Heartbreaking Story About Homelessness in San Francisco

Vertigo screencap San FranciscoThis #longread from Vox about the rise of homelessness in San Francisco is devastating but important, so take a deep breath and make sure you have some snack food at hand for stress-eating. I want to quote huge chunks of it. Like this:

Many of the people who come through St. Anthony’s for a meal have jobs, but the minimum wage doesn’t allow them to pay for rent in San Francisco and still be able to afford food. Some work full-time but are homeless because they can’t find affordable housing in the city. … an increasing number of working San Franciscans and their families are joining the homeless shelter waiting lists and dining room lines. They’re people with jobs. They’re people who work full-time and still can’t afford to live in the city.

The problems of affluence consolidating at the top, housing remaining scarce at the bottom, and space constraints city-wide (San Francisco measures only seven miles by seven miles and unaffordability has long since trickled out to Oakland and Berkeley), seem intractable. Residents want to keep San Francisco charming; does that mean thousands have to starve? Surely there’s some meet-in-the-middle space between SF and Singapore.

Lest you lose sight of the individuals suffering in the midst of this madness, read on. One of the women profiled lost her home while working full-time at a housing clinic. Another worked in new media. It’s like a horror movie. No one is safe. The calls are coming from inside the house. READ MORE


My Spouse Confessed to $4,500 of Debt Right Before We Applied for a Mortgage

look at this house

After a year of looking for and preparing to buy a home, Nick and his wife finally found a place they wanted. They were in the middle of filling out mortgage pre-approval paperwork when Nick’s wife stopped him. She had never mentioned it before, but now that they were applying for a loan, it wouldn’t be a secret much longer: She had about $4,500 of credit card debt.

Of course he was frustrated, but he was concerned about getting the home they found, and he also wanted to make sure the problem was a one-time thing.

“I’d never considered her spending habits,” said Nick, who agreed to an interview on the condition we use only his first name. He and his wife didn’t share this story with friends and family, and he didn’t want to jeopardize their attempts to buy their first home. “I always assumed she was within her realm of what we set for our budgets.”

The credit card that carried the debt was hers from before they married. In the year since they tied the knot, they’d slowly combined finances, setting overall budgets that applied to individual and joint accounts.

“She never brought up to me that she had any debt sitting out on a credit card, so we’re sitting out there talking about how everything gets allocated — it just never came up,” Nick said. READ MORE


How Much Can Dog Walkers Make? How About $120,000/Year


Yesterday I wrote about this postcard I got in the mail from DogVacay that promised I could make “up to” $1,000 a month as a professional dog sitter.

I was all “No way. Even at $50 a night, you’d have to be taking care of dogs constantly to make $1,000 a month.”

And then a friend passed along an article from the Orange County Register that promised to reveal the earnings of Orange County dog walkers, Uber drivers, and more:

Symphony conductor. Sign spinner. University president. Apple Store Genius. How much money do these people make, anyway? 



How Amazon Solved the Problem of Work

On Wednesday, October 8th, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk. The case pits warehouse workers Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro against their former employer. The issue at hand is time: Should minutes spent waiting to be screened at the end of the workday—Integrity manages warehouses that fulfill online shopping orders—be counted as work? If so, then shouldn’t workers be paid?

Supreme Court cases that feel ethically simple are often legally complicated; similarly, cases that make it that far and yet appear legally tidy are often ethically difficult. This case seems to fall into the former category: you have decades of opaque labor legislation through which the definition of work must be read and in the shadow of which it must be revised; you also have a specific situation in which workers reach the end of their shifts and are then effectively detained at their workplaces for up to 25 minutes, without pay, in order to be checked for stolen merchandise.

One way to understand this post-work/pre-departure limbo is in terms of incentives: If this time counted as work, it would cost Integrity Staffing Solutions a lot of money, so Integrity Staffing Solutions would be motivated to minimize it. But if this extra time doesn’t count as work, there is no direct incentive to fix anything. In that situation, Integrity’s objectives are to make sure workers aren’t stealing merchandise, and to do so at the minimum possible cost. It does not need to worry about workers’ time, because that time, which is valuable to Integrity’s efforts to prevent theft, costs them virtually nothing. Meanwhile, the value of this time to the employees has not changed. They’re not home. They’re not at their other jobs. They’re not seeing friends. They are, as far as everyone else in their lives is concerned, still at work. READ MORE


How Going Cash-Only Helped Me Curb My Spending

time to hit the atm

The Problem
I never carry cash. This shouldn’t seem like a big deal, because debit cards can be cancelled if you lose them; parking meters, farmer’s markets, and even jukeboxes in the good dive-y bars all accept Visa these days.

