Monthly Archives: September 2013

Power outage and explosions at U Cal Berkeley campus, 30 September 2013

The Daily Cal reports that power went out on the U Cal Berkeley campus at 4:45 p.m. local time on 30 September 2013, and that subsequently an explosion on campus at about 6:40 p.m. injured an unknown number of people. The report includes a striking photo of a manhole on fire. The campus has been evacuated.

The Berkeley scanner has live audio from the area; at this writing, there were over 140 people monitoring it.

Parts of the UC Berkeley computer systems are down. The UC Berkeley News Center reports this –

Update 7:27 p.m. The power outage and explosion were due to a power system failure. All are asked to leave the main campus area immediately. For updates call 800-705-9998.

The campus is experiencing a power outage. All classes this evening are cancelled. Lab operations should be safely shut down and people should leave the building. At this time, most major IT services (bspace, bconnected, etc.) are offline. When power returns, these systems will gradually come online. More information will be posted at this location. For ongoing updates, please call 1-800-705-9998 throughout the evening.

This short video by student Ana Reyes shows the scene of the explosion.

For current updates and more details, follow @dailycal.

Other news sources:

LA Times says “one person was taken to a hospital”, quoting an unnamed university spokesman. SFGate (San Francisco Chronicle) names the spokesman as Dan Mogulof, and refers to the injuries as “minor”.

Related articles

Generator explosion clears UC Berkeley campus, causes blackout [photos]
UC Berkeley Campus Evacuated After Explosion, Power Outage
Power Outage and Possible Explosion Reported at UC Berkeley
UC Berkeley Alert: Students Evacuated; Reports of Explosion, Fire

Metro North power outage

A power outage on a 138,000 volt line that provides power to Metro North trains in New York has snarled commutes from Connecticut to New York City and has also affected Amtrak service in the busy New York – Boston corridor. Work is underway to put in a temporary fix by diverting power from surrounding businesses and neighborhoods. A backup feeder line was offline, and full service restoration may take weeks.

Metro North is responding by putting diesel trains into service and by running buses to try to accommodate the 130,000 daily commuters on the line, but this provides only about a third of the capacity needed for a normal commute.

NY Times, “Power Failure Disrupts Metro North’s New Haven Line; May Last Days”, September 25, 2013:

The disruption began after a Consolidated Edison feeder cable in Mount Vernon, N.Y., failed around 5:20 a.m., snarling service between Stamford, Conn., and Grand Central Terminal.

CT Post, “Metro-North, Con Edison tested plan that led to failure”, September 26, 2013

Though it may take officials weeks to determine the cause, it appears the 138,000 volt line that was left to bear the burden of energizing trains along an eight-mile stretch of track in Westchester County, N.Y., from Pelham to Rye became overwhelmed and superheated.

Bloomberg Business Week, “Delayed NYC Commuters Ask Why Metro-North Power Failed Again”, September 27, 2013

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, said yesterday that Con Edison representatives told him the company is working to get a portion of the electricity needed to the commuter line. The power would come from three transformers to be tested this weekend, Malloy said. He said updates will be provided to residents the night before the Sept. 30 commute. “There appears to have been little plan for this type of catastrophic failure,” Malloy said during the briefing at Grand Central.

Twitter’s new analytics tool for tracking click-throughs

As noted from a post on MarketingLand

You can see all the tweets that link to your website, whether or not they include your @username. You can see tweets that link to any specific page on your website. You can see how often Twitter users click on links to your website, or to any specific page.

To do this, go to the new Websites link under Analytics and claim your web site by putting a meta tag in the “head” section of your site. (Typepad users will find this under Design > Head). Once you’ve claimed your site, you can then see analytics performance on a per-hour or per-day level.

This weblog gets enough hits from Twitter that I’m curious where they come from; the new Twitter tools help that curiosity. If you were managing a brand and wanted to see how effective your twittering was, this is one more measurement tool for you.
Screen shot 2013-09-27 at 3.21.10 PM

Related articles

Twitter analytics via Twitter Ads account
Twitter Quietly Adds Website Analytics (& You’ll Love It)
Revealing the World of Twitter Analytics
How to verify your website and setup Twitter Analytics

Writer’s block


I’m working on an assignment and I’m stuck. This is an attempt to get unstuck.

The hardest part for me of working on assignments for someone else is the concern (justified or not) that the editor who is getting my work is going to be disappointed by it. I know that from past experience that’s unlikely to happen on this particular gig – not that they won’t see something to fix, but as long as it’s turned in on time and is the right shape and size I’ve had pretty good luck with getting the work approved.

It’s very different writing for someone else than it is for myself. Blogging has its own trials and travails, but pleasing an editor is not one of them. Rather, there’s a terrifying time when you hit “publish” and the world either sees your headline and says “meh” or they pick it up and share it with their friends.

