Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Up, up, and away!

It's Earthquake Day today, so there's lots in the media.

Here are a few very interesting links:

  • San Francisco’s Big Seismic Gamble
    San Francisco lives with the certainty that the Big One will come. But the city is also putting up taller and taller buildings clustered closer and closer together because of the state’s severe housing shortage. Now those competing pressures have prompted an anxious rethinking of building regulations. Experts are sending this message: The building code does not protect cities from earthquakes nearly as much as you might think.
  • The HayWired Earthquake Scenario
    The HayWired scenario is a hypothetical earthquake sequence that is being used to better understand hazards for the San Francisco Bay region during and after an earthquake of magnitude 7 on the Hayward Fault. The 2014 Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities calculated that there is a 33-percent likelihood of a large (magnitude 6.7 or greater) earthquake occurring on the Hayward Fault within three decades. A large Hayward Fault earthquake will produce strong ground shaking, permanent displacement of the Earth’s surface, landslides, liquefaction (soils becoming liquid-like during shaking), and subsequent fault slip, known as afterslip, and earthquakes, known as aftershocks.

    The most recent large earthquake on the Hayward Fault occurred on October 21, 1868, and it ruptured the southern part of the fault. The 1868 magnitude-6.8 earthquake occurred when the San Francisco Bay region had far fewer people, buildings, and infrastructure (roads, communication lines, and utilities) than it does today, yet the strong ground shaking from the earthquake still caused significant building damage and loss of life.

  • News from the HayWired fault
    Today, though, I wanted to provide some details from the original quake. In 1868 a committee was convened to create a report on the event, but it never finished a report, so whatever work they did was lost. We only know as much as we do because after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, the commission set up under UC Berkeley’s Andrew Lawson to investigate it decided to add a chapter on previous earthquakes. There were enough survivors of 1868 at the time to record quite a bit of detail. So here are some tidbits from the famous Lawson Report of 1908 about the Hayward quake of 1868.
  • The California earthquake of April 18, 1906. Report of the State Earthquake Investigation Commission
    The fact that the California earthquake of April 18, 1906; occurred a little after 5 A. m., before people in general were up, is one cause why we have so little reliable information regarding the exact time at which it occurred. In answer to questions sent out by the Earthquake Commission, a very large number of replies were received, but it is quite evident, from the variations among them and from the fact that many only gave the time to minutes, that these times are very unreliable. The general descriptions show that the earthquake began with a fairly strong movement which continued with increasing strength for an interval variously estimated, but which really amounted to about half a minute; then very violent shocks occurred, and quiet was restored about 3 minutes later.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Whales!

As this afternoon's ferry was approaching the dock, the captain came on the loudspeaker and said:

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. The ferry is approaching the dock and we will be docking soon. It looks like the two whales are still out by the day mark near the dock.

We couldn't see much from the windows of the ferry itself, but once we were on shore and looked out to the day mark, sure enough, there were indeed whales! Swimming about and spouting spray from time to time!

Thirty years in Alameda and that's a first!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Happy 90th Mr. Lehrer

Here's a nice tribute from Ken Regan: Tom Lehrer At 90.

It's got some nice links, too, including:

I have to admit I heard most of my Tom Lehrer songs on Dr. Demento, but I don't think it matters how you got to Tom Lehrer, as long as you got there.

Why, we had a great discussion at the office the other day about I got it from Agnes, which I was rather red-faced to admit went totally over my head when I listened to it as a precocious 12-year-old in the early 1970s.

Faithful Place: a very short review

The third in Tana French's superb Dublin-based mystery novels is Faithful Place.

French's approach to the series is quite unusual. A supporting character in an earlier novel becomes the main character in a subsequent one, and, over time, we get to know a variety of characters who are interconnected in various ways.

But one thing this means is that the books are different, because the characters are different. When you read, for example, a Sue Grafton novel, at some point you knew what to expect.

French's books don't have that quality. Each is different, and stands on its own (though I'm going through them in order, as I think she probably expects readers to do).

Faithful Place is different from the first two works in several ways, but the most notable one is a matter of style. Whereas the earlier words were lyric, moody, enigmatic, Faithful Place is like a truck on a highway: straightforward, blunt, powerful.

There isn't, really, much of a mystery here, in a way. The mystery is more about subtler things, involving how families manipulate themselves, how grudges and hurts thought to be long overcome are still alive, and how people often struggle to do the right thing about those that they care about the most.

It's gritty, it's harsh, it's blunt, and I roared through it like that proverbial truck on a highway, pausing only briefly for rest and refreshment before moving on.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Life moves along

Does anybody know of a way that I can find out the names of the people in this amazing picture?

I recognize some of the most obvious ones: Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Coretta Scott King and her children, Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis (?), Julian Bond (?), but I'm sure that somewhere, there must be a copy of this picture with everyone tagged? I'd love to know more about the picture, and more about the people in it, besides those who are of course well-known to us all. The best I found was this, which is fascinating but I was hoping for even more.

