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Residual Oil Remover

Late last year I ran out of lens cleaner. In the past I’ve never made an informed purchase of lens cleaner, opting instead for the free bottles given out at optometry offices or whatever generic bottles were presented on the counter of the closest drug store. This time around I thought I’d look to see if there was any specific product worth purchasing. I assumed that there were probably picky photographers who had performed a survey of cleaners for their camera lenses, and that their conclusions would apply to other optical surfaces.

Surprisingly, I found only one useful review: a 2013 post on on the Digital Photography Review Forum, which outlined a testing method for cleaning solutions and concluded:

Three branded cleaners out of about a dozen, after 5 test repetitions, walked away with the honors. They are: Zeiss Lens Cleaning Solution, Nikon Lens Cleaning solution and ROR Lens Cleaning Solution. At the bottom of the list was surprisingly, Purosol, that tied with straight distilled water for having absolutely zero emulsifying properties for removing skin oil in all 5 of our test repetitions. When I spoke with the Purosol folks, and asked “How does NASA use your product and for what cleaning purposes”, I was politely told, “That information is classified, and, we unfortunately don’t know!”

Between the 3 top reviewed products, I flipped a coin and ended up purchasing ROR, or Residual Oil Remover.

ROR certainly works. I use it on my Rudy lenses, my laptop screen and external monitors, as well as the screen of my phone. But because I made the purchase after I was out of my previous cleaner, I wasn’t able to compare it to anything else for a couple months. Later on I found a partially used bottle of generic lens cleaner from my optometrist and was able to do a comparison. ROR cleans better with less rubbing.

I don’t know what the contents were of that last bottle of generic cleaner, or how it compares to the other cheap, generic cleaners that I’ve used in the past. But I am happy enough with ROR that I will continue to use and recommend it. I have three bottles stashed around my frequented areas at home and work, and appreciate its ability to keep the clarity of my optical devices at a maximum.

Houseplants probably don't improve indoor air quality.

In reponse to the oft-quoted NASA Clean Air Study, The Altantic writes:

[T]here’s nothing especially wrong with Wolverton’s 1989 study. Its results “fall right in line with other stuff that’s been measured in the literature.” But taking its results at face value significantly overstates the power of plants, he said. Wolverton measured whether houseplants could remove VOCs from an airtight laboratory environment. But a home is not a hermetic chamber. It has open windows and doors, drafts and leaks, and much more clutter.

Recently, Waring and his colleagues reanalyzed all 195 studies that have examined whether houseplants can filter the air. They found that some types of plants can remove higher amounts of VOCs than others. But once you factor in the effects of working in a large room, none of the plants are able to do much.

Waring told me to imagine a small office, 10 feet by 10 feet by eight feet. “You would have to put 1,000 plants in that office to have the same air-cleaning capacity of just changing over the air once per hour, which is the typical air-exchange rate in an office ventilation system,” he said. That’s 10 plants per square foot of floor space. Even if you chose the most effective type of VOC-filtering plant, you would still need one plant per square foot, Waring said.

This post was published on . It was tagged with micro, air.

The Tube Roll

I carry a spare tube underneath my saddle.

The Tube Roll: Mounted

  • The Tube Roll: Unrolled
  • The Tube Roll: Rolled

With my Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires I rarely get flats. When I do, I usually prefer to use a patch, but sometimes you need to replace the tube. To protect the spare tube from the elements – UV rays, abrasion from dirt, etc – I wrap it like a burrito in a piece of black Tyvek. This is then stuffed underneath my Brooks B17 and secured to the rails with a 12” nylon buckle Voile Strap.

The package is easy to get to when I need it, doesn’t move until then, and isn’t very visible unless you’re looking at it. When I moved the spare tube from my pack to my bike, I wanted to avoid a noticeable bag like my Revelate Jerry Can. I’ve yet to have anyone steal this setup, but if they do, I’m only out $5 for the Voile strap, $8 for the tube, and a few pennies for the Tyvek. I can live with that.

In the case of a tire blow out, I’ve wondered if a piece of the Tyvek could be cut, folded, and used as an emergency boot like a dollar bill. I have not had the opportunity to test this, because I buy good tires that don’t blow out. The repair kit I carry in my bag also contains a couple actual reifenflicken, more so because carrying them increases the opportunities that I have to say reifenflicken than because I feel I actually need them.

This post was published on . It was tagged with bicycle, gear, edc.

