Sunday, October 13, 2019

There was a F-35 at the SF Fleet Week Air Show

This was the annual Fleet Week event here in San Francisco.

This year, the air show included Captain Andrew Olson of the F-35 Demo Team.

This was the first time I had seen the F-35, and it was a remarkable demonstration. has a short article highlighting the 2019 air show details: F-35 Demo Team Pilot to Debut All-New Moves for 2019 Show Season

"We're going out there to showcase the jet, [and] we're doing it fully aerobatic … fully showcasing the maneuvering envelope of the F-35," Olson said.

That means a minimum of 16 maneuvers, including rolls, loops, high-degree bank turns, and inverting to be fully upside down, among other actions. There will also be two new passes with the older warbirds, including a "fun bottom-up pass where the [audience] can see the bottom of the aircraft as it arcs over the crowd," he said.

Olson said the show pulls from the strengths and maneuvers of multiple airframes that came before the F-35. For example, the F/A-18 Super Hornet is "very impressive at a slow-speed capability, being able to do things like a square loop" and the F-16 Viper demo "is very fast and agile," he said. Audiences will be able to see the F-35 do both.

The F-35 "will be able to power out of other maneuvers" more swiftly because of its F135 engine, which propels it with more than 40,000 pounds of thrust, Olson said.

He will perform a pedal turn similar to the F-22, in which the F-35 banks and climbs high, eventually simulating a somersault-like move. But Olson will not use thrust vectoring or manipulate the direction of the engine's to control altitude or velocity.

I can't say that the Blue Angels were boring, for they never are.

But Captain Olson really stole the show.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Life is Strange 2: a very short review

I didn't play Life is Strange, the first effort by Paris-based Dont Nod Studios, although my son and my grand-daughter both did, avidly.

I went directly to this year's Life is Strange 2, which isn't really a sequel despite the name.

Life is Strange 2 is not your typical video game; it's more like an interactive television show.

It's like a television show in that it's designed to be consumed episodically: I've finished 4 of the 5 episodes (Episode 5 will be released in December), and the episodes are released incrementally, so you don't get the entire game at once, but rather there are these significant gaps where you are waiting for the next episode and you get to reflect upon the story so far.

And it's interactive in the sense that the story unfolds differently, depending on the choices that you make. Different events occur; various characters behave differently; different options are available as the game progresses.

An interesting side note is that, at the end of each episode, the game tells you a little bit about how your choices compared to those of other players of the game: 43% chose to play the game this way, 16% chose that way, etc.

Although the game is clearly targeted at high-schoolers, it's fascinating for people of almost any age, although it's definitely loaded with mature topics and wouldn't be a good game for a child younger than, say 14 or 15 years old. In Life is Strange 2 we have already dealt with lots of heavy duty themes, including parenting styles, gender identity, xenophobia, drug abuse and addiction, and more.

When I play the game, the hours just fly by. It's not uncommon for me to sit down to "just play for 30 minutes", and come up for air 2 hours later, not even realizing how much time has passed.

Life is Strange 2 is definitely not for everyone, but I can't wait for the last episode to arrive!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

BuzzFeed News article on web comment spam

Wow, don't miss this dense and detailed BuzzFeed News investigative journalism piece on web comment spam: Net Neutrality Fake Comments: How Political Operatives Duped Ajit Pai's FCC

Sarah Reeves sat on her couch in Eugene, Oregon, staring at her laptop screen in furious disbelief. She was reading the website of a government agency, where her mother appeared to have posted a comment weighing in on a bitter policy battle for control of the internet. Something was very wrong.

For a start, Annie Reeves, who loved to lead children’s sing-alongs at the Alaska Zoo, had never followed wonky policy debates. She barely knew her way around the web, let alone held strident views on how it should be regulated — and, according to her daughter, she definitely didn’t post angry comments on government websites.

But Sarah Reeves had a more conclusive reason to feel sure her mother’s name had been taken in vain: Annie Reeves was dead. She died more than a year before the comment was posted.

And, as the article goes on to note, it's not just the Net Neutrality website that was manipulated in this fashion.

In February 2018, lawmakers in South Carolina were “flooded” with emails opposing legislative efforts that they said would endanger the multibillion-dollar sale of Scana Corporation to Dominion Energy.

South Carolina House Majority Leader Rep. Gary Simrill found something suspicious about the correspondence. Among the emails he received was one from his good friend, William Barron. Why would Barron — whom he speaks to often and had seen within the past week — send him a form letter? He decided to try responding to the email. But when Simrill clicked to reply, the email address that popped up was one he had never seen Barron use. Perplexed, Simrill phoned Barron.

