End of the Year post

In a lot of ways this year has been fun and not fun. While I haven’t been employed much and lost my last close relative this year, it’s also given me a sense of freedom. Our costs are down, we own our home and I’ve been able to share the things I like and dislike about San Francisco with all of you.

I’ll be continuing my work on the blog and finding new and inventive ways to make money in the coming year. I don’t expect to be the Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs of 2011, but I know it’s going to get better for me, you, all of us. I love all the comments I’ve been getting on Facebook from my friends who enjoy my writing. I just ask that maybe once in awhile, you post the comment here too [thanks Steve Lai and Mike Gunn who’ve taken that to heart!]

In the coming year you’ll see some changes such as the look and feel of the site will change a bit, I’ll get [hopefully] an Owle Bubo to better hold my iPhone camera for better pics and video and I’m hoping to get outside the Sunset District a little bit more. I want to bring more of the city to all of you and I like the feedback you’ve been giving me.

If you are a local business and would like to help me out by being a sponsor, contact me. You’ll get more than just what is seen under “Our Sponsors”. I’ll make you a professional banner ad for the sidebar free of charge, so if you’re interested, let’s talk.

Also keep in mind if you’re one of the smartphone types that I do have a mobile web app available if you just shoot a picture of the QR code [those funny pixels over to the right for those who don’t know about QR codes] with your phone you won’t have to type all those letters to get to the site and you can save it on your phone so that you can instantly access the latest news I have to offer.

Lastly, if you own a company that needs help with marketing, social networking, graphic design, website design or have some audio/video needs then contact me. My family would really like to see me have a job again.

Cheers! Don’t get too drunk tonight!

SF Public Library Trains for Christmas

I’ve never been a big model train buff, but I was pretty surprised years ago when I was taken to the Randall Museum and ushered down into it’s bowels to a room that was set up and run by the local model train club. This was impressive. It was about a 20’x40′ room with a huge town and mountain range built with the little train cars moving all around it. THAT was impressive.

My wife was making a big deal over the train display they had out in front of the Fisher Children’s Center at the mail library so I figured, let’s take a trip down and see it. Now I have to admit I used to have a problem with libraries as it always seemed the books were too out of date for what I needed. I’d go in looking for a computer book and could only find “How to use your Texas Instruments calculator”. Well things have changed and I’m always surprised at all the new stuff I find at the main library. Today we saw a little museum like piece on “Eats around San Francisco”. It was pretty much old menus which was find with me because I got a few laughs from some of the restaurants that were shown that have now gone.

[mappress mapid=”9″]But let’s get back to the train exhibit. Well, I’ll have to say I was a little disappointed. It was about 10’x4′. Not exactly as sizable as I expected. I always think big so I figured it would be this huge impressive thing. Well, not exactly, but it was still fun. It was fun enough for me to pull out my camera and capture a little video for all of you to see in all it’s 720p glory. It was fun at least putting the video together even though I really do need to get an OWLE Bubo to hold my iPhone 4 so there’s less shaking and better picture quality [anyone want to get me a late Christmas gift?] Well here’s the video and I hope you like it. Not all of the trains were working, but at least my daughter got a kick out of seeing Thomas the Train going round and round, but I don’t think she knows about the Polar Express. Hogwarts seemed to have a problem once we arrived and was stopped dead, but at least it was stopped dead in front and not in the back so the little Harry Potter’s could have something to scream about. Oh and last thing: $3 meter parking, library was free.

1906 Earthquake Shacks

Recently, I’ve been giving it to my friends back east or in Europe who are complaining about the snow that while it’s a chilly 45°-55° here in San Francisco we still have sun [usually]. Their usual response is, “I’ll take the snow over earthquakes any day.”

I’ve heard lots of people say that in the past and in reality we haven’t had a quake that’s done any damage in San Francisco since 1989. 21 years and no big quakes. We’ve had a few little ones here and there, but those just give you a little startle.

Now the 1906 quake is one I’m glad I missed. It was rated at between 7.8-9.0 magnitude and left over half of San Francisco homeless. Worse thing is that it wasn’t the earthquake that did the most damage, but the fires that started afterwards that caused the most damage. The quake itself ruptured the San Andrea fault for 290 miles. By comparison, the 1989 Loma Prieta ruptured only 25 miles. Damage by todays standards from the 1906 quake would have put the total loss at over $8 Billion dollars.

So what exactly did the city do to help out the homeless people? They built refugee camps with housing like the one in the picture. This house is an actual 1906 earthquake shack that has been restored. Quite unlike most other museums [this one is at the Randall Museum] you can walk inside of it.

