I-405 Highway Closure; Time Lapse Video, Photos and Lots of Links #405 #Carmageddon

Photo credit: LA Times

This weekend, the I-405 in Los Angeles was closed for some 50 hours (Dubbed "Carmageddon" in the press) in order tear down half of the Mullholland Overpass that was built in the 1950's. As you can see, the project involved dropping lots of the debris on the highway; thus the closure.

Take a look at this time lapse and you'll see what really went on. Lots of jackhammers mounted on cranes that just chewed away at the bridge for hours and hours. The roadway had already been removed. This project was to eliminate the bridge structure and its pillars. (note: click on the photos for a bigger picture.)
Photo credit: Stephen Estes

With the highway closed for the project, Steven Estes took a nap on the roadway.
Photo credit: CalTrans
Interesting that the bridge was built right on top of the mountain, and then the hill was removed to expose the bridge.
Photo credit: CalTrans
The 405 without cars, because the 405 was only dirt.

A great animated movie showing Los Angeles without cars. Hmmm. Like boat without barnacles, or....

Because the 405 connects LA with Burbank, Jet Blue ran a promotion where they would fly you from LAX to Burbank. Some cyclists thought... hmmm we can beat a jet flying from LAX to Burbank, and they did: http://www.slate.com/id/2299432/?from=rss Cyclists win Jet Blue Challenge

This illustrates what they are planning for the 405. More lanes, of course.
From Draft Environmental Impact Statement (not sure which one they decided on)

Click above to watch Hitler react to the 405 closure.

And below are more photos and lots of links....
Photo credit: LA Times
Photo credit: LA Times
Photo credit: LA Times
Photo credit: LA Times
Photo credit: LA Times
Photo credit: LA Times
Photo credit: LA Times
Photo credit: LA Times

Lots of Links:

http://cairn.com/wp/installation/carmageddon-timelapse/  started a timelapse; not finished

http://www.facebook.com/405project  CalTrans 405 project on Facebook

http://www.kiewit.com/groups/infrastructure.aspx Contractor Kiewit Infrastructured built the original bridge, and now is the one to remove it.

Contract No. C0882 is a firm fixed price, federally funded contract, for Design Build of 
the 1-405 Sepulveda Pass Widening Project. The scope of work consists of adding a 
northbound 10-mile HOV lane and supporting infrastructure improvements such as 
ramps, bridges and sound walls on the San Diego Freeway (1-405) from the Santa 
Monica Freeway (1-1 0) to the Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101)

http://www.metro.net/board/Items/2010/11_november/20101118CONItem3.pdf Increase of project contract to $729M to add $3M for bridge removal

http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/Publications/Inside7/story.php?id=538  Background of the HOV lane project from CalTrans

http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/asc/oap/payments/public/04012024.htm Hmmm. Another project for Kiewit Infrastruture: Little project here. Replace part of SF Bay Bridge. $1.179B disbursed so far!

http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist12/press/Exhibits_to_Metro_110526.pdf CalTrans maps of 405 "Carmageddon" closure

http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/I405_SepulvedaPass_IR_EIS.pdf  Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement  (large file)

Contract numbers from LA Metro:

New Blog Post: The Big Dig Fuels Boston's Delightful "Endless Stroll"

Have you been thinking of traveling to Europe this summer so you can take long strolls by the water, sit and have a romantic dinner outside, and enjoy architecture from the 1700s? No need for an airplane flight. Just go to Boston's gigantic Harborwalk, which snakes along the waterfront for a delightful, endless stroll. Here are some photos. Above is near Lewis Wharf in the North End.

How beautiful is this?

Go in the evening, and the light streams through the trees. So beautiful. And so close!

Lewis Wharf was renovated long ago, but the Harborwalk has made it an integral part of the endless stroll.

Lewis Wharf.

Old meets new.


Like I said...the endless stroll.

Lots of water fountains that kids can play in.

These are not marketing pictures. This is just how it looks! And it goes on and on and on.

I'm not making this up. I just roamed around with my camera. Some 30 feet below this dog, cars and trucks are roaring under the city.

Customs House Tower and the super fun computerized water fountain.

The water jets move all around and the kids chase them.

Ah, but some try to hedge their bets. Go to the waterfront! You will not be disappointed. Head to the water's edge, and go right, or go left. It's all awesome, and will just keep getting better.

