Category Archives: Human Nature

Friedrich Nietzsche

“So long as you are praised

think only that you are not yet on your own path

but on that of another.”

– Assorted Opinions and Maxims, 1879

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Reflections on San Francisco

Let’s Go Giants, Let’s Go!

There has been talk in the news these days about how the quirkiness of San Francisco is actually shocking those who are either watching the Giants in the World Series or visiting our city in order to attend the games.  Part of me finds this amusing, yet part of it disturbs me a little.  It is true that San Francisco is a very liberal environment where freedom of expression is pretty much viewed as a God given right.  It is also true that you may see things here that disturb you at times.  You may have to think.  Isn’t it a good thing to get out of your comfort zone?  I have listed a few things you may find unsettling if you visit San Francisco:

1.  Homeless.  Yes, we do have a large number of homeless people.  It is part of the fabric of our city.    Many of them come from all over the United States because we have a milder climate and charitable people.  Some are down on their luck and can’t find employment in this economy, some have mental of physical disabilities that prevent them from keeping a job or even working through the piles of government paperwork required before they can get assistance, and some are addicted to drugs and alcohol.  Also, some are on the streets because of issues that I haven’t even listed here.  Please don’t judge our homeless; you could be there too someday with just a couple of bad business decisions or hard luck.  The homeless people are San Franciscans.  They live here, they eat here, and when they buy stuff they are also paying taxes here.  Many of the homeless have become expert recyclers.  They collect bags and bags of plastic and then sale them to recyclers driving pickups who take the bags to the centers.  The San Franciscans who are homeless are definitely doing their part in saving the environment. 

2.  Marijuana.  You may see people smoking marijuana out in the open.  If you don’t see it, you will probably smell it if you spend a few nights walking through the city.  The police will not do much about this, so don’t expect it. I’m just making you aware that it is very possible you might see or smell this drug being used if you visit San Francisco.

3.  Costumes.  It is not uncommon to see people in costume no matter what time of year.  They might be heading to a party, or they may just want to have a personal dress up day just for themselves.  It may be shocking to see Darth Vader walk down the sidewalk or a vampire, but just ask yourself why does it matter to you?  Are they really doing any harm?

4.  Nudity.  Honestly,  I saw a lot more nudity when I lived in Portland than I have ever seen in San Francisco.  For the most part, you won’t see naked people if you visit San Francisco.  These occurences are usually more limited to specific events like Folsom Street Fair, Gay Pride, or the Bay to Breakers race.

5.  Homosexuals.  Ok, yes, you will see a lot of gay people.  They may be holding hands, kissing, or sitting in a restaurant with their arms around each other.  This may shock you, but is it hurting anyone?  Whether you approve or not, this shouldn’t affect your visit to the city.  Please don’t glare or stare.  This is one of the few places in the United States where gay people can be themselves without worrying about being beat up, killed, having their house burned, or losing their job.  This may sound over dramatic, but if you read the newspapers all of these things are possible in other parts of the country.

6.  Drag Queens.  Some drag queens are transgendered and this is how they feel most comfortable presenting themselves to the world, and some do it for fun.  Some do it for charitable causes.  Whatever the reason, it can be a little shocking when you first come in contact with a cross-dresser, but please be respectful.  What does it prove to call someone names or glare?  Unless you like to chip away at other people’s self-esteem, I think demeaning anyone is fruitless.  Keep in mind that most cross-dressing men are actually heterosexuals.  How many male bosses have you had or even friends that may be wearing panties under those masculine jeans?

7.  High Real Estate Prices.  I admit, these are truly scary.  OMG!  When going on a camp out instead of reading ghost stories to scare your friends, just bring a copy of the San Francisco real estate guide.  They will wake up in a cold sweat screaming at the top of their lungs.  We are one of the most expensive markets, just behind Manhattan, N.Y.  Why are prices so high?  Because people want to live here.  It is a beautiful place to live and a nice way of life.

8.  Public Peeing.  The other day at two different times I saw people peeing against a building.  Why does this seem to happen so much?  There are very few public restrooms in the city, and some restaurants don’t have public bathrooms.  I’m still a little shocked when I see it, but I’m not going to judge them.  We could all be in that same position just because we drank that extra glass of tea at lunch.  As I said, there are very few public restrooms in this city.  

I’m not saying that it is always easy living or visiting here.  Parking is an Olympic event, cabs can be non-existent when you need them, wait time to get into a restaurant can be exhausting, and it may feel like there are people everywhere.  Sometimes this city can kick your butt and make you want to throw up your hands and run back to the Midwest with your tale between your leg.  It’s true.  It happens.  But it is at this point that you go to a cool play or join a quirky new group.  You experience a great evening with friends eating a phenomenal meal at one of the incredible restaurants in town.  You walk on the beach or stroll through Golden Gate Park.  You take a hike to Twin Peaks and look over the city toward the bay and turn around and look over the city to the beach.  You just take a deep breath and count your blessings.

