The week that was

Times are a-changin’ in San Francisco. The last blinking billboard within the city limits, the old Coca-Cola sign that sat at 5th & Bryant since 1937, was taken down. Downtown a developer closed on the purchase of the Transamerica Pyramid building for $650 million, a $61 million discount off the price agreed upon before the pandemic.

Trump’s campaign website was briefly hacked and someone guessed the Florida Governor’s online voter registration password (his birthday) and changed his address “to a small apartment more than 400 miles away.”

A spat between the Pimco co-founder Bill Gross and his neighbor over a delicate Dale Chihuly glass sculpture devolved into multiple visits by the Laguna Beach police and allegations that the billionaire bond king “blared the Gilligan’s Island theme song on a loop at all hours to annoy his neighbor.”

A Scottish cancer patient had part of her shin bone removed, taken away and treated with radiation at another hospital, and then returned and replaced.

Floods from climate change are impacting famed guitar maker Fender’s access to Swamp Ash wood used in its Stratocaster guitars.

A police chief in the Philippines sent to break up an illegal cockfight was killed, by one of the cocks.

Poor QA and sub-optimal translations caused much embarrassment for Amazon at the launch of its Swedish site. Someone confused the Argentinian flag for Swedish one and products featuring cats were described with the lewd double meaning of the word “pussy”

People keep calling the East Dallas police on Steven Novak’s hyper-realistic, crime scene lawn display. While some people embrace Halloween hijinks, Novak gives them a bear hug.

All you news junkies out there can purchase a Newsroom Scent candle to keep you company on Election Night. It smells of late deadlines, stressed editors, free pizza, lukewarm coffee and democracy.

TWTW is a weekly collection of bits and pieces I run across each week while looking after things at SmartNews. Feel free to sign-up to get this via email, follow on Facebook, or forward to a friend.

Current Events

Democracy in Action

One of the final acts before changing our address to NYC was to mail in our ballots for the upcoming election. There was a bit of a hiccup because the post office didn’t automatically forward our ballots to our NY address so I had a pleasant conversation with Lisa at the Alameda County Registrar of Voters office and arranged to have our ballots mailed directly to us.

I had to do some online research to read up on the various issues and down-ballot races. If you’re in the same boat and haven’t voted yet, here’s my list of sites that I found useful:



Alex Wise is a professional musician ( and longtime Deadhead. As an accomplished guitarist, he listens to the music of the Grateful Dead with a careful ear for detail and can speak to the evolution of their style in a much more nuanced way than your average Deadhead.

Listening to Alex’s interview with Brokedown Podcast’s JM Hart is like listening to two baseball stat nerds get into the weeds on the specifics of the game. I love it. The cracks about Weir’s attempts at slide guitar are something that would make any member of this particular tribe smile.

If you have a passing interest in the the music of the Grateful Dead and wondered what all the fuss was about and how people can listen to so many different versions of Morning Dew, this podcast episode will unveil some of layers of that fan-hood.

The entire episode is above but the two get down to details at around 18:30.


Walkin’ NYC

Did I mention that we’re walking the streets of Manhattan in order to get to know the neighborhoods? I use this iOS app called Trails to track where we go and then trace it old skool style with a sharpie onto a tourist map.

The nice thing about Trails is that it automatically logs everywhere we go so I can just put the phone in my pocket and go about our day. The location tracking doesn’t take as much battery on my iPhone XR as I thought but I do bring along an extra charged up external battery to top things up just in case.

One app that I also recommend is Urban Archive. They have a database of all the old buildings in NYC and using it, you can quickly lookup the history of buildings you see while walking around.

Here’s the master map with all the traces of where we’ve been so far since arriving on September 25th. Lots to still see (we’ve only spent a short time in Brooklyn) but it’s been a blast.

If there are particular walks you recommend, please add links in the comments!


Talkin NYC

I can’t believe that New York City is my new home. We’re still nailing down details of a place to live (more on that later, don’t want to jinx it) staying in a furnished apartment in the meantime so it feels temporary.

But no. NYC is our home. Weird. I’m now one of youz guyz.