What we have here was a very quickly put together 10’x10′ one room house with no running water or toilet. The walls were built of 1/2″ x 4″ wood planks that are probably much better quality than we have today, but still, there’s no insulation, no caulking to block out drafts. It must have been pretty miserable to live in, but a lot better than living outside in the fog. Back then you could purchase one for $50 on a rent to lease option. Rental was between $2-$15. This one had a sign that said $2/month rent so I can only assume that the $15/month were a bit bigger. Some of these are still being found today. I was at recovery challenge out by the beach that Woody LaBounty of the Western Neighborhoods Project put together. Apparently, someone had one in their backyard and if Woody and his people could come and get it, they could restore it.

[mappress mapid=”10″]The only other one I’ve seen is at the San Francisco Zoo which you can also walk into, but that one is unfurnished. You can tell when you first walk in that life was simpler back then what with your house consisting of a bed, a table, a pot-bellied stove and a sewing machine. At least that’s what this one was furnished with. Most of these houses were set up in Golden Gate Park at the time as it was probably the most stable land in San Francisco to hold them. If you want to feel a little bit happier about where you live come check this out. Oh and by the way, the Randall Museum is free.

Local News

No, I mean REALLY local news. Not what the local TV stations or newspapers who are owned by large out of town companies [anyone else noticed that the Examiner always suggest that San Franciscans vote for the Republican candidates in the elections?] I’m talking about those little free newspapers like the Westside Observer, Sunset Beacon, West Portal Monthly or Richmond Review that talk about what’s really happening in your neighborhood.

I don’t know if the Mission District, Financial District, Nob Hill or Pacific Heights have their own papers but if they don’t they should. When I want to find out what really makes people tick I turn to these papers. I was eating my lunch while looking over a copy of the Westside Observer only to find out that the Recreation and Parks Department got $185 million dollars to upgrade and refurbish all the playgrounds in the city then Mayor Newsom told RPD they had to cut their budget after updating and upgrading all the playgrounds so what did they do? They fired all the people who run the playgrounds and locked up the club houses. They’re even thinking of leasing out the clubhouse of the J.P. Murphy park to a private client who will have more access to the club house and playground than the people who live in the neighborhood.

These newspapers tell you what the city isn’t doing right and while I’d like to think we’re perfect, when you start reading through a copy of one of these papers you realize we aren’t. There’s a medical marijuana dispensary that wants to open up a few blocks from my house on Taraval street. Sunset Beacon had that one covered with the pros and cons. I have to admit most of the cons came from people who didn’t seem to have any experience with drugs or drug related crime, but that’s just my opinion.

As far as I can tell, none of the writers get paid for what they do. Several have former supervisors, politicians or famous locals writing for them and in most cases they give a pretty good perspective on the neighborhoods. These are the newspapers where I find out when the Mayor or our local Supervisor Carmen Chu is have a meet up where people can talk about the problems they’re having in the neighborhood. I’ve been to a couple of them and found them very interesting. I wouldn’t have found out about them if I went to the Chronicle or Examiner. I also get to find out about local businesses in my neighborhood because they’re the people who are covering the costs to keep the free papers free. If you’re not from SF, but visiting here these are the newspapers you should check out. It’ll definitely give you more info about what’s going on in San Francisco than the bigger papers. The best place to find them is at one of the local libraries.

Daly City Party Playhouse

You’ll notice Daly City keeps popping up in my blog. That’s because I consider it the San Francisco Annex. If you want a nice chain store like Home Depot, Target or Walmart you have to go outside SF and that usually means the peninsula or in this case, Daly City. Today was another one of those, “What to we do with our daughter?” kind of days. We decided to go the Party Playhouse with a friend of our daughter’s so they could have fun together.

First off, this place is AWESOME! I think I’m saying that because they encourage the parents to explore the large structure with their kids. For $6 you get an hour, but they don’t have party playhouse police coming to tell you that you have to leave or pay up again after an hour. There’s lots to climb around in as the structure from my estimate is about 40′ long by 20′ wide by 20′ high.

20′ high? Who’d let their kid climb to that kind of height? Well, that’s where this was very well thought out. If your kid falls inside they have at most 1.5′ to fall and it’s all padded. REALLY padded. There’s ball pits, big balls, things that swing into you ropes to crawl across the padded rooms and slides, slides, slides. It has just about everything a kid could want and if they get tired inside they have a few games like skee-ball and cars and trucks to ride for the smaller ones. For older kids they have an arcade that’s open on weekends. Out in front there are comfy couches for the adults to sit and watch or read one of the numerous magazines or newspapers they have. There’s also an adult getaway room with a pool table, foosball and Tulley’s coffee available. All in all it was a blast.

Now that our daughter has used up her energy we had to feed her and so we took a trip to In-N-Out burger with a stop by [mappress mapid=”12″]Krispy Kreme for some doughnuts to take home. What I always love about Krispy Kreme is when you order a dozen doughnuts they always ask, “For here or to go?” I don’t know about you, but I have never sat down and eaten a dozen doughnuts at one time, but thanks for asking. While this wasn’t the healthiest trip out for us I’m sure my daughter has burned off all the calories she got from the 100% trans-fat free junk food she had for lunch.

