Monday, December 25, 2006

Maligayang Pasko, Everybody! (Merry Christmas)

Last night, we spent “noche buena” at my aunt’s house in the East Bay, eating barbequed ribs (yes, a BBQ in December!) and singing hours and hours of karaoke. We returned home at one in the morning and began cooking a holiday feast for FILL UP AMERICA (http://www.fillupamerica.org/), an organization seeking to serve home-cooked Christmas meals to over 300 San Francisco homeless. Christopher and I were up until five a.m., cooking a meal which included a 20-lbs roast turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, biscuits, corn, green beans, apple pie and brownies! We took a quick nap and then drove the meal to the shelter. It was wonderful to start the Christmas morn, sharing our food and love to those in need.

Being so far away from family and friends, and seeing as the weather is sixty degrees and there are palm trees outside our window, it’s a far cry from the white Christmases with which we grew up, but we wanted to take this time to wish each and every one of you a very merry Christmas. Though we are sad not to see our loved ones today, we are happy knowing that we helped others enjoy the holiday.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Chris' New Fedora

Some photos of Chris and his beautiful new hat, courtesy of Karema Deodato

http://www.karemadeodato.com/index.html

Isn't it gorgeous?

It's Easy Being Green

On Sunday, we attended the SF Green Festival (www.greenfestivals.org), an event which promotes and celebrates green, safe, healthy communities as well as local economies. This is the largest Green gathering in the nation (there are three in the US, the other two are held in Washington, DC and Chicago, IL), featuring over 200 speakers and 400 green businesses, green how-to workshops, green films, green career sessions, and best of all, green food.

It was amazing to see how much improvement and acceptance green living has achieved in recent years. Hemp products used to be harsh and rough; now, there are many hemp products that are smooth and actually wearable. Chris bought a beautiful messenger (see image on right) bag made of hemp & rubber from Amazonia Designs (with all profits going back to the people in the Amazon). One of our favorite products was clothing made of 100% bamboo which felt softer than cotton. We ate a raw, organic lunch with friends, sampled many delicious and nutritious snacks, spoke with vendors about their products, and learned a lot about conscious living and green living.

Among our favorite booths were:

Branch – Sustainable design for living. Branch donates 10% of its annual profits to organizations that promote environmental responsibility. Check out the chaise lounges! (http://www.branchhome.com/)

g diapers – A single Pampers or Huggies diaper takes over 500 years to biodegrade, one g diaper takes 5 days to biodegrade. FIVE DAYS. ‘nuff said. (www.gdiapers.com)

Goddess Gear – Comfortable clothing that’s easy on your conscience. All of their garments are hemp or other natural fibers -- including bamboo. (www.goddessgear.net/)

Alive! – Raw cuisine, using only organic ingredients and everything in their menu is dairy-free, animal-free, wheat-free, and gluten-free…and everything is delicious. (www.aliveveggie.com/)

Fernyn’s Grove Sustainables – Exotic corsets, bridal & couture clothing all mindfully made from organic, sustainable, and traceable textiles. (www.mycorset.com)

Method – A San Francisco-based green merchant whose products we did not see at the festival but which we’ve been purchasing since our arrival. Good smelling and good for the environment! (www.methodhome.com/)

It was wonderful to see how many people gathered to support green living. Think green!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Great Music, Better Cause


Last weekend, Pearl and I attended the Bridge School Benefit Concert, one of the most highly anticipated events on the Bay Area’s social calendar, which for all its lack of pomp and pageantry, still maintains the intimacy of a backyard barbecue – well, a barbecue with your 22,000 closest friends.

The Bridge School was founded in 1986 by Pegi Young (wife of Neil Young), James Foederer and Dr. Marilyn Buzolich to educate children with speech and physical impairments and teach alternative means of communication. Neil and Pegi’s son, Ben, was one of the school’s first students.

The proceeds of the annual benefit concert, an all-acoustic, star-studded celebration, which was started the same year as the school, partially funds the technology, equipment and support needed to provide the students with an excellent education and also the transition program which assists Bridge School graduates with their education and integration into their home school district post-graduation.

http://www.bridgeschool.org/about.html

The concert is now in its 20th year and has featured performances by some of the biggest names in music, including Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Tom Petty, Jerry Garcia, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, REM, Beck, Willie Nelson and John Lee Hooker. Many artists return to perform time and again. This was the fifth BSBC for The Dave Matthews Band and the seventh for Pearl Jam. The only constant from year to year is the founder and host, Neil Young, and the promise of a fantastic show. This year was no disappointment.

For a line up from each of the BSBC’s 20 concerts see the link below:
http://hyperrust.org/Bridge/Benefit.html

The weather was beautiful (nearing 80 degrees in late October!) and the concert was already in full-swing when we arrived at the Mountain View Shoreline Amphitheatre in the second hour of a day-long concert. We had missed the first two performances: Neil’s opening set which featured his wife, Pegi, performing alongside a Native American drummer and dancer, and psychedelic folk singer Devendra Banhart. I was sorry to have missed Neil (although we had many other opportunities to see him throughout the day, evening and night) and as well as Bert Jansch who accompanied the first two sets and took the lead at one point during Banhart’s performance.

As we entered the amphitheatre to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’ rendition of Gram Parsons’ Hickory Wind, I knew at once that we were in for a good show. The upper lawn, already a patchwork of blankets and bodies, left hardly any green showing. It took us nearly 20-minutes to find four square feet of grass on which to lay our blanket. As we wandered through the masses, we caught our first glimpse of our host as he accompanied Gillian and David as they covered his own Country Girl.

Two large screens, on either side of the stage, provided close-up of the performers, interspersed with shots of the crowd and of the current and former students (Ben Young among them) who sat onstage, providing a beautiful and moving backdrop, a constant reminder of the cause we were supporting and celebrating.

Shortly after we settled in, the next performer, Death Cab for Cutie replaced Gillian, performing a handful of pretty pop songs and then a cover of Graham Nash's Military Madness for which Neil returned to the stage to join in on guitar and vocals.

