: views from the Hill

Monday, November 26, 2007

TechShop: Build Your Dreams Here

His nibs went down to Palo Alto today to help MHP get some "stuff" out of his basement and delivered to TechShop in Menlo Park, a Maker's dreamland, a burner's heaven.

Never heard of TechShop?

TechShop is a fully-equipped open-access workshop and creative environment that lets you drop in any time and work on your own projects at your own pace. It is like a health club with tools and equipment instead of exercise equipment...or a Kinko's for geeks.

TechShop was founded in 2006 by Jim Newton, a lifetime maker, veteran BattleBots builder and former MythBuster.

TechShop is located in Menlo Park, California, on the San Francisco peninsula 25 miles south of San Francisco.
Anyone can come in and build and make all kinds of things themselves using the TechShop tools, machines and equipment, and draw on the TechShop instructors and experts to help them with their projects. TechShop is designed for everyone, regardless of their skill level. TechShop is perfect for inventors, "makers", hackers, tinkerers, artists, roboteers, families, entrepreneurs, youth groups, FIRST robotic teams, arts and crafts enthusiasts, and anyone else who wants to be able to make things that they dream up but don't have the tools, space or skills.

If this sounds like your piece of heaven, TechShop is open 9A->midnight, seven days a week.

Cost: Daily pass:$30 Monthly pass:$100 Annual pass:$1200 (except they're having a sale just now.) The Annual and Monthly passes allow you to reserve time on specific pieces of equipment. The Annual pass allows you to reserve equipment up to two weeks in advance. The Monthly pass allows you to reserve equipment up to a day in advance. If you buy a multiple-months pass, you can reserve equipment for multiple days in advance. e.g. If you buy a five-month pass, you can reserve equipment up to five days in advance. If you buy a seven-month pass, you can reserve equipment up to seven days in advance.

TechShop gives classes on how to use the equipment. Some pieces of equipment =require= you to take a class before you are allowed to use the equipment.

Check it out.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Full moon tomorrow

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The not-quite-full moon rising over Berkeley. The setting sun reflecting on the windows in the East Bay. The Admin building on Treasure Island in deepening shadow. The Vallejo Larkspur ferry heading up to Vallejo Larkspur, jam-packed, I'm sure, with all those Vallejans Larkspurans who conscientiously came in to work today.

(Well, I =think= it's probably the Larkspur ferry. The Vallejo ferry appears from pictures found on the Web to be a much zippier and larger boat.)

The Farmer's Almanac has a list of full moon names and their meanings.

Another Embarcadero Center Lights shot

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Just a (late!) reminder: Today is the fifteenth annual Buy Nothing Day.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Let the wild rumpus begin!

I'd asked my younger sib if he could get his magical children to pull the names out of the Christmas gift hat soon, and he said, "Can it wait until Thursday?" (Thanksgiving at his house!)

I guess it must, but we noticed on our way home from the Dissident Chef's truffle dinner on Friday that the Embarcadero Center's lights are on, which means the wild rumpus has begun!

I told the younger sib that I'd probably just order something for my giftee over the Web. I've never been one to push my way through Union Square crowds to get the most absolutely fabulous gift from one of the trend-o stores. The stores are crowded enough in August. After Thanksgiving they're like heart-palpitation-making -- squeezed -- and I am so not there.

(I have, however, got him the most spectacular, cannot be duplicated without great effort bday gift which he can unwrap at the aforesaid Thanksgiving celebration, as his bday is the following day. ...)

I took the opportunity tonight to shoot a multitude of shots using the various modes on my relatively new Canon PowerShot A570.

The "Night Snapshot" mode captured the building best.

The Lights at the Embarcadero Center: a twenty-year tradition. [Click the photo for the closeup version.]

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San Francisco election results are in!

Department of Elections: Election Summary

100% of votes counted. Results posted 17 Nov 2007. Only ELEVEN DAYS to count the votes!

35.77% voter turnout. Yay, us! (Really, people. That's pathetic.)

