Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sad news for the reality-based community

The once great San Jose Mercury News is surreptitiously trying to poll readers on how it should destroy itself. I suppose it's better to do these things intentionally and all at once, but that hardly makes ideas like naming the sections of the paper Live, Play and Innovate or scrapping every section but Business any less tragicomic.

If they are having trouble figuring out how to support their operation, they should call Bob Novak, who somehow manages to get paid for columns like the one he wrote this weekend. It consisted of a claim that some anonymous had told Novak that some another anonymous person or people had told him that anonymous people who work for the Clinton campaign had some unknown information about Obama but weren't telling anybody what it was. I can't imagine any other profession in which you could turn out that kind of work product and still keep your job.

Or if that fails, maybe they should take the advice of my former boss and try to "make it not suck."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dinner with Mike Gravel

I know who I am voting for.

Mike Gravel -- the man who ended the draft (and therefore the Vietnam War) and entered the Pentagon papers into the public record -- joined a small group of UCLA law students for dinner Friday night.

Gravel is the first candidate I've heard come out in support of the Wiener platform, my proposal to eliminate our country's stupidest policies. (I did not ask him not know how he feels about the penny). He has a plan to end the war (stop fighting it), and has both the best environmental record of any on candidate (he cosponsored much of our key environmental legislation in the 70's) and the best plan for new solutions (a carbon tax).

But Gravel is thinking even bigger than that. He wants to change the way we write laws and the way we tax ourselves. His real motivation for running is to draw attention to his National Initiative for Democracy, a popularly ratified constitutional amendment that would institute a version of California's initiative process at the national level. The plan eliminates the worst feature of California's system by making it a crime to spend any corporate dollars in campaigns. Of course, it still has some drawbacks, as Gravel admitted. For one, people are kind of stupid. However, unlike legislatures, they have no need to raise massive amounts of money and have more freedom to fix their mistakes.

Gravel has been shut out of recent Democratic debates, because he hasn't met the arbitrary and disturbing standard of needing a million dollars, clearly designed to keep him out. (This is a perverse reversal of spending limits that other jurisdictions employ). As he is unlikely to solve that particular problem if he keeps spending 2.5 hours with a handful of students, look for him next at a Dec. 10 afternoon rally outside NBC studios.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Good idea, bad idea

Good idea: Giving high school students a glimpse of local government by holding a meeting of a local government agency at the high school.

Bad idea: Holding out the Los Altos City Council as an example of how government works.

The Los Altos City Council is holding its Dec. 3 meeting at Los Altos High School to introduce students how the local government decision-making process works.

For those just joining us, the Los Altos City Council:
  • once passed a law forcing day workers to stand on the other side of the street. (After several defeats in court, the city had to settle the case for $65,000).
  • responded to a request by an LAHS student group to proclaim a Gay Pride Day in Los Altos by instead passing a proclamation that it would not issue proclamations about issues the mayor, who at the time happened to be a Mormon guy, found offensive. (In response, the students filed for a parade permit that the city legally had to grant, costing the city about $12,000 in police services).
  • repealed a law against claw machines only to leave intact an anti-gypsy ordinance.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Another reason to hate your orthodontist

Congratulations on your retirement, UCLA orthodontics residency program chair Dr. Eric Ting.

The Daily Bruin came out swinging today against UCLA's school of orthodontics, documenting its practice of selling residency spots to the relatives of big donors. In one case, the admissions committe told one applicant he was in, only to call him back the next in an attempt to shake him down for $60,000.

The headline, "Donations influence admissions," was somewhat laughable until I remembered that I went to a public university. One professor called it a "mockery of the merit based traditions and social values that have made the University of California the best and most admired public university system in the world today."

Kudos to the Daily Bruin for a well-researched story.

UPDATE, 11/14: Our future dentists are crooked, too.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Evil 11 - Good 10 (overtime)

The Forces of Good were defeated 11-10 by Menlo-Atherton in overtime today in the quarterfinals of CCS.

Los Altos had the lead for most of the game (and looked to be the better team), but gave up a goal with 0:22 seconds left to allow M-A to tie the game and force overtime.

With 0:07 left in the second overtime period, M-A ran a successful play to free their star player, who got high out of the water to and shot unobstructed at four-meters, center cage. By sheer luck he missed the wide open shot. However, disaster was not averted. The ball ricocheted directly to his teammate who squeeked a meathook shot past the Los Altos goalie from an extreme weakside angle as time expired.

