We Astronomers

- Rebecca Elson from A Responsibility to Awe

We astronomers are nomads,
Merchants, circus people,
All the earth our tent.

We are industrious.
We breed enthusiasms,
Honour our responsibility to awe.

But the universe has moved a long way off.
Sometimes, I confess,
Starlight seems too sharp,

And like the moon
I bend my face to the ground,
To the small patch where each foot falls,

Before it falls,
And I forget to ask questions,
And only count things.

I’ve been reading Rebecca’s work A Responsibility to Awe. It’s a magnificent tribute to some of humanity’s greatest characteristics. Imagination. Wonder. Love. Hope. Reading the 6th line of this poem pricked me deep in my heart. I have been blessed in life. I’ve sat front row to so many awe inspiring events. One event I will never forget is laying out above 13,000 feet in New Mexico on a perfectly clear July evening. I was camped in a saddle and below me a thunderstorm was raging. I was above the clouds. Cracks from lightening bolts echoed for what seemed like hours. Above me was the Milky Way in all her glory. I watched for four hours as she seemed to rotate above me. That evening I realized that while I was insignificant, I was important. I was a part of everything and everything a part of me. I had no purpose that night other than to observe. I think that was enough.

I ended that night counting stars. I counted into the thousands before I fell asleep.

Renovation: New Windows

Last week I had new windows installed at the house. The old windows were single pane aluminum frame and were very energy inefficient. The new windows have a much better energy rating and are already making the house more comfortable. They look better also.

Old Windows Old from outside

New Windows New

Old Windows Inside Old from inside

New Windows Inside New from inside

Renovation: Front Doors

I liked the style of the old front doors. The glass cutouts were nice although the blinds were broken and dated. New HOA rules stipulate that all units must have solid 6-panel doors. I replaced the old doors with new fiberglass doors and proper water sills.

Old Front Doors
I like the style of the old doors but they didn’t meet current guidelines.

New Front Doors
The new doors have proper water sills and good weather stripping. I prefer the glass cutouts of the old windows but the extra insulation on the new doors will be nice.

New Front Doors after painting
After installation I painted the doors. The color is Sherwin Williams Endless Sea SW9150. I applied two coats of paint, then very light sanding, followed by a third coat of paint. The finish is great and I like the blue accent. It’s a small change but I’m very happy with it.

Renovation: Patio Doors

While going through my divorce I moved into a condominium. The rent was well below market for the area. I had good landlords and they were happy to keep the rent stable since I handled maintenance myself. I continued to rent for two years after my divorce was finalized. The price was good and the location is very close to my kids. I’ve gotten to know my neighbors and the area is nice. I offered to buy the unit. The landlords weren’t interested at first but they came back to me a year later. They are going into retirement. They offered a very good price so I bought the unit around the end of last year.

These condominiums were built in 1984. Several units were hit hard by flooding during Tropical Storm Allison. During the financial crisis a large percentage of the units were abandoned and several investors scooped them up as rental properties at 30% of market value. Those investors have been selling off the units for several years now and new owners are improving the units. My unit was in better shape than many but it still needs some TLC.

My plans will probably fall victim to the budget. There are a few structural repairs that are necessary and those could become expensive. I also think I’ll have to upgrade the HVAC. I’m hoping the efficiency improvements I make to the doors, windows, and sub-floor eliminate the immediate need for HVAC replacement. I’ve run some calculations on my energy consumption changes over the past year and my heat loss/gain and I think the HVAC must go. I’ll know for sure by June.

While I prepare for the bigger projects I decided to update the doors and windows. My old doors were not well insulated, did not meet the HOA nor windstorm guidelines and were leaking around the old weatherstripping. I’ll replace the windows in early May. I did the doors this week.

Rear Patio Sliding Door
The old patio door was single pane with an aluminum frame. It leaked around the edges in hard rain, the only type we get in Houston.

