner since I don't have a good track record for accomplishing long drawn-out goals.

:: everist 9:36 PM [+] ::
Last night in my dreams, I was walking through the mountains of Afghanistan caught in a nasty sandstorm. The sand was very concentrated and it got into your eyes and lungs.

I walked further and I found an old abandoned house high in the mountains. I went in with some of my traveling companions and we remarked how well kept and luxurious it seemed.

About this time, we were ambushed by guerilla fighters with laser assault rifles and all shot. Of course since they were just laser tag weapons, they only made our gear sound an alarm.

I think after this my dream ceased to have any meaning.
:: everist 1:06 PM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, October 02, 2001 ::
Woke up at about 4:30am this morning. Arrived at work at 5am. Its not 10:30am and I'm starved. I'm sitting here trying to pass the time until it turns 11am so I can go eat.

Finally got a significant portion of my project completed today. Everything looks good and its mostly tested. So I'm pleased and a bit more motivated than I normally am about my work.

Have you noticed its getting darker lately? Well I suppose that's inevitable but since I left the house earlier than I normally do, I realized that during the summer at this time it would have been bright out. I know, I know. This is a frivolous observation, but I just thought I'd share.
:: everist 10:45 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, October 01, 2001 ::
I went running this afternoon after about 4 days of non-running. It was pretty harsh. I stopped several times to catch my breath.

I run around a paved trail on this mini-park. It circles a small pond with lots of vegetation. I saw a Praying Mantis and a garter snake today. This is the first snake I've seen down there but only the third Praying Mantis. Its starting to give me the creepy crawlies running around that trail always being afraid I'm going to step on something live.

The Praying Mantis is really slow and looks a lot like a leaf. When it saw me approaching it made no effort to run but put its claws out in front of it as if it was going to fend off my 150lb footstep. When they walk they sway about as if they were a leaf blowing in the wind. Quite crafty those things are, but they have no means to run away.

The snake was sprawled out on the pavement as if it was waiting for some unsuspecting runner to step on it. I saw it immediately because it easily distinguishes itself against the pavement. Plus it hadn't been there the previous lap. As I approached it remained motionless hoping to blend into the blackish pavement. I had to stomp in front of it before it felt compelled to scurry off. Of course that didn't last long since when I came around for the next lap he was sprawled out in exactly the same spot. Stupid snake.

Of course I always hear the snakes scurrying about in the brush as I'm running down there. This is just the first time I've actually seen one instead of heard one. Now I'm getting increasingly anxious with all the wildlife that is scurrying in front of me while I'm running. I wouldn't normally mind so much except that the act of running requires a lot of willpower, and something as frivolous as insects and snakes can easily shatter that.
:: everist 10:06 PM [+] ::