playing for keeps

the blog of g.a. matiasz

  • MY BOOKS FOR SALE:

  • Free 1% FREE excerpts

  • 1% FREE on sale now


    Copies of 1% FREE can be purchased from Barnes & Noble POD, and the ebook can be had at Barnes & Noble ebook. The physical book is $18.95 and the ebook is $13.99.

  • END TIME reprinted


    Downloads of END TIME can be purchased from SMASHWORDS.
  • Copyright

    The contents of this Web page and subsequent Web pages on this site are copyright © 2007 - 2016 by G. A. Matiasz.
  • My Pages

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Category Cloud

  • Categories

  • Tag Cloud

  • My Social

Archive for the ‘tech’ Category

Triple Tech Bus Blockade with Teachers at Fairmount Elementary School

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on February 15, 2015

I’ve reprinted the following story from IndyBay about the continuing protests against tech bus usurpation of public bus stops. This action was taken by the teachers at San Francisco’s Fairmount Elementary School in coordination with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project.

————————————

On February 6th, at 8am, teachers at San Francisco’s bilingual public Fairmount Elementary School joined with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project to block 3 private tech buses. Buses from Google and Facebook were blocked, as we protested the takeover of what had been four parking spots for teachers at the school by a tech bus stop. Teachers had not been consulted before their parking stops were privatized, just this past month. A video of the action by Peter Menchini can be seen here: http://vimeo.com/118965425.
screen_shot_2015-02-06_at_7.10.25_pm
There are other parking metered spots in the city, such as on 16th between Capp and South Van Ness, that now have restricted parking so that private tech buses can load and unload their passengers, presumably to avoid paying the $3.55 that is now required through the SFMTA shuttle bus pilot program.
screen_shot_2015-02-06_at_7.10.43_pm
Claudia Tirado, the third grade teacher who led the demonstration, is not only being ousted from her parking spot through collusions of high tech and “secret handshakes” with the SFMTA, but she also being evicted from her home by Google’s head of e-Discovery, Jack Halprin.
screen_shot_2015-02-06_at_7.10.56_pm
As Claudia implored to other teachers, “Please come and stand up for parking and less congestion in the area we need our school to be safe for us and for our children. We need parking for the people that serve these children.”
screen_shot_2015-02-06_at_7.09.44_pm
In this city, gentrification does not only mean being displaced from one’s home, but also from public spaces and city infrastructure. From parks to BART plazas to public bus stops, we are seeing public spaces increasing privatized and surveilled. In a city in which people are being kicked out of their homes and crowded into small rooms just to pay rent, public spaces are increasingly valuable. In this case, private tech companies are being privileged at the expense of teachers.

A photo of the blockade can be seen here: https://twitter.com/tigerbeat/status/563737348517539840

http://vimeo.com/118965425

Posted in gentrification, Google buses, life, San Francisco, tech, tech industry, techies | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flower war

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 7, 2014

The tech industry, and consequent real estate boom, are not only crowding out San Francisco’s poor and its ethnic/cultural diversity, but also its economic diversity as well. Here’s the latest front in the fight for The City’s heart and soul, the flower war (from 48hills):

Turn the Flower Mart into tech offices? Say it’s not so
By Zelda Bronstein

Former Mayor Art Agnos speaks at a rally to save the Flower Mart

Former Mayor Art Agnos speaks at a rally to save the Flower Mart


The Flower Mart, a beloved San Francisco institution, is in danger of falling victim to the City Hall-stoked tech real estate boom.

The wholesale market for flowers, a staple for local florists at Sixth and Brannan since 1956 that Martha Stewart once called the “best flower market in the country,” could soon be bought by a real-estate developer, meaning the tenants may face eviction since the property is far more valuable if it’s turned into office space.

Although the headline in the July 25 Chronicle—“Developer acquires S.F. Flower Mart”— suggested that the market is doomed, the Mart can still be saved, and with it a big piece of the city’s old, industrial, blue-collar base.

But that will take a prompt and vigorous show of public support and political muscle.

The beginning of a campaign to save the Flower Mart was on view this week, as Mart tenants, joined by florists, flower market enthusiasts and advocates of an inclusive San Francisco, gathered for a noontime “Save the Flower Mart” press conference and rally in Repetto’s Nursery at the site.

