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Techie, software developer, hobbyist photographer, sci-fi/fantasy and comics fan in the Los Angeles area. He/him. Also

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Mercurial View

I’m 90% certain that I managed to (barely) spot Mercury below and to the left of Venus from the grocery store parking lot just after sunset. Appropriately enough, the one other time I think I spotted Mercury, it was also from a grocery store parking lot.

It was like trying to spot one slightly brighter pixel on a high-resolution display in the middle of a gradient. Faint enough that if I hadn’t seen it in the same place each time I looked, I would have dismissed it as something in my eye, or part of an after-image. I couldn’t really see much more than the fact that there was something there where Google Sky Map said Mercury should be.

It’s really neat that Jupiter and Venus sort of bracketed the twilight sky!

That Blue Checkmark

Twitter Blue is what happens when you start treating a tool as a status symbol, so you throw the tools away and start selling gold-plated hammers made out of thin plastic.

As anticipated, they’re getting rid of “legacy” verification in favor of charging people $8/month for the privilege of having a blue checkmark next to their name.

Not that verification was perfect before, but most of the complaints I heard prior to the enmuskification were “wait, that person got verified but this person didn’t?”…essentially treating it as a status symbol, indicating who’s worthy of being verified, rather than one tool in the toolbox to indicate that the account really does belong to who it says it does.

Top of the Hill

Del Cerro Park, at the top of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, on a super windy evening. I saw two tumbleweeds roll by, and kept worrying I’d drop my phone while taking pictures.

I need to get out here (and other scenic spots) more often. Even though it’s not that far (one of the great things about the LA area is how close it is to sea, mountains, deserts, forests and so on), it’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day grind that you forget to step out and visit what’s right there, on the other side of the traffic and smog.

Photo album on Flickr: Del Cerro Views
Originally posted on Instagram

Still Dangerous

I’m not sure this fence is entirely stable.

Update: Here’s another section of the fence that I don’t think I’d want to lean on!

Photo album on Flickr: Del Cerro Views
Originally posted on Instagram

Be sure to wear a face covering when out in public


Seems like the only reason certain groups aren’t complaining loudly about the “tyranny” of traffic signals and refusing to obey out of “fear” is that the consequences of running every red light you see hit you faster than the consequences of not taking precautions against covid.

Prioritizing Trees vs Urban Heat

We know trees can reduce the urban heat island effect. A Nature Conservancy project is combining data on current tree coverage, heat, health, income, energy sources and more to determine where planting new trees would most help the communities currently most affected by the problem. (Note: The article’s in the context of Google’s role in the data analysis & visualization.)

I looked at the data from my local area, and it not only prioritized the areas I know are lower-income with fewer trees, it prioritized where people actually live, too. There are some areas that have very low tree coverage but are also rated very low priority…because they’re mall parking lots, light industry, heavy industry, office parks, etc.

Trees vs. Heat

Just walking around the neighborhood near work there’s a huge difference in temperature depending on:

How many shade trees? (Palms don’t help)
How much space between the sidewalk and buildings? (This affects both airflow and reflected sunlight.)
Is that space paved or plants?

Within the same block it can be…

Comfortable along a stretch with trees and airflow, even if the shade isn’t continuous…
Warm walking past a lawn where there’s a breeze, but no shade…
Still warmer walking past a parking lot that’s reflecting heat…
Unpleasantly hot in front of a blank wall that both blocks wind and doubles the amount of sunlight hitting you!

Expanded from this Mastodon post.

Wrong Number (Email Edition)

Have you ever abandoned an email address? Did you make sure everyone switched to your new one? If your old provider has reissued the address to someone new, your old contacts could still be sending mail to someone else with your personal information.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, but InformationWeek reports that Yahoo! users who’ve picked up recycled addresses are getting important mail meant for the previous owner of the email address.

It started off with some stuff from catalogs and clothing companies and I thought, ‘That’s fine, I’ll just unsubscribe.’…But then I started getting emails with court information, airline confirmations, a funeral announcement…

Update: Yahoo! is introducing a “not my email” button to report mistaken deliveries.

Well, that’s an interesting approach to the misdirected email problem. This might even be useful as a general solution beyond recycled addresses. I once ended up receiving someone else’s Sears receipt and promotions, I assume because of a sales clerk’s typo.

But I find myself wondering about the potential for backscatter, collateral loss of mail, and just how people will actually use it in relation to the report spam button.

And that’s just with the honest people who get the reused mailbox!

Update 2: For commercial email especially, XKCD points out the importance of actually verifying that the email address someone gave you is theirs, and not someone else’s address written as a typo, and Word to the Wise highlights some real-world cases they’ve written about in the past.

Originally posted as two link posts on Facebook and one on LinkedIn.

Venus and Jupiter Conjunction 2023

With rainstorms for the first half of the week, I figured the sky would be clouded over, and I completely forgot about the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter tonight.

Despite wind, rain and even hail today, it cleared up this afternoon. I happened to run out for groceries and looked up from the parking lot to see a blue sky with Venus and Jupiter right next to each other!

I snapped a quick shot with my phone. And then got out the good camera and tripod when I got home.

And…I think I may have caught some of Jupiter’s moons?!?

The brighter planet to the right is Venus. The almost-as-bright one to the left is Jupiter. Venus shows diffraction rays, but Jupiter doesn’t…but those dots lined up on one side of it? They’re in the right location to be Callisto, Ganymede and (possibly) Io!

I’ve got to remember to use the telephoto after getting the wide shot the next time I’m taking night sky photos with planets. Just in case.

