New Blog Post: Laptop-Like Love: Stand and Apple Keyboard Power 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 -- now $29, iPad 1 only --(I can't link text in the iPad version of the mail client, so here's the link in all its glory: , 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.

Japan Reactors: My Dad Used To Say "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" Overview, Maps, Photos and Thoughts #Fukushima

Google Maps Photo of Fukushima I

Growing up in my family, when one of the kids was worried about something, my Dad would say "What's the worst that could happen?" We'd go over it, and generally, it became clear that even if the worst scenario happened (no hits and many errors in baseball game), it wouldn't really be that bad. But when you look at the design of the ten reactors at two power stations in Fukushima Japan,  and look at Dad's question, the answers aren't pretty. And perhaps, the answers aren't acceptable: (and I appologize in advance and ask for corrections in the comments for the errors that must be in this article...after all it comes from only a few hours of research)
After the dialog is a whole bunch of background information that led me to create this exchange.
What's the Worst that Could Happen? (Imagined Discussion Between My Dad and Reactor Designer)
Dad: What's the worst that can happen in a Boiling Water Reactor accident?
BWR Designer: Well, the worst case would seem to be an earthquake that damages the plant and then something that knocks out the emergency cooling systems.
Dad: What would happen then?
BWR Designer: The plant would shut down right away. The rods would go in, and the nuclear reaction would stop. (Hopefully, unless the earthquake shook the plant even worse than we could ever imagine.) But, the core still generates about 3% of the full power heat even in shutdown. The cooling systems must run to take away that heat.
Dad: What if the cooling systems got knocked out too?
BWR Designer: That's very unlikely. We have multiple backup diesel generators, and even batteries to run the cooling pumps for 8 hours if those don't work.
Dad: But lets just say something really bad happened. Maybe a tsunami from that same earthquake. It floods all the generators and knocks out the power grid. What happens then?
BWR Designer: The batteries keep the pumps going for eight hours, and by then a new source of backup power is set up and the cooling pumps are driven from that power.
Dad: But let's just say things are really a mess. Remember, we're talking here about "what's the worst that could happen." Let's say after the batteries run out, we can't get power to the pumps.
BWR Designer: This is a scenario that is not supposed to happen. You must keep the reactor core cooled or it will overheat.
Dad: What happens if the reactor core can't be cooled?
BWR Designer: Well, that's bad, but things can still be contolled. The core overheats, steam is produced. The steam flows down to the torus below the reactor, and that has a huge amount of water in it. This water supresses the pressure of the steam, keeps the containment intact in time for additional cooling to be brought to bear.
Dad: But what if that cooling is still not available?
BWR Designer: Now things are getting bad, but we thought of that too. Now the reactor is going to start making lots of steam. The reactor pressure vessel is designed to contain only a certain amount of pressure, so much like a pressure cooker, we have extensive pressure relief valves, and they will allow pressure to be released.
Dad: But what if those valves don't work right, or maybe our control systems are damaged and we can't run them.
BWR Designer: Okay, now you're getting to one of our worst case scenarios. If the pressure got too high in the Reactor Pressure Vessel, it could explode. And we have the same issue with next line of defense - the containment. In fact, early on three engineers at GE resigned because they believed the reactor was too vulnerable to pressure failure. We later agreed, and added pressure relief systems. (Editor's Note: As I understand it, they have been venting steam, and that steam, which also contains hydrogen and oxygen, caused explosions in the reactor buildings at Fukushima)
Dad: What happens if the Reactor Pressure Vessel or the Containment does explode from pressure buildup?
BWR Designer: That gets us to the the truly "worst case". In this case, the nuclear fuel is uncooled. It melts, creates intense heat and pressure, and the pressure vessel fails, probably explodes (but not a nuclear explosion...a pressure explosion). That explosion could probably explode the containment as well,  and would carry radioactive fuel into the atmosphere. In the case of Chernobyl, the intense fire carried the radiation high to the jet stream. If we're lucky in this case, there won't be fire and the radiation won't spread as widely.
Dad: What happens if the Reactor Pressure Vessel and the containment doesn't explode, but you just can't get any cooling there?
BWR Designer: There's a lot debate about what would happen. Clearly, the nuclear fuel will heat up and melt. Clearly, lots of steam and pressure will be created. Hopefully, the melted mass will move down from the Reactor Pressure Vessel and meet the containment structure. At that point, we hope that the material begins to spread out and cool down, although there are some people who believe that this molten mass might be hot enough and concentrated enough to melt through the containment. At Three Mile Island, there was a partial meltdown, and the molten mass did not get close to penetrating the containment.
Dad: Well, we have to go all the way. What if the melted fuel did get through the containment?
BWR Designer: (Ed note: this answer is my summary of what I've read. Again please forgive errors and correct in the comments). First of all, we don't believe, but can't be certain that the melted fuel could re-gain "criticality" and begin producing large amounts of fission-based heat. So let's just assume it's a molten mass and gets through the containment. Now we expect it would meet water-bearing earth, large amounts of steam and other byproducts would be produced, and a pressure explosion of some sort could be expected. This explosion could then spread the radioactive fuel into the atmosphere.
Dad: So, have we arrived at the answer to what's the worst that could happen?
BWR Designer: Not really. These plants tend to be built in groups. In fact, Japan has been the most aggressive at using nuclear power. Because of cooling needs, these plants are located right near the water. So I guess if you want to really think about the absolute worst case scenario, maybe you could have a huge earthquake that shuts multiple plants down, but then something else like the tsunami and a widespread blackout that would disable all of the backup systems at an entire power station. For example, Fukushima I in Japan has six reactors located right next to the ocean.
Dad: So, have we arrived at the answer to what's the worst that could happen?
BWR Designer: Um, not really. One more thing. Since we don't really know how to store the spent fuel for the reactor, we keep it in a pool inside the reactor building and next to the Reactor Pressure Vessel. If something goes wrong with the cooling systems, this fuel, which also needs cooling, will begin to boil off the water that protects it and contains radiation. That could cause fuel rod melting, and  could force workers away from the area of the building due to high radiation. Also, in the event of an explosion of the Reactor Pressure Vessel, the spent fuel right next to the reactor would also be spread into the atmosphere.
Dad: Okay, so you actually can imagine six reactors having catastrophic problems at once, involving all current and spent fuel from those reactors, and potentially releasing all that radiation into the atmoshpere?
BWR Designer: Imagine it, yes, but it's just absurdly unlikely. So many things would have go wrong at once, so many backups and backups of backups would have to fail at the same time for this to even get started, let alone occur.
Dad: But you could imagine it?
BWR Designer: Yes.


