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Where to See Silicon Valley (paulgraham.com)
219 points by ssclafani 1659 days ago | 162 comments



Why not bike Silicon Valley? This area is very bike accessible (just stay off the sidewalks), and lots of engineers love bicycles anyway.

Stanford University - You can't drive around Stanford without being cut off by bikes, so why not ride one? And if you want a good ride while you're in the area, do "the loop," which is Alpine Rd to Portola Rd to Woodside Dr.

University Ave - I'd avoid this on a bike because it's always ridiculously busy. However, Palo Alto has lots of casual suburbia rides, and note that Bryant St is a "bicycle boulevard" -- lots of it is usually car-free except for the locals, and it'll take you to Charleston, which runs into the Google campus.

Sand Hill Road - A good ride with some reasonable hills. Take this road south to Portola and then try the gold standard of climbs -- Old La Honda Rd. If you can make it from Portola to the stop sign in less than 30 minutes, you're in good shape. Less than 18 and you're Lance Armstrong. Don't go down Old La Honda, though -- go north on Skyline a bit and take 84 down since the visibility and view are better.

Castro Street - This place really wants to be a hip, urban center, but believing whether it is is up to you. Bike here and, like PG said, stop at Red Rock. Or grab a gyro and some baklava from the Gyro House, which is terribly underrated.

Google - The Google campus is so bike accessible that they provide clown-like bikes for employees to ride around. Hit up the main campus and see the dinosaur and, currently, granite head sculpture exhibit. Of course, you should probably show up with someone who works there and can throw in a free lunch.

North of Google - If you're biking from Palo Alto to Google or vice-versa, cut north through the Shoreline Lake reserve and the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve. Keep your mouth closed during the spring months so you don't inhale a cloud of gnats.

Skyline Drive - A mixed bag. In the morning this is beautiful, and when the fog clears you can see the entire valley. It's epic. Unfortunately, the road is used as a testing ground for Porsche and motorcycle lovers -- people have died, and I have more than one friend who was almost hit.

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Instead of following Skyline drive, another (safer?) option is to go up Page Mill, cross over Skyline, where Page Mill turns into Alpine Road, and then down through the Douglas-fir and redwoods towards the ocean. Once you get on the other side of Skyline, there is very little traffic and the views are tremendous. On the way you'll pass by the Heritage Grove, one of very few remaining groves of old growth redwoods in our area. Stop for ice cream in Loma Mar, or if you don't mind the crowds, head to Pescadero and Duarte's for some artichoke soup and a slice of pie.

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As a fair warning - going up Page Mill requires being in very good shape. Its 30-60 minutes of climbing, some of it steep.

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Personally I like the reverse, up and over at either Kings or Old La Honda down 84 -- then Pescadaro to Alpine and down Page.

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Skyline Drive: avoid it on a bike, as he says, there are crazies. However there are 30,000 acres of parks and hundreds of miles of trails and roads off Skyline. El Corte Madera a few miles north of the 84 junction (Alice's Restaurant) which 10's of miles of old logging roads. Good hiking too.

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This is spot on, but at least tell them to not take the spots with the outlets if they're going to visit Red Rock? How we going to work there now?

Edit: Bah. If we're going to out one coffee shop, then why not the others. There's Dana St, also in Mtn View. Peet's at across El Camino works as a spillover. Verde Tea has nice drinks but the wifi seems to block you after an hour and you can't get Google Wifi inside. The other bubble tea place across from Red Rock is open later than anything else on Castro but it's a bit dingy inside and you likewise can't pick up Google Wifi inside.

If you work late, there's the Starbucks at El Camino and Lawrence which is open till 1. Any proprietors here? We need more shops open till 1.

In Palo Alto, there's Philz, which has the best coffee I've ever had in my life. The Peets up the street is also supposed to be a decent place to hang out. There's also Mitchell Park which is nearby to both.

In 'tino, there's the Coffee Society. The Peets down the street is also a surprisingly good place to work, and the Whole Foods has free wifi. There's also some Donut shop next to the Apple HQ which never seems to close but the stuff they have there is so-so. But if you just need to get out of the apt to work, it will do.

In general, the Peets are nicer places to work but the wifi will only last an hour.

That's all the ones I know. Anyone got any others?

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For a hacker I cannot imagine a more amazing gift to oneself than the gift of ever-present Internet access via Sprint/Verizon/Whatever via USB dongle or expresscard.

It's ~$50/month -- but I would definitely give up lattes and buy black coffee for it.

