Category Archives: USA

Shorpy’s historical photo archives

I just wanted to share this great website with historical photos, especially of quotidian life. A preview of one below.


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Posted by on August 15, 2014 in Photography, USA


Pyramid Lake, overlooked gem outside of Reno

Just 45 minutes outside of Reno–and even within distance of San Francisco–lies the under appreciated Pyramid Lake. If you don’t like dealing with fees, permits and waits for taking your boat into Tahoe, it’s an ideal alternative. You usually can pick up a boat permit at 7-11 in Reno before heading out north, and completely avoid the lines there.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 8.15.02 PM

Brief digression: would you want to go to Pyramid without watercraft? I suppose you could go for swimming and hanging out at the beach. The water can get quite warm and clear in summer, even if it’s a bit salty. Even so, it’s more of a fishing/boating/jet-skiing area than a beach hangout spot like Tahoe. Boating seems to be the ideal activity; you’ll be surprised by the lack of traffic there.

Having driven over from San Francisco that morning, we didn’t get in a little after 1 o’clock. My mom remarked that there were more people there than she’d ever seen, but, apart from some cops annoyingly looking us over, it was a smooth, quick departure.


We started roaring over the water at 30 mph and once the cops were out of sight cracked open bottles of beer to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend.

Straight across from the boat dock at the fisheries is the Pyramid. It’s probably more of a ziggurat, with a typical Nevada moon-like surroundings. The water, too, is a deep green, giving it an extraterrestrial appearance.


After taking a dip in the water–which was, this late May, still freezing coldOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA–we pulled up to the bay and got out to get a closer look at the Stone Mother.

It’s Paiute Indian land there and the Paiute tribe nearby comes to her to pray, sometimes leaving the Stone Mother offerings. There were none today, but when we started to move off, we noticed some of the Indians setting up for what looked to be a ceremony.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA See the face? The offerings are left in the broken rock to the right.

Afterward, we got back in the boat and headed for a long, fast ride around the Anaho Island National Wildlife Refuge, a bird sanctuary which happens to be a large, pyramid-shaped island in the middle of the lake.


Sun-drenched, we then headed back to shore. In total, we probably covered 7 or 8 miles by boat over the course of a couple hours. But if you’ve got the time, Pyramid Lake is enormous–nearly the size of Tahoe–so you can boat all day and camp out in different locations along the way.


RE: Things you’ll never hear San Franciscans say

Funny article up at The Bold Italic.

Some notable things you’ll never hear an SF’an say (in and round town):

Fernet? Meh.

I just get such good vibes from the Marina.

I love hanging out at Fisherman’s Wharf to get the real San Francisco experience.

Heh. I think it’s a given that you have to at least shown an appreciation for Fernet, even if it tastes worse than Jaegermeister. As for the Marina, all I ever hear about is how “fratty” it is, but I’ve never really gone to a bar there, so I pretty much just assume it’s true. The last time I went to Fisherman’s Wharf was when I was working for the SF Water Department and had to test the ocean water nearby.

Some other notables:

I’m sure the bus is late for a good reason. I’m happy to wait.

Google is using technology to make the world a better place.

I don’t care if you call it Frisco or San Fran, it’s all good.

MUNI=slow (but improving, I must contend); GOOGLE=bad (but we all still love their products); people who say FRISCO=unforgivable, while San Fran is merely a faux pas, so I’d let it pass. “The City” might be ridiculous, but it has a nice ring to it, and it’s what I use. For American English, San Francisco is pretty long and clunky sounding, so we have to have something else to call it. “SF” is OK, I suppose.

Speaking of other places (as if they existed).

San Francisco is so much like New York.

San Jose has great bars and it’s so close!

LA seems like a really nice place to live.

Sprawling San Jose and LA spark the ire of San Franciscans generally speaking. But the lack of growth belies the major San Francisco problem: housing.

What’s that new building? Must be more affordable housing.

I just bought my own home!

Sometimes I think my apartment is TOO big.

My rent is totally reasonable.

On that note …

Move to San Francisco. There’s room for everyone.




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Posted by on May 14, 2014 in California, San Francisco, USA


Americans need a break from work

Why do we have to work so much? If we’re the richest country in the world, we should be able to relax a little bit more. Overworking, anyway, is not healthy. Sayeth the article, 

It’s typical for Germans to take off three consecutive weeks in August when “most of the country kind of closes down,” Schimkat said. That’s the time for big trips, perhaps to other parts of Europe, or to Australia or North America. Germans might also book a ski holiday in the winter and take a week off during Easter.

Schimkat’s family back in the United States teases her that she’s spoiled. But when she tells Germans that workers in the U.S. usually get two weeks of vacation a year, they cringe.

“They kind of have this idea that Americans work like robots and if that’s the way they want to be, that’s up to them. But they don’t want to be like that,” Schimkat said.

“[Germans] work very hard, but then they take their holiday and really relax. … It’s more than just making money for Germans, it’s about having time for your family and it’s about having time to wind down.”

Weird, because Germans are a little bit less family oriented and traditional than Americans and yet it’s American politicians who always play up the family thing, but at the same time they don’t want to cut any hours and give middle class Americans more time to spend some time with their own. 

But there’s also cultural reasons for this, 

Working more makes Americans happier than Europeans, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Happiness Studies. That may be because Americans believe more than Europeans do that hard work is associated with success, wrote Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn, the study’s author and an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Dallas.

“Americans maximize their… [happiness] by working, and Europeans maximize their [happiness] through leisure,” he found.

Yes, I like that we enjoy doing things… It’s a good attitude. So I think it should be that you get four weeks vacation by law and you can take them if you want to or work more for overtime if your firm allows. That way, we don’t go into six week terrain and scare away people who think we’re getting soft like the Euros and then, if you really want to bust your ass, you still can. 

