Why I Support David Chiu For Mayor (and why you should too)

Dear San Francisco,

Tomorrow we have a local election. Do you know who you support for mayor? Let me tell you how I came to learn about David Chiu, and why I support him.

I met David Chiu shortly after I first heard about him – at a Q & A session at my friend’s apartment. I was impressed both by his clear, direct and well thought out answers, as well as the fact that he was humble and open enough to make himself so available to an intimate gathering of people that wasn’t focus-group tested. He conducted these sessions all over the city, so if you know someone how attended one be sure to ask them about David Chiu.

Personality alone, of course, does not a worthy mayor make. Here are the policies that made me a supporter:

David Chiu will make Muni faster and more efficient. I believe he will do so because he rides muni. Yup, he doesn’t have a car and like most of the people I know, relies on muni to get to work every day, and to get around on the weekends. So if there’s anyone who’s committed to making it run faster, I’m sure it’s the person who has to ride it every day. And as I learned at the neighborhood Q&A, this is quite an achievable possibility. During his time with us Chiu outlined 3 ways to make muni faster: Reduce the number of stops on certain lines (like in places where the bus stops twice on the same blog), more boarding through the back, and then my favorite – making use of existing technology that allows the bus driver to keep the traffic light green in order to get through the intersection. For David Chiu’s full transportation plan click here, and for his muni-specific plan click here, but the moral of the story is that improving muni is an achievable possibility, and who doesn’t want the busses to be quicker and more on time?

David Chiu wants to be San Francisco’s techie mayor.

(From the mailer “SF needs apps like these”)

At our neighborhood meeting he spoke of how SF has turned into a bedroom community for reverse commuters working in Silicon Valley. He lamented that so many start-ups begin in San Francisco but then move south. Chiu was instrumental in getting Twitter to stay in San Francisco, backing the idea when Gavin Newsom was still mayor, and he is committed to keeping tech companies in our 49 square miles. He also founded his own tech company, called Grassroots Enterprise. In true start-up fashion, Chiu wants to host citywide hackathons for civic innovation. For more information on how David Chiu will support the tech community, click here.

There are a whole host of reasons why I support David Chiu and encourage you to as well. But instead of listing each and every one, I urge you to click here and read about the issues that matter the most to you. One last thing I want to get at is leadership. David Chiu has the proven ability to lead, not just at his own company, but also evident in his election as President of the Board of Supervisors. He earned the exclusive endorsement of the San Francisco Chronicle, and has a clear record of following through on his campaign promises. Speaking of promises, it really irks me that the incumbent mayor, Ed Lee, broke a big one. His mayoral appointment by the City Council was predicated on his NOT running for mayor. The city needed a leader that wouldn’t take advantage of the appointment for their own political career. Ed Lee promised not to run for mayor, and then broke that promise. Now he gets to be the incumbent on the ballot, and that’s not fair. At the neighborhood Q&A where I met Chiu, I was impressed at his insistence of challenging the status quo in City Hall. At first I thought, ‘I didn’t know there was a problem’. And when I found out about Ed Lee I realized yeah, there’s a problem. And I found out that there are 15 departments in City Hall that regular the private sector, seven email systems in City Hall, and a host of costly redundancies that are slowing the city down.

We all know that San Francisco is a world class city. We need a mayor that will help our city shine. Please join me in voting for David Chiu for mayor of San Francisco.


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Roadtrip Chronicles: the road to Death Valley

Silpa and I set off from San Francisco towards our first stop: Death Valley. We made a quick pit stop at Whole Foods for some snacks and ice, where the woman checking us out asked if we were having a party. “No!” I replied excitedly. “A roadtrip!”

The drive down to Death Valley was fairly uneventful, until we hit the mountains. Beautiful, purple, statuesque mountains. Mountains that look like an extension of the ground, like they have been there forever.

What fascinated me was that Silpa and I experienced these mountains in profoundly different ways. She was overcome by the size of the mountains, and how tiny and inconsequential they made her feel. I was overwhelmed by their age; I had a sense of witnessing Earth as it was a billion years ago. I too felt inconsequential, but in time; not space. This experience inspired my first haiku:

Bearing witness to
The passage of time. Behold:
Purple mountains [_]

Majestic. Ever
Present, never moving. Here
For millennia.

We didn’t have much time to soak in the mystery of these monumental mountains. Not long after passing through the first outcrop the windy, twisty road required our full attention. Silpa’s full attention, at least, as she was behind the wheel. My attention was focused on convincing myself that we weren’t going to die. Thus my next haiku:

Windy hairpin turns.
We shall go the speed limit,

My stomach may be
in my throat, but rather there
than in the ravine.

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OMGlee – It’s Fleetwood Mac!

