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Love Letters to California – The New York Times

The state might be drought-stricken, fire-ridden and wildly expensive, but our readers love it all the same.

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It’s been a long week, so this morning I’m offering a little serotonin boost to carry us into the weekend.

Last month, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I asked you to submit love letters to your corner of California. You emailed me dozens of charming tributes to Santa Cruz, Aliso Viejo, Glendale, Sausalito and more.

I was able to publish only a handful, but today I’m back with another round. Your odes are heartfelt and goofy and, frankly, they prove that love really can be blind. Enjoy.

“When I moved to Long Beach from Philadelphia more than a decade ago, I thought SoCal would never feel like home. I missed the sense of history and the distinct seasons that characterize Philly. Stuck in traffic on the 405, I even missed SEPTA. Over the years, however, I have come to appreciate much about Long Beach — especially the birds. Most mornings, my son and I wake up to a cacophony of wild parrots that frequent the tall palm trees near our house. Spotting the pair of peacocks that wander around our neighborhood is a favorite pastime. And I find true joy in watching the hummingbirds hover outside our dining room windows while I work from home these days.” — Gwen Shaffer, Long Beach

“‘Why do you stay there?’

Because I was born here 10 days after Loma Prieta.

My dad poured detergent soap in the fountain by the city limits as a kid.
My mother’s mother sighed with delight when she first visited — San Francisco was the closest city in America to her hometown.

Here, my great-grandfather sold suits in ways that were maybe a little sketchy.
Here, I ran into my dad on BART and we did the N.Y.T. crossword together.
Here, I stood and fought eviction and its violence.

And here, I see the ghosts of so much of my family gone, but their presence remains.
Here is home.

Where a mutt and a refugee’s daughter who identifies as nothing else identifies as San Francisco’s own.” — Sarah Hartman, San Francisco

“I LOVE the seasons in San Diego. Yes, the seasons. Being a native, I grew up hearing the transplant residents commiserating, ‘There are no seasons here!’ as they stood in their driveways, happily donning sunglasses and short sleeves.

They’re missing it, I’d think. The changing shadows, the subtle and beautiful shifts in the Chinese oak trees, the brilliant and changing hues in the morning and evening skies, the homey smell of wet neighborhood streets, the ebb and flow of the scents of desert herbs … and so much more.” — Sylvia Padilla Sullivan, San Diego

“When I moved from Ohio to Sacramento in 1976, California was suffering from a serious drought that I was not aware of at first. I marveled at day after day of sunshine and blue sky … even into winter! I thought I had moved to Camelot! And now, after all these years and more drought and forest fires, I still think of California as my Camelot.” — Mary Kay Goodley, Sacramento

“I’m a Bay Area girl through and through and every part of my life has been indelibly shaped by the long-term love and commitment this Golden State and I have shared. My youngest daughter and I were both born at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View. My closest friends are the very same friends from Kennedy Jr. High, Monta Vista High (go Matadors!), and my college days at U.C. Berkeley. I met the love of my life here (he went to Stanford and the rivalry is real), got married in an epic Indian wedding for the ages here, and our two girls were born here. My parents live here, my bestest friends live here, and my work for over two decades in the nonprofit/education sector has taken place here. Literally and figuratively, California and my heart are inextricably entwined.

And here’s what I know to be true — when you can go for walks outside every day, when you can cheer on the incredible sports teams that we are proud to call our own, when during a pandemic you can easily see your loved ones outside and go for hikes amid stunning landscapes and eat delicious meals at incredible restaurants outside on a winter’s night … if there is a heaven on earth, it is the Bay Area, and I’m so thankful to have known and to be loved by it.” — Aditi Goel, Los Altos

For more:
In the mood for romance? Read the latest from Modern Love.

Does the songwriter of “I Love L.A.” actually love L.A.?

What songs best capture the spirit of the Golden State?

Once full of hope, Oakland cannabis sellers face a harsh reality.

Ride share fuel costs: A rise in gas prices has made it difficult for many Uber and Lyft drivers to justify the work. One San Francisco-area driver said he was barely breaking even.

