Things Retired Guys Do

Mostly, "Whatever we want."

Subject to funds available, of course.

I've been spending some time in the garage doing something of the equivalent of "rearranging my sock drawer." I have a large Husky tool chest/workbench, and it's in the center of an entropy vortex. Every time I go out there, it's more disorganized and finding things takes longer and longer.

So yesterday and today I've been doing some localized entropy reduction. Another thing retired guys do is watch YouTube videos, and now I know how to change the sounds my Makita battery chargers make. I put the dual charger on the larger shelf I added to accommodate Mitzi's Skil string trimmer charger, and now they each play a different little tune instead of just beeping.

Achievement unlocked!

I'm only about a third of the way through, but I've been through most of the drawers and relocated things to their correct drawers, or identified things that need to "go away." One of which was the dryer vent brush because, ventless dryer! I've also gathered all the manuals for the various tools and placed them all in one drawer.

The workbench itself is still clobbered, but that's next on the agenda. I have three Husky cabinets above the workbench, and I think I know how to rearrange things to make better use of the volume in the cabinets and the square inches on the workbench. I may get to that later this afternoon, but I'm bored with it at the moment.

I've got to rig up another MC4 cable for the other Nebo panel, so I can put them in series or parallel. I didn't mention last time that I'm using my Dymo label-maker to label each of the connectors so I know what is supposed to connect to what. And presumably so will anyone else if I'm unavailable.

I think I'm going also use the label-maker to label each of the drawers.

During yesterday's Tinderbox meetup, I was going to demo using PopClip to facilitate making web links in a note. To my embarrassment, I learned that I haven't completely configured the 14" M3 MBP to be identical to the iMac, at least insofar as PopClip wasn't installed. And I need to figure out why the Desktops aren't identical, since I'm using iCloud on both.

I can work on the MBP in the recliner, so maybe that's the next chore.

After my nap, naturally.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 13:29 Monday, 15 April 2024

Miss This Guy

Bodhi, a Golden Retriever

Read a story like this and I get kinda gooey.

Eight years gone now. My how the years have flown.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 09:39 Monday, 15 April 2024

Lonely Bench, A Cliché

Grainy black and white image of an empty bench illuminated by a street lamp against the morning twilight

I didn't shoot anything this morning until I got to this bench. I've shot this before, not long after we moved here, in color and I liked it. I brought the E-PL7 out of my pocket and turned it on and saw that it was still set up for black and white. This is the second of two shots. This isn't a "filter" it's just the grain of an ISO 3200 16MP PEN CMOS sensor with the noise filter turned off.

Anyway, it's something.

Shot the arches too.

During yesterday's Tinderbox Meetup, I got some help with Captain's Log. I'd been wanting to figure out how to turn off an edict once it's run.

Specifically, it's the edict embedded in the Midwatch entry, which runs an Automator application using the runCommand action code. Every edict in a file will run about once an hour, and for the most part it's lightweight code that isn't going to take much processor time and you should never notice it, unless you're interacting with another app. In my case, it was interacting with Automator/Calendar/AppleScript, and all the edicts were turned on. As time went on, and more Midwatch entries were added, the amount of time consumed began to grow, such that I'd be writing something here in the marmot and Tinderbox would beep and seem to go away for a second, and then return.

I'd added some code to test for the presence of text in the Midwatch entry, and if present, do nothing. But I wasn't sure it was working, because, well, "do nothing." So Mark Bernstein showed me how to add a little diagnostic action code using the "speak" command, and this allowed me to see that the code indeed worked as desired.

We then looked at how to disable the edict once it had run, and there are two ways to do that. Essentially, using the "else" clause, assign the $EdictDisabled attribute a value of true, $EdictDisabled=true, (Never quote your booleans.), or just assign the $Edict attribute an empty string, $Edict="", (a pair of double (straight) quotes).

We did all this on my 14" M3 MBP, because I can share my screen in Zoom on that machine, and something is fouled up on the iMac that remains unresolved and I can't share my screen.

So this morning, I had to remember to open the MBP and quit Tinderbox so I didn't have the files open on two different machines. Looked at the work we did yesterday and refreshed my memory of what we'd done and why. Then I spent a few minutes at aTbRef to learn about Quickstamps. A Quickstamp is an easy way to set the value of only one attribute for a number of selected notes. I selected all the previous days and disabled all their edicts, as all these edicts are intended to run only once.

Normally, for an action that you want to run only once, you'd include it in the OnAdd action, so that when that note is added to a container the OnAdd action is triggered and the code is executed. I can't include an OnAdd action in a Day prototype to perform the runCommand and populate the $Text of the Midwatch entry, because it'd run every time I created any entry in a given day.

What Mark pointed out yesterday was that I could add the runCommand action to the fMakeMidwatch function, which is called as an edict in a Day prototype.

As it is now, fMakeMidwatch just creates the Midwatch note in a new Day. The Day prototype contains the edict to run the function and nothing else. The Midwatch prototype contains the edict with the runCommand to create the $Text of the Midwatch entry. All that could be wrapped up in the function, thus eliminating the need for an edict in the Midwatch note.

