Tag Archives: San Francisco

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, That We Went After The NSA

Had a fun and social time at the Electronic Frontier Foundation 20th Birthday party at SF’s famous DNA Lounge last night. Met up beforehand with foodie and antiques fan Adam at Tu Lan Vietnamese restaurant, which is a tiny grubby place, with amazing food at incredible prices. It was the first time we’d met after being that most modern of things, “Internet Acquaintances”, for nigh on six years, via Monkeyfilter, WTFIWWYP and so on. Great to finally meet.

After stuffing ourselves we went over to the venue, where the earlier VIP event was still winding down. But they soon let us proles in, and we had a look round the space. The DNA Lounge is pretty popular amongst the geeky set in San Francisco, and there are several club nights there I might take a look at. Then again, I haven’t been to a club proper in years – and an Industrial night called “Meat” may not be the best place to start.

I got to meet lots of cool people. Adam is friends with the EFF’s Rebecca from way back, a symptom of what he described was the incredible way that in SF, there only seems to be 3 degrees of separation (is that why lots of guys in San Francisco are big fans of The Three Degrees?). He introduced me, and it was nice again to meet someone who I follow on Twitter. Hearing my accent, Rebecca in turn introduced me to Veteran Of A Thousand Cyberwars Danny O’Brien, who was working the room like a pro after his on-stage antics, and he seemed pleased that I was wearing my old “Elite” NTK tshirt. We had a chat about the old NTK days, how it started, why it stopped, and why it’s no longer needed. I contributed a couple of tiny things to the site “back in the day”, including the Paunch tshirt of which I am not really that proud.

paunch_tshirt

Here’s a couple of Flickr sets from the evening, including clips of the hilarious “Legends of EFF” theatrical production, which told the story of the EFF, from the first case of the US Secret Service raiding an RPG manufacturer because they thought it was a cybercrime cell, through the incredible antics of AT&T and the NSA (just a block away from my office!), to the court battles over the Broadcast Flag.

Great evening, good fun, good cause, and it’s spurred me on to dump the evil (and under-performing) AT&T and get a better phone – so much of the social whirl seems to be driven by iPhones and Androids, and my battered Centro just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore. Plus I want a new toy.

Nice New Old Dresser

Now that Cassie and I are settling in our new place in labradors-strollers-and-badly-parked-SUV-crossovers-ridden Noe Valley, I needed to get hold of a dresser for my half of the bedroom. I had a tall dresser from Ikea in the UK, and I wanted something similar here. However, I didn’t want to go to Ikea again, because I wanted to find some more solid and long lasting. I’m through with temporary solutions – I want something that will stay with me for a while.

So, I set up an RSS feed for Craigslist on the word “dresser”, and a few days later, one crops up that seems to fit the bill. Solid wood, five drawers, right dimensions, $80. We contacted the seller, and on the Saturday morning we drove in the Jeep to collect and pay.

I’m really pleased with it – good solid pine, and built to last. And heavy! Even empty and with the drawers out, it was an effort to get it down the stairs at the seller’s and up ours. Apparently the same model new would cost over $500, so I got a great deal. The seller said that he had owned it since he was 12, and it was nice to think that it had been used and taken care of for that long. When I got it into my corner in the apartment, I cleaned out the drawers, aired it out, and put down brown lining paper before loading it up with the various clothes and personal effects which were piled up on the shelf. Very satisying. It goes well with the parquet flooring.

After talking to friends, it seems clear that men prefer the tallboy style of dresser (not to be confused with the “tallboy” cans of cheap beer that litter the gutters in the Mission) because men get ready to go out standing up, whereas the ladies tend to sit and do things in mirrors.

Whatever. I’m pleased my pants and socks have a decent home now.

Before taking the dresser home, we went to get some breakfast, and ended up having a nice omelet at a Palestinian restaurant that also does omelets. We looked into Lovejoys Tea Rooms, but it was busy, with a wait of an hour for a table. We’ll definitely go back there, perhaps with houseguests. They also have a cute little store opposite that sells teapots, loose tea, dainty teacups and all that shit. They also, joy of joys, sell Branston Pickle, which even at $6.50 a jar is worth it. Apart from basic black tea, it’s the only UK thing of which I need a regular supply. Dark Chocolate Digestives would be nice too, but there’s no shortage of fancy cookies here.

A-Movin’ And A-Truckin’

Cassie and I moved in together, at the same time moving north to San Francisco. Double whammy! Luckily, my company paid for the move, so we were able to sit back and relax as paid men boxed all our crap personal effects and loaded it onto trucks.

They were amazingly quick, because they weren’t distracted by everything they picked up, like books or scraps of paper, they just packed everything in their path. They were like locusts, it was incredible. We had to shift all of the stuff they weren’t to take out of the way. That was easier for me, because I was living alone in San Diego, and I had a spare room. I just put my suitcase and the stuff I was taking by car in there and told them to ignore it. It was harder for Cassie, because she had a roommate, and lots of his stuff was mixed up with hers, especially in the kitchen.

