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August 3, 2011

Zombies vs Androids

Four months ago I left my job, got rid of most of my possessions and moved from the DC Metro area to the San Francisco Bay area. I think I'm ready to share how I feel about these two cities.

First, it should be noted that I am a big fan of caution when making assessments. I generally say "keep your mouth shut for at least 90 days" when it comes to saying how I feel. Things are rarely as they seem at the start, and living in SF is no different.

Next, I want to show no ill will to either city. These are towns that are known more for their stereotypes than for what they really are; You can live a long time in a place and only then, suddenly, see what's going on beyond the front presentation. No city is perfect, and this analogy shows how both cities have inherent flaws.

So that being said... DC is a giant robot; SF is a soulless corpse.

And here's why: the District was never meant to be a lively neighborhood; it was built as an engine for a nation. Everything that makes a city is present in the city, but there is not algorithmic equation for a city's vibrancy and soul. For decades the city literally went to sleep at the end of the day, and only recently has DC come to have anything resembling a nightlife or a social scene.

For like any sentient robot, you design subordinate systems to fill the gaps between where you are, and where you need to be. Right now Washington, D.C., is developing peripherals that make it almost impossible to distinguish it from a real city. This is the thing we actually fear about real robots.

San Francisco, on the other hand, was a real city. A real city with real residents, real history, real tragedy and real triumph. It exuded confidence and soul and true independence from societal norms. And that was attractive to many, if not all.

Everyone knows that the ingredients for a zombie is one part parasite and one part host. That host is more useful if it willingly accepts the parasite's demands. In horror movies, most people are unwilling--so parasites often go for the dead, making them undead. But what if a host willingly allowed parasites in?

Well, that's San Francisco in a nutshell. A ton of people not from here pretending they know what SF is and fundamentally changing the city according to those ideas while accomplishing their own goals. Meanwhile the host city becomes ragged, more spastic, and--most importantly--less and less of what it was.

I've just become one of the horde that is sucking what life is left from San Francisco. Its corpse still functions, but its soul is largely gone. Where DC never had a heart (and is getting closer to creating one) SF offered up its life's essence to a flood of people who had no interest in seeing it work in the first place. I see it in the dirtiness of the streets, the casualness to rules and the marked absence of advocacy for the preservation of what once was.

So that's my opinion on SF, in comparison to DC.

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