: views from the Hill

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2007 Results

2007 is the silver anniversary of the contest.

Jim Gleeson, Madison, WI, is the grand prize winner this year with

Gerald began--but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them "permanently" meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash--to pee.

Additional prize winners here: 2007 Results

re the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest


Conscripted numerous times to be a judge in writing contests that were, in effect, bad writing contests but with prolix, overlong, and generally lengthy submissions, he [Professor Scott Rice] struck upon the idea of holding a competition that would be honest and -- best of all -- invite brief entries. Furthermore, it had the ancillary advantage of one day allowing him to write about himself in the third person.

By campus standards, the first year of the BLFC was a resounding success, attracting three entries. The following year, giddy with the prospect of even further acclaim, Rice went public with the contest and, with the boost of a sterling press release by Public Information Officer Richard Staley, attracted national and international attention. Staley's press release drew immediate front-page coverage in cultural centers like Boston, Houston, and Miami. By the time the BLFC concluded with live announcement of the winner, Gail Cane, on CBS Morning News (since defunct through no fault of the BLFC), it had drawn coverage from Time, Smithsonian, People Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Manchester Guardian, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Radio, and the BBC. Most important, over 10,000 wretched writers had tried their hands at outdoing Bulwer's immortal opener, with the best entries soon appearing in the first of a series published by Penguin Books, It Was a Dark and Stormy Night (1984).

Since 1983 the BLFC has continued to draw acclaim and opprobrium. Thousands continue to enter yearly ...

[via Bob Sloan at misc.writing]

Too much zucchini?

Is it getting to that time of year again? I wouldn't know, lacking a (sniff) sunny space to raise zucchini.

But for those of you who do have a sunny space and are using it to raise zucchini, Heidi Swanson offers up My Special Zucchini Bread Recipe at 101 Cookbooks.

(Added bonus: Today's 101cookbooks blog entry features Quinoa and Grilled Zucchini.)

Bon appetit!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Creeping prosperity

Sectwanto's HUGE tag on a brick building down by Potrero Point, was painted out last week. The brick building was originally tagged (according to this site) in 2005. Seemed a year or two earlier than that at least, but I have photos from July 2004 that show the brick building untagged. Memory's a funny thing.

SECTWANTO always reminded me of RIGO's TRUTH over by City Hall, "but different," as they say.

Still, two years from tag date, SECTWANTO and the fribbly tagged crap beneath it were painted over.

Why now?

Well, perhaps because plans are afoot to revitalize Pier 70 and surrounds.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

From each ...

Zen rotates quotes through the top of his blog. This one showed up today: From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs! Marx

Reminded me of the on-the-street-reporter-types who ask people, do you agree with this? who said it?

Seems about half of Americans asked think that this credo is from the U.S. Constitution.

Should it be?

I was checking to confirm that my "50% of Americans" memory was accurate and found this current ref: Does America need to update Constitution? Renowned political scientist believes it's time for big changes. by Ed Williams.

Interesting read.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Book shifting

Book shifting. So here's the problem. The bookcases are, for the most part, filled with the books I intend to stay where they are.

That leaves hundreds of boxes of books to go through on my quest to let go ("Finally!" sez his nibs) of some of the books. You can't see into boxes without opening them. All the boxes of books on a given subject aren't necessarily together.

We already have twenty boxes of books or so packed up for the Coast Community Library. The older younger one will come by with his partner maybe the first weekend in August to see if any of the books in the additional nine boxes of SFF titles intended for CCL are ones they want. Let's call it thirty boxes of books boxed up and ready to shift out. ... and more than ten times that many still here, most unsorted.

I have four main areas where books in boxes (and loose now, due to the sorting) are stashed. I have too many boxes whose contents aren't easily identifiable because I didn't, back when we were packing the boxes up, always remember to label the boxes (as I do now) so that the contents labels are visible from all sides.

I have other boxes that might be labeled but are hidden by other boxes so I can't determine the content. In all I have over thirty boxes that are "unknown." I have another twenty or so that are labeled "nonfic" which need to be sorted through. I have eight that are labeled "misc" which need to be sorted through. I need to get to the "unknown" boxes and see what they might be. And I have the added twist that, due to the vagaries of the move, what is in the boxes is not necessarily as is labeled, if the box is even labeled.

Yesterday I decided that I had to get a grip on what we had, where. I spent some time counting boxes in the four areas and today I created an Excel spreadsheet (and I am so not a believer in spreadsheets) so I can get a handle on which boxes are where and what I can do to shift books around, always remembering that I don't want to end up with too many books in any one place because even though the space was built with a live load req of 40 lbs/sq foot average, you just don't want to push it and, like J Carter Brown, I think it was, have your walls started spreading out because of the load of books on the upper floors.

The purpose of this first pass is to get the nonfic and misc and whatever books rough-sorted into categories so that I can then take each category and sort it more definitively and then take those sub-sorts and figure out what stays, what goes.

So ... my box count yesterday. After feeding the data into Excel I find I have over seventy "subject" sorts of labels for the boxes, and that's even with me throwing physics and biology into a greater superset of science when I was making the book count.

Seventy subjects is about fifty too many. I'm having a problem though with sorting some titles. Are they "essay" or "memoir"? When does "memoir" segue into "autobiography"? Would "Letters" be autobiography or memoir or essay? How about if they're Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son? When do memoirs belong in history?

So I sort and sort and resort. My "reference" boxes had contained all sorts of things. My "facts" boxes had started out as trivia/factoid Uncle John's and Cecil Adams sorts of books but had wound up also including flags of the world and Amos, Amas, Amat. And around and around and around.

The gross decision is that Area 1 will contain fiction, which still needs sorting. Fiction is all that fiction stuff that isn't SFF or MYS. Area 2 will contain history & biography & autobiography & memoirs? essays? Area 3 will have SCI-related for now and JUV. Area 4 (the largest area and where I've been sorting) will get liberal arts (except history and biography) and all the stuff that needs sorting.

My kludgey spreadsheet tells me how many of what are where so I can wrap my head around how many non-fiction things are in the fiction area (24 boxes! that's not bad) and how many fiction things are elsewhere (2 ... okay).

The sheet also tells me that I have about 400 boxes of books, which (take out the thirty destined for CCL or the older younger one) means (hurray!) over half of the books moved in are either on shelves or headed out the door soon.

When I was making my notes, I didn't note how many of those 400+ boxes have already been through the primary sort, but there have been loads. Heck, I probably missed some boxes anyway, but close enough is close enough.

A light's glimmering at the end of the tunnel.

One thing, no, two things, I found day before yesterday were two identical copies of Kipfer's THE ORDER OF THINGS, an interesting book but don't ask me why I have two copies. The table of contents may help me with some of the "How do I sort out the science-related books into subcategories that will make it easy for me to see what I have?" sorts of decisions.

Does Feynman go in "essays" or in "physics" or in just what?

How do I make sure when I'm sorting through for dups that I have all the Feynmans in one place?

Odd, isn't it, that I haven't been buying many books at used bookstores or thrift shops lately?

