Thursday, April 27, 2017

An Alameda high rise?

Alameda Magazine, which frankly is simply a Chamber of Commerce flyer, nonetheless ran this breathless article: Alameda’s First High-Rise?

A developer is proposing to build a 14-story, 589-unit housing project on the waterfront at the long-dormant Encinal Terminals site. The project, which would be constructed directly across the estuary from Oakland’s 3,100-unit Brooklyn Basin housing development now under construction, would feature the Island’s tallest building.

“We are building a world-class waterfront” that will be “a centerpiece for the estuary,” said Mike O’Hara, a representative of developer Tim Lewis Communities, or TLC. TLC recently broke ground on another 380-unit housing project on the adjoining historic Del Monte warehouse property.

I certainly would like to see the estuary waterfront opened up and reclaimed. Currently it is a wasteland of abandoned warehouses, docks, and vacant lots, mostly fenced off and sitting idle. It could be some of the most beautiful space in the Bay Area, if it is done well.

As the article notes, however, this is far from a slam dunk:

the Encinal Terminals project faces a more complicated regulatory approval than most developments. The 32-acre site includes nine submerged acres, large dilapidated wharf structures, and six acres of state tidelands. Under state law, tidelands property cannot be used for housing, so the project would require the swapping of private acreage around the perimeter of the site for tidelands property in the interior—a plan that also would have to be approved by the state.

It just so happened that I had the chance today to wander down to a similarly-long-under-used section of the San Francisco waterfront, known as "Dogpatch", where an enormous gentrification project is underway, scheduled to run for at least another 15 years.

The cities are changing. The Bay Area is changing. It's good to remember the history, but it's also good to invest in the future.

On we go.

Bad Behavior: a very short review

I was rambling around on the Internet, leafing through some random person's "book recommendations" page, when I came across a recommendation for Mary Gaitskill's Bad Behavior: Stories, and decided to take a chance on it.

What an astonishing collection of stories this is!

Of course, at this point, 30 years have passed, and so this is old news to everyone, but still. I'm not sure I've ever read somebody whose writing seemed so vivid, so real, so true.

This. Is. How. People. Really. Think. And. Act. And. Talk.

However, what goes hand-in-hand with this is that her stories are not for the faint of heart. They are raw, fearless, clear-eyed views into the very abyss of our human souls; Gaitskill neither flinches nor turns away from the truth, no matter how horrid the vision she sees.

I'm tremendously glad I read these stories, but on the other hand they're not the sort of thing I'd feel comfortable recommending to anyone.

If they're the sort of thing you'd enjoy, you've probably already found them, somehow.

Of course, I hadn't, and so I'm glad I did.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

GBooks, 15 years on

Three perspectives:

  • How Google Book Search Got Lost
    Two things happened to Google Books on the way from moonshot vision to mundane reality. Soon after launch, it quickly fell from the idealistic ether into a legal bog, as authors fought Google’s right to index copyrighted works and publishers maneuvered to protect their industry from being Napsterized. A decade-long legal battle followed — one that finally ended last year, when the US Supreme Court turned down an appeal by the Authors Guild and definitively lifted the legal cloud that had so long hovered over Google’s book-related ambitions.

    But in that time, another change had come over Google Books, one that’s not all that unusual for institutions and people who get caught up in decade-long legal battles: It lost its drive and ambition.

    ...

    But Google took away a lesson that helped it immeasurably as it grew and gained power: Engineering is great, but it’s not the answer to all problems. Sometimes you have to play politics, too — consult stakeholders, line up allies, compromise with rivals. As a result, Google assembled a crew of lobbyists and lawyers and approached other similar challenges — like navigating YouTube’s rights maze — with greater care and better results.

  • Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria
    What happened was complicated but how it started was simple: Google did that thing where you ask for forgiveness rather than permission, and forgiveness was not forthcoming. Upon hearing that Google was taking millions of books out of libraries, scanning them, and returning them as if nothing had happened, authors and publishers filed suit against the company, alleging, as the authors put it simply in their initial complaint, “massive copyright infringement.”

    ...

