Friday, May 25, 2007

What a City

It is nights like tonight that make me wonder why I even consider living someplace else. Beyond the scenic vistas lie the true spirit of The City, the people. Cosmopolitan and tolerant. Grand and gutsy. Free and fun.

Tonight I was heading to the Giants game (they lost) and came across the usual Critical Mass crowd (every last Friday of the month). In addition, tonight there was a Zombie Mob. A Zombie Mob? All these people were dressed as zombies walking up Market Street. Their outfits were great. Blood and bones, limping and lurching about. There were well over one hundred people dressed up as zombies all around.

Night of the living dead, right here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Restaurant Tips

I like SF Chronicle Food Critic Michael Bauer. Now I like him even more because he not only answered my restaurant tip question but he used it in his food blog.

My question was about restaurants automatically charging a gratuity onto the bill for a large dinner group. If the service is bad, do we have to pay the included tip? Most restaurants will make sure the service is good or allow for a lower tip if the service is extremly poor. But, according to a consultant Michael Bauer contacted, large parties have an implied contract.

"...I talked to restaurant consultant Frank Klein, who confirmed what I suspected: If the charge is printed on the menu, there's an implied contract. "By sitting down to eat, you're agreeing to pay," he explained. Klein says that when he goes to restaurant, he tells them before he sits down that he doesn't want to be bound by the service charge. Instead, he tips on the quality of the service (which is often more than 20 percent)."

There are many who made comments to Michael's post. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bay to Breakers

Runners. Costumes. Naked People. This past weekend was Bay to Breakers and while I fit into one of the mentioned categories all three and then some were out in force. The weather was perfect for the event. Pictures really can not catch the mood of the race. It has been called the world's largest moving party.

Bay to Breakers is the most grand expression of civic pride I've ever been a part of. Bands and DJs rock out on street corners, mobile soundsystems cruise the streets, elaborate floats are built and pushed to accommodate bars, kegs, beer pong, dance floors. There are no spectators. Everybody walks, runs, or rolls. You reach the top of Alamo Square--the halfway point, and the only hill on the course--and look down from the peak. In both directions, thousands of people of all stripes are celebrating life for the best of all reasons: Because it's there.

While The City and race organizers try to shun and stop the boozing and bare bodies, I have always thought they should embrace it. Those are the things that make this race stand out. Race organizers and The City should encourage such behavior and use it as a selling point to get more people involved in the race. Almost gone are the days of the centipedes that used to attrack a lot of attention. I fear the rest will soon follow.

Here are a few ideas I have to encourage more fun to the race:
1. Instead of frowning on alcohol, give it out. Give those over 21 special bibs they can use to get alcohol along the course. Hand it out at the water stops. Nobody is driving anyway. The organizers try to discourage those who do not register and it never works, this gives them an incentive to do so. Sure there are liabilites but don't let that stop it.
2. Have special prize money given to the first male and female nude runner.
3. Bring back the centipedes. If Bay to Breakers can give 20k to the first finisher (male or female) it can give some change to the first centipede.

Those are just three.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gratuitus Gratuity

Since when did a gratuity become mandatory? I have come across several services where the gratuity is automatically added to the bill. I always thought a gratuity was at the discretion of the customer.

Restaurants, many times, have a policy of adding a gratuity to large parties. While I do not agree with this policy I can accept it because I get the bill after all is said and done and if I really wanted to I could argue for not paying.

I have a problem with a company charging me a gratuity before the sevices have been rendered. I needed to hire a car service to transport some people around. The company was going to charge me the hourly rate plus 20% gratuity. I would have to give my credit card number to reserve the car not knowing how the service would be. What if the person was late, rude or something happened? I would not have any recourse in not paying the gratuity because the company already had my credit card number and I paid in advance. Now, the likelihood of the company charging me the full gratuity if something happened and I complained serverly might not happen, but it could, and in principle I am opposed to this.

The same goes for a service known as Waiters on Wheels. It delivers food from restaurants that normally do not have delivery service. When ordering from Waiters on Wheels it automatically adds a gratuity. This is before the food arrives. How am I supposed to pay gratuity for something that has not occured?

I am not a cheap tipper. I tip according to service. Not before. After.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


I have to admit I like Chicago. The Chicago River cutting through downtown gives it character and feeling. Lake Michigan keeping watch makes me feel comfortable. Chicago is a big city with a midwestern feel, as it should. It stands out in so many ways, so do its buidlings and skyscrapers. Chicago was the first American city to have a "skyscraper". Okay, it was only ten stories tall but it was labeled "skyscraper".