While I appreciate the resurgence of personal email newsletters as an alternative to the toxic walled-gardens of Social Media™, I much prefer consuming that type of content in my feed reader.

For discussion groups, where I’m going to respond to messages and follow threads, email is great. My relationship with the newsletters I subscribe to is that of a consumer, and for that interaction I want good old HTTP and feed syndication. Kill the Newsletter is a free service that generates Atom feeds from the email sent to an address. I use it to keep newsletters in my feed reader where they belong.

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The Burrito Bag

As a cyclist in San Francisco, one of the great challenges in life is how to carry all the burritos you’ll consume. The quality of a burrito as a fuel source is directly correlated to its slopiness. If placed directly into a backpack, it will inevitably leak through the imperfect foil wrapping and soil neighboring equipment.

To solve this problem I revisited my DIY Tyvek Stuff Sacks from years past and created the Burrito Bag. The burrito is placed into the Burrito Bag for transport, containing any mess, which is later easily rinsed out.

Burrito Bag

The Burrito Bag is constructed from black Tyvek I had from another project, rather than a USPS Priority Mail envelope. I cut out a piece 13” x 16”, folded it in half and used the awl from my Expedition Sewing Kit to close the bottom, side, and create a channel for a piece of Technora (because it’s cool) and cordlock to use as a cinch cord.

The Burrito Bag is strategically engineered to contain dual burritos, or a single burrito with a generous side of chips. Actually it was patterned off of one of my original Tyvek stuff sacks, which I still use to contain my Trail Designs Ti-Tri cook system. It seemed like the right size for this application.

The Burrito Bag weighs in at 8 grams (0.3 oz), and when not in use folds down to a size smaller than that of the napkin you forgot to grab on your way out of the taqueria.

The Burrito Bag is multipurpose. Despite its name, it is also capable of holding a shawarma wrap from the neighborhood Lebanese joint. I even once used it to takeaway a sushi roll.

Burrito Bag

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Tightening the Bedrock Cairn

I bought a pair of Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals when they were released back in 2016. They are my favorite sandals. In addition to being great everyday and hiking footwear in the warmer months, the Cairns are my preferred running footwear year round.

Bedrock Cairn Running

My only complaint with the Cairns was that the adjustable strap would occasionally slip, loosening the sandal. The webbing would only slip a couple of millimeters over a handful of miles. If walking or pedaling I wouldn’t notice it, but when running this allowed just enough movement of my foot across the bed of the sandal that I would eventually develop a hot spot if I didn’t reach down to tighten the strap every 6 miles or so.

I mentioned this in one of Bedrock’s customer surveys. They reached out to me and suggested that when tightening the strap, rather than keeping the loose end of the webbing inline with the part connected to the wing, I kink the webbing slightly forward. This allows the buckle to get a bit more bite. The added friction from this adjustment has eliminated any loosening of the sandal on my runs.

Bedrock Cairn Webbing Angle

Avian carriers achieved a message delivery rate of 95% in the first World War, and were reported to reach 99% success in an Army study published in 1944.

In an article at At War on the Rocks, Dr. Frank Blazich provides a brief overview of the military use of homing pigeons and argues for their reintroduction as a response to electronic warfare.

Considering the storage capacity of microSD memory cards, a pigeon’s organic characteristics provide front line forces a relatively clandestine mean to transport gigabytes of video, voice, or still imagery and documentation over considerable distance with zero electromagnetic emissions or obvious detectability to radar. These decidedly low-technology options prove difficult to detect and track. Pigeons cannot talk under interrogation, although they are not entirely immune to being held under suspicion of espionage. Within an urban environment, a pigeon has even greater potential to blend into the local avian population, further compounding detection. The latter presumably factored into the use of pigeons to clandestinely smuggle drugs, defeating even the most sophisticated of walls.

Furthermore, pigeons provide an asymmetric tool available for hybrid warfare purposes. The low-cost, low-technology use of pigeons to transport information or potentially small amounts of chemical agents — or even coded cyber weapons — makes them a quick and easy asset to distribute among a civilian population for wider military purposes. During World War II, the British Confidential Pigeon Service of MI14(d) dropped baskets of homing pigeons behind enemy lines for espionage purposes, gathering invaluable military intelligence in the process from a wide array of French, Dutch, and Belgian civilians. Even as a one-way means of communication, the pigeon proved an invaluable military asset.

Via Schneier, who reminds that we have an RFC.

