One of the final acts before changing our address to NYC was to mail in our ballots for the upcoming election. There was a bit of a hiccup because the post office didn’t automatically forward our ballots to our NY address so I had a pleasant conversation with Lisa at the Alameda County Registrar of Voters office and arranged to have our ballots mailed directly to us.
I had to do some online research to read up on the various issues and down-ballot races. If you’re in the same boat and haven’t voted yet, here’s my list of sites that I found useful:
CalMatters voter’s guide – a series of 1-minute videos gives you background on each of the state propositions. Alameda isn’t in any of the hotly contested districts for Senate, Congressional or Assembly races so they are not covered.
It’d be easy to say that last week’s orange-colored skies were the final straw that told us it’s time to go but this move has been in the works for awhile and only in the past few weeks has become reality. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
For a couple years Izumi and I planned to sell the house and move once the kids up and left for college. Our house in Alameda is just too big for two people and a small dog and we live on a block too ideal for a family with small kids to keep it to ourselves. The house gained some value over the years as well which will allow us to pay off our children’s college debt.
So when our youngest started at college in August we began to inquire about selling the house. Things progressed rapidly from there and within a few weeks we completed the transaction, contacted the movers, and started the process of unloading years of stuff in preparation for moving into more modest quarters.
The plan is to move to NYC. SmartNews has an office there and many of our publishing partners are based there so when things start to go back to normal it would make sense to be there. We would also be closer to the kids, who both go to school in Massachusetts, and they were both excited to the prospect of spending vacations in a bustling city.
We leave in a few weeks. Because of COVID restrictions we wanted to limit the amount of flying back and forth looking at places so we’re not sure where we’re living beyond the 30-day furnished apartment we just reserved online. Come to think of it, this is how we moved to Alameda in 2004 and to Finland in 2010 so I guess this is just how we roll.
We’re planning on living in Manhattan. People are fleeing downtown so hopefully that will make it somewhat affordable. We’ll see when we get there. I am optimistic for the future. NYC may be down but I can never imagine it would be out. The spirit of the city is just too strong.
If part of the plan was to keep Izumi busy so she wouldn’t get depressed being an empty-nester than I guess you can say it worked. She’s been a Tasmanian Devil packing what’s important and ruthless about pitching the rest.
I will, of course, miss friends and family (bye Sis!) I leave behind. I came out to the Bay Area in 2004 because no one on the East Coast knew what I was talking about when I ranted about the transformational impact of blogging. I moved here to be around like-minded people and rode that wave to where I am today. Now everyone “blogs” on Facebook. and tech is making moves to set up in NYC anyway.
Thank you to my colleagues at SmartNews for their understanding and support that allowed me to make this move. I should mention we are hiring to find someone to fill my shoes and work on my team in the SF office so please reach out to me if you want to learn more.
Izumi and I were born in Brooklyn so this move is like returning home in some ways. On my last trip to NYC I stayed in Brooklyn and spent the evenings riding a bike around the city looking for my old house. Like salmon swimming upstream, maybe we’re feeling a little nostalgic?
I think I read somewhere that Italians like to say that you should live your life in pursuit of experiences that will make for a good stories. Stay tuned as I have a feeling we’ll get a lot of stories out of this move.
Julia just graduated from high school. It was strangely anti-climactic. She put on her graduation regalia and headed out the door to meet a small group of classmates in Group 11 at the Alameda Theatre where they were ushered in, socially-distanced, and took the stage, one-by-one, to pick up a diploma and say a few words into a camera for a video that will be spliced together for family and friends. No pomp, just circumstance.
The Class of 2020 has been through a series of unique events as they made their way through the public school system here in Alameda. They grew up learning how to adapt.
Her class was the first seriously impacted at the local elementary school as overflow from the lottery system in San Francisco drove parents to the East Bay. In 2007 it was no longer sufficient to say you lived in the neighborhood to send your kids to the local school. For the first time, you had to get in line and spend the night in order to guarantee one of the coveted spots for your child in the kindergarten.
As Julia made her way to Lincoln Middle School, her class ended up being one of the last that took the trip out East to visit Washington DC as part of the Close-Up program. Julia took band where she played violin and was part of the color guard team with the marching band that took a trip to Disneyland where they marched down Main Street.
In high school, Julia’s interests turned to sports where she ramped up her passion for soccer. She had been playing club soccer for a couple of years and made the varsity team her freshman year. She also dug into leadership at the school where she served on the Spirit Committee and helped organize several school-wide events including a fund-raiser which raised thousands for families suffering after the fires in Paradise, California. She called the program Pennies for Paradise.
Alameda High School went through a number of physical upgrades while she attended. Seismic fences surrounded the old school building as the structure was deemed unsound. Over the four years Julia was there, major improvements were made and by her senior year, they finished with the classic structure you see in the photo below.
She took an interest in Psychology to the point where she convinced enough classmates to join her and put together an AP Psychology course. This interest served to focus her college search which brought her to Clark University which is known for its Psychology Department.
