dannyman.toldme.com


News and Reaction, Politics

US May Soon Allow High Speed Trains

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/12/01/us-may-soon-allow-high-speed-trains/

Good news via Streetsblog: the United States FRA are nearly done revising safety regulations which would allow for operation of high-speed trains in the United States!

A fleet of TGV waiting to serve passengers in Marseille in 2002. These French trains have a top speed of 200 MPH.

A fleet of TGV waiting to serve passengers in Marseilles, France in 2002. These trains have a top speed of 200 MPH. Proposed US safety rules would permit lighter, faster trains that meet European safety standards to run at speeds of up to 220 MPH.

Current US regulations, from the 1800s and the 1930s, mandate heavier trains to survive crashes. Unfortunately, heavy trains cost more to build, operate, and maintain. Heavier trains are also harder to stop in an emergency.

European train safety regulations are comparable to modern cars: lighter trains are cheaper to build and operate, and they stop faster. They feature “crumple zones” to absorb damage in an accident.

Since the United States is a small market for passenger trains, divergent safety standards make it even more expensive to buy trains. Instead of purchasing inexpensive, reliable, “off-the-shelf” European-designed train sets, vendors need to make alternate, heavier, slower, more expensive designs for American railroads. The adoption of European safety standards will make it cheaper and easier for American railroads to provide modern, comfortable, faster passenger service.

In anticipation of these new rules, Amtrak in September announced the purchase of 28 Avelia Liberty trains from the French company Alstom. The trains will be manufactured in upstate New York and will be used for Acela service starting is 2021. These trains can be upgraded to run at 220 MPH, but this will only be allowed after right-of-way upgrades on the Northeast Corridor.

These rules coming at the end of the Obama administration, with promises of infrastructure spending under the Trump administration, could help American rail transport see more rapid improvements in short order.

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News and Reaction, Technology

Tool for Generating Isochrones: Mapzen Mobility Explorer

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/11/24/tool-for-generating-isochrones-mapzen-mobility-explorer/

Via Steve Vance, Mapzen has a new tool, Mobility Explorer, which can generate isochrones for walking, biking, driving, and transit. I have previously used tools provided by Walk Score, but Mapzen seems more accurate, and the transit shed can be calculated based on a time-of-day.

Here is how far you can get on public transit from Sunnyvale at noon on a Wednesday in 15, 30, 45 and 60 minutes.

Here is how far you can get on public transit from Sunnyvale at noon on a Wednesday in 15, 30, 45 and 60 minutes.

The colors on the web site color scheme are not that great. On Steve’s blog you can see he’s generated his own map via an API call.

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About Me, Sunnyvale, Testimonials

Valley of Broad Shoulders

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/11/20/valley-of-broad-shoulders/

I was in Chicago this week. There was a death in the family, so it was good to be among my kinfolk with our adorable, loving child.

Chicago is famously corrupt and moribund and the State of Illinois is mired in perpetual scandal. It is a magnet for immigrants but it is also a city from which many of us Californians are originally from. I’ve gotten used to the California way and I generally prefer it but what I noticed this week in Chicago was all the construction.

For a city that is corrupt and moribund, there was an awful lot of demolition and rebuilding going on. On the way to the L in the evening we stopped and stared over a fence as a variety of heavy machines worked under brilliant stadium lights. The star of the show was a yellow machine with a huge claw on the end of a boom arm reaching several stories up, to the top of a building, it was tearing down from the top, girder by girder, as another machine sprayed down the dust with a water hose. The claw was at the very end of its reach, it felt the machine was on tippy toes, as it tugged away, girder after girder, waiting for torrents of debris to fall, pulling the pieces out and dropping them into piles to be dragged into more discrete piles by lesser enormous machines. It was like watching dinosaurs go about their business. Father, Son, and Grandmother: none of us could take our eyes off the marvel. “They should sell beer and peanuts,” said I.

The neighbors of this derelict house in Sunnyvale are terrified at the prospect of it being replaced with housing for families.

The neighbors of this derelict house in Sunnyvale are terrified at the prospect of it being replaced with housing for families.

