Friday, February 21, 2014

signs: Pearl of Siam

Last night as we were leaving the Oakland Heritage Alliance awards ceremony, I noticed that this sign isn't there any more. I didn't catch the name of the Thai restaurant that's there now, but a mention on Yelp says Pearl of Siam closed June 30, 2013, after 25 years in business. Not a bad run!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

photo of the week: life is like...

Sure, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get." That's true, but life isn't that simple.

But life is like a box of chocolates in a lot of ways:
  • if you have more money, you can afford a bigger, nicer box of chocolates
  • if you have very little money, you wish could afford a chocolate
  • if prices go up, you may not be able to afford the box of chocolates you used to
  • all the chocolates look a little different, different colors, some more perfectly shaped, some with nuts or fruits, but they're all chocolates
  • people will form preconceptions about a chocolate based on what it looks like on the outside, regardless of what's inside
  • if the box of chocolates drops, odds are that if you're in a nice box of chocolates you'll get picked up first

There's another aspect of life to be learned from the life of Forrest Gump. There's no accounting for dumb luck. Photography instructors and others will tell you "good photographers make their own luck", which is shorthand for saying "put yourself in the right places at the right times, and you'll have better luck", but in the bigger picture (no pun intended), that doesn't account for people who can't put themselves in the right places at the right times for a variety of reasons.

All of which are thoughts that passed through my head when I spotted this scene as I cycled home from the grocery store. Having my camera with me was "making my own luck", and I had to adjust things for the exposure, but this was 95% "dumb luck".

Monday, February 17, 2014

food: Dim Sum at Happy Valley Restaurant

Sunday I met up with a bunch of people I know from Twitter for dim sum. It's a mostly monthly event with a rotating cast of characters, led by @sonnylebythebay . We had to wait a bit for a table since we were a large group (11 and then 3 more!), but the beautiful weather made that no great hardship. Unlike most dim sum restaurants where they push the food around on carts and you point at what you want, Happy Valley has menus where you can order as desired. We mostly left the ordering to the doyenne of dim sum, @itsWanda, but some people added things as the order sheet went around. We ended up with a lot of food. I mean a lot. We made a good showing, but couldn't finish it all, so everyone left with a container.

The food was very good, and very reasonably priced for dim sum. Despite the mountain of food, it worked out to $20 per person with tax and tip. And the waitstaff was very patient with our large group. I'll definitely go again.

More pictures:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

photo of the week: waiting

Spotted along Piedmont Avenue the other day. I wonder what's going to become J's Mexican American Food, aka the Key Route Plaza building that has a great mural on the back.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

art: Latham Memorial Fountain Unveiled

There's a public art installation that you may not have noticed, even if you were walking past. It's not a sculpture, and there's not lots of bright colors or unusual shapes to catch your eye. The Latham Memorial Fountain Unveiled is near the Latham Fountain between Broadway and Telegraph, on some windows on the Rotunda Building.

The work was created by artist Kari Marboe, and the name references one of her primary sources for the text-based installation. The April 12, 1913 headline in the Oakland Tribune for the unveiling was Latham Memorial Fountain Unveiled, and Marboe uses parts of that text in the design of the art. The article itself is quite long by today's standards, and full of rich language.

The fountain was erected in 1913 as a memorial for James H. Latham and Henrietta Marshall Latham by their children and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

Read more about the art exhibit on the Block Gallery website.

And next time you're downtown, slow down and check out the art.

More pictures of the installation. the fountain, and the Latham grave in Mountain View Cemetery::

Monday, February 10, 2014

petition: urge Walgreens to post a security guard at High Street store

After the shooting in the parking lot of the Walgreens on High Street last month, some neighbors are urging Walgreens to have a security guard on duty. This might seem extreme or unusual, but in fact other Walgreens in the East Bay have them, so why not the High Street branch?

To sign the petition, click here:

Private security isn't the answer in general, but for a store that's open late and that has had numerous problems with crime, it only makes sense.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

signs: Egbert Souse's

Neither sign for Egbert Sousé's at the corner of Piedmont Avenue and MacArthur is that great, but they're definitely distinctive. The bar is named for the W. C. Fields character in a movie called The Bank Dick. But that's probably the least interesting part of the Oakland Wiki entry for Egbert Sousé's. Apparently the bar has attracted more than its share of trouble, or at least more than the neighbors would like.

Speaking of the Oakland Wiki, we've won an award! The Oakland Heritage Alliance gives out its Partners in Preservation Awards each year, and the Oakland Wiki won in the education category. But there's always more to add to the wiki, about Oakland's past, present and future. You can edit it, too!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

how to cook (or reheat) a tamale

Awhile back I got some tamales from Tina Tamale, and after she showed me the behind-the-scenes of how tamales are made, she asked that I write about how easy it is to cook a tamale. Tina was recently featured on Chef Ryan Scott's 'FoodRush' on the LivingWell Network, so I was reminded I still needed to do this.

1. put some water in a covered pot, with a steamer or the like

2. put the tamales in

3. cover, heat the water to steaming, and wait about 90 minutes cooking from frozen (about 60 minutes for reheating or cooking from refrigerated)

4. now you have tamales! *1

That's it. If you don't have a steamer, you can use a colander, an upside-down pie pan—just something to hold the tamales out of the water. As Tina said, "you're making tamales, not tamale soup." Check that the water doesn't boil dry while cooking, but with a reasonably fitting lid that's unlikely to happen.

*1. Some years ago, a friend found a Swedish-American cookbook at his mom's house, replete with groovy 70s-era cartoon drawings of what were presumably Swedish Americans, many running about au naturale. The best recipe in the cookbook was for lutfisk. It consisted in its entirety of "1. Put the lutfisk in a pan. 2. Heat it up. 3. Now you have lutfisk!" Good tamales are equally easy to cook, and a hell of a lot tastier.