Posts Tagged ‘sanfrancisco’

Why San Francisco is not 7 by 7 miles

January 15th, 2014

San Francisco is seven by seven miles. Everyone who lives here knows that. There’s even a magazine named after this fact.

Problem is, it’s not exactly true.

While the land area is about 49 square miles, as Wikipedia points out the total area is a much larger 232 square miles when you include water. Aside from a sizable portion of the bay and some of its islands, San Francisco also includes the Farallon Islands and surrounding water in the Pacific.

The city’s actual borders are easy to visualize using OpenStreetMap:

In case you’re wondering where OpenStreetMap is getting this data, it’s straight from the US Census TIGER data. The same information can be viewed on their website, albeit with some difficulty.

One more thing: (Spoiler alert!) Despite what many seem to think, SFO is not located in San Francisco; it’s entirely in San Mateo County. So if you’re ever wondering why the airport doesn’t have SF’s trademark urine, pot, and beer smell, that’s probably why.

Fogust descends on Dolores Park

August 14th, 2013

Fogust at Dolores Park

This is the time of year when a lot of us take time off for vacation. The season of summer needs time off as well, which is why we have the month of Fogust.

A strange thing happens as the fog engulfs the city; the area around Dolores Park is shielded from the fog by Twin Peaks, leaving a big sunny patch. One has to wonder if a certain Junipero Serra took this heavenly parting as a sign for where he should start construction when he arrived here in Fogust of 1776 (Okay, June 29th, but close enough.)

And perhaps one day in the distant future, archeologists will stumble on this sunny spot in the foggy ruins of our city. And maybe they’ll figure out why San Franciscans spent so much time fighting over building things that — most of the time — nobody could even see.

Typical corner in San Francisco

May 25th, 2013

Fire hydrant, bicycle wheel, red vines

A bicycle wheel leaned up against a fire hydrant with a partially used pack of Red Vines on top. Pretty much says it all about San Francisco, doesn’t it?

How to advertise your sublet in San Francisco

February 2nd, 2013

When you’ve got a sublet to rent out, where do you go? Craigslist? Whatever, dude. That’s so 2012. What, are you stuck living in the past?

No way. Now it’s all about using your wifi SSID to sell goods and services.

You don’t need to sell out to the man (Craig Newmark.) You can advertise all by yourself without even leaving the comfort of your home WAN.

(Spotted in the Mission.)

False alarms: how the city should have responded

August 30th, 2012

On Sunday, the entire city heard the warning system (“air raid” siren”) that’s normally tested on Tuesdays at noon. Apparently this was due to human error.

Which is fine, really. People make mistakes.

What is NOT fine was what they did next: nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Instead of using the AlertSF system to notify people that the alarm was a mistake, they sat on their asses and fielded calls from (rightfully) confused residents, who were in fact told specifically NOT to call — we’ll get to that in a moment.

It doesn’t help that the voice message played after the alarm is muddled and incomprehensible. If it was audible we would have heard the “This is just a test” message to let us know everything was cool. But we didn’t.

The city’s official page for the outdoor warning system helpfully explains what to do in this situation.

If you hear the siren at a time other than its regular test on Tuesday at noon:

  • Stop what you are doing.

  • Stay calm.
  • Listen for possible voice announcements.
  • Turn on the radio or television, (such as KCBS 740AM, KQED 88.5 FM) for important information provided by the City.
  • Avoid using the telephone. Do not call 9-1-1, unless you have a life-threatening emergency.

In other words, listen to a voice you can’t hear or turn on a radio or TV in a town where everybody has Hulu Plus and iPods. Hmm, yeah about that. The last bullet point is particularly troubling since apparently the city got quite a few calls, meaning many folks didn’t follow these rules and/or were not aware of them.

Here’s my advice to the city in the future:

  1. Stop using the alarm to indicate things that aren’t related to emergencies. Haven’t you ever heard of the boy who cried wolf?

