Sunday, November 30, 2008

A fare weekend

Have had a really nice lazy Thanksgiving weekend. My boss gave me an extra day and a half off for our team finishing up a release last week so I've been off almost all week. Haven't really done anything and it's been great. I've used this opportunity to really enjoy the last weekend I will have by myself before the beginning of February. Next weekend I'm having my annual Christmas party and then I'm heading home to Sweden for Christmas again.

That said, I did manage to do a little bit though. I was invited to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday at two friends of mines Bill & Mary's house. That was great.

On Saturday I went to a gun show. I've never been to one, and a friend of mine had a booth there. Not really my kind of scene although I did end up buying a really cool lighter. My dad would have loved it though. Also had lunch with a friend from growing up Anders Svärd who I haven't seen in probably 20 years. Turns out he had been in Long Beach a lot for work this year and will probably be next year too. It was great seeing him again.

Today I went to the SWEA OC's Christmas fare. Saw my first "Lucia Tåg" (Roughly translated Lucia Procession) for a couple of years, that was great. Also stocked up on about 9 liters of glögg for my Christmas party.

Also today I went through my email archives and dug up my postings I made to my friends at home about moving here before I started the blog and posted them here. If you look in the history all the posts from 2004 are new as of today. Some of them are quite long since the length of my posting here has pretty much gone down as I've gotten more and more of a life over here.

Why is Laguna Beach so unfriendly to pedestrians?

Laguna Beach is fairly unique in the Los Angeles area in that you can walk pretty much everywhere in town. At least if you live in the downtown area as I do. I've also always liked to stroll around (I've never even owned a car until I moved to California a few years ago). What I don't understand is why the city doesn't do more to actually encourage people to walk. It's fairly obvious to anybody who looks that city planning only considers pedestrians as an afterthought to car traffic.

Why don't the traffic lights always turn green for people who walk as well as for the cars. You always need to press the button and you need to press it before the light would have turned green or otherwise you need to wait until the next cycle. Furthermore, why isn't it green for the entire time it is green for the cars going in that direction (Not counting explicit turn signals of course)? Currently you are only allowed to walk for a few seconds as the light turns green in one direction while the cars gets to go for a lot longer. I know people will say that this will congest traffic too much to which I have to say that if they can do it in downtown San Francisco and New York they can do it here too.

Second issue is that we don't have enough crosswalks. If you look at the picture on the right, the red markers indicates obvious crosswalks that are missing. Just in the small section of downtown shown in the picture there are over 10 missing crosswalks. If you then consider that in connection with that the lights are almost never green it can take a lot of extra time to get where you are going since you are forced to cross the street twice instead of one.

Finally you have sidewalks which are missing almost everywhere. Especially heavy trafficked streets like Cyprus Drive feel very dangerous to walk on even during the day. At night it verges on being suicidal to walk them. Not even South Coast Highway have sidewalks on both sides of the street around the area of Upland Road and there are no crosswalks to cross the street anywhere close to where the sidewalk ends. Also in intersections people turning right in cars never ever look right before turning to see if anybody is crossing the street on foot. I don't know how many times I've heard screeching car tires as people finally notice me 5 feet from their front bumpers and since there are no sidewalks I have nowhere to jump out of the way.

I have several friends around town (and I am sure they aren't the only ones) who regularly use cars to drive just a few blocks up or down PCH. Perhaps if we make it easier to walk they could be persuaded to walk instead. This would ease parking and in these days of global warming lead to less green house gasses too. Every little bit helps.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The case for universal health care

I'm a huge believer in capitalism and "the market". However when it comes to health care I've realized that it simply doesn't work. At least not in the form we have it here in the United States. The reason why it doesn't work here is that in order for capitalism to work there has to be a way to actually shop around. Health care is a bad fit for the market because of several reasons.

  • Health care is usually a necessity. It is only in unusual cases that you can choose whether you want to get medicine or have a procedure done.
  • It is hard to even get a price list when you go to a doctor. And if you start asking about prices of what a blood test or other "bundled" services it gets even harder. How are you supposed to shop around to find the best price performance if you can't even know what the price is before you have done something.
  • In a lot of cases the person that makes purchasing decision is not the same as the person that is footing the bill. In a lot of cases your doctor is the one who decides which medication you are supposed to take even though you are the one who is paying for it.

All in all these all sums up to the simple fact that letting the market handling health care is a really bad fit. And if you look at the current state of health care here in the USA it is also fairly obvious. First of all the US spends way more money on health care than anybody else. According to a World Health Organization report in 2000 the US spent 13.7% of GDP on health care in 1997. The second country in the study is Germany which spend 10.5% of GDP. Most of 1st world countries seem to spent somewhere between 6% and 10% of GDP. The difference between all those countries and the USA is that everybody else has universal health care and somehow here we succeed in paying way more than everybody else and yet not have it.

