Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fun with latitude, also, this is a long walk

So I was idly wondering, as I do, If you left San Francisco and walked in a straight line across the US, where would you end up?  FASCINATING RIGHT?

So let's assume that CHP would close the Bay Bridge for us.  There would of course be a lot of helicopters and shit to document TK'S WALK ACROSS THE US.

At first it's super boring.  Mostly just wilderness.  The first town of any size we score a direct hit on is Dodge City, Kansas, which, like San Francisco, is at 37 dgrees, 45 minutes north of the equator and thus is in an exact straight line with SF.  HELLO DODGE CITY!!!  Bet you didn't know you were San Francisco's Longitude Partner.  MWAH!

Onward.  We'll pass just north of Harrisburg, Illinois, and straight through Rineyville, Kentucky, where "[t]here is no formal town government; elected county officials oversee roads."  SOUNDS WILD.  Walking walking walking we will hit Hanover, Virginia, a suburb of Richmond, and then step into the Chesapeake Bay just north of Ingram Cove, not far from Kilmarnock, Virginia, and the Hughlett Point Area Preserve.

I hope we can swim, because we've got a long ways to go before we emerge again onto dry land near Crystal Beach Road in Onancock, Virginia.  In fact, here's a picture of almost the exact spot where we'll walk, dripping and covered with seaweed and crap, out of the Chesapeake Bay.

I found this picture attached to a home listing nearby.  3 BRM for $699K!  Sounds like a good deal.  Little does the future buyer know that he or she is DIRECTLY IN LINE with San Francisco.  (The beach is facing the wrong way because it's on a peninsula kind of thing. Take my word for it.)

After crossing the Eastern Shore of Virginia, we shall plunge into the Atlantic near the inelegant-sounding Gargathy Bay.  So there's your answer!  If you go in a perfectly straight line across America from San Francisco, you walk into the Atlantic not far from Parksley, Virginia. (Parksley's actually at 37 degrees 46 minutes, so it's lined up with the northern half of SF.)

If we're so inclined, and a willing partner is nearby, maybe we can prevail on Reverend Rod, Wedding Officiant, to hitch us up before we begin our long long journey across the Wild Atlantic.

I know what you're asking.  WHY IS THIS SO BORING.  No, the other thing you're asking.  WHERE DO WE POP OUT ON THE OTHER SIDE.


This has been fun!  Let's do it again soon.

Friday, July 25, 2014

I don't understand these housing protests at all

From ABC 7 News:


(ALL CAPS belong to ABC 7, not me.)

If you click on the link you can see the whole boring video, in which they stuck poor Lyanne Melendez up on Twin Peaks for some reason.

Anyway, here's the crux of it:
Anyone buying two or more units without living there would be severely taxed if they sell the property within five years. They would be taxed 24 percent the first year and then less every year after that.
Mar got enough votes from the Board of Supervisors to put the measure on the November ballot.
"It's a small, narrow group of people that are flipping buildings so it's really narrowly tailored to only the handful of people that are making profits off people suffering and throwing our housing costs out of whack," Mar said.
The surtax will not be imposed if the property is sold at a loss.
So it's basically an anti-flipping ordinance.  If you buy a multi-unit building and then turn it into TICs (or sell it as is) without living there, you get hit with a tax.  Given that there's been a lot of Ellis Act evictions going on just to flip buildings into TICs, I can understand why this sounds good.

Now, if you want to protest this, FINE.  Stand up and be proud and say "HEY I'M A FLIPPER AND I WANT TO BUY BUILDINGS AND KICK OUT TENANTS AND SELL THEM AS TICs FOR A FAT PROFIT.  SO YOU SHOULD LET ME DO THIS WITHOUT PAYING EXTRA TAX BECAUSE AMERICA."  That I could at least respect for honesty.

But that's not what these protesters are saying.

The Chinese Real Estate Association of America opposes the measure. "Most of the Chinese or Asian people, we believe in purchasing property, owning a property and passing on the property to the next generation," spokesperson Tina Wong said.

