Monday, December 21, 2009

Obama is Hitler?

The other day I went to the post office in my neighborhood to mail some Christmas cards, and there was a guy and a girl with a small table in front heckling people as they passed by. As I walked into the post office, the girl said in a smart-ass tone: "Would you like to mail Obama to the North Pole?". I ignored her and went inside.

What really caught my attention about these two was the posters they had displayed and hanging from their little table. They were pictures of Obama with a Hitler-like mustache drawn in. This is the first time I have seen that. (To put it into perspective and see similar pictures, click this link to see some images that come up in a Google search result for "obama hitler")

After a little bit of research, it is clear that this is not a new idea. I found Obama/Hitler references dating back over 2 years ago (2007). It is also clear that this is not an obscure idea, as a simple search pulls up a plethora of information on the topic.

It seems that some people feel there are similarities in both Hitler and Obama's rise to power. I can see that, in a stretch I suppose. Although, the similarities are not great enough for me to accept it. Here's a few similarities people are claiming, and my response to each:

1. Hitler rose to power during a period of great economic depression for Germany, similar to how Obama rose to power during national economic hardship.

I don't think economic conditions in the United States can even remotely compare to those in Germany after WWI. Germany was war- torn and heavily sanctioned by the Treaty of Versailles in the time between WWI and WWII. The Treaty called for the trial of Germany's leadership as war criminals, restricted Germany's future military growth, changed Germany's borders, forced Germany to pay war reparations (thus crippling any prospect of future economic growth), and forced Germany to accept sole and full responsibility for the entire war! The United States before Obama, on the other hand, was in an economic recession (not depression) that, although serious, did not even end up comparing to the worst US economic depression in history (The Great Depression). Germany after WWI had it far worse.

2. Hitler rose to power under the Nazi Party on a platform of change and reform, and especially appealed to the young people of Germany - similar to how Obama's "campaign of change" did in the 2008 US Presidential election.

I will give supporters of this theory a slight nod here. There are similarities in how Hitler's early platform of change can be compared to Obama's. However, there are glaring (and I do mean GLARING) differences in how Obama rose to power over how Hitler rose to power.

First off; Hitler attempted on several occasions to overthrow the German government before he gained power. The most famous of which was the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, in which Hitler attempted a coup. It failed, 23 people died, and Hitler was convicted of treason and sent to prison. It wasn't a total loss though, as it gave Hitler and the Nazi party the exposure it needed to become known to the German public. I don't recall Obama attempting a coup, being convicted of treason, or being imprisoned as part of his rise to power.

Next; Hitler used a series of legal measures to gain power. He basically gained support in the government over time after the Beer Hall Putsch and used this support to change the German constitution. The Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act in 1933, combined with the Night of Long Knives in 1934, swept the Nazi's into power.

The Reichstag Fire of 1933 (the equivalent of there being a fire at the US Capitol today perhaps, hypothetically) caused fear and panic among the German population that Communist forces were at hand trying to overthrow the government. It is still unknown what caused this fire, but it was considered an act of arson and terrorism in Germany at the time. The government responded by passing the Reichstag Fire Decree which nullified civil liberties, gave the Nazi's legal authority to imprison anyone who stood against the Nazi party, and suppressed anti-government publications. This sounds a lot more like the Bush administration's response to 9/11 and the Patriot Act than it does about Obama's rise to power!

Soon after the fire, an Enabling Act was passed in Germany. This act changed the German constitution so that the government can act without the consent of the Reichstag. The equivalent of this in the US today, hypothetically, would be the house & senate voting to pass a law that would grant the Obama administration power to pass laws without needing to go through the house, senate, and veto process (thus making the house/senate powerless). Not only is it unconstitutional, it didn't happen! Obama must adhere to the same checks and balances as his predecessors, and Obama has not changed the Constitution.

With these new powers, the Nazi's staged the Night of Long Knives in 1934. Hitler executed many of his political adversaries (some sources say 85 people, others say 400 people), and passed a law retroactively legalizing the murders. To my knowledge, NO ONE was killed during Obama's rise to power for being a political adversary of Obama.

3. There was a wave of nationalism and admiration for Hitler during his rise to power, similar to what was experienced during Obama's rise to power.

It is true that the there was a wave of nationalism and admiration for Obama when he came to power. Obama represented a reminder and living proof that the American political system works. We had a peaceful transition of power. A black man from an unlikely upbringing became President, something many people thought would not happen in their lifetime given the history of slavery, segregation, and racism in the United States. There was a wave of nationalism and admiration for him indeed.

It's what happened and what is happening after the election that matters to me most in debunking this point.
Hitler changed the German government's authority structure after he came to power. He made himself a dictator. Obama is not a dictator. Obama is not changing the government in that way. There will be another election in 2012. The 22nd Amendment will ensure Obama has to step down one day, no matter how popular he is. What will not change is that he will have to give up power one day in a peaceful transition, just like the day he received power. That is the beauty, really, of the American political system.

That said, it is still a good time to take a lesson from history here. History reminds us to beware of fascism. A wave of nationalism, however, is not automatically fascism. Nationalism can be a very positive force. It could galvanize a country to change for the better. With knowledge of the past and political safeguards in place, nationalism can be just that...

I wish there was a way for me to have portrayed in an instant all of this information to those 2 people standing in front of the post office that day. It would have been useless though, as I think they were there to just get a rise out of people. As I walked out of the post office, the guy said to me "Are you grateful for Obama?". I said "Yes, I am. I like him.". As I walked off, not interested in getting into a debate, he said "You should be, he's Santa Claus. He's got presents for everyone." (perhaps referring to the stimulus/bailout package or health care?). As I said in my tweet that day, I respect their right to speak freely on the street. (Ironically, if Obama really were like Hitler they would have been executed for speaking out).

