Sidewalk memories

I have many vivid memories of San Jose from when I was a kid, and one of them revisted me this morning while Diego and I were out for a walk. A few doors down, we encountered this guy on the sidewalk.
He was just enjoying the sun the same way Diego does, until the dog decided to sniff him — then off went the lizard, faster than I would have expected, toward the flower beds.
When I was a kid, my grandparent’s backyard was a playground of lizards and frogs, and now I am waiting for them to arrive in my own San Jose backyard along with the hummingbirds.

New Old Companion

Doctor Who fans around the world waited for this day, and it did not disappoint — Sarah Jane Smith, probably the most favorite companion of the Doctor, returned to the TARDIS tonight. And it was wonderful.
I just finished watching the episode that aired tonight through the magic of the interweb; and this was the first time that Doctor Who made me cry. I won’t spoil it for you, since it is likely not to air in the U.S. for some time yet; suffice it to say that after being unceremoniously dumped back on Earth all those years ago, Sarah Jane has some unresolved issues… as does the Doctor. And for the first time, a current companion has an opportunity to speak to a former companion and compare notes, pondering the future after traveling the universe.
I like this new Doctor Who because of its emphasis on characters — it still has rather flimsy sci-fi plots that often don’t make much sense and rely on some silly deus ex machina to defeat the bad guy, but the continuing growth of the characters (including the Doctor) is something that was always lacking in the old series. In just 18 episodes, the new series has grown the characters more than the old one over nearly 30 years.
And the return of K-9? Icing on the cake, my friend.
I’m in Doctor Who fanboy heaven right now. And a little sniffly.

The Color of New Money

Oh my gosh — have you seen the new $10 bill? I got one in change today and didn’t even notice until now that it is yellow with “We the People” and the Liberty torch on the front. Cool! I like that our money is beginning to have some color, it will help differentiate the different denominations. And it just looks cool.

Zoom zoom zoom

I got my helmet, and spent the morning tooling around on my scooter, taking the back roads I’ve never seen around here — just a few blocks away from my house is the San Jose Rose Garden, and for the first time I wandered through the residential streets behind it discovering mansions and houses that would make Wisteria Lane look plain. Broad streets with large houses where the money just drips off the manicured lawn. Still, I prefer my smaller, more diverse and egalitarian neighborhood just on the other side of The Alameda.
The thing that struck me as I rode around was that it smelled so wonderful — the flowers and trees all blooming, leaving a scent in the air that I never discovered in a car.
I went about 7 miles, and now I’m topping it off with a few cents of electricity while I have lunch. Just a note for those of you interested in an Oxygen Lepton E: it’s very noisy when charging, because a fan turns on to cool it — a noisy fan. Since it is living in my garage, I don’t care much, although I will probably use a lamp timer so that it doesn’t sit there overnight with the fan on — it only takes a few hours to charge completely.
Next stop: a hardware store so I can find some string. Yes, string. You see, the scooter has two keys — one is a regular key to start it, and the other is a little security dongle that is required to start the motor. The slots for each are on opposite sides, so they can’t be put on a single keychain; I want some string or a chain to attach them to that is long enough to let them both be used while strung together.
And this is my big plan for the rest of the day.

That strange feeling of freedom

My scooter arrived this evening, and it is a blast — it’s funny how it imparts a feeling of freedom that you don’t get from walking, biking, or driving.
By the time I got a chance to ride it, it was already dark, and combined with chatting with neighbors I didn’t have a lot of time to ride around — but a few times around the neighborhood was so much fun, with the cool evening wind in my face and odd sensation of a nearly silent electric drive.
It is now resting in its new home in my garage, charging up for a few hours. On tomorrow’s agenda? Gotta go get a helmet, then I plan a bit more joyriding around the neighborhood — technically I’ll be bending the law, since I have to mail in a form to get plates for it, and then take tests and whatnot to add the appropriate endorsement on my license — but hey, it’s just a little scooter. I hardly think I’ll be run into the station house for taking it out for a little spin the day after I got it.
If you are with the San Jose Police, please ignore everything I just wrote.

Another day, another warrant

I’d love to laugh about today’s news that Rush Limbaugh has been arrested on drug charges… but does anyone give a damn about Rush Limbaugh anymore? I mean, with all the indictments and arrests and general scofflaws among the conservative set, does this really qualify as news?

Because he’s a terrorist target, I guess

Yet another example of the Republican’s inability to learn from the past:

The Republican House leadership, hopping aboard the new anti-oil-addiction campaign, staged a fine media event yesterday at a BP gas station at Ninth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE that featured a hydrogen-powered car.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.), along with other top House Republicans, was photographed in and around the snappy blue General Motors HydroGen 3 van.

