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A late spring

Spring has come late for us in the Bay Area this year. Ordinarily our spring is around Groundhog’s Day. Now, after an extremely dry January and February, with a lot of frosts (which is also unusual), we’re finally starting to see signs of spring.

I received a new camera, an Olympus E-PL2, a couple of days ago and took of few pictures of the garden yesterday. (The E-PL2 is a micro four thirds mirrorless camera that has a near-DSL-size sensor but a small body.) This was a tough year for the garden, but things always look brighter at springtime.

Last year we bought some new fruit trees (apricots, figs, and limes). The apricots are blossoming:

apricot blossoms - P3080274

As are the plums.

plum blossoms - P3080276

The outdoor jade plants didn’t mind the dry weather.

jade plant - P3080271

Of course there’s no holding back the lemons (the persimmon in front is still thinking things over, however).

lemons - P3080279

And there are some fuschia flowers out.

fuschia flower - P3080281

fuschia flower - P3080282

Good-bye, Bay Bridge

historic photo of construction workers on the san francisco-oakland bay brige


It feels like it’s taken forever, but the new Bay Bridge is finally entering its final months of construction, if reports can believed. To honor the old bridge, the Oakland Museum of California, in collaboration with Caltrans and the Bancroft Library, is compiling an oral history of the span. According to Louise Pubols, a senior curator at the museum (quoted in the SF Chronicle), “The Bay Bridge has that scrappy, underdog, proud, blue-collar identity, a lot like Oakland itself. It’s a workhorse. It gets stuff done.” According to historian Sam Redman (quoted in the same article), “People always talk about the grace and beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge, but it’s the Bay Bridge that changed the way people actually live.”

Emperor Norton had mandated a bridge connecting San Francisco, Yerba Buena Island, and Oakland back in the 1870s, but the bridge was not actually constructed until the 1930s as part of an economic stimulus program. In the early years the lower deck was used for train travel (a kind of proto-BART system). Today it’s part of one of the nation’s most nightmarish commutes, and as the new bridge adds no additional lanes this will not change. Because the Bay Area has an inadequate public transit system, it will be difficult to reduce auto traffic over the congested span. It’s too bad that current stimulus money is being put into a high-speed rail system through the central valley rather than into local urban transit that might actual get some people off the roads.




Image of construction workers on the Bay Bridge via Tumbler images




A volunteer

this volunteer might be a verbascum

This handsome fellow planted himself in one of our walkways. But what is it? My guess is it’s some kind of verbascum.

Pool garden, year four

Here’s a glimpse of the swimming pool that became a garden, now in its fourth year -hard to believe it’s been that many already.

Stripped-down site

I’ve deactivated all plugins on this site, which might make some aspects seem a little odd. I was hit by the Pharma hack, which works through plugins (and infects parts of your databases, but deactivating the plugins cures the symptoms). I’ve had a lot on my plate, and I’m not sure when I’ll have the time to fix this. Eventually I will get back to blogging on a regular basis.

Strange weather

Carol is thinking it might be too early this year to start our tomatoes.

It’s been cold and rainy for many days, and there is no break in sight. Last night there was spectacular thunder and lightning, which is rare in the Bay Area, and even a water spout over the ocean and a small tornado in Santa Rosa. We looked outside last night to see a winter wonderland, even though it should be spring here by the bay.

We’ve lived in the SF Bay Area since the 1970s, and only occasionally have we seen hail blanket the ground like this — and we’ve never seen it linger this way. The ground was cold enough that it didn’t melt for hours.

I know this won’t look like much to folks back east. Hey, I lived in Wisconsin once upon a time. But it’s damned strange for us here. It continues to rain as I write. They say more hail could be on its way tonight or tomorrow. And on it goes …

Muir Woods

I visited Muir Woods yesterday (in the company of a couple of beautiful women) via the main entrance and found it quite crowded — the only parking was a good ways down the road from the auxiliary lot. That’s one of the reasons we normally enter from the Pantoll or Bootjack trails. But the main redwood grove by the entrance really is quite spectacular, and I took a few pictures..

I’ve been taking pictures in Muir Woods for decades, but I feel it’s a difficult subject: it’s both very low (and quite green) light and also — perversely enough from the photographer’s standpoint — high contrast. Probably the best as a general rule would be a low ASA setting, a small aperture, and a very long exposure using a tripod. I didn’t have that luxury however, as I was just shooting with my trusty Canon A630. Still, these low-res samples might capture something of the feel of the day. (Expand to full screen or click through to the Flickr page for better views.)

Let’s log some trees in San Francisco!

urban forest map

It would be a good thing. Urban Forest Map is trying to make a log of all of the trees in San Francisco. The group is made up of government agencies, nonprofits, and private businesses. By mapping the city’s trees they hope to calculate the environmental benefits the trees are providing: “how many gallons of stormwater they are helping to filter, how many pounds of air pollutants they are capturing, how many kilowatt-hours of energy they are conserving, and how many tons of carbon dioxide they are removing from the atmosphere. The information we gather will help urban foresters and city planners to better manage trees in specific areas, track and combat tree pests and diseases, and plan future tree plantings. Climatologists can use it to better understand the effects of urban forests on climates, and students and citizen scientists can use it to learn about the role trees play in the urban ecosystem.”

