Towse: views from the hill

May 31, 2009

New cranes

Filed under: photographs — Tags: , , , — Towse @ 6:41 am


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New cranes showed up in our vista a few days back.

We can only see a bit of what is happening on the eastern span. I’m assuming these new cranes are needed to lift the roadbeds into place for the temporary span that will be used while the permanent span is built, but ? who knows?

Is this the crane we’re seeing?

Back to the past …

Filed under: life — Tags: — Towse @ 12:04 am


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Reliving sixth grade, age 10. One of my class projects required a pyrographed report cover.

I decided a while back our sign-less (and dead-end, needless to say) path needed some signage, especially with the gang event scheduled for tomorrow.

Scrap plywood. Wood burner. Olde English staining polish. Bob’s your uncle.

(Now to figure out a way to get the sign to stay up in the planters for at least the duration of the get-together.)

Sure to be a hit with ALL the neighbors. Heh.

[Update: Turns out one of the neighbors really likes the sign and asked if I’d mind if he screwed it into the wood retaining wall at the end of the path. He didn’t want to appropriate my private property without my permission, he said. Gee. He likes it! Go right ahead, I told him.]

May 30, 2009

Sun setting on TI & Berkeley

Filed under: photographs — Tags: , , — Towse @ 2:14 am


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May 29, 2009

Two grooms

Filed under: photographs,politics — Tags: — Towse @ 9:01 pm

Found this in the Papyrus stationery store @ 243 Montgomery while I was walking down to the SPUR Urban Center opening yesterday afternoon.

Soon. …

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The continuing saga of North Beach Library

Filed under: libraries — Tags: , , — Towse @ 8:14 pm

[prior screeds]

Had a heads-up from Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground mid-May:

Dear Friends of Joe D:

The next step toward civic improvement in North Beach is to say:

“Yes, I support the Library Commission and the Recreation and Park Commission in unanimously approving the North Beach Library / Joe DiMaggio Playground Master Plan, including the relocation of the North Beach Library to 701 Lombard Street, including the closure and greening of Mason Street. Completing this project will provide a much needed new library, greater green space, and improved parkland that is more accessible to all North Beach residents!”

Please show your support for the new library and future playground improvements by writing to:

Bill Wycko, Environmental Review
Officer, San Francisco Planning Department
1650 Mission Street, Suite 400,
San Francisco, CA 94103


With clicks and links to this and that. …

So, I wrote a letter. Sent it off a bit after noon today with a copy to David Chiu (President, Board of Supervisors, and also our very own District 3 Supervisor) and Luis Herrera (City Librarian).

I’d talked with David Chiu at the SPUR Urban Center opening event yesterday afternoon and told him to expect a copy of what I was sending to the City.

Mr. Wycko,

A note from Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground (FJDiMP) asked me to send you a note beginning, “Yes, I support the Library Commission and the Recreation and Park Commission in unanimously approving the North Beach Library / Joe DiMaggio Playground Master Plan, including the relocation of the North Beach Library to 701 Lombard Street, including the closure and greening of Mason Street.”

Although I am a member of the Friends group, I support neither the placement of the new library at 701 Lombard nor the closure of the segment of Mason Street that’s being asked for to facilitate the 701 Lombard location.

My concerns:

1) re closing Mason
I have suggested in the past, and continue to suggest: (from e-mail to SFPL Commission, dated 28 Aug 2008) “The City should temporarily close the [Mason] street segment for [at least] a month and see what =really= happens to the traffic patterns. Such closure would ease the minds of the neighbors, if the traffic patterns flow as the models suggest, but could put the kibosh on the idea of closing Mason if the traffic patterns change as neighbors anticipate.

“While the K-rails blocking Mason are up, label them:

Temporary closure of Mason.
Permanent closure is proposed as part of
plans to build the new North Beach Library
on the Triangle.

“In addition to the temporary closure and signage, story poles need to be erected on the Triangle, showing the outline of the new library so that neighbors can see the impact of putting the library there.”