Truly tragic.

How will we get to Punta Del Este?

Buenos Aires -- Uruguay closed its border with Argentina yesterday in the latest move in an escalating diplomatic dispute between the two countries. The tensions began when Uruguay recently gave the green light to Finnish multinational Botnia to operate a paper mill on the banks of the Rio de la Plata river just across from Argentina. Argentina contends that the mill will seriously pollute the river which, according to a government lawyer I spoke with, the Argentine government is finally trying to clean up.

However, with the summer quickly approaching down here, if Uruguay closes its border, how will we all get to the chic summer resort town of Punta Del Este? And how will the Uruguayan government make up for all the lost income from tourists? Makes me think they'll open the border soon.

Pictures of the mill showed huge piles of logs ready to be made into paper. That made me think: This is the 21st century and we're still making paper out of trees? For all our technical advances and environmental consciousness, we haven't adopted any alternatives? A few years ago Canadian old-growth was being used to make phone books...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Forces of good march on

Fresh off recapturing the league championship by upsetting evil archrival Paly, the Los Altos boys water polo team easily dispatched #12 seed San Benito in the first round of Central Coast Section playoffs. Senior Connor Smith described the win as "not much of a game."

The starters were pulled after the first quarter. Final score 14-3.

Los Altos will face #4 seed Menlo-Atherton at Lynbrook High School no earlier than 10am* on Saturday.

(*The game is NOW scheduled to start at 11:20 am. Your reporter will be in attendance.)

Introducing NOE's newest correspondent

Please join me in welcoming Los Altos's greatest character writer to the team. Readers will remember Erik Koland as the man who stood up to Rickenbacker Collections, as well as his many informal contributions to the site since its inception.

After years of trying to talk his way onto the blog, Erik becomes the only contributor who actually resides in Los Altos. He will be responsible for our efforts to become Los Altos's leading news source on high school water polo, death, pestilence, and both legally and illegally downloaded video.

Time to sit back and wait for the federal clerkship offers to roll in

Member, City Council CITY OF LOS ALTOS
Completed Precincts 19 of 19


My brother informs me that Towelie and I tied for last place with one vote apiece.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Los Altos election special (with special guest star, my mother)

Though this Tuesday's election will not inspire the attention that last year's did, we here at NOE still take seriously our duty to inform the public about local politics.

Four candidates are running for three open seats on the Los Altos city council.

Ron Packard: Readers no doubt expect us to jump at the opportunity to get rid of Packard, who is largely responsible for the most embarassing thing to happen in Los Altos this millenium and sometimes seems to think he's mayor of Pleasantville. Not so. Packard has a lot of experience, having also spent two terms on the Mountain View council. He has a reputation as a thoughtful and generous man, and serves on the board of the Day Worker Center. Of course, the real reason I'm voting for Packard is that I need material for this blog, and he provides it.

David Casas: Casas was somewhat of a shit-disurber on the VTA Board at a time when it sorely needed its shit disturbed. He also always returned my phone calls when I was looking for a comment or an interview. On the other hand, his kid was kind of a brat the one time I met him. That would likely be enough for my mom not to vote for him, but that was few years ago.

Randall Hull: Hull seems like a friend of bicycle commuting and renewable energy usage. However, he used to do some contract work for the Town Crier, so he's already got one foot in the grave.

Megan Satterlee: I know almost nothing about Satterlee other than that her ballot statement refers too frequently to "preserving" Los Altos. However, she's an alum of UCLA School of Law. The added prestige that my degree would carry with an alum on the Los Altos City Council is too great to pass up. Sorry Randall.

The only other thing on the ballot is Measure O, which would revise the city's phone tax to include cell phone and broadband users while lowering the rate from 3.5% to 3.2%.

Nobody has written a argument against this idea, though there is this:
Mom: "I don't know what this one is about. I'll probably vote yes. I usually vote yes on everything."

Me: "That one is a tax cut." [Yes, I know this is only partially true.]

Mom: "Okay, I'll vote no then. Why would they cut taxes?"
My mom's voting system for candidates: vote for women.
My mom's voting system for other measures: yes on everything (except tax cuts.)