June 2015

Nearest Hippie

Now that Archbishop Cordileone has lost the battle against the evil of gay marriage, he should turn his hand to a vastly more pervasive evil against which he’s enjoined the teachers in his schools – masturbation.


I loved Scalia’s “Ask the nearest hippie” line so much that i made a placard reading


and carried it in today’s parade.  It went over fabulously even though the majority of people didn’t understand the reference.  Still, something like a third of ’em in the front rows read the sign, got it, and burst into cheers and applause.   Besides, lots of fellow marchers came up to me and took photos, not to mention the thousands and thousands of viewers who took photos.

My goodness, is it ever a pleasure to be applauded and cheered by tens of thousands.  Try it sometime, you’ll like it.

Oh, and for a radical breakthrough this year, instead of just infiltrating the parade by riding between a couple of authorized contingents, i actually rode legitimately by joining the OpenHouse contingent.  They’re the folks who taught me how to get onto a waiting list for senior housing and who sponsor my Spanish class.

And here’s a pic from the Vatican’s expanding evidence file.  Photo credit: a handsome fellow marcher named Jorgensen.

Nearest Hippie.  28 June 2015

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Long May It Wave

Rainbow flag

Let’s hear it for SCOTUS!  As of this morning i have, despite his best efforts, all the rights that Antonin Scalia enjoys.  “Ask the nearest hippie”.

On the other hand, in the wake of calls to ban the Confederate flag, fine Christians like Bryan Fisher are demanding that the Rainbow flag also be banned.

Well, if what Christianity stands for is not the love taught by Christ but rather unrelenting hatred of gays, then yes, the Rainbow flag is anti-Christian.  And i’ll wave it proudly.

Even though for the last twenty years i’ve listed my sexual orientation as “Retired”.

Case closed

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Response

Doored Again

While we’re making sure Iran doesn’t get nuclear weapons maybe we should consider not subsidizing Israel’s.

The last time i got doored was in July 2004, and it taught me enough of a lesson that i kinda figured i was now immune.  But no, as with many immunizations, this one gradually wore off.

More accurately, i discovered a different way of getting doored, under circumstances in which i’d thought i was safe.  See, the first dooring occurred when i was cruising along on a street without a bicycle lane and riding close enough to the parked cars that when one flung his door open i crashed into it.  So since then i’ve been real careful under those circumstances to keep a good three or four feet away from the parked cars.

And also, since then, more and more of San Francisco’s streets are featuring bike lanes that are positioned so that curbed cars don’t have enough wingspan to reach passing bicyclists in the bike lane, so you’re safe.

Well, unless an entitled asshole in so much of a rush to pick up some packages being brought to the curb pulls over only somewhat into the parking space, leaving a good three feet between him and the curb, and the driver’s side of his vehicle nestled about ten inches outside the bike lane.  And then pushes his door open at precisely the right moment to door me as i draw even with him.

As i lay there on the pavement, some excoriation ensued.

Which escalated when the first thing out of his mouth was a demand to see my drivers’ license.

And continued when he suggested that i get out of the street so as not to block traffic.

And reached its peak when i wanted to know why he had parked three feet from the curb and he responded that he hadn’t wanted to swing his front into the bike lane in order to parallel park.

I was pretty well spent by the time he observed that it was a good thing he hadn’t got the door fully open or i’d have bent it forward against the front quarter, but at least i had the presence of mind to observe that in that case my impact would have been cushioned.

As it was, by the time i’d stopped screaming abuse at him i’d discovered that i could stand up and that i hadn’t broken any bones.  Only later did it become apparent that i’d bruised a couple of ribs, so it only hurts when i laugh.

I’ve saved the greatest outrage until last:  The clueless fucker was driving a Prius, and you know how we hate those things.

Here he is:

Clueless fucker

And note how he parked:

Three feet from the curb and two feet outside the stripe.



Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Responses

Food, Glorious Food

Good food is where you find it.

I write a lot about the San Francisco culinary scene, our excellent restaurants, our superb farmers’ markets and even Rainbow Grocery, but i’ve neglected to single out Costco.

What? you ask.  Isn’t Costco where you get your 25 pound bags of sugar and other comestibles packaged in American-sized quantities?

Well, yes.  But if you pay attention there are delights in reasonable sizes, the best known being their barbecued chickens, which vie with those sold at two or three times as much in luxury emporia.

But it’s not just the chickens.  Their cheese aisle has a variety of prison grade industrial cheeses, but it also features a range of high quality cheeses like the Rembrandt brand aged gouda that i routinely bought in Amsterdam at Albert Heijn, Laura Chenel chevre, Point Reyes blue, etc. in reasonable quantities and at half the price you’re accustomed to paying.

