February 01, 2015

In Case of Measles...

So for many of us living in the state of California, it's not any sort of news every time we hear the word measles. But think back over the past two decades. You probably haven't said the word measles in a long time, let alone think of measles or the possibility of catching it.

But something happened with those past twenty years. A British doctor by the name of Andrew Wakefield had released an article in a scholarly medical journal back in 1998 stating that vaccinations were harmful, contained toxins and caused autism or other types of mental illnesses. Suddenly, many people were up in arms, where once for nearly six to seven decades we had accepted getting a shot would keep us from getting sick would suddenly make us even worse.

Even though the medical community was in complete outrage over an article with zero substantial evidence and had even gone as far as to strip the doctor of his right to practice, the damage had been done. Millions of people around the world were suddenly convinced that what was going into be injected into their blood stream was the worst possible thing in the world.

There are anti-vaxxers (as they are called) who make these outlandish claims on the toxins contained in vaccinations and shots there were things like anti-freeze and mercury and so on. While mercury is an ingredient in many shots, what many of us in the laymen community don't understand is that we shouldn't latch onto singular words that we recognize. For instance, the mercury in shots. The general understanding of mercury is that it's highly toxic when handled and causes a severe form of toxic poisoning. What we don't understand is that it's a compound of mercury that isn't just quicksilver mercury that we know of but a complex molecule that helps preserve the inoculations and prevent them from going bad over time. Even then, the amount of this mercury compound is so minute that it wouldn't really have any effect on us in the long run.

Grasping at Straws

Understandably, the critics of vaccines have been on the defensive about their beliefs that their children shouldn't be full of toxins. These usually are the sort of liberal-ish people who feed their children fruits for snacks and provide meals made from organic, locally sourced produce and provide them natural oils.

In a New York Times article, one Californian woman named Crystal McDonald is extremely adamant against vaccinations that when her daughter was sent home from school for two weeks because she lacked the basic shorts to attend school she remained adamant and firm. Her daughter was concerned with missing two weeks of school and suggested just getting the shot and being done with it. Her mother refused stating "I'd rather you miss an entire semester than getting the shot."

It's this blatant adherence to these ridiculous claims that cause a greater number of problems for the entire community as a whole. The unfortunate part about this is that this problem is affecting the wealthy and usually well-educated people who attempt to live natural lives. Where eggs are straight from the henhouse and milk may be fresh and unpasteurized. This sort of living is incredibly risky due to the pathogens that may exist in unpasteurized foods and the people who are buying it up live in large quantities in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

While during my time in high school, shots were mandatory. There was no exception to the rule. The basis of our vaccinations function very much on the herd immunity to be effective. Now, in a recent article, I read that as many as ten percent of the children attending public schools in Alameda alone have not been vaccinated.

More recently, there had emerged a hero of the struggle for the anti-vax movement. A report from the CDC had stated that there was a 240% increased chance of an african-american boy to become autistic if given a particular vaccine. It was withdrawn from CDC releases due to a poor statistical data model as well as not having a large enough data pool to glean from. Even though the article had been pulled, the publishing journal issuing an apology, the "whistleblower report" from the CDC is still widely thumped.

Herding in Stragglers

It has been a constant uphill battle for doctors especially to try to convince people who had no faith in chemicals to put chemicals in their body. To prevent an outbreak as such, we are very reliant on what is known as herd immunity where if you have a large enough population vaccinated against an infectious disease then 90% of the people will most likely not be affected with only those who are not treated usually catching it and no one else being able to.

When this is not the case, say only 30% of people are vaccinated, then the disease is easily and very rapidly communicated from person to person. The more people around you who are sick suddenly makes the vaccine less effective. Since the vaccine is not a surefire way to protect yourself from getting sick (90% effective), there still is that ten percent of getting sick and that margin increases as the number of people around you who are sick suddenly display symptoms of measles.

Unfortunately for many of us, the way I've seen Americans function is usually a system of too little, too late. The outbreak scare suddenly has pitted vaccinated families against unvaccinated and because of that, there are a growing number of clinics that are refusing to admit children with full on symptoms. Parents are finding themselves having to update doctors via email or phone to consider what operations are to be taken to fix the situation. Again, too little too late. Measles, since the introduction of the vaccine in the late sixties have knocked infection rates down to almost total eradication in the United States.

When the Wakefield report came out in 1998, there was a noticeable increase in entirely preventable problems. I first remember reading an article on wikipedia about whooping cough nearly half a decade ago and from it, I distinctively remember reading that of all the first world countries, only Canada still had persistent problems from it. Now across the United States, there is an alarming increase in what had no longer been a problem at all.

Easily Preventable

It's scary for me to think that I live in a state with so many of these measles cases breaking out. Since January first of this year, there have been a reported 91 cases all within the month. In one month, there have been more cases than the entire previous year! The vaccine has been proven safe multiple times but for some reason, there are some people requiring that it be proven again. Many of the anti-vaxxers are clinging onto the hope that it will cause autism, which it very distinctively will not.

In the mid 1980s, Roald Dahl, the author of Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches and BFG wrote a letter to parents who had refused to vaccinate their children against measles. He drew upon the death of his first child in mid 1960s, his daughter Olivia who became faint, then unconscious then dead all within the span of twelve hours. It was impossible to cure at the time, the first effective commercially available vaccine not being available until the end of the sixties. He spoke of the mandatory vaccinations that used to exist in the US and how the disease had been virtually eliminated and that the side effects were nil. There was a million to one chance to develop serious issues related to the vaccine, but in protecting a child in the easiest possible way, the chance of death was greater by chocolate bar as Dahl put it.

Usually at eleven months, babies are given their first round of measles shots and this goes a long way to help a child's immune system. Untreated and if caught at an early age, it could cause a long string of problems or more serious and completely fatal, Encephalitis. Dahl's daughter Olivia had succumbed to it.

At what cost?

Where do we draw the line? Where do we begin to say, "You know? We could have easily prevented this."? It is my unfortunate guess that there may have to be several parents attending the funerals of their children before they realize that a poke in the arm could have prevented years of grief to come. I highly urge parents to vaccinate their children, for this is a case where you simply must put aside impractical beliefs and understand that by not saving one young life, they have compromised tens if not hundreds. No parent should ever have to hold their limp dead child and realize that they were at fault.

