Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Not very friendly buses

We were out walking in San Francisco when we saw flashing lights and police cars and Muni trucks.  Upon getting a bit closer, we found that two buses had not played nice together:

Seemed like quite a mess.  

A little later in the day, we were in Union Square and we saw one of the buses on the back of a really big tow truck:

One commenter is asserting that the driver of the bus on the right parked the bus to get some coffee, and the bus rolled backwards, sideswiping the other bus and knocking over several items on the sidewalk.

Not a great day for Muni.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Happy birthday Barry!

When my brother Barry celebrated his 8th birthday, our parents took us to a Washington Senators baseball game (at RFK Stadium!).  That season the manager of the Senators was the great Ted Williams, the Red Sox slugger.

Well, my dad arranged for the stadium to include Barry's name on the outfield scoreboard in the list of birthdays being celebrated that day.  But when all the happy birthdays went up, Barry's name was nowhere to be found.

So my dad headed back to some office to ask them to correct it.  And a few innings later, the following message appeared on the scoreboard:





That's a nice way to share your birthday.

Today is Barry's birthday - hope it is a great day!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Scary sky

I went out early yesterday morning (around 7) and spotted this view in downtown Lafayette:

We don't get storms that often, and it turned out that it never did rain the whole day, but this was a pretty unusual sky to look at.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Good idea for a remote

With the way that cable tv works now, you can sometimes spend a lot of time selecting words in the guide with a very clunky remote. If you want to find episodes of Mad Men, for example, you have to use the up and down arrows to move through an on-screen keyboard.  Not very easy to deal with.

So TiVo, taking a page from Blackberries and other smart phones, has rolled out the new Slide, an optional remote that includes a keyboard:

There is an excellent review of it in the Wall St. Journal.

This is just good common-sense design.  I'm surprised Apple did not think of it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A touching story

I've mentioned a couple of time that my sister-in-law Susan is having a tough year.  She lost her mother in the spring to breast cancer, and was diagnosed herself with the disease just before her mother passed away.  Now she is undergoing chemotherapy and, thankfully, doing very well.

Some friends of hers set up a website for information and encouragement and help.  My brother posts notes about Susan's journey from time to time, and recently he posted the one below.  He mentions their son Alex in the story, who was the connection that caused this to happen.

I am simply reprinting it verbatim:

Thought everyone would enjoy the following story about a young girl named Olivia.
Olivia is the 11-year old cousin of a good friend of Alex's who very much enjoys providing spa-type treatments to her friends and family. Olivia is so into this that she started her own spa in her house, which she has named the "Palm Tree Spa," and which she has equipped to provide services like manicures, pedicures and facials. Olivia even has stationary she uses with a border of palm trees around it.
Although an 11-year old with the initiative to start her own little business is impressive enough, the reason I am telling you about Olivia has to do with what happened when she heard about Susan's cancer from her cousin Amanda (Alex's friend). Without ever even meeting Susan, Olivia decided she wanted to do something to help. We first heard about this when Olivia arrived at our house on Sunday with a lovely note and a heart shaped basket filled with change and five and one dollar bills.
As Olivia's note explained, she decided to have a fund raiser so that she could give Susan money to, in Olivia's words, "help you through this hard time with breast cancer." She raised the money by asking her spa "customers" to make a donation in exchange for the services. Olivia also remarkably enough auctioned off four of her favorite Webkinz, as well as a "red and violet bear that has a heart for cancer."
Olivia's little basket contained a grand total of $87.05! In addition, her note informed Susan that Olivia "would like when you are not busy to come to my Palm Tree Spa for a special Spa Package created just for you and it's free." Susan is of course looking forward to her spa treatment, but obviously felt a little strange taking this money from a little girl, so will contribute the cash to cancer research or perhaps buy some toys for the children's cancer ward at a local hospital.
I don't think, however, that Olivia realized how much she really did do to help Susan through this hard time, not with the money, but rather with her warm and generous and caring nature. To know that an 11-year old child who doesn't even know Susan (other than through her cousin, Amanda and Alex) would care so much and want to help in a way that would make her go to the effort to do what she did is the sort of heart warming event that makes every rough day just a little easier to get through. Olivia really did achieve her goal of "helping Susan through this hard time with breast cancer."
Thank you, Olivia!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

James Bond at 80

Yesterday was Sean Connery's 80th birthday.  I've always thought he was the best James Bond, though Daniel Craig comes close.

