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?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Old La Honda

Yesterday was a scorcher, so it seemed like the ideal day to go to the coast. Last time I went over the hills to the Pacific was 2000, so now would be a good time. Transit was free (spare the air day), so it seemed like there were good opportunities to bale if needed. I had planned on Alpine-Westridge-Portala-Old La Honda to get up, then finding a good way down, and then one to Half Moon Bay, and a bus or biking along 92 back. 92 wold be the opposite direction of commute traffic, so it seemed like a good idea...

Unfortunately, I got a little bit of a late start... Then Westridge was closed for some utility work. No problem, I'd just take the next through street. That would be Golden Oak. Unfortunately, while Alpine is mostly flat, the inner streets seem to go straight up. I eventually made my way up, and over to Cervantes and down to Westridge. Unfortunately, I turned the wrong way on Westridge. When I hit Escobar, I knew I had gone the wrong way around, but I took advantage of the opportunity to see if it went through to Ladera (it didn't). Then back up and down some hills to get to Westrdige and Portola, and finally to Old La Honda.

Old La Honda is nice and shady. Unfortunately, the hour of meandering around in the hills before was right in the sun. The climb was even nicer than I remember it. It also seemed to have more traffic. (Not a whole lot, but it wasn't an empty road like Alpine). It took me about 34 minutes. From this site, the record time is about 15 minutes. So, where did I lose those 20 minutes? I decided to give myself some handicaps:
1) An hour of climbing in the sun before starting
2) Poor bike (I'm using a beat-up Trek mountain bike with a slick rear tire. Even compared to my stolen Specialized Globe hybrid, this one is a clunker that requires a lot more energy. It was also weighed down with two baskets filled with work stuff (computer, backpack, clothes, etc.) from the commute home from work.
3) Lack of familiarity with the route. (It was less steep and shorter than I was mentally expecting. There were also a few ill-made gear decisions)
4) Pure lack of ability on my end. (After all, I'm no where near a world-class cyclist)
So which ones were most significant? Lack of familiarity probably accounted for no more than a minute. (I guess I could try it again to verify.)
The previous climbing was probably a little more of an impact. Though, I'm guessing that the bike was probably the most significant factor, followed not far behind by 'me'.

On the way back, I decided to just take Skyline down to 84. You can't round corners super fast with a loaded down beat up mountain bike. Then Portala/Alpine/Arastradero/Fremont/Foothill... Unfortunately, I had a slow flat on the way home. After months without a flat, its been 4 in the past three days. D'oh! The first two were on Monday after running through a goat head farm. (Note to self, Los Altos Hills pathways are never worth it. They might at times be shorter, but I'm not one that likes downhill descents on dirt straight in to gates.) Yesterday it was shrapnel. A two inch staple, followed by a little shard of metal. Uggh.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Skyline commute

Well, I just had to try Skyline today.

In the morning, I did a nice 'easy' 20 mile ride. The outside of 280 ride from Loyola to Alpine. The climb at Moody was great. Nice easy rolling hills for a while, then boom, straight up for the last little bit. It seemed a lot nicer than I remember Altamont. There were also a few nice small climbs and descents in Los Altos hills. I explored a couple pathways, but only briefly. No new 'shortcuts' to think of. (Though I did take the crucial Stonebrook shortcut to get from Magdelena up to Moody.)

For the trip home, it was up Alpine to skyline. The initial part of Skyline is fairly easy, the grade is so gradual it might-as-well be flat. Past the library, traffic dove of to just about nothing. (I saw one car and 2 bikes in the section from there to Page Mill.) Alpine gradually gets steeper and narrower. The road is in fairly good condition, and nicely shaded making it an ideal climb. Then the gate and the dirt road begins. It is slightly rutted, giving a little bounce, but actually seems to be an easier climb than the paved section. All goes well until the washed out section, with the detour on the trail. The trail seems to go just about straight up, and is filled with roots and rocks. I was able to ride a few sections. However, I was mostly pushing my bike up this short trail. (Even that could be a challenge with the loaded down bike.) My first bit of riding on the trail ended when I bumped a small rock. It wasn't anything big, just enough to slow my momentum, and make it difficult to restart. The next bits of riding were brought to an end when the rear wheel seemed to just be spinning in the dirt. I guess there would be some advantages to having a MTB tire.
Luckily the trail portion was short, and soon it was back to dirt. And gnats. They seemed to love my sweaty face. The grade seemed to be getting even easier, and I ended up moving to midrange gears before I reached Page Mill. From Page Mill, there was a little more to go to reach Skyline. I managed to make it there in under 90 minutes, so I was just about right on track.

