Sunday/ beautiful subway stations

CNN mentions the photographs of Chris Forsyth, a 20-year old Montreal resident in an article, and I loved to check them out.  Hey, I have even been to a few.

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I am making a note of this subway station called Stadion in Stockholm for my trip there some time in the next two to three years. (Take the subway to see another subway station : I like it!).

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Here’s the Überseequartier station in Hamburg, by Hafencity. It took this picture in April this year. It looks brand spanking new with all the gleaming surfaces, but I see the station has been open since November 2012.

 

Saturday/ should the Fed ‘worry’ more?

I have never studied economics formally, and so I had to look up the ZLB and Great Moderation that economist Paul Krugman refers to in a blog post in the New York Times. ZLB stands for ‘Zero Lower Bound’ and means that a central bank (such as the Federal Reserve in the United States) has no ability, or a very limited one, to stimulate the economy with interest rate cuts.  The ‘Great Moderation’ refers to a reduction in the volatility of recessions and economic growth cycle fluctuations, that started in the mid-80s. The reduction is attributed to central bank independence (from politics), monetary policy and improved economic structures.  But here we are in August 2016 with near-full employment, near-zero interest rates, some eight years after the Great Recession, and wages not going up for the average worker.  We still cannot pay workers a living wage (the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009).

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Source: Reifschneider, Federal Reserve. This graph shows that there is NO ROOM down for the Federal Funds Rate to be cut, should the next recession arrive sooner than everyone anticipates.

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Paul Krugman’s blog post in the New York Times.

 

 

Friday/ the National Park Service turns 100

Cake smOn Aug 25, it was 100 years to the day since Congress had passed legislation that brought the National Parks Service into being.   All is not well in paradise, though.  There are money troubles. From the Washington Post : The natural beauty of the parks is unquestioned, but the human touches that make them accessible aren’t all pretty. The system faces a $12 billion maintenance shortfall that has left such entities as bridges and restrooms in disrepair. Yellowstone’s backlog alone is $603 million with crumbling roads, buildings and wastewater systems. Congress has declined to provide funding needed for fixes that have lingered for more than a decade.

P.S. Check out this cute sleeping bear that the NPS tweeted out. I want to go to sleep just like that.

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This graphic from the Wall Street Journal, shows the key numbers related to the National Parks Service. (Man! That’s a lot of Volunteers, the 221,000).

Thursday/ airport time again

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We’re taxiing out to the runway at San Francisco airport, and I am admiring the hulking frame of the Air France A380, about to depart for its 10h 35m flight to Paris.

Since I was in the City by the Bay all week, I could simply catch the BART train to the airport today.

There must have been many thousands of late summer visitors from overseas in San Francisco, because the security line to the gates at the International Terminal was the longest I had ever seen it.   I could use my pre-check status and use the expedited line, and it took barely three minutes to breeze through.

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Here’s my ride to the office on Thursday morning.  Street car 1058 is painted in the Chicago Transit Authority’s “green hornet” livery. Chicago ran PCC streetcars from 1936 to 1958, and at one time had the largest PCC fleet ever purchased new by one city–683 cars.

 

Wednesday night/ Lombard Street

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Lombard Street runs along the eastern segment in the Russian Hill neighborhood.

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Here is an early evening view from the top of the crooked section of Lombard Street (it’s nicely paved with brick all the way down).  I believe that’s the straight section of Lombard Street in the distance, running by the hilltop on the right with Coit Tower at its top.

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Just an interesting apartment or condo building that I walked by. The homes in the neighborhood are eclectic : all a little different, or Victorian, or unusual.

There was a picture of Lombard Street (‘the world’s crookedest street’, with its 8 hairpin turns in one street block), in my hotel room.   And since it was just a few blocks away from the hotel, I had to go check it out.

