Mission-Driven Graphics

I’m using my new design fast-track certificate from BAVC to tell digital stories. I’ve focused here on stories that can be told from start to finish within a small graphic.

This one is for social media.


This one is to post on napkin dispensers in restaurants. I often find myself annoyed with the handwritten notes asking me to just use what I need. I already know that! The idea here was to more directly link trees and napkins in the patron’s mind.

Paper Napkins Are Trees. Please limit your use.

Feel free to download and use them with attribution.


Graphics to Communicate Medical Information

Although my title at Stanford School of Medicine is writer, I’ve found that medical information is often just too wordy and complicated to communicate through text alone. This is especially true given that patient education materials are targeted to an eighth-grade reading level.

I’ve undertaken two major efforts in this regard:

(1) a chart that shows how patients may be referred when dealing with a cardiovascular medical problem. This stemmed from overhearing a constant stream of phone calls to surgeons in which patients would ask the surgeon for a refill of their blood pressure or other everyday medication.

cardiology_straight-paths(2) an effort to show patients how the words they may have heard from different doctors may be the same, similar or different. If one doctor uses one term and another uses another, the patient may be left believing that they have gotten two completely different diagnoses, when in fact it may be a question of nuance or even simply of different linguistic choices on the part of each doctor. These illustrations are designed to accompany a text-based glossary.

heart diseasebpAsset 3-100HFAsset 3-100

I welcome feedback you may have about how successful these infographics are.

Lost in Gentrification: SF Businesses Forced to Close

Mainstream media outlets have a lot of fun with gentrification. We’ve all heard about how you can’t go anywhere in Brooklyn without running into a bearded hipster in steampunk style with a pour-over coffee. Doesn’t this un-funny and oft-repeated stereotype suggest that there’s something underneath that no one wants to talk about? The bearded hipsters didn’t just appear out of nowhere, and they certainly didn’t bring their own housing and commercial space with them.

Gentrification is not the magical appearance of a wealthier set of people in an area. It’s the forced takeover of the homes and businesses of the people who were there first, the forced destruction of their community institutions. It is colonialism.

A recent news report said, “Some residents say soaring real estate prices have made evictions a big problem.” No-fault evictions have skyrocketed in San Francisco since the tech companies started encouraging their workers to live here by providing free shuttle buses and plastering a city 50 miles away from their offices on all of their HR recruiting materials. The number of dots on the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project shows that. It also shows quite clearly the link between evictions and tech shuttle routes. Those who get evicted are forced to leave the city. Some move to other Bay Area cities and towns, some move to the outer exurbs. Some have to leave the area altogether because rents even in the exurbs have skyrocketed.

As they leave, the businesses they built wither. Roosevelt’s Tamale Parlor, opened when Teddy Roosevelt was president, went under.

The newer restaurants that have opened all operate from the same playbook. Industrial interiors serving precious, artisan ingredients combined rather carelessly. And so overpriced that even those who haven’t been forced out of the city have been forced from its nightlife. When paying rent requires venture capital, this is what you get. Formula retail with a designer price tag.

The new shops are in an arms race to sell the most preciously priced, least useful items. One women’s clothing boutique is called Pretty Penny. My favorite new business is an adventure gear boutique, offering a handful of mountain climbing items at much higher prices than the local business turned global brand, REI. Open just three days a week, it’s a vanity project for an owner who can pay the exorbitant rent without much income. This is where the price wars ultimately lead: to closed monuments to colonization itself. The Mission is gentrified–buy stuff here to go colonize Africa or the Himalayas!

It’s not just the historic, mom-and-pop businesses often owned by the Latinos and Asians who made San Francisco something different from Marin and Half Moon Bay that are closing. It’s everything that isn’t brand new, that hasn’t been made by the tech takeover for the tech takeover.

Here is a partial list, which I’ll update as I do more research. (Add suggestions in the comments!)

Earlier this week (October 2017), I passed by Bissap Boabab and had a momen which has become all too common: First appreciation that it was still there quickly followed by the realization that it must be in danger. Indeed, it was, as a former Facebook investor and the owner of the 19-year-old Senegalese restaurant were warring over rents. The owner managed to buy the building … for twice as much as he’d offered two years ago. But the place seems safe. Give it a try!

Boogaloo’s: This was an upscale answer in its day to the bohemian diners that once packed the Castro and the Mission, and conserved the gorgeous “Cut-rate druggist” building it occupied. There was an epic line until the day it closed. Still sitting vacant.

Books Inc. While it’s not going out of business entirely, the oldest independent book store in the West is being forced from its Castro location due to rents. The company made its announcement on the same day that it won a Publishers Weekly Bookseller of the Year award. They’re going closer to the money, opening up a 4,000 square-foot store in Santa Clara.

Café Gratitude: old-school California at its best/worst, the cultish raw food joint in an old-house storefront on Harrison became an outlet of the local chain The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. That closed too and now it’s Asian “comfort” food I think.

Crepevine: One of the original crepes eateries, Crepevine did brisk business near Church and Market for 18 years. It offered cheaper and better eats than comparable Squat and Gobble. It closed suddenly in early 2018.

