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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Working in the food industry. I don't write too much about work here: this is a blog of food, eye candy, and self-indulgence, and there isn't much about work that goes with those topics usually. But there is a bit of overlap at the moment: I am working in the legal department of a San Francisco company that is in the blended fruit beverage business. Our corporate offices have a kitchen: that kitchen contains an ice cream freezer, a giant refrigerator full of beverage bases, crates and bins of fresh fruit, a carrot juicing machine, an orange juicing machine, ice cream scoops, blenders... You get the idea. There is also a walk-in refrigerators and a walk-in freezer.

Yes, I just said I have a job with an ice cream freezer in the kitchen. YES. Really. It's true. I can make myself smoothies. Really. It's pretty nice.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:33 PM


Places to eat in, mostly in the flats on the north side of Potrero Hill, part I

I'm working on the north side of Potrero Hill, the side that faces downtown. There are many places to eat in the neighborhood. My favorites are:

JB's Place at 1435 17th St (between Connecticut and Arkansas) is where I've been eating the most often. JB's has Gardenburgers that are cooked PERFECTLY, and it took until about my third one that I figured out that they deep fry them in VERY hot oil. They aren't oily at all - just crispy and very hot, served on a fresh bun with lots of lettuce and tomatoes, and similar fixings. They also make perfect, thin fries, a nice vegetarian special sandwich, Boca burgers (which are vegan, but I find this brand to be too similar to school cafeteria hamburgers), tasty potato salad, classic macaroni salad, and a cheese tortellini salad in a sun dried tomato and feta dressing which is REALLY quite pleasant. They have bagels in the morning, along with eggy breakfasts. They also have heavy, meat-and-potatoes entrees at lunch.

Axis Cafe, at 1201 8th Street (near 16th - the streets bend past 16th, so this sort of intersection is possible). Axis has delicious coffee drinks, tasty pastries - try the cranberry and rosemary loaf, which is a big, tender, oversized muffin shaped like a tiny loaf of bread - and some unusual and very fresh sandwiches. I like the "Grilled Moroccan Spiced Tofu" sandwich, which is fresh and moist, with exotic spices and a tasty side salad. They are in a fashionable space, and have art up - and a fireplace.

Dos Piñas, 251 Rhode Island, a taqueria. They make enormous burritos, including a vegetarian one consisting of beans, large slices of avocado, lettuce, cheese, and rice which is quite affordable: you can adjust it with any of the fresh salsas or pickled jalapeños they provide, or any of the bottled selections on the wall. I've also tried the tacos, which are plain but still filling.

A2 - Rustico is just down 8th street from Axis, at 1111 8th, in the brilliantly bright lobby of the California College of Art's new building. (They used to be located at 300 De Haro #338, in that long, blue, metal building.) Rustico makes delicious toasted sandwiches on fresh foccacia, including one with roasted eggplant, roasted red peppers, provolone, pesto sauce... They also have bagels, good pastries, pre-made salads in their deli counter, and full breakfasts in the mornings. I LOVE eating their food.

Goat Hill Pizza, 300 Connecticut at 18th Street. This is actually up the hill. They make pizzas on sourdough crusts. Mmmmm. From the back room, there are great views from downtown all the way out to the church at USF. They have a vegetarian sandwich which is really too much for one person (or just enough for a piggy person): it's an open roll with all the class veggie pizza topics, toasted in the pizza oven. It's huge. I ate it all. I only regretted it hours later, when I still felt overstuffed, but it was delicious. I've taken Steven there for pizza: their pizzas are tasty and satisfying.

Sally's Deli and Cafe, 300 De Haro, between 16th and 17th (in the north end of the big blue building). This is a breakfast all day place that does enormous, fluffy omelets with fillings like feta cheese, spinach, and fresh tomatoes, served with a side of fried potatoes. They also serve pasta dishes (like artichoke ravioli in creamy pesto sauce) that are far too large for one person to eat during one meal. They also have muffins and toasted bagels. (I don't recommend their veggie sandwich, which is filled with shredded carrots and cucumber that like to fall in your lap.)

Garden of Tranquility, 2001 17th Street, on the corner at Kansas. This Chinese restaurant does a very mild, sweet garlic eggplant that won't get you into trouble socially (read: no strong garlic overtones).

Cafe Veloce, 200 Kansas, hidden across a driveway, through a lobby, and toward the rear of the building. They serve hot entrees like pizza, toasted sandwiches (including a tasty eggplant pannini), and hearty, meat-and-potatoes kinds of meals. My office colleagues think this is a great place with great prices, but they have trouble finishing their meals: it's as if the servings are just too big for that kind of food.