We don’t get this in Suburban California. What little “history” we have is viciously guarded and any attempt to replace the old with newer and better is often met with resistance and exaggerated speculation as to the intentions and end results of new development. You don’t see that so much in the old country–In Chicago, and in any place with some history under its belt, everyone knows that they are surrounded by at least a century of continuity–Everyone is merely links in a great chain. The city is inherited and bequeathed and the hope is to leave it in a little better shape: Urbs in Horto.

In Dublin, I saw them building a light rail line, right down an ancient street. It made the Northern Californian in me jealous.

In Dublin, I saw them building a light rail line, right down an ancient street. It made the Northern Californian in me jealous.

They say that University Politics is the most vicious because the stakes are so low. I get a sense of that observing some of the political rhetoric in Sunnyvale. Out here the city is so new and raw that the idea of changing it implies that those who built the city and have lived in it until now are being completely rejected by the hordes of newcomers flooding the city from the Midwest and the Far East. But in the ancient lands where the immigrants come from, there is no such sentiment: the cities are naturally timeworn, and the idea of redevelopment is an intuitive component of the cycle of death and rebirth.

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Bareheaded,
Shoveling,
Wrecking,
Planning,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle

The land in which I live would be enriched if it embraced a bit of the poetry of the land in which I was born.

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About Me, Letters to The Man, News and Reaction, Politics

America 1956

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/11/13/america-1956/

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About Me, Letters to The Man, News and Reaction, Politics

America 2016

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/11/13/america/

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About Me, News and Reaction, Politics

Head Full of Doubts

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/11/09/head-full-of-doubts/

There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it

When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it

–Avett Brothers

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News and Reaction, Sunnyvale

Planning Mistake: Dividing Lawrence Station Neighborhood with an Onramp

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/11/08/planning-mistake-dividing-lawrence-station-neighborhood-with-an-onramp/

I am proud to have grown up in Chicago. It is a great city. But us Chicago fans have to admit to its numerous mistakes and sins. One of those sins was repeated over and over again in the mid-twentieth century, when neighborhood after neighborhood was torn apart to make way for highways. Working class neighborhoods, homes to people of color and immigrants … the fabric of community life was torn away. Neighborhoods were divided and conquered and made into ghettos.

One would hope for Silicon Valley in the twenty-first century not to repeat the mistakes of twentieth-century Chicago.

On Wednesday, the Santa Clara Planning Commission will review the Environmental Impact Report for the Lawrence Station Area Plan. The Lawrence Station Area Plan is an ambitious project to redevelop a low-rise industrial area into a modern urban neighborhood, providing 3,500 housing units, office space, and parks, directly adjacent to commuter rail services.

The Lawrence Station Area as it exists today: mainly ugly, low-rise Industrial.

The Lawrence Station Area as it exists today: mainly low-rise industrial.

Plans for 3,500 residential units, 104,000 square feet of office, and six acres of parks.

Plans for 3,500 residential units, 104,000 square feet of office, and six acres of parks.

Among the current recommendations is to cut off the Northwest block of housing from the rest of the neighborhood because it serves as a connector ramp between Lawrence and Central Expressways. Instead of crosswalks for people to walk across their community, pedestrians will need to walk up and over a ramp so as not to slow down the cars … on a two-lane road.

It is hard to find pictures of pedestrian bridges spanning two-lane roads, but picture something like this, but everyone gets to walk up and down long long long wheelchair ramps to cross the street.

It is hard to find pictures of pedestrian bridges spanning two-lane roads. Picture something like this, with elevators on each side.

This is another case where we err on the side of inconveniencing people and dividing neighborhoods for the sake of keeping cars moving along as fast as possible. A crosswalk would allow people to cross the street in their new neighborhood and be better connected to their neighbors, at the cost of possibly adding an occasional minute or two to someone’s commute. Does that sound so unreasonable?

Perhaps instead of right-left-right through a neighborhood, we could drive a gentle arc around the neighborhood?

Perhaps instead of right-left-right through a neighborhood, we could drive a gentle arc around the neighborhood. The path is still there.

