Categories
california san francisco tech

Grateful

Steve Jobs on the floor of his apartment

Categories
bikes california

Only worn when mobbin'

Scraperbike - Oakland

So I was catch­ing up with the haps in my new city today on Berke­ley­side, and I noticed a ref­er­ence to yet anoth­er cool thing that orig­i­nat­ed in Oak­land. No, it's not turf danc­ing, or whis­tle tips, or ghost rid­ing, or even hyphy. It's scrap­er­bikes, old beat­ers total­ly tricked out with col­or­ful, cheap, home­spun dec­o­ra­tions. Not only are they cool-look­ing, the scraper crew wrote some by-laws to keep it all legit:

In order to become a mem­ber of the Orig­i­nal Scraper Bike Team, you must: Be a res­i­dent of Oak­land, CA. Be at least 7y/o or old­er. Retain A 3.0 Grade Point Aver­age (GPA), Cre­ate your own Scraper Bike…(It Has To Be Amaz­ing, Or Else You Can't Ride.) A sin­gle-file line when rid­ing. After 10 rides The Scraper Bike King and his Cap­tains will decide if your bike is up to stan­dards and if you can fol­low sim­ple guide­lines. After your eval­u­a­tion we will con­sid­er you a mem­ber and hon­or you with an Orig­i­nal Scraper Bike Team Shirt. Only worn when Mob­bin'.

The above quote, and the still are from a beau­ti­ful short movie called Scrap­er­town by Zackary Canepari & Drea Coop­er, which you should def­i­nite­ly watch for the sheer awe­some cam­er­a­work alone. They have a series of love­ly videos about Cal­i­for­nia called Cal­i­for­nia is a place, also worth check­ing out.

Categories
bikes california new york san francisco

Why does cycling in SF suck more now than in 1994?

Cycling seems more dan­ger­ous, more has­sle-filled, and gen­er­al­ly more aggro than when I moved here. Why? Maybe it's me. I moved to Berke­ley recent­ly, and I'm pret­ty close to hav­ing a lawn that I can tell kids to get off of. Maybe it's that the city has changed a lot. There are more cyclists, more peo­ple in gen­er­al (60,000!) and more den­si­ty, espe­cial­ly down­town. On the oth­er hand, there are more bike lanes and sig­nage, and there's more bike aware­ness among the pedes­tri­an and motorist pop­u­la­tions. You'd think that more cyclists + more cycling aware­ness + more cycling accom­mo­da­tion would have result­ed in some kind of net improve­ment, but it hasn't. Pedes­tri­ans seem more antag­o­nis­tic to bikes; motorists of all types are much more antag­o­nis­tic; and some of my fel­low cyclists seem to be the most antag­o­nis­tic of all. Why?Felix Salmon has writ­ten a real­ly inter­est­ing, and wide­ly quot­ed, "uni­fied the­o­ry" of cycling that touch­es on what I think is the heart of it all: That most cyclists think they're pedes­tri­ans, when we're actu­al­ly more like motorists.

Bikes can and should behave much more like cars than pedes­tri­ans. They should ride on the road, not the side­walk. They should stop at lights, and pedes­tri­ans should be able to trust them to do so. They should use lights at night. And — of course, duh — they should ride in the right direc­tion on one-way streets. None of this is a ques­tion of being polite; it's the law. But in stark con­trast to motorists, near­ly all of whom fol­low near­ly all the rules, most cyclists seem to treat the rules of the road as strict­ly option­al. They're still in the human-pow­ered mind­set of pedes­tri­ans, who feel pret­ty much com­plete­ly uncon­strained by rules.

I real­ly agree with this. I don't know how to make it so, and I'm real­ly not a law-and-order type. But I think that agree­ing to fol­low the rules of the road would do a lot to make us all more pre­dictable. Also, I'd like to add: Pass on the freakin left.

Categories
california inside art san francisco visual

Modern ancient handiwork at YBCA

Michael's handiwork (and hand)

My old friend Michael Ram­age has a hand in this instal­la­tion in the Yer­ba Bue­na Cen­ter for Art's Sculp­ture Gar­den. He's design­ing and build­ing a pair of domes, made from lay­ers of bricks and mor­tar and styled on ancient tech­niques. The artist behind it is Jew­lia Eisen­berg & Charm­ing Host­ess, and the vision is that the domes will be an out­door venue for music, con­tem­pla­tion, and mind-expand­ing activ­i­ties through­out the sum­mer. I vis­it­ed on Tues­day, and I was struck by the ways that each dome's ocu­lus (fan­cy word for the open, cir­cu­lar win­dow at the top of the dome) framed the sur­round­ing sky and build­ings. That per­spec­tive actu­al­ly kind of made the gener­ic build­ings at 3rd and Howard appear to be some­what cool. Didn't think that would be pos­si­ble.