This is a great city, and there is no place quite like it in America.  It is a liberal city where people can be themselves and do what they want to do without apologies to society as a whole.  It is a place of fun, frolic, imagination, and knowledge.

It is ok to be a little shocked by us.  Sometimes I’m still a little shocked too.  But don’t judge us harshly, instead just relax and enjoy this quirky little city that so many call home.

Cheers!

Mike   

 

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You Don’t Say…..

  • Did you know that Meg Whitman has spent a total of $142 million of her own money on her campaign to become California’s next governor and is still trailing behind Jerry Brown?  (SF Gate)  
  •  After 31 years, the annual San Francisco Erotic Ball was canceled due to low ticket sales. (SF Gate)
  •  The official Vatican newspaper has declared that Homer Simpson and his family are Catholic. (CNN)

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Working from Home

When I moved to the West Coast, I was immediately introduced to a delightful concept called “working from home.” It is amazing how many people do this on a regular basis. Some people work from their house, while others go to coffee shops, libraries, the park, etc. More and more co-working spaces are sprouting up all over San Francisco as people want an office environment closer to home.

When I got my job (29 mile commute across the Bay Bridge to the East Bay), I negotiated with them the ability to work from home from time to time. Working from home has taught me the following things:

* More time. To drive to Contra Costa County and back takes a minimum of 2 hours a day and can take up to 3 hours depending on traffic. Yes, it is only 29 miles, but I have to cross the Bay Bridge and go through Caldecott Tunnel.

* Saves money. On top of gas (Toyota Tundra), I also have to pay $6 each day to get across the Bay Bridge and back into the city. I figure I save around $18 a day by working from home.

* Efficient. I get more work done when I work from home. Every day a portion of my day is spent socializing with volunteers and staff. This is actually part of my job. When I work from home, I can just focus on paperwork, stats, mailings, returning phone calls, etc.

* Relaxing. At the end of the day when I shut my laptop, I do not face a grueling commute home. It is a stress free day.

* Contact. I do stay in close contact with the office. They can call me, text me, e-mail me, etc. I have several different ways that they can get in touch with me in an emergency. Recently, I was working from home and they needed something done quickly. With the help of my trusty laptop, the phone, and a good Internet connection, I got the task done with time to spare. Who needs an office?

* Work Space. My favorite work spaces are coffee shops like Sugar Lump Coffee Lounge in Outer Mission or Jumpin Java in Castro. One space that I frequent a lot is Panera Bread in SOMA.

Working from home is a wonderful gift that employers can give to their employees. It doesn’t have to be all the time, but it feels great to do it occasionally. I think it makes for a happier and more productive work force.

Now if you would excuse me, I have a report to work on that I will present at a meeting next week. Before I start, I should probably order another Panera Bread bagel and refill my tea.

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Filed under California, Human Nature, Oregon, San Francisco, West Coast

New Ideas

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but life has been fairly busy. I just got back from a Jamaican vacation, and we recently bought a condo in S.F. Nights and weekends are now spent frantically trying to fix the place up before we move in. That being said, I wanted to post today about ways that restaurants can improve the eating out experience. My ideas are listed below:

1. Have sinks, soap, hand towels, and lotion available when you first come in the front door. Seriously, how many people actually get seated and then leave the table to wash their hands before the meal? More expensive restaurants could have a person there to help you wash your hands and dry them on quality towels. If any of you know restaurant owners, tell them about this idea and see if it catches on.

2. Meditation rooms. Ok, this may be a bit of a stretch, but why not have a sound proof space set aside where an individual or a family could go and give thanks to their higher power for the food they are about to eat. It could also be just a space where someone goes to relax a moment and collect their thoughts before they go and have their meal. Just a place to kind of shake off the worries of the world outside and prepare yourself and your senses for the meal ahead.

3. Mints. Yes, I said mints. I think every restaurant should give their patrons a mint on the way out the door. I know I’m not the only one who has worried about their breath after eating a meal.

4. Raw Ingredients. Whenever possible, let the patrons taste the raw ingredient before the finished product. For example, we toured a winery in Oregon once that let us taste each grape before we tasted the wine from that type of grape. It was a great experience.

5. Select music that goes with the theme of the restaurant. I think it takes away from the experience if you go to a Mexican restaurant and have rock music or go to a Chinese restaurant and hear country music. Create a total ambiance around the meal.

