28 August, 2012

How to Fix a Road

I love trying to appreciate the invisible work that goes into making our day-to-day lives possible. Yesterday night, I spotted some road construction happening on El Camino Real and decided to stop and take some photos. I also learned a lot, and I'll try to share that as well.

From chatting with a couple folks, I learned that the task for last night was to fix some areas with deteriorating pavement, in preparation for repaving entire stretches of the street this (Tuesday) evening. Having frequently ridden my bicycle over at least one of the sections that they worked on last night, it was definitely it pretty rough shape.
The process starts by doing some research and marking the roadway for cut locations. The markings include sections of the road that should not be cut, such as any area with a metal cover.
A cold milling machine is the device that actually removes the old pavement. It's generally operated by two people, and the ground operator controls the cut depth, as well as fine maneuvering. Here, the ground operator checks the depth of the cut with a ruler as the machine moves away from him.
As the milling machine moves along, it leaves behind some powdered debris from the old surface. The workers used a skid loader, a backhoe with a special attachment, and shovels and rakes to collect, redistribute, and grade the powder as a kind of intermediate layer. They then steamrolled it flat.
After the intermediate layer is steamrolled, trucks bring in fresh, hot asphalt to dump into the cut area. I could feel the heat from where I was standing, 15 or 20 feet away. The backhoe grades the new asphalt with the help of a couple workers with hand tools.

Here, a worker finishes a banana while waiting for the backhoe to finish grading the new asphalt. As an onlooker, it's easy to forget that on-the-job nutrition is likely an important aspect of avoiding injury while working long hours.
Finally, the graded asphalt is steamrolled multiple times. Even so, vehicle traffic will continue to compress the new pavement well after the actual construction finishes.

As mentioned, though, this is only preparation for the next step, planned to happen this evening. Crews will take from 1 to 3 inches off of the entire width of the road surface and repave it.

26 August, 2012

Mumford & Sons, Monterey

I went to the Gentlemen of the Road stopover in Monterey last night, the last of their four US stopovers. It was spectacular. As Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons said near the end, "do you realize what we did? We put a music festival on tour… We put a music festival on tour!"

More photos to come

23 August, 2012


Played darts for the first time yesterday evening. As with arrows (and most other ballistic projectiles), darts have plenty of time to change orientation before they land. I noticed that Jeff's darts were sometimes nose-up in midair, but would generally hit the dartboard straight.

17 August, 2012

One at a time!

I was standing outside of Gallery Carte Blanche yesterday night, when I heard the unmistakable sound of laughter approaching from down the street. I looked, and then heard "One at a time! Daddy can only handle one at a time!"

The girls didn't listen.

Instead, everyone giggled incessantly as the girls jostled for position, and eventually they reached this steady state, where Daddy was holding one girl, and the other one was holding onto Daddy (with the help of a compatriot). Super-Daddy.

16 August, 2012

Crittfest 2012

We start near the end, with frontman Michael Fitzpatrick of Fitz & the Tantrums in midair, echoing the motions of the drummer as the concert approaches a crescendo.

The second running of Crittfest, named for its location at Google's Crittenden campus, featured sets by groups White Denim, Dr. Dog, and headliners Fitz & the Tantrums. As with last year, the concert likely served as something of a tune-up for the three groups, which would perform at the Outside Lands music festival in the days afterward.
Vendors and caterers provided snacks as well as real food. In this case, Harvey's Donuts brought a machine that made miniature donuts as you watched. It was basically a tiny lazy river with rotating scoops (in the "up" position in the photo), but using hot oil instead of water. At the end of the process, people working the booth would douse the donuts in powdered sugar or other toppings and put them out for passers-by to take.
Peter's Kettle Corn showed up and made kettle corn from scratch. Cesar would pour oil, kernels, and sugar into this 4-foot-diameter cooking pan, and then use a large paddle to stir the kernels until they popped. The entire pan then pivoted up to dump the popped kernels into a large collection basket, where Peter (presumably the namesake of the operation) would toss some salt on and drop the finished product into bags for people to eat.

To offer a subjective yet completely technical opinion determined by rigorous application of the scientific method, the bag that I ate was omnomnomilicious (that, of course, being the proper term of art; thanks, Karena).
Another researcher independently reproduced my results. While I have not had a chance to look at his manuscript, casual observations suggest that his conclusions were generally similar to my own. The scientific method tells no lies ;o)
Now on to the music! The evening began with a set by White Denim. The mix was a bit too loud, but the band certainly played it up onstage. In the photo, frontman/guitarist James Petralli head-butts a cymbal while rocking out with drummer Joshua Block.
Next up was Dr. Dog. Toward the end of their set, they asked for someone from the audience to fill in on acoustic guitar — they said one of their players was absent. John (a Googler) stepped up to the plate, and after a quick primer, the show got rolling again.

It was really neat to watch how the band-members communicated with John as the song progressed. At times, they got him to stop strumming, or change his strumming frequency, all without having practiced or played together before. It was also interesting to hear John improvise a little bit with the strumming.
Bassist Toby Leaman, one of the two main vocalists, really seemed to get into the music. He'd swing from yelling to dancing to rocking out and everything in between.

And that was Crittfest. I always love me some music, and this was no exception. Until next time…
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