Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Archive for November, 2007

Okay, I’m a bit closer to calling CA home…

Posted by shannonclark on November 30, 2007

I moved to CA in January of 2006, though I spent much of the Fall of 2005 in the Bay Area looking at places to live and deciding about the move. When I first moved here I rented an apartment in Berkeley, but still had a condo back in Chicago which I was selling. As a result of that and the rigors of moving across the country, I moved here with very little furniture, some 1300+ books, boxes of my business papers, and a few clothes but not much else. Most of my kitchen wares, in fact, were my then girlfriend’s.

A few months after moving here, we broke up and that spring we moved her belongings into storage in Berkeley, and I moved across the bay to San Francisco. When I moved into my new apartment I still had nearly no furniture, now over 1400+ books, a few more clothes (mostly t-shirts from tech events I’ll confess) and a bed. For the first month in my new place I didn’t even have silverware (what we had had was my ex’s).

My grandmother gave me a very great set of dishes, serving plates, glasses and more. I bought other items off Craigslist. I ordered a new desk and dining room table (custom made for me from redwood which had been air dried in Berkeley for a year after having been environmentally harvested – naturally felled trees or trees condemned for safety reasons). Over the next few months I also bought a few other pieces of furniture – a few chairs here, a loveseat there. Just a few months ago I finally got some furniture for my downstairs – three great floating sofas from Room & Board, along with a chest from my landlord to use as a side table.

I still have much more to pick up for my apartment – for the past nearly 2 years I have been living without a chest of drawers or a nighstand (doing the college dorm room thing of using a milk crate), I still only have a rug in my rather too large apartment. Downstairs I have tons of room with little other than random boxes filling it – need storage (files, bookcases and ideally an old armoire) . Upstairs I need a full length mirror, some more storage for my bathroom (tricky, may need to custom build something) and probably a few tweaks to my kitchen to make it more functional.

My landlord has promised sometime (but apparently not all that quickly) to upgrade my appliances in my kitchen – I somewhat desperately could use a better fridge – one that doesn’t make random noises, fits the space better and functions better. And my stove though functional is rather quirky at times – with gas burners that have trouble lighting and an oven that I think runs a tad bit cold.

But all that aside, my apartment is slowing becoming home. My bedroom though still somewhat unfinished is comfortably me, my upstairs home office/entertainment space is cozy and I use it daily, my dining room accommodates large dinner parties with ease (albeit my wine is still stored in a cardboard case and I could use the space better). And I have been able to host entire families of friends as my guests – which for me is the true value of having a place – being able to share it with friends when they are in town.

In my neighborhood my butchers greet me by name (I also get my business mail and packages sent there, so am in multiple times each week). The dry cleaners/laundry place across the street don’t have to ask for my name when I drop something off to be cleaned. And at the other stores and shops nearby I am recognized as a regular customer.  I purchase the vast majority of all of the food I cook from shops in close walking distance of my home (both independent, family run, mostly local and organic stores) or at the weekly farmers markets. Occasionally I get something from Safeway, but more and more I am managing to avoid even that (some paper goods are the exception).

Even more so than in Chicago, there are cafes in San Francisco which I am a regular at – Ritual Roasters on Valencia which I visit probably three or four times a week (if not more), Philz (multiple locations) which I stop by perhaps once a week, Blue Bottle whose kiosk at the farmer’s market I almost always stop by and whose main location I get to frequently as well.

Just tonight, as I was walking to Ritual Roasters (which is where I am writing this post), I found myself stopping by one of my two favorite bookstores in San Francisco – Borderlands Books.  Though I have probably well over 100 (possibly now closer to 200) books at home waiting to be read, I still found myself buying two books this evening as I stopped by. One, Lyra’s Oxford a short continuation to Phillip Pullman’s trilogy which started with The Golden Compass and the other The Sky Coyote the second volume in Kage Baker’s The Company series which I had been waiting to be reprinted earlier this month.

Borderlands is where I bought my copy of the last Harry Potter – and is a store where I have probably spent well over $200 (probably well over) buying new and used books just this year alone.