Here's an iconic photo of him in the role:

And here he is from a couple of months ago:

Certainly aging well.  Happy Birthday James Bond!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

From the hardware department . . .

I saw this the other day at a salvage shop, where we were looking for some decorative items and doors we might use at our house:

An electric fence charger.  Really.

You have to love the key phrase:  "Shocks through wet weeds."  I would imagine so.

(Side note:  this is from Montgomery Ward, which - along with Sears - was where we did much of our department store shopping when I was growing up.  Affectionately known as "Monkey Ward," the company went out of the retail store business in 2001, but it (sort of) lives on as an online retail company.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Would you like a foam rinse with that burrito?

Spotted in Berkeley - a combined car wash and taqueria:

We actually ended up going into the taqueria and having a pretty good snack of street tacos (carnitas and carne asada) plus a tasty cheese quesadilla.

Didn't get the car washed, though.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Quick moving fog

One of the most distinctive buildings in the world is found in the Bay area - the Transamerica Pyramid:

It's been in photos, movies, tv shows. If you see a picture of it, you are likely to think of San Francisco.

We were in SF the other day, early evening, walking along the Embarcadero on the waterfront. It was a cool, foggy day there (happy summer) and I looked over towards the Pyramid. It was hiding behind a building, but the top was just visible through the thickening fog,so I quickly snapped a photo:

I saw how the fog was enveloping it,so I then took three more photos over the course of about 30 seconds, as the top of the Pyramid disappeared.  Look at the upper right corner of the building in front of it (best if you click on each one to enlarge).




It was kind of dramatic.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A really good product idea

I like this toaster, on so many different levels:

So even though it only toasts one piece at a time, you can watch it and get your bread toasted exactly as you want it.  It's extremely attractive, interesting and functional, all in one.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Abby!!!!!

Wow - 16 years old today!  And not a moment too soon, as she's seemed grown up for such a long time.

Hope you have a great day today, Abby!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Slow motion

Some things are just worth watching at a really slow speed:

Tempus II

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The first peach!

As previously noted, we got a beautiful peach on our tree.  And now I have picked it:

We shared it for dinner last night:

A bit sharp, very good peach flavor.  Everyone thought it was delicious!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A really big Twinkie

On the dessert table at work today - homemade super giant Twinkies:

Really.  Stuffed with buttercream filling.  Quite tasty

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Abby's visit to Green Valley

Abby went to Arizona this past week to visit her Nana and Pal.  She hadn't seen them in a while and wanted to go before her fall got busy with school and shows and the like.  So she braved the + 100 degree temperatures in Tucson and flew out for a few days.

From all reports, everything went well and she had a good time, despite all that heat.

Here are some smiling memories:

Monday, August 16, 2010

A really long, fast and high walk

Karen has been doing a lot of walking recently.  She goes 6, 8, 10, even 12 miles at a time.  She's getting stronger and feeling better and working hard.

She uses the My Tracks program on her Android phone to measure her walks.  The GPS feature captures all relevant data and she can upload it to a spreadsheet in Google Docs.  Pretty convenient.

But on a recent walk, the program may not have worked so well:

Take a look at those numbers:

  • Just under 170 miles
  • Average speed of 223 miles per hour
  • Elevation change of 14,443 feet

Hmm.  Seems a bit unlikely.

Yet when she checked the map in My Tracks, it said she had gone from Lafayette to just past Fresno:

I guess technology doesn't always work quite the way it should.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Update on the peach tree

Our peach tree is going strong.  It is now over 6 feet tall, and looking quite healthy:

And though we had three peaches, two turned out not to be quite right, so we removed them in favor of the last. It has thrived on its own, and now is very close to being ready for harvest, full of size and color:

When it is perfectly ripe, we will share it as our very first homegrown peach.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The invisible monkey

This is great.

Dodge ran a commercial for an upcoming sale, and included a monkey pushing down on a detonator to set off some confetti:

But PETA objected, on the ground that monkeys are mistreated in Hollywood.  So Dodge remade the commercial, but this time with an INVISIBLE MONKEY!!!

