I find the calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) a very elegant and photogenic specimen. They’re native to southern Africa, but have made their way around the world to places such as California and Australia. Australia classifies them as pests and toxic weeds. Hey Australia, that’s no way to treat a visitor!
This bunch of lilies is growing against one of the old, military buildings in Fort Baker. (Note the red-roof: it’s a signature architectural feature of the structures inside this park).
Sometimes when you’re exploring by bicycle you discover little things you never noticed before. On Saturday, I discovered this section of the Coastal Trail.
The wind settled down for my ride home, but approaching Rodeo Beach it was gusty!
This body of water is Rodeo Lagoon and on the other side of that massive sand bar is the Pacific Ocean. For the most part, the two bodies remain separate. But on occasion (usually in winter) tidal storm surges let in ocean water, which keeps the lagoon rather brackish.
This “lake” is a productive ecosystem that supports endangered species like the brown pelican and a family of river otters that feed on them!
Check out this graphic that details: How otters take down pelicans.
I made some tweaks to my Guerciotti’s set-up about seven years ago and ever since I’ve been pretending it’s a randonneuring-style bike and the truth is it’s really not. The Guerciotti is a racing bike with classic Italian geometry. It doesn’t hold a front handlebar bag that well and although I’ve shoe-horned 28-29mm wide Grand Bois tires onto it, the bike’s narrow clearances will not except fenders.
The bottom line: it’s fast and really fun to ride, although a bit twitchy like an Alfa Romeo.
But most importantly the bike’s super light tubing allows it to “plane” — an elusive (some say phantom) sensation whereby the frame’s flexibility works in a sort of mysterious, mechanical harmony with the rider. Jan Heine, the publisher of Bicycle Quarterly, coined the term “planing” as it pertains to bicycle performance and has written about these subjects extensively.
My Ebisu, on the other hand, was purposely built to carry a loaded handlebar bag (it can even be set up with front panniers for a short tour) along with wide tires (up to 38mm wide) and fenders. But if I’m honest, the Ebisu is not quite as responsive and fun as my Italian racing bike. Continuing the car analogy, if the Guerciotti is an Alfa, the Ebisu is a Subaru Forrester.
So what are the underlying causes of these differences? I’ve pinpointed two:
- Responsive shifts: the 9-speed cassette on the Ebisu makes manual friction shifting a fine, delicate operation. On the other hand, the Guerciotti drivetrain is based around a more direct, positive feeling, 6-speed freewheel. The difference is significant.
- Planing: my Ebisu frame feels stiffer than the Guerciottti and it does not noticeably plane while riding. Understandably so. The Ebisu was constructed by master builder Hiroshi Iimura as more of an all-around bike capable of mid-to-light weight touring. But I do miss the feeling of riding my racing bike when I ride something else. The joy of pedaling hard and covering varied terrain is related — at least for me — to the stiffness of a bicycle’s frame.
It took time, but I discovered my preference for a more flexible frame through trial and error after pedaling different kinds of frames many miles over northern California’s hilly roads (and from reading Jan Heine’s articles in Bicycle Quarterly).
My Ebisu is perfectly designed for its purpose and performs more the way I like when it’s carrying extra weight. It seems that the additional weight (since I’m only 150-55 lbs.) causes the Ebisu frame to flex more than normal thus making the frame more responsive and lively when fully-loaded (as opposed to when it is ridden un-loaded).
Where does this leave me?
It means I need to find a bike close in design to the Ebisu, but with light, flexible, tubing like the Guerciotti. The only question is whether to base it around a 700cc 32mm tire or the highly-reviewed 650B 42mm Hetre tire?
Below are some images of bikes and makers which include the option of using super lightweight tubing in their designs.
This little sandy beach is within easy walking distance from my place in Sausalito.
Here you can rent SUPs (i.e. stand-up paddle boards) or a sea kayak or just kick-back on the sand. La Garage the french bistro is nearby too.
That’s appropriate because this view — with the sunshine and yachts — made me think of Marseilles or Saint Tropez; Jean-Luc Goddard; and French Ye-ye music such as this song by Francoise Hardy (which was prominently featured in Wes Anderson’s film Moonrise Kingdom).