Meanwhile, in other completely unrelated, but interesting to me, news:

  • It was just as big a storm as predicted: Record April Rains Raise Rivers And Flood Concerns
    Yosemite National Park closed campgrounds and lodging in its busy Yosemite Valley because of flooding concerns, with the Merced River there expected to peak 5 feet (1.5 meters) above flood stage on Saturday.

    ...

    Bodega Bay in the county received nearly 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) of rain for the day

    ...

    Lake Oroville has been filling up all winter, and more water was coming in than flowing out Friday. The water level Friday night had topped 793 feet (242 meters). If it reaches about 830 feet (253 meters), water managers said they may open the gates to the spillway.

    ...

    California officials say they hope to avoid using the main spillway but are confident it can safely function.
  • Test Drilling Launched at the Sinking Millennium Tower
    Crews have quietly launched a $9 million exploratory drilling project at the Millennium Tower to evaluate a planned fix for the sinking and tilting structure, NBC Bay Area has learned.

    The project started earlier this month on Beale Street and involves drilling holes between 200 and 300 feet down to bedrock. The goal is to see whether the method will stabilize the troubled foundation.

    ...

    The so-called micropile strategy is not new; it was used to shore up the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, which sank some 18 inches during construction before being stabilized by more than 500 micropiles.

  • Micropile Underpinning of the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino
    The approach was to drill and install micropiles through holes cored into the mat and not bonded in the mat, so that the piles could be jacked into the ground and maintain the building at a desired level. Then structural beam supports would be installed to act as permanent attachments and jacking frames. The entire system had the capacity to lift the center of the tower if that proved to be necessary. In order to support the center core, a layout consisting of 536 micropiles (Pin Piles) was developed by the structural engineer, Lochsa Engineering. Due to the limited plan area and the fact that it would be impractical to delay elevator construction to drill inside the shafts, all piles were located outside of the shafts. The resulting system was designed to support the core as if it was one very large pile cap. All the micropiles used to support the hotel core were 200 feet deep, were fully bonded with grout to the various soil and caliche layers and were isolated from the mat. The decision to drill 200 feet was based on a fairly substantial caliche layer being encounter at the depth in a preliminary methods hole and subsequent boring also often encountering a similar layer.
  • FORM S-4 REGISTRATION STATEMENT
    On February 2, 2018, Mr. Somorjai sent an email to Mr. Schott requesting a meeting to discuss various commercial matters, including joint business development ideas.

    ...

    On February 26, 2018, Mr. Schott met with Mr. Benioff. During the course of this meeting, Mr. Benioff described the importance of an integration platform to Salesforce’s strategic plans, and observed that MuleSoft’s products could be the foundation of Salesforce’s integration platform. Mr. Benioff asked Mr. Schott if the MuleSoft board of directors would be open to the possibility of considering a combination of the two companies. Mr. Schott responded that, although MuleSoft was not for sale, the MuleSoft board of directors would consider in good faith any reasonable offer it received from Salesforce.

    ...

    Between the afternoon of March 18, 2018 and the morning of March 20, 2018, representatives of WSGR continued to negotiate and finalized the draft definitive merger agreement with representatives of Wachtell Lipton.

  • SPRING EDITION: March 2018
    Ridership on WETA’s San Francisco Bay Ferry has increased by 94 percent since 2012 to more than 2.7 million riders annually. The demand for ferry service has grown across all four service routes

    ...

    WETA has already been modernizing and expanding its fleet, investing in infrastructure improvements, and planning for new service:

    • Two of four new 400-passenger, 27-knot vessels have already entered service, with the third entering service in May and the fourth in December.
    • Three new 445-passenger, 34-knot vessels for the Vallejo/North Bay services are expected in late 2018 and 2019.
    • The North Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility in Vallejo opened in 2016, and the Ron Cowan Central Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility in Alameda is scheduled to open in Summer 2018.
    • A major expansion of ferry landing facilities at the San Francisco Ferry Building is currently under construction with two gates scheduled to open in November.
    • A Richmond ferry terminal is under construction and new service from Richmond to San Francisco is scheduled to start in Fall 2018.
  • Alameda’s Ferry Nightmare
    The city downsized parking for the ferry terminal after area neighbors complained. “We protect our property values and make sure that this is a safe place for residents and homeowners,” said Dawn Jaeger, executive director of the Harbor Bay Isle Association.

    Under the city’s new rules, four homeowners associations received parking permits for residents of the area. Ferry commuters aren’t allowed access to the permits.

    The city’s decision on ferry parking comes as the Harbor Bay ferry has been experiencing a surge in popularity. The ferry’s ridership has surged by 68 percent in the past five years, according to a city report last fall.

