Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

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Turkey vultures hanging out by the pond, with Canadian geese swimming in the background.
The quality of the video isn't good, I know. I had to use zoom to take this, because if I go too near to the vultures or if they even notice I'm watching them, that usually scares them away.

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I've been trying to support independent journalism by getting paid accounts on some news sites whose articles I occasionally read (even though most of the time, the pages I read are ones that other people have linked to).

I had made a note that charges $49 for a year's subscription. Today the site even shows an introductory price of $35/year. So I decided to sign up. But after fighting with their website for the last half hour, I've changed my mind.

First problem: The Join Slate Plus page says what the membership costs and what special perks you get. But there were no fields for signing up, and no link or button for any sign up page. I had to click NoScript's "Temporarily Allow All This Page" icon 4 times for the fields to finally be displayed. (Each time you click that icon, NoScript allows JavaScript for the domains that were previously blocked, but then encounters additional domains which the page indirectly references, and for security reasons, NoScript doesn't allow them until you click again. And so on.)

Furthermore, the fields that show up aren't for buying a paid account, but rather for "Try it Free for 2 Weeks!" That's not what I wanted.

So instead I used their normal Sign Up page to create an account. It asks for an email address, display name, and password. It took me a while to decide on a display name to use. Upon submitting my info, the site then brought up the Terms of Service. But there was no Accept button. I repeatedly clicked the "Allow All This Page" icon, until 30 or more domains were unblocked (and my laptop fan started spinning on high speed from all the crap it was trying to load each time, because underneath the ToS, the page showed a bunch of news articles), and still no Accept button displayed. Yet when I tried to go to my account page, it kept re-displaying the Terms of Service, like it was waiting for me to accept them.

Then I tried a different browser without NoScript. That way, I was able to log in and open my account profile. The account page has a "Manage subscriptions" link. But when I click the link, it only opens the homepage. So I can't see whatever email lists they may have added me to by default. Hopefully I'll be able to unsubscribe from them somehow, supposing they did add me to any lists.

Then I tried logging in from my normal browser again. But when I click the login button, it ...

(oh thank goodness for Dreamwidth's AutoSave. I just closed both browser windows, to see if I was only having trouble because I was still logged in from the other window, not realizing that I was also closing the tab where I was writing this post.)

When I click the login/account icon, nothing happens. I have to again allow JavaScript from a bunch of domains, just to get the login fields. But then when I enter them, I still don't get logged in. Sigh.

This is way too much trouble. I no longer like their website, so I don't want to give them any money after all. The articles I see on their site today don't seem so great either (or is that sour grapes speaking?).
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The other night, while checking the thermostat in the hallway, I heard a thump against the front door. Both dogs were inside, in the other direction. So the sound gave me a momentary fright. (Who is out there?? Did someone throw something at my door?) But it might be the neighbor's dog which occasionally gets loose (he can climb/jump fences like it's the easiest thing in the world, but he's friendly so I'm not afraid of him)... I walked to the door and looked outside, first through the window, then by opening the door. There was nothing there, even though it had only been but a few seconds between me hearing the noise and looking outside.

I sometimes hear similar thumps from other parts of the house, as if something is hitting the outside wall or a window. It must be due to thermal expansion, or maybe sometimes squirrels or birds.

The curious thing is that no matter how odd and unexpected the sound, and how much it makes my heart jump into my throat, once I've determined that it's inexplicable and there's no apparent danger, I quickly forget about it. "Don't know what it was, no way to find out, got other things to do."

Today while in the bathroom with the door open, I heard a distinctly fluttering sound from the next room. Like a bird fluffing its wings. Followed by silence. There's definitely no bird in that room. Oh well, who knows. Maybe the dogs in the room at the other end of the hallway made some noise, and it only sounded to me like it came from the nearby room.

There have been other times I've heard other more inexplicable noises. Things which people who believe in ghosts, might attribute to ghosts. But I don't have any clear memories, just the knowledge that it has happened before, more than once, and it's not that unusual.

There was one strange noise which I did figure out. This one has happened both in my cube at work and in my kitchen at home - an intermittent quiet hissing noise from close nearby. It's from air escaping out of (or into?) the top of a bottle, when I haven't tightened the cap all the way, and the temperature difference between the bottle and surrounding air is right. At home, I store tap water in liter-sized glass bottles in the fridge, because I like my drinking water to be cold. But sometimes I'll leave a bottle standing on the counter. When I go to work, I take a small glass bottle of water with me, and during the day, fill it up from the drinking fountain.
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How a Guy From a Montana Trailer Park Overturned 150 Years of Biology - he discovered that a large group of lichens are a symbiosis between an alga and not 1, but 2 different types of fungus. I learned that the singular of "algae" is "alga".

Jon Batiste Reinterprets 'Battle Hymn of the Republic' for The Atlantic - I really don't care much for the original song and I quite dislike the lyrics, because of its religious and warlike nature. Yet Batiste's version gives me goosebumps and is worth listening to at least once, I can say that much. From what I understand, he produced all the many different instrument sounds in the song using only a piano. The video at the above link describes how he did it, but doesn't include the whole song. If you only want to listen to the song, it's at the end of the 1st podcast on the Radio Atlantic page - starting at 1:03:00.
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My mom's power went out this evening during a storm, and by the time she called me, her UPS was beeping in alarm mode indicating it would soon be out of power. It's a UPS I had gotten her earlier this year so that her home phone (which uses VOIP) would still work during a power outage. My mom said she didn't have the TV or anything else turned on, so the UPS should have only been powering the internet modem/router, and maybe a few other devices in standby/off mode.

She wasn't home when the power went out, but I estimate it shouldn't have been out for more than 2 hours. The modem/router shouldn't use much power, so I was surprised that the UPS would already be low. So I checked the specs... It's a CyberPower 375 Watt unit and from what I found online, at full load, it can only run for 2 minutes!!! I can't believe I would have bought it knowing that. At the time, I had taken a photo of the side of the box (which listed the specs) for reference, but it doesn't say how long its runtime is. That must have been on the front of the box. This is the only image I found online of the front of the box. The image quality is low, but I decipher it as saying "Four outlets provide up to 65 minutes of runtime during a power outage".

I bet that when I read that, I assumed that time must be for a near-full load. (Because you can always plug in something which uses way less energy, so how could they give any specific number, if not for full load?) Maybe I assumed that for a smaller load, say 37.5 W, it could run for 10 times as long. I do remember looking at the different models in the store and debating which to get, and deciding that this one, even though not the biggest, should suffice for my mom's needs.

But if it can only run at full load for 2 minutes, the 65 minutes would be for a load of... about 12 W?

I did a few more searches.
This 810 Watt model says on the front of the box "Up to 420* Minutes of Backup Power for your Home Theater or Computer". You'd think that would mean at minimum watching TV or using a computer with a monitor.
But the other side of the box says that the 420 minutes is only for using a DVR in record mode (no TV). For a desktop computer, it only provides 58 minutes. For a TV and game console, it only provides 24 minutes.

I finally found another image of the box for my model... not sure if my box was the same. But this one says 65 minutes for DVR while recording, 24 minutes for a computer, and 6 minutes for a 32" TV and game console.

So maybe I should have known better. Maybe I thought a modem/router uses less than a DVR, or that my mom wouldn't need more than an hour's worth. I dunno.