Monday/ a new chapter for Twitter

Elon Musk’s $44 billion purchase of Twitter sent shockwaves through the Twitterverse and beyond.

Co-founder Jack Dorsey professes to be very happy, though. From the tweets below: ‘It (Twitter) wants to be a public good at a protocol level, not a company’. It’s a statement that sounds stunningly naive to me⁠— given all the evil in the world that social media had been exploited for.

Prof. Scott Galloway is a clinical professor of marketing at the New York University Stern School of Business says on Twitter this is a lot of yogababble : nonsensical or esoteric thinking (unconventional; understood only by a chosen group). I agree.
And then there’s technobabble in here as well. What precisely does ‘protocol level’ mean? Application layer? Transport layer? Network layer? The internet protocol?
Twitter was founded 16 years ago, in March of 2006. As a social media company it has not enjoyed nearly the same success as Facebook (one tenth the valuation of FB, the value of which is down by 50% the last 6 months, to some $500 billion).
Bloomberg Businessweek noted in 2012 with this cover that the company had survived in spite of its efforts to ‘kill itself’. Nine years later, the board of directors finally killed off Twitter the public company by selling it to a billionaire.

Tuesday/ inside Denny substation

I forgot to post this picture on Sunday. It’s a peek at the inside of Seattle City Light’s Denny Substation (through a clear glass panel in the stainless steel perimeter wall that runs along Denny Way). It’s clean and tidy inside.

The former Greyhound bus garage that had been here is now long gone (demolished 2012-14). This substation was completed in 2018, the first new substation built by Seattle City Light in 30 years at a cost of $210m. It has lots of capacity for future expansion.

Friday/ adventures in video editing

I am using Adobe Premiere Elements*, to cut up and make .mp4 files of the enormous .VOB files of digitized film & analog video footage that I have, of old family trips. The recordings were shot on film and analog camcorder in the ’70s to early ’90s. My dad had done the digitization many years ago.
I keep the clip lengths to 2-3 minutes.

*Video editing software; the bare-bones basic version of Adobe Premiere Pro.

ON THE PLUS SIDE:
I have three layers of still picture/video and five layers of audio available to work with. That’s a lot.
I have a digital scalpel that I can use to look at, and slice in, between two video frames or a split-second of sound (down to 1/30 of a second).
I can add in titles, and fix the worst quality defects of the video (such as enlarging the projected image slightly, to erase its black border; or adjusting overall lighting & color hue).

IN THE MINUS COLUMN:
The dreaded Adobe .PREL (for ‘preliminary’, I think) files take a long time to load and render, even with my brand-new PC with 16Gb of memory and unlimited hard disk space (6 Tb).
The automatic save every 10 mins stopped me dead in my tracks for 2 mins at a time. I changed it to 20 mins.  (Cancel it, and you risk losing a lot of work).
DO NOT mess around with moving files or renaming them. Adobe does not like that, and will give you a ‘Media Pending’ message or black screen, the next time you pull up your .PREL file.

Here are a few stills from a 3 minute clip of scenes at Victoria Falls, 1975 in then-Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

