All posts by Jordon

The Seed Vault

Follow world-renowned scientist Cary Fowler into the heart of the arctic, where the Svalbard Global Seed Vault lies nestled in the frozen Norwegian landscape. Among the most important buildings in the world, the Seed Vault holds the key to human survival: more than 880,000 seed samples, the largest collection in the world. These seeds are critical because, unless safeguarded, agriculture biodiversity is at risk of decline in the face of changing environmental and population pressures.

Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber

This is the company that some on Saskatoon City Council is so excited to attract to Saskatoon.

As most of you know, I left Uber in December and joined Stripe in January. I’ve gotten a lot of questions over the past couple of months about why I left and what my time at Uber was like. It’s a strange, fascinating, and slightly horrifying story that deserves to be told while it is still fresh in my mind, so here we go. 

I joined Uber as a site reliability engineer (SRE) back in November 2015, and it was a great time to join as an engineer. They were still wrangling microservices out of their monolithic API, and things were just chaotic enough that there was exciting reliability work to be done. The SRE team was still pretty new when I joined, and I had the rare opportunity to choose whichever team was working on something that I wanted to be part of. 

After the first couple of weeks of training, I chose to join the team that worked on my area of expertise, and this is where things started getting weird. On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn’t. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn’t help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR.

Uber was a pretty good-sized company at that time, and I had pretty standard expectations of how they would handle situations like this. I expected that I would report him to HR, they would handle the situation appropriately, and then life would go on – unfortunately, things played out quite a bit differently. When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man’s first offense, and that they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he “was a high performer” (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.

It gets worse from here.

Why drink alone when you can drink with your pet?

Cat wines are the latest manifestation of a growing trend of pet owners treating them like people.

Over the past 15 years, “the pet market has been transformed by humanization of pets,” said David Sprinkle, the research director at marketresearch.com….“The term ‘pet parent’ has increasingly replaced ‘pet owner,’”

Mr. Sprinkle said. Cat products and supplies make up 30 percent of the $40 billion United States pet market, excluding services, he said.  This has to be a sign of a decline of western civilization.

New delinquent U.S. car loans at 8-year peak: NY Fed survey

Bloomberg reports

More Americans fell behind on their car loan payments in the fourth quarter, bringing auto delinquencies to their highest since the height of the financial crisis, Federal Reserve Bank of New York data released on Thursday showed.

Car loans delinquent by 30 days or more grew to $23.27 billion, the most since $23.46 billion in the third quarter of 2008. They were up from $22.98 billion in the prior quarter.

Seriously delinquent auto loans whose payments were 90 days or more past due jumped to $8.24 billion in the fourth quarter, the highest since the third quarter of 2016, according to the survey.

This make no sense to me as both the U.S. economy and unemployment is doing better and interest rates at still at historically low levels.  Any ideas why?

Family Day Weekend

Highway 11 :: Louis Riel TrailYesterday I told everyone to grab their go-bags and get in the car.  We washed the car at Classic Car Wash and then got to the intersection of 33rd Street and Idylwyld Drive.  I asked everyone if we should turn north or south.  The vote was south and we headed south down Highway 11 towards Regina.

As we pulled into Chamberlain, I called for another vote or Regina or Moose Jaw.  The vote was Moose Jaw.  We headed towards down Highway 2 to Moose Jaw and then went to Deja Vu Cafe for milkshakes and chicken wings.Interior of the Deja Vu Cafe in Moose Jaw

Of course we ordered too many wings, ate too much and staggered out of there fuller than full.  We grabbed our cameras and took some shots of an overcast downtown Moose Jaw.

The Walter Scott Building in downtown Moose JawThe Walter Scott Building in downtown Moose JawMark Cooper with his Pentax K-5 II DSLR cameraThe Alleys of Moose Jaw, SaskatchewanThe Alleys of Moose Jaw, SaskatchewanThe Alleys of Moose Jaw, SaskatchewanThe Alleys of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Moose Jaw is such a picturesque city and it is always fun to explore with a camera.  Parts of it looks like a movie set.

How the government is trying to save the ‘birthplace’ of Canada

I hate how we treat heritage properties like this in Canada.

Province House in Prince Edward Island

But while our union is still sound a century-and-a-half later, the foundations of its cradle are falling apart – and the government is working furiously to save it.

Province House is in bad shape. Inside, mortar between Maritime sandstone has turned to dust, timber is rotting and plaster has fallen off the walls. The Prince Edward Island legislature moved out two years ago after decades in the east wing, and the building is closed for renovation work until at least 2020.

“It is a sick building, you might say,” Greg Shaw, a project manager at Parks Canada, told The Globe and Mail.

In 2013, as PEI got ready to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown conference, crews began some cosmetic masonry work on the outside of Province House. They soon discovered that minor blemishes were actually symptoms of deeper problems. Investigators were dispatched to peel back the layers of the building, and they found that decades of water damage and past stopgap repairs had taken a greater toll on everything from the roof to the floors than anyone had thought.

“You don’t know, really, what you have until you open the thing up,” Mr. Shaw said.

Thanks to an agreement reached when Justin Trudeau’s father was prime minister, Province House is the federal government’s responsibility to fix – even though the building is still owned by PEI. When the memorandum of agreement between Ottawa and Charlottetown was signed in 1974, Parks Canada was using most of the available office space, and agreed to be responsible for maintenance of the building for 99 years. Since then, though, the needs of PEI’s legislature grew and it took over two-thirds of the space.

The imbalance has led the federal government to rethink the deal. In 2014, senior public servants at Parks Canada recommended Ottawa figure out how to get out of its Province House obligations, according to briefing material obtained through Access to Information laws. The PEI government says it has no interest in renegotiating the deal, and points out it covered the cost of relocating the legislative chamber while the building was closed.

In a statement, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna would only say that the federal government “is committed to [the building’s] long-term conservation and has invested $41-million towards this goal.”

That bill – roughly the same cost as a proposed plan to fix up the Prime Minister’s Ottawa residence at 24 Sussex Dr. – may not be enough.

Also kudos to the PEI officials that managed to talk the Government in Canada to pay for the restoration of their legislature building.  The rest of Canada salutes you.