Monday, May 31, 2010

Saturday afternoon on the Castro.

Photo courtesy of Tom Conrad

Memorial Day 2010

My friend is spending today, Memorial Day, sweating over his bookkeeping records for the past year. He received a notice in Saturday's mail informing him he must show up at Social Security office on June 1 with all of his records: earnings, expenditures, bills, statements, checks, rent, medical bills, or risk losing his Social Security and his Medi-Cal. Why? Two years ago his rent was raised. Social Security, in their wisdom of budgetary cost cutting, ruled that he is voluntarily paying too much rent, so they lowered his income ceiling. The upshot, Social Security claims they overpaid him $100 each month for two years and is requiring him to reimburse them $2400. Either way, with or without the $100 extra per month, he is living close enough to the poverty line to just be getting by. Meanwhile, the biggest banks receive billions of federal dollars, no questions asked, when they practically destroy the economy by unsafe and illegal practices, and 2010 is the year all inheritances are tax free, no matter how large.

Yes, it makes me proud to be an amerikan -- happy memorial day! I know this is why those brave soldiers fought and died.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Naked Stroll

Today was one of the better days; beautiful, gloriously warm San Francisco weather. I finished work and heading out the door I spotted my two nudist buddies strolling down the street -- naked. I called to them and proceeded to join them on their naked stroll. We received many admiring compliments and high fives. One mother with two children in a stroller, when asked by one child why those people were naked, replied, “Because some people like to be naked.” I seemed perfect, this is the way life should be. Ah, but it was to good to last.

After a good hour and a half of strolling and chatting with people in the neighborhood, we were walking down Castro Street preparing to end our excursion, when a police cruiser pulled up to the curb. Two officers got out and one asked us if we would please cover up. I responded as I wrapped my kilt around my waist, “Yes, of course, as long as you understand you that we are not breaking the law.” That was not the response this officer wanted to hear. He replied that we were in fact breaking the law, that we were indecent. I responded that there was no law against mere public nudity in San Francisco, that the courts had established what constituted indecent exposure, and it was not mere nudity. He replied that he was not a judge, that they had received complaints, and as soon as some one complains we are considered indecent. He then asked me if I would like to be handcuffed, arrested, and taken downtown. At this point I am fully clothed. I replied, ”No, I would not like to be arrested, but I do want to make sure you understand that I know we were not breaking the law.” He replied that he had been doing this for twenty-three years, so I should not tell him what the law was, and then started to walk away. I responded that perhaps he might want to speak to the district attorney about it, at which point he again asked me if I would like to be cuffed and arrested. “No,” I repeated. He said, “Don’t tell me to talk to the D. A. then.”

After he left my two nudist friends told me that the police, when responding to a complaint, must provide you with a copy of it on request. I wonder if one can be arrested for requesting a copy of the complaint? Clearly, this officer was not having as good a day as I was.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The 1901 Victor Monarch Talking Machine

In January of 1901, Eldredge Johnson released his first 10" diameter records, at first labeled "VICTOR TEN INCH RECORD". With in weeks, the label was changed to "VICTOR MONARCH RECORD". At this time, the 7" discs were labeled "VICTOR RECORD". In February, Johnson released the Victor Monarch Phonograph seen here, designed to play the new 10" Monarch records. In 1901, the Victor Monarch would set you back $40. That is approximately $936 in 21st century value.

The Victor name plate on this machine is lacking the ubiquitous Nipper listening to his master's voice, indicating this machine was produced before January 1902, when Victor began using the His Master's Voice trademark.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Homosexuals memorialized in Washington, D.C.

