EppsNet Archive: California

I’m in Semi-Solidarity with the Protestors

26 Nov 2014 /

http://www.dailycal.org/2014/11/19/100-individuals-occupy-wheeler-hall-wednesday-night-protest-tuition-hikes/

I support the UC Berkeley students protesting tuition hikes but maybe with a little less conviction than I used to because my kid is a senior and no matter how high tuition goes I won’t be paying it anymore so I hope the boy was in class yesterday and not out causing a disturbance . . .


More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of

6 Jul 2014 /

Riptide warning sign

The worst thing you can do to people, aside from physical injury, is give them the idea to blame their failures on vague impersonal forces or the actions of anybody but themselves. It doesn’t promote success or happiness. I don’t know any happy people who think like that.

For example, I read this in a New York Times article about an impoverished area of West Virginia:

John got caught up in the dark undertow of drugs that defines life for so many here in McDowell County.

That is just awful. I live in Southern California, not too far from the ocean . . . I’m familiar with undertows (although I’ve never heard of a “dark” undertow). First of all, sorry to be pedantic but undertows aren’t dangerous . . . they’re just after-effects of individual waves. What’s dangerous is a riptide . . . a concentrated flow of water that can jet you offshore in a matter of seconds.

Maybe John got caught in a riptide of drugs.

Some beaches post signs warning swimmers of riptides on high-risk days, but in general, getting caught in a riptide is an unfortunate but unavoidable event. Drug abuse is optional. It’s a decision you make about your life.

(I’m assuming here that no one sticks a funnel in your mouth and pours drugs into it against your will . . .)


I Am Disenfranchising Myself

1 Jun 2014 /

I was looking over my vote-by-mail ballot for the California election . . . there’s not one person on there I would trust to represent my interests above their own. It’s like voting on which gang of thieves will be allowed to break into my home and rob me.

In previous elections, I’ve usually voted for all the Republican candidates because I dislike 99 percent of Democratic programs, whereas I only dislike 95 percent of Republican programs. Not much of a choice.

This year, I ripped up the ballot and threw it in the trash.


Oceanside, CA

30 May 2014 /


Good Riddance to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

12 May 2014 /

Two teams of scientists say the long-feared collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has begun, kicking off what they say will be a centuries-long, “unstoppable” process that could raise sea levels by as much as 15 feet.

I’m trying to think what the big deal is here. The Southern California city I live in, which is currently 12 miles from the coast and 70 feet above sea level, will, in 500 to 1,000 years, be only 55 feet above sea level.

My favorite beachfront restaurants and hangouts will no longer be standing, but they wouldn’t have been anyway.


NYT Misrepresents California’s Affirmative Action Results

23 Apr 2014 /

In reporting on yesterday’s Supreme Court decision to uphold a Michigan ban on the use of racial preferences in admissions to public universities, the New York Times looks at results in other states that have banned racial preferences.

Here’s what the Times says about my state, California, which voted to ban racial preferences in UC admissions in 1998:

Hispanic and black enrollment at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, Los Angeles dropped sharply after voters approved a statewide ban on affirmative action. Those numbers have not recovered, even as the state’s Hispanic population has grown.

That is a misleading analysis for a couple of reasons:

One: Affirmative action was banned at all UC campuses, not just Berkeley and UCLA. Ignoring all the other campuses allows the Times to say that black and Hispanic enrollment “dropped sharply” when there was actually only a 2 percent decline in black and Hispanic enrollment in the University of California system as a whole.

Among other campuses, black and Hispanic enrollment was

* up 22 percent at UC Irvine
* up 18 percent at UC Santa Cruz
* up 65 percent at UC Riverside

There’s been a redistribution of black and Hispanic students, but not a sharp drop in enrollment.

Two: It doesn’t make sense to look at changes in enrollment without also looking at changes in graduation rates.