If people ask me my favorite town in Marin County, I answer Marshall.
I do it for the puzzled look I inevitably get since few people have heard of the little community that has a population somewhere between 50 and 400.
My second favorite? Dogtown, with a population of 30.
The Marshall Store — one of many spots on the east side of Tomales Bay to stop for fresh oysters.
If you like shucking the oysters yourself, you should visit the Tomales Bay Oyster Co., Hog Island or Drakes Bay Oyster Co. (which continues to fight the Park Services’ decision prohibiting them from renewing their commercial lease to farm oysters in a nationally designated wilderness area).
I spotted this Brompton in front of the SFMOMA. The image was made near the museum’s entrance while facing 3rd Street around 5pm. The bike belongs to Sunny (from the comments section of this post).
Photographing a black bike is challenging, especially in patchy, bright sunlight. But I like how this picture turned out. The orange taxi pleases me a great deal.
The only problem is you can’t really see how good-looking this bike is (I especially like the generator-powered headlight and Brooks saddle).
Sunny purchased his bike from the same dealer in Palo Alto as I did, which, according to the website, is the first authorized Brompton retailer in the US. The shop operates out of the palatial home of Mr. Channell Wasson. Channell is an interesting character and a truly passionate Brompton enthusiast.
Finally, finally, finally, part of Sir Francis Drake Blvd. heading out to Pt. Reyes Station and Tomales Bay has been resurfaced.
This was one of the most scarred, chipped, and potholed roads in Marin. I always pedaled on the Lagunitas bike path because it’s more scenic, but a road in this condition (even without bike lanes) is tempting!
Note: the resurfacing isn’t complete. There’s still several miles of really bad, beat-up road that resumes just before Devil’s Gulch if you’re traveling west.
As promised, a few observations about the Dutch paintings exhibit currently on view at the de Young Museum.
Here are my six takeaways:
- The light from within. When I walked into the opening room of the exhibit I gasped — audibly — shocked by the sensory perceptions and emotions that flooded in as I first cast my eyes on the landscape paintings that radiated an inner glow. The light from within these paintings was so palpable I actually began to question my own experience, rationalizing that the museum’s sophisticated lighting had something to do with it.
- Presentation matters. The de Young did a superb job with the the overall design and display of the exhibit. How the paintings were arranged, the size and flow of the rooms, and even the space between paintings and their height from the floor, all seemed perfect. I’ve seen Vermeer paintings at the Metropolitan Museum in NY and Vermeer paintings at the National Gallery in Washington, DC. This kind of art has never looked as good as it does here in San Francisco.
- I prefer “old” art to “modern” art. A huge generalization, but so much of modern art seems designed to provoke or to extol things like irony, cynicism, and even ugliness. Yet these paintings inspired and uplifted me and that is the best justification for art in my opinion.
- My appreciation grows with age. My capacity to appreciate and be affected by this kind of art has truly deepened over time. My life experiences and accumulated wisdom (at least what there is of it) allows me to see and feel deeper than I could when I was in my 20s, for instance. This may not be anything revelatory, but it was a big takeaway for me.
- On masterpieces. Is there such a thing? Are they overrated? Some of the “greatest hits” from the masters are now devalued cliches. Derivatives and crude, poorly reproduced facsimiles show up in pop culture, in digital media, or on billboards. So I stood in front the actual physical object of Girl with a pearl earring looking for a long time to decide for myself if it is, indeed, a masterpiece. The answer: Yes it is. By the way, so too is Rembrandt’s Portrait of an elderly man, which is also part of the show.
- Fewer is better. I prefer small exhibits to large exhibits, and this is a relatively small exhibit. In fact, a long time ago I stumbled upon a useful practice after spending many grueling hours at the Louvre in Paris. This simple principal has guided me ever since: Never spend more than 45 minutes in a museum, 30 minutes would be even better. It’s much more satisfying to look intensely for 30 minutes, rather than to look superficially for 1-2 hours. That’s my advice. Plus, you can always return another day. Return I will because I didn’t have time to see all Rembrandt’s pencil drawings and etchings.
I don’t know why, but I went in with low expectations and, instead, came away pleasantly surprised.
Overall rating: Five stars!
