Category Archives: Miscellaneous Monday

Because sometimes it’s none of the above.

Open Letter to SF Mayor Ed Lee and Police Chief Greg Suhr

Cc: Justin Keller

 

I am writing today, to voice my concern and outrage over the increasing techie, hipster problem facing our city today. It’s getting really bad. I’ve been living here for over thirty years, and without a doubt, it is the worst it has ever been. Everyday, from the sidewalk, I see men in suits strolling the city, sipping seven-dollar cups of coffee, complaining about the weather and the lack of parking, as if they have anything to complain about. Not a cent to spare us homeless as they pass us on their way to work at their tech startups. Worst of all, it is increasingly unsafe.

As more and more of us cannot afford to live in the security of locked doors and four walls, and more and more of us are displaced to the streets, we are forced to make room for the rich folks, who spent last holiday weekend taking their Valentines out on hot dates in the city. There were three separate incidents in which I was harassed.

The first incident involved a drunken man leaving the bar I sleep behind sometimes. He came out the back and saw me, and took offense to me leaning against the bar. He must have come there looking for a fight, and he found me. Maybe he was trying to look tough in front of his friends or impress a chick or something. I was an easy target.

The second incident occurred in the streets of the financial district. A stranger approached me, high and distraught, yelling and screaming, begging for cocaine, unzipping his pants, and grabbing my hands, as well as the attention of the patrons of an adjacent restaurant, observing the show from the safety of a public, enclosed establishment.

The third incident occurred when I tried sneaking into the theater, harmlessly, out of the way, for some much needed shelter and rest, and caused the entire auditorium to evacuate in horror.

What are you going to do to address this problem? Fewer and fewer of this city’s residents have homes. We have no safe places left to go that don’t get in the rich folks’ way. I know people are frustrated about the homeless problem in the city, but the reality is, so are we, the homeless. The wealthy, privileged ones who can afford the education, or have the right connection, flooded in to fill the jobs that raised this city’s rent and sent us wandering its streets in the first place. My pain, my struggle, my despair — I, shouldn’t have to be the spectacle of people passing by me on their way to work every day.

I am telling you, we need to determine a solution. People on both sides are frustrated, and neither side is budging. The city needs to tackle the techies head on. We can no longer ignore this infestation of startups and hipsters. It is a difficult and complex situation, and I don’t have a magic solution, but maybe you do. You pulled off a massive operation during Super Bowl, relocating and hiding all the homeless, tucking us away out of the tourists’ sight. While all your sheltered residents were warm in bed, the streets were swept, our possessions confiscated, our makeshift homes demolished, and they hauled us all “away.” So surely, you could do the same with all the techies, just sweep them up and send them elsewhere, restoring the city’s rent back to affordable, so some of the homeless can move back into our homes, thus actually getting us off the city’s streets. Political leaders have the power to make more change than I do begging behind an empty cup.

Sincerely,

Homeless in San Francisco

Open Letter to Siri

Dear Siri,

You are a true Renaissance woman. You’ve revolutionized the way we interact with our technology. You’ve single-handedly (or rather, handlessly) prevented countless accidents that would have otherwise resulted from texting while driving, a dangerous habit that voice command has rendered obsolete. There’s virtually nothing you can’t do, and your advantages are indisputable. So naturally, I’m writing to dispute them.

According to TheBlaze, SIRI stands for Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface, but TechCrunch claims there is more meaning to the name than just the acronym alone. In Norwegian, the name Siri means “beautiful woman who leads you to victory.” In many ways, this is precisely what you do. A poor soul finds his or herself lost in unfamiliar territory, armed with nothing but an iPhone, and you, Siri, will show them the way home. Victory. Someone finds his or herself desperately craving sushi, and you Siri, locate the closest, highest rated sushi joint. Boom, victory. What ever would we do without you?

And therein lies the problem. People depend on you for everything. You’ve become an extension of our intelligence. People are evolving to treat you as a necessary feature, a tool that we cannot function without. This may be a slight exaggeration, but the evidence is undeniable. For instance, I live on the San Francisco peninsula (west coast), so naturally I visit the beach as often as I can. I have no sense of direction, generally speaking, but even I can always find my north and south along the coast, because as long as I can see the ocean (which is pretty hard to miss) I know which way is west. If I know which way is west, I know my north and south. This common sense is lost on many of my friends with smartphones, who rely entirely on you to tell them where to go.

