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1999 Archive

December 29

A bit of spindrift blowing in the wind
If you're interested in serious stuff today, reread an old column on my website. This is trivia time. Nothing here today weighs more than a wisp of cotton blowing in the wind. There'll be another 53 Wednesdays before the new millennium arrives. That's plenty of time to be serious. San Mateo County is divided into five supervisorial districts. Each supervisor represents and lives in his or her own district, though elected countywide.

December 22

A spark of genius makes the world a better place
How many men see news of their retirement splashed on the front page of the SF Chronicle and hundreds of other newspapers? Especially when the man in question is a quiet, mild-mannered, highly principled fellow who has spent most of his days for fifty years obsessively drawing caricatures of little kids, kids whose charm coincides with their frailties and quirks.

December 15

Is my dreamhouse your nightmare?
I think it's wonderful there are people in town with so little to worry about they can devote time and concern to so-called "monster" houses in their neighborhood. Personally I've a good many real things to worry about. I simply don't have time to be jealous of the man or woman who owns a nearby empty lot, or a soon-to-be empty lot, and wants to fill it to overflowing with a house and a half.

December 8

We'll have no more elections about dirt
There are probably times when some government leaders envy the San Mateo County Resource Conservation District. As when SF DA Terence Hallinan gets tagged by the Chronicle for his terrible conviction record, or Willie Brown gets dinged for shortcomings of the Muni.
Compared to Mount Everests like Bill Clinton or Willie Brown, the Resource (formerly Soil) Conservation District is flat as Kansas.

December 1

Just whose trees are they, anyway?
In spite of Nancy Hall, who seems to have found an almost religious faith in the power of trees, it's time once again to point out that we (people, human beings, us) planted all the trees in town. Mother nature didn't do it. Little birds didn't carry the seeds in their gullets and deposit them with a bit of fertilizer to help them along.

November 24

The absentee voter comes into his own
I owe the voters of Pacifica an apology. Because I seriously underestimated the number of absentee voters in the Nov. 2 election, I estimated turnout in Pacifica at "about 15 percent."
That was after I'd said something in public about a five to ten percent turnout.
The actual turnout was 18.4 percent, which included an absentee vote of 7.3 percent. For every six voters at the polls in Pacifica, four others chose to vote absentee. I should've known better. One of those absentees was me.

November 17

Our famous neighbors
Pacifica, or what would become Pacifica, has had a fair number of residents who would later qualify for the position of Celebrity, First Class. It isn't often someone is simultaneously famous and living in Pacifica. But a number of people got their start here, polished their crafts here, used our facilities, made friends, sometimes spent all or parts of their growing up years in our neighborhood.

November 10

Ruminations on the election results
As predicted in this space some time ago, Measure B passed with considerable, shall we say, alacrity. B was, if you've forgotten or never knew, the measure that we in Pacifica were NOT allowed to vote on, but which seriously affects our Laguna Salada School District, our Jefferson High School District, and our tax structure.

October 27

East is east and coast is west, and never...
It's noteworthy the only major east-west access from Pacifica is not regarded as real access by SamTrans or some other folk. You can get detailed door to door directions on the Internet, but the services I've seen will take you a couple of miles out of your way rather than put you on Sharp Park Road.

October 20

Is this the way to keep both libraries open longer?
It would be great if Pacifica gets a new library, as has been suggested. This hypothetical civic improvement would be twice the square footage of our present libraries, and with all the latest in electronic connections and state of the art library improvements. Furthermore, because we would have sold the land where the present two libraries are located, we would concentrate all our open library hours in one schedule rather than two. Sounds good, doesn't it?

October 13

Truman to Clinton, it's been a Pacifica institution
The Pacifica Democrats, a club which is eight years older than the city, on October 23rd will be celebrating an event that is unique in San Mateo County history and may be unique in northern California political history.

October 6

A discussion on a matter of principle
Your sample ballot for the Nov. 2nd election has probably arrived in your mailbox, or will shortly. In most of Pacifica it consists only of the Community College race and a college bond issue measure. I like to scan the names of those who speak out on ballot measures. Sometimes the names are more revealing than the arguments.

September 29

A festival of friends and neighbors
The Pacific Coast Fog Fest has settled in at age 14, become an institution and a tradition to look forward to and enjoy. Last weekend was one of the best, if not the best of the lot. Saturday morning was foggy, cool and comfortable. Some folks left their headlights on, with predictable results. 4-H kids marched in the parade with a strange-looking creature that turned out to be some kind of goat ordinarily raised for meat, I'm told. Robinson Crusoe was an expert on that subject.

