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Photos from the 2017 Oakland Marathon: Semereab Gebrekidan and Katherine Klymko win

SEMEREAB GEBREKIDAN

Semereab Gebrekidan (bib #260), a 32-year-old from Oakland won the 2017 Oakland Marathon with a time of 2:35:54.  Katherine Klymko won the female field with a finishing time or 03:09.02.   Semereab has won a number of other running events, including the Treviso marathon in Italy last year.

KELSEY GURGANUS

Katherine Klymko (#344) of Berkeley won the womens field.  She’s barely visible here, hidden behind the 2nd place finisher, Kelsey Gurganus (#276) of Indianapolis and the 5th place finisher, Jacqueline Sloves (#778) of Oakland.

 

Gabrielle Maudiere (#657) of Larkspur, pictured here with the 3:20 pace group,  finished 3rd among women.

EAST BAY ATHLETIC CLUB Oakland Running Festival - 2017

The East Bay Athletics Club men’s relay team (#9226) was first at mile 5, and finished 3rd overall with a time of 02:36:28.

SFRC RACING TEAM Oakland Running Festival - 2017

The SFRC racing team (#9224) won the mixed relay with a finishing time of 02:24:13, good for a 5:30 pace.

EXCEL Oakland Running Festival - 2017

The Excel men’s relay team (#9034) finished 1st for the men’s relay with a time of 02:26:51.

PIMP MY STRIDE

Mixed relay team Pimp my Stride (#9174) finished 3rd with a time of 02:54:24.

Ivan Medina at the 2017 Oakland Marathon

Perennial contender Ivan Medina (#417) of Hayward finished 2nd overall with a time of 02:39.03.

STRAWBERRY CANYON TC Oakland Running Festival - 2017

The Strawberry Canyon Track Club men’s relay team (#9219) finished 2nd with a final time of 02:31:44.

DENNIS LEFBOM Oakland Running Festival - 2017

And as always, Dennis Lefbom (#686) ran with his Hawaiian shirt.

 

 

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How bumpy is my baby’s ride in my jogging stroller?

Stroller bumpiness, measured with an iPhone accelerometer

When our daughter was younger, I tried to quantify the "bumpiness" of her rides in strollers.  We had two strollers, an older Bugaboo Bee (can't find a link to the older version) and a Thule Chariot Cougar (single, not double).  We had the normal stroller attachment for the Chariot Cougar and the jogging attachment. 

Bugaboo bee
Thule Chariot Cougar with stroller wheels
Thule Chariot Cougar with jogging attachment

In addition to comparing the differences between strollers, I wanted to compare the "bumpiness" differences when walking and running.

Data collection was messy, as you'll see below, but hopefully the results are still interesting.

Measurements and Methods

I used an old iPhone 4S with an data logging app to measure its accelerometer output while the phone was placed in the bottom basket of the Bugaboo and in one of the front pockets of the Thule Chariot Cougar.

I used two different apps to record the data:

  • Axelerom: For measurements of the Bugaboo and the Thule Chariot Cougar with stroller wheels
  • xSensor: For measurements of the Thule Chariot Cougar with the jogging attachment

Both only recorded data when the phone screen was on, so I had to stop once and a while to make sure it was still recording.  The Axelerom readings were taken at 5Hz and the xSensor at about 19-20Hz.  The Axelerom readings were also somehow strangely rendered out of order in the data file.  I had to resort the data by timestamp.

Upon analyzing the data, I realized that 5Hz wasn't fast enough to do anything other than measure acceleration.  Even the xSensor measurements at 19Hz weren't that great.  This was a bit of a problem, because I couldn't reliably measure the "jerk", or the rate of change of the acceleration.  The jerk can have a large impact on the perceived quality of a ride.  A good analogy is the difference between slowing down in a car at an intersection and abruptly letting off on the brake when the car comes to a stop rather than gently easing off of the brake pedal.

Coincidentally, I learned during research that 5Hz is roughly the resonant frequency of important parts of the body, and possibly the least comfortable vibration frequency to experience.

The measurements were taken on the sidewalks and streets in Oakland, California, mostly along the same ones for each stroller.  I didn't take the exact same path or streets for each stroller though, so this is another potential source of variation.

The smoothest ride was with the Thule Chariot Cougar

Stroller bumpiness, measured with an iPhone accelerometer

The Thule Chariot Cougar looks like a SUV next to the Bugaboo Bee stroller.  It's got two 20" wheels with pneumatic tires and a suspension on the back.  The Bugaboo's wheels are suspended too, but are much, much smaller.

One can observe the difference in forces measured in the stroller on the graph: the pointier the curve, the smoother and less bumpy the ride.

The numbers

The Thule Chariot Cougar with the stroller wheels (in green in the chart above) provided the smoothest ride, with a minimum measured acceleration of 0.399 Gs and a maximum acceleration of 2.231 Gs.  The standard deviation was 0.108 Gs.

The Bugaboo Bee was the next smoothest, with a minimum measured acceleration of 0.087 Gs (nearly freefall, for a split-second at least!)  and a maximum measured acceleration of 2.452 Gs.  The standard deviation was 0.165 Gs.

As one may expect, the bumpiest ride was with the Thule Chariot Cougar with the jogging attachment, recorded while running.  I regret that I did not perform measurements while just walking with the jogging attachment installed to have that as a point of comparison.  The minimum measured acceleration was 0.089 Gs, the maximum measured acceleration was 2.382 Gs, and the standard deviation was 0.242 Gs.

What does this all mean?

It was really interesting to find that the maximum and minimum recorded accelerations for the Thule Chariot Cougar with jogging attachment, while jogging, was similar to that of the Bugaboo Bee.  And the Bugaboo Bee is a pretty smooth rolling stroller.  I found that to be pretty reassuring.  Though the ride while jogging was definitely bumpier, the maximum acceleration magnitude was smaller than that of the Bugaboo.

This was kind of just a fun exercise, but there are a couple of conclusions I came to:

  • The Thule Chariot Cougar is a very smooth-riding stroller.
  • Running with the Cougar's jogging attachment is sorta bumpy, but probably not way worse than the Bugaboo Bee.

 

 

 

Hiking at Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite National Park

We started out at the Hetch Hetchy Campground, in Yosemite National Park, and spent the evening there before making a short backpacking trip up to Laurel Lake and back.   It’s only a 5 or 10 minute walk to the O’Shaughnessy Dam from the campground, so we headed over there before it got dark to check it out.  We had taken care of reservations a while back.  Our lodging: our tents, hammocks, or just sleeping bags.

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The reservoir appeared to be pretty full, which is good drought news!  Looking at the dam, I couldn’t help but wonder what the valley must have looked like before the dam was built.. and what our water situation in the Bay Area would be like without it.  We read about the construction of the dam, John Muir’s opposition, and the interesting Pelton turbines used for power generation.

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We returned to the campsite, had dinner, and spent some time together under the stars before going to bed.  The milky way was easily visible, as well as multiple planets – I think Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were out.

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The view from the tent:

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It was a warm night and a warm morning.  Lots of neat driftwood in the Hetch Hetchy reservoir.

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The metal signs were nice to look at, but I don’t think very accurate.  Perhaps the trails have changed over the years.  The below sign indicated that Laurel Lake was 7.6 miles away, but by my measurements, we only backpacked 6.9 miles.  We did not go to Beehive meadows.

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There was quite a variety of scenes in those 6.9 miles though.  Mossy pines:IMG_4245m

White flowers.  I tried to study the wildflower sign before I left, but sadly did not remember any of them.

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Waist-high ferns in a previously fire-damaged area that was coming back to life.  The abundance of sunlight due to the lack of trees made for a verdant scene.

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After making it to the lake, we all jumped in to cool off and refresh ourselves.

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It was a nice site, with very few traces of humans who had been here previously.IMG_4193m

We weren’t far off from the solstice, so we were treated to a lot of daylight.IMG_4211m

Christian tried fly fishing, without much luck, unfortunately.IMG_4212m

Laurel Lake was still by 11pm.IMG_4227m

I managed to sleep pretty well, so I didn’t catch the lake at dawn.  But the water was pretty glassy at around 8am.

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We had a leisurely breakfast and then made our way back towards the reservoir.

Just before a stream crossing: this butterfly was still alive, but not doing so well.

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Another photo of the previously fire-damaged area.IMG_4262m

We managed to see a bear on our way back, near the dam.  I didn’t take photos of it because I was shooting with a prime lens and my other lens was tucked away in my backpack.

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We started and ended the hike at the dam, which was at about 2950 feet elevation.  According to the GPS, we maxed out at around 6600 feet near Laurel Lake.

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How much drag does a baby trailer add to your bike ride?

strava_trailer_tunnel_times

Getting out for a bike ride has been hard as a parent, but we got out with our toddler and took her on a trip up Old Tunnel Road the other day. I was curious how different climbing would be with all of the extra weight, so I flipped on Strava to see how my timing and speed compared.

I don’t have a great base for comparison, because I usually ride without Strava, and on the rides that I was using it (or a GPS), I was riding with a different bike.  Also, we stopped twice because we ran into a friend (hi, Greg!) and had to avoid being attacked by wild turkeys.  Seriously.

Here was my setup:

  • Bianchi Axis “commuter bike”
  • Thule Chariot Cougar (1-seater) ~25lb
  • 1 baby, ~24 pounds

 

Either way, it was interesting to look at the differences in times:

 

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The stretch in question is a 1.3 mile stretch, with 369 feet of climbing and a 5% grade.  I was pushing pretty hard, and based on the times above, I think I could have ridden the stretch in maybe 9:45 with my commuter bike if I was not towing a child.  So, I’d estimate a 30% increase in duration for a steady climb with the trailer.

How’s the math work out?  The Chariot Cougar added about 50 pounds, so if I did my math right, that is:

50 / 2.2 * 9.8 * 369 * 12 / 39.37 / (13 * 60 + 9) = 31.8 watts of lost power

My total weight, plus bike is probably about 185lb, so 50lb is about a 27% increase, which matches pretty well with my estimate.  That totally ignores differences in friction/drag for the trailer and other energy losses, of course.  Maybe I just got lucky?  It’ll be interesting to see how much slower things are on the flats.

How did our daughter do?  She started to get a bit impatient during the climb, probably because it was taking a while.  We took a break at the top and then descended.  She seemed to enjoy the descent.  I guess she enjoys going fast and the bumps?  I turned back at one point, asked how she was doing, and I think she said “wheee”, so that’s a good sign.

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Which heart rate monitor with GPS should I buy?

(This is a work in progress.  I’ll continue to update it as I can, as I proceed with my search.)

After going a few years without training with a heart rate monitor with GPS, I’ve decided that it’s time to look into getting a new one.

I still own a Garmin Forerunner 310XT that I hope to never use again because it’s been fairly terrible.  I used my Forerunner primarily for running, but did some cycling with it as well.  It was probably an 80%/20% split.  I originally chose the 310XT because of its long battery life, and of course, for its heart rate and GPS features.  I had previously run with an old Polar, maybe a S625X?  It worked pretty well, but I was intrigued by the idea of using GPS to track my workouts.

In theory, based on the features, the 310XT was a cool product, but in practice, it was burdened by awfully buggy firmware that made it unusable most of the time.  I’ve had such a profoundly bad experience with that watch, that I’d rather not buy another Garmin device again.

What am I looking for?

I’m looking for most or all of these features, not necessarily in any particular order:

  • Logging for post run/ride analysis
  • Easy data transfer from device to a PC or phone for analysis
  • Strava integration
  • Reliable performance
  • Non-creepy data storage.  I’d like to not have to rely on a company’s website to look at my information, and I’d like to choose whether that information is private or not.
  • Good heart rate measurement
  • Good GPS
  • A decent display for monitoring heart rate, total distance, current speed, and so on
  • Battery life: 8 hours would be great, so that I could use it on longer bike rides.
  • Waterproof, because I sweat a lot.  I don’t really swim, but riding and running in rain happens not too infrequently.

So, what’s out there now?

I bought the 310XT in early 2012, and the Polar many years before that.  Things have changed a lot, and there are new players in the game.

My phone

My iPhone has GPS built in, and if I want heart rate data, I can get a “dumber” device that measures my heart rate and have it sync with my phone.  I usually don’t run with my phone, though, and on longer bike rides, I’m concerned about battery life.  So I’d prefer to look for something different.

Fitbit

Fitbit has a wide range of devices available now.   On the higher-end is the Charge HR and the Surge.  The Charge HR is their “Active Fitness” device, and the Surge is their “Performance fitness” device.  The Charge HR will track steps and heart rate, but has no GPS.  The new Blaze just came out too.  It has a heart rate monitor, but does not have an embedded GPS.  One nice thing about the Fitbit devices is that they can measure heart rate without the chest strap – a sensor is part of the wrist band.

One can use any of their devices, or none at all with their app’s “MobileRun” Feature.

Garmin

I’m not going to buy a Garmin, but I still am interested in knowing what their product offering looks like.

Their vivofit line includes 3 models of interest.  The Vivosmart HR contains a heart rate monitor that measures from your wrist.  It does not contain a GPS.  The vivofit vivoactive does contain a GPS, but has no heart rate monitor.  The vivofit vivovactive HR has both, and would probably be the device I’d consider if I were considering Garmin at all.

Garmin also offers a fenix series.  Only the fenix 3 HR contains a heart rate monitor and a GPS receiver.  All of the other fenix models (fenix 2, fenix 3, fenix 3 sapphire) have various levels of GPS functionality, but do not have a wrist-based heart rate monitor.

Suunto

Suunto wasn’t ever high up on my list, but I wanted to see what they have to offer.  Browsing their website, I found three models that may fit my criteria.  The Traverse, the Ambit3 Vertical and the Ambit3 Peak.

Polar

Working on it..

TomTom

Working on it..

Basis

Working on it..

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Photos from the 2016 Oakland Running Festival Marathon and Marathon Relay

Oakland Running Festival 2016

This year’s 7th Oakland marathon took place on a cloudy morning.  It started raining around noon, so most runners just escaped the rain.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

A runner (9119) from the Olympic Club male relay team was the first runner through at mile 4, escorted by a few cyclists.  They finished in 1st place for the male relay category, with a time of 2:21:44.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

This runner (bib 9181) from the SFRC Racing team was the second runner through at mile 4, they finished 2nd in the mixed relay category with a time of 02:41:43.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

Carrying the baton for Shabo TC, this runner (9186) helped his male relay team capture 3rd place in their category.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

After the first batch of relay runners, we started to see the marathon runners, seen in the lime-colored bibs.  This is Alex Battaglino (217) and Patrick Donnelly (924),  both of El Cerrito, within footsteps at mile 4.  Alex eventually won the race, and increased their separation from a couple of feet to 8 and a half minutes by the end of the race.  Alex Battaglino won with a time of 02:34:51, and Patrick Donnelley finished 3rd with a time of 02:43:25.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

Oakland Running Festival 2016
Oakland Running Festival 2016

Ivan Medina of Hayward is a perennial top finisher at the Oakland Marathon.  This year, he finished in 2nd place, with a time of 02:41:25.  He ran it quite a bit faster in 2015, having finished that race with a time of 02:30:07, which would have been good enough to win this year.

]Oakland Running Festival 2016

Here’s a runner from the Habitat for Humanity team, who ran in the mixed relay.  They finished with a time of 4:16:37.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

Christopher Jackson of Berkeley finished the marathon in 6th place, with a time of 02:55:17.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

The #GUforit with the That’s Fine Track Club finished first in the mixed relay.  Here’s one of their runners at mile 4.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

Rob Nachtwey, of Berkeley, is another perennial contender who is easy to pick out because of his pink hat.  He finished 2nd in 2014, and this year finished 4th, with a time of 02:50:55.
Oakland Running Festival 2016

This is Patrick Madigan of San Francisco, who finished in 13th place with a time of 03:05:36.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

Team Worse Chemistry (9048) from Berkeley finished with a time of 03:24:05, good for 6th place in the Mixed Relay.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

Team Soil Joggers, from Oakland, finished 8th in the Male Relay with a time of 03:26:34.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

Runner 462 is Spenser Talkington, who ran an amazing 03:05:13 at only 17 years of age!  Congrats, Spenser!  Fernando de Samaniego Steta of San Francisco (960) finished in 5th place with a time of 02:54:34.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

The Strawberry Canyon Track Club Women of Berkeley finished 3rd in the female relay with a time of 02:59:21.

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Rohit Mitter (478) from New York finished 18th, with a time of 03:12:12.
Oakland Running Festival 2016

Joshua Lerner of San Francisco won the Masters category with a time of 02:49:50.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

Eric Obeng (686) of San Francisco finished 11th place with a time of 03:04:13.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

Alexander Kramer of Calpella (858) finished 19th with a time of 03:13:06.   Nelson Osaky (448) finished 382nd with a time of 04:41:12, and it appears that Holly McIlvaine dropped out of the race or her timing chip didn’t register.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

Joshua Bornstein (135) of the Tamalpa Running Club from San Rafael finished 7th with a time of 02:58:35.  Erik Donohue finished 26th with a time of 03:18:16.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

Andra Enoiu from Richmond finished 63rd overall, but 4th among women, with a time of 03:34:06.  She won her age group.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

This guy (9212) ran for team StephCurry4Prez.  !

Oakland Running Festival 2016

Hawaiian Shirt guy!  I love seeing runners who do this race nearly every year.

Oakland Running Festival 2016

I think this is the same guy who ran with a hemp shoulder back back in 2011?  Nice to see him running again.

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Coffee & Crema was a little hole in the wall in a building in Greenville, South Carolina

I had an espresso there before they closed.  It was a little hole in the wall at the entrance of a building in downtown Greenville on Main St.

coffee and crema greenville sc

I wonder why they closed – they had another location in a mall that they closed a number of months earlier.

coffee and crema greenville sc

According to GreenvilleOnline, they closed because of the weather and additional competition.  It’s a bit of a sad end for a place that “helped create a true coffee culture in Greenville”, but former owner Shannon Hudgens leaves a glimmer of hope: “I may not come back as Coffee & Crema in the same form that people are used to, but it doesn’t mean that I’m dead either.”

