Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

Why in Art

When the usual Tuesday networking was cancel yesterday in prep for July 4th, one of the group member decided to visit the DeYoung on free Tuesday. Being an art history junkie, of course I went. We end up going a tour of Three Masterpieces, and then another on American Art. Interestingly, the docent inquire about our interest in art work (to decide which Masterpieces to go over) and what Masterpieces to us. To my own surprise, I immediately answered Aztec. The docent then later mentioned how people often thought of art as the western art, which is why the World art tour can offer a different perspective and is something that she really likes. Later on the tour, my companions mentioned that some of the native pieces are scary. While I agree – having a skull staring at you will creep most people out – I also like the creepy artworks.

Which brings the question, why? Western art definitely is what attracted me initially to art history class, and I never got Picasso’s fascination with African mask when I was younger as I was looking at his work on paper during my high school and early college years. But a visit to DeYoung sparked something. I think it is the same with my feeling toward architecture – reading about them on paper is great, but what constitute as great architecture and art… their true quality may only shine in person. Looking at the native mask and art on paper, there is no aesthetic appeal to me.  But seeing it in person? It struck me stronger than many of the “perfect” Western art. To me, I feel those native art are very powerful. It has a strong presence and a rich history. It is very hard to grasp that on paper – the old saying of picture don’t do it justice. If I am getting a postcard, I would prefer a beautiful Western pieces, as they are elegant in any paper medium. But in term of real physical objects, I think I may enjoyed a native art or pottery instead. Well, if it doesn’t give me a scare at night, that is.

Great looking at it in museum during daytime, not so great at 3 am.

Talking about artworks, I love those tiny adorable pottery. Wish I know how to make them:

Umm, maybe having a growling bear as an example doesn’t really matches the “adorable” image, but trust me, its adorable in person. The detail at such small scale is amazing.


Glasshouse Orchard: The SF Conservatory of Flowers

With the summer and Green Festival ending, and then the sky darkening early and thunder roaring in the distant (ok, maybe not that part), my plant-loving side had taken a hit by the clouds. As such, my exploration side decided to visit the Conservatory of Flower:

 I had always know what the Conservatory building look like since I had a sketchbook field trip there when I was young, but now that I look at it, the world “Britain. Prefab. Kids on giant lotus. Industrial age glasshouse architecture. 18th century.” would always pop up.

I blame this on my architecture history professor. Not that they would mind – I can hear them chuckling in the background of my mental sphere of thought.

I knew that I was a bit late for the tour though (found out last minute), and so I rushed over inside… wait, the ticket booth is outside the building? *Rushed over to the booth outside.*

Luckily, the tour just started and was still near the entrance. I happily skittered over there. Before I knew it, my eyeglasses fogged up as I was greeting the tour docent and the group.

Uh, I can’t see!

Lowland Tropics

The main area resembled the climate of a tropical forest. There were a lot of moisture. and they had gutters all the way around the interior premises. Which by the way, shows some very elegant detail:

The area is, in fact, the area right below the central circular… atrium?

This parts raised above the other arms of the building, allowing the trees native to tropical climate to grow. According to the docent, at least one of the tree can protrude the building if given the chance.

My favorite tropical plant is, naturally, the coffee tree:

Sadly, there was only one. So, no, the Conservatory will not have their own private brand of coffee. Nor would they have their own private banana, chocolate, and jasmine perfume, though they do have the plants. The docents also showed this little gem:

It was how greenhouse first started. Back in the exploration age, plant collectors/scientists wanted to bring tropical plants back, but those plants would wither and die as they left their native forest. So someone thought of this brilliant idea – a glassbox to keep the heat and moisture in. With it, the age of glass conservatory soon arrives to Britain. A beautiful combination of orchids grown  in this particular box. In fact, there were other orchards in hanging basket. Ah, I would love one in a basket (daydreams…):

Highland Tropics

“This gallery provides an intimate glimpse of life in the cloud forests of the tropics, where the high elevations of 3,000 feet or more bring refreshingly cool temperatures.”

-by Conservatory of Flowers brochure

Yes, cool indeed. I can feel it when the docent pushed open the doors. I immediately put on my jacket, then my jaw dropped when a giant tree structure at the center  popped up in my view line:

Then the docent told me it is actually a concrete structure.

It’s concrete.


Whoever crafted all the concrete tree trunks and fake boulders did a fine job.  The structure enclosed by metal railing (another beautiful detail…) with its trunks growing from below the floor. The entire “tree” is decorated with different combination of tropical moss, orchards, and other plants. No wonder people are so addicted to orchard (the cult of Orchard is rather famous, especially after the book “Orchard Thieve”), the variation are amazing. There are hanging orchard, miniature orchards, orchards that grows on tree like moss, orchard where the buds hangs, and orchards that looks nothing like orchard. Here’s one example that I like:


They are the same plant. Amazing. Here another one, with special effect:

The highland tropics preference also means many orchard grow well indoor. Adapted to the conditions of tropical, its roots can be shallow, making it great for pots. The Conservatory had several of them on some shelves, which is another beautiful structure in the building:

They have the same shelves with orchards in the Aquatic Plants section as well. There are really orchard species for everywhere.

Aquatic Plants

Ah, the famous lotus leaves.

My architecture professors should arrange a field trip whenever they talked about the industrial age.

The leaves here weren’t so big that a kid can sit on it, but it was a beautiful sight, especially since water always enchants me. My love of water expands to my love of plants, and my favorite flower has always been the lotus:

There were also some algae that I initially thought was a relative to the lotus plant… can you believe algae could be so elegant looking?

The carnivores flowers was strange yet eye-catching, and, respite eating rice almost everyday of my life, today is actually the first time I had ever saw a rice plant in real life. Nope, the Conservatory didn’t have their own brand of rice either.

A sectional view of the pond:

The Conservatory cheated a bit by using pots underwater. Now that I look at the photo, I wonder how the Conservatory worker prevented the pots from growing moss and eroding?

For the next part, there were even more pot plant. Let us move from the British design to a more Asian one, shall we?

