the big room with the blue ceiling Archives

Lighter Drinking and the Life of the Street 2014

"(This essay by Dinah first appeared in the Hayes Valley Voice.)
If you haven’t gone before 5pm on a workday, you haven’t really been to our little neighborhood bar on the green. At opening time—2pm—on a recent sunny Tuesday I stopped in at Brass Tacks to talk with co-owner Matty Conway. My plan was to spend a quiet hour discussing a topic of mutual interest: low-alcohol cocktails..."

Oh Facebook, why do you show me the text preview when I write the post and then hide it when you post? Sigh.

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Posted on May 20, 2014 at 09:46 AM in, Food and Drink, the big room with the blue ceiling | Permalink | Comments (0)

River's End 2014

A lovely stop on the way north this evening!

Photo by Mum Jinx.

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Posted on March 14, 2014 at 07:16 PM in Food and Drink, friends & family, the big room with the blue ceiling | Permalink | Comments (0)

media I've enjoyed recently 2014

Advertising and Selling

- Morgan Spurlock: The greatest TED Talk ever sold (TEDtalks)

- Full Price Beats Penny Saved for Selling Some Items (60-second Science)

- Candidates Affect Viewer Reactions to Ads in Debates (60-second Science)


- Michael Pawlyn: Using nature's genius in architecture (TEDtalks)

- Jacqueline Novogratz: Inspiring a life of immersion (TEDtalks)

- 100,000-Year-Old Art Studio Discovered (60-second Science)


- Bill Gates: How state budgets are breaking US schools (TEDtalks)

- Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies (TEDtalks)

- Science Grad Students Who Teach Write Better Proposals (60-second Science)

- Doodles and Drawings Help Cement Concepts (60-second Science)

Food and Drink

- Student Researchers Find Secret Tea Ingredients (60-second Science)

- Molars Say Cooking Is Almost 2 Million Years Old (60-second Science)

- High-Pressure Food Treatment Can Kill Microbes And Up Nutrients (60-second Science)

Health and Growth

- Charity Tilleman-Dick: Singing after a double lung transplant (TEDtalks)

- Molly Stevens: A new way to grow bone (TEDtalks)

- Gamekeeper's Thumb Condition Outlives the Occupation (60-second Science)

- Test Tells Viral and Bacterial Infections Apart (60-second Science)

- Poultry Farms That Stop Antibiotics See Resistance Fall (60-second Science)

- Endurance Exercise Has Stem Cells Make Bone Over Fat (60-second Science)

- Carbon Nanotubes Impale Compulsive Cells (60-second Science)

- Online Gamers Help Solve Protein Structure (60-second Science)

- Health Data Could Spot Genocide Risk (60-second Science)

- City Cyclists Suck In Soot (60-second Science)

- Rapid PCR Could Bring Quick Diagnoses (60-second Science)

- Pathogen Genomics Has Become Dirt Cheap (60-second Science)

- Kid Scientists Show Medicines Can Be Mistaken For Candy (60-second Science)

- Fever Increases Numbers of Immune Cells (60-second Science)

Nature and Sexuality

- Christopher Ryan: Are we designed to be sexual omnivores? (TEDtalks)

- Mole's Extra Finger Is Wrist Bone-us (60-second Science)

- Full Moon May Signal Rise in Lion Attacks (60-second Science)

- Send Ants to College (60-second Science)

- Sea Lampreys Flee Death Smells (60-second Science)

- Toxoplasma Infected Rats Love Their Enemies (60-second Science)

- Modern Rivers Shaped By Trees (60-second Science)

- Upright and Hairless Make Better Long-Distance Hunters (60-second Science)

- Electrolyte Balancers Set Stage for Multicellularity (60-second Science)

- Flesh-Tearing Piranhas Communicate with Sound (60-second Science)

Politics and Philosophy

- Jody Williams: A realistic vision for world peace (TEDtalks)

- Martin Jacques: Understanding the rise of China (TEDtalks)

- El Nino Ups Conflict Odds (TEDtalks)

- David Puttnam: What happens when the media's priority is profit? (TEDtalks)

- Steven Pinker: Violence Is Lower Than Ever (60-second Science)

Technology and Physics

- Johanna Blakley: Social media and the end of gender (TEDtalks)

- Leyla Acaroglu: Paper beats plastic? How to rethink environmental folklore (TEDtalks)

- Dan Berkenstock: The world is one big dataset. Now, how to photograph it... (TEDtalks)

