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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

BEST PLACES IN THE WORLD (PART 34: #2 San Francisco)

The following continues the serialization of my final chapter from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:

#2: San Francisco and the Bay Area

Next to Hawaii, I enjoy the area around San Francisco most. Having spent four years at Stanford University, several assignments at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Ames Research Center, and regular forays through the wine country of Napa, Sonoma and down south all the way to Santa Barbara, there is a lot of variety in this region. BART, culture, Chinatown, SoMa, cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, Union Square, Nob Hill, Silicon Valley, genome hotspots, outstanding colleges, all the professional sports you might want and generally acceptable weather, a case can be made for this area being #1.

There are earthquakes and the western side of the San Andreas Fault could fall into the sea someday (note that SFO is on the wrong side of the fault). My most memorable trip ever with regard to natural disasters occurred in October 1989 when I participated in an engineering conference in New Orleans, but left town a bit early to avoid a hurricane heading towards Texas or Louisiana. I flew to San Francisco, then on to Tokyo for another meeting, where I felt an earthquake. I then needed to testify in Congress, so I stopped off in San Francisco and stayed at the AmFac Hotel at the airport. The next day I flew to Dulles. The first scene I saw on my room TV was the elevator shaft of the AmFac Hotel, which had caved in from the Loma Prieta earthquake that postponed the World Series. My room that previous night was next to the elevator.

But, in 2007, for the 18th consecutive year, San Francisco was named by Conde Nast as the number one U.S. city. (In 2010, San Francisco was, still, #1, but the best city in Asia was, amazingly enough, considering their problems, Bangkok--#1 in Europe was Florence). Even if home and rental prices are higher in San Francisco and vicinity than anywhere else (Honolulu is only #9) there are very good reasons for picking this area. I was that close to leaning in this direction, but, perhaps, for the second edition of Book 2.  (Even though I show what is iconically SFO, it would have been more memorable and representative if the bridge was painted in gold instead International Orange.)

My most recent stop was for the Singularity Summit, where one of my meals was at Gary Danko's, perhaps the #1 restarurant today in SFO.

The Dow Jones Industrials snuck up 7 to 12,240, with world markets all declining.  Gold edged down a buck to $1362/toz and petroleum is $87/barrel in New York, but $102/barrel in London.  I've never seen a $15/barrel difference.  It must be that revolution in that part of the world that trades in Europe.

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