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,, 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?

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