The State of the Narrative

“You know, whether you send a bomb or receive a bomb it’s important to remember that we have some very fine people on both sides.”

Albert Ross – Colorado
From comments to NY Times article After Bomb Scares, Trump Tries Bipartisanship, Then Blames the Media

Two weeks before the November elections and all kinds of stories emerge. We are guided by narratives which is really about shining light on certain realities.  Assassinated journalists close to home reporting on events far away. Strange, explosive packages in the mail. Disenfranchised, vulnerable people migrating north from Central America in search of peace and opportunity. All events true and all extremely symbolic.

I cannot help but think what is the big deal about the migrants coming north. There are so many crappy jobs to fill in the United States of America that we should just open the doors and let them in. “Here’s a pizza and I think there may be a gig cleaning toilets at the Trump hotel or gardening at one of his golf courses. But be careful. Many people in El Norte are pretty stressed and on narcotics.”

One of the narratives which is perhaps heavier than anything in the news is the latest story in the New Your Times about the sorry state of the Pacific Ocean off of California. California’s Underwater Forests Are Being Eaten by the ‘Cockroaches of the Ocean’

If our oceans die, we die. That should be obvious. The intelligence of homo sapiens is way over-rated.

Nevertheless, remember to vote and if you do not vote you are letting some nutcase determine your future and you have nothing to complain about.

The Quarterly Report – September 2018

As the news-cycle screams forward with ever-more velocity, here is your San Francisco quarterly report – a condensed look at all the really important things going on around San Francisco over the last three months. Perhaps this sounds presumptuous, but I think as a species we often have a difficulty slowing down and observing and taking note of what is going on around us and documenting these events and changes.

San Francisco elected London Breed as new mayor. She is the first African-American woman to be mayor. So far so good, but her election was one were the progressive side of the San Francisco Democratic party was left eating their lunch. As often the case, some pretty clever politicking ruled the day as Ron Conway surely pulled some switches with some big cash and clever strategies. Often in politics if there is no news that is good news and people are simply doing their jobs but you never know. It will be interesting to see how long the big open smile on London’s face will keep smiling. City politics always gets controversial in San Francisco but things are pretty much the status-quo. Homelessness everywhere. The Tenderloin full of junkies and shopping carts for storage and portable closets. Skyscrapers leaning evermore one direction and lots of cranes all over the place building condos and stadiums.  The Golden State Warriors stadium is being built in record time. Seemingly two feet above sea level and that place will have a shelf-life of twenty years or until the next iceberg melts.

The usual op-ed writers dig into familiar positions. The latest is Tim Redmond bashing Heather Knight.  I think that what really needs to happen is for BART executives to draw straws to get the job of cleaning the 16th Street BART station for a year . That would get people a bit more focused at the top and they could make a reality TV show about the whole thing and make millions. They could call it “Strange Smells” or “Altered States of Vomit.”

The fire season was pretty much on fire this summer. There were so many fires you kind of lost track. I am wondering if the next time I go up to Lake County there will be any trees left at all. I am sure there are still burns going on now as it has not rained yet. A few months ago, in San Francisco you would wake up in the morning to white ash dust sprinkled lightly all over your car. This is getting so common now that you hardly think twice about it.

We are heading into our Indian Summer weather but so far the North West winds have continued to blow and we have had just a few warm days. It really is anyone’s guess what kind of rain we get this year. I have always been of the mind that our water supply comes down to five really good storms that last about three days each and dump all that snow up in the Sierra. This happened in January 2017 but last year was pretty dry overall. Mother nature does always bat last even though we think we are omnipotent, she always has her way in the end.

Speaking of batting, while the San Francisco Giants are almost in last place the ever-scrappy Oakland A’s are looking to be heading to some sort of playoff birth. I have not followed them this year but, being the fair-weather fan I am, will watch and root for them down the stretch. Barry Zito do you still have that curve ball?

