Friday, March 31, 2006

A candy store for the evil impulse...

I'm always amazed what I can learn over lunch. Today, I was surfing and ran across a headline that is sure to draw clicks: "Kosher cell phones ring up growth". Who could resist?

It would seem that multi-function cell phones are under fire from religious groups as tools bringing sex ("and other worldly temptations") into the community. A magazine was even quoted calling cell phones "a candy store for the evil impulse"! So, an ambitious Israeli subsidiary of Motorola has been working with Orthodox leaders to develop a phone that is simply a phone and has a carefully managed list of blocked numbers (incoming and outgoing). An interesting idea.

Personally, if they would just squelch the explosion of annoying ring tones, then I'm on board with it :) Vibrate only? Probably not.

I'll stop when SHE stops...

Blame Mother Nature for all this rain talk. Yesterday, San Francisco set a new all-time record for rainy days in March. Thursday was our 24th day this month with rainfall, beating the old March record of 23 rainy days set in 1904. The rain today, will make it 25 days.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

'Things that like rain' for $100...

[Hmmm, oddly enough, just as I started typing this entry, Bruce Hornsby's Mandolin Rain just started playing on my iPod. Coincidence?]

This weekend, Jeff and I checked off another nagging home project--not a big one, but visible. We have spent a lot of time beautifying our front and back yards with a wide variety of plants. Yet, one space has eluded us...until Saturday.

We have a beautiful tree in front of our house, but the previous owners put a weed-like ground cover around it. So Saturday morning, Jeff and I ventured down to a spectacular nursery in Half Moon Bay and found provence lavender, a variety that should grow to a perfect full height and add a nice scent to the front yard. Here are the before and afters.

Now, while we were digging out the old weeds, we uncovered a very wet, very unhappy salamander. My mother would have immediately named him Sammy Salamander. We transported Sammy to a cozy spot in the back yard. But seeing Sammy reminded me of all the salamanders that my brother and I used to collect in our youth. Fun memories.

By the way, the iPod has moved on to a swinging Sinatra tune.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Delving deeper...

This weekend, while was driving around taking pictures, I stopped at an area in China Basin, which is near the SF Giants ballpark. The top picture is the view across the inlet to a dock area where they routinely bring in cruise ships for maintenance.

Anyhow, the concrete area in the foreground has some interesting features, and I have photographed on and around it several times now. Well, Saturday morning, I hit a low tide, and the underbelly of this platform was revealed. The bottom photo was just a quick shot I snapped peering underneath. I was intrigued, until I spotted a homeless man well off to the left. Startled the crap out of me.

I did find it quite ironic that this man was living in the shadow of this cruise ship. But, needless to say, I am NOT poking my nose under THERE again.

And the winner is...none of the above...

Well, I showed some photos to my classmates today. All of the recent urban stuff. And naturally, they went off the list (as artists often do) and selected an image I have NOT posted. So, here is the popular favorite from today.

This semester, in addition to our weekly group critique, we are working on three projects:
  1. Next week, we have a nude model, which we haven't done in at least 3 years.
  2. We're working on our next group show, which will be in May.
  3. And we're putting together a group book of sample images.


Finally. The Russian hook. Scary!!

Good day my dear. I am ok. Today there will be a solar eclipse. People speak that at each solar eclipse there is any grandiose event. I hope this grandiose event there will be the prompt our meeting. What do you think? There can be any rich person many money presents me and I can arrive to you and live with you :) Yes. It is ridiculous. But I the optimist. I love a life. It is fine. I love you.

Oh my. Love?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Illinois Avenue study...

The slice of industrial San Francisco where my camera and I have been spending a bit of time are the stubby streets that poke off Illinois Ave. All of the graffiti images I've posted previously have come from along this route.

I returned in the early morning light both Saturday and Sunday mornings this past weekend. Here are a few of the initial images from these two mornings. More to come, I'm sure.

The little orange man...

I've been accused MANY times of always being a devil's advocate. Perhaps its a fair observation, supported by years of empirical evidence.

Anyhow, I wanted to shout from the hilltops that I finally have a new phone! Yes, the long painful days of impossible-to-understand conversations are (hopefully) behind me. Finally, clients won't avoid my calls, and my mom won't keep asking if there is foghorn in the background.

In doing the upgrade to the Treo 650 from the 600, I had to migrate within Cingular from the "blue network" over to the "orange network". I had heard the horror stories about conversion, and dragged my heels for weeks.

