Tuesday, September 28, 2010

RWC Council Meeting

The council had delegated several members as a subcommittee to investigate whether to join Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton in suing the CAHSRA. The subcommittee recommended not doing this, and taking a more cooperative approach.

When I got my turn to speak, I made an impromptu change to the effect of "I came to urge Redwood City to take a collaborative rather than a confrontational approach to resolving its issues with the High Speed Rail Authority, but now I'll have to change that and say I commend the City for taking a collaborative approach..." which elicited a friendly chuckle.

My overall takeaway is that the RWC council is adamantly opposed to elevated tracks (I am not, but I didn't make that point), but is very much in favor of high speed rail (for reasons of economic development and safety--and some of them mentioned that they were quite keen on using it). They are openly skeptical about whether cities to the south would actually support HSR under any conditions, and are more interested in collaborating with San Mateo and Burlingame (in fact, a Burlingame councilmember was visiting and spoke a bit on the subject).

I proposed that the city should have a design competition to let local people propose ways that HSR could be fit into the community. If this ever comes about it would be a way for those of us who are in favor of non-tunnelled/affordable alignments to try to make the case that elevated tracks are not necessary the dystopian nightmare that they have been portrayed as.

A reporter from the Daily Post took my name. The Post is notoriously anti-HSR, but it will be interesting to see how all this is written up (and if they mention me).

In other news:

  • The city is fighting to put an expanded county jail somewhere other than downtown RWC.
  • There was a report about the recent plane crash and sewage spill in Redwood Shores.
  • A delegation of library employees came to complain about layoffs and the use of long term contractors instead of hiring regular staff.
  • The Port of RWC is holding an open house, aka PortFest this Saturday. The Marine Science institute will be open, and a Ferry will be on display.
  • CaƱada College is hosting an Arts and Olive Festival.

Monday, September 27, 2010

RWC City Council Discussing HSR Tonight

Here is the agenda for the council's meeting tonight.

The agenda item of interest is:

City Participation in Lawsuit Challenging Latest High-Speed Rail Authority EIR (Environmental Impact Report).

I don't know if the council is seriously considering joining this lawsuit. RWC hasn't had the type of NIMBY hysteria they have down in PA.

I also don't know if the council is looking for public comment, since this meeting has not been much publicized. However, I plan on giving themselves.

My main points will be (1) to remind them of the benefits of improved transit and grade separation to RWC, (2) to urge them not to take an obstructionist "tunnel or nothing" stance, and (3) to suggest that they work through the CalTrain board, which represents the peninsula, after all, to iron out issues they have with the HSRA.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ralston Ave Bike/Ped Overpass

Redwood Shores is a big chunk of urban San Mateo County that's basically inaccessible without a car--the two access points, Holly St in San and Ralston Ave, essentially turn into freeway interchanges when they cross the 101, and either biking in the shoulder or trying to walk or ride on the sidewalk places you in front of people in cars getting up to, or slowing down form (as late as possible), freeway speed.

I did see some adventurous soul doing it on a unicycle once. What can you say? It's a free country!

This inaccessibility is particularly annoying since major employment centers, like Oracle and Electronic Arts, are within easy biking distance from the Belmont and San Carlos CalTrain stations.

Lately I've noticed some construction in the 101 median just north of Ralston, and with some poking around, discovered that a bike/ped overpass is in the works. Here's a piece of a map from the Belmont city website (which is here, but be warned I had to turn off noscript and every pop-up and security blocker my browser had to look at the content!).

I don't have any practical need to bike to Shores, but this will connect with a lot bayside trails that would be a fun ride.

I wish RWC would build something like this at Whipple.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Knight's Tour Puzzle: perl on CalTrain

I wrote this on the ride home. I makes Knight's Tour Puzzles. This is a puzzle with a grid of letters, encoding a message that you discover by moving from square to square as a knight would in chess, never hitting the same square twice.


#!/usr/local/bin/perl -w
use strict;
my $usage = "knightstour.pl ROWS COLS MESSAGE\n";
die $usage unless @ARGV == 3;

    my( $numrows, $numcols, $message ) = @ARGV;

    my @letters = split //, $message;
    die "length of $message = ",scalar(@letters)," must be ",
      if @letters != $numrows * $numcols;

    # store grid in hash; $grid->{"0,0"} = "x";
    my $grid = {};

    # starting position.  use upper left corner.  could randomize
    my $row = 0;
    my $col = 0;

    # recursively look for solutions
    trypath( $grid, \@letters, $numrows, $numcols, $row, $col );

# look for a path
sub trypath {
    my( $gridref, $lettersref, $numrows, $numcols, $row, $col ) = @_;

    # make local copy of grid, letters-to-do list
    my $grid = { %$gridref };
    my $letters = [ @$lettersref ];

    # remove 1st letter from letter list.  store in a square
    $grid->{"$row,$col"} = shift @$letters;

    # if no more letters, print solution
    if( !@$letters ) {
        printgrid( $grid, $numrows, $numcols );

    # otherwise try possible next moves
    } else {

        # find possible next moves
        foreach (
          grep {
            # square under consideration actually on the grid
            $_->[0] >= 0
            && $_->[0] < $numrows
            && $_->[1] >= 0
            && $_->[1] < $numcols
            # no letter on it yet
            && !defined $grid->{"$_->[0],$_->[1]"}
          # possible knight's moves
          [ $row-1, $col-2 ],
          [ $row-1, $col+2 ],
          [ $row+1, $col-2 ],
          [ $row+1, $col+2 ],
          [ $row-2, $col-1 ],
          [ $row-2, $col+1 ],
          [ $row+2, $col-1 ],
          [ $row+2, $col+1 ] ) {
            # try it
            trypath( $grid, $letters, $numrows, $numcols, $_->[0], $_->[1] );

