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Why Self Driving Cars Won’t Work For Ridesharing

Driverless CarsSan Francisco is where ridesharing started. Uber, Lyft and the defunct Sidecar as well as smaller players have all started here in the City and they all seem to think they can get rid of drivers now.

This is one of the strangest ideas I have heard in a long time and these companies need to look at Muni in San Francisco to understand what will happen if you remove drivers from cars. Our Muni and BART trains have tried to be autonomous in the tunnels and that didn’t work very well now did it. Many of you may not know this, but there was a time when Muni tried [for a very short time] to have the drivers step out of the compartment when trains entered West Portal Station and let the trains, on tracks, be controlled by a computer. That didn’t work and now a driver has to sit there and make sure the computer is working right and doesn’t crash when the train begins to pass 60 mpg in the tunnel.

I know what some of you are saying, but Google/Uber/some other tech company wasn’t controlling them. OK, fine, but even with a driver riding along on a Muni or BART train have you seen what happens on one of those trains? How would a driverless car picking people up and taking them to their destination on city streets be any different?

There is already the reported problem of lots of these cars getting into accidents. Most of the time it isn’t the fault of the car’s computer, but the humans that are driving around them.  You can write that off if you want, but I don’t think everyone is going to jump onboard from day one when a driverless car becomes available.

Then there are the other problems that people don’t think about. I’m one of those guys that do and here’s something to think about. A driverless car is like the set of Home Alone. People won’t have an overseer to keep them in check. I’ve given rides to young people who even with me behind the wheel have gotten into a fight in the back of my car. I stopped and threw them out, but think about what the first thing that dominates a new technology is…PORN.

VHS, DVDS, the Internet all become intrenched because of the porn industry. I would not be surprised if some of the first people who grab a driverless car will shoot a porn film in it that will be on the internet within a couple of days. The second or third will be someone who pukes and after that will probably be some kid who thinks it would be cool to take a dump in a driverless car.

Imagine if you will for a moment the amount of human body fluids that will be flooding, soaking into and dripping from the insides of a driverless car. No one has talked about safety features in these cars because that of course would be an invasion of someone personal privacy.

Will these cars be equipped with cameras that can see all over the car? Will these cars be equipped with fluid sensors to notify home base if someone barfs or pees in the car? NOTE: I have heard from lots of drivers who have had riders not just puke, but also pee in their cars. This usually happens after midnight and the person is pretty drunk and well, it seems like a good idea at the time… Maybe the companies that are on the bandwagon will make these cars self cleaning so that after a person or porn film crew leaves the car it will sanitize and sterilize the interior for the next rider’s safety.

Then there is the drunken factor that I barely touched on. People like the current ridesharing services because they don’t have to drive home drunk, but their faculties are not at their best. I’ve been asked to pull over so someone could jump out and vomit. I’ve also had a large number of people who put in the wrong address or wanted to go to Safeway, but Google’s Maps which every system uses for some reason chose not the Safeway that was closest to them, but one in the East Bay or North Bay [seriously, try it]. How will the computer controlling the vehicle know whether the customer is right? Will the car electrically zap the riders who have passed out after drinking too much to rouse them to get out because the car has hopefully arrived at the correct location?

In the end the public has been sold a science fiction novel that has been poorly written. This isn’t the taxis of Blade Runner or even Total Recall for that matter. Driverless cars for the masses are a long way off and the idea of driverless transport vehicles are an even longer way off.

Pesto alla Genovese

While I have a Germanic last name, I grew up in an Italian household. My family traces it’s roots back to Genoa in the Ligurian provence of Italy. As a kid what we ate was considered ethnic food. For most kids my age Italian food consisted of Spaghetti-O’s. For us it was pesto. It was something no one had heard of and you never saw it on the menu’s in Italian restaurants.

I learned how to make from my Mom who learned it from her Mom, etc, etc. When my Dad lost his job and we were low on cash we had pesto with tagliarini pasta at least once a week. Tagliarini is kind of like fettucini only thinner. When basil was in season she’d go to the farmer’s market down on Alemany and get a box sometimes two boxes and then the chaos would begin. I got the job of stripping the leaves off while my Mom and Grandmother would pull out their wooden bowls and mesaluna’s and start chopping the basil. It wasn’t the real way you’re supposed to make it as it was normally ground with a mortar and pestle, but these were more modern times pre-cuisinart. I loved it and ate it up by the piles. A couple of nights as a kid I had it before going to a Boy Scout meeting and apparently all the garlic that was in there became very apparent to everyone in the auditorium.

