"Yeah, well, you know, that's just like, uh, your opinion, man."

Weekend Update

09:38 Monday, 29 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 57.36°F Pressure: 1019hPa Humidity: 48% Wind: 10.87mph

Figured I'd better drop by and share a few thoughts.

Like a mask for your house... COVID-19 Omicron is making the news. I got my booster a week ago, but I still plan to wear a mask in public places, and just placed another order for some KN-95 masks. I also happen to subscribe to an email list from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It isn't always interesting or relevant, but I often find things in it that I don't see elsewhere. This week was one of the good weeks.

With the winter holidays upon us, winter indoor entertainment is likely, even in a pandemic. While we'll keep gatherings small and ensure our guests are vaccinated, there's more we can do to reduce the risk of exposure. I have an Ambient Weather Smart Weather Station, and back in February I added an air quality monitor to it, mostly out of curiosity. Monitoring the AQM sensor, I noticed our indoor air quality often worsened when Mitzi was cooking, especially when frying anything, and cooking odors would often linger in the house. Because of the pandemic, I read about indoor air cleaners and back in September, I did some homework about them online. This Blueair Blue Pure model came highly rated, so I bought one and installed it in the room right next to the kitchen, by our backdoor. It's not large enough to cover the whole house, but it brings down the amount of particulates in the air after cooking far faster than previously.

Here's an example from last night. Mitzi made latkes, which is the initial spike to 411 micrograms per cubic meter. The subsequent spike is when she was making some wings. I don't have a screenshot of a sample without the air cleaner, but the rate of decline was far slower, here you can see it's very steep. It's made a big difference.

Screenshot of Ambient Weather iOS app air quality graph.
Screenshot of Ambient Weather iOS app air quality tile.

What's perhaps worth bearing in mind in this example, is that we're in a very temperate period in Florida weather, so our HVAC system isn't running at all right now. So we don't have whole-house air movement, as we normally would, which is why we could still smell latkes when we came in from our walk this morning. Doesn't usually happen when she's made fish or something and the AC is running. Also worth noting is that the exhaust hood over the stove is running when she's cooking.

Also note the Tile gauge is reporting the 24 hour average, the current reading is 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

But that's not all...

Since we were going to have some of my family over here for an early dinner of giving thanks, I bought some MERV-13 air filters for the HVAC system. I didn't know how effective they might be, but I'd read that they did have some effect in reducing the concentration of particles in the air. They're much more expensive than MERV-8, and they will put a greater load on your HVAC air handler, so you probably want to be sure to remember to change them monthly. I plan to switch back to MERV-8 once the holidays are over.

Which finally gets me back to the NIST email. Last week they pointed to this tool, to help you assess the amount of risk reduction you might expect from various actions you can take in your home.

Although the tool can't be configured for your exact circumstances, it can give your some qualitative idea of the amount of risk reduction you might expect from a particular intervention. In our case, the air cleaner and the MERV-13 filter with the air handler running while the guests are present and one hour after might offer a 70% reduction in particles compared to our house as "normally" configured.

To me, I think that's significant and worth the investment. Opinions may vary, but I'm glad we did it.

New Camera

07:26 Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 44.29°F Pressure: 1027hPa Humidity: 81% Wind: 8.05mph

One of the hazards of photography as a hobby is susceptibility to a somewhat chronic condition known as GAS, or "gear acquisition syndrome." This manifests itself in many ways, from constantly switching formats and manufacturers, to always buying the "latest and greatest," regardless of format or manufacturer. Some people are immune (or broke), but nearly everyone suffers from it to one degree or another.

I've been pretty content lately, but I have a ridiculous number of cameras and lenses. There are a couple of things that have been giving me twinges of longing, like the OM Systems E-P7, or the new mZuiko 20mm/f1.4. But not enough to have me reaching for my credit card.


But, (There's always a "but," or there wouldn't be a post!) I've been seeing some pretty impressive photos from someone I follow on Twitter. I asked her if she got a new phone, since I knew she always shot with her phone, and yes, the iPhone 13. Hmmm...

I bought an iPhone 11 last year, right around the time the 12 came out, while my XR was still worth something. A year ago, I was telling myself that once I had Night Mode and the ultra-wide camera, I'd be happy. And I was, happier than with the XR anyway. Night Mode is pretty cool, you can get a lot of shots you couldn't usually get with a phone. And the ultra-wide angle was handy if you didn't want to mess with making a panorama. But the 13 brings some nice improvements with a larger sensor on the wide angle and Night Mode on the ultra-wide, which is something I think I'll use quite a bit, since the phone is the only camera I bring on my morning walks with my wife.

I'm still of two minds on the iPhone as a camera. In many cases, it's perhaps the ideal. It fits in my pocket, goes with me everywhere, I can even take it underwater. But in some cases, the way it renders a scene looks off to me. I can tell it was my phone. Not often anymore, but sometimes. I find that landscapes are almost always too cool for my taste, I usually nudge the white balance a little to the warm side on my morning and evening shots, add a little contrast or definition. I'm interested to see what the "style" presets can offer in that regard. And it doesn't have any real telephoto capability.

Anyway, I should know soon. New camera/phone is supposed to arrive today. Looking forward to playing with it.


04:20 Tuesday, 23 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 50.52°F Pressure: 1012hPa Humidity: 66% Wind: 5.01mph

One of the things you learn in therapy is something philosophers (Stoics) and Buddhists and others have known for a long time, and that is that there are at least two parts to every "story." There's the thing the story is about, and there's the story-teller. There's the situation, and what we think about it.

And the only thing we ever talk or write about is the latter, because that's where our experience is located; and we're mostly interested in our experience, we just think we're interested in the thing we're talking about.

Zen tries to get beyond that, beyond "subject-object" duality; DeNiro in The Deerhunter telling John Cazale, "This is this! And not something else." I think that was the first time I ever experienced Zen, if you can say it was an experience. There are two movies that I've loved that I've only seen once, because I don't think I can watch them again. One is The Deerhunter, the other is Saving Private Ryan. I'd say they're both very Zen. I think when you're in the experience of the absence of subject-object duality, the experience might be said to be one of bliss. Watching someone else in it might be far from it. But that's a story for another time.

What this story is about is our preferred western narrative framework, the zero-sum game, the duality within the duality, winners and losers and only one of these is preferred, only one is privileged.

What prompted this little meditation is something I read yesterday at The Online Photographer. In a follow-up to a previous post, Mike enjoins his readers to consider some questions he poses. One is, "5: Fuji vs. Micro 4/3, who wins?" and that pissed me off. Being pissed off is a feeling, and feelings pass and I'm not pissed off anymore. The question still engenders a feeling of frustration, fortunately for you dear reader, so that's why I'm here.

Everything is contingent, everything is connected to everything else, everything affects everything else to one degree or another. So the stories we choose to tell, and the way we choose to frame them, sometimes affects the course of the story itself, the "self-fulfilling prophecy." Not always, and it's not necessarily because of the story, but it plays a part if only in our experience of the story (thus reinforcing the preferred frame).

In Mike's framing of the question, he explicitly invokes the zero-sum framework, of Fuji (a camera manufacturer) and Micro 4/3 (a camera sensor format). Mike believes and seems to wish his readers to believe, that only one can prevail, "win." One infers that the loser will no longer exist someday.

Well, it's a foolish question from the standpoint that ultimately neither the manufacturer or the format will exist one day far enough in the future. It's also foolish because it's likely that any number of his readers will no longer exist before either the manufacturer or the format cease to exist. Who's the winner in that context?

And what is the value of the answer in any context?

Presumably, as a photographer, you might wish to invest your time and money in a winner. Because who wants to invest time and money in a loser?

