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March 31, 2011

Hawaii Day 5 - Scenic Area Number 2

Above: Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) in Ho'omaluhia Botanic Gardens.

We visited two botanic gardens on Tuesday. First, we went to Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens near Kaneohe with Karen and James. Then, Jennifer and i drove up through the central valley and met Eva and A.J. at the Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden up on the North Shore. Of course, both places were just stunning and I finally took the 600mm lens into the field and got some shots. This is the first time I've used the lens since we go to Hawaii. Part of the problem is that we're driving a Jeep with a soft-top around the island, so I'm afraid to leave the lens in the jeep, so I end up leaving it at home in Waimanalo.

Above: Ho'omaluhia Botanic Gardens.

Above: Ho'omaluhia Botanic Gardens.

Above: Ho'omaluhia Botanic Gardens.

Above: Lehua mamo (Metrosideros polymorpha) of the family Myrtaceae at Ho'omaluhia Botanic Gardens.

Above: Lehua mamo (Metrosideros polymorpha) of the family Myrtaceae at Ho'omaluhia Botanic Gardens.

Above: Lehua mamo (Metrosideros polymorpha) of the family Myrtaceae at Ho'omaluhia Botanic Gardens.

Above: (Metrosideros tremuloides) of the family Myrtaceae at Ho'omaluhia Botanic Gardens.

Above: (Metrosideros tremuloides) of the family Myrtaceae at Ho'omaluhia Botanic Gardens.

Above: (Metrosideros tremuloides) of the family Myrtaceae at Ho'omaluhia Botanic Gardens.

Above: Male Red-Crested Cardinal (Paroaria coronata) in Ho'omaluhia Botanic Gardens.

Above: Ho'omaluhia Botanic Gardens.

Above: Ho'omaluhia Botanic Gardens.

Above: Ho'omaluhia Botanic Gardens.

Above: Me in a cowboy hat driving a brand new jeep with 614 miles on the odometer up through Oahu's central valley to the north shore.

Above: Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Indian coral tree (Erythrina variegata) at Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Shell Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) at Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Shell Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) at Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: A Shaving Brush tree (Pseudobombax ellipticum) at Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys) at Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Yellow shrimp plant (Pachystachys lutea) at Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus) at Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Yellow Jacobinia (Justicia aurea) at Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Above: Jennifer and A.J. at Turtle Bay.

Above: Sunset at Turtle Bay.

Above: Sunset at Turtle Bay.

Above: Sunset at Turtle Bay.

Above: Sunset at Turtle Bay.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 31, 2011 at 10:38 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 29, 2011

Hawaii Day 4 - Pineapple Express (03/28)

Above: Jennifer preparing to boogeyboard near Waimanalo, Oahu. Mokulua islands in the background.

Above: Jennifer preparing to boogeyboard near Waimanalo, Oahu. Mokulua islands in the background.

Above: The Mokulua islands.

Above: Downtown Honolulu as viewed from the Pali Expressway.

Above: The Waianae mountain range as viewed from the central valley on Oahu.

Above: The Waianae mountain range as viewed from the central valley on Oahu.

Above: Posing at the Dole pineapple plantation.

Above: Posing at the Dole pineapple plantation.

Above: Rainbow Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta).

Above: Feeding the fish at a koi pond at the Dole pineapple plantation.

Above: Pineapple Express at the Dole pineapple plantation.

Above: Oahu's Koolau range as viewed from the central valley.

Above: Flamingo lily (Anthurium andraeanum).

Above: African tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata).

Above: Chinaman's Hat.

Plants verified at Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 29, 2011 at 3:09 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 28, 2011

Hawaii Day 3 - Sea Life Park

Above: White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus) at Sea Life Park on Oahu.

Above: Male Red-crested Cardinal (Paroaria coronata) at Sea Life Park on Oahu.

Above: Male Red-crested Cardinal (Paroaria coronata) feeding female in courting ritual at Sea Life Park on Oahu.

Above: Indian Mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) at Sea Life Park on Oahu.

Above: Shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) at Sea Life Park on Oahu.

Above: Tahitian gardenia (Gardenia taitensis) at Sea Life Park on Oahu.

Above: Mature Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) with fledgling at Sea Life Park on Oahu.

Above: Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) at Sea Life Park on Oahu.

Above: Cape Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata).

Above: Red-footed Booby at Sea Life Park on Oahu.

Above: Papaya tree.

Above: Hibiscus.

Above: Parrot Beak, Yellow Heliconia (Heliconia caribaea).

Above: Coral Hibiscus (Hibiscus schizopetalus).


Flower Identification: http://toptropicals.com/html/toptropicals/catalog/photo_db/H.htm

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 28, 2011 at 11:44 AM : Comments (3) | Permalink

March 27, 2011

Add Programs To Desktop Right-Click Context Menu In Windows 7

Add Programs To Desktop Right-Click Context Menu In Windows 7

The Windows PowerToy ImageResizer doesn't work in Windows 7. So, I installed a similar Image Resizer utility, but it doesn't work from the Right-Click menu in Windows Photo Viewer 7 For Windows 7. So I'm trying to install SmartClick to see if I can change the Right-click context menu.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 27, 2011 at 11:49 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Day 2 in Hawaii

Above: The Koʻolau Range near Waimanalo, Oahu.

Above: Rabbit Island at dawn.

Above: The Koʻolau Range near Waimanalo, Oahu.

Above: Kailua Bay.

Above: Hanauma Bay.

Above: Hanauma Bay.

Above: Flat island and Rabbit Island.

Above: Great frigatebird (Fregata minor).

Above: Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis).

Above: Plumeria.

Above: Hibiscus.

Above: Hibiscus.

Above: Bouganvilla.

Above: Red-crested Cardinal, Brazilian Cardinal (Paroaria coronata).

Above: Red-footed Booby (Sula sula).

Above: Java Sparrow (Padda oryzivora).

Above: Spider Lily (Crinum asiaticum).

Above: Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis).

Above: Hibiscus.

Above: Jennifer and Brian at the Department of Agriculture, Honolulu.

Above: Jennifer in front of an Indian banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis), Family: Moraceae.

Above: Jennifer in front of an Indian banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis), Family: Moraceae.

Above: Me swinging from an Indian banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis), Family: Moraceae.

Above: James swinging from an Indian banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis), Family: Moraceae.

Above: Blooms of the Pink Bombax (Pseudobombax ellipticum), Queen's Medical Center.

Above: Blooms of the Pink Bombax (Pseudobombax ellipticum), Queen's Medical Center.

Above: Blooms of the Pink Bombax (Pseudobombax ellipticum), Queen's Medical Center, Honolulu.

Avove: Nawa tree (Sterculia urens), Queen's Medical Center, Honolulu.

Above: Brian at the Department of Agriculture, Honolulu.

Above: Jennifer and Brian at Lanai Lookout along Kalanianaole Highway near the Halona Blowhole.

Above: Java Sparrow (Padda oryzivora).

Above: Red-crested Cardinal, Brazilian Cardinal (Paroaria coronata).

Above: Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva).

Above: Jennifer at Lanai Lookout along Kalanianaole Highway near the Halona Blowhole.

Above: Jennifer at Lanai Lookout, Koko Head Crater in the background.

Above: Lanai Lookout.

Above: Jennifer at Lanai Lookout near the Halona Blowhole.

Above: Brian at Lanai Lookout near the Halona Blowhole.

Above: Brian at Lanai Lookout near the Halona Blowhole.

Above: Jennifer at Lanai Lookout near the Halona Blowhole.

Above: Boogey boarder at Sandy Beach Park.

Above: Boogey boarder at Sandy Beach Park.

Above: Boogey boarder at Sandy Beach Park.

Above: Boogey boarder at Sandy Beach Park.

Above: Boogey boarder at Sandy Beach Park.

Above: Spider lily (Crinum asiaticum).

Above: Lobster claw, False-bird-of-paradise (Heliconia rostrata).

Plants verified at Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk.

Above: Jennifer in front of a street-side food vendor.

Above: Jennifer in front of a Baobab tree at the Department of Agriculture, Honolulu.

Above: Jennifer in front of a Baobab tree at the Department of Agriculture, Honolulu.

Above: Jennifer in front of a Baobab tree at the Department of Agriculture, Honolulu.

Above: Jennifer and Brian at the Queen's Medical Center, Honolulu.

Above: Jennifer at the Department of Agriculture.

Above: Jennifer at the Department of Agriculture.


Posted by Rob Kiser on March 27, 2011 at 3:34 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 26, 2011

6 Hours in Colorado

6 hours in Colorado

I get in at 1:00 a.m. and head for the house. On the way, I stop and gas up the truck. Grab a burger. Stop at a grocery store and stock up on snacks for the flight.
No one wants to be spend the whole day flying aross the on a six hour flight without plenty of snacks. Then up to the house where I start trying to pack for our 8:00 a.m.
flight. There will be no sleep tonight. That's a dream.

I unpack all the FedEx packages my neighbors graciously signed for me. My 400mm camera lens. A new laptop. Some extra lens caps. Dig out the flippers and masks and
snorkels. I'm trying toA think of everything I might need in a place I've not been in 5 years. I imagine myself digging my toes into the sand at Hanauma Bay or walking
the jagged coral at Waimea Bay. What am I wearing? What should I bring?

I start copying files onto the new laptop. Music. Movies. Utilities. Everything I can think of. I plug everything in and start charging everything at once.
GPS. Cell phone. Laptop. Camera batteries. The house is glowing at 4:00 in the morning. Like aliens have taken over my house.

I start counting cameras...trying to decide how many to bring. The truth is that carting around a 600mm lens halfway across the planet is not easy. I'm certainly not
going to let the dimwits at the TSA or US Air put their filthy, leacherous hands on my camera gear. That's not going to happen. Initially, I'd hoped to travel
with 4 cameras and 4 lenses, but I settle for 3 cameras and 3 lenses. Even so, we will essentially be on a rolling photographic safari through one of the most beautiful
places on earth. So, we should have a lot of fun and hopefully get some decent shots along the way.

I've been ordering gear non-stop for 2011 and some last minute things are trickling in. Circular polarizing filters and lens caps. Batteries and chargers. And then
at some point this week, I started having them just ship any additional items direct to Oahu so I'll pick a few things up when we get there, if all goes as planned.

Hawaii is a beautiful place. Indescribably so. I've been there many times and it's had a significant impact on my photography. The first time I was there was back
in 93 I think. And I went up to this jungled valley on Oahu and I remember standing there, drinking in the view and I didn't take any photos. Not one. Because I
honestly didn't feel like I could do the scene justice. That somehow I'd denigrate the valley by taking a poor photo of it.