There is considerable controversy over what effect closing Mason would have. A temporary closure would help address those issues.

2) re placing the North Beach Library on the Triangle
Luis Herrera (in an e-mail 03-Sep-2008) stated, the Triangle location, “meets our service program requirements, including additional book and materials capacity of up to 15%.”

“up to 15%” in collection expansion? The North Beach library collection has been undersized for decades. “up to 15%” expansion is far less than the community needs or expects from a new library.

Currently the NBE circulation stats show ~ 6.4 turns per collection item per year. (Circ: 250K Collection: 39K items) That figure is 26% higher than the branch library =average= for SFPL, which shows 5.08 turns/item/year. (Branch circ: 6116K Branch collection: 1203K)

Currently the NBE circulation stats show 9.26 checkouts/capita/yr. (Circ: 250K Popn served: 27K) The City’s average for all branches is 7.42/capita/yr. (Circ: 6116K Popn served: 824K) The State’s average for public libraries is 5.78/capita/yr.

The North Beach library and its collection are heavily used. A potential incremental 10-15% collection growth over the life of the building is not enough from the get-go.

My major issue with the Triangle location is that if we ever need/want to expand the library, there will be NOWHERE to expand. Any further expansion beyond what is already planned (onto Mason, assuming Mason can be closed in part to make way for the new library) will be impossible without rerouting all utilities that currently run underneath that segment of Mason. Hardscape and landscape are suitable on top of a closed Mason, but structures cannot cover the utilities because of access issues.

While you are considering the impacts of closing Mason, could you also investigate the costs (financial and environmental) of re-routing the utilities under Mason when the library needs to expand onto that area in the future? Is re-routing even possible?

3) re alternatives to the Triangle and closing Mason. Environmental impacts?
I asked Luis Herrera in an e-mail dated 03-Sep-2008: “Was any thought given to blocking Greenwich at Columbus for added space for expansion? Blocking Greenwich would raise far less outcry than blocking Mason as there is an island in the middle of Columbus at that point preventing Greenwich-west drivers from turning left onto Columbus or proceeding through onto the western end of Greenwich, and vice versa.

“The last garage access off Greenwich between Powell and Columbus is at ~735 Greenwich, which leaves a major chunk of that roadway with no current requirement for vehicle traffic access. Are there issues with what lies under Greenwich similar to the issues with Mason?”

Luis Herrera replied, “The closure of Greenwich at Columbus was not discussed as that location would also provide for the proposed size to the programmatic needs.”

As part of the environmental impacts investigation, the City should investigate the environmental impact of closing Greenwich as an alternative to closing Mason. The new library could be placed where the tot lot currently is and expand onto Greenwich as far as any underground utility issues allow. This would address some of the issues that some FJDiMP members have regarding loss of a tennis court and location of the tot lot. The tot lot would be relocated elsewhere, perhaps to where the library currently is, adjacent to the bocce courts.

Which road closure (Greenwich or Mason) has less impact?

Thank you for your time.

May 28, 2009

The government plans to demolish and rebuild 85 percent of Kashgar’s Old City..

Filed under: news,politics,travel — Tags: , — Towse @ 7:58 pm

SJ Rozan posted a link to a NYTimes news story on Facebook.

To Protect an Ancient City, China Moves to Raze It –

Saying it fears earthquake damage, the government plans to demolish and rebuild 85 percent of Kashgar’s Old City.

Discussion continues on SJ Rozan’s Facebook as to whether this urban renewal in Kashgar has anything to do with earthquakes or perhaps something to do with the Chinese central government’s take on the local Uighur Muslim population.

No, it couldn’t be anything like that. Why look at this signage at Kashgar’s Idkha Mosque, the largest mosque in China:


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All of it shows fully that Chinese government always pays special attentions to the another and historical cultures of the ethnic groups, and that all ethnic groups warmly welcome Part’s (sic) religious policy. It also shows that different ethnic groups have set up a close relationship of equality, unity and helps to each other, and freedom of beliefs is protected. All ethnic groups live friendly together here. They cooperate to build a beautiful homeland, support heartily the unity of different ethnic groups and the unity of our country, and oppose the ethnic separatism and illegal religious activities.

