Thursday, June 14, 2018

Here come the buses!

After 8 years of construction, the amazing new Salesforce Transit Center is (starting to be) open!

The Salesforce Transit Center is opening for Muni service on Saturday, June 16! While the full Transit Center, including the Grand Hall entrance and rooftop park, isn’t open until later this summer, the bus plaza will be operational for Muni routes 5/5R, 7, 38/38R, with the 25 Treasure Island beginning service to the bus deck when the Transit Center fully opens.

If I'm reading the exploded chart in the article correctly, the AC Transit buses will proceed counter-clockwise around the 2nd floor, picking up and dropping off passengers from the middle of the deck, not from its perimeter.

Which makes sense.

According to the Transbay Joint Powers Authority website, even the decorative metal grating around the 2nd floor facade is noteworthy:

Incorporating the groundbreaking geometrical pattern of Dr. Roger Penrose, the eminent British mathematical physicist, in the undulating metal facade
I have no idea what that means.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the rooftop park. The exploded chart seems to indicate that there is only one set of escalators up to the park, leading up from the Grand Hall and depositing you right in the middle of the park.

From there, I guess, you can walk in either direction, and then return to the escalators to go down.

There are also, apparently, three sets of elevators.

And, of course, the gondola.

Doesn't seem like enough access points to the park, though; I guess I was thinking there would be ways to get up to the park at either end.

And the exploded chart doesn't really explain what happens on the rest of the street level, either. There is the Muni section between Fremont and Beale, and the Grand Hall between Fremont and First, but what is going on from First up to Second?

Well, we'll know soon enough; the entire thing is supposed to be open within weeks!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

WC 2018!

Yes, it's true: the 2018 World Cup starts in less than 24 hours!

Since I hail from the U.S. of A., where (a) we didn't even qualify for the tournament, and (b) we think that all sports can be reduced to statistics, may I bring you the 2018 World Cup, FiveThirtyEight style:

  • Uruguay Got The World Cup’s Ultimate Prize: Russia’s Group
    If the opening is here for an underdog, surely that team will be Egypt. The African side has not reached the World Cup since 1990, but it now features an attacker legitimately among the best in the world in Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. He is projected to return after separating his shoulder in the Champions League final. Whether Salah will be fit to start the tournament remains up in the air, and Egypt would likely struggle without its superstar. But if he can come back, he’s as sure a thing as there is in world soccer.
  • Can Morocco Squeeze Past Spain Or Portugal?
    Spain, perhaps more than any other national team, has an established identity. Despite turning over nearly all of its attacking and midfield players since 2010 — only Sergio Busquets remains in the same role he played on the team that beat the Netherlands in that final — Spain has maintained the same probing, passing style. No team in the world has depended less on crosses to move the ball into the penalty area.
  • France’s Group-Stage Tuneup Will Tell Us Whether It’s A Contender
    At only 25 years old, Paul Pogba has already played in the finals of the UEFA European Championships and the Champions League. He won titles with Juventus, and after transferring to Manchester United for a whopping $116.4 million, he has become a fixture in the center of the midfield at Old Trafford. But no matter how much he accomplishes, there are still questions about exactly how big a superstar he is. His technical ability and range are a rare combination. Whether French manager Didier Deschamps unleashes him to get forward and contribute to the attack or keeps him chained to a more disciplined midfield role will likely influence perceptions of Pogba’s performance at this World Cup.
  • Argentina Is The Team To Beat In Group D, But Can Messi (Finally) Win The Tournament?
    If there is to be an upset in this group, who better than Iceland to pull it off? The tiny Scandinavian nation is going to its first World Cup after a Cinderella run in the 2016 Euros and a shockingly assured European qualifying season. Iceland will not be trying anything unusual or pretty, but what it does is effective. Iceland will look for quick-hitting counterattacks and set play situations. If neither of Croatia or Argentina can sort out a solution to their tactical problems, Iceland’s clear understanding of its own style should give them a real shot at an upset.
  • Brazil Got A Lot Better Since The Last World Cup
    CONMEBOL qualifying is the most difficult of all the regional qualifying tournaments, and Brazil romped through with little difficulty. The Selecao rate as the best defensive team in the world by a significant margin. But the likely back line of Danilo, Thiago Silva, Miranda and Marcelo has an average age of 31, so they’re not exactly at the peak of their careers. Rather, manager Tite has developed a tactical system that protects the back line with two of the best defensive midfielders in the world, Casemiro and Fernandinho. Both players anchor three-man midfields for their club sides, Real Madrid and Manchester City respectively, where they are largely responsible for stopping opposition attacks in midfield on their own. For Brazil, they can share the load.
  • Mexico May Need To Beat Germany To Have Hope — Good Luck With That
    Mexico has an intriguing attacking corps but has also struggled to score. In its three friendlies in preparation for the tournament, it scored one goal combined against Scotland, Wales and Denmark. Mainstays for the team like Chicharito Hernandez and Raul Jimenez have struggled to make an impact leading the line, and even 34-year-old Oribe Peralta is getting minutes.
  • Belgium And England Headline The World Cup’s Most Lopsided Group
    It should be remembered that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola coached the best domestic teams of the past two World Cup victors — Bayern Munich of Germany in 2014 and Barcelona of Spain in 2010 — and his influence is clear on Southgate’s plans. In the friendlies leading up to the tournament, England played a midfield three inspired by Manchester City, with one purely defensive player (either Jordan Henderson or Eric Dier) supporting two attacking midfielders, Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard.
  • A World Cup Sleeper May Be Lurking In Group H
    Skillful wingers Keita Baldé and Mané offer Senegal’s main threat in attack, while the towering defensive presence of Kalidou Koulibaly makes the spine of the team seem stronger than its 33 percent chance of progression may suggest. Given the relative equality of the group, a strong performance from Senegal in its opener against Poland could dramatically change expectations.