The other store where I have spent a large amount, though perhaps not quite as much as at Borderlands, is another amazing bookstore, Aardvark Books on Church St. (I have looked for their website but can’t find it – if you know of what their own site is, please leave a comment). While I have bought some science fiction and fantasy books from Aardvark’s small but good selection, what I buy mostly from them are lightly used copies of fairly new books. They seemingly get everything which has been recently reviewed in major publications for sale that same week for 50% off the cover price. I have also been slowly accumulating a collection of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series via buying used copies over time from Aardvark.

In short, I have found a few places which I kinda call home in San Francisco.

But. And there is a but. Until recently I still haven’t fully embraced San Francisco as home. I will, I think, always be to the extent that I am sports fan, a fan of Chicago teams (the Cubs and the Bears  in particular). I don’t see myself rooting for the San Francisco 49ers or either of the local baseball teams.  I still also do not have a CA license or own a car (my IL license is still valid, don’t worry, I do have legal ID).

And until this evening, I took great pride in not really feeling cold on the days which SF called “cold” – and still nothing I have experienced here in the Bay Area compares to a Chicago or NYC winter.

But this evening as I walked along Valencia St I did feel cold. Admittedly though I am wearing a fairly warm jacket, I have a t-shirt and light overshirt on, not nearly as many or as heavy layers as I would be wearing in Chicago this time of year. And I don’t have a hat, scarf or gloves on either. But this was indeed a cold day by SF standards, and I felt it as a cold day.

It is a small step, but one that I recognize as me getting closer to calling CA home.

And though I haven’t yet started pricing cars, I am starting to also think about buying a car – CityCarShare though great doesn’t work for my primary needs for a car (which are to drive long distances with indeterminant schedules). ZipCar might work but I know myself and the nearly $60 charge to have a zipcar for a day would stop me from using it as much as I might want to, even if a more rational part of my mind tells me that it would indeed be cheaper than owning a car.

I have to figure out the car thing – I am finding myself with more and more reasons to get out of San Francisco – but less and less ability to do so.

Though I have now almost lived 2 years in the Bay Area, I have yet to really explore much beyond the major urban areas. I have only been across to Marin a few times – still haven’t gone to Muir Glen. And even though a friend has a home in Sonoma which he has offered me to use sometime when I want to (and he isn’t using it) I still haven’t taken him up on that amazingly kind offer. Though one of my oldest friends was living for the past few months in Oakland, I rarely managed to get all the way over to her place to visit her and her newly born daughter.

And I still haven’t been to San Jose at all (and it looks like I may have a very compelling personal reason to spend more time that way…)

All told, the reasons are starting to pile up for me to get a car – or at the very least to make serious use of a car share service on a far, far more regular basis. I still personally don’t really want to drive a lot – but I do see more and more of a need for me to use a car occasionally.

– for visiting friends far, far more often (and yes, that may mean getting down to San Jose…)

– to finish all the various household furnishing tasks that have been piling up. Visiting a couple of key stores and finally placing orders for pieces I know I want (ceder lined dressers for example). As usefully or perhaps more getting to various used furniture stores as well as lots of Craigslist listings and buying much of the random pieces I really need – used rugs, used armoires, random tables & chairs for my downstairs, perhaps a buffet & wine storage unit plus a small fridge for my downstairs?

– and perhaps the reason which will push me finally to get a car again, I need to spend far more time down the Peninsula talking with potential investors and meeting with prospective partners building up my new business.

But the green in me (not perhaps Green in the political party sense of things) still finds the idea of owning a car again somewhat troubling. And from a practical standpoint it means a lot of little, ongoing annoyances. Starting with parking in my neighborhood on a regular basis (unless my landlord can make room for me in the building’s garage). Parking is not too hard IF you try to park in the late afternoon, but come evening parking can be very hard to find – and since each block around me has a different day when street cleaning means tickets quite early in the morning (8am I think) I would have to wake up and move my car on a frequent basis.

