Archive for July, 2011
Mya is a college student that plans to become a doctor.
I took these pictures with my Canon 5D Mark II DSLR camera.
Double click on the pictures to see them at full resolution.
According to news reports like this one on TechCrunch.com, a host’s home was ransacked by a paid guest. Apparently this is the first time this has happened, even though Airbnb says their site has arranged over 2 million nights of stays.
If this is the worst that’s happened in 2 million nights, that sounds like a better record than hotels and motels likely have. I suspect that the rate of guests being actually attacked in a hotel is higher than 1 in 2,000,000, though I have no facts to back up that hunch.
There is controversy about what happened, with Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator saying the host may be lying. I don’t know what did or didn’t happen, and I’m not taking sides here.
Here are some more links to stories about the controversy:
I will share my experience with Airbnb below.
I was an Airbnb host in 2009. I made about USD $800.
I offered the living room in my detached San Francisco house at USD $40.00 per night. I had a lot of takers, and I absolutely loved being a host. It was a highlight of that year. I got to meet so many interesting travelers, including guests from France, Czech Republic, Austria, Japan, Oklahoma and even San Francisco.
I never felt unsafe even though I hosted groups as large as four people.
I increased my feeling of safety by installing an electronic deadbolt. I assigned a new door code for each guest or group of guests, and I deleted the code when they departed. So nobody retained access to my house after their visit.
I also made a copy of the government issued identification documents of each guest, and I locked these copies in a safe and scanned them and emailed them to myself. So even if a guest burned down my house, I would be able to give the authorities copies of the IDs of my guests.
I would guess that the person who allegedly had their apartment ransacked didn’t make a copy of the ID of their guest. I think AirBNB should instruct hosts to do so. After all, hotels and motels in the US are required to ask to see your ID, so guests are trained to not think anything of such a request. I’ve been asked for my passport at all the hotels, motels and youth hostels I’ve stayed at outside of the US, so I suspect there is a law requiring such requests almost worldwide.
I suspect that people are less likely to ransack a place after they’ve had their ID copied by the host.
One of the most interesting guests I had in 2009 was a guy who arrived by motorcycle from his San Francisco apartment. He stayed the night but didn’t shower in the morning. He went home for that, I guess. Why did he stay here, alone?
Airbnb was considering hiring him, and part of the hiring process required that applicants try the service. He was very talkative, and since we were both in the Internet field, we had a lot to talk about. I recall Airbnb had fewer than 10 employees at the time. I could tell Airbnb was a great company on its way up, up, up. What a business model — I recall they collect 20% of the rental price for playing matchmaker and escrow agent.
According to recent news reports, Airbnb recently closed a USD $112 million dollar venture capital investment at a valuation of USD $1,300,000,000 (sic). If that guy that stayed with me for a night got hired, he’s likely now worth millions on paper. I’m happy for him.
Here are some links to articles about Airbnb:
I know two people who used Airbnb to book a multinight stay in an apartment in Paris, France. They got the entire place to themselves. I saw pictures and the home was charming and simply lovely. There was no elevator and there were six flights of spiral stairs to climb, but I bet those stairs made the place particularly memorable for the travelers. I am not criticizing Airbnb or Paris for the stairs. I really believe that charming old buildings help their occupants form strong memories. It was probably a pain to lug suitcases up six flights of stairs. But as those memories fade, I believe the fond memories of the apartment will remain, and that even 50 years from now those travelers will fondly remember their cute Paris apartment, but they won’t remember any of the corporate hotels they stayed at back then, no matter how costly or opulent.
I was inspired to become an Airbnb host by my brother Andrew Warnock. On his honeymoon with his wife, they booked an apartment in Prague, Czech Republic by visiting a booking booth in the Prague central train station. He said the apartment was really great, and that he would repeat the experience.
Now, back to the Airbnb property damage controversy. AirBNB is worth more than a billion dollars now. They are famous. They are targets, and they’ll need to deal with that, sadly.
I can easily see a situation where hosts stage a trashing of their home, hoping to get new housing, courtesy of a rich and well liked startup. I would think that Airbnb will ultimately decide to require hosts to email them the IDs of guests on the day of checkin. This will allow Airbnb to be a central repository of the identification documents, and will help greatly if a host is ever hurt such that they can’t point the authorities to the location of the IDs. Airbnb already stores the credit card details of its guests, so storing their IDs should not raise the eyebrows of well intentioned guests. However, it should greatly alarm poorly intentioned guests.
