Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ultrasound Oil Paintings

For $85, this artist will make a custom oil painting of your ultrasound photo.

The result has been described as the "creepiest baby shower gift ever" and resembling "a disgruntled goblin creature."

I'm definitely tempted to get one, even though I think our ultrasound photos are pretty creepy without outside help.

Maybe I can just put them in a nice frame.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Getting a Clue

Professor Plumb, located on Folsom Street, is probably my favorite Bay Area business with a "Clue"-themed name.

I'm not sure how much competition it has, though. There appears to have been a hot-dog place in Oakland called Colonel Mustard's, now defunct. And there's a Mr. Green Bubble frozen-yogurt place in Oakland, but I don't think that counts.

Also, if you want to hire Mr. Boddy (the game's perpetual murder victim), he's a lawyer at the San Francisco offices of Morrison & Foerster.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Hamburger vs. the Turtle

This is my second time doing the ultrasound thing, and I still can't tell what I'm looking at most of the time.

When we reached the part where they tell you the sex of your baby, I really had no idea what I was seeing. Fortunately, the technician helped us out: If it's a girl, you look for a hamburger. (The folds of skin look like buns.)

So if it's a boy, you look for a hot dog, right?

No, the technician said. You'll see a turtle.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Girl Power

Kelly is pregnant again — this time with a girl. She's due in mid-January.

We just learned the sex of the baby, and it was a bit of a shock. I guess since I've always been surrounded by boys (I had two brothers; I went to an all-boys school) and generally exude machismo, it seemed impossible that I could actually produce anything female.

Anyway, here's the picture from the ultrasound, which as usual is utterly terrifying. I'm hoping she stays at this level of attractiveness, so I won't have to worry about boys trying to ask her out.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

His Name Is Frank

I like the 7 Mission Restaurant (named thusly because it's on 7th near Mission), but they should aspire to have more than one customer.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Return of Just Wonderin'

(Just Wonderin' is back! For the complete series, click here.)

JUST WONDERIN': There's a guy who likes to stand outside Civic Center station and ask for Muni transfers.

Does he sell them to other people, and for how much? At best, they only last 90 minutes, and the face value is two bucks. I am too intimidated to ask for a copy of his business plan. Is pro-rata depreciation involved?

(Photo courtesy of the cool Urbanrail site.)

JUST WONDERIN': Speaking of local transit, do they have to pay Theodor Geisel's estate a royalty for this ad campaign?

JUST WONDERIN': Why is the season-seven DVD set of "Two and a Half Men" the most popular product in Amazon's men's clothing store?

How would I go about wearing that?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Well, Now They're Just Making Stuff Up

I mentioned my surprise at learning that San Francisco was the third-safest city for kids in America.

Well, now I find a survey that says the city is one of the best places to retire (despite its high costs and lack of people wearing golf pants).

Here's how the study's authors (Kiplinger.com) justified their decision:
Yes, the Bay Area can be an expensive place to live. But retirees willing to bear the high cost of living will find pleasant weather year-round and an eclectic, cosmopolitan atmosphere. Noted for its 200-plus stunning parks and beaches, San Fran also has plenty to offer in the way of art, sports, dining and theater. Nearby Oakland and Fremont offer similar vistas and easy city access at half the cost.

So, Fremont (pictured below) has similar vistas as San Francisco? Wow, okay. That's about as plausible as Milpitas being a great place to be rich and single.

The study listed San Francisco's pros and cons. On the plus side was our "efficient mass transit."

One of the downsides: "a rainy season."

If only we could get rid of that, we'd really be set.

I guess I should be happy that San Francisco scores so well on standardized tests. (If the city were a student, it would be in the Lowell High School chess club.) But it's starting to stretch credulity. What's next? San Francisco is the best city for snowmobile racing? The best city to find a convenient Olive Garden? The best city to meet people who aren't smug about how great their city is?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Greening of Langton Street

Our neighborhood is undergoing a fairly dramatic resurgence right now. Several eateries and cafes have opened this year (Radius, Fondue Cowboy, Pinkie's Bakery, Citizen's Band, Sightglass Coffee), and they seem to be doing good business. The area also got a trendy moniker in May: FolSoMa.

As I discussed before, we restored the Langton Street mural and held our first block party. Now, thanks the Friends of the Urban Forest, we have new trees.

Of course, this all raises the usual concerns that the neighborhood is gentrifying. (Fear not, we also got a reminder that things aren't really moving that fast.)

The trees went in this weekend. Elliot briefly supervised the planting.

Some confused botanists apparently tried to plant beer trees the night before. These had to be removed.

