Thoughts for the week’s end

The new Best Coast album, Always Tomorrow, is a nice rock album. I get some fun hints of Whitechocolatespaceegg era Liz Phair.

When I schedule a post in Gutenberg, leading zeros are stripped from the input for minute. This happens only in Firefox, which appears to treat input type="number" as an actual integer. Chrome seems to treat it as numeric, but accepts a string.

I reported the issue a little while ago, but ran into a nice article that explains why the Gov.UK design team went back to input type="text".

I hadn’t realized that inputmode="numeric" was a thing and I only vaguely remember seeing the pattern attribute before. Cool stuff!

I wrote up a silly question wondering if a roof spoiler would do anything to prevent heat loss. Jake responded with a great—”Spoiler alert”—and let me know it’s not a thermodynamics problem, but a heat exchange problem. He then lent me this super cool Etekcity Lasergrip 1080 pyrometer which I’ve been using to measure the temperature of pretty much every surface in the house.

I still want to sit down and do some math at some point, but the craziest thing I found is how most of our windows seem to do a pretty good job of being almost the same temperature as the walls on the inside. But! The skylight is always only a few degrees warmer than the outside temperature. So the nice window that lets in daylight appears to be allowing heat to just stream on through it as well.

So my guess is now that replacing that skylight would do more than a roof spoiler. Also, I’m buying one of these pyrometers because it’s super fun.

Another silly question hit my head that same day. How quickly does light pollution disappear?

It seems like it should be as simple as “at the speed of light”, but how far does that light have to travel before it doesn’t affect our theoretical view of the night sky given that our eyes would magically adjust immediately? Does light even work that way? I’m guessing milliseconds (microseconds?).

It’s fascinating to think that so few of us who live in or near cities have had the opportunity to see the Milky Way. And how upside down our world might feel if it appeared all of a sudden.

If I was the authoritarian mayor of a town.

Cars with GPS controlled speed limiters would be permitted on city streets. Others could park in lots at the edge of town and take a bus or tram to the center. The closer cars get to city center, the closer to walking speed the speed limiter is set. It would take you 5-10 minutes to drive through the center of a small town, and that’s okay.

A draft plan to reduce Pullman’s very car-centric Main Street down to two one-way lanes rather than three was approved by city council. I hope progress continues. It’s amazing how much land is dedicated to the movement of cars.

We watched David Byrne’s True Stories last weekend and it was so great. The general commentary on consumerism still fits after 34 years. The mall scene is a good preview.

When I posted a clip from the movie in Slack, Phil shared Byrne’s performance of I Wanna Dance With Somebody. It too is very well done and I’ve had the song in my head for almost a week now.

After watching that video, I looked up Byrne’s record label, Luaka Bop, and found both Bremer/McCoy’s Utopia and Domenico Lancellotti’s The Good is a Big God nice listens during the day. Marketing on band shirts works!

Thermodynamics of a house roof spoiler

I hope the title of this is not “thermodynamics of a house roof spoiler” when I’m finished and if so, then I apologize for not being more creative.

I woke up this morning to a house that was slightly chilled: 66°F rather than 68°F. The boiler wasn’t able to keep up even though the low temp last night was somewhere in the neighborhood of 32°F. The boiler is old, likely 30 years, but in general it does okay as long as the outside temperature is 27°F or above.

One thing different was the sustained 15-20mph winds that seemed to last the entire night. That made me wonder how much wind could affect the transfer of heat from inside the house. A quick search later and I was reading a nice answer on the physics Stack Exchange that explains wind’s impact on Newton’s law of cooling.

𝑑𝑄 / 𝑑𝑡 = ℎ𝐴Δ𝑇(𝑡)

According to that answer, h is the heat transfer coefficient in that equation and “blowing cool air over a hot object has the effect of increasing h.”

So, given that our house is the object containing heat in this scenario, that h is probably much higher than normal, and that the surface area (𝐴) is large because it’s a house, I have to assume that deflecting the wind to reduce h in some way may help.

