Saturday, February 27, 2021

Steady Vaccine Progress

As California passes the 8 million doses administered mark, the SF Chronicle posted this short table:

Vaccinations in the Bay Area
County	        Doses administered	Doses per 100,000
Napa	        42,854	            30,693
Marin	        76,672	            29,496
Sonoma	        127,381	            25,488
Contra Costa	290,359	            25,420
San Mateo       191,486	            24,952
San Francisco   199,987	            22,857
Alameda	        364,416	            21,996
Santa Clara     404,238	            20,972
Solano	        85,493	            19,350

Since both the current vaccines are 2-dose regimens, this translates to about 8-12% of the population is fully vaccinated, with another 4% or so having received their first dose.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Vaccine administration does appear to be speeding up

AIUI, over the past week the USA has averaged 1.25 million doses administered per day.

But yesterday there were 1.6 million doses administered.

Also, yesterday the doses were about evenly split between first dose and second dose, which is I guess exactly as it should be once the large scale rollouts are all underway.

Meanwhile, here in California, the state is administering just under 200,000 doses a day, and today it should surpass 8 million doses administered, which means (more or less) that 10% of the state's population has been vaccinated.

That's still agonizingly slow; somehow the state has to get much closer to 500,000 doses a day, and soon.

Before it's too late (if it isn't already).

500,000 doses a day would still mean six more months to vaccinate the state.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The impact of the Remote Work switch reaches far beyond the engineers no longer at their desks

Eater San Francisco is running a long article that explores all the enormous shifts and changes that are underway: 10,000 Salesforce Employees Never Have to Buy Lunch Downtown Again.

As the article describes, this isn't just "ping-pong tables and snacks;" it stretches much farther and will re-shape the city and, eventually, the entire Bay Area.

“People would take a little detour after they got off the bus and come and get coffee before they went into their office,” describes Crabbe. “It wasn’t solely Salesforce. There’s a whole economic ecosystem there with all of the companies in that area. There are banks, lawyers, architects, all kinds of people. … And there are people who live down there. The East Cut is a neighborhood. For me, that’s the most heartbreaking thing: We don’t get to see our regulars taking their kids to the rooftop park. We really miss that community. And yes, a lot of it was commuters, but not all of it.”

I haven't been back to the East Cut, where I spent 50 hours a week for 3.5 years, for nearly a year now, and I can only imagine how much it has changed. But people still live there; they can tell us what it's like now:

“It’s completely desolate,” says Keeling. “In the surrounding neighborhood, as well as the park itself, there’s nothing going on. ... It’s going to decimate food retail and other food businesses.” Observing the “gargantuan” tech offices, he fears empty towers and vacant storefronts, juxtaposed with all of the people who need homes in San Francisco. “Looking at all those empty towers, it’s staggering. You have these oversized shafts of glass and steel with no one inside them. It’s eerie.”

And it's not just the East Cut. The entire city will be re-formed, as Eater SF describe in a related article: Off the Grid Is Unlikely to Relaunch Any of Its Food Truck Events in 2021

Apart from its marquee weekend events, the company has focused almost all of its efforts on food truck hubs providing lunch for office workers in San Francisco’s downtown areas — over time, those proved to be much more reliable sources of business for the trucks that participated, Cohen says: “About 75 percent of our public market spaces were serving business lunch needs more so than suburban market needs.”

With office workers continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future, those markets were essentially dead in the water. And because Off the Grid is such a power player within the Bay Area mobile food landscape, its virtual disappearance from the scene has had massive ripple effects for local food trucks and pop-up vendors, many of whom were forced to rebuild their entire business model from scratch in order to survive.

Some of this business will indeed re-form, since people need to eat, after all.

But when people are spread out all over the place, where do the food trucks go to find their audience? Some areas are still being active:

it’s likely that the company will look to launch additional locations in more residential areas once we head into the spring and summer — not “markets,” but “food spots,” like the ones currently running in Alameda, Serramonte, and SFO, that function only as takeout pickup locations for a small number of trucks. One advantage of these more modest locations is that participating trucks only have to pay a flat fee, instead of giving the 10 percent cut of their sales that Off the Grid typically charges on top of the fee.

It isn't just food trucks and Michael Mina restaurants that are affected, of course; these are just some of the core topics that Eater SF pay attention to. But the same sorts of transformations are affected every other part of life in San Francisco, and every other part of life throughout the Bay Area.

