Picture-in-Picture Video Presentations on Zoom

I made these two videos to walk you through installing OBS and DroidCam on PC and Android from start to finish in about 20 minutes so you can do good picture-in-picture video presentations on Zoom. Installing on Mac and iPhone would be similar: look for different instructions for OBS VirtualCam, Droidcam isn’t available for iPhone but there is similar software available for it.

 

 

And here’s a little guide to looking your best on Zoom:
– raise your camera to just below eye height
– don’t have bright lights in the background
– have diffuse, off-center light in front of you

 

 

 

Winter Wildflowers!

Our wildflower garden is flourishing! In January!

Sunbeam Electric Blanket Stealing My Passwords!

Holy Moley! I did not expect my new Sunbeam electric blanket to start stealing my passwords!

After I installed the Sunbeam app on my Android phone to control my electric blanket, I saw that it scrapes my clipboard every time it starts up! I see a message from Android saying “Sunbeam pasted from your clipboard.”

What is “clipboard scraping” you ask? It’s when an app grabs the contents of your clipboard. Sometimes it is a convenience feature, pasting automatically after you copied something. But what the hell does my electric blanket need with the contents of my clipboard? No! My electric blanket does not need to know what is in my phone’s clipboard!

This app is made by the “reputable” Newell Rubbermaid company. They make good garbage cans and Mr. Coffee, and Crock-Pots, for Christ’s sake!

WTF, seriously! This is a serious security and privacy issue!

Keep Looking Up

El Cerrito High School sent a balloon up into the sky last week. The beautiful high altitude trip reminds us all to keep looking up!

 

 

A note from Elan, the physics teacher at El Cerrito High School:

For those of you curious about the high altitude balloon adventure Wednesday (1/12/22 :)

tl;dr: Enjoy this video edited by the Berkeley Astronomy researcher who helped us, Steve Croft. My favorite part starts at ~8:05 when you can see the moon over the snow-capped Sierras and watch as the camera turns over California to see the Bay Area and Pacific Ocean bathing in sunlight. The balloon pops shortly after 9:35 and you can see footage from our recovery at the end. Unfortunately the GoPro cameras ran out of battery, so we did not get footage of the landing over Sacramento.

The full story:
We launched at lunchtime ~11:30am, and then 8 students and I pursued in a van using GPS from the balloon’s payload to guide us… except the GPS immediately stopped working! So we drove to the area where we thought it was going to land, at the Western Railway Museum about a 45 minute drive northeast of us. We looked up hopefully. To our dismay we saw nothing, so drove around ruefully looking at road debris that might be a wayward space balloon. We were just about to head home (with a possible consolation stop at the Jelly Belly factory) when Lyric exclaimed “it’s back!” The GPS had returned! And the balloon appeared to be moving quickly northward! Very far from us! Had someone picked up the balloon’s payload, with its two GoPros, GPS receiver and Milky Way bar and stepped on it? We weren’t gonna let them get away that easily! After high suspense and drama (and a painful amount of driving), we retrieved the balloon in a park just off of I-5 in SACRAMENTO! It had caught itself in a leafless tree, hanging by its parachute, just high enough off the ground that the freshmen had to jump to reach it. After an obligatory stop at the Davis In-N-Out we returned, exhausted but safe, to El Cerrito High at 6:30pm… The distance from the ground to outer space is roughly the same as the distance between the East Bay and Sacramento. And indeed, it was difficult to tell who had had the more incredible adventure: the space balloon or ourselves.

Keep Looking Up (or Down from Up)!

Love,
Elan

Caught My First Gopher

And so it begins. I set my very first gopher trap today.

I planted a wildflower meadow in my backyard and it’s looking terrific except for… An increasing number of gopher holes!

Last year, I finally got approval from the wife and child to set traps after the gophers destroyed THEIR plants. We are done with repellants and thoughts like “there’s enough plants for everyone to share”.

It’s on!

 

 

Same day Update!

Holy moly! I just caught my first gopher!

 

Donated to Khan Academy

This year I wanted our family to donate to a worthy cause. A few factors went into my choice of who to donate to:

  • I’m reminded of how many adults are always willing to sign petitions on banning dihydrogen monoxide.
  • Last quarter, Abigail went to a “fun environmental science” after-school program. In actuality, she (a first grader) learned about all the unsolved global environmental disasters of our time: climate change, the acidification of the oceans, the pacific garbage gyre… fun stuff! No, not really. I strongly believe that she should have learned about how the world’s system work before being alarmed about how they don’t. It’s a matter of putting the cart before the horse.
  • Political discourse in the US has taken a dangerous anti-science bent in the past few years.

