California is burning while everything else floods.

 

Active fires in California as of Sep 1, 2017.

There have been 30% more individual fires this year in California than there were last year. Many more in Oregon and up into Canada. A few have been near our place in Nevada City.

Multiple regions experianced disaster level flooding in the past two weeks. South Asia (40 million people affected), Nigeria, and Texas.

Update 9/1/17: San Francisco just had its hottest day ever. 106 degrees.

Crossing the country for the Eclipse

Taken by Matt Hanna, on an iPhone

The first solar eclipse Mandy and I saw was in October of 2014. That one was a partial eclipse, but nobody seemed to care. We grabbed glasses from the Lawrence Hall of Science, and joined crowds in the Berkeley hills to watch it happen. Shadows went wild, and it was a fun afternoon.

The first lunar eclipse I saw was in College in North Carolina. Since then I have seen a few and even observed one through my telescope, which was a lot of fun.

None of them compared to the totality of the 2017 eclipse. Mandy and I joined the great migration by flying to South Carolina to spend the week with my family in Hilton Head, with the plan to drive up an hour to Charleston to observe the totality.

The Migration

On Monday morning, we loaded up into a rented minivan with my family and our 10-month-old niece, and headed out at 7:30am. It was getting cloudy, so four of us kept an eye on different live cloud maps, all trying to figure out the best spot to go. Citing the lake effect (clouds don’t form as consistently over water in summer months) we aimed for a lake in the middle of the state. Traffic was not as bad as we were expecting, and the drive in took around three hours. This put us in Lexington, SC a few hours before the main event.

The town was packed. It was in the “Path of Totality” and had been preparing. Cafes were giving out eclipse cookies (Oreos and MoonPies) and every law enforcement agent in the county was on duty. We scoped out a few sites, and ended up parking near the lake, and joining thousands of people on the shore as the moon started crossing the sun.

We watched while swimming, and Mandy saw totality start while in the water. The clouds completely dissipated in the 20 minutes before totality, and then it happened. The diamond ring exploded around the moon, and we had a clear view of the sun’s atmosphere streaming out. The crowd cheered, then became silent as our brains tried to cope with what we were seeing. Darkness had fallen instantly, stars were out, and the sun had turned into a ring of fire. Sunset was visible on all sides around the lake and the colors were beautiful.

The totality was only two minutes and 33 seconds long, but it seemed both far longer, and much shorter. I’m still trying to parse out how it affected me, but I felt minuscule on the cosmic scale and part of something massive for humanity. Estimates say that 200 million people watched the eclipse in the US on Monday. On that field thousands of us were struck with awe at the same moment, and shared a powerful experience.

Interesting Data

On the way to the eclipse, people had trickled in over the weekend in small, but constant streams. Once it was over, it was like a pulse bomb was set off in the road infrastructure. Look at the traffic patterns below that follow the eclipse trajectory – some of those red and orange lines stretch for hundreds of miles.

Traffic heading back to the island took six hours. I-95 was slammed with everyone who came up from Florida. When we got back, my brother Matt looked up the effect the eclipse had on solar output in California. Interesting curves here:

Also, people on the path cared much more about the eclipse than those who were far away as Google search trends shows below:

 

Santa Cruz and 5000 pound Mammals

Sea Elephants in the Background

This weekend Mandy and I went down to her college town of Santa Cruz and walked among 5000 pound Sea Elephants. Santa Cruz is about an hour and a half south of San Francisco if you take the freeways for most of it. We did not take the freeways.

Between San Francisco and Santa Cruz runs a section of PCH-1, the Pacific Coast Highway. If you grew up going to east coast beaches and have never been to California you might need some context. The east coast (at least the southern parts) has long gradual slopes out to the beaches. The sand stretches out, and people can ride bikes, walk, and even drive cars along them.

Contrast this to much of Northern California,where the mountains ram up against the ocean, then plummet in 200 foot cliffs directly down into thrashing waves and rocks. It is breathtaking, and leaves you reeling from the power of nature.

PCH-1 skirts the very edge of these cliffs for hundreds of miles all down the Pacific coast, until the cliffs give way to beaches somewhere near Los Angeles. In some sections, the aforementioned power of nature has beaten the road into temporary submission, and covered in it a rock slide or washed out parts underneath it.

Along PCH-1 is a state park called Año Nuevo. It is here that thousands of Sea Elephants beach themselves and make the sand dunes their mating grounds between December and March. We have been meaning to go see them for a few years, but you can only go out to where they are on a docent guided tour that needs a reservation “up to 56 days in advance”.

With the recent rain and storms, we bet people would not show and there would be extra tickets — we were right. Mandy brought rain pants. I did not. By the end of the two hour hike out and back, I had learned: That these things are born weighing 70 pounds, and then gain 230 pounds in 28 days. Their mother’s milk is 55% fat. They can get up to 5000 pounds and live 14-20 years. An alpha male will fight all the other males, then control a harem of up to 40 females. There are multiple harems spread out along Año Nuevo’s sand dunes.

