Friday, August 31, 2007

Talking to people is hard

This weekend, we return to our roots as I avoid studying and instead make snide and unhelpful comments about coverage of the week's local news. Let's get started.

Anonymity abounds in this week's Voice, as readers never learn the names of the Old Mountain View residents who are trying to relegate day workers to the poorer parts of town. Elsewhere, a profile of a 10-yeard old rapper includes perspectives from everyone but him. (Correction: I'm an idiot.) And the second part of a two-part series on Orion Park (besides misusing the phrase "begging the question") relies largely on old Voice articles for its information.

However, since posting its original article about a nanny arrested for locking a two-year-old in a car, the Voice has added her name, Juhee Hong, and some background information. (Both articles are still online, just in case the story wasn't disturbing enough the first time.)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bishops face their toughest choice yet: gay clergy or black bosses

After weighing their options carefully, two more US bishops have opted to serve under Africans rather than accept gays in their church. Bill Murdoch of Massachusetts and Bill Atwood of Texas have sworn allegiance to the Anglican Church of Kenya almost a year after two other Episcopal Churches aligned themselves with the similarly anti-gay Anglican Church of Nigeria.

However, the head of the Anglican Church of Kenya seems to be a bit more liberal on homosexuality than many of his Ugandan neighbors. Said Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of gays, "We need to love them, we need to preach to them..."

Maybe he's right: instead of criticizing Larry Craig and Bob Allen, maybe we do need to love them. That seems to be all they wanted anyway, right? Of course, let's not forget the preaching to them, either.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Go to (or run a Web site that books travel to) Cuba, receive a fine. It's the law.

Unless you're NOE, Americans who travel to Cuba can expect to be fined by the Feds for Trading with the Enemy. NOE did not receive a fine for his travel to the Communist island. Perhaps it was because he wore a stars and striped bandana the whole time. Or maybe it was because he promised the government he'd never leave the country again (using his Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards to visit "underrated places" like Houston and Lincoln).

But that's not the main point of this post. This is:

Online travel agent was fined by the old white guys (and one young black woman) in Washington for facilitating travel to Cuba over a six-year period. Like most big companies fined by the government, it paid a fraction of the maximum fines for its crimes.

Maybe more of us would have gone if all it took was a few clicks on Travelocity! I'm going to do a quick Travelocity search for travel to North Korea. I will let you folks in the blogosphere know if I come up with anything. Then we, too, can visit Enemy Nations like NOE.

Minnesota values

You know how I know you're gay, Senator Larry Craig?

You sit with "a wide stance when going to the bathroom," among quite a few other hilarious details.

It's not quite as funny an explanation as "Blow Job" Bob Allen's 'there were a lot of black guys around' routine, but it will still give my brother plenty of punchlines next time he torments my father with lines inspired by the video game scene in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." ("You know how I know you're gay? ... You stared at a guy through a bathroom stall for two minutes while fidgeting with your fingers and later claimed that your actions were misinterpreted.")

Meanwhile, while Minnesota grapples with the possibility that its airport is a haven for sexually deviant senior-citizen conservatives from Idaho, one of the state's native daughters is facing a firestorm of criticism in Uganda for her work as a "homo propagandist."

Former Voice intern David Herbert, about whom I've promised not to say much specific because his current employer is probably reading, sends us the story of Katherine Roubos. The two graduated from Stanford together in the spring and are working as interns for the Daily Monitor in Uganda.

It seems Roubos has made the mistake of writing about gay people in a country where homosexuality is illegal. This has raised the ire of an angry mob that hilariously calls itself the "Rainbow Coalition."
Minister for Ethics and Integrity Nsaba Buturo was also on hand to represent the ruling party. Amidst the cheers of supporters, he assured the crowd that the government has no intention of repealing the ban on homosexuality before denouncing foreign journalists who advocate for gay rights.
As the local editor, it's not my place to criticize foreign governments too much, but a Minister for Ethics and Integrity? Doesn't that sound like something the Bush Administration would have? Herbert's always had a good eye for irony, so he also gives us this:
"This is not journalism, but rather criminal propaganda," said [Pastor and former National Break Dance Champion Martin] Ssempa, who held a young boy in his arms as he rallied the crowd.
Creepy. This man, by the way, receives U.S. taxpayer dollars to spread his beliefs.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The one thing they have in common is that they both belong in jail


Looks like two to three years was enough. Certainly, I can't imagine how much more damage my former boss would be able to do anyway. He'd already managed to undermine the Geneva Conventions, politicize the Justice Department, and even make John Ashcroft look good.

Cable news is splitting their morning coverage between Fredo's resignation and Michael Vick's guilty plea. I have not watched cable news for months, and had forgotten how vapid it is. CNN twice referred to Bush's "stubborn Texas cowboy streak," apparently forgetting the man is from Connecticut. It also quoted Senator John Cornyn -- another Texas Republican -- to the effect that no evidence existed that any U.S. Attorneys lost their jobs for political reasons, and then failed to point to mountains of evidence.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A much-hyped and long-awaited post about parking policies in downtown Los Altos...

... is coming soon, I promise.

