November 2011

Solidarity Luncheon

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 occupysf.com 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:

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

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Occupy UC Berkeley

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.

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Occupy UC Davis

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 pepper spraying 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 leave….at full salary and benefits, just like the two pepper-spraying 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:

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Short Season

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.

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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.

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Quake Catcher Updated

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.

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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:

Dolores Park upgrade

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Next Time

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.

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