WAIT WHAT.  Hey guess what, Chinese Real Estate Association of America? I HAVE GOT SOME AWESOME  NEWS FOR YOU.  If you purchase and own property and pass it on to the next generation, YOU WILL NOT BE SUBJECT TO THIS TAX.  So you can stand down.  You have nothing to worry about.

(Now, I'm not an idiot.  I know the CREAA actually wants to flip buildings and make money without paying more taxes.  Which, if that's your position, fine. Own it. Just don't pretend to be something you're not.)

In Protest #2, we have the Levins, who didn't read up on rent control before they bought their building.
Dan and Maria Levin bought a small home in the 400 block of Lombard St. It has two units, each with one bedroom. 
The person renting their other unit can't afford to move out. The only way is to pay them off - their attorney said it would cost more than $100,000.
"We want the extra unit for our family and friends because currently we have no room whatsoever in our one bedroom, small apartment and it would be great for when they come and visit," Maria Levin said.

In other words, they bought their building knowing there was a tenant in one of the units and that tenant can't just be kicked out because they need their own personal Airbnb, but despite knowing all that AHEAD OF TIME, they are stunned that the tenant won't just sheepishly pack up and go.

(If they weren't notified about the tenant, or the tenant was hiding in the closet when they did their inspections, that's another story but I doubt it.)

(Also, it will cost whatever you work out with the tenant.  If the tenant will move for $30K, then it'll cost that.  If the tenant will move for $26 and a Wade Boggs rookie card, so much the better.)

Advice for the Levins: if you don't want this problem, don't buy a building with a tenant.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Consumer Reports' Worst Fast Food Restaurants: Yes, mostly terrible

I see the busybodies at Consumer Reports are back on the job telling us what fast food is OK and what isn't.  Leaving aside The Fast Food Golden Rule -  A N Y  F A S T  F O O D  I S  G R E A T  I F  Y O U ' R E  H U N G  O V E R  E N O U G H - let's see how they did!

According to this article in "The Week," Consumer Reports surveyed 32,000 non-hungover people and asked them to rank "food quality and freshness, value, politeness, speed of service, and cleanliness of the dining area."  I see your problem right there, since you should be ranking Fat and Carb Content, Whether You Can Fill Your Own Soda, Likelihood There Is a Hobo Sleeping in the Next Booth, How Big Are the Fries, and Is This a Wendys.  But anyway, here are the worst, from not-quite-the-worst to Basically Inedible.  Drum roll please, for 11 to 7:

Yeah, Panda Express is totally gross. Exhibit #1:

Sorry, I hope you didn't just eat.  Apart from ghastly combinations like this, most of their food is unrecognizable glop slopped on top of rice or spaghetti noodles.  But if you're not changing planes, when are you ever going to have to eat at a Panda Express? If you subject yourself to that, it's your own fucking fault.

Taco Bell is what it is.  If you want La Cumbre, go to La Cumbre.  If you want a chicken-type product in a tortilla for a dollar, go to the Bell.

I haven't eaten Little Caesars in maybe 25 years so I can't comment.

Domino's is horrible.  Good job Consumer Reports.  The only time you can ever reasonably eat Domino's is if you're in a hotel in Sioux Falls and nothing else is open or in some kind of terrorist-type scenario where a madman is going to blow up a puppy camp if you don't eat it.

I could have a Pizza Hut once in a while, just for their weird spongy crust.  I've never fucked with any of the shit they started doing to their crust like stuffing all that crap in it.


I have no idea what "CiCi's Pizza" is but usually nothing that comes from Texas is any good for anyone.

Burger King is OK.  Hey, do you have a Burger King vs. McDonald's preference?  Is it normal to have such a preference?  Is that something you should discuss with your doctor, like Abilify?

I have McDonald's like once or twice a year and I never regret it any more.  I like those flat cheeseburgers.  Did you ever see "Super Size Me" where that guy ate nothing but McDonald's for a month or whatever?  I saw it and it made me want McDonald's SO BAD that we left the movie theater after it and went straight to a McDonald's.  

I never had Church's Chicken in my life.

