‘Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on.
-From William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ (written 1599-1601), Act 3, Scene 2.
At 2 a.m. Sunday morning local time here in the United States, it was that silly moment of the year again. Clocks were made to ‘spring forward’ by one hour (adjusted to Daylight Saving Time).
Of course, only some clocks spring forward by themselves.
The others all have to be adjusted manually.
I ran into Tally the inventory robot in the grocery store last night. I think it’s a good thing — letting a robot do the labor-intensive and repetitive process of physical inventory checking.
‘Yes, but does the store not have a count of the SKUs* on the shelf in its database, anyway? one might ask. The store does, but human shoppers take items off the shelf and misplace it when putting it back, or – rarely, I hope – steal it. Or employees could unpack items in the wrong location, or forget to remove sale prices, and so on. So there are always discrepancies between the SKU count in the database and the physical count on the shelf.
*Stock keeping unit
Two weeks ago, I discovered an entire shoe box of my old ’80s and ’90s film negatives (35 mm) and slides in my brother’s house.
We promptly went out and bought a cheap flatbed scanner (Epson perfection v370) that can scan slides and film, and I have been patiently feeding the scanner reams of 35 mm film.
The plan is to upload all the pictures to Google Photos, but only after I had date-stamped and geo-tagged them as well.
That way the Google photo engine will be able to search for, and group all the faces for me, put them on a timeline sequence, and also on a world map by location: very nice.
Research papers into the late 70’s referred to these linked terminals as the ‘catenet model’ (concatenated terminals). It was only in the early 80’s with the arrival of the Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) protocol that the term ‘internet’ was settled on.
And it would be until the mid-90’s, before the public-at-large would get drawn into the internet — by the likes of America Online and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Amazon (1997*), Netflix (2002), Google (2004), Facebook (2012) and Twitter (2013) would follow.
*The years the companies went public.
Young people are now flocking to the social media app called Tik Tok. (It is used to create video clips set to snappy music: clowning for the camera, falling down on your skateboard, shooting hoops, driving golf carts, stuff like that).
Trouble is, the servers are based in China, and regulators fear that the app could pose a national security risk (used to spy on American citizens, used in political influence campaigns, or even used by ISIS terrorists for propaganda).
Anyway – let’s see what the fuss is about, I thought. My initial take: yes, as easy as YouTube to waste a lot of time on it. I stumbled onto a few cute animal videos (stills below), and I like those the best.
I spotted the Apple Maps car on Sunday here on Capitol Hill, presumably upgrading its survey of my neighborhood.
I see (online) that Apple Maps has improved vastly in recent years, and is ready to challenge Google Maps. Hmm. I have them both on my phone, so maybe if one leads me into a dead end somewhere in a new country or city, I can switch to the other app, and give it another try.
Just for fun, I asked for directions to the Space Needle on Apple Maps, and it really, really sounds as if the voice says Starting Route to Space Neevle. Proceed to .. ‘. That’s OK, though. Space Neevle/ Space Needle – close enough.
My iPhone (not even a year old, Xs) died all of a sudden today, even though it was about 75% charged.
I finally revived it by trying the Device Firmware Update button sequence several times:
Press & release Volume Up button;
Press & release Volume Down button;
Press and hold the Sleep/Wake button ..
.. and then the Apple logo came on and it came back to life.
Who knows what constellation of firmware, software and hardware settings was to blame for the system ‘s black-out .. but from now on, I’m going to close all open screens and turn the phone completely off & on again, at least once a week.
Wow .. that drone shot down by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was not a garden-variety drone.
It was a Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk.
Here are some of its attributes:
Wingspan: 130.9 ft / 39.9 m (wider than that of the Boeing 737)
Range: 14,000 miles / 22 500 km
Speed: 357 mph/ 574 kph
Ceiling: 60,000 ft/ 18 288 m
Endurance: 34 hrs
Cost: $200 million
So what will Trump do now?
He talks tough, but on Thursday called the incident ‘a big mistake’, meaning the Corps made a miscalculation and was not following orders from President Hassan Rouhani.
At this perilous time the United States has no Secretary of Defense (has not had one for more than 6 months, for the first time ever).
And now Trump seems to be the one that has to push back against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton. Both seem to be itching to start a war with Iran.
Not a good situation at all.
Geotagging* a (digital) photograph is the recording of its geographical location, by assigning at least a latitude and longitude to the image. Sometimes other fields such as altitude and compass bearing could also be included.
The old film pictures I had scanned in for my iPhone and iPad photo albums have no geotag information, and so I geotagged them manually.
I have been very fortunate to be able to travel to many places in the world.
Check out some of the more unusual geotags that I had added to my pictures, below.
