Monday, April 30, 2007

MORNING AT THE COURTS

There is a movement afoot to reconstruct the tennis complex in Golden Gate Park (my home courts).


Pud is preparing an extensive rant on this misguided plan.

For $17 million, we'll get only marginal additional court-hours per year. And that is dependent on lighting the courts.
One rumored new feature involves access to the courts. The complex will be fenced and access will be gained through the newly built clubhouse.

If this is true, it means they plan to have a private concessionaire run the place. (City employees could not be counted on to show up.) This basically means increased court fees.



People who want to play before the concessionaire opens will be SOL. I took these pictures the other morning when I met my friend there for 7:30am singles.



In the winter, we play at “first light.” This is the sort of plan against which I would support raw obstructionist lawsuits to delay groundbreaking, if such there ever be, until after my playing days are over. My doubles partner this morning is 82 years old. Using him as a benchmark, that gives me 24 more years of tennis, requiring 24 years of litigation.





The courts are fine they way they are. For $17 million they could build a supurb new facility in a less crowded part of town. Or, invested at 4%, it would generate $680,000 per year which would fully fund 4 or 5 FTEs to maintain the courts we already have.
I think the dot com boom, with its "fail fast" mentality and over capitalization, created specialists in spending money fast. (Secret: sign big checks.)

----- o -----

MUNI METRO PROMISE BROKEN

When Muni Metro was sold to the voters of San Francisco we were promised that four-car trains would run in the underground.

Four-car trains were to couple and uncouple at West Portal Station and at Duboce/Church for transition to and from surface operation as singles or two-car trains.



This promise has never been delivered. Why? Because it’s “too hard.”

The coupling and uncoupling process was just too difficult.

When Nathaniel Ford tells you any statistics regarding the number of trains going through, say, the Embarcadero Station, he’s talking about two-car trains, not the promised four-car trains.

Want to double Muni Metro Capacity? Run the promised four-car trains.

The idea that our great city (gag) can’t figure out how to couple and uncouple streetcars timely tells us how lame our elected officials really are.

So, what do we do with these folks? Let's give them another $1.5 billion to build some more subway--a subway with lot's of "promise."

----- o -----

Thursday, April 26, 2007

T-THIRD TURN

The below video clip shows an outbound T-Third streetcar approaching on King Street then, turning left onto Fourth Street. This is one of the bottlenecks noted in the Muni Metro meltdown occasioned by the opening of the T-Third line last week.

If I were a streetcar passenger in a hurry to catch a train at the CalTrain station just across Fourth Street, my blood pressure would climb to aneurism level.




The entire clip lasts 114 seconds, almost two minutes. The clip ends just before the car pulls up to platform "B." Passengers are not allowed to disembark at point "A"—there’s no platform there. As you can see platform "B," where they can get off, is farther from the CalTrain station "C." So they wait two minutes in order to travel farther away (a couple hundred feet) from CalTrain.



This was shot around 11:30am yesterday (Wednesday) and all traffic was flowing smoothly in all directions. Imagine if you were on a streetcar just behind this one, watching the CalTrain train you wanted pulling away from the station.


----- o -----

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

ON THE JOB

A major tenet of hippie was opposition to wage slavery. For us spoiled boomers the idea of working forty hours per week for forty years seemed like hell. Putting off freedom until retirement looked like a bad bargain. Mexicans called us existentialistas.

I had lunch with a very nice young woman from my previous job named Melissa, and made a point of stopping to see her boss, Thelma. For some reason I really like them and they me.

Maybe it’s because we’re all outside the young mainstreamers in admin at the China Basin office. Melissa is a Jehovah’s Witness and much of her activity centers around her church. And Thelma is a Catholic mother about my age. They were nice to me while others weren’t. They are hard working and competent. Would that all public employees performed as well.

My former place of work is contiguous with the Giants ballpark at one end, and with the new T-Third Line at the other. There’s continuing construction in the area, and, oddly, they’re adding two or three additional stories to the building where I used to work.

The crane is like a washingtonia robusta palm tree.





