The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats – Nick Hanauer – POLITICO Magazine

•June 29, 2014 • Leave a Comment

This is what I’ve been saying.  And I too have been couching it as a a self-preservation argument so it doesn’t get discounted as a bleeding-heart do-gooder type of wealth redistribution.

“These idiotic trickle-down policies are destroying my customer base. And yours too.”

via The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats – Nick Hanauer – POLITICO Magazine.

Is this domain for sale?

•May 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

“Hey.  I see you’re the owner of that piece of land over there”, says the stranger, with the pulled down hat and covered face.



“Yes. Yes, I am.”

“Is it for sale?”, he asks, gruffly, almost as if to disguise his voice.

“No, sorry.”

“I’ll give you $250 for it.”

“Huh?  No, it’s not for sale.”

“I don’t have a lot of money.  I need it for this great business I want to build.  Will you take $500?”

“No, it’s not for sale.”

A few days later, he shows up again.  “My partner says I should offer you $1,000.”

“Please tell your partner that it is not for sale.”

Another week goes by.  “My investors are going out on a limb and want me to pay you $5,000.”

“For what, the land?  It’s still not for sale.”

That happens about once a month week.  Except that they are trying to buy one of my domain names.

And I don’t know how many of these strangers are the same person, just coming back with different disguises.  I’ve had people who want one or the other domain for some new business idea.  I’ve had people who want to use one for their new band.  I had another who wanted me to donate one to their non-profit, but wasn’t allowed to tell me what they were doing.  I had another who wanted one as a gift for his son.  Yet another was trying to add it to a group of other unspecified domain names so that they could create a sentence with all the words (presumably for a marketing promotion run by a larger company).  Mostly I get students or so they say, who are working on a project that requires one of my domain names.

They all need to learn something.  If you’re coming to me, who has owned these domains for almost 20 years, and you want to buy a domain, then you need to come up with a more compelling story to get me interested.

Don’t tell me that I should give away a perfectly good domain so that you can build what will make you a billionaire.  I could care less.

Don’t tell me that I should donate my domain name unless your new business is going to bring health or peace to the masses and you can prove it.

Don’t write to me from seemingly temporary or new email addresses, without a real name attached, because not knowing that you’re some entrepreneur (who has or has no money) won’t make a difference in whether I will sell you my domain.

And if the only thing you have to offer is money, please, don’t bother me for anything less than 6-figures (USD).  Because I’ve already turned down a couple of those.

(I might, however, rent you a domain for 5-figures.)

Maximizing Driving Range, or, Making it to the Charging Station Without the Help of a Tow Truck

•April 13, 2014 • 1 Comment


Yesterday, I had to drive into the Sierras to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  Due to a confluence of events (which included putting two new colonies of bees into hives), but mostly my lack of attention to the actual distances and the amount of climbing involved, I found myself in the predicament of not knowing whether I would make it to the charging station, BEFORE running out of juice.

It started at the Folsom Supercharger – my journey actually started in the Bay Area, but the important part started in Folsom.  As I was headed up to Nevada City, some 50 miles away, I had to do a quick mental calculation as to how much energy I was going to need.  I was already late for the party so I didn’t have the luxury to just “top it off”.  I just needed enough to get me there and then back to my next destination, the Supercharger in Vacaville – another 90 miles.  I put enough energy into the car so that it indicated a range of 160 miles.  I knew my margin wasn’t that big, but I always had the same Folsom Supercharger to fall back to, if I needed to.

Having never been up to Nevada City, and also having never driven any electric vehicle up a mountain range, I wasn’t aware how much energy was going to be used just to overcome the climb to Nevada city.  When I arrived at my friend’s, the car indicated that it had 80 miles of range left, while the distance I had left to travel later was 91 miles.

Seeing that I had done a lot of climbing to get there, I assumed I could gain some range back as I went downhill, both from regenerative braking, but mostly from just using less energy when going downhill.  I didn’t worry myself – and I didn’t want to bother the host for an extension cord and outlet to charge at a measly 3-4 miles per hour.

When I left the party, at 11pm, some of my expectations turned out to be correct:  From Nevada City to Auburn, and from Auburn and on to about North Highlands, north of Sacramento, I lost less range than I gained in distance travelled.