    Amazon, for its part, worried that the settlement allowed Google to set up a bookstore that no one else could. Anyone else who wanted to sell out-of-print books, they argued, would have to clear rights on a book-by-book basis, which was as good as impossible, whereas the class action agreement gave Google a license to all of the books at once.

    This objection got the attention of the Justice Department, in particular the Antitrust division, who began investigating the settlement. In a statement filed with the court, the DOJ argued that the settlement would give Google a de facto monopoly on out-of-print books. That’s because for Google’s competitors to get the same rights to those books, they’d basically have to go through the exact same bizarre process: scan them en masse, get sued in a class action, and try to settle.

    ...

    It was strange to me, the idea that somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25-million books and nobody is allowed to read them. It’s like that scene at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie where they put the Ark of the Covenant back on a shelf somewhere, lost in the chaos of a vast warehouse. It’s there. The books are there. People have been trying to build a library like this for ages—to do so, they’ve said, would be to erect one of the great humanitarian artifacts of all time—and here we’ve done the work to make it real and we were about to give it to the world and now, instead, it’s 50 or 60 petabytes on disk, and the only people who can see it are half a dozen engineers on the project who happen to have access because they’re the ones responsible for locking it up.

  • Why Google Books Deserves Better Than These Obituaries
    Unfortunately, the copyright case over Google Books morphed into something larger. It became a vehicle for anxieties over how the digital era has undermined authors on a financial and cultural level. Those concerns are legitimate, but scapegoating Google Books for these fears was misguided.

    Meanwhile, groups like the Authors Guild continue to celebrate the collapse of the settlement even though no other options have emerged to replicate its potential benefits. Those benefits would have included a new market for digital copies of old books, and a solution to the problem of "orphan works"—books whose authors cannot be located that are out-of-print but still under copyright protection. Instead, there is stasis.

    ...

    But if Google is to dispel the recent mutterings about the project's decline, it must do more to raise the profile of Google Books, and offer some assurances about how it will ensure the collection—which, recall, is nothing less than the history of human knowledge—will survive. Ideally, the company should create a trust or foundation to manage it so as to ensure it endures no matter what corporate changes come at Google.

    Meanwhile, it's time for Google Books opponents to acknowledge the astonishing thing Google has built. Critics like the former head of Harvard libraries, Robert Darnton, have long suggested some university or public consortium can replicate the project. But today it's clearer than ever this is just a pipeline, and no one will muster the money, energy, and technology to do what Google did also over again.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Borussia

Well!

So it turns out that the horrible bombing attack on the Borussia Dortmund football team was in fact NOT Islamic terrorists at all.

Rather, it was something much more banal: One man’s greed behind Dortmund attack, after all

Not many -if any- had seen this coming… Something more than a week after the triple bomb attack that targeted Borussia Dortmund and led to their Champions League game against Monaco being delayed by 24 hours, police have announced that the motive behind the whole incident was pure financial greed.
The accused bought 15,000 put-options regarding the shares of Borussia Dortmund on April 11. Those options were running until June 17, 2017 and were bought with the ID of the hotel L’Arrivee (Dortmund’s team hotel)
a prosecutor made known, through a written statement, after the police arrested a 28-year-old man

The Beeb has (a bit) more: Borussia Dortmund bombs: 'Speculator' charged with bus attack

Rather than having links to radical Islamism, he was a market trader hoping to make money if the price of shares in the team fell, prosecutors say.

The suspect has been charged with attempted murder, triggering explosions and causing serious physical injury.

He has been identified only as Sergej W, and was staying in the team's hotel overlooking the scene of the attack.

There was, I should think, more than just greed involved, as clearly the man was quite mentally ill:

He was staying at the team's L'Arrivée hotel in Dortmund on the day of the attack and had moved to a room on the top floor, overlooking the street where it took place, prosecutors say.

The suspect placed the bet on 11 April using an IP address traced to the hotel, after taking out a loan for the money.

That's somewhere bordering on stalker-level obsession, I'd say.

Very sad.

But I'm glad the German police were level-headed and careful and thorough and dug down to the underlying facts of the matter.

And SHAME on all those trashy publications that threw horrid terror speculations out there.

