What's New? 2005-07-15

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What's New? 2005-07-15

 Sunday 31 July 2005
  For GearQueen.com I'm reviewing the MSR Pavilion shade structure, this is two of the 16-foot models erected in a line, which is almost but not completely satisfactory. (We're at West Portal playground. The kids can play while I tweak and play.) It's not designed to be used this way, but it'll do.

More difficult is the humidity from the damp grass. The sun makes it all hotter and less pleasant. In this picture you can see me experimenting with leaving the edges up away from the surface, so the breeze can blow through.

MSR Pavilion shade structure, West Portal playground, San Francisco

This is what 32 feet of covered space looks like. I hope the kids on the playa will like this. Burning Man 2005 is about a month away.

MSR Pavilion shade structure, West Portal playground, San Francisco

Lila poses with me inside the shade structure. She says it "smells like horses" in here, by which I think (and hope) she means the smell of the grass.

MSR Pavilion shade structure, West Portal playground, San Francisco

Later we head out to the Rainbow co-op, where I pick up this selection of organic plums and one peach. Mmmmm.

selection of organic plums and a peach
 Saturday 30 July 2005

This morning we head out to May's Coffee Shop in Japantown. On the way through the building we stopped by the ikebana (flower arrangement) place, where each Saturday morning the women (and a few men) arrange flowers in a variety of formalized styles.

Japantown, San Francisco

Here's one of the ladies with one of the arrangements.

ikebana arranger and arrangement, Japantown, San Francisco

Today there's a bunch of ships visiting our fair city, and we're heading down to the wharves to check 'em out. Here's the crowd at Pier 39, a major tourist attraction.

Pier 39 crowd, San Francisco

Here are three of the small ships seen from the vantage point of the pier restaurant.

sailing ships, San Francisco

Here's a close-up of the rigging. I thought this might make a nice desktop image. For some reason I don't have pictures of the other, big ships. There was a big Russian craft that Isaac and Lila loved crawling around.

sailing ship, San Francisco

After a long time on the water we're all hungry, so we head into the Mission for some delictable rice and beans and more at Tacqueria Pancho Villa, 16th @ Valencia. Here's the view from our favorite table, in the back, near the mariachi band (whenever they appear).

Tacqueria Pancho Villa, Mission, San Francisco

It's bed-time, and Rose is reading the books. G'nite.

Lila and Rose at bedtime.
 Friday 29 July 2005
  Opa Emil visits from New Jersey. It's the first time we've seen him since Mom died. The in-laws come to celebrate his visit with us. Here we're feasting at Chow, Church @ Market.

Chow restaurant, Church Street, San Francisco
 Thursday 28 July 2005
  Our work having been done, and fresh from a long night of client work, we head out to the Children's Playground in Golden Gate Park. Both Isaac and Lila now fly down the concrete slides on cardboard, sprinkling sand in their way to increase the speed. Here's Lila on her way down; Isaac is at the bottom, supervising:

Children's Playground, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

My lovely wife Rose is fond of having her dessert first, eschewing the uncertainty of life. Today we head out for a sushi dinner, but we're too early. So we head across the street to Café Pera - Clement Street at 5th Avenue - for some Turkish coffee, hot chocolate, and baklava.

This is a hand-painted sign hanging in the rear of the café. I haven't asked for its provenance; gyros aren't made here.

Café Pera, Clement Street, San Francisco

A panorama from a vantage point just in front of the sign. The colors are so soothing.

Café Pera, Clement Street, San Francisco

A close-up of the kitchen area. The sweets are in the foreground, the espresso machine in the background. Turkish coffee is hand-made on a portable gas jet in an old ibrik.

Café Pera, Clement Street, San Francisco

Fune Ya opens up, and we pay the bill and head across the street. The kids love sitting at the boats. Favorites of theirs include tomago (omelette) and ikura (salmon roe), edamame (soybeans), and misoshiru soup.

Fune Ya, Clement St. @ 5th Ave., San Francisco

Today I'm trying the spicy stuff inside with some spicy stuff outside. It's, ummm, spicy. But tasty.

Fune Ya, Clement St. @ 5th Ave., San Francisco

Isaac saw me balancing on the fire hydrant and he wants to do the same. Encourage them, always. So up he goes. Lila is pretty impressed.

Isaac on a hydrant, Clement @ 5th Ave, San Francisco
 Wednesday 27 July 2005
  Isaac has a new crayon maker, which he loves to share with others. Here's Lila and our neighbor Maddy enjoying the waterfall of melted crayon bits as they cascade into the forms to be remade into new crayons.

