Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Minted Nominated for a Crunchy

Minted's been nominated for a Crunchy this year. Check out the Crunchies and vote for us!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mzoli's Meats, Guguletu

It's been more than two months since I've been to Mzoli's in Guguletu. And now, in the throes of a new job, I long to have the meats at Mzoli's. Of course a little bit of hard work and forty-something degree cold easily reminds me of warm weather, drinking beer, and eating BBQ.

It's an amazing feat that we made it to Mzoli's that Sunday. We knew only a single person in Capetown, Zinaid, a college friend of Sudeep's. We had also been out at Marvel the night morning before we made it to the magical Mzoli's, getting our hang-overs ready. After figuring out how to use our pre-paid phone, we finally decided that we should meet Zinaid for BBQ, besides what else were we going to do with our Sunday.

Zinaid picked us up late in the hazy grey afternoon in his red beat-up, stereo-stolen, brake-pad-bare, mid-eighties rabbit. About a half hour later we arrive in the slow of a township called Guguletu in front of a non-descript shop in the middle of a small milling crowd. We find a "parking spot" not more than a couple blocks away, Zinaid straps the club on his bucket, grabs three plastic cups, and we walk up the block.

The Meats

Once in the un-marked shop, one quickly might mistake it for a butcher-shop. A case of meats awaits your order. A row of pastel lacquered steel pans, filled with Aromat covered pieces of flesh and sausage, move toward a cashier. It's 80 Rand for our pounds of chicken, chops, sausage, and a 30 Rand deposit on the pan. (At the time it the exchange rate was 8 Rand to a dollar).

The WaitressThe Line

Just past the cashier is the waiting room, where, at any given moment, a line at least 10 deep is waiting for their pan of meat to char over the open wood-burning spits. Our pan arrives in 30-somethingth place, it'll be a while until we'll be getting anywhere near our BBQ.

Not to worry, just past the wood pile and one of the bathrooms is the yard. A corrugated iron roof shades plastic tables and chairs providing a place to congregate and, of course, have an ice-cold beer. Suddenly I realize that it's Sunday, and everyone with a cold one knew, thanks to South African blue-laws, it was BYOB today, everyone but me.

The Outside

Not to worry, being a neighborhood joint, Mzoli's had people, smart, friendly, and enterprising people, living just across the street. I walk with Zinaid into what was, by all accounts, a house party. Clicks of friends squatted and sat around steel pans of BBQ with tall beers talking, now probably about the two guys crashing their party.

We enter the living room of our friendly neighborhood tuck shop and 750ml. beers are 10 Rand a piece. At 6% alcohol by volume, the booze might as well have been free. They come out of one of three well stocked refrigerators, ice-cold. Suddenly being 30 deep waiting for your BBQ is eased by the cool, carbonated, 12 proof beer poured into my lime-green plastic cup.

The Wood PileThe Cook

After the first round of beers, it's time to check on the meats. It's also a good time to find the bathroom, and get a shot of the kitchen. The activity in the kitchen is perpetual. It's crowded with patrons, cooks, pans of Aromat-crusted meat, and is dangerously hot next to the spits. Cooks work in an orchestra of oil fires, steel pans, and charred, delicious, salty, meats. The smell is drenched in fat and minutes seem like hours in the thick rich smell of the BBQ.

The Kitchen

Unfortunately, our pan has moved from what seemed to be 30th to 40th place in line. I head back to the refrigerators at house across the street and ease the wait with some light conversation. When I say "light," I mean to say a cheerfully racist drunk who slobbered like Gallagher during the watermelon bit. Perhaps it was because I was asian, certainly not because I was an American, did my cheerful local representative feel the need to bow repeatedly.

After a few choice opinions shared on Chinese and US politics, Zinaid returns from the meat-checking to find me doing my best to not make a fuss with the locals. He, on the other hand, is from there, and has no patience for racism, whether in jest, ignorance, or otherwise. Within a couple minutes, Zinaid is bristling and telling this guy where to take his bullshit.

Suddenly the fact that I'm surrounded by easily a few hundred locals in a small township a half hour from Capetown, seems to raise my blood pressure. No matter that I was carrying a few thousand dollars worth of camera gear, had no passport, and no clear path to an exit, I was also with Jess, and even if I could get out of there alive, there was no way I could get both of us out of there alive.

