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Posts Tagged 'bad'

The Streets Of San Francisco

I didn’t used to have to drive much when I was unemployed, but now that I have a job and have to hop in my car every day I’ve realized something that I haven’t in quite a while. The Streets of San Francisco pretty much suck. The street outside my house hasn’t been redone in over 30 years. While I am seeing streets being repaved all over the city for some reason my street seems to be at the bottom of the list.

My wife and I were watching a TV show a couple of months ago about technology and how there’s a machine that can drive down a street and grind up the old asphalt and mix it in with a little bit of new asphalt and lay down the new street very quickly. I’ve seen these machines at work in the city and they can redo a block in a day or two. I’m sure they’re a bit costly, but compared to a group of 10-15 guys working for two weeks to do the same thing they probably pay off much quicker.

Every rainy season we have in SF we start to see cracks in the street that get bigger and turn into potholes. The only places I’ve ever been where the streets are marginally worse is New York City. Driving in your car gets thrown around just like my drive into work everyday. I need to have my wheels realigned on my car at least once if not twice a year because of all the potholes and uneven surfaces. This reminded me of my first trip back East to visit my wife before we were married. They have to deal with snow and the salt they put on the roads so that’s a lot more hard on the roads than what we have out here and they have to replace the roads more often. Driving back East in Massachusetts and Connecticut was like driving on glass. The roads were so smooth and the car just hugged the road like were driving on a LeMan’s race track. It was beautiful.

I know San Francisco has a lot of other things to deal with than the roads and they are replacing the roads quite a bit lately. They just seem to not be using those new machines that make the change come about faster as much as they could. It has been worse I’ll give you that. I remember a drive downtown where there was a large pothole that I didn’t see until it was too late to avoid and when I hit it the pothole actually shifted my car from drive into neutral. That’s not right. Most of the work is down is patchwork and I remember when I was first learning to drive how there was a strip jutting out from the parking space in front of my house that if I could back up just enough to hit the little hump I knew my car was in the right space. I’ve got a driveway now to park in and I shouldn’t have to think about the street humps [not speed humps as they call them now] to know how to park. Yes, as I said earlier there are a lot of other things that need help in the city, but if you have to drive in the city your car gets more wear and tear than it needs to.

People leaving San Francisco? Fine my me.

I read Carl Nolte’s article on sfgate.com about people who have left San Francisco because of fog, high crime, fog, change and fog. These people obviously don’t get San Francisco. Did they fly in from Corpus Christi on one of our few sunny days and then moved in to experience the fog and thought they were a part of a bait and switch?

I don’t think so. My mother was lucky enough to start to go blind and then die before she really got to see the changes in San Francisco. I took her down by AT&T park a few years ago and she couldn’t believe that people wanted to live there. I agreed, but for a different reason, the price of housing down there. Change happens. I was looking at pictures today of the Sunset District in the 40’s and what I saw were mounds of sand everywhere. Today, you don’t see that. That last bit of inland sand dunes were changed into a soccer field years ago.

What doesn’t change is the fog. Once touted to have medical benefits by doctors they may be right. My father smoked a pack of non-filtered cigarettes a day and drank a 12 pack of beer and lived to be 83 — longer than the current expected life span of a man. Some parts of SF have less fog than others, but they usually have overcast weather at least. I was sitting on the deck of my employer yesterday in Mill Valley looking back on San Francisco. What I saw was a wall of white really, no skyline or anything. It wasn’t until 6pm that the fog started to move over the hills in Mill Valley and I got a mild feel of being in San Francisco.

Now out in the Sunset District we have fog on a daily basis. The kind of fog they made in the movies for all those horror films where you couldn’t see 20 feet in front of you. I experienced that full on during my drive home yesterday. After exiting the Waldo tunnel at around 60 mph I had to hit the brakes because the cars around me were fading out with ten feet. Once I got across the bridge and away from the inlet of the bay the fog was pretty much gone. The reality is that the fog here isn’t as bad as in other places in California where you get what they call tule fog that’s thick and to the ground and you really can’t see five feet in front of you. My Uncle Al used to talk about a trip up to the country where he’d have to get out in front of the car with a lantern so the car could follow him. THAT is fog.

