Links, April 2023

During the powerful winter storm in the Midwest late last December, apparently it was too cold to operate a lot of natural gas power plants! We avoided more blackouts because wind energy really came through (it was awfully windy). There’s a system in place to reward resilient generation capacity, and penalize if you say your capacity is resilient but it isn’t. The link is an interesting Union of Concerned Scientists blog post about the whole thing, and the natural gas power plants’ attempts to evade the consequences.

Another interesting thing from the Union of Concerned Scientists’ blog was a few years ago - Dave Lochbaum wrote a series of articles about harrowing near-miss problems at nuclear power plants.

For instance, here is a post about arcing in electrical equipment in power plants, which includes this video of a controlled test:

A lot of the failures Lochbaum highlighted over the series felt like pretty normal industrial facility problems that could be controlled by good management, but weren’t. IIRC the UCS’s position is that nuclear plants can be run safely, but that some are clearly run more safely than others, and that the regulators are way too lax with the low performing operators.

On a tangent, strange guy / chemistry youtuber CodysLab refined Uranium metal from a rock a few years ago.

This is a nice one-hour summary of the geology of Indiana. And here’s a delightful and earnest geologist getting excited about the Great Unconformity, which yeah, I find spooky.

Jonathan Frakes asks you things: guaranteed to make you feel a feeling in 48 seconds

A powerful takedown of the panic about trans athletes, via a MetaFilter post with a few more links

I’m not a MeFite myself, but they have RSS feeds of best and popular posts that are consistently interesting to me.

Speaking of RSS, I am still leading that Google Reader lifestyle, with Feedbin and the Reeder app. Updates from sources I choose, in beautiful reverse chronological order. It’s very nice and I recommend it!

Cory Doctorow wrote a scathing article about how “gig work” companies twiddle the amount they pay workers on each job: they lure workers in with high payouts and then taper their pay down to the lowest amount each worker will tolerate. Algorithmic wage discrimination - really sickening.

Kottke had a special day of being blown away by an incredible drummer, Larnell Lewis: Drummer Plays Metallica’s Enter Sandman After Hearing It Only Once, followed by An Epic Improvisation - I’ve watched that video about 15 times and it was stuck in my head for a week.

Cool Tools featured a usable telescope for $48 which sounds amazing

Had to explain about light switch raves

A gardening song more fun and honest than Inch by Inch, Row by Row (but less depressed than Slug by Slug, Weed by Weed)

Two nice interviews about Aardman’s stop motion productions (e.g. Wallace and Gromit) - Adam Savage and Wired

A sign in the style of an official warning sign, saying "Caution: This device attracts all other objects in the universe with a force proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of their distance"

A sign in the style of an official warning sign, saying "Notice: Who cares? Not me! Ha ha ha"

Safety sign generator. I don’t understand why people aren’t more excited about this. My wife and I used it to make safety signs of like a dozen in-jokes, an hour well spent.

Personal Preference is getting an update - the original was a favorite

I tried ChatGPT and didn’t find it very fun, although maybe I just didn’t find a good interaction pattern?

a screenshot of ChatGPT doing a bad job drawing the state of Indiana as ASCII art

MicroPython, a stripped-down version of Python for microcontrollers, celebrated ten years of existence! I’ve gotten a lot of use out of the Adafruit fork, CircuitPython, for instance using it to control the e-ink display of the MagTag.

I re-read five of the six main Queen’s Thief novels - it turns out that blasting through the audiobooks almost one a day is a little too fast, and the sixth one was a bridge too far. But the series is still great, I’ll get back to the last one soon. Audiobooks are nice when gardening.

A photo of some rock lilies

A photo of a bottle of korean alcohol, translated with google translate as soft as the first, sweet like an apple (apologize)