*Geotagging is done automatically by today’s smartphones, and by GPS-enabled digital cameras. The method I am using for scanned pictures, is to use an obsolete picture editor from Google called Picasa. Inside Picasa, one can call up a desktop version of Google Earth, that allows searches for places all over the globe, and the geotagging of their coordinates onto the picture.
I remembered another unresolved issue with my iTunes music collection: the bitrate of the .mp3 version of the songs I had originally transferred into iTunes from CD, was as low as 160 kbps. This was oh, some ten years ago.
Nowadays, there is an ‘Apple Lossless’ option which will replicate the original CD in iTunes (bit rates of 900 kbps or more). The enormous storage capacity available on smartphones these days makes it possible to transfer and carry all of one’s CDs as-is in iTunes .. but is it worth it? The files would be up to 6 times larger than the original 160 kbps ones.
So my strategy is to upgrade only my very favorite CDs, say up to 30 out of the 300, that I now have in iTunes.
I’m still doggedly maintaining my iTunes library of music, even though music purveyors like Apple and Amazon are trying hard to make me let go and subscribe to their online music. For about $10 a month, one can get access to a vast library of old and new music (50 million songs), as well as curated playlists from music buffs.
But if one has listened to recorded music for several decades (me), and have bought music CDs in places all over the world*, it’s really hard to let go of all that. Why not keep the music on CDs AND upload it into a searchable collection of 2,000 songs to carry on your smartphone? It
*I left my vinyl collection behind in South Africa in 1995; gave it all to a friend .. but have replaced some of them with CDs, since.
I went down to check on the construction of Seattle’s sleek new $209 million substation in South Lake Union today. Its construction has been three years in the making – and its planning much longer than that. Seattle City Light purchased the site from the Greyhound bus company in October 2008.
The work inside the substation is basically done, and the equipment has been energized. The walkways on its perimeter and the little public park are not yet open, though. There is also ongoing work done for building out an underground distribution network, scheduled to be completed in 2020.
I was sitting at my desk this morning, when I heard a very loud pop outside my house – BOOF!!
Wow, I thought – maybe a pole-mounted transformer had exploded.
But no, my neighbor just saw a big flash on the power line, and we found a dead squirrel on the ground right there, with its fur scorched.
Squirrels that scamper onto utility poles and power lines, sometimes touch an energized component (the transformer) and a grounded piece of equipment simultaneously, thereby completing the circuit. This does not end well for the poor squirrel – but the short-circuit does not necessarily cause an outage. As soon as the dead squirrel drops to the ground, the interference is eliminated, and the regular flow of electricity should resume.
It used to be, many years ago, that we would call South Africa’s national telephone company, Telkom, ‘Public Enemy No 1’. (They were a monopoly, and their services were mediocre at best). Well, these days that title belongs to South Africa’s electrical utility company, Eskom.
On Sunday, unexpectedly, the utility announced that it had to resort to Stage 3 Load Shedding mode, with widespread power outages. There were more on Monday, on Tuesday, and today. For Stage 3, Eskom implements rolling blackouts per published time periods and areas around the country, that forces a cut in the national power consumption by 3,000 MW. (About 10%. The country’s power consumption needs at this time of year is around 30, 000 MW).
It now appears that there are major problems with the start-ups of the two brand-new power stations called Medupi (dry-cooled, coal-fired, 6x 800 MW) and Kusile (coal-fired, 6x 800 MW) , and that the utility was not forthcoming about it.
A team of Italian engineers (power supply & power grid experts) has been called upon to come and help devise strategies to get Eskom’s operations to a better place. They cannot come soon enough .. even though I am sure we have South African engineers that are completely up to the task, if only they were given the opportunity by Eskom’s senior management.
This morning, I took the Yurikamome line’s train to the new Toyosu fish market from Yurakucho Station (not much to see there), and then went on to Shimbashi Station. The line offers plenty of great views of the waterfront and of Tokyo Bay.
The Yurikamome line was completed in 1995, and is Tokyo’s first fully automated transit system – controlled entirely by computers, with no drivers on board. It looks like a monorail, but it is not: the trains run with rubber-tired wheels on an elevated concrete track guided by the side walls.
I have been to Hong Kong many times, and there is always a new construction project, or an extension of the subway rail network to check out.
The new high-speed rail link between Hong Kong and Guangzhou in mainland China opened in Sept 2018, after many years of delays.
Unfortunately my American passport is not much help to get me into the new train and across the border! Aargh. I would need a confirmed itinerary/ formal invite for a visa, which takes FOUR business days. I will be gone by then – and it’s too much effort for a jolly ride, anyway.
The rain is back after a dry week, and we did not see the sun all day.
It’s not all bad, though: the cloud cover and rain keep the day temperatures well above freezing. Today it was 46°F (8°C) here in the city.