Monday, October 12, 2020

One Person, One Vote

I've been sitting on this post, incomplete for two years. Sitting at home sick today, I'm just going to post it. I'm no political scientist, but I've been very frustrated around the conversation (and stupid comments) I hear about the Electoral College.

"Los Angeles and New York shouldn't decide the election." 

If you're saying this, what you're really saying is "I don't believe every American should be entitled to an equal vote." Usually, this is said by people who hold unpopular views. That is, if everyone got an equal vote, their political party wouldn't retain power. (These people seem to confuse geography with population and like to show those red/blue maps when they really should show purple maps or show maps to inflate/shrink states by population.)

"My vote doesn't count because no matter how I vote, my state will vote x so why bother?"

 I used this excuse in the past to vote third party, believing I was sending a message. I don't think that message got through to anyone and here we are stuck with the same two frustrating parties, pushed further and further to the edges by modern politics. Also, if you look at a major state like California, 61% votes for Clinton and 32% voted for Trump and all 55 votes went to Clinton.  In Texas, Trump got 52% and Clinton 43% and all 38 votes went to Trump. That's an opportunity to discourage a lot of people from voting and it can also discourage candidates from voting for a state they already assume they've won/lost.

Let's look at the power of the Electoral College. Not only does it turn a state into a collective making each voice feel less important, but it's also quite uneven.

I've been frustrated with the charts I could find on the Electoral College, so I ended up making my own (below). Basically, I wanted to look at the value of a vote and show unequal things are.

Let's say that we got rid of the Electoral College but everyone kept their relative power. We'd give eligible voters in Florida one ticket each. But we'd give eligible voters in Wyoming 3.59 tickets each. 

Does that seem right? Should people in Wyoming have such an outsized impact on how we vote? The answer might depend on whether or not Wyoming votes the way you want them to, but that's pretty selfish and doesn't feel very American.

Politicians that had to campaign for each and every vote might also exhibit a more moderate stance that respects each American and works to improve the situation for all Americans.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Encourage Your Kids

I was part of a podcast yesterday and one of the hosts told a story of when they were a child they really wanted to be a radio DJ. Their mom told them that because of their stutter, they'd never be a DJ.

Reminded me of a time when I had wanted to be a drummer and my mom told me I lacked the rhythm.  I probably think of this at least once a year, decades later.

Our moms would probably be mortified if they knew that they had said this or that it had stuck with us our entire lives. 

As a result, I've tried to avoid ever telling my children they lack something necessary to follow their dreams. Instead, I've tried to support, encourage, provide space and materials for whatever they've wanted to explore. 

Some things don't pan out. Sometimes they're down on themselves for something they've attempted and failed at. When this happens, I try to encourage them to see if there's anything they can learn from it, and if it's something they really do want to do. Because if it is, they need to persevere. Practice makes perfect, some things come easy to some people, but other people have to work at it. 

But I'm never going to say that my children can't do something they set their mind to. If it's dangerous or illegal or expensive, we might have to chat about the wisdom of something or its impact on other people or their unincarcerated future or how they're going to fund such a venture. But my kids are never going to hear they're not good enough to attempt something they are excited about.

Please, people, be careful with the words you use, you never know how long they will bounce around in someone else's head.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Social Distancing: We Screwed Up

Hindsight is always 20/20, but I sure wish we had taken a different approach to staying home.

When we were all sent to our homes, they should have told us that it would only be "for a time" - that they'd figure out what it would mean for us to get back to normal and that they'd get back to us. Maybe a week, two weeks top and they'd have a rough plan for what reopening looked like: the stages, the goals and metrics. Instead, it's been open-ended and repeatedly extended. That isn't healthy, it isn't tenable and it's like the never-ending car ride where we're all saying "are we there yet?" and dad keeps changing the answer.  

So now we have the "stay at home" group vs the "stop telling me what to do" group.

Both groups want a return to "normalcy" but we're fighting with each other. If, instead, we had a set of goals and metrics that the governor and mayor were regularly reporting, then we could see the progress we were making.  People would still protest and fight, but everyone would at least agree they were looking in the same direction: towards reopening.  

I know the people in charge are trying to figure this out just like all of us, but we need something to cling to, something to look forward to. 

Personally, I don't care. I've enjoyed staying home. I'm fortunate enough to still be employed.  The weather has been nice, I haven't had my commute, I've gotten more time with my family, I've done some cleaning around the house that would have otherwise never occurred. I've been drinking coffee, harvesting a lot of roses and doing some weeding in the yard.  If this keeps up, I'll probably end up taking a few days off to build a fence. The argument that we all need to be in the same office to collaborate and get stuff done has been disproved. And somehow, amazingly, we've all managed to do OK with only a single bathroom. I'm fine as-is. I'm an introvert with my family close. I know that's not the case for everyone, especially my extrovert friends who are trapped alone and begging for Zoom calls.

Hang in there, peeps. I drove past the Citadel Outlet Mall today and their massive screens said "Tough times don't last, tough people do" and "Los Angeles Strong" and "This Too Shall Pass."

