Archive for October, 2009
My wife Monika and I went pumpkin shopping today at 7th Avenue and Lawton Avenue.
I took a lot of pictures of the scarecrows, which were all different. I thought they were all handmade by children, but Monika tells me that the art supply store named Michaels sells scarecrows just like these. Here is a link to my shots on Flickr. I uploaded them at very high resolution, and I shot them at f 1.4 for very shallow depth of field.
I am going to start posting video of San Francisco. When you live here it’s easy to overlook the beauty of the place. So I’m going to start taking my camera with me on routine errands to capture everyday life in the City.
This first video is taken in Yerba Buena Gardens, which is a block sized area that begins at 4th Street and Mission Streets. It’s right next to Moscone Center, the City’s largest convention center, and where Oracle World is going on starting tomorrow.
The website for Yerba Buena Gardens is yerbabuenagardens.com
One of the fun things to do at Yerba Buena Gardens is to ride the historic merry-go-round. This ride was saved from the famous old San Francisco amusement park called Playland at the Beach. It’s been restored so well you would think it’s almost new. I bought a ticket and took a ride just to make an interesting video. You can read about Playland at the Beach on wikipedia.
Finally, here’s a video of the waterfall close up. It’s a huge waterfall, half a city block long. This is just a section of it, and I don’t move around, so you can just admire the beauty and sound of the running water.
My house is in the Forest Knolls neighborhood in San Francisco. This area actually contains forest, and the underbrush is very thick – 3 feet deep in areas – making it almost impossible to walk between the trees.
This is a fire danger. For some time I’ve wanted to get my neighbors together to clear out some of the brush. However, this is a huge multiple square block area, so it’s too much for even a group of neighbors working part-time on a weekend.
Thankfully, University of California San Francisco owns a good chunk of this forest land, and they are preparing to do something about the fire danger. UCSF is holding a community meeting on October 19th at the Millberry Union at 500 Parnassus Avenue in San Francisco, at 6:30pm. UCSF has proposed two demonstration projects to reduce the fire danger, and the meeting is being held to discuss the proposals. UCSF is seeking funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
I am going to the meeting, and I invite my neighbors to join me. These trees are beautiful, and there are many homes on this hill, so clearing things out should be a priority.
I see empty seats even at sold out concerts. Technology can be used to fill these empty seats without inconveniencing ticket holders that might arrive well after the event has begun.
Once an event is sold out, tickets could still be sold. Maybe they might be called standby tickets. Many tickets now have barcodes on them and are scanned upon entry to the venue. With bar coded tickets, the venue’s computer system knows at any given moment which seats have people assigned to them that are present in the building.
If all regular ticket holders haven’t arrived by the start of the event, then standby ticket holders would be granted admission. Each standby holder would just approach the door and their ticket would be scanned just as if they had an assigned seat. The venue’s computer would then assign an empty seat to that person and send the seat assignment by text message. The ticket holder would then go to that seat.
If the person originally assigned to that seat arrives, the venue’s computer would pick another seat that was still empty and send a second text message to the standby ticket holder. They would then move to the new seat before the original ticket holder for that seat would have time to walk to their seat. Thus, there would be no awkward confrontation at the seat.
If necessary, the standby ticket holder may have to move multiple times if lots of people arrive late. If it were to turn out that all of the original ticket holders eventually arrive, then the venue’s computer would refund the ticket price and message the standby ticket holder that they would have to leave the venue, but that they had gotten to see the show so far for free.
The venue would be able to study historical data to figure out how many standby tickets to sell to minimize the chance a standby holder would be forced to leave a show in progress.
The standby tickets could be priced differently, probably lower, but perhaps the same or higher, as people desperate to see a sold out show may be willing to put up with some inconvenience for the chance to see a show they would otherwise miss.
I have been thinking about venue seat overbooking for maybe ten years, usually only while I am at a venue thinking about how much money is not being made due to the empty seats. The first iteration of the idea involved pagers that the venue would loan standby ticker holders. The pagers would have displayed the seat assignment. But now that everyone carries a mobile phone, the pagers are not needed and the idea becomes simpler and cheaper. With today’s smartphones, the standby holder could even receive a map showing directions to their new seat.
I like this idea very much, as it’s just software and there is real money to be earned by its use.
My favorite photographer, Irving Penn, died today at age 92. Here’s one of my favorite photographs by Penn.
Monika and I went to visit Noisebridge this afternoon. It was a bright, sunny and brisk day in the City. At Noisebridge, members may host classes. Today, there was a class with about 15 students focused on the intersection of technology and entertainment.
The machine shop has a miniature CNC milling machine. We were looking at it when two members came over and explained the work they are doing. One of the members donated it to Noisebridge.
The other member is reverse engineering the control mechanism, and had its control cable wired to an Archer brand breadboard. He had hooked up what appeared to be a potentiometer to one of the wires, but it was actually a more complicated control. From what I understood of the explanation, the knob was a digital mouse of sorts that sent control pulses to the mill. When the knob was turned the milling head moved up and down. The member who donated the mill said his original cost for the device was $3,000. It looked well made and seemed to be in good condition. One of the things I want to do one day is learn to make handmade custom watches. A CNC mill of this size would be a key tool in that effort. We didn’t catch the names of these two guys, but I saw one of them at the party Friday.
