Be prepared

December 23rd, 2006 § Comments off § permalink

Like most Bay Area residents, I know perfectly well that owning an earthquake kit is absolutely essential. Until today, I have failed almost entirely to act on that knowledge. Not that I didn’t have my reasons for dodging the issue:

  • Every ready-made earthquake kit I have ever seen is an aesthetic disaster. When I see a nasty-looking backpack filled with partially hydrogenated survival goo, my first thought is not that it may offer a reasonable solution to a practical problem but that I must keep it as far away from me as possible.
  • I am far too lazy to assemble my own earthquake kit from scratch.

The recent string of earthquakes on the Hayward Fault, with epicenters a few miles from my apartment, finally convinced me that I was being ridiculous; in an emergency, it is unlikely that I will spend a great deal of time worrying that my earthquake kit is an eyesore. So I visited the Nitro-Pak Preparedness Center‘s website and purchased an “Executive Survival Kit,” having determined that they did not offer a more appropriate “Middle Management Survival Kit.” As far as I can tell, the kit includes nearly everything that two people would need to keep body and soul together for three days.

As long as the next big earthquake doesn’t hit before I receive my Executive Survival Kit, I’ll be ready. Which brings me to the real point of this post: If you’re not prepared for whatever disaster is most likely in your own city, why not throw some money at the problem right now, while you’re thinking about it? Just search Google for “earthquake kit” and you’ll find plenty of options, many of which are less expensive than the one I purchased. (Mine was $150, and truth be told, I probably spent too much; there are plenty of kits that go for closer to $100.) If you’re not sure what to look for, the City of San Francisco and the San Francisco Chronicle can help you out.

Of course, I should really have two earthquake kits, one for home and another for work. I suppose that means I still have an opportunity to find the kit of my dreams. Disaster-preparedness suppliers, take note: If you were to manufacture a Bay Area Metrosexual Earthquake Kit, packaged in a Jack Spade messenger bag and complete with artisanally-made, locally-grown ration bars, I can guarantee that you would sell at least one.

In which I am visited by a counterculture clown

September 19th, 2006 § One comment § permalink

If I hadn’t already known that I work in Berkeley, I would have guessed as much after stepping out of my office this evening and seeing Wavy Gravy driving a Camp Winnarainbow van down Shattuck Avenue.

And yes, he was wearing the makeup.

Shockingly, no lifeguard was on duty

January 4th, 2006 § Comments off § permalink

This was the highlight of my day: A woman was searching for her shopping companion in Berkeley Bowl‘s cavernous produce section. She didn’t see him, so she yelled, “Marco!” Several people immediately replied, “Polo!”

Pimp my density

November 13th, 2005 § Comments off § permalink

I decided to apply a little city planning analysis to my current residence. Here’s what I learned:

I live in a 16-unit apartment complex, with 12 studios and 4 one-bedrooms. There are 10 parking spaces, or 0.63 parking spaces per unit. It’s built on a 9,757 square foot parcel, according to Oakland’s parcel map, for a net density of 71 dwelling units per acre. (For comparison, a typical suburb with detached single-family homes would have about five dwelling units per acre. North Beach, in San Francisco, has about 100 dwelling units per acre.)

The buildings in the complex have two stories and are about thirty feet tall. The buildings’ total footprint on the ground is about 4,610 square feet; since they’re all two stories, its floor-area ratio is 0.94.

In a typical apartment building, 20 percent of the space on each floor is used for shared hallways and the like. Assuming that’s true in my complex, the average unit would be about 460 square feet. My own apartment, which is a studio, is about 400 square feet including the closets.

Based on a quick look at Oakland’s zoning ordinance, my apartment complex conforms to most of the current zoning regulations, even though it’s about 70 years old. That means that it could be rebuilt more or less as-is if it were destroyed (although the owners would need a conditional use permit for a multi-family building, and they would almost certainly change the floor plans to remove some of the buildings’ less-charming eccentricities).


October 23rd, 2005 § Comments off § permalink

A model of San Francisco, made of Jell-O. Would that the city’s actual buildings were so resiliently gelatinous.

Then again, plenty of churches serve cheap wine from a jug

October 19th, 2005 § Comments off § permalink

My sample ballot for California’s upcoming Colossal Waste of Taxpayer Money Special Statewide Election says that my polling place is the “Shattuck Ave Meth Church.” Something tells me they’re about to get their tax-exempt status revoked.

Turning pro

September 23rd, 2005 § Comments off § permalink

The past week has been incredibly hectic, but because of something positive—I’m starting a job next week! I’ve been hired by a consulting firm in Berkeley that does city planning work for various Bay Area cities. My job will focus on urban design, which is a tough field to summarize, but I’ll try: Urban designers focus on making cities attractive and functional for the people who use them. At a small scale, that could mean adding trees and benches to a street or requiring the first floors of buildings to have windows instead of blank walls. At a large scale, that could mean using height regulations to sculpt a city’s skyline or organizing new development around major transportation corridors. Sorry if that sounds nebulous; I’m still working on my elevator story for urban design.

Anyhow, I’ve taken advantage of my last week of unemployment to run as many errands as humanly possible, including the acquisition of what amounts to an entirely new wardrobe (and yes, a great deal of it is black; surprise, surprise). But I’ve had fun as well. On Wednesday, my friend Paula and I went to the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco to see Sean Hayes and Jolie Holland, both of whom were excellent. Last night, a bunch of friends and I went to the Latin American Club to celebrate my new job. And today, my friend Thomas and I took a walking tour of hidden public spaces in downtown San Francisco, about which I’ll post more later.

Now I’m going to spend a few minutes adjusting to the idea that I’m going to be in an actual office all day on Monday. I’ll hold off for now on thinking about Tuesday through Friday, since I don’t want to shock my system.

Mixed messages

September 9th, 2005 § Comments off § permalink

A public service announcement about childhood obesity is posted above a McDonald's billboard.

Taken near my house in scenic Oakland, CA.

Budget organic

August 24th, 2005 § Comments off § permalink

UC Berkeley NewsCenter, the campus’ unusually journalistic publicity site, just published an interview with the owner of Caffe Strada, whose location (across the street from hundreds of architecture students) would guarantee its success even if its espresso drinks weren’t as good and reasonably priced as they are. The owner, Daryl Ross, also runs several cafés and restaurants near campus that are all much better than they need to be, including Adagia, the only restaurant on the south side of campus that might conceivably qualify as fine dining. Ross’ businesses use lots of organic and sustainably-grown ingredients, and apparently he’s planning to open an über-sustainable café in the MLK Student Union next year. Good stuff, sir, and thanks for helping me stay well caffeinated for the past couple of years.

Bay to Breakers

May 17th, 2005 § Nine comments § permalink

I did Bay to Breakers with a bunch of my planning pals last weekend. Are there photos? Yes, there are.

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