Thursday, October 27, 2011

put your money where your heart is

Whether you want to take part in #OccupyOakland, or you disagree with the protesters, odds are that you're part of the 99%. While some executives from big financial companies may face charges and be convicted of fraud, odds are most of them won't, and even some of the other 1% are unhappy about that. Unsurprisingly, it all makes people want to keep their money closer to home.

I've written about shopping locally and even eating locally before. But another way to keep your money closer to home is to bank locally. Instead of keeping your checking and savings at a big bank like B of A or Chase, keep it at a local bank or credit union. Protesting against banks is one thing, but hit them financially to really get their attention. Individually, none of us has enough money for big banks to notice, but if we all invest our money locally, they'll feel it.

I'm not the first* to think of this, and plenty of others have done or are planning to do the same thing. Bank Transfer Day (on November 5th) is a rapidly-growing movement for people to move their money from big financial companies to local banks and credit unions. Credit unions have already noticed an uptick in new accounts.

It may not be as easy or convenient as banking with a big bank that has branches and ATMs everywhere, but credit unions and local banks are surprisingly well-connected with various ATM networks even if they don't have as many branches. It does take time and some work to move your money, but if you want to keep more it, bank closer to home.

I started** by opening an account at One PacificCoast Bank which is headquartered here in Oakland, and is partnered with the One PacificCoast Foundation which is the sponsor of the Oakland Indie awards. The foundation actually holds the economic rights of the bank, meaning dividends go to the foundation. Their mission is "to build prosperity in our communities through beneficial banking services delivered in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner."

There are a lot more options for joining a local credit union. Credit unions are not-for-profit because they operate to serve their members rather than to maximize profits. They have differing membership requirements, so you may not be able to join just any credit union, but odds are you can find one or more that you can. For example Patelco is open to people living in Alameda County; living, working or shipping in Oakland; or an employee of any of the 1100+ companies, associations, trade groups, chambers of commerce, or federal government agencies that use Patelco.

Tools to help:
You can find local credit unions with the Find a Credit Union website. The Google Advisor page allows you to compare checking and savings accounts (as well as mortgages, CDs and credit cards) at a variety of financial institutions. But one of the best tools is word of mouth: ask your friends which local bank or credit union they bank with.

Who do you bank with? If they're not local, have you thought about putting your money where your heart is?

* Special thank you to formerly Oakland-based photographer Valerie Cochran who tweeted about moving her money to a local bank or credit union earlier this year and got me started thinking about it, too.
** Several months later, I'm still in the process of moving things. Autopay for bills is mostly great, but makes switching accounts harder. As does laziness, but recent events are helping overcome that.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

upcoming Oakland events

Not surprisingly there are a lot of Halloween and Day of the Dead events coming up. Many neighborhoods and churches are putting on kid-friendly Halloween parades and events. But the end of October also brings about the conclusion of the city walking tours for 2011. As always, be aware of current conditions, but doubly so for events around city hall.

'Thriller' record attempt - Saturday, October 29, 7pm. An attempt to set a new world record of people dancing to Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'. The local event is at Studio One Art Center, 365 45th Street.

Dia de los Muertos - Sunday, October 30, 10am-5pm. A community celebration of the Day of the Dead in the Fruitvale. Lots of live music, rides and games for kids, Aztec dancers, and more.

OMCA Family Tour | Days of the Dead - Sunday, October 30, 12-3pm. Take a special docent-led Family Tour of the exhibition Love & Loss: Los Días de los Muertos 2011 at 1 pm. Drop into a family art-making activity from 12 to 3.

Halloween events
Piedmont Avenue Halloween Parade - Saturday, October 29, 11:45am. Head to Piedmont Ave. for the Halloween Parade, followed by Treat or Treating, music on the plazas and an annual pet contest at Paws on Piedmont.

Annual Pumpkin Festival - Saturday, October 29, 12-3pm. The 6th annual Pumpkin Festival at Mountain View Cemetery, with pumpkins, bounce houses, face-painting, and more.