September 22

A few thoughts on trash and compost
I have been known to criticize the Coastside Scavengers from time to time, usually quite justifiably, but sometimes even I don't understand all the facts. I was aware of one particular dumb fact. I knew that the state requires communities to cut back on waste materials by a certain percentage from the quantity generated on a given date in the past. There can be heavy fines if the percentage cut comes in short on the day of reckoning. That's dumb because it takes little account of where the communities involved started from.

September 15

Shouldn't we vote on this?
The phone company and Laguna Salada School District recognized years ago that Skyline Boulevard is a natural divide. On the other hand, the city of San Bruno chose to ignore this natural boundary when it annexed Pacific Heights and Portola Highlands.

September 8

A little old lady from Park Pacifica
Something seems to have been overlooked in the recent flap over Safeway. All Safeway stores, without exception, eventually close. The Linda Mar store and the Pacific Manor store will close sooner or later, though it may take one or both another forty years.

August 18

Maybe it's time to go to Plan B
Change is the only constant in the universe, a wise man once said. For some reason I can't figure out, they don't make bikes the way they used to. The old Schwinns were the best bikes around, but just try and find one, even a used one, at a decent price these days. I saw one the other day in a bike shop. The paint was dinged and faded. They wanted $1500 for it. I paid only $1600 for the first brand new car (a VW Bug) I ever owned.

August 11

A nasty echo from WWII
The San Francisco Chronicle often demonstrates a sense of fairness and responsible behavior in its editorials. Like most of us, it could do better, but it does fairly reflect its location in a mostly rational, mostly fairminded Bay Area.

During World War II, some stupid and competitive White officers are reported to have carelessly risked the lives of segregated Black sailors by demanding the loading of ammunition in a rushed, sloppy manner at Port Chicago, near Concord, There was a monstrous explosion.

August 4

Stand aside! The skids are greased, the logs are rolling
125 years ago, give or take 25 years, they used to take logs out of the lush, pristine Redwood forests of San Mateo County on skids. The logs were pulled along on top of plank roadways by teams of oxen. To make it easier, they greased the skids with tallow, which they got from the oxen who had gotten too old to pull their weight.

July 14

Hot lead, cold type and how to mind your p's and q's
I've been reading the Tribune almost from the first day I arrived in town, back in 1963. Since before I first got involved with them as a Santa Rosa Press Democrat carrier, back in 1945, I've been fascinated with newspapers. I've still got the scar on my hand from when I dropped a wet chunk of waste lead in the melting pot, and I was there the day a pressman with thirty years experience lost a finger in the press.

July 7

Blood and altruism
As best I can figure, I've given about 63 or 64 pints of blood in the past 49 years. That's an average of a little more than one and a quarter units a year, nowhere near what the champion donors do. There are people who've averaged three or four or even five units a year for as long as I've been giving blood.

June 30

How to pay 650 percent in interest, legally
Being an intelligent person, you probably do your best to pay your Visa or Mastercard in full each month to avoid the atrocious interest rates we have all come to associate with those deceptively handy pieces of plastic. So do I.
The other day I discovered another way that Wells Fargo Bank was attempting to turn me into one of their better profit centers. If I had not called them up and argued the point, I would have ended up paying them at the annual percentage rate of (are you ready for this?) 650 percent.

June 23

San Pedro Rock, standing guard
San Pedro Rock, that ship's prow that juts into the storm tide at the southern end of Shelter Cove, thrills me every time I see it, and that has been thousands of times in the almost 36 years I've lived in Pacifica.

June 16

Bingo? Cardboard? everybody needs a hobby
When I wrote recently about cardboard recycling, I must have touched a nerve. I've heard from quite a few readers. Almost all agree Coastside Scavengers shouldn't demand we spend our personal time and resources to enrich the scavengers.

June 9

A man with a pegleg and a lot of guts
There were a couple of important obituaries in the Tribune last week. They got my attention, because both were about people who have been important to me during my stay in Pacifica.

June 2

Green Pea Pirates, local and fun
Books by Peter B. Kyne were a pleasure of my childhood and teenage years, and of my father's before me. Kyne wrote 80 to 100 years ago, which means some of his stuff was pretty sticky, as in mawkish, sickeningly sweet, treacly.

May 26

(no column)

May 19

An Open Letter about cardboard
Dear Mr. Picardo:
At the risk of raising my blood pressure and blowing a gasket or two, I must respond to your latest flyer on recycling. You demand I buy and use my own twine or expensive fiber tape, and use more of my valuable time dealing with trash than I already do, to tie up bundles of the cardboard I donate to your profit-oriented company, or Coastside Scavenger will not pick up what I leave out for you on trash day.

