Thursday, December 23, 2010

photo journey 1

Yesterday I took a long walk, from Montclair to Kaiser (for some additional x-rays and to get some exercise) and back again. I made a point of walking on various urban paths, especially ones I hadn't been on before.
photo journey 1

Monday, December 20, 2010

food: Champa Garden

Champa Garden

Sunday we decided to skip church and go to the Oakland Museum, starting with a lunch stop some where. Looking at what was near or on the way to the OMCA, I remembered hearing good things about Champa Garden. I'd driven past it often enough (a friend lives a few blocks away), but I'd never tried it. K was excited because we don't eat out that often, and we eat Thai food even less frequently.

Champa Garden is in a nondescript building in a residential neighborhood east of Lake Merritt, at 8th Ave. and 21st St. I probably never would have tried it, but I heard good things about it from friends here in Montclair, and the Yelp reviews and on SF Gate were very favorable.

The food was very good. We started with the fried spring rolls (a number of reviews mentioned those; they were great), and we had a couple of different lunch specials. The one negative a few reviews mentioned was the service, but it was good when we were there. It wasn't as busy as it can be for dinner, but there was a steady stream of people coming and going, including a few getting takeout. We'd definitely go there again.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

fall color, Oakland-style II

fall color

Some more fall color, with an unusual view of Lake Merritt and the Kaiser Convention Center -- from our carport. This obviously was taken a few days ago, before this series of storms moved in to the Bay Area.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

fall color, Oakland-style

fall color

Ispotted this bit of fall color as I was leaving the Habitat for Humanity site in the Woodland neighborhood, near Tassafaronga Rec Center.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

signs: Imperial Barber Shop

Imperial Barber Shop

I'm not likely to make a habit of posting painted signs (though there are some great ones about, like the MJB Coffee sign in Old Oakland that was posted on Oakland Daily Photo and Fritinancy), but this one caught my eye because of the "unnecessary" quotation marks.

There's a whole blog devoted to abuse of quotation marks, fittingly called The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. They produced a book to which I contributed a photo (taken across Lakeshore Ave. not far from this one, oddly enough.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

food: Amba


Tucked away in a small store front on Mountain Blvd. in Montclair is Amba. If you're looking for fancy food in a location oozing with ambiance, this is not the place. But if you're looking for good vegetarian and/or kosher food, check out Amba.

There are all the traditional items like falafel, pita, hummus, etc. But they also have interesting pita sandwiches, a daily "pitza", and an array of yummy salads. If there are two or more of you, try the Mezze Platter, which gives you a sample of most everything and was more than enough food for K and I.

Amba also does catering, and a lot of their business is take-out (we've had take-out from there more than we've eaten in). The restaurant itself is nothing fancy, but clean and nicely decorated, with photos from the Middle East adorning the walls. And if you're looking for a spot to watch sports, they even have a 50" TV. Sadly, the beer selection is currently only Corona (gah!), but hopefully they'll improve on that.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

what a long, strange two weeks it's been...

First, thank you to Oakland Magazine for featuring Our Oakland in the Oakland Online piece in the latest edition! Welcome to any new readers (whether you found the blog through that or not :-) As the title suggests, this post is somewhat long and strange compared with what I usually post here: no signs, no restaurant reviews, no cool maps.

Now, on to an explanation of the paucity of posts of late. It started two weeks ago with a short trip through the stairs of our carport. No broken bones, but plenty of aches and bruises and a renewed appreciation of the power of gravity.

not Oakland

I recovered enough from that in time for a trip for work to near Fellows, CA. Outside of Bakersfield is the town of Taft. Outside of Taft is Fellows. Outside of Fellows are a bunch of oil fields and several power plants. It's a strange-looking bit of California, so it was appropriate I was there over Halloween. Doubly spooky since the entry on Wikipedia says Fellows is where the film version of Shirley Jackon's always creepy short story The Lottery was shot.