Thinking about this some more, I could move the execution of the function from a Day edict, to an OnAdd action in the Month container, since each Day will create a Midwatch entry and when a new Day is created by the Month container, the OnAdd action would run the fMakeMidwatch entry for that day, and the function would execute the runCommand to populate the $Text, thereby eliminating two edicts and the necessity for disabling them.

So, that's what I'm going to do in a minute and we'll see how that works out tomorrow.

It's a pretty nice feeling when you think you're beginning to understand how something works. But I've been wrong about that before too. So no high-fives until tomorrow.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 07:49 Monday, 15 April 2024

Movies: An Update

Just because Jack reminded me about movies...

We watched Batman Returns the other night, after watching Tim Burton's Batman not long ago. I don't think I ever saw Batman Returns before. I had no recollection of it, other than knowing that Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito starred in it. It was great! I think it was better than Burton's first Batman. Of course, then the wheels fell off.

I wasn't in the mood for television the other night, but Mitzi landed on Inside Man, which I hadn't seen in a long time. So I sat down and watched it with her. I'd forgotten how much I liked it. I'm a little confused about the final scene, but I'm getting used to being confused.

Argyle is up on Apple TV+, so I watched that last night. Enjoyed it very much. Kind of a mash-up of Barbie, The Bourne Identity, Kingsman and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Very camp. Loved the soundtrack.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 09:42 Sunday, 14 April 2024

Social Media Sucks

I don't care if it's Mastodon or one of the BigCos. It's like, "People are great, drivers are assholes." Frankly, I can even say the same thing about bicyclists.

You put someone behind some technology where they're isolated or insulated from the other people they are supposedly sharing this plane with, and they become their own worst selves. They become entitled, arrogant and selfish.

I don't miss it.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 09:36 Sunday, 14 April 2024

Allegedly Edible

Closeup of a blue flow blossom with several closed buds surrounding it with hairs on the stems. Backlit.

Yesterday was a beautiful day. After screwing around with solar panels and taking a nap, I rode my bike to the garden and looked in on the tomatoes, peas and beans. Did some watering and wandered around with the Oly Stylus 1s.

This was over by the herb garden. I don't recall exactly what it is, but it's supposedly edible.

Took the long way home, so 10K on the bike yesterday, 5K on the walk.

Yesterday was a big exercise day for me, closed my Move ring for the first time in a long time. Felt good.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:58 Sunday, 14 April 2024

A Study In Arches

Two arches framed in an arch, framed in an arch in alternating orthogonal planes. B&W.

Let's be precious.

I got up early, which is to say, "late," so I figured I'd just go ahead and walk instead of screwing around on the computer. Still nice and cool, with fairly dry air, so I wore a sweatshirt with the vest and stuffed the E-PL7 in the vest pocket.

It wasn't a "brisk" walk, I wasn't trying to get my heart rate up, I did that yesterday. But it was faster than I normally walk carrying a camera on my wrist or a sling, so some exercise.

I love walking at this time in the morning because I encounter so few people and cars and no landscapers. I got to the clubhouse before sunrise and stopped and tried to take my time framing this composition. It's still not "perfect." I wanted less of a reveal on the right side of the middle arch so the top right of the curve would have blended into inner right vertical of the arch closest to the camera. I'd shift left and right, forward and back, changed focal lengths and got tired before I found it.

This is the last of six attempts, and the one where I noticed the newspapers in the frame and cleared them out. Got home and had breakfast and read the news and decided to screw around on the computer. But first I figured I'd try some in-camera black and white conversions. I don't have any particular aesthetic feel for black and white. I get that it's about tonality and texture, but I don't have any sort of feel for it.

I did a bunch of conversions editing the RAW in the E-PL7. One was a straight monotone conversion with the "neutral" filter. I added some contrast and filters as well. A couple more conversions and the color jpeg are up at Flickr, all straight out of camera. I liked this one the best. I'm pretty sure this is the one with +2 contrast and the red filter, gradation was normal so no lifting the shadows in camera. 34mm effective focal length, ISO 3200.

This is a "Silent Sunday" shot for Shelley.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:34 Sunday, 14 April 2024

That Was Interesting…

I'm back in from playing with the Nebo solar panels. My first effort was just to ensure the "used" one actually worked. I think so.

I had some problems with the MC4 connectors from the first panel, so I bought a couple other ones with barrel connectors and adapters. They had oppositely colored wires on the male and female connectors, so I figured at least one of them would have the right polarity.

Nope. Wire color has nothing to do with polarity in these products. The two latest ones each included a strip of paper with a warning to check polarity as different solar panel manufacturers do things differently. So do different cable manufacturers.

What can I say? This is my first rodeo.

What I can say for sure is that center is positive on the barrel connector, shell is negative on the Nebo 100 watt solar panel. And in direct current, conventionally, red is positive, black is negative. It was astonishing to me how confusing that could get dealing with different connectors, and different colored wires that had nothing to do with polarity.

