Looking Back on 2011

This will be my last post for 2011. I felt it would be a good time to reflect back on the year. It was a tough year for most of us. I only had 3 months of work this year, but I managed to keep it all together. I’ve discovered new forms of earning money as a freelancer such as taskrabbit.com and I was almost selected as the best political blog in San Francisco by SF Weekly.

Politics: We had a mayoral race where Mayor Ed Lee who said he wasn’t going to run, but did and then won caused a stir. Supervisor John Avalos had a good run in the race he’s someone to keep an eye on in the future. Oddly enough, I have never really been into politics so this year was a surprising one for me.

Wackiness: We had lots of coverage of the nude guys in the Castro. It seemed like every week there were tastefully[?] posted pictures on sfgate.com. I’m still not too sure about it all, but I don’t travel to the Castro much.

Steve Jobs: Yes, I love Apple computers and fact that they lost the person who brought them back from the brink of death in the 90’s was a sad time indeed. Apple looks like it’s holding up well after the passage of one of the greatest CEO’s of all time.

Post PC World: Tablet computing changed the way we live and it will get even better. I’d like to take the time to thank all of you who contributed to my being able to get an iPad for my austistic daughter. She’s coming along quite well with it, so once again thank you all for your support.

Autism: I’ve learned a lot about children with special needs and the support system that the SFUSD offers for them. Thanks to Kara, Alexis, Kate, Rosie, Mari and Kari who helped her improve through the year. You’ve all become friends and I consider you a part of my family.

Republicans: Thank you for giving me a reason to laugh. While I don’t agree with all of your views you need to pull it together and identify with the Americans you want to represent. You are showing yourselves to the world as an out of date dying old man. Someone will pull the plug on you shortly. Tony Hall is the only Republican I can say I have any respect for.

Leland Yee: Thank you for giving me the publicity I never asked for. Your love of shark fin soup and my hatred of shark finning gave me a reason to write and helped me become a finalist as the best political blog in SF. Let’s have coffee at the Tennesse Grill.

Westside Hipsters™: Yes, I coined that term after many meet ups with friends at the Java Beach Cafe at the foot of Judah. Everyone had a laptop, tablet, smartphone and we’re having informal meetings regarding their business start ups they were working on or just networking in think tank mode to figure out which mobile app would be the next big thing to code. Unlike the Mission Hipsters, these guys worked and drank beer better than Pabst Blue Ribbon.

SF Bloggers: I finally got to meet some of these people and I have to say that I’m in a good crowd with Ocean Beach Bulletin and N Judah Chronicles. I’m planning on making sure I can meet more of them in 2012.

Money: Never had enough of it, but somehow I managed to get through the year. I don’t know how I did it, but I did. Unemployment helped a bit as did the three months of real work I had, but I guess I had someone watching over me and dropping freelance work just when I needed it.

My Wife: So doesn’t like attention so I always refer to her as my wife. She kept me from going crazy and has always stood by me for the past 15 years, so to her I have to give the biggest thanks.

And to all my readers if you’re dumb enough to drive on New Year’s Eve and get yourself smashed call AAA’s Tipsy Tow at 1-800-AAA-HELP. They’ll tow your car and you home for free and you don’t need to be a AAA member.

Venmo: The App That Will Kill Paypal

Many of you know I have a bit of a hatred for PayPal after they banned me for running a raffle that I didn’t know wasn’t something you were supposed to do with them. They didn’t tell me to stop they just told me I was banned for life along with anyone in my house or anyone who ever will live in my house if I decided to sell it. A friend of mine turned me on to Venmo today and I have to admit, it’s much better than PayPal and will probably shut them down.

First thing is that they have some major funding for a startup and they don’t take a cut of your payment. They’ve said in the future they will from businesses, but that’s only to keep people like you and me from using it without having to lose money. They have iOS and Android apps so they cover a large amount of the smartphone hipster world.

People like me who work as freelancers and are pretty much off the grid so to speak can use this electronic form of payment to transfer money between clients and myself and the best part is when the client pays you don’t have the 3-5 day wait and charge like you do with PayPal, it’s an overnight transfer to your bank account. OK, that’s a really good start.

