Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

The RV life of San Francisco

In the surrounding area near the university where I work are a few long boulevards where usually students park their cars. In recent years, a tiny armada of RVs have popped up, establishing semi-permanent residence on those same streets, only moving during days of street cleaning on a particular side. Personally I take the bus to work so I’m not antagonistic towards these RVs folks taking up precious parking space with their overly lengthy vehicles; though I’m slightly curious what students have to say about these people setting up de-facto homes on the side of the road.

That said, I’m definitely not amongst the camp of people wishing these RV campers to go away and find home in appropriate trailer lots, rather than squatting on public streets. I’m innately familiar with how batshit insane housing costs are in the San Francisco Bay Area; if I didn’t live at home with my parents (thank god for being Asian so this isn’t frowned upon culturally), there’d be no freaking possibility I can reasonably afford to rent a quaint place, much less buying a house here. The people in the RVs face the same difficulties, and these essentially mobile homes costing magnitudes less are their only option to continue on living and working in the city.

The present housing situation is such that either you have to already own a home for years ago, or make enough (read: a lot) money to comfortable rent or buy. The rest of us have to get by some way somehow.

Honestly, as long as these people in the RVs are not disturbing the public or making a mess (and I haven’t noticed or read anything that they were), I don’t see any issues with them setting up shop on these long boulevards. These behemoths can’t fit in a typical residential street parking space anyways, so the RVs are relatively separated and contained. It is all a bit unsightly? Yes, but the situation in San Francisco is that desperate. Sadly, the city is clamping down on these so called vagrants: most long streets with ample length already have signage forbidding large vehicle parking from midnight to 6 AM. I’m afraid the two near our university will see the same fate sooner or later.

And it would indeed be a tragedy; this entire housing situation is. San Francisco is turning into Monte Carlo, a place for the rich and already have. Starting a family here with a middle-class income is at the moment not a reality. I remain positive for the future, though that’s likely just stubbornness in holding on to the slim hope that I will be able to remain living in the city I grew up in for decades to come.

Sunset glow.

Last one at the Oracle

Tomorrow evening will be the final Golden State Warriors basketball game to be played at Oracle Arena. Next season the team will move to their gleaming billion-dollar palace across the bay in downtown San Francisco. Moving on up, as the song goes, but the old childhood home has still got one night of magic left yet. We certainly hope so, anyways.

I don’t have quite nearly as much personal connection/memories to Oracle Arena as other more ardent Warrior fans; I’ve only ever attended one game: a playoff game back in 2016 against the Portland Trail Blazers. It was a game in which Steph Curry didn’t even suit up due to a foot injury, which selfishly spoiled my opportunity to see him play in person. Despite his absence on the floor, the Warriors won the game easily, marking my record as a good luck charm in attendance as perfect.

That record remains the same to this day; Oracle Arena may be up there in the years, but it doesn’t stop the team from charging contemporary prices worthy of a three-time champion. The hefty ticket price just to get into the building for nose-bleed seats, coupled with the fact it’s all the way in Oakland, stopped me from attending games. Which is fine, because not paying to watch lives sports is one of many reasons how I manage to afford a Porsche 911.

With the new state-of-art arena in San Francisco, tickets are sure to be even dearer in price, though from a transportation perspective it’s significantly easier. A half-hour ride on the T line light-rail train will take me to the Chase Center front steps from my house. I reckon I’ll wait a few years until the initial demand for the new arena experience dies down, and I can get upper level seats at a semi reasonable price, before I attend a Warriors home game in San Francisco.

Before that, there’s one more game left in Oakland; a game 6 to even the Finals series and send it back to Toronto for a decisive game 7. I am super excited; this one is for Oracle. Let’s go.

The one time I made it inside Oracle Arena for a game.

Michelin Cup 2 tires are phenomenal

The San Francisco Bay Area is experiencing a heatwave, one of the few each year that balances out all of the parties we’ve been having in enjoying our typical mid 50’s weather, no matter the season. This particular heatwave is quite severe, though: not since Labor Day of two years prior - where temperatures in the city reached beyond 100 - has it been this bad. 94 degrees for three days straight really puts a strain on the nerves.

Especially when buildings in San Francisco aren’t equipped with air-conditioning.

Indeed, every time one of these hot weather patterns rolls around, I always declare that this will be the year I finally buy a portable air-con unit for my room, but it still hasn’t happened yet. Admittedly the not insignificant financial outlay for a machine only to be used a few days out the year is not so easily palatable. Add to the fact that usually by the time I’m ready to click buy, normal cool weather have returned, inducing me to procrastinate.

Let’s see if this year will be different, and I may have a secret weapon. Lately I’ve been super diligent on ensuring I get the appropriate quality of sleep, and a huge factor towards that is room temperature. Apparently, humans are evolved to get better sleep when the weather is cool (I certainly do during the winter months), so needless to say the last few days of this heat have not been conducive to me falling into slumber quickly; not when the bedroom is hovering in the 80s at midnight.

