Pip and the Fake Cop

I was pulled over by a fake cop while on my way to work Wednesday night (Nov. 6, 2013).  It was, in retrospect, a profoundly weird experience.  Let me tell you about it.

It was about 11pm when I came to the attention of a gentleman who had, apparently, installed bright red, police style lights behind the grill-work of his black SUV.  I was driving north on Highway 101 near SFO airport when I merged right, onto the onramp for 380 Highway.  According to what the nefarious gentleman in the black SUV later told me, he took umbrage at the manner of my merge.  He followed me from SFO onto Highway 380, over onto Highway 280, and then into San Francisco, where he pulled me over on Junipero Serra Blvd. (at Brotherhood Way).  Google Maps tells me that that is a distance of eight miles.

I first became aware of our nefarious gentleman when I saw his bright red, police style lights blinding me in my rear-view mirror, just after entering the city/county of San Francisco at the off-ramp for Brotherhood Way.  I could see nothing of the vehicle behind me except the bright red lights.  Believing this to be actual police, I immediately pulled my car over to the right.  I was then in the lane for the Brotherhood Way off-ramp, blocking the lane.  I turned my car off, removed the keys and activated my emergency blinkers.

Cars began to honk at us, as we were blocking the off-ramp lane.  This was strange.  People don't normally honk at police cars engaged in police activity, no matter what they are blocking.  Of course, our nefarious gentleman did not have police lights in the back of his SUV.  So, to passers-by, it just looked like two idiots blocking the off-ramp lane.  Our nefarious gentleman had turned off his red lights, but he had his high beams on (and possibly white spot-lights on me).  So I still could not see his vehicle.

Our nefarious gentleman did not have a loud speaker or public address system on his SUV, so he shouted at me to pull my car forward.  I put my keys back in my car, restarted the engine, and slowly drove forward on Junipero Serra Blvd. to just past the Brotherhood Way off-ramp.  I turned off my car, removed the keys and put the keys on the passenger seat.  I rolled down my window.

Our nefarious gentleman then exited his SUV and approached my car.  I could see that he was dressed in a police uniform.  It was a blue uniform of the San Mateo or San Francisco police departments.  It was definitely NOT the tan uniform of the California Highway Patrol.  Due to the bright white lights from his SUV, I could not see if he had a badge.  He did have a police crest on his sleeve, but I could not see if it was the San Mateo or San Francisco police departments.

He asked me to turn off my engine.  This was strange.  My engine was off, and the car keys removed.  I told him so.

He asked for my driver's license, and I gave it him.  He then revealed the reason for all this.  He expressed his displeasure for the manner in which I entered the Highway 101 to Highway 380 crossover.  In other words, he said that I cut him off.  I did not remember cutting anybody off.  I certainly did not remember cutting off a police vehicle.  But then, it wasn't a police vehicle, was it.

He sniffed in my car as if to try to detect the odor of drugs or alcohol.  He seemed to not like what he smelled.  He asked me if I had been drinking.  I answered with a clear and emphatic "no".

He asked me where I was coming from.  I answered "San Mateo".  He had my driver's license.  He could see my address.  He asked me where I was going.  Now, there is a question that always pisses me off.  It is nobody's business where I go.  I do not need the permission or approval of police officers to travel anywhere I damn well please.  So, I answered "to my employment".

Our nefarious gentleman then asked me who my employer is.  I answered with "I discuss my employment only with people who need that information."  I was sure the shit was going to hit the fan now.  "Oh, it's going to be that way, is it?" he said, and walked back to his vehicle.

I was certain that I could not escape a ticket.  You can't be that kind of rude to the police without getting a ticket at the very least, or arrested, or shot, depending on the temperament of the police officer involved.  And it was clear to me that this guy was a hot-head.  But when he came back, all he did was ask for car registration and proof of insurance.  That was odd.

I rifled through my glove compartment for the documents requested.  The proof of insurance was the easy one.  It is in a clear plastic slip.  The car registration was a bit more tricky.  The first one I came up with was last year's registration, not the current one.  I gave our nefarious gentleman those, and continued looking for the current document.  I found it, but he didn't want it.  "I have what I need" he said.  That was odd.  He didn't need the current registration?

I was sure that I would get the ticket now.  But, no.  What I got was a stern talking to.  "You're in San Francisco now" he began.  What did that mean?  He had followed me for eight miles, and pulled me over 300 feet across the county line into San Francisco.  "You have to drive safely now" he said.  Well, duh.

I tried again to see what jurisdiction he was with.  But I still could not make out what the police crest on his shirt sleeve said.
"I am giving you a warning.  I've entered your name in the police records that I have given you this warning" he said.  "If you are pulled over again, no more warnings will be given.  You will be given a citation."  I have heard that claptrap before.  I consider it a joke.  "Thank you, sir" I dutifully replied.  He gave me back my documents, and returned to his vehicle.