Had I been 30 minutes or so to the west, I could have been in the beautiful Carrizo Plain National Monument. Instead, I was inside most of the time working on software at one of the power plants, working long hours to launch a new version of the software.

The long hours lead to a nasty cold, but we got the new version launched, and made it home in time to vote on Tuesday. The results from across the nation were somewhat depressing, but many of the California and local contests have had good results: we don't have Meg Whitman as our governor, nor Carly Fiorina as our senator, and Prop 23 didn't pass. (And even more locally, I'm happy that Libby Schaaf will be our new council member for district 4.) Tammerlin Drummond of the Tribune asks the question I ask almost every election: isn't there a better way for rich candidates to spend their money? The flood of negative ads didn't persuade me to vote for anyone; rather it confirmed my votes against those sending it out.

We didn't know who the next mayor of Oakland would be, though -- due in part to ballots like mine. I requested a mail-in ballot in case I wasn't able to get back in time on Tuesday. Unfortunately, it didn't arrive before I left, so I had to cast a provisional ballot upon my return. The changing results as the IRV ballots are tabulated has been interesting, and it's clear why Don Perata was against IRV since he's gone from 1st to 2nd in the process (and speaking of spending lots of money...) For what it's worth, although I think Don Perata is "ethics challenged", he was my second choice after Rebecca Kaplan. Jean Quan's responsibility for Measure Y, et al, was enough to convince me she's probably not the right person to lead Oakland out of its budget problems.

By Friday, I was mostly over my cold, but we still didn't know who the next mayor would be, but Oakland was now focused on the impending sentencing of Johannes Mehserle for his killing of Oscar Grant. Like many, I was disappointed with the involuntary manslaughter verdict, but was hoping for for a reasonable sentence because of the gun-enhancement charge the jury included. Instead, the judge inexplicably gave a minimum sentence and credit for time served. Not surprisingly, this made many people unhappy. A peaceful rally lead to a march towards Fruitvale BART, which lead to some vandalism, and ended with 152 arrests. Reports differ widely about the nature of the march, but at least the understaffed OPD was better prepared. My question for those involved in the vandalism: if you feel like you have to trash something to make your point, why not go trash the BART offices instead of the property of innocent Oaklanders?

Sunday morning I woke up barely able to swallow and my tongue looking absolutely disgusting. After I nearly passed out, K called the advice nurse at Kaiser. A trip to the doctor and pharmacist later, I had diagnosis of strep throat and a prescription for penicillin.


Since then, the kitties and I have been doing a lot of this. To be fair, that's what they do a lot of even when I'm feeling well, but they enjoyed the company and were probably wondering why I don't join them every day.

So there you have it: the long, strange post of why I haven't updated the blog recently. I'm off to rest a while, and will hopefully be back to normal posting soon.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday + sun = happy cat

happy cat

On my ride home from the dentist this morning, I saw this very happy cat grooming itself in the sun.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

signs: Baggy's by the Lake

Baggy's by the Lake

Around the corner from the Parkway Theater and Woody's Laundromat is Baggy's by the Lake. I took the daytime pictures some time ago, but I've been waiting to post it until I had a chance to get a night shot. That's because during the day, it doesn't look like much. A closer look reveals a nice variation on the requisite drink glass, that even has a bit of color. And a nice-looking front door that bespeaks a bygone era. While the main sign is in good shape, the sign that hangs out for visibility up and down the street is broken.

at night

drink glass with color

awesome front door

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

signs: Wesley Cleaners

Wesley Cleaners

This lovely sign is not far from Lake Merritt, next to Leaning Tower of Pizza. It's a funny little commercial zone surrounded by apartments; if you stick to Lakeshore (which looks great these days -- loving the redone lanes and increased bike-friendliness) you'd never know it was there. Shout out to Only in Oakland for letting me know about it.

Wesley Cleaners

Monday, October 4, 2010

food: Encuentro


Saturday, K and I had reason to be out and about in the evening, so we decided to finally try Encuentro. It's been on our lengthy "restaurants in Oakland to try" list for a while, so I've been looking forward to it for some time.