Mike goes on to close the obvious disconnect between manufacturer and format in his poorly framed question by invoking the question of the future of OM Systems, the new company formed from the former Olympus camera division.

These stories don't always end up the way the story-tellers seem to wish. I'm writing this on a Mac, and it may be hard to believe today, but for many years the dominant narrative about Apple was that it was dead. Well, that narrative was overtaken, in part, by a better narrative, the return of Steve Jobs. The rest, as they say, is history.

For OM Systems, the jury's still out. There's no heroic figure on the horizon to change the narrative. Who knows? Can't say it looks promising.

So what?

For now, OM Systems still manufactures and sells a complete camera system with a number of very capable bodies and lenses. My oldest body is probably nine or ten years old, still works. Sensors and stabilization have improved since then, but I expect my E-M1x and E-M1 Mk3 to work until I'm 80, if I live to be 80 in our "run, hide, fight" dystopian Republican future.

Should you not buy a camera because the manufacturer may go out of business someday? Well, of all the factors you should take into consideration, I'd say that's near the bottom of the list.

I'd say the bigger problem everyone faces is living in a culture that embraces the zero-sum game as its preferred narrative framework. It leads to a lot of sloppy thinking, poor choices and unfortunate outcomes. Not just in photography, the camera business and blogging, but in life and society as a whole. Subject-object duality is problematic enough, further bifurcation into "winners" and "losers," with one being preferred and privileged excludes a whole lot of valuable things and diminishes all experience.

Anyway, what do I know? I'm an authority on nothing. I make all this shit up. You're strongly advised to do your own thinking.

Watch of Below Average Intelligence

09:50 Monday, 22 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 64.45°F Pressure: 1011hPa Humidity: 97% Wind: 1.01mph

I'm reading reports that Apple is shooting for a fully-autonomous vehicle, even going so far as to leave out the steering wheel.

I hope that's wrong, because we're far from "smart" anything devices today.

Take my Apple Watch, for example. It's what? A Model A2292, I think it's the previous generation. I love it, I think it's great; but I know it's not very bright.

When I want to record a workout, I'll do just that. Occasionally, I'll be out walking for just the pleasure of walking and my watch will notice and ask if I want to record it as a workout? Ok, that's clever. Same thing on the bike.

But every time I'm on the golf cart, the watch thinks I'm on the bike, despite the fact that the golf cart goes 10-20% faster than I do on my bike (we don't have one of those fancy ones that goes fast, I think it tops out at about 15mph, and my average bike speed is about 12mph.), and my heart rate isn't anywhere near where it would be on the bike if I was pedaling 15mph! Not very bright watch.

Some mornings, I'm on the bike, pedaling down the multi-purpose path, and my wife passes me on the parallel road on her way to work. My watch decides I'm in the car and asks me if I want to end my workout! Not very bright watch. It recovers after she's out of range, but it startled me the first couple of times it happened. How hard is it to figure out if I'm on a bike, I'm probably not in the car?

When I take the bike to the grocery store, it's a decent ride so I record it as a workout. When I get to the store, I pause the workout, do my shopping, get back on the bike and resume the workout. But if I forget to pause the workout, it keeps right on recording, even though it has GPS and it should certainly be able to tell I'm in the fricking store! and offer to pause the workout or do it automagically. Same thing when I remember to pause the workout getting off the bike, but forget to restart it when I get back on. No help from Apple Watch.

When I'm out walking by myself with the camera, recording a workout, if I stop to take a few pictures, it nags me asking if I want to end the workout? Hello? Am I home? No! Just pause the damn workout!

It's not a very smart watch, and I have little hope for an autonomous vehicle from anyone. At least one that's safe.


06:27 Sunday, 21 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 63.12°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 93% Wind: 4mph

This will be, hopefully, a brief post. Perhaps incoherent and maybe not ready for publication, but here we go.

I've been trying to wrap my brain around what seems to be happening in America, the collapse of democracy, the rise of an extremist right and why it's happening. I don't have the answer, but I have a few thoughts.

David Brooks has a piece in the December issue of The Atlantic called The Terrifying Future of the American Right. I don't know what was more terrifying, the rhetoric he was reporting, or his rather blasé take on it. That's not to say I think he's wrong about any of it, I just think he undersells the threat he's reporting.

I think there's a disconnect between what people experience and what they think affects them, and I think that's because we inhabit a media culture. Life isn't in our yards, in our neighborhoods, in our bowling leagues, PTA, youth sports, in "meat space" in other words, it's in our screens, and our screens are everywhere. Our screens have largely replaced all those physical interactions. Many still exist, of course. But we seek social interaction, and we are richly rewarded, by virtual interactions mediated by screens.

And our screens present a completely distorted picture of "reality." Distorted not so much because the depictions are necessarily untrue, though some are, and all are inaccurate to one degree or another, but simply because of scale, or perspective. Everything is magnified. We have no sense of proportion or perspective.

So, for many people, the story becomes what's in the screens, who controls what's in the screens, not the stories themselves.

And there are many people who understand this, and exploit it for their own selfish aims. I don't know how they think this is going to end for them. They've got a tiger by the tail, perhaps they should google how that story ends.

I don't wish to overlook the irony that you're reading these words in a screen.

Far from being the salvation of humanity, I think the internet will be its doom.

Stick that in your graph and link it.

Random Walk

05:49 Sunday, 21 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 63.37°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 93% Wind: 7mph

I guess my goal of posting something every day in November is completely out the window now! Oh well, non-attachment to results and all that.

I confess that Friday I got sucked into Twitter, unfortunately. Current events resembling something like a car crash, it has that effect on a person. Can't look away.

But I did do a lot of digging around about "knowledge graphs," "backlinks," "bi-directional linking," and some of the other terms of art in the present "tools for thought" flowering. It became somewhat overwhelming at one point, and I definitely felt like I was kind of lost in the weeds. Probably should have been building a graph around it.

Some of it, I think I get. Some of it just feels like people want to build their own Wikipedia in an app.

In terms of learning a new subject, becoming familiar with the concepts, the vernacular, the model behavior, I can see where constructing "nodes" and "links" into a "graph" might help facilitate understanding in a new domain. Then you get into the whole, "the map is not the territory" thing, (the finger is not the moon). I guess the idea is that as one continues to add to that graph, eventually it will help facilitate some new insight, surface some heretofore unseen connection or model behavior. I suppose that's possible. I don't think it's a substitute for thinking, and I happen to believe most of our thinking occurs below the level of our consciousness so I'm not sure that constructing graphs is the most useful activity for facilitating that. Taking a walk might be.

Sure makes for pretty pictures though. And we shouldn't discount the value of pictures in aiding thought. Every engineering student knows that.

The zettelkasten thing is somewhat different, I think. It seems many people believe it serves the same role as building the graph, helping to facilitate new insight. Again, I'm not persuaded. I do believe it can be productive in terms of organizing a great deal of information over a wide range of subjects over a long period of time, in a way that promotes better understanding, not to say "mastery" of a wide variety of subjects over time.

What we seem to have evidence of, at least with a zettelkasten, is that it can facilitate writing; and insofar as writing is thinking, then the zettelkasten does seem more like a "tool for thought" than simply constructing a graph with atomistic nodes and characterized links.

But, I could be wrong.

It's a very hot topic with a lot of passionate people working in the space, so expect friction and the possibility of more heat than light.

Epic Thread

08:23 Wednesday, 17 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 59.72°F Pressure: 1020hPa Humidity: 95% Wind: 0mph

I've mentioned before that I follow the "tools for thought" conversation on Twitter. I don't follow it as closely as many do, and I've learned I'm rather late to this particular party, but it's still going strong so that's no great disadvantage. The things I was reading about Roam and Logseq, Notion and so on, kind of compelled me to see what I could do with Tinderbox in that regard, rather than trying yet another note-taking app.

