Photo Enhancement

This is pretty boring looking photo. There’s some stone in the foreground, a lake, and some wooded hills in the background. The sun glinting off the ripples in the water isn’t amazing.

But the boring appearance doesn’t do justice to this photo. You see, that funny looking rock in the foreground is andesite, an igneous rock, and its sharp edges reveal that this rock was never worn down by water or glaciers. And yet, the rock is right next to a lake, which one would expect to have been a part of a glacier back in the time of such things. So this rock is kinda out of place, it’s eerie in its setting.

“What’s the deal?” you may wish to know. Well, that lake is the Jackson Meadows reservoir, formed by a dam in the Middle Yuba River. The water level is raised so high that the water now reaches rock outcroppings that it never could in antiquity. It’s a nice spot, off the beaten path, but accessible by the paved Henness Pass road, which travels alongside the scenic Pass creek.

There’s something that I haven’t heard on the news about COVID yet.

That, of course, is daring police raids on so called sneeze-easys or speak-sneezys (illicit bars run during the quarantine). Now, to my knowledge, such places don’t yet exist, but, it strikes me as likely that they eventually could as stay at home orders stay in effect for longer. The idea that all of the former bar owners, operators, and employees will all simply pivot to other lines of work without any resistance strikes me as… if not far fetched, then certainly, strap on your sandals and cover up fetched.

Day 16 in The Western Quarantine Zone

Toilet paper remains scarce. I haven’t seen any on the shelves in stores since the stay at home order was announced. This was a bit mysterious, after all, spaghetti reappeared on the shelves recently.

At first I thought, there is no change in the number of people so there should be no change in tp use. But then it occured to me that there is a plausible habit change which could have changed tp resource use from one type to another.

People out working long shifts end up using some tp at work, and others may simply have sought out public restrooms as a thrifty tactic. Now, all those people are stuck at home using their own tp, which is a different type from the giant rolls often used in public or work restrooms. So we have a potentially large shift in the type of toilet paper being utilized. This, combined with a hoarding mentality would explain the present scarcity.

A solution: Order industrial sized toilet paper for home use, to rebalance the demand/production.

As Coronavirus Statistics Evolve…

I believe that some people will begin to say that Chinese base level travel restrictions and rapid travel lockdowns saved that land from the worst of the disease, and the prediction of that talk saddens me. I love that we in the U.S. can hop in an RV and ramble on wherever we please, when we please, money and prior commitments permitting. Unfortunately, this freedom does lead to a predictable vulnerability to massive parallel infection of certain diseases. You see, because we know our freedom, we use it. People move around, sick or no, and can spread airborne respiratory viruses.

It is not really the same in China. They had many movement restrictions, fines and fees and rules, even before the virus. People in China are used to being restricted to certain places, they don’t think of freedom of movement as a basic right. So, they don’t fight quarantines, and don’t flee infected areas as much, and the government has pre-built checkpoint areas to easily convert to road blocks.

But freedom of movement is an important tradition in the U.S., and serves a valuable economic purpose. It allows concentrations of specialization and talent. It is key to the strengths and abilities of our companies. It’s Apple, it’s Microsoft, it’s Tesla, it’s Hollywood, it’s Broadway. It’s the best of the U.S., because we can move freely.

So let us not consider general travel restrictions for the future of the U.S. Let’s not covet China’s advantage against Covid-19. Because our vulnerability, in this case, is also our strength, tradition, and a key part of the national identity of the U.S. With the exception of native americans, The U.S. is made of people that came to be a part of something, and people that are descended from people who came to be a part of something. But maybe… if you go back far enough… even the native americans are the people that came. Came across now sunken land bridges, came on clever ocean craft. Yes, I like to think that there is some basic common ground between us all in that way.

Day 3 in the Western Quarantine Zone

Awareness and precaution, are advised at these times. Conflict, hoarding, and bullying are ill-advised and may be more dangerous than the virus. This brief disruption will pass, but memories of fights and crimes will live on.

Stay peaceful out there. If you have to attack anything, let it be your own fear or anger. Engage the authorities to assist with disputes, and defend yourself. But don’t go on the offensive in these of all times. Channel your antsy-ness towards production or learning. Take some free online courses. Take some time to teach your children some things they don’t get in school. Take some time to lay out plans for further ahead then usual. Do good.

One thing to learn about is the effects of staying predominantly at home when you used to be going out a lot more. This change in behavior can affect how much pollen or pet dander you get exposed to, and your body will adapt to the new situation. This can mean nasal and sinus symptoms, sneezing, runny nose, and it’s important to be able to recognize that that’s not Covid. Sneezing is likely if you spend almost a full week indoors, and then go out and get exposed to a sudden influx of pollen, or if you spend much more time then usual cooped up with a beloved pet. But, even if sneezing isn’t Covid, it can still spread the disease if not properly covered. The current guidance is to sneeze or cough into the crook of your arm, on the inside of the elbow, to block dispersion of your fluids.