We might explore some alternatives. One thing I notice is that the right-of-way still exists to restore the old on-ramp from Lawrence Northbound to Central Eastbound. Instead of making a right-left-right through a residential neighborhood, drivers just coast on up a gentle right-hand curve and merge on to Central. From there, the existing two-way on-ramp might be adapted to a two-lane one-way street. The two-lane street allows more cars to queue at a crosswalk while pedestrians cross, reducing potential congestion.

Alternatively, traffic off of Central Eastbound could simply take alternate routes from Oakmead/Corwin.

The Santa Clara Planning Commission is in a place to recommend smarter planning that better addresses the concerns of pedestrians, neighborhood vitality, and motorists. The Commission will review the Specific Plan this Wednesday at 7:00pm. I hope to drop by and share my concerns. You should show up too, if you are interested. You can also write a letter to the Planning Commission: PlanningCommission@santaclaraca.gov and CC planner John Davidson: JDavidson@santaclaraca.gov.

Many thanks to Green Caltrain for the tip.

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Politics

Evaluating California Ballot Propositions

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/11/06/evaluating-california-ballot-propositions/

A few rules of thumb I use in evaluating California ballot propositions:

1) Is it a REVENUE BOND? — Likely YES
2) Is it a CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT? — Default NO
3) Endorsed by Jerry Brown? — Likely YES
4) Argument in favor/opposition use LOTS OF CAPITALIZED WORDS AND PHRASES — Those arguments are nutters
5) Wait, why shouldn’t the legislature, &c. be figuring this out?! — Likely NO

This time around I figure condoms, ammunition, and plastic bags are issues Cal/OSHA and the legislature need to figure out.

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News and Reaction, Sunnyvale

Notes: Bishop School Construction Update

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/10/21/notes-bishop-school-construction-update/

Earlier this month I attended a meeting at Bishop School in which Rob Smiley, COO of Sunnyvale School District, brought us up to speed on the current construction plans. I took noted and shared on Nextdoor.com, and I’m sharing them here for better community access.

Construction Update

Maps viewable in school office, and online at: http://www.sesd.org/Page/3722

… re-bidding is not yet complete …

Renderings of new campus and a site plan.

Renderings of new campus and a site plan.

October — Temp Classrooms to be installed on blacktop (note: these were installed last week)
December — Fencing / Construction begins (North Side)
August 2017 — move into new rooms
August 2018 — project complete

Roughly:
North Side construction thru Aug 2017
South Side construction thru Aug 2018

Construction Expectations:
– Reduced on-street parking (25 parking spaces removed)
– Increased traffic
– Reduced play area
– “Hard Hat Cafe” (during kitchen construction, from June 2017)
– Noise (no loud construction during testing)
– Demolition (.. asbestos .. “abatement” ..)

Q: When does Maude Ave bike lane (remove parking) happen?
A: Do not know

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News and Reaction, Politics, Sunnyvale

Housing in the Silicon Valley: Sunnyvale Planning Commission and 838 Azure

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/10/20/housing-in-the-silicon-valley-sunnyvale-planning-commission-and-838-azure/

On October 10, 2016, file 16-0548 was heard by the Sunnyvale Planning Commission. The item was to down-zone a condominium development per the General Plan, and to up-zone a one third acre parcel from Residential Low Density to Residential Low-Medium Density. By up-zoning the site at 838 Azure St, the property owner would be able to build four homes on the property instead of a maximum of two.

The Planning Commission passed the down-zoning proposal but denied the up-zoning at 838 Azure St. I do not believe the decision with regard to 838 Azure was consistent with the public interest of Sunnyvale residents. At a time of housing crisis, we should err on the side of providing more affordable homes for more families, and the location at 838 Azure is well suited to providing housing with minimal impact on congestion.

Current Status and Options

The property presently hosts two dilapidated structures which had recently housed squatters. There are dying trees and contaminated soil from Sunnyvale’s orchard days.