I like fog. It’s kind of an insulating blanket that keeps in some heat, but not a lot of heat. It’s makes us have to use sunglasses less than other cities and if you’re a goth you look better in San Francisco than in say, Honolulu [yes, I have seen Hawaiian goths and they look pretty funny].

I like the fact that I don’t have to hop in my car to get to the corner store or grocery store or if I do get into my car I can eat food from at least 30 different countries within five minutes. I like the fact that when I call 911 I’ve got a fire station two blocks away and a police station a quarter mile away. Response is fast. In Mill Valley I looked on a map and couldn’t find a police or fire station within a five mile radius. When my wife went into labor in the middle of the night we were at the hospital within ten minutes and didn’t need to use a freeway to get there.

The crime rate is localized to a couple of areas of the city. Out here in the Sunset there’s an occasional robbery or car theft, but most are pot grow houses. It’s really not so bad here and I live having the close amenities and weather predictable. For the people who don’t like it here, try a year in say, Phoenix or Houston, then tell me how much you hated it here.

Phil Ting for Mayor: My Thoughts

I have tried to post regularly, but now with a crazy work schedule and creeping overtime I have had to pull back a little. Once I get adjusted and settled in this should change. Now onto the article.

When I first heard that Phil Ting was running for Mayor of San Francisco I decided to keep an eye on him. He was the county assessor, so he knew about real estate, finance and taxes. He started off with a great title for his campaign, Reset San Francisco. I kind of liked that idea. He also talked about Muni reform, score again. It wasn’t until I attended my first Mayoral debate that a few questions started to rise.

He stated that while he has been in office that the city has come in under budget every year. OK, then why is our city in the red? Is someone budgeting more funds than we can afford to pay for? In my mind I don’t care whether or not San Francisco comes in under or over it’s budget, but whether or not San Francisco comes in at the end of the day in the black.

His statement that Muni needs to change is something everyone is talking about. When I worked downtown I didn’t have too much problem with Muni. The buses and streetcars I usually get from my house take me downtown in about 40 minutes without much walking. I have other friends such as Greg Dewar [@njudah] who would beg to differ with me, but he doesn’t use the same Muni route as I do so I won’t argue with him on that. Apparently the N-Judah has lots of problems that need to be fixed since it is the busiest muni route in San Francisco.

Where Phil Ting really got me was on his repeal of Prop 13 so that people of San Francisco would be paying the real property taxes they owe. I took offense at this because the comment was targeted at me, even though not only is everyone in California benefitting from Prop 13 and that it is a state law that a Mayor cannot overturn his comment was aimed at those people who purchased a house before the first dot.com boom and have lived in them ever since. It takes about 10-15 years after purchasing a house to notice a difference in your property taxes. That is, if your home value continues to increase. Currently we’re in a down swing so it might take closer to 30 years now.

Phil used this as the excuse for why we are so low in state school ratings for achievement. I suppose he forgot that when the California State Lottery went into effect that a major portion of the profit was to go towards school funding. It was originally specified that it could not be used for teacher pay raises, but that’s where it went at first because the teachers were so underpaid that not too many people wanted to be teachers.

But let me move back to Proposition 13. Currently the taxes on your house can be raised only 1.1% per year. People are saying that is the reason that San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities to live in. I did a check of  the top 10 most expensive cities in the US to live in and yes, San Francisco was listed as number five, but out of the 10 cities only two were in California and those were San Francisco and Los Angeles [which according to the report is even more expensive to live in that San Francisco], so can Prop 13 be blamed for the failing of our schools and how expensive it is to live in California? No. New York City, Honolulu, and Miami are the top three. All in states without a Prop 13, but much higher taxes. I have a friend who I am sorry to say that his mother died recently and he received his mother’s house in upstate New York along with her rent controlled apartment in downtown Manhattan. The rental property is a deal since his mother has lived there for many years and due to rent control he doesn’t even pay $1000/month for his gorgeous almost penthouse like view of Manhattan. The two bedroom house on the other hand he has to pay $12,000 per year in property tax as well as $4,000 per year in school tax. His parents have owned the house upstate for many years longer than when my parents purchased our house in the Sunset District back in 1954. My friend has also been unemployed for longer than myself and he has to pay $10 for a pack of cigarettes in downtown Manhattan. This is not a cheap place to live and even though they have no equivalent of Prop 13, it is still the most expensive city to live in. Two bedroom condo’s sell for close to $2,000,000 there not including the HOA monthly fees. My friend has about enough cash to last him a year and half and then he’s in big trouble if he can’t find a job.

