January 2007


From The Rejection Collection



Pierre Monteux was not only a conductor of the San Francisco Symphony but was one of the great conductors of the 20th Century.

Check him out at Pierre Monteux, Maître


Carol Whitman's Dad--Carol of Potter Creek's Carol and Bob--was a CIA Soviet analyst during the Cold War.

In January we will venture inside his privately published, Poems and Memoirs.

In his role as a Soviet analyst John was a CIA representative at the Salt II talks.


Here in a lighter moment

John T. Whitman at Salt II



Sally's dining pavillion is featured in the January 2007 House Beautiful--available now. Here are some of the article photos.


Merrill's Grayson remodel drawings have been submitted to the city.


As the rainy season begins you can find more information about our current weather conditions than is good for you at www.wunderground.com

Want to see weather coming in, going out, beautiful sunsets, and much, much more? Check out http://sv.berkeley.edu/view/ This very hip site was in an email from reader and contributor, Tony Almeida. Read Tony's Jimi Hendrix story on the only page that routinely gets more hits the Scrambled Eggs.


The West-Berkeley Plan:

some thoughts on my thirty-fifth year in Potter Creek


Bob Kubik emails a link to a New York Times op-ed piece about livestock and global warming.





8:47 AM--irritant in front room, dry lips, light head, use mask. 9:16 AM, chills, dry skin. 10:43 AM--SERIOUS irritant in front room, over loads HEAP filter, usual symptoms, use mask. 4:31 PM--irritant in front room, use mask. 6:48 PM--irritant in warehouse, air-out, leave.


900 GRAYSON'S Margot




"Wood fires spark Bay Area red alert" reports Denis Cuff of the West County Times. "Biting cold weather outdoors and a warm holiday spirit indoors stoked many Bay Area fireplaces on Christmas Day. But what warmed the heart created smoke unhealthy to the lungs. . . . Concentrations of fine particle pollution from wood fires were at unhealthy levels in the Bay Area on Christmas Day, fueling concern that the region faces trouble meeting a stricter new federal standard for the microscopic substances that can cause respiratory and heart problems. . . . Wednesday was the fourth consecutive day and 15th of the winter season that Bay Area pollution regulators have issued Spare the Air Tonight advisories asking residents to voluntarily refrain from burning wood fires on nights of predicted unhealthy air. . . . But the dirty air on so many days this winter is making it clearer that the Bay Area will struggle to meet the new federal standard for particles 2.5 microns or smaller. The particles, which can lodge deep in the human lungs, are about 1/30th the size of a human hair. . . . 'We believe some people still are not clear on how harmful wood burning is,' Karen Schkolnick [Bay Area Air Quality spokeswoman] said. 'It's been around since the caveman days, but scientists are learning much more in recent years about the health effects.'"

Neighbors have mentioned that our community activist and WEIBAC advocate, Rick Auerbach has his fire going nightly. Personally, I love the smell of wood smoke in the cold night air. But sadly, I seem to be out of touch.



A female reader from the South of France emails

vive la France


Cliff Miller of the Richmond Ramblers Motorcycle Club emails


FRIENDS: Never ask for food
BIKER FRIENDS: Are the reason you have no food.

FRIENDS: Will say "hello"
BIKER FRIENDS: Will give you a big-ass hug and a kiss.

FRIENDS: Call your parents Mr. and Mrs.
BIKER FRIENDS: Call your parents mom and dad.

FRIENDS: Have never seen you cry.
BIKER FRIENDS: Cry with you.


900 GRAYSON regular, Miltiades Mandros is an Oakland architect and preservationist. Recently, he helped save a vintage filling station.

"Junk' collector buys 1930s West Oakland station" reports Cecily Burt of the Oakland Tribune. "James Perry of Castaic has a serious jones for old cars, old signs and treasured "memorabilia" that many folks would sooner label junk. Now he's adding to his collection by spending $1 to buy - and thousands more to dismantle and move - a vintage gas station in West Oakland. The collection of buildings that represents the Jack Holland Oil Co. gas station at 37th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way is a throwback to a bygone era, when a gallon of gasoline was pumped by an attendant who not only topped off the tank but checked the oil and washed the windshield. The buildings weren't worth anything to nonprofit developers Community Development Corp. The pump station had been set ablaze by squatters and was headed for the scrap heap until local preservationists, including Oakland architect Miltiades Mandros, pressured the developer to sell it. CDC offered the buildings for a dollar to anyone willing to take them away. There's a niche market for the station - its old ornate gas pumps, air meters and signs that advertise now obsolete brands of motor oil or petrol - but it still wasn't easy finding a taker. Two collectors let the station slip by before Perry, who owns two semi-trailer trucks and is manager of a sod farm, saw it advertised on the Web site http://www.oldgas.com."

Strangely, some of this gas station equipment showed up for sale at a Berkeley recycler on our San Pablo Ave. A neon SERVICE sign, a HOLLAND OIL sign, three outdoor light fixtures and a water spout were found there. Happily, the recycler donated them to the restorer.


Pete Hurney's DJ-ing on KALX tomorrow at 3:30 AM to 6:00 AM. He's Pohaku.




