My mother, an octogenarian living alone in the UK, has been without her home phone service and internet service for 9 days now. Her mobile phone barely works at home due to lack of signal (something that mystifies me, but is a topic for a different post). Plusnet provides both her landline and her broadband, which are critical for somebody of that age in case of an emergency. Yet they are doing nothing to fix the issue.
The first challenge was actually getting this reported to them. They do not have an online form for submitting problem reports. Instead, their website literally says that to report a problem with your phone service you should call them. No joke.
Eventually, my mother managed to get through to them from her mobile, finding a place in the house where it was able to connect. They filed that in their system at 7:11pm on November 1, and simply said they had reported it to their “suppliers” to investigate.
I had three of these little Kano pixel units which I bought for the kids to learn some programming on when they were on sale. Turns out the kids didn’t really use them much, and now Kano seems to be history.
The boards are based on the ESP-32 WROOM microcontroller, and can be programmed using the Arduino IDE, but they can also run MicroPython – a version of the Python programming language that runs on microcontrollers like this one. Furthermore, there is already a library which adds support for the LED matrix (128 NeoPixels), the buttons and the rotary dial on the top. Sadly, it does not have support for the USB connectors, or the built-in microphone (which I suspect is connected via the 4th USB channel that the hub IC on the board provides).
Once I had it running Python, my next thought was what could I do with it…
In August I covered school lunches; in January I took a look at how they fail at school sport. Now I’m going to cover what I see as perhaps the most important aspect of an education system: academics. For this, I am going to use my son’s middle school as a reference and compare his school, a California charter school, to a local private school and also to my secondary school in the UK.
Before I get into detail on middle school, however, I do have one other data point to include. A foreign student we know who arrived here at aged 17 with UK “O Levels” (which are public examinations taken typically at the end of what the US school system refers to as sophomore year). When they asked about whether they needed to attend high school or could apply directly to colleges, they were told those exams exceeded the level required for high school graduation. Two years before students in the US would be eligible to graduate from high school.
Those who have followed here for a while might recall that back in 2017 we switched our internet service from Comcast to a local wireless service through a company called Common Networks. They set up their network as a mesh network, with a couple of different locations at that time with Internet access (the Alameda movie theatre on the east end of the island, and the Digital Realty data center just over the estuary from us in Oakland providing a primary connection for the west end). If a node went down, no problem – traffic was routed around it automatically.
Fast forward a few years, and they were struggling and ended up being bought by a San Francisco based outfit called Monkey Brains who operate wireless networks in SF, and a few other locations around the bay area.
They came along and ripped out the little PC that we had on site managing the routing, and replaced the dishes on the roof. There were lots of outages and a lot of our neighbors left and switched to AT&T fiber, which was just starting to offer service around Alameda at the time. We had not had any serious outages, so we stayed.
Back in August of last year I wrote the first part of my analysis of public education in California, and why I felt it was failing the state’s children. As I said then, that was just the first part of the analysis, looking at the state of school lunches.
This is part two of the series, looking at sports options for elementary school age groups. Middle school in the US is hard to compare with the UK since the latter combines the US middle and high into secondary schools. Our kids are in a combined elementary and middle (so called K-8) school, and while the middle school does offer some sports, they share the facilities I detail below (the campus the school is on was originally a middle school, so it is equipped in line with the other middle schools on the island).
Furthermore, this is looking at the city of Alameda, in the San Francisco bay area. It is certainly possible that some other cities have better facilities and/or options.
Not sure exactly when this started, but several of the Target stores we have visited recently, including our local one here in Alameda, now have groups of armed men in military-style uniforms, and body armour at the entrance.
Food might not be the first thing you think about when trying to assess whether an education system is working, but believe me, hungry kids are not going to learn much! Here in Alameda, kids spend 180 days at school – about half the year. If they are going to be healthy, and learn, they had better be getting a good school lunch.
Intrigued by a recent video from Evan Edinger on YouTube about the differences between US and UK primary/elementary school lunches, I thought I’d do a little research of my own. I’ve been unimpressed by the school lunches our kids are offered here in Alameda, and I do remember my own being better, at least some of the time.
Following an incident involving some hard to find AirPods (not mine), and the discovery that the Tile I have had attached to my car keys ran out of battery back in August, but failed to let me know this somewhat critical fact until I launched the app to check it was working, I splashed out on a pack of four AirTags.
These relatively inexpensive trackers come with no way to attach them to anything however, and when I went searching online for options, many of them were as expensive, or more expensive than the AirTag itself. I have ordered one nice carbon fiber one to see, but in the meantime I thought there must be some 3D printable options, and I wasn’t wrong…
I’ve been aware of the team at Electric Classic Cars in Wales, as well as others around the world, who specialize in converting older vehicles, typically those considered to be classics, into EVs. While watching season one of Vintage Voltage, the TV show that follows some of ECC’s classic car conversions, I was wondering whether there would be a market for that kind of thing here in Alameda, and what it would take to set up such a business. This post is my thoughts on that idea.
While I had tried this a few days ago at our local Electrify America location, today I had to charge at Gilroy on my way home from a quick (shopping) trip to Monterey. Had I charged the car to 100%, I might have been able to make the whole trip without a charging stop, in sport mode.
I pulled into the charger with 24% remaining, set up the camera (not easy given how short the cables are on these chargers) and plugged the car in…