You can add some trees to the count.

New garden photos

the garden in april 2010

Took advantage of the nice weekend weather and worked in the garden. This year our problem is that everything’s filling all the spaces and getting crowded. We’re going to have to be fairly ruthless.

Took some photos and posted them to flickr. Click the image or follow this link to my flickr garden set.

San Francisco before the earthquake

This seven-minute film taken from the front of a San Francisco streetcar going the length of Market Street toward the Ferry Building is said to have been shot four days before the earthquake and fire of 1906, and to have survived because it was sent by train to New York for processing before the quake. Virtually all of the buildings shown (except the Ferry Building itself) were destroyed in the quake.

The street scene is lively and chaotic, and many details are fascinating.

How to get from SFO to the Oakland Airport

delta airlines offers flights from SFO to OAK

Most people would probably take BART and the Oakland International Airport connector shuttle. (The trip takes about 45 minutes and costs around $10.)

But Delta Airlines offers a new option. Their “Weekly Fare Specials” newsletters alerts travelers to the special fare of $69 from SFO to OAK.

You will go through Salt Lake City, where you will have about an hour layover. Your total time for the trip will be around four hours, not counting the usual air travel issues of security and the like.

Such a deal!


image from Drewski2112’s photostream


Spare the Air

If we are so concerning about sparing the air, why don’t we hold Chevron and the Port of Oakland to a higher standard?

Terror map of San Francisco


I am hereby calling for a criminal investigation of CalTrans and the Bay Bridge repair contractor, C.C. Myers Inc. It’s a miracle the failure of the bridge repair did not kill several people, less than two months after the original repair work.

Blaming yesterday’s moderate breeze — in the 20-30 mph range around the bridge — is unacceptable. The original bridge lasted for 70+ years in all sorts of weather conditions. The bridge has to be functional every day, not just in good weather.

Someone has to have been criminally negligent in this incident.


UPDATE: Go here for an excellent rundown of the problem and its repair.


Governor says “screw SF”

I’m back from vacation, just in time to find that governor Arnold has sent a not very subtle message to the city by the bay, and the California legislature. As reported in the Guardian’s online site, the governor sent the following letter accompanying his veto of a bill sponsored by SF Assemblyman Tom Ammiano that would have strengthened the financing of the Port of San Francisco.

To decipher the governor’s real message, read the first letters of each line of the two main paragraphs.

I long for the day we have a grown-up person in the governor’s office.

Back soon

Frisco Vista is taking some time off. Back soon.

Friday roundup

Travels in virtual NoCal

Photo Wednesday: Muir Woods

Today’s image of shafts of sunlight cutting through tall redwoods along a Muir Woods hiking trail comes from vgm8383’s photostream. This is an HDR (high dynamic range) photo — a technique that combines multiple exposures to give a greater range of tonal detail. It worked pretty well in this instance because Muir Woods is surprisingly dark (test it with a light meter if you don’t believe me), and the light is very green.

San Francisco Presidio in 1887

This image of the presidio in 1887 comes from the public library’s historical photographs collection. Of interest are the small trees (today a large grove or forest) that punctuate the landscape. It is easy from this photo to picture how spare the sandy Pacific reaches of the city once were. The photograph is attributed to the U.S.Army Signal Corps; on the back is written the following:

PRESIDIO OF SAN FRANCISCO, 1887. This photograph was taken facing west and shows the Presidio Boulevard approach to the Post. The trees, planted in 1882 when Major General Irwin McDowell was Commander of the Western Department, today cover the hillsides.

Friday roundup

Travels in virtual NoCal

An obscenity

We’ve all read the stories about the University of California’s budget problems. High adminstrator salaries. Tightening the screws on the grunt laborers who do all the actual work. Furlough days for teachers. Raising student fees. Etc.

Okay, now guess how much just one of the schools in the system is paying to just one athletic coach. The coach in question is Jeff Tedford, who coaches men’s football on the Berkeley campus.

Okay, I won’t make you guess. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Tedford is paid $1,850,000 per year. If I know Cal, and football, he probably gets a bunch of perks on top of that.

If that’s not obscene I don’t know what is.


Image from by Tracy O’s photostream


Treacherous waterways of the Bay Area

Recently we were out canoeing on the Napa-Sonoma Marsh. The tide was very strong, however, and we got a good workout paddling against it. In fact, as we navigated one slough we saw signs that other boaters before us had been overpowered by the tides and succumbed, never to regain civilization. Above a ghostlike figure restlessly haunts a wrecked craft.

Of course, boaters have been washing up stranded and meeting grizzly ends all over the greater Bay Area — the captain of the vessel below, if he surveyed at all, must have been forced to wade out through the muck. Why are our waterways so treacherous?