Mayor: Gavin Newsom with 73.66% of the vote. Next highest vote getter: Quintin Mecke with 6.33% of the vote. Least highest vote getter: Michael Powers (who?) with .36% of the vote.

(Just kidding ... "Michael Powers, 42, owns the Power Exchange sex club, which welcomes gays, lesbians, heterosexual couples, and bondage and domination devotees - demonstrating, he says in his official campaign statement, "my capacity to embrace every kind of alternative lifestyle and manage multiple environments housed in one totally law-abiding and successful business." That record of embracing tolerance, he said, "guarantees that I will listen to all San Franciscans." [ref: SFGate])

No write-ins at all for mayor. 1.51% write-in for DA. Kamala Harris got the other 98.49% of the vote.

A - passed (55.49) - Transit Reform, Parking Regulation and Emissions Reduction
B - passed (71.21) - Limiting Hold-Over Service on Charter-Created Boards and Commissions
C - passed (68.19) - Requiring Public Hearings on Proposed Measures
D - passed (74.48) - Renewing Library Preservation Fund (Yay! Libraries! They scored even better than Gavin!)
E - failed (51.39) - Requiring Mayor to Appear Monthly at a Board of Supervisors Meeting
F - passed (51.53) - Amending Retirement Benefits for Police Dept. Employees who were Airport Police Officers
G - passed (55.39) - Establishing Golden Gate Park Stables Matching Fund
H - failed (66.95) - Donald Fisher's effort: Regulating Parking Spaces
I - passed (59.14) - Establishing Office Small Business as City Dept. and Creating Small Business Assistance Center
J - passed (62.26) - Adopting a Policy to Offer Free City-Wide Wireless High-Speed Internet Network
K - passed (61.84) - Adopting a Policy to Restrict Advertising on Street Furniture and City Buildings

Can't remember the specifics about the different measures? October 2007 Urbanist newsletter from SPUR has great and gory details on the different measures that were up for vote. [PDF]


Check out Geoff Manaugh's BLDGBLOG: Architectural Conjecture, Urban Speculation, Landscape Futures.

A plethora of goodies.

Geoff Manaugh has a book (BLDGBLOG) out from Chronicle Books in Spring 2009 and moved to this fair ville in September to become a senior editor at Dwell.

More about Manaugh here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cypresses redux


Another shot of the post-pruning cypresses.

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Click on the picture to get a better look. Some of the parrots were back yesterday to check out the pruned trees. They stayed longer than they usually do before heading off.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The cypress grove on Telegraph Hill before, during, after.

As promised, befores and afters.

BEFORE: (18 Jul 2004)
[note: added another before: Dec 2003]

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I rummaged through my photo bins to find photos of the trees as they were. These two show the north and south ends of the cypress grove on 18Jul2004. Imagine, if you will, a large clump of green between what these two photographs show.

I obviously didn't take a lot of shots of the trees standing alone.

DURING: (October 2004)

Later that year, in October, a large chunk of tree came down.

In October 2005, another tree was taken out before Mark threw himself between the trees and the tree cutters and successfully halted the project.

We all know the result: a Landmark Tree ordinance. After much negotiation, in February 2007 the City agreed to indemnify the remaining trees' owner from any liability arising from the fact he wasn't allowed to take the "rotten" (his description) trees down.

The City also agreed "to hire a special arborist who has the skill to delicately prune the trees and preserve them for at least three years -- long enough for new ones to grow to shelter the parrots. The two trees are all that remain from what was once a larger grove." [n.b. Three years to grow trees this tall? Really?]

The Northeast San Francisco Conservancy (president: Nancy Shanahan) pledged $5,000 to the City to cover the cost of pruning and care.

BEFORE: (December 2003)

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AFTER: (15 Nov 2007)

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What can we see that's different? (Gee, this is like those picture puzzles: find six ways this picture is different from the ones above.)

In 2004, the cypress grove obstructed the view of most of the green building you can now see to the northeast of the trees. We can now see the tennis courts on top of the Bay Club.

