Friday, May 28, 2004

It's always nice to see that the US isn't overreacting to any ill defined threats: Bad Story

Me and the little family are headed to Sutter Creek, Ca this weekend. I've been there but the pictures make it look bucolic and laid back. Some friends just finished renovating a house up there and it's one their 40th birthdays so off we go. Should be fun camping out with Samantha. I think she's only slept in a tent outside once before. Though she's slept in a tent on the floor of her bedroom many times.

Here's hoping that everyone has a great memorial day weekend. Until next week.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

I've been way off the back with the blogging. Things at work have been a bit hectic. I partner has gone on vacation for 3 weeks (3 frickin' weeks!! Selfish turd) and the other's brother in law just died of a drug overdose so he's gone to LA for the funeral and general sobbing. So here I am working 10 hour days and waiting patiently for my turn at vacation which begins on June 19th. In addition death related news yet another messenger has killed himself. It's no one that works for me, but I knew him if only from afar. He'd been in the SF messenger scene for a long time, worked for alot of different companies, was one of those familiar faces that I'd always see at the bar on Fridays or at the Wall during the day. He was a drunk and I'm sure he had some trouble with drugs. I suppose the whole long tragedy that is life for some people became too much to bear and he hung himself. Two years ago another troubled soul who was messenger killed himself in the same manner. Things must really bad in order to actually entertain killing yourself much less do it. It's hard for me to envision things being so bad. But who knows, perhaps the act was committed while under the influence and in a sober state it wouldn't have seemed like such a good idea. It's an interesting thing about the messenger community, it's a very accepting home. Many messengers started out with no intention of doing the job for extended period of time but find a group of like minded individuals (over educated, smart, creative) in a unique scene that continues to exist in style as punk rock as punk rock ever was. The scene has artists, writers, photographers all with varying degrees of motivation. A number have successfully published books about the scene (check out: Kyle Shepard or The Immortal Class) or have gone on to sell art works. You often hear about people going from city to city and being messengers, checking out the scene and then moving on. In that way messengering is a lot like being a waiter. It's a skill you can take anywhere and if you're good at it you'll find decent work in any large city. I fell back on it when I moved to San Francisco from Washington DC. The problem with the scene is that it's very forgiving, even accepting or arguably encouraging, of bad habits. There are alot of drinkers, pot smokers, speed users in the scene and there is little that discourages them from using. The messenger scene gives many people who would have a hard time functioning in "normal" society a way to make money and friends who share in their progressive degradation without a word of caution. It's an odd little insular cocoon for some people. Of course I'm speaking in only the largest generalities here. The truth is that most of the long time messengers I know are responsible people, very intelligent and very satisified with the path they have chosen because it provides them with a flexible schedule, a relatively high paying living for what it is and the space to do what they really love. Some are artists, some are bike racers, all are unique. I don't remember exactly where I was going with this except to note that another messenger has taken his own life and while I didn't know him well there are undoubtedly friends and family who did and they will be pondering the questions of why he killed himself.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

If you haven't seen the documentary "I am Trying To Break Your Heart" about the band Wilco you should really rent it. It's a great film. If you're a Wilco fan you've probably already seen it, but even if you've never heard of the band or its music you'll find the doc engaging, fun, entertaining and you just might discover you've got a new favorite band.

Work has been fairly stressful lately. Due to a clerical error on the part of our bookkeeper we bounced some checks which has slowly ballooned into a progressively more complicated situation in which the bank no longer gives us immediate access to deposits but insteads holds deposits for 15 days. It's a pain in the ass to run a business without access to your funds for 2 weeks. It's slowly working itself way out. No more ATM deposits for now. Live tellers only. Explain to everyone at the bank what happened and that we're not evil doers trying to bilk the bank out of their hard stolen money. All this after 6 years of banking with not one bounced check. Bottomline is that it was our fault. Our books are a mess. After my wife gets finished with school she's going to go over them and try to put everything in order. I can't even tell you if we're profitable right now, much less what our break even point is. My wife the MBA to the rescue. If she can figure out what's going on with the books of Pixar I think she can put us in order.

Had a delivery to a street I'd never heard of before today. That's a rarity after 12 years in the SF messenger biz. The street is called Knockash Hill. I don't why anyone needs to know that, but it's a good street name and must have some interesting history to it.

The new Morrissey CD came out yesterday. I bought it today. I'm not gay or depressed. I just happen to like Morrissey. Leave me alone.

I do a good imitation of the cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn. Remember the big rooster? Next time I'm drunk at your house ask me to do it.

There's a very good editorial in this weeks SF Bay Guardian (the better of SF's two weeklies) about the way the media covered the recent release of a study that showed that todays more potent (higher THC content) marijuana is leading to a greater level of addiction in users, it's called the "potent pot" theory. Basically, as I understand it, a study was done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism comparing survery data from the years 1991-1992 and 2001-2002. What the scientists found was increase in "abuse" and "dependency". The resulting conclusion that more potent pot was getting more people hooked was trumpeted by many, many news outlets from the LA Daily News ("Stonger Marijuana makes more Addicted") to the Seattle-Post Intelligencer ("Abuse and Dependence rise as Marijuana becomes more potent"). The problem was/is that there's no evidence that this is true. And thanks to the complete lack of journalistic intelligence in this country (and I blame the Bush Admin for this) no one interviewed opposing view points or even looked further into the study.