Categories
architecture california ecology

Everything useful, two phone calls away

When the Whole Earth Cat­a­log (WEC) was pub­lished in late 60s and ear­ly 70s, the idea was to cre­ate a fine­ly curat­ed list of every­thing "use­ful, rel­e­vant to inde­pen­dent edu­ca­tion, high qual­i­ty or low cost, not already com­mon knowl­edge, and eas­i­ly avail­able by mail."

Whole Earth Catalog - J BaldwinThe Dymax­ion World of Buck­min­ster Fuller, Fall 1968. From Arts & Ecol­o­gy.

Steve Jobs once referred to the WEC as "the bible" of his gen­er­a­tion, and it's no won­der that he admired it: Each issue of the cat­a­log was sprawl­ing, ambi­tious, smart, lov­ing­ly craft­ed, and very much in keep­ing with the best of North­ern California's inno­v­a­tive spir­it — pro­gres­sive, irrev­er­ent, and (in its own way) ruthless.The title of this post refers to a (per­haps apoc­ryphal) account of the user expe­ri­ence con­sid­er­a­tions of the WEC. Report­ed­ly, the catalog's design edi­tor, J. Bald­win, said that the cat­a­log was an attempt to bring every­thing (of val­ue) in the world to with­in two1 phone calls for any read­er. Which was undoubt­ed­ly great at the time, but not quite good enough to escape the devel­op­ment of the one-call solu­tion — the dial-up modem. Doh! And the no-call solu­tion — broadband!And yet, when you com­pare the infi­nite vari­ety of the web to the refined encap­su­la­tion of the WEC, it's easy to see the val­ue of expert cura­tion. Doesn't it seem like the great oppor­tu­ni­ties for progress in web con­tent is to become more like the WEC — reli­able, read­able, smart? And even read­er-sup­port­ed? (After all, the WEC cost $5 in the 60s; $31.85 today. As one of the Whole Earth edi­tors wrote, peo­ple will pay for authen­tic­i­ty and find­abil­i­ty).1 For the record, I'm not exact­ly sure what the sig­nif­i­cance of "two" is, rather than "six" or "three." Would the first call would be the Whole Earth Cat­a­log, and the sec­ond would be to … the prod­uct cre­ator? Or the first would be to the prod­uct cre­ator, and the sec­ond would be to … some­one else?

Categories
california music san francisco

In a cloud

In A Cloud - New Sounds From San Francisco

Oh wow, our pal Greg Gard­ner put togeth­er a real­ly nice col­lec­tion of new music from local bands. It's called In A Cloud, which describes the recent win­ter weath­er and the album itself is a time cap­sule of San Fran­cis­co sounds in 2009-10. My favorite song is a sweet lit­tle thing called "Baby Held" by the elu­sive and pseu­do­ny­mous Jacques But­ters; you can lis­ten to it below. There's plen­ty more on the album — a love­ly track by Son­ny & the Sun­sets, a good one from the Sand­witch­es, a keep­er from Kel­ley Stoltz. You can buy it direct­ly from Greg's label, Secret Sev­en Records. Yay.

Categories
california ecology outdoors

Mommy, where does Capilene come from?

I tend to obsess over out­doors gear. The pin­na­cle (or nadir, as the case may be) of this obses­sion was the spring/summer of 2001, when I hiked the Pacif­ic Crest Trail. Over four months, I sam­pled a ton of gear — six pairs of shoes, a few dif­fer­ent shirts, jack­ets, socks, shel­ters, cook­ware. I had dozens (maybe hun­dreds) of con­ver­sa­tions about this stuff, spent hours dis­cussing the var­i­ous qual­i­ties that dis­tin­guished some lit­tle piece of back­pack­ing equip­ment or appar­el as the light­est, strongest, dri­est, most com­fort­able, most long-last­ing, most whatever.What did I take away from these dis­cus­sions? Two things: (1) At some point, ratio­nal eval­u­a­tion becomes reli­gious debate. Gear nerds have deep, com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ships with their hard­ware, and we have a hard time remain­ing lev­el-head­ed about the stuff saves our butt dur­ing a thun­der­storm, or keeps us con­sis­tent­ly com­fort­able as tem­per­a­tures change. And, (2), for me, Patag­o­nia appar­el last­ed longer, bounced back bet­ter, fit bet­ter, dealt with rain bet­ter, and just gen­er­al­ly worked bet­ter than the oth­er stuff I tried. Oth­ers poo-poo-ed it as "Pata-guc­ci." Froofy, high-end cou­ture pos­ing as out­door gear, i.e. stuff that "real thru-hik­ers" wouldn't be caught dead in.All of this is good and well, but I recent­ly came across anoth­er excel­lent aspect of it. (And I still wear it).

