Saturday, July 27, 2013

'Hello Baby...New York City Girl'

I was mentioning that Lucy is a native New Yorker, and someone turned me onto this masterpiece.

I'm always looking for new songs to sing to Lulu as I rock her to sleep, and it's hard to beat a line like this: "You're no tramp, but you're no're a native New Yorker."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Elliot vs. Nick

I came across this clip from "The Sure Thing" and was startled by the baby-name discussion.

When this movie came out (1985), Elliot was considerably less popular than it is today. After climbing the charts over the years, it's probably lost some of its perceived dweebiness.

Nick, on the other hand, has moved in the opposite direction. As I've discussed before, it's gone from being a tough-guy name to something more neutral (and at worse, slightly dorky).

So perhaps it's too soon to judge George. Who knows what people will think of it in a generation?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Is the Name George Poised for a Comeback?

I'm as big a baby-name enthusiast as anybody, but even I have had a hard time getting excited about the choosing of the new prince's moniker.

There are only so many options they can pick from, and so the result is invariably a combination of predictable names. (I was pulling for Arthur.)

The choice of George seems to have landed with a thud — at least here in America — and perhaps not surprisingly. The name has been steadily losing ground for more than a century.

I've talked before about the ideal chart for a name. You want something that peaked at least a hundred years ago...but is showing signs of making a comeback over the past five years. (Think: Violet, not Gertrude.)

George doesn't fit this pattern, and it's hard to tell if the prince's name will alter the trend.

It doesn't help that our collective consciousness immediately turned to George Costanza, a standard bearer for boorish ineptitude. (Another famous George, our 43rd president, could easily be described the same way.)

George Harrison does credit to the name, but he's been dead for almost 12 years. And Curious George, well, he's a monkey.

Will a wave of copycat names help resurrect this name? Maybe, but it seems appropriate that George is such a hard sell in America. After all, this country was founded as an act of rebellion against another royal George. We should probably stick to our guns.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Maybe 40 Isn't That Old After All

Yesterday I pointed out all the things that have changed since I was a kid. Well, today I'm taking a different tack.

The Sutro Tower: 40 and still fabulous.

Sure, 40 years *sounds* like a long time. But if you're reaching that age, here's a list that puts things in perspective.

In many ways, the world hasn't changed all that much since you were born.

If you are 40 years old today...
—The world has always had cellphones (even if they weren't commonplace)
—There's never been a draft
—Abortion has always been legal
—The Sears Tower has always been the tallest building in the U.S. (though now it's called the Willis Tower)
—The Transamerica Pyramid and the Sutro Tower have always defined San Francisco's skyline
—No one has ever visited the moon (that one is a little sad)
—Genetically modified organisms, MRI scans, e-mail and the Internet have always existed (though the Internet was still called the DarpaNet when you were born)
—Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison have always been dead
—The Beatles have never performed or released a studio album
—"The Simpsons" has been on the air for most of your life
—And, finally...if you're 40 years old today, you're the same age as Monica Lewinsky.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Kids, Your Old Man Really Is an Old Man

I'm celebrating a milestone birthday today — one that officially ushers me into middle age.

It's hard to believe, but I've now been a speck on this blue-green pebble for four decades. I've outlived pretty much all the fallen rappers of my time, and my demographic is of little interest to advertisers.

Just yesterday, Google AdSense sent me a link recommending I upgrade to a BlackBerry Bold (a model that's four years old). I guess they've seen my profile and figure I won't know the difference.

When I talk to my kids about my childhood, I sound positively ancient.

I was telling Elliot yesterday about how you could still smoke in airplanes when I was his age. (Not that I was old enough to smoke at the time.)

"Why did they do that, Daddy?"
"I don't know, son. People had different ideas about things back then."

(See, that's something an old person says.)

When I was his age, we didn't have cable television or even color TV (we got our first color set in 1980). Personal computers came later, and I didn't start using the Internet until college. Our phone had a rotary dial and hung on the wall.

