Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New Web Site

After Geocities shut down, I decided it was time to opt for "real" hosting. Free hosting is "free", but severely handicapped. After some research, I decided on Host Monster. The new website is at Currently there is not much there. However, I hope to get the site up to good condition fairly soon.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Who should play in the BCS championship?

There are five undefeated teams, one one-loss team, and six two loss teams. Florida, the lone one-loss team, has only one 'impressive' victory - over 3 loss LSU, but was blown out by Alabama in the SEC championship game. With this many undefeated teams, it would also be difficult to justify calling a two-loss team a 'champion', so limiting the choice to the undefeated teams seems the logical choice.

One simple way of determining the best teams is to look at who they beat. In this7 way, I've grouped the opponents in to "great teams" (10+ wins), good teams (8+ wins) and winning teams (any teams with a winning record.) I rank the teams by the number of wins in each, giving 5 points for first, 4 for second and so forth. Then the teams with the best counts are the most deserving of the championship. If there is a tie, close games (wins by less than a touchdown) and IAA games are excluded.

By this criteria, Alabama comes out clearly on top. They have a victory over the lone one-loss team. They also have the most victories over winning teams. Somewhat surprisingly, Boise State comes in second. They have a respectable number of victories over winning teams, with no close calls. They also own the victory over the current top-ranked two-loss team (Oregon).

While simplistic (by for example, not including opponents strength of schedule) , this analysis does show Alabama as clearly deserving a spot in the championship game. The second spot, however, could fairly easily belong to any of the other undefeated teams, with Boise State actually appearing the most deserving.

10+ win teams:
1. Alabama: 1
1. Boise: 1
1. TCU: 1
0. Texas: 0
0. Cincinnati: 0

8+ win teams:
1. Texas: 5 (4)
2. Cincinnati 5 (3)
3. Alabama: 4
4. Boise: 3
5. TCU: 3 (2)

Winning teams:
1. Alabama: 10(7)
2. Cincinnati 7(4)
3. Boise: 6(5)
4. Texas: 6(4)
5. TCU: 6(3)

Alabama: 13
Boise: 10
Cincinnati: 8
TCU: 7
Texas: 7






* - close game (win by less than one touchdown)
x - IAA team

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The PAC-10 gets no respect

The Pac-10 gets no respect. The Pac-10 has three teams in the current top 25 BCS standings. The Pac-10 has the top two loss and only four loss team in the standings. Interestingly, all the teams other than Oregon have a computer ranking lower than their 'human ranking'. In other words, they are simply not respected:

Top 2 loss team: Oregon #7 - computer ranking: #7
Top 4 loss team: Stanford #24 - computer ranking: #22
Third, 5th and 6th 3 loss teams: #16 Oregon State - computer ranking: #15
#18 USC - computer ranking: #12
#19 California - computer ranking #17

Why would the human rankings be so much lower? Well, the computer rankings can only take in to account wins and losses, not margin of victory or any other factors. So, logic would seem to say that these teams have eaked out sloppy victories, while getting blown out in the losses. However, it appears the opposite is true.

We can look at Stanford. With Stanford, the only game that was not 'winable' within the final minutes was the Oregon State game - and that was only a 10 point loss. The closest win was the 7 point win over Notre Dame. All the other wins were well out of the opponents reach in the final minutes. (The Notre Dame game, however, is actually a good sign, in that it shows Stanford has finally been able to win the close game.) Against teams that were ranked at the time they played Stanford, the Cardinal is 3-0, with an average margin of victory of 21 points.

Sat, Sep 5 at Washington State W 39-13 -- +26
Sat, Sep 12 at Wake Forest L 17-24 -- -7
Sat, Sep 19 San Jose State W 42-17 -- +25
Sat, Sep 26 (24) Washington W 34-14 -- +20
Sat, Oct 3 UCLA W 24-16 -- +8
Sat, Oct 10 at Oregon State L 28-38 -- -10
Sat, Oct 17 at Arizona L 38-43 -- -5
Sat, Oct 24 Arizona State W 33-14 -- +19
Sat, Nov 7 (7) Oregon W 51-42 -- +9
Sat, Nov 14 at (11) USC W 55-21 -- +34
Sat, Nov 21 California L 28-34 -- -6
Sat, Nov 28 Notre Dame W 45-38 +7

For the rest of the Pac-10 teams, they have also played significant numbers of teams that were ranked at the time they played. USC has played five teams, Oregon 4, and the others 3.

Oregon State vs rated: 1-2: -10,-6, +17; avg: 0
USC vs rated: 3-2: +3,+27,+7,-27,-34; avg: -5
Oregon vs rated: 2-2: -11,+7,+39,+27; avg: +15
Cal vs. rated: 2-1: -27,+8,+6; avg: -4

It's interesting to compare that to the 4 undefeated teams. Three of the four have only played one other ranked team. The two Texas schools have played two ranked teams. Alabama is the only school that has played a ranked team total similar to a 'average' ranked pac-10 team.

Florida: 1-0, +10
Alabama: 4-0: +10,+19,+14,+9; avg: +13
Texas: 2-0: +3,+27; avg: +15
TCU: 2-0: +31, +27; avg: +29
Cincinnati: 1-0: +17
Boise State: 1-0: +11

Interestingly, for the 3-loss teams ranked higher than pac-10 teams, the number of ranked teams looks similar to pac-10 schedules.

Virginia Tech vs rated 2-2 : -10, +1, +24, -5, avg: +2.5
LSU vs. rated: 1-2: +7,-10,-9, avg: -4

It seems to say that the key to go undefeated is to play a cupcake schedule like Florida.
The pac-10 also has an extra "punishment" in that they play an extra conference game. Thus there are guaranteed to be an extra five loses floating around the conference. The teams are also required to play these teams with the extra loses. This would seem to hurt the computer rankings. Other conferences can pad their schedule, thus improving their records. Florida has the likes of FIU, Troy and Charleston Southern (all home games) to help. The only possible challenges are there conference games and their Florida State rivalry game. Stanford flew a few thousand miles away to play Wake Forest. They also had a home game against Notre Dame. The only 'easy' game was a regular crosstown game against San Jose State. SJSU was also USC's lone 'easy game'. The other nonconference games were the Notre Dame rivalry game and Ohio State.
Oregon's 'easy' game was against Purdue - a Big-10 team that beat Ohio State. The other nonconference games were against Boise State and Utah, two teams that went undefeated during the previous regular season. So much for a cupcake.
Cal and Oregon State are the only teams with bona-fide IAA cupcakes in Eastern Washington and Portland State. Cal's other games were against Minnesota and Maryland, while Oregon State had UNLV and Cincy. (Cincinnati is obviously a power team this season. Minnesota is bowl bound, UNLV and Maryland are weaker, but UNLV did get 5 wins and Maryland did manage to beat an ACC division champ.)
So if anything, the human voters should give extra consideration for cross-country flights, 'style-point wins' and a more brutal scheduling. But, instead they seem to penalize Pac-10 teams for being on the west coast. The same could go down to conferences. Only 1 of 3 western conferences are 'BCS', while 5 of 8 eastern conferences are in the 'BCS club.'