January 31, 2015

Island Home Companion: A History of Incompetence

But the history of islanders doing crazy things well pre-dates Ralph Mastick turning the entire northern half of the island into a miniature Venice. We have to go well before the days of the settlement of Alameda in 1854 when the Ohlone Indians utilized the entirety of Fernside Island for a multitude of purposes. It was sometime in the mid eighteenth century when the first Spanish Franciscan missionaries arrived from the southern half of California and finally started to settle what is now called the Bay Area. They first had established a mission near San Jose, eventually one in San Francisco which we know was Mission Dolores and another in Sonoma somewhere, I can’t remember quite exactly where it was, but it’s of no concern to this part of Fernside history. What is generally forgotten in the early history of California is the story of Mission de la Fuertes. This was the planned fourth mission that was to be settled into what little bedrock made up Fernside. Alameda would have been a more ideal location since at least only half of it was made up of swamp (as opposed to eighty percent) but Father Jorge Ignacio Vicente Maria Luis de Santiago insisted on what he thought was going to be a firm footing for his mission on a patch of dry earth on Fernside.
Construction began according to the records held by Hank Leupp in the Fernside Island historical society, on March l6th, 1799. It apparently was slow going for them. The land (or back then whatever you could call land) was hardly arable and while fine in supporting the weight of Father Vicente, he had not experimented with having any livestock walk about to see if the terra firma was firm enough. But, he was a man on a mission to build a mission.
Well, the stone for the foundation had to come from somewhere, and much of that came Alameda. Within a week, Father Vicente with his assistants as well as the help of several dozen tribesmen had managed to lay out a very attractive footprint for their church. They had decided to celebrate on the Saturday before the Sabbath and there was much chanting, and moving about in circles. It seems that olden time celebrations usually involved moving about in circles of increasing diameter, but that’s how they chose to celebrate. That same evening, the tribesmen went back to their village and the Franciscans settled their evening in their makeshift camp.
Remember how it was mentioned a little earlier that the weight of a cow could barely be held up? Well, imagine a gigantic platform of various stones rotated about to provide the flattest surface to start the foundation. Now, the part of the stone that rotated into the earth usually is a wedge shape of sorts so overnight, when the Franciscans woke the next morning to say the morning hominy, they had what was more along the lines of sunken patio. But they persisted, being the missionaries that they were and that no act of god was going to keep them from getting the natives closer to god. Besides, barbecue hadn’t quite been invented yet in the recreational sense so there was no point in keeping a patio. So they filled it in with a crude adobe floor and started to build the walls up and pretty soon, they had a very nice half wall by early June.
Again, the venture would prove to be on shaky ground when the added weight of the walls caused the building to sag in various ways. It almost resembled an ancient rollercoaster manufactured entirely of Adobe. They kept going, levelling the walls each time but it really was not much use because the next morning, they’d find that they’d have to keep continually doing the same sort of compensating. The real problem occurred at windows. If they started the previous day with a nice square hole, the day of would be a rather handsome rhombus or in some cases, chevron shaped. Well, they kept on going. Finally, enough had sunk that they could finally put a roof on the mission. This they did rapidly to have the weight evenly distributed. Even a few brothers from Mission Dolores had come out to assist. By eventide, the roof was up and the younger friars were passing up tiles to cover up the roof with. It was finally a handsome place of prayer and service for the East Bay. Father Vicente sent out the order forms for statuary and as a congratulations, Fr. Angelo from the Santa Clara mission sent over a pair of gilt candle holders, Fr. Heitor from Dolores sent a beautiful red silk altar cover and Fr. Alberto from Sonoma provided four handmade pews from their personal workshops. Mission Fuertes was certainly well on its way to becoming a full time mission.
Tragedy struck (as it usually does in our case, otherwise it wouldn’t be humor) when the entire congregation had gone out to Mission Dolores to listen to a sermon there as well as an important message from the alcade who was beginning to grow concerned by the amount of lack improvement of roads in the area. When their boat nudged into the soft sand, the shirted Indians pulled the boat well into the shore before the Franciscans alighted. What they saw when they got back could have only been willed by a merciful god. The entire building had sunk again but this time, the rafter tails were resting on the ground. The building was gone in its entirety. The contents were still in the building albeit pressed up against the ceiling inside. How Father Vicente reacted could only really be described as melancholy mixed with a tinge of glee. Somehow, he found humor in the situation and reacted as any man should and went to the Father President of the missions, turned in is sashes and according to the last records anyone could find his name mentioned, he was listed as a vaquero for the Peralta land grant dying in 1828.
With the mission gone as well as a few of the cattle that somehow made their way into unfirm ground, the tribesmen left the ruins which eventually disappeared. The footprint of the mission props up Charlie Ancona’s Café, the Mission Statement. But it isn’t to say that work of the missionaries didn’t leave a lasting impression. Before the entire project could take seed, Fr. Angelo Carlos Rael de Balboa had managed to cover the entire island in almond tree seeds which he planted at six foot intervals. By the time Alameda became incorporated in 1854, Fernside had become somewhat stabilized with these ancient almonds making a neat grid that would later help make up the structure of our streets. So we still have god to thank for those in any case. Well, at least his shepherds.
The story of incompetence on a grand scale doesn’t just stop at Father Vicente’s abandoned dreams. It seems to shake its way into the core of all Fernsider’s ancestry. The first surveyor who came to the island shortly after the forming of the city of Alameda had good intentions of helping to lay out the first city streets. Bear in mind, the island is long and narrow, but somehow his cross street measurements came out wrong and instead of being a quarter of a mile wide, an error on his paper would say that Fernside was a mile and a half wide. Not even Alameda has a luxury like that! Thinking about all potential land sales he could make as he sat in the surveyor’s office in San Francisco, he put an advertisement in the San Francisco Call. It read something along the lines of:
For Sale!
Land Plots on Island off
Parcels begin at $4/quarter acre
Now, when land is abundant, it can come cheap. That surveyor literally oversold Fernside. When the first investors arrived on the island, each one clenching in one fist a piece of paper with the exact coordinates and sizes of their land and in the other fist, rods and chains. The surveyor’s assistant stood on the makeshift dock that was hastily put up to welcome the first ferry barge of investors. This young man whose name was Theobald Higgins merely stood there and before he could say “Welcome” he was knocked over by a wave of men, rods and chains. Theobald managed to stand up just barely after the last person cleared the ferry. At the end of the dock was a stone marker that had a surveyor’s way marker hammered into it and everyone stood squabbling around it.
Finally, a tall bearded man in a tall top hat which added far too much to his already enormous stature managed to control the crowd and organize them in a way to see who would own land within the length of the first chain, then they would break into groups in the different directions they would be going. Now, a little math. A mile is 5280 feet. A mile is made up of 80 chains of 66 feet each. An acre is equal to ten square chains or, a rectangle that is one chain in length by one furlong. Now, that would mean according to the surveyor’s excellent map, he could easily sell everything from the ferry dock 120 chains out. Now, remember his error? You sell for 120 chains when in reality you have 20 chains worth of land, something might have to give.
Well very quickly, people within those first 20 chains staked and marked their land from the ferry dock the people moving north and south were claiming their land as well. But there are those extra people which we might have to term an accounting error. One Frenchman by the name of Rampeau who had bought three acres at the supposed eastern end of the island very quickly found that he still had to continue measuring until he reached the sandy beach looking at the western shore of Alameda island. He somehow managed to hire a rowboat and he continued to measure chains out into the channel until he found his apparent allotment. In the middle of a tidal canal between Fernside and Alameda Islands. Now a few things go through a fellow’s mind when he makes the connection that he might have bought up a dud, he begins to seek vengeance. Especially during this early period in the State’s history where there were bloody conflicts over laundry.
When Rampeau reached the shore again, he was met with several other people who had all apparently bought land that was supposedly in the channel. They met and conversed for a bit. Had they bought land that was only visible at low tide? A Mr. Fennell had in his pocket a tide book and where they stood was low tide. They puzzled for a bit longer before realizing they might have been had. Rampeau cried out “Le bâtard!” meaning the bastard of course before he led the now angry and blood thirsty mob which was slowly growing. They were picking up people who had purchased full acres only to find that they had claim on a tenth of one where it abuts the shore. The lucky ones who managed to buy nearest the survey marker weren’t being satisfied either. The tall bearded had brought a soils engineer with him to see the viability of building a huge estate here to retire and that very little of it was usable. It got to the point eventually where everyone was marching to the ferry dock and the poor Higgins was mobbed. Every single investor was tearing at his clothing demanding the meaning of “this cruel, tasteless joke” as one called it. Higgins only having been hired the day before to help the surveyor take care of helping the new settlers suddenly had the new job of being led by the mob, back to the surveyor’s office and gaining an explanation.
The ferry ride back into San Francisco was an uncomfortable one for Theobald as every possible pair of hands clutched onto him to prevent him from escaping. When they landed, he was marched in vigilante style down Market Street. San Francisco, only being six years out of statehood still had a taste for vigilante justice. The moment a crowd forms, it kinda snowballs. It kept growing until it clogged up the entirety of Market Street before it reached the surveyor’s office at Stockton. For the surveyor, he was enjoying a nice bit of lunch, some cold pheasant (it was really just chicken according to the Chinese cook) and a small glass of Madera which he bought with a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Fernside Island. On the couch opposite him laid the most fantastic beauty you could imagine. Her name was Lilly Montrose, the surveyor’s mistress. She wore hints of clothing if you could even call it that, but the material was so see through, it was hard to discern whether or not she had a fine layer of body hair or that it was exotic French underwear. He was throwing hunks of chicken at her, deliberately missing and forcing her to squeam around so he could see more of her.
He threw a piece of breast at her when all at once, there came a resounding crash as a thousand pebbles peppered the front of the building. They broke through the window and the two of them ran for cover. From outside came an incoherent chant. Since only a small portion of the people in the mob below were the actual investors and the rest were part of the snowball, they couldn’t come up with a single coherent chant. Just a resounding noise that rattled the windows everywhere. When the hail of rocks stopped, he could hear a banging below. The surveyor pushed his head through the ruined window to see below that the mob had managed to upset several vendor carts and were now hammering on the front door of his office with a bench. Very quickly, the hail of rocks began again and he only managed to duck inside before the volley began. He quickly draped Lilly in a steamer rug and pushed her out of the window on the other side of the room onto the roof of Lehman’s Mercantile not far below. She managed to escape that day. The surveyor not so much. When the door burst open, they caught him trying to slip out the window to follow Lilly but they grabbed ahold of him and crowd surfed him down. Ruffians with no connection to the mob ran into the office grabbing anything that looked valuable. The chicken was gone in a flash.
Downstairs, the surveyor was tied to a rail and he and Theobald were marched down Stockton towards the Hall of Justice at Portsmouth square. While they were beside one another, they managed to exchange a few words. “What’s happened?” “I don’t know” and “What did we do?” were the only things they could hear each other say. Finally, the march led them to the front of the Hall of Justice where a line of Billy Clubbed policemen stood in a line in front of the entrance so as to not let the mob in. The rails were passed forward over the crowd with the bewildered surveyor and Theobald Higgins and very quickly untied and jostled into the front.
Their faces were bloodied, bleeding and puffy. Theobald sported a blackened eye and the red tell tale burn of someone gripping him by the throat. The surveyor had his lip split, hair askew and his shirt torn from him. He spat a little bit of blood onto the sidewalk and just as he had done that, the chief of police had materialized through the line of blue trench coats. His red bulbous nose sniffed at the air, catching the metallic smell of blood before looking at the two bedraggled men standing before him. He merely gestured at the line of policemen to take them into the prison and in a loud, clear voice he told everyone to disperse which they did.

Well eventually, the state had to send down an ombudsman to figure out all the details of what had happened and the surveyor (who had been found to not have a current license let alone a state license) lost his practice and it was reported he was between begging and laboring in the San Francisco sewers as a cleaner. Theobald was a little bit more fortunate. As he had nothing to do with the survey error, but since he technically did have surveyor’s license, the state hired him to do a proper measurement of the island and this time he made sure to do it right. As compensation, he was given one and a half acres at the southern end of Fernside Island where his ancestors are still today.

