October 31, 2010
DHS Alternative Ed. Center Seeking Donations
Donations in order to buy two low-priced video cameras. The students plan to make a public service announcement on the subject of teen pregnancy (they're against it). Here's the camera they're aiming for. In addition to those cameras, they're going to need some SD cards, too. They hope to raise a little less than $400 before the end of November.
UPDATE: Word comes that a Ron's Log reader has already covered the cost of the cameras plus two necessary 16 GB SD cards. Thank you, reader. Now on to the next project.
Vietnam To Get Nuclear Power
Russia will build one nuclear power plant in Vietnam, while Japan will build two. In return, Japan and Vietnam will "co-operate on developing rare earth minerals for Japan." Rare earth minerals were recently withheld from Japan by China.
Nomenclature of the British Isles
October 30, 2010
Exploratorium Videos On The Playa
Paul Doherty, scientist at San Francisco's Exploratorium, explains the nature of the Black Rock Desert playa, home to Burning Man. He tests the pH level and discovers it is so far above 8 that it will support no life at all - as if we didn't already know.
Pilot Michael Marin explains, for the Exploratorium audience, everything about the Black Rock City municipal airport. Late summer temperatures can raise the effective altitude from the actual 4,000 feet to as high as 10,000 feet.
Paul Doherty explains FIRE! And what better place to find a variety of fires than Burning Man?
Alex Smith from the Exploratorium visits the Micro Zoo at Burning Man. Tristan, the zoo keeper, expects to find Tardigrades in the alkali soil of the playa.
Alex Smith interviews Black Rock City artist Casper who does large scale, highly detailed drawings.
October 29, 2010
Meg Whitman is so bad...
How bad is she? She's so bad that even the Desert Sun can't bring itself to endorse her. Not that they endorsed Jerry Brown, though. They just couldn't decide which was worse. They seemed most concerned with the fact that Whitman didn't show up to be interviewed after saying she would. Brown, OTOH, ignored them completely.
October 28, 2010
Los Angeles 1944
I especially enjoy the "committee" of about 79 people who all patriotically set aside their differences to vote together. I'd like to see a film of how it really happened.
Rescuing Digital History
We had a very good DHS Historical Society Soup Supper tonight with a talk by Terry Chapman who is Registrar at Cabot's Pueblo Museum. Some of the important things she told us were
- Record information (the 5 "W"s) for an item of interest (like a photo) NOW, while the information is still fresh - or at least while you still know it.
- If you don't know the information, but the people who might know it are still around, ask them.
- Make sure the info is kept with the item - write it on the back of a photo with pencil, for instance.
- Store the item safely - away from light as much as possible - Ms. Chapman recommended white cotton pillow cases as a nearly ideal storage material.
She didn't have much time to address digital photography, except to say delete the bad ones and to save identifying information in the file or folder name.
So I'd like to add a little more about storing info in your digital photos. If your photos are in JPG (JPEG) format, and almost all of them are, that format allows you to include a lot of useful information in the photo file itself as text. Text that's not visible in the photo, but can be retrieved by most photo editors and probably by your computer's file system as well.
How you add the information varies according to what photo editing software you are using. On Mac systems look in your photo editing software menus for something like "File Info." On a Windows system it might be "File Properties." Select that and you will find various fields available where you can put in all the information you've got about your photo. That information will then stay in the photo, even if it gets edited again. It will get deleted, however, if you convert the photo to some format other than JPG, or if you use your editor's "Save for Web" option. That option strips out all non-critical material to make the file as small as possible.
If it's digital audio you're saving, the same thing can be accomplished in the ID3 tags.
Comparing Compensation For City Managers
I've heard various outlandish claims about the compensation paid to various city managers in Coachella Valley. The State Controller's local compensation report makes it easy to do a comparison. I looked at the data for all 9 Coachella Valley city governments, plus Banning and Yucca Valley. Beaumont hasn't submitted their data yet. For each city manager (town manager in Yucca Valley) the report lists [among other things] (1) the maximum salary in 2009, (2) the amount of wages reported in box 5 on the W-2 in 2009, and (3) the health insurance benefit cost. Bear in mind that the amount from the W-2 is a real amount for a real person, so if a particular city manager occupied his post for less than the full calendar year, that figure could appear to be low.
I sorted the data three ways and put it in PDFs.
Sort by the sum of the W-2 amount and the health insurance benefit. The lowest was Yucca Valley (where the Assistant Town Manager made far more than the Town Manager) at $58,799. Highest was Indio at $375,825. Desert Hot Springs is in the middle at $263,246.