It features an "eclectic mix of organic/sustainable wines from small, local and old world vintners." and "highlights simple, flavorful, organic and local, vegetarian cuisine in the style of enotecas and tapas bars". Local, organic, vegetarian...what's not to like? In short, we loved it. Some of the dishes are vegetarian (including dairy) and some are vegan, but all are clearly marked which are which on the menu.

We ordered a bottle of California Sangiovese (i.e., Chianti grapes) which was the perfect accompaniment to the various dishes we ordered. We started with some deviled eggs which were excellent, and brought to mind our eventual plans to raise chickens for eggs. We then moved on to the marinated vegetables w/baguette, quinoa with kale, empanadas (we acquired a taste for those years ago in Argentina), and the socca of the day. I think we may have had ordered something else in there, too. It was all excellent.

Feeling full but not totally stuffed, we finished off with some great butterscotch pudding (K's choice, but I had no complaints). That's the only thing the wine wasn't perfect with, but by that point we'd pretty much killed the bottle.

They've got a small space (which must be a bear to heat in cold weather with all that glass), so it can get crowded during popular times. We sat at the bar, which was great for service and for people watching. Not the cheapest meal we've had in Oakland by a long shot, but well worth it. In short, highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Celebrate Fall in Oakland!

There may not be as many fall festivals as summer festivals in Oakland, but there are few coming up. Given how we didn't have much of a summer, and now we're getting even warming than normal for September (which frequently has the warmest weather at the start of the month), it's a happy coincidence that several of them feature beer.

First up is Life is Living on Sunday, October 3rd. It's an arts and eco-justice festival. Although it's held in Defremery Park in West Oakland, it starts with a Red, Bike and Green bike ride from Coliseum BART. Oakland Local has a full write-up on it.

Then on Saturday, October 9th is Oaktoberfest in the Dimond. Last year's was a lot of fun, and hopefully they'll do a better job balancing tickets vs. available beer.

Finally, on Saturday, October 23rd is Brats and Beer at Linden Street Brewery, and is a fundraiser for Oakland: "All proceeds benefit BACS' Thanksgiving holiday food basket distribution, and the Oakland Rotary Community Endowment." Despite the name, they will have vegetarian options for food, too.

Oakland by race & ethnicity

Oakland by race

Ilove maps and I love Oakland, so I was happy when OaklandSeen pointed me to a map of Oakland with 2000 census data by race & ethnicity overlaid. We all know Oakland is diverse, but not equally in all parts.

I took Eric Fischer's Bay Area map from Flickr and overlaid it with the Oakland neighborhoods map to give a better sense of where things are. But even without the overlay, you can pick out some neighborhoods like Chinatown, and geographical areas like Mountain View Cemetery (where there aren't very many living people) and the regional parks.

One surprise to me was how diverse and densely populated the area just north of Lake Merritt is (Adams Point, HarriOak, Grand Lake). Click for the full-size map without the overlay.

For other interesting maps from around the U.S. and around the world, check out Bill Rankin's Radical Cartography site.

Monday, September 27, 2010

stargazing in Oakland

Sunday was another Spare the Air day, so we tried to minimize travel as much as possible. Fortunately, Chabot Space & Science Center is not far from our house, as we'd already made plans to visit there again. This trip was to hear a talk on exoplanets by Dr. Alex Filippenko, an astronomy professor at Cal. You may have seen him quoted in various astronomy articles, or on the PBS science show Nova. We found the talk extremely interesting and well-presented (he's won numerous teaching awards, including 'best professor' at Cal.)

One of the few upsides to the recent weather is that the hills weren't socked in with fog like they've been much of the summer. So after hors d'oeuvres from local favorite Italian Colors and then the talk, we got to enjoy viewing the heavens through the Chabot telescopes as well as various smaller ones belonging to volunteers. Besides a clear view of Jupiter and the Galilean moons, we got to see the Ring Nebula; a globular cluster (i.e., a big cloud of stars); and a couple of binary star pairs.