  • Raising the Speed Limit on Future Growth
    The final and perhaps most critical issue I want to highlight also relates to skills: We’re not adequately preparing a large fraction of our young people for the jobs of the future. Like in most advanced economies, job creation in the United States is being tilted toward jobs that require a college degree (OECD 2017). Even if high school-educated workers can find jobs today, their future job security is in jeopardy. Indeed by 2020, for the first time in our history, more jobs will require a bachelor’s degree than a high school diploma (Carnevale, Smith, and Strohl 2013).

    These statistics contrast with the trends for college completion. Although the share of young people with four-year college degrees is rising, in 2016 only 37% of 25- to 29-year-olds had a college diploma (Snyder, de Brey, and Dillow 2018). This falls short of the progress in many of our international competitors (OECD 2018), but also means that many of our young people are underprepared for the jobs in our economy.

  • Crossword
    This puzzle is a collaboration by the singer/songwriter Weird Al Yankovic, working together with Eric Berlin, a writer and puzzle editor from Milford, Conn.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Fabiano!

Well here's something that I was somewhat wondering if I'd live long enough to see: An American Will Play For The World Chess Championship

For the first time since Bobby Fischer captivated the country, a U.S. grandmaster has a shot at becoming the undisputed world chess champion.1 Fabiano Caruana, the current world No. 3 and the top American chess grandmaster, won the right today to play for the game’s most coveted prize. He’ll face the reigning world champion, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, in a 12-game, one-on-one match in London in November. It won’t be easy. Carlsen, the current world No. 1, has been champion since 2013 and became a grandmaster when he was 13 years old. He most recently defended his title in 2016 in New York City.

And, for a slightly more chess-oriented bit of coverage: Caruana Wins FIDE Candidates' Tournament

Fabiano Caruana won the 2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament in Berlin convincingly. He defeated Alexander Grischuk in the final round with the black pieces. Sergey Karjakin blundered but held the draw vs Ding Liren, and both Kramnik-Mamedyarov and Aronian-So were also drawn.

Caruana will face Magnus Carlsen for the world chess championship in London in November.

Now I just have to wait 6 months.

At least I have 56 wonderful games to play through, to keep me busy until then.

By the way, Caruana's result is clearly the most impressive aspect of the tournament, and there's no way to understate 5 wins from 14 games in a field of this strength.

But don't overlook the amazing performance of 25-year-old Chinese superstar Ding Liren, who managed to play all 14 games without a single loss, and ended up coming in 4th, just 1.5 points behind Caruana. Absolutely phenomenal!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Plato at the Googleplex: a very short review

I happened to dig down through the stack and found Rebecca Goldstein's Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away.

Not that I, personally, was all that worried that Philosophy was going to go away.

But this is, obviously, a book for people who are interested in Philosophy, of whom there are two sorts:

  1. People who pursue, or who have pursued, Philosophy as an academic discipline.
  2. People who have a casual interest in Philosophy, and who were assigned, say, parts of The Republic during high school, or who took "Great Western Philosophers" as an elective in college

Myself, I'm more in the latter category.

Anyway, Goldstein is attempting to write for both audiences, which is rather a challenge.

The way she handles this is to, more-or-less, alternate the chapters in her book between audience one and audience two.

For audience one, there are chapters dense with an assessment of current academic views on Philosophy in general, and on how Plato's thinking is currently received, in particular.

There are lots of footnotes in those chapters.

And passages like

In the Thaetetus, Plato moves (though somewhat jerkily) toward the definition of knowledge as "true belief with a logos," an account. This is a first approximation to a definition that philosophers would eventually give: knowledge is justified true belief. The same true proposition that is merely believed by one person can be genuinely known by another, and the difference lies in the reasons the believer has for believing. The reasons have to be good ones, providing justification for his belief, making it a rational belief. These are all evaluative notions. The definition of knowledge forces a further question: what counts as good reasons? All of these are questions that make up the field of epistemology, and they are questions Plato raised.

Which, if you're in audience one, is probably just what you were looking for!

In the other chapters, aimed more at audience two I guess, Goldstein tries a different approach, in which she imagines that Plato were somehow magically alive today, 2,500 years later, wandering around in his toga, carrying a laptop computer, and interacting with various people.

The title of the book comes from one of these chapters, in which Goldstein describes Plato's visit to the headquarters campus of Google (the "Googleplex"), where Plato is to give a speech for an audience of Google employees.

Other such chapters imagine Plato appearing on a cable talk show segment, Plato in a town hall forum at the 92nd Street YMCA in Manhattan, Plato assisting with the answers on the Ask Margo website, and Plato participating in a MRI brain-scanning experiment.

It's a clever idea, but terribly hard to pull off; Goldstein does better than I anticipated, and surely much better than I would have done myself.

But it's still pretty contrived.

I guess the bottom line is that it's an interesting book.

If you are interested in Plato, that is.