Saturday, July 31, 2010

Voting for US Senator this fall

Just saw this article on Boxer vs Fiorina for this fall's US Senate race:

Boxer tries to highlight differences on abortion

By JUDY LIN Associated Press Writer
Posted: 07/29/2010 12:00:48 PM PDT
Updated: 07/29/2010 12:28:10 PM PDT

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Jobs and the economy may be foremost on voters' minds, but Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer has been quick to stress another issue that has been a hallmark of her political career, her support for abortion rights.

Her opponent in this year's tight Senate race, Republican Carly Fiorina, often steers around the issue.

During one recent television interview, Fiorina was asked about the personal experiences that led her to oppose abortion. She acknowledged that people can have different views, then quickly steered the discussion back to the unhappy state of the economy.

[Read more]
The article goes on to say that Carly's mother-in-law was told to have an abortion, but she didn't -- as a result Carly has her husband. Carly apparently believes in the sanctity of human life, and that life begins at conception.

So here's my problem. I can't stand it that Boxer hopes to get more votes by trumpeting her support for baby-killing. I know it's not mental-health-ly correct to say this, but it makes me crazy. It might make me mad enough to vote against her.

But Carly Fiorina? Really? I still do not understand why Hackborn fired that torpedo into the belly of HP, but he did and she hit us. Besides the Compaq fiasco (immoral and a lousy business decision), she was awful as CEO, wasting the shareholders' money buying private jets and flying around doing marketing rather than managing the company. She steered the company in absurd directions (HP as a manufacturer of TV sets for example). The board finally got rid of her, a few years too late....

So I don't want either of these clowns as senator. They are not even funny.

And this makes me sad. But suddenly I remembered who's really in charge; I remembered, "Fret not yourself; it leads only to evildoing" (Psalm 37:8, NASB? or see other translations). Come to think of it, I reminded myself often of that when Carly was the boss and I was still at HP. Here are the first six verses (NIV) of Psalm 37:

1Do not fret because of evil men
       or be envious of those who do wrong;
2for like the grass they will soon wither,
       like green plants they will soon die away.
3Trust in the Lord and do good;
       dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4Delight yourself in the Lord
       and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5Commit your way to the Lord;
       trust in him and he will do this:
6He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
       the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
OK, I've taken a deep breath. I'll vote against one or the other of these clowns this fall, or maybe I'll vote against both. But I'll try to remember what Piper wrote about voting -- that voting, or the election itself for that matter -- is not the be-all or end-all. Yet I do wish we had a real choice here.

No conflict of interest! Oh, oops.

The Saltworks folks posted an article saying Rosanne Foust, SAMCEDA interim CEO and Redwood City Council member, had no conflict of interest in pushing forward Cargill's plan to destroy, uh, I mean develop the baylands by putting 8000–12000 homes out there. The Redwood City gov't page also has the article.

But now I see this story in the Mercury News (someone says it was copied from the Daily Post -- which isn't online -- but I haven't confirmed this) which says (excerpted here for fair use -- btw stories disappear from their site after a while):

Foust won't participate in future Saltworks decisions

By Bonnie Eslinger

Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: 07/30/2010 08:23:23 PM PDT
Updated: 07/31/2010 12:39:20 AM PDT

Redwood City Council Member Rosanne Foust said Friday she would abstain from voting on any further matters related to Cargill's controversial Saltworks project, after being rebuked by a state political ethics agency for having done so despite having a conflict of interest.

In a letter to the editor, Foust wrote that she was "disappointed" in the California Fair Political Practices Commission's ruling but would accept it.

"Henceforth I will abstain from voting on issues related to the Saltworks Project," Foust wrote, adding in a subsequent e-mail to The Daily News that she would also recuse herself from discussions about Saltworks.
Well that's good. I've heard a lot of concern because council members make money from real estate development. (Being on the city council isn't a full-time job, so most people can't give up their day jobs, divest from any real estate or equity holdings, etc., when they join the council.) I'm therefore quite relieved to hear Ms. Foust won't be voting on any future issues regarding the saltworks. More from Bay Area Citizen here and here.

8,000–12,000 new homes.... The plus side is: such a development would alleviate our housing shortage. And job shortage too. So why do I hate this project? Let me count the ways:

  1. Increased traffic.
    Transit-oriented? Gimme a break! This is near no trains or public-transit corridors. Let's develop the areas near downtown, where SamTrans and Caltrain already run. Don't tell me you're gonna run SamTrans buses into this new development -- they're cutting service, not adding routes!
  2. Water.
    I mean the water level in the Bay (how much will it rise in the next half-century?) as well as water consumption on these homes and whatever else these guys want to put out there. Yeah, they say they have someone in the central valley with rights to however much water... but are they gonna haul the water from there to here? For the next half-century? C'mon, guys, we know the plan is to have a short-term kluge and then stick my grandchildren with the ongoing costs. Look, I have enough other things I'm gonna stick them with; I don't need you to add more!

