Archive for the ‘Local’ Category

Doctor Who sidewalk graffiti in Hayes Valley

June 17th, 2018

Bad Wolf
 

At the corner of Rose and Octavia, someone painted “Bad Wolf…” underneath the street imprint in the sidewalk. I thought that was pretty funny and snapped the above photo.

Spoilers for old Doctor Who episodes follow.

“Bad Wolf” was a storyline from the first season of the rebooted Doctor Who back in 2005. Throughout the season the ninth Doctor and his companion Rose Tyler keep seeing references to Bad Wolf, but are unable to identify the significance of the phrase. Toward the end of the season, Rose Tyler looks into the heart of the Doctor’s TARDIS and becomes temporarily inhabited by it or something. Look, this is all pretty convoluted even by Doctor Who standards so just roll with it.

The important thing is, Rose Tyler with the TARDIS’ time traveling power becomes a new entity known as Bad Wolf. Together as one, they defeat a small army of Daleks and bring “Captain” Jack Harness back to life via time manipulation.

A thirteen year old story from a BBC show isn’t what one would normally expect to see on the streets of San Francisco. Kudos to those keeping our streets humorous and geeky.

First impressions of the new Muni Metro trains

June 14th, 2018

New Muni Metro train in service
New Muni Metro train in service New Muni Metro train in service
 

This evening I’d planned to take Muni Metro home from work as I often do, but there was an unexpected twist: as I got to the platform level, one of the new trains was pulling in. Finally I’d get to ride one! Unfortunately for me it was going in the opposite direction I was headed, so I only took it one stop just for fun.

Some background: The new trains cars are Siemens S200 light rail vehicles (LRVs) which are slowly replacing the 90′s era Breda LRVs. The Breda’s weren’t always the most reliable, especially their door mechanisms. With the new subway line opening (maybe) next year Muni thought it would be a good idea to start ordering new train cars sooner rather than later, and to have narrowly-defined reliability requirements in the contract. So that’s how we wound up with these new Siemens S200 train cars. Muni calls this new fleet “LRV 4″ for some reason they haven’t explained as far as I know.

In my brief ride today, here’s a few things that immediately stood out:

  • The exterior is a little boxier looking than the current Breda LRVs but otherwise looks pretty similar. The color scheme is nearly identical.
  • These are very quiet trains, which has been par for the course in major European cities for a while but is new to SF.
  • The seating arrangement is more like a typical subway with benches along the walls rather than two-across bus-style seating. This should leave more standing room during rush hour.
  • Onboard audio cues sound different and may take some getting used to.
  • The Clipper card readers have a new design.

But the biggest difference? This one’s impossible to ignore:

New Muni Metro train in service
 

In the middle of the train is a live display with the destination, the next couple of stops, and the transfer points for the next stop. Hopefully they keep this up to date as bus routes change. There’s also an argument to be made that “Cable Car” should be more specific since there are multiple lines. But that’s all nitpicking, overall the new display is a massive improvement.

That’s all I have for now. In the future I may have some deeper impressions to share, particularly on street level stops when the stairs come down.

If you’d like to try the new Muni Metro trains SF Transit Riders has a live map of their locations here.

Review: Wonderland from Epic Immersive

June 5th, 2018


 

This is the final month for an immersive theater show in San Francisco titled Wonderland. It’s a story based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. As the audience is sworn to secrecy and forbidden (wisely, I think) from taking photos, this will be a tight-lipped review. I’m not going to discuss details about the story or expose the secret location.

Let me start by stating that I’ve only been to one previous production that would qualify as “immersive theater,” so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. But the basic rules on the ticketing website and the safety presentation before the show seemed pretty clear. Arrive sober, don’t attack the actors, and if you’re unclear or uncomfortable just say so — simple enough.

The audience went through in small groups, with the actors either drawing out or speeding up scenes to give everyone time to find their way through the dark “rabbit holes” of the space. This seemed to affect pacing in unexpected ways. My companion in our group later confessed she felt rushed at times and would have liked more time to explore.