The Simi Wine Dinner at Fior d'Italia that wasn't

Simi Wine Dinner at Fior d'Italia, or the dinner that wasn't.

As I was shifting and sorting books yesterday, I was looking forward to the Simi Wine winemaker's dinner at Fior d'Italia. I'd even gone to the site earlier in the day to doublecheck which winery was being featured. There it was (and still is!): "Simi Vineyards, Sonoma. July 26. Special Guest, Steve Reeder"

I got home from book sorting. His nibs got home soon after. We skinned off our Levis (mine black, his blue) and put on clothes that were more dinner-like and walked down the hill, arriving at Fior d'Italia a little after 6:30 p.m., which is when the dinner was to start.

The front door had a sign on it to use the door to the bar and come in that way, so we did. The bar was PACKED. We found our way to the main dining room, but there was obviously a banquet planned there, not the winemaker dinner. We wandered around trying to find someone to talk to, trying to find something that looked like a winemaker dinner.

We finally grabbed a waiter who knew nothing about a winemaker dinner, who grabbed another waiter who said there wasn't one after all and finally the guy who runs the dining room and banquet rooms showed up and said, "Yes, it's been canceled. We tried to get hold of ... who are you?"

We told him.

"Yes. We left multiple messages for you this afternoon starting after 1 p.m. Didn't you get them?"

Well, no, we said. We'd got in, changed clothes, came straight down without checking the answering machine soze not to be late.

"Well," he said. (The waiter who'd told us the dinner was canceled was in the process of trying to convince us to -- for the same price the winemaker dinner would've been -- try their extravagant multi-course paired-with-wine special dinner.) "Stay for dinner. We'll take 20% off the bill."

So we stayed. Dinner was fine. A deal at 20% off. Some parts of it were excellent, but not so excellent I'd rave to friends that they must try it. Mostly, we agreed between the two of us that it would be a good place to bring friends who weren't adventurous diners. Loads of food.

The antipasti had cured olives, melon and prosciutto, jumbo shrimp with a rustic tomato sauce, crab with a homemade mayonnaise, mozzarella/basil/tomato. Antipasti was followed by Caesar salad, which was followed by tricolor pasta: gnocchi with tomato sauce, tortellini with Alfredo sauce, penne with a not-intense (tourist-version) basil pesto. The main plate was also a medley: fillet mignon with a brown sauce (I'm sure they have a more elegant name for it), veal scallopine and salmon with a dill sauce. Dessert was tiramisu, which was different from any I've ever had. Served in a hot fudge sundae glass, it was a sweetened mascarpone mousse-like dish with the lady finger soaked in coffee liqueur embedded in the mascarpone and mini chocolate chips on top. A different bit of wine came with each course: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Essencia (an orange muscat dessert wine).

Unfortunately, the first courses had been so filling that I left behind some of the salmon and most of the tiramisu. Given my drothers, I would've had all of the tiramisu and skipped the Caesar salad. Better for me, I suppose, to have done what I did.

As I said, the front dining room was packed with the car buff types, there for a banquet, whoever they might have been. The dining room where we were, which is usually, I think, used as banquet rooms, was also pretty full. Obviously, the decision to cancel the winemaker dinner hadn't been made at lunch time. There was no room for a winemaker dinner. Obviously, someone had forgotten to make the call earlier in the week or last week or whenever the decision was made.

We walked home after dinner, uphill, stuffed to the brim. Listened to our phone messages. First, a woman: We are calling from Fior d'Italia. We called to leave you a message a week or two ago and just wanted to remind you that the winemaker dinner tonight has been canceled. Next, our guy who runs the dining rooms: I'm calling from Fior d'Italia to make sure you know that the winemaker dinner tonight has been canceled.

(1) We did get 20% off, but they should've called us earlier than the afternoon of the dinner. (2) Don't go telling us you called a week or two ago and are just calling us to remind us that. ... We aren't stupid. Someone forgot. Just tell us straight up.

Dinner was fine. Filling. Not to die for. We may go back with friends who don't want to have the tasty but unusual things we can find elsewhere. Good place to bring your friends who think that tomato and mozzarella and basil is an exotic dish.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

elephants and luck facing window

Someone found the blog with an ask.com search for /elephants and luck facing window/.

Note the lack of "".

I'm wondering what the person was in search of.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Boxloads of books

I'm tired.

There are boxloads of books to go through.


So, what's taking so long, Sal?

Let's recap.

We moved ~ 800 boxes of books up here. I have no clue how many are left to sort through. We moved a bunch of shelves as well, but most of those shelves are full so the sorting is taking a long while, while I move boxes from this end of the space to that.

The cookbooks are out of boxes (for the most part) and against the wall in the eastmost room. The travel books (pure travel and travelogue) are in two banks of bookcases perpendicular to the cookbook bank.

The SFF books take up three banks of book shelves to the west of the two banks of travel books (and, yes, perpendicular to the cookbook bank).

There are no more shelves in this room, which is the room where I've been sorting books out of boxes and into other boxes since last week or so when I finished sorting the SFF books. (The SFF books wound up with four boxes of books with no space on the shelves and another five boxes of SFF short stories that didn't fit on the shelves.)

The hall between the eastmost room and the westmost room has stacks of book boxes, mostly boxes marked HIST or PHYSICS or SCI plus boxes with several Harvard Classics sets. Oh, and my SUNSET Magazine going back to forever, and a box of Christmas craft/recipe magazines and books, and ...

I have all the crime fiction (six+ bookcases) on shelves in the westmost room along with a couple shelves of writing books. That room also has a bunch of art (pictures, posters, paintings) and music (78s, LPs, tape, CDs and the occasional 45RPM) that need sorting through eventually (not now) and another twenty-five boxes or so of a motley collection of books, which will be sorted in the current go through.

The alcove outside the westmost room has the SUNSET magazines mentioned up there plus a bookcase full of assorted Tightwad Gazettes and how-to-make-it and FIX YOUR PLUMBING sorts of books that need sorting. Oh, and there's probably 25 boxes labeled HIST and S/W DEV and TECH and what-not.

The hall leading out from the alcove outside the westmost room to the door on that level has a few bookshelves that I may use for sorting the books in that area. Mostly the area has boxes of adult fiction books and (currently) seventeen+ boxes of books destined for the library and nine boxes of SFF books waiting for the older younger one to poke through plus some NF and some MISCNF and ... oh, it goes on and on.

My pal came through today to pick up some cookbooks I'd offered. She took a few. Offered me some of hers that she was getting rid of.

The books she didn't take were reboxed for the library.

I found a box or two of duplicates and things I didn't want/need today. I brought home a list of titles to check in alibris.com and abebooks.com to make sure I don't accidentally give away a first edition of Sue Grafton's KEZIAH DANE.

What did I find? Well, here are some examples.

I found TWO sets of the 2vol. THE PIMA BAJO OF CENTRAL SONORA, MEXICO. by Pennington. 1980. Univ of Utah

I found a selection of slim pamphlets with dust covers by David Starr Jordan and printed roundabouts 1912 by Whitaker & Ray-Wiggin in San Francisco. Titles:

Google /"David Starr Jordan"/ if you don't know who he is.