Potted Plants


An Japanese pavilion placed at the center of the entrance. Hmm, the designer do love making a grand entrance. I loved how the bright yellow orchard expanded into the lower parts of the central circular frame, forming a lower visual support with the pale poinsettia below and brings the eyes to the serene central circle.

Oh! Tiny glasshouse. I wonder if I can buy one?

This flower is name Bleeding Heart. Another flower that I love on first sight.

The pavilion frames the ending element of the Potted Plants home, which is a sculptural stone container (or I think its stone, could be concrete now that I think about it.) and a benched space with plant overhang. After this wall would be another different space, though I can hear the voice before I even enter.

Store and Exhibition

Conservatory is doing an exhibition right now on the Playland that used to be a famous seaside amusement park. To my regret, they just did an exhibition based on the book Wicked Plant, which I started reading. Right now, a miniature version of Playland sits in the room of Poinsettia:

Cute and very festival with lots of music, though I wished I arrived a few weeks ago so I can see the Wicked Plant exhibition as well.

The store was tempting. They had miniature pots with seeds and even coffee bean starter kit. They also had the seeds for the plant Money Tree. The egg-shaped container are difficult to resist. It was probably a good thing I had around ten different packages of seeds that I still needed to grow, and that the box of egg-shaped container with seed was way too expensive. If they are just selling the egg-shaped container for a single digit price, I would probably caved and brought something.

For a Conservatory though, the store is smaller than I expected. I guess being a Conservatory, selling plants was probably not the focus.


Eventually I pulled myself away from the store area with my wallet intact and unharmed. As I left, I noticed the model at the entrance is a donation box.

I love models… I wonder how they made it?


The Conservatory was nice to visit as a tourist. The way that plants grow in different climate is definitely intriguing. The Conservatory was an essentially a museum. It was different from Golden Gate park, where I can sit down and read outdoor while watching ducks swimming in the ponds.

I would go to the Conservatory for exhibition and education, but not for relaxing and getting in touch with nature. The is something so serene and powerful about standing outdoor with trees after trees encircling me and expanding upward into the sky. It is a different atmosphere from the Conservatory.

Would I return to the Conservatory? I will, especially if there is an exhibition on Wicked Plants again. It is one thing to read book on plants, but seeing it makes it real and alive in my mind.

The next exhibition is… let me google…

They are doing an exhibition of dinosaurs in April!


Oh yea, I am returning. (<— archeology fan).

Green Fest, Podcast, Seminers… Smart Grid’s Everywhere!!!

“Smart Meter? Can I take a picture?”


With a small push of my finger, my camera soundlessly took a photo of the enlarged, over-sized meter as I wondered if my apartment did have a smart meter. Few moments later, I guilty accepted a pot of basil starter kit from the girl in the PG&E booth (Guilty because I know I really should not get another plant. Where is the Garden Anonymous when you need them?)

I know I have heard and read of the word quite a few time online, but soon my thought re-immersed into the million things going on in the Green Festival. I did ended up asking my parents and was happy to learn that the Armstrong Townhome is, indeed, Smart Meter-ed.

Few days later, as I was sitting on bus on the home, I turned on my violet Sansa Mp3 Player and scrolled for a podcast to listen. Being somewhat of a Podcast fanatic, I always have a bunch of podcast files in my player. As I scrolled the screen, thinking about which one to listen to, I paused when I saw “Smart Grid” in the Energy Efficiency Market Podcast by RealEnergyWriters folder.

Smart Grid. Smart Meter. Smart Living. Smart City, Smart Car. ‘Smart and Smart seemed to pop up everywhere!’ I swore that I had seen the Smart Grid and Smart Meter in the same concept somewhere. A frequent reader of anything sustainability-related on and offline, I had some feel as as to what they are. Seemed like a good topic for the ride… and so I clicked the button and started listening. As I am not in the field itself, some of the terms took a moment to grasp. Overall, it was a good and educational podcast episode. I wouldn’t go into the detail since you can listen to them with the link I provided above (Recommended! Maybe I should do a blog post on good green build podcast?)

Another few days passed, I realized why I know the two “smart” concept are related in my mind when a message popped up in my email. I had signed up for several PG&E class earlier in the month. The first one is… yep, Smart Grid. In fact, it’s named Smart Grid Fundamental.

‘Perfect timing.‘ I was just getting more curious about Smart Grid. A fundamental class would be perfect. I was slightly alerted at the fact that goes from 9am to 4:30pm, but I figured the more information the merrier, and I could leave anytime.

Armed with a cup of coffee, I joined the seminar at the PG&E center.

It’s been at least half year since I got to take a class at PG&E (away at college at Cal Poly). So far, I had taken a class on housing development and the Water Conservation show. Both had been very informational, but I think this one have the best organization so far.

As always, the class is at first floor. For each chair space was a Class Resource sheet and a Smart Grid Glossary. Very nice, since I am quite new to Smart Grid. I skim through the paper as I waited for the class to start.

When the class finally started, I was surprised to learn that this is the first time PG&E has done this fundamental class. But then, I guess while I have seen “Smart Grid” popping up everywhere in the net, it’s actually a relative new movement. Time always seems to pass faster with technology, and new technology always seemed to be there forever when its actually just a few years.

The class was generally organized with 2 presenters for each aspect of Smart Grid. The first part was mostly about the general technical aspects, presented by Harold Gallcer and James Caldwell. The movement of Smart Grid in PG&E was presented by Michael Herz and James Meadow. The work of PG&E’s Advanced Technology Integration team in advancing Smart Grid from was by Makoul Zahra. The policy movement and educational aspect was by Annabell Louie. Finally the presentation ends with Rick Geiger, who talked about Cisco’s interconnecting work with the Smart Grid industry.

In the end, I attended to ALL the classes and even stayed for the panel discussion at the end. There was definitely times when I went “what does that word mean?”, not to mention the few times some of the attendee burst in chuckles for reason that I have no clue about. The class did kept my focus on edge though, because the point was that I didn’t really know the topic before, but now I have a stronger grasp of it. Many of the issues that leads to the advancement of Smart Grid… I know the surface of them before. I know the problem existed – but I don’t know the detail and its relationship to other energy issues.

