Archive for the ‘Local’ Category

I went to a cat cafe

August 3rd, 2015

KitTea cat cafe KitTea cat cafe KitTea cat cafe KitTea's menu

Today I finally got around to visiting KitTea, San Francisco’s first (and only) cat cafe. The goals of KitTea are to provide adorable cat-based entertainment, but also to find permanent homes for the cats — all of which are rescue cats up for adoption.

The basics are pretty simple: you can either walk in or make a reservation, and for your 30 or 60 minute session you can play with cats while drinking unlimited tea. The tea is quite good, but you could be forgiven for not noticing when there’s kittens everywhere and all manners of cat toys.

I should mention that most of the cats are kittens. I only spotted one adult cat, but if you know anything about cats you know that they spend most of their time sleeping. The “cat wranglers” at KitTea are very adamant about letting sleeping cats sleep, though you are allowed to pet them if you’re gentle enough not to wake them.

As for getting fur in your tea or food you don’t need to worry. The kitchen is in the waiting room outside of the cat play area.

Overall the cats seemed very well taken care of. If I was going to adopt a cat, the relaxed environment of a cat cafe seems to me like a better way to see if a cat is right for you than the jail-like environment of your average pound.

So if you’re looking to adopt a cat — or if you just want to hang out with some feline companions for a while — consider giving KitTea a shot. What do you have to lose? Aside from your dignity when you come home covered in cat hair, of course.

Nuni transit-themed street art hides secret messages

July 24th, 2015

Some unusual transit-themed street art has appeared around the city recently. Perhaps you’ve seen it? For example, I spotted this odd BART ticket (actually a sticker) a while back:

Nuni Bdank ticket
 

Today I stumbled across this unofficial ad at a Muni stop:

Nuni ad
 

A little googling revealed that these are the works of “Nuni,” who apparently goes by @therealnuni on Instagram.

The street art clearly contains some kind of hidden messages, seemingly written in an alien language. Obviously I had to crack the code.

My “aha!” moment was when I remembered playing Commander Keen as a kid, deciphering the Standard Galactic Alphabet on a piece of paper as I went. The Nuni “cipher” works the same way: it’s English words written in a different alphabet.

Cracking it is only a matter of finding a few common words and applying your hangman and/or Wheel of Fortune expertise to work backwards to discover the whole alphabet. The first thing to decode is the word “Nuni” itself:

Many of the messages are exactly what you’d expect them to be. For example, what does it say on a BART ticket in the blue box at the top? Yup, that’s what the encoded message says too.

I’ve managed to crack 21 out of 26 letters in the alphabet so far. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but if you get stuck feel free to shoot me an email — my address is in the sidebar.

Sincerely yours,

Peeking out the back window on the F-Market

July 23rd, 2015

Since I had jack shit else to do needed to get some fresh air this afternoon I took the F-Market over to the Wharf to wander around and check out everyone’s favorite tourist bullshit. I was lucky enough to get the back of a streetcar all to myself for most of the ride, so I filmed a few shaky iPhone videos from the back window.

First, here’s looking back at Market Street starting near the Dolby building:


 

Again on Market Street, this time near UN Plaza:


 

Finally, the F-Market goes from Embarcadero to Jefferson St.:


 

And now since you’ve made it this far, I’m going to scare you away with a vertical video (gasp!) of the most terrifying thing at the Wharf: Lauffing Sal.

What’s going on here, Luna Park?

July 21st, 2015

Luna Park foreclosure Luna Park foreclosure

At some point in the last couple of weeks Valencia St.’s Luna Park shut its doors and stopped answering their phone. But that’s not all: two official notices (see above) appeared taped to the building. One is an order of abatement regarding building codes, the other is a notice that the building is in danger of foreclosure. According to the later document the owner of the building is behind on mortgage payments by over $100,000. Yikes!

As you may recall, Luna Park’s owners made some grumblings about labor costs before trying to sell the restaurant to Gavin Newsom’s company. That fell through, so they tried again with the owners of Mission Beach Cafe. (Luna Park’s sister location in LA was sold to new owners years ago.)

Now it’s not exactly clear what will happen. The liquor license transfer is still pending, but who knows what’s in store if the building winds up getting auctioned off by the bank. Either way the sun has officially set on Luna Park*.
 

(* Sorry.)
 

Update: Inside Scoop confirms that Luna Park is closed for good. Still, this doesn’t explain why the building is in danger of foreclosure.

What’s the deal with the plaque in the road at Van Ness and Market?

July 13th, 2015

House of hades one man versus American media in society 2015
 

If you’ve crossed the street at Van Ness and Market recently you may have noticed a strange little plaque embedded in the road near the crosswalk. It reads:

HOUSE OF HADES
ONE MAN VERSUS
AMERICAN MEDIA
IN SOCIETY 2015

…huh?

Turns out it’s not alone; many strangely worded linoleum plaques have appeared in roadways all over the US and South America since the 80′s. They’re known as Toynbee tiles, a reference to the wording of some of the earliest ones. You can find more via Google Image Search.

Who’s installing them? One filmmaker produced a documentary film on the subject — but never resolved the mystery entirely. The general consensus seems to be that these plaques originated in or near Philadelphia. The tiles later spread and changed in their messages. One theory is there are now multiple copycats, an idea supported by an Instructables video demonstrating how to make your own.

Still, knowing what these plaques are called and where they came from doesn’t tell us about who placed this particular one at Van Ness and Market or what its message is intended to convey. For now at least, that remains a mystery.

52nd annual Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest

July 10th, 2015

Earlier today was Muni’s annual(-ish) Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest. What is a Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest, you ask? It’s a two-part contest where “amateurs” (non-Muni employees) compete, and a second part where cable car operators compete.

The rules for each part are very different. The amateur competition allows music, dancers, and apparently bribing the crowd with free Giants merchandise. This part takes place on a standalone bell outside the cable car.

The cable car operator competition takes place inside a cable car that was somehow transported to Union Square. This is the main part of the event, and only bell ringing is allowed. I’ve posted videos of the top two bell ringing champions below.

 

Coming in at second place, here’s previous champion Trini Whittaker:


 

Here’s first place winner Byron Cobb:

 
Finally, here’s a few photos from the event:

Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest 2015 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest 2015 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest 2015 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest 2015

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.