Sunday, April 27, 2008

Irony Among Thieves

In which we're a little miffed but enjoy a sail
Saturday dawned one of the clearest, brightest and balmiest days San Francisco has seen in a string if pretty nice, clear, bright, balmy days.

As is my wont on such days, I decided to go for a morning bike ride through the city before going to get some exercise at the gym. I lit out down the hill and decided on a cruise through the Mission District.

Down on Valencia, I noticed a new addition to the street -- new to me, anyway -- in the form of a large City College of San Francisco campus building, decorated with an enormous, full-color facsimile of a Mayan calendar, complete with a scowling sun god at its center. Interesting, thinks I. I guess the redoubtable intellectuals of CCSF have decided that the Mission must always have been, and will forever and always be, a Latino barrio. To celebrate that historical pride properly, it seems, one must adopt a fantisized and glorified version of pre-Columbian south-of-the-border history.

Never mind that until the 1960s at least, the Mission was a majority Irish and German-Irish neighborhood, though McCarthy's, on Mission St., is gone, replaced by a "Cha Cha Cha" Spanish tapas franchise. And never mind that its current dominant ethnic demographic will no doubt one day change again -- as it already is changing, and sweepingly, as gentrification, so called, sets in. Nevertheless, the powers that be have carved the 'hood's identity in stone. Or, in this case, some kind of polymer.

That's identity politics for you.

Whatever. It was getting late in the morning, so I wended my way toward my gym, intent on parking my bike at my office garage, which is across the street from the sweat factory. I realized, however, that I'd failed to pack my office security badge.

Now, I only have -- or rather, had -- a little spindly-ass little cable lock for my bike. This was good enough for Studio City, where the only things that ever get stolen are screenplays. But San Francisco is a veritable den of bike thieves. So rather than lock up my bike outside the gym with insufficient security, I pedaled up to the Walgreen's on Market to see if, perchance, they offered a stouter contraption -- I mean, they have just about everything else, right? I locked my bike to a tree and went inside.

A came out ten minutes later empty handed -- and my bike was gone, spindly-ass cable lock and all. I looked up the street and down the street. Nothing. I asked a little man selling craft jewelry on the sidewalk. Nothing. $350 plus a recent tune up ($75) down the tubes. There was nothing I could do but mope and catch the bus home.

I hate the bus.

Well, Sailing Takes Me Away, Anyway
Friday evening Jeff, who I work with, invited me to for a sunset sail on his 31-foot Catalina, Chumley. We prepped the boat at her slip in South Beach Harbor, in the shadow of the ball park (Giants vs. Reds), and set sail at about 7pm. The sun was still high above Mt. Tam so we were in good shape. Ebb tide; Wind: 15-20 knots out of the West.

We headed North under the Bay Bridge, hit a short dead patch and then found a lift and launched ourselves toward Alcatraz on a close haul, Chumley heeling a good 15 degrees, but no more. It was all pretty much perfect. Sailing toward the island, we caught sight of a Maersk container ship steaming in through the haze at the Gate. We altered course to avoid her tacking back toward Crissy Field for a while, then tacked again back toward Alcatraz, splashing crazily over the container's huge wake.

We weren't going to make it around the island and get back before dark, but we satisfied ourselves with a close drive-by. With the sun just sinking behind Tam we sailed close and got what was most magnificent view of the former prison island that I've ever seen, the dusk-stained ruins casting long shadows as sea birds swooped and screamed above. It was truly Gothic.

We gibed east-south-east and headed back toward the Bay Bridge, catching a big lift on the way. Now we were heeling 20 degrees and flying along between 6.9 and 7.1 knots -- and I was at the helm. Sailing a big boat is different than sailing a small one. In a small boat, like the ones I trained on, the boat can heel 20 or 25 degrees and you're still just a few feet out of the water. On a big boat, a 20-degree heel will bring you high into the air and give a much bigger sense of motion, like the boat's about to go over. I had a few moments there.

In addition, Chumley has a wheel. I'm used to a tiller. You point a tiller in the direction you want the stern of the boat to go. You turn a wheel in the direction you want the bow to go. I made a few rookie mistakes. (But then, I am a rookie, you know?)

We sailed back to the harbor, taking a turn around McCovey Cove to listen to the Giants lose for a while. Splendid evening in all.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cool BNET Video

In which we test some stuff. (Pay no attention to the blogger behind the curtain.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Don't Make Me Buy This Car

Or this one, either...
I hate cars. No, that ain't right. I love cars. Cars are cool. I just hate owning them and paying for them -- gas, maintenance, washing... all that crap.

But two cars have recently struck my fancy, one available now for a song, the other available a little later for a more of a duet.

Mercedes Smart ForTwo Pure

Base Price: $11.5k
Mileage: 40/45 mpg

Cute, functional, cheap, pretty efficient, really, really easy to park and from a quality brand -- available now.

The Aptera

Hybrid diesel-electric three-wheeler that started out as a kit aircraft. Expected to be on the market next year. The Aptera company is currently taking reservations.

Price: "Under $30k"
Mileage: 230 mpg (6oo mile range)

decisions, decisions...