i'll buy that for a dollar

i'm convinced that eventually everything in the world will be sold on ebay. today jason showed me an interesting auction search - imaginary girlfriends. you can go on ebay and bid for the right to have any one of a number of girls write you letters pretending to be your girlfriend for a fixed period of time. perfect for the attention-starved geek, or the closet gay man looking to rent a beard to throw his mother off the track. i'd comment on the pathetic nature of this, but i think it's self-evident.

ebay generates a lot of cottage industries. right here in san rafael, in the strip mall next to the trader joe's, there is a shop which will take your unwanted crap and sell it for you on ebay, for a fee of course. i'm not sure what special service they would provide that would make it worth your while to pay them to do something you could do yourself, but i don't doubt that it's a profitable business. there is a whole group of people who's sole source of income is derived from buying and selling stuff on ebay so there is money to be made. people love to put a dollar figure on things, even abstract or intangible things like virginity or everquest characters. and if something is rare, some rich ass clown will spend a bucket of money to get it, just to say he did. everything is for sale, and you can pay for it with paypal. it's the american way.

really not that bad

okay, a little late but this is what i thought of my tour of the east bay on sunday: better than advertised. the east bay has a less than stellar reputation, and i don't think that's just because the raiders play there. i, on the other hand, found that there were a lot of very cool and beautiful places on that side of the bridge, although none of them were anywhere near the stadium.

i took a drive out to danville, over the hill from oakland and just south of walnut creek, to meet up with chris and his wife for lunch. danville is a small, but evidently very affluent town judging from the view through the windows of the mexican restaurant. there was a steady succession of very high end cars driving main street on a sunny sunday, including a few classics, a few customs, and a couple of very rare performance cars, a ford gt40 and a shelby cobra.

lunch was great. i was introduced to the wonders of sopapilla. i'm not sure why i've never had them before but i'm a fan now. after lunch and conversation i gave chris a ride back to his place in freemont the long way around, the back way through a canyon and past a reservoir along one of the curviest and least busy roads you'll ever drive. i think i may have scared him a bit when i started taking late apexes on the corners and getting my adrenalin up. once we got to his place (safe and sound i might add) i visited for a while and then headed home up the 880 through alameda and oakland. this was not the highlight of the trip. if this is the extent of your experience with the east bay i can understand the stereotype. the only thing to see from the 880 is home depot after home depot interspersed with inexpensive bungalows, warehouses and the odd home depot. how many people need toilets and paint in alameda anyway?

i did take a little detour through berkeley before hitting the bridge and home on the other side. berkeley is renowned as a hub of counter culture but my two biggest impressions were that there seems to be an abundance of indian restaurants, and a paucity of parking. other than that it didn't seem too radical to me. there was a guy with a big mohawk and combat boots on one corner though, and i think i heard a car go by playing a song by the clash but it was hard to tell. maybe i have to spend more time there than 30 minutes to get a real feel for it, but i'll leave that for another entry.

cheese and bubbly

there are a lot of wineries in napa. i know that's kind of their thing there, but holy cow. the napa valley is not really that big, probably a mile or 2 wide and 30 miles long at the most but it's packed with 240 wineries. i went to 2, and they were a study in contrasts.

niebaum-coppola is the winery owned by director francis ford coppola. it's quite large and elegant and the upper floor of the main building houses a small museum area for items from coppola's most famous movies, including the desk from the godfather, the car from tucker and francis ford's oscar trophies, among others. our tour guide was an older lady who was quite possibly the worst storyteller i've ever heard. niebaum-coppola has a long history, dating back to the early 19th century when it was built by a finnish sea captain (niebaum), but you'd as soon slit your wrists as hear it told by the melodramatic and condescending guide. i got the impression that most of the guest services staff were continually auditioning. the wine tasting was fairly good, however, so i bought a bottle of merlot on the way out. francis was nowhere to be seen, probably fleeing his own aspiring staff.

schramsberg shares none of the flash and glamour of the hollywood director's estate. it is a group of old wooden buildings hidden from the road at the top of a long, narrow and winding driveway. there is a small counter from which to buy their various sparkling wines in a small room full of historical pictures, and behind that is a small tasting room. behind the tasting room are a couple of miles of tunnels dug into the hillside where the champagne is stored and precessed. our tour guide was a phenomenal host, describing the process of making champagne and the history of the winery which included frequent visits by robert louis stevenson around the turn of the century and supplying the whitehouse with bubbly for formal functions since the nixon administration. and that bubbly is extremely good, good enough to make me buy a bottle on the way out.