What I can also say is that each of the MC4 to barrel plug connectors had the male MC4 plug (Which is itself a matter of some confusion or debate. At the moment, I'm convinced that the gender of the connector corresponds to the electrical part of the connection, not the plastic shell.) wired to the positive center. The Bluetti XT60 to MC4 cable also had the male MC4 connector wired to the positive connector in the XT60. So maybe that's a convention of some kind. In any event, the positive voltage from the panel was present at the same type (gender) of connector as the positive voltage input to the AC70 (Which has the XT60 connector. Confused yet?), which means I couldn't connect them without reversing the polarity, which could be bad ("Don't cross the streams!"), or just result in not charging. (Luckily, it's not "bad" since I did connect them that way when I was futzing around the first time a couple of days ago. I think Bluetti designed the product such that it has reverse polarity protection, probably a diode. Lucky me.)

Anyway it's a good thing I bought a crimper and some extra connectors. (Note to self: Buy a better wire stripper.)

So I swapped the MC4 connectors on one of the cables, and let me add quickly that it's a really good thing I could look at the color of the insulation in the discarded connector, because I immediately forgot which one was which and, naturally, I cut them both off at the same time.

So, after taking a lot of deep breaths, I got the connectors swapped and went out to try again.

Success. I'm getting about 75 watts from the first panel and 55 watts from the "used" one. I suspect it's a matter of them not being oriented exactly the same. There's a little gimmick device you can buy to check that too, but I was more or less relying on their shadows. But looking at them after swapping the cables around, I could see the original one I bought was a few degrees off from the used one.

Both were putting out roughly the same voltage, so I'm pretty sure it's fine, but I'll play with it some more.

Well, I'm going to declare victory and award myself a meritorious afternoon off.

And take a nap.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 13:26 Saturday, 13 April 2024

Habitat for Automobiles

Street lamp reflected in a sidewalk wet from lawn sprinklers with cars in driveways

Mitzi headed off to San Diego this morning, and I went out for my walk. This is a nothing shot, but just for grins I shot the street lamp reflection in the puddle. The only reason I'm sharing it is because I sat in on a portion of a 1000 Friends of Florida webinar about smarter development in Florida where we hope to maintain a wildlife corridor. One of the slides showed a neighborhood of stucco homes that looked identical to my neighborhood (Quelle surprise.) and the presenter commented that it looks more like a habitat for cars than for people, and that resonated with me.

So, that's why this pic in this post. Not much of a reason, but my blog, my rules.

Anyway, the second Nebo solar panel and additional cables didn't arrive until after sunset yesterday evening, so I haven't played around with them yet. That's next on the agenda today.

My battery obsession continues. I watched a couple of videos by a guy whose channel is called Hobotech. I haven't watched enough of his videos to form any opinions about the guy. The appearance of a handgun in one gave me pause, but I remain ambivalent for now.

He does have decent production values, and the design of his tests and the quality of his information seems good. I watched this review of the Bluetti AC70 and AC2A and thought he did a thorough review. I recommend watching these videos a 1.5x speed, you can always pause and back up if you want to hear something again. YouTube surfaced another of his videos that I wasn't directly searching for, comparing Li-ion rechargeable AA batteries with NiMHs. I thought that was well done, surprising and worthwhile.

If you're disinclined to watch it, suffice to say NiMHs are likely the best value in AA battery solutions by quite a lot. Their single biggest limitation is their 1.2v discharge voltage, which is going to give you "low battery" alerts early, but which will be misleading because your device will continue to run for a long time at that voltage. If you have something that requires 1.5v, like an external flash, then lithium or conventional alkaline disposables are probably a better choice. But in terms of a "sustainable" AA battery, NiMH is the winning chemistry.

I'm also pleased with my choice of the Bluetti EB3A paired with the AC70. I think they complement each other in terms of features, at a reasonable price point. I'm unsure if the EB3A will be on the market for much longer, as the AC2A appears to have replaced it. If the EB3A isn't available, the AC2A is a worthwhile substitute, albeit more limited.

In an era of frequent extreme weather events and potential power outages, I think it's worthwhile to have something more substantial than a package of AAs from the grocery store and a USB power brick in your emergency kit. Something like the EB3A and the AC70 give you significantly more options in terms of powering devices that might be useful in an emergency. They're also small and light enough that they're easy to put in your car if you can't stay in your home for whatever reason.

Similarly, having a modest solar recharge capability just makes sense. You can go crazy on portable panels, but the expense and weight and handling issues go up quickly. A single 200W panel or a couple of 100W panels are probably sufficient unless you're looking to embark on serious van camping or something.

Some rechargeable NiMH AA and AAA batteries and a charger would also be useful for radios and portable lights.

This kind of preparation anticipates that a power outage might last from a few hours to a few days. Anything longer than that and it's kind of in another regime where you may not wish to live there until power and utilities are fully restored.

Preparing a home to be habitable in a situation where power, water and sewer are unavailable for long periods of time is a far different problem. I think we're in good shape here on the power front, but I don't have a good answer for water and sewer. A 5-gallon bucket and sawdust seems to be the go-to solution, but where do you get sawdust from?

In the near term, say the next 5 to 10 years, I think temporary disruptions might be what we're most likely to experience. I think it becomes more uncertain after that. But we do have some time think about it.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 09:33 Saturday, 13 April 2024

Feeling Good

Shadow of me walking.

I guess it was the vaccine that had me feeling a bit cattywampus. Started feeling better yesterday afternoon and woke up feeling great this morning.

Nice day for a walk too!

