Friday/ the science of happiness

There are several Web-based services and apps available these days, with the goal to improve one’s mood and general outlook: is one of them. I did not sign up – I like to think of myself as ‘happy’ already, and not in need of happification.  Still, from reading the ‘science of happiness’ infographic from Happify (below), it’s nice to know that one can be happy, even though life might not be moonshine, and a bed of roses, all the time.



Thursday/ plane, train and bus


Arriving at Sea-Tac Airport’s North Terminal.


Here comes the north-bound train (at the Sea-Tac airport station).


And here is the No 10 bus that takes me that last mile up the hill to Capitol Hill, so that I don’t have to drag my suitcase along for ten blocks.

Our flight into Seattle arrived 30 minutes late today.  We flew into a strong headwind of about 110 mph for most of the way.  Our pilot said that with a tailwind the airplane would could go as much as 120 miles per gallon, per passenger, but that today it would probably be closer to 60 miles per gallon, per passenger.

So .. with a motorcycle or scooter and say, 24 hrs to work with (instead of 2 hours!), I could have made it to Seattle with more or less the same fuel consumption compared to flying up with the airplane !


Wednesday/ the phone that is air

Newton’s famous Third Law of physics states in part ‘to every action there is always an opposed and equal reaction’ .. and so the NoPhone must be the reaction to the iPhone and to other smartphones that have become so ubiquitous and so distracting.  The NoPhone was a useless plastic rectangle that did nothing.  And now there is the NoPhone Air. ‘We took away the headphone jack*, and then we took away everything else’ says Van Gould, the inventor of the NoPhone Air.

*A reference to the brand new iPhone 7 that has no headphone jack.


Today’s Wall Street Journal reported on the NoPhone Air.

Tuesday/ moving to the cloud : not so fast

We are working out of the offices in San Ramon in the East Bay this week.  San Francisco has been taken over by the geeky attendees of the Oracle OpenWorld 2016 conference in the Moscone Center.   I see Larry Ellison (Oracle CEO)  is talking up a storm, and saying that Oracle is going to take on Amazon and be ‘serious competition’ moving forward.  Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd (former CEO of Hewlett-Packard) did a presentation of future trends on Monday, but his claims of dramatic changes from on-premise IT installations to cloud-based installations fell flat.  Many in the audience expressed their skepticism by texting ‘None of these will ever happen’ when they were invited to text their opinions in real time to the display. Ouch.


From ‘Some bright spark at Oracle thought it would be a fun idea to have live audience participation during Monday morning’s keynote, with people texting responses to questions posed by Hurd. When he put the veracity of his predictions to the audience test, the response was overwhelming – none of them would come true, according to the wisdom of the crowd.’

Monday/ light rain

It was raining lightly this morning when the Uber driver stopped at my house to take me to the airport.   ‘Drop me at Arrivals’ I instructed him as we approached the airport (some mornings there is such a crush on the approach to the Departures level, that one is stuck in the taxi for 10 or 15 minutes) .. but it was not  reallynecessary.  The summer holidays are over, and the airport is much quieter than just a week or two ago.


It’s 6.35 am on Monday morning, and I’m just settling into seat 9A on Alaska Airlines 222 to San Francisco.

Sunday/ Tukwila’s refugee population

The latest Bloomberg Businessweek has an extensive article on the American electorate, and the different demographic groups that will vote in the upcoming election ..    Check it out here.    There is also an article about the suburban city of Tukwila south of Seattle, the population of which has 40% refugees.  Wow, I thought, I never knew that.

From the article: Saar’s Super Saver Foods have risen about 16 percent in the past year as the market diversified its offerings to cater to Tukwila’s immigrant community. “When people come in, see the store, and then go tell their friends or their family, ‘Hey, they got this, this, this,’ I think that’s what’s really driven the growth,” he says. The store now sells almost 45,000 different products. “A lot of items surprise us,” he says. “One of the big ones in our Middle Eastern section is actually dates. I thought a date was a date, but there’s five, six varieties of dates, and we sell just a ton of them. We make sure we have the lowest price on them.

My mom used to buy dried dates for us in South Africa, pressed into little ‘bricks’ (she made Rice Krispie balls with them.  Rice Krispies, and sticky dates, rolled in shredded coconut. Hmm). I need to go check out that store.



Saturday/ fall-ing leaves

Here are some eye-catching leaves that I picked up in the street near my house.  The red colors in these leaves are from compounds called anthocyanins (also present in red cabbages and blood oranges). Anthocyanins are synthesized as soon as the green chlorophyll in the leaves start to break down.


Friday/ the media as a puppet

Another crazy week in the 2016 race for US President has come to a close. Donald Trump ‘punked’ the media on Friday by calling a press conference, promising ‘a major announcement’.  He talked for 30 minutes about his new hotel and had military veterans praise him, before taking a few seconds to disavow his 5 year ‘birther’ campaign that held that President Barack Obama had not been born in the USA.  And then he left. Took no questions from the press.  ‘Donald Trump’s birther event is the greatest trick he’s ever pulled’, says the headline of Chris Cillizza’s report for the Washington Post.  Earlier in the week, Trump appeared on Dr Mehmet Oz’s show to promote his health record.  ‘Trump’s appearance on Dr. Oz was a masterstroke‘, reported CNN.

I stand with the Huffington Post: Trump is a puppet master, and the media his puppet. Check out this withering editor’s note that the Huffington Post adds to all reporting on Trump.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S. 


