Archive for September, 2010

Gone Hyperlocal

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

GoHyperlocal LogoAllCamino is now listed at! GoHyperlocal is a blog about producing and improving hyperlocal news web sites and it features a listing of such sites throughout the U.S. and U.K. I submitted AllCamino for their consideration and happily it was accepted. Here’s my listing.

“Hyperlocal” refers to the growing trend where news stories are being reported and published from and about small well-defined geographic regions such as cities or even neighborhoods. It contrasts with traditional media outlets which don’t have the bandwidth to report down to the same level of focused detail. The hyperlocal trend is yet another area where technology and the internet are democratizing the flow of information and putting powerful communication capability in the hands of individuals.

AllCamino does stretch the concept of hyperlocal. On the one hand it’s super-hyperlocal because it focuses on a single street, but on the other hand it’s inter-macroregional because it cuts across multiple cities, counties, even countries. Nevertheless I do fit GoHyperlocal’s profile as a small, independent, slightly obsessive blogger. I also satisfy their definition: “An independent news site dedicated to a physical location that we can point to on a map.”

Speaking of maps, GoHyperlocal maintains a Google map which pinpoints all their listed sites. It was a challenge for me to pick a single coordinate to represent AllCamino but I decided on 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara. That’s the address of Santa Clara University and I picked it because the immediate area contains so much of what AllCamino is about. There’s a mission, a university with athletic, cultural, and academic venues, a train station with a museum, and a transit center. There are residences nearby, businesses, and retail. It has it all. Even a bell. On a personal note it’s also pretty much the closest point on El Camino Real “proper” to my house.

GoHyperlocal is run by a fellow named Chad. He doesn’t just list other sites. He posts articles useful for the hyperlocal blogger such as story ideas, journalism principles, and critiques of what works and doesn’t work on hyperlocal sites. Surprisingly Chad doesn’t run a hyperlocal site himself. He started GoHyperlocal as a way to combine his interest in web technology and his background in sports journalism. He says of local sites, “They’re a much better way to get to know a place and its people than reading about it on some travel site or even in their city newspaper.” It’s meta-tourism.

I found GoHyperlocal when I was searching for other local blogs that encompass El Camino. I turned up the excellent which is all about Menlo Park and Atherton. InMenlo is also listed at GoHyperlocal so one click led to another and here we are. GoHyperlocal is always looking for other suitable sites so if you know any, be sure to submit them.

You Haul

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

[Photo from SVBC]

I love this story. Over Labor Day weekend the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition packed up and moved their office from Willow Glen to a new location at 1922 The Alameda, San Jose. The SVBC advocates for cycling as an everyday transportation solution that’s good for the environment and healthy for the participants so naturally they accomplished this big move completely by bicycle.

Travoy with BikeThey enlisted a team of over 20 volunteers, each with a trailer or some kind of load-carrying contrivance attached to a bicycle, and hauled everything. Computers, furniture, files…everything. They formed a ragtag caravan as they made the three mile trek. After they unloaded the bikes and carried everything to their new fourth floor office on my favorite stretch of El Camino Real, one of the volunteers won a new Burley Travoy trailer in a drawing.

IMG_9395I was immediately reminded of the 2010 Fourth of July Rose, White, & Blue Parade on The Alameda. The Cleveland Avenue neighborhood association entered a green-themed float entirely powered by bicycles. Carbon footprint: zero (assuming the huffing and puffing of the pedalers was too small to measure). It won first prize. The Bicycle Coalition move may not be quite as impressive a feat as the Murphy Party dragging covered wagons over the Sierra Nevada in 1844, but given the easier alternatives the SVBC could have chosen, their dedication to their cause is admirable as is the consistency of their message.

[Update] The SVBC is holding an open house at their new location. Come chat with other cyclists and enjoy some refreshments.

SVBC open (office) house

September 16, 2010 – 4:30pm – 6:30pm
United Way Building
1922 The Alameda Suite 420
San Jose, California

Where the Summer Ends

Monday, September 13th, 2010


Last year around this time I wrote about how the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival signifies the end of summer for me. We didn’t attend last year, but we did go this year on Saturday, September 11, 2010. This of course was the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. in 2001. To commemorate it the festival sponsor, Chamber of Commerce Mountain View, held a special Remembrance Ceremony to honor the heroes of September 11 and of the wars that followed.

We arrived a few minutes before 11:00 AM Saturday. We usually park for free in the garage at Villa (if we get there early enough) or on the street, but this year we patronized one of the convenient paid parking lots. It was adjacent to the festival and proceeds benefited Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC). The Remembrance Ceremony began with a single-file procession down Castro Street from Evelyn down to the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts. It was a solemn march of men and women in uniform. At the front were boy scouts carrying their troop banner and a United States flag. They were followed by Mountain View fire fighters and police officers. After them were soldiers from various branches of the military, predominately Army. A policeman on motorcycle brought up the rear. As they passed, festival goers and vendors stood aside and applauded. Some of the soldiers handed out mini flags to children in the crowd.