And then I didn't go back there for about 10 or 12 years.

And instead of a photograph, I was left with nothing. Just nothing. So that, over the years, my memories faded almost completely so that all I could remember was
that the valley was lush and green. Tropical and wild. Indescribably beautiful. But there were no details in my memory to hang anything on.

And I told myself that, if I ever did stumble back across that valley, I'd be sure to take some photos. To shoot or 'not to shoot' had come down solidly on the
side of "shoot first, ask questions later". So this was a big philosophical shift for me.

That same summer, I ended up working in Honolulu on and off for several months, bouncing back and forth between Colorado, San Francisco, Austin, Honolulu, Portland,
and the Bahamas. I became much more serious about my photography and purchased several different cameras in fairly rapid succession, trying to find something that
worked for me. That I was happy with. I lost a camera going down the interstate in California and immediately thereafter, found myself on the beach in Oahu watching
some guy shoot surf photos with a nice looking setup and I said "What kind'a camera's that?" and he said Canon EoS 20D. And I went home and bought one immediately and
I've been in love with Canon ever since.

So, Hawaii has inspired me to shoot for years. It's only fitting, I think, that I show up with enough gear to get some decent shots of the island, possibly for the
first time ever. Hopefully they'll be some of the best photos of the island I've ever taken.

So I'm throwing things around. Looking at the tripod and gimbled head and all of our gear. Finally, I resign myself to just take a steamer trunk sized suitcase.
US Air is going to charge me $25 each way but I don't care. This is where we are. it's the cost of doing business. Not many people fly across the country planet
with 600mm lenses either. No one said it was going to be easy being cool. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

I feel bad for Jennifer. She's not seen the Pacific Ocean in nearly 4 weeks. I am a bad father. I know this, as surely as the apple knows it must one day
fall from the tree. I am far from perfect. Only I do what I can. Little things here and there to ease the pain of being alive.

Everything goes into the truck and at 5:00 a.m., I'm rolling down through the canyon. I dunno why, but I don't feel like the laws of the road apply to me. Like
I'm above them for whatever reason. Traveling does that to me. i'm in a hurry. I don't care what the law is. I'm on a crazy flight path of SFO - DEN - Phoenix - Honolulu.

The people at work asked me this..."where are you going next week for spring break"

"My daughter and I are going to find a beach somewhere and chill out for a few days."

"Oh, fun. Where are y'all going?"

"Waikiki." and they're just like "Dayum! That will be nice."

Yes, it should be. Should be nice indeed.

But why are you flying from San Francisco to Denver. Isn't that like way out of the way?"

"Yes but there's something very important I have to pick up there. My daughter."

Everyone gets this. Yes. But of course. What else is there in life?

I get to Jennifer's house and we load up the truck and we're racing down the streets at 5:30 a.m. I'm running a little ahead of schedule. Don't want to screw this
one up. With work, you can take some risks. With vacation, it's different. I don't want to screw this up. And missing an 8:00 a.m. flight would set us back in
a big way.

We get back to the Canopy Parking lot where I keep my truck and I collect a ticket as I enter. I've been in Colorado for approximately 6 hours.

The meter starts racing now. I now have a truck at the airport in Denver. A motorcycle at the airport in San Francisco. Later today, we'll rent a car in Honolulu.

In the middle of the Pacific there is nothing save the sky, clouds, and ocean. We fly for hours and hours and nothing changes. No turns. Just straight on to infinity
and then, after we've been flying about 5 hours, the plane turns slightly to the right. I poke Jennifer. That's it. We're getting close, I tell her.

You don't turn in the middle of the Pacific ocean for no reason. He saw something. Some island or landmark. Something made him adjust his course a twinkle and
inside the cabin, we're all hoping against hope that we're somewhere close to the Hawaiian islands.

They show two movies on the flight. The first movie, we skip and instead watch "The Other Guys" on my laptop. We have a little Y-shaped adapter that splits the audio
into two headsets so we can both listen and watch the same movie. She has her own laptop, of course. But it's more fun to watch it together. We've probably seen it
5 or 10 times together already. It's a funny movie. What can I say?

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 26, 2011 at 1:14 AM : Comments (1) | Permalink

March 25, 2011

Sky Harbor

We're in Phoenix. Boarding shortly. Next stop, Honolulu. :)

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 25, 2011 at 11:09 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 24, 2011

I'll Sleep When I Die

So, I'm sitting at the airport in SFO. I didn't think that the sun would ever make an appearance this week. It rained all day and then the boss...she says at 3:00 it's really going to start raining harder and I'm thinking..."seriously?" Like, who needs this?

So I'm sick as a dog. Didn't go in yesterday or this morning. And then I have to give this big presentation before an audience today. Only about 20 people bothered to show up. But I'm giving this big presentation and my boss says "why aren't you wearing any shoes?"

And I'm like "Because my feet are soaking wet?"

Last night, I go to the dry cleaners to pick up my shirts. On my motorcycle. In the rain. And I'm thinking, it's got to get better than this. Has to.

So, today after my presentation, I went to Sports Authority and then to REI. I picked up some rain gear called DriDucks. Basically, pants and a jacket you can wear over your regular clothes and jacket. The thought being that, if I'm going to stay in San Francisco any longer, I'm going to have to face the fact that San Francisco is, essentially, the lost city of Atlantis. It's not technically under water, but my feet wouldn't know any different.

So, I broke down and bought some rain gear so that at least my clothes won't be soaking wet when I drive into work. Now, I still need to get a waterproof backpack, camera bag, and some boots out here. But at least I have some rain gear now.

Every time I see them, I feel like I should say something about the Agapanthansus. Something is not quite right, and I'm not sure why. In San Diego, they all came up out of the ground at the same time (April), they all bloomed at the same time. But here, something very different is going on. Something very odd. They appear to have bloomed already at some point previous, and suffered from some environmental impact. Drought. Heat. A deep freeze. I can't say. This happened before I got here. But the Agapanthasus appear to be in all sorts of various stages of bloom. So, it's not really what I was expecting, really.

Driving around San Francisco is just so insane you can't know. The worse for me, I think, is when a car honks their horn. I really don't like that part. You don't know who they're honking at. SHould I speed up? Slow down. How could you know what it means? What to do?

And this is not some trivial matter. This is your life, hanging in the balance. Am I seconds from being crushed beneath the frame of a city truck? This is a fear I carry with me, like a mouse in my pocket. I carry it with me and nurture it as I drive through these wicked streets. A certain amount of fear is healthy. It keeps you on your toes.

And now there is this. This. This creeping fear of a swift, but painful death beneath the axles of some unseen vehicles.

The problem with pushing the envelope, as Jack Hawkins once observed, is that eventually you're going to get a nasty paper cut.

The Fear Takes Control

I went out one night this week after work and made a balls-out run up to Point Reyes. Across the Golden Gate Bridge, north on the 101 Redwood Highway to Sir Francis Drake Highway through San Rafael, Fairfax, twisting through the redwood forests of the Samuel P. Taylor state park. Always, the trees look so magnificent, but now that you're sort of trying not to run into them, they seem even more imposing than before.

So, then, this. Me, racing the sunset, threading the needle, racing between the trees. This is madness. This Le Mans type race course surging through the forests. No other vehicles. Just me and the trees, seconds from death. Drifting through the woods like in a lunatic's dream.

And it's cold. So cold you can't know and I can't say. Sure, I have warm gear in Colorado, but this is San Francisco, not Madison. Not Pittsburgh. But Lord God it's cold here and I'm burning daylight, driving through my memories. Fitting the pieces neatly back into the puzzle. Every turn is remembered. Every house. Every turn. All of it comes back to me now and finally, Inverness and the Tomales Bay. Really, this was my goal tonight. I can't say why. Only that an old sunken boat in the bay stuck in my memory like a burr to my cuffs and I want to see if it's still hear. To water and fertilize and massage that memory in my brain. So I'm just running up the edge of the Tomales Bay, shivering. You can't know how cold this is now. Every bit as cold as I was back in October when we raced around Lake Michigan like fools.

And I'm nearly out of gas. I'm hoping there will be a gas station at Inverness, but there isn't. And I don't find the boat. That was years ago and I see some other sunken boats, but probably not the same one and only the camera I have is this horrible 17-85 lens. My least favorite lens. The Landscape lens. So I drive down into this little sand beach where a small creek runs into the bay. Some people stop and observe me, but I drive very slowly and I've found that the tree-huggers are not as bad as I'd imagined. I figured they'd beat me with rubber trucheons, but I find that if I just go very slowly, no one ever complains, no matter where I go.

And this time, I do drive right down to the bay and snap a few shots.

But now, I where am I? This is the end of my little dream. The thread ends here. It's freezing cold. Very dark. Nearly out of gas. And I'm an hour north of San Francisco. I may not survive the ride back. And I think about Jennifer. How sad would that be. For her, all packed to go to Honolulu. Sitting on go. And then, the phone call comes in. There's been an accident. Or, alternately...we haven't hear from your dad. We're not sure where he is. You're not going to Hawaii.

So, this occurs to me. Why do I put myself out here like this? What is the need. What is the goal. Why this non-stop lunacy, swinging for the fences, burning bridges, whirlwind of an existence. This is where I am. This is exactly how I felt when I got down to La Paz in Baja California Del Sur.

I don't talk about that. I don't tell people how I felt then. But it was not a good feeling. I was a thousand miles out in the desert in San Diego without a plan. Only a phone call to Peter DeLeo brought things back into focus for me.

But this is where I am now. After you take a huge risk, often you want to take something off the table. This is very normal. Very common I think. And now, here I am, standing on the shores of Tomales Bay in the dark, shivering, wondering if Jennifer will ever get to see Hawaii again.

I head back, shivering and stop at the first decent looking restaurant bar I come to. It happens to be in the town of Olema and I pop in to warm up my bones. Just a few minutes. But the bar tender isn't a nice fellow. He's harping on the people beside me because they're not ordering properly and I can't sit here for this. For him to grind his axe against these subtle tourists.

So I flee into the night, counting the miles as I go. I'm shivering. Not uncontrollably, but very cold. Hands numb. Shaking. And waiting for the bike to run out of gas. When you know it's about to run out, you can feel it long before it happens. Every hesitation. Ever misfire. You can feel it miles before it happens, you just have to know what to listen to. The bike dies and I it switch over to reserve while it's still rolling.

This is going to be close. It's cold and I'm low on gas and my headlight shines up in the trees. Coon huntn' headlights we used to call them in MS. If I had any sense, or time, I'd adjust the headlight so it shines somewhere near the right level. But that is not now. Too cold. Must keep pushing forward.

