Monday, January 30, 2023

A Noble Radiance: a very short review

Donna Leon's 7th Guido Brunetti book is A Noble Radiance, first published in 1998 and thus now 25 years old.

As opposed to some books in the series, this one is a very straightforward detective novel. A body is found in a field, buried, shot in the head, and it turns out to be the son of a wealthy Venetian businessman. The son was kidnapped from the family's estate two years ago; no ransom was paid and the kidnapping was never solved.

Commissario Brunetti is notified, and initially considers simply closing the kidnapping case.

But as he reviews the case, something isn't quite right. There is a little detail about the kidnapping that doesn't fit, and Brunetti can't leave it alone.

He looks deeper, he asks more questions. Feathers are ruffled. Little by little, Brunetti learns more, and a picture starts to form.

At the end, Brunetti solves the case, but in typical Donna Leon enigmatic fashion, the outcome isn't exactly justice, and it isn't exactly not justice.

I really loved this book, particularly because the final plot twist is sufficiently well-hidden that it resonates powerfully when you figure it out just at the same time that Commissario Brunetti does, with that vivid "Oh no! Now I see what really happened" moment of insight. It takes a very skilled author to make that work.

Another wonderful and thoroughly readable Guido Brunetti mystery novel.

Aside: at the end of the book, the publisher includes the first chapter of another Brunetti novel. But that is not the first chapter of book 8! It in fact is the first chapter of book 12! I think this is because the Penguin Books edition came out 5 years after the original hardback version of A Noble Radiance, and so they include the first chapter of the most-recently-published Brunetti novel, not the "next" novel. So it makes sense. But it's still confusing!

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

When your secondary system causes a problem in your primary system.

I found this very intriguing description of yesterday's NYSE malfunction and how it was due to incorrect operation of the Stock Exchange's Disaster Recovery system:

After the 9/11 disaster, the NYSE was obligated to maintain a primary trading site (at the NYSE) and a back-up site (which is in Chicago).

On Monday evening, routine maintenance was being performed on the software for the Chicago back-up site.

On Tuesday morning, the back-up system (Chicago) was mistakenly still running when the primary system (NYSE) came online.

Because the back-up was still running, when the primary site started up some stocks behaved as if trading had already started.

This is very very tricky stuff. Disaster Recovery mechanisms in software systems are extremely hard to test, because in practice disasters are quite rare, and you can't really just make a (real) disaster happen in order to test your software.

So what people do, in general, is to pretend that a disaster has happened, and practice switching over to their secondary site, verify that everything in fact switched over properly, and then switch back.

On my team, these are called "site switch exercises", and we do them a lot, because we need the practice.

But just doing one of these exercises can in fact cause a problem, as we see with the unfortunate incident at the NYSE.

It's a really hard problem: you don't want to say "don't run any tests", because then how do you know that your Disaster Recovery system would actually survive a disaster?

But then your test actually causes a disaster, and you feel bad.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Ashby Shoal picnic

Just to prove that you can live in a place for 40 years and yet still know nearly nothing, today I learned about the biannual Ashby Shoal picnic.

While today's picnic was covered by SFGate, I have to say I really enjoyed the Berkleyside article from last summer's event.

Though Kamen organizes the event, it’s an all-hands-on-deck affair.

Kathy Baylor, a retired hydrogeologist cum dragon boat member, brought donuts. David Janinis, a veteran sailor who sailed with Kamen to Hawaii, was “the pancake guy.” Phil Freeman, arriving in a kayak, brought kindling for what became a classic, triangular-shaped campfire. The scent of coffee brewing in a white enamel pot combined with the salty air. Pember sampled eelgrass, the local delicacy lying horizontal in the low waters.

For nearly a decade, I crewed occasionally on a 36' Hunter owned by a close friend of mine, and berthed in the Emeryville Marina. That's a wonderful location to keep a boat, but it's a tricky place to get in and out of (not that sailing in the bay is easy from any home base, the bay is a very challenging place to be a sailor). We never ran aground on the Ashby Shoal, although once, many years ago, we ran aground on a similar sand bar up in San Pablo Bay off the Pinole shoreline. Happily, we were able to free her and we continued that day's adventure without further incident.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Topping the reservoirs off.

As of today, Shasta is at 44% of capacity, which is still a bit low, it's normally at 60% of capacity in mid-January.

But that's mostly because of how enormous Shasta is. Most of the other reservoirs in the state are at or above their normal averages. Many are well above their normal averages. And even the ones that are still a bit low are filling fast.

And there's still at least one more big storm left in this series, expected this weekend.

Monday, January 9, 2023

It's really raining now.

This is a rainy season for the ages, to be sure.

The reservoirs are filling rapidly, and snow is continuing to pile up in the mountains.

I can't recall seeing a weather map like this in a long time. Pretty much the entire state of California, from Los Angeles County all the way to the Oregon border, is seeing precipitation simultaneously.

It's raining all up and down the state, except for in the mountains where it's snowing.

Hurricane force winds at my son's house near Sacramento knocked down his back yard fence yesterday, so he got a chance to meet some of his neighbors face to face.

So far, the California reservoirs are still not threatened seriously yet. It is a massive system, with stupendous capacity, and they've pretty much all still got lots of room to spare, so the flooding is mostly confined to a few places, such as the Cosumnes River, which are unusual and have no flood control reservoirs at all.

Here in the Bay Area most of our local rivers are fairly small, but still the flooding will be significant. Here's the sort of thing you very rarely see in a Bay Area weather forecast:

  - At 657 AM PST, Automated rain gauges and satellite indicated
    heavy rain. Minor flooding is already occurring in the
    advisory area.
  - Some locations that will experience flooding include...
    San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Fremont, Hayward,
    Sunnyvale, Concord, Santa Clara, Berkeley, Richmond, Antioch,
    Daly City, San Mateo, San Leandro, Livermore, Redwood City,
    Mountain View, Alameda, San Ramon and Pleasanton.

Stay warm and stay dry if you can, everyone, and watch the reservoirs rise.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Wonderful WaPo article on Devon Henry

I don't often read the Washington Post but this is a tremendous article about Devon Henry: .

As a small group of Confederate heritage defenders assembled nearby — at least one of them armed — city safety coordinator Miles Jones lectured the work crew on wearing hard hats and eye protection. And who, he asked, would be the site supervisor? A bearded man in Ray-Ban sunglasses and a Norfolk State University sweatshirt stepped forward.

“What’s your name, sir?” Jones asked.

“Devon Henry.”

“Devon Hen—” Jones began, then dropped his voice respectfully. “Oh, Mr. Henry. Of course.”

The name carries weight in Richmond these days.

He had to get the crane for the work all the way from Connecticut!

Great story, don't miss it.