Foam glass aggregate is a thing!


I love learning of things I never knew existed, especially if I’ve likely interacted with it before without even realising. It scratches that same itch I had as a kid when I’d pepper my poor parents with a trillion why? questions, or when they’d let me crack open a broken VCR to see how it worked.

Practical Engineering’s recent video on lightweight backfill introduced me to the idea of foam glass aggregate, which has impressive properties for its volume and weight:

It’s created in a similar way to the expanded shale, where heating the raw material plus a foaming agent cretes tiny bubles. When the foamed glass exists the kiln, it’s quickly cooled, causing it to naturally break up into aggregate-sized pieces.

You can see in my graduated cylinders here that I have one pound, or about half a kilogram of soil, sand, and gravel. It takes about twice as much expanded shale aggregate to make up that weight, since its bulk density is about half that of traditional embankment materials. And the foamed glass aggregate (right) is even lighter.

Here’s a close-up screenshot from the video showing pieces of the aggregate. It looks like forbidden bread, or even bone. I suppose the principle is the same.

Screenshot showing the foamy, bread-like texture of the beige aggregate pieces.

And here’s how it compares volumetrically with other materials with the same total mass:

A row of glass cylinders showing various aggregate materials. The far left shows sand barely filling the bottom, the middle are half full with shale aggregate, and the foam glass aggregate is practically overflowing.

I’d never considered that you’d want to make a backfilled onramp light to prevent sinking, but failure to do so can lead to the road deck on a bridge or overpass to end up higher. If you’ve driven up over an embankment and felt a bump, that’s likely what happened.

One thing the video didn’t address was the recycling potential, which also looks interesting. While it can be made with virgin material, foam glass aggregate can even be made with recycled glass, helping to send less stuff to land fill. Although, now that I think about it, that’s literally what it’s being used for here! Sort of.

I often wonder how my life would have turned out if I studied to become a civil engineer (or an accountant) instead of going into IT.

Hololive: Our Bright Parade!


Today’s Music Monday is a thoroughly inadequate and incomplete concert review, but I absolutely have to post about it.

The Hololive virtual YouTuber idol agency put on their annual live concerts over Saturday and Sunday night, this year dubbed Our Bright Parade. I’ve watched them on Blu-ray in the past, but this was first time I watched them with Clara live.

Past concerts have been great, but this was really something special. Along with my HoloJP oshis Suisei and Subaru, we also got to see Hololive EN’s Council perform, as well as some of HoloID for the first time.

Key visual from Holfes4 showing all the talents performing over the two days

I’ll admit, I’m at a loss for words about where to even begin talking about it; they were all spectacular! Some of my highlights were seeing Cali and Gura’s banter about finally being idols, Watson’s incredible shriek at the start of her song, Bae’s amazing chorography, Ina being just as comfy and we all knew she’d be, seeing Reine and Anya debut with HoloID’s undisputed diva Moona, and hearing Kronii debut singing Daydream with that same cool voice that gave us “… flower”.

I loved both days, but I think I have to give it to the second day for having music that was more my vibe! As one example, I leaped out of the chair in shock and awe when Mio, Okayu, and Korone performed the cheeky modern disco throwback Umarvelous… they pulled it off so damn well! If you’ve never seen the original music video, consider it homework, it’s so, so good!

Anya, Moona, and Reine performing.

But the stars of the show for me were Reine (top right) from Hololive Indonesia, and Ceres Fauna (below) from Hololive English Council. This was the debut concert for both of them, and Reine delivered her MV Illusion Night with such confidence and style you’d think she’d been doing it with her 3D model for years. Like Bae, her choreography was on point, and I couldn’t believe her range!

Fauna at the end of her song.

Which leads us to Ceres Fauna, and the performance that may have cemented her as my Hololive EN oshi. Bossa nova has been my favourite music since first hearing Jobim, so hearing her singing her Let Me Stay Here original among the falling leaves in lieu of flashing lights felt like worlds colliding in the comfiest way possible. It was fun looking out at the sea of green glowsticks swaying as if in a gentle breeze. I could have listened all day. 🌿

I’m not sure if we’d be able to roll it up with a trip to AsiaBSDCon next year, but I think Clara and I have decided: we’ll need to go to the concert for real next year in Tokyo. Better start saving for that, and for the Blu-ray!

AI developers: be nice, and credit your artists


This summary from an anime dataset so beautifully captures the issues facing AI generated art:

I also want to personally thank [the image board], as without their hardwork the generative quality from this model would not have been feasible without going to financially extreme lengths to acquiring the data to use for training.

The Booru in question would also like to remain anonymous due to the current climate regarding AI generated imagery.

The developers thank the image board, but not the artists for their “hardwork”. Might that be contributing to the “current climate regarding AI generated imagery”?

