OK, we got wet. We got real wet, but everyone is making fun of us about it now. Some are calling it the storm that wasn’t, but I think we handled it pretty well.
San Francisco got 3.5″ of rain [some places like the Sunset District actually got 4″]. That’s a lot of water and it was the 11th wettest day in SF history. It just didn’t seem like it because it was something San Francisco rarely gets — warm rain. When it rains in San Francisco there’s usually lots of big huge cold drops that chill you to the bone. This was a lot of small rain drops that constantly kept coming with no let up. People focused on the rain, but that wasn’t what they needed to focus on.
Wind was a bit of a problem and the lack of proper drainage caused the real problems. San Francisco was ready for the most part though. STAY HOME. Was the phrase of the day and people listened. That was even easier when most of the power was out east of Stanyan Street and North of Market. Nobody had much reason to go into work if there was no power. Lots of my friends where told not to bother going into work because there was no power so that stopped a lot of problems from happening. There was less traffic on the roads so there were less crashes even though there were quite a few car drownings outside of SF, mostly in the East Bay and down on the Peninsula.
These were in large part why we didn’t have many problems. We were prepared. They compared it to the last big storm in 2008. It wasn’t quite that bad and I actually had to drive to work in Burlingame that day and the wind was so bad that I got blown off the road when a big rig that was next to me sped up and the wind it was blocking suddenly whipped around and hit my car causing me to fishtail off to the side of the road. The puddles were bad from the flooding because they were big and muddy and when a car next to you hits one your windshield suddenly becomes a wall. If you’re traveling at 60mph this can be kind of scary, but most people weren’t out driving.
Power outages are something that we have to deal with from time to time so I think most of us were prepared. I was lucky in that we stayed connected the whole time. For the most part, San Francisco fared pretty well.
On the other hand apparently people in the East Bay and Peninsula weren’t used to having to deal with lots of rain and the biggest problem was the sewer systems couldn’t handle it. There were lots of flooding in the normal places like freeway underpasses, but there were also some flat areas that from pictures looked a lot like New Orleans after the levees broke during Katrina. Hopefully those areas will think about that now and clean out their sewer lines before the next storms come through which should be happening soon. San Francisco needs to think about this as well. I noticed there were several sewer crews out after the storm unsealing sewer lines that were plugged that probably wouldn’t have happened if they had taken care of it before the storm.
On the upside, all of California got really wet and contrary to what some people have been saying, yes, this did make a dent in the drought. More rain is coming and that will make things much better. Northern California got the most rain with some places getting over a foot of rain in one day. We’ll still need quite a few good soakings to help fill up the reservoirs where waters had dropped severely over the past few years and we aren’t out of the darkness yet, but it is getting better. Oddly enough, this was something I was saying several months ago about El Niño. Yeah, I pretty much predicted that one accurately. December and January were always our coldest and wettest months of the year. El Niño just made them warm and wetter. Expect to see more heavy rains, probably not quite as big as the last storm, but overall this will help California and the drought quite a bit.
Just a last note, you all know how much I love to put photos in with my articles, but for some reason I’ve run into a little problem I need to fix that’s not allowing me to post photos at the moment. This is not fun as I collected lots of storm porn photos to share with you.
So it looks like the remains of Candlestick Park are going to be transformed into an African Diaspora themed shopping center with 6000 units of housing. I suppose San Francisco could be called the city that never learns and I’m going to tell you why.
At least this time they aren’t pushing the affordable housing button to get everyone to go along with it. Sure a certain amount of those 6000 living spaces will have to go to those in need, but you’d be surprised at what looks like a person in need sometimes.
Nobody seems to remember what San Francisco was saying when Mission Bay was going to be built. Affordable homes in San Francisco! Finally you’ll be able to get a house! Back then in the 80’s that meant a house for under $100k if you can imagine it. I shook my head and my girlfriend at the time asked me, Don’t you want to be able to afford a house? Now look at Mission Bay. It’s got a high priced ball park surrounded by high priced restaurants with high priced living. It’s one of the most expensive places in SF to live now. I suspect the same thing will happen to Candlestick.
