January 30th, 2006 § One comment § permalink
I’m chagrined to announce that after eleven years of resisting the idea, I’m now licensed to drive in the state of California. Yes, it’s true. I took my driving test at the Claremont DMV in Oakland this afternoon and passed with flying colors.
And no, I don’t plan to buy a car, now or in the future. I only got the license for my job, which sometimes requires that I travel to far-off cities (and nearby cities with terrible transit service); a borrowed or rented car works fine for that. I haven’t ruled out City CarShare, but since I won’t be eligible to join until I’ve had my license for a couple of years, I have a while to consider that option.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go ride my bike.
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!”
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 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.
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.
September 15th, 2005 § Comments off § permalink
I went to Ikea this morning and purchased new bedding and a potato masher. Help me think of a humorous and/or erotic story that explains this combination. (Extra credit: Invent funny Ikea names for the products I purchased.)
August 18th, 2005 § Five comments § permalink
I should have mentioned sooner that my cooking troubles are behind me, and that I ended them not with a sure thing but a gamble: a rosemary sorbet, the recipe for which I found in The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook. My anemic little Cuisinart ice cream maker (on loan from a friend) even yielded somewhat better textural results than usual, though not nearly good enough to stop me from lusting after a much fancier machine.
Anyhow, the rosemary sorbet is easy to make: Put 2 1/4 cups of water and 1/2 cup sugar in a small saucepan and bring them to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped fresh rosemary and remove from the heat. Steep the mixture until the rosemary flavor is fairly strong, 20 to 40 minutes. (Remember, it will taste less strong after you freeze it; just don’t let it get too piney-tasting.) Strain the mixture and discard the rosemary. Put the liquid in the fridge for a few hours, then run it through the ice cream maker and put it in the freezer until it’s firm.
I suspect this would be lovely with some buttery, bready thing like pound cake. Jack Bishop suggested pairing it with strawberries and pineapple, or with a warm apple tart.
August 11th, 2005 § § permalink
At the time, last week’s failed pickling attempt seemed like a minor setback. It has since grown into a full-blown New Recipe Slump. Yesterday, I attempted to make hummus, but I was doomed from the start by my lack of a food processor. After a great deal of effort spent on breaking up chickpeas with a fork and mashing them with an improvised mortar and pestle, I created a beige substance with decent flavor and a revoltingly chunky texture. This morning’s cooking experiment was a recipe for quick pickled carrots, which turned out to be edible but rather dull.
Now I need to get my confidence back up, so I think I’ll look through my recipe binder tonight and see if I can find a sure thing—perhaps a refreshing summer beverage of some sort. I can still toast bagels and boil pasta without difficulty, so at least I won’t starve.
August 5th, 2005 § Seven comments § permalink
As if to compensate for the recent margarita-swilling escapades, my leisure activities this week have been distressingly wholesome. For example, I bought Kirby cucumbers at the farmers’ market and tried, but failed, to make fresh pickles; alas, my brine proved insufficiently briny. I’ll try again next week, possibly with green beans rather than cucumbers. (This experiment was the first in a new series, in which I will try to stop being lazy about purchasing things at the store that can just as well be made at home. Next up: hummus. And there might be some canning before I’m through. Look out, people.)
Oh, but the virtue doesn’t stop there. I also got a card for the Oakland Public Library; sold a few unneeded possessions on eBay; attended a going-away party for an old friend; and cleared away the piles of paper in my office. What’s going on here? I’m a young, city-dwelling, single male who can pass as a hipster in dim light, and yet I’m sitting at home on a Friday night, updating my weblog and sipping a minerally Sauvignon Blanc with a pronounced note of grapefruit. Shouldn’t I be drinking Jack Daniels and trashing a hotel room somewhere instead?
Well, I suppose that wild abandon has never really been my métier, as evidenced by my use of the word “métier.” For this week, at least, I’ll have to settle for the simpler pleasures of responsible adulthood.
July 31st, 2005 § Four comments § permalink
Okay, okay, so I haven’t been posting enough, or indeed at all, for the past month. I’ll try to do better.
Last night, I joined a couple of friends in the Mission for dinner at an unusual slice joint—each slice is really a miniature pizza, since it’s made fresh for its buyer rather than taken from a whole pizza and reheated. We then attended what may have been the city’s all-time worst short film festival, which shall remain nameless to protect the guilty. Let’s just say that there were two films of a performance artist who described her work as “outspoken-word poetry.” After one particularly excruciating entry, one of my friends turned to me and said, with a poker face, “This is a totally authentic experience.” We left early to cleanse our heads with some of the Latin American Club‘s infamous margaritas, which come in pint glasses and give one a sense of what it would be like to get hit in the head with a tequila-filled baseball bat.
Today I’m having a relaxed morning at home, reading the New York Times and listening to one of my strange neighbors playing quasi-Eastern-mystical banjo music in the building’s courtyard. I need to leave soon, though, so I can go see a movie about adorable penguins, who I trust will keep the outspoken-word poetry to a minimum.