The scientists who did this study used the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (the APA's official diagnostic manual) definitions of "abuse". The manual allows the classification of anyone experiencing "legal problems related to marijuna" as "abusers". So what happened during the decade between 1991 and 2002? The number of arrests for marijuana rose from 300,000 in 1991 to 700,000 in 2001. Could this increase in "abusers" simply reflect the renewed focus of law enforcement and the draconian drug laws that our country employs? Even more importantly the study found the signifigant increase in "abusers" almost entirely amongst young hispanics and blacks and almost no increase in whites of the same age group. I think this difference can simply be chalked up to the fact that in our country people of color are at a signifigantly higher risk of arrest for drug crimes than whites.

The link to the editorial in SFBG isn't working right now, which is why I just typed all that in an effort to paraphrase an interesting subject. I'll post the link in case they get it working at some point SFBG Editorial

I don't want this post to make people think that I'm a big pot smoker or even an advocate of legalising marijuana. I simply believe that when anybody manipulates statistics, data based studies or the media for their own ends (be it pro government line or anti) it is deceptive and patently unamerican. What I am an advovate of is good clear thinking, sensible approaches to challenging problems, and the constant questioning of the status quo. In fact I believe that's the definition of a good liberal.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

So after much deliberation I decided to try to live my life for one day by following the edicts of bumper stickers. I figured the easiest one to start with was "Practice Random Acts of Human Kindness". Seems pretty easy. So as I was walking to work through the scenic environs of South of Market I noticed a semi-sane lady crossing the street in front of me. I say semi-sane because after working in this neighborhood (indeed this city) for so many years I've got good "questionable sanity" radar. There's also an Episcopal Sanctuary across the street from my office and this building seems to leak broken toys of a human variety at the same pace as the Exxon Valdez leaked oil into the chilly waters of Alaska (at this point say to yourself in a very toy like high pitched voice, "nobody wants an elephant without a trunk" while picturing an unwashed male of indeterminate ethnic identity holding a bottle of Cisco and singing Xmas carols with his pants around his ankles). Anyway, this woman crossing the street in front of me had on a pair of brand new red Pumas. By red I mean the Puma stripe and soles were red while the rest of the shoe was white. A good looking shoe. So in my initial efforts to try to live by the creedo "Practive Random Acts of Human Kindness" I decided to compliment her on her shoes.

"Nice shoes," I say pointing at her feet.

"You like my shoes?" She says. "You want to buy them? I'll sell them to you cheap."

My first conumdrum had been encountered. I didn't want her shoes. I just wanted to let her know that her wise fashion selection had been appreciated by another person and she should keep-on-keepin'-on-sister (hand held in fist of solidarity here). In order to complete my random act of human kindness I wondered if I was now required to buy the shoes off the womans' feet. I didn't want her shoes. I started to wonder if this was a "teach a person to fish vs. give them a fish" type of scenario with some biblical implication that I wasn't grasping. I certainly couldn't afford to put her through cobbling school and had no idea where to find a cobbler for this woman to apprentice under. I can't be completely sure that this woman knew what a cobbler was (unless she was well versed in desserts and that would produce a whole different conversation with hysterical sitcom like overtones that eventually would lead to a clever pun on Devils Food cake).

So here I was left toe to toe with a woman who wanted to sell me her footwear because I'd complimented her on them. I shudder to think about the position I would have been in had I told her she had nice tits. There was really only one way out of this mess and that was to use the same bumper stick philosophy that got me into it. I said, "shit happens" and moved along.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Thus far these are my favorite rationalizations by the neo-cons for the prisoner abuse in Iraq:

Rich Lowery in the National Review blames the loose morals of the country (specifically the lefts I'm sure):

"Then, there is the very fact of the pictures. The American jailers, who live in a country where pornography is a $10 billion-a-year business, became amateur pornographers�If they had done this stateside in different circumstances, they might be very rich and perhaps even up for an Adult Video Award."

Rush Limbaugh says:

"If you look at these pictures, you cannot deny that there are elements of homoeroticism �I've seen things like this on American websites. You can find these if you have the passwords to these various porn sites, you can see things like this."


"This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time� You [ever] heard of [the] need to blow some steam off?"

So you see it's all our fault. Us liberals I mean. We're just fucking up the whole country.