Boo at the Zoo - Saturday October 29, 10am-3pm. Visit the Oakland Zoo for their annual Halloween event, Boo at the Zoo! Stroll the Zoo in costume and collect yummy treats. Ride the spooky boo train, then be part of the costume parade. Plus, you'll get to see how the animals at the Oakland Zoo celebrate Halloween.

Jack O' Lantern Jamboree! - Saturday October 29 & October 30. A "More Delightful than Frightful" event at Children's Fairyland. Little kids' and bigger kids' bouncer, face painting, balloon twisting, creatively crafted environments, special entertainment, costume parades, unlimited rides, free give-aways and the spooktacular Old West Junction Ghost Town!

Children's Halloween Parade - Sunday, October 30, 11:45am. A chance for children to trick or treat and show off their costumes on College Avenue. Meet at College Avenue Presbyterian at 5951 College in Rockridge.

Lions Club Halloween Parade - Monday, October 31, 3-5pm. The annual Halloween parade in Montclair Village for kids (and pets) gives them an opportunity to show off their finest Halloween outfits.

Temescal Trick or Treat - Monday, October 31, 4-6pm. Kids can stroll Telegraph Avenue and collect treats from local vendors.

Trunk or Treat - Monday, October 31, 5:30pm-9:30pm. Trick or Treating, Pumpkin Carving, Art and Crafts, Bounce House, Carnival Games, Taco Truck and Bake Sale at Regeneration Church.

Candy Giveaway - Monday, October 31, 12-4pm. Oakland Parks and Rec will be giving away candy to kids at 250 Frank Ogawa Plaza. Call 238-3791 or 238-7275 for more info.

Plus the usual events:
Piedmont Avenue Art Walk (3rd Thursday)
Art Murmur (1st Friday)
Downtown walking tours (Wednesdays and Saturdays)
Saturday Art Stroll (Saturdays)

Looking further ahead:
Food Justice: Honoring our Roots - Conference begins with short courses and Food Justice Tours throughout the Bay Area, and will look back to the roots of the food movement, discuss the Food & Farm Bill, and examine where the movement is heading.
Urban Paths - November 12. Secret Stairs, Fire and BART - Check out stairs, Vicente Creek and a special BART stairway along the Oakland/Berkeley borderlands.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Red Cross 5k Fun Run

On a beautiful Saturday morning, the Red Cross held its first ever Out for Blood 5k Fun Run. It was a fundraiser towards a new blood drive truck for use here in the East Bay. I'm not a runner, but K does some so she gamely signed up for it.

There was a good turnout for a first-time event (and only a little confusion with the Step Out: Diabetes Walk that was happening nearby at the same time.) While some people were clearly there to run it as fast as they could, a lot were there for fun, and were accompanied by children in running strollers or four-legged running/walking companions. K finished faster than her target time so she was pleased but tired.

More pictures:

Monday, October 24, 2011

progress on new Kaiser building

new Kaiser building

It's been a work in progress for the last couple of years, but today before my dentist appointment I got a different look at the new Kaiser building on MacArthur between Broadway and Piedmont Ave. An existing Kaiser building is on the left, and I-580 runs across the foreground, all beneath a lovely autumn sky.

Pedalfest: fun, food, beer and bikes

penny-farthing at Pedalfest

Saturday was Pedalfest, a celebration of bikes, cycling, food, family and fun. There was perfect weather for the large crowd that turned out.

There were handmade bikes of all shapes and sizes, a vintage bike museum, a BMX riding demo, the Whiskey Drome, a kids' area and bike parade, food, live music, beer (thank you, New Belgium Brewing!), and of course valet bike parking.

I checked things out in the morning, then volunteered in the beer garden with other East Bay Bike Coalition and Walk Oakland Bike Oakland members. It looked like everyone was having a good time (and only a few having a little too good a time), from kids in the bike parade to people watching the crazy cyclists in the Whiskey Drome, to people just marveling at the beautiful and creative bikes like the giant double high wheel bike.