I should point out here that this production is fairly linear. Unlike some immersive theater productions where you can stay in one spot the whole time if you wish, in Wonderland you’re ushered from one scene to the next.

The interactions between the actors and audience varied between scenes, as did the seriousness of the actors themselves. Some seemed content to chew scenery while others played their roles with more subtle humor. The only character played completely straight is Alice, which is sensible considering her story arch.

Aside from one unclear plot point near the end I found the story easy to follow and enjoyable. Perhaps the real standout star of the show is the venue itself. That said I’m biased as this particular place is one of my favorites in San Francisco — perhaps it will become one of yours as well.

Wonderland extends through the end of June 2018, you can purchase tickets here. If you go with someone else try to get tickets in the same “wave” so you won’t be split up.
 

My recommendation: If you’re the kind of person who reads this blog, I’d give it a qualified yes — as long as you meet the mobility requirements (some crawling is involved), have an interest in immersive theater, and can afford the ticket price it’s a fun and unique show. See it while you still have the chance!

Carnaval Parade: Stoic Cop

May 29th, 2018


 

Yesterday at San Francisco’s 2018 Carnaval Parade a number of dancers for whatever reason decided to target a particular SFPD officer with their dance moves, crowding him and grinding against him. He barely reacted — a truly stoic cop if there ever was one.

As you can see in the video I was hardly the only one in the crowd to notice this happening, let alone take photos or videos. I overheard one man in the crowd suggest the cop would make a good Buckingham Palace guard.

This police officer is the same one who can be seen in the thumbnail image in the video I posted yesterday, something I planned meticulously of a weird coincidence since I filmed from various points along the parade route.

Carnaval San Francisco 2018 parade

May 28th, 2018

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For a bunch more photos check out my Carnaval 2018 album here.
 

Today was the grand parade of Carnaval San Francisco, the Mission District’s biggest parade and cultural event. It was billed as the 40th Anniversary, which isn’t exactly true… but forget it. Sometimes you just have to put down your calculator, pick up a Modelo tallboy in a paper bag, and enjoy Carnaval.

Unlike the 2016 parade I didn’t see Elvis this time, but overall the parade seemed longer? Around three hours. All the staples you’d expect like BART, Shriners, low riders, Recology and many different dance groups. Muni seems to have taken upon themselves to hand out bead necklaces, including throwing them at people watching from apartment windows and fire escapes.

Check out the video below for some highlights.

One man’s trash is another man’s toilet

May 27th, 2018

One man's trash is another man's toilet
 

While on my way to run an errand after the Carnaval Parade wrapped up — more on that later — I spotted a humorously placed toilet seat on a public garbage can at 16th Street and Guerrero. The juxtaposition is so perfect, I’d come up with the title of this blog post before I even finished taking the photo.

Well played, anonymous person with an ugly blue toilet seat.

Salesforce Tower light show allegedly launched

May 23rd, 2018

Salesforce Tower, opening day
 

Today was the grand opening of Salesforce Tower, and with it the alleged launch of a massive 11,000 LED light show on the top of the building.

As you can see in my photo above taken from Dolores Park, it was so foggy I’m not even sure which building is which. None of them seem to be capped with a light show. The downtown skyline almost looks like a mirage somewhere in the distance, as it always does when it’s covered in a thick layer of fog.

So did the lights even get turned on? Was it too foggy to find the switch? Neither would surprise me. Here’s a video from earlier in the evening from the much closer vantage point of Second and Howard. Even from there the top of the building was obscured by the fog.

Salesforce Tower, opening day

Manny’s, coming to 16th and Valencia

May 17th, 2018

Welcome To Manny’s
 

There’s a space at the corner of 16th and Valencia I walk past almost every day. For many years it was a sushi restaurant, which was eventually replaced by a different sushi restaurant and an ice cream bar.

Since the end of 2017 it’s been vacant with no signs of activity — until the other day, when a poster appeared in the window. I went to check it out, and it turned out to be a letter with a “Manny’s” logo stamped on it. The text of the letter appears almost verbatim on the website for Manny’s.