So, spend money to assist with something we do for a third of our lives; makes getting an air-con unit reasonable and justifiable, doesn’t it? I might get a chiliPad too while I am at it.

This first heatwave of the year did allow me to take the GT3 out this past weekend, the first chance to assess just what the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires can do when it’s within its optimal operating temperature. The verdict? So. Much. Grip. Astonishingly so. Only now did I realize that driving the Porsche around in San Francisco’s typical middling weather gives almost no information on the Cup 2’s true capabilities.

Is it possible to fall in love with a set of tires?

With the Michelins properly lit up, the GT3’s front-end is simply mighty. The communicative beauty of the 911’s steering shines in letting the driver know via the hands the grip level of the front tires, and in this maiden outing in hot weather, I’ve never felt more confidence-inspiring sensations through the GT3’s rim. I can truly trust the front-end: the tires dig and bite into the tarmac, no matter the amount of steering lock is inputed. The 911’s inherent understeer is still present, but it’s easily correctable when the tires are willing to do the work.

Obviously, the enormous 12-inch wide rear tires welcome the hot weather in equal measure to the fronts. Thanks to the engine being situated behind the rear-axle as is its signature, the 911 offers traction I dare say no other rear-wheel drive car can match. The Cup 2s with proper heat sticks to the ground immensely, but reassuringly so, allowing super fun mid-corner adjustability. Throttle-steer to tuck in the nose a bit or kick the rear-end out for some brief slip-angles: it’s all possible in the GT3, and easily accessible.

The 911 chassis reveals itself splendidly when the tires are on, and I’m ironically eager for more hot weather so I can sample the Cup 2s further it its absolute element. It’s so much fun.

Maybe I will get that air-con unit after all.

From my friend who’s traveling in Europe.

From my friend who’s traveling in Europe.

San Francisco is kicking me out

There’s been a lot of chatter lately about how San Francisco is a hell-scape for the poor and middle class, and that thanks to the tech boom and concurrent chronic lack of housing, the city have turned into a province for the rich only, in a Monte Carlo sort of way. While it can’t rival the tax-friendliness of the Principality - in fact it’s the precise exact opposite - I’ve been viewing my hometown as a facsimile of Monaco for a quite bit now, and it’s low-key weighing on me these days.

Indeed you need at least a six-figure salary to even entertain the notion of building a life in San Francisco. On my daily commute I’m reminded of this when I see adverts for newly online condos, with the basest of units costs more per month than my entire take-home pay. On a macro level I am making slightly more than the median U.S. household income (and I consider myself lucky to be in a position to do so), but put that in perspective of the insane SF housing market, I’m downright in relative poverty.

As I transition into my thirties and having thoughts of marriage and family starting, I am coming hard to face with the reality that I cannot do those things in the city I grew up in - and love. Unless I marry someone who earns well into the six-figures, even with dual income it’d be supremely difficult to rent an appropriate amount of rooms to raise a family, much less outright purchasing a house. Even if somehow I manage to scrounge up large enough of a down-payment to mitigate somewhat the monthly outlay, the hefty California property tax alone renders it prohibitive.

Of course, there’s legions of people in a similar position who instead bought property way out in the inland suburbs, and every day they have to endure a two-hour commute slog just to get back into San Francisco proper for work. That’s not an option for me because I believe the stress and anguish that comes from a long commute is not conducive to good health, and no house is worth the tradeoff for that. If I were to move out of the city, I’d rather take the full plunge and skip out of California entirely.

A friend of mine shared an article that listed what $200,000 worth of home looks like in each of the 50 States, and no surprise the worst of them all in terms of amount of space for the money is California. On the other end of the spectrum, in States such as Montana and the Dakotas, 200 grand can buy you multiple rooms and multiple baths in a house with sizable yards front and back. We joked that San Francisco natives like us who aren’t fortunate enough to collect on the tech prosperity should look to move to those places. We wouldn’t even need to earn as much money as we do now because the cost of living is drastically cheaper.

Besides, I am confident that as long as I have an Internet connection, I can generate income however which way.

So that is something to seriously think about in the next few years; if San Francisco maintains its current trajectory, it just may force my hand. I still have hope it wouldn’t, but recently it’s been tough to find the optimism.

For excellent Texas-style BBQ in Dallas, go to Pecan Lodge.

I've found SF's parking problem

I’m one of the lucky ones to have the city’s public transportation network be super convenient for my purposes. The bus-stop for the bus I take to work is only a block’s walk from my house, and the second-leg light-rail train gets me literally right to the door – the stop’s name is the university. The decision to cease commuting by car almost a year ago has been hugely beneficial to my overall mental health. I take serene pleasure in getting lost in podcasts on the train, only paying scant outward attention to ensure I don’t miss my stop.

I also enjoy the walk to the bus-stop, short it may be. It’s a good opportunity to get some sun, which is crucial because the university is at the western end of San Francisco - notorious for its lack of sunshine. Plus, our office is in the basement level with zero windows; the brief stroll to the bus-stop might be the only chance I have to get some needed vitamin D.

