This Morning’s City Safari

Here’s a scene from this morning’s walk through Pacific Heights to our girl’s summer camp.  Ahh, I love a lovely morning walk in the San Francisco fog at the top of the city.  My daughter is a budding cinematographer, and when we encountered this wildlife, I was glad she had insisted on bringing the Flip video camera.

“It’s not a rat,” I say authoritatively, although I really have no idea.  My daughter thinks it’s cute and is disappointed that I ignore her when she insists the rat likes her.  Sorry honey.  But what IS this?


Save Our Schools: March 4 Day of Action

Under a bright blue sky, I joined my daughter and her elementary school, Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, in a walkout today to protest the planned massive and catastrophic budget cuts to an already fairly impoverished city school district. Over the next few days we expect many of the people who work at her school to receive pink slips. District-wide, over 900 people expect to be notified that they will be laid off.

People are marching around the country today to bring attention to the crisis in educational funding of all kinds — but in our community, the kids said it best.

We rallied in the schoolyard before we marched through the neighborhood. I spoke to some of the teachers and staff, who expressed not so much a (very real) fear for their own jobs as much as pride, admiration, and support for the kids. “It’s not about the adults; it’s about the kids that are going to be affected in the long run… We’re losing good teachers… which means we’re losing our children, the future,” said Coach Glenn Castro.

Save our Schools - Love, Lucy

Save our Schools – Love, Lucy

The kids had all made signs — my girl’s said “Save our schools; love, lucy.”  Others demanded to “Prioritize education” or begged “Please don’t take our teachers away.”Principal Christina Velasco banged the drum to the chorus of “Save our Schools” as we marched up Castro street, blocking traffic and getting a lot of cheers from the community. At Castro and Market Ms. Velasco led the group into a passionate sit-in:

“Today as you sit you’re sitting for your education — for your future. We need to let everyone know that it’s not ok that they’re cutting money and those cuts affect you.”

Some kids got up during the sit-in to address the crowd — and I can attest that there’s no passion quite like the passion of our community’s children. Andre said “Our teachers are our future and I don’t want to lose ANY of them!” People in the crowd were in tears as another student got up to talk about how he didn’t want to lose his teachers. “I don’t want to end up on the streets like other people,” he said.

These kids truly are our leaders. The truth they speak is pure and strong — and urgent. Are we listening?

Save Our Schools - Love, Your Future

Save Our Schools – Love, Your Future

Starving Our Future — Jamie Oliver at TED

I wish for everyone to help create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.
– Jamie Oliver, TED2010

Wie ihr es immer dreht und wie ihr’s immer schiebt
Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral.
Erst muß es möglich sein auch armen Leuten
Vom großen Brotlaib sich ihr Teil zu schneiden.
– Bertolt Brecht, The Threepenny Opera, 1928

TED prize-winner Jamie Oliver is mad about American obesity, and shared it freely with the audience at TED yesterday:

At one point in this impassioned talk largely about (re-)teaching kids about food, he shows a clip of school children who are totally baffled by these objects — common vegetables — that Oliver has brought into their class.

The problem is there are no food-knowledgeable people in the school system, he says, and he cites that if we really investigated what we fed kids at school, we’d find every government in the world guilty of child abuse.

Amongst his chronicles of the many terrible health affects of our country’s mainstream food, Oliver also offers hope — because this is a curable issue. “If I could come up here today with a cure for AIDS or cancer, you’d be fighting and scrambling to get to me. All this bad news is preventable — very very preventable.”

Real tangible change can be had, he says, from junk to fresh food: “six and a half grand per school — that’s all it takes.”

What is $6500 to the $6K ticket-holders in the TED audience? (With all respect to TED that we can watch the proceedings for free online).

Now — what is $6500 to schools faced immediately with $113 million dollars in cuts? It’s more than a luxury — it’s an impossibility.

And what is a school without well-nourished bodies and the minds they could support? We do nothing less than starve our future by malnourishing our children.

It’s a dizzying rollercoaster ride — from Oliver’s deadly iteration of the current situation to the hope that this is curable — to the tragedy of a rich nation preventing to fulfill this hope, and somehow, back to the hope that this is solvable. “It’s the future; it’s the only way,” says Oliver.


‘nutty’ has arrived!’

Originally uploaded by moyalynne

Oh! TCHO! Just like Blue Bottle Coffee, you are ruining me for all the others; you are killing me quite nicely. I received your shipment of “Nutty” today. At once, all other chocolates lapse from my mind as mere impostors — and that is a tall order.

Let me try to repeat what happened with me when I uncorked “Nutty” today:

  • (tears open unobtrusive brown paper wrapper,) MMM, smells good
  • (places square in mouth,) Smooth texture; calm silky chocolate (at first!)
  • (chews chocolate,) Wow — powerful flavor. Nutty? I don’t taste nutty. I taste — wait a minute! — An onslaught of coffee (is that Blue Bottle?) — strikes my tongue, fills my head, removes all traces of worry or care in the world — In The World!
  • (swallows,) Kazaam — I Must Always Eat This Chocolate
  • (thoughts of peanut butter well up briefly but are overcome by aroma of coffee,) I will have more — but I must wait, briefly, to assimilate this experience —
  • (lingers…,) Ahh, I taste this chocolate for a loooong time after chewing and swallowing. This is a reallllly long finish.
  • (after the finish…,) Nutty — oh, Nutty? Ahh — yes, maybe — minutes later! I Still Taste the Chocolate — is that a Nutty aftertaste? aha. aha… more, please.

more …

The only community that needs to matter

I just read Mike Walsh’s post Community through the eyes of a 2nd grader. I really like his musings about the community at his boy’s school:

They create mini-communities or groups which they call a Grove. A Grove consists on 9 kids, 1 kid from each grade, k through 8. These Groves meet every couple of weeks to mentor, share, help, learn and develop friendships across grades. What a fabulous idea – gathering all stakeholders and discussing how they can create a stronger and more valuable community – I love it!