So let’s say we repeal Prop 13 like Phil Ting wants to do and say property taxes increased to 5% each year with a reassessment to bring homes benefitting more it being brought up to modern day reality. I could possibly live with that even though it would triple my yearly property tax, but from what I understand, if you home goes down in value the tax doesn’t really, it just doesn’t increase. The idea behind prop 13 was to help residents remain in their homes by not having to pay more in taxes as they got older and on a limited income. This was hijacked by businesses who got added in and they don’t want to sell their spaces they own because they can rent them out for more [rental control doesn’t apply to businesses] and gain more on their investment. Since we have a much higher turnover rate in businesses who are renting their locations in California, not just San Francisco this means that business property owners gain more than homeowners.

Therefore, I think Phil should start by speaking more directly about his plans for prop 13 by trying to amend it to include only homeowners and not businesses. That way some of the businesses that were cheap in say the SoMA area when they were purchased that now charge a fortune to rent out would be paying more into funds of the state so that which would trickle down to San Francisco and San Francisco wouldn’t have to tax businesses to be here like most cities in the US. This would help San Francisco more than a total repeal of a state law that an SF Mayor can’t do, but Phil Ting could work toward that. If prop 13 were removed completely people would start to leave San Francisco, but not by a lot so property prices might drop a bit because of the tax increase. It could also theoretically drop California from it’s current ranking as the 8th largest global economy. Phil, keep this in mind.

Monday, I will announce my official endorsement for the Mayor of San Francisco and my reason why.

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BART Protest: When good ideas go bad

I have to count my blessings that I don’t work downtown at the moment because yesterday’s protest would have done the exact opposite to me of what the protesters wanted. Yesterday was a day when a good idea when wrong and I’m not even sure it was that good of an idea.

There is still a little dispute about whether it was because of the shooting of a homeless man who while being drunk threw a bottle at BART police and then drew a knife and started to come at them or whether or not it was BART cutting off cell phone service last week. There’s a couple of problems with each of these.

First, Charles Hill, attacked police officers. Sure, they probably could have done some TV style police moves and disarmed him and got him to the ground, but TV isn’t real life. He had a knife pulled out and after throwing a bottle at police started to come towards them. I don’t know if he ran, lunged or just stood there stabbing the air in the direction of the cops, but he was a threat. Oscar Grant on the other hand, wasn’t a threat. I can see people protesting that incident, but not this one.

The second is the Guy Fawkes masks protesting censorship by turning off cell phone service underground to protestors. Here’s a couple of things. I actually liked going into the station after work at one of my last jobs because the cell reception was crap. I could barely get 3G service on my cell even in BART so to me if BART and Muni kept their mouths shut no one would have noticed. The second is that most of the protesters probably don’t know that Guy Fawkes came to fame by being a religious fanatic in England who was caught sitting on a number of powder kegs to be used to assassinate King James I and hopefully restore a Catholic Monarchy in England. Fawkes ended up committing suicide at his execution by jumping from the scaffold he was to be hung from before he was to be drawn and quartered. Choosing one pain over a more grisly pain. The Brits back then only hung you until you were almost dead, then dropped you, tied you down, sliced off your genitals, then ripped your guts out and if you were lucky as the last act of mercy beheaded you. Actually, now that I think about it, the people who make V is for Vengence should have done some homework as well.