I got to the clubhouse entrance a minute before I got there yesterday, but it was cloudy yesterday so the lights were still on. The sun was just coming up today so the light was way different. I'll try and get there earlier next time I try that shot. I did take one, just to try and get a better composition. Not sure I succeeded.

The Bluetti AC70 arrived yesterday, a few days earlier than expected. Arrived 55% charged, tried to connect it up with the Nebo 100 watt panel, but have some polarity issues to resolve first with the MC4 connectors, which came as a surprise to me. The second Nebo panel should arrive today, along with additional cables, so I'll spend some time with the multimeter and figure this out.

I plugged my M3 14" MBP into it after recharging it from AC, and it was delivering 85W to the MBP from the USB3 port in the battery (rated at 100W) via the MagSafe cable. Pretty impressive, but it does turn the fan on in the AC70 and it's noticeable. I think if I used a lesser cable, it would negotiate a lower charge rate that wouldn't require the fan, but it did charge it pretty quickly. I think I went from 19% battery to 80% battery during Jeopardy. Don't quote me on that, might have been less, but I stopped after Jeopardy.

The idea is to have some "portable" power if we ever need it just for convenience; but perhaps more relevant is to be able to reduce non-essential loads in the house by opening breakers to other rooms, and still be able to have some power in those rooms in the event of a prolonged outage while I'm trying to manage Powerwall loads.

So, during the hotter months of hurricane season, if the grid is down and AC runs constantly, especially through the night, I'd turn off non-essential loads in the house, and perhaps raise the thermostat to 78° or 79° and run a floor fan and Mitzi's CPAP in the bedroom from the AC70 until the sun came up. I'd also likely reduce the reserve on the Powerwalls to 5% to extract more power from them. It'd be a dance until I figured out how everything performed, but the idea is to preserve temperature and humidity control 24x7 until the grid is back up, while still being able to perform most of "the activities of daily life" with some degree of comfort and convenience. If we have enough sun, it should be fine. If we have significant cloud cover, it'd be challenging.

If you're not thinking about this stuff, it might be time to start. Rooftop solar and battery backup may not be in the cards for most people, but some type of portable solar and battery storage might be worthwhile if you can't afford the cost of a generator, which likely includes its own challenges. And I'd sacrifice the food in the refrigerator and freezer and hot water before I'd give up environmental control within the home envelope.

But that's just me. If you have insulin or other medication that needs to be refrigerated, that's a different challenge and maybe there's a solution for that with a smaller refrigerator and a battery power supply. (I'd say, "Or a cooler and some ice," but guess how hard it'll be to find ice when the grid is down. You'll be shlepping down to the National Guard relief station and standing in line with everyone else.)

Hopefully, this is all just an intellectual exercise for a retiree with a lot of time on his hands.

But I do think we're all preppers now, whether we know it or not.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:14 Friday, 12 April 2024

I’m Still Waiting to Hear From the Nobel Committee

Irony is the fifth fundamental force of the universe, Jack.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 09:22 Thursday, 11 April 2024

Wrong Picture

This is a picture of some arches framed in an arch, framed in an arch

Welp, I don't know how that happened. I suspect I wasn't paying attention to which photo was selected in Photos when I ran the script.

The tree frog was on the wall when I got home, and I intended to post it anyway, so I'd edited it and it was probably still selected.

Anyway, I'll leave it the way it is.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:40 Thursday, 11 April 2024

Thought This Might Be Something

Arches framed in an arch, framed in an arch. Needs a bit better composition

I think the Pfizer shot hit me a bit harder than usual. I don't recall ever having any kind of reaction to the Pfizer, while the Moderna always left me hurting the next day. I didn't feel as bad yesterday as I do with the Moderna, but I was running at about three-quarter power. I felt better this morning, but my walk this morning, which usually leaves me feeling somewhat energized, has me feeling otherwise today.

Anyway, I saw this on my walk this morning. Because I was focused more on walking than photography, I just grabbed this and pressed on. It caught my attention at first because I thought the light looked interesting. But after getting it on the screen, I can see it was the arches that were arresting. And if I had taken my time and worked a bit more on composing the shot, it might have been a little more compelling. Not to be too "precious" about my photography. I'm just a guy who likes to take pictures.

Arches within arches in alternating planes is pretty interesting. I think I could have adjusted my position a bit to get better curves where the edges kind of align. Maybe I'll try again and take my time.

Yesterday wasn't totally wasted. I managed to figure out I had the wrong connection adapter on the cable from the Nebo 100W panel. Same polarity, happily, but a little off in size. I used the EB3A to charge my 13" M1 MBP and then used the panel to charge the EB3A. I didn't stay for the whole thing, and clouds were rolling in and out, but I did see it outputting 85W when I got the right adapter connected.

I noticed that it wasn't charging the EB3A all the time, and that touching the cable caused it to recognize the cable. I went back to my pile of adapter and found one that looked about the same and measured them both with my little plastic micrometer. Sure enough, the one I was using was a little small. Swapped it out with the correct one and we were off to the races.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:24 Thursday, 11 April 2024

Electrifying

Nintendo shut down the Wii U online service, so no more Call of Duty Ghosts online play for moi. There were still a few of us, and most of us were pretty old! I played regularly with a guy in Scotland, two others in England, a few in France, including a woman, a few in Germany, an 80-year-old from Arkansas, a guy from Pennsylvania and another in Canada.