    And how about that rising water level in the bay? One word for you guys: Pacifica.

  3. Environment.
    Jeff Ira likes to say he doesn't care what 125 other bay area politicians think, and I'm sure he doesn't care what environmental nazis think either. The trouble with that approach is that others aren't always 100% wrong. What if the ecology of the bay, which does affect all of us who live here (even registered Republicans), really will be damaged by this development? What if 50-100 years from now, people marvel at how stupid we were for allowing this idiotic development to wreak its damage to our bay? (The same argument applies to the water and traffic issues too.)

But back to the conflict of interest. Suppose I were the interim CEO of a railroad (work with me here, please) and also on the city council. Suppose that my company's board (not me personally) wanted the city to approve a zoning change to allow the company to build more tracks, run more trains, carry different materials on the right-of-way, etc., and in spite of opposition from citizen and environmental groups and 125 Bay Area politicians I voted to move the process forward... I don't get how that would not be a conflict of interest.

What am I missing here?

Biking up Old La Honda Road

We biked out the garage this morning, the ex-teenager and I, not sure how much of a ride we'd have. She went hiking yesterday and was quite sore, so we said, well, we'll see how far we get. We rode past our church buildings and southwest on Santa Cruz Avenue, and she said she was game to start up Old La Honda Road and see how far we got.

I told her that if we took it easy and stayed in low gear, we could make it all the way to the top, and the short version is: that's what we did. You can see our route here; click on "Show elevation" to see how hard we worked to get up there. Click "Show notes" to see the meaning of "A" and "B" near the top of the hill.

It was a good workout! A couple of times we stopped and I wiped the sweat out of my eyes. At the top, I took a picture of us with my phone, but forgot to click "Save" before closing it, so I guess we'll have to do the ride again some time.

Afterward, we headed down the hill and stopped for a sandwich at the supermarket ("Bianchini's Market" I think?) -- turkey, pepper jack, avocado, purple onion, jalapeño -- $8.49 (feeds two) plus a buck for "honest tea". Everything was delicious.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fred Rogers revisited

The kids and I were just discussing this xkcd post, when the ex-teen said: If he weren't the real thing, how could he come up with that show?

A great point. Who but the real Fred Rogers could have come up with Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood? Here are 15 reasons Mr. Rogers was best... (from

It's like who but God could have come up with the Bible?

A religious whack job?

A friend from junior high school found my blog recently, and was rather dismayed to find so much God stuff on it. I was so "scientific" (his word) back in those days, he was shocked at what's happened to me. I have a narrative account of my experience meeting Jesus, written when we lived in Japan; a somewhat philosophically-oriented addendum follows.

You may remember the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where a guardian challenges all comers with three questions:

  1. What is your name?
  2. What is your quest?
  3. What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow?
Provided that we know what kind of swallow we're talking about (European or African?), science can answer question [C]. But for [A] (identity: who am I, really?) or [B] (mission: what am I to do with my life?) it's of no help at all. In other words, math and science -- which I still like a lot -- can make for a more comfortable or convenient life, or a safer life; but science can't answer anything in life that really matters:
  1. What is the good life?
  2. Who is a good person, and how can I become one?
  3. Does she love me?
  4. Have I done well?
  5. Will my kids turn out all right?
  6. What should I give my life to?
Questions like this -- philosophical/spiritual/religious questions -- require, well, philosophy, spirituality, or religion! Psychology and literature might help a little, but they provide no ultimate, definitive answers, and again science (physics, chemistry, biology, math) isn't useful at all.

Please note that none of this means I've discarded any reasoning ability I may have had. I don't take phenomenological language ("The sun rises in the east...") literally just because it's in the Bible; I don't take parabolic ("A man had two sons") or polemical ("and there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day") discourse as historical; and I certainly don't take wisdom literature ("Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it" - Proverbs 22:6) as providing any absolute guarantee or as confuting social science (as you can see from my postings mentioning The Nurture Assumption).

A few words about technology

Though I like technology, it doesn't grant control over anything that really matters. Indeed, nothing that really matters is in our control. I can choose something from a restaurant menu, but really, that's about it; I can't control the choices my loved ones make, I can't control my health or career -- heck, I can barely control myself! How many times have I done the same stupid things I did 20 or 30 years ago?

And I certainly can't control any of the ultimate issues mentioned above, with or without technology. Technology won't make me a good person or give me a meaningful life; it can't make love last.

So that's what happened to me: questions of identity and mission, purpose and goals, security and significance. Those questions happened to me and I needed something beyond math and science. And certainly by the time of the 阪神大震災 (the great Kobe earthquake of 1995) it hit me that nothing that ultimately matters is within my control.

