What I Read in 2014

At the start of 2014 I made a New Year’s Resolution. I never could seem to keep my New Year’s Resolutions, probably for a host of reasons: too many, too complicated, forgot to do them, wrong ones—but this year I was going to complete them.

So I made one New Year’s Resolution.

Read a book every month .

And then I made a second one.

Remember my New Year’s Resolution.

Then I wrote these in an email to myself and sent it. I don’t remember any other resolutions that I’ve made in the past, but this one worked. We also had a small budding book club forming at the time, and the book club met once a month. So when I looked back at that email a few days ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I did read a book every month (but barely… I almost lost it a few times), and I also remembered my New Year’s Resolution.

I think the social aspect of the book club helped.

The Books

You can see the books I read in 2014 here.

Book Club Books

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
This one is a classic that I have been trying to read for ages. I got through it, but really I slogged through it. Good idea, too long, not funny to me.

The Aleph and Other Stories by Jorge Luis Borges
I think I had a really hard time understanding these stories. Wanted to like them more than I did.

Replay by Ken Grimwood
One of my favorites from the year. Really fast read, definitely a page-turner. It’s a great concept and it is fun to read. It also is a great conversation starter, with the core idea: What would you do if you got to live your life over again? Though the idea sounds corny I think it’s actually really well executed and very smart.

Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
I didn’t read the sequel yet like some friends, but I really enjoyed Name of the Wind. The plot didn’t really stick with me now, but it definitely was Harry Potter-like. Which is a good thing.

Creative Confidence by David & Tom Kelley
Very enjoyable book on Design Thinking. It was cool to read and actually know some of the people involved and some of the stories out of the d.school at Stanford. I think these are important ideas, but I was familiar with many parts so that redundancy was one negative.

This Is Burning Man: The Rise of a New American Underground by Brian Doherty
Really liked this book. Thought it was an exciting book, and a pretty fair, accurate and nice historical backdrop to Burning Man. I actually read it before going to Burning Man. The author is clearly a huge fan (since he wrote about about Burning Man), but I think despite this presents the criticims of Burning Man well.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
This book came up from lots of people in different places, and was enjoyable to read. It was a simple book, and a simple premise, but I’m glad I read it. Sometimes books with simple ideas are really nice to reflect on. I’ve enjoyed my experiences traveling and I think the journey story is very important.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Another classic, but one I wasn’t very excited about. Maybe others read this when they were younger so there is a nostalgia component when you re-read it. I never read it before, and thought it was fine.

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
I’ve read several Vonnegut books before so was looking forward to this one. It was absurd, extremely meta-, and bizarre. Vonnegut seems to writing out whatever random ideas or doodles come to mind. I enjoyed parts, but was not so excited overall. The book is extremely literal—and I found those parts the funniest.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Much like I heard the bookshelves whispering about reading Borges, I similarly heard many calls and mentions of Murakami. Though I’ve heard this was not the most “Murakami” of all Murakami books—it was good. He has a really impressive writing style, and the book is intense and emotional. It’s hard to wrap this one up in a box and tie a bow on it. It’s a relationship story, but gives you a lot to think about.

Foundation by Isaac Asimov
I’m not the biggest sci-fi fantasy reader, but Foundation was a very fun book to read. It seemed to have many of those sci-fi elements you’d expect: funny names and planets and a story spanning centuries. Though there are jumps in time and characters, it’s a page turner and holds together well. I could see how you could just keep writing about this world for a long time…

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
This was a fun book to read. It presents taoism and taoist ideas through the light of Winnie the Pooh. The book explores the ideas of the natural state, going with the flow, and simplicity, in a fun, self-aware (but not too-self aware) way. I think it presents the merits of Pooh as a simpleminded character, and gave me a lot to think about in the chapter on Bisy Backson—a criticism of people being too busy, running around and missing the point.

I’ll call out one favorite quote:

It’s really great fun to go someplace where there are no timesaving devices because when you do, you find that you have lots of time.

“It’s really great fun to go someplace where there are no timesaving devices because when you do, you find that you have lots of time … The main problem with this great obsession for Saving Time is very simple: you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly. The Bisy Backson has practically no time at all, because he’s to busy wasting it by trying to save it. And by trying to save every bit of it, he ends up wasting the whole thing.” (pg. 107–108)

I think considering how much everyone is addicted to their cellphone, this is a very important thing to remember.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
What a fun book to read. This details what goes on behind the scenes at kitchens, and makes you think (and it mostly convinced me) that everyone who is cooking is a drugge or convict. Anthony Bourdain is entertaining, direct, and is a great story teller. Makes sense why he has a TV show—though when I saw it I noticed he seems to be quite older now… I was also impressed how fast-paced the book was, and how he could make the preparing of a meal seem intense.

