Where have all the sea lions gone?

People are talking about the loss of a big tourist attraction from San Francisco, the Pier 39 sea lions which called Pier 39 home since 1989. Everyone is writing stories about why they left, but they don’t know why. Allow me to edify you as to why the sea lions left Pier 39. They used to live on the obviously named at the time, “Seal Rock” out by the old Sutro Baths ruins. Then because they ate up most of the herring out there they left to find more and find a nice feeding ground with lovely places to rest at Pier 39.

This year, there was a large influx of sea lions in the late fall which caused the amount of plentiful herring found near Pier 39 to disappear. When the food goes, so go the sea lions. They basically ate the place dry and needed to move on to find more food. Find the herring and you’ll find the sea lions.

It’s a bit sad that they’re gone from Pier 39, but there’s lots of other stuff there to attract people. Maybe they’ll move back to Seal Rock so that people will have another place to visit in the city, and while you’re out there You should visit the Seal Rock Inn for breakfast or lunch. Great food at great prices and their Greek food is to die for, not to mention their rooms if you’re looking for a place to stay are awesome. There I got a foodie reference in.

Christmas traditions at Lucca’s Delicatessen

Being the Italian kind of guy I am we have an annual Christmas Eve traditions of having ravioli’s for dinner. I think this might have started just to make life easier so we could focus on the big meal the next day.

Our tradition begins usually a week or two in advance where you actually have to call in your order for ravioli’s at Lucca’s Delicatessen. If you don’t call it in there won’t be any when you get there. Now Lucca’s is probably one of the only shops left on Chestnut Street aside from the Horseshoe Bar that were still there when I was a kid.

I used to remember my dad getting off work and he bring me to the Horseshoe where they’d hide me in the corner with my Shirley Temple while he knocked back a few. But I digress.

Lucca’s is an outstanding delicatessen. The kind of place that you’re just happy standing out in front and smelling the air that wafts out of the place. Quite a lot of their meats and cheeses are imported directly from Italy and they receive shipments of fresh real mozzarella every week. Their prosciutto de parma is a meat that is absolutely to die for. But today we were here for the big meaty raviolis. They are the true traditional raviolis and they make them fresh daily there. If you don’t know what goes into true raviolis you might not want to eat them. I think they’re a way to get kids to eat animal parts they wouldn’t normally eat, but I still love them to this day. The trick is to call in your order and pay by phone then you won’t have to stand in line for so long. You just show up and give the girl in the front by the door your name and she’ll run back and give you your order. I get a kind of smug feeling when I get to do this because it’s like walking into the post office with an already labeled priority mail box at Christmas and getting to walk past the huddled and tired masses and just drop it on the front table and walk out.

Lucca’s is a gem that I hope never goes away like so much else on Chestnut Street. I’m really looking forward to dinner tonight. 🙂

Need a Guest Lecturer? Ask Me

I never brought this up before, but I’ve done my time giving lectures. I guess it started when I was asked to give an oral report in school. I liked doing that very much and as a kid I was a sponge soaking up information left and right. I’m glad I’ve kept that up because I find myself learning more now than I did in school which in and of itself could be a lecture. I have a very good knowledge of San Francisco History as well as aquarium keeping and audio recording. If you have a group that would be interested in having me as a guest lecturer email me and we can make arrangements. I’m pretty inexpensive as well. I might even do it for a free dinner.

Here are a few of the lectures I’ve given in the past.

San Francisco’s Sunset District: The Outside Lands.

Why Americans never call themselves Americans.

Why Caucasian is a meaningless term.

Getting your blog noticed.

How to turn your computer into a professional recording studio.

Setting up a planted aquarium.

Let’s be techies for a moment

Ok I’ll step back from food for a minute and talk about the technological wonders of the Bay Area.  We are probably one of the most tech-savvy areas in the world. Maybe we don’t have scream powered cars like they do in Japan, but just about everyone I know has a website or is a blogger etc, etc, etc…

Well a few years ago when I was paying well over $200 a year to host my first commercial website on about 60mbs of space it seemed a bit expensive. I think it cost $50 a year to register a domain name back then as well. Well prices have dropped. I wanted to let you all know of a super deal that you can get through our sponsors hostrail.com. This company will give you 30Gbs of space on your own virtual private server for $7.99/month. If you want even more bang for your buck if you buy in use the promo code LGN09 and you’ll get an additional 30% off for the life of the account. That brings the price down to less than $5/month.

