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It's not all bad news. 12.30.2023

Current times seem bleak, with multiple internecine wars, authoritarianism on the march (led by the orange guy and his minions), and global climate catastrophe just around the corner. But in 2023, as with nearly every year in recent history, there is lots of good news. Nick Kristof points out reasons for optimism in his annual column about the regression of various nasty diseases and the reduction of poverty around the world. And Angus Hervey at Future Crunch lists 66 good news stories from the year.

Both are worthwhile reads as we take a deep breath and get ready to plunge into 2024.


52 Rules for Flying. 12.15.2023

Mostly common sense, but sometimes people seem to go a little crazy when they get to the airport.


December shooting stars. 12.10.2023

The Geminid meteor shower is coming up. The peak nights should be Dec. 13th and 14th. They may be more visible than usual, since it will be extra dark due to the new moon. Hopefully, it won't be cloudy. If you are inclined to watch, bundle up and try to find a dark place to observe for an hour — you will probably see at least a few meteors.


How to ruin a health-care system. 12.09.2023

Short video explainer describing the demise of Great Britain's National Health Service. The story is a bit light on details, but it gives the basic gist of the story and it is pretty much what we have come to expect in the 21st century — idiot politicians mess up something good.


Alan Taylors best photos of 2023. 12.04.2023

Another end-of-year photo compilation — this one is by Alan Taylor of The Atlantic. Looking at these confirms the notion that 2023 has not gone well.


Climbing's newest power thruple 12.01.2023

Three American climbers recently scaled the north face of Mount Jannu in the Himalayas. This may be the "greatest climb ever".


Portugal vs. U.S. 10.19.2023

Portugal has the kind of health care system that we could have here, if we chose to focus on people and their health outcomes rather corporate profits.


Nikon Photomicrogaphy Competition. 10.18.2023

Beautiful images of tiny things.


Fall Foliage Map. 10.11.2023

If you are planning a leaf-peeping road trip this fall, this interactive map can help you steer in the right direction.


Buy everybody a battery. 10.09.2023

Green Mountain Power in Vermont is taking a novel approach to improving grid reliability — they propase to pay to have big batteries installed into most homes. The company says that this would be cheaper than building more power plants and stringing up more wires.


All Electronics is going out of business. 09.11.2023

How sad. They were in business for over 50 years, but it looks like they are retiring. I bought many parts from them over the years. They specialized in reselling parts — buying up unused lots of random things and selling them at a discount. So, they were never like DigiKey or Mouser, in that they didn't try to stock everything. They had what they had, and if you wanted one of what they had, you could get it at a good price.

I did a fair amount of business at All Electronics. I sent them many dollars over the years, but in the end I came out ahead. Through circumstances that I won't try to describe here, I once found a box filled with about 3000 new PCB-mount relays, similar to these, in a dumpster. Looking up the price of these relays on DigiKey suggested that they were worth about $7000 retail. I'd struck it rich! I called up All Electronics (and a couple of other places) to see what they would give me for these relays. All Electronics won the deal by offering me $700. That's how they rolled, by paying about ten cents on the dollar for their stock. I took the deal and still considered myself lucky.

All Electronics is closing their web site for good tomorrow (Tuesday) at the end of the day. If you hurry, you can probably pick up some DC wall supplies, or a handful of bridge rectifiers, or a bag of LEDs for cheap.


Top programming languages. 09.07.2023

IEEE Spectrum is out with their annual ranking of programming. It is a complete mystery as to what the numbers actually mean, but the general ordering "seems" about right.

Python is at the top by a large margin. Anyone wanting to learn programming should probably start with Python, especially EEs. The usual suspects, Java, C++, C, and JavaScript, make strong showings . PHP, which I used to make all the practice problem scripts, comes in at #13. (PHP should be put out to pasture.) Amazingly, ancient languages like BASIC (in the form of Visual Basic), FORTRAN, and COBOL still register on the list.


Super blue moon. 08.30.2023

The full moon tonight is a "super blue moon". It sounds impressive, but really not that big of a deal. It's definitely not blue — the designation is a vagary of the particular calendar we use. And it is hardly super — the moon is a bit closer to the earth and so appears to be slightly bigger and brighter than "normal". However, a full moon coming over the horizon is still an awesome sight and worth of few minutes of watching time. (Maybe werewolves have bigger and sharper teeth or howl louder during a super blue moon. πŸΊπŸ€·πŸ»β€)