I also lived on an unpaved road in a log cabin heated by a wood-burning stove. But in fairness, that was due to some odd lifestyle choices made by my parents in the late-'60s.

Anyway, milestones are arbitrary and I really don't feel all that different today than I did yesterday. I also think about what I have now: a wife and three kids, a job I love, and an exciting life in one of the greatest cities on Earth (when it's not 100 degrees out, at least).

Plus, a color television.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Subway Nexus of New York

If you walk to the corner of Lexington Avenue and 60th Street, you'll discover a subway cornucopia.

There's a Subway restaurant...

...the Subway Inn, one of the last remaining dive bars in Midtown (technically it's on the Upper East Side because it's north of 59th Street, but it feels like Midtown)...

...and, of course, the actual subway — with connections to the N, Q, R, 4, 5 and 6 trains.

Hard to imagine there's another spot with this many subway-themed things in one place.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Grown Man Gets Carried Around New York in a Baby Bjorn

What's it like to be a baby in New York City? Comedian Mark Malkoff wanted to find out, so he had Grizz Chapman carry him around the city in a Baby Bjorn-style contraption. (You may remember Grizz as the 7-foot-tall member of Tracy Morgan's entourage on "30 Rock.")

I love this. But the fact is, attaching any human to your chest — even an infant — is pretty ridiculous.

Invariably, people stop and smirk at you as you walk by. Sometimes they'll start interacting with the baby while ignoring you. (I think I finally understand what it's like to be a large-chested woman. "Hello, I'm up here.")

I've now carried three different babies in a Baby Bjorn and I still feel like a buffoon every time.

But at least Lulu doesn't weigh 130 pounds.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Right Back Atcha: New York From a Bay Area Perspective

Earlier this month a map purporting to show the Bay Area from a New York viewpoint made the rounds online.

Well, the folks at San Francisco magazine have responded with a map of their own.

Now, I can't vouch for everything here (I know little about New Jersey suburbs — in fact, we haven't set foot in the Garden State once since moving here in 2012). But most of the choices for the New York City neighborhoods make sense to me.

Having Chinatown = Chinatown is probably the safest pick.

The Upper West Side is Berkeley, which I suppose speaks to the bohemian nature of both places.

Roosevelt Island is Alameda, another well-informed choice. Both islands are family-friendly and have a 1950s vibe (unfortunately, Roosevelt Island is 1950s in an Eastern Bloc country).

Roosevelt Island photo courtesy of Huffington Post.

But the two share another sort of kinship. Back in 2002, Alameda considered  building a tramway from the island to the West Oakland BART station.

Sadly, it never happened. But I hope there's a "Fringe"-style parallel world in which both Roosevelt Island and Alameda Island have a whirring gondola serving them.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Flying While Crying

I mentioned how our first flight with three kids went relatively smoothly. The trip back this weekend wasn't quite so great.

It started with Kelly and I having to feed the baby across the aisle. We were both sitting at the end of the row, and there was no way to feed Lulu other than me holding her and having Kelly shovel the baby food in from her side.

Let's just say, a lot of other passengers came very close to walking into a dollop of pureed sweet potato.

After I had been holding the baby for a while, I noticed that my pants were damp. I soon realized her diaper had leaked and soaked my entire crotch area. It looked as if I had peed myself, which (from a DNA perspective) I basically did.

Worse, she had pooped in her diaper. And since we were all buckled in, we couldn't take her to the bathroom to change her.

Did I mention that we hadn't taken off yet?

So we changed her right there in the aisle, in full view of everyone. There was a story a few months ago about a couple catching flak for changing their baby at a Starbucks. Well, here we were in front of a captive audience doing the same thing (and this was a No. 2, the ultimate offense).