Not the Sweet Life: The Reality of Online Dating

In the San Francisco Bay Area, there seems to be something for everybody. Just as likely, there's someone for everybody as well it seems. But for me at least, that seems to be a lesser issue that stems from a far greater and graver issue it seems, especially these days.

When I first initially started dating, I was young, I was naive and I wore my heart on my sleeve like most people usually do whenever they meet someone they really like and like how most young romances end, I've had my heart broken several times and I've learned and always am constantly learning how to cope with it. Although the adventure ended there, it didn't mean that there wern't going to be any more adventures in the future.

Something odd happened along the way. I had done well on my own for four years or so until the day I got my second tattoo. I remember my friend Danielle sitting in the easy chair in my room telling me, "Hey, you should try okcupid. I know you've been kinda lonely lately and the last thing it sounds like you want to do is the bar scene." So I signed up, head in a mist thinking, that I'm going to have so many opportunities to meet people and so on. It wasn't like I was a stranger to online dating altogether. Actually, my first encounter with online dating was with a site that no longer exists. It was something odd like shop-a-guy or something like that. It allowed women to pick and choose which guys they thought were worth talking to and then allow them to talk to them. I met one girl, that was really it.


At first, the opportunities were great. I met a fair amount of normal people. People who wouldn't seem like they'd cut you open and pickle you or something heinous of that matter. I had met three exes in that sort of golden era of online dating for me. Here, racial boundaries were broken and everything was go. What right did we, the users, have to be picky? Why else were we online in the first place then? So I went in tentatively. I personally had the understanding that this wouldn't be a long term thing, it was just "only a try" I told myself. Why the hell not? I mean, I deserve a chance to date as much as the next person.

I created a profile after a short internal debate with myself and uploaded some decent pictures. They wern't flattering, but they wern't hideous either. I answered a few questions, and after awhile, I fond myself two hundred questions deep.

The first ex, we dated for three months. It was okay at best. In the morning, we'd wake up together and she would have no eyebrows and that would freak me out for a second. She taught me the value having a place away from the parental units but I botched it up. When we broke up, we had a spat over wanting to go have food truck dinner in Richmond, a town noted for crime and I had my reasons not wanting to go there. Mostly because I valued living. She however grew up in the suburbs of Concord not quite grasping the concept of a drive by.

The next ex was from Norway, she lived in San Francisco (still does actually) and while I still recall the freezing cold nights trying to fall asleep in her tiny basement apartment below Mt. Davidson, something hadn't quite clicked. We still talk now and then, mostly not now, and maybe only just then. The third ex was the end of normalcy I think in the world of online dating. She was cute, worked a few jobs and we enjoyed each other. My living situation at my parent's place at the time made it far too difficult for her to cope with what was going on in her tumultuous life. So we broke up, I cried a bit and then I got back onto my horse. However that horse suddenly would have two heads or maybe was missing a leg for no reason.

I went back to OkCupid in March of 2012 and I don't think i've had to deactivate it since. Even it knows how long i've been around, even offering me a moderator position eventually. But everyone i've met, somehow, never moved beyond the first date, something seemed to give since then. One girl was merely in it for the food, another proceeded to stalk me for a few months before she got the message. There was a complete lack of organic growth from any of these interactions, for a lack of a better word, and because of that, when I met my friend Bella, it seemed to click a lot easier in person than on a computer screen. But Bella and I never dated, we had fun one or two times, but that was about it, when I knew it wouldn't go any further, it hurt a little. Whereas meeting a rando and realizing there's going to be nothing more than that, didn't feel a thing. Not that was for a complete lack of emotion, but the build up begins at the first date, it's too dependent on the first date.

In 2013, I moved back to Berkeley to finish up some classes, but I figured since my best success comes from living near campus as opposed to my parent's house, this would be a good opportunity to see what happens. Right out the door, I had caused a rift between myself and my roommate over a freshman girl. That since has been mended over. There was a sophomore girl I was really interested in, but she wasn't looking. She apparently had finished being in a relationship. So I got used, it wasn't bad, but it wasn't what I was looking for.

So after four months of trying to date on my own, I turned back to OkCupid, and the next thing I knew, I met up with someone at midnight and I thought it was going to be a walk and talk, she on the other hand apparently was drunk and just wanted to touch my penis in a jungle gym at the park. We persisted for I forget how long, until one day, in the middle of bed activities, she started to cry, put on her clothes and ran out the door. I asked her what was going on and she felt "she couldn't be with me because she started to have feelings for me." That's a big blow to the ego if there ever was one.

So it's been back to OkCupid again, except now, i'm not trying as hard. I didn't know if I wanted to give a shit about the quality of people I know I would meet, but I'll try.

The Game Changer

Lately, there seems to have been an obnoxious plethora of new apps for people to date, how to date and who to date. The big one lately has been tinder, but a splinter faction that emerged has been bumble, some I can't even remember the names of. Other apps like Lulu warned women about certain men, but didn't have a control against vandalism and the fact that as a potential date, a man could lose out on all future opportunities for a long while just because one date went bad or didn't click.

Many of us are expecting to find someone perfect and hopefully some of us will, but the unfortunate part is we're not wanting to put the work into it anymore. We're sort of expecting to find every single detail up on the wall on a dating site or Lulu and it will tell you, but how much can you trust this information that comes to you second hand? Personally, I have no idea what my Lulu says, but I've heard that a few others have and some of them had scathing reviews for no apparent reason. There lay the problem.

There is a moment of relief you feel when you purchase something on Amazon to read the reviews later and all of them are positive. You pat yourself on the back, say you made a good choice and then move on. I can't speak for women who rely on Lulu, but is that how it happens? I can get it to the extent where you could potentially be going out with a hoarder or a guy who always calls his mother before making a decision, but you've effectively knocked a key part out of the dating game which is to learn about one another and make the choice yourself.

I tried to escape the gravitational pull of OkCupid for awhile so I tried Tinder for a bit. For those of you who don't know, Tinder is an app that involves menial labor to make your choices in love. For those users who really couldn't care about making an informed decision about whether or not to swipe right (for a like) or left (for pass), a few ingenious people decided the best thing to do was to literally create an artificial finger that did nothing more than merely pressed a button over again, most likely on the like side.

While there is a certain lack of romance involved in this process, some people tell me it kinda worked for them. I have yet to see conclusive results. I had for awhile been talking to someone about fifteen miles from me, and on the day we were supposed to meet, she suddenly disappeared. Not a single trace. I tried calling but that didn't do anything. It was... odd to say in the least. I am talking to someone, but I have yet to see how this one current one pans out.

An Element of Race

I first encountered the article in 2012 saying how race has a major role in the responses that people give and send and up until that point, I had enjoyed relative success regardless of being an Asian male. I only had become more frustrated at online dating based on my race after the article itself and it suddenly put in my mind how much more complex I had to make things for myself.

According to the statistic, Asian men between the ages of 21 and 25 (which I belonged to at the time) were the lest likely to illicit any sort of response from women of any race. A statistic which for obvious reasons made me kinda sad. Well, when I say kinda, I mean more infuriated. Up until that point, I never bothered complaining about the amounts of white men with asian females I would see scattered here and there but when the gender roles were switched there was a larger, much more disparaging difference. In terms with people of my own race, I belong in a very, tiny minority. Asian guys who prefer white girls.

But here was an article saying "here's the hard facts, it's hard for you as is, and for you especially it's going to be harder." I couldn't remember a time when I ever dated an Asian person, it wasn't that I didn't have Asian friends, but it was the feeling of being jammed into a conformity of having to date a certain subtype of people and to understand that I need to fit the statistic. Rarely if ever will you find an absolutely accurate statistic but it's there for everyone to see. I wonder how exactly people of other races viewed the article.

Still, rather than being pushed aside, i'm still there. People tell you're a good person and you take that to heart. It's just more complicated in the realm of online dating when suddenly you have a set standard you have to conform to. Which as you may guess I rather not do.

Sitting Back, Putting My Feet Up

So while the pursuit of romance is not necessarily a priority, I've taken the road where I don't care what a statistic will tell me what will happen to me in my dating. I've got one working out potentially and whatever fate has in store for me, and take my hand as i'm dealt it.

January 28, 2015

Hello Love

It's been awhile, hello old friend.

I've neglected this blog for the past few years especially, and to be perfectly honest, I don't know the future of it to have any form of certainty. My thoughts are that within the next year, it might just stay up as a repository for all of these past entries and such. But beyond that, I don't think it'll get any further.

I can read through everything that i've written, but do I really want to be reminded of the past like that? to see these old entries, dragging what's left of themselves to my memory? I mean, I do enjoy reading a few and showing them off once in awhile, but I feel I need something new. Something that might rejuvinate this whole thing.

Perhaps, a makeover? Perhaps not.

I'll see.