It will. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Dashboard: Recurring Events

Now that we're all stuck in our house together, I'm building a dashboard to show what's upcoming on our combined calendar.  I'm using Google Sheets because I can display it large on our TV and we can see what's coming up next.  I wanted a countdown that shows how many minutes to the next event and I wanted events to disappear 5 minutes after they start.

One thing I quickly discovered that if an event happened every day, I was having to update it each day.  I figured there must be a way to do this programmatically.  So, I want it to be today's date, until after the date has passed and then I want it to be the next day instead.

Recurring Daily Event at 8:30 am:


(a) Start with the value for today's date.
(b) If it's past 8 am, add 1, otherwise, add 0.
(c) Add 8.5 hours.

On a given date, before 9 am, it will be set to today's date at 8:30 am.  At 9 am, it will switch over to 8:30 on tomorrow's date.  (Since it's hidden at 8:35 am, this gap is fine.)

Use military time and fractional time.  
For 2:45 pm, you'd change 8 to 14 and 8.5 to 14.75.
For 5 pm, you'd change 8 to 17 and 8.5 to 17.
For 10:15 pm, you'd change 8 to 20 and 8.5 to 20.25.

Recurring Weekly Event at 2 pm every Monday:


(a) Start with the value for today's date.
(b) If it's past Monday, set it to next Monday, otherwise set it to this Monday (including today).
(c) Add 14 hours (2 pm) - see above for examples.

For this example, on Tuesday at midnight, it will switch to next Monday at 2 pm.  Before Tuesday at midnight, it will be set to this week on Monday at 2 pm.  (Since it's hidden at 2:05 pm, this gap is fine. You can work out more complex logic -- if (weekday > 2) or (weekday = 2 and hour > 14) -- if you need it to disappear quicker.)

You need two numbers for this to work:
(1) The weekday.  For me, the week goes 1=Sunday, 2=Monday, 3=Tuesday, 4=Wednesday, 5=Thursday, 6=Friday, 7=Saturday. This may be different based on your settings or locale, if you put "=weekday(now())" in a cell in Google Sheets or Excel you should be able to tell if your settings are different.  You'll use this number in the purple and red sections.

(2) How many days to the next weekday (from Sunday).  This is weekday + 7.  8=Sunday, 9=Monday, 10=Tuesday, 11=Wednesday, 12=Thursday, 13=Friday, 14=Saturday.  You'll use this number in the orange section. (Note: This is not QA tested over the course of an actual week yet, I'll update this if any adjustments are needed).

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Dashboard Project

Now that we're all stuck together under house arrest, I've had a few spare moments here and there to work on a project I've always wanted - a dashboard.  I can project it onto the big TV, or eventually, a dedicated monitor in the kitchen. I'm starting with the calendar and I have a few goals - I want events to be displayed in chronological order, I want events to disappear 5 minutes after the event starts and I want a countdown to the event start. We all have separate calendars, so for now it's a manual process to enter items, but I want them in the correct order, no matter how I enter them, and I want recurring events to update themselves without any intervention from me.  

In the past, I've done smaller scale things, like a dashboard for my wife so she could see where I was along my commute or something that told me what emails I'd received recently, but none were polished or long-term. I'm thinking about what else I could do, like weather or Alexa stuff with IFTTT.

I'll blog about any interesting things I figure out along the way.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

@GoogleMaps, this is wrong (S. Marengo Ave.)

Dear Google Maps - in Pasadena, California at S. Marengo Avenue and Green Street, when you're traveling south on S. Marengo, Google Maps Directions shows four lanes - two left turns onto eastbound E. Green St. and two straight lanes continuing onto Marengo St.

But there's actually only three lanes here - one left turn and two straight.

Here's the streetview, facing south.

And here's an earlier street view (2016) where you can see that they used to have a sign at this intersection because it used to be four lanes but they reduced it to three lanes and covered up one of the arrows on the sign.  Go even further back and you'll see that even in 2014 street view the sign is still only showing 3 lanes.

@GoogleMaps, this is wrong (Burbank Blvd.)

Dear Google Maps - there is no exit from northbound Interstate 5 in Burbank, California onto westbound Burbank Blvd.  I thought it had been removed from the map, but it seems to be back.

Here is Google Maps telling me to take that exit:

Here is the exit.  On the far right, you can see the orange construction notice on the exit sign indicating that the westbound exit is closed.

Zoomed in - where it would normally say "WEST" with an arrow to the left it now says "CLOSED" in black on an orange background.  If you took exit 146B you'd see barricades blocking the former lane which is now just dirt (they've already removed the lane).

The exit used to parallel the freeway under Burbank Blvd. and then curve back around.

But now it's a big pile of dirt.  Soon they will be removing the Burbank Blvd. bridge entirely to rebuild around March 14.

See also:

P.S. Thanks for finally adding the Empire Blvd. interchange (directly to the north on the 5)