Discolandia: Latino music’s cultural hub for 30 years, hosting legendary talents including Celia Cruz. It became Pork & Pie in the early ’00s, with sandwich board that read at one point, “You don’t have to eat another burrito!” Pork & Pie closed just a few years later, and the space went to the upscale fast food chain, Top Round Roast Beef.

Esta Noche: a long-standing gay bar for Latino men on 16th Street. Now it’s called, the irony evidently lost, Bond. A second “New York-style” cocktail lounge (overpriced, industrial) from the same owners.

Gangway: the city’s oldest gay bar is no longer.

Jeffrey’s, a beloved independently owned toy store in the Mid-Market area near Twitter’s subsidized headquarters.

Mission Local Eatery: an early gentrifier on 24th Street, a Chez Panisse copycat with artisanal food with wooden decor. Not industrial enough evidently.

La Movida: which replaced a Mexican restaurant on 24th St. and controversially failed to preserve the mural, kept the casual atmosphere that was the Mission’s hallmark introducing some artisanal-type foods and local wines at a lower price point. About to open as “Big Rec,” a game-themed beer joint.

Lexington Club: the city’s only lesbian bar, around since early 90s. Vacant for a year as of this writing, word is it will become another of Gavin Newsom’s company’s formula bars.

Lost Weekend Video: An amazing video rental place that offers in-house screenings and events. On Valencia since 1997, it announced its closure in March 2016 with a sign that said “Since 1997, Thanks, ‘n’ fuck tech.” Will take a tiny booth spot in the New Mission Theater thanks to nothing but good will from the Alamo Drafthouse.

New Aux Delices: solid Vietnamese food on Potrero Ave. that catered to hospital staff lunches. Now vacant.

Roosevelt Tamale Parlor: tasty Mexican food on 24th Street, opened 1919. Vacant.

St. John Coltrane Church: One of the last remnants of the African American culture that once dominated the Fillmore, this storefront church will shut its doors after 48 years this April.

San Francisco Victoriana: 1973-2016, a business that provided the unique parts and advice to keep a Victorian house up and running without trashing its Victorian fixtures etc. The very houses that have drawn people to San Francisco can no longer be maintained because no one can afford this labor of love.

Samovar: an upscale tea lounge with an Indian-inspired interior; closing its Castro location and leaving open a cramped, more industrial spot in Yerba Buena Center

Sparky’s: Another remnant of more working class times in San Francisco: one of its last 24-hour diners shut its doors in February. Its Castro rent was reportedly $30,000 a month.

Stompers Boots: one of the leather shops that made SoMa home to the bears who didn’t fit in in the Castro. The owner took the business to Fort Lauderdale.

The Stud: One of the city’s oldest gay bars, this place is still a hopping favorite. The property owners are looking to double or triple the rent, and, thus, The Stud may have to close is doors.

Sugarlump was the first coffeehouse to open on 24th Street. Unlike the new generation of coffee shops, it had comfortable chairs and sofas as well as laptop-amenable tables. For several years one of those sofas was my primary place of work. The owners, who also run the Latin American Club, sold in 2016. The new owners kept the name but ruined the vibe with canned music, club-type furniture and high prices. They shut down in less than a year the space quickly reopened as a wine bar.

Thrift Town: A massive thrift store that sold used household items, not just quirky second-hand clothes. Robin Williams once emptied his closets and donated the contents to Thrift Town, including an Armani tux he wore in Good Will Hunting. The prominent landmark on Mission St. closed in early 2017.

Tortilla Flats: quirky lunch spot was paid to shut down in leadup to a whole block makeover proposal that would also tear down two Victorian homes. The plan being held up, and the property is sitting vacant.

Video Games

I’m once again at work building my multimedia storytelling skills. I did a course some time ago on video production at the Bay Area Video Coalition. Since then, Final Cut Pro has gone the way of the dodo. So I have been doing a course on Premiere Pro on I made a video  using footage provided as part of the course. I edited, color corrected, created titles and provided the music (with a little help from Georges Bizet).

I was interested in the interviewees’ descriptions of the personality traits the dogs have developed as a result of being bred to run.


Data Sources

Here are some data sets I poached from someone else’s blog.

Government data in various flavors
Drone strikes in Pakistan
Price of marijuana
Drug use: who uses what and how often
Here’s something healthier: food nutrition information courtesy USDA
More detailed information on food courtesy Canada
Historical traffic data
Traffic data by state
Home energy use in U.S.
Pew surveys on global attitudes over time
Mental health by ethnicity
Global health data
H1-B visas: who gets ’em?

Oh, and Google has a search engine just for databases.

Do Drunk Drivers Get Off Easy in San Francisco?

Well, this was a learning experience. I decided after my previous data venture to compare blood alcohol testing in San Francisco to that in five other Bay Area counties. To do so, I converted a KML file into an Excel spreadsheet. But the data was aligned in cards that spanned several rows and two columns per entry. As far as I can tell, neither Excel nor Refine could fix this problem automatically, nor could they read the data correctly. So, using Macros to take some tiny shortcuts, I reformatted it myself. Along the way, I found that I’d corrupted the data (deleting needed rows, for example), and had to return to the original Excel file. Finally, I used Refine to crunch the data and Illustrator to make the chart. What seems strange about Illustrator is that I had to do a screen grab to make the image into a JPEG. If you’re out there reading this thinking that I made my life much harder than it had to be, do tell me how to simplify matters the next time.