What's New? 2005-12-01

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What's New? 2005-12-01

 Wednesay 14 December 2005
  Leaving Frontier: It's with some sadness that I realize that I'm fed up with the web page rendering system that I've used since 1993 to build this website, Userland Frontier (and Radio). Due to the, ummm, strong personality of its creator the community of users has been driven away, updating of the software has screamed to a standstill, and tragically, much of the community-contributed work done in extending it is dissapearing from the web.

Using it feels stale, and I'm not getting the benefits which come from running undor a modern operating system. Gracious, I don't even inherit the basic spell-checking behaviors provided for free by "Mac OS X". Grrrr.

Even the recent donation of the product to the open-source community was too little, far too late. There's nobody there to breathe new life into it.

So I've gone looking for something open source, smaller and simpler, and yet capable of doing what I need done. I've made a shopping list of functionality, so I know when I've succeeded in my search.

I've had a few false starts, including VoodooPad (very impressive, but doesn't scale to the size of this site). So far, blosxom seems a winner. We'll see.

 Tuesday 13 December 2005
  Isaac loves to walk the dogs. Here he's with one of our neighbors (at the Tropicana Apartments).

Isaac dog-walking
 Monday 12 December 2005
  It was standing-room only at the George Peabody Elementary seasonal sing-along. And it was, as the kids say, "mad fun".

George Peabody sing-along

In her pajamas, Lila chooses to end the day pretending to be a pirate. Arrrrr!

Lila the pirate
 Sunday 11 December 2005
  We spend the evening rewarding Isaac for his best attempts at good behavior - teasing his sister is the challenge - by riding the rails. BART, actually, from about 19:30 to 21:30; SFO and Millbrae were the high points.

We stopped of at SFO to enjoy the food court; here's Lila at Ebisu Sushi SFO.

Lila at Ebisu SFO

We had a grand time at the Millbrae BART station, from enjoying the transit-related art to watching the CalTrain coming up from the peninsula.

Millbrae BART station
 Saturday 10 December 2005
  There's nothing better than having son Isaac making orange juice. Thanks!

Isaac makes orange juice

Rose heard that there'd be some Celtic goings-on in Daly City. Sadly, it was a sit-down concert, which, while excellent, wasn't really kid-friendly.


It's the second Saturday of the month, so we head over to Hebrew folk dancing. The kids get about a half-hour and then Rose gets the evening to herself (and her friends) whilst the kids and I do our own things.

Hebrew folk dancing


This is convicted four-time murderer Stanley 'Tookie' Williams, co-founder of the Crips gang in Los Angeles.

Stanley 'Tookie' Williams

His fate looks to rest in the hands of our governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who must decide whether Williams should be executed next Tuesday morning or left in prison without possibility for parole.

I'm against the death penalty because its deterrence value is unclear (to me, at least), mistakes can be made; executions can't be undone, and because a life in prison is punishment; a quick death is over.

That having been said, I find it interesting that the arguments for commutation of sentence are that while in prison, facing death, being fed, clothed, housed, and educated by tax dollars, he's rehabilitated himself. Hey, given those circumstances, who wouldn't? (For the record, he's never admitted any culpability nor pangs of conscience for his alleged deeds.)

His victims are still dead, their families still suffer the loss.

So execute him for his role in killing people, or commute his sentence because killing him is the wrong thing, but please don't make an after-the-act change of behavior the reason to invalidate the sentence. What message are we sending, no matter how heinous your crimes, a few children books and lectures and you'll be spared our society's wrath? Meh. I wish we'd just lose the death penalty, sentence people to life without parole as the maximum stricture, and get on with it.

 Friday 9 December 2005
  Brave New World, Aldous Huxley Even though we live in a world seemingly modelled after Aldus Huxley's Brave New World, complete with mindless consumerism and precious attention squandered upon the meme du jour (be it celebrities, sports teams, etc.), sometimes there's a faint hint of cluefullness:

Cell phones and pagers, part of the technological revolution that was supposed to liberate everyone, is tethering people to their jobs to an unprecedented degree, to the point where family life is suffering. -- (HealthDay News)

Duh; you think?