The show runs through June 2nd.
When I bought my folding bike I knew it had to have some handlebar luggage. In the end, I settled for a simple, folding basket.
What’s unusual about the Brompton design is that the basket doesn’t track the movement of the handlebars and front wheel — rather it’s always aligned with the frame and rear wheel. In other words, the basket always faces straight ahead even when you turn the handlebars side-to-side.
This is disorienting at first, but something you quickly become used to.
In the images above and below, the basket carries a full shopping bag of laundry on the way to the cleaners.
The ascot, neckerchief, and pocket square: These are the third rail of men’s clothing.
Wear them at your own risk and prepare to suffer the consequences — ridicule from your guy friends and, bemused, emasculating laughter from the girls.
Despite all the risks, I’m considering integrating a pocket square into my wardrobe lineup.
I made this before viewing the Girl with the Pearl Earring exhibit at the de Young.
To find out what all the fuss is about (or at least my take on Vermeer and the Dutch Masters) stay tuned.
cherry plum blossoms around the Bay Area are in peak bloom — or that’s how it looks to me after watching them for the last 2-3 weeks!
In Japan, the plum blossom has been overtaken in popularity by the similar looking cherry blossom. In case you’re curious, the Japanese word for cherry blossom is Sakura; for plum blossom it is Ume. Both are members of the genus Prunas.
It’s common to celebrate blossom time with festive picnics (and sake drinking) under the beautiful flowering trees.
Here’s an excerpt from wikipedia’s cherry blossom article:
In Japan, cherry blossoms…symbolize clouds due to their nature of blooming en masse, besides being an enduring metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life, an aspect of Japanese cultural tradition that is often associated with Buddhistic influence, and which is embodied in the concept of mono no aware. The association of the cherry blossom with mono no aware dates back to 18th-century scholar Motoori Norinaga. The transience of the blossoms, the extreme beauty and quick death, has often been associated with mortality; for this reason, cherry blossoms are richly symbolic, and have been utilized often in Japanese art, manga, anime, and film…
The line of bicyclists waiting to board the 6:10pm ferry to San Francisco stretched down the pier, around the parking lot, and then back-up Bridgeway Blvd.
These cylotourists (most of whom rented their bikes from operators in the Fisherman’s wharf area) bicycled across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, and are now taking the ferry back to the city.
About 8 minutes before sunset, on February 16, 2013, nearing civil twilight. (For more details on twilight — civil, nautical, and astronomical, see one of my favorite posts on this blog.)
Under challenging conditions, this is the best I can get from my iPhone (by the way, those are birds in the sky; not dust specks on the lens).
For an exquisite interpretation of this subject, check out this local photographer’s image of the Sausalito seal — la composition par excellence!
I have a love/hate relationship with the iPhone’s camera.
This twilight photo made over the weekend seriously stresses its photographic limits and although the camera is often good enough, it has two big flaws:
- Image quality: it cannot handle wide dynamic range and low-light conditions very well.
- Handling: it is slow to start up, clunky, and ergonomically infuriating.
Nonetheless, the old cliche still applies: “The best camera is the one that you have with you.”
And I almost always have the iPhone with me.
Still, for me, it’s a highly unsatisfying photographic tool. And, the tools we use in our daily lives — the quality of their craftsmanship and their aesthetics — are important. Right?
I recently sold two older digital cameras on eBay so I’m allowing myself to look at new cameras again. The highly touted Sony RX100 is a pocketable camera, but with image quality, resolution, and low light capabilities that vastly outperforms every other small-sized camera on the market.
Unfortunately, the Sony still does nothing for me from an aesthetic standpoint. It has few manual controls and no viewfinder, for instance. So it really only solves half the problem presented by the iPhone’s camera — i.e. vastly improved image quality. It does not fully address the handling issue.
That combination would be a truly satisfying photographic tool!
Here’s an Americanized version of a classic Dutch bicycle (the Amsterdam manufactured by Electra) spotted at the Sausalito Herring Festival on Sunday.
I like the chain guard and the front wicker basket. I really, really dig the rear pannier bags. These are the real deal — a Dutch company called Basil makes them.
But overall, I think I prefer Electra’s Ticino model over the Amsterdam. I just don’t care for the almost gooseneck-like curve of the frame’s top tube.
