Duncan Davidson
“Our moral responsibility is not to stop the future, but to shape it… to channel our destiny in humane directions and to ease the trauma of transition.” —Alvin Toffler

Sunday, October 18, 2020
Two car-share vehicles blocking a public charge point

🚙 Car sharing is great. Electric car sharing is even better. What’s not great, however, are two car share cars blocking the nearest public charge point — which is a 4 hour parking spot during the daytime — for over three days straight. Worst, these cars aren’t showing up on WeShare’s app which means that nobody can actually drive them away. Deadlock. Not good for anyone, including WeShare.

🧠 Preserving as much mental health as possible right now is top of my mind. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, the election, and a few other things, that’s really tough to do. Last Friday after my morning meetings, I turned off my work laptop, disabled work email and Teams on my phone, and played hooky for the rest of the day. Highly therapeutic.

💪 Mornings are the best time to work out, at least for normal people. ”A new study published in the International Journal of Obesity found those who exercised in the morning lost more weight than those who waited until after 3 p.m. to break a sweat.” I always feel great when I work out first thing, but it doesn’t happen nearly as often as I’d like.

💡 Which programming languages use the least electricity? ”Ultimately the researchers were even able to break down energy consumption based on whether it was being consumed by the CPU or DRAM — concluding that the majority of power (around 88 percent) was consumed by the CPU, on average.” C and Rust lead the list for efficiency. Interestingly, Java comes in 5th place with 3 times the energy consumption. Ruby, Python, and Perl, on the other hand, come in at 70 to 80 times the energy consumption of C and Rust.

🛢 Because I’d like to see as much of the fossil fuel economy shut down as fast as possible, I’m disappointed by the Biden/Harris campaign position on fracking. On the other hand, I can understand the argument that ”the political risk isn’t even necessary: Government leaders may not have to ban fracking, because the economics will likely do it for them.” Let’s hope.

🗽 Caroline Rose Giuliani is endorsing Joe Biden. ”I may not be able to change my father’s mind, but together, we can vote this toxic administration out of office.” Thanksgiving dinner at the Giuliani house has got to be quite the event.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

13

Enjoying a cuppa earlier today outside the Barn at Hackescher Markt in Berlin

60 Minutes goes inside the Lincoln Project’s campaign against Trump. A fascinating look into the group of long-time Republican political operatives that used to support John McCain and George W. Bush who now are campaigning to defeat Trump at any cost.

⛅ Did you know that you can run a carbon aware Kubernetes cluster? “Carbon intensity data for electrical grids around the world is available through APIs like WattTime. They provide a Marginal Operating Emissions Rate (MOER) value that represents the pounds of carbon emitted to create a megawatt of energy — the lower the MOER, the cleaner the energy.”

🏴‍☠️ No. Microsoft is not rebasing Windows to Linux, says Hayden Barnes. “Neither Windows nor Ubuntu are going anywhere. They are just going to keep getting better through open source. Each will play to their relative strengths. Just now with more open source collaboration than imaginable before.” After all, if two kernels can run so well together on the same system, why on Earth would you go through the hell of trying to port all the APIs in order to just run one?

📆 This morning, Katerina let me know that Tuesday the 13th in Greece is like Friday the 13th for Americans and Brits. Tuesday in general is thought to be dominated by Ares, the god of war and the fall of Constantinople on Tuesday April 13th, 1204 was considered a blow to Hellenism. Topping things off for Tuesday, Constantinople fell to the Ottomans on Tuesday May 29th, 1453. Yes, its the 29th, but if you add 1+4+5+3, you get 13. Anyway, now you know. You’re welcome.

📲 Oh hello iPhone 12 Pro Max. Better cameras with bigger sensors, LIDAR, and magnetic snap on accessories. Yes, please.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Without the Earth, we have nothing

Weißer See (White Lake) in northern Berlin

🍂 Fall is starting to settle in here in Berlin. Some of the leaves on the trees have started turning and the weather is certainly crisp now. We’re breaking out our jackets, hats, and warm socks for our walks around the various parks the city has to offer.

🌍 It’s so awesome that David Attenborough is lending his voice to help Prince William launch the Earthshot Prize. _“Drawing inspiration from the concept of moonshots, which since the moon landing in 1969 has become shorthand to talk about the most ambitious and ground-breaking goals, Prince William announces the Earthshot Prize: an ambitious set of challenges to inspire a decade of action to repair the planet.”

📺 William spoke at last weekend’s six-hour long TED Countdown event which featured more than 50 speakers sharing ideas about how to accelerate solutions for the climate crisis. The entire event is available online.

🤯 The thought that’s really stuck withe me from the event is Professor Myles Allen’s statement that the fossil fuel industry could address climate change by decarbonizing fossil fuels. “Global warming won’t wait for the fossil fuel industry to die. And just calling for it to die is letting it off the hook from solving its own problem. In these divided times, we need to look for help and maybe even friends in unexpected places. It’s time to call on the fossil fuel industry to help solve the problem their product has created. Their engineers know how, we just need to get the management to look up from their shoes.”