Proposed zoning for 838 Azure St

Proposed zoning for 838 Azure St

Present zoning is R0: 7 homes per acre, or 2 per 1/3 acre
Two lots of 7,200 square feet, homes up to 3,240 square feet

Requested zoning is R2: 12 homes per acre, or 4 per 1/3 acre
Four lots of 3,600 square feet, homes up to 1,620 square feet

Affordability

Status Quo Change Zoning
House Type Single Family Townhome
House Size 3200 sq ft / 5 bed / 3.5 bath 1600 sq ft / 3 bed / 2.5 bath
Home Price $2,400,000 $1,000,000
Monthly Cost $12,000 $5,000
Household Income $436,000 $182,000
Families Housed 2 4

The lot in question is about 14,400 square feet, and present zoning allows for up to two houses. At 45% FAR one can build two homes of 3,200 square feet. Comparable homes in the area are typically 5 bedroom, 3.5 baths at $2,400,000. With a 20% down payment of $480,000, a 30 year fixed mortgage at 3.875% with taxes and insurance runs nearly $12,000/mo.

On the other hand, a 1,600 square foot townhouse or condo in this area is typically 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath at $1,000,000. With a 20% down payment, a 30 year fixed mortgage, taxes, insurance runs nearly $5,000/mo.

If we assume that housing is “affordable” at 33% of Gross Income, then the big houses are affordable to a family with $436,000 annual income, and the smaller homes are affordable at $182,000.

See Also: Redfin
See Also: Residential Zoning Standards – City of Sunnyvale

Location: Pedestrian and Transit Quality vs Congestion

Much of Sunnyvale is poorly suited to walking or public transportation. Housing in such areas encourages automobile trips and results in congestion. If you want to increase housing while avoiding congestion, you want to place the housing in areas where walking and public transit are viable options: when people have the option not to drive they are less likely to add congestion.

The average Walk Score in Sunnyvale is 55. For 838 Azure the walk score is 78. The site is well within Sunnyvale’s walkable downtown core, a very close walk to multiple groceries, restaurants, and Murphy St. This pedestrian accessibility does not encourage automobile trips, thus it mitigates congestion.

Sunnyvale's walkable core: 838 Azure is at the Y of Mathilda and Sunnyvale in the lower right.

To avoid congestion, put housing in Sunnyvale’s walkable core: 838 Azure is at the Y of Mathilda and Sunnyvale in the lower right. Source: Sunnyvale Walk Score

The site is very near VTA’s premier bus route: the 22/522 El Camino Real, as well as the 55 and 54 routes for North-South mobility. Within an hour, public transit can get residents across Sunnyvale, including the offices on the North Side, as well as much of Cupertino and Santa Clara. The downtown areas of San Jose, Mountain View, and Palo Alto are accessible. At just over a mile to Sunnyvale Station, the site is not a convenient walk to Caltrain: residents may prefer to bicycle.

Via Walk Score: where you can get from 838 Azure via public transit

Via Walk Score: where you can get from 838 Azure via public transit.

Public Comment and Planning Board

Two neighbors spoke against the zoning change. A neighbor who lived in an adjacent townhouse was concerned that the development of townhouses on the neighboring property would not meet his aesthetic standards. A neighbor to the south was concerned that his dogs might get out if the property was developed, and that if the driveway were moved from Sunnyvale-Saratoga to Azure then there would be less street parking available on Azure.

Per the minutes:

Commissioner Melton noted that the benefits of the GPA and Rezone of the Azure site are the PD designation and an increase in housing density, and that the negatives include parking, neighborhood incompatibility and inappropriate density.

Commissioner Simons said he does not like the potential spot zoning of 838 Azure.

MOTION: Commissioner Melton moved and Commissioner Simons seconded the motion to recommend that City Council deny the General Plan Amendment and Rezone for 838 Azure Street.

Vice Chair Rheaume said he is not supporting this motion and supports increasing the density of this lot.

The motion carried by the following vote:

Yes: 4 – Commissioner Melton
Commissioner Olevson
Commissioner Simons
Commissioner Weiss

No: 1 – Vice Chair Rheaume

Absent: 1 – Chair Harrison

Next Steps

This item should come before the City Council on November 1. Anyone who might wish to speak up on behalf of the virtue of increased housing in Sunnyvale can contact the City Council or make a public comment of up to three minutes at the upcoming council meeting. I am hoping to attend and speak November 1. If you think you might also be interested, or would like to be notified of any updates, please drop me a line: dannyman@toldme.com.

Postscript

This item was considered by the Sunnyvale City Council on November 1, 2016. City Council heard testimony from City Staff and the Property Owner. City Council candidate John Cordes and I made public comments in favor of the change. A few neighbors made public comments against the change.

