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Thrift stores can yield awesome like-new stuff for reasonable prices, if you’re patient and willing to dig through racks of clothing.  Shopping at Buffalo Exchange on Telegraph for the first time this semester was a magical and eye-opening experience for me.  I walked in feeling completely crapulous at the tail end of a fairly awful week, and walked out two hours later with a twinkle in my eye and spring in my step, clutching a bag stuffed full of cheap new clothes.

The buy counter at Buffalo Exchange.

Michael's roommate calls this phenomenon "retail therapy".

Buffalo Exchange essentially buys, sells, and trades used clothing.  It, like several other thrift stores in Berkeley, is based on the premise of recycled fashion.  Keep in mind that we are not talking old-lady puffy-paint applique holiday themed sweatshirts here:

You know the kind I mean.

You know the kind I mean.

Rather, thanks to the discerning eye of the store’s buying team, shopping at Buffalo Exchange feels akin to raiding the closet of an older sister, cool aunt, or best friend.  Every item in the store is unique, and the merchandise changes constantly.  Low prices make it affordable to experiment with new pieces that I might otherwise not be daring enough to try.  Pieces such as:

Polka-Dot Skirt, Express, $8.50

Polka-dot skirt, Express, $8.50

Party dress, Roxy Rox, $12.00

Party dress, Ruby Rox, $12.00

Brown top, Express, 50% off at $3.25

Brown top, Express, 50% off at $3.25

Mock-tweed jacket, La Belle, $9.50

Mock-tweed jacket, La Belle, $9.50

Black fitted jacket, Arden B., $14.00

Black fitted jacket, Arden B., $14.00

Green hooded vest, rue21, $11.50

Green hooded vest, rue21, $11.50

I am particularly stoked with my discovery of the $12 strapless Ruby Rox dress.  I recently paired it with on-sale shiny black peeptoe heels from going-out-of-business Shoe Pavilion on Shattuck, $2 bold red hoop earrings from Wet Seal, and black nail polish from the dollar store.  I felt quite glamorous, with a punk-rock sort of edginess.

Katherine’s Tips: How to shop at Buffalo Exchange

When you first arrive, it’s tempting to want to buy twenty things in one go because they’re all so cheap.  Just be sure to follow these ground rules to avoid complete anarchy of the wallet:

  1. When you decide to buy something in the fitting room, first make a mental note of the maximum price you would pay, then look at the price tag.  Compare the two.  If your price is below Buffalo’s, buy the item.  If not, save your money for a better discovery.
  2. Remember that some items would be steals if they were new, but are only mediocre deals when you consider that they are used.  In these cases, save your money for actual new clothing from an actual new clothing store.
  3. Before your final purchase, inspect the clothing for damage and wear.  Nothing deflates consumer surplus more than finding out that half of the sleeve of your new jacket is falling off.

Like any great store in Berkeley, Buffalo Exchange does its part to help the environment.  In addition to the resources you inherently conserve by not demanding the production of new textiles, the store encourages customers to bring their own bags.  Buffalo Exchange also holds an annual Earth Day Dollar Sale, wherein certain items are a mere dollar, and the proceeds go to nature conservation.  As if you needed any more incentive to get shopping.

Buffalo Exchanges Tokens for Bags program donates five cents to one of several worthy charities when you bring in your own bag.

Buffalo Exchange's Tokens for Bags program donates five cents to one of several worthy charities when you bring in your own bag. (Flickr credit: jvree)

Jealous?  Don’t despair if you don’t live in Berkeley — there’s likely a Buffalo Exchange near you.  You’ll probably walk out with the same twinkle in your eye and spring in your step, cheerfully asking Buffalo Exchange, as I did, “Where have you been all my life?”


I didn’t always blog for ChunkIt! at exploring berkeley.  My illustrious blogging career began this summer during my internship at TigerLogic’s San Jose offices, when I teamed up with Michael to craft a post about our crazy intern field trip to Berkeley to shoot a promotional video.

T.I.G.E.R.s storm Sather Gate.