I set about putting my documents away.  Our nefarious gentleman started to pull away, but stopped.  He yelled for me to move on.  That was odd.  Why can't I just put my stuff away?  But then I saw why.  I saw his vehicle at last: a black, unmarked, civilian, SUV.  The jig was up.  He was not a cop.  Or at least not an on-duty cop.

It seems clear to me now.  He did not write me a citation because he could not write me a citation.  He was not a cop.  He did not pull out in front of me because he did not want me to see his civilian car or license plate.  He had followed me for eight miles until I got 300 feet into San Francisco to use jurisdiction as an excuse for not writing a citation.  That would only work if he were a San Mateo police officer.  Yes, I think that he was an off-duty San Mateo police officer who had tricked-out his private, personal SUV specifically so that he can make these false traffic stops.  At some point, I bet, you will be reading about this guy in the newspapers.  Is he planning rapes?  Murders?  Time will tell.  I think I got off lucky.

In the end, though, I got my small revenge.  You see, that evening I was having problems with gas.  That is to say, I was farting up a storm.  By the time I got to San Francisco, my car was an explosive, stinky mess.  So when our nefarious gentleman leaned in to smell whether I was using drugs or alcohol, what he got was a lung full of my noxious output.  It was the least that he deserved, I'm sure.

The end of this encounter is marked by me seeing the fake cop’s civilian vehicle for the first time.  Only then, as I was pulling out from the curb to continue on my way to work, did I realize that the traffic stop had been a fake.  It was too late to get a better look at the fake cop or his car.  As I was turning from Junipero Serra Blvd. onto 19th Ave., I looked back to see if he was following me.  But no, he was gone.  In the whole encounter, I never got a good look at the guy.  As I think back over the complete incident, my not getting a good look at the fake cop was probably purposefully arranged by the fake cop.  By the time I knew that I would need to take special action to identify this guy, the whole thing was over and he was gone.  Does it worry me that this crazy man has my address?  Yes, it does.
    --Pip R. Lagenta


New LASFS location

The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society is considering moving to a new location.  The location of the new LASFS property was not being written anywhere that I could find.  I asked about this "secrecy".  But Karl Lembke, Chairman of the LASFS Board of Directors, was kind enough to tell me that the manifestation of apparent secrecy was nothing more than an illusion caused by people simply being too lazy to actually type the address in anyplace where it could be seen.  Well, let me fix that:  The location of the proposed new LASFS property is the corner of Aetna St. and Tyrone Ave. in Van Nuys, California.  Building access would be possible from 14268 Aetna St. Van Nuys, and additional addresses around the corner on Tyrone Ave.  The buildings are one block east of Van Nuys Blvd, one block west of Hazeltine Ave., and one block north of Oxnard St. with very nice proximity to the Orange line.  [The prospect that the address was to be SECRET was upsetting to me.  I am glad that I was wrong.]

Today is not a normal Saturday

On a normal Saturday morning, I would get off of work at 7:30am in San Francisco and wander over to Berkeley.  I would park near the UC Berkeley campus and read until the restaurants open.  Then I would go to Café Colucci (6427 Telegraph Ave.) for a very nice "Mediterranean Breakfast" (a spicy vegetarian lentil dish).  I would then head over to The Nabolom bakery (2708 Russell Street, Berkeley) for a chocolate croissant and live music provided by Steven Strauss and the Friends of Old Puppy (10am to 1pm).  But last night my car caught on fire.  It was a small electrical fire that went out by itself.  I had to borrow a car to get to work last night.  Now I am home, arranging for a rental car to use until my car is repaired.  All in all, I’d rather be in Berkeley!

 --Pip R. Lagenta

The Whys of Wheels

Take a look at the video in yesterday's post.  You'll need to know what I am talking about. (This is it, here!)

Not long ago, I had a great deal of fun making the collection of videos that can be seen at

I had made those videos (except for the one video that I linked to in yesterday's post) while experiencing multitasking problems on my computer.  In the last month, I have blogged here, on LiveJournal, extensively (and ad nauseam: "Multitasking: It Seems That I Can't Blame Vista For This [2009-07-13 11:06:00]" and "Not Blaming Vista, While At The Same Time Blaming Vista [2009-07-21 17:14:00]") upon the nature of this technical difficulty.  Suffice to say here that I needed to test my computer to see if the remedies implemented were effective.

As long planned, I filmed a set of "Friends of Old Puppy" music performed at the Nabolom Bakery gig in Berkeley on June 27, 2009.  I filmed whatever the musicians chose to play.  The Nabolom Bakery venue is very noisy.  My previous attempts to video the "Friends of Old Puppy" performances at Nablolm were hobbled by bad sound.  To get better sound this time, I used sound recording equipment separate from, and of better quality than, the video camera's built-in sound recording system.