And right next door to the cheeses, there’s a good selection of smoked salmon and the Blue Hill Bay herring in wine sauce, a Canadian product that is probably the best Bismark herring i ever ate.

On an irregular schedule, there’s a booth selling poke, a Hawai’ian fish salad with which i fell in love at first bite.  It’s pieces of fish marinated in sesame oil and sesame seeds along with bits of onion and and garlic and chile.  One variety i love is made with boiled shrimp, but my favorite is the ahi wasabi version. We do love our raw fish.

As you’re leaving the store you pass their ready-to-eat counter with its fairly good hot dogs, indifferent pizza, and the worst gelato i ever tasted, but the other day i noticed they were offering a new item, a barbecued brisket sandwich.  Hmmm, i wondered.  Tried it and found it as good as any i’ve had in the city.  May not really be, but at that counter, your expectations have not been ratcheted too high.

Meanwhile, is drab little Bartlett Street looking up or what?

Bartlett Street

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Go Forth

We’re taking bets now on which of the glaciers in the continental United States will be the last to melt. All those in Glacier National Park are expected to be gone in less than twenty years, but a handful in the highest elevations of the California Sierra Nevada may last a while longer.

The impacts of global warming are becoming increasingly apparent even though they’ve only just begun.

The planet’s minerals and metals have been so thoroughly exploited that mining them to meet the rising demand will require ever-increasing amounts of energy even as our supply of fossil fuels continues to decline.

We’ve overfished our oceans to the point that we have driven to near extinction many of our favorite species.

Our farmlands are becoming less fertile as monoculture agriculture spreads.

Fresh water supplies are becoming insufficient.

What’s driving all this? People.  That’s the underlying problem.  We have gone forth and multiplied to the point that the world population has passed seven billion.  Check out this link and click on the various countries for an eye-opener.

No wonder the prosperous countries grow increasingly nervous about all those wretched poor desperate to immigrate.

Various studies have calculated that the maximum sustainable world population is somewhere between one and two billion, which means we need to lose at least five billion people.

Fortunately, the human race is resilient, and we have highly effective traditional methods of addressing this problem:  war, famine, and pestilence.

But wait:  The Pope’s new encyclical on the growing impact of global warming says it’s due “mostly” to human activity but that  population growth is not to blame for ecological problems.  Well of course not since God wants the human population to continue to rise forever, which is why contraception is immoral.  Therefore, there cannot possibly be an upper limit on the carrying capacity of God’s own planet.  Perhaps His Holiness expects all that human flesh and blood will somehow undergo a reverse transubstantiation into bread and wine.   I anticipate a subsequent encyclical with the details.

My only question is whether, like the Easter islanders, we’ll embark on a program of devoting our remaining resources to the erection of useless monuments.

Some would say we’ve already started.

Meanwhile, there’s a bright spot at the end of Sparrow Street off Valencia.  The decorated building is on Caledonia Street.

alley off Valencia





Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Lab Rat Redux

A modern joy of aging is making the cut when one of your doctors semi-retires and reduces her patient load.

My first adventure as a lab rat occurred when i was an undergraduate and volunteered for a study seeking to devise an intelligence test for the blind that would not require asking them questions and recording their answers.  It was great fun, and i got to take a large number of very interesting tests, the last of which involved being blindfolded and feeling of a test that used manipulation of raised designs to test your intelligence.

A year or so after i moved to San Francisco, i found myself one day down at the VD clinic, umm, checking into a public health issue, and i saw on the wall a sign asking for volunteers.  So i did and got to be one of the cohort who helped bring the world the Hepatitis B vaccine.  ta da.

And kept volunteering over the years although none of the later studies i participated in had anywhere near the spectacular results of the Hep B study, all of ’em involving experimental AIDS treatments that turned out not to work.

When i got my bell rung about five years ago and woke up in the ER at SF General, some of the first people i talked to were folks who wanted me to participate in a little brain damage study, which i did, so i got very familiar with devilishly difficult tests of brain function.

And i’m now in an online study with the Brain Health Registry, which involves more of those damnable brain function tests.

Last month i read about a study at UCSF Medical School tracking old farts with AIDS as they slide down into Alzheimers, while giving them classes in techniques to slow their deterioration, so i called ’em up and told ’em i’m your boy!

Well, they said, let’s see.  So last Monday at 9:00AM i turned myself in at the gorgeous new UCSF Mission Bay campus for the preliminary testing.  Preliminary?

They started by taking a medical and behavioral history so extensive and detailed that it felt more like an interrogation, but that was just to soften me up.

The next phase was hours of those hideous brain function tests.  They don’t start out hideous, of course.  The tester just tells you three numbers and asks you to repeat them.  No prob.  Then four numbers, five, etc. etc. etc. until you’ve failed a couple of times.  Then they do the same thing but you have to repeat the numbers backwards, again until you’re thrashing with frustration over repeated failure.