October 28, 2014

Island Home Companion - The News from Fernside Island

ZW: Well it’s been a quiet year in Fernside Island, my home town, out there edge of the San Francisco Bay. As this is our inaugural show, I’ll have to fill you in here with a few details about it. Fernside Island is the third island of Alameda, California. Those of you from the Bay Area know about the main island of Alameda, but few tend to know about Bay Farm Island and even fewer know about Fernside. You see, there was an incident, it happened about 1948 I believe, when the State transportation toll authority commissioned a report on the potential of building a second crossing over the San Francisco Bay. The first option would have been building the exact same bridge right next to itself, to help relieve congestion. But it still meant clogging up the same areas of the city, so the Toll Authority considered clogging up another part of the city.
And that crossing would have would have gone through Alameda. Possibly through Bay Farm and very likely through Fernside. And as we all know, the government is usually kindly there to inconvenience us, to ruffle our feathers and then all of a sudden, before you know it, it does nothing and you’re left in the dark wondering if your house was suddenly going to turn into a bridge pier overnight. When the toll authority stopped contemplating malicious plans to turn our front gardens into a work site, they forgot about Fernside and incidentally, so did Alameda. But in any case, we here in Fernside island are usually left to our own devices. We have an unobstructed view of San Francisco from our homes, the sea grass tends to make up our lawns as opposed to crab grass and we usually do most of our business on bikes.
An engineer by the name of Ralph Mastick living on the northern tip of the island had found one day sometime back in the late 1950s that when he was about to jump into his car and drive over to the car ferry dock that it was nowhere to be found. Instead, in his front drive, there was a depression of sorts. Somewhat car shaped, about six or seven feet deep and at bottom of course, was his brand new Buick. Now most normal people would file an insurance claim against the car but no, most Fernsiders (as we call ourselves) tend to be a blend of genius, eccentric and down-right stupid. You see, what Mastick decided to do instead of what normal people do was dig a ramp down into the depression so that he could drive the car out. At first, he tried a forty five degree angle and this he decided was simply too steep for a seventeen foot car to drive out of so he took it a step further and did the calculations and found he would need a fifteen degree angle. Now, some of you who are clever know that the ramp would be somewhere around ten feet long. Now for an engineer, that would have been sufficient, but Ralph see, decided he’d take it a step further and dig a thirty foot long ramp, effectively making it a nice gentle one and four incline.
So he set to work, his mind completely focused on getting his Buick out forgetting that digging in the middle of the street required permission from his neighbors and of course the city, but being the methodical man that he is figured that he could do it over a weekend before his neighbor, one Marion Little would be back from staying with her sisters in Sacramento. Well, when there seems to be any sort of digging to be done, it seems to attract men to the hole. Sort of like flies to a pie absently minded left out to cool and forgotten until two days later. Well, if we keep going with the metaphor, in two days time, you find that you haven’t got any pie to eat, just a pie tin and what basically are the remnants of hard work with no reward. Well Ralph tried and when he started to dig, he found that suddenly, he was surrounded by the men in town, all watching him, smoking cigarettes and telling dirty jokes. Now Ralph isn’t one to be left out of any sort of male bonding experience and it quickly turned into a barbecue when Ted Ferguson down the street brought over his brand new charcoal grill and the pit became a sort of hideout. Just deep enough to not be visible from a distance so if wives looked down the street from the intersection, they’d see a strange curl of smoke, wisping up, smelling strangely of hot dogs and
hamburgers. Late into the evening, Ted’s wife Lucille looked out the front room window to see where Ted had disappeared to the entire day and could only see that column of smoke coming from the darkness. She couldn’t be bothered to try to figure out what it was, so she figured he must have been down at the Beachcomber bar and hotel.
Most of us tend to find that one day of fun usually turns into two and before you know it, while the ramp was finished in the first few hours and the car driven out and parked at the end of the cul-de-sac, but those boys found that they enjoyed their fortress. As many of us know from our years of childhood, we tend not to continue maturing well into our late twenties. But it seems that these guys here in particular wouldn’t reach their mature vintage sometime until 1973.
Well, Sunday evening rolled around, and by this time, a wind started to pick up and to explain a little about the street that Ralph lived on, he lived at the end, his nearest neighbor was Marion whose house was about thirty feet away and at the end is Ted’s house. On the other side, it abuts the sea wall and the beach below. So they had all gone to bed and what they didn’t know, since Ralph was a mechanical engineer and not a soils engineer was that the sea wall only went down four feet. Well, suddenly, the sea gave way and pushed its way into the seven foot deep pit. Well, an exceptional high tide usually scares most Fernsiders and that was what happened to have occurred so suddenly, this forty five foot hole with a gentle thirty foot ramp became a forty five foot hole with no gentle ramp and about five feet of water. It sort of sucked out the material that made up the ramp. Well, while they dug, they contented themselves to throw the dirt over the sea wall, thinking that they’d just pull it up later and fill in the hole.
On Monday morning, Marion had left Sacramento at seven AM in the highest of spirits after seeing her sisters Edith and Alice who had decided to host a Tupperware party while she was visiting and Marion made the trip in good time driving herself in her little Nash Metropolitan full of Tupperware with the lids on everything. Her car ferry had docked at ten a.m. and Ralph was still asleep, nursing a hangover fueled by greasy burgers and in his dreams, he dreamt about his car, and the subjects of dirty joke concerning a show girl and a nun, were sitting in the back seat. Well, Marion made the short drive to the northern end of the island to go home when she passed by Ralph’s Buick at the entrance of the cul-de-sac and she looked at it. Puzzled as to why it would be sixty feet away from Ralph’s front door when suddenly, she had to stomp on her brakes to avoid driving down into what looked half of an Olympic sized lap pool.
The street was gone, but the sidewalks were still there and so were their houses, but where the road should have been it looked all caved in, full of water and she could barely make out at the far end, what looked like Ted Ferguson’s brand new charcoal barbeque floating, slowly bumping against the sides of this pool. Now, a Nash Metropolitan doesn’t weigh too much, but when loaded with Tupperware all bristling with Edith and Alice’s country style cooking, it starts to add up and Marion, not exactly a sprig herself found that the earth began to shake and she looked to her left and right and caught Ted’s eye who just happened to be looking out his kitchen window with a cup of coffee when all of a sudden, the earth disappeared below her car and it dropped, it dropped into pit and suddenly, the forty five foot hole became a fifty five foot hole.
The look on Ted’s face could say it all, one moment, he watched the Sea Foam green car waiting at the edge of the pit and suddenly, there was nothing save for the white hard top of the car and an audible screech. Quickly bursting through the back door, he ran up to pit thinking there still was a ramp, but there wasn’t one to be seen. The amount of earth that the car had managed to subside, pushed a
considerable amount of water to the far end towards Ralph’s house and the tidal wave hammered against the earth, pulling a lot of it back with it and suddenly, you could feel the anticipation when suddenly, Ralph’s detached garage decided to take up diving and crashed into the water. Now, in turn, the garage not please with being uprooted from its decades of solid footing sent a wave back. By now, Ted was in the hole helping Marion out and the water was rushing towards them. Their screams were eerie when the wave pushed them over and when they came out again, they were caked in mud.
By this time, Ralph was disturbed from his sleep and ran out of his kitchen door to see what was causing all the noise. Ralph’s kitchen door opens straight into his drive way. Bearing in mind, if his garage was gone, pretty much his driveway would be too. When he caught sight of the Grand Canal that had formed itself overnight, he didn’t think to look down where he was walking. Well, very quickly, two people sopping wet turned into three.
They quickly had gotten out, and all three of them were fortunate that whoever built their houses had known that a deep pile footing would be best. So while the road was gone, their houses were fine. Now, something on this scale obviously won’t go unnoticed in town and pretty soon, the children of the islanders enjoyed having this new swimming pool and the word got around until the city realized it had to do something about this.
Now, since the Mayor of Alameda didn’t want to have much to do with the folk on Fernside so naturally, the community came up with a little body of councilors to help resolve issues. Don’t get me wrong, Alameda still throws money at us, they just don’t like having an extra seven hundred people to deal with. But anyhow, the councilors had this huge problem on their hands and their first priority was getting Marion Little’s car out of the hole. Unfortunately, if the weight of one car could barely be handled by the ground, it certainly couldn’t hold up a crane for that matter. So these councilors (one of who was Ralph by the way) came up with the idea to extend the ramp. Just like Ralph had done in the first place.
Well, they got her car out okay, but it was absolutely ruined, luckily all the heavy country foods in their little plastic containers had survived so Marion wasn’t too broken up the day they managed to get the Nash out. Her insurance covered the car so she could afford a Cadillac if she really wanted, but she realized that she might need a speed boat more than a car.
The city councilors had set aside enough money to dig up the ramp to get Marion’s car out, but they somehow had forgotten to put a little more aside to fill up the hole that was left behind. They probably put Ralph in charge of that part, but anyways, the hole kept growing in size until they lost three streets and gained three canals in their place. Very quickly, people got rid of their cars on the island, bought up golf carts or scooters or what have you weighing under a ton. So what we once called the Silver Coast we’ve renamed Little Venice. We don’t mind, so much as long as the people up there do. They’re just like us except they use boats more and the fact that they started building buildings to look more like Venetian buildings helps bring a crowd every so often to put a little bit of tourism money in our pocket.
So that’s the news from Fernside Island where the women are clever, the men not so much and the children are equal opportunity dreamers.

January 15, 2014

Welcoming in the New Year

Every time I think about the start of the new year, I can't help but hear that little song that Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt performed on her youtube channel Hellogiggles.

I know as a big butch manly man, I can't help but smile whenever I hear these two performing in this case. But with nothing better to do than to watch videos of celebrities singing and playing instruments at the same time, I've decided to reflect a little on the past fifteen days of this new year so far.

