Meet Double Union, a new feminist makerspace in San Francisco

The Bay Bridge and a tugboat in the foreground
View from Mozilla SF
This upcoming Tuesday, September 17th, 2013, from 5:00pm to 6:30pm, the Double Union feminist makerspace is hosting a Tea Social and Lightning Talks at the Mozilla SF offices. Learn more and register here!

What is Double Union? Since the last AdaCamp, a group of open tech/culture feminists in San Francisco have been organizing what I think of as “AdaCamp year-round”: a feminist makerspace here in San Francisco. The idea of Double Union is to have a space where women can work together on fun, creative, and feminist projects in a supportive and women-friendly environment. I plan to work on projects like uploading my e2fsck parallelization patches to GitHub, sewing skirts that fit me well, and making clever, funny feminist propaganda. (Insert evil laughter here.)

Historically, makerspaces and hackerspaces have had difficulty attracting and recruiting women to their spaces. In my day job at the Ada Initiative, I spend a lot of time helping people create a culture and environment that is more welcoming to women. I’m excited to test out that knowledge at Double Union.

So if you’re a woman who has visited a hackerspace before and thought, “Nope, not for me,” come join us for some seriously good food, funny talks, and good company. Or if you are any gender and think a feminist makerspace sounds intriguing, or know someone who might be interested, please come too!

(Just in case it isn’t clear: Double Union is my hobby and Ada Initiative is my job, and they are not related to each other, other than being awesome feminist projects for women in open tech/culture.)

Essential San Francisco software

Update December 12, 2013: In the most hilarious pretense at “community outreach” I’ve seen in years, the Outreach Coordinator at OpenTable emailed me to ask me to change my link to OpenTable below (hint: “community outreach” is pronounced “improve our SEO”). Here’s the email with the employee’s name redacted:

From: [redacted]
To: [redacted]
Subject: Request from OpenTable

Hi Valarie,

My name is [redacted] and I’m an Outreach Coordinator with OpenTable – the world’s leading provider of online restaurant reservations. I came across your site the other day and think it is great!

We’re working to improve our brand relevancy and are hoping you can help us by making a minor change to the link mentioned below – it would be greatly appreciated.

If you would, please change the link text on this page from “Opentable” to “OpenTable: San Francisco Restaurants” and the linking URL to

The finished link will look like this: OpenTable: San Francisco Restaurants

Again, thanks so much for the link! Let me know if you have any questions or if I can help you in any way.



[redacted] | Sr. Outreach Coordinator


1 Montgomery Street, Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94104

So of course I did want any red-blooded Internetizen would do: I removed the link entirely.

I return you to your regular post below.

I sold my car in 2007 because Google Transit was in beta for the city I was living in at the time (Portland). Today, I don’t know what I’d do without the suite of software I use to get around and find stuff to do in San Francisco. (Actually, I do know what I’d do: I’d be even more angry, late, and a hermit than I am now.)

Some of it is standard stuff – transit directions for San Francisco are standard in Google Maps – but others are obscure SF specialties. San Francisco has so many programmers that our software itches get scratched pretty reliably, and if you don’t have an iPhone like me, probably there is a similar app for Android.

Without further ado:

San Francisco spec-i-al-i-ties:

SF Climates: An iPhone app that shows weather in SF BY NEIGHBORHOOD. I got tired of the weather on my phone having nothing to do with the weather outside my window. Having this app confirms that temperatures easily vary by 10 degrees F across less than 10 miles. The variation in rain, fog, and sun is a never-ending source of hilarity. I have no idea why the concept of “San Francisco temperature” continues to exist.

Routesy Pro: The best real-time transit app for San Francisco I’ve used. You can’t ask it for directions, but it will tell you when the next bus, train, cable car, etc. is coming. The bookmarks for your frequently used stops can be organized by proximity, which is incredibly useful. It takes a working knowledge of the city’s public transit system before you can use it quickly enough to not miss the next bus, but if you have a few frequently used routes it will be useful right away. When I’m going somewhere new, I use Google Transit to find out a few transit options and then check the arrival times on Routesy.

SocketSite: A blog that follows real-estate related news in San Francisco, with an emphasis on interesting remodels of single-family homes. I started reading it to keep tabs on when the construction on a new hospital across the street will start (answer: not until the mayor and the hospital owner stop fighting over the closure of another hospital) and kept reading for the twisty little machinations of city NIMBY politics and remodel cheesecake.

Fun (and sometimes useful) Twitter accounts: MUNI Diaries, Emergency in SF, SF siren, The Bay Bridge, Bay Area Earthquakes.

And here’s a request: I want an app that tells me when the San Francisco streets are going to be filled with drunk obnoxious people, honking cars, and riots. Any ideas?

