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Journal 2011

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OK, let's start out by crediting the folks who turned me on to this place.  Mark reviewed it early last fall on Mus E Yum, but somehow i didn't get around to going until my friends Richard and Flynn had also raved about it.  Everybody's right.  The food's excellent.  I had the Slow Cooked Char Siu Pork Belly with soy cured egg, ginger scallion noodles, and cucumber, and it was the closest thing i've had to the Babi Pangang that i wrote repeatedly about eating in Amsterdam.  Speaking of bellies, i got a belly laugh when i read Jonathan Kauffman's review in SFWeekly in which he criticized this dish for being "fatty".  Folks, if you can't stand the fat, stay out of the pork belly.

The chef, Danny Bowein, is ethnically  Korean but was adopted as a baby by an Oklahoma couple, a friendly, delightful guy with an attitude toward food that combines down home good eating with haute cuisine.  There's not a pretentious bone in his body and he doesn't act like the upcoming celebrity chef that he actually is.  Check out this video of him talking with his business partner about Popeye's fried chicken. I was lucky to be seated beside a work station where he stopped to make some dumplings, and while he worked we talked about regional foods.  He explained that the reason he delivers everything on the menu is that he understands that sometimes you're just too tired to go out but still want some good food.

As all the reviews explain, Bowein is sharing the kitchen in an existing Chinese storefront restaurant called Lung Shan at 2234 Mission Street (between 18th and 19th).  The ambience is classic Chinese storefront until you look a little more closely and notice that a 50+ foot long red dragon is coiled along the ceiling.

The food, though, is nothing at all like your typical little Chinese place.  Stealth fine dining.  Here's the menu.  

And here's the dragon.

My second visit was delayed by the General Adventure described in the entry below, but at the chef's recommendation i had the porridge, more commonly called congee in San Francisco or jook in places where there are more Mandarin speakers.  It was just plain meaty with shredded crab and was by far the best congee i ever ate.

Third visit i went in with Sybil and we had a pork festival:  the Pork Belly and the Thrice Cooked Bacon.  The bacon had in it what were called "rice cakes", which were flat ovals about an inch wide with a texture rather like pasta...the dish was delicious, and it was the first dish i've had there that was marked with the pepper symbol.  I found the pepper level to be just right so long as i ate only the jalapeño slices and avoided the dried red peppers.  The bottom line:  Sybil validated my love for this place.

Fourth visit:  The pork dumpling soup, all the tastier for getting to watch from my favorite table beside his workstation while Danny made and cooked the dumplings.

Fifth visit:  The Ma Po Tofu, marked with two pepper symbols, and he damn sure meant them both.  Delicious and thank God for that steamed rice.  Gasp.

Sixth visit:  The eggplant.  This is that Szechuan eggplant dish i've been eating with gusto for thirty years.  Never had it better anywhere else.

Seventh visit:  the Tingly Lamb Noodle Soup, with lamb breast, fresh Shanghai noodles, bok choi, and "numbing lamb broth."  Like everything else here, it was delicious.  I've been using hua jiao   花椒 for decades to season pork roasts, but i'd never eaten enough at a sitting to experience its notorious numbing effect. 

I have now.
And it's more fun than the dentist.

And i'm not big on landscape shots, but this winter sunrise caught my eye:

Yesterday was full of adventure of the highest order.  I started out by introducing Sybil to StarStream, and she was as impressed as i expected when  we split orders of the Pork Conserva sandwich and the Schiacciata pizza.  Afterwards, i escorted her over to Trader Joe's where we both picked up a few grocery items.

"This?" you ask, "is what Matte calls an adventure of the highest order?"

OK, that was just the background.  The adventure didn't start until i dumped the Trader Joe's purchases at home and then whirred off to Whole Foods for some of their Comice pears and Grind-it-yourself peanut butter.  I was carrying this stuff home when suddenly, with no transition at all, i woke up in a strange room surrounded by people i didn't know.  Wow!  What the hell is going on? Didn't know i'd gone to sleep.  Looking around, trying to assess the situation, i noticed that my clothes had been replaced with this flimsy gown thing.  Did they touch my junk? i wondered, and then remembered that once you reach seventy, your junk is safe.

And then i realized that i had apparently been beaten up, as i hurt all over and everywhere i looked could see abrasions.  Hmmm, i thought, hope i told 'em everything they wanted so they won't have to do that again.  Then it hit me:  "This looks like a hospital," i observed, and was applauded for my perspicuity by this young woman standing over me.  

"What happened?" i asked her, since the last thing i could remember was riding down 24th Street with my pears, headed home.  All she could tell me was that i'd had an accident on my Segway,  which had been brought with me in the ambulance and was in the hospital property room.  What ambulance? i wondered.  Then she identified herself as a neurologist and asked me a bunch of questions to see whether i was thinking clearly.  Luckily she didn't ask my readers, so i passed.   I let her talk me into spending the night under observation since they'd taken the liberty of doing a CAT scan on me while i was unconscious (what CAT scan? i wondered) and had found some blood on my brain, which they got all excited about. 

While waiting in the hall on the gurney to be taken to a room, i got to witness an entertaining mini-drama.  Three cops came in to talk to an injured perp in the next room, and the sight of them had a dramatic impact on this guy on the gurney just outside the door.

Betraying no sense of rush, but studiously keeping his back to the cops visible through the open doorway, he retrieved his belongings from under his gurney, sat on it, and efficiently put his clothes back on.  He stood, but alas, just as he was taking his first step toward the blue sky and sunlit green lawn outside the open ER entryway down the hall, three more cops came walking in.  Taking this development in stride, he sat back on his gurney and lay on his side with his back to the room and his face in his arms.  Shy, but very quick witted.

I caught the eye of this other dude on a gurney across from me who'd also been enjoying the drama, and we bonded.  I got wheeled away before the next act began, but i did keep listening for shouts and gunfire.

I'd end this tale now except that i need to give some credits.  I've been hospitalized twice in private hospitals and undergone several same day procedures in them, and maybe i just got lucky during my first stay at San Francisco General Hospital, but i have never had nicer nurses than the ones i encountered here.  

And while i'm at it, i don't recall ever feeling a better rapport with a pack of doctors than i did the ones who saw me during their rounds the next morning.  I convinced 'em that since i would refuse brain surgery even to save my life, another CAT scan would be a waste of resources, so they released me on my own recalcitrance.  In private hospitals, your comfort and your recovery are purely secondary to their primary objective, which is to make sure you have no possible grounds on which to sue them. 

Another breakthrough on this hospital visit is that nobody knew i was in the hospital until i told 'em after i got out.  A much better approach except that there was nobody to smuggle diet Dr Pepper in.

Oh yes, when they brought my belongings back, i was not terribly surprised to find that my glasses and helmet were broken, and both pants and shirt ripped, but i was greatly relieved to see that i had been wearing clean underwear, and not too stylish, either.

Bloody but unbowed - photo by Richard

Update:  Left the house on the afternoon of the 7th for the first time since i got home from the hospital.  First went to Noe Valley Cyclery and bought a new helmet since the dude agreed that i'd sure got my money's worth outta the previous one, it having sacrificed its life to save mine.  Stopped at Whole Foods to get some replacement Comice pears, and on the way home spotted what i am near 100% certain was the cause of my fall. 

To prevent motorists from backing into and destroying the planters, tables, and chairs in our new minipark on 24th a few doors east of Noe, the city has put in a low asphalt barrier about three feet out from the planters.  Unfortunately, it extends into the street a full foot more than the planters.  Bicyclists and Segwayers routinely hug the curb when possible to stay out of the way of cars, and i must have hugged a little prematurely, catching the barrier with my right wheel and doing a left side face plant, the results of which you see pictured above.

Well, some of the results.  Turns out i've also broken the 3rd metacarpal in the right hand and the right radius,  (note the swollen hand above) but Dr. Diao, my wonderful orthopedic surgeon, has splinted everything back together since the above pic was taken.

Damn.  At my current rate, there's not going to be any usable thing left of this body when my reassignment surgery comes up later this month.  Still, i'm considering upping the Caution Level to Orange.   Here's the kind of stuff i'll be watching out for...the black thing with the yellow trapezoid on it sticking out into the street just this side of the bus stop:

I ended the 2010 Journal with a Christmas Letter explaining my planned reassignment surgery.  The letter got a heartwarming response, and if you haven't read it, please click on the link and do so now; otherwise, the rest of this won't make sense.  (I promise you, dammit, you MUST click on that link before you read another word, or your won't be able to understand the rest of this post.)

There is good news.  Since i banged myself up so badly during the above Great Adventure, i checked around and discovered that i could go ahead and have the reassignment surgery early.  I did so, and it was completely successful.  The incision is healing and i'm becoming acclimatized to my new body.  My doctors had warned me that while i would have conscious control of my body immediately, i would need to learn to deal with automatic and instinctive responses that are ingrained by a hundred thousand of years of evolution. 

The first time this surgery was performed, there was an unfortunate incident in the Recovery Room when a meaty intern heard a Code called on the intercom and went rushing to respond.  Without thinking, the patient leaped off the gurney and caught him before he made it to the door.  Even in our finest hospitals, there's not much that can be done when all the cervical vertebrae have been crushed.

Since then, the hospital staff have worked with patients on these instincts from the moment they regain consciousness, and by now i'm pretty much acclimatized and barely twitch at all over creatures running away from me, mostly just my ears lay back flat.  Frankly, a more difficult adjustment is to no longer having an opposable thumb.  Well, and to human speech.  It's pretty clear that i'll always have a feline accent, but i'll be understandable.  After all, we Californians got accustomed to listening to our Governator, didn't we?

So how am i looking?  Well, they had to shave the entire back of my head for the incision, and i'm kinda vain about my hair, so for now we'll have to make do with this facial shot:

Photo by Victor Zhang

I'm working on a more bashful look, as Vic was acting kinda nervous during the shoot, but that may have been because i'd eaten a Jack Russell Terrier for breakfast, and you know how those things give you dog breath.

My friend David just wrote that he and Chris were planning a trip to California in April and would love to stay with me if they'd be safe.  I assured him that they could take advantage of innate behavioral traits and be confident in their compete safety, as it is simply impossible for me to think of any creature as food after it has scratched behind my ears.   

Both ears.

And if i growl when you stop, that means don't stop.

The other day i observed that i was having to adjust to the lack of an opposable thumb.  Didn't mean that as some kind of shrill complaint, as there certainly are compensations.  Looking back on it now, i can't imagine how i got along all those years without inch and a quarter long retractable claws and the ability to sprint 500 yards at 50 MPH.

Still, there are definitely adjustments.  I went down yesterday to my dentist to get him acquainted with the new dentition.  Probably should have mentioned the change in my appearance to his receptionist on the phone beforehand, but she's ok now.  We talked her down....well, he did.  I hung back.  

But then, when we went in and i sat in his chair and opened wide, there was this long pause, and then he said, "Look, Matte, you've been a good customer for over twenty years, and i really appreciate all the jellies, but i'm sorry, i just don't have it in me to stick my hand in there."

And hey, i could understand that and i bear him no ill will although i'll admit to being taken aback and yes, a little hurt when he offered to refer me to his veterinarian.

Just had an idea.  The spirit of volunteerism is alive and well in San Francisco, and i would get great personal satisfaction from performing some service to help the city.  For example, i'm thinking i could help enforce the leash laws in our parks.  The only expense to the city would be putting up signs "Off-Leash Dogs Will Be Eaten".  

And speaking of that sort of thing, my grocery bills are already plunging.  I've discovered that if i amble over to Buena Vista Park in the middle of the night, it's like a smorgasbord - mostly fat, slow, stupid, and never had to run for its life....easy pickings, tender and well marbled.  This is another way in which i can give back to my beloved city because, let's face it, the ones i'm picking really shouldn't be breeding.  I see myself as doing my part to advance natural selection.  The Claws of Darwin...or, for the religious, the Jaws of God.

My culinary preferences sure have changed:  potatoes are just tasteless, i don't like anything sweet, and chocolate is disgusting.  On the other hand, any meat is better than ever, but venison!  Oh, my goodness, it's by far my favorite now, especially when it's freshly chased and has that delicious adrenaline flavor.   

And speaking of venison, my friend Kurt is a bow hunter, and i'm trying to talk him into taking me along with him, arguing that we'd make a good team.  I mean, i'd let him take his shot, and then if he missed, i'd take a crack at chasing it down for us.

We could share the meat, and besides, a big plus for both of us is that we are almost complete opposites in the parts we think of as best.  To me, nothing is finer than the raw heart and liver while they're still warm, but i can't even talk him into tasting them.

But back to volunteering.  A wonderful idea for a place to volunteer just struck me:  our petting zoo.  I could give the little kids rides on my back.  Ohhhh, i just love that delighted squealing.  No no, don't worry.  Please let me reassure everyone:  I am eager to improve our image, not get us all tarred as pouncing pedophages.

And sorry to change the subject, but taking pics is harder than it used to be, so here's a row of old ginkos on 22nd Street west of Valencia that i took before the reassignment.

OK, i confess.  I've been fiddling while the world burned.  Don't know what else to do, actually, since i'm not smart enough, young enough, or eloquent enough to make any difference, so figure i might as well try to give folks some entertainment to take their minds off what's happening.

But there's a tiny shred of leftover ethics in me that makes me feel somehow dirty for not at least making a try at calling some attention to what's going on now all over the world...and is being studiously ignored by most Americans.   I read my friend CK's Some Assembly Required blog six days a week, and i credit him with being my largest single source of national and international news that somehow doesn't get printed in the mainstream media.

So if you want only entertainment, just skip this one.

And no, i'm not about to go into some kind of peak oil rant.  Anyone who wants to look seriously can find plenty of data indicating that planetary oil production has basically plateaued since December, 2005 even though there are deniers shouting that we're finding more reserves every day and that the blunt fact that we're not producing more now means nothing, nothing at all.  Still, only a lunatic fringe expects anything other than increasing fuel prices in the future.  And any serious person can readily understand that life will be very different when we no longer have the cheap oil that made possible the quadrupling of the world's population over the last century.