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Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert

Visiting the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest National Park was one of the most profoundly beautiful experiences of my life, and especially so because I didn’t have big expectations for the park.  Lower Antelope Canyon was amazing, but I had seen many pictures before, so I expected it to be amazing.  I didn’t have any for the Petrified Forest or Painted Desert.

This was despite what I’d heard growing up at home – my Dad talked about the place a lot.  He had gone on a trip in the Southwest with coworkers more than 20 years ago.. but he went to Arches National Park.  I remember that he purchased the VHS tape from the gift shop and had us watch it a few times after he got back.  Over the years, he talked about the Petrified Forest it enough that somehow I got the impression that he’d been there before.  But it wasn’t until we went on the trip that I found out that he had never been.

It was mid-afternoon when we arrived, and it was still hot.  Like in the mid-90s maybe.  But luckily, it was also pretty breezy, which made the heat more tolerable.

We pulled up to a fairly empty visitors center.  We learned that the painted desert was named by an expedition of Spanish explorers who called it “El Desierto Pintado.”

One could see for miles and miles, and the hills were full of different colors.  We picked up a map from the NPS and started driving to the different scenic viewpoints.  You enter along Route 66, and can drive about 25 miles south through the park along the designated road.  We stopped for views at Kachina and Chinde point.

There’s a cool part of the park where you drive over Route 66 as you head south.  The landscape changes over a bit, revealing striated badlands with some pretty amazing topography that stands in stark contrast to the blue sky.

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There is a short, paved and gravel hiking loop around the Blue Mesa area, where the hills are covered with a “bluish bentonite clay”.  Walking around there felt particularly … lunar to me.  There were only 2-4 other people in the entire area other than my dad and myself, which made it even easier to imagine that you were on the surface of a different world.

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This is where I was first able to see the petrified wood of the national park up close.  Little pieces were littered across the flat areas, as if the trunks had rolled down the hills and shattered.  It’s interesting to think about the unique circumstances that cause wood to become petrified.  There had to have been a forest here so many years ago.  It’s hard enough to imagine the area covered in a dense forest.  Then the area needs to be covered with silt and volcanic ash and cut off from oxygen by some large-scale event.  Then groundwater would seep in to allow the silica to diffuse into the wood.  And then, through lifetimes of erosion, the logs are finally revealed.

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It was getting to the late afternoon as we continued along the drive.  The Agate Bridge (not pictured) is a well preserved log that formed a bridge across a small ravine.  In 1911, supports were added underneath to prevent it from falling apart.  The National Park Service has adopted a different philosophy now; today, the bridge would be allowed to continue to crumble and left in its natural state.

As we headed further south, we ventured into areas of the park that had bigger and bigger logs.  We walked a loop through the Crystal Forest and enjoyed a silty-white landscape littered with logs and an expansive sky that was deep blue and orange because of the setting sun.  I feel the need to reiterate how profoundly beautiful this experience was.  The air was still warm, there was a strong breeze flowing, the sun was low in the sky and getting lower.  The ground was white and littered with petrified logs and chunks thereof.  You could see for miles and miles in each direction.  And there was nobody else around other than my Dad and I.

Walking along the loop, we could get a close-up look at the petrified logs.

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As the sun set further, the whitish logs became a deep golden color.

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This scene was particularly beautiful and amusing to me.  It reminded me of those idyllic scenes with a tractor and hay bales – except the bales in this case were petrified logs weighing hundreds of pounds.

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Somehow, impossibly, the scenes continued to get better.  The sun continued to set, and the sky lit up with pink, wispy clouds, and the landscape lost its long, harsh shadows.

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We pulled over to the side of the road where two other cars and groups of people stood to catch the sunset.  We watched this one cloud hover and change for a long time.

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On the way out of the park, we passed by a few touristy gift shops that were selling petrified wood.  They were closed due to the time of the day.

We got dinner at a steakhouse in Holbrook, Arizona.  When’s the last time I ate from a salad bar like this?

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After dinner, we headed west on 40 to our next destination: Flagstaff.

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Coffee at Betterday in Santa Fe and then a trip to Albuquerque

I had only one chance to get coffee the morning we left Santa Fe.   I narrowed my choices to The Betterday Coffee Shop or Iconik and opted to go with Betterday.

Interestingly, according to yelp, their rating has been dropping since 2014, sadly.  I wonder what happened?  Digging through the reviews, it seems that more people have been unhappy with their customer service.  It had a neighborhood vibe when I was there, and I didn’t have any problems.  But this was back in June, 2014.

The decor at Betterday was a mix of wood and old rustic highway signs:

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.. with a couple of bicycle frames hanging from the wall.

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They do indeed serve Stumptown, and my espresso was fine.

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We didn’t stay too long, because the rest of the day’s itinerary required us to stop in Albuquerque, Petrified Forest, and then end in Flagstaff.

It was really hot that day in Albuquerque.  We didn’t explore as much as I’d like since it was such a short stop, but we checked out the historic old town plaza and its shops.  We saw some really neat images in one of the photo galleries, which seemed to be run sort of as a co-op.  I stopped in the San Felipe de Neri Parish for a moment to see the interior:

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and then ended up eating a quick lunch at the Albuquerque Museum.

Then we drove for a while along the train tracks and ended up taking a break in Gallup, NM.  It was a fun stop. My dad really really wanted to stop on Route 66.  We checked out the Rex Museum and talked at length to the guy working there, who wore a bright neon orange shirt, striped tie, black vest, and cowboy hat.  It was full of items from Gallup’s history, including these city directories dating back to about 1923.

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we didn’t stay too long though, because we still needed to visit the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park and then make it to Flagstaff at a decent hour.

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Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe with my Dad – we arrived in the afternoon but luckily it was the time of the year when the days were long.  Our hotel was a little south of downtown, so we drove a few miles north and found parking near Santa Fe Plaza.   We didn’t have anywhere specific to go, so we just wandered around.  We walked by plenty of little shops and art galleries, and poked our heads into some of them.

We walked by the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi:

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and a whole bunch of other art galleries.  We walked by the (closed) Georgia O’Keefe museum and my dad admired the adobe architecture.

I didn’t get any coffee partly because it was getting later in the day, and partly because Holy Spirit was closed:

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We wandered down to the State Capitol building.  It was impressive and round.

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And eventually made our way to Santa Fe Railyard Park to see some greenery.

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There was a Railyard Piano project installation, and we checked out a few of the pianos.  I tried playing one, but it was in pretty bad shape.  Nicely colored, though.

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For dinner, we got some Green Chile at Tomasita’s, as recommended by a friend.  My dad’s first time.  He said it was “fine”.

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Visiting Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah

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We stopped through Kayenta, Arizona, to refuel on our way up to Monument Valley.  We got gasoline at a gravely station and we used the bathroom at a hotel.

kayenta az

kayenta az

And stopped into the grocery store, Bashas’, to get some snacks for the road.  Somehow, we ended up talking to a woman in line for a long time – I had written a note to self, a year and a half ago, when I was drafting this blog post, to write about that little anecdote.  But now, too much time has passed and I just don’t remember.  I recall speaking to her for a while near the checkout.  She lived fairly far away but this was the closest supermarket.  There were some family issues that I cannot remember.  Something about her husband who had a work-related disability?

 

I do still remember pondering her situation of living so far away from a grocery store.  It was a 45 minute, maybe an hour drive?  And it was the type of store with their own store-brand Bashas’ soda machine outside and walls made of identical cans of Golden Sweet Whole Kernel Corn.  What a different way of life compared to our complaint-worthy 15-minute walk from the nearest grocery store here.

Once on the road again to Monument valley, we stopped by a little dreamcatcher stand on the side of highway 163.  It was hot, and dreamcatchers shifted in the breeze.  Other little items of jewelry rested on the table.

dreamcatchers

It was a quiet stand. The whole time we were there, only two other people stopped by.  There were other cars in the lot, but they appeared to below to the people who staffed the stands.  I wonder how many people stop by over the course of a day?

The turn onto Monument Valley is pretty easy to spot.  Just a right turn off of 163.  We parked in the parking lot of The View hotel, looked through the gift shop/trading post.  I peeked my head into the restaurant.  There’s a lot of nice seating outside of the restaurant and a large viewing area.  The hotel rooms looked like they suited they suited the hotel’s namesake.  What a sight to look out to.

monument valley

We wanted to get a move on and drive the Monument Valley loop before the sun went down, so we decided to come back and check out the rest of the hotel later.

It’s a pretty mellow drive.  Some parts are quite sandy, so be aware of that.  Our car nearly got stuck a few times, and then actually did get stuck about 2/3 of the way through the loop.  After a few minutes of amusement that turned to minor panic, a group of people who were stuck behind us helped give our car enough of a push to help us get out.

But before that, there are plenty of mesas and sand to look at.  The main driving loop surrounds Rain God Mesa, and there are a number of points on the map where you can stop.  We stopped at all of them.  One stop had a pink food truck:

monument valley

That stop was probably John Ford’s Point.  Also there is a cowboy and a horse stationed for a photo-op.  It looked hot and uncomfortable to spend much time out there in full garb.  But it does make for quite a scene.

It was great driving around the mesas and buttes, but honestly, I think the best view is from the hotel.  I think the North Window Overlook was my favorite part of the loop.

We returned to the hotel, and sat outside in the shade to watch the sun set.

I noticed this carved into the wall of the viewing area.  I don’t know what it means.  But I can see the attempted “translation”: “I like Chow Miene”.  I don’t think that is what it says.

 

monument valley

While we watched the sunset, we ate our snacks and ate some dinner from the restaurant.  The combination of wide open space and tall rock formations makes for looooooooooooooooong shadows.

monument valley

It was incredibly peaceful to watch the mittens despite being surrounded by a number of other people.  Some were chatting with one another, there were a fair number of kids, and there were also a bunch of photographers, with and without tripods, taking photos of the unfolding sunset.  Some kids even had brought a football to toss around.

monument valley monument valley monument valley

It was such a profoundly peaceful and beautiful place.  It felt uncomfortable to be there in the harsh afternoon heat and direct sun, but at the same time, you could look around and be in awe of the vast expanse surrounding you.  I had hyped it up to myself a lot, and it was a strange combination of being underwhelming (I had wished for more clouds?) and more beautiful than I expected all at once.

 

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Hasselblad prism finder disassembly

I tried taking apart the NC-2 prism finder for my Hasselblad 500c. It’s dark and covered with fungus or haze, and I wanted to clean it.

P1160528m

I was ultimately unsuccessful, but if anyone else is attempting this, I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far so that you are not starting from scratch.  You can learn from my mistakes and hopefully help me figure out if it’s possible to get in there and clean it.

Screws

Here’s what I found:

  • 2 screws on eyecup side (IMPORTANT!)
  • 2 screws on the opposite side (front of camera, probably not as important)
  • A ton of screws on the bottom, 8, I think?
  • 2 screws under the leatherette (VERY IMPORTANT)

Getting the prism out

The front of the viewfinder is really only attached by 4 screws. Remove the bottom two under the eyecup.

I suspected that there were some under the leatherette (there are) but I didn’t want to peel it off. Not knowing any better, I removed all other screws that I could find.  This includes the 2 on the side opposite the eyecup and the 8 or so screws on the bottom.

The bottom

I don’t think it was necessary to remove the steel plate.  You need to be careful when disassembling, because there are 2 ball bearings and 2 springs that can pop out if you’re not careful once you remove the plate.

Back to the eyecup side

After I removed the bottom two screws on the eyecup side, I saw that a gap had opened, so I tried to pry the piece off.  There is a little bit of glue holding it in place and I figured that the top part had a tab to hold it in place.  It turns out there are 2 screws under the leatherette, and by mistake I sheared one of the screws while trying to pry the piece off.

If you’re trying to do what I did, just peel off the leatherette to get access to the two screws on top.  I had feared that the leatherette would fall apart, but it stayed completely intact.

P1160531m

Both the eyecup-piece and the rest of the finder had “x13” marked or etched by hand.  There are cork pieces to ensure a tight fit.

P1160533m

The prism appears to be marked “11.11.69”.  I didn’t take a photo, but the finder body appeared to be marked “17 Dez 1969” (or was it just “Dec”?)

P1160535m

Here’s a photo of the prism that was removed and the haze in all its glory:

P1160536m

I couldn’t get the prism apart.  The underside of the prism has 2 pieces of tape on the edges.  I removed the tape.  Then I tried to put a suction cup onto it and pull out that piece, but it didn’t budge.  I guess it’s glued in there pretty well?

As for the body..

I had also taken apart the 500C body a little while back because it was jammed and things didn’t appear to be moving the way they should.

I had a bit of help, luckily this guy appears to have successfully done the job.  His instructions are good, so I’ll just add my comments:

  • Definitely watch out for the Teflon lens piece behind the lens release button
  • That spiral torsion spring that closes the auxiliary shutter is REALLY HARD to put back in.  That thing still gives me nightmares.  And my fingertips hurt.
  • Watch out for the mirror pre-release button when you’re sliding the assembly back into the body shell.  You may need to lift up one of the brass levers before you push the assembly back in all the way.

 

Hasselblad 500c disassembly

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Sweatshop cafe, Williamsburg

Sweatshop Coffee, Williamsburg

Sweatshop coffee – what a nice minimal interior with muted greyscale tones.  Matching walls and t-shirts.  Non-minimal decorated tables and coffee-cup art.  Located at 232 Metropolitan Ave.  Two people were working with their laptops on the main table, I chose to have a quick seat on one of the small square tables.  Recommended by our generous hosts, we passed by the cafe almost by accident.  Beans once again by Counter Culture.

Sweatshop Coffee, Williamsburg Sweatshop Coffee, Williamsburg Sweatshop Coffee, Williamsburg Sweatshop Coffee, Williamsburg

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Cafe Devocion in Williamsburg

Devocion Coffee, Williamsburg

Oliver Strand and the Scoop weren’t kidding.  Beautiful indoor space, bathed in flowing light, with a bright green living wall and exposed brick.  Bright yellow signage and demitasse cups and saucers.  The coffee was darker than I’d like but it was fine.  I think the barista was in a bad mood as he made a face and seemed annoyed at me for asking about their coffee options.  Yes, they are all Colombian.  I don’t want to knock on their service completely, though.  The other staff member behind the counter, she smiled in warmly and wished us a nice day as we were exiting that left us feeling like we started the day right.

Devocion Coffee, Williamsburg Devocion Coffee, Williamsburg

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Brooklyn Roasting Company

brooklyn roasting company

Stopped by Brooklyn Roasting Company in Dumbo for a meeting and some coffee.  Paper cup, what?  It was pretty good.  It’s a surprisingly big space.  I got some food there as well and wasn’t a huge fan of the prepared food in the fridge.  I should have gotten more donuts.   There were a lot of people there, a number of small groups of people who looked to be in meetings with once another.  Yellowy lighting, neat spot.  Some roasting was happening, which is always fun to be around.

brooklyn roasting company

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Southside Coffee in South Slope

Espresso at Southside Coffee in South Slope

We met up with friends whom I see far too infrequently at Southside Coffee in South Slope, Brooklyn at 19th St and 6th Ave.  We have babies now, but the barista and the patrons were cool with that.  The woman next to us hanging out with her young son offered us an extra chair.  I had a George Howell espresso, and it was excellent.  The croissant not as great but that’s not why I visited.  Friendly barista, cozy vibe.  Wish I lived there, because that’d be my neighborhood joint.  Thank you Southside, for a fun visit.

 

Espresso at Southside Coffee in South Slope

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Coffee Bar DC

espresso from the coffee bar in dc

We met with my sister and her family at The Coffee Bar in Washington, DC on 12th & S NW.  Neat place, rustic, reclaimed distressed-wood type interior, beans from Ceremony, and the normal crowd of young folks on their laptops in the hip U street/Logan Circle neighborhood.espresso from the coffee bar in dcWe got the usual, an espresso and a latte.  Heart-shaped rosetta this time around.latte from the coffee bar in DC

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Oakland Marathon 2015

Jesse Cherry wins the 2015 Oakland Marathon

 Congrats, Jesse Cherry from Oakland for winning the 2015 Oakland Marathon!

Jesse Cherry wins the 2015 Oakland Marathon

Congratulations to Jesse Cherry for winning the 2015 Oakland Marathon!  Here he is at mile 4.  He looks fast even drinking water.  Jesse finished in 2:25:14.  The weather looked great for it – mildly overcast and pleasantly cool.

 

Ivan Medina finished 2nd with a time of 2:30:07 and 3rd place was Ryan Neely, who was only 5 seconds behind Ivan.  At the 2011 Oakland Marathon, Ivan finished 5th with a time of 2:44:33.

Ivan Medina at the 2015 Oakland Marathon

Here’s Ryan Neely:

Ryan Neely, 3rd place finisher at the 2015 Oakland Marathon

Devon Yanko won for the women, with a time of 2:56:02.  She set the womens’ course record in 2013.

Devon Yanko wins the 2015 Oakland Marathon

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LESS INTERNET MORE LOVE by Susan O’Malley

LESS INTERNET MORE LOVE by Susan O'Malley

Sad day.

Susan won’t be able to make art anymore but she’s still connecting people.  This is at Bob’s Machining Company at 2735 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA.  I met a person who was doing the same thing that I was.  Nice to meet you, Wendy, and thank you for connecting us, Susan.  Thank you Kala for helping make this possible.

More from her project.

LESS INTERNET MORE LOVE by Susan O'Malley

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Coffee shops that we visited in Toronto in 2015

dineen coffee toronto

Dineen Coffee Co

I missed Dineen coffee the last time around, but was close enough this time for it to be my first stop.   The warm Bay Area weather made being outside in Toronto a bit of a challenge.  But I layered up on three jackets and borrowed a hat and felt alright.