Lots more pictures:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

By Any Dreams Necessary

When school budgets get cut, many times one of the first things to go are the arts. Yet numerous studies have shown that children learn a variety of subjects better when exposed to the arts. As says:
...for certain populations—including young children, students from economically disadvantaged circumstances, and students needing remedial instruction—learning in the arts may be uniquely able to advance learning and success in other areas.

It's this need for arts education that By Any Dreams Necessary founder and executive director Garrett Naiman saw and is helping to fill. The organization is a mostly volunteer effort by a collective of artists and educators dedicated to nurturing the creative spirit and educational aspirations of youth. They're new—they've only been at it about a year and half, and are still working on getting 501(c)(3) non-profit status.

By Any Dreams Necessary team

So far they've awarded half a dozen scholarships, two in 2010 and four in 2011. All the recipients were required to submit an application with both an essay/personal statement component, as well as an original art component. Some submitted poems, others mini documentaries or paintings. You may remember back in July when I linked to a poem called "One Oakland" by 2011 scholarship winner Kenya Hall. If you haven't already (or even if you have), go check out Kenya's poem. This year they'll be giving away another 4 scholarships, and are hoping to increase both the quantity and amount of the awards soon.

The other part of their work is the Artist in Residence program. It places an experienced arts-educator in a public middle school. The goal of the program is to provide art education to students who attend low-resource schools that are unable to consistently provide art in their school day curriculum. By Any Dreams Necessary provides funding for the program, including all art supplies and materials. Currently they have an arts-educator at the Urban Promise Academy off Fruitvale. The Artist in Residence works with the school in several ways:
  • basic arts instruction
  • arts integration across academic subjects
  • teach the faculty about how to use art in their classrooms

If you're interested in learning more or helping out, contact By Any Dreams Necessary.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Got a big idea? Start a company

Mayor Quan talking with entrepreneurs

Have you ever had a great idea for something new? Or seen a niche and thought, "I could make something better to fill that"? That's what the five panelists in Wednesday night's panel have in common. And they started five of the most dynamic companies in Oakland.

You've probably heard of Pandora, the internet radio company that's based here in Oakland (I'm listening to Pandora as I write this.) But you may not be familiar with the others: Ecologic, Livescribe, Revolution Foods, and BrightSource Energy. The venture capital firm DBL Investors, which invested in all 5, hosted the Startup Oakland! forum Wednesday night at the Den at the Fox.

The panel included:and was moderated by Nancy Pfund, managing partner of DBL Investors. Despite some technical difficulties (like not enough light on the stage area), there was standing room only crowd house to hear what they had to say.

Starting a company isn't for everyone, and it's definitely not easy. But the potential upside is big, and it's a great way to create new jobs. (According to this informative and entertaining infographic, between 1977 and 2005, startup firms in the U.S. added an average of 3 million jobs per year while existing firms lost 1 million jobs per year. I'm guessing those numbers are even more skewed in the years 2006-2011.)

It takes a good idea, a lot of hard work, and a fair amount of luck to successfully start a new company. But beyond that basic knowledge, the 5 CEOs had some more specific advice if you're considering starting a new company. First, besides having a great idea, you need to be passionate about it. The people you find to work with you have to share that same passion. But it's also important to get people who are different from you (but still share the passion and mission), because a diversity of backgrounds is important for success -- that's one thing that Oakland excels at.

Some other points noted:
- you need to have a proof of concept of your idea
- if you need to raise investments, be patient. Even when the economy is good, it can a long time to cultivate a relationship with potential investors
- surround yourself with the best possible people -- people who can do their various jobs better than you could, and have them do the same. Your goal as CEO is to make yourself irrelevant in the day-to-day so you can concentrate on the bigger picture
- make needed personnel changes sooner rather than later, especially when the company is small
- realize that sometimes you need to trust your gut, and make a decision before you've got all the info
- get in conversation with (potential) customers early and often (note: I think this goes even for established companies)

If you're interested in starting a company in Oakland, come to the final Innovatate Oakland mixer of 2011 on Thursday, October 27 at the Kaiser Convention Center.