The City Council enacted an ordinance to change the zoning at 838 Azure from R0 to R2-PD. The vote was 6-1, with Council Member Pat Meyering in dissent. Council made it clear that they were only approving the zoning change, in order to provide more housing in an area well-suited to pedestrian, bicycle and public transit. Council was generally most concerned with how the development would transition from the adjacent R2 zones to the rest of the neighborhood, which is among the several considerations which will be addressed subsequently in the planning process.

The Property Owner is now at liberty to submit plans for development, which will be subject to review by the Zoning Administrator, with community feedback, and potentially by the Planning Commission and the City Council.

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Politics, Sunnyvale

Sunnyvale City Council: Election Notes

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/10/15/sunnyvale-city-council-election-notes/

This year there will be an election for four of the seven seats on the Sunnyvale City Council.

Mapping Out the Council

I found a nice web site that summarizes campaign contributions for the different candidates. As I have only recently taken an interest in the City Council, it helps me paint a crude picture of the council as it exists today. There seems to be a core majority and an independent minority.

Caveat: it has been pointed out to me that my data source is not entirely accurate. Raw data can be obtained directly from the city. Unfortunately, that data is provided in PDF format. If I find a convenient way to parse the data out of those PDF files, I’ll take a crack a re-doing the Financial Backings visualization, below.

Heading up the “Core” are Mayor Glenn Hendricks and Vice Mayor Gustav Larsson, who have each received overwhelmingly large sums from the National Association of Realtors Fund.

Jim Griffith is an Software Engineer who has mainly bankrolled his own campaigns. He is the only second-term member of the council, thus his cumulative financial backing is larger than most members of the council, with the exception of Mayor Hendricks and Vice Mayor Larsson. Jim maintains a blog about city council activities at dweeb.org.

Next are what I would label the “Friends” which includes Larry Klein and Tara Martin-Milius. Klein very recently won a special election held in August after the resignation of Dave Whittum. Neither of these candidates have the volume of donations as Hendricks, Larsson or Griffith, but the Inner Core have made friendly contributions to the Friends. Martin-Milius has received contributions from Hendricks, Larsson, and Griffith while Klein has received contributions from Hendricks and Griffith.

The Inner Core and Friends make up a five-member majority. Council motions are often made and carried with minimal dissent.

Beyond the Core are the two “Independents.” Jim Davis‘ campaign contributions are mainly from non-resident individuals, none from the Core members. He generally votes along with the Core, though he did vote against the Maude Ave bike lane, an issue which I took a special interest in. Pat Meyering‘s campaign is completely self-funded. He often clashes with Mayor Hendricks and other members of the council.

Mapping Out the Election

The Deep Pockets (Hendricks, Larsson, Griffith) are not up for election this year, but everyone else is.

Seat 4: Recently won by Larry Klein, is challenged by John Cordes and Mike McCarthy. Klein, who recently served on the Planning Commission, is backed by a few Business and Real Estate PACS, and several residents, including the Core council members, and Stephen Williams, who ran against him in the special election. John Cordes, who also ran against Klein in the special election, is an environmentalist who serves on the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission. He is mainly self-funded, with an even split between resident and non-resident contributions, and a single PAC donation from the California League of Conservation Voters. Mike McCarthy is entirely self-funded.

Seat 5: Incumbent Pat Meyering is solely self-funded, and I could not find a campaign web site. He is challenged by Russell Melton, who has served several terms on the Planning Commission, and has the support of several developers, the Core council members, and numerous individuals. Melton also managed Mayor Hendricks’ successful 2013 City Council campaign.

Seat 6: Incumbent Jim Davis is a former Public Safety Officer who has served many government and community organizations. He is funded mainly by non-resident individuals. Challenger Nancy Smith has chaired the Santa Clara County Water District Environmental and Water Resources Committee, and is funded by several residents and non-residents.

Seat 7: Incumbent Tara Martin-Milius is funded in the main by several individuals, including Core council members, along with business and real estate contributions. She is challenged by unfunded Ron Banks and self-funded Michael Goldman.

