November 2017

Comment Melodrama

I got an email last night from an old friend who was wondering if i knew that my website was now ignoring his attempts to add comments to my posts.

Hmmm, i thought, this guy is very computer savvy, so the odds that he is doing something wrong are negligible.  I started digging around in the administrative area of this site and immediately discovered that starting in the middle of last January dozens of comments had been sitting there patiently awaiting my approval.

What!!@!#! i shrieked.  Nonsense!  WordPress sends me an email ten seconds after someone has submitted a comment.  Or well, they used to.  But with perfect timing they stopped last January just as i was getting caught up in six months of jumping through hoops to get approval for my move to the senior housing in San Francisco followed by a month of packing and moving.  And once i got here, as a bird turned loose, i was too busy to dig into the question of comments.  Although yes, i did at one point wonder how come nobody was leaving me comments anymore.

So this morning i went through all the comments that had stacked up since last January.  About half of ’em were from folks who were trying to disguise links to their commercial sites as praise for my writing.  Those were easy to deal with, just brand ’em “SPAM” on the forehead and cast ’em into eternal darkness.

All the others – discerning, witty, and kind to a fault – i approved and replied to.  My apologies for the delay to Andrew, Carol, both Davids, Jo Ann, Kobe, Laura, Laverne, Rick, Scott, and Sharon.  Ya’ll please try again sometime when you see something worth commenting on.

Now all i have to do is remember to check for new comments every morning….at least until i can get WordPress to notify me when there are new ones awaiting approval.

Meanwhile, here’s a little construction scene on the new Transbay Terminal with the Salesforce tower in the background.

sf construction scene


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DJI Mavic Pro

Picture a mild mannered retired technical writer who has been given a large box containing a disassembled jet fighter and a user manual, a man who had watched the Blue Angels flying overhead but had never seen inside one of the planes or even considered flying one.  And yet, yet, a man so consumed with curiosity that he thought, oh, why not?

Actually, in my case the box was small and contained an almost completely assembled DJI Mavic Pro drone, a handful of accessories, and a Quick Start Manual.  And yes, even though i’d never seen a drone up close and certainly had never tried flying one, i’d been wanting one for some time to get to vantage points from which i might take better photos, particularly of bridges.  So its arrival was hardly a surprise because i’d ordered it online.

But as soon as it arrived, i realized that i was sitting at the bottom of a chasm of ignorance so deep that i hadn’t even known that operating the damn thing would require downloading a controller app onto my smart phone, an instrument itself about which i’ve barely learned the basics, and then attaching the phone to the Remote Controller so the phone can display what the drone is seeing.  Ahhh, so that’s what those two legs on the bottom are for.

Because we’ve been living in a surveillance state for our own good since 9/11, i had to register my new sUAS (small Unmanned Aircraft System) with the FAA and agree to follow a set of rules so ambiguous that it looks to me like merely taking the drone out of the box is potentially actionable.

And then there was the discovery that my old Samsung S4 phone, which had been behaving so badly of late that i’d recently paid forty bucks to have it “repaired”, was limping along so weakly that it wasn’t up to the demands of flying a drone.  So i went ahead and replaced it with a Samsung S8, nearly doubling the effective cost of the drone.  This also meant spending a day setting up the new phone well enough to be able to install the DJI GO 4 app to operate the drone. Fringe benefit: i learned how to install an app on my phone.

Then all i had to do was follow the instructions, a task made somewhat more difficult by that profound pit of ignorance but compounded by inadequate user manuals.  I spent a few minutes devising appropriate punishments for the authors of those user manuals, starting with the floggings just to get their attention.

Ahh, but wait, then i remembered being a technical writer required to print my user manuals before the damn application would actually work right so the finished manuals could be shipped with the product.  Thus, i was writing anticipatory documentation in the hope that it would work the way the programmers were promising it would.  So i’m sure these manual writers are in the same position, which gets them off the hook although the bottom line is that their manuals, like mine did, have problems.

But i kept blundering along and, after several days managed to get the drone to take off in my living room.  Very cautiously, just to demonstrate that i could.  And landed it immediately with a great surge of joy (that i was able to do it) and relief (that i didn’t fly it into something and break both).

