Following a two year absence and motivated in part by the thought-provoking posts of Brian, I have decided to start writing again. It’s a presidential election year and baseball starts soon, so why not? The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back, however, was lunch yesterday.
For the last few months, we’ve been frequenting Locanda Positano on the weekends when the weather permits. With several tables on the sidewalk, it’s a great place to have a lengthy lunch with Scooter while enjoying the parade of people and their pooches that saunter past. As the food is better-than-average Italian, the foodies seem to flock here regularly. On a day like yesterday (18°C/64°F) — it’s still January, mind you — a call ahead to reserve a spot outside was indeed prudent.
The table next to us was a couple who were midway through their lunch when we arrived. Scooter always invites conversation with strangers, and this couple was no exception. Turns out that they were both ardent baseball fans and had noticed on our SF Giants caps. We chatted a fair bit about baseball, dogs, and the apprehension expressed by the mother about raising her two sons. Nice folks, so I asked for a couple extra glasses and proffered some of the Italian white we had at the table.
Mundane, right? It was until the guy asked the following question — this is the ROI in sharing your wine with strangers:
Where do gay men on the Peninsula congregate socially? My partner and I have been living here for almost nine years and are still trying to figure it out.
Usually my gaydar is pretty accurate; it seems to have been in the shop for maintenance on this occasion. Here’s a guy sporting an ordinary gold wedding band on his left finger, dining with an attractive woman with whom we’ve been chatting about kids and baseball. Turned out they were best friends in high school and were out having a lunch away from their respective partners.
I’m still trying to figure out if the stereotypes that blinded me were about gay people, straight people, or both. As for how we registered on his gaydar: must have been the matching caps.
Title inspiration credit: Todd Rundgren
Both Michael Steele, the supposed new leader of the Republican party, and Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana who delivered the GOP’s laughable response to Obama’s speech to Congress have recently shown us that they are just lap dogs for Rush Limbaugh, he of Oxycontin and a propensity to divide the conservatives more effectively than Moses parted the sea.
It’s hard not to observe that in an effort to try and absorb that the country recently elected its first non-white president, the GOP appears to be scouring its ranks for visible leadership that is racially inclusive. Too bad their most recent ‘stars’ have had to grovel to the stereotype that is the real representative of the party: white, self-indulgent, hypocritical, and larger-than-life (in more ways than one). How embarrassing that Mr Steele had to apologize to the pink, bulbous face of intolerance — he dared to intimate that Limblob is nothing more than an “entertainer” — and a broken record of one at that.
A real oxy-moron. Hail Shrub Mug!
Credit to wordsmith.org for the anagrams
Second in a series of rants and raves to quell my reverse culture shock following my move back to the Bay Area after almost three years in Paris.
Three cheers for the flag when he wins eight gold medals at the Olympics, but throw Michael Phelps under a bus for a bong hit. America at its best: greed and glory are good so long as you are aren’t stoned.
Now that we have an adult in the White House again — one who long ago admitted to the occasional joint in his youth — can we allow our athletic heroes to be human, too? I’m personally not in favor of performance-enhancing drugs for competition, but if the guy wants to have some fun during his off hours, light(en) up. You only get to be young and given to moments of careless behaviour once.
As someone who smoked several hundred pounds of that shit when I was in my late teens (and never mind the other things I was ingesting), somehow I seem to have managed to be a productive adult. I’m sure Mr Phelps has already eclipsed anything I will ever accomplish, so leave him be already.
I can only imagine the reaction of the typical resident of Paris (qui me manque). Will America ever move past its insecure adolescent mentality of demonizing sex and drugs while glorifying violence?
Feh. Pour me another glass of wine while it’s still legal.
From an article in the New York Times on the risks of bird populations near airports:
As for deterrents, pulsating lights and reflective coatings need more research, he said, in addition to the use of bird-detection radar at airports.
Want to win a Nobel prize? Genetically engineer geese with strobe lights and radar-reflective feathers.