I was over in that area a few months ago and noticed that there’s lots of old houses in bad shape that are being torn down and replaced with condos. For most people who think they know San Francisco this part of town barely looks like San Francisco. The houses still there are no more than two stories and there’s lots of sun all the time. There’s next to no shopping for the people who live there and if you’re lucky to find a convenience store there will be bars all over the windows.
San Francisco is going to change all that now. There’s going to be bistros, and theaters, and pocket parks, and performance venues, and a hotel. There’s nothing like waking up in the morning to the smell of Candlestick [people used to refer to it as Candlestink Park.]
If there was ever a part of San Francisco that will show the biggest change from gentrification it would be this area. It will look nice and safe, but it will take quite a few years for that to really happen. Mid-Market where all the tech companies are trying to bring about some change is still working on that. They’re working so hard they want to build a land bridge so their workers don’t have to use the streets and interact with poor people.
The Hunter’s Point area is sort of a part of San Francisco that no one knows about. Sure, people talk about how hip it’s getting [that’s actually the Dog Patch area of the Bayview, not Hunter’s Point.] There are a few houses around lots of open spaces that either parking or places for houses to be built. The reality is that if they’re putting in affordable housing [right now it’s at a whopping 63 units out of the 12,000 planned over the next 10-12 years] they need to realize that people living in affordable houses don’t shop at Michael Kors or Saks which they’re planning on moving in there. As I said to a friend of mine today, they don’t build housing for poor people.
OK, bad joke maybe, but I’ve been noticing that the next new big thing in San Francisco cuisine is all about cultured butter. Restaurants are making their own like it’s something new that’s never been done before and mixing in bone marrow or herbs or whatever they have laying around in the kitchen. The reality is that it’s not that new, it’s actually been around since people discovered milk comes out of cows and oddly enough it’s pretty easy to make yourself.
Why would I want to make butter? You’re probably saying. You can buy it at the store and if you look hard enough you can sometimes even find cultured butter. This is a bit different though because it’s fresh since you made it yourself and the thing that the restaurant chefs aren’t talking about is that if it’s made here it’s got San Francisco bacteria in it that you can’t find anywhere else. Just like our sourdough bread has it’s own flavor, cultured butter made in San Francisco has it’s own super rich awesome flavor.
I came upon making butter totally by accident actually. I kept hearing about creme fraiche as a new big thing and realized that I didn’t think I had ever tried it before so I had to make some. That part was easy. Here’s what you need:
1 pint heavy cream [not ultra-pasturized]
2 tablespoons plain yogurt with live cultures
Yes, it’s that simple. Pour the cream into a bowl and whip in the yogurt with a whisk then pour it into the jar. Here’s the part where people might get a little hincky. Lightly cover the jar and leave it out for 24 hours and you’ve got creme fraiche. The creme thickens up and starts to get a taste that kind of between cream cheese and sour cream. You’re free to stop there and use it anywhere you’d use sour cream. The fun fact with creme fraiche is that it’s higher butterfat content means you can mix it into sauces and it won’t break. I was tossing it on everything just to see where it would be good. Baked potatoes are great. Add a little sugar and pour it onto berries or dessert and it’s great. Mix in herbs for a super rich and wonderful dip for whatever you want to dip in it.
Now for the butter part. You can take your creme fraiche and pour it into a butter churn. Don’t have one? A food processor will work just fine. Turn it on and watch it start to look like beaten whipped cream in a couple of minutes. Let the processor keep going for about 5 minutes and it starts to break up from all that agitation. You’re getting butter and buttermilk. Pour the buttermilk off and add some cold water and run the processor again. The water will wash out more of the buttermilk and you might have to do this a couple of times before the water starts to come out clear. The more buttermilk you can extract the longer it will last.
When you’re done you have cultured butter. The buttermilk you got out of it you can use to make more by adding a couple of tablespoons to more cream or you can make buttermilk pancakes. Part of the culturing comes from the yogurt cultures and part comes from your geographic location, i.e. San Francisco. It’s very high in butterfat like European butter. It’s kind of like a rock when you pull it out of the fridge. You can use it on whatever you like. I personally like it melting into some homemade dinner rolls, but again, I’ve been putting it on just about everything to see where it’s best. I’ve yet to be disappointed. It’s a little bit tangier than regular store bought butter and more than even the store bought cultured butter I’ve tried. I’ve used organic cream from Clover Stornetta or Straus Creamery because they’re local and I know the cows are grass fed so you get more Omega 3’s and all the good stuff that comes with grass fed cow’s milk. At the very least don’t tell anyone how easy it is to make and you can been all food snobby when you tell them that the dish you made incorporates hand made butter from the cream of grass fed cows. That’s a lot of words so that means it’s really good.
