Monday, October 22, 2018

What's up with that Bloomberg "spy chip" story?

Various people, who know a lot more than me, are coming down on the side that Bloomberg appears to be guilty of some bad journalism here. A couple random examples:

Oh, and also, Apple, Amazon, ATT, Verizon, and SuperMicro themselves are all still standing by their claims that the story is false.

It's been 3 weeks, and Bloomberg's reporting is not looking so great in this area at this point...

Barely a week to go ...

... time to start getting EXCITED!

15 Western Movies To Get You Ready For Red Dead Redemption 2.

Also, I liked this article about the pros and cons of fast travel, partly because it name-checked one of my all-time favorite games: Take the Second Left After the Field of Rocks

It’s important to acknowledge Campo Santo’s Firewatch when discussing contemporary resistance to fast travel, as Firewatch forced the player to use a map, a compass, and a set of directions in order to find their way around the Rockies. While the map in Firewatch is only a fraction of the size of most RPG maps, the limitations it imposes on the player in the form of obstacles make finding a suitable route quite tricky. The player can spend quite some time moving north before discovering that they actually ended up moving westward for a time, and followed the natural curve of the path south, leaving them further away from their destination than they were when they originally set out. There’s a certain sense of accomplishment attached to finding your own way while drinking in the nature of the game world, as your role as the player character is more dependent on your own intuition than usual. While the only thing you may need to do in some games in order to incapacitate a group of ten enemies is to mash square, finding your way through a vast and unfamiliar landscape is entirely dependent on your own sense of navigation.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

A little bit more on The Master and Margarita

So just after I finished realizing that I had nothing coherent to say about The Master and Margarita, I stumble upon this absolutely wonderful essay by Viv Grokop, from The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Got You Down? Time to Read The Master and Margarita:

While The Master and Margarita is a hugely complex novel, with its quasi-religious themes and its biting critique of the Soviet system, above all it’s a big fat lesson in optimism through laughs. If you can’t see the funny side of your predicament, then what is the point of anything? Bulgakov loves to make fun of everyone and everything. “There’s only one way a man can walk round Moscow in his underwear—when he’s being escorted by the police on the way to a police station!” (This is when Ivan Bezdomny appears, half naked, at the writers’ restaurant to tell them a strange character has come to Moscow and murdered their colleague.) “I’d rather be a tram conductor and there’s no job worse than that.” (The giant cat talking rubbish at Satan’s ball.) “The only thing that can save a mortally wounded cat is a drink of paraffin.” (More cat gibberish.)

The final joke of the book is that maybe Satan is not the bad guy after all. While I was trying to recover my sense of humor about being Polish and Jewish instead of being Russian, this was all a great comfort. Life is, in Bulgakov’s eyes, a great cosmic joke. Of course, there’s a political message here, too. But Bulgakov delivers it with such gusto and playfulness that you never feel preached at.

It's a great essay.

Perhaps I should read her entire book!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Master and Margarita: a very short review

Well, here I go again: I finally got around to reading Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita.

Of course, this is one of the great works of 20th Century literature, not just Russian Literature but any literature.

And yet.

I'm not really sure how I feel about reading The Master and Margarita. I really enjoyed reading it; it's quite the romp!

And I realized, as I was reading it, that I was reading An Important Book Of Great Import.

But the whole experience was rather like reading Alice in Wonderland, another work of great literature which is just completely bizarre and strange.

Here's the short explanation of The Master and Margarita: it's set about 100 years ago, just as the Tsarist Era in Russia is ending, and the Stalinist period is beginning.

And the plot is: the Devil has decided to make a visit to Moscow.

There are lots of crazy bizarre discussions among lots of crazy bizarre characters.

And the whole thing is very entertaining.

But it's also the sort of book that comes with a 60-page section of notes, detailing and explaining the historical, political, religious, and literary references with which the book is packed.

Kind of like reading The Annotated Alice.

I sort of went back and forth: I would just read the book itself for a while, and then I'd go and read a bunch of the notes, to try to figure out why I was reading what I was reading and what it all meant.