The other kids didn't help. Alice had a meltdown because she couldn't use the iPad during takeoff. (You have to wonder if the FAA realizes that its electronics guidelines make children totally unmanageable.) And Elliot wouldn't stop kicking the seat in front of him. He also practically climbed over the headrest to say hello to his neighbor in the most welcome way.

Fortunately, we were able to use the iPad and iPhone to calm the kids after takeoff. In the photo above, Alice has three pacifiers: the iPad, her yaya and an actual pacifier. It was only barely enough to hold her off (she still looks a little angry).

You have to wonder what people with multiple kids did in the old days.

I guess they just never left the house.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Tale of Three Transit Systems

Here's the difference between Atlanta, San Francisco and New York.

Photo courtesy of the MTA.

I feel like in Atlanta, most people try to talk you out of using public transit (even in cases where it would be perfectly easy to take the train).

In the Bay Area, people try to talk you into using public transit (even in cases where it's not easy: "Sure, you can get to Candlestick on Muni, no sweat").

In New York, no one gives a crap what you do.

Friday, July 12, 2013

You Must Be This Tall to Pay for This Ride

Back in February I noted that the New York subway basically charges by height (kids 44 inches and taller have to pay a fare), making it similar to an amusement park.

Well, it turns out New York isn't alone. Atlanta's MARTA system (essentially a BART knockoff with less track) requires a fare for kids over 46 inches.

Atlanta's MARTA.

I still think it's odd to use height as the factor, but those extra two inches buy you a lot of time. A typical 5-year-old boy ranges from 41.7 to 44.2 inches, according to CDC figures. By age 6, the range is 44.2 to 46.9 inches. That means most parents can avoid paying for their kids to ride MARTA until at least age 6. (BART and Muni, in contrast, start charging after a child's fifth birthday.)

But there's a downside. MARTA only allows you to take two children with you for free (versus three in New York). I'm still not sure what that means for your third offspring — I guess you either pay full fare for the kid or pretend you don't know her. (Sorry, Lulu.)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dad Serves as Human Swing Set

As an apartment dweller, I'm always looking for space-saving solutions. This seems like a good one, even if it's a bit labor-intensive.

 I can almost forgive the vertical video.

 (via HuffPost Parents)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Golden Gate Bridge Destroyed...Again

A few years back I was concerned that San Francisco had lost its appeal as a target for cinematic mayhem. It turns out I had nothing to worry about.

The Golden Gate Bridge was beset by genetically engineered apes in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," the Bay Bridge was destroyed in "Revolution," and now monsters make quick work of the Golden Gate in the new film "Pacific Rim."

And let's not forget that a starship plows into downtown San Francisco at the end of "Star Trek Into Darkness."

During that scene, the spacecraft crashes through Alcatraz. If you look closely, you'll notice that future San Franciscans have decided to put a big sign on Alcatraz labeling it as "Alcatraz."

If they're going to put signs on San Francisco landmarks to help out tourists, they should probably start with something like this for the Bay Bridge: "Sorry, this is not the Golden Gate Bridge."

(When I worked on the Embarcadero, I feel like I had to tell that to tourists on a near-daily basis.)

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Name of A's Pitcher Throws Curveball to Headline Writers

Remember Ed Jew? In 2007, the troubled San Francisco supervisor created headaches for headline writers, who had to print such seemingly offensive copy as "SF City Attorney Needs More Proof From Jew."

Well, I feel like the Bay Area is suffering similar problems with A's star pitcher Bartolo Colon.

Photo courtesy of Fox News.

At 40 years old, Colon is no newcomer to baseball. And he's certainly made news in the past (the former Cy Young winner was suspended for 50 games after failing a drug test last summer). But Colon has bounced back and is suddenly the Athletics' hottest player and only All-Star.

That means his name is appearing in more headlines these days, creating some Ed Jew-style confusion.

A sampling...


