A brief history of my favorite San Francisco tree

Mexican palm, Grove St near Gough St, San Francisco. (Photo: Courtesy of author)

My favorite San Francisco tree is this majestic, lone Mexican palm on Grove Street, nestled between the old Double Decker diner and the snazzy 300 Ivy complex. It’s very tall. It pops up above the rooflines of the five-plus story buildings around it, and it’s visible from quite far away…


‘Smart’ home appliances are cheaper, better, and creepier. There’s only one company that might think different.

Remember when your television didn’t spy on you? Technologist and Glitch CEO Anil Dash suggested a while back that there must be some big market out there for “dumb” appliances:

Dash’s pitch is certainly appealing to those of us who don’t like giving up any notion of privacy, but unfortunately…


Thoughts about a new direction for desktop UI

Just contemplating some Serious Business before hitting the tennis court. From “Macintosh” (1984) by Apple Computer.

The long-lived “desktop” operating system has been with us for almost 40 years. Although some of the mechanics have proven remarkably durable, contemporary computer usage is very different from the context these were born in, and it’s time to do some rethinking.

I’m going to outline the original idea, illustrate…


A Detailed & Illustrated Compendium of Recent Designs (1921-present)

The Cable Car Museum’s gift shop, wall full of decommissioned signs, c. 2019.

San Francisco’s signature street signs have gone through a number of subtle revisions in design and typography. …


Some of the art works chosen in the 1990 heist have puzzled analysts. The Museum’s own self-published Guide offers some uncanny clues to the haul.

When I was a kid growing up in the Boston suburbs, we lived next door to the family of would-be art thief Brian McDevitt. He…


Want to recap an original Naim NAIT? Here’s what the authorized shops use.

A Naim Audio NAIT (1983) integrated amplifier, after a Naim-authorized service.

Warning: extremely niche-audience post ahead.

I’ve recently had the opportiunity to perform a service and calibration on an original Naim NAIT integrated amplifier (new capacitors and bias adjustment). …


If you’re eligible for the shot, just go ahead and take it.

Over the past month, I’ve spoken to more than one friend who has become eligible for the covid vaccine, signed up to get it, and then come down with a case of ethical self-doubt. These friends are what…


Digital art and collectibles are a rich vein of opportunity, but this isn’t the way.

I don’t live under a rock, but I’d never even heard of “NFTs” until about a month ago, and now they are absolutely everywhere. Mainstream artists and pop acts are “minting” digital collectibles, artists are…


San Francisco streetscapes feel fun and weird and creative and human now

Parklets and a weekend street closure at Hayes and Gough. Photo: Ben Zotto

Sometimes good things don’t require a decades-long policy process. Most good things, I’d venture. The Covid-19 pandemic upset business-as-usual everywhere, and San Francisco’s bureaucracy was no exception. …


Designer Jerry Manock clarifies the Apple II’s color and production history.

A decade of beige. Photos: Bilby/Wikimedia (Apple II and III), All About Apple (Mac). All images CC BY 3.0.

I recently published a fairly well-circulated investigation on the origins and specific color known as “Apple Beige,” based on a surviving jar of original touch-up paint from the 1970s. …

Ben Zotto

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