Bob Kubik emails

J&D Glass, (10th and Pardee) is in the midst of
moving to a larger place on fourth street. The owner
of the building Paul, who was a former partner in the
business, is considering remodeling the building into
two apartments...


More than you need to know about wood burnng stoves including new clean-stoves, how to burn clean with old stoves, etc is here.

The EPA's "Clean Burning Wood Stoves and Fireplaces Program" is here. Including "Why new wood stoves burn cleaner."

"Modern wood stoves burn much more cleanly than older ones and are more efficient in producing heat. New stoves will reburn the smoke and cut the amount of tar and gas going out of the chimney by 90 per cent. They will also eliminate creosote build-up. Creosote is the flammable substance that wood smoke deposits inside a chimney" and more about alternate heating is here.

Check out "We can help you to burn wood better" at woodheat.org


Read about combustion pollutants here.


And, check out the EPA's "An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality."


Sunday's West County Times will do a story on Bay Area worker-owned co-ops featuring Arizmendi Bakeries in Oakland. The Bay Area has the largest concentration of such companies in the US and the movement may be growing.


And, Ex-Buttercupper "Keeps on keep'n on" in Rich Freedman's "There was a time Suze Orman wasn't famous, wasn't a best-selling author, wasn't a household name in households that get Oprah" in the West County Times.


Bob also sends a link to "Does America need a Foreign Legion?" by Colby Cosh at canada.com




"Worker-owned cooperatives growing: Employees take control of various businesses and their own financial futures" reports Janis Mara of the West County Times.

Zelda Bronstein's series on our Potter Creek Inkwork's Collective can be read in my March and April 2005 "Scrambled Eggs and Lox." Zelda's story first appeared in our Daily Planet.

"Mercury mine field: County seeks liability protection before diving into tainted water" reports Ryan Huff of the West County Times."Digging out mercury from the eastern Mount Diablo foothills proved to be a profitable business when E.J. Ryan set up a mine in 1875. But along with miners' fortunes came a century-old environmental hangover that continues today: rainwater carries mercury into Marsh Creek and the Delta, generating toxic levels of methylmercury in fish along the waterway to Marsh Creek Reservoir. That lake, 10 miles downstream from the abandoned Mount Diablo Mercury Mine, has been off-limits to anglers and recreation enthusiasts for 27 years to prevent people from eating mercury-rich fish such as the reservoir's largemouth bass."

In the 1960s two then good friends of mine brought property just below this mercury mine, built a structure, lived there for years, raised a daughter and kept livestock. My memory is that Betsy's horse drank from the pond. Damn!




From January 1, 2006 to January 1, 2007 this site as a whole received 1,420,199 hits.

Well Ok then!


Miltiades Mandros' "saving the gas station" story--see my 1/4/07 post--has legs! It is now on the front page of the West County Times Local Section--with color photos, Check it out!

Now famous, Miltiades is going to be hell to talk to during breakfast at 900 GRAYSON.






"Colorful sheriff ends 54-year career" reports Chris Metinko of the West County Times. "After more than 50 years in one career, it's not uncommon to think about what one would have done differently. Monday, on his last day on the job, Alameda County Sheriff Charles Plummer had his own thoughts. After a retirement ceremony that included helicopter flyovers, bagpipes and what seemed like thousands of handshakes, the former Berkeley and Hayward chief of police sat in his office afterward and voiced that one regret. 'I wish I would have hit some people harder during the riots,' said Plummer, speaking of the riots in Berkeley in the late-1960s. 'I regret that.'"


"Home-building slump likely will end soon, developers say" writes George Avalos in the Times. "Housing production slumped in the East Bay and California during November, according to a report released Tuesday, but builders think an end to the downturn appears on the horizon."

In a Wall Street Journal story "Speculators Helped Fuel Florida's Housing Boom" Michael Corkey and James R Hagerty report that in Naples Florida, a formerly working class neighborhood not unlike Potter Creek, housing prices have doubled, even tripled, in the last five years. But in a market estimated to be driven as much as 30% by speculation, prices have now falled back to 2001-02 levels. Auctions are now held by sellers in which houses are selling for half of their former prices.

Well Ok then.


And Avalos writes "State Farm lowers auto, home insurance rates. State Farm Insurance customers can expect to receive double-digit decreases in rates for both auto and homeowners insurance, the company and the state's insurance commissioner said Wednesday."




In conversations with Orlando, Hustead's yard employee, Sarah was told that Hustead has lost its city contract and will be moving from their Potter Creek yard within six months. But Sarah says she'll miss Orlando who's been a good neighbor promptly addressing any problem connected with the yard.


Shortly before 6:00 PM last night, several Berkeley FD engines responded to a call at Consolidated Printing. By about 6:30 PM they had put out what amounted to a trash fire and were packing up and were returning to their station. Berkeley PD was still at the scene.


After a recent all-too-Berkeley conversation about pacifism, warriors and the nature of Humankind, I'm left with a quote of the week. Noah Cross, John Houston's character in "Chinatown" offers something like "Most people don't have to face the fact that at the right time, and in the right place, they're capable of anything."