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Or, any Android phone running 2.2 on a carrier other than AT&T. Instant wifi hotspot.

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One of the best things about my Nexus One, which comes with free tethering and can act as a WiFi access point.

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Verizon also has a MiFi card.

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Which in my experience is horribly broken.

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Yes, google "Mifi disconnect" and you'll find endless stories of Mifi problems with the wifi mode (it works perfectly in dongle mode), across carriers: Verizon, Spring, Virgin Mobile.

Bottom line (sad to say, since I own two): the Mifi doesn't work in wifi mode reliably. It drops offline every few minutes, breaking your ssh connections and any downloads in progress. It does reconnect within 5-10 seconds, so it sorta looks like it's working to your average undemanding browser user.

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Every Peets manager in South Bay hates you now.

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I personally recommend CLEAR, which works great and has 4G coverage in places that the website doesn't even say!

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I had CLEAR back when they were called Clearwire. Many corporate name changes are designed to escape a poor reputation, and I have no doubt this is one of them. If you have CLEAR and you move to a part of town with poor reception, you drop packets. And, thanks to how TCP works, dropping packets == sabotaging your connection speed forever. And canceling my service with them was pure stress because they operate on a contract/termination fee structure.

Maybe they've improved since then, and maybe it's worthwhile if you just want a mobile solution and can pay for a home internet connection on top of it, but I remain skeptical.

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CLEAR is great except you cannot stream Netflix

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I have Clear and stream Netflix.

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Argh. I guess I need to edit the post to say if you are in a good coverage area (I'm not) - you can stream Netflix with no latency issues.

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Ya, it's no FIOS but With 4 bars on my modem's signal indicator Netflix usually works well. It's a little dodgy when it rains. Try moving your modem around your house and setting it at different angles. I initially had it in a position where it got three bars I moved it across the room and set it at a slightly different angle, now I get 4 bars and it's nearly twice as fast.

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The best coffee in the South Bay is at Barefoot in Santa Clara.

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Not just in the South Bay. They are perennial winners at the annual bay area barista competition, where judging is done by other baristas, so they have a lot of cred as one of the best coffee places in California.

That being said, their new layout is a step down. Their slogan is "serious coffee, happy people" but now with the new assembly-line-style counter setup the people seem less happy.

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Agree. I live in MountainView and still drive there for the coffee and ambiance.

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> The other bubble tea place across from Red Rock is open later than anything else on Castro but it's a bit dingy inside and you likewise can't pick up Google Wifi inside.

If you mean Tea Era, that's no reason not to go - it's one of the best places in the area. Who wants coffee anyway?

It's certainly not a great place to work, if only because someone will be annoyed that you're using up one of the 4 or so seats.

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Tapioca Express ("TapEx" to its teenage regulars) is the one across Villa from Red Rock. I agree, it's always got a few flies buzzing around and the drinks are a bit too syrupy.

Now, Tea Era, that's the good stuff, especially the cheese milk tea. Seriously.

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Free coffee: http://hackerdojo.com/

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FYI, Dojo'ers are coffee snobs. We buy green coffee and roast it. We have a good selection of different single-origin beans in our kitchen.

We also have 24/7 access!

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well, we have all the equipment and a few snobs; my master plan to get others to roast beans for me daily and keep coffee on tap has largely failed, but we do have most of the equipment (we've got an espresso machine but no milk steamer... that's about all we're missing.)

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Further east, there is also a Coffee Society in Campbell (in the Pruneyard Shopping Center)

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I'm surprised that San Francisco is only mentioned in passing. This list seems to me like the old view of Silicon Valley. (Or, maybe, if you had to describe the valley geographically.)

It feels like the new Silicon Valley is in San Francisco, and that its heart is in Soma (or the Mission).

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SF is primarily a hub of Web-based companies - consumer applications. Though there are many big players down in Palo Alto/Mountain View. Also, startup doesn't mean only web-based startup. There are thousands of hardware and enterprise software companies down in San Jose/Santa Clara.

Here is the stack geographically, that works quite well with stack of software.

San Fran: Web based apps

Palo Alto/Mountain View/Cupertino: Web based + Desktop based software

Santa Clara: Enterprise + Desktop based software + EDA software + Hardware

San Jose: Hardware

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Since the biggest employer in San Jose is Adobe, the "hardware" moniker may not be the best.

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Adobe's a big employer, but Cisco is the largest private-sector employer in San Jose, at least according to the city's numbers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Jose,_California#Top_Employ...

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Wow, was I off! Thanks for the correction.

