Thursday, November 29, 2018

The MV Peralta is back!

It was, as A.A. Milne would say, a Blustery Day today.

As I waited for my early morning ferry, the wind was simply howling, and the rain was coming in horizontally, and the breakers were slamming into the ferry dock, and I thought to myself:

Self, this is the truth: they are not going to be able to land the Bay Breeze at the dock today; you are going to have to walk home in the wind and the rain and Work From Home today.

Then, a momentary pause in the rain and I could see, approaching, the boat. But not the Bay Breeze! No, it was the long-awaited MV Peralta, finally back from her year long re-fitting

Aluminum ferry vessels have a life expectancy of approximately 25 years with a major refit at the vessel’s quarter-life and mid-life. The M.V. Peralta, which was built in 2001, had its mid-life work divided into two phases in order to minimize the time that the vessel is out of service during the busy summer season. The first phase focused on major machinery overhauls and was completed in 2015. Phase 2, currently underway, includes: renovation of the passenger cabins, bathrooms and galley; exterior paint and coatings; electronics system upgrades; and replacement of both the steering system and a section of the hull. Engineering and design are underway for the interior passenger spaces, wheelhouse dash and main deck bar. Project work is scheduled to be complete by June 2018.

Well, it's not June 2018, but boy was she a welcome sight on this rainy, blustery morning.

Gently, smoothly, she edged up to the dock, and with barely a shudder was sound fast.

Our ride across the bay, though, was one to remember! Cell phones, briefcases, and purses were flying around the cabin, water was sheeting down the windows, and the bouncing and lurching was more than I've ever seen on the cross-bay ferry.

The Peralta is a strong boat, however, and barely 20 minutes later we were safely across the bay, snug to the Gate E dock at the Ferry Building, and I was off for another busy day of work.

Welcome back, Peralta!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Carlsen-Caruana: Carlsen retains the title

Well, that was something!

If you hadn't already heard, Magnus Carlsen annihilated Fabiano Caruana in the 4-game rapid tie-break series.

From what I could see, the first game was mostly even, although Caruana, with the black pieces, was down a pawn in a rook-and-pawns endgame around move 40 or so, and then, with neither player having more than a few seconds on their clock, Caruana made an endgame error and Carlsen pounced on it and won the game.

A decisive result!

Then something really strange happened, and Caruana just collapsed, losing the next two games in hideous ugly fashion.

Perhaps he was just completely rattled by the rapid-chess format? (He's not been known for his strength in this format, while Carlsen is just as good at rapid chess, perhaps even better at it, than he is at the full-length format.)

At any rate, it was suddenly, suddenly over.

There can be no doubt: the tie-breaks served their purpose.

And Carlsen was the worthy victor.

But Caruana played a fantastic match, and I surely hope we will see this pair contest many, many more games over the coming decades.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Carlsen-Caruana game 12: 0.5-0.5

Game 12 of the match was, indeed, drawn, and so the regular section of the match concludes tied, 6-6.

And therefore we proceed, tomorrow, to tiebreaks.

Which are complicated and chaotic, but designed to be certain to crown a champion.

But before we move on, I must share that I was as startled as any chess fancier to see Carlsen offer a draw on move 31, with such an (apparently) overwhelming advantage in both time and space. Carlsen had nearly 40 extra minutes on the clock, had an extremely powerful knight and a passed central pawn on the 5th rank, and had enormous mobility for his pieces, while Caruana was confined to his back two rows and was reduced to shuttling his rook around.

Carlsen’s Bizarre Decision Has Sent The World Chess Championship To Overtime

After Caruana’s 25th move, he was down more than 30 minutes on the clock and the equivalent of nearly two pawns, according to a supercomputer analyzing the game. The middlegame became a wild rumpus, and a scary one for fans of the American, one that neither human grandmasters nor chess superengines could make all that much sense of. Swings in advantage were wild, and time pressure was mounting.

Well, I guess the supercomputer was confused, too; I am in good company?

“I wasn’t in a mood to find the punch,” Carlsen said by way of explanation after the game.

What mood will he be in tomorrow?

"Let the wild rumpus begin!"

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Carlsen-Caruana game 11: 0.5-0.5

Maybe both players were a bit exhausted by Thursday's dramatic battle.

For whatever reason, today's game seemed rather quiet to me.

The queens were off the board by move 14, by move 25 there were just two opposite-colored bishops and a bunch of pawns, and then there were 30 more moves of quiet maneuvering, until a draw was agreed on move 55.

One game left, then tiebreaks are upon us.

Ferry yikes!

One of the big Golden Gate Ferry boats crashed yesterday afternoon, bumping into the Ferry Building itself, then slamming into Gate B: Coast Guard investigating after ferry crashes into Ferry Building in San Francisco.

The damaged ferry boat will have to be towed back to Larkspur and it'll likely happen Saturday. There are holes in the metal hull and it struck hard enough to break the concrete and metal railing on the dock.


The impact cracked the concrete, knocked over the railing, and shook The Slanted Door restaurant.

