After roaming on the road for 15 hours and reached four different states, we were at the end of our journey. The bus came out of the tunnel, riding high on the bridge deck overlooking the blue water below. The skyline of San Francisco has emerged in front of us. People brought out their cameras to snap pictures. I was excited to show off famous landmarks to the international tourists on board, "this is the famous prison island Alcatraz, that is the ferry building, ..." The silhouette of Golden Gate Bridge was in the background, wearing a sheer layer of fog at the time. The weather was perfect. Above of us was blue sky and below was glittering sea. Seeing the high rises on the shore has brought out a sense of excitement in us.
What a glorious approach to the city from the Bay Bridge. It suddenly occurred to me that I might have already made this trip a hundred times. Yet the inspiration has never diminished. It was such a wonder to come to the city by the bay.
10 years after then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed the climate change bill AB32, SF Chronicle has published an article to review the progress. Renewable energy has make a remarkable stride in the last decade. Mostly boosted by solar and wind, they have doubled the contribution to about a quarter of the power mix. They have delivered all their promises and then more.
The Sunday article is largely celebratory. It is a recognition of the marvelous strive we have made to reduce carbon emission. And an example to show what is possible for our future and the rest of the world.
But I noticed a dark fact, an elephant in the room nobody has paid attention to. The biggest change in the power mix is not the amazing feat that solar has grown from nothing to 7.7%. The biggest change is that natural gas has increased by 13.5% to contribute 60% of California electricity. Some of this has displaced coal power. But still, entirely unacknowledged in the article, fossil fuels power use has a significant net increase by 6%.
What gives? Instead of transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy, we are just making up for the dramatic reduction in hydro power, and a significant drop in nuclear power. It reminds us there is still a long way to go to actually replacing fossil fuel use.
I believe the world has made a big mistake in retrenching from nuclear power. Imagine instead of shutting down nuclear power plant, we double it from 14% to 28%? Instead of increasing fossil fuel use go up to 60%, we could have knock it down to 46%. To reduce fossil fuel power below half would have been a remarkable achievement for a major economy. This is an audacious goal, but still within the realm of feasibility. Consider Diablo Canyon's capacity is only 2GW and China is building 8GW plants.
When people look back to the early 21 century, they would have regretted that they miss out on an important force to fight climate change because of the outsized fear of nuclear power.
I went for rowing this Tuesday. We rowed into McCovey Cove while a Giants games was going on. The camera man took interest in our boat and put us on the screen in the ball park. I was behind the steer man in this picture, at the second oar on the left. It was a fun sport and I got a good workout that night.
I have had this cargo bike for two years. It seats two kids on the back easily. When I was initially offered an electric drive option I have declined because it doubles the price. I managed to haul them around in the neighborhood, crawling up hills when I have to, all on the power of my own legs. I was so good I wouldn't need electric assistance.
That was until I found this e-bike kit for as low as $700. Then I jumped on it. I took me two week to receive my order and properly installed it. Now I have an electric assisted bike! My power is doubled!
My reservation that I am going to get less exercise turned out to be unwarranted. I sweat just as much if not more with this bike. It has greatly expand my range beyond the two miles radius I had usually confined to. Rather than relaxing, I pushed the performance two level up and pumped just as hard but at a higher speed. It is now practical to travel around much of the city by bike and it is not much slower than by car.
The economic 250W motor is consider a lite electric motor. It can go to about 15mph on a flat. This is already faster than my sustained speed. It won't go up a steep hill on its own. I have to work together with it. I think this amount of power boost is just what I need. I want to bike myself and get some assistance on hills and from dead stop, not wanting the motor to do all the work.
After one week, I have learned to harness its power better. Next maybe I should reconsider my riding style, just try let the motor run more and save myself some sweat.
