Monday, December 24, 2007

Slowly pimping my blogsite

For years I have resisted adding any design features to my bare-bones blog design. I think I did this out of laziness more than anything else. Or perhaps I was influenced by the editor of a small newspaper where I used to work. It was a black-and-white rag --- and when we dared to suggest that he consider adding color to the newspaper, he shot back: "I will NOT have this newspaper dolled up like some dime-store hussy!'' Well, I'm finally making a concession to modern times. I've added an actual graphic to this blog, featuring my unsmiling face during a desert survival hike some years back. I took this photo of myself, using a disposable camera, during a heatwave, as the thermometer edged to 105 degrees. At the time of this photo, I had just escaped from an ornery, grazing bull, and had returned to the trail after taking a harrowing 'wrong turn' that consumed about seven hours.

Anyhow, I hope you like this new design feature. Who knows? I might even mess with the logo one of these days. Have a good holiday. I'll file a new report after the New Years.

My interior national strike has been resolved

OK. I'm convinced. The strike is over.

By the way, I am now available on eBay. More to follow.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Beer Woods: the best hiking trail in America?

This week is the 100th anniversary of Muir Woods. To mark the occasion, Amy and I went on the best day hike in America. The scenery is very nice --- old-growth and second-growth redwoods on bluffs marching out toward the Marin County coastline --- but this is hike has the best amenity that I've ever seen in the woods --- an actual, functioning beer bar, smack in the middle of the forest!!!
You don't even have to hike out of the woods to get to it. You just walk right up and there it is, right on the trail, like some kind of hallucination. (that's what I love about this San Francisco area. People are always thinking of interesting ways to combine unhealthy and healthy activities in one convenient package.) This bar in the woods has wheat bear, lagers, and dark beer in enormous tankards. My only pieces of advice: don't arrive there on an empty stomach, and be careful returning to the woods on your way out. There is quite a drop to the right of the hiking trail leading into the valley. I didn't see anyone tumble into it, but it must happen from time to time.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Some thoughts about toadsucking

In my blog, I run an occasional item about the various Dan Whites of the world. This week's Dan White (no relation)is a prosecutor who commented recently about the illegality of toadsucking. Here is the actual article, from the Associated Press:

"Law enforcement authorities have discovered that people are willing to go to great lengths to get high, including a troubling new method that features a frightened toad.

"Toad smoking," which is a substitute for "toad licking," is done by extracting venom from the Sonoran Desert toad of the Colorado River. The toad's venom - which is secreted when the toad gets angry or scared - contains a hallucinogen called bufotenine that can be dried and smoked to produce a buzz.

In October, a Kansas City man was charged with possessing a controlled substance after Clay County authorities determined he possessed a toad with the intent to use its venom to get high.

Clay County Prosecutor Daniel White said possessing the toad is not illegal, but using it to get high off its venom is.

"It is easier to get it, and law enforcement might not immediately know you use it to get high," White said. "It's sort of a New Age way to get high. You convince yourself it is OK because it is something you get naturally from our environment.

"There are a lot of things that are created naturally but they are still not legal," he said.

White said that for years people experimented with "toad licking," and now toad smoking is considered a substitute. To do so, a person heats up the frog's venom to break down its toxins and preserve the hallucinogen, which is dried.

He said some Internet sites feature an instructional video on how to extract the toad's venom.

Police found the toad when they went to a northern Kansas City home to investigate a suspected meth lab. They later arrested David S. Theiss, 21, and charged him with three counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possessing drug paraphernalia - the toad."

Anyhow, I thought this was a fascinating story, and highly coincidental, considering that the very first record that I ever owned featured a song called "Toadsuckers'' by a folksinger named Mason Williams. The lyrics are as follows:

How about Them Toad Suckers,
Ain't they clods?
Sitting there suckin'
Them green toady-frogs?

Suckin' them hop-toads,
Suckin' them chunkers,
Suckin' them leapy types,
Suckin' them plunkers.

Look at Them Toad Suckers,
Ain't they snappy?
Suckin' them bog-frogs
Sure makes'em happy.

There's more, but you get the picture

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wipe the Christmas spirit from your shoes

Well, it's that time of year again. The Christmas spirit has descended on the Haight Ashbury section of San Francisco. The free television -- donated by some generous soul -- still sits on the street corner, waiting for adoption. With every passing day, someone takes time out of his or her busy schedule to kick over the television set, or scrape it with a sharp object. Now that the holidays are upon us, people are slowing down the pace, engaging in witty repartee, and excusing themselves from the pesky burdens of every day life, such as bothering to clean up after their dogs. Just the other day, I saw a hale fellow and a young woman sharing a laugh as their waiting dogs relieved themselves copiously on the sidewalk. Four days later, the souvenir of their conversation remains at the corner of Waller and Masonic, just waiting for other people to trod upon it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Domestic porn?

Yesterday, I surprised my wife by volunteering to do the dishes.
"Can I watch?'' she said.