Nor am i going to make a case for global warming.  Skeptics might want to look at Glacier National Park while it still has some glaciers, since the remaining few are melting so fast that at the current rate none will remain in twenty years.  It is a matter of easily demonstrable fact that the planet is in a warming period, and the vast majority of the world's climatologists agree that this warming is caused by the tremendous increase in the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere during the last century by the burning of fossil fuels.  Unfortunately, it's clear that even with far more draconian reductions in planetary CO2 output than would be politically possible, we have already reached a tipping point that will produce dramatic weather changes all over the globe.

Yes, ocean levels will continue to rise, and at an accelerating rate, but long before our coastal areas are flooded, global warming will cause more and more severe droughts and floods like the ones we are already experiencing.  These are having an immediate impact on global food supply, and this effect will be worsened by the increased cost of fuel to run our agricultural industry.

So what we're facing, really, is not only peak oil but also peak food and the resultant deterioration in quality of life.  And we're starting to face it now.  In the last week, the citizens of Tunisia and Egypt have revolted against their governments, and the press is attributing this to public outrage over political oppression and the corruption of their leaders.  However, the specific event that seems to have sparked the crisis in Tunisia was the self immolation of an impoverished vegetable vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi who was busted by the police because he didn't have a permit and who despaired of feeding his family.  His act resonated because inequalities such as those he faced have made life increasingly difficult for the masses.

I find it instructive to consult a favorite chart of mine, compiled and periodically updated by our CIA and displaying income distribution around the globe.   The chart is organized from worst to best, with the country having the least equitable income distribution (Namibia) listed as number 1 and the most equitable country (Sweden) at number 134).  Curious as to how Tunisia and Egypt rated, i scrolled down until i found Tunisia at position number 62.  Egypt was considerably better at position 90.  

The United States?  We're at position 42, which means that Sweden and 91 other countries, including Egypt and Tunisia, are more equitable.  But don't worry, Mexico is worse than us. 

The fabulously wealthy folks like the Koch brothers who are financing the Tea Party have so far been very effective at convincing the members to direct their anger down at the poor and at the government for helping the poor.  And besides, we're so much richer than Tunisia or Egypt that actual hunger isn't common yet.

Move along, folks, nothing to see here.

Well, except this heathen idol by Zhang Huan which landed last fall in front of City Hall and, having successfully sown some seeds of socialism,  will be taking off shortly:

And dammit all, after i wrote the above rant i discovered that somebody else had written it better two days earlier.  On the other hand, two days after i wrote that, i was delighted to discover that the Telegraph had jumped on my bandwagon.  And folks, i promise you the International Monetary Fund is anything but some pack of liberals.  Here's a direct link to the IMF study in a pdf file

Now, owing to popular demand, back to the circuses.

The Story of Z - 4 February 2011

I am surrounded by a pack of wonderful friends so talented and so cutting edge that whatever i do, i discover that one of 'em has topped me before i even started.

Like that adventure i wrote about in January when i suddenly woke up in the hospital.

Just before my adventure, one of my friends whom i'll call "Z" had also been found unconscious, not on the 24th Street pavement like me but rather on his bedroom floor, and had similarly awakened in the hospital.  Mutual friends told me about the episode and reassured me that Z was back at home and doing fine although in his case the hospital was unable to determine what had caused him to lose consciousness.

So last night i called Z and got his side of the story.  Turns out i'd been given the highly edited version suitable for maiden aunts and that in reality the last person to see Z conscious before he woke up intubated in the hospital 12 hours or so later had been a special agent dispatched to Z's home by an escort service.

It seems that before the escort had started escorting, he had offered Z some "G".  Some what?  i asked, suspecting even before Z confirmed it, that this was a new recreational drug, the very name of which i have got too old and out of touch to know.  I mean, back in the seventies i had usually experimented repeatedly with new substances well before they were even mentioned in the media.

I was only partially reassured to discover that i had read of G under its full name "gamma-hydroxybutyrate" or GHB (the infamous "date-rape drug") although it appeared on the scene thirty years too late for me to have sampled it. 

Z, being several decades younger and thus more current on recreational drugs, knew of it but had refused it owing to its propensity to cause - in addition to the euphoria and heightened intensity of feeling for which it is usually taken - a rapid and irreversible death.

So only the escort partook of the "G", and after the escorting was done and the escort left, Z felt a bit thirsty and grabbed a bottle of water off the nightstand for a few generous gulps.

Flash forward to the hospital, where the mystery of why Z was unconscious was finally resolved by a message from the escort to Z's mobile phone inquiring whether he might drop by to pick up the bottle of G-spiked water he'd left on the nightstand.

What annoys Z about this incident is that he knows in his heart that i am one of the few persons on the planet who believe him when he swears that he did not intentionally take G. 

What truly deep fat fries Z is the understanding that if he had been feeling younger and bolder and had taken the G on purpose, he would have undoubtedly taken only a cautious sip rather than guzzling from the bottle.  So he would have had a much smaller dose and thus would have almost certainly have remained conscious and enjoyed the experience....and furthermore would have got away with it since he wouldn't have ended up nearly dead in the hospital with tubes in his orifices. 

Not to mention getting a totally undeserved reputation as a drug abuser.

Oh, harsh, harsh unfairness of life!

While me, to get some excitement into my life, i had to milk a little fall on 24th Street for every last drop of drama, it being over now since i got outta the splint today and have started training the fingers and wrist to work right again.

And oh, as a reminder that i really should be extra vigilant regarding objects in my path, i am leaving on the Segway handlebar the trauma ward property room sticker.  That name "Paul TRI620"?  Well, when they bring you in unconscious, the triage nurse just makes something up for a name and gives you a serial number.

Note:  When Z read this account of his misadventure, he got back to me, not wanting me to misinform my readers regarding drugs.  He wrote, "
While, I suppose, G could be used for this purpose as a powerful - if not fatal - soporific, the classic date-rape plat du jour is rohypnol, or 'ruffies'."  

Leopold - 13 February 2011

It struck me that there's a fringe benefit from the revolutions sweeping North Africa:  a much higher percentage of Americans can now point out Tunisia on a map, thus partially relieving the geographic illiteracy for which we're globally known.  Of course we've been like this for a generation.  An article in a recent The New Yorker mentioned as an aside that a Belgian student going to a university here would ask American students at parties to name five famous Belgians and that hardly any American could.  I, an international traveler and sophisticated language maven, snorted in derision at this before i started to trying to compose my list of five famous Belgians. 

Then a wave of panic swept me until names gradually started surfacing.  Whew.  No problem: 

1. Justine Henin,
2. Kim Clijsters,
3. Kristof Vliegen,
4. Christophe Rochus,
5. Xavier Malisse. 

And for extra credit:  Leopold II.

Which reminds me that several years ago i was at Lone Pine Nursery in Sebastopol (California!) and spotted a really spectacular agave.  I stooped to look at the name on its little stake and was shocked to read "AGAVE LEOPOLD II", wondering why in the world such a gorgeous plant would be named after a man arguably the most evil human in history.  And then i realized it was Agave leopoldii and doubtless a different Leopold.

Here's a couple of bike stands i like:

I'd been wanting to express my appreciation to the good Samaritan who'd called the ambulance for me when i was lying in the street after my January accident, and i'd posted in the parklet a sign asking him or her to contact me, but had heard nothing.

Still, i cut a pretty broad swath here in San Francisco.  I'm out on the Segway virtually every day, and i'm gregarious, so a lot of people know me.  Last Saturday at the Noe Valley Farmers' Market, i spotted my friend Steve and his kid Pablo, and when i went over to speak to them he told me that he'd heard about my accident from Bernie of Bernie's coffee, which is immediately behind where i had decided i must have had the accident.

So thinking she might have some idea about who'd called the ambulance for me, i dropped by there that afternoon and bought a pound of their coffee, but discovered that Bernie wasn't there.  I dropped by again on Sunday and got a latte, which was absolutely delicious and i sure hope was made out of the same beans i bought.

Oh, but it gets better.  Bernie came in from the back, and when i started telling her about Steve, she exclaimed that she didn't recognize me without blood all over my face but that she had been leaving the store and had seen me go flying through the air and hit my head really hard, and that she'd called 911.  She'd gone to my side and then had been joined by a passing driver who'd seen me airborne and had thought she'd hit me, and the two of them then joined forces to keep me lying down until the ambulance came.

Is this a guy thing or what?  You get your bell rung and you just automatically want to go right back into the game.  Since i had a little concussion, i have no memory of anything until a couple of hours later and had assumed i was unconscious, but Bernie assures me that i could understand her and answer simple questions fairly coherently and that i definitely wanted to get back into the game.

Meanwhile, i went back in today for that delicious latte and to continue taking jars of my products to her.  So far, the Feijoa Plum Chutney, Carol's Little Bitter Orange Marmalade, and the Rodelle chocolate sauce.

And today, as i was leaving, i picked up a copy of the February issue of The Noe Valley Voice, a little neighborhood newspaper that has some capable writing and good coverage of local news.  To my astonishment, they included mention of my accident (at the very end of the Mission Station police report).

I do have a couple of quibbles:  first, i had a broken arm and hand in addition to the listed injuries, but second, i thought it was entirely gratuitous on the part of the cop who wrote the accident report to mention that the roadway barrier was "yellow-accented" so as to rub my nose in the fact that i shoulda seen the damn thing. 

Here's Bernie's, just west of Whole Foods.  Good vibes and delicious lattes:

Last fall i discovered that for a modest premium increase i could get free membership to a good gym, so at the beginning of February i got into the program and joined the 24 Hour Fitness on Market Street.   Well equipped gym, the latest equipment, and squeaky clean.  If i had to pick a flaw, it would be that i'm older than the grandparents of most of the clientele, almost all of whom are handsome, buffed young men or pretty, buffed young women.  The only thing that saves me is the handful of old walruses beside whom anybody would look good.

It's a good feeling to be working out again, not really pushing hard but at least using the elliptical trainer to get my heart rate up, which i can do before it starts hurting too much.  Actually, the only thing that hurts very much now is my damn wrist where i broke the radius.  My orthodoc says to be patient and has written an authorization for therapy.  

The fringe benefit of being at the gym is that i keep noticing about every other visit that i've lost a pound.

Unfortunately, it seems to be the same pound, as when i check during the alternate visits, i find it again.

And yes, we all know the gym alone won't do the trick, that the only way to actually lose weight is to consume fewer calories.  Which is easy enough to say, while the reality is that, as my legendary internist pointed out on my last visit after a glance at my latest lab report, i'm killing me softly with my spoon.

Clearly i need to either eat better or stop fiddling around and finish the job off more rapidly with the Segway.

I've written on several occasions in the past about wonderful trips to Palm Springs to visit my friend Bob.  This one went sour.  I don't understand what went wrong on my last evening, and don't have much hope of ever doing so since in spite of my pressing, the only explanation i could get for all the sudden rage simply makes no sense.   So be it.  If he won't tell me what's wrong, i can't fix it.   Now i don't have to drive a thousand miles to pay visits.

Here's a shot of the hunter while things were still good, home with my quarry, a wild grapefruit that i captured on the condo grounds. You wouldn't believe the fight that sucker put up!  I was hoping that once i got it skinned and filleted it would turn out to be one of the old Marsh variety that i love so much.  Alas, by the time the condo complex was built, the Marsh had long since been replaced with sweet varieties.

For the trip back up to San Francisco, i decided to cut over to 101 again, and this time farther south than i'd ever done.  I'd studied my road map and seen that a very thin blue line ventured west from I-5 at the exit a mile or two north of Tejon Pass.  Since it was the only road going west off of I-5 for a distance of over 50 miles, i took it.  It has no official state number, but at one point it was identified as "Pine Mountain Road".  I followed it westerly though the northern portions of Los Padres National Forest, gradually descending until it hit State highway 33.  About a mile to the right on 33, i turned left onto "Soda Lake Road", which heads straight northwest through the middle of the Carrizo Plain, paralleling the San Andreas fault.

More thrilling than paralleling the fault, though, was when i flew across one of the many cattle guards and suddenly found myself not on pavement but rather dirt.  At this point it struck me that i had not seen a single other vehicle since i turned off the Interstate many miles back and that i had only half a small bottle of water.  And then, to ice the cake, my mobile phone gave its little out-of-battery bleat. 

Oh, but wait, i'm thinking, if i'm stuck in the mud, surely i'll be able to survive by sucking moisture out of it until somebody comes along.   Ah, what i'll do for a thrill.

Americans on both left and right are now criticizing President Obama's cooperation with the French and the British in bombing military targets in Libya even though some of these critics, most notably Newt Gingrich, were earlier criticizing Obama for not attacking.

The right has taken to comparing Obama's commitment of US forces to Libya with Bush's invasion of Iraq.  Oh please.  Obama merely OK'd US tactical support of the rebels rather than mounting an invasion.  What Obama didn't do is get aides to spend months burrowing through all our intelligence reports in search of any material they could find that would support an attack on Gaddafi.  Nor did Obama publicize intelligence reports, some of which were later revealed to have been based on forged materials, of Gaddafi's possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction. 

So the fact that Bush got congressional approval for his invasion of Iraq is not so much a credit for Bush as it is a demerit for Congress for allowing itself to be deceived.

The point of comparison i find most interesting between the two military actions is that it took thousands of American lives, trillions of wasted dollars, and several years for the American people to grasp the folly of Bush's invasion of Iraq; whereas it's taken zero American lives so far, a relatively tiny amount of money, and only a few days for us to agree that our participation in the air raids over Libya was a bad decision.  

A vast improvement.

Another Vast Improvement - 30 March 2011

And speaking of vast improvements, here's the street bumper that i hit back in January as viewed from the west in its new position.  You can see that the left bolt that would be holding it to the street is sticking up three inches.  Now look closely at the right end and you can see that the bumper has been rotated 180 degrees around the right bolt so that it no longer sticks out into the street a foot beyond the plane of the planters.  If you look closely, you can see the faint outline where it formerly rested and even the little round hole in the street where what is now the left bolt used to fit.

I swear i had nothing to do with the repositioning, but my guess is that enough people hit this thing that one of 'em finally took matters into his own hands.  Note how what is now the left end of the bumper is rounded from multiple impacts, one of them mine, when it was sticking into the street.

Sorry about the long pause in posting, but there is good news.  Thanks to Olga at the Hand Therapy Clinic i have recovered pretty much full use of my smashed hand/arm, and the turmoil level in my life has been downgraded to Beige, so here i am again.

