June 2014


Subtitle:  Why I Can’t Leave San Francisco.


Above 90 – Unbearable

85-90 – Way too hot

80-85 – Too hot

75-80 – Tee shirt

70-75 – Two tee shirts

65-70 – Long sleeve shirt

60-65 – Light coat

55-60 – Medium coat

50-55 –  Heavy coat

45-50 – Heavy coat plus gloves

40-45 – Too cold

Below 40 – Unbearable


And actually, there’s another reason:  The locals are so wonderful.

Case in point: The other day a bicyclist pulled up beside me as i was ferrying a 25 pound bag of sugar home from Costco on the Segway.  He asked,

“That thing run on sugar?”


Meanwhile, a bit of SF political correctness:

Faucet fires

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Company Rises

I’ve written before about how much i like Company.  I loved it the first time i ate there, but it just keeps getting better and better as Karen, the new chef, continues to add fine new dishes to the menu as she reaches her stride.  She’s keeping some old favorites like the kale chips.

Kale chips at Company


I ate there last Sunday with April, and we started by splitting a couple of new menu items, the house cured salmon with roasted beets and pickled citrus, in which the salmon snuggled up nicely to the beets, and the zucchini blossoms stuffed with goat cheese and battered and fried, which made me realize that i’d been missing a great treat by being unclear that squash blossoms were edible.

Stuffed zucchini blossoms at Company


And then for entrees we split the grilled mahi mahi, which was very tasty, and the pan seared chicken with farro, grilled peaches and pancetta vinaigrette, which was done to absolute perfection, moist and tender with a crust that made April exclaim.

For dessert, we split Karen’s Tcho chocolate custard with hazelnuts and whipped cream.  Bless April, she took only the one small bite permitted by her diet.


All that merely whetting my appetite, i went back last Tuesday with Jeff and split the stuffed zucchini blossoms and the confit chicken wings with tomatillo salsa verde and Fresno chiles.  I hadn’t known i liked squash blossoms, stuffed or otherwise, but i sure do love Karen’s.  And i can’t get enough of those confit chicken wings, almost creamy on the inside and crisp on the outside.


Confit chicken wings at Company


We also had cups of a fine kale and mushroom soup to set up the entrees, the grilled swordfish with Romesco and olive tapenade, which was sublime, and the pan-seared pork loin with kohlrabi-potato gratin and herb salad, which i’d been eyeing on the menu for a while and discovered was even better than i’d imagined, tender and moist and set off superbly by that gratin and salad and with a rich sauce that i’m thinking is some kind of au jus reduction.

Pan seared pork loin at Company


To conclude the meal, we decided to split the Meyer lemon tart with raspberries, but Karen comped us with an experimental item she’ll be putting on the menu tomorrow – she’s calling it a Warm Chocolate Brownie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, but what it tasted like was a large square of Reine de Saba Torte so dense and rich that it needed the ice cream as a foil.  OMG, what a wonderful end to a fine meal.  If you’ve tasted Karen’s Meyer lemon tart, you can never go back to the traditional lemon tart.

But what you can do is go back to Company.  Over and over.

And order those two desserts, ideally there being two of you so you can split ’em and not risk dying at the table of a carbohydrate overdose.


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April in June

I have long regretted that our magnificent English language, for all its richness and diversity, lacks a word to describe the child of one’s cousin and forces speakers into the torturous complexity of “first cousin once removed”.  Oh please. So as a dedicated lover and user of the language, i’m leaping into the linguistic breach and creating “fuzzin”.  But wait, you say, shouldn’t that be spelled “fousin” to honor its roots?  Actually not because no English speaker presented with that spelling would pronounce it correctly.  Thus, “fuzzin”, rhyming with “cousin”.

Anyhow, my favorite fuzzin (at least when she’s in my sight) was here on a business trip, stayed over on the weekend, and gave me Sunday.  Ha!  But oh, the planning.