It was fun, but it was pretty addictive. I made it up to 127th in Team Deathmatch. Before I knew they were shutting the service down on April 8th, I had as my goal to make it to 125. That would have required another month or so online. But I did manage to complete my other goal, which was to earn the "gold" camo on all the weapons. Finished that last week with just days to spare. Of course, none of that is available now. I thought at least there'd be a local profile on the box, but I can't find it.

If you search for COD Ghosts Wii U online play on YouTube, there are a few videos where I appear. (ActionDave79, Hey, I created that handle over a decade ago!) I was surprised, but I guess it's a thing on YouTube.

So now my afternoons are free. I got some cable connector adapters today, so I figured I'd go play prepper. I bought a Nebo 100W solar panel from Woot on special for $149 (regularly $299). I couldn't really test it with the Bluetti EB3A because they use different connectors. I've ordered some "real" solar panel connectors (MC4?) but today I have an adapter that converts the 5525 DC plug that came with the Nebo to the DC 7909 the EB3A uses.

I needed to discharge the EB3A to get it to charge, so I plugged in one of my three or four Makita 18v battery chargers and charged a couple of batteries. There's cloud cover overhead, but once the EB3A began discharging AC, it indicated it was receiving power from the solar panel. Highest I ever saw it get was 48 watts, but it is pretty cloudy.

Anyway, charged all the batteries that I thought needed charging. None was particularly low. But it drained the EB3A to 85% capacity. It's back up to 96% right now, but the panel is only putting out 14 watts now. I don't expect that to improve with the decreasing sun angle and the clouds.

But I was browsing around Amazon and spotted a "used" 100W Nebo panel (I guess someone returned one) for $119(!), so I snagged that. I'll have to buy another set of MC4 connectors to rig both panels up.

And just because I'm a dumbass, I went ahead and bought a Bluetti AC70. It was on sale for $450 and gets good reviews. It pairs well with the EB3A, which may be being discontinued? It has about 700 watt-hours of power and a 1kW AC inverter, so it can handle bigger loads or run for longer times than the EB3A. It's bigger, but it's not huge by any means. You can use it as an UPS, but we don't really need that. But it's nice to have "just in case." I figure if nothing else, I can drag it out on the back patio and plug in the oscillating floor fan and set it on high and see if it blows the mosquitos away!

Who knows? It's 110vAC wherever you need it, as long as you're not powering a large load. You can do some trickery with resistive loads (lower the voltage and increase the amperage) to run an electric griddle, but if anything requires stable 60hz, best to stay within the thousand watt limit.

And I got a nice email from a woman at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Standards Information Center, who explained battery connections weren't their jam. But she did send along a bunch of info about a manufacturers' association and the Cordless Alliance System, which I will be looking into.

I sent her a thank you email and told her I appreciated it and the work she and her colleagues were doing.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 16:28 Tuesday, 9 April 2024

Further to the Foreshadowing

As mentioned earlier this morning, news like this brings to mind songs like this.

The wind began to howl...

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 12:15 Tuesday, 9 April 2024

Early Morning Walk

Photo of a street lamp above a sidewalk in a suburban landscape in the early morning twilight

Got up early this morning because at some point it's more uncomfortable to lay in bed than to get up and start moving. Got some early blogging done and then went for my walk early because I was scheduled to got another COVID shot this morning. Went with Pfizer this time, because I'd had the Moderna last time and it always kicks my ass. Better to alternate the two.

I don't know if there's some new CDC guidance, but I'd gotten a text from my Publix pharmacy that another shot was recommended for those over 65, and we're getting ready to do some travel anyway.

I enjoy the early morning walks because of the sky and I encounter fewer people. Pretty soon they'll be essential because it'll start getting hot and humid in the morning, and the sunshine gets brutal.

Anyway, got my jab and now to get on with the rest of the day!

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 10:28 Tuesday, 9 April 2024

In Other Reading

I saw this piece in The New Yorker, and bought the book. Started reading it last night, and it's almost too on the nose. Trump is never mentioned, but you might as well be reading today's news.

I know it's also unfashionable to compare Trump to Hitler, but wow. It's not that they're the same, it's that they use the same techniques, the same sort of appeals and possess the same indifference to failure. They just don't quit. I guess that's a virtue sometimes.

And the same sorts of people, those with power and privilege and limited scruples, delude themselves in the same ways with regard to how to deal with people like Trump or Hitler.

This is from Anne Applebaum back in 2020. The page loads in my browser with most of the pictures missing, but the text is all there.

History is a luxury of civilization. A kind of human existence that has the cognitive surplus to record and analyze the past. History will judge, but I'm not sure for how long.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:20 Tuesday, 9 April 2024

The Apocalypse Has Not Been Postponed

I know it's fashionable to dismiss the threat of catastrophic climate change, or overshoot in the matter of the dynamic system that is our civilization. "Ok, doomer," has replaced "Ok, boomer" as the dismissive put-down of choice. "People have always been predicting 'the end of the world.' It's still here!"

"Technology!"

"Innovation!"

But...