Continuing with the painfully obvious:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An influential Sunni cleric joined growing calls on Friday for the release of Western hostages being held by Iraqi militants.

"I ask those who have an influence ... to release these hostages. I understand they are in the hands of one of the groups that are defending Iraq and Islam," Sheikh Ahmed al-Samaraie told worshippers at Friday prayers in the Abu Hanifa mosque, one of main Sunni places of worship in Baghdad.

It's so hard to take a religion seriously (even though we all know that Islam is the religion of many different cultures and peoples) when its leaders spend years being silent about the atrocities comitted by a fringe claiming to uphold the religion. It's good to hear some push-back. Welcome back to the community of the humanists.

Islam around the world


food pyramid Clearly a trifecta is in play. Here it comes:

CHICAGO - Cartons of whole milk would be considered junk food, but baked Cheetos would not, under new rules proposed Friday by Illinois education officials.

And people wonder why those of us on the coasts poke fun at those "in the middle". What more can one say about that? Yes, I understand that full fat milk contains fat, and baked chips are better than the previous formulation, but you're doing a pretty bad job of teaching the principles of moderation. That's what the schools are supposed to do.

 Thursday 8 December 2005
  Today's the day that Omi Marga gets her second cataract operation. Her first one, a few days ago, went smoothly. She's thrilled about her clear vision in that eye, and excited to get the second one done. Good luck, liebste Omi.
 Wednesday 7 December 2005
  Senseo coffee-maker The coffee-maker that's sweeping the geek universe, the Senseo, arrived today!

I'm pretty particular about making coffee, and I've always eschewed pod coffee-makers because pod coffee is more limited in variety and more expensive than the brands of coffee I enjoy (like Lavazza (Italy), Kaua'i (Hawai'i), and what I've brought back from trips to the Canary Islands).

However, the offered price (free) and the availablity of pod coffee at my local grocery store and of pod skins that can be filled with the coffee of my choice, made trying the Senseo pretty easy. So here's my review:

Pro: Easy to use. Reasonably tasty coffee without much risk of mistakes due to drowsiness when measuring the coffee.

Melitta 4-cup coffee-maker Con: More expensive. Crema is worrying; what bizarre chemical did they add to the pod to get that froth? Unit is too damn tall for my cottage kitchen; it's bigger than the pictures seem to imply. Feels cheap.

That it's pretty fool-proof is really nice, and the price makes it perfect for an office or a dorm. I can't imagine this being my main drip coffee maker, displacing my tiny Melitta 4-cup model (no longer being made, alas), but time will tell. I will certainly use up the dozen or so pods which came with the unit, and perhaps even see what I can get locally, before making up my mind. Unfortunately, it being too tall for my kitchen, I will be saddled with trying to figure out where to keep this thing....

 Tuesday 6 December 2005
  Finally we get into the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, and as much as I'd like to tell you that my soul was lightened by the experience, that would be a lie.

kids at the de Young

The de Young has no clothes; despite all the hype and a few bright points, it's a depressing execution and a collossal waste of money for much too litle result. Generally it's a shame to our fair city.

The new de Young is a mess of architectural mistakes and poor choices, cumulating with the worst quality of light inside a museum that I've ever had the misfortune to see. (You would swear the place was built by the Fluorescent Lightbulb Benevolent Association.)

Brand new it's got much less presence than the 76-year-old The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The newly-restored Conservatory of Flowers, also in Golden Gate Park, delivers the humidity and flowering plants that make it a draw. And no fluorescent bulbs.

family in the Conservatory of Flowers


I have, for a very long time, advocated for careful and precise writing. On the 'net it's most of what we have to communicate with each other. So it's with a particular pain that I catch the New York Times make such a complete has of the proper use of apostrophes not once but twice in one headline. Hang your heads in shame, Tom Zeller, Jr., and your editors.

