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Mythic Quest: Everlight

I watched “Mythic Quest: Everlight” yesterday on Apple TV+. I love the show and this episode is a great bridge between last season and the upcoming season. It’s fun, well written, and acted perfectly. I’m looking forward to season 2. 📺

New Rare Earth Processing Plant in Colorado

I’m not sure how I missed this report from last June.

USA Rare Earth, the funding and development partner of the Round Top heavy rare earth project and Texas Mineral Resources announced Thursday that its rare earths pilot plant processing facility in Wheat Ridge, Colorado has received the required permits and officially opened.

Once fully commissioned, the plant will be focused on group separation of rare earths into heavy (dysprosium, terbium), middle, and light (neodymium, praseodymium) rare earths (REE’s) and will be the first facility to separate the full range of rare earth elements in the US since 1999.

Rare earth elements and associated non-rare earth elements that are often mined from the same sites are critical to every technology we rely on. We are currently in the middle of a chip shortage that affects the ability of everyone from manufacturers of automobiles to space toaster ovens. The supply chain for chips is vast and having a secure supply of rare earth elements is critical. Only time will tell if the Biden and future administrations continue to invest in chip and battery manufacturing technology in the United States but investments such as this are crucial regardless of where final production takes place.

New Release of PrusaSlicer

The latest release of PrusaSlicer 2.3.1 is available on GitHub with native Apple M1 support. I’ve tested it on some of my large 3mf files and it is noticeably faster and more stable than the previous version.

This a final release of PrusaSlicer 2.3.1, introducing native builds for the new Apple Silicon MacBooks, Chrome OS support, performance improvements in G-code rendering, security fixes and new 3rd party printer profiles. For full changelog on PrusaSlicer 2.3.1 series, please check the PrusaSlicer 2.3.1-rc change log.

The History of Race and Racism in Houston

Continuing with yesterday’s post I think it is worth highlighting this list of 20 books from the Houston Chronicle that highlight the history of racism in Houston.

Houston prides itself on its diversity. It is truly a melting pot with immigrants flocking to the city from all areas of the world, but Houston has a poor record when it comes to racism even today. I love my city but we must acknowledge that while we did not go the way of cities like Birmingham this is still a highly segregated and inequitable city.

Learn the past and work for a better future.

Reminder that Black Lives Matter

The United States has a problem with racism. It is a structural problem. It has been written into our laws for 400 years. Structural racism has led to persistent, systemic inequality across the country. This inequality should be an embarrassment to all of us.

Last year I began to realize my own complicitness, perpetuating these inequalities. In the language of human resources I am not in a protected class. Almost everyone is in a protected class. I am not. I am a white, anglo-saxon, protestant, cis-gendered male. I was born in the United States in 1980. I have every advantage that the world affords. I was not using this privelege to correct the wrongs my society has inflicted on it’s citizens of color.

There is a saying that if you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem. This is never more true than in issues such as systemic racism. It is not enough that we are not racist. We must be actively anti-racist because there is a fundamental equity gap that must be overcome.

I am now actively teaching my kids to identify racist biases and stand against them. I was raised that all people were created equal and only work ethic separated us. My kids will know that all people are created equal, that work ethic is important, and that systemic forces place unnecessary burdens on entire classes of people such as people of color, women, and people identifying as non-gender binary.

I have also taken steps to change the way my company hires. It is an ongoing process but I am happy of the steps we have taken. The truth is that by simply hiring the best candidate your workforce will become more inclusive. However, finding ways to overcome personal bias is difficult. I am proud of my management team. We are not perfect but our workforce is a better reflection of our community than many. We will not stop working. My team itself is comprised of the prototypical white male boss (me), but is 40% female (some work to do), 25% Asian American, 25% Hispanic American, 50% white (fair amount more work to do). Our teams are in better shape with 10% Middle Eastern, 16% African American, 50% Hispanic American, and 14% white.

