2017 November 14

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November 2017
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Questions? Need an updated map? Email me andy@andyarthur.org.

Good evening! Mostly cloudy and 33 degrees in Delmar. Calm wind. Kind of a gloomy but not too cold evening after a rather dark and gloomy day, that got off to such a bad start with the bus running late. But I’m not longer bitter. I promise. I guess they need emission and inspection checks from hardworking individuals to make the state wealthy, so it can spend it on the welfare queens. Steal from the poor, give to welfare queens who always are illegally parked in front of the County Welfare office. At any rate the gloom isn’t expected to last too much into tomorrow. The skies will clear tomorrow around 7 am. But more clouds for Thursday. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Tonight will be mostly cloudy, with a low of 29 degrees at 5am. Three degrees below normal. Cool but not that cold. Calm wind. In 2016, we had cloudy skies. It got down to 34 degrees. Closer to normal. The record low of 14 occurred back in 1939.

Tonight will have a Waning Crescent Moon with 10% illuminated. The moon will rise tomorrow at 3:40 am. It may be clearing by then, so you might see if you get up way before I will be getting up. The New Moon is on Friday night with a chance of rain then rain is likely. The Cold Moon is on Sunday, December 3rd. The sun will rise at 6:46 am with the first light at 6:16 am, which is one minute and 15 seconds later than yesterday. Tonight will have 14 hours and 15 minutes of darkness, an increase of 2 minutes and 10 seconds over last night.

Tomorrow will be mostly sunny, with a high of 45 degrees at 1pm. Yeah, the sun at least for one day. But still three degrees below normal. Calm wind becoming south 5 to 8 mph in the afternoon. A year ago, we had sunny skies with more clouds in the afternoon. The high last year was 46 degrees. The record high of 74 was set in 1993. 4.8 inches of snow fell back in 1906. Long time ago.

Not a particularly nice weekend on tap, even by November standards. Saturday, snow showers likely before 10am, then rain showers. High near 44. Chance of precipitation is 80%. I heard freezing rain up north. Sunday, a chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 43. Chance of precipitation is 30%. Typical average high for the weekend is 47 degrees.

I still think I will take Friday off, if I can get it off. I got the square nuts to build the rack for my solar panel. Now I just need to find bolts that will fit snuggly, cut and drill the aluminum bars that I will buy. Maybe I will do that on Friday. I will have to see if my parents will be around, as I may want to ask my dad if I can borrow his drill. I have diamond-blades for cutting into the aluminum but lack a power drill of my own. Maybe I should think though about adding that tool to my bin. But first I have to carefully measure everything out so I don’t accidentially mess up a hole and things don’t fit tight.

But I’m staying in town for the weekend, because I don’t want to deal with freezing rain up north. I’m not ready to be out washing the road salt of my truck, moreover, I don’t want to get frozen in the truck cap, or have to deal with the extra patrols for the opening of the Southern Zone regular season, even if I will be in the Northern Zone. I’m still hoping to get away on Black Friday through that Sunday though. 

Traffic was pretty heavy coming home on the bus tonight, and I was pretty cheesed out on Facebook about those stupid huts they want to build in the Adirondack Preserve, and charge people big bucks to stay at. Public lands belong to the public, they should be free to use. Pay for public lands by selling timber, hay, and grazing rights. Some oil and gas development. Keep the facilities rustic and manage resource extraction so it pays for public use of the land without compromising it. I don’t get the environmentalists who don’t use office or toilet paper. Or those who want even higher fees to use public lands that should be free for a wide variety of rustic uses. Multiple use can benefit all New Yorkers, we don’t have live under the extreme idea that not a single tree may ever be fallen inside the blue lines of the Adirondack or Catskill Parks. But unfortunately, Manhattan and surrounding areas where all the people live don’t understand that natural resources can be managed for sustainable harvests for generations to come.

I put together a map of the relative state tax rates, but unfortunately the Google Maps export got messed up, so it won’t be posted until later in the week. It also sucks because the US Census Data on State Taxes doesn’t include local taxes, which actually makes New York look lowered taxed then it really is. New York has high state taxes, but when you add in local taxes, we have some of the highest taxes of all. Most states don’t rely on localities to tax as high as New York does, especially with the big Medicaid mandate that pushed down to counties. 

