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Weekly Obsessions 

Things we were obsessing about on Dec. 15, 2004

This might be the best parlor game to hit media circles since Woodward started hanging around parking garages: Just who is the BALCO leaker? Who, from this case's Venn diagram of jurisdictions, is running grand jury testimony through a Xerox and punching up the Chronicle on speed dial? A prosecutor? A defense attorney? An agent? A cop? Whoever it is, the leaker's certainly had an impact: Besides leaving a turd on that holiest of holy sites in American jurisprudence, the federal grand jury, he has -- with the methodical leaking of testimony from some of the biggest names in sports -- turned a gimpy criminal case into a national cause. The U.S. attorney here has asked for a formal Justice Department investigation into the leaks, so it may not be long before we learn the source's identity. We'll just wait for someone to leak it. T.C.

Since the November election, nine of President Bush's 15 Cabinet members have jumped ship or been replaced. Not Donald Rumsfeld. The former wrestler, once the albatross of the administration, has locked up another four years to play war games, which is troubling not only for anyone who lives in the Middle East, but also for anyone who believes in such minor matters as the Geneva Convention. Under Rummy's visionary guidance, the U.S. military rushed to battle without the necessary equipment, woefully underestimated the Iraqi insurgency, and reinvented prison sadism. Now the "idealistic hawk" is putting M16s in the hands of mercenaries and debating the upside of torture. Is anyone else shocked or awed that this man still has a job? L.O.

Ever since the Proof of Payment (POP) crackdown went into effect on Muni Metro lines last week, we couldn't help but notice that our commute had started to feel slightly less serene than usual. Maybe it's the increasingly frequent appearance of the refrigerator-size man with the billy club, demanding our stub almost every time we ride the N Judah. Anyway, don't even think about being a Muni stowaway nowadays: The fine for skipping out on the $1.25 fare can be as much as $500. N.C.

'Tis the gift-giving season, and all thoughts turn to bacon. If, like Dan Philips, the native San Franciscan who created The Grateful Palate Gift Handbook, you believe that "pig is the greatest of all foods," it's time to pick up the 2005 issue. In it you'll find 40 flavors of bacon (and the Bacon of the Month Club), including one described as "a great big, hedonistic pig bomb." The catalog also sells wine and coffee and pancake mix and other delectables, but its raison d'être is clear: Pig is "where time, space and flavor begin. It's the secret weapon. It's the Elvis of food. It's America." Let freedom oink. K.Z.


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  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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