Balloon Dance

We've recently been in a "99 luftballons" fix. The kids are constantly begging for "balloon dance." The song song lends itself to some great craziness. The ethereal intro and outro provide a nice calm "floating away". The funky instrumental sections let you "get down" in "little craziness", while the high energy vocal portions induce utter craziness. Altogether, it makes for a nice way to get out energy with the kids. And for some reason, we've lucked out without any energy.

The German version is still my favorite, but I've also begun to appreciate Nena's English version. The Goldfinger and 7 Seconds versions do well on the "energy" side of things but lack the power of contrast as the original. Nena's new version with French is interesting. I can actually understand some of the lyrics. 99 in French can be quite wordy. The contrast of the harshness of the German language with the 'gentleness' of the singer's vocals only adds to the original's strength, though the German accent of the English version has some nice nuances.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Flexbuilder color HTML document generation with View Source

The Tour de Flex submission instructions mention that a color HTML source document can be easily generated from the view source feature of Flexbuilder. That sounded like a cool feature, so I hunted in the Source menu and couldn't find anything that looked like it would generate a color HTML source. I tried right clicking, going to various menus all to no avail.
Finally after some googling, I uncovered a blog with instructions on how to do it. The source files are actually generated by clicking the "Enable view source" checkbox on the File-Export-Release Build menu. This will enable the source files to be produced. The warning message mentions that do to IE security the files will probably not work properly when accessed via localhost. I never tried IE, but did have trouble with the view source from Firefox. However, when I ran them from a server, all worked well.

From the localhost, I was able to view the color HTML source files directly by going directly to the files. On my installations, they are in ~/Documents/Flex Builder 3/project name/bin-release/srcview/src.

Getting Started in Flex

I recently begun an adventure of converting a javascript application to Adobe Flex. Why Flex? Mainly because a number of new features (and scaling issues) make a full rewrite a given. Graphing in javascript currently has some performance/compatibility issues (cough. IE. cough.) And of course, there are the general javascript/browser issues. Will using flash make things better?

I started by getting flexbuilder. They have a 60 day free trial available. If you are a student, work at a school, or are unemployed, you can also get a free license. I simply faxed in a copy of my Stanford ID, and had a registration code within a day or two.

Other useful bits include the Tour de Flex samples library as well as the instructions for installing the Flex Source Code Formatter (I suppose some people may find it intuitive to download the files and then look in help for a way to install... But for me, following the instructions seemed the better deal.) Tour de flex can also be added to the plugins, using the url:

in the Help-Find and Install Updates-New External sites area of flexbuilder. From here, I was able to do File-New Flex Project and simply copy some of the simple .mxml example from Tour De Flex into the "Source" view and successfully run them by using Run-Debug Sample project (or the icon.) For Eclipse users this should all be second nature. For people like me, who consider vi to be their preferred IDE, there was a short learning curve.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monterey trip

I did the bicycle trip to Monterey for the genetics retreat this year. I thought I had planned well, but then I got off to a late start. After a couple miles out, I realized that the two water bottles I put in the freezer "for a few minutes" were still in the freezer. At least I had the one emergency water bottle in the back. I guess that would have to do. Luckily the weather was just about perfect. Not cool enough to justify a jacket, nor hot enough to cause a lot of sweat.

The trip to Los Gatos was uneventful enough. Again, this year, I followed the signs to the Los Gatos Creek trail instead of taking the quick entrance on Santa Cruz. D'oh! Eventually I went through some alleyway over a few bridges, and finally on to the trail. The trail was one of the least fun parts. The crushed limestone gravel just slows things down, and I was unable to get traction to climb up some of the steep hills, thus I had to wheel my bike up. From there it was up around the reservoir on Alma Bridge (stopping at one little park with an outhouse), Old Santa Cruz and Summit, and then down San Jose Soquel. The climb is extremely nice - mostly shaded, not so steep that you need the lowest gear, but steep enough so you are not climbing forever. The pavement is also in great condition. The decent is also great. Smooth pavement, and just about the perfect mix of grade and turns to allow fast speed without much breaking. (The only downside was some tree work at the end of a downhill. The flagger even apologized for destroying my momentum.) There is a nice park near the bottom of the hill with water and a bathroom.

Then on to Soquel Road for a long haul. I saw a hole-in-the-wall donut shop somewhat near the community college, so I stopped in for an Apple Fritter. Yum. They didn't have much a of a selection, but the fritter was good.

Around Rio Del Mar, Soquel makes a curve, and I always seem to get confused. This time, I found myself on Huntington, and decided to continue on it. It has hardly any traffic, but some nice little hills. From there, it was a hop down Valencia to Freedom. I continued on Freedom to Watsonville. The first section of Freedom was mostly farmland (lots of apple orchards. (I recall passing a "martinelli" street.) Then it turns industrial, and the pavement becomes absolutely horrid. Eventually, I ended up in downtown Watsonville (and passed by a park with a water fountain) A couple metro buses follow this route, so it could provide an alternative.

From Watsonville, I went over the bridge to Pajaro, and then continued on Salinas and eventually to Elkhorne. This road has very little traffic, with some shaded sections and hills. It makes for a much more pleasant ride than Highway 1.

Then I got to Castroville. Or almost to Castroville. At 156, a sign said the right turn was towards 1 north. I thought that left must then lead to one south. Even the long wait for the left turn signal was not enough to convince me otherwise. After going for a little while, I had a hunch I was going in the wrong direction, but with it being around noon, I had a hard time judging by the sun (and my GPS was gone...) After a little while I was convinced it would be good to make the next right turn. Only problem, is there wasn't a right turn for 4 miles! Finally, I reached a right turn to 101 at Prunedale. I remember this place from the MST 55 bus, so I figured it was not the direction I wanted to go, but I could quickly take the first right to get back towards Castroville.

101 had a nice wide shoulder, and a couple traffic lanes, making it a somewhat more pleasant than 156. Part way down 101, a highway patrolman stopped me, and advised me not to ride on 101. I asked him if it was ok to ride there, and he said it was legal, but there were lots of large trucks and unlicensed drivers and it was dangerous. (Hmm, wouldn't the unlicensed drivers be on other roads, too? And there are plenty of large trucks moving at fast speeds on other roads - most with narrower shoulders.) However, I was clearly headed in the wrong direction, and wanted to get on to Monterey, so I asked him for the fastest way there. He pointed in the route that I was considering, back to Castroville. D'oh! (And his recomendations included a narrow road and then a high volume, high speed road with lots of trucks... Sigh)

So it was back down Blackie road to Castroville. Blackie has a little bit of shading. Which made it better than the heavily exposed other roads I was traveling...

Finally I end up on 183, and notice I'm heading towards Salinas... Again! D'oh! I see a turn off (Cooper) that seems vaguely familiar, and follow it down to Blanco. I remember that one from a previous trip back from Monterey. From there its on to Reservation and then Imjin. Then through CSU Monterey Bay and under Highway 1 to the bike path. I actually took a different underpass that took me to the 'empty' road on the beach side of the bike path. Its a little more pleasant, being a greater distance from the freeway.