With the widespread adoption of smart phones with cameras, hosts can photograph and send photos by MMS or email. If it’s decided such systems are not secure enough, Airbnb could write a set of phone apps that would use the camera to take the picture. Then, the apps could encrypt the picture and directly connect to servers at Airbnb. In this way, the sensitive ID documents could be securely transmitted to Airbnb while bypassing the Internet’s open email infrastructure.
Again, I don’t know what happened in the current ugly situation in the news. If the host’s home was ruined by a guest, then perhaps AirBNB should pay the deductable for any insurance the host carries. I do think that AirBNB shouldn’t be fully on the hook for all the damages, because that’s what renters’ or homeowners’ insurance is for. What if a guest accidentally burns down an apartment building by careless use of candles or the stove? Should AirBNB have to spend millions to rebuild an apartment building? I don’t think that’s fair or just. The terms of service should require that hosts carry suitable insurance as a condition of being a host.
I’m sure all these issues will get worked out. I met one of the founders of Airbnb in 2009 when he came to my house with his camera and tripod to take pictures for my profile. When he learned I already had pretty good pictures on my profile, he didn’t take any and we used his time at my house to talk about Airbnb. I had a good feeling about him, and I suspect if his other cofounders are similar, that the company will come though this situation stronger. The founders of Airbnb are Nathan Blecharczyk, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia. I can’t remember which founder came by my house.
I have a website for my house where you can see the pictures I used when I was an AirBNB host.
I continue to be a huge fan of Airbnb and I hope to again be a host. The reason I am not a host right now is I have four young female roommates sharing my house as tenants, and it just doesn’t seem nice to ask them if I can allow random strangers to share their bathroom, as much as I think it’s safe.
I photographed Emily Dionne on May 1, 2005. Emily had never modeled before, and wasn’t hoping for a career in modeling like many of my subjects.
I photographed Emily at her request, which she made at the end of a photoshoot I had just completed with her friend. Emily had come along to the shoot to support her friend, and at the end Emily asked me how much I would charge to photograph her.
I explained that I am not a professional photographer, and I don’t charge my subjects. Of course I agreed to photograph her, and these pictures are the result.
Emily was an outstanding model, and we created dozens of publication quality pictures.
The second picture from the top was taken just one minute after the shoot began. It was the 18th photograph of the day.
I shot these pictures with my Canon EOS 10D digital camera in RAW format. Click on the pictures twice to see them at full resolution. These pictures were taken at my house in San Francisco, California USA.
I bought these fish from a licensed aquaculture dealer I identified on the California Department of Fish and Game department website. The dealer recommended these catfish over other types of catfish because he said they grow better in aquaponics systems and are very hardy. Since I’ve lost all my full size catfish I bought at the supermarket, I needed to try something different.
While researching raising catfish, I discovered this 1973 article by Philip and Joyce Mahan about how to raise catfish in oil barrels. I would be scared to use an oil barrel since I’d be worried about contamination, but the article does impart useful information, including how to raise worms to use at catfish food.
Cross your fingers that my 25 new ‘roommates’ have a long and happy life!
I photographed professional model Anne Roefs on May 11, 2005 at my house in San Francisco, California USA.
I think Anne Roefs resembles Hollywood actor Angelina Jolie. Please tell me what you think in a comment.
This was not my first shoot with Anne. I think I did two or three shoots with her. She brought a makeup artist to our first shoot, and the makeup artist asked me how much I would charge to photograph her. I explained I am not a professional photographer and that I would photograph her without charge. I did that shoot about a week later. I will post those pictures as soon as I can dig them up.
That was a very flattering request by the makeup artist. She told me she had been the makeup artist on numerous photo shoots, as she was a makeup artist and hair stylist by profession. She said that many photographers had asked to photograph her, but she had always said no. I didn’t ask her. She asked me. She said she liked my working style.
On my first shoot with Anne, her car key broke off in the trunk lock of her car. At this point, it was about 9 pm on a Sunday night, as the shoot finished late. I was able to fish out the broken piece of the key with long nosed pliers. I drove Anne and her makeup artist friend to Home Depot in Daly City, California, which is open until 11 pm on Sunday.
