Sunday, August 25, 2013

Opposite of the Flynn Effect

I have long been interested in the Flynn effect partially because the steady raise in IQ scores goes against what most people seem to want to think. Every generation wants to complain abot "kids these days".

What I did not realize is that I may be looking at too short a time scale. The human brain has been shrinking for 20,000 years.

Walk Scores in New Housing Developments

I went to see a bunch of model homes today. A few things were pretty impressive:

They really are selling like crazy. Essentially every one we talked to had raised prices since last year, in one case as much as 40%. Two fairly large developments we visited only had one home remaining, another which was over 500 homes was within 30 sales away from selling out. Not only that but there is a huge volume of new homes on the market. In total several thousand new homes are being built near me, many in areas which haven't had new construction in decades.

It seems to be universal that new single family homes are being built at above the 7 homes per acre where public transportation actually starts to make sense. Considering that the newer apartment complexes are even higher density it seems likely that another decade of construction and public transit will be less of a joke in Southern California.

Because they are on such small lots, third stories seem to be quite common. I felt like that was an unusual feature of the place I bought, but it is almost standard in more urban areas. Amerige Heights in particular did a good job of making a practical third story.

Another thing which struck me was they all seem really hard to be trying to hide from people. Even those which were not gated communities seemed to be trying really hard to isolate themselves from the outside world with high walls and poor pedestrian access. In a country where crime is rare and social isolation is common this seems a really strange way to set up cities.

The new home I ended up buying does a bit of this, but it also seems to be designed so someone without a car will not starve. I decided to see if my instinct was right, and looked up a walk score for every new development I am aware of which is near me. Sure enough, most new developments are pretty awful. Maybe I should be surprised more though by the five new developments which actually are classified as "very walkable" though.

Village Walk Town Homes, San Dimas88
Colony Park, Anaheim -                              82
Avo, La Habra -                                                77
Brio, La Habra -                                                77
Vintage Walk, Covina -                                  74
Lone Hill, San Dimas -                                   69
The Gables, Whittier -                                     66
Amerige Heights, Fullerton -                          60
Alcott, Buena Park -                                         60 
Donovan Ranch, Anaheim -                             58
La Floresta, Brea* -                                          55  
Dakota Meadows, San Dimas -                      49
Noble, Eastvale -                                               45
Summerwind, Brea -                                        38
Corta Bella, Yorba Linda -                               34
Sycamore Creek, Corona -                               34
Seacountry, Chino -                                          35
Sorano at Blackstone, Brea -                            31 
Davenport, Eastvale -                                       29
Westmont, Chino -                                            23
Arietta, Chino -                                                 18
Orchard Glen, Corona -                                    17
Hearthside, Eastvale -                                      11
The Villages, Santa Fe Springs -                     6

*Future commercial property planned into the site design, this will ultimately increase the walk score.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Well, I have hardly earned a green thumb, but I have at least managed to keep plants alive.

Right now I have:
Golden Sage
Garlic Chives
Chinese 5 Color Pepper
Weeping Mulberry
Albion Strawberries
Italian Alpine Strawberries
Alexandria Alpine Strawberries
Cape Gooseberries
Goji Berries
Goumi Berries
Lemon Verbena
Rat's Tail Radish
Strawberry Spinach
He Shi Kho Bunching Onions
Green Grape Tomato

Here is a month and a half of messing with my yard.

July 6:

July 14:

August 3:

August 18:

Albion Strawberries:

Alexandria or Italian Alpine Strawberries:



Green Grape Tomatoes:


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Air Bearings

The part of the hyperloop project which worries me the most is stability. The pods have to stay in the tube and cannot make contact with the walls at significant speed. The proposal was to use compressed air to keep it on the wall, kind of like an air hockey puck.

That just sounds implausible. So I did some reading. Turns out, you can buy commercial air bearings which can hold hundreds of tons! A few tons of pod shouldn't be an insurmountable issue.

Monday, August 12, 2013


When I first heard about the Hyperloop idea, I was sure it would just be a vactrain. They have been talked about for ages, but just haven't quite been cost effective enough for anyone to try.

I was right. After reading through their blog it seems to actually be something quite a bit more brilliant though. An idea to reduce the cost of a vactrain by operating at fairly high pressures compared to other vactrain designs. Like all great ideas, it is dead simple. Put a fan on the front of your train to push air behind you.

The problem is that a train will push most the air in the tube up to the front of the tube as the train goes along. By the time the train is at the end of the tube air friction will be tremendous because most of the five hundred miles of air in the vactrain tube will be in the last few miles. This can be solved by making the vacuum really good. Most vactrains proposed had really good vacuum pumps to overcome this problem. A fan is much cheaper than a vacuum pump though.