Yes, it’s pretty much all saturated fat, but it’s healthy saturated fat so it’s good for you right? Just try it and taste it and you really won’t care. I think I’ve found my last meal that won’t disappoint me.
Yes, I woke up a 3:20am this morning to feel my house shaking quite a bit. To all the newcomers to San Francisco, welcome. You’ve just felt your first big earthquake.
Centered in American Canyon near Napa that is where the most damage was. So far I’ve read that there were about 70 people injured mostly near the epicenter of the quake. That wasn’t too bad. During the 1989 Loma Prieta quake that registered 6.9 [or some people still argue it was 7.1] 63 people died, but over 3700 people were injured. The 1906 was estimated at being around 7.8. The recent American Canyon quake people are saying was between 5.7-6.1.
I don’t remember the last time I felt an earthquake in SF other than the Loma Prieta, but we used to get them more frequently than we do now. They used to be so frequent that people tended to ignore them most of the time [see the video at the end. That’s the way most San Franciscan’s handled an earthquake even though it’s a clip from the movie L.A. Story].
Earthquake preparedness wasn’t a big thing before the Loma Prieta. The earthquakes just weren’t that big before then and there were never any after effects. I woke up this morning to feel my house shaking in an East West direction. The first thing I realized is that this was a longer than normal quake because I actually had the time to think about what direction the shaking was happening in. I heard the doors that were closed rattling and after I realized we were having an earthquake I made sure my wife was awake. We learned a few years ago during our NERT training that running for a doorway isn’t the best thing to do. Get up against a wall because if the building falls down being next to a wall is the best place to be because if the roof falls it will most likely break at an angle giving you the most room and air to breath next to a wall.
I of course made sure my wife was against the wall and then did the dumb thing — I started to run to get near our daughter. Her room is upstairs and being seven and autistic this might not go over well with her. Luckily by the time I got to the stairs the quake was over and my daughter had slept through it.
I did a quick check and saw that LED’s on some of our electrical gear was still on so I knew we hadn’t lost power. I grabbed my phone as soon as the quake started and realized that my iPhone with the built in flashlight was probably a good thing to have next to the bed for just such an occurrence. I hadn’t heard anything fall over so I started to calm down and checked twitter and Facebook to see what my friends felt. San Francisco is fine, Napa looks like it’s pretty trashed right now.
OK, it was near American Canyon so we were away from the epicenter which was good. All of my friends in SF were fine so now it was time to calm down and go back to bed. The biggest problem after an earthquake is the rush you get that when you’re lying down trying to fall back asleep that makes everything feel like its still moving. While the quake lasted maybe 30 seconds or so [The NSGS never tells you how long a quake lasts only how big it was.] I still felt like the house was mildly shaking for about five minutes afterwards. I managed to get back to sleep and woke up this morning to see what everyone else was saying. There’s a kind of dark humor that pops up after a disaster, especially if you’re on the edge of it. I actually had to add to it with the following tweet that’s starting to go viral:
Other’s are showing how tough they are by bragging that they were in the 1989 quake and this was nothing. While that’s true, I think the people in Napa might disagree with you. Earthquakes are pretty scary to say the least. We generally have a lot less damage than a hurricane or tornado though and the big ones only have once every 20 or so years. We’re pretty lucky overall. Now let’s see if people start leaving San Francisco since I did predict about a year ago that the only thing that would get people to move out would be an earthquake…
I’ve always had a thing for tiki culture. It must have started when I was a kid and my Mom liked to go with her friends to a restaurant on the Peninsula called the Castaways that had a fashion show while you were eating and women [usually in bikini tops] would walk up to your table and give you an up close view of their outfit. Because of this I think I started to go through puberty at about seven.