More coverage on Oakland Local and Thoughts from the Hill, the Valley and the Fields.

the BTTR mushroom guys

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

upcoming Oakland events

The big events this weekend are remembrances, the 20th anniversary of the Oakland Firestorm and the Day of the Dead at OMCA. But for lots of fun, pedal over to PedalFest at Jack London Square or the final Bites off Broadway for 2011.

Bites off Broadway - Friday, October 21. This is the last Bites off Broadway for 2011, so if you've been meaning to go but haven't yet, this is your last chance for a while.

Red Cross 5k Fun Run - Saturday, October 22, 9am. A fundraising race around Lake Merritt to purchase a new mobile blood drive truck which will be used here in the East Bay.

Firestorm 20th anniversary - Saturday, October 22, 9am. A variety of activities to reflect on and remember the Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm of 1991. (free)

PedalFest - Saturday, October 22, 10am-5pm. Bikes, beer, food, and fun at Jack London Square, PedalFest will have a variety of bike-themed activities including stuff for kids. I'll be parking bikes with EBBC/WOBO or working in the beer garden, and hope to see you there. (free)

Days of the Dead - Sunday, October 23. The Oakland Museum comes alive with the tradition of Days of the Dead! Craft activities, food, music, dance, and ceremonies bring the community together for reflection and honoring the dead. There will also be free bike parking from EBBC. (with admission) [Insider's tip: OMCA opens at 11 am; arrive early to participate in the Opening Ceremony at Noon.]

National Food Day - Monday, October 24. The Bay Area will feature numerous events held by local foodies and activists, including free veggie food give-aways in Oakland and a "Fair Food: From Seed to Table" series of events with Berkeley Ecology Center. See the Food Day website and the Berkeley Ecology Center calendar for more info.

Plus the usual events:
Piedmont Avenue Art Walk (3rd Thursday)
Art Murmur (1st Friday)
Downtown walking tours (Wednesdays and Saturdays)
Saturday Art Stroll (Saturdays)

Looking further ahead:
Dia de los Muertos - October 30, 10am-5pm. A community celebration of the Day of the Dead in the Fruitvale.
Urban Paths - November 12. Secret Stairs, Fire and BART - Check out stairs, Vicente Creek and a special BART stairway along the Oakland/Berkeley borderlands.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Oakland Firestorm anniversary

firestorm memorial

Thursday will be the 20th anniversary of the Oakland-Berkeley hills firestorm. At the time it happened, I was house- and pet-sitting for some friends in Alameda. Like a lot of people, I learned about it first from TV -- I was watching the 49ers game, and John Madden circled a cloud of smoke with electronic chalk and said something like: "You see this? This is smoke. Apparently there's a big fire in the Oakland hills." I switched to another channel for news coverage, then ran outside to see for myself when I found out how big it already was.

photo by Richard Misrach at OMCA

It was a hot, dry, windy day and the fire spread quickly and burned for days. The firestorm changed Oakland in a lot of ways. Short-term of course, it literally changed the landscape, making the north hills look more like a moonscape. Thousands of people lost their homes and possessions, and dozens lost their lives. But longer term, it changed fire fighting in the Bay Area, building codes and how people think about living in the urban / wild interface.

There are a variety of events to commemorate the 20th anniversary, starting Saturday at 9am at Rockridge BART. See the city website for more info.

There's an exhibit at the Oakland Museum of photographs by Richard Misrach taken in the aftermath of the fire. There's also a special exhibit at the Oakland History Room. Read Annalee Allen's article for more.

Given the huge impact of the fire, there's a lot of press coverage leading up to the anniversary:

MacArthur Metro:
Oakland Remembers the 1991 Firestorm

Oakland Local:
call for photos and stories

Oakland North:
Local firefighters reenact the Hills Fire response
After fire, residents build off-the-wall homes
McClouds, Pulaskis, and brush hooks?

