: views from the Hill

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

House of the Week: Built for Art

House of the Week: Built for Art

Have art? Have I got a place for you.

Holmby Hills. (Think crusty Bing Crosby neighborhood. Aaron Spelling, Tori's ├╝ber rich dad, bought the Crosby estate and scraped it to build a home for his oversized ego. 46K sq ft. 123 rooms. That kind of neighborhood.)

3BED 5BA (and a powder room!)

11K sq ft


Check out pic 6/7. Designer designed an ugly bedroom, eh?

[WSJ via Curbed SF]

The Last Tour by Wm. Finnegan

The Last Tour by Wm. Finnegan. A New Yorker essay on brothers Travis and Willard Twiggs. Their lives. Their deaths.

Sad, sad, sad.

"I just don't get that. I'm having a real hard time with it. I can't believe he would leave me, can't believe he would leave us, leave our girls."

She took more deep breaths. "But he really left us a long time ago. He tried to come back. But he couldn't. That was not my husband out there."

Reverse Graffiti Project

Reverse Graffiti Project, April 2008, Broadway Tunnel, San Francisco.

Brilliant, but ... if the work hadn't been pretty, it would've been just as snarly as those folks who spray paint crappy letters on walls.

Good ad for the green cleaner used.

[via Sour Grapes' shared items in Google Reader]

Monday, September 29, 2008

Recordnet.com: Choice is clear: Obama for president

Recordnet.com: Choice is clear: Obama for president

Stockton Record. Yes, I know. Not one of the big fish, but this is the first time the Record has endorsed a Democrat since Roosevelt in 1936.

Mike Klock, Record Editor, explains why.

Marty Kaplan: Why the Debates Won't Matter (Hint: It's a Felony)

Marty Kaplan: Why the Debates Won't Matter (Hint: It's a Felony)

Troubling. Is someone tracking down truth and lies on this?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Election Pie Party

The younger niblet is far away. (His mom and dad miss him.)

We talked with him today over a spotty line that probably is Skype'd over to that end of the world and then fed into his cell phone/Handy. Who knows who taps in from here (Hi, Tony!) or there (Hi to you too, Yuri!)

The younger nib said he's hoping to have a party. Where he is is ten hours off from us. If we call him at ten in the morning, it's eight in the evening there.

So, he's planning a party to watch the election results in November at another PCV's place. This PCV has access to a big screen TV. Our niblet is homesick for pies. The plan is to get pies made and brought over, to sit in front of the big screen TV and to watch the American election results and hooray! or commiserate over the results.

Pie will be involved, though. No matter if the wrong party wins and the world comes to an end, the niblet will have pies and the companionship of friends.

I think that works.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

[SNL] Sarah Palin's Interview with Katie Couric

Tina Fey is a geeenyus.

And, oh, hey. That person doing her Katie Couric imitation isn't half-bad either.

[SNL] Sarah Palin's Interview with Katie Couric

John Graham-Cumming: Countries younger than John McCain

John Graham-Cumming: Countries younger than John McCain


Gorgeous time lapse

Twin Peaks San Francisco Sunrise from Chad Richard on Vimeo.

Or click through to Vimeo. Poke around while you're there. That's how I found this.

(I'd visited to watch Sarah Silverman's THE GREAT SCHLEP. Caution: THE GREAT SCHLEP is not safe for work)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Anderson Cooper panel: McCain move called misstep

CNN video: McCain move called misstep

Ed Rollins, Gloria Borger, Paul Begala talk with Anderson Cooper.

Begala says, "Bush is a high-functioning moron." Yikes.

But even Ed Rollins isn't too fond of McCain, it seems.

Election 2008 | powered by Twitter

Election 2008 | powered by Twitter

For those who are easily amused. A Twitterfeed.

Twitter is pulling out all tweets that are election-related, mention Obama, McCain, Palin, &c.

The screen scrolls by with right, left, smart, not-so-smart, snarky, clever, clueless. Just like the American public, only in 140 characters or less.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Book Bay, a dangerous pleasure

After meeting with two flooring contractors for bids (and calling a third to meet up with tomorrow), we headed over to Book Bay at Fort Mason (the Friends of the San Francisco Library used book store) to look for a copy of Gibbons' DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE -- a special request from the younger niblet.

