Plants Trees with Your Searches

Google has made large donations to climate science deniers. Reconfiguring your browser to use the Ecosia search engine is easy, and every search you do builds revenue to fund tree-planting efforts around the world. 80% of profits go straight to carbon reduction. Ecosia is responsible for the planting of 75 million trees over the past nine years! Takes just a couple of clicks to set up – go for it.

Set up Ecosia here

The Sky Is a Lie

The first image below is real – I shot it on the Bay Trail, riding through Pt. Isabelle into the fog last weekend. The rest of these are total lies – I made them from the original in about five seconds each. Most images you see in the world are retouched in some way, but the community of Luminar users has rightly erupted into controversy over the “AI Sky Replacement” feature in Luminar 4, which was just released. Already there’s a growing marketplace of “sky packs” you can purchase as plugins. The line between retouching and total fabrication of truth gets more blurry every year. We’ve always had Photoshop, but what changes is the access and the ease of photo and video manipulation tools. It used to take real skill to lie with photos; now it’s effortless.

Dream Fragments

We are in Southeast Asia.
A temple and some statues are faded white.
We are part of a group painting them colorful and glittery.
The government gets upset and cracks down on us.

We try to film it but they smash our phones with batons.
I realize that somehow the protestors think it’s my fault
that their phones were all broken.
They say I have terrible command and control.
I am hiding out with a friend, we are cooking breakfast.
He gives me a bag of scorpions, a bag of mud, and a tool.
Tells me to aerate muddy scorpions with the tool, and I do.
He forgets to put the aerated scorpions into our omelette.
I find an old typewriter and start to peck out:

I HAVE NO COMMAND
I HAVE NO CONTROL
MY PHONE WAS BROKEN TOO

Social Control in Singapore

All of the reasons I give for never again wanting to live in a city just don’t apply in Singapore: There are virtually no traffic problems, virtually no crime, no hypodermic needles or feces on the sidewalks, everything is clean and well-maintained. Everyone is gracious and polite, most buildings are beautiful. Everything smells either delicious or fresh, homelessness is virtually non-existent, public transportation is the cleanest, quietest, and best-organized I’ve seen in any city… In many ways, Singapore is about as close as you get to a metropolitan utopia.

But these advantages come at a price, in the form of limited free speech, government-recommend behavior, heavy surveillance, strong police presence, and laws that some westerners find oppressive. No vaping is allowed period, cigarette smoking is heavily restricted, no chewing gum allowed (technically it’s legal to chew, but illegal to buy or sell), etc. And if you want to protest something, you have to apply for a permit (guess who gets to approve or deny your permit?).

Continue reading “Social Control in Singapore”

The Duck Curve

In my business, this graph is known as “the duck curve,” and it’s a sort-of paradox. Home solar installations generate power when no one is home to use it, but then everyone goes home and suddenly needs power.

Where does the unused daytime energy go? Back into the grid in most cases, but then utilities must decrease output to match what solar customers are pumping into it. The other alternative is battery storage – either via things like Tesla’s “PowerWall” or by charging electric vehicles.

What most people don’t understand about the grid is that its total power must remain stable at all times. Even if the utilities are fully supportive of home power generation, the duck curve presents a challenge for them, because the more homes you have dumping power onto the grid, the more the utility must decrease its power generation to keep the total power precisely stable. And when everyone comes home in the evening, and solar generation decreases, the opposite must happen. All of this must happen in real time. Large fluctuations are harder to handle than small fluctuations, so more solar means means the challenge gets harder.

Because output fluctuates, renewable energy generation and battery storage go together like peanut butter and jelly – they must become tightly coupled. Now we just need cheap/light batteries to make it feasible everywhere. And so we can finally replace jet fuel with electric airplanes.

Aunt Gerry, Reading MAD Magazine

Enjoying all of the nostalgia around MAD Magazine, and the bummer of it closing down last week. In a weird way, I learned a lot about the world around me as a young teen reading MAD (including how to disco dance by kicking your feet up in the air above your head, which I actually did at my first dance, thanks MAD!) Anyway, this was my dear Aunt Gerry, reading issue 79 (June 1963) at the hairdresser. Family heirloom.

Regress

Fun fact: Jimmy Carter got the U.S. started on conversion to the metric system, but didn’t have time to finish. Then Reagan came along and pulled the plug on us matching the rest of the world in sensible measurements. We coulda been there by now. Carter also installed solar panels on the white house, then Reagan moved in and pulled ’em off. Progress vs. regress, ’twas ever thus.

Someone else’s tweet: “All our refusal to adopt the metric system has done is make our products more expensive at home and massively less desirable in foreign countries. But yeah, let’s keep measuring shit by how many barley-corns can fit on the King’s finger. For freedom. “

At least our currency system is metric.

Chernobyl

The one thing an OFF button should never do is make things worse. But the boron control rods designed to regulate the nuclear reaction in Soviet RNKB reactors had a fatal flow – to save money, they were tipped with graphite rather than boron. Under certain insane conditions, when all water is already removed, this has the effect of briefly mushrooming heat levels, leading to catastrophic failure. But why had the water been removed at Chernobyl? Because a party apparatchik was obsessed with completing a test to earn a commendation. And because some of the plant operators were barely trained.

Technical flaw combined with human hubris combined with penny pinching. Anyway, CHERNOBYL on HBO is now over, but will remain available forever. Everything this graphic says is true. Don’t look for a pro- or anti-nuke docudrama — it’s not that. Just one of the most important true stories of the last century. So good.