The problem with science and risk management is that science is very conservative, and "the market" likes to minimize risk. Usually that means being "skeptical" of science. The question risk managers should have been asking themselves wasn't, "Could it really get that bad?"

It should have been, "How much worse is it really likely to be?"

I'm less certain today that we could have prevented this, even if we began acting in 1992. Maybe put it off by a few decades, but we'd still be confronting planetary limits, if not climate ones, eventually. Before the end of this century.

But I am happy to point out that Republicans and their corporate masters are the most proximately responsible parties for the astoundingly shocking lack of action of any kind. Not that blaming them does anyone any good. I just hope they understand their responsibility, though I doubt they will and I'm certain they won't accept it.

These are the happy thoughts that come to mind as I read stuff like this.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:01 Tuesday, 9 April 2024

A Good Read

On that happy note, allow me to direct your attention to James Reeves' A Staggering Kind of Stillness, at Atlas Minor.

All we have are moments to live.

What's wrong with this one?

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:15 Tuesday, 9 April 2024

AA Batteries

The history of batteries is fascinating, and I'm reading Charged: A History of Batteries and Lessons for a Clean Energy Future by James Morton Turner (University of Washington Press. Kindle Edition). One of the things I was surprised to learn, though I suppose I shouldn't have been, was that AA batteries take roughly 160(!) times more energy to manufacture than they produce in their lifetime. And that recycling them often uses more energy than it saves (transportation). Since the removal of mercury from the battery cathode, they're environmentally harmless in a landfill. The whole recycling push was because of mercury, which is no longer part of the battery chemistry.

What I'm trying to learn now is the relative cost of NiMH rechargeable batteries. They're not addressed in this book, as he focuses on the history of lead-acid, AA disposables and lithium-ion, with the materials extraction environmental costs.

I'm also reading DIY Lithium Batteries: How to Build Your Own Battery Packs by Micah Toll, not to "build my own," but to learn about them from a practical sense. The more I learn, the happier I am that we installed the mini-split ac in the garage.

We run our Powerwalls in the Tesla recommended mode of maintaining a 20% reserve capacity. This means we often go to the grid for power sooner than we'd otherwise have to. But it also acts as a whole-house UPS, with about 5kWh of battery reserve in the event of a power outage. It also helps preserve the useful lifetime of the batteries, where by "useful," I'm referring to maintaining as much capacity as possible for as long as possible, while still making practical use of them. The hybrid hot water heater and induction range also help in that regard by being lower current demand appliances, and now the dryer is lower demand as well.

At this point, I think the highest demand service in our house now is recharging the RAV4 Prime. I've tried to schedule trips such that the car is back in the garage early in the day when it can be recharged from solar and/or battery, though now I think it's perhaps at least as smart to allow it to charge from the grid. (We would still net-out positive as solar production that wouldn't go to recharging the battery after charging the car would most likely go to the grid, and that high current flow is not an issue for the batteries.)

They're warrantied for 80% capacity at 10 years, but that doesn't mean they're useless when the capacity dips below 80%. Rather than replace them, I'd probably look to add another battery.

It's forecast to be an active hurricane season, and I'm skeptical that northeast Florida enjoys some permanent geographical advantage in terms of hurricane risk. In the event of a near-miss that left our place habitable but without power, air-conditioning becomes the "vital load," not only for comfort but for keeping the humidity down in the house to prevent the growth of mold.

The "Storm Watch" feature of the Powerwall software will actually charge the batteries from the grid prior to a major storm event, and switch to grid power for the duration. If there's a large or long outage, we'd enter the problem with a fully charged battery, and hopefully the clouds pass with the storm and the array keeps the batteries charged, though it may take some additional care and attention on our part.

So I'm pretty confident in terms of our preparedness. We'd have to monitor cloud cover and our power consumption in the event of an extended outage, but I'm pretty sure I can keep the important things running, chiefly AC and refrigerator, though, really, if we lost the food in the fridge, it wouldn't be catastrophic. I think the AC is only truly "vital" load, especially as we get older.

Anyway, started out with AA battery facts, ended up with aging in place in a hurricane-prone state. What's up with that?

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 05:21 Tuesday, 9 April 2024

Totality From Tupper Lake (Photo by Mark Rogers)

Photograph of the total eclipse as shot by Mark Rogers in Tupper Lake NY. Nice view of the corona.

My brother sent me this shot last night after I'd already gone to bed. He went up to Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks to view it and had an excellent view.

We observed it in the shadows cast by the tree in our front yard, and in the output of our solar panels.

My friend and former neighbor went to Arkansas to observe it and sent me some nice shots. My sister in Buffalo had some clouds, but caught glimpses and enjoyed it with neighbors.

Moving on...

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 05:16 Tuesday, 9 April 2024

Plainly Ecliptic

I've accomplished exactly one thing so far this morning, in the 90 minutes I've been up. I did manage to move the Make Web Link action in PopClip to the left side of the bar, so it's more readily accessible. It was simply a matter of accessing the menu bar interface, selecting the Actions tab (looks like a jigsaw piece), clicking the pencil icon (edit) at the bottom, and then dragging the little textured button icons to the left of each action. (Apparently you can do that without hitting "edit.")

(I used PopClip to create that link.)

