Audiobooks – July 2022

The Library: A Fragile History by Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen

A general history of the library. Main problems are a bit verbose and skipping Asia but enough to keep my interest. 3/5

Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgement by Daniel Kahneman

Wasn’t able to finish this. Just kept repeating the same thing over and over again. Forgot the “Pop” in “Popular social science”. Just read a summary like the linked Guardian review. 2/5

Who Can Hold the Sea: The U.S. Navy in the Cold War 1945-1960 by James D. Hornfischer

What it says on the description. Covering Nuclear power and weapons, the Revolt of the Admirals the early Cold war and Korea. 3/5

Inside the Star Wars Empire: A Memoir by Bill Kimberlin

Some ILM stories but less than what some people might expect and mixed in with other things. Definitely not film-by-film coverage. But still fun. 3/5

Eccentric Orbits: The Iridium Story by John Bloom

Story of the Space-based phone system. The books concentrates on the complex deals to save it after it’s original failure and Motorola’s plan to de-orbit it. 3/5

The Accidental Scientist: The Role of Chance and Luck in Scientific Discovery by Graeme Donald

A short book of short chapters covering various stories of scientific discovery. Fun Breezy read. 3/5

My Audiobook Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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A minimal viable Light Rail for Auckland

Background

In late January 2022 the government announced that it was building a $15 billion light rail line from the Airport to the City Center via Mount Roskill. The line would be tunneled for about half it’s length.

The response from the Transport community was not positive. The price tag was extremely high especially on a per-kilometre basis for what it delivered. The likely result seemed to be further years of planning before cancellation when a pro-road National Government is elected.

This article will cover one alternative. It is a fairly low cost surface light-rail line that can be built quickly and expanded later.

Overview of the alternative line

The idea of the line was sparked by this twitter thread:

” The very original musings by AT for LR had a Stage 1 which simply ran from Wynyard to Eden Terrace. Something similar could be brought back to serve a large, master-planned renewal project around the Dom Rd Junction. ”

Tweet by ScootFoundation

My expansion on Scoot’s proposal would be a short version of the street level Light Rail line originally proposed by Auckland Transport. It would be cover just 3.3 kilometres from The Civic Corner to Eden Quarter along Queen Street and Dominion Road.

The system is a simple two-line surface running light rail. In the inner section (north of Mayoral Drive) it would run on two reserved centre lanes at street level allowing pedestrians to easily cross. Further out in areas of lower pedestrian volume the lanes would be raised or fenced to discourage traffic further and allow higher speeds. In the innermost sections cars would be limited while in the outer sections they would have a lane on each side of the road but parking would be largely removed.

Vehicles would be 33 metre low floor (or 70% low floor) vehicles like the CAF Urbos 3. Overhead power would be used.

A 5 unit CAF Urbos 3.

The Route

The line would start at the Civic Corner (near Te Wai o Horotiu rail station and Aotea Square) and run south to Dominion Road to the Eden Quarter shopping area between Bellwood Avenue and Valley Road.

Route with Stations

The Civic Corner is where the current Dominion Road buses terminate so it would be the same destination for most current riders (except those going to the Universities). Stopping the line here would also avoid the heavily built up northern 800 metres of Queen Street where there will be conflicts with local merchants.

Just South of the Civic Corner Stop

The line would go south across Mayoral Drive and then climb up Queen Street. At some point up the hill it would in into a tunnel under Karangahape Road. There would be a stop near here. This could be on one side of the tunnel or perhaps even inside it.

A train emerages from the short tunnel under Karangahape Road

The line would then continue along Upper Queen Street before turning into Ian McKinnon Drive and following it to Dominion Road. Along this section we should future-proof the line for a future branch along New North Road.

Heading up Ian McKinnon Drive

The next stop of the line would be on Dominion Road near View Road. This area is a mix of offices, light industry, apartments and houses and is ripe for increased density.

The rough location of the View Road Stop

The line would then continue south down the hill, across Walters/Valley Road and terminating before it reach Bellwood Avenue at the Eden Quarter stop. This stop would be placed to allow passengers to easily transfer to and from Dominion Road buses. It is also a short walk to Eden Park.

The location of the Eden Valley stop

At the final stop the driver would walk to the other end of the train for the return journey.

Operation

Making the conservative assumptions that each train averages 15 km/h in the inner city section and 30km/h in the other sections with a wait of 30 seconds at each stop we get the following travel times:

Stop nameDistance
from Civic
Average
Speed
Travel Time
Civic0mn/aDepart 00:00
Karangahape Road800m15 km/hArrive 03:15
Depart 03:45
View Road2600m30 km/hArrive 07:20
Depart 07:50
Eden Quarter3230m30 km/hArrive 09:00

This would be an average speed of 21km/h which possibly could be increased, especially along the Southern sections where there are fewer conflicts with pedestrians and cars.