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Milpitas/Fremont: clean tech

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Kinda ironic, since that's right next to the city dump.

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People who live with filth can be super clean to compensate.

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Could San Francisco be close, but not the Valley?

I grew up in the Bay Area, back during the late 90's early 2000s you had multimedia gulch in the SOMA but there was definitely a gap between SF and about the Oracle campus in Belmont. I, personally, always considered Oracle the southernmost end of Silicon Valley (I still do). But even then you had a bunch of startups in the Foster City area. EA was over there for some time.

SF is definitely happening right now. Its interesting I worked for TechTV back when it and SEGA were the two main companies in the building that Zynga just rented (TechTV and Sega had portions of floors its insane that Zynga needs the whole damn thing) but for my money its not part of Silicon Valley.

Also my personal addition to the list is Bucks of Woodside

http://www.scpr.org/news/2010/08/01/checking-a-tech-bellweat...

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The reason I made it about Silicon Valley in the literal sense (rather than the sense in which "Silicon Valley" means the intersection of startup and Bay Area) was simply to keep it a manageable length.

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Silicon Valley is becoming the San Francisco Bay Area. There are many startups in SF, East Bay (last year's startup school was at Cal), North Bay, Peninsula, etc.

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For people outside of SV/SF, this is definitely the prevailing mindset. I've been all over the country the past 6 months meeting startups and developers and unless you've been there or lived there, Silicon Valley == Bay Area.

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I liked this essay specifically because it wasn't about San Francisco. Living on the east coast and never having been to California, I've heard a lot about San Francisco but not a lot about the valley itself. Mostly, my impression is that the valley is Stanford plus suburban sprawl and a lot of tech companies. This was an interesting perspective.

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Totally. I would be careful not to equate density of startups with success of startups, but the two biggest startups since Facebook (Twitter and Zynga) are both SF-based.

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But, but, but -- SF isn't a valley. If you want to claim a new term, let's say Startuptopia, to mean "the place where I think stuff is happening," then fine. That's your twisted prerogative.

Don't become someone who lives in SF with no viable transportation who pretends anything south of SFO doesn't exist or is meaningless because of the unfamiliarity.

The article is exactly as advertised (alternative title: "The Top 9 Things You Can't Afford To Miss In Silicon Valley!")

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The terminology bothered me too, when I first came here:

http://carlos.bueno.org/images/valley-geography.jpg

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As someone who grew up in San Jose, the map on the right is definitely wrong. In Bay Area geography, "The Peninsula" starts at the SF city limits, but ends with Mountain View and Los Altos (inclusive). Basically, the 650 area code.

I also would not think of anything north of Menlo Park as "Silicon Valley".

I must say, though, that I'm always a bit amused at the people who get bent out of shape at the mismatch between literal geographic terms in the Bay Area and the actual physical geography, as if it's only Californians that do that. San Francisco isn't part of The Peninsula in the same way that Brooklyn isn't part of Long Island.

I would think that people would be more bothered by all the north/south freeways that intersect each other at right angles.

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I would think that people would be more bothered by all the north/south freeways that intersect each other at right angles.

No, I'm more concerned about the part of I-80 West up near Vallejo which is also labelled I-580 East, and vice versa.

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What is it with the cromulent word 'atmos'? Second time in a pg article. Atmosphere too hard to type? Personal shorthand slipping past the proofreader?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JpwjnMFlJI#t=1m33s

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Having worked in television, "atmos" is a semi-technical term with a specific flavor and specific baggage. This article uses it reasonably (but not entirely) accurately.

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Ah, so you're saying it's a silly affectation rather than an abbreviation.

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In the contexts where I've worked it's a genuine piece of jargon, a technical term that implies more than would the term "atmosphere".

So when used in that context yes, it's not just an abbreviation, but no, it's not a silly affectation. It's interesting that PG's usage matches (closely enough) the baggage-laden jargon version.

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Right, I meant out-of-context usage (if that's what this is) would be a silly affectation like if one started inserting technical sailing terms into one's speech for no good reason, arrr.

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whats your prob?

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Chillax..

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It looks like this was inspired by the Ask:YC question "How do I make the most out of Startup-school?" (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1753141).

To that end, if anybody is interested in taking a tour of the Silicon Valley before or after Startup School, let me know and I'll make it happen. (I've organized something like this once already. It was a blast: http://hackspedition.org/sv)

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eh, I might be talked into driving people around. I'm local to the area (my office is maybe 50 yards from the hacker dojo.) and I have a 7 seat minivan.