I found a slim, HB, blue jacket with gilt SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN REFERENCE BOOK. 1891. Munn & Co, Office of the Scientific American.

I found MASTERING MAGIC CARDS by George H. Baxter and Larry W. Smith. Wordware Publ. 1995.

And I found everything in between and to both sides.

My method is thus: rather than go through just once and decide toss/save, I'm going through once, sorting out the dups and things I know I really have no need of and repacking the boxes, relabeling, if necessary. (Thanks be for masking tape. Rip off the old, on with the new.)

I relabel boxes which had been NF or MISC or VERY MISC as FIC REF FACT phil/psych/soc HIST SCI or whatever and sort the books into them with a gross sort of sort.

The next pass will be another pass for duplicates and "do I want to keep this?" and an opportunity to sort the general (SCI, f'rex) boxes into a finer sort so that I can wrap my head around what I have instead of just thinking, I think I saw that title or one like that about five boxes ago. I'll have a chance to pull everything out of the FUN & GAMES boxes, f'rex, and see just how many copies of 150 WAYS TO PLAY SOLITAIRE I have. (I found three today.)

Then there'll be a third level sort ... then ...

Come 2009, I may have things under control.

Update: The library all the boxes of books are intended for is the Coast Community Library in Point Arena, which serves the northern Mendocino coast communities.

An old friend is heavily involved with book hugger issues up there and showed us around the library when we were up visiting him in Gualala last May. What a neat library. Great community support. What a story that library and its Friends group have.

When the library was moving from their dinky digs into the old Mercantile building (which the Friends raised money to buy and restore), over a hundred locals lined up along Highway One through town for a "book worm" bucket brigade and moved the books across Highway One and down the road a piece to the new digs, hand to hand until the books were all moved and settled on their shelves in the restored building.

How many places have that kind of community support for the library?

We told Don that he can come down here to get books and if they all don't fit in his van (and they won't, it's now apparent), we'll take books up and the library can take what they want of the books and sell the rest to make money for the library. That offer to Don last May is what precipitated all this sorting activity. That and the fact that books in boxes do you no good when you're looking for your copy of Watts' THE WAY OF ZEN and all you know is that it's here somewhere in one of these boxes ...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter

I did not spend midnight at a bookstore.

I spent the hours before midnight wending my way home from the lobster feed at the Bankers Club and chatting with our 2-unit-condo partner-in-crime at our front doorstep until the new parents next door asked us to pipe down.

Today, when we were at Costco buying greens and tequila and Bisquick and whatever, I considered buying the latest HP but because I'm not all caught up with the first six, I decided it wasn't critical to buy a first-edition (one of 12 million) today.

We got to Costco late -- too late for his nibs to nab a 2 lb. loaf of Acme Bread's sour batard. We'll have to go down to the Ferry Building and pick up a 1 lb. loaf. Seems the bakery at the Ferry Building doesn't do 2 lb. loafs, alas.

We'd left our place in the early afternoon. Spent some time at the preview for Bonham's SOMA auction. Went over to the loft and sorted through books. Headed off to Costco and then home.

One of the guys in an adjacent line was a tough-enough guy there with his one-maybe-two-year-old. He chatted up an even tougher looking guy in another lane, a buddy, who came over and chatted up the young 'un.

What surprised, and pleased me, was that all our tough-enough guy had in his cart were three Harry Potters.

I imagined him telling the kids that he would =not= hang out at Barnes&Noble with them at midnight, but he =would= promise to go to Costco today and buy a copy for each of the reading kids so they wouldn't have to share.

We came home plus white t-shirts for his nibs but sans Harry Potter.

As I'm sorting through the boxes of books, I will set aside the Harry Potters and then spend a few days of serious reading to get me through the series.

Harry Potter. Who he?

C.E.O. Libraries Reveal Keys to Success - New York Times

Published: July 21, 2007

"Michael Moritz, the venture capitalist who built a personal $1.5 billion fortune discovering the likes of Google, YouTube, Yahoo and PayPal, and taking them public, may seem preternaturally in tune with new media. But it is the imprint of old media — books by the thousands sprawling through his Bay Area house — that occupies his mind.

"'My wife calls me the Imelda Marcos of books,' Mr. Moritz said in an interview. 'As soon as a book enters our home it is guaranteed a permanent place in our lives. Because I have never been able to part with even one, they have gradually accumulated like sediment.'"


C.E.O. Libraries Reveal Keys to Success

[NYTimes login required]

View from the top

Went to the Bankers Club 20th annual lobster feed last night as part of AIWF-NorCal last night.

We gathered for before-dinner drinks at the bar with incredible views to the south and then moved into the dining room. We'd grabbed seats next to the west windows for dinner when we arrived and were glad we did.

The food was not to die for. The hors d'oeuvres reminded me of the finger food you'd get at the Club and, at dinner, the lobster was "presented," i.e. broiled, cut in half, put back in the shell, herbed bread crumbs on top yadadoo and not the fresh boiled crack-those-shells lobster I'd been expecting from the cutesie plastic lobster bibs they had at each chair. I prefer my lobster straight with melted butter and not all gussied up. I know others disagree with me. Before the lobster we had steamed mussels with an excellent broth and Caesar salad. The lobster came with potatoes and cobbed corn. Dessert was strawberry shortcake.

The wines were good. We'd brought a Husch chardonnay we'd picked up at the winery back in mid-May. Others brought others. AIWF brought some from the cellar.

The views from the 52d floor as the sun set over the Golden Gate were absolutely fantastic.

Become a member of the Bankers Club and you can enjoy the view whenever you'd like. Or you can opt for the less pricey choice and have dinner at the Carnelian Room, which is what the Bankers Club rooms become in the evening.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Update: 2007 San Francisco Idea House

A green bird told me that Sunset Magazine has postponed the opening of the San Francisco Idea House to an unspecified time

No word at the Sunset Magazine site as to when the house will open.

"Check back often," they say.

Websites as graphs

Pretty, eh? That's the blog in living color. I could swear I'd done this before, a year or more back, but I can't find it, if I did indeed do it, so I've done it again.

Aharef provides the applet. You provide the Web page you want him to graph. He 'xplains it all here and also shows some mega sites and how they look with the app: cnn.com, apple.com &c.

Color code:
blue: for links (the A tag)
red: for tables (TABLE, TR and TD tags)
green: for the DIV tag
violet: for images (the IMG tag)
yellow: for forms (FORM, INPUT, TEXTAREA, SELECT and OPTION tags)
orange: for linebreaks and blockquotes (BR, P, and BLOCKQUOTE tags)
black: the HTML tag, the root node
gray: all other tags

Flickr has a collection of pics.


Visuwords™ online graphical dictionary

Visuwords™ online graphical dictionary

Visuwords™ online graphical dictionary — Look up words to find their meanings and associations with other words and concepts. Produce diagrams reminiscent of a neural net. Learn how words associate.

Enter words into the search box to look them up or double-click a node to expand the tree. Click and drag the background to pan around and use the mouse wheel to zoom. Hover over nodes to see the definition and click and drag individual nodes to move them around to help clarify connections.

