Nick, looking unnecessarily stern, as generated by OpenAI

Hi, I'm Nick. This is where I write about things.

It's been a very long time — way more than a decade I think — since I had a personal website that actually got maintained with any sort of regularity.

This means I am really out of practice.

In the intervening years, I've posted a few times at these places:

... but having my own site sounds fun for the first time in a long time. So here I am.

Lake Superior's North Shore

Lake Superior North Shore

Taken in 2018.

Levi Walter Yaggy’s Geographical Maps and Charts

What lights the universe's standard candles?

Humans are terrifying space orcs

I love when tropes get turned on their heads. In this case what if instead of humans being intrepid galactic explorers, humans are actually “terrifying space orcs?”

Read more…

The Art of the Shadow: How Painters Have Gotten It Wrong for Centuries

Getting things done: "We overestimate our short-term ability, but underestimate our long-term ability."

Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft

The 1976 song “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” by Klaatu showed up on my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist this week. I had never heard it before, and it is an epic piece of weird prog rock. It’s entirely of it’s time and amazing in it’s execution.

My first listen was weird enough to prompt me to do some research.

It seems that when Klaatu released 3:47 EST, the album containing “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” (and their first album ever in fact), the liner notes very unusually contained zero information about the band members themselves — no names, writing, or instrument credits. In the vacuum, and with Beatles reunion rumors swirling in the zeitgeist, the public decided that Klaatu must be an anonymous Beatles reunion album. The mysterious band did nothing to dissuade people. Albums sales soared.

Of course, Klaatu wasn’t the Beatles.

When listeners eventually caught on, record sales plummeted and the band eventually broke up.

An interesting story, but! A fake Beatles reunion isn’t even the weirdest thing down this rabbit hole. For my money, that credit has to go to the cover version released one year later in 1977…

… by The Carpenters.

Watch on YouTube

I admit that my familiarity with The Carpenters’ discography is (and remains) limited, but the juxtaposition of making contact with aliens and the soft, gentle sounds that produced “Close to You” is simply jarring.

Plus that’s one weird video.

Old Flash Websites

I don’t miss the usability, accessibility, readability, and discoverability problems these bloated, too clever by half, and very (very) noisy Flash websites gave us back in the day — but I do miss the audaciousness of the era’s designers.

Floor Lamp in White Oak

Added a floor lamp to the collection of furniture I’ve made. It’s entirely built from one 10’ x 7" board of white oak, with mostly dowel joinery (I did use two bolts into threaded brass inserts to hold the base steady).

Floor Lamp

A Hot Shower

Recently, and rather unexpectedly, I purchased a new hot water heater. I discovered I was about to make this purchase in the shower, as I suspect is the usual way.

After the hot water heater was installed, I took the opportunity to adjust the temperature of the new hot water heater to hotter than “default,” but not all the way to “your skin will melt off.” My hope was that the upstairs shower — which had always gotten “hot enough” but only when the dial was rotated all the way to the left — would now have a “too hot” setting that could be “rotated to the right.”

Happily, the plan worked, but a new problem emerged.

Let’s say the minimum temperature of my shower is Tmin and the maximum temperature of the shower is Tmax. If the shower dial can be rotated 180°, then each degree of shower dial rotation corresponds 1/180th of the range of temperatures:

T max - T min = Range of possible temperatures

When I increased Tmax at the hot water heater, that range of possible temperatures got wider — and as such, every degree of shower dial rotation now means a corresponding larger change in temperature.

Plugging in some real numbers, if the old hot water heater was set to 120°F (Tmax), and the minimum temperature that came out of the wall was 50°F:

T max = 120°F T min = 50°F

… then previously every degree of rotation of the shower dial provided:

120°F - 50°F 180° rotation = 0.39°F of temperature change per degree rotated

If the new hot water heater is set at the higher 140°F, then every degree of dial rotation now corresponds to:

140°F - 50°F 180° rotation = 0.50°F of temperature change per degree rotated

While it doesn’t seem that an additional 0.11°F per 1° of rotation (0.50°F - 0.39°F) could possibly make much difference, I assure you it is now much more challenging to find a comfortable shower temperature.

Clearly I’ve been thinking about this, while fiddling with the dial in the shower, quite a bit since my purchase.

Today, in a moment of serendipity, I bumped into a manifesto on shower temperature control from Ben Holmen. In it he discovers, and laments, that of all the possible positions on the shower dial only around 10% result in comfortable shower temperatures. He has the graphs to back it up too.

It seems that $500 solutions to this problem exist, because of course they do, but at that price a little extra adjusting of the dial doesn’t seem quite so bad.