Category Archives: Miscellaneous Random

BYOBW in danger?

It sounds like the BYOBW race is in danger.  The cops want permits issued for the peaceful (and fun) assembly of its citizens.  That’s absurd. Here’s the note I sent to the mayor and police chief today:

Mayor Newsom:
I am writing to you in regards to the BYOBW (“Bring Your Own Big Wheel”) event that has been going on in San Francisco for nearly a decade. This strange and silly event gathers a wide variety of people together for an hour or two of outright fun. People dress in costumes, bring their cameras, summon some courage, and ride a child’s toy down a twisty street. Last year, the event moved to my block of Vermont St. on Potrero Hill. I have to say, I loved it!

There have been indications from SFPD that they will be present and possibly issuing tickets for participation. I learned this during a BBQ that the BYOBW organizers threw last Sunday to meet and thank the neighborhood residents. It has also been covered in local news sources.

As a resident living directly on the course, I am writing to express my support for this annual event. I hope that you and the SFPD will allow it to happen without intereference. While I welcome the presence of SFPD to enforce the law in case property damage or acute lawlessness occurs, I request that they not impede the free assembly of San Francisco’s citizenry. This is a joyful gathering that causes no harm, seems to be generally enjoyed by the community, and proved itself to be organized and attended by people interested in the good stewardship of our street (the scenery was unmolested and not a scrap of litter was left behind).

I believe this proven record of good behavior obviates the need for and motiviation behind permits. Government need not be involved in the amicable interactions of the citizens.

Thank you for your time. And if you feel like attending the event, you are welcome to watch it from my apartment balcony.

Kyle VanderBeek
(address and phone number removed)

If you agree with me, contact the mayor and free the BYOBW!

Knowledge and decision making

I’m not an Olberman fan; I find him a little too shrill and cranky to watch with any regularity. So, I embed a segment from his show with a little bit of trepidation, only using it to start making a point about science, scientific research, and how understanding these things are important in leadership.

I know everyone is on the Palin-slamming bandwagon, and with the material she provides it is all too easy to do. At this point I am, if nothing else, just in awe that she was tapped to be on the McCain ticket. I’m also blown away that her handlers and speech writers aren’t doing a better job in keeping her clear of these blunders.

But I digress. It really is stunning that a public politician seems to lack an understanding of science and would attempt to make a facile point about spending, only to shoot herself in the foot. You see, taking a cheap shot at fruit fly research makes no sense when also talking about special needs children. Fruit flies are an important tool and standard model in understanding gene-linked and developmental disorders such as autism. This sort of work is so important that the 1995 Nobel Prize in Medicine was given to a group of researchers that pretty much exclusively used fruit flies in their work.

But really, this is about big-picture thinking. It’s not enough to say something like “let’s cure autism”. You can’t just poke at autistic kids to do that. We need to increase the size of our research knowledge in areas of genetics, molecular biology, and developmental biology. We have to develop better tools to detect genetic abnormalities, toxic conditions, or other things that haven’t even been thought of yet in connection to ASD diagnoses.

All of these things can be done with a combination of public and private funds. This is the very stuff for which grants and endowments exist. It’s this search for knowledge which may not have a direct or immediate impact on health but might cascade into a sea change in the treatment of diseases. And this is precisely the type of research that we should frugally spend some funds on for the betterment of humankind and to make America a world-wide leader in science. A good leader must understand that.

Update: The research Olberman speaks of at UNC has already yielded some useful knowledge about the formation and function of neurons. The specific grant Palin was referencing is a mere $211k earmark made by California Congressman Mike Thompson for research regarding fruit fly threats California’s olive crops. It should be noted that this earmark was the first item on the 2008 awards page by the Citizens Against Government Waste, which makes it look all the more like Palin speech writers are just haphazardly grabbing info they can parrot off the internet without digging any further.

Honor your father and mother

My Parents On Father’s Day I want to take a moment to do something a little odd on my blog. Most of the time I talk only of myself and my experiences. I tend to restrict myself in this way since I don’t want to assume that other people, particularly my friends, want to have a play-by-play of their life recorded by me publicly on the Internet. I don’t mention a lot of names.

But I have to call some people out on this special day: John and Bev, my dad and mom. These two people, who came together in matrimony nearly 41 years ago, chose to begin the family unit of which I am proud to be a part. Together, though thick and thin (sometimes extremely so), they raised 3 kids who have become adults and started to repeat the cycle by founding their own families. In this way they have created one of the most lasting and amazing things in his world: they have created a living legacy. The reverberations of their genetic code and, far more importantly, their personal influence will echo far into the future. When I stop to think of this and its potential, I’m awe-struck. The great men and women of history have their humble beginnings, and their myriad inspirations. My parents have touched so many people, myself included, that their scope of influence in incalculable. There is no doubt in my mind that their impact has made the world better.

So today I honor my parents. They nurtured, taught, praised, corrected, comforted, and encouraged me. They mended cuts, built tree houses, prepared meals, and helped with homework. My list could go on for pages, but the important conclusion is this: they gave me everything, and continue to affect me.