I continue to work on my light dimmer program. Been researching color theory and things along the line of HSV to RGB conversions, along with color temperature algorthms, as I want to be able to have very percise flexibillity in getting just the right light for my bedroom. Also rewrote a timer algorithm that is non-blocking of the central loop, so I can use the remote to adjust lighting settings while a ongoing mode is occuring in my program. I can’t wait until my RGB LED strip arrives, along with the transitors and power supply so I can start playing with a real-life demostration.

Also been looking at the different methods of building circuits boards for permanent use — perf board versus strip board — various soldering irons versus kryon twist wiring. And all the stuff that goes along with soldering like choosing between lead and lead-free solder, solder wicks, etc. I have a solder gun and certainly have wired bigger things but I need to be more percise for soldering electronics. While I still hunt and shoot with leaded ammunition, and l’m not concerned about lead fumes when soldering as my other electrical solder is leaded and lead portion doesn’t melt or vaporize while solder typically, I think I’m going to go lead free for future electronic projects. That’s the future, and it makes the net result less toxic where it gets disposed of in a fire eventually or properly recycled at an e-waste event. I am planning to move out to country and live off gird after all eventually. And I hear a lot of fire is involved with that kind of life. Hopefully though I will get a lot of use out of the projects I end up building and will be able to salvage components from them at the end of their lives. 
I might eventually even switch to lead-free ammunition for hunting and target practice, but that’s a whole another ball of wax because traditional ammunition is a lot cheaper, you use a lot more of it, and it’s a lot easier on your barrel. Solder in contrast is pretty small cost, as even if my electronics hobby picks up and I make a lot of solder bridges on perf board, it’s still only an occassional use. Lead poisioning of Bald Eagles and other raptors is tragic, but as species, it really isn’t a threat to them like DDT once was. Lead shot to humans might break teeth if your not careful, but I doubt you ever swallow it or get enough fragments to do any harm as an adult. I get to get out to range to do some shooting or somewhere in the back country where I have a safe backstop sometime soon. I do pick up my shotgun shells and spent brass as much as possible.

Back to electronics. I also found a local supplier of Arduino Uno cards for a good price in Newburgh on Ebay. Something like $7 each with free one or two day shipping. I should also look at EBay. I don’t have an Ebay prime account but my parents do. Once my LED driver is done, I will want future units for future projects. I calculated that the Arduino run on a 12 volt power supply consumes about a 1/4 watt an hour or 1.9 kWh a year, so it’s pretty reasonable. I expect the LED dimmer to always be powered up so to turn the lights by remote when ever I need them except when I’m out of the town for the weekend or on vacation or traveling for work. 

I was also reading about the Raspberry PI. That’s a miniature full-blown computer compared to the Ardiuno which just a fairly basic microprocessor for driving simple electronics. The Raspberry Pi can drive LEDs at different but it really over kill for that, and at $35 is much more expensive. The base model of the Raspberry Pi uses 3.5 watts, which is nothing for a minature computer on a chip board, and has wireless internet, monitor and takes USB disk port, and runs Linux including a LXDE window manager. I could see the Raspberry Pi as a home computer in an off-grid home, as a much more efficent alternative to using my laptop with a 12 volt power supply. My laptop is fairly energy efficent, but when it’s charging, it can use upwards of 90 watts which is a lot of electricity, when your trying to make every watt count on a battery powered setup. 

I don’t envision ever owning a television or home internet. My smartphone provides plenty of internet access, if I need high speed internet access like for uploading photos or video, there are always public hotspots in town that I can stop at local libraries and the alike. I had that TV tuner for a while before it stopped working, but I almost never used it except for occassionally watching the PBS Newshour. But I quit watching that, as I found it was just such a time waste. I really am not a fan of all that technology.

In four weeks on December 12 the sun will be setting at 4:21 pm, which is 10 minutes and 46 seconds earlier then tonight. The fact is the sunsets don’t get much earlier then they are now, especially on a gray and depressing days like today. In 2016 on that day, we had rain, snow, freezing fog, mist, cloudy skies and temperatures between 40 and 28 degrees. Typically, you have temperatures between 37 and 23 degrees. The record high of 62 degrees was set back in 1979.

