Saturday, December 30, 2006


Back in 2002, I read this review by San Francisco Chronicle TV critic Tim Goodman of The Powerpuff Girls Movie. Who ever heard of a four-star review for a kids' cartoon? It sounded like just the thing to share with my niece, then nine years old. So I asked her if she wanted to go. She said, no, she'd never heard of the Powerpuff Girls.

I was shocked. They were the big thing, I said. They were the hip cartoon of 1998-2002. If I knew about them — through a coworker who was interested in hip cutesy cartoons — surely every nine-year-old girl had heard of them? This was the same girl, after all, who couldn't spend enough money in the Hello Kitty section of the Sanrio store.

Lupita said no, she didn't want to see it, but that if I were too embarassed to go alone, she would be willing to see it with me.

Having a nine-year-old tolerantly condescend to me is something I didn't expect to live to see.

The reason I bring this up now is that, while having a cold, I finally got around to watching The Powerpuff Girls Movie, which I had set my TiVo to record. And I have now firmly come to a conclusion which I should have realized from the outset and which I have suspected for some time:

Tim Goodman is a moron.

Thank you, Lupita, for saving me from spending $8 on this garbage. At least this way I saw it when I was so zonked out on medication that I wouldn't have been able to appreciate something better.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Adobe's icon scheme

This seems to be the general reaction of users to Adobe's new icon scheme:


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Recovering chocoholics

Do people recovering from addictions to chocolate become "Friends of Bill M. & M."?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Jen Spool

A few months ago I heard Jen Spool at an open mic at the Freight and Salvage. I thought she was good, in a Dar Williams-y sort of way. I went to her CD release concert and bought the album. I liked it. Check it out. Support local artists, and all that.

(Sorry if the new "music" department pulls up old posts. I'll finish the favorite songs series one of these days.)

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Xiao peng you zao

I don't know how long this article will be up on the San Francisco Chronicle's web site. It's about the new Mandarin immersion class in San Francisco's Starr King Elementary School.

My nephew is in this class. As he is is already bilingual in English and Spanish, the third language will open up many new doors for him.

I always figured someday I would take him on a vacation trip somewhere and have him translate for me. I just never thought it would be China!

Seriously, I am so proud. And jealous. Oh, so jealous.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

On Carpool Lanes

Once upon a time, high occupancy vehicle lanes (aka carpool lanes) were pretty simple. If you had some number of people in your vehicle over one, whether a carpool or van or bus, you could use a lane of traffic set aside for you. Nowadays there are all kinds of other people in the carpool lane as well: motorcyclists, people who drive hybrid cars or other clean-air vehicles, and people who pay money in "high-occupancy/toll (HOT)" lanes.

Allowing these other groups of people in HOV lanes is controversial, as is, for that matter, allowing children in carpool lanes to count for purposes of carpooling. And there is good reason for this.

Although it isn't usually stated this way, HOV lanes generally work, when they do, because they directly compensate for what they are intended to encourage.

Carpooling, or taking a bus, takes more time than driving alone. Either way, the vehicle goes out of its way and stops more often to pick up passengers than a single occupancy vehicle would do.

Society benefits from carpooling and transit use, but except for the additional time it takes, in most other ways individuals benefit as well. It's generally cheaper to carpool or take transit than to pay for gas and parking, and because passengers are not busy driving, they can use the time for other things.

But it takes longer. HOV lanes directly compensate for this extra time by reducing the difference in the time needed to travel. Depending on the trip and the mode chosen, it can actually make the trip take less time than driving alone, but even if it isn't that beneficial, it still reduces some of the cost in time. This directly advantages carpooling and transit use in precisely the way that is needed most.

But this is not true for the other possible ways people can use carpool lanes, which trade money for time or cleaner air for time. To the extent that these things make HOV lanes more crowded and less valuable for real HOV travelers, they harm HOV traveling in ways that cannot be easily compensated by the other benefits that they undoubtedly provide.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sometimes I hate the Internet

So, last night I was thinking about poetry, and Robert Louis Stevenson, and it occurred to me that it would be fun to have a young witch read "A Child's Garden of Curses." I thought I was being oh-so-original. Then it occurred to me that somebody might have thought of it already, and it turns out, not only did someone think of the joke, she actually wrote it.

Sigh. All my best original ideas were thought of by somebody else.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

No more comments

The comments feature wasn't being used and I got tired of cleaning up comment spam.

Update: I am trying them again now that the site is hosted on Blogger,

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Pictures from Empire Builder, Southwest Chief trip

I took a long train trip this past week, from Portland to Chicago (on the Empire Builder) and thence to Gallup, New Mexico (on the Southwest Chief), where I stayed for a few days (visiting Canyon de Chelly and Shiprock) before continuing to Los Angeles (again on the Southwest Chief). I took a bunch of pictures, mostly on the Empire Builder and of Canyon de Chelly. I am a terrible photographer, sadly. Still, I put them up on my home page so people can see them. It's always good to give people something to cluck over. At some point I will probably go through it and give all the pictures titles, but I have not done so yet. You'll just have to guess on a lot of them. Sorry.


