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California's Education Funding Over Time

California is expecting to fund over 50% more students than in 1980 while diverting funds from universities to prisons. That can't possibly work. A major adjustment of expectations is needed to address this issue which is only worsening.

California's population has more than doubled from 15 million in 1960 to 32 million in 2000. (It has increased by more than 50% from 1980 to 2008, data from Wolfram Alpha.)

(Graphic and data from

Undergraduates in 2010 have to pay over 4.5 times what 1980 students did, even in inflation-adjusted dollars. At the same time, the state government has cut its funding to less than a third of what it was, in inflation-adjusted dollars.

(Graphic and data from UC Pay)

To add insult to injury, California state prison funding has risen as a percentage of the state budget, while university funding has fallen.

(Graphic from Professor Bainbridge)

The article from which I got the above graphic suggests that the Governer is attempting to change the way higher education is funded, but is doing so in a way that will pit the very powerful California Correctional Peace Officers Association against it. (An anecdote: While searching swivel for statistical data on "California" and "Prison", an ad came up for a petition against the Governer's proposal to reduce prison costs.)



Totally Unnecessary

Rabbit, rabbit.

Yeah, I have this month covered already elsewhere.  But why not give LJ a little Leporidae leporidae love too?


Our Three Greatest Fears

I've heard it said that a study was done to catalogue our greatest fears, and that the second greatest fear we have is death, while the greatest fear we have is speaking in public.

Let my experience this past weekend add a little colour to that.  I'd suggest that our modern three greatest fears may well be:

  1. Speaking in public
  2. Death
  3. Loss of connectivity to the internet
This weekend we went down to Pasadena for a memorial for my Mother, who passed away last month.  (While it's imperative for a funeral to occur within a few days of the death, a memorial like this can occur later, to give family and friends a better chance to get together.)

The memorial was held in a church, and the opening words were provided by an Associate Minister.  I was responsible for the opening of the Community Eulogy.  (I write it in caps because that's how it felt.  Imposing.)

I'm not a public speaker.  I'm a typically introverted software developer.  So this wasn't to be an easy thing for me.  While I was wrestling with the way funerals and memorials manage to combine these two all-time favorite pastimes, death and public speaking, Charter Communication suffered an internet blackout for nearly the entire weekend.

Oh.  My.  God.

We were right in the middle of review cycles of my Mom's memorial program and music arrangements.  Staff from the church had been sending email back and forth with us, and they had the wrong phone number for dad.  We sent a correction just before we lost connectivity.  We weren't sure our outgoing email got through.

I was freaking out, thinking I'd broken my dad's computer, and I had precious little time to restore it.  I kept calling Charter every two hours the entire weekend, and the reply I always got was, "We can't help you until the outage that we are aware of in your area has been cleared."  So I really didn't know if the Charter blackout was the only problem, or if there was a problem local to dad's computer.

And how was I going to provide remote tech support to my dad if he can't get online before I go home?  I can't VNC in.  I'd have to walk him through everything blind, on the phone.  "The cable modem is the box with hopefully some green LEDs on it.  See a box like that?  Feel around behind it for a power swich, and if you don't feel that, try to determine which cable is the power cable.  Ready?..."  The prospect of having to do that was terrifying.

Sunday was to be a make-it-or-break-it day.  We were flying back on the last flight that night, after the memorial.

Everything came together.  The flower arrangements arrived where they were supposed to, when they were supposed to.  So did the food and wine.  The music was beautiful.  The memorial would have made Mom proud.  When we got back to Dad's apartment, the internet connection was back up.  Icing on the cake was that I even discovered how to open a safe that Mom had locked, and to which nobody knew the combination.

And the next day was Chinese New Year's.   We'd gotten all that accomplished before the end of the previous year.

Gung Hay Fot Choy!



David's Bad Week - 2008 Edition

My mom passed away a few days before Christmas.

She had been sick, and we all had an opportunity to say goodbye.  There's comfort in that.  I flew down to be with my dad for a few days between Christmas and my birthday, to make some arrangements.  We're all heading down again soon.

Oh: I was going to write a post about my birthday along the lines of this:  I've finally arrived at the answer!  (That is, the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.)  The actual answer, of course, is: Chop wood, carry water.

I flew back to my wife and kids, and I had the bright idea of going to the California Academy of Sciences on the Monday between Christmas and New Years, because a lot of people still have to work that day.