Calculation Exercise: What If Google Used PDP8's to store 1 Trillion Web Pages?

A couple days ago, I wrote about why Twitter fascinates me and makes me feel bad at the same time. In that post I talked about how age affects how we use tools like Twitter, and I gave an example that mentioned using a PDP-8 minicomputer during my engineering school days in the late 1970's.

I also found out that as of 2008, Google was indexing one trillion web pages. This led me to wonder: Would it take more than the mass of the Earth if we used 4K (word) PDP 8's to store all of the web pages that Google links to? Based on an average size of a web page of 70K (see data sources below), I calculate that it would take 1.14 quadrillion pounds. Luckily, that's 10 orders of magnitude less than the mass of the Earth, or 1 ten-billionth of the Earth's mass. The Earth's mass, (okay,weight if in the gravity of the Earth) is 12 septillion pounds (approximately...apparently the Earth is gaining weight from space dust each day.)

So, while Earth could handle the weight of PDP8s pretty easily, the cost would be $600 quadrillion, a figure well beyond the means of our planet. We'd also have a serious issue with power. At 780 watts for each machine, and a mere 11 trillion machines needed, our 1,100 trillion pound data center would  require 8.8 million gigawatts. Alas, in 2008, our entire planet  generated just 20,261 of those gigawatts, leaving us 439x short.

There is hope, however. The PDP8e could have 32K words of memory, so if we upgraded to that, we'd cut our power needs to just 2.2 million gigawatts,  (within a factor of 100x of world power) and our data center would only weigh about 275 trillion pounds. While our base machines would take up 2.85% our land mass, with the upgrade, we'd fit our data center in just 0.7% of the world's land mass. Without the upgrade, we would take up 25% more than the area of India. But with the upgrade, we'd fit almost perfectly in Egypt, leaving a few square kilometers for parking.
The Digital Equipment Corporation PDP8e.
Check out the size of the power supply!

Calculation Exercise: If Google Used PDP8's to store 1 Trillion Web Pages, Would They Be Heavier The Earth Itself?


Power usage of PDP-8 (from Gordon Bell!) = 780 watts : http://www.classiccmp.org/pipermail/cctech/2009-August/108097.html

Land Surface area of the Earth: 148,940,000 km squared:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth

Land mass of countries: Russia 17M sq km; India 3.3M, http://www.mongabay.com/igapo/world_statistics_by_area.htm

TEDx Boston 2011 Photos

TEDx Boston 2011 was held for the third year at the Seaport Convention Center on Boston's Waterfront. In addition to a packed main auditorium, TEDx Boston added a more casual setting that was simulcast to a second ballroom at the Seaport, and also to a large event held at Google's offices in Cambridge.
The simulcast room actually had three screens, and tons of comfortable chairs and couches.
Out front, Terrafugia showed off their Transition "flying car". They have over 100 orders and their production prototypes will be delivered soon.
This year, TEDx Boston had three sessions, with generous breaks in between.
Session 2
Session 3.
Dyan DiNapoli talked about rescuing 20,000 penguins from a huge oil spill. They saved over 90% of the birds, using 12,000 volunteers.
Dyan DiNapoli
Reaction to Dyan DiNapoli.
Danielle Duplin introduces the last talk of the day by Christina Xu. Christina's talk was, well, awesome. A great message, delivered with humor, speed and grace.
Awesome foundation gives $1,000 grants based on just 7 questions, and a sense of what's awesome.
Christina said that without their focus on Joy, the Awesome foundation would only be the "really small and efficient" foundation (I think her actual quote was more clever, but you get the jist.)
The five main organizers of the TEDx Boston conference.  (L-R on stage) Sean Belka, Danielle Duplin, Jimmy Guterman, John Werner and Matt Saiia  
There were many slides like this thanking volunteers and organizers. It was a huge undertaking.
The band "Women of the World" closed the show with two songs and completed the energy of a great day.
Four singers from Women of the World.
Women of the World.
At the reception a young man asked me about my braces, which are made in Sweden and use carbon fiber and fiberglass. He marveled at the light weight.
So, I told him to try it on.
He did, and it was fun to see what a difference some new technology can make. (And with the kind of brace I use called the "Blue Rocker" from Camp Scandanavia, he could wear regular sneakers)
I I captured John Landry giving Katie Rae a congratulatory hug.
But moments later, John was much more serious. (okay, he was trying to look serious.)
Four of us took a field trip to see nearby Greentown clean energy labs. Here Jason Hanna talks with Carrie Stalder at the overpass that provides just the right industrial lead-in to their 14,000 sq foot facility.
C.A., Jason, and Carrie stand on the loading dock at Greentown.
Inside, C.A. shows off Promethean Power Systems solar powered milk storage system. (For third-world deployment, reducing loss due to spoilage)
Another bay at Greentown.
The evening ended with a wonderful party at Barbara Lynch's Sportello restaurant. Seen here is one of the drink concoctions. I'm told it was very sweet. A nice way to wrap the day!