Friday, November 23, 2018

End of Endgame

Oh, this is too bad, I really enjoyed going to Endgame: IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT - ENDGAME IS CLOSING, FEBRUARY 1, 2019

Two key reasons: Fatigue, and Reality. We are all pretty exhausted. Many of us have been doing this for a long time. Some have moved on. Some remain active only behind the scenes. Some you see every day. But we are all tired. That's focused us on the reality that is knowing that when our lease extension comes around early next year, we can't afford it.

It's at least partly my fault, I'm afraid: I haven't bought a new boardgame in at least 6 months.

Well, time to schedule at least one more trip over there.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Carlsen-Caruana game 10: 0.5-0.5

OK, not to bury the lede: another draw, and the match stands 5-5.

But what a game!

Caruana had the white pieces and the game started very similarly to game 8.

But soon Caruana was pushing his queenside pawns, while Carlsen pushed his kingside pawns, and the result was a very unbalanced and sharp position.

Carlsen offered a pawn sacrifice on move 21, which Caruana declined.

But that barely eased the pressure, as Carlsen's advanced pawns gave Caruana almost no space at all, while Caruana's passed and advanced b6 pawn meant Carlsen was tied down with most of his pieces.

Late in the game, the computers thought that Carlsen had erred, and sure enough at the end Caruana had an extra pawn, but the position was much simplified and he offered the draw on move 54, after 5.5 hours of tight and thrilling chess.

Two games left. Surely the pressure must be IMMENSE at this point, as just a single decisive match will almost certainly decide the outcome.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Carlsen-Caruana game 9: 0.5-0.5

Carlsen, with the white pieces, again chose the English opening (1. c4)

Although the computer thought that Carlsen had a decent advantage by move 20 or so, Caruana never really seemed troubled.

The queens came off the board just before the time control at move 40, and although they played for another 15 moves, nothing came of it, and a draw was agreed on move 56.

We're three quarters of the way through the match.

4.5 - 4.5

It's raining

First time since May.

Boy, are we happy!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Carlsen-Caruana game 8: 0.5-0.5

Game 8 was a fascinating, bloody battle. As opposed to some of the other games, we were 22 moves into this game before either queen had even left its home square!

By move 23, Caruana, with the white pieces, had an advanced passed central d-pawn, and a viciously-well-posted knight on the 6th rank, leaving Carlsen extremely cramped and with very awkward play.

But just 5 moves later, most of the material was off the board, Carlsen had evened the position, and the result was another draw.

Most of the commentators felt that Caruana had once again held a winning position, and had been unable to convert.

Regardless, we're two thirds of the way through the 12 games of the matched, and it's been deadlocked the entire way.

Carlsen-Caruana game 7: 0.5-0.5

A fun game to play through, but the result was a 40-move draw.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Carlsen-Caruana game 6: 0.5-0.5

The match is half over, and it's tied, 3-3.

But today's game was full of drama! (As 538 put it, Chess World rattled as someone nearly wins game).

Caruana, with the black pieces, managed superbly to create a passed central pawn, and Carlsen was forced to sacrifice (?) his knight for 3 black pawns to eliminate it.

Caruana then won back two of the pawns and was, more or less, a knight ahead.

Carlsen then sacrificed a third pawn in order to get his king locked into a corner of the board in such a way that Caruana was a in danger of making a stalemate, and then, while maneuvering to try to break through, after 6 hours of play, he allowed Carlsen to force the draw.

So, there we are. What will the second half of the match bring?

Thursday, November 15, 2018

It's not just a game ...

... it's a world of individuals, going about their daily routines, doing their chores, going shopping, cooking dinner, ....

Carlsen-Caruana game 5: 0.5-0.5

OK, OK, I know: another draw.

And only 33 moves, no less: the shortest game of the match to date.

But this one was FUN!

Caruana, with the white pieces, sprung a crazy opening surprise on move 6!

Apparently Carlsen didn't watch the video, after all?

Or maybe the video didn't really exist, or it didn't cover this particular detail.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this game, even if it was a draw in the end.

I mean, you never, ever, EVER see a pawn on the 6th rank on move 14. Or on the 7th rank on move 16!

Game 6 tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Carlsen-Caruana game 4: 0.5-0.5

Do you sense a bit of a storyline growing?

4 games, 4 drawn results.

In this game, Carlsen had the white pieces, and opened c4 (the "English opening").

The queens came off the board on move 19, and soon afterwards a draw was agreed.

The length of the games so far is:

  1. 115 moves
  2. 49 moves
  3. 49 moves
  4. 34 moves

Tomorrow is a rest day.

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Version of the Truth: a very short review

Somehow, up to the top of my stack of books came A Version of the Truth.

The heroine of this romance novel, Cassie, is a bird lover who works, on and off, at the Topanga Canyon Wildlife Rescue Center (which is I think modeled on a real place), and so the book is full of ivory-billed woodpeckers, ferruginous hawks, barn owls, even an African gray parrot.

There are people, too, and something of a story.

But I suspect the authors (there are two authors) are bird-lovers themselves, and the African gray parrot is far-and-away the most fully drawn and engaging character in the book.

