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Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

There’s not much else to say about the Sun in November 2020, at least when it comes to Belgium: our solar panels produced slightly above average. Temperatures were much above average, making for a strange combination that did not really feel like Autumn until the last two days of the month. This morning it was raining, but now the sun is back – hurrah!

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I am using WordPress for ten years now, and I have always appreciated the fact that WP is a solid piece of software. I know I’m not using all of its possibilities and functions, but until a a few weeks ago I have never encountered anything that could be considered a “bug”.

However… since the change to the Block editor for editing Posts and Pages all my editing sessions regularly show me this message:

Conflicting messages: did WP save the post or not?

What does WordPress mean, by the way, when it says I’m not allowed to edit my own Post? And if I’m not allowed to edit it, where did it save the Post? Why do I find parts of what I wrote in my site, even when it tells me that the update failed?

This is, of course, a nice example of how not to inform your user. Because just to be sure I keep clicking the “Save” or “Update” buttons, only to see the same message popping up most of the time!

Worse: sometimes the editor says “Saved”, but does not save the Post, thus forcing me to retype it. Having experienced that on a few occasions, I even started to write my Posts in a separate text editor program on my Mac or PC before copy-pasting them into the block editor – and that can and should not be the right way to use a tool like WordPress that can handle a minimal but complete editorial flow from writing over revising and approving to publishing.

Back to the message shown above: it occurs when I create a new Post, but also when I edit older Pages and Posts that were created with the Classic editor. Until very recently, I always preferred the Classic editor: it gives me a certain measure of control over the HTML code, something I (like many web developers) appreciate a lot. By the way: the Classic block in the Block editor may look like the Classic editor, but it isn’t the same and does not allow the same measure of control over your content. So  it’s not a good equivalent.

I know I still have to learn to get to grips with the Block editor, which is by definition better than the Classic editor when it comes to structuring content in a web page. That’s a big plus when changing the look and feel of a site, or when you move content from one site to another. So from a Content Management point of view the Block editor is way better than the Classic editor.

But the Block editor should be able to handle existing “classic” posts and pages without strange hick-ups (I seen a few of those as well) and without trying to apply the Block editor rules on those old Posts. It would be better if WordPress could simply revert to the Classic editor if it notices that there is no “Block” stuff in them.

And certainly the Block editor should save my edits correctly and without fail – and without dubious messages! Because that’s a bug, in my view!

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I admit that I had to use a thesaurus to come up with all the adjectives to describe the past month.  But October 2020 was cloudy, dark, dim, gloomy, ill-lighted, murky, overcast, sunless, somber, tenebrous, … and more!

The numbers prove it: our solar panels produced only 69% of the average of the previous ten years. Even worse: in October 2018 the solar energy production of our installation was almost twice that of the past month!

There is a bit of good news, however. Contrary to 2016 and 2017, we’re certain to pass the 2 MWh mark for the whole year. Unless a major disaster blocks all sunlight in the coming days and months… I hope Nature agrees with me that the current pandemic is enough of a disaster for a single year.

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The September Sun Did OK

September was a nice summer month in Belgium, except for the last days: storm Odette was not a hurricane, but still inflicted serious damage at the coast. In terms of sunshine, specifically: in terms of solar energy production on our roof, September was above average. The numbers for the meteorological summer in total (at least for our panels) aren’t the worst we’ve seen, but just about average.

The rain we’re having now is most welcome anyway, since those hot summer days left our garden hungry for water.

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Just Wondering…

California wildfires? Must be a consequence of “bad forest management”.

Storms and hurricanes in the Mexican Gulf? That must be a consequence of “bad ocean management”, no?

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Yes, August 2020 was hot, very hot even, certainly for Belgium. But hot does not equal sunny, and high temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius have a negative impact on the efficiency of solar panels. Still, for our installation a production equal to 98% of the estimate is not that bad.

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92% would be a good exam result for any student, but when it comes to solar electricity production I like to see numbers above 100% – especially in what are supposed to be the sunniest months of the year. But the Royal Meteorological Institute (in Dutch) tells us that July 2020 was a bit less warm than normal, had a bit less sunshine than normal, and had less rain than normal (normal being defined as the average since 1981). In fact, July 2020 only had a single day with non-stop clear blue skies. Since we’re going to have a real heat wave the coming days, I hope we’ll see some more “perfectly sunny days” in August.

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I have finally found some time to play with the Raspberry Pi. Nothing spectacular; I have great things in mind for it, but for the moment I would just like it to take over the “solar” duties of the Asus EeePc that is running permanently (and hence providing a small heat source in the winter, right on my desk).

One of the first things I tried is prepping the Pi to run all that old Python USB stuff the SMA Sunny Boy requires me to use. My habit of trying to document my experiences as much as possible paid off: I just had to follow the instructions I wrote down myself in 2017 how to install an old pyusb package on Ubuntu – much to my surprise, they work flawlessly on the Raspbian 10 running on the Pi. Onwards to further testing!