Sally lent my a copy of a four-page story by her cousin, Ms Dorothy, a Navy employee at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Now 91, Ms Dorothy's memories of that day are female, warm, detailed and sharp. Perhaps I'll get permission to post them.


Something for 900's Chris and Heather by Jackie Burrell of the West County Times. "LilaGuides way for parents. By the second or third kid, most parents are pros. They know which parks and playgrounds are best and which cafes are kid-friendly. They know what to buy and where to buy it, and, most important of all, where their best resources -- other parents -- gather. But it's all a blur for sleep-deprived newbies."

"Real estate in transition, experts say" writes Barbara E. Hernandez of the West County Times. "Most residential real estate professionals are calling 2007 a transitional year, for better or worse. Although there's some disagreement about what the new year will hold, the only consensus is that it will not be a year of booming appreciation or sales like those seen in the past five years.'


And, "Mortgage applications rise sharply; Opinion divided on whether January flurry signals long-term recovery or one-time anomaly" reports Hernandez. "Home mortgage applications rose 16.6 percent last week, a big jump from a 14 percent drop before Christmas and a modest 3.6 gain just after the holiday, according to a report by the Mortgage Bankers Association released Wednesday."


"Researchers warn eBay users of buying, selling feedback" writes the Times' George Avalos. "On eBay, people can buy just about anything -- including a reputation. A study released Wednesday by university researchers in the East Bay finds that hundreds of people have used the digital bazaar to buy and sell reputations."


Not really what this story by the Times' Kiley Russell is about. Still, "Spare the Air stays despite 'fairly low' effectiveness" is worth reading.


11:53 AM--irritant in front room, dry lips and eyes, leave. 4:00 PM--warehouse is filled with hot plastic odor. 4:06 PM--Pete, working at the back of his house next to the 2741/43 8th Street warehouses doesn't feel good. "I'm knocking off early, I'm feeling sick" Pete says.





Pete and Lyn's mini-radio drama "Petaluma Cat Lady" will be broadcast sometime between 11:00 AM and 12 NOON, this Saturday on KALX's program, "Women Hold Up One-Half the Sky." I heard an early mix. Good stuff, great script, good effects, Lyn's a great narrator. Check it out!


"Legislature wants a greater voice in UC planning. Politicians argue more oversight could have averted disputes among system, local populaces" writes Matt Krupnick of the West County Times. "The Legislature should take more control over the University of California's contentious long-range planning, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said Thursday. Better oversight would help avoid disputes between universities and cities that have become common across the 10-campus system, the report notes. City leaders in Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Davis have argued that UC plans fail to take community needs into account.

In this story, Loni Hancock is quoted"Clearly this is an area where we need to take action," said Hancock, a former Berkeley mayor. The existing system "is a blank check for all this growth." And Tom Bates is also quoted "The university has such a huge overriding hammer that goes with its constitutional protection," said Bates, a former assemblyman and Hancock's husband."I think the universities will have to be brought kicking and screaming into a more cooperative role."

". . . brought kicking and screaming." Hmmmm, . . . where have I heard that before?


"Judge merges lawsuits against UC projects: Hearing set next week in cases seeking to block athletic center, removal of oaks" writes Kristin Bender in the Times. "A judge has consolidated three of the four lawsuits against UC Berkeley in a bid to stop the construction of a $125 million sports training center, parking lot and offices near Memorial Stadium."


"Tree protesters say they were run out by university police" report Carolyn Jones and Marisa Lagos of the San Francisco Chronicle.






"Winter festival spawned Summer of Love: Ex-hippies gather in San Francisco to mark 40th anniversary of Human Be-in, which put counterculture movement in motion" writes the AP's Lisa Leff in the West County Times. " Their hair, once a symbol of youthful rebellion, is mostly gray. Bodies that writhed with wild abandon as a guru invited them to "Tune in ... turn on ... drop out" now sport stiff knees and age spots."


"Make room for military memorabilia: World War II veteran's collection is so extensive that it has led to plans for a museum to display it all" writes the AP's Deborah Baker in the Times. "Did you ever collect so much stuff you thought it might just be easier to build a museum around it?"


"Craft brewers hit bottleneck: Costs cap output, stifle growth for smaller businesses" reports the Times' Marton Dunai


12:28 PM--irritant in front room, dry skin, lips, eyes, use mask.







There was heavy wood smoke in Potter Creek last night. But what I smelled was not the aroma of cut and cured fire-wood but the stink of old painted lumber. In fact, at first I thought it was a house fire.

"Simply green: Small changes made by individuals can add up to a big difference"reports Janis Mara in the West County Times. "With sweeping new California legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions, hundreds of hybrids hitting the road and a new year dawning, going green is high on many Bay Area residents' New Year's resolution lists. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to conserve energy in your home and business."

AND since this is America, I'm betting that pretty soon the flim-flam men will appear on late-night TV selling you how to make millions being Green. "Why, you can set up a green business with no money up front" and/or "I set up my Green business and in the first month cleared $100,000 tax free" and . . .