  2. When the alarm is set off by mistake, immediately post a message to AlertSF letting us know it was a mistake.
  3. Turn the voice message on the alarm off, since an alarm followed by a muffled message is more confusing that just an alarm.
  4. Come up with a more realistic set of guidelines for what to do when the alarm goes off that don’t involve antiquated technology like radio. Then take the time to publicize this list so people don’t flood the phone lines with questions.
  5. Train the employees responsible for the alarm so they know how to use it.

Seem reasonable? If the city can’t be trusted to use the alarm in a sensible way, we need to scrap it.

Lisbon vs. San Francisco

August 9th, 2012

I spent the last week in a small seaside city that seemed eerily reminiscent of home. Everywhere I looked, there were these little moments of deja vu. Here’s a list of some (surprising) similarities between the two cities, with a few differences thrown in for good measure.

Similarities

25 of April Bridge

Both cities have a red/orange painted suspension bridge.

Belém Tower

Near the bridge, there’s a fort with cannons inside in both cities.

Super Mario

Restaurants close too early, so you have to go to a bar to hang out late.

Column of Pedro IV, Rossio Square

San Francisco is known for its hippie beliefs and open spirit — but we have nothing on Portugal. In the 70′s Portugal had a goddamn hippie revolution that toppled a dictator and instated democracy, and it involved flowers.

Elevator tram

Lisbon has steep hills, so they gouge tourists to ride streetcars. Sound familiar?

A Brasileira

Both cities have charmingly historic poet cafes that now serve mediocre coffee to tourists.

View from Elevador de Santa Justa

An earthquake and fire leveled Lisbon in 1755. San Francisco’s big quake was 151 years later. Pretty much everything you see now in both cities was built post-quake.

Watch out for thieves!

Instead of being normal and installing an air conditioner, the folks in Lisbon and San Francisco prefer to pretend that we’re not affected by heat. The only option for cooling down is to visit a chain store or mall that doesn’t adhere to the local HVAC customs.

Outdoor stairwell in Alfama

Small alleys throughout the cities contain a treasure trove of various types of street art.

Pena National Palace in Sintra

A tasteless, impractical mansion built by a looney heir exist not far outside both cities.

Differences

Lisbon cobblestone

I didn’t see much biking and skateboarding in or around Lisbon, for an obvious reason: cobblestone.

Festa Avante!

In spite of what Fox News would have you believe, there are no more communists in San Francisco than you’d find in any other American college town. In Lisbon they’re also a fringe element, but have a visible presence.

Ginjinha

San Francisco’s local drink of choice is intended to put hair on your chest. Lisbon’s favorite shot of liquor, ginjinha, features a sweet syrupy flavor — and follows with a fierce headache.

Lisbon Metro

While cars drive on the right side in both cities, the Metro and commuter trains in Lisbon drive on the left. This really messed with my head, particularly after a few shots of ginjinha.

Bull fight

I haven’t seen any bulls getting tackled head-on in San Francisco.

Castle of the Moors in Sintra

Portugal’s long, fascinating history is still visible, particularly in the form of castles. In fact, it’s the most castley place I’ve ever been.

San Francisco reimagined by puzzle artist

January 12th, 2012

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(Click the image for a larger verison.)

After completing the puzzle (above) I noticed the artist had taken some creative liberties with the city. No, I’m not referring to the lack of Muni busses with women urinating out the window, but rather the city layout.

Examples:

  • Isn’t Golden Gate Park facing the wrong way?
  • Where is the BofA building?
  • Why are the cable cars so large?
  • Would you really be able to see the Golden Gate Bridge from this angle?

How many more can you spot?

Merriment projector

January 8th, 2012

Merriment projector

How was your Christmas this year, if you could only use one word to describe it? Try and think of a word.

Got it?

Was the word “merry”?

If not, perhaps it’s because you don’t have a Christmas tree technologically sophisticated enough to project the words “Merry Christmas” on the ceiling above. Yes, a merriment projector may be the missing touch in your arsenal of Christmas decorations.

