Monday, October 31, 2005

A matter of perspective...

Two unrelated Halloween items to wrap up my random brain activity for the day.

First. To remind me that age is relative, my folks sent me a beautiful fossilized scallop shell for my birthday. It is around 3 million years old, and it is spectacular in its detail. My father uncovered it near Petersburg, VA. It is one of the most amazing specimen that I have held. [Scale isn't clear on this photo. The shell measures 5-6" in each direction.]

Unrelated item #2--but VERY Halloween-ish: there is some crazy stuff in our basement. The previous owners of our house left behind numerous odds-and-ends in a tucked-away room of the basement that we don't use. Out of strange curiosity, I have begun to document these items before we throw them away. I can tell you this--if someone uncovers the contents of THAT room 3 million years from today, they will be more than a bit puzzled about our 21st century habits.

Finally, my friends and family are the best. In addition to a fossil, I got e-cards that were spooky (boo), a mini-cake with candles, voice messages from far away, and a song over the phone that made me smile. Thank you :)

Mystical Halloween...

There was something in the air this morning, when I went out back to check on the garden. The sun hadn't poked over the horizon, so the light still had a blue cast. And in this light, the yellow flowers in our back garden really popped, but in an eerie way. Very fitting to start Halloween. (Plus, I thought that they looked like candles on a birthday cake...quite appropriate!)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Eyeballs in gelatin...

As I turn 38, I jotted a few quick back-of-the-envelope calculations to reveal that I've flown around 500,000 miles in my lifetime. Using some average flight times, I estimate that I have spent the equivalent of over 45 days on a plane. And yet, I am certainly a homebody.

As an example, I certainly do not feel adventurous or worldly when it comes to food. Don't get me wrong...I love world flavors...just refined in a comfortable way.

Sure. I fondly remember eating scrapple growing up, but I draw the line at eyeballs.

Ripped from the headlines of Conde Nast Traveler: Chicago's very own Tito's Tacos. Apparently, for just $1.25 you can munch on the house specialty, the taco de ojo (eyeball taco). The eyeballs are "jawbreaker sized" and covered in their natural "gelatinous white tissue". Don't forget the garnish, which consists of "grilled onions, green chilies, and stringy shreds of brain." Steamed cow's brain, FYI.

Let's face it. I'm squeamish. It's a good thing I became an engineer and not a doctor. At least not an eye doctor. :)

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The east coast blur...

I don't think you can truly appreciate work-life balance--or lack thereof--until you have seen the other side. Washington, DC will kill you. I wish I was back in San Francisco at home in my garden sipping wine with Jeff.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Fog part deux...

Another magical fog weekend. Last night, Jeff and I attended an end-of-summer BBQ in Bernal Heights. In addition to our warm hosts and interesting guests, the fog made an appearance as well--rolling over the western hills just in time for dusk. From Bernal Heights, you could watch the fog pile up against the hills and then--like a plugged sink--roll right on over into Noe Valley below. Made for a spectacular sunset. And a chilly evening afterwards.

Today, we walked through the Marina District, under the classic Palace of Fine Arts, through the Presidio, and out to Crissy Field. All along, the sun shined brightly, but the Golden Gate fog horn told us that the fog had returned. Sure enough, even though we walked in warm rays, boats and birds were engulfed in a thick fog on the Bay.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I'm not ignoring you...really...

Honestly, the world moves too fast for its own good.

According to Time magazine, the Amish are in the midst of a debate on whether or not to permit the usage of cell phones by their community--"someone found a loophole in the phone rule, discovering it was very specific about not allowing wires from the outside world into their houses."

Well, I would like to help their discussion along. I want to give them my cell phone for a month. Then they will drop the whole crazy idea. ENJOY THE QUIET WHILE YOU CAN.

I think that I'm ultra-sensitive to this topic this week, because we happen to be scant days away from voting on--get this--17 ballot measures. Not only that, but have all the fun hot-button topics up for grabs this time: abortion, handgun bans, and military recruiting in schools are all covered. (The assembly must not have gotten their "Protect Marriage from the Huns...I mean Heathens...I mean Gays" amendment ready in time. I think while they are working on defining marriage, the ultra-right is thinking of banning marriage between ugly people too.)

Anyhow...I digress. What I meant to speak to is the problem that Election Day has brought into the spotlight. And that is that I cannot pick up a phone any more. Our home phone is the domain of the telemarketers (STILL), the politicians, and the pollsters. My office phone is the domain of all the vendors that want to work with my company. And my cell phone...well...that is still for friends and family...except that the voice quality is so bad that my friends stop calling me. My final defense against life's marauders is the front door...and the election has kindly sent throngs to my door to speak to me personally.

Sigh. So, now people Instant Message me to get my attention. And it works. "Hey. That's my calling you on your office phone. Its safe to pick it up!"

So, the Amish can have my phones and my doorbell and don't GET ME STARTED ABOUT MY EMAIL. So many ways to reach me, but everyone thinks that I'm ignoring them. I'm really not. I just can't sift through it all.