Dineen stands out a bit unlike some of the understated coffee shops that one may be used to.  They’ve got a classy exterior in a historic building on Yonge Street, downtown.

dineen coffee toronto

You’re greeted by a busy floor,  large brass chandeliers, and elegant columns.  This place looks like a classic hotel lobby from the 1920s.

dineen coffee toronto

It was busy in there, with nearly all of the tables full.

They had a selection of pastries and parfaits and sandwiches, and also a nice wall of syrups, coffees and teas available for purchase.

dineen coffee toronto

The espresso tasted classic, much like the vibe of the cafe.  The baristas were especially friendly here, and while I was taking photos reminded me to tag them if I put mine up on Instagram.  And I did!

 dineen coffee toronto

Milano Espresso Bar

Milano Espresso Bar just opened about a week ago.  They have a neat space on Adelaide St that felt.. springlike.  I wouldn’t have known it existed if I hadn’t seen their A-frame sign out on the sidewalk.

cafe milano toronto coffee

Christian walked us through the blends that they had available.  We opted to try both La Futurra and .. the other one.  I can’t remember the name now.  Both shots were well-balanced with a more traditional Italian roast profile.  We had missed them while on our trip in Vancouver, where Milano Espresso had originated.

cafe milano toronto coffee

Sense Appeal Coffee Roasters

I visited Sense Appeal on Spadina last time.  The place was undergoing some renovations and didn’t quite have the same charm as last time.  I’ll be back though.

sense appeal toronto coffee

Early Bird Espresso

My favorite spot of the trip was Early Bird Espresso on Queen Street West.  I was excited to see that they had espresso from Pilot (a place that I definitely need to see next time) and it was the best I had all trip.  It was fairly bright, with a citrusy fruity punch.  The wooden serving plate and demitasse were a really nice touch as well.  It was quite crowded in there but we were still able to find a table to sit for a few minutes.

espresso at early birdNice neon sign.

early bird espresso queen street west

Cafe St Viateur at Frank and Oak

I wish I’d known about this place earlier.  It’s a little cafe at the entrance to the Frank and Oak store on Queen Street West.  I saw people doing a cupping through the window and had to stop in out of curiousity.  They do cuppings ever Sunday morning.  They serve Stumptown but I also saw that they were cupping some 49th Parallel beans.  Beautiful aesthetics in there and friendly folks.

st viateur cafe toronto at Frank & Oak

There was bike stuff too.

There were a lot of people on their bikes despite the weather, which apparently did not go above freezing for the entirety of February.  This bike looks pretty stuck:

khs bike stuck in the snow in toronto

Here we are along the waterfront trail, heading to the condo-crazy Ebichoke.  It was cold, but I felt fine with two pairs of gloves on and my three jackets.

snowy bike ride toronto along lake ontario

Here’s a chunk of ice from Lake Ontario.  According to NOAA, about 50% of the lake is covered in ice right now.  (If you’re curious, here’s a map with the rest of the lakes as well.)

ice chunk lake ontario toronto

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How much does it cost to have a baby in the San Francisco Bay Area?

Healthcare costs are a confusing mess.

Hey everyone.  I usually use this blog to share photos, but I wanted to share some of the crazy associated with the healthcare system in the US.  I hope to update this more and add details as I am able, but I wanted to throw some information out there to start.  The bills that we’ve received are frustrating, but I am trying to make an effort to understand them more.  And I’m sharing the results here.

What we are paying for: An uncomplicated vaginal delivery with no medication except Pitocin after the baby was born, and a 2 night hospital stay.  We had a decent delivery, with one pretty crappy nurse, and good staff otherwise.

What we expected: I had done some research online and came across a couple of forums where mothers shared their birth costs.  From reading that, I expected to pay maybe $1000-5000 out of pocket.  There were some funny (and I mean funny in a sad way) responses that took pity on mothers in the US, because they paid nothing at all or very little.

I learned from WebMD that in 2008 an uncomplicated vaginal birth cost about $9,600, though it was unclear if this was the out-of-pocket cost or the hospital-billed cost.

The New York Times has an article that was written in 2013 that listed the “actual payments agreed to by insurance companies or other payers for services” in the USA to be $9,775 in 2012.

Here’s our bill:

Total out of pocket costs so far: $2740.98, but we owe more than this.  This includes $1,759.95 to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and $981.03 to our OB.

Our total out-of-pocket bill is $6,845.93. 

Our out-of-pocket costs plus the amount that our insurer paid is $22,102.13.  This is more than double the national average, according to the New York Times. (The math: 6845.93 + 11332.07 + 3924.13 = 22102.13)

The total amount billed by service providers to our insurance company: $33,115.78 (28,057.78 + 5,058.00)

Update Feb 12 2015:

Alta Bates Summit Medical Center issued a partial refund for $858.07, with the text: “Your insurance company indicated your patient responsibility amount is: $1,759.95.  You are entitled to a refund of your overpayment.”  I’m still not sure what our $1759.93 is for, given that the Blue Shield Explanation of Benefits lists our patient responsibility at $4,127.93.

Update Jan 14 2015:

$2718, paid directly to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley.  For what?  I don’t know.  They first called us before our baby was born to ask us to pay in advance, somehow telling us that the amount they are billing was not something covered by our insurance, Blue Shield of California.  I called their Patient Financial Services department to determine what the charge was.  I was told it was like a “down-payment” for my portion of the bill.  Somehow this $2718 was not factored into the bill from Blue Shield, though, and that there may be a mistake.  We will see.

Hospital bills for the mother:

Total billed by Alta Bates Summit Medical Center to Blue Shield for our hospital birth: $28,057.78.  Yep, that is TWENTY EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARSFor what?!  I don’t know, because Blue Shield’s website has a broken link where the bill is supposed to be.  Blue Shield sent a paper version of the Explanation of Benefits, and now I can see.

Here is the breakdown:

Service/Procedure Amount Billed Amount Blue Shield paid Amount we're responsible for
Room/Board Semi-Private 2 Bed General (*1) 10140.00 11332.07 1859.93
Nursery Newborn – Level I (*2) 4834.00 0.00 0.00
Hospital Misc(*3) – Pharmacy 571.48 0.00 0.00
Hospital Misc – IV Solutions 114.60 0.00 0.00
Hospital Misc – Lab Chemistry 111.70 0.00 0.00
Hospital Misc – Lab Immunology 470.00 0.00 0.00
Hospital Misc – Lab Hematology 394.00 0.00 0.00
Hospital Misc – Lab Other 6.00 0.00 0.00
Hospital Misc – Pulmonary Function 476.00 0.00 0.00
Hospital Misc – Clinic General 344.00 0.00 0.00
Hospital Misc – Labor/Delivery Room  Labor 3320.00 0.00 0.00
Hospital Misc – Labor/Delivery Room Delivery 5008.00 0.00 0.00
Hospital Misc – Room and Board Private OB (*4) 2268.00 0.00 2268.00

*1 – I have no idea why Blue Shield paid more than the amount billed.

*2 – Nursery?  Our baby spent no time in the nursery!  Why was Blue Shield billed for that??

*3 – Hospital Misc – there is a numeric code that goes with these, called a “Revenue Code” and there is no explanation for them on the bill.  You can however look them up online.  This is probably for pitocin, ibuprofen, and stool softener?

*4 – I do not know why we were billed for Room and Board twice.  We stayed two nights in a private room.  You’ll notice that one room and board room is for a private room, OB, the other for a semi-private room.  I don’t understand this.

Total that Blue Shield of CA is paying Alta Bates Summit Medical Center: $11,332.07.  We know that the value of most hospital bills is completely made up.  That 28 grand billed was wishful thinking.  As we should expect.

Total that Blue Shield of CA is billing us: $4,127.93.

Obstetrical bills for the mother:

Service/Procedure Amount Billed Amount Blue Shield paid Amount we're responsible for
Surgical – Routine Vaginal Delivery and antepartum and postpartum care First Newborn(*1) 5058.00 3924.13 981.03

*1 – Once again, you may notice that the numbers do not add up.  This is because Blue Shield has an “Amount Allowed”, the amount they will actually “pay” for a procedure.  Also, OB revenue codes are separate.

Hospital bills for our baby:

Service/Procedure Amount Billed Amount Blue Shield paid Amount we're responsible for
Inpatient Medical(*1) – "Initial hospital or birthing center care/day" 225.00 0.00 60.97
Inpatient Medical – "Subsequent hospital care for the normal newborn per day" 80.00 0.00 32.67
Inpatient Medical – Discharge services 230.00 0.00 114.36
Home Care – Skilled Nurse Visit Charge(*2) 355.00 14.40 295.60

(*1) – There’s a separate set of revenue codes for neonatal care.

(*2) – I don’t feel great about the home visit.  It was a “nice to have” thing, but for $296 out of pocket, I’d have done without it.  We definitely didn’t get much value out of her visit.  She asked us some questions, weighed the baby, and gave some breastfeeding tips.  That’s about it.  She was here for about an hour.

I’m curious about how you’ve paid to have a baby.

How much did you pay out of pocket when your baby was born?  How much did the hospital bill your insurance company?  How much did your insurance company pay?  What’s your story?  Or, if you know more about healthcare billing that I do, tell me if I’m doing this wrong.  Add a comment if you’d like, to help us all out.

I’ll make a table of responses that I get:

Name Out of Pocket Cost Insurer Paid Hospital Billed Insurance Type Description
Us $6845.93 $22102.13 $33115.78 Blue Shield PPO See above!
Mike $30 For the cable TV in the room. It’s the only thing that wasn’t covered. No co-pays. I couldn’t believe it.
Erin $2549.65 $11256.70 Uncomplicated water birth.  Only drugs were $12 ibuprofen.  Charged $833.60 for 8 cold packs!
Robin $175 $7595.96 First child
Robin $525 $1697.71 Second child
Kerry $0 $10000
Edward $2500 $35000
Myung $3000 $35-$40000 Twins!  Includes spinal + c-section + short stay in NICU for one.
Yans $3.60 Not in the US but in Australia.  Billed only for acetaminophen.
Richard $200 $50000 Kaiser Included 1 month NICU stay
Oz $2000 C-section
Camille $2800 $0 $0 Home birth – all out-of-pocket.
Kumar $1200 $7000 about $3500 for anesthesiologist and $3500 for labor/delivery
Michele $200 Includes the 9 months of maternity care and private room.
Greg $3000 $30000 employer-sponsored healthcare plan
Lisa $3500 $1500 $0 Home birth
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Where to drink coffee in Vancouver: Part One – Mount Pleasant

49th parallel coffee roasters vancouver

Vancouver has a impressive coffee scene.  We got some great coffee in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of East Vancouver from 49th Parallel, Elysian, and Aperture.

49th Parallel:


Forty Ninth Parallel’s
Mount Pleasant spot is centrally located on Main St and E 13th Ave.  We walked over here from the place we were staying.  Someone with a bike rolled up to the shop at the same time.  This is a good sign.

49th parallel coffee roasters vancouver

It’s busy and bustling in there.  It was not a quiet coffee shop, at least at the time when we were there.  But there were still some people working quietly on their computers.  There were three or four people behind the counter taking orders and making coffee and an additional person restocking the shelves.  And then there was an additional person adding crazy toppings to Lucky’s doughnuts in the back kitchen.  There’s plenty to gawk at in the doughnut case while waiting to order your coffee.

49th parallel coffee roasters vancouver

There was a mixed crowd of people meeting up, people working on their laptops, and others from the neighborhood just stopping in to grab a coffee.  It felt cozy inside with dark wood and warm lighting in some areas, but with outside light spilling from the large northern windows.

49th parallel coffee roasters vancouver

We got a latte and an espresso and a glazed raised doughnut.  All were excellent.  We were especially surprised by the doughnut – perfectly yeasted and chewy, with slightly less sugar than one would expect.  My mouth is watering as I write.  So good.   And the latte – the combination of the light coming in from the side windows and the dark wood community table, and the teal cup and saucer made for a nice photo.  I bought an espresso demitasse home for a souvenir.

49th parallel coffee roasters vancouver

49th Parallel serves their espresso on a plank with sparkling water and a spoon for sugar:

49th parallel coffee roasters vancouver

We spent a bit of time on Main St, but wish we had more.  We wanted to explore more to the south, (the SoMa neighborhood as was explained to us by the internets) but our timing didn’t work out that way this trip.  But there were plenty of interesting shops and things to see north on Main towards Gastown.

 Elysian Coffee

Elysian Coffee lies on the west boundary of Mount Pleasant, just a block west of Cambie St.

The Elysian Coffee on West Broadway was much quieter than 49th Parallel.  There was a steady stream of customers, but it wasn’t so busy that you couldn’t talk to the baristas.  The building had a brown exterior, and they sport a logo that doesn’t quite match with others who serve specialty coffee.  But the coffee experience was very nice.elysian coffee vancouver

In contrast to the dark wooden walls of 49th Parallel, Elysian felt much brighter.  Their windows look out onto West Broadway, which is a busy street with much more car traffic than pedestrian.  Canadian Thanksgiving was coming up, and our baristas showed off a few photos of skillfully-made turkey latte art that they were posting to their instagram account.  Our barista gave us tips on other places to check out and not check out, so we took notes to fill out the schedule for the rest of our stay.  We decided that we’d check out Lynn Canyon, try to hit Timbertrain Coffee Roasters and Revolver Coffee and visit the Old Faithful shop, but maybe skip over Pallet coffee roasters.  And to look out for coffee from Phil & Sebastian if we could find it.

We got an espresso and macchiato, pulled from their Synesso machine.

IMG_5888m

Aperture Coffee Bar

49th Parallel and Elysian roast their own beans, but Aperture Coffee Bar serves Chicago-based Intelligentsia.

IMG_5887m

Also situated on West Broadway, in addition to the coffee, Aperture is stocked with a beautiful bookshelf area that looks amazing when the rays of sun stream in through their southern window.

IMG_5885m IMG_5625m

The coffee itself was fine.  Intelligentsia is special, but not rare, and I guess I wasn’t too impressed with the preparation of their black cat espresso, at least compared to 49th Parallel and Elysian.

But it was definitely a pleasure to hang out in the shop for a bit and enjoy the ambiance and friendly barista vibe.

One thing that was funny to us about West Broadway was that there was such a high density of sporting goods stores.  There seemed to be two or three per block from the massive MEC to smaller ski/snowboard shops.  We stopped into MEC to look around and maybe shop and then continued on our day.

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Our experience at Lower Antelope Canyon, in Page, Arizona with Ken’s Tours

lower antelope canyon page arizona

lower antelope canyon page arizona

When you start looking up information about visiting Antelope Canyon , one of the first things that you will discover is there is an Upper and Lower portion of the slot canyon.  This post contains photos from my trip with a guided tour from Ken’s Tours that I experienced with my dad.

Researching Antelope Canyon was kind of funny to me, because I thought to myself, “wow, this place really exists!”  Funny because it seemed to be a mystical place not from this planet.   And not only that, but there are two separate Antelope Canyons?!

I think I must have seen a photo a number of years back of a narrow canyon with smooth yet gnarled, orange and purple striated sandstone walls that ended in abrupt jagged corners and a beam of volumetric light from above illuminating a small space on the ground.  It looked like such a special place.  I think a while later, my friend Sarah shared a photo of her visit to Antelope Canyon, and I realized, “wow!  people actually go there!  I want to do it too!”

Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon?

I started researching Upper Antelope Canyon vs Lower Antelope Canyon (Hazdistazí in Navajo) and learned that apparently Upper Antelope Canyon gets way too crowded.. and so does Lower Antelope Canyon.  But less so.  I also learned that if you pay more and bring a tripod with you (strange requirement, but sort of understandable since it’s a bit darker down there and it helps to stop down to capture all of that amazing detail) you can go on a self-guided tour of Lower Antelope Canyon – but the same isn’t possible for the Upper canyon.  I still wanted to see the Upper canyon, though, because that one beam of light that I saw in that one photo was taken in the Upper section.  I did more research and found that thankfully, there are light beams that come through Lower Antelope Canyon as well.  So, I decided to try the Lower canyon.

Do you need reservations?

Next came the question – do you book in advance?  Or just show up?  I didn’t want to get all the way to Page and not be able to see the slot canyon.  The website for Ken’s Lower Antelope Canyon tours tells you to just show up.  So that’s what we decided to try, though I was worried that it’d be hard to get a spot on a tour if I had nothing booked in advance.

Lower Antelope Canyon was a very short drive from our hotel in Page.  Heading East out of Page on Highway 98, you turn left at Antelope Point Rd, which is the first left if you’ve taken Coppermine road out of town.  If pass the power plant/Navajo Generating Station, you’ve gone too far.

Which tour company?

As of our visit in June 2014, there were two tour companies that had set up shop – Lower Antelope Canyon Tours and Ken’s Lower Antelope Canyon tours.  I think the price was the same at both places.  I was informed that the Lower Antelope Canyon Tours folks were operating without a proper permit from Navajo Parks, so we went with Ken’s tours.

We didn’t have to worry about making a reservation.  We waited about 15 minutes for a tour to start, and the followed our guide Brian into the canyon.  I had read about the tour groups being crowded when doing research before the trip.  Our group had about 12-15 people, which felt like an okay size.  It would have been great if there were less people, but people were patient and waited for each other to take photographs.  Brian was also very helpful in managing the group.