Harold mentioned that Smart Grid is difficult to describe because it’s a concept and not a product, and he later joked that his daughter often used the phase TMI – Too Much Information. And its true – Smart Grid integrates so many  factors and co-influences so many technologies and uses, it’s not something that could easily summarize. It’s a grid that transport energy, obviously. But it also deals with intellectual technology. It’s the attempt to allow more client-control over energy, the allocation of energy at different time and location, the ability and efficiency in self-healing, the communication of devices and applications…… 5 different presenters in 6.5 hours, each was able to give new and different understanding of what Smart Grid is about and its place in the world.

When I listened to the way that the presenters and attendees talked about Smart Grid, things started linking. I was suddenly struck with how fitting it was in the sustainability movement, and why the word seemed to catch my eyes at every corner. Smart Grid, in many way, is a localizing movement. The modernism movement sprawled out societies, set up zones, isolating functions from each other. The movement of highway and industrialism created a society of alienation. The Green Festival and the current sustainability movement, in contrast, focused on localization – of small business, of community strength, and individual’s interconnection with society. In many ways, the process of our country’s energy system evolution responded to that change. Smart Grid responded to that change – the ideas of local energy, self healing system, and increase control due to the reduction of boundary.

Harold mentioned that America’s believe of “infrastructure should spread to all” came from our background as a country of democracy. The creation of mail, light, water, and application system are a roll-out of a grid system steamed from that ideal. It reminded me of the influence of Twitter in spreading out democracy, of Occupy Wall Street being one of the first movement with a leader due to the new system of network. And now, our energy is reconnecting in a way stronger than before. Twitter has even become a way to communicate energy problem, letting both the energy center as well as the public know of a black-out. The way we communicate verbally, the way we access energy, the way we value democracy… it is all connected in a way that the starting point cannot be defined.

In the discussion panel at the end, the presenters mentioned that the energy industry will not be the one as we have now 50 years later. Reflecting on my notes from the class today, it is a bit frightening yet absolutely exciting to see the limitless of evolution.

Visiting the LEED Plantium Gottfried Tesla Home

It’s times like this that reminds me of why I went into architecture.

Last Saturday, I had the joy of visiting the Tesla House by David Gottfried with a house tour by that very designer, whom described himself as an “author, green building activist and keen entrepreneur” and was the person whom started the first green building council, in the form of the much-familiar USGBC.

Those whom know me back in high school know that I went into architecture for a very simple reason. Excuse my language, but many San Francisco and urban housing sucks. Many units are old, impractical, uncomfortable, and sometimes downright illegal. I went into architecture because I wanted to create an atmosphere people wants to live in – a dream house for everyday common people.

If I have the money today, I would buy the Tesla Home that is selling now.

The first word for the Telsa Home that came to mind after my visit was warmth. The house has many wonderful, modern features. It was certainly a very green house, both in term of passive design and technical design. But what moved me was the fact that I can imagine myself as a child, running around and exploring the house with excitement. I think a lot of the houses in professional magazine looks really modern and clean, but sometimes they lack the sense of mystery, fun, and warmth that many people seek in a home.

The area

The Telsa House is sited at a beautiful community in Oakland. When people think Oakland, they think gangs and guns. But actually, Oakland have some very beautiful communities, this was one of them. Located at the Rockridge Bart station, it is a hub of tasteful antique stores, bookshops, marketplace, and coffeehouse. If the road isn’t so cracked from neglect, I would have thought I was back in San Luis Obispo! I walked around and explored the neighborhood after the house tour, but that’s a different story. Let’s get to the house:


The little house sat behind the richly grown front-yard – no lawn here. I could tell that most of those plants were California-climate plants. It reminded me of a small cottage house hidden in a secret garden, though the garden didn’t covered up the stair-elevated house.

Upon entering the door, the atmosphere already had distinguished feel to it. I loved the feel of its enclosed porch. I was literally surrounded by wood. The wood wasn’t painted and kept its light and natural feel. I know people who think that unpainted wood is too informal, but when properly done, it’s quite beautiful. I love how it worked out – uniform yet a bit informal, giving off a very relax feel to it.


The center of the room, I feel, is the dinning room.

I tried taking the photo in two different camera setting, but it didn’t really capture the atmosphere. With natural lighting from only one side and window that are high and narrow, the dinning area is a bit darker than the rest of the house. But it’s not the cold, scary kind of darkness. With the open, well-lit kitchen adjacent and the antique-feel wooden furniture inside,  the dining room felt quite intimate – I can imagine a small Thanksgiving dinner with candles and close family member there.

The kitchen feels much more lighted and airy. I don’t think I would ever forget that they have a mechanical-sliding vent!

Look like a flat table, right? But the metal at the top of the range is actually the vent. Push the right button, and it will slide up into a vent! There was quite a bit of similar technology like that in the house – hidden gadgets that makes the house function well but still look warm and colorful. The house had a hidden attic ladder that looked very fun. And take a look at this:

Can you guess what it is? For a moment I thought it was a decoration or some sort of foldable table. The next picture gives a better clue:

It is a radiant heater! They are done so well, I didn’t even notice this one until I was about to leave the house.

They also have a fireplace in their living room, with a new glass enclosure and damper as required by LEED for Homes.

Yes, the living room was very well-lit. It faced the street, and the window blinds could go up and  was made of a mylar-like fabric, letting in light while preserving privacy.

In term of cooling, there was also fans that spins both direction, which can push heat up or down.

Solar powered studio, bench chairs, vegetable garden… David knows how to relax.

Look, there was even an outdoor shower!



The house’s energy and water is gathered through various different devices.

Turns out that David is selling the house since he was planning to move out into a larger house for his daughter. I wonder how his new house will turn out, considering how functional and fun his current house is.

End of the day

I saw a green book at David’s studio and in another room. At first it didn’t really register in my mind, which was being so distracted by the house (it’s a wonderful place to be distracted…). Then, before I left, I decided to look at the book more closely… and realized the book was by David!

