Monday, May 27, 2013

History of San Francisco Streets

Photo from Kevin Connors 

Today it is raining in San Francisco ... after weeks of sun and warmth. Rain and fog makes me always kind of melancholic when walking through the city in rubber boots. I start thinking about the city's past and I was questioning myself how many millions of people did walk already through the streets of San Francisco, did wander over Golden Gate Bridge in the fog or traveled in its cable cars over the 42 city hills. 

Our streets have a lot of history and I want to share the history of some of the most well-known streets with you: 

Van Ness Avenue
Van Ness Street is the city's life preserver. Because of the wideness of the street, the fire that ensued after the 1906 earthquake could not jump it, preserving the other half of the city from further advantage. Van Ness Street is named after mayor, James van Ness. 
Polk Street
Hop one street over to the east from Van Ness and you've hit the lively Polk Street, a street populated by many restaurants and bars, spanning from Nob Hill through Russian Hill. Polk Street is named after James Polk, the US President who led the US to victory in the Mexican-American War, which is how California became part of the US.
Fillmore Street
Named after another president, Fillmore Street, which was the national center for jazz in the 1940's and 50's and dubbed the "Harlem of the West," is littered with great music venues, boutique shops and delicious restaurants today. The president the street is named after is Millard Fillmore, who officially California as a state of the union.
Haight & Ashbury
The epicenter of the counter-culture movement and the Summer of Love, Haight and Ashbury have ties back to the city's early residents. Haight Street is presumably named after Henry Haight, although it is unclear because there were three Haight brothers. Henry Haight was an early pioneer of the city and the manager of Page, Bacon & Co, a reputable bank back in the day.
Ashbury Street is named after Munroe Ashbury, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 1864-1870.
Lombard Street
One of the curviest streets in the city (the curviest is actually Vermont Street in Potrero Hill) and the most popular street among visitors has no link to San Francisco. It is actually named after a street in Philadelphia.
Market Street
The main artery of the city, Market Street touches everyone's day. Market has seen some much history from the parades to marches to celebrations. It has seen it all. So what's the history behind the name our most important street? It is likely named after Market Street in Philadelphia too. Jasper O'Farrell, the civil engineer who surveyed the city in 1847, named many of today's major streets, used to live there.
If you want to take a deeper dive into the history of our streets, head over to Noah Veltman's map.

The history of San Francisco streets was originally found here from author Dan Rosenbaum.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Being proud of "Made in San Francisco" - The local Maker Movement

San Francisco is all about making and inventing stuff - but I got the impression that in most cases it is a digital product - an app. Therefore it is even cooler if people produce 'real' stuff here in San Francisco. One of them is Danielle Applestone - she is the CEO of Otherfab, a startup that iblending desktop hardware, simple software, and inclusive community to make design and manufacturing more accessible.

She is recently launched a Kickstarter campaign which is pretty successful and she is planning to open a production in the Mission District of San Francisco. And that is when people started asking: "Why San Francisco?" 

On Women 2.0 she explained why San Francisco is actually a great place to start production - while her friends with successful companies plan on moving their production a few states over:

"There are two main things that would keep me here and make me very proud to be a “made in SF” entrepreneur.
1. A culture of mentorship.
2. Support of the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“A culture of mentorship” means businesses helping each other make smart decisions and operate more efficiently. Yes, it goes against the competitive mindset, but I feel it’s better for our local economy to have 1000 small businesses than just a handful of large ones. We are in this together, and we should help each other.
Support of the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem.  This starts with children. It means more public resources for exploration of interests and skills; not just for those who can afford it (think public workshops and studios). It means bringing apprenticeships back into fashion and funding internships in all areas of the economy, not just high tech software. It means fostering closer connections between industry and schools, so that people understand what is possible and what is relevant."
Do you agree with her? 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Living close to Google, the World Brain

If you live in San Francisco it feels kind of like a betrayal to your city or at least to the local companies if you go and watch a movie like "Google and the World Brain". And this is exactly what my American friend Sophia and I did last week during the San Francisco Film Festival. As Sophia works for YouTube I was  curios if she would like the movie and even more surprised that she even wanted to see it. In the end she liked it...or at least that was my impression when she said: "Even if I would never assume that Google would wanna harm anyone by setting up this book scanning project I think it is good that the world observes critically what large and powerful companies such as Google work on." And then she added with a smile: " And of course the most critical observer is Germany again ... Hanni, you guys are always soo serious and critical." 

