Friday, April 22, 2005

A view of Marin from Lincoln Park

This is what Dad, Sidnee, and I saw when we walked out of the Palace of the Legion of Honor. "Is that real?" Sidnee asked. It was.

Laura, that's what we missed when the weather was nasty.

Andrea, this is why you need to visit us!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Cab drivers are cool!

I love cab drivers. When Dad and Sidnee were here this last weekend, we took a lot of cabs around town. Cabbies are great because they're the ultimate entrepreneurs and they come from all over the world, so they summarize the American immigrant experience.

The first interesting cab driver I met in the Bay Area was a couple of years ago on one of my first visits to Berkeley, when Justin and I took a cab from the Oakland airport to Justin's apartment. We were having a great conversation with him, and then we asked him where he was from, and he said, "Afghanistan." Awkward silence. (This was not long after the military action there.) Then, "Um, how long have you lived here?" Seventeen years, as it turned out.

This weekend we had several interesting cabbies. One was Asian--Dad asked him where he was from, and he said, "Saigon." "Not Ho Chi Minh City?" Dad asked (probably smirking, but he was in the front seat, so I couldn't tell). "No, Saigon," the cabbie answered (definitely smiling).

Another was from the Philippines. We talked about the pope's death and the prospects for the new pope. He was hoping the next one would be more favorable toward embryonic stem cell research, because his brother is a paraplegic--he was shot in a bar just a week after he arrived in San Francisco, just accidentally ended up in the line of fire in a brawl. He also said his beard intimidates people and his customers are less mean to him now than when he was clean-cut. (One thing I absolutely love about my dad is that he has no pretension whatsoever, so he's really comfortable talking to all sorts of people. Being a cabbie must be a thankless job most of the time; I'm glad my dad is nice to them.)

The Filipino cabbie took us to the Palace of the Legion of Honor. The only Anglo cabbie we had took us back downtown, and my stepmother nearly got into a political argument with him. Eek. (If you have ever gotten into a political discussion with her, or any sort of discussion, you can understand why I was frightened.) But fortunately they didn't get too into whether corporations should run the government or vice versa, so we made it all the way to our destination. Close shave.

Go Dad!

My dad swore in public. Cool. Read this post by Ron Hebron (Heidi's dad) about a town hall meeting in the Seattle area to discuss the results of the gubernatorial election. My dad is the Usually Quiet Guy sitting next to Ron.

What do you get when you combine three of the best things in the world?

That is, cats, Legos, and interesting sacred architecture.

This is what you get. Phoebe and Sabina would be so jealous if I told them.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Spam, spam, spam, spam!

I didn't know this till my dad and stepmother, who are visiting us this weekend, brought it to my attention, but in my increasingly amusing home state of Washington, Senate Democrats want to impose a tax on canned meat. Yes, a spam tax. Isn't that kind of regressive? Seattle did try to impose a ten-cent tax on espresso drinks a couple of years ago. The initiative failed. If it had passed and been statewide, a spam tax would be only fair, as it targets precisely the opposite demographic.

What will happen now? Will Eastern Washington secessionists throw a Spokane Spam Party? Will Fat Tuesday revelers find they can't afford to participate in Seattle's annual spam-carving contest? The potential fallout is mind-boggling.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Go to Gizoogle, yo

It is REALLY fun if you type in your dissertation adviser's name. Try it.

Also try Googlism. Did you know the sixth satellite of Uranus is named Juliet? I didn't. Doesn't every woman want a celestial body named after her?

A stroll to Fourth Street

Yesterday's weather was marvelous, finally. Is it March that's supposed to go out like a lamb? It did, a very gentle, Mediterranean sort of lamb. I had to buy cat food, and figuring Justin wouldn't mind a couple of hours to play on the Internet uninhibited, I went the scenic route.

The pet store I've been frequenting is one of those chain PetSmartSuppliesPlusExpress kind of places, so they are probably evil corporate whores, although they do support shelter adoptions. I decided to go to a different store I hadn't visited before, because I wanted to see if they had wild bird feeders (we need a window hummingbird feeder). They didn't, but they did have an aggressively friendly cat, and the brand of pet food I was looking for, and they even sold it to me for less than the marked price, though I'm not sure why. I also discovered a little Mexican grocer nearby.

With only five pounds of cat food and a liter of water in my backpack, I decided to continue to Fourth Street, which has a two-block boutique shopping area. It's oddly placed near the marina and train tracks in the light-industrial section of Berkeley; on neighborhood street corners, Latino men congregate, perhaps in wait for a day's work.

My favorite store there on Fourth Street is Sur la Table, which, like other good things, started in Seattle's Pike Place Market (brag!). They have cooking classes I'd like to try sometime, and plenty of Le Creuset and Emile Henry to ogle, even if we have way too many expensive toys crammed into our teeny kitchen already. I also went to a pasteria/gourmet food store and sampled so many things that I felt I ought to buy something, and the luscious olive oil I tried, at $20 a bottle, was a little steep, so I bought pomegranate molasses, which I'd like to try and would rather buy than make.

There's also a bookstore just for home building, renovation, and decorating, which is an expensive habit in Berkeley, but it's fun to browse. I paged through (and at $5, should have bought) a book of walking tours through Berkeley. I noticed a number of buildings that date from the late nineteenth century. The East Bay in a way is older than San Francisco, because it didn't have the devastating fires that followed the earthquake of 1906 over in the city. I like old things. So I walked back along Channing to catch a glance at a block of bungalows a century old.