I’ve been trying to think of the best way to describe what living here is like, from a Californian point of view. Certainly people talk a lot more than back in Bay Area. Walking down the street is like an exercise in verbal river rafting. There’s no time to look down at your phone. Everyone has a quip or comment and you need to be fast with a witty reply to make a connection. Everyone is always, ON.

In this fast moving stream of conversations, whenever a group of New Yorkers gather for more than a few minutes, an instant community forms. This evening was a perfect example.

As you know, the pandemic limits the number of people that can be inside a shop at any one time. There is an amazing cheesemonger down the street, they’ve got cheeses from around the world and a chalkboard listing specials that they fly in each day for their customers. A sign out front that says no more than “two people or one group” at a time in the shop. Outside the store there are three people that don’t know each other, each waiting their turn to go in. As three individuals it’ll take more time to go in because that’s three separate groups.

A man is chatting with two women. Right as Izumi and I walk by I hear the man say,

Wanna be a group?

That phrase, right there, captured the perfect NY moment. A little eddy of inactivity shunted to the side of the overall flow of people walking by. Three people, milling around, waiting. There’s a problem. A restriction, a rule that is slowing their progress. A community forms – collective problem solving is put to work, they band together. Problem solved.

This is NYC. People of all types, strangers, reaching out to solve problems, together, with a laugh.

On a more serious note, we’re heading into what many are predicting will be a dark winter of the third wave. It’s going to be tough but that same resourcefulness from that vignette above gets force multiplied in times of crisis. The blackouts of 1977 and 2003, Hurricane Sandy, 9/11. New Yorkers rise to the occasion to meet the challenge, together.

NYC got walloped by the virus earlier in the year but they know what’s coming this time around and will face what’s coming with grit, camaraderie, and a sense of humor. I’m glad we got to experience the tail end of the Summer but am prepared for what’s coming.

Sign in SoHo paraphrases Queen’s We Will Rock You


Kyrö Distillery

Kyrö Distillery – proudly Finnish

Friends from Finland shared this advert for Kyrö Distillery, a Finnish distillery, who gives us a master class at how to introduce the world to their unique line of products.

If you’re going to introduce a new Malt Rye Dairy Cream Whiskey to the world, there’s only one way to do it. With a naked man strolling around and staring straight at the camera in all earnestness.

Oh, and the story about five guys in a sauna dreaming up a business is true.


The week that was

HBO host John Oliver traveled to Danbury, Connecticut to celebrate the renaming of the town sewage plant to the John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant. The ceremony marked the end of a months-long playful spat with the town. Oliver remarked on his show “at the end of this awful, awful year, what could be more important than evidence that, if we want to, we can come together, overcome our differences and sort our shit out.

A troupe of yodelers who held two sing-along concerts in a small town in Switzerland have been fingered for a recent spike in Covid-19 infections. The performers were unmasked so as not to impede their yodeling as they played to an indoor audience.

A Swiss couple named their baby girl Twifia so they could get 18 years of free wifi.

Online conversations at a virtual paleontology conference ground to a halt when discussions became disjointed and hard to follow due to an overzealous profanity filter. Automatically censored words such as bone, stream, and beaver made chatting amongst the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology attendees a comical game of charades. The vendor of the platform (ironically named Convey Services) was not available to convey their comment.

A rapper who boasted on a YouTube video about getting rich off of unemployment benefits was arrested for committing unemployment benefits fraud.

All eyes are on Georgia state Representative Vernon Jones who threw CDC cautions to the wind and crowd-surfed sans mask over a crowd of maskless supporters.

Commuters in Brooklyn were put out when the Greenpoint public ferry stop was taken out of service because the Australian developers who owned the surrounding land and pier blocked access. The mayor called it a “quizzical situation.”

The race is on to monetize parents with young kids by putting up paywalls around nostalgia. First to go were Ernie & Bert and the Sesame Street gang which moved to HBO, this week it was announced that Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin and Christmas specials will only be available on Apple TV. As far as we know, the Heat Miser and Schwartz, Flick and the flagpole will still be available for appointment television.

TWTW is a weekly collection of bits and pieces I run across each week while looking after things at SmartNews. Feel free to sign-up to get this via email or forward to a friend.