Couldn't find a copy, but did find several other books I wanted as well as fourteen books on the $.50 (3/$1) table. Couldn't find a fifteenth, but the staff gave me a deal.

With my Friends of the Library discount and one of the "extra 25% off" coupons they give you when you renew your annual membership, I got 35% off my purchase: eighteen books for $15.60.


Talking it over with his nibs, I realized I should just rummage through the book boxes labeled HISTORY and pick one of the duplicates that isn't an old, old copy. His nibs remembers having a copy his Aunt Burta bought used back in the first quarter of the last century. I know I had a 2v. copy when I was in my late teens and we probably have other editions as well. I'll find a good -- but not valuable -- copy to send. I'm assuming that any book I send to Ukraine will not be coming home in 2010, and I'd hate to have the younger niblet worry about damaging a book I held dear.

Nice trip to Book Bay, though.

AQUA - Autumn Mushroom Tasting Menu

AQUA - Autumn Mushroom Tasting Menu


Clean out your space. Read something beautiful.

Make your life good. Invest in what's real. Cook a meal for someone you love. Pause before reacting. Clean out your space. Read something beautiful. Treat yourself to something. Go to a city you've never been to. Learn something new. Don't be lazy. Workout and stick with it. GOOP. Make it great."

-- Gwyneth Paltrow. Intro to her new lifestyle Web site: GOOP. Not much there yet, but I loved this intro.

The Living Room Candidate - Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2008

The Living Room Candidate - Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2008

Amazing dance back in time. 1952. A good year.

[via Andrew Tobias]

Monday, September 22, 2008

Andrew Tobias - Money and Other Subjects

I'd forgotten how much I enjoy Tobias' writing. He's the guy who, writing about being financially conservative and saving $$$ years back, suggested buying toilet paper and tuna on sale and stashing them for later use.

Bright guy.

His Web site and blog: Andrew Tobias - Money and Other Subjects

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Yes. We. Can

A fine video: Barack Obama - Yes. We. Can from sea to shining sea.

43 Folders: Time, Attention, and Creative Work | 43 Folders

Merlin Mann takes back 43folders.com.

But, if you want a "site about GTD," "a blog about index cards," or a wide-mouthed sluice of recycled links to lists of geegaws that will keep you momentarily distracted from how sad you are, then you're wasting both of our time here. So, go. You're stinking up the joint.

This is now a site for people who want to finish things that they care about — but who still occasionally need help, inspiration, and the courage to push all the bullshit off their work table. This is about clearing that space every day, and then using it to do cool stuff that makes you proud.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pfizer: Graffiti | Creativity Online

Pfizer: Graffiti | Creativity Online

If you can watch this through to the end without a tear. ...


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Google Co-Founder Has Genetic Code Linked to Parkinson’s

Sergey Brin Has Genetic Code Linked to Parkinson's: [NYTimes article] ... found after having his genetic makeup analyzed by 23andMe, a biotechnology start-up co-founded by his wife, Anne Wojcicki.

So, would you want to know? Or not?

MoJo Photo Blog: Aryan Outfitters

MoJo Photo Blog: Aryan Outfitters: "Coming from five generations of Ku Klux Klan members, 58-year-old 'Ms. Ruth' sews hoods and robes for Klan members seven days a week, blessing each one when it's done."

The Web is a wonder.

An Updated Analysis of the 2008 Presidential Candidates’ Tax Plans: Revised August 15, 2008

An Updated Analysis of the 2008 Presidential Candidates' Tax Plans: Revised August 15, 2008 -- the Tax Policy Center

Deets [PDF]

Below is yet another tax plan analysis chart, this one from Freakanomics.


This graph is weighted to show the percentage of tax revenue from each group and whether that percentage will rise or fall under each plan.

[via another tweet from Tim O'Reilly]

Lovely photos of Iceland from Tim Gasperak

Tim Gasperak Photography - Iceland

Web site

Tax Plans (that's one for you, nineteen for me).