Plea to Putin: Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recorded a video directed at Russian citizens telling their president, Vladimir Putin, to end the war on Ukraine. Schwarzenegger is among just 22 accounts Putin follows on Twitter.

Drought check: Drought conditions are predicted to continue across more than half of the continental United States through at least June, with most of California returning to “severe” or “extreme” drought status.

Transgender youth refuge: State lawmakers plan to introduce legislation that could make California a legal refuge for displaced transgender children, The Associated Press reports.
Abortion legislation: California lawmakers on Thursday voted to make abortions much cheaper for people on private health insurance plans, The Associated Press reports.


Police video released: A video from two years ago depicts police officers kneeling on the back of a man who was pronounced dead hours later. The man, Edward Bronstein, yelled, “I can’t breathe,” in the footage.

Mask mandate poll: More than half of Los Angeles Unified teachers want to continue the district’s indoor mask mandate, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Basketball: The N.B.A. may soon get its first Orthodox Jewish player, and he’s from Los Angeles, The LAist reports.

Middle school crash: Eight adults were injured when a car smashed into a Perris middle school on Wednesday, The Associated Press reports.

U.C.L.A. housing: Two new apartment buildings will make Los Angeles the first U.C. campus to offer four-year housing, The Los Angeles Times reports.


Abortion politics: Reuters takes us inside the struggle to open an abortion clinic in Visalia — and what it says about America’s complicated and emotional politics of abortion.


New reservoir: A plan to build a giant reservoir in Colusa County got a huge boost when the federal government signaled its intent to loan the project nearly $2.2 billion, The Associated Press reports.

San Francisco recall: A new poll finds that 68 percent of voters support recalling District Attorney Chesa Boudin of San Francisco, SFGate reports.

Ukraine: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hits close to home for the people of San Francisco’s Little Russia, The San Francisco Examiner reports.

Bear theft: A man who took two bear cubs from their den in Shasta County pleaded guilty to possession of a prohibited species, The Associated Press reports.

Court appointee: The Senate on Thursday confirmed Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley as a federal judge in San Francisco, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Spicy green garlic chicken soup.

Today’s tip comes from Luz Consuelo Triana-Echeverría, who lives in Minnesota.
“My favorite place to visit in California is Palm Springs during February or March, when it’s still very cold in Minnesota. My boyfriend used to go every year but now that he passed, I still go by myself. We made it a tradition to stay at a hotel with a nice pool where not surprisingly, we meet many Canadians and Minnesotans trying to beat the cold.

One nice trip is to take the Aerial Tramway, where you can appreciate the Chino Canyon as you arrive to the San Jacinto Peak and have lunch at the nice restaurant on top of the mountain. Another day, I drive through Chino, where I always stop at a fig plantation and buy figs for the rest of the year.

On another day, I cannot help but drive through Joshua Tree National Park, where if I’m lucky to be there during the perfect week, my sight is embellished by the presence of wildflowers everywhere. But the most amazing place in Palm Springs is the oasis of California Palms on the San Andreas fault lines. When I’m driving through the desert, it’s mesmerizing to see a green area far away. As I get closer, that greenery starts becoming a reality, but once I’m right there, the incredible width and length of the palms are just jaw dropping. Because who would expect to find dense and luxuriant palm trees in the middle of the desert?”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
A new book about the many constellations of communities in the Southern California desert.
After a major fire swept through Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest six months ago, the famous grove has been either closed or open to visitors on a limited basis.

But park officials recently announced that the Giant Forest — home to five of the largest sequoias on the planet — is once again open seven days a week, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

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Rally bags $12M to build the future of e-commerce checkout

E-commerce had a moment during the global pandemic, but not only have things chilled since then, it’s gotten downright competitive as the economy cooled in the past year, according to Jordan Gal, co-founder and CEO of Rally.

“Founders in this space used to speak of optimism, but that has turned into realism, and people are more careful,” Gal told TechCrunch. “The pie seems to have stopped growing, and there’s more ferocious competition for what’s left in that pie.”

Gal went on to explain that merchants are having to make harder decisions, including whether they can afford to invest in software.