The word of the day is Strawberries.  They are just gorgeous this year and i've made a couple of batches of jam with them.  For the first batch i used the Red Red Strawberry Jam recipe out of Joy of Cooking, but was less than pleased with the outcome.  I started complaining to Olga about the flaws, and her face lit up with delight because i brought back Russian childhood memories of her "helping" her babushka (бабушкаmake this jam.  When i mentioned that the whole strawberries in it floated to the top two-thirds of the jar, she exclaimed she loved that about it.  And when she went on to talk about the delicious froth at the top that she would sneak fingerfuls of and that i had been thinking of as some kind of scum, i wisely shut up and handed her a jar.

So guess who's going to get the lion's share of that stuff.

Me, i was much more pleased with my first batch of regular strawberry jam that i made with a shredded apple, the juice of a lemon, and half (literally) the sugar of the Joy recipe, especially since i got it to set well.

But the real joy in strawberries this spring started a couple of weeks ago when Poli Yerena handed me a basket of little green strawberries and told me they were the hot new thing in condiments at the trendiest restaurants, a challenge i could not pass up.

So i tried cooking some in a simple syrup and was not impressed, but the rest i mixed with equal parts of chopped Pasilla chile, red onion, and cilantro for a really tasty salsa when moistened with one of my berry vinegars.   Still thinking about how i might jar that and still preserve the fresh taste.

Then he gave me another basket and i tried pickling them by putting them in 8 oz jars, tossing in a spoonful of mustard seeds, and pouring over them a boiling mixture of 2 cups cider vinegar, 3 cups water, and 3 T. salt.  Clap the lids on quickly and they seal.

Popped open a jar for a test this morning, and it wasn't bad.  Maybe a little too salty, and the berries had softened noticeably, losing their crunch.  Still, encouraging.  So i picked up a couple of baskets and will experiment with replacing a bit of the salt with sugar, adding a tiny little Thai pepper, and to keep them crunchy adding a pinch of alum and pouring in the pickling fluid merely hot rather than boiling.

Stay tuned.

Pickled Green Strawberries

At the Castro Farmers' Market on Wednesday i was offered a deal i couldn't refuse - a free flat of yesterday's strawberries, a bit the worse for wear but still OK for jam, he said.  So of course i said yes, got them home and started to work washing and sorting them and tossing those that had gone off.

I completed the first batch of jam that night, flavoring it with several teaspoons of some Thai red curry paste that had long been occupying precious shelf space in my refrigerator, and while that was cooking down i got the berries for the next batch stemmed.

Thursday morning i awoke early and got the second batch of jam going, this one flavored with some New Mexico chile powder.  Prepped the final batch while that one was cooking, and  finished jarring the final batch (this one without exotic additions) just before noon.  Whew.

Took a break from this by going to the gym, where i encountered a new side effect from the jam making.  See, i go to 24 Hour Fitness, a place so modern and cutting edge that instead of flashing an id card upon entry, you just stick your index finger onto this little reader, whereupon the screen displays "Welcome, Matte".  Except that this time it didn't, displaying instead, "See Receptionist". 

Of course i could see her, she was standing right there, and she told me to try it again.  So i did, and she observed that my fingerprint was so faint that it was barely visible, so the machine couldn't read it.

And then it swept me.  I hadn't worked my fingers to the bone like our mothers used to, but in snatching three batches worth of hot jars out of the oven, i had seared my fingertips smooth.

So enjoy yer damn jam.  It didn't hurt that much:-)

Here's some street art celebrating Easter at the corner of Haight and Laguna:

OK, folks, i took this pic of some street art on Market at Gough, and i just know that figure has been stolen out of a painting by some Great Master that i'm supposed to be able to remember.  What i do seem to remember is that he wasn't coming out of a window (or a picture frame)  in the original and that it had to do with religion.

A free jar of jam or something to whoever can identify the source.  Write me.

Oh, and i don't know whether thinking about that art triggered it, but for the second time in San Francisco, Matte went to church this morning.

No no, don't worry.  Just the Unitarians.

And it didn't take.

Time i updated the file on Mission Chinese Food.

The chef, Danny Bowein, keeps gathering acclaim.  Before he got involved with Anthony Myint and ended up starting Mission Chinese Food, he worked at Farina and won the Pesto World Championship in Genoa.  Last fall he was named one of San Francisco's up-and-coming young chefs, and last month Mission Chinese Food made the Chronicle's Bay Area Top 100 list, a great honor when you consider that he's competing with folks like Thomas Keller.  Here's an interview with Danny in SF Foodie, back when he was doing Mission Burger.

He keeps updating the menu, and the Eggplant and the Pork Dumpling that i raved about are no more.  They've been replaced with dishes that recognize his roots.  No no, not Korean.  Oklahoman.  We're talking back-country barbecue, falling off the bone and served according to tradition on rafts of white bubble bread sodden with delicious drippings.  Not on the menu but served most days.

I hadn't mentioned in my earlier comments, but the art on the walls is not your usual subjects but rather things like an 8 x 10 foot achingly staged equestrian portrait of a group of very high ranking Chinese military officers in full dress uniform.  It redefines surreal:

For my latest visit, i took three of the most delightful women i know, my good friends Gloria, Sybil, and Carol (in order of acquaintance).  They suggested that i select the food, and since being a food fascist comes readily to me, i quickly acquiesced and ordered as appetizers the Beijing Vinegar Peanuts and the Fresh Tofu.  For entrees, the Lion's Head Meatball, Thrice Cooked Bacon, and Sizzling Cumin Lamb.

We feasted at leisure, Sybil and i getting the additional enjoyment of watching the astonishment of newcomers Gloria and Carol as they experienced food better than they'd dreamed possible.

You owe it to yourself to eat here.  It's crowded at night and they don't take reservations, but so far you can be seated without a wait at lunch, especially if you get there a bit before noon.  The sign outside says "Lung Shan".  Here are the details.

Poetry Break - 13 May 2011

You, Andrew Marvell

And here face down beneath the sun   
And here upon earth’s noonward height   
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night:

To feel creep up the curving east   
The earthy chill of dusk and slow   
Upon those under lands the vast   
And ever climbing shadow grow

And strange at Ecbatan the trees   
Take leaf by leaf the evening strange   
The flooding dark about their knees   
The mountains over Persia change

And now at Kermanshah the gate   
Dark empty and the withered grass   
And through the twilight now the late   
Few travelers in the westward pass

And Baghdad darken and the bridge   
Across the silent river gone
And through Arabia the edge
Of evening widen and steal on

And deepen on Palmyra’s street
The wheel rut in the ruined stone   
And Lebanon fade out and Crete
High through the clouds and overblown

And over Sicily the air
Still flashing with the landward gulls   
And loom and slowly disappear   
The sails above the shadowy hulls

And Spain go under and the shore   
Of Africa the gilded sand
And evening vanish and no more   
The low pale light across that land

Nor now the long light on the sea:

And here face downward in the sun   
To feel how swift how secretly
The shadow of the night comes on ...   

MacLeish wrote this in the aftermath of World War II, so he was a bit premature.  Fewer would call him premature now.

And i should have posted this pic back at Easter to demonstrate to the world that San Francisco, contrary to all that propaganda from the right, has not entirely abandoned Christianity:

I've written before about the male tendency to grab stuff off the ground and put it into our mouths for a taste before the women with us can slap it out of our hands.  I realized that this guy behavior was universal when i was working at Oracle and was talking with an Indian programmer whose wife was a consultant on an assignment back east for a month.  She'd just called him up and ranted about how she did not want to come home and find him dead on the kitchen floor, poisoned from some food he'd let develop pathogens and then eaten anyhow.

This came up again for me recently when i was experimenting with some more green strawberries that Poli Yerena had given me, this time trying for a salsa that i could seal hot in jars so it would keep.  See, i don't worry about poisoning myself, but i do want to take good care of my friends.  Besides, it'd be harder to give the stuff away if word got out about fatalities.

I'd picked up some first-of-the-season little Thai peppers, thinking i'd use them in the salsa, so i chopped up a couple.  And realizing i needed to test their "hotness", i picked up one of the disks about a millimeter thick and put it in my mouth.

I did not chew it up.  

Oh no, there was not time to chew it.  

The instant it hit my tongue, the pain blossomed.  And alas, in order to spit it out, i had to close my mouth around it, which allowed it to contact the roof of my mouth and my gums, spreading the pain.

I leaped to the sink and guzzled water from the tap, and when that didn't work, i stuck a fingerful of peanut butter in there in hopes of soothing the shrieking tissues, but what that got me was peanut-butter-flavored pain.  So, hell, i just went back to work, trying to focus on making the salsa to take my mind off my mouth.

The next day i was in Star Stream and mentioned this adventure to Remi's excellent counterman, Alec, who it turns out could sympathize because a few years ago he'd gone to Panama and was sitting out in a lovely garden beneath a cashew tree and noticed that it had fruit on it.  He picked one and sampled it but found it unappetizing, so he fished the nut out and bit into it.  And was in agony from the acid burns from the raw nut, which seared his mouth and left it inflamed for days.

The green strawberry salsa?  It turned out tasty but totally wimpy since i'd made it with Pasilla chiles while my mouth was still burning from the Thai peppers.  Next time i'll compromise and make it with jalapeños.  We live and learn.  Well, sometimes.

Some posts across the street from Star Stream:

I am an ineffective organizer.

I had thought it would be so much fun to get together a group of like-minded individuals and march as an anti-religion contingent in the gay parade at the end of this month, so did my homework on how to register a contingent, wrote an eloquent letter soliciting fellow marchers, and sent the letter in an email to every gay male i know who lives in the Bay Area.  

OK, admittedly the number of addressees was not all that large since i've added hardly any new gay friends in the past twenty years and the great majority of my gay friends died of AIDS in the eighties and nineties, but still, there were twenty-something people on the list.

The majority of addressees did not respond.  Of those who did, only three committed to join me, the others pleading prior commitments.  And no, this was not because my gay friends are deeply religious people.  Oh please.  They all had the sense decades ago to realize that worshiping a god who hated them was a waste of both their time and the god's.  So no, they're just apathetic....or cowards.  

So i guess i'll just go by myself as a renegade, unregistered marcher like i did last year.

Last year?  Well, yes.   On Sunday 27 June 2010 for the first time in my life i fought back against my persecutors of the past seventy years.

I marched (or actually rolled on my Segway since i'm too lame to walk very far) in San Francisco's gay parade carrying a sign reading 


Aside from the stink eye from the cops, who we suspected all along were also religious fascists, i basked in the greatest affirmation i've ever experienced in my life. Thousands of people lining Market Street gave me thumbs ups, laughed, applauded, shouted encouragement, and filmed me...and that's just the ones i could see at the front of the crowd lining the street.

The high point was when a couple of young men shouted rhythmically "FUCK THE CHURCH, FUCK THE CHURCH" and were immediately joined by dozens (hundreds?) of bystanders around them. 

Thrilling?  You be the judge.

So what if i can't organize a polite, legal contingent in the parade.  Maybe i can incite a spontaneous demonstration instead.  Something like the White Night but without the arson component and focused on St. Mary's Cathedral and the lying closet fag who runs it. 

Last year i'd decided that i had to be honest with myself and admit that i was simply too old and tired to make another trip to the Netherlands.  And then yesterday noon Rina called me up with the news that i could stay with her, which somehow put an entirely different spin on things since my Segway can be left just inside the street door, thus solving the major problem.

So i went online to see about ticket availability and got my friend Jeff to make sure i was doing everything right, and although it was much too late to use frequent flier miles, we managed to find an opening on KLM's non-stop flight to Amsterdam that was less than i'd paid in 2008.

So i'm going back to Amsterdam 25 July - 25 August.  And this time the focus will be on learning Dutch, so i won't be carrying an extra suitcase full of locally unavailable food.  Don't worry, i'll take the necessary chile powders and such for chile con carne and mole poblano.

The impact on my life is immediate - instead of spending the summer making jams and jellies and chutneys, now i'll be frantically studying Dutch before i leave.  To begin, i'll start reading all the Facebook posts of all my Dutch friends, looking up every single damn word i don't know.

The rest of the good news is that Jeff is between apartments and will stay here while i'm gone, solving problems for both of us.

It's astonishing to me how, after i'd completely given up on another trip to Amsterdam, one fell into place easily in a matter of hours.  Sometimes things work.  Click on "2011 - Amsterdam Revisited" under the Amsterdam Tales menu in the left gutter.

Here's a neighborhood artichoke, working hard on Hartford Street:

Planking Santa Rosa - 8 June 2011

Today i drove up to Santa Rosa to see Gloria on her birthday, and to celebrate it she first let me play in her cherry tree and followed that treat with a delicious lunch of boneless pork ribs and new potatoes braised in sauerkraut.   To keep it from being too German, she served it with French onion soup.  Fresh cherries for dessert.

And then we went off to this big discount grocery store where we both love shopping, and since we were passing through downtown, we went ahead and planked Depot Park.  Best i can tell from googling, this is the first time anybody's planked Santa Rosa.  Thanks to Anneke in Nijmegen for introducing me to planking.

Aw, you're just jealous you didn't do it first.

Matte Makes The San Francisco Chronicle -12 June 2011

I got an email this morning from my friend Carol telling me i'd made the San Francisco Chronicle.   What!  i wondered, having heard of neither awards nor indictments.

So i frantically flipped through to Section D, where sure enough, John King, our superb architecture critic, had a little piece about those Deco buildings flanking the Liberty Steps, and there i was, headed home on my Segway in the foreground.

 Photo by John King

And i'd decided years ago which was my best side, but how'd he know?

And yes, i joined a gym at the beginning of February and have been working out with increasing fervor, but no, i am not on steroids.  That bulge on my right leg that looks like the quadriceps of a soccer player is actually my camera in the side pocket, and the reason i seem to have 20 inch guns and monster delts is because the wind is coming in the front of my shirt and blowing it up like a balloon.

A Weekend of Celebration and Confession - 25 June 2011

It's the weekend of the gay parade in San Francisco, and the city is hopping with gay tourists, everyone all the more festive owing to the civil rights breakthrough represented by yesterday's legalization of gay marriage in the New York state legislature.  Every day a few more old Christian bigots die, taking with them their homophobia, so it won't be that many more years until all American gays get the rights of normal people.  Well, at least outside of Texas.