Assuming we allocate 2 minutes at each end for turnaround then each vehicle would takes just 22 minutes to completed the whole route. This means that just five vehicles should be able to maintain a headway (interval between trains) of 5 minutes in both directions.

Line Capacity with a train every 5 minutes and using 33m light rail cars carrying 210 people (as in the Auckland light rail proposed) would be 2500 passengers/hour in each direction. This comfortably exceeds what the current double-decker buses carried in peak mornings during 2019.

The line should be designed to allow two cars per train bringing length to 66m. If these were brought in and headway was reduced to three minutes then capacity would be 8400 passengers/hour.

Buses coming towards to the city would drop off passengers at a stop just before Bellwood Avenue. They then turn left down Bellwood Avenue to Eden Park and then return along Walters Road before making a right-hand turn back into Dominion Road and stopping to pick up passengers before heading south.

Route for Dominion Road buses

Currently buses at peak hour take 11 minutes via Queen Street and 18 minutes via Mount Eden Road and Symonds Street, so this would save time for most passengers even with the transfer between bus and light rail.

Service Facility

The line would need a small service facility for vehicle storage and maintenance. This would eventually be replaced when the line is extended but would be needed to serve the initial fleet.

A property would need to be purchased and built. Probably near View Road although there are other options such as public land on Ian McKinnon Drive.

Building it.

Total distance would be just 3.3 kilometres which should be build-able for perhaps $NZ 300m including around seven vehicles. The cost of nearly $100m/kilometre reflects the fairly short line in a built-up area but is actually quite conservative. Costs of similar systems overseas are usually less.

In his original twitter thread Scoot suggested a prive of $100m and that a large part of the cost could be covered by a special rate on developments in the area.

Construction should be possible in 3-4 years especially with best practice of working 12+ hours per day. A comparison might be the 5.5km Lund Tramway which was build for ~$NZ 250m in 3.5 years.

Future Extensions

Extensions should be planned as soon as possible to allow a continuous stream of work. I plan to detail these in a later article but they could include:

  • North along Queen Street to Customs Street. Probably with a stop around Wyndham Street – 750m
  • North-East from Queen/Customs to Wynyard Quarter. 1-1.5km
  • South on Dominion Road to State Highway 20 – 4km
  • South along New North Road and Sandringham Road as far as SH20 – 5km
  • A replacement maintenance facility will also need to be built. Probably near SH20
  • Further extensions south of SH20.

Questions

Q: What about the Airport and Mangere?

A: We should not try and serve these areas with the same line as the Dominion and Sandringham Road. Instead a high capacity Light Metro line though Mangere Town Centre, Onehunga, Manukau Road, Newmarket could serve them, See Matthew Beardsworth’s article If we’re going to tunnel light rail, do it right! .

Q: What about going to Britomart?

A: Britomart would be the natural place to terminate the line. However I think there will be strong opposition to any disruption from the local business owners that would delay the project. Building the line only as far North as the Civic Corner avoids the most heavily built-up shopping stretch of Queen Street.

However I think the link to Britomart should be a priority and should be built as soon as possible. Building it later avoids it delaying the initial build of the line.

Q: Won’t this line eventually fill up?

A: The line should handle several times the peak 2019 Dominion Road and Sandringham Road demand. If demand eventually exceeds that then there are options ranging from lengthening the vehicles to building new lines to take demand ( eg along Mount Eden Road). Part of the problem with the government’s current proposal is one line is expected to cover all requirements.

Q: Won’t this reduce car capacity into the CBD?

A: Yes it will. But currently there are only 900 people in 800 cars using Dominion Road during the peak hour (less in Queen Street) . The initial capacity of the Light rail will be 3 times that. Also the line will reduce the numbers of buses going into the CBD.

Q: Would the overhead lines be unsightly?

A; Most of the photographs about include overhead lines. They tend to be fairly inconspicuous. Systems that do away with them cost much or and are non-standard.

Q: What about University Students?

A: The line would unfortunately remove direct access to the Universities. Students would have two main options:
1. Get off at the Karangahape Road stop, walk to Symonds Street and catch a bus further down Symonds Street.
2. Get off at Civic Stop and walk up the hill.

