Monday, March 28, 2011

Oakland Running Festival

Unless you live under a rock or really slept in, you probably know that yesterday was the 2nd annual Oakland Running Festival. By all accounts, it was a big success. Even the Chronicle had good things to say about Oakland.

I'm not a runner (I bike all over the place, but my knees don't like running), but I took part, too. I volunteered with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. They had a team running the relay, numerous people running and raising funds for the Ella Baker Center as their cause ($28,860 and counting), and the EBC also brought out staff and volunteers to run a water station which is where I volunteered.

at the EBC water station

Some people from First Unitarian Church were out to volunteer, as was a huge group of (very energetic) students from the various Alameda high schools. I've rarely felt that much positive energy around anything. Some of us were filling cups with water or Gatorade, others were handing them to runners as they went past, and every time somebody ran past, we cheered them on.

arch of fire from The Crucible

The course for the full marathon went all over Oakland, from downtown, through Uptown, up Piedmont Ave., through Temescal, through Rockridge, past Lake Temescal, through Montclair, past the Mormon Temple, through the Dimond, through Fruitvale, along International Blvd., through Jack London Square (where Saturday's 5K Twilight Run was) to West Oakland, back over to and around Lake Merritt-- pretty much all over Oakland except 'deep east' and the southern hills. Oakland businesses and organizations were out in force, providing food, drink and music options to participants and spectators alike.

There's great marathon coverage by the Tribune's Sean Maher, with some nice photos. For more photos, check out (aka Valerie Cochran's photo site).

coverage and photos:

If a day full of Oakland and positive energy wasn't enough, the EBC post-race party was at SomaR in Uptown. I got a chance to catch up with old friends and new from the EBC, and as an added bonus, some of my favorite Oakland blogs were representing, too: A Better Oakland, Living in the O, Future Oakland, the DTO. And a shoutout to Oaktown Art, who ran in the Saturday 5K event and raised funds for EBC.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

alphabet of signs

Ois for Oakland. Here's the complete alphabet from various Oakland signs:

Given the large number of liquor stores with interesting signs, 'Q' was not the hardest letter to find multiples of. That honor goes to 'J', for which I added yesterday's sign.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

signs: Jesus Saves Pentecostal

Jesus Saves Pentecostal Church

I've photographed this sign several times, trying to get a good shot. The plastic makes that tough to do, and I've never seen it lit up. So here's a decent but not great shot.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Oakland districts map

Yet another way of marking areas of Oakland -- the Oakland general plan and zoning map. Which is also used for the larger divisions in the OMCA neighborhoods map.
View Oakland Districts in a larger map

I based mine on a Google map by mathew, which was based on Districts defined by the Oakland Street Tree Selections. I'm still cleaning it up some, but the basic shapes are probably familiar to anyone who's looked at any aspect of Oakland city planning. Some of the names suggest interesting possibilities for news reports to use as a minimum reference as suggested in the earlier post. Well, except Central East Oakland and Central. But certainly better than labeling all news as being in Oakland or East Oakland. Thoughts?

The shapes and names may also be familiar from this poster that dc at Fragmentary Evidence spotted in a shop window:

Very similar to the OMCA neighborhoods map, right down to the names and the orientation with north not straight up. Kind of a cool design, but I still don't like all the names.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

news by neighborhood - where is East Oakland?

Inspired in part by a post at A Better Oakland some time back asking Where is East Oakland?, I started keeping track of where in Oakland news stories were reported. Many times the article simply says "Oakland"; sometimes it gives an address, block or intersection. More interesting is when it names a specific neighborhood or district of Oakland. Is there a bias towards reporting crime in Oakland? In East Oakland? Where exactly is East Oakland? Or as noted on Oakland Space Academy
...when you hear about crime in Oakland, it happens in Oakland. Whereas when you here about crime in San Francisco, it is typically attributed to a specific neighborhood, usually Bayview-Hunter's Point or maybe the Tenderloin.

Going from least specific to most, the colors are as follows:
green - Oakland
blue - East Oakland
red - West Oakland
purple - Downtown
yellow pin - named neighborhood or other

View news by neighborhood in a larger map
Note that I've only linked stories that give some sort of location, be it address, block, intersection or neighborhood name. Also note that anything older than 30 days or so in the Tribune gets archived, so most of the links no longer work, so I've included a brief synopsis of the title.

While my observations aren't scientific or even remotely complete (I've missed lots of stories, and I don't follow SFGate that closely), looking at the map does suggest there's a tendency to report news in Oakland as being in Oakland, East Oakland, West Oakland or Downtown, rather than in a specific neighborhood. Particularly if it's a crime; non-crime articles are more likely to get the neighborhood named. And it's not just San Francisco media, either -- most of the stories I've mapped come from the Oakland Tribune. There are plenty of exceptions either way (e.g., areas around Lake Merritt get a mixture), but I've definitely noticed a trend.