The Millet - Butt Memorial Fountain in Washington, D.C., memorializing two men, the American painter, Francis Davis Millet, and the military aide to both Presidents Roosevelt and Taft, Major Archibald Butt, who both drowned in the sinking of the Titanic and who were both homosexuals and best friends. Millet had lived with Charles Warren Stoddard in Venice in the 1870s and apparently had a romantic and intimate life together. According to Edith Kermit Roosevelt, Archibald Butt was a not-so-in-the-closet homosexual and her best friend and confidant. Millet and Butt were best friends, and were returning from a vacation in Europe, traveling together on board the Titanic. Millet did marry Elizabeth Merrill in 1879. Archibald Butt never married.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Published on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 by Reuters
Africa's Oil Spills Are Far From U.S. Media Glare
by Joe Brock
LONDON - Oil gushing from an undersea well in the Gulf of Mexico has damaged BP's reputation and share price but accidents involving other companies in less scrutinized parts of the world have avoided the media glare.

In this Dec. 22, 2005 file photo, people evacuate their homes by boat, as they pass smoke and flames billowing from a burning oil pipeline belonging to the Shell Petroleum Development Company, across the Opobo Channel in Asagba Okwan Asarama, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. (AP Photo/George Osodi, File) Investors have knocked around $30 billion off BP's value since an explosion at a drilling rig killed 11 people and began an oil spill the London-based major is struggling to plug nearly a month after the accident happened.

The U.S. media and political machine has turned its full force on BP and U.S. President Barack Obama has set up a commission into the leak which is sending an estimated 5,000 barrels per day (bpd) into Gulf of Mexico waters.

In contrast, the international media has largely ignored the latest incidents of pipeline damage in Nigeria, where the public can only guess how much oil might have been leaked.

The most recent damage in Nigeria, which has not been attributed to militant attacks that have preyed on Nigerian oil infrastructure for years, forced U.S. operator ExxonMobil to relieve itself of contractual obligations by declaring force majeure on its exports of Nigerian benchmark crude.

The light sweet crude is particularly well-suited for refining into gasoline and is regularly supplied to the United States, the world's biggest oil burner.

Exxon declined the opportunity to give details of the damage, clean-up or repair work.

An industry source, who declined to be named, said 100,000 bpd of oil had leaked for a week from a pipeline that has since been mended.

"If this (the BP spill) were in the Niger Delta, no one would be batting an eyelid," said Holly Pattenden, African oil analyst at consultants Business Monitor International. "They have these kind of oil spills in Nigeria all the time."


BP's share price has fallen around 18 percent since news of the fire at the drilling station on April 20, while Exxon shares were largely unchanged after the force majeure announcement.

The largest operator in Nigeria, Royal Dutch Shell has clashed with the Nigerian government for decades following numerous spills in Africa's largest energy producer.

Shell said in a statement on its website that its Nigerian joint venture cleans up oil spills as quickly as possible, no matter what their cause, but is sometimes delayed by security concerns or because some communities deny access.

The Anglo-Dutch major said the volume of oil spills in Nigeria for its joint venture was almost 14,000 tonnes last year, the equivalent of around 280 bpd, mainly because of militant attacks on facilities.

"It (the U.S.) is without doubt the worse place for BP to lose their political capital," said James Marriott, oil and gas analyst at environmental organization Platform.

"If the U.S. administration gets aggressive against BP, then it's a problem for them offshore, onshore in terms of shale gas, for conventional gas, refining, some cross-border projects with Canada and further afield."

In the United States, BP's massive spill and the risk of an environmental catastrophe could have implications throughout the industry as it has reopened the debate about deepwater drilling.

Analysts say, however, the world is hugely dependent on deepwater drilling to secure oil supplies.

The ExxonMobil force majeure relates to shallow offshore oil, but much of West Africa's crude production, like that in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, is deepwater.

Analysts say it is unrealistic to veto deepwater drilling if the world's oil needs are to be met.

"Perhaps in terms of health and safety regulation (things will change), but not in terms of drilling," said Angus McPhail of Wood Mackenzie consultants.

"It is not really feasible to stop drilling altogether as long as there is good demand for the product.... It would be total economic madness."

(Additional reporting by Barbara Lewis in London and Randy Fabi in Abuja; editing by Anthony Barker)

© 2010 Reuters