When I heard that Glee was doing Fleetwood Mac this past week, I knew I’d have to write about it. I’m obsessed with Fleetwood! For the most part I’m satisfied with how they worked the songs into the storyline, but I do have a few suggestions. And, of course, links to the songs so you can listen to the originals.


Given that Broadway dreams were an underlying theme in this episode, this was an appropriate opener for the title alone. I didn’t really understand the reaction shots of the Glee club members because there didn’t necessarily seem to be anything in the song that related to their story lines, but then again the reaction shots always seem random to me. Without having yet delved into the meat of the plot, Dreams is a great song to introduce Fleetwood Mac. With haunting lyrics like

listen carefully to the sound / of your loneliness / like a heartbeat drives you mad / in the stillness of remembering what you had / and what you lost / what you had / you know what you lost

that are still relevant today, it’s indicative of the currents of complexity, emotion, and wisdom that run through their songs. [listen]

Never Going Back Again

Excellent context for the song. I love the meditative nature of it, with the simple guitar strumming. It’s a great song about making mistakes and swearing to do better (although alternately it could be interpreted as someone who is finally done running back to their lover). At first the guitar chorus annoyed me, but I appreciated the close-ups on Finn, Puck and Sam, who actually looked like they had their own reasons for being there. I think anybody can listen to this song and relate to it. [listen]


I actually – gasp – like the Glee version better. Only because I’ve never liked the Fleetwood version. I found it too nice and pretty, such that I could never understand the meaning, or how it fit on the Rumours album. One thing that threw me off was the lyric “The songbirds are singing as if they know the score”. I always interpreted it as “keeping score” in a fight or something, but it actually seems to be the score of a song; the torch song that Santana sings for Britney. [listen]

The Chain

I WISH SO MUCH they gave this song more than 30 seconds underneath dialogue. The song is a MASTERPIECE; but they cheapened it by not showing the full arc of the song. They layered “If you don’t love me now / you’ll never love me again” over Finn seeing Quinn with Sam. But that’s not really what the song is about. It’s a dynamic meditation on love and promises, and thoughts about the future. Not a song that protrays disappointment or betrayal as in black & white as the scene does.

Incidentally it’s the only song all 5 bandmates wrote together, and it would have been perfect for the cast to sing together. Preferably over a montage of slinging accusations but coming together to heal after the rumors; then once the song crescendos, going together to buy back Sam’s guitar. [listen]

I Don’t Want To Know

I love this song but Quinn and Finn messed it up. I get that it was revealing the cracks in their relationship/trust issues, but I didn’t like their staging of it. It’s a joyous song – like, ‘I don’t know why this works, but let’s just go with it’; not a literal on-stage argument. A more appropriate song would have been Secondhand News – a song about being the last one to hear something your lover should have told you – which was totally a propos given their fight over what the Muckracker revealed. [listen]

Go Your Own Way

I love this song, and I love that Rachel gave it female vocals. It’s a bittersweet song, but empowering at the same time. [listen]

Don’t Stop

I caught the end of the episode before watching from start to finish, and I thought this was a saccharine and underwhelming rendition of the song. It’s sweet and positive, yes, but at the same time gritty and believable because it’s coming from individuals who have been through the fire and are still optimistic about the future. After watching the whole episode I was on board with their performance, because they also meant it as a song of encouragement after going through their high school drama. I also appreciate that they added some bottom (so to speak) to the song. I first heard this song on the live album the Dance which has the backing of a marching band, so the Rumours version has always felt a little light (although totally in line with the rest of the album). [Rumours] [The Dance]

Other songs that would have been cool:

Gold Dust Woman

Rachel singing to Finn, about not being able to trust Quinn:

Did she make you cry / Make you break down / Shatter your illusions of love / Is it over now do you know how / Pick up the pieces and go home.


You Make Loving Fun

A sultry song that sounds like illicit love. If there were actually people sneaking around this song would have been perfect:

I never did believe in the ways of magic / But I’m beginning to wonder why / Don’t, don’t break the spell / It would be different and you know it will.


Silver Springs

Originally recorded for Rumours although it wasn’t included on the album. Britney to Santana, after Santana maintains that she and Karofsky are happy together:

“I know I could have loved you / But you would not let me”

Rachel to Finn along the lines of “Go Your Own Way”, announcing that she’s moving on:

“I begin not to love you / Turn around, see me running”


Overall I’m ecstatic that Glee devoted an entire episode to one of my favorite bands of all time. Fleetwood Mac never fails to affect me, and I hope the band has scored legions of new fans from this episode. Maybe this will inspire Christine McVie to rejoin the band… then maybe they would go on tour and I would finally be able to see them live. I can dream!