6. Pay staff well. A well paid staff is a loyal staff, and that means that they will be there for many years and get to know the regular customers. Word will also get out about your restaurant paying a good wage, and you will not only get skilled people trying to work there, but some customers will go there just because they know everyone is treated fairly. This may not be possible in the smaller mom & pop operations where the profit is minimal, but it is definitely possible in some of the more upscale restaurants or chains. Don’t pass this additional cost on to the customer. If possible, buy a less expensive house or car and treat your employees to a fair and decent wage.

7. Clean the bathrooms. I can’t believe that I really have to say this. If your bathroom is dirty, it kind of throws some suspicion on to the kitchen area. Please, clean the bathrooms.

I will try to post more frequently and include pics of my Jamaican vacation.

–Mike

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Thoughts on Life, Slavery, and Death

I work in the East Bay and spend a lot of time commuting back and forth over the Bay Bridge. Sometimes, I turn off the radio and just spend the time letting my thoughts drift. Below I have listed a few thoughts that I had this week. They are ideas that I revisit from time to time.

1. This week I discovered that a couple that I knew from my past who had so many things against them made it and have a successful life together. They overcame poverty, teen pregnancy, lack of self-esteem, etc. to become educated and raise a family together. Good for them. 🙂

2. Are the U.S. citizens the new Masters? How many adults and little children are working in sweat shops for very little pay throughout the world so that we can buy clothes and other goods at cheap prices? We all know it is going on, but we don’t do anything about it. Why do we continue to buy from countries that treat the workers so poorly? Is a cheap price for a shirt really more important to us than the health of the child laborer in another country? Many people will appease their consciences by saying that if we we didn’t buy the goods, then those families in other countries would starve. News Flash: They are already starving. Don’t you think that the plantation owners in the Old South also had certain unrealistic thoughts that appeased their consciences? Are we building the American way of life off the backs of slave labor in other countries?

3. If we truly believed in an afterlife, would we be so afraid to die? If someone believed there was a place without pain and agony and everyone was totally happy, why try so hard and take so many medications in order to hang on to this life?

4. Money allows a person to have more experiences in life, but in the end, it means nothing. It doesn’t mean a person with money was a better person or had a better life. It means more options, but that really is about it. When you die, you literally leave everything behind. This includes the dirty dishes in the sink, the dirty laundry in the hamper, the food in the fridge, and all the money in the bank. A friend of mine this week said that she and her husband have decided that they want to live each year like it is their last. If they want to do something and can afford to do it, then they are not waiting. Not a bad way to live life.

Just some thoughts.

— Mike

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Muir Woods and Stinson Beach

Just North of San Francisco lies one of the few old-growth red wood forests left on the planet. The giant redwoods and sycamores in Muir Woods are awe inspiring.

“The tallest coastal redwood at Muir Woods is about 258 feet, approximately the height of a six-foot person stacked head to toe 45 times. Further north, these trees can reach heights up to 379 feet, 74 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. The average age of the coastal redwoods at Muir Woods is between 600 to 800 years, with the oldest being at least 1200 years old. This is still young for redwoods as they can live up to 2200 years.”

– (http://www.nps.gov/muwo/index.htm)

After spending time wandering through the forest, my friends and I then took a drive along the coast to Stinson Beach. The pictures below are of the woods and the beach. Enjoy!

<img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4005/4395498330_94f8d8efec.jpg" alt="Stinson Beach, Feb. 2010 C” height=”379″ width=”500″>

Muir Woods, Feb. 2010 C

Muir Woods, Feb. 2010 H

<img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4002/4394676283_91c096fede.jpg" alt="Stinson Beach, Feb. 2010 B” height=”375″ width=”500″>

Muir Woods, Feb. 2010 A

Muir Woods, Feb. 2010 G

Muir Woods, Feb. 2010 B

<img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4011/4394676373_0a8db13dff.jpg" alt="Stinson Beach, Feb. 2010 A” height=”353″ width=”500″>

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A Wake Up Call in San Francisco

Recently, I was at the 24th Street BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) buying a ticket to Walnut Creek. A middle-aged woman came up to me at the machine and tried to get my attention several times. I did not register what she was saying to me because I was focusing on buying my ticket, and I was also trying to ignore someone who I thought was trying to hit me up for money. She eventually stood closer to me and just stared at me as I finished my transaction. I told her, “staring at me is not going to change the fact that I have no money to give you.” She then said, “I just need help. I have the money.” It was at that point that I realized she came from a different country and didn’t understand how to work the machine. As you can imagine, I felt a deep sense of shame. At that moment she got a little upset with me, and I deserved it. She went on for a while in broken English asking me over and over again why I thought she was a vagrant. I calmed her down, helped her buy her ticket, and showed her the train she needed to board. It wasn’t so much a “good deed” as the least I could do considering my previous behavior.