the really cool thing that i enjoyed today was the great architecture on display in the valley. there is obviously a lot of money to be made making wine. i would like to go back and check out some of the things i missed this time. it's not possible to do everything in a few hours, especially if you're planning to drive back. finally, i would be remiss if i didn't mention the hospitality of my hosts the blakelys. tara is such a nice person that she makes you wonder what she's up to.

putting the top down

i have discovered over the last couple years that one of the best things about driving a convertible is traveling across bridges on sunny days. in seattle, my favorite drive was the 520 bridge, going east in the morning and west in the evening every day to work. today at lunch i went across the richmond bridge to a mall in north richmond to buy a new pair of basketball shoes. it's not as simple and elegant as the quaint floating bridge in seattle, and right now it's packed full of construction equipment, but the views of marin and the east bay are beautiful, especially from that height.

the other aspect of the drive that is it's the middle of f***ing january and i'm driving with the top down and no jacket. that kicks ass. i've been through some bitter biting winters over time so i will not take a sunny 55 degree day in january for granted.

i'm hoping this weekend maintains the great weather trend because i'm going to be driving up to napa on saturday to see what that's all about and to check in with a friend from high school who lives there now with her napa-born husband. then on sunday i might be heading over to freemont south of oakland to see another high school friend. hopefully i'll have some stories and observations to tell and some craptastic camera phone pictures to share when i get back.

the joys of schadenfruede

i know that i've ranted about the evils of reality tv but i do have a guilty pleasure in that arena - american idol. at least the early rounds, that is. watching delusional people no more talented than me (and that's not very much talent at all) get their justified musical beatdown is hilarious. i absolutely do not understand how some of those people can think they deserve to get a recording contract. the funniest bit was when the chubby black new york girl made a bet with simon that she could sing a song in a restaurant and people would stay to hear it, and then the producers set it up and she lost the bet. what must it be like to take your puffed up ego into a place and have people stomp it in a mad rush for the exit? you can see that same rapid deflation suck the joy and color out of people's faces when their high profile audience of 3 gets increasingly uncomfortable just 6 feet in front of them, or worse starts busting a gut. you feel pity for them in that moment, but you relish it too because they are that bad and they thought they were that good.

i look at it like gravity. the mass of unexceptional people pull everyone down to their low level, ridiculing those who would try to rise above. that's why we make fun of the kids who go in the school talent show and embarass has beens on celebrity boxing and the surreal life. some people do have enough talent and perseverence that they can reach escape velocity and find a higher orbit, but watch out because the tug of the herd can still reach out and bring the occasional star back down to earth. we love stars, but we want to destroy them just the same. just ask corey feldman.

btw, i love the german language. sure it's doesn't sound as graceful as the froofy french or the sensual spanish, but damned if they don't have a word for everything. and if there isn't a word for something, just cram a couple german words together into one big one and you're good to go. where does the bus stop? at the busbahnhof of course. efficient, utilitarian but not pretty, very much like the germans themselves. (i can say that because i am one :)

change is good, sort of

i've been thinking lately about change or novelty and its effect on my life. the same cycle plays itself out whenever i move to a new city (and to a lesser extent, to a new neighborhood). the first few weeks are a period of intense creative energy. i feel very inspired by all the new things that i see, from new freeway interchanges to new grocery stores to new natural attractions. as the weeks wear on and my surroundings become more familiar the surplus energy ebbs away. it's a bit disheartening because i really like that high of unfamiliarity, that sense of every day is an adventure. there are other aspects of moving to a new place that i dislike such as missing friends and those things that are specific to the place that i left, but i think that the high makes up for them. the problem is that those unpleasant aspects taper at a much more gradual rate, so that as the newness wears off they play a much bigger role in my overall mood. granted, over time i accumulate friend in the new city who fill the void of friends left behind in some way, but that process takes time.

