Tag Archives: San Francisco

Some thoughts about San Francisco, California

I’ve been in San Francisco since last Saturday and I leave this today. It’s a short visit and work-related but as my first visit to the USA, I thought I’d jot down some thoughts.

The City

It’s a pleasant place. No one would say that the city itself is particularly beautiful (the towers of the financial district are particularly foul) but its surrounding geography is gorgeous, as are the portals that link the City with the outside: the Bay and the Golden Gate bridges. SF sums up that late 20th century ideal of a business-oriented city with a sporty, arty, best popcorn popper vibe. It’s kind of like Sydney, or at least that’s the place it most reminds me of. The difference is that SF is apparently fed by new technologies while Sydney banks the wealth obtained in vast mines.


San Franciscans do not enjoy jokes about earthquakes. Or even jokey remarks. Many people here seem to be expecting the Big One which, depending on how big it is, could realistically destroy the whole place. It’s “long overdue” but I hope that it never strikes, at least not while there are people living here.

Food and Beverages

San Francisco considers itself to be something of a ‘foody’ city. Which is both a good thing and a bad thing. I didn’t get to eat at Boulevard, just up the road from my hotel because I couldn’t get anyone to come with me. Likewise, the French Laundry, out in Napa. Most of what I did eat here (a couple of gourmet hamburgers, some Thai curry, a couple of traditional brasserie dinners, Chinese – twice) was very good and quite affordable. The local beer scene is lively and tasty, and even the city’s standard brew – Anchor Steam – is pretty good. I really enjoyed Napa Smith’s Organic IPA, with which the hotel cunningly stocked my room’s minibar. I didn’t get to try much local wine but I enjoyed a Conn Creek cabernet sauvignon (2008, I think), over a couple of nights.


I stayed at the Harbor Court hotel, on the embarcadero (old port). It’s close to our US office and so was pretty convenient for work. This is quite a touristy area, but it’s at the bottom of the financial district, which is where I found an Apple Store kind enough to sell me an iPad (over €100 cheaper than in Europe). Chinatown is fun, but I suspect it would have been a lot more fun 30 years ago. The Mission is my favorite district. It’s traditionally a latino neighborhood and has also played host to a range of great restaurants, galleries, bars and stores for decades. We ate some pretty good Thai food here and I also had dinner with Chris Barr from Yahoo in a place called Grub. The meal there was good, but I was suffering slightly from the Korean kimchi burrito with hot sauce that I’d eaten for lunch. Also in the Mission is the Pirate Store, 826 Valencia Street. This is also the spiritual home of The Believer, my current favorite periodical (I’m going to keep pushing this until you all subscribe). The Pirate Store has all the supplies any pirate might need, from lard to fathoms and siren silencers. It’s next door to a taxidermy store. These are two of the best shops I’ve ever been to. I didn’t see much of the Castro, though we did drive through it.


My reason for visiting San Francisco should be evident to anyone with even an inkling of what I do for a living. As the world capital of ‘new technologies’, especially web services and mobile devices, it’s at the center of my work day. Indeed, it was practically absurd that I hadn’t visited before. But there you have it. People here frequently exchange tips and recommendations for apps, and more than in Barcelona or London (that I’ve seen at any rate), all decisions are predicated on the advice of an iPhone or Android device. I had kind of hoped there’d be some city-wide high-speed wireless offering but this wasn’t the case. Facebook had a major event in town while I was here (in fact, I was supposed to be there bit due to a mix up, that didn’t happen). The local newspapers often report corporate stories at Yahoo, Twitter, Apple and Google on their front pages. This is a city imbued with a technological optimism. I shudder to think what could happen to the industry if an earthquake really does strike. I suspect that this may be one factor that encourages some firms to prefer Palo Alto and other cities further away from the faultline. Well, that and taxes.

And now I must put my California-designed notebook away and check out of my hotel. I’m coming back to Catalonia. That’s a great feeling.

There are a few photos from my visit on Google+ here. You don’t need to be a member of Google+ to view them. But you should sign up anyway: it’s a pretty good service. Check my blog to see my best umbrella stroller and my fitness videos that i made in SF parks.

British patriotism alive and kicking on Facebook

While at work the other day, I stumbled upon a Facebook application called simply “I am British“. Emblazoned with a Union Jack, the app’s homepage shows that it has over 90,000 ‘fans’. So I had to install it and see what all the fuss is about.

The “I am British” app was produced by i2we, a San Francisco based app developer that has come up with dozens of similarly named apps like “I am soccer / futbol”, “I am lesbian” and “I am childbirth professional”. What these apps seem to allow you to do is (a) define yourself by your nation, sport or profession; (b) earn points by saying you’re doing stuff connected with your chosen app (like “I am toast and marmite” or “I am binge drinking”; and (c) socialise with like-minded people. So far, so stultifyingly dull.

But what really interested me about this app is what users of “I am British” say about the app and themselves. The app reviews are enlightening. They range from slightly confused but determined calls to preserve Britishness:

Must keep up our heritage remember the little things fish n chips on a friday,bacon butties fof breakfast.Support the local harvest festival.Donate to your local church.Most of all dont tarmac or blockpave over you gardens,people who do this are killing our green pastures our HERITAGE.

…to barely literate threats:

Born n bred british
i die 4 this fuckin country
so if u dont like it here fuck off i aint dying 4 u

…and there are even some opposing views:

You should be proud of what you achieve, not what you are. Saying you’re proud of your heritage is as stupid as being proud of your eye colour.

When one young guy says that he was “Givin shit to pakis :)” – he receives a high five. Someone else comments that he’s “Sick to death of the vile infection of freeloading scum washing up on our shores for a free handout!!!!:(” – which leads to a “Hear hear” and a further clarification from the original poster that:

At Present I find myself unemployed,All I
need to help fix this problem is a Gun and
an ammunition supplier that can keep up
with the demand for bullet’s. đŸ™‚

I like how a vague threat of terrible violence is rendered fluffy by the inclusion of a smiley.

The problem with “I am British” is that racist opinions aren’t in the minority. Most reviews and many wall posts seem to espouse pure BNP ideology, though not couched in that party’s flowery language.

see if u look above there no black in the flag so is our country overrun with blacks

i work for livin an pay ma taxis unlike these fukin imagrantes thats what makes u british.this country is gettin raped

I no that many people class them selves British even the ones who was born in this country but i kida disagree because if you was born in England then you are English. Government wants us to call our self’s British even when we are totally the opposite. If the foreigners get to choose if they are Asian or any other race but we cant call our selves English. Personally i think it is terrible the why the foreigners get everything and we get nothing when we are the true citizens. I think there is going to be a big riot if the government dont do nothing because we are getting sick of all of it. Soon the white race will be gone if we dont do nothing. We aint racist we are realists. Bring back England


I know I shouldn’t be surprised by this sort of thing. But with Modbury suddenly flying multiple England flags and Union Jacks, I’m concerned that Britain is seeing an increase in a type of patriotism that seems to be predominantly based on race hate. Maybe I should “leave the country” (that won’t be difficult)? Or maybe I’m just over reacting and nothing has really changed.