Thursday, August 16, 2007


Anyone else out there who's a housing bubble and crash junkie like myself?

You've probably been following the Countrywide situation... and OMG, and honest-to-goodness run on a bank!

Meanwhile, customers crowded into branches of Countrywide Bank today to withdraw as much as $500,000 at a time because of concerns about the financial problems of the mortgage lender that owns the bank.

Everyone said this couldn't happen, right?
So now the billion dollar question is:
Is Countrywide too big to fail? Will this jackass get a government bailout?

it's ok, real estate always goes up. Just keeping buying, folks!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

In the "damn, I didn't think he'd be one of the ones to get taken down" news, Craig Hightower died today in Oakland.

OAKLAND - A man was killed Tuesday morning near Chinatown when the motorcycle he was riding was brushed by a SUV causing it to hit a parked car and eject him into a retaining wall, police said.
OK, and seriously, "brushed by a SUV!??!?!!??!!" Cars do not "brush" motorcycles. How a writer and editor allowed this to be printed?!?!? Correction: the SUV driver hit the motorcycle. That kind of bullshit writing makes me really angry.

Craig wasn't a friend of mine, just one of those staples in the Bay Are motorcycling community, in the vein of solid riders you just assume will be riding around into their 90's.

Motorcyclists die all the time (so do car drivers, McDonald's eaters, and skiers, for that matter) and I see a hell of a lot of bad riders out there. I expect it when they go down, and I vacillate between callous and frustrated by their actions and attitudes and impact it has on the rest of us. But there are a lot of riders who I consider to be in it for the long run, more skills, less stupidity, just better, right? When I consider the weight of "motorcycles are dangerous...." comments, I simply group myself with the better riders, the ones who will be going into our old age on our bikes. Some are my friends, others just people I know about. I feel secure(ish) in knowing that there's a sub-set of motorcyclists that the public doesn't consider, and that being a part of that sub-set makes me safer.

But it's not necessarily the case.

There are still hurried SUV drivers trying to "brush" even the good ones. There are moments our minds drift. There are moments when a driver comes up with some maneuver so completely beyond any bizarre or stupid thing we've seen before (and we have seen a lot of bizarre and stupid driver tricks)

And then you're done, extinguished, and in conversations with people who don't know the difference, tossed back into the group of failed squids, as yet another example of why motorcycling is necessarily deadly.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

If only I could get a loan to buy more tulips

The Fed is leaving rates where they are today!

Am I worried about the credit crunch and recession? Yes.
Do I recognize that sometimes we have to take our medicine even though it's unpleasant? yes.
Do I feel bad for all the speculators ("homeowners") who will be stretched to or past their limits? Not really.

Rates were too low, too long. We put off reality for a long time with easy funny money. But now it's time to take the medicine. There has been a lot of bad news in the mortgage sector this past week, and credit is tightening everywhere. It may be painful, but it's far past time for this.

Fasten your seatbelts! Tulips do NOT always go up.

Doped up on Dramamine

Saturday night I worked at New Wave City and got in about 2 am. Which meant that I had gotten about 4 hours of sleep when the alarm went off at 6:30 am. No matter! There were BIRDIES and WHALES to go visit! And they would have no lateness.

We got to Fort Mason to meet our boat at about 7:30. I had already taken my Dramamine Less Drowsy an hour before takeoff time, and so at 8 am, we were on our way! With about 40 other people. One of whom was some Marina chicklet (she had not fully grown into a Marina chick, as she was not wearing heels or carrying a large purse) and her boyfriend. She complained about her hair and the ten pounds of makeup she had dutifully applied getting mess up as we made our way out through the bay and into the ocean.

I had worn my entire riding get-up, sans helmet, which, as it turned out, was a very fortunate outfit. Standing on deck gets you really, really wet. And it's cold too, but mostly, wet. Seawater, which is super salty and tastes icky. We stood on the deck most of the time, as sitting inside is more for people who wish to get seasick, which I did not.

