Jun 122011
Part of the Cool Books Series - Previous in series         
Norman Rockwell's Swimming Hole (1920)

Norman Rockwell’s Swimming Hole (1920)

One of the great things about being a library book sale addict is that I get to handle about 1,000 books a week and I come across some really cool stuff.  The latest example is Swimming Holes of California: Day Trips With a Splash by Pancho Doll.  As a fan of both water and road trips, this book was a no-brainer purchase for me as it details more than 100 swimming holes throughout California.  Pancho spent nine months traveling California in its entirety, driving more than 25,000 miles to get the skinny on the best (and worst) spots to cool off, relax and simply have fun.  And he’s created a guidebook that’s not only useful and fun to read, but covers a subject/area of interest that has long been neglected, IMO.

Every swimmin’ hole is given three or four paragraphs of editorial content including detailed directions, GPS coordinates, and a copy of the USGS 7.5-minute topographic map of the area.  But that is just the beginning.  Continue reading »

Part of the Cool Books Series - Previous in series        
Dec 142010

While heading out for a morning mail run I tuned in to KGO Radio to see what Ronn Owens was talking about. Turns out Ronn is on vacation, and Brian Copeland was sitting in for him. Brian had the Deputy Director for Planning for the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, Tilly Chang.

Apparently, traffic in downtown San Francisco moves at only 5 to 10 miles per hour. While this is clearly a problem, the proposed solutions discussed today were simply ridiculous. Continue reading »

Aug 092009

It’s been a few years since Zaira and I explored one of Santa Cruz’ funkiest tourist traps: The Mystery Spot, so we decided to head up there yesterday. We’re trying to save money for my big 40th birthday trip at the end of the month and since the Mystery Spot charges only $5 admission and a $5 parking fee it seemed to be the perfect choice for a lovely August afternoon.

Alas, we arrived only to discover that the Mystery Spot was closed to “walk ins” and reservations were required. Reservations? For a tourist trap?!?  I’ve never heard of such a thing!  So, we were turned away and exploring The Mystery will have to wait for a future date.  We did, however, manage to see the Mystery Spot Car (pictured above) which is entirely covered with the (in)famous Mystery Spot stickers.

While discussing the car (and the amount of stickers it takes to cover such a thing) I realized just how much of a bargain the Mystery Spot truly is.  After all, we’ve paid $5 for bumper stickers in the past and they’re included with the $5 tour.  So, in a way it’s “Buy a bumper sticker, get a free tour”.  A very excellent deal, indeed.  Of course, that realization led me to another….

If The Mystery Spot is booked solid by 2pm in the afternoon they clearly aren’t charging enough for a tour.  Have these guys never taken a basic economics course?  Is the law of supply and demand somehow mutated at this locale as well?  In the brief few minutes we were at the foot of the driveway we saw two other cars turned away for want of reservations.  It seems reasonable to me to double the price for the tours (at least on historically busy days).  After all, if they’re turning people away now, they could dramatically increase revenue while possibly cutting expenses at the same time (two employees were required to “guard” the driveway against “walk ins”).  Even if they gave half as many tours due to the increased prices they’d still come out even.

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Dec 032008

Well, this could be filed in the “no duh” category…

As of July 1, 2008 it is now illegal to drive in the state of California while talking on a hand-held cell phone. Like most ridiculous laws this was passed in order to make us “safer”. According to my local paper

[A]s of Nov. 26 local traffic enforcement officers have issued 67 tickets for violations of the new law which went into effect July 1, making it illegal for any driver to use a hand-held cell phone while operating a vehicle. [In a town of less than 25,000 drivers]


The Gilroy Police Department did not have the most recent data available at press time, but as of Oct. 8, officers there issued the same number of tickets (67) to Gilroy drivers, according to GPD Sgt. Jim Gillio. [In a town of less than 40,000 drivers]

And the California Highway Patrol cited 150 people in Santa Clara and San Benito counties for violations of the hand-held cell phone law as of Nov. 8, according to CHP spokesman Chris Armstrong.

Those numbers seem pretty high to me, and they must be having a positive effect, right? Well then please explain the following quote from an SFGate article

Statewide, 37 people died in Labor Day weekend traffic deaths as of 6 a.m. Monday, up from 32 for the same period last year, the CHP said.

That’s a “shocking” increase of 21% in traffic fatalities!  Is it possible that the government lied to us?  Could they merely have passed this supposed “safety” measure merely to benefit their pocketbooks?  Well, returning to the Morgan hill Times article I first quoted-

Based on these numbers, the law has provided a steady stream of revenue for the state, Santa Clara County, and local police departments.

First-time offenders of the cell phone law are required to pay a $94 ticket, according to Carl Schulhof of the Santa Clara County Superior Court. While the base bail amount for the ticket is only $20, the final price tag includes a variety of state mandated penalty assessments which produce funds that are divvied up among “all kinds of revenue distribution categories,” including EMS, the court, and municipal agencies, Schulhof said.

He said the formula that determines who gets what from each fine is “fairly complex,” and he did not know how much of the revenue the MHPD would receive from each fine. However, he suggested the amount would be small after all the other agencies and departments have taken their cut.

With each subsequent violation of the hands-free cell phone requirement, the penalty assessments increase, and a second offense can result in a fine of more than $200, Schulhof added.

The citation is not considered a moving violation, so it does not automatically tarnish a motorist’s driving record.

Specifically exempted from the law are emergency service professionals who use a cell phone while operating an emergency vehicle.

Yep, sure looks like it’s all about “safety” to me. That would explain both the high level of fines and the fact that it doesn’t go on a driver’s record. And who else is completely unsurprised by the fact that government employees are exempted from yet another law that the rest of us serfs must follow?

Nov 302008

It has been about 9 months since Zaira and I went to the racetrack and played the ponies. After my experience at the Bay Meadows opener this probably isn’t too surprising.  Then again, you might not have noticed the lack of my horse racing posts  at all.  But Golden Gate Fields most definitely has.

Not a week has gone by since early September (opening day was September 13th) without my receiving something in th email from Golden Gate Fields.  But their latest letter certainly got my attention.  It included a coupon for free valet or preferred parking and free Turf Club admission for both Zaira and myself.  For me, being in the grandstands with the “unwashed masses” is part of the experience, so I won’t be visiting the Turf Club any time soon.  Even if I were interested in this ‘elite’ area to watch the horses, free admission wouldn’t motivate me to make the drive.
I will, however, be happy to use them, though when we visit on Saturday, December 13th.  That’s when I can cash in the ticket pictured to the right.  For those not familiar with betting slips, that’s what this is.  This “Mystery Mutuel Voucher” is guaranteed to be worth at least $2.00, but could also bring in $3, $5, $25, $50, $500 or even $5,000!  Now that’s nothing to sneeze at.

In addition to being able to cash in this ticket, that Saturday will also be one of three chances (Friday and Sunday are the others) to enter the 2008 Golden Gate Fields Handicapping Contest and win an all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas to compete in the 2009 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Contest.  Of course, as my betting record (and bank balance) clearly show I can’t handicap for squat so the odds are long of my actually winning such a contest.  However, even a stoppe dclock is right twice a day, so I might as well give it a shot.