A thing I’ve noticed lately on those strolls is the sheer numbers of cars parked on the street – in the middle of a workday. Mind you I live in a decidedly residential area, so very few people would commute to my neighborhood for work. Therefore, it’s safe to assume the massive number of cars that remains stationary on the streets belong to residents.

In a city that’s infamous for its parking difficulties, I have to say it seems the problems are self-inflicted. It’s clear to me now that each household simply owns too many cars, so much so that during a workday, the residential streets are still full of them. All these vehicles are just sat there taking up space; it’s no wonder there’s such an immense parking space battle after the 5pm for the people returning home from work via car.

You may point out that perhaps those parked cars represent people that take the bus like I do, so that’s actually a good thing from the perspective of the environment or whatnot. To that I’d say, yes, good on them for taking public transportation – if that is the case, but it doesn’t change the fact they’ve left cars behind on the streets doing absolutely nothing. Indeed, I too have a weekend only car, but the 911 is parked in an actual lot, merely taking up space I paid for.  

San Franciscans are wont to complain about the utter lack of parking, and how finding a spot requires prolonged games of musical chair, and every bit of luck. Well, it would seem a big part of it is our own fault. I wouldn’t go as far to say people should buy fewer cars; just that they should use a mirror next time they gripe about trouble finding a spot.

Hammer time.

Love hate the rain

The weather in San Francisco has been properly cold these couple of days, and it’s been a few years since we’ve had such piercing temperatures. Massive apologies to the crowd living in the Midwest and Northeast that had just endured the polar vortex last week, but low 40’s might as well be freezing to us fragile San Franciscans.

We certainly pay for the privilege. Hashtag high cost of living.

There’s been a quite bit of rain, too, which is nice to see after years of drought conditions and two straight years of the worse wildfires to ever devastate California. If I were still on Facebook I’m sure I would be seeing acquaintances hitting the fresh powder up in the Sierras. That’s what dream weekends are made of.

Unfortunately for me, this latest batch of weather is wrecking havoc with my notion of a dream weekend: out driving the sports car I’ve only recently written the largest check ever for (not even remotely humble brag). The 991 GT3 comes with deliciously sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, but the wondrous adhesion only occurs during dry weather; in the wet - especially with standing water - those tires are downright treacherous. It also doesn’t do particularly well when it’s cold out.

A two thousand dollar set of tries that can only be driven in warm, dry weather. Because race car.

So when it’s raining like it has been in San Francisco, I simply cannot drive the car. I mean sure I can take it out and motor about gingerly, but that completely defeats the point of a GT3. Our family’s Hyundai Tucson is a better vehicle for that purpose (crossover SUVs are awesome). Last weekend was a completely wash out, and the forecast isn’t looking different for this weekend.

First world problem indeed, but the situation is what it is. I welcome the rain from an environmental perspective, but from a selfish point of view, can it not rain on the weekends, please?

Wishing you were outside but you’re stuck inside a DMV.

Wishing you were outside but you’re stuck inside a DMV.

Got tickets to Hamilton. Again.

The beloved musical sensation Hamilton is returning to San Francisco in 2019. Having the pleasure of seeing it when the tour first made its way to our neck of the woods back in 2017, I can only say its very well worth the hype. So much so that the group I went will be seeing the musical again next year. As a person who doesn’t like to do things a second time once I’ve already experience it (unless it’s traveling to Asia), spending proper money to see Hamilton once more is rare occasion indeed.

Tickets for the 2019 tour went on sale to the general public yesterday. Instead of allowing tens of thousands of customers crash its ticketing website at once, the fine folks at SHN implements a virtual waiting room. You are quarantined as soon as you visit the website, and once the clock strikes time for business, you get assigned a wait number like a grocery store counter; when your number is front of queue you’ll be then taken to the actual ticketing site for purchasing. It’s a brilliant system, far superior to the ‘website crash then click refresh a million times and pray you’ll get in’ format that I’m sadly accustomed to.

My friends and I of course went the route of divide and conquer: we each logged-on to SHN, and whoever was furthest ahead in the line was tasked to the do the buying. Each of us could also have respectively used multiple devices to try for a better number amongst ourselves - I was home at the time so I personally had four opportunities, but that strategy seemed a bit on the wrong side of ethical. We were lucky too that we got done within an hour and a half after tickets went on sale at 10am. Others I saw waited nearly six hours before they were let into the system.

Nevertheless I ended up with the third highest wait number within our group of four, so unfortunately I was unable to earn points on my credit card.

Obviously, maximizing credit points is, uh, not the point; we are locked in for a second viewing of Hamilton next May, and this time we got better seats as well - no longer up on the balcony with the peasants. I guess in the span of two years our respective financial situations have all improved to such that we can easily spend over two hundred dollars on a musical we’ve already seen. A prime example of being a coastal elite that’s been so maligned in the media.

There’s lot going on between now and next May so it’s nothing to be excited about yet, but it’s something splendid to look forward to.

I’m decidedly not fond of waiting in lines, even virtual ones.

I’m decidedly not fond of waiting in lines, even virtual ones.