Oakland Tribune:
Events, exhibits commemorate 20th anniversary
Oakland hills fire: 20 years later
Voices from Oakland Hills Fire
She never thought the fire would jump the freeway
Wind, overgrown trees and brush still a hazard in the hills
By the numbers
After the inferno
Just the first wave of pain for survivors

CBS 5:
Families Still Struggling With Loss

Sunday, October 16, 2011

strange days indeed

Some days just don't go as planned. I had lots of Oakland-y goodness planned for today, starting with a ride down the hill to church at College Avenue Presbyterian, a short ride down to the East Bay Mini Maker Faire to volunteer with the East Bay Bike Coalition and check out the fair, then over to Peralta Hacienda for a walk and lecture made possible by Oakland Urban Paths and the National Park Service. All sounds like good stuff, no?

I hopped on the e-bike and headed to Lake Temescal, as the bike path around it is one of the quicker, more pleasant routes over to Rockridge for me. I was surprised to find an OPD motorcycle cop on the path who signaled me to stop. He said I couldn't go on the path, couldn't go through the park either, and couldn't say why it was closed, just that it was "for another agency." Another agency? The Girl Scouts, the fire department or Homeland Security? There's a lot of different possible reasons there. In any event, I rode back to Broadway Terrace, and down to Rockridge that way. The fact I saw two police cars on my way (which is two more police cars than I normally see on a Sunday) did nothing to assuage my concerns.

I arrived at church a bit later than planned, and noticed that Monte's video display was, well, a bit skewed -- the projector was showing the control screen, and his new laptop was showing the presentation. I checked in with him and quickly fixed it, but it was a further discombobulation for the morning. After the service including another great sermon by Monte, I rushed off towards the Maker Faire, again running a little bit later than I'd planned.

I arrived at Opal and 42nd, the designated place for bike parking for the Maker Faire, and bikes. After peering around for a bit, someone pointed me down the block to the next gate. I arrived to see the available space full of bikes. Apparently last year, they'd had maybe 40 bikes or so, so the Maker Faire gave EBBC that much space. Well, last year it rained, so a lot of people didn't ride (and probably some didn't go at all). This year, it was warm (and a little humid -- what's up with that?) and sunny, and the space was filled to overflowing. To complicate matters, normally EBBC gets an enclosed space to park bikes in, with one entrance to control access. This space was along the driveway used for musicians and makers to bring in their gear, so we had the back access to worry about, a steady stream of non-bike people going through, and we had to keep the driveway clear. Shortly after I arrived we had to start with a one-out, one-in policy, as we didn't have room for any more bikes until some left.

So when the end of my shift was approaching at 2pm, I asked Max if they'd had any volunteers sign up for the 2pm to closing shift. Given the day so far, I was completely unsurprised to hear that they hadn't. Given the extra challenges, I decided to stay and keep helping. During a bathroom break I checked out a few of the makers nearby, but didn't really get to spend much time there. The Crucible had some cool exhibits, including a truck with a fire calliope sort of thing that kids could trigger from a control panel. There was also a place where kids could make and decorate cardboard rockets, then have them launched into the air from a compressor-powered rig. There were a lot of happy kids I saw, so I'd say the event was a big success even if it wasn't the best organized.

All in all, it wasn't a bad day. Just different than I'd planned.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

fall in Oakland

We're blessed with an amazing climate here in the Bay Area. Even though we had a cooler than normal summer, we're having a beautiful fall (at least as much 'fall' as we get here). I shot this Tuesday at Lake Temescal on my ride home from grocery shopping. And it's a good example of when to break the rule of thirds.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

upcoming Oakland events

No big festivals, but still lots of stuff going on in Oakland like the East Bay Mini Maker Faire. If nothing else, it's a chance to check out one of the regular events like Bites off Broadway, an Oakland walking tour downtown, or the Saturday Art Stroll.