Visualizing the Council and the Election

In an attempt at objectivity, I have compiled the following table to provide a quick reference to in understanding the Council and the election. I welcome feedback, especially factual corrections.

Seat Name Financial Backing Background Web Site Video Statement
Seat 1 Gustav Larsson ███ ███ ████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ████ ████ █████ ███████ Engineer at Ciena
Planning Commissioner
Seat 2 Glenn Hendricks ███ ███ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ █████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██ ████ █████████ █████ ████ ██████████ ████ Manager at PayPal
Marine Corps
hendricksforsvcouncil2013.com
Seat 3 Jim Griffith ██ ██████ ███████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ████████ ██████ ██████████ ██ █████ ██████████ ██████ Software Engineer at Apple
Numerous Government Activities
dweeb.org
Seat 4 Larry Klein ████████ ███ ███████ ██ Staff Engineer at Qnovo
Planning Commission
larryforcouncil.com YouTube
John Cordes ██████████ ██ Consultant
Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission
john4sunnyvale.org YouTube
Mike McCarthy █████ CEO at Green Galaxy Homes
Plaza Del Rey Residents Association
Navy
YouTube
Seat 5 Pat Meyering Attorney pat4residents.com YouTube
Russell Melton ██ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ █████ ███ ██ █████████ Campaign Manager
Planning Commission
Navy
meltonforcouncil.com YouTube
Seat 6 Jim Davis ███ ████████ Sunnyvale Public Safety Officer
Numerous Government Activities
YouTube
Nancy Smith ██████ ██████████ █████ ██████████ Program Manager at NVIDIA
Santa Clara County Water District Environmental and Water Resources Committee
nancysmith.org YouTube
Seat 7 Tara Martin-Milius ██ ████████ █████ ██████████ ████ ██████████ ██████ Teacher, UCSC Extension in Silicon Valley
San Miguel Neighbors Association
taraforcouncil.org YouTube
Ron Banks YouTube
Michael Goldman ██████ michaelsgoldman.com YouTube

Financial Backing Key
██████████ represents $10,000
█ represents $1,000

Business
Business PAC
Developer
Real Estate PAC
Candidate
Elected Official PAC
Political Party
Political Committee
Resident
Non-Resident
Environmental PAC
Social Issues PAC
Union PAC
Source: http://www.specialinterestwatch.org/, cumulative contributions through June 30, 2016

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News and Reaction, Politics

In A Nutshell: Climate Disruption

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/09/04/climate-change-in-a-nutshell/

A rant posted on a colleague’s Facebook wall in reaction to the New York Times:

I read The New Yorker too much when I had free time and the gist of it was: Earth’s climate is usually pretty erratic, but after the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago, the climate entered an unusually stable phase. At that point, our species, after 200,000 years, for some reason, mastered agriculture and civilization, and that civilization has disrupted this stable phase and we are moving back into unstable climate patterns. Whether the world civilization can continue without the original agricultural lynch pin of a stable climate is a question which will be answered within our lifetimes.

Earth's Average temperature. Our species emerged around the 200 mark, agriculture and civilization start at around 11 where you see that flat red line, which ends .. now. CC:

Earth’s Average temperature. Our species emerged around the 200 mark, agriculture and civilization start at around 11 where you see that flat red line, which ends .. now.
CC: Glen Fergus

I had mixed feeling watching the Democratic National Convention because on the one hand they acknowledge that Climate Change is a Real Thing and we Ought to Do Something but then they kept reassuring us that it was just one of those kind of good things to do for future generations and not actually some kind of imminent shitfest that is going to be a bigger and bigger problem every year for the forseeable future, not to mention that we’ve already pretty much screwed the pooch anyway by ignoring the issue so we get to deal with it anyway but will still need to address climate emissions to keep it from going from pretty awful to worst case scenario.

Flash Flood in Australia

Flash Flood in Australia
CC: Nick Carson
It starts with floods and droughts, then crop failures, famine, mass migration, political turmoil, fascism … talking about sea level is burying the lead.