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It does not rain that often on July 1st here in Belgium, but it did in 2020 ;-)

Our solar electricity production numbers for June are not influenced by the latest rainy days, luckily: the panels generated just a bit more than the average of the past 10 months of June. In total, we have now surpassed the 22 MWh mark in ten and a half years.

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Yes, “warm” and “sunny” are again the words needed to describe the local weather during May 2020. The COViD-19 measures keep us close to our house, but when we go for a long walk the atmosphere is that of a summer holiday walk. There is much less traffic on the roads, and you encounter more people walking or riding a bicycle. All that enhances the holiday feeling, and takes away a big part of the pre-Corona pressure to rush and hurry. It may seem contradictory, but yes indeed, during those walks we feel like we’re on holiday – even in the midst of a serious crisis.

May 2020 was sunny, indeed: it failed to set the highest electricity production number for the month of May in our installation by a hair. Only May 2011 did slightly better (332KWh vs. 330Kh), and that was in a time when our panels were still very new!

All that sunshine is fine – except for our garden (and for the farmers). The spring of 2020 is sunny and warm, but also very dry. This is not the post where you might expect this phrase, but here it is nonetheless: we need rain too!

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April Was Warm And Sunny

Meteorologically speaking April was a warm and sunny month in Belgium, and that was clear from what we saw in our garden: the grass grew very fast, and our trees bloomed two to three weeks earlier than normal. Local tradition demands that we wear Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) on the International Worker’s Day events. It has been quite a while since the lily of the valley plants in our garden bore flowers on May 1st; this year, they were almost all gone before that day!

The first open flowers on our lily-of-the-valley already appeared on April 10th.

Those warm and sunny conditions are of course reflected in our solar energy production numbers. April numbers ended at almost 115% of the average for the month, and only two Aprils did better – almost a decade ago, when the reflective coating on the roof was still really reflective ;-)

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Yesterday, I have been informed that one of my best friends has been found dead in his appartement. I have known him almost all my life, and we have done many things together: we went to school together, sitting in the same class for twelve years; we went together on holidays and trips, first with our parents, and later with friends or just the two of us; we talked about books and people and movies and literature and art and … life. He was smart, he had a phenomenal memory, he was able to see through fake reasoning and irrelevant propositions in a debate, he fiercely defended a rational and scientific approach to anything, and he always strived to make the world a better place for all people.

Making the world a better place was very important to him. How ironic then, that the Corona pandemic and the measures to fight it played a part in his dead. No, he was not infected. But he was a “loner”, in more than one meaning of the word. He had no partner, no children, no living parents, no siblings, and just a few friends… He was more of an observer of crowds than someone to voluntarily mingle and interact with people. Something from his past – we’ll never know what – weighed heavily on him, rendering him moody and depressed. But he still loved a good talk, and we had many, if not always in person.

Not being able to retreat to his caravan during the weekend and his days off work, in the woods and calm of the countryside, during the last weeks was very hard on him – he told me as much 14 days ago. Not being able to visit his friends for the weekly dinner probably downed his spirits as well.

The so-called “social distancing” we all have to practice to counter the pandemic is without any doubt required if we want to limit the stress the disease can put on our lives and the economy. But it is so badly named: we don’t need “social” distancing, we need “physical distancing”! Man is a social animal, and in times like these meaningful social contacts are essential to fight the limitations that the war on the virus induces in our mind and spirit. If we can’t hug our family and friends in person, then at least we have to call them, write letters and emails, interact with them to let them know we care, to tell them that soon things will be better. Not just once, but often. Because if we fail to do that, I fear my friend won’t be the last one to die alone, while feeling abandoned and desperate…

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These are not the times to fool around on a day like April 1st. The only fools of the day are those people that do not take the current epidemic seriously.

When it comes to sunshine, having to report a very average month of March in terms of solar electricity production is not funny either. If it weren’t for those last 10 days of mostly clear blue skies and lots of sun, March would have been just as dark as the previous months. Here’s the graph to illustrate that:

Our solar electricty production numbers for March 2020

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The corona-virus hits public life hard in Belgium, so we used the last opportunity in a few (?) weeks to visit a restaurant…

Did we like the food? Oh yes!

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The Weatherman of the Belgian Royal Meteorological Institute announced today on TV that this winter (defined as the past months December, January and February) is one of the warmest and darkest ever measured. The electricity production numbers from our solar panels can testify to the gloominess of February: we never had a February delivering so few electrons! 78% of the mean doesn’t seem that bad, but knowing that the number was never lower is not good.

The snow we saw a few days ago was, at least here in the Antwerp region, not meant to stay long: temperatures barely descended below zero Celcius, and that only during the day. I did not (yet?) have to don my winter jacket in the past few months – again, that is something that hasn’t happened often in the past!

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