Their message did make me think for a moment though about whether or not I was missing something. After doing my own research though, it's clear to me that they are entirely ignorant to compare Obama to Hitler. I didn't even need to mention the obvious antisemitic atrocities Hitler was responsible for to come to this conclusion. Making this comparison is not only in bad taste, but it is offensive. Whatever anti-Obama message these people had, they are not winning any new support with that poor comparison and are just clouding their possibly legitimate argument. There are a lot of reasons not to like Obama, but comparing him to Hitler is just plain ridiculous.

Now for something a little less serious, Jon Stewart made me feel much better about this situation after watching this: :-)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Unusual Suspect
Daily Show
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Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Monday, December 14, 2009

De-friending on Facebook

I have only had to do it 3 times, and I am about to do it again. I am de-friending someone on Facebook. It has become a social step one takes in breaking off ties with people. People getting into an argument is one thing, but if they decide to take the step to de-friend, then it is an indication that things really are over. Someone will say "..S/He even defriended me on facebook..." - O M G!

It has become the final slap in the face, the final insult, the final indication that the person de-friending you no longer wants contact with you. It is interesting that taking this small action in the online world can end up having such impact in the real world. Well, at least there is no more ambiguity. A word of caution though, make sure you mean it before you do it. People take it very seriously when they find out they have been de-friended!

To the person I am de-friending: when I try to reach out to you and you continue to ignore me, well then, sadly - what is the point of staying connected if we aren't going to stay connected? Good luck to ya...

Friday, December 11, 2009

iTunes Sucks

I have to say, I have always had problems with iTunes. First it was their DRM on all of their audio tracks. Then they lifted the DRM, but if you bought DRM music in the past and wanted the DRM lifted, you had to pay. Now, I hate them because of POOR QUALITY!

I ordered "Dub Like an Antelope: The Legends of Reggae Celebrate Phish" from iTunes. It's a fantastic reggae compilation album of reggae stars performing Phish tunes. One of the songs, however, is cut off at the last 2 seconds! (Makisupa Policeman) How could that happen? The guy who ripped it must have made an error. Seems like an easy problem to fix, just rip another copy of it and upload it to the store.

I complained, expecting that result. Instead, they gave me a credit for 1 song. I used the credit to download the exact same song that was damaged to prove to myself it wasn't a problem on my end. I was right, the 2nd version I downloaded was still messed up. I complained again and they gave me another song credit.

Totally, Totally, unacceptable. If I bought a CD from the store and it skipped, I would return it and probably get a full refund. I fought for a refund from iTunes, and got it (rightfully so). It might seem like a minor problem, but I expect the download to be in perfect order just like you would expect your brand new CD to work perfectly.

But SHAME ON YOU ITUNES! They continue to sell the same poor quality track to other people!!!! Instead of fixing the problem, they tried to make me go away with a song credit. Poor customer service. I tried to leave a comment in the iTunes store warning people of the problem, but iTunes censored me and did not post it.


How could they accept such poor quality in their store?

Question: Why don't online music vendors sell FLAC files? I want FLAC files for my music downloads. WE WANT QUALITY!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

RIP Lucy

Today my cat of nearly 18 years passed away. Her health had deteriorated in recent months, and we were doing the best we could to keep her comfortable and happy. She would have ups and downs, but generally seemed happy. The vet said as long as she eats, sleeps, and goes to her litter without a problem; then that's a pretty good quality of life for a cat.

The real amazing thing about Lucy though is that she lived as long as she did. She lived a legendary life for a cat. I adopted her circa 1992 as a kitten in a freak autumn snowstorm. I was working at Irving's Deli in Ithaca, NY and a couple of guys came in and said they found this kitten in the snow, were just passing through, and didn't know what to do with her. I put her in a box with some milk in the backroom. She ended up coming home with me to 209 South Albany Street in Ithaca that night, and instantly became a part of the crazy household in which I was a part of (4 college guys).

She survived parties, winter, crowds, traffic, reptiles, sketchy neighbors, a home robbery, being tie-dyed by a bunch of girls, a trip to the pound, and more. Come to think of it, my responsibility level was a little low back then and she may have even had to fend for herself a few times with food. Litter box? What's a litter box? I think she went outside. She used to be the queen cat of the neighborhood, catching all sorts of birds and rodents. She got into a few fights as well, and even got pregnant and had 3 kittens.

After college, she moved onto quieter pastures and moved in with my Mom and Dad. She was probably a bit lonely during those years but she was well cared for. She could go in and out, and she was fed regularly and kept after (thanks Mom and Dad). She had lots of fun beating up on our 2 Yorkshire Terriers (Tigger & Boozie). The dogs would bark at and chase Lucy at first, only to end up being chased by Lucy. Even Bunty (Boston Terrier) got in on the action before Lucy came to CA - always barking up a storm before she got fed.

When my parents decided to move, she came out to California with me. I took her on an airplane and she stayed under the seat in front of me. It was the flight from hell. Delays, turbulence, and when I got to my car in long term parking - it had a flat. Door to door she was in the cat carrier for well over 12 hours, but she survived.

Since then, she's had a good life here in SF. She was a bit unhealthy when I first got her back to CA - but quickly bounced back. She would run all over the house, and often wake us up early in the morning because she wanted some attention. She lived in 3 different homes with Julia and I, and became a pal to our niece Lauren.

Fortunately, she passed peacefully in her sleep while in her bed - which is where I found her. I was dreading having to possibly play God and take her to the vet to be put down. God answered my prayers by taking her peacefully. She was a good cat.