I spent my commute on the train that day trying to figure out why I was so callous towards her. It is true that I get hit up a lot in San Francisco by people looking for money or change. Actually, I also get hit up by people who are walking down the street and offering drugs to everyone that goes by. When someone approaches me, my reaction is to not make eye contact and move quickly down the street.

Why do I behave in this way? Fear! Yep, Fear! One of the things I don’t want to do is open my wallet on the street and show someone my cash. I also don’t want to be targeted as a person who has cash on them and is willing to give it out. In addition, I don’t want to get too close to some of the people who approach me on the street for safety reasons. For example, there was a recent case of a guy who was stabbing people on the MUNI bus system.

What is the solution? I used to carry granola bars on me and give those out when I was approached, and I may go back to doing that. Just because I don’t want to be targeted as a person with cash on me doesn’t mean I can’t have some food that I give out. Many people, me included, will take comfort in the fact that people without choices can get a hot meal and maybe a place to stay at a homeless shelter. But how many of us, me included, actually write a check or donate to these shelters on a regular basis?

This happened about a week ago, and it still bothers me a little. Partly because I didn’t initially listen to a person who needed help, and partly because of how callous I have become towards homeless individuals. I think it was a wake up call for me. Now, do I do something with it or just wait for the guilt to subside? Do I do something or just go back to my previous behavior and justify it with fear?

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New Year’s Resolutions

As I say goodbye to 2009 and hello to 2010, I begin to think about the things that I want to change in my life. Yes, I am one of those people who always makes goals when it comes to the new year. Do I always keep them? Well, we won’t go there. I do start each year with the intention of achieving my new goals. This year, my goals are as follows:

  • Attend Bikram Yoga on Monday nights.
  • Eat sweets only on Sunday.
  • Spend more time on hobbies like reading and less time in front of the television.

My theme word for the year will be “appreciate.” Hopefully, it will inspire me to appreciate each day, appreciate the ones that I love, and also appreciate the small things in life that make for enjoyable moments.

Happy New Year!

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Reflections on Walking

I have always found walking to be therapeutic and relaxing. It all started when I was in junior high and lived on the farm that my great grandfather built. Mom loved to walk, and she always tried very hard to get one of us kids to go with her. We walked the pastures during the winter when the rattle snakes were hibernating, and we walked the country roads and oil lease roads the rest of the time. We talked about everything.

When I was in high school, I continued the long walks with my best friend. Granted, the town of Jetmore, KS is only about four miles long, but we would walk back and forth on our nightly walks and usually end up in his basement where there was always an ongoing game of Risk. We also liked to climb the big hill in front of my home in the country and relax on our backs and look at the stars. We’d look down at the pasture below where we had trespassed and parked his black Trans Am. Sometimes it was so dark that when we were ready to leave we couldn’t find the midnight black car until we had almost stumbled on it. Up there on the hill we would watch the stars and talk about our hopes, dreams, challenges, fears, etc.

After high school, I found myself going on nightly walks when I was in college in the twin cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul). Often, other friends would want to join. Around 10:00 p.m., I would lead a small exodus of warmly dressed buddies off the campus of the College of St. Thomas, and we would explore the charming neighborhoods. We were totally bundled against the cold, Minnesota night. It was my first time away from home, and I had moved several states away. I remember that the sound of the wind chimes on the porches was particularly comforting to me and made me feel less homesick.

Recently, I find myself walking through the neighborhoods of San Francisco. When I walk through the neighborhoods in the early evening, I see the husbands and wives coming home, the kids putting up their bikes for the night, and I hear the clinking of silverware and dishes that signal dinner is on the way. I hear music, smell BBQ, and feel the beginnings of the cold night air start to touch my face.

In the mornings when I walk in the Mission district, I see the store owners unlocking the bars on the doors, sweeping up the sidewalks, and making fresh coffee which tempts everyone as they walk past the open doors and smell the aroma. Parents are waiting at the bus stop to get their kids off to another day of school, construction workers are putting out their orange cones, the stoops have women and men in their pajamas having their first cigarette of the day, and there is a freshness to everything that signals a new day with unlimited possibilities.

Saturday morning walks are particularly sacred because nobody is in hurry. Many people are still asleep, and those that are awake are packing their cars for a weekend camping trip or short day trip outside the city. Released from school for the day, the kids are biking, skateboarding, roller skating, and using their sidewalk chalk to draw creative murals. Saturday mornings are a festive time. It seems like the whole city just takes a collective sigh of relief that the work week is over and now it is time to play.

My boyfriend and I have now begun what we affectionately call “Old People Sundays.” We get up early on a Sunday morning and walk the city for about five to six hours. Along the way, we stop in the stores that interest us and get brunch. It is great.

Well, it’s time for me to walk back to the loft on this Saturday morning. So relaxed!

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