This morning i took the drone out to an empty tennis court at the top of Holly Park and practiced flying it around.  Need to do this a few more times to develop an intuitive feel for the control knobs so that i can rapidly make changes in altitude and direction without having to think about which thumb does what.

Next, i’ll have to figure out how to use the built-in camera, which is clearly going to be a lot more difficult than just flying the beast.  Just as well it’s going to be raining for the next few days since i’ll be tied down inside to user manuals and tutorial videos.

The rest of the story is that i got busted in the middle of that practice.  I heard somebody calling my name and looked up to see Linda peering at me through the chain link fence.  Out letting her dog run in the park and spotted me.  She’s one of my neighbors in the old folks’ home, so now everybody knows.  Yeah, it’s a very friendly place … and it’s a village.

Meanwhile, exhibit A, the drone hovering about six inches below the ceiling in my livingroom.  Yeah yeah, looks like it’s hanging from the ceiling, but it’s not.

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More On That Lion

Now it can be told.  That lion in the news the other day (in my previous post) was me, which longtime readers had probably already guessed.  If you don’t know this background, click and read Christmas Letter now.

I’ve been staying with my friend Louis on Coleridge Street, and while he’s asleep at night i slip out and eat in the city’s parks.  This has worked out fine because i’m real good at slipping around without being seen since you damn well have to be good at it to eat well.  The problem is that more and more folks are getting these security cameras, so they’re getting harder and harder to evade.  And then people get all nerved up when they spot footage of me and everybody starts watching for me.  Makes life hard for an honest mountain lion just trying to get enough to eat.

The papers have reported that i was taken to a remote area in the San Mateo mountains and released, so i can now explain to my readers that the reason i pretended not to understand any of the languages they tried on me at the station is that i didn’t want the authorities to know that i’ve been living quietly in San Francisco and had escaped detection until recently.

I wanted them to just forget about pressing charges and simply dump me somewhere down the peninsula.  That way, i could cautiously make my way back to Louis’ place to let him know i was ok and to write this.  So yeah, i’m OK although getting darted sure does leave you with the mother of all hangovers.

Not, of course, that i’ll be staying all that long with Louis, entertaining as he is, since unlike him i am not voluntarily celibate.  Oh no.  I spend way too much time thinking about mating.  The problem is that, as eager as i am to mate, lady mountain lions won’t even give me the time of day.  “You’re not marriage material until you’ve got a territory, kid.”

So yeah, if i ever want to get laid, i gotta light out for the wilderness, even though it sure is getting hard to find a wilderness territory in California that some older mountain lion hasn’t already grabbed as his.

Meanwhile, not that i’ll go back because there’s absolutely noplace down there with enough underbrush to hide in, but they’re putting up some interesting buildings in Dogpatch nowadays:

new Dogpatch building


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Mountain Lion Update

We don’t normally provide breaking news here at, but today’s events force an exception.

Everyone’s been following the story of that mountain lion spotted on security cameras roaming San Francisco streets near the Presidio for the past few days, but we can rest easy now.  Our police finally cornered him in Diamond Heights and have taken him into custody.

A police spokesman has told us that the lion was uncooperative and became belligerent when he was Tased, forcing them to escalate to a couple of tranquilizing darts, one of which can be seen sticking out of his butt in some of the above photos.

Once he was completely unconscious, he was securely bound with heavy leather straps recently acquired from Dungeons R Us for use on prisoners on whom handcuffs won’t fit, and a canvas sack was put over his head, a cautionary measure now routinely taken with potentially uncooperative prisoners.

He was transported to the Mission Branch Police Station, where he was charged with trespassing, failure to carry ID, failure to comply with a lawful order, and resisting arrest.  He was taken to the county jail since he was unable to post bail.

A jail spokesman reported that, other than his apparent inability to understand English (or Spanish, Tagalog, Cantonese, Mandarin, or Russian), he has been a model prisoner.  The district attorney’s office says he will receive credit for his assistance in obtaining confessions from a series of recently booked prisoners who, upon seeing they were about to be placed in his cell with him, suddenly remembered details concerning the crime of which they were accused and volunteered to share with the police all these details and many, many more if just put in another cell.  Any other cell.

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