Why Twitter Fascinates Me and Makes Me Feel Bad At The Same Time

The Internet is addictive. We all know that. But I believe that  how that addiction feels depends greatly on one's age. I'm 56 now, at least according to my birth certificate. In my mind, I feel somewhere around 28. (hmmm. half?) The gulf between my internal age and my real age hits me most when I work with young entrepreneurs. Three of the company founders I invested in are 21 (okay...were 21 when I invested a few months ago.) When I work with them, my internal voice says I'm just a little older than them. After all 28 vs 21 isn't that big a deal.

But then various realities strike. There will be an occasional comment from them that they are looking for someone with experience who can help them build their company. Experience? From a 28 year old?
Oh, and then some stories slip out that are really dead giveaways: "When we started Wildfire in 1991, the Internet didn't exist." Oops. Or: When I started Avid, a 600MB disk cost $5,000. Oops. Or: When I was in engineering school, a mini-computer with all the goodies was the size of refrigerator, cost $50,000 (today's dollars), and had to be booted by flicking nice big colored toggle switches on the front. Uh oh. They may figure out my real age.

And then there's Twitter. This is a product that should win an all-time design prize for highest human impact vs. least engineering complexity (yes, there's scalability and some complexity you don't see that easily.) What other products can match it for high simplicity and high impact? I'd say email is similar. Even HTML and the World Wide Web can't quite compete in the ratio, because they are quite complex.
Okay, I'm going to officially admit it. I'm 56. I grew up when science fiction really was fiction. I grew up when every year a new aircraft came out, and it looked wildly different from other ones. Think Boeing 747 and the Concorde. Nowadays, every airplane looks the same -- it has two engines, and the only issue is what gas mileage it gets. I grew up at a time when futurists would imagine things, and we'd confidently say "well that will never happen in my lifetime."

Using the phrase "my lifetime" is another giveaway about age.

When I was a kid, there were three TV networks. Plus a few more channels that played reruns. That was it. Cable TV had not been invented. In those days, everyone was clear that "rabbit ears" were TV antennas, not something on a rabbit. And, in those days, nothing worked perfectly. TV had ghosts. The color was always wrong. Cars stalled. Even good ones. Cars rusted. Everything was analog. Oh, but the phone network - that was perfect, if rather expensive to use.

A television network was one of the most powerful things in the entire world. David Brinkley used to sign off ..."and good night for NBC news." Watching the 7pm news on NBC was ritual in our home.

Today, each person can have a transmitter with a reach way beyond what NBC had in the 60's or 70's. They are not burdened with worrying if their 2000' tower in will be blown over in a snow storm. They are not burdened with the power bill that comes with putting out 1 million watts of effective radiated power from one of those newfangled UHF transmitters you need for those stations in the wild west expansion of channels 14-88. (now given over to the cellular phone industry!) Each person gets a transmitter that can reach the entire world. For free.

And this free Twitter transmitter can do way more than the billion dollars of infrastructure that NBC had. It can send HDTV. It can offer someone a CD-quality song download. And it can send someone a link. A link? Oh, I forgot...that science fiction about giant databases that store everything -- that already happened, say ten years ago, so with a simple pointer, you can send someone off to find out anything about anything, in a few hundred milliseconds.

So what's the problem? For me, the problem is, I didn't grow up with streams of information that were, frankly, this interesting. People who don't understand how Twitter works focus on the iconic "I'm eating a sandwich" tweets and say "what good is this thing?" Actually, my issue is that it's too good. I follow about 230 people. All people I know. Generally, I'm interested in everything they have to say. I find virtually every link they offer to be of high interest. I find that knowing what they are doing is actually interesting news to me.