So why build a plant and a power station like this?
BWR Designer: Because we need the power. And Japan has no oil, for example. And the chances of this worst case scenario are just so small that we feel you have discount it or you'd just have to stop. Or at least come up with a totally different design that would behave very differently in a case like this.
As an engineer, and just as someone who likes to make things work, I feel an obligation to always think of what could go wrong with a design. And I feel there is some kind of "brotherhood" between engineers worldwide. When one of fails, we all fail. When one of succeeds, we all rejoice. So, when something really goes astray, I feel an obligation to understand what and why. The sad thing is, the answer to what's the worst thing that could happen is a bit circular: It's the worst thing that could happen. And Murphy's law has a way of making sure that yes indeed, the worst thing that could happen, eventually will happen. So I believe when our brotherhood and now sisterhood of engineers designs things, we must all design it so what could happen is not that bad. It's lesson our planet, and its inhabitants expect from anyone who designs the systems upon which we all depend.
Background Research
I've been trying to get my mind around what is really going on in Japan at the Fukushima I power plant. (Also referred to as Fukushima Daiichi, which means "one" in Japanese.) This post will describe some of what I found out.

I started with Wikipedia, and found out that there are two power stations with the name Fukushima (I and II.) Fukushima I, the center of the current catastrophe, is the older station, and it lies about 14 miles north of Fukushima II. Amazingly, Fukushima I Unit 1 (the oldest of the 10 reactor units at Fukushima) was scheduled for end of life shutdown on March 26, 2011 (the end of its 40 year life).

Next, Wikipedia provided  a list of all Boiling Water Reactors (BWR), where I found the 10 units described in this post. (There are two more planned for Fukushima I, but it seems construction has not started.)
Twelve Reactors of Fukushima I and II
 [click above to enlarge] Source: Wikipedia - View full list of Boiling Water Reactors (these tend to be the older plants)
Above are the 12 reactors total at the two power stations. Ten seem to be fueled and operational at some level. Six of Eight at Fukushima I are built, and two are planned and this chart shows them as coming online in 2013 and 2014. All four units of Fukushima II were operating, and three have already achieved full cold shutdown.
Status of Six Completed Reactors of Fukushima I
 [click above to enlarge]  Source: Wikipedia - Reactor Status Summary 

This 1975 photo from Wikipedia shows the six reactors that are involved in the emergency. Unit 6 was under construction at the time.