A VPS gives you overall control of the server and you could even sell off space to your friends and make some extra money. The Bay Area is home to techie entrepreneurs so why not give it a shot. They have 24/7 onsite access and I’ve never seen one of my sites go down. My last provider was charging me $45 a year for 200mb of space so just do the math for a few seconds and there’s a lot of potential there. With this you also get full access to cpanel [which will give you the ability to auto install several add ons like wordpress that I’m using] and whm control of each site and overall VPS control. Many of the providers are doing this sort of thing so why not jump in and do it yourself. Say you offer 1Gb of space for $50/year that would be an extra $1500/year you’d be getting then you could move up to even bigger servers and make more money.

All you have to do is monitor you email and the rest of the work is done for you. They also have an affiliate program so you can use that to make even more money. So take my advice and check them out.

Tsar Nicoulai Caviar

cafe_aug09newOK, I’m getting a bit foodie again, but this place came to mind tonight after watching an episode of Chef Daniel Boloud’s After Hours. In the show he brought a chef he would be cooking with that night some of his own name brand caviar. Now for me growing up, fish eggs were something you used as bait when fishing, mainly salmon roe. Then one day a woman walked in to the printer I was working for who needed some folding done of some cards they were sending out. She was from the Tsar Nicoulai Caviar company that was next door. We did the job and when it was finished and I delivered it within an hour she was so happy she gave me some black truffled infused osetra caviar and smoked sturgeon. It was about a 2oz jar which for caviar is pretty sizeable and I had learned that this company which has farms up by Russian River uses sustainable farming techniques. This is due to a ban on importation of Caspian and Black Sea caviar due to the fact that the sturgeon are on the endangered species list from being over farmed.

Fish eggs? hmmmm. I wasn’t sure what to think about eating fish eggs, but I had just received something people who usually make about 3 times what I was making usually get to eat. So i figured I’d do it up right and bought a bottle of Stolichnaya vodka and went home and put it in the freezer. Aside from smoked salmon, I don’t tend to like smoked fish so I gave the smoked sturgeon to my mother who said it was really good. By now the vodka was properly chilled and we broke out the blinis and creme fraice. He both looked at each other with a “you go first” kind of look. We both threw them back and began to taste them. Suddenly, I understood the “nutty, briney earthiness of this caviar. The earthiness was most like from the black truffle infusion which usually means it tastes like dirt, but still it was pretty good. I was really surprised I would actually enjoy this, but it was really good.

Apparently, it’s so good that there are top named restaurants around the US who are purchasing their caviar from them. Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter and Rick Moonen to name a few. What they’re doing they’re apparently doing right and getting lots of acclaim for it. They have a cafĂ© at the Ferry Building where you can have tastings paired with sparkling wines that will run you from $42-$102. Not cheap, but it’s definitely worth a try. They also have a wide range of sandwiches and salads that incorporate their caviar and smoked fish as well. I have to tell you that their smoked salmon is incredible and they don’t focus just on sturgeon caviar, but have other less expensive versions from paddlefish and whitefish that  have a great taste as well. If you have the time and little extra money and want to feel a bit like James Bond, check these guys out.


Anthony Bourdain finally gets San Francisco

bourdain_01While I really like Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations he has taken it upon himself to berate San Francisco as a bunch of vegan, tree humping, organically deranaged locavores. Well true, some of us are, but they’re usually transplants from somewhere else there’s very few people born and raised in San Francisco that remember or have been to some of the places Bourdain visited. He made a stop at House of Prime Rib, Tadich Grill, Red’s Java House and the Aum Zam Zam. These are all old school San Francisco places with lots of history. He added in a few newer cutting edge places as well as a quick trip to Oakland  to sample some taco truck fare, though what he was calling a taco was actually a pupusa.