Skyline started with a nice descent. It seemed like I was home free. However, it soon leveled off, and then began going up. D'oh! Those ups just seemed harder now. Luckily the sign posts had been going down. San Mateo county 2... San Mateo 1.5... (Of course they were much more precise and frequent than that.) Highway 9 is at the county line, right? Unfortunately, no... Santa Clara began starting in the high teens... I sure hope that is not going down towards highway 9 at 0. I had only given myself 30 minutes to go down the stretch of skyline, and hadn't anticipated all the climbing involved. And there aren't many turnoffs. (I'd considered a trail down to Stevens Canyon, but descending on a trail just did not seem fun. The Mora Drive descent in Rancho San Antonio has to rank as the most unpleasant downhill experience I've had. Steep grade and poor, narrow pavement do not make for a fun downhill.)

Then came a same for a fire station. Civilization! Then I noticed it was a forest district one. D'oh! It was named Saratoga Summit. That means climbing must be over. But why am I climbing just past it? Luckily shortly after that, there is a stop ahead sign. I didn't know of any other major streets intersection Skyline. Could this be 9? Yes!

The descent on 9 is one of the greatest. Traffic is fairly light, the pavement is good and the curves are very well manageable. Very little braking is needed. It was just a quick sail down. The sign said curves ahead, next 7 miles. It seemed to be a quick trip zooming down. Did I really climb that much? Saw Pierce. Should I? No. Time for the quickest/flatest way. Skyline took a little more than 30 minutes. Luckily, I was able to make up the time (and then some) on Highway 9, and then had a little more than 30 minutes to cruise down Saratoga-Sunnyvale home. It was a little longer than I was thinking, but easily accomplished.

Now is it possible to work the Pacific Ocean in to a commute?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Alternatives to the commute

My regular commute is from Sunnyvale to Stanford. Foothill Expressway is the logical bike option. It is fairly fast, few lights, and takes about 40 minutes. (My best time was 35 - but it was primarily due to hitting green lights.) The biggest challenge is Page Mill. Its probably the steepest climb, and near the end of the ride. Powering up can be the difference between a momentum sapping 2 minute wait and a clear cruise on in to work.

However, the same route gets boring. So there is El Camino. Distance is about the same. There are still the challenges of beating the lights. However, most lights seem to run on shorter cycles (except for that Castro run that seems to run much longer than it needs to.) It is the much more urban alternative. [ughh... What is with this mouse that loves to suddenly send me back a page...]

Then there is the 'inner passage'. Winding primarily through the streets of Los Altos, and never hitting Page Mill or El Camino. Also taking advantage of the bike path for Los Altos to Arastradero and the Bol Park to Hannover path. There are plenty of variations of quiet streets and bike shortcuts to go on this slow, meandering way. It is nice when there is just not much of hurry, and no desire to go fast.

But sometimes, it is nice to mix in a few small hills. The outer passage goes through Los Altos Hills on the outside of foothill, mostly between foothill and 280. One variation of this is the 'follow Fremont'. It gets cut off a couple times in Los Altos, though it is fairly obvious where it should go. However, it ends near downtown Los Altos, and then a Fremont starts up not to far away in Los Altos Hills, and goes until it becomes Hillview. Is this the same road? It sure seems like it, though the obvious connection point seems to be buried in a big valley where Fremont dead-ends.

Though sometimes, the simple outer passage is not enough, and the desire for hills takes over. Thus, the swing to the other side of 280. It is possible to travel entirely between 280 and Skyline, sneaking around past the quarry, and on down to Page Mill or Alpine. Some nice hills, and a low-traffic ride. Though the shortcut through Rancho San Antonio has one of the scariest descents I have been on. The road (which I think is just a trail now) is in poor condition, with a very steep grade. It may be fun to climb, but not to go down - even with no other traffic to worry about.

But hey, there are even more hills out there. The Page Mill to Montebello route manages to totally avoid civilization. However, the entrance to Montebello from Page Mill seems to be blocked by a fence. Ugh! Thus a ride on a dirt trail for a while before getting to the unpaved old road, before getting to the paved road for the descent. After climbing Page Mill in the hot sun, and then descending Montebello in the shade, I realized this would have been a much better morning ride. Though I'll probably try out skyline next. And I suppose after skyline, I'd eventually get to the coastal route.

