Friday, March 27, 2009

Tomorrow is Earth Hour: Switch Off The Lights!

Here's a meaningful thing you can do for our children's future and the planet. All over the planet tomorrow, people, landmarks, companies and buildings are going to switch off their lights from 8.30 to 9.30pm local time.

Expect the darkest starry (weather permitting) night of the year. The new moon was just a few days ago. Time for a candlelit evening!Earth Hour is a WWF sponsored event and each light out is a vote for Earth. WWF is hoping to be able to reach 1 billion votes as the number of votes will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009. This meeting will determine official government policies to take action against global warming, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol. It is the chance for the people of the world to make their voice heard.

Find out about events, participants and parties in San Francisco, in France, or in Bangkok (my three home places - sort of).

Here are a few other ideas:

- going to a party? bring candles and surprise your host with a candlelit party

- staying home? light candles and play games by candlelight with your friends/children

- going out? there are great Earth friendly events starting at 5pm all over San Francisco.

- get kids involved.

So this Saturday, wherever you are, remember to switch off the lights. When you leave the office tonight, switch off your lights too. If you are as green as green, spread the word, tweet, chat, and blog about it. The more lights out, the better for our planet’s future.

Thank you for your support and help in this exciting worldwide event. Thanks,

Frog Mom

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Capt'n Jack Spareribs: Where is the Barbecue Sauce!?

Someone's riding the Black Pearl wave pretty high since yesterday and he's the funniest pirate you've ever heard of: Capt'n Jack Spareribs a.k.a. Ace Miles just got nominated as the best in the Family Fun category of the San Francisco Chronicle's BayList 2009 contest.

Remember how Captain Jack Sparrow keeps muttering "Where's the rum gone?" Well, Capt'n Jack Spareribs will say: "Where is the barbecue sauce!?" Yes, Mr. Miles is not simply an impersonator of the sexiest man on earth. He's a spoof of many talents who can deliver jokes with a fierce smile. In France, he would be part saltimbanque, part stand-up comic.

He's a performer, an actor, a ventriloquist, a puppeteer, a juggler, a magician, and a self-described scallywag sort of fellow.

Want to see him perform this weekend? No problem. He'll be at Pier 39 (look for Ace Miles) this Friday at 6.15 and 7.30pm, and at Bay Street in Emeryville on Saturday between 11am and 4pm (on the grass circle area). Aaarrrrrrrr....

If you want to see him some more, he has his own stage at the Northern California Pirate Festival, a festival (third year in the running) that attracted 35,000 people in 2008. This year's edition takes place on Father's Day weekend in June in Vallejo. Then of course, he will perform for family or company events. Why sure, a few of the world's worst pirate jokes are sure to relax your clients.

I asked him his favorite joke over the phone. He goes: "Do you know how much a pirate pays to have his ears pierced?" Of course I don't so I keep silent. "A buck an ear!!!" (say it out loud). Now the kid version: "What was the new pirate movie rated?" Answer: "Aaarrrrrr....."

Yes, Capt'n Jack Spareribs is that sort of a rib-tickling guy. And why wouldn't he be? The more I read about pirate sightings and haunts in the Bay Area, the more I am amazed by how many there aaarrrr......

After all, I wrote last year about the San Francisco pirate spirit and it is pretty high. Is it the proximity to Hollywood?

Ironic for a part of the world that never saw even the shade of a single swashbuckling pirate for historical reasons. Hey, when the Yerba Buena fishermen's village boomed in 1848 and 1849, the Golden Age of piracy was over. If you look up your classics, you'll realize that it lasted from the mid 1600s to late 1700s. Take Edward Thatch ( c. 1680 – November 22, 1718, ) otherwise known as Blackbeard. He roamed the Caribbean Sea and the western Atlantic during the early 18th century. Way when North California was not even on the Spanish's map.

So San Francisco, the last pirate frontier? Believe it or not, it's easier to find eye-patched buccaneers than hat and cane walking Victorians in the City by the Bay. Honestly, the city should think about sponsoring a fake pirate fort on the Farallon Islands and charter boatloads of tourists at night in candlelit taverns once on shore. In the kid realm, what playground doesn't have its pirate ship? Isn't Talk Like a Pirate Day widely followed?