Wednesday/ the Embarcadero’s history

There are several parallels between San Francisco’s Embarcadero waterfront, and Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct.  The Embarcadero had an ugly double-decker freeway (built in the 1960s) that was finally undone and demolished in 1991, following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct has been a long-time eye-sore as well; and damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.  It’s demolition will finally be under way in the next 18 months or so, with the completion of a replacement tunnel.

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I’m on the Embarcadero, the waterfront street with street car tracks. The Ferry Building”s clock tower shows 6.50 pm, and I’m finally on my way back to Fisherman’s Wharf to the hotel.

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Check this little bit of history posted on a memorial of sorts with photographs and all : there used to be an ugly Embarcadero Freeway in the 1960s. It was finally torn down in 1991, after being severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Tuesday/ street car to the office

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Here’s my fancy Japanese ‘bento’ box lunch that I bought in the Ferry Building in the Embarcadero.

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My street car to the office this morning was built in 1946. The car’s exterior commemorates Washington DC, which operated PCC streetcars from 1937 to 1962. The car was acquired by San Francisco’s Muni from New Jersey Transit, Newark, NJ, in 2004.

I’m staying in the Marriott at Fisherman’s Wharf here in San Francisco .. so I can take the Line F street car to the office in the morning, and back again in the evening.

The weather here is cool, some 55°F/ 12°C in the mornings.  I was ready and like a good ‘boy scout’ checked the weather forecast before I came out here and packed my thicker jacket.

Monday/ to San Francisco, Embarcadero

San Francisco Bay was foggy this morning, and so our flight down was delayed by an hour.  (I start on another new project this week).  The summer crowds at the airport are thinning out, but still lots of families traveling.  Next to me on the flight was a dad and his 6 or 7-year old son.  The kid pulled a big stuffed elephant and a teddy bear out of his backpack as he settled into his seat, and then he was ready to go.

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We had just arrived at SFO’s International Terminal. This very purple plane is from Wow! the low-fare airline from Iceland, offers direct flights to Reykjavik, for as low as $399 return.

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This is the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Embarcadero Station, my stop from the airport.  The BART platform is the one all the way down, and that is a Muni train approaching on the right. If San Francisco was in Germany, the BART platform would be the S-bahn (the regional train), and the Muni line would be the U-bahn (the city’s underground train).

 

Friday/ onward to the future

The Seattle TimeWEB-uwtunnel-cs reports that the digging for the Sound Transit Light Rail expansion – adding three stations to the north – is almost done.   From the newspaper : ‘The tunnel boring contractors are only 650 feet from the finish line of a seven-mile marathon dig to extend the Light Rail tunnel from the University of Washington to Northgate’.  The tunnel-boring machine should emerge next to Husky Stadium in about 10 days.

So how much more work remains? Well, it will take five more years before the three stations open in 2021. That sure sounds like a lo-o-ong time.  One of the reasons may be funding and another limited construction time due to noise abatement considerations.

 

 

Thursday/ flooding in Louisiana

The New York Times has published amazing – and shocking pictures in an article about the historic levels of flooding in Louisiana around the city of Baton Rouge.  These floods were produced by a rainstorm with no name, that brought 20 inches and more some areas, in a few days, since last Friday.  It’s the biggest natural disaster in the USA since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  The flooding would have been a big national story, were it not for the day and night coverage of the Rio Olympics and the unusually wild campaigns President in the November election.  (82 days to go).

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Photo by Patrick Dennis/The Advocate, via Associated Press, from the New York Times article. Flooded homes and businesses in Denham Springs, Louisiana.

Wednesday/ something green, finally

I am so thrilled to finally have some pots with beautiful greenery in them, set up at the back of my house on the patio.  I had help – a lot of help! – from a landscaper friend in setting it up.  We are having warm weather (90 °F/ 32 °C), and no rain, so I have to keep the pots watered !

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That’s a Japanese maple in the big blue pot, and a flowering maple in the smaller pot on its right.  I am still learning the names of the other plants!