The key maker at Home Depot went far out of his way to help Anne. He went to the adhesive section of the store and selected some ‘Crazy Glue’ type product, opened it up without selling it to Anne, and glued the key back together. Then he put the key in his key duplicator and made a replacement key that worked! Everyone was relieved. Nobody wanted to call and pay for a locksmith on a Sunday night. I recall Home Depot charged just the normal couple of dollars for the duplicate even though it took him about an hour to glue the key together and copy it. I did wonder if Anne got such special treatment at Home Depot because she is beautiful and the guy was happy to have this 5’10” blond model in his store.
I remember that around the time of our photo shoots, Anne got a modeling job that put her on a billboard for the televison show Fear Factor.
I painted the artwork behind Anne in the first photograph above.
Click twice on these pictures to see them at full resolution.
July 24, 2011 when I was falling asleep I thought of an idea I love. I plan to try this idea in my bus conversion.
Here’s the idea:
Place a car radiator in the exhaust flow of a clothes dryer. Pump water or another heat exchange liquid through tubing that connects the radiator to a heat storage tank. The fluid in that tank will warm, and that warm water can be piped through hydronic floor heating piping to heat the home.
This heat recovery could be meaningful, especially in households where the dryer gets used a lot.
Alternatively or in addition, the recovered clothes dryer heat could heat the domestic hot water supply, and that water could be used for the clothes washer. In effect the heat from the dryer could make the washer more energy efficient.
Alternatively or in addition, the recovered clothes dryer heat could be used to heat an aquaponics fish tank, which generally makes the fish eat more and gain weight faster. I understand that catfish grow fastest when their water temperature is 84 degrees fahrenheit. It takes a lot of energy to warm hundreds of gallons of water, so recycling heat from a dryer is a good idea.
Car radiators are cheap. I discovered this when buying the parts to build my sound proof engine box for my bus conversion.
My idea is so simple and inexpensive. It’s applicable to gas and electric dryers, and it makes sense for nearly every home in every country I can think of that has a clothes dryer. Why hasn’t such a system already been implemented?
Others have conceived of capturing waste heat from clothes dryers. Inventor Richard A. Brunner patented in the United States a system that from my quick read of the full text of the patent uses a heat exchanger to warm house air with moist air from the dryer vent. I didn’t see anything about heating water or using the hot water to heat the house or the water for a clothes washer, as I have described.
I suspect all the major clothes dryer companies have also considered heat recovery systems. The idea is not far fetched. I believe many industrial factories capture ‘waste’ heat from systems all the time for use elsewhere.
As I understand it, home heating forced air furnaces of high efficiency already recover heat from the first combustion process in a so-called second stage. I have been told these super efficient furnaces are trouble prone, but that they do work. I was advised not to buy one due to their complexity. But these dual stage furnaces apparently work by burning the exhaust, not just capturing heat from it. My dryer heat recovery system would be much simpler and cheaper to construct.
I have read about devices to capture heat from waste drain water, which often contains heated water. I suspect the amount of heat those devices recover is relatively small compared to the available heat that could be cost effectively recovered from a clothes dryer.
When I converted my Kenmore natural gas clothes dryer to propane so I could install it in my bus conversion, I temporarily operated the dryer with the front cover removed. I got to see the flame size, and I would say it’s similar to the size of flame that would be produced by running four stovetop cooking burners at once.
Yes, a lot of the heat is consumed evaporating water, but when I put my hand over the outside vent when my dryer is running, it seems like at least as much heat as a 1,500 watt space heater produces.
I suspect about 2/3rds of that heat could be captured in a hot water tank. A space heater produces about 5,000 btus of heat per hour, so 2/3rds of 5,000 is 3,333 btus. It takes about 1,000 watts of electricity worth say USD $.20 to run 2/3rds of a 1,500 watt space heater. So the captured heat from running a dryer by electricity for an hour is worth about USD $.20.
If the dryer is run for five loads a week, a dollar a week in energy is saved, or $52 a year. A dryer might last for ten years, so $520 worth of energy would be saved over the life of the dryer, or enough money to pay for the entire appliance.
But energy is getting more costly, so over ten years the savings might be 50% higher.
Every little bit helps.
Gas water heaters and furnaces should also have heat exchangers installed in their exhaust stacks. If a house is built with the hydronic piping for these heat exchangers in place, the cost to add these recovery systems should be affordable. However, it would be much better to eliminate the water heater and furnace in most homes, in favor of mandatory solar water heating for water and the air.
