Saturday, August 30, 2008

You, too, could be a victim

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Los Altos police have accused three people of trying to blackmail a Silicon Valley businessman by threatening to publish video of him having sex with an alleged prostitute.

Poor guy.

The alleged extortion ring probably had other victims as well. Police searched the home of one of the suspects and found cell phones, cameras and computers with footage of other men visiting prostitutes, said Detective Sergeant John Korges of the Los Altos Police Department.

"How many more victims are out there who don't know they're victims?" he said.

Probably not too many, but just in case, if any readers have recently had sex with a prostitute you met on a social networking site and faced demands to pay a lot of money or have videos of the encounter posted online, you might be a victim.

The alleged scam began when the businessman, whose name is being withheld by police, contacted the prostitute on a social networking web site, police said. They arranged to meet, and had sex in a Palo Alto hotel room.

About a week later, the man received an e-mail containing explicit photos of the encounter and demanding $250,000.

The businessman - who Korges said is in his 50s, married and has children - contacted police. Acting on their suggestion, he arranged a meeting on Thursday with the alleged extortionists at Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, a location police chose to minimize the number of people nearby. He also haggled with the alleged extortionists, convincing them to lower their demands to $50,000.

Nothing undermines a blackmail attempt like having the Chronicle printing that you are willing to settle for 20 percent of your original demands.


Police said they have not located the prostitute.

Whatever, we're rich

Grace Acosta is usually one of the few tolerable writers for the Town Crier, so I have been trying to give her the benefit of the doubt for this week's tired column about how much Jason Lezak pulling off one the greatest swims meant to Michael Phelps.

It's hard though, given sentences like this:

At a time when it seems like “whatever” can be a response to everything from “Soup or salad?” to “Atrocities are being committed in Darfur and the Congo,” there is nothing more gratifying than witnessing someone care a lot and/or express joy.

If my hometown doesn't have a motto (and I can't seem to find one anywhere online if it does), I propose that we adopt "Los Altos: Where "whatever" can be a response to genocide."

Loyal readers may remember that it can also be a response to earthquakes in China and flooding in Buurma.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Maybe a giant birdhouse or the world's largest jungle gym

Everybody's got an idea for what to do with Hangar One, at least so long as somebody else is paying.

Imagine for a second that the hangar never existed. Now imagine that somebody offers to pay the Navy $500,000 for the right to build a giant steel skeleton that is going to cost somebody -- either the public or some enterprising business -- more than $10 million to either use or demolish. Is that a deal the public wants the Navy to take?

The Navy announced last month that it could strip the hangar's contaminated siding and clean its steel frame for about $500,000 less than it would cost to take down the whole thing. (Notably -- and I'm only pointing this out to needle my sister's fiance -- the costs of demolition are more than twice the Navy's original number, but the estimated costs of fully restoring the hangar are also much higher than previously suggested).

That simple comparison tends to obscure the point, though. If the Navy goes with its preferred option, at some time in the future somebody is going to have to put up a whole lot more money either to replace the siding or to take the structure down.

Anna Eshoo, resisting calls to get the federal government to be this somebody, framed the issue to the Voice's Daniel DeBolt as follows:
Further appropriations money "would have to come up in a new Congress," she said. "I don't think it's news to anyone that dollars are scarce. When the country is spending $2.5 billion a week on the war it really hits home. Funding for infrastructure, funding for education -- as sad as it sounds all of these areas are really pushed. If this is to be a priority I will work on it. But it's tight, everything is tight."
I'm not ready to admit that tearing down Hangar One is the best option, but it is refreshing to see a Democrat actually stand up against earmarks. I suppose that it is a little easier to do so when nobody is even in place to benefit from this one.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Over the LATC's Head

Despite my recent resignation from this blog, NOE has yet relinquish my access to the site. So, I feel compelled to post, though I will resist from posting about how NOE and Koland's Labor Day Party at their new place in LA has been canceled and instead post about our favorite whipping-boy/rag the Los Altos Town Crier.

A while back I posted about local scholar David Grewal's new book Network Power and how the LATC probably would not cover it. Well, either LATC staff reads this blog or they actually flipped through the copy Yale University Press sent them a few months ago, because this past week someone "special to the Town Crier" decided to review it. But don't worry folks, the LATC hasn't lost its touch. The reviewer complains that it was over her head and makes a comparison of the theory of network power to that of String Theory. She wishes Grewal could use "techniques of creative nonfiction" to clarify his argument. If anyone knows what "techniques of creative nonfiction" are, please let me know.

Oh yeah, and for a more educated review of Network Power, check out today's Boston Globe.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My sister, gardening neocon

Recently retired from the Sacramento Bee, my sister apparently has nothing better to do than go on local public radio and suggest I am naive about pest control in gardens.

Ironically, just days after her piece aired, I remained alone among my family members in both knowing of and heeding the brown apple moth quarantine, which, as a reminder, prohibits moving fruit out of yards in Los Altos, Mountain View, and most parts of Los Altos Hills.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Maybe they are compensating for something

Since you keep asking, the 140-foot phallic symbol next to City Hall is a communications tower for the police department, and not just a way of taunting local peaceniks for their pole on the other side of the library being only eight feet tall.

One of the most interesting parts of this story is that it turns out "monopole" actually is a word.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The waterfall in the neighbors' backyard is really for the good of the community

A few backdated posts aside, it's been, in the words of Jim Anchower, a long time since I rapped at ya.  So I won't argue with you guys if you want to call me lazy for writing about a letter to the Town Crier rather than something for which the paper was itself responsible.  But Barney Dragony's complaints about increases in water rates are too positively Los Altan for a blog purporting to be about Los Altos to ignore.
Water rates - (sic) don't reward the slobs

Unbelievable. We Los Altos citizens who keep our town looking nice by keeping our lawns and trees green plus adding the very essential element, oxygen, to the atmosphere are to be penalized for doing so, while the slobs among us get rewarded for letting their properties dry up and go to seed and blight our town. Unbelievable!

Suppose we all get together and let the town revert to a desert. Swell, I can just imagine the uproar.
Five bucks says his proposed solution is to pay people based on how much water they manage to use each month, generating the revenue by a tax on people who irresponsibly conserve electricity.

Somebody call a doctor

I've got Olympic Fever.

UPDATE 7/13: And also a massive crush on Natalie Coughlin.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

"лицеме́риe" Means Hypocrisy in Russian

And so does invading Georgia.  With the world's attention distracted by the spectacle and controversy of the Beijing Games, Russia invaded Georgia to support the breakaway province of South Ossetia. Thus far about 1500 have been killed.  Russia has constantly opposed any independence movements (and most recently opposed independence for Kosova) so as not to give any legitimacy to its own rebel province of Chechnya.  So, this recent move of violating the territorial sovereignty of a neighboring country to support the splintering of a country seems a bit inconsistent, no?

Violence has been reported in the Georgian city of Gori.  Gori, is the hometown of Russian hero Joseph Stalin and high on the Foreign Correspondent's list of places to visit since Gori boasts what is presumed to be the world's last standing statue of Joe Steel.  So far there has been no mention on any damage to the statue...