Even if you just count government spending on health care the USA ends up around the middle of the pack of the first world countries (This according to an article in The Economist from a few years ago). And again everyone else have universal health care and here we don't. The same article also made the point that one of the reasons that the USA manages to pay so much and get so little out of it is that in effect the USA is paying the development costs of new treatments and technology for the rest of the world. The question is if we think it is worth it?

Interestingly enough the system we have right now doesn't even work for people who are well off in all cases. For instance a friend of mine who work in the tech industry and which I assume makes a pretty decent living recently got laid off. It didn't take long for him to find a new job and he was back on track. However during the time without a job he lost his health insurance and when he got his new job he had a preexisting condition. So now, he can not get new health insurance that will cover the preexisting condition he had so he is completely screwed. It is through him that I have learned a lot about trying to use health services in this country without health insurance.

One thing I hear often from friends who are against "socialized medicine" (The phrase preferred by people against universal health care) is that they can afford great health care and don't want to be forced to be accept a lowering of the standard of their health care. However that doesn't have to be the case. I would propose the government would provide a minimum level of health care and if you want better care you can still get health insurance and get better care. This is how it works in Sweden (The only other country have a pretty intimate knowledge of) and I think it that is actually a great system.

Then of course the thing I keep hearing is that we can't afford it. I would like to make the argument that we can't keep going like we are now. We are already paying way more than anybody else and we are getting less (The WHO report above ranked the overall performance of our health care system at 37th and at 72nd of overall health out of 191 countries in the study. Basically, we are one of the worst country of the industrialized world when it comes to health care). Given the amount of money we spend on health care we should be able to figure out a way to get universal health care without spending any more money than we already are. Even if the universal health care we get is crappy at first (Which is then improved by health insurance by those who can afford it) it would still be a great first step.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Took the bike up to San Francisco for the weekend

I went to San Francisco for the weekend on the bike. In retrospect I would have to admit that it was a little bit too far in too short of a time. The way up took around 7 hours of driving and the drive back took around 8 hours. To sum it all up, next time I'm taking a flight instead.

I stayed at a fairly new friend Kris who has a condo right smack in the middle of downtown San Francisco. I've already done most of the tourist things in San Francisco so this time I basically just hung out and partied. I don't know how many times during the weekend I got the question. "Do you live in the city?". For the uninitiated "The City" refers to San Francisco (It's funny, because New Yorkers have a very different idea on what "The City" refers to as far as I remember). In the end I just replied that I lived in "a city", but somehow most were unsatisfied with that answer.

In general I have to admit that I really like San Francisco. I can totally see myself living there in case I for some reason would have to had to leave Laguna Beach (I think there probably are a lot more jobs in my field up there than there are down here in case I would want to change work). This is in stark contrast to Los Angeles where I can never see myself moving to even though it is a lot closer to where I am now (For the confused of you reading this from back home even though where I live is technically part the greater LA area it is very different from actual Los Angeles).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Gay marriage by the numbers

During the whole "prop 8 hoopla" here in California I've heard a lot of seemingly wrong numbers to justify either position and I just thought I'd go through a couple of the numbers and go through where they come from (If I have been able to figure it out) and which are obviously wrong.

Gay marriages only last an average of 18 months

This is the biggest most obvious lie. As far as I could track it down this data comes from a Study performed in Holland. The study was on the relationships of HIV positive homosexuals and refers to their average relationship length. There are two obvious distortions here. First of all if you start out with a sample of HIV positives you will probably end up with a selection that is more promiscuous that the average. Secondly, it refers to relationship length. It has nothing to do with marriage length. Taking that into account I would have to say 18 months is actually pretty good. The fact is that since gay marriage is such a new occurrence there really isn't anywhere in the world where it has been around for long enough time to get statistics on this.

The divorce rate in the USA is 60%

This number is too high as far as I have been able to find it. The US Census Bureau has data on this and also the National Center for Health Statistics makes projections on the data. Depending on how you measure it they give estimates somewhere between 43% and 50%. The National Center for Health Statistics estimate found that 43% of first marriages end in separation or divorce within 15 years. The 50% estimate is based on just measuring the number of marriages and divorces for each year and dividing the two.

Gay people don't have enduring relationships

There have been tons of studies on this which indicate that between 40% and 80% (With lesbian women being slightly better at this than gay men) of interviewees at any given point are in a stable relationship. According to the information I've found it seems that this corresponds pretty well to the statistics of heterosexual people as well.