Meanwhile, i gotta continue the gay theme of today's post by mentioning that last week not one, but two well-known lesbian bloggers - Amina Arraf, "A Gay Girl in Damascus" and Paula Brooks editor of "Lez Get Real" - turned out to be American men, both married to women and presumably happily heterosexual although one does wonder whether there might be something a little screwy about guys who make careers of pretending to be lesbians.

Still, that would be an utterly hypocritical statement if i didn't immediately confess that i was just kidding in all those posts i made last winter about my supposed transition to the body of a 160 pound mountain lion.  Yes, that was all just a fantasy, and i apologize for deliberately misleading my readers.  Actually, i might as well take this opportunity to make a clean breast of it and admit that i'm not really a seventy-year-old retired gay foodie but rather a 400 pound Samoan lesbian whose insatiable appetite for turkey tails has fueled the erection of that tower of deceit known as "Matte Gray in SF."

So how did i celebrate Gay Day in San Francisco?  I was so crushed over the lack of response to my attempt to organize an anti-church parade contingent that i just didn't feel up to doing it again by myself, so i bailed out of the gay celebration completely and caught the second day of Mission Chinese Food's reopening after their return from China.  See, Danny had responded to two glowing articles by Mark Bittman and Abby Aguirre in The New York Times during the last week in May by closing the restaurant and taking all the employees to China for three weeks.  I just love folks who march to their own house drummer.

I had one of the new things on the menu, the Mongolian Onglet.  Delicious...and plenty piquant.  You know those little pepper symbols on certain items?  He means every one of them.

Some new street art on Market:

Carol and i have just had a marvelous adventure.  We went to Pier 24.  I'll give you some links, but first, my version of the back story.  

About six years ago a fabulously wealthy local investment banker named Andy Pilara more or less accidentally saw a photograph in a gallery window that so caught his eye that he stopped in his tracks and then went into the gallery where, for the first time in his life he was blown away by a piece of art.  

So of course he bought it.  And then went back and bought others.  And more and more and more, learning as he bought and amassing a huge collection (he's rich as Croesus, remember).  So then he realizes he sitting on this fabulous collection and wonders what he's gonna do with it.  Elementary, let others also enjoy it.

So he gets a long term lease on one of the ramshackle piers left over from the days when San Francisco was a working port, shores up the crumbling structure, guts it, and creates an enormous temperature and humidity controlled display space for photography.  His photography.  The largest display space for photography in the country.

And throws it open to the public.  Free.  But only by reservation.  For something like a couple of dozen people at a time which guarantees unobstructed views and a quiet experience.  You can stay for only two hours.  But yes, that's enough time because he's presenting the collection in chunks of a few hundred at a time.  The current exhibition is the second, titled HERE, and is material mainly from local photographers and includes works such as Eadweard Muybridge's 1878 panorama from the Mark Hopkins displayed just above Mark Klett's 1990 panorama from almost the same vantage.  Not that any of this information is posted on the wall beside the photographs.  Oh no, the only data provided about the photographs is in the handsome, free brochure you are given as you enter, and that merely lists the names of the photographers (a maximum of three) represented in each of the 22 rooms.  Period.  Tough art love.  No spoon feeding.  Late note:  In November i went back to take Gloria, and now they have a brochure that lists the artist and title of every photograph.

And did i mention that it's all free, free, free?  Here we have a sterling gentleman in the mold of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett who, having amassed a fortune comes to the understanding that there is something better to do with his wealth than follow the example of the Waltons and the Koch brothers and devote it to making certain that not a single cent escapes the family or worse yet, provides an amenity for the less wealthy.  A round of applause for Andy Pilara.  Three rounds of applause.

Here's an article that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle last year before the first exhibition opened.

And here's a link to the official website, which has more information including how to make that reservation.  You really must see this exhibition.  I'm sick at heart that i missed the first one, but for sure i'll never miss another.

Carol and i were stunned by the show, and as we staggered out i noticed that my eyes had somehow been recalibrated and were seeing potential photographs everywhere i looked.  I was so completely enthralled that i whipped out my little Panasonic and started taking shots of the rusting rail line between the piers.  Then i heard a man speak behind me and turned to see this guy entering the door carrying a framed and wrapped object.  He was saying something jocular to the effect that i should send him a copy so he could display it.

Quick witted Carol asked, "Are you Mr. Pilara?"


And no, you're not seeing any of the miserable shots i had just taken.  One of 'em had enough potential that i'll go back down there on a nice day with my big Panasonic and try for the shot i missed.  And maybe then i'll post it here...but you'll have to promise to let it be our secret from Andy.  Wouldn't want him pestering me.

And for now i'll substitute a pic i took of one of the eight bridges spanning the mighty Petaluma River, this one downtown and for pedestrians and bikes.   Trying to get in training for Amsterdam.

The Eventual Emergency Mousecat - 6 July 2011

I had a brilliant idea this morning for an effective way to study some Dutch in preparation for my trip to Amsterdam later this summer.  I could just sit down and carefully read my way through the Dutch cookbook that my friend Danny sent me several years ago, looking up every word i don't know.  While i get some good cooking ideas, i can be building vocabulary in one of my favorite areas.  That way when i find myself understanding nothing in a conversation that's going on around me in Amsterdam, i can steer the conversation back onto cooking, where i'll at least have a chance of following it.

I already knew the names of most foods in Dutch, but my knowledge of cooking terminology was close to zero.  So i set out with the cookbook at my left hand and a small dictionary at my right in case i couldn't work my way through relying on context and cognates to German and English.  

Good thing i had the dictionary because before i got beyond the list of ingredients for the first recipe i hit "eventueel nootmuskaat", which i decided was probably not "eventual emergency mousecat" although i sure did like the ring of that.

Well, yes, "eventueel" is one of those false cognates and means "optional" rather than "eventual"; and as much as i like the idea of an emergency mousecat, that would be spelled "noodmuiskat" instead of "nootmuskaat" if such a thing existed.

And yes, i fear this one may be funnier in Dutch, so we'll see how it plays in Amsterdam.

Meanwhile, this morning i Segwayed over to SF General Hospital for my final visit participating in a study of brain trauma victims that i agreed to join after i woke up there on a gurney last January.  Today they did some tests, not all of which i passed although i think the problem is senility rather than leftover trauma.  The Brain Trauma Center is in the old part of the hospital, and as i exited i noticed that the building across the street could almost have been in Amsterdam.

Countdown to Amsterdam - 16 July 2011

You know how you have those days when everything goes wrong and you sit there in despair.  Well, i have to remind myself that sometimes things fall into place.

I had been stressing out over completing my preparations, but then KLM confirmed that i was set up to bring the Segway along as a handicap assistance device.  Whew.  And then after a little back and forth managed to get Walgreens to issue me some meds in advance since i won't be here when the prescriptions are due to be renewed.  

And then after some frightening delays Battery Refill down in Ontario came through yesterday with the recelled NiMH batteries for the Segway.   The company tends to run a little slow, but they do good work.  Besides, getting your batteries recelled is much cheaper and greener than buying new ones.  I put them through phase 1 of the conditioning procedure overnight.  Then i went out this morning with the intent of running them down, forgetting how accustomed i'd become to much weaker batteries.   I took a scenic route over to the Alemaney Farmers' Market in the southeast part of the city and from there rode pretty much due north over the top of Bernal Heights and thence down Harrison to Star Stream.   The last few times i've popped in for one of Remi's obscenely delicious cinnamon rolls, she hasn't been there, but i caught her this morning in between customers and got the good news that she and Mary have now moved out of partnership with Star Stream and are on their own as Goody Goodie Cream and Sugar (website a work in progress since they went out on their own, and it does not yet mention the delicious sandwiches), still at 1830 Harrison and still with fabulous food in reasonable portions.

Oh yes, i traded her a jar of Tayberry Pasilla Jalapeño Jelly for one of those damn cinnamon rolls and then continued on down Harrison to the Embarcadero.   Over to Pier 24, which was so barricaded up that i couldn't get into the area outside the door where i want to take another pic.  So then in a big loop to the east of the bridge underpinnings before finally cutting west over to Market, returning home after couple of extra loops around the block, brought the Segway in and left it running propped against the wall for an hour and the batteries still were not fully discharged.   Had to run it around the block another time to run it down.  The phase 2 double charge cycle is now underway, and i'll run the batteries completely down again tomorrow.

Last Thursday i met Gloria at the Seed Bank in charming downtown Petaluma, where we enjoyed the store for a bit and then went across the street to a good Thai restaurant.  From there, we drifted over to a little park, split a delicious almond cheese tart with coffees from a little pie shop Petaluma Pie Company run by a delightful young couple, and talked for a couple of hours.  Wonderful to unwind with old friends.

The Quake-Catcher Network - 18 July 2011

I've found a new way to get involved in the best kind of volunteerism, something that takes little time and effort but which has the potential to be of significant benefit to the world.

All i'll have to do is stick an accelerometer to the floor beneath my desk and plug it into my PC, download some software (BOINC) and set it running, and voila, i'll be a part of the Quake-Catcher Network in which zillions of us worldwide will form the world's largest and densest earthquake monitoring system.

Click on the link above and take a look at the worldwide QCN sensor map.  We're everywhere!  Not surprising to see us thick as flies up the San Andreas Fault, but amazing to see so many volunteers in places where earthquakes are not much on people's minds.  Like Austin, Texas.

Back in Petaluma, the focus is entirely on the quality of the pastries....and BTW, this is not the back door of the Petaluma Pie Company praised above:

A Day of Infamy - 21 July 2011

Wires were jammed this morning with accusations outing Matte Gray as a practicing septugenarian.

Mr. Gray could not be reached for comment, and his friends expressed shock and disbelief.  His office issued the following statement:

"Matte urges all his readers to remain calm while we look into these scurrilous charges, but we remain confident that his name will be cleared.  A thorough internal investigation has been launched, and we have demanded a recount."

The neighborhood artichoke in its dotage

The Wicked Witch of Seward Street  - 22 July 2011

I've stretched out the conditioning program for the new Segway batteries, but i'm still actively seeking excursions so as to run the batteries completely down.  Today i realized i could zip over to the Seward Street Slides and take a look at that plum tree i noticed on the park grounds just a little too late last year.

Got there and immediately noticed that there wasn't a plum on the whole damn tree, and shocked at this development since i'd been thinking they probably wouldn't be even starting to ripen yet, i rolled down the sidewalk a couple of doors to the south and spoke to a woman watering her yard.

Told her i'd noticed the tree covered with plums last year and had been thinking i'd get a couple of quarts off it this year and make an only-in-San-Francisco specialty, Wild San Francisco Plum Jam.  She got back to me that i'd just missed 'em, that one night last week a "commercial harvester" had come in and stripped the tree.  Well, whoever did it, they did a thorough job, as there was not a plum to be seen.

But then we got into conversation, and she identified herself as a lifelong resident of the neighborhood and pointed out neighborhood features like a meticulously constructed stone retaining wall that had been built by the original owners of the old house next door, etc.  

Quite a nice conversation until she mentioned that the neighborhood had been ruined when the slides were reviewed on Yelp and "outsiders" came to use them.  And then i realized that she must be the Wicked Witch whose behavior had been glowingly described by numerous Yelpers.  Not too surprising she doesn't like Yelp considering the things folks have written about her there.  That said, she was quite pleasant to me.

But then i'd identified myself as a forty-year resident of the city, so maybe that qualified me as someone other than an outsider.

And perhaps more importantly, i wasn't laughing.

Here's a shot of the gardens above the slide portion of the park:

Eating San Francisco - 24 July 2011

Here in the frantic countdown before i leave for Amsterdam i thought i'd cover a few recent culinary experiences.

Last week i got around to trying Criolla Kitchen, a new place at 16th and Market in the space formerly occupied by the Baghdad Cafe.  The website in the link above is today just a placeholder, but hopefully they'll update it with more information soon.  The place bills itself as creole/southern food, as seen in this menu in a review back in May.  

I know this food well since i was born in deep east Texas just across the Sabine River from Louisiana and one of my father's sisters married a man named Lafitte who claimed he was a great-great-great grandson of Jean Lafitte although from what i read it's iffy whether Lafitte had any legitimate offspring.  Yes, that Jean Lafitte.  

And now that i think about it, i figure i'm one of the relatively few folks in San Francisco who know that "Nachitoches" on the Criolla Kitchen menu is not pronounced the way it looks.

I went there for lunch with a friend and we had the chicken and waffle, which was good, and a crispy catfish sandwich, which was better.  Both were good enough that i'll go back.  Besides, the waitress was a delightful young woman, and i don't say that only because i made her laugh.

With me, dammit.

For my birthday my friend David took me to Mission Chinese Food.  It was his first visit, and i'd been eager to get him to try it.  When he told me he'd be bringing his fourteen-year-old son, i was pleased because he's a good kid and i like him.  But when they came in the place the enormity of it swept me as i remembered that the kid, while wonderfully voracious, is not the least bit adventuresome in his food. 

I looked at the menu and my heart sank.  Then i saw the Hainam Chicken Rice and the "Chinese" BBQ Platter and relaxed since how can any kid not like chicken and rice or Oklahoma style (in spite of the name) barbecue?  Well, i found out.

The barbecue came with a stack of Wonder Bread (i told you it was Oklahoman!), which the kid wolfed first, it being the only familiar thing in sight.  Then i watched him carefully slice off the lean meat every single molecule of disgusting, quivering fat and had a flashback to 56 years ago when i was his age and routinely did exactly the same thing.  The hot links he could just tell from their appearance were inedible.  The chicken rice?  Well, i'd glossed over the fine print, "Dressed in Shaoxing wine, chicken fat, roasted peanuts, and cilantro", so it tasted funny although he did pick off the peanuts and eat them.

And it wasn't just the kid i pushed.  David is a gourmet, but he eats very little meat and has a low threshold of tolerance for pepper.  Sigh.

So for the first time at Mission Chinese Food, i did not get to sit there watching folks gorge themselves on food far better than they'd dreamed possible.   Hell, i felt so bad about getting them in there that i didn't even gorge myself....well, not completely.

I tried to make up for it afterwards by treating them to ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery, where i got to try their ineffable (and Chronicle award-winning) salted caramel ice cream.  Superb.  And they ate theirs with gusto, too.  Finally, something that tasted normal.

