Sunday Reading – 11/06/16


The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

The Robots are Coming, With Cheetos – Relay is waist-high. It has mood lighting, touch screens, and chirps as it wheels along hotel hallways, delivering Cheetos, Kraft Mac and Cheese, and hairspray to guests. There are only a handful of Relays deployed in several Silicon Valley hotels right now. But Intel Corp., which invested in the robot’s maker, Savioke Inc., thinks the future will be full of such helpers.

Underneath Relay’s curvy exterior is artificial intelligence software that allows it to use cameras and other sensors to independently navigate through the hotel without running anyone over. Being aware of what’s going around them is crucial if robots are going to transition from cages on factory floors to hotels, homes and other places where they could easily hurt humans.

“Technology’s gotten to a point where robots can make sense of the world in real time,” said Steve Cousins, Savioke’s founder and chief executive officer. “If the robot can see the world, process what it’s seeing, and make a decision in real time, then it can be around us.” Read More > at Bloomberg

How more than 80 election ballots mysteriously landed at one address in San Pedro – On the eve of a contentious national election that at times has focused on potential voter fraud and suppression, a San Pedro couple unexpectedly landed in the media spotlight this week.

Authorities are investigating the story behind more than 80 unused ballots — all with different names but all addressed to the same single-unit apartment — that landed at their mailboxes.

“I call it spooky,” said Jerry Mosna, who discovered the bundled stacks on top of the apartment building’s mailbox center on Saturday. He went first to the Los Angeles Police Department, where officers directed him to the main San Pedro post office on Beacon Street. The ballots were returned to the sender, the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s Office.

Two investigators from the U.S. Inspector General’s Office met with Mosna and his wife, Madeline, in their apartment Thursday as part of their follow-up report.

The county registrar-recorder also is investigating. Read More > in the Los Angeles Daily News

Amazon rolls out one-hour delivery for Oakland restaurants – Amazon is upping its restaurant delivery game. After expanding into San Francisco earlier this year, the company is rolling out free one-hour delivery in Oakland through its Prime Now service.

“Customers are loving Amazon Restaurants and we are proud to offer this service to Prime users in the Bay Area,” said Amazon spokesperson Amanda Ip.

The service debuts today with around 40 restaurants, including local hotspots A.G. Ferrari, El Mono, Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers, Fonda Solano, Himalayan Flavors, Marzano, Clove and Hoof, Mama’s Royal Café and more.

Amazon Restaurants is free for Prime members and offers transparent pricing, meaning no menu markups or hidden fees. The minimum order is $20. Read More > in The San Francisco Business Times

The future of autonomous vehicle technology is here with Car-to-X Communication – Day in and day out, drivers constantly face the unpredictable. Whether it’s a sudden traffic jam or a suddenly slippery road right around the corner, drivers have to be on constant alert for any dangerous situation that may arise.

But what if another car could alert yours to potential hazards before you even reach them?

As the quest toward fully autonomous vehicles continues, brands like Mercedes-Benz are making massive strides with the technology capable of these predictions known in the industry as “Car-to-X Communication.” In the simplest terms, it is a system that allows cars on the road to “talk” with one another, in addition to communication with infrastructures such as traffic lights and road signs. Vehicles automatically record their surroundings as well as their own status and send out signals to nearby vehicles warning of changes in road conditions, traffic and broken down cars, among many other possible issues. Read More > in the New York Daily News

Donations to Religious Institutions Fall as Values Change – It used to be that many people gave to their particular house of worship to get a prominent pew or extra blessings. Or because their grandparents and parents had always attended that church or synagogue or mosque.

That is changing. Religious institutions are still the single biggest recipients of overall charity donations, according to the 2015 survey by the Giving USA Foundation. About 32 percent — $119.3 billion — of a total of $373.25 billion Americans gave to charities went to churches, synagogues, mosques and temples.

But that is down from about 50 percent since 1990, according to Rick Dunham, vice chairman of Giving USA, and the percentage has been “in steady decline for some time.” The religion category in the survey refers solely to religious institutions, not religious charities such as the Salvation Army, he said.