New York Times mistake
 Monday 5 December 2005

This morning the sound of the orange juicer was heard again. With memories rekindled (the kids'; mine) the kids coöperated in all steps required.

Lila & Isaac make orange juice

The orange juice tastes better that way, with a dash of love. (For those who notice, that's a tiara that Lila is wearing. It was given to her by Felicia; a goodie-bag from the party. She hasn't taken it off since yesterday, and wore it to school this morning.)

Later today we went to Fune Ya, the sushiya beloved by the kids. The woman in yellow, behind Lila, was *so* impressed by the kids' behavior.

Lila @ Fune Ya, Clement Street

Afterwards the kids wanted dessert, not the vanilla ice cream offered by Fune Ya. Cater-corner is the Toy Boat, where Lila wanted a chocolate-chip cookie, but Isaac felt ill, and passed.

Toy Boat, Clement Street

He didn't get sicker, and fell asleep somewhat easily (after successfully petitioning me for a bit of video on the PowerBook). I hope he's better tomorrow morning.


Kauai, Hawaii, satellite view Guess who called today, and from where?

Dziadziu, from Kaua'i, Hawai'i.

He and Zofia (and another Polish couple) are on another cruise; seven days around the islands. Dad's never been to Hawai'i so this is a real treat for him. He found a great deal before we were able to take a trip with him. If he really likes it perhaps he'll do it again!

Kauai, Hawaii, map Dad mentions that he's in Wimea, soon to see the canyon, and then dinner "somewhere".

I urge him to try to get to Roy's Bar & Grill, in Poi'pu; perhaps the best food on the island. (Roy Yamaguchi is one of the stars of Asian fusion cooking, and my many visits to the restaurant (in a strip mall) have always been the best of times. They have a main course which features smaller helpings of two other main courses, so with two people you can sample four....)

A few hours later Dad calls to tell me he's at Roy's, waiting for them to open at 17:30, a half-hour hence. I hope they made it; they had to be back at the boat sometime in the evening.

I just checked, and somehow I never mentioned Roy's in my previous travelogues. I don't know how that happened. Mea culpa.

 Sunday 4 December 2005
  It's quite a pleasure to get notification of something waiting for us at eVite:
What:Siegmund's 4th Birthday
Host:Felicia and Adam
Location:The Ice Rink at Justin Herman Plaza
The Ferry Building, San Francisco
How:Meeting at the Ice Rink at 1:30. Ice skates can be rented there - we'll have snacks and cake after skating! Remember the Farmers Market is open, so hit it up before hand.

We arrive as Felicia and Adam are putting on skates; Ziggy (in the red flannel) is pretty happy to be celebrating his fourth birthday at the rink. That's grampa Ken with the Yankees baseball cap.

Fel, Adam, Ziggy, Ken

To be honest, I had some trepidation about the whole ice skating thing. Isaac is at that age where failing at something becomes magnified into a whole drama, and my kids' exposure to ice is a few moments last month on a frozen puddle at Þingvellir, Iceland.

I took care of the basics; smart wife Rose remembered how important hats and gloves are. Both kids took to the ice fearlessly. Here's Lilia happily cruising the rink with Papa.

Lila on ice skates

The shock of the day was Isaac's talent at skating. He went from holding the rink's edge to skating by himself in minutes, with really good speed and technique! Nobody could believe it! (I haven't skated for about fifteen years or so, a day or two at the old ice skating rink out in the Avenues. Before that, it must be twenty-some years ago. And as a kid I skated on frozen ponds.)

Isaac on ice skates

Skating done, everyone exhausted and overheated, we head over to the tables covered with presents and coffee and bagels. The kids help Ziggy watch the candles being lit, and then sing him a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday. (That's Bubbie standing next to Rose.)

Ziggy's party (I

Zadie cold - but in his new electric scooter - and the kids pretty much used up, we head back to MUNI to end this adventure. Thanks, Ziggy, Fel, and Adam, for getting us to try this. It's a winner, and I'm sure we'll be at the Moscone rink frequently. Isaac as a hockey player?