And of course, because there's no such thing as too much of a good thing, two bonus links:

  • How Our 2018 World Cup Predictions Work
    At the heart of our forecast are FiveThirtyEight’s SPI ratings, which are our best estimate of overall team strength. In our system, every team has an offensive rating that represents the number of goals that it would be expected to score against an average team on a neutral field and a defensive rating that represents the number of goals that it would be expected to concede. These ratings, in turn, produce an overall SPI rating, which represents the percentage of points — a win is worth 3 points, a tie worth 1 point, and a loss worth 0 points — the team would be expected to take if that match were played over and over again.
  • https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2018-world-cup-predictions/
    Soccer Power Index (SPI) ratings and chances of advancing for every team, updating live.

For myself, I'm rooting for Iceland, Costa Rica, and South Korea, but anticipating France, Germany, and Brazil.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Up, up, and away

One of the next-door neighbors in my office neighborhood is about to open for business, an event which will certainly continue the transformation of my work surroundings.

Certainly, no building is earthquake-proof, but the design of the new building is quite fascinating:

  • This tower will be the most resilient tall building on the west coast of the United States
    Arup’s structural engineers employed a holistic resilience-based seismic design approach to minimise damage in a 500 year earthquake and allow immediate reoccupancy after a seismic event, far exceeding building code criteria. Its iconic tapering form, small footprint, and location in the midst of the Transbay urban regeneration zone presented significant engineering challenges. Arup incorporated groundbreaking design solutions including an innovative viscous damping system within the architecturally expressed steel megabraces and uplifting megacolumns which significantly reduced seismic and wind demands and resulted in a steel material savings of approximately 3,000 tons.
  • The Resilience-Based Design of the 181 Fremont Tower
    The mega-brace system is three braces in one (Figures 3 and 4). The middle (or “primary”) brace is a steel box section and the two outer (or “secondary”) braces are comprised of built-up plates attached to two viscous dampers at one end. As the building flexes laterally in a wind or earthquake event, large (elastic) strains develop in the very long primary braces. The result is approximately 6 inches of lengthening or shortening in the primary brace between the connected nodes. Since the secondary braces are connected to the same mega-nodes via dampers, this relative movement is utilized to activate the dampers and dissipate energy. The system was tuned to optimize the wind performance. However, the damping additionally benefitted the seismic response of the tower by reducing the earthquake demands across several modes of vibration.
  • San Francisco’s 181 Fremont will Become the Most Earthquake-Resilient Building on the West Coast
    The REDi Gold Rating that 181 Fremont - which Arup was the structural engineer, geotechnical engineer, and resilience consultant for - achieved includes enhanced structural and non-structural design to limit damage, improved egress systems, contingency plans to reduce post-earthquake recovery times, and development of a tenant’s resilience manual of recommendations to keep their space earthquake-ready. A building with a REDi Gold Rating can expect its repair costs to be cut by approximately 10 times compared to code-designed buildings and can also reduce the expected functionality downtime from 18 months to less than a few weeks.
  • The Skyscraper Center: 181 Fremont
    The other key structural innovation of the tower is the notch at the center; this notch creates turbulence that helps reduce the aerodynamic pull of the wind, allowing the design to require less steel to resist lateral wind forces.