Yes, I'm looking at you, The Sun, and The Express, and The NY Post, and Fox News and The Star, and ...

You know who you were. Shame on you all.

Three Junes: a very short review.

Julia Glass's Three Junes tells the story of an (extended) Scottish family across multiple generations, mostly set during the later decades of the 20 century.

It is beautifully written and quite emotional at times.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A break in the rain

It was a beautiful day in the city, so I wandered over to the border between Chinatown and North Beach and hooked up with some old friends for a wonderful lunch.

Thanks, all!

Cop stories

I'll read almost everything; I'm pretty voracious that way.

But certainly a good police procedural is always right up my alley.

So, two recommendations, one old, and one new:

  • The Fairy Gunmother

    Pennac's novel is set in a post-imperial Paris of the mid-1980's, rich with the complexities that entails, and benefits from a truly superb translation by Ian Monk. The result is laugh-out-loud funny while still being atmospheric and compelling.

  • Leviathan Wakes

    Although you'll find this on your Science Fiction shelves at the local bookstore (hah! is there such a thing?), it's really a police procedural set in the future, in space, as more-than-haggard Detective Miller is trying to unravel why a simple missing persons case appears to be much, much deeper than it first seemed.

Each of these is "Book 1 of a series".

And I'll be reading more of each series, straightaway.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Blue Apron

We're entering our third month as regular Blue Apron customers.

If you have no idea what Blue Apron is, here's a nice introduction which takes a business perspective but covers the overall service quite well: Inside Blue Apron’s Meal Kit Machine

Each month, Blue Apron delivers about 8 million meal kits to Americans who like to cook but would rather not waste time shopping or searching for recipes. Blue Apron boxes include cooking instructions for meals and suggested wine parings—shiitake mushroom burgers with a Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard Grenache, for example. The raw ingredients, which include such exotica as romanesco cauliflower and fairy tale eggplants, are sourced from family farms and artisans. Then they're sorted, chopped and packaged in giant fulfillment centers and delivered to homes around the country.

It's still early days for us as Blue Apron consumers, but here are some of my impressions:

  • The ingredients are high-quality, and fresh.

    This was our primary concern, since we're both rather picky shoppers. But in every meal to date, the meat has been very high quality, the produce has been equally good (and quite fresh), and we've not once been disappointed in the ingredients.

  • The service is reliable and accurate.

    The weekly carton arrives on time, with the meals as promised, precisely. Everything is clearly marked; everything is present. The little individual packages of ingredients are right-sized, even if the amount of packaging does bum me out a bit.

  • The proportions and quanties are right.

    We take the "meal for two" service. We never have too much overall, and we never have too little overall. And the individual ingredient amounts are appropriate, too. We don't find ourselves saying "there weren't enough carrots," or whatever.

  • The recipes are clear, accurate, easy to follow, and acceptably quick.

    If the meal says: "prep time 10 minutes, overall time 35 minutes," it turns out to be quite close to that. We haven't yet found ourselves confused, halfway through a recipe, by a missing step. The recipes are printed on stiff paper which stands up nicely in front of you while you're chopping and mixing. The recipes have nice pictures which illustrate the important steps.

    And, as an pleasant touch, they almost always end with a little bit of elegance, showing you how to "plate your dish" for visual appeal, and encouraging you to "enjoy!"

  • The recipes have just enough variety to be entertaining.

    We've been introduced to some ingredients we don't typically use (freekeh, farro, za'atar, labneh, etc.), and some techniques we had never even considered. For a "chicken under a brick" recipe, Blue Apron walked us through how to cook a half-chicken with a large pot of water balanced on TOP of the chicken, pressing down on it as it cooked. It worked startlingly well.

  • The recipes are fun to follow.

    At the end of a long day, you can be tired, and cranky, and not in the mood for failure. These recipes are straightforward, yet they often contain just enough new-ness, whether that be a different ingredient that you haven't used before, or a different technique, or whatever, to make the whole experience fun. Put on a nice album on the stereo, crack open the Blue Apron recipe, unwind, and make dinner together. That's pretty great.