This interests me for many reasons. Not the least of which, life has made sense to me diffently — or only — now that I have my girl, but I’m also fascinated in general about the nexus between on- and off-line communities.

'Rock climbing' at Crissy FieldI’m passionate about “my” San Francisco community, even though it often feels just as intangible as bits on the Internet, but I’m especially curious about where on- and off-line communities “meet.” Arguably, you could say we have Monica Lewinsky to thank for the powerful growth of online communities in the “offline” world of politics (think Move On). Lately, some clever innovators are monetizing through their online stores but delivering just down the street (Kodak and its picture books). And I’m fascinated about the physical books we still buy, print, read, and most importantly, share — as well as new online gems like the promising Red Room that are also bridging that gap between physical and ethereal communities.

So are physical and online communities really so different?

Some day soon I’ll re-post my blog/rant on “Web 2.0 and my community” – which I wrote internally at my company after walking down Golden Gate Avenue to the Expo last year (and the ensuing Spock Debacle), but for now, I’m happy to just to be reminded of what matters. As Mike says

I learned quite a bit during the 60 minutes that I spent with a bunch of little kids – and enjoyed every minute of it. This is a great reminder of keeping eyes wide open. Turn off the Blackberry and listen to your little kids. It turns out that they’re pretty smart.

Likewise, like Therese Stewart saying “It’s not same-sex marriage: it’s marriage” — it’s not on- or off-line community, it’s just community. I’m thrilled every day in which I get to perceive it through new eyes.

Lit Crawl and the Resurgence of the Mission

I was trying to figure out what about last Saturday’s Lit Crawl particularly warmed my heart, and it hit me this morning like a stream of light through the sun down 280 (which if you think about it, makes it clear I wasn’t actually reading at the Lit Crawl).

As I look forward to attending the Web 2.0 Summit tomorrow through Friday in San Francisco, my community, work, and the different roads and travails in between are again on my mind (not like they’re never not on my mind). Those of us who already lived here in the mid-to-late ’90s of the last millenium remember names like Kozmo, Webvan, Bigstep, and slogans like “because pets can’t drive.” Those of us who lived in the Mission district in San Francisco remember the schizophrenia of the times and the huge influx of people striking for a new gold rush. These people could bring excitement and ideas, but they often left frighteningly quickly and with waste in their wake.

In just one of many similar scenarios, Bigstep took over a huge building down at 22nd and Mission. Artists and teachers were evicted, presumably to the outskirts of civilization, because artists and teachers didn’t earn the mint for living there now. Till recently this exodus hasn’t been a memory, but rather a reality.

I don’t know when or if it started to feel like a memory for most, but on Saturday night, the “death of the Mission” was far from my mind. Oceans of people washed down Valencia, Mission, and Guerrero from one pub (or laundromat) to the next and crammed in and on top of every nook and cranny (or agitator) to hear people reading. Reading! Literature, poetry, fiction, travel writing, rock writing were all alive and well and thriving with absolutely masses of people. Only this morning, looking back, did it make me feel like we’ve finally come out, and back into some kind of goodness again.

The Muni Pill

The Muni Pill

The Muni Pill

As often as possible and minimally two days a week, I work from home in San Francisco. I believe this quite literally saves my life. In spite of my occasional encounters with Muni on these days.

I know it’s a cheap shot to complain about Muni, but I just have to get it out of my system and then I’ll be done. I met a friend down at the ferry plaza for lunch and stepped into one of the longest Muni fiascos I can remember. I say this with some measure of restraint, since I know Muni is capable of killing and as far as I know there’s been none of that today. But “something happened to some computer somewhere” and the railways underground have been reduced to a crawl – if they are even running at all.

Note that the news article recommends taking buses or streetcars: should YOU, dear reader, be blessed with reading this before commute hour this evening, heed NOT the scant information in that article! I say that, and note that I always take streetcars whenever I can – I love the friendly colors of the F Market and I generally prefer being above ground. Today, however, these colors make me ill. Note that on days when there is “something wrong in the tunnel,” anything that rolls and is run by Muni above ground is so packed that you don’t want to approach it. This is where I was for most of an hour returning from lunch just now.

Somewhere around Van Ness on the way down and at the point where the orange car I was on resembled a giant, stuffed sardine can, another driver hopped on (I think… I couldn’t see) and started yelling at everyone: “Get back! Get all the way back!” he yelled, “This is MY car now; get back!” For a brief instant, I imagined that terrorists had taken over the car and were going to hijack it; then I considered that it was Muni and why would anyone want to take over Muni? My windows had bars on them so I couldn’t even contemplate breaking out of the car. A claustrophobe’s nightmare, pretty much.

In the meantime, ambulances and firetrucks are inexplicably careening up and down the tracks, sometimes stopping directly in the path of the train, for occasionally no apparent reason.

But lunch was great and the ferry plaza was as gorgeous as always. Only then I had to get back home.

The way back was less crowded but took me an hour. My green train stopped only at 9th street so that it could double back to pick up other stranded passengers. Instead of waiting for the next one, I walked up Market the rest of the way. I approached my street as three colored F Market trains caught up behind me, struggling up the street like gigantic bitter pills stuck in someone’s esophagus. One orange, one yellow, and one green…

Much better to walk.

And with all that, there’s no question at all in my mind that I’d rather be stuck on Muni (or better, walking home in San Francisco) than stuck on highway 280 or stuck in traffic pretty much anywhere.