Archive for the ‘Local’ Category

San Francisco’s city hall 100th anniversary celebration

June 20th, 2015

San Francisco’s city hall building celebrated its 100th anniversary today, complete with a visit from mayors from around the country as well as the president. But this is a city that knows how to party — there was also live music, food trucks, various sculptures, and a light show projected on city hall itself.

I recorded the light show nearest the northern wing of the building, so for the most part my videos reflect what was projected on that half. Without further ado, here’s my YouTube videos.
 

First part: 100 years of history


 

Second part: City hall glitches out

Dolores Park: What’s in a name?

June 16th, 2015

Dolores Park
Photo copyright Todd Lappin. Used under a Creative Commons license.
 

The freshly renovated section of Dolores Park opens later this week. If you’re like most people, the name “Dolores Park” conjures up images in your mind of a never ending Pabst-soaked frat party. But why is it called Dolores Park? Who — or what — is it named after?

Let’s start at the beginning. Originally, the park was a cemetery. The city bought the land to turn it into a park and starting coming up with designs in 1905. Those designs were put on hold as the land was used as a refugee camp for people who were freshly homeless thanks to the 1906 earthquake and fire.

According to the Priceonomics blog, the original park construction took place from 1908 to around 1910. Various improvements, including the removal of a wading pool, were made in the 20′s and 30′s.

Take a look at a map from the early 1930′s and you’ll find Dolores Park originally had a different name: Mission Park.

Clearly at some point after this map was made the name of the park was changed. I’m not sure exactly when that happened, because that bit of history doesn’t seem to be available on the internets. (Believe me, I checked them all.)

At least at first, it seems like a safe assumption that the park was renamed in honor of the nearby Mission San Francisco de Asis, aka Mission Dolores. After all, that building is the namesake of the city and the neighborhood, not to mention a street that takes you to Dolores Park.

But since the park was already named after Mission Dolores in the first place, it seems like an unnecessary name change. Given the lack of available historical records, and given what they say about assumptions, I felt more research into this topic was needed before I could be certain.
 

Now I know what you’re thinking — let’s check Wikipedia! Well I hate to tell you this, but that’s when this entire endeavor slid into a serious rathole.

To quote the Wikipedia page for Dolores Park:

Dolores Park is named for Miguel Hidalgo (El Grito de Dolores), the father of Mexican independence, and the town of Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, Mexico. As a priest in Dolores, it was Hidalgo’s ringing of the town’s church bell and public cry for freedom that sparked the Mexican revolution. A statue of Hidalgo and replica of the church bell at Dolores Hidalgo were erected in the park to honor the father of the Mexican independence movement, and the town where it all began. In recent years, the park has been frequently and incorrectly referred to as “Mission Dolores Park”. The confusion probably stems from the assumptions of many romanticists, that based upon its former and current names of “Mission” and “Dolores” suggests it must’ve been named after Mission Dolores two blocks to the north. Logic, however, dictates that such monuments to the most pivotal moments in Mexican history would not sit in a public space bearing the name of an institution seen by many as a symbol of Spanish colonialism and oppression.

(Emphasis mine)

Huh. That does explain why Dolores Park contains the Mexican liberty bell replica and the statue of Miguel Hidalgo. Those features of the park were installed in the 60′s, and it’s plausible that Mission Park was renamed Dolores Park at that time.

Now here’s the problem — that entire section on Wikipedia has no citations, and is largely the work of a single anonymous user who goes by the name DoloresParkLover. Previously, the page attributed the park’s name to Mission Dolores, but that version was also citation-free.

Still, I have to admit that the park’s decorations feel very out of place without this context. But if what it says on Wikipedia is true, that’s one hell of a naming coincidence.
 

At this point I thought maybe looking at newer maps would do the trick to verify the name of the damn park, but it turned out once again I was being naive. Google Maps, Apple Maps, and OpenStreetMap all list the park as “Mission Dolores Park,” whereas Nokia HERE Maps call it “Dolores Park.” Foiled again.

Combing through the current version of the city charter (the only version I could find online) was not helpful either. Dolores Park is only mentioned twice, and both times it’s referred to as “Mission Dolores Park.” Then if you look at the planning maps that go along with the charter, it’s referred to instead as “Dolores Park.” Sigh.

