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Month: October 2021

The Future of the Battery

Renewable energy continues its technological march. New developments in solar panels grab headlines almost daily, and energy conversion rates increase regularly – but there is a limit to what we can do with solar panels until battery technology improves as well.

Sadly, batteries have remained relatively unchanged for decades, but that’s all about to change.

The Battery Bottleneck

Consider the size of your phone. It doesn’t matter if you have the latest and greatest smartphone, an old flip phone or something in between. The battery remains the largest component within, thus dictating the overall size, weight and thickness of any mobile device.

An iPhone might just be the most advanced mobile technology – all crammed into a millimeters-thick brick. But if you were to crack it open, you’d see a minuscule circuit board next to a comparatively massive battery.

And it’s gotta be that big because we need all that juice to run those trillions upon trillions of calculations every day. Who knew swiping through Tinder or flicking down your for-you page on TikTok required so much energy?

But, what if a battery’s energy capacity wasn’t so directly tied to the battery’s size?

What if the battery became the smallest component in your phone? And what if there was an energy-dense battery capable of running your entire house at night?

We may be seeing that mystical-sounding battery sooner than you might think…

Favorite Improbology Posts of 2018

Find Your Edges

A critical look at employment in the age of rampant automation.

When AI advancements might make all human interactions with computers redundant, and how that may lead to a wave of white-collar jobs becoming unnecessary.

I’m a Hurt-aholic

A deeply personal piece outlining my experience with pain, disappointment and abuse – both externally and internally.

This is the foundational cornerstone in developing my understanding of my own neurodivergence.

There’s a Reason Cable Companies Suck

After two years of intermittent internet outages, and atrocious customer service, I was forced down the cable-industry rabbit hole.

What I learned needs to be shared. Turns out there’s actually a reason those giant cable companies suck!

Meat Bag Confronts Screen, More at 11

There’s something heartbreaking about watching a loved one seek satiation as they self-consciously scroll through an algorithm’s feed.

Mister Paul’s Blame Pudding

U.S. Senator Rand Paul got attacked by his neighbor while mowing his lawn. The sitting Senator suffered five broken ribs in the attack.

I dissect the event, and the events preceding it, to reveal who is really at fault in this unfortunate feud.

Fortnite’s Life Lessons

Finally, a light-hearted look at something!

I deconstruct the gameplay loop within Fornite’s battle royale. I find striking similarities to an entire lifetime stuffed into those brief 22-minute games.

The Dark Side of Unlicensed Sober Living Homes

A group is forming at my neighbor’s beautiful three-bedroom apartment in Hollywood, California.

I enter cautiously… because even though I’ve lived two-doors down for the past two years, we’ve never met.

As the place fills in with others, it dawns on me: This neighborhood-watch meeting is not your normal get together.

That’s because a few blocks away an unlicensed sober-living facility just opened.

The owner now living next door to this new facility is here tonight. He’s not the first to talk. First, we listen to a member of our city council explain the current housing laws.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects many from prejudice when buying a home. It’s a good law, and it was crafted with the best of intentions.

Unfortunately, some unlicensed sober living facilities use those best intentions as a loophole to create unsupervised, self-governed and overfilled halfway homes.

You might imagine the value of that neighbor’s home taking an immediate nosedive. And he had just put in a pool… “sweat equity,” he said.

5 Common Grammatical Errors That Sink Your Dating Profile

Nothing destroys your chances at getting that girl faster than poor grammar on your dating profile.

In a study published by Zoosk, 48% of singles polled find bad grammar a deal breaker!

Making simple grammar mistakes might make you look less intelligent, or worse: a scammer, and you wouldn’t want that! But the biggest turn off for me when I meet a new match is when it seems like we won’t be able to hold a simple conversation.

I know. I know. Grammar is boring. “I comes before E except after C” reads like some ancient bible translation. But trust me, conjugations are not contagious. And apostrophes are really not that mysterious.

So if you’ve slept through English class, you may find your options of sleeping with anyone now a little limiting. Thankfully, you’ve got me!

Let’s discuss a few of my biggest pet peeves when reading your dating profile:

Some Customers Report LADWP Overcharging on Monthly Bill

There’s a common assumption that everything will cost more when living in Los Angeles. Gas is routinely over $4 a gallon, eggs can creep into the double digits for a dozen, and monthly utility bills can skyrocket for some.

While most of these expenses are unavoidable, if you’re an LADWP customer and you’ve seen your rates jump, there may be an unexpected reason. Customers receiving an estimated amount on their monthly bills may be scratching their heads over why there’s been a sudden jump in their amount due.

What is an estimated amount on a utility bill?

Previous to this current rash of customers receiving estimated bills, estimated amounts only got issued to customers with inaccessible meters. A meter behind a locked gate or somewhere unreachable by a meter reader, or when a dog is present on the homeowner’s property, usually triggers an estimated bill to get delivered to the customer.

These estimated amounts would be derived from historic usage data and might get adjusted for seasonal variance. This means an estimated bill should reflect an accurate guess based on the customer’s actual usage.