Trent Reznor followed with a stark, emotional set. We were wondering how well Reznor would fit into the acoustic format but he pulled it off quite well. Seated at a piano and accompanied by a string quartet, he did an excellent job re-arranging some of his formerly metal-heavy tracks – Hurt and The Frail among them.

Up next were the Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl, brought huge smiles and some impressive acoustic head-banging on My Hero, a song which he dedicated to Neil. The group brought their set to a close with Everlong after Grohl recounted that at a previous Bridge School performance of this emotional song, he retreated to his trailer in tears.

Pegi Young then introduced a short tribute to Emma Pitcairn, a 25 year old Bridge School graduate who passed away last month. Set to Neil’s One of These Days, the tribute showed Emma from childhood to her young adulthood: Emma had such a wide smile in every photo (with her family, with friends, in classes at school). The brief documentary helped us reflect on all the school does for its students and how much every student becomes part of the Bridge School family. It again served, like the live shots of the students onstage, to remind us of the reason we (the audience, the performers and the students) were there. This tribute received one of the loudest and longest applauses of the evening.

"One of These Days"

One of these days,
I'm gonna sit down
and write a long letter
To all the good friends I've known

And I'm gonna try
And thank them all
for the good times together.
Though so apart we've grown.

One of these days,
I'm gonna sit down
and write a long letter
To all the good friends I've known

One of these days,
one of these days,
one of these days,
And it won't be long, it won't be long.

And I'm gonna thank,
That old country fiddler
And all those rough boys
Who play that rock 'n' roll
I never tried to burn any bridges
Though I know I let some good things go.

One of these days,
I'm gonna sit down
and write a long letter
To all the good friends I've known

One of these days,
one of these days,
one of these days,
And it won't be long, it won't be long.

From down in L.A.
All the way to Nashville,
From New York City
To my Canadian prairie home
My friends are scattered
Like leaves from an old maple.
Some are weak, some are strong.

One of these days,
I'm gonna sit down
and write a long letter
To all the good friends I've known

One of these days,
one of these days,
one of these days,
And it won't be long, it won't be long.

One of these days,
one of these days,
one of these days,
And it won't be long, it won't be long.

The highlight of my night came next as Brian Wilson took the stage and performed a selection of my favorite songs, including God Only Knows, Wouldn't it Be Nice, Heroes and Villains and Good Vibrations (with Neil on a 200 year old pump organ). It was the most fun set of the night: young and old fans alike got up to dance and sing along with California Girls.

As darkness drew in, Pearl Jam kicked up the intensity with a cover of Dylan’s Masters of War. Their set included Around the Bend, Thin Air (which they dedicated to two friends of Maricor, a Bridge School graduate and current Berkeley student), Lukin, and Betterman, culminating with the Eddie Vedder/Neil Young collaboration Throw Your Hatred Down.

As the sun rounded the horizon, the cold drew in quick. The crowd thinned as the families with young children made their way to the exits. Those who were able to handle the cold remained, turning their collars up against the cold and huddling close for warmth. The video screens which had been providing shots of the Bridge School students smiling, clapping and laughing, now showed them burrowing into their parents for a warm place to sleep.

The Dave Matthews Band turned a number of their radio friendly hits into extended jams. Favorites Crash and Everyday were fun and lively and got the crowd dancing. Neil Young reappeared to another huge applause and joined Matthews on an 18-minute version of Down by the River. It was clearly the showpiece of a very impressive set. As the two men walked off the stage, Neil turned to prostrate himself before Matthews in a manner I’d seen so many fans doing every time Neil gained the stage.

Finally, Neil reappeared one last time to close out the show and with a set that included Harvest Moon and One of These Days. As we were leaving the amphitheatre around midnight, Neil gathered all the performers together one last time and led them in an excellent rendition of Keep on Rockin' in the Free World - a perfect way to end a perfect show.

--------------------------------------------------------

From: http://bad-news-beat.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1795
10-22-2006, Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, California
Performances by Neil Young

1. Ambulance Blues (w/ Bert Jansch)
2. Long May You Run (w/ Pegi Young)
3. Comes a Time (w/ Pegi Young)
---
w/ Gillian Welch and David Rawlings
4. Country Girl (guitar, harmonica and lead vocals for last verse)
---
w/ Death Cab For Cutie
5. Military Madness (guitar and vocals)
---
w/ Brian Wilson
6. Good Vibrations (pump organ)
7. Barbara Ann (background vocals)
---
w/ Pearl Jam
8. Throw Your Hatred Down (guitar and vocals)
---
w/ The Dave Matthews Band
9. Down by the River (guitar and vocals)
---
w/ The Prairie Wind Band
10. After the Garden
11. Goin' Back
12. Harvest Moon
13. Old Man
14. One of These Days
---
15. Rockin' In the Free World

Sunday, October 15, 2006

“Look ma, no hands!”


Last weekend, I finally had a chance to try trapeze swinging, and boy, was I shocked to discover how truly hard it is! Pia, Yuhka and I trekked all the way to Oakland to fly at the Trapeze Arts Circus School. http://www.trapezearts.com/aboutus.jsp

Yuhka earned the “best amateur trapeze swinger” badge as she was able to swing and knee-hang and back-flip and catch all on the first try. Pia earns 2nd-best as she was able to do all of the above, though not necessarily on the first try. And I earn “worst amateur trapeze swinger” as I was barely able to handle the knee-hang up in the air. But, don’t feel bad for me – I pretty much gave up (mentally and physically) when I realized that I had to exert a lot of effort (and listen and follow orders) to accomplish the swing. These trapeze artists work hard to do their stunts! While I didn’t find the experience at all scary, – I actually liked being up on the 35-foot-high platform – I was definitely not yet ready for the physical challenge of the sport. ;p

How it works: All beginning students wear a safety harness fastened snugly around their waists. The harnesses have two clips that attach to long ropes, called safety lines, which control how quickly students fall. Students coat their palms with chalk to keep their hands from slipping off the trapeze bar. Before they can be caught by an instructor, they must rub their forearms with chalk to help the catcher get a better grip. Two safety lines are attached to the student's harness once he or she is on the platform. An instructor on the ground has control over the other end of the lines and alternately pulls on or lets the lines free to help the student control momentum. Before students jump off the platform, they practice their form on a static trapeze, one that does not swing at all. An elevated net is strung tightly across the trapeze practice space. The net provides a gentle, bouncy landing for students. Once they land safely, students unhook their safety lines and pass them up for the next flier. Then they roll off the side of the net onto a mat. An instructor on the platform helps students on take-off. The instructor clips the safety lines to the harness and pulls the trapeze within reach. Keeping a firm grip on the back of the student's harness, she shouts, "Leisto!" as a signal that the student is ready to fly. The climax of the first lesson is being caught by an instructor on a second trapeze. The instructor swings back and forth to gain momentum, then wraps his legs around the trapeze and hangs upside down. Timing and speed are crucial to a successful catch.

