Monday, February 28, 2005

Frost on Hypothermia

Homeless advocate and former candidate for Palo Alto city council Victor Frost writes a letter to the editor:
"The word is on the street, We (sic) are doing it...savings lives. Hypothermia is the killer; three homeless men died last year. Now we have food to fight the cold and wet..."
--Victor Frost
I always thought that food was the solution to hunger but for hypothermia blankets and shelter was the way to go. Then again I'm not the homeless expert that Mr. Frost claims to be.

Must Not Be From Around Here

The editorial page today features a cartoon that has to do with a chain of stores in the Southeast named Winn-Dixie and a movie about a dog with the same name in the title. I'm sure I wasn't the only one scratching my head trying to figure out why the editors felt this needed to be published.

Spel Checking at Apple

Sadly, Apple MacIntosh pioneer Jef Raskin has died of pancreatic cancer. In addition to creating the concept, Raskin's role included naming the project after his favorite fruit--the McIntosh apple. Unfortuately, when it came to putting the name on the computer it was misspelled 'MacIntosh'. So okay, they didn't have spell check back then. Let's take a look at Mr. Raskin's name again. It's spelled Jef.

Green Belt Tightening

Menlo Park city councilman Andy Cohen isn't enthsiastic about giving the okay for a new luxury hotel on Sand Hill Road. According the the Daily News, Cohen couldn't care less about the sales tax bonaza for his cash strapped city. Instead Cohen wants to preserve this land as green space. As an aerial photo run with the story shows, the hotel would be built next to a freeway, bordering on Sand Hill Road and surounded by other development. It would seem to the casual viewer that it shares zoning characteristics of the land around it. It would be interesting to learn what other land Cohen feels should remain green and what city expenses he is willing to cut in order to achieve his land use policy.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Friedman's Elephant

Getting the full story on international developments isn't the main concern of our local paper, however from time to time various stories do get covered. Tom Friedman's column today deals with three events in the Middle East. According to Friedman, the election in Iraq, Lebanese calls for Syrian withdrawl following the murder of Prime Minister Hariri and Israel's about face on Gaza all represent tipping points which cause us to think differently about the Middle Eastern situation.

(Readers should also note the the AP story on (page 8) "Egypt eyes election reform". Egyptian President Mubarak seems to have suddenly bowed to pressure to allow challengers on the ballot. That wouldn't have anything to do with statements made about Egypt during the recent State of the Union speech or Secretary of State Rice's decision not to go to Egypt--would it?)

Numerous articles in the Palo Alto Daily News, the New York Times as well as the Associated Press have given harsh assessments of the Bush administration for decisions about the Middle East. Without doubt the monoculture that typlifies the mid-Peninsula and extends to the offices of media empires would be surprised to learn of positive changes affecting the world's number one hot spot--since their coverage failed to appreciate the upside potential all the while assuring their readers that Bush blundered.

Give Friedman credit, he came out in support of the intervention for exactly the reasons highlighted in today's column. He could be heard to utter "Just because George Bush says it, it doesn't make it wrong." Now that US efforts seem to be accomplishing exactly what Bush, Powell, Rice, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld sought to do, Friedman and others seem not to notice who should get the credit. These events are not accidental--they were the plan. Sure Mr. Friedman, those are tipping points, but someone had to do the tipping. You don't suppose it was the elephant over there?

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Sinking Hotel to Open in Fall

On Friday we learned that the Four Season's Hotel currently under construction in East Palo Alto is sinking. Construction work has come to a halt while efforts to shore up the building are considered. Not under consideration is the unfortunate choice of words to inform readers about the hotel's opening. According to a spokesman the hotel looks to open in the fall.

Saturday's news is about another hotel project on the otherside of the Peninsula. Stanford is close to announcing a deal to develop land near Sand Hill Road and the 280 freeway. The project is described as a luxury hotel designed to attract people doing business near the Menlo Park venture capitol hub as well as those living in the surrounding wealthy communities.

Could it be that they are close to announcing that the Four Season's Hotel will be relocating to the more stable site?

Friday, February 25, 2005

It's 4:18 am and you didn't see anything.

From Thursday's police blotter;
200 block of Homer Ave., 4:18 am: A tool bag and emergency kit was stolen from a car.
200 block of Homer Ave., 4:18 am: A woman's makeup bag was stolen from her car.
200 block of Homer Ave., 4:18 am: A man's iPod was stolen from his car.