Before you even descend into the canyon, you can see the layers of sandstone in the rocks that lead the way.  Foreshadowing.  The canyon isn’t obvious – from about 20 feet away, you can’t even tell that it is there.

lower antelope canyon page arizona

There are steel ladders leading down into the canyon.  Past ladders had been swept away by flash floods – eleven tourists were killed in 1997 when a flash flood hit.  In 2010, tourists were stranded for hours when another flash flood hit.  Brian explained that these days, they get a radio message from Navajo Parks if a storm is expected.  It’s amazing to think about the amount of force that such a huge rush of water can exert – but it’s the same type of forces that carved the canyon into the stone in the first place.

lower antelope canyon page arizona

If you’re wondering how strenuous Lower Antelope Canyon is, it’s not too bad.  There is some climbing up and down ladders.  If you can handle that, you should be okay.  There are also some areas where there is not much head clearance.  I did bump my head lightly against some sandstone.

lower antelope canyon page arizona

I admit, I started to get pretty giddy after we had descended the ladders.  “Wow, it’s so crazy that this is real.”  The rocks really do have amazing purple, red, and orange hues.

lower antelope canyon page arizona

There are pits in many of the otherwise smooth sandstone walls – this is due to rock impacts during flash floods.  There are small bumps  on some of the walls also, caused by limestone deposits over the course of time.

lower antelope canyon page arizona

The canyon is not too deep.  It’s maybe 50 feet from the surface at its deepest.  In most places, you can look up and still see part of the sky.  It felt nice and cool inside.

lower antelope canyon page arizona

Brian was a nice tour guide.  He stopped briefly at many points to show us various features in the canyon – a profile of a lion’s head, a woman’s face, a fish, and other interesting shapes.  He offered to take everyone’s photos at a number of interesting points along the way – and made sure to set everyone’s iPhones on the “chrome” filter setting to make the colors pop.  He had some general pointers for SLR users also, though they were mostly targeted towards the crowd who leave theirs set on auto.  He said he didn’t have any photography experience before leading these tours when I asked.  He seemed to have picked things up pretty quickly in his three months of experience.

lower antelope canyon page arizona

The walls look like pointy rainbow sherbet!

Photography tips

If you are curious what the lighting is like in there, I took most of my photos on manual mode with auto ISO.  I had the shutter mostly at 1/60 and aperture set anywhere from f/4 to f/13.  I tried some wide open just to see what the photos looked like, and I was disappointed.  All of the detail in the many layers of sandstone is worth stopping down to capture.   A tripod would definitely help, but you have to pay extra to bring one down.  I think this is due to space constraints.  (Oddly, as I mentioned in the beginning of this post, to qualify as a “photographer”, you need to have a tripod and put down $50 for a special permit.  This allows you two hours in the canyon without a guide where you can explore on your own.  Not too bad of a deal, but I wanted to be able to experience the canyon with my Dad, and I wasn’t sure if they’d let him accompany me.)  In the photo above, here were the settings: 24mm f/11 1/60s ISO12800.  Crazy high ISO and you can’t really see any noise.  The Canon 6D is nuts.  Even at full resolution, the photo doesn’t look too bad.

Lenses:

I brought my 50mm and 24mm lens into the canyon with me.  I used the 24mm for 80% of the shots.

lower antelope canyon page arizona

I think that Brian said that each line in the standstone represents about 1000 years.

lower antelope canyon page arizona

There’s one light beam that comes into Lower Antelope Canyon.  In June, when we went, the sun shines through around 11am.

lower antelope canyon page arizona

Brian threw some fine sand up in the air to make the effect of the light beam more dramatic.  I asked him about the sand in the canyon – he said that in some places, there is a foot of sand between our feet and the rocks below.  When flash flooding occurs, the sand is all washed away by the water.  People dump sand back in to make it easier for us to walk through.

lower antelope canyon page arizona

Here’s what the canyon really looked like most of the time.  Though there were a decent number of people in our group, we all took turns when we got to special areas that would have looked better empty.  I remember there being a few people from Singapore, a couple from Italy, some Americans, and a few others.

The tour lasted about an hour.  The ladder out of Lower Antelope canyon was much shorter than the one we descended on the way in.  There are a few dinosaur tracks on the surface that Brian showed us on our walk back to the ticketing building.  We thanked Brian, said “ciao” to the Italians, and were then on our way to Monument Valley.

 

 

 

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Horseshoe Bend, Page Arizona

horseshoe bend, page arizona

horseshoe bend, page arizona

Horseshoe bend felt like magic.

 

I don’t know how else to describe it.  It’s not an isolated spot, but the fifty or more other people there who are also admiring the view don’t take away from the magic.

 

But where is Horseshoe Bend?  It’s at the Northern tip of Arizona, just south of Lake Powell.  The nearest city is Page, which is only 4 miles away.  It was created by the Colorado river and the cliffs are about 1000 feet above the water level.  It’s a 10 minute drive from Antelope Canyon, so I’d definitely recommend seeing both of them if you’re in the area.

We approached from the west and stopped for a minute at Glen Canyon Dam to enjoy the orange cliffs and reaffirm my fear of heights.  From there, it’s just 5 or 6 miles down Highway 89, slightly past Page.

 

There’s a parking area off of the highway, and then a 20 minute walk up and then back down to the cliff’s edge through some fine red sand.

horseshoe bend, page arizonaThere was a stream of people headed in both directions.  Many of the folks that were headed to the overlook had the same plan of catching the sunset over the bend.

horseshoe bend, page arizonaThe overlook was windy and sandy.  When the breeze picked up, I could feel little bits of sand pelting my face and skin.  It made me think of what millions of years of this light sandblasting does to stone.

Once you look over the edge, it’s amazing.

horseshoe bend, page arizona

Many folks had their phones or cameras out, but others were content to just sit and enjoy the view.  Some photographers had tripods set up.  One group of people were even taking a series of photos with different outfits and model poses.

Though there were a decent number of people around, there were plenty of places where you could squeeze in and peer over the edge.   It is kind of scary.  I was surprised to learn that only one person has died falling off of the cliff in the last 20 years or so.

horseshoe bend, page arizona

By the time the sun went down, the crowd had thinned out a bit.  We hung around and watched the sky and the bend for another 15 minutes, then walked back to the car.

horseshoe bend, page arizona

You could see the lights of Page in the distance.

horseshoe bend, page arizona

 

 

 

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Coffee in the Southwest: Las Vegas, Page, Bluff, Farmington, Santa Fe, and Flagstaff

coffee from my southwest roadtrip

coffee from my southwest roadtrip

A recent road trip in the Southwest yielded stops in a few coffee shops.  Sometimes for fun, sometimes out of necessity.  I visited places that offered good coffee and others that provided merely a vehicle for caffiene.

Sunrise Coffee, Las Vegas, Nevada

Sunrise is located in a small strip mall across from a sunny park in Southeast Las Vegas.  As I was walking in with my dad, a guy rode up on his bike and met with people who looked to be his parents.  I watched him lock his bike to a sigh in the parking lot – there’s no bike parking by the store front, but that is okay.

Other people sat inside with their laptops – a not too atypical coffee shop crowd.

Sunrise is an independently-owned shop that serves organic coffee and offers some vegan foods.

sunrise coffee, las vegas

I had their Espresso Blend from Mothership Roastworks.  I had low expectations for coffee Las Vegas.  I was pleasantly surprised by the coffee shop, which felt out of place at the strip mall.  The coffee was brewed well but I found it lacking some of the acidity that I was craving.  I like my espressos bright!

espresso at sunrise coffee, las vegas

I finished the last sip, put the dishes into the bus bin, and then we got on the road.

Beans Gourmet Coffee House, Page, Arizona

Sometimes when I am in a new place, I wonder if I am seeing the same things that a local would see.  In every new place, am I getting the equivalent of the Fisherman’s Wharf experience in San Francisco?  But, maybe Page really is a pretty small town, and there wasn’t too much that we missed.

 

I’m pretty sure I didn’t get the local experience in Page.  We were there to see Antelope Canyon, and the fact that others were as well is probably part of the reason for the row of hotels on the block where we spent the night.  I was pleasantly surprised to see so much foot traffic on such a wide road that was South Lake Powell Boulevard.  There were probably a lot of other tourists who needed to get food or stop by a drugstore, and I was happy that they were able to do so on foot, despite what appeared to be a lack of pedestrian-focused planning.

 

I had even lower expectations for coffee in Page than I did in Las Vegas.  Blue Coffee & Wine Bar had nice reviews on Yelp, but we could not go as they did not open early enough for us that Sunday morning.

Instead, we went to Beans Gourmet Coffee House.  There were two guys who looked like regulars sitting at the bar, and then three pairs of tourists sitting at their tables, working on or waiting for their breakfasts.  The regulars eyed my dad and I and gave a friendly nod.  The tourists minded their own business.

espresso at bean's gourmet coffee house in page, az

The interior was small – bright red walls with painted references to Italy on one side, and hurried staff behind the counter.  Not unfriendly, but definitely looking sort of stressed.

My espresso was served in a nice little Lake Powell demitasse, and I got a mango smoothie to tide me over until we could get a bite later.  The coffee was as expected – not horrible but not too pleasant to drink either.  Maybe not too different than a shot at Starbucks or Peet’s?

Bluff, Utah and Farmington, New Mexico

Comb Ridge Coffee – I was looking forward to checking this place out in Bluff.  Not necessarily for the coffee, but for to the fact that they were pretty much the only coffee shop in town.  I imagined they’d supply a unique, local vibe.  They’d be the curators or arbiters of the local scene in tiny Bluff.  And I was curious what their coffee offering would have been like.  But.. they weren’t open on Monday.  So we looked for another place.  And despite stopping in the parking lot, I didn’t feel like sitting down at Twin Rocks Cafe.  We decided to start driving and see what we could find along the way.

 

Nothing was on the way until we reached Farmington, New Mexico, two hours later.  At this point, I just wanted something – so I stopped into the local McDonald’s.

mcdonalds coffee in farmington, nm

Sadly, it tasted like burny flavored water.  Worse than I expected.  I wanted to believe that despite all of the negative feelings directed at McDonald’s for their food, their practices, and so on, that maybe their coffee would be okay.  But it wasn’t.  It was watered down enough to be somewhat drinkable, though.  So I suppose that’s a good thing?  I drank half of it and had to dump the rest out.

My dad wanted to visit the KFC nearby, so I paired my coffee with salty chicken tenders and a salty, buttery biscuit.  I did not use their “Honey Sauce”, which claimed “7% real honey

Betterday Coffee, Santa Fe, New Mexico

betterday coffee in santa fe, nm

Betterday is situated in a strip mall not too far from downtown Santa Fe – a strip mall with some pretty cool shops.   It’s next to La Montanita food co-op and a fancy (and expensive) looking butcher, The Real Butcher Shop, who boasts “We are Santa Fe’s first Whole Carcass, Farm Direct, Producer-owned butcher shop.”  The three make a pretty nice combo.  If I lived in Santa Fe, I think I’d spend a good amount of time at that strip mall.

The cafe is pretty open, a mix of wood and concrete with a few Cinelli frames hanging on one wall and some old road signs at the other end.

betterday coffee in santa fe, nm

I only had time for one coffee stop in Santa Fe, and had to decide between Iconik and Betterday.  I’d been told about Iconik’s beautiful space and I knew they roasted their own beans.. but I ultimately chose Betterday because I’d been craving a good espresso and I knew that I wouldn’t be let down by Stumptown’s beans.  Interestingly, the baristas were not nearly as hipstered out as I would have expected.  What does it mean if I’ve come to expect a certain type of barista with a certain type of coffee?

espresso at betterday coffee in santa fe, nm

And I wasn’t let down.. the coffee was great!

Late for the Train Coffee, Flagstaff, AZ

I had lower expectations for coffee in Flagstaff after browsing yelp reviews.  At least for coffee quality – the spaces could still be awesome.  It was interesting that a lot of the shops also were performance venues – places that would have been cool to check out some music or so if we had more time to spend.

The Late for the Train location I went to was sort of small and fairly crowded with a mix of people working on their laptops and others just sipping coffee outside in the sun.  They did not appear to have space for any types of musical performance.  The counter staff were young, female, and quite busy taking orders.  As was the case with the rest of Flagstaff, a number of mountain bikes were locked up outside.  I wonder why so many people get around with mountain bikes there?

espresso at late for the train coffee flagstaff, arizona

The coffee was.. as expected.  Kind of thin, darkly roasted, but with enough caffeine content to get me going.

That was the last stop for our trip.  We hung around town for a bit and then drove back to Las Vegas, for we had planes to catch to take us back home.

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Bike camping … with fries – 2014

 

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About once a year, we do this bike mini-tour, where we ride from San Francisco to Petaluma to camp and to visit Lagunitas Brewing Company and the Willowbrook Alehouse.

We ride through Sausalito, Marin, Corte Madera, Larkspur, through San Anselmo, then to Fairfax for a lunch stop at Iron Springs Brewery.

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From there, we ride through the tiny town of Nicasio, where these days we stop at the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, then continue to the Marin French Cheese factory for another rest stop.

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And somewhere along the way, your view is almost entirely comprised of Windows XP background images.  (The real location was probably only 40 miles away)

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We stop off to get set up at the campground, then head to Lagunitas for beer before they close – still at a too-early 8pm.

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But their early closing gives us a chance to ride over to the Willowbrook Alehouse, where we pile up our bikes in the back and pick our karaoke songs to sing… with fries.

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The next morning, we get our gear together and head out..

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But before leaving town, we stop to get fancy coffee at Acre to fuel up for the ride back.

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Coffee and Bicycles during a visit to Toronto

mercury espresso bar toronto

I was dropped off downtown by my cousin, who generously had picked me up from the airport, taken my Dad and I to the nursing home to visit my Grandmother, driven us to the cheap and quick Chinese restaurant, then back to the airport to drop my Dad off.  I sat down on the bed in the hotel to rest, as I had taken a redeye in, and hadn’t had caffeine all day, even at the Tim Hortons in the airport.  I went out for a walk to fix that and to just think and observe.  Walking and wandering in an unfamiliar place is one of my favorite ways to give my brain a soft reset.

There was a gross grey and brown slush covering the roads and a slightly cleaner-looking, probably equally salty version on the sidewalks.  Dark Horse espresso was a short walk away from my hotel.  The inside of the coffee shop was crowded with students on their computers.  The floor mats were sloshy and the windows steamy from the melted slush and heat within.

dark horse espresso, toronto

I ordered a single-origin Guatemalan espresso there.  My notes say “bright, cherries, nice.”  I didn’t hang around too long because the sun was setting and I wanted to continue on my walk.

dark horse espresso, toronto

I was impressed by the few cyclists I saw riding on Spadina Avenue.  For two reasons: car traffic on such a busy street looked annoying to ride with.  More importantly, though, the slush looked slippery, wet, and gross.  Bikes that I saw had gravel-y crust caked onto their downtubes, rims, derailleurs, cranks, and chains.  And it was cold.  This guy looked like he was in all waterproof clothing, so he was probably okay.

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I turned onto the interesting, gentrified Queen Street West to continue my walk.  The vibrant street murals stood out – I especially liked the transparent letters here on “THIS IS PARADISE”

this is paradise - toronto

What’s the story behind the mural, anyways?

Apparently it used to look like this.  It’s on the east wall of the Cameron House, hotel and bar.  The City of Toronto decided that the Cameron House building needed to be repaired, and the previous murals were damaged during the repair.  So, they hired new and old artists to paint new murals.  This wall was done by Tom Dean.

I had been there before, two murals and seven years ago:

the cameron house in 2007

Walking in the slush was tricky.  My whole trip to Toronto was rushed, and planning practically nonexistent.  I had anticipated the cold, but not the snow.  I wore skate-styled Nikes that were surprisingly slippery in the slush.  I tried to keep a brisk pace, but I was briskly shuffling, rather than walking.

There were plenty more slush-crusty bikes on the sidewalks.  Here is a partly entombed pedicab:

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I walked by R Squared Coffee Bar: I didn’t need another espresso.  I wasn’t planning on walking by this place; I was just wandering.  But, why not?  My only worry would have been not being able to get to sleep, but I was sleep-deprived enough to know that wouldn’t be an issue.

Also: steamy windows were becoming a theme.

r squared espresso toronto

The break also gave me a chance to look at a map on my phone and decide how much more to walk before turning back for the night.  I ordered another espresso: “R2 house blend medium body balanced.”  R squared is narrow and deep.  I was surprised by the interior – I had expected differently when I looked at their logo and saw their storefront.

r squared espresso toronto

As I headed back out, the light from the sky was getting cooler and blue, while the street lights were casting their warmer, orangey glow.  It makes for weird, colorful shadows.  What’s with the snow on your face, dog?

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I walked by Trinity Bellwoods Park, which was snowy and beautiful in the dusk.  There were a few people walking around, notably a couple with a child, who was attempting to navigate a snow bank by the park gate.

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Queen Street West has a ton of murals.  This mural was more sponsory, less underground, but I still liked it:

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And there were still a few cyclists out – Hey guy, where are your lights?

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More murals: I walked into a parking lot to take a photo of this one.  I was loving the low-contrast ambient light.

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I headed north on Ossington Ave.  There were a number of people on Ossington, many couples, looking for a place to dine for the evening, and a lot of cozy looking bars and eateries for them to eat in.

That’s a Janis Joplin lyric at hawkerbar:

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I turned onto Dundas to head back downtown.

There were more parked (temporarily abandoned?) bikes here.  These were less crusty, but more entombed in a snow bank that probably had a pretty high ice content.  I imagine that these would be hard to remove.

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Hey, Easy Driving School, I like your 1970’s styled sign.  How long have you been around?

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It was getting colder and darker, and I noticed myself becoming less interested in my surroundings and more interested in just getting back to the hotel.  Less people were out, and any retail space that might have been inviting was now closed.

Toronto has a bike share, but  I saw nobody riding one of these Bixi bikes while I was there.  I certainly wasn’t tempted to either, due to the weather.

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I spent the rest of the night looking through old photos that we’d taken from my Grandmother’s room at the nursing home.  There were so many photos of people I didn’t know.  I thought about what she might have been like when she was younger, and how I’ll never really know the story that they represent.  There were pictures from portrait studios, weddings, visits to gardens, graduations, student IDs, passport pictures, and ones sent with old letters.  And then more recent ones from Christmases, then the nursing home, and with the nursing home staff.


