Web dev in DC http://ross.karchner.com
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"an addiction to easy answers combined with a wholesale cultural resistance to any kind of complexity"
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rosskarchner
2 days ago
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DIY satellite ground station to receive images from NOAA

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You can basically hook up an antennae to your laptop and start receiving images from space. This DIY guide from Public Lab amazes me.

The NOAA satellites have inbuilt radio antennas that transmit the data collected by the AVHRR instrument on a frequency in the 137 MHz range. To minimise interference between satellites, each NOAA satellite transmits on a different frequency within the 137 MHz range.

[…]

Your antenna is a sensor. It catches electromagnetic waves and transforms them into an electrical current i.e. an electrical signal. All antennas are tuned to specific frequency ranges meaning that they receive or transmit these frequencies best. Most antennas are directional.

I need to try this.

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rosskarchner
5 days ago
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This was a thing that shocked me while studying ham radio-- really, anyone can tune into satellite transmission?
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Local Scout Creates Anxiety And Autism Care Kits For FCFRD Medic Units

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To complete Eagle Scout Service Project, Adrian partnered with Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department to provide anxiety and autism resource kits to be carried on all medic units. 48 of Adrian’s Resource Care (ARC) Kits were assembled and provided.

Each single use item in the kit can be used to calm or ease anxiety in children involved in a medical emergency.

One ARC Kit has already been utilized. Just hours after it was placed on Medic 421, Fair Oaks, the kit was used to help with a young, nonverbal child that required assistance.

Watch video to learn more about this wonderful project!



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rosskarchner
6 days ago
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Nonprofit mails 587,638 erroneous absentee ballot applications to Virginia voters

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A misunderstanding of Virginia’s independent cities and counties apparently led a nonprofit voter registration group to mail 587,638 absentee ballot applications to Virginia voters that asked them to send the ballot back to the wrong election office.

The Center for Voter Information said the mishap was an honest mistake mainly affecting voters in a handful of localities that share a name: including Fairfax city and Fairfax County, Richmond city and Richmond County, Roanoke city and Roanoke County, and Franklin city and Franklin County.

“We regret the confusion caused in this case,” said Tom Lopach, the CEO of the D.C.-based Voter Participation Center, the sister organization of the Center for Voter Information, which describes itself as “a non-partisan and non-profit organization that works to provide even-handed and unbiased information about candidates and their positions.”

“We take full responsibility,” Lopach said. “We are working with local election officials to correct this at our expense.”

The mass mailing, which involved more than 2.2 million pre-filled absentee ballot applications statewide, sowed confusion for many voters and local election officials, who quickly sought to inform voters it was not coming from an official government source.

“The Virginia Department of Elections has no affiliation with this group nor coordinates with any third party groups on campaign efforts,” the state elections agency said in a statement. “We are aware that voters in multiple localities that received an absentee ballot application were given pre-paid return envelopes addressed to the incorrect registrar’s office.”

State officials said any applications arriving at the wrong office would be “forwarded immediately to the correct office for processing.”

The Center for Voter Information bills itself as nonpartisan, but a job posting lists the organization as a “progressive” group that focuses on what it calls the rising American electorate, or “unmarried women, people of color and young people.” Lopach is a former advisor to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat.

Local election officials said the mailing was confusing voters who had already applied to vote absentee, who took it as a sign their paperwork didn’t go through.

“This mailing is causing great confusion and concern among voters who have been contacting our office,” Fairfax County General Registrar Gary Scott said in a statement. “While the mailing may appear to be from an official government agency, the Fairfax County Office of Elections did not send it.”

The mailing’s fine print notes the Center for Voter Information as the source, but the first line in the letter addressed to voters reads: “The Virginia Department of Elections encourages EVERYONE to use an absentee ballot in upcoming elections.”

The misstep underscores the pitfalls of outside groups attempting to help people vote, particularly in a year when voters across the nation will be shifting to voting by mail in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Center for Voter Information also passed along a statement in which its printing vendor, Philadelphia-based Smith-Edwards-Dunlap Company, took responsibility for the error.

“We are keenly aware of the seriousness of this mistake,” said Jonathan Shapiro, the company’s president and CEO. “We added to the burden already felt by local election boards and made their jobs significantly harder. Worse, this error created confusion for voters who are trying to exercise their right to vote from home, safely and conveniently.”