Fog and fire...

This morning is one of our famous cozy, foggy days. I'm sure the tourists at Fisherman's Wharf are hating it, but for me...this is San Francisco. In fact, I caught a glimpse of the fog rolling in yesterday afternoon from my office. It never ceases to amaze me how it pours in through the Golden Gate and then envelops the City.

So, this morning, like many, we have the fireplace going. Just to take the chill out of the air and give us some ambiance. The cats spread out in front of the fire. We eat breakfast. This is the good life.

Friday, October 21, 2005

It feels really good to be right...

Even though I am now and forever a Virginian in my soul, I have always known that San Francisco has forever captured my heart. And this week, I read an article in the SF Examiner that gave me hard data. (I'm such an engineer :)

The Examiner reported that for the 13th year in a row, the readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine (fyi, my very favorite magazine to buy at the airport) had voted San Francisco the nations "favorite city". And among the world's cities, they voted us second after Sydney. Not bad at all.

Oh, and near and dear to my heart, our world-class food placed us first in the nation for foodies--right above New York and New Orleans.

This survey coincides with a resurgence of friends of ours who are visiting this fall, and an upcoming gathering of some close coworkers of mine here in my local office. These visits have led to the inevitable question: "What should be on our must-do list?"

(I will save for another day my INTENSE curiosity in how residents of "#10 largest city in the country" San Jose answer that question! The Tech Museum is what do you do after those two hours? JUST KIDDING!!)

Anyhow, I can rattle off an easy dozen items to do withough breaking a sweat. But let me describe what I think is the absolute BEST itinerary for a Saturday: walk from the Ferry Building to the Golden Gate Bridge and back. Done. You can leave the city and say you've seen a little bit of everything. (And don't argue with can't hit every quirky spot in one trip.)

So, you begin your day at the current pinnacle of the San Francisco food scene--the Ferry Building Farmer's Market. The entire Ferry Building Plaza is hopping. Locals and tourists alike swarm around this place just to LOOK at the variety, and sample whatever is in season. Tons of articles have been written about the cheeses, and the breads, and the organic/sustainable/happy-go-lucky produce. Oh, kickstart your morning with a latte from the Blue Bottle Coffee Company espresso cart--yummy.

From the Ferry Building, you can walk along the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf. The Embarcadero is always alive with walkers and joggers. And while Fisherman's Wharf may not typify TRUE San Francisco life ( isn't even close), it is an only-in-San Francisco spectacle to behold as you walk through. The normal cast of characters are always on hand to coax money from the tourists: the silver and gold robot men, the scary guy that leaps from behind a fake bush, the men playing Mayan flute music, and of course the "angry" punks who flip you off if you take their picture. They are all there, along with those people who give you "citations" for smiling too please give generously...or stop smiling.

Past Fisherman's Wharf, you walk through the Maritime Park, up and then down through Ft. Mason with its terrific views, and then along the Marina Green.

Then its on to Golden Gate National Recreation Area's Crissy Field with its beaches, wetlands, dog walkers and windsurfers. You can take a quick stop at the Warming Hut for a perk-up latte, juice or snack, and then on to the Golden Gate Bridge and Ft. Point. Be sure to touch the hand or paw prints at the very end of the walk before you turn around!

The great thing about being under the Bridge, is that no matter what the is awe inspiring. Sure, anyone can wish for a sunny day, but give me some fog rolling in any day. Then you get to hear the famous fog horn [listen], which will surround you as you stand gazing up at the Bridge.

There and back again, you will have passed a dozen micro-sites, each with a mix of locals and visitors. This is the lifeblood of activity in San Francisco. And while it is just scratching the surface of all there is to see, this full-day walk will invigorate you, amuse you, and leave you wanting to return soon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Full moon update...

OK...the ant pondering is behind me, and I am focused on this beautiful full moon we just had. Jeff has been watching it rise over the horizon as we watch TV in the evening. And with our coastal fog out to sea the past few nights, I've been awoken in the middle of the night by the exceptionally bright moon through the window. I took a couple of shots on the balcony, just to show off the magical glow.

But more importantly, let's talk about how this freakish kumquat plant looks on our balcony! (It really struck me in the can see it in the 2nd picture above and again during daylight below.) Let me explain.

We bought our kumquat this spring, and it had a normal ball-topiary look. It really makes a striking addition to the variety on the balcony: orange kumquats, green olives, purple potato bush flowers, whispy lavender. Back to the kumquat...sometime over summer, a mutant branch formed near the base of the plant, and before we even noticed it, this spike was poking through the top of the leaves. Now, the spike/branch is well over 7 feet tall, and showing no signs of stopping.

In the picture below, you can clearly see the top of the spike/branch, and if you look closely, you can make out the start of the branch down near the lowest green brace. Impressive.

Nature can sure do some amazing things. Especially under the light of a full moon.