But because they were so quick, they also ended up packing some stuff that was a little unnecessary. They would open a drawer, take a sheet of their wrapping paper, grab a handful of the drawer contents, and wrap it up, almost without looking at it. This meant that when we were unpacking, we would open a bundle of paper to find that they had wrapped a couple of paper clips, a half-burned tea light and some lint. If we had packed, it would have taken ages, but we would have purged at the same time. As it was, while unpacking at the other end we filled the trashcan twice over, and the recycling bin, and two or three boxes for the thrift store.

It was kind of embarrassing to have them running up and down stairs in San Diego on a very hot day, while I literally just sat on the sofa. There was nowhere else to sit, the sofa wasn’t being moved, and it was out of the way. I walked to 7-11 and got them cold drinks, but other than that I was just hanging around, keeping out of their way and answering questions from time to time.

Once they had left me alone in my little place in San Diego, Rimah, the best landlord I’ve ever had, came over and we did the paperwork and final sorting out. Then it was time to hit the road, first to LA, where Cassie had just said goodbye to all her stuff as the movers whisked it away.

Her place looked weird, completely empty. I don’t think her roommate had much of an idea how much of the furniture was hers. A blank slate, so he can make his mark. We spent a day or so making final preparations, meeting friends, feeling too hot thanks to the local brushfires, and getting psyched up. Then we hit the road, Cassie in her Jeep and me in my Audi, stopping first at Home for a final breakfast. We didn’t plan to drive caravan the whole way, but that’s the way it ended up. We got a mighty convoy, ain’t she a beautiful sight, only with Bluetooth instead of CB Radio. We only got split up in the morass to pay your toll and get over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco itself. Once we arrived, we had a bit of a rest before inflating our temporary air beds and getting comfortable before the delivery of our stuff.

In San Francisco it was the same embarrassing situation. I stood there with a clipboard, while the movers dealt with the stairs, boxes, and sweat. When they left, Cassie and I were stuck with the task of trying to make all this stuff fit in our apartment. We’re still trying now,  but slowly and surely we’re getting there.

After unpacking, we had a dozen boxes filled with flattened other boxes and wrapping paper. A call to the movers and they came and collected that as well, for reuse or recycling.

And here we are! It’s been couple of weeks, and we’re pretty settled, but there are some boxes around the place which whisper to us and make us feel guilty when we watching whatever’s On Demand on the cable. Soon, my boxy friends. Soon.

A Reason, Not The Other

Post are a bit sparse here right now because I’m moving from San Diego to San Francisco, and Cassie is coming with me! My company are moving us both, the movers are coming this Thursday, and this time next week (hopefully) we will have all our stuff set up in the new apartment in Noe Valley.

I’ll write more about the search for a place, and what else I’ve been up to recently, but right now I ought to go to bed. The other problem has been that some tweaking of the proxy servers at work mean that I can’t access my website from work – a real pain because it means I can’t add posts when the mood strikes, and then when I get home there’s always something else to do. I think there may be a text file in my Dropbox which I could just stick up. Yeah, I’ll do that.

On The Cusp(id) of 2008-2009

~ Better two months late than never, that’s what I always (have to) say. This is one of those summary-style posts that simply serve to let the folks back home know what I’ve been up to. ~ 

As is now tradition, Cassie and I started the Xmas season with a nice meal at LA Prime, at the top of the Hotel Bonaventure in downtown LA. Steak, Vodka Gimlets (Dirty Martinis) and a bit of a view, along with the cool glass elevator ride, and the Logan’s Run lobby.

Most of Xmas Eve we spent driving up to San Francisco to stay with Cassie’s brother Don and his family, like last year. They have a beautiful house out in Orinda, and as they have the large (soon to be larger!) family, they’re the holiday destination.

The 24th is Cassie’s eldest nephew George’s birthday, and he was turning 5. He got the usual shower of gifts (kids these days eh, etc) and traditionally he had his choice of dinner, which this time was sushi. Actually he seemed more into the udon soup and tempura, which left more dragon rolls for us.

Xmas Day was as you’d expect. Pyjamas, paper, gifts, food, drink, toys, music. Cassie’s Mum (Mom) Joan did another fantastic job of feeding us. She’s great. Sugary rolls and strata for breakfast, then more deliciousness throughout the day. Coffee, however, was an issue.

Over the holiday period I was recruited as the new family engineer to try and get the built-in coffee machine to work. I managed it in the end, with lots of help from family friend Renee, printed instructions from the web, and frequent breaks to build up my patience with what turned out to be an astonishingly badly designed bit of kit. You have to open it with a key and remove half the fittings to clean it, and you have to clean it every time you make a milk-based drink. The instructions were poorly written and omitted key information. You can imagine the manufacturers response, “Oh no, it can’t do that. Why would you assume it could?” If I could remember the manufacturer, I’d recommend you not buying.

