Monthly Archives: September 2014

Silence Insane @ Haight and Divisadero, 28 September 2014

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Good Evening:

I had hoped he didn’t see me.

He went hopelessly insane years ago, and I know little of psychology, but unfortunately it appears that nothing can save him. However, today did not count among my lucky days:

Immediately Before the Attack.

Immediately Before the Attack.

He saw me. And made me his next target for his next assault.

But this was no ordinary assault.

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He assaults people by harassing them without saying a word, he hardly makes a sound even when he moves, circles his victims, makes threatening gestures for a few moments, and then moves one, but then moves back and repeats the above until his victims are thoroughly terrified. I have used my camera to chase off a thug threatening two couple, and then to chase off a homeless addict/alcoholic threatening me, so I tried it again. It sort of worked; he left me alone after one circle, then walked down the street not harassing people when he saw me continuing to photograph him. This might be my money shot:

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Looks kinda like something that madman Winogrand might have taken. Aside from the first photo, I have not edited any of these shots (taken with my point-and-shoot), but I might crop the top and convert to B&W to see what happens. Here he is retreating from my camera:

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I didn’t scare him away, but my camera did.

Vonn Scott Bair

Aperture Studies (Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime)

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Good Morning:

Is it just me, or have the weekly Challenges become, well–challenging?

Night photography has always baffled me; even when the results turned out well in the post on fire spinners, it took over 200 shots just to finish with a handful of acceptable pictures. Aperture has always baffled me; a low number means what, a high number means what, why do camera speeds change with aperture changes, uh, how does that work again?

Might as well make a Challenge twice as challenging and combine my personal challenges.

San Francisco on overcast nights takes on the colors of the San Francisco Giants (who are back in the playoffs, yeah!): lots of orange in the blackness.

Out of 40 shots taken at 1:00 a.m., 9/28/2014, the most accurate terms of color.

Out of 40 shots taken at 1:00 a.m., 9/28/2014, the most accurate terms of color. 0.5 sec exposure.

Hardly a great shot, of course, but it gives you an idea of how the city looks from my fire escape. One huge problem consisted of the camera’s refusal to take any pictures depending upon the composition (which objects were in the shot). This angle was the only one that let me take pictures at any setting.

My ancient Nikon D40 DSLR has 17 aperture settings ranging from f3.8 to f22, so the project presented itself: one shot at aperture setting, letting the camera adjust time of exposure on its own, then crop and convert to B&W in iPhoto and see what happens. The results present some subtle differences, even though the camera auto-focused on the same area in every picture, the cluster of lights in the upper right quadrant.

San Francisco, 28 September 2014, f3.8

San Francisco, 28 September 2014, f3.8

San Francisco, 28 September 2014, f13

San Francisco, 28 September 2014, f13

San Francisco, 28 Sept 2014, f22

San Francisco, 28 Sept 2014, f22

The f3.8 has the softest focus, the f22 had the longest exposure yet turned out darkest, and the f13 turned out brightest. Still baffled; just have to keep on practicing. Fortunately, photography has a tendency to become more enjoyable the more it baffles me. A good thing, right?

Vonn Scott Bair

More Spam Scam Poetry! 27 September 2014.

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Good Morning:

Ahem. Ahem, ahem, ahem. Oh wait a minute. I don’t need to clear my throat. I’m writing, not reciting. After months of nothing from the spam scam vultures, I have received their second attempt to steal my money in one week. This one allegedly comes from PayPal, a company I will never patronize. I love the spelling, capitalization and punctuation errors (the incorrect spaces), which remind me of e. e. cummings.

Your Account Will Be Limited

by Vonn Scott Bair

Dear Customer,

Your account will be

Your account will be limited ,

Until We Here From You .

To Update Your Info ,

Simply click on the web address below ,

(or copy and paste the link into your browser):

Help Center Å Å | Å Å

Partner Directory Å Å | Å Å

Logo Center Å Å | Å Å

Security Å Å | Å Å

Business Center

Vonn Scott Bair

Answer: Thursday.