Looking ahead, Election Day 2018 is in 51 weeks and Election Day 2020 is in 155 weeks. That’s pretty much all you do on Tuesdays is vote. That said, I need to start adding some of the 2018 calendar and special dates to holiday.txt file that powers that automagic date count down thingy-ma-bobber. 

I think it’s time to get some sleep. Good night.

Lately there have been a lot of discussion on why New York State is such a high tax state compared to others, and why our state gets relatively little back in funding compared to other states.

The common refrains are that New York is a liberal state, so we invest a lot more in human services, healthcare, welfare and education. That is true to a certain extent. But it’s also not totally true either. Red states actually have a lot better public services then many blue staters want to believe. Another common refrain is that New York is a wealthy state, so we aren’t eligible for nearly the same amount of transfer payments are poorer states. That is also true, although New York also has plenty of pockets of poverty — but we are also the financial capital of the world and home to our nation’s biggest city. Some say corruption is worse in New York then other states. I’m a bit skeptical on that point, I think there are more watch dogs on government then other states — being a such a big state with well funded newspapers. Are Albany politicians really going to pull a fast one over on the New York Times and New York Post at the same time?

But there is another truth that is often ignored. New York often rejects a lot of federal funding. While contemporary reasons for rejecting federal funding may be ideological in nature, the original reason our state rejected federal funding was we chose to be out in front of the federal government — on canals, on highways, on parks, on forests, etc. New York chose to build a lot of it’s infrastructure without federal funding, because we built before the funding was avaliable. Being out front is good, but sometimes it’s really costly to taxpayers.

The New York State Thruway is a prime example of this. Why do people pay tolls to drive on the Thruway, while most other highways are free in New York? Because in early 1950s, the legislature decided our state needed a superhighway. Rather then wait to see if federal funding would become avaliable to build the highway, we decided to do it on our own. A cost bourne 100% by New York taxpayers. While the Adirondack Northway recieved 90% of it’s funding from the federal gas tax, the Thruway recieved 0% of it’s funding from the federal gas tax.

Now could the state have removed the toll booths and recieved federal funding for the highway for maintaince? Possiblity but not likely. The federal interstate act did not allow for grandfathering in existing routes, although some free routes did get upgrades to interstate standards under the act. Rather then eliminate the tolls and seek federal funding for the Thruway, our state has chosen to pay fror it upkeep 100% from state funding, namely tolls but also general fund revenue. If we made it eligable for federal funding, New York would also have to pick up the difference between federal funding and state funding, and it’s not always easy to find extra funding in the gas tax.

We are in the same boat with many of our state’s bridges and tunnels. Could the state have waited a few years and got funding for free crossing over the Hudson River and the New York City metropolitian crossings? Probably yes, as most of the Western States have no tolls, even on their biggest Interstate Bridges. Our state certainly could have gotten 50% of the cost of building and maintaining back on the Hudson River crossings, and 90% in some cases. But we chose to build them before federal funding was avaliable. Now we are stuck with the clunky Bridge Authorities and Triborough Authority, which pays 100% of the bridge expenses through local tolls. Even if we eliminated the tolls, it”s not clear we cold get federal funding at this point. Nor is it clear if we would want to — by refusing federal funding — our state has the “freedom” to set whatever standards it wants on the bridges, including advertising and geometery. Federal highway standards don’t apply to non-federally funded roads.

The federal government maintains locks and canals on most rivers. Our state doesn’t get to take advantage of federal maintaince to our canals. We have the Erie Canal, which is entirely paid again by state taxpayers and those who traverse the canal. We talk about Clinton’s Ditch as being a great advance for our state. It certainly was at it’s time. But we could have had the federal government build it for us had we waited a few years — and put up with the federal government’s dicates. Certainly the Army Corp or Engineers maintains a lot of the nation’s canals. But not in New York. We chose once again to go it alone on our canal system.