Patagonia - Footprint Chronicles - Nano Puff - OverviewCalled the Foot­print Chron­i­cles, they're a series of detailed accounts of how indi­vid­ual pieces of their gear are made — where the mate­r­i­al is sourced, how fair labor prac­tices are ensured, how the gar­ment is assem­bled.
Patagonia - Footprint Chronicles - Nano PuffThis exam­ple takes you through the design and con­struc­tion of the Nano Puff Pullover, made from recy­cled poly­ester.

This is a dif­fer­ent kind of mar­ket­ing, clear­ly: Doc­u­men­tary accounts that high­light the qual­i­ties of the com­pa­ny, rather than the per­for­mance of the gear. I'd be inter­est­ed to know how (or if) they mea­sure the return on invest­ment of this kind of thing.

Categories
california outdoors

Days of old (growth)

Sarah brought over an excel­lent old book called The Trees of Cal­i­for­nia, by Willis Linn Jep­son. It was pub­lished in 1909, and it had some amaz­ing pho­tos of the red­woods up north.

Redwood - 16 feet in diameter - 1909

The cap­tion reads: "Fig 15. REDWOOD (Sequoia sem­per­virens Endl.) Mak­ing the "under­cut", which deter­mines the direc­tion of the fall, on a tree 16 feet in diam­e­ter. Hum­boldt woods." Pho­to: A.W. Ericson.Amazon sells Trees of Cal­i­for­nia for $75, but you can read it for free at Google Books. Cool.

Categories
california san francisco travel

This marimba could be yours

San Juan Bautista - Marimba

If you haven't been to San Juan Bautista, you need to go. It's a lit­tle ways south of San Jose, an hour east of Big Sur, a long but not impos­si­ble trip from San Fran­cis­co. Mara and I were there last win­ter, and I keep mean­ing to spread the word. It's a real get­away with good old-fash­ioned Cal­i­for­nia her­itage and big cac­ti and a nice bak­ery and a good vibe.

San Juan Bautista - Chicken
Chick­ens run­ning around.
San Juan Bautista - White hearse
What can you say? SJB got style.

It's also got a mis­sion, and it's in the heart of arti­choke coun­try. They say that hard times are when the big ideas real­ly take hold. Maybe it's time to get that marim­ba you've always want­ed.

Categories
california ecology outdoors

Origins & etymologies / Yosemite

Last Fri­day, we impro­vised a par­lor game dur­ing a vis­it to Sarah's par­ents’ house. They've got tons of books on Cal­i­for­nia his­to­ry, includ­ing a gem called Cal­i­for­nia Place Names: The Ori­gin and Ety­mol­o­gy of Cur­rent Geo­graph­i­cal Names by one Erwin Gud­de, a Cal pro­fes­sor and friend of Sarah's fam. There wasn't much "game" to the game; some­one shout­ed out a city or coun­ty or riv­er name, and then we all offered the­o­ries about its ori­gin before flip­ping to its entry in the book and read­ing aloud. A sam­ple. Yosemite:

From the South­ern Sier­ra Miwok yohhe' meti or yosse' meti [mean­ing] "they are killers," derived from yoohu- [mean­ing] "to kill," evi­dent­ly a name giv­en to the Indi­ans of the val­ley by those out­side it … Edwin Sher­man claimed dis­cov­ery of the val­ley in the spring of 1850, nam­ing it "The Devil's Cel­lar." In March of 1851, it was entered by the Mari­posa Bat­tal­ion and named at the sug­ges­tion of LH Bun­nell: "I then pro­posed that we give the val­ley the name of Yo-sem-i-ty, as it was sug­ges­tive, eupho­nious, and cer­tain­ly Amer­i­can; that by so doing, the name of the tribe of Indi­ans which we met leav­ing their homes in this val­ley, per­haps nev­er to return, would be per­pet­u­at­ed."

There's so much infor­ma­tion in here that it's hard to know where to start, but (1) Yes, majes­tic wilder­ness should be called things like "they are killers." This should be a require­ment for any place that is rugged and majes­tic and awe-inspir­ing. What words can match land­scapes like these? Those that involve vio­lent death, for starters. (2) I can guess at why were the Indi­ans leav­ing, "per­haps nev­er to return," but this seems like a detail that should be, say, expand­ed. (3) The "y" at the end, for my mon­ey, makes more sense. It was replaced by an "e" in 1852 by a Lt. Tred­well Moore. No expla­na­tion is giv­en as to why; the impli­ca­tion is, why not? More on Yosemite here, but the whole book is pret­ty great.