San Franciscans Will Crowd Source Anything

July 21, 2008

Two fun videos that emphasizes how Bay folks love working together and helping out.  For some reason it takes a real metropolis to find people willing to pull silly stunts like this and San Francisco is better at fostering that than anywhere else I have been.  It is a very welcoming, non-judgemental environment.

The first was one of the top links today on Boing Boing.  It shows a guy who allows his hair to be cut by random passers-by.  Looks pretty good, I think.

The second is of a guy who gets enough random people to push him from the mission to Golden Gate park in under half an hour.  That’s uphill folks, uphill the whole way.  The video is from SF Gate and they’re not so keen about imbedding off-site, so here’s the link:

It is 2 minutes, eight seconds.


Bakesale Betty’s Makes’s Front Page

July 17, 2008
bakesale betty logo

bakesale betty logo

Ironing board tables photo by ed u.

Somehow a little local bakery in Oakland made the it to the top of the heap for most popular links on today.  This sort of thing never happened when I lived in Florida.  As far as U.S. cities go, if you are reading a magazine article about some nifty place it is usually in L.A., New York or San Francisco.  But thanks to Silicone Valley, San Francisco gets a lot more love in the digital media.  Though I live far from the valley and Bakesale Betty’s is in my neighborhood.  I can actually walk there in, maybe, three minutes.

They are a very small space with almost no inside seating.  Frankly, I don’t usually eat there because there is always a monstrous line.  Apparently all the fuss is about the chicken sandwiches, the “best ever!” according to people who eat such things. I usually get the strawberry shortcake, the recipe for which you can get on their site. Those who do “dine in” sit outside at make-shift tables which are actually used ironing boards.  The ironing boards are a perfect fit for the busy sidewalk and the homey, kitschy theme.

Other great bakeries in Berkeley/North Oakland are Nabalom and Sweet Adeline’s.

photo credit: Ed U. at

bakesale betty's in oakland

bakesale betty's in oakland

San Francisco Is the Most “walk-able” U.S. City

July 17, 2008

According to recent rankings by The Daily Green, San Francisco is America’s “most walkable city.”

1. San Francisco, CA

The city is known for its stable, relatively mild climate and progressive viewpoints, and 90% of San Francisco residents have a Walk Score of 70 or above, while 99% have a Walk Score of at least 50. Only 1% live in so-called car-dependent neighborhoods. The top areas are Chinatown, the Financial District, Downtown and North Beach.

The Daily Green actually based their scores on a nifty website,   Walk Score is a smart google mash-up that scores a location based on how many businesses and civic institutions are within walking distance.  They also describe San Francisco’s walk-ability:

Explore San Francisco’s Most Walkable Neighborhoods

The top 17 neighborhoods in San Francisco are Walkers’ Paradises. 90% of San Francisco residents have a Walk Score of 70 or above. 99% have a Walk Score of at least 50—and 1% live in Car-Dependent neighborhoods.

On their site you can  explore by neighborhood or enter in your address.

Speaking of Walk Score, it looks like San Francisco has sucked another talented individual into are sphere of joyousness.  I happened upon the site of Lee Byron, who is planning his move to the SF Bay.  He does charming things with technology.  His most recent project is to make a giant walkability map of San Francisco, by mashing the Walk Score mash-up.  His page is full of interesting projects; I certainly spent more time than I should have purusing them.  Now if only we can convince John Stewart to take the plunge…

“If You Consider…” An Ambient Audio Tour of Golden Gate Park

March 12, 2008

I have tried to explain to my friends the spirit of San Francisco, how it exudes artistic initiative in a way that other great cities like Philly and Atlanta don’t.  You get this feeling like you could open up a sewing shop in your basement or run a nightclub out of the back of an old school bus.  You feel that way because people here are wacky enough to try such things and shockingly, they succeed.  It’s what you get when you mix the improvisation of the beatniks with the shamelessness of the hippies with the idealistic entrepreneurship of the dot-com boomers.

Last Saturday I discovered an event that perfectly captures this spirit.  I responded to a post on Squidlist promising an “ambient audio tour.”   After a morning bike ride through the city, I arrived at an address in front of Golden Gate Park.  It wasn’t a business, but a residence, one of the many old Victorian row houses the city is known for.  I was warmly welcomed in and offered tea and homemade biscuits and cookies.  There were about ten people in the room, some folks like me who responded to the web bulletin and others friends of the project making friendly conversation.  The atmosphere was entirely welcoming.

The audio tour could be acquired on mp3, tape or CD.  One need not bring a player as he had a basket full of old Walkmans.  After ten minutes of socializing, I ventured out into the park with my Ipod stacked up with “If You Consider…”, the ambient audio tour of Golden Gate park.

When I say “audio tour,” you are most likely thinking of a long string of historical notes: Bob Marley peed here.  Janis Joplin sang a song about this spot. And there’s a bit of that.  What makes the tour magical is the way the narrator drifts into the realm of fancy.  There is some history and there is some whimsy.  You can’t really be sure where one ends and the other begins.  One moment you are learning about the edible plants at your feet, the next you are in a string of poetry and then he is quick to warn you, “Be careful.  That man behind you has been following you for some time now…”

The artist behind this creation is a musician and the soundtrack really makes this tour shine.  The music is at times peaceful and sweet and other times delightfully cacophonous, a la “A Day In the Life” or Radiohead at its more experimental moments.  The soundscape fits well with the content and is segued seamlessly.

The tour does not end, exactly, as it encourages one to continue their imaginative adventure, perhaps even make their own audio tour (and isn’t that the spirit of innovation I am suggesting that our fine city encourages?).   Following the musical portion of the tour, my senses were awakened.  I continued to wander. Colors and revelry drew me to the Mary B. Connoly playground.  I stopped at the restroom, which carried a warning the walls inside were filled with lead-based paint.  Most days this would only annoy me but in that moment I was an explorer and the poisoned walls were part of the urban adventure, a small challenge.  A boy rode a unicycle, children slid on cardboard down a slide-walk that resembled the hilly streets of Nobb Hill.  One of the fathers sported a worn pork pie hat.  An ancient Asian woman carried a white infant on her back, enclosed in a colorful Mexican blanket.  In the distant field, drummers played.  Of course,  I would see all these things if not on my ambient tour.  But would I really see these things?
Golden Gate park is huge and exploring can be daunting.  If you want to get to know some of its nooks and crannies, I can think of no better way than spending a Sunday afternoon with “If You Consider…”.

San Franciscans Don’t Cough On You

December 15, 2007

From The Drum Major Report Year in ReviewNo More Working While Sick

Caught that new flu bug that’s going around? If you’re one of the 50% of American workers without paid sick leave, you may be punching the clock anyway. And if you’re one of two-thirds who can’t take paid time off to care for an ill child, Junior may be heading off to school with a contagious disease. That is, unless you live in San Francisco, which this year became the first place in the country to mandate at least five days of paid sick leave for everyone employed within city limits. The measure permits employees to use the sick days to care for themselves, family members, or another person designated as dependent on their care. While businesses complain about the cost, the SF ordinance—approved by voter referendum—is expected to lower employee turnover, raise productivity with a healthier workforce, reduce the rate of workplace-related illness as fewer people go to work with contagious conditions, and allow illnesses to get treated before they become serious. Workers, meanwhile, will no longer face an impossible choice between health and employment. For giving everyone time to heal without losing a day’s pay, San Francisco’s sick leave is one of the best policies of 2007.