Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Miseries of the M: Cursed, Incompetant, or just plain Sadistic?

The Miseries if the M

OR How I Experienced MUNI's Torquemada 

After I read the notice about MUNI's new metro trains the only thing that came to mind was that however bright and spiffy the cars would look, the M line would still be the M line.

The M, by the way, stands for MISERABLE.

Today (maybe the M line was celebrating 9/11?):

2:55PM: the M was running late as usual, but the crowd at the 19th and Holloway platform was enormous, indicating that it was VERY late. It took 20 minutes for it to arrive (after the digital display said 11 minutes). I would venture to guess that there were more than 120 people packed in the three car train. 

After arriving (slowly) at West Portal Ave., we were told that we were being dumped off (ahem, "transferred") at West Portal, then were told to get off half a block away from the station. It was obvious that the driver was told to turn back to "get back on his schedule" totally disregarding ours. Then we waited another 8 minutes for another train - which turned out to be an M.

Late trains filled with disgruntled riders seem to be the raison d'etre for the M line. So do dump-offs, M trains suddenly turned into shuttles - or Ls or Ks and the attitude that M riders are somewhat second class. These and other maladies of the M have made it the darling of ... Uber.

MUNI's excuses abound:

Traffic? Door malfunction? Body on the tracks leftover from previous train?

Who cares? We've heard them all - the countless excuses have numbed us: we can't believe anything remotely rational.

After experiencing years of this kind of frustration, after years of being dumped off at West Portal both inbound and outbound, hundreds of missed appointments, watching numbers on the GPS boards bounce around like lottery balls, scurrying to catch makeshift shuttles when the Line was shut down, and getting stuck in the tunnel, I was forced to come to this conclusion: the M line is maliciously making its riders miserable.

The M, in other words, runs on sadism.

I've compiled instances with photos giving evidence that M riders are definitely treated with disdain: the "miseries" show that times between M trains are greater than between Ks or Ls and in some instances unbelievable.

Once while waiting at the Castro St station for the M outbound, the board declared "32 minutes" , then, in the space of twenty minutes, THREE almost empty Ks and THREE almost empty Ls came by.

Insultingly sadistic.

Annotated photos of MUNI's gps displays tell the plight of M riders and their daily miseries.

A not uncommon sight: longer waits for outbound passengers. (And no, an M had not just left the station)

Another example: The K had just left, so this K was still arriving sooner than the M. At 11:00AM? Standing at the station for 27 minutes while Ks and Ls stop by is not a fun pastime.

Rush hour: knowing that this particular M is too be packed (because it's late), getting on an outgoing M may take another 30 minutes.

Outbound at the Powell station. In the span of those 7 minutes, 2 Ns 2Ks 3Js passed. Also: both the L and the K were changed from other trains and arrived at Powell within 2 minutes. 

Notice the ridiculous inbound number. Look at the blank K inbound and it's number outbound. Truly someone has it in for the K almost as much as the M.

This time.

10 minutes ago at Civic Center a station an M was scheduled to arrive in 2 minutes. Took the L to a west Portal where the M says 9 minutes.

M in 9 minutes, right? Except it's not an M, it's a shuttle. 

Translation: without riders given any lead time, that M was turned into I a "Castro Shuttle" (probably at Montgomery) people who board at Embarcadero or Montgomery may have no idea that they are only going to west portal, while the people at Civic center have no idea that the next M will be a shuttle. This happens frequently, frustrating M riders all the time - no apologies.

A word about "dump offs" (as I call them): it seems that the M experiences more of these "transfers" than the K or the L. Outbound ones always add minutes of travel due to the fact that the next actual M might not arrive at West Portal for a while. Once, when the M turned into an L at the last minute, riders complained loudly when they saw only three people remaining on the newly minted L train. After a few choice words to a MUNI crew member, an outgoing L was turned into an M. All the while the crew member was laughing.

During an inbound dump off at West Portal, I asked irately why? "They told me to turn around to get back on my schedule." Apparently M riders don't have any schedules of note. 

I almost got snarky when a driver shouted "You'll have to get off. I'm going to the Zoo!" One the tip of my tongue to shout back "Oh dear! I hope your mother's OK!"

May 27 3:45:

19th and Holloway: M inbound just passed. Sign above: "Downtown- 11min" "LRV not running- take M ocean view bus"!!! WTF? 3:56 - M arrives. Confusion reigns.

