Birdhouse for rent in Dolores Park

June 17, 2016

Birdhouse for rent in Dolores Park

While the plan to rent sections of Dolores Park to humans ended almost as soon as it began, birds now have the option to rent this lovely apartment dangling from a tree in the park, located at the corner near 20th and Dolores Street.

The sign on the apartment doesn’t reveal the price or list a phone number, it simply states:

Achieve Realty
For Rent
Renovated

Interested parties should note that this is more of a micro bird apartment than a full-size birdhouse. It would be well suited as a starter home for a small songbird, but wouldn’t be large enough for an adult pigeon or a family of birds.

No word on whether this apartment is covered by rent control.

Breaking down San Francisco landmarks in the Watch Dogs 2 trailer

June 10, 2016

This week Ubisoft launched a trailer for their upcoming game, Watch Dogs 2. While I wasn’t particularly impressed by the first entry in the series, a 3rd person action/hacking game, the sequel immediately interested me due to the setting: San Francisco and the Bay Area at large.

You can watch the trailer below or here. For those unfamiliar with the world of video games, this is a “cinematic” trailer, which means it’s CGI concept art intended to advertise the game — in other words, this isn’t gameplay footage, but rather what producers intend the game to look like when it’s finished.

How many local landmarks did you discover in the video? Here’s what I spotted — click any image for full size.

Golden Gate Bridge, Karl the Fog, and the Transamerica Pyramid:

The Ferry Building and the Embarcadero Center:

Alcatraz:

A cable car working its way up a hill:

Not technically a landmark, but a guy wearing Google Cardboard on Muni is good enough IMO:

Again, technically a homeless guy with a shopping card isn’t a “landmark” but it had might as well be:

Lombard Street, which someone’s taking a photo of on their phone for the sake of accuracy:

Sea Lions at Pier 39, complete with tourists utilizing a selfie stick:

3D printing a gun — okay so again this isn’t a landmark at all, but I imagine there’s more 3D printers than guns in San Francisco so I’ll let it slide:

Chinatown chase scene:

AT&T Park, or whichever phone company it’s named after right now:

“Nudle” is clearly a stand in for Google’s Mountain View campus:

The Bay Bridge serves as a backdrop for a chase scene:

Hangar One at Moffett Field in Mountain View:

Well there you have it. I’m sure there’s a few I missed, feel free to e-mail me an angry rant if that’s the case. Regardless I may have to buy the game when it comes out in November to see how it portrays the Bay Area.

Strandbeests at the Exploratorium After Dark

June 3, 2016

Strandbeests at the Exploratorium

Strandbeests at the Exploratorium Strandbeests at the Exploratorium Strandbeests at the Exploratorium Strandbeests at the Exploratorium Strandbeests at the Exploratorium Strandbeests at the Exploratorium Strandbeests at the Exploratorium

Last night I attended the Exploratorium’s After Dark series. While there were not any flying toasters present, there were numerous Strandbeests from Dutch artist Theo Jansen.

The Strandbeests range in size from not much bigger than a human to stretching across a large room. Some of them are relatively simple contraptions that can be pushed around by humans or sails, whereas others operate on a system of a wind-powered compressed air mechanism. All the “beests” on display at the Exploratorium are built from PVC pipe — which is a yellowish color in the Netherlands for some reason — though Jansen has experimented with wood in the past.

If you’d like to check out the exhibit yourself it runs through September 5th. And you’ll have a chance to revisit your favorite Exploratorium exhibits while you’re at it, of course.

3D advertisement

June 1, 2016

3D advertising

3D advertising

Spotted at 12th and Folsom
 

Oculus Rift? Microsoft HoloLens? Samsung Gear?

Nah, who needs those? Old school red/blue 3D is where it’s at, as this somewhat illegally placed ad goes to show.

Before you ask, yes — I put on the 3D glasses and tested it out. While the 3D effect does work on this ad, unfortunately it barely makes use of the medium. What a shame. I’d love to see a similar “stunt” 3D advertisement that fully took advantage of the format. Maybe a secret phrase that jumps out at you that gets you something in return, like 10% off drinks or discounted entry to a club? Hey I’m just making suggestions here. Get on it, guerilla advertisers.

BREAKING: Second Super Mario Bros. street art mural located in San Francisco

May 31, 2016

Mario Mural

“It’s-a me!”
 

Located in Cypress Alley between 24th and 25th Street, this Super Mario Bros. mural definitively answers one of the most pressing questions of our time. I only happened upon this mural by chance; aimlessly meandering the streets of San Francisco in an attempt to make my fitness tracker happy, I looked up and there it was: the iconic characters Mario Mario and Luigi Mario standing near a gold star, a magic mushroom, and one of those evil plants sticking out of a pipe.