Mr. Miles strikes the right chord with the Bay Area audience. Long live Capt'n Jack Spareribs and his talking monkey. May he find his travelling companions before Whole Foods gets to them. Will Burger and Elizabeth Shank, that is. (Sorry, had to give it a beefy try.) Get out there and see Capt'n Jack Spareribs, you'll have a whale of a time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Boring Dinner Concept

It seems like an unlikely combination. Invite people over not to have fun. The party's success would be measured by how bored guests have been. "Were you bored last night?" "Oh yeah, such a drag." "Brilliant!" I've thought about it, time and time over, and still cannot figure out the logistics. It's not like you're inviting people for a cinematic dinner concept or a dinner in the dark. Those are actually fun. The idea behind the Boring Dinner Concept is to invite people who you know are going to have nothing to say to each other. Not necessarily nothing in common, but views that diverge sufficiently and social behaviors that are on different wave lengths so that each conversation starter ends up in a pit. Not to say that food couldn't be good. Although .. if food was good, that'd give something to talk about. Well then, food should be boring too. Neither seasoned nor tasty, the hospital type. You might be wondering, why a boring dinner? Is it necessary. Yes it is, because it's the ultimate paradox and as an antinomic concept, it deserves a shot. Would I tell people that they have been chosen for a concept dinner where boring is the idea? It's a two-edge sword, isn't it? They'd be sort of wondering "Why me?" and I couldn't blame them. Are they in because they are boring or because they are good friends? On the other hand, I'm all for experiments and would love to be invited to one (and then would never call my friend back!). Since I've learned about Tom Mariano's Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art, my Boring Dinner Concept seems a lot more feasable. There are people out there who are wiling to experiment just for art's sake. The Boring Dinner Concept has a close runner-up in my mind which is the Basement Dinner Concept. This one's much easier to organize. Food can be good, drinks can flow freely - it's just weird entertainment. Everybody would sit down between suitcases, odd cartons and boxes on a rough concrete floor, in a damp and chilly basement with a single light bulb on the ceiling above the washer/dryer and with, of course, no bathrooms handy. Meaning, people would basically have dinner in an uncomfortable setting with their coats on but with good food. Think of it as camping without the outdoors. Would anyone come? I wonder. Maybe just my cousin Nathalie Latham, an artist who's all for media installations and has a fantastic eye in photography. Could she produce a boring video? I bet her Sleeping Angels video would find a new life. It's about people sleeping in the subway in Tokyo. That would take the concept to a whole new level for sure. Hang in there Boring Dinner Concept, I'm not giving up yet.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

SCBWI: Social Media Workshop for Children's Books Authors in Walnut Creek

Bay Area children's book authors Lynn E. Hazen and Susan Taylor Brown have their hands full. Between the two of them, they gather no less than 30 online presences. They are, like, crazy connected writers - which was the point of the drive to St Paul's Episcopal Church in Walnut Creek today. The message is clear: writers cannot just write, illustrators cannot just illustrate. They have to get online big time.

You thought a tweet and a Facebook wall were enough in your life besides your Linkedin profile, your IM and your Sunday afternoon blog? Not so.

Lynn and Susan told a crowd of writers and illustrators the ins and outs of (children's) literature-specific web tools such as BookTour, Children's Literature Network, Filedbyauthor, GoodReads, or JacketFlap. The idea, if I understand correctly, is to do the job a good PR person would do for you: get your work out there, promote yourself.

Some websites I knew, others I sure did not suspect, but now I'm looking at the list and pondering, "Hmmm, where do I get started?" My neighbors' consensus seemed to be the blog, the Web 2.0 interactive ever-ecolving gadget for the tech-challenged (cuz you don't even need to know the dreaded html to publish on a Blogger or LiveJournal pre-formatted blog).

OK for the blog, but what about? Apparently I was not the only one to wonder what to write in my blog. During the break, I was very happy to find Eve Aldridge, a fantastic woman I met at the New York Conference in January.

She was the person whose last name I could not remember and ordered a classic cocktail with Tara Callahan King and myself at The Campbell Apartment.

It was a great surprise to see her there, together with illustrators Kieren Dutcher, author Deborah Davis and another woman whose name I'll provide once she writes me an email. They were all wondering what to write about on a blog.

I mean, it's fine to write, but write about the writing process? What if you are an illustrator and don't produce an illustration a week? Blogging less than once a week is on the verge of lame these days. Take two writers blogs as examples and let's analyze the contents.