Tech Industry and Google Buses
Here they are. A gaggle of Google buses. In the mornings they leave. In the evenings they return, pushing there way back into the city. Raising the rents and making it impossible for people not on the same pay-scale to live San Francisco. I hear this sort of tech-commuting is happening in other cities as well.

Here is a gallery of Google buses for those who are interested on what they look like up close. What is interesting is that they have no advertising on the sides. Sort of ironic as most the people in the buses are in the end working to market and sell something. You would think they would have the imagination to leverage the situation but then again perhaps they prefer to try to be incognito. Pretty sneaky.

Sunsets are Beginning
One of the things that keeps people living in this golden state are the sunsets. The fog is starting to push back and we are starting to get those great autumn golden colors and magical light with its sharp, crisp shadows. Hopefully by the next report I can talk about all the great rain storms we will be getting.

Until then.

Epiphanies from Hotel Stebbins

On vacation for a few weeks. Out of the fog and fires of California it was good to be in Wisconsin for a family reunion then Minnesota for a week, working out of my sister-in-law’s house in Minneapolis. Ninety degree weather made for great working conditions, shorts and a t-shirt – the fan set to “hi” blowing the air around. Lots of recreation on water – a pontoon boat ride, canoes, sailing and kayaks. Much enjoyable visiting with family and old friends. My sister even got married and we had a nice memorial for my mother who passed away five years ago.

For a few nights we stayed in a hotel room in Algoma, Wisconsin at Hotel Stebbins, one of the oldest hotels in Wisconsin. I highly recommend Hotel Stebbins as the rooms are nice and it is pretty darn cheap. Also you are downtown and close to the beach, winery, antique shops and brewery.

“I prefer someone who burns the flag and then wraps themselves up in the Constitution over someone who burns the Constitution and then wraps themselves up in the flag.”
– Molly Ivins

In all of the rural areas of the Midwest it seems as though people have gone flag-crazy. You see them flying up and down main streets in the front of most houses. It seems that all the Trump banners of 2016 have been replaced with American flags. I am not sure why people are now so obsessed with this symbolic emblem of our country but perhaps it is a sign of insecurity. I always liked the Molly Ivins’ quote “I prefer someone who burns the flag and then wraps themselves up in the Constitution over someone who burns the Constitution and then wraps themselves up in the flag.” which would be wise to post on large billboards in these fly-over states. Indeed, it would be good to hand out copies of the United States Constitution to all these flag waving mid-westerners for they surely need a refresher course.

In the hallway of Hotel Stebbins was a whiteboard with what were called “epiphanies.” Seeing as it is Sunday and a day of reflection, I post some of them here. Good stuff!

Never argue with an idiot, people watching won’t be able to tell the difference…
– Unknown source

You must do the thing which you cannot do
– Eleanor Roosevelt

Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.
– R. Scott Fitzgerald

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent
– Eleanor Roosevelt

Work hard in silence. Let success be your noise.
– Unknown source

Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes
– Oscar Wilde

It always seems impossible until it is done.
– Nelson Mandela

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
– Helen Keller

San Francisco Jury Duty – A True Story

Mission 14x bus to 6th and Bryant Street

Called into jury duty after deferring once. I took the Mission 14x bus to 6th and Bryant Street. On the first day the vague details and outline of the case was explained. On 6th Street and Market in front of the Baltmore Hotel a murder had taken place in 2012. A man with a gun shot another man and there was an accomplice. Both defendants were African American males around the age of 25. Both were large, dressed in button down shirts and ties. One of the defendants seemed to have at one point been beaten as one of his eyes was at an unnatural skew.

The middle aged Asian judge was a rather playful fellow who talked incessantly about food and providing a lunch of sticky buns for all the chosen jurors  and that “wasn’t it great we were not at the dentist!” He tried hard to make jokes but the humour fell a bit flat. Good thing he is a judge and not a comic. He then proceeded to demonstrate his prowess in three Chinese dialects and said that if you were Chinese American and did not understand English it was not an easy way out.

