Monday, December 31, 2007


As we end a year (yuck) and begin another (yummy) I seek some basis for optimism, or at least for non-pessimism, which can be expressed in a true statement. I think I found one.

It's not impossible that something good could happen in 2008.

Happy New Year!

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We end the year with a significant local mystery: What’s up with the two surviving tiger-maulees? What was the nature of their visit to the zoo?

This human-interest side intrigues me, but doesn’t concern me.

What concerns me about the mauling incident (aside from empathy for the victims and their loved ones) is the attention it brings to my immediate neighborhood.

At least some changes are in store at the zoo. The question is, will it remain a zoo with approximately the same attendance patterns as at present? Or will some other “best use” be found for the land?

Put it this way: if the current zoo property were developed for housing, the quality of my life would decline significantly. I suppose this is true of any public park, but the attention makes me nervous.

Actually it would make a great facility for wheel-sports. Sometimes that’s what we used it for, as kids.

In my youth the zoo was still run by Rec and Park, and admission was free. (Just as the museums, the Conservatory of Flowers, and the Academy of Sciences were all free.)

After school sometimes we’d ride our bikes in the zoo, around the cages, past the aviary and the grottos. We’d lay out race courses. We could do this because there were absolutely no zoo visitors (or maybe one or two) to disturb. You know, a Wednesday in March, cold and windy, maybe rained earlier in the day.

Looking at the irregular network of pathways (all smoothly paved) from above, these grounds cry out for wheel-sports—bicycles, skateboards, roller skates.

For the time being, after removing the dumbest animal, disgraced director Manuel Mollinedo, they should probably remove the bigger animals, just on humane grounds. After that I hope they spend the next twenty years tweaking smaller-animal exhibits, until they finally give up and make it a roller park.

By that time I’ll be dead.

I was going to rant about the puling bureaucratic response of zoo director Manuel Mollinedo—blaming the victims in what he knows is a strict-liability situation, and claiming that his records show that the wall was 20 feet high—immediately after the mauling.

Judging from public comment, and from this Sunday Chron story, Mr Mollinedo is on his way out.

Another mystery is the paperwork that shows the wall as 20 feet high. The chances of this being an innocent “clerical error” approach zero. Was this paperwork relied upon for accreditation and insurance purposes? If so, we’re talking about possible significant fraud, which may have contributed to a death.

The mystery draws us into the new year.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007


After almost four years in UCSF’s Accounting Office I took a new job in the Radiology Department, which was a disaster and led to my early retirement from San Francisco’s largest employer.

A number of factors contributed to my failure, but mostly it was my supervisor and co-workers.

My supervisor, who was located in a separate facility on the other side of the city, was determined to help me as little as possible.

He offered no help, for instance, in my first attempt at complicated paperwork for retroactive payroll transfers. Worse, he signed off on the submittal without even checking it. Of course it had numerous errors, which sullied my reputation with the people processing it.

The supervisor’s name was Rex Jones and he was a lying son of a bitch. Recently a young UCSF acquaintance, whom I also see on the courts, phoned to tell me that Rex had died. My poor young friend was not prepared for the glee I expressed.

I’m reminded of Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, tyrants and torturers of Romania, whom the rebels executed on December 25, 1989 “as a Christmas present to the country.”

Anyway, another factor in my failure was the non-support of my three peers on the new job, all female, all Asian. It was three months before I learned that one of these Asian women had applied for the job I had been given. She and her two friends were extremely bitter and determined that my failure would prove that Maria should have gotten the job.

“This is a situation I might have been able to handle, IF I HAD KNOWN ABOUT IT.”

The failure of my supervisor to explain this delicate situation to me was a hateful omission. In our first meeting after I found out, which was only after Maria had moved to a new job, I stared at Rex and said the words quoted above, one. at. a. time.

Months later it was Christmas and I received presents from each of the two remaining Asian women colleagues. I also got a present from Rex—a jar of some sort of honey, (you know the jar-size you get on a room-service tray… Rex’s gift was one size up from that).