I created a title screen with a Google Earth still image of the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls, and then the text scrolls in from left to right, and scrolls off after 5 seconds.
I created just one more slide to set the stage. I combined a still photo with an Adobe Title Page (the white text). It stays in place for 8 seconds (lots of text to read) and then the video moves on to the real footage I had to work with, from 1975. (Oops .. 108 should be 108 m. Will fix it).
ALL RIGHT .. that’s the 1975 version of me, in the blue shirt. Brother Chris in front of me with the red and black shirt. We were boarding the sight-seeing boat that cruises the Zambezi river upstream of the falls. There is audio now, circa 1995: a discussion among my family (with me included; my voice sounds weird, the way it always does, of course) of our memories of the trip. This conversation was captured during the projection of the 8mm film on a white screen, in order to capture the footage with a VHS machine on magnetic tape, with the audio.
We are on the Zambezi river, and the voice-over conversation is speculating what would have happened if the engine of the boat had stopped at that time, with the falls just 1/2 a mile away downstream. Cool sightseeing airplane comes over. It flies a little too low, maybe?
We had stopped at an island in the Zambezi for tea and biscuits. These monkeys would sneak up to an unsuspecting homo sapiens holding a biscuit, grab it, and make off into the trees. I added the text caption as a scroll-in. I picked a large, clear, light font that is should be easily readable to the viewer, without obscuring anything in the picture too much.
On to the Falls itself. There is continued voice-over from the family discussion. It is all in Afrikaans, so I am trying to be helpful with an annotation here and there, that scrolls in, sticks around for a few seconds, and scrolls out of the frame.  Be careful not to overdo the add-ons, with the arsenal of editing tools at your disposal, I told myself.
Victoria Bridge. The gorges are the zig-zag cuts that the river’s flow had made in the bedrock over the ages.
Final scene, all of three minutes in. I ended it with the Adobe ‘Dip to Black’ scene transition, to black out the frame, indicating that it’s the end of this video clip.
I forgot to mention that I had added an ‘Adjustment Layer’ overlay to the entire clip to lighten up the footage a little bit; it was too dark. I might have overdone the lightening .. will take on more look before I render the clip and export it to .mp4 format from this .PREL format.

Friday/ another software update

Another software update for my car came through tonight.
I can drive my car, but just around the neighborhood.
No freeway driving or long distances until my arm & wrist is out of the cast.

Every time I see ‘Release Notes’ like here on my car’s display screen, I think of the Release Notes for the SAP enterprise software system that I had worked with for so long.
I can now change the color of the car icon on this screen to anything I want (a trivial update, and I guess I could pick black or white or gold .. but why would I?). Other updates are much more practical: regenerative braking will now activate at lower speeds, making for a more consistent driving experience.

Thursday/ a bridge too far?

The City of Rotterdam’s plans to dismantle the middle part of the historic railway bridge De Hef (‘The Lever’) later this year, to allow Jeff Bezos’s new superyacht* to pass under, is not sitting well with everyone (of course not).

The deck of the bridge can be lifted 130 ft, but that will not suffice for the tallest of the yacht’s three masts.

Bezos will reportedly pay for the dismantling and reassembly of the bridge deck. So what is the problem? 🙂

*A three-masted schooner made of aluminum and steel, the $ 500-million, 417-feet Oceanco Y721 yacht will be the largest sailing yacht in the world when completed.

My photo from the Euromast Tower in Rotterdam, taken in Feb. 2019 in the ‘Before Times’. I was paying much more attention to the Erasmus Bridge (‘The Swan’) and my namesake bridge Willemsbrug* (‘Willem’s Bridge’), but I see I did catch a far-away glimpse of the historic 1927 De Hef/ Koningshavenbrug (‘King’s Harbor Bridge’) in my photo.

Saturday/ snow galore in Boston

Wow .. two feet of snow in Boston.
Here’s a snowy picture for Caturday (not from Boston).

This picture is from Dec 31, from Aaron Taylor @Tippen22 on Twitter. As far as I can tell he lives in central Alberta, Canada.
Says he: ‘Starlink works great until the cats found out that the dish gives off a little heat on cold days .. they have a heated cat house, with water and food, but -25°C and they decide to sit on the Starlink dish. When the sun goes down, they head back to their house.’
(The Starlink dish still works with the all the fur on; it’s just a little slower). Someone else replied ‘Looks like the dish can handle CAT5 but not CAT6’. (CAT5 and CAT6 are standards for twisted pair cables for computer networks).

Friday/ the groceries have landed

My groceries were nicely packed; the milk & yogurt in plain paper bags were still cool to the touch. The ice cream was in a separate insulated bag. The fresh fruit were in recyclable produce bags. I’ll try to add a note to my next order to tell the picker/ packer not to use produce bags.

