New York lights


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I had a bunch of errands to run today, but also a lot of calls. When I got up from my desk around 4pm with plans to head out in the car, I found five inches of snow already on the apartment deck. Another five would come after that.

So I decided to walk down to the nearest dollar store, a few blocks north on Broadway, which is also downhill in this part of town, and at least pick up some deck lights to replace the ones that burned out after glowing there for several years.

What I found on Broadway was total gridlock, because too many cars and trucks couldn’t move. Tires all over spun in place, saying “zzzZZZZzzzZZZ.” After I picked up a couple 5-foot lengths of holiday lights for $1 each at the dollar store, I walked back up past the same stuck length of cars Continue reading "New York lights"

An evacuated view on the #ThomasFire


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Here’s the latest VIIRS data, on the most active parts of the Thomas Fire, mapped on Google Earth Pro:That’s 1830 Mountain Standard Time, or 5:30pm Pacific. About half an hour ago as I write this.

And here are the evacuation areas:

Our home is in the orange Voluntary Evacuation area, and we made a round trip from LA to prepare the house as best we could, gather some stuff and go. Here’s a photo album of the trip, and one of the last sights we saw on our way out of town:

This, I believe, was a fire break created on the up-slope side of Toro Canyon.

This afternoon I caught a community meeting broadcast on KEYT, Santa Barbara’s local TV station, which has been very aggressive and responsible in reporting on the fire. I can’t find a recording of that now on the site, but Continue reading "An evacuated view on the #ThomasFire"

#ThomasFire live


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MODIS fire data, plotted on Google Earth, current at 3:45pm today. You can see the Thomas Fire advancing through the back country,westward toward Santa Barbara, and already encroaching on Carpinteria:

Those are fire detections. Radiative power data is also at that first link.

Here is a collection of links to facts about the #ThomasFire:

 

United Wifi: How Can It Be So Bad?


This post is by Drummond Reed from Equals Drummond


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United-WifiI just flew United non-stop from Seattle to Washington D.C. (Dulles) and back. I realized too late after booking the trip that this was the airline on which I had never successfully connected to their in-air wifi. Since it was a five hour flight, I decided I would bear down this time and finally fix the problem (after all, I’ve worked in the Internet business for over 20 years).

So, on the outbound trip, I literally spent TWO HOURS trying everything I could to get a connection. Absolutely nothing worked. After I gave up in frustration, a helpful flight attendant (who I could tell had spent many hours trying to debug wifi connections for passengers) make the suggestion to forget the United wifi network at the end of the flight.

So I did that and then tried to forget all about the whole experience—too many other things to worry about after missing

Continue reading "United Wifi: How Can It Be So Bad?"

A miracle of flight


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That was the view to the south over center of Greenland a few hours ago: a late afternoon aurora over a blue dusk.

I departed London about four hours before taking this shot, and am writing this in Santa Barbara. According to my little hand-held GPS, we were just above 70° north when I took that shot, or about four degrees north of the arctic circle. The flight as Air New Zealand 1, and that same plane is now en route to Auckland.

We were also inside the auroral oval:

Normally on transatlantic flights between Europe and the U.S., one looks north at the aurora, but in this case I was looking south.

Even after flying millions of miles as a passenger, it still blows my mind what one can see out the window of a plane.

I’ll put up the full series of shots after I get Continue reading "A miracle of flight"

A dark review for United’s Boeing 787


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I’ve been wanting to fly on the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” ever since I missed a chance to go on an inaugural junket aboard one before Boeing began delivery to the airlines. But I finally got my chance, three days ago, aboard United Flight 935 from London to Los Angeles.

Some context: United is my default airline by virtue of having flown 1.5 million miles with them, which has earned me some status. Specifically, I get on shorter lines, don’t get charged for bags, and have some choice about where I sit, which defaults to Economy Plus: the section of Economy that features a bit more leg room and is typically located which is behind business/first, now called Polaris.