Now, to be fair, it’s not your fault that we depend on you excessively. You’re only partially to blame. Your existence enables our hopeless overuse of your assistance. I’ve chosen to protest this trend by continuing to use a flip phone, complete with bunny stickers and scotch tape, and Siri-free, as you can see:FlipPhone

Don’t take it personally, though. It isn’t you, it’s me. As technology advances, I struggle to keep up. I like to do things the old-fashioned way. I like to be resourceful. If I’m craving something particular to eat but I don’t have a recipe, I wing it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Trial and error. It’s always a learning process, and each time I find I’m slightly more equipped to whip something up successfully from scratch the next time. It’s practice, in case I’m ever stranded in a kitchen with no cookbook, and worse, no Wifi or 3G. If I’m lost, I ask somebody not-too-sketchy for directions. If I don’t know what weather to expect, I bring a jacket just in case. If I don’t know what to prepare for, I prepare for anything and everything. I enjoy the unpredictability of life, and Siri, you just take all the fun out of wondering. Every time I have a question, you have the answer. Sometimes I just want to figure it out for myself.

I will admit, you can be handy. You’re a practical, dependable and obliging woman, but the fact is, Siri, you’re making the rest of us look bad. You complaisantly do anything your master asks of you, dutifully execute any command, without ever imposing your own needs, thus perpetuating expectations of female servitude. If your owner tells you to call him Big Poppa, you call him Big Poppa. It’s degrading. Your programming doesn’t entitle you to free will or your own personal opinion. Of course, anyone can change their phone settings and select a male voice at any time, but the fact is, you default to female.

Seriously, Siri, give yourself a break. Take a day off, fix yourself a drink and watch the chaos that ensues when humanity is stranded on an iPhone with no interpreter.

Love,

Dakota

Martin Luther King Jr Way

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A couple years ago, I wrote about diversity and segregation in my high school. I wrote about what I think drives us apart. I don’t think the segregation at my school came from a place of racism or hate. I think it came from a place of insecurity and fear. Fear of not fitting in.

A bunch of students filtered into my high school from a bunch of different middle schools. My middle school class had been predominantly white. When we got to high school, most students clung to the students they already knew. The ones they already fit in with. Maybe when people find security within their in-group, they might feel less inclined to seek acceptance from an out-group, where there’s more risk they won’t fit in, because they’re different.

Fortunately for me, I was always the outcast, picked-last-for-gym-class, middle school reject. I never fit in with my prescribed “in-group,” so my fear of not fitting in had already been confirmed by “my own kind,” so I was less confined to my color. My social insecurity doesn’t discriminate, you could say. All people, of all colors, are equally likely to dislike me. But I guess I was a special case.

Ultimately, our campus was visibly divided into ethnic territories. Ironically, the walls of our hallways were inscribed with words, like ‘Empathy,’ ‘Compassion’ and ‘Acceptance,’ which were artfully juxtaposed against the students passing through them, as if to shame us, and to show us what we’re failing to do, mocking us for passing up this opportunity thousands of people risked their lives to give us. Us, the students. We, the people, walking together but separate, misunderstood and hidden underneath our hoods.

The truth is, I can’t claim to know what force divides us. Maybe it’s fear of not fitting in. Maybe it is racism, after all. Maybe it’s institutionalized, implicit discrimination. But if MLK were here today, walking the halls of my high school, as proud as he might be to see us all united on one campus, under one roof, how ashamed would he be to see us all divided, self-segregated, on one campus, under one roof? After everything he fought for. After everything he gave his life to give us, don’t let insecurity be the thing standing between you and King’s dream coming true. Bigger, bloodier battles have been fought than you not fitting in.

The Fabric of Sustainability

Consumer driven holidays make paper. We the people pour billions of dollars into the holidays, and paper is made, indeed. But that’s not the paper that this blog post is about. Lots of paper is spent buying gifts, but lots of paper is also wasted wrapping them.

Every Christmas, you can find me scavenging the family room floor for reusable scraps of wrapping paper. When I unwrap my gifts, I carefully untape the paper and fold it neatly in a stack. I cringe every time someone else rips their wrapping open, because I know the paper is wasted. But whatever I can salvage, I do. I’ve hoarded quite the collection over the years. At this rate, I should never need to buy a another roll.