This clearly raises some questions, but most important among them is this: Could there be a third piece of Super Mario Bros. themed street art in San Francisco? With any luck, time will tell.

Carnaval San Francisco 2016 parade

May 30, 2016

Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016 Carnaval SF 2016

Click any photo for a larger view
 

This year’s Carnaval parade had all the elements we’ve come to expect: dance groups wearing peacock-style outfits, DJs on trucks spinning music, salsa dancers, stilt walkers, marching bands, and floats from various local organizations and city services. I thought Recology’s dancing garbage collectors were surprisingly on point, running around with recycling and compost bins in the sweltering sunlight.

Here’s some of the more unusual highlights. First, a visit from the masked man himself… Zorro!

 
Carnaval SF 2016
 

A photographer really wanted a photo of this dog, but the dog just wasn’t interested in fame.

 
Carnaval SF 2016
 

Elvis showed up with his pink Cadillac. When the parade stopped for a couple of minutes, he ran backwards through the parade to bust some moves with a burlesque troupe.

 
Carnaval SF 2016

Carnaval SF 2016
 

To complete this post here’s Batala’s drum troupe at the tail end of the parade:

Eight things they don’t tell you about living in a “charming” historic building

May 25, 2016

Fuses

I moved to San Francisco thirteen years ago, and about half that time I’ve lived in an apartment that was built in the early 1940′s. While it’s not as historic as other buildings in the area, it’s hardly the pinnacle of modern living either. Here’s a list of the things nobody — present company excluded — tells you about life in a charming old building before you move in.

  1. Toxic building materials
    If you’re old enough to read this and you have the slightest amount of common sense, lead and asbestos aren’t much of a threat to your health. But if you’re raising kids (or even have kids over) that’s a different story. Sometimes I wonder if I should be calling Child Protective Services when I see my neighbors carrying their baby around the place.

    Verdict: If you’re planning on breeding, consider a newer home.

  2. Mold
    Don’t sign any leases until you know for certain that you don’t have a mold allergy. And no you can’t just scrape mold off, it will come right back. Besides, that might cause lead paint to chip off.
    Verdict: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  3. Fuses
    You know how if your electricity is out, the first thing you do is go outside and see if you need to flip a switch? That’s called a circuit breaker. Before those came along, they had large fuses (pictured above) that screw into the wall. Each fuse has a different amp rating, and if the current going through the fuse exceeds the maximum amps, a little wire inside the fuse burns out. At that point you have to unscrew it (being careful not to stick your fingers in the socket while doing so) and screw in a new one. In fact, the first thing you should do when moving into an older building is see what fuses your unit has and go buy a bunch of replacements. Otherwise you’ll have to call an electrician to come out and install new ones for you if it’s the middle of the night and the local hardware store is closed. As I found out the hard way, that can set you back a couple hundred bucks. My unit only has two circuits, so if my fridge kicks on at the same time I turn on my computer, that could burn out a fuse.
    Verdict: Electrocution and/or fire, costly maintenance
  4. That lovely natural gas smell
    This one’s kind of specific, but in my building the stoves don’t have an electric ignition system. Instead they rely on pilot lights. The day I moved in the entire building smelled like natural gas, and I quickly discovered why: only one of the two pilot lights in my stove was lit. The other ways just leaking natural gas everywhere! Not having a lighter or matches, I rolled up a piece of paper, caught it on fire with the flame from the functional pilot light, used the rapidly burning paper to ignite the second pilot light, then quickly threw the paper in the sink before the fire reached my hand. I’m not entirely certain how I knew to do this, I certainly never read a manual or anything. It was only later that I discovered the manual for the oven/stove was taped to the back of it. Which, clearly, is the safest place to put a bunch of paper.
    Verdict: Okay, I probably should have reported this one to the fire department.
  5. Ventilation
    You might think with a stove and an oven, you’d need a ventilation system so the fire alarm didn’t go off when you cook, right? Hah! The thing about ventilation ducts is that they eventually get clogged up with grease, and someone has to clean those out because it’s a fire hazard. So your landlord — or some previous owner of the building — had those all sealed off. Ideally they cleaned them out before doing so, but let’s be realistic here; they didn’t.
    Verdict: Another reason to get fire insurance.
  6. Ancient heating technology
    Before fancy things like thermostats and forced-air heating were commonplace, people came up with a variety of strange old methods to heat the interiors of their homes. In my case, we have a steam heater. The way this works is a giant boiler on the bottom floor clicks on twice a day for a couple hours, once in the morning and once in the evening. The steam produced by this boiler is forced into pipes to radiators throughout the building. There’s no way to control how much heat this produces, since steam is pretty damn hot. So while it could be freezing outside, in an apartment with steam heat it could easily be 80 degrees F. If you’ve ever wandered around and seen a building where all the windows were open on a cold day, odds are that the occupants of the building are trying to ward off the artificial heat wave inside.
    Verdict: Hope you like tropical weather!
  7. Rats
    Oh, you know who else likes warm weather when it’s cold and rainy out? Yup, rats. They’re pretty good about finding hiding spots, and you may never even see them except for brief glimpses out of the corner of your eye. But their signature trails of shit across your counters are a dead giveaway. Once a rat managed to get trapped in my bathroom somehow, and it escaped by clawing a hole in the wood window frame. I emailed the landlord about this and they said they’d get back to me. That was five years ago, maybe? Haven’t heard from them since.
    Verdict: Keep paper products, food, and compost in hard to reach areas and the rats might stay in your neighbor’s unit instead.
  8. Washing dishes
    Unless the kitchen was updated in the last 50 years (yeah right) you’re not going to have a dishwasher. That said, you don’t have to laboriously wash your dishes by hand: portable dishwashers are a thing that exist. They’re just like a regular dishwasher, except they’re in a big metal box with a wooden top (read: extra counter space) and they have wheels so you can move them around. Instead of plumbing them in directly, they come with a special gizmo that latches on to your sink. Sure, about a third of the time it will fly off and water will spray everywhere, but that’s still better than the arduous task of cleaning dishes by hand like it’s the fucking dark ages.
    Verdict: Your dignity is worth more than $600