Pay close attention to the closing words:


Friday, August 13, 2010

A lot of sand

I've played the Straits course at Whistling Straits, in Kohler, Wisconsin, where they are playing the PGA Championship this week.  The one overwhelming aspect of the course is the sheer number of bunkers.  Most of them don't come into play, but they are very intimidating:

I just read a good article about the actual number of bunkers.  It says they can't really be counted, but that they number more than 1,000.  According to the story:
. . . the eighth hole has the most bunkers (102), followed by the 18th (96). The 12th and 14th holes tie with the fewest (18).
Read that again - 18 is the fewest number of bunkers on a single hole. 

That's pretty amazing.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The coldest winter . . .

Here's a good article on one of the most well-known (supposed) quotes by Mark Twain:
"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."
The quote is widely attributed to Twain, but it appears he never said it at all.  Here's a good explanation from snopes.com:
Claim: Mark Twain once asserted "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."

Status: False.

Origins: San Francisco's weather patterns have confounded those who live there and those who visit for as long as there's been a San Francisco. It may be California, and it may be lovely, but the wind can be vicious, and those summertime temperatures can be disappointing bordering on "in danger of freezing if one doesn't keep moving."

Twain's droll comment is widely repeated to the point that you can't read a news story that makes mention of the cold of San Franciscan summers and not trip over it. It's a great quote. It's a wonderfully crafted quote. And it's a darned shame Twain never said it.

Searches of Twain writings, private letters, and other publications fail to locate this witticism. The closest resemblance to it appears in an 1879 letter in which Twain quoted a wag who, when asked if he'd ever seen such a cold winter, replied, "Yes, last summer." Twain then added his own comment, "I judge he spent his summer in Paris.  (Twain's rejoinder is an example of treppenwitz — the wit of the stairway, those brilliant comebacks one thinks of only long after the moment has passed.)
It's still a great line, and quite plausibly true, but apparently Mark Twain never thought it up.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A trackpad for the desktop

Apple has developed a desktop trackpad that works like the pads on its notebook computers.  It's called the Magic Trackpad, and it gives you all the convenience of a trackpad with all the functionality of a mouse.  In fact, the entire Magic Trackpad is a button, so you can click it anywhere.  But you can also pinch or spread your fingers to zoom, or swipe to change pages.

This seems like a pretty big step forward.  Mice aren't going away yet, but the trend is headed that way.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pop-Tarts in Times Square

If you've ever been to Times Square, you've seen M&M World and the big Hershey's store.  These candy stores are homes to mass-marketing of everything related to their brand, from clothing to mugs to toys to, yes, candy.  At M&M World, you can get __ different colors of M&Ms.

But now there is a new challenger for the tourists' dollars - Pop-Tart World:

According to this story in the NY Times, this is experimental marketing.  The lease on the space is only through January; they want to figure out if this helps the brand.

As you can imagine, the focus is on the food here, served at on-site cafe:

The menu includes the Fluffer Butter, marshmallow spread sandwiched between two Pop-Tarts frosted fudge pastries; the Sticky Cinna Munchies, cinnamon rolls topped with cream-cheese icing and chunks of Pop-Tarts cinnamon-roll variety; and Ants on a Log?, which is celery, peanut butter and chunks of the Wild Grape version.
And then there’s the Pop-Tarts Sushi, three kinds of Pop-Tarts minced and then wrapped in a fruit roll-up. “We did an internal tasting here at the building, and it was the winner,” said Etienne Patout, senior director at the Pop-Tarts brand, part of the Kellogg Company.
Visitors can also build their own Pop-Tarts, starting with a basic pastry and asking servers to add frosting, toppings (coconut, sprinkles) and drizzle (caramel, raspberry). They can take their pastries frozen, toasted, microwaved or uncooked, but there will be no self-serve.

I'm ready to try it if I get back to New York in time.

Monday, August 9, 2010

In the bushes

I got out to play golf this weekend - spectacular weather.  Went out with my men's club, which I am trying to do a little more often.  It's a good group of guys, very friendly, lots of good golfers.