Fortunately, a calm smile, and the drunks embarrassed friend, ended the incident without much ado.

The Delicious

The wait, though easily filled with cold beers and hundreds of people dancing to the kwaito beats blasted by the DJ in the corner, is not only well worth it, it's a downright pleasure. Once you taste the hot, salty, sweet, BBQ, you realize that you have not only conquered your hang-over, you are now basking in the beautiful magic of Mzoli's Meats.

The Eating

The Pan

It took the three of us approximately 15 minutes to decimate the pan of meat. Without napkins (Zinaid joked that only tourists come with napkins) licking your salty fingers is a great way to finish the meal. My plastic cup is covered with greasy Aromat flavored finger prints, and, at 10 Rand a bottle, full of cold, strong, South African beer. As the sun sank into the southern ocean, alas it was time to give up our seats and return to the safety of our hotel.

The End

68 °F / 20 °C
50 °F / 10 °C

Sat next to the Mzoli's mural, Jess and Zinaid present at Guguletugeist.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Whilst on Bike

Whilst on Bike

I've been getting a little more courageous with my equipment while riding. I'm always hesitant to ride around with my camera around my neck, but thanks to Yohei's adjustable camera strap. I've gotten so many comments on mine and I've not seen anything like it for sale at the stores here in SF. It really makes riding with a camera possible.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Death of the Big Three

Caught On Digital

A hopeful sign on Valencia street.

If this guy can brave Valencia on a skateboard while taking photos and staying out of his car, anyone can. And everyone should if they can, at very least stop buying cars from US automakers. I understand this sounds wholly un-American, but shirking your responsibility to the US public is not just un-American, I'd go as far to say it was just the product of the 1950's American ego.

Fortunately, people don't live forever, and when their day has set, the ills of the next generation take the place of the ills that plagued the past. Even still, we've learned a few things and access to information within the US is the best and fastest we've seen it in history.

That information tells us that after Ford licensed Toyota's hybrid technology four years ago, the locus of automotive innovation was clearly in Japan. None of the big three were able to offer an alternative to the conventional combustion engine. Instead they have continued to follow 1950's automobile attitudes, bigger, less fuel efficient, ego chariots. It's not that rollin' in an Escalade with your pals isn't fun in vegas, it's just that you shouldn't be driving your 'lade 40 miles a day to work your job in the valley. Besides, if you're at happy hour to ease your commute home, your probably best not be driving something so destructive to my personal safety.

So why would we pump 25 Billion dollars into the wrong companies? Toyota, BMW, and Hyundai certainly think that's a red flag on the free-market. I agree. I'm sorry people will lose their jobs, but if we're smart, we'll take a hard look at who's responsible for these decisions, fire them, fine them for being irresponsible Americans, sell their jets, and give them 25 Billion to finance a new generation of more responsible transportation designers.

I'm sorry people with lose their jobs, but I'm not sorry that others will find news ones. I'm not sorry that the old ways are no longer working, I'm not sorry that technology gets better, I'm not sorry that human beings get smarter. Wake up old guys, you don't get rewards for FUCKING UP.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wildlife Wannabe

Pelican in Elkhorn Slough

Little Red Umbrella

Little Red Umbrella

My last day in South Africa. It was wet. Very wet. Our cruise to Robben Island was canceled. We were trapped in the mall. I was tempted to put the camera away; it was raining so hard, but there was no way I was not going to miss shots from my last day in Cape Town.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day Soundtrack

Need a soundtrack for election day? Check out Obama Day.

Also not to miss:

And another line at the polls for good measure.
Civic Wait

Election Morn 2008

The Change Will Come

It's cold, clear, and crisp on this election day. And for the first time in my adult life, I stood in line at my polling place. While I was momentarily awed by the sight of a line, it was about time that election day looked like this. People of all ages, colors, and politics, showing up because they knew something was at stake, because they were inspired, or simply because everyone else was doing it. For what ever reason, I was never happier to stand in line for something.

3917 is out of Ballots!