And like what that means is maybe or maybe not the Democrats have their hearts in the right place but the messaging is just as focus-grouped and they’re nearly as averse to disturbing the status quo. “Okay, so, your likely voters believe climate change is a big deal, but most of them would be reluctant to do anything about it, so you’ve got to acknowledge the problem without making anyone feel threatened.” And over on the right its like “Well, Climate Denial excites the base of excitable racist lunatics AND it pretty much guarantees PAC money from the oil companies so any time they ask you say that yeah, there is a climate change but that is in Jesus’ hands.”

See Also: http://xkcd.com/1732/ — a cartoon illustrating human history versus the temperature record depicted in the final panel.

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FreeBSD, Linux, Python, Technical, Technology

VMs vs Containers

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/08/24/vms-vs-containers/

I’ve been a SysAdmin for … since the last millennium. Long enough to see certain fads come and go and come again. There was a time when folks got keen on the advantages of chroot jails, but that time faded, then resurged in the form of containers! All the rage!

My own bias is that bare metal systems and VMs are what I am used to: a Unix SysAdmin knows how to manage systems! The advantages and desire for more contained environments seems to better suit certain types of programmers, and I suspect that the desire for chroot-jail-virtualenv-containers may be a reflection of programming trends.

On the one hand, you’ve got say C and Java … write, compile, deploy. You can statically link C code and put your Java all in a big jar, and then to run it on a server you’ll need say a particular kernel version, or a particular version of Java, and some light scaffolding to configure, start/stop and log. You can just write up a little README and hand that stuff off to the Ops team and they’ll figure out the mysterious stuff like chmod and the production database password. (And the load balancer config..eek!)

On the other hand, if you’re hacking away in an interpreted language: say Python or R, you’ve got a growing wad of dependencies, and eventually you’ll get to a point where you need the older version of one dependency and a bleeding-edge version of another and keeping track of those dependencies and convincing the OS to furnish them all for you … what comes in handy is if you can just wad up a giant tarball of all your stuff and run it in a little “isolated” environment. You don’t really want to get Ops involved because they may laugh at you or run in terror … instead you can just shove the whole thing in a container, run that thing in the cloud, and now without even ever having to understand esoteric stuff like chmod you are now DevOps!

(Woah: Job Security!!)

From my perspective, containers start as a way to deploy software. Nowadays there’s a bunch of scaffolding for containers to be a way to deploy and manage a service stack. I haven’t dealt with either case, and my incumbent philosophy tends to be “well, we already have these other tools” …

Container Architecture (CC: Wikipedia)

Container Architecture is basically just Legos mixed with Minecraft (CC: Wikipedia)

Anyway, as a Service Provider (… I know “DevOps” is meant to get away from that ugly idea that Ops is a service provider …) I figure if containers help us ship the code, we’ll get us some containers, and if we want orchestration capabilities … well, we have what we have now and we can look at bringing up other new stuff if it will serve us better.

ASIDE: One thing that has put me off containers thus far is not so much that they’re reinventing the wheel, so much that I went to a DevOps conference a few years back and it seemed every single talk was about how we have been delivered from the evil sinful ways of physical computers and VMs and the tyranny of package managers and chmod and load balancers and we have found the Good News that we can build this stuff all over in a new image and it will be called Docker or Mesos or Kubernetes but careful the API changed in the last version but have you heard we have a thing called etcd which is a special thing to manage your config files because nobody has ever figured out an effective way to … honestly I don’t know for etcd one way or another: it was just the glazed, fervent stare in the eyes of the guy who was explaining to me the virtues of etcd …

It turns out it is not just me who is a curmudgeonly contrarian: a lot of people are freaked out by the True Believers. But that needn’t keep us from deploying useful tools, and my colleague reports that Kubernetes for containers seems awfully similar to the Ganeti we are already running for VMs, so let us bootstrap some infrastructure and provide some potentially useful services to the development team, shall we?

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Technical, Technology, Testimonials, WordPress

Testimonial: SSLMate

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/07/19/testimonial-sslmate/

I recently started using sslmate to manage SSL certificates. SSL is one of those complicated things you deal with rarely so it has historically been a pain in the neck.

But sslmate makes it all easy … you install the sslmate command and can generate, sign, and install certificates from the command-line. You then have to check your email when getting a signed cert to verify … and you’re good.