Cool fact: To Mythbusters’ fans: the 360 Swing Set Myth was taped at this circus school and our instructors were featured in the show. Adam & Jamie return to the school next week to debunk a pirate-myth! http://www.trapezearts.com/aboutus.jsp

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

That’s a MAN baby, yeah!:

AsiaSF – where the trannies look even hotter than the women. Actually, it was quite difficult telling those helped by modern science versus those born into womanhood! www.asiasf.com

No Kool-Aid for me, thanks, I’ll stick with the water:

We went to one of the best vegan restaurants we’ve ever eaten at in Oakland and found out, mid-meal, that a cult owns and manages Golden Lotus under the guidance of a woman who calls herself the Supreme Master Ching Hai. No wonder all the servers had blank stares and funny smiles on their faces. Ah, but they do know how to cook great food! You can read more about the Supreme Master here: http://www.godsdirectcontact.org/eng/article/chinghai.html

A Tale of Two Concerts…from Beck to Emmylou:

You know you’re 30 when you’re the oldest ones at a concert one week (too old to even see the person you’ve paid to see -- it’s more than a little embarrassing to admit that we left the concert after four hours, but still an additional five hours before the headliner, Beck, came to the stage) and the youngest ones at a concert the week after (we were the only under 35s at the Emmylou Harris venue).

Sometimes, Californians are just TOO laid back:

Our company has a great connection with a car rental agency that drops-off and picks-up rental cars for employees. We rented a car for 6 days, but the agent left the car with us (unlimited mileage and all) for 2.5 weeks (“uhm yeah, do you mind if we pick up the car next week?”). Total bill for renting a car for 18 days? $150.

Audium, an experiment in boredom:

Audium is billed as an experiment in three-dimensional sound (“sound-sculptured space”) held in complete darkness. In actuality, we sat for 70 minutes in the dark and listened to an old man on an outdated organ stroll through his library of sound effects. While the intention of Audium is to display how adding dimension to music can enhance the experience of listening, what it actually showed is that you can get a better experience sitting at home listening to music on a surround-sound system; so save yourself the cost of a ticket. http://www.audium.org/

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Another Hippie Day

This past weekend, we drove 2.5 hours north of San Francisco to one of the hot springs resorts just outside Calistoga. Situated atop a beautiful mountain, these resorts are geared toward soul healing and finding the peace within. Indeed, it was very peaceful, soothing, and calming. Chris opted for the energy work massage which combined various techniques to relax the body from within. My massage was a mélange of shiatsu and water-swishing performed in a warm pool, where my masseuse stretched my body in varying directions, floating me all around the water. I felt like I was suspended in air, in the middle of a dream, the smell of lavender filling my chest.

The hot springs were comprised of different meditative pools -- the cold pool was a freezing 50F, the warm pool was 80F, and the hot was 112F, all filled with the mineral-rich spring waters of the surrounding mountains. In fact, all the waters (tap, drinking, etc) all come from the nearby springs. There was a lot of literature which stated that their water is purer than Poland Springs!

There was such a serenity within the place, where man and animal really seem to exist harmoniously. At one point, as we were walking back to the car, a young doe walked out of the woods and approached us, paused briefly to say hello and then walked on by. As we continued to walk on the path, we passed a number of wild turkey and quails milling about. We have heard stories of campers at the resort who wake to find a friendly fox at the opening of their tent.

The people at the resort were also very friendly, and everyone seemed to be so at peace with themselves and those around them. They were all so beautiful, not only on the outside but you could really sense their auras/chi as full of beauty too.

The overcast and cool weather was a bit of a downer but all the same we can’t wait to go back!

(Do you get the feeling that by the time we leave California, we'll have turned into hippies...or even New Agers?)

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Napa Valley, or "hmmm, is that a hint of grape I'm tasting in this wine? How quaint!"

Domaine Chandon
We thought it would be fun to explore some of the vineyards near our new home so we drove up to Napa for the weekend recently. Our first stop was the Domaine Chandon winery in Yountville, CA. Foodies take note: America’s top-rated restaurant, The French Laundry, is just a few blocks from the vineyard. At Chandon, we joined a tour, participated in a private tasting, and dined at Etoile, Chandon’s lovely restaurant (which locals say they prefer over "that French dry-cleaning place”).

Some neat facts about the vineyard:
* This is Moet & Chandon's American counterpart
* The winery released its first vintage in 1976 – the year we were born!
* When the winery was built, the architects took special care to preserve the natural landscape and managed to build into the location, cutting down only 3 trees in the process.
* They only grow three types of grapes - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier – but are able to combine them to create a wealth of flavors.
* They practice sustainable farming.

Of the Wines we Tasted, our Favorites Include:
*Chandon Brut Classic - it was like biting into a green apple
*Domaine Chandon Chardonnay, Carneros - it had a vanilla/butterscotch aftertaste
*Chandon Reserve Brut - nutty, mushroomy, and cheesy

The tasting was fun but after about a dozen glasses, we were all so sick of trying to come up with new descriptions for each new wine. For the tasting, the docent pours a couple sips of wine into your glass, asks you to hold it up to the light, swirl the wine, smell it, describe the scent, taste it, describe the taste and texture. Wash, rinse, repeat. Fun for the first few glasses - not so much thereafter.

Etoile Restaurant:
For those interested in fine-dining, we highly suggest eating at Etoile. The fava bean ravioli is excellent and the striped bass on foie gras risotto is one of the best fish dishes I've ever tasted.