To that end, I've been watching old meet-up videos, browsing the forums at Eastgate and the backstage forum for beta testers, just trying to become more familiar with what Tinderbox can do and how people are using it. It's been very productive and interesting/stimulating. I'm getting a much clearer idea about many of these concepts that were unclear to me.

Last night I stumbled on an epic thread (now locked) over at the Tinderbox Forum. There are 175 replies to the very modest original post, so perhaps it's not for the faint-hearted. But I think I learned more about many of the new features ("new" as in "new to me") in Tinderbox that I've seen mentioned but never really understood than in any other document. I also learned, I think, about what "bi-directional links" are, and why people feel they're important in all the new apps.

It's a lot to come to grips with, and there's more to explore with 39 links from that thread; but if you're looking for a rich discussion of Tinderbox and the current concepts in "tools for thought," that thread is a great place to start.

I read it last night on my laptop, sitting on the couch. I'm going to go through it again right after I post this, on the 27" iMac with a Tinderbox file open and taking notes!

An Interoceptive Journal

15:06 Tuesday, 16 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 70.97°F Pressure: 1023hPa Humidity: 39% Wind: 5.01mph

It's a beautiful afternoon. I took a nice bike ride to Publix this morning to pick up a few things. I'm growing more comfortable with the route and negotiating the intersection and the parking lot. When I have an errand like that to run, the bike ride substitutes for the early morning ride I normally make just for the exercise. The trip to the store is a longer ride, so I expend more calories and I find I'm more relaxed, more willing to take a more leisurely pace, than when I'm "exercising."

I got back and had lunch, and watched/listened to a video from a Tinderbox meet-up back in June discussing book notes, which was very interesting. Got back to reading The Extended Mind and came across an interesting idea for a Tinderbox application. In a very early part of the book, Paul writes about interoception, an awareness of the interior state of the body, and its likely role in decision-making. Different people have different levels of interoception, but it's possible to improve it through efforts like meditation, and a practice called the "body scan." These were familiar to me, though not in their context as cognitive aids. She describes a method to perhaps improve its utility or one's facility with it in making decisions by keeping an "interoceptive journal." She writes,

Each journal entry has three parts. First, a brief account of the decision we’re facing. Second, a description—as detailed and precise as possible—of the internal sensations we experience as we contemplate the various options available. An interoceptive journal asks us to consider the paths that lie before us, one by one, and take note of how we feel as we imagine choosing one path over another. The third section of the journal entry is a notation of the choice on which we ultimately settle, and a description of any further sensations that arise upon our making this final selection.

Tinderbox is well suited to creating this type of journal entry, perhaps as a "composite" note, from individual notes of each alternative under consideration and its associated feelings. I'm not immediately aware of any real decision-making day to day on my part. Being retired with few responsibilities is a luxury in that regard. Reading this section reminded me of a hire made not long ago by someone I know. It ultimately proved to be a bad decision; and I recall at the time that my friend had some misgivings about the choice and shared them with me at the time, deferring to another manager in making the offer.

But I think I'll make the effort to create the mechanism. Its existence may prompt me to be more aware of decisions I make or choices I may wrestle with from time to time.

I don't have a "daily notes" Tinderbox file, though I've often considered the Marmot to be something like that. Lately I've been thinking of creating one, separate from the Marmot. Most of the things I start here begin as something I intend to post. I suppose a "daily notes" effort would be something intended to remain private, though it's easy to copy and paste something if I felt like sharing it.

Well, with that, it's time to go take a walk and close my movement ring. As noted previously, it's a beautiful day and I only need about a mile and half to close the ring. Maybe I'll bring a camera and take my time.

As We May Think

05:49 Monday, 15 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 47.39°F Pressure: 1014hPa Humidity: 82% Wind: 0mph

It's long been my practice to offer titles to posts which may appear to be non sequiturs. This is partly because it's sometimes difficult to think of a title, and what appears is simply the first thing that came to my mind and I didn't wish to spend any more time on it. But it's also because I find them amusing, at least to myself.

So, no, this post isn't about Vannevar Bush's seminal essay, but it is about reading books, specifically Annie Murphy Paul's book The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain. So, yeah, "as we may think."

I'm reading it the Kindle app on my 10.5” iPad Pro. I'm making an effort to take notes to help remember the book and what I "think" about it. I'm not accustomed to reading books this way. I generally just read them, I haven't been one to make margin notes or underline passages and so on. My recollection of my book reading experience for much of my life is that I had little trouble recalling what books were about, and the significant themes or messages I took from them, to include specific details that made the ideas compelling. Nowadays, that's often not the case. I can find myself returning to a book I've set aside for a few days, trying to guess where I left off and reading for several pages before I realize I had read them before.

So if reading is going to be something other than a pleasant diversion, a means of passing the time, I probably need to change my reading habits. I'm figuring this out as I go along. I know others have been this way before.

I've largely switched to reading ebooks because of space limitations. They also afford ready access to note-taking applications and extensions like dictionaries for the "hard words." Both Kindle and Apple's Books offer in-app note-taking, but I've decided to forego that, and use the sharing extension to Apple's Notes app instead. This makes the notes accessible outside the book-reading app without any further effort to export them. Some effort is necessary to record the page or other location data, as that doesn't seem to come over at least in the Kindle app. As always, "search" is your friend if you forget.

I think it's best to make a folder in Notes for each book, although sometime's I'll file a note in my Quotations folder if it's something I think I'd like to use again in another context. Later on, I'll explore making these "watched" folders in Tinderbox.

A couple of notes about The Extended Mind. I enjoyed a recent podcast with Ms. Paul, and I've seen favorable notices of the book here and there, so I'm optimistic.

I've just started the book, and though I'm inclined to embrace the ideas she's exploring, I think perhaps she might have been better served by a good editor. In the Prologue, she mentions a 1995 paper called The Extended Mind, and an analysis that focused on "the way technology can extend the mind." She writes that it was "a proposal that quickly made the leap from risibly preposterous to self-evidently obvious, once readers acquired smartphones."

This prompted my first note in the book, and using the dictionary feature to make sure I knew what "risibly" meant (laughable). It provoked cognitive dissonance in my (extended) mind because, hey, clay tablets? The abacus? I'm not sure why she credits the smartphone with extending the mind, but not writing or the abacus.

She later makes the claim that, "many years of elementary school, high school, and even college and graduate school, we're never explicitly taught to think outside the brain." Record scratch moment again. Does anyone remember long division? How about constructing proofs in geometry? A straight-edge and compass weren't exactly figments of my imagination.

Later, in the Introduction, she writes, "Teachers and managers don't demonstrate how abstract ideas can be turned into physical objects that can be manipulated and transformed in order to achieve insights and solve problems." I had kids. I recall using tongue depressors and popsicle sticks as "manipulatives" when they were learning addition and subtraction. There there were the rectangles, squares, triangles etc. too, learning about shapes.

I mean, we do this all the time.

Since I listened to the podcast and I've read about the book, I think know where she's going and I'm inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt. But these assertions aren't giving me a great deal of confidence; and I think a good editor could have helped her out here.

I'll finish the book before I return to it here, but this was on my mind and I wanted to write about it now.

Sunday Morning, 6:00 a.m.

05:58 Sunday, 14 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 48.6°F Pressure: 1013hPa Humidity: 82% Wind: 8.05mph

A bit chilly this morning. For this Florida boy, maybe more than a bit. Sky's clear, so that number will get a bit lower before the sun comes up. Pants and long sleeves, at least for the morning.

