Archive for category Oddities

New Frogs!

Either Mama Frog picked a bad location or these little critters fell over the edge, as I found a handful in the big stainless steel bowl Mary uses for spot-watering some of her plantings:

Small frogs in bowl

Small frogs in bowl

The bowl curves inward over their heads and their feet didn’t seem sticky enough to get them up and out, so I dumped the lot of them into the flower bed. May they live long & prosper!


Leave a comment

Monthly Image: Mystery Lizard

We found this critter keeping a watchful eye on the construction at Adams Fairacre Farms during our most recent grocery trip:

Mystery frilled lizard - detail

Mystery frilled lizard – detail

I think it’s an undocumented alien that entered the US stowed away in a tropical plant, because it was affixed to the array of ceramic pots outside their (open) greenhouse windows:

Mystery frilled lizard

Mystery frilled lizard

To the best of my admittedly limited herpetological knowledge, none of our native lizards / geckos / whatever have such a distinctive dorsal frill / fin / ridge. I have no idea how to look the critter up, though.

We left it to seek its own destiny. Unless it’s a mated female (hard to tell with lizards), it’ll have a lonely life.

Perhaps it practices rishratha, which is entirely possible.


Giant Mushrooms!

It’s apparently been a good year for mushrooms at Vassar Farm:

Vassar Farm Mushrooms

Vassar Farm Mushrooms

My eyeblink reaction was “Wow! Those grew fast!” but they’re an Art on the Farm installation.


Monthly Science: Cheap WS2812 LED Failures

The two knockoff Neopixel test fixtures went dark while their USB charger accompanied me on a trip, so they spent a few days at ambient basement conditions. When I plugged them back into the charger, pretty much the entire array lit up in pinball panic mode:

WS2812 LED - test fixture multiple failures

WS2812 LED – test fixture multiple failures

Turns out three more WS2812 chips failed in quick succession. I’ve hotwired around the deaders (output disconnected, next chip input in parallel) and, as with the other zombies, they sometimes work and sometimes flicker. That’s five failures in 28 LEDs over four months, a bit under 3000 operating hours.

For lack of a better explanation: the cool chips pulled relatively moist air through their failed silicone encapsulation, quietly rotted out in the dark, then failed when reheated. After they spend enough time flailing around, the more-or-less normal operating temperatures drives out the moisture and they (sometimes) resume working.

Remember, all of them passed the Josh Sharpie Test, so you can’t identify weak ones ahead of time.


1 Comment

Ersatz Yellow Pages Scam

These mailings generally carry a “trash before reading” interest level, but this one stands out:

Biz Directory Scam - the deal

Biz Directory Scam – the deal

The Terms and Conditions feature some gems:

Biz Directory Scam - Terms and Conditions

Biz Directory Scam – Terms and Conditions

The first few sections suggest their past behavior has required some … admissions … to avoid future issues.

Section 9 says the laws of Florida apply and the “agreement is performable” (whatever that means) “at United Directories’ address located in Jacksonville Beach, Florida”. They’re so afraid of their customers that the only address appearing on the mailer is in Atlanta, Georgia, but a bit of poking around suggests their HQ is inside what looks like a beachfront house across from Joe’s Crab Shack or a biz building up the street.

Section 11 says your “listing” will be renewed every six months at $396, so you pay nigh onto 800 bucks a year for a “customizable web page” nobody visits.

Section 12 tells you “Unpaid accounts will incur a 10% late charge” and “Any credits will be applied to the next subscription period.”

This will come as no surprise:

Searching for obvious keywords + scam won’t turn up any surprises, either.

Sad fact: they actually have some listings.

I wish no ill will on anyone, but if somebody’s gotta be under the next meteor strike, I have a short list of candidates …


Arduino Joystick: Button Pullup FAIL

I wired a resistive joystick to the knockoff Nano controlling the crystal tester and connected the button to an analog input because I have a lot of those left over and why not. Unfortunately, the ADC returned a sequence of random-ish numbers indicating the button didn’t have a pullup to +5 V.

One might be forgiven for assuming the pads marked R5 would hold such a pullup resistor, had the joystick not been relentlessly cost-reduced:

Keyes resistive joystick - R5 location

Keyes resistive joystick – R5 location

One would, of course, be completely wrong.

Having been around this block several times, I measured the pad-to-pin resistances and found R5 firmly affixed to the GND and +5V pins, with the SW (a.k.a. button) pin floating free. Pressing the joystick hat closes the switch next to R5, thereby connecting the SW pin to GND.

Baffles me. Maybe a fresh intern did the PCB layout and just misplaced the resistor?

So I soldered an ordinary resistor (*) between the +5 V and SW pins:

Keyes resistive joystick - button pullup

Keyes resistive joystick – button pullup

Now it works just as it should.

(*) For long-lost reasons, I have a zillion 12.4 kΩ 1% resistors appearing in place of simple 10 kΩ resistors.




Why Electricity Won

Spotted this impressive array at an apartment building:

Gas meter array

Gas meter array

That’s just for one wing; the other end of the building has a similar installation. Each apartment has an electric stove and gas heat / AC.

The plumbing!