Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Humbling, or: Whine of the Solo Blogger

I’ll admit to blog pretensions. There have been plenty of moments in the seven-plus years I’ve sat down to write this whatever-it-is that I’ve thought I’ve hit on some unique perspective that might–no, should–attract attention. And of course we all want attention, don’t we?

But for the most part, what I do here is part of what I once called “staying poor doing something you love.” It’s pleasing when there’s a story or picture to share with my small group of regular visitors and the words or images fall into place. On occasion, curiosity has turned me into a specialist of the arcane and then drawn visitors to the site: Illinois’s remarkable record of electing governors and sending them to court; the failings of a local TV news show; the history of a bicycle-related art piece. And lots of other things, including weather and climate, water and fish in California, my dog, my travels, and my family. This week, I’m one of the leading sources on the Web, maybe, for those looking for sheet music for “Bear Down, Chicago Bears.” Glad to be of service.

I watch the number of visitors who visit the blog. Without going into sad details, I can tell you the number isn’t billions and billions served. This is definitely more of a street-vendor operation than a worldwide mega-franchise. That’s OK. Patrons here tend to be forgiving and they definitely seem to tolerate and maybe even appreciate the fact the portions here are a little inconsistent, ingredients are freely substituted, and the proprietor may or may not remember to give you the drink you ordered or supply utensils.

Still, numbers are numbers. Before Google did something to its algorithm a few years ago, there were days when I happened upon the right subject–papal embalming, say–and a couple thousand visitors showed up. Roughly speaking, traffic’s at about one-tenth where it was at its height in 2007. If I did this full time, had an actual focus, really reported things, spent some time and perhaps money networking and marketing, approached this blogs (or some blog) as a business–maybe then I could eventually generate some big numbers and perhaps even a little money from the effort. That’s the dream in the back of nearly every blogger’s brain.

Or maybe I’m just thinking too much. It recently came to my attention that a guy I know in the newsroom at the major Bay Area public radio station where I work has a lucrative sideline in YouTube videos. When I say lucrative, I’m talking about grocery and gas money, not a summer place in the mountains. And when I say YouTube videos, I don’t mean anything you couldn’t play at work and tell all your friends to come and watch. The guy posts videos of his funny-looking dog doing basically nothing–just looking funny. That’s it. The one below, representative of my coworker’s oeuvre, has drawn about 10 times more traffic by itself than this blog has in its entire existence. Watch the video, though. It’s cute as all get out. (How does it make money? Check out the ads.)

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Toilettes au Clair de Lune

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We had a brilliant, clear evening last night, and a full moon. Turning the lights out before I went to bed, I noticed the way the moonlight was coming into the house, especially through the skylights. And this–this was the scene in the bathroom, which I couldn’t quite pass up. I’ve never seen the toilet in quite this light before. Toilet by moonlight; toilettes au claire de lune; toilet as seen by a real loon.

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Dog Walk Confidential

Today was the first day of two weeks of time off from my job at the major Bay Area public radio station. I celebrated first by going back to bed after Kate left for work this morning, then getting up and doing a work project for my employer that I had promised to do before my vacation started but couldn’t fit in to my normal hours. I understand from a colleague who was home sick that it was a really nice day today. I saw at various points of the late morning and afternoon that it was sunny and clear outside, but by the time I had finished the project, the sun had set in a coral blaze and the moon had risen. The Dog had yet to be taken for a walk.

So as the dusk deepened, we headed out, as soon as I rustled up a check I had to mail. As we walked up the adjacent block on our street, I realized that although I had brought a leash and a light–the latter to help me locate any waste the revered dog might leave along our path–I had forgotten to bring plastic bags to remove said revered waste. “The hell with it,” I thought. “Maybe I won’t need the bags.”

We walked down to the nearby shopping area, where there’s a mailbox. I mailed the check, and we walked up the block. In front of a very nice-looking salon, at the base of a tree directly in front of a window where a woman was getting done up, I saw The Dog assume his waste-dropping position. Perfect. I didn’t have bags, and I wasn’t going to pick up what was being deposited without them. I thought, “Of course I assume everyone’s looking at this when no one really is.” Nonetheless, I got between the window and The Dog and bent over as if I was about to do the civic duty incumbent upon me after the biological duty that had just been performed. Then I stood up straight and walked away, The leavings weren’t on the sidewalk, and I resolved to come back, maybe, and look for the crap in the dark.

