Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Kansas City here I come

Hey! Prior to Monday, I had never been on a plane that was forced to land because there was a hole in it, and then later saw a drunk chinbeard slow dancing with a one-legged lesbian, but I guess if you live long enough, everything that can happen eventually does.

Let me back up.  The Wife, Baby Beyonce and me left SFO Monday morning at like 6 am to go see my extended family in Real America.  First we flew to Denver, which was uneventful except for the guy who locked himself in the forward lavatory and was violently ill the whole time and was taken off the plane by paramedics when we got there.  But hey, there but for the grace of God go I, etc., etc.

The real fun started when we left Denver.  About 45 mins into it, a panicked-looking girl was reseated into the row in front of me and spent the rest of the flight looking back nervously.  The captain came on the PA and said there was a mechanical problem and we'd be landing in Kansas City but NOTHING WAS WRONG and we weren't going to die or anything.  This was alarming because (1) we were definitely not supposed to land in Kansas City and (2) we were probably going to die.

(We found out later that the pressure seal around the exit row door partially blew out during takeoff and there was a hole in the plane the panicked-looking girl could see daylight through and so they evacuated the exit row and decided we should land and instead proceed on a plane with no holes.)

So we landed in Kansas City.  This was about 1:30 p.m.  I don't know if you're familiar with the KC airport but it is a fucking mess.  There's a security checkpoint for like every three gates, so we were trapped in this little area because we didn't have boarding passes that said Kansas City on them and so we would essentially be Ghost Passengers who couldn't get back into security and were Citizens of No Country and would probably be disappeared just to save Frontier Airlines any more hassle.  They finally decided to let us out so we could get something to eat at the Budweiser Stadium Club instead of the little snack bar by Gate 78 that only sold yogurt and power bars.

Hours passed.  People trickled back to our original gate slash waiting area.  By now it's like 6 pm and we've been promised that a replacement part was arriving on a 6 pm flight.  By this point, as happens whenever you throw a bunch of people into a crisis situation together, a sort of society had formed.  Over here, the floppy haired kid with a skateboard was bonding with a Tumblr-looking chick with glasses.  Another woman had spread out her collection of Essential Oils and was explaining their utility to a perfunctorily interested audience.  Meanwhile, a loudmouthed know it all hypochondriac lesbian who had been sitting in front of us on the plane was still braying away to anyone within earshot ("ALLERGIES? I have so many allergies I take 20 milligrams of prednisone every day."  "If I don't eat something I go into a semi-diabetic kind of shock.") I knew she was a lesbian because she had been braying about her girlfriend to the guy next to her in front of us and also because of her extremely short frosted tips hair.

Around 6:30, a late-30's early-40's chinbeard I had seen before approached the lesbian and wordlessly embraced her and started slow dancing with her.  He was very, very, very drunk.  She seemed only a little surprised by this.  "I'm so sorry about your Mom," she said.  She had to break it off when she got a phone call and he wandered away.  Amazingly, the phone call was a fake girlfriend call from the Essential Oils lady who was SITTING RIGHT THERE and, unbelievably, already had gotten the lesbian's cell number.  (Later we learned via the lesbian that Chinbeard was on his way home from his Mom's funeral and was very upset and drunk. She said he was very brave to start slow dancing with her.)

Right as some guy was in the middle of an excruciatingly boring story about how his bus broke down, we got word that Frontier was putting us up for the night in Kansas City and we would all leave tomorrow.  We were told to go get our bags and get in line to rebook for tomorrow.  This Bataan Death Line was endless and painfully slow.

Luckily I had dispatched The Wife and Baby Beyonce to get our luggage and got in line relatively early; we got to the front after about 45 minutes.  I heard it took 2 1/2 hours to rebook everyone.  I cannot fathom what took so long.  Can't you just hand everybody their same seats they had today?  Why was this harder than the math section of the SAT?

We were assigned to the Comfort Inn, which was fine, I guess.  (The guy in front of us as about to get the Comfort Inn too when another guy appeared next to him and said to the Frontier person, "No, he wants to go to the La Quinta." Then he turned to the guy. "A bunch of us are going to the bar at the La Quinta. Come on!"  I didn't know that La Quintas had bars. The guy smartly took Another Guy's suggestion and went to the La Quinta.)

That's about it.  We finally made it to our destination the next day. 

POSTSCRIPT ONE: How did I know the lesbian only had one leg?  In the shuttle to the Comfort Inn, she had to have a special seat so she could accomodate her fake leg, which I guess doesn't bend or something.

