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The Audium

The AudiumThere are truly few weird and wonderful places left in San Francisco today. Yes, I’ve talked about the relics from the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exposition and 1938/1940 World’s Fairs that are on display at the Musee Mechanique, but a place I had forgotten about was brought to my attention the other day — The Audium.

The original concept started in the 50’s when experimental music was in a bit of an underground heyday. Enhanced by somewhat more affordable recording technology there were lots of people who were creating music from the sounds of the world around us or Musique Concrète. These were some of the early days of electronic music as we know it today. The music as it were could be the sounds of construction, cars driving by, people talking which could put you in a place without having to go there, or it could simply be a bizarre array of sounds that you really wouldn’t know what to make of it.

The Audium would fall into a bit of the later category. The room is circular and looks a bit like a space ship on the inside. From the ceiling are 136 hanging speakers as well as built into the walls at it’s current location at 1616 Bush Street. The Audium is best experienced rather than described. With all of those speakers individual sounds can be moved around the room in a way that 5.1 Dolby Surround or even 7.1 Dolby Surround can’t replicate. After you enter and take a seat the low level lighting is lowered to complete darkness. The room isn’t really warm or cold, but everything is set up so that the main focus of the evening is on your ears and the story that the sound will play for them.

Each work is performed live by Stan Shaff every Friday and Saturday night who mixes the taped audio in a different way each time. You could probably make the analogy that Stan is like a 3D sound DJ. Call it genius or insanity, but after you’ve experienced it once you’ll have a completely different idea of what sound it. Tickets for each performance are $20 [cash only] and a limited number of tickets are available pre-show through the City Box Office. Children under 12 are not allowed as, well, it’ll probably be a bit weird for them and they’ll start asking questions which kind of defeats the purpose.

The Audium is a place that everyone should go to at least once in their life if they intend to spend any time in San Francisco. It’s just a little bit of weirdness that helps create the character of our City.

Strikes Happen…

This little train went nowhere...As of today it looks as if the BART strike is over at least for now. I have a feeling in my gut that sometime late Sunday things will break down and the strike will be back on Monday giving the Bay Area a break for the weekend.

I’ve realized that when I say to myself, don’t they remember? This has happened before. Most of the people in San Francisco haven’t been here before and don’t remember things like June and July it’s normal to have fog in the city and sun in the summer is considered odd. Our summer comes in September and October. Like the weather, transit also has it’s shifts.

It has been awhile since there was a BART strike which probably means that half the people in the City weren’t here for the last one. Hardly anyone was here for the 1989 quake and has forgotten how people used to get to work when BART and the Bay Bridge were closed down. I think the ’89 quake is one of the reason I never liked the idea of working outside of San Francisco. You can get to and from here in the case of an emergency, but it isn’t as easy.

During the ’89 quake people discovered the ferries for the first time in I don’t know how many years. Suddenly people were saying things like, Gee, it’s kind of nice to glide home across the Bay with a glass of wine in your hand. Yes, it does sound a bit like I wonder what the poor people are doing, but it sort of became a luxury commute for some people compared to having to drive or deal with grumpy people smashed together like sardines on BART.

Then there is the casual carpooling which has been around for years. I worked with a guy who used to drive into the City across the Bridge and he’d always pick people up who would give him money to cover the bridge fare which would also help cover his gas as well. Now that BART has been on strike there’s an uptick in the number of people looking into that way of getting to work.

There was also a boom in people who realized that they had a job where they weren’t retail and didn’t have to be face to face with people every day so they could work from home once the internet was more robust.

All of these things led to a drop in the use of BART and to a lesser extent MUNI. People found a way around the problem which in the long run was more enjoyable and gave them an alternative. This caused less crowding on BART and MUNI [I’m not sure why MUNI is affected by a BART strike, but in the past numbers have shown the two co-relate].

BART strikes to me are like a purge that’s needed every once in awhile to get ride of extra people that bloat public transit. In the long run that means less income for public transit which can lead to an increase in fares, but the ride is more enjoyable. Ultimately the solution to the problem would be for people who work in San Francisco to live in San Francisco. They could spend the money from their higher incomes in the City and give something back.

TaskRabbit Revisited

I had written an article on the company Task Rabbit that’s here in San Francisco several months ago. It sounded like a good idea, but I was skeptical. I tried it, but never got a task. Now that they’ve had some time to settle in things have changed and I felt I should revisit them.

When I first join the website as a task rabbit there was hardly anyone in the Sunset District that needed help. They’re name hadn’t gotten out across San Francisco I suppose so no one new about them. Then one day I saw that there was a woman who needed two bags of dog food picked up for her and she lived three blocks away from me. I figured since I could pick up the dog food within a couple of blocks I’d offer to do it for $10. BING! I got the task. I ran off and got the dog food and called her up and actually had to go to two different stores because each store only had one bag, but they were still close by. I called her up and dropped off the food and she even gave me a $5 tip because I had to go to two stores. When I got home my Task Rabbit account had the $10 in it. Entire time spent, 15 minutes.

Not to shabby, but then I realized that I couldn’t access the money until I had acquired at least $25. So back to bidding on tasks. I got a few more and I started to get hooked. I’ve made over $200 in the last week in less than two hours worth of my time. Many of the tasks that I’ve been performing have been virtual tasks that I could do at home like searching for the passenger side mirror for a 2002 MX-5 Miata or helping someone with their website. One task has actually led me to get some freelance work that is turning out to be very lucrative.