RIP Lucy
(aka Mrs Flea Bags)
(aka Psycho Kitty)
b. circa 1992
d. 12/2/2009

Update 5/31/10: Lucy was put to rest in the beloved "pet cemetery" behind the Smith family Tahoe house. A beautiful spot.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Vehicle Break-In's

There has been an increase in the number of vehicle break-in's in the Sunset District of SF, and possibly city-wide. I receive the Taraval Police Station Crime Report email and they have reported this increase, as well as have warned residents not to leave anything valuable in their vehicles when parking on the streets.

Over the past month or so, two vehicles have been burglarized in front of my home (both parked in the same spot ironically). It is certainly un-nerving to have this happen in front of your home. Alarmed by the situation, I decided to write Supervisor Carmen Chu to make sure she was aware of this situation and to ask if the city is doing anything to try to prevent these vehicle break-in's from becoming an epidemic. Here is my letter to her, which pretty much explains my concern.
Dear Supervisor Chu:
I am writing to you about a growing problem in the Sunset; theft from locked vehicles. I receive the Taraval Police Station Crime Report emails and have read about the growing problem, and the police department's warning about not leaving valuables in vehicles. Recently though, I have experienced this problem first hand as several parked vehicles in front of my home have been burglarized.

I understand that there is little that can be done to prevent such crime short of encouraging the public to report crimes in progress or suspicious activity, ensuring that the streets are lit, and educating the public not to leave valuables in their vehicles. Although vigilant, I have not witnessed any vehicle break-ins but am often left sweeping the broken glass off the sidewalk. The problem I have is that SFPD does not respond to vehicle break-ins.

When a vehicle is burglarized, the owner of the vehicle will sometimes not realize for several days that they have been robbed. In my opinion, this puts the property owner where that vehicle is parked and the area at large in risk of additional crimes (Broken Window Theory). If SFPD would respond, it is possible that the owner lives nearby and can be notified so their vehicle can be moved or repaired. I am sure the reason SFPD does not respond is due to a lack of resources, however given that this issue is becoming an epidemic perhaps some better police involvement would help reduce the number of vehicle burglaries?

Please let me know what action, if any, the city is taking to help reduce these crimes. They threaten to endanger the safety and security of our neighborhood if left unchecked. In the meantime we have ransacked vehicles with broken windows in front of our homes; sometimes for days.

Thank you,
Craig Given
I was surprised to receive a call from Ms.Chu to explain what she is trying to do about it. First off, it is not very often that you receive a call from a politician you write to about a particular problem. Granted, she is much closer to her constituents than say a Senator or The President - but she deals with quality of life issues that impact everyone's "day to day" in the Sunset. It was nice that she would set aside the time to call me about this, and I was happy to hear her tell me her plans.

She agreed that the problem was growing, and agreed with me that SFPD should take more action. She planned on talking to the new SFPD Taraval Station Captain (Captain Denise Schmidt) as well. I certainly don't expect SFPD to solve a vehicle break-in, that would be very difficult - but to show some involvement after the fact might send a message to the perpetrator that the police ARE involved. (Currently, SFPD does NOT respond to calls for vehicle break-in's unless the crime is in progress or you know who/where the suspect is. If you are victimized, you can only file a report online).

Perhaps a small amount of investigative work could go a long way in finding similarities among the crimes, and linking them to arrests in other areas? At the minimum, it would be nice to have SFPD respond so the owners of the victimized vehicles can be contacted and the vehicles can be removed from our streets sooner; and hopefully prevent residual crimes from occurring (Broken Window Theory).

I am a believer in the "Broken Window Theory", and do my part to preserve the neighborhood by doing regular upkeep of my building, keeping the sidewalk in front of my house clear, and generally helping keep the entire block clean. The theory states:
Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.
-The Atlantic Monthly; March 1982. "Broken Windows" by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling
So if we continue leaving ransacked and burglarized cars in our neighborhood unchecked, what message does that send and what other crime will that attract?

Aside from Supervisor Chu's verbal assurance of understanding the issue and her desire to ask SFPD for more involvement, she responded to me:
Thank you for your email Craig,

I'm glad we had a chance to touch base today. While I do believe that having additional investigative support at the Taraval Police District will help to address property crime issues over the long run, I will also speak to Captain Schmidt about her more immediate plans to address the issue of property crime in the District.

Thank you again for taking the time to write.

Carmen Chu
SF Board of Supervisors
District 4
Thank you Supervisor Chu for your time and attention, and I hope SFPD becomes more involved. In the meantime I keep a close eye on my block, take precautions so I don't become a victim, quickly clean up any break in's I come across in my immediate area, and put up a small sign in front of my property to warn people (pictured at top). I hope that Chinese translates well (thank you Google Translate). What more can I do?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Phish at the State Theater; Ithaca,NY

This was one of the best Phish shows (that I have been to) of all time. It was located in the intimate State Theater in Ithaca, NY (upstate) on February 14, 1991. I was a college student at Ithaca College at the time and Phish was in the early years of their rapid fan base growth.

At the time, Ithaca had a diverse music scene and many bands passed through while on tour in the northeast. Phish was quite popular in Ithaca back then, as they had performed at a local bar/venue called The Haunt for the past few years prior (The Haunt is in a much larger space now, but back in 1991 it was a small bar with a stage on Green Street. I always considered it a fire trap, but boy did they get great acts to come through town - which kept me coming back!). The Valentine's Day Phish show in 1991 at the State Theater was sold out.

State Theater in Ithaca, NY

The State Theater was a great venue. The seating without an open floor in front of the stage allowed you to move around. Even though the show was sold out, they didn't oversell it so it wasn't so crowded that you couldn't move around. The theater itself was built in the 1920's and had a lot of charm. Finally, Ithaca was a pretty small town. I knew a lot of people at this show, including my friend Marc who was part of the "security" detail. Here's his shirt on our cactus from Festival 8!

