EppsNet Archive: Irvine

Making it Through High School Alive

10 Sep 2017 /

Baltimore schools spend a staggering $16,000 per student – the fourth-highest rate in the nation – and still an investigation by Fox45’s Project Baltimore revealed that at six city schools, not one student scored proficient on the statewide tests for English and math.

At West Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass High, one of five high schools and one middle school where not one student scored a four or a five on the state test, only one out of 185 students who took the test last year scored a three, while 165 students scored a one, the lowest possible score.

Frederick Douglass

The schools are:

  • Booker T. Washington Middle School
  • Frederick Douglass High School
  • Achievement Academy at Harbor City
  • New Era Academy
  • Excel Academy at Francis M. Wood High
  • New Hope Academy

It looks like if you live in Baltimore, you want to avoid sending your child to a school whose name includes the word “Academy” or the name of an eminent black American.

The mother of one Frederick Douglass student is quoted as saying, “That’s absurd to me. That’s your teacher’s report card, ultimately.”

In Irvine, CA, where I live, the school district spent $9,488 per student last year, so I think it’s fair to say that Baltimore parents are not getting good value for their education dollar, but I also think that Irvine parents would be much more likely to say that sub-par educational performance indicates a problem in the home rather than with the teachers.

Accentuating the positive: At Excel Academy, 300 seniors started the school year, 104 graduated and 5 were shot to death. In some towns, just making it through high school alive is an accomplishment.


Looking For a Vet in Orange County?

8 Apr 2017 /

We took Lightning to Animal Hospital of Irvine his whole life — 13 years. We boarded him there too when we went out of town. They took excellent care of him.

How do I know that? Because years ago we used to board him at PetSmart and it was always a struggle. He didn’t want us to leave him there.

I thought it was because he didn’t want us to leave him anywhere but when we started boarding him at Animal Hospital, his tail was wagging like crazy when we dropped him off. They gave him lots of attention and took him for lots of walks and even let him out of the kennel and let him walk around the office.

We had to let Lightning go last weekend. Wendy, one of the staff members, came into the procedure room where we were waiting and said how sorry she was. She was crying.

Lightning was her favorite. Wendy is older than the other staff members and what she liked most about him is that the effects of aging never affected his heart or his personality. I hugged her and told her that I know he loved her and was always happy to be there because she took the best care of him.

This week in the mail we got a picture frame and a sympathy card from the staff.

Card and picture frame

Animal Hospital is probably not the least expensive vet in town (is there such a thing as an inexpensive vet?) but they really do care about the animals and their owners . . .


It Never Ends

10 Dec 2016 /

I just received an email alerting me that the Irvine Public Schools Foundation’s annual fundraising campaign ends December 31.

Let me guess, the next annual fundraising campaign starts on January 1.


My Dog Is a Genius

27 Jun 2016 /

This needs a little setup . . .

I used to take Lightning on weekend mornings to the Irvine Dog Park, then afterward to the Starbucks drive-thru, where I’d get a beverage and he’d get a pup cup (a cup of whipped cream).

He loves Starbucks. He used to get super animated from the time he saw we were turning left on Irvine Center Drive (toward Starbucks) to the time he actually got the pup cup at the drive-thru window.

He also knows the words “Starbucks” and “pup cup”:

He’s too old to enjoy the dog park now — he doesn’t walk well and he can’t see — so I walk to Starbucks myself on the weekends and bring the pup cups home for him.

Today I took him to the Starbucks drive-thru, just like old times, and he got super excited again when we got there, just like old times.

As I said, he can’t see, so he had no visual cues about where we were. I didn’t say the words “Starbucks” or “pup cup” to him, and he was excited long before he heard me place the order.

So how did he know?

My second-best guess is that the navigation to Starbucks is imprinted in his doggie memory. My best guess is that because the Starbucks drive-thru has a lot of foliage, it has a unique smell that he remembers.

Anyway, some non-visual cue or cues, but he was quite certain about where he was.


Christmastime in Irvine

20 Dec 2015 /

Christmastime in Irvine


Moving Back

12 Dec 2015 /
Moving box

Our boy was home recently for a visit . . . he lives in San Francisco now . . . we were driving to dinner one night and his mom, from the back seat, said to him, “You can move back if you want to.”

“I don’t think I would move back to Irvine,” the boy said matter-of-factly.

“I meant you can move the seat back. I have plenty of room back here.”


Walking in Irvine is Not a Good Way to Meet People

14 Nov 2015 /

Unlike walking in San Francisco, walking in Irvine is not a good way to meet people. This is what my walk to Starbucks looks like on weekend mornings . . .

Walking in Irvine


Dogs in San Francisco

7 Sep 2015 /
Dachshund and Golden Gate Bridge

If you’re a dog or a recently released felon, you are welcome in San Francisco. Not only are there lots of people walking in SF, there are lots of people walking with dogs. French Bulldogs, Huskies and Pomeranians seems to be especially popular.

Until he got too old to really enjoy it, I took Lightning to the Irvine dog park six days a week (it’s closed on Wednesdays) for years. I’ve spent a lot of time around dogs, so I’m better than most people at identifying dog breeds.