So Julia starts at Clark University in Massachusetts next year. Izumi and I sat in on a Q&A session and learned a little about the school’s plans to get started in the Fall. They will do everything they can to get everyone together for in-person instruction but are also planning on an extended Winter Break (Nov 20 – Feb 15) during which courses will be taught remotely should there be a second outbreak of the Coronavirus.
Izumi and I have been touched with the school’s inclusive approach. Their admissions package included not only the usual information and schwag for Julia but also a nice letter from the president, welcoming us to the community.
I think she’ll be in good hands. Congratulations Julia, I’m so excited to see what you do next!
Ever since they shut down the Air Naval Station on the western end of Alameda, there has been a number of cool businesses that have moved in to call the leftover gigantic air hangers their home.
St. George’s Spirits – a required stop when visiting the island – they offer tours of their distillery floor and will tell tales of their innovations and experiments that have resulted in the first modern (legal) absinthe and their award-winning single malt. Be sure to ask them about their wasabi vodka experiment.
The Bladium – when you’ve got an entire hanger, you can do a lot with the space. There’s a boxing ring and an indoor rock wall.
Rock Wall Winery – speaking of rock wall, Rock Wall was founded by the daughter of Kent Rosenblum who ran a very successful winery down the street.
The Rake – a pub attached to Admiral Maltings. They serve up beers that are brewed using their malts. Their beers are, of course, wonderful but the whole WPA, union shop design ethic is really cool too.
The Ocean Cleanup – boy genius Boyan Slat threw out an idea at a Ted talk and proposed a clean-up of all the plastic in the ocean. When it came time build a huge boom that they sent out into the Pacific Ocean to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, he chose Alameda. They are also working on a thing I call Roomba for Rivers.
Makani – a Google X graduate, this “moonshot” make huge kites which they fly in the jet stream and use to harness power.
Astra – just out of stealth, this rocket start-up that looks like a garage project that went pro. Astra has hired on some big guns and aims to launch their micro-rockets on a regular (daily) basis to serve the soon-to-be-booming commercial space industry. They will not launch out of Alameda but they found a jet engine testing facility from the Naval Air Station perfect for their undercover tests.
There are more on the way I’m sure – the old Mythbusters used to use the runway to blow stuff up. That same runway has been used to test drive an autonomous motorcycle startup of an unknown name and the movie studio behind The Matrix movies is back for more filming of their dystopian universe.
‘Alice’s Egg Spoon’ is a hand-forged iron spoon perfectly calibrated for frying an egg in the fireplace or over a gas flame. In 2004, when Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters (Permanent Collection co-founder, Fanny’s mother) read William Rubel’s The Magic of Fire: Hearth Cooking, she asked a blacksmith friend named Angelo Garro to make a spoon to cook an egg in the coals. The iconic spoon quickly became one of the items most identified with Alice’s kitchen and cuisine.
A large earthquake off the coast of Alaska last night set off tsunami warnings (that were later cancelled) up and down the West Coast of the United States. Residents on Alameda, the island in the San Francisco Bay where I live, were all curious why we never got any warning waking us out of our beds. The answer was that there never was enough of a threat but I was curious enough to do a little research and found that others had asked in the past so I’d thought I’d summarize and post what I found for future reference.
As you can see in the simulation of a 16 foot tsunami in the video above, most of the energy of the of the wave is absorbed by the Pacific coastline and dissipates as it tries to squeeze through the Golden Gate. A more detailed video can be found here.
By the time the wave reaches Alameda, most of the energy is gone but there is still some danger from flooding. California has posted a full set of Tsunami Inundation Maps that are a useful resource. I pulled together the relevant section for Alameda.
Luckily, there’s a lengthy study published in 2016 on tsunami evacuations that used Alameda as case study. The study looks at three types of tsunami events with the most severe being one in which the waters would cover the island as in the illustration above. While the advance does cover much of the island, the study concludes,
One mitigating factor is that potential sources associated with a Zone 3 evacuation are likely distant earthquakes only and expected tsunami arrival times of 4 h or more should provide sufficient time to implement a successful evacuation before wave arrival.
This has to do with the geologic faults that are off the coast of California. Back again to the Bay Curious post linked at the top.
Tsunamis are caused when one tectonic plate slides underneath another — a process called subduction. This slow movement is happening all the time, but sometimes a plate will get stuck and pressure starts to build. When it finally lets go, there’s an underwater earthquake that can move the seafloor up and down, sending a wave to the surface of the ocean.
But the San Andreas Fault is different. It’s called a slip-strike fault because the two plates slide past each other horizontally. Of course, whenever plates move, the ground shakes. But here, there is no subduction and little displaced ocean.
Meaning no killer tsunamis. Even San Francisco’s infamous 1906 earthquake generated only a 4-inch wave at the Presidio gauge station.
So there you have it. If you get a tsunami warning that is something to worry about, you’ll have a couple of hours to make your way to Park Street or the Alameda Theatre parking structure where you can get a view and watch the wave come in.
One of the local sushi restaurants, Kamakura, suffered a fire a few weeks ago and people have been writing letters to the local paper in support of the restaurant, it’s staff, and the beloved owner, the 92-year old Faith Yamato.
Today’s Alameda Journal has the following story which gives you a sense of Faith and the spirit of the place.