It gets worse. I often realize that people are doing things I could have done too. So, I realize I'm being left out. But not by them. It's my fault. I didn't sign up for that amazing event, and I could have. Because from earlier tweets, I knew it was happening. I'm being left. That's bad. And it's only my fault. That's worse.

But wait, there's more. People, more than occasionally, say amazingly clever things in 140 characters. Makes me realize that I seldom do that. And that I don't really want to, but that's not the point. Shouldn't I rejoice in the talents of others? I do. And yet, I do have that voice in me that says "Why can't you do that? When are you going to learn how to do those clever tweets?" Clever headlines too. Never learned that.

And while NBC's transmission network was one way, Twitter's is instantly two way. There's just no excuse for not having a conversation. Just click reply, and you only need to say a few words. Trouble is, I was painfully shy as a kid, and it's still hard for me to manage lots of conversations. I'm a one-on-one kind of person. So I find myself feeling instantly involved in 230 people's lives, instantly interested, and quickly feeling like I should converse but don't. Doh.

Finally, there's the pain of success on Twitter. I've got over 2700 followers now. And notices of more pop into my email every day. I see some amazingly clever folks start following me, and it makes me think: "When was the last time I tweeted? Did I say anything worthwhile?" Hmmm. Been a long time. And no, not clever. Maybe passed on a link. Or maybe a link to my blog post. Those are good. People seem to like my random and sometimes wildly in-depth blog posts. And they seem to forgive me that while I am an angel investor, I hardly ever write about that.

I feel amazingly blessed that I can write something like this blog post, and in seconds, Twitter informs people all over the world, and many take a look. Some even read the whole thing. Some will retweet parts of what I said. Others will say something clever and post that.

And I'll miss most of it because I don't get on Twitter that often. It's just too good.

Katie Rae: You Made Our Day! #TechStars #Rocks

TechStars Demo Day was yesterday at the Royale Nightclub in Boston. It was an amazing event, a celebration of entrepreneurship, teamwork, and just plain passion and hustle.

And while the saying goes "There's no I in team", there is Katie Ray behind the scenes helping all 12 TechStars 2011 teams work together to build their companies and get the message out in style, with clarity, simplicity, and heart! Oh, and did I mention that they are all great businesses that all have committed funding? (I invested in two -- Ginger.io and Memrise)

Katie, I know you well, and had high expectations. Very high. TechStars 2011 blew past these and never looked back.

Congratulations to all the teams, to the TechStars staff, especially to the TechStars mentors, and to everyone who took part in a great TechStars Boston 2011 session.

Here's a few more photos....I'll post more later.

CSI: Deepwater - Proof of What Caused the Gulf Oil Spill

What caused the Gulf Oil Spill? A metal coupler on the drill pipe got caught in part of the blow-out preventer. Then the well blowout buckled the drill pipe and moved it way off center. The Blind Shear Ram (BSR) closed, (as it was supposed to) but jammed because part of the the pipe was outside the blades. (my summary)

The US Government has released its 180-page forensic report performed (and 350-page appendix) on the Deepwater Horizon's blow-out preventer, the device that was supposed to seal off the well in the event of a disaster.

The report's simple conclusion is quite a shock: (report quote)

A portion of the pipe cross section was outside of the intended Blind Shear Ram shearing surfaces and would not have sheared as intended. As the BSRs closed, a portion of the drill pipe cross section became trapped between the ram block faces, preventing the blocks from fully closing and sealing.
The report is extremely detailed, but the conclusions are very simple.
The Blow Out Preventer (center) and the Lower Marine Riser Package (right) on the tarmac before the test facility building was constructed to house them. On the sea floor, these two devices were stacked one on top of the other.

[click to play the animation]

Interestingly, this CNN animation and discussion during the crisis outlined two key ways that the BOP could fail: 
If the drill pipe coupler was in the way when the blind shear ram energized, the ram would not penetrate the drill pipe. The coupler is just too thick to be penetrated. The animation shows two blind shear rams, for just this reason. But the Deepwater Horizon's BOP had only one blind shear ram, as do most existing BOPs.
The Ixtox 1 oil spill in 1979 was the worst spill ever (except for the 1991 deliberate spill in the Iraq War). It was caused by a coupler (or drill collar) being in the way when the shear ram closed. Excerpt from a 2004 US Government study