The certificates auto-renew annually, assuming you click the email. I did this for an important cert yesterday. Another thing you do (sslmate walks you through all these details) is set up a cron.

This morning at 6:25am the cron got run on our servers … with minimal intervention (I had to click a confirmation link on an email yesterday) our web servers are now running on renewed certs …. one less pain in the neck.

So … next time you have to deal with SSL I would say “go to sslmate.com and follow the instructions and you’ll be in a happy place.”

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Excerpts, News and Reaction, Politics

. . . Convincing?

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/07/18/sanders-endorses-clinton/

A “challenge” posted to Facebook:

clinton

A moment of thought and I realized the challenge was easy, and heartening. This speech has been given before:

“Hillary Clinton understands that we must fix an economy in America that is rigged and that sends almost all new wealth and income to the top one percent. Hillary Clinton understands that if someone in America works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty.

She believes that we should raise the minimum wage to a living wage. And she wants to create millions of new jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. – our roads, bridges, water systems and wastewater plants.

This election is about which candidate will nominate Supreme Court justices who are prepared to overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision which allows billionaires to buy elections and undermine our democracy; about who will appoint new justices on the Supreme Court who will defend a woman’s right to choose, the rights of the LGBT community, workers’ rights, the needs of minorities and immigrants, and the government’s ability to protect the environment.

This campaign is about moving the United States toward universal health care and reducing the number of people who are uninsured or under-insured. Hillary Clinton wants to see that all Americans have the right to choose a public option in their health care exchange, which will lower the cost of health care.

She also believes that anyone 55 years or older should be able to opt in to Medicare and she wants to see millions more Americans gain access to primary health care, dental care, mental health counseling and low-cost prescription drugs through a major expansion of community health centers throughout this country.

Hillary is committed to seeing thousands of young doctors, nurses, psychologists, dentists and other medical professionals practice in underserved areas as we follow through on President Obama’s idea of tripling funding for the National Health Service Corps.

In New Hampshire, in Vermont and across the country we have a major epidemic of opiate and heroin addiction. People are dying every day from overdoses. Hillary Clinton understands that if we are serious about addressing this crisis we need major changes in the way we deliver mental health treatment. That’s what expanding community health centers will do and that is what getting medical personnel into the areas we need them most will do.

Hillary Clinton also understands that millions of seniors, disabled vets and others are struggling with the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs. She and I are in agreement that Medicare must negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and that we must expand the use of generic medicine.

Drug companies should not be making billions in profits while one in five Americans are unable to afford the medicine they need. The greed of the drug companies must end.

This election is about the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that currently exists, the worst it has been since 1928. Hillary Clinton knows that something is very wrong when the very rich become richer while many others are working longer hours for lower wages.

She knows that it is absurd that middle-class Americans are paying an effective tax rate higher than hedge fund millionaires, and that there are corporations in this country making billions in profit while they pay no federal income taxes in a given year because of loopholes their lobbyists created.

This election is about the thousands of young people I have met who have left college deeply in debt, the many others who cannot afford to go to college and the need for this country to have the best educated workforce in the world if we are to compete effectively in a highly competitive global economy.

Hillary Clinton believes that we must substantially lower student debt, and that we must make public colleges and universities tuition free for the middle class and working families of this country. This is a major initiative that will revolutionize higher education in this country and improve the lives of millions.

Think of what it will mean when every child in this country, regardless of the income of their family, knows that if they study hard and do well in school – yes, they will be able to get a college education and leave school without debt.

This election is about climate change, the greatest environmental crisis facing our planet, and the need to leave this world in a way that is healthy and habitable for our kids and future generations. Hillary Clinton is listening to the scientists who tell us that if we do not act boldly in the very near future there will be more drought, more floods, more acidification of the oceans, more rising sea levels.

She understands that we must work with countries around the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy – and that when we do that we can create a whole lot of good paying jobs.

This election is about the leadership we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform and repair a broken criminal justice system. It’s about making sure that young people in this country are in good schools or at good jobs, not in jail cells. Secretary Clinton understands that we don’t need to have more people in jail than any other country on earth, at an expense of $80 billion a year.”

Bernie Sanders

All I did was remove the few paragraphs where the T-word was mentioned.

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