Thursday, June 28, 2018

WC 2018 Round of 16

Well! That was a lightning-fast first 48 games for the 2018 World Cup, wasn't it?

But we can take our breath, rest for a day at least, and, of course, make our picks for the Round of 16. (Though it's not at all the same without being able to debate them with Sandy)

So here we go:

  1. Uruguay vs Portugal. Uruguay is one of only three squads to win their first three matches, but in Portugal they face a substantially tougher opponent than they've seen so far. Portugal win, 2-1.

  2. France vs Argentina. Argentina somehow came to life in their third game, with their backs against the wall, but it feels like too little, too late, and I wonder how much of their energy they spent just getting this far. France win a game that is not as close as it sounds, 1-0.

  3. Brazil vs Mexico. Which Mexican squad will attend? The one who defeated the defending world champions? Or the one who were annihilated by Sweden? I fear it will be too much of the latter, but Mexico will make Brazil work for it. After regular time, it's tied 2-2, but after extra time Brazil take this 4-2.

  4. Belgium vs Japan. Japan delightfully made it through on the "Fair Play" tie-breaker over an equally-deserving Senegal, but still they earned their presence in this game. But Belgium are going deep in this tournament and are barely tested, beating Japan 3-1.

  5. Spain vs Russia. The home team have a powerful advantage, but Spain have a powerful squad. This one goes to extra time, and finishes 1-1. Spain advance on penalty kicks in the shootout.

  6. Croatia vs Denmark. I like both these teams. One of them has to lose. It is Denmark. Croatia win an hard match, 1-0.

  7. Sweden vs Switzerland. Another rough, physical bout. This one is 0-0 through 90 minutes, and 0-0 through extra time, and isn't decided until the 9th player steps to the shootout spot, at which point the Swiss prevail.

  8. Colombia vs England. The liveliest of all the round of 16 matches, this one features two high-scoring teams full of firepower and perhaps just a bit lacking in defense. Colombia exhibit the quality that brought them to the tournament from the hardest qualifying region, but this English team has youth and passion and, most importantly, for the first time in decades they have a goalkeeper who won't let them down. After finishing 90 minutes tied 2-2, and falling behind 3-2 early in extra time, England somehow rally and move on, 4-3.

And, before we leave, let's join Deadspin in saluting the real reason that we watch the World Cup: South Korea's Performance Is Why The World Cup Exists

Fans and commentators love to sing the praises of teams and players that step up when the stakes are highest, but there’s also something to be said for giving everything when the stakes are obscured. South Korea came into today’s game knowing that even if they played perfectly and somehow managed to defeat a much more talented German team, there was no guarantee that their efforts would amount to anything. They were facing not just the long odds presented by their superior opponents, but those presented by their broader circumstance. They looked all that in the face and then went on to win the hell out of a soccer game.

In doing so they did everything an underdog is supposed to do. They packed it in and rabidly defended every German attack; they ran hard on every counter attack and kept running hard even as each one fizzled in increasingly frustrating fashion; they never for a second looked ready to accept their role as a station on Germany’s redemptive path.

The fun resumes in 36 hours!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

This Is Where I Leave You: a very short review

I've been falling behind on my book reviews, time to get with the program!

Up next, by way of my wonderful sister-in-law, is Jonathan Tropper's This Is Where I Leave You: A Novel.

This Is Where I Leave You was an extremely popular title about 10 years ago (yes, yes, I know); more recently it was turned into one of the better-reviewed movies of the last few years.

It is, without a doubt, the funniest book about sitting shiva that you will ever read.

Removing the qualifier, it is one of the funnier books that I've read in a fair while.

It's an extremely lively read, at turns rowdy, rude, crude, shocking, heartbreaking, and heartfelt. It's not for the faint of heart, or for the easily offended, but if you don't fall into either of those categories you'll surely want to spend your time with Tropper's whirlwind tour of life, death, and everything in between.

Let's, um, have just a little taste, shall we?

Peter Applebaum is back to comfort my mother at close range. There are other people over, attempting to visit with her, but he doesn't register them. He is a hammer, she is a nail, and the rest of them are screws. He's had a haircut since we last saw him, almost military in its closeness, and he has shaved the dark, gangrenous fuzz off his earlobes. His cologne fills the room like bad news. He is pulling out all the stops, Applebaum is. He has not many more years of sexual function ahead of him, and there is no time for the subtlety of a slow flirtation. He pats Mom's arms, takes her hand in both of his, and strokes it relentlessly. That's just his way. Mom tries to draw some of the other visitors into the conversation, tries to retrieve her hand, but Applebaum holds the line, talking and stroking, his bushy eyebrows unfurling like caterpillars.

What a marvel Tropper is! Every sentence, every word bristles with energy! Just when you catch your breath from one blow ("gangrenous fuzz off his earlobes") the next is right on its way ("like bad news"). And, even when the words are bizarre and you're sure that's not what Tropper meant ("strokes it relentlessly"?), your sub-conscious gives you a kick in the pants and confirms that yes, oh yes indeed, "relentlessly" describes it perfectly!

I have no idea what Tropper's other books are like. Are they all equally thrumming with heat and life?

If so, I'll surely be picking up the next, and the next, and the next.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Up, up, and away!

OK, this is definitely not what we want to hear: New San Francisco Tower Project Tied to Newly Tilting FDIC Building

Construction on what will become San Francisco’s second tallest building appears to be causing the 20-story building next door to tilt, NBC Bay Area has learned.