Mother Nature timed this show nicely, I might add. Now that the full moon has passed, the coastal fog returned this evening. The fireplace makes us cozy though...and the cats are sprawled out in front of it.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

An ant update...

Well, if you're interested...the ants were nowhere to be found this morning. They had moved their colony to a safer location where my fingers wouldn't dig :)

We still have bees, however. They took up residence in an electrical cover at the front of the house. On sunny days, they form a steady line of nectar-carrying buzzers streaming in and out all day long. Lately, however, our coastal fog and cooler days slowed them down. Not today.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

And when October goes...

I am a self-identified fall-aholic. October has a unique sense about it--even in San Francisco. I can't explain just what I love about this month. But I love the smell of the air.

We had our first rain of the season last night, but the blue skies returned for a beautiful autumn Saturday. And believe it or not, although many of our plants have finished blooming for the year, we do have some lovely color.

One question though. So, I was sitting in the garden this morning. Water droplets everywhere. The succulent garden glistened. Squirrels screamed at each other high in the neighbor's pine tree, fighting each other for the peanuts that our neighbor set out for them (to be burried in EVERY ONE of our potted plants...give me a break). question. So, I dug into the mulch in the flower bed next to me and discovered a tiny ant colony. These little guys scattered everywhere--seemingly in no order at all. But I wondered. Do ants have a plan? When their colony is disrupted, do they all have a job and run to it? Maybe they just look random from above, but each one is headed somewhere. I mean, running randomly around doesn't sound like something simple, programmed brains would do. Which means that there is order there. Something to contemplate over a latte in the garden tomorrow morning.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Venice is for the birds...

I'm reading a spectacular new book by John Berendt called The City of Falling Angels. The book is non-fiction and chronicles people and places in Venice during the investigation and reconstruction of the Fenice opera house after it was consumed by fire.

I'm not far along into the book, so I can't judge it a "page turner" or an "instant classic", but I did learn a fascinating fact last night. On page 71, I discovered that Venice has over 120,000 pigeons. And, that they are nasty and overcrowded. (No surprise there.) Which (of course) took me straight back to our last visit to Venice, where I watched people use the hands they eat gelato with to feed the birds. OK, there is that wonderful Mary Poppins song--but that lullaby aside, this is really sick.

Take a look at a picture I took in Venice...and then grab a cup of gelato...yum :)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Snow on a sunny day...

Today was another spectacular Indian summer day in San Francisco. For one thing, we visited the new deYoung museum "sneak preview" in Golden Gate Park. The crowds obviously agreed that this is a truly an amazing building, and a grand new feather in the City's already featherful cap. The only downside was that the rest of the City chose this beautiful day to visit the deYoung...soooooo the parking in GGP was horrendous. The silver lining? We got to catch glimpses of the Blue Angels performing for a Fleet Week crowd as we walked to the museum.

So, what's up with the snow? Well, even though I spent the waning hours of the day in our garden (pictured), I am fixated on a fascinating factoid from a recent Examiner article. (For the record, I fixed the drip irrigation system this weekend.)

About a week and a half ago, San Francisco hosted a truly "only in SF" event. In X Game fashion, some extreme skiers turned the Fillmore Street hill in Pacific Heights into a ski jump (photos below). I love it! Oh of course it got a few snotty types in a huff, but what a great idea. Anyhow, it generated quite a bit of local press, including an article that answered one of my age-old questions: has it ever snowed in San Francisco?

Well, the answer surprised me. Turns out that we have had measurable snow 10 times in the last 150 years. To quote the Examiner: "Snowfall in San Francisco is rare, but there have been a handful of storms during the last 150 years. There was even a white Christmas in 1856."

1856 - Dec. 25 - 2.5"

1868 - Jan. 12 - 2.0"

1882 - Dec. 31 - 3.5"

1884 - Feb. 07 - 1.5"

1887 - Feb. 05 - 3.7"

1888 - Jan. 16 - 0.1"

1896 - Mar. 03 - 1.0"

1932 - Dec. 11 - 0.8"

1952 - Jan. 15 - 0.3"

1976 - Feb. 05 - 1.0"

I normally don't post pictures from other places, but I didn't attend this event. So for posterity, here is a photo from the San Francisco Chronicle. It is amazing what humans can do :)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What are friends for...

One thing I can always count on...friends who remind me that I don't write often enough :) Maybe this is why traditional journals have locks on them and are stuffed in the sock drawer.

Sigh...I am such a martyr.


Monday, October 03, 2005

When friends visit...

Our friends Brian and Allison visited this weekend. Funny--no matter how many visitors come to town, we always find new things to do. This weekend, we did some wine tasting (six wineries in Napa...some old favorites and some new), we ate sipped lattes at the Warming Hut, saw some of our amazing fog from a distance (from the Sausalito marina), and even dropped by the Castro Street Fair. Only in San Francisco could you have that variety.

Safe travels home, Brian and Allison. Come back soon.