Every year around this time, I get very itchy about the false notes of consumerism and commercialization invading the holiday celebrations. I tried to address these issues in my two most recent Pacifica Tribune columns (see "Day of Discontent" items):
Thanks for your feedback on our little experimental new look for Riptide design, color, theme, and layout that we tried out over the weekend. Unfortunately, the trial template did not work out for us or several of our faithful readers (see the comments on this thread). The sidebar with recent comments was not showing up on mobile devices, the masthead had too much white space, and the light blue color looked washed out. In the meantime, we are going back to our good old Riptide look and feel, but we will continue to search for other alternatives that optimize the site for viewing on smartphones and tablets. Please continue to give us your feedback by clicking the COMMENTS link below this post.
I wouldn’t wish a torn quadriceps tendon on my worst enemy. It is a scary and painful injury with a long, uncomfortable recovery. Bill Clinton survived his, so he is my role model.
On November 1, I was at the Saguaro Inn in Palm Springs to attend my nephew’s wedding. On my way downstairs in the morning to find coffee, I stumbled on the carpeted stairs and heard or felt an ominous pop in my right knee. I crumbled to the (luckily) carpeted landing, dragged myself out the door into the hallway, and called for help. Hotel maids, maintenance men, and a front-desk clerk raced to my aid. They got me into a wheelchair and back to my room.
I couldn’t raise my badly swollen right leg, so I was driven to a Kaiser-affiliated urgent-care facility nearby. X-rays were negative, but the doctor said to see an orthopedist as soon as possible. I bought a cane and a knee immobilizer for the trip home. My wonderful traveling companion had to drive, of course, and she has been at my side ever since the accident, helping me in every way.
On November 13, I underwent successful surgery. I am still in awe of the surgeon and nurses at Kaiser South San Francisco. I was totally freaked out as my 1 p.m. surgery appointment stretched into 5 p.m. due to an inpatient emergency. But once I went into the operating room, everything was stress-free and pain-free. I never felt the spinal block or the surgery, just a little tugging sensation as they sewed up my knee.
I was awake the whole time; only a towel prevented me from watching the operation (which I would have done if they had let me – don’t ask, it’s a journalistic thing). Next thing I knew, my surgeon announced, “Thirty-three minutes, no complications.” I told him and his OR staff that they were my heroes.
Then I was wheeled into recovery and finally a private room, where I spent 24 hours absorbing saline solution laced with painkillers and antibiotics. I was fascinated with the purple and blue globs of chemicals trailing down my IV line into the back of my hand.
When the spinal block wore off a few hours later, I felt a wave of pain from the surgery, but the expert nursing staff pumped me so full of Percocet, Advil, Dilaudid, Toradol, and God knows what else that, except for a few minutes of excruciating pain in my operated knee, I drifted along in a drug-addled state of bliss.
The entire Kaiser staff, including my new inpatient and in-home physical therapists, are top-notch caregivers and also delightful people to talk to, especially when you are flat on your back and have no means of escape.
So now begins the long six months of wearing a splint and a cast, rebuilding strength in the knee, and not being able to swim or bike until 2015. Stir crazy much? Realization: It could have been a lot worse.
(This account also appears in my "Wandering & Wondering" column in the November 26 Pacifica Tribune.)
California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is the government agency we all love to hate. And often with good reason. My latest visits to DMV were no exceptions. Three weeks ago I went to DMV to get my California driver’s license. Everything went fairly smoothly. I was still in the system, but my license had been cancelled. I filled out all the forms, took the eye test, got fingerprinted, and got my picture taken. The nice man thanked me and said, “You should receive your license in two to eight weeks.” If only. My Nadine went to change her license two days after I did, and she received her new California license in a week and a half.
This past week we had an appointment at DMV to register our Ford Focus. (That in itself was a fun trip; more on that later.) I asked the clerk if she could look up what was going on with my license. She checked the system and said, “Oh, I see the problem. You didn’t take the test.” What? I explained that I wasn’t told I needed to take a written test.