This is where things are going to get silly.

A rough sketch of a house on a hill with arrows representing wind.
I swear that’s a house.

Our house sits on a hill. If you could see wind, you could probably see it hurtling toward the house from miles away across Eastern Washington. When the wind blows from West to East, as it often does, it hits the back of the house.

The house has a flat roof where a second level bedroom was added years ago. That roof then shifts to sloped in the front.

This morning, as I was walking around the chilly house, wondering why the boiler wasn’t keeping up, I started thinking about the roof, how it was flat, and how it offered a nice opportunity for the heat inside the house to just keep moving along.

I then wondered what would happen if we put a spoiler on the roof. I hadn’t had my coffee yet, though it’s much later now and I’m still writing this post so I can’t really blame the coffee.

A rough sketch of a house on a hill with a highlighted spoiler of sorts.
Look at that fancy spoiler on this not so fancy sketch of a house.

So my thermodynamics question for the month—and I’m hoping the person I wrote this for doesn’t laugh too hard—is: would a spoiler do anything to reduce the amount of heat exchanged due to high sustained winds? 💨

I’m guessing the answer is that improving the insulation in the roof is a much better bet, but blogging is fun, so there.

Fixing this household’s DNS problem

I’m very irritated at Netgear’s Orbi. I’m not sure if that irritation is directed to the right place, but it’s what I have.

For a long while now, our Android phones have had issues with various apps:

  • The Twitter app won’t load images or videos inline unless you let it sit for 30 seconds to a minute.
  • The Guardian app won’t show images unless you let it sit.
  • The Cronometer app starts with a blank screen for 30 seconds before fully loading.
  • The Google Play Store takes a Very Long Time to download and install new apps.

From what I can gather, there is some sort of DNS lookup that happens inside these apps that runs into some kind of issue with the Orbi’s built in dnsmasq service. I don’t see the issue on the laptop because I’m able to set my DNS servers to something that is not the router, an option not available on the phone.

I’ve tried to address this before, but I solved my most annoying pain point by switching to Twitter’s mobile website and deleting the app. The PWA doesn’t have any of the same issues loading images or videos. My other issues were apparently not annoying enough to make me do anything other than grumble.

Until today!

I received my replacement phone and went through the process of copying all of my data over. For some reason, Android likes to download all of the apps from the Google Play Store rather than just transferring them between phones. This left me with a phone that was completely setup except for 130 apps that needed installing.

After about an hour, I checked the phone and 17 apps had installed. Each one was apparently suffering from an issue I at this point assume must be related to the Orbi and its handling of DNS.

I grumbled louder. I dug out the trusty 8 year old Cisco (Linksys) E4200 that served us well for years before I replaced it with the Orbi to reach corners of the house the old one couldn’t. It has the same SSIDs assigned, so all I had to do was unplug the Orbi and plug in the Cisco.

My phone installed the remaining 123 apps in 30 minutes. 🤔

So now I definitely blame the Orbi. I have no idea why it would have such a problem, but it does. Normally I would order new electronics and replace the whole setup, but generating new electronic waste without good reason is a bummer.

My new plan: use the E4200 to provide the network—DNS, DHCP, routing—and the Orbi to provide the mesh as a pass-through access point. We have a weather monitor that has trouble as well, so I may even setup the 2.4ghz network on the Cisco and let the Orbi handle just the 5ghz.

Do you believe in magic? I think I might.

It took about 20 minutes, but I was able to juggle through a handful of setting SSIDs here and setting SSIDs there and made the swap. Now:

  • The Cisco is connected to the cable modem and serving DHCP and proper, good older router “here’s a DNS server to use”.
  • The 5ghz network on the Cisco is disabled.
  • The 2.4ghz network on the Cisco is enabled and the SSID I had previously assigned to the guest network on the Orbi is now there.
  • Our main SSID is broadcast by the Orbi and one satellite and is working as intended: 125mbps down in that far, far corner.
  • The guest network on the Orbi that I thought was on 2.4ghz before, but was really dual mixed whatever is now disabled. The side benefit of this is that our weather monitor (don’t buy a La Crosse) started working again! It’s been relying on a 2.4ghz network that apparently never properly existed.