The trees in 2004 were considerably taller than the trees that remain. We have an uninterrupted view of Treasure Island instead of having trees obstructing our views of the northernmost third of the island. We can also see more of Teatro Zinzanni -- those tents down at Pier 29 -- and twice as much of the rooftop of the condo building to the north of the green building.

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I'd taken this shot to show the tidal bore on a very boring day, but it also shows what our view of Treasure Island was in May 2004. That's a whole lot o' tree that's been taken down in the last three years.

I have mixed feelings about all this. I love trees. I miss the green stuff -- I much prefer green stuff to views of the neighbors' roofs -- but I think there was far more agitation over the poor parrots and this privately-owned cypress grove than there needed to be. I think the City spent more time and effort -- when they don't seem to have time to worry about some critical problems -- than the situation warranted. I know Mark loves the parrots and I know he made them famous with his book. If someone had said we should spare the trees, if at all possible, because they're right outside Mark's door and he wants to have the parrots right there, well, I could understand that, but that's not how all the agitation and public spin came down before the City set about changing rules, trimming trees and indemnifying the owner.

"The parrots are fine," I tell worried friends who have read the tales of woe and crisis and parrots. This bit of greenery is not what it was, but the parrots still flock to trees on Telegraph Hill. We still hear them yackyackyack yackyackyack yackyackyackyacking. They still amuse the tourists and scare the cat.

May the flock prosper and increase.

Transbay Blog

Eric, over at Transbay Blog, is running a series of informational posts on the Central Subway, which I've ranted about on occasion here and elsewhere.

Transbay Blog is one of the most focussed, least axe-grinding blogs covering "News and thoughts on public transportation and city planning in the San Francisco Bay Area." If such be your interests, check it out.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

When I'm 64 ...

Talking with an old friend, well, exchanging e-mails and mentioned that I was feeling old.

His nibs and I'd had dinner a week or so ago with a friend who'd turned eighty in August. Eighty-year-old friend is looking good and, really, looks not that much different than he did when I met him thirty-two years ago. He's involved with crafting little technology whizbang solutions for folks at the VA hospital. He's a Maker. He hasn't slowed down much if any at all. He's just pretty darn cool.

I wrote to the e-mail friend, "I'm seven years older than he was when I first met him. Yikes, I'm feeling old."

Then I found this test: Are you a hippy?

which gave these stats on the folks who had taken the test:

54% of test takers are Male, while 46% are Female.
93% of test takers are under the age of forty, while 7% are over forty.
78% of test takers have hair shorter than 6", while 22% have hair that is longer.
7% of test takers were at Woodstock in 1969, while 93% were not.
[That in itself is astounding when you consider only 15% of the test takers were even =alive= in the 1960s. That means that ~50% of the people taking the test who were alive in the 1960s were at Woodstock. Is that even remotely possible?]
54% of test takers prefer John over George at 12% as their favorite Beatle.
15% of test takers were alive in the 1960's, while 85% were not.
21% of test takers are vegetarians, while 79% are not.
11% of test takers have lived in a commune, while 89% have not.
10% of test takers voted for Ronald Reagan, while 90% did not.
[They forgot to ask how many had even had an opportunity to vote for Ronald Reagan.]

The questions hit me with pangs of nostalgia: "Do you smell like patchouli?" "Do you own an incense burner?" "Do you have a brownie recipe with ingredients you can't find at the A&P?" "Do you think Bob Dylan has a good voice?"

Do you feel old?

Update> and the doorbell rings. By the time I get there, the doorbell ringer is gone, but there's an Amazon package under the doormat. "Thank you!" I call. "You're welcome," comes the reply from down the path. The package contained a couple books and Kristofferson's latest.

Earlier this month we'd been at the Fillmore for an AIM benefit. I was reminded again how much I like his words and his voice. A few days ago I put an order in and here it was. I put my new purchase into the CD player. First song was the title song, This Old Road.

Yeah, feeling old. And that's okay. Kristofferson, after all, is only ten years younger than our eighty-year-old friend and he's still kickin'.