The younger of the two women gave me a neatly wrapped in a large box, maybe 8” x 10” x 14”. There was no movement when shaken, so I figured it was something soft, like a scarf, in a box chosen for convenience rather than appropriate size.

I gave no presents to any of them.

I brought it home but never opened that big box from Susan Lin. I just set it aside, figuring the dishonesty and hypocrisy associated with it were nothing I needed to deal with.

And here it sat, two whole years, until last Saturday. I was invited to a dinner party thrown by people in my morning tennis group. I had to bring an item for a “white elephant gift exchange.”

So I happily brought the big, nicely wrapped box from my former UCSF “mobber.”

I had my misgivings: What if it’s something really valuable? Naw. What if it’s something way inappropriate? No, not a workplace gift.

I thought it was a funny story to tell—that I didn’t know what was inside the box.

To which one of the party guests responded, “What if it’s food?”

When my donation was finally picked and opened, it was even more awful than I could have guessed. It was a Christmas-decorated mug and place setting of hideous, garish design.

It’s the sort of thing that, if I’d opened it at home, would have gone straight into the trash. Had I opened it the office I would have had a dilemma about expending the energy to take it to my car, as opposed to just dumping it in the waste basket under my desk. The decorative paint looked toxic.

The malice of such a gift is that it imposes on the recipient the burden of disposal. Like giving someone a stack of year-old newspapers.

Out of twenty, it was the third worst white elephant gift. There was one child at the party, a six year old girl, who wound up with it. Her parents are smart enough not to let their child eat off that stuff.

I feel kind of guilty because I got the best present, four suitable-for-framing doodles from a nice guy who’s an architect; he’s all slice and dice on the court. I hate these guys who are good tennis players plus they have another talent.

Merry Christmas!

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Friday, December 21, 2007


A man with a good refrigerator don’t need no justification.
Hazel Motes, Wise Blood per P. Wilson

After our new refrigerator was delivered I had to put something in it so I went to the supermarket.

There are a few things I pay full price for but mostly I’m an eater of opportunity. I found my favorite ice cream on sale plus, I noticed a display of $1.79/can spray nozzle real whipped cream.

This is exactly what a bear would do—go for the fat.

The point is palliation, not cure for my S.A.D.—just to make it through one more winter.

Once one a beautiful ocean beach morning, coming on to windowpane we saw occasional equestrians along the waterline. One, a haughty looking, straight-backed formal; equitationist inspired this comment from my friend Jim: “Look at the animal riding the animal.”

And so I say, “Look at the butterfat riding the butterfat.”

If I just eat enough butterfat I can get back to my hibernation.

So I’m slopping down the hi-cal reading about the rising price and diminishing stockpiles of food worldwide, at least according to this IHT article with the ominous headline: World food stocks dwindling rapidly, UN warns

In an "unforeseen and unprecedented" shift, the world food supply is dwindling rapidly and food prices are soaring to historic levels, the top food and agriculture official of the United Nations warned Monday.

The story notes some supply and demand factors:

On the supply side, these include the early effects of global warming, which has decreased crop yields in some crucial places, and a shift away from farming for human consumption toward crops for biofuels and cattle feed. Demand for grain is increasing with the world population...

Part of the current problem is an outgrowth of prosperity. More people in the world now eat meat, diverting grain from humans to livestock. A more complicated issue is the use of crops to make biofuels, which are often heavily subsidized. A major factor in rising corn prices globally is that many farmers in the United States are now selling their corn to make subsidized ethanol.

So I’m thinking, what’s the point of exiting my cave if this is what we’ve come to. America must decide what to do with it’s food—feed people or feed their SUVs. Do we need to take a poll?


The quote at the top of this post comes from the funniest movie I’ve ever seen, Wise Blood, directed by John Huston from a novel by Flannery O’Connor. In it the main character, an itinerant, ignorant southern preacher, declares in reference to his own automobile (actually a jalopy), “A man with a good car don’t need no justification.” IMDB page here.

When you get frustrated with American Huck’nShuck Christopolitics, a Wise Blood rental could provide some palliation.
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Thursday, December 20, 2007


When the sun gets more than so low my spirits go with it. It’s S.A.D.

Bears avoid the issue, they sleep through it.

