Friday, September 24, 2021

A very enjoyable root canal

"You need a root canal, hon," the pretty endodontist announced as she studied the cat scan image of my head.  

 "Okay.  Let's do it.  I don't want to think, worry, or fret about it.  Let's get it done." I replied, anticipating an end to the pain in the swollen gland under my jaw.  

 Two days later, I showed up,  with the benefit of a Halcion pill I ingested an hour earlier.

I have never had a root canal, but I knew the horror stories of agony and pain.   

Everyone in the endodontist office was a "Person of Color".  Interesting.  The new America.  I adjusted my ear buds to listen to the deep calm meditation audio files and prepared to endure whatever might happen in the next hour.

What a surprise!

The pretty endodontist and the dental technician smoothly executed the procedure -- as if they had done it so many times before, they could do it blindfolded.  I felt reassured.  

Then the banter started.  Fascinating banter that caused me to turn off the iPhone meditation tracks and listen to them.  

They discussed the Russian pop music scene, the Cuban music scene, the Afro-Cuban music scene, and the best living in South America.  Apparently, the country of Columbia offers the best work/life balance. I had a lot of questions, but with a mouth crammed with dental apparatus, impossible to ask anything.

The electric motors from the dental equipment reverberated in my ears.  Normally I hate that and tense up and feel miserable.  Thanks to Halcion, I did not care.  The building could start on fire and I would not care.  

Then it was over.

I took over the counter anti-inflammatories and pain killers for two days.  Then the pain was over.

My tooth is saved.  I have new musical interests to explore.  I want to travel to Columbia.  I feel enlightened. 

Thank you Dr. Niyati Patel.



Sunday, April 25, 2021

Why I Don't Believe You

This is an essay about the end of a friendship.

Note that the character "Carleton" is an employee of the author, and also the son of the author's friend "Jill".

In October of 2018, I was in my office standing next to one of my employees, Carleton, waiting for a third person to get off the phone and join us in a meeting.  I casually asked Carleton what his plans were for Thanksgiving.  I knew that he usually spent the day with his father and his father’s family.   Carleton looked me in the eye and in a very matter-of-fact voice, told me that he and his brother were going to have lunch with his father, the day after Thanksgiving at a specific time at a specific restaurant! 

I said "that sounds pleasant." As we continued to wait, in silence, I inquired if he had a plan for Thanksgiving Day?   Suddenly Carleton got very uncomfortable.  He looked at his feet.  He shifted his position to take a step back.  Then he said very quietly “my brother and I are going on a hike”. I said “oh should be a great day for a hike.”  Then the third person got off the phone, joined us and we started our meeting.

I did not give this very brief discussion with Carleton any additional  thought,  except to note that I had inadvertently made him extremely uncomfortable.  I felt that he was concealing something from me, but, his private life is his business; I did not think about it again.

A few days later, I walked over to Carleton's cubicle, to ask him a question. However he was not there.   I happened to notice,  though, a document on his desk that said “Thanksgiving Day” and listed his mother Jill, his brother, Dylan, and himself.  It was some kind of hiking itinerary for the entire day.

I found this rather puzzling, because Jill had accepted my invitation to Thanksgiving dinner. Jill had not informed me of any change in her plans.

I wondered what was going on.  

Although there might have been many explanations,  the most logical one seemed to be that Jill and Carleton and Dylan were planning on spending Thanksgiving day together.

So why was I not informed of this change of plans?  I thought perhaps there was a discussion about hiking, but no definite settled plan.  So perhaps Jill still planned to attend Thanksgiving dinner. 

I found myself in an uncomfortable situation. I did not want to ask Jill what was going on as I did not want to put my employee Carleton in an awkward position with his mother.  

I trusted that within the next two weeks Jill would clarify for me that she was not coming,  or she was coming, or she would be late, or she would explain in some way exactly what was going on.

From that day in October up until Thanksgiving Day,  Jill and I went on a few walks and the topic did not come up.

I found the situation rather stressful, because if Jill did not plan to attend, there were others I could invite. But, Jill had accepted the invitation,  so I had to trust that she would keep her word. 

About two weeks before Thanksgiving, I discussed the situation with  a friend who does not know (and would never know) any of the parties involved.  I explained my concerns. The friend said,  “well why don't you invite the two young men along with Jill to Thanksgiving dinner. You know, the more the merrier.”  

I thought that might be a good solution to the problem, so I sent a quick note to Jill and said “oh by the way if Carleton and Dylan are visiting you for Thanksgiving, they are welcome at my house for dinner.”  