This week, the State Board of Elections adopted new regulations requiring tracking codes and official insignias on all absentee ballot mail.

In this election cycle, Lopach said his group has helped more than 800,000 across the country people sign up to vote by mail.

To help clear up the confusion caused by the group’s mail misfire, Virginia election officials sent out reminders that would-be voters can sign up to vote absentee online.

The post Nonprofit mails 587,638 erroneous absentee ballot applications to Virginia voters appeared first on Virginia Mercury.

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rosskarchner
8 days ago
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Android version of popular Dark Sky weather app shuts down

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As promised, popular weather app Dark Sky ended support for Android and Wear OS over the weekend. Android Dark Sky users report that the app is no longer working and that it presents the user with a message that the "app has shut down."

The impending shutdown was first announced when Apple acquired the company in March of this year. Despite the end of support for the world's most popular mobile operating system, Dark Sky's developers wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition that joining Apple means they could "reach far more people, with far more impact, than we ever could alone."

The Dark Sky Android app is not the only popular service on the chopping block as a result of the acquisition. Several app developers on both iOS and Android have used Dark Sky's API for weather data for a while now, but like Android support, that's going away. There's a little more time in that case, though: developers have until the end of next year to find and implement alternative data sources.

When the acquisition was first announced, Dark Sky was slated to stop working on Android on July 1. That deadline was extended by one month, but it went into effect as planned on August 1. The Web version of Dark Sky was slated to end today, but Apple has extended that deadline, though embeds have been disabled. A new date for the Web shutdown has not been specified. That version will remain an option for Android users for now until it, too, stops working.

Below: Screenshots from the iOS and desktop Web versions of the app.

Android users who were paying $2.99 per year for the app saw their subscriptions automatically ended and received Google Play store email notifications saying "Hyperlocal Weather subscription from The Dark Sky Company, LLC on Google Play has been canceled."

Apple's public iOS 14 preview page makes it pretty clear that the next version of the iPhone's operating system is incorporating Dark Sky-related features and data.

Here's an excerpt from Apple's copy on the subject:

Next-hour precipitation

View a minute‑by‑minute chart that shows the intensity of rain or snow over the coming hour. Available for the U.S.

Significant shifts

The Weather widget indicates when the weather will be much warmer, colder, or wetter in the next day.

Severe weather

The Weather app and widgets display government alerts about certain severe weather events including tornados, winter storms, flash floods, and more. Available for the U.S., Europe, Japan, Canada, and Australia.

Multi-day precipitation forecast

The multi-day weather forecast now includes the chance of precipitation for each day.

iOS 14 is expected to launch later this year.

Listing image by Dark Sky

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rosskarchner
10 days ago
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After trying a couple, I've landed on MyRadar
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acdha
11 days ago
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Sad to see this happen but very predictable
Washington, DC
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The heirloom tomato problem

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There’s something romantic about heirloom tomatoes. People wax poetic about them, write songs about them, pine for them. That’s one of the reasons I emphasized them when we started growing for market: I figured it was just good business to provide a thing that people say they crave.

Three years later, I understand why it ISN’T good business. Everybody wants “a great tomato.” But most of y’all don’t really know what makes a good tomato, much less a great one. And that basic lack of consumer knowledge is the problem.

You can probably conjure up an image of the perfect heirloom: Bright, unusual colors. Oddly shaped. Firm. Huge. Fragrant. Flawless. The center slices extend beyond the crusts of your tomato sandwich.

Such tomatoes exist — but only briefly, and by briefly I’m not even talking about days. I’m talking about hours.

We grow more than 200 tomato vines a year. Most vines will probably produce between 5 to 10 pounds of fruit, and a few will produce at least twice that amount. I figure we probably “harvest” give or take about thousand pounds over the course of five to six weeks.

But probably a quarter to a third of that “harvest” is just tossed into the woods as soon as it comes off the vine — because we’re non-certified organic. So our tomatoes are under attack from all sorts of things: Bugs, caterpillars, fungi, diseases, blights, squirrels, woodchucks, dogs, coyotes, raccoons. And the varieties we grow are typically prized heirlooms, selected for taste over durability.