In my sad awakeness I had a tooth extracted and got a Vicodin scrip instead of a lollypop, and got fitted for partials, in a time pressured end of year insurance scramble. No fun.

In my sad awakeness I went days with the lifeless corpse of a refrigerator that was way too young to die, and replaced it instead of trying to repair it. Twenty-six hours after entering the order on-line the new one was delivered and is now chilling. I discovered something I already sort of knew—living without a refrigerator is no fun. And I learned something new:

Maytag Sucks!

I’m wide awake to see wet courts, unplayable.

I’m awake enough to perceive sneaky Gay League tennis recruiting tactics on the part of erstwhile team-mates, now new rivals. I’ve lived my life (mostly) and getting sandbagged is not a novel insult. Like the drama of infidelity, it’s not just painful, it’s boring. And the flying emails all sound so gdmf corporate.

I’m awake enough to watch the news. People tell me not to. Tis the season for a sound bite advocating torture, with a nativity scene in the background.

There’s no light at all.

I might as well just go back to bed.

Tomorrow night the sun will reach it’s southern solstice and then, theoretically, will start its northward climb again. But, like a patient after a near fatal disease, it’ll take many weeks to recover its strength.

Et in terra, pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

This translates: “And on earth, peace to men of good will.” It does NOT translate: “Peace on earth, good will toward men.”


Christmas Phone Call

Son: Mom, good news, I got a job!

Mom: That’s great son! What’s the job?

Son: It’s for the government. I’m going to be a torturer, specializing in waterboarding.

Mom: Are you sure…

Son: It’s perfectly legal. They fly me to countries where the laws allow it. And they put me up in really nice hotels. And, it really is helping our country. And the benefits are great.

Mom: Well, son, as long as it makes you happy, that’s all I care about. Your sister wants to say hello. Merry Christmas. I love you.

Son: Merry Christmas, mom. I love you, too.

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Monday, December 10, 2007


It’s news to me that Sophie Azouaou is the “Fashion and Interior Design Critic,” of the San Francisco Sentinel.

The headline of this 12/10/07 Sentinel story is not news:

Sentinel Interior Design Critic Sophie Azouao Underwrites Benefit Magazine Remodel

Our August 28, 2007 post mentioned the remodel job in question, which was being donated by Sophisticate Interiors, Sophie’s company.

According to the Sentinel Story:

Benefit Magazine Inc, a Bay Area Media Company which provides the ‘inspiration and the resource’ for charitable giving in print, TV, and radio, is approaching its first anniversary and the re-launch of its flagship product, Benefit Magazine.

Somehow I thought the flagship product already had been re-launched.

The next paragraph of the Sentinel article contains more strangeness:

“Benefit Magazine is on the verge of releasing a vastly improved editorial product in terms of depth and quality of coverage and of aesthetic design. We have come a long way in the past year… "

-Benefit Magazine, Special Projects Director, Sophie Azouaou

So, Sophie is also working for Benefit Magazine.

Either Ms Azouaou gets around a lot, or not much at all.

I may have to send staff to investigate. Has the new regime actually published a magazine issue, made of paper and ink and staples and glue, that hands can hold?

Here’s Benefit Mag’s latest web presence, no upgrade here.

It shows this jpg of a cover.

If there has been in issue published recently, then much of the copy of the Sentinel Story is out of date, unless I misconstrue the meaning of “re-launch.”

Considering we have one publication, The Sentinel, reporting on another publication, Benefit Magazine, a puff piece really, I'd think someone on one of the staffs would be able to write a coherent story.

I guess I'd be wrong.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007


Today is the third anniversary of my mother’s death. I still haven’t properly sorted and stored the papers from her safe deposit boxes. Every once in a while a document will spill from a shelf onto my bedroom floor.

Yesterday it was a duplicate baptismal certificate for my mother’s father. He was born in the 1880’s in “St Edward (Albion),” Nebraska. Why the confusion? They were and are two distinct towns. Probably the birthplace is one and the baptism site the other.

Buried in the basement are pictures of my granddad's family in their sod hut, somewhere between Albion or St Edward.

