Electricity Rate Cuts

Had a look at local Austin electricity rates. Was mostly interested in break even points for solar.  I thought there were only three tiers.  Turns out there are five, with the top two turned off for COVID-19.  So the biggest electricity users in the city get significant rate cuts for the pandemic.  Not sure what that is supposed to accomplish.  Why not a flat credit that would help less affluent customers, who are the ones that probably need it most?

Energy Charge (¢ per kWh)
Tier 1: 0 – 500 kWh 2.801¢
Tier 2: 501 – 1,000 kWh 5.832¢
Tier 3: >1,000 kWh 7.814¢
Tier 4: 1,501 – 2,500 kWh Rate suspended due to COVID-19 9.314¢
Tier 5: > 2,500 kWh Rate suspended due to COVID-19 10.814¢

Spectrum Internet Sucks

Been fighting this battle literally for years.  Back when Spectrum was Time-Warner we had this same problem.  There seems to be a bad node / Router that one technician told me was working with two of its four channels broken.  it seems to not be a terrible problem unless lots of people (in my neighborhood?) are using the internet.  Problem is today, everyone is using the internet, all day.  I keep getting the run around, with a new modem, a booster in my garage, promises that it has been fixed.  Below is an MTR trace from today.  You don’t even have to be a techie to see something wrong and see where it is.  The Spectrum Man is coming again at 4pm.  Have a whole document to hand him this time.  Next stop, FCC …

$ mtr -c 10 --report google.com
Start: 2020-07-30T14:05:56-0500
HOST: pi4ubuntu                   Loss%   Snt   Last   Avg  Best  Wrst StDev
  1.|-- _gateway                   0.0%    10   28.7   5.8   1.4  28.7   8.3
  2.|-- cpe-66-68-128-1.austin.re  0.0%    10   12.7  16.6  10.0  24.8   5.3
  3.|-- tge0-0-5.ausutxla01h.texa 10.0%    10  4501. 4356. 3782. 4718. 287.3
  4.|-- agg50.ausutxla01r.texas.r  0.0%    10   17.0  17.4  11.5  33.9   6.8
  5.|-- agg22.dllatxl301r.texas.r  0.0%    10   40.2  30.2  15.4  44.3   9.2
  6.|-- bu-ether24.dllstx976iw-bc  0.0%    10   21.4  24.9  16.6  41.1   7.1
  7.|-- 72.14.218.12               0.0%    10   52.9  24.0  18.0  52.9  10.3
  8.|-- 108.170.229.24             0.0%    10   42.0  29.1  18.4  49.5   9.3
  9.|-- 209.85.244.59              0.0%    10   21.9  25.8  20.8  35.6   5.0
 10.|-- dfw28s23-in-f14.1e100.net  0.0%    10   23.3  20.9  16.9  27.6   3.5

Back in the U.S.S.A.

I used to wonder what the collapse of the Soviet Union really meant for America.  I remember having a discussion at the time with a friend who thought it was a great victory for the US, and perhaps it was.  But I couldn’t help but wonder where we go from here.  The modern, post-War II America was more or less defined, for better and worse, by the Cold War.  What would happen with that gone?  I remember worrying about corruption, without an existential enemy to pull us together and keep a lid on our worst impulses.  Today it looks like we are traveling a similar road to the post-Soviet USSR, with our oligarchs and inequality and our divorce from much of reality.  From the New Yorker.

Why America Feels Like a Post-Soviet State

 

Lying S.O.B.s

The only reason for your education is so you will know when some son of a bitch is lying to you.

— My High School U.S. History Teacher

My old high school history teacher was a big influence on me.  This probably comes as a surprise to many people, and it is a surprise to me. He class was about as uninspiring as it gets.  It was lots of brute memorization.  There was no textbook.  You brought in a bunch of loosleaf paper in a binder and took notes. Notes is perhaps too strong a word.  He would list, say, a group of Spanish explorers the date they explored and the regions they explored.  You would copy this list down from the blackboard. We knew, up front, that this would be the test.  Memorize this list verbatim, barf it back out onto a blank sheet of paper for the test, and you get an A.  Seems easier today than it did back then.

This teacher was also known to drink a bit.  This being New Orleans, it wasn’t unusual to drink a bit,  but to be mentioned as a person who was “a drinker” in that world was a statement in itself.  Today it seems clear that some of these lectures were alcohol fuelled, but I can’t say that for certain.  I do know that out of the daily tedium, he would occasionally make some frankly hilarious statements, sometimes about US history, sometimes not.  I think they were lost on most of the students.  It wasn’t like we were looking out for these antic outbursts.  I don’t recall discussing them with classmates.  But I was paying attention.

The quote above is one of a few of his I still remember, fourty years on.  There always seems to be someone feeding you a line, usually trying to make you part with some hard earned cash.  I can’t say it has gotten worse over the years.  Maybe it has, maybe it hasn’t.  I do notice it more, and I always remember my old teacher, slightly red faced in a seersucker suit raving at a bunch of bored high school kids.

One of the things I dragged around with me, city to city, over the years, is that binder full of notes.  I’m not sure why. I supose in case I ever need the quickly get a list of the Spanish explorers of the US Gulf Coast, the dates of their exploration and the regions they explored.

 

Raspberry Pi Zero Sprinkler Controller

Wanted to upgrade my sprinkler controller but thought I would just buy one of the new internet enabled units on the market. A bit pricey, but probably worth it.  Thought about using the Raspberry Pi to make one.  Saw a few projects on line doing this but none that suited my needs. And the good thing about building your own is you can make it exactly the way you want.

The Pi 4 seems like overkill, though it is relatively cheap.  Then I ran across the Raspberry Pi Zero, a tiny version of the Pi with an older single core CPU and 512 MB of RAM.  Only $5, $10 with WiFi.  I was intrigued.

Bought some other bits I figured I would need, including a power supply with 24V for the sprinkler valves and a neat little relay module.  That is really all it needs.  Played around with the relays a bit.  Got the Pi Zero in and booted Linux.  Wrote a little python to talk to the GPIOs.  Looks like a little integration work and I’m done.  Could really be a controller for anything.

 

Austin Protest Murder

So, in Austin Texas you can drive a car recklessly through a crowd of protesters on a Saturday night, shoot and kill one of the protesters, fire several more rounds into the crowd, and not be arrested or charged by police.  Come on Chief Manly!  Really?