The Fallon House (reprise)

I've written about the Fallon House before but because the folks over at Flickr's GUESSWHERESF photo pool asked, I'll gather together the loose threads.

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The house that Carmel built, The Fallon House at 1800 Market St, across the street from Destino, home to the best Pisco sours in the City.

The Fallon House was named for Carmel Fallon, his nibs' grandmother's grandmother.

Family history is there on the site.

Carmel Lodge Fallon grew up outside Santa Cruz on her mother's Mexican land grant. Rancho Soquel included land from the Santa Cruz Mountains ridgeline to the sea, from Santa Cruz to Watsonville. Martina Castro Lodge lost it all within years of the American influx. She divvied up the grant amongst her children, including Carmel, sold off the rest (with her much younger third husband as witness to the transaction) and years later died penniless and crazed.

Simon Cota, Carmel Lodge Fallon's father, died when she was a toddler. Carmel's mother, Martina Castro, then married Michael Lodge, whose last name Carmel adopted.

Carmel was the classic spinster rich girl who fell for the dashing Irish adventurer Thomas Fallon. They married and raised a family. The children died of cholera and they moved to San Jose (where Fallon had raised the Bear Flag many years earlier) to raise another family. Carmel, never an easy keeper, wound up whacking Fallon over the head (with what is sometimes called a fireplace tool, sometimes a lead pipe) when she found him in "a compromising position" with the housekeeper/dressmaker/maid some twenty-seven years into the marriage.

Carmel left San Jose and Tom and with her younger unmarried children in tow resettled in San Francisco, where she used her divorce settlement to become a business woman and landlord, owning and operating the Hotel Carmel and the Fallon Hotel.

Carmel never remarried. She built the house at 1800 Market Street and lived in it until her death. Family legend has it that she was up beating out embers on the roof, helping save the building from the fires after the 1906 quake and that for the rest of her life she suffered from "weak lungs" due to smoke inhalation. She did save the house, though. Her house was the first house left standing and unburnt on Market Street after the earthquake and fire.

Carmel Lodge Fallon was in her nineties when she died. Her great-grandson, his nibs' father, could remember visiting his great-grandmother when he was young. She wasn't your warm, cuddly great-grandmother but rather a dour old woman, dressed in black.

One of the children Carmel brought with her to San Francisco, Isabella (Belle) Fallon, married Nathaniel Jones Brittan of the City. His father, John Wesley Brittan, had been a young hardware store clerk in New York until the hardware store owner had the brill idea to send his young clerk out to California shortly after the Gold Rush with a shipload of hardware supplies to sell to the 49ers.

JW Brittan sold out all the supplies he'd brought, kept his share of the profits and settled in the City, bringing more hardware on other ships around the Horn. He made a good living selling hardware, pans and pick axes to the gold miners and hinges, door knockers and nails to the San Franciscans.

NJ Brittan and Belle had three children, a set of twins Natalie and Belle, and Carmelita, his nibs' grandmother. The girls were raised for the most part down the peninsula on NJ Brittan's Rancho San Carlos. NJ's name and the ranch are entwined in the history of what eventually became San Carlos. You can still see Brittan Avenue and streets named after Belle and Carmelita (but not Natalie, why?) from when the ranch was subdivided and sold.

As was the case with many of the Brittan and Fallon holdings, there were squabbles over rights and inheritances. Lawsuits and lawyers ate up what money and property there was. The Fallon House in San Francisco was sold to honor a pledge Carmel Fallon had made to the San Francisco Opera -- but only after the Opera had to sue Carmel's estate.

Eventually, and appropriately enough -- our older son's gay -- Carmel's house became San Francisco's LGBT Community Center.

And there ends a short history of Carmel Fallon's house at 1800 Market.

Morning fog blows in

Clear as a bell here since before sunrise. The fog, though, she's blowing in.

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Update>And just as quickly gone. Clear, sunny day. And I have fish to fry. Back later.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tree trimming ... and it isn't even Christmas!

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Talk about a job I wouldn't want! I can't even stand at the edge of the roof without getting shaky knees.