They are working with businesses so that you can pay them like you would with a credit card only you use your smartphone. Oddly enough it hooks you up with lots of social media so that it can broadcast to the networks when you’ve paid for something and/or charged someone for something. I’m not too keen on that, but you can turn that off easily.

Currently they are in an invite only mode, but if you want to give them a try go to their website and use the promo code selfmag1 and you’ll get in. I’m predicting this company which unfortunately for a tech company isn’t based int he Bay Area will grow quickly. They’ve got the killer apps that are free and they don’t charge you to exchange money. This is going to be a big game changer for me. I’ve been billing people when I do virtual work for them and it takes time to get the money. If I’m in person I’ll swipe their credit card with my Square app [which I also love] which is also cheaper than PayPal, but still there’s a charge. Now I can virtually bill people and collect money free of charge. That’s pretty cool to me and it’ll give me a little more bang for my bucks that I’m earning.


Merry Christmas To All!

[imagebrowser id=7]Every year I get into the holiday spirit early, but this year it took me awhile. Twas the night before Christmas Eve and I had to take a trip to 34th and Quintara to get in the mood. There’s a guy who owns the corner house that for every holiday puts up a display for everyone to see. Whether it’s Valentine’s day or St. Patrick’s day he does up the house, but Christmas is his biggest time of the year.

I have no idea what his name is, but tomorrow I’m going to knock on his door and introduce myself to him. Cars that drive by his house slow down and people bring their kids to have their pictures taken in front of the house. His house is so magically Christmasy that even during the day it looks beautiful. Why he hasn’t been written up in the paper yet is beyond me, but I’m hoping someone from the Chronicle or Examiner or even SF Weekly will stop by and interview him.

He works hard to do what he does and i feel he should be acknowledged for it. We take our daughter down every Christmas and Halloween [the two biggest times for this houses decorations] just to see that WOW look on her face. He is the Santa for all the kids that need something more than the mall Santa’s. He doesn’t get paid to do this, but he does it anyway. That’s a rare thing in this day and age and I feel he needs to be recognized for it.

If you get a chance, definitely go by and see his house. It is a wonderful Christmas tradition that is non-sectarian like the Christmas’ I knew as a kid. In honor of his work, I did a little work tonight and put together a video tribute to his house and it’s decorations. I hope you enjoy it and drive by and see his place. He and his wife are doing a great community service for what they are doing and they deserve an award. My video is the best I have to offer so far. I’ve included a slideshow at the top from pics I took last year and this year. While I can’t give a gift to all of my readers I hope you’ll all accept this. Enjoy!


Autism vs. The iPad: Part II

As you read before we had a little mishap with the iPad and it was replaced for free by Apple. The day it was replaced we searched for a case that would keep it protected no matter want and we decided on the Survivor by Griffin Technology. I watched their video of their case with the iPhone and searched for reviews and figured that if the case was considered military grade in the US and UK it could hold up to a moderately autistic child.

Well I was right and I’m glad now. In the three days it took to get the case we’ve been keeping a watchful eye on our little spud to make sure she didn’t throw it or bash it again. Well, it turns out that our over protectiveness only encouraged her to do so. Nothing really terrible, but if we moved toward her in a preemptive strike to keep her from damaging it she knew and would try and toss it.

Luckily we have quick hands and got it before any damage occurred. Now about the case. It’s really good. It’s a polycarbonate housing that’s strong and I liked it because it took me awhile to get it apart so her getting it out of the case will be difficult. The polycarbonate case is covered with a silicon/teflon outer soft cover with flaps covering all of the access ports. This would be great in the sands of Iraq, but what I liked most is that it muted the sound a bit which our daughter like to turn up full blast. This isn’t a problem when you hold it in your hands, but when it’s flat on a table the sound ricochets off the table and is amplified by about 30db making it very loud and annoying whenever there’s an elmo video playing.

