Tag Archives: technology

going downtown

an enormous cloud hangs over the city
as i walk up 2nd Ave smoking
the remnant of a good night, breathing
the rain-washed air of a good day.

i snap a picture of the cloud
with my phone, with my phone
pay the bus fare, sit in the last
square of four seats occupied by three
silent, independent women, each wearing
a distinct set of dark shades. mine barely
cover my eyes as i look south to see
the cloud retreating and the bright sun
emerging, blanketing everything.

suddenly, the three stages of consciousness
blind me:

first, squinting, measuring the luminosity,
cursing myself for forgetting a hat,
wondering about skin cancer, meditating on the family.
second, reasoning, realizing that by
slightly lifting my limb i can slow the effect
of aging. finally, believing,
breathing in, being,
eyelids down aware that death is
and will always be, so may as well
repose on the sunny side. Continue reading

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itunes coincidence

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 10.58.22 AM Continue reading

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notes from my phone

how do I create
how does one scrawl the thoughts incessantly knocking on the othe side of the glass
pika Continue reading

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selections from Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014)

“In life, as in mutual funds, past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Continue reading

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selections from The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells

clock-jobber (n.) clock repairman. At four o’clock, when it was fairly dark and Mrs. Hall was screwing up her courage to go in and ask her visitor if he would take some tea, Teddy Henfrey, the clock-jobber, came into the … Continue reading

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A Riddling Tale

Three women were transformed into smartphones plugged in at the local electronics store. However, one of them was permitted to spend the night in her own home. Once, as dawn drew near and she had to return to her companions at the store to become a smartphone again, she said to her husband, “If you come and pick me this morning, I’ll be set free, and I’ll be able to stay with you forever.”

And this is exactly what happened.

Now the question is how her husband was able to recognize her, for the three smartphones were all the same without any distinguishing mark. Answer: Since she had spent the night in her house and not at the store, her battery had not charged fully as it had for the other two. This is how her husband was able to recognize her. Continue reading

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The Bartender and Her Wife

Once there was a bartender who lived with her wife in a shabby Tenderloin studio. Paying rent always proved difficult, so the bartender regularly worked long shifts at her bar down the street.

One particularly slow afternoon, a slovenly hobo waltzed into the bar. His eyes were bloodshot, spittle leaked out the edges of his mouth onto his dark, dirt-encrusted denim jacket, and he reeked as if he hadn’t showered in several years. This was an ordinary sight, unfortunately, so the bartender barely lifted her gaze when she said, “Sorry, sir, but you have to leave. Come back once you’ve cleaned yourself up.”

The hobo, however, quickly gathered his composure and replied with silver tongue: “Excuse my appearance, barkeep, but the truth is I’m an enchanted prince simply passing through your world. If you would be kind enough to serve me a single scotch, I’ll drink it speedily and be on my way.”

Taken aback by the hobo’s eloquence, the bartender finally looked up and relented. She poured two fingers of scotch and handed it to the hobo.

“Thank you, kind lady,” said the hobo, who instantly emptied the glass, bowed his head, and walked out the door, leaving drops of blood in his wake.

Later that night, the bartender returned home and related the encounter to her wife, who was incredulous: “You idiot!” she shouted. “You met an enchanted prince and didn’t make a wish?”

“Make a wish?” said the bartender. “The thought didn’t cross my mind.”

“You go back to that bar and ask the prince for a nice place to live in Pacific Heights,” said her wife.

“Pacific Heights? But why?” asked the bartender.

“This place is disgusting!” said her wife. “Every day we step over used needles just to reach the front door, there are always people convulsing and talking to themselves in the stairway, and our bed smells like a bathroom. Now do you understand?”

Though the bartender felt uneasy about the situation, the next day she returned to her bar, which she found to be mostly empty besides a few regulars in the corner. At length, she spoke:

Hobo, hobo, of the city,
If you’re a prince, then speak to me.
Though I don’t agree with my wife’s request,
I’ve come to ask it nonetheless.

Immediately, the hobo walked through the front door and said, “What do you want?”

“My wife wants to live in Pacific Heights,” replied the bartender.

“Go to her now,” said the hobo. “She’s already there.”