Rear Patio with Door Removed
The jambs on newer style doors are larger than the original. I couldn’t find any markings on the old door so I don’t know exactly how old it was or when it was installed. It took some work to prepare the opening for the new door.

Rear Patio Sliding Door Before Painting
The new door went in well. It is now flush against the inside of the wall and was just slightly thinner than the wall so some trim work was necessary.

Rear Patio Sliding Door After Painting
Everything really looks good after painting the trim. This is Sherwin Williams Alabaster SW7008.

Rear Patio Sliding Door Inside
I really like the flush mount look. I made a few measurements last night and the insulation factor is better. They let though significantly less noise as well. This was a nice start to the project.

Project POCKIT: Modular Electronics Platform

Billed as a “new kind of computer - it’s made for the physical world”, Project POCKIT is an ambitious and extremely well designed, modular IoT/edge computing device. It is made with a Pi-CM4 base board and hot swappable blocks that feature cameras, buttons, sliders, displays, I/O, storage, and so much more. The build quality is phenomenal. What sets this project apart is the software. POCKIT already consists of a large number of programs or applications, but the magic is an algorithm that identifies attached modules and quickly reconfigures itself to create dynamic useful systems on-the-fly.

You have to see it to fully understand. Check it out at

Applescript to Change Scroll Direction

I am currently using my MacBook Pro as my main computer. I have a new dock that is permanently connected to my monitors and peripherals in the home office. I don’t use the same scroll direction for mouse and trackpad so I need to change the scroll direction in System Preferences each time I dock or undock the Mac. There are several utilities that do this but I prefer to use Applescript and FastScripts. Here is the script I’m using.

	tell application "System Preferences"
		set current pane to pane ""
	end tell
	delay 0.5
	tell application "System Events"
		tell process "System Preferences"
			click radio button "Scroll & Zoom" of tab group 1 of window "Trackpad"
			click checkbox 1 of tab group 1 of window "Trackpad"
			tell application "System Preferences" to quit
		end tell
	end tell
end try

You might also create an Automator application with this script and call it using Spotlight or your favorite app launcher.

Marketing Chart Junk: I hate it

Intel Says New Core i9 Processor for Laptops is Faster Than Apple’s M1 Max Chip - via MacRumors

I don’t keep up with processor specs. Computers are generally fast enough for my needs. This graphic, released by Intel, drives me crazy though.

Comparison Chart

First, the list of caveats mean that the data is completely useless for actual comparisons. It is 100% marketing junk. Second, why is there a point at the end of the M1 Max line. I would immediately assume that this is the maximum power draw, but then, why don’t the other lines either end in a point or continue on to infinity? Third, what does the added width on the i9-12900HK line mean? Am I to assume some tolerance band for relative performance at each power? Finally, what is with the gradients at the beginning of the M1 Max curve and on each end of the i9-12900HK curve?

I’m not picking on Intel. Every manufacturer produces these bullshit graphics. I simply hate marketing chart junk. What a waste of effort.

Why we need to wear better masks

From Axios

The big picture: Fitted particle-filtering masks like N95s are up to 75 times more effective at preventing infection with COVID-19 than surgical masks, according to a study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Well researched article showing effectiveness of masks in the prevention of coronavirus spread. There is plenty of misinformation on this topic. Commonsense should be enough to tell us that masks work. Here’s some good science as well.

I have taken every precaution to prevent contracting one of the COVID variants. So far I have been very lucky. I am fully vaccinated and recently received a booster. I maintain social distance wherever possible. I’m tested on at least a bi-weekly basis. I wear an N95 mask. We had break-through cases in my family last year. All four of my children contracted the virus and I took care of them for two weeks. All of these measures played a role in my not contracting the virus.

The Allassonic Effect

Living Within Your Means

The person that makes $20 per week and spends $19.96 will be happy. The person that makes $20 and spends $20.04 will be miserable.

I wish I could properly attribute that quote. I believe it was published in The New York Times around the turn of the 20th century. It was true then and it is true now. Personal finance really is that simple.