 Saturday 3 December 2005
  The morning starts again at May's Coffee Shop, where we meet up with Gary & Kate (whom we missed last week). Quickly, though, we have to run to spend mid-day with Serafina & Cynthia. Even that seems to be over too quickly.

Then I get to take Lila to a sing-along at a near-by school. I used to do this a lot more often, and we're both happy that I'm doing it again.

Thanksgiving III is a roll-your-own sushi dinner with Adrienne & James, over in the Sunnyside neighborhood of San Francisco. Here we are, around the dining table, wielding the sushi nori, vinegared rice, and slices of fish. It's really tasty, and doubly fun because it's so unexpected a treat. Thanks, A & J!

sushi dinner

The star of the show is baby Declan, as babies always are. He's got a bright smile, and tonight was the first time he fed himself. For an hour, at least, he sat with us at the table and nibbled on rice and a bit of everything else.

baby Declan with Adrienne and Rose

On the way home we cross over Twin Peaks; Isaac asks to stop and play on the rocks (as we've been doing since they've been babies). So we do! Here's Lila hiding in my sweatshirt to keep even warmer than she was in her fleece jacket. (Blurry? Yep. Bad Casio digital camera.)

Lila & Papa on Twin Peaks
 Friday 2 December 2005
  Whew! The sun is out, everything is drying up, and I'm finishing up work both professional (a client's job at contract end) and personal (travelogue for our Ibiza & Iceland trip).

FluMist influenza prevention logo Unexpectedly, while Lila gets a traditional pre-school vaccination, Isaac and I get to enjoy the FluMist influenza prevention spray. This is a new experience for us, and a pleasant one. The strange thing is the HMO keeps telling everyone that this is in short supply, but once inside the buildings they're happy to hand it over to anyone 5-45 years old. Strange, eh?

Jim, the manager of the Tropicana apartments, just down the hill, put up the Christmas lights.

Lila: See that? It's the "tooth grabber", for when you have a loose tooth.

(She's talking about the angel in the middle of the photograph.) Of course she means the tooth fairy, about which she might have heard. Isaac, after all, is on his second loose tooth. The message might have gotten a bit garbled :-)

lights @ The Tropicana
 Thursday 1 December 2005
  Welcome to December!

This is my favorite time of the year. Starting with Burning Man, then the autumnal change of foliage, Rosh Hashana, Simchat Torah, Halloween, the lights and decorations, then Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza, New Year's Day, and - when we're in the Canary Islands - El Dia de los Tres Reyes. Ahhhhhhh, such pleasure!


The new month has brought with it some seriously new weather: our pleasantly warm Indian summer has abruptly changed to cold, windy, and rainy. It's been a bit of a shock for all.

rain in California

Yep, it's raining here and (mostly) nowhere else. Still, it's nice to enjoy the crispy air (it gives that fine holiday feeling) and to gaze out on our garden (which doesn't need to be watered, although a good raking is in order).


It's that time of the year; the decorations are going up. Interestingly, even though the stores have been pushing Christmas stuff since before Halloween, it seems that restaurants and residences waited until December. This is from Orphan Andy's, our 24-hour diner, Castro @ Market Streets.

Christmas decorations @ Orphan Andy's


Yesterday I mentioned that I was in Oakland. At lunch I ate at Your Black Muslim Bakery, near the client's office. There used to be a branch in my old San Francisco neighborhood, the Haight-Ashbury. I used to eat there weekly, for both the good food and to show support of a black-owned business. It was the virulent anti-semetic ravings of bakery founder Yusef Bey that finally turned me off.

So imagine my surprise when I got home, the taste of that awesome fish sandwich still fresh, to see (allegedly) the face of Yusef Bey IV, the son of the founder, captured by surveillance cameras as he trashes a convenience store that serves alcohol (forbidden to Muslims).

Yusef Bey IV

While that's an impressive ersatz use of a golf club, we're going to have to work on the whole "disguised while doing crimes" thing.

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