I was please he brought up the irony of the owner of the Pirate Cat Cafe offering up vegan food, but also serving a maple bacon latte and calling that vegan because he had rendered 10 lbs of bacon to get 4oz of bacon fat that he adds to the coffee apparently to some vegans I guess bacon fat is a vegetable. There were many more places that would have better choices for him to try such as Than Long out at the foot of Judah Street that is owned by same people who own Crustacean, yet they serve the same food at half the price. The biggest problem is that San Francisco which is frequently referred to as the food capital of the country and sometimes the world led me to a curious thought. If we’re so great with food why are all the name brand big time chefs like Mario Batalli, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, etc. not opening up a restaurant here? Wolfgang Puck did have Postrio for a while back in the 80’s, but I haven’t heard that name mentioned in years. We do have Gary Danko, Pat Kuleto and Roy Yamaguchi, but you rarely see these guys on  the Food Network or Travel Channel. Are we just that good that we’re scaring them off? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that Tony got one thing wrong in his show. San Francisco is not the town of Alice Waters, that’s Berkeley. While she’s done a great influence to dining in the Bay Area she has gotten some people to go a little too far. The first time I ate at Chez Panisse was in the early 90’s and I didn’t have an idea who she was, but that was the day of the Oakland fire and her restaurant was busy making up sandwich boxes for the firefighters helping to put out the fire and I got to sit there right in the middle of it watching them work.

Tony, if you do another show on San Francisco, come talk to me. Please! I can show you were to get great food in the city at some better places than you chose, though I can’t discount the House of Prime Rib or Tadich Grill.

Death of the small printers

Heidelberg-GTO-46-1-colourI worked in the printing business for many years. I started out teaching myself graphic design which got me hired by Pac Bell who was at the time connected with Ogilvie, Mather Direct. Then I moved on to PG&E who was connected with Landor & Associates and then to Charles Schwab. All these were great jobs, but  then the companies started phasing out their design departments and letting the printers do all the work so I moved over to working directly with the print shops.

After awhile, I started noticing an alarming trend. I’d get laid off and the company would go under in about 6 months. This has been a trend I’ve been seeing since the early 90’s and it’s just getting worse every day. Why? People don’t need printing as much and there are larger conglomerate print shops that are located in the midwest where it’s cheaper to work and they can get you  1000 business cards that are four color on both sides for under $15. Most of the companies I’ve worked for would charge you somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 for that many and they’d be one maybe two colors on the card. Why the big jump in price? The smaller printers offer better services which means you don’t have to give them a perfect file that meets their expectation. You can give them a screwed up file and they’ll usually fix it. The problem there is that if they’re fixing it then it ends up with a higher risk of coming out wrong and the company has to do it all over again at their own expense.

The other thing that’s killing the smaller printers is that people use the internet more and are finding that they can get something cheaper halfway across the country and overnight delivered back to them for less than 1/10th of the cost. The other reason [and this is especially true in California] is that there isn’t as much need for paper anymore by companies. Memo’s are sent out by email. Junk mail is sent out by email [incidentally, I manage five websites and I get close to 1000 junk emails a day.]

Paper is needed by magazines, newsletters and books mostly now and small printers don’t do that sort of work. One company I worked for used to do a lot of printing for the law industry. Now there’s a lot of lawyers who are finding that they can create a template and just print in one color on their laser printers and it will look darn good. Many newsletters are moving to PDF format because hey, we’re a green company and we don’t need 100% PCW [that’s post-consumer waste, the best type of recycled paper]. I know of several law firms who are looking into LEED© Certification and doing their best to eliminate as much paper as possible.

Gone now are the days of small and medium sized printers taking orders for 100k on letterhead and envelopes, because people don’t need them as much anymore. So even though I’ve spent close to the last 20 years working in the industry it’s time to call it quits.  Take a good look at that printer up top, because you’re going to be seeing less and less of them in the future.

‘Til death due us part…no seriously

chains_of_love_t-shirt-284x300I just finished reading an article about a man who wants to ban divorce in California. I thought this was funny, but also made a good point. He’s doing it because the people against prop 8 say that gay marriage goes against the sanctity of traditional marriage. If the traditional man/woman marriage is so holy then why are half of them ending in divorce?