Monika and I had lunch at El Balazo at 2187 Mission Street. We shared the mixed vegetable burrito. This was the best vegetarian burrito I have ever had. It was bursting with interesting flavors. It had sautéed zucchini in it, which I love. The burrito was huge and was only $4.95 – and it was plenty for the two of us. The walls were bright yellow, with a pattern of blue stenciled figures. This restaurant is a chain, and there are a dozen locations according to their menu. One suggestion I have for them is to list the other locations on the menu. This place has four stars on Yelp.com, but the reviews are variable, so maybe it’s not always as outstanding as it was for us today.
Next on our excursion was a visit to Adobe Books, at 3166 Mission Street. This is partly a used book store and partly an art gallery. The art gallery was quite interesting, with an unusual and creative mountain of used books set afire. No, there were not real flames, but one of those ‘fireplace simulators’ nestled into a quarter pyramid of books tucked into one corner of the tiny gallery space, which is at the very rear of the book store.
The book store itself was warm, cozy and inviting, with all kinds of fascinating books stacked everywhere. Monika bought The Satanic Verses by Salmon Rushdie, as neither of us has read it, and we’ve both been curious about it.
In the cookbook section, I was surprised to see a copy of the Chinese cookbook given to me years ago by my dear late friend Stan Pasternak. There also was a beautifully photographed book about canning fruits and vegetables. The photographs of tasty food in glass bottles reminded me of my long standing project to photograph the hundreds of glass bottles I have been collecting for photography since the mid 1980s. Most of these bottles are in records storage boxes stored under my parents’ house in the crawl space. My father reminds me to come pick them up every so often. They’ve been there for twenty plus years so far, but I maintain that the containers are only getting more rare and interesting with every passing year. The Planters peanuts glass bottles from the 1980s are very distinctive and identifiable. Now that I have a good digital camera, I am particularly looking forward to completing the project, which I started in 1983 while I was studying at Brooks in Santa Barbara, California.
Before we went to Noisebridge, we picked up some vegetables at the farmers market at Divisadero Street and Grove streets. We got there just before closing time at 2pm, and there were few customers. But there was plenty to buy, and the prices are lower than at the 9th Avenue and Irving street farmers market closer to our house, where we usually buy produce. We picked up some chili peppers that were still on the branches. I cut them off when we got home, and we probably ended up with 150 small chili peppers, which I plan to use in my Chinese cooking. We also bought some bitter melon, strawberries, plums and onions. Later in the Mission we bought some beautiful large red tomatoes that were a huge bargain at just $1 for three pounds. I wish I knew where the produce in the Mission comes from. If someone knows, please leave me a comment. The prices are just so attractive that I don’t know how they do it. We love farmers markets, and try to go every weekend during the season. At the Irving street market there is a vendor who sells just fresh dates. They are $7 a pound, but they are the most flavorful dates I’ve ever tasted. Eating them is like eating fantastic candy. Monika and I had a great afternoon.
I spent $25 today and I logged every penny of it in my new favorite Apple iPhone software application called iXpenseIt. This free app lets you quickly log every dollar you spend, and makes it super easy to use the iPhone camera to capture each receipt. Then, you can look at bar and pie charts on the phone to see where your money goes among expense categories. You get the data off the phone by sending yourself a spreadsheet by email. I highly recommended iXpenseIt based on my few days of experience.
I went to the Noisebridge first anniversary party last night, October 2nd. Noisebridge is a so-called hacker space. There probably were 200 people there last night. The vibe was very good, and I really enjoyed myself. I talked to the people I recognized from my first visit to Noisebridge the day before, including Ruben, Josh and Veronica. I also met Bill and several more people whose names escape me.
I have to admit I was a bit of a geek, as I brought my camera and took some stills and video of the event. I walked through the space with the video camera to show the variety of people and exhibits. They lights were dimmed and there was a DJ with video projectors. The raw warehouse space came alive, and were it a nightclub, it would have been acceptable.
This place has so much potential, and I’m even more excited about Noisebridge than I am about Hacker Dojo, another hacker space I’m already a member of in Mountain View, California. What I find more compelling about Noisebridge is its location, right in the center of the action on Mission Street, which is the main drag in San Francisco’s primary latino neighborhood. The Mission is just such a vibrant and compelling place to put a hacker space. There are dozens of restaurants and bars within walking distance. The public transportation is fantastic. Both the San Francisco Municipal Transit system busses and the Bay Area Rapid Transit trains stop within two blocks of Noisebridge. One can thus get to Noisebridge from anywhere by flying into San Francisco International Airport and hopping on a Bart train, which will drop them off a block and a half from the front door.
I’m sitting in a fantastic new hacker space in San Francisco, California. It’s called Noisebridge. This is a space for computer programmers, hardware hackers, artists and others. The space is on the third floor of a non descript building in the colorful Mission District. It’s on the top floor, and there are skylights, so it’s bright and airy.
There are large windows at both ends of the building, and the space fills the entire top floor, so there is a comfortable breeze, even though it’s a warm day in the City.
There are about a dozen people here working hard to prepare for the first year anniversary party to celebrate the formation of Noisebridge, scheduled for tomorrow evening.
There is stuff everywhere: machine tools, computers, oscilloscopes, books, kitchen appliances, workbenches, couches, bikes and lumber. This is an ambitious project, and the people I’ve met so far are friendly and interesting.
I’m going to come to the party tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to many more visits to Noisebridge.