Detweeting (and More)

Not that I’ve been particularly active on Twitter for quite a while now, but the way things have gotten, especially under its new owner, I decided it was finally time to go. I haven’t deleted my main account (yet), but I’ve deleted most of my tweet history, and the accounts I used for side projects, and I don’t plan on returning.

Mastodon has filled Twitter’s niche for me over the last few years (obviously different people have different use cases, so it may not fit yours), and you can still find me there at @KelsonV.

As for the archive, I’m slowly going through and looking for threads (and occasional single posts) that I think are worth keeping, importing them where they seem to fit best on this website, whether on the blog or another section.

It may be time to do the same with Facebook and Instagram* too. I haven’t been active on either of them in ages, and I’d rather own my data IndieWeb style than wait for Meta to go the way of LiveJournal.

*I’ve already trimmed a lot of my Instagram history.

Guest Posts Not Accepted

Just for the record, this is a personal blog for a handful of people (ok, mostly me these days), and we don’t do sponsored posts or guest posts or anything like that.

It probably wouldn’t have the reach to help your SEO anyway.

Purple Sunset

A magenta sunset in the distance, below the cloud cover, reflected in a bike path wet from a rare summer storm.

(Update: I located the original photo on my hard drive and replaced the square Instagram crop with the full version, which I also uploaded to Flickr.)

It’s Crop!

Interesting point at The Intercept: Don’t trust cropping tools for security.

If you crop an image for security reasons, make sure you know whether the tool you’re using crops the data (like most image editors) or just the displayed image (like embedding an image into a PDF/Word doc/etc.) If it’s only cropping the display, people can still get at the full image!

Also, make sure the EXIF doesn’t include a thumbnail of the original!

My advice: if opsec is an issue,

Use an actual image editor.
Save the file without any metadata.

(via Schneier on Security)

Update: Interesting that this article came out just before news of some actually broken tools for Android and Windows that do save over the data…but don’t properly truncate the file, so if the interesting bits happen to have been in the extra space left over, they can still be recovered!

Starbucks Meta

A bit meta, since both the art and the logo depict a two tailed mermaid with a crown, and the two circular light sources in the piece resemble the circular light in the room and the logo itself.


Um, no thanks, I’d rather pay for coffee across the street than take my chances here.

Eye See You

Spotted on a sidewalk in Santa Monica.

Full Halo

A full 22-degree circular halo spotted today, caused by sunlight refracting through ice crystals in the thin cloud layer. (It was around 65F at ground level.)

These halos are about the same width as a 1x photo on my phone (and most point-and-shoot cameras I’ve had), so I used the wide angle mode to catch the whole thing and then crop it down. I bumped up the saturation a little, but otherwise it’s unprocessed.

Hearts Among Us

Spotted at a park last week.

Amusingly, my phone autocorrected “crewmate” to “cremate” while I was adding the alt text. Considering this is Among Us, it’s not that far off…

This space intentionally left…

The Color out of Cyberspace

The Verge ponders: Has the internet been overtaken by the eldritch horror of Yog-Sothoth?

We’ve got this dimension right next to ours, that extends across the entire planet, and it is just brimming with nightmares. We have spambots, viruses, ransomware, this endless legion of malevolent entities that are blindly probing us for weaknesses, seeking only to corrupt, to thieve, to destroy.

It’s a joke, of course. And it would make for an interesting story. But it’s scarier that we’ve created the awfulness ourselves.

Update Feb 2023: With some of the AI-generated art and writing going around these days, the cosmic horror comparison seems even more apt.

Faded Guidelines

Some of the signs are still up, almost three years later.

Some people still wear masks, sometimes.

And some people still get covid, sometimes.

And memory of the 2020-2021 lockdown continues to fade.

Lizards on the Fence

~95% of lizards I’ve spotted since joining iNaturalist have been Western Fence Lizards. (Occasionally they’ve even been on fences.)

Once I found one that was identified as a Great Basin Fence Lizard!

When I looked it up, it turned out to be a subspecies of Western Fence Lizards.

Are you SURE You’re Registered?

A family member was incorrectly removed from the voting rolls. She hasn’t moved in about 7 years, hasn’t done anything to lose eligibility, and has been active in every election during that time. Even the local ones.

She cast a provisional ballot and is trying to sort out what the hell happened to her registration.

Lessons learned:

Just because you HAVE registered to vote doesn’t mean the state or county hasn’t lost your info since then through a screw-up (or malice).
California has a process for this on election day, but it’s better to check first.

What happened?

It’s not clear what caused her case, but she was far from the only one with similar problems in this election.

Santa Clara county dropped voters from the rolls through a broken de-duplication effort. And in Los Angeles County, over 100,000 registered voters are missing from the rosters due to a “printing glitch.”

I don’t like to be paranoid, but one of the two major political parties in the US loves suppressing voter participation in areas and demographics that lean toward the other party.

And San Jose and Los Angeles do lean toward that other party.


Never underestimate the bandwidth of a truck full of disks on the freeway. Or a pigeon with a datacard.

[A] company in South Africa called Unlimited IT, frustrated by terribly slow Internet speeds, decided to prove their point by sending an actual homing pigeon with a “data card” strapped to its leg from one of their offices to another while at the same time uploading the same amount of data to the same destination via their ISPs data lines. The media outlet reporting this triumph said that it took the pigeon just over 1 hour to make the 80km/50mile flight, whereas it took over 2 hours to transfer just 4% of that data.