Archive for July, 2005

Psychotic

July 31, 2005

That’s the only way to describe the cabbies here

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Sunday

July 31, 2005

This was the morning of the San Francisco Marathon, and although I generally loath runners and their skinny asses, I felt lucky to see it. I rode the cable cars down to the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero to see the last of it, and had coffee while sitting and looking over the bay as the sun rose.

After that, I got followed for four blocks by a crazy homeless guy with whom I accidentally made eye contact. I finally caught the cable car, and as I did, he yelled “I knew you were gonna do that! I could get on that thing too!” Nice. There are more homeless people here than I’ve seen on the streets of any other city I’ve visited. I have read that they come here because the weather is at least survivable year-round, and the city itself is fairly tolerant of their presence. It’s incongruous, though, because this is an aggressively middle-to-upper-class city, full of stylish fashionistas, industrious shopkeepers, and businesspeople rushing to and fro. There are no poor here, as far as I can see – but lots of homeless. The homeless people themselves are much as they are everywhere in America: clearly insane. These are people who would have been (and probably were) in state hospitals before the reforms of the 1970s. They need food and shelter, but jobs and housing programs might not help them. One suspects that many of them would never “make it” on their own, and need institutional care.

The fog lifted by midmorning to reveal a brilliantly sunny and clear day. I sat in the plaza between Grace Cathedral and the Chapter House and watched elderly Chinese folks doing tai chi in the bright sun.

I attended the Cathedral’s 11 AM service, which was a lovely choral mass where even the prayers were sung. The cathedral itself is classically neo-gothic, except that it’s made of reinforced concrete. It is very lovely, though, with superb acoustics. I noticed the acoustics immediately when the equally superb men’s and boy’s choir chanted Psalm 145 as the ministers processed into the sanctuary.

I-Pods are requisite here. Everyone – and I mean everyone – has one on. All the time.

I finally managed to pick up a camera, but I’m sorry to say that the digital cameras cost more than I wanted to spend for an item that I already have (and simply forgot), so I’ll have to wait until i get home to post my pictures. After getting the camera, I stopped by Walgreens to pick up Pepcid (forgot mine at home, and this vacation involves some piehole-stuffing) and Aleve (Apparently, last night’s heroic hike all the way up Powell St. was ill-advised. Or that’s what my hips, knees, thighs, and ass say, anyway.).

After a quick stop back at the hotel, I went back to China town to a) stuff my piehole, and b) take all the pictures that I wanted to take yesterday. I ate at a place called “Silver Restaurant”, complete with ducks and smoked squid hanging in the window. Like most of the places in Chinatown, they had an assortment of dim sum for $2.50 or $3.00 a plate (2 or 3 pieces, usually). It’s easy to make a meal of just that, especially if, like me, you want to taste a million different things. I ordered two different dim sum: sweet lotus powder buns and Chinese sausage buns. Both were steamed; steamed Chinese buns are one of my favorite things in the universe, a soft, white, glutinous experience of East-Meets-White Trash – everything you loved about Wonder Bread, but better! I finally got to taste the mysterious Chinese sausages, which weren’t as exciting as I’d hoped. I don’t know why I was expecting them to like speak Chinese or dance for me or something, but they’re narrow air-cured sausages with a dusky, subtle flavor. Very nice.

After my dim sum, I tore into some Szechwan Duck, consisting of very thin, moist slices of duck mean that had been breaded and deep-fried, and then stir-fried in a slightly sweet (but very spicy) sauce with bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and a few other vegetables. Crispy + Duck = Good.

Sometime around 2 PM, the entire population of Europe arrived in San Francisco. Either there’s something specific going on, or this is just a really popular destination for Euro-tourists. Not that I blame them. There are a lot of them, though. There were long stretches of time this afternoon when I heard nothing but German, French, Italian, and various Scandinavian languages around me on the streets. On the whole, I would say that the population of San Francisco is currently about 60% tourist, and the streets were getting a little crowded (good luck cramming yourself on the cable cars), so I’ve come back to the hotel to rest a bit before venturing out again.

It is ludicrously beautiful here. I cannot imagine how anyone who could live here would live anywhere else.

First impressions

July 31, 2005

If someone asked me, “how can I build a perfect city?”, here is what I would say: first, put it by the ocean. Port cities are always more interesting places to live. Some mountains and hills would be nice, too, though. that adds drama and provides great views. It should be a place for the best of the new: architecture, the arts, technology. Still, it needs lots of history to give it texture and a sense of place. It should have all kinds of people living in it, from everywhere in the world, and a rich street life where all those people can mix it up. Oh, and some really gorgeous parks would be nice.

Oh wait…

THAT’S SAN FRANCISCO!

Look, I’m sure that this place has its problems and drawbacks like any other, but this is easily the most beautiful and interesting city I have ever seen.

It doesn’t hurt that the high temperature today was 65, either, because south Texas is a broiling, steamy inferno right now.

I tend to think that every city has its own characteristic mode of entrepeneurship, its favorite kind of small business. San Antonio’s is stealing things. San Francisco’s is obviously opening a restaurant. This is a city of eateries of every imaginable sort.