Enjoyed Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on Disney+ last night. Hadn't realized it'd gone to streaming yet, but since Disney+ is in some way collaborating with Apple TV+, it surfaces on the TV+ interface. That's pretty useful, same with HBO Max. Netflix doesn't play, so if there's something new on Netflix I have to learn about it in the app, or from their emails which are automatically routed to the trash.

Discovery of new (to me) blogs continues to "surprise and delight" me. I've got morning chores to get to in a bit, or I'd do a longer post and point a lot of them out. But that's coming. Some of them are personal journal-type blogs, some deal with particular topics with personal observations mixed in. None are exclusively political that I've seen so far. I think this is another virtue of blogging over "social media." So much of what goes on there is near-frictionless reaction, "hot takes," to political news, that it's over-represented in the personalities of the people posting. It's hard to detect that we may have more in common with each other than we think, that we're more than simply the views that divide us.

And since the frequency of posting is, almost of necessity, less and they appear in a larger RSS "river of news," which has greater variety with more "positive" things of interest, it's not as depressing to browse my RSS feed as it is to browse my Twitter feed.

Blogs are better.

Sat in on another Tinderbox meet-up yesterday and enjoyed it. I'm more intrigued by the idea of dashboards now. I'm thinking of building one for the Marmot; partly for the exercise in becoming more familiar with Tinderbox, partly to get another view of what I'm doing here. Tinderbox offers a "sentiment analysis" feature, and I'd like to explore that. I may not have a large enough data set in the Marmot to draw any conclusions, but Groundhog Day is a much larger data set to experiment with.

Talked about open data sources, like openweathermap.org, and I recalled some NOAA buoy data I was looking at the last time a major hurricane passed by us. I went to NOAA's site and found that the buoy data isn't offered as a json feed (at least, I didn't see it, it probably is somewhere), but they do have an RSS feed. Subscribed! Much easier than keeping a tab open all the time!

All right, time to walk the dog and get my own walk in. Thanks for dropping by!

(Oh, just checked the weather widget and it's down almost 2°F, so yeah. Earth keeps radiating heat into space. Just not as much as it used to because of CO2 and water vapor. That'll stop almost as soon as the sun clears the horizon.)

Saturday Morning

09:40 Saturday, 13 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 64.6°F Pressure: 1008hPa Humidity: 93% Wind: 3.44mph

Well, I missed making an entry yesterday. So it goes.

It was a pretty nice day, though. My wife's daughter came down from DC on Thursday, so she could drive with Mitzi up to Atlanta to visit Mitzi's mom. Sherri's always a pleasure to have around. We're dog-sitting for my neighbors and Dozer is a bit like Sherri's dog, Tavi. They took to each other immediately. Just a lot of nice energy around the place yesterday.

We took the golf cart down to the kayak launch. Noticed the county doing some work to restore the ramp after the nor'easter last week. I should have taken some time to venture down and observe where the high tides reached last weekend, but I wasn't feeling well so I guess that wouldn't have been an option anyway.

Mosquitos got the better of us, and we didn't stay very long, but it was a nice diversion.

They ended up hitting the road around 4:00, I took a big nap with Dozer at my side, then got up and watched some Tinderbox videos. I airplayed them to the 60" LG in the living room, which I'd never done before. I'm not sure it adds much to the experience, other than I can sit on the couch with Dozer while I'm watching. He usually lays right at the base of my office chair when I'm on the iMac, so I have to remember to be careful when I go to move. He's pretty quick though.

Got a notification that a new episode of Invasion was available on Apple TV+, so after dinner the dog and I watched that.

I mentioned on Twitter the other day that the aliens had hatched a sinister plot to bore humanity to death, the pace of the show varied from lethargic to glacial, with the average pace being that of drying paint. After the first few episodes, I figured it was going to be a Twilight Zone, When the Monsters Come Out on Maple Street, kind of thing; or, perhaps, Forbidden Planet. Either way, the ills being visited upon humanity were all to be the product of our malevolent collective subconscience. Later episodes suggested that might not be the case.

Last night's episode wasn't boring, merely disappointing. Seemingly lifted wholesale from H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, this episode focused exclusively on the New York family fleeing the aliens, which, heretofore, haven't been seen very much. Most episodes hop from storyline to storyline all over the world, which has been the most interesting thing about the series, the Japan storyline being the most intriguing to me.

This episode has the family hiding out in a rural couple's house, and it goes pretty much how you'd expect if you've read the book or seen Spielberg's adaptation. There's also an element from the movie, Tremors, itself a loving homage to many classic, "golden age" sf tropes. And, surprise! dragon glass from Game of Thrones! Who knew?

Also like The Battle of Winterfell, the episode was filmed in the dark. I suppose this is intended to increase the tension and give the viewer some shared sense of being unable to make out clearly what is menacing the family. Mostly it's just annoying. I switched the TV over to "vibrant" and "game" mode, and couldn't make much more out than in "cinema" mode.

It's a shame. There's an intriguing premise in there, as the series focuses on individuals trying to make sense of what's going on around them. Also very much in line with TWoTW. In something like Independence Day, the viewer is shown the view from headquarters as all the big brains collect all the data and give us all the "big picture." But it seems like whoever put this thing together couldn't decide what kind of series they wanted to make.

Maybe there'll be some payoff in the end, but so far it's been just a disappointment.

All right, that's it for now. Might post a pic or two in a bit, but if not, at least I didn't skip today too!

Thank You for the Privilege of Serving

05:32 Thursday, 11 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 63.84°F Pressure: 1015hPa Humidity: 96% Wind: 0mph

Today is Veterans Day, and at some point someone will say, "Thank you for your service." I hear it often, not just on Veterans Day, and I confess that I don't really know how to take it. Why is anyone grateful for my service? What has it meant to them? I don't think anyone knows. I think they just do it because we've turned veterans into a kind of special class, and how one "treats veterans" is a measure of their worth or merit as an individual. We're used by politicians, corporations and certain non-profits for competitive advantage in the marketplace, in fundraising and vote getting. I don't think we're valued for much more than that.

It's been twenty years since I retired from the navy, and my navy career remains a rich resource that has helped define who I am as a person, and continues to help me make meaning of my life.

Define: " state or describe exactly the nature, scope, or meaning of." Meaning of.

I like to say that life is meaningless, we bring meaning to life; and I really believe that's true. It's only by living that we can make meaning, it isn't an intrinsic attribute of life. But it's not just any sort of living, it requires something connected to the larger community. And even once you've perhaps done something meaningful, it isn't always immediately apparent to you. Making meaning requires not just living and action, but reflection, introspection, context and perspective.

Many people suffer needlessly, because they can't see the meaning of their lives. Frank Capra made a movie about that, and it's about to go into heavy rotation again.

I think service of any kind, whether it's as a parent, a member of the caring professions, someone in a nonprofit, something that benefits others more than self, is where we make the most meaning. Maybe it's the only place. It always involves some measure of sacrifice. Often it can just be time, though time is a precious thing. Sometimes it can be far more. Deferred dreams, health, wealth, physical safety, personal attacks.

One of the most important things in making meaning is that your life matters to others, that you made a difference to someone or some people, somehow. I know when I gave a kidney to my brother, it made a difference in his life. I love my brother, and it's a long story for another time perhaps, but I believe love is faith in action. I kept faith with my brother.