* It's a dictionary! It's a thesaurus!
* Great for writers, journalists, students, teachers, and artists.
* The online dictionary is available wherever there’s an internet connection.
* No membership required.

Visuwords™ uses Princeton University’s WordNet, an opensource database built by University students and language researchers. Combined with a visualization tool and user interface built from a combination of modern web technologies, Visuwords™ is available as a free resource to all patrons of the web.

I popped in "errata" and ... nada. "brigadoon" ... nada.

I popped in "graffiti" and made two connections.

... then I popped in "giant"

How fun is this?


And "encomium" begets "panegyrist" and "prosody" begets "hypercatalectic."


Ambient Intimacy and disambiguity

Whilst off looking for a description/definition of Ambient Intimacy, I came across Leisa Reichelt's blog: disambiguity.

Just reading disambiguity makes my brain feel polished and shiny.

Book Collecting

A delightful collection of Book Collecting information from a former antiquarian bookseller, DJ McAdam.

Be sure to read DJ McAdam's essay Things Found in Books and check out his literature links.

DJMcAdam's site promises hours of exploration. ...

The City of San Francisco STREETS LITTER AUDIT 2007

The City of San Francisco STREETS LITTER AUDIT 2007 [PDF]

The first ever audit of the City's litter problems. Released a couple weeks ago. Some interesting findings.

Note: "large" litter -- items over 4 sq in. "small litter" -- items under 4 sq in. Litter was categorized into eight-four sub-categories.

105 sites were audited in April. Average of thirty-six "large" litter items per site. "Small" litter clocked in at an average 23 items/site.

"Non-branded paper napkins and paper towels" were 13% of total litter. Of "branded" printed material litter, MUNI tickets and transfers were a significant factor.

Miscellaneous plastic litter accounted for 9% of total litter and 20% of "large" litter items.

The study compares San Francisco's litter to litter audits for other cities dated 2002-2006. On average, 27% of San Francisco 's litter is printed & fiber material (paper, cardboard, books, &c.) while the average in other large cities over the past five years hovers around 19%. Why?

On a positive note, San Francisco has less "small" litter than other large cities and is about on par with Toronto which has been focusing on litter for several years. "Small" litter clocked in at an average 23 items/site and included bottle caps, straws, gum, busted sporks, cigarette butts, &c.

When they broke down the type of small litter (wouldn't you have loved to have been one of the auditors?), they found that chewing gum was 39.5% of the small litter, small glass was 29.7% and cigarette butts were 5.6%. Comparing this to Toronto's audit last year, Toronto had 21 "small" items per site of which 30.9% was chewing gum, 15.4% small glass, and 14.8% cigarette butts.

Maybe we just don't smoke as much ...

I found an interesting note on page 33/Bag Litter Summary. Bag litter (paper and plastic, retail and non-retail) accounted for 4.45% of total litter. Retail plastic bags account for 0.6% of total litter. Now, plastic bags are not good for the garbage equipment and they're not good for the gulls and they aren't good for the environment in the long run but why cantcha just say that that is why you want to ban them from this fair city? Why all the nonsense about what a litter menace they are?

I don't know what Gav plans to do with the study. Gav has pledged to reduce litter by 50% over the next five years and it's interesting to have a notch marked so that we can see whether efforts to combat litter are working.

I'd like to encourage everyone whether they live in this fair ville or in a bucolic ville in Iowa to pick up at least one piece of orphaned trash a day and dispose of it properly.

We were out to dinner with neighbors a couple Fridays back. On the way to the restaurant, T. started picking up papers that were blowing on the sidewalk. Hot jam, I thought. Someone else picks up litter. We walked down the hill to Nua, collecting papers along the way, which we then tossed into a City trash bin before reaching the restaurant. (And remembered to wash our hands before dinner!)

On a similar if-it-bugs-you-do-something-about-it, we bumped into Aaron Peskin, our fearless President of the Board of Supervisors, on the steps last Saturday as we headed out to dinner. He was scrubbing (with an earth-friendly cleanser), removing graffiti that some yog-for-brain had tagged on the wall of 1360 Montgomery as you head down the Filbert Steps.

"Bless you," I said. "That really bothered me but I hadn't got my act together enough to come out here and scrub."

"Bothered me too," he said. "Tagging begets more tagging, so it had to go."

Make the Earth a cleaner place.

No harm. It was missing 'the part on top that goes boom.'

Missile found in Florida junk yard
Thursday, July 19, 2007

"If you left a surface-to-air missile lying around in a scrapyard in Florida, then some people would like a word with you.

"Authorities say that the Patriot missile was discovered lying in a scrap metal yard in Ybor City, Tampa, which is on the west coast of The State of Never-Ending Weirdness."


Missile found in Florida junk yard

Monte Carlo by the Bay

Article in the Economist: San Francisco's half-recovery | City in a bottle.

Hadn't realized we were such conformists: "And tourists are not the only reason restaurants are full. Michael Covarrubias, a San Francisco property developer, says many expensive flats have been bought by people in their late fifties who have grown tired of the suburbs and no longer need worry about schools."

Well, I hadn't grown tired of the suburbs (I still miss my dirt), but the gent I live with had always intended to move back once the kids were off to college and the transplanting was no surprise.

"Monte Carlo" by the Bay? Doesn't have the same ring as Herb Caen's "Baghdad by the Bay," but Baghdad by the Bay evokes a different image these days than it did back then.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Interview with Elizabeth George

Interview with Elizabeth George in the June 2007 WRITER Magazine. [Caution: PDF!]


You talk a great deal about the craft of writing. What do you mean?

It's important for beginning writers to learn the craft, the basics, of writing. You can't teach somebody to be a creative artist, to have talent or passion, but you can teach somebody craft. Whether they can apply it in an artistic fashion, well, that's in the hands of the gods. But they can certainly learn what the craft of writing is.

[BLOG] Spinning

Spinning is the blog of Susan Marie Rose Maciog Gibb.


Interesting look into the life of a reader, someone self-defined as "Learning life through Writing, Reading, Traditional Archery, Nature and Harvest, Computer Hardware, and watching people."

The Web is a wonder these days, providing loads of opportunity to watch people act, roleplay (perhaps), wig out, gracefully sail through upsetting circumstances, overreact, underreact. ...

Find someone on a newsgroup, in a blog, posting comments in reaction to an article. Imagine that person as a character in the story you're writing. What you see on the Web gives you the barebones, the skeleton of the character. It's up to you to flesh out the motivations, insecurities, craziness, saneness and make the character your own.

There's been discussion here and elsewhere about whether (or not) dooce is a blog worth reading. I think so. Talk about finding someone who gives you loads of opportunity to peer into their lives!

"but she whines and whines and I'm tired of her whining about her boring life," some say. Well. I'm tired of bombast and vicious rants, which is why I stopped reading certain blogs. I don't read dooce daily. I do pop in every month or so to get a flavor of the personality. She would make such a good character in a story I haven't quite cooked up yet.