  • At Aubrun: 60 miles of range left with 64 miles to go
  • At Rocklin: 52 miles of range with 52 miles to go
  • At North Highlands: I had 45 miles of range and 42 miles to go

I was quickly approaching a point at which it would not be possible for me to turn back towards Folsom’s Supercharger, as my backup to Vacaville.  I continued to monitor the displayed numbers, now also monitoring my 5, 15 and 30 mile usage averages to make sure I was still gaining on range vs distance left.  This is what that display looks like, although this image isn’t reflective of my trip:  

Energy Display (Click for more info)

After Sacramento, as the predominantly downhill freeway transitioned to more consisted flats, I noticed that my range was dropping faster than my distance travelled.  One thing that has been an unknown to me with this car is its efficiency at different speeds.  I know that when my wife drives it, which is the norm, she gets much more distance out of each overnight charge than I do. I like the powerful acceleration in this car – it’s way better than my 300 horsepower V8 – and utilize it, so I typically get 30-40 miles less per charge.  What this car doesn’t do, and it should, is to give you some indication of “burn rate” comparisons:

  • at current speed, you’re using x kWh (and your range would be m miles)
  • at 65mph you’d be using y kWh (and your range would be n miles)
  • at 60mph you’d be using z kWh (and your range would be o miles)
  • at 55mph you’d be using w kWh (and your range would be p miles)

It’s hard to figure those numbers out by observation since they are impacted by the incline of the road, the wind, and even the car ahead of you.

Over the next 40 miles, I reduced my speed to 65, then 60 and then 55 in order to keep the range estimate within a mile of the distance left to go.  But what helped even more, was drafting behind trucks and buses.  I first tried it with a Safeway truck, but I found that the driver’s speed and desire to pass cars, had me accelerating and decelerating too much so I gave up.  Next I drafted a large bus, which was fine, except that the bus driver obviously didn’t like me so close behind, and kept trying to change lanes to let me pass, tap on the brakes to see whether I was going to get out from behind and eventually I gave up, and let the bus pull away and leave me behind going at 60mph (it’s a bit surreal how fast other cars pass you when you’re doing 60mph). A double tanker provided me with 10 minutes or so of drafting, at a nice constant speed and that helped tremendously.

I finally made it to Vacaville with 1 mile of range left, and by the time I was parked at the charger, I was at 0.  Here’s what that looks like, since I assume no sane person would ever go so low to witness it for themselves:


This is my energy usage profile for the last 30 miles.  Not bad?




If you’re wondering if this was a very stressful situation, I have to say that it was, only until I told myself that getting a flat-bed tow-truck around Vacaville won’t be the end of the world and won’t cost that much – and I do have tow insurance.  I might have to sleep in the car while wait for the tow 🙂 With that decision made, the stress level dropped and this whole thing became more of an experiment.

By the way, for this of you who haven’t witnessed this, it is incredible how quickly the Supercharger charges the car – at a rate of 110kWh!  361volts at 300+ amps!  At one point the car was literally humming at a roar (I believe from the fans cooling the battery cells) – and you can also hear the hum from the big transformers nearby that power the charging units.


(This is image is from the Tesla iPhone app).

 One thing I was hoping to learn from this experience, and maybe I should be thankful I didn’t, is how the car behaves once it is completely out of juice.  I suppose that when it says 0 miles of range left, it doesn’t actually mean that the engine will shut off and the car will coast to a stop.  I sort of expected a message to the effect of “You are now running on reserve power.  Please find a safe spot to pull over and park the car.  Here are phone numbers for tow operators and mobile chargers closest to your location…”.

If you’ve experienced a complete shutdown due to battery depletion, I would love to hear about the car’s behavior leading up to it, and after.  (I’m assuming there’ll be some power left for locking and unlocking the car doors, etc.)

What I found in the main power panel…

•January 28, 2014 • 1 Comment

ImageFor the past week or two, I noticed that my spouse’s EV hasn’t had the battery levels that I normally expect to see, later in the day. Two days ago, I noticed the house lights brighten a bit, as usual, between 1 and 2 am, and quickly checked the charge level, and saw that it was at least 50 miles short of a usual charge.

I didn’t think much of it, assuming that I had to change the settings to have the car charge itself more fully (it lets you set a max charge level, and the manufacturer recommends a setting that is not too close to a full charge as that would shorten the battery life).

Last night, by the time I remembered to make those changes, the car had already finished charging (it is set to start charging at midnight, at a current of 80 amps). This time it was closer to 100 miles short of a regular charge. I tried to get the car to start the charging process again, using its iPhone app. The car acted as though it wasn’t plugged in. I walked to the car in the garage, and shortly realized that the wall-charger was not powered. I went to our house’s main panel, and the charger’s circuit breaker hadn’t tripped. I tried to toggle it on and off and it wouldn’t budge. And that’s when I noticed that telltale stench of burnt electronics. (what exactly is that?)

Later, in daylight, I opened the panel and saw the mess. Although I don’t have a picture of the panel as it was this morning, I do have the circuit breaker, which was replaced, and I am sharing some photos:


This is what I think happened. Due to the heat generated when 80 amps flows through this circuit breaker, the contacts on one side would expand enough so that an arc would occur between it and the panel’s power bus. This arc is what burned the circuit breaker. It’s either a defect in the circuit breaker, or the breaker isn’t fully compatible with the power panel ( I don’t think that the power panel and the circuit breaker are made by the same manufacturer – but who knows, they may have been built in the same Chinese factory).