POSTSCRIPT TWO: To make up for the hassle, Frontier issued $150 vouchers to everyone who bought a ticket on the Doomed Exploding Plane Flight.  The Wife and I used our miles to book the ticket, so we got squat.  Our 8-month-old daughter now has a $150 voucher.  I wonder where she'll go!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Latest twist in neverending BART saga is the stupidest yet

Back when BART workers were on strike in July and October, it was hard to figure out who to be for.  Sure, management was trying to stiff the workers, or were the workers greedy goons who already have too much?  In the end, we all said fuck it and just hated everybody.

Now with this latest twist, there's no question who to hate.  Take it away, Chron:

Three weeks after BART's striking unions accepted a new contract, the transit agency's Board of Directors voted overwhelmingly Thursday to reject an agreement unless a provision granting six weeks of paid family medical leave was removed.
The 8-1 vote plunges BART's seemingly settled labor issues back into uncertainty with union leaders weighing options that include putting an amended contract to a vote, returning to the bargaining table, striking for a third time or seeking legal action.
The dispute revolves around Section 4.8 of the new contract, which requires the district to provide workers with "six weeks of paid time off to take care of a seriously ill child, spouse, parent or domestic partner or to bond with a new child." While the district currently provides up to 12 weeks of family medical leave, it's unpaid, with workers using vacation days, sick leave or other accrued time off.
Although Thomas Hock, a consultant who acted as the district's chief negotiator, and two other members of BART's bargaining team signed the tentative agreement on paid medical leave in July, transit district officials said it was approved by accident and they didn't discover the mistake until days after workers ratified the agreement, disputed provision and all.

Did you get that last part?  BART is now going back on the contract THEY ALREADY APPROVED and refusing to honor it unless a family leave provision is taken out.  THEY ALREADY APPROVED IT.

Let's not even get into whether or not you think employees should get paid time off for family leave (it's routine in other developed countries, but whatever).  The point here is that we're staring at the brink of yet another BART strike because BART took a look at the contract THEY APPROVED, decided they didn't like something in it, and now won't sign it.

Can you fucking imagine pulling this shit in your life?  Try buying a car and bring it back a week later and ask for a refund.  "Oh, hey, I must have overlooked the part in the contract where I have to make 60 monthly payments.  I'm sorry, I can't honor that.  Regrettable oversight and all."  See how far you get with that.

Here's the deal, BART, and it's something my Dad taught me when I was about 12: Don't sign anything until you read it over.  Don't give me this "approved by accident" horseshit.  Read the fucking contract before you sign it.

Oh, and this:

The district has received more than 700 e-mails in the past day or two, with most of them calling for the directors to reject the entire contract, said Director Gail Murray.

Oddly, 699 of them were from people with email addresses ending in "" and one from a mental institution.  Ho ho ho.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Heading to the traditional TK Extended Family Thanksgiving Gathering / Now Who Are You Again Extravaganza, so posting next week may be sporadic/nonexistent.  You should take some time off yourself!  Have a good weekend.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


The citizens of Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, voted down a measure that would have diverted library funding to the jails.  Good job, Lafourche Parish!

The BatKid thing cost the city $105,000.  It was still worth it.

Every ad on TV is already a Christmas ad.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Was the BatKid thing a waste of time and money? No.

On Friday the city kind of came together in a way that rarely happens to watch and participate in the BatKid thing.  IMO, it was pretty awesome, both for the kid, Miles, and for the city as a whole.  For one day, at least, we could set aside Ellis Act evictions and bicycle vs. car wars and everything else and have some fun.

Not everybody, though.  A guy named Caleb Garling, who writes for the Chronicle and a few other pubs, posted these three tweets early on in the day:

These tweets made a lot of people feel things ranging from annoyance to rage. Before we move on to why that was, and why I personally completely disagree with Mr. Garling, let's unpack these a little.

Tweet Number 1. What he's saying is that the money and time being spent on BatKid should be spent on other people, not him.  (This assumes that a lot of money was spent, which is apparently incorrect.  My understanding is that everyone donated the money and/or time.)  I guess he means that the money should be spread around and it could help more people that way.  If $10,000 was spent on BatKid, that $10,000, I guess, could be split up and help a larger number of people.  But that's true with everything!  If you extend Caleb's point to its logical extreme, we would have to eliminate the Make A Wish foundation, since that money could ALWAYS be split up and spent on more people.  I don't like that idea.  Maybe Caleb does.