[hey, whatever it takes]

[sounds painful]


[OK, now they're just messing with us]

Monday, July 08, 2013

Movies That Dare Not Speak Their Names

As we've discussed before, I'm a connoisseur of movies that put their titles in the dialogue. (Remember when Jack Nickolson says, "What if this is as good as it gets?" in "As Good as It Gets." He nailed it!)

On the flip side, I'm always disappointed when a film seems like it's going to say its name and then doesn't.

We watched "Silver Linings Playbook" on cable the other night. Weren't we all waiting for Bradley Cooper to bust out some dog-eared notepad and have the following exchange?

What's that?

Why, it's my Silver Linings Playbook.

Likewise, there's no mention of "World War Z" in "World War Z." Some script doctor should have noticed this flaw and made a quick fix.

Zombie starts with the letter "Z," and they're all over the world.

It's like...World War Z.

Boom, done.

"Star Trek Into Darkness" was similarly disappointing. This is all it would take.

We will take a grave risk if we venture into Klingon territory, Captain.

I'm afraid we have no choice, Spock, but to Star Trek Into Darkness.

See, it's not so hard.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

BuboBlog Summer Movie Recap

(We're staying with family in Atlanta this week, which has allowed us to see two movies at the theater — a rare feat when we're in New York. Here are the capsule reviews.)

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS: Director J.J. Abrams has settled into a nice groove with his rebooted series, and this film is easily among the top four or five films of the entire Star Trek oeuvre. The actors are comfortable in the roles, successfully paying homage to the original portrayals of Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Bones, Sulu and Ohura without doing imitations. There are moments of humor throughout, and yet the tension ratchets up relentlessly until the final showdown — where, once again, the safety of San Francisco is threatened. (More on that in a future post.)

Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Khan, made no attempt to mimic Ricardo Montalban and that's probably for the best (even though it's safe to say we missed the man-cleavage). And like the first Abrams Star Trek movie, it doled out plenty of goodies to die-hard Trekkers — especially connoisseurs of "The Wrath of Khan," which this film serves as a companion piece to — while still being entirely accessible to non-fans, such as my wife. It also felt extremely topical in its confrontation of terrorism and the risks of losing our idealism in combating it. If Abrams can nail the "Star Wars" films this well, we're in for a treat. BuboBlog Rating: 4 asterisks (out of 4).

WORLD WAR Z: This was one of those times where I wished we hadn't paid for the 3-D. I'm not much of a zombie enthusiast to begin with, and I didn't relish the idea of the undead lurching at me in more than two dimensions. But while "World War Z" definitely delivers its share of scares, it attempts to do something most zombie films shy away from: giving the global perspective. "28 Days Later..." also had a virus-creates-zombies conceit and creatures that moved at similarly disturbing speeds. But in that movie, the characters had little to no knowledge of the outside world. Here, you have Brad Pitt's character in regular contact with the deputy undersecretary of the United Nations! (Apparently in this film's version of Earth, that position carries some actual influence.)

The finale of "World War Z" was famously reshot to eliminate a "Rambo versus the undead" showdown. Instead, the film has a less dramatic climax inside a zombie-infected World Health Organization lab (basically, the most dysfunctional office you can imagine). I think it worked, but it's unusual for an action film to have these amazing set pieces — especially a sequence set in Jerusalem — and then finish with something more low-key. The last James Bond film, "Skyfall," did something similar: Bond battles Javier Bardem's Silva character in a globetrotting trail of destruction, and then winds up in a rustic Scottish estate where the only lives at stake are their own. Maybe this is a trend.

The most remarkable thing about "World War Z" may be how assiduously it avoided product-placement deals. There's one scene where Pitt is fighting the zombies and stops to drink a soda. The beverage appears to be extremely refreshing, so I was surprised not to see a brand name on it. Considering that "Man of Steel" made $160 million from product placement, you have to wonder how much money was left on the table here. BuboBlog Rating: 3 asterisks (out of 4).

Thursday, July 04, 2013

An Ethical Dilemma at the DMV

I've discussed the problem of people not giving up their seats for pregnant women on the subway. Well, what's the proper way of accommodating pregnant women at the DMV?

