Charity idea: Raspberry Pi to Oaxaca for Kids on Computers

My personal favorite charity (after the Clinton Foundation, of course), is Kids on Computers, which sets up labs in public schools. They are headed to Oaxaca, Mexico in December and if you want an end-of-year tax deduction as well as the satisfaction of helping out, you can send a Raspberry Pi straight from Amazon to Oaxaca (Amazon added shipping and an import duty reserve so my bill for one worked out to $114.)

If you want to do some networking and setup while in one of the world’s most beautiful and historic places, try to jump on as a volunteer!


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STEM: doing what you don’t love for a short career and minimal extra $$

On STEM boosterism… “In the Salary Race, Engineers Sprint but English Majors Endure” (nytimes):

The [annual salary] advantage for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors fades steadily after their first jobs, and by age 40 the earnings of people who majored in fields like social science or history have caught up.

Men majoring in computer science or engineering roughly doubled their starting salaries by age 40, to an average of $124,458. Yet earnings growth is even faster in other majors, and some catch up completely. By age 40, the average salary of all male college graduates was $111,870, and social science and history majors earned $131,154 — an average that is lifted, in part, by high-paying jobs in management, business and law.

The story was similar for women. Those with applied STEM majors earned nearly 50 percent more than social science and history majors at ages 23 to 25, but only 10 percent more by ages 38 to 40.

The article doesn’t get into the brevity of the typical STEM career. I know plenty of sales guys who are still working and valued at age 70. Although I know more programmers than sales guys, I don’t know of any programmers who are still working (as programmers) and valued by employers at age 70.

So the lifetime earnings of a STEM graduate might be substantially lower than those of a history major!


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Poem for Combat Pilot Veterans

It is Veterans Day.

When I was in Ireland back in May/June, I learned that, despite being part of the UK at the time, Irish men were exempt from the World War I draft. Nonetheless, quite a few volunteered. The most dangerous job was surely that of pilot. William Butler Years wrote a poem about these volunteers: “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death.” The first few lines…

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate
Those that I guard I do not love;

In our risk-averse age it is difficult to fathom how anyone would have volunteered to serve in combat in World War I, let alone volunteer to get into a machine that most pilots would today consider far too dangerous to take around the pattern.

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Should we expect less pollution with a larger population?

“Air quality in the US is getting worse and could be killing thousands, study finds” (CNN).

The implication of the article is that, given sufficiently aggressive government regulation, we should expect improved air quality every year.

But if we combine a growing population (chart) with a trend toward greater urbanization (data), wouldn’t our starting assumption about air quality be that the typical American would be breathing filthier air every year? If we hit any kind of technological plateau, a larger denser population should experience dirtier air, no?

We are gradually adopting some cleaner technology, but we are also gradually growing in number of people and density. Why is CNN shocked that one growth curve can’t beat the other consistently?

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Tesla Road Trip

Our plan to fly to Washington, D.C. on a recent Friday was thwarted by 40-knot wind gusts and a SIGMET for “severe turbulence.” The goal was to attend a 7:30 pm concert so we couldn’t simply wait out the weather. We didn’t see a way to have reasonably comfortable passengers and arrive at the hall before 8:00 pm.

The Google said that it would take 7 hours and 20 minutes to drive from our Boston suburb, so my friend picked me up in his Tesla X at 10:40 am. Not only would we make it to the concert on time, but we’d save the Earth in the process. Generations from now, this would be remembered as the moment that the oceans began to recede and the planet began to heal.

The car had not been been plugged in overnight so we had only about 100 miles of range at the beginning. The Tesla owner said that this wouldn’t make a lot of difference to our total time because the superchargers work much faster when the car is down to below 50 or 100 miles of range.

There are no supercharger stations at the rest stops on the Mass Pike, so we left the highway near Worcester to charge at the Auburn Mall. As we wandered among the half-derelict retail, my friend checked his app and found that the charge rate had slowed. When we got back out to the car we found that someone had pulled into the adjacent bay. “The charging points share a feed,” my friend said. “So you only get full power if there is nobody on either side.”

The Tesla software automatically calculates charging stops, but offers no interface to tweak the plan. If there is a supercharger you’d particularly like to visit, you might have to enter it yourself as the destination. The software is also unaware of how many people are at or going to be at a supercharging station so the software does not factor “charging congestion” when choosing a stop.