If you’re going to get a Dutch bike I like the Jorg & Olif, which I featured in this post.
I rode my Brompton down the street to meet some friends at the 1st annual Herring Festival, but I couldn’t believe they ran out of all their herring by 1pm!
I did manage to sample the grilled herring on a skewer and the pickled herring (I preferred the pickled herring).
During the afternoon, I also spoke with a CA fisheries biologist who filled me in on this local, commercial fishery — it seems we have at our doorstep a truly sustainable fishery. The season started in January and is open through mid-March. Last year’s catch was more than 1,600 tons of fish.
Interestingly, the primary product is the herring roe, which is sold to the Japanese. In Japan, herring roe is called Kazunoko.
I was excited to learn all this because in recent weeks I’ve been seeing awesome displays of bird life (and a few sea otters looking fat and content) out in the harbor. I captured a bit of this spectacle in this photograph.
Riding east on Bunker Rd. I found this picaresque spot, made even more so by the recent rain which created a mini-wetland.
It’s directly off the main road, but also at the end of a fork that connects to the Coastal Trail (used for hiking and mountain biking), which leads up the ridge to the traffic circle on Conzelman Rd. or (if followed in the other direction) down to the beach at Rodeo Cove.
The Coastal Trail eventually reaches Fort Cronkite, which houses an eclectic group of organizations including the Headlands Center for the Arts, Foundation for Deep Ecology, and The Marine Mammal Center.
This is Harry. I bumped into him at the tail-end end of the Marin Civic Center Farmer’s Market on Super Bowl Sunday. His chrome-plated 1972 Schwinn Paramount jumped out me like the organic strawberries my friends had scored earlier. I asked him to pose with his 1972 Paramount next to a nearby 1972 VW beetle.
The Brooks saddle has a well-worn patina from years of use. The components look mostly (if not all) original including a Campagnola Nuovo Record groupo.
The Nervez lugs look beautiful in full chrome.
Last week-end, I packed a light lunch and took one of my favorite rides out to Alpine Lake in Fairfax.
The sun was bright and strong, but it was still very cool in the shade. So I wore a pair of wool knickers and two cotton t-shirts (one long-sleeve and one short-sleeve), which was perfect.
During the long downhill stretches — through the redwood groves where the cold air tends to chill you to the bone — I put on a light wind jacket. On cold days, I always keep an inexpensive one stuffed in my handlebar bag. Mine is a basic, clear plastic, no thrills jacket that cost less than $20, but is the difference between freezing on long descents or being comfortably warm.
As it turned out, the long-sleeve wool layer (that I forgot at home) wasn’t even necessary.
These sunny, Northern California winter days are glorious!
The loneliest bike rack.
But an important one if you ride out here and want to visit the lighthouse.
Make sure to bring a lock.
Rust-colored moss, bright green plants, and a churning light azure, icey blue sea — a collage of color at the entrance to the Pt. Bonita lighthouse.
Unfortunately, I arrived 8 minutes after closing time (and couldn’t get into the actual lighthouse or up onto the high point of the rocks and the viewing platform).
To add further insult, the park ranger scolded me for showing up at the bottom of the paved, 10-foot wide, 1/4-mile path with a bicycle — even though I walked it all the way down.
Apparently this is a no-bicycle zone (not a “no-bicycle-riding” zone — simply “no bicycles” period), which makes this picture of me that much more scandalous!
A quick snapshot through the window of Golden Gate Transit’s #2 bus at approximately 7:20am.
It looks like something from Hitchcock’s The Birds – which incidentally was filmed locally in nearby Bodega Bay.
I’m not exactly sure what this graffiti artist is trying to communicate. Perhaps, it’s that war = destruction? (since the opposite of creation is destruction).
But speaking of language, the December 24th issue of The New Yorker magazine had a curious article by Joshua Foer about an amateur linguist named John Quijada. When he wasn’t working at the Department of Motor Vehicles, Quijada spent his spare time (extending over 25 years) engineering a new language and grammar system combining what he believed were the best aspects of all the world’s languages.