Above is an interactive map of the Fukushima I area.

Design of the GE Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor (Units 1-5) at Fukushima I
[click above to enlarge]  Cutaway view of a GE Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor    Source: unknown, but probably GE
The more I learn about the design of this reactor, the less confident I feel. This article by the Reactor Watchdog Group discusses the design issues with the Mark I. (Partial quote) The main feature of the design is a large underground "torus" that is half filled with water. The idea is that in a Loss of Coolant Accident (LOCA), steam would be released by large pipes into the "pressure suppression pool", and that the steam would condense, thus suppressing pressure buildup in the containment.

Trouble is, it becomes clear that in an actual accident, pressures would build up too high and could lead to "total rupture of the containment."  So they modified the design to allow high pressure venting to protect against a complete loss of the containment. Not a reassuring approach - vent radioactive steam in order to keep something much worse from happening.
In this Union of Concerned Scientists Report, the writers outline another rather shocking element of the Mark I design. The spent fuel rods are located right next to the reactor pressure vessel. (Blue area). As they point out, "Location inside containment couples Spent Fuel Pool (SFP) accidents and reactor accidents." As we are seeing in Japan, both the reactor and the spent fuel pool need cooling to remain safe. With the complete failure of the backup cooling systems, both sources of radioactivity are now in danger of some form of release. (It seems impossible -- I've searched -- to get any reliable sense of just how much radiation would be released in a full meldown.)
Fukushima II is About 14 Miles South of Fukushima I

Interactive Map of Fukushima I and II area. The two blue dots to the north represent Fukushima I, with the lower dot being the original four reactors, and the upper dot being the newer two. The single blue dot to the south is Fukushima II, which has four reactors, also of BWR design (but newer models) and is said to be shutting down more safely.(This article says three units have achieved cold shutdown and cooling systems are working normally) By the way, Fukushima Dai-ni simply means second or number 2.
Four reactors at Fukushima II - From Wikipedia article (note: comment after Takenaka is mine)
Aerial View of Fukishima II Power Station (shut down more safely than Fukushima I)  Source: Google
Two New Reactors Planned at Fukushima I - "Generation III" Advanced Boiling Water Reactors

GE's Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR)   Source: GE

The planned design for the Fukushima I units 7 and 8 is an Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (Wikipedia) (ABWR) which seem to be in the planning stages. Note that the spent fuel pool is still just above and to the right of the reactor vessel. You can also see that the containment has a suppression pool at the bottom, but eliminates the underground torus used in the BWR Mark I reactors.
While the Wikipedia article is quite dense, much discussion goes to advanced safety features relative to just the kind of failures seen at Fukushima: (Note: I've edited and shortened their bullet points)
  • The overall system has been divided up into 3 divisions; each division is capable - by itself - of terminating (them maximal) accident prior to core uncovery, even in the event of loss of offsite power and loss of proper feedwater. Previous BWRs had 2 divisions, and uncovery (but no core damage) was predicted to occur for a short time in the event of a severe accident, prior to ECCS response.
  • Eighteen SORVs (safety overpressure relief valves), so the reactor can be depressurized rapidly to a level where low pressure core flooder can be used.
  • Further, Low Pressure Core Flooder can inject against much higher Reactor Pressure Vessel pressures,
  • In addition to three highly-reliable emergency diesel generators  an additional combustion gas turbine is located on-site to generate electricity to provide defence in depth against station blackout contingencies.
  • There exists an extremely thick basalt fiber reinforced concrete (BiMAC) pad under the reactor that will both catch and hold any heated fluids that might fall on that pad in extraordinarily contingent situations. (Ed note: I think they mean meltdown) 
  • In addition, there are several valves within the weir wall (the wall separating the wetwell from the drywell) that are squib-actuated and can perform an orderly flood of the BiMAC pad using the wetwell's water supply, ensuring cooling of that area even with the failure of standard mitigatory systems (e.g. overhead flood capabilities).
  • I find it interesting that this most advanced design still has most of the dangers that are discussed below. It does have a number of more aggressive and deeper backup systems. But still, at the end of the day, the ABWR seem risky still. Spent fuel still right next to the reactor. The need for pressure relief during incidents.