The next stop was a rest area on the Merritt Parkway. These have a Dunkin Donuts, a Subway, a convenience market, and a handful of interior chairs for scarfing down a Subway sandwich. They seem to have been designed with the idea that people would stop for 5 minutes to tank up the car, use the restroom, and perhaps purchase a coffee. With the Tesla, however, we were there for 40 minutes to bring the car up to 200 miles of range. This does not include our brief wait for planet-destroying cars that identify as planet-saving cars to back out of the Tesla charging spaces:

Traffic in the NY Metro area slowed to a crawl starting at 3 pm. Combined with two additional stops (NJ Turnpike and Chesapeake House on I-95 just over the border into Maryland), we arrived at the concert hall at 9:15 pm, roughly 10.5 hours after departure. The hotel was 2 miles away. We got there with 30 miles of range, but fortunately the parking lot had a $1.50/hour public charging point. This was adding range at the rate of 16 miles per hour (not too different from D.C. traffic!) and at a slightly higher cost than an efficient midsize sedan would consume in gasoline.

Starting with a full battery would have made the trip go faster, but given the charge level at which we started I don’t think we could have done the trip more efficiently. The car was plugged into a supercharger during every minute that we were stopped.

The entire trip was done in 55-60-degree temperatures. My friend says that the range for a given battery charge would have been substantially less in the winter, perhaps 30 percent less.

Traffic jams could occur at any time or any hour. Note the stopped traffic next to the new “American Dream” mall. Soon the American dream will be to have a transportation system as efficient as the one in Mumbai or Delhi?

How about comfort? The Tesla is significantly noisier at highway speeds than our Honda Odyssey, so it is more fatiguing to ride in. The Tesla also does not absorb bumps as well, but fortunately the roads were mostly in great shape.

As someone who loves a good road trip, I notice that the Tesla changes the character of a leisurely journey. In a gasoline-powered vehicle, favorite Connecticut stops are a NY-style deli, an aquarium store, Cabela’s for the taxidermed trophies, etc. Tesla keeps the Climate One Percenters tied to shopping malls and highway rest stops with their national fast food chains. There is no point putting a supercharger on a back road, in the parking lot of a local diner, or next to an obscure tourist attraction.

On the plus side, we did get to see what kind of souvenirs our best business minds can come up with for rest stops on I-95:

Maybe conversations at the superchargers could make up for the lack of local color? It would be like the Turkish Airlines San Francisco flight. Despite the fine weather, however, people did not stand around chatting near their beloved planet-saving vehicles. We did not actually meet any fellow Tesla believers.

(We did catch enough of the performance to make the trip worthwhile and also an after-party in which the conductor referred to “a coloratura soprano”. I gently remonstrated with him: “We don’t say that anymore. It is ‘soprano of coloratura’.”)

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Californians paralyzed by Trump hatred

“Can You Still #Resist When Your State’s on Fire?” (nytimes) is an interesting window into the thinking of the West Coast Righteous:

There’s something about the situation here this season that seems like a stage set for the current political moment: fires raging, a giant company, PG&E, responsible for so much of the death and destruction; the incredible salaries and compensation of that company’s executives, the huge shareholder dividends; the company’s decision to create giant blackouts for millions of people, presumably while it fixes the negligence that caused the problem in the first place. And all this, with 59,000 people living homeless in Los Angeles. This is the apocalyptic backdrop against which, it seems to many of us here, President Trump is trying to destroy the planet in so many ways. Of course, the builders of this set predate the Trump administration, but the script playing out on the set — the underlying themes and angles and shots — fits well with his direction.

One way to make sure the homeless don’t end up starting fires might be to house them, which Los Angeles has not figured out how to do.

Meanwhile, all my neighbors are in the “resistance” against Mr. Trump and his policies.

Or putting together events in their backyards to fund-raise for various Democratic candidates and for important causes like reproductive rights, climate change initiatives, homeless housing and criminal justice reforms.

All of the problems mentioned by the author are ones that can be addressed without interacting with the federal government and the hated Trumpenfuhrer. California can build apartments for those currently homeless, run new power lines, pay people $10,000 for each abortion that they want to have (“reproductive rights”; note that selling an abortion privately in California can be substantially more lucrative), and open its prisons (“criminal justice reforms”).

[Note that California state prisons hold roughly half as many prisons as the federal government holds nationwide. These 115,000 victims of an unreformed criminal justice system are guarded by folks who earn more than Harvard graduates at a cost that exceeds tuition, room, and board at Harvard.]

Yet instead of getting together to create state programs to solve all of the problems that they say they’re concerned about (voting to tax themselves as necessary to pay for the new programs), Californians invest their time and energy complaining about a guy who is 3,000 miles away.