Task Rabbit works with a point system so that the more tasks you do and the more difficult tasks you do you get more points which raises you in level. At various levels you get perks such as a Task Rabbit t-shirt at level 5 and Task Rabbit business cards with your name on them at level 10. Once you pass level 15 you get access to the Task Rabbit VIP store where your level earning give you access to more free stuff.

In the beginning there were somewhat ridiculous tasks like, get me a 6 pack of beer. How much was that worth really? Fetch me a pint of Ben and Jerrys? Now the people placing tasks are getting more serious. I’ve got a task to hook up someone’s cable box to their home theater system. It turns out the guy who hired me did so because we had previously worked at the same company so it’s also useful for networking. After you’ve done a few tasks each month you get a free task for yourself as well. Task Rabbit calls the people who do the tasks micro-entrepreneurs and it is like freelance work, but you also have to sell yourself like you’re a start up. Some of the top people actually are making $5000 a month which isn’t something to sneeze at in this economy. I’ll be supplementing my income more with Task Rabbit, but I won’t quit my day job.

If you need a few bucks here and there and aren’t afraid to work for it check out Task Rabbit. You’ll be surprised at what people will give you money for doing. Oh and if you need a task done I’ve got a code that will give you $10 off your first task.

Why I don’t like working from home

So today, after a minor delay, I get to leave the house to go to work. I’ve been freelancing from home for the past several months and while there are advantages, there are also disadvantages. Let’s take a look from my perspective.

Advantages:

  1. You get to make your own hours.
  2. You don’t have to dress up
  3. You can go at your own pace
  4. You don’t have to deal with work place authority
Disadvantages:
  1. Family interruptions that break your train of thought.
  2. You can smoke in your home office which means you will smoke more than you need to.
  3. No one will fire you for drinking on the job so you probably drink more than you need to.
  4. You forget about what time of day it is so you don’t eat regularly.
  5. You have to find your own health insurance coverage.
  6. You don’t get out of the house as often.
  7. You get less exercise.

I like job stability and while I’ve just got a temporary in house freelance job which means it won’t be long lasting, it will at least give me a reason to have some focus in my day and to get up and move around. I’ve been trying to stop smoking and since smoking isn’t allowed in workplaces here this will help. I’m one of those people who smokes because I’m bored, not because I’m stressed. I have managed to cut down quite a bit, but now it will be even easier.

I’ll get to be more mobile and meet new people which I always like. Some of them might come in handy in the future which is always a good thing. This will also give me a change to get outside the city since I don’t get to do that very often and it’s usually down the peninsula. I also won’t have my 18 year old cat sitting next to me yowling for attention all day and night. The only bad thing about this, is that I’ll have less time to spend with my daughter which only means that when I do have time I’ll enjoy that even more and it will spur me on to do more with her when I have time to.

So here I go, off to work a journey into the unknown, but at least I know that I’ll have a regular paycheck coming for a little while. I will also be able to count myself as not one of the hundreds of thousands of unemployed for a little while that will hopefully turn permanent. So here I go, full guns blazing!

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Work is Coming Back to San Francisco!

I have to say that the past couple of years have been rough. Jobs have been disappearing left and right and it’s hard for me to name a time when I can remember working a 40 hour week. Most of the jobs I’ve had in the last 4 years have been 40 hours a week when I started, but quickly moved down to 20-30 sometimes 15 hours a week.

The bosses at those jobs used to use the trick of telling me I sucked at what I was doing in order to fire me so they wouldn’t have to pay into unemployment, but I won out every time and those companies have all gone out of business.

In the last couple of years I would search for jobs daily and if I was lucky I would find three, maybe four jobs a week. Over the last month though I am beginning to find 30-40 jobs a week and I’m actually getting calls for interviews. I’ve got three interviews scheduled this week plus freelance work that’s come out of nowhere to add more change in my pocket.

I even had an interview today and they actually said that if I was hired they would include health benefits. Now how weird is that for a company in San Francisco? This wasn’t a health insurance plan that was a company of five doctors that you got to choose from, but an actually real big overpriced health insurance company that my prospective employers actually pays part of the premium like they’re supposed to, not tell the government they are, but charge it all to the employee like many have done to me in the past.

Now that fact that I’ve sent out my resume to 120-160 jobs in the last month and I’m still not employed may seem like something wrong with me, but there are lots of people who don’t have jobs and as my wife said to me today, Well, if you don’t get it, that at least means there will be less people in the pool for other jobs you find. I hadn’t thought about that, but I think she’s right.

There are lots of people who have been down and out in San Francisco over the lack of jobs, but now that our new Mayor Ed Lee is extending local tax breaks to businesses [which there are hardly any cities that charge a payroll tax on businesses] it looks like things are turning up for us. San Francisco is a damn expensive place to live in not just with housing, but also with the fact that a trip to the store revealed Oscar Mayer bacon is selling for $8.99 a pound. I don’t want to sound like an old curmudgeon, but I remember 15 years ago when that was $1.99 a pound. Of course back then I was eating rib eye steaks and filet mignon for around $4.99 and I didn’t have to go to Costco to get it.

Good times are ahead for us and don’t let them get you down.