Saturday, August 13, 2005

Economics Conference, Day 1 (a long one, hope you like story time)

It began with my alarm at 3:30 a.m.
The decision was that I stay at a cheap motel in Mill Valley and take the Larkspur ferry to San Francisco. The reason was simple; Gas and Traffic. Gas is at $2.75 a gallon, and the trip (with traffic) would be over 2 hours long one way. It would be a lot cheaper to get my $58 motel room and take the ferry. I left my home at about quarter to four in the morning, not really tired at all. I was really looking forward to a good conference, since the last one I was at was local, and about reading apprenticeship, and made me want to put a gun in my mouth it was so boring. The drive down to Larkspur takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes with no traffic. I was quite impressed with the 5:30 rush already beginning as I drove through Novato. Doesn't anyone sleep?
I arrived at the ferry terminal with plenty of time to spare in order to catch the 5:55 ferry to San Francisco. With ticket in hand I boarded the boat. Now, I was expecting something more like the ferries I was on to the Giants games, or the ferries I've been on in Ohio and Seattle. This was much different. Think of a combination of airline seating and train car dining tables, that is what the inside of this ferry looked like. I mean, it looked really comfortable. Big comfy seats, leg room.......I know, I'm sounding like a country bumpkin gawking at the city life. Actually, I go to San Francisco often, just not by ferry. The ferry was about 40% full for that first run. The atmosphere is interesting; you can hardly feel the trip across the water (fancy ferry), while the people are very focused on either reading or sleeping. I'm not kidding about being able to hear a pin drop, because you could on this morning run. The silent trip across the bay on this morning was shrouded in the usual fog all the way to the terminal. I arrived at 6:25.
So I was an hour early, sue me. I really didn't know where the Conference was so I took the early ferry just in case. How do I drown my sorrows? Peete's Coffee. Here's the deal, Peete's is the greatest coffee in the world and if you haven't tried it, you really have never had great coffee. Enough said. I began my walk from the Ferry Building up the embarcadero towards Lombard Street. Yes, my Conference was on that street, no it was not near the crooked part. After 15 minutes, I came to my destination, Moody's/KMV. Moody's was the host (and underwriter) of this conference. For those of you that don't know, Moody's does all the research into the credit standings for companies, governments, etc. If you are a serious investor, you should know the clout that Moody's carries in Economics.

I'll get into the subject matter portion of the Conference in a later post. I want Econ teachers to read it because it is very important. For now, my journey.

The conference was put on by the California Council for Economic Education (CCEE). They created the California State Economic Standards and worked with the State of California to get them implemented. The presentation over the two days was excellent. The information was invaluable. But some of the teachers that were there were "interesting". The scope of the conference focused mainly on Bay Area teachers; from Castro Valley, to San Francisco, to Santa Rosa, to San Jose, and of course, me in Ukiah. The conference had about 40 different teachers attending. Most were in a very similar boat as me; teaching for a few years, having taught Economics for a couple of years, wanting more ideas. There were a few new teachers and a few vets. And then, there were the "how are you a teacher" types. For instance, when the instructor announced that they helped the state create the Standards, a woman yelled "I hate you guys". Yes, she was dead serious. What could you do but roll your eyes. Interestingly enough, her partner arrived 30 minutes late, and would disappear for hours at a time, only to show up for lunch and at the end of the day. Examples of why politicians want tenure removed? Yep. It was almost embarrassing to see how people acted. One lady had her cell phone go off a half dozen times a day. It would go off, she would dig for it and barely miss the call, put it back, and have it ring again, and the process would repeat. You would figure that all the glares would give her a clue, but alas no.
Lunch was excellent, with tasty sandwiches and fresh salads. We ate on the roof deck at Moody's, right underneath the KOIT Tower. A gentleman started to talk to us about the "Parrots of KOIT Tower" and the story of a squatter who raised these parrots and would let them go, letting them fly around the neighborhood. The lunch table, full of dominant alpha males, smirked and grinned at the folk tale. Of course, what happens. About 5 minutes later a flock of, you guessed it, parrots came out of a house on the hill and started to fly around the buildings and the tower. I kid you not, and yes they were parrots. Imagine the smug little bastards eating our grins while the one storyteller exalted in his victory.
After a few lessons on supply and demand, the conference ended. I needed to pick up an anniversary gift for my wife, it was our 5th Wedding anniversary on August 10th, and I had just the item. So I began the walk.
Up Sansone to Broadway.
Up Broadway, past about 10 strip clubs (I didn't peek), to Columbus.
Enter City Lights Bookstore. This is supposed to be a counter-cultural landmark here in San Francisco. What it actually is, is a high priced establishment that is ran by culture snobs. The people up front were rude, the people looking for books were pushy, and the prices make me love Amazon.com. I'm selling out because of City Lights. Blame them.
Leave City Lights and walk through China Town. Not the popular way, the back streets way. Here's an interesting observation; the lines at the tea shops ran out the door. People from all walks of life were really into buying dried tea leaves do to the healing properties.
Walk down Stockton and down Sutter. Enter the Glass Pheasant. I bought my wife a limoge box. Limoges are made in France and are very detailed ceramic art pieces, most of them are interesting boxes. They are pretty, but not worth the price. Except that my wife loves them and hasn't had a new one in three years. So it actually is worth the price.
Leave the Glass Pheasant and head down Sutter to Market. Walk up Market to the Ferry Building. I very nice walk on a beautiful San Francisco day (fog burned off at 11 a.m.) I was also lucky in that I caught a ferry back to Larkspur just as I walked up. The ferry ride was a nice way to relax after the day in the City. I wouldn't wait to get to my motel room and relax to Sportscenter. Larkspur to motel was 10 minutes.
My first clue should have been the key, which was a metal key, not a key card. The reviews at Expedia seemed to say that this place, the Best Value Mill Valley, was not elegant, but perfect for the weary traveler just trying to rest. I figured that Mill Valley was very safe, and how bad could it really be. The answer was 'bad'. Room 205 was a pit. The door wasn't a door, it was a temporary closet door that was hanging on the permanent doors hinges. I don't know why used the key at all, I could have pushed the door and it would have opened. The lock was a single, half installed, dead bolt. I opened the door and looked at where the chain (or clasp) was supposed to be, you know, the one you lock at night. It was ripped off the wall. The bathroom was first, smelling of bleach. Except for the soap holder, which had mold growing in it. The rest of the room was just as bad. I was not going to sleep here. I went down and requested a room "with a lock this time". Ahhhhhhhhhhh, a card key! This time, it was room 212. A suite? No, a shitty motel room, though it did have a standard lock and a solid dead-bolt. Of course, it stank of smoke, mold was on the soap holder, the furnace door was ripped off and pilot light was going, the t.v. remote had no batteries, the bed blanket was torn, and the furniture had cigarette burns. Ahhh, home sweet home.
I left to get dinner and wander the town of Mill Valley, a very rich area. I found the public library, posted my earlier post, and went back to the motel room. My wife, upon hearing my conditions, told me that I should find another place. I refused to spend the extra money and settled for a small bottle of margarita instead. I was asleep by 11.

Day Two tomorrow, and Economics information after that.
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