The week that was

Japan has been storing radioactive water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in leaky holding tanks since the earthquake in 2011. This week the government announced that it plans to release over one million tons of contaminated water into the surrounding ocean. Have they never seen Godzilla?

Singapore Airlines, stuck with a couple of massive Airbus A380 planes parked at Changi Airport, turned them into pop-up restaurants. Reservations sold out in 30 minutes.

Just like Champagne and Bordeaux, Humboldt County will declare itself an appellation for cannabis connoisseurs.

A Japanese tourist, who has been patiently waiting out the pandemic at the base of Machu Picchu in Peru for seven months, was granted solo access to the 500 year old Inca citadel.

Police searching for misappropriated public funds found a wad of banknotes concealed between the clenched buttocks of a Brazilian senator.

Nokia, looking for new markets, will install a wireless network on the moon.

A severed fiber optic cable brought down the voter registration site for the State of Virginia during the last hours before the registration deadline.

Two former Oklahoma County detention officers and their supervisor were charged with putting undue emotional stress on inmates by playing Baby Shark at loud volumes, on a loop.

Justin Beiber designed a line of Crocs and they sold out in 90 minutes.

Donald Trump said the only person more famous than him is Jesus Christ.

Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any weirder, a Zamboni burst into flames. The driver heroically drove it off the rink to save the ice.

Another brand from my childhood bites the dust. Coca-Cola announced the 1970s saccharin-sweetened soft drink Tab is being taken off the market.

TWTW is a weekly collection of bits and pieces I run across each week while looking after things at SmartNews. Feel free to sign-up to get this via email or forward to a friend.

Photo from @briansolis


Leaps of Faith

Two different perspectives on taking a leap. You never know what’s on the other side, sometimes you just gotta go for it.

Butterflies on a Ten Meter diving board in Sweden

12-year-old Sky Brown takes on Tony Hawk’s “mega ramp.”


The week that was

The number of Covid-19 cases in the UK was vastly undercounted due to a file size limitation in Microsoft Excel.

A Canadian seed company’s advertisements were banned by the Facebook ad quality algorithm because its photo of Walla Walla onions were deemed overtly sexual.

Venice’s annual acque alte was rebuffed for the first time in history. The construction of tide barriers, beset by years of incompetence and corruption, finally worked.

An internet-enabled chastity belt (who the hell thought that was a good idea) was found to be vulnerable to hacking that would lock up users and require “intervention of a heavy-duty bolt cutter or an angle grinder to free the user.”

Chinese bike-sharing startup Ofo famously flamed out a couple years ago, leaving monumental piles of abandoned bicycle graveyards. Now nearby residents are complaining they cannot sleep at night because the lonely, piled up bikes, designed to call out through an installed speaker when tipped over, cry out “Little yellow bike fell. Please hurry and help me up!” all thru the night in a sad, dystopian chorus.

The makers of the card game Uno once again tried to reaffirm how their game is played but was told to shove off by Uno fans who have made the game their own.

Yelp will start indicating if businesses have been accused of racist behavior. The Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert will link to a news article where consumers can learn more about the incident.

For the first time since 1946, following a World War, the United States debt is projected to be larger than the economy, and soon “will be larger than any time in history,”

A financial stock trading app called Robinhood has been accused of being unresponsive when people’s accounts were hacked and drained of funds.

Astronaut Kate Rubins will vote from space listing her address as “low-Earth orbit.”

Raccoons on the White House lawn are apparently commonplace but they are now getting so aggressive that White House correspondents need to shoo them away, while on camera.

Everyone steeled themselves for another chaotic debate night in Utah. Even the vodka maker Smirnoff warned people not to drink and debate. But the real hero of the night was the fly.

Ready for a tear-jerker? Oreo is no longer just black & white.

TWTW is a weekly collection of bits and pieces I run across each week while looking after things at SmartNews. Feel free to sign-up to get this via email, follow on Facebook, or forward to a friend.

Photo: 102-year-old Chicago Teacher’s Union retiree Bea Lumpkin casts her vote-by-mail ballot.