A half-block farther up, same routine, except not in front of a nice salon. The dark, steaming canine waste nuggets came to rest on the sidewalk, so I covered them with leaves and brushed them with my foot to the base of a tree. Out of harm’s way from a human pedestrian’s point of view; and objects of immense interest from the perspective of other dogs that would soon happen that way.

I sometimes wonder, as I pick up bag after bag of dog byproduct on our daily walks, how come so much of it doesn’t get picked up. Well, this is how: You forget to bring a bag, or you honestly don’t see what’s going on in the dark, or you figure it’s out of everyone’s way. I figure it’s OK. There’ll be more to scoop up tomorrow, and tomorrow might be another sunny day, and I won’t have any work-type work projects in front of me.

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Dog Walk Confidential

Today was the first day of two weeks of time off from my job at the major Bay Area public radio station. I celebrated first by going back to bed after Kate left for work this morning, then getting up and doing a work project for my employer that I had promised to do before my vacation started but couldn’t fit in to my normal hours. I understand from a colleague who was home sick that it was a really nice day today. I saw at various points of the late morning and afternoon that it was sunny and clear outside, but by the time I had finished the project, the sun had set in a coral blaze and the moon had risen. The Dog had yet to be taken for a walk.

So as the dusk deepened, we headed out, as soon as I rustled up a check I had to mail. As we walked up the adjacent block on our street, I realized that although I had brought a leash and a light–the latter to help me locate any waste the revered dog might leave along our path–I had forgotten to bring plastic bags to remove said revered waste. “The hell with it,” I thought. “Maybe I won’t need the bags.”

We walked down to the nearby shopping area, where there’s a mailbox. I mailed the check, and we walked up the block. In front of a very nice-looking salon, at the base of a tree directly in front of a window where a woman was getting done up, I saw The Dog assume his waste-dropping position. Perfect. I didn’t have bags, and I wasn’t going to pick up what was being deposited without them. I thought, “Of course I assume everyone’s looking at this when no one really is.” Nonetheless, I got between the window and The Dog and bent over as if I was about to do the civic duty incumbent upon me after the biological duty that had just been performed. Then I stood up straight and walked away, The leavings weren’t on the sidewalk, and I resolved to come back, maybe, and look for the crap in the dark.

A half-block farther up, same routine, except not in front of a nice salon. The dark, steaming canine waste nuggets came to rest on the sidewalk, so I covered them with leaves and brushed them with my foot to the base of a tree. Out of harm’s way from a human pedestrian’s point of view; and objects of immense interest from the perspective of other dogs that would soon happen that way.

I sometimes wonder, as I pick up bag after bag of dog byproduct on our daily walks, how come so much of it doesn’t get picked up. Well, this is how: You forget to bring a bag, or you honestly don’t see what’s going on in the dark, or you figure it’s out of everyone’s way. I figure it’s OK. There’ll be more to scoop up tomorrow, and tomorrow might be another sunny day, and I won’t have any work-type work projects in front of me.

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Objet d’Art

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Bouquet. Placed on exterior window sill of the Edible Schoolyard toolshed, perhaps for the enjoyment of the residents of the adjacent chicken coop (not all chickens, by the way). This beats any creative impulse or accomplishment I could take credit for this weekend.

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Muni Yard, Mariposa Street, Fog

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Left work about 10 last night and was surprised to see that fog had descended after a warm, showery afternoon. The light everywhere was beautiful–soft, eerie, with a sheen on the streets from the still-evaporating rain. The scene above is immediately across the street from KQED, on Mariposa Street.

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Infotainment Tonight

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Screenshot from the January 13, 2011, “10 O’Clock News” (a.k.a, “The Used-to-Be Really Good Bay Area News Show”). By way of explanation, whoever was in charge of doing this graphic left the placeholder label in place for all the audience to see. How does stuff like this happen? Staff cuts, mostly. I’ve heard that many of the artists and producers who used to make and oversee graphics like this have been reassigned or let go and that writers have been given this job–in addition to continuing to write the news and find, pull, and edit videotape. The unfortunate on-air result notwithstanding, cutting these corners makes the station owner’s bottom line look great.