The city is really pushing bicycle use and has been actively creating bike lanes in the city and paths in parks. Right now it even has a city-wide art exhibit in the form of stylized bikes all around. The same concept other citites have used, San Francisco had hearts, Madison had cows, San Jose had sharks. The city also does a great job beautifying the place by planting flowers everywhere, the tuplip were in full bloom.
Millenium Park is a big draw and is new since I had been there last. It features "the bean" a huge mercury looking pebble that is great for reflections and two giant squares that serve as visual art and a waterfall. Water cascades down all sides and even shoots out of the mouth of the faces shown from time to time.
While there I got a chance to see my good friend Michael. He just stated the Illinois Education Foundation, helping financially challenged kids pay for college. Here is the link for more information on his wonderful program. Michael will run for office one day.

New York City

One way to really appreciate San Francisco is to leave it for a over a week. After a trip to New York and Chicago, San Franciso's charms take center stage Other cities try but San Francisco doesn't have to. Its natural beauty comes shining through even on grey days. Where cities have to create beauty in the form of parks or buildings, San Francisco can just sit back and giggle at them. Keep trying you lesser places, you will never compare.

New York is a fine place and as you can see, Michelle and I enjoyed the place. The cherry blossoms and Magnolias were in full bloom at the New York Botanical Garden (way up in the Bronx). I think we might have been the only non-New Yorkers there (and free on Wednesday's too).

We made our way to the man made vista known as the Empire State Building. San Francisco does not have building you have to pay for to peer out its windows at the top. NY has ESB and the new Rockefeller Observation Deck. Can you imagine going to the top of the Transamerica Building? What is the point? Climb to the top of Coit Tower or go the Top of the Mark and you see the same thing for free.

One of of the most fascinating sights was the line at a hamburger joint called the Shake Shack. NY'ers were waiting 45 minutes to an hour in line to order a hamburger. Seeing the burgers and reading reviews online it did not seem worth the wait. Makes me wonder if NY'ers are so starved for a good burger maybe I should copy In-n-Out and open up a place of my own.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Travel Situation

I had an interesting occurance flying Southwest Airlines the other day. I was sitting in the front row, the very front, with no seats in front to place my carry on items below. I had no luggage. I only had my leather attache, or "man-bag". My bag does not contain a computer but just paperwork and magazines. The flight attendant told me I would have to place it in the overhead storage unit. I gave her my bag without argument. She then asked the woman next to me to do the same thing. The woman protested saying it was her purse. The flight attendant complied and did not push the issue. I did. I said if she could have her's I wanted mine back. I only did it for a matter of purpose. The flight attendant said no, her's was a purse and mine was note. I forced the issue saying my bag is of less "danger" than her purse since it is likely carrying less. Her's was probably carrying "lipstick to terrorize the passangers" while mine only had magazines. I eventually lost the battle and apologized to my neighbor. She agreed I was right and should have been allowed to have it. It just goes to show you how obsurd certain flight rules are. Women can carry more than their fair share of carry-on's. Everybody has a carry-on that is too large. Try fitting any of them into those "standard carry-on" size displays at check-in.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Job Security

I have been doing quite a bit of traveling recently, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and noticed security is big business. What if 9/11 did not happen? What would all these newly formed "security personal" be doing? I am not just talking about the mass of TSA staff at the airport but the "security" surrounding other vunerable locations.

While in New York I went to visit the Statue of Liberty. Everybody had to go through not one, but two security checkpoints. The second included an "air puff" machine which supposedly detected explosives.

Here is my beef with all this security, does it really protect us? Why is it I have to take off my shoes at the airport when I do not at the Statue of Liberty when it appears to be more secure in having two checkpoints? In order to visit the statue two people had to check my ticket and mark it with an 'x'. Necessary? That appeared to be their only job, using a marker to check my ticket.

Without noticing I did a little test. Going through security at one airport I forgot to take my wallet out of my pocket. My wallet containts a metal bar in it. The metal detector did not go off. Why must people remove their wallets in the first place? Afraid of the Swiss Army Knife Credit Card? The next time I forgot to take off my belt and again the metal detector did not respond.

Some would argue it is a deterent and it does prevent a lot of dangerous stuff from occuring. I can not argue with that. Security is big business and businesses will do everything it can to expand, needing more equipment and more people. I am glad all of these people have work. What would they be doing if we didn't need all this security?