Last Friday in April

More celebration of how scientists make the world a better place – here’s a new method of producing drinking water from ocean water. Ion concentration polarization, which could give millions of people access to clean, pure water. Low energy consumption, can be powered by a small solar cell, and doesn’t use membrane filters that need cleaning/replacement. Brilliant.

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I’m about ready to sign up for Masterclass again. Educational, entertaining, and inspirational. One of the best investments you can make.

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Wanna travel through the solar system and not leave your desk? Try this very cool simulator.

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Good news for UK basketball – hello, Antonio Reeves!

Atlantic (well, Caribbean) to Pacific

Just booked – a cruise through the Panama Canal in the spring of 2023. Always wanted to see it, and now we’ll get to transit it twice on our way to and from some ports on each side. Should be interesting.

Seriously good article here about permanent shadows on the Moon and the high probability that they contain substantial water in the form of ice. The S Pole on the Moon is where I set my novel, so this qualifies as research for me. And I love the video at the front of the article.

A terrible way to communicate

I used this machine translator to take this message as input:

“All these worlds are yours, except Phobos. Attempt no landing on Phobos. Something wonder is happening there.”

Obviously, a nod to 2010 A Space Odyssey. And after 10 automated translations across various languages, the final message back in English was:

“Every country is in the countryside. Try your clothes. Something went”

Pretty funny, and it proves the point that language is a pretty terrible way to communicate. I wonder at which point in the translation sequences did things go wrong? The first, or later? But the original message is so garbled at the end that it’s nonsense. God help us if we ever have to communicate with aliens. Or dolphins.

Time is short

Posting is gonna be light this week, my consulting gig has gotten very, very busy. Makes me wish I was getting paid by the hour instead of by the day.

Sad to note that my brother Don’s best friend Brian Hicks died unexpectedly. Tough time for Brian’s family and friends. He was a wonderful person and will be missed.

After the Avocado Festival

I have a lot of faith in the weirdo Elon Musk – he has produced big successes in techno companies that I like, including SpaceX, Tesla, The Boring Company, and StarLink. And all these companies seem to have a theme, a common purpose – to eventually get humanity a foothold in space. But his Twitter purchase/offer of $43B, now seen as likely to succeed, mystifies me. What does a social media company add to the recipe? All of Musk’s other companies are home-grown, in which his engineering expertise is a huge factor. Twitter’s tech is not exactly rocket science. And if Musk is simply spending $43B to acquire Twitter because he doesn’t agree with a moderated speech platform, spending it because he’s got it to spend, what does that mean to the shareholders in his other companies? (So far it means Tesla stock is down.) It’s a mystery.

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Western democracies dodged a big bullet yesterday when France re-elected Macron. Le Pen was their version of Trump, and the last thing we need is another European country turning to authoritarianism. Nice job, French voters.

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Start the clock. I submitted my passport renewal application to the US Dept. of State today, all fees paid for an expedited renewal. I sure hope it takes less than two months, as the international flights I need to book are likely to get very expensive in the final three months before departure.

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My fascination with The Moon continues. I want this. And not related to The Moon, but I also saw a shirt at the Avocado Festival yesterday that I liked a lot. National Sarcasm Society.

Title picture above and the ironic shot below are from the Avo Festival.

The right thing to do

Well, this is embarrassing, for a supposedly veteran traveler. And inconvenient. I was trying to make some US to Europe flight reservations for this fall, and the reservation system required my passport information. Not surprising. Then I noticed that my passport expires in July this year (2022 was always far into the future, every other time I thought about it), and the reservation system would not accept a traveler with a passport expired before the flight date. Soooo…off I go to try and get my passport renewed ASAP, during a time when all government services are worse/slower than ever (COVID). Rookie mistake, and I can only hope that airfares don’t go crazy during the 5-8 weeks it’ll take to get my update.

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Our little town’s biggest annual event is tomorrow, The Fallbrook Avocado Festival. We’ve missed it the last few years, so we’re going to this one. It’s basically a big street fair, with some good food and the occasional nice bit of art and craft. If nothing else it should be a good chance for some photos.

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I have to say, the Russia-Ukraine war has me pretty worried about an escalation to nuclear. Putin isn’t rational, and he’s sitting on a big stockpile of nukes, and if he believes he’s losing the war…not good. I would be 100% in favor of a strike team from us or any nation going in for an assassination – that may be the only way to bring Russia back from the brink. It’s very weird to write this paragraph, but the more I look at the situation it’s clear that there is one and only one human being who is threatening the world with nuclear war, and removing that one human would be the right thing to do.

TGIF and suicide drones

One thing our military-industrial complex does very well is to put movie-worthy names on new weapons systems. Turns out we’re sending a bunch of Phoenix Ghost suicide drones to Ukraine. Hell, even if the weapon doesn’t do much, the name alone should scare the shit out of Ivan. I sure wouldn’t want something like that hovering over my position.

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Found an interesting article in Time about the quiet death of overtime pay. It really struck a chord with me – I remember time and a half, it was a big deal to my Dad back in the day. And the article is right, it has just quietly been legislated out of existence. More evidence that working class families haven’t kept up with financial progress of the top 20% of earners.

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I made the mistake last night of reading a really interesting article about the Dunning-Kruger Effect at about 2am. Because it was interesting, I couldn’t get it out of my head to get back to sleep. I rolled around thinking of different ways to plot the data and illustrate different aspects of their study.