And now I patiently waits for David’s first book “Greed to Green” to come from the library. I am debating about “Greening My Life”. It’s not available at any libraries in the California system, and I generally don’t buy books unless I read them before. I would love to try out the ebook version, but the price is $9.99, which I am sure I can get for cheaper with a physical, used book – and I prefer physical books. I guess I will read “Greed to Green” first and see how I like it.

Oh, totally irrelevant, but I got a Nook!!!!

*Cough* So umm… yes, I will probably end up buying the ebook if I like “Greed to Green”. Anyone else visited the house?

SF Green Festival 2011 P2: Sunday Sessions

Without a balcony, I really shouldn’t rebuild my herbal garden or buy more plants, but a a free succulent plant don’t count, right?

I am talking about my first session on Sunday, namely, the:

DIY Living Succulent Walls and Other Creative Garden Ideas by Elan Segarra

When I went, I wasn’t planning to bring home a ring of succulent. The session title have the word wall, and I presumed that it would be a presentation on green wall. With so many events, I didn’t read the details, and I certainly was not planning to bring home a new plant.

Then I saw the sample succulent ring by Elan from Three Bees Nursery, and I am in love:

It’s destined, and there is no beating destiny, or so I keep telling myself the entire day I carried the new baby of my garden family:

It’s really easy to make. At the risk of dragging another addicted gardener into getting more plants, I recommend everyone to find out how to do it.

Getting an extra succulent plant’s ok though. The ring is actually pretty small and easy to care for indoor. It’s a beautiful addition to any home, whether it be a suburban house or a city apartment. Besides, it’s perfect for Christmas.

Laundry To Landscape Workshop by Gavin Raders and Andrew Charhrour

When I studied for the green build LEED exam, water use was big. It is even more important in a place like SF. In fact, the local USGBC and PG&E holds an annual Water Conservation Showcase. But most of the time, as an architecture student, I listened to to Powerpoints and case studies.

And so I would like to shout that I love the DIY area!

Planting Justice brought cute little gadgets used in laundry-to-landscape system, and even have a real three-way vault.

Much like the Nature Build session, hearing the experience of someone who makes a job installing the actual system is terrific, since I really get to hear all the little details and see the system comes together. They also have sample Herbatergent from Vaska, which should work with a laundry-to-landscape system. I don’t have that system, but I am all for natural detergent, and therefore I can’t wait to try it out!

Solar Is Hot! by Danny Kennedy

In the green profession, everyone talk about solar at some point, so it is no wonder that GF have a session on solar energy.

Plenty of interesting discussion came up, and Danny from Sungevity made a good comparison about the raise of cell phone and solar panel – that solar and phone gets more affordable as more people use it. I call it the Costco Effect. Real Good Solar Inc is right next to the Pavilion, so in the middle of the session, Danny actually got to demonstrate his point when someone pop out to lent him a solar panel (or I think he is from Real Good Solar, seems like he was standing there later). The wonders of festive environment and good business-relationship.

The Governor’s Clean Power Goal – How We Get There Together by Wade Crowfoot & Efren Carrillo

While POWER’s presentation was more on inspiring action, this one is more about informing current happenings. Wade talked about several codes and regulations here – current aims, AB32, Energy Efficiency Standards, etc.

Efren from Sonoma County showed some of the current projects. I have never been to Sonoma, but I have been hearing the name again and again. It seems like they are doing some amazing works there – retrofits, hydroelectric fuel cell, waste-into-energy, geothermal, Energy Independence Program, and more. It’s too bad that Stephanie Wang from Clean Coalition was sick, as I would love to hear about Clean Coalition as well.

And that’s the last session for me.

Such is some of my favorite sessions this year. I will write another post about the booth later.

Funny – initially, I only circled about 4 sessions on my schedule. Now I have went to what? Over 8 sessions! And I haven’t even gushed over all the booths I visited yet (that’s another post…). This is the magic of Green Festival. What are some of your favorite?

SF Green Festival 2011 P1: Saturday Sessions

Schedule? Check.

Sketchbook? Check.

Camera? Check.

After a year of waiting, I am finally at the Green Festival again! I volunteered as a greeter in 2009 when I was in San Francisco for a 3-months school internship, and I have never forgotten the festival since.

Green Festival is an annual sustainability festival host at San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and New York. The official website description is:

Think of Green Festival® as a walk through a sustainable community. It begins with finding solutions to help make our lives healthier-socially, economically and environmentally… Neighbor-to-neighbor connections are formed and skills are shared to empower people to create positive change in the world.

Sustainability, community, neighborhood connection, a giant festival… all my favorite things in one place. Yes, I was excited!

Thus, I hopped up from my bed early in the morning and began preparing for the day – and the first session. Arriving early have its perks, I was fully awake for the first speaker:

Introduction to Natural Building and Making Natural Paint by Janine Björnson

Naturally, my attention were mostly geared toward the Home & Garden Pavilion and DIY Area (New area this year – hooray!). When I first saw the schedule, I twitched at the dilemma about which event to attend – Building or Paint? Until I realize they were by the same presenter at different area (Silly moment of my head-wall banging here).

Janine from Clay, Bones and Stones, started with explaining the differences between “Natural Building” and “Green Building”, where the later is more grassroots and focus on local appropriate material. She then went onto the different construction types, including straws, adobe, clayslip, ramearth, earthship, and earthbags. Most are familiar to me from school lectures, but nothing beats actual experiences. I loved hearing the case studies and Janine’s own experience. Some, such as the clayslip, are new to me. Who knows there are so many different way to use earth?

After the presentation, I rushed over to the DIY Area so I can score being one of the first 15 signups – I am not missing the chance to make my own clay-mixed paint panel. Must not be distracted by the wonderful booths… hey, is that a solar panel indoor?

Umm, focus.

Oh, that looks like a giant PG&E meter… stop! Focus!

Soon, I happily arrived there as one of first few there. I went sparkly eyes on Janine’s sample board. partially because some of them are literally sparkly. I soon learned that the sparks came from mica.

My eventual product:

My mom and sister were more amused by my ridiculous excitement over a piece of wood panel. I personally love it – it’s going up as my room’s new decoration.

The Pharmacy In Your Garden by by Kait Singley

I heard a lot about vegetable garden and balcony garden because of their increasing popularly in the city, but I rarely hear about medicinal garden (I did make sure I learned the medicinal properties of my garden plants though).

“Grandma’s Method”, as Kait from Herb’n Gardens call it, was a good way to describe holistic herbalism. Following the season, she introduced two herbal blends for the common cold. Since her focus is on medicinal properties, there were not much on planting other than the short discussion of garlic as a great companion plant to rose. In fact, most of the herbs she introduced are easy to get and grow: sage, thyme, coriander, garlic, yarrow, etc. Most of them, I grown in containers before, so they are fine for the average SF balconies. Most would still need large container though, as seen by Kait’s own plant samples.

At the end, she gave out bunch of yarrow for participants to bring home. Of course, I didn’t take one home since I no longer have a balcony, but it was quite tempting…

Free Public Transportation For Youth: A Gateway Campaign? by Eric Mar, Lindsay Imai, and Representatives from POWER

Imagine my surprise when I went to this presentation and realized the presenter were youth – with great, confident presentation skills. Behold the power of SF youth!

Presenters included District Supervisor Eric Mar (the only adult presenter there), Lindsay Imai from Urban Habitat, and Representatives from POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights).

The presentation was enlightening. For one, I learned that New York actually provide free metro card for students. I also learned that 75% of youth last year have to choose between bus or lunch. As a native San Franciscan, I know perfectly well that the only practical methods of safe, long-distance transportation for SF youth is car and bus. Watching the presentation film brought back memories, as transportation does play a key role in the life of average SF teenagers. I hope that their work will come into fruition.

The Practicalities of Honey Beekeeping by Karen Peteros

As I sat at the DIY area, I half wondered if I will hear buzzes as a warning for the presenter’s arrival. Hmm… will it attack Kait’s sage-thyme bush? (Huh? why is it still there?)

When the presenter came without a single buzz, I am not sure if I should be relieved or disappointed. But then, one of the GF coordinator did said that bees are generally not allowed.

Karen from SF Bee-Cause did a little hand-raised survey in the beginning. I found it interesting that the only committed beekeeper in the room is also the only one who lived in a more rural region. Even with the blooming popularity of urban farming, beekeeping is still rare.

So what do Bay Area residents need to watch out for? Karen’s first point is probably the most important point – is it legal? Turns out that beekeeping is legal in SF and several bay area cities. Of course, the neighborhood varies, and one have to watch out for extra features at a dense city. Bees actually have a bee path (ah, that explains why bees always shoots right pass me whenever I walk the back alley at my college library), so beekeepers have to orient their design so the bee path isn’t directed at doors.

Hmm, the day is getting dark way too fast.

I had to left early and didn’t get to stay for the full session, but I did return early on Sunday. So here is the continuation!

Happily Biking the Weekend Away: P2 – Sunday Street

In the chaos of trying to find a bicycle of the right-fit, by the time I brought my bike and got myself equipped with locks, helmet, and gloves, there was only one Sunday Street left to happen in 2011.

For those who were wondering, my bicycle requirements were: fit 4′-10″ female, geared, somewhat light, preferably with road slicks already, and the hardest part – under $100 but not stolen. Yep, I told you it was chaotic. Actually, most people would say that it is almost impossible. But once again, my perseverance and determination rules over the impossible – that’s a different story for another time.

Let’s fast forward to October 23. The last Sunday Street of the year, held at Mission.

For those who don’t know what’s Sunday Street, it is basically a car-free events that celebrates the local communities and neighborhood. The official website of Sunday Street describes it as such:

Sunday Streets is a series of events put on by the City of San Francisco to encourage health, community and fun, inspired by similar events in cities throughout the world.  A Sunday Streets event creates a large, temporary, public space by closing off stretches of a neighborhood’s streets to automobile traffic, and opening them to pedestrians, bicyclists, and activities for several hours on a predetermined Sunday.

As a morning volunteer, I arrived before Sunday Street start, but there were numerous people there already – residents, store owners, booth owners, volunteers, even police officers. I know that Sunday Street is a big event, but I didn’t realize how big. When I looked at the map earlier, I thought it was going to 10 street block or so straight down Valencia.


Actually, it was 11 long blocks down Valencia starting from 13th street, then the event made a L turn at 24th street into another 13 short blocks.


No wonder they needed so many volunteers, and no wonder they needed the volunteers to wear orange shirts (so they could be seen among the massive crowd with people dressed in all different color and fashion – most memorably, there were a duo of pink bicyclists with a soap bubble gadget attached to the back of their bike. Predictably, several children trailed after them. I almost did the same thing except I remembered I was volunteering).Without bicycles or some sort of wheeled device, I am not sure most people would go through the whole festival. But then, this was a bicycle-focused event, so I guess it made sense. The city and the various organization for this event must spent hours making everything work though. I volunteered as the Intersection Monitor on just one crosswalk, but even that became very eventful.

The crosswalk I was very monitored by me, one other Intersection Monitor, and two uniformed patrol. The job of us monitors was to keep an eye on the pedestrian and bicyclist (or tricyclist, roller-skater, skateboarder, etc), and the patrols’ was to deal with the drivers. Basically, we are similar to those nice ladies holding the stop sign near school (we got our own stop sign too!), except we were not trying to stop cars- we were trying stop any non-automobile individual from running the red light by accident.

Wait a minute, isn’t Sunday Street closed off to traffic?

Not completely. Some of the main crosswalk allow the traffic to cross Valencia (It is 24 blocks in total. Imagine drivers trying to go around that). The problem was that since the event is generally close off to traffic, people forgot to look at the red light after they legally ran over several red light in the past “closed-off” areas. So yes, time to grab a red stop sign, orange shirt, and yellow vest.

The event participants were very friendly toward us; the hardest part of the job goes to the patrols – dealing with the confused and/or angry drivers. Even with the opened crosswalk, the traffic still got jammed. There were also local residents who didn’t realize the event was today. The organizer did reach out through the local communities and tried to let everyone know what’s on though. Overall, while prior notification and routing traffic flow is very important for large events, they are also very difficult elements to control.

