Computational Furnace

"Model 3 is 50 degrees warmer than human
and nearly twice as soft"


I had to order firewood from strangers on facebook. These strangers being the only reply to many requests for firewood within 50 miles. It was one of those couple's accounts with two names and two people in the photo - I presume this is to police booty calls and other drunken shenanigans. Money was wired digitally, and I was pleasantly surprised when firewood arrived split and perfectly stacked the next day. 

The wood stove is a bit messy - smoke, ash, and occasional spider attacks. And so I joked that TSG should heat with his monster computer. The idea was met with curious eyebrows and penciled out calculations in his yellow notepad. 

The wood stove runs at 8000 BTU on average - which is 2400 watts, so two monster computers probably. Firewood was $200 per month (up from last year), while computer power would be $160. TSG notes the first 1200 watts is cheaper than the second because of tiered pricing for hydropower here.

Wiring in the quonset is a limiting factor - he'd have to pull that additional 20 amps of power very carefully to avoid tripping breakers - or worse. So TSG set one monster computer going half power, doing cancer research and crypto mining, while he logged his results.

The network went down one morning, and so the monster computer stopped making heat, but was otherwise reliable. At the end of one month, TSG cured some cancer, sold his crypto for $150, saved $60 in firewood, and paid $39 in additional power. Payback on a second monster might be 1 to 5 years, given uncertainly in this tiny dataset, weather, and wildly fluctuating prices.

Workstations are already for sale (Xeon/Epyc/Threadripper/NVidia) that max out near 300 watts per processor, and power supplies up to 2000 watts. Next-gen CPUs aim higher. I joked that TSG should add a 20A circuit in this office, when he upgrades the garage. 

These new chips can cost as much as a small car, with used prices more comparable to wood stoves. TSG says that as compute and renewable energy prices go down relative to fuel prices, this idea becomes less ridiculous. And there remains the problem of reliable jobs for your computer-turned-furnace.

Eclipse Plumage

"hide the food"

TSG jokes that nearly everything is mating display - advertising health, values and resources. Any overt show of wealth, however, is discouraged in this environment of extremely rural law-enforcement. The town aesthetic is frugal theatre, TSG explains, "a plywood and blue-tarp facade." You need only fool the gulls, apparently.

Fine, I'll order tarps.

There's no local police of any kind. The murder of Gene, for example, was investigated by a young officer flown out for a day - no fancy detective. TSG suggests a place needs 500 residents to afford a trained officer full-time. Otherwise the job is so undesirable, he says, that only criminals apply.

In an average year, official statistics include a dozen property and violent crimes, and often one soul reported missing, vanished into the wilderness. At more than double the urban crime-rate, you have a 1 in 20 chance of being included each year.

Last night I had a dream about ice-cream.

I'm seated alone outside a crowded cafe. A guy sets down this ice-cream boat and hands me a plastic spoon. I stare at three bone-white scoops, each molded in the shape of a tiny skull. Then I notice fine head-hairs, and detailed cranial sutures. I pull at the hair in frustrated effort to reveal edible ice-cream, but these are firmly rooted and the skull lifts out. This scoop has visible hammer indentations.

Nocturnal Pest


"mythical clogger of vents"

Years ago, there was murder and arson at the satellite station. TSG says Gene was 35, played harmonica, and got bludgeoned to death in his sleep with a hammer. I found his notebook on the bookcase - GENEZARET neatly labeled in large black marker. The last note was dated 04oct94. 

The government had decided not to reopen the station after the terrible incident, so TSG wrote a grant proposal to restore the receiver himself. The deal made himself the director of a non-profit to own and maintain the station - services and data on contract, billed to the government. 

Thought I saw a baby wolf-spider in the window last night. It was perfectly still, just camouflaged as an everyday shadow. Not sure what I was looking at, I came back with the inspection torch. It glowed slightly under the UV light, popped-out a startling length of leg, and left. 

I showed the photo to TSG; he says no, it's a yellow-sac attracted by the pheromone of gasoline. They will build a new nest every day, which pressure-sensors in the vents should detect.

Sac spiders, I was told, are named for silk nest-sacs they leave behind - not the abdomen sac with the butt. Sacs are biologic containers from living things, while sacks are manufactured. If you would put your sandwich inside, it's probably a sack.