Other Books

Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis
Just finished this one recently. It is a part-autobiographical book of Michael Lewis’ time working at Salomon Brothers (found out Mayor Bloomberg worked there…) and the bond/mortage trading/junk bond industry at the time. I really enjoyed it and I found the events and insanity detailed in the mid-80s to be too similar to the recent events. The uncapped greed of the financial system as detailed in the book is extremely problematic. It’s unfortunate to see history repeating itself only 30 years later.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
I had read the title short story back in high school and decided to re-read the book when I wanted to verify the source of that meme (“What We Talk About When We Talk About X”) that had been co-oped by parts of the internet. This is the original source, and the short stories here are very good. The collection of stories holds together very well, and the stories are simple, dark and eerie. They’re about relationships, but more about the darker side.

Venture Deals by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson
This book was recommended to me by an advisor regarding venture capital. I thought this was a really good book—some of it I was familiar with, but I think it presents VC process and incentive system clearly. Highly recommended reading for people starting companies and raising this type of money.

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
I read this book one day while sitting in a bookstore. It’s short but his books are fun to read and have good ideas in them. He’s a good guy to talk about writing and just making things in general.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
This one might seem out of place… but I re-read a book I had read while I was much younger (maybe 5th grade?) to see what I thought about it. And I thought it was great! I was surprised how fun I thought it was to read this book which was very clearly a kids book. I still thought it was extremely clever, and I’m sure I found things that I understood now that I definitely did not get when I was that little.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater and Florence Atwater
In the same spirit I re-read Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Now I don’t know when I read that, but I was surprised how simple it was. While The Westing Game was still fun to read, Mr. Popper’s Penguins was made up of such simple sentences that it was funny. I feel like as you get older in school they tell you to “show not tell,” but reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins was just the author showing, and in very simple sentences. They did this. Then they did this. Then this happened. I guess there is a big difference between a 3–4th grade and 5–6th grade reading level…

So that’s what I read this year.

Have thoughts about these thoughts? Tweet me at @jkeesh.
Or share/reccomend if you liked it!

MySQL Doesn’t Install on a Mac Yosemite 10.10

MySQL Doesn’t Install on Mac Yosemite 10.10

How to fix

This website had the fix for me: http://coolestguidesontheplanet.com/get-apache-mysql-php-phpmyadmin-working-osx-10-10-yosemite/

Summary was:

  1. Download the 64 bit dmg (only 10.9 was available, oddly when unzipped it said 10.8) http://dev.mysql.com/downloads/mysql/
  2. Customize the install and uncheck the startup item
  3. Manually start mysql from command line and modify path in profile/bashrc file

Setting Up a New Macbook Air (… again)

How I’m setting up my computer

I’m going to try some things differently, and I’ll record how this goes. I lost an old computer, which was a huge bummer so:

  1. Turn on Find my Mac.
  2. Upgrade my iCloud storage because I’ve been out of space for months.
  3. Oops, before 1. I downloaded the Yosemite Mac upgrade.
  4. And I also started an xcode download.

(And this is why you get your computer into a unique state only minutes after using it. And we wonder why it is hard to reproduce bugs…)

5. Starting to download Homebrew ( http://brew.sh ) using this method:

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"

6. Prompted install of xcode command line tools. Waiting for that install.

So the reason I’m starting with Homebrew instead of Chrome as I would usually start is that I’m trying to download and use Homebrew Cask ( http://caskroom.io ), what looks like a promising command line tool for mac apps.

7.

$ brew doctor

Turns out I need to accept the xcode agreement and install git.

8. Accept xcode agreement. After doing that found you could do that in the command line like:

$ sudo xcodebuild -license

9. To document the state of the world at step 9

Jeremys-MacBook-Air:~ jkeesh$ which brew
/usr/local/bin/brew
Jeremys-MacBook-Air:~ jkeesh$ echo $path
Jeremys-MacBook-Air:~ jkeesh$

10. Install git

$ brew install git

type git and it looks like it’s installed

Jeremys-MacBook-Air:~ jkeesh$ git
usage: git [—version] [—help] [-C <path>] [-c name=value]
 [—exec-path[=<path>]] [—html-path] [—man-path] [—info-path]
 [-p|—paginate|—no-pager] [—no-replace-objects] [—bare]
 [—git-dir=<path>] [—work-tree=<path>] [—namespace=<name>]
 <command> [<args>]

