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I'd like to share a story with you today, about a bonehead move I made.

It's the story of how I trusted a little bird to care for my fish, and how they ended up dead.

But first you need to know something about my friend Arduino.

Arduino is a plucky little microcontroller that runs the pump, and fans, and heater in my aquaponics system at Maple Bottom. He keeps my fish and plants alive and healthy. He also keeps meticulous records and tells me what's going on over the internet. Arduino is my friend. He watches my fish.

For a time, Arduino had another friend - a little bird named Twitter. While Arduino was happily sending me data through the internet, sometimes he would notice a problem and wanted to warn me about them. So Arduino told Twitter when there was a problem, and Twitter would chirp at me and send me a text message.

All was happy with Arduino and Twitter in the land of Maple Bottom, till one day a great and mighty rainstorm came. For three days it rained and it rained. The rain poured off the roof and down the hill. The garden overflowed with water. The water ran into the greenhouse where the aquaponics lives.

Arduino saw the rain and thought, "It's okay.  What can rain do to fish? It's not like they can drown :)"

But Arduino forgot something. Can you guess what it is?

The waters rose higher and higher till they began to touch the pump, when Arduino remember the Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor. If the pump gets wet, he thought, we will lose power. Then the aerator will shut off and the fish won't be able to breathe. Oh no!

And just exactly that happened. The power shut off and all went dark and quiet at Maple Bottom.

Not to worry - Arduino had a plan for just such a moment. He would tell Twitter to come and find me before the fish ran out of air. I would bail out the water, restore power, and all would be well.

"Twitter!" Arduino called, "Twitter!" But Twitter didn't answer.  He tried again, "Twitter, where are you?  I need you!" But Twitter didn't answer.

What Arduino didn't realize is that Twitter had changed her permissions settings, and would have to be reset before she would send any more messages. Twitter had flown the coop, at the worst possible time!

A deep and profound sadness settled upon little Arduino, as one by one the tilapias ran out of air, starting with the biggest one.

The next morning Jeremiah returned to find nearly half his fish floating in the fish tanks, and the rest gasping for air. He restored power, but Arduino was inconsolable. They wept together over the fish, and Jeremiah gave each of the tilapia a proper burial.

And as the rain cleared and the rainbow filled the sky, they vowed a solemn vow that they would never again trust that blasted little bird to care for the fish.

And thus concludes the tale of brave Arduino, foolish Twitter, and the tragedy of the tilapia.

The End.

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Comment by Jim Fisk on July 21, 2014 at 11:30am

It's all in the definition and everyone has a different def. I don't make the categories but I totally agree they are overused. Having said that, the phrase:" we grow up liberal and when we are grown ups we become conservatives" does have a basis in truth. Beer, sounds pretty good about now. You have some doozy storms coming your way so batin down the hatches.

Comment by Jeremiah Robinson on July 21, 2014 at 10:59am

Hey Jim,

You're not right   I would still like that beer though.

The reason I think you're not right is that I don't think the categories you want to divide people into - "liberal" and "conservative" - are especially useful.  They both have such a fraught history in both this country and others that they don't really mean much.  From a sociology perspective (when you do surveys of people and look for statistical correlations), the main thing that conservatives have in common is a personality trait that corresponds to respect for traditional forms of authority.  The main thing that liberals have in common is a personality trait that corresponds to respect for individual differences and identities.  These aren't views (i.e. I choose to respect traditional authority) but personality traits, or tendencies.  

Comment by Jim Fisk on July 21, 2014 at 9:08am

"Back in the day" eh? You old fart.

I went to Columbia U. to study EE (BITD) and I was so appalled at the lack of knowledge and hands on experience of my classmates I quit in disgust. I have since learned what a "hands on engineer" is and how few there are out there. Having worked with many engineers since, I came to realize that I would have been in great demand had I continued toward that degree. I raised our son to be just that and he now is in great demand after only a few years as an ME. In less than 3 yrs in his field he was just the other day snatched up by another company, hi tech medical, at a 20k raise. He is "living the life" right here in the mountains of E. TN., just 20 min from home. He even gets catered the proverbial "free lunch".(apparently there is such a thing even outside of Google) I only wish my parents had given me that advice. I needed some sort of anchor to continue on. I just wanted to get out in the world and get going. School counselors haven't a clue either.