Organized by Mart tenant Patrick McCann of Greenworks, the rally featured an impressive array of speakers: tenants David Repetto of Repetto’s Nursery, “Mama” Lee of SoMa Flowers, and Lupe Rico of Lassen Ranch; former State Senator Quentin Kopp; former Mayor Art Agnos; former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin; District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim; Small Business Commissioner and florist Kathleen Dooley; and the grand old man of the city’s flower-selling industry, the proprietor of the “I. Magnin” flower stand, 92-year-old Albert Nalbandian.

The 92-year-old Albert Nalbandian, dean of the SF florist world, speaks on behalf of saving the Flower Mart

The 92-year-old Albert Nalbandian, dean of the SF florist word, speaks on behalf of saving the Flower Mart


Six years ago, then-Board of Supervisors President Peskin sank the Academy of Art’s attempt to buy the Flower Mart and turn it into sculpture studios.

Some of the Mart’s 100 tenants approached him and Agnos after the Los Angeles-based Kilroy Realty Corporation announced on July 11 that it had “executed a merger agreement to acquire all the outstanding shares” of the San Francisco Flower Growers Association, one of the three firms that own portions of the Mart site.

Describing the SFFGA as “a privately owned entity whose only material asset” is a 1.9 acre portion of the Flower Mart site, Kilroy said that the transaction was valued at about $27 million. The merger is contingent on its approval by a majority of the SFFGA stockholders in a September 11 vote.

Last Wednesday Agnos and Peskin presided over a meeting of 40-odd tenants in the patio of the Flower Mart Café. Both made it clear that they were neither running for office nor being paid to advocate the tenants’ cause. They were there, Agnos said, because protecting the flower market is “part of a struggle to save the heart and soul of this great city,” a fight that he linked to the defeat of the 8 Washington condo project at the polls last November and the successful defense of the tenants at the San Francisco Design Center at the BoS Land Use Committee in July.

A major impetus for the meeting was an August 19 letter that the SFFGA had sent to its sixty tenants, copies of which Peskin distributed to the group.

“Rest assured,” wrote SFFGA’s Ron Chiappari,

that an integral part of Kilroy’s development plan includes a new, state of the art Flower Mart enabling continued operations of present and future flower mart tenants and customers, as well as a plan for continuous operations of the Flower Mart during construction.Our understanding comes directly from the highest decision-makers at Kilroy and is consistent with the statements that John Kilroy, President, CEO, and Chairman of Kilroy, has made in the attached news article [the Chronicle story referenced above, which has been removed from the paper’s website].

Peskin, however, focused on another line in the letter:

“After the transaction has been completed[,] Kilroy will be able to meet with you on site, show you its preliminary plans, and seek your feedback.”

Mart tenant “Mama” Lee delivers an impassioned speech in Chinese

Mart tenant “Mama” Lee delivers an impassioned speech in Chinese


This, Peskin observed, was not at all reassuring. If the SFFGA and Kilroy really want to demonstrate their commitment to the tenants and the Mart, they should offer to meet with them and seek their input—not just their feedback—before the transaction is completed, not afterwards. Peskin also said that the developer had called him and asked him not to hold the meeting.

He went on to suggest terms that the tenants should ask Kilroy to guarantee in writing before the deal closed:

* no tenant will be displaced even temporarily under construction

* leases will be renewed (at affordable rates)

* tenants’ expenses due to the new construction will be paid for

* Kilroy will reveal its plans for the site and its management

Former Sup. Aaron Peskin says tenants should demand honest answers from the developer

Former Sup. Aaron Peskin says tenants should demand honest answers from the developer


A week later, neither Kilroy nor the SFFGA had contacted the tenants.

Addressing the rally, tenant David Repetto said, “We need long-term leases at rental rates that are affordable for small business….Kilroy also needs to tell us who will run the Flower Mart? Will it be the biggest tenants? Wholesalers? Retailers? Will it be democratically run? And we need professional management that understands the flower business, not just a real estate entity.”

According to McCann, what’s at stake is not just the 60 locally owned businesses that lease from the SFFGA but also the thousands of living-wage jobs provided by the growers, shippers, and truck drivers who supply our region’s 46,000 florists. The Flower Mart is one of only five such markets in the U.S. In most other places, florists have to drive around from small wholesaler to small wholesaler.