After I got done with the leaves it was time to grind the pignoli [pine nuts] and chop the garlic…lots of garlic. I think I had the easiest jobs of all. While pulling the leaves off the stems was tedious it wasn’t anything compared to chopping the leaves with the archaic double bladed knives that probably dated back to the 20’s. When the chopping was done my Grandmother would put the chopped leaves into a large bowl and slowly pour in olive oil [not the traditional Ligurian extra virgin olive oil, but good enough] and slowly stirred the chopped basil and oil until it got a creamy texture. Then I got to add the pignoli and garlic and finish up the stirring. My Mom would then start jarring up the extra and that would go into our downstairs freezer.

We always saved the last bit for dinner that night and my Dad who used to work down in the Marina would be told to drop by Lucca’s and get some fresh tagliarini for dinner. Typically you add some parmesan cheese to the mix, but my Mom and Grandmother always liked to let us decide how much cheese we wanted on it. This tradition carried on for years until a day in the 21st century my Mom wanted some pesto, but didn’t have it in her to go through the process. I suggested we try the food processor and of course she balked.

So I bought a bunch of basil picked the leaves and threw it into the food processor we had at my house. I tossed in about 5-6 cloves of garlic and a little olive oil and turned it on. Slowly adding a little bit more and more until it looked about right, but I left out the pignoli because I was lazy and they’re kind of expensive. We found some fresh tagliarini at a local upscale grocer who I won’t mention and brought it over to her house to make dinner one night.

Where’s the pine nuts? OK, I should have expected that. How’d you make it? You don’t have all the…wait! You made it in a food processor? Yes ma, that’s what I did, so do you like it? She liked it and started doing it that way herself.

Now pesto is everywhere. It’s in mayonnaise, on pizza’s someone will probably make a pesto chocolate bar soon. I see it all the time at the supermarket, but I’ve tried it a couple of times and I still go back to making it myself. It’s cheaper, fresher and just reminds me of good times in my past. Incidentally, if you substitute Italian parsley for the basil you get a great South American steak sauce called chimichurri that I’ve written about previously.

Will We See The End Of The Desktop Computer Soon?

With all the speculation that’s out about the iPad 3 and the fact that iPad 2 sales have rocketed iOS devices and Mac computers beyond the number of Window’s based computer I started to think about whether or not the desktop PC as we know it may be disappearing in the near future. We have cloud computing which means that you don’t have to worry about storage space so for the average person who works in an office and only needs to do office like work such as typing memo’s, sending emails and perhaps a bit of database or invoicing, there are apps for that.

This first popped into my head when I was watching the TV show Revenge which is pretty much about rich people in the Hampton’s getting into cat fights, so you can see why I would like it. There is one person on the show called Nolan Ross who is a smug new money rich kid who as a desktop computer has an iPad with a bluetooth keyboard. When he’s out he just takes the iPad with him and leaved the computer at home. I saw this and started to think that maybe he’s onto something.

I looked through apps today to see if I could find an app to do all of what the average sales person I used to work with used. There’s an app for it. There are even invoicing apps and apps to run credit cards [Square anyone? Hell, I’ve got it on my iPhone.] as well as plenty of database apps and Salesforce apps for keeping track of your customers. Need to write a letter that you need to print out and send to a customer, there’s an app for that. Email and web browsing are always built in. There’s usually a built in calendar and contacts app so you’re covered. I’ve done my share of training elderly people on how to use a tablet computer [99.9% iPad] who have no need for a desktop computer and they are able to do everything they need with one.

Now people like me who do web and graphic design work it is currently a bit tougher since while you can hand code or using a CMS system for your website is easy, hands on graphic design software isn’t there yet, but I’m sure it will be soon. Programmers will still need at least a laptop [which most of my programmer friends have]. Game programmers will probably be the only ones for awhile that need the big mega towers with all the hyper-mega-uber graphics cards to pump up the graphics to times 1,000,000. I’m sure there are a few others who will need real desktop computers for the next couple of years, but they’re definitely needed less and less.

Parkside Theater: San Francisco Grindhouse

I watched a movie the other day called American Grindhouse [if you’re into film making you should see this]. I’d learned more about the genre than I could from the Quentin Tarantino movie of the same name. This stirred up some memories in my mind of the old Parkside Theater which was a top notch theater in it’s day, but took a turn towards the Grindhouse genre when it was sold and became the Fox-Parkside as we all knew it.