The next morning was bright, sunny, and beautiful.  It was still sort of slushy, but there was much more water than ice thanks to the higher temperature and the salt on the sidewalks.  I walked through Kensington market and saw the Tibetian prayer flags and the colorful buildings and the spray-painted alleys before anything opened, and imagined what it would be like later in the day.  Probably bustling.  One of the alleys had a series of photos pasted to the wall, and these had garnered a bit of criticism:  “Photo/Streetart is wack”

I walked up to the University of Toronto and visited Manic Coffee on College St.  Outside, it had a different appearance than what I would have expected for a fancy coffee shop.  The signage and the rest of the street fronts made it look like they’d been around for a while – like a place that served burnt $1 cups of percolator coffee rather than a place that has proudly served Intelligentsia since 2007.

manic coffee toronto

manic coffee toronto

But my espresso was nice, just as I had expected.  A bit better than the croissant, which was a little dry.

manic coffee toronto

There were a few cyclists outside who had just finished their coffee and were heading out.  I asked one of them what his secret was to staying comfortable in cold and wet conditions.  He rolled up his pant leg and pointed to his socks that were inside canvas shoes.  They were Gore-Tex socks that would set you back $70 or $80 at MEC.  He was already on his second pair and he loved them.

I took a roundabout way back downtown on my way to Union station.  I passed along the University, Ontario’s legislative building, and I guess what is known as the Discovery District and the Garden District.  Allan Gardens was a white sea of snow.  I wondered what would look like in the summer or spring.  Somewhere along Jarvis street, I stepped into a small but deep puddle hidden by a mound of hard-packed snow.  I was following the line of the woman in front of me and didn’t realize until too late where my feet were taking me.  She was wearing boots though, so she didn’t end up with a salty, cold wet sock like I did.

But hey, it was alright, because I was approaching Fahrenheit coffee!  I was looking forward to this place, and yes, I couldn’t resist the dare.. I did try knocking over the Mighty Mug.

nheit coffee toronto

It’s a small shop with a limited bar seating area.  There were two customers inside goofing off (or working?) on their PCs.  The guys at Fahrenheit (I think Adam and Sameer?)  gave a fun Mighty Mug demo, made a nice shot of espresso, and then even helped recommend some other spots to check out while I was in town.  Definitely a nice visit. nheit coffee toronto

Did I have the El Salvador or the Guatemala?  I don’t remember, and forgot to take notes.

nheit coffee toronto

After Fahrenheit, I continued to walk to Union station, where I navigated the construction to find my bus stop, so I could hop on and visit my cousin.   He had offered to drive back to the city to pick me up and take me to the nursing home, but I wanted to save him the trip.  It was a pretty nice ride.  I did some work on my laptop and then met my cousin at the station when the bus arrived.


Sense Appeal was austere, with service to match.

sense appeal coffee roasters toronto

I was a little surprised by how busy it was inside.  The crowd that morning consisted mostly of people grabbing coffee on their way to work.  That shouldn’t have been a surprise, given its location downtown.  It was colored with a gradient from brown wood tones to warm whites, and a touch of rustic distressed wood and unfinished walls.

sense appeal coffee roasters toronto

My espresso was probably fine, but sadly I had continued to forget to take tasting notes.. but look how nice that wood table is!

sense appeal coffee roasters toronto

sense appeal coffee roasters toronto

Sense Appeal definitely had the most attractive interior of any shop I visited in Toronto.  It was also the most appropriate place that I visited for a “CELLO FOR SALE” ad.

sense appeal coffee roasters toronto

I was meeting my aunt later that day so that she could drive me to the nursing home.  The morning’s walk was slightly less interesting than on the previous days.  I don’t know what it was, but the downtown buildings all seemed to blend together, despite the churches, big buildings, and metal sculptures.  Maybe the novelty had worn off?  I crossed the Queen Street Bridge over the viaduct, and I started to feel that I was more in a cohesive neighborhood.  Behind me I could see the downtown buildings in the distance.  They looked kind of small; I was surprised that I had walked far enough to make that happen.  I continued east to Leslieville, which had an interesting mix of old shops that had been there for decades and new, hip dining options.  I walked into one shop that had packages on the shelves that looked like they’d been sitting there for years.  There were dusty plants in the display window, in various stages of dying.  A woman curtly, but politely, greeted me when I came in and a shop cat eyed me suspiciously.  After looking around for a bit, I made a curt but polite exit and went on my way.

mercury espresso bar toronto

Mercury espresso bar looked and felt more like a neighborhood place.  A little funky looking on the outside, and dark, cool color tones on the inside.  I freaked out the barista when I took a picture of the wire “MERCURY ESPRESSO BAR” sign on top of their Synesso.  Sorry about that.  I usually ask when taking pictures, but wasn’t feeling as outgoing at that moment.

mercury espresso bar toronto

mercury espresso bar toronto

I met with my aunt, we sat and chatted for a while, grabbed lunch, and then spent some time with my grandmother in the nursing home.  It was weird being there.

Like many other families, everyone we met who was our parents’ age was introduced to us as an uncle or an aunt.  Over lunch and at the nursing home, my aunt explained who was actually related and who was not.  I hadn’t even known how we were related to each other.  I guess that’s one nice thing about illnesses and family emergencies – they bring people together.

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Alden Grabit Pro

broken alden grabit-pro

I bought some bolt extractors (Alden Grabit-Pro 8430P) to remove a stripped and seized bolt on my bike.  My efforts with the extractors were unsuccessful – After a lot of effort, I gave up on the extractors and was able to drill through the bolt and cut it in half.  I was able to destroy one of the Grabit-Pro extractors though.  I’m disappointed in the product.  I took some fun macro photos to share.  It broke after I was finally able to get some “bite” from the extractor.  Maybe I ran the drill too fast?  Maybe the bolt had seized too much?  Maybe the extractor was defective?  Either way, I ended up with a broken bolt extractor.

broken alden grabit-pro broken alden grabit-pro broken alden grabit-pro

 

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Sous Vide Brisket #3

Sous Vide Brisket #3: I haven’t posted #2 yet; maybe that will happen later.  This was grass-fed organic brisket that cost $9/lb.  I double bagged it with nothing added, and then put it in the water bath for 72 hours at 54.5C (130F).  I was targeting the bottom of the medium-rare range.  It was a much thicker cut, and the point turned out sorta dry and with a weird texture.  The rest of it was good though.

It looked ugly coming out of the plastic bag.

sous vide brisket #3

I added salt and pepper and then seared it with the blow torch.  Looking much better now.

sous vide brisket #3

 

Texture was soft to the touch, and the muscle fibers could be torn apart manually.  I made a gravy by reducing the beef juice, and it went well with the brisket.

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Oakland Running Festival – Marathon 2014

We stepped outside around 8 this morning to catch Oakland marathon runners around mile 5.

Oakland PD motorcycle marshaling the frontrunners:

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This guy from the Oakland-based Bay Area Track Club relay team was minutes in front of anyone else at this point.  Not surprisingly, they went on to win the relay with a final time of 2:20:54.

IMG_1oakland running festival - oakland marathon 2014

 

oakland running festival - oakland marathon 2014

 

These guys did very well too – “That’s Fine Track Club” from San Francisco finished second in the relay results, with a time of 2:24:31.

 

oakland running festival - oakland marathon 2014

 

 

 

 

A small pack of solo-marathoners came next.  Here’s Rob Nachtwey from Berkeley in the pink hat, with Chris Mocko close behind, wearing the red headband.   Chis had won the marathon in 2012 with a time of 2:28:09, but apparently dropped out of the race and registered a DNF this year.  Rob Nachtwey went on to finish second place with a time of 2:41:00 – his second straight second place finish.  Well done, Rob.  It’s neat that the official race results show splits – Rob appears to have spent the entire race consistently in second place.

IMoakland running festival - oakland marathon 2014

 

oakland running festival - oakland marathon 2014

This is Eulogio Rodriguez from Whittier, who was only footsteps behind in the pack.  He hung out in 3rd for a while, but was up by more than 2 minutes by mile 12, and finished the race 10 minutes and 37 seconds ahead of Rob Nachtwey, with a time of 2:30:22.21.

oakland running festival - oakland marathon 2014

 

 

Boone Ebel from Foster City finished a solid 4th.

oakland running festival - oakland marathon 2014

Colorful Kindy Tice, bib #728, was a bit behind at this point (maybe 5th or 6th place) but was able to make his way into 3rd by mile 12 and stayed there til the end, finishing with a time of 2:43:13.

oakland running festival - oakland marathon 2014

This is Robbie Salazar, of Pueblo, Colorado who finished in 6th place.

oakland running festival - oakland marathon 2014

This guy didn’t have a bib, but made up for it with a black Raiders cape.

oakland running festival - oakland marathon 2014

This guy blue himself.  – Team Reservoir Dogs from Oakland.

oakland running festival - oakland marathon 2014

 

 

 

The woman on the right is Jen Bakula, who finished 6th among women.

oakland running festival - oakland marathon 2014

Verity Breen won the half marathon in 2011 and returned this year to finish in 2nd place among women, with a time of 3:22:13.  She was in 4th, or maybe even a bit further back at this point, but made her way up to second within a few miles.

oakland running festival - oakland marathon 2014

And of course, Hawaiian shirt guy was running again.

oakland running festival - oakland marathon 2014

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Truckee and Donner Lake

Truckee and Donner Lake, March 2014

donner lake

donner lake

donner lake

those are birds

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ski lifts at sugar bowl ski resort

sugar bowl ski resort

donner lake, from rainbow bridge apparently aka the donner memorial bridge

from rainbow bridge, a view of donner lake

our wonderful hosts treated us to blueberry pancakes with olallieberry and maple syrup

blueberry pancakes in the morning

hike on the negro canyon trail and crazy layered clouds – are these lenticular?

view from negro canyon trail

looking the other way:

view from negro canyon trail

tanner, and look at those drool trails

tanner and insane drool

well-deserved burgers from burger me with quite a bit of onion ring on top

hamburger with onion rings at burger me

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new york again

the order is all mixed up, but that is okay

looking out the window at the spotted pig in the west village

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we walked to hudson river park to look at new jersey

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dept of well being

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in the fog: midtown

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in the fog: manhattan, across the east river

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espresso at sweetleaf in williamsburg

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a la marzocco

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it was a rainy day and football was on the television but we walked to neighborhood coffee joint WTF coffee labs where asio happily posed and shared coffee insights

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and I had another shot

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but before that even.. where were we?  ah, sit and wonder.

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and we had a donut from dough

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Holiday Lights at Longwood Gardens

Lots of LED lights at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania this year.  We visited on Christmas Eve.

Inside one of the tree houses:

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White LED bush

Holidays at Longwood Gardens

There was a light dusting of snow on the ground from flurries

Holidays at Longwood Gardens

We walked to the conservatory.  The indoor hall display here is made of floating apples (!!!)

Holidays at Longwood Gardens

Holidays at Longwood Gardens

A weird crazy blue light illuminated the path and the tree branches

Holidays at Longwood Gardens

one of the larger trees outside, with ornaments

Holidays at Longwood Gardens

Holidays at Longwood Gardens

Holidays at Longwood Gardens

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Santa Barbara in the summer

We drove down to Southern California for Erin and Mike’s wedding.  We rented a house and took a walk in the morning.

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Of course we had to get coffee.  We walked to Handlebar coffee roasters featured a Probat and a Pinarello side by side.  Former racers turned roasters.

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I had an espresso, as usual.  Succulents are everywhere these days, and they were a nice touch.

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You can’t see it from here, but their mats behind the counter were bike shop mats.  Also a nice touch.

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Lots of cyclists hung out at Handlebar after getting their morning rides in.

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“BUILT BY CHRIS KING”

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And then we walked back

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We stopped by McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams

ice cream cones

We went to the beach

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Later, we visited the Old Mission Santa Barbara

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And enjoyed a beautiful wedding and rooftop sunset

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Seattle coffee bars: Analog, Kaladi, Bedlam and Milstead

We spent a quick weekend in Seattle a few months ago and managed to hit a bunch of coffee shops.  Having already hit the 3 V’s (Vita, Vitrola, and Vivace) , we visited some other places: Analog Coffee, Kaladi Coffee, Bedlam Coffee, and Milstead & Co.

In some sort of iPhone mini-disaster, I lost all of the notes that I had taken and unfortunately only have photos and vague memories to describe my experience.

Analog Coffee

Analog Coffee was great.  We loved wandering Capitol Hill and enjoyed the neighborhoody vibe of the place.  People young and old were hanging out, in couples, with pets, or just on a bench with their knitting needles.  From what I recall, the espresso was exactly what I wanted – a fairly bright ristretto that packed a punch.

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And there was a bulldog inside.. I don’t remember her name, but “Stella” sounds good.

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After asking our new knitting acquaintance for other neighborhood destinations, we took off through the streets.  I saw a garage door with a giant Supersonics logo.  A cyclist was towing his skateboarding buddy with some sort of strap that he had rigged onto his backpack.  We walked through a community garden with a makeshift homeless shelter, and then through the beginnings of a Dykes vs Drags kickball game – or was it softball?  We got beer and food at Elysian brewery and then ice cream and more beer at Bluebird Microcreamery & Brewery.

Bluebird MicroCreamery & Brewery

This is supposed to be a coffee post, but there was ice cream and a stout float..

 

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I got an ice cream.  Sam got an oatmeal stout float.
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and of course, to recover from food coma, we decided to get more coffee.  Kaladi Brothers was nearby.

Kaladi Brothers Coffee

Kaladi Brothers Coffee shares space with a bookstore and the Gay City Health Project.  This was a good spot for us to rest and hang out for a bit, but I found the espresso to be made from beans roasted too dark for my taste.

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Bedlam Coffee

The next morning, we stumbled through the Hempfest crowd, unable to visit Olympic Park as planned.  Visting Hempfest would probably have been fun, too, but wading through crowds and standing in a very long line did not look enjoyable.

I needed caffeine.  We found Bedlam Coffee in Belltown.  It is a crazy, funky place, that matches its namesake.  Its intensely red walls are covered with posters, sculptures and signs.

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It didn’t look like a place where the coffee was the main focus, and the “light roast” espresso I got matched my expectations.   But it gave me the caffeine I needed to prevent further withdrawal and was worth the visit for the ambiance.

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bad-ass sign.

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We walked and walked and walked.  By the Space Needle and the Experience Music Project and then up the hills of the Queen Anne neighborhood with tired legs while taking in fantastic views over Lake Union and imagining the lives of those who lived in those fancy houses on the hill.  We eventually made our way closer to sea level, snacking on blackberries along the way, to the Fremont bridge and found our next destination: Milstead & Co Coffee.

Milstead & Co. Coffee

The retail front overlooks the base of the Fremont bridge, and the dark grey exterior and the understated signage of Milstead & Co was in stark contrast to the visual energy of Bedlam.  Milstead had clean lines and a wood-paneled bar with a black counter and matching La Marzocco machine.

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As I’d mentioned before, I lost my tasting notes, so I don’t remember much about my cup.  I recall thinking that I enjoyed Analog’s espresso better, though I wasn’t surprised by how light the body was in the cup since I had probably ordered a fruity single-origin.

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It was a satisfying stop.  From there, we made our obligatory visit to see the Fremont Troll, grabbed some BBQ and then walked towards Ballard for some whiskey and one last hangout before we boarded a bus downtown, collected our bags, and then parted ways.

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Other things you might have missed at Eat Real Fest 2013

Aside from all of the coffee and the steer butchery, there were many other things to enjoy at Eat Real Festival 2013.

 

A refreshing gimlet:

 A bourbon tasting by Four Roses:  four roses bourbon tasting at eat real festival 2013

four roses bourbon tasting at eat real festival 2013

Demonstrations by Oakland Chefs: Here is Preeti Mistry of Juhu Beach Club:

She did a cooking demo and hosted a Q&A with audience members:chef preeti mistry at eat real festival 2013

chef preeti mistry at eat real festival 2013

audience at eat real fest 2013

chef preeti mistry at eat real festival 2013

The Oaklandish van was there:

And I rounded out the evening with some bread pudding from the Old World Food Truck.

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Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition at the 2013 Eat Real Festival

2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

Danny Johnson of Taylor’s Market in Sacramento along with Paul Carras and Mitch Lind defeated Dave the Butcher’s Marina Meats team and won the 2013 Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition at Oakland’s 2013 Eat Real Festival.

Before the competition, the emcee (Anya Fernald), judges and participants shared some Four Roses bourbon to get warmed up.

2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

The cow quarters were hung on meat hooks prior to the countdown to the start:

2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

Dave the Butcher, a crowd favorite, offered his commentary as he prepared some cuts.

2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

The Taylor’s Market team quietly worked together.

2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

Danny Johnson on the hacksaw:2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

Dave the Butcher cheeses for the camera.  “I’ve done this before.”

2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

A young fan inspects the cuts of beef in front of him:2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

Anya talks things over with a judge:

2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

Trimmings.2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

Rump roast:2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

Anya did an excellent job of explaining to the crowd what was happening on the butcher tables in front of them.2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

You may have noticed that the perennial winners, the Yedra Brothers, were not competing this year.  They agreed to come back as judges and let another team take the prize.

2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

Prizes.  Trophies and Four Roses Small Batch.

2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

The Yedra brothers take a look at what’s on the table:

2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

Hacksaw to the femur:2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

Miguel Yedra, judging:2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

Last year, the Yedra brothers set the precedent of labeling and garnishing the final cuts.2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

Dave explains to the judges what his team did.2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

Danny explains his side of the story.2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

Handshake at the end of competition:2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

And the announcement…2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

Team Taylor’s Market wins!    See you next year.