Sort by max salary. Palm Springs did not report a maximum salary. Again, the low was Yucca Valley, high was Indio, Desert Hot Springs in the middle at $217,000.
Sort by max salary per capita, using the population figures on the State Controller's website. You shouldn't read too much into this number. City Managers don't get compensated on strict linear scale relative to population. No matter the size of the city, there are the basic tasks of a city manager that don't grow or shrink. Dealing with the city council, for example, takes up a chunk of every city manager's time and energy and the size of that chunk has much more to do with who's on the city council than the size of the city's population. That said, the lowest max salary per capita is Yucca Valley ($2.93 per capita) and the highest is little Indian Wells ($51.54 per capita!). Desert Hot Springs comes in two steps below Indian Wells at $8.17 per capita. Palm Springs didn't submit a max salary figure, but if we use their W-2 figure, the per capita amount comes to $6.11, putting it between La Quinta and Banning.
Desert Hot Springs Compensation Report Now Available
The website of the State Controller now has the compensation report for Desert Hot Springs, a few days late. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way to link to it directly, but if you start here and scroll to the bottom you'll find links to city and county information listed either alphabetically or by population. Select "Salary Information" under City and then scroll down to "Desert Hot Springs." Over in the right hand column you'll see the link "View Data" which will take you to the actual information. You can sort the information in various ways.
If that's too much for you, I've captured a rough PDF version of the data here. It's not interactive like the website, but the numbers are there.
Bear in mind, all of the information is for calendar year 2009.
That is our sun photographed in the light of hydrogen NOT by an orbiting solar observatory, but by Alan Friedman with this telescope in his backyard:
Click on the photo of the sun for a much larger version and to zoom in on certain features.
More info is available on the Bad Astronomy blog where a properly scaled photo of Earth has been laid onto part of the sun's image so you can appreciate the vastness.
Obama on DADT Repeal: Hey, all you need is 2 to 5 Republican Senators
Yeah, it's that easy, and Obama's so good at getting handfuls of Republican votes that he's gonna tell us the secret method, right? No, actually. Yesterday, President Obama sat down for a conversation with five "progressive" bloggers, including a couple of gay ones.
[Joe Sudbay of AmericaBlog.com and Gay.AmericaBlog.com]: Well, can I ask you just about "don't ask, don't tell," just following up? (Laughter.) I just want to follow up. Because you mentioned it -
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, sure. Go ahead.
Sudbay: Is there a strategy for the lame-duck session to --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Sudbay: -- and you're going to be involved?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Sudbay: Will Secretary Gates be involved?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not going to tip my hand now. But there is a strategy.
THE PRESIDENT: And, look, as I said --
Sudbay: Can we call it a secret plan? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I was very deliberate in working with the Pentagon so that I've got the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs being very clear about the need to end this policy. That is part of a strategy that I have been pursuing since I came into office. And my hope is that will culminate in getting this thing overturned before the end of the year.
Now, as usual, I need 60 votes. So I think that, Joe, the folks that you need to be having a really good conversation with -- and I had that conversation with them directly yesterday, but you may have more influence than I do -- is making sure that all those Log Cabin Republicans who helped to finance this lawsuit and who feel about this issue so passionately are working the handful of Republicans that we need to get this thing done.
Sudbay: Yes, I don't have that relationship with them. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: But, I mean, it's just -- I don't understand the logic of it.
Sudbay: Nor do I.
THE PRESIDENT: You're financing a very successful, very effective legal strategy, and yet the only really thing you need to do is make sure that we get two to five Republican votes in the Senate.
And I said directly to the Log Cabin Republican who was here yesterday, I said, that can't be that hard. Get me those votes.
Because what I do anticipate is that John McCain and maybe some others will filibuster this issue, and we're going to have to have a cloture vote. If we can get through that cloture vote, this is done.
October 27, 2010
Desert Solar Projects
The Press-Enteprise has a nice little map showing all the proposed solar power facilities across southern California. And then they tell you the most optimistic employment projects: 8,000 workers during construction; 1,000 on-going employees to operate. Ivanpah is expected to be complete in 2013.
I Don't Know Why
Name 10 Freeway
Location Los Angeles, CA
Bio I'm the reason you're late to work. You're welcome.
Alright, I'm awake already! Now get your brobdingnagian Hummer off my back!
10:26 AM Oct 18th via web
The 2 freeway is such a freakin' hipster. I saw him trying to overturn a PBR truck the other day.
7:27 PM Oct 16th via web
You want to see Jackass 3D? Just drive down me during rush hour!
11:28 AM Oct 15th via web
Why, yes, I was staring at your car's ass.
