Book reviews for April 2016

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
The Phoenix Descent by Chuck Grossart

The Phoenix Descent by Chuck Grossart


It's billed as a bit of a scifi time travel adventure but really it's more of a zombie apocalypse variant. Not really my thing so I initially hated it but that hatred turned to respect and finally, love. Well maybe not quite love but it's a decent read.


Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War by Raghu Karnad

Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War by Raghu Karnad


Very personal and sometimes florid but deeply fascinating story of the Indian Army in World War 2.


(Related: The Harvard Business Review Fallacy; I didn't think I'd ever fall for fake news on Facebook; Go-arounds: LEGO and Legislative Service)

(You might also like: Get an email if your site stops being mobile friendly; Devil's Slide Trail; ASCII Sunset)

(All Book Reviews)

Catfood Earth 3.42

Updated on Monday, May 31, 2021

Catfood Earth 3.42

Catfood Earth 3.42 is a small update to the latest (2016d) timezone database and the latest timezone world and countries maps from Eric Muller. If you use the political borders, places or time zones layers in Catfood Earth then you'll want to install this version.

Download the latest Catfood Earth.


(Related: Catfood Earth; Improving the accuracy of the new Catfood Earth clouds layer; Catfood: Earth, PdfScan and Weather)

(You might also like: Point Reyes - Tomales Point; Recent Wildlife; Not a Private Key)

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Goodreads Feature Request

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Goodreads Feature Request

Goodreads needs a shelf called "currently-reading-but-if-i'm-honest-will-never-finish". On this shelf I will put Infinite Jest.

(Related: WiX Tricks for Screen Savers; Catfood WebCamSaver; Catfood Earth)

(You might also like: Please Stay; Fastest image merge (alpha blend) in GDI+; Sugarloaf Stars and Milky Way)

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San Bruno Mountain 360 4K

Updated on Saturday, February 19, 2022

Great Blue Heron at Crissy Field

Automate Google PageSpeed Insights and Core Web Vitals Logging with Apps Script

Updated on Saturday, February 12, 2022


Here's a quick script to automatically monitor your Google PageSpeed Insights desktop and mobile scores for a web page, together with core web vitals (LCP, FID and CLS):

You need a spreadsheet with a tab called results and an API key for PageSpeed Insights (activate the API in the console and create an API key for it, the browser based / JavaScript option). Paste the code above into the script editor for the spreadsheet and add your API key and URL to monitor. Then just choose triggers from the Resources menu and schedule the monitor function to run once per day.

The script will log the overall PageSpeed score out of 100 for the monitored page. It also logs 75th percentile origin level core web vitals (largest contentful paint (LCP, seconds), first input delay (FID, seconds) and cumulative layout shift (CLS, percent)). If your origin does not have enough data the metric will be omitted. You can change from origin to page level web vitals if you have enough data, just change originLoadingExperience to loadingExperience in the script.

The results are repeated for desktop and mobile, so your spreadsheet header should be Desktop PSI, Desktop LCP, Desktop FID, Desktop CLS, Mobile PSI, Mobile LCP, Mobile FID, Mobile CLS.

There are a lot of other values returned (like number and types of resources on the page) that you could choose to monitor as well. It would also be easy to extend this to monitor more URLs, or to send you an email if the score drops below a threshold.

Updated May 5, 2019 to use version 5 of the PageSpeed API.

Updated June 13, 2021 to include core web vitals.

More Google Apps Script Projects

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Prior Artist

Golden Gate Park from Grand View Park

Updated on Thursday, February 17, 2022

Golden Gate Park from Grand View Park

Panoramic photo of the full extent of Golden Gate Park as seen from Grand View Park in San Francisco.

(Related: San Francisco; Golden Gate Park; TLOTW #6)

(You might also like: Better Paperless; SETIcon 2; Storm builds over Lassen Peak (Timelapse))

(Recent Photos)

New Scientist on Immigration

New Scientist on Immigration

The April 6 issue of New Scientist has a special focus on immigration. All worth a read, but here's an assessment of the horrible cost:

"A meta-analysis of several independent mathematical models suggests it would increase world GDP by between 50 and 150 per cent. “There appear to be trillion-dollar bills on the sidewalk” if we lift restrictions on emigration, says Michael Clemens at the Center for Global Development, a think tank in Washington DC, who did the research."

And the uncontrollable hordes:

"Niger is next to Nigeria, Nigeria is six times richer and there are no border controls, but Niger is not depopulated. Sweden is six times richer than Romania, the EU permits free movement, but Romania is not depopulated."

Time for open immigration?

(Related: Risky; Open Immigration; Go-arounds: LEGO and Legislative Service)

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(All Politics Posts)

The real reason Americans don't have passports

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The real reason Americans don't have passports

Less than half of Americans have passports compared to around 75% in the UK. Brits often use this statistic to mock Americans for being uncurious provincial stay-at-homes.

I've always felt this was unfair though. As an American you might have visited all 50 states, all of the National Parks and maybe thrown in Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico without having ever bothered with a fully fledged passport.

A Brit on the other hand might have spent a few days eating fish and chips at a British pub in Benidorm and is suddenly a sophisticated world traveler. I don't think so. There is simply more to see and experience in the US without needing to cross a border.

After I moved to America I realized that maybe there was another reason. Americans for some reason don't bother taking vacations. You get massively less vacation time over here and even then a huge number of people don't even manage to take off their paltry few days. There is no effective way to have a holiday overseas if you never take a holiday.

Now I realize that neither of these factors is as important as the United States Postal Service if you have a kid.

In the UK to get a passport you mail in an application and get back a passport. It's pretty easy. Even for children.

In the US you need to go to a Passport Acceptance Facility and that probably means a post office. There is a handy website that lists the 10 closest facilities together with their phone numbers so you can call to make an appointment. These phone numbers are not answered. It's less like a basic government service and more like trying to bag a ticket to Glastonbury.

I gave up and delegated to Fancy Hands (a personal assistant service). They have spent two days on the phone trying and failing to get an appointment.

I was going to do my best to vote my principles this year but at this point any presidential candidate who would force USPS to put in a web scheduling system might just get my vote.

Updated 2016-04-18 23:23:

After I posted this a friend pointed me at the United States Digital Service (via this Ted Video) and basically said why bitch and moan when you could help fix it. Which I don't have a great answer to. Except this.

(Related: I didn't think I'd ever fall for fake news on Facebook; I Love Email; Got It)

(You might also like: San Francisco November 2016 Propositions; Age and Life Expectancy Weighted Voting; Siriusly?)

(All Etc Posts)

I Thought He Came With You is Robert Ellison's blog.