What makes people think they know what a "500 year earthquake" is for the Bay Area? I'm skeptical.

Still, it's a beautiful and interesting building, and all indications are that it has been carefully designed and built.

It won't be the second-tallest building in San Francisco for long, though...

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Pew Group: a very short review

I really don't remember how The Pew Group ended up at my house. Did my sister-in-law send it to me? Did my mother drop it off? Did I pick it up at a garage sale? How am I so absent-minded?

Well, it doesn't really matter, I suppose: here it is.

And, so, what to do?

I read it.

And: it's delightful!

The conventions, such as they are, for a murder mystery, are pretty clear: there is a crime; there is a detective; there is a solution.

Bah!

Oliver stands this all upon its ear.

Oh, there's a crime, alright. But Oliver has no interest in that; in fact, he gets it out of the way with the very first sentence of the book:

You couldn't call it murder and she had no intention of doing so.

And so, off we go.

There are crime(s), there are detective(s), there are clue(s), but really, in the end, none of that matters.

What interests Oliver is what people do, when there are Things To Be Done.

Rarely in my experience has a book with so little plot had so much activity! And what lively characters, in boring, piddly, mundane Flaxfield, Suffolk, U.K.

The doctor is little interested in medicine; the vicar little interested in theology; the constable little interested in law enforcement; and, so forth.

All I can say is, if you bother to track down this little gem in some long-forgotten dusty corner of some second-hand bookshop somewhere: you have never had so much fun reading a story about a lost porcelain figure from a Sunday church sale:

He picked up a small piece of white pottery lying on its side near a brass ashtray. It was crudely but endearingly fashioned with three little figures sitting stiffly on a high backed settle not unlike the oldest family pews in St. Peter's. He knew the vicar had a small collection of English pottery; it would be quite nice to buy it for him although perhaps it wasn't quite the same as the ones he had seen on the vicarage mantle-shelf, they seemed to have more colour to them, with little branches of green leaves sticking out behind them.

Monday, June 4, 2018

The GitHub deal

It's no longer the center of my professional life, but I'm still close enough to the SCM sliver of the industry to understand that Microsoft just made a brilliant move.

Kudos to them, and congratulations to the team at GitHub (and "Hi!" to those few there who know me!)

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A visit to Wales, part 3: three days in Dublin

For various reasons, our holiday was split between North Wales and Dublin, Ireland. The two primary reasons were:

  1. When traveling to Europe, I VASTLY prefer to take a direct airplane flight. I'd much rather suffer through a single 10.5 hour flight than take a 2, 3, or even 4-leg flight, with layovers, extended flight times, and many opportunities for missed connections, lost baggage, etc. Aer Lingus happen to offer a direct flight from San Francisco to Dublin, and Dublin is (pretty) close to Wales, so I chose for us to fly to and from Dublin, and then we got from Dublin to Wales and back on Irish Ferries. Overall, this was a great decision, and I wouldn't change it, even if our flight to Dublin was delayed 2.5 hours due to a flat tire on our airplane.
  2. I've found that, when we get to Europe, the jet lag is SEVERE, so I've begun incorporating a minimum of 36 hours of "zoned out time" to start each trip to Europe. That 36 hours should probably be more like 48 to 60 hours, but that's not really the point. The point is: when we get to Europe, I want to arrive at some place where we can just check into a place and rest and recover, without any complications for trip planning. I want us to be able to sleep, and wake up, and go out and do things when we have energy, and come back when we want to rest, and for that to be as easy and simple as possible. I don't want to have to drive anywhere, or be on any particular schedule, and I want there to be plenty of interesting and easy choices when we do have the energy to go out. So that means I want to arrive at a city which is tourist-friendly, walkable, big enough to have lots of options for things to do and see, places to eat, public transit, etc. Dublin fit that bill, perfectly.

Anyway, even though seeing Dublin wasn't really the primary purpose of our trip, we still got to do it, so what did we do?

For one thing, we walked.

Dublin is a wonderful city for walking. Its downtown is compact, and easy to navigate, and full of innumerable places to go and things to see, all within easy walking distance of each other. And if you get bored or tired of walking, Dublin has good buses and light rail service to take you around.

