Category Archives: San Francisco

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Felt VR3 First Ride and Review

I took delivery of a lovely new Felt VR3 road bike on Friday.  This is a genre-bending road/endurance/gravel bike, with a sub-1000g carbon frame, disk brakes and room for up to 38mm tires.  I’d been on the lookout for a light gravel bike, after getting my feet wet in the multi-surface world with an aluminum Giant TCX.  After reading a set of raves reviews in August after it was announced (e.g. Velonews, RKP) I kept an eye on further news, and put down a deposit at my nearest Felt dealer (Bike Connection in San Francisco) in September when they told me that Felt would be prioritizing delivery for pre-ordered bikes.

The spec on the VR3 was very close to my needs, so I wasn’t tempted by the VR2, although I will be swapping out the wheels very soon.  The 3T Discus C35 Pro wheels look fantastic but are not tubeless-ready, which is a strange decision on a bike of this kind.  I have a DT Swiss R23 Spline DB wheelset on order, which I will setup tubeless either with 30mm Schwalbe S-One or 35mm Schwalbe G-One. I also have a set of FSA carbon handlebars that I will be swapping on.

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Messy cables–why is the front brake hose is so long?

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Top-tube mount for a Dark or XLab bento-box:

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Another selling point was the all-new “sub-compact” (30/46) Rotor crankset:

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Stock tires are Vittoria Rubino Pro 28mm, which measure out at a plump 29.5mm on the 3T rims, but plenty of clearance for bigger tires:

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No doubt it’ll be appearing in a lot of my future Instagram shots at @dynamicwatch for my dwMap Garmin watch app project.

Where can you see the Bay Bridge Demolition?

Although they say the best way to see tomorrow’s (Nov 14 2015) implosion of the old Bay Bridge span (specifically “Pier E3”) is via TV or streaming at home, the event did get me thinking about where is the closest point to my condo that I can see the old span from?

I have mapping software that lets me use Digital Elevation Model (DEM) terrain data to calculate a “view shed” from a point.  Typically this is used by radio engineers to estimate the coverage area from a possible transmission tower site, but works just as well to answer my question of “where would one have line-of-sight to the old Bay Bridge span from?”  Here’s what I got:

bay-bridge-view
Click to view larger image

The red shaded areas are where you should be able to see the bridge from.  This makes the assumption that there are no buildings in the way (the DEM I used uses the height of the ground, not what might be built on it) but at least shows a good estimate.

As expected Yerba Buena Island blocks a large part of the center and north of San Francisco from seeing it.  It should be visible from the top of Bernal Heights, McLaren Park, Potrero Hill and St Bruno Mountain.  Surprisingly not from Twin Peaks, again due to Yerba Buena Island.

It is visible from most of the southern waterfront, from just south of AT&T Park down through the Dogpatch to Hunter’s Point.

Hence the closest point to me will either be the fishing pier jutting out east from AT&T Park, or across China Basin by Pier 48 (right by The Yard biergarten, which sadly won’t be open that early).

Update Nov 14: My calculations were correct, and I was able to see the implosion from the Pier 48 corner:

Waiting for Bay Bridge implosion
Waiting for Bay Bridge implosion

One Year of Microliving

It has just been the first anniversary of downsizing my personal space to a 264 sqft microcondo in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood.

Condo floor plan (mine is slightly different)

I can happily report that it has been a very successful year and the condo has proven to be completely livable and comfortable.

Having a limited amount of storage space (and a dislike of visible clutter) has encouraged me to keep purchases to a minimum, and has required some creative solutions.

Why my t-shirts smell slightly of toast.

My choices in furniture–a day-bed as bed and sofa, a glass topped round dining (and work) table with two chairs and a bench-style coffee table–have all worked great.  The coffee table and a stool mean I can seat four for  dinner (I like to entertain regardless of the small space).

Dinner party

The shared roof garden features glass enclosed ramadas which work remarkably well in catching the sun and blocking the wind, and allow for bigger parties.

Rooftop party

The kitchen is small but has the normal amenities and I cook frequently like I would in a larger place.  The fridge/freezer is a little small, but since I do not own a car I tend to do smaller, more frequent shops anyway.  I’ve also learned which types of produce do not need to be refrigerated, such as onions and tomatoes.