what i think is that the newness and novelty is like the vacation phase of the move. there's lots to see and do when you travel to interesting places, but it's always just as good to go home and get back to those people you love. (well it should be anyway. if it's not maybe you should think about getting more or better friends) when you don't go "home", you miss the second part of the vacation. using that logic, i think that i'd probably be better served to take more vacations in the future rather than continue to carpetbag around the continent.

on the other hand, if i hadn't been travelling to the cities i've been i wouldn't have met the people i've met or the had the jobs i've had. there is something to be said for broadening your sphere of familiarity, and that something would probably be that it's not a bad idea. you certainly don't get the same sense of a place when you visit it for 7 days and 6 nights as you do when you live there for a year or two. somewhere in between being a homebody with a lot of frequent flier miles and being a hobo is a happy medium. i must be pretty medium because i'm generally happy, but i often wonder if i couldn't be moreso. your results may vary.

quick observation

i love shatner (and i mean that in a totally platonic way), but i have to concede that as an iron chef host he's not in the same league as chairman kaga. takeshi just has that special foreign weirdness that you can't fake (see: balki bartokamous and yakov smirnoff) and shatner seems too normal in comparison. maybe japanese people feel the other way around, i'll have to ask them.

no officer, that's not mine

had a fun night. rob got tickets to the warriors game from a friend and took me along with his son to the arena in oakland. problem was, the tickets left for him at will call were for the utah jazz game on monday. since we were already there we chatted up a few of the large black men milling around the arena who happened to have some tickets they weren't using and were willing to part with them for a small fee. this was after they got over the misconception that i was a cop. i don't think i've ever been mistaken for the law before, so that was a bit weird. anyway, once we got inside the game was good. the warriors were playing cleveland so we got a chance to see lebron james, the second coming of michael jordan, play. (that little speck at the top of the left key that you can't see because it's washed out is him shooting a freethrow) he didn't disappoint, throwing down some mad flushes (dunks) and dishing some sick dimes (assists). it's really hard to believe that he's only 18 and able to abuse grown men who've been professional athletes for 10 years like he does. when i was 18 i thought i could do that but in actuality i was a clown with no concept of what good even was.

it's really no wonder that people are interested in prodigies of all kinds when you look at average kids. there is something so fascinating about how someone like tiger woods or yo-yo ma can be born with so much more talent than even legitimately talented and lauded contemporaries. and watching how they use those talents as they mature (or sometimes not) is a soap opera of it's own. it's also interesting to note that there are some vocations where talent does not overcome a lack of experience. there has never been a classic work of fiction written by someone under the age of 10, yet mozart was an accomplished composer at that age, and tiger shot 48 for 9 holes when he was 3. it even took einstein until his mid twenties before he revolutionized the world of science with his theory of relativity and famous equation. there is something about the primal nature of music and athletics that makes them more innate and less a product of education than say creative writing, or theoretical physics.

i don't mean to answer any deep philosophical questions about any of this, i just find it interesting to think about and observe.

they found me

i knew it was only a matter of time. i've started getting the hangup messages on my machine that are the telltale sign that my new number is circulating amongst the telemarketing community like a joint at a party. i got all pumped up about the do not call registry a few months ago when it came out and i was one of the very first people to sign up on midnight of the first day. unfortunately i forgot about that in the hubbub of the move here and now i'm targeted. it's my own fault really, but it hasn't affected me so far because i'm never home during the day. the trick that i've learned that goes the farthest when i am home is to never say hello twice. if i don't get an answer immediately i'm hanging up the phone. telemarketer dialing machines wait until you answer to connect you to an actual telemarketer and there is a lag time involved, so staying on the line saying hello repeatedly until the telemarketer gets on is kind of like telling someone the safety is on when they're trying to shoot you. anyway, my method works great at keeping me from having to talk to telemarketers, but not so good at keeping them from actually calling.

by the way, who is it that is making all this telemarketing technology anyway? i put telemarketers slightly above spammers and slightly below mosquitos on the karma scale, so where does that put the people inventing new ways to make telemarketing easier? pretty damn low, like lawyer low. people that use their powers for evil like that need to be stopped. proprietary predictive dialers are the devil's work. if the karmic avenger was around he'd do something about that...