A lot of people did know about the event though. In addition to the pink/soap-bubble bicyclists, I saw a bicycle that shaped like a boat, a large group of cute little bicyclist-tricyclist, bicyclist with dogs, a bicycle playing music with boombox, a bicycle completely covered in campaign sign… the list goes on.

But as exciting as it was, by the end of my shift, I was completely worn out from just standing there under the blazing sun. Thankfully, someone came to replace me, but I really gained a new appreciation for the police patrols by the end of the day (They were going to stay the whole day!).

As a volunteer, I enjoyed a free delicious Falafel sandwich and sweet potato chips from Liba. When I first got the food ticket, I thought it was a local restaurant. To my surprise, while it is a restaurant, it’s actually a mobile restaurant! Alright. It wasn’t the first time I seen a mobile food truck, but this one caught attention. The truck was almost completely in green with a elegant, floral curve design. It looked very sharp and clean. When I went up to order food, they even got my order down with a iPad.

Bless the modern-tech age.

Modern style of food, truck, and ordering method – I found it to be a very complete design. Tasty, too!

I continued into the festival. Since I was on my bicycle most of the time, I ended up just enjoying the ride and not really taking any pictures. I did stopped for this really cool hockey match on bicycles:










There were a lot of booths, but I think the local stores caught my attention the most. I definitely visited the bicycle stores, but sadly none of the accessories I wanted was on sale. Every place was packed, so I had to get off my bicycle at some points, but there were so many things to see, I was stopping a lot anyway. After bicycling for a hour or so, I finally started heading home.

On my way to BART, I was interested by the fact that people – what appeared to be locals – biked on Mission Street’s sidewalk as well. I decided to give it a try. The sidewalk was generally wide enough, but it was definitely very rocky. Adding the pedestrians and the occasional food stands, I had to bike very slow and careful. It wasn’t difficult to get to the BART stop though. Other than getting my bicycle wheel stuck in the elevator at one point (note to self: do not attempt to fit bike in elevator 90 degree, even if your bike’s very tiny. ) and missing a bus ride because its bicycle racks were full (Sunday Street domino effect?) , I got home safe and happy. I even met another bicyclist at the bus stop that I thought came from Sunday Street (actually, she was just visiting friends), whom I ended up befriending after I helped her with local bicycle direction.

Happily Biking the Weekend Away: P1 – Reclaim Market

The week of October 22 to 23 had been one of the most eventful weeks I had – I was there for both the “Reclaim Market Street! Street Intervention” bike tour and Sunday Streets.

Reclaim Market Street! Street Intervention

Here’s a description on SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association): “An inspired bike ride down Market Street with Rebar, the San Francisco Bike Coalition and the San Francisco Great Streets Project.

Bicycling from urbanist’s view, combining two of my favorite topics? Nope, definitely not missing it!

The group met at the Harry Bridges Plaza at Ferry Building. All sorts of people were there – tourists, bike advocates, bike shop owners, city officials, college students, children, and parents. Two of the children fell in love with my ladybug bell – I know it would come into some unconventionally fun use at some point! I chatted with the people around me as I waited at the plaza with the sound of my bell ringing every few minutes. As time approaches, more and more people come, and it ended up to be quite a crowd:

I chuckled when I looked around and realized what a sight we would make on the road. I wished I had a video camera attached to my helmet.

(Before anyone gets confuse, the light wasn’t that low. The camera was on the wrong setting – same problem for the next two photos.)

No video-cam for me, but those leading the tour have two very unique devices – gadgets that would color the wheel with paint, which would then leave trails as the wheel glides across the floor.

The paint was, of course, water-soluble (or else the City, who supported this event, would have a big headache on its hand. While I love pink, I am not sure the street cleaners would love it as much if it is not soluble). The paint wasn’t as smooth and noticeable as expected though, but it was fun to watch up close.

While I known downtown have railroad tracks, it wasn’t until I biked on Market that I realize their presents. Needless to say, I carefully stayed to the right while I watched with admiration of those who could shift left and right on the parallel railroad tracks. I known it can be done if the wheels are angled correctly, but generally, I would rather not risk it. As a city-bicycle newbie, I shall stay on the right side of the tracks until I am ready. (Falling on a railroad track in a quiet, college town is very different from falling in a busy, city downtown.)

Yes! Graffiti fun! Loved, loved by the kid participants. And adult too, of course:

How else could one get more involve – other than actually constructing – than by drawing road paths with our very own hand?

Whoever set up the coffeeholic bicyclist image there is a genius. Of course, I would be bias – if my love of coffee isn’t already widespread among my friends, I would have used it as my avatar.

We got to try out the new paths ourselves.

Ready, set, go!

I wonder if it feels like flying for the kids?

At this feature talk, officials from Municipal Transportation Agency talked about what the city have been working on, its plans, and even passed out some street plans. Changing the Market meant that the designers had to combine what was learned from failed and successful cases from both US and Europe and blend it with the culture of San Francisco. It would take time to do so, and I look forward to see how Market will change.

Our second stop is about a block or two before Powell station:

We were right on the road. The red shirts people were the volunteers and guides, who had placed the cones and made sure the path was clear.

Our second stop ended up being quite eventful. In the middle of our spraying, we heard the sounds of ambulances in the distance. Before we known it, the ambulances were here, and they needed to get through – and our cones are at the corner they needed to enter.


Those at the corner rushed to move the cones away. Those of us at the middle of the block rushed to move the kids back into the street. Then, right around the time when our second feature talks ends, the Occupy Wallstreet protester caught up to us.

Double oops.

They were about one street away. We could hear their voices growing louder. Considering we just heard a feature talk regarding Critical Mass and the revolutionary history set by bicyclists, it was ironically fitting to the topic. But amusing as it was, we don’t want to get stuck in pedestrian traffic.

Confusion, confusion. What should we do? The guides were at the corner of the block, some of us were at the middle of the block.

Communication distance. Instant decision needed.

Eventually, several of us started riding down slowly. We did left in time, but I wonder how many people thought we were Occupy Wallstreet people opening the road with our bicycle. It was a fun topics as the rest of us rides toward our last feature talk site.