On Boxing Day (which isn’t anything except “day after Xmas” here) we drove into the city and went to the All You Knead Cafe again, where we met up with Taylor, Aaron and of course Chandra, aka burlesque artiste Ruby White. After a good lunch there in the bohemian surroundings, we wandered up and down Haight Street doing some shopping. Cassie wanted a new Jerry (Garcia) Bear plush toy for Gordon, and I was needing some clothes because I’d managed to leave a load of stuff hanging in Cassie’s closet in LA. There are loads of second-hand and vintage shops along there, with some pretty good stuff, including an original Thompson Twins t-shirt, which I would have bought if it wasn’t for the fact that it was 5 sizes too small, $30 and threadbare. An amusing and incongruous meeting: while browsing in the headshop where Cassie bought the bear, we ran into my San Diego office manager and his wife, who were just browsing as well, honest. No wonder he seems so relaxed at work.

Don and family were off for an Xmas vacation on the 27th, so they left us in charge, with a short list of things to do, mainly involving Hollywood the hugely fluffy white cat, and Nora the pug, aka The Walking Meatloaf. We had to drop Nora off at the kennels, so we headed out to Clayton to Camp Four Paws, which looked like loads of fun for dogs, with large field scattered with toys and exercise equipment. On the way back, we stopped at a farm shop for something, and ended up being shown the shop’s collection of exotic birds, all chattering and squawking away in the barn. Strange little place.

In the evening we looked for somewhere nice for dinner, eventually settling on the Wood Tavern in Oakland. This had been recommended by Don and Darien, and we weren’t disappointed. They were very friendly, the food was great, the refilled cocktails were delicious, and the fact they (accidentally?) forgot to charge us for our entrees was very nice. We left a huge tip, and left quickly.

Saturday saw us back in the city at Chandra’s, for a little gathering to talk, listen to music, and experiment with a bottle of Pisco. It was also my first experience of a Sloppy Joe sandwich, which was very yummy. We started out trying to make proper Pisco Sours, but as these things often do, it deteriorated into random drink mixing. Singing about the Pisco Disco to the tune of Copacabana – “the hottest place in San Francisco” – are you proud, Petty? Really?

Back in LA on New Year’s Eve, I noticed a pain in my jaw, which grew into a huge throbbing and a swelling. I called my dentist (also on his holidays) and he phoned through some penicillin to a local pharmacist. Cassie also had a stinking cold, and she was popping the pills too. So it was that I saw 2009 in with drugs coursing through my veins, avoiding too much alcohol. Brought back memories, it did! (Not really.) It was really nice though, if quiet. Friends, decorated sheet cake, champagne, toasts, midnight kisses. Had I not been in pain and dosed up I would have been up for much more.

On New Years Day we were both fine as far as drink effects go, but we were both still feeling rotten with swollen faces and runny noses. So we ended up watching Arthur while drinking Perrier and eating leftover crudites with onion dip. Not the start of a diet, I hasten to add, we just didn’t feel like anything more. Just to add to the health kick, the next day we walked round Silver Lake reservoir with Gordon the dog, who loved getting a good trot in.

Then just before I had to return to San Diego, we had dinner at Brian and Stacy’s, where we stuffed ourselves after taking an axe to the Xmas tree and burning it in their garden fire grate. Those dry resiny needles went up like rocket fuel. One cute little treat we’d picked up at Gelsen’s was chocolate dipped fortune cookies, which had the usual mix of cold-reading nonsense (“things will change in the year ahead”) and the wrong lottery numbers, made palatable by a coating of chocolate. Talk about sugar-coating the bad news.

The cookie was right though. 2009 is going to be a biggie.

San Francisco, October 2008 – It Was A Trip

I’ve been doing a bit of zooming around the West Coast in the last few months. Back in mid-October (yes this is one of those “about time too” posts – the Xmas 2008 post is coming soon) was a nice trip up north. Thursday night after work I scuttled through the streets to catch the Surfliner to LA. After an uneventful train journey up the coast, watching the last of the sunset over the Pacific, my bird Cassie picked me up from the beautiful art deco Union Station (as used by Ridley Scott for the interior of the LAPD in Blade Runner), and we grabbed some food in Chinatown.

In the morning we (or should I say I?) finalised packing, and then met some folks for a nice breakfast at Dusty’s, a favourite of ours. We’ve taken to sharing breakfast plates, because with the rosemary potatoes, toast and jam and everything else, we realised we didn’t need two omelettes as well. So this time was the Dusty’s special (with a side of crunchy American bacon) and their delicious strawberry and orange juice, and of course much coffee. Then we hit the road.