Not known for its alarmist journalism, our Ruling Class' Wall Street Journal offers "Weak Forecasts Mount in Housing Industry: IndyMacBancorp, Centrex, Are Hurt by Land Losses, Writedowns in Land Value" by Lingling Wei and James R. Hagerty. They continue "Mortgage lender IndyMAcBancorp Inc. slashed its forecast for fourth quarter earnings and home builder Centrex Corp, projected a loss from continuing operations for its latest quarter as the U.S. housing industry struggles with slow sales and rising defaults.

Though some economists say the worst of the housing slump is over, the latest developments show that bad news from lenders and builders can still jolt the market. Steeper discounts from builders desperate to unload excess homes could add further pressure on downward prices as could rising forclosures, which dump more properties on the market.

'There are going to be more negative surprises', said Ivy Zelman, a Cleveland based housing analyst for Credit Suisse who has long had a bearish view of the industry. 'I think it's just getting started.'

Residential Capital LLC, a real-estate financial company . . . said it will eliminate 1000 positions by October to reduce costs as the mortgage lender grapples with 'the continuing deterioration' . . .

IndyMac, Pasadena California, one of the top 10 U.S mortgage lenders . . . blamed higher provisions for loan losses, repurchases of soured loans earlier sold to investors and declines in value of loans and mortgage securities retained by the company [for a 25% drop in earnings]. . . .

Dallas based Centrex said it expects to record a loss from continuing operations . . . The company, which is due to report Tuesday, said it plans to write down the value of land by about$300 million and to record costs of $150 million on deposits paid for options to buy land that are being abandoned. . . .

Centrx is the latest in a series of home-builders to write downthe value of land and options to buy land . . . ."


And Barbara E. Hernandez of the West County Times reports "Home prices in East Bay hold steady:
Sales in December were slowest for month since the mid-1990s."


More sewer repair is taking place in Potter Creek--the broken culverts are being removed from 10th and Grayson.


"Council reconsiders term limits" writes Martin Snapp in the Times. "The Berkeley City Council is wrestling with a loophole in an ordinance setting term limits for city commissioners."


"Strip tease," exclaims the Times Aleta Watson "'I think bacon is essentially the meat lover's version of chocolate. It does the same thing to people,' says Bruce Aidelis, cookbook author. A little sweet, a little salty, a little smoky. Satisfyingly rich. Chewy or crunchy, depending on the cook's preference. Good bacon has it all."

900 GRAYSON offers the mentioned Nueske's


Quotes of the week from the book "Three Cups of Tea."

From the call to worship "Prayer is better than sleep," from Judith Campbell "When your heart speaks take good notes" and a from hand-lettered sign at the entrance to the Fifth Squadron, stationed at Skardu "Trust is Allah, but tie up your camel."


And this morning, as an all-too-Berkeley citizen walked defiantly in front of my truck at a cross-walk, it seemed he knew he had not only crossed to the other side of the street but felt he had asserted his right of man-over-machine.


6:42 AM--irritant in front room, dry lips, eyes, use mask. 8:54AM--SERIOUS irritant in front room, dry lips, dry eyes, light-head, use mask, leave.





No heavy wood smoke in Potter Creek during last night's Spare the Air, I'm told.

Well, Ok then.


Another Potter Creek family is HEPA filtering the air in their home.


Tippett is looking for parking again. Maybe when/if Hustead's closes Phil could rent the land to them as a parking lot.




Don't be meek.

Make John Coltrane Park

in Potter Creek!


Also, I'm told that squatters are occupying more unused/vacant Potter Creek property.


"Berkeley Iceland to close in March" reports Kristin Bender in the West County Times. "Berkeley Iceland, where children have learned to skate since 1940 and where Olympic champions Peggy Fleming and Brian Boitano honed their skills, will close March 31 after a yearlong effort to find a new owner or operator."


"Jazz world takes note of young sibling duo" writes Jennifer Modenessi of the Times. "If you happened to stumble upon the music of Samora and Elena Pinderhughes, you'd never guess that such sophisticated sounds were coming from school-aged children born decades after jazz's heyday."

But "Berkeley Symphony losing longtime music director" reports the Times', Georgia Rowe. "Nearly three decades into his tenure with the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, music director Kent Nagano will step down from the organization's top post."


"East Bay hits job market milestone: Region's strength encourages analysts as it passes million marker, exceeds South Bay, San Francisco" reports George Avalos of the Times.


And Avalos and Blanca Torres report, "Crude oil dips below $50" Price per barrel at lowest point in year and a half but consumers not likely to see drop at pump for a few more weeks." During the past around-seventy-dollars -a-barrel period, the PBS Lerher News reported that between $20.00 to $30.00 of the price-per-barrel was the result of speculation--much of it directly in futures.

And, "Manufacturing jobs maintain upswing: Battered factory sector hadn't seen such gains in number of positions in East Bay in at least five years" also writes Avalos. "The manufacturing industry could become the comeback kid of the East Bay and the rest of the Bay Area, providing an unexpected source of strength for the region's economy."

Ah, . . the Z is back with "Commentary: Mayor Bates' Mandate - and Mine" by Zelda Bronstein in our Daily Planet. It's good Z, very good. But is it real?


And I gotta admit Dick, this is just too damn complicated for me to understand. "Stalled Landmarks Law Hit with New Challenge" writes Richard Brenneman in our Times. "As the Berkeley Landmarks War heads for a second showdown at the ballot box, preservationists opened a second front in the courts Tuesday."