Any others I forgot to add? You can always reach me with ideas for a follow up article, my e-mail address is in the sidebar.

Promises of brunch at 11th and Folsom

May 17, 2016

Promises of brunch

Thought the place is still under construction, promises of brunch are already being made at the former Paradise Lounge space at 11th and Folsom.

As far as I was aware they hadn’t decided on a name; none was listed on their liquor license. But the signage indicates that it will be called “Calle-11.” They don’t seem to have a web presence yet.

And no that’s not your mind playing tricks with you, the building is painted two different shades of blue at the moment.

Jamie Zawinski, owner of the nearby DNA Lounge posted a full history of the place a few years ago. The last part about the club’s previous owner’s destruction of the place is especially notable:

So they took a completely functional nightclub, that needed at best a coat of paint and some re-upholstery, and they destroyed it. It’s been empty ever since, and at this point, if someone gave you that business for free, I’ll bet you’d be half a million dollars away from selling your first beer.

That sounds about right, except his estimate of “half a million dollars” looks like it was optimistic. According to permits on file with SF Planning, the construction costs exceeded $2 million.

During construction the building was stripped down to its shell and the interior was rebuilt from scratch. This time around, the place features a roof deck which — If nothing else — should be a great place to sip a beer and watch public spankings at Folsom Street Fair below.

The guy who teleported to Mars with Obama is running for president

April 30, 2016

Back in 2012, I covered the story of Andrew Basiago, a man who claims he teleported to Mars with Barack Obama.

This even made it into Fox News. When they covered an unrelated story on my blog, they described MrEricSir.com as so:

The sign was first reported by the MrEricSir blog, whose other topics of interest include posts headlined: “A look behind Obama’s Mars Teleportation Scandal” and “Lisbon’s Super Mario Bros. Obsession.”

To be fair to Fox News, that’s a pretty accurate description of the kind of bullshit I tend to write about here.

Recently there’s been a major development in Basiago’s story: he’s running for president! According to his campaign website, Basiago is “a prominent figure in the Truth Movement.” Here’s a few of his campaign promises:

  • The President should list the Sasquatch under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act.
  • The President should foster global development by promoting daily per capita egg consumption.
  • The President should declassify and reveal the technologies in America’s time travel arsenal.
  • The President should end the ET cover-up in a live, televised address to the American people.
  • The President should issue an Executive Order banning all chemtrail spraying by US agencies.

Basiago claims to be an avid time traveler, and as such I’d presume he already knows the outcome of this election cycle. So while he may not have the financial backing of more mainstream candidates like Clinton or Trump, this guy has some inside information that may propel him to victory.

But what a strange coincidence that we’d have two presidents in a row who both once teleported to Mars at the same time. What are the odds!

If he’s not elected, we can only assume the time traveling extraterrestrials colluded with the United States government to rob this man of his rightful position as POTUS.

For more details of Basiago’s presidential run, check out this story on Gizmodo.

