Monthly Archives: December 2015

A Christmas Shopping Experiment.

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Good Evening:

So there I stood in the middle of what must rank among one of America’s largest shopping malls, waiting for the Mother Unit, Sister Unit, and Niece Unit to finish shopping for presents and feeling most relieved that I had finished last week, when an idea for an experiment struck my misanthropic mind: how many people will walk past me smiling by the time my family walks out of the store?

The mall was jammed, I mean big-time jammed, so within a minute maybe 150-200 shoppers had passed me when the family joined me.

Only one person had smiled, a young woman carrying an infant daughter and cooing at her.

That was slightly more than I expected.

You see, I had noticed that everyone seemed miserable, even the ones telling their fellow shoppers they had found the perfect gift. And few people spoke to anyone. Most had down-cast faces, vacant stares, exhausted postures, but perhaps you already know how they appeared to me; rather like Munch’s famous figure in The Scream, except too tired to do even that.

This is “the most wonderful time of the year?”

No one looked successful, cheerful or happy, even the one who might have enjoyed great success finding presents judging from the loads they carried.

I wonder if malls do that to people. I did most of my shopping in the Upper Haight last weekend and my fellow shoppers looked much more cheerful. Perhaps the nature of the stores did something to folks in the mall. Every single store was a franchise, even the spa, while the Haight still has a fair number of one-store businesses or whatever the technical term might be. Perhaps the combination of an enormous mall with nothing but franchises affects people, alienates them. Now this is rank speculation (and the rankest sort of rank speculation), but what if those poor folks in the mall felt, for lack of a better word–processed?

You know, not like people. Processed.

Have a great holiday everyone and *please,* for your own sake–smile.

Vonn Scott Bair

Under the Overpass, 19 December 2015. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Gathering)

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Good Afternoon:

San Francisco has gotten hit with a huge El Nino in recent days, one downpour after another, with only slight respites of light drizzle and the occasional sunshine. At the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, where I work, we go around with sheepish grins and tell each other, “This weather is terrible! Isn’t it wonderful!” Whilst it remains unlikely that a single wet winter will completely undo the drought, most San Franciscans feel a bizarre combination of irritation and delight.

Not so much our homeless population.

Finding any means of protection however slight against the elements becomes more difficult in weather like this. For this reason, large numbers of homeless have sought refuge under the overpass along 13th Street in the South of Market neighborhood. I would guess that the number of improvised shelters have quadrupled. Any amount of protection will do, but some pieces of real estate have more value than others:

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Even these lucky ones cannot completely avoid the wet.

Blanket Drying Out After Downpour, 13th Street Near Folsom, San Francisco, CA, 19 December 2015

Blanket Drying Out After Downpour, 13th Street Near Folsom, San Francisco, CA, 19 December 2015

Others make do with partial protection.

Broom & Shoes, 13th Street Near Harrison, San Francisco, CA, 19 December 2015

Broom & Shoes, 13th Street Near Harrison, San Francisco, CA, 19 December 2015

Some might not have even that much.

Hell Ride Crew, 11th Street near Valencia, San Francisco, CA 19 December 2015

Hell Ride Crew, 13th Street near Valencia, San Francisco, CA, 19 December 2015

Worst of all, no matter how well meaning, any and all attempts at solutions seem to consist of and/or end in shouting, blame and lawsuits. Anyone can see that San Francisco’s recent prominence in the national consciousness results from the fact the income gap here absolutely dwarfs the income gap nationally, and one nightmare scenario consists of America turning into a middle-class-free version of San Francisco, containing the few extremely rich and the many extremely poor. I took that quick and easy quiz in the previous link and discovered that nationally my income was slightly above average and places me in the 57th percentile, an excellent result when you have all of The Good Zeroes: zero kids, zero cars, zero drugs, zero mortgage, zero debt.

However, by San Francisco standards my income fit in the 38th percentile. Lower middle class.

Well, I have defenses, but most people don’t.

So whatever you see in these pictures, wherever you live, it can happen there.

The wind and rain in my neighborhood have just take a turn for the heavier.

Vonn Scott Bair

Recipe: Maple-Sriracha Glazed Carrots.

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Good Morning:

Just in case you need something bright orange, vegan and zingy for your holiday table.