Then there would be the ongoing costs – unless I paid cash for the car (which is an option but ties up capital I’d rather use for other things) I would have a car payment of some form. Then I would have car insurance (which since I have not been insured in CA or indeed anywhere for many years might not be all that cheap – though my history as a driver is quite good). Assuming I was driving the car on a regular basis I would have to assume filling up the tank frequently (a round trip down the Peninsula would easily be 100+ miles, even if I bought a hybrid that means filling a tank fairly frequently – and at current gas prices that round trip likely costs over $10 just in gas – which does make the costs of the train somewhat more bearable I guess).

Plus regular oil changes and the anticipated time and money costs of various repairs – which are to be expected with a used car (which is by far the most likely type of car I would buy).

If I do buy a car I would certainly look at Honda and Acura cars (which all of my past three cars I have owned have been) and I would be very tempted by a Mini (though the price even of a used one might be a sticking point – plus the fact that it would be limited utility for buying furniture etc). I have driven a Prius in the past and really, really, really hate driving them – the sight lines and other features just irritate me. For similar reasons I would not consider a Scion (I really, really don’t like how they have their dashboard set up). In fact most of the newer cars I have driven (via City Car Share) have had sight lines and other quirks that for the most part just annoy me, I think perhaps one reason I find myself almost never using City Car Share – the physical act of driving many of the cars is not comfortable).

Unfortunately to get a car which I would like and enjoy driving (and most importantly feel safe driving) might not be very cost effective.

Plus I am not sure I feel up to the time and energy it would take to research car options and then to start shopping for a car – online and offline.

But there is San Jose… so I may compromise on switching from City Car Share to another service like ZipCar (or to using a regular car rental service) and will, I hope, now have more of a reason (and company) to get out of town…

And yes, I plan on getting my CA license very soon – have to get myself over to take the written test and fill out some paperwork…

Posted in personal, reading, reviews, San Francisco | 2 Comments »

Thanks and my first pumpkin pie

Posted by shannonclark on November 23, 2007

Well first that I made myself entirely from scratch that is.

Thanksgiving Dinner is done, guests showed up and a great time was had, we ate well, rested, had some pie & coffee, then played some card games between rounds of washing dishes.

I’ll post photos of the pie shortly but a few thoughts on the pie and on the meal.

First a bit of a negative, my pie crust was missing something – somehow it didn’t entirely come together (some bits did, but others didn’t fully cook) so, as one of my guests commented, guess that means I have to experiment a bit more… (and I think buy a few more kitchen gadget – I think I really do need a small food processor which would likely solve some of the issues with my pie dough)

On the other hand, the pie filling was very tasty. I kept the spicing very mild (cinnamon,  vanilla, and a hint of powdered cloves) which meant that flavor of the pumpkin was strong. These were fresh pumpkins which I baked and pureed by hand last night, so the texture was also not smooth and dense but natural and yes, lumpy in places. The recipe I used involved eggs and milk (i.e. custard) and rather unique but very cool effect occurred – the pie was in three layers – a top layer of pumpkin, a middle layer of custard, and the crust. I didn’t intend on this effect and something tells me I may never be able to duplicate it again (but since I rather like it, I think I will keep trying).

But I need to do more work on the pie crusts. Something in my process resulted in dough that didn’t set as I expected it to – even with my pre-baking (I wonder if I didn’t pre-bake them long enough? that’s the first thing I will try – also I think I need a better surface to roll out the dough upon)

I was generally fairly pleased with the rest of the meal, my current run of luck with poultry kept up – my turkey was very juicy, very flavorful and not overcooked. The skin was crispy and very tasty, the dark and white meat were both extremely good. And I should note I didn’t do anything very fancy – I stuffed the bird with a very simple stuffing (which I should note was the only dish essentially completely eaten up by my guests) and I rubbed a very simple dry rub then a light layer of very good olive oil. I cooked the bird with a minimal amount of vegetable broth (about 2 cups) and basted it regularly and checked the temperature.

I started the bird on its back and on a large, very serious roasting rack. I then rotated the bird after about 2 hours of cooking (all told the bird took 4 hours and 45 minutes to cook, which for a 16 lb bird is almost exactly right).

I probably checked the bird a bit too often and as I was roasting vegetables on the upper rack of my oven, I did have to open the oven every 30 mins or so. But in the end that doesn’t seem to have hurt the bird at all.