By the time we get down to the “marketable heirlooms,” we’re usually talking about no more than a quarter of the harvest. How many of those are “perfect?” It depends on the variety — but the bigger and more irregularly shaped that variety, the less likely perfection becomes.

Even if the pests miss them, a “big ugly” tomato — no matter how beautiful — is doomed to fail. All tomatoes are vulnerable to light and air and temperature and microbes, but the less uniform the structure, the more likely it is to fail in some spot before it reaches perfect ripeness.

Some — miraculously — get to dead ripe fully intact and flawless. But if you succeed in buying that fully ripe, perfect, dream heirloom, you’d better plan on eating it THAT DAY.

Because unlike supermarket tomatoes — which are bred for every trait except taste — a dead-ripe heirloom is going to start deteriorating within hours.

And after talking to customers and retailers and gardeners for the last three years, what I’ve figured out is that most consumers — even tomato lovers — expect their heirlooms to be as perfect, and to last as long, as those cardboard supermarket tomatoes.

You can hardly blame them. Local, organic heirloom tomatoes are so expensive that they’re a luxury item for all but the wealthiest of shoppers.

And, of course, most of y’all buy the wrong tomatoes anyway.

What you really need (for most tomato recipes, anyway) are paste tomatoes.

That’s why we planted no more than 10 vines of any heirloom this year, but grew almost 90 paste tomato plants. And we rarely even offer those for sale — because that harvest is mostly reserved for us, our friends and families.

Love marinara sauce? Picante sauce? Pico de Gallo? Salsa Fresca? All based on simple, unpretentious paste tomatoes. Delicious on their own — but what sends those recipes into the culinary stratosphere is the inclusion of just a few “slicers” for flavor.

Why not sell paste tomatoes? In part because we need so many of them for the things we’ll preserve for later. Depending on the day’s recipe, it takes us between two to five pounds of tomatoes to make one quart of sauce. If you’re buying those retail, that quart of sauce if going to be expensive.

What we learned last year — and we’re benefiting from it even more in 2020 — is that the true value of growing heirloom slicers is the flavor they add to tomato-based sauces, soups and juices. You simply can’t buy commercial products with real heirloom flavor at the grocery. The difference is mind-blowing.

But capturing that flavor means you have to cook with heirlooms. And to preserve the taste of July past the first week of August means you have to can what you cook. And most people just … don’t.

After all, there are all sorts of gourmet prepared Italian sauces you can buy for $5 or $6 a jar. Some of them are quite good, and they’ll stay stable on your shelf for years. Home-preserved tomato sauces are usually good for about a year to 18 months. Why take on the task of cooking and canning your own?

And that’s the story. Americans love heirloom tomatoes, but like most fresh produce, we tend to want them out of season. When we find them for sale, we want them to look perfect and last on the kitchen counter for a few days. When they don’t, and go soft in spots, we feel like we’ve been duped out of $4 — even if the rest of the fruit is firm and delicious.

I made a chicken dish earlier this week that called for a can of tomato paste and a can of diced tomatoes. I substituted about four pounds of fresh heirlooms, which I cooked down to sauce in the skillet. Depending on how you shop, those canned tomatoes would have cost you between $2 and $5 at the grocery.

If you’d substituted fresh but tasteless supermarket tomatoes you’d have paid about $8. And if you’d bought real, in-season fresh heirlooms at some bougie organic fresh market, you’d have paid $12 to $16.

That’s about three to four times what the chicken cost.

Which is why heirloom tomatoes aren’t good business.

Most people don’t understand them.

Most people can’t afford them.

Most people don’t know how to use them.

I know there are plenty of exceptions, and I understand the passion people feel for this mysterious fruit. I share it. But I doubt this basic equation is ever likely to change.

And I’m OK with that.

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acdha
12 days ago
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Washington, DC
petrilli
12 days ago
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Arlington, VA
rosskarchner
12 days ago
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DC-ish
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1 public comment
fxer
12 days ago
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If you can only grow one thing, even if you’ve just got room for a pot on a doorstep, grow yourself a tomato plant for that fleeting 2 weeks of bliss having BLTs for every meal.
Bend, Oregon
tingham
12 days ago
Or just slicers on a plate with a dallop of hellman's and some black pepper. I came to tomatoes too late in life.
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