But first, a word from our foreign correspondent, who phoned in the following at 2:00 a.m. Saturday night.
Me: Hello.

Foreign correspondent: I have a question. Who would you think, between [four anonymous people] would ... (unintelligible) ... Club de Barcelona ... (Mexican slang) ... tapped out ... (unintelligible) ... That's why Ferdinand Marcos bought his wife 60 pairs of shoes!

Me: What?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Reefer Madness!

A second marijuana bust in the hills provides more evidence of the existence of Mexicans.

Kudos, I guess, to the Town Crier, for improving on its previous coverage by
  • not making unsupported generalizations about entire nationalities,
  • not speculating (at least not as much) about environmental impacts of which it has no proof
  • and not quoting Costco quantities at Safeway prices.
Can't wait for the editorial

Monday, August 13, 2007

Joc's story

It has been a while since I last bragged about my sister.

For the last year, Joc has been tracking down the surviving members of an inner-city Sacramento pee wee football team from 1992 and interviewing them about how their lives have turned out. Many have been and out of jail. Others have died violently. She tells their stories in a three-part series in the Sacramento Bee that began yesterday.

It is very good.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

ALZA leaving, premature ejaculation drug no longer coming quickly?

A sad development, mainly because good people will be losing their jobs, but also because the Voice may now never get to write a headline about dapoxetine hydrochloride.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cold War Redux

While I was on the font lines of the spectacular saga of the poisoning death/assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, I didn't realize it was perhaps the first in a recent string of publicity stunts crafted by the Kremlin to signal Russia's resurgence as an international power.

Since Litvinenko, a former Russian agent, was poisoned with easily traceable Polonium-210 in London last November, Moscow (read: Putin) has (and this list is not exhaustive by any means) waged cyber attacks on Estonia, fired missiles into Georgia and just the other day sent bombers to buzz US military installations on the Pacific island of Guam. Although there is some dispute regarding how close the Russian planes actually got to Guam, the fact remains that Russia (read: Putin) is hoping to revive its standing in the world.

However, Putin hasn't let his military "exercises" do all the talking. He has also been engaging in a war of words with the UK over the continued fall-out from the Litvnenko case, refusing to negotiate on the issue of independence for Kosovo and threatening to point missiles at Europe.

So if you were a Soviet analyst and have been out of work for the last 15 years or so, well, there might be some positions opening up for you about now. And maybe we should all start worrying that every plane you hear flying overhead may be a Russian nuke. Cause that's what I did when I was 6 and I think I may start thinking that way again.

It was the Mexicans

The Town Crier's coverage of last week's drug bust at Hidden Villa blames "Mexican nationals." Writer Eliza Ridgeway attributes this claim, for which she admits having no evidence, to sheriff's Sergeant Ed Wise. You may recognize this mechanism for saying inappropriate things from Pope Benedict, Glenn Beck and my youngest brother, who, when he was little, excused his use of swear words to my mother by saying, 'I'm just quoting someone.' He would then get what she called a 'potsch.'

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Dikembe's Looking for 100,00 Members

Many of you have probably heard of NBA star Dikembe Mutombo's post shot-block finger wags (or at least I hope you have) and hopefully some of you have heard about his charity work.

When I spoke with the man himself in Toronto's Pearson airport yesterday evening, he told me that the hospital he has spent ten years trying to build finally opened last week in Kinshasa, the capital of his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. The hospital, named for Mutombo's mother, was no doubt delayed by ongoing conflict in this country of 60 million. The $29 million project is to focus treating women and children and could not come at a better time. Currently, families of the ill beg outside Kinshasa's existing hospital hoping to raise enough money to pay for the limited treatment available.

Now that the hospital is operational, Mutombo told me he's looking for 100,000 people to become members of his foundation and donate whatever they can - $10 or $20 - to the ongoing efforts. Further, anyone with professional experience, particularly medical experience can volunteer with the foundation. More information is available at the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation website.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Weekly "Special"

While working on a post criticizing the Los Altos City Council for its downtown parking policy vote, I neglected to check out the Town Crier's Weekly section. (Frighteningly, this is the second result out of 168 million on Google for "Weekly Special").

Thanks to Miss L.I. for alerting me to the articles I almost missed:

"In new book, Los Altan claims he predicted 9/11 attacks"
You pretty much just have to read this one for yourselves.

"The agony and ecstasy of Austrian lexicography a spelling kerfuffle"
If that headline does not make any sense to you, the last paragraph will explain what this story is doing in a local paper.
So here I sit with my new speller, trying to figure out when to sharp s (ß) and when to double s (ss), when to write a word together or apart, when to lower or upper case. Turning pages, I chanced across one of my favorite German words, "ausgeflippt," the past participle of "ausflippen," which in turn is a derivative of "flipped out." Used in a sentence: "Er ist (He is) total ausgeflippt." I wonder what behind-the-scenes bartering took place for this migrant word to be permitted to join the party. Ausflippen - ja! American riffraff - nein! Riffraff - I like it! Nein! Never! Biff-bang-pow! (Sounds of a scuffle.) OK - you win! But we get to keep the triple-f in "Schifffahrt." Done.
Make sense now?