During a meeting in my computer-room yesterday afternoon with one of Potter Creek's community activists, I was asked "What is it in here that's making me cough?"





"East Bay mayors look to London for clean-air tips" writes Carolyn Jones of the San Fransico Chronicle. "Inspired by London, the mayors of five East Bay cities said Friday they'd like to adopt some of the bold British air-cleaning strategies but said they'd probably resist the temptation of charging motorists to drive downtown. 'I think it's very inspiring, and these are things I'd like to try in Berkeley,' said Mayor Tom Bates, who hosted a brainstorming session with Allen Jones, the head of London's Climate Change Agency, who spearheaded the city's precedent-setting battle against greenhouse gases."


And, "Berkeley named most accessible city for the disabled" writes Jones. "Berkeley, birthplace of the disability rights movement, has been named the nation's most accessible city for disabled people. The National Organization on Disability awarded Berkeley first prize in its annual Accessible America contest, based partly on the city's new affordable housing complex for disabled people. The disability organization said the 27-unit complex, University Neighborhood Apartments, is the first of its kind in the U.S."





Mid-2007 is the time being thrown around for the ground-breaking of the Potter Creek Berkeley Bowl.


The West County Times, Martin Snapp writes "The Berkeley Historical Society will unveil a new exhibit Sunday titled "Berkeley: 75 Years Ago," curated by local historian Steven Finacom. The heart of the exhibit are articles and advertisements Finacom unearthed from old copies of the Berkeley Gazette, which went out of business in 1983."

What was most different? " 'For one thing, it was a rock-solid Republican city that prided itself on its pro-business climate,' said Finacom. 'Berkeley was also one of the three big cities in the Bay Area, right up there with San Francisco and Oakland.' "

"Berkeley pet adoption shop to close: Animal rescue foundation turns tail after the fur flies over neighbors' complaints about Solano Avenue facility" reports Justin Hill in the West County Times.


"Dire consequences hit close to home: Data expose state's numerous vulnerabilities" write Betsy Mason and Mike Taugher of the West County Times. "California is a state on the edge."


And "How Earth breathes key to climate change: Scientists studying how plant cycles and soils absorb and release carbon in the course of a year" reports Mason. "Looking out across an expanse of oak-grass savanna from the top of a 65-foot research tower near Ione in Amador County, biometeorologist Dennis Baldocchi of UC Berkeley sums up his part in the effort to get a more accurate picture of climate change."


"Military short of armored vehicles in Iraq: Scarcity has soldiers, Marines swapping access; officials say new influx of troops will lack necessary blast-resistant transport" writes David Wood of the Baltimore Sun in the Times. "After nearly four years of war in Iraq, the Pentagon's effort to protect its troops against roadside bombs is in disarray, with soldiers and Marines having to swap access to scarce armored vehicles and the military unsure whether it has the money or industrial capacity to produce the safe vehicles it says the troops need."

From an email forwarded by Bob Kubik

I haven't written very much from Iraq . There's really not much to write about. More exactly, there's not much I can write about because practically everything I do, read or hear is classified military information or is depressing to the point that I'd rather just forget about it, never mind write about it. The gaps in between all of that are filled with the pure tedium of daily life in an armed camp. So it's a bit of a struggle to think of anything to put into a letter that's worth reading. Worse, this place just consumes you. I work 18-20-hour days, every day. The quest to draw a clear picture of what the insurgents are up to never ends. Problems and frictions crop up faster than solutions. Every challenge demands a response. It's like this every day. Before I know it, I can't see straight, because it's 0400 and I've been at work for twenty hours straight, somehow missing dinner again in the process. And once again I haven't written to anyone. It starts all over again four hours later. It's not really like Ground Hog Day, it's more like a level from Dante's Inferno.

Most Profound Man in Iraq- an unidentified farmer in a fairly remote area who, after being asked by Reconnaissance Marines (searching for Syrians) if he had seen any foreign fighters in the area replied "Yes, you."

Worst City in al-Anbar Province-Ramadi, hands down. The provincial capital of 400,000 people. Killed over 1,000 insurgents in there since we arrived in February. Every day is a nasty gun battle. They blast us with giant bombs in the road, snipers, mortars and small arms. We blast them with tanks, attack helicopters, artillery, our snipers (much better than theirs), and every weapon that an infantryman can carry. Every day. Incredibly, I rarely see Ramadi in the news. We have as many attacks out here in the west as Baghdad . Yet, Baghdad has 7 million people, we have just 1.2 million. Per capita, al-Anbar province is the most violent place in Iraq by several orders of magnitude. I suppose it was no accident that the Marines were assigned this area in 2003.

Bravest Guy in al-Anbar Province- Any Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician (EOD Tech). How'd you like a job that required you to defuse bombs in a hole in the middle of the road that very likely are booby-trapped or connected by wire to a bad guy who's just waiting for you to get close to the bomb before he clicks the detonator? Every day. Sanitation workers in New York City get paid more than these guys. Talk about courage and commitment.

More in the next post.