There is also the other direction to go. Middle passage goes down Park Avenue, eventually to California and Dana/Washington. It may also include the bike path from the Palo Alto Caltrain to Palo Alto High. This is between caltrain and El Camino the whole way. Low traffic, some annoying lights (especially on California) and fairly good biking. There are also some routes on the other side of Caltrain (bryant-central, middlefield) but I haven't tried them yet.

I have gone way out to the other side of 101. There is the bayshore route which pretty much hugs 101 the whole way. Fairly fast, not too pleasant. Even further out is the bay route. From East Palo Alto to Palo Alto baylands to Mountain View Shoreline to Stevens Creek trail. Lots of trail riding (paved and unpaved) with few stops, and not too many others on the trail. (Simple formula: number of people on trail inversely proportional to distance from parking lot) It almost seems odd to be keeping a steady pace. It is also interesting to look at Shoreline and Moffett from the outside. They look like big tents stuck out in the mud.

Then last week I decided to go just a little further, and journey around the other side of the bay. So, over the dumbarton bridge I went, making it through the gusty crosswinds. Then it was down the other side of the bay through Newark and Fremont, and down to Milpitas. (Though Dixon landing road could use some help. It is only accessible via an 880 overpass. On the overpass, bikes are best in the middle lane (because the two other lanes get on the freeway). However, there is no bike lane there. Just past the overpass, there is a bike lane on the right. It seems anybody that could manage that overpass probably does not have a need for a 50 yard bike lane instructing them to stay right.) In Milpitas there was a nice little path going through farmland that links up with a very poor path going along 237. Then it was to Tasman on to Sunnyvale. (I had considered taking light rail in the event that I was running late. However, the light rail was traveling just about the same pace I was. It even got stuck in traffic as I did [planners wouldn't dare give it priority in such a car dominated area!]) Then it is back down Fair Oaks in to the heart of Sunnyvale.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Mary avenue overpass

There has been a lot of angst recently over a proposed Mary avenue overpass over 101 and 237. People living on or near Mary claim that it will destroy their community. They have formed community organizations and signed petitions protesting this. They have even created proposals to expand other roads and intersections and roads as an alternative to this overpass.

Unfortunately, they are missing the forest for the trees.

The core problem is that there is that the vast Moffett Park office park area in Northern Sunnyvale is virtually inaccessible without a car. By zoning design, there are no residences in the area. Even retail is for the most part absent. The Mathilda freeway intersection is a disaster, scaring off all but the most hard-core cyclists. The sidewalk network is incomplete requiring circuitous routes across dangerous intersections by pedestrians. There is a light rail running through the area, but the incomplete sidewalk network and multi-lane arterials can result in a half mile walk just to get to a building across the street. (And the streets are often faced by large parking lots making it more of a challenge.) The light rail also only runs through northern Sunnyvale down to San Jose. Somebody far away in south San Jose can take the train, while somebody in southern Sunnyvale is out of luck with transit.

If people really want to 'preserve community' and reduce traffic on Mary, the simple solution is to reduce the available supply of traffic lanes, while also increasing the connectivity of the system. Reducing supply will make it less convenient to make short car trips - while encouraging other means of travel. Increasing the connectivity will reduce trip lengths, thereby reducing aggregate travel distance. Shorter trip lengths and greater network connectivity will also encourage more biking and walking.

A simple solution to the Mary Avenue issue: build the bridge. Give it two car lanes, two bike lanes, and two sidewalks. But before doing so, extending the bike lane from Homestead to Maude, reducing car traffic lanes to one in each direction. This will allow for local connectivity, as well as providing the first safe Sunnyvale bike route to Moffett Park. It will also provide a good bike route from all of Sunnyvale (and even Cupertino once the 280 bridge is complete.) The reduction in traffic lanes will reduce the value of the road as an out-of-town short cut.

Even better from a long-term perspective would be an overhaul of the zoning regulations in Sunnyvale. With the city requiring all single-family homes to have 4 off-street parking spaces, is there any wonder why people drive so much. (Add to this the insistence on preserving additional on-street parking, and you get about 7 or 8 parking spaces per house - enough space for an additional house!) And these housing units are often built in housing ghettos, separated from arterials with 'great walls', and far isolated from commercials and retail areas.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

On Food and Iraq

I just finished a couple of books. Morgan Spurlock's Don't Eat this Book and Peter W. Galbraith's End of Iraq. Both skewed left, though had very different styles.

Don't Eat This Book was a one sided attack on McDonalds (and fast food in general). It was written in a very casual style, with a lot of "stream of conscious" commentary. The style was interesting at first, but soon grew tiring. Though there were plenty of factoids and anecdotes, the book was so one-sided, it almost begged for a response from McDonalds to form a true balanced picture. It felt similar to the "objective" one-sidedness of O'Reilly and Fox News.