We got to walk in and among them, but not to close to the main groups – just around the outcasts and “bachelors” who were not alpha that year and the young pups.

We saw a female sea elephant start to leave for the season, and then four 5000 pound males chased her into the ocean and get into a massive fight over who had the right to her. It was surreal.

The Twitch

A few times a year my lower eyelid starts to twitch. It is annoying, but not painful in any way. It is happening now and I looked up the different reasons it can occur:

Computer eye strain
Caffeine
Alcohol
Tiredness
Stress

Yup, yup, yeah, uh huh, right. All of the above. Boozy wedding party in LA last weekend, no sleep, running a startup, drinking lots of coffee.

I often do not notice when I am stressed out and overtaxed, so I am glad my body has developed relatively harmless way of letting me know to take it easy.

I got a robot to clean my floors

Mandy and I are notoriously bad about sweeping up our floors. Our dog sheds like crazy and this leads to little dustbunnies building up in all of the corners. We had resigned ourselves to living with it until I started seriously looking at Roomba robots. 


The newest versions have rubber rollers that do not allow hair to get wrapped up in them, and are perfect for pets. For years I have heard people that hate the robots or love them. I think it depends on your house.

Our place is all one level, with hardwood floors throughout, and is basically perfect for these things.

Since we got it, our floors have been dog-hair free and we don’t even have to think about it. It is scheduled to run while I am at work, and I am sure it keeps our dog entertained.

It never finds its way back to the charging station, but I don’t care. It is inevitably stuck under our bed or couch. I just find it when I get home and put it back, ready to go the next day. 

Self Selected News

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I am starting to feel a problem, exacerbated by the election coverage, and I don’t know the solution…

Unless you live in a state controlled society, you probably get news from self selected sources. TV, Twitter, blogs, Facebook — you choose the channel, source and content. This self selection leads towards a self-enforcing bias. How do you break the cycle?

But – very aware of the self selecting point of view here – I don’t want to spend a lot of time reading material from views I don’t agree with. What I actually want is a diff of the opinions and facts from both sides.

Does anything like this exist?

 

Afterthought:
Facebook is a stream of news shared by:

  1. People who you already know and have something in common with.
  2. People who may or may not have a BS filter.

How is that a good way to get news?

Cheese. Wonderful Cheese.

foodiesfeed.com_piece-of-gouda-cheese

Have you ever sat down to an appetizer plate of good cheese and found that you completely ignored the rest of the room until all the delicious morsels had been disposed of? If so, you might be interested in some of the below:

Everything Niki Achitoff-Gray says in this article I agree with. If you like cheese, pay attention. She does a great run down of the simple things you are probably doing that take away from the enjoyment that is cheese.

10 Common Crimes Against Cheese You Don’t Have to Commit
http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/06/how-to-store-and-slice-cheese.html

Also of note, researchers find that cheese may stimulate the same area of the brain as drugs. Some experts think that cheese is so influential that they pertain to it as “dairy crack.“(Source)

Which Foods May Be Addictive? The Roles of Processing, Fat Content, and Glycemic Load
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0117959

 

The bay area has some amazing dairy producers, and gifted cheesemakers. If you get a chance, visiting a cheese company is a fun experience. And, cheese is often paired with wine…

Check out this list from Cheese Trail ( http://cheesetrail.org/visit-a-cheesemaker/ )

Bohemian Creamery– Sebastopol (North Bay Area)

Bravo Farms Cheese – Fowler (Central Valley)

Cowgirl Creamery – Point Reyes (North Bay Area)

Epicurean Connection – Sonoma (North Bay Area)

Gioia Cheese – Los Angeles (Southern CA)

Harley Farms Goat Dairy – Pescadero (Central Coast)

Hilmar Cheese Company – Atwater (Central Valley)

Loleta Cheese Factory – North Coast (North Bay Area)

Marin French Cheese Company – Petaluma (North Bay Area)

Matos Cheese Factory – Santa Rosa (North Bay Area

Nicasio Valley Cheese Company – Nicasio (North Bay Area)

Oakdale Cheese – Oakdale (Central Valley)

Spring Hill Jersey Cheese Company (Petaluma Creamery) – Petaluma (North Bay Area)

Vella Cheese Company – Sonoma (North Bay Area)

 

 

 

We built a Yurt

Over the past few weeks Mandy and I have been getting the land ready for a yurt. Over the New Years Holiday, some friends came up and helped us make it a reality!

We had the framing for the platform done when we started, but it still took 3 days of solid hard work with the group to get it finished. We slept in it on Sunday night, and it was worth it!

Thanks so much to Casey, Bradley, BK, Matt H, Steve, Matt T and Ari for helping us make this thing real!