Reading the letter left me with more questions than answers; would this be an event space? A neighborhood bar? I wanted to know more. Thankfully the poster included an email address, so I reached out to Manny himself with a few questions on behalf of my little blogging operation.

Here’s full text of my email interview:
 

Eric: Tell us a little about yourself and what made you decide to focus on civic engagement in San Francisco?

Manny: I came to San Francisco after working on President Obama’s re-elect as an organizer in New Hampshire. San Francisco was the promised land for me – a California boy looking for a City with a thriving gay culture and healthy civic life. When I first arrived here I had no money, no place to live, and very few contacts but I had the most amazing first 6 months exploring the City, working as a temp, and meeting people who worked in SF politics. I fell in love with the City again. I had spent a summer here raising money for same-sex marriage as a street canvasser in 2010 and first fell in love with the City then. I found a job working with an immigration reform advocacy group right as comprehensive immigration reform was making it’s way through the U.S. Senate. Fast forward to after working on the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016 I found myself kind of lost. The result of the election shocked and saddened me but also gave me a new sense of drive and purpose. What was I going to do?

I quickly realized that I was living in a once in a generation moment of civic purpose, with so many people, especially young people, feeling called to get involved. Taking part in the first Women’s March and seeing the hundreds of thousands of people in the streets around the world inspired me. The decision to focus on civic engagement in San Francisco came out of the problem that was being presented to me by friends and colleagues in the City who wanted to know where they could go to get more involved and informed. There are some amazing organizations in the City that put on excellent programming in great spaces for folks to become more civically active and have been doing so for decades but I thought the idea of taking that programming and adding in a more neutral social component would help bring in all of the people who might be intimidated at first or not really consider themselves “political”.

Around that time a good friend of mine died tragically. He was 32. After Nico’s death I promised myself that I would not let the fear of failing at something stop me from trying because he would never get a chance to try again. With that guiding me I decided to really research what would be involved in building my own space. That was around February/March of last year and here I am!
 

Eric: The description on your website is a little overwhelming. What’s your plan for the space on the average day?

Manny: Noted. The space is divided into 2 sections – the social space and the programming space with a small civil rights themed bookstand/newstand in between. The social space will have continuous operation from 6:30 AM – 10:00 PM with breakfast, lunch, and dinner served. It’ll be a coffee shop during the day and offer good beer and wine at night with dinner. That space will be connected to but separate from the programming space.

During the day the programming space will feel like a lounge where folks can eat/drink, watch the news (TVs with the news will be playing continuously) and potentially there will be some programming during the day for kids and young adults. For the evening the idea is that every weeknight there will be some offering that is civic in nature, where it’s a talk, documentary screening, open-mic, organizing action night, or discussion. Most of the programming will be put on by other organizations who need good space to do their work or have their speakers speak. About a quarter of the programming will be organized by my staff. There is meant to be wide variety in the programming, just like movie theaters play lots of different kinds of movies, sports bars will have a few different kinds of games on, gyms will have different kinds of classes and machines, I want to built a center of gravity around civic engagement that will have something for everyone. There will likely be themed nights around the different ways folks might want to engage where it’s direct action, learning from speakers, consuming media + art, etc…
 

Eric: The space you’re moving into has had a lot of turnover in the past few years; do you have a secret plan to thrive in that location?

Manny: I think one of the main reasons that the space has had a lot of turnover is that the commercial space has an unsuccessful relationship with the street. It’s hard to know where the entrance is and it’s dark inside. I will be opening up the windows, making the entrances a lot clearer, brightening up the interior, and more directly engaging with the street traffic to welcome people in.

Also – commercial rents are at an all time high in San Francisco so staying alive is hard unless you drive up prices so high that only a certain class of people can participate in what you’re doing. I refuse to create a place like that. In addition to the revenue from the food and beverage my goal is to have a large community of individual sponsors from the City and beyond providing the grassroots funding needed to keep a space like this open and thriving. They will be sponsors and being a sponsor will come with a large set of benefits. I’ve been developing a community around the space for the past six months and will continue to do so for the next six months. I believe that this community will be the secret to the success of the space.
 