Here’s a quote from the beginning of the article:
In his preface, Quijada wrote that his “greater goal” was “to attempt the creation of what human beings, left to their own devices, would never create naturally, but rather only by conscious intellectual effort: an idealized language whose aim is the highest possible degree of logic, efficiency, detail, and accuracy in cognitive expression via spoken human language, while minimizing the ambiguity, vagueness, illogic, redundancy, polysemy (multiple meanings) and overall arbitrariness that is seemingly ubiquitous in natural human language.”
Ithkuil has two seemingly incompatible ambitions: to be maximally precise but also maximally concise, capable of capturing nearly every thought that a human being could have while doing so in as few sounds as possible. Ideas that could be expressed only as a clunky circumlocution in English can be collapsed into a single word in Ithkuil. A sentence like “On the contrary, I think it may turn out that this rugged mountain range trails off at some point” becomes simply “Tram-m?öi hhâsma?p?uktôx.”
This is really quite odd.
Ithkuil seems to be a language devoid of nuance, implication, metaphor, and for that matter: poetry!
As a follow-up to the previous post, here’s one final traditional B&W darkroom variation called a duotone (For an in-depth, but slightly outdated photoshop tutorial and explanation of dutones see this article on the Luminous Landscape website.)
The highlights (i.e. the brightest areas of the tonal range) receive the sepia tint and the shadows (the darkest areas) receive the blue tint.
Actually, this may be my favorite version so far.
Happy MLK day!
Since today was a day off from work, I spent a leisurely morning luxuriating over breakfast and a cup of PJ Tips tea.
Here’s the idyllic view — from this morning — from my apartment’s dining nook.
I thought I’d use the image to demonstrate different types of traditional black and white tinting techniques — techniques that are now regularly applied digitally, but which photographers originated in old fashioned, physical darkrooms.
For example, here it is as a neutral, black and white image:
Here it is as a warm sepia-toned image:
Here it is as a cool blue-toned image:
Click this link to view the original image in color.
The coastal fortifications (as seen in the image above) from a time when nation-states confronted each other with crude, 20th century explosives and projectiles are hard to miss as you bicycle through the Marin Headlands.
These gun batteries are now quiet, but our world still does not embrace Martin Luther King’s practice of non-violent resistance or Mahatma Gandhi’s ethos of satyagraha.
King was influenced by Gandhi, who, according to the author Thomas Weber (Gandhi as Disciple and Mentor, Cambridge University Press, 2004), would quote the poet Shelley at his mass rallies in India.
Stand ye calm and resolute, Like a forest close and mute, With folded arms and looks which are Weapons of unvanquished war. And if then the tyrants dare, Let them ride among you there, Slash, and stab, and maim and hew, What they like, that let them do. With folded arms and steady eyes, And little fear, and less surprise Look upon them as they slay Till their rage has died away Then they will return with shame To the place from which they came, And the blood thus shed will speak In hot blushes on their cheek. Rise like Lions after slumber In unvanquishable number, Shake your chains to earth like dew Which in sleep had fallen on you- Ye are many — they are few
–Percy Bysshe Shelley (from The Masque of Anarchy)
I first saw this image on the back cover of The New Yorker magazine. I find it to be a beautiful and tender portrait.
Forget that it is a Louis Vuitton ad. Forget that the world’s highest paid and most famous portrait photographer, Annie Leibovitz, created it. Just appreciate it.
And this reminds me to add Muhammad Ali to my personal list of heroes, which was published in a previous post.
From the days, when gunpowder was king.
These batteries housed guns 12″ in diameter with 36 foot long barrels that fired thousand pound shells 268 football fields out into the Pacific Ocean.
That’s my bike in the sunshine on the other end of the tunnel.
After riding uphill steadily for 4 miles (from the town of Sausalito), bicyclists will dive sharply toward the sea, before the road flattens out and heads toward the spit of land seen off in the distance where the Pt. Bonita lighthouse sits.
The section of road seen below is most certainly the steepest stretch of pavement I’ve ridden. Although the steepness may not be readily apparent from the image, looking at the elevation graph on the route map page, one can see that the road drops away precipitously right after the summit.
What a beautiful, clear winter day! The image below is a popular picture taking spot just where the road reaches a plateau (below Hawk Hill) and before it plummets back down to the sea.