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The Egg Nog Review

Egg Nog, a drink now sold by every creamery in America from November to December, has a long and storied past. It is responsible for riots, was drank by English aristocracy, and was even used to fortify travelers before setting off.

The American travelers, before they pursued their journey, took a hearty draught each, according to custom, of egg-nog, a mixture composed of new milk, eggs, rum, and sugar, beat up together. (Isaac Weld, Junior, in his book Travels Through the States of North America and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, during the years 1795, 1796, and 1797)

Egg Nog is a holiday tradition in my family, one that I have continued even with a lactose challenged wife. Since I no longer have anyone nearby to share my love of Egg Nog, I am writing down my feelings toward this drink as I consume it in the hopes that you might benefit.

The criteria:
TasteConsistency, and how well it mixes with booze.
All are on a (1-10) scale.

For consideration:
How (un)healthy it may or may not be. To get the full experience, I am drinking the entire quart of each type.
When drinking Egg Nog, health is something one must not dwell on.

Clover’s Organic Egg Nog

Taste: 8
Objectively, the taste is on point, but the consistency means that doesn’t matter.

Consistency: 3
Watery, thin, more like milk than true nog. Disturbing really.

With Bourbon: 4
The consistency gets even worse when you mix it with liquid. The booze flavor stands strong on its own and doesn’t blend.

Calories consumed: 1440

Clover’s Regular Egg Nog

Taste: 8
This is a good eggnog, taste is similar to their organic blend. Might be slightly on the sweet side for some.

Consistency: 8
Thick, creamy, lingers on your mustache.

With Booze: 8
Mixes well, doesn’t get too thin. Taste blends together in an appealing way.

Calories consumed: 1520

Humboldt Creamery Egg Nog


humboltTaste: 8
Slightly light on overall flavor, but not by much. I like the taste, and it goes down easy. This is a smaller dairy in northern California, they know how to do it.

Consistency: 9
The opposite of most nogs, this nog is light and fluffy – almost like sipping a cloud. Quite enjoyable.

With Booze: 8
Still great, stays fluffy.

Calories per quart: 1280

Berkeley Farms Holiday Egg Nog

Taste: 7
Not the best, not the worst – just nothing makes it stand out. Unless you live in the San Francisco Bay area, you probably can’t get this anyway.

Consistency: 8
Good, thick enough, with just enough weight.

With Booze: 7
Hmm… I am starting to think that all dairy products don’t really mix with booze. This one gets watery, but the nog taste stays. Just better with booze.

Calories consumed: 1600

It’s an Automotive Future

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Local Motors Winning Highway Legal Design

Some 12,000 hours ago Elon Musk announced that his company, Tesla, would

“not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, must use our technology.”

Public interest in Tesla spiked, but not actually in electric cars in general. A year and a half later the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt have not found widespread adoption. Charging stations are still the exception, not the rule.

However, shortly after Musk’s announcement, Local Motors 3D printed an electric car in 44 hours. Local Motors currently has Microfactory locations in 3 places, with plans to open 100 more over the next 10 years. At these microfactories they have a library of designs, customizations, and options you can choose from to print your own car on the spot. Starting at $18,000 with a highway legal version out in 2016.

They also have Mobilabs, which are fabrication plants on trucks roaming the country, that can repair and upgrade the Local Motor cars onsite.

Local Motors could put one of the mobile labs next to every Tesla Charging Station. They have the ability to share the same battery technology, so customers could get a fast charge, or have a new custom molded headrest printed out while they wait for their car to charge slowly. This is also revenue stream for Tesla as they can also charge for the electricity. (Only Teslas get free charging for life.)

I can see entire lines of customization like never before. Companies will sell custom mirrors, visors, steering wheels, and the ability to theme cars for different seasons.

Better yet, taking a leaf out of Google’s playbook these cars can be adapted to be self driving with a simple add on that they are already demoing.

With the amount of money moving into the self driving car market (Apple, Google, others) and now with Chinese billionaire backed Tesla competitor Faraday Future there seems to be no sign that removing cars from the road is going to be part of the near future. However, some of the most interesting public facing technology is focusing on changing our relationship with cars, roads, and driving. The day when we view cars as “mini public transportation vehicles” is not that far off. In a case where demand for rides will surge (Olympics, World Cup, etc…) more cars can simply be printed for the event, then distributed to other, initially less profitable locations. Instead of waiting for a bus, you pay for your ride in an Uber with your Metro card.

In 2006 Cory Doctorow released a short novella (Full text for free) that featured local printing as a normal part of daily life. In 2010 he flushed out the idea with “Makers” — a book I highly recommend that you can download free from that link! In that story he explores what the world would be like if local manufacturing made it impossible to enforce copyright

Five years later, I like where we are headed. Now if only my entire refrigerator worked like these do.