This wouldn’t be the first time DMV waived a written test for me. Probably about seven or eight years ago I had to renew my license and the notice said a written test would be required. When I got there it was extremely busy. Even with my appointment I was kept waiting. I took the eye examination, had my thumbprint taken, and was told to pose for my picture. Then the clerk said, “You’ll get your license in two to six weeks.” I asked about the written test and he repeated, “You’ll get your license in two to six weeks.”
So just because a clerk screwed up, I have the great joy of having to return to DMV to take a written test. The biggest problem is that I won’t be able to take the test until after November 4, 2014 – Election Day. DMV has effectively disenfranchised me.
That’s not all, not by a long shot. As I said, we went to transfer the Focus’ registration from Nevada to California. I checked DMV’s website before going. The site stated:
For out-of-country vehicles, customs, safety, and emissions documents.
You will notice that absent from the list of “You always need…” is a smog certification. I guess I should have known better. After all, I had worked for the Bureau of Automotive Repair for almost 20 years. I knew there were exceptions, though, and I thought that because in Nevada we had to smog the car every year that maybe it was exempt. Ha!
The DMV clerk said every car coming into California needs a smog check. Another clerk said that not every car needs a smog check: If it is no more than six years old or a 1975 or older, if it is a diesel or if it’s a hybrid, it is exempt. Maybe, just maybe, their website should have mentioned the exemptions.
I got the car smogged and returned to DMV that afternoon. I explained that I had been there that morning with an appointment, and had needed a smog test, which I now had in hand. Well, I didn’t have an appointment then, so tough, get in line and take a number. After about 20 minutes in line, I got to the clerk handing out the tickets. I asked her if there was any way to tell about how long a wait I’d have. She checked her computer and said, “It looks like it should be about 15 minutes.” So I waited. And I waited. In the end, I waited about 35 minutes before I said the hell with it. As I passed that clerk, I said, “That was the longest 15 minutes ever.” She laughed; she actually laughed.
This obviously wasn’t my first go-round with DMV. Way back in the early 1990s, I bought a 1965 Mustang. When I went to transfer the ownership, the clerk told me I needed a smog certificate. I explained that 1965 and older cars were exempt. She disagreed. (Now remember that I had worked for the Bureau of Automotive Repair; we ran the smog inspection program.) The clerk wouldn’t budge. I asked to speak to her supervisor, who then also stated that I needed a smog inspection. I had to get them to get out their regulation book and look it up. They finally admitted they were wrong.
Then not long after I got my last license renewed in California, I noticed they had misspelled my first name. It now read Burce. I went to DMV and asked that they correct their mistake. I was told I’d have to provide a copy of my birth certificate or passport to prove my name was Bruce. I explained they had made the mistake and if they checked their past records they would see that my name was in fact Bruce. Never argue with a DMV clerk; a security guard escorted me out and I had to return with my birth certificate.
I guess I should state that my ex-union represents some DMV employees – Licensing Registration Examiners, Inspectors, and Investigators. I have sympathy for DMV employees; they are grossly underpaid. And they are undertrained.
While I was at DMV the last time, watching my 15 minutes stretch into more than a half-hour, I saw and heard a supervisor give a teenager a second drive test because the kid and his dad complained the first test was unfair. I know for a fact that DMV regulations forbid a second drive test on the same day as the first. So much for following their own regulations.
DMV is a joke, a bad joke. It gives all state employees a black eye and it needs to change. People in Nevada complain about their DMV, but it is way more efficient than California’s. Yes, Nevada has fewer people, but they are all crowded into two places, Greater Las Vegas and Reno. Their newest offices are a model of how it should be done. (This doesn’t mean I’m not glad to be back in Northern California.)
Do you have a DMV horror story? Let’s hear it. Click Comments link below this post.