It’s worth noting that SF Park and Rec calls it “Mission Dolores Park,” and their own website says the park was “[n]amed for nearby Mission Dolores,” while SFMTA asserts that the park is named after our old friend Miguel and his freedom cry. As usual, our city’s agencies can’t agree on anything.

I reached out to a Parks and Rec official for comment but haven’t heard back.
 

So after all this I have to admit defeat. I started out with a simple question, but it raised more questions than answers. Hell, I don’t even know what the park is called anymore! Perhaps the only remaining course of action is to give in and call it Brolores Park. Cheers, and happy day drinking.

Introducing Sanfranciscius, the temperature scale for San Franciscans

June 9th, 2015

Thermometer
Photo copyright Flickr user Ged Carroll. Used under a Creative Commons license.

 
We’re all familiar with checking the weather and seeing the temperature measured in Fahrenheit and/or Celsius. But aren’t those scales a bit arbitrary? Celsius’ 0 to 100 range is based on freezing and boiling water, respectively. Fahrenheit’s scale is based on… well, who cares. It doesn’t make any sense.

But neither scale was invented specifically to represent the weather. I say it’s high time to change that, and moreover to keep it local. The people in say, Honolulu or Copenhagen have very different temperature sensibilities — they can come up with their own scales.

That’s why I’m proud to introduce Sanfranciscius, a new temperature scale custom made for San Francisco weather. Here’s how the scale works:

Sanfranciscius F C Meaning
100 SF 85 30 OMG waaay too hot! Time to strip naked and take the ice bucket challenge out of necessity rather than charity.
50 SF 65 18 Perfect, average temperature! Safe to leave the house without getting burned by the evil sun or freezing to death.
0 SF 45 7 Ugh, are you even serious? I put a jacket over my hoodie but I’m probably still going to get frostbite.

 
Now when your friends from Colorado or whatever come to visit and complain that you’re being a pansy for wearing 6 undershirts when it’s 40 F out, you can respond by pointing out that in your local weather scale, it’s actually -12.5 SF. Freezing!

The best thing about Sanfranciscius is how easy it is to calculate. Assuming you already have temperature f measured in Fahrenheit, the formula is simply:

s = (f – 45) * 2.5

That’s all there is to it! Incredible. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s 87 SF in here — I need to go take a cold shower and think about purchasing an air conditioner.

GOOD.

May 10th, 2015

GOOD.
 

Grump Cat wearing a bicycle helmet? I have no idea. Perhaps it’s a statement about bicycle helmet laws, or maybe I’m reading too much into it. Either way.

Spotted this wheatpaste during the Cinco de Mayo festival on Valencia.

Narrow streets, remixed

May 8th, 2015

Over at Steve Dombek’s Narrow Streets SF website, he proposes undoing America’s 20th century mistake of building ultra-wide streets here in San Francisco. Instead, the land would be sold off to build new housing, and we’d be left with traditional (or “narrow”) streets like you find in the rest of the world.

Naturally, this idea caught some buzz in the press given SF’s current housing shortages.

To look at one example, here’s Dombek’s plan for McAllister with before and after diagrams:


Seems like a nice plan, right? You get rid of the (largely wasted) space and put in new housing and retail.

But here’s the thing: where will all the money go from selling the land and the subsequent property tax? Well, that’s where my proposal comes in. Before the new structures get built, let’s dig a cut and cover subway underneath them.

I’m not sure McAllister Street would be the best fit for a subway, but to borrow Dombek’s diagram for illustrative purposes it could look something like this:


Personally my choice would be to build Muni Metro subways under a narrowed down South Van Ness and 19th Ave. to make up for Muni’s awful north/south service, and a new BART subway under a narrowed Geary Street. But those are just details.

The important point here is this: this is a way to kill two birds with one stone. And although I like birds, narrow streets with new subways is a win/win in my book. We can get this right.

Recipe theft: Cafe Madeleine’s butter lettuce salad with goat cheese

April 28th, 2015

Butter lettuce salad

Every now and then you eat something at a cafe or restaurant that’s so good, you have to reverse engineer the recipe and make it yourself. Such is the case with San Francisco mini-chain Cafe Madeleine and their excellent butter lettuce salad.

Don’t know what butter lettuce is? Sometimes it’s called butterhead, Boston lettuce or bibb. You can find it at farmer’s markets, Whole Foods, Rainbow, etc., sold with the roots still attached. It’s kind of like romaine lettuce, except it’s actually good. Fuck romaine.