Tree trimmers are trimming the trees down the hill from us, trees which caused such political uproar a year ago or so and resulted in new rules regarding tree cutting on private property. Siblings of the trees were taken out three years ago. These remaining trees are supposed to remain in place and be taken care of until they can't be maintained. The City's indemnified the owner from any lawsuits that might arise should the trees topple over or break a limb.

The guy up in the tree checks his knots frequently. He has an ally on the roof of the building just east of the trees and an ally on the ground, who is cutting the fallen branches with a chain saw. The guy in the tree has done most of his work with a tree saw on a long pole but just now switched to a chain saw.

Earlier today, the neighborhood e-mail list flashed with a "someone's cutting the cypresses" note, followed by a note from Mark Bittner that the cutting was all in order.

The neighbors are watching. The parrots are sitting on someone's railing to get a better view of what's going on because their usual tree perch doesn't have a good line of sight for the trees being trimmed.

When allz done, I'll post before and afters.

Update: Gone for the day. Ropes still in trees.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What we see from the hill

His nibs said, look at ... that ... those vehicles going into Pier 29 ...

What is that all about?

Oh, OK.

Ballots were taken from polling places to Pier 29 for preliminary processing.


Pier 29? Why there?

Fine. Those are the tail lights we're seeing.

Election results will begin pouring in at 8:30 p.m.

Final counts will be posted by

... oh, two weeks from now.

All the absentee ballots and those cast "early" at City Hall will be counted and released by 8:30 p.m. Those that were cast at the polls today? Well, there's this problem, see?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Sailing, sailing, over the bounding main

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Lovely sailboat out on the Bay this afternoon.

We're off to the Fillmore in a shake to see Kristofferson and Kitaro, Taj Mahal, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, San Francisco Taiko Dojo, Peter Coyote and Charlie Hill for the Longest Walk II. Maybe Buffy Saint-Marie, another writeup shows her on the lineup too and not Kitaro. Well, remains to be seen. I'm there for Kristofferson.

The Consumerist: Shoppers Bite Back

Entertaining blog with news tidbits.

The Consumerist: Shoppers Bite Back

You can find such gems as a post about Batter Blaster:

Occasionally we see products that make us wonder how we got to this late day without them. "Batter Blaster" (which is pancake batter in a Cheese Whiz or Redi Whip bottle) is one such product.

Will we be buying this? No. Are we happy the it exists? Yeah. Actually, we are.

I think the product's an abomination (How hard is it to add water to your Krusteaz mix?) but about half the comments are in a "hell-yeah, I've been waiting for something like this" vein.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Magnitude 4.0 - WYOMING

Magnitude 4.0 - WYOMING

Just saying ...

Views from the Hill: Look! Up in the sky!

It's a bird. It's a plane.

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It's the MetLife blimp!

The sellingest album of all time ...

That can't be true, can it?

This article claims, "The Eagles Greatest Hits, 1971-1975 was released just four years after the band debuted. It has now sold more records than any album in history, including Thriller."

[via grapes2dot0, who was more interested in the story on Winslow, AZ, still cadging drinks thirty-five years later off their one brief bit of fame in 1972.]

Fan mail from Harold Hoogasian. Gmail thinks it's SPAM!

Look what dropped into my Gmail in-box this morning! Fan mail from Harold Hoogasian. Where he got the e-addr he used to send this is a question. The Gmail account mainly funnels everything @towse.com (except sal, sally, self, &c.) to a common address. So how did he get the master topsecrethushhushhush Gmail address?

Did I put it on my voter registration? If so, OH NO!

Herewith the nice note. I found it in my spam folder because Gmail automagically decided it fit the MO. [Update:Finagled a copy to insert with all the bells and whistles.] Here it is in all its glory!

From: Harold <campaign@unplugthemachine.org>
Date: Nov 2, 2007 1:30 AM

To: harold@hoogasian.com

Would you want Gavin Newsom to date your daughter or friend?

Would you socialize with someone who sleeps with a friend's wife?

Would you employ someone who can't plan a Halloween party in 364 days?