sub printgrid {
    my( $grid, $numrows, $numcols ) = @_;
    for( my $row = 0; $row < $numrows; ++$row ) {
        for( my $col = 0; $col < $numcols; ++$col ) {
            print $grid->{"$row,$col"} || "_", " ";
        print "\n";
    print "\n";

Some sample results:

i i u k i 
b e l a n 
n s d k i 
s e e a r 
s s t b s

y e o e c m h 
o i a m c s o 
t u c k l o y

CS people have worked out interesting and more efficient solutions to this problem, but this script is fine for generating puzzles small enough for a human to actually solve.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Asleep on the KX

Nathan & I made a trip up to the City last night. I have a gut feeling for how long a train trip he finds fun, and RWC->SF is a little longer than that, so we "zipped" up to Hillsdale. Actually we hit traffic. Hillsdale Blvd itself was clogged enough that when the station was in sight, we just parked (it's kind of surprising you can park on Hillsdale, but it is actually a residential street, albeit a pretty sucky one).

There was some trouble on the line last night but the upshot was that we got on a train that should have passed Hillsdale before we got there, but it was an express too, so whatevs. It was insanely crowded though. CalTrain staff at SF station could have done a better job clearing people impatiently waiting to get on a train out of the way of people trying to get off, though.

King St, the street that goes from the station to the bay via the Ballpark, has a series of plaques memorializing the the language of San Francisco's original Ohlone inhabitants via select vocabulary items. Here is Nate on the plaque for shinniishmin, "boy":

There's a 9/11 memorial in front of the Giants Stadium.

South Beach Park is just past the baseball stadium, and has a small but cool playground. It has an up-and-downy spiral thing that Nathan likes to walk on:

You can see it better from the air!

View Larger Map

It also has an old fashioned kid-power merry-go-round.

We made our way downtown on the N, and alighted at Embarcadero. They've put up some amusing posters since I was last down there:

We rode F line a stop or two. It was a short ride, but Nathan's first. He was looking a bit tired by this point!

Bye-bye trolley!

We got of at 1st St, and went to the former Transbay terminal, future HSR station site, and got on a SamTrans KX bus back to Hillsdale (the stop was right where we'd left the car). Nathan was pretty much instantly asleep. So were about half the other passengers.

The KX takes the freeway, so in the late evening, at least, it gets you back to the peninsula pretty fast. It is a good answer to the perpetual problem that if you take CalTrain for an evening trip to San Francisco, it's tricky to take Muni back to the station without either allowing gobs of extra time or running the risk of a just-less-than-an-hour wait for a train if you miss the one you want. The KX also runs a ways down Mission so you can get on at more convenient/nicer locations than the transbay terminal, in front of the Metreon for example.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Obama's Labor Day Infrastructure Speech

A few notes on this widely-quoted bit:

Over the next six years we are going to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads--enough to circle the world six times. Were going to lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways--enough to stretch coast to coast. Were going to restore 150 miles of runways and advance a next-generation air-traffic control system to reduce flight-times and delays for American travelers.

A few things I like here:

  • I'm glad he's talking about highway maintenance rather than expansion. We have enough roads!
  • This is the first time I can remember a US president talking about railways.

Regardless of whether or how much of $50 billion actually gets spent, these are both hopeful signs that in the future, "infrastructure investment" will be more than a code for "build more freeways so we can turn more farmland into suburbs".

Saturday, September 04, 2010

To Laureola Park by Bike

Nathan and I biked from our house to Laureola Park in San Carlos. This is a nice park for little kids; we know it well because years ago Wini went to a preschool that met in a building in it.

Nathan had fun on slides, swings, etc. I had an odd, only-in-Silicon-Valley encounter, when I asked someone wearing a Jelli shirt if he worked there, since I know someone who does. It turned out he didn't work there, he was an investor. He asked who I knew and I told him, mentioning that she was a former colleague of mine a Tellme. He recognized the name, at least--and said he was a good friend of Tellme's founder.

As long as I live somewhere where I'm going to randomly run into VC's at parks, I think I really ought to keep some business ideas in the back of my head ready to pitch to them.

Laureola Park is next to San Carlos CalTrain, so Nate and I headed over at train time, and rode one stop home to RWC. I was hoping for a new train (aka, "bomb set") since low floor entry would certainly simplify the task of getting on with bike + toddler, but we got an old/gallery train and made do.

Jelli rocks, btw!