You could apply Caleb's point in all kinds of contexts.  Even journalism.  Why are you writing about a Twitter parody account, Caleb Garling, when there are wars and misery you could be focusing on?  WHY ARE YOU SQUANDERING YOUR JOURNALISTIC TIME, CALEB?

My reaction to this tweet - and probably a lot of other people's - was this: Can't we ever just do one nice thing for someone, even if it costs money that could be better spent?  Can't we just have some fun without some killjoy shitting all over it?

Tweet Number 2. I don't think the police and fire departments were "sidelined" in any meaningful way.  I didn't hear about a surge in crime on Friday or any houses burning down because no one could respond.  In fact, a review of Saturday's SFGate showed no stories about anyone getting murdered, and they usually report murders pretty comprehensively.  So this tweet is based on an erroneous premise.

Also, sure, there is disease and drug abuse, but I wouldn't necessarily describe the city as "ravaged" and anyway, how would cancelling the BatKid event in any way ameliorate those problems?

Tweet Number 3. I'm not sure what an "ostentatious display of myopia" means, exactly.  That the BatKid thing is keeping us from seeing the city's real problems?  Give me a break, Caleb.  We spend the other 364 days CONSTANTLY talking about the city's problems.  Some days it feels alike it's ALL we talk about.  Would cancelling the BatKid thing do ANYTHING, anything at all, to solve a single problem?  Can you explain, specifically, the mechanism for that?

After getting ROASTED on Twitter (and, as much as I disagree with him, I don't think the ad hominem attacks were that cool of an idea), he posted an explanation, of sorts.  Not an apology!  An explanation.  Here's some of it:

A five year old with leukemia absolutely deserves every bit of love possible. But this is a question of proportionality. “So what?” people say. “It’s just one day.” Well, if it’s just one day why not take all the police, fire department, public workers and onlookers that showed up for BatKid to San Francisco hospitals and tell ALL the kids in the cancer ward that they’re superheros.
(Nevermind the parents that have to explain to their kids fighting cancer why they can’t be Batman today.)

Well, I'm pretty sure that people make special visits to San Francisco hospitals to visit kids with cancer on a pretty regular basis!  Here's the 49ers visiting UCSF. Here's sailors and Marines visiting kids in General. These stories are not hard to find.  In fact, the day after the BatKid thing, UCSF hosted a head-shaving event that raised $22,000.  So it's not like we ignore people with cancer, except BatKid.

And also, Caleb, not every kid fighting cancer WANTS to be Batman.  I'm pretty sure the Make A Wish foundation grants all kinds of wishes, not just this kind.

He continued:

And the point I was making in those tweets should not need explaining. San Francisco has a terrible layer of poverty and sickness — from both drugs and disease — which we tuck in alleys, vacant storefronts and the area between Geary, Market and Van Ness. It’s almost trite to bring it up anymore and that’s sad. But it ain’t going away.

Absolutely true! It ain't going away.  Whether the BatKid thing happened or not.  THAT'S THE POINT.  If the BatKid thing never happened, everything else would be EXACTLY THE SAME.

But we did do it.  And you know what?  It made a lot of people, not just Miles, really happy.  What price do you put on that?  Maybe it resulted in more people volunteering or making donations to any number of charities. I hope so.  Wouldn't that be a good thing?

(Here's one tangible result: sales of BatKid t-shirts have so far raised $10,000 for the Make A Wish foundation.)

I guess we could just NOT have done it.  You wouldn't have had anything to complain about then.  But I think it did a lot more good than bad.

I suspect we're never going to agree on this, Caleb, and that's fine.  I share your concern about the problems facing the city.  But let me suggest this: What happened on Friday was worth it, both for Miles and for the city as a whole.

(Eric Mar also posted something similar and got similarly shit on but this is already too long and what's the point anyway.)

Friday, November 15, 2013

I can't even with this. What the fuck, Louisiana?

Via Carolyn Kellogg comes this brain-injuring LA Times article:

Official wants to de-fund library, users should 'go back to Mexico'

Library funding in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, may be diverted to a new jail thanks to a legislator who doesn't approve of the library's programs. Jail proponent and chair of the Lafourche Parish Council Lindel Toups supports a ballot measure that would take funding away from libraries.
“They’re teaching Mexicans how to speak English,” Toups told the local Tri-Parish Times, referencing Biblioteca Hispana, a Spanish-language section of one of the nine branch libraries. “Let that son of a bitch go back to Mexico. There’s just so many things they’re doing that I don’t agree with. ... Them junkies and hippies and food stamps [recipients] and all, they use the library to look at drugs and food stamps [on the Internet]. I see them do it.”

