Occupy Oakland in Photos, Part 1

In case you’ve been living under a rock these last few weeks, you’ve heard about Occupy Oakland. A local occupation inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, Occupy Oakland made nationwide headlines after local police tore down their encampment outside City Hall, then used tear gas on demonstrators on several occasions afterward.

In this first post, I present photos from the night of October 25, 2011, when police used tear gas and flash-bang grenades on protesters after designating the protest an unlawful assembly and ordered them to disperse.


San Francisco Mayoral Candidates visit SF State campus – PHOTOS

10 of the 16 San Francisco mayoral candidates visited San Francisco State University on Thursday. The candidates gsve short stump speeches, handed out campaign literature, and mingled with students, who were able to ask them direct questions, (and hopefully got direct answers back : ).

Bevan Dufty, Michela Alioto-Pier, David Chiu, Leland Yee, John Avalos, Phil Ting, Paul Currier, Joanna Rees, Jeff Adachi, Terry Joan Baum, Cesar Ascarrunz, Tony Hall and Emil Lawrence all attended the event, which was organized by the Associated Students. The event also doubled as a voter registration drive.

Here are some photos I took of the event:


A short-but-sweet primer on getting into the miles and points game

I get asked about earning points and miles all the time. While I know the steps to take it can be overwhelming to newbies when I try to unload it all in one conversation, so here are the steps to take, in concise, list form:

1. KNOW YOUR CREDIT SCORE. I’ve written before about how to find yours. This is vital. Even if the first baby steps you take into this game aren’t credit card signups, you should your score and be ready to jump on enormous limited time bonuses when they appear. Knowing what’s in your credit report (and what your score is) is important for a number of non-miles related reasons, so this should be a no-brainer).

2. READ READ READ. Get up to speed on current bonuses, promotions, and offers from hotels and airlines. The best way to do this is to read the blogs in my blogroll (the links over on the right side of this page), and (if you’re so inclined), like the major airlines and hotel chains on facebook (some of you will have a problem with this, and it is definitely not essential, but lots of promos are run through their social media tentacles). To make things easier, here are the main blogs to read. I generally stick with the first three (in that order) and the others from time to time, but Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV). You cannot read too much! Time may be an issue for you, but being up to speed before diving in is VERY important:

3. Keep an eye on these blogs going forward. If you use Google Reader then add the RSS feeds to it, if not, just bookmark them and/or add them to your favorites.

4. OPEN ACCOUNTS WITH ALL THE MAJOR AIRLINES AND HOTEL CHAINS. This is useful for a number of reasons. Sometimes you’ll need to have had an account open for longer than 60 days to qualify for some promotions, sometimes you’ll see the benefit in terms of emailed (targeted) promotions that are only available to current club members (or new members, but how else would you know about the promo?). Having these account numbers is also useful for when you sign up for credit cards. Putting the same number on three different AAdvantage card applications means that all the miles will go into ONE account, rather than three accounts with 50k miles in each- which isn’t terribly useful.

In order to fully leverage the power of these accounts be sure to opt-IN to email communications from the company itself (partner opportunities can be declined in most, but not all cases). This goes against all common sense, and you might find yourself deleting a lot of email, but sometimes you can hit the jackpot at just the right time. I’d recommend a secondary email for these lists, but be sure it’s one you check often.

For example, Delta just targeted me with a miles refund for booking award travel before the end of the month (and flying before the end of April). Booking a 35k economy ticket to Honduras, which I was planning on doing anyway, will now net me 3500 miles back for free. Sweet!

SIGN UP FOR AWARDWALLET. This single site will keep track of all your miles and points for you, and even log you into the individual sites with one click. It is an ABSOLUTE MUST for anyone who wants to get in the game. Signing up is free and a small $5 donation will upgrade you to the plus version for 6 months. I have 8 AwardWallet Plus bonus codes available. Email me if you want one.