Health Insurance Plan Evaluation

Health insurance plans have some well known attributes such as deductible, copay, maximum out of pocket, and preferred or required healthcare providers. These things are usually nicely summarized and explained in the plan information and quotes.

But there is another factor which affects the actual cost of any given health service. This factor is the negotiated rate that the insurance company has with the provider. What happens is, insurance companies go to providers and say something like, “this CT scan costs too much, we only want our plan holders to pay this much, and if you make us pay more, we won’t cover it, and our large group of plan holders won’t buy your service.” And then a price is negotiated. So whenever you have a copay or a deductible, a usually hidden part of the calculation of your actual out of pocket expenses are these negotiated rates for health services/prescriptions.

One of the key factors in how low these negotiated rates are, is how many people are in a given health plan, which gives the insurance company more leverage during negotiations. Because of this, I think that insurance companies should provide estimated plan holder numbers and a list of negotiated rates for common services/prescriptions as a part of any insurance quote along with the traditional copay, deductible, out of pocket maximum, and preferred/required provider information.

Web Development

Programming high functioning websites is an intriguing exercise, as it involves the use of many different programming languages and formats, simultaneously. I’ve written several pages recently with no fewer than four distinct programming languages/syntaxes: html, php, javascript, and sql. And this is not an uncommon situation in web programming. PHP is a widely used server side scripting language (program executed at the server that is triggered by the http request from the client), html is, of course, the standard language to get client side browsers to display any sort of content, javascript is the most common client side scripting language (program sent with the html to be executed by the client computer on their system, nowadays usually under high security scrutiny by the client browser program), and SQL is the language to communicate with databases.

And, of course, that’s just the web page files. To extend the system usefulness into wider reaching applications, I’ve used server side scripts to write files that interact with separately running python and/or bash scripts. I haven’t yet written an application that uses the php to write a python script which is executed by a crontab command and writes a new php file and then a bash script and executes it to open a browser and send the new php file an HTTP request, which triggers it to write a…. and so on, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

I might make it sound a little ridiculous that there is such language diversity in these common and commonly interacting web development languages, but it does serve a purpose.  It helps to separate the various subsystems involved in the process.  If there was only one language involved, then there would have to be some extra syntax added to separate out the client side from the server, and the server and client from the databases.  But that extra syntax wouldn’t be too hard to find an elegant solution for, especially with an object oriented language.

Rock Crushing And Plastic Recycling

Currently, there is a huge demand for mechanically crushed rock, and a huge excess of mixed plastic waste.

Mechanically crushed rocks grip together when compressed, unlike smooth river stones and cobbles that slip apart. This makes them a crucial engineering material that adds strength and longevity to concrete mixes and the engineered soil surfaces which are prepared beneath foundations and roads. Unfortunately, it takes huge amounts of energy to break the stones apart.

Mixed plastics are our poorly sorted recycling waste. In order to produce high quality recycled plastic from mixed plastic, more sorting and lots of energy are required. We in the US have a lot of this waste because China has recently stopped taking it.

Can we take the mixed plastic, melt it down, combine it with a source of existing sand, form it into shapes that mimics or improves upon crushed stone and in so doing. produce a synthetic crushed stone? I think it is an idea worth exploring. You see, the quality of the plastic is likely to be compromised because it is unsorted, but the produced synthstone can be quality sorted by attempting to press it through a steel grate with gaps that are smaller than the desired stone size. The product that breaks and is pushed through the grate is rejected and either reprocessed or used for some non-structural fill.

Such production of synthetic stone could be incorporated into existing crushed stone production process, by using fines which are washed away from clear crushed stone as a waste product in place of the sand, and the synthetic stone could then be blended with standard crushed stone.

I’m not an expert on plastic manufacturing, but my first guess approach would be to heat sand up to the minimal mixed plastic melting temperature in a large rotating barrel, then introduce chunked mixed plastic, and rotate until a synthstone dough is formed. Then load the dough into a die extruder and produce the desired mechanical shapes by slicing a die formed extrusion. I’d call this the synthstone gnocci process, if it was effective.

I never do stock picks.

Largely because I don’t spend a lot of time researching stocks. But as I have just reached a milestone in my work project utilizing NVidia Jetson Nano, and just ordered a personal Jetson nano to build a home workstation, I decided to check out the stock. The P/E is at over 50 now, after a lot of stock gains this year (no doubt resulting from the market anticipating what I’ve learned practically).

Such a high P/E suggests that the stock is over-valued, but I see incredible long term profitability for NVidia, as their GPUs overtake CPUs as the dominant tool for massively parallel computing power, whether it is cloud based or within local desktops and laptops. And with the growth of distributed home voice recognition systems (such as Alexa and OK Google), all of which require massively parallel cloud computing with machine learning, we can only expect more demand for NVidia products, and as those home assistant systems are upgraded to offer more and more capability, long term demand is assured.