EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Tech | Baghdad By The Bay

Posts Tagged 'tech'

Back To Work: The Commute

IMG_7784Having been encapsulated in my car for the past three years and not really having to walk the streets of the mid-market area it was a bit of a shock at first.While there are tech companies galore in the area, most are within a few feet of the metro station and the people who work there have little interaction with the locals.

I have a two block walk from Van Ness Station down to 11th and Howard and it’s an interesting walk depending on which side of the street you’re on. But before I digress, let’s start from the beginning. I consider myself rather lucky in that I live in the fifth house from the corner of a stop by the 48 Quintara. I can use the app Routesy to check the arrival time of the bus and thankfully it is very accurate. I can hop on and be driven up to West Portal station where I grab whatever shows up and take that four stops to Van Ness where I can get to work in 35 minutes. Considering most techies consider the Sunset District to be too far away I think that’s a pretty short commute compared to living in say, Oakland.

That being said, when I get off it’s a whole different story. There is a noticeable difference between the left side and the right side of the street as I walk to work. Both are dirty, but the right side is definitely more on the smelly side. On the left side I start off walking by Uber, Square and a couple of other companies and while I don’t have proof I can’t help but think they’re part of the reason it’s not as smelly. There are security guards stationed at the entrance of all the buildings and garages and they’re all big and stern looking gentlemen, but when I walk by they sort of lose that street face probably because they know I’ve got better things to do than mess with them. There’s still a ton of old dried up gum on the sidewalk as I get to 11th and Mission, but it’s missing from the block were Uber and Square reside.

Once I hit Mission things begin to change. There’s a taco truck that I mentioned previously that was chasing away a homeless person who was trying to hide behind it to take a dump. The amount of trash increases here as well as people who obviously look much older than they really are. I have to walk past people having arguments with no one else in side who’s faces show that while they look old and haggard they aren’t as old as they look. Meth comes to mind, but it could easily be years of alcohol abuse as well. If I’m not asked by something slurring their words hunched over for a cigarette even though I’m not smoking it’s considered a good day. As I reach Howard street there’s a bus stop which looks like it kind of doubles as a rest room. In the mornings there are lots of young people who go to a couple of places for mentally disabled people that I feel sorry for because they have to see the ugly soft white underbelly of the city. Most of the people on the streets look angry. If I had to live there I’d probably look angry too. It’s not a very inviting place, yet all the of the tech and tech related companies I pass by have these unadorned fronts with large glass windows showing off their beautiful insides. I can totally relate to people who have to walk by these places daily on the outside looking in. It just feels a bit grim to me.

I mentioned before that there are lots of car repair shops, but what I didn’t mention is that they’re all high end car repair shops. You walk by garages that are dingy on the outside, but when you walk by the opening they’re immaculate Mercedes, BMW, Audi and even higher end repair shops. All the cars look like they just came out of a car wash even if they’ve been in a wreak.

When it’s time for me to go home it’s been a bit warm lately in the evenings and so I walk up the right side of the street to stay out of the sun. This is a whole different area even though it’s just across the street. There are lots of support buildings for those in need and unfortunately it tends to show the downside of those who are less fortunate. There are makeshift tents, people passed out against buildings and smell of sewer plant is highly evident. Why it doesn’t cross the street is beyond me.

There’s a Salvation Army store that takes up a sizable chunk between Mission and Market that I assume is attracting people who go through the stuff the SA can’t use. Having to walk past old dried out gum on the other side of the street isn’t so bad in comparison to having to step over puddles of urine and feces on the other side of the street. I was walking up to Market the other day behind a couple of kids who might have been in their early 20’s chugging a 40oz of MGD when the guy says, I gotta piss hella bad, so he just stopped in a corner and started to relieve himself. His girlfriend noted that she had to too and dropped her pants in the bus stop and took care of business both of them ignoring that I was walking by or that there was an elderly woman sitting waiting for the bus.

Once I make it back to Van Ness Station things seem safe again, not that I’ve been harassed by anyone on the walk back, but still, it’s been an eye opening experience.

Next: Back To Work: Tech Bros, The Real Story.

