Archive for November, 2011

Outdoor money transfers on Valencia

November 30th, 2011

Outdoor Western Union

Next time you’re falling victim to a scam on Craigslist, you can transfer the earnings of your fraudlent check via Western Union without entering an enclosed space. Thanks to San Francisco’s love/hate relationship with the great outdoors, we now have a sidewalk kiosk for money transfers.

We can only hope this evolves over time with the addition of a parklet, pop-up kiosk, and possibly a truck.

Spotted at Valencia and 16th.

Does SF Chronicle’s Peter Hartlaub write enough about old movie theaters?

November 27th, 2011

(Original CC licensed photo by Thomanication)

You may have noticed today’s SF Chronicle re-established the struggling paper’s dominance with not one, but two features about old movie theaters written by pop culture writer Peter Hartlaub.

Yes, two articles about old-timey movie theaters in one day is a fair amount. Ideally the Chron should shoot for four, maybe five on a given day; but if time permits for a mere two pieces reminiscing about yesterday’s cinema houses, I would understand.

Here’s the sad news: until today Mr. Hartlaub hadn’t written a word about old movie theaters for a whopping SIXTEEN DAYS! How did we survive this torrid dry spell? How were we able to sleep without nightmares of dusty velvet seats of yesteryear facing an magnificent but unlit screen?

Prior to that dry spell, it had been a nearly unmanageable three days without coverage of pre-movie organ performances at the Castro, the once glamorous art deco facade of the Parkside, or the fight to preserve the building which once housed the Harding. Alas, the article was but a tease as it was a repeat of what he’d posted the day before.

How are we to live out each day without this breaking coverage of a time when movies cost less than 50 cents? And who else but Hartlaub would be willing to painstakingly illustrate these articles by looking through his employer’s photo archive?

Peter Hartlaub, I implore you: we need more coverage of yesterday’s cinema houses. And we need it on an hourly basis.

Thank you.

Do you get canker sores? Read this.

November 27th, 2011

Time for another gross health-related post!

It used to be I’d get canker sores once a month, often more. They come with a subtle pain that never quite goes away in your mouth. Nobody should have to endure this, and if you get canker sores I might have the solution for you.

The problem started when I was a teenager and all the conventional “cures” didn’t help much. Topical ointments taste bad and can’t reach the back of your throat. Peroxide mouthwash stings like crazy and takes a few days of use to work.

When I was in college I got frustrated and started searching for a better solution. Turns out, there was a ridiculously simple answer: switch toothpaste.

The theory is this: most toothpaste contains sodium-sulfate based cleansers, also known as “SLS.” These naturally derived cleansers are really powerful — so powerful they may irritate your mouth.

Fortunately there’s a few toothpastes out there containing other formulas. The cheapest and easiest to find is the Biotene toothpaste, which you can buy at Safeway and Target. My favorite is Squiggle, which you can find at Rainbow and other health food stores. To me, Squiggle has a better taste and texture, but they both work equally well. Both Biotene and Squiggle contain fluoride and a second natural cavity fighter, xylitol.

So if you get canker sores, find a toothpaste without SLS and try it for a while. (If you use mouthwash, make sure you get one that doesn’t contain SLS either.) It doesn’t cost much to try this for a while and see if it works for you.

Dopefish Ex: Human Revolution

November 23rd, 2011

Dopefish screenshot from Deus Ex: Human Revolution

The image above is from the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Recognize it? Remember the Dopefish? The big, dumb fish that appeared in the water level of Keen 4? If not, you missed out on the golden age of PC gaming. (Go buy a 386 and we’ll talk.)

Images of the Dopefish have been snuck into video games for nearly two decades. It’s like the “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” poster of gaming.

Incidentally, Deus Ex: Human Revolution contains a number of other subtle Easter Eggs.

Setting up Ubuntu as an iTunes music server

November 20th, 2011

If you’re like me, you’ve got a home network with a couple computers and a buttload of music in MP3, OGG, and FLAC format sitting on your Ubuntu server. You want to be able to keep all your music on that server, but play it from any computer.

What to do?

There’s a few solutions to this. If you want your music to play anywhere in the world, you can use Ampache. Ampache works great with Winamp and many other players. But on the downside, it requires some tricky setup and doesn’t work nicely with iTunes.

Another option is Forked-daapd, a strangely named piece of software that allows sharing your music with iTunes on a local network. It also works with iTunes compatible software such as Rhythmbox. Best of all, it’s super easy to setup.

This is all you have to do:

  1. Install the forked-daapd package. From the command line, you can do this:
    sudo apt-get install forked-daapd
  2. Edit /etc/forked-daapd.conf as root. Directions are in the file, but you’ll want to edit the directory to point to the path(s) of your music folders (it will recursively scan subfolders for mp3s, etc.) You may want to enable transcoding if you have OGG, FLAC or other formats that iTunes doesn’t like. Oh, and don’t forget to change the name of the share to something more fun.
  3. Restart forked-daapd with sudo /etc/init.d/forked-daapd restart

Now open iTunes and see if your server appears. It should show up on the sidebar. If you click on it, there will be a handful of songs almost immediately. It may take a while for Forked-daapd to index all your music, so be patient.