There will be an enormous number of ceremonies honoring veterans today. Can anyone give honor to those veterans? No. To the extent that they have it, they earned it themselves and no one can give it to them, and no one can take it away. They can dishonor themselves, and some do. Some never earned much, or any. One example of that is to receive an "other than honorable" or "dishonorable" discharge. But just giving someone a document that says they have honorable service doesn't ensure that they know what that means. To them, it may just mean that they can access some government program, or get a 10% discount at Lowes. Nothing wrong with that, but it's missing the larger point, the meaning of honor, the making of meaning.

We are embodied beings. "Knowing," is more than just a thought inside our heads. Often, you never really know something until it genuinely affects you. We all go through rituals every day that we don't give much thought to, that seldom have any real affect on us. Some people today may be moved by stories of service and sacrifice, they'll experience a momentary feeling, a sentiment, but it will pass. Will it prompt reflection? Introspection? We're busy people here. Probably not.

I never really knew the meaning and value of ritual and ceremony until a couple of things happened. The first was the experience of being the last human being who would ever do anything for a deceased veteran, save perhaps remember them. When I was XO in JOHN HANCOCK, I poured the cremains of more than 30 veterans into the sea, I learned something about faith and honor. Was I doing it for those veterans? They were past caring. I was doing it for their families. The commanding officer, the sideboys and the firing squad? They were doing it for the families too; but, more importantly, we were all doing it all for each other. For all our shipmates, for every sailor who ever served, presently serving or would one day serve.

That gave me my first real introduction to the concepts of faith and honor. Because it was unfamiliar, because it was inconvenient, because it caused some personal embarrassment at least once, because we kept having to do it again and again and again, I had to think about it, reflect on it, consider what it meant to me. Was it just a pain in my ass?

"Seekers of wisdom, inquire within." Heraclitus.

When I was asked to speak at a retirement ceremony, I had to think about what that was all about. It was a chief hospital corpsman who asked me to speak at her retirement ceremony. We didn't have a long history of service together, I don't know why she asked me and I'd never done one before. What the hell was I going to talk about? Longtime readers know this story, so I'll be brief.

From time to time, we'd have a sailor retiring who didn't want to have a ceremony. The command master chief always insisted they have one, and it seldom became an issue. When it finally did, it landed on my desk, I was the acting CO at the time. The CMC said something I'd never heard before, which is why we have CMCs. He told me the ceremony wasn't for the sailor, it was for their family. That struck me and stayed with me, and when the HMC asked me to speak at her ceremony, it was one of the things I recalled, along with my tour in JOHN HANCOCK, as I thought about what I was going to say.

That's when I really learned the meaning of ceremony and ritual. While the people being honored or recognized are always the focal point of the event, the objective is far wider. And while the CMC was right, the ceremony was for the family, it was also for the much wider family of shipmates and sailors present and away, those past and those yet to come. It is the mechanism, the transmission medium, by which we transmit our values and their enabling virtues of faith and honor to one another through time.

That's what I talked about, and it seemed to resonate. I got asked to speak at a lot more retirement ceremonies and it became a challenge to come up with something new to say, or a new way to say the same thing.

So I've carried those lessons with me now, twenty years since I last took off my uniform. And still, they can yield new insights, new perspectives.

In January 2020 I learned something else about the meaning of my service, when Congressman John Rutherford, speaking at a community event at Crosswater Hall in Nocatee, the planned community where I happen to live, gave me a reason to reflect. I was wearing one of my ships' ball caps, and Congressman Rutherford took a moment before his remarks to shake my hand and thank me for my service.

He then proceeded to lie to everyone in attendance about how he came to run for congress.

I guess most people consider it a trivial thing, lying about the events leading up to a decision to leave retirement and seek federal office. But it offended me. Consider the contempt for the public one must have, to tell a bald-faced lie about a matter of public record that is easily checked. The confidence it must take, that he could offer anything and those in attendance would believe it. That this man would thank me for my service, expecting me to welcome his gratitude, and then have him turn around and lie to my face viscerally offended me. We are embodied beings, after all.

It was a sleepless night after I got home. I wrote this piece, which isn't some of my best writing and includes some of what I related above; but in the process, in that act of introspection and reflection, I learned something new. I learned the value of my service, to me.

I am deeply grateful for the privilege of having the opportunity to serve.

So, from this veteran on Veterans Day, my sincere thanks to you all.

It's meant everything.

Do Try to Keep Up

09:44 Wednesday, 10 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 67.48°F Pressure: 1019hPa Humidity: 84% Wind: 5.75mph

I've been interested in the use of computers to, as Douglas Engelbart put it, augment human cognitive capability for a very long time. I have used many different applications that purport to do that in one way or another, although not always to that particular end. For instance, I've been using Tinderbox for nearly 20 years now, almost exclusively as a content management system for my blog, first Groundhog Day, now Nice Marmot. Which means I have a couple of TBX files with a lot of my thoughts in them. But I've never used any of the facilities of the application itself to mine those notes for any particular insights, or to sharpen or refine any of those thoughts.

Probably missed a bet there. Working on fixing that now.

I've paid for all the updates over the years, because I'm persuaded of the value of the application and I wish to support its continued support and development. I don't mind paying good money for good tools.

What I haven't paid is attention. The application has grown, and its capabilities increased, far beyond anything I was enamored of Tinderbox at the beginning. I'm trying to catch up now, and it's challenging. To that end, I've engaged in email correspondence with the developer, Mark Bernstein; become an active participant in the Tinderbox Forum; and attended weekly online meetups to discuss the application. This represents a not insignificant commitment of time; but it's also been rewarding. The time and energy spent on engagement, along with the annual upgrade fee, represent an investment. My increased understanding, growing facility with the tool and clearer perception of its potential to help me achieve goals that are important to me, are a significant return on that investment.

As I've mentioned before, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in the tools for thought space; and there are a significant number of new applications and approaches being developed and fielded. I follow a number of Twitter accounts on this subject, and the pace of development seems to be increasing. While this is exciting, in many ways, I've had to kind of caution myself, reign myself in a bit. James Marquand, over at the Forum, offered the acronym LANA (looking at and experimenting with new apps) as one reason for the apparent explosion of interest. LANA is fun, and something I enjoyed doing for many years. But it represents an opportunity cost in terms of one's resources of time and attention.

I'm old enough now to understand, in a way that perhaps much younger people can't, how limited my resources are. So I've foregone the pleasures of experimenting with Obsidian or logseq or any of the many other new apps. There's a twinge of longing, a feeling of temptation every time I see someone post something positive about one of these new apps; but perhaps another virtue of age is the discipline to ignore it, and focus on other things. (Not all of which are necessarily productive. I'm not holding myself out as some paragon of virtue.)

The value proposition of an application as mature as Tinderbox is in the extensive depth of knowledge and experience in its user community. While new apps may offer new paradigms, new ways of looking at information in an effort to crystalize insight out of data, Tinderbox users have been using the app to solve problems for a couple of decades now. They're like Farmers Insurance in that way, "We know a thing or two, because we've seen a thing or two."

Context: "Now ... This."

13:32 Tuesday, 9 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 73.6°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 61% Wind: 4mph

This is post is mainly to test something in the Marmot's infrastructure here, the stylesheet that renders the page. I'm trying to figure out how to include quotations of various lengths. Aphorisms likely look good one way, longer passages another. I'm not sure.

In any event, it's another bit from Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death.

"Now . . . this" is commonly used on radio and television newscasts to indicate that what one has just heard or seen has no relevance to what one is about to hear or see, or possibly to anything one is ever likely to hear or see. The phrase is a means of acknowledging the fact that the world as mapped by the speeded-up electronic media has no order or meaning and is not to be taken seriously. There is no murder so brutal, no earthquake so devastating, no political blunder so costly – for that matter, no ball score so tantalizing or weather report so threatening – that it cannot be erased from our minds by a newscaster saying, "Now... this." The newscaster means that you have thought long enough on the previous matter (approximately forty-five seconds), that you must not be morbidly preoccupied with it (let us say, for ninety seconds), and that you must now give your attention to another fragment of news or a commercial.