Somehow, I make it to Fairfax on fumes and I fill up and want to go inside the gas station to warm up, but the doors are open and it's not heated so I just get on the US 101 Redwood HIghway and head south toward the city.

It rains on me before I make it to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 24, 2011 at 8:22 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Mission Accomplished!

Many thanks to my benevolent neighbors for helping me, once again. I'm told that 3 packages have been safely signed for and accounted for. Drinks are on me when we get back. :)

First package: Repaired camera lens from Canon.
Second package: Laptop from Sony.
Third package: ?

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 24, 2011 at 11:05 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 22, 2011

Preparing for Spring Break

I've been preparing for Spring Break tonight...trying to get a few loose ends tied up here and there. I started feeling sick today...I swear I've been carrying this head cold around for 4 weeks. I finally got a prescription for an anti-biotic and picked up some Sudafed tonight. I started taking it right away. I hope I recover in time for our vacation, but I'm going either way. I don't care. I'll go if I'm sick as a dog.

It's been raining on and off all day here. It's so windy it's hard to keep the cover on my motorcycle. I have no rain gear, to speak of. I've got to take some measurements tomorrow and then order some rain gear. It's so wet out here you just can't know. But I see this all as a test. A test for my next big motorcycle adventure which I'm planning for when this project is over. This ride will be the longest one I've ever been on and will cover thousands of miles. So, having good rain gear will just be one small piece of the puzzle.

I'm also going to need a 6 gallon desert tank, a waterproof backpack, and possibly some hardcase saddle bags.

Finally, if my neighbors don't off to help me sign for some packages on Thursday, I'm putting my house on the market.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 22, 2011 at 11:19 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Turn off 'Automatic Word Select' in MS Word 2007

MS Word 2007 sucks so hard I don't know where to begin, but I have resigned myself to learn this miserable little virus-like application. I learn it, fully expecting that the mindless trolls and minions at Redmond, Washington will yank the carpet from beneath me yet again in the next redesign. Probably the programmers are already chained to their basement desks, and being whipped like rented mules while they completely redesign Word 2007 into something completely unrecognizable yet again. Probably MS Word 2011 will come out later this year and you'll have to wear special glasses so that you see the screen as a fly would and use a new nose-stick to communicate with MS Word 2011.

But I digress. If you want to turn off the miserable little "feature" called "Automatic word select", which essentially thinks for you and selects text you never intended to select, you should do as follows:

"Click the Office button, select Word Options at the bottom of the menu, and choose Advanced from the pane on the left. Word will display Editing Options at the top of the pane on the right. In that section, you'll find the When Selecting, Automatically Select Entire Word check box."

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 22, 2011 at 6:19 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Motorcycle Rain Gear

The nice thing about San Francisco is that it only rains on days that end in a 'y'. I'm tired of getting wet. I'm thinking about ordering some type of motorcycle rain gear like this. Now if I can just find a tape measure.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 22, 2011 at 3:34 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 21, 2011

March in San Francisco

I went out on my bike tonight and got rained on. I had a long cold ride back through sporadic rain. I'm really surprised at the weather here. I really don't recall it being this cold and wet. I dunno. I think I'm spoiled to live in Colorado as it's sunny there about every day of the year.

The US 101 is just a death trap. It's 5 lanes in each direction and I always feel like I'm in a pinball machine when I'm on it. I don't like that road. It's way too busy for a dirt bike. After my ride tonight, I was glad to get home, take a warm shower, thaw out my frozen hands, turn on the heaters, pile on the covers and crash out in bed.

After tonight, I've decided I'm going to stay inside the city limits until Thursday. I don't want to get run over on the 101 a few days before we're scheduled to leave for Hawaii.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 21, 2011 at 11:01 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Nature Photography

Above: Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli).

Above: Male House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus).

Above: Female House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus).

Above: Male Western Bluebird(Sialia mexicana). I'm not sure why he has white feathers on his back, but I suspect he's molting. These are the first bluebird photos I've taken in 2011, although I saw one last weekend, and Jennifer and Allie claim to have seen them two weekends ago (on March 7th).

Above: Male Western Bluebird(Sialia mexicana).

Above: Male Western Bluebird(Sialia mexicana).

Above: Male Western Bluebird(Sialia mexicana).

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 21, 2011 at 1:42 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

First Soccer Game of the Year

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 21, 2011 at 1:36 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 20, 2011

United Airlines (UAL) & Continental Airlines Merger is an Unmitigated Disaster

Watching UAL attempt to merge with Continental is like watching the Japanese try to put out nuclear fires. It's not pretty, and best watched from a safe distance. I made a reservation with Continental, but it turns out it's actually a United Airlines Flight. I discovered this when I arrived at the Terminal 3 on Friday morning, and was told that "Continental doesn't fly to Denver".

So, the merger isn't going all that smoothly, apparently. So, it's just a brief 10 minute jog across SFO, past the closed Terminal 2, to Terminal 1. (No one on earth would take the train at that airport. The train is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Namely..."How would you like to go far out of your way to get on a the slowest train known to man that stops frequently at points where no one would ever want to get on or off like Westfield Road".)

So, I stroll over to Terminal 1 where I now have to deal with those mindless dolts at United Airlines. Of course, they don't have my frequent flyer number in the system because it was a Continental reservation so they have no clue who I am and they stick me in a middle seat and I swear to them on my mother's grave that I'll never fly them again, and they put me in a window, but I'm flying them again tomorrow for the last time, God as my witness.

So, I try to check in for my flight tomorrow. But of course, my "Continental" reservation is really for United and my Continental RLC only spits out a new RLC for United and when I put that in, it says "We are unable to locate an electronic ticket for this reservation. Please return to your original place of purchase for additional information or speak with a United representative at the airport". Wow. Seriously. Good job you nimrods. Watch out, Continental airline passengers. You have no idea what you're in for.

So, it looks like I'll be standing in line with all the other idiots that don't know how to fly in the morning. God I hate these mergers. Higher prices. Poorer service. How on earth did those morons in the anti-trust division decide to approve this merger?

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 20, 2011 at 9:57 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 19, 2011

The Line To Eat

I remember when I found this line in San Francisco the last time. I suspect in was in March of 2003. There was a huge blizzard bearing down on the Denver area and I drove to the airport and bought a ticket on the way. I flew out on a Sunday night or Monday night...can't recall for sure which...just barely escaping a massive blizzard. I landed in the middle of a spectacular spring in San Francisco, happy as a pig in slop. I bought a motorcycle for the week (purchased it on Monday for $500 and sold it on Sunday for $450 and a trip to the airport).

By chance, while I was there for that one week in San Francisco, the U.S. invaded Iraq, well, everything went straight to hell in San Francisco. The people spilled into the streets and it was like Mardi Gras all over again. I have to admit I got all caught up in the excitement and bought a gas mask and ran around the city shooting like mad. It was a lot of fun.

But, in any event, I found this long line of people and I parked my motorcycle and walked up to someone and said "what's this line for?", wanting to get in on whatever was going down. And the guy said "this is the line to eat."

And I was just like...wow. Like...here I am running around like a moron, spending money like water, and this whole line of people doesn't have any food. Wow.

The city sort of does this to you....rubs your nose into the underclass...into the poverty stricken souls who, for whatever reason, aren't making it so well. And, it's not that I don't think a lot of them bring it on themselves. I'm sure they do. I'm sure there's plenty of drug addicts in the line and God only knows what else. But still, when you see them, all queued up in line for a soup kitchen, it looks like something straight out of the '30's.

So, in any event, when I saw them this time, I didn't ask anyone what the line was for. I knew. And it's twice as long now as it was in March of 2003.

Now, I told Scotty last night that San Francisco is a ruined city, and he just laughed. And, I know he didn't believe me, but let me set the record straight for those of you that haven't been there in a while. The city of San Francisco is in decline.

In 2009, they found a crack in the Golden Gate Bridge, and a month later one of the bridges main support cables snapped. Around the same time, the Bay Bridge failed and was closed for days.

5 people were shot in the Mission District (where I work) Wednesday night this week.

According to Mayor Ed Lee, San Francisco is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.

Their horrendous tax policies and vacation/sick leave policies drive all start-ups out of the city.

Everything that isn't nailed down is spray-painted into oblivion. Granted, I like to see the murals that are painted with permission, but spray painting someone's truck is not art, IMHO.

Above: Classic Jet Martinez mural on Lombard Street at Columbus Avenue in San Francisco's North Beach district.

Above: Classic mural on Lombard Street at Columbus Avenue in San Francisco's North Beach district.

Above: The Edo Hair Salon mural in Lower Haight (Haight and Steiner).

Above: Mural at Haight and Steiner by Sacramento-based artist Skinner.

Above: Ocean Beach and Cliff House.

Above: The Golden Gate bridge, as viewed from the Marin County headlands, facing Southeast, with San Francisco in the background.

Above: The Golden Gate bridge, as viewed from the Marin County headlands, facing Southeast, with San Francisco in the background.

Above: The Golden Gate bridge, as viewed from the Marin County headlands, facing Southeast, with San Francisco in the background.

Above: Bird Island Overlook in the Marin County headlands (Fort Cronkhite in the background).

Above: Point Bonita Lighthouse as viewed from Bird Island Overlook in the Marin County headlands (Land's End in the background).

Above: Marin County headlands as viewed from Bunker Road near Fort Barry.

Above: CA-1 Shoreline Highway on the way to Muir Beach.

Above: Muir Beach overlook looking south toward Muir Beach and Bird Island.

Above: Muir Beach overlook looking south toward Muir Beach and Bird Island.

Above: Rocky Point overlook looking north across Stinson Beach. A surfer was attacked by a Great White shark at Stinson Beach in 2002, requiring a hundred stitches or so.

Above: Somewhere in the Olema Valley.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 19, 2011 at 6:57 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

U.S. Attacks Libya

This is not a repeat from 1986 (El Dorado Canyon). Or 1942-43 (WW II). Or 1815 (Second Barbary War). Or 1801-1805 (First Barbary War).

What kills me is how the pinko liberal commie grows up on the sermons of "God Damn America", does not believe in American Exceptionalism, and he refuses to wear a U.S. flag pin. Basically, he hates the United States and all it stands for.

But somehow, now that the idiot has been in office for a couple of years, now...suddenly...he reaches down and finds his balls. And decides that the U.S. military might possibly be used as a force of good in the world.