This show was particularly memorable because they gave away their old tour van by throwing the keys into the audience. The lucky fan who "won" the van was a friend of mine named Eric (aka "Toast). The van ended up being more of a curse than a gift, as it ended up needing a lot of work and I think it cost him all sorts of money in repairs, tickets, tows or whatever. I don't recall what we did with it, but I know he didn't keep it for long. Too bad, it would be quite a relic today.

The end of the video has the announcement about the van giveaway.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I love this song!

(Invisible from Phish's acoustic set at Festival 8 on 11/1/09)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Festival 8

Phish's Festival 8 was a fantastic time. I am so glad I was with "the crew" that I was with. All together there were maybe 15-20 of us, staying at various different locations. However, we'd all meet up inside the venue for the show.

There is something to be said about the "pack mentality" when at a large show (Festival 8 was estimated to be between 35k-40k people). For starters, a group of people is more likely to get a relatively close spot. Someone will get there first, and the group will follow.

Next, everyone has bags with extra clothing in it, water, whatever. We make a huge pile in the middle of our group with all of our baggage. This way you can enjoy the show without your backpack on, and not worry about it disappearing because everyone around the pile is your friend. We'll put some glowsticks on the pile at night so other people passing through won't step on it.

Finally, we need a "beacon". Say you have to go to the restroom. You leave and then try to come back. Wading through thousands of people, trying to find the exact spot you left, is difficult. We will have a unique item which someone in the group will hold up in the air. You will be able to see it over the crowd, and be guided back to the pack.

For this festival, the inflatable cactus served as a fantastic beacon. I brought a dozen of them to the show. I found them cheap on ebay, and thought they would be a good daytime toy. Not only was it a great beacon because of how easy it was to see and identify, and because of how unique it was, but it was also something we kept seeing throughout the weekend. It was also very fitting because we were in the desert. With a dozen of these, most of them ended up being "released into the crowd". Over the course of the weekend, we would see other people with one of the cacti, one person had one close to the stage that I kept seeing way up in front of me for each set, they were on the jumbo screen, they got decorated, and one even made it into the LA Times (3rd photo down).

Overall a great time with a great group of kids!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

4th Annual Pumpkin Party

Huge success

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Lucy is all ready for Halloween

Beware...of SHARK CAT!!!!
Reminds me of that old SNL Land Shark skit..."candy gram!"

BTW, Lucy hated wearing this cat costume and
it only lasted long enough to shoot the photo.

Update 8/25/10
Thought I'd add this, for no reason at all:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fleet Week

It was cold and windy this year but I managed to get a glimpse of the Blue Angels at Fleet Week before they decided to ground them because of the fog.

Pardon the annoying wind on the microphone in these recordings, but it was windy! The first video is the Blue Angels (who only did 2 passes before being grounded) and the second video is of some other jets that flew before the Blue Angels (but who were great to watch!).

Monday, October 5, 2009


I'm a honored to be Godfather for my nephew Nicholas.
He's so dang cute!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The "Lloyd" Ringtone

Entourage is one of my favorite shows, and I love how Ari is always yelling at Lloyd. It's comical. I created a "Lloyd" ringtone for your iPhone. Enjoy.

Right click to download: lloyd.m4r

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Here Kitty Kitty Kitty

As much as Jules and I say Lucy is a pain in the neck, she "demands" spending every morning with me rolling around on the carpet while I get dressed for work. Kinda cute.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

oh no you DIDNT

Want Kanye to disrespect your website? Simply type this URL in your browser: "" and then add your website after it.

Example: " "

Good laughs for a 3pm on a Wednesday (plus Kanye is a total douchebag - always has been).

Thanks TechCrunch for turning me onto this. I know not everyone who reads my blog reads TechCrunch regularly, so here you go...just for fun.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Technology meets Nature

On a recent camping trip to Mount Tamalpais State Park, I learned the hard way that the iPhone is for the birds! (Thank goodness that did not land on the ear speaker). In what culture is this considered good luck?

Image courtesy of Eric Kashnow
(iPhone, unfortunately, courtesy of me)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Joe Gesuale

Today was a tough day. My Grandfather passed away a few days ago and today was his funeral. He was 92 year old, and had a less than favorable quality of life over the past few years. It wasn't a shock, but something like this is always sad. He was the last surviving grandparent I had, so I also felt like it was the end of a generation in my life. Fortunately, I cherished the time I had with him and with all of my grandparents.

I was fortunate enough to have known all 4 of my grandparents, as well as several of my great-grandparents. Joe had a pretty memorable personality, so I thought I'd capture some of the more memorable stories I recall here.
First off, he was a self-proclaimed history buff. You can be sure that at any family gathering he would try to stump you with this question. Unfortunately for him, we all know the answer because he's told it so many times. He'd ask the question (acting like he's some sort of smart guy) and all of us would groan the answer (to his dismay that he did not stump us).
Who was the king who won the Battle of Thermopylae?
When I was a kid my brothers & I would go to Montauk to visit Grandma Flo & Grandpa Joe. Grandpa would promptly try to put us to work. His jobs were long, hard, dirty, sometimes dangerous, and often times involved the use of duct tape and a hammer.

One summer day when I was a kid, we took a small zodiac-like rubber boat out on Long Island Sound. Grandpa decided we should ride to Gardiner's Island from Montauk Harbor. He asked me to check how much gas was left. I said "1/4 tank". He looked and said, "No! You're looking at it wrong. We have 3/4 tank". He was looking at it upside down. We ran out of gas and LUCKILY drifted and paddled back to shore several hours later. (It turns out Gardiner's Island is pretty far, and also is private property)
Christmas at Joe & Flo's was always fun. I recall one year Grandpa's friend (Bert Or Irwin) dressed up as Santa for the kids. Santa thought it would be fun to make a grand entrance by going onto the roof, but Grandpa Joe was out there with a broom trying to knock him off the roof yelling something about messing up the shingles.

