Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Handy-Dandy Costco Tip

A few years ago, I signed up for a Costco American Express Cash Rebate Card. As you may know, Costco does not take Visa or Mastercard, but it does accept AmEx, Discover and Bank Debit cards.

For years, I used my ATM/Debit card, which was fine, but I would have much preferred to just charge everything to a credit card and pay the lump sum in full at the end of the month.

Enter the Costco AmEx Card. This card, with no annual fee, not only allowed me to charge my Costco purchases, but also gave me 1-3% back in a Costco Rebate check each year. Handy dandy. The breakdown for how much percentage you'll get in a rebate is: 3% for dining out, 2% on travel expenses, and 1% for purchases everywhere else, including Costco (but not including gasoline, alcohol, or cigarettes) . Usually, I only qualify for the 1% tier, since I only use my AmEx card at Costco.

Well, apparently, they introduced a new card last year called the "TrueEarnings Card" from American Express and Costco. The rebate schematic is the same as before, except now, starting in February, you can also receive 3% back on gas purchases! Not bad.

Here's the thing: if you had a AmEx/Costco Platinum Card (like I do) you have to call the number on the back of the card, and have them actually switch you over to the new card.

No reason not to do it (which I just confirmed with the sales rep who helped me out). It's the same rebate structure, with the addition to the 3% rebate for gasoline. Still, no fees, etc.,

...and that's your handy-dandy Costco tip of the day! :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, Tiffie!

Happy Birthday to my sister, Tiffini!

Just look at how young my parents were!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Today's walk down Castro Street

This afternoon, I took another stroll down Castro Street and caught more production action of the filming of "Milk".

It's such a surreal experience every time I take this walk during the production of the movie. There's something new to see each day, and even more storefronts have been transformed back to the 70s. Over the last couple of days, the street has been filled with actors and extras dressed in 70s garb, and cars from the era are the only ones parked along the street.

I was stopped, along with several other passer-bys, as the production crew was filming another scene in front of Harvey's Camera Store across the street. We waited for a few minutes as they wrapped it up before letting us continue. There are several campaign posters up on the windows of the camera store now, bearing Harvey Milk's name, but Sean Penn's photo. Surreal.

Harvey Milk's Camera Store and Campaign Headquarters transformed back in time.

As I walked down to Market Street I saw several more storefronts that had undergone the transformation. My favorite cookie store (Hot Cookie) now bears the Double Rainbow Sign. (that wouldn't be bad to have around, either!)

The Quickly Store (that makes bubble tea)is masquerading as a real estate office with several flyers taped to the windows showing the housing prices of the era: $40,000-$50,000!

Toad Hall, one of the most popular bars in the Castro during the 70s was resurrected. Dick and I watched the filming of a scene in front of this building this evening.

The Bank of America building, which is now a Diesel Store, has a sign bearing it's the bank's name on it again. (although they put it on the side of the building on Castro Street, where the Sprint Store resides, rather than the actual corner of Market and Castro.)

The Castro Theater has been restored to it's former glory. The colors are magnificent - I haven't ever seen it look so beautiful. I heard from a friend that the theater's marquis hadn't fully functioned since the 80s. My favorite part of walking past it today was what I read on the marquis: "The Poseidon Adventure"! (not actually showing!)

And finally, as I turned the corner of Castro at Market, I noticed that even the Chevron Station had gotten into the act: it's prices were turned back to the 70s as well!

I really love watching all of this transformation and action happening in the neighborhood. Everyone that I've talked to seems to be excited about it as well - we're all so happy to see that the producers of the movie seem to be paying to much attention to the detail of our great neighborhood.

Stay tuned. I think there will be another week or so of production before they wrap up.

Here's a great article about the movie and the filming in the Castro in today's

Happy (early) Birthday, Sis!

Tomorrow (January 30th) is my sister's birthday! Happy Birthday, Sis!