Before and after images show new cracks that developed in the concrete wall that faces the Oceanwide project, began soon after crews started boring holes some 200 feet down to anchor the 900 foot tall tower to bedrock.


NBC Bay Area has learned rooftop measurements indicate the FDIC building is now tilting more than 1.5 inches toward the site of the nearby Oceanwide tower at First and Mission streets.

I'm not sure I understand how they measure "tilting more than 1.5 inches".

But I DO know which building it's tilting TOWARD.

And it's not my friend Andrew's building, at 525 Market.


It's MY building, again.

Now buildings on both sides of my building are tilting toward me.

It's like my building is some sort of skyscraper magnet.


Beauty, and my beholder's eye

I've got other stuff I need to do, and other articles I should be writing.

But I just want to make 3 short points:

  1. I can't get over how much fun it is to watch Xherdan Shaqiri, and obviously I'm not alone: Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri Is a Roomba Made of Lead

  2. For my money, either one of Ahmed Musa's goals over Iceland was beautiful, but together they are certainly the most classically beautiful performance of the tournament so far. Each one is beautiful in its own way:
    1. The first goal is pure technique: look at him in full stride, catching that cross from an equally-speeding Victor Moses, then without pausing delivering that instant volley with power and precision. Oh! Just look at that, again and again and again.
    2. The second goal is astonishing fitness: it's like he's on the field with children, from the moment he sees that glorious pass heading his way, to the final placing of the ball in the net. How can he be SO MUCH FASTER than anyone else on the field like that?!!
    Obviously, I'm not the only one whose jaw still remains solidly on the floor: WATCH: Ahmed Musa's Beautiful Double Gives Nigeria Key Win Over Iceland

  3. Lastly, and this is surely controversial, but it's true: Messi is not the problem with Argentina. Everybody thinks they know what the problem is, but it's not Messi. Messi's play is complex and subtle and hard to understand, and people often jump to conclusions. If you want to understand his play better, try this: Messi Walks Better Than Most Players Run.

    It sure will be sad when he's out of the tournament, though. And that could be in just one more match.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

There's no time to waste!

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, our side of the earth is tilted very much toward the sun right now, and so we are blessed with lots and lots of daylight.

So, how best to take advantage of what is, in a way, the longest weekend of the year?

Well, here's an idea:

  1. Take Friday off work. Fly to New York City. Yes, I know: it's clear across the country and that will take all day! Sorry. Take a deck of cards and play cards with your wife to pass the time.

  2. Wake up at 7:00 AM on Saturday morning (you're not mistaken: it does feel like 4:00 AM), and head out for a round of golf.

    Make sure you go to Saint Andrews in Hastings, a spectacular Jack Nicklaus-designed masterpiece that is one of the most beautiful courses you'll ever play in your life.

    Heh. Perhaps you should have paid more attention when you took those golf lessons 10 years ago. Let's just not keep score.

  3. Zip back by the house and change, then by 11:30 get on the road, heading into the Bronx, to take in a baseball game at (the new) Yankee Stadium. What a beautiful facility! Make sure you bring lots of sunblock, as the New York City summer is full of bright sunshine.

    It helps if you have a diehard Yankees fan among your group; she can tell you all about Didi, and why Aaron Judge is playing DH rather than the outfield today, and what makes Luis Severino perhaps the best pitcher in baseball this year.

    Go ahead, buy a bright pink NY Yankees ball cap for your wife. You're locals now!

  4. After the game, find a nice quiet spot and rest for a bit. The sun took it out of you a little, and, heck: you've earned a short break.

  5. As soon as you're re-charged, back into the car, for we're heading over to Queens now! Today we are going to visit both Major League ballparks, for it so happens that tonight is a concert by the revitalized Dead and Company. You've been hearing a lot about John Mayer, and it's time to see (hear) for yourself. Although (the renovated) Shea Stadium is quite a bit older than Yankee Stadium, it is also a beautiful facility, and before long you're down on the infield, waiting for the band to start.

    It's been a long time since you were a regular Dead Head, and to your embarassment you've forgotten plenty: you don't recognize The Eleven when it's played; you get Sugar Magnolia and Sunshine Daydream all jumbled up in your mind; you can't remember whether Eyes of the World was on Wake of the Flood or Blues for Allah; and so forth.

    But it's a warm, balmy New York City summer night, and there you are hanging out on the infield with 30,000 of your new best friends, and you're just amazed at what a difference modern technology has made for the audio-visual elements of a big stadium show. John Mayer is everything everyone has said he is: tremendous talent, boundless energy, and bubbling over with joy at his new gig. It's not Jerry Garcia's band anymore, it's John Mayer's, but, perhaps surprisingly, that's a pretty good thing!

  6. It's midnight now, and the show is over, and you suddenly realize you haven't eaten all day, and you're starving. No worries: this is the City That Never Sleeps, remember?

    Walking out of Shea Stadium, you realize it's just a half-mile walk down across the bridge to the Koreatown section of Queens, doing it's best to make you feel like you're in the Gangnam District of Seoul. Here, the restaurants are open until 3:00 AM, so you dive into a hot-and-piping dinner while you dissect the show with your friends.

  7. Back home at last, you realize it's 2:00 AM, and you've just spent the busiest and most action-packed 19 hours you're ever likely to spend. Go head, lie down; what a day!

Well, I don't know, it's certainly not for everyone, but what a day it was for me!

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.
    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.


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!)