Winter Solstice! 12.21.2022
It's the day of the year that is the same length as every other day of the year. It is also the day in which the amount of sunlight hitting the earth is the (very nearly) the same as every other day.
Sorry, I'm being a pedantic prat. Indeed, this is the day which has the fewest minutes of sunlight in the northern hemisphere. However, the "day" is still 24 hours long, and the amount of solar energy impinging on the earth's surface is still about 85,000 TW-days. When people say that "winter solstice is the shortest day of the year", they are completely ignoring night time and the entire southern hemisphere.
Maybe I'm cranky because because we are about to get blasted with a supposedly "once-in-a-generation" blizzard. (However, I do like this characterization of the coming storm.) But winter solstice should be cause for some optimism — we are near the worst of the winter and will begin climbing back to spring. (In the northern hemisphere.) It's a good time for a party!
75th anniversary of the transistor 12.16.2022
Seventy-five years ago today, Walter Brattain, John Bardeen, and William Shockley invented the first transistor at Bell Laboratories. This was certainly one of the seminal discoveries of the 20th century — some people say it was the single most important invention. I might hesitate to put it at number one, but it is certainly near the top. Generally, we would consider something that has been around for 3/4 of a century to be pretty old technology, but the business of designing and building chips with transistors is still one of most high-tech endeavors.
The link above leads to series of articles from IEEE Spectrum magazine covering the anniversary. The picture below is the first transistor.
The great delusion behind twitter 12.11.2022
Another thoughtful Ezra Klein opinion piece, in which he argues that we should have social media that is more like a Quaker meeting. Or possibly Wikipedia.
Moon occulting Mars 12.07.2022
Also, a minor astronomical event: the full moon will pass in front of Mars for about an hour early in the evening. In central Iowa, the planet will disappear at about 9:00 p.m. and reappear at about 10:00 p.m. If it's not cloudy, it should be relatively easy to see, especially with a pair of binoculars.
50 years since the last Apollo moon mission 12.07.2022
An awesome photo, just prior to launch.
Word of the day. It's a bit old-fashioned, by definitely apt.
A Mike Luckovich cartoon that I thought was spot-on:
Everything from tuttle.merc.iastate.edu is moving to garytuttle.ee. The great migration has begun, and it might take a couple of weeks to complete the move. The old web site won't disappear just yet, but it will fade away over time as I put in more forwarding commands to re-direct from the old to the new.
(Note: The URL garytuttle.com also works for the new server, but I like the .ee domain name better.)
This is what a hero looks like. 06.03.2022
Maybe the local cops should take some lessons from her, instead of trying to harass her.
Peak ICE. 06.02.2022
Bloomberg suggests that 2022 may be the peak year for gasoline powered cars. It is bound to happen at some point soon.
America's human sacrifice. 05.28.2022
Maureen Dowd always makes us think. Many interesting thoughts in the comments, as well.
It's hard to be a hero. 05.27.2022
People with the courage to face down someone with a gun are very rare. The recent shooters prove that very clearly. That notion that arming teachers will stop school shootings is absurd.
Five clicks to mass murder. 05.26.2022
You can even buy on installment — useful if you have a murder/suicide in mind. The ease with which a person in the U.S. can buy an assault weapon is ridiculous.
We are insane. 05.25.2022
It's happened again — it's no surprise. It happens all the time anymore, and it will continue to happen. The outcry will be louder this week because there were so many young school children who were gunned down. But noting is going to change. There has been plenty of opportunity to make changes in the last 20 years, but a sub-set of U.S. senators have made it clear that they feel some people have more right to own a gun than children (or anyone else) have the right to be alive. There will be talk about "how it will be different this time". But it won't be different. In a month, or two months, or six months, there will be no new national gun laws. I would love to be proven wrong, but I doubt it.
The only way to bring some sort of rationality back to this issue is to elect new "leaders". The fall elections are the earliest opportunity to make a substantive difference. If we really want to make rational changes to gun laws, we need to elect enough people to Congress to form a real, working majority that can toss out the insipidly stupid filibuster and bring some sort of sense back to our society. And if we don't elect a better Congress, then the killing will continue.
In the meantime, while we wait for the next mass killing, here are some things to view/read:
- Basketball coach Steve Kerr. Maybe he should run for Senate in some red state.
- Every so often, after an especially big mass murder, the NYTimes updates and reprints Nicholas Kristoff's 2017 column on "How to Reduce Shootings". It all makes sense, but again, it probably hopeless for now.
- Garry Wills described guns as our moloch back in 2012.
- The Onion re-prints their " 'No Way To Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens" article, but taken to a new level. Their front page will probably change soon to keep up with the all the ongoing nonsense, so here a screen shot.
- If we need examples of good leadership, check out this interview with Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand. Too bad we can't recruit her to be president. I guess the next best thing would be to just pack up and move there.
Private-equity vultures. 05.18.2022
Mother Jones has a special section in their current issue with 15 articles describing how private-equity firms are f**king up our country. There's a lot here — definitely too much to read in one shot while keeping your blood pressure under control. PE firms have been eviscerating businesses for a long time, usually operating under the radar . We need to know more about their methods in order to put a stop to the excesses.