In recent news we’ve seen two stories about public employees and the abuse of disability claims.

Yesterday Nathaniel Ford told the Transportation Board (of Supervisors) that when he arrived two years ago there were 300 Muni-driver slots filled by people out on long term disability. Mr Ford said that in a system the size of Muni a reasonable number might be 100.

It’s all pussyfooted, but basically they’re saying that there are 200 drivers drawing disability based on fake or exaggerated claims.

A few weeks ago we were appalled to read in this Examiner story that 28% of San Francisco’s 911 call takers are out on long term disability.

How can this be?

There is a culture in San Francisco City employment of “working the system.” The system is easier to work because it’s funny money with much less oversight than would obtain in the private sector.

And there is bad example coming from the top.

The mayor’s ex-girlfriend, Ruby Tourk, who had a seldom-show job in the mayor’s office received $10,000 in compensation from a catastrophic illness program after she had already resigned.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who helped create the program for AIDS patients and terminal cancer cases, has called for hearings. Legal or not, it’s an excellent example of working the system.

Another reason people scam disability is because clueless supervisors are unable to make the workplace fun and comfortable. Again, since there’s no profit-measure, crappy supervisors and suckass middle-managers are tolerated.

The public relies on civil servants who are "internally motivated" to do a good job, like Melissa and Thelma.

----- o -----

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

GOOD JOB, MR FORD

Today on SFGovTV I stumbled across a live meeting of the Transportation Authority which equals the full Board of Supervisors. The agenda promised a review of the opening of the T Third streetcar line.

The opening was a disaster and the problems are still rampant. I predict that the idea of switching-back trains at Castro Station will be abandoned and other routing for the T Third (from Embarcadero to Sunnydale only) will be, after much rider suffering, introduced.

Anyway, I thought there would be some excoriating.

None.

Muni head, Nathaniel Ford, gave an elaborate presentation of the problems he found when he took over Muni, almost two years ago. This was meant to deflect blame for the T Third disaster.



Funny thing, no criticism of Mr Ford at all. The board actually let Mr Ford congratulate himself for keeping Muni's overall on-time rate at 70%.



McGoldrick, who chaired, had nothing but praise for Mr Ford. Heckofajob!

Aaron Peskin bugged Ford about collateral problems the T Third opening has caused to his district, but no mention of the meltdown.





No public comments. It’s like everything’s ok with Muni.

I am baffled.
----- o -----

Monday, April 23, 2007

NEWSOM IN THE NEWS

Our Mayor was much mentioned on cable news today for his pledge to maintain San Francisco as a Sanctuary City for illegal immigrants. The pronouncement is covered in this Chronicle story.

The Mayor is quoted:

"I will not allow any of my department heads or anyone associated with this city to cooperate in any way shape or form with these raids," Newsom declared. "We are a sanctuary city, make no mistake about it."

This is grandstanding. The discussions I heard on MSNBC and on Fox News were mostly disapproving, but they mentioned the full name, Gavin Newsom, many times. Some defenders brought up Newsom’s Gay Marriage gambit.

Listening only to the national news, one would gather that Gavin Newsom, whatever the direction of his policies, is bold and unafraid to break new ground in championing unpopular causes, a real comer.

Presumably there are some genuinely bad people pursued by La Migra, like, people who present a great risk of physical harm to the inhabitants of San Francisco, whom SFPD would, I hope, cooperate in capturing.

I’m sure the sanctuary to which Newsom refers extends only to the “good” illegal immigrants, whom we want and need for their cheap labor.

So, the real story isn’t about immigration, it’s about Gavin Newsom: “Newsom Gets His Name in the News.”

The national news doesn’t care that Newsom can’t make a stupid streetcar system run on time.

For an amusing take on “sanctuary” check out this story in the Brussels Journal blog.



It’s about illegal Muslim immigrants holed-up in Catholic churches. The picture and the lead-in were irresistible.