Why blue? I think most of us will be singing them at one point or another in 2009. It will certainly be a curious year. I’m glad I’m a fairly accomplished blues guitar player; I’m thinking it could be a useful skill in this uncharted economy.
Nonetheless, I am feeling the need to post an irritating — because everyone else does it — list of things to which I am glad to wave au revoir from 2008. Onwards:
- George W. Bush and his band of feckless thieves. A shame we have to wonder what final acts of destruction he might facilitate before noon EST on 20 Jan 2009.
- America’s self-centered, consumerist economy. The Great Depression of 2009-2010 has most pundits predicting a sobering swing in the average household savings rate from negative to near double digits on the plus side. Someone recently opined that our entire economy (including Social Security) is a throbbing Ponzi Scheme. Maybe so; there’s more to life than Hummers, 99″ plasma screens and mortgages you could not afford in the first place. Can we all get back to just being kind to one another? It’s free!
- The GOP. Never-ending scandals, a failed strategy to woo the most undereducated, fearful voters in the country, e.g. “serve boob bait to Bubba“. Nice work, (white) guys.
- The cacophony of screaming toddlers and noisy
teenagers gangsters that lived in my building and neighborhood before I moved back from Paris. I miss living in a large city, but will take the peace and quiet of the the Peninsula for now.
- Living in a giant ashtray. It’s great that France made all smoking indoors illegal a year ago; the number of cigarette butts that were left on the sidewalks as a result was far worse than any apocryphal tales of dog shit. The grates around the trees were by far the worst… awful.
- Having to play guitar at a low volume. Oh, the joy of living back in a large house where I can make my 6L6 tubes sing with the volume knob on four instead of one and a half.
- Very limited access to motorcycles. Yes, I miss Paris for a thousand reasons, but it’s great to be able to hop on the R6 and ride on a moment’s notice. A Keith Code track day at Laguna Seca in Nov 2008 jump-started my confidence, and I’m riding as much as a I can again. Next: a one piece leather suit.
- I hate to admit this, but as social and healthy as it was to walk to five different shops to buy all that one needs to maintain a daily existence (i.e. food and wine), I like being able to get what I need from two places: Whole Foods and K&L Wines.
- Trying to argue eloquently in French. I think I would need another 10+ years of living there before that was ever going to happen. What a luxury to have my full vocabulary back.
- Half of my retirement savings. Hey, I need to laugh about this one, so it goes in the list. It’s a healthier alternative than being depressed about that which I cannot change.
In closing: some wisdom from the ineffable Oscar Wilde:
“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings.”
Props to Tommy for usurping the geeky title I really wanted to use: Happy gnu year
Thanks to craigslist, I have recently sold my BOSS CE-2 chorus, BOSS DD-3 delay, VOX wah, Roland Cube 60 amp (meh to solid state DSP crap), and surprisingly, the 1989 Strat Plus that I bought new in… 1989.
That leaves me with a Fender 60w 4×10 amp, a Déjà Vibe 2, an OCD distortion pedal, and a Clyde Deluxe wah. All the stomp boxes are from Fulltone — Mike clearly understands how to make vintage sounds reliable and durable. On order: a Dr. Z Amps 2×12 fully closed cabinet with vintage Celestions that will provide that ‘knocking’ low end for which Marshall cabs are notorious.
I no longer use the distortion channel on the amp; it’s all run through the clean side now with the OCD doing the dirty work. After several hours of mucking about with the settings, I have the best tone I can ever recall. Adding the 2×12 will probably require a few adjustments, but even with the volume at 4 on a scale of 12 (what idiocy to make settings end with a number higher than 10), holy fuck is this amp loud.
Oh yeah, the guitar.
Now all I need is a bass player, a drummer, and someone who can sing to rock my world in 2009. Here’s hoping.
(Soon as I source a decent USB-based mic, I will throw something up on YouTube and link it to this.)