Jill declined the invitation on their behalf. But she did not decline for herself, even though, I felt I had opened the door to make that easy.

And then it was Thanksgiving Day. My husband and I put a lot of energy and effort into the Thanksgiving dinner, as we always do. 

About ten minutes before the dinner began I received a text message from Jill stating that she wasn't feeling well and would not be attending.  

The other guests noticed my distress.  I did my best to carry on, but it was a dark cloud on an otherwise lovely day.

Of course,  I did not believe that Jill was ill.  Jill was off hiking with her two sons.  I felt embarrassed and humiliated.  How could a close friend blow me off in this cruel way?  I had to face the facts:

  • Jill knew she was declining my Thanksgiving invitation for several weeks, but did not inform me.

  • Jill conspired with one of my employees to lie to me. The day that Carleton had been uncomfortable, looked at his feet, and stepped back, came into sharp focus;  Carleton had been told to lie to me about the true plans for Thanksgiving Day. Why else did my innocent question make him so uncomfortable?  And what kind of mother tells her son to lie to his employer?

  • I thought of several lovely people I could have invited to replace Jill.   I kicked myself for trusting someone who I thought was a close friend.

So, the adult children wanted to go on a hike on Thanksgiving Day and Jill blew me off in favor of her children.  While it is understandable to prefer your children, the courteous behavior is to advise the hostess of your changed plans, when you know them.

The  day after Thanksgiving, I received a text message from Jill asking if I had received her text the previous day, about not showing up on Thanksgiving Day due to illness.   

I replied that yes I had received it.  

She responded “Oh I'm so relieved”.  

I found myself thinking “why are you relieved?”  Did Jill believe that we were holding up Thanksgiving dinner, waiting for her to arrive, and that if we had not received her text, then we would have been waiting hours for her to show up while the dinner got cold?  

Somehow in her mind, texting regrets on the day of a major social occasion is sufficient to excuse one's behavior.  I wonder where this belief comes from?

For the next several months I was very angry about the whole situation. But there was not a lot I could do in order not to jeopardize my business relationship with my employee, Carleton.  I could not confront Jill as I could not reveal the source of my information.

Due to Jill's egregious behavior, my relationship with her grew strained.  It took about six months and then I got over it.  Little did I know that the situation would become far worse.

In the Spring of 2019,  my husband and I had our annual spring dinner called Oy!ster.   I was writing and revising  a play for the event and I was very excited about having the guests participate in the play. This was probably the only time when I could have a staged reading of my play. I had even told a well-known local actor and his playwright wife,  that I was going to have a staged reading about my play. They loved the concept of Pharaoh’s crisis in leadership; they were really supportive and enthusiastic.   I ordered masks for the plagues and had stage direction and other props.  It was going to be splendid!  And I was sure everyone would have a great time.

I had made some mistakes on the invitation -- left some people out and screwed up some other email addresses.  Jill, was accidentally left off the invitation. 

Jill took great umbrage at this, and gave me a piece of her mind.  I was shocked.  One does not normally assume they are entitled to an invitation. 

Jill went through the list of people who were invited and commented on their relative merit for receiving an invitation. My guest list was none of her business! 

Over the next week, Jill contacted me more than once to let me know that it was her son Dylan's birthday on the day of Oy!ster.   She had apparently made plans with him. Well, I thought,  that was too bad, and I hoped they had a nice birthday party.  

But for some reason Jill felt the event should be reorganized around her requirements. Jill said she could delay Dylan's birthday party, come to our event, and then leave early. But this would not work at all, because we were going to start the play after everyone arrived, and it would not work to have someone leave in the middle or near the end of the play. It would be disruptive. It would spoil the play. The play was really important to me.

For a while, I thought Jill might be on drugs. Who would be so arrogant as to think that someone else would or should plan a party around their requirements?   You receive an invitation -- promptly accept (and show up) or decline.  You do not badger the hostess; the person who kindly extended the invitation. 

But Jill doubled down; she wanted to negotiate the terms and conditions of the invitation. She wanted it to be a party that she and I  “co-hosted”; I was not interested. 

But then Jill doubled down again. She said okay; she would come for the beginning of the party and stay till the end.   

But this was not a credible statement, given that she had blown me off before to accommodate the whims of her adult children.

Was Jill really going to abide by the rules of etiquette and the conditions of the party? No I don't think so. 

Jill had previously gone to great lengths for her adult children -- conspiring with them to lie to their employer -- all to accommodate her needs and wishes.

The other extremely mysterious thing about this turn of events was why was Jill so committed and so adamant and so determined to attend Oy!ster and so committed and so adamant and so determined not to attend Thanksgiving?   

