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iPad vs. Kindle/Nook/Sony Reader

At the book convention I tried out the above 3 reading devices. There's just no comparison with the iPad. As someone said earlier in the week, they seem like stone age compared to the iPad, which I'm writing this on now at the airport. It's just phenomenal, the more I use it.

Nap in park, warm Saturday afternoon

Chocolates on the sidewalk

Out and about in the city

City footwork: My competitive running days are over, but all those years of training have given me the ability to move deftly through busy city streets. A lot of it is footwork. Also being able to shift your weight and spring left or right, ahead or backwards. Don't obey traffic signals, but watch the traffic. Often I'll do a quick speedwalk to get across in front of a lone car. I pretend like I'm a hunter out on the streets, shooting photos instead of game.
Architecture: The Seagram's building (Mies van der Rohe, 1958), at Park and 52nd, still looks great
Map: Found this tiny map, fits easily in pocket, does the job for Manhattan: New Yorker's Manhattan MiniMap
Sustenance:…"Guinness is good for you."…Pescatore Italian seafood restaurant, 955 2nd (50th-51st) is my dream restaurant. Pasta is as good as it gets, reasonable prices..…Buttercup Bake Shop, 973 2nd, good latte, great cake…Le Pain Quotidien, a number of locations in NYC, recycled lumber community tables, artisan bread, best French toast I've ever had, hip workers, good vibes…Blue Ribbon Sushi, 119 Sullivan at Prince, had standing room only at 11:30 Tuesday night, v. hip looking.
Books: Stopped in at the Strand, 828 Broadway, venerable old bookstore, it was mobbed with book buyers (who haven't heard that books are dead).

Fleet's in

It's fleet week in NYC and there are white-clad sailors all over the city. On Thursday, from the cab on the way to the convention at the Javits Center), I saw the USS Iwo Jima coming up the Hudson, looking huge, with sailors lined up-side-by-side along the starboard and bow of the ship. Pretty spectacular.
Quiz: this photo could be from the '40s, World War II-time, except for what item?

One more NYC at night 28 May 2010

NYC at night about an hour ago

Last night, across from hotel

Air was fresh after rain, wispy clouds, nice temperature for being outside…

The Reverend Horton Heat

The Rev is a mean guitar player, a master gunslinger and this 3-piece band sounds like a 5-piece. High energy,kick-out-the-jams, funny, rockin hillbilly/punk/blues and oh yes, rock and roll. I wandered into the Highline Ballroom last night having no idea what the band was like and I had a great time.

Stairwell, red bannister

Pod hotel, hipped-up remodel of Pickwick Arms

Lobby of Pod Hotel in Manhattan. They say: "High style and high tech converge at the Pod Hotel, which offers hip, convenient accommodations for the stylish and spendthrifty traveler. Formerly the Pickwick Arms, the hotel is located in the heart of New York City’s Midtown East neighborhood."
I used to stay at the Pickwick Arms, it was inexpensive and just around the corner from Random House, my distributor for 30 years. The rooms are small.

NYC garbage truck

Caffe Reggio

At the Apple Store on Park Ave.

It's an elegant store and it was mobbed (Monday afternoon). Throngs of people at the iPad tables. This pic is looking up at the bottom of the glass spiral staircase, shadows of people's shoes. The 2nd shadows down from top right are high heels.
I bought a v. cool tiny set of speakers to run off the MacBook and iPad: iHome Model iHM79 Portable Rechargeable Speakers: http://www.ihomeaudio.com/
Right now listening to BB King's Bluesville station on the internet through Sirius satellite radio. Am I tech savvy or what?
These little speakers put out big sound. Unique!

Nice little Vespa in Manhattan

Check the snazzy mirrors.

Wachovia — yeah, sure they do…

Watch over ya, right?

Slugfest at the Stadium

The Mills Brothers and Fats Domino

These were my biggest two musical influences.

Ready to hit Lexington Ave

Getting ready to hit NYC streets yesterday morning. My little Canon PowerShot S-90 is awesome. I carry it in my fanny pack. As opposed to a big camera hanging on my shoulder.