Scenario #1: One break-in occured and various things were stolen. The report makes it look like three different break-ins.
Scenario #2: Three different break-ins were coordinated by three burglars working in unison.
Scenario #3: Three different break-ins, but the victims coordinated their calls to the police.
Scenario #4: Different break-ins happened sometime in the middle of the night. The police are confident that no one witnessed any activity and file their reports. For the Palo Alto police department everything that occurs at night without a witness happens at 4:18 am.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

French Plot Revealed

The much discussed Albertson's grocery store in the Alma Plaza announced that it would be closing. As straightforward as that is the Daily News confuses the issue with its sub-headline; FAILED EXPANSION PLANS LEAD TO STORE'S DENOUEMENT. Come again...denouement? defines denouement the final resolution or clarification of a dramatic or narrative plot--from the French dÉnouement. So if I have this right, denouement involves clarification in a way that using the word 'decision' doesn't.

What's to account for the use of French in our local paper? Does it signal entrenched cheese eating surrender monkey attitudes or is something more sinister involved? Some sleuthing reveals that Albertson's headquarters is located in the city of Boise Idaho whose name was given by French Canadian explorers. Your correspondent has spoken with Albertson's president Lawrence Johnson and can reveal that his previous employment included a stint in Paris with General Electric. The many and diverse businesses of Boise include Les Bois Horse Racing Park. Les Bois Horse Racing Park is french for 'in debt' as revealed in this online account. Could it be that the Palo Alto Daily News is hinting at a connection between Albertson's failure to make its Alma Plaza story financially sound and the gaming habits of Boise based Albertson's exectives? Or does the plot extend further into the global ambitions of the French-Canadian Power Corporation whose president is the politically connected Paul Desmarais.

What started as a simple confused headline now appears to reveal a story of more infinite complexity. Readers of the Palo Alto Daily News might reflect on the real intentions behind the purchase of the paper by Knight Ridder. Denouement indeed.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

More from Hough

Letter writer Janice Hough is a reliable partisan. Her letter to the editor today is on proposed changes to Social Security.

"Dear Editor: All the debate about the proposed new "personal" accounts really comes down to one question--what happens if bad, or simply unlucky, investment decisions leave some people with nothing?"
Janice Hough, Bryant Street, Palo Alto

Three points Ms Hough; 1. Its advertised as voluntary 2. People would only be allowed to invest a small percentage of their total social security account 3. The government would allow only low risk investments.

Statesman of California Avenue

Businesses along Palo Alto's California Avenue are up in arms over the make-over their shopping district is undergoing. It seems too many hair and nail salons are occupying formerly empty stores. The merchants, at least those not in the cuticle and folical trades, fear that they'll loose the identity the area has as a location with a variety of shops. California Avenue is known as the go-to spot to see some of the worst public art imaginable and it's debatable whether the salons are actually bringing the area back from this tacky display. One of the salons, Ciseaux D'or Hair and Nail Design seems to at least have a leg up on Antonio's Nut House.

Owners admit that little can be done because the complaining merchants don't own the buildings where the salons are located. (New regulation alert.) It is assumed that these out-of-sort owners didn't themselves replace previously loved stores. No one seems to know or care whether the nail salons are hurting business or instead attracting new customers for the shopping district. It's enough for us to learn of their collective wisdom about planned communities. Sanford Forte, the silver-tongued head of the California Avenue Area Development Association seems to think he can avoid offending some of his members with this well crafted statement; "No disrespect to the nail and hair salons, but we want to see less of them." I'm sure the hair and nail salons felt no disrespect Mr. Forte, none at all.

Monday, February 21, 2005

One For The Road

Residents of Los Altos interested in preventing their city from building a park along a road next to Hetch Hetchy right of way have discovered obscure surface rights that allow them to farm that land instead. Talk has it that a vineyard would be a suitable replacement. Which brings up the question--what would you call such a wine? Here's my choices: Roadside Ripple, Civic Chardonnay, Surface Rights Red.

Cartoon News

Terrific new innovation in local news debuts today...extensive front page coverage of cartoon plot lines. Today the Simpson's -- tomorrow's laugh riot is previewed here.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Some Parents Left Behind

The No Child Left Behind Act requires a certain level of reading and math proficiency for a school to avoid sanctions. The Sequoia Union High School district recently announced that one of their high schools--Menlo-Atherton--failed to meet the requirements. Sanctions involve ceding control over the school to federal authority as a charter school. The school district has come up with a plan to put $900,000 into a program intended to raise test scores.

Menlo-Atherton has a problem similar to many California schools in that they have a solid base of high achieving students as well as a large immigrant population struggling to catch up. The school is two distinct schools under one roof. So you'd think everyone would see the effort to improve student ability as a good thing. Apparently not. Some parents and administrators fear that the law is too strict and it wasn't meant for this kind of school. It's not something I've studied and that may well be the case, but I find it surprising that the PADN couldn't find ONE parent to voice an opinion supporting the decision to help their child. NOT ONE?

