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Fabulous little sailing documentary (S/V Pestilence / Anarchist Yacht Club)

Hold Fast: Stories of maniac sailors, anarchist castaways, and the voyage of the S/V Pestilence… Over the course of two winters, four members of the Anarchist Yacht Clubb rescued a derelict boat from the inhospitable waters of Ft. Lauderdale, named it the S/V Pestilence, and sailed south to Haiti. Hold Fast describes what drew these friends to the ocean, and tells the story of what they discovered in the sea. It paints a picture of the S/V Pestilence in the context of all the sailing maniacs who have come before them, and ultimately attempts to suggest that the secret is always to begin.
Blue Anarchy Website
http://www.blueanarchy.org/holdfast/
Director Moxie Marlinspike
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Meet Mark, one of the over 8,000 homeless people in Oakland, CA

The problem of homelessness is something I see almost every day living here in the Bay Area.  I think one of the worst things we can do to other human beings is to not see them as fellow human beings.  Meet Mark, one of the over 8,000 homeless people living in Oakland.

The next homeless person you see, maybe try talking with them and really see them as a human being.  Give them some respect, and dignity, along with that granola bar, banana or cash.

What kind of society do you want to live in, and what role do you, individually, have to play in its creation?

Really useful batch geocoding page

If you need to convert a lot of addresses to latitude / longitude, this is an excellent resource:’

http://stevemorse.org/jcal/latlonbatch.html

“This is Water”

“This is Water” – An excellent video sharing wisdom given at a graduation speech by David Foster Wallace in 2005.

Watch now.  Some very good plainspoken thoughts here.

(Via Daring Fireball)

Excellent video lecture about rock wall building

When I was growing up I learned the art of rock wall building from my grandmother Blanche.  It’s something I’ve always enjoyed and this neat video shares a lot of information about rock walls, focusing on New England, given by a master rock wall builder.

Found via Boing Boing

Finding where the path goes

Na Pali Coast - Kauai

I recently got back from a weeklong trip to Kauai that was lovely.  It included spending a lot of time with my girlfriend’s cousins and aunties, eating lots of delicious food, and getting an excellent local-style experience.  On one of the last days we drove to the north end of the island, to the end of the road.  You can’t drive any further, but you can hike the famous Na Pali Coast trail from there.

We only had time for a short hike, and we made it to this vista point — the first point where you could view both sides of the coast.  It was very windy.  We were greeted by a stunning scene once we arrived.  Hikers coming back down the trail were muddy, and even though the trail was wet in a lot of places, we stayed relatively clean in our short hike.  If we had the time, I would have liked to have gone further, to the waterfall, to the beach, but that will have to be saved for another time.

Finding vantage points where we can see things we haven’t seen before is a good goal to have I think, both in terms of physical places, and also in the realm of how we interact with others and ourselves.  It might be a real slog sometimes, and we might get muddy and scraped up, but the rewards of increased perspective and awareness is worth it to persevere and keep going.

Where are we heading, and are we taking the time to appreciate the new viewpoints that our path presents?  Where the path goes isn’t maybe the whole point, but how we get there is.  Joy, happiness, contentment, even in the face of challenges, is how I want to live my life.  One step at a time.

Where is your path leading?

2013 Three Bridge Fiasco – Successfully finished!!!

Excited for the day

Excited for the day

This was my first time doing the Three Bridge Fiasco race — a single or double-handed race around 3 marks in the Bay: Blackaller Buoy near the Golden Gate Bridge, Treasure Island (Bay Bridge) and Red Rock (Richmond Bridge).  Jason and I did the race on his Cal 29 “TNT” and it was outstanding.  We went clockwise around the course, going from the start line to Red Rock to Treasure Island to Blackaller to finish.  Our official finish time was 14:13:14.

Video of the start of the race from Jason’s GoPro:

Results: We finished 20th out of the 44 boats in our division, and #174 out of the total of 357 boats (monohull and multihull) registered for the race.  252 boats actually completed the race this year, scoring us in the 73rd percentile of finishers.  If we include the boats that didn’t start or finish the race, we scored in the 51st percentile.  Not too bad for our first double-handed race, the first race TNT had done, and both of our first Three Bridge Fiasco race experience.

Jibeset Results:

Fleet Assignments (#20 out of 44 entrants)
Overall Results (#174 out of 279 double-handed monohull entrants)

Jason’s write-up:

http://cal29berkeley.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/three-bridge-fiasco/

Love

Sunset over San Francisco

Today I am practicing being a loving person, which right now, means putting my own expectations for the day and evening aside to care for someone else.  It’s sort of tricky to deliberately have to confront my own selfish wishes and realize that the choice I need to make is who I get to be, and I’m glad that my choice today was to be a good person for someone else.  It feels good, and I am content with having made this choice.

In 2013 I hope to be more valuable to more people, to be more loving, kind, thoughtful.  To be a better listener.  To accomplish great things.  To have wonderful adventures.  To give myself permission to dream bigger, ask the hardest questions I can, and be as honest with myself and others as I can be.  It’s a great time to be alive, and I am blessed to be where I am.   My path is my own, and I’m excited to discover what lies around the next curve.  I am very happy to be here, now.

I challenge you to challenge yourself with doing something that is really hard and worth doing.  What that is is up to you — you know what it is you need to do.  Don’t let old excuses, thoughts or suggestions keep you from getting to where you need to go.  I’m going to do my best to do the same.

Did you have a good 2012?  Are you going to have a good 2013?  Please let’s do.