We also did let the bird rest for a good amount of time before carving, so I think that also help in keeping the bird juicy.

Of my side dishes, my roasted yams and parsnips were okay but got no comments (I think some could have been done a bit longer), but the carrots and the Brussels sprouts were both popular – and the phrase “These Brussels sprouts are very good” was in fact said (and then noted as not being something she ever expected to say and could only remember saying once before at my last dinner party).

So overall I am very pleased with my Thanksgiving and thankful for my friends here in San Francisco, online, and in cities across the world.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(photos will be posted soon…)

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Preparing for a simple, local Thanksgiving

Posted by shannonclark on November 21, 2007

I love to cook. Not so much just for myself, but for others – friends old and new. My family was all about shared meals, growing up we ate at least dinner together as a family almost every single night (my father traveled a lot but my mom, sister and I would always eat dinner together). Not “eat dinner together in front of the TV” as is the case for so many families today, but an actual multiple course, family style meal usually around our small kitchen table. Nothing too fancy, but almost always a salad and/or side of vegetables, some form of starch and a main course.

And around this table we talked about our days – my sister and I about our school work and activities, my father and mother about their work – problems they were working on, ideas they had had. During these conversations the discussion was never just one sided – it was always a discussion with even my sister and I being asked for our opinions, thoughts and ideas.

It is a bit hard to explain – and perhaps (okay almost certainly) not a typical family conversational style. We were (and are) a family of intellectuals. My father was a tenured college professor – but then left that soon after my sister was born (I’m the oldest, she’s 3 years younger) and joined industry. However he retains much of the air of a college professor – he’s published a ton of journal articles (more in fact than many professors) and a couple of text books and technical books. My mom had a long career as an independent computer consultant and programmer, she also taught computer science at some local colleges as we grew up (I learned flowcharting by doing the homework she assigned her classes – this was in the 1980’s keep in mind)  I should note that while my father has a PhD (Chemical Engineering – and yes, he is very much the engineer – albeit one who also can very seriously write quite well) my mom “just” has a college degree, she did some graduate work but never got a graduate degree, instead she started working as a computer programmer right out of college. She hadn’t studied CS in college (but then in the mid-1960’s not many people did) but she worked on a great number of interesting projects. Wrote the systems for a major railroad to manage and track their trains (before I was born in the early 1970’s) and most of the system to run a university around the time I was born in the mid-1970’s).

Often our family dinners and the conversations they started would last for hours.

So, as a result, I love to cook – and I love to have people gather around my table. However while I was living in Chicago I lived in a very small, fairly cramped 1 bedroom apartment – I had a few dinner parties but only a very few. Then when I first moved here to the Bay Area we had nearly no furniture in the apartment in Berkeley.

However that is no longer the case – in my current apartment in Noe Valley I have a dining table which was custom made for me – a 7′ birdseye, curly redwood table with matching 7′ long benches made from a locally harvested redwood (which was either condemned or fell due to natural causes). The wood was air dried by the mill from which I purchased it for a year before they made it into the table for me. A truly magnificent table. Plus I have a desk from a different redwood which I can add to extend the table to nearly 12′ – giving me a table (and in a room large enough) where I can easily have 13-14 people for dinner.

So later this week I will be cooking a simple, local Thanksgiving dinner. My personal style of cooking is very much local and seasonal. I buy ingredients which are fresh and for the most part seasonal and then prepare them with generally simple preparations to bring out their flavors – trying to use only the best possible spices and other items (olive oils etc).

For Thursday here is my current planned menu (there is probably still room for a few more, if you are reading this and in the bay area, contact me, I’d love to meet you):

A 16 1/2 lb free range, Willie Bird heritage turkey. Probably simply prepared with sea salt & pepper, stuffed and roasted for 4+ hours (basting it frequently as needed). I may add a few additional spices to the rub.

Stuffing of fresh Acme sourdough cubed with sauteed onions and organic celery w/a light amount of spices.