The Proper Way to Open a Bottle of Champagne (or Sparkling Wine):
1: Make sure the sparkly is cold, best served at around 45F
2: Loosen the wire cage but do not remove it entirely
3: Drape a towel over the top of the wire cage & bottle
4: Slant the bottle to a 45 degree angle
5: With one hand, hold towel end tightly; with the other hand, get a good grip of the bottom part of the bottle.
6: Slowly turn the bottle from the bottom while keeping the cork side still until you hear a gentle hissing sound – you should not hear a loud pop.
7: Voila – you’ve properly opened a bottle of champagne/sparkly

Other Napa Valley Trip Highlights:
Our tour guide recommended we also try the tour at the Miner Family Vineyards so we toured that vineyard (a smaller locally-owned vineyard) thereafter. We found the wines at Miner to be a mixed bag but eventually we found one we really liked - the 2005 Rosato, Mendocino.

On Sunday, we hiked through the redwood trees in the Bothe-Napa valley State Park. It was absolutely beautiful and the redwoods were truly ginormous. In typical Pearl fashion, I managed to navigate us off the trail and got us lost for about an hour, uphill no less. On the bright side we got to see more of the park, or so, that’s what I kept telling my companions!

It was a fun-packed weekend (aren’t they all?) and we can’t wait to do it again soon!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

9/11 Meditations through the sounds of Kronos Quartet

Chris and I saw our first classical performance at the Herbst Theater on 9/11, entitled "Awakening: A Musical Meditation on the Fifth Anniversary of 9/11" written, arranged and performed by the Kronos Quartet. Consisting of 2 violinists, a viola player and a cellist, Kronos have been performing for over 30 years, expanding the range and context of a string quartet. Their work has been featured commercially (in films like Requiem for a Dream, 21 Grams, Heat) as well as the antithesis (one of their first works was Black Angels, a highly unorthodox, Vietnam War-inspired work that featured water glasses, spoken passages, and electronic effects). Over the years, they've worked with hundred of artists & composers ranging from Philip Glass, Wu Man, Thelonious Monk, David Bowie and so forth.

For Monday's performance, the Kronos Quartet played pieces originating from 14 different countries like Turkey, Iran, India (to name a few) by 9 varying composers like Terry Riley, Gustavo Santaolalla, Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky. At times, it was one of the most powerful musical performances we've experienced and we've decided to share his-n-her thoughts on the evening:

Her: The music left me speechless: images of war, violence, sadness and death ran through my mind for most of the evening. I saw children attempting to escape the bombs that were dropping from the sky; I saw the innocent murdered; I saw bloodshed and the devil-incarnate himself. I was amazed by how powerful the music was to conjure up such traumatic images in my head. It was frightening and impressive all at once. It made me realize how much death and destruction fills every second of every day, and how far removed I am from such sorrow. The music filled me with shame, ashamed of the superficiality with which I (and most Americans) surround myself when there are so many suffering around the world. Despite all this pain, Kronos Quartet ended the performance with visual images* of peace and harmony which left me with hope -- perhaps someday we will be surrounded with less violence and left with more love.

Him: Let me preface this by saying that on the day of the performance I was laid up in bed with a fever, the chills and a severe cold; much of my energy during the performance was expended just trying not to cough, sniffle, sneeze or otherwise shatter the "fourth wall" for those around me. Pearl has gone on record saying how powerful and moving the performance was but in my sickly state the weight and emotion of concert was lost on me. I found the "story" very difficult to follow as I was unknowingly fading in and out of consciousness throughout the evening. That being said there were some very beautiful moments and some very unpleasant moments, some very thrilling music and some very bland music.

Here are the thoughts that bounced around in my head during the performance:

Story-based live performances are like operas in a foreign language. Even if you do not understand the language there are other ways the musicians can communicate the story.

War may be chaotic and atonal but good music is not. War is not easily captured using music, but Kronos did an excellent job capturing peace in the second half of the show with a combination of music, lighting and visual projections. They attempted something similar in the first half of the evening but the chosen visuals were not as effective. During the first half of the performance, there was too much reliance on the music to carry the story and it was largely - to my ears - unpleasant music, accompanied by hammers and power tools. Holding a belt sander against a metal plate makes for some fantastic sparks but also makes a terrible racket.

I felt the strongest parts of the show came when the quartet mixed other medias into their music (lighting changes, video projections). I especially liked the use of the prerecorded samples. This could be the start of an interesting new direction in string quartets. In a few years we’ll see the first crossover performers – the Hip Hop String Quartet. My money’s on Mos Def.

*There were no visual images of bloodshed that accompanied the earlier part of the night -- I saw all of that only in my mind

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Peaceful Saturday Afternoon…

Deeming ourselves “festival” people, Chris and I stopped by the POWER TO THE PEACEFUL festival out at Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park yesterday afternoon. Started in 1999 in support of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, the festival shows support for all prisoners on death row, and after the attacks of 9/11, now serves as a day of remembrance for lives lost in the tragedy as well as a call to end war around the world. Through music, dance, and art, P2tP reminds us that “the path to a less violent world starts from within.” Michael Franti of Spearhead sums it up nicely: "We can't change the world over night, but we can be a drop in the river that moves a mountain."

It was a wonderful way to spend the day. We skipped the morning yoga (they had free yoga classes from 9-11AM) but made it for the free outdoor concert, headlined by Spearhead. We also heard New Monsoon & Blackalicious, as well as speakers Rabbi Michael Lerner & 2004 presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. Although it was a cold, wet day, we stayed in the park for a few hours, sampling the raw food selection the festival offered (it is a good day when you can go to a festival and get raw pizza and raw sushi) as well as the solar-powered organic snow-cones (honest!). There were also many people in costumes so we enjoyed people-watching while dancing to the music (people-watching in San Francisco is generally interesting). Most of all, we enjoyed watching the little hippie children running around with huge smiles on their faces, saying hello to everyone they passed.