In lots of cities but especially useful in SF:

Goldstar: To me, one of the marks of a San Francisco “local” is the refusal to pay full price for dinners, concerts, cruises, brunch, clothes, etc. When it comes to entertainment, Goldstar has tons of discounts and will also help you find stuff to do. Comedy shows in particular have lots of deeply discounted or “free” (not including fees) tickets since a full house is so important. They’ve added the ability to invite friends to sit with you after the first purchase, which really helps.

Historical Markers: San Francisco is sort of ridiculously full of history. This app lets you learn about historic buildings while you are walking around the city.

Yelp: San Francisco is a big Yelp town, unsurprisingly. Generally I ignore the reviews from people who complain that the staff didn’t grovel sufficiently before them.

Uber: I cannot count the times I’ve been stuck somewhere in the city with no public transit and no taxis. I’ve given up on calling taxis anywhere except at home because they usually assume you’re not going to be there when they arrive and don’t bother showing up. Uber provides a great last-ditch backup plan for when Routesy tells me that the bus is still 12 minutes away, 20 minutes later.

OpenTable (linked removed due to obnoxious “community outreach”): Except during the rainy winter-y bit of the year, most San Francisco restaurants are packed most of the time. Just always make a reservation. Opentable makes it easy.

Hollaback: Street harassment is epidemic in San Francisco. Hollaback is a non-profit fighting street harassment, and has tons of ways to both help end street harassment overall and to feel better on an individual basis. One of the wort parts about being harassed on the street when I first moved to San Francisco was that people wouldn’t believe I was being harassed! That was before Hollaback; I haven’t heard that kind of stupidity in a long time now.

What software do you find useful in San Francisco?

Another tech bubble is close to popping

Rent prices in San Francisco have suddenly shot up somewhere around 50% in the last year. Every time this happens, another tech bubble pops in the near future. Backing this up is Facebook’s stock decline and the continuing general trend of “We’ll figure out how to make money later!”

I predict that we’ll see a big crash in Internet companies before October 2013. In the meantime, it helps keep me happy with my teensy (and cheap) studio apartment in Cathedral Hill.

Ada Lovelace Day party in San Francisco

Ada Lovelace Day is coming up next Tuesday, October 16th, and so the Ada Initiative is throwing a party in downtown San Francisco.

Details at the link, but I wanted to post here so I could make a personal comment: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the first Ada Initiative event in San Francisco. The vibe was totally different from the usual San Francisco geek gathering: Every conversations sounded like people were enjoying talking to each other. I’m sure some people like those competitive geek conversations in which people try to prove they are smarter than each other, but I find them pretty boring now, and apparently so did everyone else at the event.

Both AdaCamps were like this too – a geek conference which yet had zero of the things I hate about geek conferences. Running events in which 100% of the attendees are people who think more women should be involved in open technology and culture has completely changed my mind about what geek culture can be.

The best place to work-from-coffee-shop in San Francisco: Black Point Cafe

View of the bay from Black Point Cafe
View of the bay from Black Point Cafe
If you work from home in San Francisco, you have to check out Black Point Cafe (4.5 stars on Yelp!), a gorgeous coffee shop on the Bay. Besides the AMAZING view of San Francisco Bay from most seats in the house, they actually welcome people working on their laptops (of course, you should be considerate and buy something every couple of hours). I pretty much only leave when my battery runs out.

If you work from home in San Francisco and need to get out of the house regularly, you’ll know that most coffee shops hate laptop campers, even if you buy stuff regularly like I do. Often you can’t even get a table in a downtown coffee shop. To add insult to injury, usually there are annoying startup douchebags talking loudly about their VC pitches. None of this happens at Black Point Cafe.

Black Point Cafe is located on Larkin and North Point, across the street from Ghirardelli Square. It might be a little out of the way, but it’s worth it. Besides it’s on the 47, 30, and 45 bus lines, and about 2 blocks from the end of the 49 bus line. Do yourself a favor, hop on the bus and head on over.

If you want to do a work-from-coffee-shop day with me at this place, let me know!

Best. Apartment. Ever.

Lina found the best best best apartment ever. In classic San Francisco rental fashion, we had to decide whether to sign a 16 month lease within 4 hours of seeing it or else face fierce competition from the open house. It’s a fabulously beautiful renovated Victorian on the south edge of the Mission (for reasons of preserving Lina’s sanity, it is NOT located on the north edge of Glen Park). I didn’t really believe we had the apartment until we had the keys in our sweaty little hands.

I think this photo of the shower head in my bathroom says it all:

If you are not a stalker, email me and I’ll send you the rest of the photos and the Google maps link so you can use Street View.