Oatmeal Capsules

When I began mixing my standard issue oatmeal I stored it in Ziploc bags. The thicker freezer bags were reusable for a couple months before they needed to be replaced, but I wanted a longer lasting solution. This led me to the Sistema Klip It 1520. At 200ml this container is the right size for a single serving. The seal and locking clips keep the contents fresh. It is durable enough to last pretty much forever, and the stackable design makes it convenient to store multiple units.

Oatmeal Capsules

I’ve been using these as oatmeal capsules for about a year now. Five of them suffice for my weekday breakfast, but the size is useful enough that I purchased a handful more. I use them to store tea and snacks like umeboshi, dark chocolate covered almonds, and baby carrots.

Tea Storage

Sistema makes a handful of other containers that can be used with the 1520 to build a modular, stackable system that stores well in small spaces. The 1540 has the same footprint as the 1520, but is twice the height. The lids are interchangeable between the two. The 1550 is the same height as the 1520 but twice as wide. The 1600 has the same footprint as the 1550, and shares the same lid, but is the height of the 1540. These four units work well together.

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Delta Drone

Last year BoingBoing linked to a video featuring delta waves produced by the idling engine of an ice breaker in the arctic. I found it to be a useful tool, so downloaded it for offline access. Later, I decided I wanted the audio on my phone. The video is a 10 hour loop, resulting in too large a file for mobile storage. To turn it into something reasonable for a phone, I used ffmpeg to extract the audio, chop it down to 3 hours, and add a 10 second fade on either end.

$ ffmpeg \
    -i ~/library/video/web/White\ Noise\ Sounds\ of\ Frozen\ Arctic\ Ocean\ with\ Polar\ Icebreaker\ Idling\ -\ Creating\ Delta\ Waves-gpW7iYfuGDU.webm \
    -vn \
    -ss 00:00:00 \
    -t 03:00:00 \
    -af afade=in:st=0:d=10,afade=out:st=10790:d=10 \
    ~/library/audio/misc/soundscape/arctic_white_noise.mp3

I then added ID3 tags from the metadata of the original video.

$ id3tag \
    --artist="Relax Sleep ASMR" \
    --song="White Noise Sounds of Frozen Arctic Ocean with Polar Icebreaker Idling - Creating Delta Waves" \
    --year=2017 \
    ~/library/audio/misc/soundscape/arctic_white_noise.mp3

The result is a 165 MB file of loopable delta waves, perfect for drowning out the world.

The original video has since been deleted (a reminder to download any data that you find to be useful), but is available at the Internet Archive.

Delta Waves

The above spectrogram of the file is produced by Spek.

This post was published on . It was tagged with audio, sleep, shell.

Isaac Arthur argues that O'Neill Cylinders are a more practical option for space colonization than terraforming.

In his video lecture on the subject he points out that the millions of tons of rock below your house are mostly just used to provide gravity, which can be achieved more efficiently by rotating a megastructure such as the previously mentioned O’Neill cylinder.

At some point someone ran the numbers on mass and came in at around 4-6000 megatons for the model 4 version, and if we assumed that was mostly dirt, steel, and water, that means that the number of cylinders with mass equal to our own planet would total over one quadrillion, or over a million billion, each having an internal area equal to bit over a millionth of Earth’s.

So if someone made a planet’s mass worth of those you would have a couple billion planets’ worth of living space. This happens to be about identical to the amount of sunlight the Sun cranks out relative to what hits Earth, a couple billion times more, and another notion that was gaining popularity at the same time was the Kardashev Scale and the Dyson Sphere or Swarm.

So if you found an Earth mass planet you could terraform it and now have a whole extra planet to live on, or your could turn it all into O’Neill Cylinders in a swarm around a star and have a billion extra planets’ worth of living area. And unlike terraforming a planet, which does require about as much work per bit of new living area as just building it from scratch, when you’re done you have a structure with identical conditions to that of Earth, since you can dial it’s gravity up to whatever you want, and light the thing on whatever schedule or temperature you want. You don’t have to mimic Earth’s conditions, but you have that option.

This post was published on . It was tagged with micro, offworld.

NASA Ames Research Center's 1970s-era space settlement project shaped a vision of the future.

Via Artsy:

In 1975, scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, dreamt up ideas for habitats that could house human civilization in space. Rick Guidice was a freelance illustrator with a background in architecture when NASA tasked him with creating the artistic renderings.