I should add that I actually like United, and have had few of the bad experiences people tend to associate with big old airlines. And plenty of good ones. And not

Continue reading "A dark review for United’s Boeing 787"

Some new ways to look at infrastructure


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Nothing challenges our understanding of infrastructure better than a crisis, and we have a big one now in Houston. We do with every giant storm, of course. New York is still recovering from Sandy and New Orleans from Katrina. Reforms and adaptations always follow, as civilization learns from experience.

Look at aviation, for example. Houston is the 4th largest city in the U.S. and George Bush International Airport (aka IAH) is a major hub for United Airlines. For the last few days traffic there has been sphinctered down to emergency flights alone. You can see how this looks on FlightAware’s Miserymap:

Go there and click on the blue play button to see how flight cancellations have played over time, and how the flood in Houston has affected Dallas as well. Click on the airport’s donut to see what routes are most affected. Frequent fliers like myself rely on tools like this

Continue reading "Some new ways to look at infrastructure"

Great Coffee vs. Meh Marketing


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favorite-peets My loyalty to Peet’s Coffee is absolute. I have loved Peet’s since it was a single store in Berkeley. I told my wife in 2001 that I wouldn’t move anywhere outside the Bay Area unless there was a Peet’s nearby. That pre-qualified Santa Barbara, where we live now. When we travel to where Peets has retail stores, we buy bags of our favorite beans (which tend to be one of the above) to take to our New York apartment, because there are no Peets stores near there. When we’re in New York and not traveling, we look for stores that sell bags of one of the bean bags above. Since our car died and we haven’t replaced it yet, we have also taken to ordering beans through Peet’s website. Alas, we’re done with that now. Here’s why: screen-shot-2017-06-22-at-11-34-17-pm I ordered those beans (Garuda and New Guinea) two Thursdays ago, June 16, at 7:45am. A couple Continue reading "Great Coffee vs. Meh Marketing"

Being human vs. rating people


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starI’ve hated rating people ever since I first encountered the practice. That was where everybody else does too: in school. Because rating people is what schools do, with tests and teachers’ evaluations. They do it because they need to sort students into castes. What’s school without a bell curve? As John Taylor Gatto put it in the Seven Lesson Schoolteacher, the job of the educator in our industrialized and compulsory education system is to teach these things, regardless of curricular aspirations or outcomes:
  1. confusion
  2. class position
  3. indifference
  4. emotional dependency
  5. intellectual dependency
  6. provisional self-esteem
  7. that you can’t hide
It’s no different in machine-run “social sharing” systems such as we get from Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. In all those systems we are asked to rate the people who share their cars and homes, and they are asked to rate us. The hidden agenda behind this practice is the same as the one Gatto describes above. Continue reading "Being human vs. rating people"

Desert warfare training in live ghost towns, seen from the sky


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I’ve been fascinated for years by what comes and goes at the Fort Irwin National Training Centerfortirwin —in the Mojave Desert, amidst the dark and colorful Calico Mountains of California, situated in the forbidding nowhere that stretches between Barstow and Death Valley. Here and there, amidst the webwork of trails in the dirt left by tanks, jeeps and other combat vehicles, fake towns and other structures go up and come down. So, for example, here is Etrebat Shar, a fake town in an “artificial Afghanistan” that I shot earlier this month, on June 2: etrebat-shar1 And here is a broader view across the desert valley east of Fort Irwin itself: etrebat-shar2 Look to the right of the “town.” See that area where it looks like something got erased? Well, it did. I took the two shots above earlier this month, on June 2. Here’s a shot of the same scene
etrebat-shar3
othertown
Continue reading "Desert warfare training in live ghost towns, seen from the sky"