It’s not the most scenic of voyages, driving straight up the 5, but it’s a lot quicker than driving up the coast, less hassle than flying, and until the California High Speed Rail gets built, it’s pretty much the only option.

The first night we stayed in leafy well-to-to Orinda, with Cassie’s brother Don and his family. It was gratifying that her nephews were pleased to see me; Bennett especially likes to use me as a trampoline. We ate dinner with Don and Darien at a nice little restaurant with a big gnarly tree impinging on it. We were tired after our trip, so we didn’t indulge too much before hitting the hay in Darien’s immaculate guest room (mucho Resto).

In the morning Don was making pancakes, so I grabbed a couple for the road, and Cassie and I drove to the BART station for a day in San Francisco. The BART trains and tunnels were used in THX 1183 before they went into service, that is, the original version of the movie, before George Lucas did his thing and cocked it all up with CGI. Pillock.

The first thing we did was to go to the California Academy of Sciences, newly refurbished with its famous turf roof. This was my idea, and while I’m all for these museums and galleries, with their agenda of opening up science to families and so on, but they do get a bit samey after a while. I do like looking at these displays, especially aquariums (aquaria?), but with the emphasis on educating the little ones, adults do end up reading how important water is quite a lot. Perhaps there’s a niche for a grown-up’s Natural History Museum, complete with dioramas and hands-on wheel-turning and button-mashing, but with the emphasis on the more adult side of the world of nature. Should be fun.

Sadly the Planetarium was fully booked. This was a real shame – I haven’t been in a planetarium since I was a boy, when my parents took me to London and I went to Madame Tussauds, had the shit scared out of me at the Doctor Who exhibit, and then even more shit scared out of me in the Chamber of Horrors, with its displays of famous serial killers and methods of execution. The recent idiotic (or deliberately misleading) comment from Republican presidential hopeful John McCain about a $3 million “overhead projector” reminded me that I want to go to another one. They’re probably improved since 1980.

We were due to meet Cassie’s pal Chandra at Haight & Ashbury, so we rode a taxi  with a funny and very enthusiastic driver, and hopped out right outside the Ben & Jerry’s right on the corner. Lunch was at the All You Knead Cafe, a bohemian joint with great burgers and veggie diner cuisine combined with old faded formica and psychedelic murals.

We hung out in San Francisco, met up with Cassie’s old high school friend Taylor, and went for drinks at Zeitgeist (where we got free cake by the happy accident of sharing one of the big outdoor tables with a birthday party), followed by a walk through the city to another bar, this one a nice relaxed pub, with stools at the bar, friendly barman (gave Cassie free drinks, eh?) and fun decor, motorbikes hanging from the wall, those Borg-recharger spark things, and classic neon signs.

To round off the evening, Cassie and I had a late dinner at Firefly before walking down the hill to catch a late BART ride home, which was kept lively by a contingent of screeching drunken cougars and their hopefully-embarrassed prey.

We slept in the next morning, as well as can be expected with three young boys running around above you (the guest room is downstairs beneath the kitchen). Maybe the pounding was in my head, I’m not sure. The next morning we left Orinda to drive north over the Golden Gate and onward to Santa Rosa, to visit with a friend of Cassie’s.

I’ve found that in the US if you add “West” to a street name, or forget to add it, you find yourself on the complete opposite side of town. So it was that we arrived at the Homeless Mission. A quick phone call corrected the error, and soon we were settled in the comfy living room of Cassie’s old friend Erin, meeting her partner and her cute son Bodie (sp?). He was engrossed in an episode of Thomas the Train, which is the US version of Thomas the Tank Engine. I think they changed the name because mentioning a tank offended the gentle people of this most pacifist of nations, and instead of Ringo Starr, they have Alec Baldwin voicing it. Bodie has this fantastic habit of not saying yes when answering a question in the affirmative. Instead he says, “Oh!” in such a way that you expect him to follow it up with, “… I do declare!”. Pretty damn cute.

For dinner we picked up a good takeout pizza and a takeout jug of good beer from this micro-brew pub, where a band was playing some original stuff to an appreciative and varied crowd. Having scoffed the pizza, we then finished off the beer and stayed up late debating the economic bailout and watching more Thomas the Train.

We had to head off back south the next day, so we strolled to A’Roma Roasters for some brew and an American-style Breakfast Cake. Santa Rosa, or what I saw of it, was beautiful, with autumn trees, wooden houses, and the old rail tracks that were used for the Handcar Regatta.

After that we hit the road again, and much later I was tiredly crawling into a taxi to take me home from the station. Home.

~

I took a load of photos, but my camera got dropped while it’s lens was extended, and now it seems to be knackered. I’m sure it will be fine to get the card out, but that means I’m in the market for a new camera. January sales…?