On San Francisco Bay

On Tuesday, my last day in San Francisco, Daniell K., the visionary behind the DigitalBicycle, and I took BART up to the Berkeley Marina where we were met by Scott A. and Kari P., community media heavyweights and experienced sailors. The day started off cloudy with threats of rain, but by the time we had gotten through the pre-launch checklist of our -31- +32+ foot Catalina Magic Moves the sun had broken and was shining brightly down upon the bay.

Catalina 320

San Francisco’s cool, cloudy weather and excellent sailing is made possible by the hot, low-pressure sucking of the Central Valley. On this day, a moderate breeze +(15 - 17 knots)+ pulled our vessel out -past the estuary and through strong tides of the shipping channel- +of the Olympic Circle by Berkeley and into the Central Bay+. We -heaved to- +hove-to+ -about a mile upwind of the channel- +in the lee of Angel Island+, ate lunch, and comfortably drifted down towards Southampton Shoal. Once an elegant Victorian house, the pilings now carry a horn, some navigational equipment, a few solar panels and maybe a dozen terns. Lunch finished, we unlocked the wheel -and jibed away, the wind pushing us back toward Berkeley- +and reached back toward Berkeley+.

Kari checks the shrouds

Lunch on San Francisco Bay

Southampton Shoal

Daniell at the helm

Scott relaxes

+(Thanks Scott for the corrections)+

Now that’s a lot of mustard

Staying in the condiment vein…

I am in San Francisco this weekend for Vloggercon, a yearly meetup of the video blogging community. The conference went Saturday and Sunday, but I flew in Thursday afternoon and so had all of Friday free. I decided to spend it hiking in the Presidio.

I’m staying with an old friend just North of Golden Gate Park; I just started walking North and eventually I reached the path that runs just beneath the Presidio golf course. This path I took up past Mountain Lake and out to Baker Beach. Just topping a rise, I saw my first view of the Pacific Ocean in over a year; it’s been a long time.

Baker Beach is beautifully rough and exposed to the Pacific; short and rising dunes slope up to windsept and carpetted evergreens. There were several fisherman out with pole stands and beer coolers in the early afternoon.

Baker Beach

From Baker Beach I hiked up the hills, tracing the 2-lane road rising towards the Golden Gate before dipping away down the trail to old concrete bunkers and gun emplacements. Crossing under the toll plaza, I came out to an emaculately flowered path and prime tourist spot beneath the Golden Gate gift shop. Rental bicycles huffed their way by me as I headed to the lookout for some photo snaps, and then down and around towards Fort Point, the only reinforced masonry fort on the America’s West Coast.

Pacific Coast

Bunker steps and blackberries

Golden Gate Bridge

Me and da bridge...

On my way down, I passed by some Park Rangers and volunteers working in the coastal scrub. I talked with Ranger Michael Chasse of the National Parks Service about the work they were doing in the Presidio.

Michael told me that much of the National Parks Service’s resources at the Presidio go into habitat restoration and invasive species removal. When I met with Michael on the trail, he was in the process of removing an immense pile of wild mustard, which I correctly identified as an invasive. Most invasive species removal takes place around paths and parking lots, where foreign seeds can hitchhike in on visitors cars, shoes’ and clothing. Once established, these species can displace native ones and change the habitat, affecting the survival of other species and the health of the local ecosystem.

Invasive species removal

Habitat restoration is important as Presidio is home to 3 endangered species and 10 threatened ones. San Francisco itself has amazing biodiversity, with over 1000 species living within the city’s seven square miles; that is more species than some states have!

The Parks Service has had much success in restoration since the Presidio was ceded by the military in 1994. Just a few years ago the Western Bluebird returned to Presidio, where it had long been absent. Also, Michael explained that they have been pleasantly surprised by the areas restored in recent years; these areas have proven remarkably resilient to further invasions.

I thanked Michael for talking to me and left him compost as I headed down to Chrissy Beach.

On Chrissy Beach, I discovered some amazing Dune Strawberries. Criss-crossed with runners, these small plants blanketed the high beach and produced bright red berries which, even this early in the season, were refreshingly sweet, though disappointingly small.

Dune Strawberries

Dune Strawberries

Dune Strawberries

From Chrissy Beach I passed the marsh and then hiked across Chrissy Airfield before walking up through the Presidio Complex, following Arguello up a steep grade lined with blackberries, evergreen and oak.

At the top, I crossed through an amazing glen of sloping, ivyed (another invasive) trees, where a dog-walker and former investment banker ran his herd of about 20 dogs. I spent quite some time patting and scratching their fuzzy hides before heading back down into the city.

Leaning mossy trees

Pack o' Dogs

Truck o' dogs

X Salad Sandwich

*Alternate Title:* May I? You Mayo.

I’m not sure if it’s a Lowell thing, a New England thing, or a Ben-is-woefully-ignorant thing, but there has been some major innovation in terms of “salad.”

I put salad in quotes because this is not your leafy green, or even weedy weird, salad with the pine nuts, raisins if you’re lucky, and maybe a little balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to round it out.

No, dear reader, this is the meat meet mayo abomination that, having taken hold in our church socials, is fattening it’s way towards mainstream America. So far I count:

Egg Salad (The classic cholestrol coronator)

Tuna Salad (A little fishy)

Seafood Salad (It’s not tuna salad)

Chicken Salad (Poor bird)

Ham Salad (The even whiter meat)

Only God knows what substance they Mayonaise Advisory Council will think of adding next.