Many people are calling this a denial of freedom of speech. No one was denying their the right to speak, just not on cell phones which work poorly underground anyway. I’m not even sure why you would need a cellphone at a protest anyway since you’re supposed to make your voice heard to those you are protesting against.

Much of this fell on deaf ears. Yes, there were BART Police there and many of the protesters were arrested, but did they get their point across? In my opinion, NO. When you stage a protest your goal is to bring the people around you into your outrage and join you. What this protest did was anger those people who were trying to get home from work to be with their families. No to have their trip home interrupted by a mass of people angry over the death of a man who attacked police or because they couldn’t use their cellphones in a place where cellphones don’t work very well in the first place.

I think the protesters today need to do a little homework to learn how to be more effective. Perhaps it would have been better to protest at BART headquarters, but that would require more work to get there. People will not join your cause if your only purpose is to disrupt the people. BART and MUNI don’t really care too much about that, but the people do.

 

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Sunset Boulevard’s Bureaucratic Medians

I just finished reading an article today in the West Portal Monthly about the medians on Sunset Boulevard. I knew something was up because I’ve noticed they’ve been tearing them up recently. Not all of them, but only a six block area of them. This got me wondering when I saw the new turf laid down and wondered how much that cost the taxpayers.

Now I have to admit that the median has been nothing but weeds for years with a few bits of grass thrown in so in some ways I’m happy to see it replanted but at what cost? $1.2 million dollars is the cost and why are we spending this much? Well apparently our supervisor Carmen Chu got the idea that it would be good to replace the 25 year system and install a new more water efficient for of grass called bentgrass. It says it uses about half the water of the previous weeds grass so I had to look into this new fangled grass.

Apparently, bentgrass is mostly used on golf course putting greens, lawn bowling and lawn tennis courts so that already sounds like it’s a kind of luxury grass. Here’s the kicker on what the demands are for growing this grass according to University of California’s Integrated Pest Management ProgramHigh maintenance. Creeping bentgrass requires frequent watering, mowing, aerating, and dethatching, and high levels of fertilizer.

Oops! Little mistake there. The article goes on to state that this new grass and the low flow watering system will save seven million gallons a year which could serve 120 single family homes in the Sunset. There’s a little hitch to this problem. That’s all reclaimed water. The only thing it’s good for is watering your lawn and maybe washing your car. Reclaimed water is filtered sewer water with some of the impurities removed. It is not fit for human consumption in any way shape or form, so it’s not saving water for human consumption one bit.

I’ve driven by the medians that have been finished and I’ve seen the sprinklers popping up. Because it’s new turf you have to water it more at first. These look just like the sprinklers we installed in our lawn. There’s nothing really specials about this that makes them anymore water efficient than mine, but they’ve got a lot more of them. They’re about one foot apart and these are still not too cheap.

The next phases of this is to reinstall new turf on either side of Sunset Boulevard. First the east side, then the west side. I’m not sure what that’s going to do to all the new trees they planted around the area recently, but I expect that some of them might be injured if they don’t carefully remove them or use smaller tillers to dig up the soil. What’s even more baffling is that some of those big trees there are very old and have some big root structures that have been tearing up the boulevard causing bumps  in the far right lanes in places.

Now it’s time for what would Eric do? [WWED?], well they should have pulled out the grass altogether and planted some of those nice aeoniums and other succulent like plants that we found grow if we water them and grow if we don’t. It would give us a very distinctive median that they’re doing in other parts of the city and it would take about five minutes of water every couple of weeks and a drive by once every month or so just to check if there was any overgrowth happening that needed to be trimmed back. Out across from Java Beach is a small little park that was built by the residents and it has lots of succulents planted that are just doing fine and it’s only watered by the rain. There are plenty of drought resistant plants that would have been a much better and cost effective choice, plus they clone very easily.

The other thing I question is why the other nine blocks of the boulevard are being left as is? Were there fewer donators to Carmen Chu’s campaign living north of Sunset and Rivera? If they had done it my way they could have saved money and done the entire boulevard and the extra water could be used in Golden Gater Park to make that as spectacular as it used to be.