5. WAIT. Waiting can be hard once you know how to play the game, but these days you can only get one sign-up bonus per card type, so don’t wast it on a low bonus card out of excitement. Wait for the big offers, then plan a churn (signing up for a few cards at once to maximize your approvals) and execute it when the time is right (more than 60 or 90 days from the last card application with that issuing bank but right before the limited-time offer ends, etc).

See you in the friendly skies!

Three new 50,000 point credit card bonus offers

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (i.e. 2009, in the US), mile and point junkies considered 25, 30, even 40,000 mile or point credit-card sign-up offers spectacular (of course, THOSE offers were available over, and over, and over again without penalty- now you get one bonus per card type, period), but now it seems that 50,ooo is the minimum to be considered “good,” with 75,000 and 100,000 offers appearing from time to time. Unfortunately those two are dead now, but the following are recent additions to the “50k Club” cards:

1. The Southwest card is back! After being available for a few weeks in late July/early Aug this great deal is back with a lower annual fee and less points on annual renewal (the earlier deal was for a “Premier” card and this is a “Plus” card). This is a LIMITED TIME OFFER that expires on November 17th. Here are the pertinent details:

  • 50,000 Southwest Rapid Reward points on first purchase, enough for $833 in “Wanna Get Away” flights. Southwest allows you to purchase ANY seat on ANY flight using their points, with “Wanna Get Away” being the cheapest of their three pricing tiers.
  • $69 annual fee (NOT WAIVED the first year).
  • 3000 points on annual renewal ($50 in “Wanna Get Away” flights).
Southwest already allows two checked bags for free on every flight, and points don’t expire so long as you earn at least one every 24 months. Furthermore, you can cancel a flight at any time and the points will be put back into your account with no penalty. One extraordinary bonus that Southwest offers is the companion pass: earn 110,000 points in a CALENDAR year  (and credit card signup bonuses DO COUNT), and a companion can fly free with you on ANY and EVERY FLIGHT for the rest of the calendar year. This is an amazing benefit that only Southwest offers.
Apply HERE. (The Points Guy will get a referral bonus for using this link).

2. Citibank American Airlines AAdvantage Visa and Amex cards (100k potential bonus if approved for both!)
. Although the 75k/225k (for all three) Citi AA card bonus is now (finally) dead, Citi now offers the same cards with 50k miles after $2500 in spend within three months. As before, if you apply for two personal cards (i.e one personal Visa and one personal Amex) at the same time using two different browsers, (or two different tabs in the same browser, but hit ‘submit’ simultaneously), you should (assuming your credit is good), get approved for both and receive 100,000 American Airlines miles after meeting the spending requirements for each card. The highlights of the card include:

  • Two Admirals Club one-day passes (per card)
  • 2  AA miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage mile for every $1 spent on everything else.
  • American Airlines offers reduced-mileage awards for cardmembers. See the list here. (The amount of miles reduced varies based on the card you have.)
  • If you have a business then you can wait 61 days from your personal applications and apply for one of the 50k business offers- bringing your total to 150,000 American Airlines miles. Enough for three round-trips to South America AND a domestic round-trip.

3. The Marriott Premier card from Chase.
This bonus was 30,000 Marriott points just week or two ago, but Chase has upped the bonus to 50,000 points AND thrown in a free night all delivered after your first purchase. NO minimum spends to meet for this one! Notable benefits of the card:
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • First year annual fee waived ($85 for subsequent years)
  • 15 nights toward your next Elite membership level every year upon account (that’s equivalent to Silver status plus 5 extra nights).

Occupy Oakland, Day 3 in Photos

This past Wednesday, after class ended at 5, I decided to stop in at Occupy Oakland before going home. I’d been meaning to visit Occupy SF since it began, but with school seeming to alternately take over my life or make me want to decompress by watching a Breaking Bad marathon and not leave the apt all day, I never made it there.