8:22 AM Oct 14th via web
The B-Squad For Prop 19
Don't worry, this isn't where George Soros' million bucks went (I don't think).
Affordable Homes In Irwindale: $2 million a piece
The L.A. Times reports that over 8 years Irwindale, California, spent $87 million in affordable housing funds and built 42 homes. Some of that money was spent on trips to New York supposedly to discuss bonds. On one of those trips city officials arrived on a Saturday and spent 6 nights at the Ritz Carlton.
DHS City Council Study Session - October 26
Mayor Pro Tem Matas narrated a powerpoint on the proposal for a DHS Youth Council. He came across this quote from the National League of Cities that he thought was very appropriate: "[Youth councils are] a popular and effective way to get youth more involved in solving local problems and more actively engaged in the community."
DHS has a population of 25,000 and 7,500 of them are youth. There is a 30% student drop out rate. Later in the presentation Mr. Matas said the total number of students who are residents of DHS is 7,500 (there are another 1,000 who come from outside the city). If the resident students number 7,500 and we've got a drop out rate of 30%, the the number of youth in DHS is greater than 7,500.
15% of the youth are using the community youth programs (sports, Boys & Girls Club, etc.).
We've got eight schools in the city, counting the Alternative school and not counting the new middle school under construction.
The Youth Council would be made up of Advisors (administrator, educators, parents), a 5-member Council (youths age 16-18), and Representatives (2 from each elementary school (5th grade), 6 from each middle school (2 per grade), 4 from the high school (1 per grade), and 2 from the Alternative school - that's a total of 22 reps, or 28 after the new middle school opens).
The Youth Council could lead to intern programs, committee & commission liaisons, making recommendations to the city council on youth concerns.
Last February Mr. Matas met with the City Manager and City Attorney to begin the groundwork for his proposal. He met with all of the school principals in DHS. From February to June, they worked on getting a grant (it was denied). The grant would have been used to hire a part-time administrator. In September presentations to school students were made. The plan is to select the participating students and advisors over the next month or so, to be presented to the city council in December.
The advisors would be city staff, the city council liaison (Scott Matas), and the main advisors would be from the high school and alternative school, with one additional adviser from each elementary and middle school. Advisors would have to commit to attend all meetings and participate i field trips and the end of season dinner. Their participation would be necessary in summer community service and a summer field trip as well.
They attended a meeting of the Indio Youth Council and got information on their organization and bylaws. In Indio only high school youth participate. (As we know, if we wait for high school, the kids are already lost). During his preliminary meetings Mr. Matas noticed that the fifth graders were much more vocal in their opinions than high schoolers.
There was a meeting of advisors October 18. Student panels will be appointed November 15. From November 15 to 19 the youth council candidates would be interviewed by Mr. Matas, Dr. Kalisek (high school principal) and city staff. On December 3 letters will be mailed to appointees. December 5 a press release would go out. The first meeting of the Youth Council would be in January. At their first meeting they will get, in addition to the usual (welcome from the Mayor, orientation on rules and regulations, and a dinner, etc.), a half hour on the Brown Act by the City Attorney. I'm sure he'll make it light and fun. Maybe every Youth Council member will be asked to pinpoint his or her home on the RDA map. Then they'll be shown the City Clerk's collection of straws, long and short.
Mr. Matas envisions that the Youth Council will review city council agendas to identify issues that are relevant to youth, or perhaps proposing items that the city council hasn't covered. A Youth Council member could sit at the dais during city council meetings.
Mr. Matas proposes that meetings be held every other month, with field trips during the intervening months. Suggested for the February field trip was a visit to city hall, Cabot's Museum, and offices of Mission Springs Water District. In April the field trip might go to a Board of Supervisors meeting or CVAG Executive Meeting.
The school year would wrap up with a dinner in June to recognize the Seniors who will be leaving the Youth Council, and announce information on the summer community service project and the summer field trip. Then in late August the advisors and the Youth Council would meet to discuss filling the empty positions on the Youth Council.
Future development could include an intern program, and a "Judicial System Program" which has been set up in another Riverside County city. In that "kids that were in trouble actually went through the court system and other kids were seated at the dais and punished them."
Mr. Matas thinks that after one successful year they might have a better chance to get a grant that would pay for a program director.
Dr. Kalisek came to podium. She said that giving students a voice in the school can reduce the dropout rate. Adults often make assumptions about youth activities without involving the youth directly. The kids have a lot to say and know how to be leaders, she said, and if the city council grows that leadership capacity the students will become the future leaders.