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I would definitely be interested in such a tour. How many people were you thinking you would want to come for it to be worthwhile of your time?

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any number x, where x is a positive integer greater than 1

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Well x=1. Let me know if x++.

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This sounds cool. I would also be quite interested.

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... email me if you're interested.

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I, too, would be interested.

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I'd love to do a tour with other people that are going to Startup School.

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Mee too! Maybe 1-2 days before or after Startup School, I imagine many people will be flying in for a week or so around the event.

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email me (you don't have contact info in your profile)

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You CAN see the city from Stanford, on a clear day. If you go up the dish trail (counter clockwise) your uphill slog is rewarded, just before you turn left, by a wonderful view of San Francisco skyscrapers in the distance. On the rare days of good visibility, it's one of my favorite spots in the world.

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If you have a little more time my favorite view is from Skegg's Point near El Corte de Madera (http://www.openspace.org/preserves/pr_ecdm.asp) above Woodside (Take King's Mountain Rd and turn left at the top onto Skyline).

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"In case you can't tell, the founders are the ones leaning forward eagerly, and the investors are the ones sitting back with slightly pained expressions."

I like pg's new humor.

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I also enjoyed this one: "The buildings are all more or less the same, their exteriors express very little, and they are arranged in a confusing maze... These buildings are a pretty accurate reflection of the VC business."

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San Andreas Lake came first, and then the fault was discovered and named after the lake.

(talking about the 280 section of the essay)

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I'm pretty sure the San Andreas fault came first. It just wasn't discovered first.

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A friend regarding Hacker Dojo not being mentioned:

  well, he hasn't visited it.... ever, right? heh
  i mean, i guess you can't blame him
  it's a really long way from yc to the dojo
[Google Maps has it at 5 minutes away walking distance]

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I'd add Fry's Electronics and WeirdStuff Warehouse. If you came to the Valley from the sticks like I did they are wonderful wonderful places.

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Story of my first trip to Fry's:

Myself and my roommate (another startup guy) were pretty hungover. I think it was some launch party the night before or just playing Halo with drinking rules. We were sitting at Gelayo Gusto in Mountain View. We had no furniture at the time and our TV was this crappy trinitron we got from Good Will. (Keep in mind, we somehow negotiated a ridiculous deal on a townhouse 3 bootstrapped entrepreneurs could never afford otherwise). We decided it was time for furniture or electronics. My roommate suggested we go to Fry's if it were electronics. I said: What's Fry's? Fast food? His response? Screw furniture, we're going to get a TV, and you NEED to experience Fry's. $1000 later we walked out with a 50 inch TV and saved $100 of it to get some lawn chairs + a tent for the living room. Some of you may have even stayed in this tent before. It was kind of the guest house we set up, inside the house.

Tent picture: http://cl.ly/fbb39c0b2477b483de73

I have a ton of stories like this. My year in silicon valley was without a doubt the happiest time of my life.

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Great story! Why'd you move away?

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And you can't forget Halted in Sunnyvale.

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Do you mean Haltek in MV? I think it's gone now. But that was indeed a wonderful store.

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No, he means: http://www.halted.com/

Profiled in The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/05/technology/personaltech/05...

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> “Hal [founder of Halted] remembered them driving around barefoot in a Volkswagen van,” Mr. Ellingson said. “They [Wozniak and Jobs] were a couple of young, scruffy-looking guys. He said, ‘I don’t want to give these guys any money.’ ”

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I always think it's fun to drive down random streets in the commercial areas of Mt. View, Sunnyvale and San Jose and see the crazy mix of famous, has-been, and still unknown companies' signs on the buildings.

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Here's an example. Java Drive (no relation to the language) in Sunnyvale is five blocks long. According to Google Maps, the following businesses are on it. (Plus I'm pretty sure there's at least one Yahoo! building there.)

Supertex

Logic Devices

RGB Networks

Infinera Corporation

NStreams Technologies

CTT

Palo Alto Networks

Net App

I, personally, only recognize Netapp and Yahoo!.

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A guy who used to work for me now works for PAN and their product is very cool, from what I've seen. You should check them out if you're a network guy and pay attention to the company in general

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The Yahoo building is the one marked on Google Maps as "Marvell Semiconductor". They moved out and Yahoo took over the building.

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This was a very depressing thing to do after the bust. So many buildings were for lease during those times.

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Just reading about these places makes me dearly miss the Valley. Outside of startup culture, it is just an absolutely beautiful place to live. If you haven't visited, I suggest you do. You won't regret it.