Tonight I walked up powell street (and trust me, I when I “up”, I mean it, because that shit was practically vertical in places) past Union square and its many fabulous shops (Prada!) and on into Chinatown, where I had dinner at Four Seas, which was pretty tasty. I started off with a couple of dim sum: pot stickers and a steamed bun filled with bbq pork. Then I tucked into “sizzling eight gems hot pot with chinese sausages in plum sauce” (how could anyone NOT order that, if only to see?). It had beef, pork, shrimp, chicken, cuttlefish, tofu…and some other stuff. What it did not have is chinese sausages, which greatly dissapointed me. I have no idea what chinese sausage is like, which is about 30% why I ordered it. Still, it was tasty.

Mosty, its just beautiful here. Naturally, I forgot my camera. I’m hoping to pick one up tomorrow, so perhaps I’ll have pictures to share tomorrow.

Okay, I’m off to bed. This moblogging is giving me mocarpal motunnel mosyndrome.

and now, for something completely different

July 29, 2005

Okay, even though I’ve successfully tested my ability to “moblog” (a word which I’m going to use about 16,000 times over the next week, so brace yourselves), I’m hoping to have better things to do in San Francisco than peck out messages to you chumps on my SideKick’s diminutive keyboard (I have big hands, it hurts after a while).

I have, however, invited Pinko Punko of the incomparable (if by “incomparable” you mean “they have a t-shirt”) 3 Bulls! to guest-blog (or “gublog”) in my absence. We’re also hoping to get 3 Bulls blogger and notorious breaker-of-hearts Uncanny Canadian to join in for some hot man-on-blog action.

I’m also inviting Blue Girl of Blue Girl, Red State, but she may not be that big of a chump. We’ll see.

So things are going to be all spicy and perturbed this week! You know you love it.

I am fucking awesome

July 29, 2005

I think I just figured out how to “moblog” (that’s right – I said it)
from my sidekick, which means lots of exciting blog-a-go-go with Res Publica!

Bush to the Traveling Public: “Fuck off, Chumps!”

July 29, 2005

Airport chiefs: Proposed screener cuts a bad idea

By Thomas Frank, USA TODAY
Airline passengers will face longer airport security lines starting this fall if Congress goes through with plans to cut up to 13% of the nation’s checkpoint screeners, a top Transportation Security Administration official said Thursday.

Thomas Blank, TSA’s acting deputy administrator, said the Homeland Security Department is fighting a Senate spending measure that would cut 6,000 of the agency’s 45,000 screeners.

The House voted to cut 2,000 screeners in the budget that takes effect Oct. 1, Blank told a Capitol Hill hearing.

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees Homeland Security funding, disputed Blank’s figures and said the House is not cutting any screeners but is cutting unnecessary management costs.

Airport directors predicted enormous lines if 6,000 screeners are cut as air travel hits record levels. (Screener redistribution at all U.S. airports: Atlanta-Monterey | Montrose County-Yuma)

“There’s no one who’s going to get through a checkpoint in 10 minutes,” William DeCota, aviation director at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports, said afterward.

Ben DeCosta, manager of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, said the TSA told him Tuesday that the airport would lose several hundred screeners under the Senate plan.

“I’m concerned that the lines would be over an hour and would go around the building, through baggage claim, out the door and down the sidewalks,” DeCosta said.

Blank told the panel that “very crowded airport lobbies are a security threat” because so many people could be an inviting target for terrorists.

SCREENER REDISTRIBUTION
Annual reallocation of security screeners at major airports by the Transportation Security Administration.
Airport Current New Change
Atlanta 1,082 1,061 -21
Logan (Boston) 796 856 60
Baltimore-
Washington
654 734 80
Charlotte 320 266 -54
Cincinnati 336 286 -50
Washington-
National
411 415 4
Denver 725 709 -16
Dallas/Forth Worth 1,388 1,362 -26
Detroit 877 784 -93
Newark (New Jersey) 1,320 1,281 -39
Honolulu 648 663 15
Washington-
Dulles
645 724 79
Intercontinental (Houston) 868 1,019 151
Kennedy
(New York)
1,844 1,682 -162
McCarran (Las Vegas) 832 1,079 247
Los Angeles 2,037 2,157 120
LaGuardia
(New York)
752 828 76
Orlando 1,035 936 -99
Miami 1,651 1,698 47
Minneapolis 720 690 -30
O’Hare
(Chicago)
1,577 1,571 -6
Philadelphia 752 777 25
Phoenix 920 883 -37
Seattle 964 1,000 36
San Juan
(Puerto Rico)
475 415 -60
Lambert
(St. Louis)
440 347 -93
Note: San Francisco screeners are not part of TSA.

On a personal note, I will say that the last 5 times I’ve been through DFW, the security lines were already disturbingly long. So I’m sure that the cuts will help that a lot.

It’s a relief to see that our venerable Republican Congress will be exempting themselves from the danger and inconvenience they’re creating for the rest of us; I note that National, Dulles and Baltimore-Washington will experience a net gain.

