Are there any good places to play pool (billiards) in the Bay Area?

In San Francisco, Family Billiards is THE only place (currently) to go for full size 9-foot tournament size tables (approx. 20 tables).

In the front of Family Billiards, they have a few tight tables, where a few regulars play one pocket or 9-ball.

If you go during the weekdays, Monday through Wednesday they have a 4-7pm 1/2 table time and 1/2 off beer promotion.

Currently, regular rates are about 1-person $8/hr. 2-person ~$14/hr, etc. So the half off promotion is a great time to get in some practice hours.

They also have one-day tournaments (call to check for days/times).

Check out their webpage:
http://www.familybilliards-sf.co…

And see some yelp reviews:
http://www.yelp.com/biz/family-b…

Are there modern-day descendants of the Mayans?

Yes. Here in Yucatán, even some of the old mayan noble families still have known descendants. Some of them even have power as local 'caciques'.  Also, mayan surnames are very common.

As for the serfs,  I have an acquaintance that is a direct descendant of Cecilio Chí, Jacinto Canek's second in command. Jacinto Canek's revolution against the white upper class is very famous, and is called la guerra de castas.

Another famous person of pure Maya ancestry is Dr. Francisco Luna Kan. He was the first  native-american governor of a Mexican state.

The problem sometimes in trying to trace such ancestry:
First, the Conquistadores changed some surnames and naming conventions.
Second,  that most people are mestizo, particulary with an influx of asians to work in the haciendas.
Third, racism makes most people try to hide such ancestry.

But yes, practically everybody in the Yucatán Península, Guatemala and Belize, has some Maya Ancestry.

Are there resources for English speakers to learn Hokkien?

In the 19th Century, Christian missionaries learned just about every dialect that existed in China.  Some of them made dictionaries and other materials to teach the language to other missionaries.  They probably aren't the best resources, but if you can get your hands on them, they might be of some help, or at least provide an interesting historical perspective.  Try searching google books and online libraries.  Also, the term "Hokkien" is really an archaic, and somewhat misleading word.  It means "Fujian," but Fujian is home to at least 6 or 7 mutually unintelligible languages (some would say "dialects").  So asking for help on "Hokkian" or "Fujian" is kind of like asking how to speak "European," when really you want French of Spanish.  The most widespread Fujian dialects are the Fuzhou dialect and the Southern Fujian Dialect.  The two are not mutually intelligible, so best to make sure which one you want to learn before you start.  For the former, search for "Fuzhou dialect" or "fuzhou hua."  For the latter, search for "Taiwanese," or "Minnan dialect."  These will probably give you better leads than searching for "Hokkien."

Is there plant life in deep-sea environments?

As far as I know, there isn't any. At all. Not even algae. The reason is clear: no sunlight, no photosynthesis, so plants would starve in the deep sea – they have no other way of gaining food.

On a hypothetical level, if a deep-sea plant were to be found (and proven to be a plant), it would be utterly fascinating, since we would expect the chloroplast or other photosynthetic organelle to be vestigial. Since a lot of gene transfer's already taken place from chloroplasts to the nucleus (the chloroplast itself is a vestigial cyanobacterium, after all), it would make a very interesting study system to see what happens to the genes already transferred to the nucleus (lost? Coopted for another function?), and what happens to the chloroplast.

Are there distinct, incontrovertible benefits to homeschooling? What are alternative solutions to provide as many of the same benefits as possible?

There aren't "incontrovertible" benefits to any educational method, since outcomes can be measured in myriad ways.  You can measure admittance rates to four-year higher-educational institutions, or SAT scores, or state-administered test scores, or earnings after graduation, or even happiness level or civic engagement level.  All of those are valid outcomes measures depending on what you're looking for in a student's education.

And even if you were to find that home-schooled children performed better or worse on one of these measures, you would need to control for the socio-economic status of the children being measured, which is a difficult task.  For example, if homeschooled students have a higher household income in the aggregate, you would need to statistically massage the data to make an educated guess as to what the outcome on the measure would be had they not received this advantage.

That all said, if you're looking for benefits for which there is solid statistical support rather than incontrovertible support, I could try a Google Scholar search for you 🙂

Is there an easy way to check if I accidentally hit something on my BlackBerry so that I can't pick up my incoming calls?

It's hard to accidentally do that.  This typically happens if:

 1. You're not in a service area
 2. You've forwarded all calls to voicemail
 3. Your radio is off on your phone.

 To check for 1 & 3, just try to make a call from your phone.  If you  can actually do so, then it must be option 2.

To check that, go to your phone options (click green dial button, then click the blackberry button and go to options).  Under there, you can look for "call forwarding" and make sure it's set properly.  Your carrier should be able to help you with that.

Hope this helps.

Are there engineers who are not 10x, but 100x or 1000x as productive as the average?

Yes, but not in the way you are imagining.

You cannot measure software productivity with lines of code any more than you can measure a doctor's productivity by the weight of medicines prescribed. 10x engineers do not, as a rule, write any more or less code per unit time than their more mundane peers. They are 10x more productive because they are solving the right problems, and because the problems stay solved when a 10x engineer is involved. In terms of hard outcomes "solving the right problem" often equates to making, or saving, large amounts of money, occasionally hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. In these terms, the distribution of engineering success is similar to that of entrepreneurial success.

However, "productivity" and "success" are not quite synonyms. "Productivity" implies a repeatability to the engineer's success. This limits the extreme high end; Larry and Sergey most likely do not have another PageRank up their sleeves, so "productive" is probably not quite the word for them. However, there are still engineers that have repeatedly been found solving the important problems at just the right times. My guess is that 10x is too small a multiple for the NPV of these people compared to their median peer; but I have no hard evidence to support that intuition.