From Viveka Weiley at chartjunk, a rework of the McCain/Obama Tax Plans chart (that's one for you, nineteen for me) showing the differences between the Republican and Democrat tax cut proposals.

This version of the chart weights the income brackets so a bracket with more tax payers is larger than a bracket with fewer tax payers.

Save that thought.

[via a tweet from Tim O'Reilly]

Maureen Dowd - ‘Barbies for War!’ - Op-Ed

Maureen Dowd - 'Barbies for War!' - Op-Ed

The rant begins thusly,

Carly Fiorina, the woman John McCain sent out to defend Sarah Palin and rip anyone who calls her a tabula rasa on foreign policy and the economy, admitted Tuesday that Palin was not capable of running Hewlett-Packard.

That’s pretty damning coming from Fiorina, who also was not capable of running Hewlett-Packard.

Hoo boy. And it continues. ...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I can live with that.

Friday, September 12, 2008

RIP MJT (1924 - 11 Sep 2008)

Mom's gone home.

Big, boisterous, raucous family of eight now consists of three siblings.
Fourth of six children is now oldest of three remaining family members, by two years.

Not what I expected, growing up.


Friday, September 05, 2008

Recent Earthquakes - Map for 122-37

Recent Earthquakes - Map for 122-37

We're sitting at the dinner table.

Me: "Did you feel that?"


Me: "Oh, come on. The chimes on the spiral fire-escape out there are rattling! Listen."

"Oh. OK. I thought you were kicking the table. The seagulls are squawking too. 2. something."

Me: "I say 3.5 and fairly nearby."

I came up to check

4.1 4.0 (updated)

2 miles ENE of Alamo, CA

Shake. Rattle. Roll.

North Beach library ... addendum 1

North Beach Library and why it matters. The original.

Addendum 1:

Someone involved with pushing the Triangle site asked me to explain to her what my issues were. (She's happy that the Library Commission stamped "go forward" on the paperwork to put the North Beach Library on the Triangle at yesterday's meeting.)

I wrote back: (some of this you may have seen before)

The location is the wrong one.

Playground supporters would rather not have the Library at Greenwich and Columbus where it would take away some playground space.

Playground supporters and financial issues with the RecParks budget (or lack thereof) are driving what should have been a neighborhood effort to build the best possible library for North Beach.

Instead we are getting a triangular library, a known issue that Brian Bannon told me he had problems with initially as well but he thinks the architect has come up with a solution that will work within the confines of the location.

"Will work"? Is that the best possible library for North Beach?

The Triangle is not the best location for the library. The architect should not be asked to "try" if they can make a less than optimal location work if what we want is the best library possible.

The parcel is 4120 sq ft per assessor's records. The proposed library is to have a 5700-5950 sq ft footprint. Do the math.

If it =is= possible to squeeze out over existing sidewalks and squeeze into Mason to create a footprint that's 40% or so larger than the current lot, then we will certainly be at the outer edges of what's possible within the perimeter bounded by Columbus, Lombard and Mason's utilities issues.

The library at that site will never grow any bigger. Ever.

It can't.

... unless you believe in flying pigs who will pay to relocate the works that are under Mason some time in the future when the library is (again) bursting its seams.

The library should be at a site where it can grow, if in the future it needs to. Heck, it should be at a site where it can be larger than what's proposed for the Triangle from the get-go.

The proposed library site was shifted over to the Triangle because (1) the Triangle turned out not to be as useful an acquisition for RecParks as originally billed and RecParks had no money to develop it anyway and (2) playground supporters didn't want to give up =any= of the existing playground area.

Shame that.

So we wind up with a subpar library for North Beach with scant additional space after bookcases and tables and chairs and staff workspace &c. and so on are set in a triangular footprint with ADA spacing.

I expected better. I'm really disappointed that there wasn't more support from Joe DiMaggio supporters and NorthBeach moms & al. to get the library North Beach deserves.