And finally SBARRO.  Yes, Sbarro is terrible.  I have no further comment on the issue.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Checking out at Walgreens is now an unending Kafkaesque nightmare

It used to be so easy to buy something at Walgreens!  You exchanged cash for your dry goods and went on your way, back to your telegraph shoppe to have a tincture and a linotype.  NO MORE.

Walgreens now is equipped with devices programmed by Top Researchers designed to create a state of anger and longing that will prompt you to buy more Wal-profen or Wal-diazepene next time you're in Walgreens.  Devious, but effective.  These Torture Boxes look like this:

Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart, who appears to be borderline obsessed with chain stores and consumer products, which I salute and endorse.
Checking out at Walgreens is now a 22-step process that reminds me of getting a home loan but is less fun.  I recently traveled to my Regular Walgreens on Van Ness (hi guys!) and to spend $7 on some chocolate covered raisins and beef jerky.  In order to leave said Walgreens with said items, here's what you have to do:

1. Swipe your Walgreens card YEAH RIGHT like you carry it around with you.  I don't know if I ever had one.  Enter your phone number instead.  You want savings, don't you?

2. This is my fave:  HOW WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR RECEIPT?  With FOUR FUCKING AVAILABLE OPTIONS.  I've never stuck around to read them all but I assume besides "printed receipt" and "email receipt" the other 2 are "BEAM IT TELEPATHICALLY INTO MY ASSISTANT'S BRAIN" and "written in the stars."

3. Would you like to donate to Juvenile Something Something Something?  This is now the third step and we are nowhere near getting chocolate covered raisins into our face hole.

4. Would you like cash back today?

OMG WALGREENS STOP.  This reminds me of an unfunny anecdote.  When paying by debit first appeared back in the early 90's I was new to the concept and gave it a shot at, of all places, the Carl's Jr in Mountain View.  So I slid my card through and all and the lady behind the counter whose first language was not English said "KAZBAK!!!" And I was like "I'm sorry?" And she said "KAZBAK!!!!" And I figured out she was saying "Cash back?" Oh.

No, I don't want kazbak.  I'm at a Walgreens with 20 angry office people behind me.  Let's not start banking together, Walgreens.


Now we're getting somewhere.


I'm on this.

7. Would you like cash back today?


Hand to God this happened today.  This Walgreens credit card terminal has as its LIFE MISSION to make sure EVERYONE who might want cash has ample opportunity to get it.

I finally got my stuff.  Walgreens, stop it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Is this the worst hotel in San Francisco?

During my perambulations about town, I often pass the Red Coach Motor Lodge on the corner of Eddy and Polk.  Perhaps betraying my own internalized prejudices, and because this place happens to be in the Tenderloin, I sometimes think "MAN I bet that place is sketchy as fuck."

The Red Coach, via Street View (I mean, obviously, there isn't "San Fra" painted down the middle of Polk Street)
WRONG!  Based on TripAdvisor reviews, the Red Coach Motor Lodge is actually "good, comfortable, clean and safe value with nice staff."  The rooms are "clean and comfortable and had everything you would need," and "when we left the hotel and realised we had left our passports in their safe gave our children lollipops to make up for the extra travelling we had had to do to go back for them!"  Holy crap, I want to stay there now!  All the reviews concede that the area is a little sketchy but everyone says the place is great and makes up for it.  (Well, not everyone, of course - Mr. "Zona Peligrosa, cuidado" said some mean things I think but they're in Spanish so I'm not 100% sure.)  Anyway, another example of Neighborhood Bias coming into play.

But that got me wondering.  What really is the Worst Hotel in San Francisco?

The Travelodge on Market - you know, behind the Flax Art Supply, across Valencia from Martuni's? - isn't going to win any Hotel of the Year Awards.  TripAdvisor review headlines include "Don't dismiss the bad reviews this place is an abomination," "Stay here at your own peril," and "DO NOT STAY HERE. EVER."  Hmmmm, maybe the "Traveler photos" will help?

OH JESUS FUCKING CHRIST MY EYES.  Something about "bed bugs."  Oh fuck now I'm worried because I walked within 100 yards of this place before.  Anyway, don't stay there.