The LADWP is now fielding complaints related to the recent billing system overhaul that has left many customers with higher than normal bills due to estimated amounts getting autogenerated. These new estimated bills aren’t based on individual customer usage, leaving some customers to deal with bills many multiple times their actual utility usage.

While the LADWP is prepared to correct these errors, the municipal utility is dragging its feet while placing the blame on a third-party.

Now Boarding – Life Near an Airport is for the Birds

On a clear day in parts of Los Angeles, you can see a string of commercial airliners queuing up to land at LAX. From a distance, this conga line of four or five planes silently hangs as if stationary on the horizon slowly curving towards the ground.

But if you’re in El Segundo, much closer to LAX, a plane approaching to land every two minutes becomes an unnervingly persistent disruption.

Living near an airport, under the landing pattern of jumbo jets, requires a certain amount of Zen to ignore. But noise isn’t the only detriment to finding peace in your home near an airport. Planes release toxins in the air; and with hundreds taking off and landing each day from major airports, living near a busy travel hub can take its toll on your health.

The Slow, Sad Death of Google Glass

Sarah Slocum just wanted to go out for a drink after work with friends. Slocum, a San Francisco-based tech writer and proud Google Glass owner, soon realized not everyone is terribly receptive to a wearable computer-and-camera attached to a stranger’s face.

An evening that might have started with not-so-polite requests for her to remove her face computer, quickly devolved into an uncomfortable confrontation. As you can see from the video Slocum recorded from her device:

Slocum is a member of a small demographic that has since been labeled glassholes. Becoming a glasshole is a Google-acknowledged problem with Glass owners. Google’s own documents define a glasshole as a creepy or rude person who does not respect the wishes of others with regards to the use of Glass. “Respect others’ privacy and if they have questions about Glass don’t get snappy,” requests Google.

Fault may rest on both parties at that San Francisco bar, but there’s an inherent irony in Slocum’s altercation. As the angry bar patrons attempted to rip the device from Slocum’s face for her supposedly recording video without their consent, multiple wall-mounted security cameras silently captured the conflict.

This irony may be the underlying reason why Google Glass is now dying a slow death.

The State of Dating in 2016

“Twenty years from now, the idea that someone looking for love won’t look for it online will be silly, akin to skipping the card catalog to instead wander the stacks because the right books are found only by accident.”
— Rufus Griscom Wired Magazine, 2002

The modern era of digital courtship allows everyone seeking love to sift through an infinite stream of potential suitors. But are more options always better? And what does that mean when it comes time to choose just one lifelong partner? That was always the point, right? To find enduring love – a soulmate?

Have you ever seen a child selecting a flavor at Baskin Robbins? Deciding between 31 different ice-cream flavors as a child is a special form of torture. Choosing chocolate over vanilla is a rather simple decision. But increasing the available options also increases the fear of missing out (FOMO), which makes that final decision an excruciating endeavor.

A study in 1995 conducted at a California grocery store attempted to quantify our inability to choose when the pool of choice is increased. The researcher handed out coupons for heavily discounted jam at an endcap kiosk but rotated the amount of presented jams each hour. One hour, a passerby could select from six jams, the next hour that number increased to 24.

The larger assortment of jams attracted more attention, a total of 60 percent of customers were drawn to the display. When the display dropped to just six jams, attention dropped to 40 percent.

But attention alone is not entirely a statement of choice.

Shell Abandons Arctic Drilling Plans at a $7 Billion Loss

For years now, oil companies have circled the Arctic like vultures hanging in the sky over a dying carcass. From up there, the target is clear, and the execution appears easy.

Political cycles come and go with the idea of drilling in the Arctic rising and falling in popularity. Some believe we can unlock unimaginable energy potential by cracking into the trove of crude buried beneath the frozen tundra. Remember Sarah Palin’s reductive catch phrase, “Drill, baby, drill”? Others think the process of deep-sea arctic drilling is as impossible as tying your shoe on a rollercoaster.

Across the span of quite a few years now, Shell spent a total of $7 billion in research and exploratory drilling of the Arctic. After previously stating its confidence in the “90 billion barrels of crude available” in the Arctic, Shell is now announcing that it is abandoning its arctic operation entirely.

“Shell will now cease further exploration activity in offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future,” the oil company stated. “The decision reflects both the Burger J well [the planned location] result, the high costs associated with the project, and the challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment in offshore Alaska.”

Hooking Up at Coachella

Ah Coachella. Where The Flaming Lips can describe both the band on stage and the blistered labia scattered throughout the crowd. Over the next two weekends, the 2016 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival descends on a sleepy community in the middle of nowhere.

This dusty expanse of nothingness becomes the throbbing epicenter of hipster idol worship for two weekends each year. With all these like-minded, fashionable youths swarming like locusts with bare midriffs and culturally insensitive Native American headdresses, it’s hard not to think about hooking up. Well, hooking up and where to find water that’s not $5 a bottle.

Yes, steamy sex and heat exhaustion are often not far from the hipster’s mind as they slog through the world’s longest line of bumper-to-bumper traffic approaching the tragically underdeveloped, yet charmingly beautiful, Coachella Valley.