Back To Work: Introduction

techThere comes a time in every persons life when needing to earn a more steady income becomes necessary. I’ve had to put driving for rideshare companies on hold for awhile and possibly permanently because an offer came my way that was better than what I was earning from the flailing pay cuts of the rideshare industry in San Francisco.

So as of a few weeks ago I, a third generation San Francisco have started a job where I’m one of the oldest people at the company and I am now…a techie. Part of the joy I got from this offer was getting to see how that half lived that lots of my friends blame for everything that’s changed the way they used to live in San Francisco as if time hasn’t had anything to do with that.

Now that my work time is parceled out within a specific period of the day 5 days a week and not chasing the surge as it was when I was a rideshare driver I actually have more time to myself even though technically I’m working more hours. While I can’t go into too many details about the company that I’m working for because of the NDA [Non-Disclosure Agreement] I had to sign before I accepted their offer I can tell you that this company is a mid-market tech start up who’s offices are just a couple of blocks away from Twitter, Square and Uber and it’s not any of those. It’s actually owned now by a very large American corporation with a long history in the United States so that alone gives it a little more clout [Klout?] than most other start ups.

Since it’s been over three years since I actually had to work downtown and I have to say that driving your car downtown is a much more isolated experience than actually walking the streets and taking public transportation, it was a rather eye-opening experience. The Mid-Market area can be a little bit terrifying to walk in for someone like me who hasn’t had to walk past people arguing with a fire hydrant or people trying to not be noticed trying to take a dump next to a taco truck. The initial smell wasn’t too off putting of the area, but there was a lot more smell of diesel mixed in urine and feces. As I leave the Van Ness metro station and begin by walk down 11th street I notice there are a lot of car repair shops mixed in with a few tech oases for start ups that don’t even have any real estate.

Food is far and between in this part of town which is probably a part of why lunch is catered every day where I work. [more on that later]. The people on the streets have a bit of hard look to them which is contrasted by the tech workers trying to get to the safety of their workplace a quick as possible. From my short experience of close to a month it seems like the company I’m at likes sheltering their employees from the World of Horrors that is right outside their doors. I have been cursed at by people wandering the streets who most likely never grew up in San Francisco, but where probably displaced homeless people or meth heads [again, more on that later] who think I am the one destroying their town, when I was born and raised here and not them and the fact that these people are only old enough to be my children.

Overall there is a sharp contrast of joy and revulsion between the time I leave the metro station and when I get to work that makes me understand why I was picking up so many people and driving them to work. It’s hard to stare at people who tried to make something of their lives here and are having trouble or just gave it up as a lost battle. More in the coming days.

Things I’ve Learned About San Francisco: SoMA

South of MarketSouth or Market or South of the Slot as it used to be known is an interesting part of San Francisco historically. It was the first area of major development in San Francisco which the 1906 earthquake pretty much flattened leaving South Park as the only remaining houses to this day.

What was quickly replaced with industrial warehousing after the quake now has been converted largely to condos in the area North of 4th street with the condos starting to change more to newer apartments to the south. This part of  San Francisco is where a lot of the people older San Franciscans consider techies live, yes they are in Mission to a large degree, but the big money techies live here.

You have to have big money to afford the condos here. The condos here are all very new, very pretty and there’s no rent control because pretty much everything was built after 1979 if you’re living here. The condos are also very small, but are made up for by the amenities each complex offers. Most of the people I’ve met who live here are different techies than those who live in the Mission. They aren’t sharing the condos with four to five other roommates and in many cases they aren’t renting, but have bought the condos. As you move farther South in SoMA that starts to change as you get less condos and more housing. Many of these condos come with private, enclosed parking, shared grills, tennis courts in some cases as concierge services as well. It kind of feels like Manhattan a little bit without being quite so tall.