We first made our way up along the coast of Marin, never getting close enough that I would have the misfortune of meeting any Marin people. We did come upon some harbor seals in a cove, balancing their fat carefully on tiny rocks. Puppies!

Out at a bouy, we found a bunch of sea lions playing in the water. The picture doesn't do it justice. They were jumping up out of the water over and over, and when they traveled as a pack, they were jumping and propelling themselves they way we imagine dolphins doing, only with less finesse and showiness.

We quickly left the sea lions when someone spotted a whale nearby. And as we chased that whale (not really chased, just trying to get closer), and everyone got to the front right of the boat, I was left on the left side of the boat, and something weird was in the water near our path. At first thought? Dead body. No, wait, too much surface area. Not a whale, too ridgey. Then, holy CRAP! The biggest damn turtle I have ever seen! It's unfortunate that I did not have the camera at this point, because I had a very, very clear shot of this thing. I have never seen a turlte in the wild before, and certainly not on e like this. It must have been about 10 feet long? And was floating near the top of the water nearly directly by where I was standing. Beautiful!

Once the captain saw what we had found, he kind of lost his shit and got on the horn to tell all of the other boats, which all stopped whatever they were doing to rush over to see the Leatherback. Leatherbacks are very rare to sight, and very, very endangered. They will most likely be extinct within the next decade or so. To bad, they are cute. And could probably be saved with some party hat fashion, to warn fishers to get them out of their nets.

After all the other boats had come to see the turtle, and it had become less easy to see anyway, we went back on our way, stopping here and there to see whales. The rest of the people on the boat were starting to get seasick as we headed out to the Farallones, so I thought maybe I'd better take a second dose of Dramomine Less drowsy to make sure I did not get sick. Big mistake! That stuff mess you up! Two days later, and a whole lot of extra sleep hours, and I am just feeling normal again.

The shape of the Faralonnes through the fog emerged slowly around the same time the smell emerged. Nature is stinky, and noisy. As we pulled close to them, the noise of the sea lions and gulls is nearly deafening. The islands are covered, literally, with birds; Cormorants hop up the rock face, murrs are hanging out on the beach, gulls are flying around picking stuff out of the water and carrying it up to the top of the rock (I guess they are nesting up there?)

As we floated away from the Faralonnes, we found the water teeming with jelllyfish. I had also never seen jellyfish in the wild, and to see so many was, frankly, a little much. Somebody should eat them! Like the Leatherback, but unfortunately, he was nowhere near there.

Coming back to the bay was a long trip, and everyone was basically passing out. Trying to keep my eyes open on the way, Paul and I sat in the front of the boat by ourselves and got to see several more whales. Each time we saw some whales, people would rush to the front of the boat and then we couldn't see anymore, nor could I sleep. Bummer. This must be when I got sunburned as well. Fortunately, I was wearing a hat to keep the sun off of my scalp.

Eventually, we came back to the bay, where the water got choppy again, and we saw some porpoises. The porpoises were not all that exciting, because you could barely see them in the water. They were not feeling like putting on a performance for us, apparently.

We got back to dock around 3:30 I think (I was so out of it by this point, I just wanted to nap, and could not be bothered by any more whales) and then headed back to Berkeley, where we took a nap, hobbled to dinner, then returned to bed. We were in bed by 8pm! Monday morning I had to be at work early, but still managed a good 9.5 hours of sleep. Unfortunately, no amount of sleep would cut through the thick cloud of Dramamine, and I was drowsy all day Monday as well.

We went whale watching with and I highly recommend them. they seem to really like what they are doing (there is a lot of cool info and pictures at their website) and they allowed a good deal of flexibility in going to see what we wanted, when we wanted. Good times!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Never Trust a Robot

Paul and I had dinner with his mom last night for Birthday Dinner II.

