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The Giant Sweep

The Giant SweepIf you’re anything like me and have been living in the same place for awhile you’ve probably collected lots of junk. Wife and I have had our house to ourselves for four years now since my Mother died and we’re still finding things that we have no use for. Well, even after we hired a dumpster to get rid of most of it and had a few garage sales we now have another chance coming up this weekend on May 18th — The Giant Sweep.

While the Giant Sweep affects District 4 on May 18th you’ll probably be receiving in the mail if you haven’t already a postcard telling you when your drop off day is and where. Ours is at Sunset Elementary School and I’ve done this once or twice before and I have to say that it is a pretty well organized event. You drive into the parking lot and if you’ve done things right you only need to pop your trunk and the guys there will pull everything out and sort it. It takes about a minute once it’s your turn and is something that’s really worth while if you’ve got lots of junk to get rid of . We happened to find a couple of wheeled boards that it took me awhile to figure out what they were, but they were carts for holding the old metal garbage cans we used to have about 40 years ago that we have no need for any longer.

The Giant Sweep will accept large, bulky items, materials that can be composted, non-recyclable/non-compostable waste and household hazardous waste. All you have to do is pack up your car and drive it out there between 8am and noon. If you’ve got stuff that you don’t need and don’t want to use one of your free Recology pick ups to have it taken away this is the day to do it. You can also pick up 5-10 gallons of free compost for your yard so you can have something to help your garden grow.

Living The Techy Life

Mug for the camera. Microsoft wants to see where their money went...I went to a mixer last night which is sort of like an all you can eat buffet for techies and in talking with a few people I started to understand how people with a tech background survive in the City.

First off you have to get invited to lots of mixers or meet ups. They’re free, offer food and lots of free booze. They run from 4pm to around midnight depending upon the day of the week. The food and booze is sponsored by large tech companies or at least partially underwritten to make it less expensive to the attendees. So let’s see what I got last night.

I walked in and was handed two free drink tickets. These were pretty much good for anything from a coke to a long island ice tea. I’ve just saved potentially $20. After walking in the door and before I could get a drink the food servers got me. I was offered [not in order of appearance] crab cakes, mushroom duxelles on toast, smoked salmon on toast, kobe beef styled sliders with grilled onions, grilled polenta dusted with parmesan, sweet potato fries with a habanero aioli to name what I can remember. I stayed a little over an hour and I have to say I left overly stuffed. When I got home I could barely keep my eyes open from the food coma I was in and had one of the best nights sleep I’ve had in a long time. Getting seconds and thirds of the food wasn’t uncalled for, but expected that evening and I probably got an extra 2000 calories to add to my diet that day. Total cost for the evening? $2 muni fare round trip because I was able to transfer back home in under the hour and a half time frame.

As I was walking down Montgomery street to the location I noticed something about downtown that I hadn’t in awhile because I don’t go there very often. Most of the people were in a severely dressed down state. I could count the number of button down shirts on one had and most of those were worn by the doormen at the various clubs along the way. Most of the people looked like they bought their clothes at a Goodwill and aimed for the lower end stuff. Passing by 111 Minna there were an large number of hipsters all with bike messenger bags yet there wasn’t a single bike to be found. 111 Minna has a low entry fee and cheap beer so if you’ve got a few extra bucks it’s a good place to end an evening or start one if you’re not hungry.

Now let’s relate this to the techy life. San Francisco we all know is an expensive town to live in. If you work here it’s almost as if no matter how much they pay you, it’s never enough. The ways you make ends meet is by attending the meet ups and mixers. They have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner so if you swing it right you never need to have food in your house. You can supplement those with the perks your business offers you such as chips and cookies before you run home to your your apartment that other people would call a closet. While I’m not as into the tech field as many other people I could still eat out on someone else’s dime for about three nights a week.

To get the techy look you have to buy used clothing or just have not bought clothes since Web 1.0. You very rarely need a button down shirt so you only need to own one that you can keep in your closet and pull it out once a year when you have to dress up or attend a funeral. The bike messenger bag is for carrying all your laptop/tablet and to stuff swag that you get at the meet ups, or stuff food into for a late night snack.

I never had to live this lifestyle since before I got my house the rent was way cheaper and I wasn’t spending upwards of $40k/year just on rent. While I can’t fully relate to it, I do have to say that I admire the way they get by. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go pull the kobe beef sliders and smoked salmon out of my jacket from last night.

My First Job

Please Sir, I'd like some more.I was talking with a friend the other day about silly jobs we’ve worked. Most of my jobs have been fairly normal and anything odd never lasted more than a week [setting up the audio for a gay new year’s party was interesting, but having to move out the day after wasn’t]. I had to think hard on this one and then I remembered back when I was nine years old. That was what I would consider my first job.

