Monthly Archives: May 2009

Secrets from Ridgewood Lane

After our sojourn in Napa Valley last weekend, Yeong went to work in Hayward on Monday and I drove up to visit the gleaming Locus HQ office tower on Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland, where I –

Well, no. The Secret of Ridgewood Lane is that there is no Locus office tower, gleaming or otherwise; Locus Magazine is run out of the home of its publisher Charles N. Brown. And it’s not really a secret; any number of distinguished guests, casual visitors, and staffmembers have been to the house over the years, as CNB likes to relate in his magazine editorials.

Despite which, it’s remarkable how frequently we hear of people who do seem to think that Locus is run by a large staff out of some office building. (A little of that is reflected my way; I occasionally get emails directed to the ‘reviews department’ or the ‘advertising department’. The website operation is even smaller than the magazine’s; it’s just me here.)

The real Locus HQ is Charles’ house on Ridgewood Lane, nestled in the hills of Oakland, east of San Francisco Bay, up windy twisty roads that afford spectacular views (especially as one is leaving). The living room is crammed with SF art works and museum facsimiles from Charles’ world travels. The main floor has a master bedroom and two smaller bedrooms, the latter converted to offices. When I stopped by Monday afternoon I dropped in on Tim Pratt and Kirsten Gong-Wong busy on side-by-side PCs in one of the rooms, while Amelia Beamer color-corrected photos on a computer in the second room. Carolyn Cushman appeared briefly from the downstairs basement, home of the Locus library (and winecellar, and spare bedroom, with its ‘Psycho’ Murphy bed), where she spends her days cataloging new books.

Charles had Amelia fetch a bottle of wine and we sat chatting for a couple hours, mostly about the dismal fate of publishing and of Locus in general. (Only slightly kidding.) Later I drove down the hill and down the bay to fetch Yeong as he finished work for the day in Hayward, then we returned to Oakland to meet Charles and Amelia for an excellent dinner at Garibaldi’s.

The next day was graduation at UC Berkeley for Yeong’s elder son from the School of Economics, held outdoors in the campus Greek Theater. It was sunny and almost but not quite too warm, though warm enough to require headgear during the two-hour event. The usual speeches and special awards were followed by the parade across the stage of the 400 or so students receiving mock diplomas as their names were read. I suppose it’s not surprising that easily two thirds of the students were Asian. Then followed a reception on the esplanade by the familiar Berkeley Campanile, and a quick look into the campus bookstore, before I had to head to the airport for my flight home.

It was the first university graduation I think I’ve ever attended, after my own. They all look so young, of course, but also so very smart.

Wineries, Vineyards, and the CIA

Sunday we drove through Napa Valley, past dozens of wineries and through hundreds of vineyards, with stops at Mondavi and Grgich Hills and Stag’s Leap and Sterling Vineyards, with its Greek villa architecture atop a hill accessed by a ski-lift style tram. Along the way we stopped for lunch.

The CIA is the Culinary Institute of America, apparently based in New York but with a facility in Napa Valley, California. The first and only time I visited Napa Valley, some 14 or 15 years ago, my friends and I stopped there for lunch, and it was worth returning to during this second trip: in addition to the educational institute in a grand stone building along the edge of the valley of vineyards, the Napa site includes a restaurant where you can sit at a semi-circular bar and watch the chefs in the center as they prepare your meal. As it turned out, on weekends (we were there this time on a Sunday) the kitchen is staffed by professional chefs; the students are there on weekdays. Still, it’s fun watching them work, if not quite as revealing in these days of Food Channel TV. (And the food is very good, if perhaps not quite as exceptional as at a genuine 4-star restaurant.)

More about Locus HQ and how to get graduated at Berkeley next time.

Napa’s Empty Storefronts

This weekend I’m in Napa, gateway town to the Napa Valley, the most famous winemaking district in the US. I’m spending a long weekend in the area with my partner leading up to his son’s graduation from UC Berkeley on Tuesday. We flew up to Oakland yesterday and drove to Napa, which I expected to be overrun with tourists, souvenir shops, and high-end art galleries, along the lines of Ojai or La Jolla.

There must be tourists somewhere, since I had no luck finding a charming b&b to stay at — all of them booked — but downtown Napa at 5pm or so on a Saturday was alarmingly empty. We strolled among an odd mixture of newly built mixed-purpose condo projects, old Victorian mansions from the town’s heydey, and a whole lot of empty storefronts — too many to be recent effects of the economy. We chatted with the hosts of a wine bar who explained about the lack of tourists — this is the weekend *before* Memorial Day weekend, mainly — though we didn’t bring up the empty storefronts issue.

Today we head up the valley to visit wineries and have lunch at the CIA. Tonight: back to the city. Monday, perhaps: a visit to the gleaming Locus HQ tower in Oakland.

98% Done, and Posted

The new homepage is posted, along with new pages linked to a common set of menu bars, despite a few gaps in the superstructure between those new pages and the older pages, and despite a known browser issue or two. The day is ending and I’ll be busy tomorrow and back to work on Monday, so I figure I might as well get it all up there for people to see — and throws stones at. I just discovered the new blogs — for Reviews, and Perspectives, don’t display properly in Internet Explorer (always the ‘special’ browser) and have posted a note to that effect, rather than hold everything until Monday evening or later when I’ll next have a chance to debug.

Tomorrow I expect Gary Westfahl’s Star Trek review, which will go up in the new Reviews blog (and I plan to see the film myself tomorrow). Eventually I’ll tweak the layout of the News and Roundtable blogs to match the common website theme, including the menu bars. The last 2% may take another few weeks…

Here’s a screen capture of the site four days ago.

90% Done

Just a quick post to say that I haven’t forgotten about the redesign, that I’m actively working on it every day time permitting, and that it is — as we always say in the software development world — 90% done. The homepage is actually 99% done — significantly cleaner and crisper, I think — but part of the point of the redesign is to establish a similar look and menu bars across *all* pages, along with merging static pages with blog pages, and engineering all of those to be consistent simultaneously is taking a bit longer than anticipated.

Next week by right around this time I should have Gary Westfahl’s review of the new Star Trek film. And Nick Gevers has promised me a new SF Quintessential interview real soon now. And Cory’s column from the May issue of Locus will be up within the next week.