I've been to a few other places in the neighborhood, and have more to try, so I'll have to report on this in more detail at a later time. There are a few that don't have anything for a vegetarian like me, which is exotic for a city like this. I haven't spent much time up the hill at the restaurant cluster near 18th and Connecticut, but I will over time.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:26 PM

Why spiders should NOT drink coffee. Wow. Wow. Wow. Check out Caffeine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and look at the photographs of spider webs made with and without caffeine.

First off, that's amazing. I'm definitely putting my house spiders on decafe starting tomorrow morning.

Also... Who thought of this? Yes, I see there is a credit for the research, but someone had to THINK of it. It would never, ever, ever occur to me to put spiders on caffeine and see what happened. So I am completely impressed, and slightly worried, about the folks who thought this one up.
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:33 PM

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What is the best desert to celebrate enriching uranium? Cookies! See this image SF Gate: Multimedia (image), which shows public celebrations (and deserts) associated with Iran's nuclear program's accomplishments.

Did we get cookies when the US developed new nuclear technologies? No. Do you feel cheated? I do.
posted by Arlene (Beth)2:50 PM

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Some companies enjoy helping the government with illegal, unauthorized domestic spying on its citizens. Possibly including your internet service and long distance phone service provider. Yours and mine. EFF: Class-Action Lawsuit Against AT&T alleges that AT&T opened up its facilities and allowed the feds to spy on just about anything and everything, all without requiring so much as a warrant. Which is, of course, illegal.

This EFF page is updated with additional documents and press releases about the suit as they become available.
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:50 AM

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Just because it's been a while since I griped about how the nuclear industry is only a good idea in theory, but not in the real world: BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Water leak at Japan nuclear plant (, 4/12/06):
Japan's Kyodo news agency said up to 40 litres of water containing plutonium leaked at the site, which had just opened for a test run.
My friends who are the most pro-nuclear energy NEVER read about things like this. Ever. How is that?
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:23 AM

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

blue vandyke print of a woman sitting outside Cafe Greco

Experiments in Incompatible Emulsions

The unusual, record-breaking rains have completely sabotaged me as a print maker. Specifically, they have sabotaged me as an alternative process printer who uses the sun for most of her work. My photographic printing here at home, which is usually a pleasant weekend morning affair on the back porch, has been reduced to nothing but a distant memory. I decided to give in and purchase UV lights.

Steven went on one failed shopping mission with me, and then went out on his own and promptly acquired a four-bulb fixture from a salvage yard AND four, 24" arctinic blue fluorescent bulbs. The entire arrangement costs less than 1/10th of the price of units sold specifically for this purpose from reputable alt-process specialty shops.


My first experiment was to find out what the fuss about the "blue vandyke" is. I have printed cyanotypes, and vandyke brown prints, but had read that the emulsions really don't get along when combined. I'd read on the web and in Christopher James' alternative process book that printing vandykes over previously printed cyanotypes, with the negatives just SLIGHTLY out of alignment, creates interesting edges and effects. Yet, I couldn't find examples of this "interesting" effect that were clear enough to understand what the fuss was. Having read that excessively dark cyanotypes are perfect for this sort of sacrificial experiment, and having an abundant supply of those, I diluted my vandyke solution to half strength, dug up my old negatives, and printed them at a great distance from my new UV light for about 20 minutes.

I made about 12 prints; half of them came out well enough to post at a new gallery on my portfolio site called Let It Rust: Experiments in Incompatible Emulsions. The image shown here is from that set. The other half are divided between showing almost no effect, to being so abstract that you can't actually tell I used a negative at all. Which is charming, in and of itself, but not really clear for illustrative purposes.

The vandyke emulsion bleaches out the cyanotype print, and then reacts to certain, middle-tone densities of cyanotype when exposed beneath a negative. (I coated and exposed one print without a negative, just to see what it would do in comparison with the same image printed with a negative. With a negative there are interesting solarization effects; without there are still odd effects at the edges of certain densities of blue, but otherwise the print is flat and evenly orange in the white areas, but green over the blue ones.) The densest prints only are interesting if they really bleach first: some of my prints dominated by even, dark blues showed no significant change, while the ones with many edge conditions and mid-tones changed significantly. I printed vandyke over one especially dark cyanotype twice: it bleached so much, and browned so randomly, it is now difficult to tell what the image once was.

It's improbable that these images are permanent, considering the chemical battle still going on. I'm going to allow the prints to oxidize for a while, and then might try to stabilize the vandyke portions with selenium toner. But for now I'll just see what they do.