My North Berkeley neighborhood florist, Amir Abdolhosseini of Solano Flowers, was shocked to learn that the Mart might close. “The Flower Mart cannot disappear,” he said. “Where would people”—i.e., florists such as himself—“go to get their flowers?”

At last week’s tenants meeting, Peskin said he neither trusted nor distrusted Kilroy. But he told the rally that he’d changed his mind. That’s because former Planning Commissioner Bill Sugaya had just handed him the Planning Department’s preliminary assessment of what Kilroy is proposing for the SFFGA property at 575 Sixth Street: an 11-story, 160-foot-tall, 655,150-square-foot development separated into one nine-story building and one 11-story building, connected by pedestrian bridges at the fifth and sixth levels. The buildings would include 508,040 square feet of new office space, plus 16,410 square feet of retail on the ground floor. All structures on the site would be demolished. The proposal says nothing about phasing in existing businesses.

In other words, Kilroy has known for more than a year exactly what it’s proposing to build — and yet has said nothing to the Flower Mart’s tenants.

Peskin also noted that the Kilroy project “does not fit the current zoning.”

No kidding. For starters, the SALI (Service/Arts/Light Industrial) District prohibits offices. In addition, the proposed Floor Area Ratio (FAR) exceeds the allowed maximum, and the proposed 160-foot-tall building exceeds the current 40-55 foot height limit.

But like the many other big developers salivating over SoMa’s industrial lands, Kilroy is looking beyond the current zoning to the relaxed standards of the forthcoming Central SoMa Plan. As is their wont, the city’s planners have evaluated Kilroy’s proposal with respect to both current standards and to proposed zoning—in this case, proposals that won’t come before the Planning Commission, much less the Board of Supervisors, before next year.

To wit, the draft Central SoMa Plan would replace SALI with Mixed Use-Office (MUO), a category that exemplifies the Planning Department’s deregulatory approach to land use. In SoMA Leadership Council President Jim Meko’s memorable phrase, MUO is “zoning for people who don’t like zoning.” It permits just about everything but adult entertainment and heavy industry.

In another respect, however, the Kilroy project would be inconsistent even with the relaxed development standards of the proposed Central SoMa Plan. The city’s planners want to raise the height allowances on the block from 40-55 feet to either 55/65 feet or 65/85 feet—significantly less than the 160 feet Kilroy hopes to construct.

At the rally, Supervisor Kim announced that at the September 9th Board meeting, she would be proposing that interim controls that would prohibit conversions from Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR), i.e., light industry, to office or residential during the time the Central SoMa Plan is under deliberation and encourage the Planning Department “to work with the developer to ensure the vibrancy of the Flower Mart.”

That’s a step in the right direction.

But it’s going to take far more than interim controls and requests that the planners work with the developer to protect the Flower Mart and the rest of SoMa’s light industrial economy. As 48 hills reported last winter, the Central SoMa Plan is openly premised on the destruction of that economy and its replacement by a high-rise, high-rent, tech-dominated second Downtown.

The Planning Department says the Central SoMa Plan emerged out of “a community planning process.” When did the “community” embrace the elimination of 1,800 blue-collar jobs (that’s Planning’s figure, not mine), including the jobs at the Flower Mart?

As for the Flower Mart: The city’s planners, too, have known for well over a year what Kilroy intends to do at 575 Sixth Street. Why haven’t they come forward and supported the tenants, or at least informed them about the proposed project?

At the rally, Art Agnos said he’d called Mayor Lee and asked him to bring his Planning Department and Kilroy to the Mart and tell the tenants what they’re going to do to protect them. Will the mayor accept that invitation?

Posted in gentrification, life, San Francisco, tech, tech industry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A techie walks into a bar…

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 15, 2014

…And the whole thing is a joke!

molotovs
On February 22, 2014, tech worker Sarah Slocum walked into Molotov’s, a punk dive bar in the Lower Haight, wearing a pair of Google Glasses. Trouble immediately followed as bar patrons didn’t take kindly to possibly being recorded by someone wearing Google Glasses. Verbal abuse was exchanged and supposedly an assault on Slocum followed. Accounts differ as to the exact details, with this version in the SF Bay Guardian and this other one in the SF Chronicle. According to the SF Chronicle article: “When a woman at the bar told Slocum, ‘You’re killing the city,’ a reference to a larger backlash against tech workers in San Francisco, Slocum announced that she wanted to ‘get this white trash on tape.’ A man then ripped the device from her face.” Rather than quote hearsay, let’s just review the available YouTube video, conveniently recorded by Slocum herself. (Here’s Inside Edition reporting on the same incident.)

