Neil's News


1 June 2011

Over the past month I've been training with a kayak on San Francisco Bay. Three times a week I'll suit up and head out. Depending on the winds and the tides, it can be really hard work to get from one point to another. When both forces are working against you, it is like being on a treadmill, paddling like crazy while watching the landscape remain static. The ultimate goal is to provide contingency support for an upcoming Google project.

[View of SF from Yerba Buena Island]

One of my favorite destinations is Yerba Buena Island, half way between San Francisco and Oakland. Above is a photo taken after pulling up on one of the island's deserted beaches.

[Two seals in San Francisco Bay]

Although devoid of humans, there is plenty of wildlife. A colony of seals live nearby. They don't see a lot of kayaks and aren't sure what to make of the oar flailing creature that lumbers by with none of their effortless grace.

[Nose to nose with Cape Horn]

Crossing the bay is made more interesting by the passage of ocean-going container ships. They take a kilometer to stop and they can't see a kayak bobbing in the water from that far away. On the sea, the bigger vessel has the right of way -- simply as a matter of physics. The trick is noticing these monsters as they round Alcatraz and correctly guessing which bridge span they are aiming for.

[Admiral Callaghan in dry dock]

Above is the Admiral Callaghan[?] in BAE's dry dock at Pier 70. In contrast to the crumbling and abandoned commercial shipbuilding infrastructure that rings the bay, the military's operations are well funded and well maintained. [sigh]

This year's Maker Faire was a success. Two days before the show Google gave me an Android Open Accessory Development Kit[?] and I hacked together an Android/Arduino controller for my Etch A Sketch. Tilt the phone to drive the plotting point, turn over the phone and shake to clear the drawing. It worked pretty well and people seemed to love it. Here's a photo from Engadget.

Wondering how large the International Space Station is? Here's the ISS against the Googleplex to scale. ISS is both larger and smaller than I was expecting. The solar panels are huge (though the Googleplex has more of them). On the other hand, notice that the habitable section is not much larger than the size of the breezeway between buildings 40 and 43.

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