Wednesday, June 30, 2010

politics and stuff

I don't blog about politics very often (I noticed I didn't even have a tag for it until this post), but lots has been happening around Oakland and California of note. In no particular order...

Rebecca Kaplan is running for mayor. It comes as no great surprise (like Ron Dellums deciding to run again would be), but it's finally official. Amongst other things, that means the blog FutureOakland is going to be on hiatus until November as they're going to be working on the Kaplan campaign.

It turns out that former Oakland mayor and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown is sort of a neighbor. Back when he was mayor, he lived in a loft downtown. These days as AG of California he's in Sacramento much of the time, but his official residence is in a house along Skyline here in the Oakland hills. (To be clear, although it's less than a mile from our house, it's way out of our price range. Heck, our house is out of our price range these days, but I was fortunate to buy it 15 years ago.) Anyways, Jerry is getting some heat because the 3 bedroom home isn't in line with his message of 'frugality' that's part of his campaign. While price-wise the house is out of most people's range, if they can afford it and it's not some energy-gobbling monster house, I say why not? Particularly if they can pay the property taxes.
"Were we getting a no-down payment loan and buying a house that you can't afford, that would be a reflection on how the candidate spends money," he said Tuesday in response to a reporter's question.

"But when a couple buy their dream house with their life savings, I think that's the American dream and I'm very proud that I can do that," Brown said

Further afield, Guvenator Schwarzenegger is calling for an $11 billion water bond to be pulled from the November ballot so they can focus on the budget. That's a strong suggestion it wouldn't pass in the coming election. I'm happy it might be off the ballot because it calls for $3 billion for new dams in California, never mind the huge amount it would add to the state's already staggering debt.

In a move that surprised many, the NAACP came out in support of Prop 19 which would tax and regulate I've never used the stuff myself, but I think a far better use of money would be to collect taxes on it instead of filling the prisons with people for having it. The fact black people in California are arrested at two to four times the rate as white people for possession just means it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

Back home in Oakland, we move on to the 'stuff' category. The Oakland City Center complex was sold for $360 million. That still doesn't mean it would be easy to find a buyer for the Kaiser Convention Center, though.

Finally, the trial of former BART cop Johannes Mehserle is approaching the end. The defense has rested their case, and the judge has ruled that first-degree murder is not a possible verdict. Which seems a good thing, because if the choice for the jury was first-degree murder or acquittal, it's not clear there's enough evidence to prove the former beyond a reasonable doubt (first-degree stupidity, yes). Oscar Grant's uncle said he was pleased with the judge's ruling and asked supporters to remain calm regardless of the final outcome of the trial. Speaking of staying calm, amidst the fear-mongering about possible rioting is a well-written piece by the Tribune's Tammerlin Drummond calling for calm in not just the aftermath, but in the reporting about it, too.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sick. Transit. Gloria! (Copa) Mundial.

No, not Sic transit gloria mundi ("Thus passes the glory of the world"), but the much more mundane: I'm sick with a cold. K had a great experience with transit. Alas, very little of that experience was in Oakland.

I was planning to volunteer at Oaklavia on Sunday, but that didn't happen because I was having a hard time sitting, never mind walking or biking about the streets of Uptown and Downtown. By all accounts (In Oakland, Oaklander Online, Oakland North, SFGate) it was a huge success -- great weather, lots of people having fun. I'm sorry I couldn't volunteer or even participate.

About the only upside (besides the cats approving of my inactivity, though not so much of the sneezing and coughing) is that I've been able to watch more World Cup matches. We don't have cable, so thank goodness for the Univision coverage. I like their announcers better in general anyways, even if I can't understand everything they say.

Yesterday K headed up to Seattle for a few days on business. I dropped her off at Rockridge BART and she headed over to SFO for her flight. She's staying in the Fremont district of Seattle, north of downtown and west of Lake Union. In a great example of how transit should work, she took light rail from SeaTac to downtown, then hopped on a bus that let her off a few blocks from her destination. Total cost less than $5, elapsed time door-to-door of 1 hour, 15 minutes. A cab would have cost $55. Driving time (i.e., not including walking to the cab stand, or walking to the parking garage and driving out nor including parking at the destination) is about 30 minutes (longer during commute times). And no slower than spit $5 people-movers just to get to the light rail.

The 'gloria!' is the beautiful summer weather we've settled into here in Oakland, last week's all-too-brief visit to Monterey to celebrate our 10th anniversary, and the fact I'm finally starting to get over this $%&#! cold.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Oaklavia: come play in the streets!

This Sunday, June 27th from 10am until 2pm you can go play in the streets of Oakland! Well, not all of them. Broadway from Grand down to 10th Street or so, plus part of Washington and 7th Street will be closed to vehicle traffic for Oaklavia.