But amazing as this may seem, the Travelodge on Market is NOT the lowest rated San Francisco hotel on TripAdvisor.  It's not even the Sonoma Inn on Bush & Van Ness, which appears to have been burnt out and is boarded up and has a mysterious drainage pipe emerging from the front (Traveler Tip - Room 231 has a water slide/emergency exit!).

The Sonoma Inn. Please enjoy our complimentary 
The lowest rated hotel I could find on TripAdvisor was the apparently incorrectly named Best Hotel, at Taylor and Eddy.

On the bright side, it is next to the Cool Super Discount Market.

On the downside, "TERRIBLE PLACE with mean homeless people doing drugs on doorstep that screamed at us to get lost.... Had to literally push door open past them to get in."  Although, tbh, "Candy L." from Akron, Ohio, you also said you were paying $40 a night and I'm not sure you could even get a room in Akron Ohio for $40 a night.  But then apparently the front desk people are "impolite unfriendly and not very motivated!" so they're not helping much either.

So there you have it.  The Best Hotel.  Quite possibly the Worst Hotel in San Francisco.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Here are my hot new apps. Give me $10 million in funding.

App #1: BumRush

The next time you hear "Space some change?" your answer could be "How about some change ... IN YOUR LIFE?"  When you encounter a pleading supplicant, simply point your mobile device at it and select from your preset Funding Levels.  When you hit "Cha-Ching," $1, $5, or any amount you choose will be sent to the unfortunate's BumRush BumBucks account, where he (or she, if it's one of those) can later retrieve it and exchange it for valuable goods, like other apps.  If your poor isn't yet BumRush-enabled, simply hand him one of our RFID chips and tell him to hang onto it like it's the last bottle of Taaka and the corner store is closed!  You'll be handing out change, all right.  CHANGE FOR THE BETTER!

App #2: Openr

How many times has this happened to you?  You're on the road, checked into your hotel the night before your TED talk or your panel at South by Southwest.  You picked up a six-pack of an obscure, far-too-hoppy local brew, but oh no!  No bottle opener.  What do you do?  Not a problem.  Simply open Openr and press the "Open" button!  Your phone's GPS will tell us where you're staying and we sync with your Preferred Hotels and will automatically know your room number.  Minutes later, a bottle opener will appear at your door.  Magic? No! Openr!

App #3: Skreed

Eesh!  Another rough day sidestepping the dirty masses on the way to an important founders meeting.  Why are there so many poor people everywhere?  And why do people insist on giving you a hard time when you’re rich because you found a new way to help society!  You’d love to write a detailed, angry essay about why the bottom 25% needs to learn to code or why you should respect us as your betters, but who has the time? Let Skreed do the work!  Simply type in a few key phrases, like “no teeth man asked me for money,” “ugh I think it touched me,” “get out of the way disruptor coming through,” or “Kristallnacht” and Skreed will produce a 500 to 1500 word essay suitable for immediate posting on Medium.  Out of the way, world!  You’ve got ideas to share!

App #4: SeatGorilla

My dumb company got a big tax break and its HQ is now in San Francisco so I don't even get to ride a sleek Techie bus down the peninsula.  Ugh, I have to take Muni instead.  It used to be a drag standing the whole way until SeatGorilla came along.  Every morning, SeatGorilla dispatches our team of MuniMonkeys to occupy seats on the most desired lines.  Then, you simply pull up the line and time on the app, choose from currently occupied seats, and enter what you're willing to pay.  When the lightning-fast auction is over, if you had the winning bid, BOOM, the seat is yours.  Simply board the bus, show your confirmation code to our brightly dressed MuniMonkey, and enjoy the rest of the ride in seated comfort!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

OK, time to pick a Premier League team

Hello! Ugly American over here.  Every 4 years I watch World Cup matches and announce to (1) my now-jaded Wife, and (2) no one in particular "OK! THIS is the year I'm finally getting into soccer."  So this is it.  I'm finally getting into soccer.

Now, I could get into MS or MSA or whatever the American soccer league is called but that's both boring and not nearly pretentious enough.  No, the only answer for Coastal Elites such as myself is to get into the English Premier League, which accomplishes the twin goals of being inaccessible and foreign.  It's kind of like being a fan of New Zealand new wave or Icelandic food.