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Audiobooks – June 2022

Binge Times: Inside Hollywood’s Furious Billion-Dollar Battle to Take Down Netflix by Dade Hayes, Dawn Chmielewski

An account of the last 5 years of the streaming wars as multiple new services were launched. Tries to cover most of the main US services and how they responded to the threat of Netflix. 3/5

Master of the Senate by Robert A. Caro

3rd Volume of Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson covering 1949-1960. Large sections on Johnson gaining control of the Senate, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and 1956 Democratic presidential nomination. 4/5

Write It All Down: How To Put Your Life on the Page by Cathy Rentzenbrink

A short book about who to write a memoir as well as general advice about writing (especially a book). Interesting and nice to listen to. 3/5

My Audiobook Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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Audiobooks – May 2022

The Penguin History of New Zealand by Michael King

The definitive single volume NZ History book. Publish in 2003 it is still relatively up-to-date. Designed for the general reader, easy to follow and fairly comprehensive. 4/5

Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed by James C. Scott

A study of ways governments has forced change on their population for the convenience of the state rather than the people. eg forced resettlement. 3/5

Driven: The Race to Create the Autonomous Car by Alex Davies

The story of the Autonomous car industry. Mainly framed around the DARPA Grand Challenge races and disgraced engineer Anthony Levandowski. Pretty good. 3/5

Transatlantic Television Drama: Industries, Programs, and Fans Edited by Hills, Hilmes, & Pearson

A series of semi-academic articles on the exchanges of Television programmes between the US and UK. Felt like 30% introductions but some good bits. 3/5

The Hero Code: Lessons Learned From Lives Well Lived by William H. McRaven

10 short chapters each on a specific virtue & a story to illustrate it. Courage, Humility, Sacrifice, Integrity, Compassion, Perseverance, Duty, Hope, Humor, and Forgiveness. 3/5

You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming

After falling into a funk Bond is sent to Japan on a difficult mission. I felt this didn’t age very well and was below average for the Bond books. 3/5

My Audiobook Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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Audiobooks – April 2022

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by Ian Fleming

Bond tracks Blofeld to a Swiss hideout. He infiltrates it and must discover and foil Blofeld’s plot. A romantic subplot adds interest. 3/5

The years of Lyndon Johnson 2 – Means of Ascent by Robert Caro

LBJ dodges the war, makes serious money from radio stations and steals the 1948 Senate Primary. Easy to follow and fascinating. 4/5

Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road by Kyle Buchanan

The book is 90% interviews and talks to a wide range of people involved with the movie. A wealth of interesting stories. 4/5

Vaxxers: The Inside Story of the Oxford AstraZeneca Vaccine and the Race Against the Virus by Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green

Mainly covering early 2020 to mid-2021, Each author writes alternating chapters covering the development and rollout of the vaccine. 3/5

Becoming Trader Joe: How I Did Business My Way and Still Beat the Big Guys by Joe Coulombe

A story of the author taking the chain through various stages. Keys ways they did business compared to other firms and stayed profitable. 4/5

How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom by Matt Ridley

Examples of how innovation works in the real world followed by the characteristics of innovation, how to promote it, and how it can go wrong. 4/5


My Audiobook Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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Audiobooks – March 2021

The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute
by Zac Bissonnette

The toys, the bubble and the crazy guy behind it all. Fun roller-coaster of a read. Second review. 4/5

Overpaid, Oversexed and Over There: How a Few Skinny Brits with Bad Teeth Rocked America by David Hepworth

A bunch of amusing stories and observations of the British Invasion and it’s followups. I love Hepworth’s style but your mileage may vary. 3/5

This is Not Normal: The Politics of Everyday Expectations by Cass R. Sunstein

A fairly short book that packs some interesting ideas. Mainly concentrating how societal norms change. Worth a read. 4/5

Post Wall, Post Square: Rebuilding the World after 1989 by Kristina Spohr

An analysis of the upheavals of 1989 and the 3 years that followed them. Especially following the actions of Bush, Gorbachev and Kohl, it is mostly a history of the leaders and their policies. 3/5

A Naturalist at Large: The Best Essays of Bernd Heinrich by Bernd Heinrich

Around 35 short ( main around 10-20 minutes ) essays on plants, insects and birds. A delight to listen to. 4/5

My Audiobook Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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Audiobooks – February 2022

No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram by Sarah Frier

A fairly straight story about the company, lots of fun anecdotes. A little biased towards founder Kevin Systrom, probably due to more access to him (and none to Zuckerberg). 3/5

A Walk Around the Block: Stoplight Secrets, Mischievous Squirrels, Manhole Mysteries & Other Stuff You See Every Day (And Know Nothing About) by Spike Calsen

Short chapters about various bits of infrastructure and the people who manage them. Not huge amounts of detail but a few gun facts on each. An okay quick listen. 3/5

Yeager: An Autobiography by Chuck Yeager

A well written account of an aviation legend’s life. Interesting stories of World War 2 service, test pilot and other parts of his career and life. 4/5