As long as developers treat art as merely butter to be churned, they can’t act surprised at the resentment it breeds! Well, they can, but they might look as silly as someone sporting six fingers. From their feet.

Why are they called du Pont connectors?


You know those tiny header connectors that computers use to attach power buttons and speakers to motherboards? I’ve always known them as du Pont connectors. I never really thought why, though I assumed it was for the same reason they’re called Molex connectors.

Turns out, it’s a bit more complicated. Matt Millman wrote a great post back in 2021 that goes into some history, including sourcing the identification plates on the crimping tools used to make them. He concludes:

For most of its existence, Berg was a division of du Pont, giving us the first (albeit cryptic) clue as to the origin of this term. Adding further confusion to the picture, “Berg connector” was already an established vernacular term by that point. It must be a matter of timing.

Once again, looking at serial numbers on Mini-PV crimp tool identification plates, we can see that around the time when clones seem to have first appeared, the Berg brand name is dumped, replaced with Du Pont. A historic news article tells us this change likely occurred in 1987, just before the first clones are seen.

This looks to be the story. The Du Pont name was adopted because at the time they were first seen, that is the brand the closest resembling connector was sold under, and clearly people who were discussing them were aware of it … the term should be regarded as purely vernacular as du Pont did not have a hand in the creation of the clone type connectors this now refers to.

I love it when people take the time to do deep dives like this.

Libraries were full of tech inflexion points


Have you ever looked at a specific moment in your life and realised this is where everything changed? I’ve been thinking about tech inflection points again recently (while trying to distract myself from grim ones like AI), and I keep coming back to the beloved libraries in which I grew up.

When we lived in Melbourne in the early 1990s, our local council library had newspapers on microfiche, which my parents would show me. It seemed impossible for such a tiny slide to contain so much information, though it answered an early question in my head about where these libraries keep all their archives. Doesn’t newspaper degrade, yellow, and fall apart!?

My parents were big into audiobooks, so we’d also be checking out dozens of cassette tapes. Books were out on CDs by the time we moved to Singapore, but aside from being more portable they weren’t actually better. A tape would remember exactly where you left off; CDs required you to remember your last track.

But what happened when you actually needed a book from one of these library places? You’d look it up in the card file! You’d approach a wall of small drawers, in which were thousands of cards with details of each volume were contained. I already can’t remember if these were sorted based on the Dewey Decimal number, or if it was purely alphabetical. It does make me wonder where all those chests ended up.

Our local library, and my school’s library, were both already in the process of replacing their card file systems with DOS PCs with blue screens and white tables of text by the time I started using them seriously. Even that would be quaint by today’s standards (though I knew one librarian in Singapore who hated their new Windows XP system and wished they could go back to the text-based one they had before).

Aside from outing myself as being in my thirties again with this rose-tinted retrospective, it’s interesting walking into a library now and seeing the rows of tables covered in laptops and tablets. The books, periodicals, magazines, music, and encyclopædias are all still there, though I wonder how long they’ll exist too?

Feedback about the “friend zone” post


A gentleman emailed me last month (sorry, it’s a big backlog!) regarding my friend zone post. If you didn’t see it, I read an article republished on a Singapore news site offering advice for people stuck in the aforementioned zone. Instead, it offered a lesson in what not to do!

I didn’t get permission to repost what he sent, and it was written in good faith, so I’ll be mostly paraphrasing. In short, is a phrase with two words! And people say I’m too serious around here.

The crux of his email was that he was in college, had a crush on someone in their dorm, and that my comment that love isn’t a transaction was a “splash of cold water [they] needed”. He took exception to my characterisation in a few places, but otherwise agreed that trading favours for feelings wasn’t a tenable strategy.

I take the L regarding tone, and apologise if I added to anyone’s stress. My point in the post wasn’t to denigrate people who think like this, but to offer them an alternative way of approaching relationships.

I empathise that the deck can seem stacked against shy, nervous, or quiet people with interests that deviate from the mainstream, regardless of our gender or orientation! But you deserve a fighting chance, and resenting someone for not having affections “despite you being nice” isn’t a winning strategy. You should be a good person because you’re a good person.

I had my first girlfriend at 27, and suffered most of my life from social anxiety and introversion (they’re different things). Suffice to say, I know of what I speak!

Defaulting pedestrian traffic lights to green


The traffic lights at a local T-intersection were recently tweaked, then changed back. It’s a larger thoroughfare with a smaller branch road, and pedestrian crossings on each side.

The pedestrian lights used to default to red, even if the cars also had red. This meant it was one of the few intersections where you’d be standing there indefinitely unless you pressed the crossing button.

The ackchyually, crossing buttons don’t do anything factoid seems to circulate every now and then, but it’s absolutely not true in places where I’ve lived. I had a friend in Singapore who’s father worked at the Land Transport Authority, and he confirmed some buttons work, even at intersections. But I digress.

