keeping track of all the restaurants

4 Jul

One option to be able to keep track of all the wonderful restaurants I’ve been eating at would be to make a little list of those places I recommend, and post it to my blog. But a much more insane, hopped-up socially-networked and nifty option would be to post reviews on Since I was feeling zany this morning, I decided to do the latter. This way I can remember all the wonderful food experiences I’ve had here in SF, and share them with all you all. Feel free to check out my hastily-composed and ever-growing list of restaurant recommendations on yelp.

helping strangers

29 Jun

Today another stranger wrote me a thank you comment for a problem and solution I posted.

It is so satisfying to have strangers post comments to my site in appreciation for me having posted something that helped them. I encourage everyone, whenever you have a problem and have worked to find a solution to it, to write it up on your blog. Even for the most banal problem, someone out there is most likely trying to find a way to solve it by desperately searching the net. Selflessly putting information up makes a great web of random kindness and it allows more of our efforts to be worthwhile in making this world a better place. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

I’m also going to try to be more appreciative and post a nice comment on people’s blogs who have posted things that have helped me to solve problems. That way, they too can get the small satisfaction of knowing that something they’ve done has positively touched someone in the world.

a whole 30 minutes of being a celebrity

20 Jun

Andy Warhol once said “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” I feel lucky since this last weekend, I got to be famous for a whole 30 minutes.

SFShenanigans, the Improv Everywhere-inspired group, had their second antic, called Create Your Own Celebrity, and I got to be the celebrity. So I was the French-speaking Norwegian Pia Haraldsen, who was supposedly rumored to have something going with U2’s Bono, and who was followed around by a group of very-exuberant fans.

walking.jpgAs Pia, I walked down the street, accompanied by my bodyguard who walked behind me and who wouldn’t let any of the plebian masses get too close while I did a little shopping. And this wasn’t any normal shopping. I walked into the most fancy stores around Union Square, such as BCBG, Prada, Emporio Armani and Bulgari. Usually I would hesitate to go into these because I’d be afraid that the people who worked there would turn up their noses at me, but being dressed nicely and being accompanied by my suit-and-sunglass-wearing burly bodyguard made me fearless. I felt like I was right at home casually looking at jewelry that probably cost more than my yearly salary, and saying nonchalantly to those who asked if they could help me that I was “just looking.”

My favorite part was when I went into Bulgari to look around, and a few of the fans rushed in to try to follow me and take pictures. A couple of the Bulgari security guards jumped forward to usher them out, telling them that “they couldn’t do that in here” and that they had to leave.

It was hilarious and awesome to see them move into action to protect me. They locked the stores doors behind me so that the fans were stuck outside, and told me that I could stay there as long as I needed. They could see that I was worried about the fans that were following me, and wanted to make me feel comfortable that I was safe in that elitist place where the special classes could be separated from the lower ones. I couldn’t believe I was being guarded by f’in Bulgari security, as well as my own bodyguard who was stationed at the door, ready for my command.

I told them in my French accent that I would look around a bit more, and then when finally I was ready to leave and the fans had moved on, a guard unlocked the door and said “Au Revoir” politely to me.

When I was out of the stores on the street, I was almost constantly followed by a group that kept asking for my picture, an autograph, or just screamed, “We love you, Pia!” One of the fans even asked me for a date, saying, “What does Bono have that I don’t?” I occasionally turned around and gave a quick autograph, or a demure smile for the camera, but then there were a few times that I blocked the camera from seeing my face or asked my bodyguard in French why these crazy Americans wouldn’t leave me alone.

It sounds like the group of fans got a lot of people curious about who I was. Everyone wants to be able to tell a story to their friends about having got to see a celebrity up close. Some tourists around Union Square who weren’t part of SFShenanigans even took pictures of me, and some even pretended that they’d heard of me when the group explained who I was. It was great fun to be part of an antic that caused such curiosity and excitement. I can definitely see both the attraction to being loved and followed everywhere, and how it would get to be a bit of an annoyance if it couldn’t be escaped.

More pictures of the antics on this Shenanigans flickr set and a debrief of the event on the Shenanigans site.

six tips for happiness

17 May

From this NPR article, here are six tips for being happy, from Tal Ben-Shahar, the Harvard professor of positive psychology:

1. Give yourself permission to be human. When we accept emotions — such as fear, sadness, or anxiety — as natural, we are more likely to overcome them. Rejecting our emotions, positive or negative, leads to frustration and unhappiness.

2. Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning. Whether at work or at home, the goal is to engage in activities that are both personally significant and enjoyable. When this is not feasible, make sure you have happiness boosters, moments throughout the week that provide you with both pleasure and meaning.

3. Keep in mind that happiness is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account. Barring extreme circumstances, our level of well being is determined by what we choose to focus on (the full or the empty part of the glass) and by our interpretation of external events. For example, do we view failure as catastrophic, or do we see it as a learning opportunity?

4. Simplify! We are, generally, too busy, trying to squeeze in more and more activities into less and less time. Quantity influences quality, and we compromise on our happiness by trying to do too much.