Many of the people who live here chose the areas because they love the views and the short trip to work. The price is pretty high for these spots and as I said, they’re also pretty small, but most of the people here are new to the City and haven’t much of an idea as to what things really cost in the City. I picked up a couple of guys here once who kept talking about how much they spent on the previous Saturday night going out and apparently around $500 is where it started to hurt. I suppose if blowing $400 on a Saturday night wouldn’t sting that’s a good indication that they’re making a lot more money than I am. Since these are relatively new places to live they aren’t pushing anyone out so the gentrification everyone talks about in San Francisco is really just moving out a lot of barely used industrial space. My personal experience has been that many of the people here thought really don’t know that they could get the same thing cheaper in other parts of the City so they’re creating a bit of a wave of upscale that’s spreading out through the City.

I used to work down in this area and always found it surprisingly quiet in the mornings. I might see the odd person jogging, but they usually stuck to the Embarcadero area for that, which I would too if I actually decided to jog anywhere. South Park is the last hip spot in the whole area that’s a little oval spot that feels like a part of the Mission was picked up and plopped down here. Note if you’re here around lunch time there’s a huge line outside Mexico Au Parc which lends a bit of hipster cred to the area along with the lines. It feels just like the Mission, except that while it’s noted as $ on most review sites I can get a burrito just as big and better for about half the price elsewhere in the City. I have yet to see anyone who lives in the houses in South Park, but I do know that at least a few of them have been converted to hipster workplaces which is really kind of out of place for the whole neighborhood. Calling it a neighborhood is kind of a stretch really since there is still lots of building and re-building going on and it’s very rare to find someone  that’s lived here for more than five years.

Walking around in the area you can find little parks stuck in any space that there wasn’t enough room to build a workspace with South Park really being the largest area. For me it was always a pleasant, but odd space to walk around because when you find greenery it is often surrounded by lots of noise from the traffic that is constantly afoot. It’s a nice place to visit for a short time, but aside from eating at one of the expensive places usually located on 2nd Street there isn’t much else to do. Once you pass 6th Street the condos mix in with newer apartment buildings and things become smaller and cramped. Food also gets a little bit cheaper but I think that’s in part to the area starting to mix in with the expanding Mission District which I’ll be writing about next.

SideCar.banner

Gentrification Of The Gentrified

"Margaret! Clutch the pearls! Even richer people are trying to move us out!"I read a screed the other day from a resident of the Sunset District who was decrying the Starbucksization of the Inner Sunset District and how expensive restaurants were going in all over and places that should be free to the public now making me show my ID or I have to pay a fee, how can we stop all this gentrification!

Wow. The Sunset District is getting gentrified? Does that mean that the crime will go down and instead of bar fights people will slam their drink down and proclaim I am miffed! I suppose they don’t like that the housing prices are increasing. Maybe they should go back to the old prices that were .02% of what they were when my middle class family bought one back in 1954. Rent and housing prices have been a problem since the Gold Rush era.

The Sunset District like many other areas of San Francisco has been a middle class neighborhood for years. It was even referred to as the suburbs of San Francisco when it was first built because you got to be in San Francisco, but, well, not in San Francisco. Many of the chains that have moved in were San Francisco based companies that just learned how to do it right and got popular and opened more stores. You can even find some such as the San Francisco Soup Company at local malls yet other local chains such at La Boulange are OK to many people because they don’t look so much like a chain.

Then you have…those other chains. Starbucks [started by three USF students who learned the trade from Berkeley based Peet’s Coffee founder] is the banner child to hold up when people like to decry gentrification around here, yet studies have shown that when a Starbucks goes in all the other coffee houses actually do better because people who didn’t have an interest in coffee suddenly do. While friends aren’t supposed to let friends do Starbucks, I disagree. I would rather spend my money at Starbucks and know that I’m going to get a good cup of coffee as opposed to a local coffee shop that the coffee tastes like hot water in cardboard for the same price. Starbucks has just purchased local company La Boulange which I think is a good thing because that means that food from a local company will be sold there. Starbucks also does something local businesses can’t afford to do — offer health insurance to it’s part time employees.

Granted San Franciscans who’ve been here for more than 10 years tend to hate the new people moving in yet forget that they were hated by those that moved in 10 years before them. Since I’ve been here for five decades I’ve had lots of time to hate people, but I’m a little more relaxed now. If you look through out the history of San Francisco you’ll see that people were saying the same thing about change in San Francisco over a hundred years ago. I’m sure the horse and buggy types shook their fists many a time at the new fangled motor cars.