Screening of "Fire Ruin Renewal" - Thursday, October 13, 7:30pm. The OHA screens the new film "Fire Ruin Renewal." The documentary commemorates the 20th anniversary of the firestorm disaster and its aftermath, but also celebrates recovery by telling a story of restoration. ($10-$15)

Remembering the Oakland-Berkeley Fire - Friday, October 14, 2011 7:30-9:00 pm. Part of the lead up to the 20th anniversary of the firestorm, join in a conversation with photographer Richard Misrach and OMCA Curator of Photography and Visual Culture Drew Johnson about Misrach's artistic practice. A book signing of Misrach's limited-edition book 1991 follows the discussion. (with admission)

East Bay Mini Maker Faire - Sunday, October 16, 10am-5pm. A Maker Faire is about celebrating learning and doing – not the finished and perfect end product. It’s a place to share what we’re learning with others, and celebrate the fun and freedom of being an amateur. ($10-$20)

Oakland on Two Wheels - Sunday, October 16, 10am-12pm. Explore Oakland with OMCA docents as you pedal your way through new and old Oakland. This tour will focus on the locations in the 10,000 Steps tour. (free)

Plus the usual events:
Piedmont Avenue Art Walk (3rd Thursday)
Bites off Broadway (Fridays)
Art Murmur (1st Friday)
Downtown walking tours (Wednesdays and Saturdays)
Saturday Art Stroll (Saturdays)

Looking further ahead:
PedalFest - October 22. Bikes, beer, food, fun at Jack London Square.
Days of the Dead - Sunday October 23. Oakland Museum comes alive with the tradition of Days of the Dead! Craft activities, food, music, dance, and ceremonies bring the community together for reflection and honoring the dead.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rockridge Out and About

Other commitments meant I couldn't spend nearly as long as I wanted at this year's Rockridge Out and About, but what K and I did see was great. Tons of people (and dogs!) having fun, eating local food, hearing music and just hanging out. We saw @TinaTamale and @dto510, but we didn't even have time to walk the full length of the festival along College Ave., from Manila up to Alcatraz.

Lots more pictures:

More coverage at Oakland North.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mountain View Cemetery

Gwin mausoleum

On the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month, docents lead tours around Mountain View Cemetery. It's not just a great place to learn about Oakland history, it's 226 acres of beautiful open space with views out over Oakland and the Bay Area. While some people come to remember loved ones, many people come simply to enjoy the peaceful open space. We saw people jogging and walking their dogs; the docents said that some people come just to read, meditate, or eat their lunch; the cemetery even hosts weddings. I think most of the people on the tour this past Saturday were there to hear about the people who shaped Oakland and Bay Area history, but regardless, we had perfect weather to be strolling around outdoors.

There is a wide range of styles of markers, monuments, and mausoleums in the cemetery, based on beliefs, wealth, and prevailing styles at the time of burial. The cemetery was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, and while it has changed over time, still follows the basic plan. It was started when early city leaders decided it was time to move existing graveyards from the downtown area to make way for further expansion. The non-profit association was formed in 1863 and the cemetery was consecrated May 25, 1865, just 6 weeks after the Civil War ended.

Some of the people we heard about on Saturday are listed below. Where applicable, I've included links to Our Oakland (OO), Lives of the Dead (LotD), and Wikipedia (W).