While the diagrams Guidice referenced might have envisioned how humans could survive in outer space, his paintings depict a future where humans could thrive. Lush English gardens and glassy ponds fill the floating platforms of cylindrical space colonies. Spherical habitats are flanked by reflective surfaces that mimic sunlight. A cross-section of swirling structures reveal rich layers of agricultural farmland. This was NASA’s modernist fantasy of the future.

NASA Ames Research Center Cylindrical Colony

More on the settlement project.

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On Scouring

Back in 2013 Brian Green published a review of the Lunatec Trekr washcloth. My showers haven’t been the same since.

The Trekr is a simple nylon scouring cloth, measuring 11” x 11”, with an elastic loop for hanging. It’s the same material as a synthetic loofah, but being a flat cloth it doesn’t hold moisture. At the time Brian posted the review I was on a campaign to eliminate sponges and sponge-like things from my life. Any cleaning tool in the bathroom or kitchen that holds water becomes a Petri dish for bacteria, in humid areas especially so. I bought the Trekr to try at home, and it immediately earned a spot in my daily ablutions.

Lunatec’s marketing campaign for the Trekr revolves heavily around the cloth being “self-cleaning”, which just means that the material doesn’t absorb anything, dries quickly, and every time you use it you are cleaning it with soap and water. I think this claim is accurate, though I still throw them into the laundry every couple weeks, more as impetus to rotate the cloths than out of the need to clean them.

Shortly after acquiring the Trekr I learned that it was just a smaller take on the Salux cloth. Hailing from Nippon, the Salux is exactly the same material as the Trekr, but measures in at a longer 33” x 11”. The larger size makes it easy to scour your back, as demonstrated by the naked lady on their packaging.

I now own about half a dozen of the Salux cloths for use at home, and the same number of Trekr cloths. I throw a Trekr cloth in my bag whenever I’m showering away from home – travel, backpacking, at the gym, or after the axolotl tanks.

To use either the Trekr or Salux, I wet the cloth, give it a few gentle swipes across a bar of soap (it also works fine with liquid soap), and then start scrubbing from head to toes. The cloth lathers, cleanses, and exfoliates dead skin – which, as we learned from Gattaca is key to leading a successful life in our future eugenic utopia.

I have also tried the Lunatec Scrubr dishcloth, which is made of a thicker and more abrasive nylon. It is less exciting. I’ll occasionally use it to scrub a surface clean at home, but for backcountry dish cleaning the spatula reigns supreme.

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The score to Blade Runner 2049 failed to live up to the original, and is the only thing that prevented me from scoring the film 10/10.

But as an ambient soundscape, it excels. The soundscape creator wrote about his experience cutting, slowing, and mixing the score. I keep a copy of his audio on my phone and play it whenever I need white noise – concentration, mediation, sleep. It proved excellent on an airplane a couple weeks ago.

Ambiance

Luv loop via reddit.

This post was published on . It was tagged with micro, audio.

Future Social Media Influencer

I ate lunch today at a park. There was a child, probably four or five years old, happily kicking a soccer ball around while his parents sat watching him from a nearby picnic table. Occasionally the parents would stop paying attention to the child and start talking amongst themselves. At this point the child would stop kicking the ball, and begin to scream “Look at me!” while stomping his feet. After a minute or so the parents would look back at the child, who would resume happily kicking the ball around – until the parents began talking again, at which point the cycle would continue.

At first I found myself thinking that the parents might do well to address this behaviour, but then I realized that this was an outmoded way of thinking. The parents were clearly setting the child up for a bright future in social media, where nothing is worth doing unless other people are watching you do it.

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Mobile Weather

Los Angeles is suing The Weather Channel for selling the data of mobile users. This behaviour shouldn’t be surprising. Most mobile software, from the operating system on up, seems to exist primarily to provide some base modicum of functionality in exchange for the privilege of fucking you in new and exciting ways.

There are exceptions to the rule. I starting using Arcus for mobile weather in 2014, and it seems pretty respectable. But it exists solely to display data from the Dark Sky API, which is something that a web browser is also capable of doing, thus raising the question: why install anything?

About a month ago I simply bookmarked Dark Sky‘s website and had Firefox add a shortcut to that bookmark on my home screen. Dark Sky’s website is responsive, so it works fine in any viewport size. I bookmarked the URL for my home location, allowing me to see weather at home in a single tap. Elsewhere, it required two taps: one tap to open the bookmark, and one tap on their geolocation icon to get the correct forecast for my current location.