At that point, I was at the heart of Market. As I was bicycling through, I couldn’t help but be awe by how beautiful it was to ride a bicycle through Market. It was like one of those movie opening where the camera captures the flowing images of historical buildings and autumn leaves as the main character enters a new town. Better yet, I could hear the voices and feel the air. I sat in cars and bus through Market before, but the feeling couldn’t be compare to riding on a bicycle. I felt somewhat sad that this was really only possible if I am on a bike tour, since Market is a pretty busy and chaotic street that generally requires a bicyclist’s full attention on traffic.

Before I known it, we stopped at our final talk site – the newly opened repair kiosk by Huckleberry Bicycles. Their main store, right next to the kiosk, was in construction. But the kiosk has opened, ready to provide free repair assistance to the commuters. Those who needed some repair help got to try their service out right there on site:

The kiosk was definitely well-prepared.

Not until then did I realized that there wasn’t much bike service near Powell of Market. Now if there is a bicycle shop in 3rd street as well, I will be very happy. And a coffee house with wifi and visible bike racks, of course.

The ride ended at the plaza near Civil Center, where we finally proceed to the juice blender.

Da Da! The Juicecycle! Insert music here.

Yes, a bicycled-powered juice blender provided by Rebar. It was fun to watch as 3 people pedaled away to power a single juice blender. It made one re-appreciate the invention of electricity. Gathered quite a crowd as well – free apple juice and non-stopping, spinning pedals do tend to gather some attraction.

A line for the juice! Even dog and dog-walkers had came.

As the sun began to lower, I left for Bart so I can transfer to bus 44 later. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay long, since I couldn’t physically bike home from Civil Center, and I don’t want to be caught at 3rd street at night while walking – or even riding – a bike. So, early left for me, but the crowd of pedestrian and bicyclists gathered in the red-brick plaza remained as they chatted away.

Sushi, Sand, Surprise, & Seminar: the IESVE Event Day Adventure

On August 22, I caught wind about a free training events to learn about a sustainability plugin for Sketchup. I was sitting at one of my favorite spot – SLO Donut Co –  in San Luis Obispo when I got an email from from one of my green build email subscription (I believe it was

I wasn’t back in San Francisco, but I know I will be, and I know I wanted to really explore all the different events in the city. September was a busy month for architecture thought, with the annual Architecture & City Festival hosted by AIA.

IES (Integrated Environmental Solutions) though, caught my eyes. It was a new program to me. Naturally, when I realize it was a new sustainiability plugin for SketchUp, my curiousity spike. I signed up for the free seminar.

Now, back then I thought the month of September would a slow month where I would have nothing to do because I wouldn’t have a job yet. If you have been keeping up with my blog, you would be laughing now.

Naturally, fate decided that it would an unusual day on September 13. It was, however, a day of pleasant surprises. The day before, I learned that my cousin from Oakland is now interning in San Francisco just a few blocks from the seminar’s place. And so, we decided to have lunch together on the 13th. After we both returned home, we decided over email to meet at Sawaii Sushi. Excited about the seminar and lunch, I joined the events page for the IESVE seminar on Facebook and posted to my friends that I will be there. The next morning before I left home, to my pleasant surprise, I noticed that my best friend posted on Facebook that we should meet up. Even more happy, I decided that I will send a reply as soon as I get back home. And so, the day begins.


‘Sushi with… cream cheese?’

Ah, got to love San Francisco. It was the first thing – other than the cute store icon – that caught my attention when I first found Sawaii Sushi. Philadelphia Sushi sounds absolutely strange and unhealthy (salmon, avocado, and cream cheese), but there have to a reason that they put it as a store special on the board display on the street.


Before you ask, no, I did not ate cream cheese sushi that day. I was hungry, and according my cousin, a 6 piece roll isn’t very much. I ended up ordering a bento set with salmon and California roll. We went over to Crocker Galleria to eat because it has a beautiful atmosphere and a farmer’s market going on. Though the store interior wasn’t too bad.

Sawaii Sushi was a small store with cleanly white design and good lighting. Light enters through the full-glass front entrance and the side-window at the chief’s workplace/bar area, then bounced back by the smooth white interior. White table and wood (or was it bamboo?) chair lined up at the right side neatly. The wall are mostly white, and a few small Asian arts are hung on the wall. Despite the size of the room and its placement at a financial district, the place felt open and airy. I suppose the white color and the spare amount of furnitures help. I can get drink or ready-made food from a fridge box and display case. Visitors can grab small cups of water, too, which is a nice touch. The lady there was very patient and nice – I wanted to wait for my cousin before I order, and so I had step in and outside the store for a few moment.

The food was good. It came with miso, rice, and salad. I am not a big fan of salad, but I am satisfied with what they gave. The sauce wasn’t overly strong, oily, or salty – a frequent complaint I have with salad (“I am trying to eat the vegetables, not a bottle of sauce!”). It was just a light touch of sweet saucing with bite-size leaves. Miso was just soup with little squares of tofu and seaweed. Salmon was more toward the dry size – but it’s not exactly dry. I like the sweet sauce that go with it. For about $7, it was very well-done.


After my cousin and I finished our lunch, we walked together to her office since my seminar doesn’t start for another hour. She ended up introducing me to a small local bakery store, Batter Bakery. The store is rather… unique in its presentation. Should definitely go back and sketch out the store. It is this little circular glass booth. Though small, it have place for 3 people. Little baskets and bags of pastries sits on displays of different height. The glass “walls” enclose the booth but also becomes attractive display for the store. Sitting at the corner of California Street, it was very noticeable.

Listening to the recommendation of the store-owner, I tried out their store-special, Sand Angel. Sand Angel is a sand-brown cookie with white powder. It have a light touch of ginger-cookie flavor and cinnamon to it. It was a delicious, well-flavored, mildly-sweet cookie with a light crusty surface and moist inside. It was soft, but also firm and not crumbly. Very nice.


I walked around for a while before I started walking back to the Crocker Galleria. To my surprise, I realized I had 2 missed calls – from my friend who posted on my Facebook!