Maddy and the crayon maker

Afterwards, our families head over to the House of Chen for some good Chinese food. It's nice having inexpensive, tasty food so near-by.

House of Chen, Castro, San Francisco
 Tuesday 26 July 2005
  It's frustrating being in a metric-phobic country. Whenever we travel I find that metric temperatures just make sense. Readers from all over visit these pages, and to make life just a wee bit easier, I wrote a small script to provide temperatures in my narrative in both Farenheit and Celcius, and in the same precision. Here's some examples of the script in action:

98° F (36° C)
98.6° F (37.0° C)
98.6121° F (37.0067° C)

Bowing to the logic that the contextually appropriate temperature scale should appear first, with the conversion following, I require only a value an a scale, so an American can write I have a fever; it's 98.6° F (37.0° C), whereas pretty much everyone else would say ... 37° C (98° F).

The function looks like this

{temp(98.6, "F")}
and it's documented here, should you care to see how it's done.
 Monday 25 July 2005
  What a sleepy, quiet morning. I'm at Orphan Andy's, on the corner of Castro and Market, watching the city wake. There's usually a free WiFi within reach, and I can get in sync with my clients. (It reminds me of my view of Chamonix from the dining hall at the Croix Blanc (White Cross). Wonderful to see the piazza come alive.)

The city is waking so slowly today. The restaurant is empty when I arrive, and the streets are berift of passers-by. Eeriely quiet. The weather is somewhat unusual too. On Saturday it was very hot, 90° F (32° C) by mid-morning; the kids enjoyed the pool in the front garden. On Sunday it was cooler, "only" 78° F (25° C).

Later I take a walking break and stretch my legs. I discover the Tartine Bakery Café, Guerrero @ 18th. Tasty, tasty.

Tartine Bakery Café, Mission, San Francisco

Zadie (grandfather) just got a new three-wheeled scooter. I assembled it yesterday; now it's been charged for twenty-four hours. Time to test it out. Here's the security cordon around him, heading down towards West Portal. I want to make sure he's done it once with us, so he knows it can be done. Then he and Bubbie can venture out at their pleasure.

Zadie's first scooter outing, West Portal, San Francisco

The kids follow Zadie as he rolls down West Portal Avenue. Freedom!

Zadie's first scooter outing, West Portal, San Francisco
 Sunday 24 July 2005
  Driving by the intersection of Clarendon Ave. and Laguna Honda Blvd. I was stunned to see the hills swarming with goats. Goats!

goats grazing, San Francisco

Says the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission:

San Francisco adopted an Integrated Pest Management Ordinance in 1996. This Ordinance commits the City to minimize the use of pesticides and instead use methods that pose a lower risk to public and environmental health. This IPM program has radically changed the way our City staff manages pest insects, rodents, and weeds.

Looking for efficient weed control plus great entertainment? San Francisco has found both by using herds of goats to clear away poison oak and other problem weeds on steep PUC watersheds, open spaces in parks, and in overgrown areas at the airport. Portable electric fences, herding dogs, and shepherds ensure that goats stick to business in target areas.

Of course they mean goatherd, but we get it.

goats grazing, San Francisco

The goats, when they're doing their job properly and not being distracted by my kids, clear small patches at a time and make firebreaks. Evidently the goats don't overgraze, and they're able to get at the invasive European grasses which are choking out the native plants. I couldn't find the goatherd, only her portable electric fence, but passers-by ruminated that these might be Beor and Spanish goats.

A woman with whom I chatted atop Twin Peaks told me about the hill visible near the Hunters Point shipyards, which in her childhood days was called "Goat Hill" and was, in fact, populated with goats until our fair city banned livestock.

So, if you're looking for something a bit unusual, head on over and check out the grazing swarm.

goats grazing, San Francisco
 Saturday 23 July 2005

Naan & Curry, Irving Street, San Francisco One of the most delightful aspects of urban living in San Francisco is the sheer number of good restaurants available to us.

The lure of tasty, inexpensive, culturally authentic dining is a strong one. I'm quite the foodie, and raising my kids to eat a grand variety of foods is a pleasure. (I'm so unenthused when faced with children who eat only hamburgers, grilled cheese, or spaghetti. There's so much out there to enjoy.)

Anyway, soap box put aside, today we head back to Naan & Curry, on Irving Street.