The trees will help soften the part of the street next to the oil-change place — a particularly gritty stretch marked by a chain-link fence.

In they go...

Hooray, what a difference.

You may remember a controversy in the mid-2000s when there was an effort to put more trees in the Tenderloin. The plantings were opposed by neighborhood activists, along with Supervisor Chris Daly, out of fear they would make the area too nice.

So everyone should take solace in this: The new trees made no difference in this fellow sleeping for several hours across the sidewalk today.

Actually, if you study the picture closely you'll see he's getting at least a little shade from the new tree. Everyone wins!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cereal Cafe [Does Not] Open Today

You may remember when I tracked the rise and fall of a cereal restaurant called Cereality. (Back in the mid-2000s, I desperately wanted the concept to come to San Francisco, but the closest it got was Santa Cruz — and that one closed.)

Well, my prayers are finally answered today, when a different cereal restaurant (this one called Schweet Boks) opens in the Sunset district.

According to the Chronicle's Inside Scoop blog, Schweet Boks, is "a concept that has popped up in other cities and is built in the same franchise model as Pinkberry and the like — but with cereal, you see." (There's already a cafe in the Fillmore that serves cereal, but it's more of a frozen-yogurt place.)

I'm excited to try it out, though I'm a little confused by the reaction to it on SFist and other sites. People seem to think this is some new gimmick that's probably not going to last.

Listen people, this is actually an OLD gimmick that's probably not going to last. Get it right.

UPDATE: I guess I should say it was *scheduled* to open today. Does anyone know if it actually opened?

SECOND UPDATE: According to the Schweet Boks Facebook page, the opening has been pushed back. I hope this isn't an early sign of trouble.

I Admire the Sense of Urgency

Friday, August 20, 2010

'Molesto' Reinforces Negative Image

This is a bit of a surprise: San Francisco is the third-safest place for kids, a survey from Men's Health magazine found.

According to the Chronicle's Mommy Files site, the study based their rankings on "accidental death rates for kids ages 5 to 14 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), number of car-seat inspection locations per child (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), sex offenders per capita (state and national registries), percentage of abused children protected from further abuse (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), and the strength of child-restraint laws and bike-helmet laws (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)."

What's less of a surprise? Modesto, often referred to as "Molesto," scored near the bottom. Maybe they're just the victim of a name that's easy to turn into a pun. As someone whose name rhymes with "dick," I sympathize.

Here are the best and worst cities.

The safest cities for kids:
Madison, Wis.
San Francisco
Virginia Beach, Va.
Spokane, Wash.
Jersey City, N.J.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Burlington, Vt.

The least safe cities for kids:
Jacksonville, Fla.
New Orleans
Bakersfield, Calif.
Tulsa, Okla.
Modesto, Calif.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Fresno, Calif.
Oklahoma City
Corpus Christi, Texas

UPDATE: SFist has now weighed in on the topic. They link each city in the safest-city list to some ghastly crime.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Equivalent of a Bigfoot Sighting

The Chronicle ran a story today about something or other (hearing loss in teens, I think) and managed to completely bury the real bombshell: Their photographer found a teenager using Microsoft's Zune.

This might be embarrassing to her if it weren't for the fact that even fewer teens read newspapers.

'Prevent Drowning'

From this warning, I can only deduce that the best way to prevent drowning is to use your laser vision to vaporize the water.

Monday, August 16, 2010

'Convoluted' Mattress Pad

I wanted to like this foam mattress pad, but I found its plot a little hard to follow.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Muni Turnstiles Get High-Tech...and Family-Friendly

Muni is updating the turnstiles in its Metro stations, part of the switch to the new Clipper regional transit pass.

And look, they can accommodate strollers! (Until now, you've had to take a stroller around to the side and go in an emergency gate.)

We've written before about whether Muni is intolerant to kids. (And there was the time we were chided for violating "federal law" by keeping our baby in the stroller while on the subway.) Maybe the new turnstiles are a step in the right direction.

I take Civic Center station to Embarcadero Station every day, and I'm a bit surprised to see Civic Center got upgraded first (since it's less frequented by the city's monied interests). Maybe they figure if the new technology can survive there, it will survive any station in the system.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Do Drink the Water

Normally I'm not a fan of bottled water, since it's bad for the environment (okay, mainly I'm just cheap). Plus, San Francisco offers some of the best tap water in the country...so long as your pipes are clean.

Even so, I admire the fact that Mijita (a restaurant in the Ferry Building) offers Don Tehuacan Mexican bottled water. I like that it challenges people's usual assumptions about Mexican water.