Falling out with RideShare
I no longer side with the cause of ridesharing. You may recall from an earlier post, that I was indifferent. It was handy granted on my friend's birthday getting from SOMA up to Polk street for a night of drinking. But the fare then was eleven dollars. I had to use it to get my drunk friend from SOMA back to the middle Richmond and guess how much a normally 25 dollar fare ended up costing me? EIGHTY FIVE DOLLARS. Let that sink in for a moment, since i've had fifteen days for that to soak in. Lyft and UBER decided to launch peak pricing new years eve that night, charging unsuspecting riders an additional 175% of the normal fare for tip. Granted, if I was a driver working that night, I would have been more than pleased to find someone to drive around and then make a boat load of cash.

But that night, I wasn't a rich financial banker or someone loaded with money because of my startup. I'm an ordinary twenty something with no money. I remember a time when it seemed like every twenty something was in the same predicament that I was in and now, everyone seems to have boat loads of cash. Where's my cash? So I'm very well hoping that the MTC does something about this ride share problem to help the cab company. At least the cabs didn't charge that much.

Itchy Hometown
Coming home, I've met up with friends from New York and realized how much I missed them and missed people who were musically talented to be around. I'm a little reticent to find people to live with in the near future if they're not musical. Worse off if they love music, but only top fifty stuff! I might just opt to live in a cardboard box, but I hear even those rents are going up in San Francisco.

So what does that mean, you met up with some people from New York? Well, I think if anything, it shows how much I'm growing tired of living in the bay area and itching to move far away to somewhere new. For me, I'm hoping it will be a welcome change. As much as i've enjoyed living here in the bay, being spoiled by its moderate weather, progressive fundament, it's become all kinda old and stale. I've been toying with the idea of moving away to Portland or to New York City now, but I'm just edgy trying to contemplate whether or not I could even afford to live in New York. I'm fairly certain, if I find a job in Portland, at least there, I can afford the more moderate rent. To give you an idea of how expensive rent is in New York, The rent on a one bedroom apartment there can rent me an entire house and pool in a nice neighborhood of Portland. So there's that.

My friend from New York, Darrell, has been slightly itchy himself to move back home to the Bay Area to start up a guitar company along other things. Neither of us know anything about building guitars, but dammit, we'll give it our best try if anything. Besides, the quality and craft of a novice guitar maker probably will be a lot less controversial than what Gibson has been doing lately. I like the idea myself too, living up in Sonoma, with all the rolling hills, having a little farmhouse dedicated to building guitars and stuff. I see several acres of land, rolling brown grassy fields with a a few horses here and there, and several farm houses, one for Darrell, one for myself, and the rest for others. Then a large warehouse for guitar production and a kinda nature center deal for recording music.

Romance? Pfffft...
So if you know, i've always been complaining about the lack of a significant other in my life. My mind this past holiday break has been dancing back to this one person at school in Berkeley, but I have no idea how to read her. I don't even know why I would want to date her. She postulated that question before we parted ways for the holidays, but I gave it a lot of serious thought and I still cant answer that question. I still feel a desire to date her for some reason, but I can't explain why. There are a few people in the world, that when you meet them, you don't need a reason, but you want to learn as you go along. There's nothing wrong with that, I think, but who knows.

So those are the three big topics that have been plaguing me the past fifteen days. So maybe some change would do me a world of wonders.

December 15, 2013

DRM: The Sort-of Necessary Evil

As a citizen of the 21st century who lived in the 20th (which usually means most of us), we have come to see one of the greatest changes in technological life styles. Into a society made up of families that own multiple cars (mine owns four), a personal computer for each person and a larger social network tied down into a new found closeness with apps, competitive games and video chatting on demand. We no longer leave a voice mail asking someone to call back but instead text them to see what they're up to that they can't pick up the phone. Literally banging on the door and yelling talk to me now. We are more than happy to criticize behind the anonymity of the internet and not fear the consequences of speaking out.

It's all good and bad, but I speak to you all today as an Artist both in the performing and the visual sense. I think my emotions were most stirred earlier in the week when I came across an article describing the burgeoning change in a sexual society and they used an image. This particular image was obviously an image drawn by another human being and then posted proudly on their Flickr account. But looking at the image citation, it cited: Image Source: Flickr. You can't begin to imagine how many shades (more than fifty I guarantee you) of wrong this is. The fact is that this is individual art and yes while it is hosted on Flickr, is not something that Flickr made.

Simply saying image source: Flickr is not enough, you've bypassed the entire train of human creativity that led to the image being hosted on Flickr in the first place. In no way did the image hosting site have any hand in the creative process of coming up with art other than hosting it. This "citation", and I use citation very wrongly, forgets about the artist altogether and then on top of that, displays his work and not even hyperlink to page or the photograph itself. So that article, crowned by a lovely image to accompany the prophetic words it might have had to say is guilty of depriving someone of the recognition they fairly deserve.

I think what drew me to the article that someone else linked in the first place was the image that popped up on the Facebook feed. But then when I saw the copyrights not even properly managed, I refused to read the article. In no way was I ready to read something where the first thing was plagiarized. In my disappointment, I closed the article and thought about copyrights and then Digital Rights Management or DRM for short.

For those of us old enough to remember a time when there were other programs other than Spotify existed (the name of which I'm blanking on right now) you would download a copy free onto your computer and then the DRM was renewed each time you accessed the file. I remember whatever it was called, I used the software extensively when I was a sophomore at Berkeley and I was angry the day it closed down leaving me with all these useless music files protected by DRM. So I did the next best thing any somewhat tech-savvy person would do: torrent music.

Now, plenty of us are more than happy to pay the price on Apple's iTunes store and buy a copy of the music or even go down to your local music store and find a CD with all the songs you want. Now, herein lies my problem. If I'm looking to buy one song in particular, that's a benefit for iTunes or Amazon since they offer one by one pricing. But what if I want more than one song on the album, then I usually have to end up buying a CD with one or two songs I like and the rest I don't. If I go into a hard copy store, if I want one song, I have to buy the whole CD. No big deal, sometimes CDs are cheaper, but I end up with this stack of CDs I never use unless I have my car with it's already antiquated 6 CD changer.

The issue surrounding DRM over music is a hazy one, while we would love to support the artists who make music, we generally don't want to pay for it. Their rights being handled by a major label company means the artists get a small percentage of what goes all together into the CD sale. If I were a recording artist full time, I'd certainly want the process streamlined and then a higher percentage, but most certainly I'd also want a bejewelled toilet and a wider audience range, but that is unlikely.

Leaving music into art and photography, we enter a world rife with plagiarism and straight up stealing. I recall on Instagram a few months ago, I posted a photo I took of my Loar guitar and mandolin, Recording King Banjo and no-name fiddle with the hashtag: bluegrass. Lo and behold to my surprise some ballsy 14 year old girl in the middle of nowhere takes the exact same image and calls it her own. On Reddit, I might understand but on Instagram where everyone is taking unique photos every day, you have to go and steal one of mine. Naturally, I got all my friends to spam the account and turn her life into hell for stealing images.

I learned the copyright problem about a year ago when I produced an image similar to an Ork map for the sleepy little town of Alameda. Normally, you would never see a map for so small a town but being from there, I thought my fair little island city deserved one. I did one for my own uses and showed it off. Fast forward several months, I'm working quietly on a few drawings in my home studio when I get a call from my last boss asking if I had sold the rights to my image to the clothing store down the street. I replied that I hadn't and then drove into town to see what he was talking about. There it was, basically my exact same image being sold on the front of t-shirts and hoodies. I was furious, I was livid and I was helpless.

I consulted a copy of the California Civil Code on intellectual property. By exposing it to the world, I allowed it to be used. It was the one time I was hard up with nothing to gain but a slice of humble pie. Someone else took my design, modified it a little bit and then was reaping the profits. I sincerely hope he rots in hell for that.

So next time you write an article and you quote someone, use an image from a publicly contributed website (cough: Imgur, Flickr, Photobucket) make sure you get permission or at the very least say who you got the image from. Cite properly, cause "photo credit: Flickr" just doesn't cut it. Ever.

November 13, 2013

Rain Washes Those Who Wish To Get Wet

I recommend having this open in a tab in the background: http://www.rainymood.com/

I admit it, i'm a sucker for the rain sometimes, but there are those moments that you get to yourself that you just have to sit down and savor. Right now, I have four windows that look south. Four windows that get a view of a basketball court, the back end of a sorority, an apartment where people are noisy and the rear of a fraternity. So I get all kinds of noises, sex, screams, laughs, loud music. But all that disappears when the grey clouds roll overhead, and those little droplets of water come shooting down from above. Oh yes, the rain. It washes away the chalk marks on the ground, and wets the earth. That rain.

But when it rains, people don't want to sit outside, people don't want to bring their expensive sound systems outdoors so they can shoot some hoops while bothering other people. Everything stops in place, and people change. People carry their shodden umbrellas and shake them towards the sky, they explode in size, the ones held low by the short people are jabbed into tall people's eyes and tall people shake off the excess at the shorties in revenge. That rain.