In the end, this went maybe Cingular is learning! I bought the phone at a Cingular store, sat down with the guy for 15 min to fill out forms, and the phone was on the network by the time I rode the elevator back to my office.

My thanks to Curt, for working out the kinks :)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Budding romance...

My Russian wife-to-be wrote me today...still at no prodding from me. For the first time, I think we can see where this is heading. Its the beginning of a "maybe you're the one" angle. So, I've included a few excerpts (the email was longer than normal).

Good day my dear. Today I could find a free time to write to you the letter. Weather at us spring.

I want to tell to you today about my girlfriend. I see her almost every day. We go in a bar in the evening. In a bar we like to play billiards. ... [She] very good person to which can open all secrets. She the true friend and always helps if something will go not so. ... For example I told to her about that that got acquainted with you. She was glad for me.

Only she asked me if I shall want to meet you that as I can leave to you. I could not answer it a question. Because to go in other country it is necessary to find out the person well at first. Now many girls vanish in other countries. With them men get acquainted and invite them to itself. Then girls get in slavery and are compelled to be engaged in prostitution or still something. I do not want it. I believe in real love.

I believe that in my life there will be a person of my dream. He will love me, to give gifts. There can be this the man you? I like you. I should finish the letter. While.
For my money, the best line is the close. "While."

Friday, March 24, 2006

The cost of doing nothing...

I moved to San Francisco seven years ago next month. Ever since I moved, I can remember seeing a neon sign for a restaurant called "The Patio", which is located in a central location that I pass a few times a week.

I remember this restaurant NOT for the great food and NOT for the amazing ambiance, but for the mere fact that is has never opened in the entire time I've been here. It has remained in EXACTLY the state you see in the picture below.

Now, being a man who cares less about important things and more about curiosities, I took this photo, and decided to answer my long running question: "How much money does it cost to operate this neon sign?"

The good news, as I discovered is that neon signs are extremely efficient. "The average neon sign only consumes about 0.8 amps. This equates to about 96 watts (about equal to a single lightbulb). Average cost to operate your neon sign is only about 20 cents per day (if you operate it 24 hours per day)." Therefore, this sign has cost the owner of this space only about $500 for the seven years!

Another website quoted about $3.25/month to operate a neon "OPEN" sign 24x7. That's about $275 for seven years. "The Patio" is twice as many letters, so perhaps we're back in the $500 range for seven years.

I'm surprised and impressed...and I've lost my loyal blog readers after paragraph 3. Did I mention it is raining again today?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A skewed view of gardens...

I think Jeff did a nice job selecting the best of our photos from the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show this weekend. The range of displays was truly amazing and gave us a TON of good ideas. Sooooo, as I am want to do, I have delved into our photo scraps and chosen a few oddities for my blog.

So we begin at the beginning. The event was at the Historic Cow Palace, which really looks like a big blimp hangar. It was built in 1941.

In addition to about 20 artistic installation gardens, the show includes an endless display of products for sale, including my absolute favorite. (Yes James...I worked rain into THIS blog entry too!)

At this point, since its past my bedtime, I'm just going to let the remaining pictures speak for themselves. All of these come from the installation gardens themselves. As you will see, the range of themes is quite broad. (Don't miss the little people of Stonehenge below..."so you're building a henge are you?")

Morning drive...

More and more, my morning route to work follows a slower, winding path along the waterfront. Frankly, I can sit behind other cars on the freeway anytime, and my path less traveled fills my head with photos yet to be taken. This morning, I stopped at a new spot, and took some quick shots that may turn into something. A nice moody b&w across the bay, and a couple more shots for my graffiti series.


Well, persistence has its perks. With blogger, its all about trying the same procedure at different times of day, loading files in different orders, and perhaps changing from boxers to briefs. I don't know. Tonight, these pictures loaded.

So, above are Michele and promised. (Smile, Robbie, your name is in lights!) And below, is a shot of the "Living Room" of the W in San Diego.

Best spam ever...

Well, two fun updates here. One is an update from Elena. I think she misses me...young love in Spring :) Yes, she wrote today:
Greetings my dear. I am sorry that did not write to you for a longtime. Where I go to Internet - cafe to write to you letters all computers broke. The manager of it cafe told that it was a virus. So I probably cannot read your letters which you to me sent. Weather here good. The sun shines. Pleasure on soul. How are you? I hope spring came at you in the country? Write.

But the best spam of the day goes to somebody from somewhere. I don't know more, because I don't speak whatever the language is. So yes, an entire email--a full page of water cooler fun, I'm sure--but written as such: שמאל דוגמת שמעון פרס

Blogger hates me...