So while referring to every single neighborhood on the Oakland neighborhoods map would be overkill and counterproductive (because most people don't know where a lot of those neighborhoods are and some names are no longer in use), it would be great if the Tribune and other media started referring to neighborhoods or at least districts when reporting*, instead of lumping stories in Oakland and crimes in East Oakland.

(* Maybe closer to what's on my Oakland map? Though that's somewhat out of date, now -- I'm aware of more specific neighborhoods in what I labeled as East Oakland on that map, largely through volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and riding my bike to and from the worksites.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

photo journey 3: p is for purple

Pis for purple. And purple is for problematic. I thought I'd have trouble finding enough purple things to shoot without going out of my way, but there turned out to be plenty of purple things on my rides between College Ave. Presbyterian, Camron-Stanford House and home. The problem came because my P&S camera had a hard time registering some of the purples correctly. It even seemed to have a hard time focusing on some of them. So on a second outing I took my DSLR, and while it did somewhat better, it still had problems registering some of the purples. At least it focused on them OK.

Purple is also for Lent, the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter. So in some churches, that means purple vestments for the clergy and purple decorations for sanctuary. I only saw a purple altar cloth, and I have to admit I didn't photograph it along with the other photos, as it would have meant interrupting the service. For some people Lent means giving up something, hence Mardi Gras and Carnival where people live it up before giving things up. In some places like Trinidad & Tobago, Carnival celebrations last for a month, which is almost as long as the 40 days of Lent.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

adopt a shelter animal

Petfinder Adopt-the-Internet Day
One of the Oakland-related features on Our Oakland is a widget from, showing adoptable pets at various Oakland animal shelters. (It's in the left column near the bottom.)

To help call attention to the huge number of adoptable cats, dogs, birds and even rabbits, pigs and other animals out there, today is Adopt the Internet Day. So if you're considering a pet, get a shelter animal, and save a life.

Monday, March 14, 2011

food: Commonwealth Cafe and Pub

Commonwealth Cafe and Pub

Last week while playing hooky taking a well-deserved break from work, I headed down to Pill Hill on my bike to check out Commonwealth Cafe and Pub. I didn't have a plan initially, but then I saw a tweet: CmonOakland Veg & Lager Stew made w/ @LindenStBrew Burning Oak Black is on! so I headed on down.

Like many East Bay cafes, there were a fair number of people there to work on their computers while nursing a coffee drink. But it's not just a coffee-and-pastries place. They also serve beer and wine and have decent-sized food menus for lunch, brunch and evening. Not surprisingly with the name "commonwealth", the food, beer and decor have a decidedly British flavor, with football (soccer) showing on the telly. There was a whole different crowd there to watch football and down a pint or two.

veg and lager stew

I was there for a late lunch, so I ordered a Fuller's porter and the aforementioned veg and lager stew, and thoroughly enjoyed both. (Fuller's is perhaps best known for their ESB, which to me is the defining beer of all ESBs.) It was nicely spiced, and came with a mini Yorkshire pudding. Their regular menu tends towards UK foods as well: Scotch eggs, fish and chips, ploughman's platter, shepherd's pie, bubble and squeak. Fortunately, it's decidedly much tastier than the actual English pub food I've had (insert your own joke about English cooking here), though I have to admit it's been a few years since I was there.

Over at City Homestead, they're big fans of the scones (served with whipped Devonshire cream & jam) and the shepherd's pie (which seems to have migrated from the specials menu to a regular item since they reviewed it.) And they're delighted to have a coffee shop 6 blocks from their house.

If the football on the telly, good food and beer weren't enough for me to like the place, they also feature local beers (e.g., Linden Street, Drake's, 21st Amendment) and wines (e.g., Urban Legend and Periscope Cellars). There's also ample bike parking outside which was in heavy use for bikes and dogs when I was there.

But wait, there's more! It's also currently featuring a great Oakland photo exhibit by Valerie Cochran called last. oakland. Sadly, this will be her last photo exhibit here, as she's moving back to Missouri. So check out the photo exhibit before it ends in May.

you are not my person.
however, you may pet me

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

photo journey 2: mellow yellow

Yesterday's photo journey is brought to you by the color yellow. It's some of the yellow things I saw on my way home from the Red Cross after donating platelets (which are a yellowish color, too). I saw a yellow car, but there wasn't a safe place to stop to photograph it. And I wasn't brave enough to ask the woman wearing bright yellow if I could photograph her pants :-)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

support Habitat for Humanity!