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I must have been to a different Valley :/ The majority is dull concrete sprawl. Each to their own of course, but I can only stand it for a week or 2 before I go insane.

Here's my favorite places though:

University Ave, Frys, Stevens Creek Mall, The Great Mall, Great America Theme Park

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Dull concrete? How about lake Tahoe, Yosemite park, Muir Woods park, Monterey Bay, Black Mountain, and I could go on.

I do miss living in California ;-)

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OK, sure. But I think that's the problem. It's either wilderness, or concrete. Nothing in-between.

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I live in Santa Cruz. It's hardly wilderness but I walk through a forest to get to my research lab and then am greeted with a view of the ocean when I leave campus.

When we decide to fuck off for the day and go surfing it's a 10 minute drive. Counting the beach traffic. It's 40 minutes over the hill into Silicon Valley, counting the people from the valley who don't know how to drive CA-17.

I think that's as in-between as you can get.

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You are at UC Santa Cruz, quite possibly the most beautiful university in the country. Enjoy the redwoods, the banana slugs and the amazing views of Monterey bay while you are there.

For comparison, over the hill my office is on a university campus that is mostly concrete, ringed by areas you may not want to travel alone at night, and in the fall shrouded under a thick pocket of San Jose's brown smog.

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Correct! It is a joy driving down to Monterey to meet with some of the folks we collaborate with down there. "Oh no, a meeting? How terrible!"

I am constantly thankful the UC Regents generally chose such beautiful locations for their campuses. UCSB and UCSD were excellent choices as well. We'll give them a pass on a few of their other choices. ;)

The point though, is that middle ground does exist in California. As another example, I grew up in Sonoma County, which is both beautiful and not a wilderness.

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The SF Bay Area is a beautiful place to live; Silicon Valley itself is mostly an ugly collection of office parks and suburban sprawl.

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I visited for a month in the summer. While it was more bustling than Boston, it wasn't the startup mecca I expected.

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The coast is cold and foggy? Maybe if you're all the way up in Half Moon Bay. ;-)

It does seem like it's declined in its role in startup culture lately, but it's spawned a good share of startups--- Seagate, SCO (pre-patent-troll era), RF Micro, Plantronics, etc., are from the coast. Would be interesting if anyone had a guess as to why there's less of that now than there was some years ago. There are still a bunch of profitable (!) indie-game studios, at least (the folks behind Bridge Builder, Gish, Super Meat Boy, Aether, Bit.Trip, etc.).

Judging by the commute traffic on 92 & 17, it seems quite a few people who work in the valley still live on the coast, too, but it's quite possible they're mostly 9-5 rather than startup types.

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This was a large culture shock to me (Coming from the UK). We see California as some sun drenched beach babe area.

Imagine our shock when we visited some beaches and they were full of fog so you couldn't see, and the water was yellow and frothy. I guess we were still too far north, but it seems like to get a half decent beach you have to go down to Santa Cruz or further.

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Yeah, the public image is Los Angeles / San Diego beaches. Santa Cruz is pretty warm though (well, the air, not the water), and usually sunny. How close it is depends on where you think of as "silicon valley"; from San Jose/Cupertino/Saratoga/Los Gatos it's closer than SF is, but gets increasingly far if you're up in, say, Menlo Park.

You probably don't want to go further south, at least for warmth--- Monterey and Big Sur are beautiful, but about as cold and foggy as Half Moon Bay.

A tangent: biggest CA culture shock for me was visiting Hollywood and finding out much of it is closer to a ghetto than to its glamorous mid-20th-c. image.

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I'd include: 1) Hacker Dojo (conveniently near YC!) -- a slightly-more-corporate hackerspace

2) Computer History Museum

3) Weird Stuff and the other used hardware vendors

4) Drive by the "HP Garage" in Palo Alto

5) Facebook's new offices

6) In-N-Out

7) The Old Pro in Palo Alto

8) Drive by Moffett Field (and go inside if you can; there are events there a couple times per year)

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Define "slightly-more-corporate".

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I would assume the OP means corporate compared to noisebridge. Now, I've never been to the place but I hear it is even less formal than the dojo.

If the dojo is corporate, though, I'm a CEO.

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Yeah, corporate compared to noisebridge. Uncorporate compared to most other places, although I would still say the dojo is a little more corporate than a lot of other hacker spaces (in a good way).

I like both noisebridge and hacker dojo.

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I think "corporate" might be the wrong word. I agree, though, that it is much more business oriented than, say, a linux users group, or many of the other social places I hang out. It's more like the culture you see on hacker news than the culture you see on LKML.

but it's very oriented towards small companies; while there are a lot of people with funding there, we also see a fair amount of bootstrapping.