I find Dark Sky’s data to be great for reporting on the hyper-local now. For reports that are wider in scope – either in terms of time or space – nothing beats the National Weather Service. They provide a mobile specific site that is perfectly usable on small viewports. Annoyingly, they don’t make use of the web geolocation API, instead requiring users to manually enter a location. When travelling I may not know what zip code I’m in or have a nearby address. To work around this I created a shim with a few lines of Javascript that geolocates the user, uses the resulting coordinates to build the proper NWS URL, and redirects the user to that URL. I also added support for building a Dark Sky URL so that I could avoid that second tap when not at home.

<!doctype html>
<html>
    <head>
        <meta charset="utf-8">
        <title>Geoweather</title>
        <link rel="icon" type="image/ico" href="https://www.weather.gov/favicon.ico">
        <script>
            function geoWeather() {
                navigator.geolocation.getCurrentPosition(function(pos) {
                    var currentURL = new URL(window.location.href);
                    if (currentURL.searchParams.has('darksky')) {
                        var forecastURL = 'https://darksky.net/forecast/' + pos.coords.latitude + ',' + pos.coords.longitude;
                    } else if (window.screen.width < 800) {
                        var forecastURL = 'https://mobile.weather.gov/index.php?lat=' + pos.coords.latitude + '&lon=' + pos.coords.longitude;
                    } else {
                        var forecastURL = 'https://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lat=' + pos.coords.latitude + '&lon=' + pos.coords.longitude;
                    }
                    var el = document.getElementById('result');
                    el.innerHTML = '<p>Forecast URL is <a href="' + forecastURL + '"> ' + forecastURL + '</a></p>';
                    window.location.replace(forecastURL);
                });
            }
            window.onload = geoWeather;
        </script>
    </head>
    <body>
        <div id="result"></div>
    </body>
</html>

Now I have two URLs bookmarked on my home screen that accomplish everything I need: one for NWS and one for Dark Sky.

Shortly after creating this shim I discovered that the NWS has a beta website that is intended to replace both the current mobile and standard sites with a consistent interface. This site does make use of the geolocation API, requiring the user to click an icon to get the current location. It is unclear why they have yet to deploy this to their main domain. It’s been available since August 2017 and the data on the beta site seems to be the same as the data on the standard site and the data on the mobile site. For now I’m sticking with the officially supported domains in my shim.

A locally installed weather program is useful if your requirements include lock screen widgets or notifications of hazardous conditions. Mine do not. These two bookmarks provide all the weather information I need on my telephone, and do so in a way that does not expand my attack surface in the way installing software does. They are indicative of the usefulness of this World Wide Web thing – an emerging technology that I intend to watch with great interest. I think it’ll go places.

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I don't know anything about, or have much interest in, high-frequency trading.

But some of the technology behind it is fascinating. This past summer the Sniper in Mahwah blog published a four part series investigating the use of shortwave radio as a low latency link in high-frequency trading. I’d call it the best piece of hacker-tourism since Mother Earth Mother Board, but I think it’s probably the only piece of hacker-tourism since Mother Earth Mother Board. It doesn’t have much competition.

The Kindle is a terrible device for reading comics.

It’s the wrong size. The E Ink display is greyscale. Zooming and panning are disruptive. A tablet probably works great, but I don’t know – I’ve never owned one. I solved the problem a while back when I discovered that I could simply rotate my laptop’s display via xrandr.

$ xrandr --output eDP-1 --rotate right --pos 0x0

Adding an autorandr profile for this makes it easy to jump to portrait mode. This is useful for reading any long-form content on the X260. Typing (or mousing) on the rotated device is difficult, so I’ll sometimes plug in my external keyboard if I want to do more than just page through a document.

X260 Portrait Mode

Bruce Sterling is at his best when speaking.

I’ve always found his novels to be underwhelming, but I’ll listen to anything he has to say. When speaking, the lens of his cultural critique is combined with dry wit, a rambling Texan drawl, and a faint sense of bemusement at the weirdness of the world and his place in it. The Long Now Foundation recently released a recording of his talk at The Interval, How to Be Futuristic, which should probably be retitled How to Be Bruce Sterling.

One of my favorite talks by Sterling is The Body in the Virtual World. Recorded in 1994, he was fresh off The Hacker Crackdown, completing Heavy Weather, and at peak cyber-punk.

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