At the Center for Performing Arts the procession assembled, stood at attention, and saluted as the flag was raised and two talented teens sang the National Anthem a cappella. Air Force Lt. Col. Sanchez addressed the crowd with a moving reminder of the sacrifices the armed services have made since 9/11. He was followed by Mountain View Fire Chief Bradley Wardle who spoke of the terror and bravery of that day. The colors were retired and the ceremony was over. It was brief but inspiring and many attendees took the opportunity personally to shake the hands of our local heroes and to thank them for their selfless service. Watch KPIX’ coverage of the event here. View my slide show below.

CIMG0322It was by then lunchtime so we diffused into the side streets and loaded up with savory delectables. With us was Paulette’s friend Melanie who was visiting us from out of town for the weekend. Among us we had a Thai wrap, jumbo chicken wings (sweet and spicy), pizza, and lemonade. For dessert we found something new: pot holes. They’re fried mini donuts rolled in cinnamon sugar and dipped in chocolate sauce. ‘Sbeen done, you say. Yeah, I retort, but these are made out of potato. “Pot holes,” get it? Apparently they’re not new to the planet but that was the first time I ever heard of or tasted them. I thought they were great. They tasted like donuts, but there was a distinct tater undertone, like a sweetened french fry. The irony is that my son loves the donut fries at Psycho Donuts: donut batter formed like french fries and served in a basket with raspberry “ketchup” and custard “mayo.” French fries shaped like donuts! Donuts shaped like french fries! Stop the madness!

CIMG0317The women went off in search of a jewelry booth that had been recommended by a friend. My son and I ambled Castro at our own less urgent pace from end to end, El Camino Real to Evelyn. Naturally we lingered at the El Camino intersection which I mentally named “Issue Ghetto” because of the political and spiritual free speech tables located there. I took some photos of the historic bell marker in Mountain View Plaza and noted that the nearby flag was flying at half-staff. I stopped at the California Welcome Centers‘ showpiece Airstream and asked them about the Welcome Center sign I had seen in San Mateo on my bus trip the week before. They told me there is in fact a brand new center in the Hillsdale Shopping center to cover the long un-welcomed stretch between San Francisco and Pismo Beach.

The oddest thing I saw was the nyckelharpa, a 600-year-old Swedish musical instrument that’s bowed like a fiddle but keyed with the left hand with a row of buttons, one key per note. It had a beautiful tone and Aryeh Frankfurter played Celtic tunes on it masterfully. The main music stage was at the Center for Performing Arts and we overheard a cover band knocking out some Michael Jackson tunes. Street musicians were scattered throughout the festival so you always had something in your ear. At one point we were sitting in a spot where we could simultaneously hear an R&B backbeat from one busker and some new age flute from another and you know, the resulting mashup was surprisingly groovy.

CIMG0319The festival had a green lean to it. The garbage cans weren’t labeled “garbage,” they said “landfill” instead to encourage you to use the accompanying “compost” and “recycle” bins. Towards the Evelyn end Whole Foods was handing out tasty goodies like bite-sized Lara Bars and Casacadian Farms samples. Cherry pie. Chocolate Chip Brownie. It’s a tough job saving the planet, but somebody’s gotta do it.

With the perfect 81° weather, eye-catching art, and sensory delights taken to near hedonistic excess it was easy for my mind to wander away from the somber anniversary. It pains me to say that; I never want to forget the losses and shining humanity of that day. But it was only nine years ago. This was the 39th annual festival. Mountain View was incorporated in 1902 and the roots of the town trace back to the stage coach stop established in 1852 on El Camino Real on the Rancho Pastoría de las Borregas, originally granted by the Mexican government in 1842. This festival demonstrates to the fullest what no terrorist can undo: when people of good will come together, love and life endure.


Mission Heights

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicI was hanging out at home Monday enjoying Labor Day with my family when my twitter feed was blown up by news accounts of someone scaling a building in San Francisco. His name is Dan Goodwin but he’s alternately known as SpiderDan and Skyscraperman, and he climbs up the outside of tall buildings without ropes or nets. Monday, September 6, 2010 he conquered with only suction cups and a red suit the 60-story Millennium Tower at 301 Mission Street in the SoMa District. (Oddly enough I was just there the previous Friday; it’s precisely where I caught the MUNI 14 bus for my bus trip down El Camino Real.) At the top he unfurled an American flag before being arrested by police and charged with trespassing and being a nuisance.

