Just under a year ago, Rebecca Solnit, a writer living in San Francisco, wrote a sobering piece in the London Review of Books about the Google Bus, which she viewed as a proxy for the technology industry in nearby Palo Alto, Mountain View and Cupertino.

"The buses roll up to San Francisco's bus stops in the morning and evening," she wrote, "but they are unmarked, or nearly so, and not for the public. They have no signs or have discreet acronyms on the front windshield, and because they also have no rear doors, they ingest and disgorge their passengers slowly, while the brightly lit funky orange public buses wait behind them. The luxury-coach passengers ride for free and many take out their laptops and begin their work day on board; there is of course Wi-Fi. Most of them are gleaming white, with dark-tinted windows, like limousines, and some days I think of them as the spaceships on which our alien overlords have landed to rule over us."

The folks who travel behind those tinted windows, she continues, remind observers of "German tourists — neatly dressed, uncool, a little out of place, blinking in the light as they emerged from their pod." They are, in fact, Google employees, many of them new to the region — "mostly white or Asian male nerds in their 20s and 30s" — who work in Mountain View but want to live in San Francisco for the same reasons that everyone used to want to live there: its tolerant, rackety, socially mixed atmosphere, varied housing stock, cosmopolitanism, cultural institutions, history, etc.