Category Archives: Consumer issues

New analysis looks at San Francisco housing costs

Here’s a great article about a very innovative bit of digging into the causes of high housing prices in San Francisco (“A guy just transcribed 30 years of for-rent ads. Here’s what it taught us about housing prices“).

The article, by Michael Andersen, tries to summarize a detailed analysis in a blog post published over the weekend by Eric Fischer.

Read through Andersen’s summary, then wade through some or all of Fischer’s original.

It’s really very interesting to see the data for housing and rents charted over a long period of time. These data allowed Fischer to calculate how changes in employment or rates of new construction would impact rents in the city.

Here’s Fischer’s own conclusion:

San Francisco is an expensive city because it is an affluent city with a growing population and no easily available land for development. Sonja Trauss is right that building more housing would reduce rents of both high- and low-end apartments. Tim Redmond is right that building enough housing to make much of a dent in prices would change the visual character of most streets, although the result could be more like Barcelona than like the Hong Kong that he fears. The unsettled question is which of these is the higher priority.

Building enough housing to roll back prices to the “good old days” is probably not realistic, because the necessary construction rates were never achieved even when planning and zoning were considerably less restrictive than they are now. Building enough to compensate for the growing economy is a somewhat more realistic goal and would keep things from getting worse.

In the long run, San Francisco’s CPI-adjusted average income is growing by 1.72% per year, and the number of employed people is growing by 0.326% per year, which together (if you believe the first model) will raise CPI-adjusted housing costs by 3.8% per year. Therefore, if price stability is the goal, the city and its citizens should try to increase the housing supply by an average of 1.5% per year (which is about 3.75 times the general rate since 1975, and with the current inventory would mean 5700 units per year). If visual stability is the goal instead, prices will probably continue to rise uncontrollably.

Andersen boils it down to a couple of simple sentences:

For the love of god, keep adding homes. Keep adding homes so things don’t get any worse and you’re not trapped in a lose-lose-lose shitstorm like San Francisco.

You can download Fischer’s data if you want to mess with the numbers yourself.

A friend reports on making the switch to T-Mobile

At the end of last year, I asked Blaine Fergerstrom, and old friend from my days at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, to write a guest post about his experience switching his family’s mobile phone service from AT&T to T-Mobile. He had mentioned making the switch, and as another longtime AT&T subscriber, I thought his experience would be of interest. Blaine’s a knowledgeable tech guy, so his perspective should be valuable.

Well, Blaine described the changeover in a blog post last month at his own site, (“Flipping the switch: After nearly 20 years with AT&T, I switched to T-Mobile”, Posted April 5, 2016).

Blaine writes that he sort of grew up with AT&T, starting way back in the days of Honolulu Cellular, then through several corporate switches that ended up as AT&T, through all the generations of iPhones, fighting for several years to control added costs for data overruns, etc.

In his case, the switch resulted in significant savings (about 40%), and no problems, at least not initially.

He wrote:

So far, I haven’t noticed much difference in the service, except that I am saving $50 per month and getting much, much more data than I ever had with AT&T. Reception in the city is the same. We don’t get out of urban areas that much, anyway. I have heard that country reception is not as good in some areas, but have not been affected by this, yet. We have gone to N?n?kuli High and Intermediate Performing Arts Center (NPAC) for a few plays since the switch and can report that, in the N?n?kuli High School cafeteria where performances are held, T-Mobile gets the same reception we used to get on AT&T: zero bars, no reception! But step outside the cafe and you get two bars, right away.

We have no regrets for making the switch. T-Mobile’s army of minions in pink inhabiting their stores have been eager to help whenever we have needed it. I find them sometimes to be a little inexperienced, but eager to help, often conferring with or handing off more difficult problems to more experienced minions.

Of course, whether you’ll experience comparable savings depends on how how many devices and how you use them. Sometimes it’s better to share all your data from one big pot (as with AT&T), while in other cases, such as Blaine’s, the separate allocation per line worked out to his advantage.

But, in any case, check out Blaine’s experience.

I haven’t followed to T-Mobile, although that just might reflect my conservative bias. In the future? We’ll see.

My MacBook Pro power adapter failed

This is just a little consumer hint.