Lynn Hazen's Imaginary Blog is not so much about the writing process as about her published books, author appearances and media she appears in. As I'm not published in the field yet, I can scrap that angle. However once I am, Lynn's blog is a fun way to go about it.

Susan Taylor Brown's Susan Writes blog is closer to my idea of a blog on writing. It can be anything that catches her attention and writer's eye.

On that basis, I could write that I only take the time to revise my stories one evening on the night before my critique group, which means that I only work on my children's book manuscripts every other week. Not much of a practice, is it?

The rest of the time, I turn the words and the characters around in my head. Sometimes, they wake me up in the middle of the night.

"Hey, how about this instead of that?"

"Thanks, I was sleeping."

"Hey, don't go back to sleep. We just had a better idea."

"Quiet up there!"

It can go on for hours. Things slowly mature in my head and on D-day minus 1, I get on my computer and type away.

My critique group partner, Emile Duronslet Jr - who can never leave a pencil and a blank piece of paper alone, as the photo up there shows - writes every day. When he doesn't write, he draws away in his sketch book and creates characters for his stories or imaginary scenes straight out of his imagination.

Different techniques. Different results too. I got to get back to today's notes: where do I find that 25th hour to write on writing?

Sonoma Coast: Bodega Goat Ranch

A farmathon is a green pastures & smelly pens inspired day trip. It involves going over a bridge (say, the red one), driving an hour, getting on windy roads and following them to the ocean or almost.

Last Friday I visited three farms in a day for my May article on agritourism: Bodega Goat Ranch, Devil's Gulch Ranch and Green Gulch Farm. At the end of the day and after much driving, I was glad to be back ... and glad I brought a cooler along.

The first farm on my list was Bodega Goat Ranch. Bodega Goat Ranch is run by Patty Karlin, a fervent advocate of permaculture and sustainable agriculture and Bodega Goat Ranch is the oldest cheesemaker in Sonoma County.

From her house on top of a hill, Ms. Karlin has a 360 degree view on green rolling hills outside the hamlet of Bodega, solar panels for electricity and water-heating on her rooftop, water reservoirs up the hill to catch rainfall and irrigate, goats roaming free in enclosed pens down the hill for the cheese-making operation, a vegetable garden for a balanced diet, a chicken coop for eggs, and fields awaiting to be planted with tagasaste (protein-rich shrubs) to feed the goats.

Ms. Karlin started in 1985 with a hot plate and a 5-gallon bucket. Her father-in-law had seen an ad in the paper saying "Herd for sale." He knew about goats, bought the herd and the clientele along: 4 clients who received goat cheese shipped by UPS once a week.

Through the years, Ms. Karlin travelled the world to learn and then teach about the benefits of raising goats for communities. From the International Year of the Goat hosted by CATIE - a scientific knowledge and research center in Costa Rica that I see similar to my father's IBSRAM on soil management - to a farming project on the islands of Amantani on Lake Titicaca between Peru and Bolivia, Ms. Karlin travelled far. She even taught cheese-making to the Maasai in Kenya.

"Goats lend themselves to small-scale projects," she said, adding that they "require less pasture space than cows, are a great protein source and can be handled easily by women and children."

Back on the Sonoma Coast, she sells her cheese at the Marin Farmers Market, to local restaurants (such as the Bluewater Bistro or Rocker Oysterfeller's) and she offers private tours of her ranch followed by a cheese tasting.

If only for the cheese tasting (and's rave reviews), it's well worth the drive. Her Charolais, a French style aged pyramid with a nutty aftertaste, is divine and her crema has a delicious goaty taste. All this reminded me of a French goat farm in Bize-Minervois I visited last year (although Combebelles was way more rustic).

Ms. Karlin showed us one of her not-so-secret hideouts for frozen cheeses: a big freezer (about to be cleaned) piled top to bottom with round containers of goat cheese, some plain, some flavored, all good. Yes goat cheese can be frozen, but only if you do it right after the cheese is made. Ms. Karlin also vacuum-packs her cheeses.

With her 30 moms, 60 babies and 2 males, she owns has a nice little goat farm that yields 120 pounds of cheese every week 10 months a(moms nurse their babies 2 months out of the year).