Thank you both. You’re amazing.

Best Buy’s bait and switch

I find this reprehensible. Best Buy has gotten caught publishing prices on their web site, and having a duplicate, look-alike site that employees access from inside the store. So, if you see a deal on line and want to go pick one up in the store, it is quite possible that an employee will show you a site from one of their in-store browsers that shows a different price on what appears to be the Best Buy site. Silly consumer, you must’ve mis-read the price at home!

First, let’s call this what it is: it’s a grift. It’s a bait and switch. It’s illegal. It’s a scam to get you in the store and sell you goods at higher prices or try to get you to buy other goods. Second, let’s watch Best Buy’s executive team ‘fess up and admit what they did. From the article:

“It’s unfortunate, some of the situations being described,” Bryant said. “What we’ve learned very quickly is we have not been clear enough in communicating to our employees the policy, and how to execute it in our stores.”

Woah. That’s not an admission. That’s throwing every one of your retail employees under the bus. You’re blaming 17 year old kids for not being convincing con-artists. Just think about the level of sophistication required to pull this off. It wasn’t by accident that an entire second web site and database went up and that machines deployed to the stores were configured to access it instead of the public site. The infrastructure required to make this happen isn’t accidental; it is the result of a massive, concerted effort by people very high up in the organization.

You lied. You’re crappy con-artists that got caught. And I hope you pay.

Update March 19, 2007: According to a report by The Consumerist, Best Buy is still doing this, even after an investigation was launched!

Anthony’s Tacos

I’ve come to embrace the Anthony Bourdain school of restaurant selection. Several times in his show “No Reservations” he has pointed out that the best way to find good local food is to watch where the locals are eating. No matter how “divey” the place looks, if it’s full of people, you are bound to have a good (and safe/sanitary) meal. The locals won’t keep coming back if the food was gross and gave them the runs.

In California (and elsewhere) there is what I will call the “Taco Truck Corollary” that should be fairly obvious. I like to keep an eye out for where taco trucks park near work and home. When I see that a particular truck parks in the same place repeatedly and is consistently surrounded by dirty-handed, hard-working, blue-collar Latinos grabbing a meal, I add it to my list of places to get food.

I have yet to be disappointed with the results of this technique. I’ve had many good $5 meals, and not once have I gotten food poisoning or even an upset stomach. In fact, I’ve had far more sickness after eating at chains than any rolling “roach coach”. It’s simple, tasty food made by people who are truly invested in its quality (it’s their livelihood).

Hooray for taco trucks!

What’s my name?

I like my names, both first and last. People seem to choke on both of them, and I don’t really understand why. Maybe I don’t speak clearly enough, but I often end up getting called “Cal” or “Karl”. One sandwich place in the city even managed to consistently write down “Todd” on my order ticket. I suppose that was better than having the immigrant fellow behind the counter puzzle at the pronunciation for a bit and then holler out, “Kill! Kill!” when trying to alert me that my meal was ready.

My last name is a whole other ball of wax. As long as I can remember, it has been mangled. VanderBeek is as phonetic and simple as can be, but people seem to panic due to the extra capitalized letter and number of letters. I’ve long since stopped using the space that should be before the “B”: too many people decided “Vander” must be my middle name. Granted, a certain no-talent ass clown has made life a little easier with respect to recognition (though I find his use of capitals and spaces gluttonous). Sadly, that comes at the cost of being asked if I’m related to dear James every time a teen-aged checker at Safeway notices the name that comes up when I swipe my card. Such is my lot.

The most puzzling thing, though, is the world’s seeming inability to believe that I can correctly spell my name on a form. I have decent print handwriting, and am especially careful on forms that will be read by scanners. Still, I get all manner of variations coming out the other end. I’ve had to correct the DMV, my bank and broker, insurance companies, and employers. Mostly they seem to think it impossible that two consecutive e’s would be in there. Almost uniformly they seem to think, “Surely he must mean ‘VanderBeck’.” And, of course, they are very wrong.

Finally, there is the category of truly random mistakes. I get email and junk mail to a variety of bizarre permutations, some more hilarious than others. However, I recently got a refund check to a name that is useful. I’d like to thank the people at Epson for making reasonably good printers with enticing rebates, and for supplying me with what I must eventually use as my stage name: VanderRock!

Tees

I totally feel like a joiner since I’m coming late to the game, but I just love Threadless t-shirts. I have started wearing a lot less tees these days for some reason. I think it mostly has to do with feeling good about myself and looking a little better. To do that, it’s key to avoid wearing all those ugly, free vendor shirts I used to have. I’ve slowly been purging them, only keeping what I need for the gym or around the house. But I needed some good tees with a little style, and Threadless has provided just that.

Video Game Violence

I have to give “props” (if a guy like me is allowed to give “props”) to the fellas over at CAD for dropping a funny strip today that also makes a strong declaration about video game violence. Nice work, guys. This jackass lawyer Jack Thompson seems to be at war against the right to free speech. To me he just seems like a real-life Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer who is afraid of the modern world and its myriad blinking lights and talking boxes.