My one complaint, so far, is that the recipes are a bit too liberal with "season with salt and pepper to taste." It's become a bit of a running joke in our house as we prepare a meal, noting that nearly every step in the instructions contains that phrase. Oh, what a nit-picker I am.

And, overall, they aren't the super-fanciest of recipes. You end up making chicken and carrots and potatoes a lot, although dressed up nicely so there's pleasant variety. But you don't end up making something you'd find at a two-star Michelin restaurant. How could you, in just 30 minutes, after all? I guess what I'm saying is that I doubt that people who deliberately set out to entertain would think to themselves to choose one of these recipes. But that's not what they're for.

My wife loves to cook, and typically prefers to cook meals from scratch, so at first she was rather uncertain how she'd feel about this service. But I'd say, overall, she's as happy with it as I am.

I guess I'm not certain if it will actually survive, however; I have this feeling that it is doing well in these relatively prosperous times, with unemployment low and people feeling relatively optimistic and willing to spend on the convenience factor.

The real trick will be, if the economy should take a downturn, whether Blue Apron can endure.

But for now, we're quite pleased.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

News "flash"

Sadly, the folks who tend the Jacquie Lawson website haven't yet heard about how old technology is, eventually, abandoned.

Hopefully, they will update their site before too long, because it IS a really nice site.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A tree grows in the city

This might be the best opening line of a news article that I've read in years:

The trees are trucked to the Transbay Transit Center in the dead of night.

It's from this fascinating piece in the S.F. Chronicle: Transbay Transit Center rooftop turning into 5.4-acre City Park.

I can look down from the window in the kitchen area of my office and see (some of) the trees; specifically, I can see the area marked on the map as "Palm Garden".

I love the variety:

There are Chinese elms from Rainbow in northern San Diego County, and olive trees from Farmington in San Joaquin County. From Gilroy come island oaks, while Escondido was the source for five or six cork oaks. A Columnar Hornbeam came from a nursery outside Portland, while a rare torpedo-shaped Chilean wine palm was tracked down near San Diego.

I was particularly interested in the fact that the trees have been staged at the Valley Crest nursery in Sunol, because I know that nursery well: we drive past it on our way to Sunol Regional Wilderness, one of our favorite East Bay Regional Parks.

And, it's no doubt, the last few times we went out to the park, we were both astonished at the number and the size of the trees in the nursery.

Well, it turns out it's not just the Transbay Center that's been making use of the nursery to prep their trees: A look at Apple’s insanely ambitious tree-planting plans for its new spaceship campus.

In a cluster of East Bay nurseries, Apple has been growing more than 4,600 trees, which are nestled in large, wooden boxes. Some time later this year, Apple’s team of arborists will start shipping these trees two or three at time to Cupertino, where they will be painstakingly planted as part of the broader landscaping plan.

...

“Today, about 20 percent of the space is landscaping, most of it is big asphalt parking lots,” cofounder Steve Jobs said when first presenting the plans to the Cupertino City Council. “We want to completely change this and make 80 percent of it landscaping. And the way we’re going to do this – we’re going to put most of the parking underground. And you can see what we have in mind. Today there are 3,700 trees on the property, we’d like to almost double that.”

For Jobs, who grew up in the region, it was a chance to recapture the lost feel of an area that was once mostly open spaces and fruit orchards before it gave way to low-slung, drab office buildings.

“The landscape design of meadows and woodlands will create an ecologically rich oak savanna reminiscent of the early Santa Clara Valley,” Apple said in its proposal. “It will incorporate both young and mature trees, and native and drought tolerant plants that will thrive in Santa Clara County with minimal water consumption. The increase in permeable surfaces will promote natural drainage and improve water quality in Calabazas Creek. The thoughtful and extensive landscaping will recall Cupertino’s pre-agricultural and agricultural past.”

I don't know when I'll make it down to the Apple campus; it's a LONG way from my house, probably a 2.5 hour drive (each way) during a normal weekday.

But hopefully I'll get the chance, one day.

And, in the meantime, I can't wait to walk through the "mini botanical garden right downtown" when the Transbay Center opens later this summer.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bye bye, Boing Boing

For more than a decade, I avidly followed the website BoingBoing.net.