Would you vote for a candidate who refuses to debate his opponents?

I certainly wouldn't!

Does Delancey Street have an "outpatient" program? NO!

When Newsom admitted his substance problem, he disclosed that he would get "counseling" from Mimi Silbert (President of Delancey Street Foundation). The problem is that Delancey Street does not offer drop-in or outpatient counseling.

When John Burton was strung out on drugs and alcohol, he quit congress.

Gavin Newsom should have taken a hint from John Burton and resigned as Mayor.

Newsom's fling with his friend's wife was also a fling with an employee of the City.

How much is that going to cost the Taxpayers?

We know the Mayor is alleged to have paid the wronged husband,

But how much was paid to the Consort?

Is this the kind of judgment we want in a Chief Executive?

Cancelled Halloween cost
Lost wages, tips and income in the Castro!

Wages and overtime for 1000 police officers.

Another term as mayor is too much to pay.

The Halloween in the Castro is a tradition for over 30 years.

Calling it off for a questionable leader's re-election was an abuse of power.

If you think that we need a change,

Don't vote for an Adulterous, Drunken Golden Boy!

Don't chose corruption and waste!

A vote for Harold Hoogasian will clean up City Hall!

A vote for Harold Hoogasian will clean up our streets!

A vote for Harold Hoogasian will fix our Muni!

A vote for Harold Hoogasian will eliminate our Budget Mess!

A vote for Harold Hoogasian will bring back Halloween!

Mark Your Ranked Choice Ballot:




I need your VOTE to TAKE BACK our City!

Harold M. Hoogasian

Candidate for Mayor

About Harold Hoogasian

Harold Hoogasian is running for Mayor of San Francisco on a NO NONSENSE campaign.  He is a life long resident of San Francisco with a 33 year track record of public service and activism with in The City.  As the owner of several successful businesses including the floral business, Hoogasian Flowers, Harold has exhibited leadership and insight. In addition to these endeavors he is a former president of Rotary Club of San Francisco and has led several charitable works within The City. His campaign website is

About Hoogasian for Mayor
Hoogasian for Mayor is a committee formed to elect Harold Hoogasian
to the Office of Mayor in The City and County of San Francisco.
615 Seventh Street (Headquarters)
San Francisco, California 94103-5691
415-229-2710 (phone) and 415-229-2700 (fax)

If you don't want messages about this contested mayoral election,
reply to campaign@unplugthemachine with
subject "unsubscribe"


Lovely, eh? Multiple colors to pick out names and phrases like "Adulterous, Drunken Golden Boy!" (in red, natch!), CAPS, bold lettering and different sized fonts.

Looks kookie and crankpot-ish.

If I were a suspicious sort, I'd think that someone who doesn't want Hoogasian for Mayor sent out this spam in an attempt to make him look like a foolish idiot. I hadn't realized he could act like such a juvenile.

Love those politics!

And if his database were any good, he'd know I voted ten days ago.

Potrero Point power UPDATE

An update on the Potrero Point power proposal that I wrote about on Tuesday.

Tu Oct 30. Supervisors vote 8-3 in favor of new peakers. Symbolic vote only as the final vote to approve the contract with the folks who will build the new facility is the deal maker.

W Oct 31. San Francisco Public Utilities Commission votes unanimously in favor of the new peakers. SFPUC staff must finalize agreement with J-Power, the Japanese company that will build the facility.

Once the agreement is finalized and approved by the Board of Supervisors, work can begin. Inching our way slowly to a cleaner Central Waterfront. ...

Views from the Hill - so that's what they mean by patchy fog

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Sunny day outside, if you're not paddling on the Bay.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

More cupcakes

Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit

for those interested in Cupcakes, Cats, Shooz, Miscellaneous Obsessions, and Assorted Multislackery, esp. the cupcakes ...

For Miz UV who writes about Cupcakes, Cats, Shooz, Miscellaneous Obsessions, and Assorted Multislackery here be a link to the San Francisco Cupcake Tour with pictures!

[via EaterSF]