The event is being put on by Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO), a volunteer-run organization that aims to improve neighborhood quality of life by making walking and biking in Oakland safe, easy, accessible and fun. Besides raising awareness of the need to make Oakland safer and easier to walk and bike, Oaklavia looks to be fun. The event was inspired in part by the wildly successful Sunday Streets events in San Francisco, which was in turn inspired by Ciclovía event in Bogota, Columbia. The latter has been going on for 35 years now and closes down more than 70 miles of streets to auto traffic. Thousands of people turn out and enjoy their cities in a whole new way, and businesses get exposure to new faces.

As part of Oaklavia, some businesses that are normally closed on Sundays will be open to cater to the expected crowds. There will also be different events along the way: bike safety from East Bay Bike Coalition, circus arts from the Kinetic Arts Center, live music and cafe seating along the route, and more. La Borinqueña Mex-icatessen will be celebrating its 66th birthday!

I'll be volunteering (not sure whether in the morning or the afternoon yet, nor exactly what I'll be doing), and I hope to see you out there, on foot or on bike! Please help spread the word so lots of people can enjoy this fun event.

Monday, June 21, 2010

signs: AM Liquor

AM Liquor

On my way to the Oakland Firefighters Random Acts office today, I rode past this sign. It's in terrible shape, but the business it advertises is still there and still going by the same name, unlike many older signs. It's not far (though across the freeway and MacArthur Blvd.) from Edna Brewer Middle School where Mark from Back to Oakland may be teaching soon.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

my every-other-Tuesday

at the OBC

Technically, it's not quite every other Tuesday, but as close to it as I can make it. I head over to the Red Cross Oakland Blood Center and donate blood platelets. It's a much longer procedure (called apheresis) than donating whole blood; the entire process takes 2.5 hours or more. Which is long enough to watch a movie, so between that and Netflix I've done a lot of catching up on movies I didn't see in the theater.

I've donated platelets (and whole blood before that) because I know it helps save lives. About 3 months ago, it became a lot more personal than before. My sister-in-law was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm. As is sometimes the case, they found it while looking for something else. The most common way to find it is when the person drops dead. Fortunately that didn't happen with her. She had open heart surgery; not the heart bypass-or-3 kind, but the stop-your-heart and put-you-on-a heart lung machine. That process (besides keeping you alive while your heart is stopped) also destroys platelets, so along with gobs of whole blood, open heart surgery patients need platelet transfusions. So I'm very thankful to everyone who donates blood and blood components. Because of you, my sister-in-law was around for her oldest daughter's wedding last month. Thank you.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Oakland Lost+Found Photography Show

Next Friday is my kind of art show. It's a group photography exhibit called Oakland Lost+Found, and features photos of classic Oakland signs as well as architecture. Sounds a lot like the signs feature here on Our Oakland, no? In fact, if there weren't a sign or two I hadn't already shot or put on the map to shoot, I'd think they were following me. The showing is at Woody's Cafe and Laundromat on Park, across from the defunct Park Theater, Friday June 18th from 6-9:30pm.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

signs: Jesus Saves

Jesus Saves

Just off International on Havenscourt is this combo cell tower and sign. I'd never noticed it before, but on my way back from the Habitat construction site (by bike, naturally) I saw it. You really do notice a lot more by bike or on foot.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Car Free Challenge

It's not (yet) too late to sign up for the Car Free Challenge. Today is the last day to sign up; it costs $45 which may be too much for people in this economy, but it is a fundraiser for TransForm which does good work. So far Becks from Living in the O, VSmoothe from A Better Oakland, DC from Fragmentary Evidence, Eric from Transbay Blog, and of course yours truly have joined the event along with people from all over the country.

If $45 is too steep, you can take part for free and let the rest of us know, or you can support me or one of the other Blogoaksphere participants for some amount less.

I've been working towards car-free the last several years, but I don't know if I'll ever get there 100% like many of the participants. I can for this week (I hope), but doing it permanently isn't probably going to happen any time soon. The main thing is to get people driving by themselves less.

It's getting easier for me these days, as the addition and remodel are pretty much done (so not so many trips to the lumber yard or Home Depot), I'm not attending and doing media for a church in Dublin any more (though I still visit occasionally -- great contemporary service), and well, I'm not employed (so no commute). Should be easy, right?

Well, there's still grocery shopping, volunteering at the Habitat worksite in East Oakland a couple of times a month, church on Sunday, and getting to appointments and the like. Fortunately I've done all these trips by bike or transit before. Unfortunately, I haven't done them all in one week before, which is what my 0 miles in a car goal for the Car Free Challenge will require.

So far, so good, though: a trip to Kaiser and Trader Joe's on the way home yesterday, and a trip to Kaiser again today, all by bike. The bad news is that the second trip was necessary because I misremembered the date of my appointment -- d'oh! But it was good exercise, even with the e-bike to help me up the hills (especially with groceries yesterday.) I rode down Moraga, but back via the longer-but-less-trafficky way past Lake Temescal both days. And had breakfast at Mama's Royal Cafe yesterday as a treat (and to console myself for having ridden down there on the wrong day.)