Squid pasta in New York City

Where else could this happen? I headed down E. 51st and turned right on 2nd Ave, looking for an Italian restaurant the hotel doorman recommended. I didn't find it, but spotted Pescatore, at 955 2nd Ave. Went in and had Linguine Nero: pasta stained black with squid ink, and shrimp, calamari, arugula, spicy tomato sauce. Salad, glass of chianti, preceded by little bowl of warm olives in olive oil, crusty whole wheat bread. It was about the best pasta I've ever had. I've been admonished about my frequent superlatives, but this was in the category of foods that transport you. Alchemy. Told waiter to tell chef it was a brilliant dish, pretty soon the chef came out, George Bermeo, and he beamed. Chefs love praise, it's such a hard job, and if they are true artists they appreciate being appreciated. I ended up getting gelato, a glass of sambuca and an espresso on the house. As my friend Rod Lundquist said in 1955 after a great meal with the O'Neill family and their 6 kids, "Life is rich!"

Lake in Central Park

Can you believe this is in the heart of one of the most densely-populated cities on the planet? Yesterday afternoon, at the southern end of the park, on 58th.

PS: Thanks to Rick Gordon, wizard of all things Macintosh, for the new look of this blog.

When she's good, she's very, very…

Lord, just stepping out of the hotel is like going into another dimension. Overdrive, baby. People here are so on-the-ball,  so alert. (This ain't southern California.) There's also a special chemistry when the weather is good. The city has its moods, and right now, good vibes are enhanced by comfortable weather. Once I was here in August on a Monday after a big parade; it was 95, high humidity, and the entire park smelled like piss. I went back to my hotel every hour or two to take a cold shower. Miserable. Locals were cranky. Another time I went for a run in slushy snow (at night) in January (my serious running days). Today, though, was sit-on-the-stoop or at an outdoor cafe weather.
Last night I went to Trattoria della Arte, across the street from Carnegie Hall, and sat at the bar, masterfully tended by Cynthia, whose judgment I invariably trust in what to order and drink. A woman was on the next stool and we started talking. She told Cynthia to bring me a plate and gave me a piece of her thin-crust pizza. She was from Amish country in Pennsylvania, on vacation from her 3 teenagers. The guy on the other side of me hears us talking and he's also from Pennsylvania. A designer of stores and stage sets. The guy next to him has an iPad, and soon the 4 of us are yakkin it up like old friends. There's an intimacy in NYC due to proximity, especially in restaurants, and many times I've had wonderful random encounters like this.
Afterwards walked down to the village and had vanilla ice cream and an espresso at Cafe Riggio (left).
I just got back from a massage with an extraordinary bodyworker. I've, yes, injured my left ankle, right hamstring in running, and needed some unlocking of scar tissue. I looked up "sports massage NYC" online and found Robin Rubenstein (646-337-8634) and as soon as she touched me I knew I was in good hands. I've been to tons of bodybworkers over the years, a necessity from a lifetime of physical activity, and Robin loosened tight muscles and got the chi flowing. Now it's 10 PM and I'm going out into the warm night to find an Italian restaurant.
I think they'll keep me down on the farm, but I sure do like Paree.

Kickin ass and buffed cowboy in Times Square last night

Cross-cultural skateboard connection on sunny afternoon

It was a bright beautiful clear Sunday afternoon yesterday, and I was killing time until going to the airport, riding my skateboard on the streets near Ocean Beach in San Francisco. I was using a Big Kahuna stick, a kind of paddle with rubber stoppers on the bottom so that you propel yourself along, like paddling a canoe. It often amuses people who see this device in operation. I passed a young oriental woman on the sidewalk and she broke into a grin and said, "You have..." and than ran to catch up. She didn't speak much English but she was just delighted with the whole setup. (There aren't actually that many people out in the world who see what's going on around them.) So I got her on the board and had her hold my arm while we went down the sidewalk. She loved it.

I pulled her along and she gradually got her balance and I had her let go of me and she was laughing in glee at her first skateboarding solo. We did this for a while. I taught her how to jump off when she lost her balance, before falling. After a while I retrieved the board and started skating again, and she said, "I run...," and she started running alongside me. We were like two kids playing.