"They use the libraries to look at drugs and food stamps on the Internet"! MEMO TO LINDEL TOUPS: LOOKING AT DRUGS ON THE INTERNET DOES NOT GET YOU DRUGS.  If only.

BUT WAIT!  What does Library System Director Laura Sanders have to say about all this?

"The library is not saying we don't need a jail," Sanders says. Originally constructed in 1968 and expanded in 1977, the jail is in poor condition and suffers overcrowding.
She noted that for Toups, the issue of the jail's condition is a personal one. "He does have family members that are incarcerated," she says.
According to Houma Today, Toups' son and grandson were arrested in 2009 and charged with possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.
BOOM ROASTED. Hahahaha, TAKE THAT, LINDEL.  "He does have family members that are incarcerated."  Laura Sanders, you are my new hero.

Anyway, the election is Saturday, for some reason.  Aren't elections always on Tuesday?  Not that having an election on Saturday is a terrible idea, it's just weird.  Remind me to check back and see if Lafourche Parish defunded its library system.  Fucking hell.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Here are the songs I played on the radio today

I was on as Burritojustice's guest from 1 to 2 today.  Did you hear it?  I thought it went just fine.  He told me to post a list of the songs I played.  Here you go:

1. The Three O'Clock - Jet Fighter

2. Chuck Prophet - I Felt Like Jesus

3. Foxygen - No Destruction

4. Atlas Sound - Mona Lisa

5. John K. Samson - When I Write My Master's Thesis

I had a lot of other great songs that you didn't get to hear.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun!  I felt like I was talking too fast, probably, but I tend to do that in everyday life.  I also hope it's OK to use swears on Internet radio.

I'd do it again.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Stick City? Pick City? Something like that.

Before it became a series of hugely popular books and a TV show on PBS, Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City" started life as a serial in the Chronicle in the 70's and early 80's.  Apparently hoping to recapture some of that excitement, the Chronicle on Sunday launched a new serial called "Click City."

It's OK, I guess.  It's a fairly transparent attempt to capture the tech zeitgeist of the city (not, so far, the Zeitgeist of the city, though), but it comes across as being written by someone who's read about tech and the kind of people that work in tech without actually knowing or talking to any.  Everybody and everything seems like a broadly drawn caricature.  Oh look, here's the "severe-looking barista" and the adorably quirky programmers.  Here's the cafe on Valencia, except "no one was eating or talking to anyone else."  It's all just too much of a piece, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, haven't we covered the tech-is-the-new-gold-rush ground more than enough?  Isn't there a new article every week? At this point, I'm sick of it.

I'd be down for a new serial, though!  Just not principally about Computers and The People Who Work On Them.  How about these:

Mick City: The story of San Francisco's Irish gang underground, told by one of the newest members.

Flick City: The lives and loves of an extended group of friends who work at one of the last neighborhood theaters.

Trick City: You'd be surprised how competitive - even cutthroat - the world of amateur magicians working the party circuit can be.  [No good?  How about the story of a hapless pimp who struggles to control his band of wisecracking hookers? Same title.]

Hick City: We follow 23-year-old Junior Huddleston, a recent arrival from rural Arkansas, as he tries to navigate life in San Francisco.

Rick City: It's about a guy named Rick.

Chick City: About a group of four female friends and their lives and adventures in the city, written by a guy but I've totally hung around with enough women to know what they're like so don't sweat it.

Tick City: Told from the POV of a Rocky Mountain Wood Tick who arrives in the city on the back of a dog returning from a vacation.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Why we love Love/Hate

Remember when we were talking about what show we could watch next now that Breaking Bad is over? Well, I hope you've got a Netflix account and no plans this weekend, because once I tell you about this show you're going to need plenty of free time.

It's called "Love/Hate" and originally aired on Ireland's RTE.  Here's a trailer:

As one can tell, it's basically the story of, as the trailer puts it, a "drugs gang."  But that's like saying Mad Men is the story of an advertising agency.  It's also about the complicated personal lives of the various people involved.  It's completely compelling and addictive.

I do have one word of advice for My Fellow Americans: use the Netflix feature to TURN ON CLOSED CAPTIONING.  As you may or may not know, The Wife is from Ireland originally and unsurprisingly has no problem following what's going on but until we turned on the captions I had to pause it every few minutes and ask for a recap.  For whatever reason, I think Irish accents - and particularly the kind of accent the people in this show have - are far more difficult for Americans than your off-the-shelf Downton Abbey British.