Haw haw haw. This commie sure is fun to watch. Stupid? Yes. Unpatriotic? Sure. But even a blind hog finds an acorn and this commie jackass just reached down and felt his balls for the first time in his life.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 19, 2011 at 6:00 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink


Haw haw haw. Yeah. About that Supermoon theory...complete bunk.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 19, 2011 at 9:44 AM : Comments (1) | Permalink

March 18, 2011

Safe Level of Radiation


1:39 p.m. ET Friday, 2:39 a.m. Saturday in Tokyo] Monitors in Sacramento, California, have detected a small amount of radioactive material from the earthquake-struck nuclear power plant in Japan, an official with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization said. The exact amounts were not available, but were far less than what would be considered harmful to human health, the official said.

Repeat after me. There is no such thing as a "safe" level of radiation. They cannot say that a certain level is not "harmful to human health". That's not how it works. When a radioactive isotope decays and goes shooting through your cells, if your DNA is replicating and it hits the DNA just right, it could cause it to replicate uncontrollably creating what we know as "cancer tumor".

Now, some people have received massive doses of radiation and not developed cancer. Some people have developed cancer from very low doses of radiation. But they can't say "This amount is safe". It doesn't work like that.

Now, we can compare it to natural background radiation, or radiation from the sun, but plenty of people die from skin cancer every year.

Is it safe to drive a car, well most of us accept the risk of driving a car every day, but I know plenty of people that have died in car crashes.

So, I'm no saying I'm thinking the radiation from Japan is a big deal, but don't buy into their "It's a safe level of radiation" story. There is no such thing as a "safe level" of radiation.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 18, 2011 at 2:11 PM : Comments (1) | Permalink

March 17, 2011


North, across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin County Headlands. Then out to the Point Bonita lighthouse and Fort Barry on Conzelman Road. Back North on the 101 to CA1 exit. Then down to Muir Beach. North on CA 1 from Muir Beach to Stinson Beach, then on to the Bolinas Lagoon, through the Olema Valley to the town of Olema. Then right, onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, through the Eucalyptus and Redwoods of Samuel P. Taylor State Park, to San Rafael, and back south along the 101 to San Francisco. The girls were all waiting for me at happy hour. They called me while I was in Olema and they were like "where the hell are you?" and I was like..."Point Reyes National Sea Shore?"

But I managed to catch up with them for a few drinks. Crazy chicks.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 17, 2011 at 11:27 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 16, 2011

Haw Haw Haw

I told my roomate tonight that she need to start providing "additional services" for the rent I'm paying. Of course, I was talking about doing my laundry. She told me to post on Craigslist that I wanted someone to do my laundry, so I did. Hahahaha.


Posted by Rob Kiser on March 16, 2011 at 12:45 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 15, 2011

This Isn't Legal

I heard the secretaries today. They were working over by the printer or the copier...I couldn't say which...but they were struggling with a machine and I heard one of them say "This isn't legal" and I'm thinking..."Hullo...what have we here?" And I'm thinking I'm going to be in on some big secret conspiracy. But then, I realized they were talking about "legal" sized paper instead of 8 1/2" x 11". So, it wasn't nearly as exciting as I'd hoped.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 15, 2011 at 10:25 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 14, 2011

The Haight

Above: Mural at Eerie and Mission.

Above: Mural at Eerie and Mission.

Above: Mural at Eerie and Mission.

Above: Mural at Eerie and Mission.

Above: Mural at Eerie and Mission.

Above: Mural at Eerie and Mission.

Above: According to The Tender, these koi fish were done by Jeremy Novy.

Update: This mural at the corner of Haight and Laguna is by Mars-1.

Update: This mural at the corner of Haight and Laguna is by Mars-1.

Above: Mural at the corner of Haight and Laguna.

Above: Lower Haight's 7 foot tall bunny with a skull in its mouth, the work of artist Jerry Fish.

Above: Lower Haight's 7 foot tall bunny with a skull in its mouth, the work of artist Jerry Fish.

Above: Lower Haight's 7 foot tall bunny with a skull in its mouth, the work of artist Jerry Fish.

Above: Mural at the corner of Haight and Laguna.

Above: Mural at the corner of Haight and Laguna.

Above: Mural at the corner of Haight and Laguna.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 14, 2011 at 10:30 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 13, 2011

The Rocking Pig

So, we're walking down the Pearl Street mall, hoping for flowers. For some sign of spring that might save us. Only the Pansies, purple and yellow, grace the flower boxes. Between them, broad shoots stabbing up from the winter's earth. Shoots from the Tulip bulbs, gasping for the light.

"Who knows what flowers are these?" I ask.

"Pansies," Jennifer replies immediately.

"But what are the shoots coming up between the Pansies?" I challenge.

"Tulips," Jennifer shoots back immediately.

I dunno how she knows this. Probably I've told her before. Probably I've told her already today. I cannot know. This is not for me to know. Only I can teach her what I believe to be true, and hope for the best. This is all. This is all.

We wander a bit further down the pedestrian mall. We're going to some candy store Jennifer and I found out in San Diego a couple of years ago. A place that specializes in obsolete candies. This is the goal, in theory.

At some point, we discover a "Rocking Pig". Similar to a Rocking Horse, only it's a pig of course. Who thinks of these things? I dunno. I dunno.

The girls and I continue down the pedestrian mall...the girls and I...we we come across this performer...a "busker" they call them here in Colorado...and he's setting up to do his act and I glance at him and I'm like..."I know that guy" And the girls aren't so sure.

"How do you know him?" Jennifer challenges. And I think about this for a second. At first, I'm not 100% certain how I know him...only that I do. But of course, the challenge resonates with me. The insolence of youth. They're not sure that I'm right. Or that I'm sane. They question me. They're testing for chinks in the armor. Is the old man still sane, or is he off his rocking pig?

I've been walking this planet for a long time now. 44 years for those of you playing the home game. And these girls, they're looking up at me, all eyes and teeth and skinny jeans. They want something.

The look at me, uncertain. I am unkempt, at best. Unshaven. Gray stubble across the face. A shock of hair like a drug addled hippie on the run. In truth, I look like a homeless person with a nice camera. To say that I look 'disheveled', would be a generous complement. Gracious.

"I used to do a show in Jackson Square in New Orleans. He was a performer there. I met him along time ago...20 or 30 years ago. I helped him while he was learning to ride a unicycle in Audubon Park."

"What's his name?" They twitter. These girls, twittering like finches in the bush...nipping at my heels like a dog herding sheep. They can't be dissuaded. Can't be put asunder.

"I dunno. I don't remember his name. This was a long time ago. I met him in the Spring on 1985. That would have been about 26 years ago. We weren't great friends, but I remember him. He knew somehow that I was a Gemini. He was dead right on that. He called it right away. Something I said and he knew I was a Gemini. I've never had anyone else get that right."

So this guy begins his show and we watch him for a bit. He produces an enormous yellow plastic chain and slowly shapes it into a map of the United States. All the while, he's asking people..."Who here is from out of town? What's your zip code?" And from the zip code, he tells them what town they live in. What restaurant they like to eat at. Now, the girls are not impressed by this. But they don't realize there are 48,000 zip codes in the country. They don't grasp the impossibility of what he's doing.

What was my zip code growing up? What was it? 39654. I raise my hand and tell him my zip code...He can't quite get it...He's close...He mentions Brookhaven and Osyka, both very close to my home town. He couldn't ever get the name of my town, but I was impressed. He got quite close.

"Does everyone see this hat? Does anyone know what it's for? My name's David Rosdeitcher. If you liked the show, please show your support."

He ends his show and I give the girls some money for the hat and they put it in. They delight in this. This learning. This ritual. This new understanding.

Of course, the girls still on the fence. On the fence between childhood and adolesence. Abou whether or not I really could know him, or whether I'm a doddering old fool.

So after a minute or so, I approach him and I ask him, "Did you use to live in New Orleans?"

He pulls up short. Taken aback. That would have been a long time ago. The years are pulled back from him slowly. Layer upon layer. That's going way back. He'd not expected this question.

"Did you use to do a show in Jackson Square?"

We were just kids then. 18 and stupid and spilled in the beautiful New Orleans spring so long ago. So very far back then. So hard to recall the warm spring mornings in the park, beneath the crepe myrtles. With sunlight playing in the fountains. Surrounded by wrought iron gates and warm welcoming benches, long before they welded steel arms across their length, rendering them useless for sleeping.

"I did. Yes. A long time ago, I did. Yes."

"In the Spring of '85?"

"Yeah. That's right. How'd you know?"

He looks at me now the way I looked at him then, when he somehow knew I was a Gemini. Something people don't know. Something I don't tell people, mainly because I think it's all hogwash.

"My name's Rob. I used to help you with your show in Jackson Square. We used to juggle together in Audubon Park...when you were learning to ride the 6' unicycle."

He squinted at me and tried to image what I would have looked like back then. But it was too much. A bridge too far. He didn't remember me.

But I'm not offended by this. We weren't great friends. Acquaintances, mainly. I'm not sure how I remembered him to be honest. His face hasn't changed a bit since I saw him 26 years ago. That's the only reason I recognized him.

And the wisdom of the aged prevailed over the insolence of youth, but they're always there. Questioning the precepts. Nipping at our heels. As well they should be.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 13, 2011 at 2:10 PM : Comments (1) | Permalink

Canon Camera Gear Update

Update: I do this for my own sanity, and to keep up with warranty information. Original post here.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 13, 2011 at 12:31 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Roll over before and after aerial footage of Japan


Posted by Rob Kiser on March 13, 2011 at 11:24 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Boulder, Colorado

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 13, 2011 at 10:24 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 12, 2011

Wake Up Tree Huggers

With Japan's nuclear reactors melting down like snow in the springtime, I wonder if the tree huggers will back away from their push to build nuclear reactors in the U.S. I never understood how quickly they switched from "No Nukes" to "Pro Nukes". Granted, the left views the energy needs of the United States through the lens of "Global Warming". Of course, Global Warming is a fraud and anyone with any sense knows it.

And, compared to windmills and solar panels, I'll give you, nuclear energy is sheer genius. It does, at least, produce electricity. But the problem is that it isn't safe. And there's no long term storage solution for the waste. If you amortize out the cost of storing the waste over the long term (something neither the public sector nor the private sector seem to be too keen on), then nuclear power is the most expensive energy source on earth. And probably the most dangerous as well.

Now, I dunno what the long term effects of having a dozen nuclear power plants melt down in Japan will be, but last time I checked, real estate around Chernobyl wasn't moving too fast.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 12, 2011 at 9:56 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 11, 2011

March 10th - 100,000 Dead in Japan - Over 1 Million Homeless

March 10th - 100,000 dead in Japan. Over a million homeless. In 6 months, 250,000 Japanese will die from radiation.