What Postman is beginning to describe here is the elimination of context. Stories exist as atomistic entities, each no more compelling than another. There is no overarching narrative thread. At least, not in the "news business." More about that soon. For now, let's see if I broke anything.

New Voices: ruk

08:45 Tuesday, 9 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 58.89°F Pressure: 1024hPa Humidity: 77% Wind: 3mph

I commend to your attention the thoughts and posts at ruk. I don't recall how I found his blog, I'm sure someone linked to him in another blog I follow. I added his feed, and I've been reading his posts. He's a worthwhile read. Part of the rich ecology of the "blogosphere."

Meta: Upon Reflection

08:15 Tuesday, 9 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 55.35°F Pressure: 1024hPa Humidity: 82% Wind: 1.01mph

I was so pleased with myself that I got the weather info to post properly, I wanted to set it off somehow in the post. I was thinking a different background color with light text on a dark background.

But this morning, as I'm perusing my CSS references, looking at the stylesheet and the page, I really have to ask myself, "Why?"

I think it's about right. It's included with the "front matter" of the post, the title, the date and time and, now, the weather. Does it have some semantic or other value to call it out separately? I don't think so. It serves as a reminder to me, as I look back on the posts, the date, time of day and the weather. I think these are useful to me in recalling something of the circumstances I found myself in at the time of the post. Now, there may be elements of the weather report that comes from openweathermap, which may also be useful, specifically sky cover. But if a post is at 0530, does it really matter if it's cloudy? But it might be useful.

If I was traveling a lot, location might be a useful reminder to include in a post. I'm rather stationary these days, but we do travel a bit now and then. So, maybe some logic in the TBX file that includes a location reference in the "front matter" if Tinderbox detects I'm not posting from home. Something to think about, and should be relatively simple (he said, confidently) to wire up. We've got a big trip to the Finger Lakes this summer, and maybe a weekender before that, though I don't know that I'd bring the laptop and post something on a weekend.

In the old Groundhog Day blog, I had a kind of tagging convention where I'd preface the title of a post with a word or phrase that meant that it was part of a group of similar posts. Never did anything with that, but I'm thinking more about it today, hence the "meta" in the title to this post.

That's the cool thing about blogging and having your own platform. You can set it up any way you want, not just settle for what the silo-owner gives you. Our feudal masters, who let us sharecrop on their estates, among their aggregated eyeballs. We may be like hermits here, but that's okay by me.

Anyway, the weather's fine.

No Wx in the Feed

11:05 Monday, 8 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 65.3°F Pressure: 1017hPa Humidity: 62% Wind: 8.99mph

This is just a test note after revising the OnAdd action of the November container to make new posts use the p_Post wx prototype, which sets the export template to t_post wx.

You will note that all of the weather parameters have changed, so it's updating correctly.

Another odd thing is I have changed the units for the pressure query to imperial, but it doesn't stick in the URL attribute. It seems to be wired to something that keeps changing it back to metric. Further investigation is necessary.

Also, wx data does not appear in the RSS feed. Need to figure that out too, but the good news is that this change hasn't broken the RSS feed.

So, yay! I declare victory and high-five myself.

In more mundane news, whatever crud I have has kind of rekindled. I may have overdone it yesterday, with closing the activity ring, walking 5 miles and 30 minutes on the device in the garage that won't be named. Sniffles, cough, minor aches.

Because I know you care. 🤧

Is it working?

10:37 Monday, 8 November 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 64.27°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 61% Wind: 3mph

Okay, it works!

Still some work to do to make it look "pretty."

Had to create a new export template for posts, because exporting November would populate every post with empty weather data. Now I need to set the template for new posts to be "t_post wx", which means modifying the prototype so when I create a new post, it sets the new template.

Should work.

But I've learned "You can never change just one thing."

I also have to look at the RSS feed, because I don't have a feel for how this is going to work out for that, if the weather data "just appears" in all that CDATA stuff.

I'll know in a minute.

How's the Weather?

05:45 Sunday, 7 November 2021

It's the little things that sometimes bring the most joy. But joy is a feeling, and feelings pass. So enjoy it in the moment, as I am now.

Often when I'm trying to do something I've seen done before in Tinderbox, I stumble on something and fail. Usually it's an extra misplaced space in a bit of text, an uppercase/lowercase mismatch, the tiny little details that you must focus on when trying to tell these very literal machines what you want them to do.

It's not often that something "just works."

Well, today, it did. Mostly. Enough to make me happy anyway.

Mark Bernstein has been working on some improvements to Tinderbox. So I downloaded the latest beta and played around with it. I thought I noticed a bug and reported it. Mark couldn't replicate it, but in our correspondence I mentioned that what he was working on was kind of exciting to me. I specifically mentioned being able to have Tinderbox fetch weather data, which I thought would be interesting to include in a post.

Well, there must have been a wave coursing through the ether or something, because on the same day, over at the Tinderbox Forum, Detlef Beyer suggested just that very thing! Detlef used regex (regular expressions) to parse the data returned from OpenWeatherMap.org. Even better, he shared a TBX file with the necessary regex code to parse the data.

I really enjoy moments of serendipity like this, but I try to temper my enthusiasm because a lot of the time, it's not as easy as it looks. Hoping for the best, I downloaded version 2 of Detlef's TBX file, went to OpenWeather and signed up, got an API key and proceeded to read their docs.

The email that sent me my API key indicated it wouldn't be activated immediately, but a couple of hours at most. So I looked at Detlef's TBX notes and tried to figure out what I needed to do to make it work for me, which basically consisted of changing the API key, the location identifier and, in my case, the units. Looked a little intimidating, so I figured I'd set it aside for a while since the key likely wouldn't work right away, did some errands and watched TV.

This morning I looked at it again, tried to understand exactly what Detlef was doing with the series of prototype notes he created and the notes that displayed the data, and the attributes that contained the data in the note. It all seemed to come together, that is, I thought I knew what was going on well enough to give it a try.

I downloaded a json file of location codes. I "parsed" that by just loading it in BBedit and searching for Ponte Vedra, came right up.

So, equipped with an API key and a location code, I edited the relevant notes and hoped for the best.

And what do you know? It worked!

My next little task is to copy those notes into the Marmot's TBX, then figure out how to include some of that data in a post. The "$AutoFetch" property of a note that queries a URL runs periodically. I just need to grab the data when I do a new post here, and I want that data to be fixed at the time the note gets created. So I'll add another action to the $OnAdd action of the current month.

I'm hopeful. Stay tuned. Should get it wired up and working today.

Passing Diversion

20:53 Saturday, 6 November 2021

Every now and then I pass a little time playing with the Painteresque iOS app. I liked these.

Stylized photo of a dead tree on a beach.
Stylized photo of a path in the woods.
Stylized photo of a night sky on a suburban street.
Stylized photo of a gnarled oak tree covered with Spanish Moss.

Under the Weather

20:39 Saturday, 6 November 2021

My longest activity streak ended today. Coincided with the worst part of the nor'easter that's been passing through the past couple of days. Weather was worse today than yesterday, and I seem to have come down with something. So at least it was a good day to be indoors. Supposed to be nicer tomorrow, and maybe I'll feel better and I'll start my next longest activity streak.

So it goes...


16:27 Friday, 5 November 2021

Because I altered the site structure to clean up the files on the server, the URLs for all my posts have changed. Forgot to make the change in the RSS feed, but thought of it last night when I recalled that Mark Bernstein had tweeted a link to a post that went 404. Meant to jump on that this morning, but it slipped my mind. Recalled it again later and made the necessary changes. All should be well now.