- Medieval Armor: Was It Worth the Weight? (60-second Science)

- Traffic Cameras Save Millions in Canceled Crashes (60-second Science)

- Juno Mission Gets Goes for Launch (60-second Science)

- Channeled Chips Can Spot Substances (60-second Science)

- Smartphone System Saves Gas (60-second Science)

- Sound Sends Electron to Specific Location (60-second Science)

- Moon Not Made of Cheese, Physicist Explains (60-second Science)

Posted on February 21, 2014 at 01:38 PM in creativity, Food and Drink, health, linky goodness, politics & philosophy, school, sex, the big room with the blue ceiling, warnings & kvetches, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is that a BEAR?! 2013

Photo by Joe.

Mum Jinx writes:
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Posted on July 20, 2013 at 12:00 PM in the big room with the blue ceiling | Permalink | Comments (0)

Shower Pause Game 2013

In the shower I was thinking, "Wouldn't it be cool if I could pause the shower and have it stay the same temperature?* And if while I had it paused—to shampoo my hair or shave or whatever—I could see a holding tank which showed the gallons I was NOT sending down the drain?"

I was picturing a tank in the shower wall with a clear side and an increasing scale of little green leaf icons, something like in the Prius or Nest consumption interfaces. I bet it would actually motivate me to use less water.

Then I realized, actually, I wouldn't need to see a real tank to be motivated. I'd just need a display which represented the water I wasn't using while the shower was paused. These silly little games are truly silly, but they also truly work.

I won't be surprised to find increasing amounts of conservation gamification built into appliances, house fixtures, and tools as the years go by. If it can make mundane things a bit more fun and save resources in the process why on Earth wouldn't we?


*I know this functionality exists, sometimes in quite inexpensive showerheads, but alas, ours does not have it.

Posted on June 27, 2013 at 02:41 PM in the big room with the blue ceiling, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Case Study of Republicans vs. Democrats on FEMA 2012

"The lesson here is simple. At a deep ideological level, Republicans believe that federal bureaucracies are inherently inept, so when Republicans occupy the White House they have no interest in making the federal bureaucracy work. And it doesn't. Democrats, by contrast, take government services seriously and appoint people whose job is to make sure the federal bureaucracy does work. And it does."

- Kevin Drum in Mother Jones

Posted on November 2, 2012 at 02:28 PM in politics & philosophy, preparedness, the big room with the blue ceiling | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dinah gazes toward the creek 2012

Photo by Mum Jinx.
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Posted on August 26, 2012 at 12:00 PM in friends & family, the big room with the blue ceiling | Permalink | Comments (0)

Meet your city 2012

I decided over a decade ago to walk every street in San Francisco, every block. I'm perhaps 20% done with the project—there is a whole lot of this city outside the downtown/Mission/Hayes Valley area—but that's fine; watching the city change over the years is also part of the pleasure.

This project has, of course, made me interested in other people doing similar adventures.

Tom Graham finished his complete walk of San Francisco in 2010.

Larry Burgheimer says he did all of San Francisco between 1967 and 1972 (see the second letter on this page).

Mike at Satan's Laundromat rode the entire New York subway system.

Matt Green is still working on his project of walking every street in every borough of New York City.

My latest favorites are Jo Hunt, Mary Rees, and Linda Smither who are riding every London bus route.

Hooray for wild projects!

Posted on August 15, 2012 at 04:36 PM in the big room with the blue ceiling | Permalink | Comments (1)

Looking great at 75 2012

RT @footage: Lots of Golden Gate Bridge #archival films downloadable from #Prelinger Archives here. #ggb75


Having a great time at @ggb75 ! On the sand by Crissy Field full of yummy food, wrapped in fuzzy blanket, sweetly rapped by the fossil fool.


Now THAT was a birthday party! @GGBridge, you are gorgeous. Here's to the next 75 years!

It began with a line of fire from each tower to the middle, turning to a waterfall of gold. Best video I found so far:


RT @GGB75 Relive the magic of the BIG WOW FINALE for #ggb75! Share your photos, videos, gasps, and wows @GGB75. @KFOG:

Posted on May 27, 2012 at 10:16 AM in San Francisco, the big room with the blue ceiling, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hetch Hetchy, reservoir or valley 100 years from now? 2012

There's a move afoot to launch a massive project to drain Hetch Hetchy valley and restore to California "a second Yosemite".


San Francisco mayor Ed Lee is not impressed by the idea.