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Gorilla Helpers Sue

This is what makes a good story, animals and the continuing need for humans to mimic them. Let's review; two women employees of the Gorilla Foundation in Woodside say they have been harmed to the tune of one million dollars because they were fired. In dispute is whether they were fired because they refused to go topless for a Gorilla or as a result of complaints about health and safety violations at the facility. No one claims that Bill Clinton had an on-going interest in helping the Gorilla Foundation nevertheless Koko the 300-pound, sign-language speaking gorilla is remaining tight-lipped. The foundation was founded by Francine "Penny" Patterson. Her name suggests that a one million dollar payout is not under consideration. Parties interesting in replacing the fired workers can make inquires at the foundation's website or telephone number 800-ME-GO-APE.

Weekly Whining

Responding to being over shadowed by the sale of the Palo Alto Daily News, the publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly took the opportunity to slap his competitor around. Publisher Bill Johnson said the sale was welcomed in hopes of making the Palo Alto Daily News responsible and respectable. Johnson also thought it would be helpful to have Knight Ridder figure out if free daily newspapers covering smaller communities can work.

Palo Alto Weekly editor Jay Thorwaldson weighs in with a piece that questions combined circulation figures for the local papers purchased by Knight Ridder.

Just a guess, but it seems likely that the folks over at the Palo Alto Weekly are steamed about having lost an opportunity. That's right, Knight Ridder will help you figure out why The Peninsula Times Tribune closed without being sold and the Palo Alto Weekly couldn't see a market in daily newspapers. We agree that PADN sometimes inserts opinion into stories--and the Palo Alto Weekly doesn't? It also may be that Knight Ridder is looking into the future knowing that big city newspapers have hit the wall on circulation and they're trying to figure out if they can survive. Thorwaldson's comments about circulation figures would be more interesting if he were to compare them with his product. Hint; it's lower. What does it say when the editor and publisher of a paper try their hands at critiquing the competition--besides the fact that they wouldn't let a reporter cover it.

What? No Monster Home reference?

Articles dealing with neighbors fighting over housing construction is a perennial favorite. In addition to zoning regulations the issue usually seems to be what level of oversight does the person not building a house have over the person doing the building. Palo Alto has seen a number of these because most of the houses being replaced are one story homes being replaced with a two story homes. Todd and Kathy Reece of Palo Alto are in such a situation. They don't want their neighbor building a house they feel will intrude on their privacy. Leaving aside the merits of their claim I found humor in the photo used with the story. Kathy Reese summons all of her poor-me acting talent to convey a profound sense of injustice. Her neighbor will undoubtedly find more than just constuction problems living next to the Reese's.

In a parallel development (pun intended) two doctors are fighting over construction in Menlo Park. Larry Morrill is an orthodontist who is suing Robert Carlson an oncologist over Carlson's effort to build a second story on his garage which borders Morrill's property. Adding interest to the story is the fact that they had offices across from one another for eight years. Sort of makes any effort for world peace seem unattainable.

Friday, February 18, 2005


A frontpage story about tearing down the old Emporium's in Mountain View in preparation for building a new health clinic offers this bit of color; "About 50 people assembled in a light rain to watch Richard Slavin the group's chief executive officer and a thoracic surgeon by training, at the controls of a huge excavator." Great, now construction jobs are being outsourced to surgeons.


The PADN picks up a story from the New York Times--headline: CONGRESS MEMBER WANTS ANSWERS. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY wanted to find out what the White House knew about the Talon News Service reporter James Guckert. (Interesting that the press prefers to use his phony name Jeff Gannon.) It was revealed that in addition to espousing conservative viewpoints, his other transgression was his involvement with an online gay escourt service. No word on whether this job included house parties at Barney Franks', D-MA.

Considering the part gay issues play in Democrat politics I found Rep. Slaughter's choice of words somewhat interesting. Slaughter said the White House should come clean and stop stonewalling. Wonder if Slaughter knows that Stonewall refers to a ruckus at a bar called the Stonewall Inn in New York in 1969. It became one of the defining moments for the gay liberation movement. In fact there is an organization called National Stonewall Democrats. Just a guess, but it could be that this White House never was much into Stonewalling.

Sidenote: You think if Guckert was the VP for news at CNN that newspapers would touch the story? Me neither--that's stonewalling.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Seasonal Adjustments

Because owners and players couldn't resolve their differences, the National Hockey League cancelled its season. As a result headline writers have been severely tempted to engage in foolish wordplay. Two stories today couldn't resist the urge--headline: SAN JOSE SHARKS ON ICE and headline: CRUSHED ICE. Sure, its lame, but what do you expect--no one understands hockey enough to get creatively engaged. What's wrong with using the headline NFL CANCELS SEASON and not look clueless in the process?

Update: On news that NHL negotiations have been re-started headline writers, having exhaused all uses for the word 'ice', have restrained themselves from clever wordplay.

Didn't Mickey Rooney make a movie about this?

