This afternoon I was laid off by Uber. After taking care of a few things, I went out for a walk. I was wandering in Golden Gate Park, checking out shops in 9th Ave. I walked in the Green Apple bookstore to browse. I found a short book by Thich Nhat Hanh there. His writing is easy yet insightful. And I found this story about "Good Luck or Bad Luck", a parable about fate is often not what it seems. I was familiar with the original story 塞翁失馬，焉知非福, which has made it into a proverb in today's Chinese. How fitting it was to my apparent bad luck today. How lucky I would come across this when it was more relevant today. I looked up the original story and share quote here.
I was so excited to see Uber go public last Friday. On the NYSE podium were our CEO and longest serving executives. We were also joined by a few drivers and business partners. I felt quite sentimental of the moment. Many of us has gone through all the trials and tribulations for so long. Among the team is our CTO Thuan, whom through all these years have been the inspiration and driving force for the engineering team. Together we build the technology platform from the ragtag system that constantly fails into the much more stable and sophisticated platform we have today.
The stock market reception since the IPO is humbling. Much more is still needed to be done to prove ourselves. I look forward to the exciting work ahead of us.
The bad new is Chariot shuttle service to shut down. They provides customized bus commuting to San Francisco and other city since a few years ago. But the business is not sustainable after all. It was an interesting option to other mode of transport. Sadly the experiment is coming to an end.
The second bad new is Skip announced a 60% price increase. I already find its current price too high for regular use. Under the new rate schedule, a 15 minutes rental now costs $5. A small convenience does not worth $5 for me. Looks like I'm done with Skip. With the other company Scoot essentially unavailable, the scooter phenomenon is practically ended in San Francisco again.
Last week, I have tested Scoot, Jump Bike and Muni. Today, I got a chance to try the other scooter provide Skip. Sign up was quick. You will need to enter your credit card number and let them take a picture of your driver license using the app. Skip's app is bare bone. The only function is to show you locations of nearest scooters and to unlock one in front of you by scanning the QR code.
Disclosure: my employer Uber owns Jump Bike.
The first step to use Skip was to hunt down one. The app has no reserve function. There is no option to have them start charging money and hold it for you. You may need to walk one or two block to pick it up. Then it runs a risk that it will be taken when you get there and you would have wasted your time. During my trip, I stopped at a shop. I intended to keep it to get back. There is no lock function. You either leave it on or you end the ride and make it available to others. In that case, I had to bring it into the stop with me.
Time: 25 minutes (w/8 minutes stop)
Distance: 3.2 mile
Skip's top speed gets up to 18mph. It is plenty of speed to get around town, easily beating private cars or Uber (assuming there is a scooter available for you). The ride quality in SOMA street is bad because of uneven pavements. It shook my brain out riding over it at 18mph with the scooter's tiny wheel. I even questioned its stability in such environment. This rough experience resembled the one I had with Scoot last time. For this reason I still strongly prefer bikes. I suspect most people like electric kick scooter only because it needs zero exertion.
I spent almost $5 for an half hour of use. This is not at all a bargain. Don't be mistaken by the $1 starting price. I did some research and compare it to other mobility services. Kick scooter's pricing scheme actually makes it the most expensive for all but the very short trips. You can see from the chart above, after about half hour of use, it cost exceeds even the motor scooter with $4 starting price. Jump Bike stand out with a most reasonable price scheme.
The electric scooter come back to San Francisco street this week. The two companies that's licensed are Scoot and Skip. Today I needed to make a shopping trip to SOMA. Scooters seemed ideal. I was excited to try them out.
Disclosure: my employer Uber owns Jump Bike.
Unfortunately, there was no scooter available near me. No shared bikes either. The bane of shared vehicle is that they are often not available when you need them. Instead, I hopped on a Muni 83X that was coming my way. It was an express bus that drop me off in two stops. Unfortunately, the downtown traffic was horrendous as usual. It only needed to make two right turn into and then out of Market Street. But it was bogged down by endless traffic and a continuous stream of pedestrians. I was stuck on Market St street for a long time. At the end, Muni got the job done. But the average speed was dragged down to mere 6mph.
Time: 9 minutes
Distance: 0.9 mile
Cost: $0 with FastPass
After I was done with my first shopping, I was delighted to find one scooter available on the other side of Brannan St. There was no way for me to just hold on it without starting the trip. I didn't want to risk someone else took it. So I rushed across the street to claim it.