I think it is one of mankind’s dumbest moves to ignore the sun for most water and home heating worldwide, in favor of burning fossil fuels which really should be saved for fueling aircraft and spacecraft and making advanced plastics.
Why are we not burning oil at a rate such that it will last for 1,000 years? Or 10,000 years? Some say we’ve used up half the oil on the planet already, in what, 150 years? That’s a snap of the fingers. What will we do in three snaps? Go back to sailing ships? Yes, by then we might figure out cold fusion or oil from algae such that it really substitutes for oil. But what if we don’t?
While I’m carrying on here, I should say that clothes dryers themselves are rather ridiculous when air drying clothes makes them last longer and is free. Garages should have enough clothes lines to dry multiple dryer loads of laundry, and garages should have fans that exhaust to the outside so that drying times can be reduced substantially. Outdoor clothes lines should be allowed everywhere, by law, in the same way that television satellite dishes are allowed everywhere in the United States by law. As I understand it, no contract can take away the right to install your own satellite dish. The exception is if you have free access to a community satellite dish.
Some housing complexes have legally enforceable covenants that forbid outdoor clothes lines, and your house can be foreclosed on and sold if you violate these contractual regulations. Such provisions should be against public policy and automatically be void and unenforceable.
Sadly, wet clothes don’t have the powerful lobby that the satellite television reception industry pays a lot of money to employ.
Even so, I still read it.
I feel guilty about it, but I loved the paper for so long it’s hard to stop reading it.
One of the things I love about the paper is it prints some crazy stories. This is not a News Corp. addition — the Wall Street Journal has published crazy stories for decades.
One of my favorite crazy Wall Street Journal articles was published about 20 years ago. The article spoke about how rat is served in Southern China in restaurants that specialize in serving just rat based dishes. The writing was so colorful and visceral I remember it well even today. Apparently rat causes nosebleeds for some diners. According to the story, eating rat can make you feel warm and perspire so much that you are inclined to take off your shirt in the restaurant, as some diners did in front of the Journal reporter.
The image of a group of bare chested men eating rat with blood running from their noses is hard to forget.
When I was in Wuhan, China in 2005 for the TeX Users Group International Typesetting Conference I asked the locals if there were any rat serving restaurants in the city. I was told no, that I would have to go further south for that. The article said the restaurant grade rats are raised using a free range technique on dedicated pasture surrounded by electric fencing. The article made it sound like the rats are fed well and are healthy and clean. I would try them. I want to try them. Hmmm, maybe I could buy some lab rats and try to cook them at home? What would my 4 roommates would say about that?
On May 16, 2011 the Wall Street Journal published a story that nearly is as captivating as the rat story — Long Arm of the Law Penalizes Texans Who Nab Catfish by Hand.
There is a way to fish for catfish called noodling. Here’s a description from the article:
Techniques vary. When the fisherman puts his hand into the hole where the fish is, the fish usually bites. Then he can grab the catfish by a lower-jaw bone, or, if he sticks his arm in deep enough into the fish’s body, he can poke his fingers through its gills.
But most important is controlling the tail, Mr. Webb says, which is usually done by the noodler wrapping his or her legs around the fish. “If you don’t get that tail immobilized, I don’t care how big or strong you are, you’re not going to whip that fish,” he says.
For extra reach, some practitioners stick their legs instead of their arms into dark underwater holes. Apparently, you can lose a leg noodling, judging from the shocking photograph accompanying the article, shown here, which shows three men. One has two legs, one has one leg and one has zero legs. They just caught a 60 pound catfish some 5 feet long, and they’re smiling widely.
I knew I would write about this story as soon as I read it. What I didn’t know at the time of publication was that I was soon going to be raising catfish in my backyard in San Francisco, California, USA.
I placed my aquaponics fish tank in my new Harbor Freight greenhouse last week, and I have catfish swimming in the fish tank. Don’t worry, they’re small enough I won’t lose my arms or legs anytime soon.
I have pan fried four catfish in recent weeks, and I like catfish more than Tilapia. I find catfish has more flavor than Tilapia. I am having trouble keeping the catfish alive, which is why I’ve been eating so much catfish recently. But I have read they are almost as easy to raise as Tilapia. I fear I am doing something wrong. I will figure it out and make a success of my catfish project.
