Unreal Real Estate Prices

More observations from the May 13-20 San Francisco trip.

There was a store-front real-estate office in picturesque little Tiburon (Marin County) with photos, descriptions, and prices of some of their offerings in the front window. One representative listing was for a 3-bedroom, 2-bath “fixer” for $799,000. At those prices, they might as well be on another planet. Perhaps they are.

A Break at the Breakers

The old Vanderbilt “summer cottage” in Newport, Rhode Island, is called The Breakers. It is truly spectacular, a reminder of a bygone era when real money (not the Bill Gates kind) could be made.

On the opposite side of the country, there is a spot in where Golden Gate Park meets the Pacific Ocean. It is also called The Breakers, and every May it serves as the endpoint of a 12K (7.46-mile) race called, of course, Bay to Breakers. The “bay” referred to is San Francisco’s own east coast, as symbolized by the massive San Francisco-to-Oakland bridge, under which is the starting point of the race.

Since I was going to be in San Francisco on vacation May 15th anyway, I tried to catch part of the race. My efforts were in vain. Even though I arrived at the so-called starting area (no observers allowed) at least a half-hour early, by the time I was able to scope out and travel to a better vantage point, the leaders had long since passed by.

You see, the serious part of the race was won this year by (yet another) Kenyan named Gilbert Okari, with a time of 34:49.

The non-serious part of the race is probably why it is billed as “one crazy weekend.” Of the sixty-five thousand runners—and I use the term loosely—at least several thousand run in costume or as part of a centipede, a group of runners tied together in some way. A couple hundred run without a costume—of any kind. That’s right—naked. Crazy weekend, indeed!

Anyway, for my troubles, I ended up walking more than 4 miles effortlessly, so perhaps next year I’ll actually join in. But naked? I don’t think so.

Art Student Revolutionizes Medicine

Have you seen Target’s new prescription bottle? A small paragraph about this was in Newsweek magazine’s articles on design last week, something I had to catch up on reading after I returned from SF. But I wanted to know more.

As it turns out, there’s far more to the story. The basic prescription bottle had been unchanged, except for child-proof caps, since World War II, until this art student’s grandmother mistakenly ingested the prescription meant for her husband.

The student’s resulting work was shopped to the FDA before being snapped up by some on-the-ball creative-type at Target. Additionally, her work will be featured in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Ode to a Parakeet

Kafois’s parakeet was named Pretty Boy. Mine was called Jimmy. I had one of these records, too. The difference is that Jimmy actually did learn to talk, at a young age. This feat amazed our family at first, and provided nearly five years of ongoing entertainment. Jimmy, like Pretty Boy, is long gone, but never forgotten.

An ‘F’ for Originality

Last week’s Newsweek magazine carried the annual summer movie preview. For those of us who take movie-going more or less seriously, there is cause for alarm in this year’s crop of new releases. Of eighteen films described or depicted in the article, a depressingly-high nine (50%) are either sequels, remakes, or based on television shows.


  • Charlie and The Chocolate Factory
  • War of the Worlds
  • The Longest Yard
  • Bad News Bears
  • House of Wax

Sequels (and prequels):

  • Star Wars, Episode 3
  • Herbie: Fully Loaded
  • Batman Begins

Based on television:

  • Bewitched

Original (?) material:

  • Mr. and Mrs. Smith (I’m giving this one the benefit of the doubt, although it looks suspiciously like Prizzi’s Honor)
  • Kicking and Screaming
  • Madagascar
  • Kingdom of Heaven
  • Dark Water
  • Wedding Crashers
  • Hustle & Flow
  • Lords of Dogtown
  • Fantastic Four (derived from the comic book, but I’ll excuse that)

But wait! There’s more! Newsweek didn’t even mention the late-summer releases of The Pink Panther, The Dukes of Hazzard, and yet another Deuce Bigalow.

Whatever happened to creative writing? It’s too bad that Hollywood is so afraid of fresh ideas, and of writers who can think for themselves.

Dumbed-Down Commercials

I suppose I really shouldn’t try to analyze television commercials, but here goes, anyway:

A current one for a Toyota something-or-other has a man entering a roomful of kids watching TV. After he fails to get their attention by merely saying “hello,” he snaps off the TV, whereupon the whole bunch is next shown heading off to a sleep-out under the stars. The clear message is, buy our vehicle, turn off the TV, reclaim your family, live happily ever-after. Carried to its logical extreme, however, if everyone turned off the TV, who would be left watching this commercial?

Another one, unfortunately also for cars, helps explain why we might have an obesity problem in the United States. GM would like us to “save” our “pushes” (button pushes) until we get to the showroom, to enter their contest and see if we’ve won a new car. One version of the commercial shows a NASA engineer refusing to push the launch button. Have things turned so bad, that we don’t have enough energy to push both buttons? Or, on the other hand, are we so superstitious as to believe that we have to save our luck?

Happy Birthday, Dad?

Today is one of those unusual days that we’re seeing more of during the early part of the century: the year, month, and day are the same, in this case, all 5.

It would’ve been my dad’s birthday, had he lived beyond last August 18th.

Google Customer Service

Over the weekend, I was using the “Next Blog” button to browse through the works of others. Along the way, I noticed a lot of what I would call “spam blogs,” full of same-day/same-time postings all on the same subject, with text that resembled the sales pitches one would see in junk e-mail. After spotting my umpteenth spam blog, I further noticed that several had a common “owner” (“webcorp”).

So I mentioned this in an e-mail to an acquaintance who works at Google, wondering what these blogs were all about. He kindly explained that they were misguided attempts to increase page ranking for some web pages, by establishing many inbound links to them. Misguided, because the technique doesn’t work, something that Google began filtering out a long time ago.

Monday, this same acquaintance e-mailed me from his office to say that he had waved the subject in front of enough interested people in the office, and now there was an initiative to clean blogspot of this, em, detritus.

How’s that for customer service?! Guess I shoulda bought stock during the IPO.