💡 There are a lot of technology issues to solve with carbon capture and storage, but making decarbonizing fossil fuels a direct cost of goods sold through regulation neatly sidesteps the impossible mechanics of how to get an effective carbon tax in place to pay for it. There’s a lot of potential for this to be one effort that we can use in the portfolio of solutions which we need to deploy in the next decade.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Life with a plug-in hybrid in Berlin

When we got my family’s current car, I really wanted a full electric vehicle. We live in an apartment in the center of Berlin without a garage, however, which means we park on the street. A full EV would make us totally dependent on the network of public curbside charge points. More and more charge points are being built every month, but we weren’t yet comfortable relying on them all of the time.

So, we hedged and got a used plug-in hybrid Audi A3 e-tron. A starter EV, if you will. One that we can drive on electricity around town for most of our needs, but which always has petrol in the tank so that we’re never stranded because we couldn’t find a charge point to use the night before.

For me, driving the A3 e-tron underlines its nature as a transitional car. On the one hand, it’s lovely as an electric vehicle in town and as a gas-powered vehicle on the highway. It’s zippy off the line, handles well and, since it’s an Audi, it has great fit and finish along with lots of creature comforts.

On the other hand, it leaves me wishing it were a full EV every time I drive it.

On a full charge, the car claims that it can go a bit over 40km on its 8kWh battery. Our normal trips around our part of town have a lot of stop-and-go traffic, however, so I usually need to find a charge point several times a week to keep the gasoline motor quiet. Every time I plug it in, I think about the irony of how I’m doing this at least 5 times more often than I would in a full EV with a reasonably sized 50kWh battery. And how each charge takes almost 3 times as long since the A3 e-tron can only ingest 3kWh instead of the full 11kWh that the power point can deliver.

Furthermore, since the nearest public charge spot that we can use right now is 500m away, dropping off and picking up the car each time involves a little bit of a walk. Usually, it’s not a big deal at all — in fact it’s good for me — but it is something that you think twice about when it’s cold or inclement outside. If it’s too cold, of course, I can always choose to be lazy, let the car emit CO2, and get almost 500km of range on a tank of gasoline. I try not to make that choice.

The upside of having a small battery is that the cost of each charge is small. Charging up from empty costs all of €2.70, even paying the full public charge point rate of €0.40/kWh. It’s not nearly as good a deal as charging up at home if you can, but it still works out to being somewhat cheaper than using gasoline here in Germany. Given the environmental benefits, I’m not complaining.

And, it’s not like I’m stuck only being able to charge up near home. There are public charge points with included 4 hour parking in a lot of places near where we need to drive, including right next to the café next to my son’s kita. Drop off the kiddo, get a coffee, do a bit of email, and let the car get topped off. Easy.

All in all, having a plug-in hybrid has worked out extremely well for us. We make at least 90% our local trips on electric power only. And, we’ve had the security of not having to depend entirely on the electric charging infrastructure yet as it gets built out here. But things are moving quickly. Certainly, by the time our lease is up on our current car, it’ll make sense for us to get a full EV for the next one, even as a garage-less urban apartment dwelling family.


Postscript: There’s a new public charging point right that’s been installed across the street from our apartment that should be available to us soon. That’ll make charging up easier than ever and remove the 1km round trip walk excuse on cold winter days.

Friday, October 9, 2020

I may need to take a trip

🌍 Living abroad helps you develop a clearer sense of self. “When living abroad, our data found that people’s exposure to novel cultural values and norms prompts them to repeatedly engage with their own values and beliefs, which are then either discarded or strengthened.” That’s certainly been my experience, tho I do wonder if I’ve discarded more values than strengthened.

🛫 CommonPass may be the future of verifying the health status of travellers. I can certainly see something like this being part of the travel landscape, hopefully much sooner than later.

📦 From the office of holy crap, there’s gotta be a good reason: FedEx now operates a round trip between SAN and TIJ. Every time I’ve driven over the border at Tijuana, it’s been a complete pain in the ass, but it must be even worse than ever for FedEx to start using a 757 to transport cargo 18 miles.

📸 My friend Rick Lepage has been encouraging me to buy more photo books, so when I saw news of the new Accidentally Wes Anderson book based on the instagram account of the same name, I immediately ordered it. "inspired by a community of more than one million adventurers, Accidentally Wes Anderson tells the stories behind more than 200 of the most beautiful, idiosyncratic, and interesting places on Earth." Approved by Wes Anderson himself. I can’t wait.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Bits of good news

🔎 COVID-19 is rewriting the rules of corporate governance “The pandemic has made all too clear that society depends on well-functioning companies to meet its most basic needs — for food, shelter, communication, you name it — and that companies do not exist solely to maximize returns to shareholders.” I’m so happy to see this idea get some traction. I’m super aware that several key companies have helped me and my family get through this pandemic so far, including some like Amazon who certainly need some internal improvements in how they treat their workers.