Boing Boing was an early "group blog", with a core team of a half dozen or so writers, who contributed smart, savvy, well-thought pieces about all sorts of interesting subjects.

But something happened, 9 months or a year ago, and since then the site has utterly collapsed.

Nowadays it's nearly indistinguishable from the common rot you find all over the Internet. It's loaded with advertising, not just the overt kind that all sites sport, but also the more insidious sort of testimonial advertising that has become popular, similar to the way that radio stations think that having the regular DJ read the advertising blurb somehow lends it more respect and legitimacy. When, in fact, the opposite is true.

And even the non-advertising content seems to be selected to appeal to a less-discerning sort of reader, tending more and more to the sort of rubbish you find on places like BuzzFeed.

And the comments section? Horrific, with trolls as bad as any you'll find anywhere on the net.

It's a shame, to see how rapidly what was once one of the shining lights of the Internet is now become some sort of "E! Channel" of web sites.

Oh, well, it's not worth shedding too many tears over its demise, I suppose, even though it makes me sad.

It does make you wonder, though: if BoingBoing has fallen, can the other great independent sites of the net be far behind?

I hope not; I hope the net still somehow finds a way to be a provider of quality independent voices.

But I fear that time is soon to be gone.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Far Cry: a very short review

Over the last eight months, I've spent WAY more time than I'd like to admit playing first Far Cry 3, then Far Cry 4.

If you have any interest in these games, you already know about them; they are not new games. Far Cry 3 came out in 2012, I think, and Far Cry 4 at the end of 2014.

Far Cry 4 is DRAMATICALLY more polished. You might never see a more beautiful in-game environment than Far Cry 4's Himalayan kingdom of Kyrat. Skyrim was stunning; The Witcher was breath-taking, but Far Cry 4 puts them both to shame. This is just glorious, glorious visual beauty.

But the funny thing is: Far Cry 4 is jaw-droppingly beautiful, but Far Cry 3 is more fun.

And that's the point, after all.

Part of it is the setting: Far Cry 3 has this bizarre retro-1960's thing going on, with jungle islands, and psychedelic flashbacks, and bizarre Imperial dreams dashed to shreds in the South-east Asian jungles, while Far Cry 4 is a more nuanced story of tribal tension, religious conflict, and Zen Buddhism.

And part of it is the screen-writing: Far Cry 3's story just feels more immediate somehow: no matter how much it is a direct rip-off of Apocalyse Now (itself a fairly direct rip-off of Heart of Darkness, after all), it is still, at its core, a gripping story.

And, quite simply: in Far Cry 3, you end up getting the bad guy. While, in Far Cry 4, in the end there really are no winners (Let's hear it for realism!).

Maybe, it doesn't really matter: both games are extremely well-executed, and stand as modern classics.

But Far Cry 3, though older, and nowhere near as polished and elegant, is, in the end, the winner.

Anyway, you'll have to excuse me; I'm heading back to play some more Far Cry 4.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

This and that

It's still raining! Reports are that these early-April storms brought several FEET of additional snow to the high Sierras!

  • Turing Award 2016
    Sir Tim Berners-Lee is the latest winner of the ACM Turing Award. He was cited for “inventing the World Wide Web (WWW), the first web browser, and the fundamental protocols and algorithms allowing the web to scale.”
  • It’s Time To Unionize In Silicon Valley
    It’s no secret in Silicon Valley that programmers work well beyond the 40-hour week accounted for in their salaries. Aurora said that every one of her friends at Google works nights and weekends. During her time as a developer of Linux kernel, an operating system used in technology sold by Intel and IBM, among others, supervisors constantly assured her and fellow programmers that they love their work and that they love it so much they will do it for free. To ensure persistence and efficiency, supervisors use a complex recipe of emotional abuse and, if you play along, eternal job security.

    Many programmers, including those at Google, are told that they are prohibited from talking to the press about their work. They are lectured repeatedly about this rule and ordered to sign non-disclosure forms. Lawyers must review any papers for conferences. Supervisors hold these mandates against their employees, who typically don’t question such restrictions or speak up about harassment so they may keep their jobs. Lower-level employees, who also strive to be a part of something bigger than themselves, desire what anyone else wants in a job: the ability to feed their families, pay the mortgage and have something left over. But as the years pass and the companies grow, this working structure gains momentum at the expense of the rights of workers. Aurora referred to it as “a culture of fear.”