This Sunset neighborhood eatery is the surprise favorite of my Dad and his flat-mate, Zofia. When I introduced them to our favorite Indian and Pakistani noshery I never expected to have them eat here more often than we do!

Dad is enamored of the marsala prawns, and Zofia loves the veggie dishes, especially the alo pak (potatoes). The food can be spicy, even when we ask for a milder incantation, but it's always tasty.

I took this photo of our table to show the huge murals depicting village life. The kids always have questions for us, and some of them we can't yet answer. But I'm remembering them.

Here's the kitchen. I wish I could capture the soothing sounds and smells, but I couldn't find that setting on any of my Digital Cameras. Sorry.

Naan & Curry, Irving Street, San Francisco

Today Isaac was the distributor of the naan (bread) for all at the table. I think we went through three of them!

Isaac's naan

We needed some groceries (evidently) and so we made a late-evening trip to Trader Joe's, where Isaac has a lot of experience as a bagger. The staff seem amused by this, and don't mind the help, so it's career training.

Isaac bags at Trader Joe's
 Friday 22 July 2005
  A few days ago I wrote
happy George W. Bush I don't really understand the value of bombing any location in London unless you're wearing a George Bush mask to conceal your identity.

London is the world's most surveilled area; closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) are absolutely everywhere. If you're not planning on killing yourself then your photo will be available to the police quickly, and you'll be hunted.

Even for fundamentalists yearning for the glory years of the 14th century this matter should have come up during their operational security due dilligence. No?

Well, here it is a few days later and here's those photos about which I was speaking:

Islamic fundies

One of these winners has already been shot to death on the Underground (the irony is delicious) and the others aren't long for freedom.

And, as a continuing issue for those of us who are tolerant of others' beliefs, the deafening silence from Islam's followers condemning these acts is almost more disturbing than the terrorist bombings themselves.


Closer to home, my Arabic dealings include a visit to Truly Mediterranean, on 16th at Valencia. Spectacular schewarma. No eggplant, mild; please.

Truly Mediterranean, Mission, San Francisco

Another view. The garlic yoghurt drink alone is worth a visit. Mmmmmm.

Truly Mediterranean, Mission, San Francisco

I stroll home past Café Flore; always beautiful, full of flowers.

Café Flor, Castro, San Francisco

This evening, after all the work work and home chores have been done, we head out to celebrate with friends. Here's the view of Castro Street as we approach.

Castro Street at twilight, San Francisco

Here's Isaac and Lila with good friend Serafina, with mothers Rose and Cynthia trailing.

Serafina and Cynthia; Market Street, San Francisco

We hang out at Sweet Inspirations, a café about three blocks away from the Castro. Here the kids have doffed their glow bracelets whilst they down their gelato.

Sweet Inspirations, Castro, San Francisco
 Thursday 21 July 2005
  We start off with an early breakfast at Orphan Andy, at the intersection of Market & Castro Streets. I can get a few hours of client work done before I need a break.

view from Orphan Andy, Castro, San Francisco

When it's break time I head off to the Mission swimming pool for an hour to help teach Isaac how to swim.

Mission swimming pool, San Francisco

Okay, the pieces are finally falling into place. Today I received the 1 GB Secure Digital (SD) card for my newest camera (so that I may take a reasonable number of pictures at a time, especially at Burning Man 2005) and a 1 GB memory stick for my PowerBook (so it stops crawling with the installed 512 MB with which it arrived).

It's a geek day, but a necessary one. Now I can start using all this hardware.

 Wednesday 20 July 2005
  This evening the kids wanted to go to a restaurant near Isaac's elementary school. Here they are on 6th Avenue @ Clement Street.

Lila & Isaac on Clement Street, San Francisco

Here's the ohana in the Taiwan Restaurant, cater-corner from the previous picture.

Taiwan Restaurant, Clement Street, San Francisco

billboard, Clement Street, San Francisco

Here's an HIV awareness billboard targeting the Chinese community. It's interesting (to me, at least) to see what the belief norms are:

  • HIV is such an overblown issue, especially in our community.

  • I thought that HIV would never touch me 'cause I don't associate with those people.

  • When I left China, we never even heard of HIV, so what's the big deal?

  • I may fool around a little... who isn't? But I'm married so I should be safe from HIV.

  • People with HIV got it in the first place because they were immoral.

  • I thought having HIV meant that I could not be a nurse.


God-speed and fare-thee-well, o' engineering inspiration. Without early childhood exposure to Columbia professor Lloyd Motz and James 'Scotty' Doohan it's unlilkely I would have chosen a life as a computer scientist / software engineer. Thank you both.