Mondays are her days off from the theater, so we went out for a celebratory dinner last night. We went to one of our favorite restaurants (and a usual birthday dinner spot for our family): Roys. (Mmmmm... Butterfish!)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sunset Idea House

Today I went with my Mom and Dad to the 2007 Sunset Idea House, which (conveniently for me) was located this year in the Mission District of San Francisco.

It was pretty interesting. It's the first one that I've been to, although my parents have been to many.

The theme of this particular house was "green" - it featured many eco-friendly features: Hot water is provided by rooftop tubes that collect solar energy, electricity will come from SunPower solar panels and a wind turbine installed in the backyard.

The design was too industrial-modern for my taste, but that's probably because I'm a little biased to Victorian and Edwardian architecture in San Francisco. The atmosphere of the interior was very cold to me, because all of the cement walls, floors, counters, etc., Although, I have to admit that I walked around with my shoes on (as all visitors did) so I wasn't able to enjoy the water-based radiant heated floors throughout.

I took a few photos. One is of the main level, as you walk through the front door. It shows the indoor lap pool, with a steam/sauna room adjacent to it. Another is the backyard, taken from the 3rd level of the house. I focused on the "rain chain" - an idea I had seen in a photo before, and really liked.

If you're interested in seeing the Sunset Idea House in San Francisco, better go soon! Tomorrow is the last day. Here's more info.

Oh, and if you're interested in buying the 1,200 sq ft apartment in the building (the actual house is not on the market) for just under $1 million, (price recently drastically reduced!) in San Francisco Mission District ($1,000,000 for a condo, without parking, in the Mission) here's more info:

Friday, January 25, 2008


The Castro is going back in time! 30 years to be exact.

Production of the film, "Milk" has begun. Harvey Milk was was the first openly gay city supervisor of San Francisco, California, and therefore, according to Time magazine, "the first openly gay man elected to any substantial political office in the history of the planet".

He is considered by some to the be Martin Luther King of the Gay Community.

(from Wikipedia):

In 1972, Milk moved to San Francisco. He settled with his partner Scott Smith and opened a camera store, Castro Camera, in the Castro gay village. He emerged as a community leader, founding the Castro Valley Association of local merchants, and represented the neighborhood businesses in dealing with the city government.

Milk ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unsuccessfully twice, in 1973 and 1975. He emerged as a figurehead for San Francisco's large gay community, and was known as the "Mayor of Castro Street", a title which he himself coined. With each campaign, he garnered a larger number of supporters.

Milk's opponent in the 1975 race was Art Agnos, who would win the assembly seat by 3,600 votes out of 33,000 ballots cast.

After San Francisco switched from at-large to district elections, Milk was elected to the Board of Supervisors on his third attempt in 1977, the first openly gay elected official of any large city in the United States, and only the third openly gay elected official in all of the US, after Kathy Kozachenko and Elaine Noble. Milk represented District 5, which included the Castro.

In his eleven months as a Supervisor, he sponsored a gay rights bill for the City as well as – famously – a pooper-scooper ordinance. He was also instrumental in defeating Proposition 6, The Briggs Initiative, backed by State Senator Briggs, which would have allowed openly gay men and lesbians who were teachers to be fired based on their sexuality. In November 1978, Proposition 6 was soundly voted down by Californians.

Harvey Milk was assassinated, along with then-Mayor, George Moscone on November 27, 1978. They were killed at City Hall by Dan White, a former San Francisco City Supervisor. In a controversial verdict, which led to the coining of the legal slang "the Twinkie defense," White was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the assassinations. The movie is being filmed now, and is set to be released towards the end of the year. Director Gus Van Sant is directing the film, which stars Sean Penn as Milk.

They are doing some of the filming on Castro Street, and have transformed part of the street to the way it looked 30 years ago. Harvey Milk's Camera store was on Castro, between 18th and 19th Street. He lived in an apartment upstairs, and used the back of the store as his campaign headquarters. The same building which he had lived/worked in has recently been transformed, as well as some of the businesses around it.