One could have imagined that New York City could have gotten the federal government to finance their drinking water reserviors, had that waited a little while longer, and been willing to put up with creation of a federal public authority like the Tennessee Valley Authority. Maybe New York City’s drinking water reserviors would have not only produced clean water, but also greater recreational opporunities and more hydropower had the federal government, not the city built them. But no, our state had go out in front of the federal government — a cost picked up federal government in other states.

No state in America has as big of a state operated wild forest or wilderness as New York does. That’s not saying other states don’t have great public lands that are a mixature of managed forest and wilderness, operated by the federal government. The Adirondack Park is tiny compared to some of the National Forests and Bureau of Public Lands out west. Other states also have developed parks and recreation areas, but many of them are funded and directly operated by the federal government. But not New York, bar a few small historic battle sites, and the relatively small Finger Lakes National Forest. Why not? Our state got out ahead of federal funding and furthermore rejected federal operation of our Adirondack and Catskill Parks.

New York State certainly could have been home to the Adirondack National Forest or the Adirondack National Park. But no, our state rejected that idea off-hand. Vermont decided to protect it’s wild upcountry and mountains with the Green Mountain National Forest, but not New York. Our state once again got out ahead of the federal government, and rather then create a managed forest, we were stuck in the mid-1800s line of thought that all logging was bad and we could only preserve the land by banning all timber cutting for any purposes.

By rejecting creation of a Adirondack National Forest or National Park, our state once again passed up on billions of federal funding. Rather then have the federal government pay for maintaining roads, parking areas, campsites and trails in Adirondack, New York taxpayers are 100% on the hook. The Green Mountain National Forest in contrast has federally funded forest rangers, federally funded maps and recreational facilities, federally funded campgrounds and much more. Instead, our state has chosen to take up this cost because we wanted ideological control over the land — rather let distant Washington politicians decide how to maintain the lands.

There is somewhat a myth that red states have awful public services, while blue states have a much better government. While blue states like New York are often on the cutting edge, getting out on cutting edge before the federal government means New York residents pay dearly. Forgoing federal funds by getting a decade out ahead of other states might have some short term advantages, but it often means our state residents ends up paying for a lot of other things that federal government would have otherwise paid for in coming years.

How Much Do States Rely on Federal Funding?

Red states, which are generally poorer, are more reliant on the federal government to pay for their state budgets. Where does this federal money come from? A lot of it is highway funding as rural states have more miles of federal interstate and aidable highways. But also state welfare and state education spending is less in red states, so the proportion of funding from the federal government is bigger in comparison.

This article doesn't fully answer the question though. I would like to see numbers on poverty and income in each state, as that effects medicaid and welfare eligibility. Then also you'd have to consider that blue states often administer programs like state forests and state parks, while red states often have national parks and national forest. Blue states often do their own environmental permitting while EPA does that in red states. And so forth. Blue states choose to be more self reliant so they don't have to listen to the dictates of Washington DC.

Raspberry Pi or Arduino Uno? One Simple Rule to Choose the Right Board

While I've been doing a lot of playing around with my Arduino Uno, I was also curious about the Raspberry Pi, which is more like a mini-computer that runs a stripped down version of Linux then a microprocessor that executes relatively simple instructions in a big loop. This article gives a good description of the differences, but another one to consider is power consumption, especially if your unit is going to be powered by a battery or other limited source. The Arduino Uno R3 less then 750 mW of power, compared to the Raspberry Pi which uses 3,500 milliwatts. Granted, 3.5 watts of power isn't a lot compared to what you would be running off it like lights, but adds up when your counting every watt.

November 14, 2017 Weather Forecast

This interactive graph shows the hourly weather forecast for the next seven days. The bars represent the temperature, the pink line represents the dew point and the white line represents the dewpoint. Red dots are climate normals for the day. Orange dots are record temperatures. Green dots are last year's temperatures.

Yellow bars represent generally sunny conditions. The more gray the bar is, the more clouds expected. Blue bars represent a greater then 50% chance of rain. Purple bars represent a greater then 50% chance of snow. Orange bars represent a greater then 50% chance of thunderstorms. Red bars represent warm and muggy weather, under generally clear skies.