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Shopnotes: Happy 99th Dr. Dave

Emeritus science reporter Dave Perlman reads a fake newsletter about him created by his work colleagues. Photo by Steve Rubenstein 2017.

Everyone showed up at Dr. Dave Perlman’s 99th birthday party except Dr. Dave, whose own doc (the kind who actually went to med school) advised him to stay home and rest up for the next one.  So Dave was obliged to sit through a group performance of Happy Birthday by telephone.  Belting out the melody from the big table on the second floor of John’s Grill were such Chron alums as Dave Hyams, Allen Matthews, Charlie Petit, Mike Taylor, Gary “Fotofong” Fong, Don Lattin and Carolyn Jones.  The old stories keep improving with age — like the one Taylor tells every year of the bridge-playing Chron reporter who kept calling in sick one week, only to be tracked down at a big bridge tourney by a suspicious city editor, and about the Oakland rewrite man who filed flawless copy about a Hayward fire from his barstool at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.  For dessert there was a single portion of John’s Grill fabled flan and a dozen spoons.  Everyone got a bite. … While we’re on the food beat, there was a late-minute addition to the holiday office potluck lineup with a New Year’s Eve spread, featuring a surprise extra ham provided by Ron Kitagawa and left over from Christmas. Fortunately for the hungry staff, you cannot return an uneaten ham for a refund.  So the ham spent a week in the freezer, preparing to welcome 2018.  The extravaganza was stage-managed once again by Dave de la Fuente, with the help of Caroline Grannan and her husband, who was allowed the honor of doing the dishes.  Anyway, if you can’t be home for the holidays, it’s not a bad tradition to be at Fifth and Mission, on overtime. Meanwhile, the amazing Joe and Fi treated the staff to an equally amazing spread of chocolate in all its forms, to say thanks for another great year as your resident chefs and baristas…

The great Bill “Hutch” Hutchinson, replying to request to work another 14-hour shift. Photo courtesy Curiouser and Curiouser 2018

The irreplaceable Bill “Hutch” Hutchinson packed up his colored pencils and departed for a job with ABC online in New York City, where he may actually work less than the 11 hours a day he routinely put in on the metro desk.  The grieving newsroom staff reluctantly bid him farewell at Oddjob.  Welcome to the new Hutch (not the official job description), otherwise known as Josh Koehn, former managing editor and investigative reporter with Metro in Silicon Valley and UC Davis graduate. … The Friday night right-on-deadline fire drill wasn’t really a fire drill, because someone smelled, or thought he smelled, smoke.  It took more than half an hour for the beeping to stop and the staff to be readmitted to the newsroom.  It reminded one staffer of the afternoon his kid’s S.F. school shut down because a third-grade teacher charred a bag of microwave popcorn. …  We are no longer reporting when the elevators stop working, that being their standard operating procedure. But we may start reporting when the elevators can run an entire month without breaking down. … The official office fire suit stayed safely in its cardboard box in the newsroom, where it couldn’t get damaged, while three reporters headed to Southern California to cover the firestorm…

The stairs still work.

We always knew Carl Hall and Kat Anderson were less noble than Cookie the bulldog, but the company has made it official. Our union execs were told they may no longer walk through the newsroom and chat with members, according to edicts from company lawyers. Too “disruptive.”  But dogs, newborns, Scouts selling cookies, grammar school class tours, the Cal Band and its tubas, and all other drop-ins continue to be OK.  What’s really disruptive, some say, is the constant ratcheting up of nonsense like this at contract time. On the advice of counsel, the Guild filed an unfair labor practice charge against the unilateral change in access… Maybe instead of kicking out our union folks, they could figure out some way to kick out the never-ending spam email offering the staff Chinese LEDs every morning?  Just an idea. … On the other hand, the Guild did receive thoughtful Christmas gifts when it dropped by to photocopy, per agreement, Chronicle documents for the Guild’s groundbreaking pay-equity case. Carl and Kat had not brought with them any paper clips to indicate which documents they wanted to copy, so HR presented them with two boxes of paper clips, one apiece, with the compliments of the Chronicle.  There’s always hope!.  … Meanwhile, following the holiday break, your Guild negotiators headed back to the bargaining table.  The January session produced agreement, of a sort — the proposals on the table would effectively be wiped out by the staggering 17 percent increase in many employees’ share for health care coverage (which employees are already paying for, as of Jan. 1).  Your Guild team did say it was very grateful for the all-hands letter from Hearst HQ in New York that went out on Jan. 2 saying how profits were up and times were good.  Does that mean the company would like to pass all that along to the folks who made it possible?  The answer from the other side of the bargaining table was (surprise!) “no.”  Meanwhile, the elapsed time since the last salary raise is 18 months, and counting…