With one day's worth of experiments under my belt, I believe "blue vandykes" (or cyanodykes, or your favorite term here) are worth trying, especially if you have excessively dark cyanotypes you have no other plans for.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:50 PM

Monday, April 10, 2006

Magic in contact sheets! Another artist I really like: Thomas Kellner (at
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:09 PM

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Play with your food, but don't get electrocuted. Reading about the MAKE: Blog: Orange juice battery leads to links about the tomato soup battery.

Oh my. As a food-obsessed person, I now feel that all these cookbook drafts are somehow... inadequate in the realm of food experimentation. Yet, since my goal is always to eat the food, I guess my lack of extreme exploration makes sense - you can't eat the orange or the soup (if you'd want to eat the soup in the first place) after doing these experiments.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:15 PM

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Memories like blurry photographs. My paternal grandfather died this week of cancer at the age of 89. He had been in poor health for a long time; the cancer had been slow-growing, and had sapped his energy for a long time. Near the end, it had spread extensively through his brain, clouding his last days intermittently with specters of people who were not physically present.

My grandfather had never really taken good care of himself, and so his accomplishment of living to 89 (or "eighty nine and a half," as my father said) is impressive.


I was lucky enough to get to know both of my paternal grandparents in adulthood, through frequent correspondence. (Feign surprise that I'm a zealous letter writer.) Though I had visited my Ohio and Connecticut grandparents frequently in childhood, perhaps twice a year throughout elementary school, it hadn't occurred to me until college that they might be fun to chat with beyond suddenly infrequent cross-country visits. I took up correspondence with all four of my grandparents back then, and so was lucky enough to get to know 3/4ths of them (my maternal grandfather does not write) in adulthood.

I befriended my paternal grandmother before she died of cancer in 1993. Her funeral that spring was my most recent visit to Ohio, and the last time I saw my paternal grandfather. After she died, my grandfather began to write more frequently, and I got to know him a little better.


My favorite exchange with him resulted in a fun running joke. My father had returned from visiting him, and had brought back photos of my grandfather playing cards without his shirt on. (I should mention that my father discouraged me casually from visiting independently, for the reason that my grandfather's neighborhood was unsafe; he visited to enjoy his siblings and parents as a family group separate from our nuclear family.) Grandpa had earned every right to be saggy, of course, but Steven made a remark, which I repeated to my father, along the lines that if grandpa was going to play cards without a shirt on, at least he should have the decency to wear a bra.

My father's family is all about humorous insults, and so this remark was promptly repeated to my grandfather.

I then received the most exclamation-filled letter my grandfather ever wrote. He wrote that he could not imagine that his precious granddaughter had been exposed to such horrific slander about him; that he had been slighted beyond all measure; and that his muscular physique had been wrongly criticized by [various epithets] whom I should never, ever associate with, since such persons could not possibly be trusted, and so on. It was completely over the top. (I don't think this particular letter went on at length about his "long, flowing, golden tressess," which were the subject of another running joke because my grandfather has been mostly bald as long as I've known him, and had never had straight or blond hair.)

I wrote back immediately to assure him that he had been wrongly informed, and that the words Steven had spoken had been garbled in transmission: I wrote that Steven had, in fact, observed a photograph of my grandfather, and had immediately remarked on how grandpa could be mistaken for Charles Atlas in his prime. (If you're too young to know who Charles Atlas was, see Wikipedia on this topic.)

My grandfather LOVED this response. He immediately called my father and read the letter aloud to him. For some time thereafter, my grandfather went by "Chuck."


With my grandfather's death and the packing and cleaning of his home, a raft of childhood memories of visiting my grandparents in their home is coming unmoored: up until 1993, when I visited Ohio for my grandmother's funeral, their home was almost EXACTLY as I remembered it from my elementary school visits.

The kitchen still smelled faintly of bacon fat; the huge, firm, orange lounge-recliner was just as orange; the heavy, glass ashtray that had swirls of color like an abalone shell was just as large; the enormous glass jars of bath salts in the bathroom upstairs still sat under the yellowish light of the room, looking pale pink and unused, and the room still had that same, soapy smell... The books I had read in summer visits as a child, like Alice in Wonderland, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea which had long rested on a little dresser in an upstairs bedroom, were gone, replaced by a low bed and chair my grandmother used during her battle with cancer. The garden seemed too small, but it turned out my grandfather had arranged to have the detached garage widened, and so the garden really WAS too small. The windows in the dining room, the paintings on the wall, the odd little folding door on the stairwell that led to the front door just before reaching the kitchen, the cool darkness of the living room, the dining table with so many leaves... It was like my grandparents were living in a time capsule, except my grandmother was gone, and the plastic covers on the green couch (which had been on every single visit I'd had in childhood) were missing.


Christopher James, an author of a famous alternative process photography textbook, writes that he likes photographs taken with his plastic-lens Holga camera, which are often almost randomly focused and moody, because they are what his actual memory of places are like - not like the hyper-real, clean images one takes with a professional camera, but instead like his recollection of experiences, with sharp bits and fuzzy bits.