A few weeks ago I walked out and the pedestrian light was green, and the traffic light for the branch road was red. It stayed like this until a car came down the street and, presumably having driven over the pressure sensor, flipped the pedestrian crossing light to red.

Not sure whether this was a one-off, I decided to actively observe the state of each light whenever I used the intersection, as if to make a little mental truth table. Almost every day, the pedestrian light across this branch road remained green, and only changed when a car approached.

This was great! This crossing was otherwise one of the slowest I’d ever come across, and now I could saunter across whenever I wanted to, like a gentleman.

Alas, whatever experiment they were running on pedestrian accessibility came to an end, and now it takes me two more minutes to cross this intersection every day. It was a nice idea having motorists wait by default for once; they’re the ones sitting in air-conditioned bubbles that make the rest of us wait in the beating sun or rain.

Things that aren’t orchestration toolchains


In no particular order:

  • The Firth of Forth
  • Anya Forger
  • Fish and Finger Pie
  • Tungsten
  • This list
  • Objective Phantasm™
  • ah… ah… AH… damn it, do you hate when CHOO
  • Unplugged cyclonic vacuum cleaner handles

Pop Up Parade Calliope Mori


Everyone’s favourite grim-reaping idol from Hololive is getting a Pop Up Parade fig rendition, and I couldn’t be happier for her. Not just because it’s an awesome design that captures her style and personality so well, but for what it represents.

Press image of Pop Up Parade's Calliope Mori.

Hololive’s English Myth branch burst onto the scene in 2020, back when the world felt like it was going to hell in a handbasket from Covid. Get it, because she’s the grim… shaddup. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’m sure their streams helped millions of people, including Clara and myself. They’ve put so much hard work, and I hope tokens like this help to demonstrate they’re appreciated.

Clear files, acrylic stands, keychains, wall scrolls, and nendos (sorry fans!) are great and all, but there’s no surer sign that you’ve made it in this slice of fandom than a scale fig that people can buy. Well okay, CDs and records too! But still.

As an aside, it’s infectious feeling proud for someone’s achievements. I should post about people killing it more often. Get it, because she’s the grim… shaddup.

Parts reviewers, clickbait, and absolute price


PC Magazine (or was it PC World?) used to summarise their reviews with Bang for the Buck charts in the 1990s. Components would be plotted against price and performance, and chosen based on where they fell. Save for any glaring or obvious issues, the one that offered the most bang for the most buck was recommended.

I remember my mum telling me I shouldn’t use those terms too loudly in polite company, for reasons I’d know “when I got older”. Whoops!

Two decades on, and everyone from bloggers to YouTubers still follow this for consumer electronics recommendations. It’s rational to want as much performance or efficiency per dollar you can get. On the flip side, you’d be reticent to recommend something with 10% better performance for twice the price. The value, as they’d say, isn’t there.

But this is where clickbait starts to skew the picture. While those magazines of yore did have to lure buyers with catchy covers, videos and bloggers have to fight among thousands of others for engagement and clicks.

And what draws attention? Well, I also brought Shaggy back alongside those magazines, and he tells me it needs to be bombastic, to be truly fantastic. The Shaggy Marketing Principle, they call it. Mr Lover Lover.

This leads to, what could be charitably described, as rage reactions. It’s not sufficient to brand a CPU, graphics card, or cooler as not cost effective, or not suited to a specific use case or budget. They have to be absolutely shocking, or a literal waste of silicon, or shouldn’t exist. These parts aren’t just bad value, their existence is offensive to civilisation, up there with the worst mistakes made in this history of humanity. I think I’ve seen enough thumbnails with literal flames and exaggerated facepalms to last a lifetime. 🔥

Journalistic integrity aside, these attitudes seep into forums and social media, where people who don’t pick the blessed parts are piled onto when sharing builds or ideas. This is most pronounced early on in product launches, when the majority of builders can only base their judgement on what a few YouTube reviewers said. It always sucks seeing a young enthusiast sharing their build, only to be pelted by reply guys.

And it doesn’t even make sense half the time. As mentioned in the title, missing from most of this analysis is the absolute cost of a device, which depending on the market and your budget can be the difference between affording something and not. It doesn’t matter if $100 more gets you twice the performance, if you don’t have $100 more. It also discounts global price variations and supply. To paraphrase Henri Cartier-Bresson about cameras, the best one is the one that’s available.

This drive for engagement warps everything, and it has consequences far beyond trolls saying you’re a sucker for buying an A770 or a 7900 XT. On the plus side, you don’t need permission from other people to feel good about yourself, and you’re not required to rationalise any of your decisions to random Internet strangers. That’s something I wish I’d learned years ago.