That’s why Rally, a composable checkout platform for e-commerce merchants, has broken up its business into two segments: the first to meet merchants where they are with integrations to commerce tools, like Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Magento and BigCommerce; the second to offer merchants a “headless” ecosystem.

The term “headless” refers to the ability to change the front end or back end of a website without affecting the other. Gal said he was not able to provide details just yet, but said Rally is close to announcing a partnership with companies specializing in front end and back end to offer headless-as-a-service.

Gal started Rally with Rok Knez to create checkout tools for merchants outside of the Shopify ecosystem. Both were previously involved with another checkout company, CartHook, and led the company to process nearly $3 billion in transactions for Shopify merchants before selling to Pantastic in 2021, Gal said.

Rally, which is working with 50 e-commerce merchants currently, provides one-click checkout with payment processing and tools for post-purchase offers that turns the purchase into a multi-revenue channel by allowing the merchant to inject offers after the checkout. For example, rather than going right to a “thank you” page, consumers would be offered the option of upgrading to a subscription or purchasing additional similar products in a way that doesn’t interrupt the payment flow.

Implementing the post-purchase offer has helped merchants increase revenue by over 12% on average, Gal said.

Meanwhile, over the past 12 months, Rally has doubled the size of its team and is “doing millions in monthly GMV (gross merchandise volume),” Gal said.

TechCrunch previously profiled the company when it raised $6 million in seed funding. Today, the company announced additional funding of $12 million in Series A funding. It was led by March Capital, which was joined by Felix Capital, Commerce Ventures, Afore Capital, Alumni Ventures and Kraken Ventures. The new investment, which closed in the first quarter of 2023, gives Rally $18 million in total venture-backed capital.

Gal plans to focus the new funding on go-to-market, including entering new markets, like enterprise and international, and expanding integrations beyond Swell, BigCommerce and others, including Salesforce Commerce Cloud, commercetools, Affirm and AfterPay. Rally will also focus on strengthening its fraud protection offering and build out web3 features, starting with allowing merchants to accept cryptocurrencies in their checkout.

“We want to establish a reputation as the best choice when a merchant is looking to either upgrade their checkout or build a new site without having to build their own checkout,” Gal said. “You can’t just build it and leave it alone, so merchants are looking for a partner that they can trust so they can focus on what they’re best at.”

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So you want to launch an AI startup

t seems like it’s the best of times for founders thinking about launching an AI startup, especially with OpenAI releasing ChatGPT to the masses, as it has the potential to really put AI front and center in business and perhaps everything we do technologically. Who wouldn’t want to launch a startup right now with the energy and hype surrounding the industry?

But it also could be the worst of times for founders thinking about launching an AI startup, especially one that can grow and be defensible against incumbents in a fast-changing environment. And that’s a real problem for companies thinking about this area: AI is evolving so rapidly that your idea could be obsolete before it’s even off the ground.

How do you come up with a startup idea that can endure in such a challenging and rapidly evolving landscape? The bottom line is that the same principles that apply to previously successful startups apply here, too. It just may be a bit harder this time because of how quickly everything is moving.

A bunch of successful founders and entrepreneurs spoke last week at the Imagination in Action conference at MIT. Their advice could help founders understand what they need to do to be successful and take advantage of this technological leap.

What’s working?
CB Insights compiled data from 2021 and 2022 to understand where VC investment money has been going when it comes to generative AI startups. Given the recent hype around this area, it’s reasonable to think that the volume of investment will increase, and perhaps the allocation will be different, but this is what we have for now.

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New Zealander without college degree couldn’t talk his way into NASA and Boeing—so he built a $1.8 billion rocket company

This story is part of CNBC Make It’s The Moment series, where highly successful people reveal the critical moment that changed the trajectory of their lives and careers, discussing what drove them to make the leap into the unknown.

In early 2006, Peter Beck took a “rocket pilgrimage” to the U.S.

The native New Zealander always dreamed of sending a rocket into space. He even skipped college because of it, taking an apprenticeship at a tools manufacturer so he could learn to work with his hands, tinkering with model rockets and propellants in his free time.