I eventually made it there, 2 hours late and very sunburnt. D'oh! The 75 mile trip ended up being about 100 miles.

There was a professor (Stuart Kim) and one of his students that had also biked in. They went through Gilroy and over 152. When I went to my room, there was a do not disturb thing in the door. When I game back with my bike, one of the bikers appeared there. It turned out my roommate was in their same lab, and was letting them borrow the room to shower because her room was not ready yet. I finally had a nice shower and realized I was a little fried. The bathtub was also a slow drainer. D'oh. This room was not on the beach side, so I didn't have all the load beach waves at night... Instead there was highway noise.

The next day, I had visions of going down to Big Sur. However, it was a little further than I had anticipated, and I was a little slower than I hoped. I also got a little twisted up on the way to Carmel. Going down Highway 1 in to Carmel, I decided I would not repeat that route on the way back. (I had done that last year. It did not look like a fun hill to climb, especially with rush hour traffic.)

Highway 1 south of Carmel was uninspiring. The heavy traffic made it loud, and the mixture of wind and hills made for a challenging bike ride. Perhaps the greatest challenge was the fact that it was an 'out and back' route. There was no other road to turn on to make a loop back. I would just be going on the same road that I took there. And the scenery was just cliffs, hills and beaches. It started to get old.

So, around mile marking 62 (Rocky Point restaurant), I turned around to head back. There I realized that the bits were I seemed to be making good speed were really due to a tailwind. D'oh! That left me with a nice headwind going back.

Near the turnaround, there were a group of beachfront estates - it looked like everyone was for sale - for about $6 million dollars. The multimillion dollar homes in Carmel Highlands looked a little more appealing, but I think I would pass on the beach view... Just a little too loud for my tastes.

On the way back, I went by Carmel's beach, through Pebble Beach, and around the end of the '1X' bus route only the coast and eventually to the bike path. With all the detours, the total trip was somewhere in the 40-50 mile range.

For the trip home, I decided to try to be as direct as possible. But things can sometimes get in the way. I took the Bike Path, then continued on to Del Monte. Near Marina, I really had to go to the bathroom, I jumped over the railroad tracks to Marina Library. Then I got twisted up, going out to the Reservation beach before eventually finding my way back to Del Monte/Monte. Then it was on to Castroville via a road and bike path that connects Nashua to Merrit. I tried to hunt again for a public facility, but I just seemed to see industrial areas. Castroville also seemed rather small for the population figure given. Finally I crossed the highway and found the "artichoke capitol" (75% of the US artichokes come from here according to wikipedia). I eventually found the Castroville library - had to ask for a restroom key ("due to vandalism").

From there I continued on Merrit Street, which eventually came to 1. This section of Highway 1 is not horrid, but not fun. It is loud with a lot of traffic, and it goes close to the coast, making for lots of wind.
Shortly before reaching Jensen, I noticed a lull in traffic, and thought I might try to make a left turn to go through the strawberry fields. However, when I got closer, there was a steady stream of traffic, so I decided to continue onward. Then the road became a freeway, with a bikes must exit sign. (I never understand why they make bikes exit when it becomes a freeway - this seems to make it safer for bikes. The traffic splits in to two lanes and the shoulder gets wider. And exits are to the right rather than forcing left turns. Oh well.)

I noticed some "Pacific Coast Bike Route" signs, so I attempted to follow them. This directed me down Salinas Rd. Then a sign
pointed left, so I dutifully turned left at the next intersection - which turned out a private road for a couple businesses. Then I realized it was pointing to the next street, so I eventually made it to the right location, and kept going down Salinas as directed. This lead me through downtown Watsonville, but then the signs seem to have failed me. I continued going straight on the road. But eventually it forked, without a sign.

I continued on Main Street. But, eventually, it entered the freeway. So I followed along the parallel road (westgate). It eventually turned in to Larkin Valley. This is a nice road with rolling hills and very little traffic (but also very little tree cover) Eventually it crossed over Highway 1, and became San Andreas. And right afterwards, it intersected with Bonita, where I found the trusty "Pacific Coast Bike Route" sign again. This lead a short bit down Bonita to Freedom and back to Soquel. Then I continued down Soquel to Porter which becomes San Jose Soquel. I stopped at the park there to 'refuel' for the trip up the hill.

San Jose Soquel seems much longer on the way up than the way down. It really does go past the 10 mile marker. There were hardly any cars going in my direction, but a decent number going the other way (early commuters heading back home?) I had managed to break out a nice sweat by then. Once I started going down the summit, the temperature jumped up noticeably.

This time, I decided to go down Old Santa Cruz Highway all the way (instead of Aldercroft Heights.) It was a fairly nice decent. Good pavement, hardly any traffic. I noticed a VTA bus just ahead of me on summit. I thought I would have a chance to outrun it, but some of the intermediate hills did me in. On the way down, I found myself breaking a little more than San Jose Soquel - partly due to the sun (I just couldn't make out the road.) I road on the shoulder of 17 for the brief bit between the end of Old Santa Cruz and Aldercroft Heights. The shoulder has a few real bad patches there. But, there is still plenty of room. And the rightmost lane is actually an 'exit' lane, so there is plenty of buffer.

After jumping on the Los Gatos Creek trail, I had wished I just stayed on 17 to Los Gatos. To get to the trail, first you have to go down a steep gravel hill. I tried riding, but eventually walked down it. Then up a hill, then down a hill. All pretty much need to be walked, unless you are good with a mountain bike. Yuck.

From there, it was the direct route down Santa Cruz to Highway 9. I had planned on continuing down Saratoga-San Jose to Prospect. However, I got a red light at Pierce, with another car in the left turn lane, so I decided to take that shortcut through the Prospect. I found the right streets, with only one little detour (through a "no outlet" sign I didn't trust, which ended up being true.)

I had already gone through all my water, so just decided to zoom towards home. Eventually made it there, and quickly guzzled the two water bottles that I had forgotten (somebody had placed them in the fridge.)

Trip there was a little before 7 am to 3pm. Trip back was between 10:30-11am to 5:30-6:00pm.

As for the Genetics conference, the talk I found the most interesting was on "barcoding". The goal is to allow quick, cheap tests to determine the identity of species of plants and animals based on a quick DNA sample. The tests have already been used for identifying new species among similar animals in Costa Rica. The speaker envisioned a $2.50 device that would allow for identification, along with a 'tax' that would help support the scientific research and classification. (Somehow, I see the $2.50 device much more likely than the research tax.)

There was also an interesting panel on consumer genetics companies. Should people have access to their genetic information, and what are the consequences. Will some of these super cheep sequencing technologies come aboard? (And not discussed - will this amount to anything? Or will we discover that were missing some other huge aspect of the genetic system?)

