So Long Ivy, Hello Confetti

February 4, 2024 11:34 am

We've had a pair of Eufy robot vacuums for many years now. The first one Heather named Ivy; the second one Corinne named Sprinkles. One of the several motors on Ivy finally failed a couple of weeks ago and Sprinkles needed a new battery. So Ivy donated her battery to Sprinkles and got dropped off at the eWaste facility. She was dumb, but she got the job (mostly) done. She was six years old.

To fill Ivy's, uh, tires, I bought a Roborock Q5 as a bit of an upgrade. I was slightly annoyed by the use of a phone app, but from what I can tell it seems to minimize how dependent it is on Cloud connectivity and supposedly all the mapping data stays local on the robot. And I was curious how well the LIDAR mapping and navigation works and the price was right. Corinne promptly named it Confetti.

And I must say, I am thoroughly impressed with the mapping, navigating, and cleaning algorithms. Set it up, tell it to clean, and it wanders around as it builds a map from the LIDAR data. Once it returns to the dock it processes the data and segments the data into rooms (which you can modify).

Once rooms have been segmented you can tell it to clean individual rooms, any combination of rooms, or to clean everything. On every run it continues to collect LIDAR readings and integrates them into its existing map.

Within the map you can define virtual walls and "no go" zones. I hadn't even considered how useful the "no go" zones could be until it ran into the cat's food dishes and I just dropped a "no go" zone around them and never have to deal with it again.

When told to clean a room it runs around the perimeter first and then uses an overlapping back-and-forth pattern on the interior. If you tell it to run two cycles on the same room it does the first cycle in one direction and then the second cycle perpendicularly.

Because it's navigating intelligently (unlike the bump-navigation robot vacuums, as our two old Eufy bots were), it takes significantly less time to clean a room and thus is less annoying and lets you get more floor space cleaned between charges.

We rearranged a bunch of furniture this weekend and it figured out the new room configurations without issue and just got its job done. Really the only challenge left for it is that its LIDAR sits on top and can't "see" small stuff on the ground around it (like cat toys, or shoes). So you still have to pick that stuff up to get it out of the way.

Here you can see the perpendicular cleaning pattern on the carpet:

And the map of the room after it finished cleaned showing its path:

Books Jan 2024

January 31, 2024 6:59 pm

Books I finished reading in January 2024.

My second book in French has been an ongoing project for several months now and I finally finished it this month. Geist: Les héritiers de Nikola Tesla is an alternate-history murder mystery. The language it uses is significantly more complex than La Planète des singes and contains many words made up by the author for the story. So it took me a while to get through it. I'm quite certain I missed a lot of nuance, but I got the general story.

Set in Paris, it tells the story of an investigator on a murder case in a world of psychic powers and wireless electricity--set in motion by Tesla.

The Phantom of the Earth Omnibus has been in my ebook library for 7 years, but the ~1000 pages had been dissuading me from diving in. But I finally got around to it.

Humanity has retreated into the depths of the earth to escape a rapidly-mutating bio-warfare agent that has spread across the surface of the planet and kills in seconds.

But that's all somewhat ancillary to the story, which is about a dystopian dictatorship and the motley crew of rebels trying to overthrow it.

Doors of Sleep is the book the girls picked out for me for Christmas.

Zax has a problem. When he falls asleep he is transported/teleported/jumped to an alternate universe. When he finds somewhere safe and comfortable he stays awake as long as he can. When he lands somewhere dangerous he drugs himself into a quick escape.

Life is pretty bleak--and then it gets worse--but also better.

Blackout and All Clear are a single story told as a duology.

Connie Willis draws us into a universe where time travel exists, but can't be used to change history or get rich and so its use gets relegated to historians at Oxford.

She has other stories in this universe as well, including the short story I read in a science fiction anthology, Fire Watch, which introduced me to her work many years ago.

One thing Willis does better than any other author I've read is developing a scene of chaos / hecticness. You can feel the frazzled nerves, the frustration of being interrupted, and sense the time slipping away toward disaster.

In this story, a group of historians is studying World War II when everything goes wrong and they find themselves gaining a much deeper understanding of the history they're studying than they intended.

Miniatures Dec 2023

January 4, 2024 4:06 pm

I painted these three over Christmas vacation. After drybrush-highlighting the larger spider on the woman's belt I decided there was no chance I'd be able to drybrush the smaller ones without making a mess so I left them silver. The little guys are minions from Mechs vs. Minions. The woman is from a pack of figures for general use in games. I wasn't paying attention to my time carefully, but between 2 sessions I probably spent 5-6 hours on the set.

Christmas 2023

December 28, 2023 2:37 pm

With Christmas on Monday this year it, again, felt like a sprint to the finish. The girls had Friday off from school, but I was still working. So Saturday and Sunday were filled trying to get everything ready.

I used the weekend to bake! Peanut-butter blossoms, sugar cookies (the girls cut and decorated them), chocolate-cream pie, and crème brulée for desserts. Rolls for Christmas dinner, and baguettes to dip in cheese fondue for Christmas-Eve dinner. It took all day both days, but I got it all done.

For dinner on Christmas Eve we had our now-traditional cheese fondue with fresh baguettes, vegetables, apples, and whatever else we decide to dip. Corinne and Heather read a couple of stories, I played Christmas songs on my trombone (fairly poorly, but with all the baking I hadn't had time to practice that weekend or warm up), and Jess read a story.

This year, in an effort to help the girls develop the ability to consider the interests of others, we had gone to Barnes and Noble and had them select books for each other as gifts. And then Jess and I switched off with them to select gifts for each of us. So after our songs and stories we all opened our books from the girls, drank hot chocolate, ate cookies, and read a little from our new books while listening to Christmas music. With the fake fire glowing in the fireplace, just needed some snow falling outside the window to make it a perfectly pleasant evening.

The girls set out eggnog, cookies, and carrots for Santa and his reindeer and then they were off to bed.

In the morning we were up at dawn (which is the girls' usual time) to see what transformation had taken place in the house overnight.

Heather's Winter Concert 2023

December 15, 2023 4:15 pm

Heather switched to cello this year (in 5th grade violin was the only string option). So that means many of the kids in the orchestra, like Heather, have only been playing their instrument for about 3 months.

The school has a "beginner orchestra" and an "advanced orchestra." From what I can tell kids are in the beginner orchestra the first year they take the class at the school, rather than based on years playing their instrument. Otherwise any kid that took violin in 5th grade and continued with it would skip beginner orchestra and I don't think that's how it works.

The beginner orchestra played 2 songs, "Can Can" and "Shadow Dance." Here's their full performance.

Download here: Heather-Winter-Concert-2023-web (28 MB)