She said she had just recently come from China and was on the way to visit her auntie. I asked how old she was. How old you think?" she asked. I told her I didn't guess ages. She insisted. "22," I said. "24."

She ran along for a while, I mean, really ran, then we parted ways. It was so much fun. Just out of the blue.

Go to the post page…

In the San Francisco airport International Terminal about 7 PM last night

Ooh wah, ooh wah, cool, cool kitty,

Tell us about the boy from New York City
Whoo-eee! Ain't nothin like it. After a restless red-eye flight, no sleep (in fact about 3 hours sleep in 2 nights), got a $20 van ride from JFK in to the hotel, Lexington and E 51st, and voila, the room was ready at 9 AM, so I'm now set up at Shelter Publications East Coast headquarters for the next 7 days.
I got cleaned up, checked email, got B. B. Kings Bluesville station (Sirius satellite radio) playing on my MacBook, and I am stylin…
I took a 30-40-min walk to check out the immediate hood. The people. The people. There are so many more people of substance on the streets than you see in California. They're low on lame-os. A huge black guy, maybe 6'-9," 285 lbs of muscle; an elegantly dressed guy speaking Italian; a 12--year-old girl dressed to the nines, walking down the street with her Dad, talking like a college grad; great-looking women of all persuasions, exotic tattooed punks…
The great depth of cafes and restaurants, the killer traffic, an ambulance went screaming down 3rd, bagel and hot dog stands, a lot of street food, the weather is actually perfect, overcast, maybe 70 with a breeze and a few refreshing raindrops. When she's good, she's very, very…
I'm about to set out for some reconnoitering…Oh boy!

Bruno Atkey's home gym

Take a length of sturdy rope, a sanded-down section of a tree branch, and hang from ceiling hook. You can do lots of stretches and exercises with this simple device. I sometimes do it while watching TV. I also have one in the office. The invention of Bruno Atkey (see pp. 90, Builders of the Pacific Coast).

Huge shade tree in India

Godfrey Stephens wrote: "I took this pic at about 50 mph from a car entering Cochin (Malabar Coast), India, in April 2010. Imported by the Portugese as shade trees way way back."

They call me Big Mama

They call me Big Mama
'Cause I weigh 300 pounds.
I can rock and I can roll,
And I can really go to town.

              -Big Mama Thornton


Seals hauled up on sandbar in lagoon

Sittin' in the morning sun,
I'll be sittin' when morning comes…

Walter the beachcomber

Is my neighbor Walter a beachcomber or what?

3D Murals Painted on Sides of Buildings

"These scenes of wrecked buildings and unique structures are actually huge three dimensional works of art done on the side of buildings. Since he first started back in 2002, John Pugh has been fooling many for years with his 3D murals."

Stones: Get a girl with far away eyes

This is so good! Come on Charlie, loosen up!

91-year old ragtime piano player accompanied by me and my brother

I was at my Mom's rest home a few weeks ago and walked in on a little lady sitting at the piano playing for the old folks. (This is in the wing for elderly and challenged residents.) It was ragtime music and great. I learned who she was and called her up. Did she want me with my bass and my brother with his banjo to sit in with her? "Oh, yes, that would be great!"

This is the 2nd time we've played together. Lew taped this last Tuesday, and the joint was rockin'. (We haven't even practiced together yet.) These are songs that I used to play with my quartet in high school, a lot of them from the '20s, so I was right at home.

I'm working at my bass playing and Bob is pretty good on the banjo. Phoebe is actually thrilled. I told her we're just enhancing her. I'm calling us the Phoebe Babo trio. She says when she was a girl, she played the drums. She started on the piano later on in life, and she's just got it. She is a grand lady. The 80-90-year-olds love us. On Tuesday, as soon as we started playing, people came in from all over. The caregiver women were dancing, my mom's caregiver Clara was shakin' it. A lady named Jane knows the words to every song. Peggy was 88 that day and celebrating with wolf whistles at the end of each song.

Incredibleness of the iPad

Today I've loaded about 90 photos from our forthcoming book on tiny houses on to the iPad. Do they look good! I'll be showing these to people at the BEA (Book Expo America) convention next week in NYC.
You have to handle an iPad to realize its intuitive ease of use and elegance.