And Bob emails this story from the London Review of Books by Perry Anderson "Russia's Managed Democracy." As a former Russian Studies major and one still fascinated by Russia, I'd strongly recommend it.





Visits to my website have doubled from the first three weeks of 2006 and time spent browsing has tripled--it's about 45 minutes per visit now.


Want to see a photo of Councilwoman Betty Olds, ex-Mayor Shirley Dean and Activist Sylvia McLaughlin up in The Oaks? One's soon to appear in our local biweekly-daily, I'm told.


A new Italian restaurant is said to be opening at 800 Heinz in the former location of Dante and the Lunch Box.


The property--a lot--immediately south of 2829 7th Street will be sold at public auction on February 23rd. It is 9500 square feet and the minmum bid is $1,190,000. For more information call Pacific Auction Exchange at 925-600-7766 or email paxbayarea.com My understanding is that the site already has city approval for structures.


As well a new roof, Acme is now putting new girders in the interior of the old welding building.


More from the email forwarded by Bob Kubik

Best Piece of U.S. Gear - new, bullet-proof flak jackets. O.K., they weigh 40 lbs and aren't exactly comfortable in 120 degree heat, but they've saved countless lives out here.

Best Piece of Bad Guy Gear- Armor Piercing ammunition that goes right through the new flak jackets and the Marines inside them.

Biggest Surprise- Iraqi Police. All local guys. I never figured that we'd get a police force established in the cities in al-Anbar. I estimated that insurgents would kill the first few, scaring off the rest. Well, insurgents did kill the first few, but the cops kept on coming. The insurgents continue to target the police, killing them in their homes and on the streets, but the cops won't give up. Absolutely incredible tenacity. The insurgents know that the police are far better at finding them than we are. - and they are finding them. Now, if we could just get them out of the habit of beating prisoners to a pulp . . .

Favorite Iraqi TV Show- Oprah. I have no idea. They all have satellite TV.

Coolest Insurgent Act- Stealing almost $7 million from the main bank in Ramadi in broad daylight, then, upon exiting, waving to the Marines in the combat outpost right next to the bank, who had no clue of what was going on. The Marines waved back. Too cool.

Highest Unit Re-enlistment Rate- Any outfit that has been in Iraq recently. All the danger, all the hardship, all the time away from home, all the horror, all the frustrations with the fight here - all are outweighed by the desire for young men to be part of a'Band ofBrothers' who will die for one another. They found what they were looking for when they enlisted out of high school. Man for man, they now have more combat experience than any Marines in the history of our Corps.

Biggest Hassle- High-ranking visitors. More disruptive to work than a rocket attack. VIPs demand briefs and "battlefield" tours (we take them to quiet sections of Fallujah, which is plenty scary for them). Our briefs and commentary seem to have no affect on their preconceived notions of what's going on in Iraq Their trips allow them to say that they've been to Fallujah, which gives them an unfortunate degree of credibility in perpetuating their fantasies about the insurgency here.

Biggest Outrage- Practically anything said by talking heads on TV about the war in Iraq, not that I get to watch much TV. Their thoughts are consistently both grossly simplistic and politically slanted. Biggest offender - Bill O'Reilly - what a buffoon.




As predicted on the front page of our Daily Planet, three of our Toughest Old Babes--or Elder Stateswomen--in The Oaks.

Sally and Suzanna had a garden party on Sunday afternoon--sort of the celebration "My dinning pavilion was featured in House Beautiful." And by mid-afternoon, Sally's pavilion and backyard over-flowed with guests, among them movers-and-shakers of west-Berkeley and dressed-to-the-tens Bay Area interior decorators and designers. Champagne flowed and La Farine desserts dazzled on the dinning-room table. But in the midst of all this sat the demure Dorothy Mitchell-Irwin, now 91. Sally's cousin, she was down from Redlands for the party. A Redlands native, Dorothy went to school there from kindergarten to college, graduating from the University of Redlands in 1938. After meeting her first husband-to-be on a Hawiian cruise they married and shortly after moved to Honolulu. But they divorced within a year. "I thought I was so smart, but I was so naive" she said. Dorothy remained in Hawaii and got a job working for a civilian contractor to the military. And so on December 7, 1941 she was there and remembers.

When I think of December 7th, 1941 I usually also remember the Thanksgiving before. My boyfriend at the time, Hilbert Crosthwaite was a young Lieutenant on the submarine, ARGONAUT. He had duty on Thanksgiving night and invited me to join him and another officer on board for dinner. (I don't remember what we had, but the Navy was famous for good food.) While we were eating the teletype started clacking and we could hear it. The other officer took the communique and read it. The sense of the message, from Washington I think, was that the United States had lost track of the Japanese fleet but that it was still somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

much, much more to follow


More from the email forwarded by Bob Kubik

Saddest Moment- Having the battalion commander from 1st Battalion, 1st Marines hand me the dog tags of one of my Marines who had just been killed while on a mission with his unit. Hit by a 60mm mortar. Cpl Bachar was a great Marine. I felt crushed for a long time afterward. His picture now hangs at the entrance to the Intelligence Section. We'll carry it home with us when we leave in February.

