NIMBYs vs. Wireless Antennas (and Better Mobile Coverage)

San Francisco has become notorious for having poor cellphone coverage. People usually blame their wireless carrier for this, but a big part of the problem is that, like many communities across the country, local NIMBYs have opposed efforts to install new antennas that would significantly improve wireless reception.

Some of the opposition stems from scientifically dubious anxiety about the health effects of wireless antennas. Some stems from aesthetic concerns. But the bottom line is that coverage in San Francisco sucks in no small part because local elected officials have sided with anti-antenna zealots to block the installation of new antennas.

Over at Bernalwood, a new blog I created for San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood, I just published a post-mortem on the Great Bernal Hill Antenna War of 2010. The bottom line here is that if you want better mobile service, you may have to become politically involved — because chances are the NIMBY activists and antennaphobe zealots who oppose new antenna installations already have the ear of your local politicians.

[via Mission Loc@al]

image via San Francisco Planning Department

Envisioning Marijuana as Just Another Consumer Product

Consumer Packaging

Consumer Product

If Prop 19 passes and marijuana becomes legal(ish) in California, what might that mean for pot’s future as a consumer product?

This being California, some will inevitably be positioned as an artisanal item — like locally produced wine or gourmet food. That, in turn, means some weed will probably be offered in designer packaging that seeks to accentuate the product’s higher-value appeal.

The photos above show a prototype created by a Bay Area packaging manufacturer. This stylish glass jar is a far cry from a dime bag, so it provides an intriguing window on what the future of normalized pot sales might look like — right down to the UPC bar code.

“Thank God AT&T Does Not Make Sake” (But What If They Did?)

Thank God AT&T Does Not Make Sake

The frustrated and signal-challenged owners of True Sake have posted this sign prominently in the window of their excellent Hayes Valley, San Francisco sake shop.

This sets up a whole series of “If AT&T Made Sake” jokes, along the lines of the classic “If Microsoft Made Cars” series. For example:

If AT&T Made Sake…

… Your bottle would always look full, but your cup would always be empty.

… You’d get cut off four times before last call.

… You could drink it on the street, but not in your home.

… They’d blame the bottle manufacturer if it tasted bad.

… They’d sell you a “bottomless cup,” but make you drink from a thimble.

… You’d have a keen interest in rumors that Verizon plans to begin making sake soon.

… You’d use it for everything but drinking.

Got more? Tweet them to #attsake.

photo by Todd Lappin / Telstar Logistics

Rock the Moonbase With the Music of Space 1999

Scott and I have been having a private little jam-sesh listening to the theme music from the 1970s sci-fi series Space 1999.

For the uninitiated: Space 1999 was a show about a group of humans trying to survive on a lunar outpost after the moon was blasted from the Earth’s orbit following a catastrophic accident. The show was the last series produced by Gerry Anderson, who also created The Thunderbirds (which in turn inspired Trey Parker’s Team America, World Police).

The unforgettable opening credits from the show are above. You can also find MP3s of the show’s theme, as well as cover versions of the music, at

Graceful Video of a Boeing 747-8 Fuselage on a Crane

Boeing just released a lovely and elegant video of the forward fuselage of the first 747-8 Intercontinental passenger aircraft as it was moved around on a crane inside the company’s Everett, Washington manufacturing facility.

Not to reveal too much about the depths of my own geekdom, but this immediately reminded me of the Moonbase Alpha Hangar Bay from Space 1999. Watch this video at the 1:28 mark to see the resemblance.

The Lost History of San Francisco’s “Beatles House”

The Beatles House (1982)
Beatles House, 1982

This is a tale of The Beatles, a house, a mural, an artsy kid, domestic terrorists, classic punk rock, and a lost moment of San Francisco subculture…

For almost two decades, the former “Beatles House,” on the 100 block of Precita Avenue in San Francisco, was covered by a colorful mural of the Fab Four. The mural became a local landmark and tourist attraction; so much so that the Beatles House was used to represent a rehearsal studio in the film “Living on Tokyo Time,” while also garnering mentions on local TV, CNN, and in local newspapers.

Today, the mural is gone… vanished without a trace.

I live down the street from the former Beatles House, however, so neighborhood lore piqued my curiosity about it. Eventually, I found an old black-and-white picture of the house from 1978 and posted it to Flickr:

"Beatles House," 1978

The posting triggered a lively discussion in the photo comments that attracted both past and present residents of the property, and soon the woman who actually created the mural chimed in to tell her tale.

The Beatles mural was first painted in 1974 by Jane Weems, a young woman who lived in the house during the 1970s and 1980s.

In high school, Jane was the drummer/songwriter for a punk band called The Maggots. The band had a local underground hit with their song “Let’s Get Tammy Wynette.” Stereo Sanctity explains:

Formed around the nucleus of drummer Jane Weems and bassist Robert Mostert in ’78, it seems The Maggots proceeded to get through a veritable bus-load of additional members in their short existence, all arriving and departing from within SF’s high school-age punk milieu, raising merry hell in some parental basement and swiftly developing into the kind of band just as concerned with pasting together fake biographies and press releases for themselves and developing their own brand of icky goofball humour as they were with finding shows to play or recording songs.

The Maggots

You can listen to some vintage Maggots here. (Good stuff!) Jane still looked the part in 1982, and apparently she had a favorite Beatle:

Jane Weems

And here’s Jane, hard at work repainting the Beatles House, also in 1982:

Jane Weems, Hard at Work

So what inspired the Beatles House? In an email to me, Jane wrote:

“I painted the house in 1974, when I was still in junior high school…. I had painted the walls of my bedroom inside the house, first with yellow submarine, then, I did the Elton John “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album cover really big on one wall, and other paintings of the Beatles & Elton John on my walls… they were pretty much covered… so, I asked if I could paint a mural on the house, and my parents said yes… so, I started to draw out what I wanted to paint, with a pencil, all freehand, in the low parts that I could reach… after painting that, my mom rented a scaffold, so I could go up higher to get the whole front done… in the middle of this, I had to go to school every day, so progress was slow.

The S.L.A. ‘s Emily Harris [of Patty Hearst kidnapping fame] lived secretly in a safe house down the street, and used to come by to “watch me paint” and talk to me about the Beatles.

It was fun, both times I painted it… lots of people would stop & watch, or talk to me when I was up there… when I was finished, for years folks would come by, take pix, ring the bell and see what kind of folks lived inside… : ) the SF Bay Guardian gave me a blue ribbon award once for being voted “The best SF remnant of the psychdelic 60’s” even though it was painted in ’74…

Basically, I was just an artistic kid who ran out of room inside, and started on the outside.

And finally, the Where Are They Now? Today, Jane lives in the Midwest, and Beatles House looks like this:

Former "Beatles House," 2007

Vintage photos courtesy of Jane Weems