Category: life

Election 2016: Some Thoughts

In November, for the first time, I will cast a vote for the head of state! Exciting! I’ve voted in every election I could since becoming a U.S. citizen in 2013 and the election of this year will be the first with one for POTUS. (Non-presidential years are important as well, particularly those involved in state, county, and local governments!)

Having grown up in the United States, and being one that’s long been a fan of US History, it’s impossible to ignore the weight of history evident in the long road it’s taken for citizens to fight and win the right to vote and participate in their governments. The history leading up to the independence of the 13 colonies, to the twisting tortured road within American history itself of  the slow spreading over two centuries of the right to vote across to more and more of the living human beings of this country, all of it is powerfully in memory as I think about the upcoming decisions for November.

But what an election season…

After the past two years of ever-increasing media blitzing, election fatigue finally hit me earlier this month, and it’s clear that it’s not just me. Though to take a optimistic note, I note that democracy is messy and I think this election will teach us to treat our republic with a little more care.

We’re finally coming down to the last few weeks of this election cycle, and while I await the first the sigh of relief after election day (when normal media life, which seems so far away, may resume), this being such a significant election in the terms of my life and America’s future, I feel more like a marathoner at the end of a long race, and in a way, I think we’ll all remember it for the rest of our lives. Maybe we’ll even miss it when it’s over. Not necessarily in the nice kind of way, but more like a shell-shocked flashback to an alternate universe, where a ridiculous caricature of America almost became president. (And ridiculous is being nice!)!

I take the responsibility very seriously. Many have asked me who I intend to vote for and while the right decision seems ever so clear on every possible measure, I’m going to take in all the information I can until election day before I mail in my ballot (also while I try to decipher California’s 17 statewide measures).

But let me take a break and look back at these past eight years. I’ve had my own criticisms, but I’m going to miss Obama as president after he’s gone. While not perfect, I think he’s done a great job as anyone could as president in a challenging time. But democracies and presidents are human, and I’ve considered him authentic to critical values that represent a more inclusive America. Obama represents more than just the first black president; his upbringing and activist empathy is critical in how he accepted the responsibility and of the presidency; I feel that for the first time, we’ve had a president that was able to understand cross-racial issues in a way that shows the true power of American diversity.

This is cool too:

Can’t believe it’s (only+already) been three years! #usa🇺🇸

A photo posted by Alexander (@skyrien) on

The mid-21st century is going to be a very interesting time, and with the rise of the right in Europe, I can see that part of the world turning inward; it seems inevitable, as social media and populism combine to form coalitions on “making xyz great” again, which in code terms mean going back to nationalism and a tribal mindset about the world. This has other consequences, which I mentally associate with a devaluation of the individual and a reinforcement of in/out markers such as race, creed, color of one’s skin, or life choices.

It may not be the America that everyone wanted, or one that was going to wait until everyone was on board. But without a doubt, despite the problems, old and new, that have come up through these past eight years, as a society, as a people, as a world, we have moved forward. This is in stark contrast to the darker elements of society that have risen during this time; starkly evident in the coarsening political discourse in America and across the world.

It almost seems inevitable that diversity (in Europe) will take blow in this shift to the right, as the center of gravity in Europe certainly seems to tend toward less diversity, even in the 21st century after decades of European Union:

Americans more likely to say growing diversity makes their country a better place to live
Rather than be depressed by this, I consider it an even stronger mandate for those of us in the New World to reject these Old World notions of racial nationalism and fight for a more inclusive society. We say today that to become American is to accept a set of values (and of course, meet plenty of legal criteria). Of those values, many of which were taught, generally include a validation of intrinsic value of the individual; enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and reinforced through the American story over the past two centuries. I love great stories and the America that I’m proud of, the America that I feel compelled to help move forward is the one of freedoms and citizenship to one’s community and fellow neighbor, a respect for the strength of our diversity, and the innovative drive that I still see all over the country.

We have many challenges that we’ll need to overcome in the next eight years and we need a president, party, and political platform that has a rational eye toward the real world and what can be accomplished via the limited levers of the presidency; one that believes in the strength of the individuals and welcome all to better the American spirit.




The Light of the Future?

A few weeks ago, Seattle City Light sent out an offer for a free residential LED bulb as part of the Operation LED campaign. I hadn’t gotten around to buying one yet as I still have plenty of CFLs around, so I was pleased to take advantage of the offer, which, as far as I can tell, is still available here online.

Mine arrived today, and I was expecting something much cheaper, but no! This is actually quite a nice bulb, a Phillips Dimmable 60W equivalent light, selling for $8.25 a piece on Amazon, as of this writing.

After using it for a while, I can say that I’m sold, and will be buying LED bulbs exclusively from now on. With price points for conventional bulb-replacements as low as they are, the only thing stopping me from replacing my entire home setup are that my current CFLs are still going quite nicely. Those guys last!

