Photo of Michael Weinberg by Chris Chen
Thanksgiving is Michael Weinberg's favorite holiday. It's not rife with religious complications, it involves spending all day with food and friends, and provides ample opportunity to geek out.
It all started two years ago, Weinberg, systems administrator for Northwest Academy, explains during an outdoor, mid-November prep turkey smoking. He and a group of fellow Reedies (who graduated—two only hypothetically—in 2001) decided to turn their Thanksgiving turkey-smoking tradition into a broadcasted event. The group rigged up a temperature-monitoring system, set up a webcam, and voilà: TurkeyTracker.com was born, replete with imagery and a turkey-temperature tracking chart. Think of it as a high-tech yule log, or better yet, the autumnal holiday version of Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl—with less fur and frolicking.
What began as little more than a silly diversion ended up drawing 200 viewers, which Weinberg points out involved at one point 150 people watching simultaneously. (Yes, part of Thanksgiving now involves watching their traffic with giddy anticipation.) Last year, they were picked up by a New York Times blog and Canada's version of All Things Considered, and traffic spiked to 15,000 viewers.
This year New Seasons has signed on to sponsor an hour of the broadcast, and the site includes a plea for individuals to pledge a few cents for each visitor. With any luck, the group of friends just might be clinking their glasses of Anchor Brewing's Merry Christmas & Happy New Year beer in honor of raising a significant sum of money for the Oregon Food Bank.
"As we near Thanksgiving, we'll be posting a full schedule for the broadcast," writes Weinberg on the blog, "but in the meantime I can tell you that there will be two dogs running around, we will have a formal parade of appetizers, you'll be invited to join us in the Turkey Toast, and we'll have some short talks about Thanksgiving food and beverage pairings."
If you'd like to follow the smoking of Team Weinberg's turkey, tune in 10 am-8 pm Thanksgiving day and behold the genius of Wirebird 2.0, the group's second-generation sensor prototype built around an Arduino device that transfers three temperature readings (ambient, smoker air temp and actual bird temp) to a laptop. You can also join their Twitter feed for real-time updates at twitter.com/turkeytracker. To pledge, go to turkeytracker.com/pledge.
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