a bad scene, a worse infographic

CBC says that Alberta’s looming multibillion-dollar orphan wells problem prompts auditor general probe. I mean, I’d say it does: estimated costs to clean up abandoned petrochemical wells outstrip the industry cleanup fund by over 132×, so it’s gone way past looming and is well into omnishambles country. But I’m not here to talk about the environmental mismanagement (well, not much: lolRedwater …), but more to talk about CBC’s terrible infographic:

Total estimated liabilities: $30.1 billion; Total security held: $227 million. It doesn’t take Wilkins Micawber to tell you that the result is misery

The image is accurate, technically. The estimated liabilities ($30100000000) are 132.6× the total security held ($227000000), and the red square’s length is 11½× (= √132.6) the blue one’s. But people are generally terrible at comparing areas.

Here are the same numbers, but in bar chart form:

Alberta estimated oil and gas cleanup costs vs allocated funds: costs more than 132 times coverage
They’re not even on the same page, are they?
(Graph badly put together by me in netpbm. Yes, netpbm …)

And there’s the problem: it’s too big to comprehend. CBC’s comfortable little chart fits on a page; you can tweet it, even. But reality is a whole lot of scrolling down the page.

Even the manky old pie chart would be better than CBC’s squares-by area:

Pie chart of estimated liabilities vs security funds for AB abandoned oil wells. A small blue wedge of less than 3° of the total represents available securities.
Securities are a 2.69° wedge. Liabilities, the rest

At least pie charts used linear measure as a proportion of the full 360° pie. But comparing areas is hard; in the diagram below, the teal-coloured part is twice the area of the gold part.

two sets of concentric circles: on the left, the outer area is 2× the area of the centre. On the right, the centre circle is 2x that of the centre
Confusing, isn’t it?

Do you think anyone will notice? #stealth #3dprinting #oopsibrokeit #furniture

Do you think anyone will notice? #stealth #3dprinting #oopsibrokeit #furniture

Do you think anyone will notice? #stealth #3dprinting #oopsibrokeit #furniture

Instagram filter used: Lo-fi

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goodbye X10, hello trådfri …

scruss/ihsctrl: a package of bash scripts to control selected IKEA Home smart (aka “TRÅDFRI”) devices via their network gateway

The old X10 devices were getting really unreliable: seldom firing at all, getting far too hot, bringing a whole lot of not working to my life. So while it was kind of cool to have my lights controlled by an original 256 MB Raspberry Pi Model B from 2012, it was maybe working one schedule out of ten.

So it had to go: replaced by a Raspberry Pi Zero W and a whole lot of IKEA TRÅDFRI kit. I was deeply unimpressed with the IKEA Home smart app, though: you couldn’t use even basic schedules with more than one light cycle per day. So while I know there are lots of clever home automation systems, I wanted to replace my old cron scripts and set about writing some simple command tools. The result is ihsctrl: very limited, but good enough for me. It’s been working exactly as expected for the last week, so I’ll finally get to wade through 8 years of cobwebs and dismantle the old X10 setup. I already miss the 06:30 clonk of the X10 controller turning the front light on — that was my alarm clock (or alarm clonk) every morning.

(local copy: ihsctrl.zip)

this is why I did wind power instead

07:32 - This is a Province of
Ontario emergency bulletin
which applies to people
within ten (10) kilometres
of the Pickering Nuclear
Generating Station. An
incident was reported
at the Pickering Nuclear
Generating Station. There
has been NO abnormal

Update, a few panicked minutes later: false alarm. Still no news release from OPG or province-wide phone alert to stand down, but there is this:

Just as a reminder, you can get potassium iodide pills for free if you live within 50 km of an Ontario nuclear installation. Go to preparetobesafe.ca

50 km buffer from GTA nuclear stations
50 km buffer from Pickering and Darlington nuclear stations. Includes all of Toronto and much of the GTA
50 km buffer from Bruce station
50 km buffer from Bruce station

I don’t know if I should be including Chalk River in this.

Further update: yup, they retracted it. But a scary wee-waa-wee-waa siren while the text is read in a robot voice is not very reassuring


There is NO active nuclear
situation taking place

at the Pickering Nuclear
Generating Station. The

previous alert was issued in
error. There is no danger to
the public or environment.
No further action is
Issued 09:11