In this morning's Chronicle there was a big article in the food section about a blind tasting of Bay Area ice creams.  Bi-Rite's salted caramel got very high marks, but the highest scorer of all was the Mitchell's chocolate.  So of course on the way home from taking some photographs on 6th Street for my friend Robert who needed them for an article he's writing, i rode oh, about thirty blocks out of the way so as to swing by Mitchell's and see for myself.  Yep.  Best chocolate ice cream i ever ate with the possible exception of Michael Recchiuti's, which i tasted twenty years ago in the brief window when he was retailing it and which is now available only at a handful of top end restaurants he makes it for when he feels like it, so i'll never taste that again.

And finally, tomorrow morning i'll drop by Goody Goodie and pick up four of their Olive Cocoa Nib Wafers to carefully wrap and take to Amsterdam.  These things are astonishing.  Hard to imagine that something consisting mainly of ground up olives and cocoa nibs could be so good.  

And this is it for the 2011 Journal for a month.  Check out the menu in the left gutter and click on "Amsterdam Revisited", where i'll try to post some episodes about the stay there when i'm not studying Dutch.

Here's a new little minipark made by blocking a street nobody was using off San Jose Avenue at about 28th or so, just north of Mitchell's.

31 August 2011 - Home Again

Upon my return from Amsterdam last Friday i swung by Mitchell's and grabbed a half gallon of their Vanilla French Custard flavor to make sure that their quality had remained at its previous high level, and afterwards noticed that the lower sign above was no longer present, doubtless removed by a freedom-hating bureaucrat.  At least it got documented here while Freedom still Rang.

And then today finally had the energy to drag myself back into the gym.  To my astonishment the scale said i'd gained only five pounds during my month of gluttony.  Hmmmm.  At that rate, it would take me nearly four years to reach 300 pounds.  Sure is tempting except that my pitiful reentry workout had my heart pounding so badly that it scared me into winding the workout down early, figuring i want to have at least one more carton of Mitchell's award-winning chocolate ice cream before i die of a self-inflicted cardiac event.

It's always wonderful to return home, particularly since having delighted in Dutch modern architecture for a month somehow as usual sharpened my eyes and made me better appreciate what we have here, especially in our northeast quadrant, which is now just full of exciting new buildings

2 September 2011 - Blackberry Festival

I celebrated the recovery of some of my strength by going up to Gloria's for a morning of blackberrying on Santa Rosa Creek.  It's wonderful to see old friends again after an absence, especially folks like Gloria you're so comfortable with that you can just totally relax and be yourself, knowing that somehow over the last forty years she's got used to you as you are.

And vice versa.

Photo by Gloria

As you can see, the vines were laden, and we picked a gallon and a half before we returned to her place for a lunch that had been billed as no-fuss chicken sandwiches but somehow got transmogrified into a five course luncheon:  roasted chicken, grits, fresh heirloom tomato and basil salad (both picked to order from her garden),  chard/raisin/pinenut stirfry, and a cucumber/yogurt raita-like dish.  And then an apple crisp for dessert.   Gasp.

I was going to call the grits "polenta" to make them sound sophisticated, but they were really buttered grits, and i wolfed them.  Besides, in the trendy culinary world, grits are the new polenta.

So what to do with a gallon and a half of fresh blackberries?  Well, this morning i went out to Casa Guadalupe and picked up some apples, Mexican limes, Pasillas, and Jalapeños so that tomorrow Mark can come over and watch/help while i turn 'em into jelly.  He'd mentioned a while back wanting to pitch in, and i've been looking forward to it.

And I already figured out the name of it:  WSRCBBPJAKL (Wild Santa Rosa Creek Blackberry Pasilla Jalapeño Key Lime Jelly).  Yes, for the close readers, the "A" in that abbreviated name is for the apple that gets ground up into all the jams and jellies.  No tame blackberries in this thing, and yes, i'm calling 'em "Key" limes because the great majority of the supposedly "Key" limes sold in this country are actually Mexican limes and they're both Citrus aurantifolia.

7 September 2011 - A Feeding Frenzy

It started out innocently enough.  I decided i wouldn't even go to the Heart of the City Farmers' Market this morning since i can't imagine missing the Castro Farmers' Market in the afternoon.

But then i realized that i just had to take a jar of the jelly i made from the Santa Rosa Creek blackberries to Poli Yerena and his wife, and maybe Glenn Tanimoto and the Schletewitz folks, and the Hoover folks, not having seen them for six weeks.  So i went on down there.  

And everything was going fine until i spotted this year's crop of fresh cranberry beans for $1.50/lb and grabbed a bag of those and a few red onions, and then out of the corner of my eye noticed that my favorite okra vendor had near-perfect pods for $2/lb and some cute Thai peppers for $3/lb.  And then when i handed Glenn his jelly i noticed that he had his French plums, so i got a small bag of those just to eat.  And across from him this vendor had good looking Dapple Dandy pluots for $1.50/lb.  And then on the way to Schletewitz's nectarines, my pepper man had perfect red New Mexico peppers.

By this time, i had so many bags hanging off the Segway handlebars that it was looking like a homeless person's repurposed grocery cart, but somehow i got everything home safely.

And now the nectarines, the pluots, and three of the New Mexico chiles are simmering into a jam, and i'm headed out to the Castro Farmers' Market.  Well, see, I forgot the garlic.

15 September 2011 - A Folsom Street Adventure

No no, i'm not talking about the Folsom Street Fair, which is week after next but which i'm way too old for.  This one was rather more low key.  I just went out to Rainbow for some milk and an Acme sourdough baguette, which i keep returning to after flirting around with the competitors since it's pretty much the, ahem, acme.  And since i was out and it was a gorgeous day i rode slowly down Folsom Street, trying to take in the astonishing architectural changes that have transmogrified SOMA while my back was turned over the past couple of decades.

It's not all new, of course, but even the old has in many cases been spiffed up with new paint:

And there are moments of non-architectural whimsy

But as you get a little farther northeast, the new architecture prevails

And this

And this

And mixed in with it, some of the older, like this magnificent PG&E monolith at Fremont Street

I loved that building at first sight decades ago.  You'd think from the appearance that it would be the home of the infamous Room 641A provided since 2003 as a public service by AT&T, which takes our money for our phone and DSL service and then shows its gratitude for our custom by turning us in to the feds.  But no, Room 641A is in their building at 611 Folsom, which has a much more benign feel since it's set back from the street behind a large, leafy public space and does not look at all like the kind of place where the National Security Agency would be warrantlessly wiretapping all our telephone and computer communications.

I mentioned Room 641A in a Facebook comment last week and was called a paranoid by some idiot who maintained that it would be impossible to effectively monitor the volume of traffic that went through that room.  I don't think fast enough to reason with fools anymore, but i'll just point out here that the NSA has an enormous classified budget usually estimated as more than double that of the CIA, has been providing SIGINT services for the US government since 1952, and is very very good at it.  So since we know they're sucking up all our Internet and phone traffic in Room 641A, i have every confidence that they know how to use it.

And besides, in my misspent youth i worked for their US Army branch.

I have moaned before over my having been shortchanged in the gay gene i got since clearly there is chromosome damage at several points, perhaps the most dramatic being that i have little sense of style and less interest in it.

Yet another example of this was revealed to me this morning at the gym when after eight months of attendance i noticed a well turned ankle on one of the handsome young men.  And then i looked, and looked, and looked some more and saw that all the young men (and even the middle age ones) were sporting well turned ankles.  They're not wearing socks!

No no, wait.  They are wearing a foot garment, a sort of sock without a top like women wore with athletic shoes fifty years ago. If you look closely, you can see the edge of it showing where the foot enters the shoe.

I tried ever so casually using the toe of my right shoe to push the top of my left sock down around the ankle but that just looked like i had a fat ankle, and besides, the most casual observer could immediately see that i was making a pathetically unsuccessful attempt to be stylish.  And if there's anything worse than being oblivious to style, it's trying to be stylish and failing.

So i guess i'll have to buy some of the damn things although in the first place i already have a lifetime supply of white socks, and worse yet, i figure since these things are clearly all the rage they'll probably cost more than real socks.

Oh, but wait.  I just took my shoes and socks off, looked closely, and determined that the more of this scarred and battered flesh i can cover, the happier everybody'll be.  What i really need is some of those socks that come all the way up and cover my calf so that the only skin showing below the long shorts would be the knobby knees.

A secure apartment on Alvarado Street

19 September 2011 - More Fashion Notes

Another fashion note, this one sparked by my following bicyclists down Market Street and reinforced by a recent observation from my Dutch friend Mark.  

In the old days, nobody could have been more utterly unconcerned with his underwear than the average straight man.  Underwear was something your mother bought in bulk for you, the cheapest brand available, and under ideal circumstances the tattered remnants of the last set she bought lasted until you were married and your bride took over the duty of getting your undergarments.

Times have changed, and if the straight men i see in San Francisco are at all typical, they are now selecting their underwear with the attention to detail previously exercised only by gay underwear fetishists.  Well, see, for the first time in history, men's  underwear shows, since fashion now decrees that the waistband with its designer logo plus an inch or two of the brightly patterned fabric be displayed above the belt, which is now cinched on the upper slopes of the buttocks.

Me, i'm still parting my hair on the side.

And there's nothing i can do about that because i have a Tiger Barber, an ethnic Chinese from Vietnam who is not long to be denied what she knows is best for my hair.

Market and Laguna

20 September 2011 - Radical Chic

Quite a pleasant evening.  Went out to Mission Chinese Food to meet Jeff for an early dinner.  Got there quite early and to combat the heat and kill the time sipped a "Come Hell or High Watermelon" wheat beer from 21st Amendment while i read a few pages in Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival.  The cognitive dissonance between trendy eateries/effete microbrewery beers and Chomsky's radical leftist prose reminded me of that marvelous scene in Wolfe's Radical Chic in which he depicts Leonard Bernstein's friends nibbling canapes while they socialize with Black Panthers at his home:

"Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. These are nice. Little Roquefort cheese morsels rolled in crushed nuts. Very tasty. Very subtle. It's the way the dry sackiness of the nuts tiptoes up against the dour savor of the cheese that is so nice, so subtle. Wonder what the Black Panthers eat here on the hors d'oeuvre trail? Do the Panthers like little Roquefort cheese morsels rolled in crushed nuts this way, and asparagus tips in mayonnaise dabs, and meatballs petites au Coq Hardi, all of which are at this very moment being offered to them on gadrooned silver platters by maids in black uniforms with hand-ironed white aprons . . "

We had the Sizzling Cumin Lamb and the General Tso's Veal Rib.  Cold Dan Dan Noodles for a starter.  The lamb was divine, the veal was very good, the conversation sparkled over a range of topics, and i forgot all about Chomsky.

Here's a land side shot on SF's houseboat row

21 September 2011 - BPA and Thee

Full disclosure time, folks.  I've been poisoning you.

But just a little bit.   

Thanks to Mark, i've discovered that the underside of most canning jar lids sold in this country, including the ones i've been using, is now coated with a plastic that contains BPA, which is much in the news since California is on the brink of banning it in baby bottles, a ban which had previously failed owing to heavy lobbying from folks that sell products containing it.   Ah yes, good old American free enterprise, the right to bribe congressmen to vote against regulation of stuff that scaredy cats like the FDA and AMA say is poisonous.

So yes, if you store a jar of my jam upside down so that the underside of the lid is in contact with the contents, some tiny amount of BPA will leach into the food.  And if the jar gets shaken in transit to your cupboard, a more miniscule amount of BPA will get into your food.

In other words, Be Afraid.  Be Slightly Afraid.

On the other hand, if you ever eat or drink anything that's been in a can, you'll be exposed to vastly more BPA since the entire inside of the can is lined with BPA-containing plastic.  And too, many of our plastic food storage containers are rich sources of BPA (and other horrible stuff like phthalates.   My preliminary research suggests that plastic containers with the resin identification codes 3, 6, and 7 are the ones to watch out for and that BPA is found only in code 7 plastics).

Actually, BPA has been leaching into our foods since the sixties, so us old farts might as well not worry about it.  On the other hand, if you have kids you might be thinking about how you can limit their exposure.  Like by reducing the amount of canned foods you serve 'em and by doing your own homework on which plastic food storage containers are safer. 

And by storing Matte's jams and jellies in the upright and locked position.

Noe at Clipper

1 October 2011 - Fall Fashion Update

Regarding my earlier comments about men's mothers buying their underwear until the bride takes over this task, i've been informed by a couple of reliable sources that, on the contrary, their underwear and socks are the only items of clothing that their wives allow them to purchase for themselves.  Although, that said, i was just informed by my friend Sue that she feels pretty sure that her SO of many years is still being supplied with underwear by his mother.   So it can go either way.

Now about those socks.  I took a clipboard into the gym the other day and did a careful survey.  As it turned out, the clipboard was unnecessary, as the only other human being in the entire gym besides myself who was wearing traditional, visible socks was this fat old walrus with whom i shudder at the very idea of expressing sartorial solidarity.  Ummm, continuing to show solidarity.

So something has to be done.  

I dug deep into my white sock drawer and unearthed in a sedimentary layer at the back a pair of those tube socks that were popular in the seventies.  And since that was before most of the folks in the gym were born, i won't look hopelessly out of fashion and in fact might very well spark a new trend.  I'll wear 'em tomorrow morning.

With shoes.  The scabs and scars are optional, but all us athletic guys are sporting 'em. 

To start, a pic to show you that San Francisco continues to keep pace with works by the most acclaimed street artists.  This one has just got to be by Eine.

Behind Smitten

I'd been reading about Smitten (click on this link!) and thinking, Oh Please.  A little too over the top, a lot too precious.  But my curiosity finally got the better of me and i went to Octavia Boulevard at Linden and stopped at their store made out of a shipping container so i could taste a serving of ice cream prepared to order for me in about a minute in this awesomely high tech liquid nitrogen-cooled machine.

Well, see, the main factor determining the smoothness of ice cream is the size of the ice particles, and the colder the preparation environment, the smaller the particles.  Thus the liquid nitrogen.  And thus the dramatic clouds of water vapor that look like steam when they squirt the liquid nitrogen in.  So watching 'em make your serving is an entertaining show and a tribute to Robyn Sue Goldman, the brilliant young woman who invented the whole thing.