This is a quick shot of the iPad taken with my pocket camera just now. Depicted is a sauna in British Columbia,Canada.

Moscow Subway

Compare to NYC!

I'm giving talk at Maker Faire this weekend: The 21st century 1/4-acre homestead

I'm doing a talk at the Maker Faire, put on by O'Reilly's Make Magazine, next weekend in San Mateo, Calif, Saturday afternoon, May 22. 1:30 PM at the San Mateo County Event Center (the old Bay Meadows racetrack.) Most of the stuff in Make is pretty nerdy: circuit boards, robots, remote control, hi-tech noodling…but at this year's Maker Faire, there's the "Homegrown Village," sponsored by Farm Aid. I'll be talking about a mini-homestead. Building a home, growing food, backyard chickens on a small piece of land -- country or city. Tiny houses, houses on wheels, houseboats. Scaling back. Just how much of your food and shelter can you produce in the 21st century? I'm looking forward to it, it's always sounded like a great event.

House at beach in San Francisco

Looking through the fence at a house out near Ocean Beach in San Francisco. It was set back from the street so it had this sunny front yard. Like a bit of the country in the city.

Decked-out Harley

Anne and Chris Elkington on their Harley in Mill Valley, Calif. last weekend

Go-Pro action HD video camera

Ran across John Roberts in Mill Valley yesterday. He and his buddy had sturdy mountain bikes with big springs for downhill bombing, and John had this GoPro HD Helmet HERO camera attached to his helmet. See my writeup of it here. John said he was making films to post on Youtube.

Shit Creek Paddle Store


Connie Mery's art

This is really a nice blog of Connie Mery's paintings, many with apt quotations:

By nature, my old friend on East Mountain
treasures the beauty of hills and valleys.
Spring now green, you lie
in empty woods still sound asleep under a midday sun,
your robe growing lucid in pine winds,
rocky streams rinsing ear and heart clean.

No noise, no confusion—
all I want is this life pillowed high in emerald mist.

Li Po


Blue Victorian in Berkeley

Berkeley and Oakland (California) are filled with wonderful houses, many of them nicely maintained. This was about 7AM yesterday morning.

Baby chicks arrived this morning

Went down to the post office early this morning to pick up a box containing 30 baby chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Iowa. We've been getting chickens this way for 30 years. We've switched to bantams, and this time got 20 Auracnas (green eggs) and 10 Silver and Golden Sebrings. The Sebrings are beautiful birds. McMurray's birds are top quality. Their catalog is a delight to look through: http://is.gd/c33K9
I still can't get over the incredibleness of these little creatures coming halfway across the country on an airplane. They're shipped when one day old. When they arrive we put them in a box under an infra-red light and get them to drink water fortified with electrolytes. They start eating ground-up grain right away.
A lot of people are suddenly interested in backyard chickens. There's even a magazine: http://www.backyardpoultrymag.com/

Perky starling

This little starling was hopping around when Jack and I were having coffee at an outdoor table at the Java Beach Cafe out at the beach in San Francisco last week. This guy had kind of a punk haircut. He was probably young. He had poissonality, plus excellent selection of colors.

Under-sink electric water heater

I've never liked electric hot water heaters, since a lot of energy is lost in transmission from the generating source. Propane or natural gas provides heat right at the source and seems a better choice. And of course, solar is king, if you've got it together. I have a solar-heated outdoor shower, but haven't got around to solar-heating all household water. I've made an exception to electric water heating with this little 2-1/2 gallon hot water heater that goes under the sink of our office kitchen. It has a switch that I turn on for maybe an hour, then turn off. The water temperature can be set with the thermostat. The tank is well insulated, so it stays hot for hours. It seems a very efficient use of electricity.
In the house, we've had a 5 gallon electric water heater under the kitchen sink for about 15 years. It's minimal in electric power usage, and doesn't waste water getting from cold to hot (in pipes coming from a more distant water heater).
And yes, I've got to get more of our water heated by the sun. It's on my list of things to do, honest.