    “If you want to have a career in computers,” she said, “it does not pay to talk.”

  • Bertha, Seattle's SR 99 Tunneling Machine, Is Finally Done Digging
    After nearly four years underground, Seattle’s beleaguered boring behemoth clawed its way into daylight yesterday, leaving a 1.7-mile tunnel behind it. And now that its job is done, workers can at last move an aging, potentially dangerous stretch of elevated highway below the surface, and build a new public space on Seattle’s waterfront in its place.

    The tunneling machine, named for former Seattle mayor Bertha Knight Landes, boasts a 57-foot diameter and measures 325 feet long. After dropping into a pit in July 2013, it started digging the tunnel that will hold the replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct, an elevated highway that was partly demolished after being damaged by a 2001 earthquake.

  • Sunken Barge Leaking Oil Into San Francisco Bay
    A 112-foot freight barge, the Vengeance, capsized and sank in San Francisco Bay Friday morning. It is leaking diesel fuel and hydraulic oil south of the Bay Bridge.
  • Divers Plug Oil Leak on Sunken Barge In San Francisco Bay
    "Divers from Global Diving and Salvage conducted an initial underwater assessment and plugged the leaking fuel vent Friday afternoon," a written statement from the Coast Guard reports. The boom was then removed.
  • Salesforce remakes San Francisco skyline with tallest West Coast office tower
    Builders laid the final beam Thursday for Salesforce Tower, a $1 billion skyscraper that now stands as the tallest office building west of Chicago. The 1,070-foot (326-meter) tower is set to be finished this summer and the main tenant, Salesforce.com, expects to start moving in by the end of the year.

    And some more wonderful pictures at San Francisco Skyline Reshaped by Tallest Office Building on the West Coast

  • The peregrine falcons
    Falcons have been nesting on PG&E’s 77 Beale Street headquarters most years since 2004. In 2016, three eggs hatched on April 17. Their parents, named Dan and Matilda, sat on the eggs to keep them warm and then, once they hatched, fed the birds over the next month as they grew from white fluff-balls to full-size falcons with dark feathers. Glenn Stewart, director of the UC Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, banded the young birds on May 9, a few weeks before they were ready to start flying. On that same day, PG&E announced the names of the birds: Talon, Grace and Flash. PG&E customers were asked to submit names via Twitter or email. More than 160 name entries were submitted; perhaps 600 names in total. The selected names came courtesy of Heather Wingfield’s kindergarten class at Lakeside Elementary in Los Gatos. The class of 4- and 5-year-olds provided 20 potential names, including the three winning choices.
  • Inside The World’s Newest Mega-Skyscraper
    The 123-story Lotte World Tower in Seoul may not be the tallest building in the world—it's in fifth place—but it's got a few record-breaking statistics up its sleeve. For one, it boasts the world's highest glass-bottomed observation deck in a building. Visitors can stroll onto the glass a vertigo-inducing 1,640 feet—or half a kilometer—above the ground. It's also home to the world's highest swimming pool in a building, on the 85th floor, and the world's fastest elevator, which can whisk visitors to the top in one minute.

    Other facilities at the site include a spectacular concert hall with seating for 2,000 people, an aquarium, cinema and food hall.

    (Don't miss the delightful aerial shot of Lotte World farther down the page)

  • Millennium Tower homeowners association sues for $200 million
    The troubled Millennium Tower has been hit with another lawsuit this week. The building’s homeowners association filed a civil suit on Wednesday seeking $200 million to help repair the structure’s tilting and sinking snafus.

    The list of defendants is long: Millennium Partner, Webcor, Handel Architects, Treadwell & Rollo, Langan, DeSimone Consulting Engineers, and Arup, and Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA).