The number of black and Hispanic students graduating from UC schools

* in four years: up 55 percent
* in four years with a GPA of 3.5 or higher: up 63 percent
* with degrees in science, mathematics and engineering: up nearly 50 percent
* with doctoral degrees: up 20 percent

UCLA and (especially) Berkeley are elite universities. Black and Hispanic students who were admitted based on genetics rather than academic qualifications couldn’t compete at that level and had to drop out.

Who was helped? The dropouts? No. The qualified applicants who were passed over? No. It was a lose-lose scenario.

Now that students are admitted, regardless of race, to schools that they’re academically qualified to attend, graduation rates are much higher.

Always look askance at analysis of college admission policies in the absence of information on graduation rates.


Japan, Day 4: Tsukiji Fish Market, Asakusa, Imperial Palace, Odaiba, Christmas

25 Dec 2013 /

Tsukiji Fish Market

The Tsukiji Market (Tsukiji shijo), supervised by the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market (Tokyo-to Chuo Oroshiuri Shijo) of the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Industrial and Labor Affairs, is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind. The market is located in Tsukiji in central Tokyo.

There are two distinct sections of the market as a whole. The “inner market” (jonai-shijo) is the licensed wholesale market, where the auctions and most of the processing of the fish take place, and where licensed wholesale dealers (approximately 900 of them) operate small stalls. The “outer market” (jogai-shijo) is a mixture of wholesale and retail shops that sell Japanese kitchen tools, restaurant supplies, groceries, and seafood, and many restaurants, especially sushi restaurants.

Wikipedia

Tsukiji Market: Inner Market

Tsukiji Market: Inner Market


Tsukiji Market: Inner Market

Tsukiji Market: Inner Market


Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji Market


Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji Market


Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji Market

There’s a temple near the market. We met these girls, who spoke a little English, not much. They were delighted to take photos with us. Japan is a friendly country. In California, if you asked strangers on the street to take a photo with you, I expect you’d get a mixed reaction.

They start making peace signs in photos very early in Japan. I saw kids as young as two years old doing it without being asked to. I asked our guide the reason for that and she said “Because we’re so happy.”

Tsukiji Temple

Tsukiji Temple


Tsukiji Temple

Tsukiji Temple

Asakusa

Asakusa is a district in Taito, Tokyo, Japan, most famous for the Senso-ji, a Buddhist temple dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon.

Wikipedia

Asakusa Senso-ji

Asakusa Senso-ji


Asakusa Senso-ji

Asakusa Senso-ji


Asakusa Senso-ji

Asakusa Senso-ji

There is a long street lined with shops leading to the temple.

Asakusa Senso-ji

Asakusa Senso-ji


Asakusa Senso-ji

Asakusa Senso-ji


Shop in Asakusa (100 yen = 1 dollar, roughly)

Shop in Asakusa (100 yen = 1 dollar, roughly)

Across the street from the Senso-ji is the Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center, designed by Kengo Kuma. Mr. Kuma is an acclaimed Japanese architect, although to the untrained eye, the boards in the windows might give the impression that the building is under construction or renovation, neither of which is the case.

Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center

Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center

Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace is the main residence of the Emperor of Japan. Twice a year — on New Year (January 2) and the Emperor’s Birthday — the public is permitted to enter the palace grounds. The imperial family appears on the balcony of the Chowaden Hall and the emperor normally gives a short speech greeting and thanking the visitors and wishing them good health and blessings.

If it’s not one of those two days (it wasn’t), the palace is closed, but you can still stand outside in the plaza and take a photo if you like.

Imperial Palace

Imperial Palace

Odaiba

Odaiba is a large artificial island in Tokyo Bay, Japan, across the Rainbow Bridge from central Tokyo. It was initially built for defensive purposes in the 1850s, dramatically expanded during the late 20th century as a seaport district, and has developed since the 1990s as a major commercial, residential and leisure area.