End of Iraq is also driven by the author's personal experiences, though it is done in a more balanced, formal way. It presents many first hand stories from the Saddam era of Iraq as well as the US occupation. It does a good job of pointing out the positives as well as the negatives. (One observation was striking - most [other than Sunnis] are now better off than they were under Saddam; However, the US is worse off - due to the driving up of radical Muslim insurgents, strengthening of Iran and poor image on the world theater). The basic thesis is that the Bush administration was extremely arrogant [hmm... typical Texans!], and just by listening to some of the local people and area experts, they could have had a successful middle-east experience. He also presents alternatives for the success in the future - essentially allowing Iraqis to do what they want, even if that means a partition of the country with an Iran-leaning Shiite theocracy in the oil-rich south. The focus is primarily on Iraq and the Iraqis, with little attention given to the external 'needs' of the US. (After all, wasn't the war about 'Iraqi Freedom', rather than US oil.) No mention was made of the macroeconomic costs of oil and other factors critical to Americans. However, these were not missed. Overall, it was a very well written book.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Stolen Specialized Globe and a new Breezer Bike

On my first day at work at Stanford, my bike was stolen (sniff sniff). My 2005 Specialized Globe had a few thousand miles on it and was showing its age. The fenders were beat up and in need of replacement, and the drive train and bottom bracket just about had it, but it was my baby. I guess that's what I got for parking it outside with only a cable lock in a "bike heavy zone".

Since I was looking at getting a lot of repair work done, in some ways it is a bittersweet loss. (If it had happened after I'd sunk another $500 in to the bike, then I would have been really mad). It was also annoying to use the Chariot and Trail-a-bike attachments, as well as the Dynamo light, and nice rack and paniers - and the bungie cords in there. At least I remembered to remove the GPS.

It did accelerate my decision to buy a Breezer folding bike. I was amazed at how well it runs. (It has been fun to keep up with and even pass guys on their super fancy road bikes.) However, it is kid of annoying folding up the bike and bringing it inside. Lack of storage capacity is also an issue. (A rack is a possibility, but getting the bags on top of it could be a pain.) It was nice that Stanford had the $100 promotion for the bike.

After seeing it missing, I've filed the police report and scoured the campus. No sign of my bike, but I did notice someone else with the same model of Globe. Dark blue and all, though in much better condition than mine. I'll miss that bike.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Missed opportunity for eco-friendly garage

The Mountain View Voice had an interesting little article about a new parking garage in downtown Mountain View. It has architectural flourishes to blend in nicely with the neighborhood, along with eco-friendly solar panels. Only one catch - the garage provides free parking. Thus it becomes a giant subsidy for people to drive and park downtown. The possible savings in the solar panels are easily consumed by the increased traffic.

Mountain View currently has a nice suburban downtown that is fairly pedestrian friendly, and contains a large amount of free on-street parking. Local downtown residents are more likely to walk to the other downtown restaurants and attractions. Many of the other visitors are likely within a short bike ride of the area. However, bicycle facilities are significantly absent. Bike racks are extremely hard to come by on Castro street, and the narrow lanes with significant street parking make riding a bike an advanced obstacle course journey. Spending the money to improve the bike-friendliness of the area may help to provide access for the same number of people without creating additional traffic in the area.

In addition, pedestrian improvements could be made. From north of the railroad tracks, the only real pedestrian access point is at Castro. This crossing includes a grade crossing of Central Expressway and the Caltrain tracks. If you happen to be on the wrong side of the street when a train comes, the light cycle could lead to a 5-10 minute wait. There are overcrossings at the Stevens Creek Trail and Shoreline, however, these require a significant detour. A pedestrian access point or two would provide nice access from the north, and transform some 2 mile drives to 2 block walks.

Charging for use of the parking garage would decrease the people that would use it. However, there is currently no shortage of free parking in Mountain View. The garage could easily extract a premium for a guaranteed available spot in an attractive building. This money could help increase other facilities around downtown, and have a positive impact on the downtown and global environment. By making the garage free, the city is managing to throw-away money, increase traffic, and pollute the environment, without doing much to help downtown business.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Oracle, unable to manage support accounts, sues SAP

Oracle lost a bunch of support business to SAP.  However, Oracle's sysadmins must have been too lazy to actually disable to support accounts of the customers that left.  So, they are in turn suing SAP for using those accounts.  But, boy do they try to put a lot of spin on it.  The article starts out with tales of high-tech breaking and entering.  However, when it finally gets to explaining the crime, it turns out to be more of a case of forgetting to change the locks, or even shut the door after somebody moved out.  If these were legitimate customer accounts, then it seems the worse SAP may have done was served as a delegate for support. (With the many companies outsourcing IT and support work, this is a very common occurance these days.)  And perhaps, they may have a TOS violation for using an erroneous email address.  The reasonable solution there would be to cancel support and disable the account - which is something they should have done once the customer left.