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The Old Pro -- the only sports bar I've ever been to that charges cover. I'd recommend going next door to NOLA and using that ten bucks on a few drinks instead.

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Weird, I've never been charged cover at Old Pro.

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I'm surprised SuperHappyDevHouse and Hacker Dojo were not mentioned. Many people, including local press, describe both as microcosms of Silicon Valley culture.

If you want to see Silicon Valley, sure, go to Palo Alto and drive 280... but if you want to experience what Silicon Valley is about, you should go to a SuperHappyDevHouse or visit Hacker Dojo.

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I live in Michigan, but work for a company headquartered in the Valley and I've flown out there a few times for them. You might be used to it if you live there, but it is something worth seeing, trust me. Yes, there's even more than that, but just the seeing is itself a worthwhile endeavor. The mountains, the houses, the downtowns, the campuses, definitely worth seeing.

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I agree, but you're entirely missing progrium's point.

I think PG's emphasis on places like Skyline and 280 was trying to help compensate for the fact that a lot of people come here and stick close to highway 101, which leads them to think this is an ugly place. But in focusing so much on the landscape stuff, he left out some of the best people stuff.

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And I daresay you're missing mine. Making a particular point doesn't obligate you to make any other particular point. It's OK to just talk about the stuff there is to see, and it doesn't incur an obligation to talk about the other "more important" stuff, even discounting the fundamental relativity of "more important". If you take such logic to its logical conclusion (which I really mean, as opposed to its illogical conclusion), one can never talk about anything except matters of immediate life and death.

Yes, you may have preferred that pg talk about something else, but it is sufficient and OK to talk about the things to see if he wishes to. (It's not just landscape, either, believe me. The "tour of Silicon Valley corporate campuses" was almost as interesting for me, if not moreso. I've done the tourist thing quite a bit all over the place, but that's not something you can do anywhere else.)

I can't be missing the point if I'm disagreeing with it, now can I? (And no, I don't think that defense applies to your post.)

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Fair enough.

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Um, but that's just seeing the Bay Area. Sure, that's worthwhile, but what about that makes it the Silicon Valley? The mountains, the houses, the downtowns -- those have very little to do with what Silicon Valley is.

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In case you were wondering where our company name "280 North" came from, see #9.

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The Computer History Museum link at the bottom points to the essay itself. Presumably, it's meant to point to wikipedia or another relevant page.

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Also, the Gates building (and others) at Stanford has bits of computer history including a plaque to Vint Cerf and one of Google's lego servers

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Sadly, one of the most beautiful spots in the valley was at the old DC Power Lab (named after someone called "DC Power", but it was the Electric Power Research Institute before it became the old Stanford AI Lab, and was eventually torn down).

In its decrepitude, a laser printer startup I helped found (Imagen) lived among the ruins (we traded space from Stanford for laser printers ;-), and it was glorious. It was up in the trees not too far from the dish, and we'd work out on the deck (watch out for holes) under the eucalypti on every fresh Palo Alto morning. Heaven.

Now I think it's a riding stable.

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Apple fans should make the trip to HQ in Cupertino. Apple operates a company store here that is, I believe, the only place in the world to buy official Apple apparel. The 1 Infinite Loop sign makes for a nice photo op.

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Plus I always feel a bit of excitement driving the parts of the roads you can see on the icon for the maps app on the iPhone.

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Never noticed before that Google doesn't really seem to like if you try to look at their offices in Street View: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=charleston+road+mountain+view&...

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On the contrary, googlers lined the street when the street-view-mobile came by:

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=charleston+road+mountain+view&...

Amusingly, their faces are blurred out even though they clearly wanted to be in the shot.

The link you gave is to an inner parking lot. It's interesting that it's "fogged out." I've never seen that elsewhere in Street View.

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Wish I'd had this for my first GDC conference in San Jose.

I went up El Camino Real, and saw fabled places like Palo Alto, but I couldn't help thinking "This is just like Scarborough" (ugly Toronto suburb). It's just strip-malls. KFC, Taco Hell, KFC, Taco Hell. What a disappointment!

I guess I expected there to be code and money dripping from the trees, while pot-smoking surfers built rockets, or something.