The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming

A first person account by a young women. Fleeing some unfortunately love affairs via a road trip she meets Gangsters and James Bond. Different feel from most Bond books. 3/5

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

After a heat-wave kills 20 million in India. A UN Agency (The head of which is the main character) and others start getting serious to reverse climate change. Interesting and engaging. 4/5

The years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power by Robert Caro

The first volume of the series covers Johnson from birth through his unsuccessful bid for a Senate seat in 1941. Detailed, entertaining and easy to follow. 4/5

My Audiobook Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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Audiobooks – January 2022

Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson

In the near future, a Texas billionaire starts a geoengineering project to counteract global warming. International intrigue results. Similar feel to his other books. 4/5

An Economist walks into a Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk by Allison Schrager

Examples of how people in unusual situations handle risk and how you can apply it to your life. Interesting and useful. 4/5 – Accidental reread from July 2020.

The Devil’s Candy: The Bonfire of the Vanities Goes to Hollywood by Julie Salamon

A start-to-finish tale of the making of the 1990 big-budget Hollywood bomb. The writer embedded in the production and talked to just about everyone from the director down. fascinating amount of behind-the-scenes detail and insight into people making the film from the director down. 4/5

Leonardo da Vinci: The Biography by Walter Isaacson

Covering what little we know of his life but with analysis of his major works and notebooks. Helps if you have the PDF with all the pictures but listenable if not. 3/5

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Thought I’d try this new version. I think I still prefer Rob Inglis. My general feelings are:

Pro: He does distinct voices for each character and generally good ones. The voice are influenced by actors in the movies.
Con: His voice is a little indistinct. Not to bad since he’s an actor but separate words are not always clear. He’s not the best with the songs/poems, I’ve heard similar about his LOTR presentation. 4/5

Footprints in the Dust: The Epic Voyages of Apollo, 1969-1975 edited by Colin Burgess.

Covering all Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz and Soviet programs. Mostly tries to take different angles from other books so some new stuff even if you’ve read a few of them. 3/5

My Audiobook Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all

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Audiobooks – December 2021

How Smart Machines Think by Sean Gerrish

An introduction to Machine learning, covering advances of the last 10 years or so via stories about self-driving cars, the Netflix prize etc. 3/5

Harrier 809: Britain’s Legendary Jump Jet and the Untold Story of the Falklands War by Rowland White

Covering the Sea Harrier’s part in the Falkland’s as well as other parts of the air war like operations in Chile and Argentinian units. Well research and written. 4/5

Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller

A retelling of Little House on the Prairie from the perspective of Caroline Ingalls. Interesting re-reading events though an adult’s eyes. Second external review. 3/5

My Adventurous Life by Dick Smith

Autobiography by Australian Entrepreneur and Adventurer. Well packed with interesting stories of both business and other endeavors. 3/5

Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis by Serhii Plokhy

Draws on Soviet and Ukrainian sources to give more details from the Russian side than previous books. Emphasizes the role of luck as both sides misread the other. 3/5

999 – My Life on the Frontline of the Ambulance Service by Dan Farnworth

Stories from the author’s career plus their personal struggles and advocacy for better mental-health support for Ambulance officers. 3/5

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson

As well as profiling Doudna it covers others in the field as well as the technology. Some early responses to the Covid19 pandemic. 3/5

Thunderball by Ian Fleming

James Bond travels to a Health Camp(!) and then to the Bahamas to investigate stolen Nuclear Weapons and Blackmail. Usual action ensues 3/5

See also: Top Audiobooks I’ve listened to

My Audiobook Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all

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Donations 2021

Each year I do the majority of my Charity donations in early December (just after my birthday) spread over a few days (so as not to get my credit card suspended).

In 2021 I cut down donations to random open source projects but donated $100 each to The Software Freedom Conservancy and Software in the Public Interest.

I do a blog post about it to hopefully inspire others. See: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015

All amounts this year are in $US unless otherwise stated

General Charities

My main donations was $750 to Givewell (to their Maximum Impact Fund). Once again I’m happy that Givewell make efficient use of money donated. I decided this year to give a higher proportion of my giving to them than last year.

Software and Internet Infrastructure Projects

$100 each to the Software Freedom Conservancy and Software in the Public Interest . Money not attached to any specific project.

$51 to the Internet Archive
$25 to Let’s Encrypt

Others including content creators

I donated $103 to Signum University to cover Corey Olsen’s Exploring the Lord of the Rings series plus other stuff I listen to that they put out.

I paid $100 to be a supporter of NZ News site The Spinoff

Patreon

I support a number of creators via Patreon

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