Biggest Ass-Chewing-10 July immediately following a visit by the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Zobai. The Deputy Prime Minister brought along an American security contractor (mercenary), who told my Commanding General that he was there to act as a mediator between us and the Bad Guys. I immediately told him what I thought of him and his asinine ideas in terms that made clear my disgust and which, unfortunately, are unrepeatable here. I thought my boss was going to have a heart attack. Fortunately, the translator couldn't figure out the best Arabic words to convey my meaning for the Deputy Prime Minister. Later, the boss had no difficulty in conveying his meaning to me in English regarding my Irish temper, even though he agreed with me. At least the guy from the State Department thought it was hilarious. We never saw the mercenary again.

Best Chuck Norris Moment-13 May. Bad Guys arrived at the government center in the small town of Kubaysah to kidnap the town mayor, since they have a problem with any form of government that does not include regular beheadings and women wearing burqahs. There were seven of them. As they brought the mayor out to put him in a pick-up truck to take him off to be beheaded (on video), one of the bad Guys put down his machinegun so that he could tie the mayor's hands. The mayor took the opportunity to pick up the machinegun and drill five of the Bad Guys. The other two ran away. One of the dead Bad Guys was on our top twenty wanted list. Like they say, you can't fight City Hall.

Worst Sound-That crack-boom off in the distance that means an IED or mine just went off. You just wonder who got it, hoping that it was a near miss rather than a direct hit. Hear it every day.

Second Worst Sound-Our artillery firing without warning. The howitzers are pretty close to where I work. Believe me, outgoing sounds a lot like incoming when our guns are firing right over our heads. They'd about knock the fillings out of your teeth.

Only Thing Better in Iraq than in the U.S.-Sunsets. Spectacular. It's from all the dust in the air.


Our new armed forces "counter-insurgency manual" lays out a ratio of one security-person for every fifty civilians to successfully take, occupy, and pacify territory in which insurgents operate. (I believe this ratio comes from our experience occupying Bosnia.) Using this formula, we need 140,000 to 150,000 people to successfully pacify Baghdad. According to our new commander in Iraq--who wrote the manual--we can come up with 80,000 people total including soldiers, Marines, special forces and Iraqis. Am I missing something here?


Jerry Landis emails this link to "The Turntables That Transform Vinyl" by Anne Eisenberg of the New York Times. "Long-playing records are gathering dust in the homes of many music lovers, who hope to hear their contents one day on a CD player or iPod. Now, an updated version of another audio relic, the phonographic turntable, may provide a fairly inexpensive way to do that. Two new consumer turntables on the market at $200 or less connect directly to computers to transfer cherished vinyl to MP3 files and CDs."


8:36 AM--irritant in warehouse, use mask. 11:5 7 AM--irritant in warehouse, use mask, leave. 12:58 PM--VERY SERIOUS irrtant in front room, use mask. Also irritant IMMEDIATELY in front of warehouse. 2:40 PM--burning throat, light-head, chills, nausea. Worst symtoms in recent memory.




"Judge to rule Monday on Cal's stadium plan" reports the West County Times. "An Alameda County Superior Court judge will decide Monday if a development plan at UC Berkeley can move forward pending several lawsuits trying to stop it."


"Pacific Steel initiates discussion with neighbors: Company mails newsletter to residents, who can send in their feedback through new Web site" reports Doug Oakley in the West County Times. "With three lawsuits against it and complaining neighbors who just won't go away, Pacific Steel Casting is reaching out to Berkeley residents with a public relations effort for the first time in its 73-year history. The company mailed 7,500 copies of a glossy, four-page newsletter called 'Neighborhood News' to addresses in West Berkeley, and it rolled out a new Web site with a section where people can send in comments."

I have a comment "You stink!"


"In East Bay, foreclosures reach high: Precarious position of homeowners a result of slowing housing market, financing regulations" reports Barbara E. Hernandez of the West County Times. "Homeowners spending their equity, buyers wanting the lowest payments, flattening appreciation and stringent new loan rules have led to record levels of foreclosure activity in the East Bay, experts said Wednesday. In the last quarter of 2006, about 1,000 more mortgage default notices than last year went out to Contra Costa County homeowners, a 179 percent increase."

Property values in Potter Creek/West Berkeley? Well, one of the reasons for the real estate market collapse in Naples Florida was that the market was driven in part by speculation--as much as 30%. My impression is that speculation is the driving force in many, if not most, of west-Berkeley real estate transactions. So . . .

In a Wall Street Journal story "Speculators Helped Fuel Florida's Housing Boom" Michael Corkey and James R Hagerty report that in Naples Florida, a formerly working class neighborhood not unlike Potter Creek, housing prices have doubled, even tripled, in the last five years. But in a market estimated to be driven as much as 30% by speculation, prices have now falled back to 2001-02 levels. Auctions are now held by sellers in which houses are selling for half of their former prices.

Of course this is California and it can't happen here. "Oh yeah, . . . have another joint."


"A delicate balance: The current environment is close to ideal for many of the state's signature crops, but warming could end agricultural dominance" reports Betsy Mason in the Times. "By any measure, California wines rank among the best in the world. But a 2-degree rise in temperature could make Napa Valley chardonnay a thing of the past."