For someone who has had the experience of clocking out of waitressing jobs and hurrying down the street at night in Queens trying hard to look like someone not carrying a bunch of low-denomination bills, sometimes just having a debit card feels safer.

And yet personal finance writers repeatedly offer numbers showing that cash-only spenders save more money than plastic hounds like me. According to a Time magazine piece by Gary Belsky and Tom Gilovich, authors of the 2010 book, Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes and How to Correct Them: Lessons from the Life-Changing Science of Behavioral Economics, research suggests that paying for things with credit or debit cards makes us feel removed from the notion that we’re spending money. And spending cash, Belsky and Gilovich say, makes us instantly feel a little bit poorer, making it easier to curb spending.

In those rare moments when I do have cash, I know I am definitely more money-grubbing with it when it comes to day-to-day purchases. (Example: No, you do not need a jumbo bag of the Reeses pumpkins. No one has ever needed Reeses pumpkins. No, I don’t care that they only exist one season a year. That’s not a good reason. Yes, I understand you’re at Rite Aid, and they sell Reeses pumpkins here. That’s not a good reason, either. They also sell glucose monitoring systems, and you’re not clamoring for one of those.) READ MORE


Screwing Myself With The Credit Card I Swore I’d Pay Off Every Month


I am a person who puts debit cards in her pocket and then leaves them there, and then goes a week without it and is just like, “Okay, I don’t know where my debit card is, I know it’s somewhere in a coat pocket or a jeans pocket or a tote bag, I’ll look for it later.”

I like to think of this as “zen” and not lazy. Fate will bring me back to my debit card at the exact right time I need it!

Or you know, I’ll be at the grocery store buying granola bars and remember I don’t know where my debit card is — okay I don’t know where EITHER of my debit cards are — so I panic a bit and then hand over my credit card, cringing a bit at paying for groceries with a credit card but oh well, there it is.

The woman swipes the card and then winces, handing it back to me. “It says the card was declined!” She did not really communicate this with the panache you’d think she’d have rehearsed in her head for the occasion. She was genuinely distraught for me, the woman with a baby strapped to her chest who was buying smoked tofu and mozzarella and organic shampoo. I was a little shocked. I knew I hadn’t paid off our hotel and rental car from a trip a month ago but I also knew I still had lots of credit on there.

Was my card info stolen? Did I buy a bunch of things and forget about it?

Luckily I had cash on me and paid her and went home and did not look for my debit card.

I got an email from Capital One telling me my bill was overdue, so I went to log in and pay it once and for all. Except my browser no longer auto-filled my username and I had no damn idea what my username was. I tried a few. I tried resetting my password. I did a bunch of crap for too long without success and they threw me a vague error message about their system being down. I believed them — why? READ MORE


Hendo Hoverboards Is Offering a Working Hoverboard In Exchange for Backing Their Kickstarter at the $10,000 Level


Okay, admit it. There was at least one night in your life where you got a little tipsy and started talking about how you could build a working hoverboard.

Like, you’d just have to make sure the air jets pushing down would create the right amount of lift, or something. Or what if you made a hoverboard court out of magnets, and then made the hoverboard out of opposing magnets so they’d repel each other? It would totally work!

Well, now you have the opportunity to back Hendo Hoverboards on Kickstarter, and, for $10,000, get a real hoverboard of your very own.



Link Roundup! “Breaking Bad” Dolls, Men’s Watches, Last Call for Holiday Flights

iwatch+ Sorry, guys. Since a Florida mom complained, you can’t buy “Breaking Bad” action figures at Toys R Us anymore. Note: the NPR article about this story uses “dolls” and “action figures” interchangeably, but I feel like I read something in the New Yorker once delineating the subtle but fascinating distinctions between the categories — which matter a lot for import tax reasons. Does this ring a bell with anyone? Did I dream it, like I dreamed last night that I got mauled by someone’s pet tiger? (“He’s usually very friendly,” the person said, cleaning my wounds.)

+ Remember those happy days when there was a clear hierarchy to men’s watches?

If you’re scaling your way up the ladder of rich douchiness, you start with a middle-class-friendly Casio or Timex. After your first six figures in the finance industry, you move to an “entry-level” luxury watch, like a Rolex, by 30. Then, in your 40s, if you’re lucky, you park your annual bonus on a high-end Swiss number. And in your 50s, feeling both flush and the literal press of time, you rock the equivalent of a Porsche on your wrist, before passing it on to the next generation as a family heirloom.