    NUREG-1503, "Final Safety Evaluation Report Related to the Certification of the Advanced Boiling-Water Reactor Design"
    More Photos: (all from this site)
    Boiling Water Reactor Pressure Vessel. This looks just like the one in GE's promotional materials for its Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) 
    Fuel Assembly (BWR/6 from GE)
    Refueling Floor During Outage (this is the top of the reactor. Note gantry from other illustration)
    I believe this is a Mark II containment - it has a suppression pool, but no torus. Unit 6 at Fukushima uses this design, I believe.
    Top of the reactor vessel. Gives you a sense of the size of the reactor itself. (isn't there a containment on top of this?)
    Another view of the refueling floor.
    Piping to the Torus
    Maintenance on a pump in a radiation controlled area.

    Other Photos 

    Fukushima compared to Chenobyl
    Source: Telegraph UK

    New Blog Post: Why The Internet Has Such a Hard Time Fostering Real World Friendships - Boston Globe

    This great article by Alison Lobron explains so much about the connection (or non-connection) between making friends in the real world and the online world that I felt compelled to share some thoughts it spurred and it urge you to read the whole article.

    For me, it helped explain some of my own behavior that I thought was odd, but now I understand. Example: no matter how much I should know about someone before I meet them, I've always avoided Googling them in advance. I'm not lazy. I just didn't feel like it was the right thing to do. Now I understand why. Instead of creating assumptions built on what I've read in advance, when I actually talk with the person, I'm building a friendship through what we each share. And, as the article points out -- we don't end up having to overcome the awkward situation of "knowing too much."

    The article provides some great background from one of my investments, now called (which began life as Designed by Nick Tommarello, seeks to get people to meet in real life, share real life adventures, and let real life take it from there. Nick and I have had many conversations about how different the idea of making real life friends via the Internet is from making the virtual kind. It's refreshing and rewarding to see so many of the things we discussed outlined so clearly in Lobron's article.

    Recently, another company that I've invested in and worked closely with, GreenGoose, launched at Jason Calacanis' Launch Conference. Things took off fast and soon we had a very notable group of investors. One is Jay Levy from New York. I recently had a discussion with him about GreenGoose, and I had similarly avoided doing my "homework" on Google. We had a great conversation, and I learned what I know about Jay first hand, because he told me. Gosh, that seems like a really great way to get to know someone!

    Sometimes What Your Sensors Indicate Is Wrong (Including your iPhone!)

    This is a photo of my windshield wipers in action. Must be a howling wind. Look at how the blade is bent! (Note: the blade is straight! The iPhone camera is fooling us)

    I'm parked in both pictures. In this one, the blade is not moving. The blade is correctly seen as straight, not curved. There is no wind. Not in either photo. Turns out that many camera phones save an image a line at a time. If something is in motion, it can appear curved because in the time it took to store the first line, the blade has moved. A picture doesn't lie. Really? How well do you understand the sensors you depend on?

    How @Jason's Launch Conference is Helping Me and Others Launch Eight Ways

    I'm headed to San Francisco tomorrow to the Launch of Jason Calacanis' Launch Conference. (Okay, that's L2 so far...let's see how many L's we can get.). But I was thinking that the conference itself has spurred me to my own launch for my investing company called Co-Flow Investing, LLC. (okay, that's L3)

    For one thing, my best friend when I was growing up in Millburn, NJ, Scott Heller, had recently got back in touch and we started talking about angel investing. Scott is a real-estate lawyer in New Jersey, and, well, real estate is dead, and he's been itching for a new start in a new career. Add to to this some great advice from Paul English, founder of Kayak, who says "I never hire people who've already done what I want them to do. Rather, I want people who are doing it for the first time. You always do your best work when you do it for the first time."

    So, Scott and I are now partners on Co-Flow Investing, and Scott is truly doing all for the first time. (L4) I've recently declared I'm a Super-Angel, and I'm working to live up to the declaration. (Five investments in the last two months, one more on the way.) Scott has now declared himself an angel, and he's working with me to learn the ropes. It's fun. He knew nothing about Twitter, didn't use LinkedIn, and hardly used Facebook. Just tonight I showed him how to make a nice blog post using my favorite blogging program, Posterous (I'm an investor), and linking it to his new accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn. Scott wrote an interesting blog post noting that there are no angels in real estate. Not bad for his first real blog post.