Then this morning I read about Chabot in a nice Oakland article in New York magazine. Besides Chabot and various other local favorites from the Fox Theater to Bakesale Betty's, it also mentioned local blogs The Oakbook and 38th Notes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

signs: Crown Cleaners / Liquors

Crown Cleaners/Liquors

Not the greatest sign ever, but it's got a crown for ArtSparker! And it's in honor of my recent visit to the Village. (That always sounds ominously like something from The Prisoner, which just shows what a geek I am.) It also has the distinction of being the first sign in Montclair Village to make the Our Oakland signs feature.

Monday, September 20, 2010

if a tree falls...


I'm pretty sure this one made a sound. If no one else, this friendly squirrel doubtless heard it. He or she probably smelled the bag of cat food on the back of my bike, and kept running up to me looking for a handout while I was taking pictures. I had just started riding up the trail behind the village when a woman coming the other way warned my about the tree. So of course I went to have a closer look.


Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve

After getting home and watching some football, K and I walked up to Huckleberry. The weather was overcast, with a chance of rain in the forecast, but nothing too heavy expected. We love the park, regardless of the weather. Under overcast skies, the light is softer and you can see the undergrowth more easily. While I walked, K ran out the trail a couple of times. On the way back, a light drizzle turned into a heavier drizzle.

Sorry for the low quality of the pictures. I only had the cellphone with me, and it doesn't do well in low light situations.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

quiet morning in the village

skateboard ramp

Idropped K off at BART this morning, and I didn't have to be anywhere in particular so I spent some time in Montclair Village.

First to the bank. It feels like every other store front in the Village is now a bank or real estate-related office. It's not actually that bad, but a new bank will be moving in to the space vacated by Blockbuster Video. It was initially opposed by the merchant's association, but they recently voted to rescind their opposition. I'd rather it was something than a bank, but I'll be much happier with a bank than with the empty storefront that's there now.

Then it was over to Peet's for some more coffee beans, saying hello to my barber who was out enjoying the morning sunshine.

While I sipped my cup of coffee, I browsed my favorite (and local) Oakland book store, A Great Good Place for Books. Not that I'm running short of things to read, but they convinced me to purchase a book while I was there.

Finally it was back to car via the park. A skateboard ramp that has graced the park for the last couple of months was getting a paint job. I talked briefly with one of the volunteers who built it, and someone from CCAC (sorry, old habits...CCA) is going to paint a mural on the side.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

signs: Kwik Way

Kwik Way

Closed for the last several years, the Kwik Way may go back to the future and be re-opened as a new restaurant by Somerset Restaurant owner Gary Rizzo. Let's hope so -- while it has an iconic sign, the building is starting to get run down.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Today was an absolutely gorgeous day. And another day I wished I'd had a camera attached to my bike helmet or something, to capture some of the scenes as I rode to work via Fruitvale BART and back: younger siblings coming back with mom after dropping off a child at school; a line of people at a bus stop facing away from the street to shade their cellphones; a group of older men on the balcony of a house or apartment just watching the world go by.

For a little variety I meandered my way back from Fruitvale BART, and rode back past the Central Reservoir and various neighborhoods I hadn't seen before. No new signs as they were primarily residential, but I enjoyed seeing them nonetheless.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

calling Oakland blogs

One feature here on Our Oakland is a blog roll of Oakland blogs (over on the left, below the list of maps), ranging from the journalism school-based Oakland North, to 38th Notes with news on local music, to Marleen Lee's Defending Measure Y, to various Oakland home-improvement blogs, and of course well-known blogs like VSmoothe's A Better Oakland. I found them linked from other Oakland blogs; on Twitter; searching Blogger's rolls (skipping a lot of one-post blogs); and, of course, by luck. Regardless of how I found them, the end result is a rolling update of what people in Oakland are blogging about.