So, I have delayed posting the riveting tales of my trip to San Diego, because I wanted to post a couple of simple photos to illustrate. Well, the photos won't load. And I'm giving up.

So, you will just have to imagine the whimsical nautical theme of the W San Diego. And you'll just have to take my word that Jeff's dear friend Rob joined my co-worker Michele and me for $11 mojitos.

Without photos, the trip is fairly ordinary, to be honest. The flights were on time and uneventful. The W hotel was hip, but still just a place to sleep...albeit with cool bath products and beach ball pillows on the bed. And Starbucks in San Diego tastes very much like Starbucks in San Francisco.

All in all, a very nice, quick business trip with time for laughs.

Oh, I DID notice an interesting new item in the in-flight SkyMall catalog. No, it wasn't the Harry Potter wand or the Batman money clip (please). It was the doggy steps that caught my eye. If you recall, I ran across the deal of the century on As Seen on TV Doggy Steps--two for $39. Well these same steps (ok, same LOOKING) were $79.95 from Hammacher Schlemmer.

Just a friendly tip from your favorite thrifty shopper :)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Fire good...

Our fireplace is without a doubt, the BEST addition we have made to our home...hands down. And days like today remind us.

First day of spring? I don't think so. Yes, the rains returned...again. Sigh. (Not that anyone ELSE is enjoying spring: Tuesday in Muskegon 35F, Richmond 39F, Washington 36F, New York 42F. Makes our 52F seem like a heat wave!)

So, tonight, it was Buster's turn to curl up by the fire and dream of that elusive sunbeam.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


When it was rainy, the blog well ran dry. But this weekend, the sun came out, and Jeff and I wandered outside, blinking at the cloudless skies. Glorious.

On both Saturday and Sunday, we took our bikes out. Just a short warm-up on Saturday, but a nice, full afternoon today. We threw the bikes on the car rack, and drove down to Palo Alto and the Stanford campus--a beautiful (and flat) rambling campus with plenty of bike-friendly areas.

One highlight was stopping to look inside the Memorial Church, which opened in 1903. It dominates the main quad with its huge mosaics--inside and out. Hopefully, Jeff will post some of the interior photos.

And of course, I did try and find some of the whimsy of the day...

The rains return tomorrow, but we've got other pictures from the weekend to post through the week.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Make it stop...

[Warning...more weather talk!!]

So, today began with some blue skies in between low clouds. I drove south to Sunnyvale this afternoon, and found the mountains off to the east to be snow sight that definitely causes a double-take here. I made it home in time for the rain to return (again).

Of course, this is becoming a broken record...some might say I've taken the record and stuck it through a shredder. So, I figure that I needed a new hook to keep me interesting. This drove me to think of my iPod soundtrack for our Great Flood. iTunes gave me some sweet memories:
  • Rain
  • Mandolin Rain
  • Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain
  • Singing in the Rain
  • Its Raining Again
  • Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head
  • Rainy Days and Mondays
And the LEAST appropriate iTunes match: Brooke Shields' Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression. Oh my. Some light listening.

So, here are some classic rain pictures from my St. Michaels, Maryland series.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Oh hail...

Well, once again, the "Alaskan storm" that is hugging the California coast sent some odd snowy, icy stuff down from the heavens. This time, it hailed just long enough to dust our cars, make the sidewalks and roads slick, and accent our potted plants. Of course, it melted by the time that we left to go to dinner, but it still made for some unusual San Francisco photos.

The hail or sleet or icy snow was accompanied by a spectacular lightning display. Rolling thunder just isn't commonplace here, so the storm really took us back to warm summer nights in Virginia and Michigan.

Not that it is remotely warm here. Its frickin' COLD, Mr. Bigglesworth.

Speaking of cold...Elena wrote from Russia. She is diligent. Here is an excerpt.
"Today our organization suits a holiday for all women. Invited singers and actors. Now while actors act I have a free timeand decided to go to the Internet-cafe to write to you the letter. Then we shall congratulate all women of our company. We yesterday bought many flowers and cards."

[An addendum. The papers and news outlets have thrown around lots of words to describe our wintery precipitation. The latest I saw was "snow pellets", which seems like a made up catch-all meaning "white frozen sh**"! I'm sticking with hail, because its the only one you can use in cringe-worthy puns like "When the hail is this blog going to end..."]

Friday, March 10, 2006

What the hail is going on...

At 3:15 this morning, Jeff and I both awoke to an odd sound--hail hitting the windows, hail tapping the skylights. Yes, for a few minutes this morning, we got hail in San Francisco.