I was in elementary school [Lawton Elementary to be specific] and it was the year that busing started. There was lots of turmoil going around most of it in class or on the school yard and I was this nice clean cut white boy who just should have had a kick me sign glued to my back. My mother was even told by the Principal that the reason I was getting into so many fights was because she dressed me too nice for school. I didn’t like school back then because in a couple of years I would be working out organic chemistry at classes I took at the Academy of Sciences that I learned more from than the prune faced teachers of yesteryear that would just scowl at you and put on the TV so we could watch an episode of Sesame Street or Electric Company while they went to the “conference room” to suck down have a pack of cigarettes.

I needed a way out and a friend of mine Cornell told me there was an opening for a dishwasher in the Cafeteria. Cornell and I because friends because I think I told him he was cheating at four square which I didn’t realize was a challenge or slang for, terribly sorry, but would you possibly mind kicking my clean cut white boy posterior? Afterwards we became friends and he let me in on the little secret.

When you worked in the Cafeteria you got to leave class before lunch. Lunch was split into two sections where the first group would be eating then go out to play and they’d shuffle the second group in. We got our lunch for free and there was almost two hours out of my school day I only had to deal with Mrs. Dixon who scowled at everyone except us, Cornell and one other person who I can’t remember his name. For getting the trays and washing them [I had the dryer detail putting the trays into and pulling them out of the dryer and stacking them] we were paid 25¢ a week plus the free lunch. I’m sure we could have asked for more, but six nine year olds going on strike doesn’t exactly make anyone suffer. In some ways I felt a bit like Oliver from Oliver Twist, without all the filth and suffering.

These were the days when your parents would scare you with threats that if you didn’t do better in school they’d expel you and no other school would take you and you would wind up broke and on the streets. Well at least that’s what my Mom would tell me. Being broke and on the streets would have been tough for a nine year old so I worked at school which wasn’t much of an effort and if I did wind up on the streets I could at least be a dishwasher.

What I remember the most was Mrs. Dixon [who I just can’t imagine what Mr. Dixon looked like if he did exist] would reward us at the end of the month if we did a good job with an ice cream bar. I never understood why she had them since none of the other kids got ice cream [note bragging sound in my voice]. It wasn’t really that much and I could probably go home after school and at least three days out of the week I could grab an ice cream bar out of my own freezer, but I guess because I had to work for it made the difference. Cornell always used to work hard because once a month was about the only time he would get ice cream and he’d run out the door showing that ice cream bar to everyone in the school yard. The quarter didn’t mean much when you got ice cream at the end of the month.

Digital Babylon

The ways of yesterday are the ways of today. I’m enrolled in the Jobs Now 3 program which isn’t like the original Jobs Now program where you could get a job and your employer would be repaid your salary. Now it’s only a $5000 endowment to the person who hires you, but it’s still not bad. There is a catch now though. You have to go through the Career Development Center where they try and find you a job.

This works fine if you’ve just turned 18 and don’t have a college degree, but for someone like me who has a Bachelor’s degree and has worked in the graphic design area for over 20 years and done web development for a good 10+ years you aren’t going to find anything. They do offer training, but nothing for me because I already have a college degree. Then I remembered something that few people know about or pay attention to…iTunes U.

iTunes U is a part of iTunes where colleges offer courses online. The colleges could be Stanford, Harvard, MIT, etc. They’re good courses and the best part is they are free. You won’t get a diploma from them, but if you’re someone like me who wants to learn Objective-C or Drupal, you don’t really need a diploma. You just need to learn it, then put it to use. For those of you out there like me who are skilled workers looking for a job [techie day labors] This is were you need to look. The classes cover the full range and aren’t just for techie types, but might give you an upper hand if you’ve been unemployed for awhile and want to brush up on your skills.

At the very least it’s free and gives you a chance to learn something new. At the worst, read the last sentence again. The ways of yesterday are not the ways of today and you have to use the new tools that are out there to get a leg up on the competition.

The Second California Gold Rush Hits San Francisco

Back in the 1800’s when James Marshall found a chunk of gold at Sutter’s Mill California it started a wave of people who wanted to get rich quick flooding into the state to make their millions. Sound a bit familiar?

San Francisco was the landing place for a lot of the people who were heading out to get rich during the Gold Rush. We were a big port that had lots of food and supplies for the get rich quick people and because the demand was so high we could raise the price. San Franciscan’s back then didn’t have to head to the hills to get rich. They could do it by sitting on their butts selling goods to the newcomers at inflated rates.