“As insane as this is, it is, in fact, insane,” Lee said at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Lee also warned the business community to avoid anyone trying to “rope you into some masked discussion about water sustainability.” The mayor described San Francisco’s water as the “cleanest” and the dam as creating one of the “strongest clean hydroelectric sources” of power."

I made a few comments to the mayor on Twitter, but received no reply:

@mayoredlee Concerned that you seem to be speaking against not only draining Hetch Hetchy, but also sustainability efforts accompanying that. Why don't we recycle water & use storm/ground water? Why not river power generation rather than dam? Those aren't "insane". Maybe it would take us 50 years, but a second Yosemite could be SF's moon program; deeply inspiring; a scientific celebration.

Posted on May 25, 2012 at 02:21 PM in San Francisco, the big room with the blue ceiling, tweets, warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (4)

Keep the green growing 2012

RT @jaybluetape Help Literacy for Environmental Justice - DONATIONS NEEDED: Help LEJ rebuild after vandals destroyed our native-plants nursery

Posted on May 21, 2012 at 08:56 PM in San Francisco, the big room with the blue ceiling, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

High tea with astronomy break 2012

Turns out the overlap between Gilbert & Sullivan fan & science nerd is pretty high. @lamplightersMT #eclipse


The intermission at the special fundraiser event was extended so everyone could enjoy the eclipse.


Joe under the pinholes created by gaps in the trees' leaves.


Pinholes in paper.


Pinholes created by gaps in leaves.


Making pinholes with our hands.


Posted on May 20, 2012 at 07:01 PM in Science, the big room with the blue ceiling, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

beautiful in any light 2012



Posted on April 29, 2012 at 02:12 PM in San Francisco, the big room with the blue ceiling | Permalink | Comments (0)

beloved neighborhood tree 2012


Posted on April 28, 2012 at 06:36 PM in San Francisco, the big room with the blue ceiling | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trees! 2012

Being more active in my neighborhood is making me happy. Just got back from a great Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association meeting re: trees.

Posted on April 26, 2012 at 09:16 PM in San Francisco, the big room with the blue ceiling, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Now THAT's a Sunday walk 2012

As Joe said on Twitter, we had a particularly epic walk today—from Hayes Valley to Sausalito! Ten beautiful, foggy miles.

After bagels at Momi Toby, we strolled in a zigzag fashion over to the southeast corner of the Presidio and on through it. With the cool fog blowing overhead it both sounded and smelled fantastic. I fully expected to emerge at the north edge to find the fog burning off, but it was, if anything even lower and thicker. Above was our view as we went up the hill toward the Golden Gate Bridge.

To our bemusement, the bridge itself was invisible, merely announcing its presence loudly with a foghorn mid-span. We were grinning at the ridiculousness of it as we crossed—finding we could barely see Fort Point when directly above it—and our spirits were mercifully not dampened. It was windy, but it wasn't bitterly cold (as it often can be).


The winds on the Marin side of the bridge cleared the air a little, but we still couldn't see much farther than a city block or two into the distance. The viewpoint there provided us with bathrooms, a refilled water bottle, and fuel for the next stretch of the journey in the form of a churro from a woman walking through the crowd, dispensing fried happiness.

We followed the bike path until it connected to Alexander Avenue and then walked downhill toward Sausalito, feeling the temperature shifting and seeing the visibility lift as we went. We hadn't reached the bottom of the hill before we both shed our hoodies. It was still windy, though, with wisps of fog still trying to fight their way over the hills above us.

We rested briefly again when we reached the bottom, sitting on a nice bench with what must be a glorious view on a really clear day and was still quite fine today. We tried a trick that turned out to work nicely: We each swapped our socks over to the other foot. A tiny change in where the cushion was pressed down from the miles so far, but enough to put a spring back in our step for the walk along that beautiful bayfront promenade.

By the time we'd passed through downtown Sausalito—well-populated with tourists speaking a variety of languages and supported by an equally multi-lingual set of signage—we were feeling the journey. It was only the prospect of that delicious meal at Fish which kept us in steady motion.

The double reward of good food and—praise be!—sitting was accentuated by the beauty of the spot. We often walk from home to our favorite restaurants, but not usually ten miles. Though the journey was a big part of the payoff, this was definitely worth the trip.

It was much more clear, though fog continued to billow over the tops of the hills and through the Golden Gate, but despite the sun started to feel quite chilly to us both. We didn't linger after our meal as long as we'd planned to rest our feet, but instead warmed ourselves off walking back to catch the ferry.

