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Monday, January 30, 2012

Will Tom Huening's Voice Be Heard?

San Mateo County's government operation based in Redwood City is often a one-trick pony. Serious debate on major issues frequently lacks much staying power. That's because the overwhelming majority of the decision-makers speaks with one political voice which leans heavily liberal and Democrat. This circumstance tends to constrict any sort of healthy give-and-take on important matters of substance. That's where Tom Huening comes in. As a generally conservative County Controller, he's regarded as something of an alien in the halls of county administration. So there is a real question as to whether his latest alarms will be heeded, especially by the Board of Supervisors. He's been warning about two potential budget-busters for some time: Unfunded government employee pension liabilities and the annual cost of debt service for a proposed new County Jail. He has plenty of facts and figures to back up his red flags. But it will take some real gumption on the part of the supes to act on his findings. Are they paying attention? Dave Pine certainly is. As for the rest, well, we're waiting.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Just Ride That Airborne Pony for All It's Worth

When the UAL pilot says there won't be a beverage service on the early-morning January flight from SFO to LAX because of rough weather, you know you're going to be in for an interesting trip. That was oh, so true today. Wind and rain, both up north and all the way down south, made for a very lively journey aloft. The roller-coaster at 29,000 feet was in full swing, literally. Not that there was anything resembling a serious problem. There wasn't. But those of us in the white-knuckle brigade needed to find some sort of diversion from the non-stop rock-and-roll. And that's precisely what came to mind: Music. That was the ticket. Snap on the headphones, find some upbeat tunes and just ride that pony 400 miles straight to the plastic wonders of the Southland. After all, it lasted just 55 minutes. How bad could it be? With the occasional Dire Straits and Alabama providing the interludes, the wintry flight, with all of its imperfections, was less than traumatic. Thank you, Mark Knopfler. We'll have one more round of "Sultans of Swing."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Forget Miss Manners at NFL Games

Why mince words? If you are going to attend a National Football League game, especially a playoff event like this weekend's Giants vs. 49ers encounter, don't expect to see a lot of customers who behave right out of the Miss Manners handbook. Etiquette is not in the cards. There is plenty of excessive drinking, foul language, threatening gestures and, yes, fights. What a surprise. Have you checked out what's happening down on the field? There, every play features multiple examples of violence and intent to commit bodily harm. If these behaviors were to occur out on the street, they would be considered felonies and the perpetrators would be arrested. But it's all legal in the NFL, or almost so. It depends on the referees. Meanwhile, back in the stadium (whether it's Candlestick Park or any other NFL venue) far too many civilians seem to feel that they, too, must get into the hyper-competitive act. The parking lot is no bargain either. That's where much of the heavy boozing occurs. In fact, you can almost gauge the importance of the impending ballgame by the amount of liquor being consumed around the arena prior to kickoff. With all of that alcohol consumption, it means that restrooms and other public facilities are landmines. Say the wrong thing, wear the wrong sweatshirt and you may find yourself up against a wall. What's the solution? Stay home. Watch the game on TV. Why endure the abuse? Save your money.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Pop Music Solution: No Lyrics

If you have attended a high school basketball game in the last decade or so, you may have noticed a phenomenon which has tended to stain the experience: Offensive pop music. Some modern musical offerings, especially those of the hip-hop genre, include wording that is, to say the least, offensive. It can range from outright hatred for women to calls for violence against police authorities to sexual suggestions that are downright crude. The F-bomb is common currency all too often. Well, it has taken awhile for school authorities to see the light, but, finally, there is a movement underway to control, or simply ban, this stuff. A number of San Mateo County high schools have found the answer. They permit only songs without lyrics. Perfect. What could be more prudent under the unhappy circumstances? If nothing else, it spares the sensibilities of those who want no part this material. Maybe reasonably good taste isn't dead after all.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Let's Keep Engineering Standards High

Here we go again. The diversity police are on the march once more. They now are fretting about the ethnic makeup of UC-Berkeley's engineering students, among other concerns. In a nutshell, there are too many Asians, whites and males. Too many Asians? Too many whites? Too many males? Who cares? What matters is whether these ambitious young people are outstanding pupils in an outstanding program that demands high standards and rewards excellence. We want our future engineers to be challenged by rigorous academic offerings. We don' t want those requirements to be watered-down or reduced to accommodate some sort of socio-political agenda that has nothing whatever to do with keeping our buildings and bridges upright and our airplanes aloft. Would it be nice if there were more "under-represented" minorities (how women are somehow classified as "under-represented" at UC continues to be a real head-scratcher) enrolled in the UC engineering school? Of course. And, if these students can gain admission to that sterling program, more power to them. It's up to their elementary, secondary and undergraduate instructors (along with their families) to assist them in their quest. UC does not discriminate. Let's hope its engineering school doesn't do so in the opposite direction by allowing the unqualified, or marginally qualified, to gain admission over those who meet the entrance requirements but happen to be, heaven forbid, Asian, white or (gasp) male.

What Is It About a Hamburger?

There's just something about a hamburger, preferably a good one. It's an all-American staple (particularly when it's combined with french fries), the staff of suburban life in many ways, much to the despair of vegans and some other ultra-health-conscious critics of anything smacking of red meat. So it is no surprise that the grand opening of a Five Guys burger outlet in downtown Burlingame this week has generated big crowds, minor traffic hassles and satisfied customers, young and old alike. Five Guys, the first of its kind on the Peninsula, is located in the new Safeway shopping complex at the corner of Howard Avenue and Primrose Road. Here's a tip: Park a block away; it's just much easier that way.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Let's Make It Tit for Tat in Sacramento

Politicians just can't sit still. They have a genetic urge to create, and pass, laws, whether they are needed or not. Many fall into that irrelevant latter category. Even Gov. Jerry Brown agrees with that. This year, there are 745 new laws on the books in the Golden State. Brown admits that a slew of them are useless and address no pressing need whatsoever. But he signed them anyway in a sort of feel-good effort to placate the pols. It has gotten to the point where several legislators, Peninsulans Joe Simitian and Jerry Hill among them, encourage their constituents to come up with proposed new laws every year. Again, a happy exercise to help the voters stay involved. That's fine. However, given the obvious fact that we have far too many laws already, it ought to be part of the process to get rid of a law if you decide to create a new one. A tit for a tat, as it were. Then the governor wouldn't have to go through his annual signing charade.