We have to zoom in pretty far before the town names appear on Google maps.

Just two generations from the sod hut appears … ta da … sfwillie.

During his second and final hospital stay, I was alone with my own father who wasby then going in and out of present tense, when I said something about my mom.

“Your mother is a beautiful woman,” my dad said.

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Friday, December 07, 2007


Maybe the recently announced municipal budget deficit will spur radical action. Maybe San Franciscans are fed up with the duct-tape/crazy-glue approach to city finances.

I suggest we eliminate city government almost entirely, and outsource the whole thing to Lennar.

This could coincide with the renaming of San Francisco. Sooner or later we’ll realize that naming a city after a saint of a particular religion, especially a saint of the anti-gay, anti-choice Roman Catholic Church, is just too incorrect politically.

Name it Lennar City. Let Lennar run things directly, instead of through the charade of city government. There could be enormous economies.

Anyway these three stories came to me via Google Alerts the other day.

Past Tense – “Lennar bombed.”

The headline of this Orlando Sentinel story says it all

Crew detonates fragmentation bomb found on former bombing range site.

It’s about a Lennar development built on a Florida bombing range. Inspection for live bombs was sort of an afterthought. I’m sure that the middle school in the story, where bombs were found, prides itself in being drug-free and certainly gun-free, but they can’t be sure if the place is bomb-free.

Present Tense – “Lennar bombs.”

It’s not just any Palm Springs golf course Lennar is shutting down because of the slumping housing market, it’s a Jack Nicklaus designed golf courts. Oh, the sacrilege!

Lennar has shut down the Escena golf course in Palm Springs. They were supposed to build 1400 luxury homes starting at 400K and up. Jack Nicklaus designed the golf course. After building about 60 homes, they have stopped all building on the project, have not finished the club house, and now have closed the golf course. Those 60 people who bought golf course homes are screwed.

Quoted from "Re: Lennar shuts down Nicklaus designed golf course"

Future Tense – “Lennar will bomb”

It looks like we’re getting another Candlestick ballot measure on the June 2008 ballot. According to the SFGate story:

The new proposal - which would reach the June 2008 ballot following a signature drive - calls on the city to contribute public land and to subsidize portions of the project by tapping a city affordable-housing construction fund and by issuing bonds backed by future property tax revenue from the site.

The coalition sponsoring this ballot measure is led by Lennar Corporation.

I think the above quote means that taxpayers guarantee Lennar a profit.

The proposed ballot initiative, submitted by a group calling itself the African American Community Revitalization Coalition, would repeal measures passed by city voters in 1997 that approved $100 million in public financing and land-use rule changes to allow a new 49ers stadium and shopping mall at Candlestick.

Tentative name of the initiative: "Bayview Jobs, Parks and Housing Initiative."

Probably another dud.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007


In my day, during the eucharist (bread and wine) portion of the Roman Catholic mass, great care was taken to keep the chalice (wine) and ciborium (hosts) covered at all times, unless there was some reason to uncover them. The ciboria have lids, chalices are covered by a starched cloth thingie.

We were taught the origin of this practice: olden cathredrals and churches frequently had pigeons and other fowl living in the rafters and high corners and cornices. It was considered gravely important that pigeon droppings not foul the body and blood.

This has something to do with Don Imus.

The “ho” part was bad, but the “nappy headed” part was worse. It implies that there is something wrong, unbeautiful, about African American’s hair.

How would we describe Don Imus’ hair?

Imus’ girlish tresses make the same statement as his pink and lavender shirts: Imus is so manly he can get away with it.

Anyway, there was footage yesterday of Imus walking from his limo to the front door of a building (presumably his studio). It must have been raining because the chauffeur was walking behind Imus with a big old umbrella at arms length to keep the star dry.

Imus was carrying his trademark grey-felt cowboy hat. He was carrying the hat against his chest, sort of under his chin, to protect it from any stray raindrops.

As he approached the door, and was under a protective awning, he put his hat on, and entered the building.

What kind of a cowboy is that?

In his comeback speech, as we see in the capture above, Imus wore his collar turned up--against the air conditioning maybe?

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