Flow and Ebb of Freedom

Activist judges shrink our basic freedoms just a little bit more (and the Chronicle strikes a blow for nonsensical headline wordplay). And in a case from my adopted hometown no less:

There is no ‘pee’ in public

State appeals court rules act is illegal

“It’s a crime in California to urinate in a public place, a state appeals court ruled today.

“The case before the court came from Berkeley, where a police officer detained a man urinating in the parking lot of a closed restaurant one Sunday morning in January 2003. …

“…To deal with the question, a Court of Appeal panel in San Francisco turned to a 19th century state law that defines a public nuisance as an act that is ‘injurious to health, or is indecent, or offensive to the senses.’ …

“…The criteria spelled out in the nuisance law might not always apply to urinating in the great outdoors, the judges added. For example, ‘a hiker responding to an irrepressible call of nature in an isolated area in the backwoods cannot reasonably be seen as interfering with any right common to the public.”

Apropos of the subject of public decency in Berkeley, or lack of same, I got a slice of (very healthy vegetarian) pizza yesterday and sat down to watch ESPN’s early coverage of the Barry Bonds crisis. I was the only one in the restaurant, but a few minutes later a guy walked past me toward the bathroom. I ignored him at first, but something made me look over. He was — maybe you should take the kids out of the room now — digging very assiduously in his ass. I mean really going at it. He saw me glance over, looked me in the eye, pulled out the napkin he’d been wiping his crack with, threw it on the floor and walked out. All I could think was, “What was that?” I finished my pizza, though, then got out of there before the next freedom-loving Berkeleyite appeared.

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Counting Traffic

I’ve set up an annoying little traffic counter for this blog. Annoying because if you look at the bottom of the left-hand column, you see a blinking image that signals the counter’s presence. Annoying because the traffic service’s site delivers loads of garbage ads. And annoying because looking at the number of hits my site gets can all too easily become a distraction from more meaningful pursuits.

But the counter does have its interesting side. One thing it does is detect and report the Internet addresses of visitors and from which pages on the Web they’ve arrived. Between 70 and 80 percent of the people who arrive here do so through a search that has delivered one of my pages as a result. The remainder appear to be people — none of them individually identifiable — who come directly to the page through a link or a bookmark or typing the site’s address into their browsers.

If someone arrives on the site through a Google or Yahoo! search, the terms used in the search are also reported. So I can tell, for instance, that there a lot of people have looked at my blog pages looking for information about how Pope John Paul II was embalmed (a subject of interest a year ago) or how to find a gruesome 1985 video clip of a professional football game in which a quarterback had his leg broken.

Occasionally, I’ll see an address that makes me wonder who exactly is perusing the site and why. At least once I’ve had a visitor from the National Security Agency. I figure it was a recreational visit; if anyone there had a professional interest in anything I’ve posted, I’m sure they would have covered their tracks. On numerous occasions, readers have come from armed services domains, usually in search of articles I’ve linked to on U.S. troops killed or wounded in Iraq. A few times, someone has arrived from house.gov, a domain reserved for the U.S. House of Representatives. I’m sure it was a bored staffer looking for information on the Oscars. That happened today, actually, though I don’t have any idea what they read.

Another government visitor today: An unknown someone from tda.gov, the domain of the United States Trade and Development Agency. The TDA’s mission “is to advance economic development and U.S. commercial interests in developing and middle-income countries.” Whoever it was arrived at 4:16 p.m. EST after searching Google for information on drinking games related to the Fox TV show “24,” which airs tonight.

It’s tempting to shift into high dudgeon and scold the anonymous bureaucrat wasting our tax dollars. But actually I’m flattered to get the agency’s attention — and maybe I’m helping advance U.S. commercial interests by giving some bureaucrat in D.C. a chance to unwind.

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Tom Hanks’s Oscar Dos and Don’ts

Item 1: Hanks Hand Out Oscar Speech Tips

“Tom Hanks has been enlisted to give Oscar nominees expert advice on how to deliver the perfect acceptance speech.

“Hanks, who has made the trip to the Academy Awards podium twice, presents a video that has been given to all 150 of this year’s contenders.

“If they win, they should address the audience with ‘wit, flair, creativity – or at least with brevity,’ he says.”

Item 2: Hanks Drops F-Bomb on Oscars

I’ve looked for posts on Technorati and Google News, and other people saw the same thing Kate and I did: Tom Hanks walked on the stage to present the best director award, his face twisted in anger as he looked in the direction of Jon Stewart. Amateur lip readers, including me, think that among other expletetives, he said “f—ing moron.”

Well, he observed the brevity part of his advice. We’ll probably get the story of his discomposure tomorrow. And Stewart will probably have some fun with it on “The Daily Show” tonight.

Later: The Defamer today links to a video of the moment in question.

And still later: The Defamer appears to be the only media entity stepping up and doing its duty in getting to the bottom of the Tom Hanks Cursing Crisis. The latest story/theory is that Hanks was upset that the orchestra was playing the “Forrest Gump” theme when he walked on stage. Meantime, Defamer commenters engage in a spirited give and take about whether Hanks was play-acting or really P.O.’d. From what I saw on my tee-vee set, he was actually angry.

