I spent the last week crashing on a report layout for WRI, which took a lot of late nights and some weekend work. It’s called The State of Climate Action and it takes a deep look at five different economic sectors to see how the world is doing to limit global warming to 1.5˚C. It’s been a long time since I’ve laid out a longform print document and the process was further complicated because I’m laying it out with a new workflow so that it can be published digitally. That part hasn’t really started yet because the report was rushed and we haven’t had the time to fully build out the online report, but I’m hoping to get that done next week.
Wow, The Atlantic just reported that Jeff Bezos is going to start giving considerable money to a number of environmental organizations as part of something called the Bezos Earth Fund. WRI is on that list, and according to the article, he’s giving us $100 million, a sum that eclipses the previous large single donations we’ve gotten from other philanthropists. Nice to have some good news early on Election Tuesday.
The family and I drove into D.C. today so that I could visit the office for the first time since March 9th and pick up a trunkful of technology. The building was dark and silent. The automatic lights came on as I walked through, and I began sweating because the A/C was turned off. So, I got to work.
My tower workstation has been sitting idle under the desk for 164 days, as well as a RAID array with our design archives, so I grabbed those. While I was at it I took my desk monitor, all the cables, and the keyboard and mouse. I packed a bunch of spare drives including my offsite photo backup so that I can dupe the drive on the home server. I stuck a bunch of reference books in my backpack along with the 360˚ camera, the Canon 5D and two workhorse lenses, a 24-105 f/4 and 16-35 f/2.8. And I packed a bunch of small stuff, like spare thumb drives, batteries, and cords. Carrying it out to the car, I stopped and chatted with J., the front desk security guard and asked after her family.
The girls had taken Hazel for a walk up past the Capitol and onto the Mall, so Jen texted me their location and I followed Siri to go pick them up. It was definitely strange to be down there, and as much as I was glad to get out from behind my desk for a few hours, I was also glad to leave D.C.
Now my desk is surrounded by tech gear and I have to find a place to store most of it. The home server is waiting on a bootable thumb drive with a hacked El Capitan installer—I’ve got an SSD plugged in to the spare slot over the CD burner waiting on a fresh install, which will free up the fourth bay for a data drive. I’ll tackle that task tomorrow.
I dry-hopped the beer this evening, about four days late, but that shouldn’t make a difference in flavor. Two ounces of hops go in for a week, and then I rack it into the kegerator. Here’s to hoping this batch is a keeper.
I was on a work call other day talking about infographics, and one of my colleagues in London sent a link in the chat to an article called 40 of the Best Infographics to Inspire You. As I scrolled down I was shocked and flattered to see the the first example was one I did for WRI back in 2014 when longform infographics were all the rage, something I sweated over with the Climate team for weeks until we got it right.
I spent most of a gray rainy weekend at my desk working on WRI’s Annual Report, flowing new copy in where the old was and researching photography to place the FPO stuff I’d dumped in there last week. It all came together pretty well, and I’m hopeful the team will have only minor edits to things from this point forward. We won’t be getting a physical proof before printing for obvious reasons, so I’m a little worried about how it will print, but I’m determined to stay cautiously optimistic.
Planting update: I’ve got about 5 Chef’s Choice, 10 Cherokee, and 4 cherry tomato sprouts, as well as 10 lettuce sprouts germinating in the basement under the grow light, which is a lovely treat to watch every day. I’ve been turning the light on at 7AM when I let Hazel out for the first time, and shutting it off at 11PM, so they’re getting a full 16 hours of light daily. This evening I pulled the plastic cover off for the first time and we raised them closer to the grow light to keep them from getting too leggy. The question now is how to get them from tiny seedlings to healthy plants and then out into the greenhouse without frying or killing them. For a total investment of about $15, I’d say this is an experiment worth trying until I figure it out.
Governor Hogan says, Don’t Call It a Lockdown, but it’s pretty much a lockdown. Good to know that we can still go shopping for liquor when the stocks run low. Seriously, it’s about time the dumb fucks in our neighborhood leash their kids instead of letting them run around in packs, which I see daily from my front window. There’s no possible disease vector there, no sir. Downside: I can’t pick up the bathroom wood trim that’ll be available on Monday.
Teleworking has made me an expert on switching between seventeen different videoconferencing applications in one day. Zoom, one of the most popular, was outed as being completely scummy several years ago. It’s still pretty scummy. Apparently it likes to send data to Facebook without your consent. Unfortunately, it works better than Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams, so lots of our teams use it. I’m just thrilled to death about sharing everything with Facebook, can you tell?
Are you actually working? We’re comparing cats.
As of this afternoon, there’s one reported case of Coronavirus in Baltimore County. They cancelled the St. Patrick’s Day parade in town. I’m working from home indefinitely. Maryland is shutting schools down for two weeks beginning Monday, which means we will be dealing with a bored, lonely daughter who does not understand the meaning of the word QUARANTINE but knows exactly where all the emo anime cartoons are on Netflix.
I’m also scheduled for a cancer checkup on the 23rd, so I’ve contacted the hospital to find out what my best course of action should be. They moved the oncology center into its own building two years ago, so my chances of coming into contact with infected patients is lower than it would have been, but I’d really like to avoid this.
Working from home has been pretty seamless so far. We’re using a mixture of technologies to videoconference—Skype for Business, Zoom, Slack, and Teams. SfB is a giant steaming pile of shit, but to its credit we had a conference this morning with 80+ people connected and it worked pretty well. It spins up the CPU on my MacBook like a jet engine and sometimes the audio kicks in and out, but it didn’t crash. Zoom works much better but I don’t trust the company after their shitty software opened a backdoor to malware last year. Slack is slick and the sound is 100% better than SfB but it only works amongst the people in your channels. And I used Teams with my CTO last week and it looked and sounded great—something I never would have expected from that company.
