Russell's Blog

New. Improved. Stays crunchy in milk.

Summertime things

Posted by Russell on July 30, 2009 at 12:47 a.m.
Here are a couple of random cool things that aren't quite enough for a post on their own, so I'll stick them together.

It's been absurdly hot in Davis. Since the summer started, I've lost about nine days of productivity on account of my brain being too hot to function. By the time I get to the heavily air conditioned Genome Center building, I spend the rest of the day wanting to stick my head in a bucket of ice water.

Happily, the evenings tend to be very pleasant. And no, I'm not going to take Nate Silver up on his challenge. Good on you, Nate.

On Saturday, the Mondavi Center hosted Dengue Fever for a free concert on the quad. They are really great live! Chhom Nimol got all the little kids in the audience to come up on stage and dance. It was a great show.

My labmate Lizzy just adopted an adorable rescue puppy of unknown origin named Dweezil. He is very sweet, and already very well adapted to life with humans. He seems to love everybody, but Lizzy especially.

Meanwhile, my own rescue animals continue to puzzle me. Why does Buzz like to sleep behind my monitor? It's hot, and the cutter on the tape dispenser keeps poking him in the head and causing him to emit annoyed grumbling noises and squirm around. There are lots of comfy places he could sleep, but he likes this spot for some reason.

Android usability fail nuber two

Posted by Russell on July 28, 2009 at 6:42 p.m.
If you should happen to be filling out a longish web form (say, for example, a blog post) using the Android browser, and someone calls you, the browser will dump all your windows and obliterate the POSTDATA. Gee, thanks. That's exactly what I wanted.

Come on people.

What the hell?

Posted by Russell on July 25, 2009 at 5:17 a.m.
A guy in my apartment building just fell down the stairs right in front of my bedroom window. I put my glasses on and saw a puddle of blood slicking the concrete walkway, about ten feet from my pillow. About half the blood was coming out of his forehead, the other from a seep in his shirt where his collarbone is.

I went outside to see if he was moving. He wasn't. He didn't respond when I spoke to him. So, I did the logical thing -- I grabbed my phone and I called 911.

And it fucking crashed. So, I tried again, and it crashed again. I was in the process of ripping out the SIM card and charging up my old phone when the Davis 911 dipatcher called back. The good news is that the EMTs were fast. As soon as the dispatcher hung up, I stepped out to the street to wait for them, and I could already see the lights coming up the street.

So, listen here Google, T-Mobile and HTC: FUCK YOU. Fix your shit.

One year with solar

Posted by Russell on July 12, 2009 at 3:34 a.m.
A little more than a year ago, my mother installed 14 SunPower 230 watt panels on her roof. After a year of production, my mom's solar array has produced 5.3 megawatt-hours of electricity. That's about $1500 worth of electricity production.

Her actual use was about 3 mwh, yielding a surplus of about 2 mwh over the year. Rock on! Pasadena Water & Power won't actually write a check for the balance, but are carrying it forward indefinitely. Eventually, I suppose, they will figure out a way for her to cash in. I figure that someday she will be able to buy an electric car, and the extra production (plus the surplus stashed away in her utility bill) will go toward charging it.

Before installing the panels, she had whittled her electricity usage from about 32 kwh a day down to about 13. I thought it would be interesting to see the how things look now.

I decided to invert the Y-axis to represent net energy balance from the homeowner's point of view. Negative numbers represent net consumption, positive numbers are net production. The green region indicates the interval since the panels were installed. PWD bills on a bi-monthly basis, so unfortunately there are not very many data points.

The panels were installed in the middle of a billing period, so the first data point lifts away from the prior trend, and settles on a new trend. The third point in the green region -- the one that dips back into the negative -- is the middle of winter. Production was lowest, and my mom was running a space heater at her desk to keep her feet warm.

OMG snake.

Posted by Russell on July 04, 2009 at 2:22 p.m.
After it started to cool down yesterday, I went for a bike ride around the research farms, and I saw what I thought was a seam in the bike path. It wasn't until I was almost on top of it that I noticed that it was the shadow of a snake crossing the path! I ran over the poor guy before I could hit the breakes.

Fortunately, the snake survived, and went slithering into his hidey hole in the roots of one of the huge trees that line the bike path. I used a stick to touch the end of his tail to make sure his spine wasn't broken, and he reacted in about the way you would expect a not-run-over snake to react.

Sorry this isn't a very good picture. Since T-Mobile pushed out the Android Cupcake upgrade, my phone has been ridiculously, pathetically slow. It took almost a minute and a half to get the camera application open and snap a picture. By that time, the snake had spent 30 seconds slithering around on the bike path checking itself out (which would have been an awesome shot), and then gone about 20 feet into the grass. Boo Android! Fix your shit!

The snake was about four feet long and about the width of two fingers. The head was sort of bullet-shaped, as opposed to shovel-shaped, so it's probably not a viper. My guess is garter snake.