Monthly Archives: January 2006

Geography, Golden State Style

By way of Pam:

The Californian’s Conception of the Continental United States:

“Despite my public complaints, California is a wonderful place. Its topography is among the most varied in the country, the weather in most of California is by most folks’ standards absolutely perfect, and it’s the birthplace of many global cultural and economic trends, a fact which may not make the state wonderful but does certainly make it both dynamic and important. So, despite my protestations about living here, I wholeheartedly admit that as places on the planet go, California ain’t so bad.

“The people though, fall victim to a kind of provincial snobbery unsurpassed by pretty much everyone except the French. When I tell people in California I’m from Chicago, they look at me with pity. When I tell my Californian students to travel around the U.S. after they graduate, they look at me as if I’m insane. I once was complaining about how poorly many Californians drive in the snow and my soon-to-be father-in-law responded “why on earth would anyone want to live in a place where you have to learn to drive in the snow”. This from a man who spent most of his life on the volcanic, lava-spewing island of Hawaii and from a man who currently lives only a few dozen miles from the San Andreas fault. All this to say that most people who call California home—red blooded Californians, or perhaps more precisely, almond-soy-triple-foam chai latte Californians—suffer from a more localized version of geographic ignorance than most Americans.”

Complete with map.

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The ’24’ Drinking Game Calculator & FAQ

Responding to the growing popularity of “24”-centered drinking games, the Infospigot Research Institute has developed an easy-to-use way of telling players how drunk the show and its characters are making them. Without further ado:

I have downed
during the current episode of—Say it! Say it now!—”24.”

I am A Jack/Tony/Curtis Wannabe A Chloe/Audrey/Michelle (R.I.P.) Wannabe
(CTU Los Angeles has determined that there are gender differences in Blood Alcohol Concentration).

I weigh Pounds Kilograms

and I live/dwell in

(so that the result is displayed in the appropriate units).


About the ’24’ Drinking Game Calculator
The ’24’ Drinking Game Calculator was shamelessly appropriated in fewer than 24 idle minutes from The Intoximeters Inc. “Drink Wheel”, which posts a link to some paste-in code that the general drinking public is invited to use. See the Intoximeters site for details on how the calculator works and how bogus its results may be. The Intoximeters site also carries a copyright notice, though the paste-in code carries none. So we may be perpetrating an Intellectual Property Protocol Breach. Curtis—secure a perimeter! President Logan, start twitching!

Do we really need a ’24’ Drinking Game Calculator?
No. You can get hammered playing the “24” drinking game of your choice, with or without a blood-alcohol estimation device. But the calculator will probably catch the terrorists by surprise. Unless Edgar screws it up.

Who’s tougher—Jack or Tony?
Nina—but she got careless.

Who was smarter—Kim or the Cubs mug?
Depends on what you mean by “smarter.”

Anything else?
“Nerve gas.”

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Road Shots

Three pictures from the ride yesterday.

The first is at the ride sign-in, about 6:30 a.m. Todd Teachout, the guy on the left, organized the ride for the San Francisco Randonneurs; in formal randonneuring parlance, he’s the Regional Brevet Administrator. He registers the riders, makes up their brevet cards and hands them out at the start and collects them at the end of the day, and more: He needs to make up maps and route sheets and ensure the course is the required distance, that the road is actually rideable (flooding and slides during the pre-New Year’s storms affected parts of the route) and that the control points — the places riders need to check in along the way — are in order. Todd’s habit at the start of the ride is to park his pickup in the free, dirt parking lot west of the bridge toll plaza, fold down the tailgate and use it as a desk.

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The middle shot is at the start, about 6:50 a.m., 10 minutes before the ride began. If you haven’t been to the Golden Gate Bridge, there’s a little plaza at the south end of the span and on the east side of U.S. 101. Among other objects of attention, there’s a gift shop and a statue of Joseph Strauss, putative genius behind the bridge. It’s a popular spot for cyclists to meet up early on weekend mornings. The little circular flower bed is the focal point for the pre-ride brevet gatherings: lots of milling around and greeting riding buddies and saying hi to folks you know from past brevets. As one of the guys I rode with in 2003 said, “What a bunch of recidivists.”

I stopped a couple times to take pictures along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, a long road that begins just outside San Quentin — yes, that San Quentin — and runs west all the way to the end of Point Reyes, about 42 road miles west. The storm was coming in squally showers, with short breaks between gusty bursts of rain. I took the third shot during one of the breaks. Didn’t take any more shots after this; it was too wet, for one thing, and after a certain point I didn’t feel much like stopping.

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There and Back

Two hundred kilometers in the rain. It was even wetter than it sounds. Windy, too: Coming back across the Golden Gate Bridge just before dark, the towers were funneling wind downward; the turbulence was strong enough to nearly knock me down when I rode the little semicircle around the tower bases. The rain at that point was cold and driven nearly horizontally in off the ocean; it stung like sleet.

More later. I’d do it again. Just don’t ask me to saddle up tomorrow.

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Cycling Forecast

I’ll stop later to consider why we really do this stuff — superficial analysis suggests it’s because it make great storytelling later — but the ride tomorrow is on (meaning: I’m riding; the event, with 75 riders signed up, would obviously go on without me).

In the meantime: No reprieve from the forecasters or their all powerful weather models. The probability of measurable precipitation in the area we’ll be riding in the morning is 90 percent. At some point, when those in charge of interpreting all the weather data realize their models are actually a reflection of reality, they seem to relax and shift their predictions from “chance of rain” or “rain likely” to “the hose will be on full force; don’t even think anything else can happen.” Besides the rain, which is an interesting element in which to ride, there will be wind. Maybe 30 or 40 mph gusts on the coast. Parts of the route, I know already, are going to be a slog.