A recently unearthed write up on The Jejune Institute’s fourth chapter

April 14, 2016

boombox
Photo by Flickr user corissa_triclyops
 

The fourth chapter of The Jejune Institute’s saga, “The Lost Mixtape” was an adventure that took place with a group of strangers in the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland. Eva Lucien, the hero of the story, guided participants through a tape on a golden boombox.

You can read more about it on producer Uriah Findley’s website here, see a brief participant’s video of some of the action here, or if you’re really curious, check out the pseudo-documentary film The Institute for a more comprehensive look at the entire story.

As a participant, after completing this fourth chapter our group was asked to work together to create a mixtape and a write up describing what happened. In my group I was tasked with writing duties, others handled the mixtape. This material was all shared freely among all the groups who completed the chapter on a website. Sadly, that website no longer exists.

I’ve barely thought of this recently — until today. This morning my web host sent me an email notifying me that they’d upgraded one of my sites that I’d long ago taken offline and forgotten about. Curious, I FTP’d into the virtual server and found a single file called “our_story.txt.” I’d like to share that file openly today. I’ve removed all names (aside from my own) to protect everyone’s identity and corrected a couple grammar mistakes.

Attempting to describe everything Nonchalance, the studio behind The Jejune Institute, has put me through over the years generally makes me sound like a raving lunatic. (See also this and this.) So don’t expect anything different here. But first I should include a bit of context so my write up makes at least some degree of sense.

  • The Chapel of the Chimes is a beautiful columbarium in Oakland, designed in part by Julia Morgan. It’s often used for various concerts and art events.

  • “Eva” is the hero of the overall story, a young woman who disappeared to a mysterious other world known only as Elsewhere.
  • “Eva’s Fairy Tree” is a specific tree in the median of Dolores Street, first mentioned in the second chapter.
  • “Hobo Glyphs” is likely a reference to Nonchalance’s logo, which is basically a hole with rabbit ears (a rabbit hole… get it?)
  • The people following us with cameras were probably taking footage to be used in the film The Institute. From what I can recall, they mostly stayed out of our way.
  • “Terrance” was a fictional character, a member of Eva’s crew, aka The Savants.
  • “Octavio” refers to Octavio Coleman, Esquire, founder and head of The Jejune Institute.

Without further ado, here’s the story as I wrote it down at the time:
 

THE STORY OF THE MARBLE CAKE EIGHT
 

None of us were total strangers. I mean, not all of us had met in person before that Saturday morning in Oakland, but we’d exchanged e-mails. It goes further than that… on one hand we were mostly strangers to one another and yet on the other hand, hadn’t we all shared unusually similar experiences? Cult inductions, protests, radio shows, even dance moves.

 
For the first time, we found ourselves together, confronted with a task we had to work together and trust one another to solve. Completing this mission individually would not be possible.

 

 

It all started one day when a mysterious woman called us from a number in Southern California, giving each three unique mantras, a cardinal or intercardinal direction, and a date. Postcards followed with more clues.

 
From there we didn’t know exactly what to expect, or when we would find out more. It was a waiting game.

 
One Wednesday evening, Mr. Eric Sir received a text message informing him to arrive at Eva’s Fairy Tree at exactly 8 PM. He found a note on the tree: “LOOK RIGHT.”

 
He turned right and walked over to the curb, where a mysterious woman was standing.

 
“Is this right?” he asked.

 
She pressed him for his intentions, and slowly began to trust him. Then she brought out a strange plastic instrument.

 
“I’m going to play a song. A blues song. You need to make up a song, a lyric, that makes you feel blue.”

 
After some hesitation, Eric arrived at some lyrics. The mystery woman put the instrument away and pulled out an envelope that said “Mr. Eric Sir.”

 
The envelope contained a secret e-mail address that connected him to a group of eight people, along with a meeting location. The game was underway.

 

 

On Saturday, March 13th, the eight of us met up on a residential street in Oakland. We were [NAMES REDACTED].

 
[NAME REDACTED] flipped on his camcorder and we got to work.

 
We discovered the postcards contained clues that led us down a path. Along the way, Hobo Glyphs seemed to direct us somewhere. But where?

 
At the end of the path, after some confusion, our postcards indicated we were to enter a mortuary. From there we arranged ourselves in a circle and recited our mantras, one by one, in a circle.

 

 
The Chapel of the Chimes mortuary is a beautiful place, calm and serene, yet elegant and almost maze-like. It would be easy to get lost.

 
From our mantras, we deciphered a path up a staircase and through a door. There we entered a small room with an 80′s boom box that had been painted gold and patterned with floral adhesives.

