Friday, March 08, 2002

Affordable Housing
One of the things I dislike about the San Francisco area is the cost of living. It is insane. I've loudly complained that this is a poor place to want to raise a family because housing is so expensive. Now I have evidence:

The percentage of Californians who can afford to buy a median-priced home slipped to 32% in January, down from 35% in the same period a year ago, according to the California Assn. of Realtors....At 16%, Santa Clara was the least affordable county in the state, followed by San Francisco at 17%.

When the realtors, the folks who want you to buy something, say it is bad- it is bad. And naturally I'm living in Santa Clara county. The worst of the worst.

Thursday, March 07, 2002

AT&T Modems
If any of you out there in TV Land have AT&T Broadband cable modems don't misplace yours. It will cost you $650.
DSL Is Back
But I've got some real work to do so posting will continue to be infrequent.

Wednesday, March 06, 2002

No DSL
Mystically at 10:30pm my DSL went out. Spent 1/2 hour with Pacbell troubleshooting to no avail. So probably few to no posting ahead as I work on dialup until this gets fixed.

Not knocking Pacbell (yet). Have had excellent service and reliability with them since 1998.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

More Airport Security
Man, I could have a blog just on this topic. From the LA Times:

Just four days earlier, the discovery of an unplugged metal detector shut down half of LAX and delayed 400 flights and at least 10,000 travelers for nearly four hours. Another unplugged detector forced a smaller shutdown at Chicago's O'Hare International the same day. "This is an embarrassing kind of thing," Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said at a news conference Monday.

He said technicians are scrambling to find a way to secure the electrical plugs. And he pledged to find ways to limit massive evacuations over minor breaches, which critics have warned could create unforeseen safety and security problems.


Huh? Dude, I've got two works for you: Duct Tape. The handy man's secret weapon

Anyways, aren't there some lights or something on the metal detectors to show when they aren't working? How about some UPS systems? The one I had to get because the state of California could figure out how to get enough power beeps like crazy when it is unplugged. I've got another one in a box. Norm can have it if he asks nicely.
F35 Trashes Eurofighter
Analysis from Strategy Page on the meaning of the Dutch vote for the F35 JSF:

The Dutch decision to participate in the development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is not only tantamount to a decision to buy that aircraft, but a major and perhaps fatal blow to export efforts by Eurofighter for its Typhoon and the French for their Rafale. The Europeans had hoped to kick the US out of the European fighter market, recapturing the four nations (Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Belgium) that bought the American F-16. The Dutch decision (and Norway's decision to reopen the competition that had been narrowed to the two European designs) indicates that this attempt will largely fail. The F-35 is a generation beyond Typhoon or Rafale and will cost less (since it will be built in larger numbers)

Hidden in there is another reason the Europeans find it hard to field a strong military. Their weapons cost more because they buy fewer of them.

Monday, March 04, 2002

Airport Screeners
Yahoo News reports:

The federal screeners will be paid between $23,600 and $40,700 and receive 40 hours of classroom training and 60 hours of on-the-job training. Both the salaries and the training requirements are higher than current levels, part of the government's attempt to overhaul the low-paid, high-turnover positions.

I sure hope that salary is adjusted for cost of living. By which I mean it is more expensive to live some places (like San Francisco) than others. If the started wage to hire screeners at SFO is going to be $23,600 security is screwed. I suspect no one has thought of that because of statements like this:

Magaw [John Magaw, undersecretary for transportation security] said he has not decided whether the federal screeners will be allowed to unionize. He said they will have limited whistle-blower protection if they come forward with complaints.

Two problems with this. One, it says he decides. I'm I the only one who thinks that this type of issue should be a decision made by more than just one guy? Second, I'd say these folks need lots of whistle-blower protection. I want them coming forward to rat on those who are taking "tips" to allow drugs or weapons through security.

Makes me wonder how much thinking is going in our new federalized security department.
Enron Humor
The Enron voicemail is now online. No longer requires a phone call.
Airline Security
Interesting thread on a frequent flier board that started out discussing American Airlines policy about bathroom use and turned into a talk about airline security in the air (scroll down to the 3/4/02 post from CART_Flagman):

Additionally, and totally off the subject, the fligth crew (on the MCO-LAX flight)completely ignored inforcing the Pilot's request to the passengers to stay in their seats unless it was "imparitive" that they get up. Passengers milled about the plane like it was the good 'ol days. For 20 minutes, one person, not an American National, stood at coach bulk-head.. all 6 foot and 200 pounds of him. When his buddy stood up next to him, I thought it was all over... seriously!
At one point, their were four flight attendants in the back of the plane (one was from FC) and they were all surronded by passengers just shooting the breeze. All this while the "fasten seat-belt" lights were on. One FA remained in FC. This really, really pissed me off because it was a Miami and BOSTON based flight crew. Don't they get it? After the flight, I squeeled to the Pilot who listened to my whole story (which included me asking a flight attendant why passengers were allowed to roam the plane after the Pilolt said for everyone to keep their seat unless it was inparetive.. the response was "oh, sometimes the Pilot just forgets to turn off the "seat-belt" light. How lame is that? the light had nothing to do with it!), and the he told me to write a letter to AA and complain because they can't always tell what is going on in the cabin, and that wasn't right.