I think I understand what he means, though my memories of my grandparents' Ohio home are more like images I've seen taken with "Lens Babies" - there is just one part of an image that is focused, and everything around it is a blur. I could draw my grandparents home in detail.... Except for the parts that I haven't the faintest recollection of. I could draw that green couch with the plastic cover, and the lamp beside it... But I can't remember if there was anything on the wall to the left. I could tell you how many paintings with black backgrounds were hanging on the wall on the mantle... but I can't tell you if there was still a fireplace there, or if there had ever been. I could draw the little magnet my grandmother had on the refrigerator that someone had given to her, a cookie-cutter like outline of a redheaded woman in a chef's had and apron holding up the name "Dorothy," and how funny it was (since Grandma was black, yet still a redhead, and the woman on the magnet was colored in that pseudo crayon flesh color that so many knicknacks are). I could draw a floor plan of the house (though I'm completely missing a room on each of the upper floors, whichever ones I wasn't allowed to enter as a child) and layout the garden, including the rosebush I ran through while playing tag when I was very young, but can't tell you what was on the kitchen wallpaper, though I remember it had orange tones...

Memory is a funny, very unphotographic thing.

When I went back for my grandmother's funeral, I didn't take a camera, but I took a long a watercolor pad and water soluble pencils. I did sketches of my grandfather playing cards, my aunt Norma, the tulips in the garden poking out through the snow, and the purple of the evening sky through leafless trees during thunderstorms. Those images aren't photographic, but I remember making them with amazing clarity, since I made them slowly and thoughtfully. My memories that those painted sketches bring back are some of my treasured, grown-up memories of my family Ohio.

Even if I had known then that my grandparents' home and the things in it would change dramatically during my grandfather's long co-tenancy with cancer, I think it's okay that I didn't bring a camera during my 1993 visit, and so couldn't record all the things I want to remember about my grandparent's and their home. The soft-edged, slightly blurry, watercolored memories I've got are just fine.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:21 PM

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

infrared photograph, Lake Merced, San Francisco

Under the weather

I am under the weather right now, in the literal and figurative senses. Not just because we broke rain records going back to 1906, with 25 out of 31 March days featuring rain, but because the folks at work have started coughing, and I'm starting to cough with them.

I had a nap after work, which is why I'm awake now, but before I log off, I thought I'd post an image I took this past weekend between rain clouds. Yes, it is an infrared photograph. Yes, it is a place here in San Francisco.

Yes, San Francisco IS a magical place. Infrared just makes that more obvious.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:40 PM

photographs of plentiful sushi in to-go containers

Sushi Night

Thanks to the auspices of Larry, we had sushi night here at my place over the weekend.

Mmmm - sushi!

Yes, there are plenty of vegetarian kinds of sushi, if you know the right places to go to. And we know the right places to go to. Most of my pals aren't vegetarian, so the long, long, long order for our group of seven reflects omnivorous tendencies. Conveniently, Larry elected to leave the sushi order summary here, for my enjoyment and yours. (He also has descriptive text as to what all of these rolls, both structurally by type and by featured ingredient in his version of the menu, which he so kindly typed up and posted for events such as this one. I have GREAT friends!)

The Order:

6 piece inari
9 piece nigiri
3 avocado maki
1 California plus inside-out maki
2 horenso maki
2 ikura nigiri
1 kanpyo maki
4 kappa maki
1 maguro nigiri
1 nasu maki
1 potato (side order) (simmered in sweet sake)
1 rock 'n' roll
2 salmon don
1 sashimi mori
1 shiitaki maki
1 spicy hamachi futomaki
1 spicy hamachi temaki
1 spicy tuna temaki
3 takuwan maki
1 tekka don
1 tekka maki
1 tobiko maki
1 umekyu maki
1 unagi nigiri

Note that this was NOT the biggest to-go order being packed at the time.


My own portion of this massive order included several veggie maki rolls. These are the rolls with filling in the middle, rice, wasabi, and then nori on the outside.

Avocado maki (mmmmm, avocado)
Horenso maki (steamed spinach with sesame dressing)
Kappa maki (cucumber)
Takuwan maki (tasty, crunchy pickled radish).
Umekyu maki (pickled plum with cucumber)
Nasu maki (pickled eggplant) - though they were out of eggplant, so Larry ordered a kanpyo maki (a mild, tasty gourd) from my substitutions list.

Horenso maki is my official favorite, though avocado and takuwan are current close rivals.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:22 PM

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Of course. BOOKS2EAT: the International Edible Book Festival (
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:38 PM

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