    “The suit alleges that both Millennium Partners, consultants and the TJPA, which is building the adjacent Transbay Transit Center, knew that the tower was sinking and tilting and deliberately withheld that information from homeowners,” reports San Francisco Business Times. “The suit alleges negligent and fraudulent misrepresentations, breach of fiduciary duty and other civil violations. It calls for a jury trial.”

  • Millenium Litigation
    As in other construction defect cases, a substantial assessment by the HOA for investigation and legal action is likely to follow. Faced with declining property values, high assessments, and lack of marketability, some owners under similar circumstances have chosen to stop making HOA payments, and those with large loans on their property have sometimes simply abandoned them to the lenders. Faced with the taint of construction defects, the property suffers a stigma and a reputational challenge, which will result in lower pricing and more difficulty in selling. Long term, even while repairs are undertaken, the homeowners will continue to suffer damages for which compensation is legally available.

    ...

    Our litigation group has filed a class action complaint on behalf of all of the homeowners. Such an action is filed, premised on the fact that the liability of the defendants, Millennium Partners, Transbay, and others who may have caused or contributed to the damage, arises from identical facts as to each of the homeowners. That case is being brought on a contingency basis where the attorneys advance the litigation costs, and only receive fees from a settlement or recovery if there is a successful resolution. There is no charge for you to join the litigation and you will not be billed for legal services. The defendants will likely challenge the certification of the class, and if they prevail the claims of the homeowners will be required to be brought individually by each of you. The litigation group is also pursing Transbay which is a governmental agency with a claim in inverse condemnation. The claim is essentially one alleging that the governmental agency has taken, or devalued private property.

  • At Scale, Rare Events aren’t Rare
    What happened? The report was “switch gear failed and locked out reserve generators.” To understand the fault, it’s best to understand what the switch gear normally does and how faults are handled and then dig deeper into what went wrong in this case.

    In normal operation the utility power feeding a data center flows in from the mid-voltage transformers through the switch gear and then to the uninterruptible power supplies which eventually feeds the critical load (servers, storage, and networking equipment). In normal operation, the switch gear is just monitoring power quality.

    If the utility power goes outside of acceptable quality parameters or simply fails, the switch gear waits a few seconds since, in the vast majority of the cases, the power will return before further action needs to be taken. If the power does not return after a predetermined number of seconds (usually less than 10), the switch gear will signal the backup generators to start. The generators start, run up to operating RPM, and are usually given a very short period to stabilize. Once the generator power is within acceptable parameters, the load is switched to the generator. During the few seconds required to switch to generator power, the UPS has been holding the critical load and the switch to generators is transparent. When the utility power returns and is stable, the load is switched back to utility and the generators are brought back down.

  • The Conversation About Basic Income is a Mess. Here’s How to Make Sense of It.
    UBI is in fact not a single proposal. It’s a field of proposals that’s perhaps better thought of as a philosophical intervention, a new conception of macro-economic and political structure. It’s unusual to argue wholeheartedly against representative government, taxation or universal suffrage, while it is common to disagree on which party should govern, whether taxes should be raised or cut, and particular elements of voting procedure. In the same way, we shouldn’t argue all-out for or against UBI but instead inspect the make-up of each approach to it – that’s where we can find not only meaningful debate, but also possibilities for working out what we might actually want.
  • You Need To Relax, Bro: Spring Break in Isla Vista
    In the water, fluorescent bikinis and board shorts and visors move like schools of large tropical fish. Later, they come together to make a fire. There is no sense of ephemerality to their partying, only time, ongoing like the winding coast.

    Fuchsia bathing suit says a lot of people come this time of year. Kids who go to school in colder regions come for spring break. All who visit Isla Vista, for one reason or another, feel a need for spontaneity. Perhaps they, like me, felt too comfortable in a routine of school and work and want to prove their gall and youthful durability by wearing scandalous maritime garb and sleeping on questionable mattresses.

Meanwhile, Aziz Ansari Finally Revealed When Master of None Season 2 Is Coming Out:

Netflix just released the first trailer for the highly anticipated second season of its Emmy-winning show "Master of None," which will return Friday, May 12.