11. Install caskroom and hope ( http://caskroom.io )

$ brew install caskroom/cask/brew-cask

12. Moment of truth. Trying to install chrome

Jeremys-MacBook-Air:~ jkeesh$ brew cask install google-chrome
==> We need to make Caskroom for the first time at /opt/homebrew-cask/Caskroom
==> We’ll set permissions properly so we won’t need sudo in the future
Password:
==> Downloading https://dl.google.com/chrome/mac/stable/GGRO/googlechrome.dmg
######################################################################## 100.0%
==> Symlinking App ‘Google Chrome.app’ to ‘/Users/jkeesh/Applications/Google Chr
==> Generic artifacting Artifact ‘Google Chrome.app’ to ‘/Users/jkeesh/Applicati

Jeremy’s Voting Guide to San Francisco Propositions

What’s the story behind props A-L

Hi there! Look’s like you’ve stumbled on my post about the propositions currently up for vote in San Francisco. I read the whole voter guide so you don’t have to (but you really should read that big 200 page pamphlet…), and will try and summarize the question, highlight a few key comments, and add some commentary and my vote and confidence in that vote.

The very Orwellian-sounding “Ballot Simplification Committee” has very kindly prepared a digest for each local measure, which is what most of the voter guide is made up of.

Now, in general the proposition system seems problematic—and there is lots of opposition to it—as a way to pass new legislation for the city. I think that is the reason that my feeling on lots of these initiatives was that they were good high level ideas, but likely not very good laws. For many of those, it also seemed to be very difficult to hypothesize on the long-term macro effects of some very targeted laws.

Ok, let’s start. Here’s a summary. Details below. The “tldr;” of the whole “tldr;”— if you will.

Prop X: Summary Title — My Vote [Confidence Level]

Prop A: $500 Million Transportation Bond — Yes [6/10]
Prop B: Muni Charter Change — No [4/10]
Prop C: Children’s Fund/Education — Yes [7/10]
Prop D: Health Benefits for 50 People — Yes [7/10]
Prop E: Sugary Drink Tax — Yes [6/10]
Prop F: Allow Dogpatch Construction — Yes [8/10]
Prop G: Anti-speculation Tax — Yes…? [3/10]
Prop H: No Lighting at Golden Gate — No [6/10]
Prop I: Renovation of Golden Gate — Yes [6/10]
Prop J: Minimum Wage Increase to $15 — Yes [7/10]
Prop K: Nonbinding Affordable Housing Policy — No [4/10]
Prop L: Policy Regarding Transportation Priorities — No [6/10]

Prop A: San Francisco Transportation and Road Improvement Bond — Yes

Confidence: 6/10

The Question: To construct, redesign and rebuild streets and sidewalks and to make infrastructure repairs and improvements that increase MUNI service reliability, ease traffic congestion, reduce vehicle travel times, enhance pedestrian and bicycle safety, and improve disabled access, shall the City and County of San Francisco issue $500 million in general obligation bonds, subject to independent citizen oversight and regular audits?

This one seems to be a Prop to get more money to invest in improving muni, bike lanes and transportation safety. This seems to be the type of thing a bond should be for and these things definitely need considerable improvement, so overall it seems like a good idea.

However, $500 million does seem like quite a lot, and my skepticism that this money is used to successfully to make noticeable improvements is quite high.

Advocates say, “Prop A will bring San Francisco’s aging transportation
infrastructure into the 21st Century without raising
taxes.
” However, my thought is that this money may bring SF’s transportation infrastructure somewhere to 1985, maybe. I actually think transportation is a huge and important issue and would much rather vote for an even bigger bond that tries to do something interesting to try and really improve public transportation here. Muni is a very broken system, and I’d mostly be curious and hopeful that it would work.

Fun fact from the legal text: it has been estimated it will cost $10.1 billion to improve the Street and Transportation System.

The taxes issue here is a he-said/she-said where the advocates state it doesn’t raise taxes and the opponents state it does. The Controller—who seems to give a balanced view throughout the guide—says it won’t affect taxes, so my thought is that the effect on taxes is will be to raise it some small amount.

There’s an interesting point from the rebuttal which states: “Instead, the Bond language uses the phrase: “Projects to be funded under the proposed Bondmay include but are not limited to…” And that is giving a virtual blank check to the SFMTA!” You know, this seems like a very reasonable argument. Why doesn’t it specify this?