Instead of something genuinely bigger and better and wonderful we're getting something cramped into the Triangle, putting bulk on a major piece of the Columbus corridor and adding more walls where people were promised open space and greenery during the eminent domain kerfuffle.

Carlo Cestarollo had a fit when I told him about the library plans.

But it's supposed to be a park, he said. Some place for people to rest as they walk from North Beach to Fisherman's Wharf. Benches. Shade. A bit of green. When did they change their minds?


We'll have a new building! Wonderful! We'll be ADA compliant! Wonderful! We'll have more computers and all that whizbang! Wonderful. Why Luis Herrera even promises me that we'll have room to expand the collection by 10-15%!

Wow. Being as our current collection is squeezed and too small already and being as we should be planning a library that should at least be viable for twenty years -- scratch that ... make it fifty years being as that was the last time we got this opportunity -- we should be demanding a building that will handle far far more than a collection expansion of 10-15%. And, to be honest, I think Luis Herrera, whom I like, was giving me the most generous estimate for collection expansion possible because he knew how steamed I was about all this.

I am really disappointed in the location chosen.

Should the library be built there we won't have the best library we could have had given the possibilities and that is really too bad in the end for the library, residents, families, children, and seniors of North Beach. ... and for me.

... and so it goes.

Another Google Chrome Security Flaw Identified

Another Google Chrome Security Flaw Identified: "critical buffer-overflow"

For Pete's sake. We were talking about this just last weekend when the Bixby Creek gang got together at Donner Lake for the long weekend.

The question then was, "Why don't the software engineers at Microsoft check for buffer overflows when they're designing their software? Especially now when they should be overly aware that they have an ongoing problem?" Followed by, "Why don't the QA mavens at Microsoft check to make sure the software engineers have checked for buffer overflows?"

For. Pete's. Sake. People. Microsoft. Google. Anyone writing code.

This is a known issue with known solutions.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

You have perfect color vision!

Test your color IQ

Drag and drop the colors in each row to arrange them by hue order.
The first and last color chips are fixed.
Click on "Score Test" when done.

Interesting exercise!

"You have perfect color vision!" they told me.

[via tweet from Tim O'Reilly]

North Beach Library and why it matters

I've been having a nice back and forth exchange with Luis Herrera, the guy in charge of the San Francisco Public Library, re the Library's dumb idea to put the new North Beach Library on top of the Triangle.

View Larger Map

Some history.

Years back a couple of guys wanted to build a four-story building on the 4120 sq ft triangular piece of land bordered by Columbus, Mason, and Lombard. The top three floors would be "handicapped-accessible" apartments (including one for the 84-year-old mom of one of the owners) and the ground floor would be retail.

The guys had worked their way through the planning process and the neighbors' objections and finally got approval when our esteemed District 3 Supervisor decided that the land was really needed more for parks and recreation and pushed through eminent domain proceedings for the parcel.

You had neighbors for buying 701 Lombard (the parcel) for parks parks parks. We need every inch of green space we can get, was the cry.

You had neighbors adamantly opposed to using eminent domain to take the parcel.

Oh, what a mess it was.

The parcel was taken through eminent domain. Case closed. Park to follow.

But wait.

Five years later the Triangle re-enters the picture. The parcel has continued to be used for a parking lot because San Francisco Rec and Parks doesn't have the money to turn the parcel into a park, plus it's so tiny, plus Mason Street cuts through and separates the parcel from the rest of the Joe DiMaggio Playground, plus it wouldn't do for the tot playground (too close to busy Columbus), nor the bocce courts (you must be nuts to even consider it), nor ...

Enter the Library.

North Beach Library was built fifty years ago and it shows. The library (at its most optimistic) is 5337 sq ft and serves a population of 27K, according to some statistics. (As a notch point realize that all the work to expand the Saratoga Library, which serves 35K as a generous estimate, was to expand it from 18K sq ft to 48K sq ft.)

At a public meeting, Wilma Pang -- one of our candidates to replace our esteemed termed-out District 3 Supervisor -- said that the Library was too small even when she was growing up way back when. (She's sixty-seven now.)