Ultimately, most of my writing is for the world or for myself. I’ve written here before about keeping an open notebook and what that means for my tolerance for the incomplete image in my own writing. But when you’re writing for someone else the whole package really wants to be neat and tidy and polished, and that brings with it a separate set of expectations.

Image from patent 6571480.Related articles

Blocking writer’s block
Unpolished writing in the open notebook
Writer’s Block
Writer’s Block and Updates from Thee House of Ho
Getting Unstuck

Just say no: Just Energy complaints are legion

From my Ann Arbor neighborhood email list, September 2013:

Some weaselly-looking character from an outfit called “Just Energy” knocked on our door today. They are of course scam artists and we just tell them we are not interested. They are very pushy and actually try to mislead people into thinking they have something to do with the utility companies. The especially like to prey on the elderly.

Complaints about this company are legion. Here are just a few.

  • Boston Police Department, November 2012, via Facebook:

    When dealing with a person who shows up at your door unannounced or without prior notification (be it a cable provider, maintenance worker, plumber, salesperson) exercise healthy levels of caution and care before agreeing to anything. If a person shows up at your door without proper notification, promptly ask to see an ID, business card or supervisor’s phone number before conducting any further business. If an individual is unable to provide any of the aforementioned forms of identification, discontinue the interaction.

  • “Alternative Energy Supplier Has Long Record Of Fraud Complaints”, CBS Chicago, January 2013

    To assess and monitor the needed changes, the ICC ordered Just Energy to pay for an independent audit completed last year. The previously confidential document said that between 2010 and 2011 Just energy received over 29,792 complaints. “It’s really an astonishing figure, the 29,000 complaints. We have never seen anything like that,” said David Kolata, the head of the Citizens Utility Board.

  • “Just Energy” Scam Victim Speaks Out, WICZ Fox 40, January 2013

    ENDICOTT — As we’ve reported, Binghamton police say scam artists are going around telling local residents they can help them with their utility bills during these cold months if they sign up with a company called “Just-Energy”. Police say it’s a rip off. Richard Torres Maldonado says his family was a victim to the scam and their electric bill went from $40 to $300.

Just beware.

Notes on Meetup

LogoI’ve started using to organize several groups. Here’s some notes.

For the longest time I’ve used a Yahoo Groups list to organize the a2b3 group, and that long-lived mailing list continues. It’s great to have a mailing list, but it’s kind of chatty as a lunch-planning-only effort. So the first of my Meetup groups is the a2b3 meetup which is solely devoted to the tasks of providing an events listing and (most importantly) to plan lunch.

A brand new Meetup is the a2civictech Ann Arbor Civic Technology meetup, which had its first meeting the other night. This is a more classic meetup, one that tries to meet monthly rather than weekly, one that’s similar to other groups around the country, and one where I’m starting out from the perspective that I mostly don’t know everyone who’s going to be interested.

Meetup is a form of civic technology (for the purpose of organizing meetings). For a2civictech, I’ve been able to use the function of annotating the photos from the meeting to remember who was there, and the little discussion forum around the event is just enough to prepare for meetings and remember what happened there. Meetup also allows you to track the input and output of money to the group, so it’s reasonable to track expenses and reimbursement for even little bits of money.

The meetup system isn’t free; a semi-annual fee of $72 applies. So by not being free it gives me the opportunity to have other folks help share in the cost of running things. a2civictech is sponsored in part by a2geeks and that’s been a great plus in getting it going. You can also share in the roles of actually organizing things by giving co-conspirators some additional rights to manage things.

What strikes me the most is that Meetup is actually designed pretty well to help you successfully organize a meeting. I’m so used to group-forming tools like Yahoo Groups and Google Groups where the goal is to have a discussion online and where the in-person efforts are a very late afterthought. The system comes with a checklist of all of the useful things you can do, and the automated emails for the event planner gently prompt you to do the right thing at the right time. There’s obviously a lot of thought and evolution in this system which is a welcome change.

The verdict so far: worthwhile to continue for 6 months, and probably worth renewing.

Listening to and watching Typhoon Usagi from Hong Kong

As seen on from VR2HF –

Should be some interesting listening on the aviation frequencies in the next 48 hours as Typhoon Usagi makes a direct hit on Hong Kong. I will go my best to keep the receiver on during the storm. You can find updated weather and weather radar at the Hong Kong ObservatoryUS Navy Forecast.

Dan Van Hoy’s personal weather station,, has real time weather, and his Hong Kong DX receiver tunes in AM, FM, aviation, and shortwave bands through Global Tuners.

A snapshot of the typhoon path here from 2pm EST Sunday 22 September 2013.