MacBook Pro power adapterYesterday morning, I finally noticed that the wire leading to the MagSafe end of the power adapter for my MacBook Pro 13″ laptop was in the process of breaking. It certainly didn’t look safe to run power through. Oops. If you take a closer look at the photo, please disregard the layer of Duke’s fur spread out across the table top. I had hoped it wouldn’t show up in the picture, but unfortunately….

Anyway, a quick online search found many people complaining that these newer adapters aren’t as resilient as the earlier models, and frequently fail at the same point that mine did.

I’ve got several older power adapters from previous Mac laptops, but they don’t fit the current model. Different plug where it hooks up to the computer. It looked like my only choice was to buy a new one from the Apple Store, which carries a hefty price tag of $79.

But then I made a discovery. Browsing around on the Apple website looking for info on a new power adapter, I saw mention of a $9.99 adapter that lets you use an older power adapter on the newer models, and I ordered one, sight unseen. Picked it up later in the day. It’s just a tiny bit of metal. You plug your older adapter into one side, and plug the other side into your newer computer that requires the MagSafe 2 plug.

It provides more power than necessary for the smaller 13″ laptop, but I think these Mac laptops can handle it fine. At least I haven’t read about any flaming failures when using the larger adapter on this model.

Now I’m digging through old boxes looking for the power adapters from other earlier computers as additional backup.

Newspapers losing their big advantage over bloggers

Here’s another sign post along the long, winding road towards the death of professional journalism.

Jim Romenesko’s blog reported on a memo from the managing editor/content of the Bay Area News Group: “‘WE WILL BE ELIMINATING A LAYER OF VALUABLE EDITING’.”

The bottom line: The company is laying off its copy editors.

I had to look up what newspapers are owned by BANG. According to Wikipedia, they include:

San Jose Mercury News — the flagship paper of the group

Contra Costa Times

Oakland Tribune

Santa Cruz Sentinel

The Argus (Fremont)

The Daily Review (Hayward)

Marin Independent Journal

The Reporter (Vacaville)

Times-Herald (Vallejo)

The memo describes the changes.

The bottom line is that we will be eliminating a layer of valuable editing across most of the copy desk — what is known in desk parlance as the rim. The result:

* Staff stories that go inside sections will not be copy-edited. The assigning editor will be the only read. (In sports, late stories that do not go through an assigning editor will continue to be read on the desk, once.) Stories for our East Bay weeklies will not be copy-edited./CONTINUES

* Staff stories for section covers will receive one read on the desk rather than the current two.

* Proofreading will be reduced.

This is going to place a new level of responsibility on reporters and, especially, assigning editors. Many of the ways in which the desk bails us out — often without us noticing — will disappear. That will mean:

* All assigning editors must run Tansa on stories before moving them to the desk, and all proper names will have to be cq’ed. Grammar mistakes that make it through an assigning editor are highly likely to appear in print.

What does this mean in practice? A lot less finished writing overall. Most likely bad for newspapers and for newspaper readers.

After all, much of what has separated bloggers and reporters has been the service of editors and copy editors that reporters copy would normally get before going public.

Now, if the Bay Area News Group is an indication, newspapers are losing that advantage.

Leftover night: Eating out of the refrigerator

Last night we were trying to eat up various leftovers, odds and ends had lingered long enough in the refrigerator.

Usually if we just have a few scraps of cooked meat, we will heat some refried beans and then use the meat to make a filling for soft tacos. But Meda likes to have an avocado on hand when we go that route, and it was lacking.

So back to the drawing boards. There were chicken scraps from the last cooked Costco chicken we had late last week, one leftover chicken thigh, and a couple of small bits of meat from Friday night’s dinner. And a good amount of watercress, after the previous night’s watercress salad.

So we cooked a little brown rice, and I threw together an informal stirfry. It was pretty plain. Onion, garlic, then the bits of meat, shoyu, a little sherry, two diced hot peppers, then the watercress. I forgot the little tomatoes I was supposed to add, which was a shame.

Meda made a few deviled eggs, using up hardboiled eggs she had made earlier. Oh, there was also the last part of an artichoke from a previous evening, just the heart, really.

The result, with a glass of shiraz, not too bad for a quickie meal.

Photo with my iPhone. Click to see a larger version.

Clearing the refrigerator