Monthly Archives: April 2014

politics tech

Climbing is the new golf, and kiteboarding is the new yachting

The other day I was at Dogpatch Boulders and a realization struck me: At least for the tech industry, climbing is the new golf.

What does this mean? Well, for decades golf has been the sport of business. You could catch up with a business partner, pitch a deal, have a low-key brainstorming session, develop your plan to kick Larry off the board, etc. while hitting small balls in acres of green fields set aside from the real world.

Exclusive, collegial, challenging – but no one gets left behind, you can see why it ended up as the default game of business. It comes in handy as well with regular meetings in the office as a source of smalltalk. It is seen as so crucial to business success that there has been a strong movement by women to break into the golf clubhouse, which has only very recently gotten into the final stages.

So golf worked for the Mad-Men-era and the Boomer generation… but so did white picket fences and homophobia. As usual, the Millennials are doing their own thing, and it seems so far that the new ‘gioco franco’ for the tech-set is rock climbing. (‘Gioco franco’ is ‘lingua franca’, but for games. Yes, I just made it up, it’s not a real term… yet) By ‘rock climbing’, to be clear, I don’t mean upside-down halfway up K2 as much as hanging out at Mission Cliffs and pushing to go from a V2 to a V3 on the bouldering wall.

Climbing has the advantages in that it is:

  • cheaper, more inclusive, and doesn’t have the baggage of racism / classism / sexism etc (wow, that’s a lot of isms golf has issues with…)
  • more compact – we don’t live in the suburbs and our leisure activities need to fit into our urban footprint
  • less of a time commitment
  • more forgiving of people joining and leaving groups at the climbing gym

I’ve been at Mission Cliffs and have met old colleagues, friends from a different neighborhood, and new friends who have immediately tried to get me to join their startup. Most seem to be ‘techies’ in at least the loose sense of the word. It is definitely the top sport techies play, with the possible exception of hiking (I’d argue that hiking does not fit well as a business / networking activity, and is hard to classify as a ‘sport’).

Even though it may be better than golf, we should think about what it means that our industry is creating some norms that are very familiar from the old business world. Also, while cheaper than golfing, it’s still $80 / month – a barrier to someone who isn’t already making tech salaries, and requires you to be in decent shape to start getting on the wall. Lastly, while vastly better than golf in this regard, those who climb tend to match already-privileged demographics*.

Is it right that there should be a benefit to your career if you like to climb? Are all demographics equally prepared to hop onto the wall? Do you have a membership? Should you get one even if you’re not passionate about climbing? I don’t have the answers, but I’ll keep thinking about it.

Lastly, I’ve heard from a few sources that while climbing is the new golf, kiteboarding is the new yachting. Expensive, more exclusive, and apparently beloved by VCs. Somehow I’m less sure this trend will continue as strongly as climbing overtaking golf…

TL;DR: The role golf has played in business is now played by rock climbing. This is probably a good thing, but we should think about it anyway.

* Unfortunately I could not find solid data on this, but I think in this case we can go by common sense / vast overwhelming anecdotal evidence. Please point me in the direction of data if you have it.

P.S. I’ll also include the other perspective that, at least in Australia, road biking may actually be the new golf instead of climbing!

finance politics

When should you itemize your federal deduction if you live in California?

It’s tax time again, which means everyone I know has to put up with my complaining about Intuit’s (makers of TurboTax) lobbying for more complicated tax laws.

In any case, if you’re doing your own taxes and you make enough to live in San Francisco at least semi-comfortably*, you should probably be itemizing your federal tax deduction.

So California has fairly high taxes, which includes the CA SDI 1% for disability and paid family leave. Whether you’re happy about California being more like a European socialist paradise or not, turns out that these higher taxes are deductible from federal taxes. (Don’t worry, we’re still contributing more than our fair share).

If you’re a single person renting an apartment in California, here’s a visualization of the way I think about it:

When does it make sense to itemize your federal deduction if you live in CA?

Answer: basically when you make more than $40-50k or give a lot to charity

In this graph, the blue line is the percentage of your CA AGI (I assumed it was the same as federal to simplify) that the federal standard deduction represents. Since it is fixed at $6,100 for 2013, you can see that it represents less and less of your share as income increases. CA tax is the red line, and the yellow line is the CA SDI tax, fixed at 1% through 100k. Add those up and you get the bold green line- total non-discretionary items you can deduct.
Right here you can see that at about $80,000+ you should run the calculations yourself to see if itemizing is a good idea. However, I’m assuming that the readers of this blog either give a decent chunk to charity or have some student loan interest that they are working on. In that case the percentage of your AGI that you can deduct shifts upwards, and the cutoff at which you should check to see if deducting makes sense shifts back quickly. In the case of 5% going to charity, you should start running the numbers around $55,000ish.

I do have to add the disclaimer that, while I’ve spent far too many hours reading IRS docs to try to not use TurboTax, I am certainly not a certified Tax Preparer/Accountant/Lawyer/Lifeguard/Sandwich-Artist/etc.

Last PSA- give to Charity! Think about each dollar as not a dollar coming out of your pocket, but actually only 75 cents, since after reading this post you’ve realized that deducting is what you should be doing :-)

*yes, this is a sore subject- but I assume if you are reading this and working full time in the city you are in the range below