Thoughts for the week’s end

More than anything right now I want it to be warm enough that we can open all of the windows and the house can just take a nice deep breath.


I have worn my light jacket more than my heavy jacket in the last week while walking around the neighborhood and I’ve started using it as a relative happiness measure. Spring is almost here!

My favorite part about this jacket (or “technical hoodie”) is how I wasn’t even looking for one, but it was 50% off on a clearance rack, fits perfect, and is exactly what I need for non-rainy fall and spring days.


Of course somehow I’ve also found myself wearing a heavier hoodie over a long sleeve t-shirt when at home this week, which makes no sense at all.


I didn’t mention last week that I do realize people all over the world use a moka pot every day without a recipe. Dump pre-ground coffee into the basket until it’s kind of full, fill the base with water, screw the top on and put it on the stove.

I have no idea how this works for other people! I’ve failed miserably every time I try to be nonchalant about it. So I’m okay having a “recipe”. 😂


Tweeting is to talking what polling is to voting.

I really enjoyed Jill Lepore’s commentary in The New Yorker this week, “The Problems Inherent in Political Polling“.


Max von Sydow passed away. I didn’t recognize his name at first, but when I saw his face, I immediately remembered him (among many other roles) as Karl Oskar from The Emigrants, a movie that follows a 19th century Swedish family during their preparation for emigration to the United States. I read the book during our trip to Sweden last year and had a lot of fun using it as an imaginary gateway into what things may have been like.


I have a whole separate draft post recording how I’ve been processing COVID-19, so I’ll leave most of it out of here. But of course there are words to say.

Even though our county does not yet have a confirmed case (is it possible to confirm what you don’t test?), we are taking the approach of participating in social distancing. It seems to be the best thing to do early—even before you are at risk—to help the community at large. It worked in St. Louis in 1918.

That SARS-COV-2 appears to often be spread by people who do not show any symptoms helps solidify that as the right decision. Even as relatively low-risk carriers, we could increase the risk to our community.


Which means… tonight we had our first ever remote book club via Zoom! It worked out really, really well—much better than I expected. Still great people, still great conversation.

One thing I started to pick up on is how interesting it is to see everyone’s face at once. When you’re sitting around a table or on a couple of couches, you’re often turning your head to look at who is talking and not catching all of the reactions. I’m not sure which is better, because in person reactions are definitely more… personal? But it’s pretty cool.


Our book was Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers. It was an interesting and quick read, though I’m always wary of reading his books. I feel like a statistic repeater when I’m done.

“Did you know?”, “Did you know?”.

And then I’m not sure if I really know or if I’m just repeating statistics. Which is actually great for the thesis of the book because when I read Gladwell, I default to accepting that he’s writing the truth.

It was still a fun read and we had some great discussion around almost every chapter. So I’m happy to have read it, but I’m still wary of Gladwell. 😂


Today Happy Prime will have its first ever Friday lunch online instead of meeting downtown. It will be a bummer not to hang out in person, but I’m also interested to see how it goes.

Happy Friday! 🍻

Thoughts for the week’s end

This is the first presidential election in which there will be people eligible to vote who were born after the first presidential election in which I was eligible to vote.

I’m learning that your 40s are full of fun stats!


I didn’t vote in 2000, probably because I was lazy. One of the reasons I was probably lazy is because I thought Al Gore would carry Illinois anyway.

I did vote in 2004 for write-in candidate Ralph Nader. I knew Kerry would carry Illinois anyway, I wanted to try and support a more-than-two party system, and I generally liked Nader and the Green Party.

Nader is the last white male candidate I’ve voted for in a presidential election or primary.

  • 2008: Obama, my Senator from Illinois. So much hope! I don’t remember voting in the primary.
  • 2012: Jill Stein, as a poorly researched protest vote against the Obama administration’s drone use. But hey, it was the Pacific Green Party! This was before she (maybe?) became a foreign agent. And Obama was going to carry Oregon anyway.
  • 2016: Hillary in the primary, which apparently didn’t count because Washington democrats still held caucuses even though the state sent out primary ballots. Hillary in the general election.
  • 2020: Warren in the primary—I sent my ballot in a little over a week ago; the primary happens on March 11. That vote will count this time, though Warren dropped out this week, so any delegates will go elsewhere. It appears I’ll be voting for either Bernie or Biden in the general election.