And the walking is, for the most part, fun, because Dublin is full of interesting architecture, and great shops to stick your head into, and lots and lots of public art, some of it really surprisingly good (like a vividly-drawn tiled mosaic in a downtown parking lot, or the phenomenal Irish Famine Sculpture), others of it simply dreadful, but still oddly compelling, like, yes, that Molly Malone statue, and still others of it somewhere in between, like this curious set of gargoyles that we found mounted on fence posts at the St. James Hospital LUAS station.

For another thing, we ate.

The restaurants we found in Dublin, while occasionally disappointing, were overall extremely good. We had an absolutely fantastic breakfast at The Woolen Mills, where we were introduced to an Irish Boxty. We had a superb lunch at House, with a rich mushroom soup and delicious fresh-baked dark bread. We had a lovely dinner at Paulie's, a great pizza and fun appetizers. And we had a very pleasant afternoon tea at Bewley's, with an elegant selection of fresh-baked pastry treats.

And for another thing, we learned.

We visited several of the many locations of the National Museum of Ireland, which is not only a wonderful museum, but is free. Free! The archaeology museum had astonishing 5,000 year old precious metal artifacts: necklaces and bracelets and crowns. The decorative arts museum had both traditional and modern craft work, including a fascinating gallery of late-stage Waterford crystal, and a compelling temporary exhibition of the fashion design of Ib Jorgensen.

We walked through the grounds of Trinity College, and we toured the galleries of the Old Library, and we got up close and personal with the Book of Kells, and we went upstairs to the ancient reading room, and saw the harp.

We walked along O'Connell Street and looked at the General Post Office, with its bullet-pocked walls. And we walked along St Stephen's Green and cast our eyes to the Shelbourne Hotel, and to the Royal College of Surgeons, and thought about those spaces, and those places, and those times.

And, most of all, we made the trip just a few kilometers west of downtown, to Kilmainham Gaol, and walked through the museum, and took the tour, and read the letters, and looked at the photos, and stood in those same spots in the yard where so many others before us have come to look, and to listen, and to think, and to learn.

Oh, of course, we did some really mundane things, too (... cough ... Guinness! ... cough ...), like checking out the Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Square, taking in the view from the Gravity Bar, walking along the Grand Canal, feeding the ducks in the St Stephen's Green ponds, and enjoying the perspective of the city from midway across the Ha'Penny Bridge.

There's a LOT to do in Dublin. We could have spent at least a week there, and found many more things to do.

But we were over our jet lag, and it was on to Wales.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A visit to Wales, part 2: castles!

As someone born and raised in the U.S. of A., my experience with Things Medieval tends to be mostly fanciful, and not much based in reality.

And yet, there we were, in North Wales, where medieval history is front and center.

Quoth the Wikipedia,

Following a series of invasions beginning shortly after their conquest of England in 1066, the Normans seized much of Wales and established quasi-independent Marcher lordships, owing allegiance to the English crown. However, Welsh principalities such as Gwynedd, Powys and Deheubarth survived and from the end of the 11th century, the Welsh began pushing back the Norman advance. Over the following century the Welsh recovery fluctuated and the English kings, notably Henry II, several times sought to conquer or establish suzerainty over the native Welsh principalities. Nevertheless, by the end of the 12th century the Marcher lordships were reduced to the south and south east of the country.

...

In 1274, tension between Llywelyn and Edward increased when Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn of Powys and Llywelyn's younger brother Dafydd ap Gruffydd defected to the English and sought Edward's protection. Because of the continuing conflict with the Marcher Lords and Edward's harbouring of defectors, when Edward demanded that Llywelyn come to Chester in 1275 to do homage to him, Llywelyn refused.

...

War broke out again in 1282, as a result of a rebellion by Llywelyn's brother Dafydd, who was discontented with the reward he had received from Edward in 1277. Dafydd launched a series of attacks co-ordinated with the Welsh rulers in Deheubarth and North Powys, who had been Llywelyn's vassals until 1277 and were now Edward's vassals. Llywelyn and the other Welsh leaders, including those in the south, joined in and it soon assumed a very different character from the 1277 campaign. It became a national struggle enjoying wide support among the Welsh, who were provoked particularly by Edward's attempts to impose English law on the Welsh. Edward, however, soon began to see it as a war of conquest rather than just a punitive expedition to put down a rebellion.

...

Edward divided the territory of the Welsh principalities between himself (that is, retained under direct royal control) and his supporters through feudal grants, which in practice became new Marcher lordships. The lordships created were mainly grants to Anglo-Normans such as the Earl of Lincoln who received the lordship of Denbigh. But additionally, Edward's Welsh allies received back their own lands, but on a feudal basis; for instance, Owain ap Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, of the princely house of Powys Wenwynwyn, received his ancestral lands as the lordship of Powys and became known as Owen de la Pole (or "Poole").