All of this and all of our electronics through the house are just working. And everything on the phone is responding quickly as one would expect in the year 2020!

I feel like I performed open heart surgery on the house and succeeded. 😅

Time to go watch some basketball!

Thoughts for the week’s end

I knew nothing about land-grant universities before I started working at WSU. Of course Stephen promised me (and followed through on) a commitment to open source and I was convinced that we had an excellent opportunity to help people share their work, but I still had a lot to learn. I absorbed those lessons quickly enough that I felt comfortable giving a talk at WordCamp San Francisco a year later on how the ethos of open source aligns with the ethos of land-grant.

It may go without saying how much I believe that the ethos of free and open source software aligns with the University’s land-grant mission of advancing communities through the sharing of our work.

Me, resigning.

While I was poking around at some old documents this week, as part of the never-ending (or starting) task to organize things stored in the cloud, I stumbled upon the resignation letter I submitted when I left WSU and was happy to see that I even included my feelings there. That line was followed with some thinly veiled snark about hoping the university continued to embrace that ethos.

The web department may have been losing some of its ability to drive change—or I may have been sapped of the energy to fight for it, but that general ethos remains an important part of the greater institution and the people who work there. That’s why I still root for WSU and still love seeing stories like the one this week about the Bread Lab and it’s work in producing an affordable whole-grain sandwich bread. It’s cool to see a collective of bread producers around the country working toward a common goal.

I’m looking forward to trying out King Arthur Flour’s version of the recipe.

Speaking of land-grants, I’ve been absorbing the content from Colorado State’s massive billiards resource for the last couple weeks. It’s so great.

And! Brian Boyer’s tweet: “The best things on the internet are published by university extension programs.”

I’ll stop soon, I promise. But “Clipping a Dog’s Claws” was consistently one of the most visited pages in the WSU ecosystem. People want useful and accurate information. Land-grant universities share work with the community by definition.

I pulled out my very dusty from sitting on a shelf 2011-era Macbook Air so that I could connect a DVD drive via USB and two things…

How sad is it that the fancy expensive USB-C dongle for my Macbook Pro won’t supply the required power for this DVD drive to work.

But the real point is that the keyboard remains fantastic. I love typing on that Macbook Air and I’m happy that I’ve kept it around. If I ever decide to write a novel, this would be the laptop to do it on.

It’s so weird that I bought a DVD drive in 2020 and signed up for Netflix DVD for the first time in 15 (?) years just so that I could rent a movie that I used to own but got rid of because “you’ll be able to stream everything in the future!” 🏴‍☠️

When I first starting writing these weekly posts, the ' character was in the title. For the last couple of weeks that ' has been converted into a when I save the first draft.

I’m not versed enough in Gutenberg’s organization to know where to look. In the olden days, I’d use git bisect to figure this out in a few minutes. Check out a revision, refresh, check out a revision, refresh. The world of node_modules makes me think this is less easy now.

I need to spend some time figuring out the right workflow for the new world.

Very excited to learn this week that the back of a Google Pixel 3 shatters just as well as the front. 🤦‍♂️

It may be that this phone is cursed. I dropped my Pixel 2 and broke the screen, but because it was already paid off I went ahead and waited out the few months until the Pixel 3 was released rather than pay the fee for the replacement.

Then I dropped the Pixel 3—at less than a year old—and shattered the screen. This time I was well within the replacement period, so I paid $99 for the exchange. But the refurbished phone I received had a strange issue where it would flash bright green repeatedly.

