Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Watching Wild Winds with Windyty.com

Today the rather awesome website Windyty was brought to my attention, which shows these amazing animated maps of various weather conditions over the entire planet, vector maps of wind speed being the default. As I was excitedly ranging to and fro about the whole Earth, I took a look at the Pacific and discovered the rather ominous scene below (you can click and drag to move in, and scroll to change the zoom level):

Those two spiraling vortices are hurricanes Madeline (left) and Lester (right), both Category 3 hurricanes as of the time of this writing, and both bearing down on the location of my abode. Some models have Madeline narrowly missing the Big Island, other have it making direct landfall, but they generally agree that it'll happen sometime Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning. Thankfully, they're also projecting it to drop in strength to a Category 1, or even a mere tropical storm. There are predictions for between 6–15 inches of rain, though we had a little over 6 inches last Tuesday and that wasn't even a tropical storm.

Lester is further out and thus more poorly constrained, but it's possible it could hit as well sometime around the end of the week, though again, it could miss and will likely drop in strength before that happens.

As I've occasionally said before, life's never boring when you live on a volcano in the middle of the Pacific! Looks like the wind's picking up a bit as I write this, and it just started raining as well. While the map above is constrained to show the weather around the time I'm writing this (August 30, ~2:00 PM), the one below is set to the most recent actual forecast, so you can watch it over the rest of the week if you want to watch what the hurricanes do. A hui hou!

Update, August 31, 12:00 PM: The wind pattern picture from this point in time is just so cool I had to share it. Hurricane Madeline is starting to head down south of the island, and it's interesting how the wind speed is high in the ʻAlenuihāhā channel between Hawaiʻi and Maui (famed for its wind-funneling effect) but mostly pretty low over Hawaiʻi itself.

Happy birthday Linux!

Well I've missed the date by a few days, but the Linux kernel (the most basic part of an operating system, that interfaces with the physical hardware) is now twenty-five years old, making it only a little over two years younger than me.

Amusingly, in the post announcing his new project, Linus Torvalds called his new operating system kernel merely a hobby, not intended to be a professional endeavor. Fast-forward to today, and the open-source nature of the Linux kernel has led to it being used in a host of operating systems from basic consumer-oriented distributions to highly-customized distributions running on the most powerful supercomputers on the planet. Linux-based operating systems dominate installations in pretty much every category except desktop computers.

Writing about Linux here reminded me of how I've been using Windows 8 at work lately, and while I generally prefer to say nothing if I can't say something nice, I feel like venting some of the frustration I've been feeling. I'd never actually used Windows 8 before, merely heard about its shortcomings from other, but I've now experienced it first hand. In no particular order, here are some of the irritants I've experienced in the past few weeks:

  • Random freezes for no discernible reason while doing mundane things. Nothing quite like opening up a new instance of your browser after just starting the computer, opening a new tab, and having it freeze on you. Similar freezes have happened a few times in the past few weeks. I think it's probably happened about that many times in the last year on my computer. I got Chrome to repeatably lockup on a simple Source Forge page that (ironically) Internet Explorer opened with no problems.
  • Things not scrolling when you hover over them with the mouse. It's a little thing, but once you're used to it it really breaks your flow to have to click on different windows in order to scroll them. Especially when it's something like opening up a file-browser window and the focus is on the search field rather than on the file window proper.
  • Not having the secondary cut'n'paste clipboard from highlighting text that Linux has. I didn't realize just how much I relied on it for casual cut'n'pasting until I had to go back to Ctrl-c, Ctrl-v for everything.
  • The Start Screen that replaces the Start Menu in Windows 8, and its atrocious design of flat, bright, primary-color rectangles. I'm not even sure how to open specific programs now, and I never know when something is going to switch to opening full-screen in Metro mode. And why are Computer Settings and Control Panel two separate programs??
  • A “Save as…” menu that always defaults to a fixed set of best-guess folders, none of which are ones that I ever want to use, and which necessitates an extra click just to get to a general-purpose file-browser. Was simply opening to “My Documents” by default too difficult or something?

Anyway, you get the idea. I'm really glad I decided to jump ship when I did, from Windows 7. Despite growing up using Windows exclusively, I'm not happy with how Windows 8 turned out, and having grown to love Linux in the meantime I can't really ever see myself going back to Windows. Linux is by no means perfect, but it's less hassle and frustration for me in general. It's like the old joke that says the best operating system is the one that aggravates you least and stays out of your way the most.

Anyway, these were just a few disparate thoughts about operating systems I had recently—a hui hou!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

So I'm a Secretary Now

It's been a bit quiet on the ol’ blog front here, so I thought I'd write something quick to catch up.

Sometime back in…I think June or early July so I heard that my church was looking for a new secretary, as the previous one left back in May. I was persuaded to apply as, although administrative work isn't my preferred job material, it's something I can do and it was proposed to me that it could be something I did for mutual benefit while continuing the job search.

I kinda forgot about it for a while, as I didn't hear anything back from the personnel committee till the end of July, when they invited me for an interview. To make a long story short they ended up picking me, and as of last week I'm now the secretary for Kaūmana Drive Baptist Church on a part-time basis.

Bizarrely, having a job again has somewhat sharpened my thinking regarding my future plans, which has otherwise remained annoyingly nebulous. I'm not making enough at my new job to be long-term sustainable (though it may buy me a few more months), and I either need to find a better-paying job (preferably in astronomy), or see about going to graduate school. Given the paucity of astronomy jobs that don't require having a Ph.D., and the fact that UH Hilo doesn't have a doctoral program in astronomy, either path is likely going to require me to move within a year, a fact I've been desperately trying to avoid facing, as moving means a lot of stress and almost certainly a less-preferable climate. (Ah, the sheer bliss of a climate where 90% of the time it's simply “comfortable!”)

But I've got to do something, and despite just starting a new job the writing is on the wall in regards to having to end it in the near future. What happens next remains to be seen, but there will probably be some big changes for me ahead…

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Comparing Edifices with SVG

I wanted to make a quick post and share some cool SVG files I found on Wikipedia the other day, because they're just too neat not to share. Clicking on either of the following links will open the file in a new window. Each one shows a comparison of multiple related things—the first shows a number of the largest pyramids (including modern skyscrapers that are somewhat pyramidal in shape) and the second shows various large bridges from throughout history.



In each case, mousing over either the pyramid/bridge or its name will cause both to light up. Clicking on one will cause it to remain highlighted, allowing you to easily compare two or more edifices. Clicking on the little 'i' in a blue circle near a name will take you to the associated Wikipedia page.

I really love these kinds of comparative schematics, and would love to be able to make something similar someday. It's really quite impressive what you can do with scalable vector graphics. I hope you've enjoyed them as much as I have. A hui hou!