What a brave new world this is, where no matter what sort of person we are or wish we were, we can read about others like or unlike us (and others can read our ramblings and dish with friends about how witless we can be and so on ad infinitum).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The physics of phog

We spent four hours or so yesterday perched at a table in front of Rogue Ale at Powell and Union, with a stack full of flyers for the San Francisco Climate Challenge and coupons for inexpensive cf lightbulbs for people who sign up for the Challenge. Most of the people we talked to were ineligible for the Challenge, being new to their digs (you have to have lived where you're living last year in October) or being tourists.

Lots of tourists.

We wound up answering questions from, f'rex, a pair of Englishwomen of a certain age who were looking for the Abercrombie and Fitch store.

"Not here," we said. "Up and over that hill."

"This isn't Union Square?" they asked.

"No, this is Washington Square Park, on Union Street. Union Square is blocks and blocks that way and nowhere near Union Street."

So we wrote out where the A&F store was (at Powell and Market) and his nibs walked them up to the corner of Columbus and pointed out where they could catch the 30 and take a ride through Chinatown ("Oh! Chinatown!") and on to the Westfield Shopping Centre on Market Street.

Another question came from a harried father who asked if we knew where there was decent Italian food that was kid-friendly. We looked at his kids, three boys between the ages of nine and fifteen, and pointed him to North Beach Pizza, a few blocks up Union at the corner of Grant. "Good pizza," we told him, plus there'd be an assortment of Italian food that he might like if he wasn't into pizza.

And so it went. We had nice conversations with a lot of people, including a woman with her camera who was on a fieldtrip to San Francisco with her photography class at West Valley College. She began to explain where WVC was and we told her we used to live less than a mile from the college before we pulled up stakes and moved up to this little 7x7 town.

We also spent time talking with each other, noshing down on one of Rogue's delish Reuben sandwiches and swilling some delish beers, enjoying the fresh air and the passing scene.

I also watched the clouds come and go and come and go again and noticed something interesting.

Watch this!

Exhibit One: a view (shoddy picture, sorry. taken with my cell) looking west from our table perch up Union Street toward Russian Hill. Note the cloud cover scudding toward us -- big huge thick clouds, pouring over the top of Russian Hill.

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Exhibit Two: a view (another shoddy picture) looking east from our table up Union Street on the other side, toward Telegraph Hill.

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Blue skies, eh?

The clouds would come barreling down off Russian Hill and reach the small flat space between the hills, away from the cool ocean breezes and warm up and d-i-s-a-p-p-e-a-r.

Fascinating to watch.

The microclimates of our fair ville are an endless surprise to visitors and to locals who don't get out much.

Heading down to another microclimate down at Potrero Point to sort through the tale end of the SFF collection, removing duplicates and alphabetizing by author/title. So far I have nine boxes of duplicate SFF titles set aside.

I'm all the way up to "R" with only two bookcases and not enough room to shelve the rest of the collection. Back into boxes for the excess. Question is, should I keep going and stop mid-letter (at "Scheckley," for example) or should I start working back from "Zelazny" and just box up all the R's and S's and T's.

Decisions, decisions.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

SFist: Hot Stuff: Chocolate Salon at Fort Mason

SFist: Hot Stuff: Chocolate Salon at Fort Mason

More on the Chocolate Salon from SFist.

How come I hadn't heard about this ahead of time?!??! Some of us mark things ahead of time on our calendars, you know.

Maybe tomorrow, which looks to have no prior commitments.

(Unfortunately, his nibs doesn't like chocolate, so he'll be unlikely to be enthusiastic about an outing ...)



First I heard of this.

Here I was spending hours on a Saturday afternoon talking up the San Francisco Climate Challenge out in front of Rogue Ale (at Union and Powell) when I could've been at Fort Mason for the first major chocolate rumble on the West Coast in decades.


And the week leading up had all sorts of events!

Double dang!

(Of course, we had our roofer/leak guys here so I couldn't've gone anyway but still ... dang!)

SFist: SFist Tonight

SFist: SFist Tonight

SFist rounded up a few events that they thought were worth your time on a Friday night.

Ah, San Francisco. Always something happening.

What would William Shakespeare think?

Friday, July 13, 2007

There goes an era ...

Porn lord Jim Mitchell dies at 63

You can Google all the particulars.

Jim and Artie were the godfathers of San Francisco smut.

Two friends from SJPL worked in San Francisco for a while back in the early seventies. The F half was the girl working the box office. She took your $ to get into the theater. The M half had experience working with the AV and film at San Jose Public: he cleaned the films after playing.

We always used to say that Richard cleaned dirty films for the Mitchell Brothers.

Ah, those were the days.

Goodyear. Goodwrench.

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We were out front discussing the local excavations when we heard whrr whrr whrr.

Sounds like the Goodyear blimp, his nibs said.

Goodyear blimp it was.

Whrr whrr whrr.

The fog lumbers in

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The fog came scudding in this afternoon at a rapid clip. Creeping in?

Cat feet?


What I found interesting, always do, is the bank of fog hauling in through the Golden Gate, leaving shadows and misty-moisty behind whilst the folks around the bend from Pier39 are in perpetual sunshine.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Jimbo Wales at the Commonwealth Club. Wedn. 18 July 6 p.m. checkin

Jimbo Wales at the Commonwealth Club

Founder, Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation and Wikia


"Come hear Wales talk about what's next on his agenda, his opinions on the politics of the Internet and his thoughts on the accuracy of Wikipedia posts."

6:00 p.m., Check-in | 6:30 p.m., Program
7:30 p.m., Wine and Hors d'oeuvres Reception

Club office, 595 Market St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco
$12 for Members
$20 for Non-Members
$7 for Students (with valid ID)

Summer time in the City

Our guys are almost done, they keep saying. Maybe soon. Maybe today or tomorrow. Then all that's left is for a final walkthrough on the project and some water testing to make sure that the leaks that were to be fixed have been.

It'll be none to soon for the downstairs neighbors in our two-unit condo building. They were keen on watching the soccer finals that started this week but their satellite antenna has been out since work started in May. They didn't mind before, they always said. They could read or go out, but the match on Wednesday started at 3 a.m. and THEY HAD NO TELEVISION!

Soon. Soon.

The top floor neighbors on the other side had a baby this spring and she (the baby's mom) is not thrilled with the banging and thumping and people walking around over her head while either she or the baby's trying to sleep. Our guys need to walk on the roof there, you see, in order to get over to our places that need work done. They've cut back on the shouting back and forth and raucous talking after she asked, but the thump-thump-drill is just something that has to happen.

But our guys are almost done.

The folks three buildings to the south along our path, at the corner of Filbert, are gutting their historic building and rebuilding it, preserving its historical-ness, of course. They're also adding a lower level cut into the hill that won't be visible from the public walkway and they're tinkering with the roofline. They've already ripped off the roof and reroofed the place and rebuilt the supports.

These days, when we go out during the day (or come home midday from a medical appointment as I did this morning), we bump into sturdy worker guys carrying 5 gallon plastic buckets full of rocks and dirt up the path, up 42 steps to Montgomery, and then over to the large debris box that's taken up precious parking spaces.

Yes, you heard me. The worker guys are hauling 5 gallon buckets of dirt up on their shoulders and dumping the buckets, carrying them back down, filling them, carrying them up, dumping them.