Dean vs. Mayo

_Dean eats his heart out_

Emo lyrics for Jason

I told my long-time friend Jason about my blog–honestly, no one reads this thing, probably for good reason–and he says, “Is it emo? I won’t do anything unless it’s emo.” Yes, he’s a precocious brat, but this is for you Jason.

Sunday comes it’s raaaaining,

My girl’s here, she’s taaaaaking

…her time

I want to fly away

So I won’t have to say…

Give me my voice

It’s making this choice

So hard to take.



Summer can’t sustaaaain me,

The music’s on, the paaaaarty

…will start

I think I’ll walk away

So I won’t have to say…

Give me some noise

It’s taking my joy

Resigned to fate.


Resigned to fate.



Dave Alpert at the Abbey

I was up at the Abbey Lounge last night in Somerville checking out Dave Alpert, a local singer/songwriter. I met him a few weeks ago at a video-blogger meetup in Jamaica Plain.

I ended up recording the performance on my cheap, iPod fool-you-once-knockoff, defunct Japanese company’s mp3 benchwarmer. It’s got a crappy built-in mic I used, and a line-in that probably isn’t worth a decent microphone that I don’t have anyway.

Any audio crappiness is the mic and my poor mastering skills, not Dave or the free, open source multi-track audio editor Audacity that I used to clean and split the tracks.

A couple tracks from the show:

  1. Other Assholes
  2. Rude Awakening
  3. Lovesong for the Wrong Person

The songnames are mostly wrong, just relating to how Dave described the songs. Lastly, the mic was sitting on the bar, so any thumps or clicks are people setting down their glasses. Any guffawing is probably me—at the jokes, not the music.

On the bookshelf

I added a new section to the website—books I’ve read; it’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

My First T-Shirt

I was over at my pal Dean’s place in Jamaica Plain today. In addition to lots of semi-expired foodstuffs he snags from behind the Co-Op next door, he also has the screens and materials for t-shirt printing. Previously I had been helping him up in Lowell filming some promos for his Democracy Player channel, “Telemusicvision”:http://telemusicvision.com; today we were putting stuff on t-shirts.

The design I decided to print was one of the doodles I had done a week or so ago for the DigitalBicycle Project while waiting for Jessica to get done with her homework .

The process basically was:

  1. Clean off a screen, which is a fine mesh in a wooden frame

  2. Mix together the emulsion, which is a bunch of thick green stuff, with a little bit of yellow photo sensitive hardener. Apparently on their own they like to stain, and together they really like to stain.

  3. Scrape this emulsion concoction on the screen very thinly, but enough to fill in the mesh. Let dry a few hours in Dean’s oven—it wasn’t turned on, just a good out of the way place.

  4. Print the design out onto a transparency. It has to be monotone-mesh doesn’t do gradients. I tried to get to those little halftone circles like Lichtenstein, but Adobe Illustrator was having none of it-I had designed the thing in Inkscape, my preferred drawing program and was working off a PNG.

  5. Get the (now) dried emulsion convered screen. It is photosensitive—not sensitive like photographic paper, but just don’t point a spotlight at it.

  6. Lay it down on something black, in our case a t-shirt—this keeps reflections from hitting the underside; place the transparency on top and then we dropped a piece of glass over that, just to keep it flat.

  7. Shine a hundred watt light on it for about 40 minutes.

  8. The light hardens the emulsion. So after it’s been hardened, take the screen in the bath and spray warm water on it, which will wash any emulsion from the screen that was covered by the design—since this was blocked by the light and thus not hard.

  9. Tape off any non-emulsion filled parts that aren’t part of the design

  10. Put on top of t-shirt and now scrape some special black paint over it. Lift off and voila. Our screen wasn’t perfect, so we had to use a q-tip with paint on the end to touch up.

  11. Let the paint dry. This being Massachusetts in March, we put it on top of a space heater for an our

  12. Lastly, you have to iron the design on the shirt, letting the iron heat each part for about 60 seconds. This somehow “proofs” the paint so that it won’t run in the wash.

  13. Rock it.

Making Art with Inkscape

Lately I’ve been spending more time than I should with a great free/open source software illustration program: Inkscape.

Before I get to far into an explanation of the fun and wonder I have with Inkscape let me make a little caveat. I’ve used Adobe Illustrator in the past and never liked it much; I admit though that I never really knew how to use it well.

With Inkscape–it’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux–I am very quickly and easily recreate the simple doodles I make during staff meetings. The tools ar quite simple and with a little bit of practice you’ll be making smooth shapes, clean gradients and surprisingly nice art. Seriously.

Inkscape is a vector drawing program, which means that you are creating basic shapes, and then deforming the shapes themselves mathematically. This is different from raster or bitmap drawing programs like MS Paint, Photoshop or The GIMP, in which you are modifying pixels. What the hell am I talking about? Basically, if you’ve ever tried to enlarge a image in Photoshop and had it turn into a grainy mess, you won’t have this program with drawings made and enlarged in Inkscape.

Another plus of Inkscape is that there are lots of great Public Domain/Creative Common graphics on the internet in Inkscape’s native format: SVG. This is doubly cool because once you get your mind around the idea that these graphics can be scaled and still look great, it’s no trouble at all to make ants eating houses or whatever scale destructing things strike your fancy. All with no blocks or jagged edges in sight.

I included an image I’ve recently done below. The graphic of the videocassette is public domain that I got from openclipart.com.