I am not sure how long this was going on, but one thing I do know is that the charging unit, or the car, most probably noticed the erratic flow of electricity. And it did an admirable job of filtering out the problem and even ending the charging process when it detected some disturbance. But what it really should have done was to send me a little notice that, due to power fluctuations, it interrupted the charging cycle, and recommend that an inspection be performed. No?

Daring Fireball: Shawn Blancs Grandpa’s iPad

•January 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Daring Fireball: Shawn Blancs Grandpa’s iPad.

John Gruber makes two great points here:

1. Apple really should supply the iPad with the same great camera as has been in the iPhone 4s and later iPhones. I’ve seen people with iPads at their kids’ sports events, using them as cameras. I’ve seen people at the Chinese New Year’s parade, at night, using the iPad to take pictures of the floats. I’ve seen people at conferences, holding up iPads – blocking people behind – and taking pictures of the presentation. (I’ve even seen developers at the WWDC take pictures of the Thursday night band, using iPads). The people have spoken: the iPad’s not just for consumption.

2. Too many iOS (and likely Android) users, are woefully unprepared for photo loss.  Many assume that their iCloud backup does an adequate job, and they are wrong; even those who are using PhotoStream don’t realize the shortcomings.  One thing Apple could do is to make it more clear exactly what is being backed up, how much and for how long.  (As others have suggested before, PhotoStream should back up all images, not just 1,000, and perhaps it should only keep 1,000 images on each device).

Back to the use case that was being referred to, an important question these days should be, how do you ensure that the photos you take today will have the same longevity as printed photos in albums or shoeboxes have had. 10, 20, 30 years from now, how do you get your photos off of an old iPad, iPhone, iCloud account, or your Facebook, Flickr or Dropbox accounts? Will formats be so different that if you have not been updating those images you wouldn’t be able to view them? Would any of those online services be around? Will they have faithfully maintained your images – or did they delete them when you stopped logging into the site? And what if you’re dead? Will they provide your next of kin with access to the site? And who exactly will notify your next of kin and let them know that a photo archive is being maintained somewhere on your behalf?

If we care to pass these images along to the next generation, it is up to us individually to:

– maintain the images in two, three or more safe locations (whether at your home, in a safe deposit box, or on some service’s servers)

– document where these images are stored, along with user ids and passwords, and include this information in your will to those whom you’d like to grant access or ownership to. You may also wish to provide a power of attorney that gives your heirs access to your online accounts in case the services don’t wish to allow a deceased person’s user id to continue to log into those accounts.

– you may even wish to print some of your favorite photos and place them in a shoe box 🙂

Of course, in this digital age, you may wish to do the same for more than just your photos. You may have email correspondence you wish to pass on to your children. Or a Word document that contains your autobiography. Or an OmniGraffle chart of your family tree. I’m going to stop here as I have just opened a large can of worms (make sure you save these documents in multiple formats in case Word, OmniGraffle or your email app’s file formats are no longer supported in the future).

Oh, and keep in mind that when you you first pass away, there may be circumstances, such as grief, shock, or the young age of your heirs, that makes them unable to immediately think about preserving your digital creations. It maybe a decade or two before they start asking questions and wanting answers and your plans should include protecting those creations for some number of years after you’ve departed.

Sorry to be such a downer.


Ali A. Rizvi: An Atheist Muslims Perspective on the Root Causes of Islamist Jihadism and the Politics of Islamophobia

•May 26, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Instead of judging these religions by the actions of a few, we judge them more objectively: by the contents of their sacred texts revered by fundamentalists and moderates alike. To us, a simple reading of the Abrahamic holy books reveals endorsements of virtually all the oppressive and discriminatory systems that civil and human rights movements have tried to dismantle over time: patriarchy, misogyny, slavery, tribalism, xenophobia, totalitarianism and homophobia, all rolled into one

via Ali A. Rizvi: An Atheist Muslims Perspective on the Root Causes of Islamist Jihadism and the Politics of Islamophobia.