Our timing was great—we made it to the 3:50pm boat with ten minutes to spare, rather than having to wait until 5:30pm—and our quick pace had warmed us up enough to enjoy the view from the outside deck almost all the way back to the San Francisco Ferry Building, where, pleasingly, a #21 bus was waiting nearby to promptly carry us home. A fine day!


Posted on April 22, 2012 at 09:36 PM in San Francisco, the big room with the blue ceiling | Permalink | Comments (0)

Yosemite 2011


Posted on January 16, 2011 at 12:11 PM in the big room with the blue ceiling, travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Good news and an opportunity for San Franciscans 2010

I'm very relieved that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Budget & Finance Committee has maintained funding for the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team program. This is a wonderful, practical, and free program to train ordinary San Franciscans to stay safe and, where possible, help others in case of disaster. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee the funding will be preserved in the future, so take advantage of the program now while we have it.

Why should you care?

California has a 99.7 percent chance of having a 6.7 magnitude earthquake or larger during the the next 30 years. The likelihood of a more powerful quake of 7.5 magnitude in the next 30 years is 46 percent. Such a quake is more likely to occur in the southern half of the state than in the northern half. ... the probability of a 6.7 magnitude earthquake or larger over the next 30 years striking the greater Los Angeles area is 67 percent and in the San Francisco Bay Area is 63 percent [source]

The best way to deal with this threat is to understand what it would mean for you and your household and how you can reduce your risks of being badly hurt during a quake. Take the classes, they're free and interesting. Download the NERT manual and learn how to put together an emergency kit. Get involved with your local team and stack the deck in favor of coming through the next big shakeup unharmed.

San Franciscans, once again, why should you care?

Because we have 17,000 residents per square mile and only about 300 firefighters on duty at any given time. You will need to be self-sufficient, especially in the first three days after a major quake.

It's not hard to be ready, but you do have to start preparing.

Every week, from now until the ground moves, devote a little time – even just a few minutes when you can't take a class or do a bigger safety project in your home – to providing for your future.

Posted on July 12, 2010 at 04:15 PM in health, the big room with the blue ceiling, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Planes or volcano? 2010

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[Link above is dead in October 2015, but click on screenshot below for the updated chart.]

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Posted on April 23, 2010 at 03:38 PM in the big room with the blue ceiling, warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (0)

watching the cruise ship sail off into the sunset 2009

Photo by Lila.

Posted on October 14, 2009 at 07:00 PM in friends & family, relationships, the big room with the blue ceiling, travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

relaxation fully settled into the bones now 2009

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Posted on October 13, 2009 at 07:30 PM in Food and Drink, friends & family, relationships, the big room with the blue ceiling, travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

on the beach in Zihuatanejo 2009

Photos by Lila.
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Posted on October 12, 2009 at 12:00 PM in Food and Drink, friends & family, relationships, the big room with the blue ceiling, travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

walking with Joe 2009

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Posted on July 18, 2009 at 12:00 PM in relationships, San Francisco, the big room with the blue ceiling | Permalink | Comments (0)

Microloans: the local view 2008

I enjoyed this update (which came in early August and I just rediscovered cleaning my inbox), and smiled especially at the reminder that everybody everywhere does the same thing when online: looks up their own name in a search engine.

This is an update on your loan to Blessing Obianyo in Nigeria. I’m excited to be writing you as the Kiva Fellow in Benin City, Nigeria. Over the next 3 months I will be witnessing firsthand the impact and realities of microfinance while working with Kiva’s Field Partner, Lift Above Poverty Organization (LAPO). As you may know, all entrepreneur profiles on Kiva's website are posted by local Field Partners (microfinance institutions), which are organizations that lend to the poor for poverty alleviation. The role of a Field Partner is to screen each entrepreneur, upload his/her loan request on the Kiva website, disburse the loan, and collect loan repayments.

In my role, I will be visiting many Kiva entrepreneurs and businesses and training LAPO staff in writing updates for Kiva lenders. As a result, many of you will receive an update on an entrepreneur who received a loan contribution from you. Unfortunately, due to the logistical and administrative constraints, reaching every entrepreneur for an update is not possible, even with the team of 8 people at LAPO who are dedicated to providing Kiva with photos and other content. Whether or not we provide an update on an entrepreneur to whom you loaned, I hope that you will enjoy the story of one Kiva borrower in Benin City that, to me, illustrates the “togetherness” and “unity” that is the inspiration for Kiva’s Swahili name. It is the story of Cookey Nosayana.