Too-ing and fro-ing over the years. Maybe we could put the Library where the boarded up Pagoda Theater sits. That idea was knocked down. Maybe we could. ...

So public meetings were held. Three of them. After the second, it seemed the Library was leaning toward tearing down the old library and building a new 8500 sq ft library at the corner of Greenwich and Columbus. Hooray.

At the third meeting, the Library said it had decided the Triangle was the best spot for the Library for various reasons.

The Triangle? I asked Luis Herrera before the third meeting began.

"We've worked it all out." he told me and passed me over to Brian Bannon, head of branch libraries, for soothing. Brian said words to the effect that he hadn't liked the idea of a triangular library either at first but that the architect had come up with some ideas that would make it work.

Make it work?

Do we want the best library possible for North Beach or do we want one where we go to the architect and say, we know this is a really lame spot for the Library, but can you possibly make it work?

Luis Herrera has been very patient answering all the questions I've thrown at him in e-mail, but it still doesn't work.

How, I asked him, does a 4120 sq ft parcel (per the City Assessor's records) support a library with a 5700-5950 sq ft footprint. (Plans are for a ground floor of ~ 5900 sq ft for public service areas and an upstairs level that will be 2,800-2,950sf that will include a community room, staff lounge, 2d floor bathrooms, &c.)

Well, of course, we close Mason Street and push as far into Mason as we can without disturbing or blocking access to the utilities that run under Mason. (Oh! Don't let the neighbors hear about that!)

So the Triangle, as far as I can calculate using my rusty algebra (Hey! There IS a Use For Algebra!) is 85' on the Lombard side and 96' on the Mason side. [Anyone want to go out there and measure it for me?] The new footprint, if my Algebra holds, will be 98x107', pushing thirteen feet across the sidewalk and into Mason and another eleven feet up toward Greenwich.

All of this exercise is, of course, funded by bonds and such that citizens passed to retrofit our aging libraries, to build a couple new branches, to add more computers, and to get the libraries up to current ADA standards. If we had just rearranged stacks &c. at the current library to meet ADA standards, we would've lost considerable public space in a library that's already so cramped.

The theory is that this new library with its 5900 sq ft ground floor will have room to expand the collection 10-15%. Really?


The other feature this new library will have, which has not been mentioned, not even a peep, is no way ever to expand any more. Once we build on the Triangle, we will have pushed the envelope to the edges of the utilities under Mason, which cannot be covered by anything that can't be dug up when needed. (Think grass, concrete, garden.)

Expand further, should it turn out we need to? No. There will be no way. Ever. Unless, of course, the City bites the bullet and moves the utilities. Did I mention that I was quoted a cost of $2.1million to relocate the tot playground and rework the tennis courts? Imagine what shifting underground utilities would cost!

So who is pushing for the Triangle site? Folks concerned with the Joe DiMaggio North Beach Playground do not want the Library to have a larger footprint and take any playground area. Hey, I'm a member of Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground and I've worked to raise money for the park, but I never realized that a decent library wasn't important when it came to sharing dirt with the playground. Some people would rather shove the Library onto the Triangle (which turns out to be a pretty useless piece of dirt for the park to utilize) and recapture the dirt where the Library now stands.

Dirt. Dirt. Dirt. It's all about dirt, isn't it?

I asked Luis Herrera if anyone had thought of shutting down Greenwich from the west-most garage door to Columbus, freeing up some additional square footage that way. There'd be less squawk than the squawks about closing Mason. The extra dirt the library would need would be offset by the dirt from the closure. The Triangle could be a greenspace with benches and a statue of Joe DiMaggio or whatever.

Well, no. No one had even considered closing Greenwich, because the space available there was sufficient for programmatic needs without pushing onto Greenwich, that is, of course, until the push to use the Triangle came along.

Last week I stopped off to talk with Carlo Cestarollo, who runs the Alfa Center across the street from the Triangle. Had you heard, I asked him, that they're planning to put the new library on the Triangle? Two stories?

Carlo was flabbergasted. It's supposed to be a park, he said. Some place for people to rest as they walk from North Beach to Fisherman's Wharf. Benches. Shade. A bit of green. When did they change their minds?