I spent some time (over an hour) looking at Automator and Mail actions. I thought I might try to make log entries automatically, but I'll have to think about it some more. Automator is pretty slow looking for email.

Went a little crazy yesterday and ordered some more electrical stuff. Mostly a bunch of cable adapters. The Bluetti has 5525 connectors for 12vdc out, but not everything that uses 12vdc uses 5525 connections, so... adapters. Bought some pigtails too. Most of this stuff is low wattage, but I'll have to pay attention anyway. You never know and this stuff is pretty inexpensive.

The Kill-a-Watt meter arrived yesterday and I learned the toaster oven uses about 1700 watts when making toast. More rigorous investigations will be forthcoming. The first of two cables I need to connect the Neebo 100W solar panel to the EB3A arrived, verified it will connect to the panel. This is another arena where there are a plethora of connectors, and it can get pretty confusing.

I'll be glad when the eclipse is over. I am interested in the performance of the solar panels, but I'm really not thrilled about a total eclipse anymore. Maybe I'm just getting old.

Anyway, started this post then went on my walk and kind of forgot about it. It's almost 11!

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 06:21 Monday, 8 April 2024

Batteries Not Included

Garret mentions that the power company in Boulder, Colorado is prophylactically ("You're screwed," get it?) shutting down power due to forecasted high winds. This brings to mind my current obsession, batteries.

I think electricity essentially created modernity. To be sure, much of it happened before Faraday and Maxwell (and Volta!), but electricity was the accelerant that facilitated the explosion of modernity and the human population, chiefly through the expansion of information bandwidth, but through all its other uses as well.

I love batteries, but "it's complicated."

We have two Tesla Powerwalls installed and together with ~7KW of solar panels on the roof, we're ~86% self-sufficient in electricity and 100% carbon-neutral in home energy consumption. (We produced more electricity than we consume and export the surplus to FPL. To date, that surplus has also been greater than the amount we consume from FPL when solar+battery can't meet our demand.)

For nearly all of our replaceable battery-operated devices, i.e. the ones using standard AAA, AA, C and D cells, I've switched to rechargeable nickel metal hydride batteries. I use C-cell shaped shells (C-cells C-shells down by... Never mind.)

But lately I've been looking at these "solar generators," and considering what utility they may represent for us, well, me mostly.

We operate the Powerwalls in a 20% reserve capacity, as recommended by Tesla. Now, I don't know if this is a good faith recommendation as a "best practice," or a fancy way of hiding battery performance issues. Ostensibly, the Powerwalls are warrantied for 10 years to maintain at least 80% capacity. There are "optimal" ways to use batteries that prolong their useful life, and I'm not sure if our demand cycle is "optimal." I do know that air conditioning the garage (which didn't significantly increase our overall energy consumption), is likely the best thing I could have done to prolong their useful life. It often got over 110°F in the garage. I began by insulating the garage door which got sun all afternoon and essentially became a heating element radiating into the space. That helped by several degrees, but it was still hot. We installed the mini-split and then insulated the ceiling above the garage. That was more expensive than it should have been because insulation companies don't like to do "small" jobs. The garage is quite comfortable now, year-round.

In any event, I think there may be an occasion when our solar+storage solution might be insufficient and the grid unavailable. One way to improve the situation would be to reduce the load on the Powerwalls. I'd open circuit breakers in non-essential rooms, leaving just the HVAC, garage and kitchen energized (for the refrigerator). I'd probably also raise the thermostat to 78°F (cooling), where we normally keep it at 77°F.

Mitzi is heading to San Diego in a week to spend two weeks with her new grandson. I will take the opportunity to play with the power and gather some data on household loads with all rooms offline except the kitchen.

But in that scenario, it would also be useful to be able to continue to use the internet and wifi. So I'd need a power supply for that.

I bought a Bluetti EB3A Portable Power Station. I have a combined cable modem/wifi router device. It takes a 12v DC input from a wall-wart, and I'll want to see about doing a direct DC connection (a matter of the right cable connector) and avoid the inverter-to-rectifier losses. With wifi enabled, I'll be able to monitor the level of the Powerwalls and the load they're seeing.

I may lower the thermostat to simulate the higher temperatures and increased loads during the summer months. Hopefully, six to eight hours should be sufficient to give me some idea of how much energy just those loads use.

I know it'll just be "some idea," because in the summer the stucco radiates heat into the house perhaps as much as it radiates it into space. The AC runs all through the night. That's another effect of altering the composition of the atmosphere, where higher concentrations of greenhouse gases, to include water vapor, impede radiative cooling at night.

But I'll at least have some idea. I've also ordered a Kill-a-Watt power measuring device (the 4400, not the fancy new one that supposedly computes costs), so I can get some more granular data on things like the toaster oven, the TV, the devices in my office and so on.

I figure the EB3A will be useful at my workbench, and I'm planning to take it with me to the garden to run the glue gun so I can glue the string lattice I placed between two garden poles for our sugar snap peas and pole beans. It's tied to them now, but they're metal poles with enamel paint, so I expect them to slide down as weight gets added. I used it the other night to charge my 14" M3 MBP while I was using it on the couch. It's lightweight at about 10lbs and has a carry handle, so it's like having an outlet wherever you want one for loads up to 600W. (Not sure how much the glue gun takes, but I guess I'll find out.)