The building is mostly concrete and there so far has been surprisingly little neighbor noise considering there are 98 units.  The solidness has also been slightly tested by two earthquakes that have rattled the blinds a bit!

Living in close proximity to all my stuff means that being consistently tidy is necessary, from making my bed as soon as I get up (a habit that gained attention in 2014 thanks to this awesome commencement speech by a Navy SEAL admiral), to washing dishes right after every meal, to putting shoes and jackets away as soon as I come in.  Cleaning, of course, is a delightfully short process!

Finally, the location feels so close to most of the places I go to.  It’s a 15 min walk to work, 5 mins to the waterfront at AT&T Park, and Yerba Buena Gardens are across the street.

Theater in Yerba Buena Gardens

Microliving here I come

I am excited to share that I have just had my offer accepted to buy a “micro-condo” in San Francisco’s SOMA district.  At only 264 sq ft, this might seem mind-boggling small (my last house in Tucson was 1500 sq ft) and is even smaller than the 390 sq ft studio I’ve been renting for the last 12 months, but it has been designed from the ground up for  “microliving.”

It’s in the CubixSF building, which opened in 2008, with 98 units, all 300 sq ft or less.  Each is designed with small but high quality appliances and efficient floor plans, augmented by a shared 9th floor roof garden with glass cabanas, a BBQ grill and 360º views.

Cubix-Front

It does have much less built-in closet/drawer space than my current studio, which might be an initial challenge, but it comes with a 24 sq ft storage space in the building basement, which will take care of suitcases, camping gear, skis, etc. and will also be a handy place to store my bikes.  (Some might argue that that should be included in the total square footage of the “space.”)

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I try to apply William Morris‘s golden rule before I buy (or keep) something: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”  This has helped me keep my pile of stuff quite small after moving out of the “big” Tucson house, but I will need to choose some furniture for the new space, such as a sleeper-sofa and a dining table.  Hopefully I will be able to make a choice of sofa in much less than the 10 years it took Steve Jobs.

I am very excited by this change.  The small footprint is a delightful challenge, not a burden, and this corner unit is full of light and air.   I take inspiration from mindful small living practitioners like Life Edited‘s Graham Hill, who said in his 2011 TED Talk  “Let’s make room for the good stuff!”

Despite the size, I want to equip it so that I can comfortably accommodate one overnight guest and four for dinner, since hosting visitors and small dinners is a great pleasure for me.  I want to create an inspiring workplace, and a cozy reading place.  Those are “good stuff.”

 

Shortest Route to Visit the Parklets of San Francisco

A few months ago Curbed SF published an article on 43 Awesome San Francisco Public Parklets.  These parklets are a public-private partnership, where the land is publicly owned (usually part of a sidewalk) but a nearby business (usually a cafe) maintains it.  The parklet becomes part of the outdoor seating for the business, but anyone can hang out there, even if they are not customers of the business.

Some are quite unusual, such as the one at the Rapha Cycling Club:

Rapha Cycling Club Parklet

I thought it would be interesting to calculate the shortest cycling route that visits all the parklets (the classic Travelling Salesman computer science problem).  Since I have been recently working with Mapbox, the rapidly growing alternative to Google Maps et al, I thought it would be a good test case for Mapbox’s relatively new driving directions feature (to calculate the distance of the best route between any pair of parklets, which then goes into the Travelling Salesman algorithm).  Unfortunately this only supports vehicle mode right now (no cycling mode) so for now this is the driving version of the shortest route.

The best result I have found so far is 44.46 miles:

Shortest Driving Route

Method:

  • I located a KML of the parklets (actually a set of 63 of them, so different from the Curbed SF set) via http://pavementtoparks.sfplanning.org/
  • I found a Python implementation of a Travelling Salesman algorithm.  As the Wikipedia article discusses, this is a surprisingly difficult problem to solve, because the number of permutations grows exponentially as one adds locations.
  • Hence the route above is not the perfect solution, but merely the best that the algorithm can find in a reasonable amount of time.
  • I wrote a Python script to pull in the parklets KML, use the Travelling Salesman algorithm together with the Mapbox Driving Directions API to find the best route, and output it to KML.
  • Finally I created a Mapbox map and used their Omnivore Javascript library to overlay the KML on the map.

Now I need to create the cycling version…