Maple-Sriracha Glazed Carrots

  • 1 lb. carrots cut into 2″ long quarter-inch thick julienne (or use 1 lb. of baby carrots)
  • 1 Tbsp. neutral flavored oil
  • Maple-Sriracha Glaze (see below for two versions)

I like my cooking time short because of a preference for very crunchy carrots. You may cook the carrots longer–it’s your stomach, make it your food.

Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat until it starts to shimmer.

Blanch the carrots in boiling water for 15 seconds, drain thoroughly.

Immediately add the carrots to the oil–watch out for splatter!–and stir until coated in oil. Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or if you prefer softer veggies, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze according to one of two versions:

I’m Nice with Spice

  • 1 tsp. Sriracha
  • 5 tsp. Maple Syrup
  • Salt and Pepper; OR

I Bring the STING

  • 1 Tbsp. Sriracha
  • 1 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
  • Salt and Pepper

Whichever glaze you choose, combine all ingredients into one bowl.

At the end of your preferred cooking time, scrape the glaze onto the carrots and stir until thoroughly coated. Keep cooking and stirring for at least one but no more then two minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl, and serve at once. Serves 4-6.

This yields a very small amount of glaze as I prefer only the thinnest coating on my carrots. You may choose to double either version.

Options: Use toasted sesame oil instead of a neutral oil. Add 1/2 tsp of Chinese Five Spice blend to the glaze. Or both.

Vonn Scott Bair

A Sleighride of Santas (Weekly Photo Challenge: Gathering)

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Good Morning:

Someone (not me) defined insecurity as the first time a child sees two Santas simultaneously. What do we call this?

Santas & One Gingerbread Man

Santas & One Gingerbread Man

‘Twas the annual worldwide Santa party last weekend. The Gingerbread Man was a nice touch; even Santas get hungry.

Vonn Scott Bair

City Vehicle Yard, South Van Ness & 13th Street, San Francisco, CA 19 December 2015.

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Good Evening:

One of my big influences as a photographer is Photo-Realism, a painting movement prominent about 40-50 years ago. Ironic. One of the subjects the Photorealists loved to portray consisted of automobiles, either singly or in gatherings. So here is a photograph in the Photorealistic painting style of a Photorealistic painting subject.

City Vehicle Yard, San Francisco, CA 19 December 2015, 1:26 p.m.

City Vehicle Yard, San Francisco, CA 19 December 2015, 1:26 p.m.

It’s OK, I don’t understand me, either.

Vonn Scott Bair

San Franciscans on a Saturday Shopping Afternoon (Weekly Photo Challenge: Eye Spy)

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Good Afternoon:

Spied and espied San Franciscans shopping and enjoying the storm-free Saturday yesterday. Using the old 30 Shot technique, collected over 120 candids, and because I had a comparatively good day, only discarded about 80% of them. Presenting some of the more interesting ones, some edited, some left as is.

I have not seen this street preacher before.

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This person did not beg, did not communicate, in fact, did not do anything. Just stared straight ahead.

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Just like last year, the City turned a few blocks of Stockton Street into an instant park. Somehow, in the midst of all the holiday shopping, this person found herself a quiet space.

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Time with the granddaughter–also known as an early Christmas present.

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He looks tuckered out. Probably waiting for the rest of the family to finish their shopping.

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Santa Little Helpers, and why Santa need them. She can’t stay upright without them.

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I saw a balloon vendor at Powell and Geary who did very well yesterday. The parents seem to wonder how long this present will last.

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Also wandered around the SOMA (South Of MArket) neighborhood to do some errands. Presenting perhaps the least holiday-ish looking building in San Francisco:

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While photographing some of the city’s latest murals, I blundered into a sort of costume party at Harrison near 8th Street. Not a huge fan of electronica, so I only grabbed a few snaps before continuing on my way. As you can, a few of the partygoers are into the “furry” subculture.

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Today, I will make a quick trip to a farmers market and stay home prepping lunches for the week and experimenting with a few new recipes. What can I say? That’s how I relax.

Vonn Scott Bair

Recent San Francisco Murals, 4 December 2015. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Eye Spy)

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Good Evening:

Three recent very unusual murals, all of which featured eyes, all of which presented some interesting cropping opportunities, all of which were taken with my iPhone 6 Plus.

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Vonn Scott Bair