I suppose his point is that if you’re going to be holier than thou then damn it be holier than thou and prove it! Personally, I am straight and I’m in favor of gay marriages. Why? Because I have lots of gay friends and I know that they’d all be FAB-U-LOUS! They would spend lots of money on making sure everything was just right and that in itself would bolster the local SF economy. People have said [and I’m not quoting this as a fact] that gay marriages don’t last because being gay you don’t take it as serious. Even better! More gay marriages then and more money being spread around. This is a win/win situation. The gay population tends to have more spendable cash, at least that’s been my observation from my friends who are gay who have all the latest gadgets with all the hot new bells and whistles. My god, I’m wearing shoes I bought 8 years ago. I am so outre compared to a gay man in San Francisco. I did spend $75 on a shirt last year that was my one extravagance, but it’s been several years since I’ve had an extravagance spending if you ignore the occasional gelato.

But I’m digressing. I think this idea is a real punch in the face to the anti prop 8 people. The whole idea behind www.rescuemarriage.org was started by a man in Sacramento who thought similar to what I started out with in this post. If you feel the sanctity of your marriage is being eroded then maybe you should stop cheating on your spouse or leaving them for someone else. Catholics ban divorce, but substitute it with an annulment. That’s their way of saying, “this never happened” even when the couple is still paying off the bills for an event that never happened. If you really oppose gay marriage and you’re married and get divorced then you’re a hypocrite. Once again half of all straight marriages end in divorce. So where is the sanctity there?

P.S. Even though I’m straight and have been married for 13 years, I’m also  licensed as a Reverend by the Universal Life Church and for a small fee I’ll marry any couple. Trust me, I’ve done the research and I’m legal in California to do it. Now why am I hearing Aretha Franklin singing “chain of fools” running through my head.

Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Touring Musician

Ted Aguilar: Death Angel

Since music’s been on my brain a bit lately I  remembered a conversation I had with my old friend Ted Aguilar. He and Will Carrol were in a band I managed called Warfare D.C. in the 90’s. Now they’ve moved on and have joined Death Angel and are going around the world on tours. These are big tours as well. We’re talking the thousands of people at Wacken, Tuska, No Mercy, etc. I figured now that he’s in a band that’s opening for Metallica, Anthrax and other huge bands that he must be living large. Well, apparently the music business has changed a lot since i was involved with it outside my home studio.

You see in the old days we had what was called pay for play. That meant that they local club would give you say 100 tickets to sell for your show and you had to give them half the value of the tickets back. If you sold all the tickets you got to play. The problem was that a lot of new bands had to sell the tickets for half price just to move them. If you were a bigger band you might be able to sell for 3/4 of the price and make a little money. Hell, we even got Morty’s club to give us dinner and a 12 pack of beer. Those were the good ole days. If you were a signed act they’d just pay you because it made the club look better.

Well apparently when you get bigger you used to make a lot of money from the touring and that’s why some big bands toured so much. Now I wouldn’t put Death Angel on the same level as Metallica, but still they were pretty big in the 80’s and they’re getting bigger today. You won’t hear them on any local radio station, but they’re all over internet radio stations [I won’t get into my hatred of corporate radio now so consider yourself spared.]

Apparently today because it costs so much to fly the band and crew and lodging, etc. That the record labels and the venues aren’t paying the bands to play, but they’re letting them sell merchandise [i.e. t-shirts, patches and anything else they can think of.] From that is where they get the profit and it isn’t that great. So when these bands come home from a world tour they have to find real jobs like the rest of us just to pay the bills.

In the pay to play days you could sell your merchandise as well and come out even better. Now it just looks like the record companies and their falling apart business models are taking in out on the artists who are keeping them in their fine offices. Friends of mine have been pushing me to get a band together and start touring at least in California. I even have one fan in the “adult industry” who’s been begging me to play down south, but while tempting as it may sound to get to hangout and have pictures taken with porn stars, there would be just too much money involved to make it worth while. It might happen someday, but things have got to change big time. For now I’m just going to have to bang out my music in my house. Besides, I’m a real pain in the ass when I’m touring.