Well since then things haven’t changed too much. I realized this while talking to a friend of mine who came here about 18 years ago from Italy following another gold rush — the gold rush of Silicon Valley. This time the gold rush was a little different. He was a computer programmer and was lured here by an offer of big money. Sure, you had to work long hours to get it, but it was big money and he was single like many of the original people to gold rush. There difference was that he was coming here to be handed the money. It was guaranteed up front for at least a significant amount of time all due to venture capital.

Like many of the gold rush people of the 1800’s he came to San Francisco first and then he slowly moved on to parts outside the city. Luckily he didn’t have to go far up into the Northern hills, but only had to move a little bit south to Brisbane. Brisbane is nice town. It has an old city feel to it which is a funny contrast to the eastern side of town which is all high rise office buildings gleaming in the sunlight. These campuses [or should that be campi?] bring in tech workers from all over the San Francisco Bay Area. You  notice that we call it the San Francisco Bay Area right? While not the most populous city in the Bay Area, it’s the best known. I know people who live in Alameda, or San Bruno who tell people they live in San Francisco because it’s easier for people to identify the location if they don’t live here.

San Francisco has many tech companies such as Adobe, Yelp, Square and Twitter that help keep us on the tech map. The problem is how to keep them here. Our minimum wage is higher which isn’t too much of a problem for tech workers, but our costs are higher. Rent is high here and the City of San Francisco is one of the few cities that tax employers. Things like this make the people who come from San Francisco leave San Francisco if they want to start a company. This is also another reason why housing rental is so high. We have a high turnover rate in rentals which gives the owners incentive to raise rates when people leave. Remember what I said earlier about how we sold goods at an inflated price during the first gold rush? The same is true today. We’ll still keep people coming, but we may not keep them here for more than a few years unless we take a look at how we deal with the people and the businesses in our city.

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Smartphones for Dummies: San Francisco

There’s something about smartphones that no one wants you to know. Now that I have my brand new iPhone 4 I am an expert and will share with you my font of knowledge.

Well, maybe at least what I’ve learned so far…First off, these are phones that connect to the internet. What they don’t tell you is that they try to access Wi-Fi first, then fall back to 3g, then Edge, then GPRS as the last resort. Everything after Wi-FI is where your monthly data charges come in. Now if you’re like me and the millions of other hipsters who got an iPhone to be cool and only make a few phone calls you can find a way to save yourself the $15-$25/month as soon as that’s not a part of your contract [looking into that tomorrow].

I’ve found there are tons of free Wi-Fi out there and there’s even a free app for the iPhone called of course, Free Wi-Fi Finder. While this works pretty good, I’ve found that if you see the #G or E or ° on your iPhone that you should go into your settings and try and turn on Wi-Fi. Chances are you’ll find an open system. I was wandering around my local Safeway and happened to remember this and turned it on and found that Safeway offers free Wi-Fi. So I connected and now because it’s a smartphone it remembered it and every time I’m in that Safeway it will automatically hook up. This is good because the cell phone reception is nil inside so I can run Skype if I need to make a call and call out over Wi-Fi and be a VoIP geek for a bit.

This secret has kept me from getting a Smartphone even when I could have afforded one because it was the data plan that pushed me back. I already pay less per month for much better Wi-Fi at home, why should I pay more for a slower connection outside the house?

So I think this weekend I’ll go fishing, but I’ll leave the pole at home and go around my neighborhood and as soon as I find I don’t have a Wi-Fi signal I’ll see who’s I can latch onto. I’ll also do that at the pizza place by where I work since I know they offer free Wi-Fi and they have good pizza considering they aren’t in New York.

If you could, please click on my sponsors ad below. You don’t necessarily have to purchase anything unless you want to, but at least the click will add money to my daughter’s schooling fund, or if you like you can click on our donation link and donate even a dollar.

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Shhh…Don’t tell everyone.

I just found out recently that the San Francisco Public Library has a cool offering for parents. It’s a free pass to any one of a huge number of places to go in San Francisco like The Aquarium of the Bay, California Academy of Sciences, Cartoon Art Museum, California Historical Society, Exploratorium, The Walt Disney Museum and much, much more.

Now some of these places would cost you over $50 to take your family, but with your library card you just clic on the logo to the right and it’ll take you to the sfkids.org website where you can ask for the pass. You then go to the local branch and pick it up and you’re set. When you’re done you just return the pass card to any library.

We all know that times are tough and when you have kids it costs big bucks to entertain them. These free passes are a little known fact that I just came across when my wife and I visited the main library and now you can access everything to get you to these places online and remember…it’s free!