SO THAT BEING SAID now I need to pick a team.  I was vaguely following Chelsea the last time I had this impulse, because I wanted my team to always sort of be in the running, and Chelsea always seem to do OK.  I gather that they're universally loathed by supporters* of other teams and they have an owner everyone hates so I guess they're the Cowboys of soccer.  That's a strike against them.  But I like the color blue, so that's a for. Plus, look at this adorable baby soccer hoodlum hooligan tracksuit I could get for Beyonce!

[* You call soccer fans "supporters," not "fans." Also, you don't call it "soccer," you call it "football."  Also, they sell liquor in vending machines.]

Then  there's Manchester United.  They win all the time!  They won in 2013, 2011, 2009, 2008, 2007, and on and on and on.  That's boring.

Arsenal would be a good choice because I happen to know they have a violently active local fan base that gets up at 3 a.m. or something to watch matches at a bar in North Beach.  Morning drinking is always welcome but I just can't even with that.

What about Everton!  Everton is appealing because of the presence of Tim Howard, the amazing American goalkeeper who almost singlehandedly beat Belarus or Belgium or whoever.

But Everton never wins anything.  That would be no fun, to follow a team all season (or whatever they call a season) knowing you're not going to win.  (They won the FA Cup in 1995 but that's a long time ago. Also who cares.)

The Wife likes Tottenham Hotspur mostly because she likes to say "Tottenham Hotspur." She grew up in Ireland, so she was more into rugby and hurling, which I've still never figured out but involves a ball and some sticks and is apparently extremely dangerous.

Liverpool would be nice because the Beatles are from Liverpool.

There's a bunch of others but I'm already tired of this.  I'm sticking with Chelsea.  It's like being stuck in a dead-end job at a gas station: I'm not particularly in love with it, but I already have the jacket.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Have you looked at the list of highest grossing films of all time lately? It's depressing.

Used to be when I was a kid the list of highest grossing films was pretty respectable.  You had your classics like Gone With the Wind and your new blockbusters like Jaws.  Both of those are pretty highly regarded today.  I'm sure there was some embarrassing shit on there, but have you looked at the list lately?  It's horrifying.  I was just looking this weekend for some reason and boy was it a surprise.

Here's the top 19 1/2 (#20, partially cut off, is Harry Potter and the Laundromat of Time or something, who even cares).  Of the Top 10 Highest Grossing Movies of All Time as of Today,

3 are based on comic books

7 are sequels, in some form or another (I'm counting Skyfall here)

1 is based on a fucking child's toy

1 is based on a historical event

1 has only been out a few months and has driven parents nationwide mad

Only 1 is an "original" film, in that it originated with its own script and isn't based on a Viewmaster slide, a Burger King food item, or a trading card.  That one original film is one of the worst movies ever made.

In an alternate universe, this list could just as easily contain two Garbage Pail Kids live-action films, a movie based on the adventures of a superhero who can control humidity, and a dramatic retelling of a balloon crash.  It's depressing but also reflective of a larger truth, which is that most people are fucking idiots.

Don't even go look at the Top 50.  It's pretty much the same.  Transformers movie, Harry Potter movie, Comic Book movie, Star Wars movie, Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  Ugh.

The Adjusted for Inflation list is somewhat better.

Ahhhhhh that's better.  There's our old pal GWTW, back in its semi-rightful place on top.  Meanwhile, The Sound of Music, The Ten Commandments, Doctor Zhivago, and Snow White are having a drink by the bar and trying to pretend Avatar isn't in the room.  E.T. and Jaws are fine.  Titanic is just going to be there.

(In case you're wondering, the greatest film of all time, Cannonball Run II, is at #2,377 with a total domestic gross of $28,078,073.)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sometimes missing out is for the best, SFGate

OK!  Hopefully no one else dies for a while so we can get back to doing what we do best: SPOUTING ILL-INFORMED SNARK ABOUT THINGS WE HAVE ONLY SUPERFICIAL KNOWLEDGE ABOUT!