My first thought was that we could just hop from patisserie to patisserie all morning, take a break for rest, and then hit another five or six throughout the afternoon.  But then i realized oh wait, she’s a woman and thus will want to eat some vegetables.  So decided on picking her up at the St. Francis and taking her to the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market so she could see a downscale market to compare with the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, which she’s already seen, while we worked up an appetite.  And then take her off to Yank Sing in the Rincon Center for a dim sum lunch.

Yank Sing is such a joy.  Gorgeous setting, very well managed, and delicious food.  Expensive?  You bet, but what did you expect for San Francisco’s dim sum palace? You go here for special occasions.

I began the meal by trying to establish some credibility by ordering a tea by name, so i ordered pu ehr (), my favorite.  They understood instantly what i wanted and were kind enough not to mention that since i was ordering it in a dim sum restaurant, common sense required that i use the Cantonese name bo lei.  Damn me, i’ve been using the wrong name for 35 years, but since i kept getting what i wanted, i discovered my error only while checking spellings for this post.

Can’t recall all the dishes we had, but all were delicious, and among them were the xiao long bao (小笼包), those spectacular Shanghai dumplings filled with soup that are not traditional dim sum but are popping up more and more frequently, the har gao ()  that great rice flour steamed dumpling stuffed with shrimp, an utterly delicious asparagus dish with an ineffable light sauce, an excellent scallop dumpling, the stuffed crab claws that i can never pass up, a couple more things i’m blanking on, and of course for dessert the daan taat (蛋撻) a flaky baked tart filled with a yummy egg custard.  Whew.  Oh, i left out the best part of the lunch:  April picked up the check.

And then some token sightseeing including Julius Castle but mainly featuring Coit Tower, where i learned that the famous murals were not, as i’d said, by Diego Rivera but in fact by a variety of muralists including Rivera.

Dropped her off at the Saint so i could have a three-hour nap, then picked her up again for Part II.  We began with a tour of Dandelion Chocolate, where April was duly impressed with the chocolate factory assembly line.  She was also so impressed with the chocolate that she bought a couple of bars and one of their confections.  We were of course interested in the hot and cold chocolate drinks but abstained, being on the way to dinner.

Ah yes, dinner.  Where else could i take her but Company, far and beyond my favorite restaurant now with its combination of relaxed, neighborhood charm and splendid food.

And i’ll save a description of dinner for my next post, which will be another review of Company.  Suffice it to say that we ate well and thoroughly.  I just love people who like being led to good food.

Meanwhile, speaking of food, here’s a new item at Rainbow Grocery:

Vegan dog food at Rainbow Grocery



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A New Leaf

After losing my faith in my early teens over the hypocrisy i saw, being insufficiently sophisticated to understand that hypocrisy is a universal human condition that is neither confined to the Methodist Church nor attributable to it, i spent the rest of my life as a mildly pro-Christian agnostic.  Well, until i read Paul Monette’s autobiographical novels and essays in the late nineties and got real clear that the source of homophobic hatred was religion, most particularly in this country the Christian churches.  And at that point i woke up one morning and admitted that i was really an atheist.

But this realization had no impact on my life until 2008, when Christian conservatives, spearheaded by the Roman Catholic and Mormon hierarchies, mounted a fifty million dollar advertising campaign in favor of California’s notorious Prop 8.  And at that point i suddenly grasped that i needed to start standing up for myself and fighting back against my hate-and-mendacity-spewing opponents.

So i did, and not just on this website.  Oh no,  I started writing letters to the San Francisco Chronicle lambasting the lies and hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and since i made the letters short and zippy, they published a number of them.   Also, instead of donating money to Christian churches, i diverted these funds to  groups like Citizens United for Separation of Church and State and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  Focused and shrill?  You betcha.