While Western Europe is turning Muslim, its Christian Churches are committing suicide. A Muslim would never allow his mosque to be turned into a dormitory for non-believers. This, however, is exactly what the Belgian Catholic Church is doing.
Too many people! Again, from the Brussels story:

Earlier this week a 31 year old illegal immigrant from Morocco, squatting in a church in Glain in the diocese of Li├Ęge, sewed his lips closed to protest the fact that (a) he has no money to travel to Morocco to attend his father’s funeral and (b) that if he does go to Morocco he will not be allowed to enter Belgium again.
Exasperation knows no borders.
----- o -----

Sunday, April 22, 2007

LA PALMS

There’s a whole lot of flora in LA. Stolen water made the desert bloom. This modest house in the modest Eagle Rock district is lush with vegetation.



Automobiles define LA in popular culture. And those ridiculous tall palms. Here they line busy E. Colorado Blvd. where we stayed.




It was a beautiful day at the track. My cousin, who sort of knows, says Santa Anita is the prettiest in the US except for Saratoga, and the Washingtonia Robustas were the stars.















----- o -----

Saturday, April 21, 2007

FAMILY

We, of Nature’s cruelest choosings, are
the favored heirs, our wealth the savage gift
of mere existence—cold, tainted cash
we fear to spend, but take weird pride bequeathing.

© Copyright 2007 William Morrissey All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

la la

Pud is dragging me to la for a couple days. Pud says Cardinal Mahony is cool with it.

Next post Sat 4-21.

----- o -----

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I'M WORTH IT

I made an impulse buy. Waiting in line at Big 5 I found this irresistible.




What a prestigious brand for a sports watch!

I love the blurb.



Actually, Field and Stream isn’t about cheap watch fashion.



It's more about expensive knives.

Heretofore no one has mistaken me for an outdoorsman. Maybe seeing this watch will give some pause.

For $19.99, I can’t hardly go wrong. It's water resistant up to ten atmospheres. Butch.

----- o -----

DISTRICT 7 VIEWS

District 7 is our upscale nextdoor neighbor. For some reason, West Portal Avenue, a shopping street nestled up against St Francis Woods, remains kind of funky, with a number of one-off businesses.

Spirituality is creeping in.



I wonder—does “Zen” modify “spa,” or “beauty”? Is it a beauty-spa named “Zen”? Or is it a spa that promotes “Zen beauty”?

Practically right next door is a cell phone shop.


Are we talking to God? Or is it the phone call that will not end?

My oil-change place is on the District 4 side of 19th Avenue. Across the street in District 7 is a truly ugly building.




Note the thoughtful detail.



----- o -----

Saturday, April 14, 2007

NATHANIEL FORD IN THE NEWS


This week we heard Metropolitan Transportation Agency Chief Nathaniel Ford’s name associated with a positive environmental story. He had made purchases with taxpayer money that he was proud of. Read the entire Fog City Journal story here.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency chief Nat Ford this morning unveiled the first of what will be a fleet of diesel-electric hybrid Muni buses.

These buses are supposed to be less polluting and will save the City money in the long run (spes). The actual purchase price (res) was not mentioned.

In other news, the headline on this Chronicle article from yesterday pretty much says it all.

PASSENGERS LEFT IN LURCH BY T-THIRD'S ROUGH START, MUNI METRO MESS:

New streetcar line brings delays, confusion, stress to commuters as S.F. transit system tries to iron out kinks during its first week of full service

According to the Chronicle story, and other sources, Nathanial Ford posted an apology on the MTA website for the opening week meltdown of the new T Third streetcar line.

"I would like to express our apologies for the frustrations you have experienced with Muni service over the last few days. We recognize that the quality of service Muni has provided is unacceptable. ...

Then, a few hours later, Ford’s apology was removed from the website. It looks like amateur hour at the MTA. Like, does Nathaniel apologize, or not?

This is not 21st Century technology, it’s not even 20th Century technology, it’s 19th Century technology. Were talking about streetcars!

Mr Ford’s performance is unacceptable. He should seek a job more suited to his abilities.