May 12

Ten small fires yes. One large fire? No!
It isn't just every fruit tree in Pacifica, but every Eucalyptus, every pine, every cypress, every Redwood, that has been planted by people, if not directly, then indirectly. About the only exception to that are some of the willows and alders along the creeks, and the brush in the hills. That tree of your neighbor's you're afraid will fall on your house? It was planted.

May 5

It's a chancy job, but somebody's got to do it
I've known for a long time how foolish it is to buy a California lottery ticket. Buying two is twice as foolish, and buying 10 is more than ten times as foolish, because you know for a fact you've got nine losers when you buy 10 tickets. I still buy one every so often, against my better judgment.

April 28

Let's take a bold step back to save the environment
One sure way to give Pacifica's Planning Commissioners, male or female, a fast case of the old-fashioned vapors would be for someone who lives on a "residential" street to install a commercial refrigerator unit and a few shelves in their living room, put up signs, and open a neighborhood convenience grocery store.

April 21

South Africa followup, 14 years later
There are a few times when my predictions for the future have been wrong. In the case of South Africa, am I ever glad I was wrong!

April 14

Do you give Green Stamps?
I was working in my garage the other day when I ran across some S&H Green Stamps and some Blue Chip Stamps in an old box. For you younger folks who've never seen them, Green stamps and Blue Chip stamps were used by many businesses in Pacifica and throughout the country in years gone by.

April 7

Don Quixote de la Ocean Shore
If you think it's hard to get to San Francisco from Half Moon Bay or Linda Mar now, you should have been around in 1900. If you were a farmer, it might take two days to get a wagon load of peas or artichokes to market. Your choice was negotiating twisted mountain roads or shipping your produce by boat. You drove your horse and wagon to a rocky cove and somehow got your stuff on board, perhaps sliding bags of produce down a chute over the waves.

March 31

Bulls and bears and California banknotes
Linda Mar teacher Nora Chikhale is doing something pretty wonderful. She wants to pass on Pacifica's history to the next generation. She's put a lot of her own time and energy into a soon-to-be published book that explains what life was like for the Sanchezes of San Pedro Valley and Don Francisco Sanchez, the man who owned most of what is now Pacifica and another thousand acres of the coast besides.

March 24

Thanks for all those cards and letters
I would like to thank Lionel Emde for accepting my estimate of the amount of open space in Pacifica. Thanks, Jerry Davis, for your input. Thanks to Bruce Hotchkiss for his response to my comments. And thanks, Jackson Barrows, for agreeing with me. I would like to thank them all (except Bruce) for spelling my name right in last week's letters to the editor. Three out of four ain't bad.

March 17

A visit from the Managing Director
My grandmother, who married my grandfather 101 years ago soon after her arrival from the Azores at the age of 19, lived in the United States the rest of her life. In those last 73 years she never again talked to her parents, or the extended family she'd left behind.

March 10

A few hushed words from the Reactor
Sorry if you find it a little difficult to hear this, but I have to whisper. Bruce Hotchkiss doesn't want me to rant. (dictionary definition: loud, wild, extravagant. Declaim violently. Rave).

March 3

Smoking waitresses and sensory overload
I figured I must be in Las Vegas. Breakfast was $1.50 for a ham slice and scrambled. I was given back 50 cents in nickels to stick in the slots. Then the waitress got out a cigarette and started to smoke.

February 24

Stop him before he improves our quality of life
I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I see some well-meaning, goodhearted folks do their best to tear down and rip apart the dream of a fellow Pacifican.

February 17

A library for Sanchez City
I've been fascinated by comments I hear from time to time about Pacifica's libraries. As you probably know, Pacifica and Sanchez libraries are part of the county library system. Two libraries! That sticks in the craw of some county officials, Supervisors and other folk, who somehow think we don't deserve this privilege. Who do those Pacificans they think are? That's why they are strangling the service we get by cutting down on our library hours. The squeeze is on.

February 3

What's our next area code?
Are you a second class citizen? Am I? If you live in Pacifica, or the rest of San Mateo County, the answer is easy. Yes. We definitely are.

January 27

Hold onto this bit of history
If any one of your ancestors had not had children, you would not be here. There has to be continuity, a chain of life. Break the chain, and that family ceases to exist.

January 20

What's going on at the chamber?
Chambers of Commerce, like Teamsters Union locals, are vulnerable to a combination of benign neglect by most of their busy members and takeovers by minority cliques from within. The result, in the case of the Teamsters, has often been disastrous.

January 13

You are unique. Your name, on the other hand...
If you're Bill Johnson, John Jones or Michael Smith, you're used to the idea there are lots of others with your same name scattered through the nation. You may have even met a number of your fellow Bill Joneses or Mike Johnsons.

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