Transit Talk

Shall we start with some good news? I think we should.

Word from the engineers studying the Transbay Transit Center beam cracks is that they’ve ruled out a design flaw as the cause of the problem. That means once the cracked beams are repaired (or, presumably, replaced) we should get decades of use out of the terminal.

Granted, we still don’t know what the underlying problem is or how long repairs will take. In theory, we’ll know the answer to the first question by the end of November–but don’t forget the difference between theory and practice. And, although the engineers are already planning repair procedures based on a variety of likely scenarios, implementing those plans could still take months.

But let’s focus on the positives here. Based on what we know now, unlike the Bay Bridge Bolt Botch, the TTC’s problem seems to be limited in scope and unlikely to recur. That’s a big win.

To be fair, however, all is not sweetness and light in TTC-Land. The San Francisco County Transportation Authority–an alias for the city’s district supervisors–voted to withhold tax money that had been slated to go toward the next phase of the Transit Center*. The SFCTA is also calling for an investigation of the whole project and the Joint Powers Authority, which currently oversees the TTC.

* Laying new railroad tracks to bring Caltrain into the Transit Center.

An extended delay could permanently derail the train project (sorry). That would make the TTC a mindbogglingly expensive bus-only project.

Stay tuned to see how this one plays out.

Meanwhile, BART is taking steps to ensure that we don’t lack for expensive transit projects to worry about. They’re about to present plans for a second connection between San Francisco and the East Bay.

I hesitate to call it a second Transbay Tube, as early reports suggest it could be an above-ground project associated with one of the existing auto bridges.

According to the Chron, construction wouldn’t even start for another decade, which does make me wonder if we’re going to get a reprise of the Bay Bridge’s extended design and implementation. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to see them rush in and give us something half-assed.

Still, ten years of planning should produce plenty of blog fodder. That’s a good thing, I think.

And one final Bay Area transportation note. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is considering a plan to do away with toll booths.

No, that doesn’t mean doing away with tolls. Don’t be silly.

The goal would be to go to all-electronic toll collection, something that’s already been done on about 20% of the country’s bridges and tunnels.

There are some good arguments around cost savings and safety to be made in favor of the change, but there are also some unanswered questions to be dealt with.

Most notably, in a region as heavily dependent on tourism as the Bay Area, how does electronic collection work for someone driving a rental car? I hope the MTC isn’t figuring that Uber and Lyft are going to put Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise out of business any time soon.

I also wonder just how much support the MTC will have for some of the ideas they’re considering under an all-electronic toll regime. Congestion pricing is never popular, but I could see it happening.

But implementing tolls on traffic in both directions seems like a plan designed for failure. If you thought the gas tax caused a major upset, just wait until voters hear that a round trip across the Bay Bridge is going to cost $15.

BART had better hurry up with that second Bay crossing. When the price tag for driving hits two or three times what transit costs, we might actually get a few drivers off the road. (Yeah, I know. That’s my optimistic side speaking.)

A Tiny Step Forward

The good news is that the Transbay Terminal is still standing.

The bad news is that we don’t know when it’ll reopen–heck, we don’t even know when we’ll know when it’ll reopen.

Seriously, though, at least everyone involved is making the right noises. “Get the temporary patch in place, then figure out what went wrong, and then decide what to do about it.”

Is it just me, or does that feel like the exact opposite of the way the Bay Bridge problems have been handled? I don’t think it’s just me. The attitude on the bridge seems more like “Fix the problem, then figure out what went wrong and whether the fix actually accomplished anything.”

But I digress.

The latest news on the terminal is that the temporary fix is in place and Fremont Street has reopened. Only ten days later than planned, but that was widely expected. Considering the patch involved cutting through three levels of the terminal, dodging pipes, cables, and ducts, only the most starry-eyed optimist would have expected them to have finished by the fifth.

In any case, the engineers involved believe the terminal is secure enough to allow invasive sampling–meaning “snipping off bits”–of the cracked beams. The current plan is to complete the testing by the end of October.

Then comes the fun of designing and implementing the permanent fix.

It’s not all gloom and delay, though. Depending on what turns up in the analysis of the cracked beams, there’s a good chance the rooftop park will reopen even before repair work begins. Though, to be fair to the downside, there’s no word on a fix for the crumbling paths in the park.

