Thursday, January 27, 2022

Time Zones

When I was in the military, we were very concerned with time zones because our intelligence came from all over the world. The Department of Defense assigned a letter to each time zone (at least the major ones) and UTC was "Z" or "zulu." (Most people call "UTC" "Greenwich Mean Time" but that's not its official name. It's actually "Coordinated Universal Time." So why "UTC"? That's explained here.)

There are only 26 letters in the alphabet and there are, if I counted correctly, 34 times zones. Most are off by an hour from their neighbors but some are off by half an hour and at least one is off by fifteen/forty-five minutes. 

I live in the Pacific Time Zone of the US which is eight hours behind of UTC (UTC -8) except during daylight saving time with it's seven hours behind (UTC -7).

The earliest time zone is UTC +14. That's Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean. You'd think it'd be UTC +12 but it's 14 for some reason. I believe it's on the east side of the International Date Line.

The latest time zone is UTC -11. Again, why not -12? I don't know. That's for the island, Nuie, also in the Pacific Ocean. Probably also near the International Date Line

There are some weird time zones. For example, there is an Australian time zone that is UTC +8.75. There are a lot of time zones that are a half hour off everyone else. For example two in Australia (Australia has six time zones if I counted correctly), parts of India, at least parts of Afghanistan, and Iran, and Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada. 

There is a border you can walk across and get jet lag because the time zones are 4.5 hours apart (that's China and Afghanistan)(Assuming you could walk across that border). China has one time zone for the entire country, which must be convenient in some way yet weird in the western parts of the country.

Do you have to deal with time zones? Or are they just boring to you? Or do they confuse you? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Gas Prices

During the recent holiday season, I watched Die Hard, as I usually do.  There's on scene in the movie I found very disturbing. It's pictured at left. It's the gas prices shown that is disturbing. 

Now you can't get "Regular" anymore, because all gasolines have gone to unleaded. Today's "regular" is just lower octane unleaded. So I was curious, how much is 77 cents in today's inflation adjusted dollars. I used this inflation calculator and found out that it's $1.81. (Die Hard was made in 1988).

However, gas prices now are a lot more than $1.81. So I decided to see how gas prices have changed since 1988. I went to the Department of Energy website and it lists average gasoline prices historically, but only starting in April of 1993. So I started then. And then I adjusted them for inflation using data from this website. And I made a pretty graph of the data:

If you adjust the price of gasoline since April 1993 for inflation, that's the lower line. And the last number on that line (November of 2021) is exactly $1.81, which surprised me. But California has always had expensive gas. I'm not sure why except these days it has the highest gas taxes.

But gas goes up and down with the worldwide price of oil. And the price of oil went down during the first part of the pandemic because demand dropped so much. Then after the lock downs slowed, it shot up partly due to increased demand, partly due to the world oil market.

Also, I think gas is more expensive than in April of 1993 because of ethanol mandates and gas taxes.

So this was an interesting experiment. 

What do you think of this data? What do you think makes the price of gas change so much? let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

TikTok... Sort Of

Due to the popularity (I suppose) of TikTok, Facebook/Instagram has started doing "Reels" which are basically TikTok-like short videos (some even say "TikTok" on them). YouTube has also gotten into the game with "Shorts." 

So I discovered Reels on my Facebook on my phone (it doesn't show up on my browser-based Facebook). And I started watching out of curiosity. And now I'm hooked.

I've learned a few things watching these "Reels." One: people say the f-word a lot. Two: about every third video has The No Song as a soundtrack. Which was cute the first 500 times. And three: Some people are idiots, driving very fast on crowded public roads. Like 150 mph fast (they show their speedometer). Some run from cops which, in my state, at least, is a felony.

Some people try to scam viewers. One told of a method to speed up your internet connection. I tried it. It kicked me off the internet. So I reversed what I did and everything was fine.

There's two annoying text-to-voice voices. One is a enthusiastic female, the other a baritone male.  Another annoying thing is you can't fast forward to the end or rewind to see something again. If it's a long video, that can be very frustrating.

It must be against the rules to have swear words in captions because people will say the swear word but the caption will have asterisks or another similar sounding word. Considering how much people swear on it, this surprises me.

And sometimes people make the same joke or claims as other people. The exact same joke. That's boring.

The algorithm has learned that I like cat videos and car videos, so I get a lot of those. And a lot of Tesla videos. Some people have too much money, it seems. One guy traded in his brand new Model S for the Tesla truck because he was bored with the Model S.

There are people you see over and over. Like the married couple I call "The adorable couple." They are so obviously in love with each other and so sweet to each other. And they are planning on having a baby this year. Yes, some people share too much.

But what I've also learned is... it's addictive. Sometimes you learn something useful. Sometimes you laugh. Sometimes you're like "WTF?"

Maybe someday I can beat my addiction to Reels. But for now, I just plan to enjoy it.

Do you watch TikTok or Reels or Shorts? What do you think about them? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Things I Invented

Happy 2022! 

I hope.

Now on with the blog.

Robert Heinlein is often credited with inventing the water bed in his novel Stranger in a Strange Land. He also invented the remote manipulator in 1942 (he called it a "waldo" after his fictional inventor).

Arthur C. Clark invented the geosynchronous satellite. Or at least first did the math on what it took to make one.

But me, well, I "invented" some things too. I just had no idea how they would work.

For example, for a story I was working on in the early 1980s, I "invented" the autonomous car and the cell phone. I never wrote that story down because I never came up with a plot.

I "invented" rain-sensing windshield wipers. I thought they could use a camera to see if they view out the windshield was blurry. But that was just a few years before I bought a car with rain-sensing windshield wipers. And boy, did I invent a great thing. I love rain-sensing windshield wipers. I guess they work on the reflection of LEDs, or something like that.

For a college assignment, I "invented" a temporary shelter for astronauts on the moon. It's never been used.

But when I was a kid, I invented the internet. I thought "wouldn't it be cool if computers were linked together so you could access the information on them." This was around 1970. Arpanet was just one year old then. I was 10. 

In my novel Rock Killer, published in 2012 (but written long before that) I invented the Zoom call. The characters didn't call it a Zoom call, but that's essentially what it was. 

Have you had any ideas that came to fruition? Let me know in the comments below.