All in all, a peaceful Saturday afternoon…

Monday, September 04, 2006

It’s a hippie day for Chris & Pearl

A friend of mine took me hippie-dancing in Central Park once, and I found it such a liberating experience, a wonderful release, so full of positive energy that I couldn’t wait to go again. When I heard about the weekly Drum Circle gathering (30+ year-old circle) in Golden Gate Park, I immediately put it on our SF-To-Do-List.

On Sunday, Chris and I decided to spend the day at Haight-Ashbury as we hadn’t been back since our first visit in 1998:

First stop: Amoeba Records. A number of people had told me recently that it was their favorite record store in the world, and after seeing it, I can understand why. For music aficionados, it *is* the store to be, simply because their selection is so comprehensive. I was especially impressed when checking out the Jazz section: not only do they have a huge CD section for each musician, the CDs are broken down by specific record labels.

Second stop: Thrift-store shopping. Every other store on Haight St is some form of a second-hand store. Fantastic deals are yours if the timing is right; last week, I bought a nifty coat for 12 bucks (though I must admit that the dry-cleaning costs were a whopping $9). One of my favorites on Haight & Cole, La Rosa Vintage, sells vintage wear from ‘20s flapper dresses to ‘50s circle skirts to ‘70s pimp suits. They also carry hats, shoes, ties, and scarves to complete each vintage look.

Third stop: Lunch. Chris and I lunched at Crepes Café on Cole – excellent sandwiches and crepes for a good price. A funny aside: we passed a church that had a large poster hanging above the entrance that read LIVE PRO WRESTLING EVERY SATURDAY. Yeah I know, only in Haight-Ashbury.

Fourth stop: Drum circle in Golden Gate Park. Chris decided that he’d had enough “hippie” for the day so he went home. I hadn’t had my fill yet so I picked up my hippie friend to go hippie dancing in Hippie Hill (whoa – there’s a lot of hippie going on there!)

Because it was a cold, gray day, the drum circle was much smaller than I anticipated. In fact, when Will and I first got there, there were only 5 drummers present with no one dancing in the circle. We watched the hula-hoopers hooping to the beat of the drums for a bit and discussed Buddhism (it seemed fitting!). After about half an hour, I convinced Will to get his drums and play with the circle. And upon our return from his apartment, we happily discovered that the circle of drummers grew to about 15 people. Still no dancers so I decided to start the dancing myself! I must have danced on my own for a good 45 minutes – so free! so liberating! so positive! I was completely lost in my own world – before I pulled in some random people to join me in the dancing. We stayed for about two hours, enjoying the beat and the energy. In the process, I made a number of friends whom I promised to see again next Sunday!

Wow – maybe I *am* turning into a hippie; I seem to be in the right city for the change after all. My deadhead brother would be proud!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Salsa a la farmer's market

Our first f-m dish, all ingredients from our local farmer's market...

Gorgeous isn't it? Tastes hella* spicy too!

Ingredients:
2 lg tomatoes, chopped (in this recipe, I used yellow & purple)
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 shallots, minced
2 yellow cajun peppers, minced
1/2 lime, juice
2 T coriander, minced
salt & pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl & serve (hella* easy!)

*hella: Originated from the streets of San Francisco in the Hunters Point neighborhood. It is commonly used in place of "really" or "very" when describing something.

The Fillmore is hella better than the Mission.
Thank God LA is hella far away.

Alternatively, hella can alert other prestigious NorCalers that they are dealing with a higher species much like themselves.

NorCaler: "That was Hella cool!"
SoCaler: "Huh? Wha? Hella? That sounds dumb."
NorCaler: "No sir. You sir are Hella dumb. Good day."
SoCaler: "Oh yah. You're...dumbererer. Keanu rules!!"

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=hella

Farmer's Market every Saturday morning

One of the greatest perks about living right by The Embarcadero is the fact that we are walking distance from one of the coolest farmer's market in the nation, the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market. A California certified farmer's market operated by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), the market is open four days a week, offering produce and flowers from small regional farmers and ranchers, most of whom are certified organic.

Today (Saturday) was our first chance to check it out, and boy did we love it! The fresh aroma of lavander filled the air, along with the wonderful smells of basil, berries, and lovely flowers. It felt so alive and so very green!

This morning, we bought ingredients for fresh gazpacho, salsa, and an organic breakfast of eggs (the tastiest eggs I've ever tried from a farm that lets their cocks (hormones raging and all, organic hormones that is!) chase after the hens, making for bigger appetites which lead to more food intake, thus leading to tastier yolks!*) and habanero & green chile smoked chicken & turkey sausage (yummy!).

We plan on going every Saturday, so for our lovely visitors, make sure your visit includes a Saturday (to experience the market & better yet, the meal prepared by yours truly from the fresh meats & produce)!

* Another great thing about farmer's markets is that you get to talk directly to the farmers and learn about the food you are about to eat!

http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/farmers_market.php

Sake It To Me!!!



This past Thursday, Chris and I went to a sake tasting, THE JOY OF SAKE, the largest sake tasting event outside of Japan with over 250 different sakes to taste. Because "good food and fine sake are made to be enjoyed together," the sake tasting also included a food tasting provided by 16 San Francisco restaurants (like Betelnut, Hog Island Oyster, Hana, Memphis Minnie's, Kiku of Toyko, Kirala, Ozumo, Roy's, Sakae Sushi Bar & Grill, Sanraku, Sushi Ran) . That said, the Irish-Italian spent most of his time drinking while the Filipino spent most of her time gorging on food. How stereotypical!

Overall, we had a fine night out. The tasting was a bit overwhelming (who are we kidding? It was a whole lot overwhelming!): 250 was just too many sakes for us sake-newbies. We went to a sake tasting in Manhattan (at my favorite Japanese restaurant SAKAGURA) earlier this year that offered 60 different types and more guidance from the people who worked there, and we enjoyed that experience more, as we learned about each of the sakes we tasted. Nevertheless, thursday night proved to be a fun night for people-watching...it was an odd mix of aging hippies and beautiful Amerasian women in really fun, colorful outfits.

Have we told you we liked San Francisco much?

http://www.joyofsake.com/index.html

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"CA to cap greenhouse gas emissions"

By SAMANTHA YOUNG, Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO - California would become the first state to impose a limit on all greenhouse gas emissions, including those from industrial plants, under a landmark deal reached Wednesday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative Democrats.