So no.  No way a kid’s birthday party was going to interfere with my play.  Regardless of what she said, Jill was going to interrupt the play to get home to her son’s birthday party. 

So where do we go from here?   

The first edition of Emily Post's Etiquette was published in 1922.  It is widely accepted as the official guideline for social behavior in America.  Page 100 and 101 describe the manner of accepting invitations.   There is no excuse for accepting an invitation and not advising the hostess that your plans have changed. You deprive the hostess of the opportunity to select another guest for her event. 

And, there is no excuse at all for conspiring to deceive. 

In the final analysis, etiquette is about a sensitive awareness of the needs of others—sincerity and good intentions are primary.

Then there is the problem of enmeshment.  Jill is not respecting boundaries regarding social occasions. If Jill is not the hostess of a party, then she has no say whatsoever about the guest list or activities. Jill is free to have her own party, her own way. A guest may either accept or decline an invitation, and that is all.  

Recently I have learned that Jill has recounted experiences unique to me as if they were her own.   It seems that Jill has become "enmeshed", not really understanding where the boundaries are.

I need to separate from Jill.  The Greek philosopher Epictetus wrote: 

"...keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best." 

For me, that is not Jill.













Monday, August 31, 2020

Proposal for New Constitutional Amendments: Our New Reconstruction

Internet Pioneer and California Attorney Karl Auerbach  has opened a “Call for Comments and Discussion” on his proposal for reigning in the powers of the executive branch of the U.S. Government.

Auerbach proposes amending the U.S. Constitution to constrain Presidential power – already growing at an alarming rate in prior administrations – now exploding under Trump. Auerbach’s paper, “Our New Reconstruction” is available at https://www.cavebear.com/cavebear-blog/executive-amendment/

As Gary Kasparov warned in Feb 2017: “… America is about to find out that its government is based on the honor system.” Originally, the framers of the Constitution imagined the U.S. President as a statesman comporting himself with dignity and honor, observing norms and traditions. The Constitution did not anticipate or imagine that the office of the president would ever be occupied by an oligarch.

It is now time to correct the U.S. Constitution with amendments that address this unforeseen development.

Auerbach’s paper identifies the following steps required:

  • Define and limit “the executive power” expressed in Article II
  • Define and limit executive privilege
  • Constrain Presidential “Immunity”
  • Expand the concept of “standing” to enforce constitutional obligations – allow a citizen to bring action against a failed government agency
  • Increase the authority of Congress to compel the Executive Branch to comply with subpoenas, requests for documents, information, or explanations on matters that are well within the vast powers of Congress to investigate, legislate, and impeach.
  • Clarify control of the military
  • Clarify the emoluments clauses
  • Constrain the pardon and commutation powers
  • Ban the use of U.S. Treasury funds and U.S. assets for purposes of personal aggrandizement or self promotion
  • Grant Congress the unilateral, but limited, authority to repeal an existing law
  • Define and limit the concept of natural law
  • Give more independence to certain agencies such as the Justice Department
To initiate a discussion on “Our New Reconstruction”,  email:  karl [at] cavebear.com 

Auerbach is also available for online law school seminars and discussion groups.

Karl Auerbach


Karl Auerbach founded several Internet companies and currently serves as Chief Technical Officer at InterWorking Labs.  Auerbach was a senior researcher in the Advanced Internet Architecture group at Cisco Systems; is the co-founder of the Boston Working Group; and has served on the Board of Directors of the Open Voting Consortium and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).  

Auerbach received the prestigious Norbert Wiener Award from the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR).  He was named a Fellow of Law and Technology at CalTech and the Loyola of Los Angeles Law School.  Auerbach is a member of the Intellectual Property Section of the California State Bar.   Auerbach earned a B.S. from UC Berkeley and a J.D. cum laude from Loyola Law School.


Contact Karl Auerbach via email at karl [at] cavebear.com

Sunday, July 19, 2020

My Fantasy President's March 2020 Speech on COVID-19


My Fellow Americans,

I stand before you today to tell you that America is under attack, and I need each and every one of you to stand up and do your part to protect your fellow Americans and our great nation.

The enemy attacking us is not a foreign power, but rather a virus.  The virus is invisible to the naked eye.  The virus is carried by humans and attacks through close human contact.  Scientists are calling the virus COVID-19.   The World Health Organization has designated COVID-19 a pandemic because it has spread quickly throughout the world.

We do not have a lot of information on COVID-19, but what we do know is that it is four times more deadly than the flu.  Hospitals and emergency rooms in the United States do not have the capacity to admit and treat the number of critically ill people with COVID-19.   That means large numbers will be turned away and will die.