Sounds pretty bad, right? CNN has got you glued to your television, which is where they want you. Because this didn't happen on March 10th, 2011. It happened on March 10th, 1945.

On March 9th-10th, 1945, the U.S. Army Air Corps firebombed Tokyo, incinerating 100,000 people and leaving a million people homeless.

CNN, the fear-mongering network would have us believe that this is the worst tragedy ever to befall Japan. They repeatedly talk about this being the "biggest earthquake in Japan's history". OK. Fair enough. Probably true. But it's not like its the biggest calamity to ever befall that country.

Now, I'm not saying Japan didn't get what was coming to them. They attacked us first, and the Bible talks about reaping what you sow. You live by the sword, you die by the sword.

My only point is that, this is not the end of days. It's not like the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse are going to come riding into the picture any time soon. Japan will bounce back from this. They've been through MUCH worse than this before. That's the voice of reason that's missing on CNN, IMHO.

Update: It's a fair point that CNN, MSNBC, and FOX are all fundamentally similar in that they're all adrenaline-crazed fear mongers. I singled out CNN because FOX was more focused yesterday on separating employees from the unfunded pyramid scheme that is the WI public sector.

CNN and MSNBC are worse than FOX news, in my mind, because, in addition to peddling fear, they're selling a socialist agenda, while pretending to be politically unbiased. If the counter-argument is that FOX is doing the same thing, but shilling for the right, it should be noted that FOX network wouldn't exist if the MSM had not been so liberally biased from the gitgo. If the MSM had done fair and balanced honest journalism, instead of selling socialism to the unwashed massed, then there would have been no need for FOX news to exist.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 11, 2011 at 11:48 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Photos from 'The City'

Above: Golden Gate bridge at sunset, as viewed from the Lincoln Boulevard turnout. Framed by Monterey Cypress. Marin County headlands in the background.

Above: Calla lilies (of the Araceae family). Calla lily is the common name for the zantedeschia genus, a genus of twenty-eight different species all native to the southern parts of Africa.

Above: My old college roommate has been working in the bay area recently. So we met up for drinks Thursday night. I hadn't seen him in 20 years, so it was good to catch up.

Above: Me with a few of the girls at Solstice.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 11, 2011 at 10:16 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

The Airbus A320 Submarine

I get up this morning and decide I'll fly my 600mm lens back to CO so I hop onto the bike, balance the Canon suitcase between my legs on the gas tank, and pretty soon I'm rolling south on US101. There's a lot of traffic on this route and I've been down this road on a dirt bike before and I've never liked the feeling. It's too busy. Way crazy.

But I get down to the remote parking and park my bike. Whenever someone tells me how much something costs in San Francisco, I always start in right away, foaming at the mouth and complaining about how expensive it is. Mostly just because it's fun, but also because everything is insanely expensive. And, generally, the people serving you/waiting on you, are well aware of this fact. In this case, it gets me a coupon which will save me a good deal on my parking.

Now I head to the airport and go to the frequent flyer line to be screened by the TSA goons. I get to my gate and now mom calls and tells me there's been an earthquake in Japan that killed zillions of people. Not only that, but also it's created a tsunami that's heading for California, due to arrive at about 8:00 a.m. PST. My flight, of course, isn't scheduled to depart until 8:18 a.m. So, there's this 18 minute gap where I'll be strapped inside an Airbus A320 at 13 ft above sea level, waiting for a tsunami to come washing across the peninsula or in through the bay, turning the Airbus into a submarine.

I'm on my laptop watching a live CNN feed of video of Seal Rock near the Cliff House thinking...this is not good.

But eventually, we take off and no tsunamis hit us. When we get in the air, I recline my seat and the guy behind me starts complaining right away.

He leans forward and whites, "Can you put your seat back up? I have no room back here."

"You can recline your seat also. It sort of works out that way." I explained. I hate people that don't understand this. My chair has a button on it for a reason. So I can recline the seat, as God intended. It's more comfortable with the seat reclined. That is why the button is there. If you don't like it, I can't help you.

"But you seat is on my knees," he keeps complaining.

"Then go sit somewhere else," I continued.

Like, if you want to get in a fight over it, then let's go. But I'm not flying halfway across North American with my seat bolt upright because some total stranger was inconvenienced. Too bad. Deal with it. Or go sit somewhere else. There are other open seats on the flight.

So now, as we fly across the planet, he keeps kicking my seat so I'll know he's pissed. Every time he does, I lean back in my seat as hard as I can, trying desperately to break it off the frame so we'll land in his lap.

I should have pushed the flight attendant call button and said "Excuse me, but the jackass behind me is too dumb to fly, apparently. Can you please euthanize him and put him in the unpressurized cargo hold with the cats?

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 11, 2011 at 7:30 PM : Comments (3) | Permalink

Waiting for the Tsunami

I'm sitting at gate 72 at SFO waiting for the tsunami to hit. Fingers crossed that I'll get in the air before it hits.

Update: I made it home to CO. However, for the record, I really was about half-scared we'd be wiped out by a massive tsunami before we took off. The elevation of the SFO tarmac is, I would guess, about 6' - 10' above sea level. And CNN was streaming footage of Seal Rock (near Land's End SW of the Golden Gate bride) live on the internet.

Update 2: According to this site, the elevation of SFO is 13ft. So, this is about what I'd figured.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 11, 2011 at 8:39 AM : Comments (3) | Permalink

March 10, 2011

Thursday Night in San Francisco

Oh wow. I just can't begin to say how cool tonight was in San Francisco. A bunch of us went out for drinks and just had a ball. I got there to find Carol and Christine. Then Kathy showed up. Then my old college roommate Scott. Then finally, Amy. And we just had the best time. Can't begin to describe it. Eventually, the chicks left, leaving just Scott and me, swapping old war stories from college and it was just so much fun you can't know. We were high-fiving each other till out hands hurt.

Very cathartic.

I mean, I haven't seen Kathy in 6 years. Haven't seen Amy in 2 weeks. Haven't seen Scott in 21 years. Haven't seen Carol since....ah...last night I guess. But it was so much fun. Just insanely fun. We were at some little place called Solstice on Divisadero and California.

After all the chicks left, Scott and I discussed the need to have a road trip. And also to have a bigger reunion. With more people like Tim and Tom and Mark. Maybe in the fall. Because we're all just so crazy busy, right now. Earliest possible road trip looks like early September at this point.

But Scott and I just had so much fun you can't know. You just can't know. I'll post some photos from tonight when I get home tomorrow. Hahaha. OMG it was so much fun.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 10, 2011 at 11:46 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 7, 2011

Things My Brother Taught Me

My brother taught me a few things in his life. Probably more than he would realize. I remember when I told him once...when I was starting to do some photography back in 1995...I was shooting homeless people in Detroit. And I saw this woman pushing a baby carriage full of trash through a field. And I was like...Jonathan...I just couldn't do it. I couldn't point the camera at her and take a picture and say "look how fucked up your life is" and my brother told me "you've got to get over that. You've got to take the picture."

Now, I've used that advice so many times since then...you just couldn't know. And, I broadened the message somewhat. Today, in retrospect, I see it more as a "damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead" type of message.

Today, I shoot what I want to shoot. I don't get embarrassed or make excuses. I shoot like a lunatic and I make no apologies to anyone. When my daughter's school told me to stop shooting at school, I said "Sue me". When the cop at my daughter's new school said "What are you shooting with that camera?" I said "Whatever I feel like."

So, this was good advice, in retrospect, from someone who, by all accounts, is not overly bright.

And tonight, I'm sitting in some sweet little spot down in the Marina. I come here after work to try to pick up chicks. Let's make no bones about it. That's why I'm there. I'm not paying $8.50 a beer because I want to get a buzz. I'm there to meet women.

The trick to meeting women is that it's a numbers game. It's not easy. Women are about as inscrutable as anything on this planet. Men cannot know what drives them. What they think. Only it is a mystery.

And I go down there at nights after work and I try to talk to them, with limited success. But the trick is to keep trying. To keep swinging for the fences. The trick is not to care what anyone else thinks. To keep telling yourself that this next one is going to be a home run.

And this is not easy. In the major leagues, a professional batter strikes out 7 times out of 10. This is as good as it gets. No one gets a hit 4 times out of 10. This is impossible. So, the trick is to somehow convince yourself that, even though you're failing 7 times out of 10, that you're a rock star. Of course, this isn't easy. But this is where we are. This is the game we play. This is the hand we're dealt.

I walk in here tonight with my motorcycle helmet and my 400mm Canon lens. Everyone sees you come in with a helmet on. Let's make no bones about that. The chicks see the helmet and it drives them nuts. Why, I dunno. But it does.

And I've got the helmet and the camera and this draws a lot of attention. I should start carrying an ostrich around with me, like that guy in the square in Ollantaytambo, Peru. That guy knew how to get attention.

So I start uploading my photos into my laptop and this little oriental girl sits down beside me and I'm like...hello?

So I start talking to her and she doesn't run off, which is unusual. Think 7 times out of 10. Hell..think 9 times out of 10. But here we are. She's not running.

"I moved here from Phoenix," she offers.

"Oh. Yeah. I went there a few times this year...2 or 3...I'm not sure."

"You're not sure how many times you when to Phoenix this year? Seriously?"

"I sort of lost count. I never meant to go there. I kept ending up there by accident."

"What do you do," she asks.

"I hang drywall for a living," I reply. No one wants to hear that you're a computer consultant. That's a huge buzz kill.

So, we talk for a bit, and eventually I turn my back on her just because. Because, let's be honest, women want is to be ignored. We all know that. That is there. It's an immutable law, as true in San Francisco as it is in Hattiesburg.

Eventually, she moves to a different location. She's sitting against the wall beside some guy with a knit cap pulled down over his head so you can barely see his face. The way she's sitting, she's sort of a part of a wall of people facing me. Technically, individuals, but they seem to form a wall facing me. And I look at them. I tend to see them as a wall against me. I think about leaving. And then I think about what my brother said. "Fuck them." I think. Who are they? They are no one.

That chick would never meet anyone better than me. Not a chance.

Forget what that guy sitting beside her in the knit cap thinks. Piss on him. Walk right up to her, tell her to give you her email address, and that's that. Maybe he can learn something from the encounter. That's what brother tells me. Now, he's not speaking to me for reasons only he can know. But he speaks to me from the past. That message lingers.

So I get up and I walk up to her and I say this..."Woman...I'm having a book signing at the book store across the street...."