And then you get to taste it.  OMG.   Smooooooooooooooooooth.  Best ice cream on the planet?  Yep.  Most expensive?  Probably.  For the price of two scoops of it, you can buy a gallon tub of Safeway's house brand.  And that's why the American poor are mostly obese since it takes a gallon of Safeway's to provide the satisfaction contained in two scoops of Smitten.

The problem is that the place is just three blocks off Market, and on my way to and from almost everything.  Only four flavors at a time, but all you need is the Tcho's chocolate.  Go ahead and worship at the feet of Ecstasy.  Yes, that's the Smitten store at her feet.

"Ecstasy" by  Karen Cusolito and Dan Das Mann

Occupy US - 12 October 2011

I'm trying to be a radical, i really am.  

I mean, i just read me some Chomsky (see "Radical Chic", above) to fan the flames of my outrage, and i'm tracking with great interest the Occupy Wall Street protests and their national spinoffs.

But it's really hard to be a radical when i'm being outflanked by folks like Mitt Romney, who as recently as the 4th of October was calling the protests "dangerous...class warfare" but has now turned around to the point of offering lukewarm support.

Last Wednesday i rode down to our Federal Reserve Bank to offer my lukewarm support for our OccupySF encampment, figuring i'd roll along with them for a few blocks of their planned march through the financial district.  Of course i've got so senile that i neglected to take along the modest sign i'd printed.  Sigh.

And when i arrived and started talking with people, my impression was similar to that recorded by CW Nevius in his Chronicle column yesterday.  The Occupy folks in SF are hardly the radical fringe, with many of them seeming as middleclass as i am, with logistical support from local nurses and other groups.

Dare i hope that what we are seeing here is leading to a turning point like that which happened in America a bit over forty years ago when suddenly the majority of the nation woke up one morning understanding that our leaders had deceived us and led us into a quagmire in Vietnam?

Actually, it looks like we've already reached that point with regard to our wars in Aghanistan and Iraq.  The next step is for the majority to understand that the whole purpose of the nation as it now exists is to enrich the 1% and that they now control all three branches of our government.  This may be our last chance to tip the scale the other way.

But i was tired and gave up waiting for the march to begin.  

Although i did go ahead and stop at Smitten on the way home for a couple of scoops of the Tcho chocolate.

The rest of this story is that the march later that afternoon was a model of decorum on the part of both protesters and police, and that the encampment was broken up peacefully during the wee hours of the next morning but was rapidly reestablished.  My friend Mark reports that there is now another encampment in front of the Federal office building at Seventh and Mission.

On the afternoon of the 13th i rode down to the Fed Reserve building again to swell the crowd didn't stay long because they were having an organizational meeting and i couldn't hear much of what the speakers were saying.  

And besides, that evening i saw a poll that Fox had taken of its viewers, revealing that 70% of 'em agreed with the economic outlook of the Occupy movement.

So i think my work here is done:-)

Occupy More - 20 October 2011

I am fascinated by the Occupy movement, and in particular the reaction to it in the media.  It was virtually ignored when it first started five weeks ago, and then it was discovered and denounced by the right.  But it didn't really take off until the video clip went viral of NYPD's finest rounding up, fencing off, and then pepper spraying a group of attractive young women who appeared to be doing nothing worse than shouting.  It was this that really attracted the attention of the left.

So more and more folks started attending and marching, and what appears to be a real grass-roots movement seems to be coalescing, something like the Tea Party but on the left and tapping into increasing public dissatisfaction with our level of economic inequity and removal of restrictions on funding of political campaigns so that even local races are bought and sold by those with the deepest pockets.  The Tea Party is also dissatisfied, but in their case  it's with too much regulation of business and excessive taxes on the rich, and pundits on the hard right are growing increasingly hysterical.  SF's own Debra Saunders ranted out a column yesterday on the lawlessness of the local Occupy folks, demanding that they be brought to justice and charged with the only crime that could be pinned on them: first degree tent pitching.

Because when a tent is pitched, the camel's nose is sure to enter.

And speaking of pitched tents, the Occupy crowd in SF has been playing an elaborate minuet with the SFPD, which keeps closing down encampments as they keep springing back up.  The most recent compromise appears to be that there is no longer more than a token presence in front of the Federal Reserve Bank, and as of the 22nd, a much larger encampment has spread from the bocce courts immediately southeast of Justin Herman to the Embarcadero.

I find it interesting that there are parallels with the Arab Spring movement, not that we suffer from the sort of repression under which the entire Arab world languishes, but that a large part of what sparked the Arab Spring was protest against economic inequity.  There are also obvious parallels with the demonstrations in Europe over the austerity measures that are being enacted since these measures are falling hardest on the masses, just as the impact of the current economic woes in this country has fallen overwhelmingly those with lower income.

I simply no longer have the strength or the energy to participate in protests, but i do visit the encampments to offer encouragement, hoping that some benefit to the nation can come out of this movement, most especially a more egalitarian society.

The fringe benefit is that while i'm out i spot new efforts in our local art scene, like this extension on Polk Street of the Brighter Faster mural on Octavia Street.  If this isn't by Eine, somebody is ripping off his style:

Seasonal Foods - 21 October 2011

Chaucer wrote of his Franklin, " After the sondry sesons of the yeer / So chaunged he his mete and his soper."

Well yes, me too.  And after decades of shopping at our farmers' markets, i now have a pretty good idea about who's gonna be having what, when and can routinely ask a vendor when he'll be bringing a certain item to market and have him grin and say 'Next week.'

I'm plotting a little excursion north now during this window of weather opportunity, but another factor in the timing is that i can be gone in the slack period between the end of the fresh cranberry beans and the beginning of the feijoas.

But it's not just produce.  Yesterday i was passing the Noe Valley Bakery and suddenly realized that i'd better make an inquiry about their pecan pie, which is according to everyone who's ever tasted it, better than Mother's and is, like many other excellent foods, seasonal.  So i ducked in and asked the clerk when they'd be opening their season.


So i ordered one and paid for it.

Meanwhile, i have to hurry up and post this because it's lunchtime:

Here's the pie at noon on the 23rd.  That pig Jeff ate a generous piece:

A Coastal Adventure - 22 October 2011

Will he ever learn? they ask.  Not bloody likely.  After only two months of recovery from the exhaustion of my Amsterdam adventure, i'm ready for another one.

Well, see, i've been living in San Francisco continually since June of 1975, but i have never been farther north than a line from Mendocino to Ukiah, to Redding, to Sacramento, to Reno, to Salt Lake City, to Denver to St. Louis to Chicago to Indianapolis to Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, to Albany to Boston to Nantucket.  Most of that i feel no need to see, but i don't like having missed the rest of northern California, western Oregon and Washington, and Vancouver.

And here i am with our beautiful Indian Summer weather, at least locally, and plenty of time before i need to start making batches of feijoa chutney.  And feeling OK, so on Sunday i'm going to throw into the back of my Prius a suitcase with a few changes of clothes, both cameras, my laptop, a little cooler, and my Segway.

And i'm going to head north on 101 to Cloverdale, cut across to Mendocino on the coast, and follow the coast north, stopping for photogenic sights and spending the nights in cheap motels until i run out of energy, i encounter more than one day of rain in succession, or i reach Vancouver.  Whichever comes first.  And at that point i'll turn around and come back home on I-5, ideally passing by the Sundial Bridge at a time when i can get more pics.

I want to go ahead and make this trip before the revolution gets underway, as they are best experienced from the comfort of one's own home.

And since i know in advance that i'm seventy, i'll be stopping early to get good nights' rests and expect to be able to post some pics and a draft version of the adventure every night....or so.

Stay tuned.  Oh, and here's a judgmental little apartment on Noe off 18th Street.

Iraq Withdrawal - 23 October 2011

We're daily seeing newspaper articles about how Obama is winding down the American occupation of Iraq.  The political slant of the medium determines whether this is presented as Obama finally honoring his campaign promise or whether he's squandering the glorious victory for which we paid so highly in blood and treasure.

What at best gets briefly alluded to by both left and right but is usually totally ignored is the fact that Obama is simply honoring the commitment made by his predecessor, George W. Bush, in the Iraq Status of Forces agreement signed and ratified in 2008, before Obama took office.  So now that we are reminded of that, shouldn't the right be damning Bush for this precipitous withdrawal and the left praising him for coming to his senses after five years of senseless bloodshed?

Well not exactly.  It's pretty clear that W. got himself backed into a corner and had to sign the damn agreement but that his master plan was for the American public to unify itself behind him and by acclamation extend the duration of his Presidency until the War on Terror had been satisfactorily concluded or Hell Froze Over, whichever occurred first.  And during this extended Presidency, he could use executive privilege to nullify any disagreeable portions of the SOFA, most especially the part saying all troops would be withdrawn by the end of 2011.  Certainly many others with inside knowledge have written that the Pentagon had every expectation that Something would be done to permit American troops to remain indefinitely in Iraq, as God and General Petraeus intended.

But Something Happened and Obama ended up President ... and is being pilloried by the right for honoring Bush's agreement.  Do we live in interesting times, or what?

To give credit where it is due, i must mention that this issue was brought to my attention in an article last week that was picked up in Some Assembly Required.

Noe Street below 20th Street

Ft. Bragg or Bust - 20 October 2011 

I set out this morning at 10:00 and drove up 101 keeping my eyes peeled for that interesting bridge off to the right somewhere above Healdsburg that i'd never taken the trouble to get off the freeway and photograph.  Kept my eyes dangerously peeled, in fact, and still was forced to admit as i entered the outskirts of Ukiah that this mystery bridge is apparently yet another of my hallucinations.

Of course a possible reason i missed seeing it was that i was tuned to NPR and listening to one military/political expert after another rail at Obama for his failure in 2010 to negotiate a new deal with the Iraqis that would not require all our troops to leave by the end of this year.  I sat there listening in increasing outrage as they all excoriated Obama for this failure while not a single damn one of 'em would admit that it was their boy Bush who had originally agreed to withdraw all American troops by the end of this year.  So now they're beating Obama up for his failure to undo Bush's deal.  

What just sends me ballistic, though, is that the main reason they all give for the necessity of keeping American troops in Iraq is to contain Iran since Iran is now so dangerous.  And of course not a fucking one of them is willing to admit that the reason Iran is now so dangerous is because America went in and destroyed Iraq, which was Iran's greatest enemy.  

Am i the only person in America who remembers the good old days when Saddam Hussein was our buddy and we were supplying him with munitions of mass destruction to use on the Iranians and there were all  those photographs of him and Rumsfeld hugging each other while Iran and Iraq fought a war that cost them collectively something like a million casualties?

We should have just sold arms to both sides and let them keep each other at bay while the rest of the world relaxed.

So anyhow, i finally got out of range of that station and ended up in Ukiah without a damn thing to show for my trip so far when i had one of my brilliant ideas.  I had noticed on my map that a thin blue line wriggled west from Ukiah to Mendocino, so thin in fact that it wasn't even numbered and wasn't even solid blue, suggesting that it had not been paved when the map was made.   Too much potential fun to pass up, i decided, and ignoring all the franchise fast food places, i stopped at a momandpop Mexican place in northern Ukiah and had a totally delicious couple of carnitas-stuffed flautas.   Asked a young diner if he knew about a little dirt road over the mountain to Mendocino and drew a blank, but an older guy overheard me and confirmed that it was close by.  Turn right half a mile down there on "Low Gap Road".

And i did.  And after about ten miles, the pavement stopped and i got to pretend i was one of these guys who drive around the city in big pickups with knobby tires and mudflaps, saying they like to take 'em "off road" when they really mean "off pavement".  Got me some mud on my off-road Prius when i hit what i thought was a little spot of water but was in fact a mud hole.  Luckily i had enough momentum plus enough traction on the right wheel to pull us out of it, as it might have been a little lonely waiting for someone to come along since the only vehicle i encountered (going either direction) during my entire three hours on the road was a pickup sitting there mostly off the road with one wheel canted at a highly discouraging angle.  I stopped but there was nobody around.  I figured the passengers had probably just crawled off into the brush beside the road and died of thirst or something.

When i finally got to the end of the road back onto a real highway, i looked back at what i had got off of and saw this sign:

That sign was clearly there just to scare off the tourists, since i had just ridden all the way from Ukiah on that road, over 30 miles.  There was a similar sign at the other end, but it didn't bother me none since i know a hoax when i see one.

And then glided up Highway 1 through Mendocino on up to Ft. Bragg, where i stopped for the night at a cheap motel.  Was sent by the clerk to a little grill down the street, and i Segwayed down there and had a very tasty petrale washed down with an Old Rasputin, a local 9% stout brewed by the North Coast Brewing Co.  

Also got a look at some of the Skunk Train rolling stock tucked away behind the terminal and suffering from deferred maintenance.

A Fifth the Way Up the Left Side - 25 October 2011

When i was in the limo business in the eighties i had some delightful British clients who, struck by the enormity of the distances in this country, observed of San Francisco, "it's only halfway up the left side" (of California).  Well, i've stopped for the day in Bandon, a fifth of the way up the left side of Oregon.    I've found a cheap motel again (both nights so far have been $45 plus tax) because the only amenity i need is a wifi connection since all i'm gonna do here is type until i can't keep my eyes open and then sleep until i wake up.    

This morning i got up and realized that i ought to be writing my account of this road trip under the pen name Tarmac McCarthy but Googled it this evening and found two references to the name, so it'd been used although only slightly and not for such a high purpose as i intended.  

Not far north of Ft. Bragg i crossed this splendid little bridge.  Dontcha just love that  sideways morning sun!

I do some of my best thinking while driving but foolishly turned the radio on first thing this morning and got a series of foam-spewing right wing ranters who probably quite correctly count on the average American not being able to remember anything that happened more than eighteen months ago and who thus feel free to pretend that Saddam Hussein actually possessed weapons of mass destruction other than the chemical warfare agents we sold him to use against the Iranians.  Sigh.

So to take my mind off all that i took the serpentine scenic route through the Humboldt redwoods, one of the more gorgeous drives on the planet.  I should have waited until a truck came along to better show the scale, but that tiny little asphalt thing at the bottom is a full width US highway.