2013 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition

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Eat Real Festival 2013 – Coffee

bennett does the blue bottle roastery tour

The organizers of this year’s Eat Real Festival decided to group all of the coffee folks together into a “Coffee Pavilion”, which included Blue Bottle Coffee, Ritual Coffee Roasters, The Bicycle Coffee Company, Bloom (a new coffee delivery service), Barefoot Coffee Roasters, Roast Co, and Mr. Espresso.  Sweet Maria’s also joined in with some home roasting demonstrations.  All of the good stuff in one place – Jack London Square, Oakland, California.

 

Blue Bottle was offering tours of their roastery, which is only 2 blocks away from Jack London Square.  After going over the history of the company, Bennett served samples of their 3 Africans blend to the audience, brewed in a Chemex:

bennett does the blue bottle roastery tour

Bennett described how coffee cherries are processed and showed a few examples of beans that had been wet and dry-processed.bennett does the blue bottle roastery tour

bennett does the blue bottle roastery tour

The tour continued with a description of the roasting process (2 giant Probat roasters in this case) and then a visit to the barista training lab, where Bennett described the training process and explained some of the training equipment.

 

Back at the festival, Chris from Ritual Coffee Roasters gave an Aeropress demonstration in the coffee pavilion, which had been decorated with coffee-themed posters by Bloom.

coffee posters by bloom ready

Chris showed off his favorite Aeropress recipe.  16 grams of beans (I believe he was using their El Angel from Costa Rica):chris does a ritual roasters aeropress demo

with a grind somewhere between a drip and espresso.  He put 2 paper filters in the Aeropress for more back-pressure and then poured water that had been off of a boil for a few minutes.chris does a ritual roasters aeropress demoHe sealed the Aeropress by just barely putting the plunger in, then let it rest for 60 seconds.  After 60 seconds, he agitated the bloom with a spoon, and then waited another 60 seconds (I think?) before finally plunging: chris does a ritual roasters aeropress demoIt was a great cup.  Fairly fruit-forward with sweet tart notes that got stronger as the coffee cooled.

 

Ritual’s Sputnik is usually a fixture at the festival, but they were not allowed to bring the trailer to this year’s festival due to some Alameda County restrictions.  But the baristas were cool with it:

ritual roasters

I wanted to have some of Bicycle Coffee’s nitro brew and something from Barefoot, but I was already too wound up on caffeine to have any more..

barefoot coffee

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Sous Vide Experiment: Brisket

Sous vide brisket

I’ve been conducting some sous vide experiments lately.  My sister bought me a deep fryer a while back, and I decided to convert it into a sous vide machine.  I guess it can still function as a deep fryer, but I’ve been cooking food in water instead of oil..

I’m pretty new to this, so I expect to have some not-very-good food.  This was my brisket experiment, inspired by some delicious smoked brisket at a recent birthday BBQ.

Here’s the raw cut of meat, about 1.6 pounds.  The other side of the brisket did not have much of a fat cap, I guess it had been trimmed away?  I seasoned it with a bit of salt and pepper and sugar.  I think next time, I will skip the salt.

Sous vide brisket

I put the brisket in the sous vide cooker at 62.2C for 46 hours.  Douglas Baldwin has a couple of suggestions for brisket, and I chose a temperature close to the French Laundry’s.   I elected not to brine, because, well, I didn’t feel like it.  I added 1.5 tablespoons of butter to the bag and put it in the machine.

 

Here’s the beef after 46 hours.  It shrank to about 60% of its original size.

Sous vide brisket

I saved the liquid left over for gravy: I browned an onion and then mixed the liquid in and let it reduce for a while.  I dried off the meat with paper towels and then seared with a blowtorch.

Sous vide brisket Sous vide brisket

The blowtorch method is new to me, but I think worked pretty well.

Sous vide brisket

The beef was a little grey; I think it was cooked about medium to medium-well.  Some of it was starting to become flaky.

Sous vide brisket

It tasted great, but was a bit dry.  But not too dry.  It was probably comparable in texture to the brisket that I had from the smoker.  Paired with the gravy, it was delicious.

 

My brisket recipe:

  • Season with salt, pepper, and a bit of sugar before sous vide
  • Sous vide for 46 hours at 62.2C
  • Use the liquid for gravy
  • Dry, then sear with blowtorch

Changes for next time:

  • Try to salt after sous vide – maybe it will be moister?
  • Lower temperature (57C) or higher temperature (80C)
  • Omit the butter next time?
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Coffee in Helsinki

Johan & Nystrom

It’s been a while since our Nordic / Scandinavian vacation, but I’ve finally gotten around to getting some photos together.

 

The coffee culture is pretty great up there.  As with many of my trips, I decided to take a self-guided coffee tour through as many areas as I could manage, limited by time and my caffeine tolerance.  I found some recommendations from the Nordic Coffee Culture Blog and mapped out my points of interest.

 

My first destination was Finland.  I was decently jet-lagged, and woke up super early my first morning in Helsinki, after going to bed fairly late, in awe of the length of the daylight hours.  I walked to the Kallio neighborhood and had to wait a few minutes before my first destination, Kahvila Sävy, opened.  I walked around the block while I was waiting and arrived to see them put out their “We (heart) Coffee” sign and their outside tables and chairs.

Kahvila Sävy

Two friendly baristas staffed the interior.  It was a bit stuffy but it felt splendid to be there.  I think I forgot to take tasting notes, but this was my favorite espresso in Helsinki.  And I really liked the neighborhood.  It was maybe a 20-30 minute walk from downtown, but had a nice quiet and gritty feel.Kahvila Sävy  Kahvila Sävy

 

I walked a long way after that to my 2nd coffee destination, Kaffa Roastery.  The roastery is located in the design district of Helsinki, which is sprinkled with neat arty shops amidst nicely colored, monolithic residential buildings.  Kaffa is at ground level in a brick building, but its lighting makes it look sort of like you’re in the basement of IKEA.

Kaffa Roastery

The roastery is behind the coffee shop, which is stocked with a cool selection of coffee grinders, machines, and gadgets.  Next door, there was a shop that sold bright but rustic housewares.  Kaffa had a surprising selection of coffees, and it was here that, in addition to my espresso, I bought a coffee souvenir.  An aside: I’m not a fan of dark roasts, but I did want to have some Monsoon Malabar coffee for home.    When I got home, eagerly opened the Monsoon Malabar from Kaffa and was surprised to find beans that were slightly oily, a sure sign of a dark roast.  I made an espresso anyways and was not too impressed.  I bought the Monsoon Malabar because I wanted to taste some earthy and funky spice notes in my coffee but all I could taste was burn.  This is not Kaffa’s fault, though – they clearly indicate on the front of their label that there are 5/5 circles for “paahtoaste”, or “the degree of browning” as google translates it.  I just didn’t understand that at the time.  They also indicate that it is 5/5 for “täyteläisyys” (body) and 1/5 for “hedelmäisyys” (fruitiness).

Kaffa Roastery

Anyways, their espresso was fine.  Not that special, and definitely not bad.   But I’ve been spoiled by the bright and fruity espressos that I’ve had of late in the Bay Area…

 

I decided to push it and go for a 3rd espresso for the day.  I was already starting to get the caffeine sweats.  My next stop was La Torrefazione.  It’s in the major shopping and retail district of Helsinki – just south of the central train station.  It’s like San Francisco’s Union Square.  You can get in through a slim entrance that leads to the cafe on the 2nd floor:

 

La Torrefazione

Wall art:La TorrefazioneOnce again, lacking tasting notes, I don’t really have much to say about this espresso other than it was “fine”.  If I hadn’t already been 2 coffees in for the day, maybe I would have thought differently.. but I’d be happy to have coffee from La Torrefazione as my morning cup on a normal day.  Unlike the two other cafes that I visited, this one had more food and other drink options.  I chose a croissant to try to dilute the effects of my caffeine intake.

La Torrefazione

I waited until the next day for my next espresso.

We went back to Kahvila Sävy:

Kahvila Sävy

And then walked a long ways, exploring the neighborhood.  We went to the fun Made in Kallio store/cafe and then made our way downtown.  We had some crazy chanterelle toast at Galleria Keidas, then walked through parks and busy streets, through Hakaniemi Market Hall, the University of Helsinki, the Helsinki Cathedral, and Senate Square.  (photos to come)

Our next destination was Johan & Nyström.  It’s housed in a long brick building just next to the gigantic Upenski Cathedral.  Johan & Nyström is a Nordic coffee chain based in Sweden that also sells fine teas and a variety of different coffees.  They also have some neat espresso machines in a sort of gallery in the back of the store.

Johan & Nystrom

Our barista was happy and outgoing.  I couldn’t pick up where his accent was from, but I’d guess Australia.Johan & Nystrom

I was the least impressed with their espresso, though I’d certainly choose theirs over any “non-fancy-coffee-place” espresso.  And I think it had more to do with their style – they served a full-bodied, blend of dark-roasted coffee, which is more traditional, but not as much to my liking.  But loaded with thick crema, it made for a nice photo.

Johan & Nystrom

I definitely don’t want to knock their coffee, or any other coffee that I had in Helsinki – all of the espressos I had were well-prepared and generally good.

next (hopefully?): coffee in Stockholm.

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Panaracer Ribmo Tire Review

Panaracer Ribmo

I’ve been riding my commuter bike with the Panaracer Ribmo kevlar-beaded 700×28 tires (amazon link) for quite some time now, and I think they’re great.

Panaracer Ribmo

Ok, the acronym’s kinda dumb.  Until earlier this week, I could boast that I’d never had a flat on a Ribmo while riding.  However, I did blow 3 tubes trying to get the tires onto the rim for the first time.  The bead is TIGHT, and it was an intensely frustrating experience to mount that tire.  My hands were crazy sore, and I probably broke a tire lever.

 

BUT – in 3 years and 1 month of riding, I never had a flat.  I only had to take the tire off once, and that’s only because my rim broke.  The tire was much easier to take off and put back on after it had been on a wheel for a while.  I rode the tires until the threads were hanging out of the tread and the sidewall and it was only then that something punctured the tire.  It was probably a large staple – I recall hearing a metallic clicking sound.  After a few blocks, I looked down and saw that the tire was looking sorta flat.

 

Even when new, with their pointy triangular profile, the tires felt kind of slow.  I usually rode loaded – not with much, but maybe 10-15 pounds of pannier.  The tire lasted through my daily urban commute in Oakland, California, some recreational rides, and quite a few 30-80 mile tours with maybe 35-50 pounds of gear on the rack. The tire profile went from a triangular shape to that of a traditional tire when it finally expired.

 

I put an old Vittoria Randdoneur Pro (amazon link)  that I had sitting around on the wheel for the time being.  I’ll keep that on until I get a new Ribmo in the mail.

Panaracer Ribmo

Looking thready.

Panaracer Ribmo

I still think it’s interesting to measure bike tire wear with a scale.

Original weight: 370g.  Final weight: 318g.  52 grams (14%) of the tire are scattered somewhere around the Bay Area.  Neat!

To sum it up:

PROS:

* this tire lasts a REALLY long time.  I’d estimate that I put on about 4000-5000 miles in 3 years.  Many of those miles were loaded.  The Ribmo I have on the front, I suspect, will last a lot longer.  We’ll see, as I put it on a a year and a half after the rear tire.

* awesomely puncture resistant

* reasonable price – I think I paid about $30 for it

CONS:

* a bit heavy

* they feel slow

* REALLY HARD to get on the first time.  but easier after that.

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Port Costa and Crockett

The Burlington Hotel Cafe, Port Costa, CA

With some time to spare before the wedding, we drove our rental car up to Port Costa to walk around for a little while and have some lunch.  It was a treat.  We looked out across the Carquinez strait and then meandered through the tiny town.

We were greeted by chickens driving a pickup truck, some sweet old cars, and this old theater sign:

ATE - Port Costa, CA

We first walked into the Burlington Hotel cafe to and got a plate of bacon (Thanks Rob!) and some coffee.  The cafe, like the exterior of the hotel is bright and inviting.

The Burlington Hotel Cafe, Port Costa, CA

The bacon was predictably delicious:The Burlington Hotel Cafe, Port Costa, CA

But it was also a treat to walk around the hotel.  Port Costa was a former port for wheat-shipping and the hotel was built in 1883, soon after the Port Costa was founded.

 

The lobby:The Burlington Hotel Cafe, Port Costa, CA

Antiques sign, across the stairwell:The Burlington Hotel Cafe, Port Costa, CA

The Burlington Hotel Cafe, Port Costa, CA

We even got to peek into a few of the rooms.The Burlington Hotel Cafe, Port Costa, CA

The entrance to the Bertha room:The Burlington Hotel Cafe, Port Costa, CACaffeinated and baconated, we checked out Wendy Addison’s Theater of Dreams studio:

The Burlington Hotel Cafe, Port Costa, CA

The Burlington Hotel Cafe, Port Costa, CA

and then elected to grab lunch at Crockett rather than eat at the Warehouse Cafe.  Another time.

We ended up at the Valona Deli and I took this photo in the bathroom:Baseball at the Valona Deli, Crockett, CA

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The Mill Cafe and Bakery in San Francisco

fresh bread at the mill in san francisco

It was Bay to Breakers 2013, but we went across the bay, dressed normally, to get coffee and bread at The Mill.

fresh bread at the mill in san francisco Above: loaves of bread on wire racks.

four barrel coffee at the mill in san francisco

The cappuccino made with four barrel coffee in a nuova point cup was enjoyable. rosetta of the day: heart

interior of the mill in san francisconice interior with natural light

cinnamon and sugar with butter toast on country bread at the mill in san francisco

their toast was great.  cinnamon and sugar and butter on a sourdough country loaf.  thick, chewy, robust crust.

fresh bread at the mill in san francisco

mmm, delicious bread.  dancing food prep dude was into the music.

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Beauty’s Bagel: Coffee and a Bagel Sandwich

Egg and Cheese on an Everything Bagel at Beauty's Bagel

Before visiting friends and family all the way down in San Jose, we stopped by Beauty’s Bagel Shop for some sustenance for us and our hosts.  I’d already had my morning shot of espresso, which was either the Burundi from Pacific Bay or some very old Starbucks Blonde Roast (aka backup coffee), but I couldn’t turn down a good one of Flying Goat.

Flying Goat Espresso at Beauty's Bagel

I got a egg and cheese bagel sandwich on an everything bagel as well as a few more bagels with cream cheese for the road.  The sandwich was predictably yummy.  The bagels are a little flatter and smaller than a good New York style bagel, but have plenty of chew.

Egg and Cheese on an Everything Bagel at Beauty's Bagel

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Photos from the 2013 Oakland Marathon

Chris Mocko at the Oakland Marathon 2013

 

I stood out on Telegraph Avenue at about 7:45am to see the first runners come through.  People were still setting up their unofficial water station and a few sort of hungover guys were starting to erect their giant wooden sign for their friend whose name and nickname I can no longer remember.  It started with an “E” though.

 

2012 winner Chris Mocko was way out in front at this point:

Chris Mocko at the Oakland Marathon 2013

 

Runners Shinji Nakadai, Osamu Tada, and Rob Nachtwey were clustered maybe 30 seconds to a minute behind at this point.  It turns out that these three would become the top 3 overall finishers.  These three started closing in on Mocko by mile 10 and eventually pulled ahead at mile 14.  Chris Mocko pulled off with an injury.  Shinji Nakadai has a few ultras under his belt and apparently thought that he had run the race too conservatively.  Shinji Nakadai ended up finishing with a time of 2:37:29, followed by Rob Nachtwey at 2:40:14 and Osamu Tada at 2:42:56.   Chris Mocko still ended up finishing 7th overall, with a time of 2:56:13.

 

Shiniji Nakadai at the Oakland Marathon

 

This is the top female finisher, Devon Yanko.  Also an ultramarathoner, she set a new women’s course record (by 10 minutes!) with a finishing time of 2:47:24.Devon Yanko at the Oakland Marathon 2013

Devon Yanko at the Oakland Marathon 2013

Here’s Penelope MacPhail, in the braids, who finished 4th overall for females with a time of 3:16:17.Caitlin Smith and other runners at the Oakland Marathon 2013

The woman in bib #939 was Caitlin Smith, who finished 2nd among females with a time of 2:56:14.Penelope MacPhail and other runners at the Oakland Marathon 2013

This is Monica Zhuang, who chose to run the relay this year with team Runners Unchained.Monica Zhuang at the Oakland Marathon 2013

I loved the coordination that this guy, Adam Kittler had in his outfit.Pink glasses and shoes guy at the Oakland Marathon 2013Hawaiian shirt guy!  Dennis Lefbom. Hawaiian Shirt Guy at the Oakland Marathon 2013

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bike woes

cracked eyelet on a mavic ma3 rim

a cracked eyelet on a mavic ma3 rear 700c rim.  the spoke and nipple have been pulled through the rim in a series of cracks at the eyelet..  I suspect this is a fatigue failure.  there are also smaller cracks on about 9 or 10 other eyelets, mostly going in the tangential direction of the rim.  apparently I’m not alone.

cracked eyelet on a mavic ma3 rim

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ann hamilton: the event of a thread at the park avenue armory

ann hamilton: the event of a thread

 

we visited the ann hamilton: the event of a thread exhibition at the park avenue armory.  it’s a really neat building.ann hamilton: the event of a threadafter exploring the rooms in the front of the armory, we purchased tickets and were met with an interesting contrast of gleeful chaos and monotone poetry readings

ann hamilton: the event of a threadadults and kids were having FUN.  when is the last time you were on a swing?  how about a giant, 100-foot swing?

ann hamilton: the event of a thread

reading.  the recital was broadcast wirelessly to speakers inside paper bags that were scattered on the floor of the armory.ann hamilton: the event of a thread

lots of people laid down in the middle to look up at the swaying curtainann hamilton: the event of a thread

so I took a photo looking up.  here is what they saw:ann hamilton: the event of a thread

there was a record player and a record cutter.  at the end of each day, a song is sung and the recording is cut into a record.  that record is then played the next dayann hamilton: the event of a thread

this guy was taking a break.  you can see the cables attached to swings and the curtainann hamilton: the event of a thread

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in search of new (to me) places to get coffee in new york (with bonus bagel visit)

epresso at prodigy coffee

 

it was a short visit this time around but there was still time to have coffee thrice!epresso at prodigy coffee

coffee and the times.  espresso at prodigy coffee.  Coffee roasted by George Howell Coffee Company.  My tasting notes: muted brightness, buttery and light.  enjoyable.

inside prodigy coffee neat vibe, very friendly baristas, nice light.  this was a good visit.

everyman.

everyman espresso.  despite the barista’s expression at the moment I shot the photo, they were great and there was nothing disgusting about the experience.  they are located in a cool spot near union square in the lobby of the classic stage company.espresso at everyman coffee

espresso – espresso toscano by counter culture coffee.  tasting notes: bright, not much sweetness, light fruit aftertaste, hints of vanilla and peachmacchiato at everyman coffe

macchiato.  but it was the drip that Diane ordered that stole the show.  the baroida papua new guinea from counter culture

 was amazing.  delightfully fruity.bagel at absolute this year’s real new york bagel was had at Absolute Bagels – an everything with nova lox and cream cheese.  I had to go to “recalibrate” my bagel sensors as Israel would saymacchiato at 3rd railand the next day, back to the always-great third rail coffee – serving stumptown.  this is a macchiato but my espresso was light and citrusy

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Help filing the Small Business Exemption for your Oakland City Tax Declaration

City of Oakland Business Tax Declaration Form Header

City of Oakland Business Tax Declaration Form Header

I was having a little trouble finding the information I needed online, so I figured this might be a useful guide to others.