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Unknown Berkeley

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On a walk yesterday with The Dog, we went up past Codornices Park, up the Tamalpais Steps, all 180-some of them, which reminded me of how long it’s been since I’ve done any real exercise, and then up Tamalpais Road to Shasta Road.

The Dog was a little balky at this point. I had him on the leash, since Shasta is a narrow road with no sidewalks and sharp curves that don’t give much notice of approaching cars. He pulled downhill while I wanted to go up. Right at Tamalpais and Shasta, there’s a paved driveway going up a hillside. I’ve been past the spot dozens of times, but never noticed before today that there was a basketball backboard and a chain-link fence–maybe a little neighborhood park.

I compromised with The Dog, and we headed up the driveway, stepped across the chain that was sagging below knee height across the drive, and up to the fence. It *was* a park of sorts up there, though not a public one. There was a tennis court with broken pavement, the downhill side of the court showing signs of sliding. There was a broken-down backboard, a kid’s bike, and some toys. There were padlocked gates on each side of the court, so there was no way in for me. On the uphill side, a wooden stairway went up to a home perched above the court. (You can see the court here, a Google Maps satellite image of the location).

It’s always been one of the things I’ve liked about Berkeley–as cities go, it’s a small place, but it’s spread over the terrain in a way that’s full of surprises. Other sightings today: a public notice from a writer I remember from Daily Cal days who’s campaigning with her husband to get a couple of big old eucalyptus trees cut down so that they and other residents in the neighborhood “viewshed”–a coinage that has found Orwellian employment in the past and one for which they’ve found a new and equally Orwellian job for–can enjoy a nicer vista from their homes high in the hills.

And a last sighting: The Dog made me stop dead in the road for something he appeared to see, or smell, or sense, high up on a steep vacant lot. It wasn’t until I looked up there for three or four minutes and was about to move on that I realized there were a couple of big deer ears sticking up over the edge of the ridge above. The deer enjoyed his viewshed, unperturbed, and The Dog and I headed downhill.

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Books: The Holiday Haul

I have at my left elbow a small but imposing stack of books–a half-dozen of them, my haul from Christmas morning. I read thoroughly, not fast; I have a lot of incidental reading that I do as part of my work; and I need to spend ever so many hours noodling online. So this stack of books may be my reading list for 2011.

I’d love to list the titles, but won’t just yet. Instead, I’ll quote a representative opening passage from each book. The titles will appear below the jump, if you want to play.

1. “The idea of selling spring water came to Eric Carlson in 1997, when he observed trucks filled with water traveling up and down Maine highways. To Carlson, it was an epiphany: ‘I was like, “Wow! Water is valuable enough to truck around?” ‘ “

2. “Once it was a far different place. Aboriginal California, with 275,000 to 300,000 residents by current reckoning, was among the most densely populated areas in North America at the time of European contact, but the native peoples left scarcely an imprint on the waterscape or the landscape.”

3. “It is through Jack O’Brien, the Arbiter Elegantiarum Philadelphiae, that I trace my rapport with the historic past through the laying on of hands. He hit me, for pedagogical example, and he had been hit by the great Bob Fitzsimmons, from whom he won the light-heavyweight title in 1906. Jack had a scar to show for it. Fitzsimmons had been hit by Corbett, Corbett by John L. Sullivan, he by Paddy Ryan, with the bare knuckles, and Ryan by Joe Goss, his predecessor, who as a young man had felt the fist of the great Jem Mace. It is a great thrill to feel that all that separates you from the early Victorians is a series of punches on the nose.”

4. “They met at his request on at least six separate occasions, beginning in February 1869. With everyone present, there were just nine in all–the seven distinguished he had selected; his oldest son, Colonel Washington Roebling; and himself. …”

5. “One late night in November 1980 I was flying over the state of Utah on my way back to California. I had an aisle seat, and since I believe that anyone who flies in an airplane and doesn’t spend most of his time looking out the window wastes his money, I walked back to the rear door of the plane and stood for a long time at the door’s tiny aperture, squinting out at Utah.”

6. “There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now;
And never will be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.”

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Posted in Berkeley: Beware

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From a walk this afternoon up to the top of Virginia Street. This is at the dead of Hilgard Avenue, above La Vereda Road. The turkeys–I hear tell they can be mean.

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