Next, they show you this diagram consisting of various interlocking geometric figures, whisk it away, and give you a blank sheet of paper on which you are to draw the diagram, which is of course impossible.

Another one involved their reading you a list of about thirty words and then asking you to tell them all you could remember.  And the reading the list another time and giving you a second chance to display your memory.  And then a different list but with words that fell into related categories with the words in the previous list, and seeing how many of those you could recall.  And then it got complicated.

Oh, and then some tests using a computer screen in which you have to click on increasing numbers of spots in the order in which they were previously illuminated.  And some involving cards being turned over and your having to click yes or no to indicate whether you’d seen the latest one.

Then they ask you to draw that damn geometric diagram again, the one you’d practically forgot even doing.

And lots more tests i can’t remember.

And then some physical assessments like how hard you can squeeze a hand grip since that old expression about “losing your grip” is based on the reality that folks with dementia lose hand strength compared with the sane population.  Another one tests your dexterity by asking you to pick up the little slippery pegs and insert them in slots they won’t go into unless they’re turned just right.  To help you relax, you have to do it as fast as possible while the timer whirrs.  Oh, and how’s your balance?  That’s tested, too.  And to think i used to skate.

And more and more until finally, at 4:00PM they handed me fifty bucks in cash.  In the old days you volunteered for free, but now you get paid, which of course is a plus even though it was straight through for seven hours without a break.  And since many of my responses to questions ran longer than expected, there was no time for lunch although they at one point brought me a cup of coffee to sip and tossed a banana into my cage.  Best banana i ever ate.

It was a grueling day, but it was made far easier by the people at the hospital being so nice to a garrulous old man.  What is it about that hospital?  I’ve been there a couple of times before for various tests, and everyone i’ve encountered has been warm and gracious.  Warms my damn heart.

As i left i inquired when my next appointment would be and learned that i’d somehow missed understanding that today’s marathon visit was just to determine whether i was qualified for the study.  Gasp.

My disappointment turned to relief when it struck me that this was truly a win-win since learning that i am not crazy enough to qualify would be fabulous news but that if i’m far enough gone to qualify, i’ll be getting training to help me keep from getting worse.

It was only a couple of days later that i realized that, well, i might already be too crazy to qualify, but thank goodness that assessment is left to UCSF rather than my readers.  Late note:  Got a call a week later with the excellent news that i’d done too well on the tests to qualify.  May not need a sleeping pill tonight.

Meanwhile, some handsome stuff on that campus, and not just the interns.

UCSF Medical School, Mission Bay campus

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Responses

Culinary Experiences

Americans can understand right wing European opposition to immigration of Muslims since we can see for ourselves what happened when we let all those Irish and Italian Catholics into this country. First thing they did in areas where they became numerous enough was pass laws banning the sale of contraceptives. The Muslims will do the same sort of thing since, like all religious believers, they think their religious laws apply to everyone.

Some recent culinary experiences.

Last week i drove over to Paradiso in San Leandro, where Jeff treated me to dinner.   Superb roasted mussels although the broth was not as good as Karen’s at Hoffman’s Grill.  For my main course i had a mixed seafood pasta with a cream sauce that i’d have enjoyed more if i hadn’t remembered the much better version at Scoma’s in January.  No complaints, though, about the crème brûlée, as the custard was excellent and it was done in a large, shallow bowl so as to maximize the perfectly burned crust.

Finally, after forty years in the city, i got to Schroeder’s.  Talk about an icon, it’s been around since 1893 but was recently remodeled.  Andrew took me there for lunch, and when i stepped inside, it was all i could do not to burst into “Oh, du Lieber Augustin” since the place now makes you think you’re at the Oktoberfest.

I started with the high point of the meal, an absolutely delicious cream of celeriac soup.  Breathtaking.  The Wienerschnitzel and potato salad were merely good, but i’ll go back for dinner to try other offerings, most especially the Schweinshaxe… and maybe they’ll have that soup again.

Oh, and speaking of the Oktoberfest, after the Laurie Anderson concert Mark treated me to beer and bratwurst at the Biergarten on Octavia.  What an enjoyable place that is on a sunny afternoon.

Finally, i read the Chronicle’s recent entertaining review of Rusty’s Southern and was so captivated by it that i raced down there two days later slavering for good barbecue.

Turns out the only barbecue on the lunch menu is a sandwich, so i got it and found it good enough to devour every scrap.  That’s the good news.  Actually the sandwich was not terribly exciting, but the accompanying potato salad was so utterly tasteless that i ate only one bite.  Look, i no longer eat carbohydrates unless they’re delicious, and that salad was nowhere close.