Oakland Business Tax

(Updated 02.14.2015)

You can pay your City of Oakland Business Tax starting January 1 and the deadline for the previous year is March 1st.  In this case, I was eligible to pay last year’s business tax between January 1st and March 1st of this year.  You should have received a City of Oakland Tax Declaration Form in the mail.

 

If you pay after March 1st there are additional fees:

  • Penalty of 10% if between March 3rd and May 1st
  • Penalty of 25% if after May 1st
  • Interest on the tax amount AND the penalty amount of 1% per month from March 3rd until it is paid

The form itself is pretty straightforward, however I noticed that there was a Small Business Exemption that I qualified for…

Small Business Exemption

The Small Business Exemption allows certain small business to be exempt from paying Oakland Business Tax.  A business must apply every year for the exemption if it qualifies.

It applies to businesses with total annual gross receipts of $2700 or less (though the official website states this number is $2800, I believe $2800 is the correct amount for 2012-2015 as it appears the paper form is dated)

except for:

  • Rental properties
  • Corporate headquarters
  • Taxicab companies/owners

 

The official website and tax declaration form have instructions for applying:

  • Enter previous year total gross receipts on Line 13 of the declaration form
  • Check box 4b on the declaration form
  • Complete form IRS 4506T (Transcript request)
  • Complete, sign and send the Declaration and 4506T form.

However, I found that I needed some clarity in filling out these forms, so I had to call the city business tax renewal department for more information.

How to fill out the forms if you qualify for the Small Business Exemption

Here’s what you need to do to fill out the forms.  (Disclaimer: check with the City of Oakland if you are unsure; Follow these instructions at your own risk!)

City of Oakland Business Tax Declaration Form
  • Check box 4b to indicate that you are claiming a Small Business Exemption.
  • Line 13: Enter your Gross Receipts.  For the previous year, this must be below $2800.
  • Line 14: This is zero because you are claiming a Small Business Exemption.
  • Line 15: Enter your estimated gross receipts for this year.  Things are a little murky here – you can once again file for a Small Business Exemption for the year 2013, but I’m not sure exactly how to do it.  The woman I spoke to on the phone informed me that most businesses don’t do this because they expect to gross more than $2800 in the current tax year.
  • Line 16: This is a $60 minimum or a certain percent of your estimated gross receipts, depending on your business classification.
  • Line 17: Self explanatory, add lines 14 and 16
  • Line 25: Even if you claim the Small Business Exemption, you must add the $1 from line 24.
  • Sign, date, and fill out your payment information.

You may also want to check out the official City of Oakland Business Tax FAQ.

IRS 4506T – Request for Transcript of Tax Return

Filling out this form is a little trickier because the City of Oakland doesn’t offer much documentation on what they want from this request for a transcript.

I talked to the Business Tax Office, and they informed me to do the following:

  • Lines 1a, 1b: Enter your name and social security number.  If you file jointly, also fill in 2a and 2b with information for your spouse.
  • Line 3: Add your name and address
  • Lines 4 and 5:  Leave these blank.  The City of Oakland will fill this out for you as needed.
  • Line 6: Enter the tax form you file.  This is probably your 1040 Schedule C form.
  • Lines 6a, 6b, 6c, 7, 8: Leave these blank.
  • Line 9: For the previous tax year, enter 12/31/yyyy.
  • Sign and date.

 

The woman I spoke to on the phone recommended that the 4506T form be sent to the Business Tax office address:

 

City of Oakland Business Tax Section

250 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Suite 1320

Oakland, CA 94612

 

and the Tax Declaration Form be sent to:

 

City of Oakland Business Tax Section, Dept #34397

PO Box 39000

San Francisco, CA 94139

How to fill out the forms if you do NOT qualify for the Small Business Exemption

City of Oakland Business Tax Declaration form (green)

  • Check box 4a only if you need to make any changes to your business information.  Do you need to change your Mailing address, Business Name, Business Location, Phone number, Ownership type or owner names?
  • Do not check box 4b, this is only if you can claim the Small Business Exemption
  • Check box 4c only if you have discontinued or sold your business in the previous year or this year
  • Check box 4d if your are apportioning your gross receipts.  This means that some of your business has taken place outside of Oakland.
  • Line 13: Report your gross receipts from the previous year.  This is the “tax base” for the current year.
  • Line 14: Multiple Line 13 by 0.0012.  Put that number down UNLESS it is under $60.  If that is the case, then put down $60.  This is your tax due.
  • Line 15: Penalty due: This only applies if you are paying after March 2nd of the calendar year.  Hopefully this isn’t the case!
  • Line 16: Interest due: This only applies if you are paying after March 2nd of the calendar year.  Hopefully you don’t have to pay this either!
  • Line 17: Prior amount due: If you still owe the City of Oakland money for business tax in previous years, put this down.
  • Line 18: Failure to file fee: Add $50 if the City of Oakland has sent you notice that you are delinquent on your business tax.  Hopefully you aren’t!
  • Line 19: You must contribute $1 to the State Mandated Disability Access and Education Revolving Fund
  • Line 20: Add lines 14-19 and see what you end up with.
  • If you’re closing your business, fill out Section III.
  • Then sign the form, put your phone number and date down.
  • If paying by credit card, fill in your information and then mail the form back to the City:

CITY OF OAKLAND

Business Tax Section

PO Box 101515

Pasadena, California 91189-0005

I hope this helps.  Once again, I’m not responsible if your taxes don’t come out right.  You can call the Business Tax Office at 510-238-3704.  They are open Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm except for Wednesdays, where they are open from 9:30am to 4:00pm.  They are closed on furlough days.

 

 

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what I did in new york in december

steam

pasta at giovanni rana

fresh pasta at giovanni rana in chelsea market

high line

The Standardshaftway

shaftway

cable lockthis bicycle is not like the others

nyu : bobst library NYU’s Elmer Holmes Bobst Library

hello park avenue

this one had no trouble posing.  chocolate labrador?constructionconstruction.  we took a little peek into an unattended construction entrance.

obligatory subway shot

obligatory subway shot – Lorimer St/Metropolitan Avecafeteria garbage - bed-stuy

cafeteria waste in Bed-Stuystencil

stencil + marker + drips?snow in the flatironsnow in the flatiron district

pi door handles at MoMath pi door handle at the Museum of Mathematicssteam steam

good bye, new yorkgood bye, new york

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hampden in december 2012

espresso at spro

sam and I walked around after brunch.

espresso at spro

I didn’t NEED coffee, but spro was right there.  hines espresso from origins organic coffee

you park like an asshole

“You park like an Asshole!!” – I assume this piece of paper used to be on a car

grapevines in the sun

grapevines in the sun

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A list of Garmin Forerunner 310XT Problems, how to fix some of them, and why I can’t let myself buy another Garmin device

garmin forerunner 310xt time/date problems

I’ve been having a lot of problems with my Garmin Forerunner 310XT.  Generally, it is still useful for tracking my workouts and following courses, but it has been very frustrating to use.  Here are some of the things it does wrong:

The unit turns on by itself while connected to the computer.

Sometimes while it is charging, I’ll hear a loud buzzing near the computer and check the unit.  It’ll be on and trying to get a GPS signal.  Even when the computer is off, and the unit is still connected via USB, the 310XT will turn itself on.   By the time I use the 310XT, the battery is dead.  This has happened many times to me.

Getting a GPS signal takes a long time.

It usually takes the unit about 30 seconds to start up.  This seems really slow.  But after that, sometimes it will take perhaps 2 minutes just to find a GPS signal.  I can’t turn the unit on ahead of time to get around this as there generally is not GPS reception indoors.

Sometimes, the unit takes about 10 minutes to boot.

The 310XT gets stuck on its boot screen where it displays the Garmin logo.  This happens about 5-10% of the time.  I try to wait for a few minutes in hopes that the unit will boot but usually start my run with the unit still stuck on its boot screen.  After an additional 5 to 10 minutes or so, the unit finally boots and works normally.  Update: This happened again, two times in a row.  I estimate that it took about 15 minutes to boot up and work normally each time.. which made it pretty useless for my runs.

Transferring data rarely works.

Even when there is definitely new data available, the Garmin ANT Agent screen will display:

USB ANT(tm) stick: Active

Waiting for new data…

Unless I un-pair and re-pair my device, data won’t be transferred from the 310XT to my computer.  Even when I do this, sometimes I can’t transfer data.  The .FIT and .TCX files are downloaded to my PC, but they don’t go into Training Center.

I eventually tried resetting the 310XT to fix the problem.  I was able to transfer data well for about a month.  Then, the same problem started happening again – the 310XT would transfer data to my computer but I could not get the data into Garmin Training Center.  I tried re-pairing multiple times but had no success.

I think I’ve made some progress in figuring out why this doesn’t work.  It seems that one of the XML files, GarminDevice.XML is not correct.  I tried copying another version that exists on my PC over, and the data transfer started to work as soon as I restarted ANT Agent.  I’ll update this as I make more progress.

This is how you reset the 310XT (WATCH OUT! ALL DATA WILL BE ERASED):

1) Turn 310XT off.

2) Press and hold Enter and Mode buttons (keep holding until step 6)

3) Press and release Power button

4) Press and release Lap/Reset (watch will turn off)

5) Wait 3 seconds

6) Release Enter and Mode

Bizarre Time/Date problems

While I was having trouble transferring data, I decided to take a look at my Activities History on the watch.  According to my watch, all of my runs in the last 3 weeks happened “Yesterday”, each 2 minutes apart.  I turned the watch off, and turned it back on.  The date of the Activities changed to March 31st, 2007.  I suspected that the date was wrong because the GPS gets its time/date information from the GPS satellites, but the unit showed good satellite signal with 24 ft accuracy.  Also, the time the GPS unit displayed was correct.

garmin forerunner 310xt time/date problems

Screen fogs up

This isn’t as big of a problem, but apparently humid air can enter the unit and condense on the inside of the screen.  This usually goes away after a few minutes.

Screen goes blank while charging

I don’t remember if this happened before, but usually the screen displays a charging status indicator (64%, for example) when it is charging.  I came back to check on the 310XT’s charging status and the screen was completely blank.  I have no idea if it is actually charging or not, or if the unit has crashed.  To turn it on again, I had to do some combination of removing it from the charger, hitting the power button, then placing it back in the charger.

Doesn’t save activities

I ran a half marathon, and when I tried to transfer the data to my PC, I ran into all of the problems I’ve mentioned.  Somehow all of the connecting and disconnecting from the charger caused the 310XT to 1) delete my half marathon from record 2) reassign the date of all of my other activities to today.  This is intensely frustrating, as I wanted to see my splits and my heart rate from the race.  I noticed that in addition, my setup for the screens (to display heart rate, pace, total time, etc) had been reset to the default.  Argh.

I can’t send courses to the device, and Garmin Express doesn’t even work.

I can’t connect to my 310XT at all via Training Center, so I decided to bite the bullet and use Garmin Connect.  I downloaded Garmin Express, and spent 45 minutes trying to get the utility to pair with my 310XT.  It sometimes detects the 310XT, it sometimes doesn’t.  When it does, it tries to pair.  I enabled pairing on my 310xt and the 310XT displays “Transferring Data” and then Garmin Express tells me that pairing was unsuccessful.  I tried the Garmin Communicator Plugin, and it can’t find my device. (how many different ways did Garmin make to communicate with this device that still don’t work at all?!)

Would I buy one again?

Definitely not.  It has a lot of potential, and I like the idea of being able to track my activities and heart rate, but there are too many problems and glitches and headaches associated with using the 310XT.  It’s buggy and has a lot of quirks that make it feel like an unfinished beta product.

The funny thing about the bugginess of the 310XT is that it’s still for sale on Garmin’s website as of March 2014.  They haven’t updated its firmware since July, 2012.  I find it kind of shocking that they haven’t put effort into fixing the issues I’ve experienced, and I don’t have a lot of confidence that Garmin will ever fix them, since it’s been nearly 2 years since they’ve touched the firmware of the product.  This makes me a little uncomfortable when considering purchasing their other products as well.

Does anyone else have any of these problems?

Please leave a comment with your experiences.  I haven’t found anything similar online.

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Bagels version 0.3

Wow, a lot has changed since my last try at making bagels.  My version 0.2 post was more than a year ago!  (Also see the sad version 0.1)

What’s different this time around?

– I used a sourdough starter instead of conventional active-dry yeast.

– I now use a Kitchenaid stand mixer instead of kneading by hand.  Much easier, especially with a dry dough like bagel dough.  (Shout out to Angry Man Eats for making the stand mixer happen.  The blender and mixer still live together.)

– I did the recipe by weight and used a 55% hydration ratio.

– I left the bagels to proof for 24 hours in the fridge.  The 24 hours was mostly out of convenience – I couldn’t bake until then.  I don’t think I had them proof at all last time.

– I had poppy seeds and caraway seeds this time around

 

How’d they turn out?

– The crust was a bit crispier than last time.  I’m not sure the cause.. will have to do some research.  Baking Bread 101 says it’s because there wasn’t enough steam in the oven, but I did bake over a pan of water.  Then again, maybe it was crispy because I ate the bagel 5 minutes after I took it out of the oven.  The bagels were much less crispy and quite a bit chewier the next day.

– Also, the crust in the center of the bagel tore.  I am not sure what caused this either, other than the crust couldn’t expand as fast as the oven spring wanted it to.  Perhaps I could bake at a lower temperature to stop the crust from forming so soon.  Or maybe I boiled for too long?  Sobachatina’s answer on Stack Exchange has some good tips.  I can’t really slash the bagels though.

– The bagels were much smoother than last time.  I think this was due to the fact that I actually proofed them and probably did a better job kneading. . or at least the mixer did a better job.

– They tasted great and the torn (and crispy) crust doesn’t really bother me.

Recipe

For anyone who is interested (and since I typed this up for Sean anyways), here is what I did:

– Refreshed starter for 2 cycles – I hadn’t baked in 3-4 weeks, I think, so it needed some love.  S
– Mixed ingredients, kneaded in kitchenaid stand mixer:

Ingredient Amount (grams) Baker's Percent Notes
Sourdough starter 113g 30% 100% hydration starter
Bread flour 282g 100% 57g of flour was in the starter so total flour = 339g
Water 129g 55% 57g of water was in the starter so total water = 186g
Salt 6.8g 2%

– I set the dough out to rise overnight (about 8h) at room temperature (about 65F).  In the morning, the dough hadn’t risen much – it spread out a bunch though and increased in volume by  maybe 75%.   I figured that this might happen since I used such a large quantity of starter.
– Formed dough into balls
– Proofed in fridge, covered, for about 12 hours
– Put holes in the balls, stretched them to get the bagel shape
– Boiled each bagel in a pan with ~1 inch of water and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar for 1 minute on each side
– Added toppings
– Baked at 450F for 25 minutes, uncovered, with a pan of water underneath the bagel pan

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Steer Butchery Competition at Eat Real Festival 2012

The stage was in a slightly different spot on the green at Jack  London Square, but the crowd showed up just the same for Eat Real Festival’s 2012 Flying Knives Steer Butchery Competition.   The competitors were familiar, but with some changes: The defending-champion Yedra brothers, formerly of Marin Sun Farms  are now working for the BN Ranch team.  Dave the Butcher, Josh Kleinsmith and Adam Tiberio all joined forces once again, and the Butcher’s Guild put together a formidable team.

 

The crowd gathers, waiting for the start of the competition.  A woman holds a sign: “Viva Los Campeones Los Hermanos Yedra”

A Butcher’s Guild team member is representing Oakland:

Trophies for the 2012 champions-to-be:

The Yedra brothers hoist a hindquarter onto the hook.  These weigh about 200lb.

A Butcher’s Guild competitor rocks the Oaklandish STAY sticker on his knife sheath / scabbard.  Yeah Oakland!