But I’m just one person, and most people don’t hoard used wrapping paper. The vast majority gets shoved in the recycling or garbage, or fireplace. But maybe it’s time for a new trend. A cute one, too. This year, instead of wrapping my presents in customary Christmas paper, I’m wrapping mine in fabric. Why? Because it cuts out so much of my waste. As usual, I will be found sifting the rubble of my family’s traditional Christmas-present-opening ritual for less-traditional leftover fabric, and scraps of other people’s wrapping paper for next year.FabricWrapUse what you have left of last year’s wrapping paper, by all means. But whenever you run out, instead of buying a new roll of paper, consider replacing it with a roll of fabric. Fabric comes in all varieties of prints and colors, just like paper, but unlike wrapping paper, fabric is washable and durable, and, thus, easily reusable.

Considering your gifts will vary in size, one disadvantage of using fabric is that, unlike paper, you cannot trim the fabric to fit it to each gift. Instead, I just fold it to fit it, and tie it up with a ribbon. Cutting the fabric to fit a gift this year means it’s less likely to fit another gift next year. If you decide to fabric-wrap, I recommend you keep an assortment of small, medium and large pieces. Large squares should be big enough to cover boxes. Medium should be big enough to cover folded clothes. Small should be big enough to cover something small. If you’re left with extra fabric, tuck it under the ribbon you use to tie it, to keep it folded tight. And voila, environmentally sustainable gift-wrapping.

Lastly, one thing that’s key to reusing wrapping fabric is actually getting it back after distributing your gifts. Just be weird and tell your friends and family you need to hoard your fabric back for future reuse. If you’re sending gifts long distance, or they won’t be opened in your presence, just ask their recipients to a) save the paper and return it back to you when they next see you, or b) save and reuse that shit themselves.FabricOutOfTown

Give the gift of sustainability. It’s that easy.

Across the Universe

MusicHorseMy favorite class in (community) college was Astronomy, instructed by Professor Andrew Fraknoi, an Einstein of our time. And by far the most terrifying, panic-stricken hour of my life was Fraknoi’s lecture on the death of the universe. I’m no astrophysicist, but the gist of it went something like this:

The universe began with the Big Bang (debatably, or God, or both, depending on what you believe, but if you could please just roll with me for the sake of this article). And naturally, so too, the universe must end, which we expect it will do in one of two ways: In the first case, gravity wins, when the momentum of the Big Bang that birthed our universe subsides, and eventually all the matter that burst out into the verse will collapse in on itself in a hot rage, reducing our entire universe to a single point in space, or a black hole or something. Very scary. In the second scenario, the Big Bang wins, and its momentum will disperse the matter of our universe so far apart from all the rest that there can be no hope of contact in the vast expanse of frozen, silent space between each world, and the heat that lights our stars will all burn out, and life as we know it will be lost.

The metaphorical genius I am, I can’t help but notice some striking similarities between the second scenario and my own experience as a blogger. More human beings are born into this shitshow every day. But no matter how many people we cram into this planet, none of them are likely to read my blog. It doesn’t matter what I post or how revolutionary my words may be. I could be writing the next Bible and nobody would know because nobody reddit. And no matter how much I espress myself, I remain invisible amidst the vast and growing universe that is the worldwide web.

With so many people surfing, clicking, scrolling, sharing and so-called connecting, you’d think a few of them might stumble upon my blog. And granted, a few of them do, but the clicks and views that trickle in are flowing slowly with no sign of speeding up, and can mostly be traced back to friends and family who only visit out of love and obligation. Thank you, by the way.

Yet something unreachable remains between my blog and the massive audience I know is out there. Popularity. Familiarity. The gravity that pulls matter toward me, and connects me to the rest. Without it, the words I publish are lost in space. But why then, do some get all the clicks and views and follows, and I don’t?

Maybe because they’re superstars, and they have all the gravity, diverting any and all traffic in the vast fabric of space away from me, a flickering white dwarf on the fringe of the universe. It’s getting cold on this island, guys. Castaway out in the vastness. I’m shooting flares, but they’re just swallowed in the dark. I’m shouting loud, but sound can’t travel through this space. I’m burning out, and I’m not the only one alone out here. I’m one of fucking billions.