Part of the reason is an overall decline in the number of people who identify with a religious group. According to the Pew Research Center 2014 Religious Landscape Study, 23 percent of Americans say they are not affiliated with any religion, up from 16 percent in 2007.

But it’s also true that “younger people give differently,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. “It’s about expressing their commitment to core values and their obligation to sustain those in need. In prior generations, giving to Jewish organizations was thought of as automatic. Now the younger generation doesn’t feel constrained by doing what their parents or grandparents did.” Read More > in The New York Times

Joe Maddon did his best to try and add to Cubs’ misery, ‘he choked’ as manager in the World Series – When Joe Maddon shoved aside baseball lifer Rick Renteria two years ago to become manager of the Chicago Cubs, a hungry fan base rejoiced, believing that their team had found a genius to lead it to a championship.

But today, as a drowsy America celebrates the Cubs’ World Series win, an odd realization cuts through our case of the warm-and-fuzzies: Maddon, far from delivering the victory, nearly cost his team its chance at history.

“It’s amazing to say, but they won despite him, not because of him,” said one rival scout Thursday morning, echoing an opinion that bounced around baseball all Wednesday night and into the morning. “He choked.”

To the general public, this is a nitpick. The Cubbies broke their curse! But to those of us who derive pleasure from scrutinizing the X’s and O’s of this beautiful game, Maddon’s moves provided a fascinating handbook on how to give away a World Series – made all the more interesting by his well-deserved reputation as an innovator, and one of the game’s bright lights. Read More > in The New York Daily News

‘Two Californias’ Ruled by One Distorted Vision – Local writers often refer to the “Two Californias” — referencing the cultural, economic, and geographic disparities between the tony world highlighted on TV and the movies and the gritty agricultural and industrial world east of the coastal ranges. Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tim Draper proposed a statewide initiative turning California into six separate states. It made sense, from a wonkish point of view, even if it never had a big chance of qualifying for the ballot.

But from a land-use perspective, the real problem is that all of the political power is concentrated in dense urban regions, whereas the bulk of the land mass is rural, agricultural or “urban” in a Fresno or Bakersfield sort of way (i.e., poor, industrial, and decrepit). Rural Californians often chide urban legislators for wanting to shut down their economies and turn the Central Valley and other regions into little more than a nature preserve. That’s an exaggeration, but whatever one thinks of breaking up the state, there clearly is a “Two Californias” problem.

A couple of recent stories make the point. In Townhall.com, Victor Davis Hanson wrote about California Highway 99: “The 99 was recently ranked by ValuePenguin (a private consumer research organization) as the deadliest major highway in the nation. Locals who live along its 400-plus miles often go to bed after seeing lurid TV news reports of nocturnal multi-car accidents.”

The article grabbed my attention, not only because I’m one of those locals who lives near that freeway and depends upon it for most of my driving, but because of the reasons for its continuing state of disrepair. As Hanson explains, the state has been involved in a seemingly endless $1 billion renovation of this “highway of death,” but its real priority is the proposed $68-billion high-speed rail line that will begin in Fresno, along the 99 corridor. As he put it, “All societies in decline fixate on impossible postmodern dreams as a way of disguising their inability to address pre-modern problems.”

Indeed, California’s state government — thanks to the policy priorities crafted in those wealthy coastal mega-regions — is totally fixated on remaking the world. Its first-in-the-nation cap-and-trade policies — combined with a new law that more aggressively pushes for carbon-dioxide reductions — are all about prodding other states and nations into addressing climate change. One state cannot turn back global warming, after all. Unfortunately, these urban priorities are doing much to ensure the continued poverty of the Other California. Read More > in The American Spectator

We’re about to see a record-breaking supermoon – the biggest in nearly 70 years – If you only see one astronomical event this year, make it the November supermoon, when the Moon will be the closest to Earth it’s been since January 1948.

During the event, which will happen on the eve of November 14, the Moon will appear up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than an average full moon. This is the closest the Moon will get to Earth until 25 November 2034, so you really don’t want to miss this one. Read More > at Science Alert

McDonald’s is making a major change to the Big Mac – McDonald’s is making some big changes to its core menu item: the Big Mac.