Across the country today there will be stories of voter intimidation, fraud, and obfuscation, but not here in San Francisco, not in the bastion of liberal civic-minded responsible citizens! But alas, as I cast ballots 505, 506, 507, and 508, the poll I was at RAN OUT OF BALLOTS! The high school volunteers tried desperately to reach their polling supervisor but to no avail. Tensions and frustrations began to heat up the already crowded poll and a mix of shocked and disgruntled voters standing in line all began to spread the word.

Immediately about half the line disappeared, and as new voters came to stand in line, there was no sign that more ballots were on their way anytime soon. As I left I spoke briefly to another voter and a Mark Sanchez supporter about the debacle at the poll. Turns out that she cast among the last ballots at the poll, 536. Since each voter casts four ballots, that means only 136 people had voted there before the ballots were gone.

I cannot believe this was happening here in SF! Did someone at the ballot office not watch the news for the past two years?!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Day Jitters

Tomorrow is a big day. I already have butterflies. We have a chance to change history tomorrow and while all signs point to a win for Obama, I am never one to count my chickens. Even still there is an undeniable import to tomorrow, a chance for Americans to prove we care about our standing in the world.

Amidst the excitement, I'm also saddened by the passing of Obama's grandmother. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for a candidate, on the cusp of the most historical election in modern US history, to cope with such news. My heart goes out to Barack on this election eve.

And while I'm excited about being part of a winning election for the first time in almost a decade, I'm still wary of what that actually means. What does change really mean for us? And while I believe in my candidate, I also know the Americans who have worked tirelessly to keep the old power structures in tact will not go down without a fight. Some of them may not even realize they are the forces that keep us mired in the current mess, and those that do, will do whatever they can to fortify their power, the inequity, and the prejudices they believe are the American way.

I do not fear the future, I fear the past and those who are stuck there. I can only hope for substance.

The Gloves, They Do Nothing

The Gloves, They Do Nothing

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Frank & Jimmy


I just started my new gig so the posting has been a little slow. I've recently seen a couple of inspiring photographers that are worth noting. The first is Joel Sartore, a photographer who's name you probably don't know, but who's pictures you probably do. At Close Range with National Geographic is a short documentary on this heroic photographer.

Also inspiring is Callie Shell's series for the Digital Journalist on Senator Obama before and during his campaign for the the Presidency. Callie not only has a sense for the moments and emotions, but also an eye for the shot. Light, distance, and timing are the pillars of her amazing work on our hopeful future president.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Eighty Eight and Sunny

Rubberside Down

First decent ride on the pista in ages. I only wanted to coast once. Delivering flyers and posters for the Super Market Street Sweep was a great reason to enjoy the weather.

88.0 °F / 31.1 °C
48.7 °F / 9.3 °C

Met Hamish today and saw Niloc and Melissa. Seth, Brad, Sumeet, and Aus took my ten dollars.

Super Market Street Sweep

Super Market Street Sweep

I'm helping organize the Super Market Street Sweep again this year. If you're going to be in SF this December and want to support the SF Food Bank on two wheels, you should come out.

The rules and format for this year's SWEEP will remain the same as before. There will be a SPEED race and a POINTS race.

For the SPEED race, be the FASTEST Boy or GIRL to bring back groceries from 5 supermarkets. Prizes for road bikes and fixed!

For the POINTS race, bring back the most groceries you possibly can from 5 supermarkets. Certain food items will earn you BONUS POINTS. This year's overall top POINTS RACE winner will get a special prize from XTRACYCLE! They're donating a COMPLETE FREE RADICAL KIT that includes installation! Win this and you can haul your groceries with your bike for life (and win future Sweeps!)

For more information and a complete list of sponsors check out the Super Market Street Sweep Blog.

Friday, October 10, 2008

First Amendment, Slander, and Campaign Politics

Like many of us who are following the campaign for the White House, I have keenly followed the attacks and the responses by each camp. During this campaign, unfortunately like most others, I've heard a number of claims being made, bad facts, slanted truths, and outright lies aimed directly at Senator Obama, his associations, his record, and his intentions.