(an additional side dish of stuffing prepared outside of the bird w/vegetable broth for any vegetarian guests)

fresh, simple cranberry sauce (water, sugar, cranberries)

roasted seasonal vegetables – local yams, parsnips, turnips, carrots roasted with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt

roasted halved Brussells Sprouts w/light asian chili dressing (Thai chilies & rice vinegar)

made from scratch pumpkin pie (roasted myself pumpkins, made from scratch pie crust)

And that may be it – I might add some additional dishes and I’ll be prepared to make a main course for any vegetarians who join us for dinner. I might also make from from scratch current scones. And I plan on having a variety of great teas and locally roasted coffee to serve with dessert.

But that’s the main menu. Very simple (almost too simple perhaps) dishes with only a few ingredients in each, almost everything from farms less than 100 miles from San Francisco or made fresh here in the city.

I know that many people make very elaborate dishes for the holidays – stuffings with meat, nuts and more. But to my tastes what says a special occasion for me is very simple dishes done just right – with ingredients that are full of flavor.

And, of course, we’ll save the complicated stuff for the conversations!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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A few reasons I will live in NYC someday soon…

Posted by shannonclark on November 13, 2007

I love city life, the hum and buzz of people around me. I take comfort in the knowledge that I can feed myself and solve nearly any problem I might face with resources which are nearby. Not for me a lifestyle deep in the heart of wilderness unsurrounded by my fellow man – I am an urban creature.

I am also a night owl. As such, life on the west coast, though it has many advantages, may not, I fear, be where I end up living – at least not solely. Many times every week I find myself looking to eat well after 10pm – the hour by which the majority of businesses (and apparently people) on the west coast have closed up shop and gone home for the evening.

This current trip to NYC has reminded me of the many reasons I love NYC and convinced me yet again that I need to live here someday soon – likely not full time (and perhaps less of the time in the heart of the wintertime and the peak of the hottest parts of the summer) but enough of the time that my urbanist instincts can be satisfied.

A few of the many parts of the city that convince me of why I want to live here:

32nd St just east of Broadway – also known as Koreantown this one block (and a bit) stretch of NYC has almost literally more late night, 24hr options than the entire city of San Francisco. If not literally very nearly so (my mental count of dining options in San Francisco after midnight is not a long list in the least). And if the Korean may not be quite as good as I’ve heard you can get in LA (and perhaps for some dishes in parts of Oakland – though I haven’t yet tested this) and Chicago also has some very good Korean options as well – the block more than makes up for that by having quite good dining options available at all hours. And, if you are interested, many other options – such as 24hr spas and Karaoke.

The fact that Momofuku Ssam Bar is open for dinner until 2am 7 nights a week.  I ate here for dinner for my first time this trip. It is incredibly good, well worth all the accolades. (for example see what the NY Times critic Frank Bruni wrote in his beyond glowing review back in Feb 2007) Are you back from reading that?

Yes, it is that good.

And open everynight until 2am. So here in NYC instead of making do with instant noodles or a greasy diner (about the sum total of SF’s options after midnight though there are a handful of other options) you could head to the East Village and get a 2 star (NY Times) meal.  And yes, it will be more than you pay at that diner, and no the bread & butter is not free (in fact it is well worth the $8 that is the price for amazingly good bread and two types of fresh, full of flavors goat and cow butters).

And that is only scratching the surface of this city. Gems (and duds) lie around every corner. There are multiple 24hr Starbucks (and yes, they are Starbucks, but still – internet + coffee at all hours in many parts of city = happy Shannon).

Sure, NYC doesn’t have great Mexican dining and it does get very cold in the winters, very hot in the summers. And though there is Central Park, for many miles and long stretches throughout NYC greenery is in short supply. And the traffic can suck, people can be rude, there are always tourists, and you can easily add to that list (high rents – really really high rents, 5th & 6th floor walk-ups, window AC units, bugs, rats, poor schools etc).

But. And it is a big but. This is New York!

I love how diverse the city is and how populated. Not as populated or dense as, for example, New Delhi, but denser in all ways than either Chicago or San Francisco the two major cities where I have lived. Sure the prices mean that you can’t go out every night (unless you really strike it rich) and the prices mean that if I think it unlike I’ll be able to buy in San Francisco it is even less likely I can buy in NYC (though certainly one goal of being an entrepreneur in technology is to eventually be able to buy whatever I want wherever I want).

