Wednesday, October 30, 2019

It's hard to imagine a four-word phrase that would perk me up more than this*

xkcd filter on matplotlib

This isn't the first time the streams have crossed between two of my favorite areas of interest, btw.**

I came across that delightful phrase in section eight of a wonderful article, "Ten Simple Rules for Better Figures." You should read this, for sure, if you ever have to make charts | graphs | plots. You should read it if you ever have to critically view this kind of work by others. You should read it if you're at all interested in clearer communication. You should read it. You should also check out some of the many fine links in the article, including (and how's this for a great name?) Kaiser Fung's Junk Charts.

I came across the link to the article in the Preface to a book I've just started reading. The author, Nicolas P. Rougier, has very generously made this book, Python & OpenGL for Scientific Visualization, freely available online.

(* Resists temptation to start typing You shoulds ... again *).

Admittedly, this is not gonna be primo beach reading for some of you. But all of the above is so in my wheelhouse that I just had to pass it along.

This concludes your my early Sunday*** morning geekout.

(h/t: PyCoder's Weekly for 2019-10-29)

* That you would be willing to say in polite company, I mean.

** You do know about import antigravity, right?

*** My weekend, these days, is Tuesday, Wednesday, and I work nights. The carpenters remodeling the apartment next door evidently do not share my schedule.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Round Up. Help Out!

I am part of the ConEd Advisory Community, which probably sounds more important than it is. It's basically being signed up to participate in surveys. It's not terrible -- I like the feeling that my input, in a tiny way, might help make things slightly better, for us customers of the giant utility monopoly here in the New York area.

Today, I was sent a link to view the results of a recent survey, on some thoughts ConEd is having about changing its bill layout. At the end of the report was this:

ConEd statement about plans to improve communication with delinquent customers

This moved me to post the following comment (a link you probably can't visit unless you're a member).

I like the "Moving Forward" part. I have no idea what options are currently available for customers falling behind on utility bill payments, but it made me think of how fortunate I am, now that paying those bills is no longer a hardship, and that made me wonder if there would be some way for ConEd to set up a program so that would enable a voluntary contribution to a fund that would help those who are struggling to make ends meet. For example, check a box to round your payment up to the next dollar. An average of fifty cents times how many million ConEd customers are there? This could easily become a fund of at least a few hundred thousand dollars per month to help others keep the heat and lights on.

Granted, I don't know how you'd sort out the truly hurting from the slackers who could easily be paying their bills, but just aren't being responsible, not to mention the freeriders who would look to game a program like this, but I'd like to see this idea given some consideration. Even if a few scammers snuck in through the cracks, it'd be worth it to me if I felt like I was keeping some truly deserving families from shivering in the dark.

It seems to me that it would not take more than a few lines of code on ConEd's end to implement this, nor would the administrative costs be especially prohibitive.

Also, in thinking about the slacker/freerider problem, it seems to me that ConEd is probably already pretty good, through decades of experience at collecting on delinquent accounts, at distinguishing those who are truly hurting from the rest, so maybe there's something there. It also occurred to me that there could be some sort of lottery system set up, and/or some limit on the amount of times you could apply for the benefits, which ought to further limit the assistance going to those who don't actually need it. And if a few undeserving slobs do get a free month? So what. This seems like a classic situation of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

What do you think? RUHO? RUHO!

If this seems plausible to you, please tell ConEd. Or your own local utility company.