I once brought a friend home from college, and Grandpa Joe was over. My friend had his car stolen & I was giving him a ride back to school. This friend of mine had dreadlocks at the time. Grandpa says to him, "Your the one who's car was stolen? Because you look like someone who would STEAL a car".
I went to Italy with Grandpa Joe a few years back. While in St Marks square in Venice, he thought it would be a good idea to feed the pigeons, so he bought some bird seed. Within 10 minutes every pigeon in the square was trying to land on him as he tried to run away, bird seed flying everywhere. (Later, he couldn't understand why people were laughing at him)On that same trip, in Florence, I thought I'd have a little one on one time with Grandpa so I brought him to an outdoor cafe where a band was playing Italian songs. He ordered a screwdriver and downed the whole thing in one gulp before I could stop him. At that same moment, the band started playing "Arrevaderci Roma" and Grandpa, with his new liquid courage, sang along at the top of his lungs. (If he weren't 80 something years old at that time, we may have gotten arrested!)

When I got engaged, my wife Julia & I drove to Grandpa's house to give him the news personally. We said "Hey Grandpa, we have some news". He said brashly "Yeah I heard, you got hitched!". So much for surprises. We showed him the ring because I thought it looked a lot like the one he bought Grandma. He agreed, noting though that Grandma's ring was bigger than mine.
I went on a vacation once to Pearl Harbor in Oahu Hawaii, and got Grandpa a USS Arizona baseball cap as a souvenir. He wore it all the time. In fact, Cops would pull him over for a traffic violation, think he was an Arizona survivor and let him go without a ticket. People would stop him on the street and thank him. Of course, he would play it up! Little did they know, he didn't get much farther than San Luis Obispo (He served in the US Navy from 1944-1945).

When I moved to San Francisco 14 years ago, Grandpa told me lots of stories about his time in the Navy on the west coast during WWII - and I've probably heard him tell me each story at least 100 times more since then, but I'd always pretend it was the first time I heard them each time he told me one.
The last time I saw Grandpa Joe alive was last Feb or March where I had dropped in on him for a visit while I was in town. By this time he wasn't much for conversation, you had to do all the talking. I spent a few hours with him, telling him all the stories he had told me dozens of times before. He remembered. He smiled. He liked that I knew these stories. He was surprised I recalled these stories he had told me so many times. It was probably the best possible goodbye we could have shared.
(From Feb 2009, notice the WWII hat!) :-)
Guiseppe "Joseph" Guerino Gesuale
b. 3/11/1917 Ceprano, Italy
d. 8/30/2009 Dix Hills, NY
Immigrated to the USA via Ellis Island in 1921 with nothing
Served in the US Navy in WWII
Started his own business after the war and became very successful
Survived by 2 daughters, 6 grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren

Joe & Florence Gesuale
circa 1942

Joe & Florence Gesuale
circa late 1980's - early 1990's

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Where does he keep his MUNI pass?

Saw this guy on the N-Judah on my way into work. He got the floor all wet and sandy. :-/ Don't think I've ever seen a surfer on MUNI (even though it goes to the beach).

I submitted this image to muni diaries, so let's see if they post it. Although, I am a little perturbed at them for deciding to take down a picture of a woman nearly passed out on a bus who looks just like Whitney Houston (not the pretty version of her). Pushing the envelope (which they claim to do sometimes) means people will get upset, but it doesn't necessarily mean you should take something down b/c a few people complained. Here's the post, and here's the photo they took down.

My comments to muni diaries about taking down that pic:
Totally disagree with the decision to take that photo down. I mean, you have a photo posted of a used cherry flavored condom – no one objected to that? If I were you I would keep posting until a letter from an attorney comes in. THAT’S pushing the envelope. Furthermore, having people outraged is good publicity. You can’t please everyone.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Congrats Gaylen & Shayla

Just a quick post to congratulate Galen & Shayla. I was honored to attend their wedding last weekend in Tahoe. They had a fabulous setting on the beach with a laid-back feel, encouraging their guests to wear flip flops and dance in the sand. They have a talented group of friends, as there were all sorts of impromptu performances (of particular note was Colorshow, of which the groom is a member) and dancing. It was great.

I managed to take a great photo of the happy couple as they danced down the aisle after just getting married (that's the groom high five-ing by sister-in-law Suzanne). I took this with my iPhone 3G and I really wish I had taken it with a real camera. A lucky shot timed perfectly.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Why is Phish so cool?

I remember the first time Phish announced they were going to play at Madison Square Garden in NYC in late 1995. I was flabbergasted! How could this band I had first seen in a bar in Ithaca, NY in 1990 with maybe 100 people in attendance have garnered such a huge following? How could a band who has 0 Top 10 billboard hits be playing several nights to a sold out crowd at MSG? How could this band most people, at the time, had barely even heard of be so successful? I'll try to explain it as best I can.

Unique Experience
One of the most important aspects of Phish is that they try to make each show a unique experience. If they play a 3 night stint somewhere, all 3 shows will be different in that the setlists will vary. Phish creatively tries to mix it up (and succeeds). This is a step away from the mainstream music concert tour where everything is choreographed and, as a result, each show in the tour is the same. Also notable about Phish shows is the lighting. It becomes a performance with the work of Chris Kuroda, who synchronizes the light show with the music (which is no easy task considering the band is improvising a lot of the time). All of this makes Phish fans want to see more that just one Phish concert in a tour if they can.