 

Tuesday/ a sliver of time

I wondered what distance in the Olympic swimming pool for 0.01 seconds of time would come to. Well, let’s see. Swimmers go at it at about 5 miles per hour.  There are 1,600 meters in a mile.  So 5 miles/ hour x1,600 m/ mile /(3,600 sec/hour)*0.01 sec = 0.0022 m. That’s 22 mm, or just about one inch.  I hope the swimming pool contractor built the pool as a perfect rectangle.  One lane that is an inch longer than another, can make the difference between gold and silver!

But never mind the hundredth of a second for swimming. Here’s German cyclist Kristina Vogel edging out James of Great Britain by .. looks like 4 thousands of a second, for the gold.  Whoah.

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At this year’s Rio 2016 Olympics, OMEGA debuted their Scan-O-Vision Myria photo finish camera, which can take up to 10,000 digital images every second.

Saturday/ the Greenland shark

This article about Greenland sharks is fascinating.  Sharks don’t have bones for carbon dating, so a research team used a protein in the shark’s eye to determine that these sharks easily reach 200 years in age, and some that are almost 400 years old have been found. They only reach reproductive age at an estimated 156 years!

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Picture by Julius Nielsen, from the on-line article on http://arstechnica.com/

Friday/ I guess I literally don’t get it

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From CNN.com’s website. Around and around it goes. With September coming up – will Trump say that Obama recruited the terrorists that carried out the Sept 11 attacks?

Those of us that watch a lot of cable news here in the States (me) were ‘treated’ to another week of incendiary remarks made by Donald Trump on the campaign trail.  It was not enough to insult the mother of a fallen soldier (side note : Trump dodged the draft five times during the Viet Nam War).  Let’s troll for even more attention by calling on gun-owners to ‘mayIMG_5355be do something, I don’t know (shrug shoulders)’ about Hillary Clinton getting elected, and appointing Supreme Court judges we do not like.

Hmm, and what else?  Yes.  We will say President Obama founded ISIS, and Hillary co-founded it.  And double-down on it the next day, say I meant it ‘literally*’, and then walk it back on Friday as ‘sarcasm’.

*Literally means : exactly, precisely, actually, really, truly.

Thursday/ a flying fish

Another week at the project office is done.  Our short project – adding some extensions and improvements to the big work management solution we had previously built over 12 months – is almost done.   We are testing the improvements for the ‘August Release’.

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The project office is in San Ramon, over on the east side of the Bay. It is a little shorter to drive across the dreary Hayward-San Mateo Bridge instead of the Bay Bridge to the north, to get to San Francisco airport.

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Is it a fish? Is it a plane? Our Alaska Airlines 737 at the gate at San Francisco airport’s International Terminal, shortly before we boarded.

Wednesday/ the flags at the Olympics

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This is what the Chinese flag should look like : the four little stars are each tilted (they don’t have the same orientation as the big star).

I love the flags that the NBC’s computer-enhanced video shows in the swimlanes at swim events. (It disappears as soon as the swimmers plunge into the pool at the start).

As for the flags that are raised behind the medals podium, I see there is a little flap about the Chinese flag.  The one that they have at the Games is not quite accurate.  The four little stars are not tilted towards the big one.

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Here are the swimmers at the start of the Men’s 200m Individual Medley Semi-final.

Tuesday/ the Soberanos fire

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3-D Map of the Soberanes Fire showing the perimeter at 1 a.m. PDT August 7, 2016. MODIS, Google, USFS, Wildfire Today

The massive Soberanos wildfire here in the mountains south of Monterey Bay was in day 19 on Tuesday and only 50% contained. The fire was caused by someone who lit an illegal campfire near a waterfall off the Soberanes Canyon Trail in Garrapata State Park).   It now covers almost 60,000 acres (93 square miles) over rugged, inaccessible terrain.

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This progression map shows in green where the fire started and in the yellow and red (most recently), how it expanded.