By default, the list shows the 10 most recently updated, but you can view them all by clicking on Show All at the bottom of the list. If you do that, you'll see 95 blogs, some of that have fallen by the wayside, not updated in months or years. I know I haven't found all the active and semi-active Oakland blogs by any stretch, but I'd like to keep expanding the list. What Oakland blogs do you follow?

Monday, August 30, 2010

signs: 7 Seas

7 Seas

Not a great sign by any stretch of the imagination, but notable because it's gone. 7 Seas closed some time back and the sign disappeared with it. If you look closely, you can see a little "7C" on the truncated rhombus at the top,

Sunday, August 22, 2010

signs: Golden Bull

Golden Bull

It's currently home to Awaken Cafe, but not for much longer. They're in the process of moving across Broadway; the move is currently scheduled to be completed at the end of September. Then maybe I'll get to see the rest of the Golden Bull sign. Though it's doubtful it's a great as the requisite drink glass.

Monday, August 16, 2010

showing off Oakland!

Thanks for the ideas on showing off Oakland. After figuring out when we were both available, I arranged to meet my friend D Thursday morning at West Oakland BART as he was coming over from SF.

Brown Sugar Kitchen

The first stop was Brown Sugar Kitchen for breakfast. K and I went there earlier this year and loved it. I considered Mama's Royal Cafe (worth the trip for the napkin art alone) and Mama Buzz Cafe, but settled on BSK as more unique to Oakland and because it was close to West Oakland BART. We both had the cornmeal waffles, which are served with brown sugar butter and apple cider syrup. Maybe not the healthiest breakfast ever, but hecka tasty. We took our time drinking coffee and catching up, as we hadn't seen each other in some years. As we drove around, I told him about the Cypress Structure and the Loma Prieta earthquake, and a bit about the railroads before that.

City Center

We went over to Downtown and walked around. It was foggy (no great surprise there, given the weather this summer), but there were lots of great buildings to look at and interesting things to see. By European standards, even the oldest buildings are new, but they're still interesting architecturally.

City Hall and Frank Ogawa

Cathedral Building

Oscar Grant mural

Walking towards Uptown, there were Oscar Grant posters in various store windows, and this large mural. I told D about the killing of Oscar Grant, the protests, the trial, and the impending sentencing.

Fox Theater


We walked to Uptown to admire the Fox Theater, Flora, and various other buildings. On the way back, we passed Oaksterdam and talked about the ballot measure to legalize marijuana and the futility of 'the war on drugs'. In Switzerland, apparently marijuana is not legal, but generally the police won't make an issue of a small amount. Most police, at least; like California, it depends on where you are.

Chinatown church

Old Oakland

We then walked around Chinatown, enjoying the life and activity there. Not so much the cooked ducks hanging in the window, but the hustle and bustle of people going about their lives, going to shops, to work, etc. Then it was back to Old Oakland to admire the old brick buildings.


glass and steel, anyone?


kids playing

Lake Merritt colonnade

As we headed over to Lake Merritt, the sun finally made an appearance. D had been at a conference in San Francisco, and was dismayed to pretty much not see the sun the entire time. I told him the usual weather patterns, and while the basic pattern (foggy in San Francisco, foggy mornings and sunny afternoons in Oakland) was normal, the duration and amount of the fog was not. We walked around Lake Merritt, stopping in to check out the cathedral and bird- and people-watch as we walked around.

Tacos Sinaloa

After working up an appetite, we headed over to Tacos Sinaloa for a late lunch. Discussing favorite taco trucks can be like discussing politics or religion, but Tacos Sinaloa (well, technically the Mariscos truck) is my favorite. After lunch I drove him through San Antonio and the Fruitvale, again noting the life and energy present there.

Loard's Ice Cream

As lunch was on the small side, we stopped by Loard's for some ice cream, and to view the Mormon Temple. D said there aren't many Mormons in Europe, but there are fair number in South America where he's traveled.