I didn't watch the video of Berg being beheaded. It was easy to find. Alarmingly easy actually. But I just couldn't bring myself to watch it. This despite a generally voyeuristic aspect of my personality. There isn't much I won't seek out if I'm curious about it. But we, as a country and people, are so desensitized towards violence through video games, movies, and the general blood thirst of the media that watching the Berg video began to feel more like tuning into a cool reality TV show. The outrage that the video is producing just seems so rote and mechanical to me. It's the same kind of emotional turnout that an episode of "Cops" produces: "Man that's so fucked up! Did you see that redneck run right into the side of that double wide trailer. That was crazy!" I think the same kind of thing applys to the US abuses of Iraqi prisoners in Iraq without the video element. I also think that the American people are applying a kind of boys-will-be-boys attitude to those appalling instances. Perhaps because we don't have a convenient video of the Iraqi prisoner abuses it makes it harder for us to "believe" in it.

It is currently an ugly world that we live in.

This show is redeeming: www.spiketv.com/shows/series/index.jhtml?seriesID=10774

There's a show on the Spike TV channel called "Most Extreme Challenge" or something close to that. The show takes a japanese game show that's basically a bunch of regular people being forced to navigate a variety of absurd obstacle course and then overdubs it with english. It's very funny in a "Mystery Sciene Theater 2000" way. The english writing of the show (the dialogue that's dubbed over the japanese contestants) is so clever and usually follows the contestants mannerisms so closely that you end up half way convinced that these people are really saying these absurd things. Anyway, very funny. Go watch.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Greetings ladies and germs. It's been too long or as the song by America (or is it Bread? Is there a difference) goes "I've been one poor correspondent...(I usually just start humming the lyrics after that)". Can we consider blogging correspondence? A correspondence is a 2 way street and blogging tends to go just one way even with the comments aspect of the blog. My slightly lame attendence here at Different Hours speaks to a problem I had in college when I would take classes that involved keeping some kind of journal that had to be turned in at the end of the semester. I'd start strong with many well thought out entries concerning early American Romantic poets or the dietary habits of the Yanamano indians, slowly get distracted by college life and eventually spend 8 straight hours the night before the journal was due creating a semester of entries. At least I was smart enough to use different pens for each entry.

My wife is currently engaged in the Atkins diet. It's totally counter intuitive to me. No fruit, but go ahead and have as many t-bone steaks as you'd like. No bread, have a whole turkey. Fortunately she's not riding alot right now, otherwise I think the diet would make her loopy from lack of sustaining calories. Myself i recently had my yearly physical and am pleased to report that all the bits and pieces are in good working order. Thanks to an active lifestyle all the vitals tend to fall well within the high end of the healthful range. This is totally boring information but it's also a clarion call to all readers who are over the age of 35 (that's just about all my friends at this stage of the game) that you should be getting checked out regularly at this stage of the game. It sucks to be poked and prodded (and prodded in all the wrong places) but if (God forbid) you're going to get sick it's best to catch it early. And please remember to spay and neuter your cats.

We've started taking credit cards at work, something that in the past always seemed like a time consuming burden. However this state of mind was developed when there was so much business that we could pick and choose accounts and dictate payment terms. We basically didn't want to deal with a customer who only wanted to do one job and pay by credit card. I've come to realize (in this more challenging and realistic economy) that anyway to bring in revenue is a good way to bring in revenue. CC Info is entered in a "virtual" terminal through a website. It's all really quite easy, I don't know why exactly we never did it before. The best thing about it is that it allows current customers to pay their bills via credit card if they so choose. That's a good thing. It's another step into modern business practices for the little company. Pretty soon now I think we may even take out an ad in the yellow pages. I know, I'm talking crazy now.

Samantha turned 5 years old on Sunday. Unbelievable. It's just silly how fast life goes once you have children. I think it's that you have such an obvious, in your face way to mark the passing time. I look at her and can't believe that I used to hold her in the crook of my forearm. Now I can barely pick her up. Crazy.

Monday, May 03, 2004

once again I'm lazy on the blog. My current time muncher is that I've been spending a fair amount of time on the road. It's nice riding and the weather's been great. I also had a couple of long days in the office, which happens from time to time. Billing goes out the door and it's another month of waiting to see who pays their bill. Doing collections pretty much blows but it's part of the game. I hate when you get an attitude from people like we're imposing for asking for the money that's owed us.

Samantha has strep throat which pretty much took up my whole day. Had to go to the doctor then get the anti-biotic scrip filled and the whole time she's just miserable. A real trooper though. She perked up in the afternoon and seems normal after a half day of anti-biotics. I think we caught it in time. There are a couple of kids at school that have had strep so when she started complaining about a sore throat and had a fever I didn't hesitate to go to the doctor.

I believe our relationship with the dismissed employee is officially over. He opted not to take COBRA for his health benefits, returned his radio and charger, and got his final check. I think we've seen the last. This is a good thing. I'm trying to work the schedule so that we don't have to hire by putting myself and one of my partners on the road a bit more. It's good for our bottom line as well because all the work that we do goes untouched by payroll taxes, commissions, workers comp, etc.

I put a new bottom bracket in the Surly and i think the spindle is just a couple of millimeters longer than the old one because I have some unfamiliar aches in the knees and ankles and hips. I'm sure I'll adjust but I'm no spring chicken these days. I've also committed to stretching more, but please no lectures about how great yoga is. I promise to be better about posting.

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