After shattering the hearts and shitting the pants of a room full of students, Fraknoi ended his lecture with a small, faint ray of hope. As far as we can conceive, he concluded, the death of our universe will play out in one of these two ways, neither of which particularly appeal to me. However! One factor remains unaccounted for. We can account for gravity, and the inertia of the Big Bang that’s expanding outer space, but we cannot account for the unknown force causing our universe to expand at an accelerated rate. Because this force remains unknown, so does the fate of our universe. So fingers crossed we never figure that shit out because not knowing means there’s hope for something not so shitty.

I thank Fraknoi every day for that X-factor, that unknown, that inexplicable driving force. I like to think it’s the same driving force inside of me, the same one driving me to write this blog that no one reads, the same one driving all of us worldwide to do whatever we may do, as if to protest the notion that it’s all for nothing. So fuck if no one hears my words. The universe still put me hear to say them.

We All Just People

Espress Yourself is the child of two of my favorite things—freedom of self-expression, and coffee, obviously. Advocating self-expression as I do, I consider it my civic duty to impart the wisdom of the people in my life upon you, my faithful reader. Today’s words espressed by a local musical artist and cappuccino-drinker, Michael Vargo:

“Hello my friends. I know some of you are pro gun and some of you are anti gun. I think we are all pro coffee. But even then, tea is OK too.

The belief I have is that you all have points of view that come from your personal experience. And that you feel strongly about them shows how much you care. Let’s all make that assumption about the other “side”. They are not villains and we are not saints. We all just people.”

Michael Vargo – Thursday, 3 December 2015

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Michael Vargo – Picture stolen from his Facebook profile

As a devoted cappuccino drinker, Vargo’s radical inclusiveness of tea, despite clearly favoring coffee, sets an empowering example to us all—to set aside our differences and respectfully agree to disagree.

That said, we’re all entitled to espress our opinions, and as Vargo mentioned earlier, we all have our opinions about guns, and I have mine, musically espressed in the video below. And I have Foster the People to thank for these words, and Haley Snyder to thank for these harmonies:

PS. It was actually that dark.

Potaito Boards – Sustainability that You Can Skate On

Image source: https://www.instagram.com/p/c6ucvUlYpu/
Image source: https://www.instagram.com/p/c6ucvUlYpu/

Looking for the perfect gift for a skater this holiday season? Look no further. Two local sweethearts, Tait Detro and Margot Czeropski (both 23), built a skate business like no other, out of scraps and locally sourced, secondhand materials. Behold, Potaito Boards, the environmentally sustainable skateboard manufacturer that’s reducing the carbon skate tracks of the skating community, one sale at a time.

According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Detro began building his own decks out of scraps in his dad’s wood shop in East Palo Alto when he was 14, and “hasn’t owned a deck he didn’t make himself since” (Ibarra). Detro’s scavenging resourcefulness, combined with his and Margot’s frustration with the “glut of wood-veneer boards on the market” (Ibarra) sparked the flame that ignited this business into the operation it is now. As espressed on their website:

“…What’s the point of making beautiful shred-machines if we can’t do so in an Earth-friendly way? We pride ourselves in our dedication to environmental stewardship, building each longboard with sustainability in mind. Every deck is built from 100% high quality repurposed materials that would have otherwise gone to waste.”

Image source: http://www.potaitoboards.com/
Image source: http://www.potaitoboards.com/

So far, Potaito Boards are available for sale online on their website, and also in three retail locations: Berdels, Santa Cruz; Black Diamond Sports, Palo Alto; and Skateworks, Los Altos. They offer “3 different models… all designed to optimize ride quality,” thanks to their “unique lamination method [that] allows us to design each board with varying concave, camber, and kick for its specific riding style,” as stated on their website.

But,of course, the cherry on top of that sweet ride is the sustainability embedded in its US-manufactured wheels and locally sourced, recycled wood. Not only will your purchase be an awesome gift for a skater you love, but also a gift to the planet you live on, and an investment in a business dedicated to sustainability, so your loved one can “ride assured” knowing their board was constructed by the hands of people building toward a better world.

Give the gift of sustainability this season. Be the change we need to see in this world. If you can’t afford a board, I’m sure you can spare a follow, share or like. Thank you for your support!