There are no poor people in the Sunset being pushed out which is also the case in many other parts of San Francisco. We have rent control so if you’re already renting a place you’re set. Wife and I were renting when the Web 1.0 boom hit and apartments around us started going for $2500. We simply smiled and continued to pay our $1300/month for our two bedroom house which we did until we decided to move out in 2003. You couldn’t have gotten a place for that kind of rent then just as you certainly can’t now. If you happened to have been like my parents and purchased a house years ago your mortgage payments aren’t going up and if you’ve already paid off the house neither is your property tax because you’re a golden child in San Francisco terms because of California’s Proposition 13.

I am not rich by any means and there are many days where I feel like I never will even get close, but because I’m one of the few left that is lucky enough to not have to earn $50k/year just to cover rent since I’ve stayed in one place for so long and my parents thought ahead, I don’t have to worry as much.

It is sad that people have to have a high income to move here and that businesses have to pay high wages so that people can afford to live here, but that’s part of the problem with a 7×7 peninsula that has no room to grow. I don’t mind that smaller businesses are being replaced by businesses that realize we don’t want to spend $5 on a roll of toilet paper or they have a very narrow demographic of people they’ll attract. I don’t mind that businesses with a sound business plan are moving in and offering up higher paying jobs in places you wouldn’t find those jobs before and offering benefits. I don’t mind one bit that the crime rate is going down around town although I would like to have a talk with the person who imported all the frat boys to the Marina. That’s a form of gentrification I could do without.

Now I’m off to Starbucks and then show my ID card to prove I live here so that I can walk around the Arboretum for free. I might take a free ride up the Harmon Tower at the DeYoung and enjoy the view afterwards. I’m a cheap date. You can have me for less than $5.

Sidecar In The City

Get Sidecar...Apparently there’s more problems in San Francisco than just Muni. It turns out that I was wrong and that there are lots of people who like to take cabs, but they have trouble getting one or getting one to take them where they need to go — enter Sidecar.

I’ve actually started driving for Sidecar mostly because it seemed like an easy way to get some extra money in my free time. It has been a good thing and I’ve learned a lot since I’ve started driving for them. First is that getting a cab in San Francisco is really difficult depending on where you live. Most of the cabbies only want to be in high traffic areas so places like the Sunset and Richmond will get you thrown out of a cab quick style. There really isn’t anything you can do about this, except call and hope you’ll get someone. If you hop in a cab downtown and tell them you’re going to the Sunset or Richmond be prepared to get thrown out quickly because they usually can’t get anyone to drive back to the high traffic areas they like.

Then you’ve got surly cab drivers. I’ll admit it’s been awhile since I took a cab in San Francisco, but I always remember they always looked and sounded grumpy. On top of that they would try and pull their tip out at the end before you could figure how how much you wanted to give them sometimes tipping themselves 50% of your fare.

Well Sidecar doesn’t work that way. You’ll need an iPhone or Android phone and download the app which uses GPS to tell the driver where you are [it gives them more info than that, but it’s based on your GPS co-ordinates]. You ask for a Sidecar and you tell it where you need to go and then all the drivers in the area are notified that you need a ride. Someone will pick up the call and come get you. There will be a suggested donation for the ride. All rides are done through donation and not a fare like a cab because that comes under a different set of rules then. Once the car gets there you hop in and they drive you to where you want to go. At the end when the driver closes out the ride on their phone you can pay then with your iPhone based on the suggested donation. You can add more for a tip or less if you like and I’ll get into that in a minute or two. People who drive Sidecars can be identified by the bright orange MOX [mirror socks] that are on their rearview mirrors. Much more discrete than the big pink moustache that Lyft drivers have to use and there’s no requisite fist bump when they pick you up [really? who’s douchebag idea was that?]

Now in the time I’ve been driving I had to say that I’ve met a lot of really fun people. No one creepy and almost all of them were happy that I was able to get to them so quickly. They’ve been all over the map from 20’s to 50’s and students to doctors so they’ve been a very interesting group of people to talk to. They always seem to like when I tell them that I’m born and raised in San Francisco and I usually hand them a card for this blog so if any of those people are reading this HI!