Grindhouse films were always low budget films that focused on many seedier ideas such as T&A, gratuitous gore, racial exploitation or all of the above. For me, after seeing American Grindhouse I had to see some of these films that I wasn’t old enough to see as a kid because most were made in the early 70’s and I wouldn’t turn 18 until 1980. WOW! Now I know why people were talking about Pam Grier films. She was always having clothes come off in her movies. I couple of little know grindhouse girls who showed up frequently were Anitra Ford who was the first female model on the Price is Right. The other was Victoria Vetri who was the 1968 Playboy Playmate of the Year and born in San Francisco [and that was also the first issue of Playboy I ever got to see!]

The titles of these films pretty much told you what to expect in the films, The Big Bird Cage, Caged Heat, Invasion of the Bee Girls. You knew that there would be lots of nakedness in these films. I knew it, even though I never got to see one of them until recently. So how does the Parkside fit into this? Well when I was in 2 & 3 grade they were a first run theater or close to first run. They had a thing during the summer where your parents would buy you tickets for Tuesday or Wednesday matinees so your parents could get rid of you for a few hours. I still remember buying Mike and Ike’s, Good and Plenties or Red Vines at the food counter which were larger than a box you would buy today [the Red Vines are about the same size] and it would cost you 16¢. The extra penny was to cover tax. I may be dating myself here, but you could go to a movie with $5 get in see the movie with popcorn and a drink and come out with change.

It was a respectable theater for the most part. Not one of the bigger theaters like you’d find downtown or in higher class neighborhoods, but it was a good working class theater. Then something changed…

In the 70’s it was sold off [1976 according to my my friend Woody at the Western Neighborhoods Project]. Things changed. The seats were pulled out of the downstairs and during the day it was a daycare center for kids. At night it ran grindhouse pictures or when they could get them older movies like Dr. Zhvago [always a big one they’d show]. Blacula, SuperFly, the aforementioned movies where all weekday evening movies. On Friday’s and Saturdays it was a different kind of grind house. I think smokehouse would have been more appropriate. Friday’s the fun started at 6pm and on Saturday’s it would start at noon. They would run every rock music film from the 60’s or 70’s they could find and seating was moved to the balcony. I remember a few nights when you could barely see the screen for the amount of pot smoke floating around. You would hear the clanking of beer bottles and people would be making deals trading beer for joints or vice versa.

The bathrooms upstairs were a good place for people to exchange drugs and liquor and puke. Back then they were pretty in line people that wouldn’t throw up on the way to bathroom, but knew their limit enough to get to the bathroom first. I think because of that time I have films like Jimi Play’s Berkeley, Woodstock, Tommy, Song Remains the Same as god knows how many other movies burned into my brain. I can’t always remember their names, but I know there were a couple with Pink Floyd, Santana, Janis Joplin [not at Woodstock]. It was like I was living through the 60’s again only I was old enough to understand it now.

Note that all the movie links above are only to the Wikipedia references, but if you have NetFlix you can stream them and see how open the movie industry used to be. The only scary part about watching these films today is I remember how hot some of these women were back then only to discover that most of them are turning 70 or older this year. Yes, your Grandma had sex.

Throw Down with the Food Network!

I read an article today that has been on my mind for a long time. Every since the Food Network came to the Bay Area we have yet to see one of the star chef’s open up a restaurant here. Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Anthony Bourdain [who dislikes San Francisco because of Alice Waters in Berkeley] Mario Batali and the several others don’t want to even bother opening a restaurant here because the competition is too stiff.

Now we do have Wolfgang Puck who opened up Postrio and Roy’s Hawaii Cuisine, but not a single Food Network star has bother with San Francisco. Well I suppose I could include Martin Yan, but he’s no longer a part of the network. I haven’t seen Tyler Florence much lately, but he’s busy with his restaurant here at the moment. Now to me, if you’re going to talk like you’re a world renowned chef you should at least be able to thrown down in Baghdad by the Bay and pull it off. We’ve got some really hefty chefs here already like Michael Mina and Jeremiah Tower who have changed the restaurant industry, but for some reason we scare off the big guns of the media. Had I the money I would travel to one of Bobby Flay’s restaurants with a small camera crew and pull his throw down move with him to get him to come to SF and try his hand in the restaurant business here.