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Good Evening:

Question: What do San Franciscans call two men with terrible taste in women’s clothing and suffering from bad hair days walking in the Civic Center in front of City Hall at 5:10 p.m.?

Yes, These Are Men.

Yes, These Are Men.

See? Told You So.

See? Told You So.

You should see Fridays.

Vonn Scott Bair

New Spam Scam Poetry! 24 September 2014

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Good Evening:

This newest email spam scam looks pretty dangerous; it comes from something called “E-Z Pass” and claims you better click on the button below to pay your invoice for not paying at a toll booth or you will face civil and legal consequences. Be careful; it’s a jungle out there.

But a poetic jungle.

The spam scam included the usual miscellaneous text designed to fool spam filters, except it wasn’t usual or miscellaneous: “Latest News: Astonishing cardboard contraptions
Daniel Agdag works with a limited arsenal of tools: a surgical scalpel, some cardboard, every so often a circular cutter and lots of glue. But from that humble toolkit, he makes sculptures that are mind-bendingly complex. For the past 10 years, the Melbourne, Australia artist has been building intricate cardboard sculptures in the form of whimsical flying machines and rickety roller coasters. They look like pencil sketches brought to life, and with good reason.”

Time for some spam scam poetry. Ahem:

Latest News: Astonishing Cardboard Contraptions

by Vonn Scott Bair

Daniel Agdag works

with a limited

arsenal of tools:

A

surgical scalpel,

some cardboard, every so often

a circular cutter

AND

lots of glue.

But from that humble toolkit,

he makes sculptures that

ARE

mind-bendingly complex.

For the past 10 years,

the Melbourne, Australia artist has

BEEN

building intricate

cardboard sculptures

in the form

OF

whimsical

flying

machines

AND

rickety roller coasters. They look like

pencil sketches

brought to life,

AND

with good reason.

Copyright 2014, unless I can’t.

Somebody notify the Pulitzer committee immediately; we have a winner. I would, except I’m ever so modest and humble.

Vonn Scott Bair

Thrashing for the Camera on Haight Street, 21 September 2014.

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Good Evening:

I know almost nothing about the skateboarding culture, so I don’t know if this phenomenon is universal or unique to San Francisco, but when skateboarders travel in packs, someone usually brings along a video camera–and not the sort of video camera that comes with every cell phone nowadays.

As I awaited the bus at the Haight/Divisadero stop, I had the opportunity to watch one such team at work. First, I present “Heroin,” the star of this scene.

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Now the director/cinematographer creates the shot and starts filming.

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They filmed close to twenty takes. The final photo records the end of one of the few completely successful runs. You’ll notice that “Heroin” managed to navigate his board down a pair of very narrow steps, which explains why they needed so many takes to get the raw material for future editing.

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I suppose we can’t do anything nowadays without recording it.

Vonn Scott Bair

Short-Short Stories of San Francisco, 21 September 2014.

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Good Evening:

All true stories, all conversations reconstructed as best as I can remember them. No photos; unfortunately, I’m erratic at best as a photographer and unlike the day when I created a photo essay of San Francisco’s homeless, this time none even reached the level of “weak but usable.”

One-Fifty of Methadone on the 47 Van Ness.

The aging heroin addict (50s-60s, beard and coat equally old and shabby) in the back of the 47 did most of the talking, while his young mentor or acolyte (the same but about 30 years younger) listened or asked questions.

“Oh, I’m good, I’m good, got my one-fifty of methadone an’ all I need is two bottles a’ beer an’ my life is complete. Oh, yeah, feelin’ real good, just wish I had those beers, go great with a one-fifty.”

“Yeah?”

“Hell, yeah, methadone is the thing, kid, you gotta get into a program and get cleaned up ’til they put you on methadone. Then all you need is two bottles a’ beer and bleeve me, life is so much f—— better than heroin.”

“Hey, is it true what they say, you shot Jack?” (not the actual name)

“Shot Jack?!”

“They say you shot him up.”

“No, no, f— no, he shot himself up.”

“Where’d he get a gun?”