Vinaigrette:

  • Two parts olive oil
  • One part red wine vinegar

Do you really need directions? Pour it in a bottle and shake it up!
 

Salad:

  • Half a head of butter lettuce, washed and stems removed
  • Small handful of garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas)
  • Half a radish, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 an avocado, sliced
  • 3 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • A couple spoonfuls of goat cheese

Put everything in a bowl and drizzle some vinaigrette over the thing. Salt and pepper to taste. Boom, done!

La Cumbre’s new paint job boldly stakes claim to Mission-style burrito’s origin

April 20th, 2015

La Cumbre's new paint job

Recently Taqueria La Cumbre on Valencia got a fire engine red paint job. But far more bold than the color scheme is the claim painted on the building: “Birthplace of the Mission Style Burrito.”

As with any such claim, it’s a hotly contested one. As Wikipedia notes it’s not clear if Mission-style burritos were invented in San Francisco at all. Further adding to the confusion, La Cumbre’s “birthplace” claim refers to the building rather than La Cumbre because the burritos were originally sold there when a meat market occupied the space.

The truth is out there, but until someone invents a time machine we’ll never know for certain where Mission-style burritos came from. If anyone reading this happens to have a time machine and wants to research this, please give me a call — especially if it’s around lunch time.

Top 5 strangest things in Little Delhi’s Twitter feed

April 5th, 2015


Photo from littledelhisf.com

 
One of my favorite Indian restaurants in San Francisco is Little Delhi in the Tenderloin. Great food, reasonable prices, and they offer takeout and delivery. Can’t recommend them enough!

But you’d never know how great Little Delhi’s food is judging by their completely off the rails Twitter feed. Here’s the top 5 strangest things they’ve posted on Twitter so far.
 

5. The word “Restaurant.”

Their first Tweet back in 2010 is simply the word “Restaurant.” Not a bad start — after all Little Delhi is a restaurant. Maybe a tweet isn’t the right place for this information but at least it’s true and relevant.

 
4. Netflix’s login URL

If you visit the URL in this tweet you’ll be taken to a page where you can log in to your Netflix account. While Netflix might be useful for takeout customers who are looking for a TV show to binge on while eating, most customers probably have this information already. If not, Netflix is a quick Google search away.

 
3. Some lady reviewing a Play-Doh set on YouTube

Little Delhi is so excited about this woman’s toy review on YouTube that their tweet includes not one but two hearts! Hopefully no Play-Doh extruders are being used in food preparation, although personally I don’t really care as long as they clean the Play-Doh out first.

 
2. An iOS app that turns photos into caricatures

This tweet links you to an iOS app that turns photos into caricatures. I can’t even think of something snarky to say about how this could possibly be related to Little Delhi, that’s how strange this one is. Also, the app has terrible reviews.

 
1. Whatever the fuck this thing is

Finally, their #1 strangest tweet links to a surreal and somewhat disturbing video. The video’s creator took a certain European stop motion cartoon and edited it with new sounds and visual effects. And while I’m no World War 2 expert, I’m pretty sure that one guy’s voice is a recording of Adolph Hitler. Not normally the kind of thing one would associate with traditional North Indian cuisine.

 
So there you have it: this has got to be the strangest Twitter feed of any restaurant in the city. If you want to see more feel free to head over to their Twitter feed yourself. But you’d might as well call in an order for curry and naan while you’re at it.

Everything you do is a balloon

March 29th, 2015

Everything you do is a balloon
Spotted at 21st and Mission
 

I imagine the conversation went a little something like this:

“Hey, how should we decorate our storefront?”
“Well, all I have is this bike pump and a drawer full of balloons.”
“Uh… *scratches head* sounds kinda like a plan!”

And there you have it; a storefront filled with balloons.

(With apologies to Boards of Canada.)

New murals on Dolores St.

March 20th, 2015

Across from Dolores Park there’s a Christian Science church that’s been shuttered for a number of years. Recently a developer wanted to turn it into housing, but so far that hasn’t happened.

Instead it got boarded up, and now those boards have been filled with some spiffy new murals by fnnch, Analog Monsters, MaxEhrman and others.
 

Dolores St. murals Dolores St. murals Dolores St. murals Dolores St. murals Dolores St. murals Dolores St. murals