This just in, from the MTA website:

Line: T
Area: Dogpatch, Bayview, Visitacion Valley
Date: April 14, 2007
Time: Start of service to 1:00 pm
Service on Third Street between Caltrain and Sunnydale will be provided via shuttle busses. There will be stops marked approximately adjacent to Third Street light rail stations. T-Third light rail trains will run between Castro and 4th & King/Caltrain. Shuttle buses will run to/from 3rd & King. Accessible transfers at 2nd & King.

We hear the Overtime Meters click like geigers in yellow cake.
----- o -----

Friday, April 13, 2007

A LITTLE TENNIS TETE A TETE



Today I played for the first time with a nice man a few years my senior named Tom Kelly. He looked like a Tom Kelly.

When we were packing up I asked him if he was an old time San Franciscan. He said yeah he was born here.

“Me too,” I said, “Did you go to SI or SH?” [St. Ingatius or Sacred Heart high schools.]

He said SH, then “What year did you graduate?”

Some local activists were appalled, during the Yale Choir beating furor, to discover how important these questions are to natives. They thought they were coming to a cosmopolis.

Turns out he was six years ahead of me. He said he’s retired from the Fire Department, so I rattled off the names of firemen who were my friends’ dads, and a couple of my contemporaries, all of whom Tom knew.

It’s been beautiful in Golden Gate Park these last two mornings.


----- o -----

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

PARK HEARING POLITE, BORING

I watched the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development committee meeting on Monday, cheapo digital camera ready, to catch some fireworks.

I expected at least some vituperation during public comment—none. There was a Bike Coalition leader who used so much visual aids that we never saw his face. And by the time Dede Wilsey appeared the camera battery had pooped out.





The issue is closing part of Golden Gate Park to auto traffic (and parking). This part of the park is closed to autos on Sundays and holidays. Advocates want to extend the ban to Saturdays also.

The particular stretch of road in question also provides access to the park’s institutional attractions: the DeYoung Museum, the Conservatory of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Garden, and the in-progress reconstructed Academy of Sciences which houses a natural history museum, an aquarium, and a planetarium.

Because there were so many public commenters, each had a one-minute limit, which, like stop signs in this town, was seldom heeded.

This Saturday closure proposal was put before the voters a few years ago and rejected. Last year the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance for Saturday closure which our mayor, bless his heart, vetoed.


The bike people say visitors can take public transit (and travel light) or park in the new underground garage at $4 per hour.

The status-quoers are hiding behind ADA and the issue of access for the disabled.

In general, the anti-car people are promoting ideology, and the anti-closure people are concerned about the specific, practical effects the change would have on their lives. There are no creative ideas being generated about this, it's pure muscle.

Because of Sophie Maxwell’s dignity and scariness, plus the presence of children, elderly, and disabled people, the fireworks I expected never went off.

[Photo by Michael Sutter. Click on image to go to source page.]

----- o -----

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

LIKE THE OLD DAYS, 1 - 0

If I were a Giants fan this would get me down. The team is going for its worst start-of-season record in the almost 49 years since moving west.

Not only is the record poor, but some of the losses have been discouraging. The final score of yesterday’s loss, 1-0, is almost unheard of in post-expansion MLB. And for a pitcher to lose after such a fine effort is a tragedy. [Chron story here.]

I would want the second headline to read--Bonds: “We’ll start clicking, and winning.”

But no, the story of the entire Giants season is insignificant next to the story of Bonds’ quest for individual records. That’s the message of these few inches on SFGate’s main page currently.

Speaking of moving west. In the forty-seven world series since the two teams moved west, the LA Dodgers have appeared in 9, winning 5 times; and the Giants have appeared in 3 World Series, winning zero. On average, each of the eight original NL teams should have gone to the Series 4.3 times since 1958.

Depressing, for Giants fans.


----- o -----

THE MAN WAS A SAINT

Surnames are received, not chosen, and it’s a measure of sophistication to not get too excited about unusual last names.

Some bloggers express amusement at my Supervisor’s name, Ed Jew. Sophisticated people know that Jew is a common Chinese surname.

Sometimes, though, we have to notice.