Why did he do it? He says it is to call attention to the dangers of building towers too tall for rescue crews to reach. He also wants to show their vulnerability to terrorist attack. His publicist says he is generating publicity for his book, Skyscraperman. Some have suggested that as a cancer survivor he is making the most of every moment of precious life. My take is that he was drawn to climb the Millennium Tower by a confluence of synchronistic circumstances connecting back to events in his life beginning in the year 2000—the new millennium—culminating in the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, a building he had climbed in 1983. I can relate. Symbols have power that can move people to do startling things.

The whole saga Monday lasted three hours during which emergency crews closed off Mission Street, rerouted MUNI, and generally disrupted life on San Francisco’s branch of El Camino. Local news stations webcasted live video feeds online. The Bay Area twitterverse was abuzz. On a slow news holiday, SpiderDan had our attention.

SpiderIn related news, our house was invaded by spiders that same weekend. Once or twice a day we’d find one of those big fat hairy suckers inconveniently ascending a wall above where we were trying to eat, sleep, or…um…think.  A local insect control expert (me) was kept busy capturing and evicting these unwanted creepy crawlers.

Why did they do it? Perhaps it was a show of solidarity with the events in San Francisco. Perhaps SpiderDan is a closet supervillain with the power to psychically communicate with and control hordes of arachnids. “Climb, my beauties! Climb!” Perhaps it’s just the time of year when spiders come out to look for food, water, or some other instinctive necessity.

Whatever the reason, my spider sense is tingling now so I can’t sit in a room without obsessively looking over my shoulder every five minutes. And the next time I go downtown, I suspect I’ll have my eyes pointed upwards, scanning for crusaders tilting at skyscrapers.

[Source: SFist via California Beat]

Around the Bay in a Day

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010


Last November I took a bus ride up El Camino Real from San Jose to San Francisco and blogged my impressions and observations. To avoid giving myself whiplash, that day I only looked out the right side of the bus at the eastern side of the street and doggedly ignored the left side so the job was only half done. Last Friday, September 3, 2010, I completed the task, taking the reverse bus trip from San Francisco down to San Jose, observing the west side. Back in November I scribbled all my notes on the bus by hand in a notebook and ended up taking four months to type them all up. It’s not that I’m a slow typist, it’s just that the scope of the project was much larger than I anticipated. For the second trip I found a more efficient way: I live-tweeted my journey.

If you’re unfamiliar with tweeting, it means I used my cell phone on the road to type and send text messages to the Twitter service. Twitter messages, or “tweets,” are limited to 140 characters each so it enforces brevity. A great advantage is that every message was timestamped and geocoded by GPS so I have a complete record of what I saw, when I saw it, and where I was. I tried to live in the moment and just write what was on my mind which means whatever happened to catch my eye out the bus window. I know it’s a pretty pedestrian read (irony intended) but I hope I conveyed a sense of El Camino’s diverse profile.

Follow allcamino on Twitter

Below are my 167 tweets from that day from my brand new @allcamino twitter account. It took some effort to extract them all from Twitter’s web site. There are web apps that do this but they didn’t work for me because they rely on Twitter’s search engine which failed me, returning only six tweets (?!). I wrote a Perl script to convert their HTML to the format I wanted for the blog. To improve the readability I put each time stamp and location stamp against the right margin above each tweet. You can click the location links to open a Google map. My live-tweeting strategy worked great. Last year it took me four months to finish the writeup. Here I’ve done it in less than four days.

I cleaned the text up, fixing obvious two-left-thumb typos and grammar issues, but the content is largely raw and uncut. I’ve put a few editor notes in [square] brackets and added hyperlinks for your reference. I’ve written broader post-trip comments in between tweets in italics. You’ll see a bunch of the photos I took, many from the windows of the buses. Please excuse their quality. (more…)

Millbrae Art & Wine Festival

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

[Photo from Miramar Events]

The Millbrae Art & Wine Festival continues today, celebrating its 40th anniversary. It’s downtown on Broadway, one block west of El Camino Real between Victoria and Meadow Glen. They’re running a shuttle to the Intermodal BART/Caltrain station every 20 minutes. That’s convenient to US 101 and San Francisco Airport so if you hurry, you can get here from any place in the western United States.


September 4-5, 2010 – 10AM to 5PM
Huge Mardi Gras-Style Festival of Music, Art, Food and Fun Labor Day Weekend
September 4-5, 2010 (Saturday-Sunday). Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On Broadway (one block west of El Camino Real), between Victoria Ave. and Meadow Glen, downtown Millbrae, California.

Menlo Mondays

Sunday, September 5th, 2010


Last month I hung out in Menlo Park at lunchtime three Mondays in a row. Despite my best intentions I tend to spend most of my El Camino Real time in my home county of Santa Clara. I don’t get up to San Mateo County often enough so I put forth deliberate effort to remedy that. I didn’t mean to make a series of it but once I realized what a cool title “Menlo Mondays” is, I had to go with it.