    But there's more L's from Jason's L. Way back in ancient March of 2010, I invested in a company called SparkCloud, started by Nick Tommarello. Nick's company is now called, and it will be launching at Launch. (L5) I'm very excited about this, because Nick and I have worked together for 18 months, and his new company is a study in how to persevere and follow your heart to build the kind of tool your people need.

    Then there's Brian Krejcarek, who I only met a few months ago and was instantly smitten. I invested immediately. His company Green Goose, will be displaying in the Demo Pit. Amazing product that spurs you to have fun and keep moving, all with wireless sensors that are amazingly cheap. (That's L6)

    And there's two more. Blake Sessions just graduated from MIT, and is building an amazing mechanical magical thing that you wear that gives you super powers and turns walking into gliding. I just invested in him, and his company, LiftWave, Inc. I know it's an impossible standard, but I call him the "Steve Jobs of mechanical." Blake is launching his entrepreneurial career now, and Launch will be his first big conference (as an attendee). I give this L7.

    Lastly, there's Ed English, brother of the aforementioned Paul English. He's got a new company called Elerts. I convinced him to come out the Launch Conference for the vibe, and because I'm trying to convert him to my approach for startups. (I'm making some progress on that, and so I call this one L8)

    There you have it. One conference. Eight launches. And that's just me. Good luck Jason, on this wonderful new venture.

    Crashing on the Rocks of Windows 7

    For the last three years, I haven't touched a PC. After years in the PC world, I decided to switch to the Mac, and I never looked back.
    But recently, there was a software package that I wanted for the restaurant I co-own with my brother in law, Steve Welch (Oggi Gourmet in Harvard Square). I decided to buy a low cost laptop with Windows 7 to run that software.
    I had heard many good things about Windows 7. I had heard that it came pretty close to a Mac experience. So I approached the whole thing with some excitement. Maybe this amazingly low cost laptop ($400 for 15" color Compaq CQ42-410US) would give me some Mac-like love on the cheap.
    It started up pretty fast, and that was promising. But soon, it was clear that the Windows gremlins that I had come to know and dislike were lurking within this modern Windows 7 product. First up: How the heck do I get rid of the annoying HP "dock" that they cleverly float at the top of the screen?
    Searched for the answer, and found this;
    Re: HP Advisor / HP Dock launch at startup... How to Disable?

    You need to turn it off in the background.

    Go to Control panel/administrative tools/system configuration/startup and untick both HP Advisor and HP Mediasmart

    Apply and restart


    I tried to find this, but couldn't. Neither could some others:

    Re: Disabling the HP Advisor Dock

    This didn't quite work for me. When I get to the Startup window, there is nothing called HP Advisor. I have "hpsysdrv Application", "HP Remote Solution," and "hpwuschd Application." Which one(s) do I want to disable. I agree with the others on this list that HP Advisor is a pure nuisance. Thank you for your help.
    Finally, I found this fix, which worked:

    Re: HP Advisor / HP Dock launch at startup... How to Disable?

    Here are step by step directions to help out with this if you cant understand from the others that said something similar.

    Literally, step by step, and anyone should be able to do this.

    1. Click the windows start button

    2. in the text box where it says "search programs and files", Type run

    3. Click on the run option, under the program header

    4. Once the run box opens, type msconfig

    5. Click the tab that says "Start Up"

    6. Scroll through and find where it says "HP Advisor".  Uncheck the box

    7. Hit "ok"

    8. Restart
    This is 2011! And I'm still messing with msconfig? I was truly amazed. But to get rid of that silly toolbar, I did it. And it worked. It did not give me a sense of satisfaction. No, it made me feel that innocent people are still being forced to do strange things with computers, just to solve simple problems.
    But, it wasn't over yet. Each time I would reboot the machine, it would come up with no network. I searched the web again for how to make a Windows 7 machine automatically connect to a network. I got this little beauty:

    open search, type "services.msc" open services.

    Scroll down to "wlan auto config" right click, stop the service.