Reopening the terminal to pedestrians and park goers would be a win. Not only is the park a major attraction for an area that needs one, but there are many small businesses in the terminal. Getting more foot traffic, even if it’s not the daily commute crowd, would likely save jobs.

Kudos to the Transbay Joint Powers Authority for taking the proper approach to the problem, and best of luck for a swift and secure resolution.

Here We Go Again

A quick reminder: the MLB season ends Sunday* and the playoffs start Tuesday evening with the NL Wild Card game. In keeping with this blog’s usual public service orientation, Tuesday morning’s post will be our annual guide for “Who To Root For If You Don’t Have a Team In the Playoffs.”

* Monday’s scheduled make-up game between the Marlins and Pirates has been canceled, presumably because it has absolutely no impact on the playoffs.


That said, stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Not the one about a woman being put on trial in the Senate over a man’s alleged inability to behave like a moral individual. Though that is getting to be a rather tired story, and I really wish Congress’ slush pile reader would try something different.

No, I’m talking about the one where a Bay Area multi-billion dollar transit project goes wildly over budget, and only to have serious construction problems uncovered.

Long-time readers will remember my fascination with the Bay Bridge Bolt Botch. In large part, my interest was due to the obvious QA failures and the (still!) unanswered questions about what testing was done and how the reports were handled.

And now we’ve got a new serial to watch. The brand new Transbay Transit Center opened just last month after $2.2 billion in over (if memory serves) a decade of construction. Mere weeks after it opened, decomposed granite paths in the park on the center’s roof underwent further decomposition, crumbling and developing potholes. But that was just a warm-up for this week’s troubles: on Tuesday, the center was closed indefinitely after workers found a large crack in a major support beam. The beam supports the bus deck and the park where they cross Fremont Street, so the street was also closed as a further precaution.

On Wednesday, inspectors found a second cracked beam adjacent to the first.

The cause of the cracking hasn’t been determined yet. Despite a lawsuit between the company that handled the steel work and the primary contractors over construction documentation, it doesn’t seem like there was a QA failure this time around. The Chron says they passed inspection after installation and again when the beams were fireproofed two years ago.

Speculation about the cause of the cracking is all over the map: manufacturing defects, installation errors, and design flaws are all getting consideration. Despite the uncertainty, temporary repairs are in progress, aimed at reopening Fremont Street by the end of next week. Presumably–hopefully!–permanent repairs won’t start until the root cause has been determined.

The situation is rife with irony.

Not only was the problem found during Transit Week, San Francisco’s official celebration of public transportation, but the official name of the facility is “Salesforce Transit Center”–and Salesforce is current holding their huge, annual “Dreamforce” convention a couple of blocks away.

But wait, there’s more.

Traffic coming into downtown San Francisco on I-80 across the Bay Bridge exits the freeway on–you guessed it–Fremont Street.

QA implications or no, I’ll be following the story as more information comes out.

Duck and Cover

Hopefully by now you’ve heard that Hawaii was not attacked with ballistic missiles Saturday. It was, however, attacked by poor software design or, quite possibly, poor QA.

Let’s recap here.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency erroneously sent a cell phone warning message to damn near every phone in the state. The message warned of an incoming missile attack. Naturally, this caused a certain amount of chaos, confusion, fear, and panic.

Fortunately, it did not, as far as I can tell, cause any injuries or deaths, nor was there widespread looting.

The backlash has been immense. Any misuse of the cell phone emergency warning message system is going to trigger outrage–does anyone else remember the commotion back in 2013 when the California Highway Patrol used the same functionality to send an AMBER alert to phones across the entire state of California?

Many people turned off the alert function on their phones in the wake of that and similar events elsewhere–although, let’s not forget that one level of warnings can not legally be turned off. I don’t know if HEMA used the “Presidential” alert level–certainly a nuclear attack would seem to qualify for that level of urgency–but it may be that only the White House can send those messages.

For the record, my current phone doesn’t allow me to disable Presidential or Test messages; the latter seems like an odd exclusion to me. In any case, I’ve turned off AMBER alerts, but have left the “Severe” and “Extreme” messages on. I suspect many who have gotten spurious or questionable alerts have turned those off.

Which puts those charged with public safety in an awkward position. The more often they use the capability, the more people are going to turn off alerts. I hope the people looking into a California wildfire alert system are keeping these lessons in mind.

But I digress. I had intended to talk about the Hawaii contretemps from a software perspective.