The agreement marks a clear break with the Bush administration and puts California on a path to reducing its emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by an estimated 25 percent by 2020.

The bill still needs lawmakers' approval, but that appears likely, given that Democrats control the Legislature.

It gives Schwarzenegger a key environmental victory as he seeks re-election this fall.

"We can now move forward with developing a market-based system that makes California a world leader in the effort to reduce carbon emissions," the governor said in a statement.

The bill would require the state's major industries — such as utility plants, oil and gas refineries, and cement kilns — to reduce their emissions of the pollutants widely believed to contribute to global warming.

The key mechanism driving the reductions would be a market program allowing businesses to buy, sell and trade emission credits with other companies.

The agreement came after weeks of difficult negotiations and was announced by the governor's office and Steve Maviglio, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, a Los Angeles Democrat.

The bill was praised by environmentalists as a step toward fighting global climate change but criticized by some business leaders, who say it would increase their costs and force them to scale back their California operations.

Republicans in the Legislature say climate change should be addressed at the national level, not on a state-by-state basis.

"Adopting costly and unattainable regulations will drive businesses and jobs out of California into other states and even into other countries with no commitment to improve air quality," said Assembly Republican leader George Plescia, a LaJolla Republican.

Schwarzenegger and the Legislature's Democratic leadership have embraced a cap on vehicle and industry emissions as a way to make California a trendsetter in fighting global warming.

The nation's most populous state is the world's 12th-largest emitter of greenhouse gases and could suffer dire consequences if global temperatures increase only a few degrees. Reports by state agencies indicate that a 2- to 3-degree rise in temperature could melt the Sierra Nevada snowpack earlier each year, leading to flooding in the Central Valley and threatening the state's long-term water supply for cities and farms.

Schwarzenegger has tried to position himself as a leader on the issue. Last year, he issued an executive order calling for the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2010, 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

He organized a team that recommended a statewide cap and last month signed an accord with British Prime Minister

Tony Blair in which California and Britain will work together to research cleaner-burning fuels and technologies.

During the negotiations over the California cap, Schwarzenegger sought to appease his supporters in the business community by arguing for safeguards for the industries that would be most affected.

Administration officials have spent weeks seeking assurances that any legislation would require a market program similar to those in the
European Union' name. The idea would allow businesses to buy, sell or trade emission credits with other companies instead of making their own reductions if those cuts were considered too costly or technology difficult.
Such a program could help industries that may not be able to meet their targets through energy efficiency practices or the use of alternative fuels.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060830/ap_on_re_us/global_warming

YAY to California! (and yay to San Francisco too, just because SF is cool)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Earthquake Insurance?!?

Today, as we were opening our mail, we got an offer for EARTHQUAKE INSURANCE. Chris and I had to laugh and wanted to share this with you. Only in San Francisco!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Our San Francisco Calendar of Events

We're busy people these next few months. Check out our calendar & come join the fun!

SEPTEMBER

Rockridge Street Fair -- Date TBA, Berkeley
Food from Market Hall, live music, dancing, free yoga classes, clowns, fashion shows and street performers. Bay Area food authors sign books and offer sample recipes and ingredients.
Information: www.rockridgedistrict.com

Sausalito Art Festival -- Sep 1-4
More than 20,000 original works of art, music, and food. At the
Bay Model Visitor Center and Marinship Park.
Information: www.sausalitoartfestival.org

Discover the World with Lonely Planet: A Celebration of National Passport Month

Saturday, September 2, 2006, 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM

PIER 39 invites Bay Area residents and visitors to Discover the World with Lonely Planet: A Celebration of National Passport Month on Saturday, September 2 from noon – 4:00 PM. Lonely Planet, an international travel media company, will offer attendees free passport photos from 1:00 – 3:00 PM and the first 100 visitors will receive a copy of The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World. Additionally, PIER 39 guests will have the chance to meet Lonely Planet travel authors and win a two-night Hawaiian vacation, courtesy of Shell Vacations. For East Bay commuters, expanded Alameda/Oakland ferry services on Blue & Gold Fleet during Labor Day weekend will provide hourly departures. Discover the World with Lonely Planet: A Celebration of National Passport Month is proudly sponsored by Lonely Planet, Chase Paymentech, Shell Vacations and The Examiner.

Information: http://www.pier39.com/Events/events.htm

Art & Soul Festival -- Sep 2-4, Oakland
This free multi-block party in the heart of
Oakland's revived downtown district celebrates the city's rich cultural and artistic diversity and features a line-up of noted national and local musicians, authors, filmmakers, artists and dancers.
Information: www.artandsouloakland.com

San Francisco Fringe Festival -- Sep 6-17
A revolving collection of non-juried, uncensored absurdist and experimental theater pieces at the Exit Theatre and other downtown stages.
Information: www.sffringe.org

Seventh Annual Power to the Peaceful Festival -- Sep 9, SF
Free festival and concert in
Golden Gate Park.
Information: www.powertothepeaceful.org

Opera in the Park -- Sep 10, SF
SF Opera's annual free outdoor concert features arias and operatic excerpts by current artists of San Francisco Opera accompanied by the acclaimed San Francisco Opera Orchestra. In Sharon Meadow,
Golden Gate Park.
Information: www.sfopera.com

Kronos Quartet - Sep 11; 8:00pm
One of the best-known chamber ensembles, the Kronos Quartet, will perform the West Coast premiere of
Michael Gordon's The Sad Park. The program also features work by Iraqi, Afghan, Sardinian, and Saudi Arabian
composers. The
Sad Park features recordings of children's reactions to the 9/11 tragedy, and it forms the
centerpiece for a program that explores the commonalities and differences between music of the
US and
the
Middle East.
Information:
www.performances.org

How Berkeley Can You Be? -- Sep 17, Berkeley
Parade, outdoor stages with live music and dance, food and drink booths, crafts, non-profits, and children's activities.
Information: www.howberkeleycanyoube.com

San Francisco Symphony in the Gardens -- Sep 22, SF
The world famous San Francisco Symphony, under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas, returns to the Gardens for their annual performance of audience favorites. Free.
Information: www.ybgf.org