I ordered groceries from Amazon Fresh tonight, and they definitely have their logistics sorted out:
1. You get what you have ordered. If an item is out of stock the system tells you that when you order— not so with the Kroger/ QFC system.
(So would you prefer a smaller selection, and know what is available, and what not, or a much wider selection that is a little bit more hit-and-miss, such as Kroger’s)?
2. They have a two-hour delivery window, same as Kroger. As that window approaches, though, the online order status page shows a map with the driver’s whereabouts, and an updated timeframe for your delivery. Nice.
3. Delivery is free when ordering $35 or more (before sales tax). Oh, you have to be an Amazon Prime member to order, though. That’s $119 per year before sales tax.

Tuesday/ my new watch

This is Apple Watch Series 7, black aluminum 45mm case (smaller one is 41 mm), with the sport loop band. Yes, that’s actually the time! -1.42 pm. There are 7 main watch faces that can be configured with countless colors, or the watch face can be a picture, and so on. For now, I switched off the other five spots on the watch face that show things such as outside temperature, today’s date, messages, start/ stop music, and news flashes.

 

I have had my Apple watch for a week now.
It is essentially an iPhone extension, and as such has definitely helped me relax a little.
I have fewer thoughts of the form
‘Where’s my phone?’ or
‘Go get your phone!’ (upstairs) or
‘Go check your phone!’ (for messages).

The first few days after my operation, I took pain meds every 4 hours, and it was easy to lose track.
I put tasks on my Google calendar, and the reminders popped up on my wrist every four hours.

I’m still warming up to using all the other health-related trackers on the watch (sleep monitoring, heart rate, even blood oxygen levels).

 

 

Sunday/ got milk? .. sort of

No organic (nor regular) whole milk left on the shelf. The shopper texted me a picture of a fancy lactose-free Omega-3 whole milk, which I was OK with.
Among the other items I requested was a SLICED loaf of bread, though, which was also not available. He substituted it with an UNSLICED loaf without checking with me. Maybe I will just break chunks off and eat it that way :).

A Sunday night grocery run was not possible, so I had groceries delivered to my house for the first time.

I used my QFC account that I had used for pick-up at the (previous) height of the pandemic.

QFC uses Instacart, which means an Instacart person picks your items in the store, and then drives it out to your house.

I added a generous tip online with my order, and said to just leave my items by the door.
A text message notifies the customer that the items had been delivered.

It all went fine, for the most part.
Still, next time I will try delivery by Amazon Fresh, and see how that goes.

Tuesday/ venturing out

I had to go to a doctor’s appointment this morning.
I told myself ‘You can do it, don’t be a scaredy-cat’ (driving on the snowy, icy roads).
My car does not have snow tires, but the electric motor on the rear axle, plus another on the front axle, makes it an all-wheel drive. The wheels also have traction control (electronics that limit how much the wheels can spin, making it easier to drive on slippery surfaces).

I put a ‘scheduled departure’ into my Tesla app, a good practice in icy weather. That way the car is nicely warmed up inside, with the battery pre-conditioned (warmed up) as you get behind the wheel to drive out.
I was good to go.

The City of Seattle provides this handy map of the roads that had been plowed. The reds are streets with steep grades— big trouble if they have snow and ice on.
Here’s the Eastlake Ave & Stewart St intersection. ‘NO TURN ON RED’ .. but is it red? The traffic light scones are all clogged with snow, and one can barely make them out. This could be trouble for Tesla’s ‘Full Self-driving’ mode: an edge case, as it is called. I would think the car would come to a stop, when the cameras cannot make out the color of the signal (assuming they would recognize the boom & light fixtures as a traffic light).
This is 18th Avenue. Not a problem to drive on, as long as one goes nice and slow. The brakes can do only so much to stop the vehicle on a slippery surface. (Yes, my Model 3 has anti-lock brakes, but I have no intention of testing them out, if I can help it).

Friday/ ready to step on the brake

It’s the first winter in my not-so-new-anymore car, and I am definitely heeding the message on the dashboard for the cold weather: ‘Regenerative braking temporarily reduced’.
When starting out in cold weather, the car struggles to use regenerative braking as efficiently as in summer.
We also have people dressed in black, with black umbrellas, stepping into the pedestrian crosswalk, expecting drivers to see them. People. Wear something other than black if you’re going to walk the streets at night!