Wikipedia

Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge


Odaiba at Night

Odaiba at Night

Christmas in Japan

It’s December 25. Christmas is not a big deal in Japan. If you say “Merry Christmas” to people, they’ll say it back to you, if they understand English, but it’s not a holiday and stores and businesses are open. New Years is the big holiday here.

They do, however, have a lot of what we in the States would call Christmas lights, but in Japan are called “illuminations.”

Illuminations

Illuminations


Illuminations

Illuminations


ObamaCare Winners and Losers

8 Oct 2013 /
English: President Barack Obama's signature on ACA

Cindy Vinson and Tom Waschura are big believers in the Affordable Care Act. They vote independent and are proud to say they helped elect and re-elect President Barack Obama.

Yet, like many other Bay Area residents who pay for their own medical insurance, they were floored last week when they opened their bills: Their policies were being replaced with pricier plans that conform to all the requirements of the new health care law.

Vinson, of San Jose, will pay $1,800 more a year for an individual policy, while Waschura, of Portola Valley, will cough up almost $10,000 more for insurance for his family of four. . . .

Covered California spokesman Dana Howard maintained that in public presentations the exchange has always made clear that there will be winners and losers under Obamacare. . . .

“Of course, I want people to have health care,” Vinson said. “I just didn’t realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally.”


Voting is Overrated

21 Jul 2013 /

In California back in 1979 I helped to get the Libertarian Party’s Presidential candidate, Ed Clark, on the ballot. Since then, I’ve had nothing to do with politics, which I’ve come to regard as unseemly. That others can be enthusiastic about this or that politician surprises me in the same way that it might surprise me to learn that there is such a thing as an official streptococcus fan club with a list of dues-paying members. And although I can’t claim never to have voted, I can at least say that I would hate to ever have to admit voting for any of the people I voted for. All things considered I’d much rather exercise what Herbert Spencer calls my "Right to Ignore the State."


Banning Racial Preferences in California Helped Everyone

20 Jun 2013 /
University of California

When racial preferences were banned by the voters in California, there were dire predictions that this would mean the virtual disappearance of black and Hispanic students from the University of California system. What in fact happened was a 2% decline in their enrollment in the University of California system as a whole, but an increase in the number of black and Hispanic students graduating, including an increase of 55% in the number graduating in four years and an increase of 63% in the number graduating in four years with a grade point average of 3.5 or higher.

Instead of the predicted drastic decline in enrollment in the system as a whole, there was a drastic redistribution of black and Hispanic students within the University of California system. Their enrollment dropped at the two most elite campuses, Berkeley and UCLA — by 42% at the former and 33% at the latter. But their enrollment rose by 22% at the Irvine campus, 18% at the Santa Cruz campus, and 65% at the University of California at Riverside. After this redistribution, the number of black and Hispanic students who graduated with degrees in science, mathematics, and engineering “rose by nearly 50 percent,” according to Sander and Taylor. The number of doctorates earned by black and Hispanic students in the system rose by about 20%.

In short, the problems created by the mismatching brought on by affirmative action gave way to significant improvements in the academic performances of black and Hispanic students in the University of California system after those preferences were banned.


Dogged by Protesters

15 Jun 2013 /

Obama dogged by protesters on bay visitSFGate

Dogged by protesters?! If he ever comes to Orange County, he’ll be PROTESTED BY DOGS!

My owner pays so many taxes that there’s hardly any money left for pug treats! :(

— Lightning paw

On the Ottoman


Occam Has Mislaid His Razor

18 Apr 2013 /
William of Occam

William of Occam

Silicon Valley Discriminates Against Women, Even If They’re BetterPBS NewsHour

An academic says that Silicon Valley is “not a meritocracy.”

He doesn’t offer any evidence to support that. He just looked around and noticed more men than women in the high-tech workforce.

The fact that there are more members of Group A doing X than there are members of Group B doing X is not evidence that members of Group B are being discriminated against in their efforts to do X.