We were walking in San Francisco last weekend when my wife pointed and asked “What kind of dog is that?” Before I could say “It’s a Labradoodle,” our boy said “Labradoodle.”

I must have been visibly stunned because he then asked me “Were you going to say ‘Goldendoodle’?”

“No . . . you’re pretty good at identifying dogs now.” This is a totally new talent. When he left Irvine, I’m not sure he could tell a dog from a squirrel . . .


Walking in San Francisco

6 Sep 2015 /

Our boy is working and living in San Francisco now, We went to visit him last weekend . . .

It’s hard to drive and park in SF so a lot of people walk to where they need to go. Our hotel was a few blocks from the boy’s apartment but for the most part, we left the car in the parking garage and walked everywhere.

On a couple of occasions, we met one of his co-workers walking past us in the other direction. (His office is nearby, 7-8 blocks from his apartment, but it’s a startup, not a huge company like Transamerica with lots of employees.) On another occasion, we met a couple of his college classmates from Cal sitting near us at a local eatery. This is not to mention the friends, classmates and co-workers that we planned to meet up with because they also live in the vicinity.

I’ve lived in Irvine and worked in town or nearby for 15 years and I never see anyone I know walking around the city, probably because I don’t walk around the city and neither does anyone else. Well, I take that back . . . on weekend mornings I usually walk about a mile to Starbucks for coffee. The average number of people I meet on those walks is approximately 0.0.

But even when we go to restaurants. movies, stores, public events, etc., I very rarely see anyone I know. Very rarely.

It’s funny that a big, international city like San Francisco feels more like a neighborhood than does a typical suburban community . . .

San Francisco from Nob Hill

Photo Credit: louisraphael


It’s Later Than You (I) Think

24 Jul 2015 /

Driving through the parking lot at Irvine Marketplace, I slow down to let an old man walk across in front of me. Hurry it up you elderly bastard!

As I get a closer look, I recognize him as a former college classmate. Which means he’s the same age as me.

He is fatter and balder than I am though, so at least I’ve got that going for me.


Teaching Computer Science: Ask More Questions

20 Apr 2015 /
Primary School in "open air"...

English: Primary School in “open air”, in Bucharest, around 1842. Wood engraving, 11x22cm

You need to ask more questions. I think there’s a general fear about asking questions. There’s a risk of looking foolish in front of the whole group when it turns out that everyone else already knows the answer.

It’s actually very unusual for someone to ask a question to which everyone else knows the answer. If you find it happens to you a lot, you probably want to get that checked out, but normally it’s very unusual.

Another scenario: Somebody, maybe a teacher, says something and you think “That doesn’t make sense. I wonder if it makes sense to everyone else. Rather than risk looking foolish in front of the whole group, I’ll wait and see if someone else asks a question.”

So you wait for someone to ask a question and no one asks a question. Why? Because they’re all waiting for someone to ask a question.

Many people, including teachers, are not good at organizing their thoughts and articulating them with precision and that’s why you can’t understand what they’re saying. Don’t assume that it’s a problem with you. You need to move people to a position of clarity by asking questions.

Also, people love the person who’s willing to ask questions because it relieves them of the need to ask questions.

Education, like everything else, you get out of it what you put into it. Don’t sit in a class with unanswered questions in your head and let everything wash over you like a tidal wave.

My own kid, even in a good school district, I don’t feel like he got a good education because of good teachers, I feel like he got a good education in spite of bad teachers. He got a good education because he put a lot into it and he got a lot out of it. And his classmates who got a good education did so because they put a lot into it and they got a lot out of it.

All of which is a long way of saying “ask more questions.”

Any questions?


Lasts

14 Jan 2015 /

End-of-winter-break dinner at BJ’s Brewhouse, after which the boy headed back to school for his final semester . . .

BJ's Brewhouse


Merry Christmas from Irvine

10 Dec 2014 /

Christmas in Irvine


As Bad as the Real Obama

1 Nov 2014 /

Obama mask

We had a big batch of trick-or-treaters show up at one time last night, about 9 kids age 12 and under.

“Who are you?” I asked the first kid.

“The Hulk.” I gave him some candy.

“Who are you?” I asked the second kid.

“Thor.” I gave him some candy.

“Who are you?” I asked the third kid.

“Obama.” He showed me a wadded-up Obama mask in his hand. I didn’t give him any candy.

“Put the mask on,” I said.

“I don’t want to. I can’t see.”

Meanwhile, the other kids kept coming to the front and announcing their costumes . . .

“Superman.” “Batgirl.” “Pink lady from Grease.” “I’m John Cena.” “Witch.” “Minnie.” They all got candy.

Finally no one was left but me and Obama.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Obama!”

“Put the mask on.”

“Come on!”

“You’re not doing your job. Geez, you’re as bad as the real Obama.”


It’s Election Season in Irvine

26 Oct 2014 /

It’s election season . . . campaign signs dot the Irvine landscape.

As I drove to lunch with co-workers, one of them pointed out a sign for Ira Glasky, who’s running for school board or city council or something.

“He’s probably trying to cash in on the name recognition of Ira Glass,” he said.