Time to stop talking about it and go to bed so I can rest up a little for it.

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Brevet Weather

Saturday is the first brevet of the year on the Bay Area randonneuring calendar. “Brevet” and “randonneuring” are French words that mean — well, they mean something about riding your bike a long way (I covered that ground last year about this time). Anyway, first brevet of the year: From the Golden Gate Bridge, north into Marin County and through a string of small towns: Sausalito, Mill Valley, Larkspur, Ross, San Anselmo, Fairfax before riding up west into rolling country out to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, 50-some miles from the start. Then the route returns to the mainland and heads north for a piece, then doubles back, eventually, to the bridge. It’s a 200-kilometer route — the shortest regular brevet distance — about 125 miles. I’m signed up and mostly ready to go.

Just one thing: Here’s what the local National Weather Service forecaster has to say about Saturday:

“EXPECT RAIN TO DEVELOP BY SUNRISE ACROSS THE NORTH BAY AND THEN ENVELOP MOST OF THE BAY AREA BY LATE MORNING. RAINFALL SHOULD EVENTUALLY REACH AS FAR SOUTH AS MONTEREY. … THIS HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE A MODERATE RAIN PRODUCER … WITH RAIN TOTALS IN EXCESS OF AN INCH ACROSS THE NORTH BAY. … SOMEWHAT BREEZY CONDITIONS ARE LIKELY AS WELL ACROSS THE NORTH BAY ON SATURDAY WITH THE MAIN FOCUS ALONG THE COAST AND IN THE HILLS.”

Well, the upside is that it’s only a bunch of supercomputerized mathematical weather models that say this is going to happen. They could always be wrong.

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Berkeley Apostrophe Watch

Californiaapts

I love the old marquee entrance to this apartment building on University Avenue. I have a vague idea it goes back to the 1920s. I lived in a building a half-block away in 1978, and the manager — Doug, a Briton who said he was a retired race-car driver from way back — told me that it had been put up at the same time as this one, for the same owner, and he put it in that ’20s time-frame. Don’t know whether his report was accurate. Anyway, the APT’S sign survives.

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Democracy, Iraq Style

An Iraqi professor, a Kurd, writes harsh things about fellow Kurds who rule their de facto independent state in northern Iraq. Then the liberators show up — our men and women, the Brits, the coalition of the willing, Halliburton, and every U.S. taxpayer — to throw out the Kurds’ long-time persecutor and plant the flag of democracy. The professor returns to his native country, now basking in the light of freedom. He is arrested for the mean things he’s said about the boss Kurds, subjected to a perfunctory trial, convicted, and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The story is in Thursday’s New York Times.

Before I say the obvious — For this we’ve given 2,237 U.S. lives (and counting), spent hundreds of billions of dollars, and required tens of thousands of Iraqis to bear the ultimate price? — let’s consider for a minute: The merchandise we were told we would buy with all that blood and money , the goods our president insists we’re still buying, is American civics-class democracy, transplanted to a grateful nation yearning for its own modestly dressed Miss Liberty. Granted that it’s a ludicrously simplistic expectation — that is at the heart of the administration’s argument for going to war.

Now the fantasy meets the reality that was always waiting. Or, as the Times puts it, straight-man style: Iraq “has made remarkable steps away from totalitarian rule. … But it remains to be seen how far Iraq will ultimately travel toward true Western-style democracy.”

You have to wonder: If people here had been able to see a little way down the road — say to the place we’re standing now — would they have been nearly so satisfied to tell the president to go ahead with his plan? How many look at the mess Iraq is, and will likely remain for decades, and feel satisfied with our handiwork? Will it make any difference on the day that’s sure to come when this president or a successor stands up and tells us there’s another threat we need to extinguish by force of arms?

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The War We Can’t See

Sydney Schanberg, the former Times reporter (played by Sam Waterston in “The Killing Fields“), borrows on his Vietnam/Cambodia experience to speculate in The Village Voice on the past, present and future dimensions of the U.S. air war in Iraq:

“Little is known or seen of the air part of the American war of today, in Iraq. One of the reasons is that the press, with less mobility because of security risks, has to be focused on what’s happening on the ground, where the damage, human and material, is taking place. A more crucial reason is that the Pentagon and the CIA prefer to tell us as little as possible about air war operations.

“Recently, but only in bits and pieces, military officials in Washington have acknowledged that after the U.S. and Britain withdraw the bulk of their ground troops, the American air component will be kept in the region to support the American-trained Iraqi ground forces who will be taking over the ground war. While the Pentagon doesn’t say anything about increasing air power in Iraq, other military sources—speaking anonymously because the information is classified—confirm that the plans call for the air war to be beefed up and kept that way for years to come. These sources also point to Iran and its nuclear ambitions as a reason for keeping air power at a high-alert level in the region.

“Since air strikes cause a significant percentage of civilian casualties, the air war’s continuance ensures that the U.S. will wear a bull’s-eye on its back indefinitely in the Middle East. It also means that the American press will have to push harder to provide more detailed and regular coverage of the air war.”

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’24’: Jacktracker

Via Gridskipper.com, the Jacktracker:

Using community mapping and picture-sharing sites ‘n’ services, Jacktracker furnishes a global geographic view of the weekly proceedings on “24,” an illustrated plot synopsis (both on a site called Wayfarer) and an accompanying statistical guide (number of killed, wounded, etc.) and reality checker (could Jack could really cover 56 miles in 17 minutes in L.A. freeway traffic?). All very fun and very cool.

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