Miscellaneous and Useless Information

San Francisco Bay Area


After celebrating its 50th anniversary just a few months ago, Kepler’s Books suddenly closed its doors yesterday. What a shock, and what a shame — it was one of the most prominent independent bookstores in the U.S., akin to City Lights in San Francisco, Vroman’s in Pasadena, or Powell’s in Portland. Situated in Menlo Park near Stanford, Kepler’s had a long storied history. It was another victim of the economic downturn and the spread of chain and online bookstores.

Grand openings I’m keeping my eye on:

The malls in Cupertino and Sunnyvale have been in the dumps for a decade, with promises of redevelopment come and loseWeight Exercises Vallco – 2003″ href=”http://sanjose.bizjournals.com/sanjose/stories/2003/06/09/daily55.html”>gone, over and over. But things are finally moving. The owners of Vallco Fashion Park in Cupertino have recently started a major renovation and expansion project, including a new movie theater. (Maybe we can finally get a decent bookstore…) It will look a lot more like a traditional commercial district. There is also a new mixed-use development being built near the city hall and new library, and there are plans for a new downtown at the Crossroads, the old center of town.

Meanwhile, the owners of Sunnyvale Town Center will start demolition of the old parking garage next week, and of the mall itself next year. In fact, the mall, which replaced the old downtown, is being replaced with a new downtown, complete with a replica of the old city hall. (Take a look at the nifty video.) It will also include a new movie theater — how many more can this area take?

Now if only Santa Clara can finish a plan to replace the downtown that it tore down for a mall that never came… By the way, the only reason Mountain View still has its downtown along Castro Street is because it ran out of money to mess with it back in the 1970s.

When I moved to Cupertino in 1989, it had several general bookstores: A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books in the Oaks, a B. Dalton in Cupertino Crossroads, a Waldenbooks in Vallco Mall, and a Crown Books in the Marketplace (across from Vallco). Stacey’s later opened a branch near Vallco. For the geeks, there was Computer Literacy Bookshops. Things stayed the same for about 5 years.

Then, both A Clean Well-Lighted Place and Stacey’s have retreated back to their home bases in San Francisco. Crown Books went bankrupt. The B. Dalton became a bank. The Waldenbooks closed when Vallco went downhill. Computer Literacy Bookshops was bought out and the Cupertino store was closed. (It then became Fatbrain.com and was bought by Barnes & Noble, and the remaining physical stores were also closed.)

So now, in an affluent, highly educated, highly literate city of more than 50,000 people, the nearest bookstores are miles away in Sunnyvale and San Jose. What the *&*#$ is wrong here? How can I keep my tax dollars in my hometown? I only hope that when Vallco is renovated, a Borders or Barnes & Noble comes in.

(Granted, I’m not counting the tiny bookstores that do exist in Cupertino: those that sell spiritual/religious books, Asian language books, or spiritual/religious books written in Asian languages.)

Two nights ago, my buddy Jonathan and I met up for dinner. We were in an adventurous mood, so we went to Vicky’s Restaurant [map | Mercury News review], which specializes in cuisine from El Salvador, in the Burbank neighborhood of San Jose. Jon couldn’t resist the 2 Tacos for $2 deal, but we also made sure to get Salvadorean specials, like pupusas (stuffed fried tortillas), sweet corn tamales with sour cream, and pasteles (mini pies stuffed with meat and vegetables). Highly recommended. It came out to $22 for the two of us, and we were absolutely stuffed.

But we went for ice cream anyway. I suggested Cold Stone Creamery since I had a gift certificate. Jon vehemently rejected it, which was fine by me, since years of training at Berkeley has resulted in a knee-jerk reaction in avoiding chains at all costs. So we drove to Willow Glen, since I figured given its demographics, there had to be at least one ice cream store there.

After going up and down Lincoln Avenue, we found it: The Willow Glen Frozen Yogurt Company [map]. I went for a “small” raspberry frozen yogurt, while Jon went for a “medium” handmade fudge-type ice cream. Boy it was good, but it was too much. “Small” was the third largest size, after child and mini. The frozen yogurt store looks like it’s been there forever and the line was out the door. But it turns out it’s only been open since 2002; the building used to be a Wolf Camera store.

Miracle: Ahnold and the legislature leadership have finally reached a deal on the Bay Bridge replacement. Now maybe this bridge will be built before I turn 40. Sheesh.

Consider this: between 2000 and 2005, housing prices have gone up 46%, or 7.9% per year. But at the same time…

So housing has gone up by almost 50%, but rents and employment have dropped by about 15%? Does this make any sense to anyone?

The Mercury News reviews corporate cafeterias across Silicon Valley. By the way, I’ll say from personal experience that IBM Almaden Research Center’s cafeteria is also quite good. (By the way, all opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, IBM.) Shortly after this article appeared, Charlie Ayers, Google’s head chef and the former chef of the Grateful Dead, left the company to start a healthy food restaurant chain in Silicon Valley.

(Update — February 17, 2006: It may have taken a year, but I’m now somewhat tired of our cafeteria and am bringing lunch much more often.)

Tyler Thompson doesn’t speak the language, but he sings it very well.

Oakland: Boy, 9, a rising star in Chinese opera • San Francisco Chronicle

Boy who sings in Chinese draws oohs, ahs • Oakland Tribune (link good until Feb. 20, 2005)

(Chronicle link added on Febrary 16, 2006)

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