The chain is launching a “Mac Jr” and a “Grand Mac” nationwide for a limited time in early 2017, the company said Thursday.

The Mac Jr. is a miniature version of the Big Mac with a single 1/6-pound burger patty.

The Grand Mac features 66% more beef than the regular Big Mac, an extra slice of cheese, and a larger bun.

The regular Big Mac has two 1/10-pound burger patties, three pieces of bread, and two slices of cheese, special sauce, lettuce, pickles, and onions. Read More > at Business Insider

Uber faces $5 million suit from San Francisco’s oldest cab company – Another party is suing Uber over the ride-hailing service’s business practices. This time it’s San Francisco’s Flywheel, the taxi company formerly known as DeSoto Cab, also known as SF’s oldest taxi company. To the tune of a $5 million-plus federal suit, Flywheel alleges that since UberX came to be in 2012, the city’s taxi industry has lost 65 percent of its riders and 30 percent of its drivers, according to SF Gate.

Flywheel claims that’s the result of Uber setting prices between 10-and-45 percent lower than that of taxi services, and that Uber can cover this cost thanks to investments from deep-pocketed venture capitalists. There are a few bits about Uber misrepresenting its safety, pricing and potential earnings for drivers as well.

“This lawsuit is about holding Uber responsible for their unlawful practices,” Flywheel CEO Hansu Kim told the publication. “It is not about stifling competition or technological innovations. We want all on-demand taxi services to be treated fairly under the law, and competing on an even playing field.”

Flywheel also thinks that Uber will drive out all of its competitors, create a monopoly and then jack prices up because it’ll be the only option available. Read More > at Engadget

NFL title droughts we’d love to see end – The Chicago Cubs ended 108 years of heartache last night with their exhilarating extra-inning win over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night. While there is no century-old title drought in pro football, the euphoria surrounding the Cubs got us thinking: Which NFL team do we want to see finally win a Lombardi Trophy?

The Detroit Lions reside in the crawlspace of the modern NFL, not even good enough to sneak into the spacious cellar where other losers drown their sorrows on fermented potions dreaming of grandeur gone wrong. Not since the days when a hungover Bobby Layne patrolled the field during the Eisenhower Administration have the Lions won anything worth telling your children about. The last Lions championship famously came in 1957.

The Cleveland Browns last won an NFL championship back on Dec. 27, 1964 in a now eerie defeat of the Baltimore based franchise (Colts) that later gutted the city’s football soul. A 52-year gap between titles is nothing compared to Cubs standards, but it is a drought we would like to see end.

An all-time great quarterback in Philip Rivers goes on a career-altering run. An organization with its entire existence in peril ends a 53-year title drought for the entire city, securing the team’s long-term future in San Diego. It’s too beautiful not to happen. Read More > at NFL.com

You’ll Never Guess Why a Pacifica Councilwoman Had to Drop Her Re-Election Bid – Pacifica City Councilwoman Mary Ann Nihart was forced to abandon her bid for re-election Tuesday because of a fluke in federal law stemming from an endorsement received by one of her political opponents.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the statute at the center of this story is the same one that could potentially ensnare FBI Director James Comey following his recent decision to inform congress about a reopening of the investigation against presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“The fluke stemmed from a Hatch Act provision barring federal employees from engaging in partisan politics,” according to the Chronicle. “In Nihart’s case, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel ruled that the San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee’s endorsement of one of her three election rivals, Deirdre Martin, had turned a nonpartisan City Council race into a partisan battle — making Nihart ineligible as a federal employee to participate under the law.”

Nihart, you see, is a clinical director with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. There was no problem with that until the Democratic Party endorsed Martin. After that, Nihart was told she could either quit her job or drop out of the race.