But you can help stop that from happening.   I need each and every one of you to follow these steps:
  1.  Keep a distance of six feet from other people.
  2.  Avoid all events and occasions where large groups of people gather (e.g. sporting events, concerts, even church)
  3. If you must venture out, wear a face mask.  Your local police and fire departments will pass out face masks.
I know this is a sacrifice, but think of the larger, greater sacrifices so many have made for America before you.  Many have given their lives for their country.  Many have endured great hardships.  I know you can do these three small things.

Now let me explain the steps I am taking as your president:

First, I have met with the CDC and empowered them to do two things:

  • fund multiple scientific labs and enterprises to develop a vaccine.
  • fund multiple scientific research organizations to characterize the vaccine and report on all its anomalies.

Secondly, I have asked the WHO to provide test kits and guidance to testing labs in the U.S. so that Americans who have been exposed to the virus can be tested and quarantined, if appropriate.

Third,  I have directed the U.S. Army to provision ventilators, personal protective equipment, and N95 masks for healthcare staff to protect them,  The Army will work with the governors and hospital administrators to determine priorities and allocations and to identify shortfalls.

Fourth, I am exercising my emergency powers as president to direct ten U,S. manufacturing companies to immediately enter into production of the equipment identified as in short supply.  These companies will be compensated for producing the required equipment.

Fifth, since many businesses will close down and many working Americans will not have paychecks, I have requested that Congress enact legislation to pay every American over 18 years of age $1,000 per month for the next three months.   This will assist every American in paying for food, rent, medicine, and other necessities.

Sixth, I have asked the Justice Department to work with local law enforcement to determine the best ways to assure compliance with the guidelines and to report back on their recommendations.  If someone fails to follow the rules, that individual risks the lives of their fellow Americans and must face the consequences.

I know that Americans are kind, conscientious, civic-minded people, and can rise to the occasion in a crisis.  The crisis is here.  I am counting on you to make this small sacrifice and do the right thing.  

Stand and deliver.

God bless you and God bless America.

Monday, June 22, 2020

I know how to paint. Yes. Really.

Today I applied a coat of primer to an ugly 4' x 3' board near the front entrance of my house at the top of a steep hill  (In case you do not know this, primer is a kind of paint that "primes" the surface to more readily absorb the next coat of paint in the target color.)

PG&E mounted its electric meter on this ugly board, and  refuses to reinstall it with something less ugly.  That's why I decided to paint it.

Since humans do not read meters anymore, PG&E could have installed the meter close to the ground in a small container.  The meter provides the homeowner's electricity usage data when a truck drives by and "wirelessly" scans  the meter.   But getting PG&E to do anything is to rage against the machine (not the band by the same name, but rather, to put energy into pointless attempts of reformation of cultural imperialism).  It is just easier to paint, and ultimately camouflage, the unsightly, poor workmanship of PG&E.

I put on my painting clothes.  I gathered up old newspapers, about six clean rags, the one gallon can of primer, a screw driver, a stirring stick, a paint rolling pan, and a brush.  The paint rolling pan was not strictly necessary because I was not using a roller (the surface was way too uneven), but I did not have a more appropriate small container for the primer.  So why use a paint rolling pan -- why not put the brush directly into the can of primer?  Several reasons:   (1)  I am painting outside and there's a breeze, so little bits of debris could blow into the can of primer and contaminate it.  (2)  I am painting at the top of a rugged hill and one misstep would tip the can of primer over and depending how fast I am, something like half of the primer would now be soaked in the ground.   So the trick is to pour just enough primer into the paint rolling pan, so that I would have enough primer to cover the ugly board, and be out of paint when I had finished priming.  That way, no paint is wasted, and I do not have to make an extra trip to refill the paint rolling pan with more primer.  I estimated this perfectly; when I finished priming I had about a teaspoon of paint left in the paint rolling pan.

While I was applying primer, my husband came to the front door and called out "You need a roller."  I ignored him.  My husband knows nothing about painting.  My husband grew up in Southern California, where, if something needed to be painted in your house, you either moved, or you hired Mexican day laborers that you met outside the hardware store.  They know how to do painting.

My painting disturbs my husband because I am a middle-aged white lady, and he thinks it is a job for Mexican day laborers.  Also, every time we have decided something needs painting, he volunteers to pick out the color.  He returns from the paint store with one quart of the color he selected for a 12' x 12' room.  I go back to the store to buy two gallons in the color he selected and a gallon of primer.

