Message Of The Day

Fri, 28 Apr 2006

05:09 [zork(~/octal)] cat quotations.txt

Choose other peoples' words wisely

So, on the outside walls of the cubes at work we have these little whiteboards for letting people know that we're on vacation or whatever. Most of the time they go unused, so some people have gone to putting inspirational quotes on theirs.

So I decided to put "It's an empty journey to triumph if you don't plant the seeds of catastrophe along the way." That didn't go over too well. I ended up switching to "If you can't beat them, arrange to have them beaten." That one's still up there.

Tue, 11 Apr 2006

05:14 [zork(~/nick/shave)] cat fill-the-sink.txt

Filling The Sink

Filling The Sink

When I first learned to shave, I was still a teenager living with my parents. I learned to shave using the home sink with its seemingly limitless supply of hot water. And my father taught me to just rinse off the razor in the stream of water as needed, to flush out the harvested whiskers.

But based on all the forums and shavegeek photosets and all, it seems that the preferred method is to fill the sink with hot water, and just go from there. The advantage, they say, is that the silence of the still waters will allow you to hear the rasping sound as you work. This promotes keener understanding of the whole process, and results in a finer shave.

The only problem with this is that I used to fill the sink to shave, years ago. I had no choice, until we called the plumber to clear out the pipes. It was really distressing, since I'd leave a ring of hair and soap around the bowl, and I just found the whole process gross. I came to associate "full sink" with "filthy sink".

But since our drain has worked nicely for the past couple years, I decided to give it a try a while back. After all, our dinky energy-saving apartment water heater only has a couple minutes of hot water left once I'm done with my shower.

Boy did I have flashbacks. I spent a good five minutes working to clean the Taylor's Lavender Cream residue off the sink rim, wiping away whiskers with my finger. Hulk SMASH.

But this morning I decided to give it a go again, this time using the Proraso pre-shave cream instead of the nancy boy pre-shave oil. I lathered up with the Proraso soap on top, and got to work.

Imagine my surprise when all the little globs of hair and cream stayed coherent in the bowl as I shook them off. It didn't last, but the hairs didn't all migrate to the meniscus or cling fast to the sides of the sink. When I was done, all it took was a little splashing with cold water and the whole lot went down the drain, quick as you please.

And despite the double-numbing mentholyptic treatment of both proraso pre-shave AND lather didn't seem to matter. I got a great shave without marks or irritation. I could hear what I was doing, and began judging my shave based on the sounds it made.


Sun, 09 Apr 2006

23:29 [zork(~/madness/gary)] cat im-utterly-jealous-about-all-you-guys-getting-to-look-round-alcatraz.txt

Hey Nick, if you want a tour round Bath sometime let me know

No, it's true! I saw it in a movie!

08:45 [zork(~/nick/sf)] cat troncon-2006.txt

Troncon On The Rock

It's Happening

And there ain't a gott-damb thing you can do about it!

Don't believe the hype spewed by the Liberal Media! They may sound convincing with their snooty tracts named such as Treatise of Government and Common Sense, but do not believe their Constitutionalist lies! These nefarious trolls have missed one key and essential fact that changes the very equations of our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor! The Monarchy will never die!

That's right, folks, I am indeed moving to London. And that means it's time for one last Troncon in San Francisco before I go.

May 2006
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The Dates

The shindig is set for the first weekend in May. That's May 5, 6, and 7. This has been set in the #tron topic for the past week or two.

This date was chosen because the largest number of #tron-ites were available to come.

The Attractions

One of the reasons that this calling-of-the-tribes occurred is because I will no longer volunteer for the National Park Service past May. Come June, I'll be all wrapped up in the move to London, and won't be able to spend any time on the island. So this is your last chance to get the super secret behind-the-scenes tour of Alcatraz!

As a volunteer with the National Parks Service, I have the keys to take folks into areas that the general public don't have access to. This means that instead of the quick-and-dirty half-hour audio tour of the cellhouse that most of the "it's Thursday so this must be San Francisco" crowd get, you'll receive the full red-carpet historical interpretation of a trained NPS docent.

Allowing for various time constraints, I can take folks into an old US Civil War-era tunnel, the disused A-block area, the hospital, and possibly even the old gun gallery. Bring your cameras, because the photos practically take themselves.


Since I'm doing this as an NPS volunteer, I have to put in a full day's time even if folks show up for a half-day. However, I recognize that some people will not be in town until Saturday morning and can't make the 9:30 ferry. So what we're going to do is a two-staged event.