    Navigate to

    "C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Wlansvc\ delete everything in this folder  leaving only a folder called "profiles" delete everything in the "profiles" folder except for a folder called "interfaces" delete everything in the "interfaces" folder)

    Restart "wlan auto config" connect to your wireless network, enter

    your passkey, (ensure the connect automaticly box is checked)
    Restart your computer job done, your computer will now connect to your wireless network automaticly on boot.
    I did this , and it worked. So now I have PC laptop that seems to be set up the way I want it. But I must say, I was shocked that Windows 7 (with a little help from HP) would still subject users to the things like I had to do. 
    I admit I'm an Apple fan. But frankly, I had expected more from Windows 7. Did I miss something here? Windows fans: was there some easy way to fix these problems that I just didn't see, and I would have known if I was more used to Windows?

    24 Hours to Apply: 10 Reasons Why TechStars Boston Will Rock

    With just 24 hours to go before the TechStars Boston application deadline, here are my top 10 reasons why TechStars Boston will rock in 2011:

    1. Location, location, location. Thanks to Boston Properties and Microsoft, TechStars is located in amazing space at One Cambridge Center. Come out of the T. Walk 215.933 feet, and you're there!

    2. Mentors, Mentors, Mentors. We have a great list of mentors ready to help the TechStars companies with advice and investment.
    3. Wide support for Techstars from investors. TechStars Boston is now backed by a large list of local angel investors and VCs.
    4. A four year commitment - We have raised enough money to support 40-50 new companies over the next four years, which means that TechStars Boston is on the firmest financial footing and can plan for the long term.

    5. Enthusiastic Boston community has reached out to support TechStars including all the supporting services that make startups work.

    6. We will be close to hundreds of other start-ups and the world’s smartest people.

    7. Because we have TechStars NYC down the road!

    8. 500+great applicants to the program and the progress they will make this year!

    9. Katie Rae - TechStars Boston new Managing Director, Katie brings new energy and skill to running TechStars Boston.  And TS has a bonus with Reed Sturtevant her partner in Project 11 also helping!

    10. 10 (or 11) Great companies. The core of any TechStars session is the quality of the companies and the people in those companies. We've had over 500 applications to Boston this year, and we'll be picking the best ones!
    It really is only 215.933 feet from the Kendall T to the front door of One Cambridge Center.
    A sunset view from TechStars space. This the MIT Green Building.
    Our Fearless Leader: Katie Rae.

    New Blog Post: A Treasure Trove of Boston Aerials and Horse Racing at MacDonald's

    I love aerial photos because they answer so many questions and at the same time cause you to ask new ones. I just came upon this extensive collection of historic Boston Aerials posted by the Boston Public Library. This is just a tiny part of the BPL's online Print Department Collection.
    The first one in the collection is the granddaddy of all aerials, taken of downtown Boston in 1860...before the Civil War!
    I then started clicking through their collection, and this one seemed odd. A racetrack? In Allston? Can you believe that Soldiers Field Road had a dirt track that parallels today's road, as well as an oval track? This photo shows something I never knew existed: The Charles River Speedway
    Here's the 1925 Map of the area. The Speedway is the dirt road we see in the above photograph. The oval isn't shown, but the speedway itself goes quite a distance. Click this and any of the photos to see a bigger view.
    And here is another BPL Photo showing horses being exercised there.

    This 2005 aerial shows the surrounding area, with the Speedway shown in b&w from a 1938 USGS aerial photo. The Speedway used to be where a giant parking lot is today, along with a small theatre.
    The speedway was parallel to Soldiers Field Road. The buildings in the lower left are still there. Back then they were the Speedway Administration Building. Later, they were taken over and became the MDC Police Station. Now they are vacant.
    This 1910 photo is from the MDC Police website. Read more about the Speedway and these last buildings in this book

    In this Google Street View, (Its live, click in the photo above and move around!) you can see that the Speedway Buildings have been spared the wrecking ball, but they are right now being left to deteriorate. Why can they put a great sign up telling about the history of this building? Before I started this post, I just thought it was an old MDC police station that had seen better days and would soon be torn down.
    And what about the horse racing in front of MacDonald's? Well, the horses got close but they didn't actually get that far. (The Speedway is in upper right, MacDonalds in lower left) And I think they'd be pleased. This map shows that the spot where MacDonalds is today was an enormous slaughterhouse run by the firm called Butchers Slaughtering and Melting Association. You know the restaurant in Brighton called the Stockyard? That's not some cute name. That's where the cattle gathered before they were monetized on the banks of the Charles.