At some point, a new normal will emerge. San Francisco will surely remain one of the great tourist destinations of the world, with its year-round climate, its spectacular scenery, and its easy access to the rest of the West Coast.

And I don't believe, in my inner heart, that Remote Work is really viable as a long-term approach. Sure, there have been a few successes, such as GitLab, GitHub, Atlassian, Red Hat, etc.

But software development, in the large, which is what the companies in San Francisco do, whether they be straight-up tech companies like Facebook or Twitter, or financial companies such as Charles Schwab or BlackRock, or even entertainment companies such as Lucasfilms or Pixar, is fundamentally and crucially a social activity, requiring enormous interactivity among its participants.

We may be (slowly) improving at holding 15-person Zoom meetings from our bedrooms, but the productivity levels are far from what you achieve with a handful of engineers, a couple boxes of pizza, and a whiteboard that fills the entire wall.

A colleague of mine said to me the other day: "I feel completely adrift; I don't understand how to be effective. In the office, when I got stuck, I'd just get up, stretch my legs, walk around, and ask people questions. Before long, I figured out what was blocking me, and I was back in gear again. Now, I just stay stuck."

How do you form teams, and launch projects? How do you make new connections in other parts of your company? How do you identify and recruit new employees? How do you run a college intern program? All of these activities have for many decades depended on large groups of talented individuals gathering in shared spaces to collaborate.

Some of this never actually changed during 2020: friends I know who worked at early-stage startups say that these companies mostly continued as they were, with a small unfurnished space in some non-descript office building, a bunch of folding tables and Office Depot chairs, and extension cords littering every inch of the floor. That activity will surely continue, but the vast majority of the people in tech industry don't work in those startups, they work in the mega-corps.

We're all trying to re-learn all the skills that we've developed over years of experience, all the techniques that we acquired at school, but this is slow, slow going (and the schools are all closed, too!)

The world is changing, but it will take us a long time to get back to the level of dynamism and activity that we were at in 2019.

And, for now, the hub of that innovation and creativity sits empty and idle, while people are practicing getting onto their conference calls and declaring that "I'm not a cat".

Monday, February 15, 2021

Gears 5: a very short review

Gears 5 is a very fun shoot-em-up game, with lots of squishy alien baddies to vanquish, and all sorts of different sci-fi action in the process.

Unfortunately (for me), Gears 5 is really a multi-player tactical game, to be played online with your friends; the "campaign mode" is pretty much just a multi-hour tutorial on how the combat mechanics work.

There's an "open world" of sorts, but really it's not very open, it's just a pretty landscape that you can zoom around in while you stop off at various locations for various missions. Stories, background, NPCs, locations; Gears 5 doesn't bother with that, it's all about Vanquish The Baddies!!

Very fun, just not what I was looking for right now.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Jewels of Paradise: a very short review

When I finish a book, it's typical that I either:

  • like the book, and have a reasonable understanding of why I like it,
  • or, dislike the book, and have a reasonable understanding of why I dislike it

But with Donna Leon's The Jewels of Paradise, I find myself in a funny sort of different state: I really liked the book, but I find it a bit challenging to say why.

The Jewels of Paradise is a nicely-constructed dual-timeline who-done-it, with our heroine, in the current timeline, attempting to solve a mystery that happened 300 years ago.

For a who-done-it, it's a bit low key, for she spends most of her time in the library reading books, and when she isn't reading books she's having a coffee and trading emails with her sister. There's a bit of intrigue about a mysterious fellow who tails her as she walks around Venice, and some more intrigue about a sharp-dressing lawyer who may be trying to play all sides off against each other.

But don't expect a lot of action and thrills and chills in The Jewels of Paradise; about as close as we get to that comes at the conclusion of one of her carefully-worded emails:

She pushed the "send" key, thinking that a person could get to enjoy this James Bond stuff, locked up everything, and went home.

In the end, it is the contemplation of the similarities and contrasts between present-day times versus how things were in the late 17th century that are the most interesting parts of the book. Some things are the same, others are different, but in the end people are people and isn't that really what a who-done-it is all about?

After all the emotion and tumult of the last few months, it was lovely to spend some quiet wintertime hours sitting in my rocking chair, reading a book about a woman who likes to read books.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Praxis Fiber Workshop

In the world of Fiber Art, this is big news!