Seattle City Light’s regular mailings suggest that they care quite a bit about responsible generation and consumption of power, and are often engaging the population on these topics. They are proud of how they’ve come along in being carbon neutral, and it’s commendable. Some 96% of grid provided electricity under Seattle City Light comes from renewable sources, and I’ve been impressed at some of the larger initiatives around solar power  including community solar farms that they’ve undertaken. Rather than just an agency to take your money, it, to me, as a public utility, it seems like they recognize their role in ensuring the region’s resource management is sustainable, and that engaging the population is a crucial part of getting the citizenry involved.

Of course, as a voting member of my municipality’s public utility, I expect as much, but I’m impressed with the LED campaign. Thank you, City Light, for providing me my first ever home LED! It was only a decade ago that CFLs became a mass market product, but alas, like all tech, innovations are quite disruptive, and I see very few benefits of keeping around CFLs over LEDs.

Now, onto the light!

Light Bulb 3.0 Unboxing

The first thing I noticed after pulling out the bulb was that it wasn’t quite a bulb at all; more like a plastic halo around a thin/flat core. Not that I’m complaining; whereas CFLs had a myriad of components and intricate/delicate glass loops, the LED bulb was just a solid plastic core, simple and elegant, and felt quite durable.

L) Original 60W incandescent bulb; C) 18W CFL I had replaced it with. R) 10.5W LED.

It was fully encased in plastic, and felt quite sturdy, at least compared to glass light bulbs and CFLs; this one seemed like it would withstand a fall from a kitchen counter. Some earlier generation LED bulbs needed to incorporate a fan to prevent overheating, but this one seems to be entirely passively cooled and runs (mostly) silently. It does warn against using in a fully enclosed container, though it also states that it is suitable for use in damp conditions.


The overall shape is that of a flattened standard bulb, so fit should not be a concern for most settings. The standard light bulb socket (E26) is used here ensuring near broad compatibility.

Let there be light


I was concerned that there may be some trade-offs with the LED compared to incandescents or CFLs, but after a bit of use, I legitimately can’t think of any beyond the upfront cost. The color spectrum is stated to be 2,600K, and it felt quite warm indeed, at least at the level of the “natural spectrum” CFLs I had been using.

It was also quite bright! At only 10.5 W, it expends a mere sixth of the 60W incandescent bulb it replaces, and 40% less power than the CFL. More crucially it, allegedly, has a 22-year lifespan! That’s incredible, that a disposable product could last that long. Whoa.



If you squint really closely, you can make out the physical hoop where the light diodes are situated, but in most cases, it’s too bright to look at directly.


I was also curious to know how it would do temperature wise, and I was surprised at how hot it did get. While markedly cooler than incandescent or CFL-bulb temperatures levels, it felt quite warm to touch. I suspect this could be improved upon in the future, for perhaps a a next gen bulb may need only 5W, with less heat dissipated.

Even with this, this is a big step forward.


Conclusion on the Benefits of LEDs

LEDs are awesome, and in early 2015, they’re reaching a price point where I’m fairly certain that their adoption will accelerate through this decade, and be the preferred source of light everywhere. The key benefits that I saw from my brief time with this bulb are:

Instant on – When you want it, it turns on as soon as you flip the switch, instantly, even faster than incandescent bulbs. This was not true for CFLs, many of which had a noticeable delay (up to a second or several seconds) between flipping the switch, and the CFL being warmed up and at full output.

Power efficient – CFLs were already quite remarkable in their efficiency, and LEDs take that another leap forward, saving yet another 40% in my personal case. There is less heat wasted.

Temperature tolerant – I had replaced a refrigerator bulb with a CFL, and was plagued by dim lighting due to the cold. LEDs on the other hand seem much more tolerant to the temperatures needed, producing far improved light. They’re also much cooler to touch than incandescent or CFLs, though I only ran mine a few minutes.

No mercury! – CFLs are known for their various warnings indicating the dangers of broken bulbs and often including obvious warnings that inside contains things like mercury, cadmium, and other potentially toxic substances. Not so for the LEDs, as far as I can tell, which is a huge step forward in safety.

Durable – The bulbs themselves, if they’re anything like this Phillips model, are far more durable and protected from damage (and injury to the user) than bulbs of previous varieties. I suppose they’ll need to be to weather 22 years of use.

Long lasting – Incandescent bulbs lasted some 2000-4000 hours at best, CFLs last some 8,000 hours, and LEDs an incredible, 25,000 hours! Under given use cases, the methods would last 2-3, 5, 20-years, respectively. I remember reading that the light bulb industry deliberately reduced the lifespan of their bulbs, in order to sell more replacements. So, hooray for pro-consumer changes that throw out that strategy, in favor of innovation-driven replacements.

So, overall, I’m pretty pleased! Thanks again Seattle City Light!