But this was different- this is in my own backyard. And better yet, it was only the third day of the “occupation.” I could get in near the beginning and maybe get a photo story or photo essay out of it.

I arrived just as it was getting dark, and was immediately surprised at how many tents there were on the lawn at Frank Ogawa Plaza. I’m terrible at counting, but my rough estimate put the number at about 60-70. Which is a lot, really. There was a communications and media tent, some tables where people were serving food, a food preparation tent, an information tent, a composting, recycling and waste area, and other tents specializing in activities and organization.

Everywhere I looked people were talking in small groups. Hay had been placed on the lawn to protect the grass and prevent it from getting too muddy, it seemed that people had really made themselves at home in the middle of Oakland’s downtown area.

Take a look:

A man sits on top of a statue in front of Oakland City Hall during the General Assembly on Wed night at Occupy Oakland.

US Airways Grand Slam 2011 – Or “how to earn miles without credit cards”

US Airways Grand Slam 2011

People always ask me (in a slightly disappointed tone of voice), if all my miles come from credit card sign-up bonuses- with the implication being, usually, that such an avenue isn’t an option for them. My answer? “Most of them, but not all of them.” There are plenty of smaller, relatively lucrative promotions and bonuses where miles and points can be earned for very little out-of-pocket money and/or an hour or two of time.

For example, until the end of November US Airways is running their annual Grand Slam promotion, which gives you “hits” for qualifying activities, such as shopping at partner sites, participating in their dining program, and, in one of the easiest “hits,” installing their browser toolbar and doing a few searches.

The travel and points blog Mommy Points has been doing some excellent blogging about this promotion since before it began and is probably the “go to” place for Grand Slam related information, including what “hits” count, (and which don’t), which ones are the cheapest, and how and where to follow up when they don’t post automatically (as seems to be the case with Office Max – read this post for details).

For those who can’t afford to put much money into this promotion she has a neat breakdown on how to get enough hits for 25,000 bonus miles (enough for a domestic round-trip ticket) by spending less than $82. Although at the same earning rate (less than half a cent per mile) shooting for 60,000 miles for $250 in spend seems like a better way to leverage your mileage earnings.

Many blogs have broken down this promotion, so I won’t re-hash their work here. I’ll just lay out the steps you need to take to take advantage US Airways’ promotion:

1. SIGN UP FOR US AIRWAYS DIVIDEND MILES EARNING PROGRAM. This seems obvious, but people sometimes forget the easiest steps. Sign up for Dividend Miles HERE.

2. Register for the Grand Slam promotion. You CANNOT EARN HITS RETROACTIVELY. You MUST register BEFORE beginning qualifying activities, or you will not earn hits. Register HERE (scroll down).

3. Read these Mommy Points blog posts, (1, 2, 3, 4), and the first post in this Flyertalk thread (or more if you really want to be an “expert” on the promo).

4. Set an earning goal for yourself based on how much you can afford to spend on this promo. My goal is 28 hits for 60,000 miles. So far I’ve reached 24 hits, (although only 17 have posted to date). I know I could reach 32, but money is tight and I’ll be happy with the 60k for now.

5. Start earning.

6. See you in the skies!

Sip, Stomp & Play 2011 at Urban Legend Cellars in Oakland a lively, fun event

Sip, Stomp and Play last Saturday at Urban Legent Cellars in Jack London Square lived up to its name with all three categories well-represented at the event. The annual event is a fundraiser for Playworks, a non-profit organization that brings healthy, safe physical playtime to underfunded schools in the area.

The event ran from 1pm-4pm and took over a small section of 4th street, turning the pavement into an ad-hoc playground for small children, who hula-hooped, and jump-roped and tagged their way to some great childhood memories.


Inside the winery the adults listened to some great rock and reggae music while sipping wine and snacking on excellent h’ors d’ouvres. Of course, the real highlight of the event was the grape stomping, which was fun for both children and their parents. See below.


If grape stomping is your thing then keep an eye out next October for the next one!