There’s a LOT published about the DK Effect on the Internet, but it boils down to this (from the essay):

From here the way is short to the conclusions made by the authors: unskilled people overestimate their performance, experts underestimate it, and the less skilled people are, the worse they are at estimating their performance.

Since being published, this effect has been called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, and it has received a lot of attention, both academic and from the media. Most of the follow-up research supported the initial results, and generalized them to other cases.

Illustration of the DK Effect below:

One of my late-night thoughts is the hypothesis that the DK Effect is somehow related to evolution. All people are not created with the same intellectual capacity, and those with low capacity, if they are self-aware and realize it, will not be happy. They may not mate, they may not live long, they may be depressed and self-destructive. But those with low capacity AND a low self-awareness can go on happily living their lives in the belief that they’re just as capable as anyone else. So they multiply. And now we have a population selected (evolved) to exhibit the DK Effect. Weird, but it explains a lot.

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Final thought for the morning, this is very real. I’m finding that the cost of commuting to and from the office, buying and wearing clothes other than T-shirts and jeans, and eating lunch out fairly often is *expensive*. The commute alone is costing me $150/week and about 8 hours/week that I used to have for leisure. Thankfully, I only have to do this for a couple of months, but if I were 30 years old and looking at another 25-30 years of this, I’d be horrified. This is one more big reason that labor costs are going up, and employee retention rates going down.

Die, heretic!

It’s a great day. Coffee was already made when I got up, Tesla announced record earnings so my stake in them recovered, and Oscar Tshiebwe is still not going pro.

And speaking of Tesla, when Elon Musk isn’t amusing himself with his weird Twitter acquisition, one of his other companies, StarLink, is showing the US military how modern electronic warfare (EW) can be conducted. And helping Ukraine in their war efforts. My first job involved lots of EW technology, and with the tech tools available today, I bet it’s a fun, crazy job.

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My religious friends and family will hate this (sorry Mike), but this little joke illustrates my point that religion can be very, very divisive.

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” and pushed him over.

Return of the King

Well, this is big news. Oscar Tshiebwe, the best college basketball player in America, is returning to UK for another season. You gotta love the guy, and his return puts UK back on the path to a great season for 2022-2023. I worry about the HUGE expectations fans will have of him, but for now, we can just be happy we get to see him for one more year.

Humpday notes

McSweeney’s has a good take on Florida’s ridiculous cancellation of over 50 mathematics books. Here’s a sample:

Calculus: We stand firmly against any field of mathematics that requires integration.

Multiplication: We believe only certain numbers should be allowed to multiply with one another.

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CNN has a pretty interesting story about the Federal judge who ruled that the airline mask mandate is unlawful. She was pulled out of the pack and given a lifetime appointment by Trump, labelled unqualified for the job by the American Bar Association, and is married to a MAGA diehard. And now she’s made history.

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I’m generally a healthy person, but one malady has made an unwelcome appearance in my life again – sciatica. I’ve lost a few days lately to extended bouts of pain, and pain like that changes you. It takes the joy out of daily living, to the point that all you really want to do is knock yourself out with one drug or another and hope the next day is better. I’ve had two people tell me that yoga is the answer to sciatica, and I’m thinking about it. I would try pretty much anything to be rid of this occasional life-wrecker.

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Greenland has something interesting in common with Europa. Who knew? I sure hope we go explore Europa soon – we might get the answer to “is there life elsewhere?” by visiting Jupiter’s moon. I mean, I know the answer (of course there is), but it would be nice to have proof.

Crowded, expensive, and uncomfortable

Going in to the office most days lately, I have a lot of time to think and listen to music – it’s a 91 mile round trip. My playlist these days includes Tame Impala, Cannons, Rush, Billie Eilish, Khraungbin (of course), Jackson Browne, and Pink Floyd, to name a few. I also listen to a lot of NPR, but the constant fund raising gets old.

I just stumbled onto an interesting writing tool, Sudowrite. It works pretty well, though it’s yet another excuse/distraction from “just writing”.

Aaaaand, the airline mask mandate is over, just like that. At least for now. Let’s hope that we don’t get a giant bump in COVID cases as a result. But aside from that, I’m *really* happy that we can go back to air travel being what it used to be – crowded, expensive, and uncomfortable. What a relief!

Given the sign below, no wonder I ended up in this part of Socal.

Southern France, anyone?

The culture wars get more wacky. I would love to see some of the examples of the now-banned 41% of Math textbooks in Florida. Math textbooks?! What could possible be so prejudicial in a math book?

No travel this month, but we kick it into higher gear starting in May. At that point we have trips every month until the end of 2022. With that in mind, I really hope conditions are such that the airline mask mandate can be ended in May. I get it, COVID is still a risk, but airports and health care facilities are the last situations where masks are still required. Long flights with masks and people fighting about it have gotten very tedious.

UPDATE, Monday afternoon: Well, well, well, a FL judge has ruled that the CDC’s 2021 airlines mask mandate is unlawful and unenforceable. That might be the first news from FL that I agree with in years.

And in anticipation of said travel, I get my new iPad Pro today. About 2-3x faster processor and 4x more storage. Gotta have room for a lot of books, music and 4K movies.

Here’s a weird little treatise on writing from an unexpected source. I like it, but…still deciding if there’s any real insight here or just a recitation of common sense.

Final travel thought. This trip would definitely be worth taking. I like river cruises, and I love the Rhone region. If I had to pick a spot to live outside the US, southern France is in the top five choices. Haven’t traveled on a Viking ship yet, but their reputation is solid.