Let's start with this SFGate article by Heather Knight entitled "Is S.F.'s too-cool attitude a turnoff?"  The gist of the article is that San Francisco is missing out on all kinds of cool stuff because, I think, we make it too hard to build things or make things or host things or whatever here.  Here are the things the article says we were too cool for:

1. Another America's Cup
2. A new 49ers stadium
3. George Lucas' "art" museum

To be fair, Heather has a point with the 49ers stadium.  The City - and by The City I mean Gavin Fucking Newsom - did not do enough to try and keep the 49ers in San Francisco.  I will totally grant you that.  The rest, however, is pretty much bullshit.

ANOTHER AMERICA'S CUP?  ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND HEATHER KNIGHT.  Do you even remember the last one?  THE CITY LOST MONEY ON IT.  This is an event so few people give a shit about that THEY HAD TO PAY TO PUT IT ON TV.  The way I understand it, with other sports, thee TV people actually pay the sports people for the right to broadcast the sport.  Not the America's Cup!  I guess the 0.000001% of America that has any interest in sailboat racing is used to buying TV networks though.

Anyway, point being, if you think SF really lost out on something by losing the privilege of hosting a bunch of Scrooge McDucks' boat race and taking a bath on it in the process, we'll have to disagree.

Then there's the George Lucas Ego Monument.  I'm no Star Wars geek or anything but I get the impression that all those nerds think George Lucas really fucked up the franchise with the later movies.  Basically he wanted to take some of his huge wet gobs of money and plop down a museum wherever the fuck he wanted it, in this case Crissy Field, a beautiful open space that was lovingly restored just a few years ago.

I wasn't crazy about the renderings for the museum either
So when the Presidio Trust said he couldn't put his museum there the City offered him another PRIME FUCKING SPOT on the waterfront but had the UNMITIGATED GALL to ask George Lucas, who has the net worth of $unlimited and could buy Chile on a whim, to kick in a little for the fucking site.  So George Lucas got Chicago drunk on Fireball shots and Chicago giggled and gave George Lucas a prime waterfront spot for $1 a year.

OH SHOOT.  What did we miss out on?

You have got to be shitting me.  We've already got a Maxfield Parrish, and it's located exactly where it belongs, in a bar.  The Vargas is nice if you're decorating an L.A. porn producer's house in 1988.  And hey!  It's a DVD cover!  I get the strong feeling that the gift shop at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be larger than the galleries.  The point is, we hardly need a tourist trap museum with a questionable collection to be considered a world-class city.  I just can't work up a lot of grief over losing this thing.

[STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Of course there's all kinds of stuff SF could do differently, it's probably too hard to get things done in this town, blah blah blah, we all know that.  I'm just talking about these two things in particular.]

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

R.I.P. Dog

Leland was a cream-colored chihuahua-terrier mix.  That's what it said on his Rocket Dog Rescue info sheet, anyway.  I guess he could just be "white" but "cream" sounds nicer, doesn't it?  Rocket Dog got him from a shelter in Los Banos and then gave him to us.  The first time he came to our house for an audition he promptly pooped in the hallway, twice.  I think he was just nervous.  We still took him.

Leland loved the beach a lot.  He also loved Bernal Hill and Stern Grove and McLaren Park and a good sunny spot.

He would throw back his head and howl along with you if you got close to him and went "WOOOOOOO."  He also flipped the fuck out if anyone rang the doorbell.  The first time the doorbell rings and I don't hear maniacal barking is going to be tough.

Leland slept in bed, under the covers, on his back or on his side, pressed up against The Wife like a hot water bottle.  He would chase toys and bring them back to you, but only inside.  Chasing toys is a private activity.

Leland got lymphoma and we have to put him to sleep today.  He's been a part of our life for so long it's hard to imagine it without him.  No more dog-shaped indentations in the pillows on the bed.  No more dog hovering by the baby's high chair, waiting for her to drop food to him.  No more lying in the sun.  No more trips to the beach.

We love you, little guy.  Thanks for always being there for us.  Thanks for being such a good dog.