‘Regenerative braking temporarily reduced’ says the message on the dashboard. The car’s battery pack wants to be around 75 °F (24°C) and with its charge level below say, 80%, before it will get back to normal brake regeneration. The battery takes a while to warm up to 75°F in the 37 °F (3 °C) temperatures we have here at night.

Wednesday/ night mode

I took these pictures on 15th Avenue here on Capitol Hill tonight with my iPhone 13Pro. Perfectly lit and sharp night pictures are really hard to take with my big Canon EOS 7D Mk II  DSLR camera— even when using its automatic program mode.

Here’s how Apple described what happens in ‘night mode’ when it debuted on iPhone11 (it’s a lot!):
‘Night mode comes on automatically when needed — say, in a candlelit restaurant. When you tap the shutter, the camera takes multiple images while optical image stabilization steadies the lens.
Then the camera software goes to work. It aligns images to correct for movement. It discards the sections with too much blur and fuses sharper ones. It adjusts contrast so everything stays in balance. It fine‑tunes colors so they look natural. Then it intelligently de‑noises and enhances details to produce the final image.
It all adds up to night shots that stand apart — with more detail, less noise, and an authentic sense of time and place’.

Tuesday/ my iPhone setup is done

My temporary lock screen until I can find a more personalized one. (Dial from a 1950s Stromberg Carlson 1543 rotary phone, one of the most popular desk phones ever made).

The easy data transfer method (to set up my new phone) shown in yesterday’s picture stumbled, and I had to give up on it.

So I did a full iCloud backup of my old phone*, and an iCloud restore to the new phone, and that worked out fine.

*The backup took a while. Could it be that I have that many apps, and that much data? I wondered. It turned out most of the 22 Gb of backup data were photos, even though I had marked photos as excluded from the backup. I also deleted the 5,000+ pictures I had on the old phone, and deleted them from the ‘Recently Deleted’ folder as well, but they were still swept into the backup. They made it onto the new phone into the ‘Recently Deleted’ folder. Ah well, no harm done. They will disappear from there in 30 days.

There is still a little work after all the apps & data had been transferred to the new phone, to make sure everything is good to go.
Check if home screen, main apps, phone contacts look OK.
Log onto e-mail accounts, messaging apps, credit card & banking apps, and check that the Apple Wallet is set up correctly (vaccination card was missing).
Request a new QR code for my Washington State vaccination card to put into the Apple Wallet.
Connect my Tesla’s key card to the new phone.
Download my preferred Siri voice onto the phone.
Use iTunes on Windows (I have no Mac or MacBook) to sync my CD music collection into the Apple Music app & add my PC photo albums to my phone’s photo albums. It’s a known issue that the artwork for the CD albums sometimes get scrambled with the sync. All right, so I could not have that. Deleted all 4,105 synced songs and the Apple Music app (! – to get rid of invisible files & indexes). Downloaded the app back to the phone, and did the sync again. Issue solved.

Below are pictures shot with each of the phone’s three lenses: wide angle, standard and close-up.
(Note: These are 2560×1920 pixels. The blogging platform automatically scales them down from the original 4032×3024 pixels).

Monday/ here comes the sun, and my phone

There was sunshine all day.
My new iPhone was out for delivery, and I had to wait for the FedEx guy to show up before I could venture outside. He showed up shortly after 1 pm.

The iPhone Xs (on the left), is transferring its information & settings over to the iPhone 13 Pro that came out of the little black box. I will go and take a few pictures tomorrow with the spiffy three-lensed camera on the new phone. The 13 is noticeably longer and thicker than the Xs, which I hope will still be OK.
Sun always follows rain .. mural art that I had found yesterday on the corner of Pine St and Third Avenue. The Columbia clothing store that was there is all boarded up and closed.

Tuesday/ that container ship backlog: a new record

As good as new: my 2017 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th Gen) notebook computer is back from the shop, five weeks later.  $300 for the keyboard & labor to replace it.
Its owner had splashed coffee all over it one morning. The entire keyboard had to be replaced.