The bookstores are more common in San Francisco (though in NYC you get sidewalk used booksellers in many parts of the city – but fewer used bookstores and independents) and the coffee and cafe culture in San Francisco is truly amazingly good. Plus the tech scene in the bay area is unrivaled, there is tech in NYC but there is also advertising, fashion, wall street, banking, media,  Broadway, and countless other options pulling at and attracting the best and brightest (and the not so good and not so bright or talented as well).

For every Momofuku Ssam Bar there are countless other unmemorable restaurants in NYC (though luckily the worst usually – though not always – soon close). On a personal level I have heard that dating in NYC is difficult though there also do seem to be a great many women of around my age here in NYC (always hard to tell who is single however but they can’t all be dating or married). For someone, like myself, interested in smart, ambitious women and open to a great diversity (heck attracted to women from around the globe) NYC is a place full of some of the smartest and most ambitious people from across the planet. Even today as expensive as NYC is and has difficult as the US Government makes it to live and work here if you are not a US citizen (heck to a degree even if you are) NYC is still a place that attracts people from across the globe.

So sometime soon, likely sometime in 2008, I am going to look into finding a place of my own in NYC – perhaps a place to share with others on a timeshare basis of some sort, but a place of my own nonetheless. I still need to be in the Bay Area and I love my apartment there and my friends – but every time I am in NYC I realize more and more that for an urbanist like myself, this is most definitely the place to be (and not a horrible place for me in my role as a cofounder of a new advertising network either).

Posted in advertising, NYC, personal, restaurants, reviews | 1 Comment »

The New Kings of Nonfiction edited by Ira Glass (a review)

Posted by shannonclark on November 10, 2007

The New Kings of Nonfiction

Yesterday while ducking out of the rain in the Nolita part of NYC, I stopped by one of my favorite stores in all of Manhattan, McNally & Robinson Books & Cafe (52 Prince St NYC).

While there I picked up a fantastic new book – The New Kings of Nonfiction which is edited by Ira Glass. Inside are many of the best articles from the past few years, long form non-fiction which I have in many cases referred to in the past, even one which quite literally helped change the direction of my life. All gathered together in an easy to own and read collection celebrating what great writing and journalists can (and I would argue) should be doing.

In this collection to note a few of many highlights you can find:

Malcolm Gladwell with his long article which for me started it all – “Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg”. This article which I read when it was first published helped spark my own interest in networks which lead directly to my founding the MeshForum conference series.

James McManus with the article that would later be expanded into his best selling book, and which is a direct precurser to the Poker craze which has come to so dominate US culture (and TV) – “Fortune’s Smile: World Series of Poker”

I have not yet finished this book (though likely by the time I go to bed tonight this will no longer be the case). I am eagerly awaiting each and every story – my trust in Ira Glass’ editorial ear is complete – I’ve been a fan of This American Life from the first episodes when it launched only on Chicago Public Radio. The topics and the authors he has selected also include many other journalists I highly respect, writers such as Dan Savage.

Plus all of the proceeds of this book are going to support 826chi. A drop-in literacy program (and spy shop) in Chicago.

So go buy your self a copy of this great book, support fantastically high quality writing, great (and true) stories, and a very good cause.

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Visiting NYC – some of my favorites – McNally & Robinson, Don’s Bogam and other usual haunts

Posted by shannonclark on November 10, 2007

I visit NYC almost once a month, though it has been a few months since I was last here, spring in fact. For about the past year when I have visiting NYC I have stayed with a friend who has an apartment on the upper west side. Without the costs of a hotel (and the hassle that is finding and booking a NYC hotel room) my trips to NYC can and have been longer and more frequent.

Often while I am here I have business events to attend, tech or advertising industry conferences and the like. This trip I covered Ad:Tech for Centernetworks. Most evenings I ate out with a group of people who were also in town for the conference, I did also manage to get to a few of my old standbys (and one new favorite).

I am here in NYC until Tuesday, this weekend my plan is to explore the city (and the city’s cafes) further. I may hop on a subway and head over to Brooklyn which I have not explored in the past.

