The Life Unwired with Ben Combee (unwiredben) wrote,
The Life Unwired with Ben Combee

What's Been Going On Lately?

I've been very lax about writing. In part, it's been because I've been busy and I can't talk about work things here. It's also because a lot of the general "what am I doing" stuff is now showing up in my Facebook profile.

Velco and Magnolia continue to get bigger, but they're staying very cute. I think they're getting more cuddly as they grow up, although they still have their wild kitten fight times. We're letting them around the house more, although my office is still a no-cat zone and probably will remain that way for the foreseeable future. They just had their last vaccinations, and in March they will both get spayed. They sleep with us in the evening, although that does lead to some interesting bedtimes; last night, one of them kept attacking my toes under the cover, and it got really annoying. Usually, they're quite nice, and they often curl up and nap on our laps when we're watching TV in the main room.

I've taken up electronics and microcontrollers as a new hobby, mostly inspired by the antics of Brooklyn's own NYC Resistor hackerspace. I've taken a few classes there where I made some programs run on an Arduino board, then I ordered myself a soldering iron and some kits and made all of those. The immediate feedback of having code you write run on a board and control basic electronics is really great, and there's enough momentum with sources like Make Magazine. I'm fortunate to have always had a small interest in this, but I never could get over the hump of designing circuits. I think I've finally found the right combination of development hardware and support network to get me into the game.

My favorite project so far has been a solder-it-together board called the Mignonette. It's a small AVR Atmega88 microcontroller with four push buttons as inputs and a 5x7 LED matrix display. It came preloaded with a test application and simple "Munch" game. Last night, I got the TinyUSBISP programmer that I built from a kit to work and loaded up another game, Attack. I'm in the middle to taking the source for Attack and converting it into a dice roller application that uses the four buttons to let you pick a die type, pick a multiplier (for doing 3d6, for example), and roll the die. Of course, I'd make it play some sort of beep over the speaker while it's rolling so no one rolls without being noticed.

Christmas Celebration
Annelies and I stayed in New York for Christmas, but we were in contact with our families. On Christmas Eve, we used Skype to do a video call with my mom, dad, and aunt back in Georgia and we opened presents over the webcam. Annelies got us a microwave oven for the kitchen, something I think we'd both been secretly craving. My dad made some gorgeous wood stands that he shipped up here. I got a printer stand for the desk that lets me use the room above my laser printer in the corner of my desk, while Annelies got an amazing music stand that rests on the edge of a bookshelf and lets her see her sheet music while she's practicing the violin.

We cooked a nice Christmas dinner for each other with Annelies making some delicious baked macaroni and cheese, and me making braised collard greens with garlic and onion. We've been doing a fair amount of cooking together, often inspired by the great selection of produce we can get at the Park Slope Co-op. Just last night, we made portabella mushroom soba noodles with roasted beets and turnips in a red wine reduction.

Family Travel
I got my sister an airline ticket to New York for her Christmas present. She's going to be coming here in mid-January for a week in the city away from the darkness of Copenhagen. I'm very excited to be taking here around and getting a chance to do some tourist stuff that I don't normally do. We don't have a formal plan, but she'll be here on January 20th during the presidential inauguration, so I'm sure we'll find a party that evening to attend.
Tags: family, food, kittens, new york, technology
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