“I feel so bad,” said Nihart. She asked the local Democratic committee to rescind its endorsement of Martin so she could run, but it declined. Read More > at California City News

How Driverless Cars Could Empower Pedestrians – Currently, most roads in the U.S. are designed around the needs of drivers, making them inconvenient at best and dangerous at worst for walkers and cyclists. With more vehicles on the roads, pedestrian fatalities are surging nationwide. You’ve already heard that autonomous vehicles stand to make streets much, much safer by putting a computer fully in charge of the split-second road-reactions that human drivers so routinely flub. They might also succeed in upending an age-old vehicular hierarchy: In a world where most cars are driving themselves, pedestrians could reign supreme.

That’s the premise of new research by Adam Millard-Ball, a professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He uses game theory to suggest that autonomous vehicles could benefit pedestrians by being more responsive to their behavior. “In most urban areas, pedestrians have many more rights than they actually assert,” says Millard-Ball—for example, they don’t always cross when they’ve got the light, fearing a collision. Once self-driving cars arrive en masse, walkers might be more even assertive than laws generally permit.

Millard-Ball’s paper looks especially closely at the game of “crosswalk chicken” that human-driven cars and pedestrians often play: In the vast majority of states, pedestrians are supposed to be able to cross at all intersections, whether or not there’s a marked crosswalk, “but you’d be silly to try and assert your right in front of a car, because often drivers don’t realize it’s a crosswalk, and even where there are some lines on street, drivers’ observance is often in the breach,” he says. So pedestrians usually end up the defense, watching for traffic before timidly lifting a foot off the sidewalk. Read More > at CityLab

Why Do Millennials Hate Groceries? – Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that twenty- and thirtysomethings are bidding adieu to yet another cultural mainstay of the Baby Boomer generation—shopping trips to supermarkets. With an abundance of options on the streets and at their fingertips, young shoppers are eating out at restaurants and bars, ordering in on their phones, or snagging groceries at convenience stores, such as CVS, and superstores, such as Walmart.

Supermarkets, meanwhile, are stuck in a middle that is being hollowed out by choice and technology. “I don’t think we’ve seen shopping change so dramatically ever,” Marty Siewert, senior vice president for consumer and shopper analytics at Nielsen, told reporter Heather Haddon.

But this story reflects two universal truths about culture. First, many cultural changes for which Millennials are initially blamed really reflect broader trends affecting even the oldest consumers. Second, many cultural changes are really reversions to old norms.

…Now a clearer picture is coming into view. The big story here is not that young people are uniquely turning away from groceries. Rather, the story is a structural shift toward eating out at restaurants, among Millennials and their parents (and perhaps even their grandparents). Between the first year of the Bill Clinton’s administration and the middle of George W. Bush’s presidency, senior citizens’ restaurant spending rose from 27 to 38 percent of their food budget, far surpassing the increase among shoppers under 45. Read More > in The Atlantic

Schools to face teacher shortage if voters end ban on bilingual education – Voters will decide Tuesday whether to expand bilingual education programs in California schools, bringing an end to an almost 20-year restriction on their growth. But passage could create a new challenge: how to find enough bilingual teachers amid an ongoing shortage of teachers, especially those who can teach in multiple languages.

“Right now there are people who want to mount programs and they are not able to do it,” UCLA research professor Patricia Gandara said of Proposition 58. “There is already a demand that cannot be met, and this will increase that demand.”

Proposition 58 would remove the requirement that English learners be taught in English-only classes and would allow public schools to choose their own language instruction programs. It would also remove the requirement that parents who want to enroll their children in bilingual education programs apply for annual waivers. It might also lead to an expansion of dual immersion classes, in which students who are native English speakers and those who are native speakers of another language are taught together in both languages to achieve proficiency in both. Read More > at EdSource

See How They Run: Candidates Lining Up for 2018 Governor’s Race – Up and down the state, candidates are gearing up for the next election. The 2018 gubernatorial election, that is.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is in and is quickly assembling a war chest. Ditto state Treasurer John Chiang. Former California schools superintendent and East Bay Assemblywoman Delaine Eastin says she’s gearing up to run, and Bay Area billionaire Tom Steyer is said to be considering it, too. And former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says he’ll be jumping in as soon as next week.