All becomes quiet, the average pedestrian doesn't find time to walk about in this fashion. There's not the chance to wander around town looking to get lost. Here be the real folks who want to get wet. Here be the folks that stand in solace, letting the water beat down on them from heaven. Then out come the couples who like to get dressed up in cold weather gear, bring out their matching umbrellas and walk together blocking up the sidewalk and keeping any people who are socially inept from getting past. That rain.

Sometimes, it's not so bad, if you have the windows open and you have a large enough of an overhang, you can listen to the rain as it falls down past your window, and then curse your decisions for "air" as it also sends in every single spider, fly, mosquito and moth into your little domicile. That rain.

Maybe it sucks, maybe it doesn't, but I know it's there.

October 27, 2013

Hints of Growing Fall

I think this might be a supplement to past entry, Thais Deep 

Living in California, you almost forget that there is a Fall season in between the summer months of endless daylight and the winter months of endless night. Every small moment in between, you start to notice as the party invitations start to increase where you dress nicely and the ones where you bring a bathing suit stop coming. But we in the golden state forget sometimes, once the days begin to grow dark and the winds pick up, that this is one of the wonderful times of the year. Now, we arrange rides with friends up into the mountains to go pumpkin picking in October or start to collect apples to start brewing cider.

The kitchens change just as dramatically too you know, the Pimm's is put away, the silver julep glasses are wrapped up in old newspaper and stowed away in boxes to be pulled out in May and with the seasons, come the change of produce. The older folks start to store corn to dry out to make the cornucopias and the younger folks start to stock up on body-revitalizing whiskey. The season of the hamburger is no longer here and with all the time spent indoors, extra time and care goes into the cooking of meat, smoking of turkey and preparation of vegetables and fruits.

Personally, I think I love the change in weather the most. No longer do I sit in my office chair working sweltering under the heat sticking to it but with a blanket over my shoulders, fighting those occasional leaks of cold air from the outdoors. Watching the wind swept trees sets into my head the romantic notion of what this cold blustery weather is best for. Staying indoors with a clear, steaming mug of apple cider with a stick of cinnamon poking out from it.

Now is when the time comes when friends want to go out for more dinners, hanging around in the cafe rather than on the patio, hands nursing an Irish coffee. Warm, silky and delicious as it goes down. The taste of Baileys mingles down your throat and fall when you're older than 21 is a godsend. My recollections of fall as an undergrad were running down to the grocery store that was around the corner from where I lived, picking up a jug of Santa Cruz apple cider, a box of mulling spices and running back to my place with my ex. Throw the juice into a pot, warm it up a bit, throw in a few satchels of mulling spices and let it brew for about a half hour. That was the best stuff ever, downing it, sitting on the couch with a romantic movie on and watching the sky go from steel grey to lamp black.

I've lived in different places over the years at Berkeley and I think this last place may be the most difficult to work with in this weather. Leaky windows, just drafts everywhere. So I have to find myself ways to keep warm. Electrically, or kerosene or mentally. I think by that last one, I have to mean keeping my head warm working on either my manuscript or working on a typewriter, coming up with entries for my typecasting blog.

But I love that everyone starts to dress a little bit more properly. Yoga pants, khakis, jeans, pea coats, duffel coats, anoraks, and scarves. Silk, cashmere, wool, poly blends, it's all good! It's fall and what matters most is you all stay warm and hold that special someone extra tight.

Rideshare - The Double Standard

So as an Architecture major, I have a special interest city planning and policy. A few months back, I had to sit in on a few meetings held by the San Francisco. It had several issues to deal with. The big elephant in the room was the prohibition of over sized vehicular parking and the even bigger elephant: ride sharing.

The San Francisco Metropolitan Transit Authority takes a great interest in making sure that all of the day to day issues that plague the city in terms of traffic and transit problems are met and resolved. But sitting there before the committee, was the main issue of the over sized vehicular parking and then public comment. I was sort of surprised that the director of the cab union or whatever it is was there personally to speak against the growing emergence of ride share in the city. Calling them un-regulated cabs basically.

Now here was an interesting point that I had never considered in the first place. That with all of the ads for lyft and side car and all sorts of ride share companies that I kind of forgot who this was really affecting. Cab companies and possibly the safety of the common Bay Area dweller. In my mind, the ride share system sat alone as possibly the savior and beacon for a growing future. I realize now that it's not.

As much as the mentality of we are looking out for our fellow brethren speaks out in San Francisco, I can't help but think back to those ads on Spotify saying Lyft drivers make up to thirty five dollars an hour. Here is were the word ride share is dirtied, sullied and basically almost ignored. This one company, and the myriad of others has done nothing more than added extra cabs onto the street. These cabs however aren't available to the public by just raising your hand in the air as if you were hailing a normal cab, to get a ride on these pink-mustachioed vehicles need to have a smart phone before hand as well as having the app to go along with it. The Lyft app gets you cars from Lyft, sidecar from sidecar drivers, and so on.

The bandy way of getting a cab albeit quick and simple to use is unregulated. Drivers are suddenly put into the responsibilities of their own life, the lives of their passengers and the safety of their car. I'm not saying most people don't have the insurance to cover all that, but with the costs and the way this nation is moving, more and more people are borrowing cars than owning one. Possibly with the sobriquet of "Norman No-surance". So do you know if you are in an insured vehicle whenever you have one of these stop in front of your house to take you to the airport?

Another thing the San Francisco cab fleet is required to do under the watchful eyes of the MTA is keep up with safety regulations. Is the car safe to be put into active service? If not and it breaks down, we can tow it to one of our garages and get it running again. I'm almost certain (since i'm not an investigative journalist) that the burden of the wear and tear on vehicles falls onto the shoulders of the drivers themselves. Or, if the car is running, but stuck with a deferred maintenance.

One of the reasons that the US Army was far more mobile than the German army during the second world war was every American soldier's ability to repair a vehicle. Up until that point, most families owned at least one car and back then was a simple enough time that someone could easily fix one with the right amount of mechanical prowess. Since the advent of OCS in cars in the mid to late eighties, cars have become even more complicated, almost requiring a masters degree to solve. Now, they're at the point where everything is covered in plastic with the assurance of: if it goes wrong, just bring it in and someone else will take care of it for you. You wouldn't believe the number of cars I've driven in the last 10 months that have had a severe amount of deferred maintenance on them. Dents, poor tire balance, broken seats, non-functioning controls. What keeps a person who treats their car as a purse with wheels or a demolition derby entrant from driving people to and from their destinations?

Taxi medallions aren't cheap. My uncle owns one. It certainly isn't a small investment for that matter. The city and county regulates the number of medallions that exist at any time. Naturally, medallions can only be afforded by major companies or people who could afford one. So now the Lyft gets around all of this by not requiring the medallion at all and not putting its drivers up to the same stringent requirements that all taxi drivers must follow.

Though, I'm pretty sure, of all of the cabs i've been in, not many of them have upheld the highest standards of traffic law. The cab companies when they argued their case of "regulate the unregulated" or else we deregulate need to take a lesson from this experience. For them to survive in this new era, they need to come up with a similar user interface to survive. The cab companies, if they come together, they can come up with an app that unifies all companies, based on consumer location rather than competition among each other. For them to survive, they need to fight the ride share together.

October 11, 2013

For the Love of the Typewriter

Over the last few years, I've kept up this blog, and I'm pretty sure i'm ready to retire it. It's a good memory bank of all my past experiences over the last seven years. Though there is still a part of me that doesn't want to retire it entirely. I still like to write my stories and then put it out for you all to read. But I don't think it gets the kind of readership that I would even want.

I'm thinking about opening up a new blog that will be typecast.

What is typecast?

I collect typewriters, there's no doubt about that. I've own three typewriters right now and a stenograph machine, two of which are working with a fourth on the way from Pennsylvania. I've owned two other typewriters since and those have gone away. My first typewriter ironically was something I owned briefly, for about maybe a day or two before I threw it out. It was a 1950's IBM electric that didn't work. I remember one of my teachers had known I had a thing for typewriters and allowed me to take it out of the storage bank where they kept all sorts of unused science equipment. I grabbed it, plugged it in and found that it didn't work. Brave Ms. Leslie tried to help me to get the thing to work, but that was to no avail. I think I found it frustrating and tossed it out into a trash can.

I recall a lot of my high school years whenever I was at my grandmother's place, there was mention of a long lost typewriter hidden somewhere in her basement. Her basement was a treasure trove of things from the 1950's and 1960s that as a child, I loved to dig through. I never found the thing though. My worry was that it was going to be an electric typewriter that I for the longest time never considered it to be a typewriter at all. I think on the basis of being electric.

Just before I left for college, there was a time when I worked for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, there was a typewriter that was in the office I worked in, it was an IBM Selectric II that I found worked marvelously. But to me, it still felt a little sterile to work with so I don't think I bothered too much.

In college, I wanted something a little different from working on the laptop which I had. I had been writing in this blog since 2006 and I wanted to get something that would set me apart in my work. So my freshman year, I put aside a little bit of money and bought my first typewriter. I have the receipt somewhere pinned up on my wall back home. It was a 1966 Royal Royalite that worked as if it had a mind of its own and never when I wanted it to. I think if anything, I never quite got the hang of working with it. It had a carriage shift and my weak little pinkies could never operate it properly so I had capitals all over the place but where they were supposed to be.