James Doohan James Doohan James Doohan James Doohan
 Tuesday 19 July 2005
  Telecommuting as I am these days, WiFi is of paramount interest these days. AnchorFree has wired the Castro but is having trouble keeping things running on the other side of their very strong signal. I've been chatting with their techs every few days.

Café Le Bon Gateau has its own WiFi, but the moron who is administering it doesn't know how to set up the firewall properly, and in his own defense says "I read a book [about firewalls]" when I try to show him where his mis-configuration blocks canonical traffic. The owners, really nice folks, don't understand technical issues and aren't of much help. But they do make good espresso drinks and dolmas.

Here are other café patrons heading outside to use an open WiFi to send email (as it's port 25 this bozo is blocking).

Castro sidewalk WiFi

Here's the view from the café window.

view from Café Le Bon Gateau

Later, at home, I'm asked to take a photo of the bug the kids have found on the small tree in our front yard. Try as I might I can't get it to focus on this close-up.

bug in our garden
 Monday 18 July 2005
  I start my work early today so I can have a break mid-day: it's first swim class day! The kids have been chatting about this for a long time. It's been our goal to have swim-capable kids, not only because it makes their survival around water much more likely (and many of our vacations are ocean-side) but because I want to go SCUBA diving with my kids (much like I wanted to go with my Dad (at the age of seven, after watching a lot of Jacques Cousteau)).

Isaac & Lila ponder swim class

Unfortunately, Lila is too short to stand in the shallow end of the pool, so she'll have to wait a few semesters. But all is not lost: we have a secret plan. In the meantime, Isaac has a lukewarm reception to the class, spending much of his time unhappy. He has his moments, though:

Isaac jumps in pool

Our secret plan is to head home after the class, eat a calorie-laden meal, and head back for "recreational swim", two hours in which Isaac becomes one with the water, and Lila figures out she can stand tippy-toe in the pool. We have an absolutely great time, and by the time we leave the 84° F (28° C) heated water Isaac is telling everyone that he'll be back tomorrow, for more of Ingrid's swim class.

 Sunday 17 July 2005
  Today is a day towards which I've long been looking: Ladysmith Black Mombazo gives a concert at Stern Grove. It's going to be crowded, so I pack absolutely everything we'll need into my pack and head out early. The family will follow in three hours.

Me @ Castro MUNI

The crowds were bigger, and earlier, than I'd expected. The best location I could find was about 50 meters up the hill, in the trees. (Check out the angle of the girl's pink towel. Flat we're not.) From here we have a direct view of the stage, and we're out of the sun (should the sun ever burn through the fog). It's a wonderfully temperate day, and I get some quality quiet time, napping and reading a good book.

When the family arrives it gets better: I get some quiet time with Rose whilst the kids stay with Bubbie, Zadie, and Pamela, in the handicap section, right in front of the stage.

Why no pictures of the singers? Well, because (1) you can find professional pictures elsewhere, and (2) I make a mono low-quality audio recording with my digital camera to enjoy it later.

Stern Grove stage

The ride home is Isaac's millieu: the MUNI. Happy boy.

Isaac on MUNI
 Saturday 16 July 2005
  The heirloom tomatoes are here, the heirloom tomatoes are here! We picked them up at Trader Joe's yesterday. This is a seasonal delight towards which we look all year. The kids dig in.

kids eat heirloom tomatoes

Later, to get ready for Elisa's birthday party, Lila takes a bath. She calls me over.

Lila: Papa, do you know what boat I'm making? Dziadziu's boat!

lila makes celebrity mercury
 Friday 15 July 2005
  Busy, busy, busy! First we went shopping. Here's Lila making big eyes - a new social experiment - at Trader Joe's:

lila @ Trader Joe's

Then the packages started arriving:

  • Incredibly inexpensive glowsticks, for Burning Man 2005. More on the way.
  • From Camelbak, three hydration systems ranging in size from a small kid-sized model to a huge military-style deployment pack. That's for GearQueen.com.
  • A half-terabyte hard drive for backups, a music jukebox (more details when I start streaming to you), and video, since my last DVD was such a success.
  • London Underground posters and route strips, purchased on eBay before the bombings of last week. These'll go in the eating nook, making it even more like being on the Tube.

It's going to be a crazy month, what with work, getting ready for the desert, and having to tidy the basement to get to (and through) all my boxes. I'm so excited!

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