I didn't try it, but I assume Don Tehuacan doesn't give you explosive diarrhea.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Spotted on the Embarcadero

This was pasted to the switchbox of a traffic light.

(And no, I wasn't the one who corrected the grammar.)

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Teddy Bear Frozen in Carbonite

Speaking of bags, this teddy-bear backpack (spotted at SFO) appears to be inspired by Han Solo's suspended animation in "The Empire Strikes Back."

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Got a Brand-New Bag

(Part of an occasional series on baby fashion. Click here for the complete list of posts on the topic.)

Elliot assigns great importance to his mom's purse and his dad's briefcase. He knows that packing up these bags is part of the ritual that adults carry out before leaving the house. So when Elliot wants to go to the playground, he will find Kelly's handbag or my briefcase and drag it across the floor toward the door.

When I try to leave the house without my briefcase, he gets upset and points to it frantically. It's hard to explain that I don't need it on the weekends. (He also might be disappointed to learn that my bag is mainly used to carry Snickers and crossword puzzles, rather than important documents.)

Despite Elliot's bag obsession, it never occurred to me to let him have one of his own. Thankfully, his aunt and uncle were kind enough to give him a backpack last week when we were on vacation. It's a Babar-themed bag that's the perfect size for him.

When Elliot received his bag, he was thrilled. It was clear to him that he had arrived as an important person. You would think he had just been inducted into the Illuminati.

He immediately put it on, bid everyone "bye-bye" and marched around the yard.

The next day, some of our family members decided to go hiking. When Elliot saw them preparing to leave, he jumped up and ran to get his backpack so that he could come too.

They left without him.

He just stood there with his backpack all ready, crestfallen. It was a sad sight.

Sorry, buddy. Having your own bag only gets you so far in life.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Awash in Luxury

Elliot loves his baths (if he were Iraqi he probably would have been a member of the Bathist party).

While on vacation, he got to take baths in a giant tub with lots of toys (pictured below). This compares with the cramped, mildewy tub in our apartment.

That made it hard to come home. The last day we were there, Elliot tried to take a morning bath (even after taking one the night before). You should have seen his face when I told him he couldn't take any more baths there.

Elliot has cried many times in his short life, but this is the first time I ever saw him openly weep.

Interesting Juxtaposition

When a judge overturned California's gay-marriage ban today, AOL placed the story next to one about Bristol Palin's engagement getting called off again.

Maybe both these things are good for the institution of marriage?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Texans Seize Justin Herman Plaza

I came back from vacation to discover that Texans had taken over Justin Herman Plaza near my office. (This is probably how the Mexicans felt in 1836.)

Apparently they're doing a tourism campaign called Texas on Tour where the state sets up attractions in other cities. There are Texas-themed photo booths, rides and what appears to be some kind of planetarium.

Vancouver did something similar in April, when they set up a zip line in the same plaza. So far, the zip line appears to be a much bigger hit than the Texas on Tour attractions (at least based on the attendance I saw when I was coming to and from work). The Old 97s will be playing a free concert on Thursday, so that will likely improve the turnout.

Since we're experiencing the coldest summer in 40 years, maybe Texas should take a different tack. A heat-humidity chamber, for instance? That way people could get a taste of what it's like in Houston. (It will be 96 degrees there tomorrow, according to the Weather Channel, versus a high of 58 degrees in S.F.)

What's odd about both the Texas and Vancouver attractions is they only manage to make San Francisco more fun. How does they make you want to go somewhere else?

If they were smart, they would make San Francisco less attractive by busing in belligerent homeless people and douche bags yapping on cell phones.

What a second, is someone already doing this??

Monday, August 02, 2010

Traveling Blues Part 2: The Worst Kind of Laptop

As I mentioned earlier, kids are allowed to fly free in your lap until they're 2 years old — a policy I feel deeply conflicted about. Children that age are just too big to fit comfortably on anyone's lap, and yet they're too young to understand how to be calm and quiet.

It's especially bad when your kid is a bit large. From his towhead to his toes, Elliot is longer than the width of two airplane seats.

We took four cross-country flights this month, and three of them were completely full. That meant Kelly, Elliot and I had to share a three-seat row with a fourth person. I felt especially bad for the passenger who paid to get upgraded to Economy Plus, only to find himself next to us. He probably should have demanded a refund.

Elliot was good at times, and he charmed some of his fellow passengers. But he also thrashed around, wailed, spilled food and drinks, and kicked the seat in front of him. We did our best to control and discipline him, but it's harder when you can't plop him down in his own seat.