“Gun?! F— you talkin’ ’bout?! He-shot-himself-up. Needle. He blew up his own heart, taking heroin ‘long with some other stuff, maybe speed-”

“-speedball?”

“Zat whuh they call it? Whatev’ it was, Jack took some big f—— dose and his heart just exploded like he had planted a bomb in his chest. Just boom. Know he was 34 years old? Yeah, just 34. Family lives up north a’ here, Sacramento I think, they claimed the body and they gave him a good Christian burial. No burning him up, they gave him a good Christian burial, buried him in the earth good and proper.”

At which point my stop arrived.

So They Can Get Him Incinerated Proper.

I think that he thought that he looked like a professional fundraiser. African-American, about my age, hair shaved close, with a badge holder that was supposed to hold a picture ID but instead held a torn piece of white paper covered with illegible scribbles. He stood in front of the main entrance to City Hall following anyone who walked past. Instead of a clipboard with an ID, newspaper articles, pamphlets, and the like, he clutched a thin 8.5×11 notepad so tightly that it had crumpled in his strong grip. More illegible scribbles there.

“Hey, man, wait up for me, I’m collecting money for Joe Trainor (also not his real name), who got killed on Paul Avenue the other day and I’m collecting money so they can get him incinerated, Joe got killed on Paul Avenue last night and his family needs money so they can burn him up right, so please give me some money for Joe Trainor, he got murdered on Paul Avenue two days ago, and I want your address and phone number so we can send you a proper thank you, or email if you want, so can you give some money for Joe so his family can incinerate him? I’ll need your phone and address, too.” And so on and so on and so on.

I finally shook him off at about the same time an African-American woman about half his age approached him with a scowl bigger than her face, and I did not know that was possible.

“What the f— are you doing?! Do you have any idea what you sound like?!”

Bravery Unseen. Literally.

And I mean I literally could not see her. She stood surrounded by five people, the shortest of whom was a full head taller. I could only see a shock of blond hair. This group stood in front of the main entrance to the Superior Court building at Polk and Fulton. The five crowded her so tightly as if that would silence her, but her voice stood at least three taller than them.

“You! You’re his father! When was the last time you saw your son?! When?! Do you ever see him? No! You don’t! You don’t have the time, because you’re always shooting up! And you two! You two call yourselves grandparents! Do you really care about your grandson? Your so-called grandson?! Do you ever visit? Do you ever send money? Do you ever send food or care packages?? No! You don’t! I’m the one who loves him! I’m the one who puts a roof over his head! I’m the one who feeds him, clothes him, sends him to school, and does her d— best to keep him outta trouble so he doesn’t grow up to be like his so-called father, or you, or you, or you, or you! I’m the only one who loves him! Me!”

Nothing could intimidate her.

The sheriffs had their eyes on this group, and I had to return to work from my lunch hour, so I kept on moving.

I wish I knew the whole story.

I don’t know their side of the story–she didn’t give them space to speak. We can’t assume that she told the truth about what sounded like an ugly custody battle. We don’t know the others are not better providers. Or perhaps worst of all, she might have had the right on her side, but they might have had the law on theirs.

My Therapist Says My Anger Doesn’t Propel Me.

He stood next to me on the 43 Masonic and hung onto one of the overhead straps for standing passengers as he vented into his cell phone. Brown crewcut, about four inches shorter than me, I’d guess late twenties, small mustache, pseudo-camoflage pattern cargo pants, white sleeveless muscle shirt, complete with the muscles to justify wearing one of those, and Doc Martens boots.

And my oh my, did he ever vent.

“You won’t believe this s— that she tells me. My therapist says my anger doesn’t propel me, doesn’t move my life forward, yeah, s— like that, my anger doesn’t move my life forward it holds me back, and it takes me everything I have to keep from saying listen, b—-, I got good f—— reasons for anger, I mean do you ever listen to anything I say, anything, don’t you get it by now, I mean, f— man, I don’t get the point of this court-ordered s— if all I get is this therapist who uses words like ‘propel,’ I mean, come on, ‘propel?!'”