Resolution

How to find an excellent local coffee shop for getting work done

Actual Cafe in Oakland

As a web designer who owns my own business, I have the option of working anywhere I can get a good Internet connection and mobile phone coverage. For a while I’ve been exploring different coffee shops / cafes in the East Bay and have discovered a couple of good indicators to tell you if it will be a good cafe for working or not.

#1: Check the Yelp Reviews

Yelp iPhone app

The first place I usually start when I’m looking for a new coffee shop to try is doing a search on Yelp (either Yelp.com or using their excellent iPhone app), usually searching for places nearby that match “coffee shop wifi”.  If you then filter by Rating and Open Now, the top picks will almost certainly be excellent places to try.  If you already know about Yelp, this is probably a “duh” type of recommendation, but if you haven’t tried it or used it a whole lot lately, give it a go.  For extra points, leave a review of your experience on Yelp to help others find the good stuff.

#2: Good Atmosphere

The best coffee shops are the product of love.  It’s a very hard business to be successful in, and some places do a very good job of letting you know how much care and thought they’ve put into creating the sort of environment you’ll be comfortable sitting in for hours.  Starbucks and Peet’s have done a good job of creating a consistent experience no matter which location you go to, but they will always be less interesting than a local, independent coffee shop will be.

 

Business Cards

 

#3: Business Card Boards

It’s a funny thing, but coffee shops that are beloved by “locals” tend to have a bulletin board, usually placed somewhat prominently, full of pinned-on business cards, fliers, and other community sharing resources.  They also will often have a lot of local event or show fliers for people to peruse.  If you find a thriving business card bulletin board, that’s a good sign you’ve found a good spot.

#4: Local Focus

The best coffee shops tailor their offerings to their local community.  This could include holding regular charity-focused events, using local coffee roasters, featuring local product makers and playing a role in the greater community.  If the coffee shop has a booth at the farmer’s market, bonus points.

#5: Artsy Art

Coffee shops are a great place to see some new artwork, and for artists to get exposure for their work.  Rotating art shows help stimulate your creative impulses, and also lend vibrancy to the atmosphere.

 

Latte

 

#6: Delicious Drinks and Tasty Pastries

This is another obvious thing to look for, but delicious, expertly prepared drinks are worth seeking out.  One way I’ll check for this ahead of time is to look at the Yelp pictures for a place.  If the lattes look interesting and like the barrista paid attention to what they were doing, that’s  a good sign of quality.  The ingredients that places use are also a good sign — organic Clover milk and fresh-roasted beans?  Yes please!  You can easily pay a bit more for a drink but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, particularly since the better places try to pay their employees living wages.

#7: Strong WiFi

MacBook Pro keyboard

Even if you have data tethering for your cell phone (as I do myself) it’s very nice to have good pipes for your Internet connection.  The best coffee shops can be full of people, all using their laptops, streaming music and YouTube videos, and you’ll still have a fast and reliable connection.  It’s not a bad idea to ask if there’s a password when you’re ordering your drink.

#8: Sofas, Seats and Tables

I enjoy coffee shops that have comfortable places to sit and stay a while.  I don’t mind working with my laptop on my lap, so working on a couch is feasible for me.  Some days I prefer a table instead, and having available seating is key.  The most popular coffee shops will be pretty packed, but you should still be able to find a spot.  Having a variety of seating options is very nice.

#9: Power to the People

Outlet

Power outlets can be a precious commodity.  One pro-tip is to bring a 3-way splitter.  That way you will never go without power for your laptop — you can always sneak in.  Most of the coffee shops I spend a lot of time in have ample power outlets (another thing you can check for in the comments people leave in Yelp reviews).  This makes spending more time there feasible, because otherwise it will be a max of a couple of hours before the power runs out.  You know a coffee shop is serious about attracting regular in-shop workers if they provide power strips so there is always an outlet for everyone.

#10: Get Friendly

Coffee shops are an excellent place to meet new people.  Express some interest in what people are doing around you, but don’t be overbearing, or interrupt when they’re in the middle of something.  I’ve met a number of new clients just by sharing what I was working on, or talking with people about their projects.

#11: Clean Bathrooms

Clean bathrooms are a good sign of a well-kept coffee shop.  You’re going to have to go, so it’s nice when the bathrooms are kept tidy and are regularly attended to.

#12: Walkable or Bikeable?

I usually prefer to walk or bike to work — it’s a nice addition to the day to get a little bit of outdoor exercise.  If a coffee shop is bikable or walkable, that moves it up in my list.  If you need to drive, then good parking is another thing to check for.

Headphones

 

#13: Bring Headphones or Earplugs

If you get distracted easily, bring a good pair of headphones or earplugs and you can listen to music (or just quiet the background noise)

#14: Don’t Forget to Tip!

Barristas don’t make a ton of money.  If you find a place you like, be sure to leave a tip every time you make a purchase.  It helps keep a good atmosphere, and you won’t overstay your welcome.  You’ll be one of the regulars.  You want to be a net positive addition to the environment, and everyone appreciates being appreciated.

#15: Get Out There and Explore

Don’t get stuck in only one coffee shop, forever.  Explore your local options and see what you like the best about each place.

My current local favorite coffee shops to work at in in the East Bay:

Berkeley: Local 123A ’Cuppa Tea

Oakland: Actual Cafe, Nomad Cafe, Bica, Spasso, Arbor Cafe, Gaylord’s

Lafayette: Panache Cafe

Walnut Creek: Cafe La Scala

What are your top criteria for coffee shops?  Where should I try next?

A Lovely Walk Today

Sun coming out behind the clouds

I enjoyed a lovely walk today. I’m house-sitting with my girlfriend and while she was at work helping customers with getting water turned on or turned off, I took a quiet day to reflect, enjoy the brisk weather and have a lovely walk.