One segment hits close to home. Tom Philpott describes efforts by Iowa oligarchs to create a pipeline to ship CO2 from from ethanol plants to North Dakota to be "buried". (Meaning that it will probably be used for fracking.) The scheme has all the attributes of the typical private equity scam: create a new business (that will eventually fail) to prop up a currently failing business while sucking off all the available free cash, most of which comes from tax payers.
The iPod (name) is dead. 05.17.2022
Last week, Apple announced that the iPod Touch was going into "while supplies last" status. Everyone lamented it as the end of the iPod. But the iPod Touch was not really a true iPod — it was a cut-down iPhone. The last real iPods were discontinued a few years ago. But now even the name is gone.
Here is a time line for the iPod, from inception to demise.
The one iPod I owned was the third-generation model. I liked it a lot, but its touch controls were crap. Of course, it's what I used when I started listending to podcasts.
The iPod will probably be most remembered as one crucial stepping stone in Apple's twenty-year transition from a beleaguered and nearly bankrupt computer maker to the world's most valuable company.
After 2.5 years, we were able to see a concert again — Portugal. The Man (one of my all-time favorite bands) and alt-J at the Santa Barbara Bowl in early April. Part of a long-overdue west-coast road trip.
Lunar eclipse tonight. 05.15.2022
This is nice, because it will be in prime viewing time, with the total eclipse starting at about 10:30 CDT and lasting until just before midnight. If we are lucky, the clouds will lift in time to see it all. There will be another total eclipse on Nov. 8, but that one will occur in the very early morning hours.
Most visited national parks. 05.10.2022
And some of the least visited.
National parks can be very crowded these days. If you want to visit (and you should), remember that some require reservations during some parts of the year. (Check www.nps.gov for details.) To avoid some of the crowds, try to visit during the off seasons (before Memorial Day and after Labor Day) and on weekdays instead of weekends. Trying to visit Yellowstone on a Saturday in July might get frustrating.
Rich Strike strikes it rich. 05.08.2022
The horse racing industry is a fairly awful business, with too much money sloshing around, rampant cheating, illegal drug use, and general abuse of most of the athletes — pretty much the same as professional sports for humans.
However, a horse race can be amazing, with 1000-pound animals running in a pack at 40 miles per hour. Like humans, most horses simply want to get to the end of the race, so then they can get back to standing still and/or eating. But, also like humans, there are a few that love the competition and run to win.
This year's Kentucky Derby had one of the best stretch runs you will ever see. If you haven't seen it, first watch the race replay, which has an overhead view and markers pointing to the two key horses. Then, watch the full race video. It is amazing.
Most of the horses run looking straight ahead. (Again, their main goal is to finish and get that annoying little guy will get off their back. Then maybe they will be allowed to graze in the infield.) But as Rich Strike moves through the field, you can see him looking at the other horses, as if he is thinking "Ha! I am going to beat your ass." And the call from the announcer in the full race video is hilarious at the end.
I'm sure there are a million human "come-from-behind-win" videos on the tubes, but one that I will always remember from when I was a kid was Dave Wottle in the 1972 Olympics.
We are really bad at estimates.05.07.2022
I went to campus a couple of weeks ago, and while there I ran into my friend Wei-Shen. We had a nice discussion and caught up on recent news and developments. One thing that he noted was that my "blog" page (I use that term very loosely.) never changed anymore. That's certainly true. Since I assumed that this web site should go away someday with me being retired and all, I didn't see much point in updating the site's homepage. Who would possibly be looking at it? Well, I guess that Wei-Shen looks at it sometimes. And so for him (and maybe a few others?), I'll start posting some things here again. If nothing else, it will provide me with some amusement.
Today's link goes to a page demonstrating just how crappy we all are at making estimates. It's not surprising, because usually we are just guessing and have no data from which to draw a sensible conclusion. For me, I was guessing that there were essentially zero people looking at the web site anymore. Apparently, the number is bigger than that. (I'll have more info in a future post about the real numbers.)
When making estimates, we tend to over-estimate things that are actually small and under-estimate things that are big. Here are some examples from the article:
- percentage of Americans living in New York City: people estimate 22% and the actual number is 3%.
- percentage of Americans who are military veterans: estimate - 37%, actual - 6%.
- percentage who own a car: estimate - 67%, actual - 88%
- percentage who have flown on a plane: estimate - 61%, actual - 88%.
Hurricane McGusty leads blow-out of Cyclones in Windy City dustup. 😢
Cyclone vs. Hurricane in Windy City03.25.2022
Appropriately, the wind is blowing a steady 30 mph in Ames today. Even sweeter, the ISU women's team plays Creighton in the round of 16.
After years of listening to craven, feckless politicians in our own country, we finally have an example of one that we can admire. I don't know if he was a good leader before his country was attacked. And there's a good chance that he will be dead within in a few days. But Volodymyr Zelenskyy is an inspiration now. His courage under fire gives a glimmer of hope.