Pimp my cataracts

You won't believe this. Yesterday, I went into a San Francisco spectacles store, hoping to buy a new pair of eyeglasses. I was trying to pay attention to all the fashionable oversized glasses, with huge black nerdy rims, but found it very hard to concentrate. Why? Because there was a DJ spinning and scratching records right in the middle of the store! There I was, squinting at the merchandise, looking at price tags, and trying very hard to ignore the WACKA WACKA WOCKA WOOKA WOCKA racket coming from the speakers, and the scratching, and the 20-something DJ wearing earphones and grooving to himself. I asked Amy why anyone in his or her right mind would put a DJ in the middle of an eyeglass emporium. "It's the hipsters,'' she said. "They want eyeglasses to be a 'hip' experience.'' Now I understand. They're trying to make medical problems funky, social, countercultural, cool and fun! I'm going to get in on the action by opening up an after-hours peridontal surgery bar.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A prose poem about a stranger's generosity

Someone left a battered TV on the sidewalk near my house this morning.
The electrical cord has been snipped.
A fretwork of cracks extends across the casement.
Dust covers the exterior. A dog has relieved itself on the side of television.
The whole thing looks like someone either stomped on the top of it or smacked it with a baseball bat.
And, to top it all off, someone left a yellow Post-It on the back of the TV set with the words: "FREE!! REALLY WORKS!!''

I didn't want to let this overwhelming act of generosity
to go unheralded.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The other Dan White: non-protester causes a non-stir at non-event

Every once in a while, I like to check in on the other Dan Whites of this world and highlight their strange behavior. There are many of us out there (hundreds!) Most of us Dan Whites are peculiar but harmless -- with the exception of that one truly terrible "Dan White" that will never be mentioned in this blog.
My favorite recent "Dan White" item comes from a BBC news website, which mentioned a nonprotester named "Dan White" (no relation) who organized an undemonstration about nothing in particular.
He held a a cardboard placard signifying nothing, with no message of any kind. His utter purposelessness fuddled the cops. They didn't know quite what to do with him. Did Mr. White need a non-protest permit to hold his un-demonstration? When asked what he was doing, Mr. White refused to say. The police gave up and left him alone. According to an excerpt attributed to the BBC, he planned to return with several other nonprotesters and resume his un-demonstration later that week.

Mysteries of the Haight

Why are there so many crepe places in this neighborhood?

How come you never see anyone eating at any of those aforementioned crepe places?

What's up with all the enormous puppies on hemp leashes?

How come there are two "People's'' coffee shops --- and they are right next door to each other?

Why does the smaller organic food store near Clayton have only one employee -- and he seems to be there, and wide awake, 24 hours a day, whenever you pop into the store?

Why does our only local taqueria put peas in their burritos?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The mysterious Mr. Pooh

Right now I am in the middle of doing the final grades for my writing students --- but I am running into a slight bureaucractic glitch. The English department sent me a list of student names next to their essay grades. Most of the names are clearly recognizable. However, some of the names are a little strange, and I can't figure out if they correspond to actual students or if they are imaginary people who exist only in another realm. Take, for example, the mysterious Crajantan Pooh. Crajantan Pooh did quite well on the University Essay. In fact, he scored well above the median. On the down side, I have never had a student named "Pooh" here or anywhere else. I put Mr. Pooh's name into a worldwide Google search and nothing came up, not even when I narrowed the search to "Hangers-On of Christopher Robin,'' "Tigger Has a Posse'' and "Eeyore's Therapy Group.'' Now, I'm trying to figure out who this "Crajantan Pooh" might be, and get to the bottom of this issue, so to speak. Oh well. As they say, Pooh happens.

A man who needs no introduction

One of the student essays included a reference to "Jesus --- the renowned religious figure.'' Usually, I don't see a clarifying statement used in that kind of situation. It's like saying "Buddha -- famous peaceful entity'' or "God --- a world-famous overwhelming presence that controls everything.'' I guess the student was afraid that the graders might mix him up with "The Jesus" character from "The Big Lebowski.''

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Such a frigid end!!

Avoid these sentence constructions when writing political manifestos:

"The cessation of both opposing directions leads to the absence of the very substance that brought this country to life.''

"It is frightening to think of the world coming to such a frigid end!''

"The anonymous article, written by William Bennett ...''

"Such thinly conceived faiths shed much war onto any attempt at cival uniformity.''

"A force overtly apparent ...''

"Terrorists taking over the nation? Or our nation being reduced to the perplexity of complex capitalist conformity? Neither option is particularly amusing.''

"What it boils down to is: this is a war between values (America) and a nation of terrorists (Iraq.) That is not a value judgment.''

Monday, December 10, 2007

Santeria -- the clean version.

I laughed out loud at the new Nintendo commercial, showing a bunch of freshly scrubbed kids sitting under a sunny tree and strumming along to -- of all things -- "Santeria'' by Sublime. The kids are all smiles as they sing, "I don't practice Santeria, I aint got no crystal ball, I had a million dollars,'' etc. Then the kids skip directly to the chorus -- conveniently eliminating the lines about popping a cap in Sancho and slapping her down. Hmmm. Is Nintendo advocating that the youth of America perform "the clean version'' of every pop song in public from now on? I'm looking forward to Nintendo commercials featuring the squeaky-clean versions of songs by the Sex Pistols, NWA and Cannibal Corpse.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Painting chimps

I enjoyed the New York Times article about the colony of painting chimps in the Hamptons. ChimpYaddo, ChimpBreadloaf and ChimpMacdowell are soon to follow.