Crocker mausoleum

  • William Gwin (1805-1885) - One of California's first two U.S. senators. Outspoken supporter of slavery. (LotD)
  • Edson Adams (1824-1888) - Acquired Peralta land with Andrew Moon and Horace Carpentier and laid out Oakland. His wife Hannah was Oakland's first teacher. The Adams Point neighborhood is named for him. (LotD)
  • Sara Plummer Lemmon (1836-1923) - Botanist who spearheaded the selection of the poppy as the California state flower. (LotD)
  • Annie Glud (1853-1929) - Masqueraded as a "drummer boy" for General Ulysses Grant during the Civil War. (LotD)
  • Julia Morgan (1872-1957) - California's first woman architect. She designed nearly 800 buildings around California and Oakland, including the YWCA building in downtown, College Avenue Presbyterian Church, and El Campanil at Mills College. (W)
  • Samuel Merritt (1822-1890) - Doctor, philanthropist, mayor of Oakland, founder of Samuel Merritt Hospital. (LotD, W)
  • Charles Crocker (1822-1888) - Businessman, railroad baron, banker. One of the "Big Four" builders of the Central Pacific Railroad. (LotD, W)
  • F.M. "Borax" Smith (1846-1931) - Mining magnate, real estate developer, put together the Key System. (OO, LotD, W)
  • Domingo Ghiradelli (1817-1894) - Chocolate maker. He was so upset when a Catholic priest didn't perform last rites for a granddaughter that he clandestinely moved all the family graves from St. Mary's Cemetery. (LotD, W)
  • Emily Fish (1884-1931) and Juliet Nichols (1859-1947) - Mother-daughter lighthouse keepers. (LotD, W)
  • Frank Norris (1870-1902) - Novelist, author of The Octopus. (LotD, W)

To answer a couple of questions that came up during the tour:
(1) I forget who it was who walked it as a teenager, but the distance from Oroville to Sacramento is about 70-80 miles.
(2) On Annie Glud's grave marker, Paul Glud was her second husband.
(3) Although the cemetery opened shortly after the war in 1865, the Civil War veterans section (Grand Army of the Republic) wasn't dedicated until 1893.

If you're interested in learning more about the people we heard about on the tour or others in the cemetery, there are a number of resources available. First is local historian Dennis Evanosky's book on the Mountain View Cemetery. Dennis was instrumental in restoring the civil war plot (of the "Grand Army of the Republic," aka the Union army) in the cemetery.

Next is a great blog by Michael Colbruno, called Lives of the Dead, which I linked to above. Michael focuses each post on a single person or plot.

Another great way to learn about some of the people in Mountain View Cemetery and Oakland history is through the city of Oakland free history walking tours. The tours cover a variety of topics around downtown, from Old Oakland to Uptown. Many of the people who shaped early Oakland are buried in Mountain View Cemetery.

"Borax" Smith mausoleum

Similar to the city walking tours, the Oakland Heritage Alliance leads walking tours during the summer that focus on different neighborhoods and people, e.g., the "Borax" Smith tour and the Women's History tour (which included Ina Coolbrith, Julia Morgan and others buried at Mt. View).

And of course, the Mountain View Cemetery tours are a great way to learn more about the people and history. The second Saturday tours cover the same basic ground, but are led by different docents who each bring a unique viewpoint and set of knowledge to the tour, and the fourth Saturday tours specialize on a wide range of topics related to the cemetery, including symbolism, "wild women", black history, trees in the cemetery, and more. If you can't make a regularly scheduled tour, the office also has maps showing the locations of many of the famous inhabitants.

Lots more pictures from the tour:

Friday, October 7, 2011

not quite thirds

In photography and other visual arts, there's the well-known "rule" of thirds, which says one of the best ways to compose an image is by putting important things along imaginary lines at 1/3 and 2/3 vertically and horizontally. For example, if you shoot a sunset, place the horizon at 1/3 from the bottom to emphasize the sky, or 1/3 from the top to emphasize the foreground. There are plenty of times to break the rule, such as if you have something reflecting off water, in which case putting the horizon at the middle is sometimes the best.

In any event, I had it firmly in mind when I shot this image this morning at the Habitat for Humanity work site in East Oakland. I did my best to line things up visually, and unlike a lot of my images that I crop or otherwise tweak, this is "straight out of the camera":

It's not a perfect application of the rule, but I was pleased with the result, especially since it's completely unmodified. For those who are curious, the razor wire and wall are for an adjacent business. The wooden structure below are "corrals" for the future homeowners' trash and recycling bins. They'll have matching doors on the front to hide the bins when not being used.

bits and pieces 6

More bits, more pieces.