The Oak Ridge Boys

The US announced that the new Frontier Supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) has achieved sustained exascale performance and is now the faster supercomputer in the world. It is similar to the sort of machines I helped build for the financial services sector, but quite a bit larger. This displaces the previous leader, the Japanese Fugaku Supercomputer.

For some reason this morning the mention of ORNL reminded me of the old country and western group the Oak Ridge Boys. Surely there is no connection. But there is!

The core group that would eventually lead to the Oak Ridge Boys was a country group called Wally Fowler and the Georgia Clodhoppers, formed in 1943 in Knoxville, Tennessee. They were requested to perform for staff members and their families restricted during World War II at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in nearby Oak Ridge, Tennessee. They were asked to sing there so often that, eventually, they changed their name to the Oak Ridge Quartet … In 1961, Gatlin changed the group’s name to “the Oak Ridge Boys” because their producer, Bud Praeger, thought “Oak Ridge Quartet” sounded too old-fashioned for their contemporary sound.

Frontier supercomputer debuts as world’s fastest, breaking exascale barrier

Are Electric Cars Really Better for the Environment?

Was having this discussion with a colleague just yesterday. It is difficult to pull in all the threads that go into the manufacture of something like a modern automobile, but here is a pretty honest reckoning. Takeaway: EV are somewhat more energy intensive to manufacture, but after about 25k miles, the overcome this deficit. My plan: drive less and drive you car (hopefully an EV) longer. From CNET.

Are Electric Cars Really Better for the Environment?

20V Power Tool Adapter

Havent done much in the way of projects lately. In fact, I’ve been dismantling lots of old house projects, including my electrified riding mower and my Raspberry Pi sprinkler controller. We are selling our house, so we are getting rid of lots of stuff, and doing lots of generic cleaning and repair. Nothing too interesting.

A long story with battery powered tools. Bought a 20V Black and Decker battery powered drill many years back. Little did I realize I was locking into future Black and Decker gear. Not a huge problem, but I probably would have bought something different if I had realized this. But I ended up buying a Black and Decker hedge trimmer and a leaf blower. The leaf blower was a mixed bag. Nicer than using a cord, but not much oomph or time on the batteries. Some bigger batteries fixed that problem and I bought a nicer charger.

I was looking to buy a small battery powered push mower, and instead of going with Black and Decker, I got a worx. Had read the 20V batteries were compatible, and the mower came with two big batteries. Well, they were just a little off. Couldn’t make them work with the Black and Decker equipment. Not a tragedy, but would have been nice if everything worked together.

I looked into adapters (there are some available to share batteries on some popular tool platforms). All I could find for Worx was an adapter for home projects. Just the plastic holder and two wires. Bought one and decided to cannibalize an old smaller battery pack and make my own adapter. Not as easy as I expected. Everything inside the battery pack was tightly fitted and even with the batteries removed, I still had to cut away lots of plastic to get the wires to where they had to go. Anyway, in the end it worked. Now I have batteries and chargers that will keep my leaf blower going for as much as an hour.

One Million COVID-19 Deaths in the US

Back when this pandemic started, in March 2020, I was trying to get a grip on want was going on. There was lots of noise and conflicting information. I remember talking to a neighbor and telling him my estimate was one million dead before this is all over. I didn’t mean this as an exact tally, but an engineering estimate. It was going to be more than a few thousand, more than a hundred thousand, but less than many millions. He seemed skeptical, but I still remember the hard look he gave me. I decided to document my concerns (Weighing in on COVID-19). It didn’t happen quite the way I expected, but here we are at a place that was unthinkable to most people. I also believe this is a very low estimate. It will take time to see what part of excess deaths get assigned to covid.

ERCOT urges Texans to cut back on power usage over weekend

The Texas power grid seems to have trouble with both cold and hot weather. It also can’t seem to get electricity from where it is made to where it is needed. Finally, it won’t buy power from neighboring states. All of this means electricity prices will go up, way up. I expect rolling blackouts as we hit records across multiple days here, and it’s only May. Anyone out there still remember Enron? That was the last time the Texas energy boys figured out how to make vast amounts of money while delivering less of their product (electricity). Could even be the same people.

ERCOT urges Texans to cut back on power usage over weekend