I took a walk down Castro Street yesterday, and snapped some photos. I didn't realize until I was taking the photos they were actually in production. You can see a scaffolding set up in the middle of the street (where the orange cones are) in one of the photos, filming a scene in front of the camera store. You can also see how some storefronts have been transformed, although the businesses inside are still open for business! Our favorite Thai restaurant, Thai House Express is temporarily sporting the facade of "China Court", which is what it was for years, until only about 3 years ago. You can also see "Aquarius Records" next store to it, which has also been long gone. (Thanks to Andrew for the photo of the Aquarius Records sign being put up.)

Since I took these shots during production, you'll see that all of the cars in them are all period to the late 70s. They even went so far in detail that I noticed them painting all of the sidewalk trash cans beige, over the dark green that they usually are.

I also took a photo of our beloved Castro Theater, which is also getting a face lift. I'm not positive, but I assume that the timing of it's new look is coinciding with the filming of "Milk".

Lastly, I'm including a couple of photos that I took from Harvey Milk Plaza, which is on the corner of Market and Castro, down by the entrance to the MUNI Station. There are a series of photos down here depicting the life of Harvey Milk, showing the impact that he had on our community.

I recently heard about the "Milk March" which will be held late in the evening of February 8th. The movie is looking for volunteers to appear as unpaid extras. They will be recreating the famous Candlelight march through the Castro the night after Milk and Mayor Moscone were assassinated in 1978.

I signed up for this evening, as well as two others (which don't seem to be mentioned on the web site anymore). I think this will be a fascinating opportunity to be a part of something important. For me, it's not about "being an extra in a movie". It's more about having the experience of participating in something that is so historically significant to my neighborhood, and my community.

Let me know if you'll be there on any of the nights - would love to hook up with some friends!

Here's a really good article about the movie production that I just found on the B.A.R.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tonight's Dinner

My new favorite recipe: Vegetable Chili. Good, and good for you! :)

Baby, it's cold outside...

...and inside, too!

Handy iPhone App

Thanks to Mike for sending this to me:

This handy little app checks SF MUNI arrival times for you via your iPhones.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mr. Owl....

How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a
Tootsie Pop?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Whole New World - a Follow-up

Oh, my. This just keeps getting better.

Someone was clever enough to put Nick Pitera's recording over the scene from the movie:

If you haven't seen the video of Nick Pitera singing this (which I put up on my blog yesterday), be sure to watch that, too!

Jury Duty

Here I am, sitting in the Jury Assembly Room of the Civic Center Courthouse.

I received my summons for jury duty a few weeks ago, checked the website Friday afternoon, and found that I did indeed need to report in today.

I served on a jury about 3 years ago, and actually found the process rather fascinating. I'm wondering how far along in the system I'll go this time around.

So far, this experience is already a lot better than last time. This time, I'm at the Courthouse in Civic Center, by City Hall. It's a much nicer building than the one I had to report to last time on Folsom Street. Also, last time, there wasn't any good public transportation options, so I had to drive, and park at a pricey lot. This time, it's MUNI to Civic Center! Much better.

The jury assembly room is also much nicer. Lots of large, wooden tables, with plenty of outlets for all of us and our laptops. I opted to pay the $5.95/day for wireless internet access. Since we're on the basement level, my iPhone doesn't have a signal, and I just couldn't sit around for who knows how long without checking email, surfing the web, and updating my Facebook status! Plus, you know, the beauty of laptops: there's always work to do. :)

So, here I am. I got here around 8:15 (15 minutes early) and was able to snag a nice, large table in the room. I've got my bottle of water, my dried fruit to snack on, and my laptop to work on, and to keep me company.

We'll see how it goes.
Stay tuned.

12:00 Noon

Well, that was fairly uneventful. They pulled us into the court room at 10:00, then proceeded to tell us how long the trial was scheduled to go for. 6 weeks! I wouldn't have minded serving on a jury, not even for that long, but I decided to submit a hardship form since that would've been too long for me to go without work/pay. I was sent back to the jury assembly room to see if there are any other, shorter trials that I could be considered for, but when I got down there, I was dismissed for at least another year.

