back from Boise
Thursday, November 14 2019
I had that overly-large circuit breaker box I'd bought at William's Lumber that I hadn't ended up using on my air-conditioning-wiring project. So last night I'd put it all back in the box and glued the box back together the way it had been. Today at lunch, I took the box back to Williams to get a refund. At a place like Lowes or Home Depot, such returns are automatic, since nobody on either side of the transaction has much at stake. But William's Lumber is more of a mom & pop operation, so the woman accepting the return seemed more suspicious that I might be pulling something over on her. She asked if the box had ever been opened, and I lied and said it hadn't. Then she called some other employee over to look at the box. He quickly determined that it had indeed been opened. But when he looked it over and saw that all the little bits were still in it, the return was accepted. Still, it left me feeling a little dirty to have been caught in a lie. If I were more like Donald Trump, it wouldn't've mattered. But I'm not deeply damaged like he is.
I had another good day with the Python script that has been automating the drudgery of writing a two-tier backend for the workplace project I have been working on. There are, of course, real limitations to what a script can do. For example, my controllers all have the same names as the underlying models and there is a one-to-one relationship between the two. But it's nevertheless a very functional backend. More importantly, it's very orthogonal, since every model has exactly the same set of controller methods, all of which accept parameters in precisely the same way.
As I work, I've been listening to a lot of the material from the YouTube channel of Isaac Arthur, whose interests center around the future of technology in the context of a vast universe full of exploitable resources (mostly stars, but also blackholes and all categories of known planets). He's definitely an optimist about where technology will lead once space travel is perfected. The sun, for example, is an enormous power source, though most of its energy goes unused. Indeed, Arthur's argument against there being any other advanced life forms beyond Earth is all the stars we can see in the sky. He seems to think we're probably the first intelligent life form (at least in this galaxy, but probably even in the others we can see) in a position to tap the energy of the stars and then spread across the universe in various (and increasingly alien) transhuman forms. I don't know if I entirely agree with his optimism, but one has to admit that Isaac Arthur thinks about this stuff in detail and always provided nuanced explanations. I'd actually had some difficulty getting into his material at first, mostly because of his speech impediment (he does not pronounce the letter "r"), but now my brain automatically compensates, and I can even determine from context when unfamilar proper nouns should have "r"s in them as well. This was the case when Arthur brought up Michæl Hart, an astronomer who co-wrote a paper with someone named Tipler arguing that we actually are alone in the universe, a paper that lead to Congress pulling the plug on its funding for SETI.
I particularly like it when Arthur goes down the rabbit hole of what it would really mean to reproduce your consciousness, upload it into a computer, or be immortal (all things that technology could one day provide). How will society deal with the copies of a person who has committed a crime? Should they also be guilty? Does it matter how close in time to the crime the copying happened? And what would a person do if they had a billion years of available life? Would they get bored after the first million? Would they want the option to kill themselves if life was no longer fun? None of these issues are addressed by the religions that promise eternal life, but when you really think about it, eternal life might be the sort of thing only a bronze-age mortal would find appealing. I hadn't thought about some of these issues of transhumanism, though I've yet to hear Arthur discuss, say, the changes that would come to entertainment once the beings consuming it have extremely high-bandwidth inputs (senses). (This is something I wrote about some months ago but can't find.)
Sometimes I'll hear something in the material I am listening to that will cause me to look something up in Wikipedia. Today at work that happened with the strong force, which I've known about since I was a teenager but had never researched. I knew that it was responsible for holding things together in atomic nucleii, and that was about it. The things I learned about it today, such as its three-pole "color" behavior and the fact that its strength actually increases with distance in some situations, made it all sound like some form of magic. It made the universe seem a lot less elegant, and more like something cobbled together from things found in a thrift store junk box.
On the drive home at the end of the day, I stopped by Lowes to pick up four "tandem circuit breakers" I'd bought online for store pickup. Tandem circuit breakers have two circuits per unit, though (unlike 240 volt circuit breakers) they're both connected to the same pole. Such breakers allow more circuits to be added to a circuit breaker box than it could otherwise contain, which I needed because the house's main circuit breaker box is completely full.
Gretchen had returned from Boise last night, and back at the house, I eventually caught up with her on experiences there. ("Boise," it turns out, is a shibboleth; it's pronounced "boy-see" instead of "boy-zee".) So she regaled me with tales of clear skies in a semi-arid land where temperatures had been in the upper-50s. She'd spent time both in Boise and in Caldwell, the latter being the college town where she did most of her lectures and readings. You'd think Caldwell would have businesses catering to the thousand students of the College of Idaho (a somewhat run-down liberal arts college). But no, it's most of what it offers is cowboy-related touristy crap. At one of its bars, it has a mechanical bull covered with a taxidermied cowhide. The students at the College of Idaho weren't particularly memorable except for their questions asked from an unfamiliarly-conservative viewpoint (one girl wanted to know if Gretchen has ever written good things about cops). But what was surprising (at least from Gretchen's telling) was the presence of so many lesbians, many of whom were morbidly obese. Gretchen also saw at least one confirmed Mormon and the ugliest church she had ever seen (which was for Mormons). The biggest surprise was in the College of Idaho's dining hall, where one could get both the Impossible Burger and peanut noodles (among other vegan options). (The woman Gretchen was staying with put lots of real mayonnaise on her Impossible Burger when she tried it.)
Gretchen also gave a lecture and a reading at the College of Western Idaho in Nampa. It was a small community college, but not as run-down as the College of Idaho, and the students there seemed generally more alert and interested in what she was presenting.
This evening I tried to open up more circuits in the house's circuit breaker box using the new tandem breakers. But I soon discovered they would not fit. The contained something called "rejection bars," which prevent them from going into boxes lacking a groove in the hot rails. I've yet to read any explanation of what benign purpose these bars serve when added to tandem breakers. But the solution in some cases has been for people in my position to break the rail away in order to make the breaker fit. I like to live dangerously, but I'm not desperate enough to do things like that any more. So I'll be returning the breakers to Lowes and looking to see if I can find tandem breakers that both fit my Siemens box and lack fucking stupid rejection bars.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next