Here are a few of my old and new favorites, spots I try to get to on most trips to NYC.

McNally & Robinson bookstore and cafe

On Prince St in the Nolita neighborhood, a neighborhood in the middle of many other, more well know parts of NYC, is a large, well organized and well lit independent bookstore and cafe. The cafe serves great teas, coffee and snacks and has free wifi with a purchase. The bookstore hosts frequent author signings and other events and is well stocked with an eclectic and carefully chosen selection. And not a small selection, this is not a cramped, small bookstore, but a multiple story, airy and wonderful temple of books and reading. In short, my kinda place and my kinda people.

I discovered McNally & Robinson on my last trip to NYC and now it is a place I return to again and again. I often here a lament that NYC does not support good bookstores anymore, but here is proof that at least a few can buck the trends (though one part of San Francisco I do relish and love is the multitude of fantastic independent bookstores both new, used and often both (something rarer in many parts of the country).

For one of the many group dinners at Ad:Tech I invited a group of people to join me at one of my favorite Korean restaurants anywhere – Don’s Bogam BBQ & Wine Bar. (I haven’t yet found their official website, will add that link when/if I can).

They are located at 17 E. 32nd St a block east of the heart of Koreantown. Unlike the more touristy places to the west, Don’s serves impeccably fresh panchan and meats all cooked on grills at your table. The design is modern, clean, minimalist yet functional. And though the prices are a bit higher than some of the tourist spots, the quality is very high as well. Typically I find it ends up being about $40/person (with light drinking, more if you drink a lot) and for that you get appetizers, tons of panchan, and very fresh and wonderful BBQ meats (and their non-BBQ dishes are also wonderful). I have yet to have a bad dish at Don’s Bogam. The service is usually great, though you may have to insist on help – and having a Korean speaker with you probably would help but is not at all necessary to have a fantastic meal.

Other notes on NYC

When I am in NYC and the weather is nice I often find myself walking. I have had trips where I have walked from Columbus Circle (or even points north of it) to as far south as Ground Zero – generally via a non-straight line through the East Village.

On this trip however I have taken a lot of subway rides and only a few cab rides. At the conference for the most part after the conference on the way to dinner or to other events groups of us would take a cab – for two people they are actually more expensive than the subway, for a group of three or four they are a toss up. In at least one case this week, however, we got out of the cab nearly 8 blocks from our destination because traffic was so bad that the pedestrians were far outracing the cars.

So far having been in NYC for 5 days I have spent over $26 on subway rides (at $2 a ride) and not counting airport cabs (which between to SFO and from JFK were about $70 worth of cab fares) I have spent about the same on taxi rides. Over the weekend I anticipate many more subway rides, my plans include wandering around Manhattan and likely Brooklyn which will involve multiple cab rides as I head out in the morning to get a late-breakfast/brunch, head to an interesting area to do some shopping & touring, find a cafe to work in for a few hours, then perhaps explore another area or two, finally finding someplace to get dinner – and then perhaps catch a movie or a show or something else typically NYC (with possibly a trip back up to the Upper West Side to drop off any purchases etc)

What I love about NYC – and which I miss even in San Francisco is the sheer density of people and population – and thus activity of a dense major city. San Francisco has a few areas which have a lot of people and a mix of residential and commercial sections, but NYC is fairly unique in the US for the overlay of commercial and residential across so large an area – in nearly all parts of at least Manhattan there are literally 100’s of stores within a short walk of any apartment. Nearly everywhere there are at least some shops which are open 24hrs a day. Many restaurants and stores stay open late – I suspect there is almost no good or service (other than perhaps government related) which cannot be found at almost any hour of the day in NYC, nor which can’t somehow be arranged to be delivered.

While there are not a huge number of bookstores in NYC, I have walked past many open until midnight. Slowly in just the last couple of years I have seen (and my observations are just those of a frequent visitor) a growing number of independent cafes and many more places than even just a few months ago who offer free wifi access.