"Do you have a business card?" she asks.


"Oh. We'll here's my email address. Let me know when you have the book signing. I'd love to come."

"OK. Roger that. By the way. My name's Rob."

"My name's Emily. It was so nice meeting you."

And I think about that. Sure, it would be nice if my brother would talk to me. But you can't get blood out of a turnip. I'm happy enough where I am. And if my brother won't talk to me, at least Emily will.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 7, 2011 at 11:13 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

In The Morning

In the morning, I awake but something's not right. The alarm isn't going off. I'm sure that it's after 5:30 a.m. I check the phone and, because it's plugged in, the alarm doesn't ring for some reason. Not clear why.

But this is where we are. This is reality. It's 6:30 a.m. and there's precious little chance I'll make my flight.

Outside, a few inches of snow. I toss a few things in a bag, turn the heat down and I'm out the door. The first turn, I almost lose control and I think...this is insane. It's not worth wrecking over. If I miss my flight, I miss my flight. So I settle down a little and focus on trying to get to the airport.

I check my boarding pass about 37 times as I'm driving through the canyons. There's almost zero chance I'll make my flight. I think about parking in short term parking, but finally, I just resign myself. I'll park where I always do, go to the airport per usual. If I make it, I make it. If I don't, then I don't, and I'll just deal with the consequences.

Traffic is not good. I get to my long term parking and it's covered in black ice. Somehow, I don't wreck and I don't fall and break my hip. A woman shuttles me to the airport and I find myself before the Khafkaesque security theatre that is the TSA.

As a general rule, I don't speak to these guys. If they try to be friendly and speak to me, I just grimace. But this guy is really pushing my buttons.

"Where are you going?"

"San Francisco, I reckon."

"When were you born?"

"May 22nd."

"Have a nice flight."

So I bolt past him, clear security, and hop on the stupid little train.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. I print my boarding passes at home. No gate was assigned at the time I printed my boarding pass. I know United flies out of Terminal B, but this is all I can know at this point.

There are no monitors in the TSA screening area. Now, there should be. Because this is where you spend your time, endlessly waiting for the nimrods to search grandmothers and children for explosives, pocket knives, and helium balloons.

In the bowels of the airport, where you wait for the train, no monitors of course. This would be an excellent place to put them, but alas, a government has no brain. It has no thoughts and no will, save to tax and impede. This is all a government can do. Efficiency is it's antithesis.

So, I get on the train and go to Terminal B and get off, rush up the stairs to he banks of monitors. This is the first chance you have to see them if you print your boarding pass at home.

There's a huge bank of monitors for Arrivals, which is just absurd. You can't go to the gate to meet people any more, so why you'd need to know Arrival information is beyond me. Only to meet unaccompanied minors, I would guess.

So, I ignore the Arrival information, and focus on Departures.

Now, United has entered into an unholy "Code Share Alliance" with about 5 other airlines. The result of this illegal collusion, aside from reduced competition and increased ticket prices, is that each flight is listed under 5 different airlines with 5 different flight numbers. They scroll through the various airlines and flight numbers in perpetuity. So, the trick is to look at the Departure monitor banks, find the city you want to go to, and the departure time, and cross your fingers.

I know my flight is United Flight 869, but none of them say United. In theory, if you stand there long enough, it may eventually get around to showing United airlines, after scrolling through about 5 other airlines and their flight numbers.

But I don't have time for this. So, instead, I look for the flight that has the closest departure time and the gate says C45 and the flight is Boarding. Now, I know it would be unusual for United to fly out of Terminal C, but I really haven't gotten this Code Share thing all dialed in anyway, so maybe this is one of their partners that really does fly out of Termianl C? How would I know?

So, I bolt back downstairs and catch the train to Terminal C. At gate C45, the door is still open and I offer the guy my boarding pass and he's like "Dude...you're flying United. This is a Southwest Airlines flight. You're in Terminal C."

He says this like I'm the dumbest person on earth.

Immediately, I realize my mistake. But I've had airlines other tickets for other airlines. It happens all the time. I just shove my boarding pass at him and say "I realize this is Southwest Airlines...will you fly me to San Francisco?" Because, at least the flight is going to San Francisco. I did manage to get that much right, anyway.

"Check with them at the counter."

'Will y'all fly me to San Francisco?" I ask, offering my boarding pass as collateral.

"Sir. Your boarding pass is for United. This is a Southwest Airlines flight. You're in Terminal C."

Again, she says it like I'm the dumbest person on the planet. Like somehow, I don't measure up to the rigors of modern air travel."

"I'm well aware of what airline I'm flying and what Terminal I'm in. Thank you. I'm asking if you'll fly me to San Francisco."

"Not without purchasing a ticket, sir."

So, I turn around and race back down to the train, back to Terminal B and back to the same confusing bank of monitors.

Now, I'm not clear what the monitors said that made me think I needed to go to Terminal C. Clearly, in retrospect, I made a mistake.

This time, I study the monitors a little more closely. I find a United flight for San Francisco that's boarding and head for that one. Gate B something or other. So, I race to the gate and I hand the guy my boarding pass and he just looks at it, like it's a turd in a punch bowl.

"What is this?" he sneers?

"My boarding pass," I reply.

"This boarding pass is not for this flight," he continues, like I'm dumber than carpet.

"I'm aware of that, thanks."

"The why are you here?"

"They told me to come here," I lied. I just knew that, since his was the next United Airlines flight to SFO, I needed to come here and plead my case. Probably, I should have gone to the "United Airlines: Please Wait Here" penalty box, but I skipped that stage and just went straight to the gate of the next departing flight.

"Who's THEY?" he demanded.

"The people at the ticket counter," I lied. No reason to back down now.

"If you want to go standby on this flight, there's a $50 charge," he announced proudly. I'd fucked up, and he had me. He was happy that I'd have to pay a penalty for missing my flight. This was clear to everyone involved.

"Fifty dollars? Seriously? OK. Fine. But I'll never fly United again. I'll start flying Southwest. They don't charge ridiculous fees like that."

"Sir, it's not my policy."

"I understand that."

"It's not my fault."

"I understand that also. I'm just stating a fact. I'll never fly United Airlines again. I'm not blaming you. I'm just stating a fact."

"Do you live in Denver?" he asked.

"Yes. That's why I used to fly United," I continued.

"Why did you miss your flight?" he continued. There was just no pleasing this guy. He was out for blood.

"I missed my flight because your fucked up code-sharing alliance is so confusing that someone that flies every week can't figure out which gate to go to. That's why I missed the fucking flight."

"Was it because of security that you missed you flight?"

I was looking at the guy through throbbing temples. I wanted to come across the kiosk and choke him to death with hands. Gouge his eyes out with my thumbs.

"I don't know what game we're playing here. I'm not clear what you want me to say."

"Did you miss your flight because of security?" he repeated.

Slowly, it dawned on me. He was trying to help me. I was just too livid to understand what was going on.

"Yes. I missed my flight because of the long lines at security."

And that was it. He typed something into the computer, printed me a boarding pass, and I was on the plane, headed to San Francisco for no additional charge.

Once we're on the plane, I realize I'm in the last row, which doesn't recline. I'm in a window seat, but on the wrong side of the plane.

So, I'm in my seat. Everyone's boarded except for a small village of Vietcong, and a few others I noticed out there. I give everyone the official OK to spread out, as though some how I have this authority, and everyone does. I grab a window seat a few rows up and, I'm still on the wrong side of the plane, but it reclines at least. And I'm as happy as a pig in slop and praying for them to close the cabin door. I want them to nail that thing shut, but they won't close it and now, here comes that village of Vietnamese and they're coming this way and of course, I'm in their seat. It's a whole village, as I mentioned. At least 5 of them. And, of course, I'm in their seat. But somehow, they all just sit down and no one throws me out. They should have, of course. But now one does.

And we slip away from the winter storm that's bearing down on Colorado.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 7, 2011 at 10:01 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Feels Like a Monday

Above: Mural at 2044 Bryant Street.

Above: Mural at 2044 Bryant Street.

Above: Amanda Lynn mural at 2044 Bryant Street.

Above: Wheatpaste near 2044 Bryant Street.

Above: Wheatpaste near 2044 Bryant Street.

Above: Joel Bergner mural near 2044 Bryant Street.

Above: Joel Bergner mural near 2044 Bryant Street.

Above: Joel Bergner mural near 2044 Bryant Street.

Above: Joel Bergner mural near 2044 Bryant Street.

Above: Bernice Street Mural.

Above: Bernice Street Mural.

Above: Bernice Street Mural.

Above: Mural at 2044 Bryant Street.

Above: Bernice Street Mural.

Above: Bernice Street Mural.

Above: Bernice Street Mural.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 7, 2011 at 9:46 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 6, 2011

The End of the Migraine Nightmare

Jennifer has had migraines, which have become more common as of recent. Finally, last weekend, I decided I'd had enough. I'd sort of kicked around and asked a few questions...what triggers them...how can they be prevented...things like this...but finally, last weekend, I decided I'd had enough. I called my brother-in-law and I was like...Mark...seriously...it's 2011. Isn't there something that we can do for these migraines. He told me that there's a class of drugs known as "Triptans" that are "abortive treatments" for the headaches meaning that, you can take them after the headache starts, it it will make the headache go away.

But, he's a geriatrics guy, so I told Michelle to set us up an appointment to get a prescription for the "triptan" drugs to see if they would help her. On Friday, we went in and met with this guy..a. real quack. Mostly, in the United States, doctors are little more than pill pushers, writing us prescriptions for things we could buy at Wal-mart if we lived in a free country like Mexico.

So, I sat there while this idiotic doctor wearing a bow tie, red sneakers, and some clown outfit talked to her about her migraines. He did have her perform a couple of simple co-ordination tests, roughly the equivalent of a field-sobriety test. He checked her balance. Made her touch her nose. A few things like this. Then, he told her about some common triggers to watch for, and that she can try using a wet towel (warm or cold). Just basically medieval mumbo-jumbo that any witch-doctor in New Orleans would feel comfortable with. Of course, I'd told him at the start that I wanted a prescription for the "Triptan" drugs. Finally, I made it clear to him that we weren't leaving without it.

I mean, I could read every house-wife's old-wives-tale and folk-remedy on the internet or in People magazine. I'm looking for some modern medicine that passes the double-blind tests by a statistically-significant margin, something most housewives could never comprehend. And a guy in red-shoes and a bow-tie isn't giving me the warm fuzzy I'd hoped for.