Republican political consultant Mike Madrid says it’s going to be a crowded and largely Democratic field. That will tempt viable Republicans to test the waters, including perhaps San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.

“I think you’re seeing a younger, newer generation of Democrats that represent various constituencies, different voices in the Democratic Party,” Madrid says. “And I think it’s probably a conversation we’ve needed to have in California for at least 10 years.”

Madrid says he doesn’t think the governor’s race is going to dominate Thanksgiving dinner discussions. But he says the only thing bigger than running for California’s top job is running for president. Read More > at KQED

Study: Almost Half of Americans Say They Can’t Find Something Good to Watch on TV – There’s more TV available and consumers are paying more for the privilege, but 44 percent of viewers in the U.S. complain that there is nothing worth watching, according to a massive study released Thursday.

The average person spends 23 minutes per day trying to find something good to watch on broadcast TV and will dedicate 1.3 years of their lives changing channels and studying their on-screen guides, according to the Ericsson ConsumerLab TV and Media Report 2016.

Ericsson surveyed 30,000 people in 24 countries, and says its study represents the TV habits of more than 1 billion people worldwide.

The 44 percent of Americans who say they have trouble finding worthy shows to watch represents a big uptick over last year, when 36 percent had a similar complaint. Read More > at The Hollywood Reporter

Safeway buys Andronico’s Community Markets – Safeway will buy Andronico’s Community Markets for undisclosed terms, the companies said Wednesday, snapping up all five of the Bay Area-based chain’s stores.

The acquisition will keep workers in their current roles and will could add jobs eventually, Safeway said, with all employees keeping their benefits and union rates of pay.

“Andronico’s Community Markets have developed a well-respected brand and loyal customer base, and we are committed to keeping the local heritage alive,” Tom Schwilke, president of Safeway Northern California, said in a statement sent to the Business Times. “Our goal is to preserve everything great about Andronico’s while adding Safeway’s innovations and great Own Brands products including O Organics.”

The 87-year-old regional grocery chain filed for bankruptcy in 2011, listing $10 million to $50 million in debts, but was later acquired by Renovo Capital later that same year. It had expanded quickly throughout the Bay Area, a move that eventually forced it to shutter three stores entirely. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

Complaints of syringes and feces rise dramatically in SF – More and more, it seems, San Franciscans need to watch where they step. And they’re not imagining things: There’s been an explosion in complaints about needles and feces on the streets and sidewalks.

Reports of improperly discarded syringes have jumped 41 percent since last fiscal year, according to a recent city controller’s report. Complaints about feces have increased by 39 percent, with every district seeing a rise in the calls.

And, in a trend that must be disturbing to residents who don’t live near the Tenderloin or SoMa, long perceived as epicenters of filth, there were big increases in complaints about the outlying neighborhoods to the city’s 311 service portal for fiscal year 2015-16.

Complaints about needles have surged 73 percent in supervisorial District Two — the Marina and Cow Hollow. They were up even more — 77 percent — in District 10, the Bayview. District Four — the Sunset — saw a 58 percent increase. District Six — downtown, the Tenderloin and SoMa — had an increase of 49 percent. There was good news in District Seven — Lake Merced and West of Twin Peaks, which saw a decline of 39 percent. Read More > at SFGATE

Italy fears for Colosseum as ‘cracks get bigger’ after each quake – The worst earthquake to hit Italy in three decades has added troubling cracks to the Colosseum, threatening the country’s most popular historic landmark.

Francesco Prosperetti, the special superintendent for the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, said that each earthquake put ever more dangerous strain on the 2,000-year-old arena.