And "A landscape in transit" writes Mason. "The golden, oak-dappled hills that dominate much of the Central California landscape could be headed for a dramatic makeover. As the climate heats up, those iconic crooked oaks stand to lose nearly half their range by the end of the century. Much of the remaining suitable habitat likely will shift northward, leaving a very different California in its wake and threatening the work of conservationists."

Also she reports, "Animals on the edge." "The heart of the climate change matter can be found in a plastic bucket full of porcelain crabs. Perfectly adapted to the high and low temperature extremes of lives spent half in and half out of the Pacific Ocean, these little crustaceans might not survive if the highs get any higher."





7:15 AM--SERIOUS irritant in front room, dry eyes, dry lips, mask. 7:35 AM--irrtant presists with accompaning odor. 10:07 AM-- irritant in front room, dry eyes, dry lips, mask. 10:24--SERIOUS irritant in front room, dry eyes, dry lips, mask. 10:48 AM--SERIOUS irritant in front room, dry eyes, dry lips, mask.


"More deaths may follow more frequent heat waves: As average global temperatures rise, the chances of fatal spells such as the one that swept Europe in '03 will increase" reports the Times' Betsy Mason. "Heat waves are deadly."


And Mike Taugher reports "Sea level a rising threat. The seas have been rising for 18,000 years, but the pace has quickened."


"Iceland's departure chills Berkeley: Community reflects sadly on circumstances that have led to storied facility's pending closure" write Martin Snapp and Kristin Bender in the West County Times.




It's important that whoever stole our evergreens last night know about the Curse of Bruce Hermann. If you are a male your dick will fall off--though in your case it won't make much difference. If a female, you will become barren--if you are not already.


1:05 PM--irritant in front room, dry eyes, cough. 2:28 PM--SERIOUS irritant in room, dry eyes, dry lips, cough.




"Judge issues preliminary injunction to stop UC stadium plan" reports Carolyn Jones of the San Francisco Chronicle. "A judge this morning granted a preliminary injunction stopping UC Berkeley's plans to build a training center next to Memorial Stadium, handing at least a temporary victory to a group of environmentalists who have been camping for weeks in old oak trees that would have to be cut down for the development. In the four-page ruling, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller said the plaintiffs --the city of Berkeley, Panoramic Hill Association and California Oak Foundation -- made a sufficient case that the project violates the Alquist-Priolo Act, a state law prohibiting new buildings on earthquake faults."




A newer, gentler and kinder Zelda B opines in our Planet "Robert Reich's Berkeley: Charming, Diverse, Democratic". It is worth a read. But I disagree with her recommendation that WEIBAC give Reich a tour of west-Berkeley so that he may better understand us. I think he should be given a tour by some one more objective, someone with long experience in west-Berkeley some who could give the balanced view, free from agenda. That someone, of course, would be--I say with some humility--me?

Is the newer, gentler Z moving toward the center, positioning herself in the middle for the 2008 elections? Dear me, come to think of it, our leading, local WEIBACer has also become kinder and gentler.


"Job cuts temper East Bay growth: Up to 900 staff reductions coming in wake of region's recent ascent to record employment" reports George Avalos in the West County Times. "Despite the East Bay's steadily expanding economy, a fresh round of job cuts totaling in the hundreds looms over East Bay work sites, employers confirmed Monday."


"2006 new home sales drop steeply:A 16-year record is brightened slightly by reports that the final two months of the year saw increases" writes the AP's Martin Crutsinger in the West County Times. "New home sales fell in 2006 by the largest amount in 16 years, but they were up for a second straight month in December, raising hopes that the worst of the housing downturn is coming to an end."


1:07 PM--SERIOUS irritant in front room, dry eyes, dry lips, use mask. 7:03 PM--SERIOUS irritant in warehouse, dry eyes, dry lips, dry mouth, use mask. 9:40 PM--VERY SERIOUS irritant in warehouse, dry skin, burning mouth, burning throat, use mask, leave.




Potter Creek Berkeley Bowl site has been cleared.


The old bar and lot on Heinz is for sale again--it can be developed


I received this email today--underlining mine.

While surfing the virtual world of collectible motorcycles, I happened across your pages. Interesting application of that word; pages. . . . .
I did recognize your name however. Perhaps from the Mullis book- which I lent out last year to who knows whom.
You appear to have quite a collection of machines. . . . .
And perhaps you would add me to your emailing list?
I've never seen Potter Creek, but it seems suited for a daytime television show. I confess to not having taken the time to inform myself of the recreational activities of my mailman or UPS driver.

Hmm, I am in fact mentioned in Kary's "Dancing Naked in the Mine Field." A Noble Prize winner in chemistry, Kary was also the Buttercup night manager.


I originaly posted this on 1/20

"Ah, . . the Z is back with 'Commentary: Mayor Bates' Mandate - and Mine' by Zelda Bronstein in our Daily Planet. It's good Z, very good. But is it real?"

Z's point is that parts her November-program were taken over and used by Da Boz and helped him get elected. Well, . . . I'm not so sure. Something about the "Medium is the message" or in this case, the candidate.

Or is her point that SHE really won?



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