In summary, I’m a yes with lots of skepticism!

Prop B: Adjusting Transportation Funding for Population Growth — No

The question: Shall the City amend the Charter to increase the amount the City provides to the Municipal Transportation Agency based on increases in the City’s population, with such funds to be used to improve Muni and to improve street safety?

Confidence: 4/10

Interestingly, the only rebuttal here comes from one guy who writes crazy things throughout the voter guide, which is a bit concerning. A key problem that I was only able to uncover with more research was that this is one of those measures that in order to spend money for it, money needs to be taken away from something else. I’m not sure what that something else is. The SF chronicle is also against this one, and I’m a no as well.

Prop C: Children’s Fund; Public Education Enrichment Fund; Children and Families Council; Rainy Day Reserve — Yes

Confidence: 7/10

The question: Shall the City amend the Charter to support services to children, youth, and their families by extending the Children’s Fund for 25 years and
increasing its funding; extending the Public Education Enrichment Fund
for 26 years; creating an Our Children, Our Families Council; and dividing
the existing Rainy Day Reserve into a City Rainy Day Reserve and a School
District Rainy Day Reserve?

This one seems to be a good thing, I believe in supporting education, and it is also supported by all of the members of the Board of Supervisors.

As a note, the opposing argument is from the Libertarian party and is a satire literally enclosed in <satire> (HTML-style tags). An excerpt: “Dear me, where’s your faith in government? Aren’t you a loyal, bleeding-heart constituent who always votes “yes” on any measure we kick down to you that has the word “children” or “schools” in the title?”

Lots of good groups are the sponsors of the paid arguments-for, and there are no paid arguments against. I think this should be a yes vote.

Prop D: Retiree Health Benefits for Former Redevelopment Agency and Successor Agency Employees — Yes

Confidence: 7/10

The question: Shall the City amend the Charter to make retiree health care benefits available to certain employees of the former San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and the Successor Agency?

This seems to resolve a technicality so about 50 people can get their health benefits. Other sources confirm that this is a really small amount and should get passed. It is supported by all the supervisors. I’m not sure why the Controller says that “In his opinion…it would have a significant impact on the cost of government…. The proposed amendment could affect the status of up to 50 people.” Seems to me something is off about the scale of that comment.

The opposition is written by this one crazy guy who keeps showing up, Dr. Terence Faulkner, J-D, who is making Gold Rush references.

I think it’s a yes vote, and I’m also surprised this needs to go to a city-wide ballot. It’s probably more trouble to try and understand the whole thing than the total cost.

Prop E: Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages — Yes

Confidence: 6/10

The question: Shall the City collect a tax of 2 cents per ounce from the distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages to fund health, nutrition, physical education and active recreation programs?

So what happens with this one? Lots of drinks get taxed a decent amount, and the proceeds to to fund health and nutrition programs.

The controller estimates it will generate $35 million to $54 million annually. With the current 837,442 population of San Francisco that’s $42- $64 per person. It’s also 1.75 billion to 2.7 billion ounces. That’s about 100 million 16 oz. cokes.

Now this is a really tough one, and is exemplary of many classic political issues. The issues at stake here are government paternalism, regressive taxes, and affordability.

The main supporters are medical and health advocates (American Heart Association and California Medical Association) and they cite that “Cigarette taxes significantly reduced smoking, a soda tax will reduce consumption of sodas and other sugary beverages that are driving the diabetes epidemic.”

The Libertarian party rebuttal sums up the paternalism argument succinctly as: “More government attempts to run our lives.” They also explain it isn’t just sodas, but also juices, ice teas, and sports drinks. Depending on how you feel about government paternalism, that would likely affect your stance on this proposition. I don’t think the tax here is extreme enough to be construed as the government “running our lives.”

I find the diabetes argument very strong, and I think the additional funding for school nutrition and physical education programs is a positive point.

The arguments against center mostly on affordability, arguing that in addition to making beverages more expensive, they also make groceries in general more expensive as this tax is spread across other items. I don’t think the 2 cents per ounce tax tips the scales on affordability though it does make things slightly more expensive.

F: Pier 70 — Yes

Confidence: 8/10

The question: Shall the City increase the height limit for new buildings on the 28-acre development site in the Pier 70 area from 40 feet to 90 feet; and shall it be City policy to encourage the City to proceed with public approval
processes, including environmental review, for this mixed-use project, and
encourage parks, housing, cultural space, and job creation for this site?