When gay marriage is allowed less heterosexuals tend to get married

This is the weirdest one and I have to say I have simply found nothing to back this up or debunk it (I'm guessing it is just so off the wall that nobody who actually does studies like this has found it worthwhile to investigate). I can sort of guess that it refers to the increasing tendency in certain parts of Europe for people to not get married even though a couple live together and have children. This was a tendency that started long before gay marriage has been allowed (For instance it is very common in Sweden and they don't have legal gay marriage yet). I know several of these couples at home and I usually the reason I hear for it is that the people involved in them just feel that marriage is just a piece of paper so why would they bother. I have never heard anybody use the reason that if gay people can get married they don't want it.

Domestic partnership is the same as marriage

This obviously varies from state to state but here are the major differences int the state of California as far as I've figured it out.

  • The biggest area of inequality was in regards to employment benefits for spouses. Many employers refused to offer same-sex couples the same health insurance benefits as married couples.
  • It is a lot easier to dissolve a domestic partnership than a marriage. Specifically to dissolve a marriage at least on of the two people involved need to have been living in California for at least 6 months.
  • You don't need witnesses to create a domestic partnership (You do to form a marriage).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fantastic weekend weather

Today was a completely fabulous day in Southern California. Clear blue skies and temperatures around 25C to 30C. It was almost like a regular summer day.

I went out inline skating and was met by a completely disgusting view as i went from Newport Beach to Huntington Beach though. There was almost like a wall of dark gray/brown smog laying over the landscape. I have seen the smog here before, but never as bad as this looked like. Unfortunately I had no camera to take a picture of it with me. It probably isn't all smog though, a lot of it is probably coming from one of the fires inland from here. It looked really strange on the beach because with the brown colored sky you could hardly see where the ocean ended and the beach started because they were both the same color.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Spent an hour rewiring my main server

I've had tons of raid failures in my main server the last couple of months (All in all 6 disks I think that have failed fairly recently). I yesterday realized that perhaps the problem was the way I had run the wires inside the box. Once I opened it I realized I had squeezed the SATA wired together with power cables that had pretty high amps (After all they were powering 17 disks and a bunch of fans). What basically happened was that with alarming regularity I hat the drives time out and just completely lock up until I rebooted (Causing them to have been failed from the RAID by that time). Then after a reboot they usually worked fine for a a couple of days until it happened again.

It was also fairly obvious that certain hotswap slots were more prone to fail in this way than others. So basically now I have rewired the box so that the power cables go over the top of the fans in the middle of the box and the SATA cables go below it and so far it seems to work out fine. For the first time in ages I am running with completely synced raids in all my servers.

[pallas]$ cat /proc/mdstat
Personalities : [raid6]
md0 : active raid6 sda1[0] sdg1[15] sdm1[14] sdo1[13] sdp1[12] sdl1[11] sdk1[10] sdj1[9]
                   sdi1[8] sdh1[7] sdn1[6] sdf1[5] sde1[4] sdd1[3] sdc1[2] sdb1[1]
      6837375104 blocks level 6, 64k chunk, algorithm 2 [16/16] [UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU]

unused devices: 
[cadiz]$ cat /proc/mdstat
Personalities : [raid6]
md0 : active raid6 sdp1[6] hdc1[0] sdq1[22] sdr1[21] sdo1[20] sdn1[19] sdm1[18] sdl1[17]
                   sdk1[16] sdj1[15] sdt1[14] sdi1[13] sde1[12] sdf1[11] sdg1[10] sdh1[9]
                   sdd1[8] sdc1[7] sds1[5] sdu1[4] sdb1[3] sda1[2] hda1[1]
      5128113984 blocks level 6, 64k chunk, algorithm 2 [23/23] [UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU]

unused devices: 
[valdez]$ cat /proc/mdstat
Personalities : [raid6]
md1 : active raid6 hda2[0] sda2[9] sdc2[8] sdb2[7] sdd2[6] sdh2[5] sde2[4] sdf2[3] sdg2[2]
      1789768704 blocks level 6, 64k chunk, algorithm 2 [10/10] [UUUUUUUUUU]

md0 : active raid6 sdg1[0] sda1[6] sdc1[5] sdb1[4] sdd1[3] sdh1[2] sdf1[1]
      102373440 blocks level 6, 64k chunk, algorithm 2 [7/7] [UUUUUUU]

unused devices: 

I leave it up to the reader to figure out the total size of that read from that readout. Running with degraded raids is one of the few things that can really stress me out because I know if I lost the stuff I have on those servers it would be impossible to replace.