And then last Thursday, San Francisco’s very own ambassador of hate, His Grace Salvatore Cordigleone, went to Washington and spoke at the National Organization for Marriage’s March for Marriage along with other speakers from groups so savagely anti-gay that they’ve been identified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  But after i stifled my outrage, i recalled that in state after state gays are winning the battle for marriage and that the anti-gay Christians have lost, considering that the younger Americans are, the more accepting they are of gays.

So i’m declaring victory and will be holding up a Mission Accomplished banner.  Well, except that Mission Accomplished banners have been totally discredited since George W. Bush’s aides took an enormous one to the USS Abraham Lincoln as it sat 30 miles off the San Diego coast on 1 May 2003 so that it could be displayed behind him as he arrived in a jet plane and delivered his infamous speech announcing the end of major combat operations in the Iraq War.  I guess it depends on how you define “end”.

But what i will be doing is halting my rants against anti-gay Christians and devoting that energy to publicizing the NSA’s war on privacy and the burgeoning of the American police state.

I mean, it’s high time, considering that the NSA is a more worthy adversary, the Roman Catholic Church having become so enfeebled that His Holiness, having forgotten both the Inquisition and his history of collaboration with the torturers in the Argentinian military dictatorship in the ’70’s and ’80’s, is now denouncing torture.

But no, that was just one last jab at the One True Church.  Really, i’m off to do battle with the NSA.

Here’s a group of the troops i’ll be leading into the fray.

Bay to Breakers 2014

Ummm, actually those may be Bay to Breakers runners on Memorial Day.


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Food, Glorious Food

Time for a break from all those political issues so we can look at what’s really important – the San Francisco Food scene in its summer glory.

Stone fruit season is still in its early stages but’s in full blast, so the farmers’ markets are awash in cherries, plums, pluots, apricots, apriums, and peaches and nectarines both sweetly white and flavorfully yellow.  See my Production Report for an account of what i’ve been preserving.  The irony is that even though i’m sitting at the mouth of a cornucopia and preserving like a farm wife, i rarely eat any fruit but yellow nectarines since their season overlaps almost everything else and i love them so dearly.

Not that i can eat too many.  When i came to San Francisco 39 years ago i was working out in the gym like a galley slave and eating like a horse trying desperately to get my weight over 150 pounds.  Now, after two years of working as hard as i can and starving myself like a prisoner of the Apaches, i’ve finally got my weight back down to 150 pounds.  Unfortunately, since ten pounds of upper body muscle drifted to my belly, i’ll need to be back under 140 pounds to be able to get my money’s worth out of that collection of Dockers i was wearing fourteen years ago.

Still, i do get to go out to eat occasionally, all the more enjoyable for its reduced frequency.  Mostly, i go to Company since i love the restaurant so much and am becoming a great fan of Karen, the new chef.

Here’s her Kale Chips with Cashew and Garlic:

Kale Chips at Company

They’re better than they look.


And the Bavette Steak with Parmesan Frites:

Bavette Steak with Parmesan Frites at Company


And yes, those frites represent three days’ worth of carbohydrates.


And now, a recent discovery:  Brandy Ho’s.  Oh please, you say.  The original Brandy Ho’s opened in Chinatown thirty years ago as one of the very first Hunan restaurants in San Francisco, and i have a vague memory of eating there back then.  And the Castro branch opened five or six years ago on 18th Street between Hartford and Castro, so how can i speak of discovering it?  Well, somehow i’d forgot about the original and had decided that there would never be any good Chinese food in the Castro.  So i never tried it.

My friend Dick suggested it for lunch the other day, and i was very pleasantly surprised at how good the General’s Chicken was.  Pretty presentation, too, and those broccoli flowerlets were just briefly blanched and downright crunchy, which paired off well with the voluptuous chicken:

General's Chicken at Brandy Ho's on 18th Street

I’ll go back.


And finally, in the current Harper’s Magazine there’s an interview with Richard Rodriquez about the new trend of eating à la Oscar Wilde at restaurants in dangerous locations where there’s the possibility of being killed on the way back to your car.  Better that, i say, than being killed as you approach the restaurant. 