P.S. Amy's blog, once moribund, has been revived. You can find the blog at

Also, I still don't have a voice.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


I have (literally) lost my voice. This may come as a surprise to people who know me. To paraphrase one of my students, I could talk the potato off of a couch.
My voice loss happened gradually. During my last two days of classes, my voice sounded like a claw rasping against a window. Then it cut out altogether --- right in the middle of class -- and I wonder when it will ever come back.
It's hard to get by with no voice at all. Going to the grocery store is strange. Boxboys say, "Paper or plastic?" Cashiers say, "Credit card or debit?'' Then I point at my tonsils, and make a throat-slashing gesture to signify my voicelessnes. They don't understand. They get cross with me. They think I am threatening them. Last night, I woke up to find my cat, Robert Earl, biting me on the arm. I opened my mouth to shriek. Nothing came out.
It's not all bad. Normally, if I clap my hands really loudly to get my wife's attention, she would take offense at this. This week, I'm allowed to clap at her, snap my fingers and point to stuff that I want. That part of it has been fun. I'm boning up on my Pictionary and miming skills.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Now, who is going to call me Professor Diddy and D-money?

My last day of teaching at SJSU is this Friday. I guess I'll have to back to being boring old "Dan White.''

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tales from Cupertino, part VII: Mother-in-law nearly arrested in sushi restaurant!!!!

You won't believe this. My mother-in-law was hanging out with a pal in one of the most illustrious sushi restaurants in Silicon Valley. I've been there many times; it is quite good. Anyhow, my mother-in-law (M.I.L. in future references) ordered the sushi as usual, but her friend ordered a hot-chicken dish, which came out uncooked and gross!! The friend sent it back to the chef, who sent it back to her still cold and completely unchanged. The friend sent it back to the chef again, and this time it was shoved into the microwave and was slightly warmed up --- but it was still rather rubbery and unpleasant. Anyhow, when my MIL and her pal challenged the bill, the waitress said that they had better pay up or they would both be arrested! Trying to get to the bottom of the problem, my MIL approached the chef herself, and he growled at her. He said that the friend was at fault because she should have eaten the warm (but uncooked and gross) chicken when it first arrived on her plate. Anyhow, I think it's wrong that people, in this day and age, can go out to lunch for a little moriawese, and end up being a cause celebre for Amnesty International. I'm probably going to write a nasty letter about this. I would identify the restaurant but I am a little bit scared to do so; you should see the knives that this guy uses on the fish.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Why does this city smell so bad this week?

As everybody knows, some sections of Haight Ashbury smell like essential oils, pot and and reeking B.O. However, bad smells are not confined to my neighborhood. The Financial District smelled quite fishy and moldy when I was walking through it yesterday. Foul aromas wafted from every vent and manhole as I hurried through the streets en route to the new Nicole Kidman film. It's hard to walk when you are holding your nose and closing your eyes and not breathing through your mouth. I think someone should spray this entire city down with Axe.

A Guggulah-Muggulah for Amy Winehouse

The undeniably disgusting Guggulah Muggulah cured me of my bad cold this week and restored my voice. I'm wondering if it might have a similar wholesome effect on Amy Winehouse, whose personal tsuris is preventing her from carrying on with her tour. I think a good strong cup of Guggulah Muggulah might put her back on the straight-and-narrow. But in her case, I would leave out the rum. I would just go with the straight up milk, honey and butter combination.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tales from Cupertino part III: my very first Uggulah-Muggulah

"This will make you nauseous. Then you will gag.''

That is what my mother-in-law said as she handed me my first Uggulah Muggulah, an Eastern European folk cure that is supposed to sooth sore throats and restore your voice. I was sick as a dog that day, barely able to speak at all. My voice was a pitiful croak. My mother-in-law prepared for me a slimy concoction of melted butter, milk and honey, all stirred together and heated up in the microwave until frothy, warm, and indescribably vile. Somehow, I was able to drink several tablespoons of the nasty beverage --- and, lo and behold, it restored my voice for the rest of the day! Here, then, is the recipe for an Uggulah Muggalah. It's truly disgusting and phlegmy but it really works, if you aren't squeamish about drinking butter:

one half a cup milk
two tablespoons butter
one tablespoon honey

chop up the butter into little pieces and float it into the viscous milk, then add the glob of honey. Heat it up into the microwave until the mixture is frothy but not quite boiling. Then, hold your nose and try not to vomit as you sip as much of the Uggulah-Muggulah as you can bear. Wait a few moments, and I guarantee that your voice will come back if you've lost it. If it's late in the day, you might as well add a jigger of rum to your Uggulah Muggulah. It couldn't hurt.