Indeed, the best thing on the menu was the mustard-based barbecue sauce, which unfortunately i tried only after i’d already eaten all of the sandwich except the top bun.  Put a few drops of the sauce on my plate and blotted it with the bun to taste.  Found it so delicious that i kept sprinkling and blotting until i’d eaten the entire carbohydrate-bomb bun.

The other sides may be better, but whatever you do, don’t order that potato salad.

Meanwhile, do i love our little alleys or what?  This one’s named Caledonia Street.

Caledonia Street at Sparrow


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Patriot Is Dead – Long Live Freedom

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” – Edward Snowden


For the past three days the news has been full of congressional struggles over the sunsetting of the notorious Patriot Act, which had been pushed through in the weeks of panic after 9/11 and allowed unprecedented surveillance of all Americans, here and abroad, in an attempt to prevent another terrorist strike on these shores.  It did so by expanding the scope of the NSA, originally created to provide surveillance of foreign communications, to all communications of everyone on the planet, including all Americans here at home.

One of the most egregious defenders of NSA surveillance has been Big Sister, Senator Dianne Feinstein (Stasi-CA), who has clamored for the extension of the Patriot Act and more, more, more NSA spying on us.  The bitter irony here is that she was quite rightly outraged when it came to light that the CIA had been spying on her staff members as they collected information for her Senate Intelligence Committee Report on CIA torture, but at the same time, with radiant hypocrisy, she finds it highly desirable that the NSA monitor every character her constituents type, every syllable we utter.

What would our Founding Fathers have said about our secret budgets for the CIA and NSA, secret surveillance, secret internment, secret grand juries, secret courts, secret trials, and secret prisons?

We now live in a country where, in spite of Senator Feinstein’s getting a bowdlerized version of her Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture declassified, your own torture by the CIA is way too classified for you to be allowed to tell anyone about it.

A country that sea to shining sea is Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon where our good behavior is enforced by satellite eyes, FBI surveillance airplanes, and millions of street cameras.

A country where a DHS license-plate tracking system will reveal where your car is at all times…even if you have your cell phone turned off and the battery removed so they can’t track your position that way.

A country in which all our security czars are livid over the idea that Americans are able to encrypt their communications and want to make this illegal.  After all, what if someone in Topeka wrote something that we wanted to read to make sure he wasn’t doing anything worng?

And don’t even get me started about our intrusive and ineffective Homeland Security, which sounds so much better in the original German, Heimat Sicherheit, that for a delicious period in 2008, hackers arranged that when you did a Google search on the string “Heimat Sicherheit“, the first hit you got was to the Homeland Security home page.  How sweet that was! Although probably the reason you haven’t heard more about it is that the hackers are now being reeducated in a secret prison somewhere.

In the last couple of days, the Senate and the House have been colluding to replace the Patriot Act with the Freedom Act, which ostensibly removes some of the excesses of the Patriot Act but in reality is so full of loopholes and back doors that it will have virtually no impact on the surveillance of Americans and thus should really be called “The Appearance of Freedom Act”.  Its real intent is to placate critics of the Surveillance State without inconveniencing the apparatchiks.

Yes, folks, the Security State is here, now.

The most eloquent assessment of it i’ve seen is from Wolfgang Schmidt, retired head of the Stasi, a man who damn well ought to know what he’s talking about.  He writes, “The dark side to gathering such a broad, seemingly untargeted, amount of information is obvious. It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won’t be used. This is the nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect the people’s privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place.”

It appears to me that we have one last chance.  If we fail to elect leaders in 2016 who are committed to rolling back state surveillance, the Police State will be far too intrenched to ever get free of…..if it isn’t already.

Meanwhile, to lighten the tone, a touch of whimsy on the door of Hot Cookie on Castro Street.

sign on Hot Cookie's door

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Laurie Anderson

A sign of Progress is that we are well on the way to eating all the fish in our oceans and replacing them with floating plastic.


Last night i went to Laurie Anderson’s The Language of the Future concert in Miner Auditorium, the stunning new SF Jazz  venue on Franklin Street.  She was accompanied by jazz pianist Geri Allen, and the performance was very good, but frankly not as good as her solo performance The End of the Moon about her year as Artist in Residence for NASA, an interesting role since neither she nor NASA had any idea about what an artist in residence there would do.  If she revives this show, see it.  Here’s an eight minute excerpt.

Still, the current show is worth seeing, and there were some excellent moments.  Like the tale about the couple in an adversarial marriage who fought constantly as the years stretched into decades and people who knew them wondered why in the world they remained together.  Finally, when they were in their nineties, they separated, and when folks asked they why they waited so long, they responded, “Well, we had to wait until the children had died.”

Oh, and here’s a closeup of a Giant Bird of Paradise grown by Oliver Graves on Hancock Street.

Strelitzia nicolai


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment