: views from the Hill

Saturday, April 30, 2005

And light?!?!! Boy, howdy!

Last Saturday in the driz, we took two carloads of monitors and towers and keyboards and what-not down to Apple Computer for their Earth Day recycling project.

A couple days' later his nibs was in my office and noticed we'd missed a big honkin' HEAVY monitor that I'd stashed on my comfortable old fuzzy crimson Kroehler chair and then piled stuff 'round while I was working on packing up the office.


That's okay. Because of California's new law, there are other places we can take that monitor to. It was just that it will be a pain to track down another recycler and make another trip and it was so darn easy to take a whole bunch of stuff to Apple last Saturday. It's a shame we didn't get all of the stuff taken care of that we needed to.

That said, all'swell. The big honkin' HEAVY 19" Gateway monitor I've been using is now history too.

When his nibs was up here and discovered the monitor tucked away on the chair, he also took a look at the Gateway monitor I've been using and thought about carrying it down the Filbert Steps to our little sidewalk and then carrying it up the steps to our front door, then up the stairs to the office.

Yesterday, he went out on his lunch hour and picked up a no-name (Emprex) 17" flat screen skinny-mini monitor.

Works great, plus it's all of 3" deep instead of the 18"-plus deep that the Gateway is.

And light?!?!! Boy, howdy!

Now we have two stinkin' heavy monitors to take to a recycle place, and his nibs and I won't strain our backs moving the Gateway boat anchor to San Francisco.

... readying the house for sale continues ...

Friday, April 29, 2005

Ayelet Waldman on Living out loud -- online

I wandered from Sarah Weinman's Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind to Laurie King's Mutterings, which took me to this King blog post on blogging, which took me to Ayelet Waldman's now defunct Bad Mother Blog, which led (eventually!) to Waldman's new Salon gig (and one of the main reason her blog is now defunct).

At Salon I found Living out loud -- online wherein Ayelet Waldman writes about her husband, the writer Michael Chabon, being off on tour and reading her Bad Mother blog and realizing she was contemplating suicide. He did what he could from 2000 miles away, her girlfriends gathered 'round, the suicide threat was thwarted, Waldman's meds were adjusted and things settled back as much as they can to normal, but the whole very public blog episode unsettled her. She writes about using her life and those of her family as fodder for her blog.

Frankly, at this stage they are far more interested in Gaia online and Muffin Films Web sites, but there will surely come a day when they will Google themselves, find my blog and both be furious with me for having stolen their lives and humiliated at the extent to which I have laid open my own. I told the New York Times reporter that blogging was "payback for driving back and forth to gymnastics all week long," but I don't really believe that. As much as I despise carpool, I wasn't trying to exact some kind of complicated revenge for having been forced to spend too many hours in a minivan.

How much should you use of your real life, and the lives of those nearest and dearest, in your blog is a question most bloggers tussle with.

Some don't use their real lives and don't tussle.

Some have no qualms about exposing their personal lives and those of their nearest and dearest and don't tussle either.

Waldman also writes about the effect her blogging was having on her writing:

At the same time, I was becoming convinced that all this blogging was having a deleterious effect on my writing. It was more than the hours I was spending posting to my blog, reading my comments page, reading other blogs, and checking my site meter. As a novelist, I mined my history, my family and my memory, but in a very specific way. Writing fiction, I never made use of experiences immediately as they happened. I needed to let things fester in my memory, mature and transmogrify into something meaningful. The fictionalized scene I ended up with was often unrecognizable from the actual event that had been its progenitor.

But in the months I had the blog, I was spewing as fast as my family was experiencing. My initial idea, that the blog would act as a kind of digital notebook, was not panning out. Once the experience was turned into words, I found that it was frozen. The fertile composting that I count on to generate my fiction was no longer happening.

Read the article.

I sat through a brief Salon ad to get my fix. The brief ad was time well spent in trade for the opportunity to read Waldman's thought-provoking story and musings.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Home equity

Perhaps it's the Puritan ethic that courses through the all-American bloodstream.

Perhaps it's memories of a long-ago marriage and a receipt found over the weekend for a stereo system we couldn't afford even with two salaries but which F. really really really had to have back then. The stereo we had just wasn't up to snuff, wasn't what he deserved. We put a hundred or so dollars down and promised to pay something like $23/mo for two years and walked out of the store with a system that was up to his high standards.

The clock radio turns on at 6:30A, tuned to KCBS News Radio with Stan Bunger and Susan Leigh Taylor for a mix of news, sports, weather and traffic.

Lately around 7A, KCBS plays a Bank of America home equity loan ad. The ad tells you that a home equity loan has the advantage of a stable interest rate and a stable monthly payment. That's good, right?

What grits my teeth is the come-on for the loan which goes something like, "Sometimes your kitchen needs remodeling. Sometimes a family of three becomes a family of four. Sometimes it's taking longer than expected to pay off last year's vacation." PITCH: get a home equity loan.