I just learned that City Council candidate Victor Spano left a message on BJ Nathanson's voicemail (above) threatening to sue her for slander for her letter to the editor in the October 22 Pacifica Tribune. This is highly inappropriate. You can't run for office and threaten to sue anyone who criticizes you. A lively, open debate on the candidates is the foundation of the democratic process. Here is BJ's letter; see if you can spot the slanderous part (hint: there isn't one):
Editor: Victor Spano's slogan is "Fix Pacifica." It's on his signs and his website. He was even handing out water bottles that said "Fix Pacifica" on them at the Fog Fest. For those unfamiliar with it, Fix Pacifica is a local blog that for years has spewed hateful attacks on anyone with whom they disagree, and no one has been a victim of those attacks more than the late Jim Vreeland. In the week after Jim passed away, while the rest of us were paying our respects, Fix Pacifica was posting dozens of inappropriately negative comments, denigrating Jim's name and legacy. Blog moderator Kathy Meeh not only allowed the comments to be posted, she herself made some of the worst ones, and then censored most of the comments that dared to call for restraint and civility. (In a tortuous twist of absurdity, she censored comments that rightly accused her of censoring comments, while allowing comments that accused rival blog Pacifica Riptide of censoring comments.) This is the same Kathy Meeh who is the second endorser listed on Victor Spano's website. It is one thing to be endorsed BY Fix Pacifica, but Victor's campaign appears to be an endorsement OF Fix Pacifica. He will not be getting my vote."
(BJ Nathanson, former Pacifica Planning Commissioner and Parks, Beaches & Recreation Commissioner)
With an important election coming up, and one candidate even adopting "Fix Pacifica" as his motto, some citizens who had written off the FixPacifica blog as too negative may be tempted to give it a second chance. Recent developments would suggest otherwise.
Over the years, no one has been treated more harshly on the site than Jim Vreeland, so when news broke of Jim’s passing, I checked FixPacifica to see if it was capable of showing respect for the departed. On the first day, things looked promising, with a total of nine comments, all perfectly appropriate, but on the second day things went off the rails. Not only were there several anonymous comments attacking Jim, but FixPacifica moderator Kathy Meeh joined in the attacks.
That’s bad enough, but then she went a step further and began deleting comments that asked for restraint (or as she put it, sent to "spam jail"). Then she began deleting comments that accused her of deleting comments, all the while insisting that all of the deleted comments were so over the top that they simply had to be deleted.
I had a hard time believing that the deleted comments could possibly be more offensive than the ones that were allowed, so I asked FixPacifica blogmaster Steve Sinai to make them public. To his credit, he allowed them to be posted, and they reveal a rare glimpse behind the curtain of FixPacifica.
In all, 16 comments were deleted, none that could be considered inappropriate in any way. The only reason they could possibly have been deleted was because Kathy disagreed with them. And this is a site that says at the top of the home page: “Unlike some other Pacifica blogs, FixPacifica won’t bury viewpoints that we disagree with.”
That is an obvious reference to Pacifica Riptide, probably because editor and publisher John Maybury has the decency not to publish the very type of negative attack that was promoted on FixPacifica.
The role of a moderator is to “moderate” the discussion, that is, to rein in the most extreme factions and keep the discussion civil. When the moderator is making the most inflammatory comments, while censoring calls for restraint, a civilized discussion is impossible. (To date, Kathy has not apologized for anything she has said or deleted.)
Therefore, I urge caution when visiting FixPacifica, and if you submit any comments that Kathy might disagree with, keep a copy, and if it’s deleted, send it to blogmaster Steve Sinai (email@example.com), who can be reasonable, and to me (firstname.lastname@example.org), just in case. The full thread is here:
But be warned: It is a rather unpleasant read. My apologies to the Vreeland family for extending this unfortunate discussion, but I believe that allowing such attacks to go unchecked would tarnish his legacy.