The cause of the problem, according to a HEMA spokesperson, was that “Someone clicked the wrong thing on the computer.” Later reports “clarify” that “someone doing a routine test hit the live alert button.” I put “clarify” in quotes, because the explanation actually raises more questions than it answers.

See, for a test to be meaningful, it has to replicate the real scenario as closely as possible. It’s would be unusual to have one button labeled “Click Here When Testing” and a second one that says “This Is the Real Button.” The more typical situation is for the system to be set to a test mode that disables the connection to the outside world or (better yet) routes it to a test connection that only sends its signal to a special device on the tester’s desk.

Or heck, maybe they do have a test mode switch, and the poor schlub who sent the alert didn’t notice the system wasn’t in test mode. If so, that points to poor system design. The difference between modes should be dramatic, so you can tell at a glance, before clicking that button, how the system is set.

If it’s not poor design, the reports suggest some seriously poor test planning. Though I should emphasize that it probably wasn’t a failure on QA’s fault. They probably wanted a test mode, but were overruled on cost or time-to-launch concerns.

Wait, it gets better: now we’re hearing the problem has been solved. According to the news stories, “the agency has changed protocols to require that two people send an alert.” In other words, the problem hasn’t been fixed at all. The possibility of a mistaken alert may have been reduced, but as long as people can click on a live “Send an alert” button while testing, they will.

Better still, by requiring two people to coordinate to send an alert, they’ve made it harder to send a real message. Let’s not forget that emergency messages are time critical. If the message is warning of, say, a nuclear attack or a volcanic eruption, seconds could be critical.

But have no fear: the Homeland Security Service assures us that we can “trust government systems. We test them every day.”

How nice. In the immortal words of Douglas Adams, “Please do not push this button again.”

Nor Any a Drop

Those of you outside of California are probably wondering what’s behind our ongoing and ever-changing problems with water.

Believe me, we’re wondering too.

First we don’t have enough. Then we’ve got too much and can’t figure out what to do with it.

The bridges we build over it would be better suited to deserts. We’ve got some of the world’s biggest dams–but apparently we can’t maintain them.

A quick summary of the background: As a result of the unusually heavy rain in January and February, the reservoir behind the Oroville Dam is quite literally full to the brim. With two more months left in the rainy season and higher-than-usual snow melt expected, it’s necessary to release some of the water in a controlled fashion to avoid flooding. Unfortunately, a large chunk of the main spillway collapsed, reducing the amount of water that it can safely carry. A secondary spillway was activated for the first time in the dam’s history, and it quickly eroded to the point where the integrity of the dam itself was threatened.

The collapse of the dam, releasing the entire contents of the second-largest reservoir in the state would be, well, let’s say, not an ideal outcome. An evacuation order has been issued covering some 200,000 people. Engineers are trying to reinforce the secondary spillway, and the main spillway is running at its maximum safe capacity. With luck, the next round of storms, expected to being tomorrow, will hold off long enough for the reservoir to drain enough to hold the inflow.

The question everyone is asking now is “Why is the main spillway disintegrating?” And the answer is “We don’t know yet.”

What we do know is that the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has known about problems in that part of the spillway for nearly a decade. Defects were found in 2009, and repairs were made in 2013, 2014, and 2015–in exactly the area that collapsed last week. The obvious inference is that the repairs didn’t address the underlying cause of the problem; treating the symptoms rather than the disease.

It’s worth emphasizing that this is not the same situation as we’ve been hearing about with the Bay Bridge. No violations of the guidelines for proper construction. Testing is being done and issues are being addressed. The Chron–as usual, my primary source–quotes several engineering experts as saying that the DWR has been doing “everything that normally should be done.”

So the question we should be asking is “What changes in the ‘normal’ processes need to be made to avoid this situation in the future?”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has ordered a forensic analysis to determine the root cause of the spillway failure. Let us hope that the outcome of that analysis is used to update the definition of what normally should be done. At least Caltrans isn’t involved. There’s hope.

I’m Back

No, the crisis isn’t over, but it’s sufficiently under control that I’m starting to suffer symptoms of writing withdrawal*. Rather than endure that, I’m declaring the hiatus done. I’ll have more to say about the situation later, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

* Nightmares in which I realize I’ve forgotten how to type and have to write a 90,000 word manuscript longhand. Overwhelming impulses to edit something I said an hour ago because I just thought of the perfect word. Waking up in the middle of the night with a story idea and not being able to write it down because a cat has run off with my pen–no, wait, that’s business as usual.