(and that makes two posts in a row ended with ellipses. hmmm...)

back again

i just got back from my trip to seattle, which was great. i got to see a lot of my friends and remind myself what a cool place it is. northern california is beautiful but i do miss the northwest and my life there. the flight is less than 2 hours though, so at least i can go back regularly. as long as corbett is throwing the parties and trying to blow everyone up with propane leaks i know that i'll get enough entertainment to make the trip worthwhile.

sadly unrelated to seattle (who were knocked out last week), i was watching the nfl playoffs this weekend and they were doing a puff piece about brett favre and his recently deceased father. during the pregame they had a montage of his clips set to music by sarah mclachlan. i don't want to seem intransigent but it is my sincere opinion that no one performing at lilith fair should be in any way connected to any part of the nfl, unless you're making a joke. if you're doing some promo for or heartwarming story about football and you feel like sarah mclachlan is the right choice, you're doing something wrong. i suppose if oxygen was doing some nfl programming i might have to rethink my position. unfortunately i don't run the nfl and don't have the power to add that to the broadcast rights contract. someday...

the fog of influenza

i hate being sick. i've been fighting something for about a week now and i think i may have finally succumbed. at work today i had a splitting headache that made it impossible to think so i came home at lunch time and didn't go back. if it was just physically debilitating that would be better, since you could still do brain stuff to keep yourself occupied, but not being able to think clearly is punishment. all i know is that the fog better lift by friday when i head up to seattle for a visit.

speaking of fog, there is a new documentary coming out soon from director errol morris called fog of war. it is an interview with robert mcnamara, the secretary of defense for kennedy and johnson (and ergo during the vietnam war), interspersed with recorded conversations from the oval office and a lot of historical footage. mcnamara is a very interesting person who played a very big role in world affairs during the height of the cold war. judging from the movie clips on the web site and listening to errol morris speak about the film on npr this will be a fascinating movie. unfortunately it is in very limited release, so i may have to wait for the dvd.

that's all i have the energy for today. i'm heading back to my ass groove on the couch.

reality bites

i have a confession to make. i watched the series premiere of average joe: hawaii tonight. and that's not the worst part - i think i enjoyed it. there were laugh out loud moments, mostly because a few of the joes reminded me of people i know. (i'm not going to name names but trust me, i wasn't talking about you) the impending drama of the boatload of muscular guys coming to steal the hot girl from the dorks is spellbinding, and the sneak peak of dodge ball between hunks and dorks was the funniest thing i've seen on a reality show.

now i am not a fan of reality shows but i have watched parts of shows for parts of seasons. i did watch some of the first season of survivor but have no idea why people are still watching it. big brother sucked, but they still made 3 of those. bachelor was interesting the first couple episodes for all the cat fighting behind the scenes. i checked out the paris hilton show until it got too inane for me about 15 minutes in. plus i was weirded out by how skinny that girl is. i'm not sure she's actually human. there really are too many to mention and they're all lame, though with some funny moments. you could say that about that 70's show too i guess, but i feel less dirty when watching that. there is just always this feeling that you're being manipulated while watching reality tv. you know that the producers have control over what they show and what they don't. the shows are made in the editing room so they can turn anyone into anything. and there is something very shady about fooling people with gimmick plot twists. we're going to lie to all these girls and tell them this bumpkin had 80 million dollars. we're going to lie to this family and tell them their daughter is going to marry this fat slob. it's like the endgame for punk'd. where is the line of good taste? oh, it's way back there, we crossed it a couple years ago with who wants to marry a millionaire.

bottom line: people want to be on tv. you can tell them ahead of time that you're going to humiliate them and they'll still tape it and show it to all their friends. "lookie here pa, i wuz on the tee vee". it's the catechism of jerry springer. welcome to the 21st century.

straight from the omg files

i'm continually surprised by the new and groundbreaking products pimped on late night tv ads. the latest thing i've seen is the hair made, a flexible stand for your hair dryer. "does it take you forever to dry your hair? the back of your head is hard to reach, and the dryer weighs a ton." who hears that and says "yeah, you know that is hard and heavy, i need to spend $20 to fix that pressing problem"? and even moreso, who sees the cheesy stand they're selling and thinks it's a good solution to the problem? a flowbee on the other hand, that's useful. it cuts hair evenly and sucks up the trimmings. genius, the definition of no muss, no fuss. i wish i had one. hair made? craptastic waste of money. and yet people will buy hair mades oblivious to the fact that they are useless dreck.

