June 15, 2020
Readings of Interest #1
Rather than posting articles of interest as I come across them, I’ve decided to collect them and share them in batches weekly(ish). I plan to focus on text (articles and books), because I often find written opinions more concise and well thought out than podcasts.
Articles & Data
Plastic rain is the new acid rain shared some numbers from a shocking study about how microplastics not only pollute our oceans, but also the rain and air, as well as how much of the synthetic material collected came from clothing. “After collecting rainwater and air samples for 14 months, they calculated that over 1,000 metric tons of microplastic particles fall into 11 protected areas in the western US each year. That’s the equivalent of over 120 million plastic water bottles. “We just did that for the area of protected areas in the West, which is only 6 percent of the total US area,” says lead author Janice Brahney, an environmental scientist at Utah State University. “The number was just so large, it’s shocking.””
Michael Pollan is a great writer, so it stands to say that I could have quoted most of his article, The Sickness in Our Food Supply. Our food system has been and remains broken, and the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing more weaknesses and vulnerabilities in how we grow and produce food in the US. “Most of what we grow in this country is not food exactly, but rather feed for animals and the building blocks from which fast food, snacks, soda, and all the other wonders of food processing, such as high-fructose corn syrup, are manufactured.”
Quite the condemnation of foodie culture here. One simple point made a big impact on me. “Watching so many Americans die, and realizing that so many of them were made sicker and more vulnerable in large part because they had no access to nutrition made the recipe revelers of foodie culture seem not just slightly ridiculous but outright insufferable.”
If you want to take a deep but practical dive into LED lighting for your house, Ben Brooks took us there in this week’s Member Journal (paywall).
Some refute the serious nature of the COVID-19 pandemic with the argument that “more people die from x than COVID”. This visualization should refute that. (Thanks Patrick)
Some COVID-19 data sources I’ve been finding useful: How We Reopen Safely, NY Times Dashboard.
Finished up Ballistic by Marko Kloos the second book in The Palladium Wars series. I enjoy throwing an easy sci-fi read occasionally, and I’ve enjoyed all of Marko’s books (check out his Frontlines series as well).
Started White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. I’m only about 20% of the way through, but found it interesting how she defines racism. Everyone has prejudices and when acted upon, those prejudices become discrimination. Racism has a societal definition: “When a racial group’s collective prejudice is backed by the power of legal authority and institutional control, it is transformed into racism, a far-reaching system that functions independently from the intentions or self-images of individual actors.”
June 11, 2020
MIT Libraries End Contract With Elsevier Over Open Access
Standing by its commitment to provide equitable and open access to scholarship, MIT has ended negotiations with Elsevier for a new journals contract. Elsevier was not able to present a proposal that aligned with the principles of the MIT Framework for Publisher Contracts.
This is a big deal for the academic publishing world. Journal publishers have retained their old fashioned business models from the days of printing and distributing paper journals to the detriment of open dialogue in the scientific community. Elsevier has even gone as far as fighting open access policies for publicly funded research. Unsurprisingly, the MIT Libraries has a great page with details.
July 3, 2017
If you haven’t heard of it, Forecast Advisor rates the accuracy of many weather services forecasts over the past month and year. In my case, Weather Underground (WU) is almost always the best. In my search for weather apps, I’ve limited it to those that use WU.
Official WU Apps
Weather Underground - Was my default weather app for years until I discovered Hello Weather (see next section).
WU Storm - I use Storm to look up historical weather data. Provides some additional layers on the radar.
Apps With WU as a Data Source
Hello Weather - Hello Weather has become my favorite weather app as the interface is data dense but still very clean. If you subscribe to the Fan Club, you get the option to use WU for the forecast and Dark Sky for rain. This is a very unique (and useful) combination.
The only other two apps that I’ve found that use WU data are Clear Day and Weather Mate Pro, but I haven’t tried either as their interfaces look awful from the screenshots. If you know of any others, I’d love to hear about them.
CARROT Weather has released a huge update that includes an option to use WU + Dark Sky (you must have the Ultrapremium subscription to access this option). The widget isn’t quite as good as the one from Hello Weather, but I do really like the customization options for Watch complications and the widget.