Moving on.

Something actually went right for the Bay Bridge this weekend. Friday, Caltrans made the long-awaited announcement that the bike and pedestrian path from Oakland to Yerba Buena Island would actually reach the island on Sunday. Monday, Chron writer Jessica Floum confirmed the removal of the dead end that’s been in place for the past three years.

This is a major victory for Caltrans. This is the first component of the bridge to be completed as scheduled!

Well, sort of. The trail was supposed to open along with the bridge in 2013. It did, but stopped about half a mile short of the island. Then it was supposed to open when the old bridge span was fully demolished. Uh… The demolition is still going on–and, thanks to poisonous fumes released by the deconstruction work, the bike path will only be open on weekends and holidays until the work is done.

But that’s nitpicking. The important point here is that Caltrans resisted the urge to make yet another date prediction, only to discover they couldn’t meet their target. Keeping their mouths shut until they were sure may not sound like much, but it actually represents a process improvement. At the risk of reading too much into it, this could even be a sign that Caltrans is beginning to fix their dysfunctional culture of failure.

Yeah, I know: Once is chance, twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy actionlegitimacy. But you have to do anything once before you can do it a second and third time. Keep it up, Caltrans! We’re rooting for you.

Moving on.

It’s been 107 years since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, and 70 years since they last played and lost. It’s been 67 years since the Cleveland Indians won the World Series, though they’ve managed to lose three World Series since then, running up a combined 7-12 record. Not exactly stellar performances by either city.

But, as Jackie implied recently, somebody has to be MLB’s champion this year.

The only possibilities are the Cubs and the Indians. Sometime between Saturday and next Wednesday, somebody’s record of futility will come to an end.

It puts those of us with no sentimental or geographic attachment to either team in an awkward position. There’s a natural tendency to root for the underdog, but it’s not clear who that is. The Cubs have had excellent regular seasons the past two years, unlike the Indians, who struggled to a .500 record last year. On the other hand, it’s hard to overlook a century-long track record–no concerns about small sample sizes here!

You can make up your own minds–and Jackie’s post includes some good arguments on both sides–but I’m going to be rooting for Chicago for one simple reason: Cleveland, by and large, has suffered in silence. They lose, make the obligatory mumbles about next year, and move on. Chicago, on the other hand, whines and blames anything except their play on the field. Who else blames their losses on a goat? Or their fans–poor Steve Bartman?

I figure if the Cubs finally win a World Series, their fans will have to shut up, and we’ll get some peace and quiet.

Game One is at 5:00 (Pacific) tonight. Go Cubs! Let’s win it–in seven games, of course.

WQTS 10

WQTS is ten posts old! To commemorate this milestone–one post per finger (for most of us)–I’ve got an unusually large selection of items for us to shake our heads in despair over.

13-1
Looks like a fairly standard calendar page, doesn’t it? Take a closer look at the middle of the month. Maybe I’m an old fogy, not up on the latest* in matters calendrical, but I still prefer my dates to follow the pattern “18, 19, 20”.

* OK, almost the latest; this is actually a calendar from 2015.

It’s easy to see how this happened, though I would have expected dates to be computer-generated, rather than hand-keyed. But how did nobody notice before the company printed and shipped thousands of these? I’m guessing that a “boundary” test went awry: somebody confirmed that the first was a Wednesday, the thirty-first was a Friday, and assumed that meant all of the dates in between had to be correct. In short, an incorrect choice of tests.

13-2
No, I’m not talking about “remodelation” or the lack of capitalization. This is one where QA was lacking in the development of the specifications. Another pair of eyes might have caught the omission of any indication of what name to look for on Facebook. I checked: it’s not the name of the restaurant.

13-3
“Code hoping”? Ouch! This is from the packaging for a device that’s supposed to let you start your car remotely if you were too cheap to buy the manufacturer’s remote-start option. Let’s hope that the QA folks who tested the security features that ensure nobody can start your car without the fob are not the same ones who reviewed the package copy.

Oh, who am I trying to kid? Chances are neither the package nor the code were QAed. After all, that’s what advertising writers and software developers are for, right?