  • Praxis Fiber Workshop welcomes the TC2!
    The new Digital Weaving Lab at the Praxis Fiber Workshop at Ohio, USA recently welcomed the TC2 loom. And what’s more exciting is that Cathryn Amidei, who’s been associated with Digital Weaving Norway for ages now, is at the helm of affairs…as the Director! She tells us all about the Centre, its Digital Weaving Lab and the plans that are in the pipeline.
  • Director
    Cathryn has been engaged with Jacquard weaving for 15+ years. She has travelled extensively, studying and teaching on the TC2. She spent a year living in Norway working and walking at Tronrud Engineering Headquarters: the Digital Weaving Norway production facility.
  • Cool Cleveland! Praxis Fiber Workshop
    Praxis Fiber Workshop is dedicated to supporting the textile arts, especially the ancient art of weaving. But its new exhibit, Digital Garden, brings that art into the contemporary age, with a display of digital weavings. Curated by gallery director Connie Fu and digital weaving lab director Cathryn Amidei, supported by Kayli Salzano, the show features the work of seven artists including Amidei, Jovencio de la Paz, Gabrielle Duggan, Marianne Fairbanks, Robin Kang, Janice Lessman-Moss and Robert Mertens.

    The exhibit heralds the debut of the new Praxis Digital Weaving Lab.
  • Contact
    The longer I work in this media, the more finely tuned I become to the nature of the matrix and the materials. The materials of the threads, their origins and their dispositions are familiar to me. I am drawn to them, they surround me in many variations. It is also true that the longer I work, the more I explore and thus, the more I see that I do not know. Each piece I make includes those tiny incremental steps forward from the piece before, as well as the hidden processes, the invisible hours and motions and states of mind and body during execution.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

This is, understandably, quite controversial

I imagine that conversations like this are happening all over the country right now: An inside look at how one Bay Area school district is preparing to reopen March 8

The district announced last month a framework to reopen March 8 if three key components fall into place: if public health conditions allow, if a program to test all teachers and students is launched and if an agreement is approved with the teachers union.

In the Golden State, with 6 million public school students, the California Teachers Association has said it wants all educators vaccinated before returning to the classroom; many local unions have also adopted this sentiment.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has said he will not force schools to reopen. Instead, he wants to give them an incentive, proposing a $2 billion “Safe Schools for All” plan, which has been met with criticism from superintendents, unions and lawmakers. It would give schools extra funding for COVID-19 testing and other safety measures if they resume in-person classes. Schools that reopen sooner would get more money.

"Our goal is to open a hybrid TK-5 program that consists of part-time in-class instruction and part-time on-line instruction," district spokeswoman Susan Davis said. "In adherence to county and state public health mandates, our plan is to divide our classes into small cohorts of students and maintain social distancing and mask-wearing for all staff and students. We have also put considerable effort into upgrading our ventilation systems."

"We've all been operating under the assumption we needed to be fewer than 7 cases per 100,000 residents in the county to reopen, but some significant adjustments in the guidance that came to us on Jan. 14 from the governor's office and from the state department of public health are aimed at allowing schools to reopen when the case rate is 25 per 100,000," Pasquale Scuderi, the district superintendent, said in a Jan. 26 video.

I guess one good thing is that, at this point, everybody's at least talking about what the right answer is.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Early vaccination results from Israel are very promising

Take a look at this story that ran on the BBC today: Covid: Israel's vaccine rollout linked to infection fall. There is some remarkably good news from Israel, which have already succeeded in vaccinating half (!!) of their population.

Israel's vaccination programme is showing signs of working to drive down infections and illness in the over-60s.

The fall appears to be most pronounced in older people and areas furthest ahead in their immunisation efforts.

This suggests it is the vaccine, and not just the country's current lockdown, taking effect.

There are lots of details in the linked article.

Vaccine Confusion

On the up side, California has now administered more doses than we've had positive tests: 3.4 million doses have been administered as of Jan 30; 3.3 million positive tests as of Jan 30.

On the down side, it's just so slow.

It took 3 months for California to administer 3 million doses. There are 40 million people in California.

Can we include more vaccines? It seems like America should be pushing for approval of (at least) the vaccines from:

  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Novavax
  • Astra Zeneca

And what about others, such as the Bayer/CureVac mRNA vaccine, or the vaccine developed by Baylor College of Medicine?