I wasn't the only one with that bright idea.  The CalAcademy employee controlling the lines outside said it was busier than it had been on the weekend.  The special member entrance line took hours to get through, just like the regular entrance.

Once we eventually got in, my wife asked, "You didn't park in a 2-hour zone, did you?"  Of course I had.  So I left, re-parked the car a long ways away and jogged back to queue up in the re-admission line.  On that way back, my foot twisted a little, and my kneecap fell out to the side.  (A "displaced patella".  Displaced patellas are painful.)

Picture of my gross swollen knee inside...Collapse )

Evidently a ligament saw fit to tear off some bone when it couldn't bear the strain. This will put me out of commission for a few weeks. It's hard to say how much this sucks for someone who is supposed to be Daddy!

I limped back, and the CalAcademy was now only allowing people to enter when the same number of people left.  Cell phone reception inside the academy is awful, so my wife had to walk to a spot where she could make an outgoing call every half-hour to see how far along in the line I was.  I got in around lunchtime.

We did all get to see the planetarium show, and it was duly awesome.  (And Ai Otsuka's "Planetarium" was in the car on the way to the CalAcademy. I couldn't resist.)

On the way back from the CalAcademy an accident on the lower deck of the Bay Bridge brought traffic to a stop.  My son just about lost his mind with the hating of being stuck in traffic for what felt like an eternity.

Oh, there's more.  I can't bring myself to write it at this point.  I'm glad that that week is over.

Mou ichido: Bad Week Owari.


Today I got to attend a one-day class presented by Edward Tufte, author of The Visual Display of Quantative Information.

What follows are completely random notes from the conference:

A conspicuously unmarked bus full of people followed my car into the parking lot.  I suspect they were Google employees.

I remembered to bring my pen, a UniBall Signo, but didn't bring anything to write on.  I figured the conference room would provide something.  But when I got there, I noticed that a lot of the other attendees brought their own stuff too, and more often then not, their stuff was Moleskines, iPhones, and UniBall pens, too!

For a second, I thought Tufte's laptop was an Apple MacBook Air, but upon closer inspection, it wasn't the Air.

Tufte is very sensitive to the effect caused by putting boxes around text.  He's against the optical clutter it causes, especially when the lines of the box are too close to anything else, and thus "activate" the negative space inbetween.  The lines can cause shimmer with the content they're trying to box.  He pointed out the box around the surgeons's warning on cigarette cartons, and also pointed out that putting the surgeon's warning in all caps did not make reading the warning any easier, it actually made it more difficult.  (Maybe, I'll have to think about that.)

Tufte is a fan of Gill Sans and Trebuchet.

Tufte does not dismiss the value of annotation and the written word.  Sometimes a few paragraphs are better than a chart.

He provided an anecdote about the dense tables and charts on the sporting page vs. a military presentation where the data was highly distilled for executive consumption.  He says that we really don't have to hide the details like they did in the military presentation.  We're perfectly capable of combing through somewhat dense data when it's presented effectively.

Tufte's aesthetic reminds me of Jakob Nielsen's, a little but.

Tufte's got a thing against the effect that Microsoft PowerPoint has had on data presentation in general.  He uses a PowerPoint presentation made by one of the manufacturers of the Space Shuttle Columbia as a prime example of the ill influences of PowerPoint.  I've got to find that presentation to see what he was talking about.  Should be at, maybe.

Tufte may be something of a bibliophile, too.  He showed us a 1570 edition of Euclid's Elements and Galileo's Sunspots books.  They were pretty awesome.  Euclid's book had little pieces of paper glued to some of the pages where the reader was supposed to fold flaps up, to better visualize 3D geometry.

Tufte, as a publisher, pointed out how impressive it was that the 1570 edition of the book's glue still held, and didn't warp the page it was glued to.  The obverse side of the page was perfectly flat and normal.

He quoted "About Face": No matter how good your interface is, it'd be better if there was less of it.

He offered the following presentation guildelines:
  1. Define the problem.
  2. Show its relevance.  (Why the audience should care.)
  3. Show the solution.
He also recommended showing up early, to resolve problems with the venue, or to socialize with the audience.  He did this.  He walked down the rows, asking about us and signing our books.  He also recommended finishing early.  He did this, too.  By two minutes.  He finished at 3:58.