13-4
Ignore the fact that it’s a pretzel covered in some chocolate-like substance (bleah!). Ignore the fact that nobody at Olivier’s Candies Ltd. can spell “chocolatey,” since my dictionary swears this is an accepted variant* and more importantly, what they meant was “chocolate-” (yes, with a hyphen). But didn’t anybody realize that since these are inanimate objects, they cannot be patriots? Please, people, use your adjectives! “Patriotic Chocolate-Covered Pretzel” Oh, and you might want to add an “s” at the end, since I can clearly see there are at least six per package.

* At least they didn’t spell it “chocolatty”.

Again, a case where there clearly wasn’t any QA done at all. Guys, “copywriter” and “copy editor” are NOT synonyms!

13-5
One more case where a copy editor should have been engaged. Not just for “bakering,” though there is that. But “eaten out of hand” does not mean what the sign-maker thought. Clearly, she* thought it meant to eat something you’re holding. But “out of hand” is actually an idiomatic** expression meaning “out of control” or “immediately, without thinking.”

* Pronoun chosen by coin flip.

** An expression that doesn’t mean what a literal interpretation of the individual words would suggest.

I’ve cropped the picture, so you can’t see the apples, but they’re sitting very peacefully in the bin, hence, not out of control. They also look ripe, but not overripe, so eating them immediately doesn’t seem warranted. Perhaps the intention was to suggest that they should be eaten thoughtlessly. But thoughtless eating is generally the province of less nutritious fare–Patriot Chocolaty Covered Pretzels, perhaps.

Well, whatever. Just remember: No matter what happens,
13-6

WQTS 9.1

My apologies if this spoils your plans for the week. Despite what I said Thursday, there is a post today. I found this little error too amusing to not share, but didn’t want to sit on it until after my vacation.

31-1Many newspapers’ sports sections, including the Chron’s, include a listing of player moves–trades, promotions, suspensions, and so on–tucked away in the back. These are not exactly a fount of stunning revelations. The only people who look at the Transactions report are obsessed geeks, and we usually know all the details before they make it into the paper.

Just imagine my surprise, then, when I found this blockbuster news hidden away in Transactions (Thursday, 5/26/2016 for anyone who wants to confirm that I haven’t doctored the image.)

Apparently the Seattle Seahawks have changed sports, moving from football to baseball.

I can’t decide which is more surprising: that this happened mid-season, or that the ‘Hawks will be playing in the American League, going head-to-head with the Mariners!

I presume there will be a follow-up item in Friday’s paper listing the roster moves necessary to get the 53-man active roster down to MLB’s 40-man limit.

It should be a very interesting experiment in roster construction. Football teams, by and large, don’t have more than a handful of players capable of throwing the ball accurately enough to pitch. That’s going to make for a very skimpy bullpen.

Receivers and kick returners ought to be able to make the transition to the outfield, but stocking the infield may be a challenge. On the other hand, finding players with the traditional catcher’s build shouldn’t be any trouble at all–and while there may be an elevated number of wild pitches (see note above regarding pitchers), I don’t think there will be a whole lot of passed balls. And those new catchers are going to love MLB’s anti-concussion rules.

And talk about offense! Nearly every player on the roster is going to make David Ortiz look undersized. When they make contact and get their bodies into it, well, let’s just say that I expect this team to hit record numbers of 450-foot home runs.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this move, though, is the question of how to lay out a diamond in CenturyLink Field. Looking at the current seating chart suggests that the longest dimension is 420 feet. That’s fine for dead center field, but the fences in left and right are going to be a hell of a lot closer to the plate–maybe 255 feet down the lines. Given the likely quality of the pitching, that’s never going to work. Heck, that wouldn’t work even if the rotation included Felix Hernandez, Madison Bumgarner, and Clayton Kershaw. Some seats are going to have to get ripped out, and that’s going to hurt revenue.

Still, as I said, an interesting experiment. Stay tuned for updates!

WQTS 09

A baseball-related Who QAed This Shit? It’s as American as an apple-and-hotdog pie*!

* Bleah! Kids, don’t try this at home.

Allow me to start by filling in the background for those of you who can’t recall the last time you watched a televised baseball game.

Typically, when a relief pitcher comes into the game, the broadcaster will overlay an box on the screen to provide viewers with some background on the pitcher. This is what’s so delightfully referred to as a “value add” because it immeasurably enriches your viewing experience.

But I digress.