Watch the video below. It’s a great case and I found it online for $39.95. It’s a bit thicker than the iPad or iPhone, but it’s worth it for the practically hermetic seal it gives to the iPad. While for some people $499 isn’t too high a price to have to replace, if you have a young kid you’ll want a strong case to protect it so that you can keep your iPad for as long as possible.


Electric Charging Stations In San Francisco

I went to my local Walgreen’s today and got a surprise. They had a charging station for electric cars. This was a first for me as I didn’t know that we had any set up yet, but had heard of talk about them being installed. All of these are owned by a company called Chargepoint.net and they charge $3 per hour to charge your electric car. While this is a cool idea, I think that when you charge your car at home and have to pay somewhere around 25¢ per KWh the price is a bit steep.

I’m not sure how many KWh hours a typical car needs to be fully charged, but I’m sure it’s less than the $65 I currently pay to fill my car up every month [we rarely need to drive outside the Sunset District, so most of our trips are short.] I also can’t exactly see why if I’m mostly driving in the Sunset District that I would need to fill up my battery on a trip to Walgreen’s less than a mile from my house when on average electric cars get about 100 miles on a charge [quoting the Nissan Leaf].

I could see if you were driving from SF to someplace outside the city that was at least a 50 mile drive and needed to be there for a couple of hours that a system like this would work well. Say we take the family out in our electric car for a drive down to San Jose for a couple of hours then it would make sense to charge up the car before we drove home, but the way we drive we would be able to do it much cheaper at home.

As you can see from the photo the charging station doesn’t have a solar panel which would make it even more green. The electric car brigade is still in its infancy and needs some fine tuning still. They’ll need to work the bugs out over the next few years, but at least it’s a good start. While people who live in the Sunset know that sun and this part of the city do not go hand in hand solar panels would still be a good addition.

I like the idea that there is a push in this city towards being more green since after watching a show last night on Hong Kong that the breathing the air there is similar to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day that I like our air quality here and if there’s people trying to make it better I’m all for that.

We still have the problem that not all electric cars have the same hook up so just because there’s a charging station there doesn’t mean you can hook your car up to it. Nissan has teamed up with chargepoint.net so that’s great if you buy a Leaf, but not so good if you’ve bought a car that hasn’t teamed up with them.  There are still some kinks to be worked out, but I think this is a good start.


Tsunami’s vs. San Francisco

I was watching tv last night and the topics of tsunami’s came up again as it has frequently since the Japanese earthquake/tsunami. We in San Francisco have it pretty good if we’re hit by a tsunami and let me tell you why.

First we’re pretty hilly on the coast. Our natural seawall at the beach is about 20 ft. high. That means that the tsunami that hit Japan would possibly leave a few puddles if there was enough force to push it up and over the sea wall. For the most part it would swirl around into the bay weakening its force and the SOMA area with it’s 10 ft high piers would get the worse of it which still wouldn’t be much.

My house is roughly 213 ft above sea level so we would need a huge tsunami wave to cause any damage to our house from a wave hitting the coast. The worst problem we might have is from the storm drains overflowing. There have been times of high rain that the storm drains can’t handle the amount of water so the you’ll see man hole covers lifted up under the pressure and water pouring out and down the streets. Since the water can’t go back into the drains you will literally get  rivers of water flowing downhill to the beach where it collects at the sand dunes without enough power to flow over and even then there might only be a few inches gathered.

The photo included with this post is all CGI and since it exists in someone’s photoshop mind and has yet to be documented we don’t have much to worry about. A tsunami in San Francisco would come from our storm drains before it would come from the sea. Alameda on the other hand, beware.

Autism vs. The iPad

As I’m sure you remember we were able to get an iPad for our daughter during a time when we didn’t have much money [which is a fate we still share today]. She loves the iPad a lot and I thank again all of my readers who help us get it for her. Then my wife came running into my workspace all white face with a look of horror and my daughter running behind quickly screaming and crying — I think we just lost the iPad.

WHAT!? She handed it to me and it looked fine until she peeled back the case and showed me the dent. The dent happened to come right where the volume up and down keys were and while it still worked we couldn’t get any volume out of it. I quickly got an appointment at the Genius Bar to have them take a look and then started doing some research.