Because the work I do is spread out amongst many groups, vendors, and internal clients, I have to manage many different channels of communication on a daily basis. There’s email, where many things go to die in my inbox. I have a WRI Gmail address because I can’t stand Sharepoint, which is Microsoft’s asinine answer to Google Docs. There’s Skype, which has a chat function several people in my company use, but I don’t leave running because it’s a CPU hog. My team and several others use Slack, which just works, and is full of animated Simpsons gifs. We use Asana for project management, which has the ability to send email alerts. There’s Basecamp, another project management system which several vendors use, that also triggers email alerts. The company is going to move to Microsoft Teams and away from Skype for Business, which is good because SfB is, as mentioned above, shit, but bad because Slack works just fine.
As a result I’ve been scrambling to keep up with all of the ongoing projects, requests, and responsibilities all filed haphazardly across ten different software environments. Ten years ago I used to bitch about email, but these days, if that was the only place I needed to go to stay in communication and find the things I needed, I’d piss myself with happiness.
Sink fixtures are in place upstairs, but the hardware I bought to connect the drain to the wall pipe didn’t reach. On the way back from Sylvan Finn and I bought some extra hardware to make that happen over the weekend. Once the drain pipes are sorted out I can hook up the water leads, and we’ll have working sinks up there.
Here’s something I’ve been working on for a couple of (months? years?) at WRI: a visualization of worldwide carbon emissions by sector in 2016, the follow-up to the famous 2005 version. It took years because we got the data from a partner, who used a different methodology for some of the sectors.
I think I started this in the bottom half of 2018 and noodled on it until this past December, when we finally got the updated data and were cleared to use it. Building the interactive Sankey was fun; building the static version was an exercise in patience.
We met the new neighbors on Tuesday. After more than six months of intrigue, random realtor showcases where carloads of strange people showed up to the house and wandered around the neighborhood shouting (yes, this did actually happen) and long periods of inactivity, a very quiet couple moved in soon after we got Hazel. Jen met them one day when she had a stoned dog out in the backyard after she’d been hit by the Prius, and couldn’t really talk to them much. She resolved to properly welcome them to the neighborhood with some flowers. We walked over after dinner and rang the bell; they invited us in and we stood in the foyer of the house and talked to them for about 20 minutes. They are lovely people and we got along very quickly. We agreed to organize a dinner with them after the holidays and get to know them a little better.
Renie was in town on Wednesday courtesy of the FAA, and she was able to get a hotel very close to the office. We met up and got some dinner at Union Station on Wednesday night and did a debrief from Thanksgiving; it was great to get some quiet time to catch up with her where we weren’t making food or driving somewhere or cleaning up something.
Carni, my lead designer, left us on Friday after over five years with WRI. Back when I was the whole design department, I knew I needed to hire someone to help with the rapidly increasing workload. After looking at a pool of over 200 applicants, his work stood clearly out above the rest, and I was lucky to get him. An incredibly capable designer, I leaned on him a lot for many different things while I was focusing on the larger picture and learning how to be a manager. As he grew into a larger role, I made sure to get out of his way and let him run with the things he wanted to tackle. He’s moving to a local studio that focuses on data visualizations, which is where his interests have been for several years, and I couldn’t be happier for him. But now I’m scrambling to find someone who can do a quarter of what he could, and I’m going to have to fill in for the rest.
One of our awesome Advent activities this year was to meet up with the Morrisses and make sock monkeys at the American Visionary Art Museum. The girls did this two years ago when I was laid up in the hospital, and they had a great time together, so we put it back on the calendar. At the top of the back warehouse there’s a huge open room where the staff had set up scores of tables with basic necessities—bags of stuffing and some directions. You are expected to bring socks and scissors, and they supply thread, buttons, and other decorative elements. We found a table and got to work, making friends with a young woman who was sock monkeying solo. It’s incredibly satisfying to sit and stitch something together with friends; I can almost see the allure of a quilting group (but there’d need to be copious amounts of alcohol). I chose a striped sock and used the most basic of stitches, while Jen used a hook-and-loop and made hers more professional. Three hours later we realized we were all famished (somehow it got to be 1PM without us noticing). We packed up our monkeys and drove down Key Highway to Little Havana and chowed down on delicious cuban-inspired food. It was great to hang out with them, and I have to say, my sewing skills were not too bad!
Sunday morning I spent tinkering around the house getting small tasks done; I ran the Scout up and realized the 11-year-old battery is probably due for a replacement. I straightened up the backyard and cleaned up the garage, then went downstairs and organized a bunch of stray boxes. It’s at the point where I need to put proper shelves in along the wall in the ice room, because we’re out of wall space for racks and there’s no clear floor space. Another holiday break project will be building a longer laundry sorting area and organizing the shelves on the west wall.
Johnathan Franzen published a sobering column in the New Yorker which basically says he doesn’t believe humans can stop climate change.
Call me a pessimist or call me a humanist, but I don’t see human nature fundamentally changing anytime soon. I can run ten thousand scenarios through my model, and in not one of them do I see the two-degree target being met.
Scientific American published a rebuttal in a blog which basically tells him to STFU.
But I am a scientist, which means I believe in miracles. I live on one. We are improbable life on a perfect planet. No other place in the Universe has nooks or perfect mountaintops or small and beautiful gardens.
Reading it for the first time, I wanted it to be written more as a point-by-point rebuttal. When I re-read it, I realized the author chose to focus on words of hope rather than scientific diarrhea—a welcome shift from the stuff I read every day. Climate scientists know better than any of us what’s probably coming in our future, and it’s not pretty. I’m taking comfort in the fact that she can still be optimistic.