San Francisco, while being seven by seven miles has the largest number of restaurants than any other city in the United States. I was walking around the Embarcadero yesterday and found that there were more places to eat than I remembered. One block alone had six restaurants on one side of the street and these were Subways or McDonalds, but real white linen, sit down restaurants [I’ll still count the Tadich Grill since it’s so good, but no white linen table clothes.]

I like the Food Network and consider myself a bit of a foodie, but not a food blogger. I’ve got more to write about than Mom’s great recipes or the great dishes you can get around town. I watch it at least a couple of nights a week and do have a fondness for Guy Fieri’s Diner’s Drive-in’s and Dives, probably because he’s not afraid of San Francisco. I would love to see some of those Iron Chefs give it a shot in San Francisco, but apparently we scare them off. Could they even handle going up against one of our great food trucks at Off the Grid on a Friday night at Fort Mason? I don’t think so. Could they stand up against the falafel at Sunrise Deli or a shawarma at Yumma’s? I don’t think so.

Bobby Flay, I challenge you and your East Coast Food Network crew to a throw down to open restaurants in San Francisco and see how you fare in our Kitchen Stadium.

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Only in San Francisco: Kink.com

I suppose I have to start this off by quoting Milton Berle, “Sex is only dirty when it’s done right.” Yes, San Francisco has been a city of sin long before there was a place called Las Vegas and let’s face it we do it right. My mother used to tell me about private gay clubs where the patrons would dress up as men and women irregardless of their sex to look like normal “straight” couples walking into a nightclub, but when the doors closed the rules where gone.

Seeing that my mother wasn’t gay, nor has she ever been to a gay nightclub I suppose this was all from, a friend of a friend of a friend information. So now we have an internet company located in the old San Francisco Armory that produces fetish porn for the internet that has become almost mainstream. So much so that when people are pointing their fingers at what’s causing all the problems in San Francisco I never hear kink.com come up. Peter Actworth, a Brit who moved to San Francisco in 1998 is behind it all. That’s him in the picture to the left.

He apparently found out that someone had made £250,000 from an internet porn website so he thought he’d have a go at it in San Francisco. He used craigslist to recruit models who didn’t mind make a decent living by being flogged, spanked or some other form of “punishment” for the entertainment of others. The Armory was purchased by kink.com in 2006 and while it go some opposition, well, sex sells and they won out.

[mappress mapid=”37″]I admit, I have done a little bit of “research” at kink.com to get a better understanding of what they’re about, but seeing as how there hasn’t been one complaint against them by any of the hired models that are in the police reports I figure everything that’s going on is done by consenting adults. Now I will tell you that this site is not for the faint of heart. There are men and women having things done to them that will astound, horrify and to others titillate their senses. [Oh, I’m a naughty boy, I said titillate!]

The funniest thing to me is that there isn’t more controversy over the site. They are expected to make an appearance at every Folsom Street Fair where the leather and stud crowd comes out to show off. With their myriad of websites under the kink.com umbrella they’re sort of like corporate fetish porn. They aren’t tolerated, but accepted. Now you have to admit, that a company called kink.com being accepted in San Francisco is well, so San Francisco!


D-D-D-Danny’s Birthday

Stacey Maisenbach, D-D-D-Danny, Thaen Rassmussen

Last night was a big blast from the past for me as my friend Danny had his birthday party. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen Danny and all the people from the metal scene in SF so it was a fun time seeing people who are now 15-20 years older than when I last saw them.

Let me tell you a bit about Danny. He’s been known by D-D-D-Danny and stuttering Danny D. His stutter [which isn’t that bad anymore] has sort of made him stand out and he knows it. He’s a comedian, always onstage and always ready to bring on the fun. He’s like a big kid with a smile on his face all the time. This is probably because he and his roommate Ace put out a local show called Reality Check TV.

I’m not sure when Reality Check started, but I always remember seeing Danny and his team traveling around the clubs with their video camera taping people and then going home and editing it together to be shown on public access television. It was raw and rough, but it really captured the scene the way it was then and they’re still capturing it today…and it’s still raw.  Any book written about the metal scene in SF should have a whole chapter just about his exploits. Between him and Ron Quintana you’ve got an entire library of the scene from the 80’s until now.

Now Danny and Ace have branched out a bit from just being local only. They’ve done shows from the AVN awards, Danny’s been in several documentaries on the metal scene. I gotta say that I couldn’t do what he does today even if I’m only 4 years older than him.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DANNY!