I have become more active with my money as well. I’ve redirected a large portion of my giving to support causes that help Black Lives Matter Movement through Change.org and the local African American Chamber of Commerce. If we care about changing our society we have to actively support the people of color in our communities. I am not sure there will ever be a time that humanity can be blind to race. I am sure that now is not that time. We must realize that race matters, policy matters, our decisions matter.

There is a post on Medium that is now 4 years old. It started as a short list of things white people could do to support racial justice. It is regularly updated and now includes 103 Things. Read it. Pick something. Do something.

Writing Well Matters

Of all the things I learned in school the one I use the most and the one that has been most critical to my success is writing. Writing is essential to work because all work is, at its heart, communication. Being able to communicate effectively is a strong advantage. While writing is not the only form of communication it is the foundation for all effective communication. In my experience, the strongest writers are also the strongest presenters, and even visual designers benefit from the ability to write well.

I consider myself a strong writer. I am not a professional. If you follow this blog you may disagree. My process here is haphazard. I let ideas flow unstructured. I capture fleeting thoughts. In my work life I need to provide precise direction and to create documentation that is clear, correct, and lasting.

The pandemic caused many of us to work remotely for the first time or more often than previously. That made communication more important. My team communicated via Microsoft Teams extensively this year. This is a chat type experience where the ability to write concicely was valuable. We also leaned on email more than normal. Email can be a very strong tool when used as it should be, asyncronously. I also learned that I can smooth workflows by regularly providing long-form written decision papers. Documented procedures and standard operating procedures are well known and are effective. We have these but I can multiply my effectiveness when making a decision by documenting my decision and my rationale for the decision in a formal paper. This helps me to make better decisions and also gives my team a view into my mind. They can use this later to move forward without input from me.

Regardless of your age or position I recommend that you make effort to improve your writing. It will serve your well in school, work, and life. There are many tools to help you improve your writing. This article is a good start. “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White is a classic and recommended for everyone’s library. Finally, practice. The more you write the better you will become. Start documenting everything. Share it and ask for criticism. You’ll be glad you did.

Biden Administration Let Trump H-1B Visa Ban Expire

Last year the trump administration (lack of capitalization purposeful) banned H-1B visas. The reason given was the economic slowdown and unemployment in the United States. If you are not aware, the H-1B system supports immigrants with advanced degrees and is used extensively by technology companies, but also companies like my own that employ a large number of engineers.

On Wednesday, March 31 the Biden administration allowed the ban to expire. I know that many people believe the H-1B system hurts American workers. This is far from the truth. We hire as many Americans as possible and our workforce is American by a large margin. The supply of scientists and engineers graduating from American Universities in general and even more so that are American is less than the demand. Immigration is necessary for business in our country.

There is another narrative that H-1B recipients push down the wages of American workers. The market is far larger and far stronger than the H-1B’s power to suppress wages. The vast majority of H-1B’s go to the largest, highest paying companies. If anything H-1Bs are inflationary to smaller business as we must compete very hard for talent.

It is already clear that Biden is not what I expected. He appears to be far more progressive than any President in modern times. I’m not sure what he will accomplish nor how I will judge the rest of his Presidency. I’m certain his administration made the correct decision here though.

Tips to Secure Postgresql

This article offers some nice tips for securing your postgresql database. In addition to the typical firewall and roles the article also gives information I was not familiar with in this context, e.g. Server TLS, row level security for rows, and auditing.

If you are a novice postgres user/administrator I recommend this article. Keep it in your knowledge bucket.

Instagram for Kids

BuzzFeed News reports that Facebook owned Instagram is building a service for kids under the age of 13. From an internal document obtained by BuzzFeed:

“I’m excited to announce that going forward, we have identified youth work as a priority for Instagram and have added it to our H1 priority list,” Vishal Shah, Instagram’s vice president of product, wrote on an employee message board on Thursday. “We will be building a new youth pillar within the Community Product Group to focus on two things: (a) accelerating our integrity and privacy work to ensure the safest possible experience for teens and (b) building a version of Instagram that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use Instagram for the first time.”

One word. Nope!