They also try to play in venues that are fun and friendly for the audiences. Venues like The Gorge Amp in Washington State or Red Rocks Amp in Colorado have absolutely beautiful surroundings. The Thomas & Mack Center in Vegas is, well, in Vegas! Hampton Coliseum in Virginia has also always been a favorite. Additionally, Phish will periodically host festivals where they will play a 2-3 day stint in a remote location where fans can come and camp out; usually with fun activities and art installations to help make it a destination.

Taping Is Allowed
Phish allows their fans to tape their live performances! Again, this is a step away from the mainstream music concert tour which considers such activity illegal. In fact, Phish designates a specific area of the venue they are performing at (called the “Taper Section”) where people who wish to tape the show can set up their equipment.

There are official rules about taping though, which from my experience, most tapers/fans abide by. Here is a summary of the policy:
  1. You can only tape in the designated taper section (usually behind the soundboard). Sometimes you need a “taper ticket” to enter the taper section, and sometimes it is first come first served.
  2. You cannot interfere with someone else’s enjoyment of the show. For example, you can’t tell the people next to you who might be cheering to be quiet so your recording will come out better.
  3. I’m pretty sure there is a limit to how tall your mic stand can be, but not sure.
  4. And finally, you cannot sell or profit from your recording. You can trade it for other recordings; but that’s about it. The only people who can sell a recording is Phish - and they do sell nice soundboard quality recordings of their shows on
Taping was (and may still be?) the common denominator amongst fans. Early on, in the early/mid 90’s, many fans traded audio cassettes. This is pre-Internet, pre CD burning for the masses, pre MP3, & pre iPod. It was technically challenging at the time to transfer digital recordings to the layman so audio tapes were used (some people used DAT but that was rare). In fact, I recall at this time I was purchasing most other music on CD’s and had a CD player, but I also had a tape player specifically for Phish tapes (and other live music recordings) because I had no Phish music on CD. I had a nice sized tape collection of Phish and traded with people I met or knew.

Audience Participation
Phish often times involves the audience in their shows.
  • I recall a tour where they played chess against the audience, where every show they would make moves on a huge chess board (I forget who eventually won; the band or the audience).
  • For Halloween, they have costume contests for audience and often play a 3rd set where they will cover another band’s album (most notable was the White Album in Glens Falls, NY in 1994 where this tradition started)
  • One year (early 90’s) at the State Theatre in Ithaca, NY they gave away their old tour van by throwing the keys to it into the audience (and a guy I know nick-named “Toast” caught them).
  • They used to have giant inflated balls they would send into the audience and each band member would “play along” with one of the balls, thus giving the audience “control” over what they play.
  • They created a “secret” language of sorts, where Trey would queue the audience with a signal of some kind and everyone would react (for example; Trey would quietly play the first verse to the Simpson’s song and the whole audience would say “DOH!”)
  • Sometimes fans bring glow sticks and start throwing them around, which looks really cool, and the band will reciprocate with appropriate lighting and music.
These examples and many others not listed, contribute to the whole “unique experience” that keeps fans coming back and makes it worth it to make a show a destination trip.

Frequent Tours (and side note on age demographic)
Can’t travel to see Phish? Not to worry, over the course of a year they will likely be playing somewhere that is within reasonable driving distance to you. They tour frequently, usually coinciding with the seasons (Summer Tour, Fall Tour, etc). During Summer Tour you are likely to find a lot of kids out of college for the summer going to multiple shows (as I did when I was an undergrad). During those days, there were pretty much ONLY people in their late teens and early 20’s going to shows. While there is still people in that age group going, a lot of the people who were going to shows in their 20’s during the 90’s are now in their mid/late 30’s and still going (so the demographic has changed a bit).

Comparisons to the Grateful Dead
Comparing Phish to the Grateful Dead is a double edged sword. There are definite similarities in form, but many differences in style. The most significant similarities in form are the band’s focus on live shows over studio albums, frequent tours, making each live show unique, fan taping policies, the availability of live recordings as a commodity among fans, and the fan’s tendency to follow the tour around from city to city. As far as style goes, the only thing really very similar is that both bands could be considered jam bands. This article on wikipedia describes the difference as: “Phish tended to more closely follow a jazz language or tradition in their playing, which is very distinct from the Grateful Dead's roots in folk and Americana”. It did seem to me during the rise of Phish in the early 90’s that they were on their way to taking over the helm for the next generation on what the Grateful Dead had started with touring. Despite the similarities, I still find it to be politically incorrect when people compare the two groups as almost synonymous.

Death of Jerry Garcia
On August 9, 1995; Jerry Garcia passed and pretty much ended the Grateful Dead as it was then known. The Grateful Dead were still a regular touring band at the time, and they stopped touring due to Garcia’s death. Looking for a similar scene (again, with the similarities being in “form”), may Grateful Dead fans began taking to touring more frequently with Phish. There was a noticeable increase in attendance at Phish concerts and demand for tickets starting in late 1995. Although some may argue that it isn’t the case, I believe Phish's popularity explosion had a lot to do with the fact that Phish was no longer sharing the tour scene with the Grateful Dead after 1995.

Communication (From The Shivice to the Internet)
Phish and Phish fans have always made efforts to use whatever media means possible to keep connected. It started first with the Phish mailing list. Before the Internet and widespread use of email, Phish used to send a periodic newsletter to fans via snail mail called the “Doniac Shivice” (which I used to absolutely love receiving). I’ve read somewhere that at the height of circulation they were sending out 200k copies per issue.

Since the proliferation of the Internet, Phish stopped circulating the Shivice and started communication via email. They built out a website that now includes, where soundboard quality recordings of their shows can be purchased in MP3 or SHN for less than the cost of a CD just hours after a performance. Fans also distribute their audience recordings, legally according to Phish's taping policy. Before digital distribution you could probably find a copy of a particular show within a few weeks, but with the Internet and digital distribution you can download an audience copy of a show within hours of it's completion.

