Thursday, October 17, 2019

Elijah Cummings, RIP -- October 18, 2019

I was sad to learn that Representative Elijah Cummings of Baltimore has died. He fought for voting rights, civil rights and social justice. Many people have commented on his kindness and many have called him a mentor.

He was very impressive when he chaired the Oversight and Government Reform Committee looking into the crimes of our so-called president. I am sorry that Representative Cummings will not be here to participate in the impeachment.

Loma Prieta Earthquake, 30-- October 17, 2019

[H.G. Wilshire, U.S. Geological Survey]

Thirty years ago today, I was at work in an office building at Fourth and Howard.  I usually left for home at 5pm, but I was debugging a series of programs that I was writing, trying to figure out why the output counter on one program did not agree with the input counter on another.  I was anxious to get home  to see the third game of the World Series between the Giants and the Oakland Athletics.  At 5:04pm, the building began to shake.  Several people ran to look out the windows.  I told them to get away from the windows and find some cover. 

The emergency team would not let us leave the floor.  My sister, who worked in the same office, and I were able to get out after a while.  I needed to catch BART to Daly City, but I figured it was down and I wanted to make sure my sister got home safely.  I later learned that my manager was on the crowded platform at the BART station when it went completely dark.  Eventually the emergency lights came on. 

My sister and I walked to the East Bay Terminal.  We saw a lot of broken glass.  We got on a 38 Geary.  It wasn't dark yet, so we saw damaged stores and terrible traffic.  We got off at Geary and Park Presidio.  I walked with her down to California Street, hoping to catch a 28-Nineteenth Avenue to the Daly City BART station.  I saw that traffic on Park Presidio was virtually stopped, so I decided that the bus was not coming soon. 

I walked out California Street.  It was starting to get dark and lots of people had candles on their stairways.  All lights were out.  The weather was warm and the air had a nice smell.  I walked up to my parents' house.  I knocked and then opened the door with my key.  I said "It's me."  "Who?" said my mother.  I explained.  Their house was not damaged, except for  some glasses leaning against the door of the china hutch.  I tried to call home and couldn't get through.  I asked if I could borrow their car.  I asked my mother to keep trying the phone.  She got through later. 

I drove carefully to the beach because the traffic lights were out.  I drove along the Great Highway, Skyline and Highway One.  The lights were out all the way.  When I got home to Pacifica, the lights had just come on.  My wife and daughter were ok and the house was not damaged.

They had been watching the game and saw the famous interruption before the power went out. 

I don't remember much of that night.  I called my parents to let them know I had made it home. 

The next morning I called my manager and he said we were supposed to stay home.  This was before we had remote access.  We drove to Daly City BART to get my car, then on to my parents' house.  We returned their car and checked to see if they were ok.  My wife was able to rescue most of the glasses leaning against the inside of the china hutch door. 

On Thursday, they let some of us volunteer to clean up the office.  We had to wear hard hats.  The building had big X-shaped beams in the windows.  Huge bolts had popped out of them and were lying on the floor.  I hadn't noticed on Tuesday, but many of the file cabinet drawers were open, especially the ones that contained heavy listings of programs.  I don't remember how long we stayed or what we did. 

On Monday we were able to go back to work, but in cubicles on the other side of the floor.  Many people were nervous about the bolts which had popped out.  I found the answer to my counter problem right away.  All of our batch processes, running in a data center on Fifth Street, had run without problems.  I later learned that the only system that had gone down was an Atalla device that fell over. 

After a few days, Wells Fargo said we were moving out.  Many people speculated that Wells wanted to break the lease and this was a good excuse.  The building continued to be used for years until it was torn down for Moscone West. 

We moved to the top floor of the data center on Fifth Street.  We worked in a big bullpen.  This required adjustments because we were accustomed to working in cubicles.  We didn't have voicemail.  In February, they moved half the team, including me, to a building in Oakland.  We learned that the previous group had moved out because of asbestos  contamination.  The other half of the team moved to a building at Third and Howard. 

Two years later, I transferred to another group in the building at Third and Howard.  I stayed there till 2012, when we moved to a building on Fremont.  This year we moved to a building on Market.

The photo, from the US Geological Survey, shows the collapsed Cypress Structure in Oakland.  One of my coworkers lost his partner there. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Friday, October 11, 2019

Fires and Power Outages -- October 11, 2019

PG&E did a poorly managed power shutdown this week to try to cut down on wildfires during high-wind periods. I would like to see them spend some money on tree trimming and modernizing their infrastructure.

There are some large fires in Southern California because of the Santa Ana winds.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Ginger Baker, RIP -- October 6, 2019
Ginger Baker, drummer for Cream, Blind Faith and other groups, has died. He was influenced by jazz drummers.  He had a bad temper; he once tried to stab Jack Bruce during a performance.

Friday, October 4, 2019

With a Big List to Port -- October 4, 2019

San Francisco Call, 19-November-1896
This drawing is from the 19-November-1896 San Francisco Call. William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper.

Although Now on an Even
Keel No One Will
Insure Her.

What will be done with the British tramp steamer Amarapoora is still a matter of doubt. The underwriters refuse to insure her and in consequence the owners of the cargo aboard will not allow the vessel to sail. That the Amarapoora is top heavy there can be no doubt.

All of Monday she lay in the stream with a list to port. Yesterday with the transfer of several tons of cargo from port to starboard she straightened up and is now on an even keel. Every inch of space on the steamer has been utilized and a schooner has been chartered to take away the freight left on Lombard-street wharf which she could not carry. All day she lay with steam up, but no satisfactory understanding could be reached, so the Amarapoora had to remain at anchor. She is one of the longest vessels in port for her beam, being 350 feet long and only 20 feet broad, while her depth of hold is 11 feet. The chances are still that the captain will have to dock her again and take off some of the deck load.

Feast of Saint Francis, 2018 -- October 4, 2018

Today is the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. I took the photo at Saint Veronica's parish in South San Francisco on 24-February-2019.

"Lord make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

"O divine master grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And its in dying that we are born to eternal life."