5. Remember the mind-body connection. What we do — or don’t do — with our bodies influences our mind. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating habits lead to both physical and mental health.

6. Express gratitude, whenever possible. We too often take our lives for granted. Learn to appreciate and savor the wonderful things in life, from people to food, from nature to a smile.

It’s crazy that it can be so simple.

my favorite podcasts

16 May

Here’s a list of all the podcasts I subscribe to:

  • Radio Oh La La: The only music podcast I subscribe to, this exceptional one is dedicated to French pop music from the 50s and 60s. High camp, classics and fun.
  • The Sound of Young America. Just the tongue in cheek description of it being a “Public Radio Show About Things That Are Awesome” and the fact that the host and producer Jesse Thorn calls himself “America’s radio sweetheart” delight me. The show features intelligent interviews with authors, film makers, comedians, artists and more. True to its jingle, this is “maximum fun!”
  • Boing boing boing. A very seldom podcast from the makers of boingboing.
  • The Onion Radio News. You can get the Onion in pod form!
  • Yoga Today. This video podcast is the only reason I’ve kept up with my yoga regularly, and I highly recommend it for those who need direction in yoga and don’t have time or motivation to go out of the house to do it. They do a different hour session of yoga everyday, and it’s great to be able to pause to look at certain poses in detail. You can fast forward through the ads at the beginning.
  • With this steady diet, I have enough entertainment to last a lifetime!

vonnegut’s eight short story rules

16 May

Wikipedia lists Vonnegut’s eight rules for writing a short story:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

and notes that “Vonnegut qualifies the list by adding that the greatest American short story writer, Flannery O’Connor, broke all these rules except the first, and that great writers tend to do that.”

photos uploaded around the world

16 May

Well, since I’m off on a major flickr kick today, I might as well let it keep rolling. I just saw that there is a site called which shows all the recent flickr photos that also have geographical information. It places them on a map, and flips through them as they’re added all over the world. What an addictive way to get a visual snapshot of what’s going on all over, right now. It makes the world feel smaller and yet still very diverse.

mapping memories to places

16 May

San Francisco map
I love the feature in flickr where you can map all your photos to different places on a map. Here’s my personal flickr map of San Francisco memories. It’s really handy to be able to situate different images to associate memories with locations when you look back at them later.

y2K ala passé

25 Apr

y2kimage5.jpgI love past depictions of what people thought the future would be like. This collection is especially magical, as it includes a water-unicycle, slidewalks, locomotives pulling houses, personal airplanes, weather control systems, amphibious railways, police X-rays for seeing through walls, and zeppelins.


20 Apr

Just when I had finally gotten refocused back on work and torn myself away from the distractions of the incredible views of the city, the bridges, the ocean and Coit tower (which are all visible from various rooms in the flat where we’re staying in this week on Telegraph Hill), a big group of squawking wild green parrots passed by my window. Thanks a lot, guys!

excerpt from landlady’s letter

31 Mar

I thought that this was a very charming part of a letter from our landlady since she’s going to be out of town:

I hope that the cat will not be too needy in our absence. I do have someone stopping over to feed him. The only other thing is Salvatore the box turtle. He lives in the pond and wanders around the garden. Occasionally he falls down the stairs and ends up on your patio. If you see him there please put him back in the pond. He can’t climb back up the stairs by himself. He doesn’t bite.


firefox text bug fixed

12 Mar

I’ve had a very difficult time for the last several months with a font issue in Firefox. Any time there was bolding, italics or a link on a page, there would be a large space before and after these or they would run into and overlap the regular text. After searching online for endless hours, calling Apple, posting the issue to Mozilla forums, and even asking the Firefox representatives at the SXSW trade show today, I had no luck. Then, tonight on a whim, I just deleted and reinstalled Arial, and that miraculously solved the problem. I am so relieved to have finally found the solution!

pop surrealism

5 Dec

I’ve gotten obsessed with Pop Surrealism over the past year, and just realized that most of the coolest artists have websites, so I figured I might as well do a compilation of some great ones for those wandering souls who are trying to find such a list on the internet. Here she be:

As this is not at all a comprehensive list, feel free to add your own favorites.

There are also quite a few really interesting and weird artists on the Beinart International Surreal Art Collective site, but it’s not strictly pop surrealism by any means.

if guy maddin were a photographer…

5 Dec

Stephen Berkman: Memory Series
I am fascinated by Guy Maddin’s films which look like they were made in the dawn of the silent film period, but which have modern and bizarrely surreal themes. My favorite is his short film called “The Heart of the World“.

Today I discovered a photographer whose style is reminiscent of Maddin’s: Stephen Berkman. Just gotta love those anachronistic mash ups!

discovering new music through musicovery

5 Dec

There’s a really neat flash-based site called musicovery that allows you to discover all kinds of music and visually navigate through musicians based on how they’re linked through musical style, time period, or even mood. Although it doesn’t include movies like liveplasma, the fact that it automatically plays music from the selected musician as you navigate makes it a really cool browseable jukebox.