I actually loved the movie and I believe much more in the potential that Google might harm or harmed already e.g. authors with 'Google Books'. Maybe as well the fact that I am an author contributes to this opinion.

But let me give you an overview about the movie: 

Using H.G. Wells’ prophetic declarations of a “complete planetary memory for all mankind,” or a “World Brain” as his springboard, the London-based  filmmaker Ben Lewis gathers library administrators, Google engineers and futurists to offer a big picture examination of the Google Book Scanning Project. Lewis travels the globe from the shiny Googleplex in Mountain View to the 11th-century Monastery of Montserrat in Catalonia, Spain, to capture the vast undertaking that is Google Books and to contemplate the future of libraries, technology, money and intellectual property. While the visual highlight of Lewis’ extensive travels is a six-second clip of a super-secret Google Scanning Facility, Google and the World Brain is about more than algorithms and tech. It’s about the dream of building “a library to last forever” and the true cost in attaining that dream.

Lewis wisely takes a collagist’s approach to the subject, mingling the prophecies of H. G. Wells and the words of Franz Kafka with monks in Spain presiding over enormous supercomputers. He throws cranky infotech visionaries like William Gibson, Lawrence Lessig, and Evgeny Morozov into the mix. It’s a head-spinning, highly provocative piece of cinema, like a more accessible companion to Lutz Dammbeck’s 2003 film-essay,The Net: The Unabomber, LSD, and the Internet. Frightening future scenarios and overall mood aside, not to mention the fact that he describes Google’s uncooperative behaviour during production as ”appalling”, Lewis feels that he’s created a balanced work. And that is my perception as well. 

BTW, for me the most memorable statement was " A book is not just an extra-long tweet" from Internet scholar Jaron Lanier.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"How to Love San Francisco" won Writing Contest at Madison Writer's Institute

Imagine you are a writer! Just imagine working on the book you always wanted to write! It takes you some years to finish this book - working night hours and weekends - with your laptop being your best friend. Sacrificing a lot of fun nights out with friends and family for a lonely meeting with just the white page in front of you. If you ever make it to the last page, it takes you another few months to edit the book and easily some years to find a publisher. BUT - if the book becomes a reality one day and might even get a tiny little bit of attention -that is something which puts a HUGE smile on every authors' face. 
Of course I want to share the entry with you... here it is: 

And this is what happened lately... 

As you might know already, I am working together with a great translator from Stanford. Just recently she finished the translation of the first chapter of "How to love San Francisco".

I took the opportunity to enter a Writing contest at the Writer's Institute of the University of Madison-Wisconsin. After submitting my entry of "How to love San Francisco" I completely forgot about the contest again. Guess what?

When I arrived at the conference I received the great news that "How to love San Francisco" had won the "Third place" of Non-Fiction category from 300 contest entries. I quite couldn't believe it and possibly couldn't have asked for more. Ok, ok - there is of course still "First Place" and "Second Place" but I feel that I still want to be able to improve myself :) - and it was the first writing contest I ever entered. 

This was their reasoning behind the selection:

"This article or book sets up a fresh, somewhat frisky and unusual “take” on San Francisco. The author teases us with questions that ask us to look at our stereotypes. And she presents an answer about San Francisco not being what we think it is. It’s an “island nation,” not just a city. We liked this fresh voice, which is very hard to attain with travel articles about popular cities that have been written about so many times before. We wanted to turn the page to see what other nuggets the author brought forth."

How to Love San Francisco:  Travel Stories

“It’s an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco.
It must be a delightful city and possess all the attractions of the next world.”
Oscar Wilde, writer and poet


