Saturday, February 28, 2009

City Walks SF #18: Crissy Field and Fort Point

This walk basically features fantastic views.

The Crissy Field Warming Hut sells eco-friendly goods and food from a menu designed by Alice Waters.

We went on a ranger tour of Fort Point.

The ranger was not too good at knowing his audiences, as the tour consisted of sub-thirty year olds and he kept saying things like, "Remember during the Vietnam war..." Later some young children joined the tour and he made a reference to Pirates of the Caribbean while the mother informed him that the movie was not exactly G-rated. Anyway, I ramble, as did the ranger at multiple points. Bottom line: The Fort is neat to see, but don't take the tour. Just let Matt tell you about it. And check out the views from the roof. (They built the Golden Gate Bridge right over it.)

Gorgeous walk, especially on sunny days.

City Walks SF #17: The Palace of Fine Arts and the Wave Organ

This walk includes the Exploratorium, which we got to visit for Matt's office holiday party, so we skipped it this time. However, I highly recommend this hands-on science museum.

Also, the Palace of Fine Arts is apparently undergoing renovation, so we could only walk around the lagoon but not through the rotunda or other buildings.

Our new discovery was the crazy wave organ, out at the end of a jetty. It apparently belongs to the Exploratorium and consists of 25 organ pipes at various levels on a terrace, and the pipes are supposed to make different noises at different tides. We didn't hear much of anything except for some water splashing.

The extra strange part is that the terrace is built from old graveyard material.

This little "acoustic sculpture" is worth a visit for pure oddity, but the views are also nice.

City Walks SF #16: The Marina Green

(Marina Green is the large grassy expanse surrounded by boats.)

Ah, the lives of the rich. And possibly famous, but I'm not so sure about that. The super expensive homes in this neighborhood sit on fill and suffered extensive damage in the 89 earthquake. But this neighborhood is still desirable.

Debris from the 1906 earthquake still sits in the water.

And super expensive boats float over it all.

City Walks SF #15: Fort Mason

Today's series of walks, numbers 15 through 18, follows the bay coast. Full of tourists in parts, but also lots of locals running, walking, and playing ball with their dogs, this area always makes me feel like I'm on vacation.

World War II soldiers heading to the Pacific left from the San Francisco Port of Embarkation at Fort Mason. Today the waterfront warehouses host an array of artistic businesses, a vegetarian restaurant, museums, and more.

The Great Meadow provides a place for dogs to run and picturesque views.

We also checked out Black Point Battery, hidden near the hostel.

The nearly-fallen-down Municipal Pier protrudes near the edge of the Fort. You can only walk on half of it, while the other side crumbles into the waves. That seems safe.

City Walks SF #14 Part II: Hyde Street Pier

Because last time we did walk #14 everything was closed, we decided to at least check out Hyde Street Pier. We didn't pay to walk on any of the boats, but it was interesting anyway to see all the old boats and hear them creaking with the waves.

There were also pretty views of the city.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Now is the Time to Conserve

Uh oh.

The Director of the California Department of Water Resources (and graduate of my alma mater), Lester Snow, requested all Californians to voluntarily cut 20% of their water consumption.

This comes on the heels of an announcement that state water project contractors will receive only 15% of their allocations, and farmers who rely on the federal Central Valley Project will receive 0% of their allocations. You read that right. No water for farmers. None. They grow our crops. The state water project serves many of the major municipal customers in southern California.

This drought is no joke. Matt and I will have trouble cutting water use by 20% since all we really do is take showers and flush the toilet. Many cities that call for voluntary conservation usually do so in the 10 to 12% range. 20% is actually quite large, and should STUN us into action.

I need to actually put a water bottle in our super water using toilet, and I was thinking of contacting our property manager with some information on conserving water in multi-unit buildings (like, say, replacing the super guzzling toilet).

Also, look forward to super high prices for vegetables later this year.

Ya'll Know How I Love Sea Otters

Check this out.

2009 is Time to Travel

I recently read a post by Crazy Aunt Purl about her solo trip to Madrid, and I started getting the travel bug. Actually, Matt and I have been talking for awhile about planning a trip, but so far the idea of going to Atlanta to see some of Matt's family was the only one, which would be fine for a long weekend, but was not really the kind of travel I was itching to plan. I like to have trips to look forward to, but we don't even know anyone getting married this year, so we don't have any automatic travel plans. We will be going to Phoenix this summer to meet the baby, but obviously Phoenix isn't new and exciting for us.

So. Crazy Aunt Purl also blogged about the buzz feature on, so I moseyed over to check it out. What did I find? $400 tickets to Ireland! I immediately knew this was where I wanted to go. It is precisely the kind of vacation Matt and I will enjoy going on together. I don't feel like we do cities as well because Matt really likes to go to museums and such, and I would rather be wandering around or hiking. So Ireland will be great. We'll spend a bit of time in Dublin, but mostly we will be checking out castles and taking walks along the coasts. And the tickets are only an extra $100 than tickets to Atlanta. Not bad.

Okay, I know the economy sucks, but this trip is affordable for us even though I don't have a real job. We might just try to eat out less in the next couple months. And the great thing is, we paid off Matt's student loan and are now completely out of debt. This trip will also cost just slightly more than the cost of one month's rent for us, so even if, god forbid, Matt were to lose his job, this trip wouldn't make the difference between us surviving and not. Also, I always like to have trips pre-planned before I take a full-time job because then if they want to hire you, they pretty much have to give you the time off. I have done this for multiple jobs in a row now. And when else will we be able to go to Ireland so cheaply! Never!

Did I mention we are going to Ireland in May? I am super excited! Checkout and see where you could go.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Global Population Speak Out

I just received a press release from an environmental organization announcing that they had pledged their support to something called Global Population Speak Out. The group's tagline is "breaking down the barrier to public discussion of population," and their goal is to recruit respected scientists and organizations to bring up the subject of how consumption by a huge and growing population threatens our resources and the earth itself.

I was apprehensive at first. Although I solemnly agree that there are too many people on this earth and counting, I have heard enough people use this as an argument to prevent immigration to the US (despite the fact that those people have to live somewhere on this, our only planet, and we, the citizens of the US, use far more than our share of resources) that I am skeptical of so-called population activists. Most of the time I feel we are on opposite sides of the political and humanitarian spectrum.

Anyway, this group seems to have good intentions at this time, and has been signed on to but such heavyweights as the Ehrlichs. However, one must dig fairly far into the website to find anything out about their solutions. To my relief, one of these solutions is the education of women. This approach certainly benefits not just the environment, but also the quality of life for many people. I am all for education and family planning efforts.

I have not yet confirmed the intentions of this group, but talking about population problems, without trying to shut down immigration or institute mandatory population control measures, is certainly important.

Earth Hour: March 28, 2009 at 8:30 pm local time

Get ready to turn your lights off for an hour to demonstrate your commitment to finding a solution to climate change. See the widget in my sidebar and Earth Hour website.

Okay, the video started out kind of lame, but I actually recommend watching it - seeing all the lights go out looks really cool. If I were in San Francisco that night, which I won't be, I would head up to Twin Peaks and watch the city go black.

My next venture will be to find participating eating and drinking establishments in Phoenix, a city that shockingly participated in 2008.

Find out what's going on in your city!

The Things That Stare At You While You Sleep

Does this sound like a scary movie or a child's fear? I think so.

But no, It was just my husband talking in his sleep. The conversation went like so:

MB: "Do those things creep you out?"

AAW: "What things?"

MB: "The things that stare at you in your sleep."

AAW: "Wake up!"

MB: "I am awake."

AAW: "Then what is staring at me?"

MB: "The things that stare at you between the first time you go to sleep and the second time you go to sleep, and they are still there the third time."

AAW: "You are creepy. Wake up!"

MB: "I am awake."

AAW: "Okay, what were you just talking about?"

MB: "I don't know."

AAW: "What is staring at me while I sleep?"

MB: ~Shocked laughter~

AAW: "What is staring at me?"

MB: "I don't know; I'm sorry."

AAW: "How do I know you're actually awake now?"

And so on. I figured he had finally woken up when he sounded so surprised about the staring things, but it is so hard to tell. He sounds exactly the same when awake and asleep.

Does anyone else deal with these problems?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Exploring Social Media

Today I learned that myspace is for high schoolers and very young people, and that facebook's largest growing segment is baby boomers. Now I feel super behind the times. It may finally be time for a change...

(PS I think this post was almost short enough to be a tweet.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Just Watched: Milk

We just saw this fabulous movie at a fabulous theater (old and ornate) on the street where it all started. I have taken it for granted since we moved here that the Castro, where we spend much time, was not always a safe place to be gay. Acceptance happened not just from an overwhelming number of gay people moving into the neighborhood, but from the work of Harvey Milk and his "recruits." This movie illuminates both how far we have come and how far we have yet to go. Go see it now!


Watching the Oscars right now, and Dustin Lance Black, screenwriter of Milk, won for Best Original Screenplay. He made an exceptional acceptance speech, thanking Milk for the courage he had given him to come out, and telling youth that no matter what anyone tells them, it is not wrong to be gay.

Sean Penn just won Best Actor, thanking the "commie, homo-loving sons of guns." He also took the opportunity to tell the supporters of Proposition 8 that they should take the time to reflect on what they have done and how ashamed their grandchildren will be of them if they remain so anti-civil rights for gays. Apparently something happened to their cars on the way into the Oscars as well - some people can't even tolerate such a film. Such a shame.

Transit Adventures VI

As it turns out, the streetcar goes crazy Saturday evening. We usually take the subway from downtown to the Castro, but some sort of delays occurred, and the station was packed, so we headed above ground to the F Train. That's right.

And the aboveground is a different world than the underground. The ride started out with someone slipping in the back door, a shouting match between two men blamed on either "Iraq" or "a rock" depending on if you ask me or my seat mate, a lady who got off after announcing to the train that she had bladder cancer and required a catheter, and a tourist with a giant camera who was taking his daughter to the Castro. While the underground is generally uneventful, apparently the streetcar is full of all the color. It reminded me of taking the bus in Albuquerque.

Just Watched: I Am Legend

I love Will Smith. Unfortunately he may have been a little crazy in this movie. And I could have done without all the suspense. And probably with less religion. However, it does make one think about the unknown consequences of messing with biology and chemistry. Who knows when we will accidentally unleash something terrible (...or maybe I'm talking about global climate change)? Its short length of 90 minutes is the only thing that might tempt me to recommend checking out this movie just once. But you could also spend your time doing other things...

Just Watched: The Dark Knight

Figured we had to go see this if only to check out Heath Ledger's performance. Definitely creepy as the Joker, and of course sad that he died. I don't care much for Batman though, and could have done without this movie. Alas...

Recommended: Cliff's Variety

I have finally discovered what life was like before Target and Walmart. Welcome to Cliff's Variety, the Castro's store that has it all, and at reasonable prices! Who needs to take a train to the suburbs to go to Target when one can walk down the street to Cliff's and pick up kitchen gadgets, tools, gardening supplies, toys, art supplies, and liberal baby clothes? What a fantastic place!

I have always loved Target, and hated Walmart, although I have known all along I should be supporting the stores that big boxes drive out of business. Now I have such a store to support.

Before I even discovered Cliff's I was telling a friend that I loved San Francisco because you could do everything without ever going to a chain store. In our beloved Castro, we have restaurants, coffee shops, the Castro theater, a flower shop, book stores, PO Plus, and so much more. We have a phenomenal cookie shop and a chocolate shop that sells tasty organic peanut butter cups. And now Cliff's. What more could a girl want?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Beauty Products

I need help. I have always followed my mother's advice to use a daily moisturizer with SPF on all exposed skin; of course to help prevent skin cancer.

As I have been moving toward organics in all my beauty products, I searched for a moisturizer without parabens and sodium laurel sulfates, but I also wanted to try a non-chemical sunscreen. So I paid a fair penny for an organic daily moisturizer with mineral sunscreen. The problem?

It basically makes my face white.

No matter how little I put on, and how much I smooth it in, I look ghostly pale. I tried to put my powder on over it, but it won't do the trick.

Does anybody have experience with or recommendations for non-chemical sunscreens?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Our Zipcar Trip

We had $75 in free zipcar credits about to expire, so we took a Prius down to Santa Cruz for a little 24-hour trip. Crappy weather, again. Also don't go to Santa Cruz when the Amgen Tour of California is coming through, or you won't actually be able to go anywhere. Will go back in summer.

The Lazy Environmentalist

Last Christmas, my inlaws got me a page-a-day calendar of The Lazy Environmentalist. I recently discovered it at the back of the shelf and realized I hadn't looked at it since December 7th. That's beside the point.

The whole calendar has been filled with some iffy suggestions, but I found the entry for December 17th quite peculiar.

Apparently Smencils are ecofriendly because they are made of recycled newspapers instead of wood. That's nice. However, this point seems to reduce the greenness of the product:

"Choose from scents like cherry, cinnamon, grape, bubble gum, and orange. Each comes in a tube to keep the smells fresh."


Is it a good idea to make a recycled pencil that requires extra packaging, each in its own tube? And the website adds that the recycled newspaper pencils are hardened (in an unidentified process), soaked in fragrance (of unknown origin), and wrapped in stickers (presumably not recycled). Awesome. That is super ecofriendly.

People, beware of green washing!

City Walks SF #14: The Cannery, Ghiradelli Square, and the Hyde Street Pier

This walk was nothing we hadn't seen before, mostly because everything was closed by the time we got around to doing it.

Cannery Building:

Ghirardelli Square (where we didn't have any ice cream, possibly for the first time ever):

What we missed: S.F. Maritime Visitor Center, Hyde Street Pier Maritime Park, and Maritime Museum. Perhaps we shall go back some time.

City Walks SF #13: Angel Island

We woke up. It was pouring rain. We walked to the bus stop. It was pouring rain. We entered the subway. The first train did not show up. We got on a bus. A 5K stopped us. We arrived at the Pier, several minutes after the ferry should have left. We got lucky.

Continuing our good luck with ferries, a mechanical problem had resulted in a change of boats, delaying departure long enough for us to make the trip. It was still raining.

You may wonder why we chose to go to Angel Island on such a lovely day. The truth is, we are cheap. In honor of the re-opening of the Chinese Immigration Station, ferry tickets were just $2 and there was no park entrance fee.

The rain apparently didn't stop anyone else either. Although the ferry looks pretty empty in this picture, imagine hundreds of people packed together in tight quarters in the warmer, drier inside cabins.

Visiting the Immigration Station was an excellent experience. Although we chose not to participate in the 1.5 hour ceremony because we had hiking to do, we stopped at the station to learn about the detention experience for thousands of immigrants. Although we originally imagined that maybe Angel Island was not such a terrible place to be detained, as it is quite beautiful, it turns out that the detainees were hardly even allowed to go outside. Miserable. The walls are filled with amazingly carved, inscribed, and painted poetry.

Next, the hike around the island's perimeter road including some old military stations and beautiful views.

Then up the 781 foot Mount Livermore for more views.

The weather and light changed throughout the day, resulting in beautiful views most of the time. It also resulted in pelting rain and slight misery some of the time.

I highly recommend this walk, rain or shine. I am glad Matt kicked me out of bed at 6:30 on a weekend morning in the rain. And that's saying something.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Koala Love

A small dose of cuteness out of the terrible Australian wildfires.

Also, I have been hearing about this topic a lot recently: Is Australia the canary in the coal mine for climate change?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

50,000 Drinks

You know those stupid things that make you type in letters to prevent you from spamming or scamming (like the one I have enabled on my comments)?

Today I happened across one that made me type:

50,000 drinks

Seriously? I think someone was drunk when they created that.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Transit Adventures V

Saturday evening around 6, we took a fairly crowded bus up the hill. I started standing but turned around to look at the back to see if there were any seats available, as this bus ride is rather crazy and takes some arm strength just to keep upright. There was just one seat open, the middle of the 5-seat row in back. One guy on the side saw me glance over and immediately adjusted his bag and jacket to allow me to sit down. Later on during the ride we shared a laugh out of our leg contortions trying to allow the people at the ends of the row to get past us and out the bus.

As he finally headed for the door, we noticed that the tattoos on his uncovered bicep were, in fact, sperm. Several sperm, swimming upstream toward his shoulder.

That, along with the women making out at a bar, and the chocolate penis that a nice young man let J.S. pick out at Hot Cookie ($1 per inch), are just some of the liberal reasons that San Francisco is awesome and hilarious.

City Walks SF #12: Alcatraz

(This picture is blurry because Matt took it. I swear.)

I love Alcatraz! I hadn't been there for 8 years, and Matt had never been there, and a friend who was in town had never been there, and, well, it was our next walk, so yesterday we decided to head out into the bay.

Although this card and pretty much everything else about Alcatraz tells you to buy boat tickets in advance, we figured it was not peak season and it wasn't supposed to be a very nice day and we checked online Friday night and none of the boats were sold out and I was too tired to make a decision, so we figured we'd just wing it the next day. When we showed up to the boat dock at about 12:40, the line was horrendous and not moving. There were only two boats left for the day. So our friend tried to get online with her phone to purchase tickets. It was not working. Meanwhile, the group in front of us succeeded in getting through on the phone and were nice enough to provide us with the phone number.