📈 It almost sounds like Goldman Sachs is endorsing Biden, saying: “a blue wave would likely prompt us to upgrade our forecasts.” Moody’s is on the bandwagon as well: “The economic outlook is strongest under the scenario in which Biden and the Democrats sweep Congress and fully adopt their economic agenda.” Amazing. I wonder how many ex-Wall Street mogels are spinning in their graves right now.

🦹‍♂️ Greece’s neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn was branded a criminal organization. This is great news. Hopefully, we’ll see more efforts like this across Europe to combat political groups that go too far.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

This is not a vote for Biden

This is a vote for democracy.

Look, I don’t hate on Joe Biden like people from further left of further right of me on the political spectrum do. I rather like him and I do think he was a pretty good influence in the Obama administration. He certainly carries himself with a decency in politics that we sorely lack in our current president. If I had a choice, however, I’d rather there be somebody else at the top of the Democrat ticket. Somebody leaning more into the future rather than rooted in the past.

There are two things to consider, however. First, while we vote for a person, we’re really deciding for which administration that person will build and lead. All signs are pointing to at least some sort of favorable outcome there, such as his campaign’s embrace of the Green New Deal.

Second, while there are 5 presidential candidates and their running mates, along with write in spot on the ballot (at least on my Oregon version), the choice this year really boils down to whether or not you want the United States to continue its current course into oligarchy, ignorance, inaction on climate change, and exploitation of working people. If your answer to that is “oh, hell no!” then the political math only gives one option.

Likewise, the capture and control of the Republican party by Mitch McConnell — who enables Trump at every single turn — means voting for the Democrat candidate for the Senate.

Someday, hopefully soon, we’ll have an election again where the choices are more nuanced. Where we can debate conservative versus liberal on a range of issues from economic to human rights. This is not, however, that election.

Vote for democracy this year.

Vote like the future of America depends on it, because it does.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Overload fatigue

🦠 The intro to CNN’s story on Trump’s return is priceless: “A strongly medicated President Donald Trump bolted from his VIP hospital bubble Monday, staging a bizarre White House comeback that included an irresponsible mask removal and a reckless pronouncement there is nothing to fear from Covid-19, which has already killed 210,000 Americans.”

🎲 In gambling terms, it’s clear that Trump is all in. He’s setting it up so that if he recovers, he can look like the powerful strong man and can continue his narrative. If he loses the bet and doesn’t recover, he won’t care at that point.

😷 Berlin corona virus cases are on the rise, and masks are now required again at the Bundestag. “The new restrictions coincide with several regions in Berlin struggling with an above-average caseload, with several German states implementing or threatening quarantine periods for residents who visit affected areas of the capital.” Four districts in Berlin are now classified as high risk areas. It’s looking like we’re going to have to buckle in for a long winter.

😴 Pandemic fatigue is certainly going to be a thing. First, we’ll have to make it through the election. 28 days to go.

Friday, October 2, 2020

New Surfaces

Panos Panay, Robin Seiler, and Pete Kyriacou introduced two new Surface devices yesterday in a succinct nine and a half minute video from Microsoft’s campus. I have to say, I really like how product announcements from the tech majors have evolved over the last year from something that indexes heavily on creating an exciting environment for the limited number people in the room to one that speaks more naturally to a more global audience.

As to the devices themselves, it’s the new ARM-based Surface Pro X that has my interest here. Full time LTE connectivity, massive promised battery life, evolving native ARM app support, 267ppi display, and full WSL2 support make this a machine that I wouldn’t mind to have as my next Windows portable to hack on while still fully supporting all the Office apps I use for my day job.

The super small Surface Laptop Go isn’t quite as attractive to me – in part because it maxes out at 8GB of RAM and a 148ppi display. It’s not really targeted at people like me, however. The introduction video featured several kids using the new device and it’s pretty obvious that the education market is a huge target for it. As a parent of a kid who will be in school soon, I may be the target audience for a revision of this device sometime in a few years, but not yet.

Anyway, it’s cool to see the hardware team and Microsoft keep putting out updates and shipping, despite all the challenges in the world. I dig the Surface Laptop 3 that I’m currently writing this on and look forward to the lineup evolving forward.

October

😷 Well, Trump’s got COVID. It’s taking all the self-control I have to resist the urge to snark, be scared, or to resource to being cynical. Moving beyond those impulses, any way you game this out comes up with a whole lot of uncertainty and no clear best-case scenario.

🙋‍♀‍ Written in April, FiveThirtyEight outlines what happens if a presidential nominee can no longer run for office. "“We’ve been lucky. We have actually had some presidents who have died shortly after taking office but not somebody who died either between the convention and the election, or after being elected and becoming the president-elect.”

🍀 2020 is not the year to count on luck.

Smoke from California’s wildfires cut solar power production by a third. “In the first two weeks of September, soot and smoke caused solar-powered electricity generation to fall 30 percent compared to the July average, according to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which oversees nearly all utility-scale solar energy in California.”

🌍 TED’s Countdown Global Launch event is live on YouTube on October 10th. It’s a free five-hour event curated by Bruno Giussani. My family and I will be watching from Berlin.