View Larger Map
Above is a rough version of the route I took. There were a few additional minor detours that are not included in the map. Also, the 'routing' on Highway 17 was actually the Los Gatos Creek trail, while the routing on 1 was a combination of Beach Range Road and the beachfront bike path.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Stolen Garmin Forerunner GPS watch

At first, after playing racquetball, I was careful to bring all my
racquetball gear in to the locker room with me. I didn't want to risk
any of it getting stolen. However, I gradually started to let my guard
down. First I'd leave the racquet in the pannier. Then the balls,
goggles and gloves would begin to stay there also. And today, I made
the ultimate faux-pax: I left my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch in there.

I even saw it there and thought, "I should really bring that in with me."

"Nah, it will only be a few minutes. It will be fine."

"Well, ok. But let me move some of these bags on top of the stuff just
to be safe."

Well, somebody may have seen me move the stuff, or they may just have
thought that a full pannier was worth rifling through. When I came out,
there were a few bags on the ground, as well as an inner-tube box. The
balls, gloves and racquets were still there - as well as the pluot book
that I need to return.

But no watch. And no innertube. (And I would later realize, no goggles).

At first I thought it might have been some animal that happened to grab
some stuff. (After all, who would still an innertube while leaving the
handball/racqetball equipment?) So, I took a look around the area for
any sign of animals. Also checked the garbage cans, just in case
somebody just grabbed it and tossed it. No dice. So, off to file a
police report.

Perhaps even more unsettling was the fact that I had not downloaded data
for the past few days - even charging it up for the past few times
without doing a download.

Whoever has it also wont get much use out of it - after all, they don't
have a charger. They may be able to use it for a dozen hours, and then
the batteries will be dead, and they'll probably toss it. The goggles
may have a little more value. The innertube? Now that is really
baffling. Why would somebody rifle through a saddlebag, through some
plastic bags on the ground and take an innertube out of a box and run
off with it?

On the positive side, I have been trying to dejunk. This is one less
thing I will need to keep track of. And now I need to start being more
careful with my stuff.

Quick bike turn at home

I've been thinking about the trip to take the girls to schoool, then
drop off the triple, pick up my bike, and bike in to work. I had been
attempting to analyze it, saying that, in theory it could be a route
taken directly to get from the school to work... Alright, there is a
little detour, but not much.

Well, today, I was waiting with another cyclist at a red light at
Stelling and Stevens Creek. I passed her on Stelling. Then after going
home and changing out the bikes, I ended up passing her again on Fremont
between Wright and Bernardo.

I guess it really isn't too much of a detour.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Rural vs. Urban

A great part of the commute from Sunnyvale to Stanford is the various different commute options. El Camino and Foothill Expressway both touch sides of the campus, and are about the same distance. For alternatives, the modified 'crow flies' route goes mostly through quiet Los Altos streets. (These streets are mostly at 90 degree angles, so this route ends up being a few miles longer than the regular route.)
El Camino is the quintessential urban route. There are plenty of lights, but they tend to be rather short. There is also the constant stimulus of traffic, businesses and the like.
Foothill has a very rural feel. Built in the location of a former railroad, it seems to be mostly surrounded by trees. Intersections are fewer, but the lights cycles tend to be longer. Most intersections also seem to be "small towns" (many former railroad stops.)
It is nice to be able to switch from city to country without significantly impacting commute distance or time.
There are also other alternatives, like caltrain, that can take about the same time. as well as Alma/Central or Park/Evelyn that parallel the caltrain tracks and may take only a little longer.

Why I don't work in Sunnyvale...

I decided to stop by the Sunnyvale Smart Station to pick p some compost on the way home from work. (Alas, I go there too late for that...) The ride through Moffett Park reminded me of why I don't work there. The smart station was at the end of Borregas, so a trip down the Borregas bike bridges seemed the easy "low stress" way to go.
It may have been a lower traffic way than Mathilda, but the stress of traffic was replaced by the stress of poor design. At the Smart station, the first obvious problem with the lack of a signal that was tripped by bikes. (The other side of the intersection had nice embossed bike markings. Not so for the southbound side.) Ok. No big deal. There was a ped button nearby, and the signal was fairly quick. Going down Borregas there were a couple large tree branches in the bike lane. Annoying, but there was little traffic.
Finally the first bike bridge. Rather than a straight bridge over the freeway, they created a massive curve. This results in an offset entrance perpendicular to Borregas (and slightly offset from the street.) Luckily Moffett Park Blvd. was fairly low traffic in the area. Still, getting on was not the most low stress maneuver. The long curve over the freeway also means that you are exposed to the maximum amount of freeway noise. The exit on the other end was similar. Why not just extend the bridge straight and have at end a little further down the block? It may have caused the elimination of a couple (unused) street parking spaces. Horrors.
However, Sunnyvale seemed to like the design, and the next bridge suffered from similar problems.
Borregas itself was not too bad. There were few stop signs or stop lights. However, it was built to "Sunnyvale road standards", meaning it was about as smooth as sandpaper. One section was even recently repaved (or maybe 'blackened' would be more accurate. We should really pitch in and get Sunnyvale a good roller.)
The Maude/Borregas/Sunnyvale intersection is the next bit of fun. Borregas and Sunnyvale are slightly offset, making it an interesting left turn maneuver. It's not incredibly challenging, but it does slow you down a bit. From Sunnyvale, you have an overpass over Central and then a grade crossing over caltrain. Then you can sneak under the Mathilda overpass to get to Pastoria and Hollenbeck.
In theory, the Borregas way avoids most of the nasty intersections. However, most of its problems are structural in nature (thus little hope of fast trips). It took me 35 minutes from the Smart Station, and that was with a fairly quick run down Hollenbeck. I could probably go a little faster down some stretches of Borregas. But, would then be slowed down by the bridges. From some the office parks, there would also be some of the other nasty crossings (like Mathilda/Carribean and Java.) I think I would just stick with Mathilda.
But, Carribean has its own problems - lights. At Moffet Park and Mathilda, the light is not well synched with the others and too quick. The result is that Mathilda and turning traffic blocks the intersection, making it impossible for through Mofett Park traffic to move. The signal changes so fast that it turns red before the intersection clears. (Perhaps the city should try to balance its budget by handing out tickets to cars blocking the intersection.)
Other lights seem to suffer from the opposite problem. Java and Caribbean/Mathilda seemed to be red forever, with a few random railroad crossing bells thrown in for good measure (only one that was actually accompanied by a light-rail train.)
The density of office development would seem to be the ideal for setting up transit. If only... Instead it is the ideal area for huge ugly traffic jams. (And the poor configuration and frequency of the light rail seems to guarantee that it will only be lightly used.) But, hey, what do you expect from a Sunnyvale?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Residential parking?

Biking home in Sunnyvale down Astoria, past Wright, I noticed a number of signs stating "resident parking only". This is in an area where most houses have two and three car garages (with space for at least 2 or 3 more cars on the driveway.) The city requires houses to have 4 parking spots, and many of the houses exceed this.

If the city is willing to spend the money to post signs giving these residents semi-private use of previous public parking, why is it also requiring them to have devote much of their lot to providing additional parking for cars? And furthermore, if street parking is so important, why does it let developers rip out street parking to add multiple private driveways (often leading to private roads with no street parking.)