That’s it! Now you’re ready to party!

30 days without wheat: the first 20 days

November 19th, 2011

What a difference ten days makes.

Ten days ago (more or less) I told you about my 30 days without wheat diet self-experiment. I decided to try going for a month without eating any wheat at all. No breads, crackers, pizza, wheat beers, etc. for a full 30 days.

It’s now been 20 days since I started the diet, and 10 days since the previous post.

The diet so far hasn’t been terribly difficult to stick with. As much as I love getting sandwiches at local favorites The Sandwich Place and/or Clare’s Deli, I stopped thinking about these dining options entirely. Substituting corn tacos for wheat burritos was a refreshing change, and you can’t go wrong with corn arepas (they’re delicious.) Plenty of Asian and Indian food is wheat-free. Honestly I wouldn’t have a problem eating nothing but sushi for the rest of my life.

It also seems I’ve inexplicably begun eating smaller meals. Somehow fruit and cheese started becoming my default breakfast recently. For reasons I can’t explain, everything else seemed disgusting all of a sudden. I started craving more rice and potatoes at lunch and dinner.

The scales, however, don’t show a lot of meaningful change. I’m starting to think carbohydrates are more addictive than wheat, since if I remove one with my diet I just add more of another.

There is one positive change that I didn’t anticipate. My skin has never looked better. I’m starting to think I might have been wrong about my acne. Could it be a simple wheat allergy? Or is there another variable at play here?

My “cheat meal” is coming up, and I feel somewhat bad about doing it. I want to push myself further and see what happens after a completely uninterrupted 30 days. On the other hand, it might answer whether there’s a link between acne and wheat, at least for me. Also, I never say no to a pizza making party. NEVER.

Why does the iPhone app suck?

November 11th, 2011 iOS app

UPDATE: As @hryx pointed out on Twitter, the app is called but the website is actually isn’t a website. Even the name of the app is an exercise in failure!

Why does the iPhone app suck? We live in a city filled with iOS software developers. Any of them could do a better job than this.

Look, I’m not that picky when it comes to software. But I’m not going to put up with your app if it’s slower than anything I’ve ever seen, buggy as hell, and haphazardly organized.

Let me explain.

Let’s start with those tab buttons at the bottom of the screen. Check the screenshot above.

When you press one of those, you probably think it will switch to the corresponding screen. That’s because you’re not the alcoholic middle school drop out who wrote this app.

No, instead one of the following happens when you press a tab button:

  • It will switch to the screen you pressed.
  • It will switch to the screen you pressed, but there will be a “loading” screen that has a few extra buttons at the top of the screen for a fraction of a second (I couldn’t read fast enough to see what they said.)
  • It won’t switch and will stay at the same screen.
  • Several screens will flash by rapidly, and eventually the screen will turn white and lock up. You’ll have to force quit the app.

You have to hand it to this application, it’s original — no other app has those bugs. iOS app: Services

The most useless tab is “services.” There’s only two options: calling 311, or a search box. The first option is self-explanatory. Strangely they don’t let you fill out a 311 report in the app; that requires a separate app that has completely different bugs.

The little search box gives no indication as to what it does. As you start typing into the box, titles appear below in a list. But you can only see two of them when the keyboard is open. You have to click the Done button to make the keyboard go away. If you skip that step and try to scroll the page, it will take you to the first page in the list. It’s not like you’re kind of busy when you’re using your phone to look up information. No, you have all the time in the world to tinker with UI glitches.

Whatever you click, it takes you to a mobile version of the website. The browser is Safari, but for some reason it’s agonizingly slow. Fortunately there’s an unlabelled button which — as I discovered through trial and error — sends the page to Safari. iOS app: Connect

On the connect tab you can find Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube links for and other city services. Each of these opens in the agonizingly slow version of Safari included in this app. None of this will help you get your car back after it got towed for too many street sweeping tickets, so don’t bother with this section. It’s largely links to irrelevant city press releases.

What’s more interesting is the photo at the top of this section. It seems to depict the last thing someone saw as their eyes closed and they died while waiting in line at City Hall. (Click the image above to see for yourself.)

In case you were wondering, the Updates, Media, and More sections are also just lists of links to websites. Why most/all of these links didn’t belong in “Services” or “Connect” is anyone’s guess. Like all the lists of things in this app, they don’t scroll smoothly but instead jerk around slowly.

Everything in this app suffers from the same basic problem: you shouldn’t get pregnant with your pet ape, give birth to the ape-man-baby out of your ass, buy it a Mac and then teach it programming so it can make an app. That’s just not humane.

The alphabet is garbage

November 11th, 2011

The alphabet is garbage

Sesame Street will need new sponsors.

Spotted at Folsom and 17th.


November 9th, 2011


Look familiar? Yes, it’s one of those San Franciscan “Wet Paint” posters, minus a few letters.

Spotted at 17th and Capp.

Mystery poster

November 9th, 2011

Mystery poster

Spotted this strange poster on 14th St. yesterday, and I gotta say I’m a little baffled. It seems to be a record, a light bulb, and maybe some other symbols.

Stranger yet, it was far above eye level — about 6 feet off the ground.

Anyone know what this poster is? Some kind of strange ad? An art project? Discordians at work?