A stroll along the Embarcadero

A lovely day out.

Go back a century and San Francisco’s Embarcadero had no sidewalks. Just the road, bordered to the east by dozens of wharves hiding the nasty realities of commerce from passers by.

The Embarcadero a century ago.

But the city’s leaders got wise to the benefits of crafting great promenades (doubtless they had seen Paris) and we got the Embarcadero in its modern guise, replete with vast sidewalks for biking, skating, walking the dog, and increasingly renovated wharves which now house chic restaurants and elegant offices rather than whale blubber butcheries.

This past Sunday offered an opportunity to enjoy these privileges, so I parked my ancient (fat and ugly – no theft of fear) Lexus in my Top Secret Free Parking Spot and proceeded afoot. Not wanting any more than a minimum of encumbrance, I pinched my son’s Panny LX100, that sweet little jewel with the fine Leica zoom lens, and had at it.

Red’s Java House, just south of the Bay Bridge, has been serving burgers and fries for 60 years and no they are not about to mess with success. Just don’t expect good food here, though the views from the rear patio are great.

A few yards north and the Bay Bridge crosses the Embarcadero. It’s being fixed with (faulty) Chinese steel – what is it with America? Like we have forgotten how to make structural steel?

A few yards further north you will find our ‘heroes’ polishing their nice fire engines; there are no fires so that’s all they have to do until retiring on an inflation weighted pension at age 50:

A couple of hundred yards further north and you will find that the charming, naïve, whimsical rocket which used to grace this little plaza just south of the Ferry Building has been replaced by an execrable excrescence, complete with pretentious plaque loaded with mindless blather:

The Ferry Building itself has sprouted a sign testifying to the one hundredth anniversary of its rebuilding after the 1906 great fire and quake:

Just north of the building a lone (and no less lovely for that) Ducati hangs out on what was a surprisingly uncrowded day:

Many of the old wharf buildings now house upper end, white tablecloth restaurants. Mercifully the prices keep most of the mid-West out – from whale blubber to human blubber in three generations:

They mostly pose outside in their ridiculous garb when not riding their no less asinine Harleys:

The Waterfront is especially recommended:

Humor is everywhere to be found:

Head a block west and you will find great charm in the side streets which border the ever so steep ascent to Telegraph Hill, which overlooks North Beach:

One of the enduring sources of appeal of San Francisco is that the few modern skyscrapers it contains are in the business center with all about it largely preserved. Nonetheless, now and then an inspired design comes along harking back to the days of brick and one such is the Levi Strauss building on Battery Street:

But turn the corner and you can see the real thing, complete with Edward Hopper shadows:

Al fresco dining is always fun and every ethnicity is on offer:

Today I opt for something a tad more comfortable and end up at Il Fornaio on the self same Battery Street, again mysteriously deserted:

iPhone 6 snap.

A chicken salad and a glass of Pellegrino complete the picture:

iPhone 6 snap.

Fresh, beautifully prepared, well priced at $22 and highly recommended for the excellent service.

On the way back I spot an unusual open trolley waiting for passengers on the Embarcadero:

And the gorgeous Aûdiffred Building is a magnet for my trigger finger:

Amazingly the building survived both the quake and ensuing fire:

All snapped on the Panasonic LX100 except where noted.

Panasonic GX8

Nice and not so nice.

Can you spell ‘bloat’?

The first impression of the Panny GX8 is like seeing that long lost cousin you were crazy about in high school. Ten years later you meet again and, to your poorly hidden dismay, you find she has spent unholy amounts of time at the local MacDonald’s and has grown in all the wrong places. And for all the really good things the paper specs of the GX8 bring, that first prevailing reaction is hard to shake.

The GX8 has succumbed to bloat and that’s a failing totally at variance with the MFT concept of ‘small body, small lens’.