I'm happy I read the book.

But I'm exhausted, too.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Up, up, and away (of another sort)

Probably you didn't see this story, or if you saw it, you probably didn't pay much attention: A National Park Is Airlifting Hundreds of Mountain Goats That Have Gone Crazy for Human Pee

Successfully captured goats are blindfolded, tagged, and fitted with GPS collars. Once loaded into crates, they’re transported in pairs to nine release sites throughout Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and on land owned by Seattle Public Utilities.

“The plan is to reach a zero population level of mountain goats in the park and adjacent Olympic National Forest lands…[removing] approximately 90 percent of the projected 2018 mountain goat population, or approximately 625 to 675 mountain goats,” the plan states.

I almost didn't notice the story, myself.

But, I did.

And, there's a story behind that.

You see, I've been paying a certain amount of attention to the goats in Olympic National Park.

Because, it turns out, I have a distant, but rather vivid, bond with another story about goats, and Olympic National Park: Mountain goat kills man in Olympic National Park

Boardman, 63, died after trying to shoo away a mountain goat at the top of Klahhane Ridge, about four miles north of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, National Park Service officials said Sunday.

He is believed to be the first person to have died in an incident involving an animal in the park, spokeswoman Barb Maynes said. Rangers found and killed the animal, which was to be taken to Monroe for a necropsy, she said.

Accounts of the incident are murky.

Bob Boardman, let it be known, was one of my summer camp counselors, long, long ago, when I was just a wee 'un.

He taught me to play the dulcimer.

He taught me a lot of other stuff.

He was a remarkably Good Man.

It's a bit odd, to me, that I (once) knew the first man to have died in a Mountain Goat incident in an American National Park.

So, the story stuck with me.

It turned out to be a remarkably complex story, too ("Accounts of the incident are murky"): Court rejects claim over goring in Olympic National Park

In the lead opinion Monday, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain reasoned that park officials had discretion in deciding how to handle the problem goat.

But the other judge in the majority, Marsha Berzon, wrote that while she was bound by 9th Circuit precedent, she agreed with dissenting Judge Andrew Kleinfeld that “our jurisprudence in this area has gone off the rails” and needs to be reconsidered.

Bob Boardman didn't set out, that day, to force a decision on the potential liability of civil servants who exercise discretion.

He just was taking his wife and his friend for a walk in the park.

And there, unfortunately, was a 370 pound Mountain Goat which had become habituated to the chemical secretions of Homo Sapiens.

And tragedy resulted.

And now, helicopters are relocating Oreamnos americanus elsewhere.

In the big scheme of things, it's nothing special.

But to me, well ...

Fare thee well, Bob Boardman: good friend to a young and impressionable lad.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Up, up, and away

For now, at least, Fremont Street is closed, First Street is semi-closed, the terminal is closed, and the investigations are underway.

The shoring system looks like a bunch of giant car jackstands; you can see some clear pictures of the equipment here: Further Shoring Work at Transbay Transit Center Prompts More Street Closures

First Street between Howard and Mission streets will close at 9 p.m. over the next few days as crews work to reinforce the bus deck above. The stretch of street will reopen at 5 a.m. on each of the following days.

No cracks were found in steel beams above First Street but two cracks were found in steel beams on the bus deck above Fremont Street on Sept. 25, prompting the immediate closure of the transit center and Fremont Street.

Mark Zabaneh, executive director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority said in a statement, “Because Fremont and First streets are similarly designed, to be prudent, we have decided to reinforce First Street as a proactive measure.

Some of the damaged material has to be removed, in order to figure out the details of the damage, before a repair plan can even be formed: Plans revealed for testing cracks in steel beams at Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco

The beams have been in place since January of 2016, fire proofing material was installed in June of 2016. TJPA says they know the cracks happened sometime after that, they just don't know when.

"As dire as the situation is it's a blessing that we're able to catch it," said Zabaneh.

During a presentation Tuesday to the TJPA board officials outlined the calendar to get the building re-opened.

Jacks will be replaced by a temporary shoring system to relieve the stress on the cracked beams. Once that's in place, Fremont Street will be re-opened; the goal by next Friday.