This year, our family donated a sizable amount to Khan Academy to promote early science education.

The goal is to help helping to raise the science literacy of the most number of people. Originally, I set a goal of finding an organization that teaches the fundamentals of science to adults, but that, sadly, sounds like a political act these days.

Encouraging Omicron Numbers

This is an encouraging pair of COVID charts

(via, and)

What I see is that the number of Omicron cases per week is soaring but the number of deaths has not increased. Maybe just maybe this means that Omicron doesn’t kill people and (maybe maybe maybe, fingers crossed) Omicron is a contagious vaccine.

Omicron hit California on about December 22nd. Deaths usually follow confirmed cases in 2-4 weeks, but that doesn’t appear to have happened yet.

Yes, there are lingering fears about long COVID, delayed deaths and bad bad things. Heck, have you seen the Rick and Morty episode where Rick makes a love potion for Morty? Hilarious, right?

 

 

Ways to Cook Eggs

I had a really good time making many of the eggs in this video! My new favorite way to make an egg: French Omelet

Participate in this Flickering Light Experiment in Portland

If you are bothered by flickering lights and can get to Portland, Oregon in the next month or so, please join this research experiment! If you know someone that is bothered by flickering lights, tell them about this research project!

This is important research that will help science understand more about the light flicker some people see in car tail lights, building lighting, LED string lights, and other places. The research will help characterize people’s response to it, which will ultimately solve this modern scourge!

The experiment is happening in-person, in Portland, Oregon, in mid-January to mid-February (please disregard what the flyer says for timing, email for actual dates!).

PNNL Lighting Lab Flicker Experiment Recruitment Poster

What the heck am I talking about? Look at my Flickering Light Project website.

If you’re interested but can’t attend, I’d still love to hear from you in the comments below! This coalition to improve lighting is slowly gaining momentum and every voice is important!

 

 

 

 

 

Using a Lightbox to Fight Seasonal Affective Disorder

Over the years, I’ve used a few different lights to combat seasonal affective disorder, AKA getting depressed during winter because there’s not enough light.

For a while, I used a giant CFL light. I set it up so it was shining just over my desk. It helped!

 

Charlotte got me a dedicated lightbox, a NatureBright Suntouch Plus light with short fluorescent tubes in it. I’ve got to admit that it is a little better at pushing the blues away, possibly because of my intention (reciting in my head, “I’m turning my light box on now! It’s going to help me!”) possibly because of it’s placement (it sits right on my desk next to my computer, blasting my face). It has a 30 minute timer on it. When I need it, I run it for way longer than 30 minutes, more like 2 hours at a stretch. That lightbox isn’t for sale any more. I’d guess that  the new LED light boxes have replaced it at 1/2 the cost in 1/2 the space.

What is the light good for?

I haven’t had seasonal affective disorder (SAD) this winter yet, though here we are, right at the beginning, it’s not too late for me to need to pull that thing out!  I didn’t need it last winter since I spent all my time sitting in front of my home Zoom studio lighting. I used it 2 winters ago and it totally helped.

What my SAD feels like is a heavy, dark cloud, pushing down, almost literally, on my head and shoulders. I can literally feel it in my face, pushing the sides of my mouth down into a frown, pulling my facial features down, weighing on my neck. I can feel my ideas and emotions being smothered by that dark cloud. One of the worst things is how incessant it can be. Anyone can survive feeling like crap for a day, or even a week. But the damn feeling lingers for months, pulling everything down!

When I turn on my light box to counter SAD, within 3 minutes, I have a subtle, pleasant sense of mania, coupled with a slight, high pitched ringing in my ears. In a few minutes, I get that elated, expanded feeling like an espresso coffee just hit my bloodstream. It’s nice! Heck, I just pointed my desk lamp into my face and, woo hoo! it’s like cheap drugs! I’m exaggerating a little, but… not that much, really! A simple lightbulb really does all that!

When I don’t need a lightbox, it doesn’t do anything to push away the dark cloud of winter. But when I do, it totally works.