Every network has its own version of the overlay with a layout designed to showcase the information they believe their viewers desperately crave. Here, for instance, is what you get on Comcast SportsNet California, broadcast home of the Oakland Athletics:
24-1

Pretty straightforward. Name, number, team (in case you’ve forgotten which game you’re watching, I suppose), a handful of basic statistics about his performance so far this year*, and, down at the bottom, a single yellow bullet point.

* Occasionally, especially at the beginning of the season, you’ll get last year’s stats or career numbers.

And it all works well–until it doesn’t, as happened last week in a game between the As and the Yankees:
24-2

That’s an interesting bullet point, isn’t it?

Apparently the UI for creating the overlay prefills the data entry field with a helpful reminder. In haste to get the overlay on viewers’ screens, the stats person didn’t supply a bullet point. Oops.

Now, I’m not suggesting that our unfortunate stats person is responsible for a QA failure. That’s not his or her job.

No, the failure is on some anonymous QA engineer at whatever video software house CSNCA hired to create the overlay code. Either nobody ever tested this scenario, or the bug was prioritized too low.

In all seriousness, however, it’s the software design that’s at fault. The overlay software must* do one of two things:

  • Prevent the user from pressing the “Display to 29,000 Viewers**” button if the default text is still in the field.
  • Treat the default text in the same way it handles an empty field.

* I’m using the word in the specification sense. “May” is optional, “must” is not.

** Yes, the As’ TV ratings suck. (That number comes from an article in Forbes last year.)

QA for the Yankees’ YES network, by the way, does the job right:
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Updates

A trio of updates to ongoing stories today.

First, the backpedaling has begun at KFOG. They’ve announced that Rosalie Howarth, one of the fired DJs, has been re-hired and will return to the air this weekend.

According to the program director*, this move was planned all along. I’m dubious. Who lays someone off for six weeks? It seems even more improbable when you consider that at the time of the layoffs, Rosalie was only on-air six hours a week. Even allowing for the fact that she had the longest tenure of any of the staff who were let go, if the plan was really to bring her back, it wouldn’t have killed the station’s budget to put her on paid leave for those six weeks.

* A gentleman by the name of Brian Schlock. The petty-minded are welcome to make jokes about appropriate namings…

And let’s not forget that those six hours a week were hosting the popular “Acoustic Sunrise” and “Acoustic Sunset” shows on Sundays. Wouldn’t KFOG have wanted to counter some of the ill-will generated by their programming changes by announcing that the shows* would return?

* Actually, only “Acoustic Sunrise” is coming back–and it’ll be subject to the same anathematization of pre-nineties music as the rest of the station. On the other hand, “Acoustic Sunrise” will be an hour longer than it used to be.

KFOG clearly considers bringing back Rosalie as tossing loyal listeners a bone. Given the dubious spin, I suspect most of those listeners are going to consider it more of a chicken bone than a meaty T-bone.

Moving on, remember the Bay Bridge?

It looks like the Chron has a replacement for our old friend Jaxon on the Bay Bridge Bolt Botch Beat. Say hello to Melody Gutierrez. Since her main focus is politics, we can hope that she’ll spend some time looking into those apparently non-existent approvals we’ve been asking about.

Her first bridge report is a brief update on those improperly-grouted rods. You know: the ones that anchor the bridge to its pilings.

Steven Heminger and his colleagues on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission have approved a plan to re-grout the rods to prevent further corrosion. The cost is only $15 million–a drop in the bucket (sorry) compared to total bridge budget. The commission is satisfied that the rods don’t need to be replaced, which would have cost a hell of a lot more, so this seems like a reasonable expense. So does the additional million they approved for a corrosion survey of the bridge foundation.

But I’d still like to know why the grout wasn’t properly tested when the rods were installed. Melody, keep us posted, OK?

And finally, here’s the latest in our intermittent series of posts documenting the feline campaign to rule the world.

A group of cats in Britain has decided to wipe out the British economy by targeting the advertising industry. They plan to replace the usual subway advertisements urging commuters to buy, buy, buy, with photos of, well, cats. They’re only going to take over one station, but you can be sure that’s only the beginning–have you ever known a cat to be satisfied with only one toy?

The felines aren’t about to pay for their nefarious plan themselves. There’s a funding campaign running on Kickstarter. As I write this, the pledges are a bit short. With three days to go, they’re only 53% of the way to their goal.

Whether you want to help the cats’ plan for global domination is, naturally, a matter for you to settle with your own conscience.