Lands retained under direct royal control were organised under the Statute of Rhuddlan of 1284, which declared that they were "annexed and united" to the English crown, although they did not become part of the Kingdom of England. They were the King's personal fief and in 1301, they were bestowed on Edward's son, Edward of Caernarfon (the future Edward II), with the title "Prince of Wales" and thereafter the lands and title became the customary endowment of the heir to the throne.

Well, anyway, there we were in North Wales, and the weather was beautiful, and called for a spot of traveling, and we had hired this brand new Ford Zuga which was just a joy to drive, so off we went to see some CASTLES!!

We didn't have to go very far to get started, as we could see the first castle from out our bedroom window! Our hotel was just across the River Conwy from the walled town of Conwy, so that was our first stop. There's a nice car park just south of the city walls, so we parked the car and spent a lovely hour walking the narrow medieval streets, stopping for a cappuccino and a scone, and poking our noses into the various shops.

This isn't the only castle at the mouth of the river Conwy, as it turns out: from our hotel room, we could see the site of Castel Deganwy, the ancient fortress of the King of Gwynedd in the 500's. Although we didn't make it up to that site, it was interesting to contemplate the varied choices made by the different kings in the different times: mountain top, or river mouth?

I wished we had found the time to explore Castell Conwy, which is said to be one of the best-preserved 750-year-old buildings you'll ever see, but such was not to be, as we had got a late start that morning and had other things to do.

Nonetheless, it was a beautiful building to walk around, and it made for a lovely view from our hotel room, high upon the hills above.

And similar sights greeted us elsewhere, for there are castles all around Wales, and we would frequently see them as we drove around.

But, really, enough of this nattering on about castles we didn't visit; what about the castles that we DID vist?!

One fine sunny morning, we headed out in the auto and made our way to Caernarfon, which is about as far north and west as you can get and still be in mainland Wales (Anglesey Island is farther north and west, but then, it's an island).

Caernarfon is the 800 pound gorilla of Welsh castles, not just for its historical and cultural significance, but for its overall entertainment value: this is a GIANT castle.

The castle towers stretch nearly 10 stories into the air, the castle walls are solid and nearly 5 stories tall themselves, and the interior of the castle keep is an immense expanse of lawn (of course, when originally occupied, the interior of the castle was packed with stores and barracks and production facilities and courts and all of the other Machinery of the State; for now, you just have to see that all in your imagination).

In addition to clambering around on the castle walls, the various interior spaces of the castle are filled with exhibits and displays, so there was lots to see and learn about.

I found myself a bit disappointed by the museums, because they mostly focused on the military history of the castle, and I wished I could have learned more about the other roles it played in the life of late-medieval Wales (trade, education, agricultural and industrial development, etc.), but since the castle was largely a military fortress, perhaps the museum's focus was appropriate.

Still, I always find myself wondering about the most mundane things when I'm wandering around a castle: "where did they keep the pigs and chickens?" "how did they make beer in the castle?" "where did people go to do their laundry?"

But, did I mention the part about clambering around on the castle walls?

We could have stayed at Caernarfon all day, but I was impatient, so we popped back into the auto and drove out onto Anglesey Island, up to the small town of Beaumaris.

Beaumaris Castle is often referred to as "the greatest castle never built," a nice tag line which cleanly encapsulates the very interesting story of the castle. By the time that construction on the castle was begun, in 1296, King Edward I and his master castle builder, James of St. George, were at the peak of their power, their skills, and their ambition, and so the plans and scope of Beaumaris Castle were extravagant in the extreme.

Although the castle was never finished, it is so beautifully located, and what was actually built is so beautiful, that it is a joy to wander about and contemplate.

Of particular interest, when we were there, was the work of a team of modern stonemasons, hard at work on repair a section of the main keep walls, using historically-accurate tools, techniques, and materials. As we walked about the castle, the "ting! ting! ting!" of their mallets and chisels upon the stone wall lent a fascinating sense of realism, making it almost possible to imagine being a craftsman hard at work inside the castle as it was under construction.

By this point, after all this hard work touring castles and keeps, we were tired and hungry, so we repaired to a friendly cafe on the waterfront and sat at the outdoor table and enjoyed Welsh Rarebit sandwiches and Jacket Potatoes with a view of the Snowdonia mountains in the distance.

And we declared the day a perfect success.