Total cost for 3 people: Just over $20. Yet another deal. Check out the party playhouse even if you have to borrow someone’s kid to go there.

Christmas Day: The Insanity Ends!

Ah, it’s finally over. I think the reason everyone is happy on Christmas Day is because the insanity that has led up to it is finally over. I was in a Safeway yesterday and was pushed out of the way by the woman who actually yelled to her friend, “This is what I love about San Francisco, everyone stands around blocking the aisles and talking!” Which she did while blocking me and talking to her friend. In the afternoon I took my daughter to the California Academy of Sciences which you can see pictures of in the photo galleries. There was a couple standing holding hands at arms length that I couldn’t go around so I said, “excuse me” FOUR TIMES. I was ignore until I decided to change my phrasing, “If you don’t let me pass I’m coming through you!” “Oh, I’m sorry.” I’m sorry? That line implies we heard you the first four times, but were just ignoring you.

Well, I can put that all behind me now. The crazy shoppers will be gone I suppose until the after Christmas sales start, but that will be only short lived. I didn’t get my wife anything for Christmas except for giving her more time away from having to deal with our daughter which is a delight when you kind of have to work 24/7 on a job that you don’t get paid for. I rewarded myself with a bottle of Knob Creek bourbon and prime rib which we’ll get another dinner out of tonight.

I don’t understand the craziness anymore before Christmas what with everyone being able to purchase presents online without  having to bash it out at a store full of monkeys on meth. Hell, I pulled out my iPhone and ordered a few things from Amazon without having the leave the living room and I got them at a great deal with free shipping and no tax and they arrived on time. So next year, don’t slug it out with people at the stores. Hug your postal worker or UPS delivery guy instead. It’ll make you more sane.

Here’s a few pics of Christmas morning for you at our house.

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Christmas Eve: The Way It Used To Be

I woke up this morning and was gifted with a few minutes to lay in bed and let my mind wander. I went back in time to when I was a kid and remembered how Christmas Eve used to go. It usually started around 4:30 in the afternoon. There would be a knock at the door and it would be one of our neighbors with a bottle of booze who dropped by to spread some Christmas cheer.

My Mom would usually start early on December 23th putting together appetizers because she was always known as the one in the neighborhood who could cook. The neighbors would come in and have a few drinks eat a few appetizers and then stagger off to the next house. This would continue until around 8 o’clock when my Dad would have to be propped up at the table to eat and my Mom who was smart enough to switch from gin and tonics to just tonic after the first 3 or 4 could put the meal together.

Back in those times if the cops pulled you over and asked if you’d been drinking you could say “yes, but I’ve only had a couple of drinks” which really meant 8-10 and they’d wave you on or tell you to go straight home. We knew all our neighbors back then so we had lots of knocks at the door and I think our liquor cabinet was stocked for the rest of the year. I was probably one of the few 10 year olds who could bartend and every one thought it was cute. I liked it because one year someone grabbed a brandy snifter and put a $5 bill in it which was my first tip jar.

The next morning was a little rougher for all except myself. My Grandmother was built of steel so she could pound back 4 Manhattans and wake up and wash all the dishes from the night before. Ah, the good ole days. My family never had to go a wandering so to speak on Christmas as it always came to us.

Well, times have changed and I doubt we’ll have any knocking on our door as the only people we know in the same neighborhood now are our new neighbors next door that we might have a drink with or at least say Merry Christmas to and our other neighbors who are Orthodox Jews and Hanukah’s over so they don’t really care. The only tradition left is that I like to crack a bottle of good scotch or small batch bourbon like Knob Creek, but I won’t be swilling them back until I can’t remember what I did tonight. I’ll leave those days to my parents who are gone now, but I’ll definitely raise a glass to their memory.

So to all my friends, be nice to your liver over the holidays and be healthy so we can do it again next year!

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The Doelger Center

Since our daughter has two weeks off from pre-school we have to find something to do with her so she doesn’t build up enough energy to explode. So this morning we decided to take her to the California Academy of Sciences. Unfortunately we left a little before noon and the garage was full which means that the Academy would be full as well. Since our little one doesn’t like big crowds too much we made a change in plans.

Now normally I try to focus on San Francisco, but the Doelger Center is almost San Francisco because it’s right over the boarder into Daly City right before you get the Westlake. The Doelger Center is open on Wednesdays from 12pm-2pm and Fridays from 10am-2pm, but this was the last day it would be open before the end of the year.