All Tronconners will need to purchase their own tickets for Saturday, the 6th of May, 2006. The full-day crowd will buy tickets for the 10:45 ferry, which will likely be met by me on the island dock. The rest of you will catch the 12:15 ferry at the latest, and will join the party already in progress.

The link to purchase tickets for the correct date is:

Alas, the Blue and Gold fleet's on-line ticket system only sells tickets with the audio tour price included. If you want to purchase a slightly cheaper ferry ticket that does not include the audio tour rental fee, you will need to call their ticket office on the telephone. The number for that is (415)705-5555.

Alcatraz Dock, with Phones/restroom building to the right.

If you are going to be on the 12:15 boat, it is your responsibility to find contact information for someone from the 10:45 group. There are payphones outside the dock restroom building, and the island has its own mobile telephone repeater. Barring that, the ranger or volunteer staffing the dock will have a radio that can reach me. Just tell them that you're trying to meet up with "an NPS Volunteer named Nick". If you find yourself woefully tardy, they'll probably send you up to the top of the hill to meet us outside the cellhouse.

Once again: Purchase a 10:45 or 12:15 ferry ticket for May 6th, as fits your schedule.

Once you have purchased your ticket, let me know which ferry you will be on.


The site's official rules are simple:

  1. Eating and drinking are allowed only on the dock area at the bottom of the hill. The only thing you will be allowed to consume past the dock will be bottled water.
  2. You will be required to help preserve the site by not taking any idiot souvenirs or leaving marks on the site. For criminy's sake, if you have to have a chunk of the island, they sell Pet Rocks in the gift shop.
  3. Don't mess with the seagulls. It's their island. We just visit it.
  4. Unless I'm explicitly lowering a divider and ushering you through, don't cross any signs that say things like "restricted area" or "closed for your safety".

Now, unofficially, I have a few reminders for you. The entire island of Alcatraz is a National Park. That means it's owned by the National Park Service, which is under the Department of the Interior. It is Federal land. The Law Enforcement Rangers and Park Police may look like rent-a-cops in RCMP hats to you, but once they catch you in the wrong you'll be stuck in the federal court system (and probably so will I).

So please, leave all the counterculture contraband in San Francisco or Oakland, where the local constabulary have a history of being more accomodating to that sort of thing. If I were you, I'd even leave the booze at home.


This is an important point. Since food and drink are only allowed on the dock, you'll want to consider two options for your lunch situation:

  1. If you are on the 10:45 boat, you may wish to pack a lunch that you can carry around the island. We'll head back to the dock for a furtive picnic and to wait for the 12:15 folks, dodging seagulls and pigeons all the while.
  2. If you're on the 12:15 boat, you will probably want to eat before you board or on the ride over.

If you're looking for places to pick up food quickly on the way to the island, I recommend the Boudin bakery by Pier 43 (across a parking lot or two from Pier 41). But they do sell factory lunchoids on the ferry (pizzas, stadium nachos with pasticine cheese-product, pretzels, etc) if you're tight for time.


Pier 41 shares a Muni stop with the tourist trap Pier 39. The most pleasant way to get there is to take the F line streetcar. The F line runs down Market Street, and thus intersects BART and Muni Metro stations neatly. Plan on a charming ride of at least half an hour, and also plan to show up 15 minutes before your scheduled ferry departure so that you can find the place and line up.

If you miss a ferry, the standby line is an unpleasant experience, and you'll need to call someone in the group to let us know you'll be late by a ferry or two.

From the Airport

If you're coming in on Saturday morning, bear in mind that San Francisco International Airport isn't even in San Francisco County. It's out in Millbrae, and while BART does connect via the International terminal, it will take a while to reach the city proper.

Other Preparation

My last bit of advice to you is to ignore anything you think you know about weather in California. San Francisco in the late Spring/early Summer is a schizophrenic cycle of calm sunshine and windy fog. And the weather on Alcatraz is the weather of San Francisco, amplified.

So the wind and fog that glances The City will blast right across The Rock, and the sunshine reflected off the bay has left me with more than one sunburn on the underside of my nose. Dress in layers, so that you can cover up against wind and rain or strip down to your shirtsleeves as the day requires.


I've never had to find a hotel or other short-term lodgings in San Francisco, so I'm afraid I can't be of too much help. Some #tronners may be willing to host guests, but most of those available are likely already booked.

One person, however, has come upon the novel idea of staying at the Fort Mason hostel. I can't speak to the quality of the stay there, but it has the advantage of being just on the other side of Ghirardelli Square from the high-numbered piers. It's an easy downhill walk from Fort Mason to Pier 41 (but leave early), and you have the advantage that it's the site of the local NPS offices. Heck, it's part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, just like Alcatraz!

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