It was more than the girls though, Tiki Culture was still kind of big when I was a kid having hit its peak in the 50’s when Hawaii joined the United States as its 50th state. The whole Tiki Culture thing started long before Hawaii became a state though.
It actually started in 1934 when A guy named Ernest Gantt started a bar and restaurant called Don The Beachcomer in Hollywood. He invented lots of tiki drinks that had nothing to do with Hawaii or anywhere else in the tropics other than the fact that they used rum which was pretty cheap at the time. Ernest changed his name to Donn Beach to solidify his place along with one of the mainstays of tiki cocktails, the Zombie.
Not too long after Don The Beachcomber opened though then a man by the name of Victor Bergeron visited the Beachcomber and thought to himself…I can do this one better. Trader Vic’s soon replaced Hinky Dinks in Oakland and with his keen eye for business Trader Vic’s blossomed. There were locations opening up all over the US with the last one oddly enough opening up in Hawaii. Victor Bergeron has himself seated at the tiki hierarchy along with Donn Beach because of this and Trader Vic created the famous Mai Tai.
Not so surprising Trader Vic’s caused a blossoming in the San Francisco Bay Area of tiki bars. There is of course the Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel that has been saved for now from closing. For those in need of more of a dive tiki bar there was Trad’r Sam’s in the outer Richmond which is probably one of the last places that you would expect to find a tiki bar.
These were all the old school tiki bar/restaurants. The drinks were strong and the food, while somewhat pedestrian by today’s foodie standards were Americanized version of Asian food with appetizers like Crab Rangoon or Rumaki usually being served. The entire environment was dress how people expected the tropics to be, not necessarily how they were. My wife and I went to Hawaii and when the heat and humidity hit here when we got of the plane I was surprised she didn’t turn right back around and fly home. In San Francisco you don’t have to worry about heat and humidity though so the cheap grass skirt hangings and wooden canoes were just nice and not what you would see in your everyday life.
Tiki bars and their culture were a form of escapism and San Francisco was no better place to escape from it all. There were other places around the city that had bits and pieces of tiki influence that weren’t tiki bars. If you go to Bimbo’s 365 club they still have the fish tank behind the bar where through optical effects a girl down below dressing in a mermaid outfit looked like she was swimming around in the tank. Most bars would make a Mai Tai or Zombie, but they never did it as well as where they originated.
The Vietnam war started to cause a fade in Tiki Culture, but it never disappeared as a form of necessary escapism for many. I know of several friends who’ve created tiki bar like home bars that are always a lot of fun to have a drink at, but when those drinks come cheaper your liver might protest a bit more.
The Tiki Culture of yesterday has made a comeback though which is a good thing. Trader Vic’s, the Tonga Room and Trad’r Sam’s are still in business now joined by Smuggler’s Cover, Bamboo Hut and Tiki Haven among others. The older places have updated a bit [well, maybe not Trad’r Sam’s] and the new places are giving a spin on Tiki Culture for the new millennia. Definitely check out at least one of the old and one of the new so you can compare and don’t forget your Hawaiian shirt!
Surge pricing. If you’ve ever taken Uber you know what that is. Demand is high for rides, so the price goes up. It doesn’t always seem like that is the case though when you see surge pricing in effect at odd times and I found out some interesting information yesterday.
I was at a meeting when someone mentioned that Uber has a team of employees whose job it is to keep the drivers from hacking the surge pricing system. This person thought it was only in effect on the East Coast, but I mentioned that I’ve heard from online groups that the drivers in San Francisco are doing this as well. Here’s how it works:
When Uber isn’t surging the price is usually less than a taxi. This is good for the riders, but not the drivers. So the drivers have organized online through various ways of communicating to all go offline when Uber does not have surge prices and then request and cancel rides to increase demand causing Uber’s servers to automatically turn on surge pricing thereby increasing the cost of the fare.
There have been recent articles over the past couple of days of Uber & Lyft accusing each other of booking and canceling rides as a way to take drivers off the road. While I don’t know about Lyft because I haven’t met as many Lyft drivers the same might be true there so that in reality it’s not drivers collecting to try to screw up the competition, but the drivers are actually working to increase their profitability by hacking their own systems. This is all just theory from me since none of the other companies working as TNC’s are being affected and none of the other companies increase their pricing when demand is high. In the end it seems that the only people who benefit from less drivers being on the road is the drivers because that then increases how much money you can make.
