Bolts, Bread, and Balls

Today we’ve got some small items that don’t quite stretch to a full post separately.

And now the axes are being sharpened. This is getting entertaining.

Friday’s Chronicle has another article about the Bay Bridge bolts, in which they quote an independent corrosion expert as saying that the wrong bolts were used on the bridge. The bolts are harder than they should be for this application: the additional hardening renders them more vulnerable to hydrogen embrittlement. Galvanizing them (coating them in zinc to provide a barrier to hydrogen), as was done here, is of only limited use in this case. Even if hydrogen is eliminated during the galvanization process, microscopic gaps in the zinc coating still allow hydrogen to enter the steel over time.

So we’ve got a new design flaw on top of the original flaw that prevents replacing the bolts: the design allows rain to accumulate around the bolts, which provided a ready source of hydrogen to migrate into the metal. Caltrans apparently didn’t consider this as a risk to the bolts.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, meanwhile, is still considering opening the bridge on time, even without repairs to the bolts, if they decide it’s safer than the old bridge.

Things have gotten to the point where no matter what happens there’s going to be a nasty public relations hit. Heads will be rolling between now and September 3. All we need is for Mother Nature to step in. Can you imagine the chaos that would result from a major earthquake in the next couple of months, even if it doesn’t cause any damage to the bridge? I’m not even talking about the physical chaos due to the restricted access between San Francisco and the East Bay; considering the number of politically-inspired design-related delays that have plagued the building of the new bridge, just the political chaos would be awe-inspiring! We could be looking at recalls of half of the current office-holders in the Bay Area and civil lawsuits that would run longer than the old bridge has stood. (Irony alert: Former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, who was responsible for quite a bit of the design-related delays to the bridge, had an opinion piece in the Chronicle calling the bridge situation a PR disaster.)

Stay tuned, fans of political intrigue and anyone with a chaotic alignment!

In other news, there’s a small political firestorm brewing over word that the IRS is looking at whether free meals provided by employers as a perk should be considered taxable income. Needless to say, tech workers currently getting free lunches aren’t happy at the thought. Note that this is for regularly provided free or partially-subsidized meals, not for the occasional meal during crunch time or at a party.

I’m not voicing an opinion at this point, but I wanted to share what struck me as the funniest comment on the situation.

Megan McArdle said in her column in The Daily Beast “I find it a bit surprising that we haven’t had politicians complaining about this “corporate free lunch.” Lavish, tax-deductible Silicon Valley lunches for employees who are often already pretty wealthy from their stock options seem like the perfect issue for an enterprising politician who wants to hammer “corporate loopholes” and “giveaways to the rich.” But for some reason, neither Republicans or Democrats have picked up on this one.”

Megan, maybe politicians are smart enough to know that most of the employees aren’t wealthy from stock options? Well, OK, maybe not… But they are smart enough to know that making a fuss about a few million dollars over an issue that affects a few thousand very vocal constituents isn’t cost effective. Their time is better spent on issues affecting millions of constituents and hundreds of millions of dollars.

Finally, a brief report on baseball. Two weeks into the season, The Right Team is at 6-8, smack in the middle of their division. Several Wrong Teams (Yankees, As, and Braves, I’m looking at you) are doing annoyingly well. Padres, Brewers, and Marlins, thank you for your efforts in making the Mariners’ record look good.

It’s much too early to give up hope for the season – there are still 148 games left, after all – but it’s certainly not the glorious start that every fan wants for their team.

2 thoughts on “Bolts, Bread, and Balls

  1. Not much to add on the first two subjects, politicians being pretty stable in their annoying behaviors. But as to baseball, it’s worth keeping in mind that Your Team played two of the best teams in the league even-up, while their players (including their entire starting outfield) were going down like victims of the Black Plague. In 1951, My Team started off the season 2-14, including a 13-game losing streak. Who’s going to play Bobby Thomson this year for Your Team?


  2. Pingback: That grinding noise… | Koi Scribblings

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