5 gallons of dirt weighs approximately 65 pounds.

This job will be over none too soon for them.

The couple who owns the building right uphill from us (with an address on Montgomery) bought it for a bucketload of money. It was for sale The asking price when they bought it for was $10.5m for a 10K sq ft house with seven car parking. (I have no idea what they actually paid for it. Can't find the information easily online. The property tax information implies that they paid far less than asking for the building but still a pretty penny.)

All the neighbors had been agog when the property went on the market: SEVEN CAR PARKING!!!

Well, agog and envious.

The couple who bought the building are gutting it. They're retooling the layout inside on the multiple floors. They currently have the roof ripped off as well and will rebuild the 4000 sq ft roof deck. They are clearing out underneath the seven-car parking garage to make room for some storage. They plan to add a small exterior elevator up from the garage storage level. Fire safety regulations also require them to pour a flat landing spot under their fire escape and create a path to either our path or the steps as an emergency exit route. A fixer-upper, the place be.

I haven't planted any flowers this year because we were "away" and then were back and then our guys were working on our place and then ... well, the folks uphill would just be tromping all over trying to get their lower level dug out and fire escape work done.

In the last couple days, their guys have ripped off the bamboo netting and ivy and what-not we'd planted so we didn't have to look at the dirt under the building. They have ribbons stretched to show where things are going to happen.

Tomorrow morning, I think, when his nibs is home and can spot me in case I fall, I'll do some work on the slope up to their property and move some of the plants that I care most about down closer to the path, so the plants won't get trompled in all the activity up there.

Ugly. It looks very ugly right now, but if all goes well, the finished product will not look any uglier than it did to begin with.

Our new mom next door said that she'd thought about moving when she found out she was pregnant, but decided she'd stay because it was so quiet here ... but now it's not quiet! And aren't the contractors not to supposed to start work until later in the day?

Well, no. San Francisco rules are that construction work, even in residential areas, can start at 7 a.m.

But not to worry. Soon all this work will be done and things will be quiet again ... until the next person decides there's some "remodeling" work that needs doing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hiroshi Sugimoto at the de Young

de Young Exhibitions

July 7, 2007 - September 23, 2007

The extraordinary 30-year career of Hiroshi Sugimoto (b. 1948) is celebrated in this retrospective of more than 100 luminous photographs, made from 1976 to the present. This presentation, in an installation designed by Sugimoto, constitutes the first major survey of Sugimoto’s oeuvre.

2007 San Francisco Idea House

2007 San Francisco Idea House brought to you by Sunset Magazine and Meridian Builders & Developers, Inc. The house is green green green and LEED-certified.

Open August 17th-August 21st, 2007;
Friday, Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm
Last ticket sold at 4:30 PM
Tickets only sold at the house on Open House days
No Credit Cards, cash and check only
General - $20
Seniors (60) - $15 (Friday only)
Children 6-12 - $10
5/under - free

For those planning to go who do not plan to drive, check with http://transit.511.org and ask how to take public transit from your starting point to 25th and Alabama.

... not that Sunset or any of the blurbs will tell you that that is where you want to end up. Nooooo. Sunset only tells you where the shuttle parking area is and how to drive to the shuttle parking area.

Excuse me? Where exactly is this house you're showing off? Somewhere in the Mission District? Near enough to the shuttle-based parking? But where?

Does Sunset have any easy-to-find e-addr on the Sunset site for me to send a suggestion that they add some information about public transit in a town where many people would rather not drive their cars to the Sunset San Francisco Idea House and may, in fact, not even own a private vehicle?

[Web design pet peeve #31: Web sites that don't have easy-to-find contact information.]

My trip will start at the SW corner of Broadway & Montgomery where I catch the #12/Chavez & Mission and ride to Folsom St & 25th, where I'll get off and walk five blocks east to Alabama. Total travel time: 39 minutes. No transfers. Easy peasy.

When we get closer to the day, I'll check out specifics like when the #12 is supposed to arrive at the SW corner of Broadway & Montgomery on the day I decide to go. (Ah, yes. Hope springs eternal.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

MLB ASG Logo splashed on center anchorage

MLB has a boat out on the water and is projecting the Major League Baseball All Star Game graphic (sized to fill the blank northern wall) onto the center anchorage of the Bay Bridge.

Looks very cool.

Why has no one thought of using the center anchorage as a projection screen before?

[OBIT] Norman P. Canright

Norman P. Canright

Faced with the need to support his family, Norman plunged into commerce at the age of 40, first working on the docks as a ship's clerk, until he was hired as a temporary clerk with a small importing company, R. Dakin & Company. When the F.B.I. called company president Roger Dakin to suggest that he might not want to hire a "Red," he reportedly told them to mind their own business. Norman quickly advanced to sales manager, then to vice president for sales, and member of the board of directors, as he helped to build R. Dakin into the second largest firm in the nation in the benign business of plush stuffed animals.

Great story of an interesting life well lived.


Photographer Thomas Hawk has a story to tell

Not for the first time, Hawk has been roughed up by security guards and/or pseudo-cops while photographing San Francisco from the sidewalk.

Read Thomas Hawk's Digital Connection: Photographing Architecture is Still Not a Crime, Police Harrasment at 45 Fremont Street and ask yourself
  • what you would've done if this had happened to you
  • what you would've done if this happened to family or friend
  • what can you and I do to insure that this just does not happen again.

Hawk takes nice photos too. Go check them out while you're there.

Added del.icio.us cloud tag

Added my del.icio.us cloud tag over in the righthand sidebar 'cause I think it's purty.

(Yes, I know that tag clouds have been called the new mullet, but I like having it there. Of course my blog-based cloud tag means that even your grandma has one and it might be time to take yours off your site.)

Most of the bookmarks I imported from Firefox to del.icio.us are still in the "needs to be looked at before they're added" stage but I decided 500+ were enough to make a decent tag cloud.

total links @ del.icio.us: 3509 links (and counting).
"still need to be looked at": 2970+

Some of those links go back to April 1995, back when Yahoo! was just a wonderful collection of links on akebono.stanford.edu, back when I was thrilled to watch the cam pointed at the Trojan Room coffee pot at Cambridge.

Eventually almost all the links will be available on del.icio.us, but it'll take some time. I'm checking each link to see if it still works and still goes somewhere I care about, adding tags, &c. and so on.

What an exciting life I lead.

Writing advice from Robert B Parker

Interesting read in the Bostonia that came in the mail last week re Parker's donation of his archives to the Boston University Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, his writing methods, his PhD thesis ("The Violent Hero, Wilderness Heritage, and Urban Reality: A Study of the Private Eye in the Novels of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross Macdonald") and more.

The article got me poking around on the Web and I came across his blog and an interview by Eric Berlin (3.2005) which included this bit of advice:

EB: Thank you. Classic question to any author: any advice to aspiring writers out there who are looking to become novelists?

RBP: Write it, send it in. There isn't anything else to do. Somebody asked me at a signing the other day if I have any tips for a first-time writer and I said, "Yeah, try and write good." There isn't anything I can tell them - there are no tips.