Eventually, he relented and gave us the prescription, plus another drug for nausea and went next door to Wal-mart and loaded up and sure enough, this morning, she came to me and said she'd seen the blurred/circular vision that was her sign a migraine was coming on. And I had her take the medicine and it worked. Migraine never came on at all. It did sort of knock her out for an hour or two, but a major improvement over getting nauseous, throwing up, and then going into a cave of pain for three hours. Yeah for Uncle Mark!

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 6, 2011 at 9:21 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Every Place You've Never Been

The truth is that, when I look at a world map, all I see are the places I haven't been mocking me. That's what haunts me day and night. Everything that everyone else wants, or appears to want - security and money and a place to call home...all of these things to me are little more than poison. Security is a warm prison, or so it seems.

My family worries and frets, "Aren't you going to save any money for Jennifer?" Oh yeah. Because that's what helps people the most. Handing them a large sum of money when they turn 18 or 21. Yeah. That's generally shown to work out for the best.

"What about when you can't work any more? Don't you need a long term disability insurance?" they whine. "I have it," I reply. "I keep it in a nightstand by my bed. If I'm so clueless that I can't work, then trust me, I don't want to be alive."

I keep buying these dirt bikes and stranding them in different cities because I'm always planning on dropping out. I pick my destinations based on the shock factor when I announce it. "Panama" seemed to get the right response, so I've been planning on going to Panama on a dirt bike for some time now, only I keep getting these silly little assignments that keep me busy.

The trip is still out there. A splinter in my mind. The problem is that my current project is scheduled to end in August, and that's the right time to be in Alaska, not Panama, so there is that.

The best travelers know that you have to follow the seasons in your peregrinations. This is only the way. If you're not chasing the seasons, then I can't help you. Probably our paths won't cross. Or, put another way, if I'm laying out my money to go somewhere, it won't be in the "off season". That's not in the cards. I'm not going to Phoenix in August and I'm not going to Anchorage in January. Now, granted, I was in Madison, WI in January, but I started there in August and I wasn't on vacation. Work is different, in my dim view of the world.

Not much is known of this, but I turned down a 1 year extension of my contract in Pittsburgh. Additionally, I essentially turned down a local project in Denver so I could stay on the road.

I'm too close to that last woman here and I keep falling down that same slippery slope and I've been down these roads so many times you just can' t know and if something out there is different than this...this dull throbbing pain of samedom, then whereever it is, Lord God let me be there.

And so I go on the road and travel so often you can only imagine, racing through airports and tunnels and cities. Sitting at home, buying plane tickets, and trying to decide which city I want to sleep in. Only in this maelstrom of chaos and confusion does anything really come into focus.

Only when I've completely escaped from home, can I safely look back and wonder what on earth I was so afraid of. After all the grenades are frantically tossed and all the bridges brightly burned, only then can anything be known. Evaluated, safely, in the rear-view mirror.

A tiny sliver of this is instinct, I think. A splinter of the human condition. The practical realization that danger is best evaluated from a safe distance.

Only now, when I can sleep here or there. Only when I'm truly free to fly anywhere in the world. When I buy plane tickets and think...where to I want to spend Thursday night? Here or there? And what about Sunday night?

Only now, only now, when all of the future possibilities are spread upon the table like Pente beads. Only in this perspective can anything be viewed or known.

Only from the comfort of someone else's fireplace can any perspective be gained. Only from the sanctuary of some distant city can I safely look back and wonder from what am I trying to escape.

Everyone around me seems so frail and mortal, yet blissfully unimpeded by reality. The guy that sold me the bike in CA had his hand crushed while working on a car and three surgeries haven't helped him. My boss in CA is going to some ex-inlaw's funeral and he laments how many in-laws and ex-in-laws funerals he'll have to attend since they're both on their 2nd marriage and I turn to him and I say "what makes you think you'll outlive them?" This is why I have no friends - I just can't listen to this stuff.

He tells me "You need to pick a route into work, and go the same way every day. That way, you can find the safest route, and learn the nuances of the traffic better." And, of course, to him this makes sense. But for me, it's the anti-thesis of making sense. It makes me want to stick my hand in a blender.

We're all being picked off, one by one like carnival ducks and yet everyone keep dutifully trudging toward this distant target where we'll all be financially secure and retired and finally free from the economic shackles of capitalism and I'm like "What on earth makes you believe in that illusion? " This is no better than some late-night informercial.

Live is about the journey. It's about the adventure. Not a death-march toward some future-state happiness. That's a mirage - a Potemkin village.

Now, why is it that we can't be happy with what we have? Why is it that we measure ourselves against our neighbors and against the commercials on the television? Why is it so hard to appreciate the home when you're home and the away when you're away? What is this internal grist that drives the human condition? That propels us forward in spite of everything we have?

I don't know the answers to this, any more than a cat on a computer monitor knows why it's warm. It's not for the cat to understand why the monitor gets warm. Only the cat knows that it is warm. That's all that it can know.

I suppose I'll build a fire, thumb through a worn copy of The Grapes of Wrath, and then spend the night at home. And then fly again tomorrow.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 6, 2011 at 11:23 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 5, 2011

Ning - Social Network or Pyramid Scam?

I've been shooting graffiti in San Francisco on and for nearly 20 years. Some of the art is painted as part of a legitimate mural sanctioned by the city, but of course much of it is quasi-legal, at best. The advent of email addresses was a change I witnessed over the years, with artists painting email addresses, website URL's, etc. This week, I saw some art and tried to google the art, but with limited success. There seemed to be some social network sites based on something called "NING", which I was not familiar with.

So, I just googled "ning graffiti". And I found a few websites (http://philippinegraffiti.ning.com/, http://graffitikingz.ning.com/, and http://urbanartgraffiti.ning.com/, but I couldn't access them. "This Ning Nettwork is currently unavailable". Apparently these websites were put up, then then shut down for some reason. Even the cached versions in Google wouldn't allow me to see the archived versions, instead displaying an obtrusive splash screen, effectively blocking the content.

Even access via the Wayback Machine is blocked. Insanity.


Posted by Rob Kiser on March 5, 2011 at 7:24 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 4, 2011

More Camera Gear

Today I broke down and ordered the Gitzo GT5541LS carbon fiber tripod and the Wimberley II (WH-200) head with the Wimberley P-40 Arca-style quick-release plate for the Canon 600mm f/4 lens. I'm hoping that this quick-release lens plate won't impede my ability to carry the lens, as I really like the way the lens foot feels in my hand when I carry the lens.

Am trying to get this rig all cobbled together before Jen and I leave for Hawaii later this month. I just hate learning how to use gear in the field. I've been happy, so far, with the new camera and lens, and have become marginally proficient with them, considering that I've not had the new gear very long.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 4, 2011 at 8:49 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

San Francisco: While You Were Out

Above: View from Twin Peaks looking NE along Market.

Above:A grouping of Calla lilies (of the Araceae family). Calla lily is the common name for the zantedeschia genus, a genus of twenty-eight different species all native to the southern parts of Africa.

Above: Calla lily.

Above: Agapanthus, the only genus in the flowering plant family Agapanthaceae. Predictably, the botanists can't make up their mind on anything, so there are somewhere between 6 and 10 species, all native to Africa.

Above: View north from Cascade Walk near Funston Avenue and Pacheco Street. St Anne of the Sunset Church with Inner Sunset district and Golden Gate Park in background.

Above: Grand View Park.

Above: Looking north across the Inner Sunset district, Golden Gate Park, fog rolling in over the bay, Marin County Headlands in the background.

Above: Praying Mantis downtown at the corner of Hyde and O'farrell.

Above: Wheat-paste graffiti downtown along Hyde Street.

Above: Wheat-paste graffiti downtown along Hyde Street.

Above: Wheat-paste graffiti downtown along Hyde Street.

Above: Wheat-paste graffiti downtown along Hyde Street.

Above: View east from Twin Peaks.

Above: View of Market Street from Twin Peaks.

Above: This is me in Tortilla Heights with a margarita at this chick's birthday party. I'd just returned from Petaluma with the bike, which is why I look like homeless person. The sign is the sign I held out by the observation area at the South end of the Golden Gate Bridge. I was trying to hitch a ride north to Petaluma, but for some reason, the "I WON'T KILL YOU" sign didn't work.

Above: The magic carpet that transports me through the nightmare of San Francisco. I say it's a nightmare because of the complexity of the transportation grid. The buses, cable cars, bicycles, pedestrians, ambulances, fire trucks, motorcycles...you name it.

The guy that sold me this bike had put a "lowering link" on it, which is what short people do, of course. So it sits a little lower than it should. I'll see if I can't get that straightened out. This photo was taken in front of a little taqueria on Van Ness that I frequent. I've taken to ordering "tortas" instead of "burritos", as they're much better, IMHO.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 4, 2011 at 11:13 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

March 2, 2011

Tortilla Heights

So today, after work, I go to The Grove in the Marina on the motorcycle and the motorcycle is good for this. You can get around the city and park the thing and walk inside with a motorcycle helmet and there is this. There is this.

So now, I'm wandering around the Marina district and there is this little book store across the street and it's called Books Inc. Now, I've explained to them before that I'm a very famous local author and I'm interested in setting up a book signing. And I buy a copy of Tortilla Flats and ask for the contact for my book signing, as it's not progressing as I'd hoped. No one replied to my queries, as it were. And so, I'm in this book store again and the girls gets me a copy of Tortilla Flats and I walk across the street into the Grove to read it and of course, I'm very disappointed. It's one of those books that I started and never finished because it sucked so bad.

Always, when I start reading Steinbeck, I want it to be like The Grapes of Wrath. But never it is. Always, it's like Cannery Row or Tortilla Flats. Just slow dull painful death. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. And less. Always less.

There is this and little else. So little else.

The Bike.

The bike is a dream. Or a nightmare. Take your pick. Opposite sides of the same coin. There is this.

I ride the bike into work in the morning but I take Larkin instead of Van Ness. This is obvious, is it not? The roads are much easier to follow. Stop signs at every intersection. One lane of traffic each way. This is much better for the ride in.

Van Ness is death death death. Buses and homeless and sirens and horns and rain and you just can't know. You cannot know.

When I hear a car horn, I'm not sure what to do. Sometimes I speed up. But why? Is it for me? Is it for someone else? I cannot know. Cannot know.


Work is work and work is work. I am here and I am there and it's all the same. It's all the same. Work is so dull you just cannon know. I couldn't begin to explain. But think of this. The elevator breaks so often there's a pool on when it will break next. They installed a plastic/glass? frame/holder in between the elevators and they keep the sign at the ready. The sign says "the elevator has broken again. Line forms on the left.