But since 2007, the whole system has been disrupted by something called “the Ice-Watch” (??), at least in Europe, where everyone, even rich people, wants the cool fun watch that costs only $200. The best part of this article is that it says the Ice-Watch “cock-blocked Swatch.” Wow. Mike would wash our mouths out with soap if we talked like that.

+ Haven’t purchased your flights home for the holidays yet? There’s still time, maybe! A little time, not much. Some years the cheapest flights appear 10 days out, right before prices spike. And holiday flights are actually super expensive in July and August, to punish those of you who might otherwise feel good about being on the ball.


I Don’t Get Las Vegas


In television shows, and maybe in real life, people assuage their worries and ennui with spending. Whether it’s fancy shoes (women on TV) or fancy cars (men on TV), Americans are depicted as firm believers in the therapeutic catharsis of commercial exchange. I’ve never truly understood this. I personally don’t like spending money just to spend money, and for most people I know, financial issues are the leading cause of anxiety, so spending is a singularly bad way to ward them off. But that must be just another area in which I am out of step with the American mainstream: for a work conference, I recently spent a glorious 59 hours in Las Vegas, a city that seems to have no other purpose than making people spend money, and the folks I saw there were eating that shit up.

Las Vegas Boulevard, commonly known as the Strip, is a singular example of government and private industry working together to extract every last dollar from every last man, woman and child in America. The sidewalks themselves are in on the scheme, refusing chaste visitors’ desire to walk in a straight line alongside passing cars and instead channeling them away from traffic, over ersatz lagoons, past full-sized pirate ships, and into casinos and shopping malls and mock-ups of Venice, complete with illuminated ceilings painted like the sky and quaint wine stores in the Italian style, with American-style prices on all the bottles, of course.

Everything useful – bathrooms, ATMs, simple cups of coffee – is purposely marooned beyond a sea of video slot machines, each one lazily worshipped by a glassy-eyed elderly person in a rented mobility scooter, and flanked by card tables staffed by bored, voluptuous dealers in preposterous outfits. The ATM in Caesar’s Palace offered one “fast cash” amount, $200, and a user fee of $5.99. READ MORE


“Is There Anything More Ironic Than Coming to Live in Des Moines”

Terms of Endearment supermarket“Is this Heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa.” –Field of Dreams

We’ve mentioned it here before on the site, so we’re not too surprised, but Des Moines is getting a lot of love these days. According to the National Journal, only half-jokingly, we should all be moving to Iowa, or at least visiting and considering it:

It was a normal night at the Social Club when we visited. The art gallery was open, just next to Capes Kafe coffee shop and comic-book store; upstairs, nine people in a comic-book drawing class watched an eccentric, gray-haired instructor in skinny black jeans and thick-rimmed glasses draw a cartoon about a retired Elvis impersonator named “Sid.” Out on the purposely graffitied porch with rope-spool tables, dozens of members of the local Young Nonprofit Professionals Network chapter met to network, drink, and take professional head shots.

Looking out over the courtyard marked by an old telephone tower and murals, Brianne Sanchez and Danny Heggen, both 29, describe the chapter they founded in 2013 for monthly coffee meetings. It has turned into a group of more than 550 members that successfully draws millennials downtown to connect and help each other out. It’s a quintessentially Midwestern mix of selflessness in a deep pool of ambition and drive.

“We always joke that Des Moines is a big small town,” says Heggen, a project manager for a firm that transforms old art deco buildings into new apartments. “But really, Des Moines is a large living room. There’s this homey feel. What I most want is everybody around me to be successful. And I believe that everyone wants that for me, as well.”



Would You Pay for a Restaurant Reservation?

got this reserved

Getting a restaurant reservation for a popular restaurant can sometimes feel like an impossible task. A friend of mine once wrote a long, lovely letter to a restaurant owner to get a reservation, while another friend was able to land a reservation by using a concierge service via his credit card. I tend to wait until the hype has died down a bit before making an attempt to dine at whatever restaurant just received a load of glowing reviews, or join a dinner party that managed to get a reservation through some kind of hookup.

But as our own Matt Buchanan, who co-edits our sister site, writes in The New York Times Magazine this week, the hard-to-get restaurant reservation is being solved (“solved”) by—you guessed it—tech start-ups: READ MORE