A second for a deep breath.

“I mean like the last session, you know what the last thing she says to me is? She says, ‘Remember. Propel!’ Yeah, f—— propel again, sometimes I just want to say something that will scare and I mean scare that b—- just to see how she reacts, maybe I can make her pee in her panties, you know?

Another deep breath.

“Nah, I’m just kidding, I don’t want to scare her at all, you know what I really want to do? Do you know? I know I’m her last appointment of the day. I want to say to her someday that I want to comeback that afternoon, three o’clock, for a massage. No, no, no! I don’t her to give me a massage, I want to give her a foot massage, nah she doesn’t look so hot, but she always wears skirts and open-toed shoes, and she crosses her legs right over left during the sessions, and for the entire fifty minutes she will bounce her right foot at me and I just stare at that foot while she uses words like ‘propel’ and all I can think about is how much I want to massage her feet, h— no, I don’t want to f— her, she is totally not hot, but those toes, man, someday I will ask her if I can give her a foot massage just to see how she reacts, I just want her feet, that’s all I want, her feet are-so-fine.”

“And no more of this ‘propel’ s—.”

My stop arrived and I disembarked, thinking that perhaps his court-ordered therapist should be a man.

Vonn Scott Bair

Nothing Endures: The Sutro Baths at Land’s End, San Francisco. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance)

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Good Morning:

Nothing endures. One hour spent at the ruins of San Francisco’s Sutro Baths provides so many examples, starting with the fact that the Baths are ruins. Remember that as you peruse this collection of photos which I took at the end of a cloudy Saturday afternoon–come to think of it, clouds and days don’t endure either.

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That ship might travel to Asia today looking strong and proud, but within 20-30 years, the cumulative effects of salt water and bad weather will reduce it to scrap metal at best.

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I have no idea what might once have awaited at the bottom of those stairs…

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…and I have no idea what these once did.

One of the sweeter and sadder aspects of human existence consists of this: love and friendship don’t endure. Either the love or friendship will fade away, or the humans will. We can derive some consolation from the fact that the concepts of love and friendship will endure and be celebrated by humanoid life forms, even those life forms that do not yet exist. At least, until Homo Sapiens itself passes into the fossil record.

Posing for Pictures Amongst the Ruins

Posing for Pictures Amongst the Ruins

Love Among the Ruins

Love Among the Ruins

Friends at Seal Rocks, 20 September 2014

Friends at Seal Rocks, 20 September 2014

Two Couples, Young and Old, Sutro Baths, 20 September 2014

Two Couples, Young and Old, Sutro Baths, 20 September 2014

So we might as well celebrate love and friendship now.

Incidentally, if you want to find good scenes and camera angles at Sutro Baths, Seal Rocks, and Land’s End, you might want to try this: look for signs that read something like “This Area Closed for Your Safety.” Then walk past those signs and head into those areas. Everyone else does (including many of the people in these pictures), and if your life insurance is paid up…well, heck, you weren’t going to last much longer than a century in a multiverse that measures its age in billions of years. Of course, long before the multiverse self-extinguishes, our own little sun will swell into a red giant and consume our even tinier little planet.

So even that won’t endure. So let’s all consume ourselves with despair.

I’m kidding, of course.

The fact that nothing will last represents one darn good reason to make the good things last as long as possible.

Have a fun weekend.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Result of the Return of the Social Experiment in the Office Cubicle!

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Good Evening:

I represent one-third of a group of co-workers who have conducted social experiments with found one dollar bills over the past year. You may read of the first in a two-part series here and here. Well I found the most recent lost George Washington and repeated the experiment, as described here. On Wednesday, 10 September 2014 at 2:15 p.m., I taped another bill in the same location.

When I arrived at work today (19 September 2014) at 8:00, the one-dollar bill was gone.

The previous dollar bill lasted almost three weeks before finally disappearing. This time, eight days. Obviously, two is a woefully small sample, but if we find another dollar bill and post it in the same location, would it disappear even sooner? Or was it just a coincidence that this one lasted only eight days?