 
We hit play. The hiss of the tape started, echoing slightly in the stone room. A voice we all knew to be Eva’s came from the boom box.

 
“You always knew you’d find me here,” she said, ominously. We didn’t know what to expect.

 

 

Eva’s voice instructed us to find a vase, which we discovered high up the wall. A metal implement removed the vase from the wall. It was filled — to almost everyone’s horror — with blindfolds. Several of us let out nervous laughs.

 
North, West, South, and East were instructed to take a mask; and to put the mask on the other person. We were told to take the boom box while the cardinal folks walked slowly, following Eva’s instructions, and with the hands of the intercardinal folks on the shoulders of their sighted companions.

 

 

Surprisingly, this walk went without many issues. Even the stairs proved of little trouble. We arrived in a garden, where Eva let us relax for a few minutes without the blindfolds on.

 
Soon the inevitable happened; Eva asked partners switch to tasks. Blindfolds were exchanged, and we got back to our game of follow-the-leader.

 

 

Another break in a garden and masks were removed. We decided to pause the tape for a bit and explore, taking photos and admiring the gardens, statues, and curiously-themed urns.

 
But not for long. We got back to the tape and quickly learned there was another “gift” for us in another vase. Surprisingly, we found four more blindfolds. But for what? We couldn’t all be blindfolded, could we?

 

 

Yes, we could.

 
Arranged in order of height, we faced the back wall of the room and put our blindfolds on. “Turn to the right,” Eva’s voice instructed (a task not everyone was able to follow) and put your hands on the person in front of you.

 
[NAME REDACTED], the shortest of the group, was in the front of the line. Should he start walking? He continued holding his camcorder and waiting for further instructions.

 
But instead of instructions, his camcorder hand was pushed down by a mysterious woman, who then grabbed him and started taking us around. Those of us behind him and no idea what was happening. We hoped that someone was in front of us, or we might end up in a big pile somewhere.

 
A few blind yards later, we ended up in another indoor garden. The tape eventually instructed us to remove our masks. We did so, and discussed briefly what had transpired.

 

 
Tape back on, we were directed into a small room by Eva’s voice. After a cheesy sort of guided meditation that resulted in, well, laughter, we were told to discard the boom box in this room along with the blindfolds.

 
She offered us one final direction, which was to enter another small room two doors away. [NAME REDACTED] found a flower inside a “vase” which turned out to be a map. The map directed us to another small room.

 

 

The final room we visited contained a short letter from Terrance, a full-color copy of Eva’s diary, and a golden mixtape.

 
We were instructed by Terrance to name our group, to record our own mixtape and write down our story (which you’re reading now.)

 

 

Before we left, we had some immediate questions;

 
1. Who was the woman who pulled [NAME REDACTED] around? He consulted his camcorder. Only a brief moment of footage of her exists on the camera. It seemed possible that she was the same mysterious figure who met with Eric prior to the event.

 
But still: who was she?

 
2. Many of us sensed that we were being followed. One man walked by several times with a camera. Was he taking pictures of us for some reason? Perhaps he was affiliated with Terrance? We had no answers.

 

 

After a lunch of some delicious sushi, we deliberated our group’s name before calling it a day. Some ideas were tossed around. [NAME REDACTED] suggested “Marble Cake Eight”, a reference to a Time.com poll influenced by the clever hackers at 4chan. This name stuck (despite some protests.)

 

 

EPILOGUE

 
Perhaps there’s another way of looking at this. Our mission brought together eight of us. Could we be… a family? A recondite family? Was the exercise with masks a trust-building exercise? Does that mean we experienced an expansion of “inter-personal trust”? Could it be that Octavio’s plan for us is coming true? What does this even mean?

 

Maybe it was a coincidence but my questions in the epilogue section turned out to be right on. At the controversial ending of the story, the Socio-Reengineering Seminar in 2011, it was revealed that although we thought we were rebelling against The Jejune Institute, in fact we’d been playing into their hands the entire time. And in fact, we were building a “recondite family” through shared experiences and trust building exercises.

Discovering this text file on a long forgotten website that’s no longer online was a real blast from the past, and I’m glad I happened to come across it. The events described here occurred well over five years ago. While it was an unforgettable experience overall — easily one of my favorite parts of The Jejune Institute — I have to admit I had forgotten many of the smaller details over the years.

So I’m publishing this blog post not only as a reminder for forgetful folks such as myself who went through this chapter of the Jejune saga, but also for like minded folks who are interested in situational and immersive design. Nonchalance clearly put a large amount of work into this wonderful production, and I’d hate for many of these details to be lost to time.