Joaquin Miller Park

Despite the ice cream to cool us down, it was getting on the warm side, so we headed for the hills. We walked around Joaquin Miller Park and nearby Roberts to check out the redwoods. Proximity to various parks is a big part of why I bought our house here (and I'm glad I bought when I did). D lives near some parks, too, so he felt right at home. We stopped by the house (D reads my home improvement blog) to meet the cats, check out the improvements in person, and talk some more.

Julia Morgan designed church

We checked out the view on the way down from the hills, and went to Rockridge. All this touring and talking was thirsty-making work, so we headed to Barclay's for a pint and more talking. I was considering various options for dinner, but one pint turned into three, so we had dinner there and talked some more. After more talking, I put D on a BART train back to San Francisco, and headed home myself.

A long, tiring, fun tour of Oakland. I know I had a good time showing off Oakland -- I hope D enjoyed it at least half as much as I did. I think he did, because typical tourist things in San Francisco (e.g., Fisherman's Wharf) aren't his favorite, so a somewhat non-typical tour of Oakland was more his speed.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

signs: Loard's Ice Cream

Loard's Ice Cream

Venerable ice cream parlor Loard's on MacArthur (just across from Fruitvale Presbyterian, formerly of Monteskewed fame). It's a newcomer compared with Fenton's, but has darn good ice cream.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Oakland mayor's race

In a move that should have surprised no one, last week Oakland mayor Ron Dellums announced he wasn't going to run for re-election. That automatically extended the filing deadline to Wednesday.

After a flurry of activity, we now have 13 candidates running for mayor:
  • Arnie Fields
  • Don Macleay
  • Don Perata
  • Greg Harland
  • Jean Quan
  • Joe Tuman
  • Lionel Young, Jr.
  • Marcie Hodge
  • Niki Okuk
  • Rebecca Kaplan
  • Sharika Gregory
  • Terence Candell
  • Tim Brown
OaklandSeen has a good rundown of the activity, plus the various elections for council districts 2, 4 and 6; SFGate's Matthai Kuruvila has a brief rundown of the 13 candidates.

I'm a long way from deciding who I'll vote for, other than Anybody But Don. I've heard Rebecca Kaplan and Jean Quan speak at council meetings and other city events, and Kaplan and Joe Tuman were amongst the people who stopped by the EBBC bike parking at the Best of the East Bay party in Jack London Square, but there are a lot of candidates to educate myself about before deciding.

According to the East Bay Express, Perata is nearing the campaign spending cap, and we're still a long ways from the election. The article also talks about the spending of Kaplan and Quan, which has been fairly limited so far. Tribune reporter and The Education Report blogger Katy Murphy has an article on late-comer Marcie Hodge, a Peralta college trustee. Rounding out recent coverage is OaklandLocal's article about the response of various candidates to the the idea of a local currency for Oakland, and a different view of the event from Oakland North.

I'm sure there will be lots more coverage in the weeks and months to come, and I'd be surprised if all 13 candidates are still actively in the race by the time the election rolls around. Whether they all are or not, I'm glad we're going to have ranked voting / Instant Run-off Voting this time. With this wide a field, it'll be easier to pick a 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice and hope one of them wins, rather than have no clear winner and require a run-off in a separate election requiring more money.

Monday, August 9, 2010

showing off Oakland?

city hall

Say you had a visitor coming from not just out of town, but from out of the country. If you had a day, how would you show off Oakland to them? A friend from Switzerland is in town for a conference, and while he's been to California before, he didn't spend much time in the Bay Area and none in Oakland.

The first ideas that came to K and I were:
- Lake Merritt
- downtown/uptown
- eat at a taco truck
I asked a similar question before about the Greetings from Oakland postcard, but this is a little different. How do you show off Oakland to visitors? Unfortunately he won't be around for the Art + Soul Festival or any of the other Oakland festivals coming up.