Oracle Sues Rival SAP for Alleged Theft

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Getting the trail-a-bike

My 5 year is starting to get too big for the bike trailer, but is still not quite big enough for most tandems. So, we're finally seriously looking at trail-a-bikes. Looks like the Burley rack-mounted one is out of the picture, so we are left with just seat-mounted ones. And now the big debate. I've seen a few primary models.

In-Step: After a horrible experience with their other products, we've vowed not to touch them again.
Schwin: Also look like a fairly low-end trail-a-bike
Adams: Pretty much the standard trail-a-bike. Most bike shops seem to carry the basic model.
Chariot: We love our Chariot trailer. The Catch'em does seem nice, but all the features do seem like overkill.
Novara: I saw the REI brand one when I went to look at the Adams. It was brand new, and none of the staff seemed to know much about it. The quick release clamping mechanism did seem like a plus.

Of course deciding on the bike is only part of the problem... I also have to figure out how to get it on my bike. The seatpost is a suspension post with not enough clearance for most trail-a-bikes. So, I'll need a new post. Unfortunately, its a 30.9 Specialized post, which seems to be rather hard to come by. One shop did have the post in stock, along with the Adams trail-a-bike... But their cost was $30 more than REI... Should I support the local shop and get it all at once? Or just do the piecemeal approach? And that is assuming a I go with the Adams. I also need to check out racks and fenders. It did look like the trail-a-bike could clear my rack, though the panniers are a question. And then there is that Electra tandem...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Halliburton yes, DPW no?

Halliburton just announced they were moving their CEO to Dubai, effectively making it a Dubai-based company. Of course, congress whipped itself up in to a frenzy about how they were trying to cheat America and escape taxes. However, missed in the point was the pure prejudice shown to Dubai Ports Worldwide. Halliburton has contracts with the military, and has fairly tight involvement with 'critical' US installations. DPW had merely purchased the contract to operate shipping terminals from another foreign company. However, in the end, both are 'Dubai-based companies'. If it is a security risk for a Dubai-based company to unload ships, I'd imagine it would be an even bigger risk for them to actually feed the troops.

It would be nice if the US actually supported free-trade in action, instead of stifling it whenever it seems it can win political favor. However, that may be asking too much. Maybe this Halliburton thing will help convince the pontificaters that Dubai can actually house some legitimate world companies. Nah, that may be stretching it, too. Perhaps all we can hope for is just a conclusion that any company that hires Cheney as CEO may just be shrewdly maximizing things for its own benefit.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Does programming language make a difference?

It seems that today "Java" is the in-vogue programming language that can make all web-development tasks easier. But does a language really make any difference? And does java really provide advantages over other languages?

Java is 'compiled' in to byte code, and then interpreted by the java virtual machine. The JVM concept is an advantage in the "write-once, deploy everywhere" paradigm. However, when deployed in a web environment, this primarily results in overhead. (How often is the webserver switched from one platform to another? A switch to different application servers is more likely - and this would still require rework if any application-server specific functionality is used.)

Then there is the persistent nature of java app servers. Instead of invoking a new connection like CGI, it just runs in the same JVM. This is often quite useful. However, fastcgi, and mod_xxx (mod_perl, mod_ruby, etc.) provide similar benefits for other languages.

Since java is essentially interpreted byte-code, it would seem to fall behind other languages like C that are truly compiled. However, since the source has to be compiled to byte-code, it also takes more time to develop than other scripting languages that don't require the separate compiling step.

OO is another potential benefit - however, most languages today have OO capabilities, so java has no monopoly there. On the other hand, the ability to do lightweight scripting without the strict object overhead is not available within java.

Web libraries to facilitate development are also available in most language. And page templates (like JSP) are also quite common. (Though its unlikely that systems like .jsp will ever truly achieve the goal of complete separation of code and content - unless pages remain static.)

What about code quality? That is essentially the same as discussing the quality of spoken Hungarian vs. spoken English. There may be great speakers, and there may be horrible speakers. Constructs of the language may contribute to certain aspects of speech, but in the end, it is the speaker that matters the most. The same goes with programmers.