I faced this conundrum when I was renewing my license earlier this month. The DMV I visited, in downtown Manhattan, made you wait in two lines — one to get your paperwork ready and one to process it.

The first line only took about 20 minutes. (At the time I figured, "Great. I'm almost done." Then I got to the second line, which took an hour and a half.)

When I was almost done with the second line, I spied a very pregnant woman getting into the first line. No one acknowledged her or did anything to hasten her progress through the queue.

Photo courtesy of Digital Journal.

By that point, I'd spent almost two hours in line (or as a real New Yorker would say, "on line"). Even I — a fine specimen of a man — was pretty uncomfortable. I can't imagine how a woman in her eighth or ninth month of pregnancy would handle it.

Were I truly a gentleman, I would have given up my spot and switched places with the pregnant lady. But I was already late for work and couldn't imagine setting myself back another two hours or more (the line had stretched out since I arrived, so who knows how long it would have taken).

Finally, I got to the front of the queue. By that point, the pregnant lady had reached the second line. I wondered then if I should persuade everyone to let the woman cut to the front, or at least have someone hold her spot while she sat down.

But then I saw there was another, less noticeably pregnant woman in line ahead of the very pregnant woman. This took me back to a moment on BART when I asked if people could get up for a pregnant lady, only to be told by another woman that she was also pregnant (in my defense, she was a bit overweight and it was pretty hard to tell).

Anyway, back to my DMV experience. Around that time, my number was called by the clerk and I dealt with my business. When I was done, I just skulked out of there and figured I'd let someone else be the hero.

A cowardly act, I guess, but what would you do?

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

My Year of Not Driving

Not long after we moved to New York last year, my California driver's license expired. I saw no urgency in getting a new one because we didn't have a car. Moreover, the New York DMV doesn't let you make appointments and isn't open on weekends (even in California's budget-strapped condition, this situation would be grounds for a riot).

So I went almost a year without driving — no rental cars, no Zipcar, nothing — my longest stretch without getting behind the wheel since I was a teenager. I have to say, I didn't miss it at all (though there was one business trip where a colleague had to drive the whole time because I couldn't).

It also let me win bragging contests with other insufferable people.

In this era of decreased driving, not owning a car seems to have overtaken "I don't own a television" as the No. 1 way of establishing superiority over others. Well, clearly not having a license trumps not owning a car, right? (Even if it raises the possibility that I lost my license in a DUI incident.)

Anyway, my stint as a non-driver came to an end last month when I was forced to drag myself to the DMV for a couple reasons:
(1.) We had to rent a car in Atlanta, and my wife wasn't putting up with me not driving. 
(2.) If my license lapsed more than a year, I would have to take the driver's test again.
The idea of taking a driver's test without owning an actual car was especially disconcerting. How does one do that? I didn't want to find out.

Anyway, so I'm now part of the licensed majority again, for better or worse. And with our trip to Atlanta, I managed to leave New York City for the first time in about 10 months.

I feel like both these accomplishments helped stop my descent into becoming an eccentric shut-in from a "Law & Order" episode.

Still, I've lost my bragging rights.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Bay Area From a New York Perspective

I came across this amusing (and relatively accurate) map on Facebook.


We can debate whether the South Bay resembles Long Island, but I guess you could make a case that the Peninsula shares some kinship with Southampton and other affluent areas (not that those places have any of Silicon Valley's creative spark).

The real false note for me is Berkeley as New Haven. Yes, they're both home to well-known universities. But the fact is, New York doesn't have a Berkeley.

When we moved to the Big Apple last year, I asked, "What is your equivalent of Berkeley?" By that I meant a reasonably affordable college town with a quirky populace and great weather. Oh, and it has to be a short commute to the city.

There is no such place.

(But in fairness, asking for great weather rules out the entire Eastern seaboard.)