What started it all was the Music@Menlo festival and their free lunchtime events. Monday, August 2 I had the  urge to go catch a mini-concert but didn’t get an early enough start. I made the decision to go to Menlo Park anyway and just experience the town. It’s not that I never go there, but I figured this time I’d open my eyes a little wider and try to discover something new.

I drove up via US 101 and took the Willow Road exit, reflecting on how devilishly obscure it is to get to downtown from the freeway. None of the major roads go straight through to El Camino Real; they all dead-end at Middlefield. Sure enough, like a self-fulfilling prophecy I goofed and made a wrong turn into SRI International‘s parking lot. D’oh!

I extricated myself and took Ravenswood Ave toward downtown. I parked near the Caltrain station and walked up to El Camino. It was deep into lunchtime and I was hungry so I started walking south on the west side of the street, looking for a place to eat. There are many great eateries in the vicinity of El Camino and Santa Cruz Avenue so I followed my nose. I passed Lisa’s Tea Treasures (so that’s where it is!), Crêpes Cafe, Phil’s Treasure Pot, Sultana, Stacks, Mextogo, Trellis, Su Hong, Oak City Bar & Grill, Cafe Borrone, Applewood Gourmet Pizza, Cook’s Seafood, and the heart-tugging vacancy where Chili’s used to be. I scanned menus as I went but nothing was speaking to me. Then I saw it: Jeffrey’s Hamburgers. When I took my bus ride up El Camino in November, 2009 I had made a note of it and resolved to give it a try. This was the time!

CIMG1295I had walked quite a ways so I was now starving. Jeffrey’s has a sleek retro diner look on the outside which is matched by a classic 50’s car theme on the inside complete with a slice of a car hanging on the wall. I ordered a pineapple teriyaki burger and took a seat at the bar, eavesdropping on the conversations around me while oldies played over the sound system.  My burger came and it was tasty, but honestly it’s difficult to judge it fairly because it was dominated by sauce, just like I wanted. I’ll have to go back and try a plainer burger to see how it compares to those at my longtime local favorites Kirk’s, Clarke’s, and Kal’s. (Alliteration is good for the digestion, don’t ya know.) Jeffrey’s was good and I’d go back but I’m not in love with the diner decor. All the chromeCIMG1296 and stark white formica come off a little cold and clinical; it’s like eating in a morgue. Plus the employees don’t really commit to the theme. The other burger joints I mentioned are all funky and dingy but they are unpretentious and have warmth. This preference might be my subconscious working through the trauma of all the McDonald’s meals I ate as a kid.

While I was eating I noticed something unusual, a sign across the street that said Lydian Academy. It didn’t look like a school; it was a small commercial space above a Jenny Craig Weight Loss center. I Googled it and discovered it’s a boutique high school, fully accredited but very small, offering personalized instruction tailored to each student’s needs.

CIMG1304After lunch I ambled back up El Camino, admiring sights along the way like the Ravenswood Triangle Redwood Grove with its unique yoke-mounted El Camino bell. I had to cross a few streets and noticed something: the traffic lights in this part of Menlo Park are really really long. These intersections are quite busy so I guess the timings are optimized for maximum car movement. It’s a good thing it’s a pleasant stretch of road or else there would be a plague of peeved pedestrians. (Alliteration helps pass the time while you’re waiting for a walk signal, don’t ya know.)

CIMG1308I paused at the Trees for Menlo marker in front of Cafe Borrone and realized how prevalent the oak tree motif is in the city. It’s the city logo and is on all the street signs. Oak City Bar & Grill named themselves after it. Indeed I strolled up and down El Camino that day between Oak Grove Avenue and Live Oak Avenue. I guess unfortunately for Menlo Park the name “Oakland” was already taken when they incorporated.

I walked up to a used bookstore I had never been to, Feldman’s Books. I was on a mission to look for the Signposts books by recently-deceased Patricia Loomis and actually found one on the well-stocked California history shelves. I bought two more El Camino-related books. The first was Stanford: from the Foothills to the Bay by Peter C. Allen. Bonus—it’s signed by my old Stanford president Don Kennedy. The other book was Telling the Santa Clara Story: Sesquicentennial Voices, edited by Russell K. Skowronek. It’s a history of Santa Clara covering the mission, city, and university. I was wavering on whether to buy it but when I thumbed through it I found it ends with an essay by Paul Locatelli, S.J., the former chancellor and president of SCU who just passed away in July. It was a sign. I didn’t mean for my first visit to Feldman’s to be so morbid but really that’s the power of used book stores. In their dusty corners the whispered voices of the past are given new life when they change hands and find new eyes.

That was the end of my first Menlo Monday. I knew I’d be back soon for some music. Stay tuned.