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Around the start of the Afghanistan war, our high school (I lived in Finland at the time) invited someone working for the US Embassy to give a talk. The auditorium was full, as a lot of the students had opinions about the US involvement in Afghanistan, and mostly negative ones, so there was much curiosity about what an "official" would say about it to such an audience. The embassy representative arrived, had a long talk about how much work it was to get his job, and how cool it was to travel to Europe and live here, and then stated the purpose of his visit was to show us how beautiful the US is. He then proceeded to slow hundreds of slides of landscape/sunset/nature photos. After all this, he evaded the inevitable request for commentary on the war by stating he had run out of time. This is sort of the feeling I get from this article. It's a travel guide look at silicon valley, but doesn't have any depth or insight about the actual effect SV has on startups. This is a great guide for people who live in the region and want to play tourist for a day. But how many of those don't know these things?

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It's not like pg has neglected to write about the subject:

http://www.paulgraham.com/kate.html http://www.paulgraham.com/maybe.html http://www.paulgraham.com/siliconvalley.html http://www.paulgraham.com/startuphubs.html

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good article. Yes, SF is full of startups. My half baked ex-stackexchange site has a nice list: http://sfanswers.com/questions/429/list-of-start-up-tech-web...

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I was interviewed in the valley a few years back. I didn't try to go to Google but I did go to Stanford on a free evening. I had some idea of trying to find the CS department, or maybe Knuth's house. It was a little late though.

Instead I ended up just wandering around the campus looking at the amazing art and soaking it in. There's a cast of a Rodin piece called The Gates of Hell that is unreal. I got to it just after sunset when the lights were starting to come on.

It was after dark when I left campus, and I took a wrong turn. Suddenly all the signs were in Spanish, and I was lost in California. I made it out alive though.

They offered me a job but I ended up in Colorado instead.

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This whole list reminds me of an idea I've had for such a long time that I've wanted to do, just to meet people and provide something useful.

Once a day daily email that highlights great places in an area. These are well known spots, but there are tons others that I'm sure long time residents haven't even heard of. Thrillist and all the others seem to focus on bars/restaurants, but there's just so much more to an area to see. I lived in the Valley for a year and still never got to see enough. I wish I had one email a day telling me of places to check out/unique things to see. I'd never get around to all of them, but it would have made my time there even more enjoyable.

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Weekend Sherpa does pretty much this for the greater Bay Area, and focused on outdoor-type things.

http://www.weekendsherpa.com/

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The tv show eye on the bay seems to do a pretty good job:

http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/show/eye-on-the-bay/

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One way of seeing the Google offices is to keep an eye out for hacker events hosted there. I was able to get in by attending an OpenSocial hackathon, and met some people who were habitual visitors to their different events.

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Why hasn't SV built out towards the west and the pacific ocean and instead built downwards? There seem to be big swaths of unused space there, and for such an expensive place it seems a bit strange.

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Much of it is owned by groups like the Peninsula Open Space Trust or is otherwise an official county or state park. The open spaces along 280 might seem under-utilized, but they're also one of the critical things that keeps the Bay Area from turning into LA, and one of the biggest reasons why the peninsula feels so different from San Jose.

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Look at a map of the Bay Area using Google Maps in "terrain" mode. Everything between I-280 and the Pacific Ocean is basically mountains.

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I've lived on mountains. Other than having to worry about your soccer balls going into snowball mode it isn't bad at all.

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Quite a few people do live in the mountains, it just isn't particularly high-density, and a relative lack of good roads reduces the area where even that low-density development can happen. The Hwy-9 corridor probably has about 50,000 people along it, as the main concentration (if you include Scotts Valley and the upper part of Los Gatos). There are other people scattered about, but once you're off the main roads, it starts to get remote enough that nobody's going to commute to San Jose daily. Lots of interesting "weird" folks, though, ranging from the lefty types (hippies, pot farmers, etc.) to the righty types (gun-toting mountain libertarians). Also, Robert Heinlein built a geometric house up there: http://maps.google.com/maps?t=h&q=37.058811,-122.158461&...

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Much of that area is game preserves, forest land, county parks, open space trusts, under conservation easements, in Williamson Act contracts, etc, such that it can't be developed for housing.

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The Santa Cruz Mountains are in the way.

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I don't know for sure, but as I understand it, California is mostly a desert, and the further inland you go, the more readily apparent it is.

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Southern California is a desert. The north-to-middle areas have several non-desert areas that are defined by distance from the coast.

The northern coast is more like a milder version of Oregon. Redwood tree habitat continues all the way down to around Monterey along the coast. Foothills separate the coast from the Central Valley, which is ideal agricultural land but tends toward extremes of weather. Go farther east and you hit the Sierra foothills - the center of the Gold Rush. It becomes forested again and you'll see a fair number of one-street towns and two-lane highways. And then going over the mountains gets you to Nevada.