Faith Yamato is a beloved figure in our neighborhood and our lives, and, if I might, I want to share a story: We moved to Alameda six years ago, and my 84-year-old father was already unwell. We lived with him and wouldn’t know until a year later that we would have him in home hospice and he would be gone a few weeks after that. We took him out to Kamakura with some relatives who were visiting and Ms. Yamato was in her usual station, dispensing Botan candy for the kids, writing her signature birthday cards for the evening.
Dad had had a fairly crippling stroke some years earlier, and though he was always brave and positive about it, he had never fully regained the use of his right hand. As you might imagine, this made using chopsticks pretty challenging for him. But being the man he was, he wasn’t going to complain or ask for help, and we knew better than to bring it up in a way that would embarrass him.
Halfway through the meal, a waitress came out to my dad and said: “Excuse me sir, we have a new salad we would like you to try, and this is complements of the house.” She put a plate in front of him of the fine seaweed salad that was a Kamakura favorite. I was confused for a minute, until I saw what was discreetly placed on the dish. It was a fork.
I learned a lot about service that night, that it’s essence is giving someone what they need without their having to ask you for it and without needing credit for your action.
I looked inquiringly at Faith, and she never looked up from her colored pens and birthday cards. I knew she was behind it.
Kamakura is closed indefinitely while they rebuild. The restaurant is insured but they estimate the damage to the over $250k and while the restaurant is closed, the staff are obviously not being paid. If you’d like to pitch in to support Faith and the staff of Kamakura, there’s a Go Fund Me page set up by another businessman in Alameda.
I think it’s charming that the California State Legislature opens the session with a prayer from a Buddhist priest. I also love that the Governor begins the swearing in of the new Attorney General with a jocular, “Are you ready?” and ends with a casual, “That’s it! Congratulations!”
But if you want to skip ahead to Governor Jerry Brown’s fiery defense of California’s philosophy of inclusion, scrub up to the 20 minute mark.
I’m proud that not only my congresswoman but also my senator is speaking out for inclusion, Affordable Health Care, and clean energy. Ending his speech with the words of Woody Guthrie, Gov. Jerry Brown quoted “This Land was made for youand me“ which took on new meaning and emphasis in his speech. “California is not turning back. Not now, not ever!”
But the state’s stance on sanctuary cities is what is front and center today. Up and down and across the country leaders are speaking out against the new administration’s threat to withdraw federal support from sanctuary cities.
There’s a study out today that has shown that communities that devote their resources to actually fighting crime (instead of rounding up illegals) are actually safer.
I’m proud to say that my city too has taken a stance and declared itself a sanctuary city on the eve of Trump’s inauguration. When friends and family ask about the significance of this I point to this speech given in front of the City Council by Reverend Michael Yoshii of the local Buddhist temple who reminded everyone present that it was in Alameda, because of the proximity of the naval base on the West End of the island that the first Japanese-Americans were rounded up to live in the local horse track stables while the internment camps were being built that would house them during WWII.
They were rounded up because, in Michael’s word, war hysteria and paranoia ran high in the days after Pearl Harbor and, “no one spoke up.” Without a law or policy in place that set up a moral true North, no one spoke up.
Each year the guys on my block take turns dressing up as Father Christmas and sit out on a sled in the median on our street asking kids who line up each night between 6:30 and 8 chatting about their hopes and dreams for Christmas morning. It’s a tradition that goes back to the 30’s and one that allows for me to take the pulse of the in toys for the season.
Here’s my unofficial survey of what’s popular in 2016.
Pokemon cards are back! Several kids asked for specific decks of this old school game which is experiencing a comeback no doubt due to their older siblings who are playing it again on their phones. Pikachu stuffed dolls and other characters from the game were a close runner up. Props to the kid that insisted (much to the frustration of his mother) on posing for his Santa photo with his poke-ball.
Playstation 4 beats out the XBox. There was also one mention of a Nintendo DS.
iPhones were mentioned a few times with one girl asking specifically for the iPhone 7. One kid also asked for a GoPro. No mention of any Android devices or Apple Watches.
One kid asked for a Nerf Gun and the parent’s and I did a double-take when we heard his younger sister say she wanted a, “shotgun” but she later clarified that it was a Shuriken. Best to stay clear of that house on Christmas morning.
There were several wishes for a dog and one boy that wanted a swimming frog while his sister hoped for “birds in a cage” but the prize for the best wish goes to the little girl who is wishing for a flying turtle. The father and I exchanged a panicked look and I said something about “seeing what I could do” – maybe her dad can rig up a drone or something, he’s got his work cut out for him.
Thompson Avenue was its usual carnival of lights this year as the neighborhood lit itself up and residents prepared to greet the thousands of people that came to walk our street, see the lighting displays, and of course visit with Santa.
Each December, all of the dudes on the block volunteer to play Santa Claus for an evening or two between December 6th and 23rd. It’s always fun to hear what the little ones want for Christmas. Hightlights this year were:
the boy who wanted a tuba (I made a deal with him to play it when his parents are asleep in the morning)
the girl who, amidst a long list of video games wanted a book of poetry
the little girl who whispered to me before she left, “Why do people still fight wars?”