The scientific conclusion is obvious. We need more dollar bills.

So the next time you find one, please send it to me.

As the Mythbusters like to say, we’re doing this for science.

Vonn Scott Bair

Old & In the Way in the Back Row of the 6-Parnassus, 15 September 2014.

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Good Evening:

The 6-Parnassus has five seats in a row at the back of the bus, and when I boarded it at the Market & 5th Street intersection after another theater event this evening, only two other passengers occupied seats. Both sat up front, the back row was completely empty, so I took the right-hand window seat. Over the next few stops, more people boarded, but the back row remained mine.

Until the Market & Van Ness stop.

A very young couple, possibly college students, took the two seats on the left-hand side of the back row. She (long straight brown hair, long nose, dark brown eyes) took the window seat, while her boyfriend (short black hair, incipient beard) took the seat next to her.

I glanced at them. She had wrapped her right arm around his shoulders, laid her head upon his chest, and placed her left hand on his right thigh. But she did not look at the love of her life. Oh, no. Not at all.

She was glaring at me.

I resumed my usual bus behavior, alternating between looking about the bus to study humanity and looking out the window for potentially cool locations for future night photography projects. At the Haight & Laguna stop, I glanced at the young couple again. She still had her right arm wrapped around his shoulders, her head upon his chest, and her left hand on his right thigh.

And she glared at me. Again. Harder.

I’m a good boy, so I kept my head pointed forward. Another half-mile, and the 6-Parnassus arrived at my destination. I arose a little sooner than necessary and made my way to the back door, noticing that she still glared at me. While waiting for the bus to stop and the door to open, I used my superior peripheral vision to glance back at the young couple without turning my head to them.

Judging from her left shoulder, she had begun to move her left arm and hand in a short pumping motion.

Yes. She was doing that.

No wonder she glared at me. I had been old and in the way in the back row of the 6-Parnassus.

How inconsiderate of me.

Vonn Scott Bair

San Franciscans As They Live Today, 15 September 2014 (Weekly Photo Challenge: Humanity)

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Good Evening:

A miscellaneous collection of photographs of San Franciscans as they are, in love, in solitude, together, apart. I took many shots in bad light, so I converted them to black and white and performed other edits in iPhoto to conceal as many flaws and bring out as many virtues as possible.

The Morning's First Cup of Coffee, Starbucks, Market & Stockton, San Francisco, 14 September 2014

The Morning’s First Cup of Coffee, Starbucks, Market & Stockton, San Francisco, 14 September 2014

Sometimes, the Male Species Makes Itself Useful

Sometimes, the Male Species Makes Itself Useful, Market & Stockton, San Francisco, 9/14/2014

The Wedding Party & Photographer, Yerba Buena Center, San Francisco

The Wedding Party & Photographer, Yerba Buena Center, San Francisco

Solitude, East Stairway of the Metreon, San Francisco

Solitude, East Stairway of the Metreon, San Francisco

Chess Players Outside the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Chess Players Outside the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

New Shoes & Dinner, Powell Street, San Francisco

New Shoes & Dinner, Powell Street, San Francisco

Bicyclist in Front of City Hall, San Francisco

Bicyclist in Front of City Hall, San Francisco

Three-Wheeled Scooter, Divisadero & Haight, San Francisco

Three-Wheeled Scooter, Divisadero & Haight, San Francisco

Three Men & a Scooter, Market Near 6th Street, San Francisco

Three Men & a Scooter, Market Near 6th Street, San Francisco

Waiting for the Boss to Open the Store, Saturday Morning, San Francisco

Waiting for the Boss to Open the Store, Saturday Morning, San Francisco

Crossing Mission Near 4th Street, San Francisco

Crossing Mission Near 4th Street, San Francisco

Discussing Politics on the City Hall Steps, San Francisco

Discussing Politics on the City Hall Steps, San Francisco

Finally, this young lady, so obsessed with the fine art of the selfie that she bought a camera attachment that helps her take better pictures of herself. Now that is vanity. Or tremendous self-confidence. I can never tell the difference.