Eric: On your website you mention the need to move our discourse from the digital world to in person. Do you have any thoughts as to why personal interaction is important?

Manny: In my lifetime I have seen the move from in person to online civic discourse and I am in shock at how nasty people get online in ways I do not believe would occur in the course of an in person conversation. Because tone is not apparent in an online conversation sometime the worst or most accusatory tone is implied which can lead to defensive angry responses. We do not need the internet to have deep meaningful conversations with people who either agree or disagree with us.

When you interact with someone in person you are able to give many cues including body language and posture, eye contact, tone, speed and deliberateness of language, clear listening, deference, and respect. There are all very important in the course of a complex or even sensitive conversation and are all absent from a conversation online and so, more often than not, the conversation devolves.

This is sad because we desperately need these conversation to learn and grow. None of us has all the answers so we need to bounce questions and ideas of others to get closer to truth.

Stow Lake

May 14th, 2018

Stow Lake
 

Despite living in San Francisco for nearly fifteen years, somehow I never got around to renting a boat at Golden Gate Park’s Stow Lake… until now.

Yesterday I rented a rowboat with a friend and we took it for a ride around the lake. Peddle boats of various sizes are also available, depending on the boat rental fees are around $20 to $40. The sign at the boathouse said these were “hourly” fees, but in practice nobody seemed to be keeping track of time, let alone looking too closely at tickets. It’s a pretty low-key operation.

The lake itself forms a ring around Strawberry Hill with a couple bridges going over the lake to the hill. The Huntington Falls waterfall built into the side of the hill feeds into the lake. A number of birds including ducks, geese, and herons have made this part of the park their home.

If you want to find the lake, from the Music Concourse it’s just up the hill from the Japanese Tea Garden. While it’s unintuitive to go uphill to reach a lake, according to SF Recs and Park the lake was built in 1893 “…for leisure boating, as a promenade for horse-drawn carriages, and as a reservoir for park irrigation.” (Emphasis mine.) In other words the lake acts as a water tower for the plants in the park.

 
Stow Lake is associated with an infamous local ghost story. Here’s the haunted tale as I understand it.

In Stow Lake’s early years a mother brought her baby to the lake in a stroller. She met another woman and they chatted at a bench. At some point when the mother wasn’t looking the stroller slid into the lake, sinking with the baby. Horrified after realizing her baby was missing, the mother ran around the lake asking if anyone had seen her baby. Failing in her search the mother drowned herself in the lake.

To this day the mother is supposedly spotted in a white dress in the dark of night near the lake.
 

While I’ve never seen any ghosts in Golden Gate Park, it can definitely feel unsettling at night. Most of the park isn’t well lit and the canopy of trees and thick fog make it difficult to find your way around.

Regardless as to whether you believe Stow Lake is haunted or not, it’s a fun story to tell while you’re rowing or peddling your way around the lake.

There’s now a Bitcoin ATM at the Metreon, because of course there is

May 9th, 2018

Bitcoin exchange machine
 

Recently a tipster informed me a Bitcoin ATM had appeared at the Metreon. Needless to say I had to check this out.

If you’re looking for the machine it’s near Cafe-X, the robot espresso machine, as well as a vending machine that somehow makes “gourmet” ramen. So in theory you could trade in your Bitcoin and use it to have a meal and coffee prepared entirely by robots!

Well okay, the above scenario isn’t entirely true since the Bitcoin ATM only converts Bitcoin to and from cash, which isn’t accepted by Cafe-X.

I thought I’d give the machine a spin but was immediately turned off by it. To identify yourself you need to insert a state ID or driver’s license, so this isn’t anonymous at all. What’s the point of buying a stolen yacht on the dark web if the transaction can be easily traced back to me?

But when I got home and looked at the ATM company’s website I found a second reason not to use it: transaction fees. To quote from the very last item on their help page:

We charge a 10% service fee for both buying and selling Bitcoin at our Kiosks.

In comparison online Bitcoin trading platforms only charge around 2%, so that’s a steep markup. Think about it: depositing $200 means you’re losing $20 — almost enough for a movie ticket in the Metreon’s IMAX theater.