“I stood in that voting booth, and I looked down at my name on the ballot and thought, ‘Wow kiddo, you’re not in Oklahoma anymore.’”

That’s a pretty endearing statement from Warren. I’m looking forward to the good work she’ll continue to do.


These illustrations of one star reviews in US National Parks (via Doug) are great. I have been to (I think) 8 of these parks and endorse none of the “reviews”—Capitol Reef bland!?—though I do appreciate the accurate description of the (also stunning) Grand Canyon as a “very, very large hole.”

In Stephen J. Pyne’s How the Canyon Became Grande, he covers how much of a wasteland the Grand Canyon was considered to be and how everyone pretty much avoided it for many, many, many years.


We subscribed to our local print paper for the second time since moving to Pullman. The website is just so not conducive to reading and, unlike larger metro area papers, you can get through it in 15 minutes over breakfast. And now I know the fire truck activity down the street the other day was a stove fire.

Bonus: our landlord writes a frequent opinion column and it’s good!


The espresso machine is on the fritz, so I’m using the moka pot for afternoon coffee while we wait for a replacement silicone steam ring. I was very happy to see I had written up a working recipe when we moved into this house a couple years ago and were blessed with a gas stove.

And sure enough: same coffee, same grind, same amount, perfect result!

☕️

Thinking through free speech and communities (a bit)

…and probably reaching some conclusions we disagree on. 🤷🏼‍♂️

I read Aaron’s post about symbols of hate at WordCamps a week ago, appreciated it, liked his tweet, and then kind of moved on. To me, it seemed like basic and healthy community-oriented thinking. I was somewhat surprised several days later to see the opinion piece on WP Tavern identifying the red MAGA hat as one of the “ideas outside our own” we may be presented with when attending a community event.

I say “somewhat” because I do remember a time when I identified completely with thoughts like Evelyn Beatrice Hall‘s “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Free speech is not as simple as that statement.

It’s a topic I spend a lot of time juggling in my head, but my current conclusions align more with how I read the entirety of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights than with how the United States has historically chosen to interpret and apply the first amendment.

In general, I do agree the government should not create laws that abridge speech, the press, assembly, or petition. How the first amendment is interpreted by the government is at its most important when it comes to thinking and speaking critically of the government itself.

I don’t believe that democratizing publishing means fighting for the others’ right to say hateful things. I do believe it is okay for a community to value non-hateful speech and to call out hateful speech when we see it.

Working within the bounds of that, I want to be a member of communities that strive to be welcoming to a diverse group of people and viewpoints. As part of those communities, people should feel comfortable having beliefs. People should not feel comfortable asserting those beliefs in ways that harm or create an unsafe environment for any other person.

There’s some naievity in the next statement, but I’m okay with it. Establishing a definition for “unsafe” in this context isn’t as difficult as it may seem.

I am a white male who identifies as he/him. It is easy for me to share my opinions without feeling unsafe. The only true barrier to me sharing an opinion is my comfort level—here I am writing this post, sneaking just past that comfort level. Ask me in person to share the single time (mayyyybe two) I have actually felt unsafe in my life and I will. Ask a person of any other demographic and the list is often too long for me to fully comprehend.

This makes it easy for me to draw some kind of line as part of a community: if somebody tells me a symbol or behavior makes them feel unsafe, I believe them.

Even if I don’t understand it: I receive it, try to process it, and believe them.

Free speech for me, in a nutshell: speak truth to power, be aware, think critically, share your work, and amplify others who are doing the same—without hate.

If my site supported footnotes, this would be a footnote. What made me comfortable actually hitting publish? I help to build the software that powers 35.9% of the web. A piece of software with a loosely described mission of “democratize publishing” that we are all able to assign our own version of meaning to. I’m low-key irritated the software I help make showed an argument for a hat in the dashboard on millions of sites across the world and that irritation made me feel the need to add my voice the greater discussion.

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.