Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Why I have reservations about the Measure RR Caltrain tax (but I’m voting for it anyway)

October 14th, 2020

Recently the three main counties that serve CalTrain were asked to add an additional sales tax to fund CalTrain service. This was initially rejected by San Francisco leading to some finger wagging, before ultimately landing on the ballot.

Many transit advocates decried San Francisco’s decision, but let me point something out: of all the counties asked to add an additional tax for CalTrain, San Francisco is the only one within an existing transit tax district — the BART sales tax district. In other words San Francisco is being asked to join a second public transit tax district.

Meanwhile, while BART does go into San Mateo County and recently into Santa Clara County as well, both of those counties opted to pay for BART service separately instead of joining the BART tax district.

To put it simply, CalTrain should be part of BART. If the two entities were folded into one and were part of the same tax district, what’s to lose? Think about it: CalTrain serves San Mateo and Santa Clara counties much the same way BART does, and with the upcoming electrification project should have a BART-like more frequent schedule in the future.

Let’s call this BART/CalTrain merger “BARTrain” for the purpose of this conjecture.

Before anyone complains with “hey I don’t like the way BART is governed” well BART is a democracy. You can get involved with the BART board if you live in the district, from emailing them with your dissatisfaction all the way up to running for a board seat.

There’s many more obvious gains here as well. The worst part of public transit is transferring between lines with unpredictable schedules. BART does timed transfers within its own system, which is convenient when transferring between lines in the East Bay. Imagine if BARTrain had timed transfers at the existing Millbrae station and the upcoming San Jose Diridon BART extension?

On a longer timeline the planned BART extension into San Jose could simply terminate at the new BARTrain Diridon Station as it would make the plans to extend BART to Santa Clara redundant. That money could be used for other projects like the long-planned CalTrain Dumbarton project which would provide a second bay crossing for BARTrain, or even something else entirely — BARTrain to Half Moon Bay? — just spitballing here.

For now anyway the existing San Jose/Gilroy CalTrain corridor could be operated as a special commuter extension, very similar to the recent Antioch BART extension which uses diesel trains and extends into less populated counties outside the core operating area.

Should you vote yes on the 2020 Measure RR? Yes, it will help upgrade CalTrain and get cars off the road in the post-pandemic era. But it’s not ideal at all — let’s have one transit tax district that covers the entire Bay Area to provide simple, equitable, convenient transit for everyone.

Old Market District Walking Food Tour

April 21st, 2019

Old Market District Walking Food Tour
Cannoli for breakfast
 

The Old Market District Walking Food Tour focuses entirely on foodie favorite spots in Omaha’s Old Market District. This part of Omaha dates back to the 19th century and is mainly built out of brick. Even the streets are paved with brick. Originally it was a warehouse and light industry district serving the nearby train lines, recently it’s been reborn as a place to meet friends for food, coffee, and drinks.

In the morning our tour group of a dozen or so had the entire place to ourselves. (To be fair not all the businesses were officially open yet.) This gave us time not only to sample the food, but meet some of the owners and managers — a nice touch for a food tour.

The tour starts, oddly enough, at a dessert shop. We all sampled classic Italian-style cannoli filled with ricotta cheese. It was rich enough I was glad I’d skipped breakfast.

Aside from food one stop includes a small sample of beer, another a small sample of coffee. Both were excellent. The cafe handed out extremely soft, melt-in-your-mouth pretzels. These didn’t go with the coffee at all but I’ve never had a pretzel like that so it’s hard to complain.

 
Old Market Passageway
 

Another highlight of this tour was learning about the Old Market District’s history. One of the more unusual aspects was the addition of the “Passageway” seen in the above photo. This simple alley between two buildings was enclosed in glass and given a lush garden makeover.

In the Passageway today you can find restaurants, art galleries, etc. My favorite business in there was a tiny bookstore that’s also home to a small dog.

Hours after the tour I wandered back to the Old Market District at around 6 PM to see if it was any busier — and to find dinner. Sure enough the streets were significantly more crowded and the restaurants had opened. Still, all of the restaurants I peeked into had at least a couple empty tables.
 

My recommendation: Going in I had low expectations for a food tour in a small town like Omaha. But in all honesty the food was on par with what I’d expect to find in much larger cities. You can book this tour or any of the other Omaha Culinary Tours here.

Song parodies from Sesame Street

December 7th, 2010

What makes Sesame Street successful is that it’s fun enough that parents will actually sit down and watch with their kids.

One of their tricks was to re-purpose modern music with clever parodies. Here’s a few I scrounged up on YouTube.

Cereal Girl (parody of Material Girl)

Hip to Be a Square (parody of Hip to Be Square)

(I Can’t Get No) Cooperation (parody of [I Can’t Get No] Satisfaction)

Kids Love to Brush (parody of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun)

Rebel L (parody of Rebel Yell)

Hey Food (parody of Hey Jude)

If they made an album of these, I’d buy it.

On Dane Cook’s “comedy” career

October 7th, 2009

The funny thing about Dane Cook is that he’s not funny.  This would be unremarkable were it not for his comedy albums, films, and TV specials.

How can a comedian who isn’t funny be so popular?

This was bothering me a while ago, but I’ve finally realized that every Cook fan I’d ever met was a frat guy. I think that explains it.

Here’s my screenplay of how Cook became famous. Imagine this happening in every dorm across the country.

INT. ROWDY FRAT HOUSE - NIGHT

   A party is taking place.  FRAT GUY is looking for action
   and SORORITY GIRL is bored and watching TV.  Dane Cook is on.
   SORORITY GIRL is staring at the screen.

           FRAT GUY approaches SORORITY GIRL.

                       FRAT GUY
           Hey, what's up?

                     SORORITY GIRL
                       (drinking)
           Watching Dane Cook.  He's funny!

                       FRAT GUY
                      (oblivious)
           Oh, yeah... um.  Dane Cook!  He's
           great.  Like that one thing he
           does, um...

                     SORORITY GIRL
           Could you hand me that beer?

                       FRAT GUY
                 (Hands her a beer and
                  sits next to her)
           Sure, here.

           She chugs the beer quickly.

                     SORORITY GIRL
           Ahh. Oh man.  Oh.  Hey.... you're
           so hot, I wanna **** *** **** ***
           ***!

   Sorority Girl smiles drunkenly and goes down out of the
   frame.  Frat Guy stretches and smiles in contentment.


INT. RECORD STORE - DAY

   In the comedy isle, FRAT GUY picks up every Dane Cook CD
   they have and puts it into his basket.


EXT. COLLEGE CAMPUS - DAY

   Outside a building, FRAT GUY is standing around waiting.
   SORORITY GIRL exits the door and he meets up with her.

                     FRAT GUY
           Hey, what's up?

                  SORORITY GIRL
                    (startled)
           Oh... uh.  Hi.  Not much.

                     FRAT GUY
           Hey, remember how you said you like
           Dane Cook?  Well I was just listening
           to his CDs and...

                  SORORITY GIRL
                   (confused)
           Dane who?  What are you talking about?

                   FRAT GUY
           I um... so you wanna...

                  SORORITY GIRL
                    (annoyed)
           Uh, I gotta go.

 

Makes sense? I hope so, because if that doesn’t explain Dane Cook, then I don’t know what does.