Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Silicon Valley Cars 2 - Books 0

Two newspaper tidbits today show the priority Santa Clara County puts on cars over books.

The first from Stanford: (
Stanford is forced to move many books off campus because the county general use plan limits the University's ability to add new space. Stanford happens to have one of the largest university campuses in the world. Even the core 'academic' area is fairly spread out. (Cyclists almost always outnumber pedestrians.) It feels more like rural southern state college (Clemson) than an urban university (Harvard).
A long time ago, the university was once the site of Leland Stanford's ranch, and Santa Clara county was primarily rural. However, today Palo Alto is in the heart of the densely populated Silicon Valley.
Stanford is one of the world's premier universities, yet Santa Clara county just wants to keep it out of the way. The Stanford "General Use Plan" limits campus development and attempts to 'buffer' the university from the rest of the county. The Palo Alto transit center is one of the busiest in the county, and lies immediately adjacent to the Stanford campus. The general use plan 'logically' prohibits development in the section of campus adjacent to the transit center. It does allow for more cars on campus - but requires the university to chose between books or staff. (Hmm.. Perhaps if they just parked the books in trucks...)

The next ditty came in a letter in the Sunnyvale Sun ( [link will only be valid for a week] there is a letter advocating a bond issue to build a new library structure, which objects to expanding the existing library because it would "seriously decrease parking (a very big no-no!)." It seems the chair of the "yes on b" has not studied many of the other big libraries in the county, which all seem to have greatly reduced parking:
King library (san jose) - No Parking
Cupertino Library - Parking Lot behind the library
San Jose branch libraries - very limited parking
One thing they all have in common is that the libraries are very accessible to pedestrians. People don't have to park.
The Cupertino library is often used as an example of why Sunnyvale needs a new library. Unfortunately, many of the aspects that help make it a success are overlooked:
1) Integrated with pedestrian friendly community (condos and small shop across quiet brick street.)
2) Open pedestrian spaces and play areas
3) A large park adjacent to the library
Alas, none of these seem present in the proposed new Sunnyvale library. But, odds are high that there will be a giant parking lot. And it will be needed because there wont be a whole lot of people within a short walk from the library.
But again, it seems that space for cars is what is most important in Silicon Valley.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What Can You Say about Race?

James Watson got in big trouble saying that Africa may be incapable of governing themselves due to lack of intelligence. Perhaps the co-discoverer of DNA was a little blunt and un-PC in his pronouncement. However, that does not mean there is no validity to his genetic explanation.

If we assume he was referring to western-style government in Africa, it would be very plausible that Europeans had optimized their governing scheme to take advantaged of their genetic features. These strengths (and weaknesses) may not be the same as those of the African population, thus the government may not be suited for them.

From this, we can add the debacle of colonization and state boundaries that were drawn specifically for European convenience.

If Intelligence is being measured by Europeans, then you would expect it to favor Europeans. After all, wasn't it defined by Europeans? It would be a statement of inferiority for a group to describe their intelligence as less than other groups. It reminds me of some of the New Guinea tribesmen that have a totally different vocabulary for 'poisonous mushrooms' and 'edible mushrooms'. To them it seems illogical that somebody would confuse them. This is critical intelligence, for them, while it probably would not have made a whole lot of difference for may others.

It is a pity that Watson's comments sparked such a negative reaction. Instead they could be seen as a source for improvement. Maybe the African governance system needs to take advantage of the strengths of the people there rather than the strengths of people in the industrialized north. This may actually make things much more difficult for westerners to deal with. (At least a corrupt western system is recognizable.)

It would be nice to acknowledge that there are genetic differences among people and races. Many people could never win a marathon even with a great deal of training. Similarly, there are people that could never become of a genius. Instead of denying this, why not let people focus on their strengths, rather than get discouraged by their weaknesses?