Download Festival -- Sep 30

The British invasion expands as the premier UK music and technology festival and the biggest event on the UK rock calendar, Download, celebrates its fourth year in 2006 with expansion in the US including Shoreline Amphitheatre, San Francisco on September 30th.

http://www.downloadfestival.com/2006/main.html

Bay Area Paddlefest -- Sep 30-Oct 1, San Mateo
The Paddlefest brings together many of Northern California's reigning experts in canoeing, sea kayaking, paddle racing and kayak touring, as well as teachers of special activities such as angling or birdwatching from these versatile watercraft. PaddleFest participants will be able to take workshops and classes, check out new models of demo boats of all types, and even engage in a sea kayak race with divisions for beginners or experts.
Information: www.bayareapaddlefest.com

OCTOBER

In the Street Festival -- Date TBA, SF
Featuring performers, artists and musicians including dance (belly, butoh, lindy, and hip hop), capoeira, visual arts, circus performance, women's skateboarding, burlesque, puppetry, fire arts, fire sculpture, spoken word, and aerial performance art. The festival is 100% non-commercial: the admission is free, and the festival is vendorless. On the 500 block of
Ellis Street, between Hyde and Leavenworth.

Information: luggagestoregallery.org

Castro Street Fair -- Oct 1, SF
San Francisco's famous gay neighborhood gets dressed up to celebrate its heritage with this street fair featuring arts and crafts, music, dancing, and food. Castro and Market Streets, San Francisco.
Information: www.castrostreetfair.org

Emmylou Harris - Wednesday, October 4, 7:30

Mountain Winery

14831 Pierce Road

Saratoga, CA 95070

408.741.2822

http://www.livenation.com/event/getEvent/eventId/218121/

SF Open Studios Private Preview Gala - Thursday, October 5, 2006 (6:00 PM - 9:30 PM)

SomArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan
Art patrons, collectors, and artists gather at a special Private Preview Gala benefit
Thursday, October 5th, 2006 to kick-off the 31st Annual San Francisco Open Studios. This artful evening offers collectors and enthusiasts an exclusive first look at original works of art by over 380 local artists, accompanied by live music, creative cocktails, eclectic treats, a live auction and artist demonstration.

Information: http://www.artspan.org/privatepreview06.php

Spice of Life Festival -- Oct 8, Berkeley
This festival in
Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto features food exhibits and demonstrations by merchants, chefs and restaurants, as well as live jazz, blues, gospel and bluegrass music, original arts and crafts booths, an organic farmers' market and pumpkin patch, a petting zoo, puppet shows, pony rides, a health and wellness pavilion and book readings and signings.
Information: www.northshattuckassociation.org or www.sresproductions.com/events.html

Oktoberfest By The Bay -- Oct 12-15, SF
A four-day celebration of German heritage and beer, with a Bavarian band and traditional food.
Information: www.oktoberfestbythebay.com

3-D Film Festival, Oct 13-19

Information: http://www.thecastrotheatre.com/

Hands on Bay Area Day -- Oct 14
Volunteer at one of over 75 service projects, everything from painting schools to preparing meals for the homeless, benefiting people in need of all ages and backgrounds. Registration for the event is free, but Hands On Bay Area Day is a serve-a-thon. Like a walk-a-thon, volunteers contact friends, family and co-workers to donate in support of their community service.
Information: www.handsonbayarea.org

San Francisco Jazz Festival -- Oct 20-Nov 12
Two weeks of jazz concerts in venues throughout
San Francisco and the Bay Area. Features dozens of events, including commissions of new works by contemporary artists, unique "Jazz on Film" presentations, family matinee concerts, dance performances, and photography exhibits.
Information: www.sfjazz.org

Bridge School Benefit -- Oct 21-22, Mountain View

The annual (except for 1987) Bridge School Benefit concert has been a highlight of the Bay Area's fall music schedule. And it provides a major source of funding for the Bridge School, to boot! A great combination of good entertainment and a good cause.

Information: http://www.bridgeschool.org/events.html

Exotic Erotic Ball -- Oct 27-28, Daly City
The world's largest indoor masquerade ball, featuring scantily-clad and outrageously attired revelers. 21 years and over only. At the
San Francisco Cow Palace.
Information: (415) 404-4111 or www.exoticeroticball.com

Halloween In The Castro -- Oct 31, SF
It's world-renowned, and it's an "only in
San Francisco" version of Halloween. An estimated 20,000 celebrants flock to the Castro for one of the world's largest costume parties. No drinking in the street, and no objects that could be considered weapons, such as pirate's swords, daggers, or any other costume props that could be used as weapons. Starts at 7pm. On Market Street between Castro and Church. A suggested $3 donation is collected at entry points.
Information: www.marchoflight.org

David Sedaris - Tuesday, October 31

Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium

307 Church St.

Santa Cruz, CA 95060

http://www.livenation.com/event/getEvent/eventId/227985/

NOVEMBER

Film Arts Festival of Independent Cinema -- Dates TBA, SF
Screenings of features, documentaries and short films by local artists.
Information: www.filmarts.org or (415) 552-3456

Voxtrot – Nov 4, 9 pm

With one foot in the library and the other on the dancefloor, Voxtrot combine classic 60's pop (think Love and Left Banke) with the heady, subversive sounds of 80's Britain and still come out ahead of their time. Originally conceived as an outlet for vocalist Ramesh Srivastava to record a handful of songs he had written, it soon became apparent that Voxtrot was meant to be more than a home recording project.

With Sound Team at Great American Music Hall

Information: http://www.voxtrot.net/page1.htm

San Francisco Green Festival – Nov 10-12

At the Green Festivals, we're celebrating what's working in our communities, for people, for businesses and for the environment. Here, green means safe, healthy communities and strong, local economies. Green is the color of hope, of social and economic justice, of ecological balance.

Join us for these huge parties with a purpose. You'll enjoy more than 200 visionary speakers and 400 green businesses in each city, great how-to workshops, green films, yoga and movement classes, green careers sessions, organic beer and wine, delicious organic cuisine and live music.