Cookey owns a 24-hour Internet café and computer training center. He took a Kiva loan to purchase a more efficient generator that has cut his fuel costs by more than half. It supplies his business with power despite the frequent and extended power outages that are common in Nigeria (in order to stay open for business, he must run a generator an average of 15 hours every day). Cookey is unique among LAPO (and likely Kiva) clients – he has access to the Internet. He is one of the few clients has been able to explore and experience the partnership that lenders have access to every time they sign on to their portfolio page. When I arrived to write his update, he was holding a printout of his borrower page. As a lender myself, I was excited to hear his perspective. He was gracious enough to answer my myriad of questions.

Cookey first found his profile on by accident. He was Googling “Cookey Nosayana” to see if he could find the meaning of his name. Up came First he read what had been written in his business description. It was basic, but he was grateful that it had helped him get the capital to purchase a new generator. Then he started clicking around. He viewed his lenders – from the United States, Canada and the UK. They were working people, just like him. I asked him what he thought. Was he surprised that someone would lend him money from across the globe? He was grateful, but not surprised.

“We live in a humanitarian world,” he said. “It’s just like the head of LAPO [Godwin Ehigiamusoe],” Cookey continued. “When he first started LAPO people laughed. Now everyone is running to him for loans. It’s because it is a good idea.” Note: LAPO was started in 1987 when microfinance was still in its infancy and primarily limited to Asia. Those who believed in microfinance were still unsure about it’s promise in Nigeria. Godwin Ehigiamusoe blocked out the negativity, moved forward as he says, “with his heart and his head.” Today LAPO has 137 branches throughout Southern Nigeria and Sierra Leone, provides over $36,126,579 in loans each year and served 135,975 clients in 2007.

Now with LAPO partnering with Kiva, Cookey says that he would love to continue being part of this international web-based financial community. He has expansion plans for his business and will need additional capital to double the number of computers he has connected to the web. He hopes that LAPO will select him as a Kiva client a second time (His first Kiva loan will be paid off in 4 months so keep an eye out for him on the LAPO client lending page).

“Kiva is worthwhile,” says Cookey, “and will continue to be if both sides keep up their part.” As he explored the site, he browsed the businesses of his fellow borrowers from Indonesia to Azerbaijan and appreciated the widespread impact Kiva lenders were having. He believes that it is critical that Kiva entrepreneurs keep making payments and showing improvement and that lenders keep reinvesting their Kiva credit into new businesses as they are repaid.

From Kiva, LAPO and its family of borrowers, we thank you for your continued support of our work. To see all currently fundraising loans from LAPO on, please click
here: View fundraising LAPO entrepreneurs

Jessica Heinzelman

Through Kiva I've made a LAPO managed loan to Blessing Obianyo in Lagos State, Nigeria, for her business "God's Own Restaurant". That loan is 38% repaid so far.

Overall, through Kiva I have a portfolio of $1200 loaned worldwide which I reinvest as loans are paid back (and which I hope to continue to increase in size). My funding has been used by 43 businesses in 34 countries. 14 loans in which my funds were some of the money lent have been paid back in full; none have defaulted. I do not earn interest on this money, but I consider it an extremely safe place to keep some of my savings because of the reliability of the borrowers in paying back their loans.

Posted on November 8, 2008 at 08:53 AM in the big room with the blue ceiling | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thirty countries! 2008

I just made another microloan through Kiva; this time to a group of women in Mali. This brings me to 30 countries I've invested in. Great to have these connections building all over the world.

Posted on July 21, 2008 at 03:16 PM in the big room with the blue ceiling | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blog (noun) A weblog or similar brief journal usually containing links and commentary thereon. Term coined by Peter Merholz.

Visit Typepad or Blogger to start your own. (I began with hand coding, then switched to Blogger when it first became available, then to Movable Type when I wanted more control over my weblog and to have it hosted at a place of my choosing (Hurricane Electric). Since 06/2003 I've used Typepad, a hosted service built by the same folks who made Movable Type, which I love because I don't have to maintain the underlying system).

You may write to Dinah @ this domain.

Except where otherwise noted all content is copyright 1965-2018 Dinah Sanders. Please do not repost my writing or other creations elsewhere. Instead, copy a tiny bit and link to the rest. Thanks! Images are copyright of their original creators. MetaGrrrl logo and photos by Dinah are copyright 1965-2018 Dinah Sanders. Inkspot Books and the Inkspot logo have been Service Marks of Dinah Sanders since 1993.