The major backlog of container ships at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is the worst its ever been, with 100 ships waiting to enter and unload as of Tuesday.
Guess what? Another 45 ships are expected to arrive at these ports by Thursday.
In better times, and before the pandemic, there would be one ship waiting, or none! (To be fair, imports are at record levels at some ports, and Americans are buying everything they can lay their hands on).

I was just fearing that the keyboard that the repair shop had ordered for my notebook computer, might still be sitting in on a ship in Los Angeles or Longbeach .. but they called me today saying that it came in, and that I can pick up the computer.

Here are the ten busiest ports in the US:
1. Port of Los Angeles, California (known as ‘America’s Port’)- more than 9.2 million TEUs* in 2020
2. Port of Long Beach, California – more than 8.1 million
3. Port of New York & New Jersey, New York – more than 7.5 million
4. Port of Savannah, Georgia – more than 4.6 million
5. The Northwest Seaport Alliance (Seattle & Tacoma), Washington – more than 3.3 million
6. Port Houston, Texas – more than 2.9 million
7. Port of Virginia, Virginia – more than 2.8 million
8. Port of Oakland, California – more than 2.4 million
9. South Carolina Ports, South Carolina – more than 2.3 million
10. Port Miami, Florida – more than 1 million

*Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit
A TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) is a measure of volume, expressed in units of twenty-foot long containers.

Sunday/ the new U District & Roosevelt stations

The light rail train was much less crowded today, and I went to check out the new U District and Roosevelt stations.

Capitol Hill station, just boarded. This is a new Siemens S700 car, with the blue light lining the closed door. The light strip is green when the door is open, and starts flashing as the door is about to close, and amber at the close. This sign above the door is not animated to show the train’s current location, but there is another overhead LCD panel in the car that does that.
U District Station, just arrived. The art installation on the wall by the southbound track (by Lead Pencil Studio) is called Fragment Brooklyn: ‘an imaginary streetscape of building parts’. One of the streets bordering the station is called Brooklyn Street.
U District Station. An element of the Fragment Brooklyn art installation. (Could that be an 80s Dunlop Maxply wooden tennis racquet in the window?).
U District Station. More of the Fragment Brooklyn art installation. Nicely done, the faux air conditioners, window frames and canopies.
U District Station. One more of the Fragment Brooklyn art, this part with a classic New York City fire escape ladder. (The copper wires are not part of the art installation! Those are for the trains.)
U District Station, outside. I know my way around U District, but it’s still disorienting to come up from below and suddenly be outside on the street, because the immediate area around the station had been closed to the public for so long.
U District Station, outside. I cannot read Chinese characters, but I am 99% sure the mat says ‘Welcome’. I like the teal color scheme. I learned later that following the teal from the platform up to the street, gets one to this exit on 43rd Street.
U District Station. Going down to the platform again, to catch the next train to Roosevelt station. Following the orange markings on the escalators will get one to the north exit of the station on Brooklyn St.
Arrival at Roosevelt station. Here’s the explanation of the moose symbol for Roosevelt station on the station name signs & light rail maps.
Roosevelt station. A southbound train arriving as I take the escalators to the street. Yes, that’s the hindquarters of the moose in the previous picture.
Roosevelt station. Glancing up towards the top of the escalators leading to the exit.
Roosevelt station. A little public space with a large art installation (Pascal’s triangle of sorts, a mathematician might say). I did not make a note of the artist.
Roosevelt Station. I walked a block to this entrance on the south side of the station, on  65th Avenue.
Roosevelt Station. Ticket stations just inside the south entrance, with retro neon sign artwork overhead.
Roosevelt Station. Heading down to the platform. One of several sculptural mural art installations by Luca Buvoli. This one is a cyclist on an 1880s Penny Farthing direct-drive bicycle.
Roosevelt Station. Waiting for the train.
Roosevelt Station. And here’s the southbound train that will take me to Capitol Hill in 10 minutes. Cannot beat that, not even if I had a Tesla Model S Plaid.

 

Saturday/ three more stations

Today marked the opening of the 4.3-mile extension of the Seattle area’s Link light rail system towards the north, with three new stations: U District, Roosevelt and Northgate. These are the final stations in the system that was proposed to voters in 1996. So it took twenty-five years to get it all planned and built, a lot longer and much more expensive than planned, but it’s here at last. The price tag for this last phase was $1.9 billion.