Information: http://www.greenfestivals.org/content/view/7/29/

San Francisco International Automobile Show -- Nov 18-26, SF
Vintage, state-of-the-art and futuristic vehicles from around the world. Auto-related demonstrations, exhibits and activities for children.
Information: www.sfautoshow.com


My nephew was just baptised!





It's been a while since I last posted, mostly because I was in New York for three weeks visiting my family. My brother, Pablo, his wife, Karen, and 5-month baby, Neil, were in town for 24 days visiting from Lyon, France. The whole Chaozon clan had a wonderful time spoiling the baby rotten!

Here are some pictures of Neil Mansell. Yes, he looks ginormous but I kid you not, this "baby" is only 5-months old, though he is bigger than my cousin's one-year. Maybe he'll be a basketball player when he grows up, just like Yao Ming...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Whoa - was that the ground shaking?


Last night, as Christopher was relaxing after work, sitting in front of the computer, he felt his first ever earthquake! Even though it was a pretty big one with a magnitude of 4.72 (42 miles north of San Francisco), he wasn't at all scared. The ground felt like a waterbed for about 6 or 7 seconds, and then, there was a brief aftershock after a pause. Thereafter, everything was back to normal. Though 6 seconds don't sound like a lot of time, try stumbling about while counting to 6.


Check out his first quake on the usgs links below:
http://quake.usgs.gov/recenteqs/latest.htm
http://quake.wr.usgs.gov/recenteqs/Quakes/nc40187964.htm

Saturday, July 29, 2006

We love San Francisco, Part 2

(you should probably expect posts entitled "We love San Francisco, Part 3...Part 4...Part 5...")

More cool things about the best city we've lived in (we've only been here for 2 weeks but so far, we are really LOVING it...can you tell?)

1. You can see fantastic views of fireworks from our apartment. Since we live right across the Giants ballpark, whenever they win, we can watch the celebration of fireworks from our living room. The Giants don't necessarily win all that many games ;p but we actually have a fantastic view of the fireworks from Oakland's stadium too. We caught a gorgeous display on Thursday eve from our bedroom -- check out our spryder website for photos (see the previous post for a link).

2. We walked on The Embarcadero today (Saturday) -- absolutely lovely views of the Bay bridge. Plus, we found places where one could rent bikes (they even have two-seaters for when Ryder comes to visit), rent kayaks (I'll be racing Pia or Steve when they visit), and sail boats (perhaps Christopher can learn how to sail). The Embarcadero is a great place to go for runs, as well as enjoy city-walking without having to trudge into the Tenderloin area. Though, the Tenderloin is growing on me...

3. The Alcatraz-challenge. I have this crazy notion that I will be swimming from Alcatraz to the Presidio one of these days. How awesome would it be to say "I survived Alcatraz" (and the sharks, and the currents, and the fog).

4. When we watch MONK, we now know the areas that they are talking about. On last week's episode, they were in the Tenderloin (again, the Tenderloin!), and Christopher and I looked at each other and said, "hey we saw a baby crocodile there the other day."

5. And of course, nothing beats the weather here. Every day it's blue skies, warm weather, cool breeze and plenty of sunshine. How can anybody ever be in a bad mood with such beautiful weather.

Sigh, we just adore San Francisco!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Finally - pictures of our place!


Actually, I couldn't figure out how to post the pics on this blog (I'm a bit technically-challenged) so I got Chris to post pictures of our new home on the website that Steve created for us when we were touring the world in 02-03.

Click on http://spryder.casebook.org/pearl/ to get a glimpse of our San Francisco apartment. Better yet, come here and see it in person!

Monday, July 24, 2006

We love San Francisco!!

This weekend was the first weekend we’ve had to really explore San Fran proper, and boy do we love this city! It really suits us (Northern California in general), and apart from the occasional grimace on Christopher’s face when work gets stressful, we’ve been all smiles since we moved into our lovely apartment.

On Friday night, I had a chance to check out the local scene in the Mission District (unfortunately, Christopher got stuck at work). While I was somewhat afraid to step into the area (I heard about recurring shootings on 24th street), I didn’t find it at all threatening. In fact, I liked the vibe. I’m sure we’ll be hanging out there quite a bit as it’s the city’s hip spot for folks our age.

On Saturday, we woke up to his-n-her home-serviced shiatsu massages. The masseuse was referred to us by my aunt, and she came to our apartment with massage table in hand! She was fantastic (and cheap), and we can’t wait to have her over again.

We then spent the rest of our day walking around the city. Due to the under-developed mass-transit system which compels people to drive, nobody in this city walks. When we were out here in May, we would ask people how long it would take to get from point A to point B. The immediate answer everyone gave was “30 minutes.” Sometimes, we’d arrive in 5 minutes, while other times, we would walk a full hour, check the map and find we were only half way to our destination. Guess not many people walk so they could never give us a proper estimation.

We left our apartment and headed to the Civic Center Plaza where we had plans to watch our very first concert in the Bay area. Along the way we saw lots of ‘colorful’ Tenderloin folks, including a lady who was trying to get her baby crocodile to go for his morning pee…in the middle of the sidewalk! Though we had our camera and it would have made for a great photo, we were more concerned with getting away as quickly as possible.

The Civic Center is home to the opera, symphony and most of SF’s major theater. The plaza looks more like the Royal Palace in Madrid than an appropriate location for HARRY AND THE POTTERS (the opening band was DRACO & THE MALFOYS) :-). I think we were the oldest people in the crowd, even older than the parents with kids! But it was a whole lot of fun, silly really with a number of fans dressed as their favorite Harry Potter character. And it was such a beautiful day to be out in the sun. One of our favorite songs of the afternoon was “SAVE GINNY WEASLEY FROM THE BASILISK.”

On Sunday, Christopher had to stay home and put in a 9-hour work day (I know, sigh!). I went and got dim-sum with my aunt & cousin. I think I’ll have to agree that San Francisco has even better food than New York -- I can’t wait to try sushi at Japantown next.

We’re posting pics of our new apartment, the view, and for the Harry Potter fans, some photos of the concert from Saturday. Isn’t our new place just lovely?