So, I'm out about $9 from the experience: $5.95 for wireless internet (which I used for about 1.5 hours) and $3 for round trip MUNI fare. Not bad.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Whole New World

My cousin, Cheri, sent me this link last week. She and I are both Disney Animation Fans.

My initial thought: this guy has an amazing voice! He actually sounds like the voice who sang the voice in the movie! (which is saying a lot!) Which reminds me, the character of Aladdin was my first and only cartoon crush. I mean, come on, the guy was dreamy. ;)

Anyhow, watch the video. Turn on the sound on your computer, and make sure to watch it in its entirety. This guy really does have an amazing voice, so much so, that it may surprise you.

Friday, January 18, 2008

MacWorld 2008

My Mom, my sister and I have a long standing tradition of going to Mac World San Francisco together. My Mom pulled my sister and I out of high school for a day in 1985 so we could attend the first one!

We also have a routine: we meet for an early lunch/breakfast at Mel's Diner at 5th and Mission, then head over to the Exhibit Hall. For the last couple of years, we've attended on a Friday, which is the last day, because it coincides with one of my Mom's days off.

So, we met all this morning at 11:00. My sister's boyfriend, Graham, also joined us. After lunch/breakfast, we headed over to the registration area. The registration was actually held in the new section of Moscone center this year (Moscone West).

It was a good year. It seems like it was larger this year that it has been for the past couple of years. There were two exhibit areas - the main one, and another large and busy one in Moscone West.

All the same stuff: lots of accessories for your iPod/iPhone/Mac, etc.,

We breezed through everything, including the Apple area. I was mildly interested in actually picking up (physically) the new Mac Book Air, just to test the weight. It really is remarkably light. The touch pad was also pretty cool - works like the screen on the iPhone. I still don't have any desire to buy one, though. At this point, it seems like a really great travel laptop, or presentation laptop, but not a serious full-time computer.

I didn't buy anything today. There simply wasn't anything that I "needed". If I had needed a cover or new carrying case for my iPhone, or my laptop, it would certainly have been the perfect place. Alas, I'm very happy with what I already have, and don't have any need for replacements. :)

Actually, there was something that I would have bought today, if given the option. I found these super cute little iPod/AM/FM clock radios. I've been looking for something compact that I can put on the shelf of the new bathroom. These really fit the bill. They are about the size of a square Kleenex box. Unfortunately, they weren't selling them at the show, and even more unfortunate, they won't have a web site for another month or so (or something like that. I couldn't quite figure it out). They did mention that I could find them on ebay, which I did tonight, but have discovered that it's only available right now in the UK. I think I'll just wait another month or so...

Here are a few fun pictures that I took today.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Moose Head Magnets!

(from my sister, from Canada)

Andy & Dick putting at the driving range

Out and enjoying the first sunny day we've had all week.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Morning Buns

This morning, I drove Dick to the train station about an hour earlier than we have been for the past couple of weeks. I've mentioned earlier that San Francisco is a sleepy City - it seems that everyone (including us) goes to bed early, and wakes up late. I noticed immediately how much quieter the streets are at 7:30 (which, really, isn't very early at all!) compared to 8:30.

As we drove by Tartine Bakery at the corner of 18th and Guererro, I noticed that the line, which is usually out the door, was much shorter than it usually is when we drive by. There also seemed to be a few parking spaces out in front. I made a mental note to come by on my way home to see if I could park and grab a treat for breakfast on my way home.

I got back to the bakery around 8:00, and found a 10 minute parking-zone spot right in front! I waited in line behind 3 people, and happily ordered myself a "Morning Bun" to go.

If you haven't been to this bakery, you really must check it out. Their pastries are simply some of the best I've ever had. Don't get scared off from the lines (usually out the door, and down the sidewalk). They move quickly enough, and really, it's worth the wait.

I''m going to go downstairs now and eat my Morning Bun with a mug of peppermint tea. What a nice way to start the day!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Honey, I'm home!