The gap says it all: note how far the M is FROM Castro station

June 5 2:52PM 19th and Holloway - 3 (yes, 3!!) Ms spaced 2 minutes apart (?!)

7:34pm - 19th Holloway station: "M Balboa Park 7min and 9 min. M Downtown 10min and 35 min. Talk about erratic!!

6/8- Train #120648. Dumped off at West Portal and took a K. Driver made some bizarre remarks about a horse then whinnied! He left us with "And remember folks, MUNI loves you!!" Groans were audible.

An incredibly weird pile up of Ms WTF is going on 1, 2,3 maybe, but FOUR? Maybe one real M and three shuttles?

10:51 - 7/18/17 just now got on the M - waited on the platform 22 minutes while numbers on the digital display bounced around like balls in a lotto machine.


Well, I'd love to say, that's all, but it certainly isn't: These things happen to M riders on daily basis. Once, when MUNI got enough complaints, they posted rather flippant, unfunny notices for a meeting: "Is the crowded M crowding your style?" (showing a crowded car with one man obviously trying to cruise another man). The meeting consisted primarily of a "proposed" plan to make the entire M line underground.

But, knowing the rate at which MUNI works, not in our lifetimes.

We know that a slew of complaints will result in the usual sloughed off "sorry for the inconvenience" (I often think that's what they say to people they've just run over), and this rant is really no different, with the exception and it proves that M riders are definitely second class.

The Sadistic M and its Torquemada

As the saying goes "We might as well laugh at this or deserve it." My favorite pertinent quote is from Mark Twain: "Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand." So I've composed a little "Miseries of the M" video using Mel Brooks' "The Inquisition" song as a backdrop. I dubbed in Mel's voice with my own "It's the M Line" lyrics.

Monday, July 24, 2017

My Quest for Community

My quest for community.
using Faeries, a Buddha and an acrylic rock heart.
... for starters

It all started about 5 years ago after my partner died of liver cancer. I had been planting flowers in my little 4x4 plot in the community garden, but longed for a larger space, a more useful space. 

One day I looked out the living room window and saw an elderly lady carrying an enormous coil of hose towards bushes people in the building knew were hers for many years.

She wasn't supposed to have a garden or plant anything back there.  This was a planned residential community of over 3400 units and planting was limited to a small community garden. But everyone looked the other way.

"Ok. If she can do it, so can I".  I spied a barren patch and got to work. 

Like any unfettered project, the Garden began to grow exponentially: a large red acrylic rock heart surrounded by geraniums was followed by a "Faerie Portal", a " meditation station", a CD player and speakers placed behind a large trellis, and a birdhouse made almost entirely of branches from the echium bushes. 


Oh, and a "Secret Sanctuary". And an herb wheel. And Beatrice's Lovers Bench. And garden view seating. 

And lights. Lots of lights. 

Building residents asked if the Garden had any special significance. It didn't really, until I thought of a fulfilling purpose: I called it

The 50 Chumasero Memorial Garden - for everyone who has lived and loved at 50 Chumasero. 

I wanted the diverse residents to consider our building as a community. 

Diverse residential areas have come under siege: no matter what location, people of every race, nationality, creed, and sexual orientation need to protect each other from the vicissitudes of a country becoming rife with hatred and violence. 

The Garden has taken a good portion of six years to create and has hosted events like Valentine’ Day photo ops, Easter egg hunts, Earth Day and a children’s Great Butterfly Release. And of Holidays.


The Garden's Faeries have gotten into the spirit of community with their latest effort: special lighting and music for residents' birthdays. The results: 

Parkmerced Vision:  

“…a really thoughtful and creative way to approach building community. It’s very pleasing to know that we have residents like you making grass root efforts. We stress community both for the Vision and Parkmerced today and we can host as many events imaginable, but it really comes down to residents getting involved and talking with their neighbors.”

I am also using the Garden’s building (50 Chumasero Dr.) as a laboratory of sorts for ideas regarding a proposed ecology program for all of Parkmerced: last year’s Earth Day, residents were given a tour of Parkmerced’s new sustainable plants, culminating with activities for the kids (receiving the chrysalises to grow the butterflies for release). So far, this proposal has received attention in being nominated for the Golden Gate award from San Francisco Beautiful.


From the video “Sustainable Magic of San Francisco”:


Monday, July 3, 2017

Gimme That Ole Time Corruption: Pat Robertson in the Schemes of Jay Sekulow and Donald Trump

Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power. - George Bernard Shaw

The Three Self-Dealers: Another Unholy Trinity Formed Around Trump?