The T.I.G.E.R.s storm Sather Gate. What did you do at your internship this summer?

Without futher ado, here’s some vintage Katherine from TigerLogic’s blog:


T.I.G.E.R. Logic

By all outward appearances, I have a perfectly respectable grown-up job this summer. Every day from 9 to 5 (okay, 9:30 to 5:30) I sit in a cubicle and, as part of a team of interns, brainstorm ways to market ChunkIt! to college students. We have weekly objectives to accomplish, payrolls to be filled out, and status reports to be written. But once in a while, we all get to go out of the office and do something wild and crazy. And that’s when we transform from square-minded Clark Kents into marketing Supermen (and -women).

This week, we took a field trip to stage a protest in (where else?) Berkeley. We marched under the auspices of T.I.G.E.R. (The Innovative Group for Effective Research). Our topic of protest? Slow search times on the Internet. Our mission? To enlighten the good people of Berkeley about the birth of a solution. Armed with classic hand-painted protest signs adorned with biting witticisms such as “URL Sinners” and “Practice Safe Search”, we stormed through historic Sather Gate and up the steps of Sproul Hall. No longer would we stand by and watch as millions toiled through the daunting labyrinth of the Interwebs. As the 300 Spartans before us, we stood bravely on the steps of Sproul Hall and shouted, “This is CHUNKIT!”

The T.I.G.E.R.s evangelize to those in the dark about slow search.

The T.I.G.E.R.s evangelize to those in the dark about slow search.

Well, not really, but close. My fellow intern and cubiclemate Joli unleashed her talent as a singer/songwriter/choreographer with catchy protest anthems such as “ChunkIt Like It’s Hot” and “I Chunked a Page and I Liked It”*. JJ and Rob raged against the machine, leading the crowd in chanting “Orange Power” and “What do we want? (Faster searches!) When do we want ‘em? (Now!) How we goin’ to get ‘em? (ChunkIt!)” Meanwhile, cameraman Brian and aspiring reporter Steven recorded the day’s events with stunning cinematography and journalistic integrity.

A few bystanders tentatively approached us to see what the commotion was about. Other onlookers, mostly unsuspecting tourists, chattered excitedly amongst themselves. Some, possibly under the impression that they were witnessing the rebirth of the free speech movement, took photographs and home videos to show their friends and family why the town has earned the nickname “Berserkeley”. Our protest gained a touch of symbolism with a computer-shaped piñata labeled “Slow Search”. Hungry college students and small children partook in the festivities, wielding a ChunkIt! bat to bring slow search to its demise. One Berkeley native approached me to say, “I really approve of what you guys are doing here. I’d totally jump in and help you protest, but I’m so high at the moment, I don’t even know what I’m saying.” I thanked him politely anyway.

The T.I.G.E.R. team marches down Telegraph Avenue.

The T.I.G.E.R. team marches down Telegraph Avenue.

After exhausting our supply of business cards, losing our voices, and leaving the town plastered with “I Got Chunked” stickers, we trudged back to Shattuck Avenue for the long BART journey home. Just as Superman returns to his phone booth, we returned to our cubicles at the office and became Clark Kents once more…until our next mission.


The result of our trip to Berkeley was the following video, edited by whiz kid Brian.  If you’re friends with me or another TigerLogic intern, look closely, and you may be able to spot us.

All riled up and hungry for more?  Browse ChunkIt’s YouTube channel or download ChunkIt! to save yourself from slow search before it’s too late.

*It should be noted that I do not under any circumstances condone listening to Snoop Dogg or Katy Perry.

Imagine this: An experimental restaurant in Berkeley bills customers $0.00 for their meal and encourages them to pay the generosity forward however they wish.

That’s right.  Karma Kitchen, which began in March 2007, is open Sundays for lunch, issues no bills, is volunteer-staffed, and is based entirely on the premise that we could all do with a little more good karma in the world.

Paul Van Slambrouck.)

Viral Mehta, co-founder of Karma Kitchen, familiarizes the day's volunteer servers about their tasks before the restaurant opens.

Karma Kitchen rents out Taste of the Himalayas restaurant on Shattuck on Sundays from 11-3.  Customers eat a delicious vegetarian and mostly Indian-inspired meal prepared by chef Chatra Lamichaney, but they don’t get a check at the end:

“Instead, the guests of this restaurant are handed a gold envelope with a handwritten note on the outside that says, ‘Have a lovely evening.’ Inside a bookmarker-sized card states: ‘In the spirit of generosity, someone who came before you made a gift of this meal. We hope you will continue the circle of giving in your own way!””

The Christian Science Monitor, “A restaurant with no checks”

Most guests choose to pay for the next guest’s meal; others choose to volunteer at the restaurant one Sunday, but Karma Kitchen leaves it entirely up to you, as long as you give something back to the world.  How cool is that?

Karma Kitchen's current volunteer sign-up list from their website; it gives you an idea of what tasks volunteers do.

Karma Kitchen's current volunteer chart on the website shows who has signed up to do which tasks in the upcoming month of Sundays.

I am so sad that I learned about Karma Kitchen on a Sunday.  Now I have to wait an entire week before I can try it out myself and tell you about it.  If I like it, which I’m pretty sure I will, I’ll volunteer the next week.  In the meantime, you can read an early article about Karma Kitchen back when it was open for Saturday night dinners, check out the glowing reviews on Yelp, or visit Karma Kitchen’s website to learn more about their business model.

My Firefox bookmarks toolbar is rigorous to-do checklist for procrastination.  There’s Gmail that needs checking, Facebook that needs stalking, Woot! that needs wooting, and Twitter that needs tweeting.  It’s a wonder that I manage to get it all done.

My bookmarks probably also say a lot about me: the person that I am, the things I’m interested in, where my priorities lie:

I think bookmark toolbars could replace Rorschach inkblot tests for psychological evaluation.

I think bookmark toolbars could replace Rorschach inkblot tests for psychological evaluation.

Note the rightmost bookmark, labeled “vicarious living”.  I must here confess to you that I am a Craigslist Missed Connections addict.  Hey, I hear that scoff.  Don’t judge.

Just in case you don’t know about Missed Connections, it’s basically a section on Craigslist that allows people to post descriptions of chance encounters with mysterious strangers — in a coffeeshop, on the morning commute, at the post office — when they felt a compelling connection.  Perhaps a smile was shared, or there was fleeting eye contact as the two strangers looked at each other, then away, then at each other again.  Missed Connections gives them a place to try to find each other again if they find themselves thinking about that stranger and can’t quite let it go.

Oh, shut it.  I like this stuff.

Toothpaste for Dinner on Missed Connections.

Toothpaste for Dinner likes Missed Connections, too.

Jess over at Smiles in Easy Open Packages wrote last month about the delightful trashiness of Mills & Boon paperback romances.  Wikipedia succinctly sums up every Mills & Boon story, ever, in just one sentence:

“Common themes are rich, ennobled and initially unattainable males (often of Mediterranean–especially Greek–origin), the desire of a character to have a baby (with this being thwarted by infertility or an unsympathetic husband), and the breakup and mending of a relationship.”

Wikipedia, “Mills & Boon”

If Mills & Boon allows little old ladies to live vicariously through personal assistant Sienna as she falls for her billionaire playboy boss Alexander Wentworth, CL Missed Connections is like the Mills & Boon of the Internet generation.  And best of all, it’s real life.

Here’s why I love reading CL Missed Connections.  Each cryptic three-line post offers a snapshot, a fleeting glimpse, into the life of an anonymous stranger, allowing me to see the world through their eyes if only for a few moments.  Viewed rapidly, one after another, I think the posts form an endearing picture of humanity, filled with billions of individuals that are just bumping into each other trying to go about their daily lives and, once in a while, have a chance encounter that could possibly be something special.

Sort of like London dispersion forces.

Sort of like London dispersion forces.

Here are some of my favorite posts from last week:

Cute blonde girl that works at Cafe Intermezzo around lunchtime) – m4w – 21 (berkeley)

Thanks for mixing-in the extra dressing when I asked for an extra on the side. “That way you save some money!” I appreciate the financial advice. Good looking out — you must have a really good eye for poor college students. As it turns out, I was laid off from my job a couple weeks ago. So saving me that extra $1 might go a long way!!

You’re cute. And you also have a rad smile.

Pho Yoga girl ….. why were you eating alone ? – m4w – 26 (berkeley)

You were the very pretty girl in the lululemon top eating by yourself at Pho-Hoa in Berkeley.
I was the shy guy in the black sweater trying to catch your eye, but you were very into your newspaper.

Shucks! Hopefully you read this.

guy at the co-op party in berkeley – w4m – 28 (berkeley)

I was a greek goddess, and perhaps a little drunk… you were the “un-you” in a button-down shirt. We talked for 20 minutes in the hall during the party, and all my friends wanted to know why I didn’t give my number to “the cute guy.” I’d love to give it to you now… drop me a line?

Class Crush – m4w – 19 (berkeley)

So you are in my japanese history class and i noticed you day one, but the more and more i see you the more i would like to get to know you. Ive been making futile efforts to sit next to you for the past few weeks and succeeded twice (actually once you sat next to me it was exciting). For some reason i have a hard time saying anything around you, once i commented on our quirky professor consistently popped collars and today i ‘woke you up’ from your mid-class doze. I would love to talk to you sometime maybe over coffee, i hear thats what kids are doing these days. Anywho you probably wont read this so sucks to be me, maybe ill have to pluck up the courage to talk to you.

Cute, right?  Read the latest Berkeley Missed Connections here, or bookmark your own city’s.

At 8 pm PST Tuesday night, celebrations erupted all over California as Barack Obama was announced the next president of the United States, but there were surely few better places to be to experience the excitement than on the streets of Berkeley.


Hundreds of students gathered in the streets of Berkeley after Sen. Barack Obamas victory in the presidential election Tuesday night.

Hundreds of students gathered in the streets of Berkeley after Sen. Barack Obama's victory in the presidential election Tuesday night. (The Daily Californian)

I will save the actual writing of the eyewitness account for Vivek, who was actually on Telegraph that evening and has graciously agreed to guest blog about what I’m sure he will term “a hella sick evening, like, HELLA SICK”.

For now, you should definitely check out The Daily Californian’s excellent photo slideshow that perfectly captures the spirit of the evening, or read more in Tess Townsend’s article “Berkeley Celebrates Obama’s Victory“.

Berkeley’s commercial district is mainly comprised of small, independently-owned shops; there’s actually a city law that caps the number of chain stores that can do business here.  I’ve spent many afternoons wandering in and out of shops on Telegraph or Shattuck browsing their curious wares, always looking for that dusty hidden treasure nestled in a corner somewhere.  Some of the best shops in Berkeley to peruse are its bookstores, which buy and sell new and used books of all kinds.

Moes Books makes an appearance in The Graduate when Dustin Hoffmans character travels to Berkeley.

Moe's Books on Telegraph makes an appearance in The Graduate (1967) when Dustin Hoffman's character travels to Berkeley.

“Moe’s moved to Telegraph Avenue just in time for the Free Speech Movement.  During the Vietnam protests, Telegraph became the flashpoint for numerous run-ins with the police and national guard. When curfews were called by the authorities, Moe would refuse to close his doors, saying people were free to walk on the streets. An occasional tear gas canister would roll down the street and many protesters took refuge in the store.”

Moe’s Books

I still pass Moes on my way to class every morning.  Next year will be their 50th year of business.

I still pass Moe's on my way to class every morning. Next year will be their 50th year of business.

While Moe’s gets top marks for having four floors of books on virtually any subject you can think of, and is certainly a Telegraph Avenue landmark, Half Price Books on Shattuck is my favorite bookstore in Berkeley to buy books from.  Although HPB is a chain store (I was quite sad when I found out), it is the literature equivalent of Berkeley Bowl, with quality books at shockingly low prices.  HPB is housed in the historical Kress Building on the corner of Shattuck and Addison.

The Kress Building in 1933.

The Kress Building in 1933.

Today, the Kress Building houses Half Price Books, a jazz school, and a theare company.

Today, the Kress Building houses Half Price Books, a jazz school, and a theare company.

Today, the Kress Building houses Half Price Books, a jazz school, and a theatre company.

I always go into HPB with an open mind and come out with a great find or two.  A few buys I’m particularly proud of:


America, The Book. Hardcover. Retail: $24.98. HPB: $5.00.


Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Hardcover. Retail: $15.99. HPB: $7.00.

The Godfather. Paperback. Retail: $15.00. HPB: $4.00.


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Paperback. Retail: $7.99. HPB: $3.50.

HPB’s stock is discounted because it’s usually overstock or very, very gently used books.  Most of the time, you can’t even tell they’ve been read, and adding an inexpensive book is a great way to personalize a gift.  I’m a bookworm, though, so most of the books I buy here are for me.  I go about once a month, and treat myself to any one book I want.  Getting a new book can make a bad day better, and a little literacy never hurt anyone.

Well, almost never.

Well, almost never, according to this Threadless shirt.

Half Price Books

2036 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 526-6080

Earlier this month, I blogged about wondrously cheap and fresh produce at Berkeley Bowl off Shattuck.  The Los Angeles Times wrote an article on Sept. 22 about the very same Berkeley Bowl, but painted a rather darker picture of the store as a realm of violent and ruthless shoppers bent on getting their produce, and of soup-Nazi-esque strictness that punishes sampling with a lifetime ban from the premises.

Juvenile delinquents at Berkeley Bowl just seconds before being forcibly ejected from the premises by an armed enforcement officer for sampling fruit.

Juvenile delinquents at Berkeley Bowl just moments before being forcibly ejected from the premises by an armed enforcement officer for sampling nectarines.

I had to laugh at their title, though: “At Berkeley Bowl, the nuts are off the shelf”.

L.A. traffic.  Who are the real nuts?

L.A. traffic. Who are the real nuts?

I went to Berkeley Bowl off Shattuck for the first time yesterday and left wondering where it had been all my life.  Berkeley Bowl is a local, non-chain store version of Whole Foods, that carries fresh local produce at eye-poppingly low prices.

How much would you pay at your local supermarket for this collection of vegetables?  (Hold on to your eyeballs.)

broccoli, roma tomatoes, celery, baby carrots, red potatoes, sprouts

Clockwise, from top: broccoli, roma tomatoes, celery, baby carrots, red potatoes, sprouts.

Here’s how much you can expect to pay at Berkeley Bowl:

  • Baby carrots: $0.89
  • Sprouts: $1.15
  • Roma tomatoes: $0.50
  • Red potatoes: $0.64
  • Bunched broccoli: $1.08
  • Celery: $0.59
  • Credit for bringing my own bag: -$0.05
  • Total: $4.80

I thought that the cashier had made a mistake at first and forgotten to swipe half of my produce through the register.  I wouldn’t have even been able to pay for my purchase if I used debit card because it was under the $5.00 minimum charge.  Wowza.

I’ve spoken to a few veteran shoppers and they agree that you’re better off buying non-produce at Trader Joe’s or another supermarket, but that you can’t beat Berkeley Bowl for its selection and prices of fruits and veggies.

Here’s the info, in case you want to make a visit to see for yourself:

Berkeley Bowl

2020 Oregon Street

Berkeley, CA 94703

This cheerfully irreverent blog satirizes what Adam Sternbergh of The New Republic magazine calls “the uneasy marriage of urban affluence and liberal (and/or progressive, and/or alternative, and/or ‘indie’) ideals”.  It’s written from the point of view of someone giving advice on how to befriend white people, but it really pokes fun at lifestyle rather than race.  I’m sure everyone, especially those of you who live in Berkeley, knows one or two people that perfectly match the description below:

They love nothing better than sipping free-trade gourmet coffee, leafing through the Sunday New York Times, and listening to David Sedaris on NPR (ideally all at the same time). Apple products, indie music, food co-ops, and vintage T-shirts make them weak in the knees.

They pretend to be unique, yet somehow they’re all exactly the same, talking abut how they “get” Sarah Silverman’s “subversive” comedy and Wes Anderson’s “droll” films. They are also down with diversity and up on all the best microbrews, breakfast spots, foreign cinema, and authentic sushi. They’re organic, ironic, and do not own TVs.

Stuff White People Like

Sample quotes:

On kitchen gadgets: When trying to bond with white people over kitchen gadgets, “just throw out a combination of these words: ‘le Creuset, Calphalon, All Clad, Williams Sonoma, and Sur Le Table.  White people go so nuts when they hear these words, you won’t even have to finish your sentence.'”

On reusable bottles of water: “Most white people need to run their water through some sort of filter (Brita or PUR) before they put it into their bottle. This allows them to feel good about using a refillable bottle, but it also makes it more complicated, which they also like.”

On girls with bangs: “For white people, this simple haircut makes a bold declaration by saying that the wearer is artistic, deep, and has probably dated a guy in a band you like.”

On vintage t-shirts: “In the event that two white people have shirts that meet this criteria, the superior ranking is given to the person who paid the least for the shirt.  Acquiring a shirt at a vintage clothing store is seen as less respectable than sorting through racks at the Goodwill.”

On outdoor performance clothes: The reason for wearing expensive outdoor performance clothes from REI and L.L. Bean?  Always be prepared.  “It could be 4:00 p.m. on a Saturday when they might  get a call, ‘Hey man, you know what we need to do? Kayak then camping, right now. I’m on my way to get you, there is no time to change clothes.'”

Stuff White People Like has become so popular, one of the blog authors has published a book.

The definitive guide to the unique taste of millions.

Currently #13 on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Ironically, the popularity of Stuff White People Like has been covered in the New York Times and on NPR, the very media outlets of the blog’s subjects.  Sternbergh, a self-professed “admitted yoga-practicing, public-radio-listening, Wrigley Field-visiting, Wes Anderson-movie-watching, Arrested Development-championing white dude”, loves the blog “because if there’s one thing white people really like, it’s pretending to poke fun at themselves while actually being allowed to feel superior.”

I really like the blog, but I’ve started to recognize some of the Berkeley-esque things I do covered as topics.  When does Stuff White People Like stop being satire and start being one of the trends it mocks?

Berkeley is famous for its Gourmet Ghetto, an area of North Berkeley near Shattuck that contains legendary restaurants like Chez Panisse, The Cheese Board, and the first ever Peet’s Coffee.  One restaurant is a cute cupcake shop called Love At First Bite.

Vine Ave. storefront

Someone needs to tell them that there is no such word as "cupcakery". There is no verb to "cupcake".

Love At First Bite capitalizes on the cupcake trend of recent years, selling $3 cupcakes in unusual flavors like “razzle dazzle”, “PB affair”, “matcha green tea”, and “chocolate maltball”.  I think that’s a bit pricey.  The cupcakes are not especially artfully decorated, and I’ve heard the cupcakes are nothing to fall in love with, but it’s a good concept nonetheless.

My younger sister and I made these cupcakes with her icing decorator tool one 4th of July:

You know a kid is culinarily incined when she asks for a professional icing decorator tool for Christmas.

You know a kid is culinarily incined when she asks for a professional icing decorator tool for Christmas.

I browsed Flickr and found some more awesome cupcakes for you to feast your eyes on:

Lego Cupcakes by hello_naomi

Lego Cupcakes by hello_naomi


Cappucino Dream by 4GoodnessCake!

Four and Twenty Blackbirds by abbie_tabbie

Four and Twenty Blackbirds by abbietabbie

For A Shop Opening by Le Cupcake

For A Shop Opening by Le Cupcake

Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes from dukeinnewyork

Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes by dukeinnewyork