We ate a ton and polished off a bottle of champagne (mainly Paul's mom and myself)

Paul's mom drilled him about his job. I do this too sometimes, because I worry that Paul isn't all that engaged in his job. I want to him to enjoy work and be challenged! Little did I know how dangerous his robot job could be!

Tonight is Birthday Dinner III.

I'm enjoying relaxing a bit while I'm not in class. I think my two Fall classes start in about a week, so then it's back to a somewhat crazy schedule. For now? Long walks around the City, whale watching, and sitting in the hammock with the cats.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Paul's Birthday, and OMG- Stuffed!

Last night was Paul's birthday, so we went to Indigo for dinner, where we opted for the wine dinner (after 8pm, they'll pour as much wine as you like off of a list of like 12 wines, with a prix fix menu) My food was tasty, but it was too much to eat, so most of the dessert course went uneaten.

Fine, after Google food all day, I'm not all that hungry.
There is a ton of food here now, but I mostly avoid the crap. After the initial few days of wonder, I've toned it down quite a bit. Today is like this so far:
8:30 coffee and oatmeal (organic, maple nut)
10:30 about 1/2 cup of nuts (organic, mostly cashews, but with almonds, walnuts, and those big nuts I don't know the name of)
12:30 LUNCH! snap peas (with some teriyaki sauce), salad, and some really tasty fruit (organic: strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe)

Really, the worst thing is probably the nuts. I shouldn't eat so many. But it could be worse. I mean, just look at what they are tempting us with in the snackroom:

OK, so this is just one of the snack fest areas. There's actually a bigger one upstairs. And every day there is something new. Like yesterday they added an espresso machine. And new cookies. I am declining all of this though. I do appreciate the veggie food though, and the fruit is awesome!

Anywhooo, we enjoyed Paul's birthday dinner and had presents. Paul is impossible to buy things for. What did he get? A new camera? Well, OK, so I'm the one who mostly uses the camera, but whatever. So there's finally a decent camera. Mine sucked and Paul's old one broke last week. So, yay. What else? We are going to look for birds on a whalewatching cruise this Sunday, out by the Farallone Islands. Cool! I don't know why birds go out to watch whales, but I'm not going to argue. Birdies!!!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Weekend, with birdies!

Saturday we went to Boulder Creek for a surprise birthday party. There were babies and mojitos with no liquor and some very noisy Bong brothers.

Sunday afternoon, we decided to go for a little walk that turned into a 12 or 13 mile hike. We started with beer (of course) and hiked out toward the Presidio. This took us through some fancy-pants neighborhoods, where the only really good way to piss off your 7 million dollar neighbors is by posting a giant robot out front next to their chateau. Bonus if your giant robot appears anatomically "correct."

Paul stopped to pop some flowers, and then found a house he liked.

Heading down the Lyon Street steps, we found some great views of the bay and Alcatraz. I found a house with nifty glass and stuff.

At the Presidio, we played on the wartoys and then wandered around a bit looking for lunch. Instead, we found parrots. Laughing at us. No pigikeets these! These were big and green and had a different call than the ones in Berkeley or at the Embarcadero. They were too shy to photograph.

Out by the water, we found a little marsh that had been reclaimed and set aside for birdies. There were a ton of seabirdies that we hadn't seen before. They were rather noisy, and enjoyed divebombing the pond. Fishing? Or just screwing around?

We finally got out to Fort Point just as they were closing. We just got to run in to the main interior area as they were telling us to get out. Bummer. But we caught some nice touristy photos at the Fort Point parking lot.

Then Paul climbed down to the rocks to make the starfishes famous. He apparently forgot that we were close enough to the ocean to get waves, and got splashed a whole bunch.

On the way back from the Fort, we found this friendly bird of prey. He wanted to play with us, but was too shy to ask. Oh well. Better luck next time, birdie!

The hike home was a bit of a death march, but we did make it back around 7:30, in time to return to Berkeley to visit cats and clean up the birdfeeder (catfeeder?)

Wednesday is Paul's birthday. He is teh bestest.