I scored the last 3 tickets of the day.

They immediately announced that the tours were sold out. Too bad for the people at the front of the line! Matt and Jackie were so excited you would have thought we'd won the lottery.

Anyway, Alcatraz is cool. Military prison; federal penitentiery featuring Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and the Birdman; fun escape attempt stories; Indian occupation; future replacement site for Gitmo...

(I must give props to Matt for this awesome picture.)

Pictures on the inside available on Picasa.

The boat ride and visit is a bit pricey at $26, but I think it's worth checking out at least once. If not for the history, then for the spectacular views of the city, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Marin.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

City Walks SF Update

City Walks SF

I have added a new feature to City Walks SF. More pictures! Of course I have 100 for about 1/5 of the walks, so I will have to pare down sometime when I have more computer energy.

Transit Adventures IV

This afternoon I ventured into the city to meet up with Matt for the missing City Walks SF #9 (now updated). I hopped on the bus, grabbed a transfer, and headed into the subway. When I got off the train, police were checking transfers and passes.

As Matt can tell you, I am notorious (amongst the immediate family) for never being able to find my transfer. I never remember which pocket I put it in or, heaven forbid, which part of my gigantic bag it might be hiding in. I recently started trying to put my transfers in the same purse pocket every time. (I have to have transfers because Matt thinks I don't ride the bus enough to pay for a transit pass. I think it would be paid for with my peace of mind...) So, when stopped by the police, I pulled the entire contents of the pocket out. After a moment of shuffling papers, I produced a transfer.

Unfortunately the transfer was from February 1st, which I realized as soon as I held it up because it was too long for the one I got today (the length of transfers depends on how long it is good until). So I immediately shuffled around for the real transfer, during which the police lady said, "What date is that?" I suddenly found the correct transfer, mistakenly said, "Oh there it is," and then showed the correct transfer to the police officer.

You would have thought I was trying to skip town, or even trying to not pay a lousy $1.50 transit fare. She gave me a lecture on how next time I better show her the correct transfer the first time, and not try to pass one off with the wrong date.

Good grief! It's not like I didn't have the correct transfer. That would be a different story. I obviously wasn't trying to evade the system. And yet I nearly got slapped with a multi-hundred dollar fine.

Matt may have to buy me a bus pass.

The California Water Crisis

And now, a break from the lighter side. Don't stop reading if you don't live in California - your turn will come!

The news has been bleak. A biological opinion by the Fish and Wildlife Service requires water pumped from the San Francisco San Joaquin Delta to be reduced by 20 to 30 percent. This water serves about 25 million Californians in the southern part of the state. The initial allocations for the State Water Project are at about 15 percent. San Diego expects mandatory water rationing by July 1st. Even the Bay Area is starting to freak out!

It hasn't rained more than about 2 days the whole time I've lived here. Here in California, when we don't get rain, we don't fill our reservoirs, and we start running out of water to drink. It seems to me that people don't realize this. Until less than a week ago, I imagine that the average citizen had no idea that we were running into a water crisis.

Now, the Chronicle is running stories, the local news stations discuss it, KQED held a forum, and apparently even lawyers care (this last link is a really good commentary; I highly recommend it).

Apparently last year the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission requested 10% voluntary cuts in water use. I had no idea! I just looked at their website, and I had to dig pretty deep to find anything recommending water conservation. This should be the first thing anybody sees.

Folks, I may be a pessimist and a doom predictor by nature, but I firmly believe there will be mandatory water rationing in this state this year (and nobody wants that) unless we all get our acts together.

Tear up your lawn and replace it with pretty, water efficient plants. Take a cowboy shower. (My sister and I did this religiously for two weeks in Ecuador without complaint, but I admit to only taking part a handful of times since I've been back in the states.) Educate yourselves.

I kid you not: water is the next oil.

I know ya'll never click on my links (because I have ways), but check these ones out! I know these things because it's my job, but I guess I better start preaching (likely to the choir)...

Monday, February 2, 2009

City Walks SF #11: Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39

Ah, the tourist center of San Francisco. Having already been here, we didn't find too much new and exciting, although the sunset made for some pretty sights.

And of course my friends:

In addition, we spent some quarters at the Musee Mecanique, featuring antique mechanical toys and contraptions. So fun!