Cheyney (Laughing Planet) weighs in … Well worth the read.

A few of my photos of Kashgar Old City (October 2006 trip through Xinjiang province and over the Karakoram highway into the Hunza Valley in Pakistan)


This is the stairway up to the second floor living quarters in this building.


A wood carver’s stash.


Rug shop.


Hardware store.



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Did the Chinese government ask if these folks wanted their homes razed? “For their own good” Why does that remind me of Tibet?

Remembrance of things past

Filed under: life — Tags: — Towse @ 6:56 pm

A taste can do it. Proust had his madeleines. Lilikoi/passion fruit takes me straight back to breakfast in Brazil. The cook would pick fresh fruit off the vines on the back fence and make our breakfast juice. My early grade-school self is still angling for a bit more juice.

A scent can do it. I use punks as incense sticks because the scent of punks takes me back to long ago July 4th fireworks. His nibs bought me two boxloads of punks for Christmas a decade or so ago. He could only buy in bulk. I’m set for life.

I was pulled back to sixth grade yesterday when, for the first time in nearly a century (slight exaggeration, but only slight …), I was wood-burning or, as the swanky like to call it, doing “pyrography.”

We’re having a party here Sunday and our little path off the Filbert Steps has no signage. Had some wood. Couldn’t find the old woodburner in several searches of boxes of stuff, but Amazon came through and for <$20 delivered a new woodburning kit a couple days back. Now I'm in the process of making a street sign soze no one will walk past the turn off the steps.

Yesterday I was fiddling with nibs and brands, heating, cooling, covering up errors with more burning. The smell of the smoking wood reminded me of country reports we wrote back in sixth grade — hand-written on binder paper (no computers avec printers in those days) and “bound” in wooden covers. We burnt designs onto our covers, stained them, sealed them. We cut off a two-inch or so piece from the left edge. Drilled three holes in the two-inch edge and used leather laces to hold the pages. Added brass hinges to attach the edge to the rest of the cover. Voila! a hinged cover!

My report was on Argentina and the Pampas and the gauchos and Buenos Aires and the Patagonia. No mention of Malbec. The design I burnt on the report cover was a map of Argentina. I don’t know whatever happened to that report.

Gee … over forty-five years ago now. But the smoky scent yesterday took me straight back. (And I woke up this morning with a scratchy throat. When I continue on with my wee project, I will make sure I sit up-breeze from the smoke.)

May 26, 2009

C’mon, get happy: Experts say you can

Filed under: psychology — Towse @ 10:05 pm

Back in February, Greg Morago wrote an article for the Houston Chronicle titled, C’mon, get happy: Experts say you can.

At the time I noted in the book I keep in my back pocket, lefthand side: “hedonic adaptation”

I’d forgotten all about it until I was thumbing through the book this afternoon, looking up word references I’d forgotten, killing time.

“hedonic adaptation” — an interesting idea.

There’s a phenomenon called hedonic adaptation. It basically means that people adapt and get used to things, she [Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at UCRiverside] said. Let’s say you suddenly have less spending power. You feel less wealthy because you have less money in the bank. That’s going to make you unhappy. What happens is that you get used to that. Our daily life is not determined by the size of our savings account. We’ll adapt to almost everything.

In a similar way, people who have extraordinary fortune, win the lottery, get that high six-figure job, become accustomed to their new circumstances and instead of feeling euphoric about their change in lifestyle, soon discover life’s the same old same old.

Hedonic adaptation is a good thing when your circumstances take a tumble. You don’t, after all, want to be moping around forever because you had to turn in your Mercedes for a used Honda.

But, if you have had extraordinary good things happen to you, stop every once in a bit and reflect on them. Remember how lucky you are. Remember what a good life you lead. Don’t let hedonic adaptation pull you down until your extraordinary life becomes just ordinary and you get the mopes because the sparkle’s gone out of your life.