While passing a tattoo parlor on the street, it occurred to me that I should get a tattoo that just says "This body intentionally left blank."

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

A new take on the right to bear arms

Gun-shaped teddy bear crackers ready to liven up wedding receptions

IMABARI, Ehime -- A paint firm here is hoping to add color to wedding receptions in Japan with a new device it has jointly developed -- a gun-shaped party cracker that shoots out a teddy bear. [...]

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Guilt by Association

My boss's boss, Jaimie Levin, has been given a nickname by President Bush. From

I met the bus man here and -- where is Bus Man -- there he is, yes. He is one enthusiastic guy. (Laughter.) He is -- he truly believes that urban America is going to be transformed in a very positive way because of hydrogen-powered buses. And if you don't believe me, just ask him. (Laughter.)

Someday, when Bush is being taken from the Scheveningen detention center to the new International Criminal Court building, he will ride in a hydrogen fuel cell bus, and think of Jaimie.

Update: Internet Archive link.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

These are a few of my favorite songs (part 3)

Somehow I feel all is right with the world when I hear a banjo. I can't explain that. I wonder if I learned to play one whether I wouldn't just sit around my apartment all day, strumming the same notes obsessively.

Anyway, here are some favorite traditional (or traditional-sounding) folk songs.

"Well May The World Go" by Pete Seeger (the one I marked as my favorite is from the Together album with Arlo Guthrie)
"Gotta Travel On" from Weavers Classics (originally from the "Travelling On With The Weavers" LP)
Both these songs are about somebody saying goodbye -- the first, wishing the world well; the second, with a clear resentment at having stayed so long. I've felt that way about leaving things in my life. I was terrible at my first job, in the summer between junior and senior years, and they said either I had to do better or leave, and since I was doing my best, I left. When I got home I played Weavers albums to cheer myself up and when "Gotta Travel On" came on, I just felt so much better -- forget you, summer's almost gone! The song still resonates with me as a way of relieving myself of stress.
"Fifty Sail on Newburgh Bay" (from the album with this title) by Pete Seeger and Ed Renehan
This was one of the first Pete Seeger albums I ever heard; I checked it and one other out of the Sunset Branch Library in San Francisco when I was about ten or eleven. There's nothing that particularly important about this song other than that (besides being up-tempo) it was my introduction to folk music, over twenty-five years ago now. In high school (actually it was the very last weekend of high school before graduation) I bought this LP new from a record store; it was a tremendous find. I drove to Montréal from the New York City area in 1998 and this song and the other songs on this album (a collection of songs about the Hudson River, some like this one written by the historian William Gekle) were running through my head the whole time.
"We Shall Overcome" (my version is recorded from the album of the same title by Pete Seeger)
I don't think there's much I can say about this. It's the great anthem of the Civil Rights movement.
"Over The Hills" from Love Songs for Friends and Foes by Pete Seeger
This is another album I first found at the library, this time from the San Mateo library in high school. I like the melody on this piece, and I think it's romantic.
"The Fools of '49" from Gold Rush Songs by Pat Foster
Yes, this is another item from the San Mateo city library. Good luck finding it online... Two of the other songs from this album are available at eMusic but the whole album is not available and somehow I doubt it ever will be. (I ultimately found an old LP copy for myself through GEMM.) It's too bad because, although this might sound like it's just a compilation of songs of historical interest only, it's very melodic, especially this song. The song is about the various ways to get to San Francisco during the Gold Rush and harsh conditions in every type of trip (sailing to Panama or around the Horn, or coming overland). The chorus goes: "Then they thought of what they had been told / When they started after gold / That they never in this world would make a pile."

Friday, April 21, 2006

I Would Take Something For My Journey Now

No reasonable offer refused.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Come work for me

Anyone interested in desktop publishing and transit should check out this job ad.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006


Like a lot of people who read the web from several different places, I use Bloglines as my RSS newsreader. Bloglines allows you to make your subscriptions public, so others can see what you've subscribed to. My subscriptions, for example, are here.

What I did not realize is that you can see who is publicly subscribed to any particular feed by clicking on the number of subscribers. And that at least some information, such as the home page you've given, is available to the public for each subscriber.

Hi, Bernard.

Monday, February 6, 2006

One City, One Book

Today I attended a discussion of The Mistress of Spices, the book taken up as the first in Oakland's "One City, One Book" program. This was one of ten book discussions being held all over Oakland.

This was one was held at the Piedmont Avenue Branch Library, a tiny little building on 41st St., two doors down from the apartment building in which I lived from 1997 to 2003. I was afraid that this library was so small that it would be overwhelmed with people. I needn't have worried. All of six people showed up, other than the moderator (a Main Library reference librarian). I was the youngest person present by a decade, I suspect, and the only male.

