10 brightest ideas of the week: Nov. 29, 2009

New kind of taco truck coming to SF, Golden Gate Park recognized, Santa gets high-tech, cops reward sober drivers with free turkeys, and a chef makes a dramatic career change

1. Smart couple

Brainy pair win matching Rhodes Scholarships

The details: Two dating University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill seniors will be able to continue their relationship past graduation after both won prestigious Rhodes Scholarships to Oxford University. Henry Spelman and Libby Longino, who met during a research program in Turkey last summer, hope to pursue a doctorate in Latin and Greek and research in human trafficking, respectively, on the scholarship, which pays for two to four years of study at the British university.

2. Virtuous venison

Deer hunters help feed the hungry

The details: A program in Ohio offering a financial incentive for venison processing has more than doubled the number of deer being donated by hunters to needy food banks, providing enough venison for 220,000 meals last year. Processing a deer can cost $70 or more on top of licensing fees and equipment costs.

3. Indian food on wheels

Curry truck rolling toward SF

The details: An Indian taco truck from the Peninsula will start serving Indian-inspired burritos and traditional Indian hand foods in the Financial District and possibly in SoMa by the end of December. An evening stop in the Mission district is also planned.

4.‘Plastic kettles’

Salvation Army rolls out Santa kettles that take credit cards

The details: In 120 cities this season, those bell ringers standing outside stores will be able to accept Salvation Army donations in kettles taking debit and credit cards. Holiday fundraising jumped 11 percent at the first two cities tested last year. Next to the traditional red metal kettles are wireless card readers similar to those at gas stations. The machines print receipts and Salvation Army pays for retail credit processing.

5. Wheeled crime zone

SFPD to increase police presence on Muni

The details: More police officers will be riding Muni public transit to “surge” against the rising violence that culminated in two recent stabbings — with one victim an 11-year-old boy — and a videotaped fight between two women that became a worldwide Internet sensation. Muni crime trends will be tracked with The City’s new CompStat mapping technology that is credited with helping reduce crime in New York City and elsewhere. SFPD captains will be held accountable for transit crimes in their districts.

6. Free bird

Police department gives free turkeys at DUI checkpoint

The details: For the seventh year, the Salinas Police Department gave free turkeys to some of the lucky sober drivers that successfully passed through the DUI checkpoint. The checkpoint was part of the Salinas Police Department and Salinas Teen Empowerment Program. Organizers said they hope the annual event sends a message for a safe Thanksgiving. “It's going to keep both drivers that usually drive drunk off the streets,” said Jose Barajas, a STEPS volunteer. “Not only that, but it's going to teach some people a lesson not to be drinking and driving through this Thanksgiving break.”

7. Second life

Doctors revive man who was dead 47 minutes

The details: Joe Tiralosi’s heart stopped, but his doctors didn’t. A team of doctors kept the 56-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., man alive for 47 minutes. “These doctors did not stop,” he said while fighting through tears. “Without them, and I’m serious when I tell you, I wouldn’t be here.” On Aug. 17, Tiralosi walked into a medical center and a minute later collapsed. Doctors performed 4,500 chest compressions and used eight shocks from a defibrillator to revive him. “It’s a miracle for which it is difficult to find words,” Dr. Flavio Gaudio said.

8. On time

Airlines more apt to arrive on schedule

The details: Many folks were traveling over the weekend. Many more plan to do so around Christmas. So here is the good news: Your plane is more likely to arrive on time. A federal study shows that 86.2 of flights arrived on time — within 15 minutes of the scheduled landing time — during September, the best mark since October 2003. One potential contributing factor is most airlines are running fewer flights and, on some routes, smaller planes.

9. Soup’s on

Chef goes from cooking at bistro to spicing up soup kitchen

The details: Tim Hammack has a passion for food. That took him to a job at French bistro Bouchon in Yountville. But after a short time, he realized the high-end dining scene wasn’t satisfying his career aspirations. So he decided to take a one-year sabbatical and join the Bay Area Rescue in Richmond. That was eight years ago. Now, his kitchen serves 1,200 people daily, mostly homeless or drug addicts. The menu isn’t exactly a run-of-the-mill soup kitchen. For instance, instead of serving up plain artichokes, he will either grill or poach them, and maybe add garlic sherry vinaigrette to give his clientele a taste of something better.

10. Safety for shoppers

Stores add security to avoid deaths

The details: In order to avoid a repeat of last year — when a worker was trampled to death in a rush at a store — Walmart added extra security for its Black Friday sales. The scene was chaotic at locations across the nation, with shoppers charging into the discount retailer for deeply discounted merchandise. The security, however, did avert any deaths, such as the one from Valley Stream, N.Y., last year where a worker died amid a crush of shoppers.


Bright light of the week: An urban oasis

What: Golden Gate Park

Why: The 1,000-acre park that stretches across nearly half The City was recognized as one of the best city parks in the country by Forbes magazine.

Significance: San Franciscans may enjoy spending time in the park that includes the world-famous California Academy of Sciences and the renowned de Young Museum, but having it named on a list of 12 that includes Central Park in New York and Grant Park in Chicago is an honor that is worthy of mention.

Using conservatorships to deal with gritty urban issues

“Half the state thinks we conserve too many people, and the other half thinks we don’t conserve enough.”

Endorsement: Here’s one simple way to help crime victims in San Francisco

With Prop. D, The City’s voters can do more to help crime victims