Tufte won some points with me when I read his list of personal favorite writings:
  • Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, et. al., A Pattern Language
  • Robert Merton, On the Shoulders of Giants
  • Evelyn Waugh, Scoop
  • Italo Calvino novels
  • Gore Vidal literary essays
  • The Paris Review Interviews, Writers at Work (15 volumes)
  • Paul Klee, Notebooks
  • Richard P. Feynman, Surely You Are Joking, Mr. Feynman, and What Do You Care What Other People Think?


What is a man?

I can't get past California's Proposition 8.

I've been turning it over and over in my head.  What's the point of limiting this right?

Now we'll need legal definitions of man and woman.  Does a man have to have individual, well formed X and Y chromosomes?  Does an XXY male qualify legally as a man?  Does a woman have to have two well formed X chromosomes?  What if they've got the right chromosomes, but have otherwise been physically altered in another way?  What if a "man" has no testes?  What if he has no penis?

Do the pair have to be able to copulate?  Do they both have to be fertile?

What's the legal gender of a transgender individual?

Are we making a legal distinction between man and woman with boy and girl?  Do they have to be "of age" both mentally and physically?  Is a "man" a qualifying participant if he's 21 but has the mental capacity of an 11-year old?  Is a male a man as soon as he produces viable sperm?

What if a "man" or "woman" loses one of his or her qualifying attributes after marriage?  Does the marriage get annulled?

Why does California want this in its constitution?  What good could it possibly do?


I'm voting.

I know that I have an emotional response to our current president, and I don't want to vote against the Republican party just because I've been disappointed in Bush.  There are some issues on which I strongly agree with the Republican party.  But just some.

I don't want to vote for Obama just because I need change.  That'd be an emotional response.

I fired up glass booth.  I don't put much stock in online quizes.  And I won't base my decision on what glass booth tells me.

Their quiz is refreshingly simple.  Narrow the issues down to the ones I care about the most, and then see which candidates agree with me the most on those few high-priority issues.

I still have more research to do.  But I'll take a little comfort in the fact that this quiz (among others) jibes with my inclination.


Stopped by the Highway Patrol

I got stopped by the California Highway Patrol yesterday, while I was driving the family home from San Francisco. I was in the leftmost lane, going slightly faster than the others, but with the flow of traffic, if you ask me.

When I saw the CHiP in the rear view mirror, I moved to the right one lane to let her (it turned out to be a female officer) pass me, and catch the real speeders.

But she pulled into my lane, and turned on her flashing lights. I pulled over. (And almost side-swiped someone who was in my blind spot. Whoops! I was so nervous.)

She asked me, "Any reason you were going so fast?"

I didn't tell her, "I want my kids to get home in time to watch the new Avatar movie." I just eloquently said, "Umm, no?"

She took my license, registration and insurance back to her vehicle for a minute, then returned saying she'd let me off with a warning.

Today's post secret, contains an interesting postcard, the third one down.

"As a police officer, I decide if I'll give you a ticket based whether or not you have a donor sticker."

I have a donor sticker on my license. I wonder if I got one of that officer's colleagues?


Why Are You So Dumb?

OK.  The subject line should probably be, "Why Are We So Dumb."

This new millennium didn't find us where we thought we'd be.  We rocked Moore's law with transistor density, so why aren't we living in a more advanced world now?  What's holding us back?

The answer, of course, is, "we."

We still respond on an emotional or otherwise irrational level to so many choices.  We resist change, and cling to the familiar.  We only exercise diligence and discipline until we meet some minimum goal.  We still try fad diets.

Want to get measurably smarter?

I suspect that it's possible.  And that Piotr Wozniak is onto something with his SuperMemo.  I recommend the Wired article Want to Remember Everything You'll Ever Learn?  Surrender to this Algorithm.

Getting smarter isn't some fad diet, though.  We'd have to maintain discipline, at some cost.


Ten Years New

We have two sets of steak knives.  A nasty old set of four that I've had since leaving home for college.  And a shiny new set that we got as a wedding present.

My wife always brings out the old set.  We don't care about it, and toss those knives into the dish washer.  I always bring out the new set, they cut so much better.  But we hand-wash those.

Today, she gave me one of the old knives with dinner.  I glared at her.  She knows I never use them.

I sneered, "You know that those precious so-called new knives of ours are exactly ten-years-and-one-day old now?"

She grinned back, "Yeah, but they look just like new!  Aren't you grateful?"

She's incorrigible.  I'll just have to take her as-is.