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Morocco day 1 – Welcome to Marrakesh

As our plane descended down into the Marrakesh airport we got our first glimpse of Morocco and said to each other: This is the closest we’ve ever been to being in Morocco. It was something we had, in fact, been saying all day; since the cab picked us up early that morning. We said it when checking our bags at the Dublin airport, and during our layover at Midlands. Every so often a silence was broken with “this is the closest we’ve ever been to being in Morocco”, and every time we said it it was true.

We were thankful that Riad O2 had offered a driver to bring us in, because the streets of Marrakesh are crazy. Our eyes were glued to the window of Hicham’s car not just out of fascination with the passing scenery but because we were terrified for everyone else on scooters, donkeys, or just their feet narrowly missing collision with every moving thing on the road.

It should be noted that within the city walls there is a point beyond which cars cannot go, but you still have to contend with donkeys and scooters. Once our car pulled over we thought we were there, but we weren’t. Hicham then guided us on foot through a series of twists and turns and we arrived at our riad. We looked at each other and said, How the eff are we going to find our way back to the main road??? Later on someone at the riad explained to us that we just had to take the first left, the first right, the first left, and so on. In no time we became pros.

I can’t upload videos to this blog, so click here to see how we got to the riad.

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Damsel in Distress

On Valentine’s Day the Facebook Data Team published a blog post about relationships and happiness, and whether being in one makes us happier. One of the conclusions was that “people who are in a relationship or marriage do seem to be happier than everyone else.

As soon as I saw that I wanted to protest – But even though I’m listed as married I’m SINGLE and HAPPY! And happier than when I was in a relationship! Your study is wrong! But I didn’t. Instead I gave it a little bit of thought, and then got distracted by something else. Until last weekend.

Last weekend I got sick and unfortunately ended up in the hospital. Not just the hospital – the emergency room. Take it from me having been there two years in a row, that’s a scary place to be. Last year I had a real medical emergency. This year I went more as a precaution – there was a chance I had a serious condition and was directed to go to the ER because I hadn’t been able to get an urgent care appointment. And I put it all on Facebook. As my situation escalated I sent out a series of distressed status updates – about feeling ill, possibly having to go to the hospital, and then freaking out about going.

The same thing happened last year, but I didn’t put it on Facebook. I was dating someone at the time and instead of turning to Facebook I turned to him. I didn’t post an update about going to the ER, I simply looked at him and told him. And then we went, he stayed with me and brought me home. I hadn’t posted about feeling ill at all. I don’t believe I posted anything about that situation until I was back from the hospital and safely on the mend. It’s not that I didn’t freak out, I did! I was terrified. I was just really fortunate to have someone there helping me through the situation.

But this year I got sick and happened to be single. I didn’t have anybody with me but I had Facebook. No doubt my updates about the situation were far more negative than last year. I didn’t wait to express myself until the problem was resolved – I put out my fear and discomfort for everyone to see. I sent distress signals! Last year they were offline and this year they were online. Everybody does this in a time of crisis, but people who are in relationships probably tend to do it offline, while people who aren’t in relationships may do them online.

Facebook data scientists see distress signals or other negative posts and interpret unhappiness. But people who live out a broader swath of their lives online will necessarily seem unhappier than people who only post about positive things. While being in a tough situation is certainly unpleasant, communicating about that situation will probably lead to a happier person. I was able to connect with friends and get help. After seeing my updates a friend offered help and ended up going out of his way to bring me home from the hospital. Countless people checked on me and offered assistance.

In general I’m happy, perfectly happy not being in a relationship, and as I said before – happier than the last time I was in one. Some Facebook data scientists may interpret single people as being less happy, but I think we’re just taking advantage of Facebook to get help when we need it. Here’s hoping I don’t end up in the hospital again next February, but if I do you can bet I’ll be on Facebook, sending out my distress signals.

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Barcelona Update

Open air pet stores on Las Ramblas
the Barri Gótic
learning the history of Catalonia
museums being open from 8-11
La Sagrada Familia
the Parc Güell
an amazing croissant from the bakery around the corner (best in Barcelona)

the rain on the second day
feeling nauseous for the greater part of the second day
vomiting at 30-45 minute intervals for 6-7 hours on the second day
having no energy on the 3rd day

Honorable Mention:
Starbucks, for being everywhere (notably quite near the Sagrada Familia), and for providing high-calorie frappuchinos, which come in handy when you’re on a liquid diet.

Among the animals being sold on Las Ramblas there weren’t just the normal cuties like kittens, rabbits, cockatiels and guinea pigs, there were more serious birds like roosters, and …pigeons. Yes, pigeons. Tim and I couldn’t understand who would pay money for them when you can get them off the street for free, but we decided that it must be a very lucrative trade. Everything you make off of it would be a profit. Whenever we saw pigeons after that we’d say oh – there’s an easy €10 right there! In fact, if I had been more enterprising, I bet I could have caught and sold enough pigeons to make up for the extra train ticket I had to buy for Amsterdam.