If you have kids, this is a great place. For only $4 you can stay as long as you like. They have a bouncy house which for the $4 is worth it alone, but they also have lots of other soft play mats and climbing structures for the kids to play with as well as tricycles, slides, hula hoops and a few other things. While the bouncy house is always there some of the slides and climbing structures change depending on whims of the two guys from Daly City Park and Rec who run the place, but they always do a good job.

On my first outing here I was a little horrified to see regulation basketballs for the kids to play with [recommended ages are 5 and under] and then I picked one up and realized it was half flat. All the balls aren’t fully inflated. So I had to do a test. I had the friend I had taken my daughter with hit me in the face with the ball. It hurt, sort of, but I’ve been hit in the head with a fully inflated basketball and that hurt worse.

[mappress mapid=”14″]What I really like about this place is that it encourages the kids to think about how to play. They can use all the “stuff” to create their own play space instead of here’s your playground and this is how you’re supposed to play. One day I had about 6 kids laying down on a giant parachute as I pulled them around the gym. Luckily there was another Dad who helped out and took over for me so we could switch off without having a heart attack. You have your regular groups of Moms there and they all are very friendly and don’t seem to mind if your kids “interact” [that’s the term I like to use for crashing into each other]. They understand that kids are going to be kids. My daughter reached into one woman’s bag of tortilla chips from Chipotle one day to help herself and she laughed it off.

One of the fun things too about the Doelger Center is that around Halloween and Christmas they do a little extra. Halloween has a costumed parade of all the kids and ends with a bag of candy for each of them. Christmas, and this was my first experience of it here, they had a Santa giving out toys to all the kids. I did notice a bit of an Irish brogue as he talked and realized that he was probably a friend of the “Irish Mom’s Club” which is a group of Irish women who tend to sit together and talk while their kids wreak havoc on the place. I tried to keep our daughter away from Santa figuring that he only had enough toys for the kids in that group, but one of the Mom’s told me that they had enough presents for all the kids. Good thinking. You wouldn’t want to have your kid meet Santa only to be told he forgot her present.

Afterwards our daughter decided it was time to visit Chipotle for lunch. We drove down the block to Westlake and split a steak burrito bowl and chips and guacamole between the three of us [after all the burrito bowl gives you more than half your days calories]. Total cost for this outing? under $15. Now that’s a deal to take advantage of.

The Holiday House

I’ve written about this couple before. Every holiday that you can imagine they decorate their house for the holiday. I had noticed that while he had put out everything for this Christmas the lights weren’t on at night. I happened to noticed that he had lights on tonight so I had to rush down and take some pictures.

For those who remember my last attempt at night photography of their house around Halloween, the pictures didn’t do it much justice, but luckily my iPhone has a new HDR [High Dynamic Range] added to the camera so you can take low light figures without too much graininess.

As I was taking the pictures the man of the house happened to walk out and tell me to take lots of pictures now because he was turning the lights off soon. I mentioned that I hadn’t seen the lights on since he put everything up and he mentioned an unfortunately loss in his family. For this, I told him I was very sorry because I pointed out to him all the cars and people that his house attracts and the smiles on all the peoples faces when they come by his house. He smiled and laughed a little bit hopefully to help him forget of his recent loss.

I didn’t get to talk to him more, but I’d really like to. Just to find out why he feels it necessary to light up his house for every occasion you could think of. He did mention he was having a few electrical problems which he still needed to fix which explained why the last side of the house wasn’t lit up, but as soon as he figures it out I’ll add some more pictures to the album. I might even offer to give him a hand if he’ll accept it.

If you want to see this place it’s at 34th and Quintara in the Sunset district and if you’re lucky his wife will be by the front door handing out candy canes to all the kids who come by. They also run a holiday boutique out of their garage on the weekends this time of year just so you know. Maybe not this year, but usually they do.

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OMG! Chick-N-Coop is one place that just screams Sunset district. It’s been around for ages and you can tell by looking at the outside. It’s run by a Greek family and when you walk in you’re greeted by a large burly man with a loud laugh who takes your order.

So what do you get to order? Food, basic food. Roast beef, meatloaf, 1/2 chicken, pork chops, lamb. It’s all basic food and a HUGE amount of it. We got the roast beef that came with mashed potatoes and gravy and a side salad. We get it to go because unless you’re an NFL linebacker or professional food eating contestant, you won’t finish it.

There are two types of people you typically see here: Cops from the Taraval police station and elderly people. I can understand why both go there. The police need a big hearty meal and the elderly don’t, but they can have food for three days on what they give you. We typically split a roast beef order and get dinner and lunch out of it for around $13.

[mappress mapid=”16″]So what’s the food like? It’s good, not 3 star Michelin good, but it’s good food that fills you up, doesn’t suck and you’ll get at least another meal out of it if you’re like most people. They’re located at 1055 Taraval street just down from 19th avenue and they’re cash only so keep that in mind. There’s a Bank of America down the street if you need to grab some cash.