But then another thing happened while I was applying primer on the PG&E ugly board.  The young man who lives next door came by and looked at me with grave concern, "Do you want me to handle that for you?" he asks.  "Well," I reply, "I have all my painting clothes on and I am in the middle of it, so it is probably best for me to just finish."  I think about saying "I know how to paint.  Really."  The young man chats about landscaping and then he leaves. 

Yes I am a middle aged white lady and yes I know how to paint.


Friday, March 27, 2020

The fine ladies of Queen Nails -- I miss you

I am missing the manicurists at Queen Nails.

I miss seeing their pretty dark eyes, dark hair, and little bodies as they work under florescent lights in a small store front at a shopping center.   Each one has a credential certifying expertise with emery boards, nail cutters, basins, towels, and the various accoutrements of nail hygiene.

Their Vietnamese chatter fills the air with sounds so foreign to my ears, until they all start giggling.

One will put her hands over her face, embarrassed by what the others said.   I understand.  They are in their 20's and mostly not married.  They must be giggling about boyfriends or sex.   When one wiggles her pinky finger and the rest explode in laughter, I believe it must be about male anatomy.

I go to Queen Nails for a pedicure, but not now, thanks to COVID-19.  I love partially reclining in a huge, stuffed leather chair, with my feet soaking in hot perfumed water.  It is heavenly.

Queen Nails has a television,  always tuned in to Guy Fieri from the Food Network.  It seems Guy perpetually, enthusiastically describes the barbecued ribs he samples in some part of the South.  Guy is a kind of beefy guy.  The patrons of the barbecue restaurant are large human beings.

But all the Queen Nails manicurists are petite --  quite tiny.  Each one has the body of a ten-year-old boy.  I wonder what they eat?  Surely they are not eating barbecue.   I wonder what kind of body ten-year-old boys have in Vietnam?

I have so many questions, but I do not speak Vietnamese.  So I can only wonder and guess about what goes on around me at Queen Nails.

I am going to learn how to say "I completely disagree with you"  in Vietnamese:

Tôi hoàn toàn đồng ý với bạn.

I have heard the audio of the pronunciation.  I practiced it.    When I get to return to Queen Nails, I will wait for a pause in the manicurists' conversation.  Then I will say this.  They will look at me puzzled or bewildered,  as if they cannot believe what they heard from a middle-aged white lady.  Then I will repeat it.  Then they will repeat it.  Then they will get very excited and start laughing.  Then, finally, I will be able to laugh with them.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

San Franciso St. Patrick's Day

Letter to the American Conservatory Theatre, 415 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA:

By now you know that we did not attend today's (March 16 at 2 pm) performance. Our seats were Orchestra C6 and C8.   We tried awfully hard to get there.  We left Santa Cruz at 11:15 am.  We were on the 6th Street Exit from 101 into San Francisco by 12:30 pm.  We were heading for the recommended parking garage at 325 Mason Street.

But guess what happened?  We spent 30 minute on the ramp, and then another 45 minutes on 6th between Folsom and Howard Streets.  Finally, we saw that the street was barricaded and no one could proceed on 6th.  

We checked Waze, Google Maps, and Apple Maps and they all said to keep going the way we were going.  Finally, my husband looked up events in San Francisco, and he found that a huge area around Union Square was blocked off because of the St. Patrick's Day parade, which started at 11:00 a.m. and would be ending at 1:30 pm in Union Square.

But guess what?  There were no signs on the freeway, no signs on the off ramp, there was nothing that stated "Area Closed:  St. Patrick's Day Parade"  or "Union Square area closed.  Take detour."  

I checked the pre-show email, and there was no mention of this.

We were less than 7/10ths of a mile from your theatre for more than an hour and we could not get there!  We are not that familiar with the city, so we were not sure where to go.  When we finally were far enough away from the blocked off area  to find a parking garage, we parked, and then realized, that walking to the theatre would take at least 30 minutes, and we would arrive by 2:25, and miss the beginning of the show.

So we gave up.   We spent five hours in difficult traffic,  round trip 150 miles, used a tank of gas, and wasted two tickets worth $90.  Basically five hours wasted.

Now ... St Patrick's Day is TOMORROW, not today, so why the parade?  And the people at the barricades were not police, but rather individuals in orange and yellow vests.  The barricades did not have San Francisco printed on them.  So what was up with that?  

If we had some warning, we could have gone to the Millbrae BART station and taken that in, but we had no idea.

Our friends Joel & Nancy gave us the tickets as they were unable to attend; what are we supposed to tell them?

Perhaps in the future you could let your audience know in advance about major events that will impair their ability to attend a performance, and recommend alternatives for getting to the performance on time.