It probably just comes down to a hidden method of discrimination. Require excessive space devoted to non-living areas, thus keeping property values high. Then donate those 'public' resources in the area to the local residents. In order to not appear too callous, funds can be allocated to subsidized housing. However, these are often kept away from the monolithic single family areas (often in isolated new developments disconnected from most public amenities.) The city also gets to serve as a gatekeeper, allowing it to enforce some restriction of access.

Removing parking requirements and regulations would be the free market solution to obtaining the proper allocation of parking space. However, that would hurt some of the 'sinister' motives in parking policy. Thus we are left with pockets of parking shortages, even while having a huge glut of parking spaces in the city.

keyboard shortcuts

Macs have some handy keys for switching between programs:

Apple-tab switches between programs
Apple-tilde switches between windows of the same program
Apple-Q closes a program
Apple-W closes one window (or tab) of a program

If you take a look at the keyboard, you'll notice that they are all
right next together. A slight slip of the finger, and instead of
switching between programs, you'll be closing them. (But at least when
the old when is closed, you'll be 'switched' to the other program...)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Bus ride to Monterey

My son and I took a bus trip to Monterey. Due to the bus schedules, it required getting up rather early in the morning to catch the bus near our house. We had a little gap to get donuts before catching the El Camino bus. We apparently spent a little too long eating the donuts, because we just missed the 522 bus. But we got there in time to catch the 22 to San Jose. When we arrived at Diridon station, we saw the MST 55 bus, the Santa Cruz 17 bus as well as Caltrain all waiting, ready to leave within a few minutes.

How tempting. We could easily get to Santa Cruz, San Francisco or Monterey - all free with the Ecopass and Go pass. We stuck with our original plans of going down to the Aquarium. We had just enough time to hit the restroom, and then head back out to the bus.

The bus was surprising empty. There were also very few people that got on at any of the other stops. (I think there were a couple of people getting on at another stop in San Jose, and not much more than that.) It seems we got to each intermediate stop (Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Prunedale) well ahead of schedule, and had a lot of time to wait there. However, by the time we got closer to Monterey we were closer to schedule. (Perhaps the driver was just putting the pedal to the metal in order to get some quick breaks.)

The Monterey "transit center" is a simple plaza, near a Trader Joe's and a used book store. According to the MST website, the eco pass is good for local fare on all MST buses, so we tried to catch the next bus that came through, a little 1X bus. The bus driver had never seen it before, but let us on. The bus had a window in the back, and it was a quick trip to the aquarium.

The Aquarium was somewhat of a disappointment. It seemed half the displays were video monitors or other sorts of 'interactive' displays. No need to go to an aquarium for that. We had some guest passes to get in free, but otherwise, the admission price of about $30 is rather steep.

We were in time for the feeding of the penguins. I was expecting to see a punch of penguins diving in to the water to catch fish, but instead, we saw a few employees giving them some little fish. We did get to see some of the penguins 'greedy' behavior as they looked for the food, but we almost felt sorry for him.

There were a number of other sea creature exhibits. The most surprising for me was the seahorses exhibit - I thought they were much larger than the small creatures that they had on display. (Unfortunately, a lot of the exhibit was made up of video monitors.)

After going to the museum, we walked down Cannery Row. It is now a trendy yuppified shopping and dining area. However, it is ironically filled with banners containing quotes from Steinbeck's novel. (The same novel that centers around the lives of some homeless guys in a run down cannery row.)

After walking a bit, we found a falafel and hot dog vendor to grab some lunch, and then caught the "brown bus" back. The walk from the aquarium to downtown is around two miles, and it looks like it can be done mostly along the beach. However, we were intrigued by the free trolleys that run every 10 minutes during the summer. They make a loop from downtown to cannery row, stopping at all the tourist traps on the way.

We get off at Fisherman's Warf (which the automated announcement informed us was some good place to part with our money.) There was a plaza that was also some historical park (first capitol?) From there it was a short pleasant walk to the downtown bus station. We had some time to kill before the bus came, so we checked out the bookstore, Trader Joe's and pharmacy that were all right there.

The return bus actually originates at a different point downtown, and just stops at the transit center, so we had a little wait for it. MST also has a '22' bus that goes out to Big Sur. It would be an interesting trip to take the 55 from De Anza College to the the 22 down El Camino to the 55 to Monterey to the 22 to Big Sur... One long trip with the same bus numbers over and over.

The return bus was also fairly empty, though there were a few more people than the way out. MST has actually started a new bus primarily to serve the Presidio that also stop s downtown and provides a later trip back. (Around 5pm instead of the 3pm 55). It tends to be a little more direct, and comping the two, you could get to Monterey by around 10 and return at 5, allowing for a day trip. (Or if you are into early trips you can take the early trip in.)

The 55 buses may have been "dead head" buses. The bus we took to Monterey originated as the one bringing commuters from Monterey to San Jose, and the one we took back was getting ready to take them back home. Perhaps these buses are more popular than the ones we took.

The way home seemed to be better timed. There were no long waits at the intermediate stops. We got to San Jose in enough time to hit the restrooms and then catch the caltrain back home. Then we arrived just in time to catch the final bus home.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

More stupid car tricks

In Palo Alto yesterday, I was in the right turn lane from Quarry to El Camino. There was a green right turn arrow, but the cars ahead of me were not turning. Hmmm... I looked up and saw at least three cars making a U-turn on El Camino. "Why do they have a green right turn arrow for us, while cars could also U-turn in to the same path?" When I looked back at the intersection, I found why - it is very clearly signed "No U turn".

In Cupertino, I was waiting at a red light at Bollinger and De Anza. A car came next to me, slowed down, then plowed through the red light to cross 8 lanes of traffic. Luckily she didn't hit anyone else. Had she simply waited 5-10 seconds more, she could have gone through a green light.

On another section of De Anza, I saw a car come to the red light at Lazaneo and De Anza, stop for a bit, then make a left turn across the 8 lane street on De Anza. (Here it would have been about 30 seconds more waiting for a green.)

In Sunnyvale, at the The Dalles and Lewiston, the crosswalk is painted bright yellow, the word "STOP" has been been freshly painted on the ground, and the stop sign is plainly visible. All this didn't stop a car from zooming right through at speed that looked to be faster than the 25 mph speed limit.

These are just some of the really bad 'car tricks'. There are plenty more of the garden variety "going through a stop sign at 15 mph". (It's ok because they slowed down from 35 mph, right? Uh, even though it was a 25 mph zone.) And of course the 'left turn on stale green arrow'. (Though perhaps they just have lights timed badly to give opposing traffic a green light for 5 seconds before the arrow turns red.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ruin of the Roman Empire

I just read The Ruin of the Roman Empire by James J. O'Donnell. For a book by an academic it is fairly well written. However, I can't help but picture a 'snooty academic' lecturing away. The style often wanders from vignette to explication without a strong coherent flow. He also seems to go overboard bringing in all sorts of literary allusions. (I probably missed half of them.) He seemed to compare Theoderic to Othello over and over again, and even manged to tie in somebody listening to Wagner on an Ipod. The number of pages could probably be cut in half without any significant loss of content. As a bonus, it did include a fair number of maps. However, the placement was somewhat odd, with the areas discussed in the nearby pages not referenced in a map.