Posted in NYC, personal, restaurants, reviews | 1 Comment »

Holiday shopping for geeks – the XO laptop (OLPC)

Posted by shannonclark on November 9, 2007

In three days the One Laptop Per Child project will be opening up their Give 1 Get 1 limited time offer. For $399 you donate a laptop to the developing world and get an XO laptop delivered to you.

I had planned on buying one since the rumors that they might come up with some program for individuals here in the US to get one started months ago.  My biggest debate has been do I buy one or do I buy two (for myself + guests).

But now what was always an amazing offer has only gotten even better (and even more of a no-brainer).

T-Mobile has partnered with OLPC and has offered a full year of wifi hotspot access to everyone who participates in the Give 1 Get 1 program.

I already spend $40/month on t-mobil wifi hotspot access (or $480 a year).

So this is a complete no-brainer. I get a truly amazing tool and hackable device (everything is open source and the source can be viewed and modified with a simple click from nearly any screen in the OS) and I actually save $80 next year.

And I give a laptop to a child in the developing world.

Oh, and $200 of my purchase price is a tax-deductible donation.

So if you have not already, go sign up for the mailing list reminder and then sometime before Nov 26 order your very own XO laptop. And for the geeks in your life, consider ordering one as a gift for them (and don’t worry, if they already have one the XO laptops are actually more useful in multiples – collaboration software is built into the DNA of the OS).

Posted in digital bedouin, geeks, personal, reviews | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Covering Ad:Tech NYC for Centernetworks

Posted by shannonclark on November 5, 2007

This week I am in NYC where for the start of the week I will be covering Ad:Tech NYC 2007 for Centernetworks. My first post, a long preview with many of my opinions & perspectives on the future and current state of advertising online has just been posted to Centernetworks!

Tuesday night I am organizing a dinner here in NYC, probably a group outing for great Korean food at a fantastic restaurant I found on my last trip to NYC. If you are in NYC and would like to join me for dinner tomorrow night – or would like to meet up for breakfast, lunch of coffee while I am here in NYC, leave a comment or drop me a line.

I will be in NYC until Tuesday Nov 13th.

Posted in advertising, internet, NYC, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fixing “Chrome registration failed” error on Firefox

Posted by shannonclark on November 1, 2007

Since the update to Firefox I have been experiencing a problem of three “Chrome Registration Failed” error messages being presented to me every time I restarted Firefox.

With today’s update to Firefox I had hoped that the problem would have been resolved.

Nope. Instead it only got worse, whenever I tried to update my add-ins and then edit their options, the add-ins pane froze. Looking on I found one suggestion for a fix (delete the extensions.ini, extensions.cache and extensions.rdf files from your profile). On doing that however not only did it NOT fix my problem, but in fact it made it worse – every single add-in I had installed was reset to a “needs restart” and even after a restart the add-ins were not installing.

So on experimentation I tried the following:

(all this is on Windows Vista)

Right click on the Firefox icon on your desktop.

Select “run as administrator”

And poof – problems gone, all add-ins installed and working.

I then closed Firefox and restarted it (figured running as administrator is not a good general practice).

But count me as in the “pox on both your houses” camp here – to both Microsoft and to Microsoft for having such a clunky OS that occasionally you have to run processes as administrator (i.e. as “root”). And for two serious bugs – first error messages that are BEYOND useless – reporting on an error WITHOUT NOTING WHAT CAUSED THE ERROR. And second, for building a USER application (a browser) which for some reason does something during the installation process of components (i.e. add-ins) which requires administrator rights.

Seriously bad coding somewhere.

And this is a case where Google failed me. Nothing I found after searching almost literally 100+ websites and online discussions had this fix, not even discussions on (which reported inaccurate fixes for this problem in fact).

So hopefully this will help someone and the last two hours of my life which was wasted on fixing this will at least help someone else.

Update – some of the comments make it clear I was unclear in the above. After initially running Firefox as administrator I have not had to do so again, something about that one running fixed what I can only suspect were either permissions or registry issues. This fix has survived reboots and subsequent installations of additional Firefox plugins. Glad it has been helpful to a few of you (about 100 people or so a day have been reading this due mostly to Google searches)

Posted in customer service, geeks, internet, microsoft | Tagged: , , | 476 Comments »