This incident was the basis for a delightfully hilarious takedown of Google Glass “Explorers” by Jason Jones of The Daily Show entitled “Glass Half Empty (6-12-14).” Take note that Slocum calls the incident at Molotov’s a “hate crime.”

Forgetting JamesOKeefe_mugshot_OnlyCriminalfor the moment that Sarah Slocum has a troubled history, this Daily Show segment reveals the narcissism, vulgar voyeurism, sense of entitlement, and inability to grasp reality that seems to ooze from the very pores of these techies. Combine this with a penchant for cutting, pasting and deceptive editing of what is digitally recorded in order to manipulate the truth to produce propaganda and you get a questionable character like rightwing “sting” con artist James O’Keefe. Frequently painted as a narcissistic, self-absorbed, quasi-paranoid fringe nut job, is it any wonder that O’Keefe is subject to charges of racism and “death threats” that he describes as “hate crimes?” From Mike Spies’ “hit piece” on O’Keefe: “In his [O’Keefe’s] world, everyone outside of his orbit is a potential threat. It’s a difficult place to live. He’s fighting the masses in a quixotic battle, chiding them for not recognizing his great virtue while begging them to recognize his great talent. There’s no place for fun, and human connections are distorted. By the time the video ends, it’s hard not feel sorry for the guy.”

Boo fucking hoo for intentional assholes like O’Keefe and frivolous idiots like Slocum.

(Here’s a more sympathetic take on “Glassholes” from Gary Shteyngart, “O.K., Glass,” in The New Yorker.)

Posted in life, San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle, tech, tech industry, techies, The Haight | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Backyard office

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on May 31, 2014

So, the story goes, Percy Spencer was mucking about in a laboratory at Raytheon when he accidentally spilled a cup full of dried corn kernels he intended to heat up into popcorn on the stove. All of a sudden, the kernels all over the lab floor started to inexplicably pop into popcorn. Spencer had discovered commercially usable microwaves, which led to the invention of the microwave oven. But this wasn’t so much an “aha moment” as it was a “yikes! moment.”
GAM_backyard1
Pictured above is my outdoor backyard office setup. Here’s my 13-inch, Mid 2011 MacBook Air encased in its Kensington locking case. The laptop is plugged into an outdoor socket behind the bench. And on the arm of the bench next to it is my “belly blanket,” a blanket intended to be placed on the computer user’s lap beneath the user’s laptop in order shield the user’s body from harmful microwave radiation. Part of the Body Armor line of products that help reduce or eliminate microwave radiation from nearby sources, I’m pictured below with belly blanket and laptop in action.
GAM_backyard2
Clearly, we are all being zapped by microwaves and other types of electromagnetic radiation everywhere all the time. Radiation from nearby sources (cell phones, laptops, utility smart meters, etc) are the most problematic, but the microwave radiation that we call “wifi” is also an issue. An increasing number of people claim that they are suffering adverse health effects from exposure to wifi signals, and there is increasing research into the carcinogenic dangers involved in all microwave radiation. That said, this outdoor office setup of mine would not be possible without an extremely powerful Belkin 6000 Router. I can access the internet 300 feet from the router, through walls and floors, as I surf and type away in my backyard, enjoying a mild spring day.
GAM_backyard3
These little guys kept me company as I worked. They’re hardly worried about exposure to electromagnetic radiation. I, in contrast, do worry about the potential for cancer and other health issues from the use of my cell phone, laptop and other electronic devices. We all die, sooner or later. Not only would I prefer it to be later, but I’d also like it to be quietly, painlessly, in my sleep. The thought of cooking my insides with the wifi microwaves from my cell phone or laptop, and dying a slow, painful, lingering death from radiation induced cancer is not at all pleasant.

Posted in blog, blogger, blogging, life, tech, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »