Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Chak's Editorial: More San Francisco Bay Area content for Fresco News? Possible NBC addition? And for Boston?

Open up the Fresco News app and I found an assignment asking me to be at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco. And yes, I encountered NBC Bay Area business and technology reporter Scott Budman. I did see him in person on that day and see if Budman could give some thoughts about what he thought about the Fresco News and Stringr apps. Budman currently has very little to say about using those apps. The focus here is more on the Fresco News app rather than the Stringr app.

But what Budman never saw was what was on the other side of his mind, namely from the view of Fresco News. Markets without any Fresco News assignments given out, especially groups owned by various different companies, particularly by NBC and by Hearst (the latter of which they own SFGATE, which that is one of Fresco News' partners in San Francisco, for instance). Boston and Miami, for example, are two of the cities that have no Fresco partners when a major story breaks such as airplane crashes. Boston in particular has one station owned by Hearst (WCVB) and another owned by NBC (WBTS).

Budman never realized that Fresco News' CEO John Meyer had his take on NBC. I spoke with Meyer in March about NBC even though some Fox-owned stations are already partners with Fresco News. Meyer indicated that he is working out a deal with NBC, but NBC is slow to respond in spite of promising resources to NBC-owned stations including in the Bay Area (KNTV), Los Angeles (KNBC), and San Diego (KNSD).

As the Bay Area has yet to see more purchases from stations that put out Fresco News assignments, the question still lingers as to how the switch in the Boston area since the first day of 2017 is affecting Fresco's needs of a partner in Boston now that NBC owns WBTS. The coin is still flipping as to whether citizen multimedia photographers (rather than being citizen journalists as Fresco would define as) would do so in the Boston area.

But I found that Boston is not the only one without Fresco News' partners. Seattle is another market where there no such Fresco partners exist at the moment. The Seattle market has television stations owned by different owners that have no such connection to Fresco.

For the Bay Area, if Scott Budman thinks that Fresco News is limited to just one television group, well, that might be a toss-up between having more assignments put out by Fresco's partner stations or having more reporters (specialty reporters like business and technology would be spared). Until more Fresco partners are added, well, Scott Budman could be right... just for now. If only Budman could encounter John Meyer!

Original Work: Kyle Chak
Twitter: @KyleSChak

Saturday, March 11, 2017

EXCLUSIVE INVESTIGATION: Illegal Activity to commence in Sacramento, Stockton, and the state of Hawaii

As I was continuing my investigation into illegal sideshows and related activities in the Bay Area and Sacramento markets, I uncovered from social media posts that sideshows and illegal activities in both the Bay Area and Sacramento regions. From San Jose to Stockton and even Sacramento, police in those regions are cracking down on illegal activities. However, tracking whoever is doing that takes too many resources. My investigation into illegal sideshows has been ongoing since at least 2015, but some people made threats against me.

The people that were involved in the failed Bay Area Racing proposed movie that I've uncovered included Nick Higgins ("Higgins Built") and the founder of Bay Area Racing, Dean Hodel. The whereabouts on the two are still unknown, however, Hodel has not disclosed where Bay Area Racing's headquarters are. Bay Area Racing has been involved in illegal activity a few years ago in Stockton on Pershing Avenue as highlighted by a FOX station in Sacramento and confirmed via their social media and YouTube accounts, which Bay Area Racing accused the FOX station of falsified information. NBC Bay Area, however, also highlighted two women who took part in a racing scheme that landed the two ladies in jail. NBC's video was unedited on Bay Area Racing's YouTube page unlike the FOX station in Sacramento. 

Deeper into my research, from sources that I could not identify, Dean Hodel was trying to find a suitable location where vehicles can be raced legally, but so far has yet to find one. It was unclear whether Bay Area Racing (likely based in Alameda County?) or Fearless Muscle (based in Fresno) were involved in a massive sideshow in Oakland that caught the attention of all Bay Area television stations, as well as the California Highway Patrol, who it's Oakland office had to deal with protests in downtown Oakland at the time.

But sometime into the making of the Bay Area Racing movie, Hodel got into an argument with Cesar Perez, according to social media posts by Bay Area Racing. Hodel accused Perez of lying about the timeline and falsified promises according to unknown internal sources inside Bay Area Racing. Since the failed attempt of the Bay Area Racing movie, Perez has made his own vlogs by number, some of which highlighted illegal activity that is not allowed in the State of California per state law. As some of Perez's vlogs are shot in the state of Hawaii, I reached out to that state on social media to get answers regarding sideshows and illegal activities there, but got no response. The state of Hawaii has no such provisions about illegal activities involving sideshows unlike the state of California. A section of the state of California I researched on the state's Department of Motor Vehicle's website addressed concerns specifically related to sideshows. 

In my own investigation, the Stockton Police Department chief originally sent a strong message to those people visiting their city, warning them that they are not welcome to do illegal activities including sideshows. However, potential illegal activities are what I found on social media, which is not posted on this blog for safety reasons. I viewed KCRA 3's Melinda Meza report on sideshows and images showed the Stockton Police Department impounding vehicles from their city, as well as in Sacramento and Modesto (and possibly Oakland and San Jose). As of yet, it remains unclear whether the Stockton Police Department will pursue Nick Higgins and Dean Hodel, and if so, what charges may be filed against them. I was unable to get any answers from either Higgins or Hodel. 

Assaults against law enforcement officers seem to be the norm for some people associated with Bay Area Racing and Fearless Muscle, who the latter claims that they are from the Bay Area. Some of them were highlighted in Stanley Robert's report known as "People Behaving Badly." The decision as to whether any law enforcement from Sacramento and Stockton to Oakland and San Jose will pursue those illegal activities is left up to the individual agency. The charges will be very serious and could end up spending a significant amount of time in jail, depending on the seriousness of the offense.

But as for the planned events by Perez, I only learned about the event on various social media channels by users just before the blog was written, particularly those who reposted some of his content notifying his/her friends about an upcoming event using the hashtag.

Fortunately for me, I do not attend any events that involve illegal activities, including street racing and sideshows. I remain scared about potential illegal activities that could wake neighbors up in the middle of the night, which is why no images nor snippets from social media will be posted in this blog.

Original Work: Kyle Chak
Twitter: @KyleSChak

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Revisiting: The San Jose Floods of Early 2017 and the Anderson Reservoir Spillover (SHORT)

The beginning of the year 2017 isn't so lucky for much of Silicon Valley. Rain has kept pounding hard at Santa Clara County and southward, filling up water banks faster than what engineers can do. But what I saw is a bleak picture that is trying to put much of downtown San Jose in ruins.

Television crews and many volunteer Fresco News users were scattered all over Silicon Valley, including myself, who I dedicated much of the day to watching for any flooding from start to finish. Traffic was a huge nightmare, starting with the incident along California State Routes (Highways) 9, 17, and 152 that caused major mudslides that closed the highway in both direction for days. Santa Cruz area drivers had a much harder time getting home from Silicon Valley. Even going through Gilroy was tough, down U.S. Route (Highway) 101 near the Uvas Creek south of the Monterey Street exit, where the road was flooded at times. One probable cause of the rain in my view was the Sobranes fire that burned in Monterey County for a couple of months sparked by an apparent arson over the summer of 2016. But the rain kept pummeling at Santa Clara County, especially in Gilroy, San Martin, and Morgan Hill. Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) crews were very concerned about the Anderson Dam that was supposed to go up to a maximum of 68% in capacity for seismic safety, but was well over the limit even prior to the spillover. 

Throughout the day, I surveyed the water damage caused by the spillover of Anderson Dam to the streets of downtown San Jose over the course of two days. The first day that the rushing waters gushed over, I was surveying areas from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company's substation on Monterey Road and Metcalf Road to the Coyote Creek along Tully Road. Next, I went to Hellyer Park where part of the park was closed due to flooding and debris in the area, with several reports of contamination throughout the area. The portion of Coyote Creek along Tully Road that I shot for the Fresco app eventually made airwaves on The Weather Channel's digital platform, where they showcased a portion of the overflowing Coyote Creek shot for the Fresco News app. And just before the sky got dark, I managed to get to the area on Senter Road and Phelan Avenue, where I observed flooding. News crews went live wall-to-wall all night in that area and into the wee hours of the morning. 

The next morning, I tweeted out a heads-up to the San Jose Earthquakes' president (and now also Oakland A's president) Dave Kaval, where I showed him images of the flooding and warned him about concerns that he could have trouble getting to his office at Avaya Stadium from his home on the Peninsula. I was particularly worried that some backups could occur on highway 101 and eventually delay him by at least 30 minutes, where the roadway was shut down between McKee Road and Oakland Road exits since the Coyote Creek does run under highway 101, but 101 itself runs under the railroad tracks immediately south. Similarly, I was also concerned that the San Jose Earthquakes' staff would not make it to Avaya Stadium as scheduled. My simple tweet to Kaval have led him and the San Jose Earthquakes to set up a fund to those affected by the flooding along Coyote Creek just less than 2 hours later. Kaval apparently discussed about the flood to the San Jose Earthquakes' staff, and eventually the Oakland A's as well. The Earthquakes also had a special incentive to flood victims - that is to take them to the preseason opener against Sacramento Republic FC. The San Jose Sharks and the San Francisco 49ers also pitched in to help as well, but that only came after the Earthquakes made the call to help flood victims after my initial review of the Twitter feed.

The rest of the day that I observed included crews helping to clear downed power lines and repair them throughout downtown San Jose as there were no access to electricity to residents in the area for days. Shelter was set up at two local San Jose high schools - one of which I was at Evergreen High School that night of which I only saw at least 20 evacuees there.

San Jose certainly has a lot of things to do during the time that the cleanup is in progress. But the finger pointing is still ongoing to see who is ultimately responsible for the cleanup. San Jose certainly took the blame in terms of notification to residents. However, Anderson Reservoir is located in Morgan Hill along the same creek that serves the Coyote Reservoir as well. Even then, the Coyote Reservoir is also concerning to me because that reservoir is already in full capacity at the time and in the same situation as Anderson Reservoir but to a lesser extent.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District has a lot of work to do in regards to the water levels at Anderson Reservoir and the concerns for a major earthquake. But the sports teams based in Silicon Valley, particularly the San Jose Earthquakes, deserves a lot of credit for their efforts to help flood victims along the Coyote Creek. However, I was very stunned by the overwhelming evidence of the floods along Coyote Creek.

Original Work: Kyle Chak
Twitter: @KyleSChak

Friday, February 10, 2017

EXCLUSIVE: Morgan Hill Mudslide Shut Down East Dunne Avenue

The only roadway from Morgan Hill to Henry W. Coe State Park may have been a surprise to many residents east of Anderson Reservoir. Drivers encountered that surprise when they tried to leave for work, school, or play. A mudslide that carried a tree toppled onto East Dunne Avenue leaving many drivers inconvenienced. One driver who got out of his truck said that he was trying to get back to his residence east of Anderson Reservoir. A California State Park ranger who happened to be in the area brought out his shovels and called the the Santa Clara County Roads and Airport Department, who arrived after 9AM to partially clear the roadway. Two more trucks arrived at the scene to assist. Crews are still trying to figure out how the tree got onto East Dunne Avenue. One driver even volunteered to drive the student to Britton Middle School.

Fresco News was the first to uncover the early morning mudslide as the investigation into Anderson Reservoir's water revealed in a social media post that the capacity level well exceeded the 68% threshold. The Santa Clara Valley Water District issued a message to Morgan Hill residents about seismic concerns about the possibility of a large earthquake that is long overdue. The project, obtained by this blogger on Thursday night, revealed that an earthquake that has a magnitude of 7.25 or greater is a deep concern. Officials with the water district are anticipating to start the fortification of the Anderson Dam in 2020 and complete it by 2024.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Chak's Take: Dres Delanghe, Belgium Native who Redefined the Bay Area Cafe Scene

In Santa Clara County, bakery shops are a very familiar scene to me. From Gilroy to downtown Mountain View, I've seen plenty of bread offerings, regardless of the type. Asian bakery shops are very common in Silicon Valley, although European bakery shops are nothing new to me. Anytime I'm at a random place in Silicon Valley, this often reminds me of many elements.

It's true to the fact that Santa Clara County is home to many bakery shops - many of which are in San Jose. Asian bakery shops tend to offer a lot of Chinese tarts, and many would buy a lot of the Chinese bread offerings. I often see those Chinese breads at major oriental supermarkets, including an occasional baguette. Locally made bread was sometimes sourced from various San Jose-based bakeries, including one made in-house at each Lee's Sandwiches locations throughout Santa Clara County.

But Alexander's Patisserie in downtown Mountain View is different. Everything is made in-house for customers like me to see. I see that the difference between Alexander's Patisserie and the bakeries that is based throughout Santa Clara County is that in a typical bakery shop, there is only a selection of bakeries, very few cafe choices, and/or a separate restaurant run by another vendor. I see those more commonly at big oriental chains like 99 Ranch Market. Instead of a concept where it's only a come-and-go type of bakery, Alexander's Patisserie has a better approach - it's an environment that resembles a modern-day coffee shop, a quick bite that can be consumed inside or on-the-go, and a bakery shop that everything is locally sourced.

When I read articles such as the San Francisco Chronicle and Mountain View Voice, Dries Delanghe believed that as an executive chef at Alexander's Patisserie, he feels like Mountain View is just like his hometown in Belgium when Alexander's Patisserie opened in 2014. I think that Alexander's Patisserie, part of the Alexander's Steakhouse group that operates restaurants in Cupertino and San Francisco as well as in Pasadena, has done a great job of introducing a concept that no other bakery shops in Silicon Valley has ever done. While I may not be visiting the Alexander's Steakhouse anytime soon to try out the expensive wagyu steak or burger, I think that Alexander's Patisserie has great potential.

I tried the sandwiches in my first visits to the Alexander's Patisserie, and their sandwiches has more than satisfied my expectations of my visit. I generally paired my sandwiches with a drink to appreciate the atmosphere each time I come in for a visit to their shop and sit down with food to eat and something to drink. My favorite sandwich so far is the Caprese when I first came to the place during the early evening hours, but I also like trying all sandwiches in my future visits to Alexander's Patisserie. The sandwich bread was crisp when it came out of the oven, and the food was very fresh! Tasty!

I wish that I could see Dries Delanghe in person. However, because Dries Delanghe is very busy focusing on bread, he might not be taking a break to read this blog about how much I love to come to the Mountain View location. Although this is not my first time in Mountain View partially due to the Morocco's Restaurant on the other end of Castro Street as one of my friends has an interest in that restaurant, I will come down to Alexander's Patisserie from time to time to have a small bite or buy some bread. I believe that homemade bread in Silicon Valley such as the one made at Alexander's Patisserie would still remind me of Gilroy, Morgan Hill, and San Martin - and Dries Delanghe is very proud of his great accomplishments. I'll be surprised if Dries Delanghe finds me and sees my face when he has a break, but I'll have to keep in mind that he's very busy with baking and producing goods for all of us to enjoy.

Original Work: Kyle Chak
Twitter/Instagram: @KyleSChak
BONUS: With the exception of the last photo, the following photos below were taken by me, showing how much I appreciate the great support for the place...

The sandwich and drink pairing - in this case, the French Fizz.