The One-way Trip

•January 17, 2013 • Leave a Comment
After flying from Tehran to Zahedan, early in the morning of 12/12/82, I walked out the Zahedan airport, on foot (not sure why that was a good idea, but it wasn’t mine) and took a right at the first major street. After half a mile, a pickup truck passed me, turned around, passed by again, did another u-turn, and picked me up. I could barely understand his dialect, and I was hopeful that he was was part of the plan. The drive was circuitous and repetitive, I could tell I wasn’t supposed to figure out where we were headed and we also did not want to be followed. In one neighborhood, the car made a sharp turn, right into an open garage door, which quickly closed behind us.There, I eventually met the rest of group I was to travel with. Besides the guide leader and the guides, there was another boy a year older, who was trying this for a second time, a young couple and their six month-old, leaving because the husband was wanted for his ties to the Islamo-Marxists, and an older man and woman who didn’t say much.
A day later, we embarked along the roads outlined on this map, except for the part between point A and B; that we did by going on a more scenic, and less road-y route not depicted on this map. We had left Zahedan on the road, but immediately outside of the city limits, we drove off the road and stopped behind a small ridge, where we met some more of our guides and left the comfortable suburban car and mounted motorcycles. Each of us “travelers” were assigned a guide/driver and a motorcycle. We rode those motorcycles in a more easterly direction into the rocky desert, up a mountain ridge, back down to a vast sandy desert, over a huge sand dune built up around and cradling a railroad track, and back into the mountains. When not in the desert, the route we took was only wide enough to be a mule path.
The Trip

On the first day, after lunch, we rode out to the vast desert and then dismounted the motorcycles and lay low to the ground. In the far distance we could see a series of tall watchtowers, spaced miles apart. One of the guides rode his motorcycle out to see who was manning one watchtower and to grease some palms. We waited a few hours until his return, and he assured us that all was taken care of. We rode across the desert quickly, to the sand dune on one side of the train tracks. We accelerated, climbed the dune and flew over the tracks, landing beautifully and softly on the other side, while others either got stuck in the sand or fell as they landed on the other side. After regrouping, we then headed up into the mountains, until it was too dark to ride. Needless to say, we had to keep our lights off, and being December, we had to call it a day early and find a place to wait and sleep.

We spent the first night in a cave, built out with river rock, guests to a darvish – a spiritual man living a hermetic life – who had welcomed us and shared his feast of bread, a bland form of feta or goat cheese, dates and black tea. The next day we had more of the same. Again, we rode around the mountains, and then would stop and wait while a guide or two went ahead to “pave the way” with any border patrols.

Despite having left early that day, it wasn’t until after dark that we crested the bigger ridge. As we entered a flat open area, strong lights suddenly illuminated us. My heart skipped a beat or ten. We had been caught, I thought.

We had crossed into Pakistan! These were the headlights of the small pickup trucks which would take us the rest of the way. The short, bare, cold, hard, heaving and quaking bed of these trucks initially looked so much more beckoning than the back half of the motorcycle saddle had felt. Hours later, anything seemed more comfortable than being in the pickups – even the cold hard gravel road shoulder that I wished I could stretch out on on to sleep.

We were now en-route to C from point B.

We stopped for our first real meal a few hours later, at a large caravansara (caravanserai) where hundreds of Afghan refugees escaping the Soviets from the north had sought shelter (most were clothed the way you picture Bin Ladin). The soupy, plain, rice bowl we ate with our bare hands, to me, tasted like a great risotto or a savory rice pudding (since we left Zahedan two days earlier, we hadn’t had a real meal and had snacked on bread, stale feta, raisins, dates and tea).

Soon we clambered back into the back of the pickups. By now, it was becoming clear that while fall clothes had been adequate for the other side of the ridges we passed, here, the temperature was closer to freezing, and the truck bed did not make for an enjoyable ride. The road was another issue. Not wide enough to allow cars to travel in both directions at once, we were constantly pulling off the road, into the loose gravel, to let buses get by. Which sometimes meant having to get out and push the pickup back on to the road.

Twelve hours, many “security” checkpoints and bribes later (you could call it a toll road), we arrived in Quetta. Dinner: Chicken(?) curry and rice! Another memorable meal.

We flew from Quetta to Karachi, where my aunt and my cousins, who themselves had come the same way and were awaiting my uncle’s departure from Iran, were immensely helpful in cutting through the bureaucracy and the palm-greasing. Within a few days, I was dropped off at the airport, where I boarded a plane destined for Paris.

I think I held my breath while we flew over my old homeland’s airspace. I couldn’t imagine what would happen if the plane had to divert there.

I have not been back since. I used to think that the world would change, things would calm down, and I’d be able to make the same trip in reverse, with my family, reminiscing about the trip, and laughing about how different it things were. Alas, thirty years later and the area is more unrestful today.

I was very fortunate for my story to have a happy ending, with little sacrifice¹. There were many like me who were not fortunate. Some were detained at the Tehran airport, some in Zahedan, and they were usually imprisoned in Iran, and some politically tainted ones were never heard from again. There were also some who were lost or imprisoned in Pakistan, usually because they could not, or did not, bribe the right person or did so at the wrong moment.

For every story you hear like this one, there are probably hundreds or more that had a more painful account, some ending badly, and some that eventually turned out as well as mine did. And there are those who did not have the means or situation to make such a monumental journey.
Life isn’t easy. I’ve been fortunate.
¹My parents were the ones who made the big sacrifice, for which I will forever be grateful.