If you live in the Peninsula and Sonoma Coast is not an option, you can also visit Dee Harley's Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero. Ms. Harley bought a male called Romeo from Ms. Karlin recently. It's a small goat world after all.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hidden Villa

Currently researching an article on agritourism or farm outings, I drove down 280 to Los Altos to visit Hidden Villa. Set at the foot of the Santa Cruz mountains (and minutes from the Silicon Valley and multi-million homes), Hidden Villa is pretty unique.

Expect oak trees, rolling hills and 1600 acres of open space dedicated to environmental education. The center includes an organic farm, a youth hostel, hiking trails and a conference center. Unless you've heard about it, Hidden Villa is indeed very hidden.

It's one of three educational farms open to the public in the direct vicinity of San Francisco, the other ones being Slide Ranch in Marin - a wonderful ocean view place that I visited last year in May - and Ardenwood Historic Farm - that I visit in October for their fantastic Harvest Festival.

Sure there are other farms in the Bay Area, but they usually fall into one of two off limits categories: working farms with no public access or educational farms for schools. Very few are open for drop-ins.

I first visited Hidden Villa in 2003 when volunteering for the Hostel Adventure Program, an environmental education program for inner city youth run by the Northern California Youth Hostels.

I remember the tree-hugging staff knitting scarves with wool they carded from sheep they sheared themselves, as well as a discussion on the softness of the farm's respective animals (hey, you wouldn't want to wear a doormat). The place hasn't changed much. Last Saturday, the scarf-knitting tree-huggers were there, guiding groups through the organic garden or around the farm.

Overheard by the garden: "Here is the pizza box, the place where we plant herbs for pizza such as oregano, basil or thyme." As our visit collided with several private parties, we took a self-guided tour of the premises instead of a regular farm tour. Map in hand, we proceeded along the parking lot towards the pasture for sheep and goats. Picnic tables covered in food and colorful presents testified of a child's birthday party.

Right behind the Wolken Education Center, the Education Garden is the local schools' main haunt as they come to help with garden chores regularly. It could be a nicer organic garden without chicken wire all around but racoons, deer and other local wildlife have to be kept at bay and can be devastating.

I wonder why I remember Slide Ranch's organic garden as so much greener and prettier. Oh wait, I went there in late spring on a glorious day - not in late winter on a chilly day. Silly me.

Our girls went through a black plastic tunnel to enter the garden while we grown-ups boringly pushed a gate open - should suggest a climbing wall to get in to make it more exciting.

For our preschoolers, exploration began right away, including going from bed to bed, smelling, touching, watching and on the rare occasion, identifying plants. "Mom, look, they grow arugula!" I heard. The Aha moment. Now I know my backyard planter box serves a purpose.

Two natural "tree" (or rather bush) houses await warmer spring days to cover them with green leaves, which will make them quite interesting as they house short tree stumps that children use as rustic stools.

After we walked around the whole garden, I took my junior explorers to the compost pile and asked with a smile, "Say girls, can you tell me what's in here?"

Note to self: it's a compost pile, not a Barbie store. What was I expecting? As they recognized egg shells, tea bags, half-eaten slices of toast and orange peel, they became squirmy and let out an honest and loud "Eeeuw, it stinks!" There.

No love story between the compost pile and my delicate children's nostrils who think that hay stacks and cow dung stink too. Sheesh... urban girls. Fortunately, the poultry palace left a much better impression on them.

Located next to a Stick-Eastlake Victorian house whose gingerbread could use some fresh paint, the poultry palace is a big open space with crazy chickens cuckling around, apple trees blossoming on bare branches and roosters tending their harem.

There's even a lonely tired mamma pig dozing off in the Piggery (her five piglets are in a pen further next to the blacksmith forge). Even if they were intimated by the roaming and royal feathery company, my girls enjoyed this a lot.

My youngest one looked for shiny feathers on the ground while the oldest one tried to spot unusual color hues on the neck of hens. Last, we went to see the baby pigs a.k.a. The Three Little Pigs.

I had been told on the phone that there were baby pigs and they were sort of the attraction of our trip, even if we had seen baby sheep in the pasture earlier.

Pink and black, cute enough but not so small, these baby pigs were doodling around. Really too bad farms can't do without the chicken wire fence.

I also wish there were more animals to occupy the space Hidden Villa has. What I guess I mean is that I would love Hidden Villa to look like a working farm with big herds of grazing and browsing cows and sheep, not large grass enclosures with a few animals peppered randomly. Good for them though, they have plenty of place to roam around and must be the happiest free-range animals of the Silicon Valley.

By piglet time, our stomachs were hinting that it was lunch time too (no, we didn't want to eat the piglets).

We walked back, picked up some sticks, put them down and got back on 280.

We had lunch at Buck's of Woodside, a weird breakfast/lunch place with the kitchiest decorations around the dining room. From a stuffed monkey flying in a space shuttle to cased miniature everything or a flea circus, they have an impressive collection of dust magnets. Too bad the food doesn't level with the family appeal of the place.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Outdoor Exploratorium: Cool Science at Fort Mason

Did you think Fort Mason had nothing to offer junior minds other than the Young Performers Theatre and a few music/art classes? Think twice. They're about to discover the true meaning of science and so are you.

"This screen tracks the mid-span of the bridge as it expands and contracts," says Peter Richards. Mr. Richards is senior Artist-in-Residence at the Exploratorium and co-author of the Wave Organ, one of San Francisco oddest public works of art with concrete pipes of different sizes gurgling with sea water and making sounds best enjoyed at high tide with caffeine.

The screen he's showing me looks like a small TV screen on a pedestal, one of those things tourists would use to watch the Bay from Coit Tower. He goes on: "We think of the bridge as an instrument to measure the temperature."

Indeed as the bridge heats up, its steel cables expand and the bridge goes down by ... up to 15 feet. As the day gets cooler, the bridge goes back up again. The bridge also expands and contracts sideways, its total length being 3 feet longer or shorter depending on the temperature. Think about that next time you cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

Bridge Thermometer is one of the new exhibits that the Outdoor Exploratorium unveils to the public tomorrow. The idea is simple: making science accessible by looking around you.

"There are scientific phenomenons to appreciate everywhere around you, things as mundane as cracks in the pavement," says Charles Sowers, artist and senior exhibit designer at the Exploratorium.

The Outdoor Exploratorium consists of 14 different experiments spread out all over Fort Mason, all relating to the local environment, some harder to notice than others.

On Tuesday, I toured the exhibits with two fifth and sixth grade classes from the Commodore Sloat Elementary School. The kids were asked to fill up two pages of scavenger hunt and boy were they asking questions.

Their math and science teacher, Ms. Schock, is part of a collaborative effort between the Exploratorium and a group of teachers called the Teacher Institute. Together, they train teachers for outdoors science wherever they are. So thanks to Ms. Schock, these lucky kids get to experiment the exhibits first. And what are they?

Tasting the Tides is a modified drinking fountain that allows visitors to experience the surprising range of salt content in local waters. Did you know Bay shrimps needed a 2.5 salinity level and moved around the Bay to find it and reproduce? Closer to the tourists' hearts, the salt level is why there are so many sea lions at Pier 39 and so few sharks. Sharks like it salty, sea lions less so.

Wind Arrows is perhaps one of the most noticeable exhibits and occupies a prime real estate location with a view on the Golden Gate. Red arrows at different levels show how wind patterns move in layers.

Up the hill is a former search light building converted into House of Days, a neat wall where a projector shows photos of the atmosphere every 60 minutes on the hour. With a button, you can zoom in and go back several days or hours to see how the sky looked like then. Kids really reacted to this one.

The one I remember most is neither the most poetic nor the most impressive. It's called Fracture Mapping and it basically requires you to look for shapes on the asphalt of Fort Mason's parking lot. Huh?

Actually, the shapes symbolize the shape of cracks in the ground, which cracks tell you a lot about the hidden geological stresses beneath your feet.

Cracks parallel to trafic most likely are caused by cars, whereas perpendicular cracks are caused by the earth rumbling below.

Other exhibits we stopped by included Speed of Sound, a funky post where you hit a button, hear a bell ring and get to figure out how far the bell is. It's over there, by the edge of the pier. On top of the bell is a light. So which did you hear or see first: the bell ringing or the light blinking? How's that for an explanation on the speed of sound and light?

The Aquatic Poetry Award goes to Shawn Lani of the Exploratorium team for showing us Tasting the Tides as well as Wave Tracing, a loose piling on the Festival Pavilion that traces the movement of currents, waves and tides with fine sand in a round glass box.

Mr. Lani explains the mechanics of the waves to hypnotized 10-year-olds: "Whenever a boat drives by, it creates waves. The waves hit the pier, bounce off that sea wall, come back and eventually hit this poor little pier. It creates drawing here with sand."

How long does it take a wave to come out here after it hits a boat? The answer, dear reader, is yours to find out when you go out there. Simply count the seconds.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What Stacey's Taught Me: A Manifesto in the Defense of Bookstores

Stacey's is closing. Now you can even buy the fixtures of the octogenarian bookstore located at Market and Second Street. Saturday March 14, 2009 will sign the last page of a sweet turned sour love story between the bookstore and San Francisco's Financial District.

When I went there two weeks ago to stock up on young readers and chapter books, the shelves already looked right out of the post-Soviet era: two thirds empty, one third full of random titles in unpredictable numbers.

Stacey's falls victim to the economic crisis, sure, but didn't we all sign its death warrant by using in the first place?

It's like in that horribly bad movie with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks called You've Got Mail. The movie's corny at best but it sums things up pretty well. Small children's neighborhood bookstore thrives. Big bookstore opens around the corner. Small bookstore slowly abandoned by formerly loyal customers and authors. Impossible love hate story between big bookstore capitalist owner and small bookstore book-lover employee. The (happy) end. Except in Stacey's case, no white knight came to the rescue. is easy to use. You don't have to go to it, it sneaks to you inside your home on your favorite companion - your computer screen. It jumps at you - more like - if you get blasted by regular marketing emails.

Check mate dear old Stacey's. The lunch-time author readings, the partnership with the Commonwealth Club, the gift-wrapping service on the mezzanine were not enough.

Is this the end of bookstores? Hopefully not, but it's a sure wake-up call to traditional bookstores. Guys, you gotta shake things up if you want to survive. Sadly, bookstores cannot just be bookstores anymore.

The Corte Madera illustrious Book Passage probably gets more revenue from its conferences, workshops and writing salons than from its book sales. Good thing they're friends with Isabel Allende too.

Other bookstores become community centers with books on the shelves. Last Saturday, I attended a small party at Red Hill Books for the second printing of Bernal Eats, a cookbook by the Bernal Heights community to fund the renovation of its library branch. I contributed two recipes and co-author Judy Shei (here on the picture) asked me if I could make one of them for the party. I obliged and brought three different jars of grapefruit marmelade.

It was sweet. There was live music by OctoMutt, kids running around, a buffet prepared by local families and a beaming employee of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. "We sold 250 copies of the book over the holidays and we'll probably sell another 100 today," she said.

Meanwhile, my husband was reading books on how to mummify your relatives to my Egypt-obsessed junior crew. Bookstores like that bring a lot more than book readings to a neighborhood.

Another great example is Cover to Cover in Noe Valley. It holds a special place in the San Francisco teen literati hall of fame: when J.K. Rowling toured the US to sell the first Harry Potter, the only stop she made on the West Coast was at Cover to Cover. There. Since then, the bookstore has organized late night pajama parties for the launch of each of the books of the series.

As Noe Valley is stroller heaven in the southern part of the city, they also have a very good selection of children's books with - my favorite part - a small wooden house in the kids section where children love to hide and play while parents browse. Storytime every Friday. Cover to Cover also delivers free of charge to Potrero Hill, Noe Valley, the Mission and Bernal Heights. Now, are you convinced?

Now, what have I learned from Stacey's slow funeral? Last Friday I was eavesdropping at the office in the kitchen. Two guys were talking loud. They wanted to see the movie "Watchmen" but anticipated disappointment as they so much loved reading the comic book. One guy particularly talked about his hardcover edition from his teenage years.

It made me want to read the book. That same afternoon, I logged on I selected two hardcover copies (one for my husband, one for my older brother). I hit "Checkout", selected a credit card and was about to hit "Send" when I thought about Stacey's.

I deleted the screen, found the website of Cover to Cover, and emailed them my order. "You'll have your books by Tuesday," they replied that night. Fine, I could wait. No hurry.

Today I dropped by. My girls played in the little wooden house while the bookseller wrapped the books. I felt relieved. Phew! I almost used again. Books don't belong in virtual reality. They need shelves, papery neighbors and above all, a good bookseller who knows his books better than a librarian. Hopefully other people will start using their bookstore not just as a place to browse through books you order later online, but as a place to buy books.

And why not, knitting or book club places too? Now, if only San Francisco saw wine bars/bookstores like in Paris La Belle Hortense, wouldn't that beat any online experience?