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Skool Daze

A few days ago I was talking about my daughter and pre-school and how she had a great teacher. Well, that’s all still true, but I’ve had an experience with higher education that’s really appalled me. I was asked by someone to tutor their son in Adobe Creative Suite. He attends City College and was having a little trouble with a couple of programs so I offered to go into the lab with him and help him out.

Part of this is because I’m an expert with these programs and another was in part because I went to City College close to thirty years ago. I was cheap (cheap meaning free) back then and the teachers were decent but a bit quirky. In the end it turned out to work out for me because I got to get all my core courses under my belt and then I transferred to SF State where I could focus on my core courses in Broadcasting. I think my entire college experience which lasted 6 years cost me less than five grand back in those days. Honestly, while it gave me a few skills to use in the outside world, most of those skills are useless today except for the writing and communication skills.

I was referred to a speaker at TED who said something that was very important to me. I can’t remember his name, but I’m sure my friend Fitz will remind me after reading this. The speaker said: We’re preparing kids for jobs that don’t yet exist using technologies we haven’t yet invented. Well then, what’s the point of college? There was no photoshop classes when I was in college. The computer courses were all about programming in languages that only came into use again during the Y2K scare and we were using punch cards to store our data not floppy disks, CD or the now ubiquitous thumb drives. Nothing was on the cutting edge back then and none of us had cell phones.

Now going back to my student. We were working last night in photoshop and the course was basically a book of exercises that said, do this, then this, then this. The problem was that this was a class teaching you how to use photoshop in which you needed to know photoshop to pass the course and if you knew photoshop you could see that they were teaching it wrong. I’ve worked previously in the print industry for over twenty years and I know what formats you use to output files. I was going over the test with my student and started making notes to take back to his teacher. One of the questions was: What is the proper format for outputting graphic files to print from photoshop. He answered TIFF and JPEG. Which is correct. For offset print work you always want to use the TIFF format because it gives you the highest resolution with no loss in compression. JPEG’s used to be problematic with some digital print servers, but the new servers handle them better, but TIFF is always the best choice.

The teacher told him he was wrong and deducted two points from his score. Two points doesn’t seem like much, but you need twenty-five points to pass the class. The correct answer according to the teacher was PNG or GIF. I wrote down that this was the wrong answer. While PNG is technically correct some print servers that the print houses use still can’t handle them, though most can. It does have some loss during compression, but the majority is unnoticeable. Many on demand print houses actually like PNG because the smaller size aids in faster rasterization getting the final product out faster. GIF is as outdated as my college education because it only allows for up to 256 colors which is far from the color range you normal see with the naked eye. OK, sorry if I’m getting a bit techie for some of my readers so I’ll try to make it easier to understand.

Essentially, this course doesn’t need a teacher. All it needs is a student that can read and follow instructions which they hopefully learned in High School. The writing wasn’t very good in the manual either because there were some steps that it just told the student to perform a task without telling them how to do it. The course book was a cheaply printed low quality book that looks like it was printed on a laser printer and tape bound and then sold to the students for about $50 if not more.

You could do better by purchasing one of the O’Reilly books from Amazon that has links to downloadable files to work with that would give you far better instruction than this course would. The unfortunate part is that an O’Reilly book doesn’t give you Adobe Authorized Certification™ when you finish it and this class did even though you’re probably not taught well enough to satisfy the needs of a company who’s looking for someone with that kind of certification.

I had to learn all of what I do from magazine articles, a few books and now YouTube videos that kids in elementary school are sometimes putting together. Some of my schooling came from the school of hard knocks which I’m sure I’ve earned a Ph.D. by now. When you have kids who are going to college trying to learn a programs that were written by high school kids who didn’t go to college so they could spend more time with their multi-billion dollar start up company it makes you wonder sometimes if there still is much value in college today because as I mentioned earlier, We’re preparing kids for jobs that don’t yet exist using technologies we haven’t yet invented.

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