Besides, it doesn’t do you much good to work too much. And we do need time for our families and to be able to see the world, exercise, explore and get out of the office. 

“There is simply no evidence that working people to death gives you a competitive advantage,” said John de Graaf, the national coordinator for Take Back Your Time, a group that researches the effects of overwork.

He noted that the United States came in fourth in the World Economic Forum’s 2010-2011 rankings of the most competitive economies, but Sweden — a country that by law offers workers five weeks of paid vacation — came in second. …
“You would have had the idea that we were calling for the end of Western civilization. Comments like, ‘Oh, they’re going to make America a 21st-century France,’ as if we were all going to have to eat snails,” de Graaf said.

“I’m in no way anti-capitalist, I think the market does a lot of good things, but the Europeans understand that the market also has its failings and that when simply left completely to its own devices, it doesn’t produce these perfect results.”

You mean the market isn’t always perfect? You mean to say a modicum of government interference might be necessary now and again?

In this case, the producing class should be let off their hamster wheels for a while and allowed to take vacations to enjoy the fruit of their labor a bit. There’s really no point to rush into retirement so that you can hobble around the south of France in the youth of your early 70s. Spread it out, see the world bit by bit, enjoy the freedom of time, probably the biggest freedom of all, and the one which we Americans lack the most.

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Posted by on May 26, 2011 in Career, Culture, Economics, Europe, Germany, USA, Work


Why Europeans don’t get fat

European men and women are less fat than American men and women (stop the presses), but why? Well, as far as I can tell, there are four main reasons—and diet is last on the list.

1. Walking. Good luck getting everywhere by car in densely populated Europe. Even if you have a car, it’s probable you’ll have to climb the stairs to your apartment occasionally, something which never happens out in the burbs. In the end, you do a lot of walking and working off your blubber in Europe. Oddly enough, Europeans do less hardcore exercise than Americans (you don’t see very many joggers and the gyms are less full of the well-to-do) but walking around all day burns a lot of calories.

2. Inconvenience. Things are small in Europe. Cars, bathrooms, beds, metro chairs, plates. They all affect your perception of yourself and the amount of space you’re taking up. Being fat in Europe is a true day-to-day trial. Try fitting on a European toilet seat in a tiny European bathroom after going down small European stairs. Which segues neatly into the next one.

3. Shame. Europeans aren’t very fat accepting. Not only is it a pain to get around, but everyone looks at, you have a hard time making friends and people shun you for being fat. I hate to say it, but shame is social tactic that works damn well. Also, since you’re around people a lot more, on the metro, walking around town, you’re made aware a lot more often of how you compare to others, which won’t happen to you in a car.

4. Diet. Europeans don’t eat all that much better than Americans (contrary to popular belief) but they do sure eat a lot less. They also talk a lot, drink with food, and smoke a lot, all of which facilitate the burning of calories. They don’t exactly count calories or go on diets as much, but they don’t mind going without a meal now and then and hardly ever snack when they’re out and about.

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Posted by on May 23, 2011 in Culture, Europe, Food, USA


9 Nations of North America

The Nine Nations of North America is a book written in 1981 by Joel Garreau, suggesting that these regions better represent the main cultural “nations” of North America.  Each region has its own music, food, ethnic makeup, values, ideals and capital, or defining city.

Canada shares all of the Northern cultural regions with America: New England, the Breadbasket, Quebec, the Foundry, the Empty Quarter and Ecotopia. Latin America shares two regions with the USA, the capitals of which are both inside the USA: Mexamerican Los Angeles and Island Miami.

I come from Ecotopia and, without a doubt, the culture of Ecotopia is strong there. Most of my friends worship the environment (I like it myself, but I’m not going to start counting my carbon footprint or feeling guilty for my polluted human existence). Ecotopia, capital San Francisco, is bordered by a much larger region, Mexamerica, capital Los Angeles. I’ve written a bit about the culture of Ecotopia, which actually has a small enclave in Los Angeles and reaches as far as British Columbia.

Currently, most of my family lives in the Empty Quarter where there’s plenty of land and friendly people, but not much culture or things for young people to do.

Later, I think I’ll post some defining music and art for each region.

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Posted by on April 23, 2011 in Anthropology, Art, Culture, USA


Portland, Hipster Valhalla

Portland is midway between the two larger pacific northwest hipster hubs, San Francisco and Seattle. San Francisco and Seattle, however, have a serious side: business, work, big companies, computers, etc. Portland is hipster heaven. There are also no jobs there. So, you can be a trustfunder or work a few hours at a coffee shop and live simply, if that’s your thing. Of course, it will be hard to afford your $7 craft beer but perhaps you can set something on fire, call it art, and make a quick buck.

The “hipster highway” would have five main stops. Los Angeles, where the culture is strong, but surrounded by larger competing cultures; San Francisco, a huge hipster hub, that isn’t run by hipsters, and is getting too expensive for hipsters; Eureka & Arcata, hipster and pot-head paradise surrounding Humboldt State University, run by hipsters, but offering little opportunity for Urban Life, which hipsters adore; Portland, full of hispters, run by hipsters, the hipster Valhalla, except for the fact that it’s so white; and Seattle, the last stop of the hipster highway, where hipsters go when they decide to get tech jobs, marry their “partners” (used even if it’s a heterosexual relationship) and have or adopt kids. For some inexplicable reason they don’t move back to LA or to the dust bins in the east where many of them came from.

All cities not on the hipster highway simply do not exist, unless there is a trendy cafe or ethnic food restaurant to stop at during the trip.

For more info, see here: SWPL.

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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in SWPL, USA