"At that point in time we'll be able to take a sample of the steel girder, take it to a lab and do various tests," said Zabaneh.

Those tests which will take approximately two weeks will help determine what caused the cracks. A critical piece of information not just for curiosity's sake but because the cause will dictate the fix. There will be peer reviews both before and after the permanent fix is installed.

People of course continue to argue about that most human of complaints: who pays? ne of few certainties with Transbay center: Repair costs covered by warranty

The cost of repairing the Transbay Transit Center, a task that is likely to take weeks and cost millions, will be covered by warranty, officials confirmed Wednesday.

The general contractor or its subcontractors are responsible for repairing any construction flaws, not the center’s operator, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority.

In the meantime?

Well, this has been Fleet Week, and it's also Hardly Strictly Bluegrass weekend, and the weather is absolutely wonderful.

And, as they say, life goes on.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Kairos Power

I somehow wasn't paying enough attention, and hadn't noticed this new arrival: Kairos Power moves headquarters to Alameda Point hangar

Kairos Power, a fast-growing East Bay company, is moving its headquarters from Oakland’s waterfront area to Alameda Point, agreeing to lease an old hangar.

The nuclear energy technology company agreed to lease 56,000 square feet at Alameda Point, the site of the shuttered former Alameda Naval Air Station.

Kairos Power will move into West Tower 9, a one-time hangar and manufacturing building constructed in the 1940s. The lease was arranged through Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial realty firm.

The building is undergoing a complete renovation ahead of the Kairos move into the old hangar.

The new building is to be both headquarters and laboratory: Nuclear Research Coming to Alameda

Kairos Power will be moving its headquarters from Oakland to this building. Kairos will occupy half the floor space that will include a newly built second floor being added by srmErnst to the interior. The research-and-development work will be done in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)

Kairos Power has apparently been underway here in the East Bay for several years, somewhat quietly: Kairos Power Is Hiring For Hybrid Natural Gas-Nuclear Power System

Their technology is a system whose major components and integration modeling has been under development for several years. The research, conducted mainly at the University of California, Berkely (UCB) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has led the developers to believe that a hybrid system that uses both nuclear fission heat and natural gas heat can be a clean, competitive source of dependable, flexible power.

The privately-held company's founders recognize that too much exposure too early can result in inflated expectations. They are experienced enough to know that nothing moves very fast in the energy industry, especially in the nuclear segment of the industry.

They have a nice, if brief, web site: Kairos Power: The Future of Nuclear Power The About Us page makes an interesting observation:

Kairos Power has identified a unique moment in our energy landscape. The unprecedented growth in natural gas generation, initiated around 2000, will begin retiring in the next two decades. Kairos Power’s highly efficient and flexible reactor technology, through its baseload and peaking operation, is uniquely suited to replace U.S. natural gas capacity while accommodating the expansion of intermittent renewable sources. Growing from a broad research effort at U.S. universities and national laboratories, Kairos Power was founded to accelerate the development of an innovative nuclear technology that has the potential to transform the energy landscape in the United States.

It's all part of the ongoing transformation of the Alameda Naval Air Station, a decades-long effort that is nicely summarized here: Urbanizing a Former Naval Air Station in San Francisco Bay

Over 556 acres (225 ha) of land remains to be redeveloped on Alameda Point west of Main Street. The city has divided that land into four subareas: a waterfront town center neighborhood surrounding the southern seaplane lagoon; a Main Street neighborhood for a mixture of housing types with supportive services; an adaptive use subarea that contains over 2 million square feet (186,000 sq m) of existing buildings; and an enterprise subarea for research, industrial, and office development.

I'm a little surprised there hasn't been more discussion and controversy around the notion of nuclear power research here in town.

On the other hand, I'm a pretty big fan of research, and I'm not sure I can see the downside of having a bunch of PhD's out on the old Navy Base thinking about how to make safe and effective power sources for the future.

I'll keep my eyes open for more news as it develops, but in the meantime: welcome, Kairos Power!