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kottke.org posts about San Francisco

PARK(ing) is a temporary urban park (

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 19, 2005

PARK(ing) is a temporary urban park (complete with tree and park bench) that was situated in a San Francisco metered parking spot for 2 hours.

Traffic flow

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 21, 2005

One of my favorite things to do in new cities is to observe how the traffic works. Traffic in each place has a different feel to it that depends on the culture, physical space, population density, legal situation, and modes of transportation available (and unavailable).

Everyone drives in LA and Minneapolis, even if you're only going a few blocks. In San francisco, pedestrians rule the streets...if a pedestrian steps out into the crosswalk, traffic immediately stops and will stay stopped as long as people are crossing, even if that means the cars are going nowhere, which is great if you're walking and maddening if you're driving. In many cities, both in the US and Europe, people will not cross in a crosswalk against the light and will never jaywalk. In many European cities, city streets are narrow and filled with pedestrians, slowing car traffic[1]. US cities are starting to build bike lanes on their streets, following the example of some European cities.

In NYC, cars and pedestrians take turns, depending on who has the right-of-way and the opportunity, with the latter often trumping the former. Cabs comprise much of the traffic and lanes are often a suggestion rather than a rule, more than in other US cities. With few designated bike lanes, cycling can be dangerous in the fast, heavy traffic of Manhattan. So too can cyclers be dangerous; bike messengers will speed right through busy crosswalks with nothing but a whistle to warn you.

In Bangkok, traffic is aggressive, hostile even. If a driver needs a space, he just moves over, no matter if another car is there or not. Being a pedestrian is a dangerous proposition here; traffic will often not stop if you step out into a crosswalk and it's impossible to cross in some places without the aid of a stoplight or overpass (both of which are rare). More than any other place I've been, I didn't like how the traffic worked in Bangkok, either on foot or in a car.

Traffic in Saigon reminds me a bit of that in Beijing when I visited there in 1996. Lots of communication goes on in traffic here and it makes it flow fairly well. Cars honk to let people know they're coming over, to warn people they shouldn't pull in, motorbikes honk when they need to cross traffic, and cars & motorbikes honk at pedestrians when it's unsafe for them to cross. Traffic moves slow to accommodate cars, the legions of motorbikes (the primary mode of transportation here), and pedestrians all at the same time.[2] Crossing the street involves stepping out, walking slowly, and letting the traffic flow around you. Drivers merging into traffic often don't even look before pulling out; they know the traffic will flow around them. The system requires a lot of trust, but the slow speed and amount of communication make it manageable.[3]

[1] This is the principle behind traffic calming.

[2] That traffic calming business again.

[3] Not that it's not scary as hell too. American pedestrians are taught to fear cars (don't play in the street, look both ways before crossing the street, watch out for drunk drivers) and trusting them to avoid you while you're basically the frog in Frogger...well, it takes a little getting used to.

Graph of suicides by location off the

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 03, 2005

Graph of suicides by location off the Golden Gate Bridge. This is a fascinating graph. More overall deaths on the SF half than the Marin half and way more on the bay side. A lot of people walked pretty far before jumping. And lightpost 69...it looks to be about halfway between the towers...lots of symbolism there for the jumpers.

The URL of Sandwich

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 25, 2005

Although the sandwich was named so after an 18th century British Earl, its invention dates back to a rabbi who lived in the first century B.C.. In my short history, I've eaten more than my fair share of sandwiches and while I can't consider myself a true connoisseur, the humble sandwich is one of my favorite things to eat and the ultimate in comfort foods.

The keys to a good sandwich are the three Bs: bread, balance, and...ok, there's only two Bs, but they're important. Aside from the main ingredient (turkey, tuna, chicken salad, etc.), the bread has the power to make or break a sandwich. The first thing you taste when you take a bite is the bread, so it had better be good and it had better be fresh.

Balance, or how the various parts come together to make a whole sandwich experience, is even more critical than the bread. Too much meat and the sandwich tastes only of meat. (The "famous" delis in NYC are big offenders here...the amount of meat in their sandwiches is way too much. These are sandwiches for showing off, not consumption.) Too much mustard and you overwhelm that beautiful pastrami. The mighty sandwich should not be a lowly conduit for your mustard addiction; why not just eat it straight from the jar? If you've got a dry bread, add a slice of tomato, a little extra mayo, or save it for tuna or egg salad. If you've got a lot of bread (a Kaiser or sub roll, for example), you'll probably need more of everything else to balance it out. Make sure the ingredients are distributed evenly throughout the sandwich. You should get a bit of everything in each bite...it's a BLT, not just an L on toast. If the sandwich maker is doing his job right, you should be able to taste most of the ingredients separately and together at the same time.