Good question. When =did= they change their minds? And why?

Last week, I wrote the following to the Library Commission, which meets today to put their stamp of approval on the Triangle location.

I've been wondering whether to head down there and do my public testimony. Probably not. After all this bickering back and forth, I'm fed up. Do the people pushing the Triangle location care about libraries or about tennis courts?

Enquiring minds think they know the answer.


I received a note from Julie Christensen asking me to write a note in support of the plans for our North Beach Library proposed at the August 21 18 Community Meeting. I won't be doing that, and here are my reasons why.

The Triangle is the wrong place for the proposed "new" library. The people proposing the Triangle as the right place care more about the park and finding some "useful" purpose for the Triangle than they do about our little library that could, our little library that needs more room, more books, more staff space, more everything to better serve our community.

With the public spaces (except for the program room) kept on the ground level at the Triangle site due to staffing issues, the public spaces in the new library will not be much bigger, if any at all, than the old.

Add in staircases and elevators for the second floor program room and staff space, the acute angular corners, and other factors and we wind up with a "new" library but not much of one. Sure we will be ADA compliant, which is important. Sure we will have wiring for additional computers, which is important. The "new" library will have a much-needed teen area (we have the second highest YA circulation in the City) but at what expense for other public spaces?

We'll have a new building! Yippee! But where's the added space that's been needed for decades, let alone any hope for an expanded collection, room for services, or even additional chairs and tables?

The Triangle will give us a new library but none of the extra space, services, facilities that we've needed for years.


There is no rush to approve the Triangle as the spot for the new library. Take some time to make the right choice, because once the choice is made, even a "preliminary" choice, it will be hard not to fall in line because the choice has been made, and it's in the works ...

Whether the architects can "make do" or "find a way to make it work" is not the question.

Is this the best site for the library?

Is this what is =best= for the library?

Before any decision is made about whether the new library should be on the Triangle, at least two things need to happen in tandem.

Sal Busalacchi, who lives on Mason, suggested at the 21 18 August meeting that instead of =modeling= what =might= happen if Mason is closed, the City should temporarily close the street segment for a month and see what =really= happens to the traffic patterns. Such closure would ease the minds of the neighbors, if the traffic patterns flow as the models suggest, but could put the kibosh on the idea of closing Mason if the traffic patterns change as neighbors anticipate.

While the K-rails blocking Mason are up, label them:

Temporary closure of Mason.
Permanent closure is proposed as part of
plans to build the new North Beach Library
on the Triangle.

In addition to the temporary closure and signage, story poles need to be erected on the Triangle, showing the outline of the new library so that neighbors can see the impact of putting the library there.

Put the K-rails, the signage, and the story poles in place. See how it works out. In the mean time, neighbors can discuss the Triangle location, which is not the location that seemed the location of choice in the meetings leading up to the 21 18 August meeting.

Revisit this question in 2009. Plans to build a new library aren't even on the 2010 calendar. Take more time to pick the location.

The Triangle is not the right location for the North Beach Library.

Have I mentioned I don't agree with Julie Christensen's views on the proposed siting of the new North Beach Library?

Sal Towse
34 Darrell Place
San Francisco, CA 94133

What Julie asked us to write:
Let them know:
I support a new North Beach Library on the triangle.
I support the conversion of the adjacent block of Mason Street to park land.
I appreciate our department leaders working hard to come up with a real solution to our needs.

The proposed joint Library/RecPark plan (as shown at the Aug 2118 Community Meeting) does the following:
1. Gives us a new, spacious library.

2. Allows the old library to stay open until the new one is ready.

3. Opens up the existing library site to be added to recreation and green space.

4. Lets the library move ahead without waiting for RecPark funding, which we hope will come in a 2013 parks bond, if not sooner.

5. Saves money that will be lost to inflation if the library schedule is delayed.

[Yes, indeed. I did say August 21 instead of August 18 for the meeting date throughout the note. May the kittehs forgive me. ...]

** Addendum 1 **