The history of Catalonia is quite interesting. Way back in the day Spain wasn’t Spain, there was Castille and Catalonia. Castille was backed by the French Bourbons, and Catalonia was backed by the Hapsburgs. The Castillians + Bourbons eventually won control, and the language and government of Castille became the language and government of Spain. Catalonia has remained Catalonia, but Catalan is not recognized as an official language in Spain. (I credit Eduard for teaching me everything I learned and just regurgitated)

Unfortunately, Barcelona wasn’t all sunshine and butterflies. In the late afternoon on the second day I started to feel very, very nauseous. At first I thought it was something I had at lunch, or perhaps the cookies dipped in sweet wine that we had for dessert. Then as the nausea grew stronger I thought maybe it was all the gluten I’d been having. Being on vacation, I decided that I would eat whatever I wanted. But then, walking down the Ramblas after seeing Eduard’s Barceloneta apartment, I nearly threw up in a trashcan on the sidewalk. And I thought to myself – in all my 24-odd years of eating gluten, it never once made me throw up.

Shortly thereafter (after we reached the hostel) I projectile vomited the entire contents of my stomach. I don’t know if you’ve ever projectile vomited – but it’s quite an experience. I felt my entire digestive system pull together, literally, to defy gravity. Everything contracted, as if I were encased in one huge abdominal corset, to push out the contents of my stomach with a force and velocity I had never seen. And it didn’t just come up and dribble out. It gushed out like my body had become a glorious fountain. Afterwards I sank to the floor, feeling spent like an empty casing. Unfortunately I had to return to the bathroom at somewhat regular intervals for the next 6-7 hours. I tried drinking water and shortly thereafter it all came up. For the most part though it was bile – that odd substance found at the bottom of the stomach; really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

The next day was our last in Barcelona. I felt entirely sapped of energy, but around midday I rallied for our trip to La Sagrada Familia and the Parc Güell (both beautiful Gaudi creations). And bless Tim’s heart for being so patient with me and my snail’s pace as we made our way to these famous sites.

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Amsterdam Update


The Van Gogh museum
watching a bad movie (The Parking lot) in a random coffeeshop
the beautiful canals
the beautifully classic architecture
Anne Frank’s house
Dutch pancakes


losing €110 on my train ticket to Amsterdam
the unexpectedly cold weather
discovering that unsavory characters start appearing in the streets after 1am
being lost in Amsterdam after 1am
leaving a piece of clothing behind in the hostel
cold apple pie

The best thing about the Van Gogh museum was the letters. The exhibit was replete with letters written by the artist to his brother, and his artistic contemporaries. Given that there are so many artists that we memorize facts as about as children, I really enjoyed getting more perspective on Van Gogh through his personal letters.

I have to admit, the Amsterdam segment of my trip was colored by a train debacle that actually took place in Paris. My friend and I obviously bought our train tickets in advance of our trip, and arrived at the train station armed with our itinerary and confirmation numbers. The ticket agent, however, would only issue the ticket if presented with the same credit card that was used to purchase the ticket. Not wanting to use that particular card on my trip, I left it in San Francisco. Very much to my dismay, the station agent offered no other alternative. So we hopped onto my friend’s Blackberry.

First, I tried logging into my account to get the information, but then we remembered that online bank accounts rarely display your full account number – and even if it had, I would need the expiration date too. We then got the idea to call one of my roommates in San Francisco (even though it was 1am) and have him read off the card information to me. Unfortunately I had left my cellphone in Dublin (my phone couldn’t even keep time in Europe), but I knew I could get my roommates’ numbers from Facebook! My friend pulled Facebook up on his BB… and I realized that I didn’t know my password – without a QWERTY keyboard, at least. Just for the record – I have a *very* secure password – it’s a combination of letters, numbers, AND symbols. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember the particular symbols, just where they were on the keyboard. I had one last option – I called MasterCard. But MasterCard, in case you didn’t know, doesn’t have 24 hour service. So there I was – I had tried every option I could think of and we were running out of time. About 5 minutes before the train departed I decided that if I wanted to continue my trip I would have to buy a new ticket. With hindsight (which is always 20/20), I realized I had had one more option – I could have spoken to the agent in French. It’s been my experience in France that if you’re speaking English, a person won’t try to help you – keyword, try. As it was, the agent first spoke to me in English and I answered in-kind.

I’m going to write a letter to SNCF (en français, of course), to try and get my money back. It’s ridiculous that they made me buy a second train ticket when I had clearly already paid for the first one. I doubt I’ll get anything more than a credit towards another ticket, but that would at least be something.
And so I entered Amsterdam smarting over the €110 hit my vacation budget had just taken, but the wonder and craziness of Amsterdam helped me forget.

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