In particular, he says that only 3 percent of tech firms in the Valley were founded by women, as though founding a tech firm is a fun thing that everyone should want to do.

Founding a startup is an ultra-high-risk activity that requires insane amounts of time and sacrifice. Do you want to have friends? A social life? Do you have a family? Do you want to have a family? Do you want to see them sometimes?

The fact that more men than women are founding startups is not evidence that women are being discriminated against. The simplest explanation is that women just don’t want to do it as much as men do.


Thousand Oaks

4 Mar 2013 /

“Do you know how to get there?”

“No. Did you bring the map?”

“No.”

“Didn’t you say before we left that you’d printed a map?”

“I said I printed it but I didn’t say I was going to bring it along.”

“Oh . . . well, we can call when we get out there. I know how to get to Thousand Oaks, I just don’t remember how to get to their house.”

“Do you know the offramp from the freeway?”

“Yes.”

“So it can’t be too complicated then. I saw on the map it was just lefts and rights.”

“Uh, isn’t any route to anywhere just lefts and rights?”


Thomas Jefferson on Why Your Health Insurance Premium is Going Up

11 Jan 2013 /
Thomas Jefferson

Health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers.

That headline should not read “DESPITE new health law,” it should read “BECAUSE OF new health law.”

But we were going to get things for free! We were promised better things at a lower cost!

In my day, most of the citizens were farmers or merchants or tradesmen. They lived by their hands and their wits. They had horse sense and they knew when they were being sold a bill of goods.

Of course, that was before television.

Americans today are unfortunately rather stupid. Most of them don’t know anything about economics, science, history, government . . . as George Carlin says, “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.” George is here in heaven now. He breaks me up, he really does.

Your president and Congress have decreed that every American will have health insurance whether they want it or not. They have further decreed that a lot of Americans will not have to pay for their own health insurance, which means that the cost of their health insurance has to be paid by the rest of you. That’s one reason why your health insurance premium is going up.

Another reason your premium is going up is the “guaranteed issue” provision. “Guaranteed issue” means that no one can be denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

Funny story: My friend Paul Epps, his wife has an insurance agency in Southern California. It’s an area that’s susceptible to wildfires in the summer months. When a fire breaks out, people who live near the fire actually call this woman wanting to buy a homeowners policy.

Of course, she doesn’t sell it to them. Insurance companies are a little bit smarter than that.

Buying a homeowners policy when your house is already on fire is analogous to “guaranteed issue” health insurance: Hello, I’d like to buy some health insurance. Oh by the way, I have cancer, but the doctors think that with lengthy and expensive treatment, I have a chance to pull through.

This is not even insurance anymore. Insurance is something you pay for now to protect against the risk of having to pay a lot more later. In these cases, there IS no risk. The bad news has already happened. It’s a dead loss for the insurance company and they have to spread the cost of that loss to other policyholders. That’s another reason your premium is going up.

This isn’t even economics, folks, it’s just common sense.

Thomas Jefferson


No Surprises in Berkeley

23 Nov 2012 /
Third-party! Stein, Johnson, Anderson and Good...

(Photo credit: ironypoisoning)

Final election counts are in for Berkeley, CA, the most liberal city in America. Let’s start with the presidential election, where Mitt Romney was able to edge out Jill Stein for second place:

  • Barack Obama, Democrat – 90.3%
  • Mitt Romney, Republican – 4.6%
  • Jill Stein, Green Party – 3.2%

California ballot proposition results included:

  • Proposition 30, a measure to increase state income tax rates for the wealthy – 90.7% Yes (passed statewide at 54.6%)
  • Proposition 34, to abolish the death penalty in California – 86% Yes (lost statewide 52% to 48%)
  • Proposition 37, requiring labeling of genetically engineered food – 92.4% Yes (lost statewide 52% to 48%)

Summary of Campaign Spending on California Ballot Propositions

4 Nov 2012 /

I found this table from Ballotpedia rather interesting. It shows how much money has been donated to each side of the California ballot propositions.

