Growing by the Bay

Month: January 2008

Viola “Etain”


Cold and rainy as it’s been, January and February are the best time to prepare Bay Area gardens for spring and summer bloom. With its yellow flowers edged in purple, I think “Etain” is one of the prettiest violas, and it does really well in our area. Highly recommended. You can get it from Annie’s Annuals.

San Francisco home prices heat map

san francisco housing prices by neighborhood

Thinking of buying a house or two in San Francisco? The Trulia real estate prices heat map might be just the thing to help you narrow your search.

Shown are price averages as of January 23, 2008. As you can see, if you refuse to pay less than a million dollars you will have to scratch off several city neighborhoods.

For the most part, the city’s wealth resides at the top of its hills.

San Francisco Chronicle endorses Obama

Here is what the Chronicle says about their choice:

The American political system needs a period of reprieve and renewal.

It needs a reprieve from a White House that draws power from fear, sneers at any science that gets in the way of corporate or theocratic missions and stubbornly adheres to policies that leave the nation sinking in debt and mired in war. It craves a reprieve from the politics of bloodsport that prize clever calculation over courage, winning over principle, party label over national interest.

The renewal must come from a president who can lead by inspiration, who can set partisanship aside to define and achieve common goals, who can persuade a new generation of Americans that there is something noble and something important about public service.

There is no doubt about the Democrat with the vision and skills to bring that period of reprieve and renewal. It is Sen. Barack Obama.

As is often the case in a heavily contested primary, the relatively modest policy differences among the candidates have become magnified and inflamed beyond all due perspective. For example, Obama, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. John Edwards have pledged to expand health coverage, albeit with somewhat different approaches. Obama’s is certainly the most cautious, though perhaps the most realistic, considering that any overhaul of the health care system would require buy-in from at least some Republicans and myriad business interests that would be affected by such landmark federal regulation.

All three have vowed to phase out the U.S. military presence in Iraq. Obama, however, stands alone in his opposition to the invasion at the outset. Clinton and Edwards each voted to give President Bush the authorization to use military force against Saddam Hussein. Edwards acknowledges his mistake, Clinton parses the meaning of the resolution. It was Obama’s instincts that proved sound.

Clinton, who arrived in the U.S. Senate four years before Obama, has tried to make experience the issue. As senator, she has proved skillful at representing diverse New York interests and working with Republicans. But if she wants to highlight her White House experience as a defining difference, then it’s only fair to point out that two of the projects she was most deeply involved with produced a debacle (health care) and scandals (fund raising). Especially in recent days, her campaign has shown the sharp elbows that evoke the ugly underside of the Clinton years, and the (Karl Rove inspired) Bush years that succeeded them: the reflex to scorch the Earth, to do what is necessary to vanquish political adversaries … all is justified if you are left standing at the end.

America deserves better than these cycles of vengeance and retribution. Its possibilities are too great, its challenges too daunting, for partisan pettiness.

In a Jan. 17 meeting with our editorial board, Obama demonstrated an impressive command of a wide variety of issues. He listened intently to the questions. He responded with substance. He did not control a format without a stopwatch on answers or constraints on follow-up questions, yet he flourished in it.

He radiated the sense of possibility that has attracted the votes of independents and tapped into the idealism of young people during this campaign. He exuded the aura of a 46-year-old leader who could once again persuade the best and the brightest to forestall or pause their grand professional goals to serve in his administration.

Of all the candidates who talk about change, Barack Obama has made the case most forcefully and most convincingly. He gets our endorsement for the Democratic nomination.

French Laundry, Yountville

How to get French Laundry reservations

If you have several hundred dollars that are eating a hole in your pocket — slowly — and you want to make a reservation to eat at the French Laundry in Yountville a couple of months down the road, here’s what you have to do.

french laundry website

  1. Be a party of four. Other sizes have to rely on phone reservation. The odds of getting a table for two within a couple of months by calling the restaurant are probably less than the odds of John Edwards becoming president.
  2. Exactly two months before you want to eat, a little before midnight, fire up the OpenTable French Laundry reservation page
  3. Enter your information and the time 7:15. Every midnight two reservations, one at 5:30 and one at 9:00, open up on OpenTable two months down the road. The 7:15 time puts you in the running for both.
  4. Get your credit card ready to go.
  5. Have some way of knowing exactly what time it is — for example, open up the official U.S. time clock in another browser window.
  6. Finally (quoting from insider, the source of these instructions) “When the clock hits 11:59:56, click the red search button on OpenTable. If you get a page that offers a time, you’ve gotten in. Last night, my husband and I were using separate computers, but followed this method. He got the 5:30pm time, and I got the 9pm.”