Fans also started various independent websites where people can connect about Phish, trade music recordings, look for tickets, find tour information, etc. Most recently, Phish began using Twitter to send out setlists from shows in real time - which I think is ground breaking use of Twitter for live music.

On the Fringe of Pop Culture
It amazes me that a band that sells out festivals in the middle of nowhere to 70k people, or 3 night stints at MSG, can remain on the fringe of pop culture. There are references to Phish in the mainstream, like with cameo appearances on the Simpsons or with the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor (Phish Food) named after them – but they still are not considered mainstream. I honestly hope it stays that way, b/c nothing can ruin a good thing or a best kept secret faster than too much media attention.

Added 8/26/09:
Phish's Secrets and More For Growing A Cult Following

Debunking The Stereotypes
(are all Phish fans *really* pot smoking neo-hippies?)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Connecting to Solaris from Windows via GUI

Had an interesting dilemma recently that I thought I would immortalize into a blog post, as it took me a few days (on and off) to overcome. All applications used/mentioned are open source.

I am using an application called Jmeter to Load Test a web application. We procured a remote box from which to run Jmeter, b/c we discovered that if I run Jmeter from within the company network I could get false readings and/or slow down other business critical applications in use. The remote box I was given to generate the Jmeter load is running on Solaris 10 with a desktop environment installed. Solaris is ok in this case since Jmeter is pretty much O/S independent. To fully utilize Jmeter's listening features though, I need to open and run it in GUI mode from this remote box (as opposed to running it from command line).

The task:
Connect to the Solaris box from my Windows lapt
op in GUI mode, and run the Jmeter GUI.

It would be great if I could just use Window's Remote Desktop application to connect, but that would be too easy (and it doesn't work in this case). I need to use an X Window manager to accomplish this task.

First step, I made sure I could establish an SSH connection to the remote box. I use PuTTY for quick SSH connections, which is a quick and easy (and free) SSH client.

Next, I downloaded and installed XWinLogon (Download | Documentation), which is a simple and free interface to the X Server which allows you to connect to a Unix/Linux box from your Windows computer. Once connected (I selected SSH to connect), it runs another application called Cygwin/X which allows you to use applications from the Unix/Linus box via GUI on your Windows machine.

Cygwin/X comes installed already with XWinLogon, so no need to install it separately (in fact, they recommend you do not). Here are some info links to Cygwin/X nonetheless: (User Guide | FAQ)

Finally, I needed to install Jmeter on the Solaris machine. Fortunately installing Jmeter is as simple as moving files over - which I accomplished using SFTP via FireFTP. Make sure you put it in a folder you have admin rights to and can easily get to via SSH command line.

Ok now for the fun:
  1. Open XWinLogon and connect to the remote box (fig 1)
  2. A Cygwin/X window should open, asking for a password. Enter it. (fig 2)
  3. You should be logged in now at the SSH command line. Navigate to your Jmeter directory and run Jmeter. (Common SSH Commands)
Your commands may look something like this:
user@machine01$ cd jakarta-jmeter-2.3.4
user@machine01$ cd bin
user@machine01$ sh jmeter

The Jmeter GUI should display (running on the remote box though) and you should be able to use it with your mouse and keyboard. Hurray!!!! (fig 3)

Note, however, that the GUI (fig 3) is not as stable and user friendly as you might be used to in a Windows environment for instance. Also, the connection to the remote box could be delayed, making actions (like mouse clicks) take several seconds to register. Be patient and deliberate so as to not make any mistakes and get stuck. It is advisable that you create your Jmeter scripts from a more stable platform (like directly on your Windows machine) and then transfer the .jmx files to the remote box, using Jmeter on the remote box ONLY to run and view the scripts.

fig 1

fig 2

fig 3

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Where's the break I have been looking for?

After 5 months of forced unemployment due to an unfortunate economic situation at my past company, I have finally found a full time job. It's not a permanent job, by which I mean one where I plan to work for this company for many years to come. I accepted a contract position where they would like for me to stay for 6 months, but are not able to offer me the security of a full time employee position. Even this type of situation has been hard to find over the past 5 months, so I am grateful to be back to work and gaining more experience.

I am still looking though for that full time employee position. I am doing the best job I can at this contract job, but I cannot lay down roots and expect to earn a future from it. I am eager to start working for a company where with hard work I can plan to be there for many years, and continue to grow in my career there. Because of the scarcity of jobs and the hundreds of candidates hiring manager must see now for an open position, it is not uncommon to have them scrutinize your experience and exclude you for something seemingly minor. Hiring companies have the luxury now of trying to find the 'perfect candidate' .

I for one am tired of being overlooked because I am missing experience with an application I could probably learn quickly, or perhaps I have just under the required number of years experience in a particular position. I challenge a company to hire me because I will be a long term employee, because I will be dedicated to the job, and because I want my career to grow with the company. Finding a model employee who will stay for year is worth it's weight in gold. Give me the break I have been looking for, the break I have earned, the break I have YET to earn - and you won't regret it!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Whale Wars

One of my new favorite shows currently is Whale Wars on Animal Planet. It's a reality series about a ship (The MV Steve Irwin) that sales from Southern Australia to Antarctica to fight Japanese whalers from being able to kill whales. It's a noble cause. Americans generally don't eat or consume whales so it's easy for me to consider it a noble cause. If there was a band of animal rights activists that sailed the seas preventing lobster fisherman from fishing lobster, maybe I wouldn't think that was such a noble cause b/c I love lobster. I point is that Japanese culture use whale meat and see nothing wrong with it. The debate is that whales are supposedly protected by international law, which is not enforced - so the Sea Sheperds try to enforce it.