President Trump solidified his ties to the Christian Right by appointing Jay Sekulow as his lawyer to handle the Trump-Russia-Collusion-Obstruction problem. Came highly recommended from the likes of Pat Robertson. And for several reasons:

1. Sekulow is chief attorney for the ACLJ - the Christian Right legal defense team founded by Pat Robertson

2. Sekulow's web of self-run non-profits funnel money to Pat Robertson's shadowy Advocacy Services

3. Sekulow is just as corrupt as both Robertson and Trump (primarily in his self-dealings and family-filled "non-profits") and and is just as much of a showman.

Washington Post
Since 2013, CASE [Sekulow's Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism] has forwarded $500,000 each year to a small charity called the Law and Justice Institute that has no employees and relies almost exclusively on CASE for its revenue,tax filings show. Sekulow is president of the Law and Justice Institute. The Law and Justice Institute, in turn, has paid $500,000 each year to Advocacy Services. Robertson is president of that firm, according to Virginia state records. Robertson’s spokesman did not address written questions about the payments from The Post. [emphasis mine]
And he's as bombastic and tenacious towards his enemies as Trump is:
First, Sekulow is at home in the spotlight. He hosts a daily radio show that airs nationally and online. He has been a regular contributor and on-air guest at Fox News. And his bombastic personality has stood out to several other attorneys in the Christian legal movement – asking to remain anonymous, one lawyer told me Sekulow “spends an inordinate amount of time tooting his own horn.” Judging by his past, appearing on various Sunday morning shows to defend Trump is a natural act for Sekulow.
What is Sekulow getting out of all of this? It's possible Trump may not pay Sekulow: he has a history of not paying legal fees (unless they're paid by the Trump Foundation). In fact, one of his former legal teams has liens against his properties.* It's possible that Sekulow - ever the media hound - has an agenda involving power over the media.

Trump is certainly no stranger to self-dealing and eager to appease the Christian Right via Pat Robertson, so again, Sekulow is a perfect match. Robertson has also defended Trump:
Lest there be any doubt that Christian televangelist Pat Robertson supports President Donald Trump, the longtime host of the 700 Club declared that God put Trump “in this office.”“He’s God’s man for the job,” Robertson said this week, as Right Wing Watch reported.
Pat Robertson was really angry with FBI Director James Comey, this morning: "Once again that clown that is in charge of whatever you call those people, FBI, is in charge of the headlines."
This last statement is ironic, since both Comey and Mueller came to the aid of Robertson's good friend and spiritual colleague John Ashcroft when he was in the hospital being besieged by Bush's White House staff.

About the only real difference Robertson has with Sekulow and Trump is that he really, really hates Russia.*


Note: pictured above with Trump, Robertson and 
Sekulow is Gary Marx, leader of the Faith and
 Freedom Coalition - the entity involved in the 
Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Birds of a feather...

So dirty money and favors flow between these three seemingly opportunistic con men. In Pat Robertson's world, it's called "reciprocity," but without the God factor.

God has little to do with this trio of corruption.

Reciprocity. Corruption. Perhaps the best depiction of the two intertwined is in this scene from "Chicago."

*USA Today:
One law firm that fought contractors over payments and other issues for Trump — New York City’s Morrison Cohen LLP — ended up on the other side of a similar battle with the mogul in 2008. Trump didn’t like that its lawyers were using his name in press releases touting its representation of Trump in a lawsuit against a construction contractor that Trump claimed overcharged him for work on a luxury golf club.

As Trump now turned his ire on his former lawyers, however, Morrison Cohen counter-sued. In court records, the law firm alleged Trump didn’t pay nearly a half million dollars in legal fees. Trump and his ex-lawyers settled their disputes out of court, confidentially, in 2009.

In 2012, Virginia-based law firm Cook, Heyward, Lee, Hopper & Feehan filed a lawsuit against the Trump Organization for $94,511 for legal fees and costs. The case was eventually settled out of court. But as the case unfolded, court records detail how Trump's senior deputies attacked the attorneys' quality of work in the local and trade press, leading the firm to make claims of defamation that a judge ultimately rejected on free speech grounds.

*Again, Irony:
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill I apparently agrees with U.S. preacher Pat Robertson that Haitians brought the earthquake on themselves:
Kirill, speaking during a weekend visit to Kazakhstan, said the Haitian people bore responsibility for the calamity because they had turned away from God.