In other news, I've closed all my rings for today. Went out to walk in the rain. Wasn't too bad, light rain, some gusty winds. We'll see what tomorrow has in store.


10:20 Friday, 5 November 2021

Windy, wet and gray day. Got the walk in this morning before the rain came, but decided to forego the bike because of the weather. Did 30 minutes on whatever-that-device-is in the garage. It's a higher intensity workout, but since it's just in the garage, I can wear headphones and listen to a workout playlist. I don't know what I'm going to do for the balance of my activity goal, maybe there'll be a break in the rain and I'll get another walk in. I'm not excited about another effort on the expensive device in the garage.

Spent some time yesterday using TextSniper to import some text from Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death. A couple of years ago, I took pictures with my phone as I came across passages that seemed particularly noteworthy. The app struggles a bit with pages that are curled, as when you're holding a paperback book with one hand. But it wasn't too difficult to cut and paste the misplaced fragments into their proper order. Now they are notes in my Quotations Tinderbox file. Here's one about "reading":

It is serious because meaning demands to be understood. A written sentence calls upon its author to say something, upon its reader to know the import of what is said. And when an author and reader are struggling with semantic meaning, they are engaged in the most serious challenge to the intellect. This is especially the case with the act of reading, for authors are not always trustworthy. They lie, they become confused, they over generalize, they abuse logic and, sometimes, common sense. The reader must come armed, in a serious state of intellectual readiness. This is not easy because he comes to the text alone. In reading, one's responses are isolated, one's intellect thrown back on its own resources. To be confronted by the cold abstractions of printed sentences is to look upon language bare, with out the assistance of either beauty or community. Thus, reading is by its nature a serious business. It is also, of course, an essentially rational activity. -- Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

This resonated with me, "It is serious business." "The reader must come armed." I agree with all of this, and we're losing the battle for a "rational" world. Granted, we understand more about the limits of rationality today. But irrationality relies on reading as well, whether it's just memes, or crazy posts on conspiracy-theory web sites.

Postman was mostly writing about television, but everything about television is true for the internet as well, only an order of magnitude greater, I think.

It's natural to try to imagine some kind of solution to the problem we're facing. But I'm wondering if there is no solution? Perhaps this is all just a complex dynamic system, and the chaos we're encountering and creating is just an emergent property of the system, and there's no meaningful change that we can make to the inputs in time to avoid the worst outcomes.

We have an enormous population of Americans who can read, but are in no way "armed" to read. We have significant forces willing to act in bad faith, outside the "norms" of the system's intended inputs, to achieve their aims. There are no mechanisms for self-correction. We're all just trapped within the system and going along for the ride as it proceeds to whatever next state the system's poorly understood properties will manifest; and whether that will be characterized by repeated periods of transient instabilities, or if it will settle into some period of stability, wherein we might hope to make some changes and improvements, we can't know.

Anyway, it's clear we're in for some rough weather ahead.

Keep On Keepin' On

18:46 Thursday, 4 November 2021

Blogging, that is.

Bet you thought I was going to miss a day, so soon into my goal to blog every day in November.

Nope. Had an event this morning at the Jacksonville Arboretum, so my schedule was kind of upside down. We usually get up and walk 2.5 miles, then I ride my bike for 6 miles and have breakfast. I usually have half my activity ring closed by 0900. Got home about 1100, then got my walk in. Didn't ride the bike for some reason, ended up about 140 calories short after dinner so I jumped on this stair-stepper/elliptical device I bought last year and knocked that out in about 15 minutes. Temps are down, so that's doable these days. Normally the garage is pushing 90°F and 80% humidity, even with a fan it's just brutal to try to use that thing.

And here I am!

Enjoyed AKMA's account of his fitness journey yesterday. Quite impressive! Shows what can be accomplished starting out with modest goals and a commitment. It's inspiring, really. Every now and then I have a little doubt or hesitation about doing something, like the bike ride or the second walk. The first walk is with Mitzi, so there's accountability there, which is something I always appreciated when I was running with M, back in the days when I could run and we'd train for marathons and half-marathons. But so far, I've pushed the doubts away and I've had over six straight weeks of closing all my rings. My activity goal is now at 970 calories. I don't know if that's good, bad or indifferent, I just know it's a hell of a lot more than I was doing when I was sitting in the recliner playing Call of Duty every afternoon!

James has been discussing his fitness regimen as well, so it's kind of a thing among aging bloggers. Hold your, "Okay, boomers," you're going to be here one day, and sooner than you think. If you're lucky, that is.

Al Hawkins is an old-school blogging buddy, from back in the day. He follows me on Twitter, but doesn't say much. Can't find a blog for him, should probably DM him, but I'll try this instead... Al, if you're still copying this freq, that "everyday pan" you told me to buy a couple of decades ago as kind of clueless single guy learning to cook for himself, has been one of my wife's favorite pans. She got rid of all my other stuff, but hung onto that one and uses it pretty regularly. Still have that chef's knife you recommended too.

Hal Rager is also on Twitter, and seems to have decommissioned Blivet, his blog from back in the day. Hal's an ordained Buddhist monk, and an archeologist, which is pretty cool. We had some great discussions back then. Remember, boys and girls, the finger is not the Moon. Anyone telling you otherwise is giving you the finger.

Al and Hal know RSS, so there's a good chance they're monitoring this channel.

Just had a thought as I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water, RSS is like the shortwave radio of blogging. I guess you'd have to listen to shortwave radio to get it, but the sad thing is shortwave is mostly religious broadcasting these days. Shame too, since we have some really nice radios now. Of course, the antenna is really the key element, and we're living in a really noisy electromagnetic environment today.

Anyhow, not quite a "cheese sandwich," but it's a post and I've added a day to my goal. I'll sign off for now. Whistle-pig out!

Gator 11-3

17:13 Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Florida gator sunning itself on the bank of a retention pond on a November afternoon.

Haven't seen one of these for a while.

The Huxleyan Warning

15:19 Wednesday, 3 November 2021

What I suggest here as a solution is what Aldous Huxley suggested, as well. And I can do no better than he. He believed with H. G. Wells that we are in a race between education and disaster, and he wrote continuously about the necessity of our understanding the politics and epistemology of media. For in the end, he was trying to tell us that what afflicted the people in Brave New World was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

RAV4 Prime and Electricity Usage

06:29 Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Mitzi bought a 2021 RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid back at the end of August. It's notionally a CUV, but it's a pretty big vehicle. Like everything else automobile, they keep growing. Anyway, it's got an 18KWh battery and roughly 42 mile range in EV mode. This nearly covers Mitzi's daily commute of 22 miles each way.

I filled the tank back on September 6th when I had the car, and I filled it again on the 20th of October when I had the car again. It was still about half a tank, I think it took about 6 gallons. I wasn't tracking the mileage, but it's pretty amazing. They actually warn you to put fresh gas in it every six months or so.

Anyway, I was interested to see how it would affect the performance of our rooftop solar and battery solution, so I took a look at October 2021 and compared it to October 2020.

For the most part, without the car, we're self-sufficient on electricity. If we have a couple of days of solid overcast, we'll go to the grid for power. But in October 2020, we sent 156KWh to the grid, and received 16.3KWh from it, so we were a net provider of energy to FPL. The house has roughly 7KW of rooftop panels, with two Tesla Powerwalls, so about 26KWh of storage. Recall the RAV4 has an 18KWh battery.

In October 2021, we were a net consumer of electricity from FPL, receiving 205.8KWh from FPL, while only delivering 74.1KWh to the grid.