There are very successful writers who don't write anything the way I do. John Updike, who I know, and who is a nice guy and a great writer, does not write in any way the way I do. So you can't say, "You better write like me!" I mean, you can write like Updike, that will work..

If you need tips, it's almost too late for you. If you can't fix it, you can't send it to me and have me fix it. You write it, you send it in, and if somebody at a publishing house thinks they can make a profit by publishing it, they will. And if they think they can't, they won't. And I can't make them do it, your Uncle Harry can't make them do it.

I suppose Michael Jackson or somebody can write a bad book and somebody will publish it at the moment. His life story would be swell. But other than that kind of celebrity hogwash, actual writing...

[At this point, we're interrupted by Mr. Parker's PR rep. We're told that that we have five more minutes, and we're asked how everything is going. Mr. Parker deadpans, "We're doing my favorite thing. I'm talking about myself."]

So no, I don't have any advice. There are still publishers who will read unsolicited manuscripts. They'll read them all, but they may read five pages in and say, "Ooh..." And I think that works. I think that if you have a manuscript, I can read one page, or maybe half a page, and know whether you have any talent or not. But the odds are long, most people don't have it. And you're competing with a lot of other submissions, but some of them are written in crayon. I mean, some are so apparently tripe that you read one sentence and throw it out.

There are also agents listed in the Literary Marketplace. I got published without an agent. You need an agent to get read at some houses, which require agent's submission - they're listed in one of those books, Writer's Marketplace or Literary Marketplace. But they can't get you published if you can't get published yourself, except that they can get you read places where you might not get read otherwise. And they've done the initial screening: if they take you on, the publisher will give you more attention. The publisher saves the trouble of bothering the initial editor.

It's been so long since I've been a beginning writer that I don't really know what it's like anymore. I don't know what the market is like. I don't know whether it would really be better to find an agent or just get published and then get an agent. If you get published, you can get an agent easy enough. And you need one: an agent is very valuable.

But the one thing you have to do is to write it. With non-fiction, you may be able to get a deal on a sample chapter and an outline, but with fiction, it's made on the writing. Non-fiction can be the idea, the story, or whatever. Fiction is in the execution. Write it, and send it to somebody who can publish it. Not me!

For my legions of IE-using fans

For my legions of IE-using fans. Well, at least for one very special one, that is.

A swell fambly member, who reads the blog, told me that she was getting a glitch (and probably always had but was too polite to say so) that was cutting off the lefthand side of the center column -- yes, the column that contains the guts of the blog.

"What browser do you use?" I asked.

"MS Internet Explorer," she replied.

I fired up IE, which I only fire up when something won't display on Firefox (a most excellent browser, btw, and one I highly recommend) or when I'm trying to make sure some Webby thing I'm working on will work for the IE user. ...

Turns out if you scrunch your screen down to a certain size, the lefthand and righthand columns scrunch down okay, but there's a big blob of space that blocks out the leftmost portion of the center column -- just the symptom the fambly member reported. I'm suspecting she uses a laptop and, hence, has a smaller screen but I can't remember.

Someone back when had mentioned the same thing, but after much tweaking at that point, I couldn't find a fix.

Times change. I created a Web site last spring that used a header, a footer and three columns to display and, after much torking around, found a way to make it work with IE, unless you squished the screen down far smaller than most people do. An older and wiser soul today, I took that experience and tweaked the blog template today so that the swell fambly member can read the blog using IE.

You'll notice more space between the columns but everything squishes down okay with IE now. (Unless -- goes without saying -- you squish the screen down far smaller than most people do, at which point the sidebars pop out from the edges and down onto the bottom.)

I had to remove the MyBlogLog stuff because it doesn't compress gracefully and caused the lefthand column to overrun and scoot down to the bottom of the page when using the smaller screen size in IE.

Barring those minor changes everything remains the same.

Un regalo por mi cuñada. Hope it works!

San Francisco Botanical Garden - Plant Sales

San Francisco Botanical Garden - Plant Sales

This Saturday (July 14) 10:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Garden nursery. The July sale will focus on "shrubs and salvias."

Next month's (Aug 11) will focus on "shade plants."

Don't want to drive and park? (Who does?) The N-Judah will take you from downtown and drop you at 9th and Judah. From there it's a short walk into the Park. The Garden's to your left as you go inside the gate at 9th & Lincoln.

The Daly Blog

The Daly Blog

What is it with Chris Daly?

He moved his Chris Daly blog off the City servers because he wanted to be able to post the unvarnished truth about Gavin and Aaron and others.

You go, Chris. More power to you if you think this is the way to prove your point. I have no idea why you're so angry, but I see a downward spiral that has hit the tipping point. All that bile can't be good for the soul.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Fireworks! Kaboom! Zoweee!

Fireworks! Kaboom! Zoweee!
Thank you to the ghods of baseball. Beautiful.

I'd've snapped pics but the camera is um. dyspeptic when it comes to fireworks.

I wish there was a service that could nudge me when there are upcoming fireworks displays.

There were =no= boats out on the bay for tonight's 'works. We might've walked down to the piers if we'd known they were happenin'.

Now that is just unimaginable.

Regarding my real estate lust for 1417 15th St and my lack of $3.25m to spare, Christine commented: Monthly payments of $21,600. Now that is just unimaginable.

The monthly payments include mortgage (after a $650K down payment), insurance AND taxes. What a bargain.

But say you don't have $650K for a down payment and you want a really nice place, good location (even though it's near impossible to walk to any place that serves dinner and parking is extra).

You could lease the commander's house at the Presidio: 7 bedrooms, 4.5 baths. Nice large public rooms with space for HUGE parties for all your friends. A large basement. Restored. 4100 sq ft. "Only" $15K/month.


For your $15K/month you get a space to set your worldly goods. You have no equity. You earn no equity out of your monthly payment. You get no property tax write-off. You get no nothing, except for a lovely place to stay.

In fact, the Presidio leases its prime buildings like this at whatever the traffic will bear, so $15K/month is just the base rate. If two people want the place, they can bid up the lease price even higher.

Ah, the American Way.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Must be almost time for the All-Star Game


Sure, I know. The game isn't until Tuesday, but we already have the Goodyear blimp circling around between the ballpark (hidden behind the Embarcadero Center towers) and the pyramid.
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The Greatest Obituary Ever?

Labeled "THE GREATEST OBITUARY EVER" by Poor Mojo Newswire

Count Gottfried von Bismarck, who was found dead on Monday aged 44, was a louche German aristocrat with a multi-faceted history as a pleasure-seeking heroin addict, hell-raising alcoholic, flamboyant waster and a reckless and extravagant host of homosexual orgies.

The great-great-grandson of Prince Otto, Germany's Iron Chancellor and architect of the modern German state, the young von Bismarck showed early promise as a brilliant scholar, but led an exotic life of gilded aimlessness that attracted the attention of the gossip columns from the moment he arrived in Oxford in 1983 and hosted a dinner at which the severed heads of two pigs were placed at either end of the table.