BYSMD


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4-1-06 detroit & ccs 005 web Once, in the early ’80s, on a trip from Durham to some beach in North Carolina, we stopped to use the toilets at a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere. In the stall where I sat was a long conversation, in writing, between two squatters debating some major issue of the time. Think of the best back-and-forth you’ve ever read in a comment thread and you’ll get a rough picture of what this was like. So I sat there, becoming engrossed and amazed at the high quality of the dialog — and the unlikelihood of it happening where it was. Until I got to the bottom. There, ending the conversation, were the penultimate and ultimate summaries, posed as a question and answer: Q: Why do people feel compelled to settle their differences on bathroom walls? A. Because you suck my dick. That story became legendary in our family and social Continue reading "BYSMD"

Speeding on the Subway


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subway-speedtest At the uptown end of the 59th Street/Columbus Circle subway platform there hangs from the ceiling a box with three disks on fat stalks, connected by thick black cables that run to something unseen in the downtown direction. Knowing a few things about radio and how it works, I saw that and thought, Hmm… That has to be a cell. I wonder whose? So I looked at my phone and saw my T-Mobile connection had five dots (that’s iPhone for bars), and said LTE as well. So I ran @Ookla‘s Speedtest app and got the results above. Pretty good, no? Sure, you’re not going to binge-watch anything there, or upload piles of pictures to some cloud, but you can at least pick up some email, look some stuff up on the Web, or otherwise tug on your e-tether to everywhere for a few minutes. Nice to have. So I’m Continue reading "Speeding on the Subway"

A fine suburban #sunrise and a vexing #CS6 issue


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Sacramento SunriseMade a dawn run to the nearby Peets for some dry cappuccinos, and was bathed in glow on my return by one of the most spectacular sunrises I have ever seen. It was post-peak when I got back (to the place where I’m staying in Gold River, California), but with some underexposure and white balance tweaking, I was able to get the shots in this set here. Alas, the shot above is not in that set. It’s a screen shot I took of an adjusted raw file that Adobe Photoshop CS6 simply refused to save. “The file could not be created,” it said. No explanation. I checked permissions. No problem there. It just refused. I just checke, and the same thing happens with all files from all directories on all drives. Photoshop is suddenly useless to for editing RAW files. Any suggestions?

What are the the balls on Prague’s spires called??


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prague-balls-question One of the things that fascinates me about Prague are the skewers atop the spires of its many iconic buildings, each of which pierces a shiny ball. It’s a great look. I am sure there’s a reason for those things, other than the look itself. I am also sure there is a word for the ball. The skewer too. I know it’s not spire, because that labels any conical or tapered point on the roof of a building. Prague is said to be the city of a hundred, or a thousand, spires. Most of those have these balls too, and I’ve become obsessed, while I’m here, with finding out what the hell they’re called. I’m sure more than a few people out there on the lazyweb know. So tell me. Thank you.

Newsstands are à la carte. How about online as well?


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I travel a lot, and buy newspapers wherever I happen to be. That would be true online as well, if I could do it. But I can’t, because that’s not an option. For example, my butt is in California right now, but my nose is in Boston, where I’m reading the Globe. I don’t want a subscription to the Globe, but I would like to pay for today’s paper, or for at least the right to read a few stories from it. Not easy. Or even possible, after the first one or two. Because, soon enough this paywall thingie comes up: Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 7.13.36 AM It’ a subscription come-on, modeled after the one the New York Times has been using for years, and I wrote about back in 2012, here. (The switch after the above bait: “$.99… That’s less than $1 for 4 full weeks! Then pay the regular low rate of $3.99 per week.”) I had some advice for the Times at that last link, and I’ve got some for all papers today: create an à la carte option. I know there are lots of reasons not to, all of which arise from system-based considerations on the sell side of the relationship with newspaper buyers. What I’m saying is that the newsstand option has worked fine for more than a century in the physical world, and should be an option in the networked one as well. At least think about it. Constructively, as in Let’s see… how can we do that? Not “It’s too hard.” Or “People only want free stuff.” Those are all echoes inside the old box. I want us to think and work outside of that box. People are willing to pay value for value if it’s easy. So let’s make it easy. The ideas I vetted three years ago are still good, but don’t cover the à la carte option. Let’s just focus on that one, and consider what’s possible.  