5 Spice Chicken for Lunch – Reading Time – Really Bad WIFI

During the jury selection one of the defendants lawyers went to great lengths to try to find if people had implicit bias. It was interesting to hear from the diverse potential jurists and their takes on implicit bias which lead to the discussion of racial profiling. Concepts of data and metadata as relating to phone calls was brought up and interestingly the prosecutor seemed quite naive about such concepts. Let us explain. The actual call is the data. The time, date and location of the call, which the phone company surely knows, is the metadata. There surely is more to data and metadata in this case but that is the basics.Two younger folk in the technology industry were released. A few others were released due to past histories.

Mission 14X bus to 6th and Bryant Street

A few people called as potential jurors seemed quite intelligent. A few lawyers, a retired Professor named Brown who had written a book about police conduct in Los Angeles filled the room with interesting observations.  A few people related to police officers in the case were dismissed. A funny old Latina grandmother a bit hard of hearing and maybe with a screw starting to come loose upstairs admitted that because years ago her purse was snatched by an African American see could not trust “those blacks.” At one point people laughed and she shushed them which made it even funnier. She was dismissed.

Lunch in the Park on Harrison – Rain but Some Sun

We are down to the final jurors and the alternates and the judge states that juror selection is coming to an end. It is looking like the 80 or so people left in the room will not be on the jury. I am starting to relax and thinking how cool the whole process has been – how interesting the conversations were and how nice it was going to be to be in a building that actually had ventilation. For some reason the entire wing in this part of the Hall of Justice had no air. It was hot and the air was stale – a bit sufficting really. And just when I started to think how the poor ventilation systems probably made for some interesting escape attempts from the county jail I heard “Paul Lyons” and then there I was – “In the box.” Out of all the people in the room, I was the last juror called. I picked up my bag and took my seat.

Of course there is a list of questions on the board that I had to answer – occupation, family and years in San Francisco. The first defense attorney read my answers to the questionnaire that I had filled out a week earlier.

“I find it odd that the judge seems compelled to bribe the potential jurors with promises of food. I think that jurors should be paid a fair wage for their service.”

That is all that I had written thinking that I would never be called. The room burst into laughter.  I did not realize that I had used the words “bribe” and “judge” in the same sentence – not exactly prudent.

Next, the second defense attorney started grilling me to which the prosecuting attorney for the first time actually objected to a question – “Objection Your Honor!” – that I do not now recollect. Everything started moving very fast. I do not remember my exact answers to the next questions at that point but I remember stating that “the jury process, while not perfect is a good thing and the best that we have. I played my cards very close to my chest.”

Other recent seated jurors were asked similar questions. Due to the questionnaire we had filled out a week prior, one of the questions was about the ability to be comfortable with seeing photos blood and of gruesome scenes. Paradoxically the rather tattooed and pierced woman sitting next to me stated that she was “uneasy about looking at gruesome photos of blood” but in the end confessed that she would get over it and be a willing juror and could handle it.

A few minutes later the three lawyers and the judge dismissed themselves to the chamber in back  and came out soon after to swear in the three alternates none of which were me. In other words, I was dismissed.

A truly strange, interesting but edifying experience. Time to write the judge an apology letter and thank him for his service. I will mail it to him in May, long after this trial is done.


The two men in the trial were convicted of murder. Let it be known that the jury was quite diverse. There were three black people on the jury – one a black woman over 65.  An Asian man. People of all ages. The evidence must have been clear. I read online that the San Francisco district attorney expressed that both of the men would “spend the rest of there days in jail.”

The whole thing is a sad story. Two boys born into a society where the cards were stacked against them. A stupid series of decisions. A culture of poverty, probably struggling schools, violence and revenge.  I cannot help but think that the real crime goes much deeper. It is a crime against humanity – a failure of humanity.