Tom Steyer, the billionaire running for the Democratic presidential nomination currently, is a good example of this way of thinking. He’s pledged to give half of his money to charity (i.e., he’s pledged not to pay state or federal tax on half of the money he has earned). Why wouldn’t he instead build some apartment buildings in California and give away half the units to those currently homeless?


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United Premier 1K members warn us about the climate emergency

“World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency is signed by 11,258 scientists worldwide.

Let’s have a look at principal author Thomas Newsome’s conference papers, indicating travel from his Sydney, Australia base. In 2018 alone, he visited at least Cleveland, Minneapolis, Brisbane, and Hobart. How about principal author Phoebe Barnard? In addition to organizing and attending conferences around the world, she splits her time among Namibia, South Africa, and the U.S.

When will the climate emergency become so dire that these authors decide to use Skype rather than take transcontinental airline trips every few months?

Related only in the reference to United Premier 1K:

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Quality of Life in Denver

JetBlue was honoring Justin Trudeau on the way out (September) …

Nobody who arrives at the Denver Airport in the late evening is going to get claustrophobia:

My experience at the Maven at Dairy Block Hotel proves that nobody older than 40 should attempt to stay at a hip hotel. Although it was Sunday and Monday night when I stayed, there was already a lot of noise from the outdoor dining tables in the alley underneath the room. Airstream and pinball in the lobby:

I did appreciate the room numbers done in nails. Instead of a vat of coffee in the lobby from which you pour yourself as many cups as you want (Hampton Inn-style), you take a coupon for a precious single cup of single vintage drip coffee served by a tattooed and pierced cashier at the artisanal coffee shop within the building:

There is an upscale food court attached to the hotel. If nothing else, it proves an example of the critical difference between possessive and contraction.

We were working near Union Station:

This area certainly won’t win prizes for affordability. We didn’t see a sandwich for less than $13. A haircut from a barber shop, with tip, was $40. The first native-born Uber driver that I met was during the departure ride to the airport (20-minute traffic jam delay at 8 pm). He said “I’ve lived here my whole life, but I can’t afford it anymore. It is like San Francisco. I think I’ll have to move.” Certainly he can be replaced. The sandwich shops were staffed mostly by non-English-speaking immigrants who were receiving instruction in such basic tasks as ladling soup into disposable bowls.

Dinner was a $70 plate of tacos at Tamayo:

After we managed to eat most of these, our local friend gave us a tour of the 16th Street Mall. She knew many of the homeless people we encountered, whose environment was punctuated by video signboards advertising Patagonia, purveyor of $200 down vests. Instead of the garments, however, Patagonia was advertising its brand with a message about climate change:

The good news is that nobody over age 30 is “facing extinction,” according to Patagonia.

(Wouldn’t the actual “climate deniers” be Patagonia customers themselves? Suppose that someone bought a vest for 30 at Costco or $40 at Uniqlo instead of paying $200 for a Patagonia vest. He/she/ze would then have $160-170 left over with which to plant trees ($1/tree in bulk?) to reduce global warming. What is better evidence of climate denial than conspicuous consumption of luxury goods such as Patagonia clothing?)

The Denver Art Museum is mostly closed for a massive renovation. But there is still some great stuff on display. Kids were better dressed in the old days:

I love Nam June Paik’s work, but how can it be maintained? Who has a stock of late 20th century Trinitron tubes?

I thought it would kill on Facebook to write “A big space needs a lot of rooftop A/C.” over a picture of these Donald Judd sculptures.

How wrong I was!

A professional fundraiser was outside seeking donations for bringing more migrants to the U.S. I gave him my standard offer of paying for transportation and food if he wanted to house a migrant in his own apartment. This was refused: “That’s not how we work.”

Inside the museum, an Erika Harrsch installation/video promoting migration:

Watch this video for the words/lyrics (“alien” features prominently).

More exciting for the kids: a 1970 hall of mirrors by Lucas Samaras. The renovated museum will be open in 2022, just in time for Shanghai to have built another Manhattan full of office space.

What do people read in Denver? I visited the Tattered Cover, an old-school downtown bookstore, to find out. “For the sisters, misters, and binary resisters”:

(Will the Mueller Report have to be shredded now that Trump is being impeached from his position as Fuhrer due to Ukraine, not Russia? Or will people still pay to read this in hardcopy? And I would hope that the one thing anyone can learn during National Hispanic Heritage Month is that nobody could ever have too many tamales!)

Denver got quite a bit younger and hipper as I made my way back to the airport. The airport is ready for the Elizabeth Warren presidency. JetBlue, regrettable, is showing movies by a convicted (in New Yorker magazine and on Facebook) rapist. To deceive the woke/outraged into watching Annie Hall, the airline tags it as dating to 2007 (Wikipedia says 1977).