Catfish is harder to prepare because you have to pull off the raw skin with large shop pliers, which is a physical chore and messy. But I’m getting better at it, and after ten more fish I predict I’ll be able to remove the skin in under a minute.
A while back I bought a used 275 gallon IBC tote for USD $120 that I plan to cut the top off of. I will then use this food grade tote as a monster fish tank. I should be able to raise 100 to 200 catfish at a time in this tank, which will give me so much fish I should be able to eat a full fish every two days or so, without depleting the stock. I have read that catfish are so efficient that they convert 2 pounds of feed into 1 pound of fish. The feed can be mostly worms you grow yourself using kitchen scraps as feed.
I photographed Aedrea Androus in 2004. She is an experienced model, and was a pleasure to work with. The shoot lasted over 4 hours it went so well.
I painted the painting Aedrea is holding in the last shot above.
I am a painter as well as a photographer.
I used my Canon EOS 10D digital camera to take these pictures. Click the pictures to see them at full resolution.
Technology to connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi networks is small and inexpensive. Mobile phones and even camera memory cards accomplish this task.
I have an idea of how to use this technology to improve safety.
Combine a smoke/carbon monoxide detector with Wi-Fi circuitry so that when the detector activates text messages can be sent to people and entities that should be alerted.
There are already ‘Wi-Fi smoke detectors’ for sale, as a quick search will reveal. But these detectors are not for detecting smoke, but for covert video recording of a room. These products demonstrate that it’s easy to put a Wi-Fi transmitter into a smoke detector case.
The best of all worlds would be to combine an actual smoke/carbon monoxide detector with a video camera so that when the detector activates that a text message can be sent that includes a link so the message recipient can sign in to a webpage to observe the room the detector is located in. In this way, false alarms can potentially be identified from afar.
Current video fake smoke detectors cost a lot, but that’s because they are made in tiny volume. I bet a combination smoke, carbon monoxide, video Wi-Fi detector could sell for under USD $100 if they were required by building codes.
Finally, I think it’s time to add another feature to smoke/carbon monoxide detectors. I think detectors should also sense unburned gas such as natural gas and propane. For reasons I can’t understand, modern gas stoves don’t stop the flow of gas if there is no flame, so it’s possible to fill the house with gas without warning, other than the bad smell. Smell based warnings do no good for sleeping occupants. Gas detectors typically need more than a 9 volt battery to operate, so gas detectors usually are plugged into AC power. I think that’s fine, provided there is a battery backup to carry through power outages.
I would certainly pay USD $200 per detector for a gas/smoke/carbon monoxide/Wi-Fi/Video detector.
I’ve written about my love of bus conversions. I’ve shown you my first bus conversion, and wrote with sadness when I sold it in January 2011. I’ve written about my new conversion that I got in 2007, but I haven’t posted a high quality picture of it before.
I took this photograph of my 1994 TMC T80206 bus conversions in 2007 soon after I bought it on EBay for USD $10,000.
I love the sleek look, the low height and the fact that it has just two axles. Fewer axles mean cheaper bridge tolls and lower tire costs.
This vehicle only had about 368,000 miles on it when I bought it. Now it has about 371,000 miles on it, as I don’t drive it much.
I had it checked out before I bought it. Mark Waters, the chief bus mechanic at Coach America in San Francisco, California USA, said it was one of the cleanest used vehicles he had inspected. He said the engine computer only had 100 miles on it, which he said means it had just been fully replaced, as the internal mileage counter apparently can’t be reset.
I’ve known Waters since 2001 when I bought my first bus conversion. At the time he was co-owner of Pacific Coast Bus Service. Some time later Coach USA bought his company to get Waters to work for them, as I understand the story of the acquisition. According to WikiPedia, Coach USA West, where Waters worked, is now owned by Coach America and is known as Coach America.
Mark Waters is an exceptional mechanic, and I feel privileged to have had him work on my vehicles for the last decade. He knows both 2 stroke and 4 stroke engines, a rarity among bus mechanics these days. He had to replace a cracked cylinder on my 1967 MCI 5a, and he did the work correctly the first time.
There is no rust on my 1994 conversion as most of the metal in the vehicle is stainless steel or aluminum.
I will have this repainted white at some point as that’s the most efficient color for a habitable vehicle, because white paint reduces air conditioning requirements dramatically, and I hope to cool one room at a time exclusively with photovoltaic panels, as I’ve written about before.