Basically there is this 70 acre vacant lot in the Dogpatch. They want to start improving on it and this just makes the height limit for building from 40 feet to 90 feet (pst, there’s already a 90 foot historical building there).

The components of the plan are to make parks, rec areas, new residential units, restore and reuse historical structures, preserve the artistic community, build new office space, make parking improvements, and new jobs.

The controller says it does not affect the cost of government.

It is supported by the biggest list on the book, including the Mayor, and the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association. There’s really no arguments against it in the book. I think it’s a yes vote.

Prop G: Additional Transfer Tax on Residential Property Sold Within 5 Years of Purchase — Yes?

Confidence: 3/10

The question: Shall the City impose an additional tax of between 14% and 24% on the total sale price of certain multi-unit residential properties that are sold within five years of purchase or transfer, subject to certain exceptions?

This is a very controversial proposition on a very important topic. Essentially the goal is to prevent speculation, and evictions caused by this behavior by adding a very hefty tax to the sale of properties owned for less than five years. The idea is to stop people from “flipping” these buildings by making a strong disincentive to do so. There are key exceptions from this tax such as if you live in the building, so the idea is that regular people living in their own home don’t get hurt, but the speculators just buying and flipping places do.

I think I’m voting yes, but I find this one very complicated.

My main worry is that it won’t do the thing it is trying to do, and may even have the opposite unintended consequences. I think people have identified a key problem, but it feels this proposition is legislating a very specific symptom, and it’s quite unclear what the long-term macro effects on the housing market will be.

Both sides start with an agreed upon point: properties are too expensive. The argument in favor says driving this is the flipping of properties, which I’m not sure is right. The opposing argument there, however, seems much more sound: “Prices have been trending upward for decades, the natural result of constricting supply via anti-development policies while demand increased.”

Also there are curious exceptions, such as: why are properties with 30 or more separate residential units exempt here?

It also seems strange that it taxes the full sales price rather than the profits on the transfer.

I think it’s a yes vote because I hope it is narrow enough to stop evictions (it seems what may be needed is a change to the Ellis Act?), but I think it’s unclear.

Prop H: Requiring Certain Golden Gate Park Athletic Fields To Be Kept As Grass With No Artificial Lighting — No

Confidence: 6/10

The question: Shall the City be required to keep natural grass at all athletic fields in Golden Gate Park west of Crossover Drive and to prohibit nighttime sports field lighting in these areas?

There’s a weird thing going on with H and I. Also if they both get approved they are conflicting. I’m not sure what the full backstory is but H is for keeping natural grass and not allowing nighttime sports lighting. There’s a strange comment from the controller saying that it could prevent a planned renovation.

I’d vote no on H. This is one of those that seems weird to need to be voted on by an entire city.

Prop I: Renovation of Playgrounds, Walking Trails, and Athletic Fields — Yes

Confidence: 6/10

The question: Shall the City allow renovations to children’s playgrounds, walking trails and athletic fields if such renovations, which could include installing
artificial turf or nighttime lighting on athletic fields, would double their
anticipated usage and if an environmental impact report has been certified?

It doesn’t sound so crazy to me to make improvements to allow more people to use the parks. The mayor supports it.

The rebuttal claims Proposition I is “poorly drafted,” and I’m not sure how valid that is. However, on the H vs. I issue here, I’d do no on H, yes on I.

Prop J: Minimum Wage Increase — Yes

Confidence: 7/10

Shall the City gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour
by July 1, 2018, with further increases based on inflation?

Yes.

You should vote for this. It brings minimum wage from $10.74/hour or 22,400/year to $15/hour which would be $31,200 year.

Prop K: Affordable Housing — No

Confidence: 4/10

The question: Shall it be City policy to help construct or rehabilitate at least 30,000 homes by 2020, more than 50% of which will be affordable for
middle-class households and more than 33% of which will be
affordable for low- and moderate-income households, and secure
sufficient funding to achieve that goal?

Seems like a good idea, but in researching it more, it also seems like it doesn’t do much. This seems to just make something a policy. I’d go with a no-vote.

Prop L: Policy Regarding Transportation Priorities

Confidence: 6/10

Shall it be City policy to change parking and transportation priorities?

The text of this one seems more like a complaint than a productive law. It seems to set some policy around parking meters and work on building parking garages, and doesn’t seem completely coherent to me. The idea seems to be to advocate for car-owners rights rather than just public transportation. I think this is a no-vote.

Well, thanks for reading! If this was interesting or useful, share or message me at @jkeesh or jkeesh@.