Due to the easy flight connections to Asia and the appeal to the young workers that employers seek, I cling to my belief that Denver was the best choice for Amazon HQ2. At the same time, it seems that any more business growth will be very tough indeed on the lower skill members of the community.

My favorite pictures from the trip are of an app-linked electric scooter tossed into the garbage in front of a micro-brewery. I posted this to Facebook with “Public service announcement: eating avocado toast and steering don’t mix.”

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Bostonians protest Melania Trump

“Boston Medical Center employees to protest Melania Trump’s visit on Wednesday”:

Some 250 people who work at Boston Medical Center are protesting a scheduled visit Wednesday by first lady Melania Trump to a hospital program that helps babies who were exposed to drugs in the womb, according to opponents of Trump’s appearance.

A local reporter asked on Facebook for “thoughts” on this visit. Here are some sample responses regarding this high-achieving immigrant woman from the locals who describe themselves as “feminists”:

Could be part of a series on other parasites, bedbugs,vampire bats, ticks

She can stay away! We dont want her hypocritical interest in children here. Please! Is she only going to visit the rooms of white kids? What if there is an immigrant child staying there? Will she kick them out of the hospital? The visit is a joke!

Differences between escort services in New York and Boston.

[One difference is that the escort who gets pregnant in New York harvests a maximum of $100,000/year (tax-free) for 21 years while in Boston the child support profits are potentially unlimited and the payments last for 23 years. See Real World Divorce and “Child Support Litigation without a Marriage”.]

Fake breasts, fake personality, fake husband

My comments might not be suitable for the Globe…they won’t be too kind. Worst FLOTUS of 45 of them…#BeBest Zero sense of irony – married to the world’s biggest cyber bully and she picked that as her cause? While he puts children in cages and separates mothers from their babies? She had a chance to use her global platform to do good. #epicfail

Every single comment is a no to Melania’s visit! I’m so glad that we live in a smart state!

Now they are moving from NYC to FLA, because we haven’t treated him nicely…Trust me as a life long New Yorker who knew all about DJT when he was just another sleazy socialite, we do not want him here! Floridians you have our deepest sympathies, but please keep him…puhlease!

How much do we need to raise to cover her pre-nup? Freedom for us and the civilized world if we ante up and she spills the beans. My checkbook and pen are at the ready.

No win situation. She’s coming to see an amazing program but also one that confirms a narrow view of brown and black people held by the White House. Yet Bmc depends on federal dollars so protesting- which seems obvious when an anti immigrant admin visits a remarkable institution that welcomes all— puts Bmc funding in jeopardy. It’s a perfect set up for a vindictive small-minded president to confirm his preconceptions and cut funds. Another chance for we liberals to play into trumps hand. For an idiot he sure knows how to agitate us and get the result he wants.

[This last one is my favorite, an acknowledgment that “Big Medicine” depends on “Big Government”.]

It occurred to me that the haters are part of a community that produced enough babies addicted to opiates that a special hospital program had to be created. On the other hand, Melania Trump has, to the best of my knowledge, never produced a single opiate-addicted baby.

Also, given that many of the above sentiments are from women, where is the solidarity among the sisterhood?

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Expert witnesses and lawyers: book a vacation trip starting the same day as any trial

Life of a software expert witness: I carefully arranged my calendar this fall so as to be available at four scheduled trials.

  • Trial 1: moved to April 2020
  • Trial 2: settled two weeks prior
  • Trial 3: canceled by the judge, who promised to inform the parties, perhaps early in 2020, regarding a new date
  • Trial 4: case stayed due to withdrawal of counsel on one side (not the folks who hired me)

Instead of the excitement of talking to 12 interested people (upgrade from the usual 0), traveling to a different part of the country, and working intensively with smart people, it is a week or two of the home-based routine with absolutely nothing on the calendar (having refused all invitations from friends and family for various activities during the trial block).

My latest idea: actually schedule an interesting mostly refundable trip starting the very same day as the trial. If the trial is canceled, take the vacation trip. If, by some miracle, the trial occurs on the scheduled day, absorb whatever refund/change fees are imposed by the airline and hotels. The likelihood of the trial going forward on the scheduled week and actually having to pay any fees, based on my experience, is at most one quarter. If the fees for canceling the trip are $500, therefore, the statistical cost of implementing this strategy is only about $125 per trial.

Readers: Where else can this strategy be employed? Who else has to block 1-3-week periods of time that probably won’t be needed after all?

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