I once came across a software marketing type, a woman, named Death, Joyce Death, or something. She pronounced it “deeth,” rhymes with grit your teeth.

I tend to notice Dickensian names, like the congressman named Swindell (second syllable gets the accent).

Today, thanks to my weird interest in the Jesuits, I came across the most remarkably Dickensian name ever: Father John Hardon, S.J.

(Click on the pic for a bio.)

See the RenewAmerica story about a sainthood bid for the late Jesuit.


----- o -----

Sunday, April 08, 2007

IMPASSE RESOLVED BY STRONG WOMEN

This second clip starts where we left off with the mayor ignoring the unruly crowd and looking down at the file cards containing the pre-selected questions.


Finally a mature woman explains to her youngers that some members of the community actually want to hear what the mayor has to say about the selected topic.

This doesn’t get much respect, then another woman whose name I should know finally gains control and chides the unruly ones and chides the mayor for refusing to answer questions.

And Gavin doesn’t even acknowledge the assistance these two women rendered him. He doesn’t even refer to them.

He’s been criticized for not engaging in unscripted give-and-take exchanges. From these clips, he appears phobic, like he’s really afraid to look at the hecklers.

The criticism must be painful for Newsom, and this experience must be painful beyond belief. He has staffers and aides there who work with him every day. They all know that on this occasion at least the boss fell apart.

It’s like school teachers, no matter how brilliant you are, if you can’t manage a classroom, you can’t teach.

----- o -----

Saturday, April 07, 2007

IMPASSE

Messing with my new camera and watching the recent Mayoral townhall debacle on SFGOVTV, I put the two together and experimented with uploading to YouTube. Here is the result.

This clip shows our Mayor’s presentation halted by chanting attendees. Their beef is that the Mayor won’t take questions from the audience.

If Newsom were a teacher would be faulted for poor classroom management. It’s painful to watch. Other politicians would roll up their sleeves and wade right in. Newsom literally can't face his constituents.


I have to mess with some technical issues, then I’ll be post a clip that shows how this impasse is resolved.

----- o -----

Friday, April 06, 2007

A LOCAL PARK

On Vicente near 28th is a small park where I play tennis two mornings a week. There are four courts, fenced in pairs, with one pair of courts reserved for Tai Chi every morning from 7-10am.

At first I took umbrage, now I’m enjoying the music, which seems about the same every morning, as I hit my winners and losers. I was stood up yesterday morning so I took some pictures, doing a walk around of the courts.

Jim Lee come out to see what the heck I was doing. I told him I was a blogger, but I usually was playing on the adjacent courts. I was the one, I explained, they heard groaning in pain and cussing profusely. Jim Lee encouraged me to come and learn Tai Chi. Jim said he was working on exercises involving swords, and he’s thoroughly addicted.




















----- o -----

JOSH WOLF AND CRITICAL MASS

Disaffected youth are a sign of health.

Each generation receives the-world-as-it-is from the whole of human history, as a gift, or a mandate, or a debt, or maybe just a big old mess.

The whole of human history has devised stories to convince the next generation that the-world-as-it-is is great, or pretty good, or at least workable.

Some youth look at the gift and go bleahhhh!

Whether or not particular disaffected youth can actually accomplish anything to improve the world, their disaffection should encourage us.

We tell them This is the best we could do.

Youth replies, You could have done better than this. And they’re right.

Two recent events highlight the frustration of two youth groups, who want to fight battles but have no obvious battles to fight. They wind up turning over newsstands and disrupting traffic in a poor neighborhood. Or they attack suburban housewives for driving their kids in a minivan.

[Click on pictures to view web sources.]



Josh Wolf, an anarchist video blogger recently posted the raw footage (see it here) involved in his record-long imprisonment. Without reference to the justice of Wolf’s ordeal, the footage shows leftykids all revved up with no where to go.

And this lady and her kids got their van window smashed when trapped in a Critical Mass ride. Back in literature class they talked about “mock-heroic,” in Chaucer.


The Boston Critical Mass logo below sort of says it all.



Revolutionary bicycling.

----- o -----