It’s supposed to be The Fixx: Bernanke and the boys just drop-kicked interest rates by another 75 basis points, bringing us effectively to zero. To this amateur economist, having the FOMC state that the target is a range from 0%-.25% is nothing more than weasel words so we do not look like we’re a fiscal rerun of a bad Japanese movie that ran for five or so years. Unfortunately, we would appear ready to mimic their plot and are going to fire up the printing presses as well, flooding the market with more paper that’s backed by… ? Next thing we’re going to read is that Madoff is going to manage everything for us.
Those 2000 Bordeaux futures that sit rotting in an oenophilic Fort Knox in Menlo Park are looking increasing valuable on several fronts. Anyone feeling thirsty?
First in a series of rants and raves to quell my reverse culture shock after moving back to the Bay Area after almost three years in Paris.
WTF is up with drivers in the Bay Area?
A beautiful sunny December day in the Bay Area: a good excuse to ride ‘Gilligan,’ so named because the R6 is my ‘little buddy.’ Today I took it up to my friends at Hattar Motorsports to inquire about a service date and buy a lock for bike. That completed, I departed south towards San Francisco to meet someone for coffee near the Mission and later returned home on highway 101.
In no particular order:
- Is there anyone who still thinks the left lane is supposed to be the ‘fast lane?’ Primarily for defensive reasons, I spend almost all highway time there, as there are more options available if I need to maneuver suddenly. These days it seems like the right lane is best for speed — and the most unsafe due to merging traffic
- Approaching the Golden Gate Bridge, traffic came to a standstill: the CHP was allowing a large group of loud cruiser-style motorcycles to enter the bridge all at once. I am sceptical: were an identical number of sportbikes to try and do this, we’d be denied. Are these dorks who ride Harleys (yes, some of them are nice people, but most are image-hungry goons) a cultural icon that gets special treatment? If so, why?
- FTW award: the woman on Divisadero St. in San Francisco who decided to made a left turn onto Oak St. from the right lane, nearly causing a multiple vehicle accident. I wonder how many people could hear me screaming obscenties at her from within my helmet
- Random stop-and-go traffic on 101. No accidents, no obvious catalyst
- Inexplicable braking on the freeway, which I have termed ‘Random Acts of Braking’ (RABs) due to no apparent reason for the action. I never saw this in Europe — when and why did this idiotic behavior originate? The most baffling scenario is when I observe it while vehicles are going uphill. Hello?
- Double-parking on busy commercial streets to run in and grab that needed box of blueberry Pop-Tarts, a bunch of bok choy or a case of Bud Lite. Thanks, I nearly rear-ended several of you asshats today
- Failure to respect right of way: it is a toss-up between the overly polite (e.g. wave 4-5 cars through out of some heightened sense of courtesy) and the ‘bite me, I am next‘ crowd who plow through in a rolling stop maneuver
- The rather green-conscious individual who finished their cigarette on the highway and promptly disposed of the butt out of their window, which whizzed narrowly past the helmet of the motorcyclist behind his car (that would be moi). What if I had been one of these image-conscious creatures on a Harley? A smoldering cigarette butt impacting my cornea at 60MPH is a visionary scenario, non?
I do not have clever answers for any of this; I can only report what I have observed.
As a security geek, I’d like to think that I am not easily fooled by the ever-changing strategy of phishing. Once in a blue (screen) moon, they almost get me due to the amount of time spent making the message appear legitimate. Knock on sustainable wood, they have yet to fool me.
The percentage of success for these attempts to steal valuable information is astonishingly small: 0.000008%, according to a recent University of California study. When you consider the level of spam and phishing attempts that get pumped out every day (currently estimated between 150 and 200 billion), that percentage is still quite lucrative.
SonicWALL has created a phishing quiz; my results are below. I’ve hidden the correct answers in the event you want to try it yourself.
From UPI.com, whose tagline is 100 YEARS OF JOURNALISTIC EXCELLENCE:
The scene took place in Alaska, but there were no bears involved: turkeys were having their throats slit and left draining upside down in large funnel-like devices.
Another fine example of spell checkers trumping people who evidently don’t proofread their work (or have degrees in English). Speaking of the English language, watch the video if you want to torture yourself with the train wreck that is Sarah’s grammar.