The event followed one by Senate Democrats on Wednesday, who rode in their gas guzzlers to an Exxon station a block from their offices to blame Republicans for high fuel prices.

Hastert, who appeared to have walked to the station, left in the very fuel-efficient vehicle, apparently headed for his office. But he went only a block or so before he got out and stepped into his pre-positioned gas-guzzling armored SUV to take him back to his office. Alert photographers, suspecting a ploy, had followed the speaker and captured the bait-and-switch.

Hastert’s spokesman insists that the speaker’s security detail claimed it was too dangerous for him to ride in the fuel-cell van, demanding that he ride in the armored SUV.
I despair over the complete lack of intelligence that is a hallmark of the current crop of conservative Republicans. I mean, can’t they see how easy it would have been to score points at the expense of the Dems by showing the speaker actually using a clean fuel vehicle, unlike the gas-guzzling display by the Democrats just the other day?

Meanwhile — and I use that word a lot when I wrap up a blog entry — just sitting in a fuel cell car is not actually the same as doing something to facilitate their adoption, and is even farther from doing something to facilitate the development of energy sources that are more efficient than hydrogen, which is not as clean and green and efficient as they’d lead you to believe.

Close your eyes, it’s an adult record

It’s the old American refrain: sex should be an expression of love for producing children… but once you produce them, never let them know that you had sex to create them. It’s dirty and immoral.
This is an issue right now, because my friend Sara’s album, due to hit stores June 20, features a wonderful painting of a couple in the style of the Kama Sutra. It is both funny and sexy at once, because the painting — I’m not gonna give it away, sorry — is more “realistic” than what you’d find in that ancient book.
But this turns out to be too much for retailers.
Now, we’ve all seen what can be termed as “raunchy” or “explicit” record covers over the years, and this one is neither. Still, concerns were raised over the reaction of retailers when they’re asked to stock the CD. I’m solidly in Sara’s camp, the folks who say that the cover is not only funny and artistic and loving and real, but is a great reflection of a woman’s life, soul, and emotions as depicted in the songs within.
My attitude is that a little buzz about the cover — is it or isn’t it too explicit — can only help raise awareness of the album and some of the issues that Sara addresses in her songs. Like the tagline on the cover says, it can “start the dialogue.”
But reality being what it is, we’ve had to come up with a few contingency plans over the last few days, and I’m afraid that one of them might have to go into effect — hopefully, it will be the one that is least objectionable and doesn’t change the look and feel of the artwork — let’s just say that I had to go in and do a little Photoshop work the other day. I’m really disappointed about it, but I did my best and I hope that no one even blinks because it really doesn’t change much at all.
Meanwhile, here beside my computer I have a few copies of the radio station promotional disc, which has the original, unedited artwork. It might end up being a collector’s item in the end, who knows?

40 more years to go?

I find myself wondering if I am having a mid-life crisis. I’m not entirely certain what a mid-life crisis really entails, other than the sorts of symptoms you hear on sitcoms.
But let’s take a look at the last year, shall we?
I quit a job that, while not very lucrative financially, was comfortable and secure and sometimes enjoyable.
I sold my house (at a huge profit, at least) and left everything and everyone behind to move to San Jose, California.
I bought a house in California for more than half a million dollars. I have poked around for nearly a year without a full-time job and even though I am looking, it’s somewhat half-hearted.
Yesterday I bought an electric scooter. I know that I will enjoy it, like I enjoyed having a moped years ago — but my analytical mind is railing against it because I will never save enough money in gas to recoup the cost.
I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life; and if “mid-life” crisis is an accurate moniker, then I have about another 40 years left to muddle through.
Do I want to be a creative director? Or do I want to do something else? What am I qualified to do, anyway? Damn these whizkids of today, they may know the hierarchy of CSS and futz around with AJAX, and get their ASPs in a row, but do they know anything about type, about leading, about how to hang a quote outside the margin nicely?
This from a guy who never used a waxer and never cut any rubylith. When did I become the old fogey?
Maybe I need to take some classes or win the lottery. Or both.
Meanwhile, my scooter comes today, so now I have to deal with the DMV yet again. Even fun means bureaucracy.