The locusts are next.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Remembering sunny days...

Well, I awoke this morning in a warm sweat, but with my 101 degree fever from yesterday gone. Against my better half's advice, I dragged myself into work for a while to handle a few calls and to generally mope around and get sympathy. I made it home in time to avoid the rain, which seems to have returned with a vengeance.

So, with the fireplace ablaze, and Jeff on his way home to care for me, I decided to search for happy memories of sunny days. I found two shots from my 2 day trip to Chicago this past fall. These are shots of the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park. These were designed by Jaume Plensa, and consist of two 50-foot glass block towers with LED images of Chicago residents.

This is GOOD wet.

Monday, March 06, 2006

If you stand in one place long enough...

The New York Times reported today that Cingular spent $500 million advertising its absorption of AT&T Wireless a little over a year ago. Then SBC acquired AT&T and is spending $1 billion to tell us about it. Now, as the new AT&T prepares to purchase Bell South (its partner in Cingular), the company has announced that it will change Cingular's name to AT&T Wireless. (Although, I'm sure it will be with the cute lowercase at&t.) Quick, order your phones now so that you can still get the cute little orange guy from Cingular.

Honestly, all I know is that with a portion of that $1.5B, they could have put a freakin' cell tower in that &*@#@!& dead spot on I-280 through San Francisco!!!

[OK, Blogger's spell checker thinks that "freakin'" should be "foreskin". That made me chuckle.]

In a flash, it was gone...

Well, let me say right off that I'm going to leave the "nice" pictures from our weekend in Las Vegas to Jeff's blog. Instead, I'm going to focus on a few oddities.

First off, the facts. We truly had a fun time. The highlight was catching up with Jeff's friends Matt and Lisa who were visiting from Detroit. Jeff and I stayed at the Venetian, which is certainly a spectacular hotel. We ate well (too well), walked all over the strip, and blew through my $35 jury pay in no time. We visited the new Wynn hotel, watched the fountains at the Bellagio, and traveled to the top of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Casino.

So, what did we learn in Las Vegas? Well, I found a truly comical foreign language channel on TV. It was like a train wreck. They appeared to play non-stop action movies with really bad special effects.

We found a favorite penny slot machine named "Lucky Larry's Lobstermania", which played to a B-52s Rock Lobster soundtrack. We found ourselves seeking out Larry in each of the casinos we walked through. "Its a biggun!"

In the midst of all the glamorous new casinos, you still don't have to wander far to find classic Vegas. It is everywhere, and its what makes this town so unique. This sign is from the New Frontier Casino...which oddly enough is also the site of the new Trump Hotel. Strange bedfellows indeed.

And finally, my continuing obsession with San Jose. Just how is it that this glitzy watch store at Caesar's Palace has listed San Jose alongside of Paris, Milan, and London? Jeff announced an immediate boycott of the store :)

Oh, while I'm at it, let me update everyone on my dear Russian friend Elena. Yes, she continues to write, even though I have never written back. Today's short installment focused on shopping and work. Nothing quotable...just persistent.

Friday, March 03, 2006

$35 to blow in Vegas...

Well, I wrapped up three days in a jury selection pool today. I will admit that the process was quite interesting to sit through for the first time. Fortunately, I did not get selected for the final jury. I don't mind serving, but it was a five week trial, and I just know it would have been a pain to work around.

The best part was observing the people. Particularly the people who CLEARLY were trying to get out of it. My favorite was the young woman who when asked said that she would find it hard not to read about the case and the subject matter on her own. When the judge asked her if she would resist the temptation if he directly asked her not to, the woman answered, "I would try, but I probably would anyway. In fact, I already did some research on it even though you told us not to earlier."

THIS is the state of society :(

For my three days, I made a quick $35, which I plan to carelessly gamble away in Las Vegas this weekend. Look for pictures on Monday.

For now...we are off!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Springtime in Russia...

Well, at no prompting from me, my dear Russian pen pal wrote two notes. She switched email addresses again (address number three for her). Here are clips from the two emails:
"I did not receive the answer from you. I hope that all well there. It can be not reached the letter you? I donot know. Write to me the letter."

"Only the short letter. The first day of spring today came.Spring this time of love and happiness. I wish you good mood."
By the way...according to the Weather Channel, the high temp in St. Petersburg is supposed to be 19 degrees Fahrenheit today!

So, to contrast, here is a photo from this weekend in SF. This is Dobie's favorite perch on the balcony. She loves to watch the birds in all the backyards we overlook.