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The Guns

Guns have been much in the news of late in America, triggered by the Isla Vista massacre and some more school killings, but the story that has most fascinated me is the Open Carry incidents in Texas, the NRA denunciation of the Carriers as idiots and then its subsequent backtracking as it decided that it needed to continue to pander to its base.

Jon Stewart pointed out, almost in passing, that there did seem to be something of a conflict between the NRA positions in favor of Open Carry and Stand Your Ground since someone in a restaurant invaded by a pack of Open Carriers could very well logically assume that his life was in danger and that he should preemptively gun down the Carriers before they started shooting at him.  To that i’ll add that once some Carriers have been shot upon entry, they’ll feel a need to simply go in shooting.  To preemptively protect themselves.  Ummmm, yes, so we’ll all be safe.

Which gets me to thinking about the whole armed citizenry bit and realizing that if everyone in that Aurora theater had been good men with guns, they could have emptied their magazines into James Holmes as soon as he fired his first shot.

And just think how much better everything would have turned out in that case.

War zone?  You be the judge.


War zone

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The Hydra

No, not the tiny fresh-water animal but rather the mythical Greek many headed sea monster, the Hydra of Lerna.  If there were a modern Hydra, it would be the NSA, a secret government agency maintained by an enormous (but secret) budget and supported by a secret court (the FISA Court).

I’ve just finished Glenn Greenwald’s No Place to Hide:  Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State.  Read.  This.  Book.  And that said, Greenwald really only scratches the surface.

He starts with Snowden’s months of anonymous overtures trying to get him to download the PGP encryption program so Snowden could tell him about a bombshell revelation about US surveillance, but Greenwald was already by that point overscheduled, and having no reason to believe a faceless source had anything worthwhile, made no attempt to accommodate his mysterious contact.  But then Laura Poitras arranged a private meeting where they could not be overheard and told him that she was in contact with a source who claimed to have a trove of documents describing how the US was spying on its own citizens.  This was enough to get Greenwald serious about setting up PGP, and then, when he’d seen the first explosive document, flying with Poitras to Hong Kong to interview Snowden.

That was a year ago, and since then we’ve seen revelation after revelation about NSA surveillance with something new almost every day, too much for most of us to keep up with.  Well, except that some of our indefatigable bloggers out there are keeping up with it, and i’d like to recognize one of them here:  It’s Some Assembly Required and should be daily reading for those interested in watching the death spiral of democracy.  Click on that link and take a look.  And to whet your appetite, i’m pasting in below a selection of items from the posts of the past week.


Shhh! They’ll Hear You: The administration has argued in a federal appellate court that ‘national security concerns’ justify keeping the number and effectiveness of drone strikes secret. Sure, they admit, the enemy knows who we’re killing, but that doesn’t mean the public needs to know.


Ubiquity: British-based international telecommunications giant says that most of the 29 countries it operates in require direct access to the telephone network so they can monitor every conversation “using secret cables to network equipment”. You know, like the infamous Room 641a in San Francisco where the government installed a direct tap which gave them “the capability to enable surveillance and analysis of internet content on a massive scale, including both overseas and purely domestic traffic.” Egypt, India, Qatar, Romania, South Africa and Turkey make it illegal to disclose any information about how interception is carried out, or how often. The Irish government now seemingly caught in the act of tapping thousands of phones and Deutsche Telekom has said it will release documents on “state surveillance.‘ Nice to know we’re not alone.


A Play In Three Acts: First we read top secret documents released by Edward Snowden that say the NSA is collecting vast numbers of facial photos. Then the NSA chief says it is collecting only foreigners’ faces. That is then re-stated to claim that the NSA may “inadvertently” collect American photos, but that its use of facial recognition software stays within legal guidelines. Note that that last one admits collecting the images, but pretends that it uses them only ‘legally’.