The FL consistently scores at the top of Bay Area restaurants.

I hope it’s worth it.

Friday Roundup

Notes from a week of travel in virtual NoCal.

San Francisco Ballet: pornography?

san francisco ballet

This year the San Francisco Ballet, celebrating its 75th year, will premiere ten ballets by ten choreographers, including Julia Adam, Val Caniparoli, Jorma Elo, Margaret Jenkins, James Kudelka, Mark Morris, Yuri Possokhov, Paul Taylor, Stanton Welch and Christopher Wheeldon. I was interesting in learning more. But when I looked on Google for the ballet’s website, this is what I found (exactly as I found it, nothing manipulated, except for the addition of the red arrow):

google says san francisco ballet is pornography

In the interest of research, I clicked on the editorializing link, and I was taken here:

stumbleupon's opinion of sf ballet

So what has happened here is a few (presumably) members of StumbleUpon tagged the San Francisco Ballet’s website as a porn site — perhaps they are uptight types who object to images like the one at the top of this post, harmless as it is. (Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith in Wheeldon’s After The Rain, © Erik Tomasson, from the ballet’s website.) And, on the basis of that, Google dutifully passes along the porn tag with its site links. This seems to me a dangerous practice. For example, it would be easy for a dirty trickster to tar an opposing candidate’s site in this way. I wonder if the inclusion of the tag would lock the site down on computers with certain parental controls in place.

With the objectionable images of all kinds that are thrown at us every day, it is discouraging to see a beautiful site like the SF Ballet’s marred with this kind of tag. Again, to be clear, the tag comes from StumbleUpon, not Google — I think you might need to be running the StumbleUpon toolbar in order to see it. But whether it is Google or StumbleUpon that is responsible, is it really appropriate to pass on such tags with search results?



This blog was hacked into, briefly, yesterday morning; little harm was done.

It’s important to plug vulnerabilities, which can exist in themes or plugins, older versions of WordPress, or improper configurations. My mistake may have been in being careless about updating my application and plugins.

Another possible vulnerability was the Democracy plugin. It enables you to host polls via WordPress. But because it in effect gives users a degree of writing permission it opens a little gate that might be exploited. It’s cool, but I never used it much, and I’ve deactivated Democracy on all my blogs. If I need to run a poll I’ll just host it offsite, like B in the D. I also followed Matt Cutt’s advice and created a blank index file for the plugins directory so as not to leak information about the plugins that are active.

Here are some helpful links:

I might not have this absolutely clamped down yet, but it’s certainly tighter than it was.

Gardener’s summit in San Francisco

This weekend (Jan. 26-27), a gardening symposium will be held at the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum in Golden Gate Park. The main focus is sustainable gardening. There a good lineup of speakers, but, regrettably, the symposium is rather expensive at $134 for day one and $125 for day two (slightly less for members). You do get lunch.

I really must update Tom’s Garden. It’s time to be looking at seed catalogues.

Friday Roundup

Notes from a week of travel in virtual NoCal.

San Francisco skyline from Bay Bridge

san francisco skyline from bay bridge

Here’s a view of the San Francisco skyline that I took from a car crossing the bridge a while back. I’m posting it because, unlike the Golden Gate Bridge, there is no pedestrian walkway on the Bay Bridge, and since stopping is prohibited one rarely sees this angle on the city in photographs.

Library main branch remodel

The main branch of the San Francisco public library unveiled its new remodel today. Somehow they have created a great deal more space, so that the entire fiction collection is now on the shelves.

fiction stacks, san francisco library main brnch

The audio-visual center has moved from the fourth floor to the ground floor. It looks pretty spiffy.

audio-visual center, san francisco library main branch

I like the automated checkout machines, which have been operating for some time now.

automated checkout machinese, san francisco library main branch

I’m not so sure about the automated return. It’s said to automatically sort books by intended destination, which must be a help, but it has no safeguard to prevent people from returning empty CD cases without the CD inside.

book returns, sf library

I like libraries.

get a library card for the san francisco public library

Lee Friedlander retrospective at SFMOMA

 photography by lee friedlander

From February 23 through May 18, SFMOMA will presents an exhibition of photographic works by Lee Friedlander (the show was organized by organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York). B in the D, when photography was getting a little full of itself, Friedlander infused it with irony and energy. His B/W photos often have remarkable immediacy, and they are always cunningly framed. The SFMOMA show will present some 500 of his photographs.