I think for awhile, there was something with my last ex-girlfriend who found that I had a typewriter and she had a typewriter as well, so the two of us would sit together writing on our machines.

I took a two year hiatus working in all sorts of weird jobs and when I moved back to Berkeley I brought my typewriter with me. I felt of all things to bring, guitars, books, bagpipes, I had to bring with me my typewriter. I left Berkeley with one and I came back with one. But six years of work on it, had left it in pretty bad shape, so I finally made the drop to upgrade my machine. I bought the Royal Quiet Deluxe from 1953 and then somehow, someone called me up telling me to come pick up two typewriters that they weren't using. One L.C. Smith that is still sitting on my shelf frozen and rusty. And a 1939 Underwood Silent Champion. The Silent opened my eyes again to the world of typewriters. Now, I think I might be on a collecting binge. I'm constantly on the lookout for a Corona 3 and an Optima, but for now, I happy with the Royal Quiet and the Underwood Silent.  I might use the Hermes Rocket for National Novel Writing month coming up soon.

August 06, 2013

The Charm of Details

So for those of you who've read a few of my stories, a few of my entries or even met me in general, you'll notice one thing I always like to put into the front: the little details in life which always seem to somehow wind up lost in the cracks. As much as I love Hemingway and the simplicity of his writing, I always found that what caught my attention the most were people who were more than capable of writing in such a way that it painted a lyrical image in my head. Using just the right amount of details to bring out vivid imagery in your mind. That's the beauty of writing, is that it can pull and entrance you into a world separate from your dull unimaginative life.

For example, take the following sentences:

"Charlie crawled through the exit of the hole and onto the dirt. He was more than pleased to be out of there."

So what's dull about this? Everything. From the lack of visual details to the plain words. There is a lack of empathy, a lack of passion in the words. Let's look at just the first sentence, immediately, we know Charlie was in a hole, and he climbed out. That's about as much as we can even draw from this. The second sentence, finally indicates that he did not like being in there. It took two complex sentences to indicate that Charlie did not like being in there. What was he doing in there? How did he feel in there? Why did he want to get out? So let's apply the magic of visualization to this.

"His eyes were sealed shut with the previous night's sleep as he tried to force them open. When they finally did, what he saw was almost as good as keeping them shut in the first place. Around him, was pitch black darkness. He began to panic, not knowing where he was trapped. All around him, the wet smell of earth plunged into his nostrils. He began to claw at the ceiling of his dirt tomb and it gave way, little by little, creating a pyramid of dirt below. The damp soil clogged his fingernails as he dug furiously until finally the sun broke through. With all of his strength, he pulled more down until finally he made a hole large enough from him to pass through. He heaved his body out half way and using the grass around him pulled himself out. He plunged face first into the grass and took a deep breath. He filled his lungs with the sweet aroma of air, freed from his earthly prison, and began to cry. Where was he now?"

Amazing what we can do to "Charlie crawled through the hole" basically. So it's okay to use those one dollar words to express ideas, just make sure you're using enough of them to make a 10 dollar idea out of them.

December 26, 2012

The Slow Death of Penmanship

There was one occasion I had stopped by a friend's office to help her out with a couple things and take her out to lunch and she was grading papers from her college level students. Naturally, the curiosity of midterms and architecture intertwined somewhat for me that I was compelled to leaf through a couple copies of student work. They were all hand written, since the technology hasn't quite arrived to print three hundred midterms at the same time from laptops with internet connections. But back to that moment then and there in the office, as I began to read through some of the students work, I noticed a consistent thing all throughout every single paper. Poor handwriting. Granted, I could have ripped a couple of students for incorrect themes throughout their papers, but to me, the penmanship was the most striking thing.

Perhaps about two decades ago, this problem would have been encountered less, with the difficulties of printing and availability of computer type processing. Today, at a time where one can live tweet and blog an entire day's worth of movies and what not from a cell phone, or wirelessly send documents to print at a touch of a button, certain things fall to the wayside and one of those things certainly are handwriting. The way we function and operate nowadays relies so little on the physical taking of notes in class, when we can digitally capture everything that is said, or quickly type it down. Heaven help the teacher or GSI when they have to grade hand written tests.

Handwriting somehow becomes one of those things easily ignored surpassed by more modern technology. Its understandable for technology to move beyond previous technology, but if anything, handwriting still is a necessary technology, surpassed in legibility, and distribution by typing and photocopying, there still is that necessary instant communication between two people. Just as well, say for instance, there are two people from different parts of the country, and between the two of them, comping up with a joint venture. No laptop, just a quick ideas brainstorm. Simple as that. Between the two of them, two young savvy professionals who spent an entire lifetime doing all work via computers, neither has a strict grasp over neat handwriting. Can you expect to see this venture lasting a bit if the ideas aren't clearly laid out?

You might say, well, maybe if they get their ideas out today, they can type it out tomorrow. Well, you can only pull out from your memory only so much, perhaps they'd forgotten a key component to their joint venture. In the immediacy of the events, there is a certain necessity that handwriting performs that it can capture quickly that you might lose in just typing.

If you look at a set of hand written notes of someone who does have fairly decent handwriting and compare it to a typeset of notes, notice a difference. A quick, neat scrawled out side note in the corner, ideas, relations of complexities, things of the like. A set of typed notes, and lets be honest. Parrots what the screen says. Students tend to write what they can see on the board, take in little to no aural response and add notes of their own. Facebook, twitter, youtube, email, all distract us. So that's one nail right there.

Teachers these days, I don't think they're helping all too much either. Albeit, when I attended elementary school in the late 90's, cursive and penmanship was still a very important. I can still recall writing on that thick, plush fiber paper, with the blue dotted lines and it had the texture of paper towel. Trying to write on it with a hard HB #2 pencil, made a light line and a deep crevice into it. I mean, it wasn't easy learning how to write on this swamp emulating paper, but over time, when we did graduate to wide ruled paper, suddenly, there was a world of things we could write, and even more so with college ruled paper.

There was however a wrong turn even I mistakenly had taken in my life. It was around sixth grade after four years of writing in cursive script and growing to resent having to connect my words, the teacher allowed us to print. By all means, my printing improved and eventually my script dwindled into nothing. Throughout high school, you could see my handwriting was fairly simple, not hurried, but in a way, lacking. It was plain, it was simple, and it looked childish. Unrefined for the use in a real world context, it had that charm of bent ascenders and sloping with a curlique descenders that allowed the illusion of childhood to be complete. This carried me through my first year of college when I made a major change in my writing.

My first year, I purchased with much pomp and circumstance a Koh-I-Noor rapidograph pen. Refillable. That of all the things was a new concept to me that I enjoyed. I did own my grandfather's Parker 51, but I ignored it for the most part. Now, my letters became increasingly technical. Resembling the sharp rakish lines of sans-serif fonts I had on my computer. I ran with it. On one occasion, I even wrote an entire month's worth of letters to my girlfriend at the time in Sweden using the rapidograph. It probably was the first pen I owned that, the ink changed the paper. When it dried, your fingertips could trace over the letterforms and feel literally what you had just written. She loved it so much at the time, she went out and bought pens as well just to write in a journal she was keeping for me.

My ex was one of those people who were very influential in my life. She made me appreciate the necessity of good type, good typesetting, good design, good work and good handwriting. Her letters always returned to me with her girlish squiggly scrawl, but it was readable. Just as she influenced me, I influenced her with my choice of excellent writing tools. I always kept on hand at my desk my Lamy fountain pen, a rotoring fountain pen and my Waterman which I kept on my person. These little hints thrown back and forth, we slowly improved each other's handwriting. Part of me wishes I could see the letters I sent her back then, but since then, we had long separated from each other not talking for four years now.

Perhaps its me, with my obsession with all things type and good handwriting when my friend came up to me at a dinner once asking me to do ten wedding invitations that were to be sent off to family. I could not say no, since this friend helped me in so many ways. When I started, I set down with several pieces of Crane & Co. stock and attempted to write in cursive. I could not. Baffled and panic stricken, I thought to myself: this can't be right. I love handwriting and stuff like this. Why can't I do it?

I had forgotten the cursive forms completely. I had lost track over the past eight years of how to write strictly in script. My daily scratch had evolved like some form of Frankenstein. I no longer adhered only to print  or only to cursive. It was this god awful abomination, that utilized cursive f's a wide variety of cursive and print s's and a constantly changing lower case a. I realized, this would not do. As fast as I could write, as neatly as I could write (when I have to write neatly or engross I can) cursive script was what I needed most for this wedding invitation. So I sat down, read through Tamblyn's guide and Speedball's guides, and worked back up. It took awhile, but I realized the necessity of good handwriting.

Pedal forward to today. I had gone to visit the classroom of the teacher who allowed me to stop using cursive. It was not quite the classroom I had left. Hell, it wasn't even the same room as before. But she was still there, and still the same awesome teacher I remembered. But before I could even postulate the handwriting question to her, I noticed something incredibly shocking. There literally were no pads of paper or journals around at all. Every single one of these sixth graders were using a laptop or an iPad, to watch lectures, things like that. The only time I saw pencils and paper being pulled out were to answer math sheets, and quickly scribble down assignments. Defeated, I walked towards the door after dropping off my business card and watched as the next generation of students entered a new era of technology and would drive more nails into the coffin of handwriting.