I stopped for lunch in Arcata mainly because i have had a twenty-year love affair with the internationally acclaimed police log in the Arcata Eye .  And yep, when i went to the paper tonight i couldn't help noticing their front page coverage of the local Occupy group, to which i gave a supportive toot-toot as i passed it just a couple of blocks away from this Hansel and Gretel confection.  Do go back and click on that police log link.

For lunch i got lucky and blundered onto the Arcata Coop, which reminded me of the Berkeley Coop forty years ago.  While the deli was making my pastrami sandwich, i asked a stock clerk at the cheese department where the local artisan cheese section was.  Silly me, they don't organize it that way in the first place, and in the second place she was apparently just passing through the cheese department and didn't know nothing about cheese.  I settled on a Humboldt Fog, not knowing what the other local cheeses were, and knowing that there cannot be many cheeses on the planet better than Humboldt Fog.  

And shortly before i crossed the Oregon border i caught this little red schoolhouse.

Washington in the Rain - 26 October 2011

I set out this morning from Bandon, OR and fairly soon crossed this bridge.  Turned around and went back over it and off on a side road so as to get this shot.  Oregon is just full of bridges built in this style with those elaborate stone (concrete?) columns.

Then drove on up to Florence for brunch at the Kozy Korner since i've sworn not to eat at franchise places.  I knew i was in the right place when i sat down and then looked up to see the entry of a pack of stocky young men in tee shirts, accessorized with buzz cuts, tattoos, and large gold chains around their white Christian necks. The uniform of the day.

But that wasn't the high point in the restaurant.  That came when i ordered the ladies' breakfast special, biscuits with gravy, sausage, eggs, and hash browns and was rewarded with a large, deep platter heaped high with two biscuits that must have been at least four inches square each swimming in a lake of gravy that threatened to overflow...along with a thick slab of pork sausage, a couple of scrambled eggs, and lots of hash browns.  As i told the waiter, it was all i could do to eat all the way across it to the opposite shore, leaving two-thirds of it untouched.  He asked me if i wanted to box it up, but i passed.  Late in the afternoon the enormity of my error swept over me when i remembered that biscuits and gravy are real good cold.

The high point of the day came when i spotted the Heceta Head Lighthouse and then an exit to the parking lot.  As is usual with lighthouses, 

there was a hike, but i asked a picnicking local and determined that this one involved no stairs, only a well maintained gravel trail.    So i popped the Segway out and rode up there, where a knowledgeable volunteer was waiting to escort on a guided tour into the lighthouse, those who made it up the trail.  Only three stories of spiral stairs to the top, where you can see the lens.  

It's now electrified and operates 24/7, but they've maintained the house where the lighthouse keepers and their wives and kids lived until the light was automated.  

And then proceeded up the coast as a light rain started.  It was intermittent, but to make things right, it resumed as i crossed the enormous old bridge across the Columbia River into Washington.  The first town is Long Beach, where i'm staying in the best motel by far (at $79 plus tax) but it's practically across the street from the Washington State Tourist Bureau, which had closed by 5:20 when i arrived but which will be open in the morning so i can pick up a free Washington road map and press on to Seattle.

Seattle and Bust - 27 October 2011

Hadn't gone five miles when i passed this cranberry farm with the farmer sitting there working on something in his lap. 

And shortly thereafter reached the Naselle River

Then on in to South Bend for breakfast at Hamp's, where i got smart and ordered the smallest thing on the menu, a breakfast sandwich of ham and egg on an English muffin.   Full of full-size friendly locals, is that all you're gonna eat? all touting the parts of their state a retired SF writer just had to see.  

Before i even left town, though, there was this retired device that had been used to skid logs down to the river.

And i guess it was at this point that all the cholesterol i've been consuming finally settled onto the walls of my cranial arteries and things started going wrong.  Like i somehow missed the turnoff to Olympia and ended up in Aberdeen, where in partial compensation i spotted this truck.

Aberdeen is not a bad little city, actually, but one with a terribly confusing system of signage that caused me to somehow miss another turn and find myself on a one-way street heading out of town in the wrong direction.  Threaded my way back the other direction on a side street until i got to a point that felt correct and then turned the corner, where i spotted this good omen.  Same design as the Third and Fourth Street bridges in San Francisco.

That wasn't my bridge, but i went into a store across the street and confessed that i'd got myself totally turned around but was trying to get to Olympia. The nice guy said, "Turn left onto the ugly new bridge at the end of this block.  That's the highway."  Sure enough, it was, and before too long i crossed another bridge, this one quite handsome.

And then made it to downtown Seattle and took the Seneca Street exit to Pike's Place Market, but as i was rolling down Seneca i realized that even though "passport" was at the top of my list of things to bring as well as at the top of the list Jeff had made for me, i had not brought it.  So as the despair swept over me, i parked the car and rode the Segway down to the market and took this pic to prove i got that far.

The young men at the famous Pike Place Fish Market at the front of the food area were interested in the Segway, and i gave several of them trial rides as the others performed their famous flying fish tricks.  

Then i returned to the car, totally bummed out and depressed over not being able to see my friends in Vancouver.  So i started driving home.  Couldn't help noticing as i passed through Portland that it is just packed with fabulous old bridges and a stunning new one in what appeared at the glance i got to be the single pylon style, not to mention some marvelous new architecture.  Might want to visit here some day although i'm thinking now that that pylon bridge may have been in Tacoma.

Return to the Sundial - 28 October 2011

About 10:30 last night i discovered that i no longer have the strength to drive all night, so i stopped at a sleazy motel in Medford.  Got up the next morning and resumed the drive home.  Hmmm, kinda nice to be able to see the lower quarter of inland Oregon as i drove through it.  Got into California and realized that i could salvage one shred from the return trip if i stopped in Redding and tried for some good pics of the Sundial Bridge.

I first visited this bridge in July, 2004, when it was three weeks old, and at that time i had my first digital camera, a little Nikon Coolpix that i'd bought the previous spring.  With it i got the luckiest shot i ever took and put it on the home page for this site.  I learned most of what i know about photography with that little camera until i had dropped it one too many times four years later and i discovered that enormous advances had been made in reasonably priced digital cameras.  This trip i have my Panasonic DMC FZ50 with me, and although i'd be stopping right in the middle of the day, there remains the possibility of getting another good shot.

So i pulled off the freeway at the first Redding exit and stopped at a gas station/market, bought a map, and confirmed with a local kid that yes, the road you could see over there was 237 and that all you had to do was follow it to the downtown area and then turn off to the right a mile or so to the bridge.  And for that matter, the damn thing can't hide because we know it spans the Sacramento River, of which there is only one in the entire state.

Alas, my senility kicked in again and i forgot i was coming into town from the north and thus needed to turn the map upside down, or, as they taught us in the Army, to orient the fucker.  A complicating factor was that the kid (old enough to sport facial hair) either was as bad off as i am and didn't know his right from his left or in fact had no idea where his world-famous bridge was, since otherwise he wouldn't have agreed with my statement that i'd need to turn right when i got downtown.

So there i was following 237 toward downtown and looking at the map outta the corner of my eye and not seeing a single one of the major streets i was crossing.  Gave up and stopped at a park, which i couldn't find on the map, nor could i figure out the street index codes.   Asked this codger and he confirmed that that street right there was, indeed, 237 and that i should just keep following it that way and turn onto 199, which leads to the park the bridge is in.

So i got to 199 and turned right and immediately noticed that i was going uphill.  Knowing that rivers are traditionally located downhill, i knew there was still a problem and seethed over the map until finally something clicked about the position of the sun and i understood what was wrong.  Sat there in a puddle of self pity until i finally pulled myself together and turned around and went downhill on 199 until i saw signs for the bridge.

It came as no surprise that i misread the signs and ended up at the sister park on the other side of the river, but it had a groomed trail through the park to the bridge.   Sun was near the meridian, but i took some shots anyhow before i drove home. 

  This is the same shot i put on the cover of the site, but without the good light.

Used all that white to trick the camera into underexposing the sky

Stopped for a late lunch at Bartels Giant Burger at the Corning exit.  Suspected it was gonna be good when i rolled up and noticed that all the vehicles outside were full size pickups.  I knew it was gonna be delicious when i walked in and saw i was the only tourist and that everybody else, patrons and staff alike, were obese.  I couldn't stop myself:  giant burger and large chocolate milkshake.  They gave me a discount because i was so skinny and clearly needed some fat on my bones.

And then i drove home and am trying to figure out how i can better deal with my senility.  

A comforting thought, though, is that in the first place i'd always said i had no definite schedule for this trip, that i would go north until i got tired of it.  So all i missed by driving straight home is the sights i would have stopped at enroute. the main things being the bridges of Portland and Tacoma and most of all a little side jaunt over to Mt. St. Helens.   Well, other than what i'd been thinking of as the highlight of the trip, seeing my friends in Vancouver.

Other than Vancouver, my greatest regret is over not seeing Mt. St. Helens.  I weep with joy every time i think of Robert Landsburg, who was just a few miles from Mt. St. Helens when it exploded.  Knowing he was going to die, he stood there and shot up the rest of the roll of film in his camera, rewound the film, put the camera into its case, put his wallet and the camera into his backpack, and lay down on top of the backpack.  They found him a couple of weeks later on top of his pack but under a blanket of ash, and the film although somewhat heat damaged could be developed.  Several of his shots were printed in the National Geographic story on the eruption.  

I want to stand in that spot.

And i'll have my camera ready in case my prayers are answered.

Home Again - 30 October 2011

OK, i'm home again and trying with moderate success to recover my composure, reminding myself that it's no sin to cut a trip short for whatever reason you want and that at least i'd got nearly to Canada before i realized that i'd left my passport at home.  And also, by cutting the trip short i put a tourniquet on the fiscal hemorrhage of spending every night in a motel.

And besides, when i wasn't gorging on sausage, biscuits, and gravy i was wolfing down double hamburgers with chocolate milk shakes.  That was largely Dairy Queen's fault.  

See, i'd thought they were extinct west of the Rockies, and my joy knew no bounds when i saw one after i crossed into Oregon, where i came to discover that they were abundant.  The milkshakes were as creamy as ever, and although the burgers aren't quite as good as those back in Texas and New Mexico, they were good enough that when i returned to the scale at the gym this morning, i discovered that i'd gained three pounds.  Late note:   A reliable source informs me that there is a Dairy Queen in Redwood City, which is less than an hour's drive south.  Stay tuned.

Next Time - 2 November 2011

I'm going to wait to invite Jeff to stay with me next time until it is I rather than he who has a cold.  Teach him a lesson.  I'm in the course of learning mine.

And just so there'll be a pic today, here's a shot off to the right south of Ft. Bragg, more carefully composed than you might think since that tree is obscuring the front end of a humongous SUV.  Well, i needed the tractor and barn in the shot.

Quake Catcher Updated - 11 November 2011

The folks at Stanford finally worked down to me in their pile of applications for membership in the Quake Catcher Network and sent me my sensor yesterday.  So i oriented it, stuck it to the floor, and plugged it into my computer.  I'd already downloaded BOINC, so all i had to do was download the QNC driver and set my location.

Now i'm up and running, doing my part to track earthquakes.  For my instant reward, i can log in and see where earthquakes >3.5 have occurred over the past week everywhere on the planet.  What's more, i now have this fab screensaver of a slowly rotating globe displaying selected earthquakes.

There's only one thing missing now, and i'm drumming my fingers impatiently waiting for it.

Allen used to say, "Be careful what you wish for."

Meanwhile, our city engineers are hard at work improving Dolores Park:

Short Season - 13 November 2011

I swear, all i have to do is even hint about bragging on myself and blam, there i am hoist again by my own petard.  Back on the 21st of October, a close reader might have detected between the lines a tiny shred of pride in my having planned my trip north so that i could return in time for the feijoa season.  Well, guess what.  

Yep, when i finally dragged myself out to the market after mostly recovering from the damn cold i got two days after my return, i discovered that i'd missed my vendor's achingly short season.  And yes, i know of another vendor who sells them, but he's at the Ferry Plaza and gets Ferry Plaza prices.  So unless i feel like making a trip to the Alemaney Farmers' Market next Saturday on the off chance that a vendor there will have feijoas at a reasonable price, there will be no feijoa chutney this year.

I am hoping this will not be the final straw on the backs of the long suffering people, causing a national strike that sends the nation swirling down into revolution.

The only good news on this score is that i'm in the process of getting rid of about half of my library and am moving the jars of my products from their boxes on my foyer floor onto shelves as space becomes available.  The fringe benefit is that i'm getting the stuff organized and have discovered buried items i'd forgot.  Like three jars of the 2010 vintage FC Feijoa Chutney and five of the FMC Feijoa Mango Chutney.

And yes, to reward Matte's more dedicated readers, requests will be filled in the order received.

Today's news is that reading in this morning's San Francisco Chronicle John King's article on Proxy, the wonderful addition of temporary food shops along Octavia Boulevard, inspired me to head out there this afternoon and try the new Biergarten from Suppenküche.  

It was great fun.  I opted for the Bratwurst with Sauerkraut without a beer this time although they have an impressive variety on tap.  After i placed my order i stood looking at the crowd and noticing that there were no empty tables but then the smells triggered memories.  I stepped to the closest table where there was only one occupant at the far end of the bench and asked the couple across the table, "Haben Sie platzfrei?" pointing at the empty seats.  

The guy laughed and asked, "Where'd you learn that?"

"In Germany fifty years ago."

"What were you doing there?"

"Saving your parents from the Communists."

We congratulated me on my success as they finished their beers.

The Bratwurst was good, but alas nothing like the wonderful ones they had in Frankfurt in the sixties.  The Sauerkraut, though, was excellent.

As my reward for not having a beer, i stepped next door to Smitten for a couple of scoops of their breathtaking chocolate ice cream, but after i'd stood in line ten minutes i noticed the unobtrusive "temporarily out" sign on the chocolate.  Luckily, they weren't offering the burnt caramel today or anything else exciting, so i came home and fried up a half pound of fresh smelt that i'd picked up this morning.

I should explain that the Delta Smelt is not actually endangered even though they're threatened because zillions of the tasty little things get pureed by the pumps that are sending way too much of our precious water down to blue Southern California's swimming pools and green their desert lawns and golf courses.  That's right: they kill our smelt while stealing our water, not that we resent this, oh no.