It's an enjoyable show to watch. People with passion to save the Planet and doing something about it. David vs Goliath types of odds. Whalers throw flash grenades while these guys throw buteric acid (rancid butter) & bags of flour. Plus they go to amazing locations not very many people get to see. Some of the footage of icebergs, the southern Oceans, whales, and other wildlife is amazing. And how about that bad-ass ship of theirs? Painted black and yellow with a skull and crossbones looking pirate -like logo - Sharp! Their adventures are fascinating too, to watch how they intimidate the Japanese whaling fleet using non-lethal methods and risk their own lives in the process.

I am not, however, without reservation about the show (part of the reason I like it so much). There are things that bother me about the Sea Sheperds and the MV Steve Irwin. First, is their disregard for the safety of their crew. They make it clear to everyone on board that the whales are the priority. If they are chasing a whaling vessel, and you fall off the boat in the line of duty, your ass is being left behind to die! That's messed up in my opinion. How about a little respect for human life and for the crew that are working so hard to make the mission happen? They are also grossly under trained. There are always a few experts on board, like Captain Paul Watson, First Mate Peter Hammarstedt, and a few other engineers but pretty much everyone else is a novice sailor and a volunteer - and they are doing dangerous things like putting zodiacs in waters so cold that it will kill you in 5 minutes if you fall in and chasing large ships. Seems some professional training could go a long way to preserve life and safety. Finally, the MV Steve Irwin itself - NOT equipped to go through ice, but being used to sail to Antarctica! Seems like that is like me taking my Volkswagen Passat on the Rubicon Trail. (dumb. disaster.)

Aside from these hang ups about their process and disregard for expertise, human life, and safety - I do enjoy the show and it has garnered some degree of sympathy from me regarding their cause. I can't get behind them 100% b/c I'd be a hypocrite. I eat meat and fish. So if I say save the whales, what about that chicken I just had for dinner? Is anyone going to save the chickens? Someone in Japan is having whale for dinner and it seems perfectly natural to them. The whales they hunt are not endangered. The chickens I eat are not endangered. Whales are intelligent. Chickens are (somewhat) intelligent. So I'm not about to put a Save the Whales bumper sticker on my car. Regardless, I think the world needs its radicals to keep things in balance and I appreciate the sacrifice the Sea Sheperds make for animal rights and global preservation. So mission accomplished Sea Sheperds with getting your name out there and gaining some public sympathy.

Spoiler Alert:
One comment I have to make though about this current season (2); what is up with now former first mate Peter Brown? I mean, what a jerk! He looks like he is absolutely horrible to work with. Seems like he makes terrible decisions that endanger the crew. He's not a team player at all - hates everyone and everything. I think he has been at it for too long (since 1982) and is not feeling the love anymore. It's like he wants someone to give him an award or something for all his years of service, but it ain't gonna happen! Few activists are bestowed with that honor. That is part of being an activist! It's a thankless job, and Peter Brown seems to have forgotten that. It's good he left b/c he clearly needs a break. I'm sure he was/is a great, dedicated, and smart activist - but all I have to go by is what I've seen on Whale Wars; and Whale Wars portrayed him like a total asshole. Peter, they did not do you any favors my man!!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Really Goode Ride

They announced the Top 10 for the Murphy Goode Winery's "really goode job" today, and I was not on the list. :-( It was an honor to be supported, publicized, and encouraged by my friends, colleagues, family, and people they know - so thank you all for the support. I realized though, realistically, that the odds of being on that Top 10 list were against me. However, I was quite proud to have made the Top 50 out of nearly 2,000 applicants, and I believe the show of support I had from people helped. Wow, what an honor! Thank you!

Reflecting on the process to reach the Top 10, there was a huge focus on the video itself however I think there came a point in the process where it was not all about the video. The video got you noticed (and provided a barrier to entry for the 'not so sure' applicant or the technically challenged one), but your experience got you further in this process I believe. I definitely have the technical and professional acumen for the job, which likely carried me into the Top 50 - but probably lacked in media and culinary/wine industry experience to make the Top 10. It's not clear what Murphy Goode is looking for in a candidate exactly, but since it is a job process and not a contest - I imagine the most well rounded applicants in their eyes prevailed in the Top 10.

C'est la vie as they say! I had a great time being creative, making the video (thanks again Brent & Estella for creative input), breaking down personal barriers, and meeting people via social networking. I still think it's possible that my work & experience here could lead to something. Like, maybe I'll get some calls from people about something or other, eh? o_O

There were certainly some noteworthy people when it came to votes and views, like Martin Sargent ~the overall vote leader with thousandSSSS of votes and views (who wasn't selected to the Top 50 somehow :-/ )~ but I thought I'd mention that the shortened link to my video that I created and publicized ( received over 1,000 clicks as of this post! I had some big days too; like ~300 clicks on May 21st when I launched my video, ~100 on May 29th after a little self-promotion, ~125 on June 26th when I made the Top 50! People viewed my video mostly in the United States; but also in Sweden, France, Germany (@AndysGoodeLife?), The United Kingdom, Slovenia, Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, China, Mexico, Georgia, and Taiwan! (Whoa!) -- As of this post YouTube shows my video received over 1,100 views! Not too shabby, if I can toot my own horn for a sec! Hey, it is my blog afterall. :-)

But Craig, what we really want to know is -- who do YOU think is going to get the job? Well, I am not going to be politically correct here, say something cheesy like "they all should get the job", and pretend I don't have a pick in mind on who I think is going to get the job! Based on what I've seen of people online, I'd put my money on Todd Havens with Hardy Wallace a close toss up. Good luck fellas. Of course though, Goode Luck to all Top 10 candidates!