Central Line is now called Line 1 with its 19 stations. Line 2 to Bellevue is under construction and will open in two years in 2023.

Bryan, Gary & I made a run to Northgate and back. (I will stop at the Roosevelt and U District stations some time later and take some pictures. These latter two are both underground).
Here’s the elevated platform of the Northgate station. There are escalators and stairs to street level, and a connection to a new, large pedestrian/ biking bridge across Interstate 5 to the Seattle North College campus.
Roosevelt and U-District are underground, and Northgate is above ground. Construction to the north continues, with the extension to Lynnwood slated to open in 2024.
The Kraken Community Iceplex (the training facility for the Seattle Kraken) is nearby Northgate station. The Northgate shopping mall is getting a make-over, and some 4,000 new apartment units are under construction as well.
Northgate station is elevated above street level. Changes to existing bus routes have been made to stop at the three new stations.
A new train with four cars entering Northgate station. Sound Transit has started to purchase these newer technology train cars from Siemens Mobility (they entered into service in May 2021). The model name is S700, and these cars cost around $4.5 million each.
The new John Lewis Memorial Bridge (pedestrian/ biking bridge) across Interstate 5 to the North Seattle College campus spans some 1,900 feet.
This weird rotary-dial phone was set up as a curiosity (I think), at the entrance of the bridge.

Monday/ driving in the rain

I realized on Sunday, driving around in the pouring rain, that’s it’s a new experience for me in my car (it’s been dry ever since I had gotten the car at the end of June).

The windshield wipers switch on automatically, but at times they seem to be a little too frantic (enthusiastic?) with the wiping.  I intervene then, and adjust the wiper frequency down a notch.
I like the stalk on the right of the steering wheel to push on*, to get to the wiper controls (and not to have to go through the console screen selections).

*Tesla’s new steering wheel on the Model S and X has none of that, as the steering column is not equipped with any stalk.

I am on Denny Way, waiting at the traffic light to turn left, to get to I-5 South. Looks like the 1200 Stewart St apartment tower has topped out (45 floors of apartments). The twin towers in the distance on the right, are part of the 1120 Denny Way apartments (construction is just about complete).

Saturday/ no phone for you

The new iPhone 13 Pro, rendered in augmented reality on my desk by Apple’s website.

‘One or more items in your order will be ready for pickup at Apple, University Village’
– Text message from Apple, complete with map and QR code


I took this message to believe my new phone and its leather case were ready for pickup.
The phone was indicated as ‘available’ on Friday when I placed the order. And did Tim Cook not say (at the Apple event, Sept. 14) that there would be enough phones out of the gate, this year?
Long story short: I left the store without my phone. (It’s not a big deal. It’s just an illustration of how the best-laid plans can go off the rails).

Inside the store after a long, long wait for the phone to show up: No— they did not have it— and would not have it for another four weeks.
I suppose I could have double-checked online if both my items were ready, before going out to the store.
In hindsight, the other red flag was that my credit card was charged only for the case as I placed the order on Friday, but not for the phone .. but I thought that was because they would check the condition of my trade-in phone, and then finalize the charge amount today.

So the message & QR code they had sent out, the time slot of 11.45- 12 noon for the pickup, the careful choreography in the Apple store, was all for just picking up a phone case. 

Back at home came the e-mail from Apple with my receipt, and the standard invitation to provide feedback of ‘my experience at the Apple store’.

I basically wrote back:
‘I took your text message & QR code as confirmation that both phone and case were ready for pickup.
Why on earth would your ordering program assume I would want to come in to your store, fight the traffic piling up for the University of Washington football game nearby, to come in and pick up only the case for the phone?
Somewhere along the line there should have been a clear message saying that the phone would be unavailable/ not ready for pickup’.

P.S./ Two days later  There was in fact in e-mail sent out by Apple on Friday, that stated that the phone was not available. So yes, I should have checked the status of my order inside the e-mail before I went out to the store.