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Vonn Scott Bair

Street People in San Francisco, Saturday, 13 September 2014. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Humanity)

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Good Morning:

Saturday morning had me up and running early, performing chores. For starters, I bought breakfast for the actors, directors and playwrights participating in a 24-hour theater festival (where you write, rehearse and perform a set of short plays in 24 hours, and yes it can be done). No matter where I went up and down Market Street, I saw something like this:

Market Street Near 7th, 13 September 2014

Market Street Near 7th, 13 September 2014

At 7:00 a.m. on a weekend morning, San Francisco’s homeless are still asleep on Market Street. Something so obvious to me now to which I had been so oblivious before: old age. Our homeless population has aged before our eyes and now they have to cope with advancing years.

Powell & Ellis, San Francisco, 13 September 2014

Powell & Ellis, San Francisco, 13 September 2014

And with age comes increasing physical disabilities. Oblivious me, I had never noticed the canes and wheelchairs before.

Powell Street Cable Car Turnaround, San Francisco, 13 September 2014

Powell Street Cable Car Turnaround, San Francisco, 13 September 2014

Sutter & Powell Streets, San Francisco, 13 September 2014

Sutter & Powell Streets, San Francisco, 13 September 2014

Market Street, near Stockton and 4th Streets, San Francisco, 13 September 2014

Market Street, near Stockton and 4th Streets, San Francisco, 13 September 2014

Yerba Buena Center, San Francisco, 13 September 2014

Yerba Buena Center, San Francisco, 13 September 2014

Polk Street Near Fulton, San Francisco, 12 September 2014

Polk Street Near Fulton, San Francisco, 12 September 2014

San Francisco has one of the largest gaps between the richest and poorest in America, and that gap becomes most obvious early on Saturday morning.

All photos taken Saturday, 13 September 2014 (except for the last, 8:00 a.m., 12 September 2014) with my point-and-shoot, cropped, edited and converted to B&W using iPhoto.

Vonn Scott Bair

Casual Friday, San Francisco, 12 September 2014. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Humanity)

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Good Evening:

September is our warmest month, and brings out the casual in San Franciscans. All photos take with my point-and-shoot, cropped and edited in iPhoto.

Young Love at Fulton & Polk

Young Love at Fulton & Polk

Cannot Wait for the Green Light to Start Her Weekend

Cannot Wait for the Green Light to Start Her Weekend

Good Idea, Let's Take the Rest of Friday Off.

Good Idea, Let’s Take the Rest of Friday Off.

Why Don't We Just Take the Rest of Friday Off?

Why Don’t We Just Take the Rest of Friday Off?

Uber Employees Posing for a Photo

Uber Employees Posing for a Photo

I Wonder What He Just Remembered That He Forgot.

I Wonder What He Just Remembered That He Forgot.

I hope you’ve gained some ideas on how to enjoy your weekend.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Return of the Social Experiment in the Office Cubicle!

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Good Evening:

Once upon a time, a co-worker found a $1 bill, taped it to a cubicle entrance and said that whoever lost it could take it. I ended up writing two posts about the social experiment in the office cubicle, about how no one took the bill for a few weeks, and about how and why it finally disappeared. By a remarkable coincidence, the events took place almost exactly one year ago.

On Wednesday, I found a $1 bill.

My turn.

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This time, the three of us studying this phenomenon used a little more scientific care. Last time, my colleague forgot when he first displayed the dollar; this time, 2:15 p.m., Wednesday, 10 September 2014. I have taped it to the exact same location, wrote the exact same note on the stickie, and photographed it once ready (obviously).

Two reasons why this isn’t scientifically “clean,” for lack of a better term. First, my handwriting differs from his. Ideally, he should have written the message. Second, other departments at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and in City government have poached a lot of employees from HR; we have a lot of new faces around here. In other words, too many variables. Nonetheless, I still dare to hope that we amateurs might have found something worthy of professional attention.

Let’s see what happens this time.

Vonn Scott Bair