Archive for August, 2008

Zyzzyva in the LA Times

The LA Times had a nice piece today about Zyzzyva. The San Francisco litmag is still edited, after nearly 25 years, by its founder Howard Junker, though Junker is threatening to retire next year. I was charmed to read that Junker was a technical writer before being laid off by Bechtel, whereupon he founded the litmag. (Of course, the last time I was laid off by a high tech company, I finished my first novel during the downtime. And now look at me. I’m a technical writer again. And trying to finish my second novel.)

A tech support approach to a better community

That decaying building on the corner — haven’t you wanted to report it to someone? Those idiots speeding down your block — can you get the city to install a speed bump? How about that gaping hole in the sidewalk outside your neighbor’s house — somebody could get hurt. Why doesn’t someone do something?

If you’ve ever wanted City Hall to work like tech support, your dream has sort of come true. A new website, SeeClickFix, will take your complaint and create a trouble ticket. More than that, in San Francisco they’ll automatically forward the problem to the appropriate SF Supervisor’s office.

more after the jump

Photog’s SFMOMA confrontation and aftermath

Local photographer Thomas Hawk blogged 10 days ago about a confrontation he had at SF’s Museum of Modern Art with Director of Visitor Relations Simon Blint. After spotting Hawk taking pictures from a museum balcony and arguing with the photographer — who is well known for his strenuous defense of his right to photograph in public places — Blint had Hawk 86’d, asserting his duty to defend the museum’s employees from harrassment.

The incident became widely known after BoingBoing blogged about it. Last Thursday the incident was analyzed at 10 Zen Monkeys, which tracked down and interviewed a security guard involved in a 2006 confrontation with Hawk. The 10 Zen Monkeys post, by author “Destiny” (for that matter, “Thomas Hawk” is also a pen name), depicts Hawk as a hothead who used profanity in the 2006 incident, which ended with the security guard being fired by his employers. Hawk also recently called for a boycott of Hyatt hotels after security personnel in one of them forbade him to take pictures in the hotel lobby. And Violet Blue blogged about another 2006 incident here on SF Metblog.

Clearly he doesn’t shrink from confrontation. While I tend to admire loudmouthed people who call attention to the abuses of authority, I also think the tactic can be self-limiting. What looks heroic in the short run can, after many repetitions, wind up looking merely quixotic at best, and at worst become an exercise in Ralph Nader-type egotism. But as technology makes ever-more-intrusive inroads on privacy and organizations become more secretive, I’ll come down on Hawk’s side — especially when he’s attacking institutions and not just individuals.

Dept. of Schadenfreude: ‘From the penthouse to the outhouse’

A man whom police said was a transient living in his car before he allegedly ran over and killed two elderly women — one of whom he had to reach out his driver’s side window to push off the hood of his car before speeding away — was a former elite Silicon Valley engineer whose team invented a cancer-eradicating x-ray machine. But C. Wayne Cox, now 66, was laid off from that job in 1996 in a re-org, divorced two years later, and fell off the map. The white-haired former engineer was arrested while surfing the web in a Santa Clara public library after the librarian recognised him from news reports.

What happened? — the foggy edition

In a town that loves people named Barry, the First Asian President visited San Francisco, cashing in to the tune of $7.8 million. Said Barack Obama to a heavily ethnic crowd: Ich bin ein desi.

The Giants’ Tim Lincecum struck out 10 over 7 2/3 innings, leading the Giants to a win over Atlanta, meaning that Georgia was having a bad day all over. Georgia does, however, have two golds and a bronze, one of the gold medals coming in women’s shooting. Maybe if that gold medal shooter were back at home, they wouldn’t have already lost the war.

One of the Dhaliwal brothers injured in the tiger attack is going to prison on a parole violation in a case that had nothing to do with the fatal mauling of his friend at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Day.

Mission accomplished: recycling bins to Houston

Progressive Reading Series organizer and well-known local author Stephen Elliot writes in the Huffington Post of last night’s successful event to raise money for recycling bins for Houston. They raised enough for 276  18-gallon bins, and more importantly raised the profile of the recycling program of the Texas city.

Houston to accept donation

Marin Squeaking By Another Transit Fee Hike

Golden Gate
So in the Chron today, some relief that the Golden Gate Bridge Congestion tax is off the books. Quoth the Chron: “..congestion-based tolls would hit North Bay commuters hardest. They called it “a Marin commuter tax.” OK, but Marin has never been a team player- let’s remember that Marin didn’t want a BART extension back in ’61 (well, I don’t remember it personally…). From official BART history, as stated on their site:

With the District-wide tax base thus weakened by the withdrawal of San Mateo County, Marin County was forced to withdraw in early 1962 because its marginal tax base could not adequately absorb its share of BART’s projected cost. Another important factor in Marin’s withdrawal was an engineering controversy over the feasibility of carrying trains across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Kind of hard to believe Marin couldn’t afford BART. Ongoing, in subsequent votes they still nixed public transit: “Since then, Marin voters have rejected rail measures in 1990, 1998 and then 2006.” (from Marin Independent Journal)

Anyone from Marin? Care to respond?

p.s. Tipped off from N-Judah Chronicles the other night on the history of Marin’s lack of fair play in the Bay Area transit game. Congrats on Best of the Bay!

Houston to accept donation from SF literati

Following up on Monday’s post about the folks at SF’s Progressive Reading Series having trouble getting Houston to accept a donation to help the Texas city purchase more recycling bins: the Hairballs blog of the alt-weekly Houston Press reports the Houston mayor’s office will accept the donation, as long as the requisite paperwork is filled out. Whew, glad that’s settled.

‘The Conversation’ to be a TV series

One of the most critically-acclaimed films of the great era of the 1970s, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, will be adapted for television by AMC, the same network with the hit Mad Men.

The 1974 film, starring Gene Hackman as a nerdish, inhibited surveillance expert, was shot entirely in San Francisco, and features extensive scenes in the pre-remodeled Union Square, the newly built Embarcadero Center, and the Cathedral Hill Hotel on Van Ness, then called the Jack Tar Hotel. The plot concerns Hackman becoming overly-interested in a conversation he’s recorded on behalf of shadowy corporate figures. As in Antonioni’s Blow-Up (and its American adaptation, Brian DePalma’s Blow-Out,) Hackman’s interest in small, unnoticed details of his record of the meeting get him into trouble.

The series would be set in the early 1970s, the same era as the film, according to the news report. Whether it would also be shot in San Francisco remains to be seen. AMC’s Mad Men, set in early 60s New York, is filmed entirely on a Southern California movie lot (as shown in this blog entry by Mad Men cast member Rich Sommer).

Proposed Muni route changes: Bryant Street’s out of luck

Courtesy SFist — which provided a huge public service by untangling the stupidity of Muni publishing dozens of proposed route changes on dozens of separate PDFs — here are all the proposed changes to Muni routes posted to SFist’s Flickr set. SFist rules today.

Among the several radical changes:

  • Bryant Street is totally out of luck. No more service in the Mission District or South of Market. That means that if you wanted to take a bus to or from the Hall of Justice — like if your car was towed and you wanted to get it back — you have to catch a bus on Folsom and then walk two blocks.

More changes after the jump

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