The reason I wrote all this is because AA is just not being consistant with the new security rules..... excuse me, what rules? It seems that every flight I'm on these days has a different "slant" to it.

On well, what was it that the "experts" were saying a while back?...... in 6 months people will just start to forget what happend on 9/11. Well, I for one never will.


My post 9/11 flying has been extremely limited but I don't remember anyone ignoring the seat belt signs when I flew in early January. I expect this situation puts the flight attendents in a difficult position since they don't like reading people the riot act. But since the seat belt sign is both a safety issue and a security issue you'd think an airline that lost two planes on 9/11 would be pushing hard to get passenger butts in seats when that sign comes on.

Sunday, March 03, 2002

Political Spam
Those of you in California might already know this, but one of the Republican candidates for governor here is spamming the voters:

A supposedly Internet-savvy Republican candidate for governor of California, one of the few states with an anti-spam law, isn't campaigning against unsolicited e-mail -- he's sending it.

Bill Jones' campaign sent out thousands of unsolicited e-mails this week, urging California voters to vote for Jones next Tuesday. According to posts in newsgroups and discussion lists, Jones has spammed twice before, once in December and once in January.


Actually, I think I might like this. It is easier to screen email for spam than it is to avoid TV commercials or junk mail.
Taxing Soda
A state senator here in California has proposed a bill to tax soda pop:

Soda-pop addicts could be taxed an additional 9 cents for every 2-liter bottle of the sugary stuff they guzzle under legislation aimed at curbing obesity in children.

The bill's author, state Sen. Debra Ortiz, D-Sacramento, said her bill is an extension of a law enacted this year that limits the amount of junk food available on elementary and middle school campuses.

"We have to raise the issue of a growing epidemic with childhood obesity," Ortiz said.

Children are developing heart disease and osteoporosis at an earlier age because soda has replaced milk as the beverage of choice, studies indicate. "It's a huge problem for our health-care system and will cost us in the long term,'' Ortiz said.


Excuse me? Because some parents are feeding their kids too much Coke I have to pay more? If being fat is a crime, then why not go to the source and tax fat people directly? If you are overweight, pay a tax. After all, your extra poundage is making the health care system cost more for me. Better yet, since I'm a thin guy, lets have a fat credit system like they have for some types of pollution. I'd be able to sell my extra fat credits to someone and make some money.

Realistically, this is the public health industries money grab. They got a ton with big tobacco, so now lets go after big sugar. Didn't I see this on the Simpsons?

So who is driving this campaign? The Center for Science in the Public Interest. And who is the CSPI? Their site declares:

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is a nonprofit education and advocacy organization that focuses on improving the safety and nutritional quality of our food supply and on reducing the carnage caused by alcoholic beverages. CSPI seeks to promote health through educating the public about nutrition and alcohol; it represents citizens’ interests before legislative, regulatory, and judicial bodies; and it works to ensure advances in science are used for the public good.

Of course the wonderful thing about the internet is that just below the Google entry for the CSPI was the entry for CSPINot.com, a site full of information about past and present CSPI efforts:

The Center for Science in the Public Interest and its founder, Michael F. Jacobson, are not as nice, sweet and unbiased as the Center's name might imply. The group routinely uses scare tactics justified by "junk science" and media theatrics as part of their ceaseless campaign for government regulation of our personal food choices. Jacobson once said, "CSPI is proud of finding something wrong with practically everything." As you can see from this site... they have.

You can judge for yourself who is more open and honest. CSPINot has this catchy disclaimer:

CSPINOT is a site created by the Center for Consumer Freedom, a coalition of more than 30,000 restaurant and tavern operators working together to protect the public's right to a full menu of dining and entertainment choices. Are we biased? You bet. The Center for Science in the Public Interest and its founder, Michael F. Jacobson, have been attacking our industry for more than two decades. We resent the junk science they use to make the attacks and the media condemnation that accompanies them.

To me that explains their biases much better than the statement of intent on the CSPI page. And it seems that the CSPI benefits directly from attacking food. Beyond the fact that they might see some of the tax money from soda they raise most of their funds from their newsletter:

Last year, CSPI earned $12 million, 75 percent of its total revenue, by publishing an 800,000-circulation newsletter, Nutrition Action Healthletter. Henry Miller, founding director of the FDA's Office of Biotechnology, says CSPI throws science by the wayside when it makes its flamboyant accusations. Without food scares CSPI couldn't raise funds. "Keeping up that circulation requires a lot of hype. One way to generate that hype is to stigmatize popular products," says Miller. Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), concurs: "If there aren't any food scares, then why bother to read CSPI's newsletter?"

This page does a good job of looking into the scientific validity of the arguments in favor of taxing soda. Needless to say there are a few holes in the claims being made from the studies.

But even if the science has some validity, I would still be against taxing soda. It is not the place of the government to dictate food choices. If they want to tell me what healthy food is, fine, but that is my choice to make. Just because the government decided it had to control health care should allow it to mission creep its way into telling me how and what to eat, what activities to participate in (more broken legs if I roller skate- more health costs!), and whether to get mad at politicians (increases my blood pressure).