And, this looks like it will be a fun book, but I can't figure out how to add it to my "wish list", so I'll probably forget about it before it finally gets published in a form I can read. So please remind me about it in about 6 months, will ya?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Farewell, Mr Robot

I very much enjoyed the first season of Mr. Robot.

I thought that the show's exploration of the fine line between computer hacking and mental illness was quite interesting, and the show's production values are quite high: great music, superb acting, crisp screen-writing.

However, as we started watching Season Three, we found it was just too much mental illness, and not enough computer hacking.

So, no offense, Mr. Robot, but I'm moving on.

Your tax dollars at work

Everyone loves to complain about taxes; I'm no exception.

But once in a while you get to see your tax dollars at work. For example, The new 400 passenger MV Hydrus enters service in April.

The Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) is pleased to announce the arrival of the M.V. Hydrus, the first of four Hydrus Class vessels that will join WETA's San Francisco Bay Ferry fleet over the next three years. Hydrus Class vessels can carry 400 passengers and 50 bikes at an operating speed of 27 knots (31 miles per hour). The Hydrus, which is expected to enter service in early April, will replace the MV Encinal on the Alameda/Oakland/San Francisco route.

Here's a data sheet with (slightly) more details about the Hydrus, calling it "the cleanest 27 Knot, 400 Passenger Ferry in the World", which is an oddly-specific claim to fame.

The Hydrus replaces the Encinal, which is ANCIENT, by reasonable measures: it first entered service in 1985.

Here's a fascinating data sheet about the current 11-ship fleet, as well as the 7 new vessels being added over the next 3 years.

The ferry I most commonly ride is the Bay Breeze; I also regularly ride the Peralta. Both are quite nice, really, if clearly getting on in years.

After the Encinal is replaced, the Bay Breeze will be the oldest vessel in the fleet, together with the Vallejo. The Vallejo is scheduled to be retired in 2018; the Bay Breeze is scheduled to run until (at least) 2020, according to the fleet card. (Although the fleet card doesn't say what will replace the Bay Breeze; it has rather specific requirements because its regular dock is the smallest and least-protected.)

The new vessels appear to be American-made: Kvichak Marine is located in Seattle, while Dakota Creek is located in nearby Anacortes.

Interestingly, neither website lists any of these ferries among their "recent projects."

Anyway, the pictures of the new Hydrus look beautiful; I'm excited about soon seeing her out on the water, and will cheerfully bid a fond farewell to the Encinal.

Oh, and your tax dollars? Well, thank you very much, all who participated:

The Hydrus Project is funded by:
  • Governor’s Office of Emergency Services State Proposition 1B - $4.0 million
  • Metropolitan Transportation Commission Regional Measure 2 - $8.3 million
  • Alameda County Transportation Commission Measure B/BB - $4.7 million

Ferries are not cheap to build, nor to operate, and of course the construction and operation of these ferries is of the utmost importance.

So far, things look to be progressing well in the WETA fleet.

Serendipitous juxtaposition

I subscribe to WAY too many newsletters.

One arrived in my mailbox the other morning.

It might have been written by an algorithm.

But I suspect it was written by a (harried) human being.

Anyway, the newsletter suggested two articles that I might want to read ("based on your interests"):

  1. How I got a second degree and earned 5 developer certifications in just one year, while working and raising two kids
    I’ve done a lot in the past year. I earned two Oracle Java Certifications, two CompTia Certifications, and freeCodeCamp’s Front End Certification. Each of these take most people many months of preparation, but I did them all in three weeks each.

    And last but not least, I completed all the coursework necessary to earn a second Bachelor’s degree in software development from an accredited university, in less than six months.

    I did this all while working full-time, spending time regularly with my wife and two young kids, and volunteering in my community.

  2. there’s no glory in overworking: it’s just imminent burnout.
    I became a shell of who I once was, feeding more and more of myself to the parasite that was my job, in many desperate attempts to prove my worthiness. I couldn’t remember why I was trying so hard, or who I was doing it for. All I knew was: keep going, keep working, keep pushing.

    I clung tightly to the ‘workaholic’ badge like a life vest—it was my salvation, confirmation that I wasn’t drowning.

    In trying my hardest not to be average, I had become exactly that.

Hmmmm....