With brisk strokes, he skillfully sketched the outline of the United States on a small airline napkin.  In Hollywood’s place stood a tiny movie reel, a Statue of Liberty where New York lies and a pair of red socks representing Boston alluded to the baseball team.  
“And what about San Francisco?” I demanded.  Where’s that little piece of land that juts out, almost completely surrounded by water.  Where is that Golden Gate Bridge, gleaming against the honey-gold evening sun?  And where are all the dancing flower children with braided hair in long flowing dresses?
My flight companion smirked.  “San Francisco?”  With one sophisticated nudge, he returned the glasses that had begun to slide down the bridge of his nose back to their rightful place, before beginning,  “Well…San Francisco, my dear, does not really belong to the United States.”
 Sufficiently bewildered, I paused. 
He brushed his hand through his hair, picked up his pen, and drew one solitary island just outside the northern bounds of California.  “San Francisco is a great island nation with hills, cable cars, and plenty of room for dreams and adventures, wouldn’t you agree?” 
I couldn’t quite answer that question yet, and I could only vaguely imagine what awaited me in the city that was often referred to as the Paris of the West.
 “Oh, I wish I could be your age in San Francisco again!” he said as he carefully added a bridge and locomotive to his sketch. His face stretched itself into a wide soundless laugh.  “As I’m sure you know, the fame seekers sashay to Los Angeles and the ambitious run to New York, but those on a quest for meaning always find themselves in San Francisco.”  Passing me the colorful sketches, he uttered one last sentence, “Have fun, young lady!”  He, then, turned his head away from me, closed his eyes, and dozed off. 
Absorbed in my thoughts, I folded up the napkin and stared out of the plane window into the dense blanket of clouds.  San Francisco, a place for adventurers and meaning-seekers?  Is this the path that I was on as well?  Hopes, fears, and images of San Francisco mixed together into one big jumble of thoughts inside my head.  Coming to San Francisco must have been the right choice.  My suitcase was filled to the brink with all my hopes, future ambitions, and over 100 pounds of clothes.  San Francisco, here I come!

Stay tuned!

Yours, Hanni

Monday, May 6, 2013

Best Cocktails in San Francisco

The last week was hard - actually I worked soo much that on Friday night I couldn't think about anything else than having a huge cocktail - and luckily San Francisco is the right place for good cocktails.

I called my friend Vijay (who is one of the funnies characters in the book :))  and we went on a cocktail explorer tour through the city. Unfortunately I cannot remember all the details - good thing is that I can remember just the best places.

And those I am going to share with you:

Trick Dog: This great Mission spot was opened by Josh Harris, Scott Baird and Jason Henton - calling themselves the Bon Vivants. The style:
industrial-cement with some wooden bar elements, but at the same time it feels cozy - probably because it's always packed - which great Mission folks.

The drinks are named after Pantone Colors and I tried the Polar Bear, which is clear and distinct as winter snow topped with creme de menthe and vermouth.

Bourbon & Branch: This bar is still my personal favorite and I always wanted to keep it as a secret to myself. Why? It has a personal touch to it as well as this is where Nick and I dated the first time (it is a perfect spot for a first date :)). You need a password to get in ("books") and the bar is just open between Wednesdays and Saturdays. When Nick walked me there I was even getting a little nervous - not due to Nick, but since the bar is located in a pretty rough neighborhood of San Francisco.

If you get in, you quickly forget about the outer world as this speakeasy is not only serving great drinks - such as the Frank Lloyd Wright (dry and lightly spicy) or the Stiletto (full-bodied), but has as well the look and feel of an old library to it. You will notice a wall made of books and if you are lucky enough that this "wall" opens for you, you will be entering another Speakeasy called 'Wilson & Wilson'.

Smuggler's Cove:  Even though it is not an Speakeasy, it kind of feels like one as it isn't really recognizable as a fancy Cocktail- place from outside. But wait until you get in ... you quickly feel as being on a boat with wild pirates (at least this is how some of the San Francisco hipsters in Smuggler's Cove looked like) and you have no other choice than stranding at the bar. There you will need to try banana daiquiri with the house-made banana liqueur. Vijay tried the Expedition, while being on a girl scouting expedition, which I could tell from the look of his eyes. The Expedition: 8 ingredients strong, topped by an intensive espresso note from Bittermens New Orleans Coffee Liqueur.

We even tried some more places, such as 'Comstock Saloon' and '15 Romolo' in North Beach - but guys, I just can remember that the cocktails were at least as good as the ones mentioned above, but the details don't want to get back in my head again :).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Best Hotels in San Francisco - sleep well!

As a San Francisco resident I never really stay in a hotel - if friends come over I over them my tiny little couch or my air bed. But with San Francisco rental prices, anything beyond a one-bedroom isn't on the cheap side - so my tiny little one-bedroom apartment is definetely not the best space to host huge groups of family and friends...
Therefore I asked around and want to share the list of the best hotels in the city with you... btw, if you want to get a very good deal in a great location (like getting 4 to 5 stars, but paying 2 to 3 stars and liking suprises: try the website hotwire). I like to recommend B&B (see midrange category) as they are usually much cozier as any big hotel chain could ever be.

when I first came to SF, I stayed at the Steinhart Hotel (at that time it was great and affordable, but as far as I know they changed prices (to midrange).

Travelling on a budget: 

for Midrange budgets (< 200 USD): 

for the affluent traveller: