What's New? 2001-10-01

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What's New? 2001-10-01

 Wednesday 31 October 2001 - All Hallows Eve (Halloween)
  Omniweb spookypeek logo Happy Halloween, everyone. It was a zoo in the Castro today, but that's exactly the way we like it. The keiki (Hawai'ian: children) once again participated in the annual Halloween costume event at the Eureka (Collingwood) Rec Center. Once again the San Francisco School of Circus Arts gave a show for us, although I have to say that the kids have liked the slapstick of previous years more than the sublime cowgirl act of this year.

At left you see the special logo created by the wizards at OmniGroup for the recently-released OmniWeb 4 sneakypeek (appropriately renamed the spookypeak). Pretty.

 Monday 29 October 2001
  Here's our darling Lila at twelve weeks! (Not to be confused with "three months", which won't happen for another two weeks. This is why parents do weeks until their child is, say, out of college.)

She sleeps up to five hours at a chunk, although two hours is more common. She's been smiling for several weeks now, and has really become a chatter box.

She's been going out to big brother Isaac's playgroups since she was eight weeks old, and even though she has no comment, I can tell she's looking forward to the day that she can copy his gastronamic prowess viz-a-vis Goldfish, cookies, crakers, and anything encrusted with sugar. (Have I mentioned that he knows two brand names? Toys R Us and Ben & Jerry's. That pretty much says it all.)

 Sunday 28 October 2001
  SPAM Our ohana (Hawai'ian: family) is what I like to call "mostly vegetarian", or more accurately, "mostly pescetarian", as we love the sushi. I add the word "mostly" because we eat low on the food scale at home, slightly higher in restaurants, and whatever the locals are eating while we travel.

Isaac is almost completely vegatarian: he had a bit of processed chicken baby food a long time ago and unhappily spat it up. In February he sucked on a bit of pipi kaula, twice-cooked pork, at the Aloha Diner on Kaua'i. He ate several shrimp while we were at Tita's hale 'aina, a Hawai'ian restarant in the Castro.

And this morning he wolfed down dozens of tiny bites of SPAM, part of my three-meat omlette at May's Coffee Shop in Japantown. He finally decided to try "papa food", and he liked it! (And I swear that there was no planned Hawai'ian theme to this entry, it just popped out that way. And Hawai'ian food isn't even a major staple of our diet.)

 Saturday 20 October 2001
  Ten years ago today I was heading back from a relaxing weekend in Yosemite. The usual return conversation was whether the weather in the city would be cooler than the sweltering heat of the valley. About halfway home I noticed a unnaturally dark plume of what appeared to be clouds rising from the Bay Area. We thought it might be storm clouds. By the time we crossed the Altamont Pass (known elsewhere as that place with all the high-tech windmills) it was obvious that something was afoot. By the time we got to Oakland the highway was awash with smoke, and we rolled up the windows. Then we drove through walls of flame, consuming everything up to the edge of the asphault. There was no indication of fire or police crews, and we sailed home, across the Bay Bridge. It was only when we turned on the television that we saw much of the Oakland Hills in flames.

A few days ago I spoke with the building manager of the Tropicana Peaks, the condo-plex just down the street from us. He remembers the falling ash; it crossed the bay and rained down on San Francisco.

I'm told that the firestorm was so large that it had its own weather pattern, much like the conditions in Dresden during the infamous Allied bombing of that city during World War II. From the NASA Ames Research Center "Oakland Hills Fire Storm: Remote Sensing and Emergency Management" document:

On October 20, 1991, a small brush fire started in the hills above Oakland, California. Fanned by high winds, unseasonably high temperatures and low humidity, the fire spread rapidly, burning nearly three square miles of affluent neighborhoods within the wooded hillsides. When it was over, the Oakland Hills Fire was labelled the worst urban disaster in U.S. history. The conflagration caused an estimated $2 billion in damage, including the loss of homes, businesses and lives.

As the fire progressed, numerous agencies were summoned to control it. An immediate and major problem was fire reconnaissance. Dense black smoke covered much of the area, masking fire lines and spot fires. Because of the fire's intensity and the uneven terrain, the construction of a control line was extremely difficult.

Elsewhere on the web I found an airborne image of the firestorm, taken for or by NASA Ames with a C-130.

 Tuesday 16 October 2001
  Ten years ago, in the middle of October 1991, Apple released the first of many PowerBooks which have graced my desk. My immediate switch from desk-bound Macs, of which I had three or four, to a laptop technomad lifestyle was one of several factors which resulted in a 1996 interview in ECIFFO magazine.

What my first PowerBook - the 170 - gave in terms of freedom of movement it lacked in computational power, although I daresay we didn't really feel it badly at the moment. The 25 Mhz MC68030 laptop, with 8 MB RAM, a 640 by 400 active matrix 10-inch monochrome screen, and a mono 8-bit speaker was hardly the stuff dreams are made of, but it meant I could leave a desk, which was one of the most precious feelings around. Oh, to be a road warrior in 1991!

Coupled with a specially modified Richochet "bridge modem", I could transmit radio signals back to my apartment on Waller Street, where another radio-modem would transmit the data to a regular modem and out onto the Internet. (This was long before Richochet was able to negotiate wireless access in San Francisco.) Since leaves are somewhat radio-opaque, my throughput varied with the seasons.

I can't really describe the sensation of being free, and mobile, after being deskbound. Much of this web site exists only because I was able to drag a PowerBook around as a backing store for one of my digital cameras and to provide textual commentary while still on location.

 Monday 15 October 2001
  An excerpt from a cartoon clip-art commentary about the current goings-on.

 Sunday 14 October 2001
  It's not even half-way through the month? Whew! What a roller-coaster! I've been playing phone tag with Felicia, doing remote system administration for Dad, and enjoying the 95+ degree weather here in San Francisco. We spent most of today getting ready for, getting to, enjoying, returning from, and recovering from a Sunday in the Park event sponsored by Jewish groups. It was nice, but no falafel or Maccabee Beer. Sigh.


A rapacious builder and a talentless architect razed a beautiful hummingbird range just down the hill from our house and put up six cramped apartments which they fantasize as being "Mediterranean style" (as in a flophouse in Marsailles).

Granted, they have a magnificent view, but would you really want to pay 1.6 million dollars for a tiny kitchen, tinier bathrooms, and rooms which overlook your neighbors in a style faintly reminiscent of tenament houses?

There's a back "yard" about ten feet deep, sunk into a retaining wall, from which you can watch your neighbors struggle to experience anything other than a frustration with the mortgage and a severe separation from nature. And back bedrooms from which the entire view is of another retaining wall. Really. And the floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows with a view of, well, the next unit's outer wall. Tres chic.

Sadder even than the poor fit-and-finish (amazing in something purporting to being luxurious) is that the view of the other side of the street is of three small houses in harmony with their tree-covered lots, in something of a spasmodic opposition to the gargantuan masses of concrete and stucco which overflow their lots. As is your internal life so goes your external habitat, I guess.

Now don't get me wrong: I have nothing against luxury, money, or housing. But I would have had other goals in mind other than to maximize floor-space at the expense of everything else, regardless of how humanizing and grounding it might be. I think the Navaho called it horzo.

And I really do enjoy the pastel watercolor early-twentieth-century glasses through which they see the Castro. It makes living in the center of the city so benign, almost therapeutic.

 Saturday 13 October 2001
  Lila is two calender months old today. She was born "before", but her life will be lived "after". I'm sorry about that, sweetie-pie.


We spent the morning at a Tot Shabbat, where I learned that an ulpan (course in Hebrew) might be starting nearby, next week. We'll see if I can make that one, in contrast to the dozens offered by the JCC which I've missed.

 Thursday 11 October 2001
  Wow! Has another week gone by? It's been a wierd week, but no wierder for us than for Sesame Street's Bert. The picture at left, the latest in the "Bert is Evil" series, was one in a series of images of Osama Bin Laden grabbed from the web by Azad Products, who manufactures the poster. "We got the images through e-mails and off the internet. We did not give the pictures a second look or realize what they signified until you pointed it to us," Mostafa Kamal, production manager, told The Associated Press.

Nikke Lindqvist summed it up: a tip turned up on Buzz, a Swedish forum, that the Dutch news site De Twentsche Courant Tubantia was showing a picture (at right) from an Monday 8 October rally in Dhaka, Bangladesh where Bert is clearly visible on a poster just behind the image of Usama bin Laden. (Tubantia since edited the picture so that Bert is cut off.) Two days later Sweden's biggest internet news website, aftonbladet.se, published a similar picture. The main theory was that this was a hoax originated from the original Bert is Evil website, but Dino Ignacio claimed ignorance.