Carlsen-Caruana game 3: 0.5-0.5

Game 3 started out like game 1, at least for the first 5 moves, then Caruana varied slightly and the remainder of the game was very different.

The queens came off the board on move 23, and after 49 moves a draw was agreed.

Tomorrow Carlsen has the white pieces; will we see a decisive result?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Carlsen-Caruana game 2: 0.5-0.5

Game 2 was considerably quieter than game 1, and considerably shorter.

Carlsen had the white pieces for game 2, and opened d4.

It seemed to me that Caruana came out of the opening quite comfortably, and posed some significant problems for Carlsen.

When the queens came off the board at move 24, Carlsen briefly had 2 pawns on the 6th rank, and it looked quite threatening. But his king was too far away and couldn't support the pawns and Caruana's accurate play snapped them up, at which point it was Caruana as black with an extra pawn, and the computers were giving Caruana a strong advantage.

But Carlsen quickly neutralized that threat and a draw was agreed at move 49.

Tomorrow is a rest day, with game 3 to be played on Monday!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Carlsen-Caruana game 1: 0.5-0.5

It's underway!

Game 1 was a rollicking joy, a seven-hour battle between two of the finest chess players on the planet.

Caruana had the white pieces, and opened e4 (after Woody Harrelson showed up to tip the king over to get the match underway :) ).

Carlsen played the Sicilian (c5), which is, I think, a slight surprise. But Carlsen plays more openings than anyone alive, so it's just how it goes with him I think?

The midgame was dramatic and intense, FAR above my comprehension, as Carlsen sacrificed a pawn for a ferocious attack.

Caruana ended up giving back the pawn, then another, and then continued to defend, and defend, and defend.

After seven hours, and 115 moves, the result was a drawn game.

I think Caruana probably feels happy about this, even though he had the advantage of the first game with the first move, for he is certainly the newcomer in this situation and now those first games jitters are gone.

I watched the game on, but let me recommend the wonderful coverage over at the Guardian, which never ceases to surprise (is The Guardian the finest English-language website operating right now? If not, it's among the top.).

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Here comes Carlsen-Caruana!

There's less than 48 hours until the World Chess Championship begins!

It's still not clear to me how to watch it. says I can buy an online ticket.

I poked around on and didn't see anything obvious there.

There's a note on saying that TCEC will carry coverage, and another note saying that Twitch will carry coverage.

A colleague thinks that it will be available on YouTube, but I'm not sure how to find it there.

I guess I'll look on Friday!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Sisters Brothers: a very short review

What was it like to be in California in 1851?

Well, it was three years after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, and three years after gold was discovered at Sutter's sawmill.

It was one year after California had officially become a state.

The population of California was just less than 100,000 people (there are 400 times that many people in Californa now!!)

There were no cars, no trucks, not even really any roads, nor any railroads (the Sacramento Valley RailRoad Company would be founded the next year, in 1852). Even the Pony Express was still eight years in the future.

The first overland Postal Service route from Salt Lake City to Sacramento had just been inaugurated, without much success ("In November 1851, Woodward and his mail party left California for Salt Lake City. They never made it. Woodward’s body was found the following April, but no mail. ")

Insofar as they got around at all, people travelled by boat, by foot, or, most commonly, in ox-carts or horse-drawn wagons.

What was it like to be in California in 1851? I have no idea! I can barely imagine it.

Happily, though, Patrick DeWitt CAN imagine it.

What's more, Patrick DeWitt is an extremely talented writer, and his The Sisters Brothers is a tremendously entertaining romp through what California was like in 1851.

The Sisters Brothers are Eli Sisters and his older brother Charlie Sisters, a pair of outlaws under the employ of the mysterious "Commodore", who lives in Oregon, and who has dispatched Eli and Charlie on a task.

The book is narrated by Eli, and is related in such an engaging and lyrical style that words fail me in describing how much fun it was to read this book.

Now, be warned: this is not easy stuff! Life in California in 1851 was no picnic, and for Eli and Charlie it was considerably harsher than for most. There are incidents, accidents, gamblers, prostitutes, amputations, vats of radioactive chemicals, and more.

There are tragedies and bodies strewn about almost every page.

But it's like this:

We climbed out the window of my room and snuck along the overhang that ran the length of the walkway. This proved handy to us, for Tub and Nimble were housed in a stable at the far end of Mayfield, and we covered that entire distance without a soul noticing our travels. At the halfway point, Charlie paused behind a tall sign to watch the largest trapper leaning against a hitching post below us. Now the other three joined him, and the group stood in a loose circle, speaking through their dirty beards. 'Doubtless they are infamous among the muskrat community hereabouts,' said Charlie. 'But these are not killers of men.' He pointed at the leader. 'He is the one who stole the pelt, I'm sure of it. If we come up against them, I will take care of him. Watch the rest take flight at the first shot fired.'

The Sisters Brothers is now a movie.

I'm sure it's a good movie; it could hardly not be!

But, really: don't bother.

Read the book.