Literary criticism is not one of my great strengths, so I was quite prepared to be quiet and not say anything. I didn't get that opportunity. Not only were there only six other people there, but four of them hadn't read the book. What's the point of going to a book discussion if you haven't read the book? I can only imagine that the enjoyment of the book would have been lessened by giving away plot points.

Anyway, although I tried not to talk too much, with only two other people there who knew the book I couldn't really be quiet and let those with a clue speak. Oh well.

Even though the turnout was disappointing, I'm glad I read the book and showed up. Magical-realist novels aren't something I normally pick up for myself. I did read One Hundred Years of Solitude (doesn't its Spanish title, Cien años de soledad, have much better rhythm?) in college, eighteen years ago, and later The Octopus, which although written before the term was coined, does seem to have some elements of magic realism to it.

Yet it's good, once in a while, to expand one's boundaries, and the idea of reading the same book as others in your community has a lot of appeal. And, given that the book is set in Oakland and explores themes of cultural assimilation, it's certainly a good choice for the program, even if I don't regret not attending some of the cultural events ("The Art of the Sari: Indian clothing demystified at this hands-on workshop for families and kids"). Let's see what book they pick next year. I wonder if I can get them to read The Death and Life of Great American Cities?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

These are a few of my favorite songs (part 2)

More favorite songs. I like marches and upbeat classicaly stuff. I think most everybody has heard these. Many are by John Williams. If that makes me a musical lightweight, so be it.

The Imperial March (from The Empire Strikes Back)
Or, as I like to think of it, the Dick Cheney theme song.
Olympic Fanfare
Everybody knows this. I've never been very interested in athletics but you have to like the music.
March from 1941
"1941" was nobody's favorite movie, but John Williams' score is worth remembering. The weird triplets seem appropriate for a comedy.
1812 Overture
Another one everybody knows. We actually talked about this in English class in high school, and learned the sources of some of the various themes that make it up. Of course, I can't remember any of it now. To me what it calls up is the memory of traveling to Arizona from California when I was much younger. We had two 8-track tapes with us, the 1812 Overture/Polovetsian Dances and the Grand Canyon Suite, and we listened to them over and over.

Sunday, January 8, 2006

These are a few of my favorite songs (part 1)

One of the nice things about storing music on the computer is that you can compile lists of favorite songs pretty easily. I have 28 songs that I have marked with five stars in iTunes. I thought maybe what I had to say about them might be of some interest to somebody. Or at least as much as anything else on this blog.

"Pajarillo Barranqueño", from Ring Them Bells by Joan Baez (duet with Tish Hinojosa)
This is an old Mexican folksong about a pretty bird which "already has an owner." I don't know that I'd like this song all that much if anybody else sang it, but I find the harmony between Baez and Hinojosa blends well on this track.
"Rambler Gambler/Whispering Bells" from Speaking of Dreams '89 by Joan Baez (duet with Paul Simon)
This is a weird medley of an old doo-wop tune with an even older traditional ballad, produced by Paul Simon at about the same time as "Graceland," and it sounds like it. It is sung by Baez with backup vocals by Simon. I don't know why I like this song so much -- the upbeat tempo, just the right level of percussion, Simon's back-vocals -- but if I had to pick a favorite song, this would be it.
"Scarborough Fair/Canticle", "The 59th St. Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)," and "A Poem on the Underground Wall" from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme" by Simon and Garfunkel
Three great songs from a great album -- in fact I've marked every song on this album with four or five stars, which makes it the highest rated album. "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" is just plain hauntingly beautiful, and I remember hearing it as a request on classical music station KKHI back when I was in high school (well, it sounds like a harpsichord to me). I first heard the whole album as a freshman in college, and to me "Feelin' Groovy" always brings back a particular memory of crossing Kresge Bridge at UCSC on a particularly sunny April day, the first week of Spring Quarter 1989. A gorgeous day to be out and about and a college student with, as yet, no worries about school or work. "A Poem on the Underground Wall" strikes me now as a bit less tightly crafted in its lyrics than some of the other songs -- and indeed, I'm wondering now if "Patterns" or "Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall" (its lyric "I don't know what is real, I can't touch what I feel, and I hide behind the shield of my illusion" was perfect for someone taking Introduction to Philosophy) aren't better songs -- but the pure facetiousness of treating the four-letter graffito as a work of art appeals to me.
"Let it Be" from Let it Be and "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" from Rubber Soul, by The Beatles
I don't think I can say much about either song that hasn't been heard before. Although the electric guitar solo on "Let It Be" isn't very harsh by most people's standards, it was something that helped me appreciate that sound when I was, metaphorically, booing Dylan at Newport in 1965. "Norwegian Wood" is just an interesting song, with its sort of Indian rock and roll and its ambiguously romantic lyrics, and I like it.

Monday, January 2, 2006

Custom checks

Nowadays many people have checks with pictures on them. I don't usually care to send a message about myself with my checks, but I think if I could get some with Zero Mostel's picture — and the caption "Don't forget the checky! Can't produce plays without the checky!" — I think I would.