Anyway, might be smart to look into batteries. We're all preppers now.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 09:58 Sunday, 7 April 2024

Further to the Foregoing

I finished the previous post and set out on my morning walk. As I started, I wondered if Mark Anderson would be offended by what I wrote. I briefly considered turning around and writing this post then, but reconsidered and pressed on.

Lots of nuance in the "editorial voice" can be hard to convey in text. This morning's post was written in a lighthearted tone, almost joy, because I'd set out to learn something about PopClip, and hopefully make something useful (Success!), but ended up learning more about Tinderbox along the way.

And I wouldn't have learned anything without the valuable resource that is aTbRef. It's an enormous project, over many years, covering an application that has been evolving constantly over that time. Mark and I have corresponded about aTbRef and how it is structured and what aspects may have sometimes hindered its utility. So he's very open to making it a better resource.

And given the size and scope and duration of the project, it's unsurprising that, here and there, bits of guidance may no longer be strictly operative. But, in my experience, that has been very rare, and Mark likes to point out that guys like Jack Baty and I turn up the those corner cases with some frequency because we're actively working with the app. Michael Becker is another.

It's possible to learn Tinderbox just by playing with it. It rewards commitment. But once you achieve a certain level of understanding, and an appreciation for what is possible, you want a resource for quick answers. That's often the forum. But I also want to try and figure stuff out on my own, as it's more likely I'll actually remember how to do something if I figured it out on my own. (Not always the case. Repetition is necessary, and sometimes I don't need to do something more than once.)

That's where aTbRef comes in, and it is a wealth of useful information and guidance. And as I've mentioned to Mark, it requires close reading, as it's a reference and not a tutorial. And as this morning's exercise has demonstrated again, it's always worthwhile to read to the end of the article. I always enter the proposition that all I want is an answer to my issue. Sometimes, there's more than one. So "read the whole thing," as they used to say in the blogosphere.

The link I included above is to the site map, which bookmark resides permanently in my Favorites bar in Safari.

So, please don't infer criticism of Tinderbox or aTbRef in the previous post. Quite the opposite. It's fun to "figure stuff out," overcome a challenge and accomplish some desired goal. And I had fun this morning.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 09:28 Sunday, 7 April 2024

Quick Test With PopClip

Inspired a bit by MacOS X Guru's use of TaskPaper and its command palette, I thought I'd add an extension to PopClip for the Tinderbox menu command "Make Web Link."

In my case, I had previously created a keyboard shortcut for Make Web Link, control-option-command-L. That works, but as it happened I seldom used it. Since I must highlight the anchor text in the $Text of the post, PopClip appears automagically anyway, so I read about how to create extensions to PopClip (link above), and figured I'd give it a try.

It worked. Very nicely! It's at the end of the choices, so I'll want to look at how to move it to the front, but so far, so good.

Now, a brief Tinderbox digression. In the paragraph at the bottom, I wanted to include the text of the PopClip extension. PopClip uses YAML to parse extensions (I have no idea what any of that means), and # is used to denote a comment (Ignore it for processing purposes, although "ignore" is a process.) But Tinderbox uses a few characters like #, and * to create Quick Lists. So if I use # at the beginning of a line of YAML, it exports from Tinderbox as the numeral "1." as the first element of an ordered list.

At first, I thought I could change the text font to Code, which would essentially "escape" all the text from HTML export processing. Wrong!

The last line of the immediately preceding link is,

If you want to use $HTMLMarkupText but have paragraphs starting with *, # or • you can just set $AutomaticIndent to false. This essentially suppresses Quick List functionality.

So I went to Displayed Attributes and added $AutomatiIndent and set it to false. Checked Preview in this post, and there was the numeral 1 again. Still. Whatever.

So, more prowling around in aTbRef, where I found this discussion.

The relevant line there being:

If the $HTMLListItemStart and $HTMLListItemEnd attributes are empty, all quick lists, as defined by lines starting with an * or a #, are disabled and content is exported verbatim (i.e. including the * or # markers).

So that's what I did in the "LIst" pane of the "HTML" pane of the Inspector window. This had the desired effect, and the # appears below at the start of the extension.

But...

That same page also includes this, which would have been helpful right from the start:

To stop a quick list character at the start of a line from being interpreted as quick list markup, either:

Place an Option+space character at the start of the line.

Use the HTML encoded symbol for that character, e.g. replace '#' with '#', or '*' with '*' etc.

Nevertheless, why didn't turning off $AutomaticIndent work? Searching for the attribute $AutomaticIndent takes you to this page, with a red(ish) (salmon?) banner at the top that says $AutomaticIndent is deprecated. Which suggests that the line in the Exporting Code Samples entry I linked to above (See: "Wrong!") should be deleted.

There are five (six, now) links in this post, and I used the PopClip extension on each of them, and it worked flawlessly ever time. I could probably add a "pause" and Return key press and have the whole process automated. Maybe later. Here's the link for PopClip if you're interested. I use it a lot.

The text of the extension is this:

#popclip Tinderbox make web link

name: Make Web Link

icon: symbol:link.badge.plus # Apple SF Symbols

key combo: control command option L

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 06:42 Sunday, 7 April 2024