Memorial Day weekend in Paso Robles

Filed under: life — Tags: , — Towse @ 6:02 am

We were down for a long weekend on a fairly HUGE piece of dirt that friends own outside Paso Robles, on the west side, in the hills, before you get to the ocean and San Simeon/Cambria.

This was their tenth annual Memorial Day weekend but … for whatever reasons … we’ve never been before. (Last year we had something happening, the year before …)

We came this past weekend, bringing with us a charming teenager who lives in our fair ville, who needed a lift down to the party (unless someone from down in Paso was willing to drive four hours up to our fair ville and four hours back down with her.. and they would’ve been, but we promised to bring her with us).

The three of us arrived, after a four-hour drive, in time for chile verde and/or buffalo stew burritos on Friday night. We left after helping to pack up the tables and chairs and sundry furniture and stowing them in the workshop/barn on Monday morning.

These folks invite a lot of people. (More than fifty. Less than one hundred.)

Some arrive Friday. Some leave Monday. Few are there for the duration. Some bring some pretty hefty trailer-type vehicles. (HUGE! some of them) Some bring vehicles the youngsters can chew up road with. (Wear your helmet!)

Folks bring their dogs, ranging from petite chihuaha-type dogs to WOLF HOUNDS THAT WILL EAT YOU FOR LUNCH. Watching the social dynamics of the dog pack was an on-going entertainment.

Some guests stay with other party-attenders. Some go over to Cambria or San Simeon to grab a place to stay. Some come in from Paso — those who are relatives or high school chums. Most stay in tents, pitched on the grounds around the main house.

We were lucky (being the first to ask) to stay in the bunk house, with a bathroom and shower and EVERYTHING. (Plus the cabin is well-insulated so even when the evening temperatures dropped we were fine. We spread out sleeping bags on the futon …)

First thing in the morning, our host started a huge pot of coffee. From there the day progressed through food. more food. visit to the farmers’ market in Templeton. food. more food. drinks. drinks. more food. food. more drinks. dessert. drinks. And talk talk talk talk.

The guys cook. And others too. Burritos on Friday night. Salmon and pork ribs on Saturday night. Chicken on Sunday night. Sundry other stuff. Steam shovel vegetables. Desserts up the wahzoo. Salads. Hors d’oeuvres. Garlic bread. Caprese.

We also checked out the home of a close friend of our hostess (and work-related compadre of his nibs) on Sunday. His nibs had heard so much about the place while it was in the building phase and we were dead curious. Their home was less than five miles as the crow flies from Party Central, but almost fifteen miles by (sometimes dirt) road.

The house was not large, but the siting. …

Oh. My. The. Views. (¡Mira los robles!)

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A good weekend was had by us. A really good weekend. Nice people. Good food. Interesting guests. Bouncy dogs.

May 22, 2009

Dept. of Science: Don’t!

Filed under: psychology — Tags: , — Towse @ 1:04 am

Dept. of Science: Don’t! — Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

The 18May2009 issue of The New Yorker has a loooong article by Jonah Lehrer that begins with Walter Mischel’s 1960s research at the Bing Nursery School on the Stanford campus (AKA “the marshmallow experiment”) and other research along similar lines.

The questions researchers and others are asking are, is the ability to delay gratification a far better predictor of academic performance and adult “success” than I.Q.? Is the ability to delay gratification a genetic trait? Will brain scans show gratification delayers’ brains function differently than instant gratifiers’ brains? Can one be trained to be more future-oriented and less into instant gratification? Would this help children struggling with school?

Interesting article.

Jonah Lehrer weaves his words well. These two sentences are part of Lehrer’s description of Walter Mischel:

Mischel was born in Vienna, in 1930. His father was a modestly successful businessman with a fondness for café society and Esperanto, while his mother spent many of her days lying on the couch with an ice pack on her forehead, trying to soothe her frail nerves

How much is packed into those few words!

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