Interesting Finds: Issue #11

Strength of Fathers, Pixar Portraits, Annoying Power Plugs and Solar Power

Each week, I curate the most curious content I find, and add a spotlight on portions I find most interesting.

In this issue I talk about the strength of fathers, solar power, using AI to make portraits from Pixar characters and a $10 fix to annoying power plugs.

PS - I also got a shiny new domain name for the newsletter—say hello to!

Strong Like A Father

Like most parents do, I’ve done a lot of reflection over my childhood since becoming a father. Over the last 5 years, I’ve dissected my childhood memories and feelings around growing up, and compare them to my own reverse experience as a parent. While cliche, I have a newfound respect, and empathy, for my parents realizing how much harder it was for them than I ever realized during my childhood. Not only did we grow up without very much money causing them to work multiple jobs, they also had 3 kids and lived during a time in the 1980s in Canada where they were paying a mortgage at rates between 10-18%.

Despite all of this, the biggest takeaway I had from my childhood reflection was the overwhelming realization that my parents were not at all affectionate. My emotional connection with my parents during my childhood, even into my adult life, aligns dangerously close to the dreaded East Asian parent stereotype. From Psychology Today:

When Asian families immigrate to the United States, the cultural, relational, and familial  expectations and norms of a collectivist society based on interdependence, harmony, emotional restraint, and deference to authority collide with western ideals of autonomy, independence, assertiveness, emotional directness, and challenging of authority.

"Unquestioning loyalty" is a mantra that has served collectivist cultures to maintain harmony and social order for centuries upon centuries.  These stark differences present the greatest challenges to the first and second generation of Asian-American families as family members for the first time must straddle two very different cultures with opposing cultural values.  "The strain of maintaining, in individualistic America, a stystem [sic] that sees 'proper behavior toward parents and elder brothers' as they very 'trunk of Goodness' weighs on all generations."

Immigrant parents hold dearly to their cherished traditions of collectivism, cooperation, and interdependence whille [sic] the "Americanized" children are holding the tension of living in both a collectivist mindset and one based on individualism and self-expression.

While tongue in cheek, this cartoon from the same Psychology Today article literally summarizes my childhood in terms of emotional connection with my parents:

"Art by Lela Lee, courtesy of Angry Little Girls, Inc."

Seemingly against all emotional odds, I grew up into my adulthood being a very affectionate person, and I identify strong with the 2 love languages of “Words of Affirmation” and “Physical touch” which were seemingly cardinal sins in my childhood.

Since becoming a father, I’ve found myself naturally embracing and amplifying these 2 love languages, especially as I raise both a son and daughter who are already very different from each other at relatively young stages of their life. It’s been critically important to me to shatter stereotypes of the father figure, regardless of race, who’s strength is shown through the lack of affection, emotion and connection.

This entire section of this week’s newsletter was prompted by this Interesting Find in actor Kumail Nanjiani’s tweet about how, despite his relationship being different with his father, we see the world in the same way when it comes to male role models.


Poor Storytelling

J.R.R. Tolkien is an English author and academic, best known for writing the fantasy books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings won the International Fantasy Award in 1957, and multiple awards over the ensuing 6 decades including making BBC’s list of 100 most inspiring novels.

These books were adapted into 6 movies starting in 2001 by New Zealand film director Peter Jackson and grossed nearly $6 billion dollars in worldwide box office ticket sales. To say that these books and movies are beloved by fans is an understatement.

What’s interesting is that the public accolades and mainstream success came much later in the legacy of the written works. In 1961, I learned courtesy of the BBC that Tolkien was “passed over for the 1961 Nobel literature prize after the storytelling in his Lord of the Rings trilogy was described as second rate”:

JRR Tolkien was passed over for the 1961 Nobel literature prize after the storytelling in his Lord of the Rings trilogy was described as second rate.

Newly-released documents - declassified after 50 years - show that he was nominated by fellow author CS Lewis.

The Nobel prize jury said "the result has not in any way measured up to storytelling of the highest quality".

Yugoslav writer Ivo Andric won for the "epic force with which he has traced themes and depicted human destinies".

That Nobel jury is a tough crowd.

Sunny Days

5 Fun Facts about Cats & Solar Power (with Kitten GIFs) - Main Street Solar

There is no question in my mind that our planet must and will transition from burning fossil fuels to renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Research over the past 2 decades have yielded tremendous advanced in solar cell efficiency. In lab research, they’ve double solar cell efficiency in a span of 2 years from 22.8% in 2015 to 44.5% in 2017. From Energy Sage:

solar panel efficiency over time

Additionally, the cost of solar installations continues to plummet making systems more and more affordable for homeowners and businesses. Here is a chart of price per watt of residential solar energy from 2008-2018":

Cost of Solar Graph

Earlier this month, I was shocked to find this Interesting Finds out of Arkansas:

In Batesville, Arkansas, just 17 miles west of the state’s largest coal-fired power plant, a solar array at the local high school is having an unconventional impact: boosting teachers’ pay.

This Arkansas school implemented a solar system and turned the savings into better teacher pay. They transformed the district’s $250k budget deficit into a $1.8 million surplus in only 3 years. The pay raises averaged between $2000-$3000 per teacher.

Hug A Plug

I can’t be the only one that is constantly annoyed and frustrated by power plugs in the wall. They are usually awkwardly placed with plugs that are way too big, sticking out and getting in the way of proper placement of small appliances and furniture.

Take this example from a nook in my kitchen where we have our toaster oven. The toaster oven fits, but the way the power outlet and plug connect, forced me to have the toaster oven shifted so it wasn’t centered and it was forced too far forward:

In scouring Amazon, I finally found 2 solutions to this! First, is the Hug A Plug, which is a simple plug that orients the outlet perpendicular to the outlet. Bonus is that it gives you a second outlet too.

There are 2 different version of the Hug A Plug though, so make sure you buy the smaller one. Here is a photo comparing the 2 sizes:

If you absolutely need the most flush plug possible, check these 1 foot flat plug cables out. They are 15A and UL certified, making them great for most small appliances.

Reality vs Pixar

Nathan Shipley shared on Twitter some experiments he’s been doing with an AI-based framework called Pixel2Style2Pixel and applying it to photos of Pixar characters to create photorealistic faces. The results are wild.

He got a suggestion to add a step to make the characters more “real” by transforming the faces to more realistic proportions, which then resulted in this:

We live in crazy times.

Other Interesting Finds 🔎

  • 🍦 Someone reverse engineered the McDonald’s ordering system and uncovered they could tell whether a given location had a broken ice cream machine. Never roll up to that drive through ever again and not get your ice cream fix! Say Hello to McBroken.

  • 🌉 Incredibly interesting video on how bridges were built in Central Europe in the middles ages.

  • 😂 During an interview with astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, a camera operator accidentally yanked a cable causing an alarm and Hawking to suddenly slump forward. Worried they had killed him, everyone rushed over to find Hawking giggling at his own joke. The alarm was from an office computer losing power (source).

  • 👏 In 2014, the Nintendo Wii U gaming console had a huge sales slump. The CEO cut his pay in half for 5 months rather than blame the employees. Leadership at its finest.

  • 🏦 Remember that 4000 degree plasma Lightsaber I wrote about a few weeks ago? Here’s a follow-up video of the Hacksmith team using it to cut through a bank vault.