Let’s Review: Things you know now that you didn’t know before Mr. Snowden told you: The NSA intercepts computers and servers in order to insert Trojan horses. It can and does get into your computer, even if it is not connected to the internet. Its analysts can watch you as you type your emails – they don’t have to break your encryption. They can track you through your cellphone and can turn on your phone’s mike and camera whenever they want to do so. They now have a database that tracks your credit and banking information. And they are gathering huge numbers of images of people from all over the world and putting them through facial recognition programs. Yes, Big Brother is watching you. Ever more closely.


Not So Fast: The NSA is building a “pre-crime” computer analysis system that will use factors such as ethnicity, gender, breathing, and heart rate, as well as webcam videos taken inside your house when you thought the computer and cell phones were turned off, to “detect cues indicative of mal-intent.” That is, they want to know if you are likely to commit a crime in the future. The system is called “Future Attribute Screening Technology.”


Hard to come up with a suitable photo after all that, but here’s one, not to get too apocalyptic about it:

apocalypse in San Francisco

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Reset the Net

Through the Intercept and it’s splendid site, i’ve just discovered Reset the Net, which sports on its home page a quotation from Edward Snowden, “Mass surveillance is illegitimate. I’m taking steps to take my freedoms back and I expect governments and corporations to follow in my footsteps and take steps to stop all mass government surveillance.”  and asks you to sign up and take the pledge.  Ummm, well….

Did a little Googling around and found that Google has joined hands with Snowden and has released the source code for a new Chrome extension that provides end-to-end encryption.  The extension is currently in testing and is expected to be released soon in a format that will be much easier to use than older E2EE applications.  Oh joy.  But well, before we go dancing through the parks singing Free, Free at Last, let’s think.

Wasn’t it Google who, along with all the other major internet companies, sold us all out to the NSA and then, when Snowden revealed this duplicity, had its CEO and owners stoutly denying any knowledge of the actions of their company until further revelations made it clear they were remorseless liars who could not possibly have been unaware of the NSA efforts?

So now i’m supposed to accept Google’s kind gift without once thinking that it is absolutely certain to be outfitted with NSA back doors, side doors and front doors that will automatically send NSA the unencrypted text of every message you apply it to.

I mean, think about who you’re dealing with here.  The big internet companies are all part of the system.  Remember Skype when it was young and Finnish and so well encrypted that it would take the NSA days, if not weeks, of heavy computer grinding to decrypt a single conversation?  And remember how when the founders were about to sell the company to Microsoft, the Great Philanthropist decreed that as a condition of sale the encryption process had to be made NSA-compatible so as to save them all that needless effort?

It’s close to already too late, but if it isn’t, the only thing that will save this country from devolving into a total police state of which the Stasi would have been sick with envy is legislation to rein in the NSA and return it to its original mission of providing signal intelligence on foreign entities rather than its post-911 goal of simply casting its net over the entire planet, examining everyone, including all Americans, and then sifting out the enemies.

But look closely at the legislation.  Big Sister Feinstein and her accomplices are highly skilled at crafting legislation that appears on the surface to restrict government spying but in actuality facilitates it.  Obama has turned out to be a major disappointment in this area since he’s endorsed and even amplified the worst aspects of the previous administration’s War on Privacy.

The only shred of encouragement i find is that finally Republicans are joining Senator Wyden and other Democratic critics of the NSA.  If enough of us, of all party affiliations, push back, we may be able to save the country.  A strange bedfellow on this is Ron Paul, who despite being a vile racist, vicious homophobe, and ardent misogynist manages to get a few things right – like understanding that keeping this country strong does not require running around invading countries all over the planet or recording all our emails and phone conversations.

Which is not to say that if millions of Americans jump onto the Reset the Net bandwagon, it will not send a message to our legislators that embracing real restrictions on the NSA might keep them in office longer, but just don’t use Google’s E2EE encryption for anything you want to keep secret.

Here’s a wonderful old building on Folsom Street.  Looks like it ought to be NSA, but it’s really PG&E.

PG&E bulding on Folsom St.





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