And so she was. Magically, all their belongings had been transported from the grungy Tenderloin studio to a newly remodeled, two-story Victorian in Pacific Heights. They had a full garage, more than enough bathrooms and bedrooms for any number of guests, a beautiful kitchen, and even a hot tub on the roof.

“This is grand!” said the bartender. “We’re set for life now.”

“It’s nice,” agreed the wife. But a week later, she found herself dissatisfied with all the space and decided she needed something to fill her time. So she went to the bartender and said, “Call up that hobo prince and ask him to make me CEO of a tech company.”

“But why do you need to be CEO of a tech company?” asked the bartender.

“Don’t question me!” said her wife. “Just do as I say.”

Reluctantly, the bartender returned to work the next day with the request weighing down on her mind. It was happy hour, so she saw the usual regulars plus some strangers who had dropped in from the street. When she found a free moment, she spoke:

Hobo, hobo, of the city,
If you’re a prince, then speak to me.
Though I don’t agree with my wife’s request,
I’ve come to ask it nonetheless.

The hobo walked in and said, “Again? What do you need?”

“My wife wants to be CEO of a tech company,” replied the bartender.

“Go to her now,” said the hobo. “She’s CEO.”

After her shift, the bartender found a black car waiting for her outside. The vehicle whisked her away to a corporate office in SoMa, where she found her wife wrapping up a call. As soon as the wife hung up, she dove into a box of farm-to-table gourmet lunch that had been dropped off by a food delivery startup. Between mouthfuls, she shared her eagerness to see first quarter results.

“So you’re CEO,” said the bartender.

“I am,” replied her wife.

“I’m very proud of you.”

“Thank you, but I’m not quite content. I think it’d be great to have a few billion dollars for investing. Can you ask that hobo to make me an angel investor?”

“Aren’t you happy being CEO?” asked the bartender.

“Not at all,” replied her wife.

The bartender, as usual, found it difficult to resist her wife’s demands. The next night, the bar was packed with college students and people from the suburbs ordering fancy vodka cocktails. It wasn’t until late when the bartender finally spoke:

Hobo, hobo, of the city,
If you’re a prince, then speak to me.
Though I don’t agree with my wife’s request,
I’ve come to ask it nonetheless.

In walked the hobo saying, “What is it now?”

“My wife wants to be a billionaire angel investor,” said the bartender.

“Go to her now,” said the hobo. “She’s already investing.”

Sure enough, the next time the bartender saw her wife, she had one cell phone glued to her ear and another one firing off email after email replete with investment decisions, startup valuations, and hearty acceptances of board director positions. In her free moments, she drafted exposés on technology, business, politics, and even philosophy.

“Looks like you’re an influential angel investor,” said the bartender.

“I am,” replied her wife.

“Can’t imagine anything better.”

“That’s because you’re not very imaginative. You see, money brings power to a point, but I’m aiming beyond that point. Next time you see that old hobo, which I trust will be soon, tell him to make me the president.”

The bartender started to argue, but she was shot down with a glance.

The next night the bartender found herself at work, a momentous sporting event blared on TV, bringing out not just the regulars and bridge-and-tunnelers, but even the people who normally stayed at home. The place was loud, messy, and just nearly out of control.

In a brief moment of respite, the bartender again summoned the hobo:

Hobo, hobo, of the city,
If you’re a prince, then speak to me.
Though I don’t agree with my wife’s request,
I’ve come to ask it nonetheless.

“What do you want?” said the hobo.

“My wife wants to be the president,” said the bartender.

“Go to her now,” said the hobo. “She’s already president.”

It took the bartender several hours to prove her identity in order to get past several tiers of Secret Service agents guarding her wife, now president of the most powerful country in the world. Sitting in the pristine Oval Office, the president busily ordered which countries were to be bombed and which were to be spared, which global leaders were to be treated as friends and which were enemies, which millions of people were to be considered human beings and which billions were to be slaves. At the end of hours of this, she reclined in a plush seat, puffing a full-flavored cigar while a masseuse worked her shoulders.

“You’re the president,” said the bartender.

“I am,” replied her wife.

“Then there will be no more requests.”

“We’ll see about that.”

That night, the bartender’s wife could not sleep thanks to her unquenchable ambition. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, she watched the sun rise in the east and she realized what she wanted.

