Brandon's Notepad

April 9, 2020

April 9, 2020: Clipper Guards, Wheel Alignment, Capillary Action

Clipper Guards

With all of the hair salons temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are resorting to having their hair cut at home. This is something that many of us haven’t experienced or even attempted for decades. Clippers make the job much easier, especially for the boys, who often opt for a short buzz in the back if not all the way around. Of course, this coupled with the current health situation has led to a sudden shortage of clippers on the retail market. Ours will arrive eventually. In researching the options, I paid special attention to the accessories, and the guards most of all. These are the plastic combs that attach to the head of the clippers that keep the blades a constant distance from the scalp, resulting in a uniform cut (i.e. no uneven patches were the clippers got too close!). For a long time, my default request was a #3 cut, scissors on top. But what exactly does “#3” mean and is it the same for all clippers? As it turns out, the guard sizes are more-or-less standardized. The most common interval is 1/8-inch increments, so a #1 guard is 1/8-inch, #2 is 1/4-inch, and so on. Most clipper sets will include guards up to and including the 1-inch #8. There is some variation between manufacturers. Out of curiosity, I did a search for European clipper guards, and it appears that the same English/Imperial increments are used, but an approximate length in millimeters is presented to differentiate them. An eighth of an inch is approximately (but not exactly) 3mm, so the first eight guards are listed as 3, 6, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, and 25mm.

Wheel Alignment

True story. I recently put my car in for an oil change and a few other minor services, including an alignment. When the report came back at the end of the visit, it said that one of the angles (caster/camber/toe; I don’t recall which it was now) was off by 0.25°. I decided to test the service rep a bit and asked him if that was a lot. I could tell immediately that I caught him off guard, because he asked to see the report, uttered a long “ummmmm”, and looked around the room (I assume) for a nearby mechanic. After a short pause, he pointed to the 0.25° pre-alignment metric and with confidence said, “You know what a 45° angle looks like, right? This is about half that, so yeah, that was pretty big.” I just nodded, thanked him, and drove away amazed that I had managed to get around town for so long without doing donuts up and down the road.

Capillary Action

Here is a neat experiment for the kids. Place six juice glasses on the counter or table arranged in a circle (or hexagon?) as close together as possible. Fill every other glass with water (i.e. empty, full, empty, full…etc.) all to the same level, about three-quarters full. In the three glasses containing water, add a few drops of food coloring (different colors; red, yellow, and blue are good choices) and stir well. Now take six napkins or paper towel squares, roll or fold each, and bend in the middle. Drape the napkins over the rims of the glasses such that one end of each napkin is in a glass with colored water and the other end is in one of the empty glasses adjacent to it. When finished, the six glasses should be “chained” together with the napkins. Now wait. Eventually you will see water gathering in the bottom of the empty glasses. The colors will mix, proving that some of the water is coming from the glass on the left and some from the glass on the right. If you took my advice on using the three primary colors (red, yellow and blue), then the glasses that started off empty will contain the secondary colors (orange, green and purple). This transfer of water will continue until equilibrium is reached and all of the glasses contain the same amount. This effect, called capillary action (and a few other names) is caused by a combination of surface tension and adhesive forces. [Note: the adult version of this experiment works as follows. Brew a cup of coffee. Place a napkin – or better yet, a super-absorbent paper towel – on top of the cup because a fly is loose in the house. Get distracted with some other vital task, like checking your blog stats or killing the fly. When the center of the napkin or towel eventually absorbs enough steam from the coffee, it will sink into the cup and a few minutes later, coffee will have transferred from the cup to the place mat and/or the super-absorbent and now super-stained table cloth.]

 

April 7, 2020

April 7, 2020: COVID-19 Dashboards, SafeYouTube

COVID-19 Dashboards

I doubt that anyone reading this is unaware of the current COVID-19 pandemic and the effect it has had on the world over the past few months. I really didn’t want to blog about it at all, but it’s really hard to ignore, so here we are. The following are a couple of dashboards I’ve been using to monitor the spread of the disease.

nCoV2019.live – This has been my go-to dashboard from the beginning of the pandemic. It was created by a very enterprising high school student in Washington State by the name of Avi Schiffmann. I like it because it looks nice on mobile and breaks down the statistics not only by country/region, but also by State (so I can keep an eye on Texas, of course). There is also a recovery and fatality rate shown for each section, which I think were added recently.

covid19dashboards.com – This site has a lot of graphs to play with. You can look at growth by state, projected mortality rates, all sorts of stuff. And on many charts, you can highlight specific states and see how they are faring against the national average. The “Deaths per Capita” is the chart I’ve been watching the closest.

SafeYouTube

Distance education is a new and interesting challenge, as many parents around the world are now discovering, especially when there is a variety of solutions and technologies being utilized with little or no consistency. Instructional videos have been my biggest peeve so far. Some teachers upload MOV files directly from their phones to Google Classroom, but most upload them to YouTube…which, unfortunately, we block as part of our parental-control regimen. He had to loosen controls for a while and hope for the best.

Thankfully, one of the teachers started publishing links to her videos using SafeYouTube.net. The great news is that anyone can generate links, even parents. Just visit the site and paste the URL to any YouTube video and a new link will be generated for you. Not only does the new page exclude all of the excess page elements, like search capabilities, related/suggested videos and comments, but the viewer doesn’t get blocked (at least not with our setup, but I cannot guarantee it will work perfectly for everyone without some additional configuration).

I had been toying with the idea of writing some sort of proxy server that would cache requested videos and present them in a similar fashion, but now there’s no need. The site has an API too, so I may end up creating a self-service function that will save me from having to generate links by hand. They will only be able to generate links using YouTube URLs they already have.

Sharing & Feedback

I have found the resources covered in this post to be incredibly helpful, so please, share this post with your friends. If you have questions or comments about the items above, please leave them in the comment section below or feel free to send them to me via Twitter (@brandonsnotepad). Thanks!

December 27, 2017

Stargazing

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I have always been fascinated by the stars. When I was young, it was the mythology that captured my imagination, and only as an adult, the science.

For now, this is a growing list of stargazing-related articles. I am certain that some logical organization will eventually emerge.



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