This is where we are.

This is this.

Every street I go down. Every alley. Every corner looks familiar to me. I see the graffiti and some is new. Some is old. Always I'm surprised at the brain. The human brain and all it's quirks.

How is it that I have all of these memories. The roads and buildings and the art. It's all refreshed now. Like fresh paint filling in the cracks of an old painting. Nothing here is new to me. Very little.

Laurel Heights

Today, we go to a meeting at Laurel Heights. And, I mean, lets be honest. I'm not young. The brain doesn't work very well any more. Only, when the people in my office stand up, I stand up also. I can't really begin to fathom the work I've signed up for. I'm as mixed up as a squirrel in a blender.

So, when they stand up, I stand up, and I'm so retarded. You just can't know. You just can't know. But it's not pretty. There's no win here. There's no happy ending. Just a nightmare at the end of a pointed stick and precious little else.

Only, I stand up and act like I know what's going on. Turning like a pig to face the blades. "What now? Where are we going?" Always to some meeting where they grill me for hours about the application and I'm just shallow and sincere and translucent. A celophane wrapper around precious little.

Always, rooms of new people and me, at the center of this maelstorm, nodding and smiling and shaking hands. Always, they're so glad to meet me. And I'm just so stupid. So stupid you cannot know. I have only this...a bike with an expired plate...unkempt hair...coffee stains on my shirt...rotten Walmart shoes so that, anyone, at a glance, would think I was homeless. But somehow I'm not. Not yet.

Somehow, I'm the center of attention. And there are these presentations going on and now, it's my turn to present. And, of course, this is like a nightmare you can't wake up from. Sure. You need me to present? OK. No problem. I'm at bat? What inning is it?

And suddenly, I'm behind a keyboard and speaking in public, sort of. This huge project going on in California that I can barely grasp the dimensions of. Somehow, it's all going on in realtime all around me. And I'm just sort of...ah...um...ok...here's how it works.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 2, 2011 at 8:54 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

The Lost Art of Consulting

The truth is that I'm a better consultant today than I ever was before in my life and the only reason is experience. The problem that i used to suffer from was the lack of my ability to sway decisions. I'd stake out a position on every issue and attempt to sway the client over to my way of thinking and my true belief now is that, as soon as you've decided on the best approach, you've already outlived your usefulness to the project.

As soon as you take a position in any discussion, you've already lost, IMHO. The key is not to take a position. If you don't take a position, then you have nothing to lose. There's no possible way to lose the argument if you refuse to takes sides. This is the true value of a consultant. They come in as an external, independent, objective person that you can consult.

What I've learned to do now is keep my mouth shut. Just because the other people in the room are all talking about a topic does not mean you need to open your mouth. When everyone gets quite and looks at me, I don't say a word unless there's a specific question to be answered.

Attempting to martial the thoughts of the huddled masses into some sort of cohesive thought process is, as Obama would say, "above my pay grade."

When everyone makes a statement or three and then gets quiet and looks at me I just say "I'm sorry...was there a question in there somewhere that I missed?" Because, if you didn't ask a question, I'm not talking. There's no reason to, and there's many reasons not to.

Only in this light can the role of the consultant be truly appreciated. So today, this girl comes to me and asks a question, and I answer it, giving her all the details one might need to come to a conclusion, but delicately avoiding offering anything that might be misconstrued as advice. Only information. This is all that I can provide. It's how I'm most useful, I think.

And in this role, I do fairly well. So, every conversation starts out with, "Now...understand I don't have a dog in this fight...y'all have to make a decision on which way to go here. If you go with option A, then here are the implications. If you choose option B, then here are the implications.

And, of course, the clients love this, as a general rule. Because it allows them the power of controlling something, no matter how insignificant. It give them the "Feeling of Power", as Carol likes to point out.

So, of course, now they all want to talk to the consultant, like people visiting the Oracle at Delphi. They come by and ask me questions and say things like "how do you prefer I contact you?" and I say "I prefer that you stay out of my presence whenever possible. I'd prefer that you send your questions via carrier pigeon."

But really, of course, I love that they come and ask me questions because, it's about the best feeling in the world and I can promise you this, no one ever asked for my input on anything when I was a salaried employee. It was all sort of "top down shove it down your throat" and "stop your whining", as my brother likes to say. He's the old-school type of boss that believes that nothing the people underneath him have to say could possibly be of value so, if you have any input, "shut up and stop your whining" is the general rule of thumb he likes to live by.

And that's why I'm a consultant as opposed to an employee, I think.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 2, 2011 at 1:38 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Insert Line Feed in Excel 2007

In Excel, to insert a new line character, you press the "enter" key + "Alt" key at the same time. (It's not a timing game...you just hold them both down. Don't be that person.)
In Excel, to insert a new line character, you press the "enter" key + "Alt" key.


Posted by Rob Kiser on March 2, 2011 at 10:32 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Only Show 9 to 5 in MS Outlook 2007

Wait, what now? You only want to see the office hours in MS Office? Like, say from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm? What are you going to be doing from midnight to 8:00 a.m.? Don't you want that to be at the top of your calendar? I mean, sure, most people are sleeping then, but maybe you need to re-arrange the meth lab at 3:00 a.m. You could schedule that in Outlook, right? See, now you're thinking.

OK. Seriously. There's no way to only make MS Outlook 2007 only show 9 to 5. Sorry. Thanks for playing.

Update: After missing a meeting this week because the MS Outlook 2007 calendar is so useless, I finally broke down and asked a girl I work with what to do. She showed me her calendar, and though she wasn't sure how or why, her calendar was markedly better than mine. We were both viewing a Week at a time, but her calendar was clearly better.

So, I kept playing with mine and I did find something that improved it dramatically. If you right-click on a blank spot in your Outlook 2007 calendar, you can select "Other Settings". Then, you can set the Time Scale to "30 minutes" instead of "60 minutes", which is what mine had. This makes the entire day much larger, but then you can scroll down so that you only see (on one scree) from about 7:00 a.m to about 6:00 p.m. So, true, technically, the miserable MS Outlook program still wins by displaying the hours from Midnight to 8:00 a.m. where there's no chance in h3ll that a normal person would be at work, you don't have to see this hours if you scroll down. Ditto for the hours after 6:00 p.m.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 2, 2011 at 10:27 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

To Live and Die in San Francisco

So today, I drove the bike in to work in a sort of proto-typical San Francisco winter morning. Cool and cloudy and wet, though not really raining, per se.

I try to take the surface streets into work, so it's not quite as insane as say, Van Ness. I looked at some of the flowers along the way. You can see that Spring here is just around the corner. Sort of like some giant hand is about to reveal the city's hole card.

I see all the Agapantha buds ready to bloom. Just starting to open up, the way they did in April in San Diego 2 years ago. I watched them back then, not knowing what to expect. I watched the pods before they opened and asked everyone I could get to stop what kind of flowers they were. What would they look like, but no one knew and no one cared. Just wandering across this great stage, disconnected from whatever might be around them.

And then, finally the Apapanthas opened up and I was like...oh..wow....that's insane. Who knew? You couldn't take a pen and draw anything close to what came out of that pod. Not in a zillion years.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 2, 2011 at 10:07 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Petaluma or Bust

I couldn't figure out how to get my motorcycle from Petaluma to SF today. Everyone I asked freaked out. "A ride to Petaluma? Are you insane?" Like I'd asked them for a ride to Eureaka or Mendocino. But, no, apparently Petaluma (38 miles north of SF) was too far. I tried renting a truck from a business in San Francisco, but it was $35 a day, plus $0.79 a mile, so it was going to be about $100, plus they closed at 5:30 p.m. and then I'd have to leave the truck outside on the street at my own risk, overnight, plus pay another $10 sucker fee, and no insurance was offered.

So, driving a cargo truck with a 16' box up to Petaluma just to get a bike, buying tie downs, loading the bike, driving back to San Francisco, parking the truck on the street...none of it really made any sense. Too much liability, IMHO.

Finally, I decided to just go stand on the side of the Golden Gate bridge and stick my thumb out. So I made up a sign that said "PETALUMA", parked on the south end of the Golden Gate bridge, and stood by the side of the US 101 with my sign waiting to get picked up. I waited and waited but no one stopped. I made another sign that said "I WON'T KILL YOU" and held that one out for a while, but nothing worked and after about an hour or so, it was cold and dark when a cab pulled up.

"Dude...how much for a ride to Petaluma?" I asked.

Eventually we agreed on a price of $140. I put some money in the meter for my rental car at the bridge parking lot.

This got me to Petaluma without a car so I could turn around and drive the bike back, but didn't inconvenience anyone that I knew in San Francisco, and I didn't have to drive a moving van the size of an 18-wheeler across the Golden Gate Bridge, or leave it parked, uninsured, in the Mission district overnight.

The beauty of this was that I didn't inconvenience any of my geographically-challenged 'friends' in San Francisco. Somehow, it makes sense for them to ski in Wyoming and fly to L.A. to get their hair done, but driving to Petaluma is just full-on insane.

By the time we got to Petaluma, it was cold and dark, so I got the bike and drove straight to a K-mart. Found some gloves in a discount bin and picked out a pair for $1.08. I had brought an extra shirt and t-shirt, as I knew I'd be cold, so I put on all of the additional clothes and gloves in the K-mart parking lot and headed South along the Redwood Highway.

Back in SF, I went straight to a bar called "Tortilla Heights" to meet my geographically challenged friends and tried to explain to them that "Tortilla Heights" was a play on words, after Steinbeck's book "Tortilla Flats", but this was all on deaf ears of course.

After drinks, back to the flat on Russian Hill in a light rain. Then a taxi back to my rental car at the GG bridge. Then drove to airport and refilled the rental car along the way at $4.00 a gallon. Then to the airport where I dropped off the rental car 2 days early. I saved some money by doing this. Somewhere between $60 - $100, I think.

Budget Car Rental assured me that they had no copy of my contract, which prompted me to lament to them that I was stupid enough to have returned the car at all. If they have no record of me taking possession of the car, I should have sold it on eBay. Of course, this only confused them further.

The airport train back to the main terminal, where I caught a cab back into the city and now safely back at the flat on Russian Hill. I'm out of the rental car business now. It doesn't matter to me whether I work here for a week or a year, renting cars is for suckers. Renting cars in San Francisco is for fools.

And when I'm through with the project in SF, I'm driving this bike down to Panama. Now if only I can convince them to stop paying me to come in every Monday, I can get on with my life.

Posted by Rob Kiser on March 2, 2011 at 12:50 AM : Comments (3) | Permalink