    Boston History: What Happened to My Beer? Exploring Boston's Lost Breweries

    While searching the online photo archives at the Boston Public Library, I came upon a collection called "Boston Brewery Posters." While looking at old maps of Boston, I was always struck with how many breweries there were.

    So, let's connect the maps with breweries, and see what stories unfold.
    Here's G.F. Burkhard's Bock Beer. But we need an address.
    A few Google searches later, and I find Burkhardt was located in Roxbury. This article about 
    Boston's Lost Breweries, is a treasure trove of information, and talks about Burkhardt:

    Burkhardt built two large six-story Roxbury Puddingstone buildings and a large stable forming an L shaped enclosure around the adjacent Houghton and Company Vienna Brewery. Gottlieb, or George Burkhardt and his son, Gottlieb Jr., ran the brewery until Gottlieb Senior died in 1884. It continued brewing until Prohibition closed it in 1919. It stayed open, however, until 1929 producing cereal and other grain products during the dry period. Burkhardt made both beer and ale. Their labels were Tivoli Beer, Extra Lager Beer, and; starting in 1912, Red Sox Beer, to honor that year’s World Series Champions. They also made Augsburger Lager & Augsburger Dark, Salvator Lager, Brown Stock Lager and Bock style Lager. They produced over 100,000 barrels a year of beer alone, plus Golden Sheaf Ale, Cream Ale, Brown Stock Ale, Old Stock Porter, India Pale Ale and; also starting in 1912, Pennant Ale.
    There's the brewery, taking a couple city blocks at Parker and Station Streets. This entire lot is now a parking lot in Roxbury. 
    Here is a 1931 of the area, with the buildings that are still standing today overlaid with grey.
    Here's the same map, with existing buildings overlaid in green for better contrast. Look at how much of Roxbury has been torn down and replaced since 1931!
    Zooming in. Wait, there appears to be two buildings (I missed them while making the map above) still on the block that was the brewery.
    How poignant that we can see the Pru and the Hancock at the same time as the remains of this block. Actually, this is another brewery, the A.J. Houghton & Co. “Vienna” Brewery. Located at Station and Halleck Streets, it was active from 1870 to 1918. Explore the area on Google Street View. From the Boston's Lost Breweries article: This is the only landmark brewery in Boston, having been protected by the Boston Landmarks Commission, despite its poor condition.
    A.J.Houghton & Co Brewery still stands in Roxbury.
    While this poster says the office was at 16 Arch Street near Milk Street in Boston, the brewery itself was at 1276 Columbus Avenue, the present site of Roxbury Community College.
    The Pfaff Brewery and the Norfolk Brewery were next to each other on the site that is now Roxbury Community College.  From the article:
    A third brewery, Habich “Norfolk” Brewery, active from 1874 to 1902, was located at 171 Cedar Street and occupied the same College site. Habich was the first Boston Brewery to make Lager beer in the 1850’s.

    Jacob Wirth is Boston's oldest remaining microbrewer. This poster is from 1875.

    How cool is that: Jacob Wirth is still there, amazingly unchanged from 1868! Explore in Google Street View. So, what happened to my beer? It's all gone, except for Jacob Wirth's. In Boston.

    The Jamaica Plain Historical Society's excellent article tells the full story of 24 breweries that once dotted Roxbury and Jamaica Plain:

    Beer making in Boston was in its heyday in the early 1900’s. Try to imagine the clatter of horse-drawn, iron-wheeled, wagons bringing raw materials in and finished product out of the 24 breweries in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain which were located on or near Columbus Avenue, Heath Street and Amory Street. Add the pungent odors of hops, yeast, slowly cooking grains and the coal and wood smoke billowing from each of the 24 smokestacks and you begin to sense the impact these breweries had on their neighborhoods.

    And why were they located here? There are two simple reasons: abundant and crystal clear water from the aquifer along the Stony Brook along with artesian wells bubbling to the surface around Mission Hill; and the relatively cheap land after the City of Roxbury merged with Boston in 1868. These conditions, combined with the demand for the new German type Lager beers, drove the expansion of the industry locally.

    How Much Does a Single Search Cost Google?

