Virtual cities

August 22nd, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

The new videogame Half-Life 2 has by far the most realistic simulation of a city that’s ever been created. It would be great if city planners could take advantage of this technology. Imagine, for example, if San Francisco hired a game company to create an ultra-realistic digital version of its downtown. The city could produce simulations of how its plans would change neighborhoods, making the plans more intelligible to residents; meanwhile, the game company could earn millions on its hit new title, Lombard Street Funny Cars, or whatever.

The problems, of course, are myriad. Models would take time to produce and go out of date before they were finished, and it would cost a fortune to keep them current. (This problem could be mitigated by drawing from GIS data, such as the locations of fire hydrants and street trees, to build and update models.) Advances in technology would make even the most advanced models look antiquated in five years. Also, small cities couldn’t afford this technology—a model of, say, Des Moines wouldn’t make any money for game companies, and Des Moines wouldn’t be able to pay the entire cost of the model by itself.

But it would all be worth it if someone made a real game called Lombard Street Funny Cars. I would totally play that.

Bling bling

August 19th, 2004 § Three comments § permalink

Now that I’m an Oaktown resident, I feel a certain responsibility to bling up my bicycle. I can’t decide, though, whether to start with spinner wheels or neon lights. (Don’t miss the video of the wheels!)


August 16th, 2004 § Four comments § permalink

If you’re looking to get snockered, but you’re on a budget, I highly recommend the Anchor Brewing tour. For the low, low price of nothing at all, not only do you get to see how they make Anchor Steam, you also get some very generous samples of each of their six beers. Perhaps too generous. Three pints of beer is rather a lot to consume in 45 minutes, especially at 2:00 in the afternoon.

Not very professional

August 10th, 2004 § Two comments § permalink

This paragraph, from an article about Koko the gorilla’s recent dental work, made me giggle:

Doctors gathered in Koko’s “apartment” and crowded around the gorilla, who asked a woman wearing red to come closer. The woman politely offered Koko a business card, which the gorilla ate.


August 10th, 2004 § Two comments § permalink

The move went as well as could possibly be expected. I still need more furniture, particularly a dining table and chairs, so that guests will have somewhere to sit.

I have an Internet connection again, plus a few hundred emails to read. Ah, Nigerian spam, how I have missed you. Yes, Mr. Allan K. Daramy, I would like to help you get your $66.5 million into the US. Thanks for asking!


July 31st, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

I won’t have Internet access at my new apartment until Thursday at the earliest, so if you send me email next week, don’t expect a prompt reply. Call my cell if it’s important or if you’re inviting me to do something fun (which is definitely not to say that having fun is unimportant).

Lest I be accused of insufficient thoroughness

July 31st, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

Wow, I’m not doing very well at keeping everyone up to date on my latest exploits. To make it up to you, I’ll suffocate you with details about the past week or so, in reverse chronological order by day and in a dashing tuxedo by night.

Today I had lunch with a couple of friends and debated whether one of them should get cable. The potential acquirer of cable said that she wants to become more familiar with popular culture. I argued that most popular culture is a brain-deadening waste of time, and besides, doesn’t she already have an active social life and more than enough work to keep her busy? We didn’t reach a consensus. Later, I accompanied my housemate Elanor to Target, where I bought stuff for my new apartment, and to Whole Foods. She drove to both places and didn’t crash the car even once. I also ate a honeydew nectarine, which is a strange and interesting fruit—green like honeydew, but with a flavor that hints more at green beans than melons. Presumably something called a “nectabean” wouldn’t sell very well, though.

On Thursday, I met with one of the good folks at the San Francisco Planning Department to discuss the professional report I’ll be writing to complete my masters. I’ll spare you the details; those of you who are the least bit interested will probably hear way too much about it once I start working on it.

Wednesday was another planning happy hour, this one at Amnesia in San Francisco. The bar is a combination of hip, shabby, and cozy, which works better than it sounds. Lots of great beers, including Delirium Tremens on tap, which I haven’t seen before. Intense conversations were had.

On Tuesday, I had lunch with a friend and soon-to-be almost-next-door neighbor. We sat on the new grassy patch behind Wurster Hall and talked about the joys and travails of moving. I must have done some other stuff that day, too, but I’ve forgotten what.