The Republican Party: Making America Less Safe, Less Free, More Inconvenient and More Expensive Since 2000!

Love you, mean it, gotta run!

July 29, 2005

I may be unblogged for a couple of days. I’m leaving for San Francisco tomorrow morning (my flight leaves at 6:30 AM, for which fact my assistant will be severely chastised, but that’s another story) to attend the HIV Prevention Leadership Summit.


Packing my wig.

Although I will have Internet access while there, I will be busy during the day, and hope to actually have some fun in the evenings. I’ve never been to San Francisco, but everyone who has tells me it’s beautiful, so I definitely plan to deviate from my usual business-travel evening routine, which involves a Chinese food delivery and maybe some porn. Because I’m usually traveling to Dallas or some other equally horrid locale.

This trip, I plan to spend as little time as possible in my hotel room. And since NMAC sent me an email on Wednesday to let me know that the employees of the Hilton San Francisco are apparently going on strike, I have an added incentive to hit the bricks, if only to buy a clean towel somewhere. I really want to get out and do a little research on cultural norms and mores of the locals:


Excuse me, sir. I wonder if I might interview you for a research project I’m doing…

I will undoubtedly be overcome by a compulsive need to blog in a couple of days, and of course will be checking email from my nifty new SideKick, but I just wanted to give everyone a heads up lest you think that I’ve died alone in my apartment and am being eaten by my mean cat.


There’s only one star in a Res Publica production!

Have a great weekend!

Making a list, checking it twice

July 28, 2005

Check out this article by Rick Perlstein in the Village Voice. I think his perspective is so refreshing, especially when contrasted against the mealy-mouthed doublespeak that will no doubt come oozing out of the “centrist” (a.k.a. conservative) Democratic Leadership Council’s meeting this week.

Perlstein is right about the advantage Republicans accrue simply by being consistent. GOP politicians are a known factor. You know they’ll be batshit crazy, but at least you know. Democrats, on the other hand, are all over the map, and too often come off sounding like we support most of what the GOP is pushing, but with a little more of this, a little less of that, etc. This has always been an unattractive bill of fare, and someone needs to send a memo to the DLC to the effect that it always will be. We are also extremely ill-served by the clutch of right-of-center conservative Democrats in Congress who are constantly stabbing their party in the back, breaking unity and allowing the media and the Republicans to portray the Democratic mainstream as a bunch of shrill hippies. This is bullshit, and it must end. We should all beg the constituents of people like Joe Lieberman not to re-elect them. Let them go push their wares in the marketplace of ideas most appropriate for them: the Republican Party.

I love his suggestion that every single Democratic politician, from school board candidates to senators, promising to work for guaranteed healthcare for all Americans. Period. And that got me thinking – what else might we promise America?

There’s a lot that needs doing, but there’s also a lot that needs to be undone. George Bush has done a lot of damage to this country. If we’re honest, we’ll admit that the ur-DLC Democrat Bill Clinton did his share of damage, too. My vote for him in 1992 was the first vote I ever cast, and I’ll never forget how brokenhearted I felt when he signed the senseless and hurtful Defense of Marriage Act.

But laws are human things, made by people and therefore amenable to being unmade by people. We shouldn’t let the legacy of Bush, the GOP, and the DLC permanently circumscribe our freedom or our prosperity, and we shouldn’t let the people just forget what the Republicans have done. We should promise to undo the damage, to right the wrongs.

Here’s my start on the list of things that need doing and undoing:

  1. Repeal CAFTA
  2. Repeal the Patriot Act
  3. Repeal NAFTA
  4. Repeal the bankruptcy bill
  5. Repeal the Bush tax cuts
  6. Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act
  7. Re-negotiate the GATT with stronger labor standards, or withdraw
  8. Federalize federal elections and require paper ballots
  9. Raise the minimum wage to a living wage, and tie it to inflation
  10. Ensure health care for everyone who needs it
  11. Restore a reasonable regulatory regime for enforcing the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act
  12. Remove the subsidies and tax breaks for established energy industries from the Energy Bill passed yesterday
  13. Amend the Constitution to include an explicit right to privacy in the Bill of Right
  14. Join the Kyoto Protocol
  15. Comply with, and urge global compliance with, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
  16. Bring our armed forces home from Iraq
  17. FIND OSAMA BIN LADEN

That’s my list, in no particular order of priority. What would you add? What would you take away? I’d like to see Democrats come up with a list of promises we’re willing to make to America, so that every Democratic politician can say to her or his generation, “Vote with us long enough, and we will do these things for you and for your children.”

Poached directly from The Onion

July 28, 2005

WAR ON STRING MAY BE UNWINNABLE, SAYS CAT GENERAL

I couldn’t stop myself from posting this. That picture practically made me pee my pants, so great a resemblence does it bear to my own bloodthirsty, dissembling cat (see below).

I also really think we need a uniformed cat named General Bonkers.

kitty porno

July 28, 2005

My cat is a total whore.