Unfortunately my fluid mechanics is not good enough to spot a flaw in this design if there is one. Still though, this sounds really plausible. We build long pipelines and linear motors all the time too so I bet that even their cost estimate is fairly good.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cambria Collection Drapery Rod

I just wrote an unhappy enough review for a product, that I am not convinced the bed bath and beyond website will actually post it. If it was Amazon, they would post it. Just in case it doesn't post, I am putting it here so that anyone considering a Cambria Collection Drapery Rod will move on. The cheap one from Target was pretty cheap but at least it was built well enough to be installed.
This is a truly awful product.
I had just got done installing another brand curtain. It was a little bit of a pain, but nothing too bad. This one was bad enough that I just gave up and wrote this review.
The real problem comes from two things, poor directions and poor hardware. The directions were so bad that I never got past step 1.
Step 1 "Attach Bracket Piece A to wall with the two wall mounting screws. Use Plastic anchors (included) if necessary"
No suggestions whatsoever as to why you using the plastic anchors would be necessary. Since the last brand curtain I installed included, I did not use them, and it all worked out fine I did not use them. I did know though that if I just followed those directions it would not work. I would need to take a lot of care to make sure that the rod was level and I would need to drill pilot holes for the screws or they would just not go in. These instructions gave no advise for the best way to do either of these steps which occur before step 1.
So I carefully measured out where the holes should go, got a drill bit somewhat smaller than the screws, and drilled holes to the depth the screw would need to go. Then I proceeded to put in the screw using a standard screwdriver. The head of the screw promptly stripped. Just too much torque was required to get the screw to go into the dry wall even with the pilot hole having been drilled. After several minutes of cursing I was able to get the screw into the wall all of the way, but there is no way it is coming out. The top of the screw is destroyed. Had this been a phillips head screw driver I used I would be less than surprised, those seem to strip all of the time. I was using a standard head screwdriver though! There is no way that should have stripped. The instructions should have given me guidance as to how to install that screw such that it actually goes in.
So I decided to drill a larger pilot hole for the second bracket. Same problem. I now have two brackets installed which are never going to be removed, and cannot even be properly tightened. There probably is some size of drill bit which will make this product actually possible to install. However since the instructions don't tell me what to do I am left guessing. I won't figure out the correct way to install this curtain until after I am done installing it.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The internet is for porn

I knew the internet was for porn, but it appears that it has got a bit confused as to the definition of porn. Maybe we will know it when we see it.


Getting Taller

I knew that there was a surge in urban growth going on at the moment. I lacked proper perspective though. Large buildings are coming online much faster than ever before:

Nearly 600 buildings of at least 200 meters—or about 60 stories high—are either under construction or in the planning stages. That would almost double the number that height within the next 10 years. Now only three skyscrapers are above 500 meters, or more than 1,600 feet. By 2020, there are expected to be 20 more.

Friday, August 2, 2013

LEDs are Finally Making Sense

I have long been somewhat skeptical of LED lighting. When I have compared the efficiency of LED lights and CFL lights they seemed to be about the same. It was difficult to justify the higher costs of the LED bulbs.

Having just got a home which was filled up with incandescent bulbs I am finally changing my mind though. There are finally cheap LED bulbs, I just bought about 40 of what appears to be a slightly upgraded version of this bulb. It is 800 lumens for 9.8 Watts.

I have a lot of light bulbs in my home. My best guess is 40 recessed bulbs, and another 40 divided among a bunch of lighting fixtures of one type of another. Were they incandescent it would be a good guess that they are averaging 60 Watts a piece. Turning on all my bulbs would be a total of 4800 watts of power.

Since the LEDs average around 10 watts, instead I am using 800 watts of power if I turn on every single bulb in the house.

Assuming an SCE tier three rate of $0.27 cents per kilowatt hour; running all my bulbs for an hour were they conventional bulbs would be 0.27*4.8 = $1.30. So I would be running up a bill of more than thirty dollars a day were I to turn them all on and leave them on!

Now, with the LED bulbs turning them all on is only 0.27*0.8 = 21 cents an hour. So if I turn on all of my bulbs on all day the cost is $5. Still not a completely insignificant amount of money, but at least I would spend less on lighting than lunch.

A more reasonable look is a single room. It is unusual for me to leave on all my lights, but quite often I will leave on all the lights in one room. My master bathroom has 8 of these LED bulbs, so a total power of 80 watts. If I leave on all those lights for a day that will cost me (24hours per day)*(0.27 $ per kilowatt hour)*(0.08 kilowatt hours per hour) = $0.51 If instead those lights were incandescent bulbs, that lapse of judgement would have cost me $3.11! Looking at those numbers, I just have to leave the bulb on for four days straight before the cost of the LEDs pay for themselves. Why would I ever buy an incandescent bulb?

So what though? Fluorescent bulbs have done this for a long time. Fluorescent bulbs have a lot of problem with flicker, short lifespan if turned on and off a lot, odd colors, difficult disposal and lack of compatibility with dimmers though. LED bulbs seem to have no downsides anymore and quite a few upsides.

Two bulbs I bought did have problems though. One was an odd pink color and another made an odd buzzing sound. It may be another year or two before the good bulbs take over.