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I would add Rainbow Mansion http://www.rainbowmansion.com/

The ultimate Hacker Villa and the location of many SuperHappyDevHouses

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Some people have already mentioned going to see Apple HQ. I remember driving on I-280 in the late nineties when Jobs had just gotten back to Apple and they were doing their Think Different campaign. There was a huge billboard of Einstein right by the exit to the Apple campus. I had been an Apple fan since the early eighties; to see this and know their founder was back and they were doing great things again literally brought a tear to my eye. ;)

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More on that magic 165 University address http://milo.com/blog/lucky-165-university-ave/

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This guide comes too late for me! When I visited the area while travelling through cali 8 years ago I couldn't find a hint of SV... but Stanford's campus is great.

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Eight years ago would have been right during the bust, when all the overtly Valley stuff was in hiding.

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If you're in the bay area there are way better things to see than those things. those are just famous startup places

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True. If you are in any way human, you'll have more fun hanging around San Francisco than you will standing around in the Google parking lot.

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I found the "condense rain out of fog" statement interesting, thanks! I looked into it more and have a nitpick: if I understand it correctly, redwoods will directly absorb (or at least condense onto itself) much of the fog. Rain must fall under the influence of gravity.

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i hope to see sunfire offices on this list some day. it's one of the most underrated places in mountain view to find other smart, driven hackers. their mixers are on the level of yc's dinners--i've learned some really interesting and contrarian advice from the founders of companies who attend those mixers, a few of them were yc-funded (one in particular that stood out was ngmoco's methods of generating revenue from free apps). i've also heard some bizarre ideas, like when the seasteading institute's founder came to speak. salman khan was at the last mixer i believe.

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One of the best things PG didn't mention is the Book Buyers (used book store right on Castro in downtown Mountain View) technical books selection. Very impressive.

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The list sounds more Palo Alto than Silicon Valley. I personally think there is much more to SV than the 9 items. But I agree on the weather, it is nearly perfect.

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I have to agree. I would think the epicenter of Silicon Valley would be more likely Sunnyvale. It's surrounded by Mountain View, Santa Clara, Cupertino and North San Jose. Think Apple, Google, Intel, AMD, Lockheed, Nvidia, Cisco, Adobe, HP, ebay, Yahoo. These are all a small drive from Sunnyvale.

I think Fry's started in Sunnyvale... And Cyberdyne Systems is in Sunnyvale. ;)

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Great list.

While living in Palo Alto I was surprised that there seemed to be more startup events in the city. SOMA definitely feels like part of the scene too.

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I would agree that it's nice to work for a company on University/Castro streets that is before the company moves to some soulless office park.

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See also http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1759141

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hm, really? Castro street?

Wow! I was there last month and I walked Castro street several times, but I thought all the "action" was around Stanford University (I didn't go there, only went to Stanford Shopping Center and the landscape was amazing).

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Dana Street Roasting Co. > Red Rock. :)

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Not for Hackers. DSRC has no outlets. Or rather, they cover up the outlets.

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Yeah. It used to have the outlets exposed, but people like me would arrive around 10am and camp out for most of the day :) At one point my startup referred to DSRC as "the other conference room." Red Rock had this problem for a while and then acquired the second floor and this has kept the day campers from getting in the way of traffic to/from the counter.

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They took out the outlets after a laptop user pulled the plug on their cooler. Overkill, perhaps, but there was some fairly rude behavior there for a while, including people bringing in starbucks cups and camping for the wifi.

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Dana St. is OK, but I give my money to Red Rock since they support the hackers.

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Next we need where to eat in SV.

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Does anyone have advice for getting in and seeing offices at startups/companies in the valley for people that are coming in for startup school, tours and whatnot?

I found the info for the Airbnb party on their blog (http://blog.airbnb.com/), that should be cool.

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Nice, Don't forget to look for the linear accelerator on 280 in Menlo Park. Endless Loop Drive http://goo.gl/z2iR in Sunnyvale. Also, if your on Cal ave. get your hair done with my girlfriend @ Di Petro Salon. ;)

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Good point. I'll add something about SLAC and The Dish.

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Couple of minor corrections:

Endless Loop Drive -> Infinite Loop Drive and Sunnyvale -> Cupertino

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Are there any nerd bars where you can talk about jQuery, AdWords campaigns, etc?

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I would also like to hear a place to find a basketball game

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