This is a look that Dick has been sporting for the past month or so.

I call it his "Honey, I'm Home!" look.

I love it. It's got a 50s, Ward Cleaver thing going for it.

It's really all about the hat. Love the hat. Apparently, he's had the hat for several years, but hadn't worn it in a long time.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Inaugural Celebration

This evening, Dick and I were invited (along with several hundred other people) to attend the inaugural celebration of SF Mayor, Gavin Newsom's second term. The event was at The DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park.

Geeky McGeekster

When Geeky Worlds Collide...

Dick and I just bought a new toy. It's a Garmin NUVI 760 GPS device. It's pretty cool. We honestly don't drive outside of SF very often, so we haven't had a chance to really use it yet, but we've had fun taking it around the town, and testing out what it can do.

The Garmin web site has a few 3D vehicles that you can download to show up as your vehicle on the screen. I was really hoping to find a MINI Cooper, but no luck.

Last night, I was surfing around some MINI forums to get some opinions on a GPS mounting option for my car, and I came across some MINI icons for the Garmin! Imagine my excitement!

This morning, as I was riding with Dick to the CalTrain station, I decided to take a picture of the GPS screen with my little MINI Cooper, tootling along the Streets of San Francisco. Pretty cute, huh?

Unfortunately, it only has the option for a checkered roof and bonnet strips, but it's still a Chili Red MINI Cooper, none-the-less. I may play with it a bit to see if I can make some digital modifications. :)

BTW: here's the mounting system I'm thinking about getting for my MINI (the second option down). Has anyone used the Kuda products before? Thoughts?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Another reason why I love Pete

not that I needed another...

Today I received an email from iTunes saying that I'd received a gift from a friend. Turns out that Pete had bought me a copy of the "Star Wars Theme / Cantina Band (12" Disco Mix) off of "The Best of Meco" Album.

OMG! I remember when this song first came out (obviously soon after the movie) and I LOVED it! It's got it all: the main theme, R2D2 beeps, the cantina music (all disco-ed up) and jawas, all rolled up into 3 minutes, 48 seconds of disco goodness.

I'm a happy geek. :)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Trina Chow: Soccer Mom?

Our friends, Abbe and Eve, have recently moved into the neighborhood! :) Their new (gorgeous) home is only about 3 blocks from us.

Abbe started a new job yesterday in Palo Alto. When we had dinner together last week, she asked Dick about his experience with CalTrain. Dick has been taking Caltrain to work for several years now, and highly recommends it, so she decided to give it a try.

We told her that Dick usually rides his scooter to the station, unless it's very cold or raining out. If that's the case, then I drive him back and forth.

Abbe and Eve decided to start out by having Eve drive Abbe to the station since they don't quite know the parking situation yet.

Yesterday, Dick and Abbe saw each other while they were on the same train home. Dick rode his scooter home, and Eve picked up Abbe. After Dick told me about their encounter last night, I suggested that he call Abbe to offer her a ride today, since we were expecting rain for the next few days.

Abbe went in earlier than Dick today, so Eve dropped her off again, but I'm all set to pick them both up from the station this afternoon.

Eve called me about an hour ago, confirming my plans to pick both Dick and Abbe up. She also offered to drive Dick tomorrow morning, if he wanted to go on the same train as Abbe.

I started laughing because we sounded like a couple of mothers trying to arrange a car pool for our kids. I told her that this must be what it feels like to be a soccer mom. :)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Day Dinner

the Chinese girl from California is learning...

In the Southern tradition, we made Greens (Collard) and Black Eyed Peas (in the form of Hoppin' John) for dinner.

The black eyed peas represent good luck and the greens signify prosperity.

We do this meal almost ever year on New Year's Day. We used a new recipe (for us) for the Hoppin' John - gotta love the Mama Dip's Cookbook. It was both of our favorite version by far. Mmmmm.

Which brings me to to the question: who is John, and why is he hoppin'?

Happy New Year!!

Taken from P&R's house. Watching the fireworks from the Embarcadero.