The 6.5 magnitude earthquake that shook central Italy at 7.40 a.m. on Sunday left more than 25,000 people homeless and caused widespread destruction in around 100 towns in central Italy. It was the latest in a string of earthquakes to hit the country since August 24, when nearly 300 people died in a 6.2 magnitude quake. Read More > in The Telegraph

Want to ‘train your brain’? Forget apps, learn a musical instrument – The multimillion dollar brain training industry is under attack. In October 2014, a group of over 100 eminent neuroscientists and psychologists wrote an open letter warning that “claims promoting brain games are frequently exaggerated and at times misleading”. Earlier this year, industry giant Lumosity was fined $2m, and ordered to refund thousands of customers who were duped by false claims that the company’s products improve general mental abilities and slow the progression of age-related decline in mental abilities. And a recent review examining studies purporting to show the benefits of such products found “little evidence … that training improves everyday cognitive performance”.

While brain training games and apps may not live up to their hype, it is well established that certain other activities and lifestyle choices can have neurological benefits that promote overall brain health and may help to keep the mind sharp as we get older. One of these is musical training. Research shows that learning to play a musical instrument is beneficial for children and adults alike, and may even be helpful to patients recovering from brain injuries.

“Music probably does something unique,” explains neuropsychologist Catherine Loveday of the University of Westminster. “It stimulates the brain in a very powerful way, because of our emotional connection with it.” Read More > in The Guardian

Reservoir Levels Rise In California With Record October Rainfall – Rains have drenched Northern California, where most of the state’s largest reservoirs are located. The state had the second wettest October since the Department began keeping records in 1921.

“We are almost 400 percent of the normal amount of rain in October here in the north and even the San Joaquin and Tulare regions are well above their averages as well,” says Doug Carlson with the California Department of Water Resources. “But if history tells us anything it’s don’t predict what the weather is going to be two or three weeks from now.”

Carlson also says all the rain doesn’t mean California is out of the drought. Sixty-one percent of the state remains in severe drought. Much of the rain that has fallen has soaked into the ground, rather than filling up reservoirs. Water storage in Lake Shasta, the state’s largest reservoir, is now at its historical average for this time of year. But only three of the state’s 12 major reservoirs hold their historical average. Read More > at Capital Public Radio

5 Reasons to Start Eating Full-Fat Dairy, According to Science – As much as we’ve cozied up to the idea of “healthy” fats, cooking with olive oil, topping our burgers with avocado and eating almonds by the handful in the name of better health – most of us still get pretty squeamish about which milk carton we choose.

“Drinking whole milk will make you gain weight.” “Cheese and butter are bad for your heart.” “Yogurt is good, but always opt for no-fat varieties to save calories.” You’ve undoubtedly heard (if not uttered) all of these statements before.

But how true are they, really? Emerging research suggests not very. Here are five major – and majorly surprising – benefits of choosing full-fat milk, yogurt, cheese and even ice cream!

1. Easier Weight Loss

Let’s repeat: Fat does not make you fat. No, not even dairy fat. For instance, a 2013 review published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that people who eat full-fat dairy tend to be leaner than those who opt for low-fat versions. And in a 2016-released long-term study of 18,438 middle-aged women, consumption of high-fat dairy, but not low-fat dairy, was associated with reduced likelihood of becoming overweight through the years.

2. A Lower Risk of Diabetes

While maintaining a healthy weight can certainly help lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, research suggest that, all scales being equal, dairy fat may still improve metabolic health. After all, one 15-year study from Tufts University researchers found that, compared to people who eat the least dietary fat, people who eat the most have a 46 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Read More > at U.S. News and World Report

First self-driving cars will be unmarked so that other drivers don’t try to bully them – The first self-driving cars to be operated by ordinary British drivers will be left deliberately unmarked so that other drivers will not be tempted to “take them on”, a senior car industry executive has revealed.

One of the biggest fears of an ambitious project to lease the first autonomous vehicles to everyday motorists is that other road users might slam on their brakes or drive erratically in order to force the driverless cars into submission, he said.

This is why the first 100 self-driving 4×4 vehicles to be leased to motorists as part of a pilot scheme on busy main roads into London will look no different than other Volvos of the same model, said Erik Coelingh, senior technical leader at Volvo Cars. The scheme will start in 2018.

The House of Lords science and technology committee will begin to take evidence on driverless cars on 1 November, looking at issues such as who is legally accountable for a vehicle that “thinks” for itself.