By the time of his pilgrimage, he’d built a steam-powered rocket bicycle that traveled nearly 90 mph. He hoped his experiments were enough to convince NASA or companies like Boeing to hire him as an intern. Instead, he was escorted off the premises of multiple rocket labs.

“On the face of it, here’s a foreign national turning up to an Air Force base asking a whole bunch of questions about rockets — that doesn’t look good,” Beck, now 45, tells CNBC Make It.

Still, he learned that few companies were actually building what he wanted to build: lightweight, suborbital rockets to transport small satellites. On the flight back to New Zealand, he plotted his future startup, even drawing a logo on a napkin.

Convincing investors to back someone without a college degree in an industry where he couldn’t even land an internship wouldn’t be easy. Failure would push him even further away from his lifelong dream.

Beck launched the company, Rocket Lab, later that same year. In 2009, it became the Southern Hemisphere’s first private company to reach space. Today, it’s a Long Beach, California-based public company with a market cap of $1.8 billion. It has completed more than 35 space launches, including a moon-bound NASA satellite last year.

Here, Beck discusses how he turned his disappointment into opportunity, the biggest challenges he faced, and whether he ever regrets his decision to create Rocket Lab.

CNBC Make It: When you didn’t land an aerospace job in the U.S., you immediately started thinking about launching your own company. Why?

Beck: One of the things I’m always frustrated with is how long everything takes. Ask anybody who works around me: There’s a great urgency in everything. I don’t walk upstairs, I run upstairs. As we’ve grown as a company, it’s always a sprint.

I wish things would get faster. I’m always battling time.

How do you recognize a window of opportunity opening, and when is it worth the risk to jump through it?

Back your intuition and go for it.

I would classify my job as taking an enormous risk and then mitigating that risk to the nth degree. Given that, you have to see windows of opportunity and run into them.

The challenge is that, especially within this industry, you have to poke your head into the corner but not commit too deeply. Otherwise, you’ll get your head cut off. I start by being very analytical: “OK, we’re here. What happened for us to get here? And how do we get out of here?”

Sometimes, you can take big risks. Sometimes, you need to be very safe and methodical about how to back out of situations. Control the things you can control and acknowledge the things you can’t control.

Running a rocket company is kind of like that scene in “Indiana Jones,” where he’s getting chased by that giant ball. You have to flawlessly execute, because the moment that you don’t, the consequences can be terminal for the company pretty quickly.

What do you wish you’d known when you decided to start your own rocket company?

At the end of the day, I probably wouldn’t change anything. There were plenty of errors and failures along the way, but ultimately, those things create the DNA of a company.

Getting your first rocket to orbit is the easiest part. On rocket No. 1, you’ve got all your engineers and technicians poring over one rocket for a large period of time. Now, there’s one rocket that rolls out of that production line every 18 days. That’s just immensely more difficult.

Sometimes, it’s really good to have a bit of a bad day. Not during a flight, obviously, but during testing. Just when you think things are going good, you’re reminded of how hard this business really is. Every time that you take too much of a breath, you’ll be humbled very quickly.

What’s the biggest challenge you faced getting started?

Nothing happens without funding in this business. When I first started Rocket Lab, I ran around Silicon Valley trying to raise $5 million.

At that time, that was an absurd amount of money for a rocket startup. A rocket startup was absurd [in general], it was only SpaceX then. A rocket startup from someone living in New Zealand was even more absurd.

We grew up and tried to raise really small amounts of funding. That really shaped us about being ruthlessly efficient and absolutely laser-focused on execution. The hardest thing [we did] is actually the thing that shaped the company into the most successful form it could be.

When do you feel the most pressure?

The most terrifying thing I’ve ever done is the staff Christmas party. That’s the moment you realize that your decisions are responsible for these people’s livelihoods. As a public company, I take that even more seriously. It’s a tremendous amount of pressure.

On top of that, you have a customer. That can be a national security customer, where lives are depending on you delivering that asset to orbit. It can be a startup, and there can be hundreds of people at a company that you can destroy just by putting the payload into the ocean.

So I absolutely hate launch days. Now that we’ve done 35 launches, I’m not puking in the toilet like I used to. But man, I still really don’t enjoy it, because there’s just so much invested in each launch. So much responsibility.

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