Why does the SF.gov iPhone app suck?

November 11th, 2011

SF.gov iOS app

UPDATE: As @hryx pointed out on Twitter, the app is called SF.gov but the website is actually sfgov.org. SF.gov isn’t a website. Even the name of the app is an exercise in failure!
 
 

Why does the SF.gov iPhone app suck? We live in a city filled with iOS software developers. Any of them could do a better job than this.

Look, I’m not that picky when it comes to software. But I’m not going to put up with your app if it’s slower than anything I’ve ever seen, buggy as hell, and haphazardly organized.

Let me explain.

Let’s start with those tab buttons at the bottom of the screen. Check the screenshot above.

When you press one of those, you probably think it will switch to the corresponding screen. That’s because you’re not the alcoholic middle school drop out who wrote this app.

No, instead one of the following happens when you press a tab button:

  • It will switch to the screen you pressed.
  • It will switch to the screen you pressed, but there will be a “loading” screen that has a few extra buttons at the top of the screen for a fraction of a second (I couldn’t read fast enough to see what they said.)
  • It won’t switch and will stay at the same screen.
  • Several screens will flash by rapidly, and eventually the screen will turn white and lock up. You’ll have to force quit the app.

You have to hand it to this application, it’s original — no other app has those bugs.

SF.gov iOS app: Services

The most useless tab is “services.” There’s only two options: calling 311, or a search box. The first option is self-explanatory. Strangely they don’t let you fill out a 311 report in the app; that requires a separate app that has completely different bugs.

The little search box gives no indication as to what it does. As you start typing into the box, titles appear below in a list. But you can only see two of them when the keyboard is open. You have to click the Done button to make the keyboard go away. If you skip that step and try to scroll the page, it will take you to the first page in the list. It’s not like you’re kind of busy when you’re using your phone to look up information. No, you have all the time in the world to tinker with UI glitches.

Whatever you click, it takes you to a mobile version of the SF.gov website. The browser is Safari, but for some reason it’s agonizingly slow. Fortunately there’s an unlabelled button which — as I discovered through trial and error — sends the page to Safari.

SF.gov iOS app: Connect

On the connect tab you can find Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube links for SF.gov and other city services. Each of these opens in the agonizingly slow version of Safari included in this app. None of this will help you get your car back after it got towed for too many street sweeping tickets, so don’t bother with this section. It’s largely links to irrelevant city press releases.

What’s more interesting is the photo at the top of this section. It seems to depict the last thing someone saw as their eyes closed and they died while waiting in line at City Hall. (Click the image above to see for yourself.)

In case you were wondering, the Updates, Media, and More sections are also just lists of links to websites. Why most/all of these links didn’t belong in “Services” or “Connect” is anyone’s guess. Like all the lists of things in this app, they don’t scroll smoothly but instead jerk around slowly.

Everything in this app suffers from the same basic problem: you shouldn’t get pregnant with your pet ape, give birth to the ape-man-baby out of your ass, buy it a Mac and then teach it programming so it can make an SF.gov app. That’s just not humane.

Dolores California Gourmet Burritos in Berlin

August 10th, 2011

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On a small side street near the touristy hellhole of Alexanderplatz is a San Francisco themed burrito place. If you’re a burrito lover in or around San Francisco, you may have heard of this by now: they have a San Francisco Muni map covering on the wall and Anchor Steam (imported via Amsterdam) by the bottle.

The burritos are made traditionally, but they didn’t use an “assembly line” format like you find in so many SF taquerias. Rather, you order at the counter and they call your number.

To me, the burrito I had tasted more like something from Rubio’s than a traditional SF burrito. It was more sweet than spicy, very light on the rice, and wasn’t tightly rolled. Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t good! It’s just different. Unsurprisingly, the place seems to attract American expats in Berlin longing for home. And I can’t say I blame them — after a few days of heavy carb-and-fat laden German food, a burrito really hit the spot for me.