Then Lorraine Becker came to the podium. She said that earlier they had applied for a Department of Justice grant (also denied) and then the Anderson grant (denied). We didn't have all the pieces in place then. She said empowering the youth helps to enfranchise the parents.
Councilmember Baker asked what amount of grant was sought. Mayor Pro Tem Matas said they requested $24,000. But Mr. Matas acknowledge he would have really liked to have $50,000 which would run the program for a year, paying for a director and field trips. Mr. Baker said he would approach Manuel Perez to see if he could find funds to support the Youth Council.
Mr. Baker asked if the group would be subject to the Brown Act. Mr. Matas said he didn't believe it would be, but if they learn it now then they'll be better able to understand the process in the future. Dr. Kalisek said she thought it was important to know that they are part of the public and that the meetings are conducted openly.
Mr. Baker cited the YMCA Youth In Government program as a very good one.
Councilmember Pye said she tried to start something like this in 2000, and she's glad to see it come back.
Mayor Parks wished Mr. Matas the best, saying it's his baby and go forward.
Laura Green Settlement
The 6-page PDF of the agreement between Laura Green and the City of DHS is available here. The part you're probably curious about is on page 2. She is being paid 3 months of administrative leave plus payment for COBRA health care coverage through July 2011 plus 6 months severance pay, for a total of $99,328.16. In return, everyone agrees that everyone is on amicable terms and the reason for her termination is a reduction in force.
The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
Rhode Island is voting on a referendum to drop "and Providence Plantations" from its official name. The main reason seems to be that a lot of people associate the word "plantation" with slavery. A Google search for definitions of "plantation" turns up nothing about slavery. Plantations are simply large farms. Thanks goodness, the Providence Journal editorializes against this ignorant change:
Editorial: Don't change state's name
01:00 AM EDT on Friday, October 15, 2010
We're all in favor of bringing people together and healing wounds. But it makes little sense to change the name of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations to simply the State of Rhode Island. Such a change would come about if voters approve Question 1 on the Nov. 2 ballot, which would change the state's constitution.
The drive for the name change mostly comes from a misunderstanding of the meaning of "plantation" and of history. Some are offended by "Plantations" in the state's name because it reminds them of slavery, which was practiced on a vast scale on Southern cotton, rice and tobacco plantations before the Civil War. But the word itself really has nothing to do with slavery. It was commonly employed in the 1600s to describe colonial settlements in America that depended heavily on agriculture. Providence Plantations got the name well before the curse of slavery took hold within its borders. For that matter, "plantations" is a word used in much of the English-speaking world today.
The state's lengthy name — longest name for the smallest state — which can be found in the U.S. Constitution, represents an early melding of two separate communities around Narragansett Bay: Rhode Island, now better known as Aquidneck, and Providence Plantations, which founder Roger Williams named in honor of his belief that divine providence had led him there.
The somewhat quaint name, used on official documents, is a reminder of the state's earliest colonial history.
Getting rid of it would not only erode the public's understanding of the history embedded in the name but would also be a very fiscally costly exercise in symbolism. The expense — many millions of dollars — and other trouble from such a transformation would be significant.
There are better ways to mitigate the shame that some Rhode Islanders feel in coming from a state with "Plantations" in the name.
Citizens, especially schoolchildren, should be taught what the word really means. They should also be taught about the role of slavery in the colony's economic development, the hard struggle to eradicate that abomination, and the tremendous contributions of former slaves and their descendants to America. Many people, of all colors and conditions, helped to make up the mosaic that is modern Rhode Island. While there are painful aspects of our history, there are also many acts of courage, generosity and greatness.
There is no need to ignore the true story of Rhode Island to help all citizens feel they are full partners in our state. We strongly recommend that voters reject the proposed constitutional amendment to change the state's name.
October 26, 2010
Experiences Yet To Be Experienced
So many things I have not experienced: I have never suffered a gunshot, I've never broken a major bone, I've never had appendicitis, I've never had a near-death experience, I've never been in the middle of a war, I've never had Outlook on my Mac.
Microsoft has now made it possible for me to experience one of those. And for only $150. I'm looking forward to the gunshot.
This may be the single most important proposition on the ballot this year. It gets rid of the ridiculous two-thirds requirement for the legislature to approve a budget. The budget's a routine thing. We've got 50 state legislatures doing it every year. There's a deadline. It's got to be passed. The least we can do to help fix this crippled legislature is to get rid of this one very crippling requirement.
Plus, the delicious icing on this cake is that if the budget is late, the legislature never gets paid for the days they spend dithering after the deadline. So, even if this proposition doesn't improve the speed of the legislature (although I think it will), the delays will be especially sweet as we know the legislators' lives are being made a bit more miserable.