His central thesis appears to that Alexander blew the opportunity to create a great secular empire, and it was religion that really led to the final fall of Roman 'civilization'. However, the focus seems to be evolving over the course of the book. Early on, it seems to be more historical, with an attempt to more accurate assess the history of 'barbarian' rulers of Rome, without being blinded by the labels. (The barbarians were in fact often more 'civilized' than those that they replaced.) Early historical writers has colored the history with their worldview, and thus only be filtering out the view could an accurate history be obtained.

For the section on Justinian, however, he goes a step further, removing the ancient worldview and applying a modern "secular multicultural" filter. Justinian becomes a religious tyrant (perhaps part Bush, part bin Laden), who manged to destroy the harmony of a multicultural civilization by enforcing religious orthodoxy and going out on rampant wars of empire.) If only he wouldn't have let religious orthodoxy take over, there would be one great unified state of Romano-Persia. Unfortunately, this view assumes that humans would not find some way to disagree and cause conflict. In a small southern town, Baptists and Methodists could be at constant loggerheads. Move them to larger US city, and they are lumped as protestants vs. Catholics. Take all three to the middle east, and they are Christians vs. Islam. And perhaps even further all the groups could be together as "Abrahamic religions" vs. others. Remove religion and there are further avenues for tyranny. (Saddam Husein did manage to somewhat quell religious conflict with his hard hand.)

Overall, the book has an interesting look at the final destruction of Rome, with good stories of others that I have not seen covered in great detail. However, it could be significantly improved. It also spends a long time discussing the empowerment of Christianity as a state religion. However, it could use more focus. It would have been interesting to see more attention paid to the "evolution" of the Roman empire from Rome to Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire to World War I. (This was mentioned as an aside that the empire really didn't 'fall' until the first World Wat, as the Ottoman Empire did appear to be a legitimate successor.) The title implies the ruin of the Roman empire, though the book ends primarily with the Ruin of the city of Rome.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Changing html classes - poor IE performance

How do you change the display of multiple similar elements on an html page? The simple answer is to give the elements a class, and then use a CSS rule to modify the output. This works for a static display. But what if changes are needed? Changing the CSS rule seems to be the logical answer. However, this requires going through lots of hoops - and often is not worth it.

First you need to find the stylesheet:

var getStyleSheet = function() {
var ss = document.styleSheets;
for (i=0;i<ss.length;i++) {
var s = ss[i];
if ((s.href != null) && (s.href.indexOf('myStyleSheet.css') != -1)) {
return s;
return null;

The you need to find the appropriate rules. The only catch: Internet Explorer does things wrong. So you have to go through a few tricks to get to the right place:

var getCssRules = function () {
if (g.cssRules != null) {
return g.cssRules;
var s = getStyleSheet();
if (s.rules) {
s = s.rules;
else {
s = s.cssRules;
g.cssRules = s;
return g.cssRules;

Once you find the appropriate rule, you need to set the appropriate value. Again, syntax is different:

var changeStyle = function(selector,key,val) {

for (i=0;i<rules.length;i++) {
if (rules[i].selectorText == selector) {
if (rules[0].style.setProperty) {
else {
// IE
rules[i].style[key] = val;

All seems well and good. It works for IE, Safari and Firefox. In Safari, it runs at lightning speed. In Firefox, it is fast. But IE? Well, IE takes its time. If it is setting the rule to the same value, then it is zippy. However, setting to a new value can take nearly forever (from times in milliseconds to seconds).

The alternative is to simply find all the elements in the document and manually change them. I use Robert Nyman's getelementsbyclassname, though many other js libraries have similar functions (and the newest firefox has it natively, but that doesn't help much for IE issues.)
This method seems to slow down Safari in updates (but somewhat speed it up in creating new rules.) However, it does significantly speed up IE, and make it almost competitive with other browsers. Since elements and a container can be specified it is also easier to narrow it down to a specific section of the document, thereby improving performance.

var changeStyle = function(selector,val) {
selector = selector.substring(1);
var elements = getElementsByClassName(selector,'tr',document.getElementById('containerelement'));
for (el in elements) {

Friday, April 03, 2009

Hmm... I guess its the thought that counts?

Sunnyvale has adopted some Green Building Standards. Basically they require new buildings or major alterations to meet "LEED" or "GreenPoint" standards. While these are based on good intentions, they often miss the bigger picture. The Economist had a recent article comparing recycling efforts in San Francisco and Mumbai. San Francisco spends millions of dollars on high-tech recycling plants, yet Mumbai likely has a much higher diversion rate - because recycling is profitable for everyone involved. Bay area cities often try to centralize recycling efforts, while actively discouraging rag-pickers and dumpster diving. For instance, Sunnyvale recently replaced "extra dump" days with "on demand" pickup. With extra-dump days, everyone would leave their bulky and extra trash out on a few predefined days a year. This provided an ideal opportunity for people to 'cruise' ahead of the garbage trucks and pickup and 'reuse' the junk. [You can still see the 'cruisers' in nearby Santa Clara] By replacing it with on-demand pickup, the city may save some on fuel costs, but also limits the amount of reuse.

LEED standards are another matter. There are obviously some objects to the standards from interested parties like the shopping center council. However, more injurious for the city is the lack of a 'big picture' view. A 3000 square foot McMansion that uses 20% less energy than other 3000 square foot McMansions seems like a good thing. However, compared to 3 1000 square foot townhomes that could occupy the same area and hold 3 times as many residents, it looks downright horrible. Its even worse when you consider that these McMansions will have large landscaped yards - which will be the source of most of the water use, and extensive energy used by the hired gardeners and their gas-powered leaf blowers. Perhaps the best benefit of the ordinance is that it allows 5% extra lot coverage for meeting the highest standards. At least its a start.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Adventures in Transit and the 54 bus

Spending a little time on public transit helps me to really appreciate my bicycle.

On Friday, I happened to leave work shortly before a caltrain 'baby bullet' would leave. Perfect. I thought I'd just go to the station, hop on the train, and get home super fast without breaking a sweat. Small problem. It was a 'new' train with a smaller bike car that was already partially full. The next train didn't come for another 26 minutes - and that was a local train. So I popped over and saw the 522 bus had just left. They time the two to leave at the exact same time (not bothering to think that this does happen to be the bus/train transfer station, where people coming from the north would find it useful to transfer to the El Camino bus.) So I just rode down the path on one side of the street, then crossed the train tracks to Alma. Alma is a pretty miserable street for cycling - horrible pavement condition, with no shoulder. However, there is a long stretch with no intersections, thus allowing for some quick travel times. Then there are a few jammed up intersections (with not even room to squeeze by), then it turns in to Central Expressway with a nice wide shoulder. I got to Sunnyvale long before a train appeared. I even saw the good 'ol 522 on El Camino right as I got there.