I still like science and technology, but life requires more than that. And if that makes me a religious whack job, well, so be it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

He's 25, she's 15, and they're dating. What's wrong with that?

So if your daughter asked that question, what would you say?

The answer to me isn't obvious -- and by that I mean that there's so much wrong with the situation that it's hard to know where to begin.


OK, let's start with the imbalance of power. A 15-year-old can't sign a check, can't have a bank account, can't get a job. Good grief, you can't even get a driver license in California at 15!

Then there's the imablance in life experience. A 25-year-old guy has lived nearly twice as long as the 15-year-old. The guy could have been in the Army or the Marines for seven years already (or three years into his Ph.D studies), and she's still in high school! What do they have in common? How can they have anything like a normal dating relationship?

We once went to a seminar titled "When an Adolescent Invades Your Home," and the instructor pointed out that the lights aren't really on for a significant part of the time until they get to be ten or twelve years old. So let's say it's 10. The 15 year old has had 5 years of life with the lights on, but the 25-year-old has had 15 -- that's a 3:1 ratio.

Suppose the guy was 40 and the girl was 15 -- i.e., he's old enough to be her father. What would your objections be to such a "dating" relationship? The total imbalance in life experience, power, perspective, etc., right? What's different if he's 25?

I also would have to wonder what a 25-year-old man wants from a dating relationship with 15-year-old girl (besides the obvious I mean). And what kind of 35-year-old he'll be. Will he still be interested in the same topics as teenaged girls? I mean, is his social, psychological, spiritual, intellectual growth simply delayed, or has it come to a halt?

Now I recognize that I'm speaking from a particular cultural perspective, and that Mary the mother of Jesus was likely a teen-ager whereas Joseph her husband was likely much older. But in those days high school hadn't been invented, women didn't go to college, etc. Come to think of it, I don't think dating had been invented. And in those days the "He's 25, she's 15" was just fine. So at the risk of coming off like a western chauvanist, I'll say that if you want your 15-year-old daughter to live in a world like that, it's not incongruous to say it's fine for her to date a 25-year-old man.

But I want each of my daughters to have the opportunity to pursue her academic career, find and develop her vocation, and have a husband that will be a good match for her. Being in high school and having a 25-year-old boyfriend is not in line with that trajectory and is frankly rather creepy.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Encounter with "Jane Doe"

We were having a good trip until our run-in with "Jane Doe": camped three nights at Stony (or Stoney) Creek in Sequoia, then a couple of nights in a lodge in Oakhurst (about 16 miles from Yosemite's south entrance). A few highlights:
  • Hiking to Big Baldy, which I'd say is just as impressive as The Watchtower, but with a lot less work;
  • A drive into Kings Canyon -- only the lovely Carol had been there before -- which is like Yosemite, but without the crowds, fancy food, swimming pools, bike rentals, shuttle buses, etc.
  • The hike to Wawona Point, 1200' elevation gain from the Mariposa Grove parking lot and a beautiful, beautiful view. We also saw a marmot (unusual for this altitude) in the fallen tunnel tree.

The teen-ager had work on Monday, and the lovely Carol went home too, so just three of us went to Oakhurst: the ex-teenager, her boyfriend, and me. We went to a barbecue place on Father's Day, and on Monday night we went to "Kyoto Kafe", which also has a sign in front saying «우동» The food was great. The proprietor told me that «우동» is the Korean way to write "Kyoto".

The next morning, that fateful Tuesday, we got a fairly early start; there was almost no line at the south entrance to the park. We took the shortest route toward Tuolumne Meadows, and as we drove eastward on route 120 a little after 10AM, "Jane" came out of the woods from our left. She headed toward the car and seemed to run alongside for a moment. Then she drove her right shoulder into my left front fender. The driver's side-view mirror apparently hit her in the back of the neck (as I found out afterward). She gave the driver's window a whack with the side of her head, shattering it.

Then she ran left, across the road where she'd come from.

We pulled over and took a few photos of the car.

Further down the road, we came to a store which hadn't opened yet. They had some shrink-wrap for us, though, and we more or less wrapped the top half of the door. Then we drove on to the ranger station.

"One of your deer drove her shoulder into my fender and shattered my driver's window," I complained. The ranger made sympathetic noises and took down some information, in case my insurance...

Fortunately, no other deer attacked the car on this trip, though we saw one lurking behind a bend as we descended Priest Grade.

This car is 14 years old, and I have a $1000 deductible. I didn't want to pay $1000, so Wednesday morning I called the dealer about replacement glass for the window: $225 plus tax (overnight delivery). The lovely Carol picked it up for me Thursday. After I bolted it to the regulator, I found I couldn't close the window all the way.

It turns out that when in whacking my mirror, the doe also tweaked the channel that the window-glass glides in. A hammer and a wide-bladed screwdriver fixed that.

I'll never look at deer the same way again.