The round actually went pretty well, except for one errant shot that found its way into the bushes.  When I found it, the ball was sitting about three feet of the ground:


I took good aim and managed to hit it out of there with a baseball-style swing.  That hole, needless to say, was not my best score of the day.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A different commuting option

Even though the Nissan Leaf remains my first choice, I am checking out other options to get in the carpool lane.  Motorcycles can do it, but they seem very unstable to me, and you have to have a special motorcycle license.  Not very appealing

So I was quite surprised to learn of the Can Am Spyder Roadster, a three-wheeled motorcycle sort of vehicle.  It drives like a motorcycle, but with none of the stability problems.  And in California, for some odd reason, you can drive one with a regular car license.  But it's allowed in the carpool lane as if it were a motorcycle.

I haven't test driven one yet.  Still trying to figure out if I could get used to the look:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Terminology (from xkcd)

I like this thought from xkcd:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Back on Facebook (but not Twitter)

Ok, I don't want to miss the boat.  So I have reactivated my Facebook account.  I'm still not very convinced of its value, but I am talking to a few folks with whom I had lost touch.  And there is a certain voyeuristic thrill in reading what other people put on there (even if they want you to read them).

But still no Twitter.  I refuse to use it or look at it.  The site went down yesterday - again.  It's very common, apparently.

I liked this article from over a year ago:  Twitter is Down: 15 Alternative Things to Do.  The list is good (well, at least number 15 is good):

  1. Talk about Twitter being down on FriendFeed
  2. Talk about Twitter being down onFacebook
  3. Talk about Twitter being down over IM
  4. Leave a comment on a blog post about Twitter being down (preferably this one)
  5. Talk about Twitter being down via text message
  6. Talk about Twitter being down over email
  7. Tip TechCrunch that Twitter is down
  8. Write your own blog post about Twitter being down (for an example, see this blog post)
  9. Talk about Twitter being down on Pownce Plurk
  10. Talk about Twitter being down on Identi.ca
  11. Talk about Twitter being down internally on Yammer
  12. Think about Twitter being down
  13. Call an actual friend to talk about Twitter being down
  14. Invite an actual friend over to talk about Twitter being down
  15. Go outside

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A good day in the courts

Yesterday U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker issued a 136-page decision striking down California's Prop. 8, which had outlawed same-sex marriage in the state.  The decision, available here, concludes that there is no moral or legal reason to ban same-sex marriage and that doing so violates the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

This is a true victory for equal rights, akin to decisions like Brown v. Board of Education.  The legal process is just beginning, but it is beginning in the right way.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sleepy dog

We have noticed something very interesting about Daisy.  She is a bit sleepy, like most dogs.  But we have found the real way to get her to go to bed.

During the hockey season, we watch a lot of Sharks games.  The two announcers, Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda, are an excellent broadcasting team.  Similarly, during the baseball season, we watch a lot of Giants games, and we love the broadcasts by Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow.

But whenever either one of those types of games come on, and the familiar tones of Randy and Drew or Kruk and Kuip come out of the tv, Daisy falls asleep.

I like to think it is a comfort level, not that the games are boring.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Half Moon Bay - perfect weather

We went down to Half Moon Bay over the weekend.  The weather was gorgeous, so we took our convertible and headed down the coast.

Here's a look from one side of the beautiful Ritz-Carlton hotel:

Here's a view from the other side, looking at the 18th hole of the Old Course:

And here's one of my favorite (non) golfers:

She did make a really nice 30-foot putt, though, so there is still hope.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Happy Birthday Susan!

My lovely sister-in-law Susan is celebrating a birthday today.  She has had a tough year, so I hope she has a really wonderful day today with her family.

We love you, Susan, and we are thinking of you all the time.  Happy birthday!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Watches - No. 2

This watch is from the 1996 Olympics that were held in Atlanta.  It honors Edwin Moses, the great hurdler:

The band has a series of photos of him in sequence jumping hurdles, and the face has a "WR" for world record, which he set four times:

Here's a look at the back, which has his signature and reference to the gold medals he won at the 1976 and 1984 Olympics.  It notes that from 1977 to 1987, he never lost a race, winning 122 in a row:

My favorite part is, however, is on the bottom of the strap, where it says "I don't really see the hurdles. I sense them like a memory."

One of my favorite watches.