I was seeing everything from a few people who got it replaced free to most people who had to pay $299 or buy a new one. My heart sunk. This is my daughter’s baby. She treats it like a puppy hugging it and petting it. She never throws it or drops it unlike many of her other toys. She knows this is something special for her.

For any parent of a child whether they have autism or not I would highly suggest an iPad. My daughter has improved so much since we got it for her. She couldn’t point at things before, but now points to things that she doesn’t know the name of. She’s learned how to say words she never said a year ago and now she can even write. Sure she has therapists that help her out, but a lot of this even the therapists say comes from the iPad. It has helped her immensely and I was pretty devastated to learn that this great tool we had for her might be gone and we don’t have the money or credit to afford to get it fixed or buy a new one.

I went into the Apple store thinking to myself well, maybe I could ask for donations again, but I don’t really like begging. If you like the blog and want to make a donation feel free to do so, but I refuse to sit out there on the internet with a cup in hand asking spare change from everyone who comes to my blog. I’ve been getting enough work from TaskRabbit to help us get by until I can get a real job again so I figured I could find a way to make it work out.

So my Genius is guy named Tony. I told him the story and how this is our autistic daughter’s best friend [yes, I played the autism card, but it was important because of what she’s got from it.] Tony took a look and said, well, it’s only a little dent and no screen damage so we’ll replace it for you right now.


So the crisis has been averted and we’re in the process right now of getting the back up reinstalled on the iPad. Tony suggested that we get an Otterbox case for it which my wife and I have been talking about for a while. Now it’s obviously a definite buy item. I think I’ll have to take on a few more tasks to get the money to cover this one, but it’ll be worth it in the long run if it’s something that is helping our daughter improve herself.

Tony, thanks for helping a brother out.


Carlos y Mi

It was 1981 and a friend of mine was having her 21st birthday. I was at the party and met the older sister of an old friend of mine I hadn’t seen in a few years. She had too much to drink and I helped her get home in the Mission District. It was late so I crashed there that night. It turns out that this was going to be one of those nights I’d remember for the rest of my life or at least the next day would be the most memorable.

We woke up somewhere around 10 am that Sunday morning and there I was in the Mission. My Mother always told me to be careful and stay away from the Mission because if you looked at someone the wrong way they’d stab you. My Mom was big into playing into stereotypes. My friend wanted to get something to eat so we walked outside and started walking down the street and I see this guy sitting out on the front steps of his house noodling around on a Les Paul guitar. We stopped for a few seconds to listen and then he stopped and looked up at us. It was Carlos Santana.

Things suddenly became very real for me. I usually had only seen him at a free concert in the park, but here I’m standing right in front of him sitting outside his house on a sunny day in the Mission just playing his guitar for no one but himself.

What chu looking at? He said with a smile.

All I could say was that he was one of the people that made me want to learn how to play guitar.

Yeah? Then show me what you can do. As he handed his guitar to me.

Oh crap. I’ve just been asked to play guitar for Carlos Santana, I’m 19 years old and I’ve only been playing guitar for about four years. I took the guitar and pic from his hands and realized that this was the first time I had held a Les Paul in my hands and didn’t realize how heavy they were. Maybe it was nerves, but the guitar felt like it was made out of lead. I sat down and took a deep breath and play the first thing that came into my head. The opening guitar solo of Black Magic Woman. I didn’t really have a style of guitar playing at 19 I was usually just trying to learn other people’s songs. I handed the guitar back to Carlos after I finished and he smiled at me.

OK, you can play the song, but can you write the song?

Not yet, but I’m working on it.

Get back to me when you’re a song writer.

Those few words stuck with me. It got me into expressing myself through music and actually writing my own music. I think I’ve done pretty good at it. I never could get back to Carlos and he doesn’t live in the Mission anymore, but here’s hoping that this will get to him and he’ll hear a bit of his influence in my playing while still having my own sound. This is off my new album Exile In The Sunset and is the eighth track All Alone [album available in iTunes and the CD is available at saundhaus.com.]