Monday was box-acquiring day. Elanor and I raided some of Cal’s cardboard dumpsters and found some excellent moving boxes. We also discovered thousands of punch cards, many of which were older than I am, that had been tossed in the recycling bin. I can’t even imagine how many hours of work they represented. Some bundles of cards had stickers on the front indicating whether they’d been processed successfully and how much the computer time had cost (55 cents, in 1977 dollars, on one bundle I saw). I wanted to take some of them and use them as scratch paper, but they all had too many holes.

I helped paint the planning students’ lounge on Sunday morning, along with three other students. The job went surprisingly smoothly. Two of my fellow painters brought pastries from La Farine, making me giddy with delight. Or perhaps that was just the paint fumes.

My brother and I went to a furniture store in San Francisco on Saturday morning, then visited the Target in Colma. Yep, two Target trips in one week. I’ve been mooching off of other people’s dishes and cookware for a long time, and I needed a lot of stuff in order to live on my own. (I still need furniture, curtains, and some other odds and ends, but never mind that.) Anyhow, we also got Indian pizza, an intriguing novelty, at a restaurant on Mission.

I don’t know what I did on Friday, so we’ll skip that.

Thursday was my 26th birthday. Hooray! I had lunch with some friends, and my housemates, Elanor and Suzanne, made baked Alaska in honor of the occasion (that being the birthday, not the lunch with friends), which is pretty damned cool if you ask me.

In between all that other stuff, I talked to people on the phone, ran errands, and packed sporadically. There’s still a lot of packing to be done, and I move on Monday morning. Packing is one of those things I detest so much that I absolutely can’t do it until the last possible second, once it’s become urgent. But I am very much looking forward to my new apartment, and I hope to be more or less settled in by the end of the week.

It’s been a week of lasts—the last time I’ll return to this house from the gym, the last dinner I’ll eat with my housemates before I leave, the last free load of laundry I’ll do for a while. I can’t wait for next week and a whole bunch of firsts.

Hand crank not included

July 29th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

A Victrola turned into an iPod amplifier. I don’t know that I would kill for this, but I would certainly consider maiming.


July 26th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

Do you suppose that Jonathan Safran Foer refers to his clothes as “Safran threads”?

Man about town

July 20th, 2004 § Two comments § permalink

My housemate Elanor and I biked to Emeryville yesterday on the Bay Trail. Somehow, in more than a year of bicycling, I’d managed to avoid the trail almost entirely. That’s a shame, because it really is spectacular. (It would be even better if I-80 didn’t run next to it, but never mind that.) We saw panoramic views of the bay, got blown around a bit by salty winds, and passed groups of men fishing from rocky shores and spits. Then we went to Ikea and made obeisance to the great gods of particleboard and birch veneer.

Later that evening, I went to the Albatross with both of my housemates, plus my housemate Suzanne’s boyfriend. That bar grows on me more every time I go–it’s hard to quibble with a place that has a relaxed atmosphere, a wide range of unusual beers, games for its customers to play, and all-you-can-eat popcorn for just twenty-five cents. I had my first sidecar ever, taking advantage of the Albatross’ policy of not using junky liquor for mixed drinks. Elanor introduced me to the glories of Berliner Kindl Weisse with raspberry cassis. She also helped me realize that playing Connect Four defensively is usually the best strategy.

After stopping for gelato at Gelateria Naia, we dropped Elanor off at home and moved on to Schmidt’s Tobacco Trading Co. and Pub on Solano Avenue. Schmidt’s is in an old house, and the seating area is essentially a big living room, with a bar and tobacco sales counter where the kitchen might once have been. It’s exceptionally quiet and well-lit–the tables have individual lamps. There’s also an assortment of large, cushy, beat-up armchairs encircling low-slung coffee tables. I’ve been looking for a place where one can both do some serious studying and have a decent pint, and I think I may have found it.

Today has been less exciting but still perfectly good. I dropped my bike off at the shop so that what little was left of my brake pads could be replaced. To get home, I took Channing, my usual bicycle route; on foot, the trip feels weirdly elongated. I had more time than usual to admire the pruning of Berkeley High’s plane trees. Their branches point more or less upwards, then curve out gracefully at the tips, like a fountain of water turned into wood and leaves.

Okay, time to get some work done. (Research work, that is. I am still trying to pretend that I don’t have to pack up my stuff in order to move.)

Where am I?

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