Though the bartender still lightly slept, the wife tapped her on the shoulder and said: “You must return to the hobo and ask him to make me a god.”

The bartender fell out of bed bewildered by the ludicrous wish. “You cannot be serious,” said the bartender.

But her wife did not smile.

When the bartender finally remembered to make the request, it was already 1:00 AM on Sunday morning. The bar was jam-packed with drunk and obnoxious patrons screaming loudly, singing 80s songs completely out of tune, and picking fights with one another. A thin girl swaying in heels had just puked in the corner.

Plugging her nose, the bartender again summoned the hobo:

Hobo, hobo, of the city,
If you’re a prince, then speak to me.
Though I don’t agree with my wife’s request,
I’ve come to ask it nonetheless.

“Now what?” asked the hobo.

“My wife wants to be a god,” replied the bartender.

“So be it,” said the hobo. “She’s back in the Tenderloin studio.”

Indeed, when the bartender went home that night, that’s where she found her wife, and they lived there until the end of their days. Continue reading

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Sine Francosine

yes, San Francisco is hilly.

Rincon Hill, Alamo Heights, Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, Potrero Hill, Presidio Heights, Pacific Heights, Nob Hill, Candlestick Point, Forest Hill, Twin Peaks, Mount Sutro, and–good god–Mount Davidson… and that’s not the half of them!

a longtime Bay Area resident will know that all those hills have been known to stress out potential tourists and residents alike. the former wondering how they’ll explore the city without busting a knee and the latter pondering how they’ll make weekly visits to the grocery store without hating their lives. in spite of all that stress, everyone flocks here all the time and somehow survives.

as someone who regularly bikes about 13 miles through the city commuting to work, not to mention other random lengthy rides that may arise, i believe the secret balm to our hilly ailment resides in one curious little characteristic of hills: they create valleys. riding up a hill on my bike, especially on a round trip ride, means exactly this: i need to work a little harder right now to have a helluva lot of fun later. the only time New Yorkers build up that kind of potential energy is when they ride elevators up to the hundredth floor. and the only way they can transform it into (the much more fun) kinetic energy is by hopping out the window.

it’s not just the landscape. it’s everything.

many people believe that San Francisco has no seasons, but these people–no matter how many years they have or haven’t spent in the city–are thinking on the wrong timescale. in a single day, i have experienced the springtime delight of an Ingleside morning followed by the simmering summer sunshine of the Mission followed by the gusty autumn melancholy flowing down Market and up Geary followed by the cruel winter wind of our lovely Ocean Beach. “the day is an epitome of the year,” what with its hills and valleys.

a city as large as New York has ample room for San Francisco-sized boroughs, each of which is substantial enough for entire peoples and cultures to burrow themselves in, away from anybody too different. in San Francisco, business and political titans like Jack Dorsey and Ed Lee need to step over Vietnam vets and avoid crackheads in order to reach their offices. the homeless sleep at the feet of the rich like valleys at the bottom of hills.

one more notion. i have often heard the argument that 150-year-old San Francisco has no history. no pyramids, no pantheon, no colosseum, nor cathedrals. no storied battlefields and no great halls where declarations, constitutions, and proclamations were signed. nothing to speak of but a little gold, a little Christianity, and a ton of fools. and yet, San Francisco is the living stuff of legends. this seven-by-seven mile stretch of land–and its wonderful neighbors–is changing the world. with a mind melding psychedelic trips, digital invention, and a pioneering sense that we can still go west in our own imaginations, we are changing the world. whether this change is ultimately for the better or worse remains to be seen, but significant change it is. valleys of youth, hills of the future.

perhaps i am only making poor, poetic excuses for why i love this stupid clump of concrete and sand, but there it is. i do love it.

it is like a beautiful song with deep, low bass notes and high, fancy melodies swirling around each other in the most unusual way. after all, what is a song without lows and highs? what is a sound wave but going up and coming down? Continue reading

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“On Silicon Valley,” by Henry David Thoreau

Men say they know many things;
But lo! they have taken wings,–
The arts and sciences,
And a thousand appliances;
The wind that blows
Is all that any body knows. Continue reading

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thoughts and Walden

The sun is but a morning star. (382) Continue reading

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