October 16, 2012

From the Journal of a Hypochondriac

The sort of gentle steam rose slowly from the cup of coffee sitting square in the center of the table. One lip of the cup was stained with the golden brown liquid it contained from where a mouth was pressed against it. A dirty spoon, still warm sat resting a few inches away slowly soaking a paper napkin through. Beside all this, precariously placed on the edge was a folded up newspaper, commuter folded open to the crossword puzzle in the Datebook.

A young, beautiful face stared down at the puzzle, her eyes scanning over the clues and blank squares in hopes of finding a new point of attack. Her long golden strands of blond hair cascaded down and the tips touched onto the newspaper and with a flick of her wrist, they sailed into the air and back over her shoulder where they would begin the slow descent down to the table again. Her right hand tapped nervously as she looked over this, her eyes darting from the clues to the coffee and then back again. She knew what this would be like. She would finish about three quarters of the puzzle, give up, toss it into the trash and then the next morning when the answers would be posted in the paper, she would feel an overwhelming desire to find the bin she threw it into and retrieve it.

Every morning, Lily went through this struggle and many more throughout the day. Jumping to quick conclusions and realizing her mistakes and trying her best to fix them or appease everyone, but mostly herself. When she finally reached the three quarters mark, she stuffed the paper into her leather side bag and continue onto work, leaving the cafe a faint memory until the next morning when she would struggle again.

Living and working in the city had always been a dream for her and when she finally got the chance to do so, she couldn't help but jump for joy, take a bunch of her girlfriends out for drinks and then question her choice in the morning while nursing her hangover. Lily had come from a small town on the outskirts of Sacramento, with not much to do with big city living and not much to do with small city living either. It was the sort of town where everyone knew each other by heart and where your personal affairs was everybody's business. The older ladies in the town were certainly more of the productive busybodies, spreading rumors around that Lily had met some rich executive and was taking her away to live in San Francisco. This she would not have. Out of sheer anger, she approached one group of them sitting on a porch and yelled at them: "I'M NOT A WHORE!"

That embarrassing fiasco certainly meant she wouldn't be able to return to town without coming upon the watchful eyes of the Cowden street old ladies. Her mother and father usually decided it was best to visit her in the city rather than she come out home. But it allowed her a new sense of freedom. One that she didn't have to deal with people anymore, or annoying busybodies around her. Now, she was a person living in the city! Now she was part of the many that would be sitting around in cafes drinking expensive coffee with laptops being watched as they wrote screenplays or created works of art.

Lily's job was personal assistant to Mr. Will Yeager. Will Yeager was the sort of man who had dropped out of college, but started his own business and pulled himself up by the bootstraps and through hard work made things happen. All by the age of 32. He was now 34 and running a successful design group in the SOMA district. She would manage all the papers for publication and under her careful and tedious scrutiny, edit them twice even after the editors have sent the papers her to be published in. Secretly, she would sneak in her own edits without telling Mr. Yeager.

It happened that morning, maybe about a half hour after the coffee shop and the crossword puzzle. She had just gotten into the office and started to settle into her small little half cubicle outside Yeager's office. She nudged around the portrait of her and her father, stepped briskly into Yeager's room and grabbed the pile of papers in his out box for her review. It would be another half hour before Will would get here she thought as she nestled into her office hair with a pencil and a new article. It was supposed to be Will's opening statements for the office's annual design newsletter publication.

Now the Yeats Annual was a pretty big deal in the design world. Every year, Lily would watch as boxes of three hundred magazines each would be shipped off to New York, Portland, Chicago, London, Pairs, Rio de Janero, Tokyo and elsewhere. She secretly knew that for the last four years at least, every single one of those annuals had some of her own little edits here and there. As she settled into the page, suddenly she found herself looking at a photograph of Will Yeager staring back at her with a cool confidence. She blushed slightly at his gaze and then realizing she was blushing at a photograph quickly composed herself again. Maybe Lily had read about ten pages before she realized with a slight cough, Will was looking back at her slightly puzzled.

"What're you doing with that? I thought you'd have taken it down to printing by now." Lily nearly overturned her chair by his sudden appearance. "I mean, you'll get a chance to read it in a week when it comes back from the printers." He leaned forward to look at what she was doing. "Are you editing... Lily. Explain."

"Hi uh Will," she tumbled over a stack of papers creating a chaotic mess on the floor. "I was just overlooking the editors work." "Well, you know that's why we have editors in the first place." "Well um, I guess I didn't trust their work good enough. I mean, obviously, this is going out with your face... I mean signature on it. It didn't hurt before." "What do you mean before?" Realizing the jib was up, Lily fumbled with the top drawer of her desk and pulled out the last five years issues of the Yeats Annual. She opened them up to him showing her neat handwriting in red pen scratched here and there left and right. He read through her edits slowly, slowly pondering each time he reahed a major place where she had left edit marks. "Well Lil, I gotta say, I'm glad you've been going over the editors work. You know, i'm surprised they haven't made any sort of stink that what they changed wasn't theirs. I mean this section here," he gestured to an open page nearly covered in red. "I think your changes here are actually better than the editors."

"Will, please, I love working for you." "No no, this isn't what you think. What you did here is actually good and I'm thankful to have you do this. I'm going to have a talk with Stephen in editing and you might get his job soon." "I can't possibly do that. I mean, who'll make sure your lunch is made properly and..." he cut her off there. "Fine Lil, if you're happy here, you can stay here no problem. But I would think you'd make such an excellent addition to the editing team. I'm not going to fire Stephen, but maybe take you on part time during Annual season. But anyways, messages?" Lily thrust a stack of pink sheets of phone messages into his large rough hand. Will turned and walked into his office.

A cold bead of sweat rolled down her forehead. Editing? Those guys are a bunch of animals. Literally. She didn't like the thought of answering to anyone else but Will. Even then, she was basically her own boss working under him. All she had to do was every so often send in the reports he asked for, and return his comments to the departments. She pulled another drawer this time, this one filled with various medication bottles, one for anxiety, another for cramps, another for ADD, another for ADHD even though she didn't even have those conditions. She swallowed a handful of carefully chosen pills and relaxed back into her chair and opened Facebook.

"Looks like I'm going to be an editor for Yeager." she wrote into the status update.

July 20, 2012

That's not living...

I was sitting in the living room of my elderly grandmother's flat earlier today when I decided to run out and go grab a cup of something sugary at the Starbucks my friend Lauren works at. I'm still here as a matter of fact. I'm actually just starting to get settled into my table, working slowly on my drink made of about 80 percent sugar and with little to zero caloric value. But there was something that had happened moments before, moments that made me decide to get outside rather than just sit down with family around my iPad and start to write this. I somehow had motivated myself to go out spend 2 dollars on bus fare to get out here, and another three something to buy the damn drink, but here I am I suppose.

 So let's Tarentino this for a second. It was there in the living room, with the television on and set to the discovery channel. My mother and father both engrossed in some reality show about property value wars or something of a similar ridiculous nature. Anyways, just as I was about to lose interest, they go and show a commerical for the Toyota Venezia or something like that. I can tell you with a sound of assurance that it had a stupid pretencious sounding name like Engava or Romadallion. But they chose to show some attempt of a vaguely nerdy and dorky seeming girl. Like if you had an unliscenced copy of Kristen Schaal for your own commercial use. Big eyes, the slightly curly hair and glasses. "My parents just got into facebook, they have 19 friends, how is that living?" *cut to parents having fun mountain biking with other people* "I have 840 friends on facebook."

I know everyone has come to this realization, as well at some point. We as the most interconnected society, one of the most closely related and understood societies. We know more about ourselves, the human body, mind, space and just recently, scratching the surface of physics. Yet never before has there been such a degenerated society of people devoted to remaining so devoted to the introvertic comforts of home. We become so much of a society enticed by the comforts, and no longer the serendipitous nature of new discovery.

We much would rather find a restaurant recommendation on Yelp the first time than try a restaurant that you passed on the off chance that it might be good. We strive to find the information that we dont need to find with the least amount of human interaction possible. Perhaps someone ignorant might have said, "the restaurant serves heavily lamb and other gamey meats. If you don't like the sound of occasional plates being dropped and the entire staff mocking and ridiculing you." Curiosity strikes you, though rambuncous, and racous, the warm Greek staff let you smash a plate on the floor to the yells of OPA! You would have never known. Just from someone who happened to been in a bad mood on Yelp.

 Facebook, the bane of meeting people. Its great, having the chance to meet people, reconnect with old friends you might have never seen ever again. It's great for that. That and only that. It really is no true replacement for meeting people, seeing other people on a regular basis. I have met people who are odd, too lazy to go out when invited by friends, but angry at the same friends when he saw that the friends had posted amazing and fun looking photos of that specific outing.

 So live. Go out there and go see a friend, go watch a film, eat dinner with people, play and make music with others, and all that jazz.

June 29, 2012

Nature Hath Returneth

A happy object
once the pride and joy
of a family long gone

With all but
one, slowly finding its
way, to its triumphal return
into, a world ruled by gaia

Iron to steel,
steel to stamp
stamp to object
object to value
value to pride
pride to death
death to abandonment
abandonment to rust
rust to nature
nature unto itself.