At least I was lucky. I get a Caltrain pass from work. Most people have to pay for their tickets. And Caltrain is proof-of-payment. This means you have to buy a ticket first, and then hope to get on a train. If you get bumped, you still have the time-stamped ticket that you have to use in 4 hours. You either wait it out, or you have just made a donation to caltrain. This can make 'bumping' even worse. Some people may have ridden - but now that they have paid for a ticket, they are somewhat obligated to wait for the next train. (If it were 'pay or stamp onboard' they could see it as a discount for not riding.) Or perhaps conductors could simply hand out "bump vouchers". A bump voucher could then be 'validated' as 10 ride tickets are validated and be used for a free ride at another time. (Though to prevent abuse a valid ticket should be required to receive one.)

An even easier approach to improving public transportation usefulness would be to synchronize bus and train schedules. Samtrans and Caltrain even operate from the same office. VTA is in its own little world - however, it doesn't even bother to sync its own trains with its buses. The 54 bus is a great example of this. Sunnyvale's caltrain station is overwhelmingly 'northbound commuter'. There just aren't many trains taking people to San Jose in the morning. And there are not a whole lot of people getting on in the afternoon to go back to San Jose. So, it would make a whole lot of sense to have AM buses arrive shortly before northbound trains leave and PM buses leave shortly after trains arrive. During the middle of the day, the schedule is not too bad. The bus arrives about 10 minutes before the train leaves. This is a little much, but makes it easy to catch the train, even with a slow bus.
During rush hours, however, its a disaster. Trains depart at :00, :13, and :18. The :13 train is a baby bullet, while :18 is a local. So, it seems pretty easy. Have the bus arrive a little before the bullet, perhaps :10. Even if there is a big delay, there is a chance to catch the local. It also allows passengers from San Jose to catch the bus going north. Instead, the schedule is timed to be about as bad as it possible can. The bus runs every half hour, yet the closest it gets is 24 minutes before the bullet train. Catching any train could be a challenge. The timepoints on the schedule are for the Sunnyvale transit center. Getting to the train requires crossing Evelyn at a light, and crossing to the boarding platform at the other side of the tracks. If all goes well, there is a slim chance that you can catch a train after arriving at 8:17, but everything must fall perfectly in place.
54 arrivals at caltrain station.
6:20a - 53 minutes before bullet (40 minutes before next train)
6:49a - 24 minutes before bullet (11 before next train)
7:18a - 55 minutes before bullet (0-42 minutes before next train)
7:47a - 26 minutes before bullet (13 before next train)
8:17a - 56 minutes before bullet (1-43 minutes before next train)

In the evening, trains arrive around :16, :21, and :55. The :21 is the desirable Baby Bullet. Again, they are timed almost perfectly to miss the trains. You can take a fast baby bullet - and then watch a bus pull away from the station right before the train arrives. But, at least in the evening, there are two buses that actually make reasonable train connections.
5:18 - no bullet (2 minutes after closest train)
5:48 - 27 minutes after bullet (27 after closest train)
6:19 - 58 minutes after bullet (2 after closest train)
6:48 - 27 minutes after bullet (27 after closest train)
7:16 - 55 minutes after bullet (21 after closest train)
8:16 - 55 minutes after bullet (21 after closest train)
9:16 - no bullet (33 after closest train)

Now these buses do arrive a couple of minutes before the baby bullet to San Jose. So perhaps VTA is trying to make it easy for people to get quickly to San Jose. The catch is that VTA also provides plenty of service for that. From El Camino, the 522 gets from Hollenbeck to downtown San Jose in 30 minutes. The 23 bus can take an hour. The light rail is around 35 minutes. All of these connect to various points of the 54 bus (and are some of the main points for people getting on and off the bus.) They also go to multiple destinations in central San Jose. So why exactly would anybody need to take the bullet train there? Chances are, its just an accident that they timed it so well for catching a bullet downtown - either that or they are crazy sharks fans. (But unfortunately, that would leave them no way to get home.)

Perhaps the reverse commute? Well, the northbound trains leave at :58, so yes, it would be only a 10 minute wait for somebody catching it. Or an 18 minute wait for somebody trying to get on the bus going north. Neither is that great.

Perhaps it is just an attempt to tie in to the light rail schedules. The northbound buses arrive 4-6 minutes before the southbound light rail leaves. But since the trains leave every 15 minutes, there are plenty of other opportunities to create good connections to the light rail, while also having good caltrain connections. Furthermore, the 522 provides a much faster means of travel to San Jose - and is closer to the population center of the 54s route.

In the end, there are no excuses. The 54 schedule is just bad. Just typical VTA thoughts in isolation. And that is what makes riding a bike a necessity.

And if the schedules were not enough of an issue, drivers can introduce their own variance. Some choose to adhere religiously to every timepoint on the schedule. Some only pick some to adhere to, while blowing right by others. Some try to drive as fast as possible to get to a timepoint, then wait there until it is 'time'. (This last type can actually be beneficial. I once was able to get off the bus at El Camino, cross El Camino and Olive, return some books at the library, and then go back to the bus stop on Olive to catch the bus as it came by.) And then there is the matter of what clock they are following. (One bus whizzed by a stop a mile and a half from the start only 2 minutes after the official start time. Since the speed limit is only 30 miles per hour, this bus did some serious speeding with no stops or red lights - or left a little early.) But its hard to give bus drivers a tough time. Given the system they have to work in, I'm grateful that they are willing to at least try to provide some transportation sanity. It would be nice if VTA actually required its employees and board to use transit. Ha... That would be the day.

March madness

March madness is here. A whole bunch of basketball games, where the underdog theoretically has a chance. Though only theoretically. Right now, the only 'underdog' remaining is low-seeded Arizona, who happens to be in the tournament for its 25th consecutive year. We got wonderful games like Connecticut vs. Chatanooga. UConn could have gone home after the first half - and still would have won.

Meanwhile in the NIT, there are actually some exciting games. St. Mary's vs. Davidson. Even first round games like #1 seeded Creighton vs. #8 Bowling Green were competitive.
San Diego State and Davidson both seem to be coming alive now, and would probably be doing well against anybody.

Now that the NCAA has ownership of the NIT, why not combine both tourneys? You could still seed the top 8 teams in each region as they are now. But then combine seeds 9-16 with '17-24' from the current NIT pool. In the new 'first round', the 9-24 schools will play each other, with the 1-8 seeds getting a first round bye. These games could feed in to the similar place in the bracket. Thus Number 9 will play number 10 in the first round, with the winner playing #8 in the second round. #11 will play #12, with the winner playing #7. This way we get an exciting first round where anybody could win. Teams that do go on a hot streak in the post-season will get a chance to continue it. Even a lowly 24 seed still has a reasonable chance of getting at least one post-season victory. And the 'play-in' teams will not longer be excluded from brackets.

And for teams that don't make the tournament, there will still be the CBI.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Vampire books and Steinbeck

Friendly vampires seem to be the rage today. I finished the Twilight series over Christmas vacation. Then Vampire High School. Both books took different approaches to 'vampire lore'. But in both, Vampires were mostly just overachievers living among us. They had some special powers, but also fragile personalities. And of course, they fell in love. (and both had a few token Romanians) And they were both told in a first-person stream-of-conscious fashion.