Now there’s a few things I’d like to suggest to anyone who uses Sidecar for a ride.

  1. The drivers only make 80% of what you pay them keep that in mind.
  2. I strongly suggest you at least pay the suggested fare and if within your means add a small tip. We appreciate it.
  3. Don’t pay less than the suggested amount. I’ve got a couple of friends who have been paid 80% under what was suggested and that sucks because the 80% is figured after the 20% is removed so it’s more like they paid 90-95% under.
  4. Don’t ever pay $0. Drivers can block you if you don’t pay or undercut the suggested price too much and if you start to collect blocks you’ll be banned from the system [it’s 3-5 to get blocked depending on who you talk to] because the idea behind it is that it’s a community of drivers and people who want to get some where not people you get to stiff for a free ride.
  5. If you need to pay less because you’re short on cash then you should think about taking the bus or at least tell the driver and try to keep the deduction at no more than 25%.
  6. Don’t wait forever to make the donation. If you don’t pay right away you’ll get a text in 24 hours and if you don’t pay then you’ll be charged the suggested fare. You have to keep in mind that the drivers don’t get their money for six days after you’ve paid so waiting a couple of days to pay is kind of bad form. Please try to pay within a couple of hours of your trip.

The drivers have to keep up their cars and pay for the gas and if you haven’t heard gas is getting expensive. I did use Sidecar as a passenger the other day and told the girl who drove me I was a driver and that I wouldn’t stiff her and even told her how much I was going to pay. My drive from the Outer Sunset to Inner Richmond was suggested at $17 and I paid her $20. She gets $16 of that. I think I made her very happy.

I’ll keep doing this for awhile because with Sidecar it’s cheaper than a cab for most people and when I want to drive people I run the app and get ready to hop in my car. I don’t have any schedules so I get to drive whenever I get free time and I drive a few hours every day. At the very least it got me to wash my car and I recharged the air conditioning today so it feels like I’ve got a new car once again. It’s also easy to move stuff around when I don’t have piles of empty McDonald’s bags in the back from my daughter anymore.

Oh and if you’ve never used Sidecar and want to give it a try you can enter the promo code EventuallyEric and get a $10 credit to make it cheaper for you the first time. I even made a little sign I put in my car.

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.

Fun With FourSquare

foursquare-logo-iphoneI decided to have a little fun this weekend with one of San Francisco’s tech companies, FourSquare. The family decided to take a run out to In-N-Out burger in Daly City and as usual, daughter and I sat in the car while wife scoped out the place to put our order in and see if there was a table available. I had some time on my hands, so I pulled out my iPhone and started tapping away.

I pulled up FourSquare to allow me to check into In-N-Out burger. I’m not really sure why I do this. I don’t get anything for it and FourSquare gets lots of data from me and everyone else who uses it just to give me a badge-like picture for checking in at a lot of places. I at least got an Apple TV from Viggle, so today it was time to have fun with them.

As I was checking in I noticed the picture icon where you could take a picture of the place you’re checking into which gets added to the list of pictures for that particular place. I happened to notice something really fun. It was so fun that I had to make the Dr. Evil face. It gave me a choice to add a picture from my library. Oh dear, what have they done now. So I can add a picture of anything I want to the place I’m checking into. Me being the rebellious type decided to choose a picture of a taco that I had on my camera. I know. It’s not the most rebellious thing to do, but it was a start.

I could see something that was at our disposal where you could make a statement with your check in. You could get a picture of drunk fails and post that to a bar you frequent. A herd of cows would be appropriate for a check-in at Costco. Come to think of it a herd of cows would be fun to post at a gym. PETA [People for the Edible Ethical Treatment of Animals] would have a field day posting pics of slaughterhouses at meat friendly places. I posted a picture of my old roomate’s dog Bear licking her lips with a beer in front of her looking like she’s about ready to pass out to my check-in at Krispy Kreme doughnuts because when you look like that what kind of food sounds really good.

These are places that I like. Imagine what I could do if I was given bad service at a place I checked in to? Pictures are worth a thousand words and I think there are many ways that FourSquare can now beat out Yelp.