Sure, using home equity (a second mortgage on your already mortgaged house) to remodel a kitchen sometimes makes sense. Often, though, your kitchen doesn't need remodeling. You want to have a spiffy new kitchen, you deserve a spiffy new kitchen, even though the remodel will set you back $30K and you have a mortgage and credit card debts and no savings to speak of. No problem! BofA will give you a home equity loan!

Home equity loans to pay for another child? Sounds odd to me.

The oddest, though, is the pitch for a home equity loan because it's taking longer than expected to pay off last year's vacation. Unfortunately, from the sample of home equity loan users I've known, that home equity loan will be used to pay off last year's vacation, and remodel the kitchen, and buy a boat, and buy a new pickup to haul the boat, and maybe pay for a patio and a new barbecue as well. At the end of the day, the money's gone, the house is mortgaged to the hilt and can't be tapped for future emergencies, and those monthly payments are an expensive reminder of the perils of using the easy money of a home equity loan for depreciable fun and frolic.

Shouldn't we be living within our means? Shouldn't we not be booking vacations that we'll be paying off for months and months after? Maybe we should go on daytrips or camping or just veg instead of booking a resort on Maui?


Manresa update

Followup note from Greg Silva giving a link to a followup article in the Guardian on the top 50 restaurants in the world as chosen by London-based Restaurant magazine and Penfolds wine and announced last week. Good company, Manresa keeps.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Earth Day

In celebration of Earth Day, Apple is allowing folks to stop on by tomorrow and drop off electronics that are just a pain in the canoe to dispose of legally: computers, TVs, monitors, printers, stereos and other home electronics systems.

FREE RECYCLING! Can't beat that!

Small print says five monitors/TVs and five other devices per car.

I spent the day trying to get the last of my wanted files off the Pavilion from Hell. Got everything off except for two files that write onto the CD but have an MS-DOS error when I try to copy them back off.

Now to move files to the recycle bin, empty the recycle bin, squish and reformat and Bob's your uncle.

Next up! final check for files off the Gateway from the startup, followed by final check of the computer that preceded the Pavilion.


The wind has been kicking up a fuss, blowing branches and leaves and cones off the trees. The yard will need another clearing before the house goes on the market.

The wind is energizing as long as I block out the times a tree or a large piece of a tree has fallen on the house or this office. I walk to and fro the house and office and stand for a few minutes in the middle of it, letting the wind blow me around.

Nice weather to have on a day spent shovelling through the snows of yesteryear.

Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by.

(Christina Rossetti)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

RIP: Computer Bits

Back in 1998, I wrote an article for Computer Bits, a monthly out of Portland, OR, (well, Forest Grove, but who has ever heard of Forest Grove?) about using search engines.

Spring 1999, I took over as the Surfing the Web columnist and continued on my merry way for another almost six years, writing a monthly column about all things wonderful on the Web.

Alas, last month, word came from on high, from our intrepid editor and publisher Paul Harwood, that Computer Bits was closing up shop.

Today I noticed that the domain name was no longer valid, so I took some time away from my energetic house clearing here at Dale, to fidget with my towse.com site. I've pointed all links to Computer Bits to a placeholder page and I've removed the Computer Bits link on the blogroll over >>>> there.

As soon as we're completely done and outta the house I'm clearing, I'll take the time to put all my wonderful words here instead of referencing them there.

It was a good gig. Thanks for the good times, Harwood, and the lucre.

Friday, April 08, 2005

New views from Google Maps

I've been playing with Google Maps today. Google Maps has added a satellite view.

Check this one out. Weird angle to see Coit Tower. Pioneer Park is more or less centered in the photo. You can see most of the circular parking lot just north of Coit -- completely filled, as usual, with cars.

Montgomery Street is the wide street to the east of Coit Tower. You can see the tree where Montgomery splits in two, just north of the intersection with Union. Walking north on Montgomery, past where it splits, you can see the green swath, where the Filbert Steps head down to Sansome at the bottom of Telegraph hill. Which of those places is ours? We can't tell. You'd have to pull the view even closer. North of the Filbert Steps, the Greenwich Steps make a swath of green just south of a bunch of condo complexes.

Heading down the Filbert Steps you can see Levi's HQ and Levi Plaza. Pretty space, isn't it? You can see the bar at Pier 23 (oddly enough named "Pier 23") just across the Embarcadero from the Plaza. A ship is tied up to Pier 25. See those circus tents to the east of the ship? That's Teatro Zinzanni. We've never been. We're not much into audience participation dinner shows, but should Joan Baez come back again to reprise her role as Madame Zinzanni, I just might be tempted.

Here's another Google map satellite photo. I've put the Transamerica Pyramid front and center. Note the shadow? Coolio, eh? Obvious why folks downtown bitch about the shadows thrown by the 'scrapers, isn't it?