Vivian Ho departed to write a book about the drifter kids who committed the Hardly Strictly and Fairfax homicides, and we miss her and her passion for all things puppy- and homicide-related.  Evan Sernoffsky, who also likes dogs, is the new Vivian. … Speaking of dogs, we do miss David Wiegand’s beloved Angus, who has been banished from the office for good.  You may recall that, after playfully nipping a third-floor tenant a year ago, Angus was informed that he would have to attend a training regimen if he wanted to return.  David  paid $2,000 to enroll Angus in an exclusive “doggy boot camp” in Pacifica. Alas, not long ago Angus playfully nipped an ad seller.  That was that.  And apparently there is no refund on boot camp tuition.  “Biggest waste of money I ever spent,” David said …  Curiouser and Curiouser, for his part, is very glad that the hearing-aid purveyor who keeps claiming in those front-page wraparound ads to be “looking for 107 people with hearing loss” hasn’t found them…

The pizza was great at the all-hands meeting and you needed all of your hands (two) to eat it.  Jeff Johnson pointed out that once Macy’s stops buying ads, it can’t buy any fewer.  Audrey Cooper showed a picture of a scowling UC president Janet Napolitano whose expression must have been caused, she said happily, by her reading Nanette Asimov’s latest story.  Audrey also tweeted out a long list of astounding, astonishing staff-written stories of 2017 (a list that the Guild negotiating team lost no time in mentioning at the bargaining table, thank you).  The Travel section was lauded for finishing in the top three of U.S. travel sections in the travel writers’ annual awards (just before it was announced that the section would now focus on California destinations), and the Fremont printing plant is now going to be a Hearst operation (just like the old Printco days).  From the cheap seats, a staffer raised her hand and asked if that meant the printers would be union members, like before, and the answer (surprise!) was “no.”   One slide in the management slide show had a typo (“Marketing Wxperiences,” it said), and our valiant staff wasted no time posting a picture of it online, along with an editorial comment (“in wxtreme need of copy editing”).  As always, it was an hour well spent. … The North Beach conference room was also the scene of another all-hands meeting, providing your hands were managerial.  It was two hours of sexual harassment training.  Wait a minute, we didn’t say that right.  Writing is so wxasperating…

The Bayer drug people built this arty thing in the Mission Street parking lot to keep you from parking there for two weeks. Photo courtesy Curiouser and Curiouser 2018

We found out why the Mission Street parking lot was closed to employees for two weeks!  The company rented the space out so the Bayer drug company, in town for a big meeting, could install a team-building exhibit, a giant portable,staircase and video screen that was supposed to represent the 25 stairs that a skateboarder once tried and tried to jump over before he succeeded.  (We don’t understand either.)  What employees could have used from Bayer was some aspirin for all the headaches from losing the parking spots…

Welcome to Jason Fagone, the narrative writer whose baptismal narrative was a lovely take on City Hall on the day of the mayor’s death.  Welcome also to sports copy editor Greg Frazer and to Anne Mellinger, who plays fiddle and sings harmony when she isn’t doing graphic design. … Welcome also to ad seller Antoinette Santos, who enjoys hiking and photography, to digital consultant Bryce Nakoa, a surfer from Hawaii and an expert at aerial photography, to copy editor King Kaufman, formerly of the old Examiner and an expert at boxing, and to video producer Martin do Nascimento, holder of two master’s degrees from UT Austin, which is a lot of master’s degrees. … And farewell to Steve Hornbostel, who slipped out unannounced to avoid, some say, having a newsroom song performed in his honor, and to business columnist Tom Lee and reporter Mike Bodley.  We miss them all…

Wxtra!  Wxtra!  Last time, you recall, we told how Kurt Aguilar saved the cosmos by correcting a story that said a death was announced sometime between Tuesday and Wednesday  (“There is no time between Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Kurt).  But he wasn’t finished!  Kurt recently corrected another story that said Macy’s Stonestown would close “between March and April.”   It seems reporters never learn!  Alas, the copy desk did let slip through a New Year’s tale that declared 2018 arrived during the “wrinkle of time between Sunday and Monday.”  (There is no time between Sunday and Monday, not even a wrinkle.)  Saving the cosmos calls for such wxtreme vigilance.

Curiouser and Curiouser

Pacific Media Workers Guild

Pacific Media Workers Guild

We are the Pacific Media Workers Guild, Local 39521 of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America. We represent more than 1,200 journalists and other media workers, interpreters, translators, union staffs and freelancers.

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