The Park Service made some major infrastructure “improvements” along Conzelman Rd., expanding parking and creating new scenic vistas and pullouts. Now, more people driving up here in cars can enjoy the scenery, but my sense is there’s more traffic and delays. On this day, cars were lining up and I was sometimes overtaking vehicles on the uphill!
I have to admit, it was a rich, satisfying feeling passing snarled cars while pedaling uphill on my bicycle. The Germans, I believe, have a word for this sense of delight in the misfortune of others: they call it Schadenfreude. Studies have shown the human brain’s reward centers are activated in these schedenfreude-like situations, which confirms my own experience.
For the record, I’m not proud of this at all — humility after all is one of my velosophic tenets — but noticing unconscious negative habits, and then slowly perfecting oneself is what life is all about.
Overall, this is an incredible 15-mile ride. The loop has views that tourists come from a world away to take-in; roads in very good condition with a bike shoulder for much of the way; and, interesting and varied terrain.
If this ride were a restaurant, it would earn a 3-star on the Michelin scale!
Beginning at sea level in downtown Sausalito and cresting at the top of the Marin Headlands near Hawk Hill, I was surprised the elevation gain was only 800 feet. It felt like much more. That’s barely a third of the way up Mt. Tam (elevation 2,571′)!
Here’s a map and elevation chart extracted from the gpx file created by the gps logging device I sometimes carry with me.
[This announcement will remain at the top of the blog for the next week. New posts will show up below]
Some tragic news to report close to home: The same beaches I’ve been photographing and enjoying recently have claimed three lives in the last week. Read the rest of this entry »
January 1, 2013
6:05pm to 6:07pm
The little nub of land (barely visible) on the right side of the horizon are the Farallones (also known as California’s Galapagos), a set of small islands which help form a highly productive ecological web of sea birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles including the Black-footed Albatross, Chinook Salmon, and Great White Shark.
It’s also one of my favorite geotag locations. So make sure you click on the icon under the picture to see the location on a map.
Whenever I’m standing on rocky outcroppings like this looking out onto the Pacific Ocean, I think of the words of the Beat poet Lew Welch.
Here’s the last two stanzas from his glorious poem, THE SONG MT. TAMALPAIS SINGS:
This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go.
Once again we celebrate the
Headland’s huge, cairn-studded fall
into the Sea.
This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go.
For we have walked the jeweled beaches
at the feet of the final cliffs
of all Man’s wanderings.
This is the last place
There is nowhere else we need to go.
-Lew Welch (1921-1976)
Have a Happy New Year Everyone!
I spent most of the long holiday weekend in bike-friendly Fairfax (with my mother, brother, nephews and my brother’s extended family). Taking advantage of one splendid sunny day, I went for a short ride up into the surrounding hills — the same hills where legend has it the “mountain bike” was invented.
Make of this account what you will:
‘Twas the day before Christmas, when all thro’ the land,
not a storm cloud was in sight, not even in San Fran.
I set out on my ride with an Italian holiday treat;
’tis called Panettone, ’tis all I had with me to eat.
‘Twas packed with a thermos filled with hot tea;
but where to stop and enjoy I must wait and see.
My handlebar bag deftly handled the load,
as I pedaled my way up Bolinas-Fairfax Rd.
The summit was sunny, ’twas a true joy to be there;
yet riding down ’twas cold, so I descended with care.
Then who should I see — why it happened so quick.
But if I’m not mistaken it was good ol’ St. Nick!
I heard him exclaim, as his lugged, steel-framed bike disappeared out of sight –
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
And one of the creation legends surrounding Panettone, according to Wikipedia:
“…a 15th-century legend from Milan gives the invention to the nobleman falconer Ughetto Atellani, who loved Adalgisa, the daughter of a poor baker named Toni. To help her, the nobleman disguised himself as a baker and invented a rich cake to which he added flour and yeast, butter, eggs, dried raisins, and candied lemon and orange peel.
The duke of Milan, Luduvico il Moro Sforza (1452–1508), agreed to the marriage, which was held in the presence of Leonardo da Vinci, and encouraged the launch of the new cake-like bread: Pan de Toni (or Toni’s cake).”