As part of a Youth in Government program sponsored by the YMCA, two East Palo Alto youths prepared a piece of mock legislation in support of legalizing prostitution--headline: PROSTITUTION BILL BY TEENS LEADS TO FLAP. The topic came to light when the teens spoke to the EPA city council along with their adult leader who apparently saw no problem with the proposed legislation. To their credit, some in the city council spoke out against the concept leaving the YMCA spokeswoman to clean-up the mess by explaining that the mock bill was intended to be controversial in order to spur debate.

It occurs to ask, aside from the city council, where is the adult supervision--out polishing the pimpmobile? Despite regulations governing hiring quotas for EPA residents at Ikea, Home Depot, Home Depot Expo, Office Max, Best Buy, The Good Guys etc., these kids still see a future in streetside entrepeneurship. And Russell Simmons thinks KFC needs help caring for their chickens?

Update: On Thursday the PADN refers to the Y official as Laura Toller Garner and it becomes Laura Toller Gardent by Friday. My friend Mike suggests (uncharitably) this represents the new Knight Ridder style.

Update to the update: Saturday's copy now says her name is Linda Toller Garner. Three days three names--same person. We happen to know they got the name right on the first day.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Bush Sex Scandal

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is usually a reasonable guy and is frequently known to have thoughtful things to say. Today's column--headline: BUSH ADMINISTRATION SEX SCANDAL UNVEILED--offers up a scare story complete with a teaser headline. Sounds as if Kristof wondered off his farm in Oregon and got juiced up over supermarket tabloids.

In reality the article is about an increase in funding abstinence-only sex education. To read it you might come to the conclusion that the President Bush was ONLY going to allow funding for this type of sex education. In fact, what is being offered is an increase in funding for an alternative. From the Bush perpective, abstinence-only would avoid delivering a mixed message similar to one that says--don't smoke, but if you do, here are the filtered cigarettes. Some studies have said abstenence only has little impact, which isn't to say it has the opposite effect. Would it be fair to suggest that at the very least it functions similar to what is offered in whatever you call the non-abstinence program? I thought diversity was a good thing.

For it's part, the PADN sticks a pull quote onto the story that reads--"In 1906, The Ladies' Home Journal published articles about venereal disease--and 75,000 readers canceled their subscriptions." Does the Daily News have a function key on their computers that inserts random historical tidbits or would there be a point waiting to be made?

coffee and bullet trains

A story ran today about a Japanese study that suggests that coffee drinkers suffer less liver cancer than those who don't regularly drink coffee--headline: COFFEE MAY HELP PROTECT AGAINST LIVER CANCER. In Japan coffee is spelled koohii. Since my regular morning activity includes reading the Daily News with my coffee, this study is good news--unless it's also necessary to be in Japan. Another story--also a Japan angle--talks about the peninsula commuter rail line Caltrain and their newish version the 'Baby Bullet' train--headline: BABY BULLETS BOOST CALTRAIN'S RIDERSHIP. The term 'bullet train' came about when Japan developed a highspeed railroad named the Shinkansen (below) and whose aerodynamic engines resemble a bullet. The concept stuck and now several countries have high speed railroads which are loosely referred to as bullet trains.

Having heard about the development of Caltrain's 'Baby Bullet trains I was surprised when I read that these trains are no faster than conventional Caltrain rolling stock. What makes them 'baby bullets' is that they make fewer stops and have access to tracks with which to go around the trains that stop more frequently. Oh and they don't resemble bullets either. The Japanese have a different word for coffee--Caltrain should have followed this lead when naming their faster train. Instead of calling it the 'Baby Bullet' how about calling them BaBu trains?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Quiet Zones

Two noise stories showed up page one in today's paper. One dealt with the continuing issue of the noise from inbound commercial aviation. The other had to do with horns from passing commuter trains are bothering residents of Atherton and city officials want to enact the provisions of a federal regulation to establish a "quiet zone". Granted, sometimes noise can be a problem and goodness knows living next to railroad horns can't be pleasant, but I've noted in the past that these complaints generally come from some of the more well off communities and that might suggest that these people both use airtravel disproportionally and have the means to relocate to suit their noise tolerance. Then again, I might want to reserve federal "quiet zone" laws for use against these same people using their cell phones where it bothers me.

Palo Alto Daily News sold to Knight Ridder

Our local newspaper--today's headline; RECYCLING PROPOSAL CANNED--was bought by the Knight Ridder Corporation. KR also owns the bigfoot daily newspaper the San Jose Mercury News. Chairman and CEO of Knight Ridder is Tony Ridder who lives in these parts. Real estate is king around Palo Alto and no doubt Ridder got tired seeing someone else cash in on real estate ads. Good move to leave the locals run the show--if it ain't broke don't fix it. Of course, the broken parts are kinda fun too. Headlines like our favorite "BURNING SQUIRREL CHASED" are local treasures.