Lee Friedlander, Nude, 1982, Gelatin silver print 8 1/16 x 12 1/16” (20.4 x 30.7 cm). Purchase The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2006 Lee Friedlander

The crookedest big wheel race

I don’t mean the race is fixed. Certainly not! But it’s down Lombard Street, which is renowned, hyperbolically but conventionally, as the crookedest street in the world. Apparently every Easter the big boy and girls come out and challenge the hill on their big wheels. Hills! Thrills! Spills! Well, just have a look …

Friday Roundup

Notes from a week of travel in virtual NoCal.

The Bay Area’s most livable suburbs

el sobrante recommended by forbes magazine

The Bay Area’s most livable suburbs, according to Forbes magazine, are all in the East Bay. They include

  • Vallejo (“Vallejo can be considered a part of San Francisco’s East Bay, but it also acts as the gateway to the wine country of Napa Valley from the larger cities of Oakland and San Francisco.”)
  • Hercules (“Normally, a [home] price over $700,000 wouldn’t be considered affordable, but Hercules is in the Bay Area, where “affordable” is a relative term.”)
  • El Sobrante (“El Sobrante is located north of Richmond and Oakland, just off of Interstate 80, which leads to San Francisco. For a shade under the area’s median price, this four-bedroom, three-bathroom home offers 2,483 square feet of interior space and views of the surrounding mountains.”)

I live in El Sobrante (where are the “surrounding mountains”?), but this strikes me as a very odd list indeed. There are more distinguished and exciting places in the Bay Area than these. But I guess that’s not what Forbes was looking for.

Abstract rhythms

Abstract Rhythms: Paul Klee and Devendra Banhart is the title of an exhibition at SFMOMA that will feature a performance by Banhart. He will perform 8:00 p.m., January 17, in the Phyllis Wattis Theater. The event is sold out, but the museum is selling tickets for a live simulcast of the performance. Banhart will also perform Jan. 19 at Amoeba Records. From the museum’s website:

Music was a consistent source of inspiration for Paul Klee, spanning the arc of his career and informing much of his practice. This exhibition features works by Klee that reveal his affinity for music, as well as new drawings by Devendra Banhart, a musician and visual artist, made in conjunction with his most recent album, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon. Part of an ongoing presentation within Matisse and Beyond, the exhibition highlights the synesthetic relationship present in both artists’ works on paper, drawing on Dr. Carl Djerassi’s gifts and extended loans to SFMOMA of more than 150 works by Klee.

Here is a video of a performance by Banhart.

SF Bay Area Native Test

san francisco bay area native quiz results

I generally resist taking tests at OkCupid, but I figured as the webmaster of Frisco Vista I was obliged to take the SF Bay Area Native Test. It requires you to know some local advertising jingles and the like.

I knew to score well I would have to lie on the questions about Frisco and Los Angeles. San Francisco natives, bless their souls, have a handful of provencial hobbyhorses that they think are cute and cling to dearly. They don’t know the true history of the word frisco, for example, but only Herb Caen’s admonition not to use it. And they think they’re cool when they make fun of L.A., not realizing that it just makes them look small town.

But if you live here for any length of time you learn that this is what being a native is supposed to mean.

Friday Roundup

Notes from a week of travel in virtual NoCal.

A San Francisco webcam

san francisco webcam

Don Strickler has a webcam with a nice view of the bay. It’s located about 900 feet above sea level in Sausalito. The images are captured by a 3-megapixel NetCam XL.

Strickler, now based in Sonoma, also has a wine-related blog.

1938 San Francisco map

1938 san francisco map

By 1938 the essential outlines of the city were filled in and established. Some names have changed — I didn’t know that Fort Point was called Fort Winfield Scott. The location of Funston Park was called Lobos Square. USF was the San Francisco College of Women. There were “bear cages” in the park, as well as “elk and deer corrals.” And so on.

A large (5800 x 4358 px) image of the map is here.

Some rights reserved 2021 Tom’s Garden. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons (attribution, noncommercial, no derivs: 3.0) License (US), although some of the work this blog incorporates may be separately licensed. Text and images by Thomas Christensen unless otherwise noted. For print permissions or other inquiries please request via