“Someone’s impersonating me,” Barron told local reporters. “It’s very discouraging, and it reeks of fraudulence.”

Simrill notified his Republican caucus colleagues. None could find a constituent who said they had really sent the correspondence, Simrill told BuzzFeed News.

There's more. A lot more. With lots of links and background material to chase. Incidents in Texas. Incidents in New York. On and on.

Fascinating stuff.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Ghost Brigades: a very short review

Seven short years ago I read John Scalzi's Old Man's War and really liked it.

Recently I picked up book two of the Old Man's War series: The Ghost Brigades, and it was like seven years had passed in barely a week.

The Ghost Brigades is filled with action, and races along. It's a quick and entertaining read.

There are still four more books in the Old Man's War series; perhaps I should not wait 7 years between books or I may not finish them all.

Scalzi also has a web site, which I read from time to time.

Pat O'Neil thoughts

The relatively small database kernel community has lost another one of the Old Guard: I recently learned that Pat O'Neil passed away last month.

I was lucky enough to have Pat as a colleague, although briefly. My first "real job" after I graduated from college back in the mid 1980's was at Computer Corporation of America in Cambridge, MA, and I sat just down the hall from Pat and followed his work closely as he led the team building support for B+ Tree indices for Model 204.

This was the first time I learned about "the ubiquitous B-Tree." But, more importantly, it was being around Pat with his enthusiastic fascination for database kernels and file structures and access methods that launched me on my path to 40 years of being a storage systems engineer, the best career on earth in my opinion!

I left Boston for California, but 10 years later I met up with Pat again, when he invited me up to Seattle to learn about the new SQL Server team that Microsoft were setting up. Due to a variety of reasons, I didn't pursue the SQL Server opportunity, choosing instead to go work at Sybase, but I really appreciated the fact that Pat thought of me and took the time to introduce me to some fascinating engineers at Microsoft.

In addition to being brilliant, Pat was extremely nice and was a wonderful role model for a young engineer like me.

Moreover, he was extremely lucky in another way: his wife, Betty (I of course knew her as Professor O'Neil) was just as brilliant, and was a great teacher. As a fledgling graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, I took her graduate class in Operating Systems and it was a tremendous experience for me. My undergraduate work was all in pure Mathematics (Chicago didn't even have a Computer Science department at the time!), and I had no idea what a wonder a well-taught Computer Science class could be like.

Pat is, of course, best known for inventing the LSM-Tree, which is now the mainstay of many a modern DBMS, but his work on the LRU-K buffer management algorithm, his work on the C-Store, and the marvelous "A critique of ANSI Isolation Levels" are all just as powerful and just as timeless.

I didn't realize it until I looked at his Wikipedia page, but not only did Pat and I both study (decades apart) at the University of Chicago, but the odds are reasonably high that Pat was a student of my father's back in the early 1960's, at MIT. I guess perhaps Pat and I were even more connected than I knew.

I'm sorry you're gone, Pat. I'll miss you.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

In which people discuss things I don't understand

Probably most people are aware that California AB 5 has passed and has been signed by Governor Newsom.

Now comes the extremely intelligent and insightful technology industry observer Ben Thompson with his thoughts on AB 5 and how it will affect Uber, Lyft, Doordash, Postmates, etc.: Neither, and New: Lessons from Uber and Vision Fund.

The critical part of AB 5 is the 3-part test for whether a worker is an independent contractor or not.

Here's what the law actually says:

2750.3. (a) (1) For purposes of the provisions of this code and the Unemployment Insurance Code, and for the wage orders of the Industrial Welfare Commission, a person providing labor or services for remuneration shall be considered an employee rather than an independent contractor unless the hiring entity demonstrates that all of the following conditions are satisfied:

(A) The person is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.

(B) The person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.

(C) The person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

Thompson's take is:

That is why the best solution to the employment classification question is to realize that neither of the old categorizations fit: Uber drivers are not employees, nor are they contractors; they are neither, and new. A much better law would define this category in a new way that provides the protections and revenue-collection apparatus that California deems necessary while still preserving the flexibility and market-driven scalability that make these consumer welfare-generating platforms possible.

That's a reasonable critique.

On the other hand, the law seems quite clear, and based on the law, it certainly seems like Uber drivers should be considered to be employees of Uber.

Vox has more.

I don't think this is over.

More git wisdom from Raymond Chen

Super-engineer Raymond Chen is back with another installment of his git wisdom series:

Have fun, and remember, whatever you do: "You just have to make sure to keep the octopus happy."