Vampire High was a much lighter book. It seemed to go a little overboard with cliches and stereotypes. But, it was a fun quick read. Perhaps its just a male thing. Quick and too the point. And a nice love story at that.

The Twilight books were much more serious. It seemed that each book in the series got longer and longer, but not necessarily better. Some parts were just not too believable. (Believable vampire books? Perhaps consistency is a better word.) It looks like editing was sacrificed in a rush to get the sequels out. They were good, but not great. It was a big downer to see Bella turn in to a Vampire at the end. I found myself much more interested in Alice and Jacob. The main characters (Edward and Bella) seemed to become bigger and bigger jerks as the story went on, while the supporting characters become more and more interesting. If she continues with the series, a focus on Jacob would probably be the way to go.

Finally, running out of happy vampire books, I picked up Steinbeck's Cannery row. After going to Monterrey this summer, I thought I might be able to 'relate' better to the geography. (Its always nice when you can actually identify certain locations- especially if they have totally changed since the time of the story.) I liked the way the story was told, with a series of very short chapters that could very well be stand-alone stories. Some of the chapters related directly to the main plot about "Mack and the gang" and "Doc", while others seemed to have absolutely no relationship to the main story (yet remained tangentially related to the community.)

Stupid Car Tricks

I saw a police car zooming down Olive Ave. in Sunnyvale with its sirens blaring. It reached Mathilda. Sirens still blaring. The commuters on Mathilda could care less. They kept going. One set of cars. Then another. Then another. Finally after multiple sets of cars went through, the police car was able to get by. (Did he have to wait for a red light?) Looks like busy streets are a serious public safety hazard.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Teenage pregnancy - good or bad?

The CDC report on births garnered attention for showing an increase in teenage pregnancies and births. While this my get headlines, it is not necessarily a bad thing.
The first issue is the arbitrary line drawn. A woman who gives birth the day before her 20th birthday is 'bad'. Wait one more day and the birth would be considered fine. 20 is a rather arbitrary age that does not hold significant meaning of societal responsibility (like 16, 18 or 21), nor does it mark a significant change in human development. Setting a line at 18 or high school graduation may be more appropriate.
Furthermore, the data actual shows a decrease in births to those younger than 15, while the heaviest increase was in the 18-19 group. Perhaps this means a decrease in teen pregnancies is being masked by high-school sweethearts deciding to start their families at a young age.
A better meter would be using unwanted vs. wanted pregnancies. If a couple get married as teenagers and want to have a baby, a pregnancy would be desired. If a 20 year old college student accidentally gets pregnant, that would not be desired. Unwed pregnancy would be a good indicator of 'unwanted' (though the lack of emphasis on marriage in today's culture could mean some of these 'unwed' births were actually desired.) For younger teenagers, unwed births have been going down. For 18 and 19 years olds they have been bouncing around in a narrow range, while for older groups they have been going up.
Another troubling part of the report is the increase in births to older women. These births tend to be much more expensive, requiring significant medical intervention. They also limit the parental involvement in the child's life. A family where each generation gives birth at 19 could easily have 3 generations participating in the raising of a child. A family where each generation gives birth at 39 would be unlikely to get even a second generation to help raising the child.
Younger parents are much more likely to have assistance from grandparents. This allows them to take advantage of child raising experience, while also having the youthful strength needed to care for the child. The child of a 'teenage' birth could actually be much better off than the child of a 'mature' birth.

End of college football season

College football season ended with its usual whimper. The final BCS game is so far removed from the regular season that it seems to lose its power. Some teams play their last game in November, and the BCS championship game isn't until the second week in January? Com'on. At many schools classes have already started for Winter Quarter.

At least, in the old bowl system there was some finality. New Years day had a bunch of bowl games that all had important implications. Now, we had TCU beating Boise State before Christmas; USC beating Penn State on New Years; Utah beating Alabama on the 2nd; and Texas beating Ohio State on the 2nd. Each of those games showcased a deserve undefeated or 1-loss team. However, none of the games had any real relationship to the others.

In the end, the Florida/Oklahoma game looked very sloppy compared to the others. If we tossed out the rankings and just looked at the games played, Utah and USC looked like the two best teams of the 'elite' bunch. But, having a big game optimized for TV helps to rake in the money. I guess it will stay, even if it means getting stuck with lesser games past they time when I care.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

PAC-10 wins bowl derby

The Pac-10 has finished its bowl season undefeated. Three of the victories were over higher ranked teams, with USC and California being the only teams favored. (Those two were also both lucky enough to get games in their own backyard.) Even looking at victories alone, the SEC is the only conference that has the potential to obtain more bowl victories. However, the SEC already has two bowl losses. More bowl teams is often a sign of a better conference. However, in this case, things are rigged somewhat against the PAC-10. The SEC has two additional teams, so there are two additional opportunities for bowl berths. The PAC-10 also plays 9 conference games (vs. 8 for all other conferences.) This means that half the teams will lose an additional game. In the SEC, this game would probably be an easy victory over a IAA cupcake. Sprinkle an extra loss on the bottom half of the SEC and you'd lose a couple of their bowl victories, making the PAC-10 appear even more dominant.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Utah beats 'Bama and the SEC makes excuses

Utah continued there stretch of bowl victories by annihilating Alabama 31-17. After 10 minutes, the game was already over, with Utah scoring 21 points. The response from the SEC seems to be to make excuses (we had our star player suspended, we weren't prepared, we had injuries) Uh, nice try. Though don't mention that they were the de facto home team, playing a few hours from home near plenty of alumni. (Probably not a lot of Utah alums in the area.) They had also played the bowl game many times before and were quite familiar with the stadium and environs. Alabama also 'supposedly' had played big teams, and should have been ready for the game. Uh huh. When it comes down to it, Utah will end the season with no loses and victories over 2 teams that should end the season in the top 10. Alabama? Well, Georgia or Mississippi may end up in the top 15. With Wyoming's victory over Tennessee, that leaves the measly mountain west at 2-0 vs. the 'powerful SEC'.
USC gives us another example of west coat bias. They lost one game in the season, a narrow road loss to a 9-4 Oregon State. Florida also had one early loss, a narrow home loss to a 9-4 Mississippi. Both Florida and USC continued by destroying the other teams on their schedule. However, USC is deemed to have 'lost its chance' due to its loss. For Florida, on the other hand, the loss is brushed away.

Why is there such a desire to pander to the SEC (And to a lessor extent the Big-12)? It probably all comes down to money. The south lives for football. High school stadiums in Texas are larger than most IAA stadiums, and probably even comparable to some IA stadiums. The south lives off football. In Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina, the college game is the highest level of football for a population that lives for the game. These are the rapid fans that watch the games, buy the gear, and bring in the revenue. Out west? High School games are much less of a community affair. USC and UCLA may get a lot of people to games - but they are to top football teams in the nations 2nd largest city. (And USC is really good.) Other than that, you have teams like Stanford offering money back guarantees on season tickets. It only makes sense to pander to the core constituency in the south. Keep their teams up near the top so they can continue to have a strong interest and keep the revenue flowing.