Photos from Reuters had the poster with Bert (left and right, below), while early Associated Press photos showed a poster without Bert (center, below). Did it imply that Reuters had been set up with manipulated images, or vice versa?

Well, the fullness of time has brought with it the answer: there are at least two print runs of the poster, only one of which contains Bert. It's not clear whether we'll be seeing these posters at state-side auction houses anytime soon. Sesame Workshop, which used to be the Children's Television Workshop, issued a press release decrying the juxtaposition, noting that "Sesame Street has always stood for mutual respect and understanding. We're outraged that our characters would be used in this unfortunate and distasteful manner... The people responsible for this should be ashamed of themselves." CNN noted "It is not clear whether the protesters actually knew who the character Bert is, and what he means to U.S. children."

But of course the controversy, a tempest in a teapot, wouldn't die down quietly. Folks giving the posters a close examination claimed that the image above Bert showed OBL (or UBL) clutching a bottle of Johnny Walker whiskey (quite a taboo-breaker for one claiming to be a pious, abstinent Muslim). I provide you with a close-up at right.

Nikke's readership volunteered that it was in fact the the classic Yemeni style (hour-glass-shaped handle and very broad blade) of jambiya, the traditional curved knife carried throught the Muslim world. He started wearing it after the bombing of the USS cole, and most people thought it was to be interpreted as evidence of his participation in that event.

I mentioned it had been a wierd week, right?

 Friday 5 October 2001
  taliban attacked cruise missle While Isaac and I were outside enjoying the Castro Street Fair, on this cool overcast day, the U. S. and Britian lobbed cruise missles at Taliban military command and control spots. I heard that in conjunction with missles to the military, we'll be dropping food to the civilians (a heart-and-minds thing).

I've never hidden my disdain for "W", whom I fear may be the dumbest chief executive we've ever had, but at least he seems to have some competent speech-writers. I especially liked the following nugget from today's speech:

"The United States of America is a friend to the Afghan people, and we are the friends of almost a billion worldwide who practice the Islamic faith. The United States of America is an enemy of those who aid terrorists and of the barbaric criminals who profane a great religion by committing murder in its name."

ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell Elsewhere, it seems like everyone is on the bandwagon. Here's ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell entertaining British troops in Oman. Is Bob Hope to aged to do another round of U. S. O. tours? Or will we be seeing tattooed twenty-somethings and grunge bands? Is there something like the People's Choice awards to determine who gets sent overseas? Do they do tours during peacetime to soldiers in far-flung postings? And more MTV-ish, do they film them and make music videos?

 Friday 5 October 2001
       _|_      four oh four
     .'   '.    not found sorry
     |o   o|    
    /| --- |\   
   X \_____/ K  
      |   |     
      O   O     
I came across this cute Page Not Found display today, and wanted to remember it. It reminds me of the IBM 3278 displays of my youth, time well spent at Boston University.
 Friday 5 October 2001
  Saw the newly executed architectural blueprints of our house. It's nice to see something in writing, after three years of thinking about the process.
 Wednesday 3 October 2001
  It's free day at the California Academy of Sciences and the San Francisco Zoo, so we visited both of them. It took all day, but it was worth it. It was Lila's first visit to both places, so we had Isaac lead the way for his little sister.

The weather was just prefect, sunny at home in the Castro but pleasantly foggy and cool at the zoo. We skipped the Little Puffer (Isaac's favorite) because of some bad behavior earlier in the day, but we spent a good amount of time with Tobias in the zoo playground and the petting zoo.

The fire, last month, in one of the Academy gift shops resulted in the closure of some of our favorite exhibits, including the Earth Sciences (all the planets melted) and the Focault pendulum. Unrelated, but still annoying, was the closure of the Sergeant diorama. It was fun bringing Isaac and Lila to the Elkus collection of Native Americana, and remembering that we let Isaac crawl on the exhibit of the dining room table. As ever, Begay's silverwork always amazes me.

 Monday 1 October 2001
  Wow, a new month. Hopefully it'll be less exciting than last month.

Thus begins my favorite time of the year. From now, when the leaves start turning the sublime colors of autumn, until our New Year's Day walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, I revel in the sucession of Sukkot, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, and the New Year celebrations. The lights in the trees, the displays in the stores, the cheer.

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