this behavior crosses cultural boundaries too. if you watch univision long enough you'll see ron popeil hocking his rotisserie (complete with poultry shears and kebab rods), dubbed in a smooth, used car salesman spanish. if you're lucky you might also catch the dubbed version of stroker ace and learn that there really is no spanish parallel for jim nabors, but we're getting off on a tangent now.

i guess the underlying truth of the matter is that people will buy dreck if you sell it to them. all you need to do is get that dreck on tv.

weekend of exploration 2

it was a gorgeous day today. i don't use the word "gorgeous" much, but it's the best description. cloudless sky, warm, and everything is green around here after a couple weeks of rain. i spent the afternoon traipsing around the golden gate recreational area again. this time i took a hike through muir wood, and drove highway 1 up to stinson beach.

stinson beach is made of sand carved off the crumbling headlands to the south and deposited in a smooth crescent that extends for a couple of miles. you can watch the waves push the sand in a zig zag pattern, advancing on the beach from the south and retreating to the north. there is a little strip of shops just over the dunes from the beach that i expect must get a lot of tourists in the summer, judging by the number that were there today.

muir wood is a redwood forest, tucked into the folds and valleys of mount tam. the trees there are enormous and grow in circular formations, as if they were protecting something important. the biggest ones are over 250 feet tall, 13 feet across and 1200 years old. it is awe inspiring to walk between them. some people say that redwoods make them feel small or maybe insignificant, for me it's just the opposite. here's this huge thing, that's been living since before this continent was discovered by europeans, and it would take me less than an hour to chop it down with a good chain saw. humans rock - they can kill anything. there isn't anything on earth we can't take down, including the whole planet itself if we wanted to. if that doesn't make you feel big and powerful, what would? well, probably a monster truck would, if it had a gun rack and a really tall antenna.

one thing i did learn today: the camera in my phone blows. i knew it wasn't going to be a professional quality camera, but holy cow. it's so disheartening to see beautiful things all day and then get home to look at the pictures and see crap.

some holiday season introspection

yesterday i bought a bathroom scale. i was in bed, bath and beyond (which is right across the street from my apartment) picking up a clothes drying rack and saw them there on display and somehow one of them found its way onto my credit card statement. there are two aspects of that particular event that i'm laboring to understand:

1. i've been thinking specifically about buying one since i moved down here so evidently i have some strong desire to weigh myself. bathroom scales are not generally considered impulse purchases after all. not having a scale and therefore not knowing my exact mass is somehow disconcerting to me, and i'm not sure why. what i'd like to think is that this is part of a subconscious plan to start getting back down to my playing weight, but my focus has been steadily shifting from physical to mental fitness over the years and i don't really see that trend reversing as i continue to get older. i'm expending a lot more energy now on intellectual activities and that is naturally going to have an impact on my physical conditioning. i would like to be leaner, but not at the expense of, for example, writing in my blog. or sleeping. or lying on the couch playing project gotham on my xbox. knowing exactly how much you're over your desired weight is not a helpful thing unless it's a catalyst for changing said weight, so what am i telling myself by buying a scale? there's something pathetic and sadomasochistic about it. more than one thing probably.

2. i was not able to stop myself from buying one, and this is not the first purchase over the holiday that has been accompanied by the taint of compulsion. there was a multi-month period before i took my current job in which i was as frugal as realistically possible with regard to making discretionary purchases, but since the holiday season started i don't have the same will power to resist buying random unnecessary stuff. i really don't like that. it means that i'm succumbing to marketing and consumerism and societal expectations - that i don't have the strength of character to make up my own mind as to whether i really need a combination scale and body fat monitor.

really, both of those issues are the same thing - will power, or lack thereof. how much appetite do i have for self denial? not as much as my appetite for lethargy, tasty foods and shiny things apparently.

i think there's a new year's resolution in there somewhere.

happy new year

yay, it's 2004. people sure make a big deal about it. twitch and i are a little more nonchalant, if no less silly. it's just a good thing we have a camera to preserve the moment for posterity.

most recent haircut

  • april 2007