“Who’s Ira Glass?” I asked, and he told me but I’ve since forgotten. A person on the radio, I think.

If I were a campaign manager, I wouldn’t be advising my clients to coattail on the popularity of people no one’s heard of.

“Maybe he’s trying to play into the popularity of Dashiell Hammett’s 1930s crime novel The Glass Key,” I suggested.

Another Irvine candidate, Lynn Schott, is in a local women’s networking group that my wife belongs to. I offered her a free campaign slogan — “Lynn-sanity!” — but she’s not using it.


This New Coffee Place is Not Going to Make It

5 Oct 2014 /
What do you think?

Trying out a new coffee place by our house . . . I order an iced coffee and pay $4.50 for the only size they have, about the size of a Starbucks grande, which at Starbucks is less than three bucks.

I take the coffee over to the condiment station, taste it and decide to add some sugar.

The proprietor surprises me by walking up and saying “Taste it first before you add sugar.”

“I did taste it,” I assure him.

“Does it need sugar?”

“That probably depends on who’s drinking it. If I’m drinking it, it’s going to need a little sugar.”

I think I’ll stick with Starbucks. The coffee is cheaper and the staff lets me do whatever I want with it, no questions asked.


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.


Spa Day at the Vet and Erica’s Departure

2 Mar 2014 /

I dropped Lightning off at the vet for grooming . . .

“Make it like a spa day for him,” I said. “With lots of pampering. Don’t just put him in the sink and soak him down like we do at home. Make it free pampering though, nothing that will cause extra charges to accrue. By the way, where’s Erica?”

Erica is usually at the desk on weekends but today there was a new girl. The new girl, Lauren, said that Erica is moving to Arizona and won’t be working there anymore.

“She will be greatly missed,” Lauren said.

She sure will. People are insane when it comes to their pets and Erica was always extremely patient and attentive — extremely.

I wish I had the kind of personality that makes people miss me when I go away but oh well . . . I guess I have other qualities. Everyone’s different.

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Later, when I picked Lightning up, they’d put a bow around his neck, which is a new thing. Usually they don’t decorate the dog.

“Oh that’s nice,” I said. “Is there an extra charge for that?”

“Yeah,” said Lauren, “it’s 50 dollars.”

I miss Erica . . .


A Trip to the Vet

25 Feb 2014 /
prednisone 5mg

Prednisone 5mg (Photo credit: denn)

I’m picking up a prescription for Lightning at the vet. He takes 5mg/day of a steroid for his joints, half a tablet in the morning and half at night.

The tablets are scored to make them easier to cut in half, but the vet staff uses a pill cutter, making cutting on the scoring actually a little more difficult because you have to line up each pill.

It’s better to cut them on the scoring, because the pills are small and they can crumble if they’re cut across the scoring, but it’s more time-consuming.

“Are the pills cut on the lines?” I ask the woman at the desk. “Lightning doesn’t like it when they’re not cut on the lines.”

“He doesn’t like it?” she says.

“He feels like it doesn’t show attention to detail.”

Some of the women at our vet’s office have a sense of humor and some don’t. Today we have one of the serious ones.

“I’m just telling you,” I say. “Don’t shoot the messenger.”


The Hardest Available Challenge

22 Feb 2014 /

One of my colleagues at work has a son in 6th grade. She’s trying to figure out which math class to put him in for 7th grade.

Yuna Kim

Working backward, we know that “normal” kids take Algebra I in 9th grade, the smarter kids take Algebra I in 8th grade, and the smartest kids take Algebra I in 7th grade. Placement depends on how a kid scores on the math placement test.

My co-worker’s concern is if her kid gets a top score on the placement test and he’s eligible to take Algebra I in 7th grade, does she want him to do that, or to wait till 8th grade?

If he takes Algebra I in 7th grade, that would mean he’d be taking the hardest math classes all through high school. Would it be better from a college admission standpoint to take easier classes and get all A’s, or take the hardest classes and maybe get a B+?

Our kid has already been through the Irvine schools. He’s in college now so I can answer questions like this with the benefit of experience.

“I like to see kids push themselves to take the hardest challenge available,” I said. “Colleges are not impressed with kids who get A’s in easy classes.”

“But what if he takes hard classes and gets a B+?” she asked.

“My advice is, don’t get a B+.”

If your kid takes hard classes in high school and gets B’s in them, he or she may not be able to attend a top university, but it wasn’t their destiny to attend a top university. Your kid is not that kind of a kid.

 

That reminds me . . . Olympic figure skating is on TV this week. Are you watching it? Neither am I, but I’ve heard that some of the skaters actually fall down during their program.

They’re supposed to be the best skaters in the world. Even I could go out there and skate around for a few minutes without falling down. Granted, I couldn’t do any spins or jumps or skate backwards or anything like that.

The point is that to be recognized as the best at something, you can’t just do easy things well. You have to risk doing things that are hard to do. In the skating scenario, it’s not enough to say “I didn’t fall on my ass.” No, you didn’t, but you didn’t even try to do anything hard.

In any endeavor, you won’t impress people of discernment simply by avoiding anything that might give you some difficulty. Step up to the challenge.


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