As an example, I tweeted that after Outsidelands because of Uber’s surge pricing [Lyft doesn’t give you estimates] it would have cost me $40 for a ride home just over a mile from the concert. While this wasn’t a forced form of surge pricing because demand definitely was high, there was also traffic involved which means that $40 estimate [or $75 estimate to get from Outsidelands to Russian Hill] didn’t take into account that it would be a slower ride which would increase the cost and drivers income even more making the fare more expensive.
Most of the drivers who were driving during the Outsidelands surge pricing were making between $60-$100/hour. This is much better than the $17-$30 you hear drivers talk about during non-surge times. Some of these drivers where earning the equivalent of a 40 hour week at $15/hour in six hours in one day.
Now can you see why drivers would like to be able to drive only during surge pricing? I would suspect that because surge pricing pops up so much that Uber isn’t working too hard to stop it because after all it just increases their bottom line.
A lot of this is just speculative talk as I’m not on the inside with Uber, but I am on boards where there are lots of Uber [and Lyft] drivers with loose tongues who think that no one will ever see what you’re posting on the internet and if it’s on the internet it must be true.
When I got the news yesterday evening it hit me hard. It hit a lot of people hard, but especially those of us who live in San Francisco when we got the news that Robin Williams had died.
San Francisco hasn’t had many resident celebrities in quite a long time, but Robin loved San Francisco. He had even said in the past that there was no other city he could imagine himself living in and for the people of San Francisco that was pretty cool. He had a mansion in Sea Cliff so it wasn’t unusual to run into him in the Richmond District and he would also frequent the Sunset on his way to The Other Cafe comedy club where he would frequently pop in just to see who might be the next new kid in town and sometimes, if you were lucky he’d just jump up on stage and take over the place. He brought a whole new side to comedy that all you could do is strap yourself in and hold on because you never knew what he was going to throw at you. I think sometimes he didn’t know what he was going to do when he got up on stage either.
For most of America we first met Robin Williams a long time ago when he caught our eye as that weird alien who made a guest appearance on Happy Days before he got his own spin off. Most of the world knew him as Mork from Ork, but even back then he was still Robin Williams, the stand up comedian for us in San Francisco.
It was pretty hard to live here and not run into him. I saw him all the time at the Other Cafe, but ran into somewhat frequently in the Richmond or Sunset Districts. The best part about him was he was friendly to all the people who could come up to him. I’d see him walking down the street and someone would walk up to him and he’d smile and shake their hand. I could never figure out how he could do it all the time without going crazy. Whenever I’d see him someone would be walking up to him, yet he didn’t seem to mind. I really wanted to ask him one of the times I saw him, but I only got to officially meet him once. I had a girlfriend who was very into comedians. I guess I should have taken that as a complement. We wouldn’t go out to nightclubs on the weekends, she drag me to the Other Cafe just about every other day of the week. She got a little giddy the first time she saw Robin Williams walk in and practically dislocated my arm dragging me over to meet him. She then pushed me in front of her to do the introductions because I guess that was my job. Hi Robin, I’m Eric and my girlfriend dragged me over so I could introduce her to you because she thinks I’m someone. We shook hands and she pushed me out of the way and out of the picture for the moment. All I could do at that point was say, you can throw her back if you’d like. I got a small hint of a laugh out of him. Subsequent trips to the Other Cafe when he would show up and I was with her he’d glance over and give us the thumbs up. I think the best part of it was she probably thought he was acknowledging her presence and I thought it was a non-verbal way of saying to me, still on that honeymoon? Who knows what he really meant by it. Robin was always like that weird uncle you had. You never knew what would happen when he was around but you were always waiting to see what it would be.
The best part about Robin was that he never lost his edge. That childlike craziness he had onstage or when he was Mork stayed with him. Drugs didn’t take it away, Alcohol didn’t take it away, Heart surgery didn’t take it away. We don’t know all the details yet, but so far it looks like it was a suicide. Robin died in his home in Marin. I remember him making jokes about people in Marin and how disconnected they were from the rest of the world. I’d just like to think that it didn’t disconnect him from the world that loved him.
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