On my way home, I caught sight of this giant 10 story tent erected on the Golden Gate Park. Turned out it was San Francisco Opera's free performance in the Park. I have to stopped to listen to it. I sat on the lawn to enjoy the wonderful music in this good if not a little bit chilly afternoon.
Las Vegas at night
come to the throbbing music
gaze at the dancing lights
handsome people swarm in
hobnob with fellows
Brazilian beauties turn up
in dazzling dresses
bursts of laughter
rounds of cocktail
we gather at the temple
under the monuments
those lights are as bright
as the sun
dream the world away
My work needs me to setup computer system to work across the globe. A key issue is to have a common time reference. This gets tricky because of time zone. Just saying 12pm is imprecise. Which time zone is 12pm reference to? Is it 12pm in San Francisco? Or 12pm in London? Another complication is day light saving adjustment, which make time measure more irregular.
The standard practice is to use Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), i.e. Greenwich Mean Time. So everyone across the globe has a reference to the same standard time. Having a standard reference is great for computer system. But for us software engineers it is another quantity to juggle with. I often have to track time across systems. If the system responses something like 14:22, it is still hard to make sense of. Is it this afternoon? This morning? Or sometime in the future? Translating between local time and UTC is often necessity for me. But it is much harder to do mentally compares to, say translating between metrics and imperial unit.
One tip is I added a clock of Reykjavik, Iceland time on my cellphone. Iceland time happens to match UTC and Icelanders do not mess with daylight saving time. This gives me a easy read of current UTC time (8pm now, which is 1pm San Francisco time.)
I have a colleague who argues strongly that the entire world should adopt UTC time in actual daily use and do away with time zone. Standardization is probably very important for him. How practical is this for regular people? To this I said, let's have a meeting at 1am, UTC time (it is 6pm for your reference).
One night I was walking around and taking some random picture in Santa Monica. After a few accidental mistakes, I found it fun to take pictures without aiming for clear and sharp focus. These are a few that I like.
The Chronicle is running a series Beyond Homelessness. They call the problem a civic disgrace. They have an editorial proclaim the reduction of homelessness to the extent humanly possible must be San Francisco’s No. 1 priority.
I felt so street smart to get around Los Angeles spontaneously with no advance planning using public transit. This includes a ride down the brand new just opened Metro Expo line to Santa Monica downtown. The whole trip from the fabulous Getty Center to Santa Monica, changing from bus once, took a little more than an hour. The same trip in the morning by Uber was less than 30 minutes. Not bad I guess. I also enjoyed a great talk with a visiting PhD candidate in art history on the bus. A nice trip overall.
I have seen some posting of life style guideline around San Francisco Bay Area. One point is that San Francisco is good for young people who enjoy night life. And South Bay is for family and nature lover. People who said that must have some preconceived notion about urban is the opposite of nature. I have lived in San Francisco for years and I rarely go to bar. On the other hand I am completely charm by the nature offer in and around San Francisco. It turns out in some great place, this above idea is just wrong. Both city and nature can present together in one place.
Thank you CUHK for digitizing my master thesis into PDF and put it online. I thought I spent my two years of master mostly working on part time job and sitting around. It seems I have done more than I remembered. The software looks sophisticated enough and the thesis is not as embarrassing as I thought.
I went to the memorial service for Jan Underwood this morning. I was a little unsure if I should go because I have not met her and the event will be full of people I don't know. But it turned out well and I have even met a few new people.
This morning I was explaining to a lady that I am very grateful to come to San Francisco because it is the epicenter for tech. She is an older lady working in traditional field unrelated to tech. So she seemed to be mystified by the tech activities mushroomed around here and asked me many questions.[more...]
As a non-native English speaker, one of my greatest trouble is using proper English tenses. Since there is no verb tense in my native Chinese, I am a little bit like a color blind person trying to convey something I do not deferentiate well. In school we were taught a bunch of grammar rules. And in practice I also go with gut feeling. A lot of times I cannot explain what my gut feeling says by the grammar rules I have learned.