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Conquest of Mount Hamilton

Sent to my bike club email list (and by way of explaining Saturday — I was out leading a bike ride):

Fourteen of us started the ride southeast to Livermore and on to Mines Road from Berkeley this morning. We had a little drama going into the ride; it appeared doubtful that, after snow Thursday and Friday on Mount Hamilton, the road over the summit would be open. The fallback plan was a ride up to the junction where Mines Road turns into San Antonio Valley Road and Del Puerto Canyon Road descends east to the San Joaquin Valley; the group could eat at the always-interesting Junction Cafe, and judging by questions I got as we rode out to Livermore, the idea of pushing on toward Mount Hamilton, snow or no snow, was on more than one rider’s mind. But no sooner had we hit the road than a rumor disturbed our ersatz peloton: The Junction had shut down and we wouldn’t be able to get lunch there.

After several halts for clothing changes, delayed riders, and a broken spoke on Steve Downey’s bike that received expert first aid from Ernesto Montanero (Steve rode the final 90 miles on Ernesto’s temporary fix), most of the group hung together for the final 20 miles into Livermore, where we enjoyed the customary calorie-consumption binge. Asking around and finally getting the Junction’s phone number (by calling 411), we found out it was open but that the road was still closed past the cafe. At this point, our group started to shrink. Michael Tigges and Susan Jacobsen (riding a brand-new Seven), turned back as planned after tucking into an early lunch at Tequila’s Taqueria, the Grizzly Peak Cyclists’ unofficial Eastern Alameda County Burrito Sponsor. The remaining dozen of us rode out South Livermore Avenue and Tesla to Mines Road in a sociable and easy-paced double paceline; it lasted only 6 or 7 miles, but it was one of those things you wished could go on forever. But soon we came to the turn that would take us up the east wall of the canyon that rises above Arroyo Mocho. At this point, another rump contingent departed as Mark Abrahams and Estella Garcia, on Mark’s tandem, and Rich Fisher turned around to head back to Berkeley.

That left nine of us continuing up the hill. Patrick Gordis, who had shown turns of speed all morning, was the first to disappear up the road; he reportedly made it to The Junction a full 20 minutes ahead of a following trio of strong riders: Ernesto, Mark Homrighausen, and Joa Weber (who today recorded his 3,000th kilometer ridden since January 1; you do the math). Steve, Bruce Berg, Bruce Marchant, Scott Steketee (still on a recumbent as he heals from flesh-eating Hawaiian saddle sores), and I paid gravity its proper due (some of us more than others). On the last summit north of the junction, with badly fried cheeseburgers so close you could almost taste them, Bruce turned back and collected Scott for their early return trip to Pleasanton. Steve, Bruce M. and I descended the last hill to the junction.

The cafe was as usual: Monster trucks on the tube and lots of biker leather slouching at the tables. But everybody ate and drank and tried to take advantage of the wood-burning stove because the sight of snow on the ridges in the distance suddenly made it seem pretty chilly. The ride back was fast and fun, and the final seven of us arrived at Pleasanton BART together just about 5 p.m. I highly recommend the Chevy’s about five doors down from the station.

Total mileage: 117.3


That’s German for 19. Which has a very particular meaning today, Thom‘s birthday. Instead of spinning off into ultra-informative reminiscences — the late-night drive to the hospital and all the rest — I’ll offer something more pertinent to Thom’s current interests: On this date in 1987, Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On a Prayer” was Number One on the Billboard Hot 100. And I admit I probably wouldn’t know it if I heard it.

Happy birthday, TB.

Posted in Berkeley: Cobblers Wanted


I thought this might herald the return of the cobbler’s bench as a symbol of American craftsmanship and industry. Turns out that it’s a come-on from Puccio & Mackay, the U.S. incarnation of a high-end London custom accessory business. From looking at the P&M site, the “Introduction to Shoemaking” class runs $900. Nice shoes.


Kate, the other person who lives in this house, teaches second grade in Oakland. She likes her school and principal and teaching colleagues and loves the kids. And working for the Oakland Unified School District, which is often mistaken for an ongoing experiment in dysfunction and waste, does provide its lighter moments — usually when someone in the bureaucracy is left alone with a word processor. This evening’s exhibit comes at the end of a letter informing Kate her renewed teaching credential is ready to be picked up. For teachers’ convenience, the district will mail the credential; all a teacher needs to do is supply a mailing address and read and sign the following waiver, reproduced here verbatim:

“I understand that so long as the District address my credential to the location listed above, I will not hold it responsible for lost or mis-delivery by the U.S. Postal Service.”

It’s Who You Know, Not What You Know

Study: Few Americans Know 1st Amendment

The money graph:

“The study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just one in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms.”

I’ll admit I might be stumped on naming all five freedoms. Some seem to blend in with each other — speech and press, for instance. And assembly and redress of grievances — I might have stumbled on those.

The Simpsons, on the other hand (I do solemnly swear I didn’t cheat): Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie.

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