The headline from a Huffington Post article (website


Thursday/ going home

The week out at the project site is over .. and the flight out to Seattle went without incident. We arrived at 6 pm at Seattle airport, and then I took the light rail train to Capitol Hill, and the No 10 bus from there up to 15th Ave to get me in the door by 7.  I took out the junk mail from the mailbox, watered my new plants in the pots, made dinner, and watched the day’s news on TV.  Less than eight weeks until Election Day now.


Here’s a colorful Alaska Air ‘Disneyland/ Cars’ jet. We are pulling up to the gate at Sea-Tac airport’s D Terminal, and it is 6 pm.


Tuesday/ the No 38 Muni bus

My mode of transport to the office this week is by Muni bus, the No 38 (the others : on foot, BART, Uber, taxi, street car).   The bus is crowded, and carries the world : Indian people, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, European (tourists, but just one or two), African American and hey, even a South African American.

*Not really an option for me, unless I pack a folding bicycle like the one dude that got into the elevator today.


Here’s my bus route : O’Farrell to Market Street, and then I get dropped off in front of my office building.  Walk for 4 mins to the bus stop, says Google, and then 6 stops/ 10 mins on the bus. 


Here’s an old building from my cheating bank (Wells Fargo), as seen from the bus. ‘SAFE DEPOSIT VAULT’ says the gold letters at the base of the corner pillar. Well, those days are long, long gone. Our money is all digital, zeroes and ones, now .. and is it safe?

Remembering Sept. 11

Well, hard to believe it’s been 15 years since the terrible events in New York City (and elsewhere) happened on Sept.11, 2001.  At the commemoration in New York City, Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton fell ill and stumbled a few steps from her motorcade van. (Not good).  It turns out she had been diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday. Elsewhere in the country, the new season’s National Football League matches started up.  In New York City, the 2016 US Open Tennis Men’s final was played, and won by Stan Wawrinka (Swiss), over Novak Djokovic (Serbian).  Check out the beautiful pictures of the tennis stadium and the giant American flag at the start, here.


2016 US Open Men’s Champion Stan Wawrinka (he’s Swiss, nicknamed Stan the Man and Stanimal) holds up the US Open trophy, against a back drop of American flags held by the ball boys and ball girls to commemorate 9/11.

Friday/ boo, Wells Fargo. BOO!

Well. I img_7080-smdrew cash at the fancy Wells Fargo Bank ATM from my account, in downtown San Francisco on Wednesday. Cool! I thought. I can get whatever I need: $1s, $5s, $20s and $100 bills.  (When one travels, those $1s and $5s for tips or even small purchases are still very handy).

Then on Thursday, news broke of the massive fraud committed by Wells Fargo’s own employees over many years.  ‘Our entire culture is centered on doing what is right for our customers’, says their tweeted apology.  Oh really? Since 2011, Wells Fargo employees opened roughly 1.5 million fraudulent bank accounts (to earn more fees for the bank) and applied for 565,000 credit cards.  5,300 employees had been fired.  How many executives? None.

Thursday/ our metaproject has started

It’s Thursday, and I ran out of the office promptly at 1.30 pm, roller bag in tow, to the Embarcadero station on Market Street to make it out to the airport.  Our first week of workshops went well, given all the materials we had to scramble to put together.  Our new project is about projects*.  It is about improvements to a project portfolio management solution.  In other words, it is about the systems tools that a large organization uses to track, prioritize, fund and manage its large inventory of capital projects year in and year out.

*So, a metaproject. ‘Meta’ means ‘a concept which is an abstraction from another concept’. Another example: metadata is data about data.


This morning’s street car 1075 was built in 1946. This car is painted to honor Cleveland Transit System, which ran PCC streetcars from 1946 to 1953.

Monday/ late flight out

It was the Labor Day holiday today in the United States (so: no work), marking the unofficial end of summer.   Back to school for the kids this week (finally), and back on the road for me.  I took a late flight out to San Francisco.  Our workshop starts too early in the morning for me to make it in with a morning flight.   I took a taxi from San Francisco airport for the 14 miles or so to get me to the hotel in Fisherman’s Wharf.  Kind of too late to take BART, and the Embarcadero station is still 2 or 3 miles away from the hotel.

IMG_7027 sm

Here’s our approach to San Francisco International airport. That’s the Bay Bridge, with Yuerba Buena Island (not really visible) and Treasure Island to the left of the bridge.  The other lights in the water on the right are from anchored ships.  The bright diagonal street in the foreground that runs ‘parallel’ to the Bridge, is Market Street.

Sunday/ a giant cube of ice

On September 9th a 9-10 ton ice cube, with 80 inch (6.7 ft) sides, is going to be placed in Occidental Park in downtown Seattle.  The temporary ‘art’ installation is designed by Seattle architecture firm Olson Kundig (OK), and will ‘showcase the stages of the natural water cycle as the ice shifts from opaque to translucent’.   I see weather blogger Cliff Mass has issued a challenge to his readers : to estimate the amount of time it will take for the cube to melt.   Hmm.  Some of the calculation will involve very well known parameters, such as the Specific Heat Capacity* of Ice (2.108 kJ/kgK) and the Latent Heat of Melting** (334 kJ/kg).  What one would have to estimate: what the starting temperature of the block of ice will be (it could be well below freezing), and what the surrounding temperature will be.

*The energy required to raise the temperature of one unit of mass of a given substance by a given amount (usually one degree).
**The energy it takes to melt ice and make it into water, with no temperature change.

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An artist’s rendering of the giant ice cube that will be delivered in downtown Seattle’s Occidental Park next weekend.