Now, these numbers are a little mushy in terms of comparison because of the vagaries of weather, but I think they're representative. (I'll figure out how to put a table in here later. I expect I'll be doing this again.)

October 2020/October 2021

Average daily power consumption: 20.8KWh/33KWh

Average daily power produced: 27.1KWh/30.5KWh

Average daily power from battery: 12.2 KWh/16.7KWh

Average daily power from grid: .5KWh/6.6KWh

Average daily power to grid: 5KWh/2.4KWh

So we're using about 12KWh more electricity per day, on average, than before the RAV4. That sounds about right, because we don't drive much on weekends, and the 18KWh battery is exhausted each day she comes home from work. So that extra 13KWh is going into the RAV4 battery (minus losses).

October 2021 was more productive in terms of cloud cover than 2020, but I don't have a large enough data set to know which is more representative of an average October.

We're getting more power each day from the batteries, which makes sense, but in neither case is it anywhere near the batteries' full capacity. There were a few peak days where it was over 20KWh, and a couple of outliers in the 30s, which suggests to me that either the instrumentation is wrong, or the batteries, when new, have a nominally greater capacity than the advertised 13.2KWh. With the 10-year warranty of 70% capacity at 10 years, that may be what's going on. Or maybe it's a combination of both, it's hard to say.

I just noticed the 37MWh limitation of aggregate AC throughput on the warranty, which is significant. At this rate, we're looking at 6 years to reach 70% capacity. But I don't think we'll be using the car as a daily commuter for too long. And I'm optimistic that battery technology will continue to improve and decrease in price. I've been anticipating a replacement/upgrade before 10 years in any case. I could place a floor on battery discharge and draw more from the grid to reduce discharge and prolong battery capacity, but I'll have to think about that.

What's somewhat encouraging is that production is about 90% of consumption. That will improve when Mitzi eventually retires.

Looking at the FPL bill, it looks like we're paying $.19/KWh, so with net metering we've paid roughly $25.00 in electricity costs to drive the car in October. I think she'd refill the tank twice a month on her Honda CRV, at more than $3.00/gal so $72/month in gas, so there's a savings. Most importantly, we're emitting very little carbon in her daily commute.

When Mitzi retires we'll have a number of advantages. Apart from driving the car less, we'll be able to recharge during the day, when we're often producing more power than we consuming, even charging the batteries. I'll likely also upgrade the service so we can provide 240v charging and improve recharge time to roughly 5 hours, ideally during the peak solar period.

Overall, I'm pleased with the way the car is working out and how it's fitting in with our power solution. It's not ideal, but it's close. And it likely will become ideal in the relatively near future.

A Culture of Failure

12:20 Tuesday, 2 November 2021

I live in St Johns County, Florida. It's a "bedroom community" just south of Jacksonville. St Johns County has the distinction of being the highest median-income county in Florida. There's a lot of money here. It's also solidly Republican.

Jacksonville is, for better or worse, the economic, political and cultural center of gravity of northeast Florida. I say "for better or worse," when it's mostly just "worse."

The whole region is just a mess. There are a lot of smart people, trying to do good things; but they're up against the moneyed interests, and the political class that caters to them. These are not people with "vision."

The mayor of Jacksonville is a guy named Lenny Curry. Lenny's big claims to fame are his sports metaphors and his political "machine," which is made up of his buddies Brian Hughes and Timmy Baker, who grew to some notoriety by destroying opposing candidates in elections. They're bullies who think they're "galaxy brains" running the show. They have nothing but contempt for the electorate, and are solely in it for the money and the power. They know how to win elections, but they can't govern their way out of a bridge club.

Lenny had this brilliant plan to sell off the city's public utility, JEA, to pocket some number of billions of dollars, which he could then dole out to establish his "legacy." Lenny wanted to do it quickly, get a solid offer from FPL, knowing that the city council would be dazzled by the prospect of having billions of dollars to play with without having to raise taxes.

There's a whole long story behind the plot to sell JEA, which I won't go into here. You can read the sanitized version here, if you care to. Suffice to say, one of Lenny's main stooges, Aaron Zahn, boy genius appointed CEO of JEA for the purpose of selling it, got a little too clever and a little too greedy, and now the whole thing is under federal investigation before a grand jury.

So now he's a lame duck, tweeting out vacuous self-improvement affirmations and doing photo-ops, until such time as his political masters yank his chain and he regurgitates the rhetoric of divisive demagoguery that defines political messaging by the Republican Party in Florida.

There are a number of "independent authorities" here in Jacksonville. Among them are the aforementioned public utility, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, the Jacksonville Port Authority, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, the Downtown Investment Authority and there may be another one that isn't coming to mind right now. Maybe the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. While it's not an "independent authority" in the same context as the others, with an elected sheriff, it pretty much does its own thing.

Do you think all these entities work toward a single vision? Do you think they get together and kind of coordinate their efforts so they don't conflict with one another? The Jacksonville Port Authority is dredging the St Johns River to 47 feet to accommodate larger vessels. They're modifying the hydrology of a regional asset with no input from any of the other counties in the region. As long as they can sell it to the Army Corps of Engineers, they can pretty much do anything they want.

And one of the things they want is for JEA to lift some power lines going across the river to increase the "air draft" of vessels headed to port. Do you think they coordinated that with JEA before undertaking the dredging project? No, of course not. Because this is Jacksonville, home of the hapless Jaguars, where we do everything ass-backwards.

Seriously, the donor class is the ruling class here, and nobody lifts their gaze up from the mud pit they're constantly wrestling in. They're all locked into a zero-sum mentality, where if somebody else is "winning," they must be "losing." The result is, nobody wins and the place is just a wretched mess of mediocrity. Like the Jaguars.

The Duval County Democrats, locked out of power since forever, have decided to content themselves with fighting each other. With no chance of taking control of city government, they focus on who gets to be who in the party.

It's just a microcosm of the state itself. A mediocre state under one-party rule for more than two decades. This is what Republican "success" looks like. It looks like failure and missed opportunities.

It looks like nearly 60,000 dead Floridians.

It'd be pathetic if it weren't so stupidly tragic.

The Online Photographer

09:46 Monday, 1 November 2021

Mike Johnston has been The Online Photographer since 2005. Although it once was a daily blog, Mike's cut back to three posts a week now. This one from a week ago was interesting. Do watch the video, beginning at the 40:30 mark as described.

The finger is not the Moon.

06:25 Monday, 1 November 2021

Always bears recalling. Anyone telling you otherwise is just giving you the finger.

It Goes to Eleven

05:04 Monday, 1 November 2021

Completed a "perfect" month in closing all my rings on my activity tracker. Every day, my watch gives me a little "atta-boy" to keep me motivated. It's silly, but it seems to work. I wish it was aware enough to notice when I'm not at home, or it's raining, because it'll prompt me that I'm behind on my activity when it's been pouring rain outside, or I'm at a conference. "Artificial intelligence" still has a ways to go.

October was my most prolific month blogging in a long time. I didn't post every day though, so it wasn't "perfect." To the extent that I'm spending time here, I'm not on Twitter, reading things that make me feel angry or sad and powerless; so I think this is a better use of my time.

I mean, the world will make you angry and sad and feel powerless, but there's no sense wallowing in it.

So the goal for this month is to post something every day, and to develop an automated means of posting photos. I've been working on that, where by "working" I mean I've been bookmarking and saving endless references to Applescript without actually ever writing a word of code. "Trying is the first step toward failure." H. Simpson.

So some of these November posts may document my efforts toward that end.

I also have to turn the lights on in The Underground.

So, three goals for November.

Stay tuned. May or may not be interesting. 🤔