Brannan is not a fancy street. It is barren and lined with industrial style buildings. There was no bike lane. I rode in one of the two traffic lane. The scooter felt very slow compares to cars. Only later when I checked the Strava record did I confirm that it gets to a top speed of 15mph as promised. The other thing I have found out is that Brannan has horrendous street paving. The ride was extremely jarring over the rough concrete, cracks, pot holes, and poorly done patches. The tiny scooter wheels did nothing to absorb the jolts. It was bad enough it felt dangerous at times. The street surface got better on Potrero Avenue. The uphill incline slowed it down somewhat though. The best part of the scooter trip was I stopped right in front of Sports Basement's door. There was no hassle of parking or long walk from bus stops. I ended the trip right there and then walked into the store.
Time: 9 minutes (from when I turned it on via the app)
Distance: 0.9 mile
When I walked out of the store, the Scoot was already taken away. A Skip scooter was left in its place. But I had bulky purchase. I decided a bike was better. So, I snapped a Jump Bike two blocks away.
The electric assisted Jump Bike is awesome fun to ride. However, the electric power can be somewhat inconsistent. I felt the boost does not turn on reliably when I need it. This one, however, was an energy bunny. I just paddled a little bit and the motor kicked in automatically. I was actually not able to gently cut off the boost unless I brake. The road surface in SOMA seem no better than Brannan St. The metal basket rattles a lot the whole time. But unlike the bone jarring ride on a scooter, the large wheel and wide tire allowed me to take it in stride. I got back to Union Square comfortably and in no time. Jump Bike is my favorite among the three.
Time: 13.5 minutes (includes walking time to bike)
Distance: 2 mile
One more issue about the scooter I want to bring up is its pricing. So far every company charge the same price, $1 plus 15 cents per minute. People pay attention to the $1 number and believe it is cheap. But 15 cents adds up quickly. It is actually the bigger part of the final cost. If you make a 30 minutes trip, it set you back $5.5. This is hardly a bargain.
I have finally removed the tempered glass screen protector from my phone. Shortly after I installed it, I noticed a fine crack appeared. I did not drop my phone. The touch surface remained smooth and there was no problem to use. But the crack looks unnerving. I wasn't sure if the crack is on the protector or on the screen beneath it.
Every month or two, a new crack appeared without any cause. Soon there are multiple cracks all over the place. Finally, I can take it no more. I removed it this morning. The screen protector looks like a car crash.
I replaced it with a simple plastic film protector. It is perfectly smooth as it should be. The same problem happens to my tablet. No more tempered glass screen protector for me.
I took on the San Francisco Hills again this morning. Besides the usual assualt of Twin peaks and Mt Davidsion, I added Buena Vista Park and Edge hill. The uphill sections are half run and half walk. I chickened out of Mt Sutro. I don't know if I have the stamina to tackle it next time. My legs were on the verge of clamping toward the end. It was a fun morning.
The pace of technology-driven innovation from the private sector in shared transportation services, vehicles, and networks is rapid, accelerating, and filled with opportunity. At the same time, city streets are a finite and scarce resource.[more...]
I made my first trip with JUMP bike last night. Their bikes are AWESOME! I'm a hardy bicyclist. I ride all over the city and charge up hills with gusto. I own another electric cargo bike myself. It makes it practical for me to carry my child to Presidio and conquer the hill in the middle.
I gathered a whole stack of books in front of me. These are a selection of books I have bought but have yet to read. There are also a handful of books I want to re-read. My new year resolution is to make significant deduction of them in a year.
5am on Embarcadero, the still dark boulevard was bustling with athletics preparing for the run. It took 30 minutes for my middle wave to propagate to the starting line. There the bell ringer ringed the ceremonial cable car bell. Ding. Ding. Ding. Off we go.
I have taken a short walk in the streets of Mandalay. The busy street were full of activities. Open air food stalls are all over the place well liked by locals. The streets are lined with all kinds of small businesses. Motorcycles crisscross the streets carrying people to all the places.
When I go to vacation, I usually packed the days with activities. I spend all these time and money to go to a faraway places, I want to make the most of my time. I usually use the hotel mainly for sleeping.
Intel is so longer a semiconductor firm selling microprocessors only. It is going into the commercial drone business. The company will begin selling a heavy-duty drone for industrial use such as as inspecting power lines, construction zones or oil and gas rigs. The market could be worth about $6.6 billion worldwide by 2021.