I have yet to get my hands on one so this is from spec sheets. Let’s enumerate the exciting enhancements the GX8 brings to market:

  • It exists. The fact that Panny has seen fit to continue with the ‘rangefinder’ body factor when all around still slavishly and unnecessarily copy the ‘SLR hump’ look for bodies with no glass pentaprism, is good news. The GX7 was easily the most elegant looking body put out by anyone in decades and the later fixed zoom LX100 only built on that.
  • A new 20mp sensor. With MFT having been stuck on 16mp for ages, an upgrade of the original 12mp in the wonderful Panny G1, a further bump to 20mp is welcome.
  • Improved EVF technology, though there’s little wrong with the EVFs in the GX7 and LX100.
  • 4K movie recording – just like with the LX100.
  • A socket for an external microphone for proper sound recording.
  • 5-axis image stabilization with most Panny AF lenses.
  • The addition of a top plate under/over-exposure dial for quick and easy adjustments, again just like the LX100. Dials always beat LCD displays.
  • Enhanced weatherproofing.
  • A repositioned shutter button in keeping with the more comfortable positioning on the G1/3/7.
  • A fully swiveling rear LCD (or cover, if you prefer) harking back to the G1.
  • Available in chrome – yippee! – not just the ugly black everyone seems to insist on and no one needs. Fat girls and ugly cameras dress in black, with the same failed, hoped-for result. They get hot and sweaty, but no slimmer.

So what’s not to like?

  • Like every Lexus on the road, it’s fat and ugly. The jeweled precision of the GX7 is gone. The handgrip design is awful to look at. Who on earth designed that monstrosity?

    Plane transitions brought to you by the Cadillac design team.

  • It’s heavy – 17.2 ounces compared with 14.2 ounces for the GX7. 21% more for what? Might as well buy an APS-C DSLR.
  • The handy pop-up flash has disappeared.
  • No manual shutter speed dial as found on the LX100 – which has the best manual controls bar none.
  • Enough, already, with that dumb ‘scene mode’ dial.
  • The 5-axis OIS will not work with two earlier Panny lenses which I own and like immensely – the 14-45mm kit zoom (excellent in every way) and the 45-200mm long range zoom which is everything MFT is about – miniscule with 400mm FF-equivalent reach. And no Oly or Leica lens is supported. It seems that Panny will not be making firmware updates to support these lenses. In fairness, the two axis IS in the GX7 body works fine and I have no issues with the two Olympus 17mm and 45mm fixed focal length lenses I favor on my two GX7 bodies, but it’s a shame neither Oly or earlier Panny lenses are not supported fully in the GX8.
  • For my avocation – street photography – neither the tilting EVF eyepiece or the swiveling LCD add any use. I’m not about to peer down into a small eyepiece or ponce about with silly LCD screens in this sort of work. Solutions for cowards.
  • Despite the big increase in weight and bulk the battery is bad in two ways. You cannot use the one from the G1/G3/GX7 which is frustrating. The one used is that from the G7 and it has no meaningful gain in capacity which you would expect with 4K movie capability and the big increase in bulk the body displays.
  • Price. At $1200 for the body only Panny is asking way too much. Wait a year and it will be down to $800, which seems about right.

So who should buy this body? I confess I am somewhat mystified. If you want the best movie capabilities you might as well splurge on the GH4 for $100 more and get almost everything the moviemaker needs. If you want the MFT concept defined to perfection either get a GX7, soon to be remaindered, where you will probably pay $400 for a new one. Or, if you have no need of long lenses and want a fast, wide, excellent 24-70mm Leica designed zoom, I strongly recommend the LX100 which in one package has just about everything most snappers require. New for under $700 with a crackerjack zoom lens and the small size and form factor elegance which MFT is all about.


3 billion miles and 9 years.

OK so the New Horizons spacecraft arrived a few seconds late. Not bad for government work.

For all those critics telling us that America’s day in the sun is done and the US empire is ending, I have a free one way ticket waiting. Destination of choice – Pyongyang, Beijing or Moscow. Somehow I doubt I’m taking much of a risk.

America is just getting started. And its heart is far larger than Pluto’s.

The Fish Market

Fine fish restaurant.

Foster City is largely a community of modern office blocks and unexciting housing but the lake it houses is also home to The Fish Market restaurant which serves fresh catch daily, the menu changing with the catch.

There’s a large patio in back which only serves to heighten the dining experience and the parking lot is always full for a good reason.

Cormorants and pelicans are regularly to be seen, the cormorants languidly sunning their outstretched wings to dry in the sun.

All iPhone 6 snaps, the last by my son who knows to check whether the iPhone has been accidentally changed to square images. His brush top haircut is just visible in the second frame.

An extract of today’s menu.