Cabin used in movie Get Low with Robert Duvall

This is the cabin that was used in the forthcoming movie Get Low, with Robert Duvall. (See my posting of May 2, 2010, below.)
It's in the Pickett's Mill Battlefield (Civil War) Historic Site, near Marietta, Georgia. It was built nearby in the 1850s and moved to the site. It's now used for demonstrations of candle making, cooking, sewing, etc.

The Thrashers - America's youngest rock and roll band

4th-graders (9 years old), are they cute! And they rock! Seen here at the Whiskey-a-go-go in L.A, March 20, 2010. They all met in a daycare school in Pacifica, California.

How I got into building

When I was 12, I helped my Dad build a house on the outskirts of Colusa, Calif. It was a concrete block house on 440 acres he had bought and turned into a rice farm. Also, he was a serious duck hunter and it served the dual purpose of farm and duck club.
We'd leave San Francisco early Friday afternoons and work long hours Saturday and Sunday. My job was shoveling sand, gravel, and cement into a concrete mixer (which I still have, still working, 63 years later). We'd usally pick up a laborer early in the morning on the streets in Colusa, then drive the 8 miles out to the ranch. I found I could work harder than the guys we picked up; they'd usually been drinking heavily the night before. I liked the work. I got some rare praise from my Dad for working hard. I still like shoveling, although I always tried to hide this skill on construction jobs so I wouldn't end up on shovel detail.
As much as I liked shoveling, it was nothing compared to hammering. One of those memorable moments in my life: the concrete slab was finished, the block walls built (by travelling masons), grout poured in the blocks, and the walls and roof framed by Pinky Smith, a cigar-chomping carpenter who was also the leader of my Cub Scout troop. I was allowed up on the roof with a hammer and canvas apron to nail down the roof sheathing. I still remember that morning, sun shining, smell of the wood, the satisfaction of hammering nails (acuracy wasn't that important here), the thrill of creating a surface, and then walking on it. I was hooked.
My next carpentry experience was in college ('53-'54) when I got a job working summers for a shipwright on the docks in San Francisco (which used to be an actual working port instead of a tourist destination). When ships came in and the holds were loaded, we'd go in and shore up the cargo with wooden bracing so it wouldn't shift around out at sea. I got $2.50 an hour and double-time for overtime, a fortune in those days. Some times we'd work 24 straight hours and I'd get close to $100 for the day. In down time, when no ships we're in, we'd build pallets at the shipwright's yard at the foot of Hyde Street, right down from the Buena Vista bar. The Ghirardelli chocolate factory was a few blocks away and when they were cooking, the smell of chocolate filled the air. Most of the other carpenters were from Oklahoma and all of them were older than me, and I loved learning the basic carpentry skills and the camaraderie.
When it came to building my own house in the early '60s in Mill Valley, I had the basics of crude carpentry down. I never got any good at finish work, but I've alwyas loved working up to the time a building is framed and sheathed. To this day I love to shift gears and do something with wood. Making tables, fixing chairs, shaking a roof, the smell of wood, the satisfaction of creating something out of raw materials. You know, with all the changes going on in the world now, the art of building a home isn't that much different. Computers can't pour a foundation or frame a wall, or lay a floor. It's still human hands holding the tools and making the connections to provide the roof overhead.

San Francisco with Jack on a sunny Friday afternoon

My good friend Jack Fulton is a photographer who paints with a camera. We've taken a lot of road trips together, including a 2-week sojourn to New Mexico in 1972 shooting a lot of the photos that appeared in Shelter. Wherever we go, we're both out shooting photos. Jack is constantly scanning the world. It's inspiring for me.
Friday we went into San Francisco early and wandered around in the late-afternoon sun-drenched beach neighborhood around the 4000 block of Judah. This small village includes Mollusk Surf Shop at 4500 Irving, Outerlands restaurant (fresh-baked bread, hip-beach-driftwood atmosphere, open for lunch and dinner), a block over on Irving, and Trouble Coffee a few doors down, my dream coffee shop, small, cozy, healthy vibes.
Photo by Jack Fulton of Julia and me in Trouble Coffee

Next door, the newly-opened General Store, where, in the back yard, was this perfect little greenhouse (below).  I fall in love with a building now and then, and this was one of those. Proportion, placement, used materials, it all comes together. Built by Jesse Schlesinger.