Here are a few sandwiches I've enjoyed over the years. I haven't included any of the ones that I regularly make for myself because they're pretty boring, although IMO, they're right up there with any of these.

In college, when my friends and I got sick of eating on campus (and had the money to do so), we'd venture across the street to Zio Johno's, a little Italian place with good, cheap food. At first I just got the spaghetti or lasagna, but one time I tried the Italian sub they offered and I was hooked. The key was the super-sweet sub roll; my measely $3 was enough for both a savory dinner and sweet dessert at the same time. I've never found anywhere else that uses bread that sweet.

I've lived in NYC for three years now, but I haven't run across a steak sandwich that rivals the one I used to get on my lunch break at The Brothers' Deli in Minneapolis. Fried steak, fried onions, and cheddar cheese on a Kaiser roll with a side order of the best potato salad I've ever had[1].

Surdyk's (say "Sir Dicks") is an institution in Northeast Minneapolis (say "Nordeast"), the finest liquor store and cheese shop around. They also had good croissants (say "Qua Sawn" or "Cross Aunts") on which they put fresh ham, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. Mmm.

There's nothing I like more than a good BLT, and Specialty's in San Francisco has one of the best I've had. Secret ingredient: pickles. Also, they didn't toast the bread, which I usually frown upon, but it worked well anyway.

As for New York, I don't live close to any good delis, but when I worked in Midtown, I used to zip over to the food court below Grand Central and hit Mendy's. Their chicken salad is top-notch; the chicken is good quality and it isn't overwhelmed by the mayonnaise. I'm usually not such a fan of rye bread, but their rye (it's a light rye) is fantastic and goes very well with the chicken salad. The salami is good too. I usually have half a sandwich with a cup of their chicken noodle.

Do you have a favorite sandwich? Know of any good NYC sandwich spots I should check out?

[1] Although Meg has been making this warm garlic potato salad lately that is a serious contender for the top spot.

Great post about Florent, a restaurant in

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2005

Great post about Florent, a restaurant in the Meatpacking District, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. I love the NYC/SF map mash-up and the photo of James Earl Jones enjoying a cup of coffee and a newspaper at the restaurant. (via eater)

Tim Gasparak captured JJ Thomas catching same

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 03, 2005

Tim Gasparak captured JJ Thomas catching same air over the streets of San Francisco on a snowboard. SF recently played host to extreme skiers and snowboarders flying down Fillmore Street on several tons of trucked-in snow. Tim's got more photos of the event on Flickr.

Lance Arthur examines living in San Francisco

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 31, 2005

Lance Arthur examines living in San Francisco versus living in NYC and concludes in a highly dubious and hilarious outcome, that San Francisco is by far the better choice.

One of San Francisco's steepest streets will

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 22, 2005

One of San Francisco's steepest streets will be closed later this month...for ski jumping. They're hauling in 200 tons of snow and a bunch of skiers. I'm sure this will be a much Flickred event.

Great interview with Chip Conley, founder of

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 19, 2005

Great interview with Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, a boutique hotel group based in SF. "All of our employees get to stay in our hotels for free. Anyone who is a salaried employee gets one month paid sabbatical every three years. And we didn't walk away from it during the downturn." (via peterme)

Ephermeral cities (SF, Paris, Berlin, NYC) provide

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 12, 2005

Ephermeral cities (SF, Paris, Berlin, NYC) provide alternative lifestyles to "nonfamilies and the nomadic rich". "To retain an important role in the future, a city needs upwardly mobile people whose families and businesses identify them with a place. A great city is more about clean and workable neighborhoods, thriving business districts, and functioning schools than massive cultural buildings or hipster lofts."

Profile of Alice Waters, best known for

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 13, 2005

Profile of Alice Waters, best known for her Bay Area restaurant, Chez Panisse.

Matt Webb on who the web is

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2005

Matt Webb on who the web is and isn't for (this is a great little essay). "The huge influx of cash at the turn of the millennium led to the whole Web being built in the image of the Bay area. The website patterns that started there and - just by coincidence - happened to scale to other environments, those were the ones that survived."

And here is that New Yorker article

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2005

And here is that New Yorker article about the Golden Gate Bridge suicides.

One of the songs on Sleater-Kinney's new

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2005

One of the songs on Sleater-Kinney's new album was inspired by a New Yorker article about Golden Gate Bridge suicides.