While most of this is campaign "business as usual" I can't help but wonder how this squares up with the first amendment and the laws regarding slander. Wikipedia's entry defines slander, "In law, defamation (also called calumny, libel, slander, and vilification) is the communication of a statement that makes a false claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government or nation a negative image."

Let's take McCain's recent attack on Obama claiming a connection to famed 1960's Weather Underground radical Bill Ayer. The allegations that Obama "ran a radical 'education' foundation" with Ayer have been found to be misleading and false. While hateful speech can be protected by our First Amendment, outright lies that attempt to smear another individual seem to fall squarely in the realm of slander.

So how do campaigns get away with this? I've done a bit a research and have failed to find any lawsuits brought against candidates seeking the office of president for smear tactics. While a lawsuit is probably the worst campaign strategy, it would be interesting to see a lawsuit post election day. I suppose at that point the winner has too much to lose and the loser has already lost the election.

Meanwhile the McCain campaign attempts to quell the raging fires it has lit over the past week. "If you want a fight, we will fight," McCain said. "But we will be respectful. I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments." I am less angry as I am fearful at the ease in which McCain's base has taken his lies into a place of violent fervor.

Perhaps at the end of the day, the public has become numb to the dishonesty of American politics. I, however, would love to see a little justice served.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Unlikely Tourist in Soweto Part IV


Across from this taxi rank is the largest Hospital in the southern hemisphere. The Chris Hani Bara Gwaranath Hospital provides public health care for the township and surrounding areas. It's named after Chris Hani the former president of the Communist Party who was assassinated by the apartheid regime in 1992. It sees an estimated one million patients a year and has an extensive facility that includes a large housing complex for the doctors who come from all over the world to work there.


Just beyond the hospital and the old power station, we come upon an informal settlement and SonnyBoy pulls into a dirt lot where we will take a short tour inside. This is one of many informal settlements in the township. This one is named after Elias Motswaledi who was arrested with Nelson Mandela in 1963. Started in 1993, the lot where this settlement stands was once owned by a white farmer in response to growing unrest to the housing crisis. 10 million homes were planned to be completed in ten years starting in 1994 and only four million have been completed so far. Residents here have little faith this goal will be met.

The Tap

The government has done little to improve conditions here, there are 50 community water taps for the 1 250 spaces, no sewage, and no electricity. There are long drop toilets, simple holes in the ground, each serving two to three families each. Deficient infrastructure does not mean this settlement goes without regulation. Amazingly there are rules to qualify to live here; residents must make no more than 3 000 Rand a month. With rising food and fuel costs, almost 100% in the last three months, it seems almost against reason to put restrictions on those who are trying desperately to rise out poverty.

Tuck Shop

Roughly 20 000 people live here from 8 different tribes speaking as many languages. Xolisa, our resident guide, is university educated, articulate, and thoughtful. But he, like his neighbors in the settlement suffer from high unemployment, a lack of opportunities and ill-thought out government policy. Government grants for each child under 13 years of age have the expected result of increasing the burden on the community by encouraging more children.


We visit the home of one of the residents, Hilda. She lives in a small single room shack. She cares for seven grand children, and at 67 is now too old to work. Our conversation lasted a few minutes, we got to ask a few questions and was asked to make a small cash donation that she immediately slid under her pillow, next to other donations from the tourists who visited her earlier in the day. She was convincingly pitiful and our short visit was among the most awkward interactions I've had with another human being in my life.

Forty Six

Her story was sad, but it was hard not to deny how manufactured an experience this was. Manufactured for a burgeoning tourist industry whose increasing numbers have become part of a new industry. On our way out we are given the chance to buy a souvenir. Jess and I are split up to maximize the opportunity. It also reduces our bargaining position and exposes us to a greater number of the settlement's residents. To say the least, it is an experience that is highly designed. And it works. Jess and I both end up purchasing souvenirs and making donations to the settlement. After about 15 minutes and 450 Rand, the both of us leave with tokens of our visit and an experience we won't soon forget.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Unlikely Tourist in Soweto Part III

The Hood

As we continue into the rest of Diepkloof one gets a better idea of how most of the township lives. Throughout the 1950's and 60's the government built "proper" houses for Soweto residents. These matchbox houses, so named for their minimal floor-plans, have proper running water, sewage systems, and electricity. Until 1994 these matchbox houses were available only as rented units from the government. Ownership was not only prohibited by law, but by the sheer economics of the township.

