Category: Uncategorized

In the pacific Pacific

August 10th, 2019

It was an easy sea day, like a swimming pool. Pacific, in fact. So quiet, we could hear leaping anchovies at 50 yards! They sounded and looked like rain.

It’s been almost 38 years since I arrived in SF. Thanks to Joanna McClure, I finally got a chance, August 9th, to take a natural history field trip to the Farallones islands!

A couple dozen people went, led by the nature education superstar Michael Ellis. In another first, I got to hang out with him a bit. I can now confirm that […]

Bad Water Bond, Vote NO, Demand Better

October 16th, 2014

As a water researcher, I feel an obligation to give you the benefit of my historical perspective on this major water bond up for a vote. I’m so saddened by regional water policy that it makes me cry whole reservoirs–salty ones. (Desalination is energy intensive!)

This ‘No’ recommendation is based in great part on Marc Reisner’s tome, Cadillac Desert, about dams and western water policy which is a long read for the average citizen. If you think the below screed is too long, be glad it’s not Reisner’s nearly 600 pages. […]

The Earth did the Wiggle!

August 24th, 2011

My mom, Joan Straumanis, arrived home in DC just in time to feel the surprising 5.9 quake. It was the first earthquake she ever felt and she had this to say about it:

Where was I during the earthquake? In the bathroom at National Airport, just after returning from Boston. Many people around me were alarmed. But to be honest, I thought it was more exciting than frightening. It was actually sort of gentle, and different from what I had imagined: more rocking than shaking, and inspiring—to think of […]

Hayes Valley debut a playful walc

May 13th, 2011

That was fun! My first tour of Hayes Valley turned out well, and there were even folks who loved the game we played—more than two dozen, in fact. Last weekend’s tour was different from a usual Thinkwalk.

This 1958 photo shows how narrow Geary was before the 1970s "redevelopment" of Geary into a wide boulevard with tall apartment buildings. Cross street is Webster.

Josh Bingham and Matt Garcia from WalkSF, our local pedestrian advocacy group, drew me into a madcap scheme to do something out of the ordinary. They suggested […]

How Did San Francisco Become A Gay Mecca?

June 18th, 2010

Have you ever thought out why it is that San Francisco has such a large population of homosexuals? Sure, it’s historically been a tolerant town (probably due to the gold-seekers and other adventurers and wayfarers). But why gay people in particular, rather than other oppressed populations in need of safe homes? Why not runaway children or middle America refugees? (Wait a second…hmmmm)

Turns out, though, that the sudden increase from a moderate to a high number of homos in this town happened in 1942. That was when the U.S. military services […]

Explore it, exploit it, understand its very nature

June 17th, 2010

For more than a decade, I’ve led occasional tours as a sort of hobby. In late 2009, I realized that in among all the cultural artifacts that are so important here, there is a natural dynamic most locals crave in their lives

How Steep Our Hills Are

June 11th, 2010

Liberty Hill is so steep, that at 22nd street, I feel as if I am going to bump my nose as I cross the intersection to walk up. Okay, so I have a big nose.

In the 1990s there was a “HILL” warning sign at the top of the block, before being replaced by a pictorial sign. If they bother to put a “HILL” sign on a San Francisco street, you know it’s steep!

But this block was even steeper than any normal sign could convey. Cars approaching from the level intersection […]

Clever Marconi Memorial on Telegraph Hill

June 4th, 2010

Most famous people were made so by stories, more than by deeds—that’s what fame is. In addition to the popular stories, there’s the law. Guglielmo Marconi, son of an Italian nobleman in Bologna, knew this as well as anyone when he decided to claim invention of wireless communications (1895). His triumph was that he made the claim—and the English patent—stick.

A group called the Marconi Memorial Foundation incorporated in the 1930s for the purpose of enshrining this magical story in stone, on the slopes of San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill and in […]

main gallery 434w350h

January 12th, 2010