I called back, and learn that she’s in the Galleria now! Turned out that she decided the seminar would offer a new perspective (she is in graphic design and digital marketing), and she meant for us to meet up at the seminar when she posted to me on Facebook! I hurried over to Galleria to found her.

The seminar was hosted in CompoClay. The products there was pretty cool. Here’s their description on Facebook:

CompoClay refers to the revolutionary, patent-pending, award-winning material which holds the unique properties of being green, safe, durable, and versatile for design.
CompoClay is MAS-Certified Green being Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emissions free; classified as a Class 0 non-combustible material per British Standards; and possesses outstanding weathering resistance per ASTM tests standards performed by SGS.
CompoClay serves as an environmentally sound alternative to existing counterparts made of gypsum, softwoods, rigid polyurethane foam, and resins which are proven to have negative consequences in regards to greenness, safety, and durability, within their product life cycle.
There were varies potteries, sculptures, and moldings in the store. While the material contains clay, it is no simple clay. They are all made of material composed of sustainable and nonhazardous contents. Yet, the product there looked as well-made and detail as regular clay. If I had not stepped into the store, I may not have realized their products were any different from other sculptures or moldings.
When I entered into the seminar area, I was immediately greeted by Erin, who was the coordinator of the events. After my registration, she had send in another welcome note, confirmation letter, and a reminder. Like I imagined, she was very friendly. The room was much more cozier than I thought. There were couches and snacks. There were 8 attendants from what I observed, and everyone can see everyone. Those were all important elements – those who read Twitter may recall that I mentioned how the seminar turned into a most fascinating discussion later, but I will go into that.
Integrated Environmental Solutions creates a VE (Virtual Environment) software for performance analysis in digital modelings. It works with not SketchUp, but also Revit and ArchiCad. The tools takes varies factors, ratings, and codes into account, including geographic, climate data, EPC, LEED, and ASHRAE. It will even do credit assessment for LEED. Even though LEED 2012 haven’t came up yet, the company is already looking into it. From what I observed, the graphics and data was easy-to-read and navigate. I immediately thought about how useful it would had been if I know about it when my class group was working on the program for the USGBC Natural Talents Competition.
There are total of 4 levels of VE program – VE-Ware, VE-Toolkits, Ve-Gaia, and VE-Pro. Each level gets more and more detail and in-depth with their analysis. For those whom are interested, I highly recommend going to their website and watching their YouTube video. Their software have too much features to explain it in one blog post. Of course, I am sure actually using the software would also offer a different perspective.
It would appears that at least half of the attendants have already been using the software. At the end, an interesting discussion started about the development in BIM and Sustainability Analysis software, as well as the importance of client-education. Since I am a recent graduate, it was fascinating to hear the experiences and thoughts of people whom are working in the industry, whom saw the wave of sustainable design and digital drafting & modeling program affect both professionals and clients. To those of us new in this generation, we grow up in the age of computer revolution and green culture. We have education in sustainability at young age, and we are used to Adobe and Apple coming up with new products on a yearly base. Everything, every digital advancement seems to be just around the corner. For those who’s been there though, they can see that it took years for those advancements to happen. Things have history – the history of building professionals went from drafting to computer graphics, from graphics to 2d drafting, from 2d drafting to modeling, from modeling to BIM, and now from BIM to performance analysis tools. Along with those revolution, the role of architects and clients both changed. With the advancement of digital performance analysis, I wonder how the jobs and roles of architects will change in line of history.

Short Update After Moving Back to San Francisco

I can’t believe it is the 12th already! The last 12th days been quite eventful.

First, I naturally have to clean up and box everything as soon as possible when I got home – can’t leave the house a mess, especially since I am living with my family again. Meanwhile I listening to the driver’s manuel on my mp3. I happily pass the writing exam in one go, and now I just need to pass the driving test (Yes, I don’t have a driver’s license. I did live in San Francisco and San Luis Obispo, and both are wonderful cities for car-free living. And being an environmentalist, power-walk lover, and a low-cash student, I took full advantage of it until I graduated from college.)
My parents and I went shopping for desk and cabinets since we just moved to the new place, and I am a new addition, afterall. We got a cabinet for the family printer, a cabinet and some plastic boxes for me, and a desk ordered. I helped my dad built the first printer. My dad build the second cabinet on his own in day – my mom joked that he may just start to get an addiction and become a professional cabinet maker. Now if only I can have a scanner – apparently the one we have right now is not working, which means I can’t scan my sketchbook in. Not that I have done much sketching in the last few days with all the moving and other random things.


Right after that, my close cousin got married! First in the group of cousins in America to so. It was a beautiful full day wedding that encompassed both eastern and western tradition. The day after it is Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, which is kind of like Christmas. It’s a pretty important day for family. My family will be going out to dinner with some of our relative tonight for it.

With all the family events, my daily routine been a bit interrupted. However, I still got plenty done. I got the draft version of my portfolio done, loaded into issue, and got it into my blog ( I provided an extremely concise version on my portfolio also on issuu. If you are reading, please help me out by going over there and critic!
I also got a business card format out. I signed up for SPUR (San Francisco Planning & Urban Research Association), emailed USGBC about membership information, and inputed all the architecture events – including Architecture & City Festivals – into my iCal. I love, love events and festivals! In fact, tomorrow I will be going to an event about VE-Gaia hosted by IES (Integrated Environmental Solutions).

In addition, I have decided to get involve into bicycling in San Francisco. Sent an email about volunteering and membership to the local Bicycling Coalition. Just yesterday, my father drove by the local Street Sunday bicycling events on the way to Office Depot (for the cabinet). I didn’t volunteer that day because I know I would be worn out after the wedding, but it looks so much fun. I can’t wait to find a bike! Of course, if possible I would love to get involve with some local gardening activities. I do miss growing my own balcony garden. Oh, and library! I decided to join in on the One City One Book events and will soon be reading Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach. It will be updated on my Goodread account as soon I start reading. If you have Goodread, feel free to friend me.

Most importantly though, I want to catch up with everyone I know in SF and find new friends as well. It is going to be a busy but hopefully fun year.