    I was wondering how much it costs Google to perform a single search. So I searched in Google, and was not able to find any readily available data that looked reliable. So I used up the better part of Saturday morning working on creating my own number.
    I was able to find some ComScore data on total searches from July 2009, and I got Google's financials from 2009 from the SEC site.
    My calculation? I estimate that it costs Google .68 cents per search in July 2009 in direct costs, and another .50 cents in overall operating costs, or a total of 1.18 cents per search. That's considerably more than I would have expected. (Please check my math and sources!)
    I also found that for 78 billion searches in the month of July 2009, Google needed 3.442 B of capital equipment to support those searches. (Excludes YouTube and other non-search capital). Thus each search performed that month needed 4.4 cents of capital equipment. I did notice on Google's later financials that their capital costs didn't go up that much, so their capital cost per search is likely dropping. (plummeting?)
    I'm wondering if anyone has newer data or more accurate data that they could plug in? Please let me know in the comments section.
    Here is a summary of my estimate:


    July 2009






    Worldwide Google Searches K


    Age 15+ Home & Work Worldwide

    Cost of Revenues $K


    Represents 70% that is search related

    Direct Cost/Search




    Search Related Operating Costs $K


    Note: Click on Income Statement

    Op Cost/Search




    Total Cost Per Search



    July 2009 - My estimate


    Capital Required $K



    Represents 70% that is search related

    Cap/Per Search $



       Google Q3 09 Monthly Revenue $K


     2009 Q3 earnings release  Not quite true, but I'm assuming all revenue from search

    Revenue Per Search



    Cap/Per MM Searches/Mo



    $44K of capital gets you 1 million searches/mo capacity


    (that’s 33K searches a day; 1.4K searches/hr


    23 searches/minute - hmmm. Seems like a lot of 


    capital to support just 23 searches per minute! Remember, though; this includes the cost to index the ENTIRE WORLD of web pages to support those searches.


    # Seconds in a Month



    Searches Per Second



    In July 2009

    K Searches/Sec



    Cap Cost per K Search/sec



    It takes $116 million in capital to support 1,000 searches per second and the indexes to all the web pages in the world (roughly)


    Attached below is a PDF of my background calculations. This PDF was made from an Apple Numbers Spreadsheet.


    Here is the Apple Numbers Spreadsheet with all my source information. Please let me know if you find errors. Apple Numbers is nice because it lets you combine many spreadsheets on one "canvas."


    Here is the Excel spreadsheet that Numbers generates for compatibility. I regret I didn't name the tables before exporting, but you'll get the idea as you click to the various tables. (Note: There may be problems with the Posterous viewer for this file type, so if you can't see this file, it isn't you! Also, for some reason, Posterous only lets you view the Excel file, while it lets you download the Numbers file.)
    Update: 6PM 1-15-2010
    Found this data from Nielson Us Rankings for February 2010

    Top 10 Search Providers for February 2010, Ranked by Searches (U.S.) Rank Provider Searches (000) Share of Searches   All Search 9,174,408 100.0% 1 Google Search 5,980,116 65.2% 2 Yahoo! Search 1,294,261 14.1% 3 MSN/Windows Live/Bing Search 1,142,344 12.5% 4 AOL Search 206,969 2.3% 5 Search 175,074 1.9% 6 My Web Search Search 91,288 1.0% 7 Comcast Search 55,122 0.6% 8 Yellow Pages Search 27,002 0.3% 9 NexTag Search 26,461 0.3% 10 Network Search 24,681 0.3% Source: The Nielsen Company

    They show Google having done 9.2 billion searches in the US in February 2010, vs 78 billion searches worldwide for Google reported by ComScore for July 2009
    This ComScore data shows that North America (more than just the US) represents 22.1% of worldwide search traffic. By this ratio, the Nielson US ranking divided by .22 would be 26.8 billion searches worldwide for Google if the US represented all of North America. If the US represents 50% of North America, then the Nielson data represents a worldwide number of 53.6 billion searches worldwide.

    Worldwide Search Market Overview by Region
    July 2009
    Total Worldwide – Age 15+, Home/Work Locations
    Source: comScore qSearch

      Searches (MM) Share (%) of Searches Search Usage Days Per Searcher Searches Per Searcher Worldwide 113,685 100.0% 11.0 103.3 Europe 36,446 32.1% 11.8 116.9 Asia Pacific 35,001 30.8% 9.3 84.7 North America 25,095 22.1% 12.5 110.6 Latin America 10,524 9.3% 13.0 130.4 Middle East - Africa 6,619 5.8% 10.5 97.3