Occupy UC Davis - 21 November 2011

The past few days have seen very interesting developments in the Occupy movement, from all parts of the spectrum, but the news item that i've found most profoundly affecting is UC Davis' Chancellor Katehi's perp walk last Saturday night.  

A little background:  after the Occupy group had set up some tents last week in the campus quadrangle, the chancellor decreed that they presented a clear danger to public safety and sent her police to get rid of them.  A video of police Lieutenant Pike walking on Friday afternoon along a line of about twenty students seated with their arms linked, pepperspraying them at close range and then walking back down the line spraying them again went viral and has now been seen by millions of people.  The chancellor's chief of police declared that night in a press conference that the police had been surrounded by a mob and, fearful for their safety, were forced to use pepper spray against students who were blocking their path, but the poor thing was clearly unaware that numerous videos and countless still photos of the event had already been posted, making it clear that she was lying since the police were obviously neither surrounded nor even blocked.

In full Damage Control Mode before she'd seen the videos, the chancellor held a press conference repeating her police chief's lie and speculating that the students had been infiltrated by outside agitators and again stressing her concern for their safety. 

On Saturday afternoon, by then obviously having seen video coverage of her police in action and responding to demands that she resign, the chancellor held another press conference stressing that all she was doing was trying to protect the students but she went ahead and tossed out a couple of scapegoats, declaring that she'd placed Lt. Pike and another police officer on administrative leave and would be investigating the affair.

No students were allowed into the press conference, so they surrounded the building, forcing the chancellor's hand since by this time she fully understood that however much she might want to call in SWAT teams and have the students all machine gunned, good damage control required that she negotiate.

And so she did.

And thus we got this astonishing video of her March of Shame, accompanied only by her husband and an unidentified woman, from the door of the building about a hundred yards through a gauntlet of protesters sitting absolutely silently along her path to her SUV.  Throughout almost all of her walk, the only sound you can hear is the two women's heels on the pavement.  I have never seen a more eloquent nonviolent demonstration.  

Actually, the only demonstration that i recall being more moving was both hideously violent and on a vastly higher plane - the self immolation of Thich Quang Duc in Saigon in June, 1963.  I sure do wish i had the balls to do that in front of St. Mary's Cathedral.

On Sunday, the Grand High Yudof of the whole University of California system got into the act and leaned on the lessor chancellors to rein in their cops and cut out the horrible scenes he'd been seeing recently, cops clubbing both students and old faculty members in Berkeley just the other day and then pepperspraying everybody in Davis a few days later are not the kind of fundraising material he'd hoped to be getting, and he's demanding a full review of the incidents so that an underling somewhere can be punished while the chancellors, vice-chancellors, associate chancellors, and assistant chancellors are given raises for preserving the integrity of the university system.

This morning the Davis chancellor reiterated her refusal to resign, saying that she needed to stay for the good of the university to get it through these difficult times although she may also have been influenced by making well over half a million bucks a year in salary and lavish benefits, plus a cushy job for her husband.   Oh, and she's tossed out another scapegoat, placing her lying police chief on administrative full salary and benefits, just like the other two pepperspraying cops.

But a far better analysis than my feeble attempt above, and furthermore copiously documented, is this open letter from a UC Davis faculty member.

But speaking of gauntlets, i happened to roll through this rather more pleasant one on 14th Street at just the right time the other morning to catch the sun slanting in on the scaffolding in a most charming fashion:

Occupy UC Berkeley - 22 November 2011

OK, this one is two weeks late, but it was not posted until the 19th by the writer, a seventy-year-old UC Berkeley professor and former Poet Laureate of the United States.  It describes how he and wife ventured out on campus to take a look for themselves at the Occupy protest there and were both clubbed by the police.  It's not just young radicals and dissenting students anymore.  It's old folks who happen to get in the way, not to mention female faculty members thrown down and dragged by their hair by the Hessians hired by Chancellor Birgeneau, see the above link, which has internal links to videos.

On the other hand, we  certainly are having some nice weather between the rains.

Solidarity Luncheon - 23 November 2011

Today i decided i'd treat myself to lunch at One Market, one of San Francisco's Michelin-starred restaurants, albeit only one star.  Hadn't eaten here since Sybil and i met here for lunch about four years ago, and the only time before that had been when i took my cousin April here for dinner back in the nineties.  

A couple of blocks before the restaurant i rolled past the Federal Reserve Bank, now guarded by a swarm of cops and protected by an intricately interwoven set of metal barricades against the possibility that the sight of an Occupier out front might offend one of the banksters who've looted our country and then battened on taxpayer bailouts when their Ponzi scheme collapsed.  

The restaurant is a lovely space, warm and comfortable with enormous windows opening onto the Ferry Building and the bocce courts of Justin Herman Plaza.  The seating is very comfortable, and the tables are set with heavy white napery and handsome place settings.  When you sit down, they bring you a ramekin of soft butter alongside a plate of hot epi bread wrapped in a napkin, and i ordered a latte to sip while i perused the menu.

There's a prix-fixe lunch for $25 that allows you several choices of an appetizer or soup and an entree, and i chose the appetizer of Pig's Head Terrine with Boudin Noir on a bed of lightly vinaigretted baby arugula.  The terrine is garnished with translucently thin slices of pickled radish and the plate is dotted with dabs of a good Dijon.  Scrumptious.

My entree is good grilled yellowtail with Romanesco broccoli as delicious as it is gorgeous, sauced with a reduced port emulsion and a yellow squash puree.  A plate of toasted baguette slices on the side.  No trace of any of it remains.

For another four dollars, you are offered your choice of a half-dozen desserts, and i wanted five of them but settled on the Valrhona pudding with almond streusel.  I don't think i ever ate a better chocolate pudding, and i'm quite certain that i never made a better one.

I'm actually here because in many cities businesses have complained that nearby Occupy encampments have impacted them negatively, and i wanted to do my part to throw some custom to One Market because of the nearby encampment, which you can look out the window and see across the street.  The great majority of tables were occupied when i was there today, so the lunch business here cannot be down all that much although it could well be down more at night.  I remind myself, though, that for political reasons the business community would say that the Occupy folks had hurt business even if business had improved.

So afterwards i unchained the Segway and rolled over to the encampment, where i talked with a couple of the young women.  The first one told me that an increasingly pressing issue for them was that they were attracting more and more hard core homeless and street people who not only had little interest in financial regulation and income disparity, the political issues that drive the Occupy movement, but worse yet they created a host of internal problems and were absolutely horrible for the movement's image.  When i pointed out that certainly the homeless were serious problem faced by the nation, she countered with the unassailable point that yes, they're a problem, but they're a minuscule problem compared to the numbers of the unemployed, many of whom will soon be swelling the ranks of the homeless unless something can be done.  

I talked to the other young woman, who mainly ran the information booth, about my desire to participate in a march or rally but tended not to know about them well enough in advance.  Yes, she agreed, it's a  problem, especially with an organization so loosely structured and dependent entirely on volunteers.  She says she could update the website since she's pretty much at the nerve center, but alas the Information Booth does not yet have a laptop.  Anybody around SF have a working one that they've obsoleted and want to donate?

Here's the camp this morning:

I had planned to make this one funny, but something happened.

Winter Doldrums - 4 December 2011

First, a warning to anyone who's been reading my tales:

It occurred to me recently that i've been posting this material for ten years now, the Journal 1999 and 2000 being retrofits.  In the autumn of 2001 the webmaster of asked me to be a content provider, and i eagerly accepted the offer and continued giving him material for posting until i built this site of my own in the summer of 2010.

A friend who does websites has recently sent me a questionnaire that's made me think deeply about what i want in a site...and why i keep doing it.  And i'm realizing that since i've recently dropped below two hundred hits a month, there's not much point in continuing.

Besides, i just discovered that for some unknown reason i can no longer find any of the material on my website when i do a Google search.  No wonder my hit rate has plunged, but i'm too tired to pursue this.

At any rate, here's a couple of recent pics.  First, the Santa Claus house on 21st Street, just as the decoration of the tree is beginning:

And another sideways winter sun shot

Another Try - 5 December 2011

OK, i can't just drop the site without making a little effort, and i've found a crumb of good news.  If you click on a link to this website, you go here with no problem, which means that at least the kind friends who have links to me on their websites and the readers who had bookmarked me can still visit the site.

On the other hand, i did a Yahoo search a moment ago and found that this site is just as invisible to Yahoo searches as it is to Google searches.

To brighten things up, here's evidence that San Francisco does in fact have fall foliage

I'm taking all this as an opportunity to say Thanks, folks to all the people who bookmarked this site and continue to read it.

The Sticking Place - 8 December 2011

While i hunt for a sticking place to which i might screw my courage and try in the face of near certain failure to figure out what's gone wrong with searches and fix it, i'll toss out a bit of the twisted humor that formerly distinguished this site.

It just occurred to me that the finest gift my friends could give their grandchildren would be to pay their tuition for a certification-level course in unmanned drone operation, a growth field in which there will always be plenty of jobs available.  And not only that, but safe jobs, since the drones are operated from secure, airconditioned command centers.

For now, we're targeting evildoers on the other side of the globe, but soon the targets will be disruptive forces here at home that must be put down to maintain our security and preserve our freedom.  You know, things like unauthorized demonstrations and Occupy encampments.

And if not a drone operator, maybe a charter bus driver.

Dueling Scar - 11 December 2011

I had delayed posting this but can no longer resist.  Back on  20 October the Prius acquired a dueling scar.  

See, the obstacle that i'd described as a "mud hole" was actually bounded at the far side by either rock or some dense hardpan, in any case something more durable than my bumper.  

Have it fixed?  Oh please.  Now i've got proof that the Prius is a real dirt tracker, and i'll be wearing my scar with pride.

I'm considering getting me some knobby tires, mudflaps, and loud mufflers.

So i can walk the walk....umm, or is that ride the ride?

Pearls - 12 December 2011

Dallas is getting a Calatrava bridge and they're complaining about it.

Pearls before whom?  

In San Francisco, on the other hand, we are grateful for our new Bay Bridge even though it's not a Calatrava.  When you click on that link, click on the internal link near the top to "View Bridge on Google Earth" for the most spectacular pan and zoom i've ever seen. You may have to click on the Play arrow after it's limped through the first play to get it to display properly.  

Oh, and we're also grateful for our winter sun, especially since it's not in Dallas. 

New Product - 16 December 2011

Here's a new product i made last week, pickled Manzana chiles:  

Risen - 17 December 2011

We have to stop ourselves short when we start comparing ourselves with our friends and look with envy at how successful they've become.  Better to remember them as we knew them, young and buffed and funloving.  An old friend sent me this Christmas photo recently, and i was pleased to see how high His Eminence had risen although when i knew him here in the Castro twenty years ago he was still at the party when it came time for mass on Sunday morning.

Sometimes - 18 December 2011

"Sometimes it's hard to believe that only half the people in this world are dumber than average."  -- Warren Hellman 1934-2011

And OK, don't want to overdo the "bare ruin'd choirs" pics, but i kinda liked this one.  Besides, the sentiment of the sonnet has never seemed more appropriate.

Dinner for Friends - 23 December 2011

Last year about this time i cooked dinner for my dear old friends and ex-colleagues - Rick, Nancy, and Kurt -  and i had so much fun doing that that i talked 'em into letting me do it again.

This year i'm serving them Chile Verde, Cranberry Beans, and Grandmother's Cornbread.  They ain't gettin' a salad because i'm not much on salads in the winter although i just got a recipe for pickled beets from David that sounds so good that i can imagine creating a salad around them.  Maybe next year.  The cranberry beans i bought fresh in October, shelled, blanched to kill that enzymatic activity so as to preserve the fresh taste, and froze.  All i'm doing to them is cooking them slowly with disks of Chantenay carrot and some yellow onion.

For dessert they're getting a Dianda Almond Torte, a legendary dessert better than anything i can make that also will trigger memories of our days as colleagues at Oracle when i'd bring these things into the office for everyone....or at least the first comers.

On the 4th of December i lucked out and got a pic of 21st Street's famous Christmas Tree house just as the cherry picker had arrived to begin the decorations.  Here's what it looked like this morning.  Tom and Jerry, the owners of the place, have been decorating that tree since it was about six feet tall 25 years or so ago, and provide a bench for Santa Claus to sit on so that kids from all over the city can come by in the evenings leading up to Christmas for photo ops and chats with Santa.

Before dessert, i led my friends over to this house, where we enjoyed watching folks talk with Santa.  To continue my tradition, i walked up to Santa and handed him a jar of marmalade.  Here's the place at night before the crowd swelled:

Christmas Eve - 24 December 2011

TDiscovered that the guys on 21st Street had made today's Wall Street Journal. 

And spotted these lovelies growing alongside the sidewalk bordering Dolores Park.

Sure did want to saute 'em for an omlette, but i'm real happy with my liver just the way it is.

A Final Outrage - 29 December 2011

I'd begun to worry, but i knew in my heart i could count on 'em to come through with another outrage before the year ended.  Yep, God's Own Roman Catholic Church strikes again.  Their Chicago Cardinal has pronounced that the local gays were attempting to "stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church" by moving the route of their increasingly popular annual gay parade to a street that passes in front of a Catholic church.  Yes, the queers weren't clear that once a Catholic Church is built, it gets to control use of all city streets that pass near it.

Frankly, Your Silken Crimsonness, it's high time gays woke up and realized that our most vicious enemy in this country is the Roman Catholic Church and that we damn well ought to start fighting back against its continual attacks on us.  

The Cardinal went on to complain that the gays were " like the Ku Klux Klan in demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism."  Oh please.  I'd been thinking of the KKK as this racist group that devoted itself to cross burnings and lynching of blacks, but now that i know they were also anti-Catholic i realize that they weren't all bad.  

The cardinal's whining is a routine feature of Roman Catholic propaganda.  They paint themselves as victims because they no longer have the power to burn us at the stake.  I just love that.  And what i love almost as much their no longer having the power to burn me is that they know they once had the power and no longer do.

We need to reroute the San Francisco gay parade from Market Street over to Mission Street so that it will pass in front of a Catholic church and all the marchers can scream abuse and strew obscene confetti as they pass it.   Now that, Your Idiocy, would be "demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism."

Let's do it.

Close - 31 December 2011

To close the year, some Christmas foliage