Coelingh’s concerns chime with the findings of a survey published earlier this month by the London School of Economics. It found that aggressive drivers will attempt to “bully” the occupants of autonomous vehicles, which they will see as easy prey on the roads because the cars will follow the rules of the highway. Read More > in The Guardian

No batteries, no problem: Powering our gadgets with fuel cell technology – If you’re using a rechargeable gadget such as a smartphone, chances are it’s powered by a lithium-ion battery, a staple in electronics since the 1990s. But will the li-ion continue to reign supreme? These days smartphones come packed with a dizzying array of power-hungry features like high-definition screens and biometric sensors, placing an increasingly high demand on battery life. It’s come to the point that we consider an 18-hour battery life acceptable — a far cry from the week’s worth of juice we used to get from our feature phones in the pre-smartphone era.

It should then come as no surprise that there is a race within the tech industry to find a longer-lasting alternative. Among the most promising are fuel cells, which typically run on elemental hydrogen and promise to exponentially increase the battery life of today’s gadgets while eliminating the need to plug in every day. We partnered with Toyota Mirai to show you just how close we are to powering our phones with fuel cells and the innovators who are making it happen.

While no commercially available hydrogen-powered smartphones currently exist, there’s a good reason to be excited. Prototypes, such as the one unveiled by U.K.-based Intelligent Energy at CES this year, have demonstrated that fuel cells can extend a smartphone’s battery life by a full week. Fuel cells, which have been used in transportation as early as the 1950s, also get around the hassle of having to find a power socket and then waiting for the gadget to return to full charge; they provide power instantly, thanks to their unique design. Read More > at Engadget

Tech bubble unlikely to pop anytime soon, new S.F. office data shows – Tech tenants are still competing heavily for commercial office space in San Francisco, a new report from Cushman & Wakefield has found, as slowing leasing has been largely mitigated by a thriving subleasing market.

The firm’s quarterly San Francisco Office Snapshot found that while the overall leasing rate slowed to its lowest in the third quarter since 2001, the companies that were giving up space, like Twitter in Mid-Market, saw their subleased space snapped up almost immediately by other tech companies.

“The fourth quarter will definitely be better than the third quarter,” Robert Sammons, Cushman’s regional director for Northern California Research, told VentureBeat this week.“I can almost guarantee that.”

That trend has some market watchers stressing that while there may be slowdowns here or there, the fear of one massive tech bubble bursting (and taking the city’s commercial real estate boom with it) is not just overblown, it’s highly unlikely. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

Wireless Charging: Coming Soon to an Electric Vehicle Near You – Wireless charging could be a game-changer for electric vehicles — and a crucial step in the shift to mass EV adoption.

Mercedes-Benz is currently poised to be the first automaker to offer wireless charging for a production vehicle. In June, the German automaker announced the new feature would be coming to market in 2018 with the S550e plug-in hybrid (PHEV) luxury sedan. Earlier this month, it was revealed that Mercedes would use a version of Qualcomm Halo’s technology, manufactured by an unnamed Tier 1 power electronics supplier.

…To add range, owners of a S550e equipped with wireless charging will simply have to park atop a special pad and charging will begin, no plugs or cables necessary. Qualcomm Halo WEVC technology uses resonant magnetic induction to transfer energy between the ground-based pad and a charging pad on the EV. Pricing has yet to be released, but it is unlikely to be much of a concern given the S550e’s $96,600 base price. Read More > at Green Tech Media

California State Considers New Rules For Waste Water Recycling – California is moving forward with rules for how water districts can turn what goes down your toilet back into drinking water. State regulators are taking comments on a kind of water recycling where wastewater sits in a lake before being treated. Next up might be a way to skip the wait.

The state already has rules in place for groundwater recharge – where wastewater goes in an aquifer and later comes out for drinking water.

Randy Barnard heads the recycled-water unit for the State Water Resources Control Board. He says both aquifers and surface reservoirs act as ‘environmental buffers,’ killing pathogens and diluting chemicals. Barnard says they also just help folks feel less icky about reusing wastewater. Read More > at Capital Public Radio

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About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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