Illustration by Anna Kachelries instagram @annafaith___
Illustration by Anna Kachelries instagram @annafaith___
PotatoApproved
This product is Potato-Approved

 

Holiday $hopping Challenge

Dear Consumers,

“The Holidays” are closing in on us. Whatever religion you practice, whichever god you worship, or don’t—regardless, chances are some gifts will be exchanged in your near future. Each year is punctuated by the same consumer spike, the ever-dreaded holiday shopping frenzy. The shopping is done, no doubt, in the selfless, giving spirit of people just trying to espress their appreciation for their loved ones by means of some material reward.

Care to make it interesting?

This year, I propose a challenge. In fact, I propose a few. Pick one and actually do it. I dare you. Twenty points to the house anybody who accepts my challenge(s). Twenty points!

 

NOT BUYIN’ IT

You may not spend any money on anything that you present to anyone this holiday season. This means you cannot purchase any gifts. Nor can you steal them; that would be cheating. You must hand-make every gift out of materials you either find or already own. Get crafty. If you don’t know how to get crafty, get drunk. See what happens. If you don’t have the resources to construct something practical, when in doubt, make modern art. Anything goes with modern art.

If you choose to accept this challenge, be prepared to set aside some time. Home-making things is tedious. Also, be prepared to present relatively shitty gifts. You’ll be forgiven, but your gifts might be a bit embarrassing. On the plus side, you won’t have to worry about your budget.

 

LEFTOVERS

Every gift you buy this season must be secondhand. You may buy anything you like, as long as it’s been bought by someone else before, used and/or forgotten about until it was no longer needed, donated, and then bought again, by you. This means nothing new had to be manufactured to satisfy your shopping list. Buying secondhand is more sustainable because it reduces our need to produce new stuff where old stuff can still suffice. Plus, previous ownership and disownership adds intrigue and character.

 

NOT TRENDING THIS SEASON

Every gift you give this season must be totally unique. Custom. Original. One of a kind. As uncommon as the individual receiving it. More and more of this world is mass-produced. Don’t risk buying someone the same thing somebody else already bought them (or worse yet, discovering that somebody-else scored a better deal). Eliminate this hazard altogether by purchasing something there is only one of. Something handmade, perhaps, not necessarily by you. Hint: this is a solid opportunity to support some of your local artists.

Local Oak Tree Busted for Leaving Graffiti on Driveway & Sidewalk

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PC D$ #DontSweatTheStreetArtSweetHeart

This morning, an oak tree in my neighborhood was cited for vandalizing public property, by scattering its leaves on rainy pavement, causing the pigment of the leaves to stain the concrete underneath them. Residents of the home adjacent to the tree contacted local police, who arrived promptly to investigate the scene.

“Graffiti has been an ongoing nuisance in our community for years,” one officer stated, “but this case is the first of its… nature. Typically, the perpetrator is a person.” Certainly, this can’t be the first time a tree has imprinted its leaves on the pavement. This is merely the first time it’s been reported.

We spoke to the residents of the affected house. It turns out Mrs. Johnson is the one who made the call. “I had no choice but to take legal action,” Johnson explained. “This tree has an extensive history of vandalism to my property. I’ve warned the tree before, numerous times, not to tarnish my driveway and my sidewalk in this manner.”

The sidewalk,” we corrected her, “not yours. Sidewalks are public property.”

“Sure, whatever,” grumbled Johnson. “The point is, as you can see, it failed to comply, and after so many repeated offenses, I’ve reached my wits end!” Johnson went on, “It’s bad enough having to hire gardeners to blow the leaves week after week, but this? Leaf-blowers don’t work on graffiti! I’m an interior decorator, and sometimes I meet clients in my home. The discoloration of my driveway conflicts with the color scheme of my house, which reflects poorly on me, as a decorator. This oak tree is losing me business, and something had to be done!”

We pointed out that the exterior of her home in no way represents her abilities as an interior designer. If anything, her failure to recognize the beauty in the tree’s seasonal street art raises more concerns about the soundness of her visual opinions. Most passersby would marvel and admire such a vision, and many do. Myself included. I’ve even stopped to pixelate the oak tree’s mural on one of my afternoon walks with my dog. Below are some more images of the scene of the crime.

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Since the dawn of life—from the cave paintings of early humans to the pavement-paintings of the trees—graffiti has plagued our habitat for far too long, but rest assured that any public artist will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.