Proposition Donations in favor Donations against
Proposition 30 $67,100,000 $53,400,000
Proposition 31 $4,400,000 $573,700
Proposition 32 $60,500,000 $73,300,000
Proposition 33 $17,100,000 $275,700
Proposition 34 $7,400,000 $391,900
Proposition 35 $3,700,000 $0
Proposition 36 $2,700,000 $119,900
Proposition 37 $8,700,000 $45,600,000
Proposition 38 $47,800,000 $42,300
Proposition 39 $31,400,000 $45,000
Proposition 40 $601,100 $2,300,000

 


HW’s Election Previews: Proposition 37

4 Nov 2012 /
Crop Design - The fine art of gene discovery

From the Offical Voter Information Guide:

Requires labeling of food sold to consumers made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. Prohibits marketing such food, or other processed food, as “natural.” Provides exemptions. Fiscal Impact: Increased annual state costs from a few hundred thousand dollars to over $1 million to regulate the labeling of genetically engineered foods. Additional, but likely not significant, governmental costs to address violations under the measure.

Notice this phrase: “Provides exemptions.” In other words, the statute requires certain things and prohibits certain other things — except when it doesn’t.

Not that it matters because $1 million a year isn’t going to buy you a lot of enforcement anyway. Who wrote this proposition, Dr. Evil?

Prop 37 is supported by people who hate freedom and having to think for themselves.


Poems I’ve Read Recently and Liked

19 Oct 2012 /

I’ve been reading a lot of poetry as part of the Modern & Contemporary American Poetry class on Coursera.

One of the things I like about the class is that the video lessons are done a little differently than other Coursera classes I’ve taken. Rather than recorded lectures, the videos consist of the instructor, Al Filreis, leading a small group of Penn students in close readings of selected poems.

Anyway, here are a few of my favorites so far:

These next two, both by Richard Wilbur, I want to single out as being particularly exquisite and heartbreaking:


Lodi

10 Oct 2012 /

We stopped for gas in Lodi a couple of days ago on the way back from Berkeley and I can’t get the damn song out of my head . . .

If I only had a dollar for every song I’ve sung
For every tiiiime I had to plaaaay while people sat there drunk . . .


It’s a Seller’s Job Market in IT Right Now, Especially for Agile

31 Aug 2012 /

I recently concluded a 3-month job search. As part of my networking, I met a number of unemployed people in other fields who were having trouble not only getting jobs, but even getting interviews.

I talked to a lot of people and averaged about an interview a day, including phone interviews, mostly for development manager jobs. For every development manager job, there are multiple development jobs, so if you’re a developer, your situation is even better than mine was.

I live in Southern California, but the demand is not just local. I had multiple contacts from companies outside the SoCal area that can’t find qualified candidates.

I’ve been working again for over two months, I no longer have an active résumé on job boards, and I still get emails and calls every day from recruiters all over the country.

Agile and Scrum are in demand

West to Chicago, East to Toledo

The situation with Agile and Scrum right now seems to be that a lot of people are putting it on their résumé but most of them are bluffing.

One hiring manager told me that he’d talked to three dozen candidates who claimed to know Scrum and only one (me) who actually knew it.

Another hiring manager asked me to describe the Scrum process, beginning with a product owner with an idea through the end of the first sprint. It’s a basic question, and when I finished, he thanked me for my answer. “You’d be surprised how many people I ask that question and the answer is a yard sale.”

Actually, you’d be surprised how little I’d be surprised by that.

One recruiter contacted me about a 3-month Scrum Master contract in Toledo, Ohio. A glance at my résumé will tell you that I’ve never worked outside Southern California, so on a list of people likely to take a 3-month contract in Toledo, Ohio, my name would be far, far from the top, but the difficulty of finding a qualified candidate to fill that job is such that the recruiter contacted me anyway.

If you really know Agile and/or Scrum right now, it’s a seller’s market.


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