As in other disasters, multiple issues occurred and wrong directions were taken, but the shear rams were activated at one point and did fail to shear. Reportedly, they were pulling the drill string too quickly without proper fluid replacement and the well started coming in. They had no choice but to close the  shear rams; unfortunately, drill collars were in the stack and shearing failed.
The other possibility that the expert showed in the animation was if the drill pipe was off center when the ram closed. And that's exactly what happened in the Deepwater Horizon BOP.
This animation from the NY Times shows a more accurate model of the actual unit used on the Deepwater Horizon. But note the drillpipe size. This animation shows it much larger than it really is (5" in reality)
The Blind Shear Ram is part of a blow out preventer made by Cameron International, the firm that originally invented the blow-out preventer for land-based oil wells.
This illustration from the report shows the correct relative size of the dillpipe (5") and the wellbore (18 3/4")
This shows one of the removed blades of the blind shear ram. The pipe was supposed to be in the center of the blade, but in fact it was all the way to one side, near the the technician's blue gloves.
This simulation from the report shows how the drill pipe could buckle and move to the extreme edge of the wellbore.


It seems that one of at least two known failure modes is what happened in the Deepwater Horizon. With the drillpipe off-center, even if there had been two blind shear rams, it seems that both would have failed. The Deepwater Horizon itself was a $500 million ship that could maintain its position directly over the well using GPS and highly accurate thrusters. And yet, the most crucial piece of equipment needed to prevent a blowout was known not to be able to close in an emergency if a drill coupler was in the way of the blind shear ram, or if the drill pipe had moved off center.

I find it just unthinkable that engineers could design such a system. Imagine an airplane designer saying "If we lose one engine, the plane will be lost." (Equivalent: coupler is in the way during emergency activation of blind shear ram). Or... "If we lose two engines the plane will be lost" (Equivalent: drill pipe off center, and even two blind shear rams will fail)

And what would the blow-out preventer folks say in the airplane equivalent: "what if we lose all the engines?" In an airplane, the answer is: From 40,000 feet, you can glide over 100 miles, find an airfield and land with no power. (Its been done many times!) And yet, in the two worst spills in this article, the last line of defense, the blow out preventer's blind shear ram fails in simple, known ways that could have been prevented with better design.

I just don't understand how these kind of designs make it to the sea floor. Are airplane engineers that different from blow-out preventer engineers? I doubt it. But maybe airplane engineers all know that their own children will one day fly on the aircraft they design. Perhaps because they are on their way to help with one of the worst oil spills in history.

Appendix & Links
Illustration of the actual BOP, showing the lower part (the BOP itself) and mated the upper part, (called the Lower Marine Riser Package or LMRP). 

Repost: Laptop-Like Love from the iPad: Add a Stand and Apple Wireless Keyboard for Vacation "Work"

I'm spending this week on Cape Cod, and I've been really surprised how much work I've been able to do on my iPad with addition of two inexpensive items: A Brookstone Stand -- $49 iPad 1 or 2 -- (I can't link text in the iPad version of the mail client, so here's the link in all its glory: http://www.brookstone.com/home-office-desk-accessories_x-stand-ipad-tablet.html?=productDetail%7CCXConsiderationProductsFDT%7C9516545) , and the Apple Wireless Keyboard (Google it!) that now comes standard with desktop Macs. (and which I've been using for years)

So, why not just bring a laptop? The new ones are small and have long battery life. Ah, but they let you do too much! You can create big spreadsheets, or do lots of work on a PowerPoint. With the iPad combination, its mainly email and web surfing, and that's enough to keep various fires alive while you're away.

And then, I grab the iPad, take it to the kitchen to watch a TV show on Hulu +. Just remember to press and hold the power button on the keyboard or the iPad will be looking for the aluminum wonder every time text is required. When you turn the keyboard on again, the iPad will automatically reconnect. Very nice.

Having the little iPad in the stand reminds me that it's time to relax. And sometimes that means just getting that last email taken care of. So easy with a real keyboard, especially the one I've already been using all these years.

[Note: This is a repost. The first one had the wrong Brookstone Stand. Why the error? Their page has a Flash animation that I couldn't see. (Brookstone: Meet HTML5)  Also, the photo was missing from the original post. I had used cut/paste including the photo when I created the email to upload to Posterous. I think something happened. So on this repost, I used "work" in quotes. Still I can do email quite well with my stand and keyboard setup. I'm uploading this for the second try via email. Let's see how this one works.]