To end with a quote (This time by myself): Peace of mind is a synced raid

Free trade and why government should subsidize education

If you know me you probably know that you would find few stauncher proponents of free trade than me. Basically if you would ask me if any country should remove a barrier for the movement of any kind of commodity the answer will always be yes. This includes raw materials, products, people and money. If someone said that the US would unilaterally remove all trade barriers tomorrow and allow everybody who wanted to migrate here do so my response would be that it's about time. You still need to keep customs around because stuff that is actually illegal here should still be kept out regardless of if it is baby killing formula, drugs or criminals.

If you read economic theory about free trade it will almost always lead to an increased economy. The beauty of having a growing economy is that even though there are winners there doesn't need to be losers (Since what happens is that instead of someone getting a bigger slice of the pie the pie actually gets bigger). The reason that I do not fear free trade is that I feel comfortable that I myself don't really have a problem to compete with anybody doing what I do no matter where in the world they live. If I was working in a job where little training was needed like for instance in a call center or flipping burgers at McDonald's I should probably be worried because there is most likely going to be someone around from a lower wage country that would do it cheaper than you want to.

Usually what happens when you open up trade is that you get to specialize on what you are good at. So basically if you are a country that keep people well educated that means that instead of having a bunch of people working low level tech support or the aforementioned call centers they can be senior tech support or managers. The jobs requiring little training will still need to be done but instead of wasting your countries labor force on that you can have others handle that for you and you instead can export the know how of higher level jobs. The country providing the "low wage" work force will also gain from this because they will be able to take advantage of know how not available to them domestically.

Here is where education comes in. Even though both countries involved above gain you probably want to be the one providing the high level services. The way to become that one is to make sure that you have a well educated population. How do you get that? You make sure that nobody is denied going as far as they can in the education system regardless of their economic situation. This is definitely not the case here in the US. Even though there are a lot of scholarships and stuff available a college education is not something that is available to anybody who could pass it.

I'm not saying that we should keep everybody in school until after college. You still need to keep entrance standards and make sure that you don't let too many people in that will probably not graduate. All I'm saying is that we should let everybody who could pass college do it regardless of if they have the economic means to do it or not. Even if this means that we as a society have to pay for this in the short term it is something that will be paid back many times over counting over the life time of the person even if you just count the increased income that the extra education will generate (Higher pay will lead to higher taxes).

One thing you need to be careful about though is to not make it too cheap. Taking Sweden as an example where education is basically free all the up through post grad (You also get a monthly stipend to live on). The problem with that is that I know a bunch of people who just go to school because they don't have anything better to do (Or they don't feel like working). You should need to pay at least a little so you make sure that there is at least a little bit of thought going into the choice of education as a way of gaining an occupation instead of just personal growth. One example would be to make the college free, but not providing the stipend. This would still make college something that takes a little bit of investment, but it probably would not be out of reach of someone who really wanted it.

Higher education means that everybody are better suited in an increasingly global society (It's coming regardless of if we want it or not). Also over the long term this will make us money because people will get increased wages (And keep in mind that you would no longer need to save for your children s college fund anymore or at least nowhere near as much). There are also other savings coming from the fact well educated people with good paying jobs are probably less likely become criminals, end up on well fare or otherwise end up being a burden on society. And finally there is also the individual gain of people with high education usually having more oportunities available to them and hopefully being able to lead more rewarding lives.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Saw a Madonna concert in San Diego

Went and saw Madonna live in San Diego. Even though I have to admit I was a bit skeptical going there it was completely awesome. One of the best concerts I've seen in some time.

Also kind of funny was that a couple of minutes before the concert started word spread that Obama had won the presidential election and as people were waiting for the concert to start there was random chants of Obama and "Yes We Can" going on around the stadium.

Madonna also performed the last couple of songs wearing an Obama shirt with the text "Express Yourself" and at one point took a break and talked about how happy she was with the election (With every monitor in the back showing a picture of Obama.

All in all a pretty fun way to experience the end of this election season.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Went to Las Vegas for Halloween

Took the bike and drove up to Las Vegas this weekend for Halloween. It was pretty much insane. My "favorite" costume must have been the girl dressed as Roller Girl who wore roller skates, really short cut off jeans and nothing else. Just strolling through the Mirrage Casino topless, got to love Vegas.

On Saturday I went on a really cool house/trance party with Armin van Buuren and Deadmau5 among the DJ:s playing. It was really good although I have to admit after aorund 4 or 5 in the morning my memory starts getting a bit blurry. Still managed to get up at 10 in the morning, had brunch with Dawn who just happened to have flown in for work and was on my way back to Laguna Beach before noon.

Did end up taking a 3 hour "nap" the moment I got home though so missed sleep finally caught up with me then.

I have some pictures of the ordeal put up here.