The Fortunate Oppenheimer Suburb

Many of the matchboxes have since been augmented with roughly constructed additions built with materials scavenged from construction sites or purchased from scrap yards. They now stand literally elbow to elbow with no easements. Many also have corrugated iron shacks in their yards, these aren't for storage, they are, incredibly, rental units for those who have come to Soweto from the countryside in search of better living conditions. Laughable by modern standards, these corrugated shacks represent income for many of Soweto's residents who otherwise have no marketable skills. Rents for these shacks can be as much as 150 Rand a month.


The occasional tuck shop, or convenience store, provide basics to the neighborhood as many of its residents cannot make the trek to markets that are car-distances away. Brightly colored public phone booths provide communication for the township. The woeful lack of a public transportation system is just another in a series of shortcomings that Soweto's residents must deal with. Black taxis, over-crowded mini busses, and make-shift horse carts are Soweto resident's only means of transport. The bicycle is conspicuously absent.

Ad Hoc Transport

We leave Diepkloof and head to a nearby taxi rank, a depot for black taxis, where an informal market occupies a dirt lot. At the market entrance is a crudely erected tent; four unpainted steel poles and a dusty tarp provide shade for a make-shift table where the food is served. And it's served directly on the table next to tin cups, except for the rice, which would probably stick the the splinters of the raw wood top. The patrons welcome me to try the local fair with a chuckle. I'm adventurous, but not that brave.

The Cook

The Recycling

Aisles of stalls selling anything from produce to batteries comprise the market. Sellers break up large bulk purchases from the wholesale market across town, but not all sellers have managed the same scale. Some are selling individual candies and fruit for a few Rand a piece while others have larger operations. Everyone does what they can to eek out a living, trying to get enough Rand to have a single meal for the day.

The Butcher

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Unlikely Tourist in Soweto Part II


From the old city center it is not far to the site of the new stadium under construction for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Its massive structural skeleton is still far from complete. With construction starting in 2006, the stadium is destined to host 120 000 fans for the upcoming World Cup. It stands as a symbol of progress, a display of progress and wealth. It also just happens to be located between the decaying city center and the township.


From the new stadium the vestiges of Soweto's past appear on the horizon. The cooling towers of the old power station, now painted to disguise their blighted appearance, stand as a reminder of a time where Johannesburg's energy was provided by the township at the expense of their environment. Pollution once spewed over the township while not a single volt of electricity was available to it. In 1970, they were finally shut down amidst criticism and growing dissatisfaction with the apartheid regime. It would be more than another 20 years until the township itself would see modern electrification.

A Symbol of the Past and Present

Our tour of Soweto proper started in the well-to-do neighborhood of Diepkloof. Clean streets are lined with large modern houses with varied architectural styles. Bed and breakfasts are scattered throughout this upscale neighborhood as tourism over recent years has become one of Soweto's new economic foundations. For relatively little Rand, a tourist can stay in the famous township overnight, something that many might have never imagined.

Diepkloof Expensive

At the edge of Diepkloof Expensive, as SonnyBoy refers to it, we come upon a section of empty lots. From here aging hostels built in the 1960's by mining companies stand only a few hundred yards in the distance. These hostels once housed black workers migrating from the country side to work mining jobs in Joburg. They were male-only, had no running water or proper waste management and no electricity. They have since become residences for hundreds of squatting families.

Mining Hostels

The government has taken steps to provide water taps and chemical porta potties, but have not electrified the units or installed proper sewage infrastructure. Rather they have begun the slow process of replacing these hostels with family housing units, still without electrical or sewage infrastructure, the units have yet to be populated by the families in the neighboring hostels. The resourceful residents have taken things into their own hands and have tapped illegally into the power grid by running raw non-insulated copper wire from light poles in Diepkloof across the street and into the hostels. If you don't know what you're looking for, these make-shift power lines are otherwise invisible except for the rocks that hold them down. Government and neighborhood officials have tried in vain to stop the practice.

Have Power Will Travel