There was more footage videoed than used.  A videoed performance was not used mostly because the musicians felt that their performance on a particular song was not up to par.  After completing the YouTube videos of the best preformed songs, I looked a second time at that video from "the cutting-room floor".  There was one thing.

The musicians had gone into their first song ("Wheels" written by Norman Petty, Richard Stevens, and James Torres) while I was still setting up my equipment.  Now here is the deal: I had turned on the sound equipment just before the first song started.  So, I had the complete sound for the first song.  There are several points early in the video where you can hear me say things like "the sound's very good" as I was adjusting the sound levels.  It was an excellent performance.  The problem was that I did not start the video camera until about half way through the song.  Then, once I got the camera running, I moved it all around to test camera angles and practice camera movement.  The end result for the first song was "sound good, video bad".  I wanted to use the sound, but what to do about the visuals?  I decided to make an art film.  Into this comes my need to test my newly repaired computer.

I use the "Windows Movie Maker" film editing program.  It is a free, low grade, simple, crude Microsoft product.  Additionally, it is a program that uses excessive amounts of CPU and motherboard resources.  As I use "Windows Movie Maker", I learn more and more about its capabilities and its limitations.  The minimalist, single-shot videos that I normally make do not push the capacities of the "Windows Movie Maker" program.  Nor, to any reasonable degree, do they add to my skill set.  Clearly, I needed to push the envelope and try new stuff.  And, by the way, I needed to test my newly repaired computer.

I suck at Photoshop.  But far be it from me to let that stop me.  I have a lot of photos that I took of the "Friends of Old Puppy" band.  I could do Photoshop things to those photos.  Photoshop is a program that uses excessive amounts of CPU and motherboard resources.  I could use Photoshopped photos in my movie.  I could do it all at once and test my newly repaired computer.

I opened Photoshop, the video editing program, the sound editing program, and I started "Windows Media Player" to play music as I worked.  I picked ten "Friends of Old Puppy" photos from my files and loaded them all into active Photoshop jobs.  I made three different versions of each one of the ten photos.  The plan was to blend the three versions into a kind of morphing effect in the movie.  The take-away lesson here was that "Windows Movie Maker" has a passable blend/fade effect.  I did not need to artificially build the effect in Photoshop.  I made similar effects among the three versions in Photoshop, when I should have made them radically different and let the video editing program blend them.

As an afterthought, I tossed into the mix a short video snippet that I had of Steven Strauss standing in the bakery.

Leaving Photoshop open, I edited the sound down to a workable size.  Leaving Photoshop and the sound editing program open, I imported all sound, stills, and video into the "Windows Movie Maker" video editing program.  Then I really went to town.

I filled the first half of the movie (where I had not yet turned on the camera) with the snippet of Steven, and the thirty stills that I had made in Photoshop.  The second half of the movie had the jerky-ass video that I shot just after I turned on the camera.

I very carefully synchronized the video to the sound.  If I cut the video in any way, I would have to re-synchronize the video to the sound.  Therefore, I made no cuts to the video in the second half of the movie.  I understand that it appears as if there are cuts in that video, but let me assure you, there are none.  I synchronized the sound only once.

I did, however, "split" the video into bits.  "Splitting" is an important addition to my skill set.  "Splitting" does not necessitate re-synchronization.  "Splitting" cuts the video into parts that can then have effects applied to them.

The raw video had a lot of movement in it.  There was no way I could remove the movement from the video.  So, in for a penny, in for a pound: I added movement.  The "Windows Movie Maker" video editing program has a small selection of built-in effects.  I slammed in as many as I thought were ever-so-slightly-beyond-reasonable.  Where the camera moved, I added more movement-style effects.  Where the camera did not move, I added slow moving effects.  I would leave the camera from time to time to go re-check sound levels.  At these points, I walked in front of the camera.  I added extra heavy effects at these points, to hide the fact that I was on-freeking-camera.  And here and there, I just added EFFECTS.

Between the "splitting" and the effects, it looks as if there are cuts in the video portion of the movie.  Let me confirm once again, there are no cuts.  Cuts CAN be done; it is just a lot of work, a lot of re-syncing work.  However, as I become better, and more confident, at using my cheap-ass film editing program, I think that I may be able to start putting cuts and edits into the videos.

I added to my skill set.  It is experiments such as the making of this one video that do, in fact, make me better, and more confident, at using my cheap-ass film editing program.

I also tested my newly repaired computer.  Works fine.

 --Pip R. Lagenta


The Wheels Of The Hullabaloo

Take a look at this video:

My friend, Steven Strauss, brought the above video to the attention of his FaceBook friends.  He wanted some honest feedback regarding the direction to take these music videos.  His friends were not impressed; horrified would be more like it.  Steven was afraid that I would be hurt by the unrelenting disparagement.  I, on the other hand, was pleased as Punch.  I found the whole thing fascinating.  You see, I know why the video looks the way it does.  I shall share that information with you... real soon now.

 --Pip R. Lagenta