Arc faults can occur but one has to consider the odds when making these blatantly greed driven rules. One is far more likely to slip and fall on their front stoop or be hit by lightening and die than experience an "arc fault".  And, yes, everything in this country is now driven by corporate greed and we are their victims. I try my best to live in states that get it and change the "National Code" to a more reasonable common sense approach. ME and TN are among those. That goes for the "fishing and hunting" rules as well. It takes a lifetime to discover so many truths.

We still need to have that discussion (you and me) on the horrors that the "liberals" have perpetrated on the poor (mostly blacks) with the horribly misguided welfare state. You are a "conservative" in my mind and not a "liberal" and the more I see you write the more I know I am right. "Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime". That says it all in my book and that is the Christian (conservative) model I live by and I suspect you do as well.

Comment by Jeremiah Robinson on July 21, 2014 at 8:16am

Hey Jim,

Did you know I was an electrical engineer back in the day?  We just had an electrical safety class for my current job and I basically left with the conclusion that arc fault doesn't happen in single family homes.  Apartment buildings with a single transformer maybe.  The requirements for residential AFCI and all the PPE we have to wear is motivated by the fact that the makers of those products dominate the committees at OSHA and NFPA.  Lame!  

For my heater controller kit I included one standard.  I had a problem with an early version of my heater shocking some fish and learned that lesson.  I also had a commercial one break and short into the water, so I'm careful on that end of things.

Comment by Jim Fisk on July 21, 2014 at 5:56am

Smart. As an electrician I can tell you that GFCIs can cause a lot of trouble. If you have an immersion heater in the FT it might be a good idea but life support systems should stay off of them. The original idea was to keep folks in a bathtub safe or the old aluminum tools used outside in a puddle (that has a shorted to case winding) and as usual we have gotten carried away with them. Now it is AFCIs (arc fault) and they add as much as 12- 1500.00 to the price of the average house now and cause even more trouble. But someone is making a fortune on them I'll bet. Many states, including TN, have pulled back to bedrooms only. The old aluminum hand tools have all been replaced with double insulated anyway so there is little that can happen even there. I do not use one on my GH AP system as I do not trust them. Now I have seen home made heaters on here that are screaming for a GFCI and others that are perfectly safe. UTube is loaded with unsafe projects that make me cringe on the other hand.

Comment by Jeremiah Robinson on July 20, 2014 at 10:06pm

Hey Jim,

Not really an option to move the pump at this point.  The solution turned out to be keeping the aerator off GFCI.  The wires are all high and dry, so anything not on GFCI isn't affected.  

Comment by Jim Fisk on July 20, 2014 at 3:57pm

And that is why in the land of Smoky Bear I keep all things aquaponic SIMPLE and the pump in the sump. The worst that can happen in the land of deluge (here in the mountains) is a little water runs thru the GH and out the floor drain. Maybe a simple basement flood alarm that wakes the neighbors when you're not home as a backup? Get your wires up high and dry and all things electrical by and by

Comment by Jeremiah Robinson on July 14, 2014 at 10:35am

Hi Ki Pi.  I've got a couple other things I'm working on now, but posting a set of plans and code is in the works.  Hopefully September.  It'll be available on the blog and for a small fee (like $5).  

Comment by Ki Pi on July 14, 2014 at 10:32am

Do you have the plans and wiring diagrams I may see how the Arduino is hooked up and controlling things in the greenhouse? What about the software? Which sensors/controls were used? This type of system would be useful in the walipini we're building for the aquaponics system and would be easier to integrate during construction. Arduino's are pretty cheap. Would you consider selling a clone of yours of if another arduino was sent to you in a padded S.A.S,E would you consider programming it?

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