Katy Quinn starts cutting with the saw:

The Yedra brothers start getting to work as well:

At one point, a festival attendee started resting his arms on the butcher’s table and was interfering with the competition.  Katy Quinn politely asked him to give them some space:

Oscar Yedra:

Adam Tiberio:

Josh Kleinsmith:

The crowd is having a good time:

The work of the Yedra Brothers:

The Butcher’s Guild table: (Hat from Zingerman’s Cornman Farms in Dexter, Michigan)

Yedra brothers:

Dave the Butcher of Marina Meats was mic’ed up and performed the dual roles of commentator and butcher:

Dave the Butcher laughs at a comment from Anya while cutting away:

The Yedra Brothers had quite a fan club:

And they came well-prepared.  Labels and kale.

Cuts of beef, labeled and on display by the Yedra Brothers:

Impressive.

The Butcher’s Guild team celebrates after breaking down the hindquarter:

Anya Fernald hands the microphone to Oscar Yedra to talk about what his team did:

Katy Quinn enjoys a well deserved beer:

The Yedra Brothers were declared champions, once again.  This was their 4th win in a row.

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Removing a stuck filter from a lens that has been dropped

(image courtesy of mr brown on flickr. mine is white.)

We went on a mini-bike tour last weekend and I decided to take my big, honking 5D along for the ride.   I placed the camera in my Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Handlebar bag and everything worked out well.. until I decided to take the bag off of the bike and walk around.

 

The strap clips into place on the side of the bag.  I clipped the strap onto the bag until it clicked on both sides and our group sat down for some well deserved beers after a long day of riding.

 

As we were leaving the bar, I got up and took a few steps.  The bag fell as the strap somehow had come off of the clip.  I didn’t think anything of it at the time but got a lot of weird stares the next time I took my camera out to take some photos.  The lens filter had cracked (I am so glad I had one) and the edge was dented so that I couldn’t remove it.  It was stuck.  I had a little bit of neoprene padding in the Ortlieb bag, but apparently that wasn’t enough.

 

I have mixed feelings about the bag, by the way.  It’s pretty well constructed like any ortlieb bag, but it rattles and doesn’t work well with the jumble of brake and shifter cables that are in front of the handlebars.. but that is for another blog post.

Anyways, here’s the guide:

How to remove a stuck lens filter from a lens that has been dropped:

 

I was a little unhappy as I realized it would mess up my photos for a while, but I was glad to see that the lens itself had not been damaged, even though the filter ring was bent in.   I’ve had lenses break before when the camera was dropped (a sadly retired Sigma 20mm f.1.8 and a repaired and still quite useful Canon 10-22mm f/3.5-5.6).  The lens here is the Canon 24mm f/1.4 Mark I, but these steps should work for almost any lens.

I was also glad that the camera itself wasn’t damaged, of course.

I ordered new filters from KEH and when they arrived, I did the following.  The standard internet “I’m not responsible for anything that goes wrong” disclaimer applies, of course!  If you don’t want to do this yourself, there are shops that will do so for you.

Step 1: Try to unscrew the filter

This is an obvious step, but if you can get the filter off the normal way, by all means try to do so.  If the threads or filter ring is bent, then it will be really hard (and quite damaging) to unscrew the filter as the threads will no longer be able to move in a helical pattern.  It’ll require too much force to turn the filter ring and you will strip the threads of the filter ring or the lens.  This will probably make it hard to use a new filter in the future if you do manage to get the broken one off.

Step 2: Remove the filter glass

Sometimes when the filter shatters, the glass falls out on its own.  In my case, the filter cracked, but not enough for the glass to fall out of the filter ring.  This meant I had to find another way to remove it.  I chose a hacksaw, but I have used a rotary tool (like a dremel) with a cutoff wheel before with good results.

 

The filter ring is made of aluminum and is fairly soft and easy to cut.  I cut a notch in the filter ring til it was near the lens.  The filter is already trashed, so don’t feel bad hacking it to bits.  Just be careful not to damage the lens body or the lens elements.  I chose to use a hacksaw this time because it’d give me a bit more control.

The notch creates a weak point in the ring, and sometimes you can give the filter a twist with a pair of pliers (generally you want to bend it inward, towards the center of the lens and away from the lens threads.  I tried this, but I still had broken glass in the way.  If glass has already come out then you can move on to the next step.

I decided to cut another notch in the filter ring so that I could bend the ring enough to set the shards of glass free.

Eventually, I was able to bend the filter ring at an angle so that it no longer captured the glass.

Step 3: Bend filter ring inward

Bending the filter inward releases the bent portion of the filter ring from the lens filter thread.

I removed two chunks of glass and then used a pair of pliers to bend the filter ring inwards.  It didn’t take much bending for the filter to come out. I didn’t have to even unscrew it.

Step 4: Clean the lens

There will probably be tons of little aluminum filings and pieces of glass on the face of the lens.  I used compressed air to get all of the particles out.  Note: Some say not to do this as it can damage the coating on the lens element surface.  I don’t think this was a problem for me, but you may want to try using a wet tissue instead.

Step 5: Install the new filter

The new filter went on without a problem, which is a good sign – the lens threads were not damaged.  Or at least they weren’t damaged enough for it to be noticeably hard to twist on a new filter.  The previous filter protected my lens the last 4 or 5 years.  I hope this one lasts even longer.

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Eat Real Festival 2012 (sans Steer Butchery)

Oh hey!  Last month was Oakland’s annual Eat Real Festival and I returned to take pictures on September 22nd.  I will put up photos from the Flying knives steer butchery competition in a separate post.

Miss Pearl’s Jam House led a demonstration and discussion titled “Water to Table”.  This is a tuna.

Chef Eddie Blyden freaks out a local child with a giant fish:

The festival featured multiple beer pouring stations.  This one featured a refrigerated storage container filled with kegs.  Here, an Eat Real Festival volunteer poses for the camera after completing a pour:

Kids customized t-shirts at the new Kids’ Zone:

5733/LOAKal was there to represent:

Ice cream from Berkeley’s famous Ici, located in the wonderful Elmwood district:

Judges are a little critical of one entry in the Bare Bones BBQ Competition:

Festival-goers season their corn:

Homebrew winner.  Homebrew winner.  Homebrew winner:

Jamboree contest entries featured Ollalie Berry Jam, Tangerine Lemon Jelly, Lemon Orange Marmalade and Kumquat Chutney:

The start of a beautiful thai fruit carving:

Gorgeous autumn sun floods through Jack London Square:

A helper for Jack London Square newcomer, Forge Pizza takes orders:

American flags over Jack London Square:

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Ecuador – Galapagos Part 3b

These photos are from day 3 of our Galapagos trip back in June.  I didn’t realize I had more photos from the same day, so here is Part 3b.

In the late afternoon, we made our way back onto Espanola island to see boobies and albatrosses.

It was teeming with life and the sounds of life.. though it was very interesting to me that there was not much biodiversity.  But there were large populations of the few species that was saw.  Or maybe that was just my impression as this was in direct contrast to our experience in the Ecuadorian Amazon – where there is incredible biodiversity but only a small number of each plant or animal in any given area.

We were immediately greeted by boobies.  This male nazca booby was making clicking sounds in an attempt to attract a mate.

after maybe a 10 minute walk, we came upon the breeding area of the waved albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) or the galapagos albatross.

Some of them were nesting, sitting on eggs.

Our guide explained that the albatross is very heavy for a bird and has a giant wingspan, which makes it a super-efficient glider but clumsy when traveling at a low speed.

They spend most of their lives flying, and are generally on land only to breed.

Here’s a photo of some of our tour group who walked ahead while I stared at the giant birds.

The waved albatrosses don’t fly well at low speeds and thus have a hard time landing.  We watched the same birds circle the landing area a number of times and finally make an attempt to land, only to abort the landing at the very last moment.  Here’s one lowering its landing gear:

And this photo shows off their giant wingspan:

It was neat that a bird could look so majestic and goofy at the same time.  We saw a couple of birds perform their complex courtship, which involves a lot of walking in circles and clacking of beaks.  They mate for life.

As we walked back to the dock and boarded our panga, we were treated to a beautiful sunset:

and we had dinner and relaxed.

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Eat Real Fest 2010 Part 4

— update: 09/26/12 – I realized that I had never posted these.  From the archives, this is Eat Real Festival 2010.

 

Crowds of people at Eat Real Fest 2010

Flag and palm trees above Jack London Square

eat real festival balloon against the blue skies of oakland: “our pitmaster can smoke your honor student” – Jim N Nick’s BBQ

Jenni and the ever-photogenic Sputnik by Ritual Coffee Roasters:Jenni

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The Yedra Brothers win again – at the 2012 Flying Knives Steer Butchery at Eat Real

The Yedra Brothers win for the fourth time in a row at the 2012 Eat Real Festival Flying Knives Steer Butchery.  Oscar Yedra of BN Ranch  shakes hands with Katy Quinn of the Butcher’s Guild after the steer butchery competition is over, with cuts of beef on trays in the background. More to come as I process the photos.  Follow me on twitter or like this site on facebook for updates as I post them.

 

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Ecuador – Galapagos Part 3

We got on the boat, had dinner and then went to bed.  The next morning, I woke up for sunrise as the boat was setting anchor near Espanola Island aka Hood Island.

It was about 6:02am when I took this photo.  I was still super sleepy, so I went back to sleep before breakfast.

We had breakfast around 7 and then after getting dressed, took a panga to the beach.

The first steps onto the island at Gardner Bay were pretty amazing.  there were sea lions everywhere and it felt like we were the only humans on the island.  These are Galapagos sea lions (zalophus wollebaeki).

and here is a very curious Galapagos mockingbird (Mimus parvulus.  I am looking up the genus and species of what I have pictures of in hopes that it will help me learn a bit more!).  These little guys are bold and curious and are crazy attracted to water bottles and shiny things and my girlfriend’s thatchy hat.

Sleepy sea lion:

It was very interesting how there were so many sea lions who were not doing very much, but the entire colony was constantly making noise and in motion.

this one looks like it’s about to be rolled over like a bowling pin.

a marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus).  I did not know until seeing the Wikipedia article that marine iguanas are only found on the Galapagos islands.

We walked from the beach to the rocks and saw a galapagos four-eyed blenny (Dialommus fuscus).  These fish can crawl out of the water and spend a decent amount of time  breathing air.

bashful sea lion:

We went back to the boat for lunch and then back to the island for an afternoon walk.

It didn’t take too long for us to be treated to our first blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii) sighting.  This was probably the animal at the galapagos that I was asked most about before and after the trip.  Wikipedia has taught me the following interesting facts about these boobies:

1) “booby” is derived from “bobo” which means “stupid”, “fool”, or “clown”.  those poor clumsy birds!

2) they eat fish!

3) I was hoping to explain why they have blue feet, but I still don’t know.

there are a few other types of boobies on the Galapagos islands.  These are Nazca boobies (Sula granti) and they are doing a courting dance.   they lay two eggs at once, and the older chick basically kills the younger chick.

we still saw plenty of sea lions on the way back to shore.

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Ecuador – Galapagos Part 2

We left Galapagos Safari Camp the next morning.  Here’s another photo of their lovely lodge lobby.

We went to the Charles Darwin Research station at Puerto Ayora to see Lonesome George and to learn about some of the work they are doing.  We ran into this researcher catching butterflies.  We were lucky enough to see Lonesome  George a few weeks before he passed away.

We ate lunch at the Angermeyer Point restaurant.  This one was passed out at the bar by lunchtime:

The nice folks at Galapagos Safari Camp recommended that we try the ice cream at the Galapagos Deli.  Definitely a nice place to visit and have a pre-dinner ice cream.  I liked this guy:

I think we got the coffee ice cream:

 

There were balloons from a celebration the day before:

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tony and his car

tony next to his caprice

this is tony next to his bright orange, impressively tricked out chevrolet caprice(?) on mcallister street with the giantest wheels I’ve ever seen on a car.  He stopped to show me its suicide doors.

Tony is probably a San Francisco Giants fan.

tony next to his caprice

 

 

 

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Ecuador – Galapagos Part 1

baltra

From Baltra on the island of Santa Cruz, the Galapagos looked completely different than what I’d expected.   I expected a habitat teeming with unique wildlife but saw this instead:

baltra

It was humid and cloudy, but the landscape looked dry.  I was happy to be back at sea-level after spending a day in Quito.  After taking a short ferry ride and hopping in a van, however, the views changed rapidly as we gained elevation on Santa Cruz Island.  Lunch was served at Narwhal Restaurant.  This part of the island was a very lush green – though many of the plants were invasive species that thrived with the lack of adequate competition.

table set for lunch

We eventually headed down to Puerto Ayora to our hotel but first took a walk and water taxi around.

the docks at night in puerto ayora Water taxis at the Puerto Ayora pier.

We walked up Avenida Baltra to check out the town.  I wandered into a recreational center and stumbled across some people playing Ecuavolley .  I would have been intrigued watching a good traditional volleyball game, but this was captivating.  The net is higher and they play with a soccer ball (ouch!).  As a result, there is a lot less hitting and most points result from someone “setting” the ball over the net.  I use quotes because most of the sets would be considered carries in traditional volleyball… but it’s not surprising since they use a much heavier and harder ball.

 

equavolley

 

This kid was running around as we walked back out to the street: running child

 

 

 

The next day, we walked around before rejoining the group.

Here’s a Galapagos brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) that was hanging out near the boardwalk.

a galapagos brown pelican

 

We visited Galapagos Safari Camp – where one can stay in an eco-luxury tent if they choose to spend time on land in the Galapagos rather than on a boat.  It’s a beautiful place that was delgihtfully designed and arranged.  Here’s the main dining table in their lobby:

 

galapagos safari camp

 

and one of the tents:

galapagos safari camp tent

 complete with hot shower, air conditioning, and a real flushing toilet.  this is glamping at its best.

 —

We set out to see the giant tortoises that the Galapagos is so well-known for.  Our tour group stopped by a private farm where the giant tortoises are known to hang out.

galapagos tortoise

 we saw three tortoises that day.  Apparently the number that you see can vary from none at all to dozens.

We also stopped into a lava tube.  The one we visited was some of the caves or caverns in the national parks in the US – where people have decided to run electricity in and add steps and railings and so on.  that was fine with me.  Our guide explained that the tubes form when a large river of lava cools and hardens on the outside before the inside can harden.  The lava on the inside eventually vacates the interior of the flow leaving a hollow tube.  I took this photo while looking back at the entrance of the tube:

lava tube

 

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Last days in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Carlos weaves palm leaves

Our last two days in the Ecuadorian Amazon consisted of more day and night hikes and canopy tower visits.

Carlos weaves palm leavesCarlos showed us how the woven thatch roofs of the cabins are made.

 

Railing grows a leafI was really surprised to see new growth on branches that had obviously been cut a while back.  This branch was used as a hand-rail but still had a few fresh leaves.  Is it the humidity that permits this?

 

Amazon wood lizard - "Man of the Forest" aka "Sacharuna"I think this is the Amazon Wood Lizard (Enyalioides laticeps) aka aka “”Guichenot’s Dwarf Iguana” aka “Sacha runa”

 

Perhaps the bluntheaded tree snakeI think this was a blunthead tree snake (Imantodes cenchoa)

 

The market in Cocamotorbike at the market in Coca

 

palmetto weevil grubsPalm weevil grubs (rhynchophorus palmarum?) aka Grugru with yucca.  The larvae eat palm hearts.  The grubs were covered with some type of sauce and then grilled.

 

palmetto weevil grubI thought they were kind of gross.  The sauce gave it a sausage-y flavor.  The skin had a sort of tough texture and the inside was kind of mushy.  The head was crunchy.

 

coca colaA photo of Coca Cola stockpiles that I took while waiting for our ride to the airport.

 

schoolgirls in cocaschool girls in Coca

 

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2012 Temescal Street Fair Photos

Hannah from Doughnut Dolly

Here are photos from the 2012 Temescal Street Fair that kind of go along with the time lapse:

Hannah from Doughnut Dolly

Hannah from Doughnut Dolly serving up her bread pudding

 

The John Brothers Piano CompanyThe John Brothers Piano Company play on Telegraph Ave

 

The John Brothers Piano Companya duet?

 

Oaklandish trailer

Oaklandish bus.  still trying to get my keep oakland fresh t-shirt.

And now for the dog section of this blog post:

suspicious dog

suspicious dog is sususpicious

where are your eyes dogcurious dog with hidden eyes is curious

 

 

small dog syndrome dog

small dog has small dog syndrome.  except with jason.

This is the part of the blog post where I post pictures of people checking out Jason and Alfie and Lisa’s bikes:

 dude checking out bikes

Is this guy looking at the waterford or the softride beam? (softride only makes trailer hitches and bike rack accessories now? how sad)

 

another dude checking out bikeswhat about this guy?

 

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the ecuadorian amazon: an owl, monkeys, piranhas, and a night hike with insects and snakes

atop the wooden tower at sacha lodge

Back to the Ecuador photos from the Ecuadorian Amazon:

atop the wooden tower at sacha lodge

We  climbed the wooden tower at the Sacha Lodge to see more birds and wildlife.  The tower is built around a giant Kapok tree that is teeming with epiphytes, especially at the top.  You spiral around the giant trunk as you climb the tower’s steps.

ruby poison dart frog

Our guide found a ruby poison dart frog (ameerega parvula).  It was seriously impressive how adept he was at finding wildlife.  It’s poisonous enough to kill a bunch of people.

crested owl

A crested owl (lophostrix cristata).  It reminded me of one of those reverse-perspective optical illusions where a face always appears to be staring at you.  The owl would just subtly move its head to look in your direction.

Palm Strings

We took a break for a little demo where Carlos made a string from a palm leaf.

mossy walkway with leafcutter ants

A mossy walkway

leafcutter ants

Leafcutter ants traverse a large exposed root

redeye piranha

We spent an hour in the afternoon fishing.  I was the only person of our group who did not catch a fish.  That’s not to say that there weren’t any fish – there were piranhas everywhere in the water but they cleverly ate the raw chicken off of my hook.  You could feel them bite after less than a second.  I think this was a