Air Conditioning

Growing up, I thought of air conditioning as extravagant. And AC for a large house, especially if it's poorly insulated or you only use a small part of the house, can get costly. On the other hand, AC for a single room is just pennies per hour, and if it lets you sleep well on a hot night or makes you more productive during a hot day, it's probably well worth it.

To take an example, this small window unit is rated at 5,000 BTU with an Energy Efficiency Ratio of 11.0. This means we should expect it to draw 454W (5,000 / 11) on a hot day (95F, 50% humidity) when running on high. Living in MA we have some of the most expensive electricity in the country, and at our $0.21/kWh 454W is 9.5¢/hr. At temperatures below that 95F it will be more efficient because it will draw less (I measured 332W testing this weekend) and you won't need to run it constantly to keep a good temperature. This brings it down to about the power consumption of a PC, maybe between 1¢/h and 5¢/h. A workday's worth is then ~$0.09 to ~$0.45. It doesn't have to make you much more productive or comfortable to be worth it!

more...
Simplifying Board Games

A few years ago I wrote about how I'd been playing a simplified version of Carcassonne with Lily. We stopped for a while, but recently we've played simplified versions of Ticket to Ride, Race for the Galaxy, Guillotine, and Settlers of Catan. My general approach here is to find a core piece of the game that will be fun on its own, and then add to it as Lily wants more complexity.

While the particulars of the rules don't really matter very much, some examples to explain how we're approaching it:

In Race for the Galaxy, the core mechanic is playing cards. In our first game you would play cards, both settlements and developments, by discarding other cards. Something with a "2" in the corner meant discarding two cards. At the end of each turn you would draw back up to five, which is nothing like the original game. The winner was the person who ended up having played cards with the greatest cost.

When she wanted to make it more complicated, we started using the victory point value of cards instead of their cost, and each time you played a card you read the number in the hexagonal box and placed that many victory point chips on it. Later we'll probably be able to stop putting the chips on it, but having physical chips to manipulate and count makes scoring easier.

more...
Shutting Down RegularlyScheduled

Three years ago I created RegularlyScheduled as a way to make it easier to coordinate events that happened on a repeating schedule. My main motivation was to make it easier to get together with my friends from college, but I thought maybe it would be useful to other people as well. Several years later, however, it doesn't seem to have been as widely useful as I'd hoped and it's more work to maintain than I'm looking for, so I'm shutting it down.

There are 44 registered users, most of them friends of mine, and two events. One event is a 1st Mondays and 3rd Thursdays dinner series I was hosting, and the other is a regular pre-dance dinner a friend organized. That neither is running right now makes it an easier time to make a change like this!

If there was no maintenance required I'd be happy to run it indefinitely, but it has a database, sends email, handles authentication, and receives commands from strangers over the internet. Perhaps it's more surprising that it hasn't required more work!

more...
Wrist Issues

I've been having trouble with my wrists on and off for years. The first time I remember, I think I was in seventh grade and I'd learned how to play a blues riff on the guitar that involved stretching widely while bending sharply at the wrist. It suddenly started hurting, and I needed to stop. This started a familiar pattern, where something would make my wrists hurt and I would learn not to do the thing that made them hurt.

Mostly this has been fine. I haven't had to give up things that are especially important to me, and I've been able to figure out how to do all the things I need to do. It did get pretty bad for me about two years ago, where I wasn't able to figure out any sort of mouse I could use for a while. Through all of this, though, I've been able to type, as long as I keep good posture with my wrists.

A week ago this changed. I'd been doing a lot of typing, and my wrists started hurting even when I typed. It didn't feel better in the morning and I decided I was going to try and spend the long weekend without typing at all or swiping on my phone. I put my computer away, set up voice control on my phone, and tried to give my wrists as much of a rest as possible.

Unfortunately, even after the whole weekend of resting, my wrists were hurting within about an hour of starting work on Tuesday morning.

more...
Wikipedia Edit War Update

A few months ago I stumbled into an edit war on Wikipedia. I noticed that Wikipedia's page on Jacy Reese was being, essentially, guarded from having any mention that he previously went by his full name. There was a pattern where someone would notice this information was missing, add it, and then it would be reverted soon after.

The main user guarding the page was Bodole, and someone pointed me yesterday to where they've been banned from editing Jacy's page for three months. The discussion there was another interesting window into how Wikipedia handles disputes, so after reading it I thought it would be interesting to review:

more...
Wrapping and Centering

In the early days of the web screens weren't very large, and people normally wanted text to run from edge to edge. If you code up HTML by hand, with no styling, this is still what you'll get. As screens got larger, though, this could lead to lines that were too wide for easy reading. Sites have typically handled this by adding width or max-width styling to force wrapping, and then usually centering this column as well.

As an example of this evolution, lets follow example.com with the Wayback Machine. Here's the earliest capture, from January 2002. No max-width, no centering:

Around March 2002 they simplified the page dramatically (reduce serving costs?) but it's still not centered or limited:

In January 2011 they made it redirect to an IANA page with wrapped and centered text:

In July 2013 they stopped redirecting and switched back to a simple page with centered wrapped text:

Most sites that are still served full-width today are ones that are no longer updated, like the Original HTTP Specification:

Or Sergey Brin's Academic Page:

The only major site I can think of that runs completely unwrapped is Wikipedia:

Mobile Wikipedia, however, is wrapped, even on desktop:

Once a site is wrapping, they need to decide where their text should fall. The two main options are "left-aligned" and "centered". All the sites above have chosen to center. Search engines are the main type of site I see today that doesn't center:

I've always been somewhat retrogrouch, but after spending some time with a wide monitor I've now I've come around on centering like I did on wrapping years ago. Yesterday I switched my main pages from left-aligned:

To centered:

Pages here that are not part of my sorry excuse for a CMS will still be left-aligned (example), at least for now.

full post...

More Posts