When not clad in the lederhosen of his homeland, he cultivated an air of sophisticated complexity by appearing in women's clothes, set off by lipstick and fishnet stockings. This aura of dangerous "glamour" charmed a large circle of friends and acquaintances drawn from the jeunesse dorée of the age; many of them knew him at Oxford, where he made friends such as Darius Guppy and Viscount Althorp and became an enthusiastic, rubber-clad member of the Piers Gaveston Society and the drink-fuelled Bullingdon and Loders clubs.

Perhaps unsurprisingly he managed only a Third in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

[... Continues]

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Well? Did you climb?

"Well? Did you climb?" Arleen asked. ...

Back on July 4th, I wrote both here and on Twitter about the primo closeby viewing spot: the roof of the building next door. To get to it I'd have to climb up onto our roof, step across to the neighbors' roof and then reverse the process (after dark) to get back to safety.

Did I finally in the end do it?


I'm not terrific with heights to begin with. I'm not terrified, exactly. I just have lousy balance and a vivid imagination (and a fear of winding face smack on the ground).

The maneuver is relatively easy for someone with a good head for heights, which I don't have, but my situation is made even less comfortable by my imagination, which has me tripping clumsily, losing my balance and falling into the lightwell between the buildings and landing, body broken, five stories down with no way to get out of the lightwell except to have rescuers on the roof with ropes to haul me back out.

Um. So, no.

I had climbed up on our roof while it was still light out. From there to the neighbor's roof is (relatively) easy peasy and shivered me timbers. I had a nerve wracking time turning around and backing down the high ladder that had taken me to the rooftop to begin with.

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I did watch from the north-facing bedroom window. For the major part of the fireworks, the view was okay, more than okay being as I was watching from within the safety of my place.

If you look carefully at the pictures, you can see the buildings to the west of us that block views of the fireworks, you can see a glowing blob on the left side of the picture which is a blurry Alcatraz, you can see a zillion lights from the thousands (it seems, at least) of boats that are out in the Bay for the fireworks, and you can see our neighbors' fire escape, which also blocks the fireworks views a bit.

The roof really is a cleaner more spectacular view, but ...

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The fireworks barge, however, was drifting east, probably due to an incoming tide. As the show went on, I had to crane my head further and further to the west (left) to keep the fireworks in view.

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Finally, our neighbors' building blocked the view so much that I went out onto the deck (on the east side of the same level) and craned my head east and watched as the barge and its fireworks slowly came into better view. My view was pretty good for the finale. Not as good as the view his nibs and one of the neighbors were having from the roof, but good enough for this scaredy cat.

We watched legal and illegal fireworks on the Embarcadero and the east edge of town, on Treasure Island and Yerba Buena and at points in the East Bay for another hour or so before calling it a night.

For Villaraigosa: Sex, lies and eyes that pry

For Villaraigosa: Sex, lies and eyes that pry - commentary by Timothy Rutten in the LA Times.

Is this affair a newsworthy tidbit? Is it any business of ours? Is it the business of people who watch Salinas on Telemundo or who live in the city for which Villaraigosa is mayor?

Is it newsworthy only as relates to whether Salinas should've kept covering the news? Had she told her bosses about the relationship? Does it matter whether Salinas and Villaraigosa were "just friends" or lovers? If she told her bosses "just friends" and not "lovers," should that have affected the limits her bosses put on her reportage?

Oh, the questions, the reckless behavior, the conflict-of-interest.

Does it even matter except as a way of selling the news in an industry where the more news sold the better?

My favorite part of Rutten's commentary is his reprise of the late Abe Rosenthal's standard in such cases:

It doesn't matter if a reporter sleeps with elephants, so long as they don't cover the circus.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

This week's visitor


This week's visitor has its Fourth of July flags flying.

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Still trying to decide whether to try climbing on the roof to watch the fireworks this year. Last year I chickened out when I saw how far the drop down from the edge was. No railings!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Maurice Kanbar

The current issue of Northside (not available online, alas) features a cover photo and a profile of Maurice Kanbar, inventor, philanthropist, &c.

Who he? I thought.

Turns out back when he was a young man, Kanbar (who is no longer a young man) invented and patented the D-Fuzz-It sweater comb and made a packet.

Later, Kanbar patented the Safety Glide hypodermic needle protector, a cryogenic cataract remover and the Tangoes puzzle game. He also launched New York's first multiplex theatre back when and, in 1992, founded SKYY Spirits, LLC, corporate home to SKYY Vodka.

He's had his successes and also his failures. Renaissance Man or just having fun?

He doesn't work, he says. If you enjoy what you're doing, it's not work.

Kanbar has made a pocketful of change. The article profiles his passions and his philanthropy. If you can find a copy of Northside, read the article.

Monday, July 02, 2007

[UPDATE 2] Angora fire

100% contained.

254 homes destroyed. According to the Stanford update, all of the camp staff members with houses in the area came through with houses intact.

Cause of fire: illegal campfire in an area where campfires are never never ever allowed.

1417 15th St.

1417 15th St. (Zephyr Realty listing)

If only I had $3.25m to spare.

The chaotic traffic mess on Stockton

Some times you just have to wonder.

I was at the Mayor's confab on Saturday re Muni and other public transportation issues. The meeting was pure theatre. Some interesting points were made. Some points seem lost to the assembled. I was impressed with Nat Ford, new executive director of the Municipal Transportation Agency.

At one point in the meeting, Gavin asked the city staff present, "How many of you rode public transportation here." A sizable number raised their hands. The follow up question, which wasn't asked, is "How many of you didn't ride public transportation here, and why not?"

As an example of parochialism and selective deafness, an inability to hear what people are saying (Why were so many people along the 9X and 30 routes thrilled to death with the thought of the Central Subway?) I note the following in The N-Judah Chronicles.

Greg writes, "There were many ironies surrounding this meeting - from the chaotic traffic mess on Stockton Street I ran into, trying to get back to Market St. to ..."

I just had to comment (and I did but being as the comments over there are vetted before they're posted, my oh-so-marvelous words seem to have been ash-canned, alas ...):

I walked home (call it Union and Montgomery) from the meeting and had no problem with traffic or issues or problems.

Chaotic traffic messes on Stockton are the norm. Those issues were brought up at the meeting. Big surprise? Problems on the 30 and the 9X? Who knew?

Those in the nose know the Stockton issues and avoid Stockton or just deal with it.

Welcome to our world. Sorry the out of district folks had a problem.

The only transit line that I've ridden that can get almost as bad as the 30 Stockton going up Stockton is the 14 Mission going up Mission. I do realize that everyone has their pet peeves about public transit, but to say there was a chaotic traffic mess on Stockton after the meeting (like there isn't a chaotic traffic mess on Stockton most any day most any time of the day?) just shows how deaf some people at that meeting were to attendee comments re the 30 Stockton, the 9X, the 45 and the 41.

Traffic from North Beach through Chinatown toward downtown and further is a mess, people. Add some more buses. Run shuttles through the Stockton corridor. Do something.

I'm just glad I can catch the buses at Washington Square Park because the folks who get on in Chinatown get squished in tighter than you'd think possible, with few straps or poles to hang onto. Not pretty.