Let's go bowling"
Nothing's particularly wrong with this article, but it does technically qualify as another installment in the "Things that are not happening in Los Altos" series.

(To those readers who would have preferred a post about parking regulations, don't worry, it's still coming, because, yes, I am that much of a nerd.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Best bonfire ever


State and local law enforcement officers raided a massive illegal marijuana garden estimated at 32,000 plants -- worth $128 million -- in a remote area of the Hidden Villa land Thursday, according to Santa Clara County Sgt. Ed Wise.

Besides being kind of incredible, this is actually kind of scary, considering the deadly shootout that took place two years ago under similar circumstances near Los Gatos. One loyal reader, who also came up with the title for this post when he imagined police burning the plants to destroy them, immediately zeroed in on the fact that the $4,000-per-plant estimate may be a little high. "Maybe a weed tree is worth that much," he said.

This story raises a whole lot of questions. Who was responsible for this? How did they get in there unnoticed? Does anybody really believe that the financially struggling hippies at Hidden Villa were unaware this was going on? Will this finally get people to consider decriminalization?

The one I'm most excited about, however, is whether the Town Crier will write an editorial trumpeting this as an important victory in the war on drugs, or opt not to cover it at all because it is not the kind of good news that readers expect.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Correction for the next issue of the Town Crier

The tagline on Anita Baldwin's piece about picking up trash mistakenly read, "Anita Baldwin is a Los Altos Hills resident." It should have read, "Anita Baldwin is a potentially crazy woman." The Town Crier regrets the error.

(Still, pretty damn amusing.)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

It's hard out there for the filthy rich

I have been struggling to come up with an appropriate response to today's New York Times article about the poor millionaires of Menlo Park and Los Altos. An article about what it's like to be poor in Silicon Valley would have been far more helpful. Instead, the New York Times decided to make fun of my neighbors. Here's what they have to say for themselves.

"A few million doesn't go as far as it used to."
-- Menlo Park resident Hal Steger

I'm pretty sure he's just talking about inflation. But when you hear someone say this, you can never entirely rule out the possibility that they are a little bitter about the fact that slave trade no longer exists.

"I’d be rich in Kansas City. People would seek me out for boards. But here I’m a dime a dozen.”
-- Los Altos resident David Koblas

In college, I had this idea for a radio show. It would consist of me interviewing people about how they were cool in high school in hopes of getting them a date (which the show would pay for). If the interview didn't succeed, they would get a t-shirt that said, "I was cool in high school and all I got was this t-shirt. If any readers are trying to come up with programming for KFJC this fall, please consider a spin-off: "I'd be rich in Kansas City."

"We could move. But if you do that, then you’re admitting defeat."
-- Hillsborough resident Umberto Milletti

Interestingly enough, this is exactly what I tell people when they ask why I want to live in Silicon Valley. The only difference is that the defeat I'm referring to consists of abandoning the place I love to people who complain about being multi-millionaires.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


I got really excited when I saw the headline for the article "Big plans for St. Francis campus." Unfortunately, the plans do not include, as I had hoped, demolition.

Administrative president Kevin Makley tells the paper that the idea is to "add some things we haven't had before." Not surprisingly, a tolerable student population does not appear on the list.

The Voice's unrequited love

I will give the Voice that Google should be more responsive to the local newspaper. I just seriously doubt that anybody cares.

Here's a fun game to play with last week's Voice editorial complaining about the repeated brush-off: Imagine that an ex wrote it about you, and change the text accordingly. For example, the fourth paragraph becomes:
For my part, I regularly send e-mails to him, inquiring about his plans, among other things. (Like the rest of his gender, he communicates primarily through e-mail.) The most common response I've received is no response at all. The second-most common response is, "I'll get back to you" — followed by silence.
The problem with this analogy is that Google and the Voice were never dating in the first place, despite once contemplating marriage. It has always been hard to get information out of the company, and in many respects was much harder before IPO.

In any case, the jilted lover bit is unbecoming of the editorial pages of an award-winning paper like the Voice, and certainly no way to catch the Town Crier.

I would like to see a story in the Voice to the effect of "Is the GooglePlex good for Mountain View." It is an important question that the Voice is in the best position to answer. Two weeks ago, the Voice listed the tax revenues the city gets from the company, but that was about it. The story neglected to mention the other public agencies that also benefit from these funds, nor any of the other projects, large and small, for which the company should get some credit: outfitting the city with a free wireless network, spiffing up the bookmobile and sponsoring the firefighters' pancake breakfast, to name a few. (I think the Voice's critique of the company for adding to traffic is misguided: Google has long had one of the best transportation demand management programs around).

The company's success is also, it would seem, a contributing factor to Mountain View's ongoing gentrification. This is a good thing if you already own your home, unless you own your home next to the newest location for a whole bunch of luxury homes. If the Voice wants to complain about Google, it should complain about how the city's poorer residents have had to move away or crowd in with their friends and families as their apartments have become more expensive or been converted to condos. It's certainly a more compelling story to tell than the one about the company not returning reporters' e-mails.