Google kindly sent another (I think new) phone to replace that one, but in the day or few that I had both, I was carrying the old one because I hadn’t yet transferred all of my 2FA stuff and it fell out of my bag while I crossed the street and went straight down a sewer drain.

That was a strange feeling. It was like I had thrown $900 into a sewer drain.

Luckily, Pullman’s sewer drains aren’t secured shut in any way and Michelle and I were able to find it. Here I am, 3 months later, and the replacement has a shattered back!

I’m grateful that I pay $5/month for the extended warranty and that Google only charges $99 to replace a cracked screen/back. And I’m grateful that the replacement will be here almost 24 hours later.

But yeesh, let this be the last time!

Of all the people in the world to go to bat for… Rod Blagojevich? As a resident of Illinois for my first 31 years, I feel personally attacked.

There was a moment when we were told Bloomberg might run for president when, even as a fairly staunch anti-billionaire, I thought to myself… “maybe?”

Of course, then—ignoring, for now, the person he is—his campaign started buying influence via meme (sorry, two weeks in a row with that one) and anyone sitting back to calculate the math of what it means to be a political candidate “worth” 60 billion dollars can come to the conclusion that the campaign can effectively last forever while spending gobs more money than anyone who is not a billionaire.

So, okay. That’s irritating and disgusting and not the world I want.

After Wednesday night’s debate, Bloomberg’s campaign released a doctored video that implies all other candidates stared blankly when Bloomberg talked about being the only one that had started a business.

Which gets under my skin so much more than I should allow it to. A person with virtually unlimited campaign funds intentionally spreading misinformation to millions of people to influence an election in his favor. Four years after an election that was swamped with intentional misinformation. 🤮

I still think of Project Nebraska every time I get snarky.

We were walking in the neighborhood tonight—it’s actually getting warm enough and light enough for evening walks!—and saw our first Bloomberg 2020 sign in a yard. My snark came out as: “I wonder how much he paid them to put that up.”

On a positive note, I finally finished Orlando, by Virginia Woolf, who I hadn’t read before. I don’t think I understood much of the book’s references, and it took me a while to read, but it was interesting in many parts and contained a handful of moments I was not expecting that caused me to actually say “oh shit!” out loud while reading. 📚

Thoughts for the week’s end

I tweeted the most clever tweet of all time in reaction to Bloomberg’s meme buys:

“The muck has run amok.”

The combination of words is so obvious, but the only other actual mention of this phrase I can find on the internet is in a reply to a house pond cleaning question—almost as clever.

The story of how the CIA owned a company that made and distributed encryption machines and cipher devices to other governments and then at back and listened is so disturbing and amazing.

For every argument that happens in public around “the danger of” versus “the need for” backdoors in encrypted systems, there are probably dozens of other instances where it just happens in plain sight.

These stories always remind me of Simon Singh‘s very interesting and readable The Code Book, a very nice tour of cryptography’s history (until the 1990s). It’d be fun if he wrote an update to cover the last 20 years.

Nicole He used AI to generate interview questions for Billie Eilish on behalf of Vogue. Billie played the part well and gave some nice answers.

“Who consumed so much of your power in one go?” struck me as such an utterly deep ask. Pondering something like that may be good for looking out in the future.

Also: Nicole He has the best personal domain: 🍕

Unfortunately (or fortunately?),, like, is one of those that appears to be already claimed but forever unused.

If I’m not careful, I’m going to think of another way of comparing all but unused “premium” domains to all but abandoned properties on main street.

We watched Parasite during the Oscars last week and it was absolutely deserving of every award it won and more. The way it unfolded was just fantastic. This overview of watching Parasite as a Korean, with an understanding of the linguistic nuances, makes it that much more impressive.

I’m looking forward to watching more of Bong Joon-ho‘s movies. We’ve had The Host on our list for a bit and I remember really thinking about seeing Snowpiercer several times, but also thinking it was too campy for some reason. Time to move them both up in the queue!

I’m playing pool again and it’s the best thing ever. There’s a draft post for that!