We also had to deal with the skepticism of flight attendants. On our trip to Atlanta, one of them looked at Elliot, narrowed her eyes and said, "How old is he?" We assured her that he was under 2 (and in fact, you have to show a birth certificate during check-in). On our latest trip, a flight attendant said, "Oh, is he going in your lap?" When we said yes, she said, "Uh...okay."

Hey, we didn't make this policy, lady!

Elliot let off some steam by walking up and down the center aisle, but this created its own problems. He would break free and run off. At one point, he poked a woman in the bottom. She jerked her head around and looked to see who had done it. When she saw Elliot, she said, "Oh, well thank God it was a little person." (I guess that does beat the alternative.)

Near the end of our last flight, our seatmate remarked that Elliot was well behaved. (This was pretty generous since Elliot had cried and writhed around for much of the trip.) Within minutes, Elliot showed his gratitude by throwing a PB&J sandwich at the man and engaging his parents in a round of slap-fighting.

Fortunately, we have no more flights scheduled...maybe ever.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Traveling Blues Part 1: Escape From SFO

We had a great time in New England last week, but getting there was a nightmare. The trip from SFO to Boston was a 36-hour ordeal involving canceled flights, misdirected luggage and a desperate attempt to get a toddler to sleep on the bare floor of the airport (very hard to do).

Here's how it played out:
Friday night we arrived at SFO to take a redeye to Boston (already a risky proposition when you're traveling with an in-lap baby). As the cab pulled up to the airport, Kelly got an automated call saying the flight was canceled. We got inside and they told us the crew hadn't shown up, so we would have to take a flight the next day. As a bonus, the new flight would require a stopover of several hours in Los Angeles. Kelly tried to get them to put us on another airline, but United said they couldn't do this because she used miles to buy the tickets.

So we took another cab to get home. Elliot seemed a bit confused, since I had played up the idea of us taking a plane trip — only for us to take a round-trip taxi excursion instead. Fortunately, cabs are one of the many vehicles that Elliot gets excited to see (the list also includes helicopters, fire engines and cement trucks, but he never gets to ride in those).

We arrived the next day and were told that the new flight had been delayed four hours — just long enough so that we'd miss our connecting flight in Los Angeles (or at least, that's what the guy working at the United customer-service desk said). So this time, they agreed to put us on an American Airlines flight instead.

Fine. The problem was, this flight was also massively delayed. (It's worth noting that there were no weather issues in either San Francisco or Boston that I could discern.) It wasn't going to leave until 2:15 a.m. There was also the matter of our luggage, which was still checked to go on the United flight. To sort that out, we were told to go to the United gate, which required walking to a different terminal (flights to Los Angeles leave from the international terminal for some reason). When we got there, we found there was no one there. So we went back to American, which told us to go to United customer service.

They told us we had to go to baggage claim and make sure they didn't put our bags on the flight. So we headed out of security and went downstairs to the baggage customer-service person, who said it was already too late to retrieve our luggage — it was bound for Los Angeles. No one seemed too concerned about this, since the bags would get to Boston eventually. But since the flight would be too late to make the connection, the luggage wouldn't reach its final destination until much later. (And we were due to drive to Maine immediately after arriving in Boston.)

Also, isn't this a major security violation? I always thought it was a big no-no to check bags on a flight and then not accompany them yourself. In this case, we checked our bags and then flew a DIFFERENT AIRLINE.

All the while, Elliot is running around with glee — thrilled to be allowed up at this late hour. That made it a bit challenging to impart our dissatisfaction to the airline's personnel. It's hard to tell people they've ruined your family's vacation when a member of your party is behind you delightedly shrieking.

Anyway, we then talked to a different person at United who said that actually our bags would catch their connecting flight. That meant that we could make the flight too. Unfortunately, we'd missed it by about 15 minutes. Ugh.

So we were back to having to wait until after 2 a.m. We pretty quickly exploited all of the attractions of SFO. Did you know there's a "Kid Spot" with educational activities — most of which are in some state of disrepair. Elliot enjoyed playing in these large plastic tubes, which I think are supposed to teach children about wind currents or arteries or something.

An older child (whose parents had clearly lost their will to live) was launching himself off the top of the tubes and nearly collided with Elliot several times.

On the bright side, did you know that SFO has a Thiebaud in its art collection?

We had to force Elliot to go to sleep. We tried laying him down on the benches and then on the floor, but he would immediately hop to his feet and start running around again. Finally we had to strap him into his stroller. He was still restless and barely got any sleep.

When we did finally board, the saving grace of the flight was it wasn't full. That meant Elliot got his own seat, and he basically konked out immediately. And when we got to Boston, our bags were waiting for us (no one from TSA had destroyed them for being suspiciously abandoned). It's kind of sad when that's the highlight of the trip.