[DIGRESSION ONE: The last time we were in Ireland, I noticed that I could understand the accent of one guy in particular better than anyone else we were hanging around with.  Turns out this guy was from Northern Ireland, and all the other Irish had a hard time understanding him. Language!]

Like any good drugs gang show, L/H is spectacularly violent, just as a heads-up.  People are constantly getting shot and beaten up and any other band thing you can think of that people can do to each other.

[DIGRESSION TWO: We haven't gotten to Season 4 yet, but a cat gets shot in one of the episodes.  This cat shooting was apparently so upsetting to the Irish populace that the cat had to go on the Late Late Show so everybody could see that the cat - Cleo, as it turns out - was OK.  Here's a clip:]

I'm trying to figure out what makes it so addictive.  Probably a lot of the same things that made Breaking Bad the kind of show you just wanted to binge on.  The characters are really well-drawn and fleshed out.  They seem like real people and not just "types."  And it's expertly plotted.  That's really the key, isn't it?  You just want to know what happens next.

The first three seasons are on Netflix.  If they don't get season 4 up soon I guess we'll be ordering DVDs from Ireland or something.  Anyway, do check it out.  We need someone else to talk to about it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Now that it's all over, here are a few pointless thoughts about the whole 8 Washington thing

The usual disclaimers, I'm hopelessly ill-informed, don't know all the background, etc., &c.

In case you're just joining us, 8 Washington was a waterfront condo project along the Embarcadero in San Francisco.  There are height limits controlling how tall buildings along the Embarcadero can be, because it's on the waterfront, and so the developers had to put a variance to these limits on the ballot.

I THINK.  I'm not 100% sure but I think that's what happened.

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say the whole thing seemed shady.  The public faces of the pro-Prop B & C forces were Ed Lee and Gavin Newsom, who I think it's safe to say are both loathed by the city's progressives and also are widely believed to be crooked as hell.  So the Bay Guardian dutifully came out against it.

But wait!  There's another line of thought on this.

As it turns out, some of the opposition to this whole thing was funded by Boston Properties, which owns 4 Embarcadero Center, whose views would be blocked by the new thing. I guess those are the "rich people" Olu means.

So great.  It's like the baseball strike all over again.  Who are you for, the millionaires or billionaires?

I wasn't really convinced one way or another.  In the end, I ended up voting "no" on it, but for my usual wacko reason, which is this: I DON'T THINK THE CITIZENRY SHOULD BE VOTING ON ROUTINE CITY PLANNING DECISIONS.

We hire people with advanced degrees in City Planning and pay them what I assume is a lot of money to figure this shit out!  Don't put it on me.  If we put the citizenry in charge of city planning, every block is going to have a Giants Dugout Store, a Gold Dust Lounge, and a Chuck E Cheese.  Golden Gate Park will be replaced by a huge Go Kart track, and every single store in the Mission will be required to stay exactly the same forever.

My idea is this: We have a city planning system in place.  If the SYSTEM is broken, let's fix that, instead of voting on fucking INDIVIDUAL PROJECTS one at a time.  I suggest, and not from a place of snobbiness, that ordinary citizens do not have the information necessary to decide whether or not most building projects should be built.  People go to school for years ans years to figure that out.  So let's let the system work.  If we don't like the outcome, change the system.  But Christ, let's don't start planning our city by voting on each building.

In the end, it lost.  Now the developers can still build something there, just not as tall.  Yay?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Either Glenn Dickey or me is confused about hydrology

"Me is confused"? What am I doing? Anyway.

Examiner scribe Glenn Dickey does not like the idea of the new waterfront Warriors arena planned for Piers 30-32.  And he has some reasons why.  He hates progress, basketball, and fun!  No, not really.  Oddly, he's concerned the new arena will FLOOD THE CITY, literally:

I believe this is a bad idea for several reasons. One is that a huge amount of concrete will have to be poured into San Francisco Bay to provide support, raising the water level for a city that is already threatened by the potential of rising water with climate change. 

Wait a minute. Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but is he saying that pouring a lot of concrete into the bay will make the water level around San Francisco go up?  I THINK THAT'S WHAT HE'S SAYING.  Based on my very limited knowledge of hydrology, I don't think that's how it works.  Let's look at a diagram.

OK, so as I understand it, even if you pour a shitload of concrete in at Piers 30-32, I'm almost 100% sure that's not going to flood the Financial District, because all the water that the concrete displaces is just going to flow out underneath the Golden Gate Bridge into the Pacific Ocean, right?  I mean, every time one of those huge container ships sails by, do you notice water sloshing up over the Embarcadero?  What am I missing here?

That's all I've got.  Have a great weekend.