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Well, it’s the Christmas season and many years ago while attending the Dickens Faire in San Francisco we walked out and found a guy selling roasted chestnuts. This of course brought back to my mind the old song line Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… so I had to try some to see what they were about. I think we paid about $2 for  a newspaper wrapped cone of them. I was lucky enough to be able to try them again because some friends of mine dropped by last night and handed me a bag of them  That they had gotten from Skyline Chestnuts that they wanted to share with us.

Now I haven’t had a chance to roast these yet, but I have to say after looking at these nuts before they’re in the sellable form they’re pretty ugly. They look a bit like a hairy scrotum to be honest and to understand the reason why people would want to pop one of these in their mouth is kind of like my old question about broccoli, why would anyone be interested in eating something that smells like ass when it’s being cooked? Well chestnuts are different. After being roasted they have the consistency of a baked potato, but with a nutty and buttery flavor that rather interesting and no to shocking in taste. They don’t taste like ass one bit, but can actually be rather enjoyable.

I never had learned how to roast them as my family never got into them so I did some research and found that the trick is to first split them in a X shaped pattern prior to roasting them. Then pop them in an oven at about 425° for about 20 minutes turning them halfway. If you want them to have a more moist texture you should cut the X then soak them in water. Salted or not. I’m thinking salted water soak is the way I’ll go for these.

Christmas is one of those holidays that I don’t associate with Jesus being nailed to a pine tree. I just like the tree with the ornaments and lights and the warmth of your home in the winter cold that is hitting San Francisco this year. This time of the year is a time to celebrate the fact that we’ve made it through another year and hoping for ourselves and our friends that next year will be even better. If sticking a few hot salty nuts in my mouth helps bring this about, well then so be it.


The State of the Economy

I’ve been trying not to stray from talking about San Francisco, but today I have to talk about the State of California’s Unemployment Department and the U.S. Postal Service because one of them is to blame for the fact that yesterday, 12/12/2011 I received what was called my last unemployment check dated 4/4/2011 and mailed on 4/5/2011 as the picture shows.

WTF? Seriously? It took over eight months for them to send me my check? I worked for a company in 2010 under the JobsNow! program whereby my salary was repaid by the government. This lasted until the funding ran out at the end of September 2010 and I was helping them out on an equity only basis until I got my next job. In the meantime I started to collect unemployment again. Here’s where things started to get weird.

The put me back on quickly and then in January I got a bump up again because I had earned more per quarter than before because of my job. Then they cut me off because I had used up my money and didn’t have 40 times my weekly earnings to get an extension. I brought in the figures to show them differently and they gave me an extension, but now at the maximum draw for unemployment which they once again cut me off because now that I was making more money from unemployment I still didn’t have enough to qualify for an extension.

Just so everyone knows, if you work and are laid off you have to have earned in a quarter at least 40 times what you will receive in a week to qualify for an extension on your benefits. If you do not, your benefits will stop and you will no longer be eligible for unemployment benefits until you find work again. You’ll be unemployed, but not on the list of people who are unemployed.

So let’s get back to the check…I asked for a hearing again and went down and sat beside the judge who I explained everything to and who was very confused about the whole process and how this came about. She also asked me why when I filed my appeal that I filed it late. Uhm, late? I filed it the day after I received it and dropped it off at the post office directly to get it to them as quickly as possible.

The judge asked me why the post office took so long to deliver the letter. Well how the hell am I supposed to know? I don’t work for the f*cking post office! OK, I didn’t say that, but I’m hoping after she asked that question the answer popped into her head. I followed up stating that I had filled out form until the end of my payment time and hadn’t received the last check. When I received the write up of the trial this wasn’t mentioned, but my denial of further benefits was.

This all leads me to the check I received yesterday, over eight months late. After being denied extended benefits from way back then on the stub it tells me, You may qualify for extended benefits. If you qualify, the claim will automatically be filed. No action is needed on your part. You will be notified by mail of your eligibility.

Great. I’ll be waiting to hear from them in a couple of years.