2010 build-a-thon

As you probably know, I'm a long-time volunteer and supporter of Habitat for Humanity. Habitat East Bay (HEB) is the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, which is working to eliminate poverty housing world-wide, one house at a time. Habitat houses are simple, decent, and affordable to low-income families around the world. Part of how HEB supports Habitat world-wide is by tithing -- at least 10% of the funds raised support Habitat's mission in other countries. Currently HEB is supporting affiliates in Afghanistan, Tanzania and El Salvador.

There are a variety of ways to support Habitat East Bay, centered around volunteering and/or donating. Coming up is a unique way to do both -- HEB's annual Earth Day build-a-thon. It's a four day event, HEB's biggest fundraiser and building event of the year. In four days we'll be framing 7 houses, from the foundation up to the roof. Like a walk-a-thon, participants raise funds, in this case to help pay for the lumber and nails used in framing the houses. It's a somewhat crazy event, but a lot of fun. If you're interested in participating, read more about it on HEB's build-a-thon page.

If you don't feel up to participating in the build-a-thon, you can sponsor me! I'm trying to raise $250 for each of the 4 days, and I'm halfway there. Donations to HEB are tax deductible as allowed by law, and donations of any size are welcomed. If you'd rather not have some eaten up by credit card fees, et al, you can write a check to Habitat for Humanity East Bay and I'll deliver it personally.

You can also donate or volunteer during the rest of the year, when there's no fundraising requirement. The building pace is a lot more laid back, and it's a great opportunity to learn some handy skills. I've been at it a while, but I learned enough and gained enough confidence to design and build a small addition to our house. No guarantee you'll come away ready for that, but you will learn some handy skills, work with some great people, and help build affordable housing for a family here in Oakland. And if construction isn't your thing, help is needed in the office and on various committees, too. Support Habitat for Humanity, and make Oakland, the East Bay and the world a little better.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Habitat dedication at Tassafaronga

Kinsell Commons

Families, friends, volunteers and government leaders gathered on Saturday at Kinsell Commons in Tassafaronga Village to dedicate 14 new Habitat for Humanity homes.

There were a number of speakers, including Habitat East Bay CEO Janice Jensen, board chair David Barron, Oakland Housing Authority Executive Director Eric Johnson, Oakland mayor Jean Quan, Oakland council member Larry Reid and state Senator Loni Hancock. All of them spoke about the improvements in the area, not just the new Habitat homes, but the surrounding affordable apartments, nearby schools and the brand-new East Oakland library. The public housing project that used to be where the Tassaforanga development now stands was in terrible shape, and a magnet for crime. Now there are clean, comfortable apartments and homes.

Mayor Jean Quan

Mayor Quan spoke briefly (she was headed next for her townhall meeting in Havenscourt), but long enough to get some digs in about former mayor and now California governor Jerry Brown, and about the continuing need for redevelopment funds -- Jerry is currently trying to end redevelopment agencies in California. Some redevelopment projects are bad, but there's no arguing that redevelopment has helped Oakland, in particular East Oakland. Read about the potential impact on Habitat for Humanity.

Regardless of how you feel about redevelopment, this area of East Oakland is getting better. Tammerlin Drummond wrote about Deep East Oakland rising in January. Habitat for Humanity East Bay has been working to help make Oakland (and the entire East Bay) better for over 20 years, and I've been volunteering with them for 15 of those, mostly in East Oakland. Besides Kinsell Commons (14+8 homes), there are Habitat developments on Edes Avenue (54 homes) and 105th Avenue (40 homes) as well as several smaller developments and rehabs. I've watched some of the ups and downs of the area over the years, and it is slowly improving.

Habitat builds affordable home ownership opportunities and communities, both here in Oakland and around the world. Habitat sells homes at cost to qualifying families. In lieu of a down payment, the family is required to put in 500 hours of "sweat equity" helping build their home and those of their neighbors. To keep things affordable, they get interest-free loans based on their income. (To make sure the houses stay affordable, Habitat gets first right to buy back a home if a family needs to sell.) And to help make this all work, Habitat uses a lot of volunteers, both on the worksite and in the office to make it all come together. The resulting homes are green, with green design features to keep the environmental impact and energy usage low. (Thanks to PG&E and Grid Alternatives for the solar PV systems.) And to help families make it as first-time homeowners, Habitat builds communities, involving homeowners and making sure they get to know their neighbors before their homes are even built.

happy new homeowners

Check out the great coverage (including video) at Oakland North. For more pictures and coverage, check out the Habitat East Bay / Thrivent Builds blog.

Additional pictures at Habitat East Bay's Facebook page.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

cat on a hot tar roof

sun + cat = happiness

Yesterday I was at the Oakland Firefighters Random Acts office to do some work, and spotted this beautiful girl (calicos are always female, it's a sex-linked gene) sunning herself on a nearby roof.