Putting my money where my green is

For the last year, not having a full-time job has meant that I don’t drive much — which, of course, is good; but when I do need to run around a bit to the post office or bank or library, I hop into the Prius and go. Unfortunately, those short trips are really bad in the Prius — or at least, relatively so.
For the last few months, I’ve been averaging 34 miles per gallon in the Prius, a respectable figure relative to most cars, but pretty bad for a car that is supposed to achieve up to 60 (which, of course, it rarely does).
So, I’ve been looking for some kind of electric vehicle to run around the neighborhood with. It’s been much tougher than I expected, especially here in supposedly “green” California.
Finally, I discovered Electric Motorsport in Oakland, run by the über cool Todd Kollin. Turns out that he is an artist and filmmaker in addition to knowing far too much about electric bikes, scooters, and motorcycles. His film combining a squirrel and ubiquitous product placement had me laughing out loud while my credit card balance shot up.
Yes, I bought an electric scooter — no, not the kind that they sell on those commercials during The Golden Girls, it’s the Vespa kind. Called the Oxygen E (Lepton), it has a range of about 30 miles, and runs up to about 30mph. It charges for pennies and puts out no emissions — although, of course, the generation of electricity is polluting somewhere upstream.
Well, when that perfect job comes along, I’ll get the solar panels installed, and that will boost my green cred.
I always wanted to get an electric vehicle, and now that I have a garage (with power, obviously) I can charge ‘er up! I can go downtown without having to hunt everywhere for a parking space… I can zip over to the library or the bank without using gas, and if I get a “trunk” for it, I can even go do a little shopping, all on battery power. Even more incentive for finding a job within downtown San Jose, eh?
This is my response to the pitiful, transparent, and downright ridiculous sop from Bill Frist today, who wants to give $100 checks to every tax payer as a way to ease the gas price crunch. He says that the government will roll back some of the huge tax breaks they gave big oil companies to pay for his plan; why the government doesn’t just send those checks directly to Exxon is beyond me, it would save a lot of money in postage and printing.
A lot of politicians are coming up with plans: a $100 check, stopping deposits to the strategic oil reserve (duh, this is exactly why we need to KEEP making deposits, for the coming crisis), suspending taxes on gas… but none of the Republican idea men think that we should require higher mileage cars or stop giving huge tax incentives for Hummer purchases.
I swear, sometimes I feel like I am living in some bizarro world or a secret social experiment by otherworldly beings.

Do as I say, not as I drive

Oh, dear. When will politicians ever learn that the little things, the details, are what causes their downfall?
A bunch of Democrats decided to hold a small press conference at a Capitol Hill Exxon station, where the price for regular unleaded is $3.10. (Here in my neighborhood, regular is $3.35.) They gathered to point fingers at oil men Bush and Cheney.
I’ve been to that Exxon station, it is about a block away from the Senate office buildings, and something like four blocks from the Capitol itself.
And did they demonstrate a spirit of conservation, an example for Americans who are guzzling gas like it was cappuccino?
Well, Barbara Boxer of California drove in a Chrysler LHS to go one block. Charles Schumer drove in a Hyundai Elantra.
And more:

At about the same time, House Republicans were meeting in the Capitol for their weekly caucus (Topic A: gas). The House driveway was jammed with cars, many idling, including eight Chevrolet Suburbans (14 mpg).

… After lunchtime votes, senators emerged from the Capitol for the drive across the street to their offices.

Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) hopped in a GMC Yukon (14 mpg). Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) climbed aboard a Nissan Pathfinder (15). Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) stepped into an eight-cylinder Ford Explorer (14). Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) disappeared into a Lincoln Town Car (17). Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) met up with an idling Chrysler minivan (18).

Next came Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), greeted by a Ford Explorer XLT. On the Senate floor Tuesday, Menendez had complained that Bush “remains opposed to higher fuel-efficiency standards.”

Also waiting: three Suburbans, a Nissan Armada V8, two Cadillacs and a Lexus. The greenest senator was Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who was picked up by his hybrid Toyota Prius (60 mpg), at quadruple the fuel efficiency of his Indiana counterpart Evan Bayh (D), who was met by a Dodge Durango V8 (14).

It’s worth noting also that there is a subway system connecting the Capitol with the office buildings, reserved solely for use of members of Congress, and free of charge.

Things that you shouldn’t see

The sun is out, the air is warm, my headache is gone, and I went out to get food for Diego.
Driving down El Camino Real with the window down, I was enjoying the sunny California weather, the kind of weather I moved here for…
and then the bird flew down low across the road, slamming head first into the car ahead and to the left of me. It bounced off and landed in my lane, and at first I wasn’t entirely sure it was a bird, hoping against hope that it was just a bit of litter. Until I got closer, and saw the bird laying in the middle of the busy road. I couldn’t stop — what would I do if I could? — but kept going, driving over the creature and leaving it behind on the hot pavement, in the middle of the lane where wheels would likely not crush it.
And this event will be with me for a while, the wondering if it died immediately when it hit the car, or if it suffered laying there in the street. Was it the fault of man for putting all those moving metal boxes out there, or was there something wrong with the bird, misjudging its flight?
So many questions and just one very sad emotion.