Figuring @Flickr


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Here’s a hunk of what one set (aka Album) in my Flickr stream looks like: Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 7.57.58 PM And here are what my stats on Flickr looked like earlier today (or yesterday, since Flickr is on GMT and it’s tomorrow there): Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 1.02.09 PM I ended up with 32,954 views, with no one of my 49,000+ photos getting more than 56 views. More than 95% of those views arrived via Flickr itself. The stats there are spread across 87 pages of results. Pages 1 to 63 go from 395 views (#1) down to 2. From page 64 to 87, all the results are for 1 view. I just pulled the searches alone, and got this:

1

Searched for: bay area aerial

395

2

Searched for: doc searls

307

3

Searched for: los angeles aerial view

206

Continue reading "Figuring @Flickr"

Shooting my escape to Paradise


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Here is how New York looked through my front window yesterday at 3:51am, when I was packing to fly and drive from JFK to LAX to Santa Barbara: Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.37.38 AM I shoveled a path to the street four times: the first three through light and fluffy snow, and the fourth through rain, slush and a ridge of myucch scraped in front of the driveway by a plow. By the time we got to JFK, all the pretty snow was thick gray slush. It was a good time to get the hell out. Fortunately, @United got us onto the first flight out to LAX flight in the morning. (We were booked on a later flight. To see the crunch we missed, run the FlightAware MiseryMap for JFK, and watch 2 February.) The flight to LAX was quick for a westbound one (which flies against the wind): a little over five hours. For half the country, the scene below was mostly white. This one… Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 8.14.24 AM … of the ridge country between Beaver Dam Lake and Columbus, Wisconsin, said far more about snow than the white alone suggested. Those linear hills are were left by the departing Wisconsin Glacial Episode, which ended only about ten thousand years ago — a mere blink in geologic time. And here’s the snow-covered Mississippi, by Prairie du Chein, on the Wisconsin-Iowa border: Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 8.14.39 AM Then, a couple hours later, we flew straight over the Grand Canyon, which has a horizontal immensity one tends to miss when gawking at the canyon’s scenic climaxes from the ground. One of my favorite scenes is the Uinkaret Volcanic Field, which poured like syrup over the Canyon’s layer cake of 290-1700-year old rock only 70,000 years ago:
Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 8.13.47 AM
Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 8.13.30 AM
Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.40.01 AM
Continue reading "Shooting my escape to Paradise"

Let’s bring the cortado / piccolo to America


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There are ideal ratios of coffee and milk, if you don’t want the flavor of either to fully prevail. To me the closest to the ideal ratio is what Italians call a cortado and Australians call a piccolo (short for piccolo latte). The latter looks like this: piccolo To me this is roughly what a cappuccino should look like in a clear glass. But what we usually get in the U.S. (especially from Starbucks) is ten ounces of milk and one ounce of espresso in a twelve-ounce cup. Or maybe two ounces of espresso. Peets cappuccinos, when done right (which is about half the time, in the small size), get the ratio about the same (~1:1 coffee and steamed milk, and poured so the two mix into a creamy combination). Anyway, most coffee shops in the U.S. (and the U.K., which I also visit often) don’t know from a cortado or a piccolo. So I say let’s educate them. Here’s a goal: by the end of 2015, most coffee shops in the U.S. will know what you mean when you order either one. Continue reading "Let’s bring the cortado / piccolo to America"

The Google Flight Info Trick


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When I first stumbled across this, I thought I was the only one who hadn’t heard about it. Now I find myself telling other travelers about it all the time and am consistently surprised that they don’t know it. If you want to see the current departure and arrival time, terminal, and gate for any flight, just type the following into the Google search box:
flight info [airline] [flight-number]

Where [airline] is the name of the airline and [flight-number] is the number of the flight. Example: google-flight-info-search-box-text Here’s an example of what you get back: google-flight-info-search-box It works from any browser on any device and for every airline and flight number I’ve ever tried. Good job, Google.